Tag Archives: book club

Write It Down, Do It Up – Week of June 2

Hey, everyone!  I hope your June (wow!) is off to a great start.  Yesterday looked like a typical Saturday:  swim with some Full Throttle Endurance teammates and then work at JackRabbit.  I went right from the pool to the store, so I missed triathlete brunch (and a 60-mile bike ride, boo), but one of my teammates brought me a muffin.


Homemade blueberry with lemon zest—yum!  Also, four teammates—yes, four—visited me at work yesterday, so that was awesome.  And today, I met up with a teammate for a run in Central Park, completed a solo indoor cycling workout, and headed back uptown for our first book club meeting.


Thanks for taking the picture, Jen!  Great meeting you, Emily and Lynette!

So much fun—and no food pictures.  Whoops!  The official recap will go live Tuesday.

Anyway … it’s officially RACE WEEK!  I still can’t believe Mighty Montauk is next weekend, and right now, I have very mixed feelings about this Olympic-distance event.  As always, I’m excited and ready to do work, but I don’t feel ready.  This week’s taper will probably be more challenging than the one before Nautica South Beach; I really want to keep pushing, but I need to embrace the taper.  Here’s this week’s edition of Write It Down, Do It Up!

(If you’re new to WIDDIU, here’s how it works:  Every Sunday evening, I post my workout schedule for the week, and I invite you to do the same.  This way, we can motivate each other and hold ourselves accountable.  Sounds like a win-win, right?)

Monday – a.m. run with Full Throttle Endurance (FTE)

Tuesday – a.m. swim with FTE

Wednesday – a.m. brick workout with FTE—indoor cycle and run off the bike

Thursday – a.m. easy swim; a.m. easy run

Friday – off

Saturday – Mighty Montauk Triathlon

Sunday – off/easy run

When is your next race or event?


Happy Tuesday, friends!  I have a busy day ahead of me—a long shift at the running store and shoe class tonight—so let’s keep it simple with a survey.  Sound like a plan?

Current Book(s):  Aside from my pre-bedtime magazine reading that includes Triathlete and LAVA magazines (#trigeek), I’m also working my way through Savor:  Mindful Eating, Mindful Life for book club!


Most nights, I get through one chapter before falling asleep.

Current Music:  My most recent workouts have been sans music, but here three of my favorite high-energy jams.

“Can’t Hold Us” by Mackelmore

“My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” by Fall Out Boy

“Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch

Current Guilty Pleasure:  My Paleo chocolate chip banana bread.


It may have disappeared in less than four days.  Just sayin’.

Current Nail Color:  No polish right now, but you better believe my nails will be red for the Mighty Montauk Triathlon!

Current Drink:  Water.  So exciting, I know.  My second cup of coffee will happen momentarily, though.

Current Food:  Post-ride (during which I got “called up” to ride with the ladies on the “racing team!”), I ate my standard spinach and egg white breakfast sandwich.  However, four Central Park loops (about 24 miles) means breakfast number two is only a matter of time.  It’s super humid today, so a smoothie sounds perfect.

Current Favorite Show:  Well, you know I’m obsessed with Dan Stevens, and I’m always down for some Downton Abbey.


I also get sucked into Say Yes To The Dress and Sex and the City marathons.

Current Needs/Wish List/Indulgence:  I’m combining these three because they’re connected.  Since I only have one team cycling kit, I need another; therefore, it’s been on my wish list.  And the online team store reopened, and even though this may not qualify as a typical indulgence, I treated myself to some new pink gear.


I even opted for the (unpictured) bib shorts—who would’ve thought?  Ha!

Current Blessing:  My supportive and loving (and goofy!) family.


Hopefully they will visit again soon!

Current Outfit:  One thing I love about working at a running store?  A laid-back dress code.  I usually wear jeans and a race or JackRabbit t-shirt.  And sneakers of course.

Current Excitement:  My big-girl promotion still makes me giddy (I have my first conference call today–ahhh!), and I’m also counting down the days until Montauk.  Only 17 days until race day!

Please play along in the comments!

Friday Favorites – May 3

Happy Friday!  Has this week flown by for anyone else?  There are a bunch of things getting me in the Friday/weekend spirit, so I’m going with a list-style post today.

1.  This will be my first time in four years celebrating Cinco de Mayo.  How is this possible?  In college, I always seemed to be stuck at a prof’s house for final portfolio presentations (ah, the joys of a small liberal arts college), which meant no Cinco shenanigans.  Things will be different on Sunday!


My teammates and I will bike to the start line of Escape to the Palisades, run the 5-K, and then ride around Jersey.  More likely than not, some adult beverages will be consumed—after the race of course.

2.  While working at JackRabbit Sports last night, I wore the Saucony Kinvara 3’s—and immediately fell in love.


I’ve been eying this pair for a while, and my size was finally available last night.  I’ll spare you the shoe geek specs, but it’s an incredibly light and comfortable shoe.  Coincidentally, I’m also due for a new pair of sneakers.  Hmmm …

3.  In terms of cooking, I took a risk and threw together a new spice blend.


I don’t remember the exact measurements, but it contained cayenne pepper (obviously), garlic powder, brown sugar, and dried thyme, plus some cinnamon and salt.  Huge success!

4.  This Facebook post made my day:  MuckFest MS shared one of my aunt’s photos.


What a great race–and we’re famous!

5.  Thanks to working tonight and swimming tomorrow morning, I’m going to have a crazy night filled with some baller reading material.


If you missed yesterday’s post, Jen and I teamed up to start a book club.  Just fill out this Google form if you’d like to join!

What are some things that are making your Friday extra awesome?

Let’s Read: Book Club

Hey, friends!  How’s it going?  Yesterday, I briefly mentioned an exciting announcement, so let’s get to it:  Jen and I have teamed up to start the Fitness and Frozen Grapes & Jen’s Best Life Book Club!


We’ll read one book each month, and since we’re both healthy living bloggers, we plan to select readings that address these types of themes:  think athletes’ biographies to trending wellness texts to food and nutrition best sellers.  Each month, our group will meet in New York City for a potluck gathering on a Sunday afternoon (obviously, food would be involved!), and there will be a virtual discussion component as well; on the following Tuesday, Jen and I will blog about the in-person discussion and include links to your digital book review if you choose to write one.  Oh, and we have an official hashtag too:  #FJBookClub!

So what will we read this month? Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.


We selected this book because intuitive eating is a popular topic these days, and plus, we both approach nutrition from an athletic standpoint—fueling our workouts, replenishing calories post-workout, etc.—and cleaning eating is important for peak performance.  Overall, we’re curious about intuitive eating, but we didn’t want a book that purely functioned as a how-to guide.

Here’s the Amazon.com description:

With the scientific expertise of Dr. Lilian Cheung in nutrition and Thich Nhat Hanh’s experience in teaching mindfulness the world over, Savor not only helps us achieve the healthy weight and well-being we seek, but also brings to the surface the rich abundance of life available to us in every moment.

If you’d like to join us, then just fill out this Google form.  We’ll send information about the NYC meet up, and we’ll also keep you posted on the virtual discussion and blog link-up.

So go sign up!

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Running on Empty Book Review

Raise your hand if you’ve run a marathon!  Keep it up if you’ve completed two … plus a 10-K for 52 consecutive days.  Think it’s impossible?  That’s exactly what Marshall Ulrich did, which he depicts in his book Running on Empty:  An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America.


That’s right—at the age of 57, he ran from California to New York, totaling 3,063 miles.  Holy cow!

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

“The ultimate endurance athlete, Marshall Ulrich has run more than one hundred foot races averaging over one hundred miles each, completed twelve expedition-length adventure races, and ascended the seven summits—including Mount Everest.  Yet his run from California to New York—the equivalent of running two marathons and a 10k every day for nearly two months straight—proved to be his most challenging effort yet.  In Running on Empty he shares the gritty backstory of his run and the excruciating punishments he endured on the road.  Ulrich also reaches back nearly thirty years to when the death of his first wife drove him to run from his pain.

“Ulrich’s memoir imbues an incredible read with a universal message for athletes and nonathletes alike: face the toughest challenges, overcome debilitating setbacks, and find deep fulfillment in something greater than achievement.”

Product Details

Publisher:  Avery Trade

Publication date:  4/3/2012

Pages:  320

My Review

Another month, another read for Jamie’s virtual book club.  And as indicated from the book’s cover, Ulrich embarked on a crazy journey—3,063 miles in 52 days at 57 years old.


Even though the plot centers on this cross-country journey, Ulrich uses the act of running as a window into his life.  The book opens up with a discussion on his childhood and his marriage to his first wife, Jean—and his not-so-great health.  This is a story we’ve heard before:  person suffers from obesity/hypertension (the latter in Ulrich’s case); person starts running; person loses weight/lowers cholesterol (again, the latter for Ulrich) and maintains a healthy lifestyle thanks to running.  However, it’s why Ulrich runs that drives the plot:  Jean is diagnosed with breast cancer, so Ulrich uses running to cope with the pain.  When she dies, and when Ulrich remarries and divorces multiple times, he runs to escape from reality.  As he laces up his sneakers more frequently and for longer outings, he eventually discovers ultrarunning and ultimately decides to run across the United States.

During the first 18 days of this journey, Ulrich has a running partner of sorts, though—Charlie Engle, who you may know from the documentary Running the Sahara. (Yes, I watched it to get pumped up for the Seneca7, and I’ve seen it two or three times since, too.) Prior to this news, I found the book to drag a bit, but at the mention of Charlie’s name, I perked up.  The unexpected intertextuality pulled me in, and I knew there would be drama ahead.  For those who are unfamiliar with Engle, he’s an accomplished runner—though not in the same ultrarunning echelon as Ulrich—and he’s also extremely intense and volatile.  Several people cautioned against working with Engle, including his former Sahara teammate Ray (who I absolutely loved in the film), and since I’m such a gossip hound, I plowed through the book, waiting for the big confrontation.  It did not disappoint.

Aside from the drama, I thought the book was OK.  Even though Ulrich used ultrarunning in the same way Strayed used hiking to share the story, his narrative wasn’t crafted as seamlessly and the inclusion of some sections felt forced.  Obviously, though, you’re not going to read an ultrarunning book for the quality of writing.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Ulrich writes that during his runs, he “… invented pain, embraced it, made it my [his] own” (Ulrich 20).  Do you embrace pain during your workouts?  How do you cope with it? 

2.  In preparation for his 3,063-mile run, Ulrich participated in a 72-hour run with the goal of completing 70 miles each day for three days.  However, about 10 hours into day one, he started questioning himself and eventually quit.  How do you deal with negative thoughts during workouts?  Do you use mantras?

3.  Ulrich outlines his ten commandments of endurance, one of which states “focus on the present and set intermediate goals” (Ulrich 68).  Do you set mini-goals during your workouts?   

Can’t Put it Down

Hi, everyone!  I officially made it back to New York City in one piece!  The five-and-a-half hour train ride passed quickly thanks to a new book.


I’ve read about 200 pages so far, and I can’t put Wild down!  When I was home for the holidays, my cousin MK and I decided to form a virtual/long-distance book club; she lives in Colorado and loves hiking, and since I’ve seen this memoir popping up frequently on the blogosphere, I suggested it for our first read.  There’s a strong possibility I may finish it tonight!

Workout – Swimming

Originally, I planned to take today off, but I figured since I would be sitting for most of the day, I should move a little.  Plus, I finally figured out my local pool’s hours, and I also wanted to wear my new swimsuit; during my 45 minutes of drill work, it felt great, and I hope it doesn’t stretch out.


Back home, I quickly made a spinach and egg-white breakfast sandwich—I still had organizing and packing to do!


I also drank and second (and third) cup of coffee.  I’ve been experimenting in terms of having caffeine before working out.  The past two mornings, I’ve downed only one cup (as opposed to my usual two) and saved the second for afterward.  I don’t think I can totally give up my pre-workout coffee—especially next week when Full Throttle Endurance training starts at 5:45 a.m.!  You can’t workout if you’re still asleep, right?


I didn’t do a good job of documenting lunch because I was too busy reading—whoops!  First, I ate a turkey and cheese sandwich with spinach and spicy brown mustard.


And chased it with some leftover roasted broccoli and an apple.

1_3-lunch-roasted-broccoli-apple During the train ride, I also munched on some carrots and polished off an apple cinnamon Chobani.  And now, I have to go grocery shopping—there’s no food in my apartment!

Is there a book, movie, TV show, etc. can’t you put down?

The Courage to Start Book Review

For the month of November, Jamie’s virtual book club read The Courage to Start:  A Guide to Running for Your Life by John “The Penguin” Bingham.

Not to judge a book by its cover, but this illustration really set the tone for the entire text.  Happy, whimsical, and approachable, this penguin portrays Bingham’s approach to running.  As I read along, he maintained my interest with honest, relatable stories, and his passion for running remained omnipresent through each tale.  Overall, I found Bingham’s book good; it was an enjoyable read, but I won’t revisit it anytime soon.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

“The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Take your first step toward fitness and a happier, healthier life.

Has the idea of running crossed your mind, but you haven’t acted on it because you don’t think you have the body of a runner?  Have you thought about running but quit before you started because you knew that you would be breathless at the end of your driveway?  Well, put aside those fears because you can do it.  John Bingham, author of the popular Runner’s World column “The Penguin Chronicles,” transformed himself from an overweight couch potato who smoked into a runner who has completed eleven marathons and hundreds of road races.

Forget about the image of a perfect body in skintight clothes, and don’t worry about how fast or how far you go.  Bingham shows how anyone can embrace running as a life-enhancing activity—rather than as a competition you will never win.  In an entertaining blend of his own success story and practical advice, Bingham provides reasonable guidelines for establishing a program of achievable goals; offers tips on clothing, running shoes, and other equipment; and explains how anyone can prepare for and run distances ranging from a few miles to marathons.

After all, in running and in life, the difference between success and failure sometimes comes down to a single step.  Waddle on, friends.”

Product Details

Publisher:  Touchstone

Publication date:  4/7/1999

Pages:  208

My Review

The Courage to Start takes the form of a how-to manual amped with motivation.  Bingham’s voice and personality shined though, which makes running seem accessible.  Thanks to his relatable personality, he easily guides the reader through the process of becoming a runner.  A few times, I thought to myself how much fun it would be to go on a long run with Bingham.  He’s been around the block once or twice, and he’d many more stories to share.

Bingham broke his book into four parts—“The Courage to Start,” “The Next Step,” “The Road to Victory,” and “Running for Your Life”—and each section details common questions and challenges associated with each stage.  Using his experience as a lens, he delves into the world of couch-potato-turned-regular-runner, sharing tips, tricks, and words of wisdom.  However, even though I don’t consider myself a seasoned runner—I’ve only been running somewhat seriously for one year—I found Bingham’s insights too basic for me.  That being said, I do think these tips would prove perfect for newbies.

“Becoming an Athlete” was my favorite chapter, which isn’t surprising given my history of high school and collegiate athletics.  In this section especially, Bingham portrays running and being athletic as a feasible goal for everyone.  “You can become an athlete by choosing to use your body, whatever that body is, as an instrument of self-expression and self-growth” (Bingham 67).  What’s more, I also appreciated his discussion on self-identification because it’s a concept I struggle with everyday. (Am I a runner?  A triathlete?  A swimmer?  A biker?) “I’m a runner because I run,” he writes.  “It’s simple Cartesian logic.  I run; therefore, I am a runner” (Bingham 69).

Discussion Questions:

1.  Bingham ran a bit when he was younger, but he didn’t start running on a regular basis until he was 43.  When did you begin running?

2.  Waddling, round, and emperor-proud, Bingham says he runs like a penguin.  How would you personify your running style? 

3.  What’s your greatest running accomplishment?  Brag, friends!

Hurricane Sandy—Reading up a Storm

Hiya!  Another day post-Hurricane Sandy means spending another morning at Starbucks and charging up appliances.

Friends, I was so close; I almost got power back last night.  My apartment made it onto “the list” of places that theoretically should be back in business, but even after one of the building realtors fiddled around with my circuit board, the cable, electricity, and running water refused to resurface.  Boo.  So although power hasn’t been restored, I did get two packages—yes, plural—yesterday from Premier Protein and Honey P. Nutty.

Talk about ideal timing; it’s like they knew I needed more Hurricane Sandy snacks.  Anyway, once I sample these products I’ll post my reviews.  In other news, I went running yesterday, and I’ve read three books, including two for Jamie’s virtual book club.

There’s nothing like a natural disaster to bring out your inner bookworm.

What the last book you read?  What’s your all-time favorite read?

Mile Markers Book Review

When Jamie posted about starting a virtual book club, I wanted in.  I love reading, especially books about all things fitness, health, and wellness, so I didn’t think twice about joining.  For the month of October, we read Mile Markers:  The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run by Kristin Armstrong. (And who was also married to alleged doper cyclist Lance Armstrong!)

OK, I’m not going to run in circles:  I had high expectations—given the publisher (Rodale) and the author’s credibility (who blogs at Runner’s World)—but overall, I found this book inaccessible.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

“In Mile Markers, Runner’s World contributing editor Kristin Armstrong captures the ineffable and timeless beauty of running, the importance of nurturing relationships with those we love, and the significance of reflecting on our experiences.  This collection considers the most important reasons women run, celebrating the inspiring passion runners have for their sport and illustrating how running fosters a vitally powerful community.  With unique wit, refreshing candor, and disarming vulnerability, Armstrong shares her conviction that running is the perfect parallel for marking the milestones of life.  From describing running a hardfought race with her tightly-knit group of sweat sisters, to watching her children participate in the sport for the very first time, Armstrong infuses her experiences with a perspective of hope that every moment is a chance to become a stronger, wiser, more peaceful woman.  Running threads these touching stories together, and through each of them we are shown the universal undercurrents of inspiration, growth, grace, family, empowerment, and endurance.”

Product Details

Publisher:  Rodale Books

Publication date:  3/1/2011

Pages:  288

My Review

Although I believe Armstrong’s purpose behind writing Mile Markers was well intended, I had a very difficult time relating to her, to her stories, and to her experiences.  Granted, there is a 20-plus-year age difference, which equates to different life stages.  However, even in terms of running, the one interest we share, I struggled to find common ground.

Before getting to the not-so-great, I appreciated the book’s structure; twenty-six chapters (plus an epilogue for the final .2) organized by themes—like “endurance,” “body,” and “confidence”—made reading the book easy.  These categories helped the audience stay engaged and let them spot the underlying message.  Also, from a writer’s standpoint, I valued how Armstrong avoided using clichéd similes.  Peppered with unique comparisons—“… I felt as stiff as an Old Navy mannequin …” (201)—her narrative seemed fresh and authentic.

Even though I found Armstrong’s tone, structure, and writing style effective, I felt isolated by a lot of her stories.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not discounting her as a runner or writer.  However, I couldn’t relate to her entire “mothers” and “kids” sections, which is unsurprising.  Being a mother and having kids comprise her self-identity, so a majority of her anecdotes revolve around these characteristics; and since our writer-reader relationship lacked that commonality, I had trouble connecting with Armstrong.  Also, her narrative emphasizes running with friends—whom she lovingly calls her “sweat sisters”—but this focus on sisterhood didn’t resonate with me.  Again, this running group accounts for a huge part of her running and social life, but I don’t have a “sweaty sisterhood” of my own to draw upon.  Finally, as a runner, I respect Armstrong’s accolades:  Running a sub-1:35 half-marathon, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and taking on trail running are impressive feats, but from a running standpoint, I felt like she’s totally out of my league.  I wish I could run a marathon on the trails of Austin after dropping my kids off at school, but frankly, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.  Overall, I think a reader who has a lot in common with Armstrong will enjoy this book, but that reader isn’t me.

Edited to add:  Here’s Jamie’s post with links to all participating bloggers–check it out!

Shopping for Apartment Necessities

Hey, everyone!  Just popping in quickly to share today’s eats and adventures—it was another busy day over here.

After eating a two-ingredient pancake for breakfast, my mom and I headed to Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target for big-girl apartment necessities.  Well, our stop at B&N didn’t involve home goods; I wanted to pick up the books for Jamie’s virtual book club!

For November, we’re reading The Courage to Start:  A Guide to Running for Your Life by John “The Penguin” Bingham; we’re taking December off because of the holidays, and January’s book is You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg.  Both look like great reads, so I’m excited to dig in.  I also picked up a copy of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. (And, a Starbucks soy latte.  They are addicting!)

I first spotted this memoir in The Strand during my not one, but two-part adventure to New York City.  When I brought the books to the checkout, the cashier asked if I was planning to do an Ironman.  Thanks for the compliment, but I think I need to complete a 70.3 first. (Maybe in 2014?) Also, for fellow Downton Abbey fans, I nearly died when I saw this cookbook.

After B&N, my mom and I went to Bed Bath & Beyond to look at bedspreads and dining sets.  For now, we’re just browsing, and we would like to purchase bedding and plates, bowls, etc. before the move; bringing bulkier and heavier items to the city would be easier than buying them there and lugging them from the store to my apartment.  Anyway, I really liked these plates, but the pattern might be a distraction in food photos—what do you think?

I have to think like a blogger now, right?  However, I really like pairing patterned cups and bowls with solid plates.

We’ll see.  I also found two bedding options.  The first was set up in the store, which took the guesswork out of picturing the entire set.

The second choice was unfortunately in a plastic bag.

But it’s called “Chelsea Paisley”—that has to be a sign, right?  Finally, we went to Target and bought a toaster, crock pot, and handheld blender; pretty standard appliances, so no pictures.

When we arrived home, I used a ton of leftovers to make an egg scramble.

In addition to a two-egg base, I tossed in roasted zucchini, a handful of tofu cubes, and fresh green pepper slices.  I rounded out my meal with a slice of Ezekiel bread slathered with almond butter.  Breakfast for lunch never fails.

While I snacked on an apple, I made some apple cinnamon spice chips.

Although their texture isn’t exactly chip-y, these good-for-you slices were tasty; I’ll share the recipe tomorrow!  And now, I’m off to give my healthy curried chicken salad recipe another shot.  Fingers crossed it’s sharable this time!

Fall face-off:  Do you prefer apple or pumpkin?  I’m trying to get myself to appreciate pumpkin, and I love anything apple-flavored.