Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A 5k and Two Relays on the Horizon

I honestly wondered if I would have any kind of race season or calendar for the latter half of this year. Besides my goal half and a sprinkling of summer 5ks, I haven't felt much any motivation to get up early to race or put in miles for training purposes. But the school year has finally started to feel manageable and I've been able to think beyond my next opportunity to nap...and that means my mind is on racing.

This fall is going to look pretty atypical from my usual fall race seasons, though, with both my big races being relays rather than standard fare.

First, a 5k

An old colleague of mine reached out to me a few weeks ago. He is helping to plan a 5k and wanted me to sign up/spread the word. I knew it would be a good race based on timing. It's in mid-October, so I'll have time to train and it'll be a good training race for my other fall plans. It'll whet my appetite, if you will.
The race benefits foster kids, so it's a cause I can feel good about supporting!
After my last couple less-than-stellar 5ks, I'm a bit nervous for this one, but it'll give me some focus and a baseline to help get back into racing shape.

Then, a Relay

Months ago, Kristina piqued my interest in the Fort Lauderdale 13.1 relay. This year I won't be running A1A because they've moved the date from February to January and it's just not realistic due to travel. But, the Fort Lauderdale 13.1 is on a long weekend; I don't feel much like running a half in November, but the relay option sounded fun, and Matt agreed!
Our planned team name is Surf 'n Turf
We have been having a time of getting signed up, though. The website won't let you add a relay team name or add a runner without tacking on a double entry fee. I've gone back and forth with the website support rep but the problem is on the organizer's end. Basically, we will probably plan to sign up at packet pickup the day before the race and hope that works out.

Hey, if everyone is having this issue and can't sign up for the relay, then Matt and I are sure to place because there will only be two teams running - Kristina's and ours!

Finally, a Longer Relay 

Last year I turned down Michelle when she asked if I'd be interested in running the Ragnar Florida Trail relay. I just felt like it didn't fit my plans for A1A and my legs were still kind of in "recovery"; the idea of running 15.5 miles on a trail with tons of elevation was scary.

They deferred to this year, and this time when she invited me, I agreed! I still think the race sounds scary, but I feel more confident about my running than I did this time last year and I think I'm ready to tackle some bridge running after a long hiatus.
I know what you're thinking, but this course is over mountain bike trails so it's actually hilly, not just "Florida hilly".
The race is in early December and Matt is also going to run it. The last time I ran a Ragnar I had a blast, so I'm looking forward to another fantastic growing experience. This race will be the capstone of my 2019 running season and will take the most training and planning; I'm champing at the bit to get started!

So, it looks like that ties up the remainder of 2019, if all these races pan out. I had hoped this year would be about making a comeback, and I think I've been fairly successful. I'm still incredibly happy with my performance at A1A.

It'll be interesting for my two main races to be relays. Training for a relay is different because besides focusing on your own preparedness, you also want to keep your teammates in mind. Running is usually a solo sport, even when you're on a team. A relay is an entirely different animal and requires an entirely different mindset!

Still, the basics of training will be the same. In the next few days I'll be sketching out a calendar and getting down to the work of building mileage and increasing consistency. I can't wait to get started.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Baking with VeganEgg

My latest goal on my journey to cut animal products way down in my diet was to find a suitable egg substitute. From what I've seen, finding anything that will accurately mimic a nice, fried, over-easy egg is going to be impossible, but there are a few products out there to mimic scrambled eggs and sub in during baking.

(Quick tangent: we tried Just Egg for scrambled, and while I find it's got the same kind of flavor profile as eggs - kind of umami - it definitely doesn't taste like an egg. It pairs well with toast or pancakes and I actually really like it, but it's not egg-tasting. It's just...egg-like. The texture is really good, too! For the price though, I'm not sure it's worth it.)
While the internet tells me I can replace an egg in baking with applesauce or a banana, I wanted to try a real egg replacer because I've also read that the applesauce or banana route can change the flavor and texture of whatever you're making.

So, I picked up some VeganEgg. I like Follow Your Heart cheeses (although Violife has recently taken the top-spot in the cheese replacement category for me) and VeganEgg is made by FYH. And really, I saw it on the shelf and was like "Oh I recognize that kind of, so it must have a solid reputation, so let's try it!"
I bought it without realizing you can apparently make scramble with it (actually, I bought it without knowing anything except that it's gluten free and vegan), so maybe someday I'll test that. For now, my focus is baking.

My first impression was that the instructions were pretty unclear. Generally, 2 TBSP VeganEgg + 1/2 cup water = 1 egg, but when baking, the formula is "1/4 cup water to 1 VeganEgg" I spent some time trying to figure out if that still meant 2 TBSP or what.
Not helpful.
In the end, I just had to make a guess. The website basically says you should cut down on water per egg when baking so I assumed I was supposed to decrease the amount of water and keep the powder the same.

Second impressions: this stuff smells kind of weird and sulfury. Which I guess it should because it's mimicking eggs? The scent is not overpowering or very off-putting, but it's definitely there.
I like that there's quite a lot in there, so one packet = 12 eggs.
Third impressions: Once I mixed it up and put in the rest of my ingredients, the batter really looked just as it should so I guess I got the ratio right!
The raw batter tasted good! No obvious "fake eggy" flavor.
This mix calls for 25-30 minutes at 350F, and my muffins were definitely done at 25. I'd say my oven does tend to bake a little hot, so I don't think the VeganEgg had anything to do with that.

I noticed my finished muffins seemed pretty squat, but Simple Mills generally doesn't rise very much, so this may not be due to the eggs. Or it might be. Who knows!
Golden brown!
Tender and dense, tasty, no weird aftertaste...I'd call that a win!
They were definitely baked through (no crumbs on my tester), dense inside, and super moist. I probably should have tested the VeganEgg with a recipe I know really well so that I could easily spot any differences, but I will say that the muffins tasted great so I have no complaints.

As far as I can tell, VeganEgg is a perfectly fine egg substitute for baking. I definitely plan to continue using it in this capacity. I'm relieved to have found something that works!

Now if only I could find a good replacement for hardboiled and over-easy!


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"No Excuses"

We've all heard it before. The various "motivational" sayings that boil down to "no excuses."
You know, this kind of BS that tries to tough-love you into feeling bad for having human setbacks.

Got a cold?
Pulling some all-nighters?
Working extra hours?
Losing sleep with your sick kids?
Struggling with grief or depression?
Coming off an injury?
Needing a little extra personal-time with your SO?
Just starting your period?

Covered in hives because you have the world's best luck and somehow contracted a virus out of nowhere?
That last one maaaay be a little personal right now. Don't worry, I'm not contagious.
The thing is - and no one who knows me will be surprised by this - I don't ascribe to "no excuses." No one reading this blog is an elite, professional runner making their income off their race results.

Running is a hobby.

It is supposed to be life-giving.

When you're in a situation where going out for a run just feels like the last thing you want to do...when you can hardly think straight and just need that extra downtime, that extra fifteen minutes of sleep, that extra mindless TV show?

Take it.

Go easy on yourself.

Running will be there for you when you're ready to come back to it. Forcing it can do more harm than good. When you buy into the "no excuses" mindset and then have a bad run or a missed run, it can wreak havoc on mental wellbeing. You beat yourself up. You forget the joy of running. You start to feel like running is a punishment instead of a benefit. Negative motivation simply isn't as effective as positive motivation/reinforcement.
So go ahead. Cut yourself some slack; take a little time off. Rest up. The first run back will feel like a welcome-back instead of a chore, and that's really what it's all about.


Thursday, August 8, 2019

Review: JBUDS Air Icon Earbuds

A few months ago, my cheap little MPOW bluetooth headphones started to die. It began with connectivity issues, needing to be manually paired with my phone every time I turned them on. They then started cutting out randomly in the middle of runs.

Generally, they still work, and they'd be fine as a backup pair of headphones, but I wanted something reliable for when I start training for longer races again. So I began a hunt for some true wireless headphones that wouldn't break the bank.

Besides cost, I was looking for: 5+ hours of battery life, water resistance, a reputable company, ease of use, and no slippage. If I could find a pair that also let in ambient noise, that would be a bonus.
After watching approximately 100 YouTube reviews on various headphones, I discovered that JLAB would soon be releasing a pair that would fit my needs. I pre-ordered them in June and anxiously awaited their late-July arrival.
The Air Icons have 6 hours of battery on a charge, plus the charging case.
While I waited, I received this email. I had expected to get my earbuds in late July/early August, so I felt this level of customer service was unnecessary but welcome!
Now that's outstanding customer service!
When my Air Icons arrived on August 2, I was immediately impressed. The packaging is minimal but sturdy and very instructive. The box comes with the earbuds, charging case with built-in plug, two sets of "cush fins", three sets of gel tips and a set of foam tips, and a slim instruction/troubleshooting manual.
I found the earbuds incredibly easy to set up and pair. You take them out of the case, they turn on. You put them back in the case, they turn off. As soon as they're on, they're in pairing mode; you don't have to hold down any buttons for your phone's bluetooth to recognize the device and pair up. I was wearing mine within two minutes of opening the box.
I tested out a few of the tips and fins. I found a combination of the smallest tips and bigger fins was perfect, as the buds stayed securely in my ears but weren't so tight as to block out all noise. (You could definitely use these as noise-cancelling earbuds, but I prefer the "looser" fit.)

The real question is...will these fall out and get lost? Let me tell you, I put them in and immediately forgot about them. They feel lightweight and comfortable. They nestled into my ear as if they were made especially for me. I bounced around, bobbing my head like I had water in my ears. I ran in place. I jumped and shook my head, to Matt's amusement.

The things stayed in!

I was excited to try them out, but it was a few days before I took them for a run.

They did not disappoint. I did have to "study" the package a bit and practice the controls before I got going. The Icon Air use touch controls, no buttons, so they are very easy to use and you don't have to fiddle with finding any buttons. I do think some of the controls will take getting used to (single, double, and triple taps on either earbud produce different results), but they're not very confusing.
They stick out a bit, but their profile is low enough that I think a cold-weather, ear-covering headband wouldn't be uncomfortable.
I have not tested the mic on a call because I don't answer the phone on a run ever, but I did take a little video and tested the sound that way. You're welcome.
On the run, the earbuds didn't move or get uncomfortable. The sound quality was great - there are three settings on the built-in equalizer and I found I preferred the Balanced setting best. I definitely could hear things around me more than usual with other earbuds, but I wouldn't claim they leave your ears as open as Aftershokz do, of course.

Speaking of the competition, here's a bit about the water resistance:
Another cool perk is that the case is magnetic inside and out, so the earbuds snap in and stay securely and the lid also snaps shut with ease and stays that way. It feels sleek and expensive, and the charger is the kind that can plug into a USB port either way, so there's no trying-to-figure-out-which-way-is-up situation.
My only gripe is that I wish the charger's cord was a little longer.
Basically, I'm incredibly happy with my purchase. The fact that these things only cost $59 is kind of unbelievable. I have confidence they'll hold up, and the warranty is pretty great, but if they crap out on me I'll be sure to update here. In the meantime, I'll be thoroughly enjoying my first pair of truly wireless earbuds.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Spoiling My Future Nephew

My sister told me she was pregnant during my birthday weekend in February. She gave me a birthday gift before we went to dinner. As I pulled some Harry Potter onesies out of the gift bag, my brain did a weird little stutter.

Me: "Why are you giving me onesies?"

Her: "Why do you think?"

(Later Matt told me at first he thought, "Do they think we're pregnant?")

For awhile this was the hardest secret to keep! I was so excited, but Steph and Gordon found out they were pregnant pretty early on, so I had to wait another six weeks to spill the news.
Her kiddo will be the first grandchild for my parents and the first nephew for my brother, me, and Matt; I am delighted and already spoiling him.

I mean, here's the thing. I want to be the cool aunt. I want to be the aunt he wants to hang out with and gets excited to visit. Who cares that he won't really form lasting memories of me for the first couple years of his life? I need to start now.
My lifetime plan for spoilage is to send money in all holiday cards (this is a no-fail way to win a kid's affection) and have an ongoing list of books I can send him whenever the fancy strikes, so he always has something new and great to read.

It's important to me that I set an example for being compassionate, forward-thinking, creative, and confident. I want this kiddo to be kind and gentle, but to also follow his own instincts and be unafraid to stand up for himself, others, and what's right.

Aunts are allowed to have that kind of influence, right?!
Anyway, Steph's baby shower was a couple weekends ago, so here are some photos of the beginning of Operation Spoil-the-Nephew.

I purposely avoided anything very gender-specific or anything with creepy "future ladies' man" type wording. My sister and Gordon love the outdoors, and their theme for his room is nature and animals, so I went with that vibe. I also went with clothes from 0-9 months because I figured lots of people would get him newborn clothes and they'd need some bigger clothes for him to grow into!

I also got her a Boppy, which is what I get all my mom-friends because I know it's super useful!
I individually wrapped each outfit so they could really enjoy opening them.
Here is a glance at the list of books I plan to get him in small batches throughout his childhood. I'll obviously need to add to this as he grows up.

I already gave them two board books (I Like Myself and Hello, World! Solar System) because I couldn't wait.
The baby shower was beautiful. Steph and Gordon did a lot of the legwork, coming up with the favors and theme, etc., while my mom and I played Ringleader the day of. Matt was a super helpful brother-in-law, running errands and helping to decorate the night before. Here are some photos from the main event:
Making the "birch twigs" the night before.
The candy may not match the theme, but it screams "Stephanie's aesthetic". The cupcakes were from Parlour Vegan.
Besides the trail mix bar, Steph made s'more kits and tree stump tea candles for take-aways.
I recorded all the gifts in a copy of Where the Wild Things Are.
With the wedding and baby shower within a few days of each other, it was definitely a whirlwind weekend. Steph and Gordon are now feeling ready to nest and prepare for little Baby G's arrival. In fact, when we left them on Monday it was after Matt helped move some furniture around to prepare for the crib and dresser delivery that afternoon!

It felt so special to get to do this with Steph. I can't wait to meet the little guy and spoil him rotten!