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Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon

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I’m writing this and still can’t believe I can finally say I’m a marathoner.

Almost 12 years ago I walked into Woodrow Wilson High School’s cross-country practice not being able to run three miles. I never thought I would have a half-marathon in me. I never thought a marathon was something I wanted to do. I don’t know if it’s having a lot of friends who are amazingly talented, Boston-qualifying runners (Lesley, Emily and Lorraine to name a few – hi, guys) that made me finally want to run a full-marathon.

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With Coach Lesley who paced me through the first half – next year I’ll keep up :)

I went through most a training cycle – though not as good of one – over the summer and early fall. That marathon didn’t happen as I moved across the country a week before the race. Over Christmas, someone told me I needed to have a goal and to stop just going out and running without a purpose because I was never going to improve otherwise. Coming home to run the Pittsburgh Marathon seemed like a good idea – I would have the support of my friends and family, I assumed Lesley would be a pacer for a time that I could probably strive for and I knew the course pretty well.

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Why yes Lululemon, I am.

I don’t know how it happened, but I somehow convinced Kay to come home to Pittsburgh with me and run the half-marathon. It’s a race that I really love and is near and dear to my heart and I thought it would be fun to bring a friend home. So Friday after work, we met at the airport and took the direct red-eye back to Pittsburgh.

As soon as we got to my house on Saturday morning, we ate some breakfast and immediately went back to bed for a few hours. I went on my shakeout run, cursing my incredibly hilly neighborhood but refusing to drive the 5 minutes to the trail so I could run flats. We popped into to see my girl Tu, had some lunch and went to the race expo to pick up our bibs where shit got very real. I think seeing the bib is what made the fact I was running a marathon the next day very real to me. I also got some new Lululemon Speed Shorts with a little Pittsburgh skyline outline on them.

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Race expo moments (in my new SoulCycle Union Street shirt because I’m that girl).

Okay back on track – we’ll fast forward through some things, maybe saw Kris Letang at Fresh Market (TBD), came back to my house, went to my fave pizza place ever (including pizza I have eaten in Italy), Il Pizzaiolo with my dad and Angela and then took obnoxious flat runner photos to Instagram so everyone know we were running a lot of miles in the morning. I also realized at this point I left my favorite socks in San Francisco and had a minor freak out.

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Race day gear. Note – I don’t run in compression socks, but definitely wear them after.

Angela stayed over so she could come cheer us on in the morning and we stayed up a little too late over-analyzing things, laughing over things we couldn’t remember in the morning and then talking about how much excitement and nervous energy I had.

Saturday night I had a lot of running dreams. I have running dreams a lot. I had a dream that I had run a marathon the week before but couldn’t remember it because I had a DNF. I forget the others, but that one stood out to me.

One thing that made me feel a lot more calm than I expected is the fact that I have run a lot of half-marathons. Emily mentioned this to me earlier in the week and I realized she was right – I have a race morning method down pretty solidly. When my alarm went off at 4:30 I just immediately went through the motions of drinking coffee and making breakfast and getting dressed without a second thought. The fact I was about to run a marathon still hadn’t totally sunk in yet.

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Thanks for the words of wisdom, True Runner.

Angela drove Kay and I down to Station Square (where I have parked for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon the past two years) and my dad drove separately so he could take his bike to ride around the bike cheer route. This is the second or third year he has done it and I think it’s a really great part of this race. If your loved ones who are coming out to watch you run bike/have bikes, I totally recommend them taking part in the bike cheer route. They even have bike rentals available if you don’t have a bike.

When I got to Corral B, I was looking frantically for Lesley, who was pacing the 3:55 group. This is also about the time I realized I forgot my hat in my gear check bag and wondered WTF my problem was with getting it together for the most important race I had ever run was. For being a planner, I’m terrible at the execution sometimes. Anyway, luckily I found her and then the emotion of what I was about to do really hit me. I get real emotional at start lines like a nerd.

The first 10-11 miles, I felt great. I had run this part of the course so many times before, both in races and in training when I still lived in Pittsburgh. I loved running an 8:5X pace. I was able to chat with Lesley, really enjoy everything going on around me, read signs, etc. etc. Then the part of the course I was most nervous about, the hill going up from the Birmingham into Oakland, was in front of me. This is where the half-marathon and marathon split, so I felt very committed at that moment.

True Runner, one of the larger running stores in the city, had people running up the hills offering encouragement and good vibes, which I thought was awesome. For living in a city known for it’s ridiculous hills – and running hills (and a very nasty hill during a few races) a lot in the Presidio – I did not feel good about this hill. I started to back off the pace group a little, then caught up again when we got onto Forbes in Oakland.

Going down Fifth Avenue, South Aiken and onto Walnut Street I was still with the pace group. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the race because there were so many people out cheering and a really awesome drum line. Soon after, I realized I was not feeling very solid and watched as the group got further and further ahead of me. For another mile or so, I could still see them and thought to myself, “Okay, 3:55 is a really aggressive first marathon time. You can still get sub-4”.

Around mile 14 or 15, I had a real dark half mile or so. I say this because I literally thought about quitting. I didn’t think I had it in me to run another 10+ miles. I just thought maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a marathoner – maybe all this hard work and training and talking about this race would be for naught. I imagined having to call my dad to come pick me up. I imagined having to delete all the Facebook posts and Instagrams talking about the race and marathon training. I thought about the fact I made my friend fly across the country to run with me. I thought about all the words of encouragement that everyone in my life had given me and what it would have been like if I had to say I didn’t finish because I just didn’t feel like I could.

This really bad mile made me realize how important positive self-talk is to achieving things. I always tell people running is very, very mental and that day I took my own advice. Tearing myself down wasn’t going to do any good. Just because I wasn’t going to run a 3:55 didn’t mean I wouldn’t finish the marathon. I told myself I was going to cross that finish line no matter what and I was awesome and doing things not many people can say they have done. Finishing a marathon is not basic bitch level and I definitely am not basic (despite that Mad Mex quiz that said I was a Basic Burrito*, WTF).

It was a really hot and humid day in Pittsburgh and I have definitely gone soft when it comes to dealing with weather that is not between 60-70 degrees with 0% humidity and sunshine. I was stopping for water and/or Gatorade at every fluid station. I also remembered that when I start to get the least bit dehydrated, I get really negative. So when I started having negative thoughts, I focused on just running to the next fluid station.

I kept looking at my watch and until mile 20 or so, I was still running 9:10-9:20 pace. Then I hit mile 20 and even though I had a 10K left (and in my head, I kept breaking into pieces of my normal six mile route), I started to slow down unintentionally. I was now in a distance territory I hadn’t ever run before. I also kept reminding myself that many talented runners have said no matter what, that last 10K is Struggle City.

Miles 20-22 I somehow felt okay. At mile 22, I started feeling some real pain. My feet had been hurting since at least mile 18 and now my thighs were not cooperating with moving forward very well.   I just kept telling myself all I wanted was to run the entire time (minus when I started walking for fluids around mile 16-17) and that I could push through it. I didn’t spend entire Saturday mornings running and mornings before work doing 10-mile track workouts for no damn reason. I was going to push through the pain because why bother leaving anything out on the road?

With a little under a mile left, I caught my dad on his bike again. I gave him a really big smile and wave and made myself look like I wasn’t in probably the most pain I had ever been in, minus maybe running on a sprained ankle or with tendonitis in high school. I kept trying to focus on relaxing my face and not looking miserable.

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If you want to know what complete misery looks like after running 25.5 miles and trying to smile for your father, this is what it looks like. I’m kind of embarrassed of how bad my form is here.

I was very close to the mile 26 sign and had a real fear my legs were no longer going to move. I was in sight of so many people and walking at that point would have been the biggest embarrassment. A race official or volunteer hopped onto the course and started running with me, forcing me to pick up my pace a little. I was so thankful for him. He left me with probably .05 of a mile to go and I just kept forward towards the finish line, which I never thought was going to come. I crossed the finish line and got a little Tear City, which I knew was going to happen.

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Ang captured this shot of me near the finish.

I looked at my watch and saw 4:06:XX (I don’t remember the seconds) and was a little disappointed but also felt like I couldn’t really vocalize that. I ran my first full marathon – I had to stop being so hard on myself and just be proud and celebrate.

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This is kind of what death looks like.

They lengthened the finish line corral this year, which was really nice. I seriously was having trouble moving very fast at all by that point but it was nice to not feel crowded. I think that also happens when most of the 30,000 runners don’t run the full marathon. Finally I emerged at the end and went to the family reunion section to try and find Lesley, my other friends and my dad. I was not walking very fast at all and was afraid to sit down for fear I wouldn’t be able to get back up. Finally I did because I needed to stretch out and everyone found me so we could take photos and make our brunch plan of attack.

I was asked afterwards what I would have done differently. Truthfully, I didn’t do the best job tapering. I went to SoulCycle. I played tennis. I walk around the city a lot. I may or may not have drank a lot of wine and maybe a whiskey and ate some indulgent food last week. I kind of just ran my tempo runs 8:40-ish pace rather than pushing any harder. I didn’t do any marathon pace miles during my long runs.

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I would not have done brunch differently.

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Post-race Bloody Mary is kind of my thing. #allthesalt

Will I do another marathon? Probably. Definitely. I really loved this race and truthfully, I feel like new distances are always the hardest the first time because you don’t know what to expect. My next marathon I’ll know what it’s like to run 26.2 miles. Spoiler alert: painful. Overall, I had so, so, so much fun despite how badly I was hurting at the end.

I know you’re all super invested in my nerdy stats from yesterday (I secretly love math), but I was the first girl from San Francisco to finish the marathon (out of four) and second girl from California (out of 38). Now for real stats that actually matter – I finished in the top 25.9% of my division, top 21% of females and top 31.2% overall. I really love knowing I run faster than a good amount of boys.

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With my support group and sherpas, Angela and Kay.

I don’t know what my next goal to conquer is going to be just yet. I still want to run a 1:45 half-marathon this year (which is taking 6 minutes off my current PR, which would take a lot of work I believe). I’m considering running the San Francisco Marathon in July or at least one of the halves. I might take some time off training hardcore and focus on surfing for a few months. I do know right now I want to focus on losing the couple of pounds I have gained marathon training, get my strength and core back up, and enjoy this week of taking it easy and letting my body heal.

*I retook the quiz tonight looking for the link and got Shrimp Fajita, aka Cassie Death Fajita, so maybe I’m no longer basic.

Chat with me:
Have you ever run a full marathon? Do you want to? What would you have done differently if you were me?

Scenes From My Pittsburgh Staycation

As I alluded to yesterday, my time in Pittsburgh was kind of a total wash as far as fitness and health is concerned but a total success as far as fun is concerned. I’m writing this on the plane back to SF and I’m not going to lie – it’s really, really, really bittersweet (mostly bitter) going back to the Best Coast.

I didn’t really take a lot of photos because I was trying to be in the moment (aka having a “Pittsburgh Staycation”), but my last “photo dump” type of post was pretty successful so I thought I would let you relive my time at home through photos.

chipotle | almost getting it together

Dad decided we should have Chipotle for lunch after he picked me up from the airport. We both had barbacoa salads.

Post "running up Mt Washington" Mad Mex with Angela + A.

Post “running up Mt Washington” Mad Mex with Angela + A.

McConnels Mills | almost getting it together

Shooting + Hiking at McConnels Mills. Photo credit: AW.

McConnels Mills | almost getting it together

Took advantage of the nice weather and hiked at McConnels Mills.

pedicures nikes | almost getting it together

An unpictured long run with Lesley and Emily and pedicures with them and our friend Sangam afterwards. Also, that marked my third time in Lululemon in less than 24 hours.

hot chocolate | almost getting it together

Making hot chocolate after my dad made us venison enchiladas with Erin and Angela.

hot chocolate | almost getting it together

Bloggers blogging (and taking advantage of being able to watch hockey!)

new years eve 2014 | almost getting it together

Taking walks on the last day of 2014.

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Beers at Brew Gentlemen.

pittsburgh pierogi truck | almost getting it together

#yinzermoments aka pregaming champagne with pierogis.

the almond eater | almost getting it together

Met up with Erin for drinks on NYE… prior to drinking an entire bottle of champagne and drunk eating leftover Thai. Whoops.

pittsburgh pierogi truck | almost getting it together

Pierogis, I missed you.

amazing cafe pittsburgh | almost getting it together

Smoothies + Acai Bowls despite the cold weather with Angela.

dungeness crabs | almost getting it together

Scooped up dungeness crabs at Wholey’s Market for my last dinner (which turned into my second to last dinner).

dungeness crabs | almost getting it together

I made my dad pose with a crab who made A pose with a crab.

pittsburgh penguins | almost getting it together

Another #yinzermoment with A – watching the Penguins lose. Still, I missed hockey.

There are a lot of unpictured moments: time with my family, cold walks downtown, more indulgent meals than I have had all year (E2 brunch! Square Cafe breakfast! Altius dinner!). Lunches and drinks with old friends and co-workers. Maybe a day spent hiding from the cold and watching Catfish all day (no shame).

Now, counting down until February when I see some of these lovely people in SF.

Chat with me:
What did you do over the holidays? What are your favorite places to go in your hometown? What would you do on a staycation?

Necessary Splurges

Or alternatively, treat yo’ self.

There are things you should and shouldn’t spend a lot of money on in life. Quality over quantity is always the motto in my book. I would much rather pay $300 on a pair of snow boots (gag) that are going to keep my feet dry and warm forever rather than pay $100 three winters in a row for not-so-amazing boots and be miserable when the windchill is -30F. But fun fact… I don’t need snow boots where I’m going so the Sorelsare staying at home.

Treating yo’ self is also a good way to spend your money. I hate to say it, but being Cassandra Pisone is not an inexpensive undertaking, both by habit and by choice. Beauty is neither painless nor cheap. And if it is cheap, you’ll look cheap. I’ve had to build these habits into my budget that I have thought about making mentally in my head but won’t write down because then it’s real and painful.

Treating yourself with beauty and pampering treatments is a great way to reward yourself all your hard work. You shouldn’t reward yourself with food “because you deserve it”. You aren’t a dog. Treat yo’ self with something that is going to last more than a few minutes. (Not that I’m not saying don’t have ice cream because you ran a half-marathon… have the ice cream, too.)

If you’re a girl you should splurge on…

  • Blowouts: (see photo above). If it’s a special occasion or like you just need a pick-me-up, go get a blowout. It’s $40 typically, usually you’ll get a glass of champagne or wine and you’ll feel really, really pretty after. Did I mention the proximity of a blow dry bar in SF was important in choosing where I would live?
  • Hair cuts and color: Don’t go somewhere because it is cheap. Scissors and good hair products and dyes are expensive because they are high-quality. Be willing to shell out for your hair.
  • Manicures: The first thing a person looks at is your hands. Seriously. And spring for a gel or shellac mani because for the extra 20 bucks or whatever it will stay perfect for weeks as opposed to days. My all-time favorite nail salon might seriously be il Villaggio Nail Spa in NYC. Carly and I have  trekked out in Snowmaggeden to get our nails done there. Every place in Pittsburgh kind of sucks. Get at me in a month to see where I like in SF.
nail art | almost getting it together

ICYMI: My nails are always perfectly manicured, which is why I’m kind of a hand model. Unless they are grown out and chipped and need a manicure.

  • Esthetician appointments: AKA waxing. But go to someone who is good, not the nail salon, even for your brows. My girl Tu knows more about me than most people and I no longer drug myself up on ibuprofen before a visit with her. If you’re in Pittsburgh, go to Miss T’s Beauty Lounge and see her… tell her I sent you. You two can gossip about me (only good things, of course). She was legit maybe my hardest goodbye (sorry friends and family… JK, but she was my hardest non friend and family goodbye). In a pinch, go to the Benefit counter and get your brows done. That’s what I would do when I lived in Hong Kong (well… that’s the only place to get them done there). NOW WHO WILL I GO TO IN SF? WILL I HAVE TO FLY HOME EVERY THREE WEEKS TO SEE HER?
  • Facials: Go and get a facial like once or twice a year. I like going in the winter and the summer, just to get all the junk cleaned out of my face. I would go more often but it’s one of those things I just don’t think about. When I had terrible skin I would go once a month. I love Tu’s facials (see above) and also Anna Skin Care in Pittsburgh. If there’s a Bliss Spa where you are, their treatments are awesome.

If you’re an athlete splurge on…

  • Sports massages: Seriously, just do it. Stop whining about the price. It’s worth it to be able to walk normally and feel good after a race. My biggest advice to anyone running their first half-marathon or marathon is to schedule a sports massage the day after. I love Janine at True Blue Healing Massage Therapy in Pittsburgh.
  • Pedicures: The girls at the nail salon always are horrified/in wonder at the condition of Lesley, Emily and my feet when we are getting pedicures. It helps keep them looking good and Lesley swears it is why she doesn’t lose any toenails during marathons. And I trust her judgement. A lot.

Chat with me:
What are your necessary splurges? Are there any things I missed? How do you… TREAT YO’ SELF?

Now Trending – Best Links Week of 10.20

Confession: I may or may not be writing this after a couple glasses of Pinot Grigio. Remember when I used to be healthy? Yeah, me either.

Travel
I’m all about abandoned things. I wish I had been in NYC when they opened up the abandoned TWA terminal last week.

Speaking of NYC, Refinery29 compiled the 30 Most Instagrammed Restaurants in NYC. Carly, I think we need to get our #eatingfortheinsta game on!

Style
I said the official sponsor of #funemployment was joggers (because I wore them one day… and okay, on the way home from San Francisco) but I am a fan of clothes that can go from workout to the bar (because I don’t care about how I look in Pittsburgh… which is a thought process I need to change before I move!)

Um… this Pendleton X Nike Collab is everything. I may have a pair of shoes on the way.

Lifestyle
This week, I lamented on how running a half-marathon felt like NBD and felt guilty because this big experience just felt… ordinary. (And, side note, the same day “GOMI Almost Getting it Together” was in my Google Search results so I know at least one of you out there thinks I’m a jerk… c’mon person, just start a thread about me!) Sometime, extraordinary things become ordinary, but is that any less reason to celebrate them? Loved this post from Chris from I Failed Fran about celebrating the grind.

Okay, I’m not one to preach about budgets because they are one of those things I think about but don’t do. Here are 9 good money tips you can do in 10 minutes or less (I do the automatic savings thing… trust me, it’s a good practice!).

You’ve seen moving checklists and if you’ve ever moved, you’ve probably made one… they go something like: call cable company, fill out change of address form, etc. etc. What about the first thing you should scope out in your new neighborhood? (Hot single guys who work for Twitter/Facebook/Google, duh.)

Running and Fitness

I have a total girl/running crush on Tina. Even more so because she is an elite runner that keeps it real. She understands racing rate versus real weight and how it is important to weigh a few more pounds to be a stronger runner rather than injure yourself.

Oh shit, I think I’m a basic fitness bitch.

Food
I love charts. Blame the analytics/math nerd in me (note: I never want to work in analytics.) Anyway, this chart of how the world eats in terms of produce, meat, grains, sugar etc. is super interesting.

Hey food bloggers… want to make your own photography board? My boo Erin has a great DIY Food Photography Board tutorial. Now to just get her to SF to make one for me…

Um, do trick-or-treators come to the Marina for Halloween? If not, I’ll be doing wine pairings with Halloween candy. (Note: last year the Pisone house gave out pretzels and kids were NOT AMUSED.)

I talked about these amazing Bambaloni Beans I had in Sausalito last week. So now I’m thinking they have to be a staple in my kitchen. I’m like not about stirring things though (I have ADD) so here’s how to cook beans in the oven.

You can take good food photos on your iPhone! Love these iPhone food photography tips.

Chat with me:
Real serious question: would you be interested in seeing posts about home decorating for my new place in San Francisco? Other, better questions: are you a basic fitness bitch (it’s okay if you are!)? What Halloween candy are you giving out? What is the most important place to scope out in your new hood? What is the best thing you read all week that I neglected to mention? (Probably nothing because these are the best links, duh… JK.)

Race Recap: Nike Women’s Half-Marathon SF

nike women's half marathon | almost getting it together

When I put two and two together that I would be in San Francisco during Nike Women’s Half-Marathon SF I knew I had to somehow get a bib. I get race envy and would just be annoyed looking at Instagram all weekend if I didn’t run it. Nike doesn’t let you transfer registration blah blah blah, but with a quick Google search (*cough* at the bar Sunday night *cough*), I found someone selling theirs and had a bib for the race this weekend (maybe something I should consider for SeaWheeze next year since I just completely forgot about registration).

I absolutely loved Nike Women’s Half-Marathon DC. Things in my life were at a completely different stage six months ago for that race than they are now so maybe that was part of it. Also, Nike races are amazingly well produced and the gear is the cutest. Oh, and Tiffany’s medals. So I knew I wanted to run Nike Women’s Half-Marathon SF but when registration opened in May, I just didn’t know where I would be in my life in October (irony) and knew I wanted to do a fall marathon (more irony) so I didn’t apply.

nike women's half marathon | almost getting it together

I totally bought more Nike gear I don’t need this weekend.

This race was basically the same, production wise. There was an amazing expotique (I didn’t have to pick up my bib so I just did a quick run-through to try and change my pace bracelet… no luck, but more on that later), finisher’s celebration, etc. etc. Shalane Flannigan was there (again). I thought about asking her for a picture when I walked by her Sunday morning but then also felt weird about it. She is so pretty in real life and just has this really strangely calm energy about her.

I always want to PR but also wanted to focus on just running a race to have fun, not to feel disappointed at the end. I had a lot on my mind, had spent the past two-ish weeks crying every day about something and oh yeah, trying to find an apartment in SF is a nightmare. Emily texted me to say good luck (and more importantly to have fun) and after chatting with her while walking from the hotel to Union Square, I got in the “have fun” mindset.

nike women's half marathon | almost getting it together

I just can’t with all the branding. Too cute.

The girl whose bib I bought was in the 10:00-10:59 corral but I needed to be in the 8:00-8:59 minute corral. I spent a lot of time feeling bummed about them not letting me move forward (when you’re stressed you focus on the. dumbest. shit) but on Sunday morning, I just walked in the 8:00 corral and no one stopped me.

The course was really great and I wanted to use this race to a) get a long run in for the week b) check out some running routes in my new city and c) have fun. It started in Union Square, through the Tenderloin, Alamo Square and into Golden Gate Park. From there, you run through Richmond, into the Presidio, past Chrissy Field and into the Marina Green, AKA my new backyard. My dad and I joked that if I run it next year I’ll be able to walk home.

The temperature was perfect (duh, it’s SF the temp is always perfect) but it was super foggy out. I felt really good starting out and also noticed that other people who should not have been in the 8:00 corral were in the 8:00 corral. People, please – go to the pace corral you should be running in. It’s net time, not gun time, so please please stop making everyone weave around you when you stop to walk 1/2 mile in.

Around mile two I spotted the 1:50 pace group. I ran a couple miles with them but then fell back… I was watching my watch and their pace was a little aggressive (now I know why) and I didn’t want to kill myself knowing there were some intense hills near the end of the race.

So, since I didn’t have my name on a bib I couldn’t look up my time (totally forgot to look up my bib number and threw it out!), I went by my watch. According to my watch, the course was 13.29 miles (and I noticed a lot of photos tagged with #werunsf also had that magic 13.3 number…) and I ran that distance in 1:52:07, so a PR of 50 seconds or so. It was an 8:26 pace which I was happy about.

nike women's half marathon | almost getting it together

Stretch area at the end of the race where I kind of half-ass foam rolled for a couple minutes.

Most of my miles were low 8:10s and 8:20s, one sub-8, and then two slower miles: a 9:24 on mile 11 with that insane hill in the Presidio (which would have been beautiful if the fog had burned off by then) and then my last mile was an 8:38 because I was just so beat by mile 11.

MORE IMPORTANTLY: I had fun. I was smiling most of the race, even on that awful hill in the Presidio (Ragnar DC, you taught me well). I think I hit that runner’s high. So this year out of five races (not counting the AEO 5K I ran a PR in – 24:59 haha), I really only had one race I was miserable during (minus the last three miles of Pittsburgh due to my hangover).

It was weird though… I was so happy about my PR but not elated like I was at the end of DC. It didn’t even feel too special to me after the race. I kind of just went through the motions then went to find my dad once I finished. I didn’t take many photos or even any of me post-race (but I looked terrible). I just got up that morning, didn’t overthink anything and ran. I don’t know if I’m just so used to races now (this was my 11th half-marathon and 4th this year) or if I was just so preoccupied with everything else going on in my life that the sparkle was gone. Really hoping it’s the later.

A note though: I was really sore Tuesday. Monday I felt okay, went to yoga to stretch out, thought I was fine. Tuesday, DOMs set in and hard. My recovery run Wednesday hurt until about two miles in (but all of my runs hurt until two miles in, let’s be real).

Chat with me:
Do amazing things ever begin to feel routine to you? Have you ever run a Nike race? (You should.) What things do you get envious if you’re missing out on?

Slow Cooker Banana Chai Steel Cut Oatmeal

slow cooker banana chai steel cut oatmeal | almost getting it together

I originally planned on posting this yesterday (Monday) but um, trying to find an apartment in San Francisco is like trying to find a coconut water in the Cincinnati airport (impossible, because I spent 20 minutes trying to do so about an hour ago). It’s 2014 – EVERYWHERE should have coconut water. Would it kill one shop to have one bottle of coconut water? Every airport is terrible except the Delta terminal at LGA and the Minneapolis airport as a whole. Rant over. Hopefully I have a home when I move next week. Stay tuned.

Other things I am bad at besides finding an apartment, dealing with stress and being an adult involve making my own banana bread. I keep trying to perfect a banana bread recipe but I can’t. It’s because I do dumb stuff like throw in other produce that is about to go bad (so guilty of adding spinach to everything… but it IS delicious in my Banana and Fig Chocolate Chip Muffins). I’ve just had a bananas amount of over-ripe bananas lately… finally I gave up on banana bread and decided to put them in oatmeal. I’m so glad I did.

This is a perfect added sugar free oatmeal base to add lots of toppings in, especially since it is so low calorie. Add lots of nut butter (Nuttzo is really great in this oatmeal), more fruit and my favorite… yogurt! I think I eat more Greek yogurt than the entire country of Greece combined. Oh by the way, this is gluten free, vegan and added sugar free so unless you’re crazy and don’t eat oatmeal, this recipe is for everyone!

I also realized this luckily fits into the Recipe Redux theme for the month… spooky spices. I don’t even know why I have ground clove but I do. I always see chai recipes but never have chai tea (which is a lie, I just don’t know how to cook with tea) so I looked at the chai tea box and mixed together all the spices that were in it. Win.

Slow Cooker Banana Chai Steel Cut Oatmeal | almost getting it together

Slow Cooker Banana Chai Steel Cut Oatmeal

Slow Cooker Banana Chai Steel Cut Oatmeal
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Gluten Free, Vegan
Serves: 5 servings
Ingredients
Oatmeal
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup steel cut oatmeal
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp chai mix (see below)
  • ⅛ tsp Pink Himalyan Sea Salt
Chai Mix
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp ground clove
  • 2 tsp cardamom
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in slow cooker and stir well.
  2. Turn slow cooker on low and cook 6-7 hours until all water is absorbed.
  3. Serve immediately or store leftovers in refrigerator and reheat as needed.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cup cooked Calories: 104 Fat: 1.1g Carbohydrates: 21.8 g Sugar: 5.8 g Fiber: 3.0 g Protein: 2.6 g

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Chat with me:
How do you use over ripe bananas? What are you bad at? Will you come be an adult for me so I don’t have to be one?

Scenes from #FUNEMPLOYMENT

Thank you so much for your kind words on yesterday’s big reveal. Don’t worry, I already have something lined up that I’ll be talking about in the days ahead.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to tell you how I’ve been spending my new found free time since I don’t have to look for another job. Disclaimer: it’s honestly been a lot of drinking. I had a total College Cassie moment Sunday night. I’m not really sorry about it, I definitely needed it.

I haven’t been working out or running as much as I thought I would without a job. I always thought I would  go running, go to spin/swim, go to yoga… no, I really haven’t.

I’ve had a lot of random appointments and meetings and have been trying to spend as much time with my friends in Pittsburgh as possible, so I typically spend a couple hours in a coffee shop working in the afternoons. I haven’t set an alarm in well over a week. Also, I’m not training for a marathon anymore so… there’s that. I’ve also become a permanent fixture at Lululemon Shadyside… where the beautiful Fluff Yourself Jacket in hunter green has went unpurchased because I don’t need it where I’m going.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

My friend Keelan and I took this bottle down Tuesday night. I bought it on purpose.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Spending my mornings submitting recipes to Foodgawker instead of responding to work e-mails… #win.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Well, I did make it to spin one morning, just in time for an awkward secret selfie.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Lunch at Bluebird Cafe with my friend Jordan from college.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

When I should be looking for apartments… looking at my blog traffic with the requisite iced coffee.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Yoga before coffee with a friend. I’m going to miss Amazing Yoga so much.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Making pumpkin mochi.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

The official sponsor of #funemployment: jogger pants and catching up on The Mindy Project.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

#TRT in Shadyside with Emily.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Dranks with my college roommate/sorority siste/future neighbor (when we are both home in Pittsburgh!), Courtney. Love this girl.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Beer and Prantl’s almond cake for Emily’s birthday.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Pro tip: Buy lots of things at Lululemon and Madewell so you have more things to move.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Uhh… Sunday night got a little rowdy with shots from the shot wheel at Mario’s with Angela and Keelan. When in Rome, right?

#funemployment | almost getting it together

The benefit of having a friend who works from home: lots of lunch and coffee dates with Erin. Ignore how hungover I look.

#funemployment | almost getting it together

Stolen Instagram photo from Lesley – coffee date at Tazzo d’Oro.

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What would you do if you had unlimited free time?

What to Do When You’re Laid Off

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

Remember my secret number one goal I had for 25? I can finally let you in on that secret: I wanted to find a new job and leave Pittsburgh. The only thing that was really stopping me was that I was comfortable. Too comfortable, really. And safe. I am 25, living at home, no bills or expenses. Basically the only difference between 25-year-old Cassie and 17-year-old Cassie was the fact that I went to my job all day instead of school. Oh, and I typically cook for myself.

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

My desk, late night.

It’s no secret I don’t really love Pittsburgh. I love living so close (ahem, in the same house) as my family and friends, Pittsburgh sports and the opportunities the city has afforded me. I love my rituals: Saturday morning runs, Amazing Yoga, way too many chips and way too much guacamole at Mad Mex. But I don’t love the weather – I can’t be cooped up from January until March and I can’t handle the humidity in the summer. I want to be near the water so I can go surfing. I want to be able to drive an hour to experience something completely new. I need a change.

We’ll get back to that though. This is about what to do when you’re laid off. Because that is exactly what happened to me on October 7th. If you follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat, you’ve probably inferred that something is up (probably because of a bunch of drunk tweets Sunday night, but like that kind of happened for another reason). I won’t say anything negative about my former employer because a) I’m not dumb b) I couldn’t have asked for a better first job and such amazing boss(es). Truthfully, they just forced me out of the “Cassie safety bubble” by making the difficult decision I couldn’t.

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

My nameplate. RIP.

It’s also not a secret that the retail landscape isn’t great right now, so I kind of expected this to happen. I didn’t expect it to happen to me, but if I had to do the math, I understand why one of these positions that was eliminated was my role. When the rumors started spinning that there were going to be layoffs, I joked that it was going to be me, cleaned out my desk (for other reasons as well that I will explain later) and knew exactly what was going down when I got a meeting request with my VP and HR Monday night for Tuesday morning.

Monday night after I got the meeting request, I just decided to go to the gym as planned and continue with my life as normal. There wasn’t anything I could do about it, I wanted it to happen and I was expecting another phone call in the next day or so that would alleviate anything that happened in this meeting. I won’t lie though – I was a nervous wreck. I couldn’t sleep Monday night. I thought about what I would wear, what I would do, what I would say. “What do I wear to get laid-off?” I texted my girl friends. The consensus: The best outfit I’ve ever worn to work.

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

The original AEO social media team.

Tuesday morning, I woke up before my alarm and did my normal Tuesday morning speed work out. I listened to Yeezus, because I always run to Yeezus when I’m upset or angry about something. I came home, showered, washed my hair and wore a black wrap dress, black knee high boots and a maroon scarf because I didn’t want the total funeral vibe.

Walking to the office from the parking garage, I thought “I wonder if this is what Marie Antoinette felt like walking to the guillotine – nervous for what is about to happen but relieved that it is all about to be over”. I walked straight up the back staircase (per usual) and right to the conference room.

I went in the room before HR & my VP. The packet of tissues and notebook on the table gave it all away. “Welp, I know what’s going on here” I thought to myself. They told me what was going on and I said “Okay.” They looked at me horrified that I was taking it so well and I just mentioned that I had something else in the works, not to worry about me. I thanked them for all the opportunities I had been given and that I couldn’t have asked for a better first job. I turned in my corporate phone, credit card and badge and they walked me out. That was it. Less than 15 minutes and the last three years of my life were over.

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

My hands in our BTS 2014 video – fake sewing jeans!

I walked out the door of the office for the last time. I did start crying at that point – out of relief. The anxiety of the past 15 hours was gone. I decided walking back to my car that I needed to go buy a bottle of champagne. I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing – I was disenchanted with social media, bored with the routine and not feeling challenged. I came into work each day for my cushy paycheck and that was about it. They had made the hard decision that I wasn’t strong enough to do on my own.

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

The day I got my official offer from AEO after freelancing for almost a year.

Luckily, Erin was working from home that day so I met her for a coffee. I was still nervous that I wouldn’t get the phone call I was waiting for, but I suddenly felt a sense of relief. I was at peace for the first time in a long, long time. I was free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I decided then that if I didn’t get the call I was waiting for, I would take some time to travel, maybe to Central or South America or Australia. Unfortunately things didn’t pan out for me to take a holiday.

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

On a photo shoot in LA, November 2012.

What do you do when you’re laid off? You take it gracefully. You understand that it’s the company, not you. Keep your attitude positive. If I wasn’t going to make jokes and laugh about this situation, I would be spilling way more tears than needed. The world works in mysterious ways, even if you don’t understand why something is happening, you should know that it is happening for a reason. Trust me, my life has been turned on its head about 5 times in the past week. I have to understand that this is all leading me to something bigger and better.

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

Coachella vibes.

Thanks for the memories, AEO. I had a lot of really, really awesome opportunities. I got to fly on a private jet! I got to go to Coachella! I went on photo shoots and did a lot of really cool projects. I even coordinated an entire shoot myself this summer. And most of all, I met some really amazing people. If it wasn’t for this job, I wouldn’t have met Emily, Lesley or Angela and probably wouldn’t have started this blog. I am going to miss everyone at AEO – and in Pittsburgh – so, so much.

what to do when you're laid off | almost getting it together

As I said on Instagram, here’s to happy endings and happier beginnings.

PS: Looking for photos for this post made me so sentimental.

Chat with me:
No questions, just your thoughts.

 

Pumpkin Mochi

pumpkin mochi | almost getting it together

I don’t know what made me crave pumpkin mochi. I remember just grabbing my phone and jotting down “pumpkin mochi” as something I had to make. But how does one even make mochi?

pumpkin mochi | almost getting it together

I can’t stop myself from eating a piece every time I walk by the kitchen.

You start with Glutinous Sweet White Rice Flour, which despite what the name might lead you to believe, is gluten free. Glutinous sweet white rice flour is what gives mochi its dense, chewy texture. I’m all about texture and dense things, so of course I love mochi.

pumpkin mochi | almost getting it together

Mochi without butter and refined sugar!

I was looking for pumpkin mochi recipes but basically every recipe I found called for at least a stick of butter (butter mochi is popular in Hawaii, but I can’t remember having any there) and a cup of sugar. Uh, no. A friend of mine actually made pumpkin mochi with the butter and sugar and I had some and it was AMAZING but I can’t trust myself to have things like that around so I had to Cassie-fy it. Also, if you eat half the pan, you’ve had a vegetable serving for the day. I didn’t tell you to do that though.

pumpkin mochi | almost getting it together

Pumpkin Mochi

Pumpkin Mochi
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Japanese, Gluten Free
Serves: 25 pieces
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup glutinous sweet white rice flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ⅛ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line 8X8 baking pan with parchment paper and spray with coconut oil. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients except rice flour well.
  4. Slowly add in rice flour with a wooden spoon, ¼ cup at a time.
  5. Once batter is well mixed, pour into prepared pan and smooth top with a spoon or spatula.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until top begins to brown and a fork inserted comes out clean.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 piece Calories: 80 Fat: 2.3 g Saturated fat: 1.1 g Carbohydrates: 13.5 g Sugar: 3 g Sodium: 6 mg Fiber: 0.6 g Protein: 1.5 g

Chat with me:
Have you ever had mochi? What is your favorite cultural dessert? Is pumpkin mochi taking it too far?

Now Trending – Best Links Week of 10.6

Photo credit: 1 / 2 / 3

This week was a week. I can’t wait to tell you all about it but with something like this, it has to be absolutely perfect. To tide you over, read some of the best links and articles I found this week. There’s not a ton… I’ve had less time to sit on the computer and read blogs, sadly.

Travel
Take this tongue-in-cheek peek at what San Francisco is best at and why it’s the best city in the US (well, at least in California).

This is a cool map of all the locations in Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

I’m totally into the third-world country vibe. I like a good challenge. I’ve wanted to go to Bolivia for years. I even wrote my honors thesis on it in college.

Lifestyle
According to social media, I’m pretty sure every boyfriend in the entire world is now ‘bae’. Does the extra b kill you? Also, it seems like bae is the worst boyfriend.

I’m obsessed with all of these colorful rooms.

Want to be more stylish? Check out the 7 Habits of Highly Stylish People.

Running
My marathon may not be happening (long story), but in case it does, I’ll be referencing how elite runner Tina Muir fuels for a marathon.

Food
You can have crappy cupcakes or cookies but I would venture to say there is no thing such as bad ice cream, which is why it’s my favorite treat. Now I just need to eat all of the best ice cream in the world.

Butternut squash queso… are you kidding me? YUM!

I am always crushing on Kylie’s recipes and her Zucchini Coconut Rice with Crispy Cheese & Chickpeas is no exception.

Chat with me:
What was the high of your week? The low? What amazing article did I miss?

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