Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year In Review

2011 has been a huge year for me. It was a year of change and experiencing new things.

I opted to stay home for my spring semester of freshmen year in order to have surgery to remove an extra rib.

I found out that my dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

I came to the realization that my swimming career was over.

I started training for and ran my first 5K in May.

I received the good news that my dad was cancer free.

I signed up to run a half marathon.

I tried open water swimming for the first time while at the beach with my family.

I started my first semester at a new school.

I ran my first half marathon and finally felt like I was a runner.

I studied my butt off and did really well in school.

I celebrated the New York City Marathon.

I ran a Thanksgiving 5K with my boyfriend, my dad, and two of my cousins.

I survived finals.

And I celebrated the holiday season with family and friends.

I can honestly say that 2011 was not one of my best years. I really struggled emotionally but I also went through a lot of unwanted change. Now that I am all settled in I am ready to have an amazing 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Goals

I hate making New Year's resolutions. I am one of those people who never follows through with them. Instead, I find setting specific goals to be more successful. I also do a better job of setting goals for myself each month than just at the beginning of the year. With that being said, I do have a few goals that I am setting for myself now.

Train for and race a triathlon or two. Or three. 2011 was a year of figuring out what I wanted to do sport-wise now that I am done swimming competitively. I ran a half marathon in October and plan to keep running but 2012 is going to be the year of the triathlon for me. But not only do I want to start doing triathlons, I want to start training for them. And I want to train smartly. I want to go into the tri season feeling confident and ready to race.

Break two hours in the half marathon distance. I ran my first half marathon with little training and finished in 2:23:03. I am confident that with proper training and some long runs I can break two hours. I know that would mean a 23 minute PR but I barely trained for Baltimore and my speed has really been improving lately.

Complete a bike race/ride. My boyfriend is a biker. Last year he did his first century ride, which I volunteered at. I was really inspired watching so many people out there biking 100 miles. It is pretty safe to say I will not be biking 100 miles this year, but a 50 miler or metric century (63.5) ride is definitely on my radar.

Spend less time watching TV and on the computer. Ever since I started blogging back in the spring I have spent so much more time on the computer. Don't get me wrong, I love blogging and being a part of such an amazing community. But lately I have spending too much unnecessary time on the computer that would be much better spent doing something productive.

Learn to love my body and feel confident about myself. I have always struggled with having low self-esteem and I am sick of it. When I am training for a race I feel unstoppable and I want to transfer that feeling to every day. I know this is something that will take longer than one year to complete but I think now is the perfect time to start.

Get back to eating healthy. I have been really neglecting this part of my life. I used to be so good about eating healthy wholesome foods but lately I haven't been the best. I'm not going to lie here, having a boyfriend has made it pretty difficult to create healthy meals. But that should not be an excuse.

Do those things that absolutely terrify me but will be so worth it. Sometimes all it takes it twenty seconds of intense bravery to do something amazing. I hate missing out on things because I am scared of failure. I want to look back and be so proud of the courage I had.

Be a better friend and girlfriend. I have been dating my boyfriend for two and half years now so sometimes things can become routine. We rarely fight and I want to keep it that way. Sometimes I can be unsupportive, jealous, and controlling. These are all things that I really want to eliminate to continue my relationship with the most amazing person I have ever met.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Clipless Pedals

One of my Christmas gifts from my parents was a pair of shoes and pedals for my bike. So today my mom and I went to a bike shop in Lutherville, MD to pick out some shoes. I was so excited to buy my first pair of bike shoes!

I went to the store, talked to the store owner, and tried on some shoes. First, I tried on a pair of triathlon shoes. I really liked them but they were pretty narrow and I was worried about my feet going numb.

I then tried on a pair of road shoes that I loved. They were super comfortable and were pretty adjustable. They were also easy to slip on and off.

I debated between the tri shoes and the road shoes, but I ultimately decided on the pair of road shoes. They are awesome shoes and will allow me to do many types of riding.

I ended up going with the Specialized Ember Road Shoes. I also picked up a bike jersey because I really wanted a top with pockets for riding.

The Boyfriend is coming up tonight and is going to help me set up my bike and pedals. I will report back soon with how I like everything!

Fall Semester Reflections

I took my last final on Monday and after exactly one week since I came home I feel like I have finally recovered from this past semester.

This semester was a lot different the last time I took classes. My college experience so far has been far from normal but I am finally starting to feel like I'm back in the swing of things and on the right track.

I like to take some time after each semester or school year to reflect on both the good and the bad so I can learn from my mistakes and go forward doing the things that work best for me.

I learned being organized is really the key to my success. At the beginning of the semester I took the time to really get organized. I had multiple ways of keeping track of all the assignments I had to complete and I (mostly) kept my apartment cleaned. After Thanksgiving break was when I noticed that I wasn't very organized anymore and this was when I really started slacking with my schoolwork as well.

Making friends is not always easy. I have had the same two best friends since I was five years old so I really haven't had to make friends. And one of them even was at the same college I was at before I transferred. I went into this semester with high hopes of making really good friends, and while I did meet some amazing people who I am glad to call my close acquaintances, I did not create any lifelong friendships.

Sometimes change is good. I am a person who really hates change. I absolutely hate it. But I have to realize that sometimes change is necessary and good. I knew that I needed to change some of my old habits or else this semester was going to go terribly. I also came to realize that people change too, and even if it may mean losing a friend, I can't expect someone to not be themselves for the sake of pleasing others.

There is no time like the present to achieve your dreams. I have always had big dreams and I probably always will. I am constantly telling myself though that I will achieve those dreams later on in life. But why not now? I may not have the ability or the desire to achieve those dreams in ten or twenty years. I don't want to look back and regret not going after something because I simply kept putting it off. I want to inspire others and follow my dreams. Now.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Running With A Dog

I love coming home for breaks and getting to see my puppy. I hate that I can't take her to school with me but I am not allowed to have pets in my apartment and there isn't room for her anyway.

I was so excited to see her on Monday. I love taking her for walks and playing with her favorite toys. She loves going to the dog park where she can run all she wants with tons of other dogs.

On Tuesday as I was heading out for my easy 3 mile run, I decided to bring Gracie along with me. I have never tried running with her because she gets distracted so easily but I figured it was worth a try.

When we first started out she wanted me to run at her pace, which just wasn't happening. This dog has outrun every other dog she has encountered. We finally settled into a nice 9:45 pace though and were on our way.

It was so nice running with her. I don't really like running with other people but having Gracie there with me made me feel less alone but I didn't have to talk with her. She did her own thing and I did mine.

It was very comforting having her there with me and I definitely will be taking her on many more runs with me. I want to try both longer distances with her as well as some faster runs. She is a runner so I know she can handle it. It's just a matter of whether I can keep up with her

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Traditions

One of the things that I love the most about the holiday season is all of the traditions there are. I love doing the same things I did now, even though I am 18, that I did when I was a little kid.

I think a lot of the magic of Christmas for me was sticking to the same routine every year. It just doesn't feel quite like Christmas when certain things are skipped.

One of my favorite things that my family does is really decorate our house. We aren't those obnoxious people putting up all sorts of giant blow up characters. But we do go all out inside. We put up three Christmas trees, as well as garland on the staircase. We also put stockings on the fireplace and have elaborate Santas put throughout the house. The best part about it all is that it doesn't look tacky. It looks like a Christmas wonderland without going overboard.

Another thing I love is watching my favorite holiday classics, including Elf, The Santa Clause, Home Alone, and The Grinch. It never truly feels like Christmas until I have curled up on the couch with a mug of peppermint hot chocolate to watch some of my favorite movies.

Every year my mom and I go see the Nutcracker. We have been going since I was three years old and have yet to miss a year. It is so nice to spend time just the two of us seeing something so beautiful. This year we went to see the Moscow Ballet in Baltimore and it was outstanding. I am not normally a fan of going to the theater but seeing the Nutcracker is absolutely amazing every single year.

And after seeing the Nutcracker we used to go to Hershey Park to walk around their Christmas Candy Lane. I love the way they have it so decorated for Christmas with kettle corn, hot chocolate, Christmas shops, and even reindeer. Seeing the reindeer is my favorite part. Unfortunately we were unable to go to Hershey the past two years because we didn't see the Nutcracker in Hershey. 

I really am not sure if any one thing really makes it feel like the Christmas season but all of these things combined make this the most magical time of year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rock N' Roll USA Half Marathon Training

Today officially kicks off training for the Rock N' Roll USA Half Marathon, otherwise known as the National Half Marathon. This will be my second half marathon and I am hoping training goes much better than last time.

When training for the Baltimore Half Marathon I moved to Baltimore and started going to a new college. Subsequently, training really took the back seat as I was getting settled into my new surroundings.

I knew it was going to be really difficult to get in quality runs while trying to study for finals so I decided to start training after finals were done and I was home for the holiday break. I don't go back to school until the end of January so I will have already established a solid base before heading back to school.

And going back to school this time will not be a significant as it was in August. I already have a few running routes mapped out and I know when I am most likely to actually get my runs in.

I am really excited to start training again. I loved running the Baltimore Half and I know I can absolutely crush that time and have just as much fun with some real training.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Survived Finals

It has been a long week but I as of tomorrow I will be done with finals! I only have a Russian final left but I am confident that it will go well. My hardest two finals were on Friday and I couldn't be happier that they are over with.

I spent most of last week studying my booty off and I am just so ready to officially done with finals. I can't wait to go home tomorrow and start to really enjoy the Christmas season. Unfortunately, finals has taken away most of the fun of the holiday season.

Tomorrow evening my dad, sister and I are going out Christmas shopping for my mom. We have a Christmas tradition of spending a little bit of time shopping and a lot of time eating. Most years we go to Olive Garden to stuff our faces with delish bread sticks.

I am also hoping to go ice skating with the boyfriend. I have only gone ice skating once before but it was a really long time ago. I am interested to see just how bad I am since I have zero balance.

Oh, and Christmas is only one week away! How did that happen?!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Negativity & Finding Support

I hate negativity. Even more, I hate being surrounded by negative people who are constantly trying to bring others down. I think it is so important to encourage others, not discourage them.

Recently I have been working on planning my race calendar for 2012. I already have an idea of most of the races that I want to do but some are still up in the air.

The part I am really struggling with is what races I want to do over the summer. I am not a big fan of the heat so that is really a big factor in where and when I schedule races.

I have found one race that I really want to do. I am so excited for it that I have already been working on a training plan for this race. I love the challenge of this race and am so excited of the possibility of doing it.

So what may be the problem? I have to consider more than just myself when planning races. Even though I live in an apartment by myself during the school year, I still live with my parents over the summer.

And, as much as I hate to say it, my parents still pay for the majority of my things. Remember, I am only 18. My parents are so loving and supportive of me and I am so thankful for them.

But my parents have been really voicing their concerns about my race of choice. They are not sure if doing a race in another state is the best idea for me. They are also worried about committing to a race more than six months in advance.

I know I could do this race despite my parents opinions but I really don't want to. I am going to need to drive almost five hours for this race and therefore will need a hotel room. Plus there are all of the fees involved.

I hate telling my parents what races I want to do and just expecting them to pull out the credit card. I do ant to put it out there that although I do not have a job, I have arranged a deal with my parents where I work for them instead. I really am not as spoiled as I am sounding in this post.

The point of this post is not to criticize my parents for being hesitant to sign up for a pretty big race. I just wanted to voice some of my frustrations. Please don't suggest I get a job so I have money to pay for things myself. This is not about money. It is about having my parents supporting my decisions and being there with me on race day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A College Girl's Survival Guide to Finals Week

Yesterday I told all the world how much I hate finals week. I hate everything about finals week and am so glad to be done with my first few finals of the week.

Since this is my fifth semester taking college classes, I have learned a thing or two about surviving this dreaded week.

1. Start preparing as soon as Thanksgiving break is over
I know this isn't going to help anyone who is didn't do their preparations already but regardless it is still really helpful. Start looking at what you still have left to do for the semester and see what you can get ahead on. If I know how much schoolwork I have to still do before finals than I can adequately prepare and plan for when I need to do everything.

2. Make a schedule for the week
I always feel super swamped during finals week but planning ahead really takes some of the stress away. If i know what tests I am going to study for each day than I can feel assured that everything will be covered. It also prevents me from studying from one class too much and another one too little. I have a tendency to study the most for the classes that I don't even need to study for. If I can just look at a schedule each day for what I need to study than I will actually get done what I need to get done.

3. Don't stay up late studying
A lot of people pull all nighters in order to study for finals but I find this to be pretty ineffective. If I stay up late studying than I will end up sleeping in because I am so tired. If I try to get up early after going to sleep late then my studying is compromised because I am too tired. I would much rather go to sleep at a normal hour and still be able to function and be productive the next day.

4. Plan meals ahead of time
I live in an off-campus apartment so I don't eat that many meals on campus. If I hit up the grocery store the weekend before finals and stock up on plenty of healthy eats then I can be assured that I will be eating healthy all week. It is not a good idea to just week whatever greasy junk food can be found the quickest. I always feel so sluggish and struggle to focus when I don't eat healthy foods. And finals week is really not the time to feel sluggish and inattentive.

5. Do something for yourself every day
I hate feeling like I have nothing to look forward to during finals, besides being done with school. I like to give myself little treats everyday to help keep me motivated. Yesterday I treated myself to a huuuge mug of caramel hot chocolate. Tomorrow I plan on watching Elf while copying down psych notes. These aren't grand things but they are enough to keep me excited and sane.

I Hate Taking Finals

I'll say it again: I HATE FINALS! I think it is cruel for colleges to force students to study for the biggest tests of the semester all in the same week. I have been studying my ass off for the past week and I haven't even taken any finals.

I am going to apologize now if I seem absent. School just is much more important than blogging. Sorry guys!

I have two finals Tuesday, two on Friday and then another one next Monday. I am hoping to get in some quality sweating and blogging in Wednesday & Thursday though!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Say It, Do It

I have really been struggling to get in workouts with how crazy school has been lately. So I turned to one of my favorite bloggers for some inspiration.

I have decided to try to commit myself to a couple workouts that I really want to nail this week. Hopefully by putting these workouts down on paper I will actually get them done.

Monday: run
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: swim, run
Thursday: swim, run
Friday: Insanity

Here's to a great week full of sweating and studying!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Inspired by the Ironman World Championships Once Again

The Ironman World Championships were on NBC earlier today and if you didn't watch then you really missed out. The special not only showed the professional athletes but also those age groupers who finished last.

There was coverage of Chrissie Wellington's come back to win the entire race for the fourth time, making her undefeated at the Ironman distance.

There was coverage of Craig Alexander fighting through cramps and muscle spasms to break the world record and become the oldest person to win in Kona.

And then there was coverage of the average age groupers who juggle a family, a full-time job, and other hobbies with Ironman training.

As much as I love watching the pros, it was the old man who was trying to finish his 22nd consecutive Kona in the allotted time slot that brought me to tears. I forget how old he was, but he pushed his body so hard he kept falling over in the final mile. His body literally kept giving out on him, yet he never quit.

The Ironman World Championships make me proud to be an athlete and excited for what I have in store when I start my triathlon journey. This race is a truly spectacular event that everyone should watch at least once.

I am going to take this inspiration with me to my workouts throughout this upcoming week and remember never to quit no matter what.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Few Pieces of News

I am sad to report that my 25K Swim Challenge is no longer happening. Due to finals and the Christmas break the pool at UMBC will be closing in a few days, which does not provide me ample time to finish this challenge.

I am still going to continue swimming as often as I can because I am really starting to enjoy my time in the water again. And I fully plan on retaking this challenge once I know the pool will actually be open for enough time.

In other news, I went for a 6 mile run yesterday during a downpour and it was incredible. It was so therapeutic to just run soaking wet while every one else is cozy inside. I felt truly unstoppable.

This run left me pretty sore and my IT band pretty angry but I needed those 6 miles. That is the longest I have run since the Baltimore Half Marathon. I was so proud of myself for just getting out there and running for as long as I felt like and as slow as I felt like.

Now I am off to finish the massive amount of homework I have to do and to start studying for finals!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Don't Really Feel Like a Runner

I posted a while back, just after I finished my first and only half marathon, that I finally felt like I was a runner. Well let me be honest with you, I haven't been feeling like much of a runner lately. I have been really struggling to get motivated and it is making quite sad.

Running had become an outlet for me, something that I did to relieve stress and find my happy place. Lately, though, running has been stressing me out more than relieving stress.

As dumb as it may sound, I know a big part of my struggle is that I hate my current running course. You may suggest that I just switch my running route, but the problem is that I don't live in the safest of areas.

One of the reasons that I love running so much is that all you have to do is lace up your sneakers and head out the door. I don't mind driving to a local trail for some quality running, but I have a hard time justifying driving 45 minutes to go for a 3-6 mile run.

To add to this dilemma, the area I live in is sort of hilly. Hilly enough that my IT band is always angry after I go for even easy shake out runs. Frustrating.

And don't even suggest running on a treadmill. Despite how many problems I am having with finding a nice running route, I get bored on treadmills in less than 5 minutes. Not even worth trying.

I really haven't been very motivated lately and I hate everything about it. I decided to create my training plan for my upcoming half marathon and start training next week. Hopefully that will be the motivation I need to get my butt back out there running!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Adapting a Healthy Diet

Even though I eat a vegetarian diet, I definitely do not get enough veggies each day. So I made it my goal for November to eat more fruits and vegetables. Overall, I say it was a success.

But now I have been craving veggies all the time now! As I was planning out my grocery list and what meals to make this week, I was shocked by how strong of a presence veggies made.

One of the things that I am really loving about eating a healthier diet is how much better I feel. I haven't noticed an increase in my energy level but I generally don't feel as sluggish. I feel cleaner.

I think I have been having so much success because I have doing it slowly. I didn't make any drastic changes with my diet. I started planning meals that were vegetable based instead of eating frozen dinners.

What's so great about my new, healthier diet is that is will really help with training for my upcoming half marathon. I want to become more lean and toned and I know that a healthier diet will surely help.

Another added bonus is that I am slowly but surely learning how to cook. Coming into college the only things I knew how to make were scrambled eggs, toast, and cereal. Not very nutritious.

Lately, though, I have been cooking dinner three times a week. And I can't wait to start making more yummy and nutritious things for myself.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Swim and Run Sunday

Today has been a great day. No reason in particular, but I woke up a little more cheery this morning ready to start my day. Unfortunately, it has been a pretty busy day full of cleaning, schoolwork, and some swimming and running on the side.

As many of you know, the weeks after Thanksgiving break mean finals for college students.  Unfortunately, finals also means teachers cramming in all of the stuff they forgot to teach us earlier in the semester.

Over the next two weeks I have a final in all five of my classes plus two French papers, and French quiz, a French test, three psych papers (I'm taking two psych classes so all three papers are not for just one class), and a Russian quiz.

I have an eight page psych paper on immigration and how immigrants adapt that's due tomorrow plus a Russian quiz tomorrow. Needless to say, I have spent most of my day writing and studying.

I decided to head to the pool for a swim before even starting any of my schoolwork so that I wouldn't get overwhelmed and not go at all.

I only did 1,500 yards before swim lessons took over the pool causing me to call it a day early. Today marked the first swim of my 25K Swim Challenge, which means 23,500 yards to go!

I came back to my apartment and knocked out a serious amount of writing before I decided to head out for an easy three mile run.

I ended up doing three miles at a 9:38 pace, which is really good considering I really haven't been running that much in the past few weeks.

I knew I would get swamped with schoolwork this week so I decided to plan my workouts in advance so there is little chance of missing a workout.

Now I am ready to tackle the next two weeks and have a great Christmas break!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's Up, December?!

Happy first of December everyone! I can't wait to get into the full swing of all of the Christmas festivities. Last month I made it my goal to eat more fruits and veggies and I have to say I was pretty successful!

Going into December, and more importantly, going into the end of the year I have some really great goals set for myself to end this year with a bang.

I mentioned a little while ago about my 25K Swim Challenge, which has ultimately turned into a December goal of mine. I have been really craving pool time lately so this is the goal I am the most excited about.

I am also kicking off the start to half marathon training for the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon in March. I really didn't follow a plan when training for Baltimore and it showed in my results. I am really excited to train a little more seriously for this race. I want to kick its ass!

My hardest yet most important goal for December is to work on my self esteem and confidence. I mentioned yesterday that I have always struggled with my image but I am ready to change that.

What are your goals for December and the end of 2011?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Like An Angel

I'm not going to lie here. I watched the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show last night. I did not watch to feel bad about myself and aspire to be a thin model. I watched the show because I am in awe of their confidence.

I normally am not a fan of the messages that models give but the Victoria's Secret models are not your ordinary models. Yes they are super thin and may promote an unhealthy body image. But they really work that runway.

One things in my life that I have always struggled with is confidence regarding my body image. Even when I weighed about twenty pounds less, I still thought I looked like a cow.

There were so many times when I absolutely hated my body and wanted to look like a model. Luckily, I am mostly over that. I say mostly because I still struggled with my weight.

Ideally, I would like to weigh about twenty pounds less, which would still put me a very healthy weight and nowhere near underweight.

After I quit swimming  and left for college I put on weight. I am not overweight now, but I am definitely more than what I would like to weigh.

I am not going to say that everyone should watch a fashion show for inspiration, but for me it works. It doesn't necessarily matter what the girls weigh, honestly. What matters is how they present themselves.

I would be scared shitless to go out on a runway in lingerie for the world to see. I know it is their jobs to do that, but they do so very gracefully.

They always look happy, confident, and in control. They look like they can take on the world. I want that confidence and I am going to work towards gaining that confidence.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Must Be Having An Off Day

I was really bummed that I hadn't run since Thursday's turkey trot so I set my alarm last night so I could head out for a run this morning before all the rain hit us.

I woke up at 9:30, got dressed, and was out the door by 10:00. I started running but I felt terrible. I figured I just needed some time to warm up and then I feel good again. Not so much.

I wasn't even a mile into the run and I felt absolutely terrible. I just wanted to be done. I convinced myself to run until a hit one mile and then I could stretch for a little.

I was only planning on running three miles but after my terrible first mile I decided to just walk back to my apartment and focus on my workouts this afternoon.

Except my workouts this afternoon and evening felt just as terrible. I did an Insanity workout but kept yawning throughout the whole thing. No matter what I tried I just felt tired.

I am not really sure why I am feeling so terrible today since I haven't worked out much this week but I am just going to call it a day and go back at it tomorrow.

I hate having days like today but they are nice reminders that life doesn't go according to plan and we have to just give it our all on that particular day. Some days will be better than others, and we just have to deal with it.

So tomorrow, I am going to attack my workouts and get back to feeling strong and in shape. No more feeling tired. I want to feel alive!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting In the Holiday Spirit

Thanksgiving officially marks the start of the Christmas for my family and me. My mom has been working hard hanging all the Christmas decorations and putting up the three trees we have.

My goal this year is to make the most of this holiday season. It is my favorite time of year and there are many traditions that I want to make sure hold up this year. This is how I plan on spending my Christmas season:

1. Hanging Christmas decorations. I have been thinking lately that I should pick up decorations to deck out my apartment. I'm not sure about putting up a Christmas tree but other decorations are fair game. A little Christmas sparkle will definitely help me get in the holiday spirit.

2. Baking Christmas cookies. I absolutely love sugar cookies and can't wait to make some yummy holiday treats. This year I want to try making reindeer cookies. They are super cute and will be delicious too. I also want to try making something with candy canes. Peppermint is my favorite holiday flavor so any treat made with candy canes is sure to taste great.

3. Drinking hot chocolate and tea. Hot chocolate is a favorite of mine. Last year one of my friends gave me a white chocolate hot chocolate and peppermint stirrers. It is a truly fantastic combination that I can't wait to break out again this year. I also fully plan on taking advantage of Starbucks holiday drinks. I am not a big coffee drinker but I am a sucker for those red cups.

4. Watching an abundance of Christmas movies.  Elf is my favorite Christmas movie, and luckily it is played multiple times a week. I am also a big fan of the Santa Clause movies. It really doesn't even matter what I am watching as long as it is Christmas themed I am happy.

5. Listening to Christmas music. Luckily Pandora allows me to listen to as much Christmas music as my heart desires. I have already changed my radio station to one that plays Christmas music. I love falling asleep listening to Christmas music too.

I am also going to see The Nutcracker put on by the Russian Ballet with my mom and going to a holiday lights display with my family. Now I just have to convince my boyfriend to do all of the above with me!

How do you celebrate the Christmas season?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What I Learned...

... from the York YMCA Turkey Trot.

Even though I PRed at Thursday's turkey trot, I am not particularly happy with my race. I'm so glad that I did a personal best, don't get me wrong, but it definitely was not one of my best runs.

1. I need to start drinking MUCH more. I don't normally drink a lot the morning of races for fear that I will have to use the bathroom too many times. I didn't think this was a big deal until I realized that I felt so terrible during the race because I was dehydrated. I have dealt with dehydration before with swimming so I know how important getting enough to drink is.

2. Walking breaks are okay. I hate walking during races because I am tired. I do like to walk at aid stations, but that is only so I can successfully get something to drink. At one point during the race I felt mentally and physically exhausted. I decided to walk for just 10 seconds and that proved to be enough to get my head back in the game and ready to negative split the rest of the race.

3. A lot of things will go wrong that are out of my control. I didn't particularly like the course this year. There were a few spots where it was very difficult to pass people. I started to get frustrated and waste valuable energy over a situation that I couldn't control. I need to focus on what I can do to make myself more successful and ignore the things I can't control.

One thing I really love about racing is how much it teaches me about myself. I want to take these revelations and apply them to future races so I am always getting better and learning from my mistakes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Interval Training: Insanity

I mentioned a while back that I bought the Insanity workout DVDs. One of my swim coaches actually had us do the workouts as dryland after practice and I became hooked instantly. I purchased the workout myself but haven't really committed to following the provided plan.

Since I will be starting training for my March half marathon soon I don't want to commit myself to trying to do sixty days of Insanity. I do want to do as much Insanity as I can though.

I have been consistently (meaning every other day) doing Insanity for about a week now and I can already tell that I am getting stronger. I feel more powerful and definitely more toned.

What is so great about doing Insanity is that it is interval training. You push as hard as you can for two to five minutes and then get a thirty second break. I still have to take some extra rest every now & then, but they becoming more infrequent.

Doing interval training allows my body to get a great workout and lets me push myself every single time. No matter how many times I do each workout I can still improve on my reps and form.

And Insanity is just one form of interval training. I only have access to my school's gym, which doesn't offer workout classes like a real gym would. And I really can't justify spending money on a gym membership only for the classes.

I can do Insanity in my apartment whenever I want to. I try not to do it very late at night because I'm sure the people living beneath me aren't loving my constant jumping.

But still, regardless of how you do it, it's really important to fit some kind of interval training into your weekly routine. You will love the results!

Friday, November 25, 2011

York YMCA Turkey Trot Race Recap

So I ran a turkey trot yesterday. So original, right?! I was so excited to be running this race with my family and friends.

The race started at 9:00 and we only live about 10 minutes from the start line so it was nice to be able to sleep in some. We left our house at 7:45 so we could find parking and then hung out inside the YMCA to stay warm.

I met up with my friend Paige who I used to swim with. She is still swimming but is getting more into running. She ran her first 10K in September and will be running her first half marathon in Pittsburgh in May.

We chatted for awhile and then decided to part ways to head for the start line. My super fast cousin and his wife went out early for a warm up because they are hardcore runners. I am not.

My dad, boyfriend, and I went over to the start line and mingled with some other friends that I used to swim with. (The race was put on by the YMCA that my swim team is a part of so all the swimmers run the race).

My boyfriend and I left my dad to go a little closer to the start line, listened to the announcements and rules, and then we were off!

My boyfriend ran with me for the first couple minutes but wouldn't stop tickling me so I told him to run ahead of me. He is faster than me so he took off sprinting, never to be seen until the finish line.

My plan was to run a smart race and negative split it. The problem was that I wasn't sure what pace to start out at in order to still be able to PR and run negative splits.

Before I knew it it was the first mile, run in 8:41. I was pleased with this split and tried to pick up the pace a little, but soon after I started feeling dizzy.

The second mile had a few small hills. Nothing like Baltimore, but enough to slow me down some. I really wasn't feeling all there during this mile and I started to think my chances of PRing were going out the window.

I stopped to walk for about 10 seconds in hope that I would start feeling better and then was on my way. I did start feeling better but not much. I just felt like I wasn't fully aware what was going on. Not a good feeling.

Mile 2 came in at 8:49. I was disappointed that I had slowed down but it wasn't that much so I hung on that little bit of hope I still had.

Mile 3 felt much better. It was run on a trail that was too narrow to really pass people, which was frustrating, but I love the trail anyway. It was a great feeling knowing exactly where I was and that I was almost done.

Mile three flew by and before I knew it the finish line was in sight. I tried sprinting to the finish but it really wasn't that much of a sprint at all.

Immediately after I stopped running I thought I was going to get sick. It was terrible but luckily nothing happened and I started feeling better after a few minutes.

Everyone had a great race yesterday, especially my boyfriend. It was his first 5K and he ran a 21:38! I couldn't be more proud of him.

To my surprise I actually crossed the finish line with an official time of 26:57, for a 1:23 PR!

My dad ran a great time of 27:42, the best he has run in a long time, and my cousin's wife finished in 23:45. My superfast cousin ran a 17:00 to finish 8th overall. Even more impressive is that he ran the New York City Marathon and hadn't run since then. His best 5K is a 15:56! Holy fast!

I hope everyone who raced yesterday had a great time and everybody had a wonderful turkey day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I'm Thankful For

Since Thanksgiving is only two days away I thought it would be a good time to really give thanks for all of the wonderful things in my life. Of course I am thankful for more than what is listed here, but these are just the main things.

I am thankful for my boyfriend. I have the more supportive boyfriend I could ever ask for. Every minute we spend together is perfect to me and I love absolutely everything about him. I am thankful for all the wonderful things he does for me. He has been with me through some really tough times but has always been there for me. I can't wait to spend Thanksgiving with him again this year and then celebrate the holiday season together.

I decorated his room for our one year anniversary. That would be 4,000 post-its

I am thankful for my athletic ability. I have had a bit of a rough journey throughout my athletic history but I am ultimately thankful that I am able to run, and swim, and do so many things that I wasn't sure if I would do again. I am so grateful for all the things that I can do and I try to never take any of those things for granted.

I am thankful for the new friends I have made at UMBC. I am a really shy person so I tend to struggle to make friends in new settings. One of the goals I set for myself going into this semester was to make a big effort to be more outgoing. While I'm not calling anyone my best friend yet, I am loving the small group of friends that I have to talk to about anything.

I am thankful for my family. I have had my ups and downs with my family but after my dad's cancer diagnosis around this time last year I have really grown to appreciate my family more. They are supportive of me and are always there for me when I need them.

I am thankful for my puppy. My boyfriend gave me a puppy for Christmas two years ago and she is the best puppy I could ask for. She is so playful and always puts me in a better mood. I love that she will love me unconditionally and never judge me no matter what. Plus she is really darn cute.

Oh, hey Gracie. Thanks for hogging my bed

I am thankful for the confidence running has given me. I have really struggled with self-esteem issues since I was a young teenager but running has helped me gain confidence. It makes me feel powerful and strong, and allows me to do something that I love without any pressure.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home for the Holidays

Tomorrow is my last day of classes before I get to go home for Thanksgiving break and I couldn't be more excited. I have some really awesome plans for while I am home and can't wait to kick back and relax with my family and friends.

The plan is to get in a four mile run today, work on packing up, and have a nice night with the boyfriend, and then finish packing tomorrow morning before class. I am hoping to just leave straight from class to beat some of the terrible rush hour traffic that plagues I-695.

One of the reasons I am so excited about turkey day this year is that I am running a turkey trot. I have run this race before and absolutely love it. It is the perfect hometown race with tons of energy and fast running.

Yes, they really ran like that. Yes, that is a real live turkey.

I am particularly excited to be running this race because it will be my boyfriends first race! I am so excited to share with him the excitement of race day and how much fun racing can be. Plus my dad, and my cousin and his wife are running the race too.

Thanksgiving will be spent primarily at my boyfriends house, which has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions. His family always has a bunch of people over, which means a lot of food.

An Friday night will be spent with friends from high school that I haven't seen since the summer. I am so excited to see them because we really dont' see each other enough.

Junior year of high school, oh yeah!

And lastly, once this not long enough break is over there will only be three and a half weeks left until Christmas break! I can't express enough how much I am looking forward to this semester being over.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

25K Swim Challenge

I have mentioned before how I have struggled with getting back into swimming since I had surgery. Inspired by Mama Simmons swim challenge, I decided to create a swim challenge for myself.

Mine won't be nearly as intensive as her's but my goal is to swim 2-3 times a week until the end of the semester for a total of 25,000 yards by December 21. Each swim will probably be only between 1,600 to 3,600 yards.

I really like setting goals for myself and I thought would be the perfect way to start swimming again. 25K yards by December 21 is not a very high number but it is enough that I will not be overwhelmed but still able to succeed.

I want to try to incorporate some speed work as well as stroke work into my swimming. When I was a swimmer, butterfly was my best stroke. I want to focus on doing other strokes than just freestyle.

I really love kicking & pulling so I also want to make sure I do a lot of both. Ultimately, I just want to get back into the pool and get over whatever mental block has been preventing me from swimming this past year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Next Semester

On Thursday I registered for classes for next semester. This is the first time that I was actually able to sign up for all the classes that I wanted to take.

I am most excited to take a class called Sports & Media in American Society, and to continue taking Russian. I was pretty nervous about taking Russian this semester but I have been absolutely loving it so far. I was worried about taking three languages at the same time but it has been a nice challenge so far.

I will be taking French, Spanish, and Russian again next semester, and I hope to continue taking all three for as long as my schedule allow me. I would actually like to try to learn Chinese but I don't want to drop any of the languages that I am currently taking.

I was really lucky that I was able to take my training into account when planning my schedule. I am running the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon in March, and then plan on training for something over the summer.

I have an idea of what I want to train for but I want to make it official before I post it here. I can say that I am really excited for what I have coming up and can't wait to start training.

I know this post is super random but I couldn't think what to write about. Plus I really don't feel like studying for the test I have on Monday. I'm such a good student, I know.

I guess that is all. Sorry this was so random.

Friday, November 18, 2011

When I Am Stressed, I Forget to Run

Truthfully, I haven't been running as much as I would have liked to since running the Baltimore Half Marathon. Don't get me wrong, I have still been running 3-4 times a week. But I would have liked to run more consistently.

This time of semester is where I start to feel burned out though. Just about every week I have at least one test and paper or major assignment due. I love school and working hard, but it really drains me.

I have been having a difficult time finding the motivation to work out because I am always so stressed and tired. I know that working out will help combat these two problems, but I am still struggling.

I also like having something to train towards. My next real race isn't until March and I don't want to jump into a training cycle too early. Without following a training plan, I sometimes forget to run.

This weekend, though, I am going to try to create my training plan. I am thinking about including a pre-training portion that won't be as intensive but will still keep me on track.

I am currently just looking forward to the Thanksgiving break I get next week, and the semester being over in a few weeks once I get back.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Lied

It is probably no secret that I am not exactly a speedy runner. Shocker, I know. I have never really worried about my (lack of) speed because running was something I did for pure enjoyment.

Well, I may not have mentioned that a few years ago when I was in high school I ran a 5K with my swim team. I had pretty much never run before but I was still in the best shape I have ever been in.

The race was a local turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning. We had swim practice 6:00-8:00 in the morning and then had to run the 5K at 9. I had nothing to eat all morning and knowing my previous habits I probably didn't have anything to drink either.

I planned on running this race with a few of my friends. We were only there for the free bagels afterwards. And our coach made it mandatory (minor detail).

Soon after the race started, though, I felt like I could really pick up the pace. And so I did. I ran ahead of my friends and was passing people like crazy.

And then by about 1.5 miles I couldn't even run anymore. I needed to walk. I stopped for a bit then continued running, but ultimately stopped a few more times before finishing.

I felt like absolute shit crap. I crossed the finish line never more happy that I was done racing. (I still liked racing in the pool luckily.) I didn't even check my time.

And then my coach asked me what my time was. Uh oh. I had no idea. I went to the results list and saw that I finished in 24:25. At that point I didn't care about my time except to tell my coach that I actually finished and didn't die along the course.

The point of this post is to point out that I used to not half bad at running. I ran a 5K at a 7:52 pace with absolutely no running previously. (I was in serious shape as a swimmer though).

I haven't even run one mile under 8:00 since I started running in April. Sometimes this frustrates me but most days I use it as motivation. I have it in me somewhere to run more than three miles under an 8:00 pace.

I might not get back down to that speed any time soon, but I will SOMEDAY. I know I have potential, maybe not much, but I have a lot of room for improvement right now and I am so excited for what will come of that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's Not Too Early for to Celebrate Christmas, Right?

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. I love everything about Christmas and am always so excited to start the celebrations.

I am always so tempted to start celebrating Christmas as early as the department stores but I realize that is a tad over the top. I try to wait until after Thanksgiving to start celebrating Christmas so I don't seem like so much of a crazy person.

I got wind that Elf was on Saturday night but (un)luckily I had somewhere to be so I couldn't watch it. I guess I should mention somewhere here that Elf is my absolute favorite Christmas movie. I watch it at least twenty times a season and would watch it more if possible.

Once I watch Elf it means that the Christmas season has officially begun for me. I was super bummed that I couldn't watch Elf but I figured it was best that I didn't get all Christmasy yet.

But then something happened...

I was trying to study for my Russian test and decided to put on the tv to distract me a little. And then I saw it.
Elf was on TV! I watched about five minutes of it and then realized I really needed to study for my test.

I am getting really excited about Christmas coming up though. I go home for Thanksgiving on Tuesday and am running a turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning with my dad, my cousin & his wife (who both just ran the NYCM), and my boyfriend.

I am also getting pretty excited about the end of the semester nearing. I love school but I could really use a break right now.

So come next Thursday, I am going to officially start celebrating Christmas. I am thinking about even putting up a mini tree in my apartment.

Do you love the holiday season as much as me, or am I the oddball here?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ughh, Cooking

I have been learning lately that I need to learn how to cook. Since I am in college and live off campus in an apartment I buy most of my food. I do have a meal plan and eat on campus when I can, but there really aren't many healthy options and the food can really become repetitive.

Last night I decided to go online in search for some healthy recipes that I could whip up in my very outdated kitchen with my less than stellar cooking skills. Because I went home to visit my parents this weekend I knew I didn't want to make anything that couldn't easily transport back to school.

I decided on a fattoush salad recipe that sounded easy and Delicious.

I didn't want to make as much as the recipe was calling for so I scaled back on some things but it ended up coming out really well. I am so thankful to have food already made it to take back with me for the week.

I have a hard time getting to the grocery store during the week so I am thinking about coming up with a recipe or two and shopping and then making them over the weekends so I will be set for the week.

What are your favorite recipes? I could really use some ideas!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Love Rock n' Roll

Back in August, I signed up for the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon in March. I was already registered to run the Baltimore Half Marathon in October but had never actually completed a half marathon when I signed up. I figured I would have plenty of time to get into half marathon shape.

After I ran my first half marathon in October the first thing my parents asked me once I was finished was whether I would ever do it again. My response was something along the lines of I am already registered for another one so I kinda have to. Honestly though, I was already thinking about running my second half marathon during my first one.

I knew I hadn't trained correctly so I wasn't going to be putting up any stellar times but I had so much fun running Baltimore that I knew running more half marathons was a must.

Earlier this week I received an email saying that registration for all Rock n' Roll races was $20 cheaper on 11.11.11, which happens to be today. I was already signed up to run in March so I felt a little disappointed that I didn't get to participate in all the race registering that has been going on today.

But when I was sitting in class this morning not paying any attention to the movie we were watching about immigration I decided I was going to find a race to register for. I haven't signed up for anything in awhile and I just love receiving those confirmation emails.

So I raced home after my morning classes to check out the tour stops, and found a race to register for. So as of about 12:30 today I am officially registered for the

Rock n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in September

I wasn't sure about registering for this race now because it is pretty far away but I was ultimately enticed by the $20. I'm cheap, I know.

I am really excited for this race though because this will be the first race that I have to stay at a hotel for. I don't know about you, but I really freaking love staying at hotels.

So that it my big announcement for the day. If you are running this race of the half in March let me know so maybe we can meet up!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Love the Smell of Chlorine

Yes, it is true. I do love the smell of chlorine but that is simply because I was a swimmer for so long. When I walk into a building that smells like chlorine I am instantly comforted and feel like I am at home.

After my surgery in January I have had a very difficult time spending time in the water though. After this surgery was when I realized I can no longer swim competitively and that really drove me away from the pool.

Initially I had hopes of swimming all the time but after a few days in the pool with no motivation or goals I stopped going. I swam a few times a month but never anything really spectacular.

When I was at the beach over the summer I discovered how much I love open water swimming. I had never tried open water swimming so I was surprised when I absolutely loved it.

But living in Baltimore makes opportunities for open water swimming minimal. I swam a few times here and there once school started at the college pool but stopped so I could really focus on half marathon training.

Today I went for a swim. And to my surprise I really enjoyed it. It was only about 55 degrees outside but the school heats their outdoor pool so I swam outside. I like swimming outdoors a million times more than swimming indoors so I was ecstatic about this.

As soon as I got in the water I was at ease. I felt comfortable, relaxed, and unfortunately, slow and weak. But I didn't worry about that. I didn't stress myself out about anything. I just swam.

Today I ended up having one of the best swims I have had in a long time. I am not used to just going to the pool with nothing to train for but that doesn't mean I can't set goals for myself.

I am going to swim as many times as possible before the cooler weather forces me inside. More importantly, I want to find my love of swimming again, to go along with my love of the smell of chlorine.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

RIP, Toenail

Today is a very sad day for me. I lost one of my own, my toenail. I actually still have a tiny bit left but the majority of it fell off today.

Ever since my half marathon I had been having trouble with this particular toenail. It wasn't bothering me at all during the race but afterwards a man stepped on my foot causing all sorts of terrible pain in my toes.

For the first week or two after the race my toe really hurt but everything looked fine so I continued running. And when the pain stopped I figured my toe was all better.

WRONG! About two weeks ago I noticed that this toenail had turned a purple/black color. Instantly thoughts of losing my toenail flooded my mind. I was terrified about what would happen, but ultimately glad that at least it is closed-toe-shoe season.

Some days were better than others for my beloved toenail, but unfortunately today it bit the dust. On the bright side I feel like a real runner now.

I am going to look into buying some larger shoes so this doesn't happen again, and I am hoping it doesn't take too long for it to grow back.

RIP toenail, you will be missed.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dealing With Injuries: Part II

I wrote a post last week about my history with injuries and I wanted to continue discussing the topic. I know a lot of runners deal with injuries off and on so I thought it was something worth spending some time on.

I mentioned that I had to have surgery three times in three years at the end of high school beginning of college. These three years were the hardest of my life. I was often depressed and struggled with my identity. But I made it through those years and I honestly believe they made me stronger.

When dealing with injuries it is really easy to lose motivation and get caught up in negative thoughts. But that really only makes things worse. During these times it is really important to focus on the positive things in your life.

Find new forms of exercise to do if possible so you don't lose your fitness.

Revamp your diet and focus on healthy eating.

Set goals that are not related to fitness, such as reading more books.

Use this time to spend more quality time with friends & family.

Try things that you may not have had time for when you were in training.

Try to learn something new about yourself.

Plan you comeback!

Despite many setbacks I was always focused on what was coming next, even if I didn't always know what that was. When I knew I couldn't return to swimming I thought about how I would then have time to start running. And so I started training for my first 5K.

Now I am training for my second half marathon with hopes of completing a full marathon next year. The most important thing for me was to stop myself from listening to the negative thoughts. Once I got over them I started to feel like myself again.

Have you had any injuries? How have you dealt with them?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Inspired by The New York City Marathon

I wrote a post last week about how much I love The New York City Marathon and I can proudly say that I love it even more after today's race. I spent all morning tracking my favorite bloggers and friends during their races and followed the leaders on Twitter. I tried to watch the live streaming but I sadly could not get it to work.

I channeled all of the positive energy of the running world today into my 5 miler this afternoon and had an amazing run. I was so inspired by everyone out there who ran the marathon today that it made me less worked up about a silly 5 mile run.

Reading all of the tweets and tracking everyone made me really excited to start focusing on training for my upcoming races so that one day I can run the NYC Marathon.

I love how cheering friends on in races or stalking the NYC Marathon can really motivate me. Without these random motivations I sometimes lose sight of my long term goals and get caught up petty little things.

I realize I am blessed to be able to run and it is something that I don't ever want to take for granted. I don't want to look back and realize that I could have pushed myself harder.

My next real race is a half marathon in March, and I really needed the inspiration that the NYC Marathon brought to get me excited to jump into training.

Congrats to everyone who ran this race! I hope you loved every minute of those 26.2 miles!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dealing With Injuries: Part I

I wanted to write this post for awhile but I thought now was a fitting time given my current problems with my IT band.

As I have mentioned many times before, I was a competitive swimmer at the national level for 12 years. Swimming was what I was passionate about and was what kept me sane. It was essentially the most important aspect of my life.

I had always had some knee trouble and very flexible shoulders but I managed to stay relatively uninjured. I had some flare ups here or there but nothing that kept me out of the water.

Then, during my junior year of high school I broke my finger. The girl swimming in front of me kicked my finger and shattered everything in it. The bones were crushed, the ligaments and tendons destroyed. I went to the doctor and was told that I would need surgery immediately but I still probably wouldn't be able to make a fist again.

Due to the surgery I was out of the water for a month, which is a long time in the swimming world. I went to practice everyday and busted my ass cross training to keep some of my fitness. I pushed myself everyday and soon enough I was back in the water. With a lot of motivation and hard work I regained full use of my finger and hand. I actually ended up having a really great season, surprisingly.

Fast forward to the summer before my senior year of high school. I had been having a lot of shoulder pain that just wouldn't go away. I went to see my doctor and was informed that I had torn my rotator cuff and that I would need surgery in order to fix it.

I was devastated when I heard this news, but was even more crushed when I learned I would be out of the water for another four months. I could absolutely not believe I needed surgery twice in less than one year.

But I was serious about my swimming and wanted to do whatever was necessary to get me back in the water. At this point, swimming in college was something that I was very serious about and I knew that in order to be taken seriously by college coaches I needed to get back in the water.

I went through four intense months of physical therapy before I was able to start kicking again. It wasn't swimming but it was better than nothing. I was able to start swimming again in November, which was the same time of year I started after my first surgery. I had hope that my senior season wasn't going to be a complete bust.

But my coach was not the most supportive person. When I asked him about competing again he told me I would make a fool of myself and that "no coach or spectator would want to see me swim" because I wasn't in my best shape.

I quit on the spot. I had been swimming long enough to know some really great workouts and to know that I wanted nothing to do with this coach ever again. I was absolutely terrified about training without a coach for the first time but I knew it was the right thing for me to do.

Even without a coach though, I trained my ass off and had a really great season. I have never been more proud of myself. Everything that I had achieved that season was because of only me, I had done absolutely everything by myself. I even managed to get a spot on the University of Pittsburgh swimming roster.

Over the summer I joined a swim team that was about 45 minutes away from my house with one of my former swim coaches. I knew that if I was going to swim in college I would need to train with a coach again. But I loved training with him and I was so happy about where my swimming career was going.

When I went to school I was not in the best shape of my life but I was pretty darn close. I trained hard everyday because I had earned this spot. But as early as October of my freshman season I was having some trouble.

My left arm kept going numb and my hand was turning blue. I went to the ER a few times, where they initially thought I was having a stroke. It was then discovered that I had an extra rib near my neck which, you guessed it, required surgery.

I was more than devastated. I knew that I could no longer swim competitively. I didn't know what to do with myself. I had always been a swimmer and suddenly I wasn't anymore. I gained weight and completely stopped working out. I became depressed and was in a really bad place.

I had my surgery in January of my freshman year of college and stayed at home for my spring semester to let my body properly heal. The recovery was long and painful, but I began to develop hope.

I had been inspired by the New York City Marathon earlier in the year and so I began to run as soon as I was cleared to do any form of physical activity. I have absolutely fallen in love with running ever since but I have learned a lot about myself and about sports during this time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The New York City Marathon

In my mind the New York City Marathon is the greatest marathon in the world. Growing up I never knew much about running or marathons but I knew about the NYC Marathon. Last year at this time I was trying to figure out a lot of things in my life. I was unhappy where I was at school and I was really struggling to find motivation to exercise. I had just found out I needed surgery and mentally I was just not in a good place.

And then I started seeing coverage for the NYC Marathon and I started to have hope. I had always hated running but for some reason I became very intrigued with running. Marathons in particular. I knew that marathons were something only crazy athletes did, which was part of the reason I became so interested in them. As soon as I heard about the Marathon last year I told myself that I would run that race one day. I wanted to be a part of such a special athletic event.

Part of my intrigue with the race was my love for the city of Manhattan. I have always loved big cities and New York is, of course, the greatest city on Earth. It is a place where people go to accomplish their dreams. I also love the wonderful fashion that is such a part of New York.

I don't know when I will run this marathon but I can promise you that I will run it one day. And I know that it will mean so much to me to be able to participate in the event that founded my love for running. 

Even though I am not running this race I am still soaking up all things Marathon. I have been stalking bloggers who are running the race and reading all the coverage on Runner's World. I truly hope that everyone who is running this race or who is lucky enough to spectate has the time of their life and enjoys every minute of this spectacular race.

When I need inspiration for training, I think about this race. I know that I will never be able to run this amazing race if I cannot run a marathon, and that enough motivation for me. I may be alone with my reasoning but when I find something that I want to do and has meaning to me I hold onto it for dear life.

I have read many race reports from bloggers like SkinnyRunner, Lindsay Runs, Fitness NYC and I have been reading unhealthy doses posts by bloggers running the NYC Marathon this year, such as Carrots 'N' Cake, The Blue-Eyed Runner, and The Hungry Runner Girl.

Good luck to everyone running The New York City Marathon on Sunday!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Adding a Little Spice to Your Run

Right now I am training for a 5K and it has been quite enjoyable so far. It has been really nice to work on gaining speed and building strength rather than endurance. I am still doing some longer runs but they are not my main focus right now.

I am far more interested in training for the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon in March, but I wanted to take the time I had after running the Baltimore Half Marathon to try some new things. I have been going to yoga twice a week, started doing Insanity again, got back in the pool, and started biking as means of cross training. 

But I also have been switching up the style of runs I do. I started doing speed work for the very first time and have been doing more tempo runs. 

Sometimes, though, a little creativity can really improve the quality and enjoyment of a run. One thing that I have been doing lately is incorporating stairs into my runs. Running stairs are a great way to bring in some interval training to a run and also work on increasing strength. 

My favorite stair workout to add to a run is:
2 x
sprinting, hops, and double stairs.

I have been working on adding another repeat each time I do stairs. I struggle the most with the hops. I find them very awkward and rather difficult, but I know that jumping really helps build strength and power in legs.

I find stairs to be the most beneficial and challenging thing to add to a run but I also have incorporated things such as push ups, crunches, planks, and jumping jacks. Adding these things to a run really adds some variety and can make a hard run seem like a totally different workout altogether.

What do you do to add some variety to your runs? Have you ever added stairs to your runs?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Importance of Stretching

I started running back in April by training for a 5K in May. Then I ran another 5K in June. Over the summer I decided that I wanted to train to run a half marathon. I decided on running the Baltimore Half Marathon on October 15 and started training right away.

When I was training for my first 5K I was never sore. I had been an athlete all my life so training to run 3.1 miles was nothing too spectacular to push my body to do. Because of that, I never really stretched.

Even throughout my half marathon training, I was never sore and therefore did not stretch. I wasn't running very many miles so I just thought that stretching wasn't really going to be able to help me all that much.

Then race day came. I was feeling great up until mile 9ish and then I started to develop a terrible pain in my right now that almost caused me to walk the rest of the race. I was too determined to run the whole to stop and walk but I was really hurting.

I was sore the day after the race and I did some stretching. Then I started running again and discovered that the pain in my right knee was still there. I tried icing, stretching, advil, rest, and when none of those things were helping I decided to see an sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon.

He told me that I had aggravated my IT band and that I could have prevented this by stretching after each run. I felt so stupid. I had always known stretching was important but I neglected to do it because I was never sore or felt I needed to.

Well now I have been stretching before and after each run. I am trying to do everything possible to make this a little flare up and not an actual injury. I am even working on getting a foam roller to help with this process.

So let me go on the record and say that stretching is incredibly important and absolutely necessary to keeping your body healthy. Please, don't wait until it is too late like I did. It only takes a couple minutes to stretch after you run and your body will thank you for doing so.

What are your favorite/most helpful stretches? Do you stretch after every run?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Welcome, November

As I'm sure you all already know, today is the first day of November. We have definitely been seeing lots of fall, and even winter, weather. There are only two months left in 2011 and I want to make them count.

This is my absolute favorite time of year, with all the holidays and snow. However, I usually put on some weight during this time of year. I am not super concerned with my weight but I really want to work on losing weight this year instead of gaining it.

Growing up I never liked this time of year but now I love it. I love the orange & red leaves, the cooler air, and everything pumpkin. And I am looking forward to so much more.

I can't wait for even cooler temps, running in those cooler temps, hot chocolate, snow, Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies, and fireplaces.

I am probably most excited about training for and running a Thanksgiving 5K. I have done a few speed sessions and have really seen some big improvement. Despite my recent trouble with my IT band I am looking forward to completely crushing my current 5K PR.

I have been a vegetarian for more than three years now but lately I have been struggling to incorporate enough fruits & veggies into my diet. I am making it my goal for this month to eat as many fruits & veggies as possible.

I want to get healthy and strong and I know that sticking to a healthy diet is maybe the most important way to do that.

What are your goals for November? 

Monday, October 31, 2011

The End of One Heck of a Month

Today is Halloween, which means it is the last day of October. I am a little sad that this month is over because it one that I had been looking forward to for so long. It ended up being even better than I had anticipated though:

I ran my first half marathon, and went to my first race expo...

I did my very first speed work run...

I started going to yoga regularly...

I ran 10 miles and watched the Ironman World Championships in one day...

I became a member of my school's Russian Club...

I started training for a 5K...

and I realized that I AM a runner!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Finding Balance

Ever since starting school in the end of August I have been struggling with finding balance between the many things going on in my life. Currently, I am enrolled in five classes at school, am a member of 1 club, training for a race, trying to keep my apartment under control, and finding time to be an amazing girlfriend.

I know this may not sound like a lot to some of you, but it is a lot for me right now. I would honestly say the hardest part is trying to find time to spend with my boyfriend. We both have busy schedules and trying to find times that work for both of us have proven to be a struggle so far.

Despite everything going on though, I have been doing pretty well at finding time for everything. It takes a bit of work though, and definitely isn't easy.

On days when I have a million things to do and not nearly enough time to do them all, I sit down and think about the importance of each of the things I need to do. If something isn't "due" for a little while then I can probably get away with postponing it a little bit in order to focus on other more important things. Sometimes I even rank each item based on importance and then complete them in that order. That way I am sure to do the things that really need to be taken care of right away.

Make a schedule
My class schedule is pretty concrete but a lot of other things are not. Meetings can change from week to week and the weather can definitely change all the time. If I make a schedule at the beginning of the week with what I want to complete and when is the best time to tackle that task there is a greater chance of actually getting everything done. For example, if I know that my boyfriend is coming over on Wednesday night but I have a big test on Thursday I make sure I get in enough studying before he comes over so I'm not stressing over my test instead of spending quality time with him.

Be flexible
However, I have to allow myself to be flexible because plans can change very quickly. I hate leaving things to the last minute in case something comes up preventing me from accomplishing whatever I needed to get done. One of my strengths is that I like to get things done well in advance. Then I have more time to do whatever I want and not worry about cutting anything too short.

Realize it is not the end of the world
I think this is the most important part about trying to lead a balanced life. I can get upset about little things pretty quickly but I have been working really hard to not freak out when something doesn't go my way. Sure, a bad grade on an exam cane easily worsen your mood, but it doesn't have to ruin your whole day. Realize that life goes on and you can't win them all.

How do you find balance in a hectic schedule?