Training for Tuesday: Training in the New Year

Well, it happened again. This little linkup has only been in existence since September and this is the second time that I've planned all month for one post, then completely flipped the script when it came time to actually write it. I will say that I'm still training for Rock n Roll DC and Shamrock in March, but what my training over the next few months will look like remains to be seen. I'd share if I knew for sure, but honestly, I don't.


In lieu of a real update on my training, let's talk general training for the new year. It's just about that time when we all vow to do amazing things and to be the best versions of ourselves, or at least to try for a few weeks or months. We start out with the best intentions, but maybe we set our sights too high or didn't have a good game plan to start with and so inevitably all those aspirations start to fade away. I'm totally guilty of doing the same thing, but if there's one thing I've managed to get the hang of, it's a consistent fitness routine.

I've consistently run 4x per week for the last 2.5 years. I could probably count on one hand, maybe two, the number of runs I've missed since the summer of 2012. It's a habit now. It's as routine as brushing my teeth in the morning or doing my laundry. It's just a thing I do - rain or shine, busy or not, tired or not. It took me a while to develop a strong sense of dedication that ultimately led me here. It definitely wasn't an overnight process, but over time, it happened. I think a lot of people crave that kind of consistency but just don't see how they could possibly get there, so today I want to share a few things that helped me along my journey.

Prioritize. Figure out what your fitness goal really is. Do you want to start running? Want to try a different sport, like cycling or swimming (or combine them all and do triathlon)? Maybe you want to start practicing yoga or get into Crossfit. Maybe you want to do all of those things! While each is beneficial and they can complement each other, you probably have one that interests you most. I recommend picking one or two big things to focus on and using whatever else you might want to try as secondary activities.

Be realistic. If you've never run a day in your life and you want to complete a marathon this year, I would say that's not realistic. Sure, people have done it, and it's certainly not impossible (although I think they're asking for injury and/or disappointment). But just because something might not be totally impossible doesn't make it a great idea. Be realistic about your abilities, your time, your dedication, and your life outside of fitness. Understand the commitment that whatever you want to work toward will require, and be honest with yourself if you're willing to put in the work. It's not a big deal if you're not, but if you don't admit that to yourself up front, you're probably going to end up unnecessarily disappointed and no one wants that.

Se a concrete goal. Find a goal race you want to run. A swimming or biking distance you want to hit. A yoga pose you want to master. A weight lifting benchmark. Whatever it is, make it specific (just make sure you allow yourself at least a few months to work toward it). I didn't start running regularly and consistently until I trained for my first half marathon. That date was always in the back of my mind, and the finish line occupied my thoughts on almost every training run. Just having something you know you're working toward does wonders to make it more tangible and help you remember what the point of all your hard work is.

Schedule your workouts. I like to be pretty structured in accounting for my time, and I understand that not everyone works that way, but hear me out. I found that having a few months worth of workouts planned (via a training plan) helped me see the big picture and keep my long-term goals in mind. After following a few training cycles to the T, working out 6 days a week became second nature to me. It may take a while to establish that routine, but if you stick with it, you'll get there. Need help putting a plan together? Lucky for you, the Internet is chock full of them - I started running by following this Couch to 5k program (I seriously can't say enough good things about it and owe it all the credit in the world for turning me from a non-runner to a runner), and Hal Higdon has been my main man for half and full marathon training. Even though I have no formal training in this area to speak of, I am full of anecdotal expertise and enthusiasm for running and scheduling and am happy to share plans that have worked for me if you drop me a line!

Treat your workouts like an appointment. If I had to pick one piece of advice that has been most beneficial to me, it would be this one. You wouldn't just bail on an important doctor appointment because it's raining, right? Well then don't bail on your training. If you wait for the perfect time to complete your workout, you won't get much done. I can come up with a million excuses not to work out, but I avoid giving in by not giving myself the option to skip them. Sometimes it means shuffling days around, but once I've scheduled a workout for a certain day and time (based on how my week is going to be), I try to stick to it. 

Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about. This isn't even close to a concrete piece of advice that you can easily implement, but it's just as important. I know we all have goals and things we all want to achieve, but we also all have these things called lives. Families. Jobs. Friends. Other hobbies. Things that in no way contribute to or serve our fitness goals. It's good and important to have balance, but it's also easy to let these other things cause us to lose sight of our goals. Ultimately we are the only ones who can make those goals and dreams come true. If it's really important, it will be on your mind; if it's on your mind, go out and make it happen. One of my favorite quotes is, "Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." This time next year, 2015 will have come and gone whether you achieved your goal or not. Do you want to look back and wish you had done it, or do you want to look back and be proud that you did it?

What goal are you going to rock in 2015? How are you going to get there? Link up and share 'em!

2014 in Review: October - December

October might have been my favorite month of the year, and not only because it's my birthday month. We had some gorgeous fall weather, and we got to see loved ones more that month than any month since we moved. It started at the beginning of the month when we attended the wedding of one of Ben's good friends. Then the following weekend my parents came to visit! My mom and I had a spa day, I went running with my dad, and we all went to hike the Cascades. I revamped this little blog and Ben ran his first half marathon. I hit the 3-month mark of living in Blacksburg again and celebrated the birthday of the best person I know. I went home for the first time in 3 months and got to run one of my favorite races with my favorite people and to hang out in my city. October, you were the shiz.

November was a big month for travel and more of getting to see people we love! First up was Raleigh to visit my sister- and brother-in-law and run the City of Oaks half marathon. Then it was time to go to Richmond for my last big race of 2014 (which, in fact, turned out to be my last race, period, of 2014). I demanded more from my body and it obliged with what was arguably the biggest PR of my life. I started my capsule wardrobe (almost immediately after declaring that was something I'd probably never do) and invited you all along for the ride. I made it through a flight, panic attack-free, for only the second time in the last 3 years (and shared some tips for how you can do the same). I saw Chicago for the first time and got to go on my second City Running Tour. Right after Chicago I headed home for the Thanksgiving holiday. I spent time with family and raced a Turkey Trot (and earned a new 10k PR) before finally returning to Blacksburg to finish out the fall semester.

As for December, it's felt a little all over the place. I started thinking about my race plans for 2015, mainly to get ready for the big one (even though it's not until September, and registration was supposed to open 3 weeks ago but still hasn't yet). I started sharing my weekly workouts. I started teaching Bane to run with me (and myself to run with him). I made my first vlog and even though technology failed me on the actual day I wanted to post it, I ended up posting it anyway. And you guys made me not feel like a complete dork for doing so, so thanks for that. I shared some more of my capsule wardrobe progress, as well as some melancholia I was feeling about home. I started recapping the year in 3-month chunks, leading up to this 4th and final installment!

This photo was taken mid-run (without even stopping), has not been filtered or edited in any way, and accurately reflects why Portsmouth is the most perfect place I have ever run <3

And that's a wrap! I can safely say that a year ago almost none of the things that ended up happening were in my 2014 plans, so I don't even want to predict what 2015 might hold! But if it's anywhere close to as great as this year was, I think I'll be fine with that.

Sunday Sweats [12/22-12/28]

Monday: I was all jazzed about officially beginning training for my spring races, only to have a completely unspectacular run. Later that night I hopped on the trainer for an episode of RHOBH (this is how I bribe myself to ride my bike now).

Tuesday: Woke up early to get my workout in before we left town, since I knew that would be my only opportunity. About halfway through the workout I realized I had forgotten to move up in weight for one of the exercises, and by the end I realized that I was actually supposed to move up for all of the exercises. Can you tell I don't normally work out at 6am?

Wednesday: Another run I was super pumped for, since we were at home and I got to run in Portsmouth! Except it was WAY warm (70*, and the only bottoms I brought were long pants), WAY windy, misty, and overall just disgusting. I felt soggy the gross the whole time - definitely not the welcome home run I was looking forward to. I felt good for the first minute and then horrible pretty much every second after. First 3 miles were 8:01, 7:54, 8:22, so not bad...but then I was tired and my stomach hurt and I wanted to just quit and sit on the sea wall and look at the water and think about how I didn't want to push myself anymore and I wanted to throw in the towel on a 1:45 half and be happy with my 1:49 and not even do Shamrock at all. Six walk breaks and 2 miles at 9:58 and 9:35 later, I finally finished the 5 miles I had scheduled.

Thursday: I was determined to have the run I wanted so I gave myself permission for my run to be whatever it was going to be that day. I told myself to think less and do more. I ran where my parents live, down a wooded road to the main boulevard home to chain restaurants and a shopping mall. The scenery was entirely unremarkable, but it didn't matter. Changing my attitude made all the difference.

Friday: Rest day. Ben and I went to breakfast, shopping, lunch, the movies, and had Christmas with his family so there wouldn't have been time to work out even if I had wanted to.

Saturday: Up early again to get in my long run before we left to go back to Blacksburg. I ran some of my old marathon training route and it was nearly perfect. The map looks crazy because of all of my back-and-forth and zig-zagging - I love and miss that. I think I hit just about every street in Olde Towne. The first 10 miles felt pretty great, but by that point I was really regretting not bringing any fluids or food with me to refuel. My legs were starting to feel tired and heavy and it was a bit of a mental struggle to get through the last 2 miles, probably due to lack of energy more than anything.

Sunday: I figured out the BEST way to pass time on the trainer: playing Threes on my phone. That hour flew by! Pumped my tires beforehand, and I don't know how this makes any sense, but I really do seem to ride better on full tires, even on the trainer. Did NROLFW afterward in between prepping dinner and cooking dinner.

- Running fast was hard.
- Zero yoga was done.

+ I think I may have had a breakthrough this week about my race plans for the spring…although I can't be sure and am afraid to share lest I get burned. I need to give it some time before I know if it's real or not.
+ My long run was so great!

Goals for the Week:
  • Cross my fingers that Princeton doesn't open before I head to NJ in 12 days (!!!), but register if it does ;)
  • Figure out a time of day that works for me for running. I think that may be contributing to some of the luckiness I've been feeling.
  • Decide whether I want to run a 5k on New Years…and, if I do end up doing it, PR the shit out of it.

2014 in Review: July - September

By the beginning of July we had found a new place to live and packed up most of our things, but July was the real deal. It was go time. I said goodbye to my old running route with a teary 10-miler before we got the last of our things out of our place, handed the keys to our renter, and were on our way. That night we went to an early anniversary dinner and the next morning, it was goodbye Portsmouth, hello Blacksburg for me. Making that drive alone (since Ben had to stay and work another month) was one of the hardest things I have ever done (I bawled my eyes out), but also one of the most empowering.

When I arrived in Blacksburg, suddenly everything started to fall into place, even better than I ever expected it to. I subleased an apartment for the month and a few days after I arrived we celebrated the actual 4th anniversary of our wedding day, even though we weren't together for it. We weren't planning to see each other for a couple weeks but Ben and Bane ended up surprising me by coming to visit my first weekend in Blacksburg. We had a fabulous time hiking the Cascades. I did go home once in July for a celebration with my tri friends (even though I didn't end up getting to do the race myself), but other than that, school kept me pretty busy for the remainder of the month.

Before I knew it, it was August 8th: our move-in date for our apartment! By the middle of the month I had finished all my summer classes and only had a few days before starting the fall semester, so we were able to get away to the Outer Banks for a few days. And, even though I had been getting into marathon training mode for a while, at the end of the month I signed up for my 3rd marathon.

I had a meltdown over that marathon almost as soon as I signed up, and it didn't stop there. I thought I just needed a good race, and I finally got to toe the line after a 3-month hiatus at the Claytor Lake Tri, only a 45-minute drive from our new mountain home. It was an eventful race, full of rain, puddles, and missed turns on the course, but amazingly I went home with a 1st place age group medal (and believe it or not, there were more people in my age group than just me!).

At the end of September I traveled out of town for my next race, but not before meeting my sister- and brother-in-law on the way and then crashing with them at our other sister- and brother-in-law's house. The next day I finished my 3rd, possibly best yet Olympic distance tri. That week Alyssa and I hatched a plan for our Training for Tuesday linkup, but by the time the linkup actually happened, I had a confession to make: I had dropped out of the marathon. Balancing a very full school schedule with marathon training proved harder than I thought it would be.

I'm not sure I will post again this week, so if not, I hope you all have a very happy and joyful week filled with people and things that you love!

Sunday Sweats [12/15-12/21]

This was a weird week for me, since we traveled home just for the night at the beginning of the week, and I had exams all week, and I think it showed in my workouts. I had a rough beginning of the week but by the end I started to feel like myself and got some quality workouts in! Nothing earth-shattering, but a step in the right direction, I think.

Monday: Had to get up early to get my run in. I was tired and it was really cold and I didn't want to do it, but eventually I forced myself out the door. My legs didn't feel like they were moving that well and it wasn't a very great run, but I'm glad I got it done.

Tuesday: We didn't get back into town until after 5pm and then we had dinner to make, Christmas gifts to wrap, and decorations to put up, so I didn't get to my workout until after 8:30. Like Monday's run, it wasn't great, but I was glad to get it done.

Wednesday: This run was a bit better than Monday's, but not by much. I had planned to do my 4 miles and then get Bane for a 5th, but by the end of the 4th mile I was back home and tired and I had a cramp so I just quit. It was going okay for the first few miles (all around 8:00, +/- 5 seconds) but by the 4th one (8:34) I was just done.

Thursday: After Wednesday I was so mad at myself for not getting through my full run and for not taking Bane all week that on Thursday I made sure I ran a full 5 miles by myself and then picked up Bane for 1 more. The 5 miles were decent. I didn't push the pace but it still felt harden than it should have. I got on the trainer for 30 minutes later in the evening and had a much more pleasant experience than I have been lately! I turned the resistance down some - I'm not sure if I'm just a wimp or if somehow it got turned up really high, but either way it felt a lot better after I turned it down :)

Friday: Rest day! I did take Bane for a 1+ mile walk, but other than that, I did nothing.

Saturday: Rode my bike on the trainer for 45 minutes. Since I had already done 30 minutes on Thursday I didn't feel any pressure to get in a full hour, so I watched an episode of Real Housewives then rode a couple more minutes to round out a solid 45-minute session.

Sunday: Up early for 8 solo miles then 2 more with Bane. My goal was to establish a baseline for my long runs since I start half marathon training tomorrow. I wanted to find where my comfortable pace was, where I could run without feeling fatigue in my legs or my breathing labored. Since the semester is now over and most students have headed home for break, it was oddly quiet and desolate this morning, but it was also peaceful and I kind of loved it. I felt like I could have run forever! Running with Bane was a different story - apparently we needed to pee and sniff on EVERYTHING today. It was frustrating but in all honesty, as much as I want to teach him to calm down, I think he's teaching me the same thing.

- I'm pretty disappointed with how my weekday runs went this week. None of them were particularly fast or good-feeling. I never thought I would see a day when I was upset I only ran at an 8:15-8:30 pace but friends, the day is here.
- No sub-8's this week…unless that one mile 7:56 mile split I had counts…? Yeah I didn't think so.
- This is the second weekend in a row that I didn't get to run in one of my favorite races at home. Pretty bummed about it :(
- I definitely did not do as much yoga as I wanted to

+ I did 40 (out of 65) minutes of a yoga headstand class I have been meaning to do for a few weeks.
+ I got in 2 bike rides. Neither of them was very long but I did ride more total this week than I have in a while.
+ I did not want to kill myself or anyone else at any point while on the trainer this week!

Goals for the week:
  • Start my Rock n Roll/Shamrock half marathon training! I have kind of an insane goal that I'm not entirely sure is going to pan out, but I'm ready to train my little heart out regardless. It's been a while since I really put my heart into a training plan, so I'm apprehensive but excited.
  • Enjoy my Portsmouth runs. After my meltdown this week I'm pretty stoked that I get to do 3 out of my 4 runs this weekend in Ptown!
  • Bike 2x
  • Register for Princeton 70.3 (???). Registration has been supposed to open "soon" for like 2.5 weeks now, so no telling if this will be the week or not. At this point I'm kind of hoping it continues to be delayed so that maybe I'll be able to see the course first when I visit Alyssa in a few weeks, but I'm not holding my breath. I've never registered for a race this far in advance, or registered for this big of a race without at least knowing a little bit of the course first, but I know I'll be so mad at myself if I miss my chance and it sells out. I'm so nervous about registering now, but if I have to do it before I'm really ready to make sure that I get a spot, then so be it. 

Runners Tell All: 2014 Reflections & 2015 Goals

Well, this is it. The end of the road, so to speak, for 2014. I started blogging around this time last year and have linked up for Runners Tell All almost every month (a million thanks to Amanda and Beka for hosting!). I've talked about how and why I started running, my favorite running gear, going through a rough spot, my favorite running picture, my proudest running moment, my training tips, my race bucket listmy biggest running fans and finally, today, I'm looking back on my year of running (and ahead to what's next on my list).

By the numbers:
1120* = total miles run
177* = number of hours spent running
9:28 = average pace for the year
0 = number of injuries!
15 = finish lines crossed
4 = number of states I ran or raced in (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York)
1 = number of back-to-back race challenges completed
2 = number of new races (full marathon and duathlon)
3 = number of sub-2 hour half marathons I ran (plus 1 more if you count unofficial)
8:25 =  my fastest mile at the beginning of the year / 7:29 = my fastest mile by the end of the year
27:39 = my 5k PR at the beginning of the year / 23:59 = my 5k PR at the end of the year
57:00 = my 10k PR at the beginning of the year / 49:20 = my 10k PR at the end of the year
2:09:59 = my half marathon PR at the beginning of the year / 1:49:34 = my half marathon PR at the end of the year
4:48:59 = finishing time at my first marathon
63.5 = lowest monthly mileage (April) / 122.4 = highest monthly mileage (February), 121.9 = close second (September)
*projected - there are still 10 days of December left!

This year of running was a lot of up and down (and I'm not just talking about the fact that I started running hills for the first time ever): I finished my first full marathon feeling like the champion of the world (or Wonder Woman, as it were), then the marathon turned right back around and humbled me; the half marathon put me in my place, but I later beat. the. shit. out of it; I got intimidated and dropped out of two big races, but doing so led me to some big(ger?) things that had never been on my radar until they happened.

This was a transformational year for me. It was my biggest year of running yet, not just because of the numbers up there, but because I finally felt like I got the hang of running. This was the first time I really ever pushed myself. I learned to run hard and to take risks. My attitude toward running majorly suffered after I moved, but the times I've put up since then make it hard to deny that moving has done anything other than good things for my running. Just as soon as I finally made it to a place where running felt comfortable, even easy, I was pulled out of my comfort zone and running was suddenly harder than ever before. I'm not proud of my bad attitude about my new surroundings; it's something I'm still working through. But through all of my struggles, both physical and mental, running has made me a fighter.

Years from now I probably won't remember how fast (or not) I ran in Charleston during my first marathon, or what time my dad and I crossed the finish line, holding hands, at his first marathon, or how long I stood shivering in the cold rain after the Hokie Half Marathon waiting to see Ben finish his first 13.1, or what pace I was trying to hold in Richmond. What I will remember are those experiences. I'm fortunate to have had them, and even more fortunate to be able to start a new year with legs that are able to carry me however far I ask them to.

2015 Goal: Complete a Half-Ironman.

That's it. One goal for this year. I've been wanting to do this since I started triathlon in 2013, talking about it since last year, and I'm ready to make good on it in 2015. I have my goal race all picked out and I'm ready to sign up as soon as registration opens. I'm excited, doubtful, nervous, and hopeful. I hope I'm ready for what awaits me in September.

Since my main goal for 2015 is the 70.3, I know that in order to accomplish it, I need to make it my focus. First and foremost, that means taking the marathon completely off the table for 2015. While I had a really successful 2014, I think I put way too much on my plate and I don't want to risk burning myself out again. I do have a secondary goal for 2015, and that's to run a 1:45 half marathon in March. It's enough of a dream goal that it's definitely going to take some work, but realistic enough that the training (which officially starts tomorrow!) won't be drastically different from how I would run otherwise. I plan to train for it and do my best, but if it doesn't happen, I can live with that.

I need to treat it the same way I treated my first marathon, with visions of the finish line my head during every training session. I need to eat, sleep, and breathe that race. I know from experience that fully committing to this race is what will make not only the race itself, but also my training, a positive, successful experience. As impressive as the second half of my year was, I have a hard time being proud of it because I don't like the attitude I had at the time. So, maybe that's my big goal for 2015: to be the athlete I want to be, mentally and physically. To get my head right. Then hopefully my legs will follow.  

When It Isn't Like It Should Be

On Monday we made a quick trip (well, as quick as a trip that involves a 5-hour drive each way can be) back home for Ben's company's holiday party. I plan the parties, and for the last couple years we've done some limo-riding and restaurant-hopping, but we always end back at a tried-and-true favorite restaurant. That restaurant happens to be a block from the house we own but no longer live in, so when the party ended we walked toward our house, like usual...and then past our house, our home, and turned the corner to walk another 2 blocks to our hotel for the night.

Since I've never needed to stay in a hotel there before, I never knew the vantage point it had. When I walked into our ro and looked out the windows, I saw everything. Every piece of the puzzle that I call home was all in one place, already assembled. The clock tower I used to run by, where I'd make a mental note of whether or not I'd be home by the time I told Ben I would be; the church that we walked into as fiancé and fiancée and walked out of husband and wife; the green patina on the roof of the apartment building that was our first Portsmouth home; the sidewalks with uneven bricks, where I earned almost every one of my running victories over the last 3 years; the aircraft carriers being repaired in dry docks; the river that I used to run alongside and drive under on a daily basis: it was all there.

I was apprehensive about moving back to Blacksburg, not because it isn't beautiful or interesting, but because despite those things it made me so gut-wrenchingly homesick the first time around. These two places, although both just small specks on the map, couldn't be more different. I remember seeing the movie Juno my senior year and a line from that movie, "I never realize how much I like being home unless I've been somewhere really different for a while," has always stuck with me. It was true in 2007 and apparently it's still true now.

Portsmouth isn't just home because it's the place I used to live. It's the common thread linking together everything I've ever poured my heart and soul into. It's where I vowed to love, honor, and cherish the most important person in my life for as long as we both shall live. It's where I started my career, then quit that career, neither of which was a small moment in any capacity. And leave it to me to turn any discussion into the topic of running, but it's where I learned to run and learned that I am so much more capable than I ever imagined. The magnitude of those things is not lost on me.

Ben and I have a print hanging in our home that says, "Wherever we are together that is home" (I know, again with the quotes about home...?). We had it in our Portsmouth home and now our Balcksburg home, and I want so desperately for it to be true. I don't want to be so attached to things or places or even memories. I just don't think I fully realized before now that moving would be such a sacrifice for me. I was so focused on how much of a sacrifice Ben was making for me (having to work remotely and travel more often) that I didn't consider that I would have to sacrifice some things. Or maybe I did, and I told myself it would be okay, because how can I look at it as a sacrifice when ultimately I am getting exactly what I want?

The next day, just as soon as we had arrived, we went to leave. As we drove away it still stung to think about all the memories we left behind and all the new ones we don't get to make there, but then I thought about what made me want to move in the first place. That stinging, pining, aching feeling I got just from looking out a Portsmouth window was the same one, magnified by 10 or 100, that I used to get when I was a teacher and my students would talk about going to Virginia Tech. It's the same one I used to get whenever Ben's degree came up in conversation with a stranger, and I would feel inadequate in some way, like I missed the boat on something I know I should have done. It's the one I would get last year, when I went to a school closer to home that I knew deep down wasn't the right fit.

I've had some ups and downs lately. I feel like I've pressed on, full-steam ahead for the whole semester, and the closer I get to the end, with so many dates and deadlines and projects and exams, the tighter and closer the blinders get. So, just for a second, I loosened them a little and tried not to focus so much on the past and the would-be future, but on the now, especially the alternative now. Alternative now felt worse than actual now. So I kept driving and I left Portsmouth behind.

And then I had a singalong to Oh, Comely and I got all the words right and everything felt a little bit better.

2014 in Review: April - June

When we last left off, it was the end of March and warm temperatures were slowly starting to creep their way back to Virginia.

The first weekend in April I celebrated my 1-year multisport anniversary (i.e. a year since I did my first triathlon) by competing in a new multisport event I'd never done: my first duathlon (run-bike-run)! I set a new 5k PR (not even on the first run but on the second one, after already running a 5k then biking 20+ hilly miles…BAM), won a wooden owl trophy for finishing 2nd in my age group (not telling how many people there were in my AG), and, most importantly, got to compete and hang out after the race with friends. It was a great day! In other April running/triathlon news, by that months installment of Runners Tell All I had (half reluctantly, half happily) decided that 70.3 was not in the card for me in 2014, and at the end of the month I celebrated my 3rd running anniversary by writing a letter to past me from future me. That post is one of my all-time favorites!

One thing Ben and I wanted to focus on during this time was going on more dates, and he planned one of the best dates I think we've ever had. He surprised me with tickets to see the world premiere of a special presentation of Ben Hur, with a new orchestral score composed by Stewart Copeland of The Police. If you're wondering how many nerd points he got for that one…let's just say it's a lot.

A few days later, the 7th anniversary of April 16th hit me a lot harder than I expected it to. Remember how I said that in March I suddenly had a strong feeling that a big change was in my future? Well, on April 16th, the deal was more or less sealed. I had been considering going back to Virginia Tech for my engineering studies since I first made the decision to go back to engineering school in the first place, and that thought kept gnawing away at me. There were still a lot of logistics to be figured out, but the decision was more or less made.

May was a busy month of vacations and staycations. The month started with traveling to the Outer Banks with my parents and friends for the Flying Pirate Half Marathon. I didn't get the time I had hoped to, but I learned some important things about running and life that day. Also I took what is probably my best running photo of all time. The week after Flying Pirate I finished my finals and Ben and I headed to…Virginia Beach! It was a fun getaway to play tourist for a few days, even if we didn't really get away. As soon our beach staycation was over we hit the road to find a new home in the mountains!

We had a great time getting reacquainted with Blacksburg and were already counting down to our big move, but our travels weren't over yet. I went to my 100th concert and then we traveled to Philadelphia to see my 101st and fulfill a longtime dream of both of ours: seeing Saosin with Anthony Green. After we got back home we celebrated 8 years of being together and the 5th anniversary of our engagement. But despite all of that time together, we still don't know if we ever want kids, which I blogged about in one of my first ever putting-it-out-there posts. And, of course, I couldn't end the month without running (and getting a big PR!) in one of my favorite races, the Elizabeth River 10k, which takes place basically in my backyard.

In June Bane turned 2! Then I raced in my second Olympic triathlon and showed you what the day in the life of a triathlete is like. The rest of the month was busy in a different way than the previous months as we decluttered and got ready to move at the beginning of July!

…and then I blinked and 2014 was already halfway over, what?!

Sunday Sweats [12/8 - 12/14]

Monday: Ran 5k by myself and hit that sub-8 @ 7:56 average…and then I didn't think I had any energy left to take Bane, but after I got home and regrouped for a minute I decided it wouldn't kill me to take him out for less than a mile. We did our .8ish mile loop @ 9:30 average.

Tuesday: NROLFW Stage 1 Workout A-2 (seriously that is so much to type). I could tell a huge difference already, this felt so much easier than last week!

Wednesday: Ah, one of those good-for-the-soul runs! I made a conscious effort to run at a comfortable pace - amazing what a difference just 10 or 15 seconds per miles makes. I ran 4+ alone before getting Bane for our loop. He did really well today! I mean, he did try to jump on 3 people but there was that one time we passed a couple walking the trail and he didn't even lunge at them. Go, B!

Thursday: Ran the same pace as Wednesday and felt pretty good. Picked up Bane after my 3.28 @ 8:07 and then ran .85 with him at 8:59. He ran so well today!

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: I was excited to get back to my Saturday long run routine for the first time in…a couple months, I think…until my alarm went off Saturday morning. I focused on running slower than last week so I wouldn't crash and burn at the first hill (and I didn't, so yay), but I do wish I had been able to run faster and feel better about it (so boo). I also felt like toast when I got back to the house to pick up Bane after 6.8 miles, so that's no good either. I have 14 weeks until my goal half so plenty of time to get my pace down, I'm just frustrated running fast, far, and on hills don't seem to mix very well!

Sunday: An hour on the trainer (slower than last week) and then NROLFW Stage 1 Workout 2-B.

+I started feeling like I was getting my legs back this week. I really didn't expect that week at home to make the hills feel so much harder when I got back. I did have to slow my pace a little to get comfortable, but I hope once I get used to them again I'll start speeding up more.
+I held crow for like 2.5 seconds!

-I did not do as much yoga as I would have liked. I think I did some Monday and Tuesday, and that was it until Sunday.
-I HATE being on the trainer. Absolutely loathe it. I don't know what it is but I can't stand to sit there and pedal for more than 10 minutes, if I'm lucky, before I have to stop just to…I don't even know what. Wallow in self-pity and boredom? I just hate it and find it so boring and uncomfortable and when I struggle to make it through 5 minutes nonstop I start to seriously question and doubt my ability to ever be able to ride 56 miles.
-I didn't get to sign up for Princeton 70.3 because registration still hasn't opened (I think they are still working on getting permits, from what I heard)…but maybe that's a good thing? Haha!

Goals for this week:
Run a little longer/farther with Bane
Get on my bike 2x

This is my last week before my official Rock n Roll/Shamrock training starts next week! It's going to be a little crazy as I have an exam tomorrow morning, then we're going home (5 hour drive) immediately after for Ben's company's holiday party, then coming back on Tuesday and I have more exams on Wednesday. But I'm hoping that the semester ending at the end of the week will give me a nice (albeit) short break and leave me ready to start a new training plan and my winter class!

2014 in Review: January - March

There's nothing I love more than looking back at the year. I thought I'd wait a bit to do a yearly recap post, but then I saw that Alyssa was joining some lovely ladies and starting the party a little early and I just couldn't wait to get on board.

2014 was probably the strangest year I've had so far. Looking back, it feels like I piecemealed most of the year together. There were a lot of highs, lows, stops, starts, and things that seemed unbelievable (and still do), and overall none of it feels very cohesive.

As soon as we rang in the new year, I was fired up and ready to lay out all my plans and goals for the year. The big-ticket items I hoped to cross off my list were running a marathon, cycling in a century ride, and completing my first half Ironman triathlon. I was off to a great start, as I began the year by reaching the peak of my marathon training and welcoming a well-deserved and much-needed taper period. The first 3 weeks of January were a roller coaster of emotions as I prepared for race day. A little before 1pm on January 18th, when I was 26.2 years old, after running for nearly 5 hours, I crossed the finish line of my first marathon in the city where I was born. On January 19th I was already working on a training plan for my next one.

Although the year couldn't have gotten off to a better start in terms of running, personally it could not have started worse. I've never shared this and will probably never go into specifics, but at that time Ben and I went through the most difficult time of our marriage, to date. In January, we started going to counseling and we made a decision to recommit to each other.

After a big, life-changing January, February was a little quieter. Ben's and my supporting each other became necessary more than ever because we lost our ferret Roxy at the beginning of the month. We had known for a while that the day would come sooner rather than later, but it was still devastating for both of us. We had another health scare later in the month with our other ferret, but after surgery at the end of the month she was good as new!

By the middle of the month I had convinced my dad and a friend to run the Shamrock Marathon with me (the first full for both of them), so we spent many training runs together, especially long runs on the weekend. We warmed up with a 10k (with some leftover snow and ice on the ground) before running the Virginia is For Lovers 14k, and the next weekend we all ran the Tidewater Striders Distance Series 20-Miler. The latter is one of the craziest things I've ever done, only because it was held at a bike trail we frequent, which I swore I'd never run because even biking the 16-mile loop there is so boring. I'm still in shock that I ran 20 miles on it. In February I was still (slowly) working my way out of the blogging closet, and I linked up for Runners Tell All for the first time that month. That has since become one of my favorite linkups and I've met so many awesome runner bloggers through it!

The very first day of March was the first time I had an inkling that a big change might be in my future. Although it had been almost a year since I quit my job to go back to school, a big change in and of itself, I kept the idea of moving and going back to Virginia Tech in the back of my mind. I hadn't been ready to commit to it when I initially started back in school, but over time I warmed up to the idea of moving myself and my family 5 hours away. March 1 was the first time I realized that that was exactly what I wanted and needed to do. I remember it distinctly because I was at the school I was attending at the time, working on something for class on a Saturday, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. But for the rest of March, it was still nothing more than a thought. More to come on that in later months.

March got off to a busy start when we traveled to NYC and Boston during the first week! We met up with Ben's sister and her husband, who traveled up from Raleigh, and had the best time together. I tackled my plane anxiety by flying for the first time in nearly 3 years, we explored Boston, we took the train for the first time, we saw The Daily Show live, I ran in Central Park, and we all had the best time.

As soon as I got back I hit the ground running - literally. The day after we returned from up north I went to the Shamrock expo to pick up my packets. While most people spent St. Patrick's Day weekend drinking green beer, I spent the majority of it running (but got to the beer-drinking afterward). On Saturday I ran the Shamrock 8k and then Sunday I completed my 2nd full marathon hand-in-hand with my dad (and after much encouragement from both him and our friend who was running with us). It was one of the toughest race weekends of my life but I was so proud to be a Whale Challenge finisher (and at only 8 minutes slower than my first marathon in January)!

It wasn't long after Shamrock ended that I started to set my sights on my next goal: the 70.3. My dad and I broke out the bikes and the spandex to usher in tri season. We got some warm weather at the end of the month which made me start dreaming of spring and summer activities.

And that was the first quarter of my year - no wonder it feels like a random mishmash of highs and lows!

Sunday Sweats [12/1 - 12/7]

I don't normally post on Sundays, but this week I'm starting something new and joining Holly for Sunday Sweats!

This was a busy school week for me so my mood was pretty crappy, which didn't really help me in the workout department. Overall I just didn't feel that great.

Monday: Not-so-easy 5k. Didn't push the pace but it was still hard to keep a comfortable 8:20 pace. On the bright side, my mile splits were near perfect: 8:21, 8:22, 8:20. 

Tuesday: Started New Rules of Lifting for Women for the 3rd time. It's been a year and a half, I think, since the last time I did it (not even sure if I finished the 2nd time around tbh). I've hardly been doing strength training at all the last 6 months. Confirmed what I already knew: I've lost basically all my core strength. My core needs major work!

Wednesday: 4 miles at a comfortable(ish) pace. I actually hated this run until the last .8 because that's when I picked up Bane for his first day of training! He did so great!

Thursday: 2.4 miles alone before picking up Bane for a total of 3.2. He did the same as yesterday until we got about a quarter mile from the house and he saw another dog. He went berserk and I didn't know what to do except stop and walk him past the other dog.

Friday: Rest day!

Saturday: I really want to get back to Saturday long runs but it just wasn't happening this week. The weather was nasty all day Saturday so I traded my run for a ride on the trainer. It was a boring hour but on the bright side, by the time I got off all my Christmas gifts had been ordered!

Sunday: I couldn't decide what I wanted to do for a long run this week (5 miles? 10? 7?) so I decided I'd run for about an hour then pick up Bane for my last mile. For some stupid reason I started out with a 7:52 first mile, and that pace felt okay until I hit my first big hill at mile 2 and then it was definitely not okay. I walked a little up that hill...and some other hills...but on the plus side I ran hard the rest of the time, if that makes sense. I don't know what it is, I'm perfectly capable of running up the hills but I just don't want to anymore. It makes my chest feel yucky more than it hurts my legs. I ended up with 6.65 miles at 8:30 and then Bane and I did 1.35 at around 10:00 (his having to pee on everything and chase other dogs don't really help in the speed department). All around not as fast as I would have liked, but I'll admit it's kind of nice having no pressure and not feeling guilty if I can't quite keep the pace I want.

After dinner I did the NROLFW B workout for this week.

Lots of yoga this week! A lot for me anyway. I've been trying to make sure I do something at least every other day. I think this week I only missed Wednesday, and even though I didn't do much on Friday, I did practice crow for a few minutes.

It's been hard getting used to mountain running again after a week at the beach. My pace has slowed a little bit but I hope with some work I can get where I want to be (about 10 to 20 seconds faster than I'm averaging now).

Goals for this week:
Practice crow!
Average sub-8 on a run
Bike for an hour without stopping every 5 minutes to complain about how bored I am
Register for Princeton 70.3 (if it finally opens and/or if I can get over my self-doubt on the bike)?

Be Kind to Animals.

A few nights ago I happened to turn the TV on to catch the last few minutes of a segment on 60 Minutes called "The Lion Whisperer." It was about a man who used to work at Lion Park in South Africa, where tourists can pet lion cubs, and left to start his own lion reservation. The first few minutes showed him taking walks with the lions, playing with them, and talking about his relationship with them. The next clip went on to further investigate Lion Park and what happens to the lion cubs once they reach adulthood. The owner claimed they went on to "good homes", but the sad reality is that at least some of them, if not the majority, end up in fenced enclosures being used as trophies for canned hunting. Before I knew it, with no warning, right before my eyes were two very graphic clips of defenseless lions being shot multiple times. Tears started welling up in my eyes. I was shocked at what I saw.

I've had pets since the day I was born. I grew up with a dog and 2 cats and was taught not just to love and treat animals like family, but that they are family. My childhood dog was my heart and soul. Ben and I adopted our first pet, a ferret, in college when we had been together only 6 months, and our family has grown since then to presently include 2 ferrets, 2 cats, and a dog. They are our children; we are a family. We would go to the end of the earth to protect them, to make sure that they are safe, healthy, and happy.

A little over 3 years ago I finally made enough of a connection between my pets and my food to realize that I no longer wanted to eat animals. I'm vegetarian because one day I looked into my cat's eyes and realized that it hurt my heart to think about someone ever hurting him that way. I don't own leather products for the same reason. The cows, chicken, pigs, and fish that make up a meal or a pair of shoes are no different to me than the dog, cats, and ferrets I share my home, my life, and my heart with.
(For the record, I don't judge anyone who may have different views from me. I understand that as we are animals, eating other animals is a natural part of life and not inherently wrong. Eating animals may not be wrong, but it is wrong for me. I am happy to discuss this further but that is not the point of this post).

In my head, I know not everyone views animals the way I do. I know that not everyone has been fortunate enough to know the unconditional love an animal gives, to know what it feels like to have an animal truly depend on them, or to see how amazingly smart, caring, and loving animals can be. I know that some people don't consider their pets family. I've been accused of being a bleeding heart, and I can't say that's an entirely unfair categorization. Still, even though I can acknowledge that I may be more sensitive to animals than most, mistreatment of animals still baffles me.

I don't even know how to describe what it felt like to see adult human beings gunning down a beautiful lion, a lion who had been raised in captivity since birth, a lion who had no capacity of knowing to or being able to defend himself. It was sickening. It was horrifying. It was devastating. I'm not usually one to get emotional over things I see on TV, but this made me feel like I got punched in the stomach. I recognize that there may be a fuzzy line that keeps us from being able to agree if things like zoos or fishing or wild game hunting are right or wrong. It's obvious where I stand on those issues, but I can at least concede that those on the other side may have a valid argument and aren't vile human beings. I can't say the same for these people participating in canned hunting. I don't like to jump to judgment but this is one instance where I have no problem stating that those people don't even deserve to breathe the same air as those lions.

Needless to say, I went to bed that night hugging my babies a little bit tighter.

December Goals

Is it really Monday? Is it really December?! Having nothing to do last week but travel, eat, run, and spend time with family and friends was exactly what I needed. As we head into end-of-semester and official holiday territory, which are each crazy enough, let alone concurrently, these are the things I'd like to work on to maybe stay sane.

  • Start running with Bane. When we got Bane, I was SO excited because I thought he was going to be a great running buddy for me. I tried running with him when he was younger and he just did not have the attention span for it, and I didn't have the patience, so that petered out quickly. I was inspired to try again by Miss Elle Noel, who has started running with her seriously adorable pups. I've never really made a good effort to train Bane to run, but since I'm not in a hardcore training cycle right now, I think it could be a good time. I'm thinking about stopping by the house when I get close to the end of my runs to pick him up and run with him for a bit. I'll probably start with a half mile or so and, depending on how that goes, go a little further with him every run. He loves to run so I think he could be a good running dog, he just needs some proper training (who doesn't?).
  • Nail down a training plan for half marathon #11 and #12. I'm already signed up for Rock 'n' Roll DC, and I thought it was the same weekend as Shamrock, a race I've done every year since I started running (it was my first half in 2012, then I ran the half again in 2013 and the 8k and full in 2014). BUT, thanks to Jenny, I realized last week that I'm an idiot and didn't check the actual dates for Shamrock, which is being held a week later than usual this year, so that means I can do both! The races aren't until March so I have until the end of the month before I really need to start training. It's been 2 years since I last trained specifically for a half marathon (without it being part of marathon or triathlon training) and I'm looking to improve on my recent times a little bit. Whatever my training plan ends up looking like, it should at least be a fun one!
  • Practice letting it go. (I haven't seen Frozen but regardless, yes, the song is now stuck in my head, and probably yours too...). "It" is a lot of things. "It" is everything. I don't know how to prioritize things in my life - everything is priority #1. I also have a (mildly?) obsessive personality so when I get an idea in my head, it's hard to get it out. Sometimes this is a really good thing because it drives me to persevere despite the odds, but sometimes it leads to decisions I probably don't need to make. I want to work on letting some things go, on realizing that I don't have to do everything, that moderation is a good thing. So, "it" could be something I'm obsessing over. Or it could be the piles of laundry I don't have time to do. Or the dishes in the sink. Whatever "it" is on any given day, I want to take a step back and realize that it might not need to get done, and even if it does need to be done, it's okay if that doesn't happen.
  • Go through and donate the majority of the shirts in my unnecessarily extensive race shirt collection. I already acknowledged that I'm having the hardest time with my newfound inner minimalist when it comes to my wardrobe, and my running clothes are the biggest offenders. As I race, I continue to collect race shirts, and it's getting to be a serious problem. There are probably a good 10 at least that are the wrong size that I kept anyway, and another 10-20 that I rarely, if ever, wear. Most of them are just sitting in a space bag in my closet. I don't know what my system will be to determine which ones to keep (first races? PRs? Favorite designs? Current year's?) but I need to come up with something and let the majority of them go.
  • Continue to work on my capsule wardrobe. So far my capsule wardrobe adventures have been seriously eye-opening. I don't have it quite nailed down yet but I hope I will this month. It's definitely a process and I'm looking forward to sharing more as soon as I figure it out. 
  • Register for my first Half-Iron distance triathlon. Did I seriously just type those words?! After a lot of time thinking and considering and weighing pros and cons and hemming and hawing, I think it's time to bite the bullet. I've narrowed down to Raleigh or Princeton for my first 70.3 and I think I'm about 99% sold on the latter. I've only been to New Jersey once in my life and never anywhere close to Princeton, so I wanted to wait to register until I could visit and see a little of the course next month, but that doesn't look like it's in the cards now. Registration is slated to open in the next week or two, and last year it sold out in just a few weeks, meaning I need commit soon. 
  • Get on my bike for at least an hour every week. Whether I get that hour done in one ride or break it up into 2 or 3, I just need to get used to spending time in the saddle again. Even though it will be a while before I start training for the HIM, cycling is my weakest and least favorite sport which means it's the one I need to work on the most. 
What do you want to get done this month?