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?