No, I don’t want to go SCUBA diving

It never fails.  When I go on a beach vacation with friends, the following conversation always happens with my well-intended companions:

Them: “Hey! So we’re going diving tomorrow.  You’re in, right?”

Me: “Um, well.  Nah.”

Them: “What?  Why not?  You’re certified, right?”

Me: “Um…”

Every time.  Because I’m generally an athletic and adventurous person, people always assume that I’m some sort of SCUBA savant, with zillions of dives under my belt, ready to take on the giant squid who live twenty-thousand leagues under the sea.

Uh….no.  Not even a little bit.

Sure, I love to run, hike and climb.  Bag a peak?  Sure, I’d love to! But dipping under the surface in open water? Frankly, it kind of terrifies me.

Nevertheless, the question always comes up when I take a trip to the tropics.  Do you want to go SCUBA diving?  Oh I can’t – I’m not certified!  But you can get certified on this trip!  All you have to do is spend a day taking classes in the shallow end of the pool!   

Well, that sounds like a fun way to spend my vacation.  Let me strap a heavy oxygen tank on to my back and spend the entire day going up and down the 8-foot depth of the resort pool while the rest of you assholes get sloppy at the swim-up bar.

Yeah.  No thanks.

They press: But you’re missing out!  You wouldn’t believe what amazing things you’ll see under the water!

Oh, I think I know what’s down there.

I watch a lot of Discovery Channel.  Clearly, the ocean is full of things that will sting, pinch, bite and poison you.

Or worse.

Not to mention the fact that the whole process sounds complicated and scary as all hell.  Weights around your waist to drag you down to the appropriate depth.  Heavy tank on your back.  Try to breathe normally, or you’ll suck up all of your oxygen!  Don’t go back up too quickly or you’ll end up on an episode of House!

My lounge chair is looking pretty good right now.

So when people finally get it that I’m not going to shell out hundreds of dollars to acquire the necessary training to visit the sea floor, they invariably suggest SCUBA’s dorky little brother: snorkeling.

I’ll be honest: snorkeling kind of sucks, too.  I’ve never encountered a snorkel mask that didn’t leak and I’ve never been able to float along the surface of the sea without constantly managing to suck water down the air pipe.

And, really?  It’s cool to peek beneath the surface, but…

You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.  Maybe my ever-flooded mask is distorting my vision…but that’s just a bunch of fish…and fish…and fish….

Really, when it comes down to it, all of this stems from the fact that I’m a giant pussy.  At least when it comes to anything related to the ocean.

I’m convinced that people are just wired differently – everyone has their own matrix of braveries and fears.  Me?  I’ll happily climb a mountain or live on a trail, out of a backpack, among the bears and beasts.  River rafting?  Sleeping under the stars?  Bring it on.  But descend the depths of the sea?  I shudder.

But I’m okay with that.  I’ve spent been lucky enough to explore the peaks and valleys of some of the earth’s most beautiful places, from the Cascades and Sierra Nevada and Joshua Tree to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Someone else can call dibs on the bottom of the ocean.

I’ll be snoozing on my beach chair, possibly having rum-fueled nightmares.

Take it from me.

You have fun with your underwater adventures.  I’ll be here when you get back.

I’ll probably be drunk, though!

Four salads and a suitcase

I love having people over for dinner.  But I also love being invited to other peoples’ houses for dinner.

Especially when the lovely hostess concocts an awesome menu centered around one of my favorite things: salads.

I’m totally serious.  While french fries and bacon will always capture my palate’s attention over vegetables and other healthy fare, I absolutely adore a great salad.  And on a steamy summer evening, it’s hard to beat a well-dressed plate of salad fixins.

But let you think this meal was rabbit food, let me assure you that there was nary a leaf of lettuce involved.  Instead, flavorful fruits, veggies, cheeses and herbs dominated these four fantastic dishes.

Uno: Fruit salad with melons and bright red strawberries:

Fruit gets sweeter when it’s chopped up and mixed with other fruits.  I’m pretty sure this is a fact.

Dos: Potato salad, sans mayonnaise:

And as much as I do love mayo…I’ve gotta admit, there was none needed!  Lots of freshly ground pepper, olive oil and dijon mustard gussied up the skin-on red potatoes just fine.

Tres: Israeli cous-cous topped with artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, sundried  tomatoes and lots of fresh parsley:

I had never had Israeli cous-cous before and was rather smitten by its chewy, pasta-like texture.  Delicious.

Cuatro: Cucumber salad with pomegranate, fresh mint and feta:

Oh man.  Although everything was amazing, this dish was the star of the evening, in my opinion!  And that’s really saying something, because cucumbers usually freak me out (due to their resemblance to pickles, which are pure evil in vegetable form).

But I happily gobbled this up and went back for seconds – and thirds!  Dressed generously with olive oil and champagne vinegar, the pomegranate seeds softened and melted in my mouth, providing a lovely sweet contrast to the tangy and crunchy cucumber base.  The feta added just enough salt.  The whole thing was simply perfect.

And oh yeah…chicken and corn were also served.  And while both were tasty as well, I have to admit that the variety of lovely salads made this carb-and-meat girl into a veggie fanatic for a night.

That doesn’t mean I won’t eat the daylights out of a cheeseburger tomorrow. But fresh crunchy veggies?  Yeah…they got me tonight!

Well done, Caroline!  Thanks so much for having us over.

An offsite dinner break was very welcome after spending my afternoon figuring out how to fit a week’s worth of clothing and supplies in to this overhead-bin-friendly suitcase:

I refuse to check bags.  That is for rookies.

As you can see, I did it!  With room to spare for beach toys on top. 🙂

While I’m vacationing it up this week, be sure to check in daily for some extra special bonus posts!  I’ve got some fun stuff lined up, and I promise I won’t subject you to any trite photos of my feet in a beach chair with the ocean in the background.

But I might drunkenly post after a long day at the pool bar.  I’m not making any promises.

In the meantime….Happy Memorial Day!  Give a moment of your party-hardy weekend to give thanks to those who have sacrificed in service – and, as your mom would say, have fun and be careful.

Check ya from the Caribbean!

That’s inappropriate

Uh…guys?

Wrong room.  Discovery Channel auditions are next door.

And pssst: UR DOIN IT WRONG.

Heheh.

Happy Caturday!

Well, that worked out well

The dress drama concluded happily today.  I went back to the little boutique where I first went dress shopping return one of the dresses I originally bought, and saw this hot little number hanging on the rack:

It’s freaking perfect.  Done and done.

Also, here’s a better picture of the strapless one from The Limited that I picked up yesterday:

I actually ended up taking back both of the original dresses.  Lesson learned: go with your gut when it comes to what looks good on you and what doesn’t.  I’m short and musculo-curvy and I really don’t think I can pull off tit-curtain-belted-sacks, no matter how cute and trendy they are.

So that’s that.  And because unless we’re talking about skid marks on Tempo shorts, this is the farthest thing from a fashion blog on the planet…so I promise I’m done playing dress up now.  Thanks for all of your help along the way!

Moving along.  Let’s talk about how it feels to go for a run after a week off.

Um…I guess that’s all there is to say about that!  It was both by accident and design that I ended up taking a long stretch of rest days after the Brooklyn Half last weekend.  This week has been crazy busy, and the weather has been shitty, and well…if there’s ever a time to take a little break, it’s after the last long race of the season.

A couple of people have asked if I’m planning on running while on vacation next week.  Yes!  Most definitely!  Nothing too long or hard, but I’m going to try to get out there each morning, even if it’s just a couple of miles.  Gotta do something to flush the previous night’s Mojitos out of my system!  I’m excited to do some beach running and I’m totally packing my Vibrams.

Okay…laundry calls.  Happy Friday night, y’all!

Today’s EAT: I needed to stop for lunch today between meetings.  And at that exact moment, the skies opened up and released a torrent of rain.

So I hit the drive-thru:

I don’t even pretend that I don’t like McDonald’s.  I love McDonald’s.  I think it’s delicious.

But obviously I know it’s crappy for you.  To keep my Mickey D’s splurges from being total gut-bombs, I usually get a happy meal (or, in today’s case, a Mighty Kids Meal.  Two extra nuggets for only $0.60!)

It came with two Batman figures, one of which did not stand up on its own. Lame.

Today’s DRINK: Leftovers from Wednesday night’s party!

Boxed wine on a Friday night.  Classy.

Today’s RUN: On the dreadmill for 40 minutes, which was good for 4.6 miles. Definitely not my favorite, but better than getting struck by lightning!

Today’s QUESTION: Do you have a favorite fast-food splurge?  Mine is definitely McDonald’s fries.  Suck it, Burger King.

Feast in the furnace

Well, I do declare.  It’s hot.

How low can the gas tank go?  I got it down from 29 miles to 11 before I filled ‘er up today.  Life on the edge.

My tank was empty from driving to the beach and back earlier this week!  We had some guests in from out of town and it seemed like a good excuse to explore a part of the state I hadn’t seen yet.

Wrightville Beach is pretty clean and only 90 minutes from Raleigh.  And home to stingrays that play tag!

I’m not sure if “cute” is an appropriate adjective, but those frisky little fellas were fun to watch!

Anyway, it’s freaking hot here and I had a little dinner party to host last night.  I was thrilled that we’d decided to make it a grill-out affair.  Because 96* + hot stove + apartment full of people sounds like a sweaty mess.

And when you’re cooking for a crowd, it’s hard to beat the simplicity of grilled food.  Salt, pepper and a little olive oil provide plenty of flavor once the grill works its magic!  We had steak and shrimp galore:

Asparagus.  Taste it today, smell it when you pee tomorrow!  Bonus.

And for a hearty side dish, I assembled a delicious salad with red quinoa, grapefruit, arugula, apples, walnuts and cubed gouda.

Recipe: Red Quinoa Salad

It was quite a little feast for a random weeknight dinner party.  And no sink full of dishes to deal with!

This week has been a little hectic, what with all of the guests and mini road trips and dinner parties!  I can’t believe it’s almost Friday already.  I’m leaving for that beach wedding/vacation in just a couple of days…yikes! (Oh hey #firstworldproblems.)

I haven’t decided what to wear.  I’m still kinda torn about the orange dress.   The whole tit-curtains/sack-with-a-belt thing….I’m still just not sure about it.

I did snag another little dress on sale at The Limited today…

Love the cut.  Not entirely sure about the print (in general I like it, but it’s not exactly beachy.)

Gah.  Now I’m even more conflicted.

Can I just wear my adorable new swimsuit to the ceremony?

From WHBM.  On sale, too.  LOVE.  I cannot wait to spill fruity tropical drinks all over it while getting sloppy at the pool bar at 10 AM.

And here’s a fruity tropical drink for you, too, if you made it through this completely random and discombobulated post!  I promise, I’ll be back to whining about my track splits soon.

Cheers!

Race Report: Brooklyn Half Marathon

Alternate title: Speed work makes you faster. But only if you actually do it.

Alternate-alternate-title: There’s a first time for everything.

Alternate-alternate-alternate title: If that tree grows in Brooklyn, it will be because I fertilized it.

So I knew I wasn’t in the best of shape going into this race.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’d run a solid half-marathon at a sub-7:30 pace a couple of months ago, but since then, I’d pretty much been cruising.  No speed work.  Decent mileage, but a total lack of quality work.

But nonetheless, as I hopped nervously in the start corral, I thought to myself: well, maybe I haven’t lost any fitness.

And I still believed that for the first few miles:

Mile 1: 7:17
Mile 2: 7:34
Mile 3: 7:24
Mile 4: 7:17

Circling Prospect Park, I thought about how I felt during the first four miles of Shamrock.  In that race, it felt like I was running easy.  This…didn’t exactly feel like that.

But as I would discover, that was the least of my problems.

Mile 5: 7:49
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 7:37
Mile 8: 8:11

As I headed in to mile five, two things happened:

One, my pace slowed as I headed up the dreaded Prospect Park Hill for the second time.  Fine.  But, more concerning…

Two, my tummy started to gurgle ominously.

Let me say that I’m generally not one to have running-related digestive issues.  Sure, I can obliterate a port-o-potty with the best of ’em on race morning, but I’ve never had to stop during a race to use the bathroom.

Until Saturday.

There’s a first time for everything.

Somewhere around mile 6, I decided to make a pit stop.  It made me cringe, the thought of pulling off the course, waiting for the plastic bathroom’s occupant to vacate, and passing precious seconds doing my thing.

But you know what really killed me?  Getting in to that plastic bathroom and not being able to do my thing.

Gah.  Frustrated and still full of shit, I headed back on to the course.  I hauled ass, trying to make up for lost time.  But my mile split was on the slow side of 8-minutes.

And with that, I headed out of shady Prospect Park and on to the long haul down to Coney Island.

It was the beginning of the end.

Mile 9: 8:17
Mile 10: 8:24
Mile 11: 8:12 
Mile 12: 8:19

I had a hard time getting my pace back after that pit stop.  I was mad that I’d stopped during a race – something I’d never done before! – and still hadn’t managed to relieve the rumbling roil of discomfort that was brewing in my bowels.  At some point I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to hit my goal 7:30 pace, and I plodded along Ocean Avenue, seething.

For a couple of miles, it seemed that my tummy-ache had subsided, too.

Until somewhere around mile 10, when it returned with a vengeance.

Gurgling recommenced.  And then the internal spasms.  And then…well, I needed to stop and take care of business.  Like, now.

The only problem was that the next mile marker – and hence, the next possible location of a port-o-potty, was at least five minutes away.  As I saw it, I had three options:

  1. Attempt to hobble at a near-walk while clenching things together until I found the next available toilet-like apparatus.   Could be half a mile, could be longer.
  2. Pull off the course and find a place to let it go.
  3. Shit myself.
A grim situation, no doubt.  But I knew what I had to do.  So, on a wide boulevard lined with handsome brick brownstones, I ducked behind the widest tree truck I spotted and…well, you know.

There’s a first time for everything.  And hopefully a last time.

Mile 13: 8:19
Mile 0.1 + tangent trash: 0.29 in 2:12 = 7:42 pace
Finish time: 1:45:22

Once I’d accepted the indignity of what I’d done, I found myself facing the last mile of the race!  Well, I guess that’s the silver lining to having major digestive issues and stopping to crap on a tree in the middle of a major metropolis.  It’ll really distract you from the fact that you’re running a long race!

I thought about trying to make myself hammer that last mile, but honestly I just didn’t see the point.  I’d lost a ton of time to dealing with stupid shit (literally) and what did it matter if I ran 1:44 or 1:45?  In either case it was several minutes slower than it should have been.

So as I turned off of Ocean and on to the Coney Island Boardwalk, I just tried to enjoy the rest of the run.

Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

I would say there was a lesson to be learned here, but I’m really not sure what I did to piss my intestines off so royally before this race.   Late-ish pizza dinner the night before, perhaps?  Dish soap in the coffee pot at the bodega where I stopped for a cup on the way to the race?  Just bad luck and karma finally catching up to me?  Who knows.

(I must say that I have a newfound appreciation for those who battle tummy issues on the regular while running and/or racing.  Because damn, that is not a fun feeling.)

I’d hoped my spring half-marathon “season” would go out with a bang and a sub-1:38 performance.  I have to admit that it’s a little funny that I crapped out – both literally and figuratively!

But honestly, even without the stomach issues, I’m not sure if I could have come in under 1:40.  This race demonstrated that if I want to be a faster runner, I need to do speed work regularly – like I did before Shamrock.  I can’t just coast along on base miles and expect improvement.  In order to run faster, you have to practice running faster.  Speed work works – but only if you actually do it.

For now, though, I’m happy to take my requisite recovery week, then shift to focusing on shorter races for the summer!

Because there are always bathrooms at the track.  And I’m probably never going to have to worry about possibly crapping on myself during a 1500.

I miss NYC

You simply cannot get the good stuff down south.

I’m back from the shortest New York weekend ever.  On Friday afternoon, I hopped a quick flight from RDU to JFK, made my way to the UES to pick up my race bib from NYRR, and then met up with Sarah.  We had some time to kill so we practiced our duck face.

Practice makes perfect!

After hooking up with Megan, we got down to business with a little runner-style sleepover.  We ate pizza, laid out our race clothes, watched a little TV and fussed over the procurement of bagels and the availability of coffee at 5 AM in Brooklyn.  Very important!

Everyone was all smiles as we headed to the start line the next morning!

Well, almost everyone.

I’ll spare you the details of the race for now – it was pretty ugly and deserves its own post – but suffice it to say that I was definitely glad to put those 13.1 miles behind me and get on to the important business of the post-race brunch/barbecue. (Thanks, Will and Kristan, for hosting!)

Sunburned, exhausted and desperately in need of a shower, I made my way back to Manhattan to chill with my friends H & J for the evening.  We did something amazing that you cannot do in North Carolina: we ordered delivery Thai food.

Roti roll with crispy duck. I would kill to have this brought to my doorstep in Raleigh.   I. Miss. New. York.

My awesome hosts had a fridge full of delicious beer and I happily sipped on a Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale:

This little guy was making bedroom eyes at me all night…

He and Emmy used to have play-dates when we lived in NYC!

I miss this cat.  I miss my friends.  I miss good pizza.  I miss delivery.  I even miss the crazy smelly people on the subway talking about the rapture.

Even though I only lived there for a year, I think NYC will always feel a little bit like home.

Sniff.

I guess I’ll go load the dishwasher and do some laundry.  And sit on my spacious balcony.  After a leisurely trip to Costco and Target.

It’s too bad I don’t have a lawn to mow.  Because the grass is always greener on the other side.