Learning to Rest

It was a quiet weekend around here. I like to be busy and on the go, and I'm not usually very good at relaxing...it stresses me out to sit and think about all the things I need to do instead of doing them...but this transitory period I'm in right now has actually been really good for me in that respect. I have no apartment to worry about cleaning (just a room), no one's laundry to do except my own, no household projects to work on, and it's been really nice.

Last week started off with me realizing, at 8am Monday morning, that I had left my wallet at a gas station 2 hours away on my drive back from home Sunday night (and then spending 4 hours round trip retrieving it). Definitely not the way I wanted to start my week. It really didn't get much better from there and by the time Friday rolled around, I was beat. I put my long run off until Sunday morning because I really needed a day to just...be. No running around (literally or figuratively), no deadlines, no agenda, just going with the flow. Switching up my training like that makes me feel pretty guilty and anxious, but when I woke up at 10am on Saturday morning instead of 5:30am, I was happy that I had given my body the rest it obviously needed. Sometimes I just need to make myself stop so I can recharge and that's exactly what I did.

This weekend involved a whole lot of nothing, the first time I've done that in...I can't even remember. I painted my nails (twice! Toes too!), I went to Starbucks, I watched documentaries, I blogged, I did yoga, I drank tea (I'm trying a skin detox one that I found at my natural foods store because I am really crunchy granola like that!), I read (...the same book I've been reading for over a month because I don't have the patience to read for more than like 10 minutes a week).

But I did do one REALLY big thing:

If you're a runner, you know the significance of the sub-2 half! Last year I ran 5 halfs in the 2:10-2:20 range, and for the last year and a half I just haven't been able to get over the 2:10 hump. Going sub-2 has been a one-day goal of mine for quite a while, but I was convinced it was going to take months of hard training after marathon season is over. I did not set out to do this yesterday (in fact, I only set out to run 12 miles), but it was one of those days where everything just clicked, and once I realized I was on track, there was no turning back (read my full thoughts on DailyMile). I don't like to count training runs as PR's so I'll wait to officially count it until I can do it in a race, but I'm ecstatic. I honestly don't know that I ever really believed I'd see a 1 instead of a 2 on the front of my HM time...I'm still having a hard time believing it. I've been really on the fence about whether or not I'm crazy for attempting to run my 3rd marathon in November, but this was such a confidence booster. I can't wait to see what I can do this fall in the half and full!

Tips for Choosing A Race

If you've been around here for more than five minutes, you know that races are basically my favorite thing. From 5ks to marathons to triathlons, I love 'em all! They're a great way to set a goal, stay motivated, have some fun, and be a part of the amazingness that is the running community. To date I've completed 37 races and I've really honed my race decision-making skills.

1. Price
Let's just get this out of the way - these things are not cheap. Price isn't always a huge factor for me, but it has definitely deterred me from races in the past (looking at you, Rock 'n' Roll series). Generally I expect and am willing to pay around $35 for a 5k, $60 for a 10k, $80-$100 for half and marathons, and $75-$120 for triathlons. I know some people are baffled by the thought of paying so much money to just run (can't you just run by yourself for free?), but you're not just paying for the running, you're paying for the whole event and experience. It's like a concert...why pay money to hear someone play music when you could just listen to someone playing guitar on the sidewalk for free? Because those are two totally different experiences. It's just like any other event that gathers a few hundred to tens of thousands of people. Closing roads, security, race swag, the after-party....it all adds up.

2. Location
This could really be subdivided into local races and runcations. I'm fortunate enough that my area has a pretty frequent offering of races at various distances. For a local race I expect the drive to be 45 minutes or under. Anything farther than that warrants a race eve hotel and starts to venture into runcation territory. I did my first out of town race last April and I was instantly hooked! It's such a fun way to see a new place, or see a place you've been a million times in a different way.

3. Course
There is arguably nothing that makes a race more than the course. I have run some amazingly beautiful courses and some amazingly boring courses. I'm definitely less likely to run a race if I know the course is less than stellar. Pro-tip: check the elevation profile, especially if you're running a race in a new location!

4. Race Experience
The company putting on the race greatly determines what kind of event it will be, from low key and relaxed to lots of bells and whistles and a huge party. I've definitely bent some of my other criteria (namely price and course) in the name of running races put on by a great company. J&A Racing is an amazing company with spectacular races - they're not just races, they're full on parties! I don't love their courses and their prices are the most expensive of all the races I've done, but I keep going back. I'm a believer that you get what you pay for. They do a great job organizing from the expo to the race itself to the after-party and really put on great events.

5. Date/Timing
Because I am certifiable and should probably be locked up somewhere, I plan my training out months in advance. I usually start with one race as my goal race, and I plan the few months leading up to that race. Part of this planning includes any other races I might want to do. I look at the date and distance of the races and compare that to my training plan. Because races are on weekends and so are my long runs, I've had to get creative (like fitting a 5k race into a 20-mile training run), but if I can make it work, I go for it.

6. Personal Connection
This isn't really something you can quantify but it might be the most important. For whatever reason, thinking about doing certain races just gives me warm fuzzies. I'm planning to run the Richmond Marathon in November because of that alone. I have no real reason to want to run it, it just feels like the right thing to do, so I'm going with it. My first race every was a small 5k that benefited a depression and suicide awareness organization. I chose the Charleston Marathon as my first full for a combination of reasons above, but also because I would be 26.2 years old on race day. It really motivates me to find personal connections to the races I run.

Humpday Confessions

It has been a WEEK, you guys. And yes, I know it's only halfway over, even though yesterday I woke up and couldn't figure out why my phone said it was Tuesday because I was 100% certain it was Saturday. But, in fact, it was Tuesday, and today is Wednesday...and on Wednesdays we link up for Humpday Confessions!

Vodka and Soda

Living by myself is kind of awesome. Real Housewives of OC is on my TV pretty much 24/7 (thanks Hulu!) and no one is here to whine about it.

I choose my clothes based on what mode of transportation I want to take to school. Bike = shorts, bus = dresses.

I'm regretting bringing so many dresses and so few shorts now. I'm not a shorts person but I might be able to get past it if it means riding my bike more.

I've started plotting and planning my run courses based on their elevation gain. I didn't even know what elevation gain meant two weeks ago.

I never feel dumber than I do when I am in a public restroom and they have those sinks with the automatic faucets and I'm waving and turning my hands in all different directions because I can't figure out where exactly my hands need to go for the water to come out.

I'm kind of obsessed with this new workout outfit. Ben sent me the Wonder Woman tank in a care package along with a $50 gift card to Dick's. I've recently become obsessed with crazy workout pants and have been wanting a pair of space pants, so I promptly ordered myself a pair, not even thinking about matching them to my new tank. I was so pleasantly surprised when I realized that not only did the tank and pants match, but I finally have an outfit to match my crazy sherbert-colored gym shoes.

Yes, that is my room. I haven't used any gym facilities other than the pool in over a year. 

Making the Cut

A few weeks ago, my friend Marcie introduced me to 100 Happy Days - a campaign designed to get participants to find happiness in their days for 100 days in a row. It sounded like a good idea, and when I realized that I could start that day AND have my 100th day be on my birthday?! I was sold. If you've been following me on Instagram (and if you're not, now's your chance!) or looked to your left, you've probably already figured this out.

I'm happy to report that not only have I had something happy to post every day since starting this challenge, there have been days that I've actually had more than just one thing. How awesome is that?! So today, I'm sharing some bonus things that have been bringing happiness to my life over the last few weeks.

Happiness is...

Biking an absolute monster of a bridge (167 feet high and 1 mile long of pain) and surviving, with a smile!

Going out for Mexican (even though you shouldn't but you feel a strong need to replace the 1000 calories you just burned with enchiladas and margaritas) with the cutest boys you know.

Sending a package to a friend!

Getting in a slow but steady morning run. {Note to my newbie running peeps: You read that right, 9:35 is my "slow" pace. Of course it's not fast by any means (and some of you just starting out are already faster than me and I hate you!), but there was a time when I couldn't even dream of running that pace in ideal conditions on my best day. After starting at a 12:30 easy pace, it took me 3 years to get that time down. If you're not where you want to be yet, don't fret! You'll get there. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Also, 7:05am is when I started, not when I finished. I'm not that cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs}

Seeing this sweet puppy face after a night away. Never gets old!

The Bad Yogi herself, Erin Motz, replying to your tweet...I mean, it's not a big deal because you're basically already besties since you've done all her yoga videos but...it's kind of a big deal.

Getting to check this box.

Feeling like Queen of the World.

Happy Friday!

And I Could See For Miles, Miles, Miles...

Oh, what a weekend it was.

Saturday I was up bright and early for my long run (what else is new?). When I woke up, every fiber in my being told me that I had put my body through enough for the week and that I should rest it and go back to sleep. I'm so glad I didn't because I had an amazing run! It's been no secret around here that I've been really nervous about adjusting to running hills. I (surprisingly) crushed a few short runs last week but I was still nervous about attempting a long run. There is no way to get to my apartment without running at least 2 miles uphill, so instead of doing that, I drove to the Huckleberry Trail where I rode my bike last week. I ran 4 miles out and 4 miles back and while it was certainly much hillier than I'm used to, I was pretty proud of the fact that I went out there and did it! Most surprising is that my pace has not been affected whatsoever, which makes so sense to me but gives me a lot of confident for my fall races.

After my run I did some homework and waited for Ben and Bane to arrive! When they got here we ate lunch, went back to the Huckleberry for a family walk (where we saw a game of cricket going on and could not figure out WTF was happening), went to eat dinner (where we ate outside until it started pouring rain out of nowhere), and watched a movie. I must have missed them more than I thought because just being with them made this the BEST day. We had so much fun I completely forgot to take a #100happydays picture - ironically (or not?) it was probably the happiest day I've had since I started posting the photos.

Continuing my new tradition of doing Blacksburg-y things I had never done before, we decided to spend Sunday afternoon hiking the Cascades. It was Bane's first time hiking and mine is...many many moons. We had a great time and I'm tired so I'll let the pictures do (most of) the talking:

My whole world <3 

Bane loved it! He did so great with all the walking and with the water, which he usually doesn't like. He even walked through it a little bit. I was one proud mama.

I'm obsessed with this picture and already have it printed out and framed on my desk
We had a great ~24 hours together and I was sad to see them go. I hope this weekend was just a preview of all the fun family adventures we'll have when we're all living here full-time!

Exploring the New and Old

When I went to college here the first time, I really didn't take the opportunity to explore everything this town and this area had to offer. I really struggled with depression and anxiety during my college years, and without a doubt that contributed to my lack of interest in really having anything to do with it. By the time I graduated, I was itching to leave. I even finished my Bachelors + Masters in 4 years because I couldn't stand to be here any longer.

A couple weeks ago I admitted how nervous I was about living here again, since it was less than stellar for me last time. But oh, how times have changed! I am having SO MUCH FUN exploring the things I never did before.

One of the things I was most worried about was running and tri training (#priorities). I was not interested in fitness (or really anything other than being a fatass lazy bum) at all when I was here before.
Proof: I gained 15+ pounds by the end of my last year and was the heaviest I've ever been (Spring Break during my grad school year).
I honestly didn't go much of anywhere that I couldn't get to by car or bus. Our last year here, Ben and I bought some bikes on Craigslist and I think I rode mine exactly one time. I got to the first hill and noped right out. Of course, since then I've learned what a joy it is to explore a place on foot or two wheels and that's just what I've been doing!

On Monday I went on my first Blacksburg run. I drove from my apartment to campus because I thought it would be fun to run by some of my old haunts! Campus is divided into a residential side and academic side, so even though I've been on campus on the academic side I really have no reason to go to the residential side. I actually haven't really spent a lot of time there since I was a freshman. I started at the library and ran (up a hill right off the bat) by my ex-boyfriend's freshman year dorm, where I came to move him in and then thought my life was positively O-V-E-R when I had to leave him there. I ran by my freshman year dorm.

I ran past the gym - which I would be surprised if I made it to even 10 times my entire college career - and got a good laugh at the irony of that situation. I ran down the sidewalk where I used to walk from my dorm to Chemistry class freshman year. I ran around the Duck Pond, where Ben and I had our photos taken immediately after getting engaged on the Drillfield a couple hundred yards away, and where I had never even been to before we took our pictures there (right now Becky is unfollowing me for being the worst Hokie ever ;)).

I was so nervous about this first run but I enjoyed it so much. It flew by!

Wednesday was my first attempt at a brick workout here. I braved my fear of riding alone in traffic to ride the 2.5 miles to the Huckleberry Trail. which is a paved trail almost 6 miles long from Blacksburg to the neighboring town of Christiansburg. I had only been on the Huckleberry one time before (Becky is definitely unfollowing me now), only for about a quarter of a mile, and only because I had friends who lived near it so we hopped on it to walk to a football game once.

It turned out to maybe be one of my favorite bike rides ever. Everything was so lush and verdant! The views were amazing. I don't know how I lived here before and hated the mountains. Now I just look at them in awe, like is this real life?!

I don't always take bike selfies, but when I do, I make sure someone is behind me to catch me in the act
The run I went on afterward was...not my favorite run ever, not by a long shot. The apartment I'm staying at is on top of a hill, so the first ~2 miles were downhill and the next 2+ were uphill. It got so hard at the end that I stopped right at 4 miles when I got to the entrance of the complex. Normally I'd run the extra ~.25 mile back to the apartment but there is a huge hill leading up to it and I figured I'd had enough hills for the day. Did I mention yet that it's hilly here?!
Last week's run in Portsmouth: 5 ft elevation gain
This week's run in Blacksburg: 189 ft elevation gain
And after all that, my pace on the Blacksburg run was only 4 seconds/mile slower than my Portsmouth run last week. I just don't get me sometimes.

This run took me past the Papa John's where a creepo employee once CALLED ME to ask me out after I picked up my pizza (he got my number from their computer system....like I said, CREEPO!)...past the street where I lived in my first off-campus house...past my senior year apartment...past the townhouse where Ben lived when we first started dating...

The more time I spend here, the more I realize that I'd forgotten more than I actually remembered! So far I'm having a great time exploring both new and old places. Funny how a place so familiar can feel like a whole new world!

Four Years

Four years ago today, I said "I do" and kissed this handsome man in a church full of our most beloved friends and family.

Four years ago today, my brand new husband and I stepped foot into our wedding reception, where we danced while listening to these words:

Sun will peek into our windows and be surprised to find

empty beds

walls naked
our closets stripped of all its threads.

We will awake in a new world,

our own island,

this floating map,
a jagged slab,
where bulbs burn for us until the end.

The beginning of our relationship was quite tumultuous, but also quite romantic. It was a whirlwind of jumping from friends to more-than-friends. This song and the album it's on came out that very same first week. It became the soundtrack to my navigating the new world that had just opened up. I listened to it on repeat for hours. I listened to it driving that same familiar drive to Blacksburg to move my things out of my freshman year dorm, back when all I could do was hope that Ben saw me like I saw him. Back when it felt like the whole world was against us - but it didn't matter, as long as we had each other.

Dancing to it four years later at our wedding, I never could have anticipated how literally those words would ring true in another four years. 

We totes talked through our entire first dance...we are that awkward
Four years later and we are not even in the same bed. The walls we know as home are bare. Our current closets are suitcases. 

We have awaken this week, our anniversary week, in a new, yet familiar world. So strange that four years after our wedding day we're back in a place we'd never thought we'd be again. Back where it all started.

Some people say the first year of marriage is the hardest. For us, it's definitely been this fourth year. With me quitting my job last summer to pursue another degree full-time, this year has certainly been unlike any other. It has been a wild ride, full of ups and downs. Of celebrations and disappointments. Of tears and laughter. 

But through it all, I know there's no one else I'd rather be on this ride with.

So interlock your fingers with mine. And squeeze tight.