March 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
We may not have woken up in the city that doesn’t sleep, but we sure ran through it on little sleep…does that count? Last Sunday, Connor and I ran our first non-Disney half marathon: the United NYC Half. We see our fair share of NYC given that we live in Jersey and Connor works in the city, but with this race we got to explore parts of Central Park that we hadn’t seen before and travel right past One World Trade Center. Here are some highlights!
With our time from the Disneyland half last fall, we found ourselves in Wave 3 which gave us a start time of 8:10am. Temperatures were below freezing when we left Jersey (on the very first NJ Transit train) and warmed up to about 38 degrees by race time with the sun rising over the buildings. Not too bad to run in actually, but we were very happy we grabbed some cheap sweats at Target the day before that we could shed to be donated.
We started the race around 72nd street and headed to the north end of the park. It was a little hilly, but we lucked out when some of our walk breaks were perfectly timed. After doing some zig-zagging on the streets above Central Park, we headed back into the park and made our way south (and holy cow was there a big hill here!). We went from 110th Street all the way down to 59th – it was so cool! The rolling hills here were quite manageable and we started to get some more spectators as the morning went on. Shout out to all the cheer leaders along the route – you guys were awesome!
We came out of the park on 7th Avenue and it was a straight shot to Times Square. It really made me want to just take off and go, but I knew that I needed to conserve some energy for the rest of the race and from the park to Times Square…it’s a longer distance than it looks. This was one of our favorite parts of the race! The rocking music, awesome spectators, wide open road (not to mention the most elbow room we’ll EVER have in Times Square)…so cool! Naturally, we had to stop for a photo.
Between all the excitement of running through Times Square and seeing Connor’s family on 42nd street, both our watches somehow managed to get about .3 miles ahead of the actual distance and our paces became really wonky (trust me, there’s no way we had a 7-minute mile). Eventually, the pace evened itself out, but we had to disregard the distance and rely on the mile markers.
We made our way down 42nd Street and then onto the West Side Highway. It was here where we noticed our training peak. Between schedules and being sick, we were only able to get one double-digit training run in before the race. Much of our training focused on miles 7-9, which was our trouble spot in the other two halfs we ran. So those miles felt great! It was a big strugglebus from miles 9 until the finish. But thank goodness for the flat West Side Highway, some “Go Pack!” cheers from spectators, and having an amazing partner to run and experience everything side-by-side with.
If I’m going to be totally honest here, those last few miles hurt. Our spirits were high and we weren’t mentally fatigued, but our calves started to get tight and were a little painful. Knowing that we were capable of getting a PR, we kept going with our run/walk segments of 8min running by 2min walking (we did 7×3 for the first 4 miles, the did 8×2 the rest of the way), but walked up the ramp of a tunnel we went through in the final mile.
The “400m to the finish” sign was so nice to see. One lap around the track, my brain told itself, just one lap. When the finish line was in view, we grabbed hands (calves still tight and painful) and ran in as strong as we could with smiles on our faces. We ran right through the very heart of it, New York, New York, and got a 12-minute half marathon PR. Now how sweet is that?!
January 11, 2017 § Leave a comment
Milwaukee ain’t called Brew City for nothing.
Despite growing up in Milwaukee, I haven’t always been a beer drinker (what can I say – it’s an acquired taste, even for this gal). It’s only been in the last few years (and ironically, since I’ve been living on the East Coast) that I’ve grown to like beer. Dark beers are undoubtedly my favorite, but I also enjoy red ales, a good IPA, and many of the holiday specialty brews (Lakefront Brewery’s Spiced Winter Lager? YES!)…clearly I could go on, but that’s worthy of another blog post.
There have been many new breweries popping up in Mil-Town over the last year, so Connor and I decided to create our own little tour of Brew City when we were there over the holidays. It took a great deal of strategery given the fact that Christmas and New Years fell on a weekend this year, but thanks to the Packer and Badger games, we were able to navigate many pretty well actually!
I picked Connor up from the airport at 10:30am on the Friday before New Year’s Eve and we headed to the lakefront Colectivo for coffee and a quick breakfast. Our first stop…
Good City Brewing
I actually went to Good City over the summer and knew immediately that I had to bring Connor! They’re located on Farwell in—if memory serves me from my UWM days—the old World of Wings building. Their beer comes in many unique and different styles and it is all fantastic! We enjoyed our time there so much…that we actually went back on New Year’s Eve when they tapped rare Milwaukee brews from a variety of local breweries. We even got Lakefront’s 2016 Black Friday Ale! True story. Faves from this visit: Density Imperial Stout and BFG Barleywine. If you come to Milwaukee to Seek the Good beer, you’ll surely find it here.
Funny story—we were on our way back to the south side after leaving Good City the first time and happened upon Urban Harvest, like ya do. We visited Urban Harvest on New Year’s Eve (after Good City the second time…they were closed the rest of our trip, so it was a now or never situation and, like I mentioned, #strategery). Our friend (and amazing local beer insider) Liz had raved about Urban Harvest, so we knew all three of us had to go! And let me tell you, all four beers in my flight were amazing. I had the Blood Orange Wheat (new release), Nookie Nookie (Chinook Citra Pale Ale…wow!), Espresso Amber, and the Imperial Chocolate Whiskey Stout. Everything was so delicious! We will definitely be back. Beer. Local. Damn right.
I had actually been to Mobcraft this past summer during one of their tap takeover events, but Connor hadn’t been yet. (We’re also big Shark Tank watchers, so after their appearance on the show and hearing that they were opening a space in Milwaukee, of course we had to check it out) Located on the corner of 5th and Virginia in Walker’s Point, Mobcraft has an awesome taproom! Abundant space, plenty of games and comfy chairs, and a plethora of unique brews. We went on New Year’s Day, so many beers had kicked the night before; the selection was a tad slim. I started with Night Creature (sour ale) and Ale Project C (dry-hopped IPA), had a few sips of Connor’s Stay Puft Porter and Grandma Adeline’s German Chocolate Cake (a milk stout with chocolate, coconut, and vanilla), then we shared a bottle of the Malt Shop Suds Milk Stout with Liz. My favorite Mobcraft beer was actually not available—the Crimson Commander, an imperial red IPA—which was a bummer, but their stouts and BBA beers are always pretty fantastic. I enjoy their recipe creativity and think their crowdsourced business model is really cool. Join the mob and check ’em out!
When I was mapping out our brewery strategery during the week between Christmas and New Years, I kept seeing Facebook ads with this beautiful red beer and a Wisconsin Badger flag in the background. Lo and behold, it was Raised Grain in Waukesha and their award-winning Paradocs Red IPA! Connor and I were en route back to the Milwaukee area on January 3 after visiting my good friend Mandy (and her adorable 2-year-old daughter) in Jefferson, Wisconsin (Ever been? Us either. We found a cutesy little coffee shop though!) and since Raised Grain was LITERALLY on the way back on I-94…needless to say, we stopped in. Coincidentally (…or not), it was during the Badger game. We got to participate in “Jump Around” while we sipped on a flight that included Paradocs Red, Santa’s Sack Christmas Ale (because…obviously), Driftwood Porter on Nitro, and the Threesome in the Dark Black IPA. I enjoyed them all, but Paradocs Red was the true standout. Our passion, our beer…count us in for a return trip!
And there you have it—our holiday beer-ventures. Well…for the record…we also popped into Lakefront and D14 because…how could we not? We had so much fun exploring and sampling new brews. Can’t wait to see what else is in store for 2017. Cheers!
December 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
Last year on my birthday (when I turned the big 3-0), I embarked on a year-long journey of taking one photo every day for the entire year. This wasn’t my first go-around with a 365 photo project; I did one when I first moved to New Jersey and started it on my 25th birthday. So naturally, when 30 was right around the corner (good grief, where did all that time go?), I thought it’d be great fun to do another 365 project! Well, it all came to an end this past week when December 13 rolled around (no seriously, where did the time go?).
When I was searching back through my Instagram photos to find what I had done the first time around, I couldn’t find anything because when I started the project in 2010…Instagram didn’t really exist yet. That’s right. Instagram was a whole lot of insta-nothing. I also had recently gotten an iPhone at that time, so the fact that I literally had a camera in my pocket made the prospect of a project like this all the more appealing.
Funnily enough, I wrote two blog posts about it: Project 365: NJ Style and…Project 365: NJ Style (wow girl, talk about a creative title failure). While social media, life, the world, me, among many, many other things, has changed immensely, the biggest challenge of this project still remained: Oh, crap, I STILL need a photo for today and it’s 11:34pm!
But having Instagram and my own hashtag (#natalies365photoproject) made it all much more fun, despite those occasional late-night photo scrambles. I started the project doing mostly black and white photos just as a style thing, but after a short while I realized that some photos looked so great with a pop of color. So then I started dabbling in both. And for some unknown reason, Instagram tells me there are 368 photos with that hashtag…oops.
If you’re looking for a fun, new project that doesn’t take a lot of planning or resources, I’d highly recommend a 365 photo project. While some days are definitely harder than others (I mean, how many photos of my wacky socks and/or Connor can I really take?), you have all the freedom and creativity in the world to document whatever you want. Not to mention, it’s also a very cool memory to have (and Shutterfly connects to Instagram making for easy uploads when it’s time to make a photo book…just sayin). I can also definitely say that my creative photography and style has greatly improved in five years. Time to put the daily Natalie cam down till four years from now (though I am still doing the one second video of the day…stay tuned for that in the new year!).
This was no easy task, but I tried to narrow it down to my top 2-3 photos per month. If you click the hashtag in the 4th paragraph, you can see them all. Here are some of my favorites from the past year!
September 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
#NatConDisney: The Races, part 2
Where to begin with the Disneyland Half Marathon?! We went into it not really knowing what to expect and, considering we’d just run a 10K the day before, just wanted to finish the race. Well, I’m so proud to say that not only did we finish the race, we also got a PR, beating our previous half marathon time by nearly 20 minutes!
After the 10K, we went back to our hotel to freshen up and then hit the Expo at the Disneyland Hotel one last time. Connor got an awesome pair of Dumbo-themed New Balance shoes (that came with cute socks that say “fly” on them and were 30% off because we were doing the Dumbo Double Dare) and I splurged on a special RunDisney Dooney & Burke wristlet (I mean…it has Pluto and Mickey running on it and it’s a limited edition for the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend…so obviously I had to get it). Alright, on to the race!
Disneyland Half Marathon | Sunday, September 4, 2016
You know, 3am wakeup calls are really not that bad when you go to bed before 9pm the night before. Just sayin. Keeping our bodies on an East Coast schedule was really one of the best things we did! Clothes were laid out the night before (see below – I wore this really cool Disneyland Half shirt with Mickey and Pluto on it, and a keyhole back, that I got at the Expo) and we enjoyed our usual pre-run breakfast of an english muffin with peanut butter and split a ThinkThin chocolate peanut butter protein bar about a half hour before the race.
For this race we were in corral H and crossed the starting line around 6:10am (official start time was 5:30am). The first 3 or so miles of this course were entirely through Disneyland property and then we were out on the streets of Anaheim! We planned on doing 6 minutes running by 4 minutes walking until mile 10 and then play the rest by ear. Well, that went right out the window at the beginning because of the momentum of running through the parks and being in areas we hadn’t yet explored, like Cars Land (we got so distracted by the cool scenery).
Once we got out on the streets, we were eventually able to get our 6×4 groove back (hello, immediate hill and sunrise)!
Surprisingly, this was the part I dreaded the most; and surprisingly, it went by so fast! I didn’t hit that mile 8 wall that I did back in January during our first half marathon. While we were running through city streets, there were bands and dancers around as well as a huge stretch of classic cars around mile 7 which was really neat. I think all the activity and enthusiasm around us (plus all the different things to look at, haha) really helped propel us through this stretch.
Running through the Angel’s stadium was so cool and also provided some much needed cheering and encouragement. Look how fun it was! (#sorrynotsorry about the shaky video, I was still running!)
I hit my low spot of the run (hey, it happens to us all at some point) right after getting out of the stadium parking lot. I had a weird shoulder cramp and was starting to feel some effects/tiredness of the 10K the day before. During our walk break mid-mile 10, we realized that we were completely capable of whooping our last half marathon time…say what now?! We took a slightly longer walk break until mile 11, then popped open our final GU (saved my fave cherry lime till last!), and decided to just go for it! I mean, we knew we were going to be a little sore anyway, right?
We really dug deep during those last 2-ish miles (which are honestly a bit of a blur for me…and I’m not just talking about being blinded by the LA sunrise). I think we tried to stick with 6×4 for a bit but ended up taking a few short walk breaks while running backstage at California Adventure so that we could finish strong. Obviously at mile 12 we cranked it up a bit (a la Aaron Rodgers #crankitupto12).
We flew through the last 1.1 miles, grabbed hands, and crossed the finish line with a time of 2:32:20. And we couldn’t have been happier!
I know I’ve said this before, but I feel like it’s always worth repeating: the Run Disney cast members and volunteers are so nice and so organized! After crossing the finish line, it was like a well-oiled machine getting our medals, cooling towels, water/Gatorade, etc. We didn’t stick around the finish area very long (frankly, we were so sweaty and, unlike WDW, there weren’t any post-race character photo-ops). Here’s a bling shot with all four medals: the 10K, the half marathon, the Dumbo Double Dare, and the Coast-to-Coast Challenge.
After we stretched, showered, and cleaned up, we hit the parks! We got some great pics and had our traditional post-race Dole Whip, like ya do. Here are a few other favorite shots from the day: our awesome action shots, running with Pluto (naturally), and of course a castle shot.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our Dumbo Double Dare adventures as much as we enjoyed doing it! As many of you know, in addition to our running challenge, we also had a fundraising goal to meet in support of Autism Speaks. Well, I am so proud to say that not only did we exceed our goal (by around $175), but we were among the top 5 fundraisers running during the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. Our most sincere thanks to everyone who donated and support us both through the last 6 months. We could not have done it without you!
September 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
#NatConDisney: The Races, part 1
Where to begin?! So it’s been a little over two weeks since we completed our Dumbo Double Dare challenge at Disneyland…we’re still beaming about it and can’t believe that it not only happened, but it’s over already. We had so much fun! Running 19.3 miles over the course of two days was no easy feat by any means.
The best thing we did during our trip was not switch over to Pacific Standard Time; we stayed East Coast. So yes, while we were going to bed between 8-9pm most nights, getting up at 3am on both race days felt relatively normal (or as normal as that can be, I guess). This is the first post in a multipart Disneyland set. You ready? Let’s start with the 10K!
Disneyland 10K | Saturday, September 3, 2016
It’s a good thing Aladdin and the Genie were the 10K hosts, because this race went by faster than a magic carpet flying through the streets of Agrabah! We were in corral E and started around 5:50am (official race start time was 5:30am). The route was mostly on Disneyland property, with the exception of a mile or so at the beginning on the road and through the Anaheim Convention Center. We kept with our training of 6 minutes running X 4 minutes walking and did that up until mile 4. We walked the entirety of mile 4, then picked up our 6×4 scheme again and ad-libbed till the end of the race (I mean, you just gotta run all the way through Fantasyland and down mainstreet!). We crossed the finish line at 1:22 and were clearly quite excited! (I had a knack for getting photos taken mid-jump…couldn’t quite time it right to get an actual leaping shot…oh well, maybe next time!)
The Disney Photo Pass folks were on point the whole weekend. TBH, we totally had our eyes peeled for them. There’s a new weekly photo pass package that gives you unlimited photos and downloads for only $69, plus direct-downloads from the Disneyland app. So knowing that we’d have puhhh-lenty of photo opportunities during our trip, I splurged. And we got some sweet money shots! Here are a few faves:
This was also the first race that we dressed up in costume for. Coincidentally for us, the theme of the weekend was dynamic duos, and we happened to dress up as Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde from Zootopia. So naturally, we had to get a photo with Judy herself along the race route. The line took a good 5 minutes to get through, but it was worth the wait because she was very excited to see us!
Not gonna lie, I’m pretty proud of our costumes. I wanted whatever we wore to be completely functional and comfortable to run in (no non-moisture wicking clothes for these two sweaty runners). I managed to score some decent deals on the clothes and got a little crafty on the accessories to make them both happen. Here’s a before and after — look how cute we are (with our little police badges and everything)!
I got my navy shorts, shirt, and tank from Eastbay (Wisconsin-based, holla!) for $39 total, my Pro Compression running socks for $25, and Connor’s shirt from RoadRunner Sports for $26. Here’s where #CraftyNatalie comes in! I cut up the tank to make Judy’s top, then cut up the bottom portion to make her little wrist sleeves. I went to JoAnn Fabrics sans coupon (tsk, tsk, I know) and nearly broke the bank making Connor’s tie…haha, kidding! I bought a strip of fabric for a whopping $1 and used paint I already had for the stripes. I’m so proud of that damn tie! Then I made our police badges from some thin cardboard I found in the closet and drew some ZPD stuff on them. All the clothes we bought can be worn again (or turned into Halloween costumes perhaps?) which is great. Here’s Flat Judy/Natalie and Flat Nick/Connor the day before the 10K.
I’m really not sure what it was about this race that made it fly by! I was a little concerned about an ankle/calf/shin flare up that I’d been dealing with in the weeks leading up to the run. And while it wasn’t a completely pain-free run, it was manageable and not debilitating (whew!). All-in-all, it was a really fun route and we had a blast! Then we realized that we still had to do a half marathon the very next morning…
August 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
This is not a drill people.
Connor and I are in the home stretch of the epic Dumbo Double Dare #NatConTraining cycle. Awww, yeah!!!
This past Sunday, we each did our last long runs in our respective cities and both rocked it! On tap for me: 11.5 miles. I ran it all without music (though I did have my headphones in my running belt just in case) and felt really great afterward. I don’t know why that keeps surprising me lately – how good I’ve been feeling post-run. Of course it was a great run – I just kicked it through 11.5 miles and am still standing! Despite the hot and humid New Jersey summer (and those dreaded treadmill days), the number of days where I had a “bad run” were actually quite few, which I am very thankful for. Some days you’ve got it; some days you just don’t and that’s ok. This kind of venture is never just about the running; it’s about the entire journey.
My fuel plan was a few Honey Stinger Grapefruit Energy Chews (I just discovered these and am in love with them) about 30 minutes before the run—in addition to my standard pre-run multi-grain English muffin with peanut butter about an hour or so before—plus two GU Energy Gels along the way, one sea salt caramel and one cherry lime. Much to my surprise, I actually went through both my Gatorade and water quicker than I thought (they’re only 9 ounce bottles…and yes, they definitely slosh as I run). Thank goodness there was a bubbler along my route to refill!
I’ve mentioned this one part of my route before that always gives me a rough time: Alexander Road. There’s a little hill at one part and then the rest of the road is a very steady incline that you don’t notice when you’re driving on it, but when you’re running…woof, it’s a doozy. Plus, it’s pretty much in full sun the entire way. Well, this past Sunday, for the first time all summer, I dominated Alexander Road! I don’t know what was different this time, but I took the road in stride and when I got to the top, snapped this quick pic kinda sorta in the middle of the road because I was so proud. Take that Alexander!
Also in other fabulous news – drum roll, please – Connor and I have surpassed our Autism Speaks fundraising goal! Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the cause and helped us get there. We literally could not have done it without you!
With our trip just over a week away, I’m finally starting to look forward to it. Not that I wasn’t excited about it before, but as quickly as parts of this past summer have gone by, much of it has crept along at a snail’s pace for me. I haven’t done a whole lot of planning for our upcoming vacation and, even though it’s a Disney trip, I’m oddly ok with that. Though we should probably buy those park tickets…note to self. After this final long training run was when it really started to hit me. And now every time I think about the trip and the run, I pretty much look like this:
You may be wondering what’s up with all the Zootopia gifs (or not, that’s totes fine)? Well, for the 10K, Connor and I are going to run in costume as Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps! When we saw Zootopia over the summer, we pretty much fell in love with it (the DMV scene is Connor’s favorite). And we also figured that the 10K would be a fun run to do in costume. One of my weekend projects is to finish putting our costumes together. I’ve literally had the entire summer to do this and yet…there’s nothing like waiting until the last-minute, eh? Sometimes craft projects are just more fun that way. Only a few more days of #NatConTraining fun…before we have to change our hashtag. Stay tuned! 😉
August 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
The countdown begins…
After I finished my long run on Sunday, a thought came into my head. Ok, there are often many, many thoughts and conversations roaming around my head at one time (#introvertproblems), but there was one in particular that came in loud and clear: “girl, there’s only one more long training run left!”
My first reaction:
Then it sunk in:
Yes, I do think in GIFs sometimes. Occupational hazard. So what’s in store for these final few weeks? Well, I’ll tell ya…not much! Two weekend 4-milers, plus 30-45 minute weekday runs (twice a week), and then that final long training run. Basically, we just need to be smart, listen to our bodies, and put in the miles.
I’ve mentioned before that summer training has been a challenge unto itself. The heat, the humidity, the intense sun, all of the sweating (so much sweating!), training solo…it’s taken some crafty navigation to make it manageable. In addition to that, I’ve been battling some muscle pain in my shoulders and upper back for the last few months, and those of you who know my back history also know that back pain isn’t something I take lightly (more on that here: My 15 Year Spinal Fusion-versary).
I started doing physical therapy last month (which I think is slowly starting to help…ask me again in September). Right now we’re doing a lot of shoulder and back muscle strengthening moves, plus stretches to help with my limited thoracic mobility as well as posture exercises (just because I’ve got stainless steel rods attached to my spine doesn’t mean my posture is perfect #funfact). One of the therapists I’m working with is also a runner (she’s training for the Chicago marathon right now) and totally understands everything that’s going on, which has been really helpful so far.
So, needless to say, this summer has been full of challenges: training to run 19.3 miles over two days, adjusting to running in warmer temperatures, training separately, and dealing with angry shoulder and back muscles (and some temperamental calves/shins). But there’s still one more challenge that Connor and I need to tackle: raising money for Autism Speaks. Hey, they don’t call it the Dumbo Double Dare for nothin’. 🙂 We running in support of Autism Speaks, one of the world’s leading autism advocacy organizations. Throughout both of our theater careers so far, we’ve seen the positive effects of autism and sensory-friendly performances both on Broadway and at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (where I currently work and where Connor previously worked). And we want to help contribute to Autism Speaks, not only to help support their advocacy and research efforts, but also their commitment to bringing the arts to the autism community while providing a safe and supportive experience. We are almost half way to our goal with only a few weeks left! Any amount, large or small, will help contribute to this great cause as well as assist us in completing our elephant-size challenge. Here’s a link to our Autism Speaks donation page: NatCon Dumbo Double Dare Challenge.
Lastly, here are a few fun shots from this week’s runs. I finally got a photo with Bruce #2! After running past this statue for so long now, I figured he could use some selfie love.
Getting creative with my stadium mileage poses. Though I only sat here for a few seconds because WOW do those bleachers get hot in the sun! 🙂
Gotta love that iPhone self-timer. And, not gonna lie here, I really love the color of my Brooks Ghosts and my CEP socks. Plus the band of my Garmin watch and my momentum wrap matches too. Fashionista runner!