For fitness or beauty?

I like to hike. I think I kinda forgot this and didn’t get out to the mountains much this summer. Shame because Washington is such an amazing playground.

I decided to get back out there and kick off the long weekend with a hike that’s been on my list for a while – Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls.

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It’s an eight mile out and back trek that ends at this wonderful little spot. We’ve had a few fall-like days recently, so the hike was overcast, cool, and slightly misty at times.

I realized while I was hiking that I’m not much for stopping and when the trail is rooty and rocky, you tend to focus down a lot. I wondered, am I here for the fitness or the outdoor experience? Then, as often happens when I think of the word fitness, I thought of this and laughed because it’s funny every time.

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But, back to the larger question. When you really get climbing, the sweat feels just as cleansing as a hot yoga class and I love it. So, I think I’d say I hike for fitness, which seems gauche to admit. I should be all, “I’m here to absorb the beauty and connect with nature.” To be fair, if it was ALL about that sweat, I’d run in town or get the the gym v. driving 90 minutes to hike.

Also, I absolutely loved the falls.

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I guess you have to love both to be a hiker! Since I took my first, nervous solo hike a little over a year ago, I’ve become much more comfortable with it. It also helps that I’m independent and stubborn and want to go where I want to go, when I want to go, and at my pace and throw in some running when the trail allows. (#thisiswhyimsingle)

Unfortunately, I’m not quite brave enough to hike snow-covered trails alone, so I’m hoping to get a few more fall hikes in before winter hits.

Aaaand today I’m sore and balancing the hike with some good, old-fashioned laziness. Yay for three day weekends!

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A Week Without Workouts

Last week was one of those weeks. Going way back, I was rocking my training and two Saturdays ago did my first long run – 8 miles without too much build up to it and it felt pretty good. But that night and the next day I was hobbling a bit and since it was my fourth day running in a row, I decided to skip the next day’s shake out run.

And I haven’t worked out since! Oh no! When last week started, I felt overwhelmed by having to host a jewelry party on Thursday and then go to Flagstaff for a bachelorette party on Friday. Why is it when you’re going away for the weekend, the whole week feels extra short and busy and stressed?

Seriously, though…a jewelry party (a girls’ night in, really) and a girls’ weekend in a relaxing mountain town? Yeah, not all that stressful, but they were looming over my head and I felt too busy to workout. I totally wasn’t! I just had to clean a little and pack a little (and have a fun date night with Sean).  Each day still had 24 hours and that’s more than enough time.

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I think it’s also easy to feel overwhelmed after returning from a trip. Unfortunately I don’t have today off, so after getting back from Flag and showing a few houses to a potential buyer yesterday afternoon, I caught Bridesmaids on TV last night for a little unwinding and now it’s right back to the grind.

BUT I don’t want to spend the whole week feeling like I’m playing catch up, so I’m not going to let that mentality take over again. My training sessions for the week are actually pretty manageable and I was having a lot of fun with my workouts before I apparently decided to quit cold turkey. It’s time to have some fun again.

How long do you go off track before you shake some sense back into yourself?

Mexican + Sweat + Staycay + Sushi + Vodka + Whiskey + Pizza = Birthday

My favorite day of the year has come and gone – it actually fell on a Saturday this year so I had a birthday weekend, a fantastic one in fact! A lot of people may claim their birthday as the best day of the year, but REALLY…there’s nothing else going on in August, so it’s nicely isolated; as a kid, you don’t have to go to school; it’s perfect for parties, although a friend who had a birthday a few weekends ago told me she has anxiety about summer birthdays because too many people are on vacation and can’t come. Anyway, it’s amazing and it’s mine and this weekend, I did everything I wanted to do.

It started with dinner with my family at Juan Jamie’s on Friday. My local family now includes my grandmother who moved from Pittsburgh in June and of course, my newish boyfriend who is getting to be a pro at the FFF.

On Saturday, I fit in a new-to-me workout at Amenzone (more on that in a future post) and did some shopping before checking into the Hotel Valley Ho for the night, an iconic little retro hotel near Old Town Scottsdale, perfect for going out at night, sleeping in in the morning and hanging out at the pool the next day, which is exactly what I had in mind.

Dinner was at Stingray Sushi with Sean, my sis and her husband…they left the babe with my mom and stayed out past 10 – new parent win! Then I met up with old and new friends at Kelly’s at Southbridge and ended the night at Gilligin’s.

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I had been thinking earlier in the day that perhaps I needed to add “Do a Fireball shot” to my 30 before 30 list (yes, next year is the big 3-0) and lo and behold, two shots appeared before me by the end of the night. I pretty much handled them like a champ. There was also a lot of water involved for the night!

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The next day, it was unfortunately a little hazy. Still warm and the sun did peek out a few times, so the pool day was great as well. Stacey got us hooked up with a cabana, which included drinks and some delicious snacks.

Birthday Pool

My final birthday request was Spinato’s pizza and watching Orange is the New Black to combat my Sunday night, end-of-my-birthday-weekend blues before it was back to reality. I’m actually only at work for two days this week before heading to San Diego. It’s FOR work, but working in a different environment and of course, getting away to a cooler climate, is always a nice break!

Splash Mob 5K

Sign up for a race in July, she said. It will be fun, she said.

And it sure as heck was.

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Pre-race…still smiling, still dry!
(Rachel, the toucan to my left, was the one with the brilliant idea – to run and to run with floaties!)

When my alarm went off at 6am for the 7am Splash Mob 5K, I was not a fan. I had stayed up until 3:30 the night before – just drinking water, so at least I was hydrated – and that’s my own stupid mistake. When I was running in humid 90 degree weather, I was not a fan. When I finished (35:45, note to self: you can stay up until 3:30 OR run a 5K in the morning – there is no BOTH option) and was still actively sweating for the next 20 minutes, I was not a fan.

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The post-race sweat that never ends.

The only way to survive a summer race in Arizona is lots of water. Honestly, there could have been a little bit more…more splashing (at splash stations along the course, kids with supersoakers and water balloons attempted to cool off the runners) and more water stations [insert organizer’s excuse about the water delivery truck here] AND they ran out of bottles for the end by the time the last in our group finished.

Ready to jump into that Waikiki Beach wave pool!

Ready to jump right into that Waikiki Beach wave pool!

But, after the race, the water park that played host to the event, Big Surf, opened its wave pool. Those floaties actually came in handy as we waded in – our running clothes already drenched with sweat, so who really cared? – and set up shop.

My friend looked at me and said, “Megan, you look like you’re actually on vacation.” “Um, I AM for the next half hour.”

And then…”Hey, guys? We’re the only people left in here without kids.” My 30-minute, young-at-heart vacation in the wave pool totally made up for all the not-a-fan things about the race and it made my overall impression of the race a favorable one! I keep my race calendar busy throughout the year and 5Ks in particular can get a little monotonous, so I love races that offer something unique!

Other pros: I really liked the course. It can be tricky to create a course when the location was picked based on a landmark, but it was half-loop and half-out-and-back and included a golf course and a (man-made) lake. Also, I knew it was going to be a tough race, so having it on my calendar was great motivation to stay on track through these torture months.

I actually got in a bonus outside run last weekend when the humidity finally gave us some good rain on Sunday and it cooled to 80ish in the middle of the afternoon! You have to be ready to roll on rare days like that!

Berry Winter

Not so much in Phoenix, but it still gives me hope! Do you prefer running outside in hot or cold weather?

I’m kind of a wuss on both ends…my ideal range is probably 60-75! Do you live somewhere where that’s the year round temperature? Need a new best friend?!

Going Rogue

My race calendar was pretty much set for the remainder of spring until a few weeks ago, Ashley from She Runs Strong did a giveaway for the inaugural Rogue Runner on her blog and I won! Even better, she was giving away two entries and my blog friend turned real-life friend and Ragnar teammate, Stacey, won the other, so I’d have a partner in crime for the race!

The race was on Saturday at McDowell Mountain Park, so it was actually an awesome and challenging 6.2 mile trail run in addition to being an obstacle course.

By the time we got our codes to enter, the earliest wave available was 11:30 and the high on Saturday was supposed to be 90, so I was a little concerned it would be too hot – that was a huge problem with the only other obstacle race I’ve done, the Lozilu, which took place even later into the hot Arizona spring/summer. Rogue before

The first half of the race was pretty warm and unfortunately the water stations were out of water! The obstacles offered a slight break because we had to wait in a line to go through them…we got to one and people were walking away saying they had been there for an hour already, so we skipped it as well.

Despite the heat, lack of water, my lack of recent training and Stacey’s hamstring injury, it was a great running day and we kept up a decent pace in between obstacles, not letting our Ragnar spirit die and chicked plenty of men along the way.

Finally, we made it to the mid-way point with its glorious stocked water station, port-a-potties and a water obstacle. Essentially it was a dumpster filled with water and you had to swim under three barriers. Kinda gross? Yes, but we were sweaty and dirty already and getting drenched to start out on the next three miles was actually quite welcome!

Then there was a slip and slide, which was super fun, some more military-style obstacles and more trail running, of course. There were a good amount of obstacles for the distance and they were spread out pretty well. Only once we ran for almost a mile between them, but the view was awesome and the trail made it more interesting. Then before we knew it (a little less than two hours after starting), we finished and got our sweet medals!

Rogue after

Lozilu was TOUGH, so I was worried about doing a longer course, but I guess with my yoga and swimming, I’m more strength-trained than I give myself credit for. I was sore for a few days, but it was a fun kind of sore.

This race did not feel like a first for Rogue Runner. It was well-marketed and brought in lots of participants and except for the water issue, it ran very smoothly. (I ran the first Neon Race the week before and it was fun because I was with friends, but logistical it was a complete disaster.)

The Rogue Runner course was legit – not just another copy-cat gimmicky run with more talk than walk – though it’s definitely an obstacle run, not fully a “mud” run. It definitely gave me the confidence boost I needed to get me thinking I can handle a Tough Mudder! I’m so happy I added this race to my schedule at the last minute, I had a blast!

Moving to Seattle, kthanksbye!

PinnacleWe had a rainy Pacific Northwest-type weekend here in the Valley of the Sun and it was pretty spectacular! I got in an overcast hike at Pinnacle Peak on Thursday and was supposed to hike again with a long-lost friend on Friday evening, but she got called in to work an extra night shift, so when I got off work at 3:00, I ran six miles – two and a half with the wonder dog then three and a half on my own – before the rain started, so I suppose the canceled hike was for the best anyway!

On Saturday, I went to my regular yoga class, but it was my first time there since it got switched from Vinyasa Flow to Slow Burn, which focuses on slowing down the traditional vinyasa flow in an unheated room. I enjoyed the format and it just flew by!

TKMy planned open house was canceled because of the rain, so on the way home from the gym, I stopped at Target to get a Blu Ray player for my Netflix account.  Holy life-changing. That’s sad, right? Oh well, I stand by it. I got very cozy with Blair, Serena, Chuck, Nate and Lonely Boy this weekend. Don’t worry, I still got a lot of work done too and I even had some fun with real friends!

sleevesOn Sunday the rain eased up so I took off for a morning run, two miles with Rigo (he’s a monster), then three on my own. I got to wear my new running sleeves – a stocking stuffer from my now-a-runner Momma (she gets it). They were pretty great. Like being all cuddled up in bed with your foot sticking out. Ahhh.

The run was perfection, which is why I’m moving to Seattle. Obviously my running mojo comes from clouds and cool weather. Whenever it rains, my music of choice is chill singer-songwriter type stuff, so I switched on Matt White Pandora, which I thought would be too slow, but it was pretty perfect and just allowed me to zone out and go. It was my fastest run in a long time – just over 46 minutes and a 9:13 pace!

The clear day was perfect for a second attempt at an open house and it was a success! Desert dwellers don’t do well with rain, so everyone who felt cooped up on Saturday came out to play on Sunday! I actually stayed an hour longer than I expected because the traffic was just so consistent!

When I wrapped up and ran around picking up my signs – maybe my least favorite part of the job! – I gave myself a half hour and a few Shot Blocks before heading out for…RUN #2. Can you believe it?! I barely can.

I’ve heard that mimicking the Ragnar schedule with two-a-days, even followed by a morning run the next day, is very important to help you prepare. With the race less than a month away now, it’s time to get serious! I was about 60% feeling it, but I’m sure it will be a lot easier with 11 awesome women cheering me on. I planned for another five miles, but with a slightly tweaked ankle, some knotty knees and ominous dark skies, I opted for three and they felt great too! By the time I showered and dressed, it was pouring again!

I’m so glad it cleared up for a great Sunday and then that the rain came back for a lazy Sunday night of more Gossip Girl with a break for Downton Abbey —-> OMG.

How did you sweat this weekend? What’s your ideal running weather? Do you change your music mood based on the weather?

Workout Giant: Golfing

With over 300 days of sunshine each year and 250 courses, the Phoenix area is a golfing mecca. Even so, I’ve had a minimal interest in the sport, played nine holes a few times in high school and been to a few driving ranges since then. But, when my sister started planning a golf outing for my dad’s birthday and said, “you golf, right?” I just went with it.

My parents play with increasing regularity, my brother-in-law at least has his own clubs, but mentioned he had played once in the last five years, and my sister and niece (at the ripe age of 11 weeks) came along to watch. On the third hole, I asked if she had realized how long it actually takes to play 18 holes. She didn’t.

But, Saturday happened to be a beautiful day – our cold spell from last weekend warmed up to a fantastic mid-70s afternoon – and we headed out to Kokopelli Golf Club in Gilbert. They were running a little behind schedule, so we warmed up on the range until our turn.

Driving Range

Then our carts came up and my brother-in-law put his work iPhone on a “shelf” that actually was a hole down to the engine.

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Fortunately, a staff member wasn’t afraid to reach up and find it!

Then we were off! The first hole was a bit of a learning experience, but eventually, I figured out the clubs, had a few good hits and even had some fun. I kept telling myself I’m naturally athletic, something I never would have imagined the last time I played golf, but I really do believe now.

I only lost a few balls early on. My biggest problem was not actually making contact with the ball. It’s a very small target dontchaknow. My scorecard included a lot of hearts and stars and other symbols in lieu of actual numbers. Either way, it was a great way to get some exercise and get outside to enjoy a day of warm weather and sunshine!

So, was it actually a workout? There were carts involved, but walking back and forth to the ball and swinging (many, many times) for four and a half hours definitely felt like one! WebMD’s Fit-O-Meter tells me I burned about 850 calories! Afterward, all I wanted was dinner, a warm shower and to SLEEP! I didn’t even care that it was 9pm on a Saturday!

Return to Camelback

Camelback 011813Camelback Mountain is closing! For a little bit anyway!

After next weekend, the front trail, Echo Canyon, will be closing for improvement projects until the fall. I haven’t been since I took it on as one of the seven summits almost two years ago. I think of it as a little dangerous, but it’s different and a nice challenge, so on this fantastically long weekend, I took the opportunity to climb up before the closure!

I don’t hike often enough, but I always love the reward of getting to the top to see your hard work! Being above the city and the stress of daily life is so refreshing!

Phoenix Sister Cities 5K

Another beautiful fall weekend in Arizona…another race! On Saturday I did the Phoenix Sister Cities 5K which started at Arizona Falls (much less glam than it sounds) and looped around the canal in Arcadia. I signed up for this a while ago…so long ago in fact that I was apparently the first person to sign up for the whole race!

My schedule last week was ever-changing so I ended up needing to do my long run on Saturday (instead of Friday and using the 5K as my recovery run). The eight miles were all over the place, but it was important to me to get them done. I got up early and ran two with Rigo, then drove to Arizona Falls and ran one mile to stay warm before the race, three more miles with 100 new friends.

I just kept telling myself not to stop and really my body was fine, my legs felt a little weak, but my pace was more challenging to me mentally. I was aiming for a 5K under 28 minutes and (spoiler alert) I still hope to do that sometime this month, but Phoenix Sister Cities was not the place for it.

I finished in 29:35, so still under my standing goal to race under a 10-minute pace. Apparently their timing method was to take a tag off my bib at the end, but I didn’t know and had ripped it off before the run, so my time was from my Garmin.

I felt eh after finishing, grabbed a water and a banana and drove to my office (where I had left something very important!), but ran two miles around the neighborhood to finish my eight miles for the day! I felt great for finishing, even if they were more collective than consecutive, but I was ready to start my day feeling great and knowing I earned my dirty chai latte and then the beer I was about to drink!

I haven’t done a solo race in a while and this one made me realize how much more fun it is when I have cheerleaders or, even better, friends or family running in the race too, so fortunately I just found out Stacey is running the Fiesta Bowl Half, which is my only race coming up I didn’t have anyone yet! Yay!

The FIRST Neon Splash Dash

Okay, so “official” race kick off went off and wasn’t super official (not timed, but I ran the whole course, which is better than I’ve been in training and it felt great), but the Neon Splash Dash was super fun. What better way to start race season than running with friends in the dark and getting splashed with neon paint?!

The race was held at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler on Saturday night and the 5K course looped around some kind of pit that I’m hoping isn’t actually the lake that the upcoming triathlon is in because it was pretty gross! There were four(?) stations set up with volunteers who were all too happy to dunk their water blasters in neon paint water and aim straight for the runners!

It actually washed out pretty well!

The after-race party had beer (score one for night races) and live music, perfect to dance to once I got all those endorphins running through me. I was very impressed with the organization (aside from the start…a little hectic and a little delayed) and the marketing that totally packed it in for the inaugural event.

I fifth-wheeled it with two friend couples and it was a blast for us as 20/30 somethings and I loved how family friendly it was and the kids there were having a blast.  I imagine it would be a great way to get kids excited about running! Heck, one of the women I was with was super pumped about having run the race! It was pretty neat to see her catch that running bug…I think I can recruit her for my next half!

Afterward, we randomly headed to the most legit Halloween party I’ve ever seen…complete with electric chair photo opp and professional photog! Fortunately we were somewhat decked out in our splashed runner’s gear and the booze room (yes, a whole room for booze) had black lights all over, so we found our home!