Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Training update

Let's talk about half marathon training.

Why? Because every fiber in my body is reminding me that I am right in the middle of training for my next 13.1 mile race.

I'm hungry. Constantly. And I'm not just hungry, I'm hangry. I won't sugar coat my personality for you: I am majorly unpleasant when I need to eat. I get super sluggish and no joke, being hungry actually makes me sad. Never do I feel more sorry for myself than when I need to eat and can't because of where I am or what I'm doing.

I've also upped my cross-training game and did such an intense HIIT workout yesterday, getting up from my desk today was a monumental task. My thighs are silently screaming in agony and I think I may have pulled my right boob. I don't think it's even possible to pull your boob, but I'm pretty sure I did.

So that was my day: Famished, but too sore to stand up and do anything about it.

Two weeks ago I ran the furthest I have since November's half marathon. Felt amazeballs.

But overall? Training is going well. I revisited the plan I made for myself during last fall's Monumental Half Marathon and feel pretty good now that I'm finally past the "I hate everyone and everything" hump. (Seriously. It doesn't matter how prepared I am going into half marathon training, there's always a week or two that feels like I'm slowly killing myself. But once I get an 8 miler under my belt, I'm good to go.)

The last time I ran the 500 Festival Mini Marathon was so disastrous, I feel pretty certain I'll do better this year simply by default. I mean, short of collapsing on the track and making a spectacle of myself, I don't see how it could get much worse than it was in 2012. (I feel like every time I say something like that, God's up in heaven chuckling and saying, "Oh, you wanna bet?")

But fingers crossed I improve by leaps and bounds during this year's race. (Ugh, that makes me nervous just thinking about it. The self-inflicted pressure! I can't!)

I'm also admittedly getting sick of the trail I use for my long runs. I've been shuffling back and forth on that same 2.5 mile stretch of pavement for the past 5 years and dang, I need a change of scenery. So much of running is mental. I have consistently better, stronger long runs in my neighborhood than when I go to the trail because if my brain gets bored during a run, it's all over. I have that trail MEMORIZED. I know every turn, bush and tree. In fact, it's almost exciting when a dog drops a butt bomb out there because for a few seconds I'm like, "Awesome! Something new to look at!"

Don't get me wrong, the trail is still amazing for speed work and shorter runs, but I was so bored running my 10 miles last Saturday that I veered off into the woods because I thought I was going to cry from the monotony.

After riding the struggle bus for almost 2 hours.

Then I rode the struggle bus for several miles because dodging roots and holes in the ground is exhausting.

And now that the weather is finally taking a turn for the better, I get to reintroduce my body to running in hot temperatures. Warm weather and I don't get along very well, so I've already made myself promise to run early in the day and drink water water water.

It's funny that I'm complaining so much because despite everything I just said, I love the training process. I love the anticipation, the mileage and yes, even the stress (though I think Clayton might disagree with that last one). I get excited every time I look at the calendar and see that it's time to start training because I know the adventure is about to begin all over again and before I know it, I'll be standing at the start line, anxiously awaiting the gun.

Do you have any big spring races coming up? Other than running countless miles, what are you doing to prepare?


Monday, March 30, 2015

Pay it forward

Let's talk about our feelings today, shall we? (I just heard the sound of a dozen men simultaneously clicking out of this post.)

Over the past several days, I've seen a tidal wave of grief take hold of my friends both on social media and in my daily interactions. So many horrible things happened in such a short amount of time, I was starting to get worried that there was some kind of cosmic tragedy at play. From the loss of rights, to the loss of beloved fur babies and family members, the past week has just been rough for a number of folks out there.

Yet in the midst of such profound sadness, I've also had several opportunities to see humanity at its very best, and it has spurred me on to share the wealth and spread the love.

Small, random acts of kindness are never lost on me and several days ago, a friend I haven't seen in years came to my aide for no reason other than she has a sweet spirit and wanted to help.

I'm beyond klutzy and have probably dropped my cell phone or watched it go flying off the back of our treadmill more times than I've securely held it in my hands. Considering how often I've watched my phone crash to the earth only to be picked up totally unscathed, you can imagine my surprise when I finally tempted fate too many times and wound up with a cracked screen.

Cell phone policies have changed a lot since I was in college, and gone are the days when you could run over your phone with your car as often as you'd please and still get a free replacement. Now you have to pay a hefty monthly fee that allows you to pay a hefty deductible if your smart phone meets an early demise. Even then, you have to be able to prove that the phone was faulty and not just the result of you being a moron.

So when I finally broke my phone, I panicked. We're not able to upgrade our cell phones until sometime in September and wouldn't ya know, the warranty on my Android expired exactly one week before I accidentally flung it across the living room in our house at SXSW. I called AT&T and played the "I've been your customer for 11 years, why can't you just let me get a new phone?" card with at least three different customer services reps, but to no avail.

I was stuck and took to the internet to express my anguish and offered up some cash to anyone willing to let me borrow a phone for the next several months.

Almost immediately, our family friend Jennifer sent me a message and said she had an iPhone 5 she wasn't using anymore and that her carrier was AT&T. She lives on the other side of the state but immediately put the phone in the mail for me (and even sent me pics of it beforehand to demonstrate it was in great working order), refusing to let me compensate her in any way (but I did anyway). Within three days of posting my poor-is-me status on Facebook, I had a new-to-me phone in near perfect condition.

I bought a sturdy case for it ASAP. No way I'm gonna damage a phone that's not technically mine!

Jennifer didn't have to help a sista out, but she did. She went out of her way to do something beyond nice, and it means the world to me. Her act of kindness will not go without reciprocation because I want to be this helpful to someone else. Whether it be a physical gesture such as rescuing another person with a case of butterfingers or giving an encouraging word to someone going through a hard time or simply having a positive attitude in a frustrating situation, I wanna pay these good vibes forward.

Because based on everything I've witnessed over the past week? The world could really use some love.

So now I'm committed to living every day like Will Ferrell lip syncing to Beyoncé: exuberant.


And P.S. The very first thing I asked Siri was, "Do you think I'm fat?"
Her response: "Americans seem pretty preoccupied with this."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Chop

I finally cut my hair. 

8 inches. What took more than a year to grow was gone in a matter of seconds.

What finally prompted me to do it? I needed a change. I was sick of pinning pictures of girls with gorgeous, wavy lobs (the term for hair that's slightly longer than the classic "bob" hairstyle) and wondering if I could pull it off. It was time to find out. 

I didn't tell Clayton that I was planning to cut off several inches of my hair; I was afraid his reaction might deter me from doing it. I've always been the type of wife who heavily, heavily values her husband's opinion, but he just doesn't understand what it's like to live with super fine, flat hair and to look in the mirror every morning and feel totally blah despite the gallons of volumizing, texturizing product you just raked through your hair.

So this was for me.

And Clayton is legally obliged to love me no matter what I do to myself. 

Honestly, I think my stylist Shanna was a little too gleeful about chopping off my tresses. And with good reason: I'd been talking about getting a lob for almost 6 months, but would chicken out every time when we got to the moment of truth. I think she was finally fed up with my wishy-washy, persnickety attitude and just made the decision for me. Like I told her on Saturday, I was totally on the fence and she simply pushed me over the side.

While the color was processing on my roots (gotta dye those grays away), she gathered my hair into a pony tail, handed me a mirror and said, "Ok, how's this?" I looked into the mirror to see her firm grip on my hair, her scissors positioned to strike.

"Um, a little longer, please," I said, suddenly wondering why I was sweating.

She moved her scissors down about an inch on the nape of my neck. "How's that?" she asked.

I took a deep breath and said, "Okay!" To my amazement, she'd already cut a fourth of the way into my hair. This was happening no matter what, and she knew it.

When Shanna handed me my severed ponytail, I burst into a hysterical fit of giggles and I think we were both relieved that it was laughter and not tears.

I trust Shanna with my hair's life. I've been going to her for almost 2 years now and seeing her every six weeks is a true highlight for me (see what I did there? Highlight? HAIR HIGHLIGHTS. I'm so good). Though she has thick hair that has me green with envy, she understands my hair type and is always giving me advice and product recommendations. She's also bold enough to talk me down from poor hair choices and keeps my expectations realistic.

And she's adorable and one of the sweetest people I know. 

She took the time to style my hair with a curling wand so I could get the full effect of the look I was trying to achieve. I'm still a little bit in shock, but I'm having fun trying to figure out how to style it on my own. I miss my mess top knots like crazy already, but this will be a welcome change for the summer months and before you know it, I'll probably be able to put it up into a baby bun. :)

And after assessing my hair's overall condition, we actually cut off damage from when I dyed my hair ombre last spring. Bleaching can wreak some havoc on fine strands.

Then I found out that the salon's receptionist talks about my hair a lot and finding out that someone out there wishes they had MY hair? GET OUT OF TOWN. That literally never happens. Thanks for boosting a girl's ego! (And trust me, you don't want this.)

This is one of the many photos I took in the salon and the one Shanna liked best for me:

If you're thinking about making a big change with your own locks, I say go for it! What's the worst that can happen? It's just hair.

It'll grow back.

Unless you're bald.

But that's why God made wigs.


Friday, March 20, 2015

5-Minute Cheesecake

I'm the type of person who will be offered a piece of dessert, sheepishly reply "just a small slice, please", but then proceed to walk into the kitchen multiple times throughout the evening to keep picking at the cake or pie. Then on my way home I'll be like, "Why does my stomach hurt?"

I'm also notorious for digging into cake without using a plate or slicing a proper serving. I'll simply stick my fork wherever I please and carve out a little row for myself. I mean, why dirty an extra dish, right? Clayton says that there's a special place in hell for eaters like me. And I tend to agree: That place is right at the front of the buffet line.

Being away in Texas and eating on the go for an entire week really had me yearning for my own kitchen and as soon as our plane touched down on Indiana soil, I started plotting what meals I was going to make throughout the rest of the week and weekend.

Last night, after whipping up a quick dinner of chicken fajitas, I put myself on a mission to make a quick and easy cheesecake to satisfy my sweet tooth (because eating my weight in doughnuts a few days prior just wasn't enough). I've heard of no-bake cheesecake and I'm pretty sure my sister and I went to town once or twice on a tub of pre-made cheesecake filling from the dairy aisle, but like I said, I'd been away from Mixie for quite some time and wanted to put in a little effort.

I didn't use Google or Pinterest for a recipe (shocking, I know), so if this resembles one you've seen before, it's completely coincidental. This recipe might even sound gross to you, but it turned out wonderfully and I've already started devouring it from two different sides of the pie tin (and this is why Clayton gets mad at me).

Note: I did not make the crust. I just happened to have an extra pre-made graham cracker crust in the pantry from this one time I asked Clayton to buy me a BOX of graham crackers and he brought that home instead. Caused some tension at the time, but totally worked out in the end.

Notably Neurotic's 5-Minute Cheesecake

What you'll need:
  • 1.5 tubs of reduced-fat Cool Whip or whipped topping of your choice, room temp (Hint: You can eat the remaining half tub with a spoon later after your husband goes to sleep.)
  • 2 packages of low-fat cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (I didn't measure, but if I had to guess, I'd say I used maybe about a cup total.)
  • Any graham cracker crust of your choice
  • Using your mixer's whisk attachment, whip the whipped topping and cream cheese together on a medium-high setting for about 1 minute. Add your vanilla extract and whip another 30 seconds. Then reduce your mixer's speed to low and gradually add in the powdered sugar (adding more if you prefer a sweeter taste). Spoon mixture into your crust and spread evenly. Top with fruit or garnish of your choice (we used blueberries). Then ta-da! Cheesecake!

You might want to let the cheesecake firm up in the fridge for about a half an hour and if that's the case, then this recipe is called Notably Neurotic's 35-Minute Cheesecake.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

My brain is full (SXSW)

Sorry, guys, I totally meant to post this last night, but when I got home from work all I could think about is, "I go to bed now?"

But hey, stranger! Long time, no see!

I am officially back in Indiana and still coming down off of my SXSW high. My brain is on fire from all that I saw, learned and experienced, but I am beyond ready to get back to my job and daily life.

Our flight got in just before midnight on Tuesday evening and my heart skipped a beat when I saw Clayton waiting for me outside gate. My days in Austin were packed and I almost (emphasis on "almost") didn't have a spare moment to think about all that I was waiting for me back at home, but seeing his blue eyes last night made me feel 100% whole once again.

And I may or may not have squeezed Joey so hard his little beagle eyeballs bulged out of his head.

But holy guacamole, you guys. SXSW? Amazing. Draining, exhausting and overstimulating, but oh-so-awesome. I learned so much. I met so many like-minded creatives. I saw so many celebrities. It was beyond bizarre. I met freakin' GRUMPY CAT, for crying out loud! GRUMPY CAT. Was seeing Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart on a street corner real? I'm still not entirely sure.

I filled an entire notebook with notes from my sessions. I learned how to do my job better. I learned how to be better. I learned from the best in the business. I just learned.

And what trip wouldn't be complete without my telling you about all of the yummy things I ate while down in Texas? Fluffy, warm soft pretzels; German sausages; hearty breakfast burritos; authentic Mexican tacos; Thai food from a food truck; In-and-Out Burger (changed my life. Honestly.); and massive doughnuts. I'm pretty sure that walking back and forth between hotels all day long is the only thing that kept me from gaining 100 pounds while I was there.

If you don't follow me on Instagram (and why the heck not!?), here's a tidal wave of photos I snapped while down in Austin. Some of the images aren't the best quality, but I was in the moment trying to capture everything as it happened and well, grainy images happen. I need a new cell phone.

We were so ready to nerd out!

Your SXSW badge is your lifeline in Austin. It gets you into well, everything. We started our very first day waiting in line to get into the Samsung Lounge where they provided fresh veggie juices; the opportunity to design your own bag, hat or shirt on the newest Samsung Galaxy; or let you recharge your tech devices in the "exclusive" lounge area (and when I say "exclusive, I mean that you had to sign something and they let you right in).

One of the best sessions I attended at SXSW was led by Ashley Ford (a fab writer; seriously, go look her up or follow her on Twitter), Busy Phillips, and one of my own personal heroes, Stacy London (of TLC's What Not Wear fame). The ladies discussed "cultivated transparency" and being your authentic self on social media. As a woman, a media professional and someone who practically double-majored in gender studies, this talk was right up my alley.

I also met an incredibly cool gal named Ingrid (on the right) who has a job quite similar to mine and we both fangirled out about meeting the ladies on the panel. Our first interaction was literally my sitting next to her and saying, "OMG. Are you like, so excited?" (I never talk like that. I have no idea who that version of myself is.)

After the session, Ingrid and I (who were sitting in the front row) basically rushed the stage and were among the first to snap a few pics.

And I also happened to walk by Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart who were out on the street promoting their new film, Get Hard. Seeing Will Ferrell was a life-affirming moment for me. The only person standing between him and I was some camera guy that I could have easily shoved out of my way if I were a little less classy and dignified. If I reached out my arms, I could have freakin' TOUCHED Ron Burgundy.

We also had the opportunity to hear Jessica Alba and her business partner talk about the story behind her line of natural baby and family products, The Honest Company (another session that landed me almost in the front row. I sat directly behind her husband ... who's got a dreamy salt-and-pepper hair thing going on). And in case you were wondering, she is just as beautiful and flawless in person. Seriously, I don't think that woman has a single pore on her face. And that fab bob haircut? Don't even get me started.

So Grumpy Cat totally happened. She couldn't be bothered to wake up for me (or anyone else), but I reveled in having my picture taken next to that adorable little Ron Swanson-looking kitty face. And I was so glad that I had my make-up done at Cosmo's Style Lab beforehand since I didn't know there would be a photo op (I wish she would have woken up long enough to see how on point my lipstick was).

I saw Ms. Grumpy Cat in between sessions and stood in line with some true cat fanatics. Like, I can't even emphasize that word enough. I didn't dare mention that I'm a major dog person in their presence.

And I can't stop laughing every-time I see the hashtag on the wall of that photo. #catdreamscometrue. LOLZ

I completed a 5k with Brooks! Got a t-shirt and everything. I am now beyond legit. I don't even care that I look super sleepy and kind of gross in the below photo because I ran with people from BROOKS RUNNING COMPANY. Brooks, if you ever want me to be a spokesperson for you, call me. I'd do it in a heartbeat. And with fervor. 

One of my colleagues and travel partners wouldn't stop talking about this doughnut shop called Gourdough's (do you get it? No really, DO YOU GET IT?) and on our last day in the city, I let him twist my arm into going for breakfast. We drank mimosas and I ordered a doughnut called "Mama's Cake" that was filled with, you guessed it, CAKE BATTER. And I didn't let myself stop at just one. I ate my entire massive doughnut, a few bites of my co-worker's and then we split a third one. God bless America.

Some of my co-workers are also heavily involved in our summer film festival, so we spent some time rubbing elbows with movie industry people and I tried desperately to act like I was cool enough to be there.

We did rooftop yoga one morning (I'm not pictured above, but my hot boss is) and afterwards I had to peddle a bike to blend my own Chobani breakfast smoothie. "So lemme get this straight: I just sweat for an hour trying to twist myself into a pretzel and now I have to furiously peddle a bike to mix my own breakfast? No, no. It makes total sense."

But I had fun:

We just had a great time in general, as evidenced in the above photo. We had a little bit of work to do at night because the whole world doesn't just stop for SXSW (though it should), and all of us ladies were in agreement that the lemon yellow walls of our house were not the most flattering.

I'd love to hear what you all have been up to the past several days. I'm sure you did some awesome, fun stuff, but I'm kind of willing to bet that my week was slightly more exciting. Because come on, GRUMPY CAT.

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