Long Branch Half-Marathon Race Recap

Finally! Remember when I used to have recaps up the day after my race, or sometimes even the day of? Those were the good ole’ days. Sorry to leave you guys hanging, but life’s been busy! I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten a new promotion at work, which has been a big reason for me falling off the radar. I’m still adjusting and transitioning into my new role at FITNESS, but I couldn’t be more excited. But while posts still may be slightly sporadic around here for a bit, I’m going to do my best to get back to regularly scheduled programming.

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Now, on to the race report! I tackled my seventh half-marathon in the beginning of May over in New Jersey. That’s seven half-marathons in seven states in the last two years. Crazy! I still can’t believe that only two years ago I had no idea what I was doing (I still don’t, really – I just pretend now) and the thought of running 13.1 consecutive miles terrified the bejeesus out of me. 21-year-old Sam, you had no idea what you were getting yourself into.
After racing in Maine, I spent April maintaining my fitness level and figured if I sprinkled in a few speed sessions, I might be able to get a PR in Jersey. After all, the course was MUCH flatter and I wouldn’t be fighting wind for 80 percent of the course.
My ultimate goal was to go sub-2, but a part of me knew that was an unrealistic goal. I’ve been struggling with hip tightness and a nagging pain since February, so I didn’t take training as seriously as originally planned for either race. But still, I managed to PR in Maine, so I knew anything was possible.
About a week before race day, Dustin and I convinced our friends Tristan and Katie to make the trip with us and be official cheerleaders. They had never watched a race before, and Tristan is becoming curious about running, so I thought this was the perfect trip since the race was only a few hours outside of the city. With them on board, and a big crew of running friends coming out to cheer, I knew I wouldn’t be lacking in inspiration.
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I got to the corrals without any problems, and although I had a few bathroom issues that made me nervous about what to expect for the rest of the race, I went in ready to run. The organizers blasted “Sweet Caroline” before beginning the wave start, and this New England girl-at-heart couldn’t help but beam with pride and wipe away a few tears.
The whole race went seamlessly for me. I saw all of my cheerleaders at each point that I expected to, and had surprise pop-ups from the NYC girls once! Let me tell you, seeing them all go crazy once they spotted me made me feel so special. I don’t get to make it to nearly as many running meet-ups as I’d like, so hearing them cheer their hearts out made me so unbelievably happy and gave the surge of motivation I needed to keep pushing.
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I ate a Clif shot blok every three miles, starting at mile 4. I had the opportunity to meet with some of the experts behind the Clif company a few months ago for work, and we thought that I might be hitting a wall more often than I think because I wasn’t taking in enough fuel, and I wasn’t starting early enough. With this new strategy (which I also used in Maine), I definitely felt more energized throughout the race.
Around mile 10 was when my legs started to realize what was going on. When people say this course is flat, they’re not kidding. It’s like a pancake. Perfect for running fast, but it only engages the muscles in one way. Two days post-race, I experienced soreneess like I hadn’t felt since my first half. Ouch.
Mile 13 was really rough. By that point we had hit the ocean views, which were a great mental distraction, but they also brought wind. A lot of it. The whole mile was a straight headwind. Luckily, it wasn’t nearly as strong as the winds I faced in Maine, so I just kept repeating, “You made it through Maine” to keep my head in the game.
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By the time I had hit mile 10, I knew I wasn’t going to go sub-2, and I was honestly OK with that. Missing a PR, however, wasn’t kosher with me. I turned the last 5K into a big race, and even though we had the wind in the last mile, it was the first time I had the pleasure of picking off large groups of runners. For once, I felt fast! I sprinted the last half-mile, spotted Dustin, Tristan and Katie right before the finish line, gave one last kick and finished with a smile and a new PR of 2:0
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Overall, I would highly recommend this race to a beginner racer, or anyone looking to PR. Sure, the wind at the end wasn’t fun, but the race was really well organized and the views are nice. It’s extremely spectator-friendly, so bring lots of friends! There were extra security measures, but that was to be expected – and they made everyone aware of it ahead of time – so it was totally cool.
So what’s next? Originally, nothing. But it looks like I’m now doing the run portion of the NYC Triathlon with a few friends (say what?!), and I may be doing a June half-marathon with Lauren. No concrete plans on that yet, but we’ll see! And if not, I’ve got my eye on Philly in September. So for now, I’m just going to enjoy the start of summer in the city.
Catch ya later!

Pray for Boston

My heart feels so, so heavy right now. As a runner, I wholeheartedly believe that every runner is a part of a family. And our family has been attacked. This is such a supportive community, and that is the only thing that makes this tragedy somewhat bearable. Hearing the wonderful stories about people running to help – both literally and figuratively – in the midst of pure terror, is truly inspiring.

There isn’t really much to say that hasn’t already been said. And right now, all I want to do is cuddle up next to my loved ones and pray.

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My editor-in-chief, Betty Wong, posted something on Twitter today that I wholeheartedly believe:

“Run for your health, for sport, for joy. It should never be for fear. Heartbroken.”

My thoughts and prayers go out to every single person affected today <3

 

Race the Runways Half-Marathon Race Recap

Nothing like coming back to blogging with a race recap, right? Right. Welp, let’s get to it then!

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Last time I popped in (February – eek!), the first race on my 2013 calendar was the New Jersey half-marathon. While that’s still alive and well on my calendar, I was itching to get another 13.1 under my belt before then. While I scoured the Internet for something to fit the bill, everything before May seemed to fall on St. Patrick’s Day. Ick! While I loved racing on St. Paddy’s Day last year in D.C.,  I knew there was no way I could make that work this time around. I spent February 22-March 24 traveling each weekend or hosting friends and fam.

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Visiting Karla in Iowa!

Anyway, after exhausting all my options for well-known races that weren’t too far away – let’s not forget that all the aforementioned travel plans left my bank account seriously drained – I started digging for smaller ones. Finally, halfmarathons.net found me a winner in the quaint little town of Brunswick, Maine!

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“Maine? I’ve never been to Maine. Dustiiiiiiiiiin – want to go to Maine so I can run another half in April? I get to run on an airport runway and the medal looks like an airplane!!!”

Whip out my credit card and immediately register. 

That’s how that conversation went. He thought the “running on an airport runway” thing was pretty cool, too.

Now that I’ve run the race, let me tell you something: running on an airport runway in the beginning of April, after a brutally long winter, is not quite as cool as it sounds.

joclyn cheerleader

Scratch that. It’s cooler than it sounds. And when I say cooler, I’m talking in terms of temperatures. Translation: it was freaking freezing!

And holy wind, batman. Holy wind.

But let’s backup a smidge. Dustin and I took Friday off and made the 5.5-hour drive to Brunswick so we had plenty of time to pick up my bib, relax and explore. Turns out we needed all of five minutes for bib pickup. There wasn’t an expo, and we picked up at Maine Running Company – a great running store located right in the heart of town. After, we checked out the shops nearby and picked up dinner at Flipside, a local pizza joint with great reviews on Yelp.

The rest of the evening was uneventful, and pre-race rituals went smoother than ever. The start gun didn’t fire until 9:30am, so I even slept in until 7am! Around 8am, the rest of my cheering squad showed up!

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My Aunt Sue, Uncle Dave, cousin Joclyn and her friend Quinn drove 2 hours Saturday morning to come watch me run and I could not be more grateful. I never asked them to do so, or even really brought up the race – my aunt saw I would be nearby on Facebook and shot me a few texts to confirm the whereabouts. They had never seen me run before, and I was so stoked every single time I spied them on the course.

Speaking of race support – I don’t know if it was because it was a small race, because it was cold or something else, but the spectators were basically nowhere to be seen. As an out and back course, there were multiple opportunities for crowds to be out, but they just weren’t there. Certain areas were blocked off strictly for runners, so obviously that lacked any cheerleaders, but when I saw my family, they were the only ones out there. While it made me feel extremely loved and even more energized to run a strong race, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the other runners on the course. I can’t say it enough – CROWD SUPPORT IS SUCH A BIG DEAL FOR RUNNERS. Even though we only see you two, three or four times on the course – and for about five seconds each time – knowing we’re going to see you soon is such a mental boost to keep moving. And once we actually see you, it’s like a smile is plastered all over your face for at least another mile and you sort of forget that you’re running. Sort of.

OK, that was really my only complaint of the race.

Going into this race, I had no goals. I just wanted to run strong, be happy and enjoy Maine. And I did something I’ve never done before: I ran without a watch.

But that’s for another post.

Basically, I refused to stress and ran at a comfortably hard pace. I had the Runkeeper app on my phone (amazing, btw), which sent me distance updates every 5 minutes. Otherwise, I just jammed out to my playlist – Luke Bryan’s new album FTW – and tried to ignore the constant headwind. The good thing about the “breeze?” It made my thighs numb, so my quads didn’t feel anything until about mile 9. Oh, I didn’t mention that? Yeah, the course was relatively hilly, too. Nothing like Nashville, but still.

Despite the chilly weather, quiet crowd support and hills to conquer, I was having the time of my life. My body felt great, I knew I was running at a good clip and I was just happy to be there. I popped Clif shot blocks at miles 6, 8 and 10 and attempted to drink water while running at every other stop. At mile 10, I flipped the pace option on to see where I stood, and realized I could PR. Game on.

dustin post-race

Around mile 11, my legs started to protest. Throughout the race, different songs kept me feeling strong because they brought up awesome memories with friends – “Never See Your Face Again” by Maroon 5, for example, reminded me of my recent visit in Iowa with Karla, when we drooled over Adam Levine – so I cranked up those tunes again. About a half-mile later, my app chirped in saying I was picking up the pace. While my legs didn’t want to go faster, I was hungry for more. So I channeled Abby’s voice in my head and kept chanting, “It’s supposed to hurt. You’re supposed to be uncomfortable. Keep pushing. This is worth it.”

Let me tell you, it worked.

Despite the terrible headwind and last final hill from 12.75-13.0 (thanks, race directors), I sprinted my little legs out and really raced the last 5K. Finally, I rounded the last corner and spotted the finish line. With one final kick, I gave it all I had and heard my name announced as I crossed with a 2-minute PR attached to my name.

Oh, that person about two steps behind me? I had no idea they were there until medal was in hand and a space blanket was being wrapped around me. Oops.

Race the Runways was a fun, small race that I would recommend to anyone looking for a no-frills race. It was cool running on the airport runway, but let me tell you – do not underestimate the wind. I counted my lucky stars that most of my training runs happened by the water, so I was already used to facing a headwind. Mix in a little hill training, and you’re set to go.

2:04.01 is my new half-marathon PR and I couldn’t be happier in this moment. While I’m going to continue to ride the runner’s high, I have one thing mingling in the back of my mind:  sub-2, I’m gunning for you next month.

Racing Through The Year

One of the items on my bucket list is to run a half-marathon in every state before I’m 30. I’ve run five already, and to stay on track, I hope to run six in 2013. I told you I would share the races I had my eye on soon, and there’s no time like the present! Before we get to it, though, let’s recap what states I’ve already covered 13.1 miles in (you can find all of my recaps here):

  1. New York, New York – FITNESS/MORE half-marathon
  2. San Francisco, California – Nike Women’s half-marathon
  3. Washington, D.C. – Run Rock ‘n’ Roll USA half-marathon
  4. Nashville, Tennessee – Run Rock ‘n’ Roll Country Music half-marathon
  5. Orlando, Florida – Disney World Wine and Dine half-marathon

So I’m not headed to any races in those states this year. Instead, here’s where I’ve already registered to run:

  • Long Branch, New Jersey – Long Branch half-marathon on May 5. I’m currently building my base with the Lululemon run club and am hoping to break sub-2. Can you say speed work? 

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  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Run Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia half-marathon on September 15. I’m hoping I can convince my brother to run this one with me, since he’s currently living in Philly. But he’s a med student, so I’m not sure how feasible it is for him to squeeze in training the same year as his rotations. Fingers crossed, though! 

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Other races that I have in my schedule, though I’m not registered for yet:

  • Des Moines, Iowa - Des Moines half-marathon on October 20. Running again with Karla! This year is the year of running for us – yay for running buddies, despite being in different states! 
  • Manchester, New Hampshire – Manchester half-marathon on November 3 (tentative). The official race date hasn’t been announced, but this would be an easy race for me to get to and the course goes right by my aunt’s house!

So I’m in need of one, possibly two more races this year (in case I don’t do Manchester). Any suggestions? Because of my budget, I’m looking to tackle some of the states closer to home, with a few that require more travel (Des Moines, Vegas). I was hoping to do one in March, but the only one in a new state that I’ve found so far sold out too fast! Any ideas for the early side of 2013 would be much appreciated :)

And there ya have it! My running race calendar for 2013. I’m also hoping to run Reach the Beach and complete the RAGBRAI bike race, so it’s definitely going to be a full year.

But you tell me: what races are you gearing up for?

13 for 2013

Now that January is basically over, I guess it’s about time I share my goals for the year. I always wait until the ninth to finalize them in my head – it’s my lucky number and I believe it allows time for the “OMG, it’s the new year, let’s make all these crazy resolutions right now” hype to die down a smidge. Now that it’s the end of the month, and according to multiple statistics, most people have already given up on their resolutions, I’ll share mine. Spread some more optimism.

1. Do more yoga. I believe that I went to yoga all of 10 times in 2012. I’m not kidding. Instead of me setting some crazy goal of going from zero to twice a week like I did last year, let’s just try to do more than I did in 2012. If I manage to stretch myself out 11 times this year, I’ll deem this one a success.

2. Be able to do 20 push-ups in a row. Bringing it back because I really want to do this one. I’m ready for buff biceps. And I just want my entire upper body to look nice.

3. Run a sub-2 half-marathon. Another goal from last year, but I’m so much closer to crossing this off the list than I was then. My current PR is 2:06.41, and I’m ready to train hard and slash 6+ minutes off my time. Goal race to make it happen: New Jersey half-mary with team Lululemon in May. Here we go!

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4. Participate in the first Manhattan Relay for Life. It’ll be my seventh Relay, but the first in the city I now call home. And the first in Manhattan, ever. I’m on the planning committee to help make this big dream a reality and I could not be more excited. My mom will be celebrating her 50th birthday this year, which makes this Relay even more special to me and my family. Get ready, folks, there are some great fundraisers in the works and I would love to see you.

5. Run in a relay race. I’m already starting to make this one happen with Abby and a bunch of other fabulous ladies who plan on running Reach the Beach in Massachusetts this May. It’s 12 days after that goal half-mary, so I’m hoping to be in prime running shape to do my fair share of running legs. But more importantly, I’m excited to have fun with 11 other run-crazy women, crammed in a van for 24 hours. Doesn’t that sound like a great time?

6. Run six half-marathons this year. One of my big life goals is to run a half-marathon in every state before I’m 30. I did the math at the end of last year, and in order to do that, I need to run six every year. Phewwwwwwie. It’s not impossible, but it’s a jump for me. I’ve done five half-marathons total, so jumping to six more in one year is a big leap. But I’m ready to take the plunge and will reveal which races I have my eye on soon.

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7. Go on vacation at an all-inclusive resort. Dustin and I had the cruise experience and loved it, but now we want to check out another way to relax. We’ve been intrigued by the concept of all-inclusives for a while now, so let’s make it happen this year. We’re thinking about the Dominican Republic, but are open to other suggestions. Please share!

8. Pay off one student loan in full. I’ve paid off one loan completely and am on track to do it again soon. Ideally, I’d like to check this one off before the end of summer, but sometimes life gets in the way. I’ll be happy if it’s completed by December 31st.

9. Read two books per month. Last year I read one each month and you all know how much I loved it. I’m picking up the pace this year and will continue to get my knowledge on. For a quick recap of the books I devoured in 2012, click here.

10. Read my personal training certification books. This is separate from goal numero nine because I don’t consider text  books to be a part of my leisure reading. Nonetheless, I’m excited to bust these babies open and get back to studying.

11. Buy curtains. It might sound dumb, but I’ve been living in New York City for almost two years and I still don’t have them in my living room. 2013 is the year to purchase appropriate window fabric. 

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12. Finish a scrapbook. I used to make time for this little hobby o’ mine back in college, but it’s fallen to the wayside since graduation. I really enjoy making them, for myself and others, and think it’s a great way to package photos and memorabilia. I have one that’s been in the works since 2010 (eek!), so let’s aim to at least finish that one up.

13. Ride in RAGBRAI. What’s RAGBRAI, you ask? Oh, it’s just a bike ride that starts at one end of Iowa and ends on the other side. Karla, our co-worker, John, and I are gearing up for the race in July and I am pumped! Have I done a bike race before? Nope. Do I know anything about bikes? Not so much. But has that ever stopped me before? Not a chance. Remember, my first running race was a half-marathon. Go big or go home, right? (If anyone in NYC wants to teach me how to ride well, that would be great)

There ya have it, folks. 13 goals for 2013. Now it’s your turn: what goals have you set out to accomplish this year?

Books, Books, Books

Last year, my goal was to read one book per month. As you know, I accomplished that goal and could not be more proud of myself for sticking with it. It really helped me relax and well, preserve my sanity, whenever things got crazy with work, training, friends life in general.

Back in August, I gave a quick recap of some of the top reads I devoured through the summer months. Now, I don’t think it’s quite fair to show those books the love without spreading it around to all of the great titles I read this year. Not to brag, but I picked some seriously awesome reads. In fact, I don’t regret a single one. So let’s take a look back and I’ll give you the quick 4-1-1 on each, mmk?

If I don’t post a quick synopsis here, you can find it in the last post mentioned above. For more of my book recommendations, check out my Pinterest page.

January 2012: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I started reading this in 2011, but didn’t finish the beast until the new year, so I counted it as the first month. What a great novel. Set in World War II, it tells the story of Louis Zamperini and his struggles as a runner, a lieutenant in the Air Force and someone hoping to survive a horrific crash. It’s all about resilience and strength, and despite it’s length, Hillenbrand kept me enraptured with every page.

February 2012: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. At first, I wasn’t sure this plot line was going to work for me: a circus that only comes out at night, and two magicians who are fighting against each other to the death end up falling in love. First, the whole magicians thing isn’t usually for me. Second, it all sounded a little cliché. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. Morgenstern does a great job of weaving characters together and made me root for both of the magicians, no matter how the ending turned out. And the fact that it all happened at night? Well, that just made it cool. You know how things always seem to take on a new life at night – scary or intriguing, most of the time? That’s what happened with this book.

March 2012: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

April 2012: Healthy Tipping Point by Caitlin Boyle. I got to read this before the release date for work and I’m so glad I did. I’m a regular reader of Caitlin’s blog and love how her voice transferred over effortlessly to her second book. The success stories sprinkled in with Boyle’s down-to-earth narrative and advice made it a page-turner, and makes you seriously think about making changes in your life for the better.

healthy tipping point

May 2012: Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

June 2012: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

July 2012: Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin

August 2012: Gone Girl by Gillian Fly. An amazing page-turner that is extremely well-written. It took me a while to get into this book because I felt that the main character, Nick, was weak and not taking any responsibility for his failing marriage. But part two hit me like a ton of bricks and I was instantly sucked in. This novel is all about how things aren’t always as they appear, and no matter what source you go to, there’s always another side of the story. You’ll want to read this just for the mind warp.

September 2012: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin. Clearly I went on a Giffin kick this year. I love this movie, but never got around to reading the book first. So I had Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson stuck in my head the whole time, but those aren’t necessarily bad things, right?

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Anyway, this beach read follows the story of Darcy and Rachel, two best friends living in NYC – Darcy is the overpowering, beautiful blonde who always gets what she wants handed to her, and Rachel is the quiet do-gooder who always has Darcy’s back, despite Darcy frequently taking things from her. Before you know it, Rachel is in bed with Darcy’s fiance. Obviously drama ensues, but the best part of this book is the fact that I was rooting for Rachel the entire time. Based on her actions, you should want to hate her, but I was cheering for this girl’s happy ending.

October 2012: Something Blue by Emily Giffin. The sequel to Something Borrowed is almost as good as the first one. Instead of the story being told from Rachel’s perspective, we shift vantage points and hear about what happened from Darcy. And then we watch the story unfold when she finds out about Rachel and fiance Dex shacking up and she flees to London. It was definitely smart of Giffin to write the sequel from this point of view – I managed to develop some empathy for the little blonde girl who’s finally starting to realize life isn’t handed to you on a silver platter.

November 2012: Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. Libby finished reading this in two days and immediately passed it off to me, saying the movie was coming out around Thanksgiving (FYI – if you’ve seen the movie, the book is way better. But the movie was good). The main character, Pat, believes that life plays out like a movie and that every situation has a silver lining. Heart-warming, right? Things get interesting when you find out he’s just been released from a mental institution after having a nervous breakdown because he caught his wife cheating on him. Ouch.

Then you meet Tiffany, another girl who needs help because her husband died unexpectedly. We watch their stories intertwine with one another, while they fight with each other and their families, all while just trying to figure out their own silver linings…together. Aww. It might sound cheesy, but just read it. I promise it’s good.

December 2012: Divergent by Veronica Roth. HOLY CRAP, this book is amazing. Seriously, I’m as obsessed with this series as I was with The Hunger Games. So if you liked that series and haven’t read this one yet, I strongly encourage you to go pick it up immediately at your nearest bookstore or download it to your Kindle.

divergent

I’m a huge fan of dystopians packed with action, drama and romance, and this book delivers in all three areas. Roth is only 24 and has managed to create a brilliant world filled with conflict that cuts straight to everyone’s soul. I can’t give many details because it will give away the story, but just trust me on this one. Pick it up, and thank me later when you’ve finished it in two days. That’s what happened to me.

And that was 2012! In 2013, I’m upping the ante and trying to read two books per month. So far, I’m right on track. In January, I read:

  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth – the sequel to Divergent. Duh. I cannot wait for the third book to come out this fall, or for the first movie release in 2014.
  • Baby Proof by Emily Giffin. I forced myself to break from the dystopians for a few weeks since I was starting to have some seriously messed up dreams, ha. And you can’t go wrong with a Giffin novel. That girl knows how to deliver a light-hearted read that still touches on important life choices.

I have a few others up my sleeve (back to dystopians with Gretchen Powell’s Terra – so excited!), but am anxious for recommendations. Tell me, what book have you recently read that is an absolute pick-it-up-right-now-or-you’ll-regret-it-forever kind of story?

Four Years

When you first start dating someone, you never actually expect it to work out for a super long time. Sure, you’re optimistic about the future and think about the potential that might be there, but you don’t actually picture what life will be like with this person three, five or ten years down the road. And if you do, you don’t allow yourself to think about it too much, in case it doesn’t work out. Because many times, it doesn’t work out. So it’s a way of protecting yourself, right? Minimizing the heart break that could happen.

OK, maybe some of you do view relationships and the future of them in a more optimistic light. But I never did. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so. I think it just makes me cautious. It makes me think about things ahead of time – about what I really want, what the other person really wants, and whether or not we can actually give that to one another. Not about whether we hope we can make it work. Because sometimes, things just don’t work out. Blame it on mismatched personalities, different views on important matters (kids, beliefs, finances, etc), or something as simple as timing.

But sometimes they do work out. Or at least, they continue to. And I’m so unbelievably lucky to have had this relationship of mine for the last four years.

anniversary

No, Dustin and I don’t get along all of the time. We don’t smile and blow each other kisses during every waking moment. But ya know what? I wouldn’t want that. Because if that’s what we were like, how would I know that we are strong enough to survive the tough stuff?

goofy face

Sometimes just spending the day in the same room together is all we need. We don’t have to be holding hands, talking to each other, or even doing the same thing. But having him around while I do my thing and he does his – there’s something about it. It’s comforting.

That’s what we did yesterday. After I ran 7.5ish miles, I spent the day with Dustin. We had a wonderfully amazing lazy day together. He played video games, I caught up on TV shows and immediately became addicted to Scandal (damn you, Netflix). Did I go to the yoga class I originally planned? Nope. Did we have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner? Yep. And I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about my day.

astoria park anniversary

Other times, you show each other how much you care and what exactly it is that you love about them. We did that on Monday, which happened to be Martin Luther King, Jr. day and the day of the Presidential Inauguration. It also happened to be our four year anniversary (Score for the vacation day!)

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We spent the majority of the day out and about, as I took Dustin throughout Manhattan and Astoria, solving clues to get to spots important to us. He loves to solve riddles and puzzles, so a scavenger hunt seemed like the perfect idea. Turns out I was right – he loved reading my rhyme-filled clues and then rushing to wherever he guessed the next location would be.

It also turns out that he hates it when I have information and he doesn’t. Sucker :)

After our scavenger hunt, I found out he was feeling sentimental too. We were quite the travel bugs in 2012, and Dustin printed out all of our photos from our trips throughout the years so we could put together a photo album together. Talk about a great way to reminisce about the adventures we’ve had in the last four years.

four year flowers

When I think back to four years ago, I never would have imagined Dustin and I would still be together, happier than ever. Sure, I was optimistic and I hoped it would work out, but I was in college and not really into seriously dating at the time. I thought, “Let’s give it a whirl and see where things go.”

I’m so glad they’re still going.

I’ve had such an amazing four years – I can only imagine how unbelievable the next four might turn out <3

NYCRuns Hot Chocolate 10K Race Recap

At long last, the recap for my first 10K race is here!

nycruns-hot-chocolateBack in November, I heard about the Hot Chocolate 10K on Roosevelt Island and was instantly intrigued. I didn’t know anything about the location of the race, which is a shame since I’ve been living in NYC for a year and a half now (what?!). But hot chocolate was in the name, which I was sure meant they’d serve me some after I covered 6.2 miles. Special food and/or drinks at the end of a race pretty much guarantees my presence, so I glanced at the mid-December date, prayed it wouldn’t snow and signed myself up. The low price point, no travel costs and promise of a souvenir mug didn’t hurt, either.

run 6

Right after I gave up my money, I went to Twitter to see who else was running it. Obviously. Turns out, a ton of awesome runners would be there; ones I hadn’t seen in forever. It sealed the deal that no matter what, this would be an awesome day. Oh yeah, and as I said before, it was my first 10K. An automatic PR is never a bad thing!

Dustin and I took the tram for the first time (awesome) and hopped off around 9 a.m. thinking both the 5K and 10K started at 9:30 a.m. WRONG. The 10K didn’t actually start until 10 a.m., leaving us with tons of time to catch up with friends and putz around. Could I have been productive and done a warm-up jog? Sure. Did I? Nope. I was so distracted by the laid-back atmosphere of this small race – I have only run big-name races thus far – that I barely took time to squeeze in some dynamic stretching. But I was smart enough to squeeze in about 5 minutes worth of moves before Dustin headed out to find his first spectator spot.

run

(Photo stolen from Erica)

The race itself was interesting and a lot of fun. Again, this was a really small race, so we didn’t even have the roads fully closed the entire time. Case in point: check out the video Dustin got of me chasing after a truck around mile five!

We ran on different surfaces, from grooved pavement and dirt roads to regular ole’ streets and sidewalk. Most of the course was along the water, which I greatly appreciated despite the slight wind that came with it. If I get to run by the water, I’m a happy girl.

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I didn’t really have a goal for this race, other than to finish in under one hour. I wasn’t there to go balls to the wall or to really test my speed. I wanted to work on my pacing and just have fun while I was out there. I did my best not to look at my watch and go by feel. Unfortunately, I had more knee pain than I expected. Once I hit mile two, my body really started to scream at me because I was  in desperate need of new sneakers. I haven’t switched to a new pair in quite a few months, even after training and racing for multiple events in them, so I knew I had it coming. My poor wallet kept telling me to hold out to see if I got a new pair for Christmas, so I sucked it up to finish my 2012 race year in my good ole’ Brooks Adrenaline 12′s.

run 4

They’re officially in retirement now.

Despite the pain that traveled through my knees all the way up to my butt (seriously, I felt like I pulled a glute afterward), I really enjoyed this race. I had enough in the tank for a great kick at the finish, and I loved the easy travel and opportunity to hang out with so many runner friends. The course was extremely spectator-friendly, too. We looped the same course twice, so I saw Dustin five times – a record for us! And that one goal of mine? I met it :)

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Hot chocolate post-race = happy runner.

run 2

If you’re in the NYC area and looking for a fun race to end the year, I’d definitely check this one out. You can tell the people at NYCRuns worked hard to make this a very low-key, relaxing and fun event. I plan on being back next year – we’ll see if I can go sub-:50 by then!

Do you like the 10K distance? Any fun ones you’re signed up for in 2013? 

12 Photos for 2012

After I wrote about last year’s resolutions, I got a comment about how it still sounded like I accomplished a lot, even if it wasn’t what I originally planned to accomplish. I kept thinking about this and ya know what, that person was right. I knew I had a great year, and I wasn’t upset about the lack of accomplishment toward the goals I had set at the beginning of 2012. But when I wrote that post, I didn’t appreciate everything that I did  accomplish and experience.

So let’s give credit where it’s due. For me, 2012 was awesome. I experienced so many amazing things and crossed a lot off of my bucket list. Let’s take a look back on the last 12 months and every wonderful thing that happened.

January: I celebrated my three-year anniversary with Dustin. He’s a pretty cool guy, so it’s fun that he likes to stick around.

flowers

February: I danced the night away with Dustin and our friends from his hometown while one of his close friends, Cayla, tied the knot. We got a surprise the day of the wedding, too: she was pregnant! Now she has a beautiful little boy who is adorable and unbelievably well-behaved.

dance

March: Dustin and I traveled to Washington, D.C., where he watched me run a half-marathon for the first time. Oh, and I got an unexpected PR.

dc

April: After a lot of tears and a tough decision, I dropped from the full marathon distance and raced the half in Nashville. This was the first time my dad ever saw me race, and while it wasn’t even close to my best performance, I wouldn’t change any of it. I learned about leaving it all out on the road, and how to really push through to the finish line.

dad

Seeing Rodney Atkins in concert post-race was pretty cool, too. I got one of his guitar picks and a T-shirt. WIN.

May: A lot of fun things happened at work while we celebrated our 20th anniversary, like hanging out with a bunch of awesome bloggers and meeting Mia Hamm.

sam-and-mia-hamm

June: I surprised my mom for her 49th birthday, then returned home a few weeks later to participate in my sixth Relay for Life. I walked over 26 miles and helped raise over $78,000 for the American Cancer Society.

relay

At the end of June, I moved out of my old apartment and into a new one. During that same weekend, I drove 12 hours round-trip and danced the night away at another wedding. We are never packing that much stuff into one weekend again.

July: Dustin and I roadtripped it to Boston so I could go to Fenway for the first time! We crossed an item off the bucket list and caught a Red Sox vs. Yankees game.

fenway

At the end of the month, I hiked my first mountain with my brother!

August: I had a skin cancer scare and vowed to be better about my skin care.

frisbee

We also sent summer off with a bang at the annual Lefave summer party, where we raised money and collected toys and canned goods for local charities. Before that though, we saw Keith Urban in concert. Since he’s my favorite musician in the world, I could not have been happier.

September: Check another one off the list! Dustin and I went on our first cruise vacation and had a blast out in the Bahamas. 

cruise

The week after I came back from vacation, I hightailed it up to New Hampshire and had a girls weekend with my Aunt Sue, where we caught the opening show for Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away tour. Amazing.

October: Seriously, I dominated my bucket list this year. This month I  learned how to surf and went stand-up paddleboarding for the first time.

sup

I also threw my best friend a baby shower and found out I was officially named Kassidy’s godmother and guardian. #warmfuzzies

November: I flew down to Disney World for the Wine & Dine half-marathon – my first night race!. Despite my lack of training, I pushed through for a shiny new PR.

disney

I also celebrated my 23rd birthday, saw Wicked on Broadway, reunited with Karla, spent Thanksgiving upstate, and went back to my roots as a guest lecturer for creative writing and journalism students at SUNY Oswego.

December: I went to my first football game ever and saw the Bills actually win for once (note: I am not a Bills fan. That’s all Dustin. Go Pats!) I also ran the Race for Recovery 5K to raise funds for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, and got a new PR. A week later, I  ran my first 10K race on Roosevelt Island (I still owe you a race recap, I know).

christmas

Dustin and I also saw The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, sent out our first Christmas card together, traveled to visit a ton of family for the holidays, celebrated his 24th birthday and rang in the new year down in Chattanooga, TN with my dad, step-mom and step-brothers. Phew.

Like I said, 2012 was a great year! I have a feeling 2013 is going to be even sweeter.

Tell me about the cool things you did in 2012. Some might be over the nostalgic look-back-at-the-year stuff already, but I’m a sucker for it. Help a girl out. 

Reviewing Resolutions

Happy New Year’s Eve! I’m spending the pseudo-holiday down in Tennessee with my dad, step-mom, step-brothers (and their girlfriends) and Dustin. We’re having a few people over to ring in the New Year, but I don’t think anyone’s going to get too crazy, which is fine by me. I’ve spent the last few days of vacation relaxing and just going with the flow – a very nice change of pace for the crazy let’s-plan-everything-out-right-now person that I usually am.

fire

Anyway, it’s time for the traditional “look back at 2012′s goals and see how little you accomplished this year!” post. In case you’re curious, here’s what I originally boasted about gunning for in the last 12 months. Now let’s find out which I actually crossed off the list and what I totally ditched.

Fitness

1.) Finish a marathon: DELAYED.

It was the biggest thing on my goals list this year and I excitedly hired a running coach and trained my little heart out for the Country Music Marathon. Unfortunately, tendinitis in my left knee struck me down hard. After a lot of painful physical therapy and pushing my limits, Abby and I decided it was best for my body – and mind – if I dropped down to the half. Once I mentally gave myself permission to do so, I immediately knew it was the right thing. I’m not sure if a 2013 marathon is in the cards for me, but I definitely have it on a future goals list.

2.) Do yoga twice a week: PUH-LEASE.

I’m pretty sure I ditched this goal by mid-February. I suck at regularly rolling out the mat and need to get better at it in 2013. Move this one over to the new year.

3.) Be able to do 20 real push-ups in a row: FAIL.

OK, I’m starting to feel really bad about myself right now with these goals. Whose idea was it to set these ridiculous things? Anyway, I just tried to do the push-ups and managed to bust out 12 before collapsing. The highest I got throughout the year was 15 in a row, back when I was going through an arm makeover workout for FITNESS and regularly working with a trainer. I’m going to get back into that routine in 2013! I swear ;)

pushup

4.) Run a sub-2 half-marathon: Almost there!

I’m at 2:06.41 and couldn’t be happier with that. This year of running gave me the confidence I desperately needed, and I learned to stop judging myself against other people’s accomplishments. Just because others were ready for the sub-2 doesn’t mean I was. I’m stoked to cross the finish line with a 1:59:XX attached to my name this spring!

5.) Run a race for charity: YES! CROSS IT OFF THE LIST!

I officially ran the Race for Recovery 5K for charity. I also donated to multiple people who raised money and raced for charitable causes, participated in fun fitness events for charity, and walked a marathon while raising money to fight cancer.

race bib

Life

1.) Grow at my job: CHECK!

At the beginning of the year, I said, “If I’m as happy with my career one year from now as I am right now, I will be one lucky girl.” It hasn’t been a full year quite yet, but it’s safe to say that I am one of the luckiest girls around. I have loved working with everyone at FITNESS for the last year and could not be more grateful for my job. I learned so much, improved my writing and editing skills and did a lot of great things. And just in time to ring in the new year, I wrote my first opener article! Check it out in the January 2013 issue and learn all about the tastiest (and healthiest!) yogurts in stores now.

issue

2.) Volunteer at Hope Lodge: DONE – X3!

I became a member of the committee that is bringing Relay for Life to Manhattan for the very first time in NYC. We meet once a month to go over details for the event, and then we try to get together at least once a month to host a dinner for those staying at the Hope Lodge. I’m so happy I accomplished this goal and can’t wait for the next host night!

3.) Go on a cruise – YEAH BUDDY!

After living together for one year, Dustin and I decided to celebrate and go on our first paid vacation together in the Bahamas! We had so much fun and couldn’t have asked for a better first cruise experience. We’re planning a huge cruise trip in 2014, but maybe a small one will be awaiting us in 2013, too!

cruise

4.) Pay off X amount of my student loans: HALF-CHECK

I didn’t fully reach the number I originally set for the end of the year, but I’m still really happy with my progress and the amount in my savings account. 2012 ended up being a busy year of travel, too, which depleted my funds more than I originally anticipated. But I’m completely OK with it and don’t regret anything that happened during this last year. I’m determined to take a huge chunk out of the remaining number in 2013, though!

5.) Get my personal training certification: FAIL

This is completely my fault. I bought all of the books but didn’t open them once. I let myself get wrapped up in running, working, traveling and well, living life. This quickly fell to the bottom of my priority list once my work schedule picked up. I realized that something would have to give in my schedule, and this was it. I’m not upset about it, but I would like to start studying and schedule the test before the end of this next year.

6.) Read at least one book a month: YES SIR!

I’m so happy I stuck with this goal. I read so many great books this year and keeping this goal in mind helped me stay on track. Whenever I realized it was nearing the end of the month, if I hadn’t read anything, I would immediately go to my to-read list and grab something I kept “meaning to open.” This goal really helped me relax and kept me mentally sane. I think I’ll be upping the ante to two books per month moving forward.

books

And there ya have it! Now tell me: how did you do on your 2012 goals? Clearly, my fitness ones didn’t fare so well, but I’d say I had a great year overall. I’ll be back soon with my goals for 2013! 

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