2017 in review

2017 in review

2017 is coming to a close and I’m sitting here trying to figure out how this year went by so fast, how I even survived this year to begin with, and how much I am looking forward to 2018.  2017 has been a year of many things: tumultuous changes, traveling, great trail racing, new ambitions, and faith in God’s plan.  There’s been a lot of good in 2017 and a lot of what-is-going-on bad.  2017 started off decent, went through a wild spiral from March until August, and finished….decent. I’ve cried a lot this year and I’ve been stressed a lot this year, but through it all I’ve grown a lot as a person this year.  Let’s review.

Josh & I started 2017 off with a run at Alapocas State Park.  It was a pleasant day and I remember seeing some people rock climbing.

I became a proud 2017 Altra Ambassador and I’ve done everything I can to promote the perfection of the zero drop and wide toe box that Altra’s offer.

It snowed a decent amount at the beginning of January so Gwin and I did a lot of off-leash snow running together.  She loves the snow and I love seeing her leap through the snow so excited!

We hosted a surprise 50th birthday party for my mom in January (her birthday is in April).  Family & friends brought over balloons that reminded her she was turning 50 soon.

I started training for the Hyner 25k on January 22nd.  I needed to do a lot of hill repeats to prepare so Josh and I did nighttime repeats at Brandywine (our go-to place for elevation).  One night in the beginning of February the weather gods gifted us with shorts weather which made hill repeats slightly more enjoyable.

My brother left for Air Force Basic Training (BMT) the day before Valentine’s Day.  We went out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory then we went to PetSmart so he could buy an I’m-leaving-you gift for Gwin.  He shipped out to San Antonio, Texas on February 14th.

I won a $25 gift certificate to Starbucks (note: I hate Starbucks) by reaching the most elevation logged on a treadmill within a 5 minute time period (note: I hate treadmills).

I began hating my job more and more.  I was working 4:45 AM shifts which was destroying my social life, causing me excessive anxiety & stress, and making me a miserable person.

On February 27th, Angela & I set out on a 3-day road trip from NJ to Colorado.  We vowed to run one mile in every state we drove through.  We ran 1 mile in my hometown in NJ.  We parked behind a McDonald’s and ran 1 mile in Milesburg, Pennsylvania along a farm road.  We stopped at a rest stop in Middleburg, Ohio and ran 1 mile around the rest stop.  We nearly missed our chance to run in Indiana so we made an impromptu stop at Indiana University Northwest.  In Marseilles, Illinois we parked at a gas station and ran 1 mile through a farmer’s field and on a road where people had strange address numbers.  We parked at a church and ran 1 mile on a dirt road in Earlham, Iowa.  Did you know that Iowa is known as the state with “fields of opportunities“?  We ran 1 mile at sunrise in North Platte, Nebraska before we left the La Quinta we stayed at.  My first ever Colorado run was in Frisco, Colorado which officially completed our goal of running at least one mile in every state we drove in.  Take a moment to watch my GoPro documentary of the entire road trip here!

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Frisco, CO – 9,097″

What did I learn from this roadtrip?  One: switching between 3 time zones within a three day time span is very confusing.  Two: the route from New Jersey to Colorado involves an EXCESSIVE amount of fields.  The landscape doesn’t change too much once you leave the mountainous part of Pennsylvania.  The mountains of Colorado were the best sight in the world after 2.5 days of fields (plus their natural beauty of course).  Three: our country is HUGE!  There’s so much to see, so much to explore, so much to experience!  Four: Colorado is BEAUTIFUL!  I loved Frisco, I loved passing through mountain towns, and I loved Angela’s hometown (even the sloppy mess of the Colorow Trail).

I loved Colorado so much that Colorado didn’t want me to leave.  I was about 15 minutes away from missing my flight from Denver to Philly thanks to a worrisome cop and Denver rush hour.  This was the first of several stressful travel experiences of 2017.  I sat on the plane facing the mountainous landscape (I was at a window seat).  I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to return to my stressful, crappy job.  I yearned to stay in the serenity of the mountains.  Ever since that plane took off, I’ve wanted to go back.  In 2018, I will.

I transitioned from the Altra Torins to the Altra Escalantes.  I felt like I was flying in my new purple Escalantes!

At the beginning of March, I started training my first at-home personal training client.

My first race of 2017 was the Xterra Brandywine 12k.  It was 23 degrees at the start of the race and I was feeling sick to my stomach.  I finished as the 2nd overall female.  Josh wrapped me in a blanket and I was walking around as if I was a brittle icicle.  It was so cold that their computers malfunctioned so they couldn’t give out awards.  They promised to mail us our awards.  I went home and slept for a few hours underneath blankets.  They mailed me my award a few weeks later.

I wrote a lot of snail mail to Angela, my brother at BMT, and other airmen who were also at BMT with him.

On the 1st day of spring, Josh & I got free water ice from Rita’s Water Ice.

Josh made me a homemade heart-shaped cookie cake on my birthday.  It was delicious!

I turned 23.  Yay.

I experienced some serious mountain withdrawal.

On April 5th, my family and I travelled to San Antonio, Texas for Michael’s BMT graduation.  It would be the first time we would get to see him since February 13th.  Our flight arrived late to Dallas so we missed our connecting flight.  Round two of 2017 travel stress began.  The airline offered us tickets on another flight but when the plane arrived, there was no pilot scheduled to fly the plane.  We were stuck in Dallas for a few hours at 11 PM.  After a 45 minute flight from Dallas to San Antonio (note: the flight was shorter than the time we spent waiting for a pilot to arrive…), we arrived to our destination city around 1 or 2 AM.  We struggled to figure out how to get our rental car because all the rental car companies were closed.  We finally arrived to our hotel just in time to get 3 hours of sleep.

On April 6th, I started the morning by eating a waffle shaped like Texas at 5 o’clock in the morning. By 6 AM, I stepped foot onto Lackland AFB (the 1st AFB I’ve ever been on).  We attended the Airman’s Run and Airman’s Coin Ceremony – both of which were probably the most “I’m proud to be an American” moments I’ve ever witnessed.  Michael got base liberty so we got to explore the base and see where he’s been living for 7.5 weeks.

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Lackland AFB

On April 7th,  Michael graduated from BMT.  We celebrated with town pass by visiting the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, and attending a San Antonio Rampage AHL hockey game.  I can officially say I’ve been to a hockey game in Texas now.  I had pizza for dinner the 3rd night in a row.

On April 8th, I ran 3.5 miles in San Antonio with my dad.  The part of San Antonio we ran through was sketchy.  We also saw a few chihuahuas running along the road.  I cannot make these things up.  That day we went to USO to play games and eat lunch.  We also explored River Walk some more.  We went to Dave & Buster’s.  For food, if you’re ever in San Antonio, River Walk is THEE place to visit for food.  There is a lot of variety and authentic food for every desire!  I was determined to eat guacamole while I was in Texas and I finally got some at dinner!

We left to return to NJ on April 9th after our goodbyes.  Highways in Texas are confusing so we got lost driving to return our rental car.  We had a connecting flight home but we didn’t miss our connecting flight this time.  I returned home happy for my brother and determined to do something better with my future.  Seeing all the airmen dedicated to our country made me realize that I need to do something good for the world too.  I needed to do something good for me.

My job continued to cause me an immeasurable amount of stress, anxiety, and misery.  My boss wasn’t listening to my concerns and my stress was causing me sleep disturbances and problematic fatigue.  I yearned for change but felt stuck.

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the finish of Hyner 25k

After 3 months of hard training, Hyner 25k arrived.  Josh and I drove my brother’s truck to the mountains because we trusted the reliability of his truck.  We slept in a tent at the base of Humble Hill just like we did in 2016.  I finished the 25k in 3:54:16.  All race details can be found here.

After Hyner, I went through a running hiatus.  My legs were exhausted and my motivation to train was low.  I was feeling physically tired and mentally exhausted.

I started riding my bike more which took the pounding off of my legs while still maintaining my cardio.

I explored many new places with Jess (Josh’s twin) including Menantico Ponds and parts of the Pine Barrens.

I started mountain biking again.

I began trusting the advice of my closest friends and family members who did everything in their power to look out for my well-being when all I could see was a tunnel of misery.

So…..I decided I wanted to become an occupational therapist.

I officially resigned from my job.  Despite my worries about unemployment, my stress levels decreased significantly.  I was focused on my goals of applying for and eventually attending grad school to become an occupational therapist.  I was ready to leave behind what mental health effects that job caused me.  I was ready to set forth on my new ambitions.

I started training three new clients bringing my client count up to four!

I attended my first ever wine festival with Josh and tasted about 50+ different wines.

I started volunteer coaching at youth track again.  I also volunteered with NJ NICA at several NICA races as a course marshall.

My dogs became more and more adorable when they slept.

I became obsessed with watching the sunset along the river.

Josh & I built a garden.  I bought us soil and the guy gave us “special dirt” claiming it was the best dirt around.   We grew tomatoes, green bell peppers, long hots, jalapeños, and cucumbers.  Our summer salads were fresh and delicious!

I started my observation hours for grad school applications.  I observed 6-7 different OTs in multiple settings.  Each OT left a lasting impression on me and made me realize that my ambition to become an OT was the right choice for me.

I learned how to change a flat tire on a bicycle.

On June 11th, Josh & I completed our first ever mountain bike race (Ramsey’s Revenge) at Brandywine.  I did not finish last like I had anticipated.  This would be my first of three mountain bike races in 2017.

I completed my 2nd ever mountain bike race 6 days after Ramsey’s Revenge.  I got frustrated at a 65 year old man for causing me to fall.  I watched my mom complete her first ever mountain bike race.

Sneakers & Spokes hosted a vintage bike ride/throwback run to the local ice cream stand.  I wore my cross country shorts from 2012 and a sweatband.

I downloaded Strava and claimed some QOM’s.

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flying at the Pitman 4 Miler

I ran the Pitman 4 Miler.  I did not PR, but I wasn’t actually trying to PR.  I forget my time.  I remember that I enjoyed it because I didn’t go out too fast for the first mile.  I also wore my Altra Escalantes.

I missed Colorado and I missed Angela a lot.

On July 8th, I started training for my 3rd and final race of 2017 – Green Monster 50k.

Josh & I attended my friend’s wedding in Mifflinburg, PA.  This was 2017’s travel stress moment #3.  Let’s just say this… it was a really long drive to Mifflinburg.  We camped in our tent after the wedding.  The next day we stopped in Duncannon on our way home to hike on the AT.  It was refreshing to stand on a vista again.

I began helping out at Sneakers & Spokes more frequently.

Wanting less stack height, I made the transition from Altra Lone Peaks to Altra Superiors.  I began to love having more ground feel in the Superiors.  The Superiors are now my go-to trail running shoe.

Josh & I attended our first concert together – Philip Philips & The Goo Goo Dolls!  It was a perfect summer night with great music and good company (as always!)

About one week later, my mom & I went to a John Mayer concert.  We made it into the venue with minutes to spare before a huge summer storm rolled through.  I’ve lost count but I believe this was the 6th time I saw John Mayer.  He performed fantastically!

I completed my 3rd and final mountain bike race of 2017 at Fair Hills.  I didn’t come in last place but a lot of young kids passed me.  I have no shame and I’m proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone to even try mountain bike racing this year!

I attempted to train for my 50k with hiking poles.  This lasted about three long runs but eventually I opted to leave them behind so that I could fuel properly and depend on my legs for power.

I completed and submitted my grad school applications.  Application stress was over but now acceptance stress loomed over my head.

The country went crazy about the eclipse.  I wore homemade eclipse glasses that my dad made so I could also stare at the sun.

My family & Josh & I biked on the Michael Castle Trail on a lovely late-August day.  Then we ate at Grain H2O.  Yum!

I got a job as an assistant cross country coach at the community college I once ran for.  It’s weird how things came full circle.

I finalized a name & logo for my health coaching/running coach services.  I called it Better Strides Fitness and officially made the logo.  I created an Instagram, Facebook page, and Twitter for Better Strides Fitness too!

I was a participant in a 9/11 memorial run.   That was another patriotic moment of 2017.

I got stung by a bee on the back of my ankle during a long run with the women’s cross country team.  It itched for days!

Family visited us from California.  We talked about the Philadelphia Eagles a lot.  It was a pleasant morning.

I continued to crave returning to the mountains.

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Oktoberfest in Delaware

Josh & I attended Oktoberfest for the 2nd year in a row.

I worried a lot about getting accepted to grad school.

2017 travel stress moment #4:  driving to Wellsboro, PA for my 50k race.  Josh & I didn’t leave for Wellsboro until about 4:30 PM. It was a 5 hour drive to our campsite at Leonard Harrison State Park.  Once off the highway, we had to start driving on winding, pitch dark, mountainous roads.  It was terrifying, but we made it.

I sprinted down a mountain and ended up finishing Green Monster 50k in 7:58.  I achieved my goal of running under 8 hours.  I finished in the top 10 female finishers.  Three months of training were once again successful.  Check out the race recap here!

The night after my race we slept in our tent while a tropical storm passed over the mountain.  The next morning we stood at the top of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and took a picture in the rain.

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PA Grand Canyon

Josh & I dressed up as lumberjacks and won a Halloween costume contest.  This was our 1st costume contest we ever entered together.  We won a gift certificate to a local pizza shop.

I started working with two new health coaching clients – one of which is now 82 years old!  I realized how much I love helping others work towards their goals.  Helping others is my true passion in life and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

I got more and more excited about watching the Philadelphia Eagles games with Josh & I even learned the chant!  Fly, Eagles, Fly!

After districts in Rhode Island, the women’s cross country team won Regionals in Delaware.  I was a proud coach!

I got accepted to one of the grad schools I applied to.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I am still waiting to hear back from two more schools (one of which is my first choice) but I am relieved and EXCITED knowing that I have the opportunity to begin my education to become an OT.

Gwin got bit by a dog on a 1.5 mile run we went on together.  This was an extremely stressful afternoon for me because I felt guilty she got bit.  We took her to the vet who assured us she would be ok.  Gwin wasn’t allowed to run with me for 1-2 weeks which made me sad.  I carry my pepper spray with me on every run we go on together now.

The cross country team traveled to Massachusetts for Nationals.  We played Cards Against Humanity for hours and came home with two new NJCAA All-Americans.  My first season as a cross country season had come to an end and I was proud of how the team had improved over the course of the season.  The season was nothing like I expected it to be but also everything that I knew I signed up to experience – the highs, the lows, and everything in between!

I got a new job working retail.  I HATE working retail but I needed a source of income to start saving up for grad school.  I remind myself daily that this job is temporary.  I remind myself daily that this is a necessary step in reaching my goal of becoming an OT.  Retail is not ideal.  Retail is not what I went to school for.  Retail is not somewhere I want to stay for longer than I need to.  This job is temporary aid in my ambition to achieve a bigger goal, a more meaningful future, & a lifelong career.

I celebrated my four year anniversary of vegetarianism.

I worked with Sparkly Soul at the Philadelphia Marathon Weekend expo.  It was a fun (and exhausting) two days but I came home with a Thanksgiving Sparkly Soul and Christmas Sparkly Soul so I was excited!

All of my clients ran PRs at their races and accomplished their goals.  I was once again a very proud coach!

I worked Thanksgiving night and I was very miserable.

My family hosted the annual Thanksgiving weekend nighttime trail run.

Josh & I built a snowman.  We had a perfect snow weekend that included homemade crockpot vegetarian chili, hot chocolate from the local coffee/donut shop, a snow run, a late night walk around town to look at Christmas lights, and a Christmas movie!

Two of my clients gifted Josh & I tickets to a Flyers game in club box seats.  I’ve never sat in club box seats before and I felt like I was being spoiled!  I had the biggest slice of pizza I’ve ever consumed in my life and the most expensive glass of overpriced wine.  Regardless, between the luxury of the club box and the Flyers winning the game, it was a perfect date night for Josh and I!

Angela came back to NJ!  We went for a 2 mile run to celebrate our reunion!  It was FANTASTIC!

On Christmas Eve, I went for a run with Gwin down our local trail.  I attached two bells to her collar so she sounded festive running down the trail.  I wore a Santa hat.  We would’ve easily won an award for being most festive on the trail if there had been a contest.

Holiday festivities were fun!  I was grateful, happy, and amazed of how much love there is in my life.

I began feeling excited for what 2018 has in store for me, for my family, and for my friends.  There’s a lot to look forward to!

Running Stats of 2017:

  • Total Miles:  1,505.0 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: September (189.2 miles)
  • Three trail races – Brandywine 12k, Hyner 25k, Green Monster 50k
  • One road race – Pitman 4 Miler
  • Shoes worn:  Altra Torins, Altra Escalantes, Altra Lone Peaks, Altra Superiors
  • States I ran in (13 total) – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Rhode Island, Massachusetts

Biking Stats of 2017:

  • Total Miles:  1,103.4 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: June (262 miles)
  • June, July, August – three consecutive months with 200+ miles
  • Total Road Bike Miles: 767.1 miles
  • Total Mountain Bike Miles:  336.3 miles
  • 3 races – Ramsey’s Revenge, The Challenger, Big Elk

After proofreading this blog post, I’ve come to realize that it lacks flow; however, this year hasn’t flowed smoothly either.  It’s been a challenging year for many reasons.  Both good and bad changes have tested me.  Running has tested me.  My body has felt exhilaration, exhaustion, and adrenaline throughout the year.  I’ve found enjoyment out of cycling and seeking new QOMs.  I’ve established a new goal for my future that will surely challenge me in new ways in 2018.

I’ve become a more resilient woman who learned how to stick up for herself.  I’ve become a more determined individual who is focused on goals for a better future.  I’ve become a more experienced trail runner who learned to push beyond comfort zones, to believe in herself, to race towards any finish line with a determined heart.

This 3700 word blog post doesn’t justify all the memories, experiences, and moments of the year but it does put it into words to reflect on in later years.

2017, it’s been a year.

2018, I’m ready.

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