Friday, July 26, 2013

Fitness Friday: Back to the Track + a Very Un-Photogenic Running Photo

Okay, didn't last Friday feel like just yesterday? Seriously!

This week has been an odd one. I haven't been quite as busy, but I've been tired. Like really tired. Like crashing and going to bed at 10 PM, still hitting the snooze button, and wishing I could nap during the day (I'm not usually a napper).

What gives?

I'm not sure, but I haven't been diligent in taking my vitamins lately. My iron usually tends to run a little low, and I have noticed these symptoms when it's especially low.'s time to start taking them regularly again. Hopefully that's it.

Nonetheless, I kept up with some of my workouts this week. I ran 5 easy miles on Saturday at RunKNOX. It was a good run for me, but the highlight was getting to run it with a friend who had never run that distance before! It was awesome to encourage her and celebrate her new accomplishment with her!

Other than that, I ran an easy 3 miles Tuesday with RunKNOX and only 1 mile Wednesday due to a time crunch.

Hey - 1 is greater than 0, right? I mean, I'd rather have one olive (which I love more than cookies or candy - the usual example) than no olives!

However, the highlight of the week was last night.

B and I went back to the second event at "Thursdays at the Track," an all levels track race series we'd attended a couple of weeks ago. I'm going to be honest here - I dreaded it a little.

NOT because the event wasn't great - it was! It was low-key, fun, and well-organized with friendly people from beginners to elite runners supporting each other.

I dreaded it because I knew I was going to push myself to the point of feeling miserable, and who looks forward to feeling miserable?

Yep, told you I was going to bring a dose of honesty.

I planned to sign up for the mile race and beat my PR mile of 9:18 at the last track race. 

I chatted with my friends to ignore the nervousness during the prior events. Then it was time for the womens' 1 mile race. There were about 8 or so women racing with me. The gun went off, and we were off! 

I was hoping to get as close to 9 minutes as possible. The first lap (quarter mile), I ran faster than schedule - finishing it in about 2 minutes.

It was all downhill from there. I started feeling tired and ran the next lap a little slower, finishing the half mile in 4:25. At that point, I started feeling absolutely miserable. I was gasping for air, and bargaining and begging myself to keep going faster. I wanted to collapse, but I made myself keep going. B and friends were cheering at me to keep going strong, so I lived an internal battle between my desire to slow down, and my desire to please my friends as well as feel like I did my best.

5 minutes is a long time to live through that battle.

Nonetheless I held out, kept pushing myself, and was happy to see a time of 9:04! I wanted to throw up (but didn't) or collapse on the ground (and I did). I had fun the rest of the event cheering friends on during their races.

By the way - B was a total stud that night! He ran the 800m (1/2 mile) race, the mile race, AND the 2 mile race! Say what??!! Yeah, he crashed when we got home.

If you're a running newbie like me and considering a community track race (okay, this is obviously not geared towards the collegiate, professional, or otherwise elite runner), here's what I learned from going through the event twice:

  1. Try it! I know it's intimidating, but it's a new experience to try and break out of your comfort zone. Running there felt completely different than it does during a typical 5K on a road or path (no hills but going around and around in circles). It's also a welcome break from hills, which means you might PR! Pretend you're a track star!
  2. Don't worry about others there! At the event, there were runners from newbies to elite runners (seriously, a guy ran a 4:30 mile). I was on the extreme newbie end of the spectrum (that doesn't even begin to describe it). Yes, again, it's intimidating, but the good news was that nobody there wanted to see me fail. Some of the elite guys were walking/jogging various areas around the track after their event, and they all cheered me on as I passed, even encouraging me (i.e. "Just one more lap", "move your arms more", etc). Just keep in mind that I've never met anyone who wants to see fellow runners fail. They may be competitive and want to beat other runners at their level, but I've never heard anyone say they hope others fall on their face or just have a horrible run.
  3. If you don't know what's going on, where to be, or what to do, ask someone. I had no idea how to sign up, where to go, what a heat was, etc. When I arrived, the event organizers walked me through signing up for the events I wanted to try. They explained that before my event, I'd go to a tent where they would give me a number. They explained that a "heat" is an individual round (i.e. women's mile, men's mile, men's 800m, women's 800m, etc are all heats). When it was time to race, they explained that they would tell us when to go up to the line, and that the gun would go off when it was time to run (just like in other races). It wasn't a complicated process, and they walked everyone through it.
  4. Have a goal in mind. If you have a stopwatch, you can divide your goal time by the number of laps  you're running (i.e. I wanted to run each of the 4 laps at around 2:15 to hit my 9 minute goal) so you can gauge and adjust your pace.
  5. Push yourself a little. If you're only running a mile (or less), you don't have to pace yourself like you do for a 5K or a longer distance. Don't to "dolls to the wall" (ha - you like my PG version of that phrase?) and sprint, but you can be a little more aggressive since you aren't running as far.
  6. Don't worry! Like I've said, going to the event was intimidating, but it ended up being fun and totally fine (for all of the reasons above).

And about that photo...

I asked B to take a picture of me running in all of my track glory. I now regret that decision. I have a few photogenic race pictures here and there, but this is not one of them. I was too miserable during this race to look good.

Wait for it...

Notice the "Pin It" button isn't here. 

Yep. terrible. I looked as bad as I felt (which was awful). This may even be meme worthy. Stay tuned.

So if you have a bad race picture, it's okay. It's not about how we look - it's about how we perform. I'm happy with my PR!

Do you have any tips for a newbie trying the track? Have you ever taken an unflattering picture while running?


See what others around the web are doing with these great fitness communities:

Coffee & macarons

I was not compensated by RunKNOX, the Knoxville Track Club, or Thursday Nights at the Track for this post, nor is any organization affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my Terms and Conditions page.

Want more? Follow the CSRS Blog on  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, or Instagram for the latest updates, articles, and more!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Epic Weekend + Rosemary Garlic Bread on the Grill

As you may remember, last week was a busy one! I was SO thankful for Friday to come to relax and recharge!

Fortunately, I had plans to do just that! My sister and her husband spent the weekend at our house and we had an epic weekend planned.

Why so epic? Were we going to some amazing concert/vacation/movie/restaurant?

Actually, we planned to stay at home most of the weekend.

We grew up in a family who loves two things - food and games. We both inherited these interests as we became adults, so game nights with food involved is just how we get down. This is even more fun during the summer when games can be played outside.

Saturday, B and I left them for a little while in the morning to head out for our usual run. I ran 5 miles, and B opted to do 10. We both plan to train for half marathons in the fall, but I want to wait until I reach my 30 minute 5K goal before I move on to longer distances.

When we got back, I popped this overnight French toast in the oven, also popped some bacon in the oven (I always do bacon in the oven - so much easier! Here's how.), and cut up some fruit. Once it was ready, we enjoyed a fabulous brunch on the patio!

And then...the sleepiness set in. That is, it did for B. I'll give him credit though, he ran 10 miles that morning. After brunch, not only did he pass out, but Coco decided to sprawl out on the floor and take a nap, too.

I don't know what her excuse was. Her exercise up to that point involved eating and hopping on the couch so that someone would pet her.

While he was sleeping, my sister and I, being eager and productive, went outside in 90 degree weather to install the new light set I'd purchased for the patio umbrella.

That's okay guys, we got this!

Or maybe we don't...

We had no idea what we were in for. This "simple task" involved removing the umbrella and setting it upside down on the ground, attaching clips to the poles with zip ties, and clipping the cords of lights on the poles. The only problem...the zip ties were too small to fit around the poles.

Leave it to us to save the day! We had just the creativity and ingenuity to solve it!

We ended up using an old jewelry making wire I had lying around to attach the clips to the poles.  We had to attach 5 clips for each of the 6 poles, then go back and insert the cords of lights into the clips and snap the clips shut. All in sunny, 90 degree weather, sitting the umbrella upside down on the ground in the backyard. It took almost two hours.

The finished result!

Later that evening, I prepared for a fun dinner and evening outside. I created a chipotle orange glaze (from the June 2013 Real Simple issue) to be served with chicken breasts, prepared a foil packet of red potatoes and veggies to grill, and prepared a rosemary garlic herbed butter so that I could toast garlic bread on the grill.

On a side note, when I announced I was going to make chipotle orange glazed chicken, B had a less than enthusiastic response, despite the fact that he loved it the last time I'd made it. I guess he was hoping for burgers. Either way, I gave him a hard time the rest of the evening.

Once temperatures cooled off, we headed to the backyard to get the evening started. I placed the foil packet of veggies on the grill on low, and we played about 3 games of cornhole (or bean bag toss - whatever name you can handle).

There, I said it. The blog is now PG-13. Whoa. 

Once we were done playing, I turned the heat on the right two burners to medium and grilled the chicken with the glaze. In the last 5 minutes, I added the herb buttered bread to the top rack of the grill to toast.

Voila! Fun and easy dinner outside! (And B was happy with the chicken)

Thanks to our handy umbrella light installation, we enjoyed our dinner in a pretty, well-lit space, and spent the rest of the evening out on the patio playing cards.

Games = Success. Food = Success. I call that a win.

While all of the food went over well, everyone especially raved about the bread. Often, when grilling outside, it's easy to identify a main course (in this case chicken), but what do you serve with it? Do you fix veggies and other side dishes inside, therefore running back and forth between the grill and the oven?

I think that's really annoying.

So what side dishes can you fix on the grill? A lot of things, but here's a good one. A couple of years ago, a blogger, GrillGrrl, came to town and was featured in our local newspaper. She shared a technique of using the grill to toast bread on the grill while your other food is grilling. She had a great recipe for a basil butter (which was delicious), but this weekend I made my own variation with rosemary and one of my favorite spice blends I get at the grocery store. It was SUPER easy.

Rosemary Garlic Herbed Bread on the Grill

I used:

1 loaf of French or Italian bread (I used a loaf of artisan roasted garlic bread from Kroger)
1/2 cup, or a stick of real unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp. Weber Garlic and Herb blend (in the spice section at the grocery store - I tried it a few years ago with a coupon, and I keep using it as it's tasty and contains natural ingredients)
2-3 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (I guestimated, I probably used 2.5 tbsp.)

Here's how I did it:

  1. Stir the rosemary and garlic and herb blend into the butter
  2. Cut the bread into 1 - 1 1/2 inch slices
  3. Spread the herb butter blend on the bread
  4. Place the bread on the top rack of the grill (or on the main part of the grill on low heat) and grill until it starts to brown - about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Turn over if desired and grill a few more minutes (I didn't because we liked it soft on top, crunchy on the bottom)
The result: buttery, herbed crispy bread that was easy, quick, grilled at the same time as the other dishes, and was a huge hit!

The entire loaf should provide 10-12 slices, depending on thickness.

So that was my epic weekend. At home. Doing very few productive things (other than the umbrella lights).

What do you do to relax and recharge on a summer weekend? Do you have any grilling favorites?


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Friday, July 19, 2013

Fitness Friday: A Quieter Week

Happy Friday!

Does anyone else need a Friday? I know I do! It has been an especially busy work week for me, and I've been preparing for some house guests this weekend. Each day I'm thinking "I need to run this errand before work, make sure I finish these work projects today, go home and [work on the blog/run a load of laundry/run dishwasher/clean floors, etc]". Pretty much every day has been like this. Fortunately, I've been able to delegate some tasks to my wonderful Beebs, but still not a lot of downtime for me.

I just want to sit on my front porch with an iced coffee and an issue of Real Simple!


When I first started working out, I'd freak out over a missed workout (or a few workouts). I'd be convinced I'd lose progress, gain weight, etc. Over time, however, I've taken a more balanced approach. I understand the importance of being consistent in keeping up with my workouts over the long term so that I can reach my goals. However, I no longer freak out if I have to miss a workout or two. Sometimes life gets in the way, and I know that I'll get back on my schedule when everything slows down.

This was one of those weeks. Luckily, it was a "down week" in RunKNOX, so it was perfect timing. I kept up with most of my workouts, but skipped one or two so that I could catch up on everything I needed to do. We'll call it a mental health break. No need to stress myself out even more by trying to cram all my workouts in. I know that next week I'll be right back at it!

And on that note, time to REALLY focus on my 30 minute 5K goal!

So what I'm trying to do here is set a realistic expectation for you. This just wasn't one of those exciting weeks where I tried something new, achieved a goal, or did some awesome thing. So if you're looking for some monumental story to motivate you to change your life and start running, this probably isn't the best article for you. Here is a good one, though.

What you will find today, however, is me staying with my running schedule the best I could, and recognizing that it's okay to take a temporary lighter approach to working out in light of life being very busy. You gotta have balance sometimes.

So here's how it went:

Friday: A much needed day off following my Thursday Track event

Saturday: My first 6 mi run in months!

Since running my first half-marathon in April, I've switched to focusing on getting faster at shorter distances. In my RunKNOX speed program, I've run 3-5 mi, repeats of anywhere from 100-800m at the track, and hill repeats. This Saturday was the first time in awhile that I've run more than 6 mi.

Unfortunately for the run, my friend's 30th birthday party was the night before. It didn't run too late, but I felt a little dehydrated and just "meh" Saturday morning. No excuses, though!

Our workout was to run a total of 6 mi. About 4 mi into the workout, however, we were to run 20 minutes of 1 minute (almost) sprinting/ 1 minute really slow jog (as part of the 6 mi). The first 3 mi of the jog felt like they were never going to end. I felt so tired and my legs just didn't enjoy moving. I had to drag myself! I found myself behind a couple of girls that I usually keep up with (even pass sometimes). I was dreading the sprint intervals and was not sure I was going to make it.

Finally, we got to about 4 mi in, and it was time to start the sprinting intervals. Well, here we go. My goal was to not throw up. I set my stopwatch to start the first sprint, and went for it. Surprisingly, it felt GREAT to do the sprint!

I didn't see that one coming.

Don't ask me how, but for some reason, I felt instantly better during the sprinting. Instead of dragging, I felt fluid and energetic. I breathed better. It was awesome! I never thought I'd say that about sprinting. I think I would have wanted to collapse if I'd just jogged the entire 6 mi. Once my 20 minutes of sprints were over, I jogged the last mile or so and was ready to start my day feeling fresh and new!

Sunday: Day off

Monday: Gym

Monday, I went to my usual evening Body Pump class. Because I left work late, I only had a few minutes to run before the class, so I ran a mile on the indoor track. In 9:11. Even better than my track race! Of course I'm sure the A/C helped!


Tuesday: Hottest RunKNOX practice yet!

Tuesday was a less busy day, and I of course went to RunKNOX.

90 degrees. Sun. Humid. No breeze. 

I was REALLY happy that it was down week in RunKNOX. We only jogged a quick 1.5 mi warm-up, did a few sprints up a hill (probably took less than 15 minutes), and a quick 1.5 mi cool down jog. Again, I kind of liked the sprints. Instead of a slow run where I could think about how hot and miserable I was, I was working too hard to think. Nonetheless, I was exhausted by the end of the workout and walked most of the cool down. It was just too hot.

Wednesday: 2 mi run + sprints

I'll be honest, my Wednesday workouts are usually rough. I think it's because I'm still tired and dehydrated from my Tuesday RunKNOX workouts. This week was no exception. I knew my workday would be busy, so I ran in the morning. I was supposed to run 3 mi, but I only had time for 2.

2 is better than 0, right? I mean, I'd rather have 2 cookies than 0. So 2 miles must be better than 0 miles.

You know in the summertime when it's really hot during the day, but you think, if I go outside at 6 AM it's going to feel cool and great? I opened the front door expecting the air to feel cool and crisp the only time that day.

No. Not that morning. It was still humid, the sun was out, and it didn't feel cool outside at all.

So...feeling tired from the night before, and the weather being hot, it was rough going. I ran 2 miles in about 24 minutes (slower than my usual pace). Whatever, at least I did it. Then we were prescribed to run a few sprints after our run that morning. I figured that since I couldn't do my last mile, I'd at least fit 4 sprints in. I found a flat road, and sprinted up and down a few times. I looked at my watch, and my "sprinting pace" was a 6:30 pace.

Some people run that pace (or faster) for miles. Maybe one day...

Despite feeling rough during the run, I was glad that I completed it and had it out of the way as I started my day.

Thursday: Day off

I had to get to work early, left late, and came home to get my house ready for guests, workout. I did make time to cuddle with Cali for 15 minutes in the morning. My husband usually leaves before me in the morning. As he leaves, he opens the bedroom door so that cats can wake me up. Cali is my furry alarm clock who enjoys waking me up by cuddling with me. 

Best way to wake up if you ask me.

Next week, I look forward to getting more workouts in and getting back on track towards my 30 minute 5K (30x30) goal. I'm also doing another track race in the same series of races, Thursdays at the Track, I tried last week. I'm not sure what distance I'll run, but I'm sure it will be challenging!

How do you handle busier weeks where you need to prioritize life over your workouts? How do you get back on track?


See what others around the web are doing with two great Fitness Friday communities:

I was not compensated by RunKNOX, the Knoxville Track Club, or Thursday Nights at the Track for this post, nor is any organization affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my Terms and Conditions page.

Want more? Follow the CSRS Blog on  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, or Instragram for the latest updates, articles, and more!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

DIY Photo Booth = Instant Party Fun!

It's no secret that 30 is on its way...

As such, I've seen my husband and many of my friends turn 30 recently. One of my best friends, Sara (we go back since college - over 10 years!), turned 30 over the weekend.

Her husband wanted to throw a party for her, and I volunteered to help. We decided on a fun dinner at the Copper Cellar restaurant in downtown Knoxville, where 20-25 friends and family could join her for dinner, drinks, and fun. She is a new mom, and her 5 month old daughter was able to join us as well!

On a side note, I found this AMAZING dress at Loft to wear to the party! The black and white color was crisp, summery, and modern, and it may be the most flattering dress I've ever owned. For real. I want it in every color. If you need a dress, this is a great one to try. Now. I usually wear anything from an 8 to a 12, and a 10 petite fit great.

Back to the party, we reserved a private room downstairs, and placed a few fun decorations.

I  wanted something custom but didn't have time to order something custom made, so I found this great customized printable banner design on Etsy by StylingtheMoment

While I knew the room was the perfect place for the party and that the food would be great, I wanted to create an activity that would get people out of their chairs and interacting.

So I searched...and searched...

For 30th birthday party activities, you'll find a lot of things like drinking games (not appropriate for this event), or trivia games about the guest of honor or his/her birth year (too structured for this event). Finally, I came across this idea on HGTV for a DIY photo booth! The idea of people getting out of their chairs, wearing silly props, and making goofy poses sounded like a lot of fun! In this age of social media and constant photo sharing, I thought it would resonate with people.

Here's what I used:

  • A camera with flash and a tripod
  • A quiet corner without any distracting lighting
  • A poster board (I used a cardboard poster board 36"x48")
  • An easel or tape/hooks to mount the backdrop (I used a portable adjustable easel so I didn't have to use the wall)
  • Decorations for the poster board. You can decorate it however you want, but I used a roll of wrapping paper and 4 packages of 5 mini paper fans in various colors.
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Double-sided tape
  • Fun props! Masks, boas, tiaras, sunglasses, cat ears, hats, mustaches, signs - you name it! Word to the wise: the key here is quantity, not quality. You may have 6 or more people jumping in a shot together, so you want to have plenty of props. I recommend sticking to props $1-3. Any higher than that, and these silly props can add up in cost quickly! Party City has a great variety of props in this price range. The signs were very inexpensive, as I printed them on card stock using my printer at home.

Here's how I did it:

  • Before the party, create the backdrop:
    • I wrapped one side of the board completely with wrapping paper. It doesn't have to be perfect. I recieved a note on my report card in kindergarten that I don't cut straight. I've never perfected that skill and it didn't impair my success in life.

Cali wanted to "help"

    • Then I folded out the paper fans, and cut off the strings that would usually be used to hang the fans.
    • I used double-sided tape to attach the fans in random places on the board (note - because the fans are 3 dimensional and therefore are difficult to stick to the tape, I pinched part of the fan flat to attach the tape).

  •  The day of the party, set up the backdrop and the camera:
    • Find a place in the room with soft lighting and nothing distracting in the background. I used a corner in the room away from other lights and windows. It was a little dim, but my camera had a strong enough flash to provide enough light.

    • Set the backdrop on an easel or hang on the wall. We eyeballed height, and adjusted the placement so that it could accommodate me (short) and my husband (tall).
    • Set the camera and tripod about 6-8 feet back from the backdrop
    • Test, test, test! It doesn't have to be professional quality, but you'll want focused, well-lit pictures with the backdrop and subject in frame. Take a few shots of the backdrop, ideally with someone standing in front of it. Is it too dark or too bright? If so, adjust the flash or white balance settings on the camera. Is the entire backdrop and subject in frame? If so, adjust the placement of the tripod? Is there any competing light or objects? If so, consider changing locations. It's good to get this out of the way so that when guests arrive, they can jump right into the fun and you know that the shots will be great!

The height was just right for someone short like me!
It wasn't quite tall enough for someone as tall as B, letting us know we needed to adjust it!
    • Make sure that you have a full battery and memory card with a lot of space.
    • Turn on the camera, and invite guests to enjoy! Unfortunately my camera doesn't have this capability, but a remote shutter release would be a great option for people to take pictures on their own. Since we couldn't do this, I, my husband, and another host offered to man the camera.
    • After the party, filter the pictures that turned out well, and share! This can be done on photo sharing sites, via email, a CD, or social media. We chose to share on Facebook. Be sure to check for any pictures that may be less than appropriate. Fortunately, this didn't happen to us. Make sure that the guests are okay with these pictures being shared on social media. We asked the group at the party, and no one had any issue with their picture being shared. Letting the group know ahead of time that these pictures could be shared also serves as a gentle heads-up to guests to stay appropriate (silly is okay!) in their pictures.
The result? It was a hit! The guest of honor loved it and got great shots with her daughter, husband, family, and friends! People got out of their seats and were acting silly and fun!

The birthday girl and family!

B and I showing off our swagger

It was pretty inexpensive, and could be fun and appropriate for guests of all ages. I can imagine kids would have a lot of fun with this activity, too!

Have you planned a 30th (or any age) birthday party? What fun party activities have you tried?


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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fitness Friday (on Saturday): Trying the Track!

Happy Saturday! 

I helped a special friend celebrate her 30th birthday last night (it was a success - party ideas coming at you next week!), so I had to move Fitness Friday to Saturday.

Just so you know, I wasn't a track athlete in high school. Or a cross country athlete. Or any sport that involves much running.

I did play volleyball 6-8th grade. I enjoyed the sport but I wasn't very good. I went to a very small school and there was opportunity for me to be on the team. I wasn't tall enough to spike or block. Setting might be an obvious choice for someone short like me, but there were better setters than me on the team. I was decent at serving underhand and bumping/passing the ball and tried really hard.

Which was why I was really disappointed I never won the "Most Improved" award on the team - the only award I had a shot at.

I digress. Back to the story at hand, I wasn't a high school athlete in anything, especially track.

There's a new opportunity for local runners to compete in a track environment called "Thursdays at the Track". It is a series of races on an actual track that are open to everyone regardless of level. Many people in my RunKNOX group were planning to participate, and I was encouraged to participate as well.

This is really intimidating to me. In a 5K race, there's such a massive crowd of people that only B or my close friends pay attention to me when I finish. This whole track environment seems like it would make it painfully obvious how slow I am. Also, when I race 5Ks, I don't consider myself "competing" with anyone else. Since I have no shot of winning my age group, I treat it as a truly individual sport and don't pay attention to others. This track thing feels like an actual race. As in against others.

I'm actually not a competitive person. In a recent personal development exercise, I discovered I'm driven by measuring and achieving my individual goals and receiving affirmation/recognition from others. In my book, this achievement and recognition doesn't have to come at the expense of others.  More simply said:

I want to get a grade for everything I do. I want those grades to be A's. Not only that, I want the teacher to tell me those A's are great. It doesn't matter to me if you are also making A's or B's or whatever. My success isn't dependent on you not succeeding.

My uber-competitive husband is probably shaking his head in disgust.

So no, I wasn't thrilled about the track idea, but I decided to be open-minded and try it out. Our training with RunKNOX was specifically geared to help us prepare for the event Thursday. Here's how the week went!

Friday: 2 mi on my Own

I'm trying to work myself down to my 5K goal pace of 9:41 on my individual runs. It was hot and muggy out when I set out to do 2 miles. I pushed myself and wanted to collapse after my first mile, and was saddened to see that I ran it in exactly 10:00. I wanted to say forget this mofo and be done. I took a pause and B encouraged me to keep going, which was annoying, since he was skipping his workout.

Who are you to tell me to keep going? You're sitting on the couch, homes!

I reluctantly listened to him and kept going. My next mile was terrible compared to my recent times. My watch was telling me I was going about 10:15 min/mi, but when I finished, I discovered it was actually 11:21. At least I could say I finished. Some days, that's all I can say.

Saturday: 5 mi with RunKNOX + Sprints

I set out to do an easy 5 mile run. It was humid again. I finished the 5 miles slowly, but it wasn't a pleasant run. Sometimes I get in a rhythm and feel great while running. This was not one of those days. I had to push myself the entire way.

When we finished our run, we did sprints in the parking lot. I'm still new to this sprinting thing. I was really trying to focus on my form while running fast. I started getting really out of breath at the end of my sprints and I realized:

I've been focusing on my form, my stride, my posture, my arms, my speed...and in the process forgetting to breathe.

Yes, I realized that I've been holding my breath while sprinting! I'm not a coach, but I'm going to guess that isn't a good idea. Making a mental note of that.

Sunday: Nothing!

Unless you count massive amounts of house cleaning and grocery shopping.

Monday: The Gym

I was gone last week, so it was tough getting back into my Body Pump class. I used less weight than usual on many of the exercises and still sore for a couple of days.

Tuesday: RunKNOX Track Prep

To prepare for Thursday, we went to the track (a different track) to do our workout. It was one of those days where I felt like a total cluster - I left work late, couldn't find a place to park, arrived late to do my warm-up. I finished my warm-up after everyone and they were already starting. I hate that flustered feeling!

Luckily, I caught up with my friends, and chatting with them quickly took my mind off the issue! Our workout was to do repeats of 200m - run 200m at our goal mile pace (I'm shooting for a 9 min mile), then jog the other 200m of the lap (each lap is 400m). Do this 3 times, take a break, do it 3 more times, another break, and a final set of 3.

It was challenging! That pace was a little aggressive for me. It also happened to be youth night at the track, so swarms of children were everywhere (of course not yet acquainted with the concept of staying out of the way so that runners can pass by). Luckily, my friend was cheering me on and we got through the workout together!

Wednesday: A Faster Mile

Because I've felt like my pace isn't where it should be yet, I set out to try a faster mile during the first of my 2 miles on my own. I had to be at work a little early, so I started bright and early at 6 AM. I pushed and pushed and pushed myself to keep going faster. Come on Ke$ha, keep me going! I finished my mile (in a mildly hilly place) in 9:27. Not bad! Then I dragged myself through a slower second mile, haha! Maybe I could pull off this track thing.

Thursday: The TRACK!!

After work, I came home, dressed in my running clothes and shoes, and headed out with B to sign up for Thursday at the Track. To be honest, I felt really nervous on the way. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't like the idea of everyone watching me go around and around. I was also pretty sure I was going to lose. 

I'm not being pessimistic and self-deprecating, I'm just realistic about where I fall in the spectrum of runners that I knew would be participating.

When we got there, I was relieved to see that the event was pretty low-key, and I found my fellow RunKNOX friends. B signed up to run both the 800m and the mile, and I chose to only focus on the mile.

On a side note, I personally hate 800m. I don't know why. It's not short enough to sprint and get it over with, and it's not long enough to pace yourself. It's just awkward and miserable to me. About a year ago when I first did them in RunKNOX, I couldn't believe how hard they were. I had to be persuaded and convinced to finish 4 or 5 of them.

Seeing B race first helped me feel comfortable with the process. There were only 3 other men competing with him. However, these 3 men are among the most elite runners in Knoxville (and beyond). B was FLYING through his 800. Don't believe me? Look at him floating off the ground!

He finished in 2:51, which is an incredible time, but was still last in the race. Similarly, he ran his mile in 6:41, a PR for him, and was last in the race. The good news is that everyone supported him and congratulated him. He was happy with the result, despite his standings among others. Seeing him have a great experience made me feel better about my event.

Now, it was time for me to run my mile. There were only 3 other women in the group. One lady is in RunKNOX and I know she's faster than me. The other ladies appeared to be very athletic runners (and they were!). It was intimidating to be at the starting line with them while everyone watched us. Luckily, that anxiety went away when the gun went off.

It's hard to think about others when all you can think about is how tired you are and how hard it is to breathe.

As I expected, I was in last place, but it didn't bother me. I was pushing as fast as I possibly could at first (probably too much). After the first quarter mile, I felt tired. I wanted to slow down, but I didn't feel like I could. In long distance running, you don't feel like every second counts. It's okay to slow down through a water stop or whatever you have to do to feel comfortable running the distance. Seconds don't make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things on a long race.

You don't have that luxury when you're doing a mile.

To make matters worse, someone had lost their race sticker with their number, and it conveniently attached itself to my shoe. I took 2 seconds to try to pull it off with no luck, so I raced about 3/4 of the mile with it on, trying not to fall. It was a loooong 9 minutes and 18 seconds, but I finished and it was a new mile PR! Everyone (even the elite runners) cheered for me and encouraged me!

Makeup smeared and bun falling after the mile!

If you're looking to work on speed or want to just mix things up, try an all levels community track event like I did. It challenges you in different ways to run a mile on the track than 3 miles on a greenway or road. Here are some ideas to get started!

Have you tried running or competing on a track? How do you like the track vs. running on a road, greenway, or trail?


See what others around the web are doing with two great Fitness Friday communities:

I was not compensated by RunKNOX, the Knoxville Track Club, or Thursday Nights at the Track for this post, nor is any organization affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my Terms and Conditions page.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Running in Memphis (and Other Fun Things to Do)!

Welcome to a special travel edition of Coffee, Scarves, and Running Shoes! Last weekend, we went on the road to travel to the other end of our state on a trip to Memphis. My husband traveled to a work conference, and I tagged along since we'd never visited the city.

Having never visited Memphis, we weren't sure what to expect and what fun things we'd find. As it turns out, we had a great time! I had no idea what Memphis even looked like, and I was excited to see a beautiful walking/running path along the Mississippi with a view of the city skyline, and beautiful wooded areas outside the city. While there, we took advantage of many of the sights and attractions, and found fun ways to fit in our running. Here's what we found:

The Fun

Beale Street

Admittedly, I'm not a huge listener of blues music. However, I LOVE almost any music live, so I was excited to check out Beale Street. The city has made a great effort to keep Beale Street safe, with traffic closed off and security officers present. The area was very vibrant, with lights and music everywhere. Our first night, we had dinner at a Cajun/BBQ restaurant and listened to a great blues performer. He played everything from covers of mainstream artists like Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Motown classics, as well as traditional blues music, so there was something for everyone.

Memphis Botanic Garden

While B was "conferring", I spent my second afternoon on my own in Memphis checking out the Botanic Garden. It was close to where we were staying, and made for a beautiful afternoon! It's very large, and contains many gardens - roses, hydrangeas, hostas, irises, desert plants, butterfly plants, you name it!

A couple of Christmases ago, B bought me an entry level Canon SLR camera. It's great, but I've only used the auto setting. My photography friends cringe at this fact. I took a photography book with me, Understanding Exposure, and my camera, and tried out some of the manual settings. I'm starting to understand the shutter speed vs. aperture concept. It look a LOT of trial and error, but I got a few good pics!


I don't listen to a lot of classic rock'n'roll, but you have to respect The King! Unfortunately, B's conference overlapped with the times that Graceland was open to tours. We found out that the outside grounds and meditation garden was open from 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM daily, so we checked it out our last morning. The grounds were beautiful. The home looked exactly like it does on TV. Elvis' grave site, as well as several family members are found at the meditation garden. It was touching to see how many people still leave gifts and notes at his grave site. His father wrote the inscription, and I can't imagine better words being written about his faith, kindness, and contributions and achievements in the music industry. I hope we'll get to take a tour next time we're in town!

The Fitness

Our Rockin' Running Tour!

As I briefly mentioned in my Fitness Friday post last week, we found a guided running tour of downtown Memphis. The tour we found was offered by Rockin' Running Tours. It's operated by Mel, our tour guide and local runner. He offers tours in several areas in Memphis. We chose the Rockin' Downtown tour, a 4 mile loop of downtown Memphis.

It was the highlight of our trip! Because the route was short, we walked much of the route and Mel told us all about the city. He's very passionate and knowledgeable about Memphis. He told us about the rich Civil War history in the Memphis area such as famous nearby battles and shipwrecks. He told us all about socioeconomic trends that have affected the city over the years. He took us by many major attractions such as Beale Street, the Civil Rights Museum, the Orpheum theatre, parks, and landmark streets and restaurants. He can tell you which buildings are supposedly "haunted", why certain areas of town are thriving or re-emerging, his favorite restaurants from a local's perspective, the safest areas of town, and what attractions to check out.

He even took us through areas that we never would have found on our own, such as a beautiful gated residential community connected to Tom Lee Park and a beautiful greenway that went along the river. There were people on our tour that were from Memphis and didn't know all of the history and stories he had to share! Next time you're in town and are looking to try something new, I recommend trying a Rockin Running Tour!

Wolf River Greenway

One particularly rainy morning while B was at his conference, I set out to find a greenway to get my 2 mi run in. I Googled greenways near East Memphis where I was staying, and found out about the Wolf River Greenway. Based on what I've read on their website, this greenway will eventually run along the Wolf River from downtown to outlying suburbs like Germantown (east of Memphis). It turned out that an entrance to the greenway was very close to my hotel, so I drove over and hopped on the greenway for a quick two mile run. I always try to be careful when running alone. The area appeared very affluent and safe, and I kept my phone on me just in case.

The Furry and Feathered

The House of Mews

While strolling through midtown Memphis a few weeks ago, a friend of mine and fellow cat lover stumbled upon the House of Mews. It is a small boutique retail space that has been converted to a cat rescue! Unfortunately it was closed when we arrived, but we peeked into the windows. Inside we saw dozens of cats for adoption! They were sleeping in bins, playing with toys, and climbing special ledges on the walls. The space was funky and featured cat inspired art (some of it for sale according to their website). We'd love to come back another time when it's open and meet the cats!
The top left kitty is Coco's long lost twin!

The Ducks at the Peabody Hotel 

In the heart of downtown Memphis lies the historic Peabody Hotel. Even if you're not staying there (we stayed in a different hotel where B's conference was held),  it's definitely worth a visit for a drink, a meal, or even to just look around. It's a beautiful, grandiose, and luxurious. Furthermore, be sure to visit at 11 AM or 5 PM daily so that you can see the duck march. Yes, at those times, real mallard ducks come down the elevator and march through the lobby into the fountains. It's a longstanding tradition at the hotel, and fun to check out if you're an animal lover!

The Memphis Zoo

While I love the Knoxville Zoo, it's fun to check out different zoos that can feature different animals. The Memphis Zoo is quite big! We spent about 3 hours checking out many animals, such as various wild cats, birds including penguins, reptiles/amphibians, zebras, giraffes, elephants, primates, animals you don't get to see often like panda bears and polar bears, and even an indoor dark nocturnal animal exhibit! If you love animals, it's worth checking out! We got to see animals we don't get to see often and had a great time!

The Food

My personal philosophy on vacation is to keep healthy eating in check, but allow a little leeway to try the local cuisine. In Memphis, the local cuisine is all about barbecue, Southern, and even a little Cajun food! Our first night, we didn't do any research. We stopped in at a barbecue and Cajun place while walking down Beale Street called King's Palace. B got ribs (and I tried some - they were great!), and I went Cajun with gumbo and etoufee. Both were yummy! We also got to listen to a great live Blues performer while we were there!

For more Memphis barbecue, we went to Central Barbecue the next night. It was very low-key and authentic, and it was great! We both got pulled pork and great sides like mac'n'cheese. Yum!

Hey, I don't eat like this everyday! :)

When I visit new places, I like to find local, unique coffee shops. On this trip, I went to the Poplar Perk'n (can't find a website) near where we were staying and Java Cabana in midtown. Poplar Perk'n was a great little quick place to grab a coffee to go. I enjoyed my latte!

Java Cabana is a slightly funkier, artsier coffee shop. I splurged on a "Funky Monkey" latte (with banana flavor, I assume in honor of Elvis' taste for them). I relaxed in the comfortable, Bohemian seating area and enjoyed my latte in a real glass mug (a cozy plus), and a yummy bagel sandwich.

What We Missed

Unfortunately, B's conference conflicted with the hours the various museums were open. There's a lot of history to be found in Memphis. The National Museum of Civil Rights can be found there, as well as Sun Studio, the birthplace of Rock'n'Roll. If we have time next time we're in town, we'd love to go back and explore these museums.

That covers our long weekend trip! Have you visited Memphis? What fun and/or fit activities do you enjoy there?


I was not compensated by any of these organizations for this post, nor is any organization affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. 

Want more? Follow the CSRS Blog on  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, or CoffeeScarvesandRunningShoes on Instragram for the latest updates, articles, and more!