About this Site

Leslie Beslie is a personal blog of me, Leslie. I share articles and thoughts on where I live and things I like. This includes NYC, books, finances, running, music, cats, and drawing.

Other Projects: French Toast Brigade | Life & Spending 2016 Weekly Planner | College Football Daybreak Podcast

Brooklyn Half Marathon 2015

brooklyn half marathon bells oberon

This was my third Brooklyn Half and sixth half marathon in total. Last year, I began training too early and had lost a lot of my momentum by the month of the race. That was the first year I attempted actually training. I had a goal time and everything. I didn’t meet it. And I didn’t have a good race. I ran almost-PR’s for all my splits then completely gave up at Mile 10. I had nothing left. And walked most of the last three miles. I was miserable. It wasn’t even my worst time. But it was my worst experience.

For this year, I decided to go back to my training plan of Fuck It. This entails no consistent running schedule whatsoever. Some haphazard “long runs.” Zero pressure. It’s worked in the past so I actually had high hopes. Well, I was three-minutes slower this year than last year. But my overall experience was far better.

Last year, I did not run to the best of my ability. I gave in to my mental weaknesses. This year, I know I could not have ran that race any better. Unless I actually trained, of course. Going in with what I had, I never stopped when I didn’t need to. I never let myself get discouraged. And I really dug deep while struggling and continued when I didn’t want to. That felt good.

So my preparation for the 2015 BK Half included 17 total runs between January & May, the longest being 5-miles. I am not encouraging this. Especially if you are new new to running.

Training for the Mental Race

This year wasn’t about physical training. I already know how to deal with cramps, blisters, pacing, hydration, and dry-wicking material. Last year I let negative thoughts get the best of me and I did not want that to happen this year.

This year, I trained my brain to not sabotage me during the run. I actually wish I had done this in previous races because it helped more than anything else I’ve ever tried. It took a strategy. I came up with a plan of attack for when my doubts and worries come up in the late part of the race. I chose three ideas that could occupy my time and took some thinking.

The first idea I prepared was a current artsy project I’ve started working on for fun. It consists of multiple pages. So I broke down each page in my head. I thought about font, colors, layout, spacing, etc. The minute details were time-consuming to think about and a great distraction. The second idea was working through one of my NaNoWriMo stories. I thought about character development, plot points, sense, and the fictional world. This was another successful distraction because I really could get lost in the story world.

When I began to think Why am I doing this? I don’t even like running, I quickly told my brain “Stop!” Then paused for a second to bring back up what I was last thinking about in the project or story. “Okay, but what about the main character’s sister? Where does she fall in place.” By asking myself questions, it kept up a good distraction from negative thoughts. Or just thoughts about the physical pain I was in.

BK Half Recap

It was a cloudy Saturday. There were fears it was going to rain. It did, later on. Before the race even started, I had to stand in a 25-minute security line. Not a baggage check security line. Just a metal detector security line. … Even at this part I practiced my distraction exercises. I get so upset at ostentatious security. I often exert a lot of energy getting mad at people before a race starts. I didn’t want to make myself so upset this time. So while standing in this mandatory line for the most absurd reasons, I thought about my story to keep myself calm.

The rain held off until the race started (Wave 2). Within the first mile we could start to feel rain drops. Then it really started down pouring. We weren’t even in the park yet and it was raining hard. I’ve ran in the rain before but never during a half. I was prepared with a hat and dry-wicking everything. But it was pretty miserable. My hair was sticking to me. My clothes felt gross. My socks were now wet. There was mud and road gunk everywhere. Just kind of gross.

On the plus-side, the clouds remained the whole time. The run down Ocean Parkway is so boring. It’s flat. There aren’t too many spectators. There’s not much scenery. Since you’re on a highway, there is no shade, so this part is the worst when the sun is out. I was very grateful that it remained cloudy for the entire race.

I stretched a few times, for the first time during a half. I planned it out at certain mile markers and I really think it helped. Although my pace is slow, I only stopped to drink water and stretch. I was running the rest of the time. After the race, I felt fairly good and just had a normal Saturday.

To be honest here, the Great Saunter felt like more of a challenge and struggle than any Half Marthon I’ve ran. Two and a half hours is a joke compared to a 12-hour activity that actually takes up your entire day.

Summer Updates: Loss + Babies + Hedwig + Veruca Salt

beautiful wyoming

Life: The Circle of Life

This has been quite an emotional summer for me. In the course of the past three months, I went through a break-up, a loss of a parent, and a birth of a new niece. That is a lot of life cycles starting and ending. I am grateful for life throwing me some happy in with the sad. And I am extremely grateful for all the supportive people that surround me. It has been difficult and risky at times to form strong friendships. But it is absolutely worth it. Even the times that failed, I am still glad that I took the risk.

The break-up is painful because everything reminds of me of the person. Places around the city, my apartment, etc. I’ve had to put a lot of effort into adjusting my routine. Which wasn’t easy but I’m pretty happy with the new structure I have. Hopefully I can keep up this momentum.

The loss of my dad is painful in a different way. I didn’t see him every day so the pain feels less intense. But, when I am reminded of him, it comes hard and fast. I ran a 5K last week and was doing pretty well for the first mile. Then I had the thought, “I can tell dad that I ran near the Verrazano Bridge, he’d get a kick out of that.” And then I remembered I couldn’t. I could never call my dad after a race again. That was hard. And that will continually be hard. I just have to let myself have those moments.

Then to everyone’s surprise, my grand-niece was born four weeks early. Thankfully everyone was healthy. And while I’m not much of a baby person, holding her definitely put a smile on my face. I’m looking forward to being a real part of her life as she grows up.

NYCRuns races in Brooklyn

Running: Summer Races

Oh man has this been the summer of running. And I don’t even enjoy running in the summer, or after work. But with the pushing of a friend, I signed up for a Summer Series in Prospect Park starting at the end of May through all of August. All eight races cost only $25 total. What a deal. The last race of the series was just this past week. Of the 8 races total, I ran 6 of them. Plus, I ran two other 5K’s and a 10K as part of a different summer series in Bay Ridge.

I originally wanted to PR this summer but since my August was emotionally crazy, I just knew it wasn’t going to happen. Most of these I just ran as I would normally.

  • 5/21: 0:42:25 – Ran with a friend
  • 6/4: 0:33:39 – Prospect Park
  • 6/18: 0:36:55 – Started downpouring after mile 2
  • 6/29: 0:32:44 – 4m running, 1m walking on the Coney Island Boardwalk
  • 7/2: 0:34:26 – Prospect Park
  • 7/13: 1:14:45 – 10K in Bay Ridge, I changed my socks at one point
  • 7/30: 0:31:12 – My best of the summer, not sure how it happened
  • 8/25: 0:32:48 – Flat course in Bay Ridge but spent half of it crying, then wheezing
  • 8/27: 0:35:20 – Calf pain, limped/shuffled most of it

veruca salt at music hall of williamsburg

Music: Veruca Salt and Braid

Last month, in the same weekend, I saw Veruca Salt and Braid both perform (separately) at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. It was a shame that I had to see them back-to-back like that because both shows were so different.

I bought the ticket to the sold-out Veruca Salt show last-minute. I found it for sale on the app YPlan and wasn’t sure I actually wanted to go. I am so glad I went because it was one of the best shows I’ve seen. Normally reunion shows are hit or miss, but the band was on top of their game. To hear these songs live was pretty amazing. Songs that I looooved at one point in my life. Definitely worth it. Plus, the energy of the crowd was also pretty riveting. I don’t usually like that kind of thing but it really was exciting.

The Braid show was also great, but in a different way. It was the fifth time I’ve seen them live so not as exciting for me in that way. But I did get to hear them perform new songs, so that was neat. The show was not sold out and the energy was very different. It’s not to say that the new album is bad, but people don’t know it as well. There wasn’t that kind of high-energy sing-a-long that some of their past shows have had. With all that said, it was still fantastic and I’ll continue to see them when they’re in town.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway in NYC

Theater: Hedwig And the Angry Inch

Also last month, I finally went to see the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Only seeing the movie before, the Broadway show totally blew me away. As soon as I walked out of the theater, I wanted to turn around and buy another ticket for the next show. It was absolutely incredible! Definitely one of the best shows I’ve seen on Broadway. Witty, talented, musically fun, great production. All of that. The song Origin of Love is one of my favorites and to hear that live was an incredible experience.

If I am able to treat myself again while it is still running, I will definitely go see it again. I had front row balcony, but it was still kind of difficult to see some of the stage happenings. I would splurge for orchestra next time.

Internet Best Of: Links

Personal Finance
Why I am teaching my kids about money by not giving them any to begin with – Save Spend Splurge

http://brokegirlrich.com/?p=1137 – Broke Girl Rich

June Review & July Goals – Budget and the Beach

Half Year Budget – An Exacting Life

Tales from a College Dropout – Freedom Thirty Five

Books of the Century – NYPL

25 Books to Read Before You Die – Powell’s

Personalized Book Recommendation List – Brooklyn Public Library

Weekly Updates: Rock-Rock-Rock Rockaway Beach

Life: Rockaway Beach

Rockaway Taco Some of the most delicious tacos in all of nyc

Some of the most delicious tacos in all of nyc

It’s not far not hard to reach, we can catch a ride to rockaway beach!

I love the beach. And the ocean. And being outside. And the sand. And everything about the beach so I love the Rockaways. Coney Island is closer. But I want to see the ocean! We live on an island after all.

It’s a 1.5 hour train ride (or 1hr bus ride) for me to get out to Queens. And it’s totally worth it. First I eat tacos. Then I layout my blanket & towel, snack on some goldfish, and relax while listening to the ocean.

Everything about going to the beach is wonderful for me. That’s why I plan to go every weekend that the weather is nice. It just never gets old.

Jacob Riis Park at the Rockaways in Queens, NY

Jacob Riis Park at the Rockaways in Queens, NY

There has been much improvement of the Rockaways since last year. Although there are still plenty of signs of damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I’m doubt it will ever be the way it was pre-hurricane. The area is definitely getting more built-up with summer restaurants & bars. In a good way of course, but I did like the low-keyness of it.

Jacob Riis on the other hand looks pretty good. Compared to the public part of the beach, it is a little cleaner. And less rocky. Unfortunately, it is also far from Rockaway Taco.

If you live in the city and still haven’t been out to the Rockaways, get a move on it! The beach is too good to pass up!

Running: Summer Series 5K

Lovely Prospect Park in Brooklyn

Lovely Prospect Park in Brooklyn

Running in the summer here is simply not fun. I need to motivate myself twice as much in the summer than in the winter. The humidity kills me. Sweating like a pig is gross. I can’t even come home to my apartment and cool off. So I’ll do anything possible to stay motivated in the hot months. And that’s why I signed up for a Summer Series of 5K’s.

The series spans from the end of May through the end of August. There’s only been three races so far and already two were during miserable bouts of high humidity. The races take place after work at 7p, but that’s just not late enough for the temperature to really cool off.

The first race I ran with my friend. The second race I ran trying out the Galloway method; running for 4 mins, walking for 1 min. The third race I focused on not wheezing from the crazy humidity. Here are the results so far:

#1: 0:42:25 (13:41 min/mi)
#2: 0:33:39 (10:50 min/mi)
#3: 0:36:55 (11:53 min/mi)

I know these are fast by any means. But keeping slow times secret doesn’t actually help anyone. My focus right now is just staying motivated; time doesn’t really matter

Travel: Overnight to Washington, DC

Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool - Washington, DC

Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool – Washington, DC

I’m not much of a travel deals person. I don’t travel often and when I do, I just want to relax and be comfortable. I don’t mind saving a buck at home. But I don’t want to think about it as much on vacation. Fortunately a short vacation to Washington, D.C. is pretty affordable.

The trip was only Mon to Tuesday, so one night at a hotel. Honestly, I didn’t really look for hotel deals. I knew I didn’t want to go over $200 but that was an easy limit to stay under. I travel so rarely that I don’t mind splurging a little bit. Especially since the museums are free so my only other cost there would be food.

Purchasing Bolt bus tickets a few days beforehand worked out just fine. Since the trip was over weekdays, the bus tickets were cheaaaap. Going down the ticket was $14. Coming back it was $1! Yay!

The funny thing about living in nyc, is it’s not always as much fun to visit other cities. But if you want to get out to a rural area you have to rent a car. So when looking at DC attractions there’s plenty for a New Yorker to skip over. Most of our art museums are better. Our pizza/food will be better. That made it pretty easy to stick to a short, cheapish trip.

The trip itself was really great! Well, it was boiling hot both days. But besides that, there was plenty of air conditioning, good beer, and informational museums everywhere.

I’ll write a full post next week, including a cost breakdown (exciting, I know).

Books: The Dresden Files

The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

After numerous recommendations, I started The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. It’s based around the wizard Harry Dresden. He’s not your average wizard, okay. He’s in the yellow pages.

Dresden is your typical caricature character who always has something happening to him. He is very smart and skilled at wizardry. But can’t pay his bills, feed himself, get a woman, comb his hair, sleep, etc. Everything about him is an absolute mess.

In the first book, Storm Front, everyone is against him. I’ve been told this happens less and less through out the series. I hope so. A plot revolving around proving a character’s innocence is painfully predictable. And boring.

It was suggested I jump to the fourth book to help move things along faster. There are certainly improvements in Summer Knight, over the first book. At least not everyone was out to get Dresden. But it still was a non-stop train of events that I still found boring.

After hearing Dresden whine about how he has no clients and no money; at one point using candles because his lights were shut off, I couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t get a part time job. You gotta side hustle, Harry. In which book does he create a budget? I’d read that.

Although I did enjoy Summer Knight over Storm Front, that’s not saying much. Here’s what it comes down to. I just don’t like series. Book series. Television series. Maybe I don’t have the attention span for long-winded story arcs.

With that said, I would happily read a one-off book about how much Toot Toot loves pizza.

Music: Braid

After receiving an email from Songkick that Braid will be playing in Brooklyn next month, I decided to snatch up a ticket right away. This was an unplanned purchase. But at $25 definitely does not break the bank.

I’ve loved the band Braid since college. This will be my fourth time seeing the band. Although I have seen Bob Nanna in his other musical projects (Hey Mercedes, City on Film) several times.

Braid may not be a band you’re familiar with, so I made a short playlist highlighting some of their key songs (imo!). The band came out of the Champaign-Urbana scene in the late 90’s. They’re definitely and emo band but, you know, in a good way.

Here’s the Braid choice song playlist via Spotify, enjoy!

Internet: Links

Summer Shape Up!/ASICS Shoe Giveaway! – Budget and the Beach

Personal Finance
Spend Money Where It Counts… On Yourself – Mo Money Mo Houses

Losing Garnett the Great – The Lacey Spears Story – lohud

Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake – Sweetapolita

Brooklyn Half Marathon 2014 Recap

signs at brooklyn half marathon - you are faster than the g train

I AM faster than the G train

After writing about my ‘training‘ on here since practically February, race day finally arrived! I was one of 27,000 runners who ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon this past weekend; 5/17/14. Although I did get burned out on training around April and really didn’t do enough long runs toward the end, I still finished. And didn’t have my worst time. So I’m happy about that!

NYRR BK Half Expo

Some general advice to event coordinators, don’t put a large gathering of people inside a tent. Also, don’t make people trudge far to find said tent. And especially don’t do these things when trying to represent a whole borough.

The Brooklyn Half Expo this year was in DUMBO (down under manhattan bridge overpass) right on the waterfront. It is pretty. And usually has pretty views. Unfortunately, the three days leading up to the race it was cloudy and rainy. I was happy that it didn’t rain on race day. But hiking down to the waterfront, amidst DUMBO’s non-grid cobblestone streets, and beside park construction, was even less fun in the rain.

New York Road Runners put on this giant three-day expo that really was more for publicity than the runners. There was a small tent containing bib & t-shirt pick-up, plus about 3 small vendor tables. Outside on the pier were food + beer stands, food trucks, and a stage for live bands/work outs. The general public were invited to share in the festivities. Sounds great and all but really just meant little for the runners. Also I learned that NYRR just has waaaay too much money.

Running the Race

Ready to get this race over with! brooklyn half marathon
The day of a race is definitely the worst day to wake up with a migraine. My alarm was set for 5:15a but a pounding migraine woke me up at 4a. I sat up in bed, exhausted, nervous, and shaking in pain hoping that it would subside. My thoughts were scattered if I should still run it. If I could even leave my bed. Drama aside, after taking a bunch of advil and crying while walking around my apartment for an hour, the pain finally dulled down to the point I could function again. For good measure, I took a few more advil before heading out.

I guess there’s security clearance for races now so that took a lot longer than expected, even without having a bag to check. Once I got to my corral, a co-worker found me who was also running. I’m used to running these things alone, so it was pretty nice having someone to chat with for the 45+ minutes we were waiting for the race to start. Our wave started at 7:45a but we didn’t cross the start until almost 8:15a.

The first portion of the race went really well. I felt strong, wasn’t tired, my asthma wasn’t acting up. This shows in my time as my 5K, 10K, and 15K splits were all my second-fastest times to date. The spectators were great and there were some great signs, like the one above. I kept telling myself, I am faster than the G train!

This was the second time running this race and I still love the course. Prospect Park and Ocean Parkway are two routes I run very frequently so both were familiar to me. The one downside is that the course passes right by my apartment. It was so tempting to just detour on home to the couch! But that was around mile 7 and I was still feeling pretty good then.

Then mile-10 came along and pain started settling in. First, I felt my quads tightening up. This was rather strange for me because, if anything, my calves are usually the ones to feel sore. Then I began to feel the blisters in my big toes. Everyone knows that runner’s feet aren’t sexy. I’ve had so many blisters on my toes over the years that they are actually calloused now. But sometimes during races, I get blisters inside the callouses. Gross!

Somehow, I still felt good mentally. I never felt utterly miserable and never told myself “I’m never doing this ever again.” The race still felt short. But I was in a lot of pain those last three miles. It definitely showed that I didn’t put enough focus on long runs in my last month of training. Lesson learned.


Fifth Race Down

I finished! My fifth half marathon! My second time running the Brooklyn half!

  • Official Time: 2:24:08 // 11:01mm pace
  • 5K Split: 0:31:03 // 9:59mm pace
  • 10K Split: 1:04:59 // 10:27mm pace
  • 15K Split: 1:39:10 // 10:38mm pace
  • 20K Split: 2:16:03 // 10:56mm pace

Out of five, this places third for time. I feel confident that I can keep up the momentum I had in the beginning of this race throughout the whole thing. My brain wasn’t even sabotaging me this time, my body was. And that is a much easier obstacle to fix.

I know I may not be fast and probably never will be but I still enjoy the challenge of these races. I’m planning to do another half in the fall. To keep up my momentum over the sweltering summer months, I’ve also committed to a 5K summer series. Eight races for $25 is a great deal and hopefully I can get a PR in there somewhere!

Weekly Updates: Burned Out on Running + American Blogger + Scar Boys

Franklin cat hiding out, which is exactly how I feel about running this  Half Marathon

Franklin cat hiding out, which is exactly how I feel about running this Half Marathon

Life: Running Burn Out

The Brooklyn Half is three weeks away! And I am so burned out on running and training and just thinking about this race.

A few weeks ago I started getting shin splints, slowed down my training, then took a full rest week. Getting back into a routine has been difficult. The nicer weather means less time at the gym, which has actually been a difficult adjustment for me. Going to the gym made for a good schedule. It’s much harder to get myself motivated to run outside when I have “all day long” to do it. At the gym, I would only go during certain times when I knew it wouldn’t be busy. I also enjoyed the predictability of the gym. I understand that is why a lot of people don’t like it. But it helps to reduce anxiety.

Needless to say, my training has become erratic, which is basically how I used to “train” for my past races. I still feel strong though. And the shin splints have gone away finally. I have a loose plan to do a long run this weekend, speed work next week, then some shorter runs in the two weeks leading up to the race.

One thing I’ve learned by formally training for this race, was that I started much too soon. Waiting to start 3-4 weeks later would have been better for me.

I’ve also decided to take pressure off myself on goal time. Last month I PR’d a 5K but wasn’t even excited about it because I didn’t hit my goal time. Why? Because I made a completely unrealistic goal time! That’s not the kind of attitude I want. I don’t want to ignore PR’s because of some unattainable goal I set for myself. So, I’ve decided to be realistic. Sure, PR-ing would be great, but I just want to have fun and run this the best I can. I have ran this race before and I know the course. There are people I know running it too and I will have friends cheering me on. It’s going to be fun. I just need to remind myself of that!

Life: MTG Grand Prix in Philly

The trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, is a casual hobby of mine. I’ve been playing for six years. Last year I learned a different format called EDH (or Commander), which I really enjoy. There are tournaments called Grand Prix’s every weekend all over the world put on by the game company, Wizards of the Coast. Philadelphia and New Jersey host the two events closest to NYC. So I thought it’d be fun to check out the one in Philly.

Last time in Philadelphia was to cheer on my friend Cipriana during the Philadelphia Marathon. This was a more low-key trip but still included cheesesteaks!

For what it’s worth, we ate at Pat’s for cheesesteaks. Geno’s felt too “times square” to me.

I had expected to play MTG all day Saturday then roam around Philly all day Sunday. But it turns out, I had a lot of fun playing MTG! I was at the convention center for almost 8 hours both days. On Saturday I took a “lunch” break to go get ice cream at the Reading Terminal Market.

I didn’t compete at all and only went to play EDH casually with new people. There were vendors there but everything was solely MTG oriented. It was pretty nice, actually. I am used to giant conventions like Comic Con that have a whole slew of different sub-genres and pop-culture related things represented. But at this it was only Magic. There weren’t other trading card game vendors, only magic.

Even as a casual player, I liked knowing that I could walk up to anyone and start a conversation about the game. It was neat being in a room with over two thousand people who all had at least one shared interest. Considering the tournament only costs money if you compete and the bus from Philly was $11, I’d definitely consider going again..

Games: Minecraft

Reminding myself in Minecraft about scary creepers

Reminding myself in Minecraft about scary creepers

The video game Minecraft has been taking up too much of my time lately. Now that I have a laptop that can run it, I made the poor decision of just “checking it out”. Four hours later…

If you’re not familiar with the game it’s sort of a combination of The Sims + RPG + Zombies.

People have made some incredible creations using Minecraft’s build mode. But you can also play it as a game where you build a house then craft items like an oven, bed, fences. You can farm wheat and bake bread & cakes. You can breed chickens to get eggs. You also mine underground for more resources. You can craft a sword then kill zombies with it. You can craft a bow & shoot arrows at skeletons.

It is weird that the pc version has no tutorial and you just get thrown into things. But that is probably what makes it so fun. Lots of open world play.

Books: The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Reading “The Scar Boys” was extremely enjoyable. It took me one day of three train rides and a doctor’s waiting room to finish it. The story wasn’t predictable and I found myself truly interested in the plot development and characters.

This is a good ole fashioned coming of age tale told through the plot device of “high schoolers starting a band.” The beginning actually reminded me of Alex Woods Versus The Universe because both deal with a young boy who gets struck by something falling from the sky. Alex Woods gets hit by a meteorite. Harry, in The Scar Boys, gets struck by lightning.

While both coming of age stories begin the same way, they split from there. The Scar Boys has it’s predictable moments but they are supposed to be predictable. The atmosphere within a high school punk band is supposed to be volatile. Ego’s are supposed to explode. Testosterone is supposed to be overflowing. Those situations are described perfectly.

The 1980’s nyc punk scene makes for an interesting setting of The Scar Boys. It doesn’t get into it too much but enough to set a tone. It also helps the reader relate to the sound & energy of the band. I could picture the bunch of high schooler’s excited to scream & rock out on stage at CBGB’s.

The ending comes full circle, shows that everyone has grown, but leaves out a lot of the obvious sentimental emotions that these types of stories end with. It’s not the happiest of endings but it’s a perfect ending of the story.

I recommend this if you like coming of age stories about teenagers or stories that are fueld by punk/rock music (each chapter is a song title). Rating: 4/5

Movies: American Blogger

I watched the whole movie. It was very boring (I say this as a blogger myself). I had never heard of any of the women interviewed before (it was all women). Well, maybe I had but I don’t really know because none of them mentioned their blogs by name. In fact, no credentials were listed next to names unless the woman ran a business. And then it wasn’t clear if the woman was only a business owner, or a blogger, or both.

My real caveat with the film (other than the slow pace and choppy editing) is that I actually wanted to hear these women’s stories. I love personal stories! I watch the Olympics solely for the stories! But we didn’t get to hear any stories in this film.

I learned that some bloggers get things for free. I learned that you can shill products on your blog. I learned that you can promote your blog on Facebook. I learned that we are all connected. I learned how to take photos of yourself in a parking lot. I learned how to take photos of food outside. I learned how to swing your kids in a circle and jump on a trampoline in slow motion.

But all of the personal stories were either vague or out of context. None of the women introduced themselves or their stories. A simple “I lost my first child and writing about it was helpful” was never said. Instead, the editing cut to the middle of the conversation, “Blogging has really helped me, especially after that first loss, I was glad to talk about it.”

Knowing nothing about these women, I had to guess what their stories were. Which defeats the entire premise of the movie.

Internet: Links

Random links brought to you by Scarface cat

Random links brought to you by Scarface cat

Web Design
Inside The Black Box Of Web Design Pricing – Jeff Archibald

Big Banking
PNC Overdraft Class Action Settlement Refunds Go Out – Top Class Actions

Response to Fat Shaming
Should a former anorexic be allowed to criticize the obese? – Fashionista

Gaming Community
Cards Against Humanity and the art of hyper-local crowdsourcing – Polygon

Data Presentation
Data looks better naked – Dark Horse Analytics

Oven Baked Avocado “Fries” – Kara Cooks

Weekly Updates: March Madness + Half Marathon Training Modified

Life: Half Marathon Training – Weeks 6 & 7

After receiving advice from a very helpful comment and another running friend, I’ve decided to completely modify my current training plan. I had been following Run Keeper’s sub 2:15 half marathon plan.

The plan itself is a bit advanced for what I need. So using advice from last week’s comment, and listening to my body, I wrote up an entirely new calendar for training. The new training plan consists of two runs during the week day, one of them speed work. And two runs over the weekend, one of them long. Then two days of cross training and a rest day.

For this race, my minimum goal is sub-2:20 to PR. In 2012 I ran the Brooklyn Half in 2:22:52 and the NYC Half in 2:21:13. I don’t care how much I PR by. For training purposes, I’m giving myself a goal race pace of 10:30mm. That’s an estimated finish time of 2:17:39. This current week was my first modified week and it’s been going really well. I might be able to take it up a notch. But it feels better than not being able to keep up. In the long run that wouldn’t help anything and could really cause injury.

Here’s my training workouts from the past two weeks!

Half Marathon Training – Week 6

  • 12 x 400: 5mi / 0:52:01 / 10:24mm
  • Treadmill: 3.1 / 0:33:55 / 10:56mm
  • 4 x 1: 6 / 1:04:57 / 10:49mm

Week 6 Total: 14.1 / 2:30:53 / 10:43mm

I also spent 30 minutes strength training three of the days. This is something I like about going to a gym. It is a nice change and is really helping me feel more fit.

Half Marathon Training – Week 7

  • Running: 4.01 / 0:54:38 / 0:13:37mm
  • Treadmill: 2.67 / 0:30:00 / 11:14mm
  • Elliptical: 2 / 0:30:00
  • Treadmill: 6 / 1:06:23 / 11:04mm
  • Running: 10.4 / 1:58:00 / 11:21mm

Week 7 Total: 25.08 / 4:29:01 / 11:49mm

Life: March Madness – Go Green!

Perfect Bracket Go Spartans March Madness MSU
Go Spartans!!!!!!!!!

I’m sorry if you don’t like basketball, really I am. I don’t get award shows and I know how annoying those are when they’re happening. And the NCAAM tournament isn’t just one night. But I do think it’s fun even if you don’t like basketball. Usually people who randomly guess brackets end up doing a lot better anyway.

I’ve made three brackets this year: two for groups and one for me. This year is strange with so many non-fans rooting for my team to win the national championship (MSU alum here). Even the president pick them to win! Thanks, Obama.

After two days, my brackets aren’t in terrible shape. My picks were all over the place but I am winning in one of the groups with 260 points. Thank you NDSU.

Really I love all the stories. Like the Olympics, I love hearing the struggles schools and athletes faced to get there. The records the underdogs break when they win. And the look of determination on all their faces. Remember folks, these are college kids. Little babies! The oldest on a team might be a 22 year old fifth-year senior. Little babies running around with a basketball doing amazing things.

Fun fact: North Dakota State University is the first team from the entire state of North Dakota to win a game in the NCAAM tournament.

Book: Have You Found Her?

Have You Found Her? A memoir by Janice Erlbaum

Have You Found Her? A memoir by Janice Erlbaum

This is one of those books I was able to finish in one sitting. That doesn’t mean it was good. I spent four hours on the couch last Sunday reading this memoir and being a bed for the cats. What kept me reading this pretentious tale was the predictable-ness of the story.

Within the first fifteen pages I had predicted an ending. I basically kept reading to see if I was right. It took a while, the reveal wasn’t until the very end, but it turns out my plot prediction was correct. It’s difficult to read true stories like this and not be able to understand how the author couldn’t ‘see this one coming too’. Yes, I know, it’s different being inside something than outside looking in. It’s just frustrating at as a reader.

The writing style was fine and easy-going. Erlbaum’s thoughts and actions were so goddamn pretentious though. Unbelievable in some cases. Like she really thought she was saving the world.

Erlbaum starts the story explaining she lived in a girl’s shelter in NYC for a few months as a teenager. Now she’s a grown-up living the good life in a fancy pants apartment. She wants to give back. So she starts volunteering at that same shelter. She immediately makes favorites, bringing certain girls gifts and things, getting pretty obsessed about how helpful she is. How much of a difference she can make on these girl’s lives.

Then she meets Sam. This is not a book about her volunteering at the shelter and all the different girl’s she meets. It is not about her learning the stories of other’s. This is her story about how her intimate (platonically) relationship with one of these girls. It is about how she tries to saves someone. I guess that’s why it is a memoir. It is all about her and her supposedly good intentions.

Then Erlbaum meets Sam and immediately starts taking care of this girl who is in and out of hospitals.
Sam is in constant need of attention. There is always a drama. There is always something wrong with her. Her life was extremely bad growing up. Though she can expertly play a piano (she said she learned from a drug dealer…)

It’s really one thing after another, which is enough to keep the reader interested. But only because you’re waiting for the truth to come out.

If you like memoirs, stories of mentally/physically ill teenagers, or NYC stories I recommend this. But it is easy reading and predictable. I give it 3/5.

Internet Best Of: Links

Impostor Syndrome and Writing – Fit is the New Poor

Baby Steps in the Morning – The Asian Pear

Cheap Eats: Dollar Samosa’s – The NY Budget

Food & Health
This Infographic Shows the Phytonutrients You Need to Stay Healthy – Lifehacker

Stick A Fork In It (Or: When Food Blogs Stopped Being Food Blogs) – The Amateur Gourmet

March Madness & Bracketology
Statistical NCAA Tournament Predictions – FiveThirtyEight

Brooklyn News
Driver charged after SUV ends up on subway car in Brooklyn – ABC News

Brooklyn History
How Brooklyn Neighborhoods Got Their Names – Mental Floss

Donate to Stephanie’s 2014 Walk for Hunger – Project Bread

Weekly Updates: Half-Marathon Training Week 5 + Quesadilla Quiche

Race Training Week 5 – Running for the First Time

Even though I’ve been running for practically a decade, this time around feels like I’m running for the first time. Taking last year off from running & racing was a great decision.

In the past, my mental state definitely wasn’t very positive. And especially not during running. I generally say that I hate running. Even while doing it. Even after doing it. Even when racing. Even after running for so long. I say it is horrible terrible. I say that I hate running culture, and runners, and races, and outside, and parks, and shoes, and clothes, and gadgets. Everything. I would run and think to myself how much I hate everything. That is far from relaxing.

Now I’m at a point in my life where I can be kind to myself. I don’t have to be “that type of runner.” This race can be mine. My time is mine. My run is mine. These shoes are mine. Not yours.

I feel like I’m finally discovering all those things people have said about running. It can be relaxing. It is time for myself. It’s as hard as I make it. I don’t have to be fast. Listen to my body, instead of other’s.

As expected, this has really changed how I feel during running. Instead of negativity and anger filling up my head, I’m trying to empty it. Think positive or think nothing at all. The latter is what usually happens but that’s better than nothing.

This week I did not do a long run but I did listen to my body. I did some strength training, something I’ve never focused on before, and really enjoy it. It helps me feel fit all over. From that, I was feeling sore and tired. Listening to my body, I did some shorter comfortable run instead. I’m not racing to win, here.

Sub 2:15 Half Marathon – Week 5
Treadmill: 4 mi / 0:44:08 / 11:02 pace
Running: 2 mi / 0:20:00 / 10:00 pace
Treadmill: 3.1 mi / 0:34:40 / 11:10 pace
Elliptical: 1.86 mi / 0:20:00 / 10:45 pace

Week Total: 10.96 mi / 1h 59m 48s / 10:44 pace

Food: Quiche-adilla

Quesadilla’s are a staple of my cooking rotation. They can be as simple or complicated as I make them. Cheese ones are perfect for a quick dinner. Vegetable + chicken are perfect when I want something heartier. I always have my mexican spice mix on hand which adds just the right flavor.

This week I wanted to try something new with quesadilla’s. So with the help if the Internet, I decided to make a quesadilla quiche. A quiche-adilla if you will. It turned out really tasty and I definitely recommend it.

Quesadilla Quiche Recipe

  1. Put a large tortilla in a pie plate
  2. Mix shredded chicken + cheese in a separate bowl
  3. Optional add-ins: jalapenos, spices, peppers, tomatoes
  4. Spread mix onto tortilla
  5. Whisk 2 eggs, 1C milk or water, 1C flour in a separate bowl
  6. Pour liquid mixture over meat mixture on tortilla
  7. Bake in oven at 450 for 20 minutes

Books: The Essential George Sheehan

the essential george sheehan

As I stated above, I was never a fan of running culture. So I never spent time reading books, magazines, articles, or anything else about running. It felt none of it related to how I ran. Or it perpetuated the running culture that I did not like. Either way, this is why I had never heard of George Sheehan until this year.

The Essential Sheehan is an anthology of sorts of selections from articles & books written by Dr. George Sheehan. Dr. Sheehan retired from cardiology at 44 and took up long distance running in the 70’s. He was one of the first to incorporate fitness into medical science. And looked at life and running in a different way.

It is notable that I read this book immediately following Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less because they are both quite similar. On the content that crosses over from one book to another, both author has the same opinion on it. The only difference is Babauta tells his in bullet points and Sheehan tells his in essay form. This is personal preference but I really enjoyed Sheehan’s essays. Adding context and personal stories can provide much more motivation than a simple bullet point statement.

For example, both authors say to start with one, simple goal. Don’t try to do too much at once. Don’t attempt to quit smoking and take up running in the same week. Don’t attempt to run a marathon a week into running. Sheehan provided examples that he saw from his fellow runners and even the mistakes he himself made. This really helped to hit home why doing these things were important.

Another example is both authors say to hold yourself back. Which might not make sense at first. Dr. Sheehan explains this is to prevent burn-out and injuries. He then tells stories of runners who take 3-6 months or more off after a race because of feeling staleness in running. Babauta explains burn-out as well but in terms of momentum. We start out a change with so much momentum and excitement that if we do too much at first, we will not be able to motivate ourselves when it becomes challenging. Even if you know you can 4 miles today instead of your usual 3, hold yourself back. Run 4 next week as that will give you something to look forward to.

I recommend Dr. Sheehan’s writings for everyone, runners and non-runners alike. He writes a lot of good life stories and incorporates positivity without this coming off as self-help at all. It is also interesting seeing his perspective change throughout his life. Since this is a collection of his works, he goes from being an intense racer to being a social runner. There are also some articles about his experience with cancer, which is a whole other thing altogether.

Internet Best Of: Links

Why I Don’t Set Long Term Goals – Budget and the Beach

Personal Finance
Traditional IRA: Saving Broke Millennials Hundreds of Dollars – Broke Millenial

Sunset Park is home of Brooklyn’s cheapest pizza pies – Brokelyn

10 Things I Like About Myself: A Link-Up – Avoiding Atrophy

Why My Business is Breaking Up With Facebook – Nuts + Bolts Media

Internet Privacy
This Infographic Shows You How to Delete Yourself from the Internet – Lifehacker

College Basketball
Onions! The Never-Made-the-NCAA Tournament Club, 2014 edition – SB Nation

Jobs & Life
A Day in the Life of a Cruise Ship Stage Manager

Weekly Updates: Race Training Week 4 & DIY Oatmeal

Half Marathon Training – Week 4

Brooklyn Half Marathon at Coney Island

Brooklyn Half Marathon at Coney Island

I wish I never started writing about my training. Because now I have to admit to all my mistakes. In week 4, I skipped my long run, again. That’s twice in a row. I spent a lot of time beating myself up over it, which certainly didn’t help anything. I need to remind myself that it’s still February. I have three solid months before the race.

Training is starting to be a boon to my working out. If I miss a day I feel guilty for most of the morning. Missing a day certainly isn’t going to seriously affect my running. And for the four half marathons I ran in the past, I never even trained at all! I need to relax and enjoy what I’m doing – currently working on the mental aspect of running which I’ve never been very good at.

Aside from cardio, I have began taking advantage of the other stuff in the gym by strength training. I’ve got a handle on lat pull downs and the leg press. Then at home I can do some squats, stair work, and lunges. Surprisingly, I’ve never done any of this stuff before. It was always only about the running. Probably because that’s the free part.

Sub 2:15 Half Marathon – Week 4
Treadmill: 5 mi / 56m 22s / 11:16 pace
Spinning: 4.7 mi / 20m
Elliptical: 0.9mi / 10m
Running: 4.7mi / 55m 56s / 11:54 pace – Ocean Parkway to Coney Island

Week Total: 15.3 mi / 2h 22m 18s / 11:35 pace

Food: DIY Instant Oatmeal

diy instant oatmeal in containers or packets

Bring diy instant oatmeal with you to work

Several years ago I wrote about bringing diy oatmeal with you to work. But since then I’ve perfected this!

Here’s what I do for an individual serving but I suggest multiplying this and storing the bulk mix in a jar. Then when you want oatmeal in the morning, just take out about a quarter cup and you should be good to go.

Ideally, this requires use of a food chopper or food processor. I bought this mini food chopper for $9.

To Blend:

  • 2 Tablespoons quick oats (cooks in 1 min)
  • 1 teaspoon cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc)
  • dash of salt

Add these to your food chopper then run for about 30 seconds. This mixes everything together, gets rid of brown sugar lumps, chops up the nuts, and cuts the oats almost to a flour texture. That is the key! Adding this “oat flour” helps thickens your oatmeal and makes it very creamy without needing milk.

In a plastic bag or container (I use a small tumbler glass covered with saran wrap), put in another 2 Tablespoons of quick oats, then add your blended mixture. This is one serving.

To eat, pour very hot water into the oats, stir. Let sit for 1+ minutes. Water & sit time depend on your preference of thickness. I prefer mine thicker while a friend prefers to drink his.

This is a quick and super filling breakfast, especially great for wintertime. I promise it will leave your belly warm and full.

Books: Power of Less by Leo Babauta

Productivity from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits: The Power of Less

Productivity from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits: The Power of Less

There’s more I could say about this book but really it comes down to this: just read his blog

After this, I started reading “The Essential Sheehan” which is a compilation of various George Sheehan articles and talks. He was a runner but what he talks about can apply to life in general. A lot of his principles over lap with Leo Babauta’s as well, so I will write about them as one next week.

Internet Best Of: Links

The Cost of Living in Paradise – Budget and the Beach

114 Side Hustles: Ways to Make Money – Broke Girl Rich

Running Every Block in Ditmas Park – The Weekly Nabe

Weekly Updates: Race Training Week 3

Half Marathon Training – Week 3

Coney Island Boardwalk

Coney Island Boardwalk

Last week I wrote about the beginning of my training for the Brookyln Half in May. This is the first time I’ve really adhered to a training schedule instead of just winging it before a race. For me, having a gym membership really has helped keep me on track and provide motivation. Sure the treadmill isn’t the same environment as outdoors but I no longer have weather-related excuses.

I’ve also started cross training for the first time in my life. Not belonging to a gym and wanting to keep my workouts as cheap as possible, I’ve pretty much only engaged in running as a workout. I’ve dabbled in pilates but that gets expensive fast. I have a bicycle now but that’s been impossible to ride outdoors this winter. I like being able to do more than run. The gym allows me to learn new workouts and use new muscles of my body. For as much as I’ve ran, I can tell you that some days on the elliptical are downright tough. Do you know how out of shape that makes me feel? I can run 10 miles but doing two minutes in reverse on the elliptical has me in tears!

My training plan doesn’t include cross training so I’m trying to integrate it myself. I believe in the necessity of rest days so instead of doing 4/5 miles on a Tuesday, I’ll do half running and half elliptical. Or half spin and half weights. If anyone has a good strength training routine for runners, please share!

Sub 2:15 Half Marathon – Week 3:
Treadmill: 3.15 miles in 37 mins with a pace of 0:11:51/mi
Elliptical: 1.97 miles in 25 mins with a pace of 0:12:41/mi
Treadmill: 3.11 miles in 39 mins with a pace of 0:12:42/mi
Treadmill: 5 miles in 1 hr with a pace of 0:12:00/mi

Week Total: 13 miles in 2 hr 41 min with an average pace of 0:12:18/mi

All week long I felt tired and out of it. Even after sleeping for 10 hours Fri and Sat nights, I was still groggy. Listening to my body, I decided to skip running 10-miles on Sunday. I just didn’t have it in me. On Monday I did five-miles on the treadmill and it felt much more comfortable than any of my runs the previous week. Ramping up my mileage so much has definitely taken a toll on my body. I want to avoid injuries as much as possible and will listen closely to my body from here on out. Missing one long-run isn’t going to ruin my entire training.

Music: Instrumental Ambient Rock

Explosions in the Sky Performing Live

Explosions in the Sky Performing Live

As a lover of instrumental rock, I thought I’d share some of my favorite experimental/math/post/ambient rock bands. I even made a Spotify playlist for you!

Bands Include:

  • Pele
  • This Will Destroy You
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • Mogwai
  • The Album Leaf
  • El Ten Eleven
  • God Is An Astronaut
  • Helios
  • Hammock
  • Stars of the Lid
  • Do Make Say Think
  • You Bred Raptors
  • Russian Circles

Spotify Playlist: The Instrumental List

Here’s a sample of what this is like. You’ve probably heard a few This Will Destroy You songs by now, they’ve been used in commercials and on soundtracks:

Books: Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters

Kelly McMasters' Welcome to Shirley

Kelly McMasters’ Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town

Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town by Kelly McMasters is a very well-written and researched memoir + environmentalism piece of non-fiction. McMaster’s moved to the town of Shirley, Long Island when she was a child and shares the pleasant memories she had of the town growing up. The community feels real to the reader and the writing sincere. This isn’t just anyone writing the story of a toxic town. This is someone who actually lived in it.

Hearing the quirky stories from her point of view really allows the reader to grow with McMasters. You start out viewing the town positively, though always knowing in the background that something toxic is lurking. Yet when it finally comes into the picture, it is still rather surprising.

McMaster’s does a great job at keeping this memoir more about the town than about her. The entire time she focuses on sharing her experiences with the town, rather than simply her life growing up.

Reading Welcome to Shirley reminded me of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Both stories went between sharing researched information and also sharing personal experiences. However, McMaster’s really has an advantage here. Since she grew up there, she never passed judgement. Skloot on the other hand, tried too hard to give the Lacks’ family some credit and turned the second half of the book into a circus. McMaster’s doesn’t have this problem because she is honest. When she explains the day she realized that Shirley was not a nice place to live and was actually thought of as “white trash” by the nearby Hamptons’ folks, you can really feel for her.

This is certainly more of a memoir than a heavily researched piece of environmental activism. With that said, McMaster’s did do a good job interviewing locals and employees from the Brookhaven Laboratory – the site of the toxins leaking into Shirley causing an abnormal rise in breast & rare cancers in residents.

As a perfect combination of light yet researched non-fiction that is told by someone who lived through it and not just a scientist or doctor, I really recommend Welcome to Shirley. The writing is tight and the story is very readable – McMaster’s rarely loses focus of the story she’s telling: 4/5 rating from me.

Internet Best Of: Links

How I Conduct My Business – Zen Habits

Extra Income
How Non-Theater People Can Make Money in Theater – Broke Girl Rich

Freelance Business & Taxes – Diversified Finances

Family Finance
7 Tips to Raising a Financially Fit Kid – Financially Blonde

Favorite Long Runs: Bedford Avenue Brooklyn

Bedford Avenue 10.2 Mile Run in Brooklyn

Bedford Avenue is the longest road in Brooklyn – 10.2 miles. It runs South to North from Sheepshead Bay at Emmons Ave to Greenpoint at Manhattan Ave.

This run was my first real exploration of Brooklyn. Although you are running on streets/sidewalks, this is still my favorite long run and is a great way to see the diversity & change of neighborhoods.

In only 10 miles you run from a sleepy bay-side retirement community to the land of hipster youths.

Miles 1-3

Starting the run from the South is quiet. You pass by real houses with real yards and real driveways. Suburbia. You run the length of the alphabet from Avenue X up to Avenue C. There won’t be too many people out, especially if you start early. You won’t pass too many bodega’s either so plan ahead for drinks.

Miles 4-6

The neighborhoods change on a dime. Suburbia will quickly change into an urban environment with large apartment buildings, bodegas, and people out on the sidewalks (so watch out for pedestrians). You run through Flatbush & Lefferts-Gardens, and then Crown Heights welcomes you with a giant hill. Geographically, there is no way around this hill. For those of you who have run through Prospect Park, it’s that hill. Whether you run in the park or around it, you still need to get up it. Have fun with that.

Miles 7-9

Again you see neighborhoods quickly change from Bed Stuy to South Williamsburg. Enjoy the diversity and realize that an hour ago you were by the ocean in the suburbs.

Mile 10

As expected, the last mile through the middle of Williamsburg past McCarren Park can be a bit of a drag. Try to do this early or start from this end if you prefer. The sidewalks will be crowded. You can, of course, run down a less popular avenue instead but I wanted to stick with Bedford out of principle.

Conveniently, once you reach the end of Bedford you can just walk over to the park and not have to move for a while.