Look how far we’ve come…

Look how far we’ve come…

Last year at this time I was merely going through the motions of everyday life at school.  I missed my family and even though I thought that being on the cross country team would make the transition better, it actually ended up making it a lot worse.  We had cross country practice at 7 AM everyday and the coach didn’t care about the people that weren’t in his top 7.  Everyone ran by themselves. That’s not a team. We trained and trained for just 3-4 meets. That wasn’t worth it to me. I would wake up every morning, half-heartedly go to practice, and then go to the library to catch up on studying.  I missed my old teammates.  I missed my friends and family.  I wanted to be with people of similar values.  I needed to find some real friends who would be there for me when I needed it most.

But now one year later I am a MUCH happier person.

I’m mentally and emotionally healthier.  I wake up excited to start a new day.  My group of friends here are the people that I know will be there for me when I need a good pick-me-up or a good laugh.  I not only have a support system in my hometown, but I have a support system here now that wasn’t here at this time last year.  It’s hard to be sad or upset here now because I know that I’ll always have people to turn to for advice and guidance.  And yes, life can get stressful sometimes, but by surrounding yourself with good people you can find a way to manage the stress in a healthy way.

I’m also physically healthier than last year.  Since I am training for something I actually want to train for, I have found myself looking forward to going out for a run everyday.  I’m embracing the challenge of the hills around here instead of letting them defeat me.  I enjoy every mile whether it’s uphill or downhill because I am grateful for every day I get to go for a run.  My mileage may not be as high as some other runners and I may not be able to average sub-8 minute miles around here but I am happy with my own progress.  There’s no purpose in comparing myself to others who are training for the same race that I am.  Everybody has a different approach to training.  And my approach is what works best for me.  That’s the beauty of the running world.  We may all take different approaches to training for the same race but on race day we all have to cover the same distance and follow the same course to reach the finish line.  

So here I am, one year later, content with every part of my life.  I’ve gained true friendships that I know I can depend on.  I have surrounded myself with people who truly care about one another’s well-being.  I have found my place on this campus and I have found my happiness.  Of course I still miss being home and spending time with my family and my dogs, but my friends here have eased the difficulty of being so far from home which has made living here enjoyable and memorable.  I don’t think I have to state who these people are because you probably already know who you are.  But I just wanted to let you know how important your friendship is to me and that without such an awesome group of people who I can depend on for guidance, support, and prayer, I probably would be going through the motions instead of living out the memories.

What a difference a year can make.

Labor Day Weekend Recap

Labor Day Weekend Recap

Due to Labor Day this past Monday, classes were cancelled which left a prime opportunity for a long weekend of adventures. Since this was the one weekend for the next 2 months that I actually could go home, I opted to make the 3 hour drive home and spend the weekend in NJ in order to gather winter clothes (because I probably won’t be going back home until late November for the marathon) and other miscellaneous items I didn’t pack when I first moved back to school, spend time with family, and show one of my best friends from school where I love. So this is where the adventure begins…..

FRIDAY (the day everything broke except my heart):

My best friend, Sarah, and I departed Friday around noon in hopes of avoiding Labor Day traffic en route to the beach.  We had strategically timed out our departure, as our class schedule permitted, so that we wouldn’t get stuck in excessive weekend/rush-hour traffic.  We enjoyed 2 hours of lovely conversation and quality jam sessions until we hit traffic on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Upon slowing down to about 5 MPH, a strange rumbling noise began to erupt around us.  I was confident it wasn’t my car because I we had already driven 2 hours without a single abnormal sound coming from my car (with the exception of my out-of-tune singing voice). So I drove another 50 meters until I realized that the rumbling noise was indeed coming from my car.  We also predicted that something must be dragging from my car because there was also another unusual sound coming from beneath my car.  I instantly started to worry so we merged over into one of the right lanes to take the next closest exit (the shoulder would’ve been dangerous to sit in because people like to drive rather speedily down the shoulder when stuck in traffic).  So we exited less than a half mile later and pulled over into the shoulder.  I called my mom and dad who were busy working at my dad’s new business.  As I explained what was happening, Sarah hopped out the passenger side door and evaluated what could be making the noises.  Turns out, my entire exhaust pipe was hanging from beneath my car.  It was no longer attached at the front.  I forwarded the diagnosis to my mom over the phone and she suggested that we call AAA.  AAA told me that it would have to get towed because they “couldn’t touch my car” so I kindly declined the offer due to the expense of towing.  My mom/dad then suggested we tie it up with something like rope.  I didn’t have rope (of any sort) in my car.  All I had were my running shoes’ shoelaces and a drawstring bag.  So we opted to save my shoelaces and use the nylon string used in the drawstring bag. As Sarah attached the nylon string, a man pulled over and offered us a bungee cord. At the time, we thought this was a huge blessing.  We kindly thanked the man and he drove away as Sarah attached the bungee cord to the front of my exhaust pipe so it wasn’t dragging on the road.  So we continued off the exit in hopes of finding a parking lot.  Within 200 meters of attaching the bungee cord and nylon string the dragging noise started again.  We immediately found the closest parking lot which happened to be a hospital. The nylon string had burnt off and the bungee cord had fallen somewhere on the road.  So once again, I called my parents.  My dad had no choice but to come rescue us since towing it back to NJ was out of the picture.  I provided my dad with the address of the hospital parking lot we were now stuck in.  Later, to my amusement, my dad told me that my brother had taken our one and only GPS on his trip to West Virginia for the weekend; therefore, my dad was out to rescue us with the mere understanding of what highway/main road we were closest to.  In the hour’s time waiting for my dad, Sarah was making phone calls to her sister, her sister’s husband, and her parents – all of whom suggested potential options to solve the problem ourselves.  We didn’t follow through with any of the options though because I knew my dad was on his way.  My dad arrived about 90 minutes after this whole situation began.  He assessed the problem and decided to just break the entire exhaust pipe off.  To put this into perspective, the exhaust pipe basically runs from the back of the car to just about the back of the front tires.  He stashed the rusted exhaust pipe into the bed of his truck and told Sarah and I that my car was still drive-able, but would sound rather obnoxious.  So we continued on our way.  We sounded like a monster truck while we drove down the highway.  Sarah found this amusing.  I found it embarrassing.  But I am extremely grateful that Sarah was with me when this whole drama began because I probably would’ve been in tears without her.  My dad returned to work at his business while Sarah and I continued on our way to my house.

We arrived to my home 5 hours after we had departed from school.  We received the typical greeting from my two dogs who were excited to see both me and the new person I had brought home.  They love meeting new people! Considering we had had a stressful 5 hours of travel, I cooked us some pasta.  During my hour at home I also managed to break a small glass bowl that I accidentally dropped from our cabinets.  We had also already made plans with my parents to get ice cream at a nearby ice cream place we had never been.  So after finishing our well-deserved meal, we drove to my dad’s business to meet my parents.  They closed up shop and we travelled a mere 10 minutes to a delicious ice cream place.  The line was extended outside the door to the ice cream shop! This is an obvious sign that the ice cream must be delicious and well worth the wait!  I observed the menu searching for my flavor of choice.  Before I had reached even the middle of the line, the place ran out of my first choice of ice cream.  I ended up getting Sam’s Cake Batter Confection which was vanilla ice cream with cake batter pieces, a taste of chocolate fudge, and graham cracker crumbles.  My mom got white chocolate macademia nut.  My dad opted for lemon donut and Sarah chose a brownie and cake batter combination which she described as “a bunch of delicious uncooked ingredients”.  We returned back to my home after finishing our delicious ice cream choices.  This is when I discovered that the watch band of my Garmin had broken off.  This was item #3 that had broken in one day (if you lost count:  my car’s exhaust pipe, a small glass bowl, and now my running watch).  I came to the conclusion that the only thing that didn’t break on this Friday was my heart.  At least that was a good thing!  My dad fixed my exhaust pipe before the night ended which I am extremely grateful for!  This day was extremely eventful and I knew after a good night’s sleep that the rest of the weekend would be well worth the stress and drama of our Friday afternoon.

Saturday: (the productive day)

My dad’s business holds weekly bike rides for cyclists looking to meet up with others to get a good workout in.  I somehow managed to convince Sarah to participate in this outing so we woke up at 6:45 to go on a bike ride at 8 AM.  We rode 11 miles with my mom on a pre-planned route.  It was a beautiful morning and before the morning had even reached 9:30 we had already biked 11 miles.  This made us feel productive!  Upon returning to my house we discovered that one of my dogs had eaten Sarah’s toothbrush…..this was an “L-O-L” moment and one more thing to add to the list of ridiculous things that had already happened this weekend.  We did school work for about 2-3 hours and then decided to play Super Scrabble.  This is simply a larger Scrabble board with 200 letters and quadruple word score spaces. Our game took 2 hours and Sarah won by just a few points which would begin my weekend of a losing at games.

Also, during our time playing Scrabble we assisted two ultra-runner friends who were trying to run 12 hours on the trail next to my house.  When they arrived to my house, they were already 44 miles into their run and they were trying to reach 50.  Due to the heat of the day, I offered them our hose to cool down.  They unreluctantly took the hose to cool down.  In the meantime, I retrieved the two chocolate milks that my parents had stashed purposefully in our fridge for our runner friends.  I gave them the chocolate milk which would provide them with renewed fuel to finish their run.  After about 10 minutes on our front porch and rehydrated by chocolate milk, they continued on their way.  My dad would later meet up with them on the trail to help them finish their 50 mile run.  They finished in just about 10.5 hours.  Once again, ultrarunners never fail to amaze me and I can’t wait to become an ultrarunner myself!

My grandparents came over for a BBQ dinner.  We enjoyed hamburgers (or in my case, veggie burgers), various BBQ salads and watermelon.  For dessert, we had brownies and dirt cake….YUM!  Brianna also made a guest appearance! After my grandparents went home, Sarah and I decided to watch The Hunger Games while playing Mexican Train Dominos.  Now, let me explain something:  Sarah had never played Mexican Train Dominos before. We played throughout the entire length of the movie (another 2 hours worth of time) and Sarah won all but two rounds.  This was game #2 I had lost for the weekend.  And I had lost against a beginner….

Sunday: (a day of relaxation…kinda)

I began my Sunday at 5:45 AM because Angela invited me for part of her long run with her and friend/training partner Brittany on the trail that runs right next to my house.  Angela and I had decided to start running from different parts of the trail at the same time (6:15 AM) and run in the same direction so we could meet each other half way.  We met when I had reached the two mile mark.  My mileage for the day was scheduled to be 8 miles. We ran together and then “picked up” Brittany who was planning to meet us at 7 oclock. At this point I was 5.5 miles into my run.  We ran in the direction of my house so they could continue on their long run.  Angela had planned to run 16 for the day and Brittany planned on running 11.  We would perfectly hit our mileage goals for the morning thanks to our strategic planning.  I returned to my house with exactly 9 miles on my Garmin.  Here’s a picture of what I wrote in my Believe journal because I always enjoy catching up with both Angela and Brittany and talking about running and life.  They are both wonderful people and fantastic runners that I truly admire!

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20150906_163713Considering it was only 7:30 AM, I showered, ate pancakes for breakfast, and went to church with my parents and Sarah.  We also had planned to go the beach this day.  I texted my aunt/uncle whom I assumed would be down the shore with my cousin.  We drove to the beach, conveniently found a free parking spot after patiently searching for one and met up with aunt, uncle, a few family friends, and my 6 year old cousin who was extremely excited to have more people to play in the ocean/sand with.  We spent some time playing in the ocean with him, found some full, unscathed shells, and buried my 6 year old partner in crime.

After the beach, we were starving so we drove towards the boardwalk section of the beach.  This is where my parallel parking skills came into play.  Since I am stubborn and refuse to pay for parking when I knoooow there’s free parking available, I opted to continue searching for a usable parallel parking spot.  When we did indeed find a usable spot, I made a (maybe illegal) K-turn, and parallel parked like a boss (if I do say so myself).  This was extremely exciting for no reason in particular.  We walked about 3 blocks to the boardwalk and searched for a place to eat.  We opted for a food court so Sarah could get a non-vegetarian meal and I could get a vegetarian meal.  Of course, I choose pizza.  I ordered 2 slices of cheese pizza.  When the pizza came out and the man behind the counter sliced the pizza, apparently he didn’t cut it evenly.  The guy passing out the pizza to the customers told me that the slices looked small and that he would give me 3 slices instead.  HA!  Either A) I looked starving, B) he knew I really really realllly liked pizza or C) this was his way of flirting in a creepy-pizza-guy-kinda-way.  But hey, I wasn’t about to turn down an extra slice of pizza if it wasn’t going to cost me any more money. We ate our dinners and continued walking down the boardwalk.  We decided to play a game of mini-golf of Sarah’s choice (since I’ve played at basically every mini golf place the boardwalk has to offer).  I knew I was winning the game (by what I thought was a comfortable amount) so at the last hole in which there’s the chance to win a free game of mini golf, I jokingly told Sarah that if she makes the last hole she wins.  Just as I had finished my sentence, her golf ball made it into the hole and she won a free game. With that being said, (if you lost count) I lost game #3 of the weekend.

20150906_192105We continued our relaxing walk down the boardwalk on the beautiful Sunday night.  The air was warm but the breeze off the ocean made it cooler.  We stopped to take a few pictures, shop around, and get another dose of ice cream. This time I got banana peanut butter and Sarah got an ice cream called Muddy Sneakers (I forget its ingredients).  Before leaving the boardwalk I encouraged Sarah to try Johnson’s Carmel Popcorn.  It’s so tasty! Covered in sand and the ocean’s misty breeze we left the boardwalk content with the day’s smooth-sailing events and grateful for each other’s friendship.

Monday: (actual Labor Day!!)

This day I “slept in” and woke up at 8 AM to go for a 5 mile run with my dad.  We discussed my upcoming marathon training plan that he had completed while I was at school for 2 weeks.  I am very grateful to have my dad as my coach. Sarah and I cleaned up our belongings and packed up my car.  We planned to travel to her house which is half way between my house and our college.  So we drove to her house with no car issues whatsoever (thank goodness!!!).

Sarah has 8 siblings so when we got to her house we were welcomed by many smiling faces!  We helped prepare dinner (I had a homemade quinoa burger…YUM!).  After dinner and dessert we played a few rounds of Mexican Train Dominos.  I believe I was winning but then we decided to go outside and play wiffle ball.  It was a classic game of boys vs girls.  Sadly, in the last inning the girls lost their two run lead and ended up losing (this is game #4 that I lost for the weekend).  We ended the night with a bonfire.  Overall, it was a great Labor Day.

We travelled back to our college early this morning before our morning classes.  I am so glad that Sarah and I got to spend the weekend together.  I am so grateful for our friendship because we keep each other sane (even if we’re both super competitive and I lose games against her all the time).  I’m also glad I got to see my family and friends over the weekend too!  I am always sending my love back to NJ.  Now that summer is “unofficially-officially” over, we can all focus on the next few months of classes and enjoy the rest of the adventures to happen throughout the semester!

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Friendship is a two-way street

Friendship is a two-way street

Friendship is one of the most valuable aspects of our lives.  We turn to our friends for support and guidance.  We spend time with our friends laughing, reminiscing, and planning new adventures.  We ask friends for advice when we need the honest (and sometimes difficult) truth.  We look to our friends when we need reassurance.  Whatever the case may be, a friend cannot be a friend by themselves.  In order to be a friend you must be willing to start and maintain a friendship.  And that friend in return must do the same.  Therefore, friendship is a two-way street.

visit with sarah

In the past week I’ve been able to re-connect with five of my best high school friends (see the beautiful pictures below!) Despite the fact that we graduated high school three years ago, all went to different colleges, and have experienced life in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, we are still able to come together and catch up with each other.  Sadly, due to time constraints, other “adult” responsibilities, and our varying semester schedules, we are only able to re-connect about twice a year (in a good year). Regardless, we still care for each other and still can laugh about ridiculous things together.  We make sure that our own individual lives are headed in some sort of direction.  We find ourselves reunited again over our future and what life has in store for us next.  Since graduating we’ve had different pasts, but we are able to rekindle our friendship when we DO spend time together which I find irreplaceable.

trapped philly  flash pool party

Referring back to the whole “street” analogy:  think back to when you have driven down a dead-end street.  If you are an observant driver, you probably saw the “no outlet” sign warning you that the street would soon end.  When you got to the end of the street, you probably had to try to find a driveway to turn around in.  Or maybe you made a 7-point k-turn. Whatever the case may be, your drive would’ve been a lot easier if the street wasn’t a dead end.  The same goes for a friendship.  But in a friendship, there should never be any dead ends. Why?  Because a friendship’s street should extend beyond what the eye can see. It should extend beyond a sign warning you that there’s “no outlet”.  No matter if your friend lives two miles away from you or two-thousand miles away from you, this street shouldn’t end.  The language of speaking or writing doesn’t change – you can still communicate to each other.  Life may get hectic but in this current world you can easily send someone a quick text asking “hey, how’s your day going?”.  The person might not be able to respond for a few hours but what’s the rush anyways?  Eventually you’ll probably get a response.

Friendship is a two-way street because it takes two people to form a friendship. One must communicate to the other when they need guidance, reassurance or just someone to talk to.  Not only does it take two people to form a friendship, but it also takes two people to maintain a friendship.  Sometimes life gets in the way of constant communication with a friend.  We may go days, months or even years without seeing a close friend.  But we must all understand that even if life keeps friends physically apart from each other for days, months, or years, a true friendship can withstand days, months, and years of separation.  

I myself must be reminded of this sometimes.  And I hope you, the reader, are able to comprehend this too so that you can treasure your friends.  May you always value the friendship that can last through the most brutal of storms. May you always rekindle old friendships and hold tight to new ones.  May you be patient with the changing tides of life so that you can develop a closer bond with the ones you’ve learned to love.  May you reach out to a friend in need and lend a shoulder to cry on in desperate times.  May you realize that friendship, no matter how near or far, can withstand even the strongest winds.  May you value your friends eternally so that you can learn to love yourself as much as you love your friends.

For the Love of Long Runs:

For the Love of Long Runs:

Long Runs:

They build strength in your muscles to outlast pain.

They build strength in your heart to endure long durations of stress.

They make you feel stronger than you’ve ever had before.

But they’ll give you more than just physical strength.

They give you a mental boost.

Going on long runs with friends give you over an hour of uninterrupted time together.

No cell phones, just miles.  And miles.

So you start talking.

Sometimes talks transform to rants.

(And your pace may get unintentionally faster)

Sometimes rants transform to your life concerns and worries.

But in those miles you have someone to talk to,

someone to confide in.

Someone that will tell you what you need to hear.

And before you know it, the long run is over.

Your legs feel tired.

You’re ready to chug some Gatorade.

But you’re happy.

You’re stronger.

And you’re grateful for a running buddy.

And that’s what makes you come back for another long run.

Another 10, 11 or 12 miles.

It doesn’t seem so long when you know that the miles that lie ahead of you are full of life, talking, and friendship.