Goodbye March Goals/Hello April Goals!

My March goals were pretty hit or miss (mostly miss). The only ones I succeeded at (and even came close to, for that matter) were completing the Whale Challenge, taking a running rest week, and swimming at my university's pool. I'm not even upset that I didn't hit all of them, because that last one was pretty big! I hadn't swam since I quit the YMCA in September and with tri season coming up, I really needed to start up again. Now I've gotten over the anxiety I had about going to a new pool and have gotten into a swimming routine, woohoo! And I was able to accomplish some big things that weren't on my list, like staying under budget for our Boston/NYC trip and acing all my midterms!

1. Go on one of our spring datesIt's starting to warm up and I am so excited to check at least one date off the list. I'm thinking this month will be best-suited for the farmer's market or walking tour. 

2. Plan my outfits for each week on Sundays. I just bought a ton of new, bright, fun, colorful spring clothes (yay!) but I'll be honest...the person I am when buying clothes is infinitely more fashionable than the person I am when I get dressed in the mornings. That person would rather wear a paper bag than spend 5 minutes trying to put together a decent outfit. Sometimes I get the urge to plan my outfit the night before, but this month I want to try spending 15 minutes or so every Sunday picking out outfits for the whole week. Maybe I'll get REALLY crazy and post some pictures of them...

3. Succeed at April Wallet Watch. I love a good spending challenge, and I love one where I can create my own rules even more! We have a specific amount that we try to save every month - some months are better than others, you know how it goes. I recently realized that if we can stay on track with the way we've been saving (or do even better), by the time I graduate in 2 years we will have paid for my college all out of pocket, have a 6-month "rainy day fund", and have ~6 months worth of rent saved for wherever we end up moving. Since I figured that out I'm extra motivated to make sure that happens!

My rules for April Wallet Watch:
1. Challenge lasts from April 1 - April 30.
2. Eating out and coffee not to exceed $150.
3. NO new clothes, shoes, or accessories. I can exchange some of the stuff I ordered that I need a different size in, but that's it. 
4. Running/triathlon expenses not to exceed $610 (I know that's a crazy amount of money, but shoes and signing up for 4-5 races adds up!)
5. No beauty product splurges. I can only buy what I need, and only if I absolutely need it. Total beauty products not to exceed $50.
6. Put at least $1000 into savings at the end of the month. 

4. Get fitted for new running shoes. I have been wearing the same style of shoe since I got fitted 2 years ago. With the hip issues I've been having and the embarrassing number of blisters on my toes, I am starting to wonder if it's time for a switch. This is an already-budgeted-for running expense (and I hope to find a pair cheaper than my max budget), so no problems there :)

5. Don't let my successes or failures be defined by anyone else's. This could really be applied to anything, but it's mainly about my fitness progress and goals. My tri buddies just signed up for a full Ironman in October, my dad ran 5 easy miles a week and a half after our marathon, other friends are hitting 10+ miles on their long runs...meanwhile my legs are still recovering and I'm struggling through 2-3 milers.  I don't know why it doesn't matter that I JUST ran TWO FULL MARATHONS but all I can think about is, "They can do more, why can't I?" It's really messed up, I know. And don't get me wrong, I am happy for them, but I want to join in their success and not feel like I'm cheering from the sidelines. This month I want to focus on doing me, whatever that means. It might even vary on a day-to-day basis, who knows. But the point is that I will not be defined by what I can or can't do, only by the effort I put in.

I don't have any specific fitness or home goals this month, and that's intentional. Sure, I have a spring cleaning checklist on my fridge, a training plan printed out, and races I want to run. But what's most important to me this month is not letting myself feel like a failure if I just don't get to them. If by the end of the month my house is still a wreck because I've been too busy studying, or if I haven't hit all my mileage because my body has other plans, then so be it. I like having goals so I have things to work toward - it makes me feel productive and helps me focus - but they're not the end all be all in life. There's too much to celebrate, no sense in sweating the small stuff.

Cheers to a new month!

Five on Friday

Yay we made it to Friday, everyone! I actually don't live for the weekend, but it definitely is a little bit nicer when it does roll around.

I know we have all been complaining about this winter weather that just won't seem to go away, but today it's supposed to get up to 70* and I think the cold weather might be gone for good after this. I'm feeling inspired about all the fun spring and summer things I want to do with my husband over the next few months. Here are five of them!

1. Go to our farmers market and make dinner with what we buy. We have one every Saturday in the warm months and it's small, but it's enough. We walk by it a lot but rarely ever stop or buy anything. I thought it would be fun to make it into a day date.

2. Go to a baseball game. We have a local Triple-A team and try to hit up at least a couple games. Or who knows, maybe we'll get a little crazy and make a mini trip to DC or Baltimore for a real baseball game. Only problem then would be deciding whose team to go see. Road trip, anyone?

3. Beach dates! Is there anything better than spending a day soaking up rays and listening to waves crash? I think not.

4. Go on a walking tour of our city. We live in the historic district of our city and there is a great self-guided walking tour that we've never done in the 4 years we've lived here. I see the plaques all the time but never stop to read them. We even lived in a building on the tour for a year!

5. Tour a local winery. This is on my 30 Before 30 list. How fun would it be to check it off this spring/summer?!

I can't wait to actually start doing some of these things!

What Now?

Three months into 2014 and I've already run 4 races, including 2 marathons and 1 back-to-back race challenge. Whew! If that sounds like a lot, it's because it is. And while I'm super proud and happy about the fact that I've done so much already, I'm currently dealing with a question I think every runner asks after a big race: What now?

I didn't have to deal with this after the Charleston Marathon, because I knew the answer: spend the next weeks training for the Shamrock Marathon. It seemed like such a good plan at the time, but it was harder to turn around and train for another long distance race than I thought it would be. The closer I got to Shamrock, the harder the runs got. Running didn't get any easier on race day. I took 8 full days off from running after the race, something that is unheard of in my world. I started running again this week, with a couple 2-3 milers, and they didn't feel great. I've developed some discomfort/pain on the outside of my knee and along the outside of my thigh and hip (which I suspect is IT band related). Real talk: I haven't had a good run in a month.

Going in to this year, I planned for my next big goal race to be a half Ironman in June, 11 1/2 weeks away. I also hoped to complete a half marathon in May,  5 1/2 weeks away, as prep for that and because it's a really fun race. My heart and my mind are on board, but my body is a different story. On one hand, I know I can probably push through even though my runs are feeling less than perfect. The question is: should I?

Why is that such a hard question to answer? That's the thing I really can't figure out. Running has been such a positive part of my life, but in some ways, it can be really ugly. The part of me that will run through injury, stress over missing a run, feel like a failure if I don't achieve my goals...that part is really unhealthy. I know that, yet I can't turn it off. I don't know how to tell that voice to be quiet. I've learned a lot in the (almost) 3 years I've been a runner, but I haven't learned how to manage this obsession in a healthy way. I haven't learned how to balance my brain's need to run and race with my body's need to sometimes follow a schedule that's different from the one I have written down on paper.

So, I don't know what's next. The way I see it, I have 3 options: train for and complete the half marathon and half Ironman as planned; skip the half marathon but complete the half Ironman; take however much time off I need, skip the long distances, race shorter distance (longest run distance would be 10k), and save the long distance tri for next year.  I have no idea which is the correct path to take. I want to do these races, but I also want to feel strong doing them. I have so many things I want to accomplish, but why do I feel the need to do it all right now? How can I learn to balance everything? Will I ever learn?!

I think I just need a good run...that always makes me feel better and see everything clearer!

It's Wednesday!

+ I have been a beast in the workout department this week. I'm easing back into running after the marathon but I'm pushing full steam ahead with the biking and swimming. Tri season is upon us and that means two-a-days! Monday I did tough workout on the bike trainer then a back/biceps workout. Tuesday I swam and then ran (2 piddly miles but still). And today is my first brick workout in ages: an hour on the trainer then straight into a 3 mile run. Now I remember I was in such great shape last summer...

+ More workouts means less frequent washing of my hair (because what is the point if it's just going to get dirty again later?). It currently smells like chlorine. I don't even care.

+ I'm going to the mall with my mom tonight and hope to convince her to buy me dinner. If scamming parents out of meals is wrong, I don't want to be right. 

+ It makes me really sad that Michael Kors has become a "thing." Like when high schoolers took over Coach a few years ago. I didn't realize it until my friend told me her theory about it and now I see them everyone on everybody and their mama.

+ I'm kind of a handbag snob.

+ I'm totally embarrassed to revisit my March goals in a few days. Some serious fails going on over here...

+ I am refusing to go to a concert with Ben next month. I don't think this has happened in the history of ever (concerts are our jam) but the next one I go to will be my 100th and I don't want to waste it on a band I just sort of like.

+ I'm obsessed with this song. Actually I'm really just obsessed with Nate Ruess's voice. Ben got me into The Format in college and I have loved everything Nate has done ever since (sadly, B and I totally disagree on Fun.)

Got something to share? Link up with Kathy @ Vodka and Soda!

Weekend Things

Some things that were super about this weekend:

+ Date night on Friday night! On a whim we decided to go to our fave Mexican restaurant (complete with jumbo margaritas for both of us) for dinner and dessert/drinks at another one of our favorite places. Conveniently they are both located within 2 blocks of each other and our house!

+ Movie watching! Her Friday night/Saturday morning and Kill Your Darlings. Both were quite good. Her was especially excellent.

+ Amazing spring weather! At one point when I got in my car on Saturday it told me it was 82* outside. I don't know if I believe that, but I do know it felt sooo nice outside.

+ Tri season kicking off! Saturday my dad and I went on our first outdoor ride in 4+ months. We did 16.5 miles at 18mph. Bonus: I had forgotten about the new top I got for Christmas, score! On Sunday I swam for first time since the OBX Olympic tri in September! I swam at my university's pool for the first time after putting it off (because I'm a socially awkward penguin) for months. And I found out that, if my Garmin weren't already cool enough, it also works in the pool.

+ Unexpected money! Enough to cover my race fees for the next few months and some gear I'm currently coveting.

+ Spring cleaning! Ben even joined in on the action. Actually, I think he did more cleaning than I did this weekend. So that makes another super thing :)

+ My sister-in-law gave us this adorable framed photo of the 4 of us in Central Park from our recent NYC trip. Isn't she the sweetest?!

Annnd now after all that awesome we're back to rainy, 30* weather yet AGAIN, but I think this will be our last cold snap. Let's hope so!

Runners Tell All Linkup: Running Gear

It's time for another round of the Runners Tell All Linkup with Amanda @ The Lady Okie and Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch!
A lot of people are drawn to running because of its simplistic nature: all you need is a pair of shoes and and open road and you're ready to go!

Unless you're me, and a simple pair of shoes just isn't going to cut it. Here are some of my running faves and must-haves:

1. A good pair of shoes
Sensing a pattern? Nike running shoes seem to be pretty polarizing in the running community, but I've been on the Nike train for a couple years now. After trying a minimalist shoe and getting pretty bad shin splints, I went to my local running store for something with more support. I tried on a few and left with a new pair of hot pink and neon yellow Nike Zoom Elite 5's. I have now upgraded my short-mid distance shoes to the Elite 6's (the sherbert-looking ones, thanks Running Warehouse sale!) and for long distance I'm now on my 3rd pair of the Vomero+ 7's (which were discontinued during my marathon training, leaving me frantically scavenging the internet for days before finally finding a pair in my size).
And an honorable mention goes to my Newton Gravity's! As if these blinding colors weren't fun enough, these shoes are super speedy! Newtons are made with lugs on the bottom of the front part of the shoes to encourage proper running form. They kind of make you feel like you're running on the balls of your feet until you get used to them. They are great for short to mid-distances and are my go-to triathlon shoes. 

I am so intrigued by these and dying to try them out! My local running store is have a test run this Saturday, so I may go to that. If I can find $160 in my budget for them before then, that is...because I know if I go, I probably won't want to leave without them!

2. Garmin Forerunner 220

This thing is the bees-knees (and I would be a liar if I said the fact that it's beautiful purple had nothing to do with my purchase). I had a Nike+ Sportwatch that crapped out on me after 6 months, and when its replacement crapped out after another 6 months, I made the switch to Garmin and haven't looked back. I got the 220 a couple months after it came out and I've been so impressed with it. Not only does it sync up effortlessly and track distance accurately, it has so many features, half of which I'm sure I don't even know about. The screens are totally customizable - I set the one I leave it on to show me total distance, average pace, and total time. I can easily switch to the second screen which shows lap distance (which I set to be 1 mile), lap time, and lap pace. I thought that was SO convenient for intervals, until I learned that there is a whole setting FOR intervals. You can tell it exactly what you want your intervals to be, based on time or distance, and it will keep track of them and show you your pace and distance and all that good stuff during each one. Garmin also has an iPhone app that connects to my phone via Blutooth (since I always carry it with me, safety first people!). The app sends my husband (or whoever I want) a link so he can track me while I run, and when I'm finished, my stats from my run are already uploaded from my watch to the app and the GarminConnect website before I even finish walking upstairs to my apartment. Let me stop geeking out about a WATCH now...

3. Sweaty Bands
Who wants to be running along at a good clip and have hair flying in their face?! I don't. Enter Sweaty Bands. I know there are like a million versions of these things but this was the first brand I tried, and their headbands are cute, so I'm sold. I have about 5 I think (I got one randomly for free in one of my orders, not sure if that was supposed to happen or not but I'll take it!) and never run without one. I'll take one of each, please.

4. Cute but functional outfits. Now that we are officially in the spring season it's time to start swapping out the long sleeves and tights for shorts and tanks! Honestly, I have pretty much stopped buying shirts to run in because of the massive number I've collected from doing races. Sometimes I just can't resist, though, and when it's really hot, I prefer tanks to tees. As for bottoms, I like the swishy shorts (yes that's their technical name) over the skin-tight ones (I've never had a pair that didn't ride up and expose my bare ass, not a good look and not comfortable either). If I were about to make a Running Warehouse haul, this is what I would get (and since sharing is caring: you can get 10% off your order with the code "runblog10").

Spring running gear

1. This adidas Women's Run Tank is so cute! If you put anything running-related words or phrases on clothing, there is a good chance I will probably definitely buy it.
2. I have a few pair of bright colored shorts but I ripped my only black pair (i.e. the most versatile) last year and am in the market for a new pair. These are the Moving Comfort Women's Momentum Short and if they're anything like the pair I have, they're unbelievably comfortable!
3. adidas Women's Supernova Graphic Tank
4. Oiselle Women's Mac Roga Short Black & Indigo. Oiselle is a company I have been hearing a lot of buzz about lately. Their stuff is so cute and from what I can tell is really comfortable and made well.
5. Asics Women's Emma Racerback Bengal Print
6. Nike Womens Printed 2" SW Rival Short. I haven't tried this cut of Nike shorts but the pattern (it's hard to see but there are alternating black and dark gray triangles) is a fun way to spice up an otherwise boring pair of black shorts!

 Now to get these tired legs recovered from 2 marathons so I can put this stuff to good use!

10 Things (About Myself) I'm Thankful For

Linking up again today with Katie Elizabeth, Carly Blogs Here, MakeMeUpMia, and The Strong Family for Thankful Thursday!

I'm using this as an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon that some other bloggers have been on the last week or so, and share a list of 10 things - about myself- that I'm thankful for. I don't know about you, but sometimes it's nice to toot my own horn or give myself a pat on the back. Maybe it will come across as braggy, but I don't even care. I'm truly grateful that I was blessed with these traits. I think we can all benefit from celebrating the things we like about ourselves!

1. I'm punctual. If I'm not early, I'm late. I get this from my dad, and while it was super annoying growing up, I love having this attitude as an adult.

2. I'm a good speller. I always have been. I have a photographic memory and a background/interest in languages, so this comes naturally to me.

3. I don't half-ass things. If I decide to do something, I commit to it 100%.

4. I'm good at managing my time. Time is precious. Sometimes it seems just aren't enough hours in the day. Fortunately, I'm really good at scheduling my time and sometimes multi-tasking to make sure I get in everything I need to.

5. I don't give up. Even when things suck, even when I might want to give up, I don't. I keep pushing ahead. I know that somehow, some way, I'll always get to where I'm going.

6. I don't back down from a challenge. If you ask me to join you in something, I'll probably do it. Provided I have a reasonable shot at being successful at it. I'm fearless, not stupid ;)

7. I love to work out. I count my blessings that my motivation to work out has never come from a negative place. It has always been a positive thing for me. I got addicted to it because I love the feeling I get from pushing myself to do new things, and proving to myself what I'm capable of. Also, runner's high is a real thing!

8. I have seriously good taste in music. I'm that annoying music snob who likes bands you've never heard of. Sorry I'm not sorry.

9. I'm vegetarian. I've been an animal lover all my life and don't know why I didn't make the connection between that and my food sooner (it will be 3 years this summer). Even though I'm not vegan (I still eat eggs and dairy), I am proud to have taken a big step in the direction of living cruelty-free.

10. I don't judge views or beliefs that differ from my own. The veg thing is a perfect example. While I believe this is the right thing for me, I don't judge you if you don't agree. Even if you eat steak with a side of bacon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I truly believe everyone has the right to his or her own opinion (though I also believe in not forcing or imposing your beliefs on others).

Anything you're diggin' about yourself lately? Tell me all about it! I want to know what makes you awesome!

I Quit.

That quote is one of my favorites. I wholeheartedly believe in it. If you don't like something about your life, only you can fix it! No one else is going to do it for you. It might not happen overnight. It might take weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime, but you do have the power to make a change and go in a different direction.

To make the change might have to quit something else, close a door, abandon the road you're on. I don't generally advocate quitting, but if you're doing it so you can make progress to something better, then I support it 100%. I'm linking up with Kathy @ Vodka and Soda to share this Humpday Confession with you: I quit.

I quit my job. I'm not talking about the job I had in college working at a car wash for a month. No, I didn't just quit a job, I quit a career. A career I spent 4 years of college working toward, one that I had to get a Bachelors, Masters, and license for. One that gave me summers off, for crying out loud. And despite all of that, I quit.

I make reference to school sometimes on the blog, but it's not something I've talked a lot about. Yes, I am currently in school, but for the last 3 years of my life, I taught school. So why did I quit? (in no particular order)

  • I hated having to be "on" all the time. I'm a true introvert so for me, teaching felt like a performance to me. Yes, I was myself, but I was a version of myself that only existed in the classroom. I didn't feel like I was a real person, but more of a performer who also had to come up with a new script every single day, memorize it, act it out, and direct it all at the same time. It was exhausting. And you know how sometimes you're just so frustrated and you just need a minute to get it together?! Doesn't happen when you're standing at the front of a classroom. There are no breaks, no time-outs. It didn't fit my personality and most days, I left feeling emotionally drained.
  • It didn't challenge me. Being in charge of 20 teenagers' every move for 90 minutes at a time is certainly challenging, just not in the way I need to be challenged. After I started teaching, I realized that I need to learn things at my job, and have problems to solve. With teaching, most of my day was spent teaching people things I already knew. It was fun at first but seeing as that was going to be the only thing I ever did, on a loop, forever, I knew it wouldn't last. 
  • The pay. I'm not ashamed to admit that. I know I shouldn't measure my worth by how much someone pays me (especially since right now I don't get paid anything, ha!), but seeing my husband bring home paychecks that were double what mine were really stung. It wasn't so much the numbers themselves but the principle of it. He's a super smart, hard-working guy, but he's not twice as smart and hard-working as I am!
  • The negativity. I know this probably exists at every job, except maybe if your job is literally staring at puppies all day (where do I sign up?), but it was rampant. I guess underpaying people, putting them in charge of unruly teenagers, and then not giving them raises or any other show of appreciation for their work will do that. But seriously, if you've never spent any time in a teacher workroom, don't start now. The worst part? Every single day, everyone complained about the exact. same. things. as the day before. It was an endless cycle. Maybe it would have been different at another school, but ultimately I knew that wasn't going to be the solution to how I felt at work.
Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking.

But it's not like that. And before we go any further, I also have to confess that there were things I loved about teaching. For all of the things that I didn't like about it, there were definitely plenty of things I did like. I had some wonderful co-workers, some amazing students, and a lot of my days were just fine. 

But that was just it: it was fine. I didn't hate going to work (not any more often than most people anyway), but I didn't love it either. By 2 years in, I realized that that was not going to change, and that I didn't want to spend another 30 years either feeling complacent or slowly becoming more and more miserable like my co-workers. 

Ben and I started the conversation about me quitting before the end of my 2nd year. Shortly into my 3rd year it became an actual, real conversation. Halfway through that year, I had been accepted into 2 engineering schools and had submitted my letter of resignation, effective at the end of that school year.

So there you have it, my big confession for the day: I'm a quitter! And I regret nothing.  

Shamrock Weekend Recap: Yuengling Marathon

Shamrock weekend is over! I completed the Whale Challenge and am now a 2 x marathoner!

I wish I had a happy race report to give but truthfully, this was a hard fought battle. It just wasn't my day. This recap isn't meant to be negative, but I'm putting the facts out there and the fact is I didn't feel so hot for a lot of different reasons. But before I go selling myself short, you should know that a lot of awesome things happened, best of all my dad and I crossed the finish line of his first marathon hand in hand! Two years ago he ran my first half with me and I loved repaying that favor at his first full (even though he could have left me in the dust 10 times over).

The first half of the race took us south, away from the main oceanfront area. From what I understand, it was the same as the Rock n Roll half marathon course, but I have never run that because it's always Labor Day weekend, and to running long distance in the brutal heat I say, "Lol, no thank you." We turned around right before Mile 6 to start heading back north (which is the direction we went for the next roughly 16 miles). This part was pretty uneventful, aside from running through Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base. There were a few spots where Marines were out cheering us on, but one right before Mile 8 was particularly amazing. There must have been 20 or 30 Marines lined up giving us high fives. It seemed never-ending! It was so fun and such a boost! 

The next few miles were also uneventful around Mile 11 when we made it onto the Boardwalk - and started running directly into a strong wind (this continued until Mile 16, for the record). Bad times. I got to the halfway point and all I could think about was how I didn't want to do run anymore. I didn't want to quit, I just wanted to be done.

At 16 we finally made it out of the wind for a little while. A little after Mile 18 I saw my friend and personal race photographer. After he took my picture he ran to meet the rest of my peeps. When he got to them I saw a group of people but couldn't make out exactly who was there. I knew my mom and husband would be there but from the distance I was able to make out my brother-in-law (thanks to his red jacket!) and was SO surprised that he and my sister-in-law had come out. Even though we just saw them on our trip last week, I was so excited to see them!

After what felt like an eternity on Shore Drive, we finally got to Fort Story around Mile 19. By this point my stomach, which had been bothering me all day, was cramping up pretty badly. I kept trying to tell myself, "Only 7 more many times have you run 7 miles?" and repeat for the next couple mile markers. It didn't work. I did a lot of walking through this part. Every time I started to run for more than a few minutes, the stitch in my side would get worse. I tried to stretch it out, breathe it out, etc. but nothing was really working. It was also around this time that I had developed the biggest blister ever on the bottom of my foot at the base of my big toe (that piece of skin is currently split open and burns if anything touches it, like shoes or the floor - you're welcome for that TMI!). Oh and the wind came back to greet us too, right in our faces! Needless to say, Fort Story also felt like an eternity. At one point I actually said, "All I want to do is keep walking and drink Gatorade." Oh but I did get a half banana that must have been laced with crack because that was seriously the best banana I've ever had. So at least there was that.

Once we got out of Fort Story after Mile 22, we had the wind at our backs for the rest of the way. I had told my dad and his friend several times that they were free to leave my struggling self behind, and they finally did sometime during Mile 23. I watched them get further and further away until I couldn't really see them anymore, and then I panicked at the thought of not being with my dad as he finished his first marathon. I decided then and there that I needed to start RUNNING - not jogging, not bouncy walking, straight up running. I gave it everything I had and after about a half mile I finally caught up to him. We had a couple miles left and we ran, walked, ran, walked, ran, get the picture.

With less than a mile to go I tried to pull it together, and I was finally able to with about half a mile left. Before I knew it we were turning onto the boardwalk, and the finish line was in sight. As much as I don't care for the Shamrock course, there is something about making that last turn onto the Boardwalk, seeing the ocean, the spectators cheering, the statue of King Neptune, and the finish line ahead, that makes everything up to that point just vanish. I really didn't have much left in the tank at that point so it was slow and steady. When we saw my photog friend less than .2 to the end, I grabbed my dad's hand and we ran it in and crossed the finish line hand-in-hand! We finished in 4:56:58 (11:20 pace), which was only 7 minutes 59 seconds under my first marathon time (11:01 pace - it felt like MUCH more than 8 minutes of extra suffering). He was so excited to have finished, and even though I felt so bad for making him totally miss his 4:45 goal, we did finish in under 5 hours which has always been the time he's said he wanted to beat.

There is a whole series of these photos at the end, I can't decide which one I like best (because I love them all), but I think it's this one. Maybe you can't really tell, but that's my dad going, "YES! I did it!" and me tearing up. YOU GUYS!!! My dad has always been a better runner than me but I know he never really knew if this moment was in his future. My plan all along was for him to run the Charleston Marathon with my as both of our first, but he tore his Achilles last June and was out of the running game until November. That was 4 months ago!

The race itself was not rainbows and butterflies and unicorns, but did I really expect it to be? It was a humbling experience, for sure. There were tears, lots of tears, not like full-on crying tears, but tears nonetheless. There were not enough positive mantras in the world to get me through some of those miles, and I'm full of them, trust me! I don't know if running the race Saturday had anything to do with how I felt (I really don't think so but obviously I can't be sure), but either way I'm still glad I did it. I'm glad I pushed myself and challenged myself. My first marathon was an amazing experience, and it was a challenge in the way that running a marathon is a challenge, but I never really pushed myself out of my comfort zone at that race. With the faster-than-I-would-have-liked pace we started out at, the brutal wind, and the boring course, I was WAY out of my comfort zone during Shamrock. I found out where my physical and mental limits were. Humbled is the best word I can think of to describe it. The marathon put up a good fight, but in the end, I crossed the finish line. I won.

Some final thoughts....
  • On the race: This was my 3rd straight year participating in Shamrock Weekend and I love everything about it - except the courses. This was my 3rd time running the half course (since I've done the half twice and the 2nd half of the marathon course IS the half course), and I have hated it every time. There is nothing to look at. It's boring. Maybe if I didn't live here or hadn't run a million races at the Oceanfront I'd feel differently, I don't know. But I do know that I've run 5 different half marathon courses and this one is my least favorite and most mentally challenging, because it's just not that interesting. The first half of the marathon course wasn't much better. I knew that going into this, and that's one of the big reasons I didn't choose to do Shamrock as my first marathon. I've also never run this race in nice weather, and the last 2 years have been pretty miserable (wind is not my friend). 
  • On the Whale Challenge: I love that this was offered. Since it was, obviously I had to do it since I'm an over-achiever like that, but I wouldn't have been sad if it weren't an option. This was the first time I'd ever run 2 races back-to-back, or even run the day before running long distance. I have no idea if the 8k contributed to my struggle in the marathon, but there's obviously the possibility that it did. I really wanted to complete a back-to-back race challenge, though, even though I intended the second race to be a half marathon, not full. I'm glad I did it, that I pushed myself to my limit and succeeded. And that I got to walk around after the race feeling like a boss with my two medals clankity-clank-clanking together.
  • On running two marathons in (just under) 2 months: My first marathon was January 18, second was March 16. That's 8 weeks and 1 day in between them - in other words, not a lot of time! I can't say that I 100% recommend doing this. I'm proud to be able to say that I did it, but it was harder than I thought it would be. I did it because my dad wanted to run it, and because I wanted to run a second marathon at some point this year. My idea was that I had already put in the hard training, and if I waited to do a second one in the fall, I'd have to go through the whole training cycle again. It seemed like a good idea to bank on the training I'd already done and the momentum I'd built up, but it definitely put a lot of pressure on me to have to turn around after Charleston and get ready for Shamrock. I know I didn't allow myself enough recovery time after the first one. Nothing was wrong and nothing hurt, but I struggled more than usual. I was more tired than usual. The actual pains came a few weeks before race day and I started to wonder if I had simply run out of gas. I played it cool for a couple weeks and was able to complete the marathon without any sign of injury. But if you've made it this far, you know that the race was no picnic. I didn't feel like I had trained enough, or maybe it was just the opposite - maybe I was overtrained. I wouldn't change what I did, but I don't think I'll run 2 marathons this close together again. 
  • On my future plans: First and foremost, I am taking some actual rest and recovery time this time. I plan to spend this week completely resting, with maybe some yoga thrown in to stretch out these tired legs, but nothing crazy. Depending on how I feel, next week may be more of the same, or maybe a little bit of running, biking, and/or swimming (which, aside from the fact that I can't really move, sounds so amazing right now). Whatever I do, it will be because I want to do it, not because I feel like I have to do it. I've been a slave to a training plan since last June. I had planned to tackle my first Half Ironman triathlon in June and do some races in April and May to get ready, but I'm just not sure at this point if I'm ready to jump into another training plan. I don't really know what my goals are moving forward, and I know that's okay. I don't have to decide right now, today. It just feels weird knowing I've been chugging along on the training train for so long. I don't do well without a plan, so it won't be long before I pick up another one. I just don't know yet what the end goal of that plan will be. I have a lot of options and am excited to see what the future holds but for now...I plan to enjoy my recovery time!

Weekend Recap

Happy Monday and Happy St. Patrick's Day, friends! Is it sad that I didn't even realize today was St. Patrick's Day? I basically spent all weekend celebrating (but not the way most people do) so I didn't even realize it wasn't actually here yet, haha! But luckily there is some green on my shirt and I have green glittery nails (and leftover green sharpie on my hands, so classy), so it's all good.

So what did I do to celebrate if I didn't spend the weekend drinking copious amounts of green beer? I ran a total of 31.17 miles over 2 days, of course (but don't worry, there was beer involved)! I was never really into celebrating this holiday anyway, and for the past few years, the Shamrock 8k, Half Marathon, and Marathon has consumed my life for this weekend.

On Friday I went to the expo to pick up my packet and then went out to dinner with my family (actual family + running family). I was in bed by 10 because I had a race to run the next morning!

I spent Saturday morning running an 8k, the first leg of the Shamrock Whale Challenge. It was a fun race but it felt like I blinked and it was over! I spent the rest of the day lounging and resting for my big day on Sunday!

Sunday morning I was up early again and headed to my second marathon! I am working on a recap but let's just say, it was a humbling experience. That's the only word I keep coming back to to describe it. It was a struggle fest but I pushed through, persevered, finished the Whale Challenge and got to finish my dad's first marathon with him, hand-in-hand. All the sucky memories from yesterday will fade, but that's a moment I will remember forever. It truly doesn't get much better than that.  

Sadly today it's back to reality after a week off from school, filled with all sorts of memories from amazing places and amazing events with amazing people. As if being back to the grind wasn't tough enough, the brief spring weather we had this weekend is gone again. This is what it looked like when I got to school today:

If you just said, "Yuck!" then ding ding ding, we have a winner! Whenever you're ready Spring, whenever you're ready...

Shamrock Weekend Recap: Expo and TowneBank 8k

Shamrock Weekend is underway!

Last night I went to the expo with my parents and another guy who is running with my dad and me. Since I had two races to run, I had two bibs to pick up, and I went to the marathon table first since there was no line. The guy working the table handed it to me (the challenge bibs are different than the regular marathon bibs, that way the volunteers at the end know to give me an extra medal) and said, "You must have done this running thing before." Ha! After getting all of our stuff we wandered around the expo for a bit. My sweet mom bought me some charms for my shoes and 2 new shirts, one for each race!

The best thing that happened though? I saw one of my former students, and talking to her for a few minutes made my day! We had talked about running a little when I had her in class and I was happy to see that she is sticking with it. She also ran the 8k today! She saw me first at the expo and came up to me to say hi and tell me how much she and my other students miss me, how sweet is that?! They like their teacher now but she said she's excited to get to the next level because she'll get to use all of my materials again (I made all of my materials on my own so knowing that the students like and appreciate them is a big deal). 

We went to dinner afterward and honestly, I was feeling pumped! Shamrock is such a huge event and it is put on so well that it would be really hard not to get excited. 

When I woke up this morning, that excitement had faded away. I wasn't dreading it, but I was a little intimidated by the number of miles I had to go this weekend. Getting to the race was fine, except that I had 3 bad omens right before I started: 1) my Garmin took forever to sync up (I didn't think it was going to at all) and then the signal kept going out, 2) I hit shuffle on my playlist and the first song that came up was "All Downhill From Here" by New Found Glory, which is a great song BUT I didn't exactly want things to go downhill right from the start, so I changed songs just in case, 3) as my corral was about to leave, the DJ started playing "Wake Me Up" by Avicii. I would almost rather take a needle to my eardrums than listen to that song, I hate it so much. 
But, bad omens aside, the race went about as well as I could have expected. It was pretty uneventful. The weather was perfect and running down the boardwalk, the ocean was just beautiful! My quad bothered me last night and this morning, but not during the race (it only hurts after I've been sitting for a while, but the longer I walk/run on it the less it hurts until it goes away). Every other part of my legs seemed to nag me at some point or another, but I think that's just because I haven't run much the past couple weeks and my body is like, "Oh...this? Again?" It took me a couple miles to warm up but after that I felt better and better. I didn't break any records, but that was the point. I ran the first 2 miles at 10:22 average pace, and I would be lying if I said that felt ridiculously easy. I picked up some speed after that but kept reminding myself to take it easy. I probably should have run even slower than that, but if I'm being 100% honest, I was kind of trying to pass someone I knew, haha. By the end I felt great and ran the last mile at 9:37! I finished feeling confident and strong.

I did a lot of thinking during this race. I had never run it before but I had spectated it once, 2 years ago. It was the day before my very first half marathon and I was a Nervous Nelly! I thought back to that moment and how I thought the half I was about to run was going to be a one-and-done deal. Running a marathon never even crossed my mind, and I never imagined I'd be back 2 years later with one full under my belt, running then 8k AND the full the next day. I say this not to (completely) toot my own horn, but because honestly the fact that I am here is astounding to me. Running Shamrock 2 years ago completely changed my life. I can't wait to go out tomorrow and prove just what I'm capable of. And I can't wait to look back on this weekend in another 2 years - I can't even imagine what I will have done by then. Seriously people, there's nothing you can't do. The sky is the limit! 

Shamrock On

I'm running an 8k tomorrow morning and my second full marathon in as many months the following morning. That's 31.17 miles over 2 days, for those of you keeping score at home. Some feelings I've had over the last week about this are: apathetic; uninterested; unprepared. Anxious didn't even make the list because that would require me to actually feel something and the truth is, I haven't.

I have a few reasons for this, not the least of which is a nagging pain (at worst)/uncomfortable feeling (at best) working its way up and down the inner top of my left thigh. I cut a few runs short and skipped a couple altogether. I took complete rest days. It didn't help. In the last 2 weeks, my longest run was 8 miles. Lately, getting through 3 miles has been a serious struggle. It's not usually painful, so I don't really think I'm injured or at risk of injury. It's just that I'm not into it. That shouldn't really be a surprise considering I've been training literally non-stop for the last 9 months. I should have taken a break after my marathon in January, but I didn't want to lose momentum. I wanted to run a second marathon. I wanted to run my dad's first marathon with him. I wanted to complete the Shamrock Whale Challenge. Basically, I wanted to be a badass.

I don't feel ready, mentally or physically, for the task I've placed on myself this weekend. Maybe it's that my legs don't feel 100%, maybe it's that I've been out of town, maybe it's that my dad (who is usually my biggest cheerleader) isn't being very supportive of me also running the 8k. Maybe it's that I haven't had a good run since my 20-miler 3 weeks ago. I just don't feel like I'd hope to feel on the eve of a race. I can't change the physical part at this point, but I can change the mental part. As race day is now imminent, it dawned on me that I've been thinking about this race all wrong. I've been looking at it as just another race when really, it is and always will be something really special for me.

I participated in Shamrock weekend for the first time in 2012. A few months prior I had managed to snag a spot in the half marathon hours before it sold out. With the knowledge that my longest run ever up to that point was only seven miles, I nervously clicked "Register."  I found a training plan online and even though I told myself I was fully committed, I wasn't. I gave it a good enough effort, but not 100% like I should have. When race day came, I spent 2 hours 42 minutes and 21 seconds learning the true meaning of the words defeat and victory. I wasn't as prepared as I could have been. The race was not rainbows and butterflies. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life. I almost gave up on myself halfway through. But I didn't give up. I became a half-marathoner that day, despite never fully believing I could or would ever be one. To this day, it stands as the proudest day of my life (even above finishing the marathon).

In 2013, I was determined not to repeat the mistakes of the previous year. I followed a training plan to a T, I got really comfortable with running 10+ miles, and I knew I was going to crush it on race day. I gave it everything I had until I ran smack into "the wall" at Mile 12. I stopped to walk. I looked at my watch. I saw the time goal I had worked so hard for, the one that at the beginning of my training cycle was my super reach goal, and now was a mere 10 minutes away from being reality, start to slip away. I had a few spurts of gathering as much strength as I could muster, but I couldn't sustain it for long. The seconds kept ticking by. I got to a "Now or Never" moment and had to make a decision - if I still wanted that goal, I had to run RIGHT NOW and not stop until I crossed the finish line. So that's what I did. The goal time was 2:10, and even though I was technically 14 seconds over that, I counted it as a victory because I knew I really gave everything I had.

Going into the 2014 race, I had forgotten what Shamrock was really about for me. Am I crazy for attempting another marathon, let alone this challenge, 2 months after my first marathon? Yes. Most likely. Probably. Was I crazy to run a half marathon in 2012, when a year prior I couldn't even run a quarter mile, when on my best day I could maybe run an 11:30 mile? I sure thought so then. Was I crazy in 2013 to attempt to take over 30 minutes off my time from the previous year? When I toed the line on race day, a voice in the back of my head told me I was.

Running has always been a struggle for me. It has always been about pushing, just a little bit more, then a little more, then a little more. Can I make it to the end of this block, can I run another mile even though I'm already past my distance PR, can I hold this 8:00 pace for just a couple more minutes to finish this interval? The answer has always been yes. Looking back, Shamrock has always been the race that defines that spirit and what running really means to me. This race has always been about challenging myself, pushing myself to do things that I never thought possible. I don't know why I thought this year would be any different. I'm taking all my months of training and a will to succeed with me on race days (both of them!). Nothing left to it but to do it! Shamrock on!

Thankful Thursday: NYC Edition

First things first, the ever-so-sweet Katie Elizabeth asked me to join in on her Thankful Thursday link-up, so today I am recapping the NYC portion of our trip and talking about some of the things about the trip that I am most thankful for!

  • When we left off yesterday, I was leaving Boston and heading for my other love, NYC. 
  • We took the train which, as it turns out, is an awesome form of transportation and not anxiety-inducing whatsoever (a big deal for me).
  • Straight off the train we headed to Hell's Kitchen because we had tickets to see that day's taping of The Daily Show!!! It involved standing in line for over an hour to actually get physical tickets, and then another hour or more to get in to the studio (we walked to Columbus Circle/Central Park in between), but it was worth it! The show was hilarious and it was super fun seeing it live.
  • When we got out of the taping we went to Chelsea Market for dinner and dessert. Ben and I shared the greatest cupcake of all time.

  • Next we went over to Brooklyn for a little bit to see a family friend. He owns a dinner movie theater in Williamsburg with a bar/lounge in front, so he showed us around the theater a bit and then we enjoyed some beverages before calling it a night!
  • Thankful for: family to enjoy fun things with, delicious food, and the subway system in NYC
  • Ben and I headed uptown so I could go for a run in Central Park! I only ran 3 miles and my pace was abysmal due to stopping to take pictures or walk up stairs, but it was so fun. And my leg really didn't hurt a lot, so that was nice too.
  • After my run we went to lunch at yet another Chinese place and then walked the High Line from beginning to end. 
  • Vicki and Paul had plans for the evening so we split up and Ben and I went to the 9/11 Memorial. I have to say, I don't get emotional a lot, but I felt instantly overwhelmed upon walking up to the first pool and see the names engraved there. It was very heavy and somber, but I'm glad we went. 
  • Next we walked over to Wall Street and saw the New York Stock Exchange before heading back to the hotel to regroup. We were exhausted! We walked to a pizza place around the corner from our hotel for dinner, and then went back to the room and watched the finale of True Detective. 
  • Thankful for: life, health, and hotel HBO. 
And that's where things wrap up! We had planned to go back to Boston yesterday to spend one more day there and catch a flight home on Thursday morning, but the weather looked like it wasn't going to cooperate, and we took the train home from NYC instead. I already can't wait to go back!

Today I'm thankful for: seeing my sweet furbabies again after 5 days away and the desperately-needed cut and color I am getting tonight (inspired by my ratty-looking hair in these vacation photos).

Brain & Photo Dump: Boston Edition!

It's been quiet around here lately because I've been busy spending time in my two favorite cities and plotting how I can move to one of them immediately...

Our trip began last weekend....

  • I think I deserve a cookie or a medal or some sort of prize for making it through the whole 90-minute flight. Disclaimer: I had some help from my friend Xanax.
  • Four giant zits appeared on my face out of nowhere on the first day of the trip. Of course they did, right?
  • First order of business in Boston: find some grub. We actually ended up going over to Cambridge per a friend's suggestion for Chinese and then to grab a beer.

  • While in Cambridge we also went to the MIT Museum and Toscanini's for ice cream!
  • I had been eyeing these Tory Burch Reva's since what feels like the beginning of time. I wear (cheapo from Target, worn-out) tan flats nearly every day and knew this was a purchase I needed to make eventually. I brought my Target ones on the trip and instantly regretted the amount of walking I was going to have to do in them - should have just brought two pieces of cardboard tbh - so off we went to Copley Plaza where Ben treated me to these lovely new foot pillows. 
  • Ben's sister and her husband (to my left and right) met up with us in a little after we got there. Ben's cousin and his fiancee (far right) live in Boston where they are both doctors spending their days and nights saving lives, no big deal. We all had dinner together at a Thai place close to our hotel and their apartment. (We could have titled this trip "Asian Food Fest" due to the amount of it that we consumed)

  • Losing an hour for Daylight Savings was pretty poor timing for our trip, if I do say so myself...
  • Ben and I went to a diner for breakfast and then the four of use headed out to explore Boston
  • We walked from Chinatown to the Common, through Beacon Hill and Back Bay to Copley Square, where we ate lunch
  • While at Copley Square we went on an art and architecture tour of the Boston Public Library. Crazy beautiful! I put my Classics degree to good use by catching a tidbit that the docent told us which was actually incorrect, so +1 for me on that.
  • Copley Square is where the Boston Marathon finishes, so being there was pretty special for me. I bought this shirt at a store there for the Shamrock Marathon on Sunday!
  • Next we were off to Massachusetts General Hospital where Billy was working but was able to give us a quick look around! 
  • After the hospital we headed back over to Cambridge for dinner at Veggie Galaxy. It was another late night and by the time we got back to the hotel we were exhausted. We went right to sleep so we could get up for our morning train to New York!
This is longer than I expected so let's save Part 2: NYC for tomorrow, shall we? Check back then for the next round!