Thursday, September 29, 2016


It's been awhile since I've done a "state-of-the-moment" post. I got inspired after reading Kelly's latest "Currently" - so today I am going to throw my hat into the mix.
Currently feeling:
Mentally - very cheerful. I'm excited for a fun weekend coming up, and I am loving the fall weather that has finally arrived. This past Tuesday, I went for a quick run after work and my paces felt so effortless. It was pure runner's heaven.

Physically - my hips are sore from Mobility class yesterday. I wonder why it's so common for runners to have weak hips?
See what I did there? =D
In any event, the Mobility classes have made a noticeable impact on my once-perpetually sore hamstrings. I'm really encouraged by the progress!

Currently drinking:
Water, straight-up. I have not been good about staying hydrated.

Earlier this week, I underwent a body composition analysis which showed unfavorable trends. I heard that dehydration can have a negative impact on these analyses. This became a wake-up call to eliminate that factor (amongst other things, of course).
I saw this and had to share because it is proof that marketing can spin anything in a different light. =)
(I'm not too sure about the temporary deafness/hair loss/death fact, though?)
Currently needing to:
Go through my closet and clear out anything I don't wear anymore. Maggie has been talking about hosting a clothing swap in October, which would be perfect. If not, it's definitely time to make some donations.

Currently thinking about:
Going carless in the foreseeable future. My car is making some noises, which probably indicate that it needs work AGAIN... and if so, we've hit our breaking point. My car is my baby and I love it, so this makes me sad. But with the rising repair costs, it's getting harder to justify keeping it for the four times a month that it gets driven. Sigh.

Currently listening to:
This song, which the Blackhawks might play at the United Center during game breaks. I heard it when I was watching last night's preseason game on TV.
It reminded me of last spring when I was at Game 5 of the Hawks vs Blues playoff series. That night, the crowd was the loudest I'd ever experienced at the UC. This song came on and all 22,000+ fans in attendance were singing along at the top of their lungs. It was a very memorable moment.

I can't wait for hockey season to begin!

Currently craving:
Warm, fall-themed foods. Green bean casserole, butternut squash soup, cheesy mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie. I've got a pre-made chocolate Oreo pie crust in my pantry that I want to bake into a pumpkin pie as soon as time permits.

Side note: I saw Pumpkin Spice Oreos on the marketplace. Wonder how it would turn out to make a pumpkin pie with a Pumpkin Spice Oreo crust? I think it would either be complete overkill, or the most amazing explosion of pumpkin pie flavors, ever!
Currently scheming:
Travel plans! I've seen a lot of extremely affordable airfares so my mind is running away with ideas. I just booked a trip to visit my best friend, Vanitha, in Alaska next month. I'm also eyeing some warm-weather destinations for early 2017 (especially since the Farmer's Almanac is predicting an extraordinarily brutal Chicago winter this year). If only I wasn't restricted by my full-time job and my bank account...

Currently wearing:
Ankle dress pants, a black blouse, and heels. This will be the last time I'll have to wear dress pants to work until 2017! My workplace is selling monthly jeans passes for October, November, and December (with the proceeds going to charity). My bosses sprung for three months of passes for the entire team. Fridays are already jeans days, and we're into October next week. As such, let the daily jeans-wearing commence tomorrow!!!

Tell me about some of your "Current" items?

Linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Sep 19-25 training week recap, running challenges

My calendar has been a fun but crazy mess over the last week. This is how I'm feeling right now:
What's been on the calendar? Last Tuesday night I went to the Buen Provecho Taste of Pilsen event. On Wednesday night, I went to a preview party for a new boutique called Mashallah. On Thursday night, I went to an Artistry in Motion event hosted by lululemon, then flew to Pittsburgh for the weekend to celebrate my stepfather-in-law's 70th birthday. The weekend was packed with gatherings. And somewhere in the midst of all that, I am working with my team to prepare for quarter-end close at work.

It's been a blast but I am happy to be have some downtime now. Piles of laundry, cleaning, and errands await!
Here are my workouts from last week:
MONDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 45 minutes lifting
TUESDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill, yoga class
WEDNESDAY - Strength training workshop, Mobility 101 class
THURSDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill, Strength Max class

As you can see, the workouts took an enormous hit when I was in Pittsburgh. I did bring along both running gear and swimming gear, but didn't touch any of it. Didn't even come close. Last night I considered going on the stationary bike after getting home from the airport, but ended up being too tired.

I did, however, take advantage of the no-sales-tax-on-clothing in Pennsylvania to buy some more workout gear at an outlet mall. I know that doesn't count, but it's an investment for the future, yes? =D
You tax-free folks have no idea how good you have it!!!
My momentum has gone stagnant after three consecutive rest days. I'm not feeling the motivation, but I definitely need to get back on track today. This leads perfectly into this week's Tuesdays on the Run topic, which is, "The most challenging aspect of running right now is..."

I can answer this one easily. My biggest running struggle these days is GETTING STARTED.

It often takes a lot of mental effort for me to get into the right frame of mind to tackle a run. Especially a long run. Often I am balking inwardly as I change into my running gear and then head out to begin. The first mile or two always sucks, too. I know it will always suck, so I am often remembering the discomfort that running brings, and dreading having to get through it.

Once I find my rhythm, it's much easier to keep going. But getting started is always the hardest part for me, by far.
How have I tried to deal with this? I use the incremental approach. E.g.:

"Just get out there and do one mile. Then if you really want to, you can stop."

"You've been wanting to check out the new scenery on X street. That's just a little further down."

"At this point, you might as well go down to the next major intersection so it'll be easier to track the distance."

"Once you get to X miles, you can turn on your favorite song!"

On and on and on. It's not magic. But usually it gets me over that initial hump, which is often the toughest obstacle. Momentum is a big deal.

Your turn. What is your biggest running challenge right now? Do you also play the "incremental" game? How do you handle getting through those awful first few miles?

I'm linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap, and will be linking up with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Waltzing in Vienna

After visiting Budapest and Prague, with an adventurous train ride in between the two, Vienna was the last stop.
When I think of Austria, the first thing that comes to mind are famous classical musicians like Mozart, Strauss, and Schubert. I also think about The Sound of Music, strudel, schnitzel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (I know, I know). Based on pictures, I knew Vienna was a beautiful city, but beyond that I wasn't sure what to expect.

In my experience, I found Vienna to be simultaneously very sophisticated while also being very pleasant and livable. That's a tough combination to master, but Vienna did it with ease.

Before I continue - I need to give a shout out to Adam's colleague, Deepthi. She studied abroad in Vienna a few years ago, and gave us a list of local recommendations which were amazingly helpful. Many thanks, Deepthi!!!

Here are highlights from the time in Vienna. [Once again, cue the onslaught of photos.]

St. Stephen's Cathedral was a gorgeous example of Gothic architecture. It was the epicenter of activity in Stephansplatz (the central square in Vienna), and drew enormous crowds.
Adam and I went up to the top of one of the towers. Here's a view of the Stephansdom's stunning tiled roof, which depicts the coats of arms for both the city of Vienna and the Republic of Austria. Suffice to say, this is the most patriotic roof I've ever seen.
Here is the view of the Vienna cityscape from the roof:
The inside of the cathedral:
One of the religious artifacts inside the cathedral:
Schloss Schönbrunn
I had commented to Adam that seeing all the castles in Budapest and Prague was making me feel like a peon. The jawdropping palaces in Vienna sure did not help that cause. =)

The Schönbrunn Palace is a former summer imperial residence in Vienna. Here are some outside views from the palace gardens:

The palace has 1,441 rooms (yes, I looked it up just now). Adam and I did a self-guided tour which took us through 40 rooms. Just seeing those 40, it got to the point where I thought they were going to run out of names for each room.

We weren't allowed to take pictures of the inside, so here are a couple of pictures from the Schonnbrunn's website:
As you can tell - the rooms were extremely lavish. Definitely fit for royalty!

The Naschmarkt is an open-air market with an enormous range of local food, shops, restaurants, and cafes. This was my favorite of everything we saw and experienced in Vienna. I loved exploring all the colorful aisles, hanging out at the outdoor seating areas watching the world go by, and mingling with the locals.

Here are some snapshots of the food and produce:

A view of some of the restaurants with their outdoor seating:
Adam and I popped into one of the cafes. Here he is enjoying an Eiskaffee, which was essentially iced coffee mixed with an enormous scoop of ice cream and whipped cream. Not surprisingly he said it was the best Eiskaffee he's ever had. =)
I had an apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce, which was so delicious. (I included a picture of it below under "Food.")

SIDE NOTE: I took 4 years of German in high school. I was really happy to be able to dust it off and use it in Vienna. I know I speak with a ridiculously strong American accent and I probably butchered my grammer and tenses to complete oblivion - but in the end, I was able to communicate. Yay!

Vienna is very famous for its fine arts. Sure enough, opportunities to see classical concerts and other theatrical productions in Vienna abounded everywhere. It was by far the biggest and most prominent fine arts scene I've ever experienced in any city. We were in Vienna for three nights and saw a show every night.

During the summer, the Vienna State Opera House was broadcasting live opera productions on a big outdoor screen. We caught a viewing of Madame Butterfly (what a tragic opera, wow!) amidst a large crowd of folks.
We saw a string quartet at the Palais Schönborn:
and we saw a Vivaldi concert at the Stephansdom:
Adam and I wanted to see a production at the Burgtheater, which we understood to be a world-reknown venue. However, during our visit the Burg was showing a comedic German play. Since we wouldn't understand the play, we opted instead to take a tour of the theater. The first word that comes to mind when describing the theater is "regal."

Our Burgtheater tour guide was exceptionally knowledgeable. She knew everything about every single nook and cranny, and even explained the behind-the-scenes production operations. It was an extraordinary learning experience.

I took piano lessons for almost 20 years growing up, and Mozart was one of my favorite composers. It was fun seeing all the homages to him around Vienna:
The Mozarthaus was Mozart's residence for three years. Today it is a museum.
The Stephansdom has a memorial to Mozart, where his funeral occurred
Adam and I went to a local restaurant called Lugeck to try some classic Austrian food. When in Wien, of course you have to try the wienerschnitzel:
We also tried some "Emperor's goulash" with spaetzle:
Thou shalt not go to Austria without splurging on a Sachertorte from the Hotel Sacher:
and as I mentioned above, I got an apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce, which was spectacular. It was easily the best thing I ate in Vienna.
Other architectural scenes
Here are a few other examples of the beautiful city architecture and scenes:
St. Peter's Kirche
The Hofburg Imperial Palace
Everything else
We ran into a lively street party in one of the squares, hosted by the Viennese firefighters:
This party was jumping!
and finally, since I shared snapshots of the public transit and the manhole covers in both my Budapest recap and my Prague recap, here are the Viennese versions:

In summary, I really enjoyed the time in Vienna and felt very comfortable there. The fine arts influence was spectacular. I thoroughly admired the fabulous mix of old-world and new-world that the city displays so effortlessly.

...and that concludes my travel recaps from this vacation!!! Have I bombarded you with so many pictures that your head is spinning? As per usual, thanks for reading through if you made it this far.

Linking up with LaurenVanIsabel and Marcella for Wanderful Wednesday; with Chris and HeatherLaurenAshleyAmanda and Brian, and Carolann and Macrae for Weekend Wanderlust; and with Lyn, Arnie and Jo, Sally-Ann, Anda, and Anisa and Katherine for The Weekly Postcard.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sep 12-18 training recap and universal running advice

I got some running mojo back last week! The timing couldn't be better since I'm currently crash-training for the Army 10-Miler on October 9. (How did the race date sneak up on me so quickly?!?!?!?)

Here is how last week's workouts shook out:
MONDAY - Run 5 miles, 30 minutes of strength-training
TUESDAY - Yoga class
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class, Mobility 101 class
THURSDAY - Strength Max class
FRIDAY - Run 4 miles
SATURDAY - Run 8.5 miles
SUNDAY - Yoga video, walk 3.5 miles

The 17.5 miles I ran last week is my highest weekly total since July. I strongly considered knocking out a few easy miles on Sunday, too. Ultimately, I decided not to since I'd already run Friday and Saturday. I figured three consecutive days of running could be too much after doing so little running for many weeks preceding. It feels good to get some momentum rolling!

This week's Tuesdays on the Run topic is: The best running advice I ever got. 

I've talked here about the biggest running lessons I've learned in the past. Therefore, I'm going to talk about running advice from a more universal perspective.

The best running advice I ever got boils down to this: Control what you can control, and focus on what matters.
Hopefully this isn't too cliche.
We all have good run days and bad run days. Heck, sometimes we have stretches that lean in one direction for weeks, or even months. Sometimes you do everything under the sun right, but the run still sucks. Conversely, sometimes you do everything under the moon wrong, but your run feels amazing and effortless.
There are dozens of factors that can impact us at any given point. E.g.: Fueling, hydration, sleep, training, time of day, course, crowds, gear, injury, mental state, weather, hormones, warm-up or lack thereof, other workouts, etc., etc., etc.

There can also be other intangibles that I can't even begin to list here since they are unique to each of us as individuals. Our bodies are not machines.

On bad run days, I tend to beat myself up and question all the things that went wrong. On good run days, I wish I could clone whatever was clicking so I can recreate it all the time. Certainly every experience, both good or bad, is an opportunity to learn and to improve, of course. But there's only so much we can control - so it's best to focus on what's important to us.
This doesn't exactly fit the point I'm trying to drive home here -
but it is so true that I had to share!
If I sign up for a challenging race, I can generally control my training, pre-race preparation, and mental state. But sometimes other things in life take priority, and I might prefer to focus elsewhere from executing the perfect race. That is okay. It's important to remember that I can also control how much fun I have!!!

Similarly, I can always do my best to adapt to the weather and crowds - but ultimately I cannot control them. And that is okay, too. Again, I can control my perspective and how I am thinking about the challenges.

Obviously, it can be very difficult when life throws wrenches in our direction. But I think the realization of what we can and cannot control can usually help shift the mindset in the right direction. Baby steps are still steps, yes?

Your turn! What is the best running advice you've ever received?

I'm belatedly linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap, as well as with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.