2016

2016

1 year…

12 months…

52 weeks…

366 days (it was a leap year)…

8784 hours…

527, 040 minutes…

31,622,400 seconds…

All those numbers, just little moments of time, helped shaped one big number: 2016.

A year I will always remember.  A year that will always hold a special place in my heart filled with joy, fear, new beginnings, bigger aspirations, exciting adventures, friendship, family, and love.

To me, 2016 was many things.  There’s many moments of this year that will always mean a lot to me.  Those moments have added up to one unforgettable year and I’m writing this blogpost, my 20th blog post of the year, to tell you about it.

I started 2016 as an intern for a medical fitness facility 20 minutes from my house.  I needed an internship to fulfill my undergraduate requirements so on January 19th, I became known as “the intern”.

In early January I registered for two races – my first ultramarathon scheduled for May 15th and a half-marathon scheduled for October 16th.  I was drawn to a 50k race distance because I wanted to try a race distance longer than a marathon.  My intentions for signing up for the half-marathon in October were to potentially PR and to set a mid-point race for the Philadelphia Marathon in November which I planned on signing up for as well.  Not even a month in to 2016 and my race schedule was set for the year.

I started a new part-time job at an assisted living community in the activities department.  I really enjoyed creating bonds with the residents and my co-workers were really nice!

With a combination of working at my internship (unpaid) and my part-time job I was extremely busy all the time.  Life became crazy, but I was learning a lot and still tried to make time for things I enjoyed doing.

On February 14th, I went for a 13 mile trail run with four crazy trail runners in 10 degree weather.  I probably wore six shirts on that brisk Sunday morning.  We even crossed a frozen stream where I was wished a happy valentine’s day by the man that would become my boyfriend three months later.

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Altra Lone Peaks

I fell in love with Altra.  My toes adore the wide toebox and the zero drop is perfect for my feet!  The Altra Lonepeaks are my favorite, but on road group runs I always wear my Torins!  I also really like their slogan: “Zero Limits”. [Fast forward to December 28th and I was chosen as an Altra Ambassador for 2017!  YAYY!!]

On February 28th, I ran 19 miles with my dad in the Pine Barrens.  My love for trail running continued to grow.

I visited my best friend from Bloomsburg in the beginning of March in Bethlehem, PA.

I discovered a new park down the street from my internship because I was organizing a 5k for a group of employees from the corporation I was interning with.  Discovering new places is always a lot of fun!

On Easter day, I started to learn how to mountain bike with my brother.  I got off my bike a lot to walk across logs but I enjoyed finding a new way to spend time outside on the trails.  I remember being scared to death about crashing but for some reason I wanted to keep trying so that I could go out and ride whenever I wanted.

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White Clay with Josh

I began training with the man who wished me a happy valentines day on that frigid February morning.  He (Josh) led me around trails I’d never been on as I tried to keep up with him.  We learned a lot about each other on these runs and found a lot of similarities between our personalities.

I worked my first of four expos with Sparkly Soul with Angela on April 1st.  These expos were always an adventure.  During our first expo together (Hot Chocolate 15k), we lugged heavy suitcases up and down staircases because we couldn’t figure out where to go.  We also received a huge box of mini Apple Pie LaraBars that lasted me for the next 4 months.  Then we ran at 9 PM and I fell and scraped my knee on the sidewalk.  Blood was dripping down my leg.

I trained hard for my ultramarathon coming up on May 15th.  High mileage, long runs, and lots of mental preparation!  I even started teaching my dog how to run off-leash.

I ran a one mile race on a track in 6:24.  I was VERY happy with that time, although I was completely out of breath!

I organized and directed my first 5k walk/run in late April.  I concluded my internship and was given positive feedback about my work ethic and knowledge about the fitness world.  I was told I would’ve been offered a job if they had a position available, but unfortunately they didn’t have a position available at the time.

I travelled to Hyner, PA to spectate the Hyner 25k/50k with my trail running friends.  We camped in an airfield with a bunch of other rugged trailrunners in tents, campers, and big RVs.  We went to a church that provided a free spaghetti dinner to the racers.  I climbed Humble Hill at 7 AM alone in order to reach Hyner View before the racers did.  That hill definitely humbled me.  I waited at the top of a very windy Hyner View for over 2 hours waiting for the racers I was cheering on to get to the top.  I talked with some photographers and other spectators at the top and I rung my cowbell when my fellow trail running friends ran by.  I traversed down Huff’s Run to get back to the bottom.  I toted a beer in my CamelBak to the finish line for Josh as he requested.  We waited patiently for the 50k racers to finish.  I kept ringing my cowbell.  We ate free pizza and cookies and I attempted to drink beer at the finish line. I took one sip and called it a day.  I stargazed with Josh, sat around a campfire with about 15 other trail runners, and shivered in the chilly April mountain air.  But somehow, even shivering, I was perfectly content.

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The view from the top of Humble Hill

I became a Sparkly Soul ambassador in late April at the Broad Street 10 miler expo.  At this expo, the 2nd expo of the year for me, I met the owner of Sparkly Soul!  We also had a thief in our midst at this expo.

Josh made me dinner and asked me to be his girlfriend.  Of course I said yes!

I graduated from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.  I was awarded a plaque for earning the highest GPA in BU’s Exercise Science graduating class of 2016.  I was shocked!  I also officially became an adult because now, as a college graduate, I entered what people call “the job world”.

I started looking for a full-time job because I was only being offered about 8 hours per week at my part-time job.  I was applying to anywhere I thought I might have a chance.  I became frustrated with the limited job opportunities so after much thought I decided to pursue my health coach certification to make a future for myself.  I hoped to start my own health coaching services upon becoming certified.

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1st Ultra

I finished my 1st ultramarathon on May 15 side-by-side with Josh.  It was a perfect temperature for race day.  After running the first 25k loop in under 2:30, we knew a sub-5 would be in our reach as long as we didn’t slow down too much more.  We finished in 4:58 in 34th and 35th place.  I was the 3rd overall female finisher in the 29 and under age group.  I was awarded a German weather vane.  We had completed our first ever ultra together and dominated on the trails.  This was the start of our ultra running futures!

Since my legs needed a rest from ultra training, I started mountain biking more often.  Slowly but surely I was getting more confident.

I was offered a full-time job from another assisted living community as the activities director.  I resigned from my part-time job and started my full-time job in full swing.  For two weeks, I worked both jobs since I had submitted two weeks notice of my official resignation.  Life got crazy and hectic again.

I began liking wine more and more.

I explored more trails at Fair Hills with Josh on a steaming hot summer day.  We even decided to take a break and cool off in a stream.

Other than trail running, star gazing became one of my favorite summer activities.

I celebrated Global Running Day and National Trails Day.

I spectated my brother’s first ever road cycling race.  He didn’t win but he did great for a rookie!

I created a chair exercise routine for my residents at work to music from the 40s, 50s and 60s.  It was a lot of fun to apply my exercise knowledge in this setting.

Wanderlust hit me hard, especially on Mondays.

I did a lot of runs and bike rides at 6 AM since that was the only time I could get out and exercise.  It was a great start to my day!

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Patriotic

I ran the traditional 4th of July 4 mile race in a patriotic singlet from Sneakers and Spokes.  I didn’t run a personal best (I ran a 28:40), but I had a lot of fun!  I had to rush home to shower before my shift at work.  I didn’t enjoy having to go to work on a holiday.

Josh and I explored French Creek State Park.  We got lost but eventually found our way back to his Jeep.

I wrote letters to Angela who was spending her summer in California.  Snail mail is the best!

I began attending more and more Sneakers and Spokes group rides.  I only owned a hybrid bike without clip-ins but I tried my best to keep up with the rest of the group.  I learned proper cycling etiquette and how to ride in a pace line. Time on my bike became good cardio for me without the demands of running on my muscles.

Josh and I took our first official camping trip together at Worlds End State Park. We ran up trails that led to beautiful vistas.  We became intrigued by the Loyalsock Trail.  We camped at a campground in a tent.  We ran every trail in the park, crashed a wedding party, and dipped our feet in a stream.  It poured the entire afternoon after our run but we made the most of it.  We made a pizza over the fire.  On our way home we stopped at the boulder field at Hickory Run State Park.  Josh loved the boulder field!

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Worlds End

In early August, I was offered a job by my internship site.  I was struck with anxiety, fear, and worry because if I chose to accept the job, I would transition from my current full time job to a per diem/part-time job requiring me to work every weekend, both Saturday and Sunday.  After talking it over with my parents, Josh, and Angela I decided to accept the job and leave my full time job.  I craved working in a fitness setting and my full-time job was a dead end job with no upward potential.  My new job would provide many options for promotions so I felt it necessary to accept the new job.  I once again submitted my two weeks notice to my current employer and started working two jobs again until my two weeks was up.  Since accepting the new job from my internship site, I’ve been happier and much more satisfied with the type of work I am doing.  I feel empowered.  I feel grateful.  I went from being “the intern” to returning as an employee within four months.

I learned trusting God is the easiest thing I can do.

I played many rounds of mini golf with my younger “cousin”.

I did my first ever road time trial “race”.  I finished a 10 mile practice time trial as the fastest female rider.  I was still on my hybrid without clip-in shoes.  I felt like I was going to puke, but I was happy!

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Appalachian Trail

I showed Josh part of New Jersey’s section of the Appalachian Trail.  We climbed to the top of Mount Tammany which overlooked the Delaware Water Gap.  We explored a lot of trails that day and I began falling in love with the peace of the trails even more than before!

I bought a new road bike since I was becoming more of a “serious” road cyclist.  I love my navy blue and purple Fuji Finest!

I participated in a paint party.  I discovered I’m not much of a painter.

Sneakers and Spokes celebrated it’s one year anniversary.  Also, Sneaker’s and Spokes won “best sporting goods store” in Salem County!

I became overly intrigued by the concept of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

I really liked eating pizza and nachos.

I attended my first ever Oktoberfest with Josh.  I didn’t drink from a stein but I had a lot of fun dancing ridiculously!

At the 3rd expo (Rock ‘N Roll Philadelphia), we were excited to see an Altra booth!  Nothing too overly crazy happened at this expo that I recall.

Josh and I travelled to the Cat Skills Mountains for his Cats Tail Trail Marathon. We camped in the tent for 3 nights and 4 days.  We explored the trail that started in our campground.  We explored the small town of Phoenicia.  It rained a lot.  I was stranded in an elementary school parking lot at 6 AM without cell phone service and then I ran down a highway just to get to our friend’s truck which I then drove up mountains just to cheer the men on with my cowbell.  I waited at the only road-accessible aid station for hours waiting for all our trail friends to come through.  I cheered Josh on and I was a proud girlfriend!  I waited in front of a parish hall for hours waiting for Josh to run down the street. I even witnessed a finisher who had punctured his forehead with a branch run towards the finish with dried blood caked on his face.  Josh finished in 13th overall.  I was so proud!  In celebration, I spent a late night with five grown men who were drinking beer in a mountain cabin.  I was the only female (drinking my Mike’s Hard Lemonade of course).  That weekend was quite the adventure.

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Runner’s World Half

I ran the Runner’s World Half Marathon in Bethlehem, PA in 1:43.  Although it wasn’t a PR, I was content with my time.  It was a hillier course than I expected.  I also got to say hello to Tiffany – our former Altra rep that had moved to Utah!  I felt prepared for my marathon but still knew I needed to put in hard work for the next month before my race.

I started paying my student loans.

I visited Smithville with my mom and my mommom for the first time ever.  I bought special peanut butter.

I visited a winery for the first time as a girl’s night out.  Wine is good!

I carved a pumpkin that simply said “run”.  I’m not that creative.

I handed out candy to eager trick-or-treaters for the first time in my life.  It was so much fun!

I struggled through a 22 mile run which left me feeling physically defeated but mentally humbled.  I knew I had what I needed to complete the marathon, I just needed to ignore the pain for as long as I could in order to race a PR.

I craved trail races and ultra-marathons.

My brother decided to enlist in the Air Force.

I became more and more grateful for my new job despite having to work weekends.  I knew I had made the right decision.

I earned my ACE Health Coach certification in mid-November.  I plan on starting my own health coach services in 2017.

At the 4th expo of the year (Philadelphia Marathon), we moved our booth three times before we were officially settled in and were given about 10 bags of Herrs pretzels!

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on an extremely windy Sunday morning.  25-30+ MPH winds pushed against me during the last 10 miles of the race but I hung on to all the time I had banked during the first half of the race to finish 1 minute and 17 seconds faster than last year’s finishing time.  I was happy with my time (3:45:08), happy to be done, and happy to look forward to trail races in 2017.

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Last Sparkly Soul Expo
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Phila. Marathon

I celebrated my 3rd year of vegetarianism.

I towed a trailer of canned goods from Sneakers and Spokes to Xfinity Live in Philadelphia with a group of determined road cyclists.  We had collected 234 pounds of donated food for WMMR’s Preston and Steve’s Campout for Hunger for Philabundance.  I was terrified pedaling across the bridge and yelled at a lot of Philadelphia drivers who were threatening my safety.  I completed my longest bike ride to date on that day – 67 miles; half of which I towed canned goods with me!

I took Josh to his first ever Flyers game with my mom and one of my best friends.  I lost my voice within 5 minutes – the Flyers scored 3 goals in less than 90 seconds.

I celebrated an amazing Christmas with my family.  It was also Josh and I’s first Christmas together.  It was perfect.

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My Family

This is my 2016 – a year I will never forget.  2016 was the year I’ve had three different employers.  2016 was the year I ran my first ultra-marathon.  2016 was the year I yearned for trails, adventure, and mountains.  2016 was the year I truly found my best friend.  2016 was the year I pushed my limits and overcame my fears.  2016 was a year I could have never predicted.

There were times in 2016 when I felt weak.  I shed a lot of tears (both happy and sad) this year.  I became anxious and fearful of my unknown future.  I questioned where my life would be leading.  But I also felt strong at times – out on the trails, in the job world, and having day-to-day conversations with my closest family/friends.  It wasn’t an easy year, but in retrospect, it wasn’t a difficult year either.  Yes, I was faced with decisions that left me feeling lost but with the support system I’ve been blessed with, those decisions weren’t lonely. When 2016 ends at 11:59PM, I’ll have no regrets.  2016 was the year I learned to go with life’s flow; after all, fate is real.

Here I am, on the 366th day of the year, publishing my 20th blog post of 2016 about all the adventures, happy moments, and anxious times.  I’ve become a better person than I was on January 1st.  A stronger person.  A (slightly) more confident person.  A loving person.  And most importantly, a person with a purpose and a drive to do more audacious things in 2017.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Ultra Training Update

Ultra Training Update

This week has been my highest weekly mileage of my ultra training thus far.  The weather was absolutely BEAUTIFUL which made me happier, more motivated, and more energetic.  The week ended with day light savings which I am extremely excited about because now it will be lighter out later in the day.  This instantly makes me happier.  We survived winter!  As for training, I had a great week of running, biking, and spending time outside with my dogs.  Here we go:

Monday:  Today I ran 5 easy miles with Gwin (my dog).  No watch, just running.

Tuesday:  Tuesdays are usually my rest days but because I took a rest day on Sunday due to a schedule conflict, I opted to take an easy day of mileage instead of resting again.  I ran 4 miles with one of my best friends at an average of 8:37 pace.  I then walked the dogs to the post office which was 0.75 miles total.  It was a beautiful day outside so I wanted to stay outside as long as possible before going to work.

Wednesday:  I ran early this day because my internship and work schedule overlapped and left me with no time in between to get home and run a reasonable distance.  So I ran 6.2 miles in the early morning with my dad.  It was warm and I was content.  I also walked 3 miles in the afternoon and discovered new trails and a scenic lake!

Thursday:  This was the group run night at my dad’s running/biking store.  I decided to ride my bike to the group run – it’s 12 miles away from my house.  It was a very windy day but I was happy to have my mom biking alongside me.  The group run was 6.2 miles.  I was the only female in the group and all the guys are faster than me so it turned into a tempo run for me.  We averaged 7:51 pace (8:10, 7:41, 7:44, 7:40, 7:54, 8:00).  The last two miles were slower because I can’t run at 7:40 pace and have a conversation with someone simultaneously.  Overall, it was a great run with great company!  Running with fast people will only make me faster!  Also, this night felt like summer and I loved it!  I had to run to the nearby elementary school after the run to meet my dad who was teaching children the importance of bike helmets so I tacked on a mile cool-down at the end of the night.  Today’s bike total: 12 miles.  Today’s running total: 7.2 miles.

Friday:  Today I ran 7 miles with Angela.  Our pace varied throughout our run because we got slightly lost on the trails.  My legs felt dead by the end of the run which I blame on the biking and tempo run from the day before.  It was a good run nonetheless and the weather was PERFECT!

Saturday:  This morning I biked 19 miles during our group ride that leaves from my dad’s running/bike store.  Although we probably averaged 14-15mph pace, I enjoyed the bike ride and it was nice to spend a morning outside cross-training.  Immediately after finishing the bike ride, I went for a quick three miles.  My legs felt like they wanted to continue spinning in circles as if I were on a bike but they needed to run!  I didn’t look at my watch during the run so I was completely shocked at the end of my run when my Garmin Forerunner 10 told me that I averaged 8:18 pace.  And the funniest part of this whole situation is that it also turned into an unintentional three mile progression run (8:28, 8:17, 8:06).  Considering how crappy I felt during the entire run, I was utterly appalled at how quick my splits were – especially since I physically felt like I was running at 10-minute pace.  It was yet another great day of training!

20160313_101220Sunday:  Sundays are my favorite because it’s long run day!  Angela and I followed my dad and our trail-running friend through the ups and downs of Brandywine. We were at Brandywine one month ago and it was only 8 degrees out.  Today, it was a cool 53 degrees which made it perfect for two hours out on the trails. Because my dad and our friend are training for the Hyner View Challenge that is in a month and a half they wanted to run as many hills as possible today.  Angela and I basically just had to suffer through the torture; however, the hills will make us stronger runners too!  We ran 11.5 miles with 1500 feet of elevation – this is significant elevation for a run in Delaware!  It was a great morning out on the trails and it was an awesome ending to this week.

This week was jam-packed with running, cross-training, and pure enjoyment of the great outdoors! There’s one more week of winter and then I’m hoping the earth will bless us with a warm and perfect spring!

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Ultra Training Week 2

Ultra Training Week 2

I’m feeling overdue for a blog post so I figured it would be appropriate to blog about this past week of training.  Life has been hectic.  Life has been great.  Life has been overwhelming and crazy.  But most of all, life has been life.  Ups, downs, highs, lows, good days, bad days, stress, and love.  Some bad days turned into good days. Some days even seemed to merge together with unknown separation.

The only thing that has seemed to stay consistent is the training plan I made myself two weeks ago.  This plan has guided me through the last fourteen days. I haven’t been stressed about deciding how far to run because this plan pinpoints what I should be running.  Despite having a training calendar that will guide me through the next two months, I’ve become aware that I also need to be flexible with my training plan. Even if the plan says 5 miles but I only run 4, I don’t freak out or stress about it.  There are some things in life you can’t control.  The plan is not set in stone – it’s there as a tool for me to stay focused on the goal.

Monday I ran an easy 3 mile recovery run after completing my 10 mile long run the day before.  I also decided to bike 4 miles because it was a warm(er) day out and I wanted to spend as much time as possible outside before going to work.

Tuesday was my rest day.  It was cold and rainy outside so this was perfect timing for a day to recover.

Wednesday I went to my internship site an hour early to lift.  I lack upper body strength and since I’m an intern at a fitness facility, I’m trying to use the resources I have to become a better runner.  I also ran 5 miles.  I ran two miles with my dog.  She can run up to 8 miles without any issues, BUT it was raining during this run and she was miserable.  So I opted to turn around after running one mile to return her to our warm and dry house.  I completed the remaining 3 miles solo.  The rain stopped which was exciting!

Thursday is the night I attend group runs at my dad’s local bike/running store. One of my best friends was home from Florida and I was able to convince him to join the group run even though he hasn’t ran in over a month.  This group run was also an Altra demo day with one of the tech reps from Altra.  I LOVE Altras so this was a very exciting group run for me. She brought a variety of Altra shoes for us to take out and test on our run.  I decided to try out the Altra Ones. These are their “racing flats”.  At first I couldn’t decide if I liked them, but after completing the run I knew that they would be a great racing shoe.  I ran three easy miles with my best friend (I missed running and chatting with him!) and then went out for another 1.2 miles by myself.  I picked up the pace and ran a sub-8 for my last mile – this is when I realized I liked the Altra Ones!  They’re for fast feet!

On Friday I ran 5.7 easy miles with my dog.  It wasn’t raining so she had a great time running with me.

On Saturday I ran three easy miles with my dad and my dog.  I was scheduled to run four but I knew that Sunday’s run would be extra long so I took an easy day to prepare my body for Sunday.

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Altra LonePeaks remind me that I have #zerolimits

Which leads us to Sunday, today, and my longest run of 2016.  My dad, mom, and I travelled to a state forest that’s about an hour’s drive away.  My mom accompanied us riding a Rocky Mountain fat bike.  My dad picked the 19 mile loop as he is preparing for his 50k in April.  We averaged 10:26 pace which included walking to eat, refuel, and get some video/photo footage of our run. The soft terrain of the pine barrens was welcoming to my feet and legs.  And of course I wore my Altra LonePeaks (my favorite trail shoe) and I didn’t get a single blister.  Although I only had 10-12 miles on my training plan, I couldn’t resist the trails on such a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Trail running is my favorite because you focus all your energy on the trail ahead of you.  You forget your worries, stressors, and emotions.  You just get out on the trail and run.  That’s my favorite.

Weekly total:  39.9 miles.

Here I sit now typing up this blog post with a glass of water to my right.  My legs are a tad bit stiff and I know that I will be sleeping with my Zensah compression socks on tonight.  Because of today’s long run and another great week of training, I feel happy and stress free.  Most of all, I feel alive.

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Stride for stride with my dad
Trick your brain and run.

Trick your brain and run.

It’s 8 degrees outside and we’re ready to go run.

We wear four shirts, gloves, mittens, hats, and our warmest socks and start our Garmins.

We trick ourselves into thinking it’s warm.

And the miles start to pass by.

We trudge up hills that are still snow-covered from a week of spontaneous snow showers.

We carefully place our feet on the downhills to avoid falling.

We check our Garmin to see how far we’ve gone and assume we’re about half way done.

We trick ourselves into thinking that we don’t have that much farther to go.

But the miles continue to pass by.

Six, seven, eight miles done and we sip on icy water and try to defrost our energy chews while still moving forward.

We cautiously cross a frozen stream and try not to get out toes wet.

We question whether we’re lost but trick ourselves into believing we’re going the right way.

And the miles continue to pass by.

We list 20 things that could be worse than running in 8 degree weather.

We become stronger runners from choosing to run on the trails rather than the treadmill.

We acknowledge our bravery for making the choice to run outside.

We have been tricking ourselves into thinking that what we’re doing is ok.

And the miles are almost done.

13 miles later we’re back where we started.

We quickly change into drier and warmer clothes.

We trick ourselves once again into believing its warm out.

The miles are done.

We’re done tricking our brains.

We’re done….

Until next weekend when we’re back for another long run and another adventure.

But for now, this one goes down in the record books.