Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guess what? I went to China!

It still feels a bit surreal and funny to say that out loud in writing.  So although I abandoned you for the past almost 2 weeks, I didn't do it for no good reason!  Last Sunday I woke up at 4:30 a.m., showered, dragged my suitcase out the door once again and drove 2.5 hours to Newark airport where I got on a 14-hour flight direct from the U.S. of A. to Shanghai, China!

I spent the past week and a half in Shanghai and Beijing for work and had such a memorable, fulfilling, education and fun trip both professionally and personally.  I cannot wait to share all the little details with you and want to give the trip the justice it deserves but also don't want to get too far behind on life and posting while I am waiting to write all about it.

I arrived back on Wednesday night after a 14 hour flight, which is pretty much an odd sensation because I left Beijing at 3:45 p.m. and arrived 13ish hours later at 5:30 p.m.!  Time travel!

I then went through immigration, baggage claim, customs, retrieving my car, driving back from Newark to Albany, to finally arrive home around 9:30 and collapse in bed at 10:00 p.m.  I felt really good today, worked a full day, did some errands after work (including changing an air filter and resealing the weird rubber part of my windshield that broke recently... very satisfying to do on my own!), cleaned my clothes, and... repacked a bag.  Yes, I am serious, and no, I am not crazy.  This time it is just for a couple days as I am heading to Vermont for a race.

It's Tough Mudder weekend, baby!!

I'm quite nervous about how I'll fair during the race but excited for the adventure and hopeful feeling of accomplishment at the end.  I'm also excited as I'll be doing this run with a group that includes my little brother.  It will be fun to do this together as it is something we've talked about for years.  I can't wait to see what the weekend has in store!  Talk to you all soon.

Friday, May 16, 2014

My 5th CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge

Hey guys, happy Friday, I hope you all had a good week!  I was pretty busy and had a hard time finding the energy and motivation to tell you about what's been going on in my week, but there has been some pretty fun stuff.

As I mentioned, I started my week on Cape Cod for work, where I was treated with some beautiful scenery with the beach out my window and some delicious eats as well.  I had the pleasure of being able to get coffee at Mary Lou's coffee shop, is a staple for many and has incredibly delicious flavors.  I was pumped when I realized that there was one right near where we were working for the two days.

Their girl scout cookie coffee was deeeelish!  I also found a little sandwich place nearby that I enjoyed while working one day.  Lately I've been on an avocado kick and realllly enjoying having a lot of it in my life.  In the form of guacamole, on sandwiches, in salads, or however it is dished up, it's been tasting quite good lately.

And like I said, the views aren't too bad at the Cape.  I was lucky enough that my job gave me this great opportunity to spend some time here and have some fun too.  

I mean, just wow, right?

The event that we were hosting involved a lot of Instagram photographers and it was a really fascinating couple of days for me that involved picking their brains quite a bit.  I learned a lot about Instagram and downloaded a few new apps to play with and ordered some little lenses that you can use with an iPhone to try out on an upcoming trip.

Fisheye lens here I come!

On Monday while on the Cape I was able to get in a 4 mile hilly run that was really nice and I did 2 miles on Sunday night as well because I was feeling guilty over the fact that I didn't get a long run in over the weekend and that I ate so much with my family on Mother's Day.  I've been having quite a bit of back and forth fighting with myself over my fitness and eating habits lately.  It's definitely been hard to be in a routine while on the road and even now that I am home, I know I have more trips coming up so it's easy to just "stay bad" until I can eat healthy for real.

I got back to Albany late on Tuesday night and woke up early on Wednesday to meet my friends for a run.  We did a 3 mile run with hills on Wednesday and by the end of the day I was so wiped from everything over the past week and a half.  I came home from work and was in bed at 7:15, fast asleep at 7:30 p.m.  I got ELEVEN hours of sleep on a week night, which is just insane but my body needed it.  I felt a bit better on Thursday and had a really nice day at work because it involved going out to a celebration lunch honoring one of my coworkers who was named one of the Capital Region's top "40 Under 40" leaders.  The lunch included a really delicious chicken dinner, which was impressive since there were 700 people attending and it's hard to cater a group that big!

I don't know if it is because I went to bed so early the night before without really having dinner, but I was STARVING all day on Thursday.  The salads were already set when we arrived at our table and I couldn't wait to eat it, so I ate both my salad and one of the extras next to me.  It cracked me up when the ceremony actually started and the first speaker told everyone that they could start eating their salads.  I was only through one at that point, but my table had totally jumped the gun and all eaten their salads way early.  When the speaker told us to start eating we all looked at each other like, "Uhhh... woops?" because our plates were cleared!

And Thursday evening was one of my favorite runs of the year, the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge!  I have written about this race many times before as it is the race that I trained for back in 2010 with the Couch to 5K program I did.  I couldn't run the full race that first time, but 2 weeks later ran the Friehofer's Run and finished my first 5K ever.  I love that at the Workforce Challenge, all my coworkers come out and we run in my neighborhood.  It's a great tradition that I very much enjoy.

This year they even changed the course around to deal with some of the crowding problems that occur.  There were about 9,700 runners on a drizzly, muggy night last night, and it was awesome to see everyone out in full force!

I've developed quite the collection of shirts over the years because my company makes a shirt every year.  This year's shirt, I LOVED the color.  It was a bright pink-ish color that we were calling "hot coral" or "neon red" to avoid using the word "pink" which I don't think many of the guys appreciated.  However, I've gotten enough race shirts over the years in "guy" colors that it was great to have such a bright fun color to add to my collection!

The Corporate Challenge is a weird distance at 3.5 miles, and Jess and I actually added to the distance of the run by getting in 2 miles before it even started by running from my apartment down to the start.  Parking is always a big hassle by the race start so we figured we'd just get an extra couple of miles in and avoid the mess, which worked out well!  Since it was sort of drizzly, I think people probably assumed that my sweat was probably just rain, which is fine by me :)

I was really happy with my time at the end of the race.  Despite not "running" the race for a time, Jess and I tried to keep a steady pace and stuck together for the whole thing.  At the very end the race has a downhill finish, where I was feeling pretty good.  I kicked it into high gear for the end and felt satisfied crossing the finish line with a time of 31:59 for 3.5 miles.  I was even more impressed when I compared my time to that of last year, which was 36:09 (although granted, last year the course was different and I probably had a slower start, plus it was right after my first half marathon and I still wasn't feeling good on my legs yet.)

After the run, my coworkers all went to a local bar to partake in some celebratory drinking, which was really fun and led to a little bit of a later night that probably I should have had!  I had a ton of fun though, made some new friends, and kicked a little butt in a game of darts.  I haven't played in a while, so it was fun to get a game in.

Today started far too early considering the night I had, but Jess, MM (a new runner in our morning crews!) and I got up for what felt like a creaky 3 miles this morning.  But we pushed the run back from 5:40 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.  Indulgent, huh?

Anyways, on the way over to run this morning a problem with my car popped up again that I've been having.  And when I say "popped up" I literally mean "popped up."

Do you see that thing sticking off the side of my windshield?  For the past couple weeks the liner thing around the windshield keeps coming undone.  It is pretty annoying but kind of funny.  It happened the other day when I was getting off the highway and it was flapping around like crazy.  I actually put my window down and held it with my hand until I could pull over and push it back in.

Looks like I'll have to get that taken care of soon!

Anyways, I feel like I am rambling and should probably log off.  This week took a lot out of me and I actually have a ton to get done tomorrow given it is a Saturday!  However, I've got a fun adventure coming up so I am very much looking forward to getting the errands done tomorrow.

Hope you had an exciting Friday night, more exciting than mine on the couch!  [Although I did "virtually" watch a movie with my friend Ari in LA which was sort of nice... we hit "Play" for Safe Haven off of Netflix at the same time and chatted via G-Chat while we both watched from our couches on opposite sides of the country.  Technology for ya, huh? :)]

Monday, May 12, 2014

L.A. excursion and Mother's Day

As I mentioned, I jumped from Las Vegas over to Los Angeles after the end of my work trip last week.  I arrived in LA on Thursday evening and met up with my two college best friends, Ari & KV.  Ari moved out to LA last August and it is hard to believe it has been nearly 2 years since I saw her!  KV is in New York City so I am lucky enough to get to see her more often -- most recently on my trip in December, when I ended up coming down with strep throat, but also last summer when I joined her work team for a soccer game under the lights.

I found out last weekend that KV was going to L.A. to visit Ari from Thursday to Sunday so I did a little wiggling with my schedule and since I was going to be so close, decided to join in on the fun for a couple nights with them in Los Angeles.  As long as it had been since I'd seen Ari, it was even longer since the three of us have been together!  We always have so much fun together and as soon as we were a threesome again, the laughs started and did not stop.  There were belly laughs until we were crying from the moment we were together and we had a great couple of days.

When I first introduced KV on the blog, I mentioned that she is an incredibly talented designer and I just want to say that I am totally blown away with Ari too and her role with an incredibly well known TV show.  She is putting her talents to great use and is totally killing it in LA and I loved being able to see her in her element.  I've written a lot about my home friends, the girls I've known since I was little, and my Albany friends as well, but I don't always write about how special my college friends are.

These girls and I saw each other on a daily basis during a very critical time in our lives.  We were away from home for the first time, living on our own, trying to figure out what to do with our lives, learning who we were as people, and just trying to survive the awkward and crazy days of our college years.  It makes me so incredibly proud and happy to now see these girls at jobs that are so perfectly suited for them.  It makes those anxiety-filled years of taking classes, writing papers, and internships & job interviews all seem worthwhile.  Plus, the years after college where being unemployed was scary, some jobs were just jobs, and life seemed overwhelming... well, life may never not seem overwhelming, but you learn as you get older and things figure themselves out.  For anyone out there in college who doesn't know exactly what they will do when they graduate... have faith & patience -- and work your ass off -- and you will get there.  We all did in our own time.

So anyways, Ari had to work on Friday so KV and I explored "the Grove" and the L.A. Farmer's Market -- which originated in the 1800s -- and then took a bus tour of the city.  The farmer's market was pretty cool and was made up of all sorts of little restaurants and stands where you could buy food, including food from all over the world.  After browsing, a Brazilian shop caught my eye, and I decided to eat there.  I'm so glad I made that choice because it was delicious and totally brought me back to my trip to Rio de Janeiro with the feijoada that I ate. YUM, I love this dish (which reminds me... I still have the ingredients to make this and I should try it some time!)

The bus tour we did was called the "Legends of Hollywood" tour and left from the farmer's market, which worked out well for us.  It was KV's first time in L.A. and the bus tour seemed like a good way to get a view of the city, it was recommended, and why the heck the not?

The tour started off on a high note with us learning that our tour guide, Mick, was a Brit who moved to the U.S. 10 years ago "for love" as he described it.  He used to be a tour guide at the Tower of London and one day a young American woman was on his tour, asked to take a photo with him, and then a few weeks later mailed the photo to him.  He said it was written with a note that said, "You must have your photo taken hundreds of times but you never get to see any of those photos.  I thought you might want to see just one of the pictures." and it had an e-mail address.  They started e-mailing and later visited one another, and later got married and he moved to the U.S.!  I now know what move I am going to be pulling every time I have a cute tour guide...

Anyways, the tour was a bit cheesy and the guide didn't seem to have that much to say about many of the things we drove by.  It seemed like he was struggling for things to say and pointing out the most random attractions like homeless people and his favorite restaurants.  He did take us up Mulholland Drive to a cool lookout and place to take pictures with the iconic Hollywood sign.  Unfortunately KV and I were having a day where none of the pictures we seemed to take looked cute.

Back when we were in college, after a night out, KV and I would get together in the mornings and go through all of the pictures I had taken of the night before on my computer.  We would crop the photos down to cut out fat arms or legs or delete pictures that we didn't think were flattering.  We'd often just end up with a picture of a tiny portion of our bodies or no good pictures from the night before.  Sometimes I feel like my body image has gotten much better over the years and sometimes I feel just as critical and self conscious of myself.

One of the times that we laugh about was a night that we literally tried on EVERYTHING in our closets trying to find an outfit we thought looked good and we just couldn't.  It was tragic at the time, and laughable now.  Okay, maybe it's still somewhat tragic.  But I think we all have days like that, right?  When you just can't seem to find anything that looks right?  This one night in college will always stick out in my mind because I remember seeing the PILES of clothing as we literally went through pretty much every item in both of our closets trying to get dressed.

However, one of the things I learned from KV in those mornings of looking through photos was looking for "happiness" in pictures.  I remember her saying she loved one picture because we both just looked so happy in it.  It is now something I look for in pictures and have since found myself loving photos where I may not look particularly flattering but that you can just see the happiness flowing out of the image.

We always have fun together.  And one of the things I love about hanging out with KV is that she pays such close attention to detail which leads to some comical things I might otherwise have missed.  Such as this incredibly specific sign.  A fine of $541?  Seriously? Was $540 too little?

We drove down the Sunset Strip, stopped at Hollywood Blvd. and toured the "Walk of Fame" where you see stars names and handprints in the ground.  Did you know that after a celebrity is nominated to have a star in the Walk of Fame they then have to pay for it themselves?  $30,000!  What an honor, huh?

Friday night we ate out at an amazing Italian restaurant Ari picked out where we feasted on fresh pasta, bread, salad, cheese, wine, and just mass amounts of delicious food.  We followed it up by heading to a really cool bar that made me feel like I was in the 40s.  I forget what it was called but it had delicious drinks, a fun band, and an all around cool atmosphere.  It took a few tries, but we did end the night with at least one photo that we all approved of ourselves.  Love these girls.

So, I have to share the following picture because it is just kind of gross and weird.  Remember how I mentioned that my feet were totally destroyed by the time I left Las Vegas?  Well, the grossness continued through Los Angeles.  Take a look at how puffy and swollen my feet were at the end of our night out.  Isn't this ridiculous?  My feet are like little sausages here.

I unfortunately was not able to stay longer with my friends in LA as I had an early flight on Saturday morning to Boston.  I had to be at the Cape for work on Sunday evening and I wanted to spend Mother's Day with my family.  So I got into Boston on Saturday evening after a day of travel to have my another one of my favorite people waiting for me at the airport.  There isn't must that KO and I like more than to make a scene, so although it was just a few weeks ago I last saw her, we had a grand reunion in the airport as if we hadn't seen each other in ages.  Gotta love being goofy with your best friends :)

I gave KO a ride back to Rhode Island and then headed to my mom's where I crashed for the night and got up early with her to head to spin class and then home for a Mother's Day breakfast of Cake Batter Protein Smoothies.  Complete with sprinkles on top because I love me some sprinkles :)

It was really great to spend the day not only with my mom but with my siblings as well.  We went to my aunt & uncles where we had a cookout with my cousins and grandparents.  I hadn't seen my sister and her husband in a couple months so we had fun all catching up and enjoying the sunshine.  And celebrating my mom on her very special Mother's Day.  I wrote a longer post about this last year, but my mom seriously is amazing.  We had a lot to celebrate this Mother's Day and it was a really nice day that I am happy I was able to be there for!

Also, my Uncle Peter took that family photo for us, but not before taking a selfie first.  And because I am an amazingly nice niece, I just had to post the picture here :)  Beware if you take a photo on my camera -- I WILL blog that!!  Love you, Pete!

As with any family gathering that we have, there is always a ton of desserts.  This year my mom made some amazing cakes (thank you Pinterest!) including this Kit Kat masterpiece and an eclair cake.  Yum!

At the end of the meal we were all feeling a bit like we needed some shut eye, and a few of us actually got a couple of Zzzz's in.  Which leads me to the next family-shaming photo of this post.  Hey there Grampy! :)

So, it was a lovely and wonderful and FILLING Mother's Day that I wrapped up by heading to the Cape where I am for the next day or so for work.  I'm glad I am finally caught up with you and will try not to get behind in posting again!!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My week in Las Vegas!

For those of you who don't follow me on Instagram (which you should...) the reason I haven't written in the past week is that I've been doing a bit of traveling and haven't had a real moment to sit and recap!  I have a problem being brief and have trouble posting if it isn't a full blown entry.  Last Sunday I flew out from Albany to Las Vegas where I stayed until Thursday for a work trade show.  It was my first time in Vegas and it was a ton of fun but my main observation was that it is... weird.

It's a whole mix of a little bit of everything and a little bit of every kind of person all mashed up here in the desert with nothing else but man-made adult enjoyment type things all around.  Alcohol, gambling, over the top shows, bright lights, food, and all of it costs tons and tons of money.  No lie, I forgot a hairbrush and had to go to my hotel's convenience store to try and purchase a cheap little plastic comb or something and the only hairbrush they had in the store cost $72!!!  INSANE.

Anyways, although I was there for work, as you probably know by now, I always try to squeeze in fun when I am traveling for work.  Although I leave that stuff out... trust me, the week was a culmination of many, many months of work and the days were long and busy but totally fun to see the work pay off.  So in addition to the work stuff, I was able to see a couple of shows (including fulfilling a lifelong dream and see a Cirque de Soleil show!), soak up a little Vitamin D at the pool, check out the Bellagio fountain show, and have some enjoyable meals with coworkers.

The pool was really nice and I wish I had been able to spend more time there, but unfortunately that's not what this trip was about.  Plus, once more of my coworkers arrived, I avoided that thing because nobody needs to run into coworkers when bathing suits are involved, amiright?

The first night we were there, we were able to have dinner at one of the restaurants in the Bellagio hotel with a view of the fountains.  We had the most perfect night to walk around and check out the Vegas strip!  It's a pretty great thing when you have coworkers who you enjoy spending time with outside of work and even better when you get to do it in cool locations.  The Bellagio hotel was pretty neat to see inside, as well as some of the other hotels on the strip.  They are very elaborately decorated all with a theme.  The New York, New York hotel was impressive from the outside.  As well as the Parisian hotel (especially after just seeing the Eiffel Tower in person!) and of course, I had to check out the Venetian.

Another amazing thing is that as part of my job and my company's role at this conference, I organized a 5K race for conference attendees.  We have been running registration for a couple months now and I hired a race organizing company to help with an actual chip-timed, registration needed, 5K race here in Las Vegas!  I had about 120 people up at 5:30 a.m. to run 3.1 miles before the start of the conference yesterday and it was such a fun and great time.  I love sharing my excitement for running and attempts at being healthy and was really proud/excited that I could work something I love into my job and convince even one other person to wake up at the crack of dawn in the city of sin to run!

Aside from the 5K, which took place in a park, I also did a morning run up and down the strip, which was pretty cool to do.  I am starting to rack up quite the list of places around the world I have run and I kind of like it!  It is helpful, but not entirely, in helping to make up for the extra amounts of food I consume while traveling.  I still haven't recovered from the extra weight I put on while in Europe (which WAS worth it, but I want it gone now) and I have a lot more travel coming up so it just keeps packing on.  I am struggling to keep up the running & exercise & resist food urges but it is tough.

We celebrated Cinco De Mayo while in Vegas.  Which, who can say no to that?

And for the first time in my life I ate at a Johnny Rockets.  Johnny Rockets is not unique or special so I probably should have done better there... however, it was comfort food I allowed myself after I faced a fear and had adrenaline rushing through my body.  In addition to the shows and gambling in Vegas, there is also some thrill-ride type activities that you can partake in.  And I somehow found myself taking a quick lunch break with my boss and a customer to jump off the top of the 108th story of the Stratosphere building and plunge to the ground, only to be caught 15 feet before the ground.  Ahhh!$%!

Can you believe I did that?!  To be honest, I really cannot.  A warning to you all -- be careful what you agree to while drinking!  However, I must say I am really proud of myself for facing this fear and doing the SkyJump.  My coworkers were pretty proud of me too; it is fun to prove people wrong and do things that are not expected of you.

It's also fun to do things that are silly and cheesy and take you back in time -- which is exactly what I would say about one of my other Vegas activities, which was going to see the Britney Spears "Pieces of Me" show!  My coworkers and I all went together on one of our evenings off and although it was not a miraculous vocal performance (lip sync...) the show was a great visual performance with amazing dancing (although not from Britney), spectacular sets, and of course the music of my middle and high school years -- Britney!

If you can't tell, to sum things up, the week in Vegas was great.  I am not regretting any of the decisions I made because there is no point in that, but just trying to get back on track now as best I can.  I heard an interesting quote from the keynote speaker at the conference who said, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time to plant a tree is today."  It's a bit abstract, but I like it.

My time in Vegas wrapped up on Thursday, when I hobbled my way to the airport to jump over to the city of angels where two of my best friends in the world were waiting for me for a fun couple days.  But in wrapping up Vegas, let me just say that when I wrote "hobbled" I meant hobbled.  Somehow between the conference, airplane swelling, wearing of summer shoes for the first time, running, and being on my feet all day long at the trade show... my feet got torn apart with blisters and pain.  I was in rough shape at the end of the week but fought through.

Another random quote I recently heard had to do with runners and their tolerance for pain.  In a study that was done, it was determined that runners feel pain at the same time as others, they just don't do anything about it, whereas others stop whatever is causing the pain.  I definitely saw that as true for myself this week as I kept fighting on with my heels and sandals whereas others were walking around in sneakers at the end of the week.  Stubborn me.

So this is all I am going to cover in this post as I have got to get to bed.  I will fill you in on the second part of my trip later, but want to get to bed so I can get up in the morning to get a run in before my work day.  I am still not back in Albany and living out of my suitcase, however, this time from the completely opposite side of the country.  I'm blogging from Cape Cod with a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean tonight -- gotta love the beach!!  Hope you guys have a great start to your week!