Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Facts - Christmas Edition

1.) Christmas is my favorite holiday.

2.) I LOVE finding the perfect gift for someone. It gets me into trouble because even if something costs too much, I'll probably buy it anyhow.

3.) When I find a good gift, I get really excited to give it to that person. I love watching them open in.

4.) I decorate my entire apartment on/right after Thanksgiving. This was a rule enacted by my previous roommate to contain my christmas crazy.

5.) I try to see A Christmas Carol every year. Last year I missed it, but this year I went to my favorite production of it: at Ford's Theater.

6.) I look forward to the Christmas Eve Party at the McClure's all year long.

7.) I'm a huge nerd: On Christmas Eve, I love to set out the "good" plates for Christmas breakfast.

8.) I like buying matching wrapping paper and I liked when all the gifts are under the tree, but I hate the act of actually wrapping everything.

9.) This year I went a little overboard.

10.) We eat the same thing for breakfast every year. We make mom eat trans fats against her will.

11.) We open our gifts one by one and Al and Dad take lots of pictures. I'm pretty sure I was impatient (who me??) and hated this as a kid, but now I love it.

12.) Every year I buy a new pair of christmas jammies. I brought three pairs home this year. I don't find this excessive.

13.) I've only seen Its a Wonderful Life once.

14.) I used to wake my parents up, now my parents have to shake Al and I out of bed.

15.) It doesn't bother me when stores break out christmas decorations in October (they don't have to follow Lauren's rules)

16.) We used to buy a live tree from the Alloway's and then drag it across the yard. Then Dad would wrap colored twinkle lights up along the stem, with big red bulb lights strung along the outside. I never realized how crazy time intensive that must have been. Now we have a pre-lit fake tree, which suits us just find (but could use some red bulbs!)

17.) Every year, my grandmom (Tutu) would get Allison and I matching christmas ornaments. I love them and am secretly plotting to find mine and take them back with me.

18.) I'm ready to just be home already!!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great White North

Greetings from Alaska. I'm pretty stoked and the sun hasn't even come out yet. I hear Fairbanks is pretty industrial, but today for lunch we're going to the cute, albeit small, downtown area.

This morning while watching the today show, there was a sudden reminder how remote of an area Fairbanks really is. As the Today show switched to its local broadcast, the local news station touted itself as the "Interior Alaska's News Leader." Wait, what other cities ARE there in interior Alaska? Fairbanks is the largest in interior alaska, and second in the whole state behind Anchorage. The population? 31,000 in 32 sq miles. For comparison, the sleepy hamlet of Worcester is home to 10,000 in 16 sq miles. But I digress..

The winner of interior Alaskan broadcasting had a striking similarity to the Methacton High School morning news program. It was terrible. They didn't even have different newscasters for the different topics, news, sports, was just the same girl, who looked slightly terrified.

People here also plug in their cars. Its pretty crazy and I wonder how many people have backed out and accidentally ripped the plug out of their car. The plug keeps the oil in the car warm so it doesn't freeze. During dinner last night, my coworker and I realized that some people just left their trucks running in the parking lot during their meal (or football game, as we were watching Giants/Dallas at a sports bar). I haven't noticed what the gas prices are here, but I'm assuming its cheaper to leave a truck idling, if not worse on the environment.

But overall I'm very excited to be in Alaska. I'm hoping to be able to come back in nicer weather; Denali National Park is only 90 miles away! The Arctic Circle a mere 80 miles! For dinner, we may go to North Pole, a town 15 miles away. And it's really not all that cold! Hopefully once I see daylight I'll take a picture to post!

Friday, December 9, 2011

I'm a lucky girl.

My coworkers are soon going to hate me. I have really good luck at our company Christmas parties. It all started back in DC, during my second year at Berger; my first as a big girl employee (not an intern). Our DC office has a pretty lavish party with a lot of great door prizes. That year, I won the grand prize: two tickets to anywhere in the world, compliments of all the AMEX air miles our company accumulates. I picked Australia, brought my sister, and my parents paid to come along.

The next year, at a casino themed holiday party, the first prize up for grabs was two tickets to anywhere in the country. My boss picked the name, said "This is rigged" and my second year of winnings was complete. Thankfully, that year another girl won the tickets to Europe AND the tickets to anywhere in the world (all of the names go back into the pot), so I was off the hook.

The next two years were quiet, although in 2009 everyone at my table won something, including the girl next to me winning the grand prize. I like to think I was spreading my good fortune to those around me.

Now in the Denver office, the holiday party is a simpler affair, but with an increased odds of winning because of the smaller office size. 2010 was quiet; I didn't win anything. This year was a little different. This year I was in charge of planning the party, including picking out all of the door prizes. I'd been interested in the Kindle Fire, and figured for the cost the bosses would be ok with it as the prize. An additional $200 in door prizes were also accumulated.

My officemates and I had done the math - there were 11 names in the pot, and 10 door prizes. Since all names go into the hat for the last prize, there was a chance that one person would get two things and two people would get nothing.

I was the person that got two things. I felt bad, but I hadn't picked a single name out of the hat so no one could say it was rigged! I won a $15 Chipotle gift card and the Kindle Fire, which I was pretty stoked about. The two people I sit with at work, Dave and Megan, were the two that hadn't won anything. I gave Dave my gift card, because he loves Chipotle (who doesnt?) and had been a huge help in planning the party.

I'm still fussing around learning how to use the Kindle. I was able to download a few free books and movies for my flight. This new bit of technology in my life may force me to jump into the 20th century and....gasp...actually pay for the internet in my apartment!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1.) I'm having a morning. I woke up to some panic emails (why hello! Good morning to you too!) and then the weird guy on the bus decided I looked friendly enough to talk to. He started waxing poetic about whether or not I thought hate was just disliking someone or if it went deeper than that or if you could get something for it (wait, huh?). Once he paused to wait for my response, I told him I hadn't had coffee yet and this was above my comprehension level. I quickly recognized him as the crazy religious guy who preaches down by Champa Square. Thankfully my stop was the next one.

Last night I was super excited to have gotten my new winter running tights in the mail only to discover North Face had sent me a ugly yellow hoodie, in XL to boot. Since I won't be home from now until 2012, they are shipping my tights to my hotel in Fairbanks.

2.) Last night I also went to go see The Descendents, the new indie film with George Clooney (which sounds like a contradiction in terms). It was very good and I highly recommend it. I was supposed to go see it with my friend Amanda but she was sick and turns out I was thankful to have gone alone; the movie definitely wins for making me cry the most times in one film. Now, i recognize that movies easily make me turn on the water works, but this one had me blubbering throughout the whole thing. But don't be disheartened, it was very funny as well. I left with my emotions thoroughly confused.

3.) I'm making a poor life decision this weekend and heading up to Keystone for some skiing on Saturday. Why is this a PLD? Because I leave at 6am Sunday morning, haven't packed, and will have less than 24 hours to pack for DC/Philly when I get back the following week. But I'm excited. Third weekend in a row on the slopes and I can't wait to get back to work on fixing my form. Who needs sleep anyhow?

4.) Super Bonus! Tonight is the night of my holiday party, which my coworker and I planned. To get in a workout beforehand though, I'm going running at lunch and thus will need to shower after. Since you all know my love of showering (love, disdain, whats the difference?), I refused to shower this am knowing I'd take another one later. To hide my hair at work until I can hit the gym, I've discovered in the winter I can wear a cute beanie and pretend I'm just cold in the office - WIN! I'm so pretty.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Skis, Steamboat, and Hammer Schlagen

A big theme of this blog has been "I love Denver" and while that is true, sometimes it gets a bit frustrating to always be the new kid.

This weekend I went to Steamboat with one of my closest friends here, Morgan. We threw all of our skis and boots and snowshoes into the back of her truck and got the heck out of town Friday night. Currently, I still rent skis for the season and came to fully comprehend this weekend how little I know about skis. And skiing, for that matter.

Now I'm not new to skiing. I've skied since I was five, minus that decade-long break during high school and college. The conversations people were having about snow conditions, equipment, and the myriad of ski pass choices were mostly beyond what I could understand, but slowly I'm picking up the language and then quietly asking Morgan what the heck people are talking about.

For instance "flat light" is the formal term for what I called "holy crap, I can't see the topography of the snow and I might die." What they call powder skiing (for which there is a different set of skis), is skiing in usually about 1 -2 feet of fresh snow, but sometimes up to 4 feet. Unheard of on the east coast, I thought powder skiing was great at 4 inches.

One of the guys we stayed with took a look at my skis and said they had "a sick cut." I have no idea what this means and have a sneaking suspicion he may have been making fun of me. When people say things like that, I pretty much just nod and don't really respond and hope they don't think I'm being rude.

But although on any given day I have no idea what I'm doing, I've gotten pretty good at accepting that I'm new and asking for tips, pointers, or explanations whenever I can. One of the guys we skied with used to race in college, so I gladly asked him for help on ski form. I quickly realized that the last time I had a ski lesson was to learn how to go from "pie" to parallel and I had no idea what my form should be. You may shocked, but turns out I was skiing all wrong. A few tweaks later (actually use your poles. Keep your shoulders facing downhill) and it was amazing how much more in control I felt. My friends ski pretty fast and up until that point, I had felt like I was on the verge of a wipeout at any given moment.

The conditions on the mountain were actually pretty poor. Its still early in the season and there were rocks and ice all over the place. After a few runs, we decided to head down to T Bar, the local hangout at the bottom of the mountain. It was here I learned the best drinking game ever. Hammer Schlagen. Those crazy Germans decided that beer, hammers, and nails all belonged together really well and invented a game of skill/dumb luck.

I recognize this picture is blurry, but the objective is to hit the nail with the back of the hammer. You go around in a circle and the last one to get theirs in has to buy the next pitcher. It provides hours of endless entertainment and was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, until we ran out of nails.

Weekends like this always leave me wondering "how can I convince Berger to let me move to a mountain town and work from home" but I'm also happy to be back in Denver (more importantly, sleeping in my own bed) where the temperature will be topping out at balmy 10 degrees today. How kind of Denver to prep me for my week in Alaska!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1.) The Byrons had a killer time in Breck for Thanksgiving. The condo was big enough to give us all our own space, and allow the chef enough cooking space (although he often kicked me out of the kitchen). We skied, shopped, and saw the Muppets (so good!).

2.) Its snowing in Denver today. My bus never showed, so I walked in the breezy storm to work. Not a bad way to start the day! Thankfully I recently procured new snowboots that kept my tootsies warm and wore a new smartwool sweater that I got at the REI sale for my meetings up in Alaska. I heart snow.

3.) This weekend I'm off to Steamboat for some more skiing. My ski pants are a bit snug (ok, really snug) so I'm happy to be active all weekend long. I am still trying to get exercise back into my routine, a constant work in progress. Today I'll run two miles at lunch and spinning is on the agenda for tomorrow. I'm actually looking forward to when my next half marathon training plan begins (Dec 26) - at least it sets a schedule for me to follow!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bring it on, December

When I came back from SF before Thanksgiving, I had no more work travel slated until sometime in the new year. The prospect of getting back into a routine and actually seeing the inside of a gym was exciting to me. Not to mention all the quality time I'd get to spend with my bed.

But then last week I got put back in the line up for travel to Alaska for public meetings. Fairbanks, to be exact. In mid-December. Regardless of the fact that they have been in a record cold snap, with air temperatures around -36 degrees, I'm pretty excited. As long as I have enough layers, I don't mind the cold. And I'll fly in on a Sunday, since it takes so long to get there, and a coworker and I are looking at doing a Northern Lights tour.

After that, I land for about 24 hours before I'm back at the airport to go to DC. Due to cheaper flights home, I will be working from our DC office for a week before taking the train up to Philly. After another week in Philly, I'll be back in Denver for the foreseeable future.

So I've set up all my Christmas decorations and am enjoying them thoroughly for the next two weeks. Even my desk is all decked out, as usual, with my 8 inch Christmas tree. Between all the travel, I'm managing to sneak in a weekend of skiing in Steamboat, A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre, a night of lights at the Denver Botanic Gardens, and even a few of the new movies coming out (next up: The Descendants). Bring it on, December.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Can I be done with work yet?

I like playing host. Not too many people come over to my apartment, so its always nice to have more than just me there.

My parents arrive tomorrow and will be staying with me for a night before we pick up Al and head up into Breck for a long weekend. This weekend was spent mostly prepping for their arrival and for Thanksgiving in general. While I vacuum fairly regularly, I learned this weekend that I apparently have a habit of dusting my living room far more often than I dust my bedroom. I also picked up (ok, hid) those little pesky piles that seem to crop up out of nowhere. One went under the bed while another found its way into my junk drawer. Its not so much cleaning as it is rearranging. But my apartment has never been cleaner.

In an effort to be an adult, I also had a delightful time spending money at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (a nice little Saturday). I bought another set of matching towels so that my parents won't have to use the old sets I had from freshman year in college - one of which is yellow with stains of green from when I accidentally washed it with my Eagles beach towel. And I finally bought a pie server (always forgotten until needed) and a pie crust cover (to use in place of darn tin foil) as splurges. Is this adulthood? Getting excited over improved domesticity?

Anyhow, I'm excited to get out of work today, buy some firewood for the fireplace (and pray its cold enough to burn while they're in town), do a final load of laundry and then wait impatiently for their arrival.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A mediocre month of mediocracy

My month of meritocracy is, well, mediocre. My first week started out great. I worked out in hotel rooms, spun during lunch, and had that "good hurt" pretty much every day. And my running came back quickly - I was feeling good with three miles after only a week, which was encouraging.

And then work travel started up again. I had an AMAZING work trip to Oregon Caves. It is absolutely beautiful. Its a fairly remote park, and I can't wait to get back. After coming back late on a Wednesday, running around all weekend, and then leaving early Monday for Arches, my 200 calories per day had pretty much fallen by the wayside. Its hard. I knew that, but in order to stave off sickness, I have constantly chosen sleep over exercise.

This is my last intense week of travel for the foreseeable future. My trip to Alaska was thwarted (boo!!!), but that means I will have a full three weeks before I head to DC en route to Philly for Christmas. A few scattered trips are planned for the winter - another voyage to Arches, one back to Muir Woods (my current locale) in March and a little bit of Lake Meredith thrown in there as well. For fun, I'll be planning long weekends in the mountains and a jaunt back to DC for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in March. Its far easier for me to dedicate time to exercise if there is a scary race at the end of the tunnel.

But I digress. I'm getting fat. Fatter than I've ever eclipsed before. I've found that as my success at work grows, so does my waistline. Of course, normally when I am complaining about my pant size, its as I'm shoving a burger and fries into my mouth while on a work trip. Gee, why can't I lose weight? Its not a complicated equation.

I can't imagine how actual adults with families and responsibilities and work travel fit in exercise. I'm young without any other real responsibilities (kids, husband, PTA, etc) and already complain its too hard. How everyone isn't 4 million pounds, I'll never understand. It's surely the path I am on!

In any event. Lack of self-control for food, a desire to follow a training plan, and a realization that I don't want diabetes by the time I'm thirty has resulted in one conclusion: endurance sports. Usually each year I pick something somewhat difficult (first tri, move to denver, half marathon) and do it. This year's plan had been to do a half ironman (still on the list), but since I'm buying a better bike (will probably be worth more than my Echo), I have also decided to do my first century ride in the spring:

I'm pretty stoked. So between the winter half, spring century, and fall half IM, here's hoping that by this time next year, I'll be complaining about needing to buy a whole new wardrobe because I'm just too darn small (we all can dream, right??).

Oh. And completely unrelated, I started reading In Cold Blood on the same day that the murders happened (November 15). It kind of freaked me out.

Why are you still reading this? Get up off that computer chair and exercise so you don't turn out like me!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

People Actually Say That

Today I was told "Your reputation precedes you." I didn't think that happened outside of cliche movie lines.

Thankfully, it was a compliment and not "oh no, i know who YOU are, your reputation for forgetting to pack pants precedes you".

In the midst of crazy travel and work deliverables, I have been asked to be on a Berger-wide committee for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability. Essentially, we've never had a committee like this before, so we all have no clue what we're doing (hooray!). The committee is broken into subcommittees: Ethics, Environment, and Equity. Why Rudi, you might be saying, you MUST have been asked to be on the Environment subcommittee, right? I mean, isn't that what you do day in and day out? Why yes, faithful reader, that IS what I do for a living. However, I'm heading up the Equity subcommittee because, well, no one else wanted to do it.

While I was originally bummed (I had thought I was being asked to do the environmental piece, too, and was getting all sorts of great ideas), I still think this will be interesting. Essentially we have to research other corporate policies, review our own equity breakdown, and then make recommendations to people in the company that matter. It's daunting but kind of exciting. I'm working on it with one of my bosses in Denver, but she is currently on maternity leave and I don't want her to feel like she should be spending her baby time on this! I'm hoping to use her to bounce ideas off of and to review what I pull together, but I'm more than happy to shoulder the load.

So that was my exciting news of the day, a day I spent on the phone from 9:30 - 3:45. I had never had so many calls run back to back all in one day! But the day started off with an email from my Big Big Boss (VP of my division) saying how proud she was of the good work I've been doing. So during a week where I was that person loudly running a conference call from the airport, it was was nice to get positive feedback!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Yesterday I got to spend all day hanging around here. I love my job.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Two back to back posts on consecutive days? What is this madness!

For the second week in a row, I went spinning during lunch and managed three spinning classes overall this week. BAM. Hey there, gym, I'm back! More importantly, however, is that I finally put on my big girl pants (more accurately, my new bike shorts) and tried the clip shoes my coworker gave me a few months ago that have been taunting me from the depths of my closet for months.

It took a little getting used to, but I definitely like them. I felt like my calves were working harder, and I had to remind myself to pull up, not just push down on the pedal. They helped me get my rpm's up higher during the speed work, but I constantly had to watch my form and positioning. Different parts of my body have hurt each morning as I wake up, but in that good "i'm getting strong again" way. Since my travel schedule kicks up again next week, I plotted the hotels I'm staying to see if they had gyms and then planned accordingly from now through the 17th.

In non-workout news, I saw the movie Anonymous last night and LOVED it. Its been pretty under the radar but has an amazing British cast (and a few Harry Potter characters, as always) and I thought the story was great. Its based on the old theory that Shakespeare was just a frontman for someone else who was actually doing the writing and they do a great job of pleading their case. I may have enjoyed it more than the regular audience member, though, since I just got to see the Tower, the Globe, and all the different facts about the succession from Queen Elizabeth to James I when I was in Scotland and London. Allison told me a reviewer said it was "hard to follow" so I went into the theater making sure to try my best to remember names and associations, which helped, but overall there weren't that many characters to keep track of. I would definitely recommend it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November Challenge

As my Dad has gently reminded me ("hey, I heard a rumor you used to write a blog!"), I have still been remiss in posting. This has been my down week - in Denver for a full ten days before I head off on my next work trip. Since I have been back from Europe, I have been absolutely terrible with my eating and have become estranged from my gym. In November, that ends.

A coworker occasionally does what she calls her "Quest for Greatness" - a month long swimming yardage challenge that is pretty ridiculous. I have taken that concept and created my own Quest for Mediocrity. I'm not setting my sights too high.

Each and every day in November I will burn 200 calories. This seems simple enough. On days I actually make it to the gym, I easily burn 400-500. But that's not where my trouble has been. My trouble has been with all the traveling where its just enough to throw myself into pjs and hit the hay after long days of meetings. Those are the days I am looking to turn around with this challenge. And on those days, 200 cals is just enough to be a challenge but still feasible.

For hotels where its not safe to run outside (according to my mom, that would be all of them) and there is no gym, a coworker has given me her "hotel workout" - a mash up of different circuit training exercises I can do within the confines of my own hotel room at the beginning or end of a long day. Its a 30 minute workout chock full of planks, rows, and mountain climbers, so 200 calories should be just about right.

So far I'm 2/2 in November - 6am spinning on Tuesday (575 cals) and my second run in Katie's "get your butt back to 6 miles" training plan (2 miles, 308 cals). On the agenda for today is swimming during lunch. I am planning on picking one day each week to post my workouts to this blog to keep myself accountable.

Its been nice to be home for a full week and get a lot of things done that I'd been putting off - I'm actually getting a haircut on Saturday (once a year, whether I need it or not), uploaded the photo for my ski pass, ordered new contacts and I might (might) even take my car to the mechanic. Maybe. Its been really nice to have a reasonable workload.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm still alive, but just barely

Sorry, my few faithful followers - I have been remiss in posting lately.

Its been real busy around here. On Saturday evening my boss went into labor and delivered a happy healthy beautiful baby girl - Regan Elinor Fox. While we are all very happy for her, little miss Regan came a bit ahead of schedule. Two weeks ahead, to be exact. Which means the projects I wasn't supposed to be running just yet fell hard into my lap Monday morning.

Its been one of those weeks where I forget to eat meals, but I'm so productive that I don't want to stop. Today I had two cups of coffee, oatmeal and then....candy corn pumpkins. Diet of champions! At this rate I'll stress off all the pounds I gained eating and drinking my way through Europe.

In addition to an awesome workload (its actually a really great challenge and I'm enjoying the chance to REALLY prove myself), I am travel out the wazoo. This week I head to DC for a weekend of fun and friends and football at UMD's Homecoming. Work sneaked in, though, and I've got a lunch meeting with my subcontractor on Friday and then meetings at my east coast park on Monday. I need to love on them and tell them how much I haven't forgotten them.

After that, I'm traveling all but one week from now until Thanksgiving, and even that one week may sneak in a trip to Oklahoma and Louisiana. I also FINALLY weaseled my way onto our big Army project up in Alaska and will definitely score one trip out of that. Public meetings are slated for November but knowing the federal government, I'm hoping they get postponed til December. Fairbanks in December? Sure, why not!

I've also had a crazy wonderful social life. When I AM in town, I'm all booked up with Halloween parties (YES! I get to wear my Oktoberfest dress!) and football watching and Morgan and I are hosting a pumpkin carving party at my house next week (I hope we can all fit in my apartment!).

So, I will try to post and show pictures from all my adventures - Miami, Oregon, Moab, and San Francisco are all on the plate again in the coming month. But if I am remiss in doing so, I'm not dead, just completely loving on life.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Facts

1.) I love football. A lot. I haven't been able to watch a game yet this year and I'm positively giddy about Sunday.

2.) I play in two fantasy football leagues and had to miss both drafts. My autodrafts went amazingly well, but both teams are 1-1. One loss was by 0.9 pts and one win was by over 100 pts.

3.) I can't fully relax if I know I have to be somewhere at a certain time later that day. In my mind I'm always counting down to when I have to get ready or leave.

4.) My boss is going on maternity leave and I have picked up several projects from her while she is away/can't travel. As a result, I'm traveling 5 times before Thanksgiving with the possibility of a 6th trip, to Miami for my Everglades project.

5.) I am less than 6,000 miles away from becoming an elite flyer with United.

6.) This morning I walked to work just because I missed walking so much each day. In Europe we averaged 6-10 miles each day.

7.) I can't stand Ben Stiller and hate watching movies with him in it.

8.) I miss Sundays at Bailey's in Arlington with my two Raven's Laurens and our token Steeler's fan Beth. :) Nothing made me happier than to get there at noon to get a seat, watch the 1pm and 4:15 games and go home to watch the night game. During Snowpacolypse, Lauren and I trudged there in the snow and had a wonderful day. Walking home with Chipotle and a six pack, Lauren fell squarely on her butt and sat in the snow laughing. Its one of my favorite Sunday memories.

9.) I still have yet to buy groceries since I've been back.

10.) I'm contemplating buying an ipad.

11.) I don't play favorites, but Fall is up there as my favorite time of year. I love any weather in which I can wear both flip flops and a hoodie.

12.) I don't turn the heat on in my apartment until my fingertips turn blue while sitting on my couch. Lauren and I used to see how long we could make it, usually until early December. I play a game with myself each month to see how low I can get my utility bill to be.

13.) Instead of turning on the heat, I wear my enormous North Face fleece pants which I have nicknamed "My man pants"

14.) I loved all the places we went to in Europe, but I think I liked Munich and Edinburgh the best because they are smaller. I have realized I like urban living, but in smaller cities like Denver and DC. Living in New York would make me miserable.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Oh, and also...Moab/Arches National Park was incredible

Back in the US (SR)

I've had that song stuck in my head since I got back on U.S. soil (albeit briefly, as I ran through Dulles airport and cut the line at security so I could get through customs and reboard my plane). All of my planes, trains, and buses were on time and I got back to my place just after 7pm. Europe was incredible. In my copious free time I'm planning on doing a post for each city, but it may take me awhile to get my act together (and to steal the pictures from my mom).

Surprisingly, I haven't had much jet lag. I went to bed at 9 and slept til 5:30. Last night I went out with some friends for Rock and Roll Bingo (in place of doing the more responsible thing and getting groceries. I make only the best decisions). I stayed awake until 10:30 then slept til my alarm at 7. Makes me a bit nervous that it has been so easy. Like I may go to bed Friday night and not wake up until Sunday.

I'm surprisingly happy to be back in Denver and back in my routine. I had never traveled for that long of a time and by the end I was still enjoying myself thoroughly but I was sick of looking at my suitcase. And it really smelled. I put on my hoodie on the airplane, not having used it since the flight to Scotland, and immediately took it off and froze for the duration of the flight - it smelled that bad. But I doubt the guy next to me would have noticed.

He was a nervous flier, I noted as we took off and he white knuckled the arm rest. His solution to this was clearly to get thoroughly tanked. He ordered a jack and coke, with two jack daniels. He ordered two more, followed by a bloody mary with two vodkas. All in all he bought 8 $7 bottles of alcohol for an 8 hour flight. I'm glad he was on the aisle seat bc he peed every 30 minutes. But he laughed super loud at all the movies he watched and provided me with a wealth of entertainment.

To my delight, United had upgraded me to economy plus for my flight so I was awash with legroom and seat space. Today I found out I am 6,000 miles away from being an elite member - just in time for my 5 upcoming work trips between now and Thanksgiving! Certainly will make for nicer flights - free economy plus upgrades, free checked bags, and I think I get to board first too! I will achieve this just in time to lose the status on January 1st. C'est la vie!

For now, I'm just happy to be sleeping in my own bed, taking long, hot, full-pressure showers and the wrapping myself in my wonderfully large bathrobe. Its the simple things that traveling makes you appreciate. And I've got 10 more days to appreciate them until I'm back on an airplane, traveling to another park and another hotel room. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Earthquakes and hurricanes and plane rides, oh my!

I wrote a big long cranky blog this week about how I don't like being adult (responsibilities are overrated. Having a disposable income is not). But then I never posted it because it sounded whiny and I have to suck it up and be an adult anyhow, so why complain about it?

I'm in our DC office (still complaining, but about the humidity, which is valid) and trying to get the heck out of dodge before the second natural disaster of the week hits the East Coast. Although MSNBC told me that there was an earthquake in Colorado this week, too, so maybe I'm just doomed no matter where I end up. I told my mom that God was clearly trying to smite me, but was having a bit of trouble tracking me down. I mean, he's God, isn't he all knowing? Sending hurricane seems a bit over the top.

So, as it turns out, not being able to go to Pittsburgh has been a blessing in disguise, as I surely would have been stuck in DC at least an extra day and would have been stressed about packing. Now, I have been stressed about packing but it was stress I knew about well in advance. Much better than surprise stress!

I also find it amusing that east coasters are so unconditioned for earthquakes. While some people did stand in doorways or jump under a desk, for the most part it seems we all looked at each other thinking, hmm, I think this is an earthquake! In my meeting in Shenandoah, we didn't even get up from our seats and we were a mere 50-60 miles from the center of it. I'm not even sure if they ever checked the building for cracks. We just looked around, waited for it to end, and kept along with our meeting. Brilliant.

So, after a week of travel, disaster excitement, and humidity, I'm happy to be returning to Denver where its always sunny and dry. I've got a big to do list for tomorrow, but I'm filled with a lot of nervous excitement and am eager to get on my way!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1.) I finally feel ready for all my impending travel, which is good because it starts tomorrow with a quick overnight up in the mountains. Most of the things I need to buy or do before Europe are done and I even put together a budget for how much money I'll be spending while there (and then promptly had heart attack and decided I didn't reeeeeally need to eat three meals a day while there, right?).

2.) I've worn a dress or skirt to work twice this week. TWICE. And I bought a dress this weekend. That is fairly unheard of in my world. This morning I woke up and thought "what can I wear that will feel like pajamas" - empire waist dress with a cardigan for the win! This does, however, make biking to work more of an adventure. I have opted to just wear my Terps shorts under my skirt/dress and let the old men I pass on my way in think they are about to get a thrill (or are about to lose their beer breakfast. Either/or).

3.) My company won another project this morning! Looks like I'll be heading to Oregon Caves towards the end of October/beginning of November. My fall is quickly booking up with lots more work travel!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Flight from MSP to SFO via DEN + storms in DEN and MSP = missed connection and surprise sister sleepover!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Fun Fact - Sisters Edition

Two sisters, so very alike but also, so very very different. Today I read Allison's Friday Insomnia post and couldn't help put think how different my answers would be - so here they are! Al's text is in Red, mine in Black!

So it's almost 6 am on Friday and I cannot sleep. I'm not sure why I can't sleep, I just know that by planning to see a 9:20 movie this morning, I will most likely sleep right through it later...I slept like a champ, til 7:36, as per usual. I've stopped blow drying my hair in the morning so that I can sleep in later.

1. My kitchen is the first room that's officially all packed up. Looks like I'll be eating out from now until August 28th, but that really is no different than my real life. I almost never eat out on weekdays. I slowly packed my kitchen over the course of a week. Books are the first thing I pack.

2. I'm obsessive about checking email and Facebook. They are always open on my computer. Some days I don't check FB at all. Mostly I check email/FB on my phone when I'm bored. My computer is almost never open when I'm home.

3. Does Comcast install on Sundays? I really want to have internet/cable ready to go BEFORE I move in. Like, a week before. I am anal retentive about this too. I planned everything before I moved, and nothing worked out as planned.

4. I have a ton of fabulous friends who have already volunteered to help me move. A BIG thank you to: Josh, Jody, Jodi, Jen B., Jen L., Paula, Molly, Matt, and possibly Barbie & Rhys. You guys ROCK! My friends helped too, yay! And more importantly, most of them were also Eagles fans.

5. I'm becoming increasingly nervous/vomitational about going back to school. I never have to go back to school again - HOORAY!

6. This summer has had its ups and downs, but overall, it's been a super awesome summer. I feel like it's really lasted a long time and I'm not quite ready for it to be over. I feel like my summer has flown by. I have one more week in Denver before I'm gone for a month. I feel like it will be October before I know it.

7. I've worked out maybe three times in the last two weeks and it's only been playing tennis. I have a 5k on Sunday, Aug 28 at the State Fair and I'm starting to get worried. Not quite worried enough to actually get my butt out there and do some jogging, but worried none the less. Hmm, about the same on this one. Some light running and elliptical with one half-effort lifting session. I haven't even been back to yoga.

8. I have three overflowing bins of laundry to wash before I move. I do my laundry regularly or it stresses me out.

9. I took seven bags of clothes to Goodwill this week. SEVEN. This is just impressive. I donated a lot before I moved, but probably need to go through and make another sweep.

10. I like ridiculously large undies. They're comfy. I find one style that fit and only wear that. Currently its VS boy-short type undies. I have at least 12 pairs.

11. There are 16 days until I move. I'll be in California for four of those days. Which brings me down to 12 days, three of which I'll be in new teacher workshops/tennis practice. So I have a total 9 days in which to pack everything, change all of my addresses, do a bazillion loads of laundry, and conquer my fear of creepy crawlies in the basement. I don't ever want to move again. I have 19 days until I leave for Europe. 6 of those days I'll be in DC, 3 of those days I'll be in Moab. 2 of those days I'll be somewhere in the mountains at a friends cabin. That leaves me very few days to get my act together.

12. I'm worried that I won't be able to re-connect all of the cords and stuff to my electronics and that I'll have some mysterious cord leftover and my internet won't work. My computer only has one cord - the powercord. No TiVo or paid cable, leaves me very cordless!

13. If my internet will not work, you will be able to find me at The Muddy Pig. Wallowing. I don't pay for the internets. I steal from a neighbor. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. Most of the time I don't notice.

14. My new neighborhood is the Selby-Dale section of St. Paul. It even has its own Facebook page. I lived very close to here from 2006-2008. I'm neighbors with the Governor of CO. I live just below the ultra-hipster neighborhood, which doesn't hold a candle to the "trendier than thou" hipsterness of San Francisco.

15. I will miss my West Side neighborhood and my West Side neighbors, but I'm excited to be back on the Hill. Cathedral Hill, that is. I live just below the Hill - Cap Hill!

16. F. Scott Fitzgerald spent a good chunk of his childhood in this area of St. Paul. He even went to school near my new place - at the intersection of Summit and Dale. There is a bronze statue of him sitting on the stairs leading up to the school. Here's a fun walking tour of F. Scott's haunts. I'm near the Molly Brown House, but I've never been. Its still on my list.

17. I'm still planning on seeing The Help in three hours...I'm still planning on seeing The Help next week. My inner monologue is still that of a 50 year old southern black woman in the 1960s.

18. I'm currently reading My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock. I'm increasingly apathetic about the author, but am finding that I'm very taken with Eleanor Roosevelt. What a neat lady! Will have to read more about her. I recommended this to Al and am reading it myself. It wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, but I'm really enjoying it too. I especially liked the part where Noelle went up to Hyde Park, NY to visit Springwood and Val-Kill, the homes of Franklin and Eleanor. This fall I managed a project to add Visitor Access Improvements to the restored path (Roosevelt Farm Lane) that connects the two properties.

19. I never travel without my blankies. They have been to Australia, Spain, Hawaii, and all across the US. They are very well-traveled blankies. I never travel with Cholly Dolly (although while Al and I are well-adjusted adults, I wonder what happened to us in our childhoods to make us latch onto these objects for well into adulthood...). Mainly I'm afraid that I would a.) lose her (its happened - she once spent a year in Ocean City, NJ lost in friend's condo) or b.) security would ask to look in my bag and I'd be thoroughly embarrassed to be the 27 year old traveling for work with a pink rattle doll. After expressing this fear to my mom, she now calls her "IED Cholly". I bring her home for Christmas, though.

20. I think I'm ready to go back to bed now. Have a great Friday! I think I'm ready to go back to work now. Happy Fridays all around!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1.) Yesterday the Echo got some good ol' TLC at the jiffy lube and autozone in preparation to drive for 6 hours (her longest journey since driving to Denver last year). I am ready to make some extra $$ on the drive there - I get 50 cents/mile and it's about 700 miles round trip. Woot!

2.) The Byrons are officially spending Thanksgiving in Breckenridge. I'm super excited! We rented an amazing 3 bedroom townhouse with a good sized kitchen and private hot tub! If we stand in the middle of the parking lot, we can see the mountain, too! We're just a short walk from town and we're going to possibly go skiing and snowshoeing and just relax in the splendor the mountain town. I can't remember the last time all four of us were together for Thanksgiving, so I'm pretty excited. Dad hasn't been to visit Denver yet, so they'll fly in a little early and stay a little later so they can check out the town. They'll stay with me - I hope they don't mind that I don't turn my heat on!

3.) Look! This is my friend! She's pretty much famous! And I've known her since I was thiiiiiiis big!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stressville: Population 1

Yesterday I found out that my company won a contract for a pretty neat alternative transportation planning project at Arches National Park. When we bid the project, we put me in as Project Manager to managed Berger's part of the project (public involvement, light facilitation, and a greenhouse gas analysis) as well as two subs (subcontractors - specializing in transportation planning and landscape architecture). I am super excited. Most of the projects I was managing ended recently and I have missed it.

The project has a short timeline, though, and will be kicking off the week of August 29th with a four day workshop. I will be leaving for Europe on the 31st. yeeps! I will be in DC the entire week before and had planned on going to Pittsburgh with friends for that weekend. I'm really sad, but I've had to change my flight to come back into town on Friday. Saturday will be spent packing for both the Arches trip and for Europe (thankfully the clothing choices won't overlap!) and then Sunday I'll drive the 6 hours to the park. I'll stay for two days, introduce myself to the planning team, then my boss will take over for the final two days and I'll drive back to Denver. I get to turn around in probably 8 hours and then head to the airport again.

These schedules aren't unfamiliar to me. Back in February I did something quite similar with back to back to back trips from New Orleans to Seattle to Philly. At least this time I won't be changing as many time zones. And essentially the first full day of Europe travel is spent on a plane and I can sleep. I'm glad to know all this with a few weeks notice so now I can start pulling together lists and buying anything I might need in advance. Including my awesome walking shoes that no one seems to like but me :)

I'm a little apprehensive about being away from work for so long. By the time I'm back in the office, I will have been gone for a solid month. The control freak in me is doing my best to set people up with assignment while I'm gone and let my clients know who will be handling any issues with my projects while I am out. I'm also a bit proud that my company thinks I have enough experience to actually propose me as project manager on bigger proposals, but also that they think it is important that the client meet me and will spend the extra money to send both me and my boss to this workshop when they could have just sent her and saved the expense. Also the trip will score me extra hours that week which means I can use less vacation time. Its a win all around!!

I will be required to drive to Arches two more times before February and I'm hoping to get to see a bit more of the park with the remaining trips. Hopefully I can drive down to Canyonlands and get to put another pushpin in my National Park map!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Race Report: Tri for the Cure

Waaay back in May, two co-workers and I had signed up for Tri for the Cure, a women's only triathlon similar to race for the cure. We signed up as a relay and I was pegged to do the swim leg.

I had the best intentions of using swimming as a way to cross train during my final month of half marathon training, but I ended up only swimming twice. Whoops! I then planned to swim twice last week, but was swamped with work and ended up not doing that either. Thankfully, it was just a race for fun and we weren't worried about being all that competitive.

It was a huge triathlon - around 3,000 women signed up. It was nervous about plodding around, looking all chubby and squiggy around the edges in my swimsuit, but I was happy to see there was a wide range of ages and body types. Since the relay wave was nearly the last one to get into the water, we stood around and watched the elite, competitive, and survivor waves exit the water and transition to the bike. Watching the survivors was pretty emotional, and a bit scary since some of them were easily my age. Some of the elites ran with their bike shoes already clipped to their bikes and then would jump on and slide their feet in. I giggled imagining me trying to do that, inevitably tipping over and losing any time gained by having the shoes pre-clipped.

As I waited in the corral for my wave to start, I heard all the other girls anxiously talking about how much they hated the swim. I smiled to myself, excited that this is the one leg that I'm really good at. There were about 100 people per wave with an in-water start, but I managed to elbow my way towards the front of the pack. Still, when the wave was set loose, there was a lot of kicking and flailing and people on top of each other. I pretty much just swam breaststroke until the chaos subsided.

Then I went to put my head in the water. I didn't like it. I've done open water swims before, in far grosser conditions (Schuylkill River, anyone?), so I have no idea where the discomfort came from. I swam freestyle with my head out of the water for a bit, but I didn't care for that either and it was hurting my neck. We were also swimming straight into the sun for the first two buoys, and I couldn't see a darn thing, including the buoys. I started to have a hard time breathing and my goggles were fogging (I later realized the foam had detached from one of the eyepieces just before the race started), so I flipped onto my back and started backstroking.

I worked on calming my breathing and yelled at myself for a little bit. Once my goggles were clear and my heartrate down, I flipped back over and put my head in the water. I was able to sight myself every few strokes and made it around the first two buoys and out of the sun. Then I took off, fueled by anger at my lost time. I started passing people left and right, mostly left, because I stay on the inside lane and out of the way of the "noodlers" - people who aren't strong enough to complete the swim portion and are given noodles to kick around on. They drove me nuts. As I cleared the third buoy and was headed back towards the shore, I started sighting not only buoys, but also green caps - the other girls from my heat. I picked up a lot of speed, thinking, heck I don't have to do anything after this, I had better leave it all in the water.

I know I picked off at least 3 or 4 girls from my heat and was closing in on another one when I got to the end. Since the boat ramp was slippery, they had volunteers holding your hand and pulling you/holding you up as you exited the water. It was a bit of a bottleneck and only one person could go at a time. I saw 4 green caps ahead of me.

Overall, my time was 14:29. I was aiming for closer to 12 minutes and wonder how much time I could have shaved off if I hadn't had issues with the start. Our relay, Berger Babes, came in 9th out of the 75 relay teams. Out of the 2411 competitors that finished the swimming portion, I came in 166th.

It was a fun day and great atmosphere, but I dont think I would choose this event as a tri to attempt to race. There were just too many lallygaggers and the transition area was pretty terribly organized. People didn't understand race etiquette and weren't concerned with times. Which is fine, but it would frustrating as someone who would want to do well. But it made me realize I really miss racing, especially a sport that I'm good at, like swimming. I've been toying with the idea of doing the Olympic Tri in Key West, and this only made me want to do it that much more.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Gratitude

As my plane came in over the San Francisco Bay last Thursday, I thought to myself, boy am I lucky. Not only do I get paid to travel to amazing parks and cities for my job, but I also am fortunate enough to be able to afford traveling a lot on my own as well. While I haven't been out of the country all that much, I've gotten to see a whole heck of a lot of this one.

That gratitude extends back to all the family vacations we did growing up. It's funny that sometimes appreciation isn't in the moment, but once you're old enough to really see how fortunate you were. We had a two week family vacation each year. Numerous years at the Outer Banks and Hilton Head, a month-long foray to the west and to Jackson Hole twice. Ironically, probably my least favorite was our trip to Disney World - a more 'typical' family adventure. Its not that I didn't have fun or enjoy it, but I enjoyed the other trips just that much more.

I'd have to say my favorite trips, though, were the ones we took to Maine. We'd set our alarms for some unGodly hour of the morning, pack up the car and schlep the 11 or so hours it would take to get up there with a trunk full of suitcases and our bikes strapped to the bike rack. We would always stop in Freeport, however, to visit the flagship L.L. Bean store and, if we were lucky, eat at the "fancy" McDonald's there that served lobster (not that Allison or I would eat it, of course).

Then we'd head off to Southwest Harbor. I know we stayed a few places, including one that felt like it was in the middle of the woods with a woodburning stove and no TV, but my favorite was the one on the main street just past town. There was a tiny room in the loft with a bright blue fishy comforter, slanted roof, and no dressers. It had a sky light and I loved it. We also had our own dock there, with a little boat I could sometimes convince my family to go out rowing with me on. One time we went out on someone's real boat, although I can't quite remember who it was or why we were there.

More importantly, the place had air conditioning and cable. Two things our house was very much lacking. Allison and I were like pigs in slop, watching MTv and Nickelodeon to our hearts content. Salute Your Shorts was an annual favorite.

But one of my favorite memories was stopping by the Welcome Center. No matter where we ever went, if there was a Welcome Center, we knew mom would make us stop. She would gather pamphlets and maps and come back to the car armed with all sorts of adventures. At one point in Yellowstone, years later, when we were all tired from a full day and stayed in the car while Mom and Dad went for a quick 1 mile hike - Al, Kristin Horrocks, and I stole the collection of maps and wrote "Leave or the maps get it" in the dust on the exterior of the car. She was not amused. But this Welcome Center was different.

At this Welcome Center we'd pick up the NPS schedule for Acadia National Park. I've been a Junior Ranger at most parks, but I LOVED picking out which programs I wanted to do in Acadia. My favorite we did each year - a morning walk along rocks that were only exposed at low tide. I just looked on the park website and they still provide it - Tidepool School. I loved it. After a few years, I knew all the answers to the questions the Rangers would ask along the way. Each year I would lay down on my stomach on the rocks and dip my arms into the tidepools, lifting up seaweed and finding all sorts of creatures. We'd also always go to Stars over Sand Beach (armed with lots of bugspray) and the Beech Mountain Hike (which I always thought was Beach Mountain).

We'd also go up Cadillac Mountain, which my dad would crazily bike up. There were so many things we'd do each year that I loved. There was popovers at Jordon Pond and visiting Janet and Pearl in their cabin. For several Thanksgivings in a row now, my dad and I have tried to make our own popovers (or more accurately, he makes them while I look in the oven while they are baking and say, nope, not popped yet!). After several years and a variety of recipes, we finally have succeeded.

There was also this little old wooden theater that Mom and I would go to. The only play I really remember was "Ten Little Indians", based off of the book "And then there were none" by Agatha Christie. After that, I bought my first Christie novel and was hooked on Miss Marple through most of high school. And we'd always go to Bar Harbor for at least a day, although the traffic was always terrible. I much preferred staying across the island. There was one store I loved to go to. I forget the name of it, but it was a blue sign with white lettering and had a whale on it. It sold seashells and dried starfish and all that kind of stuff that I kept in empty fish tanks back home. I still have them, but they are occupied by spiders and dust out in the barn.

There was also this dinky little aquarium we could walk to from our rental. I'm not sure if it was free or if I just went there a lot, but it had this please touch tank full of sea creatures and I would stick my hands in and always play with the sea cucumber - my favorite marine animal. I could usually convince my dad to come along - there was a neat old Victorian hotel nearby that would host games of regulation croquette and we would always stand nearby and watch. It was a much more intense game than was ever played in the Byron backyard. From the deck of our rental, we could see fisherman down in the harbor hauling up lobsters from the docks. Dad would walk down and buy some straight out of the water and I'd play with them on the kitchen floor until the water was boiling.

Then there was the year the QE2 pulled into Bar Harbor. Along with the Fabers, we all got up super early and drove down to watch it pull in. Mostly Emily, Russell and I played on the rocks until it showed up, but I remember thinking how weird everyone on board was dressed - all skinny jeans and stripes before hipsters had even come into existence.

All of these memories were triggered somehow by flying in over that bay and just sitting back and being appreciative. I have little doubt that these vacations played no small part to my current career and are most likely the reason I am in the field I'm in. I don't quite know if my parents realize how much these trips shaped my life. I certainly didn't understand that not every family had these opportunities. Or that not every family ate dinner together every night and had parents who came to all of their sporting events to cheer them on. I had no idea that wasn't standard issue. These things I took for granted, and sometimes complained about, I have come to understand how fortunate I was and continue to be. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Pictures from the weekend!

First thing Friday I took myself out for a very Parisian breakfast - a Latte and Chocolate Croissant

Then I walked along Haight Street until I stumbled upon Ashbury

Then I picked up my race packet and was thoroughly tired, so I looked out Jess' window for a bit
The next day I drug Jess all over the city doing touristy things like seeing Lombard Street

the view from Lombard was pretty cool too

and saw Alcatraz (from afar - all of the boats were booked)

Then I went to run my race

And took a few pictures along the way

Then I won the half marathon (obviously)
Finally, I forced my tired legs to walk around a bit and saw the Painted Ladies along Alamo Square, made famous by the opening sequence to Full House

Monday, August 1, 2011

Race Report: San Francisco Half Marathon

In the days leading up to my first Half, I felt pretty confident, almost overly so. Two days before the race, when my Dad asked on a scale of one to ten how confident I felt, I said an 8 or 9. That confidence faltered just a little when I got to the race expo and found out the motto for the run was "Worth the Hurt." Still feeling pretty good, I walked around SF, sight seeing and dragging my cousin around to all the tourist places. I mean, I am a tourist, right? It wasn't until around 8:30 the night before the race that I had an overwhelming sense of nerves and dread.

But I managed to get a great nights sleep, woke up at 5:10 and caught my 5:42 bus downtown. I found $20 at the bus stop and made a friend (Nikolay, originally from Bulgaria. It was his first half too. I checked his stats after the race and he killed it - 66th in his age group, he finished almost a full hour before me.)

The first few waves had already started by the time I got there, so it wasn't overly crowded. I walked down to the Wave 7 corral, then worked my way back up to the start line with the throngs. It was a beautiful morning - overcast but no wind. I started out cognizant of my pace, making sure I didn't go out too fast. I giggled when, within a quarter mile of the start, runners were already waiting in line for a nearby bathroom.

I couldn't help but smile for the first few miles. I had been planning, training, working towards this run for 3 - 6 months and it was finally here and I felt great. I knew the first hill was well before the bridge (which still looked a tad far away from me, I thought disconcertingly)... I destroyed the hill. People around me stopped to walk and I plowed right up it - pumping my arms and singing "Hills are for Heroes!" in my head. Denver altitude was paying off.

Around miles 5-7, across the bridge, I was picking up a serious pace. Or so I thought. No matter how fast I felt like I was pushing, I always seemed to be passing the mile markers at just over 11 minute miles. At 7.44 miles, just over the bridge at a major turn around point, my average pace was 11:12. Overall I ended at 11:25 minute miles.

After crossing back over the bridge, I knew I had about 3.5 miles of the hilliest portion of the race. I felt really good up until 11.5 miles. At that point, the arches of my feet started to really ache, my hips were hurting and I still had three solid uphills. With under 1.5 miles left, I just pushed through. While people passed me on the downhill, I plodded past them as they walked the uphills. I didn't walk once, mostly because I was afraid that if I stopped, I wouldn't get going again. Even during my long runs in training, I had always stopped halfway.

The last 0.5 mile was fairly brutal. A final uphill through a park. Thank goodness there were onlookers to cheer us all on. Somewhere in the 11th mile a guy was holding a sign that on one side said "Last Hill!" and on the flip side "...Until the next one" which made me laugh. By the time I saw the finish line I was able to muster up a sprint to the finish. I watched the marathoners run right past (they had to pass our finish line along with the corral with all of the food for the half finishers, which seemed cruel to me) but I thought to myself, I can't imagine running another 13.1.

Unlike most of the other, shorter races I've done, I thankfully didn't feel the need to boot at the finish. I just tried to keep walking so I wouldn't tense up. I wandered around the finish area, onto to the shuttle busses back to the Embarcadero then made my way back to my cousin's. Since I was happily wearing my finishers medal, a few people on the street congratulated me on running and one asked if I had won first place. I should have said yes - yes, the slightly chubby girl limping through the Muni system won first in the half marathon. Since our first names were on our running bibs, someone in Muni said "Congratulations Rebecca!" which was equal parts creepy and appreciated.

After brunch I promptly laid down on my blow up mattress for a few hours and every joint hurt once I finally moved. I did my best to stretch throughout the day and force myself to go for a few walks around the block. Changing from sitting to movement hurt for about the first three blocks, but then I was fine. This morning I was delightfully surprised to find out that most of those aches were gone - just a bit of knee pain, no doubt from a lot of those steep downhills, which I've been remedying with ice and ibu. Overall I feel surprisingly great!

For my next half marathon (and there will definitely be a next - my mind is already made up to run the National Half in March), I will be a bit more diligent on my training. I didn't skip an overwhelming amount of runs, but enough that I think would help with those last two miles. During this plan, I only focused on the miles, not necessarily the speed of them. For now, I'm going to back down my long runs to about 6 miles and then include speedwork during the week to try to speed up these clydesdale legs of mine.

I'm glad that I pushed my body to do this. I like to challenge myself but never would have previously thought that doing a half marathon would ever be something I could accomplish, much less something that I'd WANT to do. I 100% credit Katie for fueling this crazy idea that my body can do whatever my mind thinks is a good idea. Starting with that first 10k back in December 2008. What a far way I've come.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Big South Fork

I am an environmental planner who mostly works for the National Park Service. Sometimes I do odds and ends for the Navy and Army to, you know, actually earn my firm some profit, but mostly I make my living on the NPS. I love my job.

As part of my job description, I get to go to visit all the neat parks we get hired to work in. Its why I got to explore Everglades, see alligators in Big Cypress, and snorkel in Biscayne at the end of last month. Its why I get flown to D.C. once or twice a year and why I was sent to central Tennessee for the majority of last week. Its why I'm praying that my firm is awarded a new project at Arches National Park; I am in the proposal as project manager and it would include several trips to southern Utah. Although a lot of the parks are really great to visit, its also why I was sent to rural Missouri in December in the middle of an ice storm. You win some, you lose some.

But back to Tennessee. For this trip, we were facilitating a series of public meetings throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, which are held in the evening. Since our hotel's internet was inevitably not working, my co-worker and I were left with plenty of time to explore this huge and fairly new park. The park itself was created in the 1970s, but was run by the U.S. Corps of Engineers until the NPS took over management in the 1990s. The park has a pretty neat history. A lot of mining and, due to the ownership of the park, there are still a lot of oil and mineral rights held in private ownership within the park boundaries. The NPS only owns the surface of the land, above those private mineral rights. As part of the enabling legislation of the park, mining is an acceptable and historical use of the property.

The Blue Heron portion of the park was the site of an old mining community that housed and employed hundreds of people from 1937 through the mid 1960s. By the time the Corps of Engineers acquired the land, all of the structures had deteriorated but the the Corps rebuilt an outdoor museum of "ghost structures" of where the homes and buildings would have been. The bridge from the mine and the tipple, or sorting house, remain. Interestingly, a written account of Blue Heron during operation was never put together, so all of the information in the museum has been collected from people who were around then. Click here for the NPS history of the mining town. Here is a picture of the bridge and the original tipple.

"Look at me! I'm a Tipple! Not to be confused with Mr. Whipple"

Before visiting Blue Heron, my coworker and I had visited the northern-most Kentucky portion of the park that draws a big crowd: Yahoo Falls (thats pronounced Yay-hoo, for you non-locals out there). To say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement. Take a look for yourself:

That little stream of water in the lower righthand corner? That's it. Granted, this wasn't a peak flowage period, and we were forced to view it from above, not ground level, but still. I had to go onto the park's website even to see what made Yahoo Falls such a big deal. Apparently this little stream is the longest/tallest waterfall in Kentucky at 113 feet. I think you and I can agree that it pretty much blows Niagara Falls out of the water, so to speak.

I think my favorite part of the park was a portion we hadn't even planned on seeing. The Chief of Natural Resources was taking the newbie from the Southeast Region of NPS on a hike to see the Twin Arches on Wednesday morning so we happily tagged along. I also learned the valuable lesson to drink coffee before hiking in the morning. Although I really enjoyed the hike, I think my face had trouble showing it sans-caffeine. The Twin Arches were a geological marvel. Sandstone rocks that had been eroded away bit by bit until they became what they are today. A lot of native american tribes took shelter in the caves within the arches and, with a light and a solid grip on your arachnophobia, you can actually go in one portion of the North arch and out through the other side. They were so massive that it was difficult to get an accurate picture, but this was my best attempt.

And finally, on our way to "Gentleman's Swimming Hole" in the old Utopian town of Rugby, TN, we stopped and had lunch at a lovely little restaurant where I noticed this advertisement on a table:

Finally! I'm so glad Mr. Fuzzy Orange (you think he/his parents did drugs?) has found an inventive use for this invasive species. In only a billion or so baskets, our kudzu problems will be solved!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Greetings from Tennessee!

You may have gathered that I'm in Tennessee for work. I'm doing a round of public meetings at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area - the South Fork of Cumberland River. It was not an easy process to get here.

Last Wednesday, there was a big hailstorm that went through DIA which took out 20 of Frontier Airlines fleet. It has been slightly organized chaos ever since. Thankfully at 9 am I checked my flight status and saw my 4:25 flight had been pushed to 10:15. By 5 pm it had been pushed to 11pm. We were lucky that our flight wasn't canceled, but I was tired from my birthday weekend in Steamboat and definitely had trouble containing my "Philly" when checking in and getting through security. We finally landed in Knoxville a little before 4am and were overwhelmingly happy to find one rental car company was still open at the airport. We hauled our 1.5 hours to our hotel, grabbed some complimentary breakfast being served (if they serve anything other than biscuits and gravy, I couldn't find it), and sacked out until noon. It was long, but I was thankful our meeting wasn't until 4.

Now, I have nothing against small towns, but I prefer towns with character. I think if I had to live here, it would be a very depressing life. The main area of town is just ugly strip mall after strip mall with the token anchor of Wal-Mart. It somewhat reminds me of Bill Bryson's description of Gatlinburg, but he delighted in its ugly splendor. In "The Lost Continent" Bryson searches for the perfect small town - I can tell him that Helenwood and Oneida aren't it. Although there is a local utopian town in nearby Rugby...

I'm excited to get into the park at bit tomorrow to explore off the beaten path and see the more scenic areas of Tennessee. I'm thankful that I am traveling with a co-worker who also wants to see the park and we are getting up early to do so. Also on the agenda will be a training run - pounding some pavement in the heat and humidity. I am feeling stronger every day and ready to kill the SF half. I've crossed the threshold from "ug, not ANOTHER run" to "ooh I like this - maybe I'll do another half...", so the training is getting more enjoyable by the day - especially when I get to do runs in new areas each week.

On the nutrition front, its hit or miss, but I went for yummy grilled chicken and didn't pick french fries as a side tonight at dinner. Avoiding fried food in rural TN is like trying avoid food on a stick at the MN state fair, but I'm doing what I can. If nothing else, we're staying in a dry county so the standard post-meeting beer (or two) isn't even an option! Which is good because my hotel replaced their gym with a couch, TV, and beer cooler. Utopia indeed.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wordless Friday

My officemates are awesome.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Denver

Exactly one year to the day I moved to Denver. Technically, we blasted Carbon Leaf's "Let Your Troubles Roll By" on our way into the Denver County line on July 13th, but had arrived a day early and stayed at a (bed-bug free) hotel that night.

My first year in Denver has been incredible. The weather for each and every season has been completely unusual and I'm told never to expect it to be that way again. While it normally snows in October, it was still 54 degrees in December. I think we barely had ten inches of snow in the city for the whole winter while the mountains got hammered with record snowpack. The spring was chilly without much rain, but we've been hammered by severe storms and heavy rainfall for the last two weeks. Everything is still green when it should be brown and crispy.

I've gotten the hang of the ski season, bought the 'wrong' ski pass, but skied great mountains anyhow. I've pre-purchased my 'right' ski pass for this year and am aiming to get in more weekends on the slopes.

I've adjusted to the altitude. Mostly. I've run the most I've ever run by myself, adopted healthier eating habits, and had a solid lifting routine for the first time in my life. I PR'd my 5k time and signed up for my first half marathon. I lost weight then good beer helped me put it back on.

I've completed a graduate degree and got my professional license. I got promoted.

I've had free time for the first time in four years but I'm the busiest I've ever been.

I've spent more money at REI than I care to even tally. But I've used that gear to spend cold nights warmed up in my sleeping bag, blown away by the view while peeing under the stars at 2am. I still have a list a mile long of the gear I still want to acquire.

I've summited my first 14'er and glacaded down a mountain. I've learned new words like post-hole and glacade. I've learned what altitude sickness feels like. I learned that when the bottom of the clouds go flat, get your butt off the mountain.

I got to travel to new parks and new states, both for work and play.

I got to go home and back to DC more times than I had even hoped for. I'll go back to DC twice more before 2012. Being far from these people and places didn't feel as distant as I was worried it might.

I've made amazing friends. I love my life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nutrition 101

To say I am frustrated would be an understatement. I am trying really hard to fuel my body correctly in order to complete hard, long workouts and still have a bit of a calorie deficit at the end of the day to shed some pounds. I am gaining. I have revamped what I eat - no more lunches out at work, and I've really worked to have protein at each meal. I barely drink anymore (July 3rd notwithstanding) and I switch up my workouts so I'm not just running (others include boxing, hiking, swimming, and riding) and I do strength training twice a week and yoga three times a week. I'm not quite sure what else I could be doing differently.

Yesterday, at the height of my frustration (I saw the race pictures from Saturday and they weren't flattering), I started tooling around the internets looking for some advice. I think I'm going to be back to logging until Europe and then if I'm still seeing no movement, I'm going to talk to a nutritionist.

Until then, I've beefed up my breakfast a bit - added a whole grain english muffin and a glass of milk to my 3/4 cup egg whites and cheese - 358 cals, 37.9 g protein. We'll see how full it keeps me. Certainly may help with what a bottomless pit I become in the afternoons!

Tomorrow I'm also going to have my trainer check my measurements and test my body fat again. I'm seriously hoping that if nothing else, those have changed. If they haven't, its going to be a pretty big blow.

Overall I know my endurance is better, I'm building more muscles, I'm healthier and, when I eat correctly, I have more energy. I am trying to be ok with just those benefits, but carrying around this gut deflates me from time to time (especially when I see the photographic evidence of it). Just need to push on and know I'm doing the right things.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

OFFICIAL race results

I think from now on I'll say I came in 36th instead of last. And I was right, two 10k'ers dropped out and ended with the 5k finishers (including the one woman I know was running right around the same pace I was).

42 Miles

Sunday morning I woke up a bit late (11:30!) but decided to go out for my long ride anyhow. My goal was to ride down to the Chatfield Reservoir - a mere 45 miles round trip. Morgan had assured me it was a flat ride and I happily loaded my bike with food stuffs for the ride and headed out.

The ride started out on Cherry Creek Trail and goes three miles to Confluence Park - where the Platte River and Cherry Creek meet (conveniently right in front of REI). I took a left and headed south along the Platt River Trail and enjoyed watching people play in the high water - a combination of record snowpack melt and lots of afternoon rainstorms has left Denver green and full of water. About a mile into this trail, there was a detour through Denver's scenic industrial neighborhood but then I was back onto the trail and on my way.

The signage wasn't the best. At one point, the Platte Trail takes a decidedly left turn without so much as an arrow. Unaware of the turn, I continued on straight and after about 2 miles, saw a sign that I was now on the Bear Creek Trail. I had been a bit confused as to how the mountains had suddenly shifted from my right to my left and now I understood why. I turned around, sheepishly asked for directions to confirm the Platte went left, and continued along my way.

I couldn't remember why I had been so concerned about starting earlier. I thought and thought and only could figure that maybe I had wanted to avoid the heat or maybe get back early to do things around the apartment. It wasn't until around mile 20 that I remembered why: afternoon thunderstorms. I saw the clouds roll in, and eagerly looked for a bit of shelter as I got rained on for a mile or so. I camped out under an overpass with a fellow biker and a crazy homeless man. The homeless man yelled expletives at us (had the other biker not been there, I probably would have preferred being rained on) and told us our clothes were too expensive and wouldn't cut down the ratio (huh? And also my top was from target, homeless dude). He also yelled that we were weekend warriors. But we (the sane biker and I) checked the doppler on my phone, saw the storm was heading north, and continued on our way.

I didn't quite make it all the way to reservoir. The skies were looking more and more threatening and I turned around at 25 miles. It was a good choice, within 5 or 10 minutes of being home, the skies opened up with some pretty heavy rain and lightning. Along the way I stopped at a coffee shop along the trail to fill up my water bottle and eat some Gu. I probably should have eaten part of my protein bar instead - I ran out of gas around 38 miles and probably could have used more fuel earlier in the ride.

As I biked up Pearl St, the hill from 7th to 8th, some jerks on a balcony above me threw a water balloon that landed about 2 feet from me and gave me quite the startle. Had it actually hit me, I think I just would have laid down and cried, too tired to make it the one block home.

42 miles was my longest ride ever, and had I eaten more, I think I could have easily gone further. I kept my pace around 17 mph, sometimes cruising at 19 without a problem. My legs aren't all that sore, although biking gloves and better shorts would have helped the comfort of my ride. I'd like to get clip in pedals and shoes, but will patiently wait until next spring to invest. My boss has an old pair of shoes she is going to bring in for me and Papa B is sending along his old biking gloves. I'll gladly accept handmedowns until I can save up for some biking gear of my own!

I can't help but think that if 42 miles without training was easy and 1.2 miles of swimming is a breeze, if completing a half ironman isn't all that crazy...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Race Report: Run Like the Wind 10k

Spoiler alert: I came in last.

I picked up Julie around 6:45 Saturday morning and we began our (super pretty) 1.5 hour drive up towards Allenspark. The Echo moaned and groaned once we started up into the mountains, making a stronger case that I need a new car sooner rather than later.

I thought it strange there was an Aplinhorn just hanging around by the town sign...

We arrived plenty early, picked up our race packets, and stretched a bit.

As we all hung around waiting til the 9 am start, the MC opened the race, I kid you not, by playing the Aplinhorn. I had to look up what the instrument was called. Mostly I just called it the thing the Ricola guy plays.

It was a fairly small race and at 9 am we lined up and headed out, starting with two loops around the town square. For the first mile, my heart and lungs burned and cursed my name. It felt a lot like the first time I had tried to run right after moving to Denver. After that mile, though, I started to enjoy the ups and downs of the course and settled into a good pace. I was with a group that would run the downhills and flats and then mostly walk the uphills - which I could walk faster than I could run them. I peeked around and saw that there were other 10k'ers around me (you could tell by their race bibs) and felt ok that I wouldn't be the last one.

I stopped during the first loop to take a picture - thats Long's Peak, a local 14'er

The first half was a combined 5k/10k then as the 5k finished, all of the 10k'ers were forced to turn right before the finish line and immediately regret their decision to have signed up for the 10k. At least I did. The second half was basically a long out and back and mile 4 was pretty much hell on earth - the longest climb ever. It was miserable. But I made it to the turnaround and enjoyed mile 5 - all of the downhill I had just climbed. It was around this point where I realized, hmm, I think I'm last. Since it was an out and back, I hadn't passed anyone going the other way. It was actually kind of nice, for most of the second part of the race, it was just like being out on a run in the woods by myself. I also realized how small of a race the 10k was. There couldn't have been more than 30 other runners. And thankfully, by the time I crossed the finish line, everyone had already migrated to the other side of the street where the food was, so no one was there except for Julie, patiently waiting for me to finish.

I'm guessing that the 10k'ers I saw around me during the first half decided to make it a 5k instead and really, who could blame them. I was proud of myself for finishing, though, and thought to myself that the SF hills will be a breeze compared to this race. I am also really proud that during the out and back, when no one else was around me, I didn't just turn around and trim a mile off of the race. And believe me, I thought about it.

Overall, I was really proud of myself for pushing through and finishing, even if my time was atrocious and everyone just wanted to go home instead of waiting for me to cross the finish line. The race was proof that you really can win by coming in last. I certainly did.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Running, Running, and even more Running

Yesterday it beyond downpoured in Denver. Essentially three storms came off the mountains and all met in Denver for a superstorm convention. It was almost like being in a slightly less windy hurricane. At one point, we couldn't see the buildings a few blocks down from our office.

Suffice to say, I ran indoors last night. I had five miles on the schedule and wasn't too excited to do them on a treadmill, but was even less excited to try to bike home in the monsoon. I also learned yesterday that my gym uses DirecTv, so all of our TVs were out during the storm too. Bummer. My first two miles were great and I started including 1/2 mile pace increases towards the end. Mostly I just got bored and wanted to break things up a bit, but I ended up with my fastest 5 mile time ever: 51:30, with an average pace of 10:18 minute miles. For me, that is essentially flying. I recognize that treadmill running is faster than pavement running, but it was still nice.

Today all of those pounds the scale happily yielded to me last week were back (of course), which is a bummer but oh well. For now I've got more important things to focus on - like potentially dying in Allenspark tomorrow.

In my haste to find a 10k race for this weekend, I picked the first and only one I could find after one google search. The Allenspark Run Like the Wind 10k. It is up near Rocky Mountain National Park and I figured it would be a really pretty run, even though its at 8500 feet. Even more high altitude training for my at-sea level half marathon - hooray! I found a sucker, er um, friend to run it with me and we signed on up.

What I failed to notice is that Allenspark is almost an hour and a half away. Which is no big deal, but we'll have to leave nice and early from Denver. I also failed to notice that this is also a trail run, not a road race (or it might be a combo of the two, I'm still not quite sure). To make matters even more fun, the elevation chart for this course looks like the cardiac machine printout from an emergency room patient - except without all the charming flat bits.

Lest you think I exaggerate:

So, I'm nervous to say the very least. But I figure that I'm not concerned about time, just finishing and not dying, so if nothing else it will be a new experience! And hey, the hills in SF will have NOTHING on this course, so I actually wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being more challenging.