Monday, May 30, 2016

May Wrap-Up

I've always thought of May as being a kind of "transitional" month, no major events to look forward to except for maybe some changing weather. This year, though, May has been a crazy whirlwind and I can't believe how much was packed in! Here's just the highlights:

I finished law school! I had two finals this year, plus doing all of the last minute work to publish a law journal, and worked up to the last minute. Finishing that last final, though, felt amazing!

Our 5 year anniversary - has it really been that long? It seems to have flown by. We celebrated with an early dinner at a local french restaurant and dessert at home after the baby went to sleep.

Marathon training - I've been fitting in longish runs when I can, but I think the longest I've run in the past six weeks was 10 to 15 miles. Definitely not prepared, but I feel much stronger than I have in a long while. Maybe after this cycle I can focus on shorter runs and even more speed.

Graduation Weekend - after all of the hard work of the past month, and the past three years, graduation weekend was awesome and exhausting! My mom, sister, and best friend all came in, for awards ceremonies and graduation, plus dinner, and a wedding for a friend.

Starting Bar Prep - and ever since, I've been hitting the books harder than ever to get ready for the bar exam in July. It's like every final I've ever taken, in two days. At least I know I've got the endurance down, so that's one step up on every other test taker who can't run a marathon!

Overall, this month has been exciting, with lots of looking back on what I've been able to do, and looking forward to what's to come.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Marathon Training: So How's That Going?

In between a crawling baby and finishing law school, you're probably wondering how that goal marathon in San Diego is looking. Well, it's happening in less than four weeks whether I'm ready or not, which puts me exactly where I've been with the other two marathons I've done. While some amazing moms have the discipline to get up and do ten mile runs in the cold before spending all day with their children *coughEricacough* I am more of a, "but I'm really tired and recovery is more important" kind of person who fits in amazing runs on Monday and Tuesday, overbooks Wednesdays, and then forgets to eat before a Saturday long run.

Two things that I do consider important are the two workouts I have planned every week: one day of speedwork and one day of tempo. I then try to add in mileage and easy runs when I can.

So, no, really, how has marathon training been going? Have I actually hit any of my long runs? Have I slowed down on my easy runs? Have I gotten in any of those 50-60 mile weeks I had planned?
The easy answer is no.

Since it's been raining so much and my schedule has been so tight, a huge majority of my runs have happened on the treadmill. This means that I know exactly what my pace is, I have a TV, and I get bored very easily, so runs over 6-7 miles are pretty much out of the question.
To keep it interesting, my workouts definitely vary. The sprints are my favorite: I usually plan on about a 4-6 mile workout, with intervals ranging from 800m-1600m, or time, with 3:00-5:00 on with up to 2:00 recovery. My sprint pace ranges from 8:10-8:45, which is about a minute under my goal pace.
Tempo paces on a treadmill are the worst. I simply cannot make myself keep a steady pace for 6+ miles, so sometimes I do have to mix up the pace on my tempo runs. With these, though, I still average out to about a 9:30 pace, right around my goal.

My long runs have consisted of a few outdoor runs of  up to 10 miles, plus the Star Wars Half Marathon plus two days of Disney. With only about 25 days left, I definitely plan on getting in at least one 18 mile day, at a very slow pace, and hopefully a few more 10+ runs.

In addition, though, I have tried to increase my crosstraining days and strength. Once a week I try to swim about 1200-1500m, to help with recovery. I also have about three days of strength training, which includes squats/deadlifts, kettlebell training, or an upper body machine circuit. Usually I do this strength work HIIT style, with intense sets with little rest. I also try to add core work a few days a week, including a pilates class.

My average day for the past month or so has been like this:

  • Wake up, have coffee, play with Lilly, catch up on email and news
  • Class OR gym time: 15-20 min of HIIT strength work followed by an hour on the treadmill
  • Afternoons are very taken up with more classes or work for journal
  • If I had class in the morning, I go to the gym for an hour in the evening to fit in what workout I can on the treadmill
  • By 8, Lilly is in bed, so K and I eat dinner, sometimes he goes to the gym, and I stay home to finish homework, watch TV, and stretch out and foam roll 

To summarize, I know I'm probably not going to get close to a 4:00 marathon, which has always been a goal for me, but hopefully, with all of the speedwork, I will probably get a new PR time. Even though I always race hoping to push myself, this marathon cycle was more about setting a good base to get ready for a strong triathlon season this summer. Once I finish this race, I'm diving straight into strong cycling (indoor trainer+bar prep=awesomeness) and working on swim speed, and hopefully I'll feel that I have a good running form, which will help keep me running strong.

I know that running a marathon 9 months after having a baby, plus graduating from law school, was a crazy goal, so I'm not upset about how terrible my training has been so far. I'm glad I set a goal and have been able to keep myself motivated to get faster and stronger, and I'm definitely going to finish this out!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mother's Day: Giving Back

It's almost Mother's Day! This time last year I was getting ready to drive halfway across the country to spend two months at Fort Campbell, KY, and bought myself some flowers on the way there. This year, I'm definitely looking forward to spending some time with my baby in her running stroller :D

While flowers and a nice brunch are great ways to say thanks to the moms in our lives, I think it's also pretty important to remember moms with the real problems, like the ones who worry about buying clean diapers or the moms who legitimately fear giving birth because there is no healthcare available. Here's a few ideas for charities and gifts that not only give your mom something, but also give back:

Every Mother Counts

Every Mother Counts is committed to providing access to skilled healthcare and a safe place for mothers to give birth in less-privileged countries. I regularly complained about having to drive an hour to get to an appointment; imagine having to walk miles, in labor, to get to the nearest healthcare facility, and then hoping a midwife is there to help with a complicated delivery.

Oiselle has some pretty cool shirts and hoodies and more, with proceeds going to Every Mother Counts.

Solly Baby also has a special edition baby wrap designed by Rachel Pally, with proceeds going to Every Mother Counts. I have a Solly Wrap, and absolutely love it. I tried a few carriers and other wraps, but they didn't fit well or made me and baby very sweaty. The Solly Wrap is amazing, though, and I would never go on a trip without one. It's great for holding Lilly when we're standing in line at Disney, or getting her to sleep on a plane.

The Honest Company

I buy Honest Co. products partly because they are very "clean" and I know won't irritate me or Lilly, but also because they are very big on social responsibility. When we were looking for a crib, we were obviously looking for one that would be safe for babies (chewable and no harmful chemicals) and I was actually surprised how many cribs used paint that chips or pressed wood that splintered. We ended up settling on the Honest Co. crib, designed by Babyletto, not only because it was so safe, but it was also very stylish, AND for every crib purchased, another one was donated to homeless shelters in LA. We got one in white with natural spindles, but they also came in grey, navy, and coral.

I'm also excited that Honest Co. recently donated 1.2 million diapers to charities in major cities around the country, in partnership with the White House's #DiaperGap campaign. (Don't get me started on how much I support this campaign, apparently some people who claim to be conservative just can't give credit where credit is due) You can always donate to local charities like Baby2Baby or through the diaper bank network. A great gift for any mom, though, would be a gift card for delivered diapers.

Carry the Future

CTF donates infant carriers to refugee families escaping from the Middle East. (Again, I think the refugee issue is way too political and sometimes we just need to remember that families are just trying to make a better life for themselves) Donating a used carrier or just money can make a huge difference. If you know a mom who loves her  carrier, making a donation to share that with another mom is a great idea


You know I love charms. Altruette makes lovely little 3D charms, with proceeds benefiting charities. They do have a charm for Every Mother Counts, but I also love the Love Letter charm, benefiting Operation Gratitude, and a baby bootie, benefiting Operation Shower for military moms.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Disney Dining Plan Recap

After crunching some numbers and deciding what restaurants we wanted to eat at, my husband decided that it would be worth the extra ten minutes required to call and add the Disney Dining Plan to our vacation (it ended up being more than ten minutes but it was still worth it). For the standard DDP, it costs $63.70 per night, and includes one table service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack, per night, as well as a refillable resort mug for your entire stay.

I can think of two reasons to get the DDP over just paying for meals as you go: 1) It's just convenient. If you like to plan things out and know exactly how much you want to spend on something like food, it's great to have your meals pre-planned and pre-paid (you still have to do the planning, DDP does not come with any special perks in the advanced dining reservation system). 2) If you plan your meals out, you might actually save some money. As you can imagine, I was all for the first reason, and K did all the legwork to make sure we took advantage of the second reason.

If you are a numbers person, here is how our two night stay broke down for me:
Amount Paid: $127.40
Table Service 1: $40
Table Service 2: $45
Quick Service 1: $24
Quick Service 2: $21
Snack 1: $5.75
Snack 2: $7
Refillable Mug: many, many refills

Now, to break it down even more:
Table Service 1: Cape May Cafe Buffet dinner at the Beach Club Resort
The first night we arrived, we had reservations for dinner at the Cape May Cafe, which is inside the Beach Club Resort. We took the bus from our resort to Hollywood Studios, then the ferry from there to the Beach Club. After gawking at the lovely exterior for a few minutes, we checked in with the hostess stand and were told it would be a few minutes for a table. Since we were quite a few minutes late, I was pretty happy they didn't have us wait for the rest of the night! We gawked some more around the lobby, and K scouted out the pin book situation. Seriously, I love the Beach Club, it's exactly what I want my vacation home to look like.

The Cape May Cafe is a lovely themed buffet, decorated with pastel seaside decorations like giant beach umbrellas. They also host a character breakfast buffet with Mickey and friends in old-timey beach clothes, which I think would be lots of fun! There are no characters at dinner, BUT there is a ton of fresh seafood. There's the usual bread, salad, and sides such as mashed potato and soups, but the main draw is the steamed crab legs, shrimp, and potatoes and corn on the cob. There's also a strip loin carving station, and mac n cheese and chicken nuggets for kids. 

As you may have seen from some of my other posts, K loves crab legs, and he can eat a lot of them. I tried to get him to smile for a picture, but he was too busy eating. He also enjoyed the fact that you can get POG juice here!

I really love that Disney buffets have "kid" desserts, like cookies and brownies, as well as fancy grown up desserts, like Boston Creme Pie tarts and flourless chocolate cake. This dinner is definitely worth the $40 one would normally pay for this dinner, so very much worth using a DDP credit for it. 

Table Service 2: Cinderella's Happily Ever Dinner buffet at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian
Our second night there we got reservations at 1900 Park Fare. Of course everyone wants to eat at Cinderella's Table, and though I haven't done that yet, I would say this is a very close second choice! Not only do you get the standard buffet offerings - fish, strip loin, chicken, and all of the usual sides - but Cinderella and Prince Charming and friends join you for dinner! The night we were there they also had the Fairy Godmother and Lady Tremaine. Every 45 minutes or so, each character was announced and made their way around to each table, then finished with a little dance and inviting kids to join them for a waltz. 
I love Lady Tremaine, she is such a hoot! She sat down with us for a few minutes, signed our autograph book, apologized for Cinderella being such an attention whore (no, she didn't use those words), and reminded my sister to always marry for money! K and I were wearing our medals from the race, but she wasn't that impressed, since she got all of her jewels without messing up her hair. 
One of the signature things at 1900 Park Fare is their strawberry soup, which we let Lilly try:

As a side note, my sister is gluten and lactose intolerant, and at both buffets, the chef came to the table and walked her through to let her know her options. They also created some special dishes, and special desserts, which were brought to the table. 

We used both of our quick service credits on Monday, our last day on vacation.
Quick Service 1: Be Our Guest breakfast at Magic Kingdom. This is one hard reservation to get, but K kept checking for last minute cancellations, and lo and behold, we got one for 8:05 on Monday morning! This meant we would get into the Magic Kingdom before rope drop! Be Our Guest is gorgeous, and has three rooms: the main ballroom, the West Wing, and another room that has the gorgeous "music box" Belle and Beast in the center. The attention to detail is stunning, and Be Our Guest is one of my favorite Disney songs, so I definitely enjoyed hearing it played over and over. 
Breakfast is $24, and has a lot of options, but unfortunately, my go to breakfasts of waffles or french toast are not offered - maybe they're just not fancy enough. Instead, I got basically a cronut, filled with creme and topped with amazing fresh fruit. Each meal also comes with a drink and a pastry basket; we managed to stretch our meal out by bringing a baggie to bring the pastries for later, and refilled our resort mugs before we left (not actually permitted, but if you pour a drink from your self-serve cup into your mug, it's a little more discrete). 
Of course we also ordered the Grey Stuff, a delicious chocolate cupcake with grey frosting.

Quick Service 2:  Backlot Express lunch at Hollywood Studios. For lunch that day, I used my last QS credit at Backlot Express, near the Star Tours ride. There are lots of benefits to choosing this place for lunch: you can score an outdoor table and watch the Jedi Academy show every half hour, most of the food is now Star Wars themed, and the drinks are also self serve, so plenty of opportunity for refills! I got the Dark Side chicken and waffles, a soft drink, and BB-8 cupcake, which was lemon cake with a really fluffy frosting. Usually the cupcake is about $6 on it's own, so I was actually surprised it was a meal dessert! We definitely took advantage of the self-serve soda fountain to rehydrate, and also refilled our resort mugs with lemonade. 

Snack 1: Epcot Festival snack. I'll do a whole other post on how lovely the Epcot Garden and Flower Festival was, but for now, let's just say I used one of my snack credits for one of the lovely seasonal snacks available. You also have the option of converting one QS meal into three additional snacks, which I hear is a pretty good idea during any Epcot festival! Other good ideas are for classics like a Dole Whip (available either during an Epcot festival, at Magic Kingdom, or at the Polynesian). 

Snack 2: Starbucks (OK, Trolley Cafe) at Hollywood Studios. Anytime I can get "free" Starbucks, I know how to maximize that. Whenever I have a free drink on my card, I usually get a 5 shot venti caramel macchiatto. Since ANY drink at any Starbucks is a snack credit on the DDP, I knew what I would be getting. Yes, I did get a venti iced CM with an extra shot and extra caramel, worth $6.91. And then I sat in the shade and watched Captain Phasma and stormtroopers march around. 

Refillable Mug: I normally don't drink too much pop during a Disney trip, because it's expensive and I prefer to get my caffeine through espresso. However, having the refillable mug for the entire stay definitely upped my pop intake, water intake, and kept me generally happier and more hydrated, which is key during a race weekend or any time in hot weather! You can fill up your mug at any resort food hall, which have open soda fountains, so we carried ours with us and filled up at the Boardwalk Inn (there's a refill station right on the Boardwalk) and Hurricane Hanna's at the Yacht Club, which are both a short walk from the back entrance to Epcot. Since we had dinner at the Grand Floridian, we also popped over to refill on hot chocolate for the ride back to Pop Century. 
Now, you're really not encouraged to do this, but there are a few counter service restaurants in the park that have self-serve soda fountains. Whenever we ate at one (like Backlot Express), we also took advantage of the free refills to top off our mugs while in the parks. Some people find it a hassle to carry them around when you're in the park, but I would have a water bottle anyway, so this works just as well.

Overall, I think the DDP is a pretty good opportunity to help me plan out a day at Disney and prevent sticker shock once I'm in the parks. Sometimes Disney also offers "free dining" with a resort stay, so that's something I would definitely recommend taking advantage of!