Tag Archives: reading

Currently

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

saucony-kinvara

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

Write It Down, Do It Up – Week of Feb. 10

Hiya—happy Sunday, friends!  How was your weekend?  I found the perfect balance of activity and laziness.  On Saturday morning, I went to the pool and completed the same workout from Friday’s team practice.

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Recently, swimming has been pushed to the backburner—aside from the team workout on Friday, it’s always my second session of the day, so I’m never 100 percent fresh—so I decided to change my schedule:  looking forward, I plan to swim on Saturdays.

Going to Chelsea Piers yesterday ended my several month-long weekend hiatus from the facility, so I was pleasantly surprised to see three of my teammates working out and getting after it.  Oh, and there was also a masters swim team practicing, and I had to literally pick my jaw up off the flow.  Watching those athletes pulling and kicking so crisply and cutting through the water (not to mention executing perfect flip turns) proved to be a very inspirational and humbling experience.  I hesitate to say that I swim now—basically, I kick and pull (sometimes simultaneously) and float and try to move my body forward.  There’s also definitely something to be said for the training philosophy of swimming with the swimmers, biking with the bikers, and running with the runners.

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with Jen and Abby for a run in Central Park after a terrible commute thanks to subway construction.  It was my fist time meeting Abby, who grew up 15 minutes away from me (small world!), and it was great to see Jen again.  Both are training for half-marathons, so I just tagged along for the run—and completed my first full lap of Central Park, which was long overdue because I’ll have to tackle that course during the NYC Triathlon.  Anyway, Abby stayed with us for a bit (she had her long run scheduled for today), and then Jen and I headed to Riverside Park and the West Side Highway so she could complete her 10 miles.  We had so much fun chatting away—and she totally picked up on my gossip-hound tendencies—and the miles passed so quickly!  I finished with 8.3 for the day, which obviously wasn’t on my training plan (shhh, don’t tell my coach!), but it was such a fun run and totally worth it.

Aside from running errands and prepping food for the week, I took today totally off and spent the afternoon reading Chrissie Wellington’s A Life Without Limits:  A World Champion’s Journey.

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I’m almost done, and it’s so good!  It’s also the next read for Jamie’s virtual book club, and since this will probably be my last time participating for a while, I want to write a thorough review.

OK, time to talk workouts.  I completed all but two sessions last week, which is pretty good.  This week’s big event will be an indoor triathlon on Saturday that Andrew briefly mentioned last week:  500-yd. swim, 12-mile bike (on spin bikes), and a three-mile run, so a super-sprint of sorts.  I’ve never done an indoor triathlon, so it will be an exciting training day for sure.  Time for 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); a.m. swim

Tuesday – a.m. run and strength train

Wednesday – a.m. bike with FTE; a.m. run (plus two fitness events for work)

Thursday – off

Friday – a.m. swim with FTE; a.m. run

Saturday – indoor triathlon or a.m. swim; p.m. bike and strength train

Sunday – off

How did your workouts go this week?  And who’s racing this weekend?!  Have you completed an indoor triathlon?

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.

running-on-empty

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.

running-on-empty-3063-miles-52-days-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?   

Happy 200th Anniversary, ‘Pride and Prejudice!’

Good morning, friends!  I hope you enjoyed the weekend!  Alas, it’s moan Monday, but here’s some good news:  today marks the marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

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What—you don’t know the anniversary of one of your favorite books?

Yes, I’ve read this novel more times than I can count, and this book seems to get better and better each time.  Even though I liked Pride and Prejudice when I finished it for the first time in middle school, I definitely grew to appreciate it after each subsequent reading; there’s no better way to start high school Christmas break or college winter break than paging through a favorite book.

Even though the story takes place in the 19th century, Austen’s text defines timelessness.  Elizabeth Bennet is one of my favorite literary heroines, and I relate to her on so many levels.  Pride and Prejudice contains so many timeless characters—I know people who so closely resemble Mary Bennet and Charlotte Lucas it’s scary—and fortunately or unfortunately, there was a George Wickham-esque character during my high school days. (Interestingly, it took me a while to make the connection—I felt like I knew him from somewhere, yet couldn’t put my finger on it—so I didn’t make the Wickham distinction right away.  However, this dude eventually proved to be a 21st century, high school version of this character.) So, even though Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice two centuries ago, the characters she crafted proved to be universal, timeless, and totally spot-on—you go, Jane!

jane-austen-doll-2010

Just a Jane Austen doll at The Strand.  Totally normal, right?

Anyway, I have no probably admitting that I’m a Janeite“the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for ‘Jane’ and every detail relative to her”—so it should come as no surprise that after my high school graduation, my parents and I traveled to London, and we also visited Bath for a few days, mainly to visit the Jane Austen Centre.

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2008 throwback.

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My mom and I were in heaven, and my dad was such a trooper!  Although he did “read” Northanger Abbey—at least every other page.

In college, I even took a class titled “Jane Austen in Film.” (Liberal arts institution for the win!) We read a bunch of her books—including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park—and then watched and analyzed their film adaptations.  Oh, and we also took a country ball dancing class.

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[source]

Dancing might not seem challenging, but I was a hot, sweaty, and confused mess by the end!  During Austen’s days, dancing and attending balls allowed young people to interact with each other—away from the watchful eyes chaperones.  Plus, an individual’s proficiency on the dance floor was thought to be directly related to how good of a spouse they would be. (Remember how Mr. Collins royally messes up and proves to be an embarrassment?) After taking this class, I couldn’t imagine looking presentable (aka not sweaty), dancing gracefully, and engaging in witty banter.  Talk about pressure!  Although I would solider through the above if I got to wear one of those gorgeous dresses.

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[source]

And speaking of dancing, the Netherfield Ball is set to take place this spring.  Anyone want to go?

Of course, going to a ball brings up the dividing question among Pride and Prejudice fans:  Who’s your Mr. Darcy—Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen?

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Sigh.

Have you read any of Jane Austen’s classics?  Which novel is your favorite?  Who’s your favorite literary heroine?

Wild Book Review

Is it just me or has the healthy living blogosphere exploded with praise for Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail?

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This memoir has been on my radar for a while, and while home for the holidays, I told my Colorado-based, seasoned-hiker cousin about it; we decided to start a virtual book club and chose this text as our first read.  On the train back to New York City, I couldn’t stop reading:  Strayed’s honest tone and carefully crafted narrative caught my attention.  Overall, I liked Wild, but wouldn’t readily recommend it; I wouldn’t classify it as a must-read.

Brief Summary

From Amazon.com:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed.  Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone.  She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than ‘an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.’  But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail.  Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Product Details

Publisher:  Knoph

Publication date:  3/20/2012

Pages:  336

My Review

Non-fiction, memoir, travel writing—however you classify Wild, it’s fundamentally sound from a writing perspective.  It’s tight, yet descriptive, making the reader feel as if they’re hiking with 26-year-old Strayed during the summer of 1995 on the Pacific Crest Trail (which goes from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State).  The book centers on Strayed’s hike, and the author first briefly recounts her childhood and young adult years—her father vanished when she was six, her mother recently died, and Strayed used heroin and slept around—before sharing that she separated from her husband and was working as a waitress when she set off in search of “radical aloneness.”

I’ve never been hiking, so I don’t think I fully understand Strayed’s gutsy (yet reckless?) decision to start her career on one of the toughest trails in North America.  However, she makes no attempt to hide her inexperience—she didn’t try on her hiking boots before hitting the trail, she didn’t practice packing her backpack named Monster, etc.—and I valued her honesty.  Personally, I compared her choice to someone who wanted to tackle an Ironman for their first triathlon, specifically a challenging course like Lake Placid—which is nuts.

Anyway, throughout the book, Strayed seamlessly transitions from life on the trail—eating dehydrated meals, sleeping in a tiny tent, and losing blackened toenails—to her past, telling the audience about her childhood, her relationship with her mother, her failed marriage, and her heroin habits.  This rhetorical technique usually finds its way into travel novels, yet it works in this memoir, too:  Instead of sharing her entire life story in the first 30 pages, she continuously moves from past to present, effectively connecting and building a relationship with the reader.

 

I enjoyed “meeting” Strayed’s fellow PCT hikers, but I wondered how accurately they—and the journey itself—were portrayed; she did wait 17 years before writing this memoir.  I also would’ve liked to hear more about the actual hike, but further discussion would’ve veered toward travel writing and downplayed Strayed’s life experiences.

 

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, and camping?

2.  Strayed uses the activity of hiking as a way to tell her life story.  If you wrote a memoir, what activity would act as the “window” into your life?

3.  What’s your favorite biography or memoir?   

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?