running

A Running Weekend in Saint Michaels, Maryland

Last weekend, the fam and I met Mal and Peter in Saint Michaels, Maryland, to participate in the town’s first annual running festival,В featuring a half-marathon, 10K and 5K. We had a great time! Not only did we have perfect weather, but our races went well, too.

The 10K–my race–was first. The course wound through Saint Michael’s cute downtown, opened onto a road flanked by fields, then looped back through residential side streets and a small park. My favorite part was running through a little covered bridge close to the finish line.В Coming from the city, I thought the scenery was gorgeous. (Mal and Peter–now accustomed to seeing farmland everyday–later said they found the course a little monotonous.)

It had been six years since I ran a road race. Before, I never thought about strategy–I just went off and hoped to sustain an even pace. I always felt like I was going to die toward the end, though. This time, I aimed for a negative split. I ran my first mile at a steady jog. As a competitive person, I’ll admit that it was tough to see tons of people blow by me. But I just reminded myself that I’d be passing them later–and that turned out to be true. I stepped up my pace in the second mile and really increased my speed in the final miles. I was especially glad I took it slow in the beginning because the course, while “flat and fast,” was also hot–there was almost no shade and the temperature was in the 70s by the end of the race.

I felt great when I finished–so good, in fact, that I wondered whether I should have pushed myself more.

My time was 57:28, which equals about 9:16 a mile. That’s well behind my best 10K time of 53:31, but I was still happy with my results–not bad, considering I only restarted running 2 months ago! And now that I have a new base time, my goal is to keep running to chip away at it and try to beat my personal record.

Mal and Peter’s race–the half-marathon–started around the time I finished. So we hung around the finish line to watch the runners come in. I’m always wowed at how fast other people are. The top finisher clocked in at 1 hour, 12 minutes–not much longer than it took me to run less than half the distance.

Mal and Peter came in a little after the 2 hour mark. (They ran together the whole time–so cute!)

We rented a cottage for the weekend, which turned out to be way better than staying at a hotel. I felt more relaxed staying in an actual house and being able to make our own dinner and breakfast before the race. Plus, the aptly named River House, which I found via VRBO, was charming and in a gorgeous location. It had an expansive green yard complete with Adirondack chairs…

…sunny sitting areas…

…airy bedrooms…

…amazing views…

…and, best of all, a long wooden dock perfect for sunbathing and sipping drinks–which I promptly did the minute we got back.

The town of Saint Michaels is equally as charming. Boutiques, restaurants, mom and pop shops, a winery and brewery line the quaint main street. We had a great post-race meal atВ Ava’s,В a local pizzeria and wine bar. Their pies were fantastic–light and crispy with fresh toppings. (I hate to admit it, but they topped the pies I’d eaten a few days earlier atВ Forcella, a newish downtown NYC pizza place.) The previous day, we also had tasty sandwiches at the Big PickleВ and great cookies and doughnuts from Sweetie Bakery.

For our celebratory post-race dinner, we headed to the Crab Claw. To get there, we walked through part of the harbor, passing stately waterfront B&Bs along the way.

The Crab Claw is right over the water and has the perfect ambience for a summer meal. The tables are close to the edge of the pier and there are no ropes or guardrails. We joked about falling in–and then a little kid did, while we were eating! His mother and another patron fished him out. According to our waitress, it happens all the time–and the staffers usually have to jump in and rescue them!

Our waitress told us that due to the weather, the blue crabs they had that weekend weren’t the best. So we opted for snow crab. I was initially disappointed–until the snow crabs came out. They were fantastic and cooked perfectly–a great way to close a super-fun weekend.

Have you taken any running trips/vacations? I’d love to hear where–I’m already looking forward to planning another!

Off to Run!

St. Michaels Photos

I’m heading to Maryland this weekend, but I’m not going to my sister’s place, as usual. Instead, we’re meeting in Saint Michaels, a historic town on the Chesapeake. We rented a lake house, but won’t be chillaxin’ the whole time. Mal and Peter are running a half-marathonВ (so excited to cheer them on!). And I’m running a 10K.

I went through a 5-year running phase during my early to mid-20s. I ran a half-marathon, two 10Ks and a few shorter road races. But a couple years ago, I decided to restart ballet and couldn’t balance both activities. So I gave up running and didn’t miss it at all. Until recently. Mal and Peter’s half-marathon training motivated me to jog twice a week on non-ballet days. And I’ve been enjoying it way more than I remembered.

Some of the best runs I’ve had were during my recent weekend trips. I loved running along Chicago’s Lake Trail

В …and by the canal houses in my sister’s Maryland neighborhood…

Ocean Pines, Maryland

…and when I was in Boston, I was so happy to complete one of my all-time favorite runs: the loop from Harvard to MIT–especially the run over the Mass Ave. bridge. (That was the one nostalgic thing I managed to do that weekend–and good, too, to work off the calories I consumed!)

I’d originally planned to run a 5K this weekend. But I felt so good during those long runs that I signed up for the 10K.

The other day, I found my time for the last 10K I ran in–back in 2005. I finished in 53:31. I have no idea how I’ll do tomorrow, but I don’t think I’m going to be as fast. Overall, I feel like I’m in better shape now, but I’ve only been running for two months. The bulk of my exercise is ballet, which really is my first love. So I’m going to be proud of whatever time I get–though of course I’m hoping to come close to that old number!

Got any last-minute running advice for me? I’d love to hear your tips!

(Top photo via TripAdvisor)

A Weekend in Chicago

Last weekend, I went to Chicago to visit my good friend Lindsay, who moved there a few years ago. Even though I got in late Friday night and left Sunday afternoon, I still managed to see/do/eat a ton. Lindsay was a fabulous host and planned a great weekend–we really packed in as much as we could for my very first trip to the Windy City!

Lindsay lives at the intersection of two great neighborhoods–Old Town and Gold Coast–and is just a few minutes from the lake. So on Saturday morning, I woke up early and went for a run along the Lake Trail. It was chilly but sunny and I was excited to see so many other runners out. I thought Boston was a big running city, but it’s got nothing on Chicago–I’ve never seen so many runners out at once.

I planned to go for a short jog, but ended up running about 5 miles from North Avenue to a little past Belmont Harbor. The scenery was so pretty that I didn’t want to stop, not even to take pictures. I did manage to snap these few, though:

Afterwards, Lindsay and I walked south through the Gold Coast. Her neighborhood is so pretty–lots of stately old houses, leafy green trees and tulips blooming along the sidewalk.

We made our way to North Michigan Avenue, which is basically Chicago’s Fifth Avenue. Once we reached the downtown area, Lindsay headed back and I continued on.

Before going to Millennium Park, I inhaled a few tacos at Frontera Fresco (I figured I might as well try Rick Bayless’ Macy’s outpost since I didn’t have a res at the actualВ Frontera!) and made a cupcake pitstop at the super-cute Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique for a red velvet fix. (Yum!)В 

Millennium Park is just as cool as it looks in photos. Thanks to the nice weather, lots of other people were out photographing themselves at Cloud Gate

…and scoping out the animated Crowd Fountain faces.

I spent some time admiring the tulips (they were blooming all over the city!)…

…and chillaxin’ in the Lurie Garden.

Then I headed into the Art Institute to explore the gorgeous modern wing and some special exhibits.

I met Lindsay in the West Loop for dinner. The industrial area has a hip, up-and-coming vibe that kind of reminds me of Williamsburg–except without swarms of hipsters. We had dinner at The Publican, a fairly new restaurant that focuses on beer, pork and seafood. (Um, how can you go wrong with that?) The space was designed with a beer hall in mind, so there’s lots of natural wood and large, communal tables.

We ordered a few small plates. My favorite was squid with farro, oranges, cheese and chorizo vinaigrette.

We topped off the evening with drinks at Maude’s, a cocktail bar with a retro vibe. (Slightly blurry photo–I’m still getting used to using my new camera in low light!)

Next morning, we walked through Lincoln Park to Floriole Bakery and Cafe, one of Lindsay’s favorire daytime spots. I can certainly see why she frequents it–I’m already planning to try to replicate the bacon and arugula sandwich I had there.

On the way back to the Gold Coast, we stopped at the Lincoln Park Nature Boardwalk. Check out the amazing view of the skyline!В 

Of course I couldn’t leave Chicago without having deep dish. So before I boarded the bus for the airport, Lindsay and I had an early dinner at Lou Malnati’s. The local chain’s Gold Coast location has a nice seating area with comfy chairs looking out onto the street and we were lucky to snag window seats. (Especially since all the pies are made to order and take at least a half hour.)

The pizza was exactly how I’d hoped it would be–thick and bready with a crispy crust and a fresh tomato sauce. I inhaled two slices. (And now that I’m writing this, I wish there was a good deep dish place in NYC!)

It’s a good thing I had that pizza, because my flight home was a bit of a disaster. It was delayed, due to bad weather in NYC. And when the pilot attempted to land at LGA, the wind made him overshoot the runway–which we skimmed before taking off again so we “didn’t end up in the water.” We ended up flying to Philly, refueling there, then turning around and flying back to LGA. I got home at 3 a.m.

But that was the only dark spot on the weekend. Thanks again, Linds, for being such an awesome host–can’t wait for my next trip out there or your next jaunt out east!

Ragnar Relay: Let’s Do This!

Anyone who has had the pleasure (misfortunte?) of spending time with me, Mal or Peter over the past few weeks can attest to one thing: We’re fixated on putting together a Ragnar Relay team.

Ragnar has been around for a few years and all their races follow this format: Teams of 12 people run 200 miles–in some of the country’s most scenic areas–over 36 hours, including overnight. Each person runs three legs that range in distance from about 2 to 12 miles. (So someone might run 3.8 miles, then 7 miles, then 3 miles.) And since the race is designed for people of all skill levels, your group can include both beginners, who just run a few miles each leg, and seasoned runners, who can take on 10 or so miles in a leg.

We looked through almost all the courses and decided that the Miami to Florida Keys relay seems the most appealing. The route is flat, gorgeous (right along the water and over several bridges!) and it’s next January, which leaves plenty of time to train. Plus, it’d be a perfect excuse to escape to someplace warm and sunny in the middle of winter with all our friends, accomplish something huge (200-miles between 12 people!) and rent a sweet vacation homeВ to celebrate in for a day or two after the race. Oh, and get some good exercise in, too.

Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge--who wouldn't want to run over this?

I’m not an avid runner. I actually stopped running regularly a few years ago when I decided I’d rather spend four days a week doing ballet instead of logging miles on a treadmill. But I still enjoy a good run, especially outdoors and when there’s a goal to work toward. And we’re all convinced this would be an amazing, challenging experience of a lifetime.

This video, showcasing this year’s Florida Keys run, sells it pretty well (though I’m admittedly a sucker for triumphant sporty videos set to inspirational music):

At this point, a few otherВ crazy peopleВ awesome friends have decided they’re up for joining us. If you’re up for it, too, let me know!

(Top photo via Ragnar’s Facebook page, bottom photo via flickr.com/toastforbrekkie)