Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apple Picking, Pumpkin Carving, and Thiller!

In honor of this fun fall holiday, I am sharing some fun fall activities that I have taken part in over the past few weeks.

Chris and I went to Bowman Orchards a couple weeks ago.  I was shocked they had such a variety of so many different types of apples still there so late in October, but I was glad they did.  I got about 25 apples for such a great price!  Apples are one of my favorite foods so I have been loving having them on hand!


We had fun walking around and picking the best apples off the trees.  Usually by the time we make it to the orchard each year, all the good apples are left at the top and Chris has to get them for me.  This year there were so many still on the trees that I was able to do a majority of the picking. 

After all our hard work picking apples, we ventured over to the store for some hot cider!  I found a caramel apple (my fave!) stand and Chris had an apple turnover.  We got some cider donuts for breakfast, too.  We really had a fun time at this orchard!

Last weekend, Chris and I were back in Kentucky for a few days.  Fortunately, my brother had some spare pumpkins for us to carve!  Brinley painted hers which turned out to be more of a mess than anything, but I think she had least for a few minutes.  Jen made a cool ghost design while Chris and I stuck to the tradition jack-o-lantern face.  Jordan carved a toothless face into a little baby pumpkin for Landon.  It was a fun Saturday morning activity for all of us!

Later that night, we ventured out (minus Jordan since he had to work) to a local Thriller dance parade of zombies that begins near the Kentucky Theater.  This was definitely unique and proved to be a very interesting event.  There was very little direction regarding where it would begin and the very few security officials on site were pretty much useless.  We stood in one area for quite some time thinking we were in a good spot before we eventually realized we would be missing the whole thing if we stayed there.  We quickly scurried to a new spot and had a pretty good view until just a few minutes before the zombies got there and a rush of people crowded all in front of us.  It was a shame because I think it would have been really cool if you had a good view. 

Overall, it has been a pretty fun fall even if I have spent most of it running like crazy.  If I lived in Lexington, maybe I could have hired those zombie to chase me.  If I did that I'd probably be finishing the marathon a lot sooner...haha!  Anyway, it has been a great fall so far.  Hoping to cap it off with an awesome experience at the NYC Marathon this weekend and then officially welcome winter into town.  I mean, it's bound to show up soon anyway so I might as well embrace it, right?

Hope you have a fun night of trick-or-treating or Halloween partying or just eating some yummy candy!  I'll be cheering my black and orange Bengals to another victory working the Thursday night game at the office!  Whatever you do, make it a fun one!

Andrea :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fueling Comparision

I've never been much of a fueling champion, but I know how important staying fueled up is during longer runs and races so I gave a few different products a try over the past few weeks.  I wasn't particularly fond of the gels, but I have tried the gummies in the past without much luck so I thought I'd try out something different.  None of these presented the digestive issues that I previously experienced with the gummies and chews so that was definitely a positive!

On my 18 mile run, I tried the PowerGel Performance Energy Gel product.  I liked the size of this pouch as it easily fit in my back pocket as well as my hand.  I'm not sure if it was the crazy heat or the actual product, but this gel was very runny and tasted terrible.  I had to force myself to gag it down.  There was no distinguishable flavor.  I did not like it at all.  I did feel a bit of a boost to begin the second half of my run, but that was the case with each gel.

On my 20 mile run, I tested the Clif Shot Energy Gel.  This packet was pretty large in comparison to the others, but was definitely still manageable.  It had a definitive gel texture by the time I was ready to use it.  I didn't particularly love the flavor, but the consistency was easier to choke down.  This one was my favorite of the three. 

On my final long(ish) 12 mile run of training, I tried the GU Energy Gel.  This packet was the perfect size.  The consistency of the gel was about the same as the Clif brand.  However, I still haven't developed a taste for the texture of this stuff.  I didn't really notice a distinct flavor, but it was more neutral that the vanilla of the other two products.  This gel was a very close second for me.

What is your favorite fuel for long runs and races?

Andrea :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marathon Training: Almost Done

I'm less than a week away at this point!  It is hard for me to believe that all my hard work for the past three and a half months is about to be put to the test!  Feel free to check out my training at the halfway point before reading further if you want to catch up on the first 8 weeks.

By far, the biggest difference maker in my second half of training was a boot camp class that began at my work during my eighth week of marathon training.  I had a built-in cross training day on Mondays that I had been using as an extra rest day up until week eight so I decided to give the boot camp class a try.  Daury Dross of The Fhitting Room has been instructing our hour long high intensity classes.  He's been a great motivator and teacher for the class.  He also passed along a few stretching and breathing tips that have proved beyond helpful for me.  I am SO glad I added this weekly class into the rotation for the last half of my training.  It has truly made all the difference!

Along with the high intensity training, I also incorporated all of my long runs into the mix.  My first really long run was 16 miles through central park and an over and back on the Queensboro Bridge.  This bridge comes at Mile 16 during the actual marathon so when my friend, Amanda, suggested I incorporate it into some of my runs I heeded the advice.  I am glad that I did because it was a bit daunting and now I feel a tad more prepared for it.  It will come at a pivotal spot for me so knowing what it entails will be helpful on race day.  However, the rest of the course remains a mystery to me! 

Toward the end of September, we went to Mark and Shannon's wedding in Oswego, New York.  We had a lot of fun and a late night, but I still managed to get in a brief though very windy run before we ventured back downstate.  The scenery was great there!

The last weekend of September and the first weekend in October were BIG weekends for me.  I had two back-to-back weekends of long runs slated.  The first was an 18-miler.  I'm not sure where I got the bright idea that completing two laps around Central Park's outer loop (plus a little more over on the west side highway) would be ideal for this run, but I went with it.  And I found myself nearly dehydrated from what turned out to be an insanely hot September day at the end of it.  I did not feel inspired after this all.  In fact, I became a little nervous about what exactly I had in store for me on November 3. 

Fortunately, the weather broke by the time the following weekend rolled around making the 20-miler a bit more manageable in terms of the elements. The distance, however, was still quite intimidating.  I ran down the west side highway to the base of Manhattan, completed an out and back on the Brooklyn Bridge, got a bit lost before finding my way to the South Street Seaport and up the FDR drive, completed an out and back on the Queensboro Bridge, and then headed home.  I was spent to say the least.  I began to fatigue around Mile 16.  I did some walking and pushed through those last few miles, but did manage to finish the last mile pretty strong.  I felt a real sense of accomplishment after completing this run even though it didn't go as well as I had hoped.  It definitely gave me some mental confidence in knowing that I could complete the distance.  After this run, I just kept reminding myself that I only ever had to do that distance (plus six more miles...eek!!) one more time...EVER!  For some reason, this was helpful to me :)

After two consecutive weekends of long runs, my body (and particularly my left hip to knee...the IT band area, I've been told) was really feeling it.  We headed out of town that weekend for a family wedding in Florida.  I wanted to try to get in a shorter long run (8-10 miles), but it was just too hot even at 8am for me to manage anything more than three miles.  Fortunately, my body appreciated the rest so maybe it was the best thing for me after all.

My last somewhat long run was in Albany on the weekend that I threw Chris a surprise going away party!  He watched soccer with some friends while I completed my last long run of training on what turned out to be a gorgeous day.  I felt good the entire 12 miles and was thrilled to be on pace (12:14/mile) for the whole run.  This gave me a ton of confidence headed into two weeks of the dreaded taper.  For the first time in all of my training, I knew that I could really do it.  It was great to have such a good run so close to the end!

This past weekend, we traveled back to Kentucky to visit my family and go to the Bengals/Jets game (WHO DEY - but more on that trip later!).  I had a couple of short runs to complete while there.  I managed 4-mile and 5-mile solid runs in an 11:45/12 minute pace.  It was pretty chilly there so this gave me a taste of "cold" running which may or may not be a reality when I line up for the real deal this weekend!  I'm hoping for low 60's.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Overall, I feel ready.  I have trained hard and made oh so much progress over the past three months.  I know without a doubt that I can finish the race.  And I will.  I have set three goals.  My most basic goal is to simply finish the race.  And that will make me very happy.  My good goal is to cross the finish line in under six hours.  I am extremely hopeful about this one, but it will all depend on how things go on race day.  I won't lose sight of my basic goal, but I will be pushing to ensure my good goal is met for sure.  My great goal is to finish in 5:4X.  This is not out of the realm of possibilities, but I will need to be very consistent and focused in order to met this one.  I'm not counting myself out for any of these goals.  All are very manageable.  I do know one thing for sure...this week is going to move at a snail's pace.  I'm so excited (and nervous) to have this amazing experience on Sunday!

Andrea :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Surprise: Our LDR is Over!!

Chris and I are SO very excited to become a regular live (and hopefully work) in the same city couple next week!!  We've been in a long distance relationship since the beginning...over three and a half years ago...and it was well past time to make the change!

This past weekend, I threw him a SURPRISE going away party in Albany!  It was about three weeks in the making, and I had help from several lovely friends in Albany.  I knew I wanted to make sure he had a really special experience because he has been in Albany for over nine years now.  He had his official going away party last night with friends and co-workers, but with it set for a weekday night I knew I wouldn't be able to attend...and I wanted to be there with him for a fun send off since Albany has played such a big part in our relationship as well.  So, I made a way.

It all started with an email to his friends and former roommates, Matt and Cara.  I pitched the idea to them asking them to help with the set up by making dinner plans with us for that Saturday night.  They were immediately on board.  After that, I touched base with Carolyn at Olde English Pub in an attempt to secure some space at their venue.  She was more than accommodating and so very helpful in reserving several tables in the upstairs area of the pub.  I've always liked this place and their fantastic cooperation and service for this event just solidified my previous feeling.

Once the venue was set, I began inviting friends to the party.  I reached out to everyone I knew asking them to spread the word as well.  I messaged facebook friends of Chris randomly about the event and fortunately everyone was super receptive.  I touched base with his co-worker, Alissa, to get the word out around there and much to my excitement she offered to help coordinate getting some cupcakes made.  You guys know how I feel about cupcakes :)

Thanks to Katie at The Albany Cupcakery for these yummy treats!!

With everyone invited and the awesome idea for cupcakes set, I headed up to Albany for the weekend.  I felt pretty good about him not suspecting anything all the way up until about an hour before dinner on that Saturday night.  Then, it almost all unraveled.  Someone texted him about what time people were meeting at the pub.  In the most bizarre of ways, I was able to play it off and convince him that I had mistakenly texted that person's girlfriend instead of another friend with the same name who Chris thought we were meeting up with later.  Seriously, I have no clue how I was able to convince him, but I was SO glad that I did.  The party would have still been fun without the surprise, but it just wouldn't have been the same.  Luckily, I didn't have to worry about that after all.

When he walked up those stairs, all his friends started clapping and he began to realize that everyone was there for HIM.  He was literally speechless.  And so very happy.  I was glad that I was able to organize something for him that allowed him to visit with so many friends one more time before he moves down to the city.  It was a special night for him most definitely.


We had a lot of fun and later that night Chris told me that it was one of the best moments of his life.  That made me really happy because I wanted him to have a wonderful night before he moves on to the next chapter of his life with me.  We are both beyond excited to be in the same city...finally!!  It's been a very long journey to get here, but worth every step along the way.

My favorite Alligator :)

Andrea :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Burton Albion v Fulham

After visiting Lichfield Cathedral, we had a few hours to rest before we ventured over to Pirelli Stadium (capacity of 6,912) for a soccer match.  Not just any soccer match though!  This was a League Cup match.  Chris had been excited about going to the game since before we left New York.  That man sure does love soccer!

A quick bit of background for those of you (like myself) that aren't exactly familiar with how these soccer tournaments work. The League Cup is a single elimination tournament between 92 soccer teams across England.  Twenty teams make up The Premier League and The Football League consisting of three divisions of 24 clubs each - The Championship (Level Two), League One (Level Three), and League Two (Level 4) - provides the rest of the participating teams. Burton Albion participates in Football League Two - the fourth tier. Fulham is an English Premier League football team - the top tier.  This mostly means Fulham has lots more money and resources and should be easily able to knock off Burton on their way to the next round of the tournament.  However, the League Cup is one of the three major domestic trophies for English league teams, but is perceived by larger clubs (ie Fulham) as a lower priority than the other championships.  Winners do receive 100,000 pounds, but the larger clubs don't seem concerned with that prize either. 

Now that you have better understanding of the tournament, I'll speak to the atmosphere.  It is much different from our sporting events in the States.  Before the game, at halftime, and after the game ends are the times to be social, grab food/drinks, and go to the restroom.  During the game...for those two 45-minute need to pay attention, cheer and chant, and stay in your seating section.  I would say stay in your seat, but a lot of people stand the whole time!  Basically, soccer is serious business.  The chants, however, aren't quite so serious, but are still very important to the teams.  Overall, it is a lot of fun to be at a live game.  Especially a tournament game.  Even if you aren't a huge fan of the sport.

Unless, of course, you aren't feeling well.  Then, well, then it isn't as much fun, but you hang in there as best you can and make the most of it.  After all, you don't get a chance to go to a League Cup game very often!  Needless to say, I wasn't able to stay in my seat the whole game.  I did a fair amount of running back and forth to the facilities...which was ever so conveniently located right beside our section.  I'll spare you the icky details, but it is interesting to note that I seemed to be good luck for both teams.  Both times I snuck out to visit the ladies' room during the game, there was a loud cheer of "GOOOOOAAAALLLL!!" for one team or the other. 

And yep, you guessed it - the game ended in a 1-1 tie.  Normally, that would be acceptable and all the lovely people would return home, but not when it's a tournament game.  Nope.  Then, there is a period of extra time.  Two halves of 15 minutes of extra time that is played completely regardless of the score after the first half.  In a remarkable turn of events, I was finally able to see both teams score a goal though! 

But what do you think the score was at the end of extra time?  You got it. Another tie - it was now 2-2.  Next, we moved on to a penalty shoot out between the teams.  Fortunately, I was starting to rally at this point.  I mean, I was likely dehydrated with not one single drop of fluid left in my body.  But, hey, that just meant I could finally relax and enjoy the competition.  Just in the nick of time!

The game came down to the very last kick, but Fulham proved victorious in the end.  I was sort of rooting for the underdog and home team, but at least Chris and his cousin, Tony, were able to see a great match.  I enjoyed it, least as much as possible given my untimely roughly 12 hour sickness.  The good news is that I made a full recovery the next day as we headed off to visit the Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

Andrea :)