Monday, September 30, 2013

A Day in the Life of the Real George Constanza

I've had a request from a friend to post more 'funny life stories' on the blog.  This is the friend who years ago, coined me as George Costanza from Seinfeld.  I will admit, I was initially offended by this moniker, I mean George is pretty much the most hapless, pathetic character on that show, but the situations he gets himself into are usually the funniest ones on every episode.  So with some reluctance, I started to embrace my little pet name.  Time and time again, life has shown me just how similar Georgie and I really are.  For whatever reason, I have a real knack for attracting and embedding myself in the most awkward situations.  So, today out of the blue, one of these situations arose, and for said friend's benefit I decided to blog about it!
Today I had an appointment with a recruiter downtown.  I will admit I haven't had the best experiences with recruiters in the past.  I met with some a few years ago, when I was exploring the possibilities of a new job, still within my industry.  I (mistakenly) thought that perhaps a change of venue or scenery would help fill the growing sense of purposelessness I was feeling in my career.  But I quickly realized simply moving to a new company would do nothing to quell what my heart was really trying to tell me.  The recruiters at that time came off as sales-y, and put a lot of pressure on me to accept positions simply because of the money.  I mean, I realize everyone needs to make a living, but they were trying to earn their commission from essentially selling me - a human being.  So needless to the say, the whole recruiting process just left a bad taste in my mouth.
So enter today; I decided to go in with an open mind and would let this particular recruiter know exactly the type of work I was and was not looking for.  I still think I will probably have to continue doing most of the legwork, soul searching and networking myself, but I thought, hey why not give this another shot!  As I got dressed for the day, and put on my old 'business casual' work clothes a funny feeling came over me.  I looked at myself in the mirror and the reflection looking back just didn't feel like 'me' anymore, if that makes sense.  I mean I'm wearing heels again for heavens' sake!  I really can't believe I wore heels day in and day out for 9 years. 
I've often compared my life in that job to Andrea's in The Devil Wears Prada (although without all the free designer clothes!).  In the beginning, I was enamored with the glitz and glamour of the industry.  And those were high times back then, before the recession.  I felt important wearing heels and fancy clothes, taking day trips to Manhattan on the business express train, expensing meals, getting rewarded with free happy hours every week and attending lavish NYC Christmas parties.  But after awhile, the glitz wears off, and I was left feeling empty and searching for meaning in what I was doing.  I am thankful for a wonderful job out of a college, a job that had nothing to do with my undergrad degree (Education) because I couldn't find a teaching job, butttt you can only live in circumstances that aren't congruent with your 'inner truth' for so long before that inner struggle will become apparent on the outside.  So, I guess what I'm hoping for is the ending to The Devil Wears Prada, wherein Andy finally finds meaningful, purposeful work that she was meant to do.  And in that last scene, where she walks out of the newspaper office in jeans and a blazer, she looks more happy, more content, and more like herself than she did the entire movie.  (Oh please, let that be ME one day!)
Alright where was I with today's story.  Oh yes, driving downtown to meet the recruiter.  Pulling into the parking garage, because when you live and work in a big city, there is no such thing as free parking.  True story.  I used to have over $100 deducted from my paycheck every month just to PARK at my office.  WHAT?!  So I take the little ticket today and drive around and around a few times, looking for a spot when all of a sudden alarms start blaring.  I kid you not.  There is a FIRE ALARM!  And a voice telling me "There has been a fire alarm in the building.  Please proceed to the nearest stairwell and exit the building immediately."  Oh what to do here, what to do?  Do I park?  Do I leave.  Is this a real fire???!  I actually started cracking up in my car.  Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to park my car and ride this thing out.  I then proceeded to call the recruiter.  It went to voicemail, so with the alarm blaring in the background I left a voicemail stating I was in fact here for my appointment but there seems to be a building evacuation/emergency situation going on so I'm going to be late.  HAHAHA Oh I'm still laughing at how that message probably sounded. 
So I take the stairs down and end up in the middle of a giant herd of cattle, until we reach ground level and we're all standing outside.  I wasn't really concerned with it being an emergency at this point but I couldn't stop laughing at the situation.  I mean, if that blaring ALARM was not a signal from the Divine telling me that this recruiting process was not the best move for my future career aspirations, I'm not sure what was!  Anyway, I turn to the dude next to me and ask him if he knows if this is a drill or a real fire.  He tells me it was a scheduled drill.  I say, "Oh that's cool. I literally just got here for a job interview and this happens.  This is my life."  He starts laughing and then the good natured woman next to him hears us, and chimes in with, "That's hilarious.  Well I hope the interview goes better than this!".  Sooo, my morning looked like this:
Nothing like hanging out at someone else's fire drill for the duration of your morning :)
I finally was able to meet with the recruiter about a half hour late and I must say I was a bit happier this time around.  Although I'm sure she thought I was a bit of a strange bird.  When she asked me what types of places I'd like to work, I actually said "Well, I don't want to work anywhere where their main objective is to make money"! HAHAHA  She gave me a blank stare and then prompted me some more.  'So, um, what kinds of places would you like to work for.'  My response: "I want to work for someplace that is doing good for humanity, that is operating for a cause and mission and has goals other than money-making".  Again, with the inquisitive looks.  Most people that use corporate recruiters are looking to make money and enjoy working in big corporations that make lots of money.  Nope.  Not this girl!  I may as well have just looked at her and said I'd like to be a latex salesman for Vandelay Industries:

So, who knows if anything will come of this meeting but I sure had a great time!  A day in the life of George Costanza.  Always entertaining.  And yes I'm single gentleman, line forms to the left :) 
Your turn!
I would love to hear some recent funny/entertaining/awkward stories from you!
Are you a Seinfeld fan? (Is No even an option here?!)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Training Update (Week 6) and Dr. Scholl's Active Series Insoles Review

So here we are already in Week 6 of my abbreviated 8 Week training schedule for this little number!
My how the time flies.  And I'm not just talking about the past 6 weeks.  Where, might I ask, did the summer go? And for that matter, the first 9 months of this year?!  I have no idea how I ended up in Fall already, but I'm not too pleased.  I mean the downward spiral of our daily high temps has already started and it only gets worse from here.  Fast forward me to Christmas for 1 day, and then straight to Memorial Day pleeeeeease. 
Ok enough rambling.  So going into training for this race I was concerned with how my legs would hold up, namely the periostitis and tendinitis in my lower legs that started to resurface after April's Nike Women's Marathon in DC.  I was therefore also concerned with getting my mileage up in time for this race, since I had started later than I would have ideally wanted.  I'm happy to report that I am feeling pretty good and I was able to get my mileage up pretty quickly.  My running workouts for the past 5 weeks have looked like this:
Week 1 - Two short runs of 3 mi each; One 5 mi long run
Week 2 - Two short runs of 3 mi each; One 6 mi long run
Week 3 - Two short runs of 3-4 mi each; One 7 mi long run (at the beach, on vacation I might add!)
Week 4 - Two short runs of 3-4 mi each; One 9 mi long run
Week 5 - Two short runs of 3-4 mi each; One 11 mi long run
Week 6 - Two short runs of 3-4 mi each; Long run TBD this weekend
Week 7 - TBD
Week 8 - TBD
On non-running days I continue to cross train with any/all of the following: 
At-home circuits/HIIT/WOD (via Pinterest - you can follow my board here)
Interval biking workout (gym)
Weight lifting (gym)
Swimming (gym)
Walking (outside)
Monthly challenge (100 crunches/day for September)
I usually take a rest day each week as well. 
When I hit that 11 mi run last Friday, I started to feel a lot better about the race.  I have two long runs left before I taper in Week 9 leading up to race date on Oct 20th.  One thing that has really been helping with the long runs lately (though I loathe to admit it) is the cooler temps.  Fall is the season runners across the US rejoice because suddenly we're FASTER!  How does that happen?!  One day you're running in 90 degrees feeling like death, and then a few weeks later it's 65 degrees and you swear you are actually flying.  Either that or you suddenly inherited Usain Bolt's legs. 
So, I was feeling pretty peachy about the race, until I spoke to someone who ran the RW Half last year and said it was her hardest race to date because of the hills!  And I quote: "It was 9 miles of hills. I cried."  Um, EXCUSE me, what was that?!  Oh boy.  Well, despite hearing that little gem of information, I'm actually trying not to think about it.  I will approach the race like every other half marathon and just get out there and run my best! Sure, it might be slower, but it will be a challenge and I will embrace it.  At some point, I would like a half marathon PR below 2:00:00 (my fastest thus far was 2:01) but I think I will have to choose a flatter course.  I know 2 people who ran the Philly Rock N Roll Half a couple of weeks ago, and they both PR'ed saying the course was fast and flat.  So perhaps that will be on the docket for next year!
One other thing I wanted to cover in this post was a review of the insoles I have been trying out for the past 5 weeks.  These guys:

I liked them immediately, but wanted to give them several weeks of wear before I did a write-up on here.  As you know, I've been trying many different things to alleviate my stress injuries that seem to crop back up every now and then, and it was only recently that I thought my insoles might need looking at.  I have historically never bought separate insoles to put in my running shoes.  I simply use the ones that come with the shoe, although I know many people swear by separate or even custom insoles with each new shoe purchase.  There were 2 things that led me to believe perhaps I should give insoles a try.
First, I attended a nutrition clinic at Road Runner Sports in Columbia, MD earlier this summer and tried out their Shoe Dog fit service.  I always knew I had high arches but they told me I had extremely high arches (is there a difference?!) that required more support.  As part of their no-obligation Shoe Dog service, they created a pair of custom-molded insoles for me while I shopped around.  I didn't end up buying them because they were $80 but it was good information to know!
Secondly, when I was visiting my sister in Atlanta in August, we went on nightly walks (I didn't run during that trip because my legs has just started bothering me and I wanted to give them a few weeks' rest before I dove into training).  She had an old pair of insoles that she used when she did a 3 day/60 mile walk for breast cancer a few years ago.  But even using those old insoles and just walking, I could tell a difference in my legs. 

So upon returning, I decided to research insoles and see if there was something within my budget that might help.  I've heard good things about Superfeet insoles before, but they are also currently beyond my budget.  So after seeing several TV commercials for the Dr. Scholl's Active Series I decided to give them a try.  At $19.95, they were affordable, and I have to say I have really seen a difference in the way my legs feel after using them for the past 5 weeks.  The arch support is much better than the flat insoles that came in my Nike's and there is added cushioning zones in the heel and forefront.  If you are suffering from shin or knee pain, I would definitely recommend giving these insoles a try, if you are not ready to spring for custom insoles yet.   

I do continue to run in my ProCompression socks as well as ice my legs after each run.  I also am trying to imitate the Graston therapy I had in PT last year.  If you are not familiar with this, look it up.  A physical therapist uses plastic or metal instruments to scrape at scar tissue that is lurking beneath the skin's surface.  Sounds medieval and painful, right?  Well, it is!!  But apparently, I have a lot of soft tissue adhesions in my lower legs and they need to be broken up or they will continue to cause pain, so I've taken to massaging them with my hands or my Marathon Stick after each run:
Wow, this post turned out to be a lot longer than I had planned! I didn't mean to bore you with my training thus far, but if you are interested in or have any questions about the products I talked about here please let me know.  They are all things I purchased on my own, use regularly, and have found helpful.  Also, if you are currently suffering from any injuries and PT is in your future, beware the Graston treatment! 
Your turn!
Are you training for any fall races?  How is it going?
Do you use insoles in your running shoes, or do you just wear them as is?  Do you know what kind of arches you have??


Monday, September 23, 2013

A Life Without Limits

I picked up this book on my last trip to the library, admittedly not really knowing anything about who Chrissie Wellington was.  Now, after having read her autobiography, I think her story and message is pretty amazing.  Chrissie entered the professional triathlon circuit at age 30 and outright won the Ironman World Championship at Kona in her first attempt!  She subsequently went on to win EVERY Ironman she ever entered!  Mind blowing to say the least.  Her innate, almost untapped athletic ability, coupled with her powerful inner drive, really make her a force to be reckoned with.
There were a few things about Chrissie's story that resonated with me personally.  First and foremost, I think was her message that it's never too late to embark on your dream.  She claims that she wasn't always a gifted athlete and kind of discovered triathlon by mistake, after becoming more and more infatuated with running and biking as forms of recreation outside her full time job with the British government.  Here, she talks about why she decided to quit her job and pursue this new dream:
"Thirty years old and only just about to embark on a career as a professional athlete - I knew it wasn't the conventional path, but that milestone was just another reason why I had to take the plunge.  If I didn't do it now, I never would.  And I would be left wondering "What if..."'

That last statement is the story of my life right now.
I connected with Chrissie in another way as well.  As she says, she never had her sights set on becoming a professional athlete, let alone an Ironman.  In her university and early career days, she really was striving to do work that was meaningful, humanitarian and helpful.  She majored in 'Development' at her university which meant she was studying how to improve conditions in developing/third world nations.  Her hunger to 'change the world' had her traveling to remote locations in Africa and ultimately led her to work as a civil servant in the UK government.  But she soon became disillusioned and felt her work behind the desk wasn't making the hands-on difference she wanted to see.  Exactly my sentiments with my previous career.  She had written some New Year goals for the year 2000, when she had just finished university. And although they sound somewhat simple and perhaps naive, I also think they're pretty beautiful, and sound like something I would have written years ago, before I entered and became jaded by the 'real world', and now again today as I try to get back to a place of authenticity:
"To be happy with myself and always make others happy.  To be confident and give others confidence in themselves.  To smile, to surf, to laugh and to make others laugh.  To read more widely.  To try to be more tolerant of my weaknesses and of others, and not to be so hard on myself all the time..."
Another thing I admire about Chrissie is her willingness to take chances.  I think one of the things that allows people to become great, and to accomplish great things, is not the absence of fear in their lives, but their ability to take chances and leaps of faith in spite of their fears and doubts.  Chrissie's story details how she abandoned security many times in her life to travel abroad, accept new positions, and finally take a giant leap into the unknown to pursue something few people will ever attempt.  She is now using the notoriety she acquired in the sport of triathlon to do good through her affiliations with charities, so in manifesting her natural talents she has also come to a place where she can continue to make a difference in other's lives.  Finally, she ends the book with this statement:
"...How can I speculate on what the future holds, when the present is so astronomically removed from whatever expectations I might have had in my youth?  I prefer to see my life as a tree, branching out in who knows what directions.  There is never a destination, just the impulse to grow.  My only policy throughout has been to keep an open mind and, whatever I may do, to give it my all.  It still takes my breath away to think where that simple outlook on life has taken me, how many times I have managed to defy what I thought possible.  I never set out to be a world champion...but neither have I ever wanted to be left wondering, "What if...?"  To my amazement, at so many stages along the way, the limits that I thought I could see in the distance dissolved as I approached them.  They turned out not to be real at all, but mere assumptions.  And that has been the most exciting revelation of all."
I used to think life was a very linear path.  Do A, B and C in that order to get to an end result.  Don't deviate, don't get creative and for heaven's sake do NOT color outside the lines!  But, that approach has decidedly not worked for me thus far in life.  Following a plan of what I thought I was 'supposed' to do has not led me to a place of fulfillment.  Many of my views about what life is all about have really changed in the past few years.  I've stopped looking at life as a straight line with a definitive end.  Life has become much more about the journey and not the destination.  Much more like a tree, as Chrissie puts it, with branches in so many limitless directions.  I've lately started branching out and kind of love not knowing what will happen next.  And who knows, those limits I thought I had just might disappear...

Your turn!

Have you read "A Life Without Limits"?

Have you ever done something you previously thought you could not do?


Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life." ~Bertolt Brecht

I was back home in Pennsylvania for the day yesterday, to celebrate the life of a phenomenal 105 year old woman - my Great Gram.  Yep, that's no typo.  In fact, my Gram was only one month from her 106th birthday when she passed away last week.  And although it was a somber day, Gram really lived a life fuller than many of us can imagine.  That picture above was taken about 10 years ago, when I went to visit her for the summer at her home in Cape May, NJ where she lived on her own until she was 101 years old! 
If I could pick one word to sum up my Gram it would be this - Independent.  Her husband passed away in 1975, so she lived the last 30 years of her life alone, in her cute little home by the shore in New Jersey.  She was the kind of person who didn't like asking for help.  She didn't really believe in going to the doctor, or taking medication.  Heck, I don't think I ever even saw her take an aspirin!  She believed in home cooked meals, and doing for yourself as much as possible.  She also had an optimistic, easy going attitude; nothing seemed to phase her - one of the many keys, I believe, to her longevity. 
I took some trips to Cape May in the summers after I graduated college (circa 2001-2003) to visit my Gram, who was 95 years old at the time.  I remember her cooking delicious meals for us during our stay, and she loved when we took her to the casinos in Atlantic City!  She also came to the beach with us in the evenings and enjoyed walking and sightseeing, telling us about her seaside town.  I will hold those memories in my heart forever.
The minister who delivered her memorial yesterday gave a wonderful speech about her life, highlighting some of the events Gram had lived through, and it was mind-blowing.  Here are just a few of things my Gram, who was born in 1907, got to experience first hand:
-  The sinking of the Titanic in 1912
-  World War I in 1914
-  Women getting the vote in 1920
-  The Great Depression in 1929
-  World War II in 1939
-  Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat in 1955
-  Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream Speech' in 1963
-  The assassination of JFK in 1963
-  The Beatles' invasion of America in 1964
-  The first man walking on the moon in 1969
-  Watergate in 1972
-  The explosion of the Challenger in 1986
-  The Gulf War in 1991
-  The tragedy of September 11, 2001
-  The election of the first African American president in 2008
When you lay it all out there, it's amazing how much one human being has seen in her lifetime.
Gram came from a big family; she was one of eight children, all of whom lived into their 90's (except for one of her brothers who died during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic).  Not only did Gram live to see her great-grandchildren grow and thrive, but she also lived to see 9 great-great-grandchildren!  When she broke her hip at 101 years old, and was forced to give up her independence, I know it took a toll on her spirit.  But, as I was walking out of the cemetery yesterday, a beautiful yellow butterfly flew right past me, and landed on her casket. I knew in an instant it was my Gram, happy once again to have her 'wings' and be on her own!  I am sure she is loving the new spring in her step up there :)
I can only hope to live a life as full as she did - and with the genes in our family, perhaps I will! 
Here's to you Gram... 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Liebster Award

I mentioned before I left for South Carolina that I had been nominated for a Liebster Award by Angelena at On Fire Fitness, and I am so excited for this post!  Although I've been reading blogs for years, my little piece of the blog world is still in its infancy.  I'm so glad when people find my blog and something about it resonates with them.  Becoming a Sweat Pink Ambassador a few months ago also helped me connect with a lot of great women across the country and find new blogs myself. 

There are a few things I need to do upon accepting this award, so let's get to it.

First, I have to tell you 11 random facts about myself (My whole life is pretty random right now, but let me try to narrow it down to 11 little nuggets for you!):

1.  I have naturally curly hair which I only cut once a year!  Actually, we're stretching it this year because the last time I had my hair cut was August 2012.  Neo-hippie right here :)

2.  I really dislike coffee.  I never drink it.  I am much more a tea girl.  This probably makes me an outcast in the blogging world, especially during the hallowed PSL season!

3.  I have never had fro-yo!  I know, another blogging no-no.  But I discovered I was lactose intolerant when I was about 12 years old and fro-yo was not even on the scene back then.  Now it's all the rage, and unfortunately my body would definitely rage against me if I ingested some of it.  womp, womp

4.  The first live concert I ever went to was Dave Matthews in Hershey Park, PA in the late 90s.  Still some of my all-time favorite music.

5.  My favorite travel destination thus far in life has been Italy. I have been there twice and sometimes dream of becoming an au-pair or English teacher and living there for a couple of years.

6.  I played the trombone in my high school band.  Well 'played' isn't really accurate.  I never actually learned a scale or how to read music. Let's be real - I joined for the international trips.  Hello London!

7.  I studied German throughout high school and for 2 years in college.  I actually love the language, but now I have lost most of it.  I can read it pretty well, but no longer speak much.  Sprechen Sie Deutsch anyone??

8.  I wish I knew how to do Yoga.  I am a pretty hyper workout type of person - running, HIIT, Body Pump - but have lately been yearning to gain back some flexibility and meditation in my workouts.
9.  One of my first jobs in high school was working summers at the local pool snack bar.  Dream job really.  We got to eat anything we wanted all day for free!  I think I OD'ed on Laffy Taffy that summer.

10.  I rarely wear makeup.  I don't wear it all during the day, even when I was working.  I will only put it on when I'm going out at night and my routine is pretty simple: mascara, some eyeliner, a little blush and lipstick.  DONE.

11.  I am 34 years old but get asked often 'What school do you go to?'.  This just happened again today.  True story.

Next, I am supposed to nominate 11 new bloggers for a Liebster award
However, most of the blogs I read are well established blogs I have been reading for years.  So, I've picked a few relatively new ones that I love:

1.  3CheapRunners - A blog authored by three runners from Canada. I think I found them through SkinnyChickBlog.  I enjoy their style and posts.  Michelle is one of the founding bloggers and she always has time to comment on my little blog!

2.  A Mom Runs This Town - Created by Emma in NOVA.  I think she started blogging this year.  I found her through social media and now follow her on Twitter.  She is an amazing athlete and her new business venture Pretty Fit Girls is so inspiring!

3.  Runner Girl Eats - Well, Karen is not technically new to blogging, but she just started self-hosting (something I hope to one day do) so that's why I nominated her.  Her writing and posts are hilarious and also informative, so check her out!

4.  Merry Marathoner - I just discovered her after she commented on my post last week.  Isn't the blog world great?  Her blog is only a few months old as well and I'm pumped I have another one to follow!

I also have to answer 11 questions from Angelena:

1.  If you could only do 1 workout for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Obvious answer is Running.  That's a given. If I had to pick a #2 it would probably be biking.

2.  What is your greatest accomplishment?
Oh boy.  I'm not being self-deprecating here but I don't think I've done anything that qualifies as 'great' in my life yet.  There are so many things I still want to do, but I suppose the most surprising thing I've done in recent memory was to run a half marathon (my first) as a way to bring myself out of a very dark, depressing place that I was in a few years ago.

3.  What is the song that always gets you pumped for your workouts?
Oh, how I wish I still had some of the Jock Jams CD's we used to play in high school track! Those were some good tunes.  I don't really have a favorite song nowadays. I listen to Pandora on my runs, so whatever comes on the 90's pop or country fitness station, that's what I get!

4.  Where is your favorite place you have traveled to?
I mentioned this one up above, but hands down Italy.  More specifically, a little island off the coast of Sicily called Lipari.  It's part of a group of islands called the Aeolian Islands.  You can only get there via boat from Palermo.  Go! It's gorgeous.

5.  Flats or heels?
When I was working, Heels all day long.  But after wearing heels all day every day for 9 years, I started to develop some chronic aches in my lower legs, so I just switched to flats this year.  I'm not sure I will ever go back to heels now, except for nights out and special occasions.

6.  What is your favorite body part and why?
Hmm, I'm going with my hair here.  Is that a body part?! I love my wild, crazy, curly hair.  Surprising, because I really disliked it as a kid.  But it suits my personality now so well, I feel like it's my signature.  That, and it takes less than 5 minutes to style!  Walk out of shower, add multiple handfuls of gel to head, DONE!

7.  Who is your biggest role model and why?
Oh there are too many to mention here.  I have a few close friends (you know who you are!), who helped me through some really difficult times the past few years who I look up to for so many reasons - strength, compassion, unquestioning love and support.

8.  What is your favorite food?
Well, I've probably had the same 'favorite food' since I was 6 and it's a hamburger. Hahah, very sophisticated taste I know.  But some of my other favorites include: avocados and vegan ice cream.

9.  What is the reason you started blogging?
There are a few reasons actually. I started reading blogs a few years ago, and it was like I had discovered this whole other world. I was sucked down the rabbit hole and started gobbling up new blogs left and right. I also really love writing, but never did anything with it.  As a child, I was really creative - drawing, painting, writing stories, inventing things - but then I forsake my creative inclinations for what I thought I should be doing instead - pursuing more studious endeavors.  I then landed a job in an industry that was all wrong for me.  Now, I am rediscovering who I really am deep down and finally letting that person see the world :)

10.  If you could be anything, what would you be?
Hands down - a travel writer.  I want to see the world and write while I'm doing it.  That's my dream.

11.  What is your favorite movie?
I have a few.  And probably one you've never heard of!  The easy answer here is The Godfather. But I also love this lovely little movie from the 60's called The Trouble With Angels.  If anyone else on the planet knows this movie, we are probably destined to be best friends!

Well that is a TON of info about me! 

*Now for the bloggers I've nominated, don't feel obligated to do a post - just bask in the glory that is this wonderful Award!  But if you'd like to post about the Liebster on your blog, here are the instructions:

1.  Acknowledge/link to the nominating blogger.
2.  Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3.  Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4.  Nominate 11 (or fewer like I did!) bloggers who have less than 200  followers (or are relatively new if you can't see their followers). They should be bloggers that you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love.
5.  Post 11 questions for the bloggers that you nominated to answer.
6.  Let all of the bloggers know that they've been nominated. Sorry, you cannot re-nominate the blogger that nominated you.

My questions for the nominated bloggers:
1.  When and why did you start running?
2.  When and why did you start blogging?
3.  What is your 'day job'?
4.  What is your dream job?
5.  If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
6.  Do you have a dream destination race?
7.  What was your favorite subject in school?
8.  In light of last night's TV - If you were a Miss America contestant, what would your talent be?!
9.  What's your favorite quote?
10.  What's something you are really proud of?
11.  If you were still young enough to Trick or Treat, what one candy would you hope to get in your bag this year?!

Annnnnd, if you got through this entire post without falling asleep or thinking I'm the most eccentric person ever, congratulations!

Questions for everyone:

Feel free to share some random facts about yourself!  Choose any of the questions above or just make up your own!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Beach Life

What a perfect week we had in Myrtle Beach.  I miss the sea already.  As a Pisces I will eternally be drawn to water.  There is something so natural and elemental about being at the beach.  I'm overcome with such a sense of peace and relaxation - until I step off the plane back in Baltimore and it's 67 degrees.  #weatherfail  Confession:  I am not a seasons girl, unless every season is summer.  I have no use for pumpkin spice lattes, skiing, or hibernating under 12 layers of clothing for 5 months at a time.  I am convinced I was born in the wrong geographic location.  I love sunshine.  I love the feel of the warm air on my skin.  And I love wearing as little clothing as possible.  Maybe I'm a closet nudist.  But I really don't look forward to everything dying and burrowing away each year for the long cold winter. I'll admit I do enjoy the sense of hope, anticipation and new life that spring brings every year, but I would be just as happy if the natural world never had to die up here just to be reborn every year. I guess that's the circle of life though, eh?
On to vacation details...
It was so nice to spend quality time with my extended family all week.  You'd think with 12 people in one giant beach house, there would be chaos, but there really wasn't.  We spent most days swimming in the pool or the salty waves, taking long walks on the beach, snacking on fresh fruit and just enjoying the sunshine and each other's company.  Aunt Jilly got quite the workout all week as well, compliments of a few certain toddlers in the house! 
I also (mostly) kept to my training schedule for the Runner's World Half while I was down there.  I was worried about the long run I had prescribed for the week since it would be hotter and more humid down there, but I managed to get 7 miles in last Monday and felt good.  I also got a 4 mile run in on Wednesday.  I ran with my little sister and my brother in law which made the miles fly by.  Shout out to my little sister who just started running this summer and is already up to 3+ miles!  I am so proud of her.  She joined a training program a few months ago to prepare her to run her first 5K in October and has stuck with it and is enjoying herself!  People, we have another convert! 
I had also planned another 3-4 miler for Friday morning, but we went out Thursday night so Friday's run did not happen!  This is the second time I've been to Crocodile Rocks Dueling Piano Bar and it did not disappoint.  Has anyone else been here?  I went for the first time last year and loved it.  There are two guys on pianos up on stage that play requests all night long.  Like anything.  It's amazing.  They know the words and music to current songs on the radio, show tunes, oldies, country, college fight songs and everything in between.  You just write your request on a napkin and take it up with a few dollars and they'll eventually get to it.  I requested "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by the Beatles and "Dixieland Delight" by Alabama and they played both so well.  The crowd gets into the music too and everyone is standing, dancing and singing along.  I also got picked up simultaneously by a farmer from Augusta and a surfer from North Carolina, so all in all a great night! HAHAHA
One of the coolest experiences we had was going to the Tigers Preservation Station at Barefoot Landing.  The agency operates a 50 acre preserve in Myrtle Beach dedicated to the preservation of endangered species, including tigers, leopards, chimps and many more, so the cost of our interactive experience there helped these great people do their work. We got to cuddle with a real baby tiger, hold a larger tiger cub and sit with a monkey.  No, I'm not kidding!  Here's the picture to prove it (sorry, I don't know why I can't flip my iPhone pic!):
I'll leave you with a few more photos from the week.  There was really nothing better than getting to spend time with both of my sisters for 7 whole days. 
Just hanging out by the pool
My niece!
My nephew!
Finding my center at the beach
So I continue to send my dream out to the Universe that ONE day I will live, work and write on a beach somewhere...
Hope you all had a great week!
Questions for you today:
Where's your favorite vacation spot?
Are you drawn to beaches, big cities, mountains or somewhere else? 




Friday, September 6, 2013

A Few Things Friday...

1.  Here's a great way to end your week.  Check out my new favorite commercial.  Once again, I am smitten with whoever made this commercial (remember, my imaginary love affair with the Hump Day creator?!)  I now want all the Guinness:

2.  I was nominated for my first ever blogging award!  Angelena, who blogs over at On Fire Fitness, and a fellow Sweat Pink Ambassador, nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Liebster awards are 'love' given to new bloggers by more veteran bloggers.  I am humbled and filled with gratitude to be nominated.  The sense of community and encouragement I feel from the blogging community already is so awe inspiring; and reminds me a lot of the running community.  Something I've been trying to do more and more in my life is support and encourage those around me, regardless of our differences, and I love being part of a network that strives to do just that.  So, my Liebster post will be up in a bit.  In the meantime, I'd love to be introduced to some new blogs to nominate so feel free to drop me a comment if you are a newbie too! 

3.  September Fitness Challenge.  I created a simple challenge for September, since this month is going to be more heavily focused on preparing for my October race.  I've simply made a commitment to do at least 100 crunches, of any variety, every day this month.  Some days I do more, some days I don't, but I like the simplicity of it. 


4.  And lastly, I'm heading down to Myrtle Beach, SC tomorrow for a family vacation.  Entire extended family of multiple generations under the same roof for a whole week, what could go wrong?! I kid, I kid!  I am looking forward to spending some quality time with my grandparents, parents, aunt, sisters and of course the kiddos.  Also, I lucked out and got pretty much the coolest roomie EVER:

Fear not, I will keep in touch next week via Twitter and Instagram, and I'll post a recap when I return.

Have a great weekend!

Questions for today:

Any commercials lately you just love?

What do you like about the blogging world?

Any of you doing a fitness challenge this month?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Treadmill or Dreadmill?

True dat.

I haven't stepped foot on a treadmill in probably 18 months or so ... well, until yesterday.  But I'll get to that in a minute.  Why?  Well I simply prefer to run outside, or so I thought.  Running for me has become a very meditative, communing-with-nature-and-the-universe type of activity, and I just felt I could not do that while performing aforementioned activity on a rubber belt in a loud, distracting environment.  However, I have a pretty abbreviated training schedule to get my mileage up for the Runner's World Half and my longest run thus far (5 miles) outside did not feel good.  We've had a few weeks of near 90 temps and 70-80% humidity as well, which hasn't been helping things.  So yesterday the idea just popped into my head, and I decided to take this week's 6 mile run indoors.  Well folks, it was probably the best decision I have made in WEEKS!  I believe the last time I did any treadmill training was in early 2012 when I was preparing for the St Luke's Half Marathon back home, and that race coincidentally is where I set my half marathon PR! 
One of the things that led to my decision to take things indoors yesterday, besides the weather, was the current state of my legs, namely the tendinitis and inflamed shins I seem to continually wage war with.  Because I live in an urban area, my running routes are almost exclusively contained to sidewalks.  Bad news, because concrete is known to be the hardest running surface out there!  In fact, it's even 10 times harder than asphalt. Fail.  Check out this article from Runner's World UK which ranks the Top 10 Running Surfaces. 
Since all of my running for the past year and a half has been outdoors, and almost entirely on concrete, I believe this has contributed to some of my stress injuries.  I wish I lived somewhere that offered me the opportunity to run on grass, trails and other more natural surfaces but for the time being I do not.  As I said, one of the things I most enjoy about running is the feeling of being one with nature, and even though I'm outside, its sometimes hard to do that with cars whizzing right by you!
Treadmills offer a markedly softer surface that is less jarring to bones, muscles and joints.  In addition, I believe my posture and stride are improved, my steps are smaller and my cadence is faster when I'm treadmill running.  All of these are elements of Chi Running, which I am currently investigating as a resource to pain-free running.

So after all that good information, how did my 6 miles on the treadmill feel yesterday?  In a word - AMAZING!  I had completely forgotten how it felt to run on this man-made contraption, but you know what, it felt incredible.  My run was a lot easier (granted, I had the control set to 0.0 incline), smoother, and less painful than my runs have been outside.  And to boot, I didn't even have to wear my compression socks during the run. 

I'll admit, I used to be of the mindset that treadmill running was somehow 'cheating' - that the miles run on the 'mill didn't count as much as the miles outside.  But I've come to really believe it has a place in training.  I mean professional athletes train on the treadmill, so why not little 'ol me?  It has far less impact on my body, allows me to run in any condition, in a controlled environment (hello 0% humidity and a nice 67 degrees!), and still get the same cardio benefits.  It's time I start adding it back in.  I am going to try to do at least one of my weekly runs on the treadmill from now on and see how my body responds.  When I trained for my very first half marathon in 2011, I did a lot of my lower mileage runs on the treadmill and reserved outdoor running for my long runs, and I felt fantastic in that race.  I'm thinking that this could be the rekindling of a wonderful relationship :)

So what say you? 

Treadmill or Dreadmill?

What running surfaces do you normally train on?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Life on a Budget - 8 Tips for Saving Money

photo credit: nickwheeleroz via photopin cc
I am not the kind of person who ever budgeted.  I used to work with spreadsheets all. day. long. so to come home and voluntarily work on another one? No.  I don't do that now either, so don't worry this post is not going to be about column headers and formulas, but I've had to get serious about my finances during the past several months and I thought I would share some ideas on how I'm doing that to benefit others that may be in the same situation or people who are just looking to save some money.  
Truly, I was never someone who even really thought about money.  I had a decent job and was able to pay my bills so in that regard I was lucky.  But there was a spiritual tradeoff in there somewhere and truthfully, even though I am temporarily living with limited means, my spirit is much happier.
So, here are some things I've been doing lately.  Perhaps you are doing some of these as well, or maybe you have some other tips to share with me!
1.  Buy things on sale! 
This seems obvious right?  Paying full retail price for anything is a complete waste of money.  The markup on most products is astounding.  This goes for everything from computers, to clothing to food.  So if you can, wait for things to go on sale - especially large purchases.  At the grocery store, try to buy items that are on sale that week.  If ground turkey is on sale that week, decide you are eating turkey burgers for the next 4 days (Yes, I do this!)  It really makes a difference in your weekly bill. 
2.  Use coupons. 
I am no extreme couponer by any means (although at times I wish I could be. I mean, stockpiling 100 tubes of toothpaste because you got it all for free seems like a dream come true, right?!), however I do try to use coupons a lot more than I used to.  You can print coupons online, or find them in the paper.  Also, a lot of retail and grocery stores now print coupons every time you shop based on the things you buy.  So when you get those coupons at checkout, save them! And use them next time. This goes for online purchases as well.  You can find coupons online for pretty much ANY store.  Before purchasing anything online, look up coupon codes at RetailMeNot.  Almost guaranteed you will find a coupon to use at checkout for most any site. You can thank me later :)
3.  Buy REAL food.
This one not only improves your health but also your wallet.  I found that when I had extra money to spare, I was spending so much money on JUNK.  Snack foods, cookies, candy.  I've cut a lot of that stuff out now because not only is it unnecessary, but it doesn't nourish my body and I'm thus wasting money on it.
4.  Eat at home!
I used to go out to eat several times a week.  I'd go out to lunch 2-3 times a week at work, and I'd often grab dinners out too.  Such a waste of money.  By eating at home you not only eat healthier, eat less (restaurant portions are HUGE), but you spend a lot less money.  For what I used to spend on one night of dinner/drinks out, I can now feed myself at home for days.  Unreal.
5.  Do things that are FREE!
Let's face it, entertaining ourselves is usually expensive - movies, trips, shopping, etc.  But this year, I really got into exploring what free resources were available around me.  I got a library card early this year.  I know right, WHY didn't I do this sooner?! I used to think nothing of going into Barnes & Noble and picking up 3 or 4 books that looked 'interesting'.  What a waste of money!  Most of those books were read once and that's it.  Now I go to the library and can read anything I want for free!  I also spend a lot of time doing things that are active - hiking, swimming, running, biking.  Not only do I enjoy these things but they are keeping me healthy in the process and cost nothing.  I spend a lot more time visiting with friends and family now too, often just hanging out at each other's houses.  Quality time trumps everything.
6.  Look into consigning.
I'll admit I used to spend a lot of my income on clothing.  It wasn't that I was ever into designer labels or expensive things, but I would buy things here and there all the time frivolously.  Sometimes I didn't even wear some of the things I bought!  So I looked into consignment shops in my area.  Every store has different policies on what they will accept and what percentage of the sale you get to keep, but it worked out for me.  Clothing that otherwise would have been sitting in my closet, actually made me some money!  The store took care of everything and said they would donate anything that didn't sell.  At the end of 2 months, I got a nice check in the mail.  Easy peasy.  There are also online consignment companies that do the same thing.  Check out sites like ThreadUp, Poshmark, and Threadflip.
7.  Cut or consolidate your monthly bills.
For the longest time, I had been a subscriber to the daily newspaper.  Call me old fashioned but I still enjoy print media from time to time.  However, the papers would pile up and I rarely would read most of them. So I decided to cancel my subscription.  I also negotiated with my cable company for a lower bill.  And I went to see my car insurance agent and was able to change my coverage just slightly so that I ended up saving 12% on my yearly bill!  If you take the time to look, you may be surprised where you can save money.  And it never hurts to call companies and ask if your customer loyalty can yield any discounts.
8.  Have a yard sale!
Yard sales are just so quintessentially American aren't they?  Who invented them?  And do people in other countries set up their junk in the yard on summer weekends hoping others will come by and purchase it?! Hahaha.  I remember going to yard sales when I was little and thinking they were the greatest thing ever. I mean you could buy toys and video games for like a quarter!  Well, I was lucky enough to have my aunts and mom help me organize a yard sale back home this summer.  They all donated things for the sale, we posted an ad on Craigslist, and set up camp one sunny Saturday morning.  In the end it was quite a bit of work, but with their gracious help, we were able to make some money and get rid of things we no longer needed or used. 
So, there you have it.  These are some of things I've been doing lately as I try to chart the course of my ideal life.  In the end, I think monetary sacrifices are a small price to pay for living an authentic life.
Your turn!
Have you done any of the above?
Do you have any money-saving tips to share?