Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nike Women's 10k in Paris

When Nike posted their women's races around the world at the start of 2015, I thought about signing up for...all of them.

Stockholm June 27?! Yes please! Except I have Taylor Swift tickets for that day.

Berlin June 20?! Haven't been there in nearly 10 years! Except I had a trip planned for that weekend at the time.

Paris June 7?! MY FAVORITE CITY EVER??!! For only 30 euros?? I had no plans that weekend, so why not do a race in Paris? As they say, Paris is always a good idea. So in February I signed up, bought a Eurostar ticket, and booked an adorable Airbnb. I hadn't really been to Paris since the marathon in April 2014, and I was excited to go back! (I say "hadn't really" been there since I had spent about five hours in the city in April on my way to Istanbul...but I'm not sure that totally counts!)

I decided to turn the race into a long weekend, leaving very early Friday morning (aka 5:40am!) and returning late on Sunday (8pm train back). (The fact that those were also the cheapest Eurostar tickets had everything to do with the timing...) It meant I had three full days in Paris to do...whatever I wanted. The only commitment I had was the race!

BIB PICKUP
Location: Nike shop in a mall in the 15th arrondissement. We got 15% off at the Nike shop, which was enough incentive for me to get new shorts and a couple new sports bras.

Ease: I went on Friday, and everything was quick and went smoothly. You have to bring a doctor's note for races in France (and elsewhere in Europe), so I handed that over and in return received my D-tag, a Nike T-shirt, and a little goody bag. Because I'd been fighting a summer cold, I decided to drop down from the 15k to the 10k, which was no problem. In fact, I learned I could have just changed my mind on race day and it would have been fine!

RACE MORNING
I slept terribly the night before (OK, and I'd had some wine...#wheninparis). The cold that I'd been fighting reared its ugly head and I woke up in the middle of the night with a super stuffy nose, a headache, and quite possibly a fever. In that time I gave myself permission to skip the race if I still felt terrible when I woke up. When my 7am alarm went off, I snoozed until 7:45. When that alarm went off, I actually felt pretty good (and a million times better than 3am!) so I decided to give it a shot!

Location: The race started at the Cite de la Mode et du Design near the Gare d'Austerlitz in the 13th arrondissement, which was an easy Metro ride from my flat in the 1st arrondissement. I think I had about 20 minutes to spare before the 9am start, which was fine since I wasn't checking a bag. After I got out of the Metro stop, I just followed all of the peach T-shirts to the start!

Course: The course took us around a corner of the left bank, and included Boulevard St. Michel and Boulevard St. Germain. Honestly, it was pretty crowded the whole time, so I was glad I didn't have a time goal - I didn't even wear my watch! There were a few gentle hills, but nothing too crazy.


There were kilometer markers so you always knew where you were, quite a few water stops and snacks along the way, and pretty decent crowd support in some areas! I didn't run with music, and had a giant smile on my face the whole way, just happy to be logging miles in my favorite city!


Finish: While there were no Tiffany medals to be had at the finish line, there were handsome (French) gentlemen handing out medals/necklaces, as well as tons of snacks (fruit and water, plus some bars and whatnot).


On top of the Cite de la Mode et du Design, they had a little party set up, where you could have a souvenir photo taken, get a massage, and hang out. I only went for the photo, but it would have been cool to hang out a little longer.


That night they had a party for all the finishers in the same spot, but I was on my way back to London by then!

OVERALL
I really enjoyed this race! It was laid back and fun, which is all I was going for. Just don't forget to bring the doctor's note!

It doesn't seem like the kind of race that is set up for PRing (unless you were at the very front?), but it was definitely a cool experience and I'm so happy I went - as evidenced by my sweaty face!


I finished in 54:44, which was great considering not feeling great, the sun/heat, and the crowds. I'll take it!

More to come on the non-race bits of Paris!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

On the sixth anniversary of my first race

Six years and two months ago, I joined New York Sports Club and started running (OK it was more like shuffling slightly faster than walking pace). I never thought I'd be a runner. I had never watched a race with much interest, except to cheer on a friend or two in college. The idea of running a mile had rarely crossed my mind. The idea of running a marathon had NEVER crossed my mind. Ever. I didn't think I was a runner, so I wasn't.

That changed when I ran my first race on April 26, 2009.

It was the GW Parkway Classic in Virginia. It was a 5k. My goal was to finish in under 30 minutes. Those 29 minutes and 25 seconds were HARD, man. If I had it handy, my bright red pain face would tell you all that you need to know. As tough as it was, it sparked something in me to push harder, go longer, go faster. That 5k led to a few of half marathons, a few injuries, a lot of lessons, and now four marathons under my belt.

Honestly, I haven't run a 5k race since that first one. Right now I am NOT in top running shape. Running kind of fell by the wayside and I haven't tried to get faster since the Paris Marathon in 2014.

Watching the London Marathon today, and the Boston Marathon last week, I saw human beings' innate tenacity, resilience, and strength right in front of me. I saw marathon World Record holder Paula Radcliffe run her last London Marathon with a massive smile on her face. I saw a friend from college CRUSH the marathon in 3:12. I saw people missing limbs storm past with fierce determination. I saw a man just sitting on the course, unable or unwilling to get up, while fellow runners encouraged him and two finally got him up and running toward the finish line.

The spark I felt back in 2009 is back. I'm ready to run again, get stronger and faster. I want to crush goals. I want to run for something bigger than myself, a purpose beyond just ME. I want to race the 5k again, the 10k again, the 15k for the first time (Paris in June!), obliterate my half PR, and run a marathon in 3:3X.

...I'm back.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I mustache you some questions!

Like some other blogs out there, you may have seen this quiz floating around. No one tagged me for it since I'm not cool enough, but I think it's fun and thought I'd share! :) Plus, I just ran the Mo Run for the end of Movember on Saturday!

Four names that people call me, other than my real name
  1. Bab
  2. Sweets
  3. Margo
  4. Margs

Four jobs I have had (not counting any current jobs)
  1. Sales assistant at J. Crew
  2. College tour guide
  3. Account executive
  4. Researcher

Four movies I’ve watched more than once
  1. 10 Things I Hate About You
  2. Atonement
  3. Edward Scissorhands
  4. Love Actually

Four books I’d recommend
  1. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  2. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  3. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  4. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Four places I have lived 
  1. Paris, France
  2. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  3. Bangalore, India
  4. San Diego, California

Four places I have been
  1. Australia
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Mexico
  4. Dubai

Four places I’d rather be right now
  1. Florence, Italy
  2. Morocco
  3. Home in Virginia
  4. On a beach somewhere warm

Four things I don’t eat/drink
  1. Fruity jam/sauce and chocolate together (just...no. But chocolate covered strawberries are OK.)
  2. Pumpkin pie (despite my love of all things pumpkin and raging sweet tooth)
  3. Soda
  4. Decaf coffee

Four of my favorite foods
  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Green smoothies
  3. Almond butter
  4. Chocolate

Four TV shows that I watch
  1. The Affair
  2. Homeland
  3. Parks & Rec
  4. Currently plowing through Gilmore Girls...

Four things I am looking forward to this year (in the next 12 months)
  1. Going home to visit my family for Christmas
  2. Trip to California over New Year's
  3. Parents coming to visit the UK in the spring
  4. NYC trip in January

Four things I’m always saying
  1. Dude!
  2. I need coffee.
  3. I miss you!
  4. I really want to go to...[insert any city here]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

P90X3 - Block 1 Review

I'm officially 30 days in to P90X3 - one-third of the way there! The month has flown by so I imagine (/hope!) the next two will as well.

I know I touched on it in the last post, but I really enjoyed Block 1. I definitely feel like I got stronger. I didn't really lose any pounds, but I did decrease some measurements, which is a good feeling.

Here's how the first month went:

Workouts:
I loved them. I thought they were all great and I didn't really dread any of them. My favorites were probably CVX (weighted cardio) and Agility X. I only missed ONE workout the whole time, and I just replaced it with a 10k run instead. Let's hope I can keep that up for the next two months, too!

Because there are some new-to-me moves in every workout, it took me a while before I felt really comfortable with pushing it hard in all the moves. For example, I only did Accelerator twice, so I didn't feel super comfortable with it by the end. CVX, on the other hand, I knew SO well by the end since I did it four times. The weight even felt lighter in my last CVX workout!

In Block 2 I'm not going to worry so much about getting the moves RIGHT but just MOVING and getting the form as close to correct as I can. I already noticed in doing Triometrics this morning that I'm hesitant with new moves!

Changes:
Improved balance
Increased strength
Better muscle definition
Better at getting up in the morning!
Runs are not faster, but not bad

Inches lost from Day 1 to Day 28:


  Difference
Chest  -2"
Waist  -1"
Hips  -0.25"
R Thigh  -0.5"
L Thigh  -0.5"
R Arm  -0.5"
L Arm  -0.5"




Not too terribly different, but at least they weren't gains! And honestly not sure if I did the chest measurement correctly, because 2" is sort of insane.

Before and after pictures:
Just a caveat...I started Day 1 in the evening, after a full day of eating meals and following a gluttonous delicious week in NYC. And I didn't suck in because Tony said not to! ;) Day 28 was taking in the morning before I'd eaten anything. Also YIIIIKES I can't believe I'm putting these on the internet.

I think there are some noticeable improvements - shoulders and back, flatter tummy (some mornings I swear I even see a line down the middle), love handles more in check (OK and I wore my Oiselle Rogas with a flattering waistband for Day 28 instead of my Champion shorts with a band that digs in), arms better defined. More improvements to come!

What I want to keep doing:
Be aware of my sugar intake
Eat healthfully
Push hard in the workouts
Get in all the workouts!

How I want Block 2 to be different:
Add in running 2-3 times per week so I don't lose that fitness
Add in Ab Ripper X from P90X 2-3 times per week for better core strength
Eat more intuitively
Be better about post-workout meals to feed my muscles
Push harder earlier on

I'm definitely intrigued to see where things go from here. I do some some changes over the month, even from only working out once a day for 30 minutes at a time. I hope that adding in Ab Ripper X helps, and that running a couple times a week feels good. 

One month down, two months to go! BRING IT!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Back to blogging?

Hello hello to anyone out there who still might get updates!

I've been getting used to a new life here in London. Different running routes,  fitness classes, weather patterns, brunch places, coffee options, pastries to try...the list goes on! I haven't been blogging but I think I should change that.

When I first moved here I wanted to try everything that was new to me - Sunday roasts, beers, wines, cakes, brownies, etc. I also baked because I missed home and it made me feel better. Because of that, my pants (/trousers to any of you Brits who might be reading) starting feeling a bit snug. I didn't own a scale at the time, but when I visited New York in October I learned I've been carrying around about 8 more pounds than I'd like to be.

Sure, I'd been running here and there, had joined a gym (which honestly, I just don't love), and had gone to Barry's every so often, but it wasn't enough to offset the crap I was eating (oh and it had also been my birthday, so I ate a LOT of cake). Now don't get me wrong, I totally enjoyed every bite, but it's not a healthy lifestyle and I decided to do something about it to get me back on track.

You may remember (eh probably not) my foray into P90X a while ago when I was coming back from a stress fracture. It kept me active and got me super strong - aka I could hold a 5 minute plank. But who has time to do an hourlong workout every single day?

Enter P90X3. It's 30 minutes, six days a week, doable in your living room if you are lucky enough to have one. It would have been almost impossible to do this workout in my studio in NYC, but luckily I have a nice-sized living room in my flat here in London, and can do some of the workouts in my own bedroom. It's 30 minutes so it's done before I'm even awake, and I can't ever think of a reason why I can't workout for 30 minutes.

With the change in workout, I've also changed my eating. I am trying really really hard to cut back on my sugar intake since that is where most of the empty calories come from. I did great the first two weeks, and have been a little bad this week, but week 4 is Transition Week before my first round of progress pictures, so I'm going to work on "being good" this week (just a couple squares of dark chocolate and some pb instead of a delicious cookie in a mug...).

So, how's it going so far?

I LOVE IT.

30 minutes a day is doable. IT IS SO DOABLE. It's also something to keep me busy in the diminishing hours of daylight - it will be (/already has been) so nice to have an indoor workout option that kicks my butt.

And kick my butt it does. I get sweaty in every workout! (Though some more than others.) So what are the workouts? For weeks 1-3 we do:

Total Synergistics: Full body resistance workout that uses minimal equipment. Not my favorite workout, but gets the job done.

Agility X: Lots of jumping, quick movements. Reminds me of Plyometrics in P90X. You need some tape on the ground, but no equipment otherwise. I definitely cannot (and probably never will) do plyometric push ups, but it's a fun challenge and I really enjoy this workout and get super sweaty!

X3 Yoga: Flow style yoga with some balance. I don't really sweat during this workout, but it's a pretty good yoga practice. I'm really happy that I'm guaranteed one yoga workout a week!

The Challenge: Push ups and pull ups all day long. I use resistance bands since I don't own a pull up bar and my flatmate would probably kill me if I installed one. You do two rounds of two different types of push ups and pull ups - wide pull ups with standard pull ups, chin ups with military push ups, etc. It's hard, and can be made harder by increasing the resistance, which I did this week and my shoulders/back are still reeling.

CVX: Dude. This workout. Yes. I love it. It's WEIGHTED CARDIO. So hard, SO good, SO SO sweaty. Every move is a minute long and involves a dumbbell. You do two rounds of three moves and Tony varies the speed and/or intensity of the moves in round two. It's awesome.

The Warrior: Hard. It's an upper body move, a cardio move, a core move, and a lower body move nonstop for 30 minutes. It is intense and requires no equipment. I definitely let out a few curse words when I did this workout yesterday...

Dynamix: Haven't done it. I "rest" on the 7th day, but today I walked 21,000+ steps, and last Sunday I ran a 10k, so I can't say I've really been hardcore resting...

Three weeks down, 10 weeks to go! Considering how quickly every week has flown by so far, I expect the next 10 will follow suit. This week is Transition Week, which basically means I do different, less intense (I think?? but CVX is in there...!) workouts before I start Block 2, which is also different workouts - Eccentric Upper, Triometrics, Eccentric Lower, Incinerator, and MMX, plus X3 Yoga. Will report back on those!

Results so far? Well, I've lost a couple of pounds, but who knows, could be water weight... My pants (/trousers) do feel a bit looser, and I think I am looking more toned. I will have to be more mindful of my sugar intake, but I have been cooking with lots of veggies and protein. Last week I made a green protein smoothie every single day, and it was awesome - filled me up for the morning, replenished my muscles, and sneaked in some fruit and veggies first thing in the morning. Love it.

I'll be back soon with travel and London recaps, and will keep writing about my P90X3 journey! xx

Friday, August 22, 2014

New normal

Hello from across the pond! I've been in London for SIX WEEKS now and time is seriously flying. Here's a quick catchup on what's been happening:

Work: I stayed with my company and transferred to the London office from New York. I have hit the ground running HARD and have basically dived right into a bunch of big, exciting projects. That said, the London office is quite different from New York. For example:
Office terrace!
There's a terrace where you can have lunch or just bring your laptop up to work for a bit. Granted, I haven't had lunch up there in the past week or so since it's basically fall here in London now, but for the first month I could be found there regularly.

Adjusting to lunch on a terrace is the least of my worries though; there are other things that are taking getting used to: an open plan (I had an office in NYC), the British understatement (oh this just needs a few edits...open document to find a million edits ;), using "diary" instead of "calendar", using a British keyboard (there are differences!), and a much smaller team - just me and my boss, vs. 20 people on my team in the NYC office! I am absolutely loving everything though, and can't complain at all!


Living: I found a flat in Bethnal Green, about a 30 minute walk to work. I have a super nice flatmate, and the place has felt like home since the moment I stepped foot in it. The neighbors are nice and friendly, I get amazing sunlight in my room, and there's a balcony where I can read books and eat banana bread from Broadway Market.
Cute little balcony
And that brings me to the many amenities afforded me in this location. Broadway Market (on Saturdays) is 20 minutes away, Columbia Road Flower Market (on Sundays) is 20 minutes away, an independent coffee shop with amazing coffee and baked goods is 5 minutes away, Victoria Park (a 2.7 mile loop) is 200 steps away, and endless miles of canals are even closer than that.

Best of all?

I CAN WALK TO WORK.

And I do. Every day, both ways, which is amazing and exactly what I wanted when I was looking for a place to live. I listen to the NPR One app and am better informed on all world news now than I have been in a while, I get my 10,000 Fitbit steps in with ease, and I save money by not riding the tube every day. Win-win-win!


Fitness: Like I said, I walk to and from work every day, which is about 3.8 miles a day. On weekends I walk at least 20,000 steps a day (about 10 miles). Victoria Park and the canals are my backyard. Though I have not (yet?) joined a gym, I get a good workout every day without trying very hard. That said, I am still getting into a workout groove and figuring out what works for me. I've gotten up in the mornings to run, I've run after work, I've done at-home bodyweight exercises, AND I've gone to my beloved Barry's Bootcamp (and bought a nice class package!).
This is what I see out my window. Those trees? Victoria Park!
Getting back into a workout routine has not been easy for me. Though the initial place where I stayed my first two weeks in London was near Regent's Park, I was rarely in the mood to go for a run, despite knowing it's good for me and would make me feel more "normal".

Another thing that made it hard for me to get back into working out was knowing that I had lost a lot of fitness in the previous two months, thanks to quitting the gym and ClassPass, packing up my life, pre-move travel to DC and Kansas City, moving to my boyfriend's place for two weeks, and general moving stresses. Frankly, I did not want to know what my pace was because I knew it would be slower than what I had been seeing in the spring when I was training. I knew I'd lost strength and speed, and I didn't want to face it. Surely you've been there before, too, right?

With no fall race to train for (I signed up for the Philly half before I knew I'd be in London!), I am still struggling with figuring out my workout routine and not falling into the ever-present comparison trap that can be difficult to escape in social media. I've always been pretty good about not falling into this trap, but that doesn't mean I never catch myself comparing my runs to others'. I just need to remind myself that we're all different, training for different things (me? I'm training for LIFE), and have different abilities. And my abilities WILL come back, but they need practice! This is the new normal for now, but as I practice and improve, my new normal will improve, too.

Slowly but surely though, after a few gadget-free runs to remind me what this running thing feels like, I'm more comfortable than I was. Still, it is VERY hard to look down and see a slower pace than the one I ran a MARATHON at in April. It is all about perspective though...if I think about where I was two years ago, or five years ago, I have grown and sped up SO much. It's a good reminder when I'm feeling slow.
Can't complain about views like this
Beyond the above, I've also got two trips planned (Madrid and Zurich!), I'm exploring London as much as possible, and I'm adjusting to life well overall. There are still some UK things I'm getting used to (such as being paid once a month, saying "trousers" instead of "pants"...since pants = underwear here, and yes, I have absolutely told someone I liked their pants...oops) but I'm getting there.

I'm still trying to make new friends though, so if you're in London and want to run or try to a fitness class or anything, give me a shout! And if you have any London recommendations, I am all ears. I'm trying to soak up as much as I can!


What is your favorite piece of advice to get back into a workout routine?
Favorite running route?
London must-dos?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Two new-to-me spin classes and NEWS

After my Paris recap, I fell off the blog wagon. I've been Instagramming and tweeting, but blogging just fell off the radar. I'm bringing it back today to review two spin classes that were new to me and I'm now obsessed with.

Venue 1: Swerve
I bought two classes for the price of one, an offer they make for first-timers. $30 for two classes?! Yes please! It's now on ClassPass, but it wasn't when I signed up for Swerve.

Swerve is divided into three different teams: red, blue, and green. You pick a team when you sign up for a class. Teams compete during the class at certain points - the instructor will have a 30- or 45-second sprint, or a hill, and teams win points. The whole premise is "Together We Ride", even though you get individual stats, too, and the bike that's "winning" at each push is put on the screen, too (which I didn't realize until the second class).

By nature, I'm a competitive person. I'm probably most competitive with myself, but it is a REALLY good feeling to see my bike number up on this screen, which means I'm beating other people, too. I absolutely push harder in those moments because of the promise of helping my team beat the other teams and get more points! The board is not always up on the screen, but the instructor flashed it during the competitive bits and also shows you where your team is ranking periodically throughout the class.

At the end of the class, Swerve sends you your stats, letting you know how you did on your team and with the rest of the class. The first time I took class, I was last on my team, which was a little bit disappointing, but shows you how hard everyone is pushing! The second time, I did better (second out of five on my team, top half of the class!).
You also get distance, personal score, and team score!
I love this competitive aspect and Dyan is an amazing instructor! I didn't get a chance to try out other instructors, but you definitely can't go wrong with Dyan!


Venue 2: Flywheel
Perhaps I'd been living under a rock, but I had never tried Flywheel until a few weeks ago when ClassPass added it...and I'm SO glad I did. The energy is amazing, I loved the stadium-style class, and, naturally, I LOVED the competitive atmosphere.

Unlike Swerve, there are no teams at Flywheel. You can also opt out (or in) to having your name on the board. Though it shows a username that you created, it still flashes your bike number and your points.

I really love that Flywheel doesn't ONLY rely on RPMs to let you know where you should be - they also let you know a goal torq, and higher torq seems to equal higher points in the end. I saw some riders veer completely away from the RPMs and torq guidelines given by instructors and keep their torq numbers HIGH - which means their score was also among the highest (yes, I'm THAT GIRL who looks at how fast the person next to me is going on the treadmill/spin bike/etc.).

Like Swerve, the board isn't up the whole time, and there are also power moments like hills or sprints where it's an individual competition.

The first time I took Flywheel, my name was up there, and I LOVED having my name up there. It was a really good motivator for me to push harder and NEVER COAST as Flywheel's tagline recommends. The second time I took Flywheel, my name was NOT up there (and I'm still not sure why...do you have to opt in every class? Was it because I was late?), but I could still see what my score was and place myself in comparison to the rest of those who opted in - still motivating me to push harder!
Performance data on Flywheel's account site
Flywheel also has a dashboard when you log in to your account where you can see what your score was, average torq, average RPM. If you go enough, track your progress. As a numbers-driven girl, this is totally my bread and butter!

Swerve and Flywheel also have an upper body portion, but as someone who started really getting into spin at Revolve, where you completely stop your legs during weights sections, I wasn't a fan of keeping my legs going.


Verdict: UGH they're both good, but if I had to judge on just two classes of each (which is all that I've done!), I'd say I'm craving a Flywheel class a bit more than Swerve...I can't quite put my finger on WHY, but I think the range of class locations is helpful, as well as the progress tracking. Now if I could just figure out how to always see my name on the board...

With my newfound obsession with competitive spin classes, however, I have some news to share...

I'm moving to London! In less than a week. Cue the freakout/excitement/tears.

I'm super excited to run in all of London's parks, try out new fitness classes, and meet new people. If you're in London, be my friend!