Monday, September 29, 2014

Sweet Georgia Peaches

Hey y'all!  I'm back after spending a week down south visiting my sister and her family and meeting my newest niece:

2 weeks old!
If you are anything like me and think there is nothing sweeter in this world than teeny tiny baby faces & hands & toes, then please accept these photos as my gifts to you:


My sister was 2 weeks post-partum when I arrived so she was still dealing with a fair amount of pain (from the C-section) as well as sleep deprivation!  So it was my job while I was there to step in and do as many of her duties as I could.  Mostly this meant taking care of my 1 and 4 year old nephew and niece, but I also tried to help out around the house too. 

Remember when I asked you all for easy recipes?  Well, by the grace of God and all of my sister's incredible friends we had meals to eat almost every night!  My sister has a network of mom friends and so many of them brought over cooked dinners while I was there.  Guaranteed I ate far better last week than I normally do at home.  I actually only cooked one night and I made tacos.  I know, I'm a real Betty Crocker.  But the kids and adults alike ate them and no one got food poisoning so that's a WIN!

I did a lot of running around for my sister since she couldn't really leave the house yet.  I think I went to the grocery store 3 times that week and to Target twice?!  [This is apparently standard for a family of 5?!]

Random grocery store finds:

The best vegan gelato I've ever had.  I wish I could find this up North.
I obvs did not buy these but came across them while shopping and wondered if anyone has ever seen these?!

Let me just tell you it is a far different experience grocery shopping with toddlers than when you go alone! Hahaha I'm sure all the moms out there can verify this but I sure do take for granted how easy it is to run errands by myself.  I dk how my sister gets anything done in a timely fashion.  My 23 month old nephew is obsessed with vacuums so every time we went to Target we had to visit the vacuum display so that he could try out at least 10 different vacuums (which we had no intention of buying).  20 minute derailment right there.  Good times.

What else did we do?  Hmmm, I took the kids back and forth to school every day.  I took them both for haircuts one day which was incredibly cute, and of course I forgot my phone that day.  So unfortunately I wasn't able to capture that priceless moment for each of them, but let me assure you they both looked ADORABLE sitting in the big chair draped with a cape. 

It was also still fairly warm down there so we went to the pool and naturally took a selfie:

I took the kids for ice cream one day after school.  It should be noted there is a vast difference in terms of neatness in how a 23 month old and a 4 year old eat soft serve ice cream:

She remained this tidy throughout the entire process :)

This was about 1 second in.  He was completely covered approx. 2 mins after this

I also took my niece to t-ball one morning:
Tiny body x huge helmet = cuteness x1000
I got called by my sister's name at least 15-20 times last week.  I kind of just lost count.  When I was out at Kroger or Target I heard random people shouting "Lisa" at me, so now I pretty much just answer to my sister's name when I'm in ATL.  They all told me I looked wonderful for just having had a baby 2 weeks ago.  Yep, thanks!!!
In between all this madness, I managed to fit in just 2 runs late-night.  I went out around 9pm after the kids were in bed and ran 4 miles one night and 5mi another.  I now pretty much know my sister's new neighborhood like the back of my hand, even in the pitch dark.
In an unfortunate turn of events, I came down with a cold that I contracted from my NannyKid just 2 days after I arrived in Georgia so for the rest of the week, I had to keep my distance from the new baby.  I was so terrified of giving her the cold, but so far she has been ok. 

Last week was such a whirlwind, and as if I didn't already realize moms are pretty much superheroes this week of nonstop action pretty much sealed the deal for me.

With the addition of the newest baby, I now am an Aunt to FOUR nieces and nephews.  How did I get this lucky?!

Hope you all had a great week!  I'm off to tend to my other babies now :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Parting Thoughts

Nope, not dying over here or shutting down the blog, butttttt I am going to be out of town for the next week meeting and greeting this little one for the first time:


Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  That's right, I'm headed back to Atlanta!  Through the years, I've been fortunate enough to be able to be with my sister right after the birth of each of her children.  Being able to meet my new niece and nephew in those first few weeks of their life was indescribable and being there for my sister when she needed my help was the least I could do.  Soooooooo, this time around there are 2 toddlers in the mix which means non stop activity, of which I am already a huge fan.  The only thing that concerns me is that I'm going to have to feed a family of 4 (5?) each night and as we all know my culinary skills are abysmal.  In fact, today at work, I actually had to Google 'how to hard boil an egg' in order to prepare my NannyKid's lunch.  I'm outrageous.  So if you have any EASY to make dinner ideas for me (I mean, like they literally contain 5 ingredients or less and don't involve a recipe), please leave them below.

Ok, now for the random roundup of this week's happenings:

1.  I saw these in the lobby of my building this week - Didn't even know they still existed:

Does anyone use these anymore?!  And also, that's a lot of dead trees right there.
2.  I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, pondering taking the next BuzzFeed 'If you were a breakfast cereal, what would you be' Quiz, when this pops up and smacks me like a 2x4 to the head:
IT'S NOT EVEN FALL YET!  People need to calm the H down on the Christmas mania in September.  However, reading through some of the comments on this post was actually a highlight of my day.  They included such gems as "Do not get me started on the Christmas before Halloween stuff.  I will throw a pumpkin at the TV".  I am with you lady. 
3.  It's concord grape season!!
My grandparents have a grape arbor over their back patio that has it's origins in Sicily.  My great grandparents brought a sprig over from the old country and planted it in Brooklyn where they settled.  Then when my grandfather moved to Pennsylvania, he took some of the vine with him and started an arbor in his new home.  When I was a kid, the arbor was huge and concord grapes were everywhere.  These grapes are what (purple) grape juice and jelly are made from and they taste much different from normal red and green seedless grapes.  I think they are only in supermarkets in September?  Not sure, but it's a very limited window around here.  If you've never had them, I def suggest trying them!

4.  And finally, if I come back to Baltimore in a body cast, this is why:

My brother in law's suggestion for outdoing the popping-out-of-a-box entrance that occurred on my last visit.  COUNT ME IN
I obviously won't be blogging next week, but I will be reading!  I'm sure my IG feed will be full of baby/kid photos for the next 7 days as well if you're interested.  Chat with you all in a week :)
Have any go-to family friendly, EASY to make meals?!
Do you still use a phone book?
Ever had concord grapes?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Next?

Oh this is indeed a question that keeps me up at night.  There are many iterations of this question for me, but presently I'm contemplating what to physically do with my body now that my goal race has come and gone.  Even though I didn't train extensively, it was still the focal point of the past couple months of my life and gave me something to look forward to.  After every big race is over, I usually cycle through a series of the same thoughts and feelings.  First, Yippee I did it!  Secondly, ugh, I could have done better.  (Is this healthy? Prob not, and a subject for another post.)  Third, ok time to relax.  Fourth, I'm bored.  Now what?!  I am already at Stage Four and in fact, landed there about last Wednesday, but I still took a few more days off (no running).  By this weekend I was feeling aimless and like I was resting on my laurels.  Coincidentally, this is a feeling that has been slowly seeping into my general life thoughts lately too.  But let's deal with one at a time here.
Physically, I was contemplating throwing another half into the mix later this Fall but now I'm not sure I want to remain in 'training' mode for the next couple months.  I kind of just want to run, simply for the enjoyment.  However, I do love racing because it gives me something to look forward to, and it's fun.  So I'm considering doing a few shorter distance races for the rest of the year (5K's or 10K's) since they require no training.  Well, truthfully I should have done some speed work this year, as opposed to the ZERO I've done at all, if I want to get faster, but there's also no harm in just running some turkey trots for fun! 
In addition, I'm looking to get stronger.  I haven't done much strength work lately.  When I was training for my race, my weekly workouts looked like this:
Running - 3x week
Weight lifting - 1x week
Cross training (biking, rowing, swimming, hiking, walking) - 2x week
Rest - 1x week
Only 1 day of strength/weight training a week is not going to make anyone stronger/faster.  I'm longing for that all over body soreness, can't-walk-the-next day feeling that I can only get from HIIT or boot camp type workouts.  I can't get that feeling from running or from regular workouts in the gym.  I want to challenge my body again in new ways so that I can build more strength and speed.  I really really liked the boot camp I did last winter at EA All Day Fitness.  Those were truly some of the most intense, hardest workouts I've ever had, and I really liked the instructor.  So, I'm thinking of contacting him to see if he has any deals going on right now and maybe I can get a month or two of training in with him.  If not, then I'll scour Groupon and see if I can find myself another boot camp  deal.  I usually seem to luck out on there!
Now for life plans.  Oh life, you are a wild and twisting path aren't you?  I recently read this post at Lifting Revolution, titled 'Would Your 20 Year Old Self Approve of You?' and it got me thinking, even further back than my 20 year old self, to what my hopes and dreams were as a younger child.  I am a Pisces after all (classic dreamer) and considering my current profession, believe there is value in honoring the dreams of children.  I don't think I ever had a clear path or 'aha' moment in knowing what I wanted to do with my life.  You know, how some people just seem to be struck with the concrete notion that they will become a doctor, or teacher, or circus professional, at a very young age, but I think I always had an idea about the kind of person I wanted to be, if that makes sense. 
The earliest memory I have of wanting be 'something' was in First Grade and I ardently wanted to be a nun!  Had to be the Catholic school upbringing, but I got a huge thrill wearing the homemade nun costume for Halloween her aunt made her that year.  And the next.  And possibly even a third year in a row?! I dk, I can't remember.  I can't really pinpoint when that dream ended but there are a few other things that I think are important about my early development that somehow got pushed aside in later years.  I was an early and avid reader as a young'un.  I devoured books of all kinds (Babysitters Club anyone?!) because once I learned to read, I found such enjoyment in it.  I also took a real interest in art by middle school and even took some lessons.  By high school, internal and external pressures pushed me to more academic pursuits and I became super studious.  I was a high achiever and honors student (despite my lowest grades always being in math, the bane of my existence!), but what strikes me about those years is I feel like I never had an end goal in sight other than to get good grades.  I couldn't see ahead as to what I was doing all of that work for.  Same thing in college.  I went back and forth on my major a few times.  First, thinking pre-med.  Then thinking teaching because I loved kids (I had been babysitting for a few years by then).  I ended up with a dual major in General Science and Elementary Ed.  Weird combo. 
Fast forward and somehow I ended up with a career in Finance.  WTH?!  I was never good at math, ever.  It was a constant struggle for me.  First warning sign right there that perhaps this career was not the best choice.  But, a stable career in a corporate environment is just what one does after college, right?!  Isn't that the formula for success.  Nada my friends.  Not at all.  So, that brings us to present day and I think the point I'm trying to make is that I need to go back to my roots.  To where my strengths and interests emerged from a very young age.  If I do that, I see that I long to be doing humanitarian work of some kind.  Nannying, check.  I also need a creative outlet.  Blogging check.  Now, it remains to be seen if either of these pursuits will sustain or satisfy me in the long term, however at least I know I'm on the right track (much more than the last 10 years of my life).  However, I still feel like there are several pieces missing and that is what I'm longing to put together. 
With the new season almost upon us, I feel like change is in the air and I have a feeling there is going to be movement on my part.  I am not a huge fan of Fall, because I know it leads to the worst season ever (you may call it Winter), but I do feel like it ushers in change.  I know if I really listen to my heart, it will point me in the right direction.  As long as I feel like I making a difference and an impact in the world, however small, whether that be caring for a child, helping people live healthier lives, or something entirely different (vegan bakery anyone?!) then I am living at least part of my purpose.  Where the future leads, I am still unsure, but the times they are a changin'.
Last Fall, in Baltimore
What do you do after you complete a big goal race? 
Are you living out the life your younger self thought you would?


Thursday, September 11, 2014

AMRAP Giveaway Winners and #TBT Race-Day Style

Helloooo all!  Welcome to the Thursday edition of my randomness.

My first order of business today is to announce the 3 winners of the AMRAP bars!


Amy S.
Lisa C.
Alyson G.

I will be emailing each of you individually to get your info (address/etc).  Thanks to everyone who participated.

Secondly, since completing the race on Sunday, I started thinking about the 5 half marathons I've run so far and thought it would be fun to look back at my photos from each of those races.  So lucky you, you get to walk down memory lane with me.

1st Half Marathon:  Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon, November 2011:
This happened in the midst of my break-up/depression.  I never before considered running 13 miles.  It's amazing what heartbreak will spur you to do!
2nd Half Marathon:  St. Luke's Half Marathon, Allentown, PA, April 2012:

Shaved 11 mins off my time from my first Half!  Insane.
3rd Half Marathon:  Nike Women's Half Marathon, Washington DC, April 2013:
Stoked I got in the lottery and was able to run the inaugural East Coast version of this race.  Fun fact: I have yet to wear the coveted Tiffany necklace! Haha, what can I say, I rarely wear jewelry.  (Note to potential suitors: This makes me a real catch and a cheap date)
4th Half Marathon:  Runner's World Half, Bethlehem, PA, October 2013:

My PR!  And hilliest race to date.
5th Half Marathon:  VIA Half, Easton, PA, September 2014:
Looking like a true nerdicus maximus here.

I wonder where #6 will take me?!

And finally, I haven't run at all since the race on Sunday.  That's 4 days without running, or any workouts really, except a few walks.  I just felt like my body could use a little a break.  It's amazing how much free time you have when you're not working out in the evening.  It almost makes me want to take up a new hobby, like cooking.  HAHAHAHAHA hahahahahahaha  NOPE.  Just kidding.  I did not do that.  Don't worry, I'll be running again by the weekend which means I only have to distract myself from picking up any cooking utensils for the next day or so.  SHOULDN'T BE A PROBLEM.

That's it for me.  I worked a 14 hour day today starting at 4:45 AM so I'm actually delirious right now.  I apologize if none of the rambling in this post made any sense.  I'm off to bed.  Wake me at Christmas.  G'night!

Do you participate in #TBT?  Can you email me some throwback pics please?!?!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Half Marathon #5 Recap: Lehigh Valley/VIA Half Marathon

Well, this pretty much sums up my weekend:

My heart was so so full after the past few days.  The race went really well for both my sister and me, I ate countless vegan treats, I saw two of my very best friends, AND I got a new niece!  How does one person even deserve all this goodness?!  I don't know but I'm thanking my lucky stars. 

First up, race recap. 

Weather:  Our prayers were answered because the weather did a complete 180 from Saturday to Sunday, so thank you to everyone who sent up silent little intentions for us!  Sunday in PA was HOT, hot, hot, and extremely humid.  In fact, dozens of runners were treated for heat illness at Saturday's Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon in Lancaster on Saturday.  My thoughts were definitely with everyone participating in the race that day as I knew how difficult and dangerous the weather was.  My sister and I were understandably pretty apprehensive about the weather for the following morning, but by some stroke of incredible luck (the Universe looking out for us!), a strong front of thunderstorms rolled in late Saturday night and cooled things off.  When we got up Sunday morning the temps were in the 60's!  The humidity was still really high (85%) at the start of the race, but the cooler temps were incredible. 

Pre-race fuel:  My sister decided to sleep over my parents' house the night before since the race was early (7am) and their house was closer to the starting line.  This means I lucked out in the food department, because she cooked us a delicious spaghetti and meatball dinner from scratch!  It certainly beats the jar of Prego sauce I usually eat on my pasta the night before a race (I am the worst Italian ever).  I also stopped by Vegan Treats while I was home and had some Speculoos (ie. "cookie butter") and Brownie Batter vegan soft serve.  Probably the most incredible combo in the entire world.  I really wish you could taste this through the screen because it was beyond perfect.

Race day morning I had a plain untoasted blueberry bagel, a bottle of water and 1/2 bottle of Gatorade. 

Me and my sis pre-race.  AKA 6am.

The race:  Race start was early at 7am, but I'm thankful for this because the day did end up getting pretty hot by the afternoon.  The only pre-race glitch I experienced was that I hit the start on my Garmin a bit late and it took FORever to find a signal.  This is something I've experienced off and on with my Forerunner 10.  Sometimes it searches and searches and gets stuck and I have to start the process over again.  Annnnnnnnd this is what happened at the start of the race!  Anyone else ever have this issue with this watch?  So I have no idea how many minutes into the race it finally found the signal and started tracking (4 mins? 5 mins?) but that kind of threw me off the first mile or so. At least I was still getting splits but they weren't at race mile markers.  My first mile pace was 9:27 and the rest were all between 9:21 and 9:01 except the last three miles which ranged between 8:45 and 8:51.  So I did a pretty good job of negative splitting. 

The course was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!  It was mostly what I would consider a trail race because we were running on a dirt/gravel path along the river for almost the entire thing.  Much much different than the road races I usually run.  The surroundings were serene and shaded and I loved it.  Also, the surface was much more forgiving on your legs.  It was only at the end of the race when we got back on the concrete and asphalt that I noticed how much harder it felt on my legs.  (Note to self:  Need to find more trails to run on.) 

I felt really really good the entire race, which is both a good and a bad thing.  Good because I felt strong and had no pain or breathing issues, but bad because I think I was 'too comfortable'.  At the end of every race, I always say 'I could've gone faster'.  Any why don't I?  Simply put, because I don't like being uncomfortable.  I feel like I don't ever push myself hard enough in a race situation.  Sarah recently wrote a post on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  In order to see results (in running, life, or any endeavor), you can't stay in your comfort zone.  It doesn't work that way.  But this is often what most of us do.  When I'm running, if I start pushing and start feeling a bit uncomfortable, I always pull back.  I think I'm afraid that I won't finish or I'll burn out if I push too hard, but ultimately, I end up psyching myself out.  If I don't push, my race times won't improve.  This unfortunately is how I often approach life situations.  I feel like I push myself just to the brink of being uncomfortable and then pull back.  Afraid of failure.  Afraid that I won't make it and so to save face, I just stay where I'm comfortable.  No bueno Jilly.  Ain't nobody got time for that kind of behavior.  Time for me to start getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable in ALL situations or I'll never reach my full potential.

Results:  Official finish 1:59.  Squeaked in just under 2 hours!  Yeehaw!  My PR is 1:58 but that was for a MUCH hillier course at the Runner's World Half last year.  So I conceivably should have run this flat course much faster.  I think the warmer temps of this race compared to that one and my shorter training cycle played a part, but I also know I could have pushed my pace a bit harder. 

Other result info:  Overall finish - 362nd of 1,001.  Female finish - 163rd of 628.  Age group finish (35-39) - 31st of 104. 

My sis had a HUGE PR and finished 9 mins faster than her first half marathon! Whoo hooo!

Other notes:  I have had NO SHIN PAIN this entire training cycle!  If you know my history, you know how long I've fought with my recurring shin splints.  I've tried so many things through the years, but I think the Spenco insoles I got from Charm City Run may have finally solved the problem.  I don't know why no one ever recommended I try insoles for my hella high arches before but once again I am thanking my lucky stars that the staff at Charm City finally helped me.  This was the first half marathon I was able to run sans compression sleeves and it felt incredible to have NAKED legs this time around!

I didn't think the weekend could get any better, but later that afternoon my mom called from Atlanta to tell us that my sister had the baby!  I now have a brand new beautiful niece.  Meet our family's newest little slice of heaven:

When I got back to Baltimore late Sunday, I was almost overcome with feelings of warmth and goodness.  Everything just came together this weekend and there were so many unexpected blessings, small and large.  Sometimes I get down on myself about the things I don't have or haven't accomplished so far in my life (hey, I'm human), but then there are days like these when I realize how fortunate I really am.  A day with running, a new baby and vegan treats honestly felt like winning the lottery.  LIFE IS GOOD my friends!

**If you haven't entered my AMRAP Protein Bar Giveaway hop on over there!  Three winners will be chosen on Thursday!

How was your weekend?!

Any races?

What are you thankful for these days?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Stranger Things Have Happened

I typed 'stranger things have happened' into Pinterest and this is what came up.
Sold.  Now grab your toilet seats and let's go!
I am running a half marathon in 2 days.  Excuse me, what?  Funny how a race sneaks up on you when you just signed up a month ago. 
If you have been anywhere on the East Coast the past week, you will understand when I say it has been super GROSS outside lately.  I dk what has been up with the outrageous heat & humidity.  It hasn't been like this all summer, but the past week the humidity has been at 75% OR HIGHER.  Needless to say, this has had the effect of making running in said humidity completely nauseating.  All you PSL fans are delusional because Fall is most definitely NOT here. 
This week I tapered so my long run on Sunday was only 7 miles.  Let me just tell you those 7 miles in the blazing sun and thick, thick air were so sickening and about 20x worse than my 10 mile run the weekend before in Hotlanta.  Not even sure how that's possible.
So, I am blindly hoping the temps drop by about, oh 30 degrees or so, between now and Sunday, otherwise this may be the first race I actually vomit during.  Wheeeeeeeeee! Well, stranger things have happened right?!  Let's just pray for a meteorological miracle here.
In any case, I'm excited to be racing this weekend, with my sister no less, and plan on enjoying a course I've never run before.  Although my training was abbreviated, I still feel good about where I am.  I have never run a 13 mile race in this kind of heat so I can't really predict how my body will react.  I will, however, be carb loading the entire weekend with Vegan Treats, which will most surely be a racing asset. 
Really, I think this weather is much more conducive to horizontal running.  Unfortunately I'm not the race director and can't make that call.  Running 13 miles in a supine position with the AC blasting sounds good right about now. 
C'est la vie!  Think some good thoughts for me and my sis :)  Catch you on the flipside!
Don't forget to enter yesterday's giveaway!  I was just informed I can actually select THREE winners so get on over there and get in the game!

What are your weekend plans? 

Has your weather been humidity city lately?!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

AMRAP Protein Bars Review and GIVEAWAY!

Happy Thursday everyone!  It's going to be a great one, because I have some tasty news coming at you today.  Through my affiliation with SweatPink/FitApproach, I was afforded the opportunity to try out some new protein bars made by a company called AMRAP Nutrition. 

AMRAP is a company founded by several athletes, nutrition experts and Paleo lifestyle enthusiasts.  They have developed nutrition bars that are clean, 100% Paleo and free from GMO's, Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Preservatives and Artificial Sweeteners.  All good things right?  But how did they TASTE?!

I was sent one of each of their three flavors to sample, including:  Almond Honey, Cashew Vanilla and Fig Cacao

So far, I have tried the Cashew Vanilla and the Almond Honey.  INCREDIBLE!  The Cashew Vanilla was by far my favorite.  It contains coconut and I love coconut flavored anything.  As far as nutrition goes, being dairy free is KEY for me.  As you know, it's often difficult for me to find protein bars, snacks and powders that are made without dairy ingredients.  I also like that these bars contain only a few ingredients and are all natural.
For example, the Cashew Vanilla bar has only 7 ingredients!  (Cashews, Honey, Cashew Butter, Unsweetened Coconut, Egg White Protein, Vanilla Extract and Sea Salt)  There is literally no crap and nothing artificial or unnecessary in here.  When compared with some other protein bars I usually eat, like LUNA or Odwalla, they often have 20 or more!

If you can't see all of the nutrition details in my pic above and you'd like a full nutritional breakdown of each bar, you can check out that information on AMRAP's website here.

The bars are around 300 calories each and contain anywhere from 12-15 grams of protein.  While most of the bars I usually consume are closer to the 200 calorie range, I don't mind a more energy-dense bar, especially because it kept my hunger at bay at work for hours! 

Right now, I believe you can only purchase the bars online through the company's website, or through gyms that decide to carry the bars.  However you are in luck, because AMRAP is allowing me to give one lucky reader a 12 bar pack ($48 value)! 

All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter below.  Winner will be selected next Thursday.  GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclosure:  I was given a sample pack of AMRAP bars to review, but was not compensated in any way for this post.  All opinions are always my own!