Tuesday, March 27, 2012

30 Things I Did While 30

I have the bad habit of focusing on all the things that I haven’t done. It goes along with the overachiever in me. When I was younger I had all these lofty things I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 30. I had no real plan regarding how I was going to get it all done, but I felt it all needed to be done and I was really negative as my thirtieth birthday approached. It was not something that I was looking forward too.

Today I turn 31 and instead of thinking about all the things I haven’t done, I am focusing on all that I have accomplished in the past year. Here are 30 things I accomplished while I was 30 (in no particular order). 
  1. Woke up to snow on my 30th birthday :(
  2. Went to the Cherry Blossom festival for the first time
  3. Moved to Richmond 
  4. Ran my third Half Marathon 
  5. Ran my first Full Marathon 
  6. Started this blog 
  7. Found a job I enjoy 
  8. Watched my little sister get married 
  9. Completed the course work for my PhD 
  10. Celebrated my third wedding anniversary  (Yay!)
  11. Opened a Roth IRA (I didn’t say they were all super fun) 
  12. Visited Virginia Beach for the first time
  13. Visited Colonial Williamsburg
  14. Saw 3 of my good friends become moms
  15. Explored the Newseum
  16. Went Ice skating in Orlando
  17. Visited SeaWorld with my husband, nieces and nephew, and sister-in-law and brother-in-law
  18. Tasted the delicious watermelon at the Carytown Watermelon Festival
  19. Had an amazing time with my sister, mom and others at my sister's bachelorette party in Orlando
  20. Tried a variety of new recipes (some that were delicious)
  21. Finally got sucked into Mad Men
  22. Enjoyed a Beer-Historic tour of Richmond
  23. Celebrated several friends joining me in decade three
  24. Read the Huger Games Trilogy (and loved it)
  25. Fell in love with my Kindle
  26. Realized that I am a cupcake snob
  27. Survived hurricane Irene (the hurricane that wasn't)
  28. Bought a new couch
  29. Got better about planning dinners
  30. Changed my perspective on being in my 30s
I may not have traveled the world, or done anything really all that extraordinary, but all in all it was a good year. When I started this blog, I really wanted to document my decade three. I am beginning to think that my 30s are shaping up to be a great decade.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Historic Half Training Week #5

So, this week’s training went pretty well. This week I did not do nearly as much cross training as I should have, but I still got in my runs. My IT band has been really tight this week, but overall I am feeling good. 

Today’s 8 miler felt good, but I am not keeping the pace that I need if I want to hit my goal for the half marathon. This week is a bit crazy, but I am going to start working some speedwork into my training. This is the only way I will have a chance of hitting that goal. 

After running, we came home and cleaned up and went to see the Hunger Games. I really loved the books and thought they did a great job on the movie. One of the best movie adaptations I have seen. 

These are my workouts from the week. 

Monday – yoga (I desperately needed this) 
Tuesday – 4 mile run 
Wednesday – Off 
Thursday – 4 mile run 
Friday – Off 
Saturday – Off (Wanted to run, but a rainy day meant it wasn't possible)
Sunday – 8 mile run (at 12:26 per mile pace)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Channeling my Irish Side–Guinness Chocolate Cake

Last Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day and while I am not actually Irish, I figured I could pretend for a day. We are well past spending the day drinking poor quality green beer, but I still wanted to celebrate. This year I threw the corned beef and cabbage into a crock pot and focused on the most important part of the meal…desert. 

This cake was sooooo good.
Last year I gave up all sweets for lent, and like most years, St. Patty’s fell right in the middle of lent. This meant that I couldn’t have any of the Guinness Chocolate cake a friend of mine brought to class, so this year I decided to make it myself. I like beer, I like chocolate and I really like cake. It sounded like the perfect cake and it pretty much was. 

Guinness Chocolate Cake (with Cream Cheese Frosting) 
adopted from this recipe by Nigella Lawson 

For the cake 
1 cup Guinness 
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa 
2 cups sugar 
3/4 cup sour cream 
2 eggs 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I added a little extra) 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F 
  • Butter a 9 inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper 
  • Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan 
  • Add the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time and heat until the butter's melted 
  • Whisk in the cocoa and sugar 
  • Remove the pan from the heat 
  • Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the pan with the chocolate/butter/beer mixture 
  • Whisk the flour and baking soda into the pan 
  • Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan 
  • Bake for 40 minutes to an hour. Check the cake early to make sure it does not get overdone 
  • Cool the cake completely in the pan on a cooling rack and then remove the side of the pan 
Cream Cheese Frosting 
8 oz cream cheese 
1/4 cup half & half 
3 to 4 cups of powdered sugar 

  • Beat the cream cheese until it is fluffy 
  • Add the half & half and beat until smooth 
  • Add the powdered sugar about a cup at a time until the frosting is fluffy
  • Frost the cooled cake and serve 
Note: This frosting is very creamy, and will drip down the cake a bit. It kind of looks like a pint of Guinness

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Historic Half Training Week #4

From Pinterest and
pretty much how I
have been feeling
this week (Source)
Spring has officially sprung in Richmond and I am super excited about running outside. The days have gotten longer and the temperature has finally warmed up. Moving from the very flat indoor track to our outdoor loop has been great, but running is hard again. The hills are killing me, but I know, that just like last year, they will make me stronger in the end. 

The more I train, the more I see that my running tends to go in cycles. I will have a couple of weeks of really great runs where everything comes together, and then I will have a couple of weeks where running is really really hard. Right now running is hard, but I still think my Historic Half goal is doable. 

I have been better about cross training the past couple of weeks. I know it is important that my training becomes more well rounded, so I am focusing on that and hoping that I will get my running groove back shortly. 

This is what I did this week.

Monday – Spin class (This was a great ride)
Tuesday – 3 mile run 
Wednesday – Off 
Thursday – 2 mile run 
Friday – Off 
Saturday – 6 mile slow run 
Sunday – Swimming about 60 minutes with a focus on technique

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Research Rant

First, I would like to start by saying that I understand that the goal of news outlets is to produce stories that interest readers/viewers so they can sell advertising and remain financially solvent. I also understand that it is a tough business to be in and that catchy headlines are more likely to attract readers and create buzz. 

That being said, as a researcher and someone who understands how important it is to both publish the research and to get press coverage of your research, it really bothers me when reporters don’t do a good job reporting the research. There have been many examples, but the reporting on a recent study about consumption of red meat and mortality was particularly bad. Here are just a few of the headlines about the study.
These headlines are all about the same study, but suggest very different conclusions. If you go and read the actual study, Red meat consumption and mortality, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, you will see that eating red meat daily is associated with higher rated of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. There is a big difference in eating something occasionally and eating something daily.  That is overlooked some of the news stories.

The study also found evidence that replacing one serving of red meat with other low-fat protein sources will reduce mortality risk. When you really read the study, the information is nothing new. We all know that a balanced diet is made up of a variety of protein sources and foods high in fat and saturated fat should be eaten in moderation. This study was a well done longitudinal examination of eating something or not on a daily basis. It has some of the same issues that most research involving self-report data has, but the researchers controlled for a large number of items.

I have no opinion on the topic of the study, but this study generated a lot of attention and headlines like these can lead to a lot of misinformation. The biggest problem is that people often only read the headlines or the first couple of paragraphs in a news story. It is important that these accurately reflect the conclusions that came from the study.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hooray for Daylight Savings Time

Today is one my favorite days of the year. I know it is silly, but my wedding anniversary, Christmas and Thanksgiving are probably the only days I look forward to more than today. It is definitely more exciting than my birthday, which I do enjoy. I really think that they should just keep daylight savings year round. 

Daylight savings means more hours of daylight after work. It means that I can go running after work without having to fear for my life. (They don’t believe in nice, well-lit neighborhoods in Richmond, so running outside after dark means risking getting hit by a car or busting an ankle on a pot hole.) Since daylight savings goes along with spring, it also means that warmer weather should be on its way. I can’t wait for tank tops and open-toed shoes. 

We took advantage of the extra light and the nice weather and went for a late afternoon run today. It was my first real outdoor run of the season and I realized that I really have some work to do if I am going to hit my time goal for the Marine Corps Historic Half. It is amazing how easily you forget what hills feel like. I still have about 10 weeks until the race, and I should be able to do most of my training outside, because it will be light enough to run after work. 

I know people who hate daylight savings time. What about you – do you love it or hate it?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Confession: I’m A Fair Weather Runner

What I like to wear
I lived in Central Florida for about 8 years before moving to Michigan to start my doctoral program. Then I decided to start running more regularly. Not really the best plan for someone who doesn’t like to be cold. 

I was pretty active when I was in Orlando. I did a couple of triathlons and would go to the gym regularly, but I didn’t really start running until after I moved. The weather in Virginia is better than the weather in Michigan, but it still isn’t great for running outside November to March. There is also a serious lack of spring races in central Virginia. I am itching to race and really missing the large number of races in Orlando or just a short drive away. 

What I have to wear
Except for our New Years trip to Orlando, I have only been running outside twice since the beginning of December. Running on the indoor track at our gym is better than a treadmill, but still a bit mind numbing. I can’t wait to get outside, but I know it will still be a few weeks before it warms up. This is the big reason I am not running Rock’n’Roll Washington, DC. 

I know I am a wuss, but running is a lot less fun when you are cold. For me that means anything under about 55, as long as it is not windy. Give me 95 with 98% humidity over 45 any day.

How do you deal with bad weather? Any tricks for making the track less mind numbing?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Half Marathon Training Week 2

Training this week went much better than week 1. A couple of rough days at work and some pain in my lower back led to lower mileage than originally planned, but I am feeling good and excited about next week. My workouts for the week included the following: 

Monday: Run 4 miles 
Tuesday: Off 
Wednesday: Swimming (700 meters) 
Thursday: 20 minute walk 
Friday: Off 
Saturday: Run 6 miles & Pilates 
Sunday: Off 

While I didn’t put in quite as many miles as I planned, my runs felt good this week and I hope this continues. Swimming was a nice way to cross train this week. I need to swim more often. My upper body is much weaker than I would like.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Focusing on the Positive

It is March and that means that my birthday is just around the corner. When I was getting close to my thirtieth birthday, I was not happy and really focused in on the things that I hadn’t accomplished. I felt like I hadn’t done anything with my life. Almost a year later and a little more perspective I realize, I have accomplished quite a bit. 
  • I am married to an amazing man, and I know what it means to be in a truly loving relationship. 
  • I have a great career and really enjoy my job. (In all honesty, I did not have this when I turned 30, but I do have it now.) 
  • I have a Master’s degree and have completed the course work for my PhD. 
  • I have a loving family and I really understand how important they are in my life. I have run a marathon and 3 half-marathons. (Again, two of these came after my 30th birthday) 
  • I have traveled to Europe a couple of times. 
When I step back and take a look, I have accomplished a lot. I may not have as much in my savings or retirement accounts as I would like, and we haven’t purchased a house, but I have done more than I realized. My 31st birthday is on its way and instead of focusing on the things I haven’t done, I am going to focus the things I have done.