Sunday, March 30, 2008

Biking outdoors at last...

What a great way to end a month that at times seemed like it would go on forever... snow, snow and more snow... and actually I think the last day of the month will bring more snow but TODAY we had the chance to bike outdoors for the first time since last November! With the right gear (thanks to a quick trip to the new North Face store), it was a beautiful afternoon out on the roads around Lake Independence. Isn't there something kinda breathtaking about riding past frozen lakes? The best thing was feeling 100 times better than the first outdoor road last spring - which wasn't actually until May if I recall correctly. So, despite the pain I have to say somewhat regular attendance at Johnny J's spin class is worth it!

Of course, having a brand new bike and loving it more each time I sit on it helps :)

(the end)

An unexpected 5k PR!

About a month ago Pam told us about a 5k event in honor of St. Paul police officer Joe Plant who died suddenly last year. Pam's former colleague is married to Joe's sister and she'd heard about the event being held to raise money for a memorial fund and to put a bench in his memory at Lake Phalen in St. Paul where Joe spent many hours training for his running events... By all accounts Joe was the sort of person you would not forget if you were lucky enough to spend time in his company and certainly he was taken far too soon. So myself, Pam, Karen & Tanya headed over there for the 8:30am start and were delighted to see a huge turnout. Having run our 20 miler yesterday we were all feeling a little tight and certainly I had no intention of taking off like a bat out of hell. But Pam had other ideas... and yes, I just felt like I had to keep her company! In her words 'you teach me to run distance and I'll teach you to run a fast 5k'. And she meant it - 20 minutes later Pam crossed the finish line and I was about 15 seconds after her - not bad for tired legs! To cap off a fun morning with friends we had brunch at the Egg & I off University... I don't think I need to eat for about a week...

Helen Lavin 30F 20:12 6:31

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Longest Run...

With a 50k only 2 weeks away we needed to get a long run in this morning. It all seemed like a good idea until my friends announced their engagement earlier this week and had a few of us over for dinner last night. Let me just say that running 20 miles after a bottle of red wine feels exactly as it should. Miserable. Still, it was probably the best thing for me. And really I couldn't complain as it was totally self-inflicted over-indulgence whereas Kami was struggling through on a few hours sleep due to her class assignments on top of a busy work week.

Chippewa Falls will definitely be an early season warm-up and not a race for me - but just to be safe I'll pass on the wine the night before.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Orbea Ora

What a beautiful piece of machinery... made in Spain and put together by the very helpful staff at Grand Performance in St. Paul...

Yes, I even got it in my native Sligo colours...

I'd been thinking about a new bike since the start of the year and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the Ora was within my budget. Jeff helped me put together the custom order a few weeks ago and then Dan fitted me on Friday. A few adjustments later (including a few shims in my right shoe due to my leg being a good centimeter shorter!) and it was ready to be picked up yesterday... So for once I am actually looking forward to spin class on Tuesday! And even better will be getting out on the roads in a few short weeks... not that you would think it looking out the window today at the 4-5 inches of snow that have fallen since Thursday night. The ironman bike ride is the end of April so I figure a few practice sessions on the road in the lead up to that and a good 62 miler that day. What a great start to the season considering last year I didn't get on my bike until the middle of May!
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News of the week is that I can actually cook after all - well, sort of. Omelets turned out quite tasty even if I do say so myself. I had a few of the girls over for brunch yesterday and we feasted on omelets, waffles, fruit and of course chocolate being the end of Lent and all - not that there was a lot of fasting done on my part...

Yes, the empty plate at the end would be mine!
After we got done eating, the girls kindly cleaned up in the kitchen...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

For the first time in my 3 years here I actually partook in the celebrations! It continues to amaze me how into it the locals are but I suppose any excuse to party a little... or a lot... certainly the folks in Chicago were making the most of it this weekend. Myself, Karen and Tanya headed down there for the weekend. Karen's email a few days prior to the trip was titled: "Chicago weekend: bring your running gear and drinking shoes!" As it turned out we spent about equal time running and drinking - but don't worry, we didn't mix the two...

I flew into Midway so I met the girls in town and we headed out to Karen's friend's place in Lincoln Park who had kindly given us her fabulous condo for the weekend. Found a local grocery store and did the usual stocking up of food - it's always the same when I travel for weekends these days - I get such a buzz out of food shopping in new places and finding things the local co-op doesn't have - and always seem to buy enough food for a week... still, an hour in a grocery shop generally does a lot less damage to my wallet than an hour in a clothes shop so it's probably not a bad thing! Back home, we relaxed and chatted for the rest of the night.

Up early Saturday morning to run the lakefront, we got in about 14m in pretty good conditions - a little windy here and there but so much nicer than the previous weekend when we ran from Gear West and basically froze! Got to see lots of the sights along the run including an array of wonderful architecture and sculptures - one of which would be better suited to Seattle (a coffee bean) - but it is very cool all the same! After the run, we got cleaned up and headed back into town in the hope of catching the second half of the Ireland vs England Six Nations rugby match at Fado irish bar... should have known better - there was a line into the place since 9:30 that morning! I caught the score anyway at 16-10 to England so I decided I was better off not watching it. Grabbed a much needed coffee and headed over to another bar nearby - Celtic Crossing - where we met Karen's friend Tom. Funny guy. Lots of interesting stories from Karen's sordid past... 15 years in Chicago equals a lot of history! Six beers later I was well ready for food. It was either that or spend the rest of the day in the pub. And I am glad we chose the food. It had gotten cold outside - the beer induced heat not quite enough to insulate against the windy city - so we found the nearest place (Hard Rock Cafe) and sobered up with a good hearty meal and gallons of water!

After that we were ready for the real action - a visit to the shops on Michigan Ave! We made it through quite a few of them, mostly just googling at the jaw-dropping price tags (Burberry etc) until we found our way to the altogether more reasonable North Face. $200 for a technical jacket I don't need - no worries! Tanya still had her $500 voucher from the race in December so I helped her make light work of that... she even managed to go over and had to pay a few dollars towards her large bag of goodies! Despite our great intentions earlier in the day, by the time we left the NF store at 8pm we'd all decided against re-joining the party and instead headed home to eat our picnic dinner and relax with a glass of wine. How sensible indeed.

Sunday morning Karen's friend Fiona picked us up and brought us to the swanky club where Karen used to work out - and which is frequented by Oprah and Obama no less! We didn't spot either but there was no shortage of people watching to be done. The facilities are top notch but at $160 a month I figure you'd want to be guaranteed at least one celebrity-spotting a visit. There was still some sight-seeing to be done so we headed outside for a run along the river and south along the lake to Soldier Field (home of the Bears). Back to the Bean then for a quick photoshoot. Karen's knee was not cooperating so we grabbed a coffee and a taxi back to the gym.

Next up a fabulous brunch at the House of Blues - very neat venue. And such a selection of food. The omelet was very tasty but I think top honours must go to the waffles. Yum yum yum. And the music was fun too! Fiona kindly dropped up downtown afterwards - right to the door of Tiffany's - where again we had a few deep breath moments as we asked prices on the sparklers that the recently engaged Karen is eyeing up. Honestly Tim, we didn't encourage her. Well, not too much.

And then back to the airport. Whereupon my flight was delayed for 2 hours zzzzz didn't get home until 11pm. Still, it was well worth it after the fun weekend we had!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring is here!

Ok - I am calling it. Fingers crossed the weatherman is correct and we are finally over the worst of it. Not only did our clocks change so that we now have an extra hour of light in the evenings (yeah!) - there will be multiple days over 40F this week - the first time since mid-November! As much as I love having 4 seasons in the year (as opposed to Irish weather of 4 seasons in any one day) I am so ready for warmer weather. It has seemed like the longest winter despite spending 3 weeks of it in New Zealand and another week back in Ireland. I guess next year I need to plan even more trips...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New month, new me...

So I am kicking off my New Year a little late, like 2 months late, but better late than never. And with that comes a return to spin class. Ugg, pain! Yes, on Tuesday night I returned to 2hr spin class (mercifully shortened by 10 mins to allow time for stretching). So I am hoping to keep it up twice a week until end of April when we hopefully can get back outdoors - hoping to do the Ironman bike ride in Minneapolis which I think is April 27 or thereabouts. The good news is that it may get a lot better once I get my new bike - yes, I have decided it's time to buy my way to a more comfortable and thereby faster ride... or at least that's what I am banking on. I have my eye on an Orbea Ora so fingers crossed I can get what I want within my budget. If not, I guess the basement repairs will just have to wait... who says money can't buy you happiness?!