My Favorite Pre-Packaged Bars

Athletes today may be gluten-free, vegan or paleo. They may choose to only eat organic products, or Whole 30 approved foods.

It can make selecting a pre-workout snack somewhat complicated. I never really gave much thought to what my gluten-free or vegan running friends did for fuel until one of my Ragnar Relay teammates had to request certain snacks on our Costco run.

There are tons of recipes and real foods you can make to fuel your runs if you’ve got dietary restrictions, but sometimes you just want the simplicity of grabbing a prepacked bar and heading out the door. Luckily, there are a lot of options out there nowadays that don't require making your own energy balls or granola bars. 

I almost always eat half of some sort of a bar in the morning before leaving my apartment for the gym or the office to hold me over until my full breakfast. Even if i'm not doing much running lately, I need something to get me through a strength workout, swim or bike ride. Or even just the NYC rush hour commute. 

Here are some of my favorites!

Favorite Gluten Free Snacks for Runners

Dates

If you’re looking to go the natural route, I’ve found dates to be surprisingly effective at giving me that little boost of energy before a short morning workout. Adding a smear of peanut butter brings it to the next level – as it does with most things.

Brown Rice Cakes

Gluten free, quick to eat, and again – delicious when paired with peanut butter! I’ve recently been turned on to rice cakes’ cousin – the elusive corn cake! They aren’t found as easily in stores, but they’re also gluten free and have much more flavor than your average rice cake!

GoMacro Bars

Recently, GoMacro sent me a variety pack of their many different flavored bars to sample and I was really impressed! Not only are all 10 of their flavors gluten free, but they’re vegan as well!

My favorite thing about GoMacro bars were that they weren’t overly sugary and sweet, which meant I could have a half of a bar without instantly feeling like I needed to keep eating it because it was like candy. That’s not to say that they didn’t taste good – they just didn’t taste like dessert.

Typically I’m a fan of the chocolatey and peanut butter-y flavors – but with GoMacro, I absolutely went CRAZY for the “Sunny Uplift” bar with cherries + berries.

It tasted like a healthy cherry pie – probably my favorite bar that I’ve ever had!

GoMacro Gluten Free Runners

GoMacro bars didn’t taste chemically to me at all – unlike some others (I'm looking at you, Quest bars, which used to be my go-to and now I can’t stomach!) One thing to note is that they’re on the softer side. If you’re looking for something crunchier, you might want to try a different product.

I brought a handful of GoMacro bars with me on my trip to Banff and Jasper this summer, and Callie, Abby and I ate them before runs, during hikes, and as snacks to hold us over until our next meal.

gomacro1.jpg

KIND Bars

KIND bars are produced in a gluten free facility and the company keeps rolling out new products – but their fruit and nut bars are still my favorite because you can tell that it’s got real ingredients. My favorite flavor is the Blueberry Vanilla & Cashew!

These are on the crunchier side, and their “healthy grains” line are, as their packaging states, “chewy with a crunch!” (I love that they serve these on Delta flights to Business Class now!)

RX Bars

The consistency of RX bars takes some getting used to – they can be a bit of a workout for your jaw, especially if you’re storing them somewhere on the colder side. That being said, you can’t beat them when it comes to clear cut, simple ingredients.

RX bars are all gluten free, but they aren’t vegan as they contain egg whites. It took me awhile to come around to RX bars, but once I tried the Chocolate Coconut I was all in.

LARABARS

If you like dates, you’ll love Lara Bars. These are smaller than some of the other bars, but they’re dense and filling and gluten free.

Lara Bars also have TONS of flavors – like, over 20 of them! So you’re sure to find one that you like (may I suggest the chocolate chip cookie dough?)

What are you favorite bars? 

A City Guide to Copenhagen

So far, I have been excelling at my resolution to embrace all of the traveling I do for work and on my own. In August, I found myself in Banff, Pittsburgh, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Annapolis - not to mention a weekend trip to Montauk! It hasn't left a whole lot of time for blogging. 

I didn't have the typical summer of laying out at the beach - but when the chance to explore Scandinavia came along, you better believe I was going to make the most of it. 

I have to confess, Scandinavian countries were never at the top of my list in terms of vacation destinations but now that I've spent time in Denmark and Sweden, I'm fascinated by these two countries and their fellow Scandinavian societies - Finland, Norway and Iceland. 

But enough exposition - let's jump into the things I suggest doing if you find yourself in the wonderful city of Copenhagen! I enjoyed 3 nights and 4 days in this city and can say with absolute confidence that we jam-packed our days full of activities! 

Copenhagen City Guide

Walk / Bike Everywhere 

Bike Copenhagen

I went back and forth on buying the Copenhagen Card - which grants you unlimited rides on public transportation and free access to many of the cities most popular tourist attractions. I crunched the numbers a bunch of times, and ultimately decided that even though we were going to be paying for tickets to a lot of the places included with the card - it wasn't worth it for us because we wouldn't be paying for a lot of public transportation. 

I knew the ladies I was going with were fine walking - and walk we did! Each day of our trip we walked over 10 miles according to Christine's activity tracker and 2 days we hit the half marathon mark!  

Before we arrived, I anticipated renting bikes or using the ones included with our Airbnb to easily get around - considering Copenhagen is one of the most bike-able cities in the world. But we ended up only biking once because walking was just so easy!

Bike CPH

On our last day, Christine and I rented Copenhagen's version of Citi bikes (Bycyklen) and went for a quick ride. Their bikes are electric, and you can even pre-select guided tours or use the screen to put in your destination. Very fancy (but also, very very heavy!) 

As easy as walking and biking is in Copenhagen, we also used public transportation multiple times during our trip and found it to be easy and efficient. Definitely download the apps Rejseplanen and DSB on your phone - they'll make it very easy to figure out your best route. 

Explore Jægersborggade

The Coffee Collective

The Coffee Collective Copenhagen

Upon arriving at our Airbnb, we immediately headed out to one of Copenhagen's most beloved coffee shops - The Coffee Collective - on one of Copenhagen's trendiest streets - Jægersborggade (in the Nørrebro neighborhood). 

This cafe easily could have been in SoHo, but the latte was better than any latte I've ever had before. We thoroughly savored the (expensive) caffeine. 

Grød

Grod Copenhagen

After Coffee Collective we got food at Grød, another trendy spot that specializes in...porridge. I accidentally ordered a chia seed pudding instead of oatmeal, but it was heaped with peanut butter, granola and fruit so I was extremely content. 

Jægersborggade is known as being very trendy and "hip" - with art galleries, jewelry shops, wine bars and organic produce shops. I loved walking around here and couldn't have been happier that this was the neighborhood our Airbnb was located in. 

Drink! 

Perhaps my favorite part of Copenhagen were all of the bar/restaurants right out on the canals. Or maybe it was the karaoke bar. No, maybe the brewery? Needless to say, we imbibed at many an establishment while in Copenhagen. These were some of my favorites; 

Kayakbar

Børskaj 12, 1221

Kayak Bar Copenhagen

Kayak bar is attached to a kayak rental shop and is located right on the water. With a floating dock, sand, and beach chairs, it was the perfect spot to sit down with a cold beer and beautiful cheese plate. Until it started raining. 

Luckily, there was a large covered area as well, with picnic tables and live music! I loved the laid back vibe of this spot. 

Christianshavns Bådudlejning og Café:

Overgaden Neden Vandet 29

cute.jpg

Drinking on the water is just better than drinking anywhere else. Sam spotted this cute little floating dock/bar situation on her canal boat ride and led us back to it for drinks on our first night. 

We even got serenaded (mocked?) by a passing boat whose captain jumped out and onto our table! Pics or it didn't happen, you say? Please see below for photo evidence. 

Sam's Bar

Østergade 17-19, 1100 

This karaoke/sing along bar full of locals was quite the experience. 

Danish bars are very smokey. Locals didn't seem to love us being there, but once we managed to get drinks and get settled at a table, I ignored the nicotine I was inhaling and focused on belting YMCA and Dancing Queen as loud as I could and it was a pretty grand time. 

Expect to pay a cover, to leave smelling like smoke, to wait forever for a drink - but to leave feeling like you've just had an experience. 

Mikkeller & Friends

Stefansgade No. 35 KLD

Mikkeller is a very popular brewer in Copenhagen, which has been making it's way to the US as well. With 14 different locations in Copenhagen (including popular restaurants like Warpigs and a bottle shop at the Glass Market), we were bound to have one close to our Airbnb in the Nørrebro neighborhood.  

We stopped by after dinner one night to find the place packed, and enjoyed one of their IPAs. I also got really excited when I noticed they carried a Two Roads beer on tap - Connecticut, represent! 

Carlsberg Brewery Tour

Gamle Carlsberg Vej 11

A convenient free shuttle bus from the Radisson Blu hotel near Central Station took us from the city center to the Carlsberg Brewery, about a 15 minute ride. 

We had pre-purchased our tickets, which saved some time as everyone got off the bus and lined up. There are multiple options on the Visit Carlsberg site, but we opted for the standard entry ticket which included access to the museum and 2 free drinks (or 1 drink + 1 "gift" - a pin). 

Other options included a guided tour or beer tasting

We wandered the museum, checked out the stables (Clydesdales!) and gawked at the world's largest beer bottle collection.  

But the best part was definitely sitting outside on a gorgeous, sunny day - surrounded by architecture from the 1800s, and sipping multiple drinks. We started at the outdoor bar where we sampled some standard Carlsberg brews before we headed to the indoor tasting room for flights. 

Then it was back outside for the most refreshing, delicious drink of the trip - Somersby ciders. We were obsessed - and depressed to find out that it's not sold in the US. The flavors were amazing - Elderflower lime? Red rhubarb? Blackberry? I'm pretty sure we ended up sampling them all. 

Cruise the Canals

Hey Captain

Hey Captain Boat Tour Copenhagen

My biggest piece of advice in this entire blog post is to book a canal cruise with Hey Captain. 

It was one of the greatest "tours" I've ever paid for. Seeing Copenhagen from a boat is a "must do" and there are certainly many tourist boats leaving from Nyhavn that you could choose. But you'll be on board with 100s of other people and you'll be listening to a tour guide talk over a microphone.

Hey Captain are small boats for up to 12 people - meaning you'll be having a conversation with your captain instead of getting a lecture. Other perks? Complimentary wine and beer and the ability to bring your own food and drink on board too! Complete with a table with built-in cooler.

On our tour, Christine and I were lucky enough to be the only two on board with our captain, Mathias. It was the highlight of our trip. Not only was it beautiful, but we learned a TON and had a genuine conversation with a local. We even ironed out some international beer pong policy changes. 

Did you know Lukas Graham grew up in Freetown Christiania? And that Copenhagen's waste plant will soon have a ski slope? Or what about the fact that there's a statue under water? Or an apartment complex that used to be a torpedo hall? 

The tours last about an hour, they run all year long, and for $32, it was an absolute bargain!

Get High 

Church of Our Saviour

Skt. Annæ Gade 29

No, not that kind of high (though there is a small part of Freetown Christiania that sells plenty of marijuana - just don't take any pictures!)

Trekking up the Church of Our Saviour's stairs is definitely worth the view at the top - especially considering it only costs $7 (or FREE if you have a Copenhagen Card). 

While we also paid to walk up the Round Tower as well, I can say without a doubt that the Church of Our Saviour is the better option. 

It was crowded and narrow and a little treacherous - but walking up a spiral staircase outside of a church's spire was pretty epic. 

We got incredibly lucky - on our way up it started down pouring on us out of nowhere (it did this nearly every day we were in Copenhagen), and by the time we got down, the church had been closed! It must have been good karma that we made our way to the top - because Sam and Christine helped calm a girl having a complete nervous breakdown!

The view from the top was pretty damn great - seeing all of the canals from that high up was beautiful, along with all of the colors of the buildings in Copenhagen. And since the church had been closed due to the rain, our trip down was super easy and uncrowded. 

Eat, A Lot

It goes without saying that one of the best parts of any vacation is discovering the local food scene. While I already mentioned the delicious porridge at Grod and the incredible latte from Coffee Collective, we had a number of other wonderful meals during our stay. 

Gorilla

Flæsketorvet 63

This may have been our favorite dinner of the trip. Not only was the restaurant really nice inside and the food delicious, but we loved walking around the Meatpacking District which was a mix of "Where are we going, are we going to die?" and "Wow, this is super trendy and unique!" 

Torvehallerne

 Frederiksborggade 21

This is a massive market with over 60 different stands - selling everything from fresh fish to flowers to beer to pre-made meals and grab and go items. 

We didn't eat here, but it was fun to shop around - I especially loved the Mikkeller bottle shop - those can designs are like artwork!

Torvehallerne, the "Glass Market," reminds me a lot of places like Chelsea Market in New York City. There are tons of articles online about some of the best food finds at Torvehallerne.

Papirøen "Paper Island" / Copenhagen Street Food

Papirøen, Trangravsvej 14, hal 7 & 8

If you've ever been to Smorgasburg in New York,  you'll understand the concept behind Paper Island - where some of Copenhagen's best food vendors come together under one roof to serve food from all over the world. No joke - you can get everything from fish & chips to pizza to tacos to ramen and everything in between. 

Paper Island is wildly popular with locals and tourists alike, so expect crowds. But it's definitely worth it to see this unique space complete with bars, a disco cow, and more food and drinks than you can imagine. Some stands even have free samples. 

We did solid work on Paper Island - enjoying pizza from Madenitaly, gin cocktails from Drueta, smoked salmon smorrebrod from Handmade, gourmet & organic hot dogs from PØLSE KOMPAGNIET, and a sinfully sweet Nutella crepe from The Pancake Cottage

 I even got a free sample of the much-raved about duck fat fries at Duck It!

Cafe Norden

Østergade 61

Cafe Norden CPH

The award for best breakfast goes to Cafe Norden, though when we first looked at the menu I don't think any of us were too excited. Somehow it seemed like the menu was lacking options - which explains why we all opted for the avocado toast. 

Good thing the avocado toast was some of the best I've EVER had. And I'm a twenty-something who brunches regularly in New York. I know my damn avocado toast. 

The fact that this was served on Danish rye bread (rugbrød) was probably what made it so spectacular. I've since bought Whole Foods' version of this bread in an attempt to recreate this spectacular breakfast. 

We also enjoyed it outside in the sun, in one of Copenhagen's most crowded squares (Amagertorv) which allowed for great people watching. 

Pro-tip: get one of their flavored lemonades - so refreshing!

Meyers Bageri

Multiple Locations 

Meyers Bakery Copenhagen

Please, do yourself a favor and make sure you stop for some pastries from Meyers while you're in Copenhagen. Apparently, you can find them in NY too - but it's probably going to go better with your Coffee Collective latte. Promise. 

I ordered a Blueberry Roll and a Tebirke - which is a Danish poppy seed roll.  It was perfectly flaky and crispy and buttery and amazing. 

Chef Claus Meyer is the man behind the New Nordic cuisine that is kind of a big deal (hi, Copenhagen is home to the World's Best Restaurant) and while we didn't eat at any of his many many restaurants - this bakery was certainly worth the visit. 

Shop

Strøget 

Copenhagen is home to one of Europe's longest pedestrian streets - and if you're looking to shop til you drop, Støget provides 1.1 kilometers of temptation. 

Even if shopping isn't your thing, it's worth a stroll down Strøget, though it is quite touristy. 

Flying Tiger

Multiple Locations 

Flying Tiger Copenhagen

I insist that you visit a Flying Tiger while you're in it's homeland! This store is now all over the world - in fact, I first discovered it in Barcelona - but it's so fun to walk through! They have everything - useful things, things you'd never need in a million years, things you don't need but what, and things that are just plain fun. 

The best part, everything is super cute and super cheap!

It's hard to explain - just go, seriously! 

Act Like A Kid! 

Sidewalk Trampolines 

Copenhagen Sidewalk Trampolines

Multiple people told me before I left for Copenhagen that I had to find the sidewalk with trampolines - and miraculously enough, without even looking or Googling, we stumbled upon them on our first afternoon! 

I was shocked at how hysterical with laughter we were - they seriously had us acting like the 5 year olds jumping beside us. 

Very fun, very unique, very Copenhagen! 

Tivoli Gardens

Vesterbrogade 3

I was not a big amusement park person - ever. We didn't really go as kids (other than to Disney World) and I've still never been to a Six Flags. 

But ever since my trip to Denver and the Lakeside Amusement Park, I've kind of been fascinated by old amusement parks. 

It just so happens that Copenhagen is home to the second oldest operating amusement park in the world - Tivoli Gardens! 

Tivoli opened in 1843 and served as the inspiration for Walt Disney! We paid for entry and an unlimited ride wristband (around $60) and spent the night walking around the grounds. 

I was really happy that we decided to show up just before sunset so we were able to see the park both in the daylight and at night - it's so gorgeous and it was really evident how Disney has its roots in some aspects of Tivoli. 

We rode a few rides, took lots of pictures, enjoyed the live music, shopped - Tivoli has got it all (including some highly rated restaurants!) and is definitely more than just a place with rides. 

Again luck was on our side as we were the last people to board "The Roller Coaster" - one of the worlds oldest wooden roller coasters (built in 1914). 

The night ended with one of the best fireworks displays I've ever seen - choreographed to music with lasers! While enjoying pistachio and banana gelato. 

No trip to Copenhagen is complete with a visit to Tivoli!

See the Sights 

There are quite a few tourist destinations in Copenhagen that are more "sightseeing" than "experiencing." While some of them were worth a visit, there were a few that I wouldn't necessarily include on an itinerary. 

The great thing about Copenhagen is that just by walking around, you'll pass a number of these iconic buildings- for me, it's always worth a stop to look, acknowledge, read a plaque if there is one, take a picture - and move on. Most of these places offer admittance and tours, but unless it's a topic I'm really interested in, museums and tours aren't my jam. 

The Little Mermaid Statue 

Little Mermaid Statue

Christine and I knew we had little to no interested in actually seeing this statue - which is widely talked about as one of the most underwhelming tourist destinations in Europe. The only reason we ended up seeing it at all was because we passed it on a nice walk along the water. 

Amalienborg Castle 

Amalienborg Castle

Definitely worth a walk past this massive castle, which still serves as the queens "Winter Palace," though we didn't stop for a tour. 

While we were in Copenhagen, we're pretty sure the queen was actually at the castle, since there were guards outside and the Royal Yacht Dannebrog was docked!

Kastellet

A star-shaped fortress that was really interesting to walk around - I wish I had read about it more before we found ourselves wandering the grounds! But regardless, it was very pretty! 

Rosenborg Castle 

Rosenborg Castle

I really enjoyed walking around the Rosenborg Castle as Sam read to us some history from her guide book. The grounds were beautiful - especially the rose garden! 

Assistens Cemetery

Assistens Cemetery Copenhagen

We walked through this cemetery near our Airbnb almost every day - and far from being creepy, it was always filled with people walking, biking, or running through. 

One our first traipse through the cemetery, we followed signs to find Hans Christian Anderson's gravestone. Imagine our surprise when we realized it was the anniversary of his death on that very day!

Nyhavn 

Nyhavn Copenhagen

This is the iconic picture of Copenhagen - and it certainly is beautiful - though swarming with tourists. One side along the canal is entirely dedicated to bars and restaurants with outdoor seating, but we steered clear of them since they don't have the best reputation for authenticity. 

We did make sure to stop outside the window of one of Hans Christian Anderson's apartments as we walked down the canal! 

Freetown Christiania 

Freetown Christiania

There are plenty of places where you can learn more about this squatter-society within Copenhagen (it's really quite fascinating). They've created their own schools, doctors, etc. and as I mentioned earlier, there's a section that openly sells marijuana in the streets! They don't pay taxes, but are left pretty much alone. 

While it was cool to see this hippie commune - it definitely wasn't a place I felt compelled to hang around for too long. I did like some of the graffiti though - it reminded me of Austin

Børsen

Boresen Stock Exchange

We passed the former stock exchange on our canal cruise - an impressive building with a spire that's supposed to be four dragons' tails intertwined. 

Happy Travels!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the things to see and do in Copenhagen. It surpassed my expectations as a city overall. I highly recommend Copenhagen if you're looking to go to Europe for a shorter trip. Everyone there was incredibly friendly, the city is clean, easy to navigate, and full of history! 

Copenhagen

How to Enjoy A Weekend in Banff

When work sent me to Banff for a long weekend, I was ecstatic. Even though I already had an 8 day trip planned for later in the summer, I somehow sensed that there was no such thing as "too much time in Banff." 

I was determined to make the most of every minute of the trip, despite working full days while I was there. Here are the highlights from my 72 hours in Banff! 

72 Hours in Banff

The Rimrock Resort Hotel 

If you've got some money to blow, this hotel is absolutely gorgeous. The Rimrock is nestled below Sulphur Mountain, and though it's not in the heart of Downtown Banff, it is a quick walk to the Banff Gondola and Upper Hot Springs with amazing views and the feeling of being right in the middle of nature. 

Guests are given cards to ride the local bus system for free - meaning all of the restaurants and shops downtown are still within your reach without having to drive. 

Rimrock Resort Banff

I flew into Calgary at night and made the drive from the airport to the Rimrock in the dark (around an hour and a half total) - so when I opened my window on Friday morning, I was so shocked by the beautiful view. In fact, I've told everyone, I started to tear up a little bit! 

There are a number of restaurants at the Rimrock that are incredibly high caliber - Eden offers a $140 tasting menu! But I had most of my meals at the more casual Larkspur.. Located in the lobby, you're able to seat yourself and order from a great menu. My favorite part was the little balcony outside that made you feel like you were floating in the mountains and the pianist who sang and played an amazing array of songs in the evenings. And the seafood soup which was phenomenal. 

Rimrock Resort Banff

Sulphur Mountain Hike 

On my first morning I had to work by 8:30 AM but I still wanted to get some time to myself outside so I woke up early and started to walk up the Sulphur Mountain trail. The trailhead is practically part of the Rimrock Resort, at the base of the Upper Hot Springs parking lot. 

Sulphur Mountain Hike Banff

I walked 20 minutes up before I needed to head back down to get ready for work, but the total hike is about 3 miles to the top and should take around 2.5 hours round trip. 

Lunch at Fairmont Banff Springs 

This hotel is 125 years old and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a castle - such an impressive, sprawling resort and absolutely gorgeous. Our event was taking place on the property, which meant we were able to sneak inside for lunch both days. There are a number of dining options inside but if you're able to snag a table at the Lookout Patio - do it! It's jaw-droppingly-stunning. 

The Lookout Fairmont Springs Banff

If you don't have time to wait, you should still take a look at the view and snap some pictures! Both days we ate inside at the Rundle Lounge and there was still a gorgeous view and good food! 

You could spend awhile wandering the grounds of this hotel!

Drive Up & Around Cascade Mountain 

My destination for this drive was "Lake Minnewanka" at the advice of a local I was talking to but it ended up being the pit stops I made along the way that were my favorite part of this drive. 

Johnson Lake 

I was surprised at each lake that I drove up to to find it fairly empty. It didn't seem like there were a ton of tourists out - instead, it seemed like locals enjoying a night kayak or picnic. I was the only one screaming "TOURIST" with my DSLR camera. 

Johnson Lake Banff

When I got to Johnson Lake is when I started completely re-thinking my itinerary for my return trip in September. Why jam-pack the days when we could go to a grocery store, pack a picnic, and lounge at one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen? 

Two Jack Lake 

It's hard to say which natural, glacier-fed lake was more beautiful. This was another, smaller, laid back lake when I pulled up with the same dazzling blue waters and magnificent mountain backdrops. 

Two Jack Lake Banff

I was surprised at how easy it was to just drive from point to point - with parking lots at each major lake that had ample available spots when I arrived. I'm not sure if it was the time of day, but I didn't have any issues. 

Lake Minnewanka

By far the largest of the lakes I visited, Lake Minnewanka has a ton of activities and amenities. However, it was my least favorite due to it's large size - it seemed like a much more touristy spot. I'm definitely glad I stopped to see it though! 

Lake Minnewanka Banff

Between Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka I passed tons of mountain goats and felt a little guilty that these roads cut through such beautiful natural landscapes and that the mountain goats have to contend with cars when they go to cross the street. They also have to deal with a lot of tourists sticking iPhones in their faces (myself included). But I did appreciate that there were areas to pull of on the shoulder to get out and see some great views and snap some fantastic pictures! 

Cascade Ponds 

On my way back down I decided to stop at Cascade Ponds and I'm so glad I did! Though the water here wasn't the crystal clear blue of the others, Cascade Ponds had their own charm with their little bridges and beautiful reflections of the mountains in the background! 

Cascade Ponds Banff

Bow Falls 

To be honest, this was a little underwhelming. It's beautiful, don't get me wrong - but I parked my car, got out, looked, snapped a picture and then got right back in the car. It's worth a stop I suppose, but it's very busy and wouldn't be my choice for a spot to sit and hang out. 

Bow Falls Banff

Bike the Banff Legacy Trail 

The Banff Legacy trail is 22 km+ of paved bike path connecting Banff to the town of Canmore. After work, I paid the pretty fair price of $35 to rent a road bike from Ultimate Ski and Ride on the main street of Banff. This made it really easy to hop on the trail, and included in the rental was a lock and helmet (I had 3 hours with the bike). 

The ride to Canmore was beautiful and every time I looked up from the road I had to smile at being surrounded by mountains. There were a few parts that I was a little afraid of all the "Beware of Bear" signs, but there were other people out and about which helped ease my fears. 

Banff Legacy Trail

When I got to Canmore, I navigated to the town center and walked around for a little while, stopping in some cute shops and discovering a used book store and tea shop that was so adorable! 

I wish I could say that I enjoyed the trip back to Banff as much as I enjoyed the ride to Canmore. I had been warned that the return trip would be uphill, but I was completely shot at that point - I had been hiking, running, and standing around for 8 hours and my legs just didn't want to do anything anymore. Not to mention the ride back was along the highway with cars zooming by, the winds picking up, and the smoke from the forest fires were rolling in. I actually got off my bike and cried for a few seconds before finishing the 30 mile round-trip ride. 

But I finished, and after all was said and done I'm glad I rented the bike and experienced the Legacy Trail! 

Banff to Canmore Bike Ride

Sunset Hike Up Tunnel Mountain 

I took a few wrong turns on my way to the Tunnel Mountain parking lot, but once I found it, it was a fairly straightforward hike to the top of the mountain where sweeping views of Banff town greeted me at sunset. I sat down, snacked on some carrots and hummus, and explored the different views from the summit. It was absolutely beautiful. 

Tunnel Mountain Sunset Banff

There were others at the top of the mountain but they didn't seem to be leaving, and it was starting to get dark, so I made my way down on my own and managed to get back to my car after a few panicky moments of "where is the trail?" 

The fact that this is mentioned online as a possible trail run is mind boggling to me because there's no way in hell I would have been able to run up this mountain for 3 miles! 

Tunnel Mountain Sunset Banff

Run at Vermillion Lakes 

To start this run, I parked at the Fenland trailhead and after a short "trail run" found myself on Vermillion Lakes Road, running alongside beautiful lakes. It was pretty flat, and I only saw 2 cars the entire time. 

Vermillion Lakes Run Banff

I stopped for lots of pictures, and when I got to the end of the paved road I turned around and went back. With an extra loop of the trail path, my run ended at a solid 7 miles. I highly recommend this running route if you aren't trying to run up a mountain but still want that "trail" feel and gorgeous views! 

Dinner at Juniper Bistro

The Juniper Bistro is within the Juniper Hotel and I can't recommend it enough if you're looking for a dinner with a view. You could come for cocktails, appetizers, or dinner - but sitting outside here for a meal was absolutely beautiful (you should just plan on wearing bug spray!)

Juniper Bistro  Banff

Views aside, the food was also phenomenal. I had the shaved carrot salad as an appetizer (candy striped beetroot, watermelon radish, apple, local lettuces, pomegranate vinaigrette, dukkah) and the duck breast as an entree (lentils & wild mushroom ragout, blueberry chutney, pickled mustard seeds, seasonal vegetables, beet & balsamic glaze) at the recommendation of my (very attractive) waiter. So good!

Juniper Bistro Banff

On Thursday I'm headed to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper for a full week - so you better believe I'll be coming back with even more recommendations! Stay tuned!

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8 Things I Learned From a Social Media Detox

I've had two great successes so far this summer - going a full month without drinking and completing my first Olympic Triathlon

But there was also a notable "failure" when I attempted to go 30 days without social media and lasted about 16. Hands down, giving up social media was harder than giving up alcohol. I'm somewhat disappointed in myself for not sticking it out until day 30 but at the same time, I took away a ton of lessons from the first 2+ weeks and feel refreshed and not-as-addicted. 

Here were a few main takeaways from the failed social experiment - just over two weeks of no Instagram, Facebook, dating apps and Snapchat!

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1.       I didn’t miss out on invitations to things.

Sure, I probably missed some Facebook event invites that I would have marked myself as “interested” in, only to ignore as the date approached. Whenever I do this, I have a slight pang of guilt that I’m not attending – not necessarily FOMO but the feeling that I should be out doing something.

But invitations to things with friends – invitations to things that I really wanted to be a part of – nope, I didn’t miss any of those invites. Because my friends are my friends because they like me and enjoy my company…so it would make sense that they would send a text about something I might be interested in. They know me pretty well, after all. Exhibit A - this amazing summer Friday lunch at Jajaja!

JaJaJa NYC

2.       People assumed that plans fell through because there was no social media evidence that they happened.

It was comical how many people thought that I ended up not going to the Boardy Barn over July 4 weekend because I didn’t Snapchat or Instagram the experience. In fact, I did a lot over 16 days despite the fact that it wasn’t documented on social media! It was very freeing to not be constantly composing the perfect picture.

Boardy Barn Long Island

3.       Friends still thought about me while I was off-the-grid.

I still got texts of memes or pictures that friends saw online that reminded them of me. It wasn’t like I became insignificant without social media.

4.       I still take a lot of pictures.

While it was nice to not try to get a picture-perfect shot or video of every moment,  I still found myself taking pictures of almost everything. I’m just a picture person I guess. That being said, it was eye-opening to realize that whether we like to admit it or not, when we post on social media, we are essentially bragging – “look how great this moment of my day was! Aren’t you jealous? Don’t you wish you were here?!” We all do it – but it was nice to just take a picture because the sunset was pretty with no other pretenses. 

Long Island Sunset

5.       Email is underrated!

For someone who likes writing – email is a perfect mix between a letter and a text. Because let’s face it, texts are pretty surface-level. I found myself writing more emails while I was off of social media – but emails that actually had some substance to them.

Plus, everyone’s on their computer during the work day anyway – so it was a nice way to break up the day to get an email from a friend instead of scrolling through my Instagram feed for the 100th time in 2 hours.

6.       I felt more content than I remember feeling in a long time.

During the two weeks I didn’t have social media – I had this overwhelming sense of contentment. Not constantly comparing my weekend to someone else’s really allowed me to just appreciate how I was choosing to spend my time. And to appreciate the people I was with, the places I was going, the workouts I was enjoying, etc.

I wish there was a way to be on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and maintain this level of contentedness but I really think that it takes a huge, unconscious toll on us to constantly be peering into other people’s lives and unknowingly holding ours up against it.

Fourth of July weekend I didn’t rent a beach house, I didn’t go to a lake house with 20 of my closest friends. The following weekend I didn’t go exploring waterfalls on a tropical island. I went for a long run in my neighborhood, sat at the yacht club with my parents drinking gin and tonics, wandered around Williamsburg and swam in the Hudson with my best friends – and I realized how much I love those low-key weekends with no major plans. The weekends that I allow to unfold instead of scheduling every minute of. They’re a nice change of pace – even if everyone else on my Instagram is chronicling their world travels.

We all know that social media serves as someone’s highlight reel – but I’d rather my life be a great movie than a crappy one with a good trailer.

Fourth of July NYC Rooftop

7.       I had so much more time!

It’s scary how many minutes and hours I day we spend scrolling. Or at least I know I do. In 16 days, I read 5 BOOKS. 5!

It was so nice to use my brain more. And I finally checked out a creative writing workshop I’ve been wanting to go to! It was a great way to spend a night and I’m really glad I went.

It’s no shock that these are the two weeks I also successfully grocery shopped and meal prepped and felt so happy in my routine and rhythm (this also had to do with the fact that I was also home for two weeks straight – a rare occurrence).

Gotham Writer's Write-In

8.       It’s so easy to fall back into it.

Once I redownloaded Instagram and Facebook (I’m still Snapchat free, for now) – I was disappointed in how quickly I fell back into old habits of scrolling endlessly and frequently.

So why did I go back? It’s addictive, man! I missed the pretty pictures, the posts that inspire new travel plans, the memes that nail a situation spot on and make me burst out laughing. I was trying to plan my trips to Banff, Copenhagen and Stockholm and wanted to look at pictures that others have posted in these places. I wanted restaurant recommendations and food porn! I got sucked back in – 100%.

Despite the fact that I failed to make it 30 days – I’m glad for the 16 days I did survive, because they were a pretty nice break and a chance to get off the grid and realize just how pervasive social media is in my life.

Every day I found myself fighting back the urge to open up one of my apps – my thumb just seemed to float to where the icon used to be on its own accord.

I’m trying to cut back. I think a huge step for me would to not allow myself to wake up and immediately go on my phone and to force myself to read or journal right before falling asleep. But those are the two times I find myself trapped in the constant scrolling the most!

Maybe that’s my next challenge.

NYC Tri Race Recap

For the past week, whenever anyone asks me how my first New York City Triathlon went, I'm sure they've walked away from me secretly hating my guts. 

I hear myself gushing over the race and talking about 3 hours of physical activity as if it were a trip to an amusement park - and I've thought, "Wow, I'm annoying." 

But yet I can't help. Last Sunday was absolutely amazing in a way that only fellow race addicts will be able to comprehend. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

Packet Pick-Up & Expo

Friday, I took advantage of my office's "Summer Friday" hours to stroll over to the Hilton Hotel where packet pick-up and the NYC Tri Expo were taking place. I happened to arrive a perfect 10 minutes prior to the 3 PM briefing that is required for all participants. 

The briefing lasting about 30 minutes and had a lot of good information - all of the logistics of triathlons tend to overwhelm me so the more times I'm told what to do and what to expect, the better. Not to mention, this was my first Olympic Distance triathlon and only my second triathlon EVER. 

After the briefing you received a stamp on your hand to prove you had sat through it, which enabled you to pick up your packet full of bib numbers (one for your shirt, one for your bike, one for your helmet, etc.), your timing chip (worn around your ankle), your t-shirt and swag bag.  

New York City Triathlon Expo

Then, I headed into the expo to see what freebies I could snag. Since the expo had started at 2 PM and it was only 3:30 on a Friday, it was still pretty calm which was nice. I grabbed all the chip clips, hand sanitizer, keychains, chapsticks, coupons, etc. only to get home and think, "I literally do not need any of this..." 

I had ordered a bunch of stuff online  that didn't arrived in time - so I was on the hunt for tri shorts to wear during the race (oops). Mine have slowly disintegrated from wearing them in chlorine when I go to the pool - and the padding in my biking shorts was way too much to swim and run in. 

After trying on a few pairs at the TYR booth, I found a brand I'd never heard of - Voler - and fell in love with their basic pair of $30 tri shorts which were black and teal to match my bike, helmet, cycling shoes...etc. etc. 

I also bought a new Adidas sports bra for $12 - suhweet! 

Bike Check-In

The NYC Tri basically takes place in my backyard, which made the somewhat daunting three-day process of Expo, Bike Check-In, Race, Bike Pick-Up a lot more manageable. 

On Saturday, after a productive morning at the library and Trader Joe's, I set out on my bike with a giant backpack full of all my race essentials. 

15 minutes into the ride - I realized I had forgotten to put my number on my bike - which would prevent me from checking it into the transition area. 

Back to my apartment I went - dripping in sweat and cursing myself as I precariously balanced on my bike.

Finally, I made it to transition and found Callie and our friend Molly, racked my bike (my number said, "If triathlons were easy, it'd be called football") and started laying out all my things. 

NYC Tri Bike Check-In

It's kind of crazy to think that I walked away from transition having left behind a $1300 bike, $200+ wetsuit, $75 cycling shoes, $100+ GPS watch, and various other items. That night my parents would ask me, "What will you do with your cell phone during the swim?" And I had to laugh, thinking that my cell phone was the least of my worries. 

Callie, Molly and I took the 30 minutes to go on one of the transition area tours which I cannot recommend enough if you ever find yourself doing the NYC Tri or any tri that offers such a "tour." I left feeling much more at ease having a mental picture of where I would walk to the swim, where I would be exiting the swim, where I would re-enter transition, where I would leave with my bike, etc. etc. It also really helped to see "the hill" everyone talks about that comes fairly quickly in the bike ride. 

NYC Tri Transition

The Night Before

After bike check-in I spent the evening meal prepping for the week, getting a pep talk from my parents (which ended with, "I really don't know why you do this Lauren...") and eventually eating an early dinner of chicken, vegetarian chili and spinach. I double checked that everything was ready to go for the early morning alarm (including my pre-made rice cake + PB and banana) before taking a melatonin. I fell asleep shockingly easily around 8:30 PM. 

NYC Tri Race Prep

Morning Of! Pre-Race Readying

My alarm went off at 3:40 AM and I felt shockingly fine. I put on my tri shorts, tank, running sneakers, Road ID and pinned on my bib. Fun fact, I had gotten my period the day before, so I popped two Ibuprofen for cramps, brushed my teeth, grabbed my water bottle and breakfast and within 15 minutes was ordering an Uber pool to the bike transition. 

I assumed an Uber pool would probably end up being a) just me or b) myself and a fellow triathlete on their way to transition but NYC truly is the city that never sleeps and I was surprised to find myself explaining to a couple why I was dressed to go workout at 4:00 AM. 

Transition was daaaark when I arrived around 4:15 and I remained pretty calm - a nice departure from my crazed/stressed self prior to last year's sprint triathlon on Long Island where I had a panic attack first about my bike pump not working and then about forgetting my ear plugs in my dad's truck. 

NYC Tri Transition Area

I easily found someone nearby to help me re-inflate my tires, sipped my canned cold brew coffee, ate my rice cake with PB and banana, and re-jiggered my things in a way that made sense. 

I put on my flip flops, put my goggles around my neck, slung my wetsuit over my shoulder, and made sure that my ear plugs, swim cap and socks were in the bag I'd be walking to the swim start with.  

Callie's bike was only a few down from me, I saw Abby right away, Molly, Emily, Alex - tons of November Project people made me feel calm. I also just kept telling myself that we still weren't starting for a long time. 

NYC  Tri Race Recap

After some pictures (duh) we left as transition closed at 5:15 on the dot and started the walk to the swim start. Making our way up to 99th street with Abby and Callie by my side made it just feel like a regular morning and kept me calm. We watched the Hudson River flowing on by, "The river is moving! There is a current! Hooray!" 

When we approached where we would be exiting the water, I laid out a pair of socks that would save my feet from the gravely quarter-mile run back to transition. A ton of people had left out sneakers, but that seemed like a big hassle to put on. 

At the swim start, I body glided up, put my flip flops in my bag, took out my ear plugs and swim cap, and gave it to the truck that would transport it to the finish line. 

We continued along to Port-o-Potty Village and finally, donned our sexy wet-suits, shimmying our way into them like an extra-tight pair of skinny jeans. 

As we approached the water I put two spare ear plugs in the sleeves of my wetsuit, where I was pretty sure they wouldn't budge considered how tight it was - I knew that if I lost the ear plugs in my ears mid-swim I'd probably freak (I ALWAYS swim with them, get terrible swimmer's ear, and hate the feeling of water in my ears - especially because I fly so much, it makes me paranoid!) 

Callie braided my hair (best part of race day are the race braids!) and when we entered the line with our swim start/age group we completed the Tinder-profile-worthy look with our swim caps. 

Soon, a giant pink pig poster came marching by and attached to it were Abby's adorable parents who snapped some WINNING photos of the three of us. 

We, as usual, goofed off, joked around, and kept things as far-from-serious as possible. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

When swim waves started going off, I was relieved to see lots of people side stroking, back stroking, treading water and STILL moving at a fast clip towards the finish. The river was movin' all right and I knew that even if it took me 40 minutes of backstroke, I'd make it out of the Hudson and to my bike. 

The three of us decided to take the 20 second time penalty by sitting on the barge and dangling our legs into the water instead of jumping in and can I just say HOW GREAT it was that I got to start this race sitting next to my two best friends and triathlon inspirations (Hi, 70.3). 

The Swim 

You know people who downplay their abilities constantly because they want to hear people tell them how great they are? I SWEAR I wasn't trying to be that person by panicking about the swim portion of the NYC Tri. 

I was legitimately petrified of swimming .9 miles and still do not think that I'm entirely capable of doing it in other circumstances. Those circumstances = a quickly moving river, pulling you downstream whether you wanted to or not. 

The promising news was that I managed to do some actual face-in-the-water swimming this time around. That being said, it was HIGHLY supplemented with the backstroke for more than half of the time. Progress? 

The wave start meant that for most of the time, the route wasn't too crowded. The sea wall had signs marking each 100 meters and volunteers on both sides made sure that you were staying within the safe swimming area. By the final 150 meters, the course got crowded and hectic as everyone converged on the barge where we would exit the water. I just hung back and slowly made my way to the exit area where I grabbed onto someone's arm and they pulled me up and out. 

Volunteers immediately started telling everyone to wipe their faces off - to remove the notorious "Hudson River Mustache" from their faces before they approached the photographer. Gross? Yes. Real? Definitely - I felt plenty of gravelly-grossness as I tried to get myself camera ready (LOL I mean, how camera ready can you be as you run/try to remove a wetsuit/take off goggles and swim cap? Answer: Not very.) 

My swim ended up being 20:04 for a pace of 01:21/100 M (for reference, the fastest splits I've ever had in a pool are well over 2:00 per 100M). 

NYC Tri

Transition One

I was pleasantly surprised when I reached back to unzip my wetsuit that it pretty easily complied. Using a tip from Abby, I held my ear plugs, swim cap and goggles in my hand while I pulled the sleeves down - ensnaring the miscellaneous swim accouterments in the inside out sleeve. SCORE. 

I overshot my socks by a few steps and swiveled around to grab them and slip them on - definitely a great call to go socks instead of sneakers. I was moving at a quick pace back to transition - passing plenty of people but also trying to take a minute to breathe and mentally prepare for the bike. 

NYC Tri Swim

Imagine the smile on my face when I got back to my bike and saw Callie ready to go out and start her ride! 

I scarfed down two dates (YUM they're my new favorite fuel), took off my timing chip, fully took off my wet-suit, put the timing chip back on, slid into my socks and cycling shoes, clipped on my Spibelt with my phone, put on my Garmin, buckled my helmet, thought to myself, "that's it right?!" and picked up my bike, jogging alongside it to the exit. 

My watch said 6:30 which absolutely shocked me - I'd swam .9 miles, run .25 and gotten ready for the bike in 30 minutes - something I had never thought remotely possible. Now, it was in my head that 3 hours was a possibility and the chase for 3:00:00 was on. 

Transition One took me 08:27. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

Bike

I mounted my bike and off I went! "The hill" wasn't as stressful as anticipated - I got there at a lucky time I guess and it wasn't very crowded. I stood up to make my way up it quickly and easily. Once we made a few sharp(ish) turns (nothing that made my stomach enter my throat) it was nothing but open highway! 

NYC Tri Race Recap

It was amazing to have a whole highway shut down for us to ride on. Over the course of 25 miles, I had verrrrry few instances of overcrowding or close calls with fellow riders - everyone seemed very courteous and under control - riding to the right and passing on the left. 

I felt good and was riding hard, until I passed the first 5 mile marker and realized, "I should probbbbbably dial it back a bit." 

So I dialed it back and settled in, telling myself that I was going to be on here for awhile and didn't really know what was to come in terms of hills. But I felt great and my legs felt strong - I really had no way of knowing how fast I was going since I don't have a bike computer, but I was confident that I was having a good ride. 

Each hill that greeted me was manageable and each downhill made me a little anxious about how I would feel on the back-half of the route. There was one major hill on the way up to the Bronx that had my legs screaming but it was over fairly quickly.

I passed and was passed by the same people back and forth for most of the ride which let me know that I was staying pretty consistent. For awhile, I was chasing down a woman who 70 and it reminded me that I want to be a bad ass triathlete when I'm well into my 40s and 50s! 

The bike went really well - the final 5 miles had me trying to calculate how fast I'd need to run to finish in under 3 hours and it seemed to be slipping away. 

The final turn around was the hairiest turns but once that was over it was smooth sailing back to transition, where we slowed down to a frustrating crawl/single file line. That being said, it was nice that everyone just accepted that it was going to take a minute to get back as people slowed down and dismounted and no one was an asshole barreling through the narrow path. 

I ended up finishing the bike in 1:29:03 for an average speed of 16.75 MPH. This was nuts to me because that's the exact speed I normally do my Central Park loops at! I guess I'm pretty consistent! 

This was probably my favorite long bike ride ever and I'm so glad I enjoyed it.  

NYC Tri Bike

Transition Two 

I ran my bike back to the rack and proceeded to take off my timing chip and socks - before realizing 

that I absolutely had not needed to do that - oops haha. I ate two dates, put a caffeinated gel in my Spibelt, laced up my sneakers, contemplated a hat and decided against it, drank some water and made a quick dash to the port-o-potty. 

After that, it was out on the run - which I had originally thought would be my favorite part of the race. In reality, it was hands down the hardest part of the race. 

Transition Two: 04:00

The Run

The run course starts with a massive hill up to Riverside Dr. and I decided immediately that it wasn't worth getting super out of breath and mentally frustrated by attempting to run up it - I walked up and I think it was a good call. 

For the first mile I just told myself to relax, let my legs get used to running, and get myself to Central Park. It's nice that you don't enter the park until a mile into the run, because I just told myself once I hit the park I could really start to hit my stride. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

Like I said, this was hard. Running after biking 25 miles is a very strange sensation where your legs are heavy, yet also numb? You feel like you're moving so slowly because you've been moving at 16+ MPH for the past hour and a half. Even though I felt like I was running through quicksand and not moving - my first mile split was an 8:12. 

It was a pleasant surprise, but I also had been aiming to start slow and go for negative splits, which wasn't going to happen with that start. 

Once in the park, the hills came and I focused on quick, short steps to get myself up and over them. But that West Side of the park still killed me. I was letting my head go to a bad place where I was saying, "WHY IS THIS SO HARD this is supposed to be my favorite part!" The only thing that kept me going was that everyone I passed seemed to think I was "LOOKIN' STRONG" and had "GREAT FORM." This was news to me but I took their word for it. 

Once I saw the November Project cheer squad - things changed. The energy put a huge smile on my face and from that point on I had a much much better attitude. I bee-lined for Kaitlin who was taking pictures and gave her a big high five and zoomed away in much better spirits. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

The trudge up Harlem Hill began and my watch kept giving me mile splits that I was happy with - 8:26 for mile2 and 8:19 for mile 3. 

Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 I took my gel which also helped - I only use the caffeine Cliff shots and they work like a charm. 

I passed the water station my friend Michelle was volunteering at and gave her a huge hug which re-energized me to finish the hills. 

For the entire race, my strategy was to stop at each water station and actually drink water - I hadn't even finished a full water bottle on the bike ride and new I would be in trouble if I didn't drink during the run. I'm never a walk through the water stations person but it worked amazingly for this race and I'm really glad I did it! 

When I got over to the east side I saw Callie in the distance which put an extra pep in my step so I could catch up to her. We chatted for a few minutes and I continued on with splits that were making me very happy and quite frankly very surprised. Mile 4 was a 7:55. 

I decided to try to take mile 5 more conservatively so I could finish the final mile strong. Mile 5 was an 8:23 and then I kicked it into high gear for mile 6. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

At that point, my legs were fully in running mode and my stride was more relaxed and natural and I could tell that I was cruising along. It felt great to pass so many people in that final mile and as I approached the finish line I was pushhhhing myself to the point where I started getting chills and thinking, "Uh, this is probably not good since it's 85 degrees out."

In the final few feet I was stuck behind 2 or 3 people and desperately trying to pass. Eventually I snuck around them and sprinted across the finish line. Nothing has ever felt so amazing as the freezing cold wet towel they placed around my neck. I would have taken that over the medal. 

My final mile was a 7:32. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

According to the official results, my run was 49:07 for a pace of 07:55 (my watch had me at an 08:07) and 16th in my age group for the run! It was definitely the hardest part, but I guess it's obvious which of the three things I'm best at! 

Final time was 02:50:39 and I was so happy to break 3 hours!

Post-Race

It's hard for me to remember a time I was on such an endorphin-high. Probably after both my marathons my 10K PR. But it's just the absolute best feeling in the world and I rode that high alllllll day. 

So many people ask me why I wanted to do this triathlon if I was scared and nervous and thought that it was going to be hard and my answer is I wanted to do this triathlon BECAUSE I was scared and nervous and BECAUSE it was hard. 

There is no better feeling than proving to yourself that you can do something you've never done before. To do something despite the fact that you're nervous - to prove that you can fight through the nerves and the fear and go for it anyway. 

My biggest pet peeve is when people say they "can't" do something when they've never even tried and REFUSE to try. Complacency is so boring. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

After the race we took lots of pictures, I called my parents, we walked around the finishers festival (free YASSO BARS!) and eventually Callie and I made our way to the shuttle that took us back to transition to pick up our bikes. 

After packing everything up, we took the subway uptown and walked our bikes across the park to my apartment where I took the most amazing shower of my life, used my bone stimulator machine, and we got ready for food. 

We met Michelle and Abby at BARE BURGER which was everything I wanted and more. A burger in a collard green wrap + crispy Brussels sprouts and sweet potato fries. Not to mention 23842 glasses of water. 

Next stop was Treadwell Park to meet up with people from November Project and enjoy a refreshing alcoholic beverage (I finally tried the Wolffer Cider white wine!) courtesy of my mom and dad. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

We only lasted one drink before decided we needed our beds. 

I spent the rest of the night reading, watching TV, and eating summer rolls and a pint of Halo Top. 

It was the most accomplished I've felt in a really long time. And now, of course, I'm wondering what the next challenge will be! Thinking about that 70.3.......

THANKS 

Shout out to Kaitlin, Patti, Brian and Mr. & Mrs. Reisner for all of the wonderful pictures of the day!! I'm obsessed and you can find me most days just scrolling through my phone looking at all of them and reminiscing :) 

I really can't even figure out what to say about how much Callie and Abby helped me get to the start line and across the finish line so I'll just say that every run, every swim, every bike ride, every brunch, every beer, every laugh, every cry - it's 294380X better with you two by my side! Next stop, Banff!

NYC Tri Race Recap

 

 

 

Two Perfect Weekends - A Tale of Two Cities

The past two weekends have been absolutely amazing - and I'm wondering if it's because I did what I wanted to do, and had no way of comparing how my days were filled with what other people were up to. One was spent in my small hometown on Long Island, the other in NYC. 

The upside to deleting all of my social media has definitely been the absence of comparison. Though to be completely honest, I'm still reaching for my phone constantly and playing Snood or checking my email - it's so ingrained that even while I'm watching a show on Netflix, I'm simultaneously playing a  video game from the early 2000s. Help me. 

I'm also still taking pictures of almost everything - a) because I love pictures but b) because I know I still can share them on the blog, even if they aren't being instantly posted to the 'gram.

So let's recap!

Fourth of July Weekend

Fourth of July is my favorite holiday - I really don't know why, but it always ends up being one of the most perfect weekends of the summer. It's a day dedicated to BBQs, beer, day drinking, being outside, on the water, with a combination of friends and family.  It's always right after we finish up all our events for the season and I can finally feel like there's a bit of a break to the constant travel. And I somehow always get really over the top with my outfit choice - 'MERICA. 

This year, I head home to Long Island - land of beaches, boats, booze and the Boardy Barn. 

Lobster Night 

Friday night when I got home my mom and I headed to the Yacht Club that my parents belong to for Lobster Night - my dad was volunteering as a cook for the night and my sister met us there. We were assigned an outdoor table, which we were happy about until we noticed the winds picking up, and picking up...and still picking up. 

It was SO windy that eating was next to impossible. It was one of those situations where you could only laugh as entire beer bottles knocked over and peel and eat shrimp tails floated through the air. 

Mount Sinai Yacht Club

We were in laughter-induced tears when my sister looked down at her plate and shouted, "I had a roll on my plate!" A friend from a table behind us responded with, "Is this it?!" and held up a roll. 

My stomach hurt from the laughter and was happy from the delicious shrimp and lobster dinner. My heart was happy with the sunset that we caught the tail end of on our way home from the beach. 

Cedar  Beach Sunset

Solo Saturday Productivity

Saturday my sister was at a friends and my parents were at a party in Connecticut so I used the day to accomplish some To Do List items and relax. 

Hamilton: The Revolution

I had bought this book about the creation of Hamilton for my mom for Mother's Day and wasted no time claiming it as my own for the weekend. 

A slow start to the morning with lots of reading and coffee was a nice change from my usual "get up and go" pace. 

Hamilton The Revolution

 And since I couldn't spend a million hours scrolling through Instagram, I finished the whole book that weekend. I cannot recommend it enough if you're a fan of Hamilton, or Lin-Manuel Miranda, or musicals and creative genius in general. It made me appreciate Hamilton even MORE than I did after walking out of the theater in May. 

Every line, every movement, every choice was carefully decided on by Lin's "cabinet" and its such an interesting process to read about. 

Halla

Saturday morning I also downloaded Mondly and started trying to teach myself some Swedish - because I'll be spending a week there this fall! I couldn't be more excited and while learning languages has never been one of my strong points, I do want to give an honest effort in knowing some vocabulary and basic sentences while I'm there. Especially since I'll be working and needing to communicate more than just my order at a restaurant (although the vocab needed to dine is very high on my priority list). 

Any Stockholm travel tips, send them my way! Tak! (That means thank you).

Outdoor, No Equipment Workout

Around 11 I finally headed outside to my backyard in order to get a little bit of a sweat happening - I knew this was the only way to get me up off the couch to go do all of my errands. 

I did this workout that I came up with last summer and it was perfect. About 45 minutes, total body, simple and sweaty. (The sweat might have been because it was already about 85 degrees outside). 

Marshalls - My Downfall 

Whenever I'm home, I go cray at Marshall's. This trip, I left with a black one-piece Calvin Klein bathing suit, a pair of Kensie white jeans, and an off the shoulder denim dress from Cloth & Stone. The dress is so soft!

Bagel & Champagne 

Knowing we would be leaving for the the Boardy Barn bright and early the next morning, I preemptively picked up the Boardy Barn breakfast essentials - a bagel with cream cheese and lox and a bottle of bubbly.  

Manicure 

There's nothing like getting a manicure at your home town nail salon. First of all, it's $25 vs. the $35+ I pay in the city. 

Second, they instantly recognize me as "Sam's sister!" 

Third, I finally found the perfect color gel that matches Bikini so Teeny by Essie which is my summer nail polish JAM. I will most definitely be getting this every weekend I go home this summer (which I'm hoping is frequently!!) 

The G-Parentals

Nothing better than an afternoon visit with my Nanny & Poppy! 

We talked about everything under the sun and then they gave me a PLUOT to try - it's a mix between a plum and an apricot and it was the ideal summer fruit. Crispy, tart skin with a sweet, juicy inside. There was not way to eat it without making a mess, but it was well worth the sticky fingers! 

Crashing a Dinner Party

Next I headed to a local restaurant where some family friends I hadn't seen in far too long were getting a family dinner. I showed up to say hi while they enjoyed their first round of drinks and appetizers and it was so good seeing everyone and doing some quick catching up. 

Savinos Long Island

HOMEMADE Dinner 

Dinner was one of my favorite combos - arugula + avocado + grapefruit! With some Caprese salad on the side (unpopular opinion over here, but mozzarella with balsamic >> any burrata I've had!) 

Arugula Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Sunday Funday At the Boardy Barn 

Going to the Boardy Barn is a right of passage for anyone growing up on Long Island. It's that rare bar that you really do wait until you're 21 to venture to - out in Hampton Bays, people arrive by cars, trains, buses, vans, limos and taxis. 

It's only open on Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Only open from 2 PM to 8 PM. 

There are porta pottys and $1 hot dogs. $3 Bud Lights and smiley face stickers. A giant tent. Dirt floors. You will leave sweaty and covered in dirt and beer. You will wait in line for hours in the sweltering sun to get inside. You will be extremely intoxicated and question why you started drinking at 9 AM. You will think, "this isn't worth it." 

Boardy Barn

And then you will get inside and the DJ will play every song you never knew you wanted to scream/sing with hundreds of other Long Islanders and you'll swear that it's impossible to be unhappy at the barn. It really is the happiest place on earth. 

Sounds dramatic, right? But everything I just said is the truth! 

We arrived in our van around 10 a.m. and were inside by around 12:30 (extended hours for the Holiday Weekend - and a $30 cover). We lasted until around 6:30 and by 8 I was chowing down on a giant gyro with my parents. 

What. A. Day. 

Boardy Barn

IDEAL (MON)DAY

Monday was absolutely, 100% what I hoped it would be. 

Run with Mom

It started with a 4 mile, pain-free run to the beach WITH MY MOM which was the best part. It didn't feel too hard, and I was happy happy happy when my dad got down to the beach to pick us up.

Running again! My hometown route! To the beach! With my mom! The day could have ended there and I still would have been happy. 

I'm On A Boat

But next up was going on our boat! I hadn't been on the boat in at least 2 or 3 years and was so content sitting on the boat, reading about Hamilton, playing Enrique Iglesias and Ed Sheeran over the speakers, chowing down on a salad and rice chips with hummus and hanging out with my parents. 

I jumped into water and it's still pretty damn chilly, but was refreshing for the .2 seconds I stayed in. 

Mount Sinai Harbor

I can't wait until the day that my parents have a slip down at the beach and don't have to trailer the boat anymore - seeing how much time and effort and work and sweat my dad puts into cleaning it after each trip is nuts and I can't wait for the process to be a little less stress-free for him. Dad, if you're reading, THANK YOU! His diligence and attention to detail and refusal to take the easy way out are why we were able to grow up our entire lives on a boat - the same one for 22 years in fact. 

Spiros

For dinner, we went to the insanely popular happy hour at Spiro's, where delicious and MASSIVE portions are served at bargain prices. 

They also have a huge variety of martinis, margaritas and craft beer - which is the route I went! 

We split a shrimp and lobster roll, bowl of mussels and grilled eggplant and shrimp dish. All of it was delicious.

Fireworks

The last part of the day was going down to the yacht club to get a spot on the deck to watch the fireworks from a few towns over. We sat with some of my parents friends, chatted, drank, and oohed and ahhed like children when the fireworks started over the water. 

Mt. Sinai Yacht Club

I thought I could pass on the fireworks - but I'm so glad that we went down and stuck around for them. 

Back to the City

Tuesday I woke up, finished reading Hamilton, packed my stuff and eventually made my way back to NYC for the actual Fourth of July. But not before one more eclectic breakfast - whenever I'm home, there's so many options that I'm forced to just have a little bit of everything! 

TRI TRAINING LOL

It had kind of hit me over the weekend while I wasn't swimming or biking that, "OH I'm doing a triathlon in like 10 days. Maybe I should have trained a little more." 

Luckily, Abby was willing to meet me at the gym when I made it back to the city. We sat on some spin bikes in the empty studio and caught up about our weekends and then headed to the pool for a mile swim which went surprisingly very well - it was my fastest mile ever! 

Rooftop BBQ

We showered and got festive (I even wore my giant star earrings!) and headed to Whole Foods where we went kind of crazy buying ingredients for a salad, hummus, guac, beer, etc. to bring to our friend Kaitlin's roof. 

When we finally arrived at Kaitlin's around 7, we entered an apartment that smelled glorious. There were SURPRISE BURGERS. I was overjoyed - I had been crrrraving meat and feeling super weak and nothing says Fourth of July like a hamburger! 

For just 4 people, we had put together quite the spread, if I do say so myself.

We got it all up on the roof, played some jams, chatted, drank some beers for America's Birthday (it would have been un-American not to), and waited to see if we'd even have a view of the fireworks over the East River...

We did! And again, I was surprised to find just how much I loved them! Even better - playing the Hamilton soundtrack as they went off. 

A Weekend In NYC

The weekend following the Fourth of July kind of just materialized into a great one. It felt super relaxing even thought I did A LOT and it included all of my favorite things. 

Summer Friday - Good Food, Good Beers

Lunch at JaJaJa

Ja Ja Ja Vegan Mexican NYC

Kaitlin, Abby, Bertha, Rebecca and I met up on a summer Friday afternoon to try the new vegan Mexican restaurant in Chinatown called Jajaja - I should probably write up a real review because it was worthy. 

The food was phenomenal, creative, and if I were a vegan this spot would definitely become a go-to. I already want to go back for another "fish" taco (made with squash) and for the monstrous pile of nachos with chorizo and guac. 

Vegan Mexican NYC Ja Ja Ja

The only thing that missed the mark was the ceviche, but otherwise, we loved it - and not a scrap was left behind by this girl gang. 

ice & vice

I had been dying for some Ice & Vice, and since we were in Chinatown, it didn't take too much convincing for three of us to stop by for a scoop! Their "yellow" seasonal flavor was delicious (Buckwheat Honey, Tumeric, Sunflower, Butterscotch) as was their staple Tea Dance (Nilgiri Tea Leaf, Lemon Charcoal, Salted Caramel) I love that their menu calls this a "basic" flavor - as it is anything but!

Ice & Vice NYC

Chill Beers & Jenga

If you know me, you know that a night at a beer garden with a million IPAs, big open windows and games is pretty much my ideal scenario and that's what Spritzenhaus33 in Williamsburg delivered on Friday night. 

When we first got there, there were tons of moms and babies which was a little odd but they cleared out eventually. The place was hopping and we were able to snag a table right by the giant windows which was great. 

Luxury Apartment Buildings

My friend and I stayed at her sisters apartment for the night and it was amazing.  I didn't set an alarm and woke up in a verrrry air conditioned room to a cup of hot coffee and a gym in the building. 

One day, this will be my life...

I got in a quick workout and then we went off in search of food. We ended up bringing omelettes and home fries up to the roof which was the start of our entireeee day out in the sun. 

Williamsburg Rooftop

Saturday Darty

Rooftop Darty

Darty is a term stolen from my sister and her friends which means day party - aka the best kind of party. ROOFTOP darties are even better. 

My co-worker had an amazing party on her rooftop and pulled out all the stops - fun balloons and decorations with the theme of "Pineapples and Palm Trees." There was a pinata, pineapple punch, pineapple glasses, cute paper straws, BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP, flip cup, and views of the Manhattan skyline. 

Yeah, not a bad way to spend a beautifully sunny day. 

Outdoor Thai Dinner

Saturday wrapped up with us walking to get Thai food and being pleasantly surprised that they had an entire outdoor dining area. 

I ordered the Larb Gai which burned my mouth off but was so freaking flavorful and delicious. 

If you live in Williamsburg (or just want to eat really good Thai food outside) check out Sage!

Sage Thai Williamsburg

Sunday Funday

I love a productive Sunday where I also have time to do a little bit of nothing. This Sunday was exactly that. 

Brick Workout

Again, there's this Olympic Distance triathlon that I'm attempting next weekend that I feel horribly unprepared for. While I should be tapering had I adhered to any kind of training schedule, instead Abby and I took the Sunday before the race to have our longest training brick workout. Oops?

We biked 35 miles and ran 3 - the miles on the park flew by since we could talk. I never would have done 5 loops of Central Park without her. 

The run was, all things considered, a success but damn, it did not leave me looking forward to Sunday. 

I was in a the pain cave. That's where I go when I can't summon the usual happy, "Yay I'm running" thoughts and instead just keep thinking, "this is hard, this doesn't feel good, can I stop now?" 

Again, having Abby by my side got me through it. My shins never felt the sharp pain of a stress fracture but I was very very tight and my calves were very very painful afterwards. 

We were quicker than I felt at the time, which was a pleasant surprise, but I'm definitely anticipating some walking breaks during the NYC Tri considering our run was around the reservoir for 3 miles and I'll be needing to get my booty up and over all of Central Park's many hills (including Harlem Hill) for 6 miles during the race. 

Gulp. 

Food Shopping & Meal Prep

Yes, this was a highlight of my weekend. 

I finally went to the grocery store with a shopping list and cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week because I'm actually going to be here for a week. 

And I used recipes! From a cookbook! The Inspiralized cookbook to be exact! Kaitlin recently gave me her inspiralizer and I didn't make 1 but THREE things using it. 

Broccoli Zoodles

I made a zucchini noodle fritatta, a broccoli and chicken dish, and a monstrous salad with beet noodles. 

Zoodle Frittata

YAY! I didn't even mind that all of this took me over two hours! 

Beet Zoodles

*PSA: I tried the new avocado and citrus yogurt from Trader Joe's and meh - not a fan!

TV

I'm not a TV person, but there are days I can Netflix binge with the best of them. 

On Sunday, I finished the new season of Orange Is The New Black (Why do people not like it? I loved it!) and also watched The Last Five Years movie with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. 

The fact that I didn't know this was a movie that existed previously is NUTS as I absolutely loved The Last Five Years when I saw it at Second Stage years ago. The music is phenomenal. 

So there you have it - two weekends where I couldn't have asked for anything more perfect. I have a feeling next weekend might be a liiiiiiitle more stressful, but hopefully I fall asleep on Sunday night as an Olympic Distance Triathlete - pleeeeaaaassssseeee???

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Don't Call It A Comeback, Yet!

Return to Running

Ever since I limp/walked the last two miles of our Ragnar Relay in May, I haven't been running. I was diagnosed with grade 3 stress reactions in both shins, and now I'm using a bone-stimulator machine to help strengthen the bones. 

The machine needs to be used for 1-2 months, every day, at the same time. This has led to some interesting situations where I'm applying ultrasound gel to my legs and strapping on the machine on the Long Island Railroad and even in line for the Boardy Barn. 

#RunnerProblems. 

#RunnerProblems

I'm really hoping that this helps avoid future stress reactions, and that the time off was sufficient to heal my legs up. I've run 3 times in the last two weeks and, knock on wood, I am feeling pretty good! 

Here's a recap on some recent fitness moments!

Great Bike Rides

Every time that I get the "oomph" to bust out a 30 mile bike ride BEFORE work - I end up feeling on top of the world. A recent one up to the Little Red Lighthouse on a Monday morning was GLORIOUS. It was such a beautiful morning, and I crushed a lot of PRs for different parts along the path. 

up.jpg

Another morning, I set out for Central Park with the goal of "break some PRs" and - I did! A bunch of them, in fact! 

When I wasn't running, my bike rides were feeling very strong due to the fresh legs! 

Shocking Swims 

Uhm, can we talk about my swims lately? Because they have been surprisingly successful. 

Don't get me wrong - it is still the HARDEST thing to self-motivate for a swim. And often times I sleep through planned swims and they don't happen. But when they DO happen, they've been going pretty well! 

In the past, I would tend to stop and rest in between every 20 lengths of the pool. Last week, I went 60 in a row without a big break and then, this week, with Abby by my side (ok, two laps ahead of me) I went 80 IN A ROW and swam at 2:16/100 yards which is significantly speedier than my usual swims! 

This week I also purchased a wetsuit in preparation for next weekends NYC Tri (NEXT WEEKEND?! HELP!) So I should probably go test it out in some open water somewhere before then...

Let me tell you - getting that thing on is NOT an easy task. 

Kayla's Last Loops 

Saying goodbye to Kayla was horribly depressing, but I couldn't think of a better way to do it than with a few loops of the reservoir with a group of her running friends. 

This was my first run back since Ragnar and I was so glad I got to be out in the park that morning with Kayla! I might have still smelled like tequila from the previous day's boozy brunch, but I survived the 3 miles. 

Central Park Reservoir Path

I was SO sore the following day. It's crazy how quickly your body forgets what running is like...my hips were sore for a week! 

A Run With Mom 

While I was home for Fourth of July Weekend, I was THRILLED that my mom decided to join me for a run down to our local beach. 

She's the one who used to have me do this with her - before running was something I enjoyed in the SLIGHTEST! She would get me to go with the promise of egg sandwiches down at the beach upon our arrival. 

Now, I love that run - I know every place to cross over to be visible to vehicles around turns, I know to expect the straightaway by the harbor to be brutally hot, smelly and feel like it lasts forever, I know that the hill from the stop sign to Morgan's street is deceptively steep. 

I felt great at the end of these four miles and even better that I got to do it with my momma. My dad always times it perfectly to meet us at our turn around point and bring us home! 

Weeknight 5K! 

I had signed up for the Tracktown USA 5K on Randall's Island because summer weekends always get booked, and this race was on a Thursday night. 

Icahn Stadium Randall's Island

Fast forward to now, and I knew that, as my third run back, this was certainly not going to be a "race" by any means. But I was over the moon to be back at a race setting, pinning a bib number to my chest and toeing a starting line with hundreds of others who wanted to spend their Thursday night at Icahn Stadium. 

I was proud of myself for staying fairly comfortable the entire 3.1 miles, not pushing too hard, not feeling disappointed when things felt hard and I had to reel it in, and never once looking at a watch or my pace. I negative split, too!

I cruised across the finish at an 8:16 pace which I was very happy with all things considered. 

The best part was being able to run the 2 more miles home over the 103rd Street footbridge, running into some familiar NP faces (HI LAURA ANN AND MYLES - I definitely felt a little out of the November Project loop at the actual race) and arriving at my apartment steps in ABSOLUTE EUPHORIA. 

Runner's High

I snapped some cheesy pictures in the middle of the road and texted my parents, "I don't want to go inside. I just want to run around all night. I want to pop champagne bottles in the street." 

K Lauren. Relax. 

Random Workouts

A few of my random workouts have felt really HARD. I've been feeling super weak, and also have been CRAVING meat. Which is odd for someone who is a part-time vegetarian for all intents and purposes. 

But whenever I find myself craving meat, I know it's for a reason.  All this to say that I ate some meat (BURGER ON THE FOURTH, THANKS LINDS!) and finally this week, I've felt a little stronger at the gym. 

I whipped this workout back out from the archives while I was home -

No Equipment Exercise

I also came up with two killer deck of cards workouts the other day: 

Hearts: Plank Hip Dips
Diamonds: Lunges
Spades: Wall Ball Throws
Clubs: Ball Slams
Jokers: 50 Jumping Jacks

Hearts: Kettlebell Swings
Diamonds: Kneeling Overhead Press
Spades: Quick Feet on Step
Clubs: Mountain Climbers
Jokers: :30 Plank

Give them a try and tell me what you think! 

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Social Media 30-Day Detox

detoxcover.png

My morning's usually start with laying in bed and scrolling through various social media channels. 

Instagram, Facebook, Strava.

Getting caught up and concerned with other people's lives at 7:00 a.m., wondering who worked out this morning? Who had a great dinner last night? Who is traveling the world or on a beautiful beach somewhere? Did anyone message me on the dating apps I recently re-downloaded? 

My nights usually end in a similar way - mindlessly swiping left and right in search of someone to send me cheesy pick-up lines and unsubstantial conversation.  Getting dizzy from the Boomerangs on people's Instagram stories and filtering and re-filtering photos of myself from the weekend, trying to figure out which one is worthy of a #tbt. The bright light from my screen keeps me up way past a necessary hour. 

It sounds ridiculous when you read about just how wrapped up in social media people become. You scoff at the idea that your self worth has somehow become intertwined with your followers and likes. It looks ridiculous when people stand on chairs to get the perfect boozy brunch snapshot.

But I'm willing to bet that you've been that girl walking and Snapchatting as she walks down the street  And I'm sure you've been that girl feeling bad on a Friday night, sitting in her apartment as her Facebook feed is flooded with friends having fun. The FOMO sets in, even though hours ago at your desk, you swore you WANTED a night of Netflix and Seamless by yourself. 

And don't even get me started on dating apps. Why do I spend HOURS swiping when I truly have NO intention of meeting up with anyone for drinks? 

28 days without drinking had me feeling empowered and looking for a new challenge - and so on July 1, with little fanfare, I deleted it all. 

Facebook. 

Facebook Messenger. 

Instagram. 

Snapchat. 

Bumble. 

Hinge. 

Buh-bye. 

The plan is not seeing these apps until August 1 and I'm really interested to see how it goes! 

Stay tuned. 

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Finishing 28 Days Alcohol-Free

After Las Vegas, I found myself in the final stretch of no drinking with a few days in Chicago. 

Alcohol Free Month

Can I just say how much I like Chicago? Honestly, I've never gotten to explore much of the city as my stays are usually very work-focused but it seems like a place I could easily live if it weren't for the freezing cold winters and mountains of snow. 

Homestead on the Roof

After all, our first dinner out was at a rooftop restaurant with the slogan, "literal farm to table." It was a beautiful night and the food was equally as aesthetically pleasing. Our hummus came out looking like carrots growing right out of the ground - but it definitely didn't taste like dirt! 

Homestead on the Roof Chicago

The rustic roof with string lights set a laid back vibe and we all split some appetizers from the produce-centric menu that changes daily and seasonally. 

A carrot salad with curry and frisee was texturally interesting while the salmon crudo fell short. The raclette, described as "adult grilled cheese" was, obviously, delicious. Melted cheese, how can you go wrong? 

When my entree came out, I exclaimed, "Oh my God, this dish is 'so, ME!'" Okay Lauren, you weirdo. 

I had ordered the Coal Roasted Eggplant which came with Quinoa Tabouli, White Bean Puree (I LOVE WHITE BEANS), Salsa Verde and Falafel. Just look at it. So pretttttty. 

Homestead on the Roof Chicago

Flywheel & Doughnut Vault!

Chicago kept the good vibes coming in the morning when I woke up and walked less than 10 minutes to a Flywheel class. I am always shocked when I leave Flywheel at just how much sweat I can actually produce. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite spin studios. 

Flywheel was followed with a stop at The Doughtnut Vault - a cute, tiny walk up window where I got a dozen donuts to bring in for coworkers (and mainly, for myself). They don't have a ton of different doughnut options, but I LOVED their buttermilk old-fashioned doughnut. It was sweet, simple and so cake-y and moist! Time and again I confirm my belief that cake doughnuts are FAR superior to yeast doughnuts and Doughnut Vault certainly kept me singing the praises of cake doughnuts. 

Doughnut Vault Chicago

Doughnut Vault has two locations - 111 N Canal Street and 401 N Franklin St. 

After spin and doughnuts it was time to head to work on the right foot! I was then surprised with ANOTHER doughnut - a Biscoff filled one from Stan's <3 What a way to start the day. 

Other things that were great about Chicago 

  • A second Flywheel class with coworkers because I accidentally bought 3 classes 
  • Garrett's Chicago Mix popcorn - caramel + cheddar is a match made in popcorn heaven (although I've also been feeling the pickle-flavored popcorn from Trader Joe's!)
  • A biggg group dinner to wrap up the events season at Howell's & Hood (the food was unimpressive but the company was great!) 
  • A trip to the Ghiradelli Factory for a Brownie Sundae - the best decision I've made in life lately was subbing the vanilla ice cream for mint chocolate chip. 
  • Taking a picture by the river 
Chicago Flywheel

La Pulperia

When I got back from Chicago, it was time to break the 28-day no alcohol streak with a boozy brunch to send Kayla off to Boston. There were tears - but also lots of laughs thanks to the best wait-staff on the Upper East Side - everyone should go to La Pulperia! Their cocktails are A+ (the Smoky Room is my favorite cocktail ever). 

La Pulperia Brunch NYC

HTML + CSS Class

But even though I was back to imbibing, I've tried to keep making time and space in my schedule for things that are productive, intellectually stimulating, and more of an experience than yet another happy hour. 

And something I've been wanting to learn for a long time now is HTML and CSS. 

I found a great deal via CourseHorse for a beginner HTML & CSS class from Noble Desktop . Normally these classes are quite pricey, but I was able to book a 3 hour course with only 8 people for under $40. 

I really enjoyed the class - just to be sitting and learning again felt nice and I was surprised to find that the class was all women! We had the choice between using a PC or a Mac (go, PC!) and while I'm definitely not a coding pro now by any means, I understand the concepts a little better. 

What I was surprised to find, though, is that there really aren't a ton a concepts when it comes to HTML and coding - it's a lot of, "and then you type this - because that's just what you type." And, "if you don't know the code for a specific thing, you just Google it." 

I still really enjoyed the class and would consider taking more in the future! 

And there you have it! Still to come, a Gotham City Writer's "Write In" and a Nuyorican Poet's Cafe Poetry Slam! Plus, rock-climbing, a 5K (my first race in 6 MONTHS!) and oh right, an Olympic Distance Triathlon -eeeeek. 

If you want to read more about what I learned throughout the 28 days of no drinking, read this post! Moral of the story - it really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be! (But I'm looking forward to lots of summer cocktails!) 

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Month of Me: What I Did While I Wasn't Drinking

Going alcohol free for 28 days was a way for me to refocus on me, myself, and the things I'd been "meaning to do" for too long. 

The past month has been filled with worthwhile experiences, belly laughs, some great workouts, some relaxing days and lots of learning moments. 

Month Alcohol Free Challenge

A Trip to Buffalo 

After spending time in Buffalo last year for a work trip, I was excited to return this spring. 

The Healthy Scratch

All 8 days, my breakfasts and lunches came from The Healthy Scratch. I was overjoyed to have them nearby for healthy, nutritious food. I ate my smoothie with a spoon and added some granola on top and I found that it was super satisfying - usually when I drink my breakfast from a straw, I still feel like I need to eat something. 

Healthy Food Buffalo

The Buffalo food scene impresses me whenever I go, and we had some more delicious meals. 

The Mahony

Most notable was the discovery of The Mahony, located inside an old creamery building which creates a trendy vibe. The menu is diverse and unique - one night we went there was even live music. 

Chef's

We also ate at Chef's - which, though not my cup of tea, is a very historic restaurant in Buffalo that has been around since 1923! Their menu is like a mini history book - with stories about how they moved the oven from the bakery that used to make their bread to their new location and hired the head baker. And the story of how their famous dish, "spaghetti parmigiana" was created. Picture a pile of spaghetti engulfed in a glob of cheese. 

Sear

My favorite meal was probably the massive tuna steak I got at Sear. The black coconut sticky rice it came with, paired with pineapple puree, was summer-seafood heaven for my taste buds. (Though it would have been better enjoyed on an island somewhere). 

Sear Steakhouse Buffalo

Another reason I love Buffalo is because of the Canalside walk along the water which I enjoyed on Memorial Day. 

Canalside Buffalo

Billy Joel Concert Turned Cooking with Callie 

When Billy Joel cancelled his concert due to an infection, Callie and I took to the kitchen to improvise a recipe based off of Hummasapien's Curried Cauliflower Chickpea Buddha Bowl. The fact that my food processor wouldn't turn on made for a less than ideal sauce-making scenario but Callie diced those almond so finely that we still managed to make it work. 

Anyone else out there arugula-obsessed? Raise your hand if arugula is your go-to-green (and leave me so recipe ideas in the comments!)

Hummusapien Recipe

Baseball Game 

I will admit that I am far from a fan of America's Favorite Pastime. I usually go to one or two games a year and when I get there I'm just kind of like, "OK, now what?" Usually, the answer to that question is "BEER!" but a baseball game dead sober - that was something new to me. 

I went to a Yankees/Red Sox game with my friend Kayla and her dad and boyfriend and they are DIE HARD Sox fans. I even donned a Red Sox t-shirt since Kayla humored me at an Islanders game earlier this year. 

Admittedly, the baseball part of the experience was still meh for me - but Kayla's enthusiasm, her nicknames for all of the players, her method of sneaking in a tequila nip in her umbrella, the seventh inning stretch, the YMCA, the wave and THE SUNSET kept me smiling the entire night. 

Red Sox Yankees Game

Sushi Making Class 

I have been saying, "I really want to learn how to make sushi" for a LONG TIME. At least 2 years. I live in a city that has hundreds of cooking classes on the DAILY. No more excuses. 

Lana is one of my sushi-loving friends and when I finally found the class I wanted to take I knew she would be down. 

Cooking classes ain't cheap - easily $80+! But I found a deal on Groupon for CocuSocial and it was super affordable at $36 per person! 

Sushi Making Class NYC

The class was held in a lobby/snack bar area of a hotel in midtown Manhattan and was a very manageable size with no more than 16 or so of us. Most people were in pairs. It was super laid back, but I actually learned a good amount more than I thought I would! 

I also never expected to leave absolutely stuffed! We learned how to roll a salmon roll, a crab inside-out roll (with the rice on the outside) and a hand roll! Three different types of rolls which we devoured - that's a LOT of sticky rice. 

We were shocked at how sticky the rice was - it is NOT easy to work with and while you're supposed to keep your hands wet to make the rice easier to handle, you have to try not to get any of the water on the nori (the sheet of seaweed). 

I really liked the hand roll because it was like a sushi burrito - but when I poured the soy sauce into the roll, it just came flooding out the bottom. OOPS. 

Sushi Making Class NYC

After class, our instructor gave us some more information, like how to shop for sushi-grade fish, what makes it sushi-grade, and how to make the sticky rice! 

I highly recommend checking out CocuSocial and I definitely plan on taking more of their classes! (Dumplings, pasta, pie - they offer a lot of different ones!) 

Wedding & College Roommate Reunion 

You know those friends that you can go forever without seeing, and then you're together and it's like absolutely no time at all has passed? I'm lucky to have a lot of friends like that. As you get older, your friends are spread out across the map, everyone has their own obligations and plans, and you go longer and longer without seeing each other. But despite that, my college roommates and I had an amazing time at Kelsey's wedding. 

Dancing, reminiscing, eating, photo-boothing, Hamilton rapping and bug-drowning - it was a great weekend together. 

Month of No Alcohol Challenge

Broadway 

The musical theatre nerd in me isn't as prominent as it once was, but every time I sit at watch a show, I remember how much I love a good show tune. 

My friends and I went to see Waitress and while it wasn't one of my favorites, it was worth the $60 to hear "She Used to Be Mine" belted live. We just missed Sara Bareilles by a day (hence the discounted tickets), but Betsy Wolfe crushed her first performance as Jenna. 

There were a few songs that I could definitely tell were written by Bareilles and overall, the show was pretty damn funny. 

Waitress on Broadway

Catching Up With Friends 

Before most long work trips I try to fit in some time with friends to catch up before I hit the road. The week before the last work trip of the season, I grabbed sweetgreen with Kayla and got a manicure/pedicure with Jess. 

Could we have gone for drinks? Absolutely (it probably would have ended with me dragging them to Brandy's Piano Bar and ordering Tequila Cosmos...) But it was much more productive for my schedule to do two things I needed to do anyway: eat dinner and get my nails done, while at the same time chatting away. 

Trip to Las Vegas

I am not the biggest fan of Las Vegas. Admittedly, I've only ever been on work trips which tend to put a damper on the Sin-City Lifestyle but I also just think that's it's like being stuck in Times Square for a week - not something I would ever wish on someone. 

I tried to make the most of this trip though - ate a few good meals, gambled a whole $22 on Willy Wonka and Wizard of Oz slot machines (and won $35 on an Orange Is The New Black machine before my flight out!) and enjoying a Lush bath bomb in the luxurious tub in my Encore hotel room (they are absolutely gorgeous!) 

I used Postmates for my lunches all week in Vegas and pretty quickly my coworkers put me in charge of the healthy--but-delicious meal finding. It was so much easier than I had anticipated! I had great meals and highly suggest checking out the following places if you're trying to eat well in Vegas: 

SkinnyFATS

I ate the dish with the zucchini noodles and it was yum!

Protein House

Greens and Proteins 

I was so obsessed with my turkey burger in a cabbage wrap with JICAMA fries at lunch, that I ordered the Harvest Kale Stocked Salad for dinner! We also ordered the Greek Pizza on pita to share in the office and it was amazing. 

Las Vegas Healthy Eating

Fun fact - I never made it out of the Wynn/Encore hotel for a meal during the trip. But the fact that the Wynn and Encore's restaurant menus feature so many vegan and healthy options was fine by me! Each menu has a few items that list the calories and try to remain on the lighter side. 

My favorite thing I ate was definitely the buffalo cauliflower at Le Jardin. It was absolutely mind blowing - so crispy. And the vegan ranch/blue cheese sauce? WOW. Brynn and I could have had 4 more orders and skipped the entrees. 

I also really liked the kale salad at The Country Club  and was pumped to try the Impossible Burger meat in crispy rice lettuce cups at Andrea's (probably my favorite restaurant at the Wynn/Encore - order the broccoli!!!) 

Stay tuned, there's more to come including the final week of no alcohol!

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5 Things I Learned From Giving Up Alcohol for a Month

My month of me seems to have translated into a month without blogging along with the no running and no drinking thing - oops! 

But now that I'm on the other side of 28 days, I wanted to check in with a recap of the top 5 lessons I learned while going 28 days without drinking. To quickly answer a few of the burning questions: 

  • Did you cheat at all? Nope, not even one rogue sip. 
  • Did you lose weight? No, in fact I probably gained some since I've been working out a lot less and was traveling for work for 2 weeks and eating out constantly. Losing weight was never one of the reasons I wanted to do this in the first place.
  • Was it hard? The biggest surprise of all was that, nope, it really wasn't difficult AT ALL. I can count on one hand the number of times I even came close to cheating.

Here are the top 5 things I took away from 28 days without drinking. 

5 Things I Learned from Giving Up Alcohol for a Month

1. Removing "Happy Hour" from your list of potential plans with friends challenges you to find other activities that you might normally miss out on. 

Alcohol Free Month

I'll be writing an entire post about all the things I've been up to - including a computer coding class, Broadway musical and sushi making class! 

I live in New York City, I travel constantly for work - there's a great big world out there and yes I love my favorite bars as much as the next twenty-something but there's so much more I want to learn and experience other than every citrus-y IPA (but I do want to try them all, eventually...)

When I texted my friends some of the things I wanted to check out - they were quick to say HELL YEAH and even thanked me for planning some out of the ordinary weeknight activities. 

2. No one cares. Seriously. 

Alcohol Free Month

If you surround yourself with somewhat decent people - they aren't going to sit there and try to force you to drink if you decide to pass. Sure they might joke or ask if you're sure, or purposely order your favorite drink off the menu - but they aren't going to sit there and be upset that you aren't drinking. Ain't nobody got time for that.

The only issue I had was convincing the people I was with that they SHOULD drink. I didn't want to put a damper on anyone's night just because I was choosing to sip on Pellegrino (I drank SO much sparkling water this month!) 

3. It didn't make me a homebody. 

I was still social, still enjoyed dinners out with people during my work trips, and still stayed long after the table was cleared watching games and talking - again, drinking lots and lots of water. 

4. I give alcohol too much credit. 

Month of Me!

I had been under the false assumption that alcohol made me more fun, more social, more silly, etc. But I am still all of those things around the people I'm comfortable with - alcohol or no alcohol. At my college roommate's wedding, I was still one of the first ones from our group to get up and out on the dance floor and I was still one of the last to fall asleep because my friend and I were too busy rapping Hamilton to say goodnight. 

5. There's no " easy" month to cut alcohol out of your life. 

Month of Me

I said this in my last post - but, seriously. If it's something you've wanted to do - just do it. There's always going to be a happy hour or a party or a dinner that you're going to want to order a drink at. But I swear, it's not that hard to just be like, "NAH, I'm trying this thing and I really want to stick to it." 

If you want to do it, there's no day like today!

Final Thoughts:

What made it doable for me was the fact that I knew I was serious about it, I let the entire internet know about it (accountability at its best) and most importantly - the reasons behind it were genuine and important to me. 

I didn't go a month without drinking to lose weight, which is what most people assumed. I did it to make room for things that are more important to me and to prove to myself that I could. SURPRISE! I'm a pretty great, well-rounded individual with lots of interests and passions and the fact that I love margaritas and IPAs is really not what make me, me. 

I was honestly shocked at how easy it was, and while I did have an amazing boozy brunch to break the 28 days, I now also have a huge list of non-drinking-activities I plan to do this summer and I'm so excited! Rock-climbing, kayaking, maybe some trapeze? Continuing with computer coding classes, maybe an Excel class? And who wants to come make dumplings with me!? Walking photography tour of a neighborhood? Queens food exploring? Long bike rides! 

K and summer Friday happy hours - there will definitely be some of those, too. 

Changing Your Perspective for a Positive Mindset

And just like that, it's been 13 days without alcohol. Honestly, the first 2 weeks have flown by and there have only been a fewwww times I've been tempted to cheat. But I'm feeling very determined and know that I'll make it to the finish line

Today I wanted to talk (write) a little bit about perspective. It's crazy how big of an impact a small shift in perspective can make in your happiness. I'm groaning at how preachy that sounded - but stick with me.

Changing Your Perspective

Wednesday was a long day. I was out the door by 5:00 a.m., on a flight to Pittsburgh by 7:00 a.m., at a coffee shop working by 9:00 a.m., in a meeting by noon, back at the airport by 3:30 p.m. and not back through my apartment doors until 8:00 p.m. 

But as my plane descended into New York City, I looked out my window and below me, the entire city was sprawled out. A city inhabited by 1.6 million people - including little old me. It might take me an hour and multiple subway transfers and plenty of frustration to get from the Upper East Side to Chelsea on a Sunday - but from 30,000 feet up, the island of Manhattan looked so much simpler. 

Changing Your Perspective

I could see the Freedom Tower and Central Park all at once. I spotted the Empire State Building and the reservoir, and I thought to myself, "WOW Central Park is beautiful and kind of massive, I can't believe I run around that whole thing on the regs!" (Yes, I even use embarrassing abbreviations in my head, obvs). 

Then, as I sometimes do, I started to get a little teary-eyed thinking about the fact that I live in THE New York City. THE Central Park is my backyard. I could look down and point out where Harlem Hill is and Cat Hill and my favorite trees that arch over the reservoir loop. And I could point at MY apartment - or at least the general vicinity of my apartment. 

changing Your perspective

Something about being that high up, and looking down at my entire life/world from such a distance had me feeling really emotional. 

When I landed, and waited in the taxi line, and waited in traffic, and finally got back to my apartment (because NYC isn't EVER actually simple when you're in it...) I dropped my bags and bolted to the park for a walk around the reservoir at sunset. From looking at Central Park from 30,000 feet up one hour to being smack dab in the middle of it the next hour - I had a really ridiculous feeling of contentment. 

How to Have a Positive Perspective

But the thing to remember about changing your perspective, is that it doesn't always mean going up 30,000 feet and literally changing your perspective. It's often a conscious and active decision that you need to make to view things in a different way.  

It's like an Instagram filter, for your life. 

Every day you have the choice to choose between Clarendon (a personal fave), Hudson, Valencia or Nashville (but let's be honest, no one chooses Nashville unless they're IN Nashville and trying to be clever). And every day you have the choice to filter your life to focus on the positives or the negatives. The "LIFE IS GOOD" filter or the "EVERYTHING SUCKS" filter.

Shall we go over some examples from my week? 

  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that I lost my passport and need to pay $200 to replace it in time for my trip to Canada. 

    I'm not suggesting that I choose to view this as a positive thing - it's not. But instead, I focused my attention on the fact that I luckily found a copy of my passport that will make filling out the application for a new one easier. Instead of harping on the pain in the butt that it's going to be to get it replaced, I gave myself a little pep talk that sounded like this: "Lauren, you're going to get it replaced because you have to. So why are you going to freak out? It's going to get done."
     
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that the Billy Joel concert I was supposed to go to was cancelled last minute.

    Instead, I invited Callie over and we cooked a delicious dinner and caught up and then I laid in bed and lip-synced to my favorite Billy Joel songs and sent the videos to my friends so that they weren't sad we missed out on the concert. Because my rendition of Piano Man is essentially the same thing as Billy's. 

    Instead, I appreciated the fact that I got to bed earlier that night ahead of my 4:45 a.m. alarm for my flight. 
     
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that my Cuisinart wouldn't start and Callie and I couldn't blend the almonds into the sauce we were making.

    Instead, Callie acted as a human food-processor and chopped the almonds really finely and we improvised and shrugged our shoulders and laughed and guess what? Our dinner still tasted delicious (we cooked these Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Buddha Bowls from Hummusapien!)  
Staying Positive
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that my entire day was taken up by my work trip on Wednesday - leaving me super tired and not giving me the chance to exercise. 

    Instead, I used that spectacular landing as inspiration to get into the park for a 2+ mile walk on a gorgeous night!
     
  • Wednesday was Global Running Day and at the moment, I can't run. I could have easily spent the day upset about my injury, bitter at all of the running posts flooding my social media channels, and angry at my legs. 

    Instead, I liked every running picture that I saw, went for a walk in the park, and thought about how running and the NYC running community has changed my life. Showing up to a Jack Rabbit group run 5 years ago is the #1 reason this place feels like home. 
Changing Your Perspective

So basically what I'm saying is that choosing to view your day from a positive perspective is just like choosing your Instagram filter. Make the right choice.

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Month Of Me! 28 Days Alcohol Free.

It's been a minute since I've posted,, and in that time, "THE MONTH OF ME" has begun. 

THE MONTH OF ME 

28 Days Boys & Booze Free 

And did I mention I can't run, either? 

Let's back up - I'll explain the reasoning behind a dating & drinking detox! 

Why I'm Not Running

May 17 I went to see a new doctor about my shin splints/IT band/everything hurts when I run problems that escalated by the end of my 3 Ragnar Relay legs. That started my 4 weeks of strict no running, jumping, boxing, boot-camping, cross-fitting, etc. as I was diagnosed with grade 3 stress reactions in both legs. Just short of becoming full on stress fractures - eek. 

The hope is that insurance will cover a bone stimulator, which sounds slightly terrifying, but has been shown to strengthen bones in people who are susceptible to stress reactions and stress fractures. Apparently I am one of those people. 

My 2013 stress fracture led to a TOTAL obsession with eating healthy and not gaining weight while I couldn't work out. It also meant commuting 2 hours each way into Manhattan with crutches. No bueno.  

My 2013 stress fracture led to a TOTAL obsession with eating healthy and not gaining weight while I couldn't work out. It also meant commuting 2 hours each way into Manhattan with crutches. No bueno.  

I walked into the appointment and straight up said, "Don't tell me to go to PT. I already know what exercises I need to do to strengthen my glutes, hips and core." And my doctor didn't flinch - he seems to be trying to take preventative measures instead of just telling me to rest, recover, and re-injure myself as soon as I start running again- which I greatly appreciate. 

In the meantime, I'm allowed to bike and swim, thankfully. And I've been focusing on doing lots of arms and abs at the gym. 

And I finally brought my bike in for a tune-up so I'm ready to go on that front - brand new turquoise handlebar tape is FIRE. 

I'm using these 4 weeks to remind myself that yes I am a runner, but running isn't what defines me. 2 years ago, 4 weeks off of running would have resulted in crying and anger and quite frankly, a not-so-cute temper tantrum (coupled with an extreme obsession on counting calories). 

Now, after on and off injuries and being unable to train for a year +, the four weeks "off" sound kind of nice. No frustrating runs that end in pain. No feeling "slow." I miss training and racing SO much. But it's been forever since I've truly been in a good running groove and if 4 weeks completely off gives me the chance to come back stronger and possibly train for another marathon - it is SO so worth it. 

I would like to run 26.2 miles again, please! 

I would like to run 26.2 miles again, please! 

The fact that I can still swim and bike and get jacked arms is GREAT and making it much easier, but I'm also trying to put fitness and exercising on the back burner for these 28 days and focus on all of my other interests and passions and hobbies that I sometimes neglect.

Why I'm Not Drinking 

There have been many times I've proclaimed, "I'm going a month without drinking!" and then realized, "Oh but it's so and so's birthday party,I need to drink at that," or, "Shit I need to try the IPA on this menu" or I quit because let's face it, some social situations are just better with  a beer in your hand.

But since February, I have been going out every weekend. And drinking during the week. And doing boozy brunches. And oh, yeah, living it UP in Barcelona. It's not that I regret any of it - I've been having a LOT of fun these past few months. But I think my body needs a little break - hangovers aren't nearly as fun when you have real life responsibilities and can't just lay in bed all day with your only trip outside being a 5 minute walk to the cafeteria for a bacon egg and cheese. 

Plus, it's always a good reminder that alcohol is NOT a pre-requisite for a good time! I didn't drink until my JUNIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE, PEOPLE. And I had plenty of fun. 

So, my break from drinking is a challenge to find alternate activities to happy hour and bar hopping and boozy brunch (all things I love) and to also realize that I can still do all of those things with my friends and have a great time even if I'm the sober one. 

No more excuses. There will never be a convenient or "easy" time to go a month without drinking. I'll be going to a wedding with my college roommates this weekend and is it going to be a bit of a bummer to not be imbibing at the open bar? Probably. Am I still going to laugh and dance and take ridiculous pictures and roar like a Bobcat? You betchya. 

Why I'm Not Dating 

This is certainly a loaded topic, and not one that I usually talk about on my food & fitness blog, but - I'm a single 27 year old living in NYC in the age of dating apps and ghosting and it is NOT EASY. And guys and relationships and confusion re: men recently seems to consume way more of my mental energy than I'd care to admit. 

And it's not really OK with me.

Because my brain power could be used for a lot better things. And my emotional energy could be used for my friends and family who deserve it. And my free time could be spent doing things I want to do.

So boys, bye!

Why 28 Days? 

This challenge won't last a full 30 days because Kayla is moving home to Boston and we have one last boozy brunch at La Pulperia to conquer on June 25. Featuring a specialty cocktail made by the bartender in her honor. So we're pretending this "month of me" is taking place in February and going with 28 days. 

The Plan

So a month of ME! No drinking, no running, no dates - what's a gal to do? Fill that calendar up with lots of things, that's what! Not all of these things will happen within the 28 days, but they are all a product of the Month of Me mentality!

Billy Joel Concert: When you're listening to Billy Joel sing and you're with your best friends, you don't need alcohol to belt out Piano Man or prove to everyone in your section that you know every word to We Didn't Start the Fire. 
*This was CANCELLED and I am so sad :( 

Yankee/Red Sox Game: I've never seen this decades old rivalry in person and even though I'm not a huge baseball fan, I'm going with the HUGEST baseball fan and I know her excitement will rub off on me. 

Sushi Making Class: I've been meaning to do this FOREVER and I'm so excited to finally make it happen. Plus, I hate sake, so - no temptation there! 

Wedding: 6 college roommates reunited for the first time since graduation!

Cooking With Kay: We've made some pretty fancy things together - handmade ravioli and pesto, seared sea scallops and zoodles, fresh squeezed watermelon cocktails - excited for a night in the kitchen with my friend! 

me8.jpg

Waitress on Broadway:  I miss being a musical theater nerd who knows all the latest buzz on Broadway but it's TONY SEASON so I gotta get my fix. 

Mani/Pedi: I've found that a mani/pedi with friends is a great way to catch up when you don't want to do the typical dinner/drinks. Plus, you can't be using your phone so you're sure to have each other's undivided attention! 

Intro to HTML & CSS: This is something that's been on my To Do list forEVER. I think it's a great skill to have and I'm weirdly excited about sitting in class for 3 hours. I miss being a student and learning! 

NYC Tri: I'm signed up for my first Olympic Distance Triathlon! I'm really scared! But also really excited! And doing it with my two favorites! It's technically outside of my 28 days, but those 28 days will definitely include a lot of biking and swimming to prepare. 

Rock Climbing: I'm going to check out either Chelsea Piers' climbing wall of Steep Rock Bouldering for my first rock-climbing adventure since 2009!  

Rock climbing on a CRUISE SHIP. 

Rock climbing on a CRUISE SHIP. 

Slam Poetry - I absolutely love slam poetry, ever since I saw The Asia Project perform at the NACA Conference and at my college. Maybe one day I'll have the nerve to get up and perform my own poem, but until then I'm excited to check out Nuyorican Poets Cafe slam poetry night. 

Write-In: I signed up for my first Write In with Gotham Writer's! Because a Friday night spent writing and receiving feedback sounds both terrifying and awesome! 

I'm excited, and I'm a little nervous that as these things come up, I'm going to wish my calendar wasn't QUITE so jam packed. But these are all things I really want to do, and are very "me." 

So, 9 days down, 19 to go! 

 

Tips for Your First Ragnar Relay Race

I've always been a little intimidated by the idea of creating a "Bucket List" that's life-long and experience-based. A NYC Restaurant Bucket List? Sure. A Margarita Happy Hour bucket list? Yep, I've got one of those. Doughnut Bucket List? Going strong.

But putting pen to paper and coming up with a list of the things I want to experience in a lifetime is overwhelming to me. I fear it would get vastly out of control and end up being pages long and then I would feel like I'd failed when I looked back and saw the things I hadn't checked off. 

I tend to take my experiences as they come. Opportunity to go to Barcelona? Leggo! Random idea to walk the Brooklyn Bridge at 2:00 AM? Sure! Is there such thing as a reverse bucket-list? Where I make a list of the top experiences of my life after the fact? Cause that's something I could do! 

This is a really long way of getting to the point of this post, which is something that I HAVE actively been wanting to do and check off my list for about three years now - running a Ragnar Relay Race.

Running a Ragnar Relay

HOW WE GOT HERE

My friends and I even made a Facebook group in May of 2015 where we would bounce dates and races off of each other. The page eventually began to look like this:
"OH, this one looks awesome! Down?"
Me: "Damn, I have a work trip then."
"What about this one?" 
Me: "Traveling then too." 

Cape Cod Ragnar Relay

Then, months ago, my friend Kayla and I were sitting in a coffee shop attempting to do homework/blog work when we got on the topic of Ragnar. It went from a conversation, to some serious procrastination as we started to look at dates and details and eventually escalated into us entering the lottery for the 2017 Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. We had absolutely no idea how competitive the lottery was or what our odds of getting in were. We didn't have commitments from anyone about joining our team. We kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, "We know lots of runners and we really want to do this so, let's give it a try!"

I think we both kind of forgot we had even entered until Kayla's credit card was charged over $1,000 and she got the "You've Been Accepted" email. 

A small part of me had a moment of panic, but mainly we were excited and confident that we could recruit 10 people to join us pretty easily. 

Turns out, even if you're part of the running community in a giant city, getting together 12 people excited to run 190 miles while being crammed in a van with no personal space and even less sleep is not an easy task. 

Not to mention the weekend of Ragnar happened to be a pretty big weekend race-wise. Our two friends who we'd figured would join us would be off completing their first HALF IRONMAN (CONGRATS ABBY AND CALLIE) and it was also the same weekend as the Bear Mountain North Face Endurance Challenge - a favorite of November Project teammates. Plus, it was the weekend before the Brooklyn Half Marathon - the largest half marathon in the country that tons of people were training for and making their top priority for the spring. Oh, and it was mother's day weekend. 

Our strategy became, fill one van, give one away. Meaning we'd fill and captain one van and then pass the reins for a second van over to someone else who would be free to ask whoever they wanted to join their crew of 6. We contacted Ragnar to see if there was any way of reaching out to the "lotto losers" but they weren't very helpful. 

Fast forward to days before the race and we were legitimately still scrambling  - people were dropping out left and right due to injuries and we were prepared to compete as a team of just 11 runners. Miraculously, we pulled it together. 11 female runners, 1 brave boyfriend of a teammate, and 1 driver converged on Kayla's house in Boston and the adventure began.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

I flew from a work trip in Pennsylvania into Boston on Thursday night and was picked up in our rental mini-van by Melissa, Kaitlin, and Mr. Monks who had all gone to Enterprise to swap out the van they had driven from NYC --> Boston - the tires were low. Joy. 

TIP: We had found out days before we left that we wouldn't be able to rent our reserved 12 person van from Enterprise because none of us were insured owners of a vehicle. We were able to get a mini-van for the same cost after some negotiating, but make sure to ask questions when you initially reserve your van! 

New van + me made it back to Kayla's house where I bee-lined it to the fridge for some leftovers. Kayla's mom makes the most incredible couscous salad, which went wonderfully with dijon salmon. 

My van-mates had already done so much work to get us ready to Ragnar - a shopping trip to Costco, splitting up all the food between boxes for Van 1 and Van 2, slicing, dicing, car packing, float-blowing (I'll explain later...), and they had even brought my duffel bag from NY for me! 

TIP: Pre-purchasing all of our food saved a lot of mental energy. We didn't have to think about stopping to eat or grocery shop once during the trip. I honestly don't know how teams manage to go for sit down meals during a Ragnar Race! Here's what our food situation looked like: 
  • Apples - PRE SLICED (thanks, Rebecca) which made them so much more enjoyable to snack on
  • Bananas, duh, runners here! 
  • Peanut Butter - also duh 
  • Trail Mix
  • Couscous Salad 
  • Bagels
  • Bread (the most amazing bread, from When Pigs Fly Bakery! Get the Blueberry Granola) 
  • Rice Cakes 
  • Carrots
  • Hummus
  • Hard Boiled Eggs - Michelle made these for us and it ended up being a GREAT addition to our food spread) 
  • Peanut Butter filled Pretzels 
  • Dried Fruit 
  • Bark Thins
  • Chocolate Covered Cashews 
  • A variety of our own gels, gus, chews, energy bars, etc. 
  • Yogurts 
  • Gallons of water!
  • And post-race snacks like kettle corn, tortilla chips, champagne, and an aggressively large bottle of vodka 

Soon, the folks from the other van arrived and although not everyone knew each other, it was all hands on deck unloading their things from the van, getting it parked down the street in a family-friend-neighbors driveway (they had a 12-passenger monster), and talking about our plans for the morning. We were scared that our start time wasn't going to leave us enough time to finish, so Van 1 planned to head out early and try to get a head-start. 

Kayla and I headed to bed fairly early, hidden away in the attic and with the help of a melatonin I got a decent amount of sleep! 

THE MORNING OF

In the morning, we helped Van 1 pack their van, their cooler, cleaned up the various air mattresses and blankets, and Kayla's mom cooked a delicious breakfast for Van 1. By 8:30 AM they were ready to roll out. We took a team picture ("Big Apple Cod Squad"), wished them luck, and off they went. We heard from them around 10:15/10:30 that they were being allowed to start early and the race was on! 

Tips for a Successful Ragnar Relay

While Van 1 started their 6 legs, Van 2 continued to prepare at Kayla's house. That preparation included our own delicious breakfast made by Enid - a fritatta, toasted baguette, avocado and fruit salad. 

Then we set out to get bread at When Pigs Fly (Blueberry Granola & Baby Spinach + Onion + Garlic Ciabata) and plenty of cold brew coffee from CVS. 

TIP: You're not going to have a coffee maker in your car, you're not going to want to make extra stops or go out of your way to find coffee,  but you are definitely going to need coffee. Having cold brews in the cooler was a God send (even though I really couldn't have used a HOT cuppa joe) for energy, and, uhm, #2. 

 I showered, got dressed, packed up all my things and then it was time for DECORATING! 

Cape Cod Ragnar Race Recap

We had pre-purchased car markers and were ready to beautify our van. This is also where the floats came in play- we had bought a giant avocado pool float and an even bigger chocolate covered pretzel pool float in the hopes that we could attach them to our van as decoration. Sadly, we didn't have anything strong enough to feel confident that our float was fully secured to the roof - next time, we'll buy bungee cords or rope. There were plenty of vans that used floats to decorate. We just needed a better game plan. 

TIP: Another thing a lot of teams do aside from decorating their vans is creating team magnets that they put on other teams' vans throughout the race! We loved seeing the different magnets that got left on our van - and next time would love to make our own!

Either way, they provided a lot of fun pictures before we left Boston. I had also insisted on ordering 4 mini doughnut floats that were the most awkward size and color. But they got me featured on Ragnar's blog. 

Cape Cod Ragnar Review

The car markers worked GREAT (we ordered these) and I loved the way our van looked by the end. 

TIP: During Ragnar races, people track their "kills" during each leg - these the people that you pass as you run! Every van tracks their kills somewhere on the van. Isn't my skull and crossbones stellar?
Tips for Ragnar Relay

After much contemplation, we had named our van the "Big Apple Cod Squad" - which got us named to the Top 30 Team Names list!

After our decorating was done we headed inside for a quick lunch - a delicious open-faced sandwich on the spinach, onion and garlic ciabatta bread with arugula, hummus and cheeeeese.

ON THE ROAD

Once we were all packed and our last teammate arrived, we rolled out in our mini-van ready to meet Van 1 at the first "Major Exchange." 

But first, Kayla thought she had left her phone behind at the house. As Kaitlin navigated down a dead-end to turn around, we were boxed in by a giant UPS truck, only to realize that Kayla was sitting on her phone. This was a theme of the weekend - Kayla couldn't find something, we'd ask if she was sure she wasn't sitting on it, she usually was sitting on it... 

Cell-phone found, we were on the open road. 45 minutes later, the GPS told us we had arrived at our destination. 

But there were no fellow Ragnar vans to be found. Errr? 

Turns out we had driven 45 miles in the wrong direction. All we could do was laugh. Our mini-van was more like a struggle-bus leading up to that first run (but, things definitely improved once the race started!) 

Luckily, we had plenty of time to get to the right place and eventually we spotted other vans and knew we were in the right spot. As we drove up to the exchange we rolled the windows down and started cheering for runners, which got us all pumped up. 

TIP: Something that would have helped in pumping us up was an aux cord to play the music on our phones through the van's speakers. We were left listening to the radio or our phones placed in cup holders in an attempt to make it loud enough. During the actual race, we didn't listen to music much because we were all talking and the driver/navigator didn't need any more distractions - but for the longer driving portions, it's definitely something I'd add to our "next time" list. 
How to Run a Successful Ragnar Relay

Registration was easy and the "safety orientation" was a big of a joke - we listened to about 2 minutes worth of a video and were on our way to getting bibs, t-shirts and free samples of KIND bars and HIGH BREW COFFEE. I was so excited. I love that stuff. 

I was frozen, and would remain frozen for the entire 28 hours it seemed. Kayla had packed her NYC Marathon poncho with her and I didn't realize it was amazingly fuzzy and warm inside - it was a lifesaver and I broke my vow to never wear anything NYC Marathon branded until I actually run the NYC Marathon - it seemed necessary as I shivered. 

Ragnar Relay Secrets

We used the porta-potties (by the end of 28 hours, I was so excited to use a real bathroom! Also, porta-pottying in the middle of the night is NOT easy - those things don't have lights) and gathered at the Ragnar inflatable to await our teammates from Van 1. Soon, all of us were gathered together waiting for Joey to come through the finish of his leg - we cheered, he handed off the slap bracelet to Kayla, and Kayla was off - signifying the start of Van 2's Leg #1. 

TIP: I never ran into TP-less porta-potties but it's definitely a possibility. Doesn't hurt to pack your own roll to keep in the van! Also - hand sanitizer! 

We talked to Van 1 for awhile before heading back to our van. I didn't realize how "on" we were going to have to be for the periods of time that our van was running. It was a whirlwind. We drove and navigated to the next exchange - passing Kayla and cheering for his as we drove by - parked, and got right to helping the next runner prepare. 

Since we didn't have a ton of trunk space, there was constant reshuffling of bags, constant "hold the box of food so it doesn't fall when I open the trunk!" and constant, "do you see my...?" "can you get me a..." 

TIP: It might sound like an "easy" job, but the navigator's gotta be ready to wear a lot of different hats. The Ragnar directions can be somewhat mediocre - so paying attention is important. You can't just use your iPhone to get to the next exchange because there's a specific route you're supposed to take. People are also going to be asking the navigator a million things like, "Can you put the AC on?" "The windshield is fogging up, help!" "OMG I cannot handle that air freshener please take it down." "Can you plug my phone in?" "Can I have my phone back?" (ORDER THIS!) Definitely set up a rotation and don't take your navigator for granted!

Before we knew it, Kayla was finishing her first leg and Zoe was off for hers! Then, the process shifted to helping Kayla get settled, changed, fed, re-hydrated, etc. while simultaneously helping runner #3 (me) get ready, while simultaneously helping the driver navigate to the next exchange, while simultaneously looking out for the current runner to give a shout (and capture it on Snapchat, duh), while simultaneously needing to get an update from Kayla about how her run went. 

Ragnar Relay How To

Like i said, whirlwind. 

And it didn't stop until all 6 Van 2 runner's had run their first leg! 

LEG ONE 

Leg one for our van went really well. Like, really really well. Kayla kicked things off with a wonderful 6+ miles and her excitement and energy when she got back to the van really got us off on the right foot. 

She marked off her kills on the back window and checked off the first of three boxes next to her name to signify the completion of her first leg. She was the guinea pig for changing in the car and using a "shower pill" to clean off - a process that was hysterical and not one of us managed to do very gracefully. 

TIP: We bought a big pack of these wipes to use after each leg and thought that they worked really well! 

Zoe absolutely CRUSHED her first leg of 10 miles. After Kayla got changed, we set out to the next exchange and kept expecting to see Zoe but by mile 3 we were scratching our heads, "Could we have missed her?" "Could she really be this far along alright?" "HOW FAST IS SHE GOING?" 

Turns out, she was absolutely killing her 10 miles at a 7:30 pace! 

We got to the exchange and I started getting ready, knowing that Zoe was speeding right along. I was totally dreading my run, to be honest. But I knew that once I started, I'd be happy to be moving. 

Zoe passed off the bracelet and off I went. 

Way. Too. Quickly. 

When my watch buzzed at the first mile split, I looked down to see a 7:30.

Logical thought process: "Lauren, this is only your first leg - if you want to be able to run all 12 miles in the next day, pump the damn breaks." 

Actual thought process: "Lauren you haven't run this fast in so long, NEGATIVE SPLIT, I DARE YA!" 

Factor in the motivation of earning "kills" along the route, and I recklessly ran my first leg of 3.9 miles at a dumb dumb dumb 7:27 pace. For awhile it felt OK, but by the end my lower legs were tightening up and I was feeling shin pain with every step. My thought process had switched to, "Well, this might be the only leg you're running - KEEP GOING FAST." Oy. 

I handed off my bracelet to Melissa totally spent. It felt good to have pushed myself that hard for the first time in a long time, but I was also disappointed that I had jeopardized being able to run the rest of my legs in any sort of comfort - I was hurting, and it was the kind of hurting I knew was just going to get worse when I sat down in the car and tightened up - an unavoidable reality during a Ragnar Relay. 

TIP: Look for the Lindt Chocolate van! 

Regardless, I tried to embrace the burn in my lungs, that metallic taste of blood that signals you gave it 100%. My splits had been 7:31, 7:26, 7:16 and 7:34. 

Melissa and Rebecca both had 4ish mile legs next and they both got back in the car grinning from ear to ear after crushing them! 

Kaitlin was the last of our van to set out on Leg 1 and she had a not-so-easy 9 miles that would end in the dark. As we navigated to the exchange we realized she was going to get to run over the Bourne Bridge at sunset! 

Ragnar Relay Review

We got to the Major Exchange and parked next to Van 2 - I made myself a gourmet meal, practically (cous cous salad, rice cake with hummus + hard-boiled egg and baby carrots) and we put on our safety vests as darkness fell. 

TIP: The Ragnar staff were actually very strict about people walking around the exchanges without their vests on - so make sure you have enough for every member of your van! 

We waited for Kaitlin to emerge, literally, from out of the woods. Her leg had taken her over the bridge onto the Cape and then along the water on a paved path. She would end by leaping over some railroad tracks and charging up a narrow dirt path. 

Not to brag, but I'm pretty sure the combined cheers of Van 1 and Van 2 to welcome Kaitlin back and send Monique off were louder than any other teams! 

Ragnar Cape Cod

Once Kaitlin was settled we all breathed a sigh of relief - we'd made it through Leg 1 and now had a few hours off to rest as Van 1's six runners cycled through their nighttime runs. 

We were also slightly nervous for running in the middle of the night, and after fast first legs, all a little scared about how our bodies would feel when we told it to run again. 

The next exchange was a school where we were able to pay $3 to sleep on the gym floor. Luckily, I had come straight from a work trip so I had my travel pillow with me. I unrolled my yoga mat, popped a melatonin, and fell asleep wearing about 8 layers and still shivering. 

TIP: Bring comfy shoes for in between your runs - you're not going to want to be wearing your sneakers the whole time! 

I slept for about an hour, woke up, checked the time, and fell back asleep for mayyyybe another hour. 

Ragnar Relay Review

Then, it was time to get moving again. I took a little bit of hot coffee which was the most glorious 3 sips of my life, we used the porto-potty, repacked the van and again, waited to cheer Joey in and send Kayla off! 

TIP: Ragnar is a cup-free race meaning when there are water jugs, you'll need your own water bottle or cup to fill up! 

LEG TWO 

Leg two was the over-night run. Ragnar runners are required to wear a vest, taillight and headlamp for this portion of the race (they set specific hours where all runners need this gear). We looked pretty bad-ass, just sayin'. 

Cape Cod Ragnar Relay

When Kayla got back, she told me I should take the small flashlight we had packed with me on my run and THANK GOD she did. It was really dark, and the headlamp along didn't provide a ton of light. Plus, it created tunnel vision that made me feel a little off-balance. 

My night run (which started at 2:37 am) could have gone worse considering the pounding I had put on my legs previously in the day, but I certainly didn't feel good on these 4.7 miles. Still - it was just shin pain, nothing I'm not used to running through already. I was still picking off a good amount of runners as the course started to get more crowded during this part. But towards the end, it was more than shin pain as my IT band tightened and I started to get that all familiar pain in the side of my knee.  I finished with an 8:55 pace and a grimace on my face instead of a smile. But leg two was done and I had just 3 more miles to push through later in the day. For now, I could rest. 

TIP: Pack the clothes and gear you'll need for each run in a separate zip-lock bag. Then, when you're done, use that bag to seal up your sweaty, wet clothes. 
What to Pack for a Ragnar Relay

I am not a very confident driver - and luckily, my teammates picked up my slack in this area. The exchanges that we had to go to during the middle of the night seemed to be much more crowded, confusing and tight than the ones during the day, which wasn't a great feeling in the dark. We did our best to navigate them safely and stress-free. 

When we were done with our night runs and again handed the slap bracelet off to Van 1, we again went to a school with a gym where you could sleep. The only problem was, the gym was open, and it was COLD. I slept maybe 30 minutes before I had to go back to the van. 

5 of us attempted sleep and while I may have dozed off for a few minutes at a time, it wasn't quality sleep. One more leg! We told ourselves. 

TIP: Buy some good smelling air fresheners! And keep the plastic on half of it so it's not totally overwhelming! We had also packed Febreeze but honestly, we never ended up using it. We stayed pretty clean-smelling all things considered. 

The wait to start up again felt looooong and slow. This is also when we realized we could have easily been sleeping at Kayla's house during this break...d'ohhh. Looking back, it probably would have just made it harder to start back up again if we had gotten super comfortable and really fallen asleep in beds. 

THE FINAL LEG

As the sun rose and the birds started chirping, it warmed up and we got ready for the final 6 runs. We obviously check out the photo booth, and again cheered for Joey as he finished strong and signaled the end of Van 1's race! 

Tips for Ragnar

Kayla comically ran in the wrong direction for a few feet before we got her attention by shouting, "WRONG WAY!" She henceforth became known as Wrong Way K. 

Up until this point, we had been driving straight to each exchange, but on these last legs we got into the habit of pulling over on the side of the road and waiting for our runners to pass by for pictures, high fives and the added bonus of cheering for other runners.

It was odd - during my run I passed a few other teams pulled over on the side of the road and they just watched me go by without a "woo" or anything! RUDE. We overcompensated for these people by going absolutely nuts for every runner that went by. 

It made them all smile, and it also got US more pumped for our last runs.  

I think one of my favorite parts of the race was seeing Kayla run by on her last leg - she was SO emotional and happy and shouted, "I LEARNED TO RUN HERE!" It was the coolest. 

Ragnar Relay Race Tips

We had decided that I was going to switch last legs with Zoe - so that I only had to run 2.3 miles. But even those 2.3 miles were too much. I came ridiculously close to crying during the 24 minutes and 20 seconds and I took a lot of walking breaks. I was full on limping at this point and although every "YOU GOT THIS" "SO CLOSE TO THE FINISH" was meant to be encouraging, I just wanted to shout at everyone who passed me, "I'm only walking because I physically CANNOT run. I don't walk!" It was frustrating and painful and disappointing but I finished at a jog/hobble and Kayla had the announcer use her megaphone to yell "LOWO" which made me really happy (Tina, I'm trying to make the nickname spread). 

Everyone was so encouraging and positive and no one made me feel like I had just gone 2.3 miles at an 11+ minute pace, but I limped to the car and immediately started crying. 

It was a complete moment of feeling sorry for myself, feeling betrayed by my body that never seems to want to keep up with all the athletic endeavors I have planned, the slipping away of the NYC Marathon in the fall, and the realization that this wasn't just a bad run, I was seriously hurt and would probably not be running again for awhile. 

Tips for Ragnar

But I had to snap myself out of it. Because my teammates were crushing it, and we were having a great time, and I was seriously SO happy and proud of all of them. Kayla ran 20 freaking miles after the LONGEST fight with injuries. I knew she knew exactly what I was feeling as I cried in the back of the van but at the end of the day, I wanted to celebrate with my friends because we were so close to finishing this thing and I didn't need to be bringing the mood down. 

Everyone finished their final  miles strong and happy and we even got to meet Kayla's aunts in a parking lot on the Cape. 

Ragnar Relay Tips

With Kaitlin out on her final 9 mile leg (she was the champ who ran 22 MILES TOTAL) we parked the van, took the shuttle to the finish line (after holding the bus while Kayla SPRINTED to get the safety flag we needed to return) and met up with our Van 1 teammates to wrap this thang up!

The finish line was straight up a massive hill (rude). We gathered at the base of it and watching team after team jump in with their final runner and push them up that final stretch. Finish lines are so emotional and fun and amazing. We spotted Kaitlin, formed a tunnel, and followed her up to the finish line. Afterwards, she wondered why we were so far behind her - she was movin' and it took all of our tired legs a hot sec to start up again!

TIP: Next time, I think we would definitely try to coordinate our outfits for this final part of the race! So many teams had matching t-shirts and costumes and it was so fun to see! 

The finish area was great - we got our medals, more free samples - there were free massages available if you wanted to wait in line - and took lots of pictures. 

Ragnar Relay Tips

POST RACE

We said goodbye to Van 1 and enjoyed our free sandwich and soup (there was beer and cider available too for $5 each - but our stomachs weren't ready for that yet) before taking the shuttle back to the van and getting back to Kayla's house. 

Showering never felt so good - and somehow, napping didn't happen. We powered through the night, which included pizza, Ben & Jerry's, kettle corn, cards, flip cup (team vodka vs. team water), 4 bottles of champagne, vodka and so. much. laughing. 

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod Race Recap

In the morning we all woke up and had a leisurely breakfast while doing laundry and cleaning up the house. We stopped by the beach on our way home, and for croissants, and I even got a hug from Allison when we stopped for food at the Hartford Whole Foods. 

THE MUSHY, SENTIMENTAL CONCLUSION

Honestly, I was expecting the journey home to be miserable - full of tired, cranky, sore girls. But somehow, for 10 hours, we all laughed pretty much non-stop. My stomach seriously hurt. 

Saying goodbye as we all got into separate Ubers from the car rental place was WEIRD. We had just spent 48 hours straight together in extremely close quarters and yet still weren't ready to say goodbye.

A week + later, I think we all feel that Ragnar was an incredible bonding experience. As a team we conquered 190 miles. Through the logistics, the planning, the constant "doing," the running - we had gone through something together that we really couldn't explain or describe to anyone that hadn't been in that mini-van with us. The endless inside jokes, the laughter, the crying, the cheering, the farting (I said it), the support - it was all such an amazing experience. 

Most of my teammates had great runs, loved their runs, felt happy with their runs. Me - not so much. But Ragnar was like some alternate reality where that was literally the least important or impactful part of the weekend. I ran a race for 28 hours and looking back, I didn't give a damn about the actual running...

Do I want to do another Ragnar and negative split my legs (GO KAYLA) and do more than 11 miles and smile at the end of every exchange? Yes. But did I have THE time of my life even though I walked? Sure did. 

There are experiences you go through with people that form a bond you really can't put into words. Maybe it's your cabin from summer camp when you were 13. Maybe it's the cast of a musical you were in. Maybe it's your sorority sisters that you went through rush with. Ragnar is one of those experiences that transcends words and I can't wait to do it again. 

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Restaurant Review: Trattoria Dell'Arte

In May, my family and I went to see HAMILTON on Broadway. And while I had been a little nervous that the hype was going to be unwarranted - I'm here to tell you that it is as close to musical theater perfection as I will probably ever experience. Lin-Manuel Miranda's talent is mind blowing, truly. 

After the matinee performance, we went out for an early dinner at Trattoria Dell'Arte - whose website uses the phrase "VEGETARIAN EXTRAVAGANZA." While I'm not actually a vegetarian, I absolutely love vegetable-focused menus. (Abby, I said vegetable-focused instead of veggie-heavy JUST FOR YOU, you're welcome).

Trattoria Dell'Arte Restaurant Review

Trattoria Dell'Arte

Pick 6 - Antipasto Bar

Trattoria Dell'Arte Antipasto Bar

Tattoria Dell'Arte has a MASSIVE antipasto bar with 32 VEGETABLES. My sister and I quickly got down to business - fighting it out over which 6 would continue on in the hopes of becoming America's Next Top Vegetable (who writes this shit?)

After much debate, we landed on:

  • Roasted Heirloom Carrots (against the moans of everyone at the table, I bravely defended my all time favorite vegetable)
  • Sauteed Broccoli Rabe (our waiter gave us this as an extra bonus)
  • Roasted Seasonal Mushrooms
  • Eggplant Caponata 
  • Zucchini Parmigiana 
  • Roasted Cauliflower 
  • Spaghetti Squash

My two favorites were definitely the Zucchini Parmigiana and Eggplant Caponata! 

We also chose to add the burrata for an extra $6 and, unpopular opinion over here, I'm not all-in on the burrata craze! I gave my portion away. 

Braised Octopus & Calamari

Trattoria Dell'Arte NYC Review

OH WOW. I've been lucky enough to have some damn good octopus dishes in my lifetime, and this was right up there with some of the most tender, flavorful, octopus. 

Thin Crust Pizza 

Trattoria Dell'Arte Thin Crust Pizza

Again, this created some debate - with so many amazing sounding options, it was difficult to decide what we wanted. When our waiter informed us we could do half and half, we were overjoyed. OK, maybe that was just me. 

Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese & Fried Artichoke, Seasonal greens

This was everyone else's favorite - and I loved it too, don't get me wrong! It's just that the other half was...

Pesto & Broccoli Rabe

I rarely crave pizza, but I was so excited for this thin-crust 'za. And I ate every crumb that the rest of my family was "too full" to finish. The pesto was made with almonds, pine nuts and basil and it was delicious!

Though I'm not usually one to get excited over Italian restaurants, Trattoria Dell'Arte is worth getting excited over. There are tons of options, and not all of them will leave you feeling like you're stuffed silly. Not to mention the location is ideal for those times when you're stuck in Midtown and not sure where to go for decent food! 

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