31 December 2011

2011 - You Were Really Good to Me

2011 is, hands down, one of my most favorite years. So many good things happened, in triathlon, in my personal life, and in my work life. And any of the not-so-good things that did occur, usually happened for a reason and I'm a better person for it. So, cheers to saying goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012. My resolution - floss more and curse less.

30 December 2011

A Very Merry Christmas - 2011

This year was our year for Christmas in California with my west coast family. And, like always, it was a wonderful holiday with some of my favorite people. Jackie recently got a job at Pebble Beach golf resort so the family headed up to the Monterey Peninsula for the holiday. Vacation started with an awesome dinner followed by some much needed sleep. The next morning, I woke up to this view:
18th Green

And then I took a run along the coast and had this view:

It was hard to tell what I did more of - running or stopping to take photos

Before we headed into Carmel and tasted some pretty amazing cheeses at a local cheeseshop that gave out unlimited free samples. Have you ever had coconut flavored cheese? It's like a pina colada but better.
Cheese please!

The rest of Christmas Eve was spent eating tamales and having a family game night - nights like these are some of my favorites.
Christmas morning dawned and I started the day with a perfect run.

Pebble Beach Cypress Tree

And then I was totally spoiled by my family. I can't wait to figure out where I'm going to display my new Spode Blue Room plates and my new camera puts my old 5 megapixel camera to shame. The new camera even has a *sparkle* setting.

We had a fantastic turkey dinner (yes, I normally do the vegetarian thing, but I love Christmas turkey far too much to give it up) before it was game night and then we tried to take some family photos. Lauver Family Photos over the years:

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2007

The boys played golf on the Pebble Beach course on Monday - my hubby shot an 82, which is 10 over par and not bad for someone who can count on two hands how many time he's played golf in the past decade. He also shot a hole in one on Christmas Day on the 9 hole course. While he was playing golf, I was swimming here:

My definition of awesome = outdoor pool next to the Pacific.
Bonus that on the side near the restaurant, I could smell crab cakes every time I took a breath.

The 3000 meters FLEW by. I also kept hitting my left hand on the lane line in an attempt to stay in the sunny part of the lane (I have the bruises to prove it, haha).

Golf shots:

Good form!

Finishing up the round

It was one of the best family Christmases I've ever had, so thank you Ted, Lori, Allie, Jackie and Steph! I miss you guys already!

28 December 2011

2011 In Review

I've got my goals for 2012 mapped out - but you can't go forward without looking back. I realized, when looking back through my blog entries from late last year/early this year, that I never wrote down any goals for 2011. So, a non-goal oriented retrospective on how 2011 went down, both athletic and non-athletic.

- Faster times. In the 1/2 Ironman distance I finally broke through the 5:45 barrier that's eluded me for, oh, FOREVER. I ended the season with a 5:23, which was 23 minutes faster than my previous PR at that distance. I finally said goodbye to the 3:00 mark on the 1/2 Iron bike too, good riddance.

- SUFFER. I started to wrap my mind around what it meant to actually race a race, not just finish one. It's supposed to hurt, but in a good way. I didn't finish too many races with feelings of regret or shoulda, woulda, couldas which always haunted me in past seasons. I didn't fall apart on the run, which I was notorious for in 2010. Don't get me wrong, there is ALOT of room for improvement, but I feel like I'm starting to "get it" - and it's fun, like a game, a whole different side of the sport, a challenge that I never thought of before. I owe all of this to Jen for helping me see the light.

NOT a pretty picture

- Race Day Nutrition. KISS - keep it simple stupid. No more bike buffets, no more liquid-only calories. Every race goes like this: gels, water, saltstick tabs, NUUN. And maybe a powerbar if I need variety. I ate 18 gels - EIGHTEEN GELS during the bike portion alone at Ironman Lake Placid and my gut felt better than it ever has during an Ironman.

- Bucket List Races. I was so lucky to be able to check off a bunch of races from my wish list this year. Wildflower was with my west coast family and I liken it to biking through a Steinbeck novel. Lake Placid was an awesome mini vacation with my family and friends and we lucked out with perfect weather while the rest of the country was under a ridiculous heat wave. Timberman was the first triathlon my brother was able to come watch me race, as well as my best friend Erin and my goddaughter. I also got a hug from Chrissie Wellington. Best Day Ever. I turned 30 racing the Galway 70.3 in Ireland and got a chance to spend time with Angelina and meet Charisa, both awesome people and athletes.

Finishing up the first lap at IMLP 2011

- Miscellany. Did a marathon, went to tri camp, placed in my age group here and there, met lots of new friends through the sport, added to my shelf of marathon/half ironman/ironman medals at work (next year I get to start a new shelf because the first one is full :) ), and didn't get burned out.

Top of Mt Lemmon!

Overall, athletic-wise, 2011 was a much needed year in terms of racing confidence and overall happiness with triathlon. I learned alot in terms of how to race and realized it's not always about time, it's also about placing and it's important to race others, not just yourself. I also learned the importance of confidence in your training and abilities - I always counted myself out before the gun even went off in previous seasons; it was nice to see what happened when I instead decided to count myself in.

And the other accomplishments of 2011:

- Traveled somewhere besides New Jersey for work. Burkina Faso for a two-week, eye-opening work trip.
Kids in one of the villages outside Kaya

- Realized I can have a peaceful co-existence with my dog, made much easier when he stopped chowing down on my wardrobe.

Miles and me

- Made it a point to spend time with family and friends I don't get to see very often.

College Roomies 4 Life - Melis, Erin and I

All grown up in 2011! And responsible for kids!


- Continued to revel in the fact that I finally have a job I truly enjoy.

- Got my bake on. Alot.
Chocolate wasted.

- I've always loved reading, but now that I have a Kindle, it's made getting books into my hot little hands a much quicker affair. I didn't really keep track of everything I read this year, but in the past few months I've read:

- The Year of Fog (thumbs up)
- The Hunger Games (thumbs up)
- Catching Fire (thumbs up)
- Mockingjay (thumbs up)
- Unbroken (HUGE thumbs up)
- The Help (thumbs up)
- Cutting for Stone (HUGE thumbs up)
- A Dog's Purpose (thumbs up)
- Bella Canto (thumbs up)
- Sarah's Key (HUGE thumbs up)
- Pride and Prejudice (thumbs up)
- And I am loathe to admit I read some Nicholas Sparks books too; I am a sucker for easy-to-read chick lit.

- Celebrated 5 years of marriage with my husband!

Craigville Beach, Centreville MA - same beach my parents worked at in college when they started dating.

20 December 2011

Mishmash

For years I have been running on the bike path near my house. And every morning between 6:30 and 7:30, there is an older gentleman who is out walking and he gives everyone an enthusiastic greeting as he passes them. This morning my greeting was "Where have you been??" I guess that's what happens when it has been *months* since I went running on the bike trail before work. Sign that maybe I should do more running outside? Well, in all fairness, I've gotten some pretty awesome trail runs in over the past few weekends with good friends. I even brought Miles out for a 90 minute trail run on Sunday and he LOVED it. It wasn't a technical trail (I could see that going terribly wrong), but I'll take him with me again when I do some easy trails in the future. To him, it was one big dog park (minus the other dogs and the reality of being on a leash). In other news, I finished two more books - Pride and Prejudice and The Help. The Help was a great read (obviously) and I'm looking forward to watching the movie. And I really enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, much more than I expected to - I also need to make time to watch that movie. If anyone has any book suggestions for my 2012 reading list (which I will probably get started on now...), let me know!

16 December 2011

Random Friday Facts

1) I've spent far more money on athletic shoes this year than regular shoes.

2) My least favorite chore has always been doing the dishes. I hated it so much that in college, I would sometimes hide the dishes in the closet (there wasn't any food left on them, but I know, still gross).

3) Before I got married, I rarely cooked. Even when I first got married, you'd be hard pressed to find me in the kitchen. And baking NEVER happened. Then... I grew up.

4) I love to read.

5) My freestyle stroke apparently is still pretty terribly - my left arm continues to do wonky things all on its own.

6) During the training leading up to my first Ironman, I said I would never EVER train or do another Ironman again. That was obviously a lie.

7) Before I moved to DC, I'd never really eaten "ethnic foods" (think Thai food, Vietnamese, etc). NH is really good at sprouting alot of chain restaurants, but not much else.

8) I usually sleep on my stomach

9) I started the whole vegetarian thing earlier this year to clean up my diet for Ironman, but now the idea of meat kind of grosses me out.

10) I spend about 50% of my evenings trying to keep my cats off the kitchen table and counters.

11) Punctuality is not one of my strengths.

12) I got my hair cut really short in middle school and I think that scarred me for life - never again!

13) My sister-in-law sent me a photo of the best saying, "Chocolate doesn't ask silly questions. Chocolate understands."

14 December 2011

The Non-Athletic Goals for 2012

These aren't really New Years Resolutions, more just things I'd like to accomplish next year. If I were to make New Years Resolutions, they would read something like "curse less" and "eat less chocolate," "complain about Metro less frequently" and where is the fun in that - less, less, less. 2012 is going to be about MORE, MORE, MORE (and I am not referring to cursing, chocolate, or complaining).

1) Read MORE books - as in at least 50 books in 2012. Mark equated this to be about a book a week, and when he put it that way, it seems a bit ambitious. I'm planning on keeping a tally of what I read, and it's not going to be all fluff.

2) Become MORE fluent in French - I know, seems sad that a French major in undergrad doesn't consider herself fluent enough after that college education, but my French is rusty and it does improve the more often I use it. I've been doing alot of reading, writing, translating French on one of my projects and I've noticed these tasks have become substantially easier and faster over time. I'm just a bit shy when it comes to speaking it and MY GOSH do I hate the grammar - too many verb tenses. So, how will I become more fluent? I'm looking into becoming a member of Alliance Francaise; at least one of the 50 books will be one of the French literature books that's been gathering dust on my bookshelf; and hopefully there will be some more trips to Burkina in the next 12 months.

3) Eat MORE fruits and vegetables - this one is definitely tied to athletics, but it's relevant here too. 2012 is when I clean up my act, make fruits and vegetables a priority, and gradually ease my way into a more "clean eating" type of lifestyle that is sustainable.

4) Get MORE sleep - cast off my grad school ways (grad school was TWO years ago) - FB and blogs are NOT a good reason to stay up late. Before I started grad school, my lights were out by 9pm and I was easily getting up before 5am for my workouts. Feels like grad school has ruined me for the past 4 years, and it's high time I got out of this rut, especially since I don't have any good excuses anymore. Let's see if by this time next year, I'm back to having lights out by 9pm again...

5) Learn MORE recipes - (let me caveat that by saying HEALTHY recipes, it's pretty obvious I know how to find - and bake - those unhealthy ones). Dinner at the house is predictable every single week. It is a 99% guarantee that we will be eating one of the following for dinner: pizza, pasta, veggie quesadillas, burritos, butternut squash soup. We might mix it up by throwing in a salad or making a burger one night (GASP). I have a number of great cookbooks that are begging to be used - and so they will be in 2012!

6) Call my family MORE often - this goes for Mom and Dad and Morgan and my West Coast family. Too often I've let Facebook messages and texts take the place of real, meaningful conversation. It's unfortunately a pretty frequent occurrence that I startle myself by realizing it has been TWO WEEKS since I last talked to my mom. Oops. It's time to get back to basics and actually call the people I care about.

7) Take MORE pictures - (and post them on this blog). I don't take enough pictures, I'm going to change that in 2012. And if anyone has any point-and-shoot camera recommendations, I'd love to hear them. I think just about anything will take better photos than my 6.5 year old 5 megapixel camera (I KNOW they make camera phones with more pixels than my camera, don't remind me!)

I'm sure I'll be adding to this post as I think of things, but this list isn't going to get too much longer because then it becomes overwhelming. And I will also be trying to curb the cursing, complaining, and chocolate binges.

12 December 2011

Salty Chocolate Nutella Cookies...

Because that's what this season needs - a little more Nutella. I celebrated my friend Tonya's birthday this weekend by baking up a storm in her kitchen (and after cooking in Tonya's kitchen, I like it better than my own - no dogs underfoot, no cats stealing food, A KITCHEN AID MIXER).
The Lifestyle section of the Washington Post has a holiday cookie quiz (What Holiday Cookie Are You?). I, apparently, am a Chocolate Cookie (I could've told you that without the quiz...). As a little reward for taking the quiz, it gave me this gem of a recipe to try. And so I baked it on Sunday: Salty Chocolate Nutella Cookies.


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) flour
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3.2 ounces) natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at a very soft room temperature (see headnote)
  • 1 1/3 cups (9.3 ounces) sugar, plus 1 cup for finishing the cookies
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl.

Combine the butter and 1 1/3 cups of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat for about 2 minutes on low speed, until fluffy, then add the egg yolks, cream and vanilla extract; beat on low speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

Place the remaining cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.

Scoop 30 to 35 heaping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets. Shape each mound of dough into a ball, then roll it in the remaining sugar to coat evenly. Space the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, then use your thumb to make an indentation in the top of each cookie, gently flattening the cookies a bit as you work.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes or until the edges are just set; the tops of the cookies will be soft. (If the indentations have lost definition, press the centers again immediately after you remove the cookies from the oven.) Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. Pipe or spoon the Nutella into the center of each cookie while the cookies are still slightly warm.

Serve or store once the Nutella centers have slightly set.

*For the butter, they suggest taking it out of the fridge the night before and leaving it on the counter so it can easily reach the right consistency.
**Makes 30-35 cookies.
***Oh, and when they say space the cookies 2 inches apart, they know what they are talking about. Trying to cram 30 dough balls onto a small cookie sheet makes for some ugly-looking baked cookies.

Recipe Source:

From Huntsberger and Willis, of Whisked! in Washington.

08 December 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yes, it's Christmas, which IS the most Wonderful Time of the Year. But I attribute the magic of December to more than just the obvious (Baby Jesus, holiday parties, ugly sweaters, abundance of baked goods, holiday music, presents). December is very much akin to that pre-Ironman magic where anything seems possible for the upcoming race season. It's the strange but comfortable in-between season time where the work for 2011 is complete, results have been dissected, and plans to improve in 2012 have been made. Goals are in the process of being set for 2012 and you decide to go big - setting your sights higher than you ever have before. You map out the things you will do better - go to sleep earlier, do all of your workouts on the alloted day, eat only 2 bagels on Bagel Friday at work instead of 5, cut back on the Chocolate Wasted cupcakes, etc. Visions of PRs at every single race dance in your head. You're stoked about training again - you can't wait to be woken up in the middle of the night by your growling stomach, as it has already burned through your daily calories because you are in the middle of Ironman training. You have grand plans of actually doing your strength training workouts on a weekly basis. ANYTHING seems possible. It's just... magical. But the best part is - you don't have to start doing any of the above things in earnest until January 1st, when 2012 training officially begins. You get to continue indulging in holiday food, fun, and relaxation, all the while remaining totally convinced that 2012 is going to be a stellar year (regardless of how many 3lb bags of M&Ms you consume this week). It's like having your cake and eating it too (literally). It's all the dreams and excitement and anticipation, without the sacrifice, sweat, and tears. At least for the next few weeks until January 1st (and reality) rolls around. I plan on enjoying myself (not SO MUCH that I totally fall off the wagon and can't find it) for the next 22 days until it is time to get back down to business. I'm already looking forward to it - 2012, are you ready???

04 December 2011

Backyard Burn 5.5 Miler - race report

I had been hemming and hawing the past few weeks over whether or not I would sign up for a race this weekend and if so, which one. The Hot Chocolate 5K/15K seemed like the natural choice (ahem - CHOCOLATE), but I just couldn't justify the high entry fee (and after reading the live feed on FB yesterday morning about THAT race debacle, I'm glad I didn't sign up). When my friend Karen told me she wasn't going to be able to race the Backyard Burn 5 Miler in Clifton, Virginia this Sunday and that she could transfer the bib to me, I took her up on it. It's an awesome series, well run races, and really casual. I've only raced the Wakefield course before (which is one of the easier ones) so I was interested to see what the more technical Hemlock course would be like. It was hard. Like, sucking-wind, almost-falling-into-rivers-twice kind of hard. It was hilly and rocky and definitely required some scrambling. The first 0.7 was mostly on pavement on gravel and then the course hurtled you down some steps built into a hill, then it was an immediate uphill. We looped around into the woods and started the hard stuff. I had forgotten my HR monitor and Garmin (yaaayyy low-key running) so I had no idea of pace, mile markers, elapsed time, etc etc etc. As we entered the woods, I counted myself as the 5th girl (but I had no idea how many of the girls ahead of me were 5 milers and how many were 10 milers - I assumed all were 5 miles because they were BOOKING it). I passed one girl after a few minutes of entering the woods and was promptly passed by a different girl who had relaxed form as she sped away from me. I managed to keep her in sight for the next couple of miles, but I didn't kill myself trying to catch her and focused on keeping the 5th position. Trail running requires more thought than road running (i.e., how do I get over those rocks without simultaneously falling into a ravine) and I found it took me AWHILE to get into a rhythm. Probably at least 2 miles. We ran by the finish start/finish area as we started a different loop back into the woods. It was here that I started to find my form. After a short uphill on pavement, the trail flattened out and then went downhill, allowing me to catch my breath. At one switchback before this section, I saw that there was a girl not too far behind me, and I ran the rest of the race convinced she was on my heels ready to pass me and I didn't look back (if I didn't run with these thoughts, I surely would've stopped/walked up some of the uphills towards the end). We had a nice section by the river where I picked up my pace (until we hit some rocks) and then... another uphill... that just... kept... going. It eventually flattened out and I knew I was probably a little more than a mile from the finish and tried to pick it up. I didn't see anyone ahead of me and here and there I would hear someone behind me. I just wanted to keep my 5th place (still convinced all the girls ahead of me were 5 milers). I *finally* saw the finish and the clock read 44:12 when I crossed the line. Not as fast as I wanted, but Mark told me I crossed the line in 2nd overall (which means 3 of those super fast girls were 10 milers who were doing ANOTHER loop). He also told me they were only about 30 seconds ahead of me (and the winning 5 miler girl finished only about a minute ahead of me) and I had closed alot of the gap during the back-half of the race. So that made me feel better about my time (and when I looked at last year's results, I would've also gotten 2nd overall with my time as well - so I'm not as slow as I thought, it was just a harder course than other trail races I've done).

We stayed around the the awards (I needed to build up my pint glass collection) and I got to stand on top of the podium as I won the 30-39 AG (NEVER have gotten to stand on top of a podium - it was weird and Mark said I looked really uncomfortable up there, haha). It's too bad this was the last trail run in the series this season, but I am toying with the idea of signing up for a few of the races in the spring series. I love the laid back environment and EX2 Adventures runs a first-class event every time. Plus, trail running is supposed to help build strength and make one a stronger runner overall and who can't use a little of that?? It was good to see some of the other Team Z'rs out there and I'm excited for the 2012 season!

02 December 2011

Random Friday Facts

1) I think that peanut butter and chocolate is the most amazing food combination ever.

2) I started running when I was 12 - my mother decided I needed an extracurricular activity and made me join the middle school x-country team. There is no arguing with my mother when she uses a certain tone of voice with you.

3) I'm working on my 2012 goals (both athletic and non-athletic) and I think I have most of them figured out. I've definitely put more thought into the 2012 goals than any other year so far.

4) We just moved office locations at work. My new office is now located just steps away from the Main Kitchen where the admin staff bring all leftovers from lunch meetings. I think the free food gods were smiling on me during office assignments.

5) My left arm has been a troublemaker at swim practices this week. Every single deck coach has stopped me to tell me something I am doing wrong with it during my swim stroke. Hopefully once I fix all the idiosyncrasies, my swim stroke will be much more efficient.

6) I haven't owned an alarm clock since college. I use my cell phone.

7) I used to be really good at getting to to work before 8:30am. Now, well, let's just say I am not.

8) Every time I visit my parents in New England (or they come down to see me), they bring me Maypo because you CANNOT find this amazing breakfast food in stores in the "South." It is a precious, precious commodity in my house (and thank goodness Mark doesn't like it, otherwise I would have to share).

9) The smell of oranges remind me of Christmas.

10) Tonight I am babysitting a friend's three kids (all age 9 and younger). I owe her because she watched our dog for us when we went away for a weekend. When we went to pick our dog up, she told me that "If I can handle my dog, I can handle multiple children." We will see after tonight :)

11) I spent last evening having a "Christmas Story" and "Christmas Vacation" quote war with my in-laws on FB. I haven't laughed so hard in ages.

12) I have a neighbor who is really good at finding food porn on the internet. And every time she finds something chocolatey and delicious, she tags me in a link on FB and I can't resist - I have to make whatever it is she found. One week it was chocolate chip cookie oreo brownie bars. Another week it was chocolate wasted cupcakes. And this weekend it is going to have to be this: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Torte with Mousse.