bookishness

Over the last few months, I’ve been on a mediocre-reading kick. As in, I’m reading one book after another, but none of them are blowing me away. Pretty much all of them have ended up being not great, not horrible, just…meh. There were a few times when it would come very close, but in the end it would somehow fall short. That’s not to say that I regret reading any of them…it’s just that I was left with this unsatisfied craving for greatness!

First up…Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

ocean at the end

“I liked myths.  They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories.  They were better than that.  They just were.”

This almost sums up my feelings on this book. It wasn’t quite an adult novel, nor would it be appropriate for children. It was somewhere in between and for me that’s what prevented it from being anything more than ‘okay’. It didn’t commit and I very much felt as though I was stuck between the two genres.

However, it was interesting, original and you have to give an author credit when they know they only have 181 pages of content and they do NOT try to stretch it out for an additional 200 pages or (as in quite a few cases lately) somehow scrape together a trilogy?!

assassins apprentice

“When you cut pieces out of the truth to avoid looking like a fool, you end up sounding like a moron instead.”

Solid advice given within Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice. This was one of the books that came so very close!! Such great potential…I enjoyed the plot and characters, my only real issue was that midway through it got a bit drawn out. A little repetitive here and there…things could have moved a bit faster at times. This is the first in a trilogy, filler-pages tend to happen in a series. I know this, but at 480 pages it was completely unnecessary! As a result it lost the 4th star, but I do plan to eventually read the rest of the series.

light

“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.” 

Then there was M. L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. This was not exactly a feel-good kind of book. The second half definitely moved faster than the first. To be honest, I found Isabel unlikable and I had trouble finding a whole lot of sympathy for the Sherbourne’s. Their decision being so clearly in the wrong, it was hard to muster up a lot of emotion for them later on when they finally suffered the consequences. My heart did break a bit for Lucy…impossible for it not to! So, the emotion I felt there made this a worthwhile read. The author wrapped everything up neatly at the end of the book. It’s always nice to have closure. Not fabulous, but pretty good.

These were just a sampling of what I’ve been reading. I had several other’s tossed in the mix, but these were the most noteworthy ones. Now…I left the best for last.

After months of searching for something great. Something I could really get into. Something that would keep me up reading late at night and leave me struggling to put it down long enough to live my life each day. I finally found Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

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“PIGEON MY ARSE!”

I stumbled on this one. It just kind of popped-up out of nowhere when I was starting to get frustrated with my 3-star streak. I tend to research a book to death before I actually decide if I’m going to read it. I check ratings and reviews on pretty much every available site…I take each one with a grain of salt, but it’s definitely part of my decision process. This one was getting rave reviews pretty much across the board! With very good reason. This was truly a great book. FOUR STARS…FINALLY!! I enjoyed the plot, the characters, the Victorian-vibe. And the twists!! Some of which brought forth: “WAIT!! WHAT THE!?!?!” moments…out loud…which are so rare and so great while reading!!

I’ve since discovered that this was actually made into a BBC Series and I would be curious to watch it as a follow-up. I definitely plan to check out some of her other books as well!!

Don’t’cha just love a happy ending : )

ballooning festival

So, we moved during my little blogging hiatus. In general, moving is a time-consuming and stressful experience. However, it escalates to a whole new level when you factor in all of the issues that were tossed our way throughout the entire process. It’s only the slightest bit of an exaggeration when I say we had to plow through just about every complication possible…with a ridiculous amount of set-backs on both our buyer and seller’s ends. I won’t even get started on the actual moving process and all of the complications that arose there!

Needless to say, it was by far the single-most stressful experience of our lives and I was so very relieved the day it was all finally over. However, as things so often are in the end…it was completely worth it.

We’ve spent the last two months settling in, decorating, getting the girls used to their new surroundings and I’m approaching the tail-end of marathon training.

It’s been busy, but an extremely good kind of busy! Along the way we’ve had friends and family come to celebrate our settling in, we’ve done some local exploring and already we’ve had some great times in our new home state. The most memorable of which had to be the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning back in July!! I’ve never been to a balloon launch before and when I saw how close it was I decided to bring my daughter along to check it out.

It was fantastic!! It was a gorgeous day and the balloons were beautiful, peacefully floating up into the clear blue sky. My daughter and I both loved it!!

Little did we know that for the rest of the summer (and even as recently as yesterday) hot air balloons would randomly float right over our house in the evenings?! An added bonus to our new home!

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core yoga

Sprinkled throughout my latest experiment with Insanity and running…I’ve also been keeping up my yoga practice. I finished a month-long yoga challenge at the end of April. May wasn’t quite as consistent as I had hoped it to be, but I was still getting it done a few times a week.

I’ve been sticking with Tara Stiles, since after her challenge I had built up a very nice comfort level with it. Plus, her DVD collection offered so many different options…anything from 15 minutes of easy-going yoga to a strength building hour-long practice.

However, today I decided that I was getting a little too ‘comfortable’ with it and decided to mix things up a bit. After my daughter went down for her nap, I took a break from packing (have I mentioned that we’re moving?!?) and took Shiva Rea’s Core Yoga DVD out of the case for the first time.

shiva rea

First up, I was a little confused by the menu. It offered a “Yoga Matrix” and apparently what this meant is that you can piece together your own yoga practice out of seven options (plus a 2 min shavasana). Thereby being able to customize your practice based on your primary focus for the day and also how much time you have available.

yoga matrix

Cool.

So, for my first try I selected: 1) Water Core (no idea what that was, but it sounded far less scary than the “Fire Core” alternative!) 2) Creative Core Lower Body 3) Agni Namaskar (Again…no idea what that was, but since I already worked out today I figured it was best to avoid the “Upper Body” choice.)

I have to say, this was by far the most interesting yoga practice I’ve ever done. It was definitely more ‘traditional’ than Tara Stiles. Tara doesn’t play into the whole ‘make an offering’ thing, she doesn’t get all ‘earthy’ on you and none of the Sanskrit names are used for her poses. I’m not necessarily saying I like one more than the other, it’s just that they’re very different and there’s an adjustment period. Shiva Rea is more traditional in some of those aspects, but then in others she’s in a league all of her own!

Right, so, Water Core. I enjoyed it, but there was some weirdness going on. In fact, there were moments when I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. Partly because she was flying through odd tai-chi-like-movements and partly because of the interesting/blurred out camera editing…

what the

^^^What’s happening up there??!!^^^

Then we moved onto the Arni Namaskar. She opened up by letting us know we were about to embark on a practice centering around 109 push-ups.

Crap.

I just DID 109 push-ups this morning during Insanity!!!! *sigh*

I already felt invested in this, so there was no other choice than to hit the deck.

It was definitely a lot of push-ups, but it was broken-up into 12 rounds and as it turned out it wasn’t so terrible. I really enjoyed the rest of the video.  It’s so hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but there is something missing from the more modern-style of yoga that is present in traditional practices. There’s a flow in the traditional ones that makes it feel less like a workout and more like fluid movement. If that makes any sense.

I think from this point forward I’ll be sure to mix up both the traditional and non-traditional practices since I feel that they each have something great to offer!

it’s insane

Yesterday I decided that it was finally time for me to give Insanity a try. I’ve had it for a while, but I didn’t want to start anything new during marathon training. At this point, I’m feeling 100% after the New Jersey Marathon and I still have just about a month before Marine Corps Marathon training begins, so I figured now (while I’m easing back on running a bit) would be a good time to check it out!

So, before the girls woke-up yesterday, I headed down into the home gym and got started. I opted to skip the Fit Test. If there is ever a Fit Test, I always skip it. I’m all grown-up now and I frown upon tests. Instead, I jumped right into Plyometric Cardio Circuit.

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As the name suggests…there was many, much jumping going on. It was reminiscent of my experience with P90X2’s Plyocide last year. Towards the end, it was challenging to keep up with, my heart was pumping, but it was so very repetitive. The same moves over and over again. At least on the treadmill I can turn up the music and zone out. With Insanity you have to be totally present, which left me staring at the clock counting down the seconds until we did something different.

Then, randomly, they started doing yoga right in the middle. I don’t particularly like cramming 10 minutes of yoga in the middle of a high-intensity cardio workout. I skipped it. I already have my own yoga practice going on, so I don’t want to rush through it and end up wasting valuable cardio time.

Towards the end I was still going, but I was definitely feeling fatigued. It was a short workout out (especially since more than 10 minutes was dedicated to stretching), but it definitely required a whole lotta’ energy!!

Then this morning arrived. 24 hours later. Did I mention that I wasn’t sore AT ALL the day after my marathon??? 26.2 miles…no soreness. 30-ish minutes of Insanity and I can barely walk! I somehow managed to get a 4 mile run in this morning, but I have no idea how I got the food shopping done today as well. On my way home I actually let out a small whimper when I thought about all of the bags I would soon have to walk into the house.

Insanity definitely woke-up some of the lesser used muscles in my legs!! That right there earns it another shot. I’m not going to follow the calendar, I still run at least three days a week and I have no desire to double-up Insanity workouts on running days. As it is, a few times a week I double-up running with yoga…but I think that’s more of a complimentary pairing rather than an overboard fitness obsession!!

Tomorrow I’ll be giving Cardio Power & Resistance a try…which I’m not entirely sure is such a wise decision considering I have an eight mile run scheduled for Saturday morning?! Wish me luck!!

the marathon

On May 5th in Long Branch, New Jersey (with a gorgeous ocean view) I officially became a MARATHONER!!

NJM Finisher

Was there ever any doubt?!?! Alight, maybe a little…but in the end I was able to catch-up on my long runs, complete my training and achieve my goal of finishing the New Jersey Marathon!!

My #1 goal was to finish, #2 was revised after my foot injury to finish around the 5-hour mark. I finished at 5:20. I lost about 7-8 minutes on two port-a-john breaks (was very thirsty and drank a ton of water, TMI? super quick the first stop, but a line for the second), so I’d say that’s pretty close to the time I was expecting. Definitely not the fastest marathoner out there, but a finisher nonetheless!!

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I woke-up early on the morning of the marathon…ate a big carb-y breakfast in my hotel room and then did 20 minutes of yoga before packing up and heading out. The traffic getting there was insane. It was only about a 10-minute drive from the hotel, but it took over an hour. I sat in my car watching the half-marathoners sprint down the highway trying to make it to the start line in time (their race started about an hour before the full). Fortunately, I left with plenty of time to spare. I parked, got my gear together, waited in the warm car for a bit, then headed over. It was absolutely FREEZING and WINDY. I was extremely thankful that I brought a ‘toss away’ hooded jacket. I absolutely would have been miserable without it.

In what seemed like no time we were off!! I would say that within an hour of starting the clouds cleared, the sun started shining and the wind died down. It turned out to be supreme running weather. It was total perfection.

Being a former Jersey Girl, maybe I’m biased, but Jersey spectators have to be some of the very best! They were literally tailgating in their front yards. Eating, drinking, holding up signs, playing lawn games and many of the homes had Springsteen blasting from their radios. They were loud, enthusiastic and very encouraging.

I saw a few signs that said “Welcome New Jersey Marathoners”…and it was really nice to see. These people were stuck at home pretty much all day long…they had crazy runners filling their streets, energy gel packets and sweatshirts being tossed everywhere, but yet they still cheered us on and made us feel welcome.

To be honest, it was a very uneventful race. Absolutely nothing went wrong. I felt great, I had everything I needed, the weather was perfect. It was like the planets aligned and I was handed this excellent first marathon experience!

However, I did start out a little too fast (as always). In fact, for a while it was looking like I was going to hit a 13.1 PR!! In the end I hit it right in around my usual time, but then things slowed down considerably around the 18-20 mile mark. From there I did a walk/run mix. Sometimes I’d end up next to someone taking a break too and we’d chat for a bit.

It’s so strange to say it, but marathon running (for me) is far more relaxing and enjoyable than the shorter distances?! I was able to take in so much more of the experience since I wasn’t being driven by a time goal. Of course, it was hard at times, but surprisingly enjoyable as well.

With about .3 miles to go I spotted the finish line.

Wow.

That was something.

For one split second I got a little choked-up. Most training plans are about 4-5 months long, but in actuality it took a year of my life to build up to that exact moment. All the doubt, all the worry, the early morning runs, the lost sleep, the sacrificed wine!! Well, it all kind of hit me at once. It felt like such a HUGE accomplishment just making it to the START line, so being that close to the finish was without a doubt one of the top five moments of my life.

As soon as I snapped out of it, I sprinted the rest of the way. As I passed another runner she yelled to me “you’re making it look so easy?!”. It was my last burst of energy, the sudden euphoria that made me feel like I had plenty of gas left in the tank!!

For about an hour afterwards I was sore. I felt fine during the 2-hour car ride home, but when I finally stood up I was stiff as a board! A hot shower, a big dinner and a few hours later I felt completely fine. By the next morning I was 100%. No soreness at all. Which is a good thing considering how much I had to get done that day!!

The only reason I can come up with for not being sore the day after a marathon is because I ran it, but didn’t RACE it. I pushed, but not outside of my capability. It gave me a slower finish time, but there is GREAT satisfaction in running a marathon and not feeling even the slightest bit of fatigue the next day!

By 48 hours afterwards I felt like running but gave myself an extra day or so of rest just in case. I eased back in with a three-miler on Thursday and yesterday I did a nice, slow 7.5 mile run.

I have about a month before I start training for the Marine Corps Marathon, so I plan to keep up my long runs, but not push too hard. I’m sure my legs will appreciate the break!!

And there you have it…my first marathon complete. I enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend you lace-up and run one yourself ; )

bring on the taper

Wow. I am officially less than a week away from my first marathon!!?!

I can’t say that my training went exactly as I had hoped. My foot injury back in January put a big kink into things. As a result, I lost a full month of training.  Eventually, there was a slow attempt at easing back into running and then a focus primarily on increasing my distance…but not wanting to push my pace out of concern for a ‘too much, too fast’ injury.  Oh, and just to liven things up a sudden change in the shape of my feet required me to ditch my running shoes about a month ago and invest in a new pair. For the first time in my life I’m officially wearing a wide-width shoe?!

Looking back over the last few months, I wish I could have gotten more than only three runs in per week. I also wish I was able to add in regular speedwork.  But you know what??? Even though those things didn’t happen I’ve got NO complaints! I am so very thankful to even be running at all right now!

Once I started back-up in February I decided that I would scrap a time-goal entirely. The course is open for 6 hours and 30 minutes…that’s my new goal, BUT…I would consider myself very lucky if I were to come in around the 5 hour mark. Not a very lofty goal, but my mindset has changed since my injury. It was either take it a little easy for this one, or back out…and there was no way I was going to back out just because I wouldn’t be able to rip-up the course with a (relatively) speedy finish time!!

Since things were going so well and physically I was feeling 100% I decided to go ahead and register for a local 8k. I was a little nervous at first, the idea of ‘racing’ two weeks before a marathon didn’t seem to align with my very conservative training plan! I ended up deciding to do it about an hour before the race! To be honest, I think it was Boston that influenced my final decision. It was the Saturday after and I just felt like I wanted to run…to be with a group, at a race and run without any concern for a PR.

8k

I’m so glad I showed up that morning!! It was a very challenging course…two MASSIVE hills, one was virtually a wall that I walked up while leaning forward with my hands on my thighs!! The other was a long, steep incline right up to the finish line.  Oooofah!!

I finished at 47 minutes…a 9:27 average pace. Five minutes longer than the Philly 8k back in November, but considering that I haven’t done any speedwork since December AND Philly was a totally FLAT course…well, I was pleasantly surprised!!

So, now I’m tapering. I know this because I am a paranoid wreck that I’ll get sick. Like right now…I suddenly have a sore throat, but is it a real sore throat or a taper sore throat??? If it’s a taper sore throat then I’m probably just thirsty : |

diy health challenge

On April 1st I joined up with The Greatist for their month-long DIY Health Challenge.

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The plan is to cook one healthy meal and make time for at least 20 minutes of bodyweight exercise per day for the entire month of April. Unfortunately, I can’t include all of my training runs, but as luck would have it I’m also on-board for the Tara Stiles This is Yoga Challenge…so I’m easily fulfilling my 20 minutes per day. (If anyone is interested I started up a check-in group for this one over on Social Workout, so if you’re following along feel free to join up!!!)

As for the daily healthy meal, I’ve also been meeting my goal for that one everyday!! I’ve posted a few of the meals here already. Some days it’s as simple as a green-smoothie and kale/veggie salad for lunch or maybe just a veggie omelet with gluten-free toast and a handful of berries. At other times motivation strikes and I get a little more elaborate…

Such as (corn) pasta served with zucchini, yellow squash, polenta and marinara sauce.

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Or last night I experimented for the first time with butternut squash. It’s amazing how intimidating it can be when you’re handling new ingredients for a meal?!

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I tend to wing-it a bit in the kitchen, so I don’t follow just one recipe, but end up picking and choosing between several that I’ll find online.

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In the end I thought this one came out great!

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I served it with brown rice, so it was very filling and again my six-year-old loved it! She ate two bowls and thanked me for a ‘great dinner’…

*happiness*