Monday, November 30, 2015

A rant and a streak

I like to keep this a happy and positive space and had all these plans to come home and write up this post about how I was going "streaking" and being all kitchy and fun with it.  But frankly, I'm not totally in the mood right now.

Earlier this year I opened up on the blog about my psoriasis but haven't really given an update since then, since, frankly there isn't much of one to give.  It's still there.  It still sucks.  It still upsets me and sometimes it upsets me more than others, which I'd rather not dig deeper into here, but let's just say there are good days and bad days.

One of the things that has been keeping me positive this entire past year has been the dermatologist that I began seeing last year when I moved to Atlanta.  I have absolutely loved her and she is the first (of many) dermatologists that I have seen that I have connected with and who has made me feel this is manageable.  She made me feel comfortable through trying my first round of injectable medications and fought like hell for me a couple different times in trying to get a new medication to be approved by my health insurance.  The fact that the medication my doctor has wanted me to try and has believed is best for me has continually been declined by random people in a health insurance office somewhere who don't know me or my body, is one of the things that has been infuriating to me over the past year.

To be told what medication I need to inject into my body by a faceless nameless entity is one of the most frustrating and demeaning things that I've experienced.  No they haven't said I have to but when they say to my doctor's recommendation, "Hmmm... no, we don't want Katelyn to use that.  First she has to try ABC" and then when you DO that, and they THEN say, "Okay well that's good but now we're changing our minds and we ACTUALLY also want you to try XYZ..."  It just sucks.

Anyways, my dermatologist has been amazing through it all and I love her.

And then when I came home today from work and got my mail, I received a letter dated November 17th saying that as of November 1st, my dermatologist is no longer covered by my health insurance. With no explanation it then gives me instructions on how to find a new dermatologist and lets me know if I would like to short term continue my care with her, than I need to file an appeal by November 1st.  SUPER helpful information to receive on November 30th.  To say I am frustrated and upset is an understatement.  So, yeah, tomorrow I will be making some phone calls (if I can find the time at work.... *sigh*....) and trying to figure that all out.

So, sorry for the rant, but I'm just in a down mood right now.

But anyways, on a more positive note, we have been having some amazing weather in Atlanta since Thanksgiving.  I continued my happy Thanksgiving day with a really nice, relaxing and fun weekend in Atlanta.  It was nice to have a long weekend in one place and the weather certainly did not hurt at all.

AND, Thanksgiving Day officially kicked off holiday season and another year of GOING STREAKING!!! WOOO!!!!!

The past two years I have participated (with mild success) in the Runner's World Run Streak of running at least 1 mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's.  This year, I decided to streak again but make it just an exercise streak.  Do some sort of sweat session every day from Thanksgiving to New Years - even if it just yoga or a small workout or getting outside for a walk - doing something active every day!

So how am I doing so far?

Day 1, Thursday November 26: Thanksgiving Half Marathon.

Day 2, Friday November 27: Leg day at the gym.

It seemed like a good idea in my mind since I had done upper body workouts earlier in the week to do a leg workout on Friday.  However once I got there and started working out, I started having doubts about whether or not it was a good thought to blast out my legs the day after running a hilly 13 miles.  I wasn't particularly sore from the half marathon, but the smart side of my mind knows that you can still be recovering even if you aren't feeling it.  My biggest fear right now is that I will get hurt in the off season and I am trying to be careful to find the right balance of working out hard and also not doing anything dumb that will get myself injured.  It's not worth it.  The day after long runs or really tough workouts it is better to swim, do yoga, etc.  So I ended up doing a little less legwork than I originally thought, stretching, and then hanging in the hot tub for a bit.

Day 3, Saturday November 28: Hike up Stone Mountain (1 mile up, 1 mile down) + My longest bike ride to date of 35 miles (a distance PR of 5 miles and time-on-bike PR of 24 minutes!)

Hiking Stone Mountain was really fun because I did with people from Movers + Pacers and that group is always a good time.  Additionally, I had never done it before so it was nice to do something that I have been meaning to do since I moved here and never actually did!

I was also SO proud of my bike ride and really had to push myself to get the 35 miles in.  I have been sore these past few days and the prevailing thought when I finished the ride was, "How the heck am I going to do 20 more miles and then run a half marathon?!?"  BUT, I have had those thoughts before and it just goes to show you want training and building up can do for you!

Day 4, Sunday November 29: Pilates Class

I've been trying to take that whole "work on your core" thing to heart and I have heard Pilates is a great way to get that core workout in so I spent my Sunday checking out a class at my gym.  I am intrigued enough to keep going and the class had great music so I could be back!

Day 5, Monday November 30: Swim class in the morning followed by a 3 mile run after work.

My swim workout consisted of a 1000 meter warm up (600 swim, 400 kick with fins) then 3 times through a set of 200 meter choice swim, 6x50s on 1:00 minute, then a 100 cool down.  You actually were supposed to do it through 4 times but because of the time I needed to be at work, I hopped out of the water after 3 which gave me a total distance of 2200 meters, which isn't bad for a Monday morning!  For reference, the distance of the Half Ironman will be about 2000 meters.  Here is my picture of me when I got into the gym in the morning wearing my massive shirt from the Thanksgiving Day Half.

After work I joined up with Run Smyrna, a running group that meets on Monday nights right in my neighborhood for runs of various distances.  I opted for the shortest distance of anyone out there tonight with a 5K run that I finished at an 8:30 pace.  It definitely was a challenging pace for me but the good thing about Run Smyrna is that there are some super fast people in that group so it helps me to be chasing them.  I was happy to see that when I got back, since I ran the 2nd half on my own, it was actually at a faster pace than when I was running with a group!  I felt like I was slowing but I guess not.  I ran negative splits for the 3 miles.

And with that, the first 5 days of my exercise streak are underway.  Please jump in and join me from now until New Years and I hope that you had an awesome Monday back at work after the holiday.

I appreciate and am thankful for all my readers out there and have loved connecting with and getting to know more of you off the blog lately so thank you all for that!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon Recap

The few days leading up to the race, the prevailing thought going through my head was, "Why did I sign up for a half marathon on Thanksgiving Day??" And not only why did I sign up for a race on Thanksgiving Day, but on the same day that I committed to cooking my first Thanksgiving meal for myself and my friends in Atlanta.  Maybe I would have been feeling a bit better if I hadn't had an unexpectedly long and hectic work day on Wednesday when I was originally going to be off.

Nonetheless, I wasn't feeling too great going into the race.  I hadn't been hydrated, stretching, getting in long runs, and eating all the crap food you can possibly think of.  But, I got myself into bed and prepped my running things the night before.

I got up early in the morning to head over to Turner Field early for the start of the race at 7:30 a.m.  All these Atlanta races always warn of terrible traffic, but when I picked up my bib the day before, the traffic wasn't terrible so I wasn't expecting much on Thursday morning.  However, it was the worst I'd seen on traveling to a race.

My pre-race routine was all over the place as well.  I ran back and forth to my car about 5 times, grabbing things from friends and putting them in my car.  Changing my clothes because I thought I needed a warmer top.  Grabbing my watch because I forgot it.  And so on and so on.  I met up with the Movers and Pacers literally for a split second to pop into a picture and then darted back to my car one final time and jumping into the race corrals a few minutes before the start.

I still had yet to decide how I wanted to run the race and the fact that my warm up/race prep was so abnormal I just felt totally out of whack.  When I jumped into the corrals I saw my friends Robyn and Sheba who I knew were planning to run together.  I sort of figured, okay, what the heck, let me just run with the two of them.  And that was my plan, or so I thought.

I danced through the wait of the start line (some things can't ever be changed) and clicked my watch on as we crossed the start.  As soon as we did I heard my friends say that they weren't going to be talking through the race and that they were going to run together but just listen to their music.  When I heard that I thought, "Aww..." and immediately rethought my choice to run with them, which would be a slower pace than what is my comfortable pace.  I told myself to stay with them a mile and then decide.

A mile in, I decided to stop holding back and just run a comfortable pace for the race.  I still didn't aim to push it, but just wanted to do what felt good for my legs and body.  And when I saw the first water stop, I decided to walk through it.  I have never walked through a water stop in my life during a race, but wanted to see what it felt like for my legs.  In the past, I have struggled stopping in the middle of a run and starting up again.  However, it is good to revisit things from time to time.  I walked through that first water stop and every water stop throughout the race from that time on.

I felt good and knew that I was running about 9 minute miles which was when I decided to set my goal to be run a "2-ish" hour race.  I knew that I would have to make up the time from the first mile and knew that it was a hilly route, so just kept myself at ease with the "2-ish" thought sticking in my head.

Much of the route was familiar routes to me.  We ran through our Flagship route and along some of the roads that I would run in the mornings with my friends.  We ran through Atlantic Station and through Piedmont Park.  I kept psyching myself out about the miles that I had left throughout the run.  And event at mile 6 I could already feel myself hurting a bit. I ate some Gu Chomps and hoped for the best, telling myself to ease back on pace if I needed.  Remember, "2-ish" meant that being after 2 hours would be okay.  I had nothing to prove on this race and didn't want to get hurt.

I struggled with the water throughout the race too.  There were not a ton of water stops and I also had no idea when/where they would be so I was unsure of when to expect them. One of the most amazing things about the Chicago Marathon was the amount of water stops and also the fact that before the stops they would have a sign that said "Water Stop Ahead" which prompted me to get ready for it.  The Gu Chomps that I eat throughout the course or the salt tabs, all need water to take with them.  So when you don't know when a water stop will be, it is hard to prepare to eat.  Walking through the water stops definitely helped in during the race.  In some cases, I would take a cup of water, walk for a bit chewing my Gu Chomps and then chugging my water.  I took Powerade at one stop but it must have been made with a mix but was really watered down and barely even tasted like Powerade.

I could feel my pace dropping at mile 7.  The fact that I was halfway through was scary not comforting.  I still have to do that all over again??  And, man, oh man, the hills.

The most I have run since the Chicago Marathon is 9 miles.  I did 8 last weekend, so getting to 8 and 9 was a good mental victory.  At 9.5 miles the hill was a true beast.  It took everything in me to not walk up the hills and I started telling myself the mantra that I used when I ran the Nashville Half Marathon way back when for my very first endurance distance race.  "Pace the race. Survive the hills. You're finishing this thing."

Seriously, the hills at the end were insane.

After the hill at 9.5 I told myself, "There can't be more hills ahead.  It's gotta be all clear from here." and then we would turn a corner and there would be another hill.  Hill after hill after hill.  It was so challenging.  When I hit 10 miles I thought, "Only a 5K left" and looked at my watch to calculate the time to see how close I would be to 2 hours.  I had realized around 9 that it would probably be closer than I thought.  And when I saw that at 10 miles I had to run a 26 minute 5K in order to break 2 hours, for a split second I thought it was possible. And then I turned a corner and saw another hill and realized, yeah, let's go back to the idea of "2-ish"

I still didn't let myself all out push hard because I didn't want to be dead and out of breathe and hurting at the end for a time that didn't mean anything.  This race was about running the distance, not about setting a PR or even getting under 2 hours.  Yes it would be great to have that be my comfortable pace from here out, but that wasn't what I was aiming to do.  For a race that I wasn't super prepared for, that I had run at a slower pace the first mile, and on a day when I had a ton of plans afterwards, I just let myself finish whereever I landed.

The hills were there until the very end.

When I pull the graph with the elevation, I don't know why it isn't more drastic because I swear those hills were a beast.  This was seriously the most challenging course I remember running.

Finishing the race strong was a fight.  It was a mental battle.  And to anyone who says to me, "After a marathon, this must feel like nothing!" about a half marathon, they are wrong.  It is still a challenge.  It is still extremely hard.  It is still something that I have to fight to get through.  This race was definitely proof of that.  I had to push hard mentally to get myself through it and I wasn't even running at a hard pace!  I was just running.

When a race gets hard I find myself looking at my watch a lot to see how much further I have left.  Mile 11 to 12 seemed like it went on forever.  I kept telling myself, "Just get to 12 and then you'll only have one mile left!" and it felt like it was so long to get there.  When I got to the home stretch it seemed to go on for so long.  I saw the Olympic rings and told myself that I could look at my watch when I got to the rings and yet, I must have looked at my watch 3 times between where I was when I first said it and when I got to the rings that hung above the street.  My watch was a little ahead of the race course and at 13.1 miles my watch said 2:01:06 as the official time.  However, the course went a little longer.

Right after the rings I saw all the Movers and Pacers crew cheering along and I couldn't wait to get over there and join them.  I made a plan to finish, go to my car, drop off my things and get my vest, and then go cheer with my friends.  I was looking forward to that as I crossed the finish line.

Half marathon #7 complete!

The finish had you walking a long way to get the snack box and I opted to skip it.  I went right from the finish over to my car.  They gave you a jacket to put on at the end of the race, which was awesome, but I opted not to use it and save it as a throw away for a future race.  I snacked on an apple and a banana and drank some water and went and joined the most supportive running crew in Atlanta as we cheered on the rest of the finishers.  It was a blast and I was also so proud of all the crew members who had run their very first half marathon that day.  The race also had a 5K with it so a number of my friends had done that option also.  I was so regretting not choosing the 5K before the race started, but I was pretty happy with my accomplishment afterwards.

We cheered for all the runners that went by, especially so for our crew members.  It was so much fun and I love, love, love cheering at races.  As you know I've been out to cheer at a few of the Atlanta races recently - the Michelob 13.1 and then the Atlanta 10-miler.  Both of those were pretty challenging races and one of my friends in the Atlanta running community has been teasing me about skipping all the hard Atlanta races this season and only cheering at those.  Well, I think that's a silly thing to say at all since my goal race for the season was Chicago and I don't think I should be getting teased for working my race schedule around that goal.  And also, who doesn't like someone cheering??  I don't want to be teased for that, I do it to help people.  Oh well.  I love to cheer when I am not running.  Whether it is after I have finished a race or a race that is not a part of my plan.

I love this pic in front of the sign from the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.  It says, "Olympic athletes and Atlantans stand proud.  We approach any race with dignity, we endure setbacks with honor, we persist with enthusiasm, we are a city of winners."

This is a city of winners and I loved starting my Thanksgiving off with a HALF MARATHON instead of a 5K in past years.  I miss my friends at our annual Gobble Wobble but I thought of them along the route.  When I hit the 5K mark and when I had 5K left, I thought, "There's the Gobble Wobble!"  With a year where I hit so many goals and big achievements, a half marathon was a great way to start the day.  And between the slow first mile, the hills, the lack of training and hydration, and all that - a 2:02:25 finish was something I was super happy with!

My first year of running, 2010, I did my first Gobble Wobble 5K with my friends and finished in 38:16, which is a 12:19 pace.  This year I ran a 21K at a pace of 9:20.  That is 3 minutes faster per mile.  Had you told myself that in 2010 I would have thought you were crazy.  I am thankful for this blog to help me remember and keep in perspective how far I have come.  It's all here in living proof!

Thanksgiving Half - you were a beast, but I loved it!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving in Atlanta

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and I hope that you all had a great holiday yesterday!  It was my first Thanksgiving away from home and although I missed my family a lot, I did have a truly wonderful day.  But before I get in to the details of the day, let me just write about a few things that have been going on in the world that I haven't written about, however, that doesn't mean that they aren't on my mind.

Going back a few weeks, Veteran's Day.  I talked a lot about what I did on my random weekday off but I didn't talk at all about the day itself.  Veteran's Day and Memorial Day and any event centered around celebrating our armed forces means a lot to me.  I have the utmost respect for our military and all those who have served as a part of our nation's military - as well as the family members of those serving our country.  Especially those who have sacrificed their life for our country.  I feel compelled to tell those who I meet who are members of the military or who are veterans that I appreciate and thank them for their service.  Some many like it, some may not, but it is something that I feel the need to do.  In that sense, I never intended to treat Veteran's Day as just another day off from work on my blog and have been meaning to write a general - thank you for your service shout out on the blog.

Additionally, a topic that has been on my mind extremely heavily over the past couple of weeks have been the terror attacks that occurred on Paris exactly two weeks ago tonight.  I can't even begin to explain how much that has affected me.  I chose not to do the whole add-a-filter-to-your-Facebook-profile-picture approach or even comment on it here, but it has certainly been on my mind.

As you all know, Paris will be a city close to my heart given that it is the home of my first marathon.  Nothing will ever mean to me what the city of Paris and that race meant.  However, the attacks, although they were within the city itself, were not on the city of Paris.  The attacks were on the individuals.  The citizens.  The people like you and me who were living their lives going out to dinner, seeing a concert, or watching a soccer game.  The attacks were on a set of beliefs and a way of living and on our freedom.

The attacks also did not just take place in France.  Over the past few weeks there have been terror attacks in Nigeria. In Bali. In Lebanon. And many more cities where evil is digging in its fingernails and trying to scratch at the surface of our existence.  And I know citizens of cities and countries around the world are in fear. Frankly, I am in fear.

Following the attacks I spent the week in New York City and after that, there was threat on Atlanta that had me feeling panic and anxiety unlike I have felt in many many months.  Years even.

Often, I don't write about the things that upset me or cause me fear.  And these threats of terror and these attacks on every day life have certainly been scary to me.  To be honest, last weekend when we had our Movers + Pacers flagship 2-year anniversary run, I actually spent a few minutes before going up to run crying in the car and calling my mom.  I felt extreme anxiety thinking that something could happen in a place like Atlantic Station.  And I don't know why the anxiety struck at that moment, but the old beast crept back into me.

And I wonder, if part of what caused my anxiety to come back last weekend in that moment had to do with additional emotions I have been having.  As I started this post, it has been my first Thanksgiving away from home.  It's now been two months since I've been home.  Since then my niece and nephew have begun walking and talking.  My little brothers have run their first 5K (something that I am so excited for them for and wish like heck I could have been there to be a part of).  My grandmother has been in and out of the hospital.  And there have been a lot of MAJOR conversations and things going on that I have just not been a part of because I have been far away.

Especially being in New York and seeing so many close friends in such a short period of time, it's made me very homesick. Frankly, it just stinks sometimes.  And there isn't much I can do but be positive for the things that I have going on in my life, so that's what I do.  But I wanted to just sort of put out there... that I do have a bigger picture of the world and recognize life isn't always about running an extra mile or trying to lose another pound.  Veteran's Day, Paris, family, homesickness, challenges at work, dating, not dating, everything all over, it all weighs on me.

YET there is still much to be thankful for.

I went into Thanksgiving day very much needing a break.  Even though it was a short work week it was a busy one!  I have had 7:30 am meetings for the past two weeks, which has been challenging and been tough for morning workouts.  I have been hitting the gym in the evenings but only for very light workouts, it's been all I've been able to squeeze out of myself and my eating has been pretty terrible as well.  I weighed myself this week and almost was into "scary" zone of numbers, which for me, I am saying is in the 160s.  I have been bouncing around in the 150s, where ideally, I'd like to be under 150.  I got there for a little bit but was unable to maintain and even with that was just sort of dabbling at 149.  The lowest that I have been in my adult life was 148 for about 2 weeks in 2012 at the tail end of my year long stretch with Weight Watchers.

By no means do I look terrible, but I can tell the different with weight more when I am lower weights and I don't like how I look and feel often.

I was intending on a light week since I had the half marathon on Thursday so I did a 3 mile treadmill run on Monday followed by an upper body workout and on Tuesday I did a 1 mile treadmill run and then another upper body workout.  I don't know why I didn't end up running more on Tuesday, I should have. But I just let myself be lazy.  Which has been a trend lately. 

I was supposed to meet friends out on Monday evening but ended up spending the night on the couch looking like this.

Wednesday I did no workouts but kept that hot look of a sweatshirt and vest going as I worked all day and did some errands like pick up my race bib, last minute grocery store items, and of course my turkey for the big day!

Thursday morning started with the half marathon, which felt like a normal race day almost, except for that it was in the middle of the week and that it was a holiday!  It is fun to see familiar faces all along the race course and before/after races now that I have been involved in the running community here for a about a year.  Last December was when I ran my first local 5K in Atlanta and this running community feels so much like a family it is hard to believe it was that long ago that I went out by myself and ran a rinky dinky 5K at Chastain Park.

Anyways, the half marathon was awesome and I will write a whole post recapping the race.  I finished in 2:02:25, which I was very happy with given what this race was intended to be for me - just a training fun run - and a way to earn my calories for the day!!!

I loved starting the day with a race because it served the purpose tha tmy Gobble Wobble races have in past years - it allows me to see all my friends bright and early on a holiday!  I was in such a good mood after the run due to all those endorphins swirling through my body and had a blast laughing and being with my friends at the end of the run as we cheered everyone else on.

Then following the finish of the race, some members of the Atlanta running community were hosting a tailgate at Turner Field (where the Atlanta Braves play and where the race as held.)  It was the same group of people who put on the New York City sendoff party a few weeks back right after I ran Chicago, and man, do they know how to throw a party!

There was a full buffet line of rice, potatoes, chicken, turkey, ribs, mac and cheese, stuffing, greens, bread, baked goods, chips, dips, brownies, and anything you could imagine Thanksgiving related.  As well as a fully fully fully stocked bar.  People were turning up in the parking lot as if it weren't 11:00 a.m. and I absolutely loved it.  I ended up sticking around for the post race Thanksgiving tailgate longer than expected.

It was fun because the group wasn't just from any particular running group in Atlanta but there was representation from all of them:  RunningNerds, Black Girls Run, Black Men Run, Movers and Pacers, 20/20 Club, etc.  I called it a Thanksgiving "Run Fam" party and it truly was.

When I finally managed to pull myself away from their delicious food spread, I head home to prepare my own food!  I showered and got dressed and although I would have loved to collapse on the couch, I drank my coffee and water as I started to prepare things for my friends to come over.

To be honest, I did a really good job of planning out the menu and doing what I call "semi home-made" food prep.  Okay, well, maybe it is Sandra Lee that calls it that, but whatever!

I had made my "mashed potatoes" which were really smashed cauliflower the night before (and they came out DELICIOUS) so that just needed to be heat up.

And most everything else was almost ready to go!  I did all of my last minute food prep, heating up and cooking while wearing my race medal from the day.  It is my rule that you wear your race medal the full day of the race!!

Why don't I explain my menu a little bit and share what/how I planned out my menu:


  • Carrot sticks
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Mimosas
Main Menu:
  • Turkey -- Purchased breast in advance already cooked and glazed, needed warming.
  • Stuffing -- Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix made with chicken stock and added my own mix of mushrooms, carrots, onion, and green onions to give it some life.
  • Cranberry sauce -- From a can.
  • Gravy -- From a packaged mix.
  • Smashed Cauliflower -- Made from steamed cauliflower, milk, parmesan cheese, butter and sauteed garlic all thrown into the food processor the night before and only needed reheating.
  • Sweet potatoes and potatoes -- I like sweet potatoes more so I took 3 sweet potatoes and one regular potato (for color and variety) as well as half an onion I had leftover and cubed and roasted it with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Mac and Cheese -- Cooked macaroni tossed with a cheese sauce from butter, flour, milk and cheddar cheese then baked with some breadcrumbs on top.
  • Green beans -- Cleaned and cut them the night before, sauteed with a little butter and tossed with toasted almond slivers.
  • Rolls -- Pillsbury rolls from one of those pop open cans that just needed to be baked
  • Beer & Wine
  • Caramel and chocolate covered apples -- From Kilwins
  • Beer & wine

My friend Shayla brought over and cooked some asparagus.  Janet brought corn bread.  And Brick brought a pecan pie as well.  I really didn't feel stressed at all getting ready and I prepared all the food as it was ready.  I think the one thing I could have been better at was timing things so that they were all hot at the same time.  I have no idea how people do that and I definitely did not manage to get a piping hot meal on the table all at the same time, but people did not seem to mind having to microwave their plates.

Additionally, I was pretty proud of my macaroni and cheese as it was a SUPER last minute add to the menu.  While at the tailgate, I learned that this is a staple side dish in the south.  I was even confirmed this by a map sent to me by my friend AJ.

I aim to please and although I knew that I did not have to do it, I was finished preparing my dinner early and I had all the ingredients available to make mac and cheese from scratch.  IF I took the cheese from the cheese and crackers... which I did... and whipped up a made from scratch batch of mac and cheese.  It was super easy and I am so excited that I now know how to make this!

We ate at random times since people were all coming over at different points, plus my foods were all ready at random times as well.  However, I was super happy to see people taking seconds of all the meals and everyone seemed very happy with the food on their plates. I was really, really happy with how everything turned out.

Throughout the day I FaceTimed with all my family and definitely missed being a part of the shenanigans at my grandparents, getting to see my niece and nephew, my cousins and aunts and uncles, eating some of the amazing desserts I saw people had baked at my grandparents, and being with all my family.  However, this was a pretty close second.

As grown ups, your family and where you consider "home" I think can evolve.  I lived in Albany, New York for six years and will always consider that place to be a home and to be a special place in my heart.  I will always consider Rhode Island to be a home and New England in general.  As I have lived in Atlanta and been here longer, built more relationships, and established new routines, this is beginning to feel like a home as well.

Spending Thanksgiving with friends, friends who I have made organically and naturally through shared interests and hobbies (running...) it makes it even easier to feel like home.  I spent Thanksgiving with people of various ancestral backgrounds.  From different parts of the country.  And with different family traditions and norms.  This 2015 was the time a girl from Rhode Island and her friends from Los Angeles, Wisconsin, Florida, and New York City got together to eat together.  I loved the fact that I last minute made mac and cheese because that was a new to me tradition and side dish staple.  It made me happy to make it and I love learning about different parts of the country and what is unique to them.

As I was preparing foods, Brick and I were talking about how we normally cook and prepare meals.  She said that for her family and in the south, cooking meals is all done from scratch and it is hours upon hours ordeals.  Stuffing, for her, would be something that would start with baking corn bread, and then taking that and turning it into the moist side dish.  As I whipped up my dried bag stuffing, I felt a teensy bit bad, but not really at all.

I loved that it became a day of sharing about family and traditions, eating, running, laughing, and enjoying one another's company.  I truly enjoy hosting and having people over, so it was great to use my big apartment for what I got it for once again.  The times I have hosted people this past year have been a blast so I definitely want to try and do more of it.  Thanksgiving was a great opportunity and I had so much fun with my guests.

In addition, I was honestly, not to brag, impressed and happy with the meal that I served!  Especially on a day where I had run a half marathon in the morning!!

I knew that moving to the south was going to be a different experience for me and I love learning about different norms for parts of the country and different cultures.  From Mac & Cheese, to bottled water vs. tap, to corn bread types, to whether or not you call 911 when you get in a car accident.  It was a great night with great food, friends and conversation.

I miss my family dearly every day.  I've said it before but I'll say it again - not being able to go home with ease has been hands down the hardest part of moving.  I don't like missing things.  I don't like not being able to be a part of moments in the lives of people I love.  I don't like hearing about important things that happen over the phone rather than being with them in person.

Yet, I feel so lucky that I still have my friends and family to text with and FaceTime with.  That I get Thanksgiving photo messages from Heidi and Dave of their cutie pie little babe.  That my cousins make me laugh even via the phone.  And that my brother maintains family traditions of putting us in the "spotlight" position at my grandparents even when I am not there.

All in all, it was a fabulous Thanksgiving and I absolutely loved hosting my first dinner and the fact everyone ate seconds.  I can't wait to host another Thanksgiving someday and am really proud of my half marathon the morning of the holiday.

I hope you had a day as equally full of family, friends, laughter, food, health, and happiness.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone and let's bring on Christmas in full force!  Can't wait to see my family in one month!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I believe in you.

I mentioned that last weekend I did the Girls on the Run 5K as a running buddy to a little girl named Cindy.  A little girl named Cindy who was stubbornly set against running the 5K.  She was not having it and had made up her mind the second we crossed the start line that she was not going to be running the race.

She started by sprinting across the start line with one of her friends and stopping to walk after the first dash.  Within a quarter of a mile, I suggested we start running again and received a flat and determined, "No."

A half a mile in, I suggested we start running again and received another adamant, "No.  I need water. I am thirsty."

Any suggestion I had of running at that point was followed with a "Not until I get water. Why don't they have water out here?"

I tried bribing and tried coaxing her with water at the end, promising to buy her water if they didn't have any.  I suggested we run the downhills, which then seemed to get her to move a little and we ran another short dash before she stopped again, declaring, "Water."

This went on for a while, and even half way through the course they had water, but afterwards her refusal changed to, "My head hurts." "My feet hurt." I don't want to.

And what challenged me was not even that she didn't want to but it was how flat and how stubbornly she just refused to me, "NO." every time I suggested running.

Once or twice I tried breaking up the distance for her and was able to convince her to jog a little bit, "How about we go from this stop sign to the street light?" worked once or twice.  Even more when we got some of the other walkers to join in as well.  The whole thing was a struggle.  Even to get her to run the very finish of the race.

The thing is, I remember being her.  I remember being that adamant against running.  I don't remember why and I don't think I was so stubborn about it, but I just was convinced that it was not something that I could do.  I was convinced that I was just not a runner and I would stop whenever I started without trying to go any further.

One of the things that I have learned about running over the years is that you CAN do it.  Most people CAN run as long as they make up their minds to do it.  Injuries and disabilities and medical issues aside - you can do it.  Your mind gives up so much faster than your body ever does.  Your body says, "Okay, that was good, let's walk again." much sooner than your legs truly need the rest.  I truly believe that to be true because I have learned that in myself and it is something I STILL need to remind myself.  The days I can't get out of bed, the days I don't want to run, the days I just want to uber a cab and go home mid run (which is more than you would think!) I remind myself my legs are still going.

We finally got Cindy to run the last leg of the race, which we finished hand in hand.

A few times throughout the race she grabbed my arm and held on to it as we walked.  Cindy was stubborn.  But she also just needed to believe in her so that she could believe in herself.

It is Thanksgiving Eve and tomorrow I am running the Atlanta Half Marathon or the "Thanksgiving Half."  I've done the beloved Gobble Wobble with my friends the past 5 or so Thanksgivings and it is bittersweet to not be doing it with them this year.  But it is also amazing to see how far I have come as a runner.

Just wanted to say before I go to bed - believe in yourself out there, people!!  In case you are having a hard time doing it.  Let me be the first (or one of many) to tell you - I BELIEVE IN YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Movers and Pacers 2 Year Anniversary Weekend

Two years ago, a guy in Atlanta had a close friend pass away of a sudden cardiac arrest.  The death shocked him and he decided to make some changes in his own life to become healthier.  And not only that, he decided to encourage the friends and family around him to make the same choice.  And how to do this?  Through running.

This guy, who goes by the name Kaos, started the running group in Atlanta called Movers + Pacers.  For those of you who have been reading for a few months, you know how much this group has come to mean to me.  I stumbled upon the crowd before even moving to Atlanta while searching for running groups in Atlanta on Instagram.  I nervously came out for a few runs here and there from August to January, and then in March, became more social with the group and eventually was totally won over after the Publix Half Marathon when the group came out in full force to cheer in the pouring rain.  I made the decision after that to go on "Runcation" even though I barely knew anyone, and ended up making incredible friends and left Tampa feeling like I had a family in the city of Atlanta.

This weekend marked the two year anniversary of Movers + Pacers being founded as a running community in Atlanta.  So, in the fashion that only M+P can -- we did it with a celebration!

The weekend actually was really packed and full of awesome times with friends, friends that I made from running, in addition to the official festivities.

On Friday evening, I joined a few M+P friends to celebrate India's birthday with tapas and margaritas at Eclipse de Sol.  An awesome restaurant I visited earlier this year when my friend Julia was in town.  We had a blast and I loved being able to kick off the weekend celebrating an awesome girl who has been so supportive, encouraging, and welcoming to me as soon as I started running with Movers + Pacers.  She's become a good friend in and out of running sneakers and I must say, we do clean up well when we are out of them.

Saturday morning started bright and early with a number of people from the run crew doing what we do - and head out on an 8 mile run on the Silver Comet Trail.  A few of my friends hadn't tried out this trail before so I was excited to be able to introduce them to it.

I was a little nervous about the run and the first 4 miles felt really hard.  I told myself that on the way back I would be able to slow my pace a bit and relax.  On the way out, I was running with a friend so I was trying to keep her pace.  I eased up, or so I felt, on the way back.  And I did what I always do and avoided looking at my watch.  I was pretty happy when I saw the pace at the end being an average of 9:05 minute miles!  I guess taking some time to rest has been good for me lately.  My last 4 miles were all under 9 minute when I thought I was going to be slower on the second half!!

Granted, it was a slight decline on the way back, but I was surprised with how easy it felt. I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to control my breathing and heart rate while running, and it seems to be helping me.

Following the run, I did a quick turnaround of showering and getting weekend day out ready, then met up with Brick and another friend for a girls day of lunch, Starbucks, movies, shopping and ice cream.  It was a super awesome afternoon and good to see the close of the Hunger Games movies.  Not gonna lie, I shed some tears!

Post daytime festivities, it was another quick turn around before getting dressed then heading out for the official anniversary party for Movers + Pacers. I was on the volunteer committee and responsible for balloons, so I first had to make a quick trip to fill my car with red and gold balloons.  You can actually fit quite a few more balloons in your car than you would think!  In case you are ever wondering, I fit 30 and still could see both my mirrors.

The evening was held at Apache Cafe which is a pretty cool venue that I have been to a few times for various shows.  The decorations and details put into the event were amazing and I had so much fun with my friends.  We had some of the various artists in our group contribute by performing for everyone.  There were superlatives and awards given out and the group was kind enough to honor me with an award for the work that I've done throughout the year, achieving new goals and pushing myself harder to achieve big things.  It was an exciting and really meaningful moment to be recognized by my group and among some other athletes who've done amazing things this year.

Today was a rather lazy day after last night going late into the night with dancing and celebrations.  I lounged around a bit, ate a giant brunch, and then went back out for the Movers + Pacers flagship run.  It was not a run that I necessarily needed, and was just really doing to support the crew.  I did 2-miles and ran/walked the route which was sufficient in maybe burning off a single bite of the blueberry french toast I had as part of my breakfast.  But, it was great to see the crew and laugh/talk about the shenanigans from the night before and do what we all love to do, which is run.

The group has been a huge part of what has made Atlanta feel like home to me.  It is where I have made some incredible friends, been motivated to keep working hard, become exposed to new people, ideas, music, and backgrounds.  And it is my home away from home and connection into Atlanta.  Happy 2 year anniversary Movers + Pacers!!!