5776

On Sunday night at sundown, the Jewish calendar moved from year 5775 to 5776.  For those of you who don’t speak Jew, that’s also known as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
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Lest you think I’m some sort of expert, I’m not.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s the proof:
IMG_2691Thanks to my new Jewish friend Carly, not only did I know when Rosh Hashanah was, I actually had plans for it this year other than dipping some apples in honey at my desk at work!  She very generously invited me to join her parents (who were visiting from Nashville for the Holiday!) and her boyfriend’s family for Rosh Hashanah dinner on Sunday night.  It was quite the crowd – Carly, her parents, her boyfriend Ben, his parents, his two brothers and future sister-in-law, and….me!  Despite it being a family affair, they all made me feel so welcome and right at home.

Ben's family!

Ben’s family!

This was Carly’s first time hosting Rosh Hashanah dinner at her own home (one that she shares with her boyfriend), and it was quite the celebration!  The table was set for the ten of us beautifully.  I felt like I was attending a meal hosted by our temple friends back in Cleveland!  I know she made her mother very proud 🙂  Although Carly is Jewish, Ben and his family are not (remember my post on JDate?  ‘Nuf said.).  As someone who grew up as “the only kid in town without a Christmas tree”, I completely get what it’s like to be a Jew in a Christian world.  Ever since I was young, I’ve chosen to embrace this difference and educate my non-Jewish friends as much as possible (see this and this).  Carly appears to share this philosophy, and made it her mission to educate Ben and his family on the Holiday and its customs.  She even went so far as to create a two-page guide (ignore the blue tint)!  I love it!
IMG_2690I knew I was in the presence of a real Jewish family when the feast began.  There was SO MUCH FOOD.  Carly and her Mom made an entire spread of Jewish foods!  We started with an appetizer of crostini with goat cheese, apples, honey, and pomegranate seeds, symbolizing a sweet new year, and enjoyed some Challah courtesty of Katzinger’s Deli in German Village – yum! We were then served some homemade chicken matzo ball soup, minus the matzo balls (technical cooking difficulties), which was so flavorful.
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The main course consisted of the following:  honey mustard chicken, noodle kugel (a traditional jewish dish), roasted potatoes, salad, and my personal favorite – brisket!  There was so. much. food.  Had to show the non-Jews what Judaism is really all about: food!
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And don’t forget about dessert!  Carly made an amazing apple honey cake (seeing a theme here?) AND a birthday cake to celebrate her father’s recent birthday!  And my contribution…a simple fruit salad 🙂
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We all left stuffed and happy and ready for bed!  It was such a fun evening – Carly and Ben’s families are so warm and welcoming and fun.  I felt right at home!  Thanks, Carly, for looking out for your sort-of-Jewish friend 🙂

As I wrote in last year’s Rosh Hashanah post, I love that the Jewish New Year is in early fall.  It always feels like the start of something new – a new school year, new cozy fall clothes, the change in leaves.  And this year, a new job!  I can’t think of a better way to start year 5776 than with a refreshing, challenging, and somewhat terrifying career change.  Today is my last day of “staycation“, and although I’ve very much enjoyed my time off, it’s time to start earning a paycheck again.

L’Shanah Tovah!  Here’s to a sweet new year.

Brunch

I love brunch.  I mean, what’s not to love about a meal that serves as two, and is thus justifiably large and filling?  And almost always (or in my case, always) includes bacon?  Not to mention drippy eggs!  I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

But to me, brunch is more than just a tasty meal.  It signifies a state of relaxation and leisurely-ness that is rarely captured by other meals.  My love of brunch dates back to freshman year of college.  My girlfriends and I would gather at Kennedy Commons at 11 AM on Sundays to linger over somewhat inedible scrambled eggs and toast and discuss the juicy details of last night’s debauchery:  who made out with whom, who didn’t make out (me), and who drank too much (usually the person still sleeping).  Studying and exercising could wait!  Post college, brunch took on a new meaning; with no homework hanging over our heads and more money in our pockets, my friends and I could afford nicer brunches.  And if we weren’t too hungover, those brunches might include cocktails!  Brunch is also my favorite meal to enjoy when visiting other cities, like this BLTE bloody mary at Jacob’s Pickles in NYC (and Nash’s fancy mimosa of some kind).
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I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for new brunch spots.  My rotation frequently includes Northstar (duh, can you say Big Burrito?), PhilCo (excellent baked eggs and grits), and Tasi (healthy-ish), with the occasional Union buffet mixed in.  But I get tired of those, so when I recently had the opportunity to explore two new-to-me cbus spots, I jumped at the chance (and actually remembered to take photos for once!).

The first new-to-me spot was The Whitney House in Worthington with my cousins Katie & Pete and their adorable son Edward.  They live in Worthington, and since I rarely venture outside the comforts of the Short North, I was happy to make the short drive north to a “cool” ‘burb.
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The menu at The Whitney House was a bit on the small and unusual side.  If I had to choose between diner-style brunch (think 3-egg omelettes with greasy home fries and toast) and fancy schmancy-style brunch (think salmon salads), I’d always choose the former.  I really love a low-maintenance, classic brunch that is as big as my head.  But everyone once and a while, a fancy schmancy brunch place is a nice change of pace, and The Whitney House fit the bill.
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Keeping with my theme of unhealthy brunch food, I opted for the Chilaquiles, which are basically nachos on steroids.  And let me tell you – they were GOOD!  I loved the chips that had become a bit soggy in the sauce.  I even liked the pork shoulder, which is unusual for me seeing as I’m not much of a “weird meat” person.  They were pull-apart tender and melted in my mouth – none of the chewiness I dislike about many cuts of meat.  And as mentioned earlier, what’s not to love about drippy eggs?!
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By contrast, Katie went the healthy lunch route, opting for matzo ball soup (a homage to her Jewish relatives) and a nice salad. She said they were both good, but I’m pretty sure my meal wins 🙂  Thanks, K, P, & E for getting me out to the ‘burbs and into a new restaurant!
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A couple of weeks later, I brunched at another new-to-me spot, this time south of the Short North in the Brewery District.  My yoga instructor, Jill, got a group of her students together for her 10 AM class followed by brunch.  Sweat fest followed by food?  Count me in!  Post class, the group of us toweled off and headed to Westies, a “gastropub” that I had dined at before, but only for bar food during sporting events.

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Right off the bat, Westies earned bonus points by serving these mini biscuits on the house (the photo doesn’t do them justice).  To a group of hungry yogis, it was heaven!  I also ordered a bloody mary that had antipasto as a garnish – yum! (seeing a theme here?).
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The brunch menu at Westies was my speed – I had a hard time choosing between all the greasy options!  I ended up going with the burrito, which was good but not quite as flavorful as I expected.  #brunchsnob
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The irony is, come Wednesday and my first day at Northstar Cafe, brunch will never quite be the same.  Largely because most of the time, instead of being the slightly disheveled person enjoying brunch, I’ll be the very put together person serving slightly disheveled people brunch!  On the rare occasion that I am able to enjoy a leisurely mid-morning meal, I’ll probably be too critical of the food / service to fully enjoy it.  Ignorance is bliss?  But alas, this is the path I’ve chosen, and so for the time being I’ll throw myself into making and serving YOU some of the best brunch in the city!

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So next time you wake up hungry (and maybe a bit hungover), stop in to the Northstar Cafe in Beechwold and get yourself a Big Burrito.  You won’t regret it!

What’s your favorite brunch spot?

 

Staycation

Hello O-HI-30 readers!  Long time no write.  It’s been over two weeks since my last post, and mostly for good reason.  Two good reasons, that is!  First, Pam’s wedding two weekends ago, followed immediately by vacation in Florida!

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As soon as Pam’s wedding was over, I wished it wasn’t.  I had such a fabulous time dancing my heart out with the dearest of friends from all over the world (it was a very international wedding!).  I knew so many people that it felt like my own wedding – I even made the “rounds” from table to table!  As you can see above, Pam was a stunning bride, and Reinhardt a very handsome groom.  Unfortunately I don’t have my hands on a lot of photos yet (per usual, I didn’t take any), but I did manage to get my hands on a couple that I think sum up the weekend fairly well.

First, this photo of the bridal party and family from the day before the wedding following a couple of hours of pampering at the W Nail Bar – manis and pedis, yes please!  As you can see, we had quite the group!  We had the entire salon to ourselves, and I can’t say enough good things about our experience – we were even given champagne on the house!  It was a great way to kick of a whirlwind 48 hours (which technically got kicked off the night before with a girl’s dinner at Nada).
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And second, this photo that Johnny captured of Jackie and me in the limo following the wedding ceremony.  #bridesmaids
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Thanks, Pam and Reinhardt, for including me in such a special way in your special day.  It was truly a wonderful weekend!  Enjoy the rest of your time in Hawaii!

I took a bit of a honeymoon myself.  At six AM the morning after the wedding (translation: from party dress to plane ride), my parents and Karen picked me up and whisked me away to our favorite place in the world, Anna Maria Island.

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Tell me, is there any better entrance to a beach than the magical, shady path that opens up to this?  I think not.

Despite that fact that we came as close as we ever have to postponing our trip because of the impending “tropical storm”, we had some of the very best conditions we’ve ever had. Not only was there no tropical storm, it barely even rained at all.  The water was crystal clear and glass-flat, just like we like it.  And because school had started but it was too early for the snowbirds to make their way south, the island was as deserted as it was in the 90’s when we first started going. Simply put, it was truly a perfect week.

We played a lot of our favorite game, rummy tile (my Mom won a whopping TEN games to Karen and my three each…), I watched at least ten episodes of The Good Wife (I’m all caught up to the current season), I read one book (but only one), and, last but definitely not least, there was a lot of this.  #bestfriedshrimpever
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Thanks, Mom, Dad, and Karen, for taking me on a wonderful vacation.  I love you guys.  We missed you, D!

On Labor Day, I attended my first of hopefully many Northstar annual picnics!  The picnic was held at Jorgensen Farms, one of Northstar’s produce vendors, in their beautiful barn (often host to rustic weddings).
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Matt joined me as my “plus one” (and a very handsome plus one, at that), and we both feasted on some of the best picnic food I’ve ever had.  Would Northstar do it any other way?!  The spread featured a mix of some of Northstar’s signature dishes (veggie burgers, slaw, pimento cheese dip, etc.) and other staples like pasta salad and fresh heirloom tomato salad.  And to top it off, the best sticky buns I’ve ever had (sorry, Aunt Margo), made in the Northstar kitchens using owner Kevin’s recipe.  They aren’t served in the restaurant, but they should be!  Everyone was so friendly to me, and a few speeches were made that made me feel really good about the company I’m joining.
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That brings me to rest of my staycation – a staycation that lasts another four days for a whopping total of 3.5 weeks!  So what the heck have I been doing with all my time, you ask?  A friend described it well yesterday – she said I was “nesting”.  Usually the term nesting is used to describe pregnant women who are prepping for baby, but in my case, that baby is my new job!  Aside from exercising and some socializing, I’ve mostly been using this time to clean and organize every inch of my apartment, and I love it.  In case you’re curious, that list looks like this:
IMG_2665When I start at Northstar on Wednesday, I’ll start knowing that my life is “in order” – a feeling that my Type A self just loves.  For now, it’s time to enjoy my last “normal” weekend for the foreseeable future!  I won’t be enjoying a typical Friday/Saturday/Sunday combo for quite some time…  Instead of lingering over eggs and coffee at 11 AM, I’ll be the one serving it.  Here goes nothing!

Have a great weekend, everyone!  Talk to you soon.

Adventures

Time for another Adventures post, stay-cation style!

Goodbye
After 8.5 years at METTLER TOLEDO, I said goodbye last Friday.
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Leaving was very bittersweet.  Although I was ready to go and am excited for what’s next, it was still hard to say goodbye to the people I worked with for so many years.  I always thought it was cliche when people leaving would say “what I’ll miss the most is the people”, but now I get it.  Really, what else is there?  (Although I’m kind of going to miss excel spreadsheets…#nerd).

To celebrate, my work husband Jim planned a happy hour at the new Bar Louie across the street (side note – Bar Louie has an amazing happy hour!).  Big thanks to everyone who made it out to wish me well – I felt so loved.  And an extra special thanks to two of my favorite METTLER TOLEDO people:  Jenny, one of my very first work friends and true confidant, and my work husband, Jim, who I sat next to for seven years and who is to credit with much of my professional success and all of my daily sanity.  Everyone should be so lucky to have a Jenny and a  Jim in their place of work.

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I miss you guys!  But not that much.  🙂


Bike
On my first official day of unemployment (I don’t start at Northstar until September 16.  3.5 week stay-cation!), I did what any normal person who isn’t earning a paycheck would do:  I bought a road bike!
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Those of you who have been reading for a while know that I’ve been building up to this for quite some time, so it wasn’t exactly an impulse purchase.  But even so, when I handed over my credit card, I did have a moment of “oh shit, am I really doing this?!”  After six triathlons on a hybrid bike and countless “i can’t believe you’re doing that on a hybrid!” comments, it was time to bite the bullet and upgrade.  And boy did I ever upgrade!

Between Sunday afternoon when I started this adventure and Monday afternoon when I finished it, I went from a road bike novice to…a semi-novice.  Shout-out to my Uncle Yossi for imparting some of his infinite wisdom on me, as well as the crowd-sourcing I did on Facebook!  I learned that on the most simplistic of levels, road bikes can be broken down into two things:  frame and components.  I visited two shops on Sunday, and narrowed down my choices to two bikes.

The first was a 2014 Specialized (my Hybrid brand) with a carbon fiber frame with entry level components for $1400 (tax-free somehow..).
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And the second was a 2014 Fuji with an aluminum frame, carbon fiber fork, and mid-level (good) components:
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I put both bikes on hold so I could consult various experts (see above) before making a decision.  I also wanted to check out a third shop, Roll.  I could go into a deep discussion of the psychology of purchasing decisions, but suffice it to say that Roll was the beneficiary of my desire to make a purchase that day.  If I had gone to Roll on Sunday I’m not sure if they would have earned my business.  That being said, Roll was an incredible customer service experience, and they deserved every penny of my business.  Brody, the shop manager, spent over two hours with me.  Roll focuses on bike fitting, which may be a gimmick for some, but for me and my old lady back, it’s very important.  Unlike the other two bikes and shops, I know that the bike I purchased is the right fit for me.

After test riding a mix of aluminum and carbon fiber bikes, I ultimately decided to put on my big girl bike shorts and go for the gold: Giant Avail Advanced 2 (2015).  It’s carbon fiber and shimano 105 components (mid-range), and because next year’s model is already in stock, I was able to secure a 20% discount + an additional $100 that I negotiated off the price, for a total of $1600.  There is a big part of me that still can’t believe I dropped almost two grand on a bike – say what?!  But I was afraid that if I went with a lesser bike, I would regret it in two years and wish I had gone with a better bike upfront.  So here’s to hoping this bike lasts me another 10+ years!
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I took her out for her maiden voyage today, and let me just say – it was awesome.  I really felt the difference between it and my old clunker, especially when making turns and when going up hills.  It’s so much more agile than the hybrid – I feel one with the bike.  I can’t wait to take her out on a longer ride!  Maybe I’ll become a serious cyclist yet!  Let’s hope so for $1600…:)


Brassica
My new employer, Northstar, is opening up a new restaurant right below my apartment!  Ever since Betty’s closed their doors 1.5 years ago I’ve been waiting for something awesome to go in that space – and Brassica is exactly that!
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Brassica (defintion: group of plants in the mustard family, including cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) is not open yet, but as a new employee of Northstar I was invited to their friends & family meals this week!  This gives the restaurant an opportunity to test out its processes, food, etc. in a friendly environment before opening to the public.  I went for lunch yesterday, and let me just say – YUM!  The menu is inspired by owner Kevin Malhame’s Lebanese heritage, so the focus is on Mediterranean flavors.  Sneak peak:
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The food was truly outstanding – so flavorful and healthy (minus the fries!).  It’s set-up like a Chipotle – you choose the base, and then go through a line selecting proteins, toppings, etc.  I opted for a salad, half lentils, half greens, with chicken, one falafel ball, and basically every topping – pickled beets, cabbage slaw, carrots, caramelized onions, etc. etc.!  It’s also reasonably priced – you can easily get a solid meal for $10 or less.
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In my (somewhat biased) opinion, it’s exactly what the Short North so desperately needs – an antidote to the fancy, pricey, sit-down restaurants.  Brassica is accessible, flavorful, quick, and easy.  I’m honored to be a part of the brilliant team behind it!  Can’t wait to introduce it to the public – for my friends and family, likely on my (discounted) dime 🙂

That’s all for now, folks!  So starts three big days of celebrating Pam and Reinhardt’s wedding!  Tonight is a girl’s dinner (while Reinhardt has his bachelor party!), tomorrow is nails, lunch, and rehearsal dinner, and Saturday is the big day – starting with hair and makeup at 7:30 AM!  And when it’s all over, I’ll be heading south to my “honeymoon” – Florida with my parents and Karen for a lovely week of absolutely nothing.  I may or may not hop on this space during that time, so if I don’t – don’t lose faith in me!  I’ll be back for my last week of stay-cation after Labor Day.

Enjoy your adventures!

Swim

Last night after work, I went swimming!
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And it felt really good.

I inherited my love of the water from my mother.  Although my Mom does not swim laps, she does spend hours – and I mean hours – in the pool, doing what she calls her “tricks”.  Treading water, doing arm and leg exercises, quasi-breast stroking, etc.  Every summer, she keeps track of how many times she flashes her senior pass at our local pool – I think the count is over 50 so far, and the summer isn’t over!  Some days she’ll go multiple times, others for just a quick 30-minute dip, and still others for hours on end.  She loves it.

My total pool visit count isn’t anywhere near 50 this summer, but I do my best to enjoy the chlorine water and din of children’s play when the weather heats up.  Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a local pool that comes close to the beauty of my mother’s beloved Bay Pool here in Columbus.  I’ve tried the Worthington pool (separate adult swim pool, but $15 entry, $11.50 after 6 PM!), Devon Pool in Upper Arlington (nice enough, but small), and Grandview pool – pictured above.  It’s not as nice as Bay, but it’s a decent pool and charges just $3 after 6 PM.  The water is clean, there are two dedicated lap lanes, and it’s not usually very crowded, especially on week nights.

When the weather turns cool, I’m forced inside, but when inside looks like this, it’s not so bad!
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If you are a swimmer or aspire to be one, I urge you to find an indoor pool that doesn’t make you want to stick a pen in your eyeball and twist it around (bonus points to anyone who knows the origin of that phrase!).  I used to swim at LA Fitness where I teach spinning, but the pool is only 18 meters in length, 3 lanes wide, and generally unappealing.  Paying the $8 / visit to swim at the RPAC is worth every penny (still undecided on paying $3.50 / visit to park, though..)

I haven’t always been a swimmer.  Much to the contrary, I didn’t participate in any sports growing up – my inner athlete only appeared when I went to college.  I was on the swim team in middle school at one point, but I quit for two reasons: 1.) I couldn’t figure out how to dive off the platform and 2.) as I told my Mom at the time, “when do you get to talk?”.  Apparently I wanted to participate in social activities, not ones that required an hour of your head in the water.  Despite not swimming competitively, I do have very fond memories of spending hours and hours at the pool on hot summer days, tossing dive sticks into the water, playing synchronized swimmers with my friend Brandy, and eating frozen Snickers bars from the snack bar (the highlight, obviously).
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Right around the time I graduated college, I injured my Achilles tendon (minor) and found myself unable to do my go-to form of exercise, the elliptical (which, ironically, I never ever do anymore and HATE).  I was fully addicted to exercise and couldn’t fathom the idea of taking an extended period of time off to let my injury heal.  Enter swimming!  At the time, I could barely swim more than a lap or two at a time before needing a break, but at least it was something.

That injury healed quickly, but it taught me a valuable lesson:  when life gives you injuries, go swimming!  This isn’t true for all injuries, of course – the stress fracture in my hip that kept me sidelined for months when I was 23 prevented me from doing any activity, including swimming.  But more often than not, swimming comes to the rescue.  Two more times after that I experienced various foot injuries that kept me from running and spinning and brought me back to the pool – this time for longer periods.

I credit these injuries with making me the swimmer that I am today.  It was during those periods that I slowly but surely worked up my endurance and my form.  I went from barely being able to swim two laps without stopping, to alternating freestyle and breaststroke, to swimming freestyle for a mile.  I also credit my high school BFF Allison for initially improving my stroke many years ago and my cousin Talya for perfecting it every year when we swim together over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Both were competitive swimmers in high school, and their form tips (keep your face straight down, roll your body to the side with each stroke to glide through it, kick from your hips, not your knees, etc.) have been instrumental in improving my technique.

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Today, I can swim for an hour with just a few short breaks mixed in.  And I’m actually pretty fast – fast enough to place second in the swim portion of an indoor triathlon!  I find swimming to be incredibly relaxing and soothing in a way that other forms of exercise are not.  It’s healing yet challenging.  I don’t swim more than once a week at most.  With no music (it’s occurred to me to purchase a waterproof MP3 player, but I kind of like the quiet when swimming) and lots of repetition, it can be a little bit boring.  Once a week is just enough to enjoy the benefits without getting antsy or burnt out.  My muscles also appreciate the variety – my body responds much better to a variety of activities than it does to too much of the same thing (running, spinning, yoga, strength, swimming etc.)

And the best part?  Swimming makes you hungry!  Last night when walking home from a 9:45 PM bang trim I made a spontaneous decision to take advantage of the very short line at Jeni’s Ice Cream (I won’t speculate on the reasons for that very short line…#listeria).  After tasting their new salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks (tasty), I opted for a “small” of darkest chocolate (always a winner) and their new double toasted coconut.  Yum!
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So tell me – how do you feel about the water?  Are you a fish or a stone?

Change

Big news on the O-HI-30 front!

Northstar at Easton.(Jodi Miller/Alive)

Northstar at Easton.(Jodi Miller/Alive)

After eight and a half years at METTLER TOLEDO, it’s time for a change – a BIG change!  My career path is taking a new turn – from Industrial Engineer to Marketer to Sales Rep to….Restaurant Manager!  And not just any restaurant, but my favorite restaurant, Northstar Cafe!

If you’re thinking that managing a restaurant sounds crazy, you’re right.  If you’re thinking that it’s a huge lifestyle change, you’re right.  If you’re thinking that I’m going to be exhausted and overworked, you’re right. And if you’re thinking that it’s going to be an exciting, worthwhile adventure, you’re definitely right!

How I got to this place is an interesting story that I’ll save for another post, but suffice it to say it wasn’t your typical apply-for-job-online experience.  After all, I wasn’t exactly I looking to become a restaurant manager!  But I’ve always been a huge believer in seizing opportunities as they arise and asking for what you want – a lesson I learned from my Dad.  So when I found myself talking to the owner of Northstar, Kevin Malhame, and he asked me if I was interested in discussing career opportunities, I said “why not?”

That was over two months ago, and here I am today, the newest addition to the Northstar Managing Partner team!  To give you a feel for the type of company Northstar is and the people who work there, I thought I’d share something that just happened today.  My main contact at Northstar throughout this process has been a super friendly and kind woman named Leigh.  Leigh sent out the following email to the Northstar Managing Partner Team:
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Is that not the nicest, most personal, thoughtful introduction email you’ve ever seen?!  It’s worth noting that Leigh did not ask me a single question to prepare this email – she pulled it all from casual conversations we’ve had over the past 2.5 months.  She even quoted this blog!  (although she got it wrong – I’ve completed SIX triathlons, not three – but I think I’ll forgive her).  From my limited experience thus far, I can tell that Northstar treats their managers very well, perhaps differently than typical restaurants.  Anyone who has eaten in a Northstar Cafe can confirm that this approach has served the company well; all of the employees, from the managers to the cooks to the service team (Northstar’s term for wait staff), all seem to genuinely be enjoying their jobs.

Tofu + Bacon = Totally Bomb!

The Chopped Salad at Northstar Cafe, sub Tofu for Turkey (half portion)

Does that mean I expect to enjoy my job 100% of the time?  Absolutely not!  I’m prepared for the reality that this job is going to challenge me in a way I haven’t been challenged before, and I’ll probably get frustrated and overwhelmed at times.  During the SIX MONTH training period (most of which will take place in the Clintonville location, in case you want to visit me at work!), I’ll rotate weekly through every aspect of the operation – including washing dishes.  Northstar believes in making sure their managers fully understand every aspect of the operation, and not just from a high level overview.  By the time I actually begin managing the cafe in March of 2016, I’ll understand the ins and outs of every person’s job – with still so much to learn.

Long-term, I see myself getting involved in the business side of the company, perhaps working more “normal” hours once again and utilizing my corporate skills.  But Northstar has a tried-and-true policy of not bringing in people from the outside into their small yet effective corporate office.  The focus is on in-store operations, and they believe in building a great team from the ground up.  While this philosophy initially made me nervous, over time I’ve fully embraced it and believe I will experience its full meaning and value in time.  In the meantime, I’ll be shelving my adorable business casual outfits in favor of khakis and non-slip clogs (and pinning my newly minted bangs back:( ), with the hopes of one day working those pencil skirts back into my wardrobe!

There is so much more I could say, and will, in time.  But for now, I’ll be enjoying my last eight days at METTLER TOLEDO, saying goodbye to so many wonderful co-workers and tying up loose ends.  I’ll then enjoy 3.5 blissful weeks of nothingness, including Pam’s wedding, a trip to Florida, and hopefully lots of free days for workouts, apartment organizing, and Netflix watching.  The calm before the storm!

Special thanks to my family and friends who encouraged and supported me throughout this process.  You made me believe that I wasn’t crazy for doing something crazy, and for that, I am grateful.  Free veggie burgers and cookies for you!  (Yes…I get a stipend to use on others.  Start brown nosing now).

Online: Part V

Recall that I made a promise to you, my O-HI-30 readers, that I would let you know when I rejoin match.com.  Well, as of a few weeks ago, that time has come.  And what better way to celebrate this slightly depressing yet promising occasion than with the final part in my five-part Online Dating series?!

In case you are new to O-HI-30 or haven’t been reading since the beginning, my Online Dating series is just as it sounds: a series of posts dedicated to my experiences in the online dating world.  You might say it’s even expert advice on how to navigate this mysterious world.  What makes me an expert, you ask?  For one, I’ve been dating online since the fall of 2009 (off and on….mostly on).  And second, I’ve tried plenty of dating sites.  There’s Tinder, not exactly a dating site but more of a “hot or not” app; OKCupid, a site that proves that “free” oftentimes equals low quality; JDate, for The Chosen Few (and by few, I mean VERY few); and finally – Match.com, the site that started it all, and the subject of this post.

At this point, reader, you may want to take a moment to review Online: Part I, in which I summarized these four dating sites.  The main takeaway?  Quantity vs. Quality.

Notice the presence of white space in the top right quadrant – there are no sites, in my opinion, that are both high quantity of men AND those men are high quality.  After all, there aren’t that many wonderful single men out there in the first place, let alone on dating sites!  You’ll also notice that match.com is smack dab in the center – also known as the origin, for you math buffs out there.  There aren’t millions of men on the site like OK Cupid, but there are significantly more men than JDate.  And while there are certainly some lame dudes on the site, there are also some pretty quality ones too.

Match.com doesn’t just fall on the origin of my Quantity vs. Quality map, but it also was the origin of online dating when it entered the world in 1995 – and the origin of my online dating when I entered the world in 2009.  It’s no coincidence that when I was ready to rejoin the dating world after my breakup this past spring, I joined Match and not one of the handfuls of other sites out there.  Although it’s far from perfect, and I’ve yet to meet my husband on the site, it’s also as reliable a site as I’ve found.

In case you haven’t had the luck of trying Match.com out for yourself, let me give you a brief tutorial.  First things first:  Match is not really a matching site.  “Say what?!”  eHarmony (from what I can tell) is – they spend hours trying to figure out who the perfect men are for you based on an extensive questionnaire.  OK Cupid is a match site to an extent.  But Match?  Match’s idea of matching is “you both like basketball” and “you both enjoy coffee and conversation”.  If that’s the case, then I match with half of the population!

So if not a matching site, then what is Match.com?  I’ve always thought of it as more of a “Filter.com”.  That is, I can narrow down a wide range of men to just the men that meet some defined criteria, thereby “filtering” out the ones I’m not interested in.  It’s like going to a party, but all of the men at the party are single, childless, want to have children one day, at least 5’8″, non-smokers, social drinkers, non-religious, and liberal.  That may sound extreme to you, and let me assure you – it is!  But that’s the beauty of it.  Rather than sift through the 2000+ men that are ages 27-39 and within 10 miles of my zip code, that filter lets me narrow the list down to ~250 men – a much more manageable number.

Now before you go giving me lecture #891 that I’m “too picky” or “missing out on some great men”, let me assure you – I’m not.  Because if a man happens to wink or email me that isn’t in my query, that’s fine!  I’ll still see him, and if he interests me, great.  The filter just lets me narrow down the number of men I see – and 250 is plenty of men to sift through.  After all, I’m a fabulous girl with a fabulous life – who has time to search through 2000 men?!  And besides, 250 sure beats the 35 on JDate!

Let’s pause for a minute to take a look at my profile.  I thought it would be fun to show you guys my “public profile” view – the view that all the hot men trolling my profile see:
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The above highlighted part?  Maybe now you can see why I don’t consider Match to be much of a matching site…this isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff.  That’s why, in the “in your own words” section, I try to give some color and insight into who I am in what I think is a unique and meaningful way.  Occasionally I’ll get an email from a guy who comments on it – “I like your lists”.  You’ll also notice that I fail to indicate my faith as “Jewish”.  That’s partially because while I identify as a Jew and clearly take part in the customs (see this and this), I am not what I’d consider a religious Jew. It’s also a result of a social expert I conducted a number of years ago – I discovered that I got more attention on the site when I left that attribute blank.  I guess men are afraid of JAPs? (which, clearly, I’m not one…clearly).

So let’s get back on track.  You might be thinking, “so if Match is so great, Sarah, then why haven’t you met your husband by now?”  Good question.  I may not have met my husband yet, but I have met some fairly high-quality dudes thanks to the site.  The first guy I dated on Match ended up being one of my longer and more successful relationships (not that it takes much given my track record).  The guy I dated just before Wyatt was a match find, and he was definitely a high quality guy – an econ professor with a $300K house in German Village and impressive cooking skills (not to mention kissing skills…).  And there were plenty of other decent men in between.

But before you get excited and join Match immediately, I must tell you that there are certainly your fair share of not-so-great dudes as well.  I’ve been on so many first dates I can’t even recall most of them.  And I’ve received ten times as many winks and emails from not-so-great men (most of which are probably on Tinder and OK Cupid too).  For example, just recently I received an email from a seemingly normal guy.  I was planning to respond, but when I hadn’t in less than 24 hours, I received this follow-up:
match1Not surprisingly, I chose not to respond.  Which turned out to to be the right call, as two weeks later, I received this:
match2Really?!  Where is your pride?  If a girl (or guy) doesn’t respond to you, move on!  Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my own advice and decided to let this guy know exactly what he said that was so bad that I didn’t respond.  What can I say – my fingers were furiously typing a well-crafted email informing him that he was rude and lacked self-confidence before I could stop to think if it was really worth it.  To which he replied:
match3Rude, huh?  Sounds familiar.  And blocking me?  Boo-hoo – I clearly am so upset about not being able to contact you.  Needless to say, this is my most f-ed up interaction I’ve had with the opposite sex online to date.  And that’s saying something!

It gets better.  Recently my friend Jackie, also a long-time match subscriber, got an email from a guy she had gone on one date with last summer.  He used her first name, so clearly he remembered her, but didn’t acknowledge that they had, in fact, met before.  So Jackie playfully pointed out the elephant in the room, “didn’t we meet up once last summer at xyz bar?” to which he replied “yes, we did.   I had a good time, so that’s why I’m writing you – I’d like to take you out on a second date”.  WHAT?!  He had a good time and he’d like to take her out on a second date…a YEAR LATER?!  We’ve all heard of the three-day rule, but the one-year rule….

Oftentimes, the rejection goes the other way.  Right before I met Wyatt last fall, I had a string of very bad luck in which I sent nine emails to nine separate men, only to hear back from zero.  Yes, ZERO.  That rejection, coupled with the rejection from the aforementioned econ professor with the amazing house and cooking / kissing skills, was enough to inspire one of my personal favorite posts on this blog.

So, no, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies on Match.com.  Just like any dating site, the men that email you never seem to be the ones that you want to email you, and the men that you email never seem to respond.  And even if you do have enough of a mutual interest to meet in person, more than half of the time that interest dies after the first meeting.  It’s rough.

But as you know from another personal favorite post, I’m a believer in the numbers game.  You have to meet a lot of people before you meet “the” person.  And that’s why I keep coming back to Match.com.  Sure, it can be depressing at times, especially after having been on the site for so many years – the same people keep appearing (the same can be said for me), all parading their failure to find lasting love.  But after every failed relationship or string of bad dates, Match gives me hope that my guy is out there, along with 250+ other suitable suitors!  Going on a date is a powerful reminder that you’re putting yourself out there and living your life instead of waiting around for your life to happen to you.

So thanks, Match.com, for taking me on lots of dates over the years, for making me laugh, for making me cry, and for potentially introducing me to my future husband.


Smoothie

Hi, friends!  Just popping in for a quick post, as opposed to the novel that was my triathlon recap from earlier this week!  If you read it in its entirety, you get extra points.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled that it finally feels like summer outside.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why people are complaining about the HEAT!  Do they really have that short of memories?!  It’s JULY, it’s supposed to be 90 and sunny!  I’m a big believer in embracing seasons and their food.  And nothing says summer more than ice cream – and smoothies!
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I’ve never been a huge fan of drinking my calories.  I find chewing much more satisfying.  There is a Planet Smoothie in my parking lot at work, and some of my co-workers go there for lunch to suck down a 500 calorie sugar bomb.  I don’t get it.  If I did that, I’d be reaching for a bag a chips 30 minutes later!  That being said, there is a time and place for everything, and lately I’ve found myself craving smoothies.  Something about this heat makes a cold berry-licious smoothie sound tempting.

But rather than buy a sugar and calorie laden one from a fast food joint, I make my own!  By doing so, I can control what goes in it (duh), and keep the junk at bay.  It’s also a great way to use up ripe bananas.  I often find myself in limbo with bananas – one day they they are bright green (gross), and the next, covered in brown spots (too much, even for a girl who likes spots).  But throw a ripe banana into a smoothie, and you’ve got perfection!  I also peel and freeze them for the times when my banana stock is green or non-existent – frozen bananas work just fine in smoothies.

And here’s the best part – drinking smoothies is also a great way to drink your vegetables!  Even if you eat a healthy diet, it can be hard to make room for all of your kale every single day.  But you don’t have to buy a fancy juicer or pay $10 for a beet/carrot/ginger juice to add some veggies to your diet.  Just add a handful of spinach to your next smoothie!  I promise you you won’t taste it at all – and if you use enough berries, you won’t even see it!  Even kids could be fooled.
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When I told my brother about my go-to smoothie, he was skeptical.  “Isn’t that a lot of sugar?”  Yes, there is sugar in my smoothie.  But in my opinion, there is a big difference between the natural sugars in bananas and frozen berries and the added sugar that is so prevalent in American diets.  This smoothie contains no added sugar – not even a squeeze of honey (although you could certainly add it!).  I find that it’s sweet enough as-is.
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Sarah’s Go-To Smoothie

  • ice, 2-3 cubes
  • banana, ~4 inches (insert obvious joke)
  • frozen berries (cherries are my favorite), ~1/2 cup
  • plain greek yogurt, large dollop (~1/8 cup)
  • milk, enough to make it drinkable (~1/2 cup)
  • spinach, large handful

A few years ago I bought a decent blender for about $100 bucks (KitchenAid), and it does a perfectly fine job – no need for a fancy Vitamix to make your basic smoothie.  Throw all of your ingredients in the blender, being sure to add the ice first so it’s closest to the blade.  Run the “crush ice” mode for a few seconds before switching to liquefy, adding milk until the smoothie reaches a drinkable consistency.  Pour into a glass (ideally a clear glass so you can appreciate your smoothie’s beauty), add a straw, and sip away!  Enjoy as a snack on its own, or with some food that requires chewing for a more hefty snack / light meal!
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Are you a fan of smoothies?  What’s your go-to?

Success!

On Sunday, I completed my sixth triathlon and second Olympic distance triathlon.  And I couldn’t be happier with my performance.  Success!
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Let’s take a minute to revisit my last Olympic triathlon, this exact weekend one year ago.  Upon crossing the finish line, I felt like this:
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Fast-forward one year:
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What a difference a year makes!  Recall that my goal for Olympic Triathlon #2 was to feel “stronger and less miserable when I cross the finish line” than last year.  I not only met that goal, I smoked it!   I didn’t just feel better than last year; I felt as good, if not better, than I have in any of my sprint (read: half as long) triathlons.  And my total time proved it!  I swam as well as I did last year (always my strong suit), biked 2.6 MPH faster, and ran almost 2 min/mile faster.  Simply put – I owned it!
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Let’s back up a few days, shall we?  The race festivities started Saturday, when Matt and I dropped off our bikes to the swim start / transition #1.  After checking in, picking up our race packets and timing chip, and racking our bikes, we decided to walk down to Antrim Park Lake, the location of the swim (about 400 yards from the transition).  This beautiful scene greeted us.  But don’t be fooled – it’s harder than it looks!  The buoys you see are just part of the swim course – there are more to the left.  When we arrived the next morning, they had been readjusted to form a triangle shape spanning 1/2 mile.  Seeing the swim course laid out like this always feels overwhelming – “I have to swim that far?  TWICE?”.  Although I regularly swim three times that amount, it’s always in a lap pool and thus, I don’t have a perception of the physical distance I’m actually swimming.  Woah.
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Afterwards, Matt and I decided to cool off in another body of water – a local pool.  We enjoyed spending a couple of hours playing around in the water and practicing our swim strokes for the final time before the big race.  That evening I met up with my family – parents, Karen, and BROTHER, who had flown in from NYC for the occasion!  It was supposed to be a suprise, but D accidentally sent me his flight itinerary instead of my Mom – oops.  Surprise or not, it was still very special to have him support me in both my first and second Olympic triathlons!  The five of us had dinner at Marcella’s so I could carb up on homemade gnocchi and crusty bread before hitting the sack early.

I slept surprisingly well, and when my alarm went off at 4:30 I was ready to go (although could have easily kept sleeping…)!  I got dressed, poured some coffee, made my to-go breakfast, and grabbed my T1 & T2 gear bags that I had prepared the day before (and this isn’t even everything!).  Triathlons are complicated.
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I picked Matt up and we headed to the stadium, which was the location of both T2 and the finish.  We entered the ‘shoe in the wee hours of the morning to drop off our T2 gear: running shoes, hat, race belt, and headphones.  It’s not every day that you get to be in an empty, quiet, dark Ohio Stadium.
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From there it was to the buses to be shuttled to the start of the race.  We checked our bikes and arranged our T1 gear (a much larger feat than T2 – towels, water bottles, gloves, watch, helmet, socks, shoes, sunglasses, etc.) before heading down the sloped hill towards the swim start.  One major annoyance of this race was the lack of pre-race bathroom options.  There were lines of at least 50 people in two areas waiting for porta pottys!  With the clock quickly approaching the start time, I took one from my Dad’s playbook and joined a much shorter line to use the park’s porta pottys – I have no idea why more people weren’t in this line, but I’m not complaining!  Before we knew it, it was time to part ways and get into our swim corrals.

The Ross Heart Hospital’s Tri Fit Challenge consists of three distances: Tri (.25 mi swim, 13 mi bike, 2 mi run), Fit (aka, sprint: .5 mi swim, 13 mi bike, 3.1 mi run) and Challenge (aka, Olympic: .9 mi swim, 25 mi bike, 6.2 mi run).  The swim was a wave start, with the Challenge distance going first, then Fit, then Tri.  They allowed group of five at a time to enter the water, waiting a few seconds in between each group.  I can’t say enough good things about this strategy; there wasn’t the crowded, frantic attempts to clear away from the mass of people as in most triathlons.  I entered the water about five minutes after the start, around 6:35 AM, with four men – see me in the middle?
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HUGE thanks to Ron O’Brien, Franklin County Prosecutor, regular at my spin class and triathlete himself (he did a Half Ironman last year!), for being my personal photographer!  Ron was at the race supporting a friend, who also competed in the Olympic distance.   Ron was supposed to be competing in the race himself, but sadly had a cycling accident a couple of months ago that has kept him sidelined – but not from being a spectacular spectator!  Thanks, Ron!

The swim was good.  For the first time ever in a race, I hit my stride right away.  The water was the perfect temperature, clear (you could see the bottom in parts!), and not too choppy.  It was a bit crowded at times, especially during the second lap when the Fit distance athletes joined us Challenge athletes.  The turns were easily my least favorite part – the course got really crowded as people were trying to hug the turns as tightly as possible.  But overall, I felt calm and strong during the entire swim.  Not exactly super fast, but completely on my game.  About 34 minutes later, I ran out of the water, under the 315 bridge (on muddy concrete), and up the slippery grassy hill to T1.

Total Swim Time: 36:17
Total T1 Time: 3:21

My transition was pretty slow, per usual, but I didn’t feel as though I was dilly-dallying!  And then it was off to sport #2: the bike.
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The bike course was very crowded for the first 13 miles – almost annoyingly so.  People were riding two by two, which is technically illegal but there really was no other option – there were just too many people on the course for everyone to ride single file without drafting (which is also illegal).  I almost felt bad for the super fast cyclists who were trying to navigate the crowded course.  I had three separate cheering squads on High St.: first, my cousin Katie and her dog Mavis, then a couple of miles later, my family, and then a couple of miles after that, my other cousins Emily, Jim, and their daughter Julia.  It was so fun seeing everyone and was a huge motivator to keep pushing ahead!  I don’t think any of my competitors had multiple cheering squads lining the bike course 🙂

The course cleared out after the Fit and Tri distances broke off to head to the Stadium at mile 13.  We Challengers forged on, and almost immediately I was completely alone, the nearest cyclists at least 20 feet ahead and behind me.  I hunkered down and focused on navigating the choppy terrain of Kenny Road.  A big, scary, dark cloud loomed ahead in the distance, and I began to worry that it was going to attack me, but luckily I turned east and then back south on High St and managed to avoid it.  I’m told that it moved further south as time went on and some of the later finishers did get wet – I got lucky!  And before I knew it, the remaining 12ish miles were complete (the course was short – my watch showed 22.7 miles instead of the 25 it was supposed to be) and I was back at the Stadium!

Total Bike Time:  1:20:39

Biking is generally my weakest sport of the three, despite teaching indoor cycling for almost five years.  In past races, every stroke felt like a struggle, my inner thighs weak and tired.  But that wasn’t the case for this race!  Here’s another first: I actually felt great on the bike the entire time.  Sure, maybe it’s because I trained more this year (more on that later), but my performance can be attributed mostly to ideal course conditions.  The course was largely downhill, with some short rolling hills and only a couple of really tough spots.  And the wind, which is typically my arch nemesis, decided to sleep in.  Combine that with my lack of kickstand and additional training, and I was on fire!  Of course, it’s all relative – my avg MPH of 18.6, while very speedy for me, placed me in the bottom quarter of all finishers.  But I’m proud to say that for the first time ever, I passed more people on the bike than passed me.  Boo-yah!

Transition #2 took place in the stadium – so cool.  I had some trouble racking my bike, which probably added at least 30 seconds – it’s always something!  I switched from my bike to run shoes, threw on my hat and race belt (an easy way of dealing with the race bib, as opposed to pinning it to my shirt) and grabbed my headphones and phone.  On my way out of the stadium I saw (and heard!) my family cheering from the south stands, and then saw my Dad as I exited the stadium.  What a boost!

Total T2 Time: 2:57

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Starting the run, I immediately knew it was going to be a better run than last year.  For one, I didn’t pee my pants this year (in fact, I didn’t even go to the restroom until I got home a couple of hours later…), so I wasn’t starting things off on a disgusting note!  When I started running last year, I felt awful almost right away – every. step. hurt.  But that wasn’t the case this year.  I felt good right away – like I usually do during a sprint triathlon.  My legs always feel a little weird, of course, but my back didn’t hurt and I felt strong.  My pace held steady at less than 10 min/mile as I kept forging ahead.

Not long into the run, I passed a women who yelled to me, “you’re not supposed to be using headphones!”.  I said, “oh, I didn’t realize that”, to which she grouchily responded, “you obviously didn’t read the race materials, then”.  Wow!  What was her problem?!  First of all, headphones were only illegal during the bike -it’s perfectly legal to listen to some sweet tunes during the run!  And second, where was her sportsman like conduct?!  99% of the time, people are so friendly and supportive of eachother on the course.  We’re all lunatics, choosing to do this to ourselves – we’re in this together!  I kept on running, far past that nasty women, with a smile on my face – I was feeling great!

Not long after, I ran passed my freshman (and sophomore) year dorm, Bradley Hall, where my dearest Ashley and her husband Johnny were cheering me on, along with my Dad and brother!  It was so amazing to see them there.  I ran into them again on their walk back to the Stadium a mile or so later, as well as my fellow Girls on the Run coach Amy and her husband Nate, who were spectating on the Oval.  The support on the run course was amazing!
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I did something on this run that I’ve never done before – I drank Gatorade at some of the water stops instead of just water.  I hate Gatorade – it’s too sweet and weird tasting for me – but I think it really helped.  I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded, and I needed the extra boost.  I also ate some of those energy chews that long distance runners use (I used to eat them when I ran half marathons).  I probably had ~200-300 calories between the Gatorade and the chews in total – calories that I didn’t take in at all during my run last year.  It really made a huge difference.  The Challenge distance was two loops of the run course, which I expected to hate but I actually kind of liked.  I knew what to expect, and it gave me a feeling of “I’m over halfway there!”  I felt remarkably good – my back didn’t hurt at all, and while my legs were definitely getting tired, nothing was bothering me too much.  At the very last quarter mile, I ran past Matt (he had finished the sprint distance earlier), who cheered me on with Tim and his parents.  It was really special to see him!

And then….
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Total Run Time: 56:58 – a 9:12 pace!

Total Time:  3:00:10
8/20 in Age Group
53/96 in Gender

I cannot properly express how much better I felt at the end of this race than last year’s.  Last year, I had to sit down immediately.  My back was killing me and I was completed exhausted.  This time, I was like, “oh, hey, what’s up”.  Ron captured this feeling well – look at that smile!
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A lot of people have asked me why I think I was able to shave off a whole 26 minutes from my time last year.  First things first: all races are not the same.  This course was significantly shorter than last year’s.  The bike was about 2 miles shorter, and the run a whopping MILE shorter.  My watch showed 5.8 (supposed to be 6.2), and last year’s race was 6.8 (supposed to be 6.55).  That being said, the transitions for this race were longer than last year.  In short, it’s difficult to compare apples to apples with triathlons.  Instead, I like to compare pace and overall feeling – both of which were greatly improved year over year.

So, then, what to credit for the improvement?  I attribute it to three things:

  1. Training:  As I wrote about in this post, I didn’t follow a specific training plan.  They just aren’t my thing (although necessary sometimes).  However, I did ramp up my training significantly.  Last year, I did a couple of 25 mile bike rides, tops.  This year, I did two 40-mile rides with Columbus Outdoor Pursuits and multiple shorter rides of ~20 miles.  I think the two longer rides really made a difference in my comfort level on the bike – if I could go 40, I could certainly go 25.  But the run is where I made the biggest changes.  Last year, I took the run for granted.  It’s always been pretty easy for me in sprint triathlons, so I assumed the same would be true for the Olympic.  False.  So this year, I ran.  And then I ran some more.  I upped both my distance and my frequency.  I ran multiple 6 & 7 mile runs throughout the past couple of months in addition to more frequent 3-5 mile runs.  Basically – I took this race more seriously, and it paid off.  (Side note:  I didn’t swim more than normal – I already regularly swim 1.5 miles / week)
  2. Nutrition:  You would think that after five triathlons and three half marathons (back in the day) this would be a no-brainer, but I think I’m finally understanding the importance of hydrating and fueling properly.  After a very bad run Fourth of July weekend, I discovered Nuun (thanks to Amy!), a sugar-free electrolyte drink that has really made a difference in my training.  I drank a bottle of it during the bike.  I also made a real effort to take in more calories during the race.  It’s hard to make yourself eat when you’re exercising, but it’s so so important.  On this race, I ate three dates stuffed with PB and sprinkled with sea salt (mmm) and at least 200 calories worth of sport gummies (I like honey stingers and Cliff shot blocks) during the bike and run.  And as I mentioned earlier, I also drank Gatorade during the run.  Sports nutrition is super complicated and super important – I still have a lot of work to do in this area!  But it’s clear that my increased attention to it this year made a difference.
  3. Massage:  As someone whose general state of being is tense, I am a huge believer in massages and get a deep tissue every three weeks.  I have a contract  (read: decent pricing) with Massage Envy and can’t say enough good things about the chain or my masseuse, Chris.  Chris convinced me to try something for this race that I’d never done before: instead of waiting until after the race to get a recovery massage, why not get one before the race?  And specifically, a hot stone massage!  The heat loosens up the muscles and allows the therapist to work deeper without causing as much pain.  I was a bit nervous, as I often feel lousy for a day or two after a massage (they can be really painful), but Chris assured me he wouldn’t do anything that would make me worse off.  I’m so glad I took his advice!  The massage wasn’t painful in the least, and I left feeling relaxed and loose.  It’s still paying off – my level of post-race soreness is at an all time low!  I highly recommend hot stone massages, and will be working them into my routine (although notably less often – they are not cheap!).

HUGE shout-out to everyone who came out to cheer me on!  In addition to my parents, brother, and Karen, my Aunt and Uncle also joined at the Stadium, as well as previously mentioned Ashley and Johnny!  And my cousins along the bike course, Amy and Nate along the run course, and Ron along the entire course!
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And a very special shout-out to my dear friend Matt, who completed his very first triathlon and ROCKED it! This is a photo my family took of Matt immediately following his finish.  As my brother put it, “he looks like he just came out of a business meeting”.  Ha!  Matt said he had a fantastic time and will definitely be doing it again next year.  Maybe the Olympic distance?!  Lord knows he could do it – this guy placed in the top quarter of all male finishers!  So proud of you, Matt.  Thank you for the companionship!
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And for those of you who are like me and only read these blog things for the food porn, here is what I ate post-race!  Brunch at Northstar – my Dad and I shared the mushroom frittata and the Big Burrito, aka the best burrito in the world!  And then, just five hours later, I treated myself to chipotle, aka the best gauc in the world.  It was a good food day!
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If you’re still reading, you get bonus points.  Thanks, everyone for your support!  It was a truly great day.  Next year, half ironman?!  (just kidding….maybe in a few years.  or maybe never).

 

Shower

Bridal shower, that is!
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If I wasn’t so intent on using one-word titles for my posts (perhaps you’ve noticed, you observant reader, you), I would title this post, “How To Host a Successful Wedding Shower”.  As you may recall, I got my first taste of hosting a wedding shower when I hosted one for my friend Pam earlier this year.  Prior to, I was shower-hosting virgin.  But luckily, many of her friends from “back home” were experts and knew just what to do.  I paid attention and marveled in awe at their ability to transform your average small town lodge into “Paris”, complete with Eiffel Towers, a mimosa bar, macaroons, and a moose (oh, wait, that was part of the lodge).
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So when it came time to host my second shower of the summer for my dear friend Laura Nash this past weekend, I was slightly more prepared.  Again, I had three lovely bridesmaids on my team, and the four of us channeled our best Martha Stewart to pull off what I believe was a pretty darn nice shower!  So how’d we do it?  Read on!

1.  Choose the Right Venue
First things first – where to have the shower?  If someone is willing to host at their home, great.  But what if no one is, or it’s just not feasible given the location or size of the guest list?  That’s what happened here.  At first, we thought we’d host a shower for all of Nash’s friends AND her Mom’s friends AND their family.  But we quickly realized that number would be over 50!  So we split the group into two:  a friend’s shower hosted by her bridesmaids on Saturday, and a family shower hosted by her Mom and sister on Sunday.  Even with just the friends, we were looking at 20+ girls – Nash is popular!  Fortunately, Christen lives in a small, quaint condo complex that has a clubhouse (and a pool!), and for a mere $25 fee she reserved it for the afternoon.
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The clubhouse ended up being the perfect space for our group.  It was light and bright, intimate without being too small, and comfortable.  And the best part – no one had a messy house to deal with when all the fun was over!

2.  Pick a Theme
OK, so technically, this step is optional.  I’ve been to many a nice bridal shower (like the one hosted by Nash’s older sister Libby and their Mom the following day) that did not have a theme.  Other than love, that is!  But as an amateur, I find it helps to have a theme to center all of the decisions around – food, decor, invitations, etc.  So the bridesmaids started brainstorming and came up with something a bit unexpected – a Southern theme!  Although Nash and her fiance are Ohio born and bred, they recently moved to Greenville, SC.  And what says bridal shower more than pulled pork and cornbread, y’all?!  We also gave a nod to Nash’s “shabby chic” wedding style by featuring lots of mason jars, burlap, and simple flowers.

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3.  Serve Chocolate & Booze

A few days before the shower, Nash asked me a question: “will there be alcohol?”.  One word:  DUH!  I’m not saying that every bridal shower needs to have booze, but if you’re throwing a shower mainly for the bride’s “young” friends, a little mimosa bar can’t hurt.  The guests enjoy it, and the hostesses enjoy it even more!  Julie had already purchased this double drink dispenser from Nash’s registry as a shower gift, so we put the gift to use! (don’t worry, we washed and re-packed it afterwards).  Unfortunately, it had a bit of a leaking problem…return?
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And what’s a shower without chocolate?!  OK, maybe that’s just me.  But if not chocolate, at least something sweet and decadent is a must.  Lucky for this chocoholic, Nash likes chocolate as much 50% as much as I do, specifically chocolate & peanut butter!  So we went all out with this custom chocolate PB cake from a local bakery.  And let me tell you – it was RICH, even for me!  Served with a variety of cupcakes: wedding cake, strawberry cheesecake, and you guessed it – more chocolate.  Yum.
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4.  Play One Game (Two at Very Most)
Ah, the games.  Who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with bridal shower games?  On one hand, they bring the guests together, provide some structure, and make people laugh.  On the other, they can be cheesy, long, and generally cringe-worthy.  But if you do your research, you can manage to honor this bridal shower tradition without making people want to hide in the bathroom.
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Fortunately, there are plenty of ideas on theknot.com for bridal shower games.  Spend some time reading them and choosing a game (two at most) to play with your group.  It’s important to keep your guests in mind.  A group of the bride’s mother’s friends might enjoy more classic shower games (we played a cute, “guess what spice this is” game at Libby’s shower the next day).  Since our shower was a friend’s shower, we played “how well do you know the couple?”  About a week before the shower, I spoke with Kyle on the phone and asked him a series of questions about him, Nash, and their relationship.  For example: “how old was Laura for her first kiss?”  Answer: 15.  Kyle’s answer: “I dunno, 17?”.  Then, at the shower, I passed out questionnaires and had each of the girls guess the answers.  I then asked Nash the same questions one by one, in front of the group, and read her Kyle’s responses, too.  Just steer clear of any sensitive topics!  It’s a fun way of giving your guests some deeper insight into the couple and their lives together, and makes everyone laugh!

5.  Keep an Eye on the Clock
If you only remember one tip, remember this one!  Everyone has been to one of “those” showers – the kind that go on, and on, and on…all of a sudden 11 AM has turned into 4 PM and poof!  there goes your afternoon.  We really didn’t want Nash’s shower to be one of those showers.  The shower started at noon, and our goal was to be done by 2 PM.  But let me tell you – that doesn’t happen without some serious time management!  Lucky for the guests, I’m not shy.  The party started at noon, and by 12:20 all of the guests had arrived and were chatting away.  So I got things going by having everyone introduce themselves and how they knew Laura, and then kept things moving with lunch, followed by the game, followed by dessert, followed by present opening.  Gotta keep the party moving!
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Of course, all of the above is easier if you have a great team of girls helping!  Big thanks to Pratt, Julie, and Christen for helping put together a pretty fabulous shower, if we do say so ourselves!

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And last but definitely not least – big thanks to the bride-to-be for being so awesome.  One thing is for sure about my dear dear friend Laura Nash:  she is easy-going and carefree (Kyle’s favorite trait of Nash’s, and mine, too), which made hosting her shower a pleasure.  I’m so honored to be her maid-of-honor, and I’m truly looking forward to all the fun the next few months will bring!  Next up: Nash Bash (or perhaps I should call it Nash BACH) in Nashville!