Wednesday, May 30, 2012

His Chick-Fil-A 5K

        Each year in May there is a 5km run/walk in Newport News. Part of the appeal of the race, for us at least, is that there is a free Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich at the end. Plus the T-Shirt is always good to add to my collection. This was Amanda and my second time at the event and we both had goals to beat. Amanda will tell more about her goals in her post.

         My goal was to complete the event in under 26 minutes. I have been training throughout the year to try and improve my time and it seemed like I would never beat my time of 26min 5sec that I set back a few months ago. Last weekend on my final training 5k, I beat 26 minutes but due to a glitch in my gps I am not sure of my actual time. I hoped that since I beat 26 minutes last week, and the atmosphere of the race would allow me to crack the 26 minute barrier again and that it wasn't a one time thing.

     I started the race in the middle of the first group of runners. My goal was to try and keep an 8 minute mile pace so I would finish somewhere around 25-26 minutes. As with my training I ran with my bike GPS so I could gauge if I was running too fast and risk tanking out too fast. I did get stuck behind some slower runners at  the start but after the first half mile I was in a good spot and found a good rhythm.

    I completed mile one at 7:50 which I was happy with and figured if this pace continues I would be in good shape. Soon afterwards I saw the leaders coming back and they were flying. After that I went back into my zone and kept going. I try to have the mindset that I am racing myself and the clock and not worry about what other people are doing. This is important to me as if I focus on who can run quicker I may try to keep up and run out of stamina before the finish line. I kept a good pace for mile two and it was just under 8 minutes.

   At this point I was quite happy with how I was pacing myself. I was tired but was well within my goal time even if I slowed down some in the last mile. I saw Amanda and Jill and they were doing great, a little later Jenn and Andy (my sis-in-law and bro-in-law), and then Mr. T and Mrs. T (Amanda's parents). They all looked happy and were doing well in their walks. The last half mile seemed to take forever, probably due to the heat and I kept checking my gps to make sure I wasn't dropping off the pace too much. I wanted to stop and walk but I knew I needed to push on and beat my goal. Thankfully the last few hundred yards went quick and I cruised around the corner and saw the finish line and the clock saying 25:00. I knew then that it would be under 26 minutes and I was ecstatic. My official time was 25:20 which was well under my goal. I grabbed a quick drink and then headed back out to find the others and walk a bit with each of them.

   I had a great time at the event and hope that next year I can do even better. Maybe even a 23-24 minute finish time? Its a big goal but who knows, its not an impossible goal.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Her Chick-Fil-A 5K

My Walking Partner :) :)
This past Saturday Sean and I, with a friend and our family, ran (Sean) and walked (everyone else) in the Chick-Fil-A 5K. I need motivation to work out and really push myself up out of the recliner. I was hoping that a 5K would do that and it did. I found myself wanting to walk to see if I could go the distance and to see if I could better my time from the previous day. Honest - I didn't always feel that way and had days of making excuses but I did walk more often than if the race wasn't coming.

I walked the same 5K last year and I had a time of a little over one hour. I did not train properly for that race and am ashamed to admit that I had not walked a full 5K distance prior to the day of the race. I was exhausted and hot and just wanted it to be over. It took a full day to recover and I almost decided to never do that again. I guess enough of the memories faded over the past year, because I found myself signing up for this year's race.

Saturday morning we woke up early (had to be there at 7:00 a.m. to pick up our packets) and got our race gear together. We both had extra bottles of water, a CamelBack for me to wear so I wouldn't dehydrate, and some granola bars in case we were starving. We found my friend/co-worker who was walking the race with me so I wouldn't have to walk alone - love her!!! - and then found my parents and sister and bro-in-law. We hung around for a little while and dad scoped out all the free stuff. There was, of course, time for photos (that I included here on the blog). Finally, at around 8:10, it was time to get into our corrals.

There were four total and Jill and I, Jenn and Andy, Mom and Dad queued up in Corral 4 where the walkers were supposed to go. Sean went up to Corral 1 with the runners. I was more nervous for him at this point because I knew he wanted to make his goal of under 26:00 so badly. I had butterflies as the race started thinking about him. Then, when it was our turn to start, the butterflies were back for me...
     what if my shin splints act up today
     what if my knees and ankles start to hurt
     what if I can't keep up with Jill
     what if I dehydrate or can't get enough water
     what if the shoes do something dumb, or the socks do something dumb, or something, anything does something dumb

Myself, Mom, and Jenn (+Baby Girl) ready to race!
Then the horn sounded and we were off. We kept a fairly stead pace through the first 3/4 of a mile. The shin splints did start up and my knee bothered me a little. I drank from the CamelBack when I was thirsty and keep pushing on. We were starting to get passed by the leaders (the course is a down and back so they shared the path at times) and I started looking for Sean. Seeing him in the top 200 runners made me so happy and gave me extra energy -- so I jogged a little. Not too far but my shin splints went away, knee pain vanished, and I got into a good rhythm. At around the 2 mile mark, Sean came back (he had finished and was checking in with me - a few people did that throughout the race) and he told me his time. I started jumping up and down --- I was so proud. (His post is coming soon so you can check that out to see how he did!) I jogged a little more then and continued walking through the course.

My results!
Now...I did not walk last year with Jill. She can do a 5K in 45 minutes so her pace is much quicker than mine. I noticed at this point that she was pacing us faster than I had been practicing and I got nervous that I couldn't continue that until the end. Before I could really stress about it though, I saw the turn to the finish. We came around the corner and Sean went off to the right (he couldn't cross the finish line again). Jill and I grabbed hands and ran in to the finish. My time was 56:33!!!!! I was so elated and proud of myself that I had knocked that much time off and had not given up!!

My favorite part of the race is what happened next - we walked over to the tent and got ourselves a Chick-Fil-A sandwich and chocolate chip cookie. A delicious reward for a job well done! :) Now to decide what race I will walk next...

Monday, May 21, 2012

His Quest for 70.3

Me crossing the finish line at an event in 2011
What does 70.3 mean? It's the total distance for a half iron distance triathlon which is what I hope to compete in this September. To put this in perspective:
1.2 miles (2km) is further than most competitive swimmers will race in a single event. However in a half iron distance triathlon this is just the first leg of the race.
56 miles (90km) is about the average distance for most local bicycle races and more than most people have ever ridden in one day. Imagine doing this immediately after swimming for almost an hour.
13.1 miles (21km) is a half marathon. The average runner will do this with fresh legs, a half ironman triathlete will do this after completing the swim and run. You are probably thinking a person would have to be crazy to want to do something like this and you are probably right!

     So why would I want to go through the trouble of going through all of the training and punishment of the race itself? Well its been a great motivator to help me get more active and lose weight. A few years ago I went from a active job working in a kitchen to sitting in an office all day and gained a ton of weight. I started cycling to work and that helped lose a bit of weight but it soon plateaued. I enjoyed cycling a lot but realized that this alone would only help me so far. Amanda suggested I start running so I could work different muscles. I did not like this idea at all since I hated to run but the thought lingered. After pondering the running idea for a few days I remembered seeing a sign as a child at the local pool for Triathlons. I also remember thinking back then that I would have liked to have tried this but I did not have the swimming or running endurance. Some 15 years later I found myself in a similar situation but was ready to do something to change that. So I went to the local gym, signed up and practiced my swim and running at the gym. At first it was tough but I slowly built endurance and speed.

Transition Area.
     I competed in my first triathlon in April of 2011. It was a sprint distance which was a 300m pool swim (12 lengths of a 25 yd pool) followed by a 10 mile (16.1 km) bike ride and a 3.1 mile (5km) run. The race went well and I finished under my goal time. After this I was hooked on the sport. I then competed in two more events in 2011 which were longer distances, roughly twice the distance of the first event.

    Although the sprint distance triathlon is a lot of fun I feel that its time to give myself a greater challenge and attempt the half iron distance. To do this I need to put in many hours each week in each of the 3 disciplines of the race plus get some weight training in. However the satisfaction of crossing the finish line in September will be well worth it. I won't finish first and will likely finish near the bottom of the standings but for me this is a personal quest and the only person I need to beat is myself. Finishing will be victory enough. Plus I will have a time to beat for next year as well.

   So what will the training involve? Well this week's schedule looks like this
Yesterday I went to the pool and swam for almost an hour to complete a full 1.2 miles (2km)
Today was a 1hr ride immediately followed by a 20 min run.
Tomorrow is a 30 min run.
Wed will be an extensive weight session.
Thursday will be 60 min run on the treadmill and a 45 minute swim
Friday will be a rest day
Saturday will be a 5k running race with family and friends so it won't technically be a training session.

Since we are 16 weeks out, the training times will start to get longer. If you want to join me in any of my training sessions, let me know. Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to the race.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Amanda's Bakery

"Amanda's Bakery" was definitely open for business today! That is what Sean calls it when I bake.

It is a dreary, over-cast, rainy at times Sunday here in VA. I finagled myself a work-free weekend which NEVER happens (I'm always grading papers or lesson planning on Sunday afternoons), so, other than laundry, I had several open hours looming ahead. I decided to fill them with baking. *fingers crossed they all turn out delicious*

Rum Raisin Rice Pudding - Click here for recipe (from Ina Garten on FoodNetwork)
Ingredients for Rice Pudding
     Last summer, Sean and I went on a Princess Cruise through New England and Canada. Sean discovered on our first morning that they had rice pudding cups on the breakfast buffet and ate at least two a day each day of our cruise (9 mornings of rice pudding!). It was then that I realized the deep love my husband has for the dessert. He told me the story of how it all got started with a happy smile as he ate.When he was growing up, his grandmother made rice pudding when she knew he was coming over for a visit. She would have a huge pot of it cooking away on the stove when he arrived and he would dive right in. Sean did not have the best of relationships with his grandmother towards the end of her life, but I am grateful that he has this happy memory of her to hold on to.
Raisins softening in the rum
     Now usually when I bake, Sean will eat one serving of whatever it is, maybe two, and then he's done. (I have been blessed with the sweet tooth in our family apparently. See below for proof.) I discovered the Rice Pudding recipe on FoodNetwork and surprised him with it as a way of remembering our cruise. He loved it! He devoured it in a few days and asked me to make more. I was so happy that I found a dessert he liked and wanted. Now he asks for it every few months; it's nice to have something special to make him that I know he enjoys.
Still pipping hot...Sean dove in :)
*Notes about the recipe: Sean likes a thicker rice pudding consistency so I only use three cups of milk. Oh, and I use milk and not half-and-half...not for any reason other than we never have half-and-half in the house and milk is cheaper. Finally, I usually add a little extra rum to the raisins because I know Sean likes the extra flavor.

Snickers Brownies (recipe from the brain of my sister)
A piece of Snickers for each brownie
     My sister, who lives in South Carolina, also likes to bake. She was home a year or so ago and was making brownies. I watched her add pieces of fun-sized candy bars to the batter and thought, "What an amazing way to spruce up plain, ordinary brownies!". This time I decided to use Snickers Bars because I thought my students would like them.
     Each week, my English students get the possibility of a reward on Friday. I have discovered recently that my students will do homework and monitor their own behavior if food is the potential reward, so two weeks ago I offered chocolate. Apparently that was too vague because too many students did not do their work and the class did not get the reward. This week I was more specific and offered a special, homemade (by me!) chocolate reward and they were scrambling to make sure every student had their homework so they could be fed. These Snickers brownies are for them!
Yum! Yum!
     The only pan I use to make brownies anymore is the Amazing Brownie Pan my mom gave me a few years ago. I love it and the fact that it cuts the brownies as they bake. Easy portion control and perfect for a recipe like this one. Just drop 1/4 of a fun sized candy bar into each square, bake according to package instructions and --- viola! Perfect brownies every time! I hope my students enjoy them!!

Black Bean Brownies - Click here for recipe (from
The only two ingredients you need
     When I joined Weight Watchers last August, I thought my days of brownies and desserts were all but over. I am so glad to be wrong! At one of the first meetings I attended, I heard about "Black Bean Brownies" and dismissed them completely because I hate black beans. I tried Diet Coke brownies but didn't like the crumbly texture and I tried pumpkin brownies but didn't like the chewy texture. Then a friend made the black bean brownies and brought me one. I was hooked! You don't taste beans at all, just yummy chocolate with an awesome brownie texture. If you haven't tried them and want to eat some less-guilty brownies, you should try these!!

Oh - in case you were wondering...we did make some savory items in the kitchen today. Dinner was Chicken Cordon Bleu in the Crock Pot (click here for the recipe). It was OK but next time we will omit the ham and just make it Chicken in the Crock Pot. :)

Happy Baking!
PS - I promise not all my entrees will be this long! :) Just a whole lot of baking going on today.


G'day! My name is Sean and I am joining my lovely wife Amanda in this blog detailing our hobbies and interests.

A little about me:
          I am 34 years old and unlike Amanda am not living in the same city where I grew up. In fact I am not even in the same state, country, continent, or hemisphere. I grew up in a small city in Australia and now live in Virginia in the USA. I have been here a little over 10 years and although its been a culture shock I have enjoyed my time here.
         We didn't have mascots at our schools, but if we did at my high school I guess we would have been the Anchors since that was on our school emblem at Oxley High. Go class of '96!
         I have worked at a few different jobs since high school. I worked at a discount department store called Big W (which is similar to Walmart) as a customer service rep until I moved to America. Then I worked at a supermarket as a department manager for about a year, but the grocery industry wasn't for me. Then I spent 4 years working at Chick-Fil-A which is a fast food restaurant. It was some good times but I wanted to try something in an office setting. In 2007 I got a job in a railroad yard working as a customer service rep. I work in a small office, processing orders, scaling trucks in and out, and keeping the customers updated of any problems that may arise.
      My family (blood relatives) all live in Australia but thankfully my American family have taken me in and made me one of their own. My Australian family includes a younger brother and sister, a Timmy who will be my brother-in-law next year, about 10 aunts and uncles and 7 cousins.
 So now you have learned a little about my life story its time to get to the title of this blog, my hobbies. My hobbies include photography, painting pottery, cycling, movies, and training and participating in triathlons. My favorites would have to be the triathlons and painting. I will go into more detail in future posts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Hello! My name is Amanda. My husband, Sean (who will introduce himself later), and I started this blog to share our hobbies and interests with our friends and family and new friends we will meet along the way. I hope that everyone will share their interests and hobbies with us so we can learn some new things. 

A little about me...
I am 32 years old. I live in the same city I grew up in - just on the other side. 
I am happy to have been a Squirrel; I graduated from Mary Baldwin College in 2001. 
I have been a teacher since August of 2001 in a small town nearby. I love my students, my colleagues, and everything about my job - except my 5:00 a.m. alarm clock.
I have an adorable fur baby named Alex. He was a rescue dog that I love so much.
My parents live near us and we spend a lot of time together which makes me happy.
My family includes a sister and a bro-in-law who live two states away - way too far. Also, I have a sister-in-law and two brothers-in-law who live in Australia that I wish I could see more often.

My favorite hobby - which I'm sure I will talk about a lot here :) - is reading! Baking and painting (pottery) are other favorites!

That's a little bit about me. More about our interests and hobbies later! :) 

Thanks for reading,
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