Your guide to a fun Boston summer

It’s summer in the city – long nights, short dresses, sweet cocktails, and a million reasons to throw caution to the wind and stay out for one more song, one more drink, one last train.

This winter was brutal. Many of us felt like our urban abodes were suddenly stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no chance for socializing or adventure.  Now, my friends and I are more determined than ever to live it up this summer – both to reward ourselves for surviving the cold, and to stock up on warm memories for the inevitable cold ahead (as George R.R. Martin won’t let us forget, winter is always coming.)

Here’s my starter guide to having a stupendous Boston summer – where to go and what to do to ensure that you’re making the most of these next glorious weeks.  I’ll add more items as I hear of them!


Summer Fun 2014

WATCH IT

  • Free films and music at the Boston Harbor Hotel: BHH has an amazing summer series of music and movies that can be enjoyed for free.  Get there early to get a seat at their restaurant, and take in some tunes while watching the sunset over the harbor.
  • Concert series at Post Office Square: Check out free tunes at Post Office Square, a mini oasis in the city.
  • Shakespeare on the Common: Get cultured on the Common with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and their performance of Twelfth Night.  You can catch my friends and me there on August 5!
  • Free nights at the ICATap into your artsy side with free nights at the ICA – perfect for dates of the romantic or BFF variety!
  • Free Friday Flicks at the Hatch Shell: pack a picnic (or buy one at nearby Whole Foods) and take in a film along with thousands of other Bostonians at the Hatch Shell, right next to the Charles River.

WORK IT

  • Free exercise classes at Post Office Square: Before work, during lunch, after a long day – take a break and work out with one of the free classes in Post Office Square.  I went to their boot camp all last summer and it was incredible – great community and quality classes for free!
  • Get a Sweetgreen passport: check it out to find free exercise classes and events near you.
  • Join the November Project: Check out this fun group and attend one of their high-energy outdoor workouts – rain, shine, show – they never stop!
  • Swim in the sunset at the Rooftop Pool: the Rooftop Pool (RTP) at the Colonnade Hotel lets you swim for free in the evenings – or just dangle your legs in and enjoy a mojito, your call.
  • Run on the Freedom Trail: Sometimes you think you know your neighborhood, but there’s more history than you can imagine, right beneath your feet.  Join a Freedom Trail Run and get an insider’s view of Boston’s rich past, while picking up your heart rate in the process.

 JUST DO IT

  • Explore the Boston Harbor Islands: from forts to fries to glittery beaches of sea glass, the harbor islands are the perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday.  I recommend going out to George’s Island and then stopping at Spectacle on the way back.
  • Cool off at the Boston Public Library: In addition to hosting every book in the world (true story, I checked), the BPL also has a beautiful courtyard, a cafe, and a great array of exhibits and events, not to mention some pretty strong air conditioning.
  • Ride the Swan Boats: Head over while it’s still under $3 and take a ride on Boston iconic swan boats (dare I call them the proto-duck tour?).  The ride is short but sweet, and it will make you appreciate the many flowers in bloom and wildlife in the Public Garden.
  • Seek out the best ice cream in town: It’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it – search out some of the best flavors in Boston ice cream, from Toscanini’s in Central Square to Christina’s in Inman to JP Licks… everywhere.  With options like rose, burnt caramel, and coffee oreo to choose from, this challenge has no losers.
  • Enjoy the student-free city: take in the areas that are painful during the school year (Harvard Square, anyone? The entire Green Line?) and enjoy owning a small slice of our city by yourself, rather than always sharing it with a mob.

What else are you loving about Boston this summer?  Post in the comments below!  And have fun out there!

ETA: two new additions!

- Free Fridays at a bunch of museums around the state, including some that are really expensive otherwise (I’m looking at you, Gardner Museum)

- SOWA Sundays - awesome vintage and craft market in the South End, with food trucks galore and tons of delicious things and great gifts to leave your wallet utterly empty.

I came, I saw,… I’m not going back to crossfit

I love a good health trend.  From novelty races like the Color Run to switching to agave instead of honey in my tea, I find that while health and exercise trends might not actually make a huge difference in my life, it’s fun to change things around now and then to keep myself energized.

So I was ready to love crossfit – to have some reason to shell out $200 a month for a new gym, to make some new friends, to stretch some new muscles.

And I hated it.

I write this from the morning after a free crossfit demo in Boston’s Back Bay, courtesy of City Sports.  I can’t move most of my body, so I guess that’s supposed to mean that I had a good workout.  But really, it just makes me mad.

Mad that during the hour-long session, we got lectured for half the time about how crossfit is going to help us with all aspects of our life, like “reaching for flour at work” (are we all bakers??)… something I can’t even do in my soreness.  Mad that it was marketed as being about your own strength, your own 100%… but the rest of your team isn’t allowed to go on until you finish those burpees.  Mad that when the small medicine balls ran out, we had to use one that was double the size, and just deal with it.  Mad that when I asked for an adjustment because my hip flexor was killing me, the trainer said “There’s really no substitution… I guess you could do push-ups if you really needed to,” implying that instead I should just tough through it.  And REALLY mad that after an exercise session that was supposed to be about working brand new muscles, we were given zero minutes to stretch after – no instruction, no finale, no warning about how important it is to properly cool down these new muscles, just “Don’t forget to check our onboarding program!”

That was your chance to wow me, crossfit, and you blew it.  I’m going back to Zumba, boot camp in the park, and 5ks where costumes are required – at least they don’t hurt me.

All the colors of the wind

Second annual Color Me Rad – check!  Compared to last year, this year’s run at the Brockton Fair Grounds was:

  • More crowded, with waves starting from 8 AM through the afternoon
  • Better organized, with good parking options and clearly marked areas
  • More flexible – they actually invited you to start whenever you were ready instead of making you stick to a certain wave
  • More colorful – the color felt a little bit more spread out than last year, but we got more of it early on and felt like we were really getting the point without trying too hard (no rolling around on the ground this year thank goodness – that stuff took forever to get off of my stomach!)
  • Less crowd-focused at the end – last time, we all finished together and then had a giant party.  Here, there was a host and people dancing constantly, but there wasn’t an all-out bash with group color throwing like there was last time.  Hence, it would have been nice to have a slightly larger team together.
  • Slightly more athletic – this was less winding through a parking lot and more of an actual course.  It felt really easy though (other than mom’s blisters), probably because we were still in good share from our half marathon training.
  • 50% more rad – the mirrored sunglasses, the knee socks, the music – it was all quite fabulous.   Also hoping that their new instructions for keeping the color in actually work (last year they said soak in vinegar and it failed – this year they recommended spray adhesive.  Fingers crossed!).

Onward to next year, and to seeing if I can get this dye off of my shorts!

Color Run 2013

Starting summer strong

Summer opens up a million new ways to soak up the sunshine – even as work stays intense, weekends are filled with weddings and traveling, and patios serve up delicious food and drinks.

So I’m keeping moving this summer with some new, some old, and some totally free practices.  Here’s where you can find me this summer:

  • Playing softball with Social Boston Sports – we started the season as a group of free agents, but now we’re “Loose Change,” the friendly, talented, and generally awesome softball players who hit the fields by the Charles every Sunday evening.  After the season ends in two weeks, we’re moving to another field to keep the fun going as a real team!
  • Biking for the first time in years.  just got my biked tuned up and practiced riding it up and down the street today, without worrying about what my neighbors might think about a 27-year-old going in loops like a kid.  Next up, taking it on the bike path (once my lights come in!).
  • Free boot camp and outdoor exercise at Post Office Square – this is the awesome free one that I want to see YOU at!  Sara and I went today and it was awesome – basically group training, if not personal training.  The downtown location is perfect for me, the 7:15 start time gives me time for breakfast and a shower before work, and the trainers are really nice.  Not near you?  How about one of these other awesome outdoor exercise classes throughout the city?  
  • Running!  Just because our half marathon is over is no excuse to stop running.  I have two 5ks coming up, including Color Me Rad in July.  I also got in a good sunset mile run around my neighborhood last week – when the sun stays out so long, I might as well join it!
  • Dancing the night away.  I think I got about a year’s worth of exercise at Katey and Sal’s wedding, between all the shimmying and shaking and grooving.  So much fun, and dancing just makes me want to dance more… more… more!  Let’s dance!

What are you doing to keep moving this summer?

Baby, we were born to run

This spring has been anchored in running.  Run because you’re strong.  Run because you want to feel better.  Run long because you’re sure as heck not running the Boston marathon.  Run in honor of those who were there that day.  Run in the cold.  Run on the bike path.  Run on the rail trail with mom on the weekend.  Run run run run run.

On Sunday, we finally had the run we were waiting for: my very first half marathon.

The start line at the Cox Providence Half Marathon was gray and overcast – we had lots of company at the 14:00 mile marker, including lots of cops in riot gear.  When the race finally started (late), we started out under cloudy skies.

Cox Start Line

But the next three hours got brighter and brighter, metaphorically speaking, as mom and I ran.  Even though the first half was entirely uphill, it was spotted with awesome sights (thanks, dude playing a banjo on the porch!), beautiful houses, our awesome family and fan club who we got to see SIX times between the start and the finish, some friendly competition with some other gals who were running at the same pace as us, and more.

It wasn’t always easy – the hills were killer, and the downhills made my knees ache even as I was grateful for a change.  We got super hungry halfway through (working out for hours can do that to you!) and it rained for a bit.

And yet.

Through the race, I felt stronger with every footfall that reverberated off the pavement.  With every inch behind us, we got closer to this amazing accomplishment.  The area by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s water stop was paved with inspirational posters that literally brought tears to my eyes – notes about how we run because they can’t, how we run because they can, how we run because they – survivors, patients, loved ones – once did.   Because of the 20+ names on my back that spoke to just how much blood cancer can touch a life.  And because 15 years ago this spring, I was a sick, bald kid in a hospital bed who wasn’t sure I would live to have my first kiss, and today I was a successful woman, running a stellar, challenging race.

When we passed mile 10, I took one step further than I’ve ever gone in my life.  And it got better – the final leg of the race course merged with the full marathon course, and we go an extra boost from finishing alongside some quite fast marathoners.

As we got near the finish, we could see the crowd ahead.  All up and down the sidewalk were fellow runners, family members, neighbors, friends, and students, all out to cheer us on.  Their cheers built into a roar of bells and applause and screeches to push us across the finish line.  You might have thought that the area around that yellow line would be a little less populated this time around, but you would be absolutely, delightfully, overwhelmingly wrong.  Instead, people showed the best of themselves, and passed it on to everyone else around them.

Mom and I crossed the finish line at 3:05:50 – much faster than we expected, with an average pace of 14:11 (including a bathroom break!).  We ran into the arms of our loving family – Kat, Dad, and Wes – and smiled through our sweat.  “We actually did it,” we said to each other, holding our weird anchor medals in our hands.  “We finished!”

Half marathon May 2013

This was my first half marathon, but it’s certainly not my last.  This confirmed the one thing that I was actually afraid of in this whole process – the concept that I can truly do anything.  And now, I have no excuse not to try.

Thank you for all your support this year – I can’t wait to tell you about the next adventure… just as soon as I decide what it is!

IMG_4321

The big finale – half marathon tomorrow!

After five months of training, our half marathon is tomorrow. As we near the finish line (literally), I wanted to share some amazing numbers with you:

259+ miles – that’s how far my mom and I have run since we started our training. We ran on ice, on treadmills while watching “Survivor” (me), on the beach, on the rail trail between meetings (mom), and together along the Charles River on Marathon Monday.
13:04 - that’s my fastest mile to date – I expect to finish the half at about a 14:30 pace, but it’s clear that we’ve gotten tons stronger since we started in January.
13.1 - that’s how many miles we have ahead of us in Providence.
10% - that’s the likelihood of rain during those miles, down from 50% earlier this week.
$7,000 - that’s the amount that YOU have helped us raise to help find a cure for blood cancers. It’s been incredible to have your support for this cause, and we’ll be thinking of all of you as we race on Sunday.
15 years – that’s how long it’s been since I was diagnosed with Leukemia. At this time 15 years ago, I was entering my third month of treatment. My hair was starting to fall out, and our family had lost all sense of normalcy.

But TOMORROW, just 15 years later, we’re going to write a new chapter by finishing the Cox Providence Half Marathon together – with our team, our support crew, and YOU.

Thanks again for all your support – it’s not too late to donate if you’ve been waiting for the right time! Every dollar gets us closer to a cure.

We’ll “see” you at the finish line!

Join me: Quiz for a Cure!

What’s better than helping cure blood cancers?

Curing blood cancers WHILE drinking beer WHILE playing pub trivia right in your own city!

Join me for a night of Geeks Who Drink Trivia to benefit my race for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Trivia is free, and for $5 a person you can win cash prizes and support my race for LLS.  It’s the perfect win-win-win-win all night long!

What: Trivia to benefit cancer research
Where: Hong Kong, Harvard Square
When: March 26 – trivia starts at 8:00, I recommend getting there by 7:45.  I’ll be there before then!
Questions? Leave me a comment here!

Hope to see you there!

PS: Want to know more about why I’m running in the first place?  Read more here!