Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Today, two very exciting things happened, both of them tea related. 

For those who don't know, I am a big tea fan. I usually drink around a half a dozen cups of tea a day. I'm very lucky to have two things that help facilitate my love of tea: my husband and an excellent local tea store, Tea Trekker, in Northampton.

I have a lot of tea, and lately, I've been wondering how I can keep the wonderful tea I purchase in the best possible condition. I know that after a month or so, the tea is not supposed to stay super fresh if stored in the bags they give you at the store. 

I expressed this to Seth and explained how I wasn't sure what to do. After all, washi tea tins can be expensive. As usual, Seth came to the rescue! As a wonderful surprise, he ordered me six beautiful glass jars from Adagio to show off my tea in. The jars are UV protected and air tight to keep my tea the freshest. I immediately loaded them up with my tea (minus one that broke in shipping), and they look amazing.

(Tea from top to bottom left to right: Silver Needle white, Sencha green, Jasmine Pearl scented green, Tou Tian Xiang oolong, and Chai black)

Inspired by the exciting tea items, I made a trip to the tea store this afternoon after work. I came home with this.

As a new tea adventure, I had been wanting to try making matcha. I purchased a matcha bowl, wisk, and tea. 

Using the excellent instructions for making matcha on the Tea Trekker website, I made my matcha.

In sum, matcha is Japanese powdered green tea cultivated under a very specific set of conditions. There are many types of powdered tea but only a specific set is considered matcha if you're a purist (which the couple at the tea store definitely are -- they are so excellent!).

I loved the semi-involved process of making matcha at home. As matcha is involved in Japanese tea ritual, I think it makes sense that even making it for causal use involve some sense of ceremony.

To me, matcha tastes very unique, even compared with other tea. I found the matcha to have a very vegetative, even ever so slightly bitter, foretaste. This was accompanied by  a somewhat grassy smell, which reminded me a little bit of the Sencha Japanese green tea I have. The aftertaste was very pleasant with a lingering faint sweetness in the mouth. 

Making matcha was a very unique experience. I look forward to repeating it again soon!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fun Summer Weekend

This weekend was quite the fun one! On Saturday, I traveled down to my family home in rural South Central Connecticut. My Uncle Moe and Aunt Judi were visiting from Pennsylvania.

Mom, Uncle Moe, Aunt Judi, and I spent a fun-filled day in nearby New Haven. (Greg bowed out, as he needed to go to the gym to keep up his fitness. He's in the final processes for getting a job with a local police department and wants to keep his cardio up in case he gets the job and ends up going to the police academy.)

In New Haven, we had a delicious Thai lunch. I had a watermelon bubble tea. I swear watermelon is the best flavor for pretty much everything, but this Thai place in New Haven is the only one I knew that had it as a flavor for bubble tea. (LimeRed Teahouse in Amherst take note. P.S. Either way, you're still my favorite bubble tea place ever!)

After lunch, we headed over to Yale's Center for British Art. I will admit, as much as I love all performing and written art, I am not much of an appreciator of visual art. I lack the proper education. That being said, I still found the British art to be, shall we say, not the most exciting. It was mostly landscapes and portraits.

There was an additional exhibit of early Tudor period panel paintings that was very enjoyable. There was explanation of the tools and technology they use for examining early paintings. Very interesting.

After the New Haven trip, we had a lovely dinner. My Aunt Geraldine and Uncle Jimmy as well as my Aunt Betty joined us. It was wonderful to see so many people!

This weekend, I also made an exciting decision. I registered for a half marathon! 

Using the Hal Higdon training program and Jeff Galloway's training technique, I have successfully made it up to a nine mile run. I am on tracking to be ready to run a half marathon in a few weeks.

There was one race that worked with my scheduled availability and was close enough for me to drive to it the day of. I signed up for the Hogs Back Half Marathon in Colebrook, Connecticut on Saturday, September 22.

The race is sponsored by the Hartford Track Club. It seems to be small race of around 150 to 200 people. I think that this will be nice for a first race -- I shouldn't be too overwhelmed. The course is relatively flat with some rolling hills. (The only thing that I think will be a challenge is the fact that there is a bit of a hill for the last half mile. I might have to walk it; we'll see.)

I had really wanted to do the Hartford Half Marathon. It's a bigger race and seems very exciting and popular. I had thought it would be great fun and very motivating to have a bigger race for my first half. Plus, Hartford is even closer to us than Colebrook. Unfortunately, the race was the weekend of October 13, and I have to work all that weekend. Maybe next year.

On the plus side, the Hogs Back Half will definitely not intimidate, the way the larger Hartford race might. I can go my own pace and not worry about feeling rushed because there are a lot of people. Also, the date of the Colebrook race is perfect -- it's only a week past when I will finish with my training program. I'll just extend my training program an extra week and do one more long run, which I think will help my confidence.

I am very nervous but also super excited. Doing a half marathon has definitely been on my fitness bucket list.

I'm also registered another 10K this season in November, the Cider Donut Run. The race is in Amherst and benefits the local survival center. The course looks really great. It goes right through UMass.

I've really been enjoying my running lately. It took a little while to get into it, but now I know what everyone is talking about.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I was running!

For today's run I tried two new things:
1. The Nathan Hydration Belt I picked up earlier this week.
2. Following Jeff Galloway's advise and doing run-walk-run intervals.

First my review of the Nathan belt. It was a no-go. I set out with the belt on and with a great deal of optimism. I was happy to have my iPhone secured in the pack on the back and have my hands free.

Almost immediately though, I knew there was a problem. The belt was very loose on my natural waist. I was more loose than when I tried it on in the store with street clothing. I tried to tighten the belt, but even on the tightest setting it moved around -- a lot.

After running half a mile like this, I was pretty annoyed, plus the belt was pulling a bit on my lower back. I moved the belt down so it was resting at the widest point of my hips and was midway down my bottom. This finally seemed to help a little bit with the moving. Still this was not really a good place for the belt; it continued to bother my back and felt like it might fall off.

After a bit more of this, I decided to run home and drop off the belt. Unfortunately, the hydration belt is not for me. I didn't like the feeling of the movement, even when the belt was lower down. I felt like the weight of the belt was not well distributed and it was having a bad impact on my alignment.

I ended up bringing the belt back to the store for a refund. I am thinking the next step will either be a hand held bottle, which I am not thrilled about, or a hydration backpack. A hydration pack seemed like a lot to have to carry around, especially since most hold at least 50 ounces of water, and I need maybe half that amount on my long runs. I am thinking about next steps. Suggestions are welcome.

Fortunately, the weather was very mild today, so I didn't get to thirsty on my 8 mile run. This is my longest run to date.

I have been running the 6 mile, 10K, distance fairly well for some time now but have been wanting to increase my distance to see if I might be able to consider doing a half marathon.

I've been following Hal Higdon's half marathon training plan (Novice 1 version). I really like his plan -- I think the schedule works well -- but was having trouble getting my mileage up above the 10K point. On the 7 mile run two weeks ago I had a complete fail and couldn't finish. This weekend, I was ready to do the 8 mile run, having taken last weekend to do the 10K. (I reversed weeks eight and nine of Hal Higdon's schedule to accommodate the Bridge of Flowers 10K.) But I was concerned that this Saturday would be another failure.

I think that Hal Higdon's schedule is great for showing you how much to run and when, but I needed more guidance about what to do on my runs to make them a success. I knew I needed to change something about my methodology so as to be more successful. After 6 miles I was becoming exhausted and couldn't imagine running more, much less double the distance as would be required to do a half marathon. I needed advice.

With this in mind, I purchased Jeff Galloway's book Half Marathon -- You Can Do It on my Nook this week.

Reading the book, I became familiar with Galloways' Run-Walk-Run method. Galloway recommends doing your entire run with walk breaks. The run to walk ratio varies depending on your speed. Based on what I read in the book and my speed, I decided to try 4:1 run to walk ratio.

Because this was my first time doing this 4:1 run to walk, I decided to try to do it for the entire run with a target goal of just completing the 8 miles I was scheduled for this week. Galloway says that you should take walk breaks early and often in your run. You can eliminate them later in your run if you want to, but there is no reason to do so.

The breaks give you a mental boost and give your muscles time to rest a bit so you can push back the threshold of exhaustion and cover more distance. Also, at the speed at which I run, adding walk breaks should not have much of an impact on my overall time. Finally, taking breaks means that you'll be fresher at the end of your run -- you won't slow down at the end.

I was skeptical that taking walk breaks would make me feel like I was going too slowly or "not really running." This was not the case at all. Today I completed my first 8 mile run in around 1:25 -- my longest run to date. (Plus I also took an extra 5 minutes on either side for warm up and cool down walks.)

While on my run, I decided to see what my 10K time would be with the walk breaks, knowing that I had done a 1:04 10K last weekend. My 10K time with the walk breaks was just over 1:05. Because I was taking time to take walk breaks, my running pace wasn't decreasing over time because I wasn't feeling so tired. I was able to keep a steady 9:45 mile running pace throughout even in the last mile.

Most importantly, with this strategy I was able to complete my run of 8 mile. I did not feel exhausted. In fact, I felt better than I have after 6 mile runs where I ran the entire way, starting with a 9:45 pace and then ending not being able to go much faster than 11:00 per mile.

I like the idea of still doing some runs where I run the entire way. I do 5 mile runs during the week and can keep a pretty consistent pace at that distance. I'll probably continue to just run during those runs.

For the long runs, I like the idea of taking walking breaks. Next time, I might run the first couple of miles straight and then add in the walking breaks a bit later in the run. (Galloway seems to be okay with this.) I felt like I was having to force myself to stop running and walk towards the beginning -- I was fresh and wanted to keep running through the first couple of miles to get in my groove. I'll continue to play around with the run-walk intervals a bit in my long run next week maybe taking out a few, maybe not. I can try to see what works and what feels good on these runs.

Galloway also had some great running drills in Half Marathon that I want to try. These drills are to improve speed, form, and consistency of pace. I am definitely a convert to his way of thinking. I was really skeptical that it wouldn't still feel like I was going out for a run if I took walk breaks, but this wasn't a problem at all. During my run, I was running for just under seventy minutes of the entire eight-five minute run. I think that everyone can agree that seventy minutes of running, no matter how you slice it, will still feel like you're out for a run.

I'm very excited by this progress. I felt like I was never going to be able to make it over the 10K distance, and using Jeff Galloway's methodology definitely helped me with this. Because I am such a novice runner, my goals for any race are always just to complete the race without much of a time goal in mind. I feel like having gotten over the barrier with the run-walk method, I can continue to increase my overall mileage continuing to use Hal Higdon's half marathon training schedule. Who knows, I might be motivated enough to even try a real half marathon in the future. We'll have to see...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Staycation Day 5: Zip Lining

Today started in a very exciting way. This arrived in the mail!

Seth got me one of the limited edition ice Nike+ Fuelbands. (You can see it's insides -- so neat.)

The Fuelband serves as a watch, step counter, and tracks your activity throughout the day using "fuel", a proprietary Nike tracking system. You set a goal for how much fuel you want to earn during the day, and the Fuelband will track your activity towards your goal. The band uses a set of four accelerometers to track your movements and converts this into fuel.

I love to exercise and love exercise gadgets, so this is right up my alley! Seth has really been enjoying his Fuelband, and I am looking forward to tracking my daily activity too. 

It was very easy to set up the band and link it with the Nike+ account I already have. (I track all my runs using Nike+ Running.) I was able to get my band ready to go in around ten minutes so that I could quickly head out for the next exciting part of my lining!

Last week, Dad called me and invited me to go zip lining with him; my stepmother, Lisa; and their nephew, Adam. I had always wanted to go zip lining, so I agreed very eagerly. What a treat.

We headed up to Charlemont, Massachusetts to an outdoor adventure company, Zoar, and the Deerfield Zip Line. After getting there and signing some quick paperwork, we got suited up in our gear. It seriously must have weighed at least 15 pounds.

We then headed behind the main office to do a practice zip on the little hill there. The trip advisers gave some instructions about how to break, what to do if you stopped too far away from a landing platform, and how to keep from shifting when zipping. We then individually went and tried a very short zip of maybe 25 feet. 

There were about half a dozen people in our group, and we all were all at least successful enough to not be a danger to ourselves and others -- we were good to go. We headed up the hill and loaded ourselves into a pair of carts to head way up the hill to our first zip. We were doing a few lines -- the trip would total around three hours.

About two minutes into what can only be described as quite a scary vehicle ride, we suddenly turned around. Apparently, there was a thunderstorm spotted in the vicinity. Zip lining for the day was cancelled. 

Because we didn't even get to begin our trip, we were given a full refund and are trying to reschedule. We're hoping to get to go zipping together in early September. The quick little practice zip has made me ever more eager -- I can't wait!

Staycation Day 4: Roller Skating

For those of you who didn't already realized it, I admit it -- I am a huge nerd. I say this to preface my next statement. I love roller skating at the roller rink!

It's hard to describe how fun I find skating. I love the feeling of the movement and the speed. Skating feels so effortless and comfortable -- more satisfying than walking.

My brother and I were total skating junkies when we were little, which probably has a lot to do with my love of all kinds skating now. We used to roller skate along a nearby bike path. We'd roller blade in our driveway (playing "street hockey" with our neighbors from up the street) many many days after school when the weather was nice. In the winter, on Sundays, we'd drive to the neighboring town and ice skate at the rink there. I learned to skate at such a young age that I don't remember it ever being anything other than fun.

So, late last year, when a Groupon popped up on my iPhone giving me $50 worth of skating at the local Interskate 91 for only $25 I purchased it right away.

Unfortunately, despite my love of skating, using $50 worth of skating is a bit tricky. It only costs $10.50 to skate (with rentals), so $50 is a lot of skating. I went skating shortly after I got the Groupon, but still had $40 worth to go.

With this in mind, Thursday of staycation was designated skating day!

We headed over to the local mall for skating after a quick stop at the Verizon Wireless -- we wanted to see if the share everything plan would save us money; it wouldn't.

The skating place was packed with a camp group, but it seemed more of them were concerned with hanging out seated with skates on their feet than actually skating. There was plenty of room on the rink.

Seth is not a lover of skating having had less exposure in his youth. He decided to hang around and watch the proceedings. Fortunately, after an hour of watching and reading the learn to skate article on wikiHow, Seth decided to give skating a try.

He was so successful! He practiced on the carpeting for a while to get his balance and practice the gliding motion of skating. The carpet gave him the extra friction needed to not roll around while learning. After that, he came out onto the skating rink and practiced in an area designed for those learning to skate. He did such a good job that some of the people skating by passed on words of encouragement.

Finally, after much practicing, he decided to make a complete circuit of the rink. He skated around two full times without holding onto anything -- his most successful skating endeavor yet.

Since I love skating so much, I'm really excited by Seth's great progress towards being a skater. When he feels comfortable skating, I'll have a partner to go skating with. Here he is fresh from his skating success!

In other news, I am still in the market for a new nutrition shake since stopping my Shakeology auto-shipments due to cost (even though I loved the taste, nutrition, and how it made me feel).

As some of you may recall from previous posts, I tried the GNC Women's Ultra Mega Active. While the cost was good, I disliked the taste and artificial sweeteners which stuck in my mouth all day. The product also didn't digest well.

 On Wednesday, after our Northampton trip, we made a quick stop off at the local Wholefoods. While browsing their supplements aisle, I came across Vega One Nutrition Shake.

I liked the nutritional information on the Vega One shake and the fact that there was nothing artificial. Seth and I decided to pick up three single serving packets to try it out. I got chocolate and vanilla chai; he got berry. At $70 for a tub, we wanted to see how we liked it before investing -- this shake might still be more than I would want to spend.

I tried the vanilla chai flavor first, for breakfast Thursday. It digested well and, as I said before, I like the nutrients, but the taste did not work for me. I mixed it with water, as recommended but might try milk if I did it again. Overall though, the chai flavor was too vegetative tasting to me.

I did try the chocolate one today (Friday) as a post-workout snack. The chocolate is a bit better tasting. Still a bit plant-like in flavor, but I could get through it. I did read some reviews of the product on Amazon, and noticed that there are some other similar products for cheaper -- more like $30. I might see if I can find a sample in stores and try one of them. The search for a new nutrition drink continues!

I also made a fitness related purchase yesterday, a Nathan Hydration Belt.

I've been looking for a solution to bringing water on my long runs for a bit of time. I've been hydrating before and after my long runs, but now that I am clocking in runs that are over an hour, I find I really need some water during the run. I didn't want to carry a water bottle. I already carry my iPhone, and I find having to hold that annoying enough. 

After talking with some people on Facebook and doing some online research, I decided on the Nathan Hydration Belt with two 10 oz water bottles. This will be enough water for me for the length I run. Plus, I don't like to drink too much when I exercise because it upsets my stomach. As a bonus, the pouch on this belt is large enough to hold my iPhone, which will help solve another problem. 

I plan to take the belt out for my long run tomorrow and see how it feels to make sure I like it. I want to insure it doesn't move around too much or chafe. I'll post a review after I've tried it. 

It's day 5 of our staycation now -- the last day I have special plans for. I had better go prep for them. Post to follow tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Staycation Days 2 and 3: The Royal Ballet and Northampton

The past two days we had some exciting times on our staycation!

Tuesday began fairly basic. We decided to do a nice cleaning of our house. We do a pretty extensive cleaning every weekend on Sunday. This week, we ended up moving our normal Sunday cleaning to Tuesday, so (as recompense) we did a complete basement clean.

For those who are interested, our weekly clean goes like this:
- Clean bathroom:
     - Wipe down counters and sink with Clorox wipes.
     - Clean toilet inside and wipe down outside
     - Scrub tub and bleach grout (monthly only)
     Total time: 10 minutes (25 minutes, with tub)
- Clean kitchen:
     - Wipe down all counters with Green Works all purpose spray
     - Wipe down stove and clean cook-top (with cleaner approved for ceramic cook-tops)
     - Wipe down dishwasher
     - Clean toaster oven and microwave
     - Remove anything from the fridge that won't get eaten / is past date and wipe down shelves and wash    
        out crisper drawers
     Total time: 20 minutes
- Dust living room, bed room, and office:
     - Use compressed air on electronics
     - Use lint roller to remove cat hair from all chairs, curtains, and bedding
     - Dust all surfaces, walls, pictures, and ceiling
     Total time: 45 minutes (estimated -- Seth does this chore not me)
- Vacuum all rooms including stairs and under the bed in the bedroom
     Total time: 45 minutes

So basically, it takes us a little over an hour to clean the main living areas of our townhouse every week. Our house is 900 square feet, so this is all very manageable.

For the semi-finished basement, I usually vacuum in every other week, and we dust down there every month or so. This probably takes an additional half an hour (just because we do it less frequently.) Also, throughout the week we do washes and ironing every other day. We're pretty tidy, so our house stays fairly neat pretty much all of the time.

After our day of cleaning, we wanted to do something fun in the evening. Earlier this month, while at the movies, Seth discovered that Cinemark was doing a Ballet in Cinema series.

We're very lucky that the local movie theater, Cinemark, has a lot of cultural programming. We usually go there a couple of times a season to see Live in HD productions from the Met Opera. We also go to see Broadway productions -- we've seen Les Miserables in Concert, Phantom of the Opera in Concert, Company in Concert, and the Melbourne cast performing Love Never Dies. We also saw the Bolshoi ballet perform Elmeralda.

This time, we went to see the Royal Ballet (of London) perform the comedic ballet La Fille Mal Gardee. It was absolutely wonderful! The ballet had some fun elements, featuring a beautiful pas de duex with ribbon and a unique clog dance. It was a really fun production. I am always mesmerized when we go to see the ballet -- I think no art is more concerned with beauty than ballet. It's a joy to watch.

Today, we decided to spend a day in nearby Northampton. I had an audiobook that I wanted to pick up at Northampton's Forbes Library.

Seth had never been to Forbes, so it was great to get to show him around this library, which is the most beautiful I have ever seen. Definitely my favorite. (Also, notably, the home of the Calvin Coolidge President Library and Museum. Coolidge was from Northampton.)

After a trip to Forbes, we decided to walk over to Webs, the biggest yarn store in America, and, for me, our local yarn store. 

I've been wanting to knit the Pan Am Jacket pattern that I saw in this past fall's issue of Interweave Knit.

I have the yarn and and the pattern and plan to start it soon, but the pattern is a bit intimidating. I decided that I wanted to have a blanket to knit while working on the sweater. 

I have recently taken a break from blanket knitting -- first I made the falling leaves shawl and then the cabled caplet from knit.wear. I have to do a very small bit of finishing on the caplet, which I'll do around the holidays when I am getting ready to give it to my step-mom as a gift. 

Because of this blanket break, I am ready to make a new one. I decided on the Talon Throw by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.

After some browsing at Webs, Seth and I picked out one of their Valley Yarns called Amherst. We had originally wanted to get it in burgundy, basically Seth's favorite color. (His exact favorite is maroon.) They didn't have the 26 balls I needed, and we didn't feel like ordering them. We had also loved the color sweet pea and decided to get that. I've knit a lot of blue blankets, so I am excited to do a bright cheery green one.

After Webs, we browsed some additional stores in Northampton. Northampton is a really fun town to have right around the corner! It's one of the best towns for local art in America. It's also a famous LGBT community. The town, similar to Amherst, features loads of local businesses and great restaurants. Northampton is more of a city than Amherst -- I think of it as Amherst's bigger brother. There are a lot more shops, many with unique artisan items that you couldn't find anywhere else. Northampton also doubles as the town where I work, as it's home to Smith College. It's fun to spend time window shopping downtown and people watching when not at work.

In addition to our fun adventure in Northampton today, we did a bit of rearranging at home. We had a papasan chair that Seth's brother and sister in law lent us. We decided to move that chair out of the bedroom into the office to replace the recliner we had in their. The papasan chair is comfortable, and I felt it would get more use if it was in the office. We made the swap.

Here was the office before. You can see the recliner in the left of the picture (which is kind of an old image).

Here's the office now. I think the chair fits quite nicely.

I had to look way back in the archives to find a picture with the papasan chair in the bedroom, but I found one from 2009.

Here is the bedroom now with the recliner. Visually the recliner is not my favorite piece of furniture, but it was very nice of Seth's late grandmother to give us this chair, and we really do enjoy having it to sit on. I think it will work quite well in the bedroom. It seems to take up a bit less space and should be easier to get around.

A busy and fun couple of days. I'll post soon about our next adventures!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Staycation Day 1: Puffer's Pond

It's here -- vacation week! Seth and I are off all week and, in an effort to save money, are staycationing this year in Amherst.

We kicked off our staycation with the Bridge of Flowers on Saturday, and we have fun plans for every day this week.

For today (Monday) we traveled ten minutes down the road to Puffer's Pond, a local recreation area in North Amherst. This would be our first visit.

The weather was absolutely perfect -- just around 80 with low humidity and a few clouds. This made it a great day for swimming.

The more I live in Amherst and discover all the town has to offer the more I love it! I seriously cannot imagine wanting to live anywhere else. It is no surprise to me that Amherst was named the number one college town in America by MSN.

The town is beautiful with a well-appointed downtown featuring lots of unique local restaurants and businesses. We have the benefit of being in a community with five well-regarded colleges in the area. These colleges bring business to the town and provide easy access to affordable entertainment. We have the get to enjoy living in a small town while having access to things that people get in much larger cities. 

Puffer's Pond is a great example of the small town benefits of living in Amherst. The "beach" at Puffer's Pond was clean and not too crowded. To get into the water, you have to go down a bit of a drop-off, but this was well marked. The town maintains the water and conservation/recreation area nicely -- they just tested the water quality earlier this summer and are trying to determine a long-term plan for the pond.

Seth and I swam around for a while (an hour for me; 90 minutes for Seth). I found the water a bit cold, which may have been due to all the recent rain. We definitely had a great time and want to go back in the future. 

Being that Puffer's Pond is just in town, I am sure we'll be seeing a lot more of it!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bridge of Flowers 10K

Today Seth, Patrick, and I headed out of our house at 6:30 a.m. to head up to Shelburne Falls for the 34th Annual Bridge of Flowers 10K and Charity 3K. Seth was running the 3K, which started at 8:15 a.m. It's a 45 minute ride to Shelburne Falls from our house, and we wanted to get there in plenty of times to pick up our bibs and t-shirts.

The race was very well organized. We were easily directed to parking, and registration was a breeze. The weather this morning was cooler for August -- in the low 70s -- but very humid. We'd had a set of very strong rain storms come through yesterday, and there was mist in the air that was just lifting as we arrived in Shelburne Falls.

Because registration and parking went so smoothly, we had time to walk around a little bit before Seth had to line up for the 3K. We decided to head over to the famous Bridge of Flowers.

We walked around  looking at the flowers and seeing the town, and then it was time for Seth to line up on the Iron Bridge for the start of the 3K.

Seth did an amazing job on the 3K, finishing in 20:05! He basically sprinted the last bit because he was motivated by the crowd cheering. He loved running in the race and definitely wants to do more. I'm so glad he had such a wonderful time!

Here he is coming towards the finish line.

After congratulating Seth on his excellent race, Patrick and I linked up for the 9:00 a.m. start time for the 10K.

The 10K course started by following the same course as the 3K.

As the race started, I was feeling excellent. There were around 800 or so people running in the race, and I felt very energized. Plus the weather wasn't too hot -- it was a good time for running. 

The start of the course that followed the 3K went through the community right around the center of town. It was fun running in a new place, and Shelburne Fall is very scenic. (I love running and looking at houses -- it's like watching House Hunters on the treadmill at the gym but real life!) 

There were a lot of locals spread out along the race clapping and offering encouragement. They also had people at each mile marker giving you your time. My goal was to finish in 1:05, so I found this very helpful. To keep my pace steady (around 10:30 minutes / mile), I was also tracking my run using my Nike+ sensor and iPhone app. 

At around the 4K mark, we turned up towards Crittenden Hill. At the turn there was a bagpiper in full kilt. How exciting! 

I would need this excitement on the hill. After running the almost mile and a half hill on the Lake Wyola race, I thought I would be ready for the half mile Crittenden Hill on the Bridge of Flowers 10K. Not in the least!

Crittenden Hill, at its steepest point, has the same grade as the steepest part of Mount Washington, the biggest mountain in the Northeast. On the hill I walked. I did a 17:00 mile up Crittenden Hill, and I can tell you that I exerted myself more on this half mile than during any time I was running. 

Fortunately, there was plenty of water along the hill (and along the course as a whole). I was able to practice running through water stations, which was pretty interesting, although I must admit I got myself a little bit wet.

At the top of the hill there was a welcome site: a cello player playing to inspire us on. It gave me the motivation I needed. I was back to running! 

The last 5K of the course after the hill was mostly level or downhill. I pushed it! I had lost a lot of time on the hill and would need to go faster than my normal 10:30 miles to finish the race at my goal time. For the last 5K, I ran 10:00 miles or faster. I felt good, so I kept going as hard as I could. The last kilometer I really moved it, going faster than 9:00 per mile towards the end.

I finished in 1:04:08 beating my 1:05 goal!

After the race, we headed down toward the Glacial Potholes. Overlooking the Glacial Potholes, they were having a post-race party. There were bananas, apples, watermelon, water and sports drinks, and veggie hot dogs (which were gross -- I had two bites and didn't finish). It was a nice spread and a great way to regroup after the race.

I have to tip my hat to the town of Shelburne Falls for organizing a great road race. The course was scenic and fun, which live entertainment. It seemed like lots of the local  came out to motivate the runners. There was ample water along the race and a nice bit of food afterwards.

We all definitely want to do this race again next year!

Friday, August 3, 2012


It's been a busy few weeks! I was quite engrossed with a database project at work last week. In addition, I made a day trip up to Dartmouth College to present about Phonathon at a conference (Summer Institute in Educational Fundraising).

This week, there was an exciting trip to Boston for work -- I attended the RuffaloCODY Users Group and Annual Giving Conference. I met a bunch of great Phonathon people there and got to get my work-related geek on. Fun times!

As a result of all these goings-on, I have been somewhat neglectful with my updating.

First thing first. I promised an update about the GNC Women's Ultra Mega Active nutrition drink I got to replace (the very excellent but very expensive) Shakeology I had been drinking. The GNC beverage is a no-go. I tried the vanilla, which I found to be unfortunate tasting. It appeared to have been sweetened to a saccharin level with an artificial sweetener, which I did not like. It also seemed to slightly disagree with my stomach and made me feel like of heavy all day. I was able to return it for a full refund.

At the moment I have not been having a nutrition shake for breakfast, mostly due to cost. I am really, really trying to save for the new windows our condo board is requiring us to get by 2015. (Believe me I will need all that time to save the money for these windows. Plus, we'd like to replace the slider while we're at it if we can.) Instead for breakfast, I've been either eating Kind Bars or Ezekiel bread. We'll see how this goes.

I've been continuing to run in preparations for the Bridge of Flowers 10K that is happening a week from tomorrow (so August 11th). I was away in Boston for three days, Monday through Wednesday, and did not get a chance to run (although I walked almost five miles on Tuesday and swam on Wednesday at the hotel's pool, so I kept active).

Yesterday, I went on a 4.5 mile run, my first in four days. Felt fine. Today, I was scheduled for a long run of 7 miles. I did 6 mile runs the past two weekends, so I thought this was work out well. I even planned a special running route which took me on a brief trail run and then along the nearby Norwottuck Rail Trail.

Unfortunately, my legs were completely dead today, fatigued from yesterday's run after a bit of a break. I left the house a little before 9:00 a.m. for what would prove my worst run to date. I forced myself to run 5 miles (with a few very short walk intervals) before giving up. I ended up walking the last mile home covering only a little over 6 miles. Today was not my day for running. These things happen. I'll have to try the 7 mile run again the weekend after the 10K.

After collecting myself post-run with a tasty salad for lunch, I went out to check and mail. To my excitement an exercise related purchase had arrived, Trainer in a Bag.

My fascination with TRX suspension training is well documented on this blog. After taking a TRX class to really get an idea of what it was like, I really wanted to get the system to exercise with at home. The problem: it cost around $200. Yikes!

I decided to do some research and came across the Trainer in a Bag on Amazon. It cost $30 and, according to reviews, was basically the same as TRX only it came without DVDs and did come with a door anchor, which I needed. Also, the Trainer in a Bag is limited to 300 lbs, where as TRX can handle over 1,000 lbs. Since I weight 110 lbs, I felt the Trainer in a Bag would be able to handle me while saving me $170. (Saving for windows. Remember?)

When the trainer arrived, I immediately put it together, attached the door anchor and took it for a spin. It seems to work fine with my basement door.

Since, I am new to suspension training, I wanted to workout with a video. Using Youtube, I found an excellent bunch of TRX videos put together by a gentleman called Scott Herman. I went through one set of his beginner workout, which I plan to do in full tomorrow.

After playing around with the new system, it was easy to store in it's nice bag. It fits quite well with my other fitness equipment.

So far, I am very pleased. The Trainer in a Bag seems to be a solid suspension system at a very reasonable price. I found the clamps easy to adjust -- no more difficult than TRX, the straps sturdy, and the door anchor a great addition. I also got a strap that I can use to set up the trainer anywhere. This would be useful in case I want to exercise outside and use a tree for an anchor. I'm very excited to experiment more with my new fitness toy!