Monday, January 31, 2011

Time to Start Training

I guess since this blog has running as the first word, I should really start blogging about that as well. I track my runs online, and am part of a running forum, so I guess I forget to write about them in another online venue.

But, I did start officially "training" this month, so I can talk about that. So far, my fastest half marathon was just under 2:15. In 2011, I'm aiming to run a 2:05 half. When I run, I'm a wimp. I don't like to be uncomfortable, although I do love speed training. I think with speed training, I only have to run fast and hard for 2:00 or so, then I get a break. The tempo runs and hill repeats are not something I enjoy. I prefer to run slowly and take lots of walk breaks. But, if I'm going to run a 2:05 half, I need to get out of my comfort zone.

So, I'm running with a 2:00 half training group. The first week of half marathon training went well. Tuesday, I ran a 4k run with 15 minutes at tempo pace of 5:55 min/km. Wednesday, I ran another 4.5k tempo run with 4k at 5:55 pace. I missed Thursday's run, but Saturday was 3k easy with a friend, and we ran at 6:47 pace. Sunday, I joined the 2:00 group again and ran 7k with them at a 6:45 pace. I did find the Sunday run a bit fast for me, but I was able to talk to my friend the whole time, so maybe I will come around to it.

Week #1 of half marathon training is done! I'll enjoy my "rest" day from running today, and hope that the weather doesn't force me to run on the treadmill all week this week!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's With Books About Ghosts?

For those of you who don't know, I am easily scared and have an overactive imagination. Ghost stories are not always a good thing for me. So why is it that I started reading three books this month that all had some sort of paranormal activity?

I just finished The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal. It's a book about a chef, Elena, who was the lone survivor of a car accident as a teenager, and has been haunted for twenty years with questions of why she survived. She had struggled with allowing herself to love and be loved. 

As a child, she's passed from her dead beat mom to her maternal grandmother (who then dies) and then to her paternal grandmother. Her father died when she was young, but her grandmother lovingly accepts her into their home, where she becomes very close with her family, including her father's sister, Isobel, who is the same age as Elena. 

At seventeen, Elena survives the horrible car crash that kills her sister, her boyfriend, and two other loved ones. She flees the town as it is too painful to stay. But Isobel goes with her. She is a constant companion of Elena's as she moves through the next few decades of her life. 

Without getting too cheesy or giving too much away, I really enjoyed the way they developed the character of Elena. You could understand her being so aloof and holding herself away from getting close to others for fear of losing them as she lost everyone close to her. As you would expect, the book focuses on her internal struggle with the past, the present and the future, and figuring out if/how she can open herself up to being hurt again. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Catching up on January Reading

I skipped ahead and posted about Elixir earlier, but hadn't yet posted about the other books I've read this month. They weren't as interesting (to me), so there was less urgency to post.

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano - I borrowed this one from the library's ebook collection. It started off as a really interesting read. I was enjoying the different vibe of the book. I'm used to reading a lot of chick lit, and this was about a girl who was in the witness relocation program after witnessing a mob killing when she was six. It gets into her lack of ability to grow roots anywhere when she may have to leave and start her life all over again, and then gets into her own personal inability to stay put. I won't ruin the book for anyone else, but there is a change in the plot that just changed the book, in my eyes. It was still a good read, but not the one I'd hoped it would be.

A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham - I listed to this one as an ebook, also from the library. At Christmas, my aunt told me that Sophie Kinsella, the author of the Shopoholic series, was now writing under a pen name of Madeleine Wickham, so I looked to see if I could find any of her stuff to borrow. This was available in audio book, so I decided to try it. (As a side note, the info I found online was saying that the pen name is actually Sophie Kinsella, and Madeleine is her real name.)

I enjoyed it very much. It's definitely just a piece of chick lit, but one full of drama and lots of different central characters. I listened to this while running and was very entertained on my harder runs. I enjoyed it much more than the Shopoholic series since I'm kind of tired of the character in that series. It could also be that I enjoyed the narrator's British accent and all the different voices she used for the six (or so) main characters.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami - I borrowed this audio book from the library as well. I'd heard about this book from fellow runners. I don't think anyone ever told me I should read it, but I knew a lot of friends had read it. I have to say that I think I would have enjoyed it more in book form instead of audio book. The narration was boring. There wasn't a lot of emotion in the voice, and I felt like I was listening to someone reading an essay. Essentially, that's what it was.

This book was about running, but is NOT good entertainment while running. I almost died on the treadmill listening to this one, and switched it out for some Black Eyed Peas instead. There were quite a few parts that were quite entertaining, though. I was laughing out loud on the bus a few times while listening, and I could really relate to the marathon "thoughts" that he described. Not bad, but I wish I'd read it instead.

Mini-Shopoholic by Sophie Kinsella - I borrowed this ebook from the library as well. I mentioned above that I was getting tired of the character in this book. This was the book that made me realize it. I had enjoyed the series up until this point. I think this book might be one too many in the series, mainly because the character was interesting because of all the trouble she got herself into. This book, she still gets herself into a bit of trouble, but it just isn't as interesting to read about her trouble planning a party for her husband, and trying to convince him to have another baby. Meh. If there is another in this series, I'll likely skip it.

Elixir by Hilary Duff

I'll admit from the start that I've always been a fan of Hilary Duff. My nieces, when they were younger, really enjoyed the Lizzie Maguire series on TV, and I enjoyed watching it with them. I liked that Hilary didn't seem to go the party-girl route that many other celebs go.

I was home sick from work one day, watching Ellen on TV, and Hilary was on the show. She was discussing her recent marriage, and I assumed a new movie. I was surprised to hear that she was there to promote her book. I'll admit that I thought "great, another artist who thinks they can jump from one genre to another". I've picked up books by other famous actresses to find that they were absolute crap. However, I suppose they weren't fiction... They were autobiographies.

Anyway, I was browsing e-books on the library website last week and saw that they had a copy of Hilary's book, Elixir. I put my name down on the waiting list for the audio book. I got the email on Thursday saying it was in, and uploaded (downloaded?) it to my iPod.

Friday morning, I started listening to Elixir on my way to the bus to head to the gym. Normally, it takes me a bit to get into a book, especially an audio book. (Well, to be honest, this is only my third audio book.) By the time I got to the gym, I didn't want to turn off my iPod! I checked, and there was only 6 minutes left in that chapter, so I actually left it on while I got ready for spin class.

By the end of the first chapter, I was already interested in the main character, Clea, and her best friend. I found myself listening to this book whenever I could - doing dishes, cleaning the house, and then while running a tempo run today at lunch. I was actually avoiding seeing people I knew on the ferry and bus so that I didn't have to turn it off to talk to them.

The book is about a teenage girl, Clea, who was raised in a prominent family. She is a photojournalist who travels to photo shoots around the world (with her mother's written permission since she's a minor) under a 'secret' identity. There's a lot of extra cheesy details in here that you could pick apart, but why bother?

She has vivid dreams about a handsome man, Sage, and then she meets him in Brazil. Together, along with her parent's hired companion, Ben, who is also in love with Clea, the three of them set out to track down what happened to her father when he disappeared while doing humanitarian work.

I had five minutes left of my tempo run when my iPod said "this concludes the audio book". Gah. It, of course, ended without a conclusion, leaving room for (I'd imagine) many more books in the series. I will be waiting for the next book in this series to see what happens to Clea, Sage, and Ben.

If you like teen girl books, which I do, you will likely enjoy this one.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter Warmers

My two fellow social colleagues and I often head out for a drink after work on Friday afternoons. When I was looking for some wine tastings, I noticed that there was one today from 5-7 at one of our great little wine stores, and invited them to come along. They were both quite eager to join me!

We ventured out in the "weather bomb" and actually flagged a cab to get to the store, about one kilometer away. Yes, the weather was THAT crappy.

The tasting was labelled "Winter Warmers". We got in, paid our $20, and got our list of wines that we were going to be tasting. I was quite excited to see the lineup with two whites, six reds, and a beer. The nibbles were also quite pleasing. There were three different "nibbles" - apple with a maple balsamic sauce and almond, cucumber with a salsa and a spicy shrimp, and my favorite - a steak "sandwich" which was a toasted bread with gouda, steak, and a red onion chutney. So good!

So, the wines:

1. 2008 Glen Carlou Chardonnay - South Africa $22.25 - oak-y, and what I would describe as light. I liked it.

2. 2009 Sartori Marani - Italy - $22.25 - strong taste, drier than the chardonnay, fruity, with a strong aftertaste. Almost tasted spicy. I wasn't a big fan of this one.

3. 2009 Juan Gil Monastrell - Spain - $18.75 - It was very sweet smelling, which I was told was a "candy nose". It had a maple taste, and was oak-y. I enjoyed this one.

4. 2007 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna - Italy - $20.75 - This one smelled kind of like dirt. It was thinner, had a full tannin structure (I was told). I didn't like this one. I actually dumped half of it in the bucket. I don't know if it was one I'd warm up to or not.

5. 2008 Querciabella Mongrana - Italy - $27.00 - Organic Super Tuscan - I didn't really make too many notes on this one, other than that I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would for being a "Super Tuscan".

6. 2008 Finca Sophenia Malbec Reserva - Argentina - $ 23.50 - This one was "tight". I'm not sure what they meant by that. It was oak-y, and definitely fruity. It was really tasty. I liked it.

7. 2008 Neyers Lakeville Syrah - California $49.50 (91pts) - My notes for this one were quite simple - nice, yum, tannins. Haha. Can you tell this was the seventh wine?

8. 2001 Chateau Musar - Lebanon - $57.00 (91pts) - This one tasted aged, and the fruits tasted pretty subdued. It was good, but I don't think I appreciated it for what it was.

So my two favorites were the Neyers Lake Syrah and the Malbec. I was trying to listen to the descriptions of the wines as they poured them, and tried to taste what they described. I could when I knew what I was tasting. Without the description, I would just tend to say either I like it or I don't.

I'm hoping that as I attend more tastings, my descriptions of the wines will be more meaningful! Regardless, it was a great way to spend a Friday evening.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chilly January, Why Not Start in Chile?

Last Friday, I decided I'd pick up a bottle for my first "tasting". I had no clue where to start - which country, which grape, which what? So I went to Port of Wines on my lunch break. I was the only customer in there, and the sales man asked if he could help me find something. I told him about my resolution (new country every month, must be over $20). The conversation went something like this:

Him: What country would you like to start in?
Me: It's January, so I'm open to any country.
Him: Ok...... Australia?
Me: Maybe another country.
Him: Argentina?
Me: Maybe, really, I'm open to anything.

You could tell he was looking for a little more direction. He showed me a couple of different bottles, and then we came to a display of a Chilean cab sauv. He said that it sells out really quick and they just got it in again. So, I said "ok".

I got the 2008 Intriga Cabernet Sauvignon for about $23.
Maybe when I learn more, my descriptions will be better. I opened it and definitely tasted the oaky flavor right away. My first thought was "yum". It tasted a little thick, which I now understand was the tannins and just that it had a long finish.

It was from the Maipo Valley, which I now know is the Napa Valley of Chile.

I'd also picked up a Chilean Syrah over Christmas, and I opened it this past weekend as a recipe I was making called for red wine. It was Carmen Syrah, about $13. According to the label, it has "intense aromas and flavours of ripe black cherries, blueberries and cassis, accompanied by touches of spice and leather notes." My first thought was "sharp". It had quite a strong flavor where I found the cab sauv was more mellow. Initially, I didn't really like it. After a few sips, I did enjoy it, but definitely not as much as the cab sauv. I'm curious if it's just that I prefer cab sauv over syrah.

I'm hoping to do a bit more research about Chilean wines this month, and hope to actually do some reading before I pick out next month's.

Running, Reading, & Resolutions - 2011

It's been a while since I've had an active blog. I pondered starting a new one, but didn't know what I'd want to write about that I don't already cover in the various other social media outlets that I use daily. But then I realized that the three things I generally wanted to keep track of were my running, reading, and resolutions. There was the name for the blog, and here we are.

I've set a few goals for myself for 2011:

Running - I am training to hit new personal bests in the 5k, 10k, and half marathon distances of running races. This is my 27/57/125 challenge, with those being my goal times for the respective distances. My previous personal bests ("PBs") are 28:23, 58:39, and 134:25. This is going to be a tough goal to be able to get all three in 2011. But, I'll do my best.

Reading - I have never tracked the books that I've read in a year, and am just generally curious to track it this year. A lot of friends have certain goals to hit a certain number of books, or try certain genres, etc, but I just want to track mine for fun.

Resolutions - I am not really one to make resolutions, but this year I decided to learn more about wines. I've decided that each month, I'll pick a different country and try to learn about what types of wines they are known for, and purchase a bottle from that region. The bottle has to be $20 or more. I will taste the wine and try to actually taste the things it says I should - i.e. oak, berries, dry, fruity, etc. Right now, I can't tell dry from fruity or whatever else. By December, I hope I'll have an easier time describing wines, and have a broader knowledge of wines in general.

I'm sure there will be other subjects that will pop up from time to time.