Sunday, May 18, 2014

Exploring New Areas

Yesss! It's almost June so I owe this blog an update! I'll keep blogging as long as I pay GoDaddy my annual hosting fees, because I hate paying for stuff I don't use. And there's plenty of that, some magazines I never find the time for, or my Hulu account, but I blame Time Warner for that, since my internet connection is not up to par for streaming and therefore my Roku keeps stalling so I can't enjoy my Hulu channel. Oh well, I guess it doesn't bother me enough to pick up the phone and complain, I'm barely home.
In any case, so far any pair of running shoes I owned got their full money's worth
as well as all the NY gyms and fitness classes I belong or belonged too.
Speaking of that, I'm in a transitioning phase, cause after a few months of marathon training and indoor cycling paired with my weekly plyo/strength sessions (a MUST) taught by Susan Bayat, I'm ready to join a new gym.
 I'm currently on a guest pass for Chelsea Piers, which has the nicest pool plus sun deck overlooking the Hudson and its sport center has everything you possibly wanna try, it's like a playground for grown-ups, so I think I hear it calling my name already :-) I'm not too sure about their indoor cycling classes, however luckily I can go to Swerve, a newer boutique studio where you can literally swerve and swerk your butt off. 
They are located in the Flatiron/union square area, which is seriously a Mecca of gyms and boutique fitness studios as well as fitness apparel. At Swerve you ride as one of three teams and you have your individual score to see where you're standing versus the rest of class and your team. They send your results right after class and that scoreboard somehow makes me VERY competitive, NOT cute, but I love to ride there, it's a great studio and it can be challenging.

On Friday night they have a happy hour class, a great way to ring in the weekend with fabulous energy and encouragement by instructor Dyan Tsumis!

My 4th marathon on February 16th in Austin, TX was an amazing experience! I PR'ed by 8.5 minutes and ran a 3.41.17 in a very hilly, challenging course with not the easiest weather, since it was a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit versus freezin' sub-20 in New York. You see, we had the longest and coldest winter in years and I never skipped a run, but as of December, half-way in my training, I ran most of my workout in freezing temps, icy and snowy conditions. So halfway through the race, I felt that my legs weren't used to these conditions and the sweating made them feel heavy, and the hills contributed to that feeling too of course, despite my solid hill training back in NY. But it's all coulda woulda shoulda, I'm very happy with the results and kept telling myself that I trained hard and earned this PR and 'you GO girl', it all came together!

After this wonderful experience with one of my best friends in Austin, celebrating her birthday as well, I flew to Holland for vacation and to meet my first nephew, the adorable Teun! I love him! And he digs me! 
I also celebrated my birthday in Holland, admired my sister's pregnant belly and met up with good friends. 

After a week off from running, I slowly got back into it 20 feet below sea level where my parents live. I had spring like conditions that week, amazing! In February! 

Back in New York my friends treated me to Korean food, delicious cake and karaoke! So much fun! I'm blessed with such good friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic.

Running felt good with no race pressure and I enjoyed trying new classes together with Jen, which was also a good idea to fill a void when our favorite cycling classes were no longer available. We tried indoor rowing at City Row: that was intense, I even landed on my behind next to the rowing machine :-) 

And core fusion at exhale was challenging, especially when not wearing yoga socks, I kept sliding out of my plank position on the carpet. 
Ashlee lured me into Pure Yoga for PXT, a blend of yoga moves and plyometrics and the room is a little warmer than usual. So much sweat! :-) 
Jen said so many good things about her kettlebell kickboxing classes, so I took a class with her and had a great time. 

My plan for this year was to wait with running races and focus more on outdoor riding, duathlons, another triathlon and a real bike race. So I went on a group ride, attended CRCA bike racing clinics and had my first race on my roadbike, with guidance from CRCA coaches and more experienced racers. It was awesome and a very positive experience, I was SO nervous beforehand though. No idea how
I would compare to other riders, especially if that's what they mostly do while I come from running and didn't train as much outside. Also afraid to cause of end up in a crash! I'm hooked though! Riding in a pack makes a big difference speed-wise and luckily I was able to keep up with the front. I ended up finishing 6th. I hope to do many more rides, training sessions and more races in women's Cat4 this season. 

As I am more recovered from a foot injury. X-rays were showing inflammation in the 2nd metatarsal and symptoms of a stress fracture. I  had a (hot pink) cast for 10 days, which was removed last Friday.
My foot is not completely healed yet so no running for a few more weeks, but biking/swimming/fitness are fine. I hope I can walk around pain free soon! Being patient and sitting still are making me anxious!
I don't even know what caused it, although it might be related to that big bottle of shower gel I dropped on my foot in the shower, or a small sprain I didn't notice. My weekly running mileage post-marathon wasn't too high and all of a sudden I had some pain on top of my foot, so I laid off the running for a few days, but then I had to run some hills in the gorgeous Big Sur marathon, a race that four friends and I ran as a relay. Two miles into my 7.1 mile leg, my foot started to act up and it progressively got worse, but of course I kept on running to hand off the snap-bracelet to the next runner of my team. Once I did that, I was done; actually my foot was done. It sucks, but it happens. The rest of the trip was wonderful though and I was able to limp around and not miss a thing of Monterey, Carmel, Chez Panisse, San Fransisco, Napa, Sonoma, all with great company! 

Now it's time for me to focus on other and new areas, as well as my new job, starting in June. I love working for the UN Mission of my country, but an internal vacancy opened at the Dutch consulate and after seriously considering it, I had to apply, since it's a wonderful opportunity, I would regret it forever if I did not pursue this amazing position; it actually combines my 10 years of US/NL transatlantic experience in a multilateral environment as well as my design-arts work experience and my degree and network. I'll be joining the Consulate as the new Policy Officer of the Cultural Department, promoting Dutch performing arts, film and literature in the U.S.
My first week will be spent in the Netherlands where I'll attend a conference to meet counterparts, colleagues, Dutch institutions all involved with international promotion of Dutch arts and culture. Very exciting and great to get such a useful start! I'll be able to see friends and family too, including Max! My one week old nephew! I love him!

Here's to a great summer! Stay fit, stay fab! Xoxo

Saturday, December 28, 2013

End of 2013: looking back and forward!

The end of the year is near. As much as I'm about and around and enjoy going out and socializing, I also take time to rest and appreciate the fact that I'm on the sofa with my legs up, resting up from a busy holiday week, good workouts and getting ready for my long run planned for tomorrow.
I'm already excited for 2014, because I have some exciting races, events and racecations planned. A big one will be my 4th marathon in February, I'm halfway in with my training and it's going according plan so far, I always enjoy running during fall and had a good season. 
Since 2014 will be here soon, let me reflect on 13 fitness related highlights of 2013 plus a few things I'm excited to explore in 2014.

1. First visit to California and running the Carlsbad Marathon, a small boutique marathon with beautiful Pacific Ocean vistas, lonely stretches, great volunteers and a new marathon PR, finally getting below 3:50. 

2. Post-marathon cross-training and working on swimming by taking some walk-in swim classes at Equinox Columbus Circle, where I worked on the freestyle stroke, something you don't learn in Holland unless you continue swimming after getting your diplomas for basic survival mode swimming.

3. Winning my age group in Long Island with the Robbie's Run 5k, while my BFF and running friend and her niece placed too! That was fun!!
4. Going to the Netherlands for my sister's bachelorette party and wedding, being able to get some nice runs in amongst sheep and swamps with my American Sista.

5. Upon returning from the Netherlands totally joining Revolve Fitness as a regular rider and saying bye bye to equinox. That decision gained me improved form, more confidence on the roadbike outside and new friends, especially Kristin, the amazing pro-cyclist instructor and inspiring athlete who gets you out of your comfort zone, and Jennifer and Ashlee who love riding in class together as well as crazy fun ideas and are not afraid for double, triple and even quad days! So much fun at Revolve!

6. Selfies after workouts; what can I say....hmmm, let's just say that my revolve partner in crime, Jennifer, and I were inspired by a selfie and made a point of snapping pictures after epic workouts. Usually the endorphins are dripping off of us hence the huge smiles and crazy poses.

7. Ironman courses you can accidently ride when not reading a map well. 
So my friends Susan, Liz and I were in Lake Placid for cheering support of Liz her boyfriend / Ironman, and we decided on a 25-30 mile bike ride, that ended up being a 50 mile loop of the Ironman course. Oops.... It was one of the prettiest bike rides I've been on though, so I've no regrets there, just always make sure to have: a fully charged phone, bike lights and the address of where you're staying with you and don't go full speed ahead and think your friends are right behind you. 😳 important bike ride etiquette lesson for me! And ironically I had just attended Kristin Kenney's RealRide workshop the week before so I should have known better. No gold stars for me! ;-)

8. The first weekend of August with two firsts! 
On Saturday I finally ran the NYRR Club Team Championships instead of being cheerleader since the previous years I was on the mend from an injury. It's always super hot and humid during this race and I had been cycling and swimming a lot too, but I ended up with a nice 5 mile PR and came in 11th woman on my team so I barely missed scoring for the team, but great race followed by great team picnic made for a great day! Love my team the New York Harriers!

9. On Sunday I competed in my first Sprint Triathlon, the Smith Point triathlon in Shirley, Long Island, NY. What a great experience! For my first tri I have no complaints or regrets! I could of course work on my swim, which is something I will do next year, and transitioning, I didn't have a special tri belt to make it easier so my bib got stuck between armpit and bike tank top, but my swim wasn't the worst, it was chaos and disorder and I should start more in the front next time to get the hell out of the chaos. Bike and run portion went well and I thought I would be able to do this race in 1:15-20 since it was the first time, but I ended up with 1:05ish and I was pretty pleased! 

10. Being a cheerleader for the NYC marathon runner friends by doing part of their long runs with them and be on the course to cheer them on around mile 18. Memorable training runs this summer and fall with Liz T, Liz E, Annette, Susan and Charley.
First time I wasn't running the NYC marathon since joining the Harriers and being able to cheer, what an exhausting and fun day!
Proud of all the friends who ran and killed it!
11. Running a 5k with Girls on the Run
I was fortunate to run with my friend's 8 year old daughter as part of her Girls on the Run program in New Jersey. This beautiful 8 year old held my hand for the most part, allowed me to yell 'You Go Girl', totally got into the passing people game, and enjoyed a post-run bagel as much as I did. On the coldest day of November! Best part of this experience; inspiring a young girl to set goals and bond with her over something positive. There is nothing better than seeing a young girl over the moon because she just ran a 5k and earned a medal!
A few weeks later I ran another GOTR 5k with the NYC chapter. Another cold day and heartwarming experience. The girl who picked me to run with by grabbing my hand gave me three hug goodbyes and left me speechless. 

12. Placing twice during Fall and feeling strong from marathon training and cycling.
Sweet 5 mile PR on Thanksgiving Day with turkey trot.

I also think that the Grete's half marathon was the hardest most resilient race for me where I really had to force myself not to quit and once I turned things around I ended up with a pretty decent race and I felt ready for racing the weeks after! This is how I looked and felt:

13. Attending cool parties with fellow athletes who clean up really well!
So fun to dress up and enjoy a nice celebratory drink during the holiday party or a friend's 40th birthday party. Great nights to be inspired by athletes who look 10-15 years younger than they are and who are leading by example! 

A couple 2014 exciting fitness plans and goals to share:

- marathon in February
- trying duathlons kicking of with a relay version in March 
- more swimming practice
- another triathlon - Olympic distance possibly
- attending CRCA coaching sessions and women's race clinic to try racing on the bike 
- more involvement with Girls on the Run
- more running with my young runner girl friend
- Big Sur relay with good Harrier friends

Have a happy and healthy and fun new year full with love and friends and positivity! 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vera's fitness favorites entering fall

Summer is coming to an end, today is the first day waking up feeling the crisp air and feeling the need to add a blanket.
I love Autumn in New York. (The Charlie Parker jazz song with this name too by the way!) It's the season of Halloween and Thanksgiving, my favorite American holiday. A season with beautiful weather for outdoor activities, whether it's running, cycling or hiking. Central Park looks different and gorgeous EVERY day and going upstate or to NJ for apple picking is such a fun and relaxing thing to do. It's the season of the New York City Marathon, so many running friends are getting their long runs in, followed by replenishing brunches. My marathon training starts in October so I will log many miles the upcoming months.
September marks the start of a new school year, but at my job it marks the start of a new UN year, the 68th session of the General Assembly. The past few weeks have been very busy in preparation of the delegation coming from the Netherlands, creating the programs is a big puzzle and sometimes a logistical nightmare, but it's so exciting at the same time and you really work with your colleagues as a team and get to know each other better. In two more weeks this will be wrapped up, so let's hope it all goes well! 
It's great to start something fresh and new with realistic and sometimes unrealistic expectations. 
Since I'm so excited about the fall season, let me share a fitness-related top 10 of current favorites, summer discoveries and fall-related favorites:

1. Sparkly Soul non-slip headbands: I recently got a new lime green headband, but also still rock my orange one from time to time, which I got for the 2011 NYC Marathon. I usually lose my headbands, but this one stayed on all 26.2 miles. This picture ended up on the NYRR local gallery and it's on Central Park South in mile 26! 
2. Headsweats visors: seriously, last year I started using visors and this brand is amazing; keeps the sweat, sunscreen and sun out of your eyes. 
Many runners and triathletes swear by Headsweats!
3. Sugoi Armwarmers: my favorite item when it's nippy yet not too cold you need to wear a jacket. My tattoo sleeves are my favorites, soft and warm and you can stash your gels in there too! I understand arm warmers started with cyclists; so guess what, I'll wear them on the bike too this fall!

4. Song: Applause by Lady Gaga. AMAZING song that helps you push through tough intervals in cycling class or maintain a steady run pace.

5. Talking cycling class, see previous blog, yes my favorite: RealRide by Kristin Kenney at Revolve - hands down the best!

6. Green apples; my favorite snack, almost every day. My mom taught me my first English phrase when I was 6: 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away'. Chile would be bankrupt if I didn't support their apples.

7. Breakfast; my oatmeal, sooo good.

8. Once in a while treat: PSL! A tall skimmed extra hot 1 pump pumpkin spiced latte. Starbucks is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the PSL. congrats!

9. My favorite running shoe since Thanksgiving last year, I'm on my 5th pair now: the New Balance 890V2. I had multiple colors, but this edition is wild!

10. My favorite eyeshadow that stays on through sweaty workouts and doesn't make me look like a clown: Bobbi Brown long last cream eyeshadow in sandy gold. Awesome product. I want more. Perfectly paired with Inimitable mascara by Chanel or Dior Show (waterproof though!)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Swim (kind of)! Run! Bike! (posted early September-not July)

Last post was late 2011 following the NYC Marathon! Wow, I have neglected this blog so badly and so did my sister! Oh well, it's not that we have 3000 followers asking for more. The blog is  like a scrapbook full of memories for ourselves and hopefully will inspire some readers to adore their siblings and stay fit, sane and healthy. I'm trying to keep the narrative limited (yeah right!) and will give an update of fun and memorable happenings paired with some pictures. Here are 2012 and the first 8+ months of 2013:

After the marathon in 2011 I recovered and ran my first turkey trot on Thanksgiving (awesome) and had a job interview the day before. I landed the job and I'm beyond happy with the challenges, responsibilities and environment I get to experience on a daily basis in the world of the United Nations as well as the Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In this picture I'm giving a speech for my departing Ambassador and the UN Secretary General! I was part of secret operation bike rack, where we arranged a bike rack donation in the name of Herman Schaper, aka the Cycling Ambassador. 

I qualified for the 2012 NYC marathon and then...I didn't feel like running that race in 2012, so I decided to find a race early 2013 instead, which gave me more time to focus on my first Ministerial Week during the Opening of the General Debate, which was quite the (overtime) experience! 
I was so happy to NOT log the 18-20 milers yet and enjoyed running fun races including the 5th Ave Mile and Reach the Beach relay!

In October I was totally ready to up my game and I couldn't have picked my 3rd marathon better: the last weekend of January 2013, in Carlsbad, CA. Fantastic fall season to train in and an escape from NYC when loads of snow came down and everybody was freezing their butt off. Very thankful for awesome friends like Susan, Michelle, Liz E, Liz T and Annette, who either logged longer training runs with me or speedwork and tempos or easy runs. Loved my training season, prior to and during the holidays. I didn't get injured either since Susan's kickass Plyometrics class kept me strong and balanced and my core benefits from this workout, I wouldn't engage it at all if I hadn't been taking these bootcamp style classes with lots of attention for form and injury prevention, strength, flexibility and turnover. Did I mention I LOVE my Monday night plyo??? 

Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast badly and many people lost power, some neighborhoods were flooded, some people lost  everything. That was such a shock for the tri-state area and it happened right before the NYC Marathon, which got canceled. A strange time, but it put things into perspective for sure. Not always so classy to sweat a bad race or worry about nailing that PR. I wasn't running the NYC Marathon to begin with, but this situation showed me there's so much more than a race. Never forget that! Plus...there's always another.
Volunteering Harriers to clean up flooded East 6th St track on (canceled) marathon day.

So the holidays came and went, I visited my family in Holland, ran around, and had a wonderful time. Quality time with friends and family in the Netherlands. 
the top of this ruler is sea level, my parents live near the lowest point of Holland: 20
 feet below sea level

Xmas time in Gouda
With my lil' sis after her New Year's Concert with her Wind Ensemble.

I looooved my First Time in California. I stayed with my friend Cindy, who showed me around and cheered me on. Terrific host! The course was beautiful and I ran a 6 minute PR, 3.49ish, I was very happy with my time. There were quite some lonely stretches of the run and challenging hills and many rolling hills. Priceless feeling to be running next to the Pacific Ocean for a while.

Spring was good too! I recovered, eased back into speed with the Harriers and participated in some fun races in and outside New York. 

Age group awards after a local 5K in LI!

My sister, YES, Judith, from this blog, got married June 1st so I spent almost 2 weeks in Holland for her bachelorette party and the wedding. Fantastic time and beautiful wedding day! The entire trip was special and filled with wealth in terms of family, health and friends. My 'American sister' came for a week and was a special guest at the wedding. So great to be able to share the experience with a good friend. 
The gorgeous couple and me signing (witness).

Late spring I also discovered a gem of a boutique cycling studio, named Revolve, at Union Square. I love this community, every single person working there is professional and friendly and the instructors are top notch! I took my first class from Kristin Kenney, named Real Ride and now I need to go at least once a week. Real Ride is based on an outdoor ride, taught by Kristin, a pro cyclist, who  knows how to push everybody out of their comfort zone to the next level. She got me inspired, during a workshop, to finally do something with my desire to take outdoor riding to the next level and sign up for the CRCA. It's late in the season, but come next spring I'll definitely benefit from the club's coaching sessions and will try bike racing. 
Riding in Lake Placid, gorgeous! 

With my birthday I had claimed that this year I really wanted to do a sprint triathlon. Guess what? I did it! and I'm not even a swimmer. Swimming is something I'm going to work on over the winter.  During the Smith Point triathlon I felt great on the bike and in the run, the swim was very chaotic. 
In any case, I loved it! All the training paid off, my Plyometrics, the RealRide, the speed workouts with the team, my swim sessions, double workouts, bike rides in the park and on 9W; it all came together.
Beautiful race and the weather was great. I know what to work on next time. Yes, I would do one again!

I'm definitely on the market for more triathlons, maybe Olympic distance next year, as well as Duathlons. 
The variety in workouts in a week suits me well.
Marathon training starts in October once I make up my mind which one to do in 2014. Phoenix, Surf City or LA??
Club team championships on August 3rd! PR on my 5 mile!

It took me a while to finally do it, but I dropped Equinox recently. It's a great gym, but with all the running, cycling, plyo, and Revolve classes I'd rather go to, I wasn't spending enough time inside Equinox to justify the price I paid there.
I love the flexibility I have now to go to the best of the best all over the city. It makes me happy to have found great teams, studios and above all, friends who enjoy this as much as I do; health is wealth!