My (Maybe Ridiculous But Also Necessary) November Goals

So the last time I laid out goals for the month was September. I don't like to make monthly goals just for the sake of making them, so I didn't make any specific ones for October, but this month...I can already tell I'm going to need some focus in my life. October was very up and down for me and pretty hectic overall, which has left me feeling pretty worn down and just not myself. 

No technology (computer, phone, etc.) after 9pm on weekdays. This was one of my goals for September, and I stuck to it for a couple weeks, and I haven't done it since. It made such a big difference so it's something I know I really need to make a priority. No excuses, no "but I just need to check this one thing," nothing like that. 

Clean up my digital life. My emails are out of control, my desktop has a million things on it, all my Dropbox is crazy unorganized. It's a problem and it needs to be fixed ASAP because it's driving me crazy. I don't like physical clutter and I don't like digital clutter either.

Do my makeup every day. Sadly I am not someone who can ever go totally sans makeup, but lately I've only had enough time to throw on some blush and mascara. I feel better and more put together when I actually take the time to do my makeup, so that's a priority this month. Maybe I'll even get a little crazy and throw in some eyeliner and lipstick. 

Drink more tea. I don't know why I don't do this. I love tea. Therefore, I should drink more tea.

Limit Starbucks trips to 6 times for the month. I wasn't going to share this, but since we're all friends here: I went to Starbucks 11 times in the month of October. Ben and I share an account so it's possible those weren't all me, but if they weren' 10/11 were. 

Pile on the Miles. I set my goal at 100 miles, mainly because 100 sounds like a nice, even number. I actually only hit 95 last month, so this will be a good motivation to push myself a little more this month. On the bright side, my two half marathons will put me over a quarter of the way there!

Do yoga every weekend. I used to be so good at this! I did my beloved Gwen Lawrence Yoga for Runners video every weekend for over a year. A YEAR! I only stopped because I got lazy.

Cross something off my 30 Before 30 List. 

Be nicer. Text that friend I'm thinking about to see how they're doing. Tell that girl walking by on the sidewalk that I really like her outfit. A lot of times I don't do stuff like that because, I don't know...they might think it's weird, or I feel awkward saying something. But it only takes a few seconds and it might make someone's day. 

So there they are, my goals for this month! I hope to take charge it and make it a better one than the last. What do you plan to accomplish this month?

Counting My Blessings

I try to be a thankful person. A grateful person. An appreciative person. I really do. But I don't always do a great job at counting my blessings. Life has been giving me the middle finger this week, and that makes it hard to put things into perspective. But yesterday I realized that as bumpy, stressful, and sleep-deprived as this week has been, if I just change perspective a little, it's actually been pretty great.

Some things the Universe has bestowed on me this week:
  • Two canceled classes on Monday (one of which was an 8am). Now, I feel bad that my good karma came at the misfortune of others (two of my professors were very sick), but I had a million and one things to get done that day and having those 2 extra hours was crucial to getting them done. 
  • A facial on Tuesday night. Maybe this is technically more of something Ben bestowed on me since he paid for it, but...semantics. I'm so thankful to have been able to take that hour for myself. I immediately felt better when I left.
  • A store letting me buy something before they opened. I had a big lab report due yesterday, and I had all morning free after 9am so I planned to work on it after that time. However, Tuesday night at 11pm my Macbook charger died, leaving me with 30% battery, with 8 pages of fluid mechanics left to write about, and still needing to use my computer for an hour in class the next day before I could even work on the lab. So in the morning I went straight to the bookstore when they opened at 9, only to be told they no longer sell Apple products and to try a different store that didn't open until 10. Conveniently, that store is right next to a Starbucks, so I headed over to waste a valuable hour there before the store opened. As I pulled up on my bike I saw a man unlocking the door of the store, so I asked him if they did in fact sell chargers, lest I waste even more time. He told me that they did and even though they didn't open for an hour, he let me come in and buy it anyway. There were several employees already there and they were so nice and helpful. Made my damn week.
So maybe that's not a lot, but it's not nothing either. It's this has been a straight-up ass-kicker, but sometimes it's the little things, right?

Training for Tuesday: Six Things You Need To Do ASAP

Welcome to another round of Training for Tuesday! Last month I told you about some running goals I was working toward and today I'm here to share that (if you didn't already know - spoiler alert) I crushed them!

  • What I wanted to do: beat my official PR by over a minute (under 26:00), beat my unofficial PR (under 25:27), sub-8 minute pace (under 24:49)
  • What I actually did: 24:53 - I haven't had a chance to run a 5k race yet, but this was my 5k split from Wicked 10k

  • What I wanted to do: beat my official PR by over a minute (under 54:00), beat my unofficial PR (under 52:42), under 52:00
  • What I actually did: 49:46 at Wicked 10k

Half Marathon 
  • What I wanted to do: beat my official PR (under 2:09:59), under 2:00:00, sub-9 minute pace (under 1:57:46), 45 minutes faster than my first half (under 1:57:21)
  • What I actually did: 1:54:50 at Hokie Half

So in just about 3 years I've knocked over 7 minutes off my 5k (and 14 minutes off my first 5k), nearly 30 minutes off my 10k, and nearly 48 minutes off my half. My point is not to toot my own horn (I mean, maybe a little), but to tell you that if I can do that, so can you. I will say it until I'm blue in the face: I am not a natural runner. I don't have a body that's tall and lean, I have asthma, and I just never believed I could run, period, let alone be decent at it. So whatever your excuse is, I get it! I built my running career from the ground up. It's hard work. That's why today I'm sharing some of the key parts of my running routine that I've picked up along the way that made me a better, faster, stronger runner - and hopefully they can do the same for you.

Strength Training
Running was the first exercise regimen I ever had, and it wasn't until about a year after I started running (and about a month after my first half marathon) that I began lifting weights. I have never and probably will never be someone who lifts 4 or 5 times a week, but I have found that lifting as little as 2 times a week is a great supplement to my training routine. I prefer full-body workouts because even though running seems very much a leg-heavy exercise, there are so many more muscles in the body that get worked during a run. Sure, leg exercises increase my leg strength for more power and pushoff, but having a strong core and upper body are just as important.

When I first started I had NO idea what to do in the gym so I did the only thing I really knew how to do: I found a training plan. The program I started with was New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROLFW), and I highly recommend it. There are a lot of workouts so it does take a while to get through the whole thing. I've done it twice, and lifting weights 2-3 times a week it takes about 6 months to get through the whole program. I would be more than happy to do a full review of this program - e-mail me or let me know in the comments!

If you already know your way around the weight room or don't want to commit to a 6-month program, these are some of my other go-to strength training resources (bonus: most, if not all of the exercises can be done at home with a couple dumbbells):

Kara Goucher's Best Strength Training for Runners - if you don't know who Kara Goucher is, she is an Olympic marathoner, an amazing athlete, and a serious girl crush of mine. So, if these 2 workouts are good enough for Kara (she favorited one of my Tweets once so yeah, we're on a first name basis), they're good enough for me. They're also short (~30 minutes) so they're the ones I do the most.

Runner Dude's Core Circuit for Runners - If I feel like I need some extra core work, or I have a race coming up and don't want to do anything too taxing on the legs, this is my jam. This circuit is made up of 10 different core exercises. 3 rounds and 20 minutes later, I'm good to go.

I credit yoga with being the #1 thing that helps me stay injury-free. I have had injuries all up and down my legs, from my shins to my IT band and piriformis. Practicing yoga just once a week makes a world of difference. Even if you don't have a lot of time to devote to yoga, just doing a few poses before or after a run can help. I always used to get side stitches when I ran, but since I've started doing these 2 poses right before I run, they're no longer an issue. 

There are 5 other poses I like (but will let Alyssa demonstrate for you since she already shared them and did a way better job than I ever could)

Go-to yoga resources:

Yoga for Runners with Gwen Lawrence - I did this video every week for over a year. I have it memorized so well I was able to replicate the whole thing and "teach" it to Ben on the beach a few months ago. Hands down the best, most complete yoga series for runners I've ever done.

Erin Motz Yoga for Hamstrings, Runners, and Hips. Erin Motz for Queen of the World, y'all. Just click the videos and you'll understand. 

Cross Training
I didn't do any cross training at all for my first half marathon, which was a mistake, so when I trained for my second one, I biked and/or went to spin class once a week. My running really started to take off when I started training for my first triathlon and was swimming and biking a few times a week each. I don't know that there is necessarily causation here, but there's definitely at least correlation. More than anything, I think swimming and biking have helped improve my cardiovascular endurance, so running feels easier in that respect. It doesn't really matter what you do to cross train. You might have to get creative like Becky and do some jump roping, but just do something! 

Speed Workouts
I only do speedwork once every week or two, but since I've started I've noticed an undeniable difference in my running. There are obvious physical benefits (you train you run's not really rocket science), but I think the mental benefits are just as great, if not more. Since I've never been a fast runner, the idea of running faster than normal completely freaks me out. Speedwork has made me a lot more comfortable with the idea of running fast. It's a lot more manageable when it's only for a couple minutes at a time. There's no way I could sustain a 7:15 pace for my whole run, but I can sustain it for a quarter of a mile because I know I'll get a break soon - and doing so allows me to push through that barrier and go, "See brain? See legs? See chest? Not so scary after all." 

A track is the easiest place to do speedwork (since you know exactly how far you're running for each interval), but I just run my normal routes and let my Garmin tell me when to run fast and when to slow down. Nothing fancy. My speed workouts look something like this:

1 mile warm up
Run 1/4  to 1/2 mile fast, jog 1/4 to 1/2 mile slow (repeat 4+ times) (you decide what "fast" and "slow" are)
1 mile cool down

More Miles
I've always heard that to run faster you have to run farther, and I've most definitely found that to be true. I didn't really start picking up speed until I trained for a marathon. My long runs didn't get much faster, but I started noticing my pace picking up on shorter distances. I don't know that more miles necessarily means training for a marathon, but however much you run more than that. More miles per run, more frequently, whatever your body can handle. It's just about getting used to running at certain paces and distances.

If I had to name one thing that has most drastically improved my running, it's running on hills. The fact that I do this is a product of my current environment, not my desire to improve, but the result is still the same.  If you don't live near any hills (lucky you!) you might have to get creative...something like an overpass will work! A few months ago I moved from the beach where it's completely flat to the mountains, and I was terrified that was going to kill any running progress I had made. Much to my surprise, on my first run here I averaged exactly what I normally did, and I've dramatically improved since then. As much as I curse them they have undoubtedly made me a stronger runner!

What have you incorporated into your training that everyone should know about? Grab a button, link up, and tell us!

Weekending: Wicked Good Times

What a weekend! I don't think I realized how much I needed to go back home until I actually did it. I hadn't been back in over 3 months, which I recently realized is the 2nd longest stint I've ever had away from home (for perspective, the longest was only 4 months, when I lived in Florida, 3 times as far away). I had a ton of anxiety Friday for some reason - could have been pre-race nerves, could have been trying to cram like 5 different things into a short Friday evening window - but as soon as we got downtown I immediately felt so much better and so happy!

The first thing I did was head to my coffee date, then I went to my parents' so we could eat dinner and Ben, my dad, and I could pick up our packets for the Wicked 10k the next morning! I don't know why I was so freaked out about this race, but I'm pretty sure it's because I was planning to run fast, and running fast is scary. When I mapped out my race calendar earlier this year, I wasn't sure I was even going to be able to run this race, because if I had gone through with the full marathon, this weekend would have been my biggest and last long run at 23 miles (woof). This race is pretty special to me - it was my first 10k 3 years ago, it's the only race I've done every year since I started running, it's Halloween (my favorite holiday)-themed,  plus it finishes on the same boardwalk where I finished my first race ever (a 5k), my aforementioned first 10k, my first half marathon, my second marathon, and several other races in between - so needless to say, I really wanted to continue my streak!

Since I'm not marathon training anymore, I've had some time to work on my speed. My goals for the Wicked 10k were:
  • Realistic Goal: beat my official PR by over a minute (under 54:00)
  • Reach Goal: beat my unofficial PR (under 52:42)
  • Crazy Goal: under 52:00
I'll be honest, maybe unexpectedly crushing my crazy goal at the Hokie Half gave me a boost, but my plan going in to this race was to go straight for the crazy sub-52 goal. Before the race we met up with a running buddy of ours and when I told him my goal was 52 minutes he asked me, "Why not 50? Go for it! You trained for this. Leave it all out on the course. That's what you're here for!"

I already knew what it would take to go sub-50: an 8:03 average pace, which I just wasn't sure I could pull off. Still, what he said stuck with me throughout the race. As soon as I crossed the start line, I gunned it. I ran right at the edge of uncomfortable throughout the whole race. After my first mile (8:07) I started thinking, I could slow down, I'll still easily finish under 52 minutes. But then I'd think about what my friend said, and I kept moving forward as fast as I could. It was a weird feeling, I think because it's been so long since I ran on flat ground. It wasn't as easy as I was anticipating, it was just different. It was like...even though sometimes I wanted to slow down, I physically couldn't. I think I've gotten so used to hitting hills that force my legs to slow down, that without them I didn't know how to make them slow down. This was the first time in months that my body has been 100% responsible for propelling myself forward, without any external help or hindrance. It was weird.

So I pretty much spent the race feeling like I was on a runaway train. My 2nd mile was 7:56 (OMG I've never run sub-8 during a race before!), 3rd was 7:52 (OMG now THAT's my new official split PR), 4th was 7:56, and by then I was starting to question how much longer I could keep going so I finally figured out the slowing down thing and ran mile 5 at 8:06. We turned on to the boardwalk right before mile 5, and from there it was a straight stretch to the finish. For the whole race my average pace had been steady at 7:58-7:59. Somewhere during mile 6 it creeped up to 8:00 and I knew I would be SO mad if I came that close to a sub-8 pace and just missed it. I've run several other races that feature the boardwalk as part of the race, and as far as race views go, it doesn't get much better. That gave me a bit of a second wind so I picked it up a little bit. Mile 6 was 8:03 and when I got to the last .2, I mustered up all the strength I had to finish it out. I was so ready to be done! I ran the last .24 at 7:18 pace for a total distance of 6.24 miles in 49:46 - 7:58 average pace.

My official pace (calculated based on 6.2 miles) was 8:01 pace, so a slight bummer that I didn't officially get that sub-8, but that just gives me a goal for next time! I have never run so fast for so long and I absolutely gave it all I had. It was the best race I think I've ever run. I couldn't believe it, but when I got my official results, I finished in the top 3% (14/556) of women in my age group, top 3% (82/3598) of women overall, and top 6% (306/5385) overall. OVERALL. Out of EVERYONE. Over 5000 people ran this thing and I was the 306th person to finish. I can't even. I've never been competitive (with others, that is) when it comes to running and I'll never be in it to win it, but still. It's nice to see my hard work pay off and to feel validated.

The best part of Wicked is definitely the after-party! It was on the beach the first year I ran it, then it was moved indoors the past 2 years, but this year it was back out on the beach. It was a perfect day for it and we enjoyed many celebratory Blue Moons before going out for brunch and heading back home.

Other highlights:

  • Hanging out in Olde Towne, which is our cute little historic neighborhood where we lived before we moved to Blacksburg (we still have our condo there so it feels like home, even though we don't actually live there anymore and have a renter in our condo). Ben's dad took us out to dinner Saturday night, so we walked around while we waited for him. The Olde Towne Business Association does a Safe Trick-or-Treat and that was going on Saturday night, so there were tons of kids out all dressed up. We also got to watch a street performance of Thriller! It was a great night of hanging out in our city we love so much.

  • Getting to (virtually) see 2 good friends become Ironmen! They competed in Wilmington, NC but I was able to track their progress all day. One finished in an incredible 10 hours 48 minutes, and the other got really sick halfway through the day and struggled to finish, but they both did it! I'm so inspired by them now more than ever. I can't even comprehend what a feat that must be but, if I'm totally honest, I hope that one day I'll be able to. 
  • Running my Olde Towne route. I was planning on getting in 5 miles but 3 ended up being satisfying enough for my legs and brain. The views were quite different from the ones I've gotten used to the last few months!
  • My second listen to the whole Serial podcast thus far (I'm obsessed), followed by a good, old-fashioned solo Saves the Day singalong on my road trip back to Bburg.

Also! Tomorrow is your chance to link up for Training for Tuesday! Grab a button and tell us how it's going!


Looking Forward

Road-tripping home with Ben today and listening to a new episode of SerialIf you haven't listened to this yet, you need to. If you like This American Life and/or true crime, it will be right up your alley. It's about a kid who was convicted of killing his high school ex-girlfriend 15 years ago despite there being no physical evidence linking him to her death. The podcast is a reinvestigation of the crime, with a new episode (and new details) being released each week.

Having a coffee date later with my teacher BFF. We went out for coffee after school on my first day of teaching and ended up talking for over 2 hours. And even though I quit teaching (and seeing her every day) a year and a half ago, we still regularly meet up for 2-hour coffee chats <3.

Racing tomorrow! This is my 10k goal race for the fall and I'm hoping to break 52 minutes. But really, my goal is to have fun and appreciate running a route that's flat as a pancake for the first time in almost 4 months. It's a Halloween race and I'll be running with Ben, my dad, and other running friends so the having fun part will at least be taken care of.

(Not only is it race weekend for me, but for some special friends as well! Happy 4th (I think?) half marathon to Kristen and a very happy FIRST half marathon to Alyssa! I know you girls are going to kill it this weekend and I can't wait to hear all about it!)

Running my old route on Sunday. If I had to name one inanimate object I'm oddly in love with, this route would probably be it. I totally cried the last time I ran there before I moved. I've been missing it something fierce lately and I am seriously counting down the hours until I'm reunited with my favorite streets.

Linking up for the next round of Training for Tuesday on the 28th! I'll be sharing my progress and some things that have helped me on my running journey. I can't wait to hear how everyone else is doing!

Happy weekend, friends! What are you looking forward to? Any exciting plans?

DIY Workout Headband for the Non-Crafter

I love my running gadgets and can't run without them, but if you've seen a picture of me running you know that there's one accessory I really can't run without: a headband. I have long bangs and I hate having even a strand of hair in my face when I'm working out. I also hate having sweat dripping down my face (who whoesn't?). I used to pin back the short pieces with bobby pins, but then I discovered the beauty of wearing headbands. I've purchased 4 or 5 that I love because they are super cute but, more importantly they stay put! I could easily stand to own 10 more of them, but at $15 a pop, they're not exactly budget friendly. I've always thought that, even as a non-crafty person, they looked easy to replicate. So when I needed a last-minute orange and maroon headband for my Hokie Half Marathon outfit, I finally decided to try it.

I am really not all that crafty or good with a sewing machine. I don't scour Pinterest for DIY projects or know my way around Michaels/Hobby Lobby. I know the basics of how to operate a sewing machine, but I don't really know how to sew, if that makes sense. I think you could even try this with a hot glue gun instead of a sewing machine. If I can do can too. Here we go.

Step 1: Gather materials.

Supplies (makes 1 headband):

  • 16"* long ribbon** (your choice of thickness but I used ~7/8" thick) OR cotton fabric (the advantage to this is that there are far more options in fabric than in ribbon), in color and pattern of your choice
  • 16"* long black velvet ribbon**, same thickness as your ribbon
  • 8"* long 3/8" braided elastic
  • thread to match your ribbon and the velvet ribbon
*I used a headband I already owned to get these measurements. Measure yourself and make adjustments as necessary - just make sure your ribbon and velvet ribbon are the same length.

**I tried a craft store first but had better luck at a fabric store. The advantage of a fabric store is being able to buy only as much ribbon and fabric as needed, whereas craft stores sells them ribbon the spool (which is WAY more than you need for one headband).

Also needed: sewing machine or hot glue gun (I strongly suggest a sewing machine and have not tried it with hot glue, but I think it could possibly work); ironing board and iron

All of these materials cost me $21 or $4.20 per headband. I did not already own anything for this project other than a sewing machine. It took me a little under an hour from start to finish, which also included the time I spent taking these pictures and figuring out exactly how I was going to do this. It took about 10 minutes to make the second one.

Step 2: Cut your velvet ribbon to the appropriate length (~16")

Step 3. If you're using a ribbon, this whole process is pretty simple. Just line up your ribbon and the velvet ribbon so that the backs of each are touching, pin, and skip to Step 5.

If you're using fabric, it's a little trickier, but not too bad (I mean, I managed to figure it out). If your fabric is a pattern, line up your velvet ribbon with the section of fabric that you want to use (this doesn't matter if your fabric is a uniform pattern or a solid since it will look the same no matter where you place it). When you decide where you need to place the velvet ribbon, flip the fabric over (back side up), and lay the velvet ribbon down (velvet side up) in that spot. Cut out this section of fabric, leaving ~2" on either side of the part of the fabric that you actually want to show.

Step 4: With the fabric still face down, fold over and iron the fabric, then pin the velvet ribbon in place. When you flip the fabric over, the part of the fabric that you want to show should be lined up with velvet ribbon (fabric on top, ribbon on bottom)

Step 5: Get ready to sew! I used the fabric thread for the bobbin and black thread (to match the velvet ribbon) on top. You could switch them but you'd be sewing on the opposite side that I did.

Step 6: Start sewing! I don't have an exact measurement for seam allowance, I just tried to sew as close to the edge of the velvet ribbon as I reasonably could.

Step 7: (Skip this step if using ribbon) After sewing the first side, you obviously need to sew the other side. This was the tricky part for me, since I made my ribbon out of fabric. If you look at the picture above, you can see two layers of fabric on the left side. I cut off the bottom layer so that it was even with the top layer. Then I folded that over across the velvet ribbon (like I had done on the right side), and ironed it.

Step 8: Sew the second side. The trick to this (if using fabric) is that the ends of the folded over fabric need to go UNDER the velvet ribbon before you sew. That way, when you sew that side, you're sewing down that edge while also securing the fabric to the velvet ribbon.

Step 9: Take your elastic and insert ~1/4" of one end of it into one end of the fabric/velvet ribbon strip. Sew across so that this side is now closed and the elastic is securely fastened. I went over it a couple times just to make sure the elastic wasn't going to come out.

Step 10: Repeat on the other end. For a custom fit, wrap the headband around your head to figure out how much of the elastic you need to insert on this side. I pinned the elastic in place (with the pointy end facing AWAY so I didn't stab myself in the head when I put it on) to check the fit. Once you're satisfied, sew that side closed. Your headband should now be a full circle.

If I were doing this again I'd change how I did the ends so that I didn't have this potential fraying issue. It would have been an easy fix, I just didn't think of it in time. I pretty much made this up as I went along.
Step 11: Put that baby on and go admire your handiwork.

Now, as cute and easy as this project was, I think we can all agree that it would all be for naught if it didn't actually function as intended. I mentioned that I wore this for a half marathon, but I won't lie, I packed an extra, tried-and-true headband to carry with me just in case this one slid around or broke or something. I wore this one for the whole race and it stayed perfectly put the whole time! The velvet ribbon is perfect for non-slippage. That's really the key piece here, and I think you could put just about anything (ribbon, fabric, whatever) over it that you want.

(Pro tip: if you want to take a really great-looking photo, take it right after running for almost 2 hours in the pouring rain).

Crazy 8s: Hokie Half Marathon Recap

Linking up for Runners Tell All today! I'm kind of cheating because today's prompt is "Most Memorable Running Moment" but I don't have a most memorable running memory. I used to, but I don't anymore. I thought I always would. The first time I ran a mile, my first race, my first half marathon, my first marathon....surely, those would always reign supreme over any other future running memories I'd make. But 3 1/2 years after I first laced up, with 40 races completed and over 2500 miles logged, I have way more running memories than I could ever even count, let alone classify and rank.

But isn't that the beauty of running? There's always something new to celebrate. New memories to be made. Goals that were once never-in-a-million years are now daily occurrences. I don't put any one of these memories on a pedestal anymore. Instead, I keep them all, like adding photos to an album that I can thumb through from time to time. Mentally going through them all still brings me back to whatever feeling made them memorable in the first place - in that respect, they're all the most memorable. Even though I'm not sharing the highlight of my running career, I am sharing a highlight of my running career. I've made enough of these memories by now to know to cherish them while I can - because a new one is right around the corner. 


When the morning of October 12 rolled around, I was nervous but pumped. I didn't really have a reason to be nervous - it was my 8th half marathon and I didn't have a set goal time in mind - but I still was. Maybe because it was my husband's first half and since he doesn't get nervous about running, ever, I made sure to be nervous for him.

A little background on this race: it's in my college town, which I recently moved back to (5 years post-grad) to re-attend my alma mater, Virginia Tech. I was basically the anti-runner when I went to college here the first time, so being here again but being a runner this time is still strange but awesome. I heard about this race last year after its inaugural run and told my husband I wanted to come do it this year. Little did I know we'd be living here this year and have no reason not to do it! I even got my husband on board - or rather, the Hokie finisher's medal and maroon and orange swag did (I dare you to find a Hokie who isn't obsessed with all things in that color combination). He had only run a handful of 5ks and 10ks but after years of telling me after a half, "I bet I could do that," he was finally going to put his money where his mouth is.

All week there had been chances of showers on race morning, which just kept increasing the closer we got to race day. When we woke up it was steadily raining and we thought, "Maybe it will die off by the time the race starts." Then we checked the radar.

The rain wasn't going anywhere.

So, armed with rain jackets and ponchos, we made our way to the start. We parked and had to take a shuttle to the start line, and we made it there just in time to hear Enter Sandman playing up ahead (but not in time to participate in the pre-race jumping). By the time we actually took off, the race had already been underway for six minutes. I asked Ben if he wanted me to run with him, and he replied that he wouldn't mind but he also didn't need me to. He knew I was hoping for a much faster finish than he was planning on, so I told him I loved him and was proud of him and went on my way.

Schoenfelds do the Hokie Half!
(Side note: pouring rain = no official race photos, so all you get are the few iPhone pics I managed to take before and after)

So I said I didn't have a set time goal for this race, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a goal at all. Last month I shifted my training focus from a full marathon to 3 half marathons this fall, my goals for which were:
  • Realistic Goal: beat my official PR (under 2:09:59)
  • Reach Goal: under 2:00:00
  • Crazy Goals:
    • Sub-9 minute pace (under 1:57:46)
    • 45 minutes faster than my first half (under 1:57:21)
The Hokie Half is the hilliest race in my lineup, and for that reason alone I wasn't sure how feasible those goals would be. I was pretty sure I had a PR in the bag, simply because I've run 13+ mile distances probably 8 or 10 times in the last couple months and have finished all of them faster than my PR. Still, you never know what will happen on race day. As for the other goals, I didn't want to rule out the sub-2, but because of said hills, I didn't want to bank on it either. My loose goal was to get as close to 2 hours as possible. 

The first few miles were nothing special. We ran from the outskirts of the VT campus down Main Street to the neighboring town of Christiansburg, home to the area's chain restaurants and big box stores. It had been raining since the start so my focus was just on powering through. I don't know what got into me, but I was jacked up, y'all. I felt great. I was eating hills for breakfast while rain streamed down my face and I loved it. I passed so many people (probably because I started so late but don't tell my ego that). Every time I saw a hill in the distance I thought, "Oh no..." but then I'd run up it like it was nothing. I kept an eye on my time and after a mile or two I felt confident I could go sub-2, but it was still really early in the race and I've had a tendency in the past to feel too good too early only to fall apart in the end. My splits for miles 1-4 were 8:59, 8:29, 8:29, 8:25. 

We got to the mall parking lot and made the turn into the Huckleberry Trail (the Christiansburg side starts abruptly adjacent to the parking lot which I've always thought was odd). From there we were on the Huckleberry for the next 5.76 miles. It has several rolling hills but it's a slow overall climb back to Blacksburg. There's about 2.5 miles of slight uphill with no downhill breaks, and I thought getting through that would be the hardest part. My miles started to slow slightly as I went uphill and eased into my pace, but I never ran based on the numbers on my watch, I ran based on how I felt. By about 5 miles in I knew I was going to get my sub-2 (like, by a lot), I just needed to keep going. My splits for miles 5-9 were 8:19, 8:47, 8:44, 9:00, 8:52.

We got off the trail and ran through a neighborhood that's adjacent to it for a couple miles while making our way to back to another part of the trail. These were some of the hilliest miles! I couldn't believe it. A couple times we had to run up a hill only to find that there was another one right after it. I wanted to walk a couple times, just for a few seconds, but I toughed it out and before I knew it, the hill would be over. When we got out of the neighborhood we made our way back to the trail with a little over 2 miles left. I remember looking down at my watch at this point and seeing 1:35 elapsed with just over 2 miles to go was crazy! I wasn't able to run quite as fast I had been, and when I go to the mile 12 marker I told myself I just needed to coast through 1 more mile. I definitely slowed through these miles, but they were consistent and kept me on target.  My splits for miles 10-12 were 8:49, 8:45, 8:50.

And finally, it was the last mile. I didn't hit a wall like I usually do. It wasn't easy to keep running, but it wasn't torture either. The hardest part was the last half mile, and with about a quarter mile left my legs really started to feel like they might stop working. We had one last big hill and then a slight incline, and that quarter mile stretch was the hardest part of the whole race. My mile 13 split was 9:02.

Somewhere along the course, after I realized I was definitely going to be under 2 hours and probably under 1:57, I started thinking it would be cool if I ended up with a 15-minute PR, which would have been 1:54:59. I was pretty sure I was going to do it but kept a close eye on my watch when I got close to mile 13. For the last .19 (I always end up with a little extra on my watch due to weaving and whatnot), even though my legs were toast, I gave it all I had at 7:09 pace. When I got to the finish line, I didn't feel relief that it was finally over and I didn't feel as ecstatic about crushing my goal as I thought. Instead I saw the finish line and just thought, "Ah yes, there it is. It's been waiting for me this whole time."

I finished with a watch time of 1:54:52 and the first thing I did was call my dad and tell him! I anxiously awaited my official time to make sure it was really under 1:55, and it was posted later that night: 


That's 15 minutes 9 seconds faster than my PR from last November, and 47 minutes 31 seconds faster than my first half marathon in March 2012. Looking at those numbers still doesn't feel real. The course was challenging and the weather certainly didn't help matters, but I still did it. I've had a 2-hour half on a pedestal for so long and never really knew if I had it in me to get there. Breaking 2:10 was a huge hurdle for me and I didn't know how in the world I could take 10 minutes off my time. Maybe it just wasn't meant to happen before now, before here. I moved to Blacksburg to fulfill a dream I never knew I had, so it seems fitting to accomplish my sub-2 goal here.

But my day didn't end there! As soon as I walked through the finisher's chute I made a U-turn and headed right back toward the finish line to wait for Ben! I tried to track him on my phone but since it was raining (and the rain was just getting harder) I was having a hard time getting the touch screen to work. I checked in on him every now and then and was so excited for him to finish his first half! I know he always knew he could do it, but being able to say, "I can" and "I did" are two different things. I was able to track him well enough to see when he made the final turn to the finish line, and shortly after I saw him come running up! It was a different experience being the one on the sideline cheering him on at the finish. I was SO proud of him! 

But seriously is this boy built to be a runner or what?! I hate him.
After the race we were both so soaked and so wasn't that bad while we were running but I definitely felt it after I stopped. We snapped a few pictures together before heading home for hot showers and dry clothes. Ben was bummed that he didn't get a full post-race experience, and I was too...I guess he'll just have to do another half to make up for it ;)

This is how we were dressed for the entirety of the race. Sometimes attempting to be dry trumps being fashionable. 
I'm so proud of this run, not only because I beat my goal but because I really felt like I ran a smart race. I felt engaged, focused, and dialed in the whole time. I never thought about giving up (at least not more than half second during some of those late hills). I almost always freak out at some point during a half, especially if I'm running faster than normal, but I never did during this race. I felt oddly calm the entire time. I've been running paces in the 8's consistently for the last couple months, but it's only been the last couple weeks that every run has been that pace. I'm still not used to it. I knew I was running paces in the 8's the whole time, but I never let that scare me off or make me back down.  Finally fulfilling an enormous goal AND getting to be the #1 fan for my #1 fan made it one of my favorite races ever.

This Season of Life

Years from now, I won't remember that I skipped a run on Friday evening. But I will remember taking Bane for a long walk to the Duck Pond.

Years from now, I won't remember going months without seeing flat land. But I will remember hiking the Cascades.

Years from now, I won't remember that I stayed up until nearly midnight desperately trying to finish my homework before the deadline. But I will remember that being a civil engineer means getting to spend a 3-hour class outside on a gorgeous fall day.

Years from now, I won't remember that despite only having 725 square feet of living space, I couldn't manage to keep it remotely clean. But I will remember the animal friends that it allows me to visit on a daily basis.

Years from now, I won't remember the grade I got on my fluid mechanics test. But I will remember taking running study breaks just to see the maroon and orange leaves.

This season may not be the easiest, but it is the prettiest.

How are you making the most of your season in life?

The Second Best Day in October

Today I want to take a pause from our regularly-scheduled programming to wish a very happy birthday to a very special someone: my husband, Ben!

Ben is exactly 50 weeks (that's almost a year!) older than I am, so he's obviously much smarter and wiser than I am. Since this is this is the 10th birthday of his that I've been around to celebrate, here are 10 things this old man has taught me:

1. Don't take anything too seriously (especially yourself). Whereas I can work myself into a tailspin over basically nothing, Ben is (almost) always cool as a cucumber. He doesn't let things get to him or stress him out. Most things aren't that important.

2. Sleep in. I'm the person who sets 10 alarms and gets up early because I have approximately 50 million things to do. I don't even think Ben uses an alarm clock. On weekends he's happy to sleep in and have lazy days. I admire his ability to relax!

3. Do things because they're the right thing to do, not because you want to. Ben takes care of a lot of our annoying household chores, like taking care of our animals. Not that our animals are annoying, but taking the dog outside in the middle of winter and scooping litter boxes is annoying. He pretty much takes care of all the things I don't want to do. I know he doesn't want to do them either, but he knows someone has to, and he never complains.

4. Work shouldn't feel like work. With my big career change last year, this has been a hot topic in our household for quite a while. Ben is one of those people who always knew what he wanted to do with his life and, as a result, he's happy to go to work every day. He fully supports me trying to find the same happiness.

5. You can't do everything all at once. I get overwhelmed easily when I feel like I can't handle everything on my plate. I have so many things to get done, all of equal importance and time sensitivity...or at least that's how I see them. Ben has taught me to take a step back, try to prioritize, and maybe recognize that I might have to let go of one or two things.

6. Positive thoughts, positive deeds! This is his mantra and he tells it to me nearly every day. No negative talk allowed.

7. Don't take "no" for an answer. If you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. It might not be easy, but it can be done.

8. It's always a good time for dessert. Ben has never even had a pound of extra weight on his body, and he is not afraid to take advantage of that by eating whatever he wants, whenever he wants. It's not uncommon for him to come to bed at 11pm with a slice of pie or bowl of ice cream. I've quickly learned that that's not such a bad thing.

9. No dream is too big. Ben has never once batted an eye at my crazy running goals. He didn't balk when I told him I wanted to quit my job and go back to school. His response is always, "Of course you can! How can I help?" He supports and believes in my dreams as fervently as if they were his own.

10. It will all work out in the end. When I'm stressed out and don't know which way is up or how to get from Point A to Point B, Ben is always the one to tell me it's going to be okay. Not because that's what he's supposed to say or because he thinks it will make me feel better, but because he truly believes it. It will work out, because it has to. There is no other way.

Happiest of happy days, Ben! You have undoubtedly made me a better person.  You are the smartest, hardest-working, most genuine, and selfless person I have ever met. I still have so much to learn!

Three Month Checkup

Three months ago last week I packed up my car, said goodbye to friends and family, and drove 300 miles west to start a new life chapter. As much as I knew I was doing the right thing, I was still scared out of my mind. Completely leaving my comfort zone isn't exactly my forte and I had so many fears about all the unknowns I was about to encounter.

How am I doing 3 months later? Let's see what I was so worried about:

My biggest, #1 fear is that I will feel like (and/or be) an outcast in my classes, with no friends or people to study with or talk to. 

I'm happy to report that I'm not an outcast, but I don't exactly fit in either. Unlike the school I went to last year, there really aren't any other non-traditional students. I knew that would probably be the case, which is why I was so afraid I'd stick out like a sore thumb. I look young enough that my classmates don't usually know I'm older until I tell them, but I still feel a little out of place. With that said, I kind of don't care. I don't have a school BFF to study with anymore, but I have found a few people to talk to. I try to get involved with clubs even though I am positive everyone there is wondering why, at 27 years old, I have nothing better to do than hang out with people 5-8 years my junior. But I don't care. I spent way too much time my first go around in college worrying about what other people thought. The plus side of being 27 and in college is that now I'm too old for that shit. 

I'm scared of living in Blacksburg again. 

From my first week back, I've loved living here way more than I ever expected to. No one is more surprised than I am, and it kind of doesn't even make sense, but I'm going with it. I find myself in awe of the countryside and the mountain vistas on a daily basis. It's like I just never took the time to look around before. I'm still a city girl at heart and dream daily of my big city move, but in the meantime I'm enjoying this change of pace. 

I'm scared I won't keep up with running and tri training.

In a way, this has been the best and worst part of living here. I was so afraid that the hills would completely kill my run times, but I was shocked to discover that, if anything, they've helped. I've set several new PRs in the last few months and I feel stronger as a result of being unable to run anywhere without encountering at least a hill or two. 

On the other hand, training here is hard.  I haven't run or cycled on flat land in over 3 months. Some days I think I'll scream if I have to run up another hill. Not only that, but my school schedule is crazy and my courses are demanding and all of those things put together have undeniably led to some suffering when it comes to training. That's why I recently made a big decision halfway through training for my 3rd marathon to forego the full and instead opt for the half. It's been an adjustment to accept that where I am right now is a lot different than where I was when I trained for a marathon last year, and that means readjusting my goals and expectations for now. 

I'm scared of being away from Ben. 
This is another part that hasn't been as bad as I expected. So far, both weeks he was gone I was so busy that I barely noticed. That's better than the alternative, I think. The hardest part is taking care of myself, our house, and our menagerie all on my own, but I think I'm getting better.  We've made it a point to really utilize both our time together and our time in our temporary new home, and I think that's made all the difference.

Engineering school is kind of like running a marathon: it frustrates me, it makes me angry, it makes me want to cry, it makes me question my sanity. The only difference is that engineering school is way harder. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. Not only are the courses hard, but going through it via a non-traditional route is hard. It's hard when I'm the only person over the age of 21 at a club meeting. When I have to explain the wedding rings on my finger. When it's been 6 years since I graduated from college, yet I can't be introduced as "a doctor" or "a lawyer" or "a ______" (fill in the blank with any other professional title and/or one that doesn't include the word student). I used to be "a teacher" but I never felt like that really defined or accurately represented me. Honestly, I'm tired of explaining the fact that I already have two degrees, that they are in no way relevant to my current career path, and how I got from there to here. It's exhausting for me and it rarely makes sense to anyone else anyway. 

But I'm reminded of a lyric that Jenny Lewis sings in a Rilo Kiley song and says, "All the immediate unknowns are better than knowing this tired and lonely fate" and you know what? 

She's right.

Can I Be Honest?

When I started this blog, I really had no intention of anyone other than me reading it. I waffled between keeping it private and making it public and, even when I did go public, I was slow to get involved in the wide world of blogging. I started it (and the one prior to this one) as a way to document my newfound running journey, so in the beginning it was primarily running focused. Over time, as I got more comfortable with the idea of blogging publicly (even if only like 2 people read it), I started to branch out to more personal and lifestyle topics as well. Because I never meant for this to be a real blog, I've never had a clear direction. I've struggled to find my blog voice. Sometimes I find myself afraid to publish certain posts (like outfit posts, or product reviews) because well, isn't this kind of a fitness blog? And then I worry that there are too many fitness posts for someone who doesn't want to get pigeonholed into the "fitness blogger" niche. But then I feel too insecure to really call this a "lifestyle blog" because I'm really not that interesting. And now you know my internal monologue when clicking (or not clicking) the "Publish" button.

So, here we are. The lack of direction of this little blog of mine has been bothering me lately, and I've finally decided to do something about it. Starting with this new, clean slate of a design. I always love a fresh start and that's what I felt like I needed to get back on track. I'm not promising any earth-shattering content or anything more profound that what I've always posted. I'm just getting it out there, for the record, that this blog is about everything and nothing all at the same time. Hope you're cool with that.

Whether you're a new or old reader, allow me to (re)introduce myself:

I'm Tracy. I've never really liked my name; I was supposed to be an Erin but when I was born my dad inexplicably wanted me to be a Tracy. And so I am. I will not get into a bathtub until I have personally cleaned it myself. Whether I really like to run is still up for debate, but either way, I do a lot of it. Same goes for swimming, biking, and running (one right after the other). My persuasive skills must be pretty good, because I met my soulmate in college and not only convinced him to date me, but eventually to go so far as to marry me. I believe in good grammar and correct spelling. I need to be in bed by 10pm or I will be completely useless the next day. I have two college degrees and am working on a third. I still haven't figured out if that means I'm really smart or really dumb. I do not eat or wear animals. I'm pretty sure the cows in the field behind my apartment are going to turn me vegan sooner rather than later. I am really good at math. I like people who walk with purpose, because I do the same. My ability to retain narrative details is really bad. That means that even though I have binge watched Breaking Bad and know it's the greatest show ever made, I couldn't tell you more than the general plot. I strongly believe in obeying traffic laws, especially at 4-way stops. I blog because the world is big but somehow blogging makes it a little smaller.

So that's it. That's me. And all the things I've been afraid to be. I'm weird and a little insane. I try to keep it all together but really I have no idea what I'm doing with my life. I suspect it's going to be a little while longer before I figure it out. I hope you stick around while I work on it.


I've been a little...out of it this week. A little absent. Not even just this week, but for a while. Maybe that's been apparent, maybe not. Either way, it's time to make some changes around here. Nothing big, just the kinds of things that, when added up, hopefully make a difference. Check back Monday to see what I'm talking about. Sorry for being vague and weird - it's really nothing major, I promise. More of a reset than anything.

I've taken a step back from participating in the blog world this week to do some behind the scenes work and some housekeeping for this space of mine, but I can't do it all by myself. I've included a little poll at the end of this post, and if you would be so kind, please give me your feedback! You're welcome to answer anonymously, but if you feel comfortable sharing any comments, you are free (and encouraged!) to do so :)

What topics do you like to read about/would you like to see more of?

Thanks for helping a girl out! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend planned. My parents are coming to visit this weekend - I think it will be their first time here since I was in grad school! My mom and I have a spa date planned, then I'm going to take my dad on a running tour of my new digs (that sentence should tell you exactly what my relationship with each of my parents is). We'll be hiking on Saturday and then Sunday, Ben and I are running the Hokie Half Marathon! It's the first of my 3 fall half marathons but even bigger than that, it's Ben's very first half marathon! I'm so excited for him (in case the abundance of exclamation points didn't make that clear)!

(While we're on the subjects of housekeeping and running, don't forget that October 28 is your next chance to link up for Training for Tuesday with Alyssa and me!)


A Blue Ridge Weekend

Remember that time I was really nervous about moving to the mountains (i.e. the middle of nowhere)? Well, it was so pretty here this weekend I don't even care if I hate it for the rest of the year. I'm not usually one for weekend recaps but since I actually did more than just watch Netflix and clean my house, I thought it was just too good not to share.

It's a good thing last weekend was birthday week because that (and all of your sweet birthday wishes!) was about all the week had going for it. When it finally came to an end I was more than ready for a relaxing night on my couch catching up on Scandal. But I told you I actually did more than that, so let's move on.

Since I know you're all on the edge of your seats waiting to hear about my PR quests, I'll go ahead and tell you that Saturday morning meant a long run. Only this long run was actually my shortest one in 3 months. Yes, friends, I have run 11-17 miles every weekend since the beginning of July - no wonder I've been going crazy. So I ran 10 miles Saturday morning, and it was partly glorious because it was 50* outside and I averaged my fastest long run pace ever, much faster than I need to for that sub-2 hour half...and it was partly not glorious because I ran faster than I should have and it was hard, and it was super windy, like almost knocked me over sometimes windy. But mostly it was glorious.

The next highlight was Saturday night when we went to one of Ben's high school friends wedding. Since we recently moved the wedding was only a 45 minute drive for us instead of 4.5 hours. The reception venue was a very cool rooftop space overlooking the mountains, the bride looked like a pretty pretty princess, and we had a good time despite not knowing anyone else there.

And the weekend wasn't even over yet! Sunday it was beautiful outside again, so we took advantage by having an outdoor lunch date complete with pumpkin beers, and then we took Bane on a family hike! We found a trail about 10 minutes away that's only a 1-mile loop so it was perfect for a little break for a family activity.

We also worked a little bit on a project we've had going for the last couple of's a sneak peak - hopefully I'll have more to write about it soon.

Also I had Starbucks for breakfast Sunday, and then to finish off my very fall weekend I had a salted caramel mocha and pumpkin spice muffin for dinner. I'm not even sorry about it. 

How I Know I'm Old

Today is my 27th birthday! I've never dreaded my birthday, even as I keep getting older. I've always been the youngest of my friends so I've always looked at my birthday as an opportunity to catch up to everyone else.

I've spent the last 8 years of my professional life, first teaching and now being back in school, with 15-22 year olds. It's sometimes easy to forget that the age gap between them and me grows every year. Then sometimes, things happen that make that gap look like the Grand Canyon. In honor of my birthday, I've compiled a list of the things that let me know that yep...I'm old:

1. I wear a helmet when I ride my bike.

2. I don't care if I look like a dork wearing my helmet.  

3. The phrase "YOLO" makes me cringe. 

4. I have never seriously said the word "hashtag" out loud.

5. I remember when the pound symbol on the phone was used for something other than Twitter and Instagram.

6. I get cranky if I'm up past 10pm. 

7. I would rather hang out with my dog and husband on the couch than go to a bar.

8. I won't go to a VT game unless I can sit in a non-student section.

9. I drink beer because I actually like how it tastes.

10. I don't believe anyone under the age of 16 needs a cell phone.

11. I don't get on Facebook or text during class.

12. I don't get on Facebook pretty much ever. 

13. I have never snap chatted.

14. A non-weekend night concert road trip is out of the question, no matter how good the band is.

15. It's been almost a decade since I got out of high school. 

16. I remember life when there was no dining hall on the academic side of the VT campus.

17. I have money in the stock market. 

18. I know that leggings/yoga pants are not proper attire for giving a presentation.

19. Having to be somewhere by 8am is normal and not a big deal.

20. People find it totally normal to ask me when I'm going to have a baby (and/or suggest that I do it like yesterday).

21. My idea of a great weekend is one where I can do absolutely nothing - and by that I mean catch up on housework.

22. I don't skip class.

23. I wait to pack up my things until my professor has finished speaking (not sure if this is because I'm old or just because I have manners).

24. I don't cause near-accidents on the sidewalk because I'm too busy on my phone to look where I'm going.

25. I look both ways before I cross the street.

26. I got a blow dryer for my birthday this year. I've been lusting over it for the better part of a year. Yes, a blow dryer.

27. My birthday plans include a 10pm showing of Gone Girl. I'm going to need a nap first.

What's made you feel old lately?