Friday, November 25, 2016

Runfessions - race photo edition

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!! I enjoyed spending the time with family and friends yesterday, including running my fifth consecutive rendition of the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot. More on the race to come.

I am linking up with Marcia for Runfessions, as well as with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five.
Today we are doing a special race photo edition of Runfessions.

As I previously mentioned here, I have been trying to up my race photo body spasm game. My recent focus has been to achieve a cool jumping pose, e.g.:
At the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon two weekends ago, I made some valiant attempts. Any time I passed a photographer on course, I hurled myself into the air with as much energy, effort, and gusto as I could possibly muster! 

We all do these things on a random basis, right?
Yes, Chicago Blackhawks fans, this is Artemi Panarin during his KHL days!
I only wish I knew the story behind this snapshot...
Today I went to look at the results of my race photo poses. I runfess that in summary, things didn't turn out quite the way I hoped. 

Here are five examples:

1) Stumbling on the dismount
This photo was taken immediately post-jump just as I was landing. Unfortunately, it looks more like I am stumbling forward and about to fall flat onto my face. (Feel free to reference the runner next to me for a postural comparison.)
2) Winding up
I think this one was taken right as I was awkwardly preparing to jump. The closed eyes make it look even worse.
3) To jump or not to jump???
That is the question. I'm not sure what I was focused on, but the facial expression definitely doesn't match everything else.
4) Uncategorized
Yeah, I honestly don't even know where to go with this one.
5) I'm a maniac, maniac on the floor...
... and I'm posing like I've never posed before!
(Extra credit to those of you who recognized the musical reference! 🎶)
In summary...
Clearly I have an uphill battle to fight with my jumping poses! 

To paraquote all the star athletes: It's time for me to get back to the drawing board and focus on working hard, simplifying the poses, and just taking it one jump at a time. ;-P

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Alaskan weekend - Part III

Today I am finally getting around to recapping the rest of my weekend visiting Vanitha in Alaska last month! I am continuing from here and here.

To kick things off on a somewhat random note, Vanitha observed that Alaska has a lot of hilarious license plates. I got a nice laugh from seeing this one in downtown Anchorage:
Were Forrest Gump and/or Bubba hanging out in Anchorage, too?
Alaska Native Villages lecture
My first night in Anchorage, Vanitha and I went to the University of Alaska Anchorage to attend a lecture. The speaker, Barrett Ristroph, spoke on how Alaska native villages are adapting to climate change and how the law helps or hinders.
Incidentally, this subject is exactly what Vanitha is working on during her time in Alaska. During audience questions, Vanitha was even asked to share some of her own expertise a few times - and she nailed everything. I loved seeing how stunningly professional and knowledgeable she is! It made me very proud to be her friend.

In general, the subject matter was very eye-opening and informative to me, as I had no prior awareness of the ongoing challenges. It made me realize what a different completely life we live in the Lower 48.

Following the lecture, Vanitha and I went to dinner at Orso. This is a local "farm-to-table" restaurant in downtown Anchorage that features Alaskan ingredients and dishes. I loved the warm, rustic interior:
The food was terrific, too:
Upper L: King crab corn dogs
Upper R: Rockfish with red quinoa salad
Lower L: Alaskan sockeye salmon niçoise
Lower R: Guittard chocolate, espresso, and vanilla cream custard
The first thing I did was head out for my long run on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

Anchorage Museum
After my long run, I went to visit the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. My favorite exhibit was the Alaska Native Cultures, which features hundreds of indigenous artifacts from various tribes. I was surprised to learn there are over 200 federally recognized Alaskan tribes.

Saying "welcome" in various tribal languages and dialects
Here are a few of my favorite pictures from some of the other Anchorage Museum exhibits:
Alaskan street art
Original newspaper announcing Alaska being voted in as the 49th of the United States in 1959.
It's a little scary to realize my parents are older than Alaska's statehood.
Alaskan king crab
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Vanitha and I went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood for our first of two weekend visits. Since I already covered it in detail separately, I won't rehash it here other than to share this adorable pajama set from the gift shop:
and to share another of my favorite wildlife close-ups:
Scenic Drives
Here are some of the stunning landscapes we saw during our drives in between Anchorage and Girdwood (NOTE: these sights weren't limited to Day 2, we saw them all throughout). The pictures so do not do the majestic scenery justice.
Girdwood Hotel
On our way back from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, we stopped by the beautiful Girdwood Hotel. In my opinion, it is the type of winter lodge that ski resort dreams are made of. Look at the views from the lobby:
Moose's Tooth
For dinner that night, Vanitha and I went to a local Anchorage favorite called Moose's Tooth.
Moose's Tooth is extremely popular for its pizza - and it was easy to see why! They have the most creative, delicious selections of pizzas I've ever seen. There were a zillion ways to mix-and-match and customize your own pizza. The food was outstanding.
Upper L: Mexican squash soup
Upper R: Half Solstice, half Veggie Delight pizza
Lower L: Half Amazing Apricot (I think), half Spicy Thai pizza
Lower R: Lemon Love cake
They even had themed plates:
When/if I ever go back to Anchorage, Moose's Tooth will be a must-visit for me again!!!

This was my last day in Alaska. Vanitha and I went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for the second of our two visits. Afterwards, we did some more exploration on the way back, including browsing at a few local shops, plus stopping at the...

Girdwood Picnic Club
This is a super cute little restaurant nestled in downtown Girdwood with a cozy, artistic flair.
As was the case with every restaurant we visited in Alaska, the food was delicious:
Seafood chowder
Tamale platter
Indian Valley Meats
I wanted to try to find some smoked Alaskan salmon to take home. Vanitha had heard of this place as a great destination for local products, so we stopped by.
Wow - talk about getting the local experience. This place was a completely full-service shop for hunters and fishers. Here's a picture of the shop area (as opposed to the window where folks could make drop-offs to be processed).
I bought some salmon jerky, which I'd never seen in stores before.

Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Alaska Native Heritage Center was closed for the season. However, since it was near Halloween, the center was hosting a special fall festival with entertainment, shopping, and food; with trick-or-treating and story-telling options for kids.

It was cool to see the replicas of Alaskan abodes:
Vanitha and I got a picture amidst some whale bones (?!?!?!?):
We enjoyed some local performances:
and perused the center's cultural exhibits:
That concluded my visit to Vanitha in Alaska! I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and I left with a much deeper appreciation for Alaska's pristine beauty, culture, history, and people.

It goes without saying that I am tremendously grateful to Vanitha for being the most wonderful hostess for the weekend, and for being the best friend anyone could ever ask for. I can't even begin to express my gratitude for the incredibly valuable time we had to catch up, laugh, share stories, and talk in full detail about everything that life was throwing our ways. I am already looking forward to the next time Vanitha and I can get together, whenever and wherever it may be.

Cheers to lifelong friends sharing travel adventures!

I will be linking up with LaurenVanIsabel and Marcella for Wanderful Wednesday; with Chris and HeatherLaurenAshleyAmanda and Brian, and Carolann and Macrae for Weekend Wanderlust; and with Arnie and JoSally-AnnAnda, and Anisa and Katherine for The Weekly Postcard.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weddings and mermaids

I had a very nice, relaxing weekend this past weekend. After a hectic few weeks, with more craziness to come over the next couple of months, it felt really good to get organized. I watched lots of TV, knocked out a few house projects, and whirled through at least five loads of laundry.
This was me prior to the weekend.
I realized I'm behind one week again on sharing my workouts, so here are the last two weeks:

Week of November 7 - 13
MONDAY - Run 11 miles (5 with Erin and Chewie; 6 on the treadmill)
TUESDAY - Duo Dash prep
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class, Mobility 101 class
THURSDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 30 minutes strength-training
FRIDAY - Run 3.2 miles (to/from Rock N Roll Las Vegas race expo)
SATURDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 20 minutes strength-training
SUNDAY - Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

Week of November 14 - 20
THURSDAY - Strength Max class
FRIDAY - Yoga class
SUNDAY - AquaMermaid Chicago class

In addition to all the cleaning and organizing fun, I attended two fun really events this past weekend.

On Friday night, Adam and I went to Tony and Tina's Wedding. If you're not familiar, it's an off-Broadway event based on a traditional (stereotypical) Italian-American wedding and reception. The audience members are the wedding guests and are treated as though everyone has known each other for years.
Adam and me with Tony and Tina
When Adam and I arrived, we gave our names and Adam introduced himself as "Emily's husband." Throughout the rest of the evening, the wedding party jovially called Adam "Emily's husband" without missing a beat. At some point, they shortened it to the initials and began calling him "EH" (pronounced "Ay", rhyming with "hey"). It was hilarious!!!

Many years ago, I had attended a production of Tony and Tina's wedding when both the ceremony and reception were held in Piper's Alley. Now, the ceremony takes place at a real church, with the reception held a few blocks away at a banquet hall, complete with food and drinks. The venues really added to the authenticity of the event!

From the ceremony:
From the reception:
At a lot of weddings, the guests might be shy about getting out onto the dance floor. Not this night! Almost everyone was rocking it out to the chicken dance, the YMCA, the conga line, you name it. 
I had a blast at the event, had so much fun interacting with the wedding party, and couldn't stop laughing at all the attention to details. One of my favorites was a wedding party family member who was sporting a tattoo that said, "He loved me first." Too funny. What a great celebration!!! 

I told Adam afterwards that I had a sudden yearning to watch The Godfather so I could see all the Italian correlations. =)

And speaking of fantasmic immersions... 

Yesterday, I attended an AquaMermaid Chicago swimming class with Erin. As the name implies, this is a class where you learn how to swim like a fish using both legs as a fish tail and using your core muscles to propel forward.
The fish tail bottom was actually quite comfortable to wear.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the class. However, I've been starting to tire of my usual running, lifting/yoga routine, so the mermaid swimming ended up being a really unique and surprisingly fun challenge. It was a great way to shake up the routine (both literally and figuratively!)

During class, we learned how to swim forwards and backwards, practiced swimming through hoops, attempted forward/backwards somersaults both individually and in tandem, and did handstands (tailstands?), tail high-fives, and tail waves. It was quite a workout for both the core and the arms! It was also fun to watch my fellow students doing their moves - the somersaults look really graceful and beautiful with the tail.

The instructors took some underwater photos of everyone which aren't yet available for me to share. In the meantime, here is another photo of Erin and me goofing off on the deck:
In the future I am going to pay more attention to the swimming technique of dolphins and other fish! If I ever watch The Little Mermaid again, I'm also going to take note of Ariel's skills. =)
I've even got a drawer full of dinglehoppers ready to go!!!
Coming up this week... 
I'm looking forward to a short workweek and three quiet days in the office. On Wednesday night, Adam and I are headed to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving. I'm running the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, which is my final race of the year (thank goodness!) 
I'll be attending one of Adam's high school reunions with him on Friday night. Then next weekend, we'll be jaunting to Maryland to attend the wedding of Adam's cousin, Matthew. (Unlike Tony and Tina's wedding, Matthew's wedding will not be a comedic theatrical production =) ).

How about you? How was your weekend and what plans do you have for the upcoming week?

Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap.