Chicago Photo Shoot

Last post on Chicago, I promise!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that in lieu of any shopping, Aaron and I decided to take professional photos while we were in Chicago.  I actually got the idea from the blog of a couple who hired a photographer to document their Paris vacation, and I thought wow how cool to have vacation photos that are actually not terrible! I mean, usually we have to find a nice stranger who doesn’t look like they’ll run away with the camera, and then you never know what you’re going to get (and I feel bad asking for a “do-over” when our heads are cut off).

I googled “Chicago wedding photographers”  and contacted my favorite one.  Well, they were way out of our “vacation photo” price range, but they went out of their way to find someone within our budget (gotta love Midwest hospitality!).  This brought us to Lane Christiansen of Willow Lane Photography.

She was so adorable and super sweet (bonus…she emailed me a few days later and said she had decided to sign up for her first marathon!) and is actually getting married herself this upcoming weekend.  I can’t recommend her enough if you are looking for a photographer in the Chicago area.

We met up with Lane after the marathon expo on Friday (it was FREEZING), and I asked her to go crazy, be creative, and basically take the reigns and show off her city’s architecture during our session.  This craziness included standing in the middle of State Street and taking a water taxi down the Chicago River and crashing a shoot of a bride so we could get the pictures Lane wanted (it was a post-wedding shoot, so it’s not like we ruined her wedding day or anything).

We are really awkward models.  I forgot how weird it is to stand there while someone shoots continuously.

We also got yells of congratulations presumably because people thought we were taking our engagement photos.  I won’t pretend that it wasn’t fun to get all the attention, but now I want another wedding…3 year vow renewal maybe??? Daddy?….

After weeks of anticipation, our picture disc came in the mail yesterday!

We got well over 500 photos, but here are my favorites:

Race Shout-Outs and The Non-Food Part of Chicago

Race Shout-Outs

Kelly is going for her BQ this weekend in Detroit! Go, Kelly, go!

Allison’s husband, JP is running the Fall 50 (as in, 50 miles).  And I think I’m cool when I run 26!

Stephanie is running the Army 10 miler this weekend!

And a VERY special shout out to my dad who is running his first half marathon this weekend at Duke City! Just keeping runnnnnning!!!


Two weeks after the fact, and I’m STILL posting pictures of Chicago.

LOVE the iPhone Panorama feature!

But really, it is THAT cool.  San Francisco will always be my favorite, but Chicago sure tried hard (granted, we weren’t there in the dead of winter…I might not have liked it so much then).

And I know that vacation photo posts are not all that interesting, especially for you folks that live in/around Chicago.  But we took about 500 pictures and they want to be shared with the world!

SIDENOTE: in lieu of souvenirs, we decided to update our “family” photos by hiring a local photographer to take pictures of us in front of local landmarks.  The last time we took professional photos was 3 years ago for our engagement session in downtown Albuquerque, and while downtown Albuquerque is…uh…there, Chicago was too beautiful of a place to NOT take pictures.  As awesome as I am with my Cannon (and by awesome I mean I use auto setting and “no flash” when I’m feeling risky), I wanted to make sure our vacation photos of this fantastic city didn’t all suck.  The professional photos are still being processed, but among them are photos of us in front of the Chicago Theater, in front of The Bean, around Millennium Park, and on a water taxi.  So you won’t see any of that here today.

We stayed at the W Hotel City Center which was a fun place.  They had Bliss bath products, an awesome concierge team, and a lot of little details that made for a fun stay.  For example, they changed the elevator mats 3 times a day to greet you appropriately.  They also had an Acura MDX that would transport you around within the area provided you listened to Acura commercials and provided feedback (I didn’t get off any easier by telling them that I already drive an MDX).

The Architecture Boat Tour that our concierge arranged was awesome! Not only did we get cookies and Starbucks, but a member of the architecture society was our guide, so we learned a lot about the history of the city.

The home of the Chicago Tribune is a spectacular landmark of a building called (appropriately enough) The Tribune Tower that was built in the 1920’s in downtown Chicago. My great great uncle, Rene designed the ornamentation and gargoyles for this building! It was really cool to see the architectural contributions of a family member in person. One of his other works: the Atlas in Rockefeller Center.

Both the Field Museum and Art Institute were worth the visit.  The Field Museum feels like what a museum would have been like at the turn of the century.  Before people had TV’s or computers, pretty much the only exposure they had to exotic plants and animals was in museums.

The Art institute housed such famous works as American Gothic and Sunday Afternoon at the Island of Grande Jatte among thousands and thousands of others.  It was overwhelming.  Also, Bank of America will comp your admission to several museums across the country on the first weekend of every month if you have a credit/debit card from them.  WE GOT INTO THE MUSEUM FOR FREE! I hadn’t ever heard of this program, but I think I will be taking advantage of it.  A full list of participating museums can be found HERE. 

I LOVE this photo! Aaron, having a stare down with the niece.

And we just walked around, taking in the sites of the city.  Chicago is really a walking city, so I had to put on my happy smile as I limped around town in the days before the marathon!  I also packed a lot of cute outfits, but ended up wearing workout clothes and my running shoes for most of the trip! The “L” was a really efficient, cheap mode of public transportation (all the locals said it is super safe too).

We had a wonderful vacation, even though there were a billion other things we would have liked to have seen (Wrigley Field, The Marshall Fields/Macy building, more mafia stuff, the Shedd).  Chicago is a beautiful, clean, and exciting city and we hope to get back there eventually!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

So, a couple of weeks ago we went to Chicago.  The marathon was obviously the whole point, but seeing as how neither Aaron or I had ever been there, we decided make a vacation out of it and do some exploring.

Vacations include testing out the regional flavor.

For Chicago, this means deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs.

Don’t mind if I do!

In the days before the race Aaron was really keeping to a gluten free diet, but after the race, when stomach issues wouldn’t ruin mile splits, his inner garbage disposal came out and the Chicago style gorging began.

I will say this though.  Chicago is lacking in the local microbrew department.  We did find PBR at every restaurant (like, even the really snazzy ones) but since we can get that here for 75 cents on college night, we refrained.  Even though 75 cent PBR was the first drink Aaron bought for me before asking me out.  Big spender even bought a round for the whole table. Ah, memories.

Also to be noted that in addition to the 38,000 + people in town for the marathon (and their loved ones), a big football game between Miami and Notre Dame was held on Saturday, so the city was PACKED with runners and football fans.

Amy and Aaron’s Adventures in Chicago Eating

I forget the name of the restaurant where we got these martinis, but it was some sort of chop house a few blocks from our hotel.  It was an “Amy” type of place as evidenced by the the photos of my best friends on the bathroom wall.  They had a cool martini menu.  I’m usually a dirty martini type of girl, but who can resist a martini with chocolate swirls?

An added bonus was witnessing a lady trying to get a very drunk man she met at the bar to ask her out. I mean, he couldn’t figure even out how to spell Julie in his phone. How romantic.

On Saturday we stopped by The Berghoff which was down the street from our hotel.  Turns out it was a German themed microbrewery and the building has been there since the late 1800’s.  The beers were actually pretty good, and the Reuben sandwich was perfect.   

So happy to be at Berghoff’s!

Our carb loading on Saturday took us to Elephant Castle, another pub across from our hotel.  I wish Albuquerque had more pubby type places because I enjoy a good black and tan surrounded by British memorabilia.  It proved to be a great “pre-race” choice because of their special marathon menu.

We ran into a very drunk man who said as long as he stopped drinking by 10, he’d be ok for the marathon the next morning.  I wonder how that worked out for him.

The official beer sponsor of the marathon was Goose Island which is a Chicago microbrewery and it seems like the pride and joy of Chicago beer.  Aside from PBR.  Apparently they have a tasting room in Chicago that we didn’t get to.  The 312 Wheat Ale was pretty good as was the Matilda.  Aaron tried out the Bourbon County Stout at a restaurant which was AMAZING.

Our post marathon dinner on Sunday was at the infamous Lou Malnati’s (sounds suspiciously like Illuminati…I kept thinking we were in a Dan Brown novel).  Thanks Allison for this suggestion! This place did not disappoint (and with an hour long wait, we weren’t the only ones vying for some pizza goodness).   Fantastic deep dish pizza, and some great people watching.

A bunch of former frat boys in town for the Notre Dame game (who still were acting like idiotic 21 year olds despite being about 30) kept trying to pick up a pair of British marathon runners. Very unsuccessfully.  Made me a bit embarrassed to be American. Luckily the pizza made me happy again.  And seriously, even though it was good…I still prefer thin crust. Sorry. 

Monday evening we stopped by Paddy Long’s (I think it was in the area by Wrigley Field).  This was the bacon and beer bar.  They had an ok beer selection, but the bacon board was heavenly.  It was also the first place we went to that wasn’t crawling with people.

This place was also really cool because if felt “local.” So many of the other places we went to were overridden with tourists.  I felt like a Chicagoan! On Monday for lunch we headed to Portillo’s (thanks Hyedi for that suggestion) for their famous hot dogs and chocolate cake.  The place was a bit overwhelming and set up kind of like a food court (it took us a few minutes to figure out where to stand in line), but there were a lot of fun pieces of Chicago memorabilia.  And it was CHEAP. And tasty.

Aaron, staring dreamily at the hot dogs.

Monday night, on the recommendation of our Paddy Long’s bartender who understood our plight to find good beer that wasn’t IPA (way harder than it sounds), we headed to Clark Street Ale House.  I think Dominick, may have also recommended it, but I can’t find evidence of that conversation.

The beer selection was big, but most of the stuff we found was stuff we could buy in Albuquerque. The place was really empty too.  Apparently people in Chicago are too responsible to go out partying on a Monday night? We still made friends though. 

These dudes were like, “take a picture of us!”  I would kind of be surprised if homeboy actually knew what Livestrong was.  The other guy actually had a job similar to Aaron’s  and had lived in a similar part of Phoenix (and he was relatively sober), so they were able to talk for a bit.

“Seriously?” Or, “Bitch, please.”

NOT PICTURED: We had a post marathon breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s which was a cute mid-century diner.  I was seriously too sick to enjoy the meal (or take pictures), but it was a really cute place that has apparently been in a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

IPO was the hotel restaurant.  REALLY trendy interior but the food was TOO trendy.  Oh, and pork belly is just pure fat. I didn’t realize that.  I was hoping for a bacon sandwich.  BLECH. The hotel (The W City Center) also had a really swanky bar/lobby, but it was pricey.

Chicago isn’t a cheap place to eat/drink.  We were really surprised every time we got the bill.  But people watching was better here than it has been anywhere else we’ve gone.  And I did love the feel of being in places that had been there since the turn of the century.

Thank you, Chicago, for feeding these very hungry and thirsty runners!

The W Lobby/Bar.  They had giant lamps.

Shout Outs and Friday Rest Day Randoms

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

1) Hyedi is running the Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon!

2) Carly is competing in her first Tri this weekend!

3) Anna Catherine is running a 10 miler this weekend…her longest race yet!

4) Lauren, my friend since 6th grade who kicks my butt at every local race, is running her first marathon, Grandma’s Marathon, this weekend.  If anyone can qualify on her first try, it’s this girl!

Good luck to you ladies, and anyone else racing this weekend! 


REST DAY! Woo hoo! Let the Randomness ensue!

Last night we spent a few hours in Amy and Aaron Heaven.

Our Natural History Museum hosts occasional “Margarita and a Movie Nights” with the movie portion being shown on an IMAX (or DynaMax as our museum calls it) screen.  At this moment in time, the IMAX theater at the museum is the only one in Albuquerque, so seeing something on the BIG big screen is pretty exciting around these parts. To me, anyway.

{I’m pointing to the ticket that says Margarita and a Movie so you know I’m not lying to you}

Before the movie, they get you all liquored up with a mini margarita! Then you proceed to theater to watch the movie.  (Also, since Friday night booze consumption is off limits to prevent miserable Saturday morning long runs, I figure a margarita on Thursday (the day before our designated rest day) is an acceptable substitute).

Yesterday the movie was BACK TO THE FUTURE.

We are crazy about Back to the Future.  On our first date, we realized we both had an unnatural love of that movie, could both probably quote the entire script, and would both gladly purchase a DeLorean if the opportunity arose.  After our first date dinner we headed over to Aaron’s apartment to watch it. And now we’re married. Back to the Future = Love.

So we have margaritas (+1 point), IMAX screen (+1 point), T-Rex sightings (+2 points), and BACK TO THE FUTURE (+10000 points).  It was a fabulous event!

Before the movie, we stopped by to visit Friend Peter at his newest restaurant endeavor, Q Burger downtown.  If you’re in Albuquerque, you should check this place out! The burgers are yummy and are made of local grass-fed beef, all the produce is local and seasonal, and the bread is baked here in town. The sweet potato tots are to die for, they have local brews on tap along with local wines AND THE ATMOSPHERE IS AMAZING! And I’m not just saying this because he’s our friend.  Completely Amy approved.

{Please ignore the red meat and bacon in this picture}

{Aaron’s gluten free version.  There is a turkey burger somewhere in there}

In other news, I wouldn’t be a true Disney diehard if I didn’t mention that CARS LAND opens at Disneyland’s California Adventure today and I am pretty much having a panic attack because I’m not there. In addition to Cars Land there are also some other park perk ups like the addition to mountain climbers on the Matterhorn and a new “Buena Vista Street” in California Adventure.  Ever since I ventured into the magical world of Disneyland on my 5th birthday, I have been obsessed.

{Everyone wears Minnie Mouse ears to their wedding, right?}

I introduced Aaron to Disneyland on his 27th birthday 3 years ago, but we haven’t been back since.  I think now is the perfect time to plan a vacation.

{Riding the Carousel in 2009.  I’m jealous of  younger Amy’s hair.}

Lululemon just announced that the headliner for the post Sea Wheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver is going to be FUN.  (The Sea Wheeze is the Lululemon sponsored race). This only makes me about 10,000 times more sad that I’m not going to be there.  Dear RnR Arizona, can you please secure Fun. as your concert headliner? Nate IS from Phoenix.

Also, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! I have a pretty cool dad as you can tell by the picture below! Thanks Dad, for: all your support, help with math homework (even though engineers make algebra 10X more complicated than it needs to be), making sure my taxes were always filed on time, fixing car problems, and financing things like college, my wedding, and that 90’s Nike wind suit that I just HAD to have (truly tragic).

And Happy Father’s Day to all you other dad’s out there! Happy Weekend to everyone else!

Dear Amazing Race, Please Cast Us, or How We Won The Great Bus Race

I want to be on the Amazing Race.

I have never actually seen the show, but a few years ago there was an open casting call in New Mexico that Aaron and I went to.  After waiting for hours to get called up, we had to leave so I could go to my wedding dress appointment, and our dreams of Amazing Race contestantmanship were over.

However, after this weekend, I am a little more convinced of our reality adventure show qualifications.

Saturday, in a huge promotional effort, the city of Albuquerque’s public transit system hosted the Great Bus Race. 30 couples had to go on a city-wide scavenger hunt using only public transportation and the ability to walk/run.

I think this is a FANTASTIC way to market public transportation.  Before Saturday, I had never been on an Albuquerque City Bus. Buses are scary.  My car is less scary.

I’m not sure if it was purposeful, but about 90% of the contestants looked to be middle/upper class professionals,  in other words, people who don’t take the bus (nobody we talked to had ridden before). If this was their plan to introduce a different set of people to public transportation, then they succeeded in recruiting (I signed up after seeing a press release in our Business Weekly paper, and you had to have smart phone to participate).

They divided couples into three teams, and each team was given a different first destination.  All of the destinations were city owned landmarks (a museum, a skate park, a library, etc.), and you had to prove yourself by scanning a QR code with your phone.

{Pre-Race, ready to go…that coffee was not a good idea}

Our first destination was the skate park…only about 3 miles away.  We, along with a few other couples, decided to start running instead of waiting for the bus, at least for the first mile until we hit the bus changing intersection.

Turns out this made no difference because we got to the bus changing intersection at the same time as the people who waited for the bus initially.  Bummer.

As a group, we realized the next bus wouldn’t come for another 25 minutes.  Since it was only about 2 miles away, several of the couples started running, because 2 miles should take less than 25 minutes to run.

I knew we’d be doing some running, but I was thinking it would be minimal, so I didn’t really prepare adequately.  I didn’t eat a good running breakfast, I wasn’t hydrated, my Friday night dinner/imbibing wasn’t conducive to a morning run, and I brought my Ray Bans which are the worst sunglasses to run with (I ended up just carrying them in my hand). Luckily I wore my running shoes and sports bra, otherwise it wouldn’t have turned out so well.

To say that I felt like sh** during that 3 mile run would be an understatement. BUT, we still easily left the other people in our dust. Thank goodness for running.

I was looking later at the event twitter hashtag, and found this:

I’m not positive that she was talking about us, but, cool if she was and thought we were marathon runners!  Soon enough! (She’s also a senior reporter with New Mexico Business Weekly, so her twitter is pretty public).

So, we made it to the skate park, scanned our clue, allowed ourselves to be followed and filmed by the city’s videographer, and made it across the street to the bus stop just as everyone else approached the park gates.

And then the bus came. We were at the bus stop.  No one else was. 

This shall go down in history as the point in time that I was most thankful to be a trained half-marathon runner.  Our ability to run that stretch made the difference between us making that bus and having to wait half an hour for the next one.

{Bus Rider!}

We were obviously ahead of everyone on our team, but we didn’t know how the people on the other two teams were doing.  We continued to hustle just in case.

We made it to our second destination after a bus transfer, and our friend the video man was there to greet us again.

Turns out, it would probably be pretty annoying being on a reality show, and I give kudos to all those people who don’t act completely awkward in front of a camera.  Because I was awkward.  If this video ever surfaces, it will be of Aaron scanning QR codes, annoyed that homeboy was right in his business, and me looking confused at the camera saying, “Hello!”

{Hanging out at the bus stop}

Our next destination, the Albuquerque Museum was way across town, so we jumped on a bus and headed to a transfer point that was in a neighborhood formally called “The War Zone.”  We survived without getting jumped, and made it to where we needed to be. We ran from the bus stop to the museum (half a mile), then to the next destination, The Botanic Gardens (another 1.1 miles).

It was close to noon, so it was pretty warm, and I had maybe 5 sips of water in addition to my coffee (less water means less trying to figure out which gas station in the ghetto might have the cleanest bathroom).  This is not the way to run.  But sometimes, the will to win The Great Bus Race is so great, that even heat and dehydration can’t stop you.

Of course our friend the videographer was there at the Botanic Gardens waiting for us (he told us he was pretty sure we were in 1st place).  After a 25 minute wait for the train, we thought everyone would surely catch up to us.  They didn’t.  We hopped on once the train came, chugged along to the zoo, scanned our QR codes, and then ran about a mile to the next destination.

{Train rider!}

We were right in the middle of downtown (lots of people), I was disgusting from running all over the city during the middle of the day, and so hungry and so in need of water.  I’m sure we were judged.  When we scanned in the clue, it told us that we only had one more destination, and it was a few blocks away! Food and water and victory were in our future! (Altogether we ran about 6 miles).

We sprinted toward the finish line after a scattered search trying to find it (it wasn’t really in plain sight), and we finished in a rather anticlimactic end because the event people weren’t expecting anyone to cross that early and hadn’t finished setting up.

So… WE WON!!!

In fact, we broke all event records! We were even interviewed for the news, but I don’t think they actually aired it (thank goodness because the awkwardness is too much).  UPDATE: My coworker just said she saw me on the news.  I still can’t find evidence of it anywhere though. Our ability to run 3 miles in a row helped us clinch the title of best little Great Bus Race riders in the land!

I think the next couple in was about 20 minutes behind us.

They told us we could do whatever and be back in about an hour for the awards ceremony, so we celebrated with pizza and beer!

{WHY do I feel the need to geek out every photo???}

It was a really fun experience, and a really creative marketing tool for the transit company.  The buses were very clean and very efficient. One of the lines even had library books for little kids to read while they ride! (GREAT detail!).  For a $2 Day Pass, bus riding is much cheaper than driving the SUV around town.  As promised, just about every landmark is minutes away from a bus stop! I didn’t ever feel unsafe (though, I was with Aaron the whole time).  The only part I’d be worried about is waiting at some of the bus stops which lack the security and cleanliness of the buses themselves, but we didn’t have any problems at any of the stops we waited at.

You can read the press release HERE

So, in conclusion, Albuquerque buses aren’t so bad.  And being a trained runner can come in handy in the strangest situations.  And if anyone knows the folks who cast the Amazing Race, please let them know that the Lavenders would be willing participants!

Albuquerque’s Run for the Zoo Half Marathon Recap

Sunday, at the Run for the Zoo Half Marathon, I made a huge  running blunder.

I forgot to start my Garmin.

As a result, my mileage was about .11 off the whole time, and I had no idea how much time had gone by.


Albuquerque’s Run for the Zoo is the city’s biggest race.  Just about everyone in town has either run it or supported a runner at some point.  Although still a “hometown” race, it is obvious that Run for the Zoo is working to slowly establish itself as Albuquerque’s destination race.

For example, last year they added the half marathon event to the 10-K, 5-K, and 1 mile Fun Run line-up (though, still no medals for half finishers).  This year, packet pick-up was moved from a local athletic store to a hotel ballroom, and it had the beginnings of an expo!  Even though the half marathon cap is at 600, it is a well-organized race, and I think it has the potential to grow.

{Packet Pick-Up Bloody Mary Bar!}

Run for the Zoo also holds a special place in my heart because it was here two years ago that I ran my first ever race.

The day before the race was Cinco de Derby (my boy Bodemeister came in 2nd), and since Whitney from Racing the States and her friend were in town from Denver to run, we met up and enjoyed a pre-race margarita.  It was very cool to meet a blog friend in real life.  I wish I could meet all of you!

The next morning we got up early and did our pre race routine of wandering around half asleep while trying to pin numbers to shirts somewhat straight.

As mentioned last week, I wanted to shake up the routine a bit and see if any tweaks would help performance.

I started off by eating a bigger breakfast.  Typically I’ll eat a banana pre-race.  This time, I ate a bowl of Cheerios and some soy milk.  I think this was a bad idea.  My stomach felt upset.

The half marathon started a full hour and a half before the 10-K which was perfect in every way from more parking to a less crowded course.  This also meant no porta pottie line (the half only had 425 participants)!

The bad side of the early start was the complete lack of crowd support.  The one thing I’ve always loved about this race is the amazing community cheerleaders who line the streets to encourage runners, no matter what the weather is doing.  I guess the crowds don’t get up that early?

We started right on time (Yay, Race People!), I got my Garmin going about .11 miles in, and I started SLOW.  I was shooting for negative splits, so I wanted my first mile at about 8:15.

Turns out trying to run slower than you want is actually a lot harder than it sounds.  With the initial excitement, everyone is going fast, and oh my goodness, I was passed and passed and passed. Super competitive Amy was not happy.  But I kept working at going slow despite my adrenaline pushing me otherwise.

I also opted to start off without music.   The first three miles where everyone is just jockeying for position is actually distracting enough, and I didn’t need it.

At about mile 3.5, the crowd was thinning, we were starting down a long straight away next to the river, and I was ready to start kicking into gear, so I decided to turn on Amy’s Workout Jams.  I think delaying music worked well.  Aside from the few minutes I spent getting everything situated with untangling headphones and trying to figure out which button was “on” without looking, it gave me the kick when I was starting to loose the race excitement.

The trail itself was full of shade.  I had taken allergy medicine and Musinex, and I didn’t feel the same suffocation that I felt two weeks ago.  I was hydrated.  There was just a slight breeze.  Overall, everything seemed to be in prime condition.

Except for my negative split skills.

I started out slow, and even when I thought I was picking it up, I was staying pretty much the same, or getting slower.  I’ve already determined through multiple races that I’m pretty good at starting out fast and slowing down, but apparently I have a much harder time starting out slow and getting faster. Plus, as a smaller race, there were fewer people to use as pacers.  I ran by myself for most of the time.

I took my Clif Shot at mile 7. It didn’t create the same gag reflex that I got two weeks ago, but I may consider less gooey fuel options. Although Aaron took the Jelly Belly sport beans and said he could only stomach one.  They didn’t provide sport drink along the course.

Finally, at mile 10, I managed to get my act together, and started to speed up.  I was actually feeling really good at this point in the race, which I think spells total failure on the effort part, so I tried to use up as much energy as I could in the last three miles.

This is where our lack of speed training really hit.  I had the energy, my legs didn’t hurt, but I’m just not trained to run that fast right now.  But, I was still passing people, and stayed motivated by passing more. Who’s boss now, early passer people?!?!

I crossed the finish line in 1:47:25, twenty seconds faster than my race time two weeks ago.

{Sprinting toward the finish!}

Also, because this was the Run for the Zoo, I sported my zebra print Bic Band to celebrate the occasion!

{Double fisting like a pro!}

I didn’t really accomplish a true negative split because… it was hard.  Starting off slow is hard.  Having people pass you left and right is hard.  Though, I discovered passing people at the end is actually more motivational than passing people at the beginning, but by that point, it was too late to make up time lost during the first 10 miles.

I truly think I could have run the first few miles 5-10 seconds faster each, and I don’t think I would have exhausted myself, and at least I would have taken some time off the clock.  I chose 8:15 as a starting point because that was the slowest I wanted to go, but I think I should have started out faster.

I didn’t have any miles that were as slow as last race, but I didn’t have any miles that were as fast either.  And I feel like because I felt so good the entire race, I should have pushed it further.

And after all is said and done, it only made a 20 second difference, and that could have been because the race conditions and my overall disposition were better, not necessarily because I started off slower.

Maybe I just need more practice at this.

There were 425 finishers.  I came in at 91, Aaron came in at 28.  He was 6th in his age group, and I was 9th.

{Three legged Aaron, going toward the finish}

My dad ran the 10-K, and actually did really well!  We waited with my mom, cheering on the other half marathon finishers and 10-K finishers until my dad crossed the finish line.  I’ve actually never stood at a finish line before, and I saw some pretty interesting things.  I saw an older lady running fully barefoot which sounds just like a bad idea all around, but she looked great.  I saw another man who maybe didn’t heed the warnings of training into Vibrams, because he walked in obvious pain barefoot with his 5-fingers in his hand.  I saw a little kid (maybe 7-8) bust out, and finish probably in the top 10 of the 10-K.  I saw a lot of determined people, a lot of victorious people, a lot of tired people, and a lot of people who looked very ready for a cold shower and a nap.

{Aren’t we the coolest? And I love how this picture accentuates my shortness}

The great thing about the Run for the Zoo is the free admission into the zoo after the race.  We went with my parents and hobbled around for a couple of hours before the muscle pain started to set in.  I hadn’t been the zoo in several years, so it was fun to see the new exhibits.  Albuquerque’s zoo is actually pretty nice.

Overall, this was an enjoyable race.  It didn’t hurt, the miles went by fast, and I’ve recovered nicely. Truthfully, even though I didn’t come in at my goal time of under 1:47, I’m not really all that bothered.  It is obvious that I have plateaued, and it is time to take it up a notch.  Thanks to everyone for all of your support and encouragement! Half marathon #5 is in the books! Not my best, but definitely not my worst.

*CORRECTION: I don’t really know what I was thinking…I ran this race only 6 seconds faster than I did the Albuquerque Half Marathon.  Sigh.

Playing Tourist in San Francisco

San Francisco is a city built on tourism.  From the famous skyline to the gorgeous Golden Gate Bridge framing the blue bay waters, San Francisco is easily the most beautiful city in the country.   Aaron hadn’t really done the San Francisco tourist thing, so when we weren’t running 13.1 miles up the hill of death during our half marathon, we got to as many of the sites as possible.


I personally think renting a car in San Francisco is nuts.  Unless you have inner city driving experience, the hills, 8 way intersections, and pedestrians will probably cause some stress. Most hotels charge between 30-50 dollars a night to park, and the CHEAPEST parking garage I’ve ever found was $6 an hour.  Taxis aren’t too expensive if you stay within a few miles.  We paid between $10 and $20 for about a 5 mile radius.  I highly recommend the $14 Day Transportation Pass.  This gets you unlimited rides on the famed Trolly, Street Cars, and City Bus (MUNI) for 1 day.  They can be purchased at Powell and Market by the Trolly Hub.  I believe they also have 3 day passes available.


Fisherman’s Wharf: Not too functional as a port, but lots of restaurants, novelty shops, and an aquarium.  Starts at Pier 1 and goes all the way down to Ghiradelli Square.

Pier 39: The most touristy of the piers on Fisherman’s Wharf.  You’ve got your Hard Rock Cafe, your aquarium, your vintage carousel, and all sorts of stores.

Hyde Street Pier: A first for both of us, this pier is at the end of the wharf.  It’s kind of a museum with historic ships and buildings.  Free (donations accepted), admission charged for boat walk-throughs.

Trolly: One of the most iconic parts of San Francisco. The main “hub” is at Powell and Market, but you can get on at just about any block along their route.

Street Cars: These vintage street cars will take you from Fisherman’s Wharf all the way up Embarcadero and then up Market to the Castro.

Lombard Street: The “crookedest” street in the world.  You can drive down (and deal with the tourists who jump in your way for a picture), or take a walk down.

Ghiradelli Square: At one point this was the  factory for Ghiradelli chocolate.  Now it is a chocolate store and ice cream parlour.  I think their sundaes are a San Francisco MUST.

City Hall: One of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen, especially for a city hall.  JLo almost gets married here in The Wedding Planner. The Opera House, Symphony, and Ballet are all right across from the City Hall.  Beautiful buildings, and definitely worth catching a show if you can.

Ferry Building: Another iconic San Francisco landmark.  This is where Fisherman’s Wharf starts at Pier 1.  There is a market inside, and the Occupy San Francisco movement is stationed right across.

Farmer’s market: Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning, there is a farmer’s market in front of the Ferry Building.  Seeing as how California produces some of the best crops in the country, the selection was amazing.  We picked up some honey and jam, but if we lived here, we’d definitely be buying some fresh fruits and veggies.

Biking the Golden Gate: Aaron convinced me to ride a tandem bike  across the Golden Gate Bridge (I was scared the whole time).  The route is undeniably beautiful though. There are several rental places along the wharf.

Chinatown: I’ve never been to China, but a walk around some of these streets makes you feel like you’re in a different country (the largest Chinese population outside of China lives in San Francisco).  Plenty of restaurants and some great souvenirs.

North beach: Also known as the Italian District, this neighborhood has the best Italian food and the best bars.

Union Square: Where all of the nice shops are (Saks, Neiman, Barney’s, Bloomingdales, Chanel, Louis, Tiffany’s, Burberry, Prada, Hermes, etc. etc. etc.).  Obviously one of my favorite places to hang out!

TransAmerica Pyramid: I’ve never actually been inside (I don’t even know if you can get in), but this building is what sets San Francisco apart from other skylines.

As much as we wanted to see everything, that was as we could fit in.  There is of course the Coit Tower, Golden Gate Park (and Japanese Tea Garden), Japan Town, Haight Ashbury, the Victorian House Row (I don’t know the real name, but you know what I’m talking about), the Castro, AT&T Park, and Candlestick Park.  There is really too much to see and do in San Francisco and far too many beautiful sights to capture on camera, but we definitely enjoyed our time there (as if it is possible not to), and will hopefully get back there in the near future!

Training Tuesday Week 10 and a “Practice” Half Marathon

The finish line is in view.  In just a few short weeks, I’ll be running my first half marathon.

Well, that isn’t exactly true.

We’re running one on Sunday, so I guess technically that will be my first.

The Duke City Marathon just happened to fall right in the perfect weekend for a “practice half” for us.  Even though I think Duke City is supposed to be a more serious and higher regarded race than the “real” one we’re  doing, it is much cheaper and with about a fourth of the participants, so I’m ok using it as a dress rehearsal.

Even though this should be more of a training long run instead of a run-so-hard-I-want-to-die race, I’m incapable of not being competitive.  Based on my pace from Sunday’s 12 mile run (much of which was along the same course), there is no reason that I won’t finish in under 2 hours.  I would be thrilled if I ran my first (practice) half marathon in 1 hour and 55 minutes.  If I run it in 1 hour and 50 minutes I will buy myself a present (but we all know I will buy myself a present regardless). 

If I somehow by the grace of Apollo manage to do this half marathon in my overall goal time (1 hour and 45 minutes) not only could that put me in the top 3 for my age group based on last year’s results (yay medal),  but I will probably also insist that a holiday be created in my name. 

But really, the likelihood of me sustaining an 8 minute mile for 13.1 miles at this high elevation at this point in my training would be a miraculous best case scenario.  Though I never thought I’d run a 5-k in 21 minutes either.  So you never know. I’m kind of a nervous wreck already even though it isn’t until Sunday and it is a PRACTICE race.  Silly Amy. 

Aaron has run this race several times including last year.  He’ll do just fine.

Pre-race…he looks so happy!
Strong finish!

(Friend Dustin ran the 2010 race as Batman…which is pretty typical for him…)

Here is our training plan for this week (because we have a race on Sunday, we’re doing a modified taper week).


Saturday: 4 mile run (should be 5)

Sunday: 1 hour and 50 minute run (we got in 12.1 miles)

Monday: Easy 3 mile run, strength training

Tuesday: Intervals: 1 mile warm-up, 5 sets of quarter miles alternating between 5-K pace/recovery pace, half mile cool down

Wednesday: Easy 3 mile run, strength training

Thursday: 40 minute Tempo run:  10 minute warm-up, 30 minutes at 10-K pace, 10 minute cool down (should be a 50 minute run)

Friday: Rest day

Oh…and don’t forget to vote for Giuseppe today! (Please and thank you!) 

What I’m Loving Wednesday: Denver Edition

This weekend Aaron and I made our way up to Denver  (story coming soon about the crazy adventure we had trying to get there). 

I love Denver.  If an opportunity presented itself, we would move there in a second.  It combines things we like about Albuquerque (outdoor/active lifestyle, mountains) with a bigger city atmosphere, better shopping, better dining, and less crime.  I think the winters might be pretty brutal, but at least they get rain!

I’m linking up with Jamie at This Kind of Love  for What I’m Loving Wednesday: Denver Edition!

1. The Curtis Hotel: This is a boutique concept hotel at its finest.  Each floor has a different theme and everything is quirky and fun.  It is also one of the cheaper hotels in the downtown Denver area, and is close to all the action.  They are dog friendly which means we can bring Giuseppe on our next visit!

2. Coors Field: I don’t like baseball.  I think it is boring and repetitive.  But when I am seated 27 rows up from just left of home plate at a professional stadium, I can deal with it.  We went to a Rookies vs. Giants game.  As a girl who left her heart in San Francisco, I claim the Giants as my adopted team when I have to discuss such things.  Just don’t tell my Yankee loving husband.

3. Oktoberfest: This was one of the main reasons we went to Denver.  Apparently Denver has one of the top 10 Oktoberfests outside of Germany.  We got to eat brats and pretzels, drink beer, watch some German dancing, and watch people as they tried to hoist steins! Pretty much my idea of a fantastic afternoon.

4. Microbreweries:  We made it to two of the three big Denver microbreweries.  Wynkoop has good beer and a charming, turn of the century atmosphere.  Rock Bottom had great beer (we didn’t try the IPA’s, but everything else was great), and the restaurant is huge so you are bound to find a seat. 

5. Broncos Game:  Unless we are talking college basketball or World Cup Soccer, I don’t really care about sports, but I do enjoy football ten million times more than baseball.  We got to borrow some box seats for the Broncos/Bengals game, so our bathrooms were cleaner and the beer lines were shorter.  The game itself was super exciting, and we weren’t sure who was going to win until the last 30 seconds.  Also, Broncos fans are much more loyal/rowdy than Rockies fans…it felt like a real sporting event!

6. Shannon Sharpe: I’ve kind of heard of Shannon Sharpe, but I was excited to see him get his Hall of Fame ring at the Broncos game.  And I was even more excited to see John Elway on the field! I know who he is!

7. Turn of the Century Charm: A lot of the downtown architecture/design is turn of the Century, and absolutely amazing.  I LOVE old brick buildings, tin ceilings, stained glass, and old remnents of what used to be.  Albuquerque chose to tear a lot of historic buildings down.  Denver incorporated them into the urban renewal.  

8. Denver Quirkiness: This town has a sense of humor.  From pig snorting noises coming up from the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve, pianos along 16th street, and “Wellness Centers” (where you can get your medical marijuana), Downtown Denver has plenty to marvel at!

Just 2 more days until the weekend!

I Wish Every Day Could Be A Summer Weekend

Another great weekend is coming to an end.  We’ve had some absolutely wonderful weekends this summer.  The weather has actually been (dangerously) full of sunshine (great for being outside, not so great for the city’s water supply)  and it seems like there is a never-ending supply of new places popping up around town, and we’ve been trying to get to as many of them as we can in between our regular weekend chores and our long training runs.

Take me to the car wash, baby!

My poor car gets washed about once a year which makes it quite embarrassing to drive around.  Apparently, though, not embarrassing enough for me to do anything about it I guess.  I’d rather spend money on almost anything else than a car wash, and the thought of doing it myself brings up bad memories of high school car wash fundraisers and having to wash dirty, dirty cars for dirty old men who liked the thought of scantily clad teenagers washing their car.  Aaron on the other hand tends to keep his car in much more pristine condition.  Probably doesn’t hurt that he has a much nicer car than I do and drives his around much more than I drive mine.  Because we’ve had about 2 days worth of rain since last summer, we decided it was safe to wash both cars, and I even helped…even though it doesn’t look like I did more than take pictures of Aaron.

Around Town

We probably hang out around Nob Hill every weekend.  We do a lot of our shopping there, and the restaurant/bar selection is great.  This weekend we also took a quick stroll around Downtown.   I try not to hang out in Downtown Albuquerque as much as possible.  There isn’t much there except office buildings and a bunch of bars that we don’t like with crowds that we don’t like.  But there are a few neat little corners of Downtown (The Kimo Theater, Chama River Microbrew, and Gold Street Cafe), and the area is in the middle of what is looking like a fantastic urban renewal.  We even stumbled upon the 2nd location of the cafe that inspired Giuseppe’s name! (The other one is of course in Nob Hill).

One of the new restaurants we tried out was The Slice Parlor in Nob Hill.  We walked by it last weekend during Summerfest, and thought we’d give it a try.  The pizza is New York style (thin crust, big slices), and they have the typical pizza toppings and three different sauces to choose from (tomato, white, pesto).  The food and atmosphere were good, but what Aaron enjoyed the most was the bathroom decor!

All That Jazz

I have been stalking Jazzbah since friend Peter (owner of BRGR downtown) mentioned that a new, upscale jazz bar was opening on Gold.  As the weirdo who listens to more Frank, Nat, and Ella than Katy, Bruno, or Ke$ha, I was quite excited to imagine an entire establishment dedicated to Amy music.  After “liking” their Facebook page I found out about their soft opening this weekend, and would stop at nothing to make sure we got there.

I knew I was in the right place when I saw a huge picture of Frank hanging on the wall, and comfy looking couches surrounding the tables.  In between sets of live music (last night there was a piano player and a bassist), my beloved crooners played in the background.  The menu was surprisingly CHEAP.  The entrees are smaller than the average heaping portions you find most places, but my shrimp entree was $8, so I’m not going to complain.  I think the steak was the most expensive thing on the menu at $16.

The cocktail menu is quite impressive, and our speciality cocktails actually ended up costing more than our entrees.  But our drinks were pretty and tasty, and from what I can tell on the Facebook page, the bartender is kind of a big deal.


Jazzbah was great.  Upscale atmosphere, good food at a reasonable price, fancy drinks, classic background music, live music, and couches to relax on while taking it all in.

I really hope that this place not only makes it, but does well enough to not lower their standards.  Albuquerque is in desperate need of places like this that offer an alternative to the usual late night bar scene where you don’t feel overdressed actually wearing a dress or button up shirt and where the music doesn’t involve lyrics so vulgar that you hope your parents (or kids) never hear them.  Jazzbah is having their grand opening tomorrow, and I’m guessing once they get the typical new business kinks worked out (for example our berry flambe dessert didn’t quite flambe because the alcohol wasn’t quite flammable enough), they will find a loyal client base.  I hope to be among them!

And so, there we are.  Another wonderful summer weekend comes to an end as the Lavenders enjoy mojitos (except Giuseppe who is enjoying his frog toy).