Monthly Archives: November 2009

Four (4) Mile Mornings

Something is happening…  I’m running more than usual and I’m not even thinking about it. I mean, I’m thinking about it.. but rather, not stressing about it.

Why would long, awesome runs make me stress?

I think it’s something like, and this I believe this is the mindset of most runners, if you achieve something once–whether it’s a certain distance, time, type of workout–it becomes the next benchmark to always strive for. For example, if I manage to squeeze in 4.5 miles one morning, then every morning after that I will know that 3 miles is no longer the best I can do… I have done better.

Running is truly a competition against yourself. See what I mean? It’s a morning battle of mel vs. mel everyday. I spite myself and surprise myself. It sounds like a vicious cycle, but it’s not. It’s an ambitious cycle. I like that; it’s now my quote of the day.

This holiday weekend I ran it up big time (for me, not.. for a marathoner in training) and managed a four miler or more everyday. I just stopped thinking so hard about how well I was doing and ran to feel good. That it the best way to do it, my friends. I did write up my Thanksgiving morning run over the Pulaski Bridge in Brooklyn for the WG News if you want to read about it. you do.

Today I ran 3.9 miles here, and I felt very strong the whole way. That’s unusual for me because longer morning runs usually hit my legs hard (aka the jelly legs attack) and I have to take it easy. This morning was a small victory for melkind. Sweet.

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Zumba Class Review and Then More Miles

Two days ago I was attempting to run 3 miles, and couldn’t make it without walking in between due to knee pain. Bullocks! On the plus side, I walked down some streets I usually pass right by and discovered some cute bars plus a new coffee shop called LaGreca on Wythe and South 1st. It must be new because the only indication of the storefront were two paper signs in the window. Sweet, more coffee!

mm hmm.

 

When I got home from that run-walk on Monday morning I was feeling slightly defeated, but also proud that I finally learned. I used to think it was all or nothing–“If I’m not running, what’s the point? Forget it.” Wah. Wah. Shut up mel.

What an unfortunate mindset I had, because that’s just not true. I got out there, and even though I couldn’t do the speed I wanted, I kept the distance the same and paced smart to keep from getting more injured. And then, on Tuesday, I did the unthinkable.

Zumba Class.

After work on Tuesday, having no run in the morning figuring my knee needed a rest, I decided to hit the gym (NYSC) for the first time since March.*

The workout? Eh. It was an hour of a bunch of different dancing techniques: salsa, samba, raggae, cha cha, merengue, African, and probably one or two more. The teacher was energetic and spunky. It was fun, but I wouldn’t say it was a kick-ass workout. My ass was not kicked. But it was shaken in rhythm, yes. I don’t think I’ll venture back to this class. There were others who were definitely getting a sweaty workout, so more power to them. But if you’re one of those people who needs a serious drill seargant pain sesh–it’s not here.

More Miles

Wednesday morning I woke up and ran 3.5 miles here. No knee pain! GLORY. Rest and zumba did me right for a day.

I feel obligated to remind you that I didn’t run for two weeks prior to the knee pain. Rest is relative, people. And I am the master of abusing it. But I always come back, and I’m always thankful.

*note: I’ve been paying $70 a month for a NYSC membership while my ass has not seen the gym for 8 months (running outside). I’m investing in my piece of mind? … Someone knock some sense into me.

Coming Back to Winter Running

After returning from a run-less visit to Ireland, I wrote about having the comeback run butterflies on my first day out. If you follow my blog, you’ll know I face this run often and worry about it like a kid on the first day of school–anxious and wearing my best running clothes for an extra mental perk.

The outcome of the run on Saturday, of course, made me feel great and hopeful. It filled me with dreams of “really getting serious this time” as it always does. Unfortunately, I am once again battling a bout of runner’s knee (read more about what runner’s knee is like here) which has kept my past two runs switching between my usual pace (I’m guessing 9:30 miles?) to walking. Runner’s knee sucks.

But it’s not just the runner’s knee that has me worried this time–it’s that I’m attempting a comeback at the start of winter! AAaahh! Damn you really cold weather and dark mornings!

the non-technical zip attempt

I was talking to a friend last night about how she deals with running in the cold and she implored me (implored–good word!) to get technical gear saying it made all the difference in the world. My only current winter technical pieces are a pair of UnderArmour tights that I scored while working at runworldwide.com back in college, and what I thought was a technical zip-up by Lulumon that I got 60% off; though it turns out yoga gear is far from running gear because it pretty much holds my sweat tight against my skin and stays wet. But it was on sale! Notice a trend? I never want to spend the money on the expensive stuff.

However, I think if I want to have the guts (and glory!) of maintaining my runs in the winter I’ll have to dole out the cash and grab some good gear. Specifically I’m thinking some kind of pullover, a headband for my ears, and a giant panda bear to hug me when I’m shivering. Bear hugs are underrated.

To fight the morning darkness–even though I have given out tips for getting out of bed–I found this little alarm clock that fakes a sunrise before it goes off with gradual light exposure. Genius! Now if someone can send me a winning lottery ticket, I’ll get right on these purchases :).

Winter? I’m still scared of you, but I am attempting to buy courage.

Ireland Part 3: Galway and Ashford Castle

The drive to Galway city is about  forty-five minutes from the Cliffs of Moher. We arrived in the city center at about 3pm, and sat in traffic for a bit before finding a car park (paid parking lot) to park our Nissan Micra–which I should  mention we named Shannon :).

Galway is a bit smaller feeling than Dublin but larger than Kilkenny. It lays all the way on the west coast, and meets the edge of the water.

Galway Bay

We walked around the streets for three hours, until eventually we couldn’t find our way back to the car park. At that point we stopped two guys and tried to describe the surroundings of the area to which we were trying to go. They obliged to walk us the fifteen minutes all the way back. This is how nice the people are! In NYC, that would never happen unless the guy thought you were going to give him your number in the end.

After the hunt was over, we grabbed some dinner where we met a table of guys who offered to take us to a pub next door. Sure! Why not? One of them was a teacher of Irish dance (think of river dance), and he taught me some sweet moves. I imagine we looked like idiots in the middle of the pub, but I welcomed the shenanigans. I river danced in Ireland!

clearly this is not me

The next day, we had about an hour’s drive to County Mayo, where Ashford Castle is located. The trip we planned included a night’s stay at the castle which we thought was an insane opportunity. We were right.

entrance to Ashford Castle

It turns out Ashford Castle is now a five star hotel, where people like Brad Pitt and Robin Williams have stayed at (they had pictures lining one of the halls). It was shocking, relatively speaking coming from the B&B’s, aka nice people’s homes, we stayed at along the way. Our room had a fireplace and a surreal view of the bakc of castle’s estate through our two huge curtained windows.

the view from our room in Ashford Castle

We found out there were horse stables nearby and quickly signed up. The result? Amanda and I rode white horses through the woods of the castle grounds. It was one of those things where you have to stop and tell yourself to take every second in like it matters, don’t let it just pass by. The woods were old and lush green, and hidden inside were old towers that used to be lookouts for guardians of the castle centuries ago. We rode for an hour and a half. My thighs were sore for the next two days.

on horseback at Ashford Castle

We opted to dine in the five star restaurant in the castle that night just based on the fact that we’ll probably never have that option again. We chose the price fixe menu which was four courses, and we were absolutely stuffed at the end. I think my less than stellar opinion of the meal is biased because of a bowl of chicken consume with dumplings. It was straight up broth, with two small plain dumplings floating in it. Almost like a boring wonton soup, only it cost probably about $15 for the bowl. Eh? For dinner I had seared cod, which had a saffron and mussel broth around it on top of wilted spinach. I cleaned that plate. I do have to say that the dessert was the best part. I got a chocolate lovers plate with four different kinds of chocolate desserts that came with a mango sorbet that was rockin. This was our best meal in Ireland. Thank God, we finally had a full meal that tasted good.

Unfortunately, our visit to the castle was only for one night, and the morning brought us our longest drive on the trip: straight across Ireland back to Dublin on the east coast. The drive took about three and a half hours. Due to a lot of rain the day before, the small roads in the country actually flooded completely and we had to re-route multiple times. Eventually we just ended up driving through the water! It was madness. Like driving through small lakes. We weren’t alone either, there were stranded cars all over the roads not knowing what to do, and we stopped to talk to people to ask advice. Their reactions were “You’re from New York? What in the hell are you doing in this town?!”. Our gps put us here, that’s how.

approaching the floods

we followed the locals through the floods

After a crazy drive through the water, we finally hit the highway for the rest of the way and made it back to Dublin for our last night. Having seen Dublin the first day, we opted to walk around for only a little and then catch a movie to relax after such a hectic drive. The next day found us back at Dublin airport and on a plane back to NYC.

The plane was full of Irish people about to start their vacation in New York. Good luck driving on our side of the road guys, and enjoy the strong coffee :).

The Return to Running Butterflies

Aaah! I’m lacing up my sneaks, getting ready to head out for my return to running run. I need to remind myself of all the comeback runs I’ve had in the last year, and how I’m thankful after each one.. because I’m always apprehensive (ahh!) before I get outside.

What am I scared of? The same as usual: that I won’t be able to handle the distance, I will be as slow as a turtle–a very good looking turtle–and the runners of Brooklyn will all gather in front of my apartment when I return to laugh at me. Guys, don’t gather, really.

I woke up at 6am, had a bowl of oat bran for breakfast, a cup of instant coffee… and waited about two and a half hours. I told myself I have a date with destiny at 9:30. It’s 9:15 and I’m eating chocolate chips from the bag with one sneaker on.. thinking.. about.. every possible thing that can delay my getting outside. Maybe I’ll check my email one more time? Am i dressed warm enough? Should I charge my ipod a little more? .. why am I a crazy lady? At least I’m not a cat lady.

Okay. Go time. My goal is to get three miles in. Walking is allowed if needed. If anyone passes me by, please stop to give me a high five. I like high fives. Especially if your hands are warmer than mine on this cold morning. Bullocks.

Ireland Part 2: Bunratty and the Cliffs of Moher

You can see a lot of towns in Ireland if you choose to drive across the country. The villages are so small, that you come to a set of buildings in the middle of the meadows and then four minutes later they’re behind you and the cows and grass close in again. In that way, we passed through probably fifteen or more.

Our third destination was Bunratty castle. Nothing really goes on in Bunratty except a castle, so we pretty much spent the day driving there, made it just before closing, ran through the like mad women, and had the tour guide follow us around so he could close as soon as we left. It was like having a stalker with a very, very thick accent.

Bunratty Castle

The inside of the castle was relatively small compared to Kilkenny, but was preserved as medieval which was very knights of the round table feeling. There was one very large main room, and each of the four corners had a narrow winding staircase that led up to very small bedroom chambers, with small nooks that prisoners were kept in that had a big iron gate over a space that was maybe four feet wide by three feet deep. These prisoner cells were complete with a hollow bench with a hole in it. Considerate kings, don’t you think? These poor guys must’ve prayed for food, and lysol.

oh jeez

After the castle, we went out to dinner at the only restaurant nearby, and then headed to a B&B up the street (… I feel strange writing about my evening accommodations with a huge picture of a toilet above). This was the best B&B we stayed at on the trip. A B&B in Ireland really is just like staying in someone’s home. They give you a key to the front door so you can come and go as you please, give you a spare room, and ask you what you would like for breakfast. It’s more welcoming than a hotel, but slightly creepier.

our room in a B&B

In the morning we ate, jumped in the car, punched Cliffs of Moher into the gps, and hit the road, jack. This drive was particularly scenic because the cliffs are on the edge (obviously) and the village you pass through on the way there is very tiny, with rocky roads and sporadic houses and cows. The road was uphill.

hills of Moher

The weather around the cliffs is constantly windy and rainy. A local we spoke to who ran a small gift shop nearby said we were lucky the clouds and fog weren’t swallowing up the views as they often did. My hat almost blew off a few times and we had to fight the wind to walk. It was kind of like a workout. Nature’s own butt kicking?

The payoff:

Cliffs of Moher

view from the top

And what little Irish village would be complete without it’s tower?

the tower atop the Moher hills

On to Galway from there..

Ireland Part One: Dublin, Athy and Kilkenny

I’ve always wanted to drive across the country and just wing it. Now I’ve finally done it, only it wasn’t America, it was Ireland!

We landed in Dublin at 8:30am and picked up our rental car to head to our hotel. Thank God for the GPS system we were given. Our little Nissan Micra got us everywhere.

see the car behind? people park however they want

The first night was spent in Dublin itself, and I wasn’t that impressed with the city center (city center would be the heart of each city). We opted to skip the tourist attractions like touring the Guiness and Jameson breweries. Shock? why, you can go to the bar in your town and get it right now. We walked around a little in the streets, and my impression of it was sort of like a dirtier Boston, less cultured NYC, with very, very, bad food. Around the city center, there was a little more space, and we stopped at a Tesco to get extra toothbrushes. Hey, you never know.

Outer Dublin

Next stop: Kilkenny. The town (city?) of Kilkenny was about two hours away. Halfway through we stopped in a town called Athy for some lunch, and came upon an old bridge tower with a huge red door. We took some pictures of the door and knocked on it as a joke saying “Hello in thea!”.

ello guv'na!

Suddenly, this lil’ guy opened the door!

Man of the Tower

It turns out he was looking for a place to open up a little Christmas shop and the bridge tower was available. One of the craziest things to me was how all of the castles, towers, and historic sites were taken for granted. I had an idea that they would all be museums or preserved to some extent, but no one seems to really care! I guess it’s for the same reason I’ve lived in NYC my whole life and went to the Statue of Liberty for the first time last summer. It’s easy to take things for granted.

Inside the tower, the man was working to set-up shop with his nephew who happened to be visiting from Canada. What a small world. The room had a scent of plaster and paint.

setting up shop in the tower

After our stop in Athy (pronounced a-TIE), we made it to Kilkenny. This was definitely my favorite spot. This town was quaint, compact, lined with cobblestone streets, and home to Kilkenny castle and numerous churches that are hundreds of years old.

Kilkenny Castle

We had a lot of fun in this town, and met very nice people. The locals will stop and talk to you for an hour about their country and where we should go next. They said they knew we were American right away because of our teeth. Isn’t that something. I was conscious everytime I smiled for the rest of the trip. Then maybe they wouldn’t know?

part two to come 🙂