Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It's Fall in NY!

Happy Hump Day!  So it's Wednesday and I've been having a really lovely week hanging out in my old stomping grounds as a "visitor" in Upstate New York.  It's a fun time of year as it is the first weekend of fall.  This past weekend I visited some local farms with my friends and I've been eating apples up the wazoo this week.  Plus, I finally got to pull my boots out, which is an exciting thing for me.  Who else wore boots for the first time this week, because I know I am not the only one, right??

Fall means the days are shorter and it gets lighter later, so that means that for my morning runs it is headlamp weather!  On Monday morning I did 5 miles with my running crew that I am going to miss so much when I am full time in Atlanta and it was a creaky pace, but a good run with friends.  It was also my first wearing my headlamp this season.  As a fall present to you, I present this lovely photo.

Monday morning was the first time I wore a headlamp this week but not my last.  For my run this morning, which I did out in the boonies where I am staying with friends, I put on pretty much every item of reflective gear I have and my headlamp.  I did it as a test run because this weekend I am going to be needing it all as I am running in the Adirondacks Ragnar Relay!

For those of you who don't know, a Ragnar Relay is a 200 mile run that last for 2-days and 1-night with teams of 12 people running nonstop. Ours starts in Saratoga Springs and finishes in Lake Placid, New York and runs through the Adirondack Mountains.  I am pretty nervous and excited about the whole experience as it seems like it is a really fun, bonding, incredible, challenging experience.

I am running 3 legs throughout the relay, totally 20.1 miles, which is pretty perfect, because I am using this relay as a trade off for my 20-mile run that I am supposed to do in marathon training!  Since this weekend is my 20-miler run, it means that I am at the top of my training plan.  This is the peak of my marathon training, so it is an exciting weekend for me as it is something I've always wanted to do, and also the kick off to my favorite part of marathon training - the taper!

I can't believe that I am already this far into training for marathon #2.  It seems like just yesterday I was sketching this training plan all out and hanging it on my desk at work.

Since I trained for the Nashville Rock N Roll Half Marathon last year, I have motivated and encouraged myself by having a huge training plan hanging at my cubicle at work.  It is a conversation starter when people stop by to chat and a continual daily motivator for me to look and see what I have to do, and what I have accomplished.

In fact, this week, as I cleaned out my desk to prepare to move down to Atlanta, and I un-earthed the training plans that I put together for both the Paris Marathon and the Nashville Half Marathon.

It's crazy that when I made that training plan it was the hardest thing in the world for me, and such a huge accomplishment to finish that mileage and that plan.  I still am incredibly proud of that, and of everything else that I have accomplished since then.  It's insane to me how much this has been a part of my life and is just normal at this point.  I am so proud of myself.

I love the connections I have made from running.  The friends I have made from running.  And everything I have learned from running.   This weekend is going to be a fun adventure and I am excited to continue that with this weekend's run.  For those of you who have never heard of a Ragnar Relay, I will conclude with this video.  I am estimated to be running at 12:00 p.m. Friday, 11:00 p.m. Friday night, and 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning.  Should be an experience!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I write. And continue to write.

So, sometimes I disappear for weeks, or at times, months on end.  However, I always come back.  For the past almost 6.5 years I have been coming back to blogging again and again.

There are many reasons why I blog regularly (or try to anyways) and although I so cherish and appreciate the comments I receive, feedback I get, encouragement, positivity, and sense of community from my readers -- many of the reasons I write have to do with me, and very little with you.  I use this as a place to reflect, to organize my thoughts, to chronicle back where I have been, and as a place to record and remember.

Another one of the big reasons that I write here is just for the sake of writing.  I love writing (for many of the reasons listed above) and it is also a big part of my professional career, as is storytelling, and building relationships.

It is fun for me to try and exercise different types of writing, different ways of telling a story, of chronicling a trip or of re-living an experience.  If you notice, I try a lot of different things from bullet point entries, to timeline stories, to writing letters.  It is very interesting to me to use you guys as little guinea pigs to see what sticks, what people like to hear about, and what posts are a bore.  For those of you that follow me on Instagram, it is interesting what pictures get the most likes that I post (for the selfie haters out there -- I usually post more selfies because they get more likes!) and I like learning from/noticing the differences in interactions based on time of day I post, captions, etc.  The same goes for what I post to my Facebook page.  I just think this stuff is so fascinating, so I guess it suits me well that I work in the world of digital communications as well.

Anyways, I mentioned last night on Facebook that I've been missing you guys.  So, yes, you are a big reason why I continue to come back as well!  Lately, I've been missing the support and sense of community as I've been struggling to get back into the swing of eating healthy.  And, I recently had the realization that while I feel really comfortable typing publicly about my struggle to maintain a balanced diet, it's sometimes hard for me to open up to people in my day to day life about it.  Not usually, but sometimes, it makes me nervous to share that side of me.

Maybe its the "anonymity" of the internet (which is often talk about in a negative sense) but when I write here, I don't see the faces or thoughts of the people reading, so I am more comfortable sharing difficult topics.  Sometimes putting something out into the world gives me a sense of relief (for those of you who follow PostSecret, you know this can be very powerful.)  I like sharing with you all as it is a form of therapy for me!

Free therapy, preserved memories, a place to think, a place to practice a craft and hone a skill, a place to be myself.  Why do I disappear from here for so long all the time?!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Getting closer.

Hey guys, quick update for you today.  Firstly, I miss writing.  And secondly, I have at least one fan out there with Emily requesting I keep posting, so here it goes.

I'm getting closer to moving to being settled in Atlanta.  I'm getting closer to Marathon #2.  I'm getting closer to feeling a little less crazed and all over the place.  In general, I just have this feeling of "I'm getting closer."  Yet, it also feels like a million miles away that I will have my apartment decorated the way I want it, that I will be in more place for more than a week, and that life will feel normal.  However, that's what I signed up for, right?

Since I last wrote, I traveled to Atlanta, had an overwhelming day of looking for apartments that involved missing half my appointments, a number of tears, lots of frustration, but ultimately, a new apartment to call home.

I traveled to North Carolina, where I ran some monsterous hills, then headed out to the land of the hills, and spent a bit over a week in the Bay Area of California.  This was mostly for work -- but I extended the trip to include some fun time with my uncles and friends in San Francisco.  The trips were really great professionally and personally, and I added some great running to my list of cities and locations that I have explored by foot.

I did my 19 mile long run in San Francisco, which was a run that although the pace wasn't anything special, was a run that I was so proud of.  I spent the entire week leading up to the long run telling myself that it was okay if I didn't run the whole thing.  And when I left to go out in the morning, I wasn't sure if I would finish the whole thing.  But once I started running, I felt good and just kept going for it.  I was so proud of myself.

And not just proud of myself for the run, but that my legs felt good for the rest of the day and I spent the day sightseeing and doing a mixture of tourist and local things with a pretty awesome group of my guy friends.  We had such a good time!

I went back to Atlanta and officially moved into a new apartment that I lucked out finding.  My place is a disaster with unpacked boxes everywhere, piles of pictures to hang on walls, and a growing list of things to do and spaces to organize.  But I have a home and I love it.

To continue the craziness, I may have a home, but I am not there right now...

Two days after the trucks unloaded all of my items, I jumped back on a place to head to my old home of Albany for a quick trip that wraps up the last of my commitments I have in Upstate New York.  The main reason for the trip is to run the final 2 races in the area I had committed to: the Saratoga Palio Half Marathon, which I did today.  And the Adirondacks Ragnar Relay, which is next weekend.  Because I knew I was coming back for these races, I planned to finish up some of my move this week and will pack up my old desk in my old office building and also have my car shipped down to Atlanta.

Today's half marathon went okay and it was my third "official" Half Marathon race (although I have now run over the 13.1 distance a number of times in training for the two marathons.)  I finished in 2:14:14, which is in the middle of my previous two half marathon times and pretty good for the paces I have been running on my long runs lately.

I didn't feel too great while I was running as I was never able to get into that zone of just blanking out and feeling like a machine, where my mind goes somewhere else.  I have my best runs when I am in that zone, and today I couldn't find it and spent the whole 13.1 miles acutely aware that I was running and that I was tired.  I also didn't taper at all for the race, having done 19 miles last weekend and 18 throughout the week, including 5 the day before.  The final statement of comparison I have for the race today is that the last time we ran this course -- which was in a completely opposite climate, was for Jess's Birthday Blizzard Half Marathon in January, and I ran the race today 20 minutes faster than when I ran the course that awful, frigid January day.

So, with that, I will sign off.  Hope you are all doing well and enjoyed the last days of summer.  Today is officially September 21st and fall begins tomorrow.  Hope you are ready!  Have a great week!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Let's talk about running.

So, guys, remember how I am training for that marathon and I've been barely talking about it?!  Well, let's talk about it.  It's freaking September already and I have no idea when that happened.  Let's forget about all the life stuff going on right now, where I flew to today, or where I will be tomorrow an just talk about running, shall we?

I am now just starting Week 12 of the Hal Higdon Novice 2 marathon plan.  I originally started the Novice 1 training plan, which is the plan that I did for the Paris Marathon, but I randomly decided to try upping my mileage a bit and do Novice 2.  The midweek mileage doesn't get as high as the Novice 1 plan but there are more long weekend runs.

I am not sure if I will be doing this new plan justice since I am not really concerning myself with pace, and some of these runs are supposed to be at a specific pace, but I'm just going with it.  My whole thought process for training for this marathon was to be a little more easy-going than the first time around.  Especially as life has become more crazy, I am not trying to accomplish anything more than completing this race, which will be a huge success in itself with all that I have had going on these past few months and weeks.

It's funny to see how things have changed from my long runs the first time around to my long runs this time.  It's been a similar transition to when I did my first and second HALF marathons.  The first half marathon I did, I ran 10 miles, then lay on the floor for the rest of the day feeling like death.  The second half marathon, I ran 10 miles and then went about the rest of my day like a normal person.

For the marathon this past winter, my whole weekend was built around the long runs.  What I did the night before was dictated by an early bedtime and a (mostly) healthy meal.  My post-run plans were nonexistent beyond putting on my compression socks and planning to eat a lot.  After our 16-mile run, I lay on the floor of Jess's house in front of the wood stove for hours and ate a bowl of ice cream.

Then, a week ago, on August 22nd, I did a 17-mile run for this training plan, where I literally ran ALL AROUND my town that I grew up in (which was an awesome route, by the way) and then immediately had to get ready for a busy day at my friend's wedding.

We had to be in southern Rhode Island at 11:30 a.m. and I also had some pick-up duties with the other bridesmaids since I am the only one with a car.  Teenie was planning to be at my house at 10:15 a.m. to leave to head out, and I needed to run 17 miles beforehand, stretch, eat, shower, do my hair, and pack up everything I needed for the wedding and be ready to go at 10: 15 a.m.  I mapped out exactly what time I needed to leave my house for the run, how long it would take me to get ready, and managed to fit everything in.  However, I don't even think I paused to take a post-long run picture of my watch or a selfie, which is something I always do!

I finished running, and achingly went right upstairs to shower.  And, funny story, was that I accidentally blew a fuse in my mom's house before I got in the shower, which meant I then had to walk down two flights of stairs from the upstairs down to the basement to try and switch the fuse.  I walked 2 flights down, with my knees aching, and then went 2 stories back up and saw that I hadn't switched the right fuse!  Well, knowing that a) it was tiring to walk up and down those stairs after running and b) I didn't have much time to figure it all out -- I just lit some candles, showered in the dark, and left a note for my mom that I had accidentally blown that fuse and apologized.

I was so proud of myself at the end of that day because my legs felt great the whole time and I was able to stay awake, and on my feet until the very end of the night (which was around 10:30/11 p.m.)  It was seriously the best recovery I have had from a long run ever.  I am sure that there was some adrenaline involved with all the wedding stuff.  Plus, in the afternoon we all got pedicures, which were amazing!  It was something that I thought about all during the run when my feet were killing me.  I just told myself to keep going and promised my feet and legs that they would be getting massaged later if they just got me through the run -- which they did!

This Saturday I did an 18-mile run with Jess, which was a slight adjustment from the 15-mile run that we did from Galway to Saratoga this past winter.  Jess planned the route, and I went along for the ride, and it was a beautiful beautiful route that we ran.  It was cool seeing some familiar spots on the route from the winter, and that part of town is just beautiful so it was very scenic.

One thing that has been a challenge is that I have been having some pain in my knees lately.  I know that when I have knee pain it is time to buy new sneakers, which I did a couple weeks ago, but they did not feel right on the couple runs I took them on, so I chose to not use them during the long runs I have had lately.  I ended up returning them, and wanting to order them in the same style & size, but the Wide variety, however those need to be special ordered.  Since I was moving, there was a holiday weekend, etc. I didn't know when I would be able to get them and I didn't special order them sneakers through the store.  After the run I did on Saturday, I finally ordered them via Amazon Prime and they should be delivered to the hotel I will be in this week on Thursday.  Hopefully they make it on time because on Friday I check out of that hotel to head somewhere else!

Anyways, I did Saturdays run in an older pair of sneakers and I had some pretty bad knee pain a few times throughout the route.  I also had it on Wednesday and Friday during my midweek runs, so it has been making me nervous.  On Saturday at mile 8 we stopped to buy an additional bottle of water at a Stewart's market and as soon as I started walking, my knee started hurting.  And then when I tried to run again, it took a while to get in a groove and randomly hurt again throughout the last 10 miles.  I finished the run in 3:14, which is a little better pace than my 17 mile run that I did in 3:07.

I made it through and am hoping that the new sneakers help me out when I get them this week.  I also made a stop at the running store and bought some random stuff that supposedly help with knee pain like Rock Tape.  I always see people at races with this stuff on and thought it was silly, but figured why the heck not?  I've been wearing it around the past couple of days and although I haven't run, it feels fine (maybe mental??)  Staying healthy is one of the key elements to training, so I am trying to be really cautious with the knee this week during my runs and also took an extra day off today.

And on the nutrition side of things, on Saturday I started tracking my Weight Watchers points again.  I am going to try hard to keep it up while I am traveling, because it really helps me to be more conscientious and mindful of what I am consuming.  I would ideally like to get rid of some of the extra weight I am carrying around on my runs before the marathon, but without a kitchen and essentially eating out for the next month, I know it is going to be hard.  As least making sure I am getting nutritious food and adequately hydrating will be important.

In the words of the new headband my mom gave me for my birthday, "Strong is the new skinny."

I'm hoping to try and write more, even if it is quick, as the next couple of weeks progress to share the ups and downs of marathon training, while moving, while traveling, while living out of a suitcase and not knowing when I am going to be able to do my dirty running clothing laundry (this is a real concern of mine.)

Hope that the start to your September is going well!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Thank you.

Last weekend, the day before my 28th birthday, one of my best friends in the world got married to an incredibly guy.  I stood as one of her bridesmaids, along with her two sisters, and our other 3 best friends.  

The night of the rehearsal dinner, the 4 girls and I gave a toast to E & J and to the future of their relationship.

In preparation for our toast, I was thinking back on the memories of my friend and her now husband and one of the ones that stood out most was when I first met him.  I had been down in Washington, D.C. visiting for New Year's and I spent a couple days staying with E and got to meet J for the first time.  This was a big deal as I was the last in our group of girl friends to meet him and I am also notorious to be the hardest to win over by my friend's suitors.  I think I've said this before, but my friends mean the world to me, and I think that they deserve the very best, so I've got high standards.  However, at that very first introduction, I could see what an amazing person he was, how happy they made each other and how well they complemented each other.  He got my total thumbs up approval after that very first night of hanging out and playing beer pong back in 2009.  And then fast-forward to last weekend when they celebrated the start to a beautiful marriage.

Photo stolen from KO's Instagram
That same "pickiness" and high standards that I have is not just in my friends' significant others, but really, with the people in my life in general.  As I write this, I feel I run the risk of sounding snooty or bitchy, and I hope it doesn't come across that way or that I do a good job of explaining myself.  I love people.  I love meeting new people.  I love seeing different personalities, ways of doing things, lifestyles, and learning from all these different individuals in my life.  I just don't have a lot of patience for phoniness or rudeness.  I don't have ANY patience for meanness or bullying.  I choose to not keep people in my life that only bring about drama or start trouble.  And I think you know what I mean.  Because the fun, silly, get-in-trouble-for-climbing-out-the-window-of-the-bar-onto-the-roof kind of trouble is welcome, just not other the kind of picking fights, talking smack, being fake kind of trouble.  And by the way, that "climbing out the window of the bar" thing may or may not have happened last night while out with a pretty awesome and good looking group of people...

The reason that any of this is on my mind, in addition to that toast I was talking about, is that I have been feeling overwhelmingly blessed by -- and grateful for -- the people I have in my life.  Let me try and explain a little bit of what I am talking about, starting with that wedding I went to.

E & J's wedding was such a fun and special weekend.  The two of them, and their families, are all such incredible people and their thoughtfulness came across in so many aspects throughout the whole weekend.  From the incredibly special gifts for the bridal party, to inviting their out of town friends for drinks after the rehearsal dinner.  From coordinating even the most complicated details of the day for us to providing details that helped make our decisions of what meals to choose for the weekend. I know it sounds silly, and we laughed about how detail oriented E is during the wedding weekend - but a few days before the rehearsal dinner, E texted or e-mailed everyone attending the rehearsal dinner to ask us what we wanted for a meal.  And as a reminder, she included in the messages what we had chosen as our meal choice for the wedding.  Since she told me that I had chosen the beef option as my meal for the wedding, I went with the chicken option for the rehearsal dinner.  It was a tiny detail, but the thoughtfulness in reminding me of what my meal choices had been, was so helpful!

And I guess the theme of this post shouldn't just be, "I am so great at picking really thoughtful and nice friends!" but more that I think the process of having the high standards for who I include in my life has paid off.   Now, everyone that I meet from these people, are just as wonderful.  Goodness attracts goodness I think.  It was apparent at the wedding, because all of E & J's friends and family that I had the pleasure of meeting throughout the wedding shared their incredibly thoughtful and kind natures.  J's mom planned such wonderful details for the rehearsal dinner, including some Rhode Island & Texas shaped cookies (not to scale) that stole the show.  

Even their precious little niece was the most happy and easy-going baby I have ever met, smiling and remaining pleasant as she was passed from person to person throughout the weekend.  And E's friend in Atlanta was so wonderful when I introduced her to my mom, assuring her that she'd take care of me when I moved down south.  It was such a fun weekend celebrating the two of them, being surrounded by loved ones, and meeting new friends that I'm hoping to stay in touch with.

Then the day after the wedding, which was my 28th birthday, my mom, friends in Albany, and so many others were so sweet with little details, cards, gifts and positive wishes that made me feel so special.  I am terrible at getting cards and gifts to people on time for their birthday, and my many friends who do such a good job of being on top of those types of things are so amazing and really make you feel special.  There is a special place in the world for people who remember and are able to get birthday cards to people on time.  You all deserve cake and cookies and hugs every day - I love you so much!

This next one may seem a bit off topic, but this Saturday I spent cheering on my friend Jenna as she competed in her first Half Ironman competition at the Big George competition.  It really meant a lot ot me to be able to be there for her as she is one of the people who is constantly doing nice things for others, such as hanging that birthday sign outside of my apartment that totally made my day when I arrived back in Albany after the wedding!  Jenna has been training and planning for this race for years and I was so happy that my schedule worked out to be able to be here to cheer it on.  Jenna has been dating one of my other best friends, Dave, for the past two years, and I had such a good time driving around with him to find Jenna throughout the 60 mile bike portion of the race and seeing how he cared and supported Jenna as well.  Their relationship has been so fun to watch develop from almost exactly two years ago after my birthday party when Jenna said to me, "You know, I actually had a conversation with Dave for the first time last night and he is pretty cool."  :)  Again, goodness attracts goodness and I am so thankful to have these two in my life, and that they two of them were able to find one another.

Then finally, it would be impossible to write a post titled "thank you" and not mention my friends that I have been staying with this weekend at their beautiful home outside of Albany.  I have had such a great time being here with them and its hard to put into words how grateful I am for these, and all of my friends.  On Friday, I spent the day with movers packing and moving out of my apartment in Albany, and at the end of the day when my place was empty headed out to their place.  I was pretty bummed, as leaving that apartment was really emotional for me.  It was the first place I lived alone.  The first apartment I fully furnished and decorated.  And the apartment where I truly learned about independence.   As well as where I apparently bought a lot of clothes and shoes and purses...

I moved into this apartment in a pretty challenging time in my life.  And I was determined to be independent, from the very first night I stayed there and haphazardly put together my bed single handedly.  And it was there that I bought a power drill and hung my own curtains.  There that I changed my car lightbulbs in the backyard for the first time. There that I learned how to cook for one.  And that I really learned how to be happy on my own.  I loved this home and in many ways wish I could pick it up and bring it to Atlanta with me, but alas, I said goodbye on Friday.

And when I arrived at my friends' on Friday evening, teary-eyed and exhausted, it made all the difference to have them welcome me in.  And they, as well as many others, have told me that I will always have a place to stay in their homes when I come back to visit Albany -- which, I will have to do often.

In the speech that we gave at the wedding rehearsal dinner, one of the things we talked about was the difference between the family we are born into and the family that we make for ourselves.  The past week, I am continually reminded of the wonderful family I have made for myself in Albany.  On Saturday morning I got up early and met Jess for a long run.  Hers, as well as my friends I am at now, are homes that I do not knock on the front doors when I arrive, but just walk right in.  Because they make me feel so welcome and it just feels natural.  Jess and I had a great 18-mile training run and then her husband and kids, and my friends, all met up and we went to lunch.  On the drive back to their house, I was squished in the backseat of the car with her two kids and while we were driving, one of cuddled up on my shoulder, and the other grabbed and held on to my hand.

These little things are what I am so thankful for in my life.  Friends, both young and old, who have taken me into their families over the years.  And another of those that I was lucky enough to see this week is my friend Taslim, who was one of my first friends I met 6 years ago when I moved to Albany.  Although from totally different backgrounds, Taslim has welcomed me into her family and culture and I have now seen her home grow to include two beautiful and happy children who I have been fortunate enough to see and babysit over the years.  Last week we met for our annual end of August dinner in celebration of Ramadan and it was emotional for me to think of when we first met 6 years ago.  Taslim's friendship has taught me so much and opened me to such wonderful new things and I am so thankful for her loving heart, kind nature, and how much she has brought me into her life and family over the years.

There are so many other friends and people in Albany whose friendship fills me up and for which I am so grateful for.  I can't stop writing about it on the blog because I can't stop feeling overwhelming appreciation for these people in my life.  And you know what?  More than once in the past week I have also had conversations with people along the lines of, "I wish I had known you sooner!"  I continue to meet such loving and great people in this area that makes me sad and it's hard to leave.

Tomorrow I get on a plane and I'll be traveling for a couple of weeks, then returning to Albany at the end of September for one final week.  Saying goodbyes have been difficult and I have been avoiding them as much as possible.

I've spent a lot of this weekend just relaxing with friends, and I love when you are at the level of friendship where you don't need to be doing anything to be having a good time together.  Or when you are comfortable with silence with friends.  It's odd to say, but it's really special.

Anyways, I guess what I want to say in the end is that I am so grateful for the people in my life who have welcomed me into their lives over the years.  You are all so good to me and I do my best to return that to you.  Goodness only attracts more goodness.  E & J thank you for including me in your wedding day. My friends I have been staying with this weekend, thank you for not even questioning having me eat your food and do laundry in your place and including me in pizza Friday and waffle Saturday.  Thank you to my friends in Albany who have been coming out again and again making these last couple weeks SO much fun and filled with so many belly laughs that I am wondering why I ever wanted to move.  Thank you to my family, who understands that I am sometimes not the best with answering phone calls and returning texts, but that you are so important to me and I couldn't do anything without you.  Thank you to everyone who supports me and gives me the confidence to be able to move to a new city in a new part of the country.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for always being there for me and keeping me smiling.

Here goes nothing!