A reminder to myself:

A reminder to myself:

Yesterday I tweeted this:  “Daily Reminder:  take a risk even if it scares you.  Your happiness is worth more than the fear you feel taking the risk itself.”  Even though I’ve tweeted it to remind myself of this more positive mindset, I’m still fearful of taking risks that scare me.  I’m the type of person that likes everything structured, planned out, and crystal clear.  I like to see some sort of direction in where my life is  headed, but lately I haven’t seen a direction.  I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of an intersection where I could choose between 10 different roads.

A lot of people look forward to the weekends.  Everyone celebrates “TGIF”.  But to me, “TGIF” becomes “here we go again, I have work while everyone else gets to relax and enjoy themselves”.  I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party – I’m just stating the facts.  I get bummed out every Friday because I know I’m stuck.  I know I’m going to be miserable for the next 2 days.

So, after feeling all of this and complaining about it, why am I still so hesitant to make a change?  Honestly, I just don’t know.  I don’t have an answer.  I want to have my weekends to do exciting weekend-y things.  But I’m fearful of taking a risk because what if I fail?  Then what do I do?  Then, I’m back to square one. Back at the bottom of the totem pole where I’m currently stuck.  But then again, if I succeed, I won’t be at the bottom of the totem pole.  I won’t be miserable every Friday knowing I have a miserable weekend of work ahead of me.  So…I need to take a risk.  My potential happiness should outweigh my current fear.

I looked back at my last blog post and saw the goals I had typed out to the blog world.  I wanted to start my own health coaching services this month.  I’ve done more talking than doing.  I wanted to paint my room…I don’t even have paint.

But does this mean February has been a fail?  Not necessarily.  I still have that deep down expectation for myself to do bigger and better things.  I just need to take a leap of faith.  I’ve been encouraged by many friends (near and far) to get moving on this leap of faith.  I even received an email this week from a friend from Bloomsburg who sees potential in me to succeed and do great things in life.  Knowing that is reassuring.  Knowing that is a source of encouragement for me.  Knowing that is enough to get me to closer to taking that leap.

So as I stand at this figurative intersection surrounded by 10 different roads, I need to focus on one road, one direction.  I need to choose the road that will take me towards happiness and away from my own self-pity.  I need to choose a road with obstacles in the way so I can become a better person.  I need to choose the road best for me – the road that moves me closer to my goals.

 

Oh, January..

Oh, January..

I can’t believe an entire month has already flown by.  It feels like the first day of 2017 was just yesterday but that’s hardly the case!  January hasn’t treated me poorly, but some days I wish that it would’ve treated me better.  In retrospect, I’m grateful for every day that has gone by, but at times it has seemed like a challenging month.  I can’t specifically pinpoint what has made it challenging.  It’s just been hectic and mind-boggling and wonderful all at the same time.

Let’s start with the lingering cloud over my head.  Let me explain.  I currently work a part-time job that has gone from 22 guaranteed hours per week to 32 guaranteed hours per week.  This I am content with.  I have more income to make payments on my student loans.  I have a little bit more flexibility in what I can purchase and spend money on.  However, there’s not a day that goes by that I question my employment choice.  I work every weekend (Saturday and Sunday) and have work starting at 4:45 AM two weekdays per week.  To begin, I absolutely hate working weekends.  I’m the only one out of all my co-workers that works both Saturday AND Sunday.  My family doesn’t work weekends.  Josh doesn’t work weekends.  I miss out on the weekend adventures I used to look forward to every weekend.  I’m stuck inside while the people I follow on Instagram are out on long trail running adventures.  On weekdays, my alarm goes off at 3:45 AM and I absolutely hate getting out of bed while the rest of the world is still dreaming.  I wake up cold and I wake up tired no matter how early I try to go to bed.  It’s misery to me.  I’m stuck, miserable, and regretting my agreement 5 months ago to work weekends and to agree to the early opening shift.  I’ve talked to numerous close friends about this.  My parents constantly remind me I have to start at the bottom of the totem pole.  But honestly, I can’t even see the top right now.  I have no idea how I’ll ever get away from the bottom of the totem pole.  I see nowhere to go.  I don’t want to work weekends while the rest of the normal work world gets to relax and enjoy their two days off.  I don’t want to wake up 3 hours before the sun rises.  I want something else. I want to be happy.  Out of the 32 hours I work in a week, I’m miserable for 23 hours of them.  So, with all this being said, January has treated my job choices like crap and produced much regret and second-guessing.

January has also made me want to work harder for a job that will indeed make me happy.  I want to be happy 32 hours of 32 total.  I want to wake up with the sun, not before it.  I want to have my weekends to spend with my family, friends, and my wonderfully supportive boyfriend.  These are the things I tell myself when I’m most unhappy.  I need to work harder in order to be happier.  I don’t want anyone to be controlling my amount of happiness.  I am in complete control of my future.  I just crave work-free weekends, no more early alarms, and overall job content-ness.

January has been busy.  With a combination of working, running, helping out with the family business, trying to start my own business, trying to organize my room so I can get rid of the childish pink covering my walls, and attending family gatherings, it’s been chaotic.  There’s so many good things that have happened in January.  I’ve been running more consistently which is great.  Being an Altra Ambassador has augmented my enjoyment of running and the running community.  I’ve tried to squeeze in more post-run stretching sessions (I’ve slacked toward the end of the month though).  I’ve celebrated four loved ones’ birthdays – my dad, my brother, Josh, and my grandfather’s.  I won a $20 Starbucks gift card for walking on a treadmill for 5 minutes (% grade was 30% so it was a tough 5 minutes!).  I’ve made people smile and laugh.  I’ve enjoyed many glasses of wine.  I’ve spent time with my dogs.  I’ve been invited to Colorado with Angela.  I’ve consumed pizza, delicious salads, and delicious desserts!  All good things.  All things that have kept me sane.

I’m overcome with negative thoughts when I have to go to work.  But then I talk to Josh or my friends and family and they tend to reset my attitude.  I go for a run and my mind becomes de-cluttered.  It’s a cycle of negativity and positivity that I can only hope becomes just positivity one day.

I’m hoping to stay mentally focused on my goal in February of starting my own health coaching services.  I’m hoping to repaint my room and redecorate my walls.  I’m hoping to run more miles and become a stronger runner.  I’m hoping to stretch for a minimum of 10 minutes per day to work on my flexibility.  I’m hoping to have more moments of happiness than moments of sadness and anxiety.  I’m hoping to become more confident in my choices.  I’m hoping to be the best Altra ambassador I can be to represent a brand I love.  I’m hoping to continue to be grateful for the days where I’m happy and even the days in which I’m unhappy.  I’m hoping to find new meaning and purpose through my goals. I’m hoping for the best in February.  I’m hoping for a change – a change for the best.

Goodbye, January.  It’s time we go our separate ways.  It’s time for a new month – a short month but a new month nonetheless.  Thanks for teaching me about adult life.  Thanks for teaching me to work harder.  Thanks for giving me happiness, sadness,  gratitude, and most importantly, love.  Thanks for propelling me into a new month with bigger goals so I can get closer to climbing out of the rut you put me in.  We’re one more month closer to spring – and spring means pure happiness, right?

 

I’m setting goals, not resolutions.

I’m setting goals, not resolutions.

As defined by trusty ‘ol Google, a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something”.

On the other hand, a goal is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or a desired result”.

We’re only four days into 2017 and I’ve heard the word “resolution” too many times.  Four days into 2017 and I’ve heard that people’s new year’s resolutions have already been put on the back burner.  I’ve never been someone who set a new year’s resolutions and I’ll tell you why now.  To me, resolutions are simply attempts to achieve a short or long term goal.  There seems to be no backboard for holding you to your resolutions.

I personally believe that goals have firmer foundations for achieved success compared to resolutions.  The definition above states it simply:  goals are ambitions, efforts, and a desire for results.  Goals provide you something to work towards, something to strive for, and something to hold you accountable for your actions.  Goals provide a deadline for your actions to be completed. Goals are continuous efforts that can be extended and grown upon.  Goals teach you to work hard for something you want to do.  Goals help you reach limits you never thought possible.  And once you reach one “limit”, a new limit can be set until you realize limits truly don’t exist.

So what are my goals for 2017?  I’ve set a goal to race the Hyner Trail Challenge 25k for the first time ever (I’m already registered in this sold-out race).  I’ve set a goal to thru-hike the Loyalsock Trail with Josh.  I’ve set a goal to race another ultramarathon in the fall (specific race is TBD, but most likely I’ll be registering for the Green Monster 50k once registration opens).

These three goals aren’t merely resolutions because I have ever intention of achieving these goals.  I won’t change my mind in a week and throw in the towel like most resolution-ers do.  These goals are set, published to the Internet, and have been shared with running partners.  Not only will I hold myself accountable to my goals but now I have my blog readers and my training partners to hold me accountable too.

Will you resolve to take action this year?  Or will you take action to achieve goals?  

The choice is yours.

loyalsock-trail-creek
view along the Loyalsock Trail
Dirty German 50k Race Recap

Dirty German 50k Race Recap

This past Sunday, May 15th, I finished my first ever ultramarathon.  I had signed up for the Dirty German 50k way back in the beginning of January because I knew I wanted to make the transition to ultrarunning.  I was itching for a longer race since I was officially fully recovered from my marathon debut back in November and I needed something to train for.  I had completed another Uberendurance race a few years back (the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 Marathon) so I knew how well organized their races were.  I chose the Dirty German 50k because it was a trail ultra and I knew I wouldn’t want to do an ultra on the road.  It was also described to be “easy by trail running standards”.  In the description it said it would be a great race for 1st time ultrarunners.  This race was basically screaming at me to sign up.  So there I was on my computer on January 2nd signing up for this 50k.

received_10207427398541051Fast forward a few months and there I was on a cool May morning in Pennypack Park standing on the starting line surrounded by other racers.  I was wearing my Altra Lonepeaks, a neon SparklySoul, and my UltimateDirection Ultra Vesta pack.  I was accompanied by my boyfriend and training partner, Josh, who also had committed to running his first ultra on that cool May morning with me.  We had done 85% of all our long runs for the past few months together and we both had the same race goals so we decided to race it together.  Our goal was to run under 6 hours and as close to 5 hours as possible.  His speed and confidence running hills and trails mixed with my everlasting endurance and experience with longer distances made us a perfect team to race this ultra together.  So there we were together standing amongst nearly 200 other racers with an accordion playing German music before we were set off to run 31 miles.

I remember the first half mile to be rather crowded due to some congestion on the trail but I never felt like I was boxed in or stuck behind anyone.  There was always a way around runners if I needed to get around.  My anxiety about the start of the race was soon diminished as I settled in behind Josh and powered through some of the hills at the beginning of the race to get around people.

For the first 4-5 miles we were running with a few other racers as we settled into a pace that we knew we could sustain for the entire race.  We had set out to average about 10 minute pace but my watch kept recording splits in the 9 minute range.  I felt comfortable though and Josh didn’t feel like he was overexerting either so we kept the pace.

I passed a few women while hopping from stone to stone across the stream which allowed me to run right beside Josh now.  At some point in the race we also came across a dog owner trying to re-capture her golden retriever puppy who was just too excited to see all the runners.  Josh and a few other runners stopped to helped her but I (selfishly?) kept running.

There were also some sections of the course that were on pavement due to construction on one of the bridges we were supposed to originally cross.  Josh and I were pretty much alone at this point and we were both in very high spirits.  I was happy we were doing this race together and at this point it just felt like any normal Sunday long run we go on together.

Eventually a woman from NYC named Mary (shoutout to Mary!) who had raced this course before caught up to us.  She gave us a few pointers and tips about ultrarunning and Josh told her all about his race up at Hyner a few weeks ago.  I just listened in on the conversation and laughed at her clever race tips.  It distracted me for at least one mile and we got to meet a very nice person (hope you did well in your race, Mary!  It was nice meeting you!)

The miles were passing by quickly and I was barely paying attention to the mile splits we were running.  We stopped at an aide station I recognized that was near where we had started the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 marathon.  I picked up an orange Gatorade and Josh asked for some ibuprofen which they graciously gave to him.  We continued on our way.  I ate some of my tortilla with peanut butter and raisins in it and Josh ate his Stingers.  Every so often we would pop a Shotblok in our mouth to replenish some electrolytes.  We were feeling good.

At every aide station after that we both would stop and grab a cup of Gatorade to maintain our electrolyte levels and to change it up from the water we were drinking from our packs (Josh has a Gregory which he loves and I have an UltimateDirection with I love).  Soon were heading back towards the finish line which would mark 25k complete.

As we were running up a hill, we heard a cowbell.  Josh made some snide comment about the cowbell and I predicted that it was probably my parents.  Surprise!  There were my parents standing at the top of the hill.  Josh surged up the hill and left me to climb up it myself (disclaimer: he’s a very strong hill climber so I’m used to it).  The next 2 or so miles we didn’t run together but I could still see him ahead of me.  I knew I would eventually catch him once the rolling hills stopped.  Some 25k racers who had started 30 minutes behind us began to pass me  – they were going sooo fast!  Regardless, before the completion of our 1st loop, I had caught back up to Josh and we were running side by side again.

Before race day, Josh had predicted that we would run a 5:15.  Through simple math, this would require our 25k split to be about 2:37.  We came through the 25k split in 2:23.  After some quick math we decided a sub-5 finish was completely attainable even if we ended up slowing down (which we knew was going to be inevitable).  Josh made us a new goal which would be to finish in under 5 hours.

received_10207427468102790So here were are back out on the course for the 2nd loop.  At this point we were pretty much alone except for a racer about 100m in front of us and whomever was sneaking up behind us.  We started passing 25k runners and 50k runners in the opposite direction as they were still working on their 1st loop.  A few 50 milers also passed us in the opposite direction, some of which were going much faster than we were.  I was amazed by how fast they were going for a 50 mile race!

We just kept running, kept drinking, kept eating, kept moving forward side by side.  At aide stations we took no more than 15 seconds to grab what we needed and continue to move closer to the finish line.  We had a deadline now.  One of the other racers called us a “pacing powerhouse” because we were running such a consistent pace.  This gave us the confidence we needed to continue moving forward at the pace we were holding.  We don’t know your name but we appreciate your compliment A LOT.

Along one of the paved sections I was feeling sluggish but just happened to look down at one of my mile splits and see 8:17.  At this point we were already 25 miles in to the race  – why did I just run an 8:17 mile in a 50k?  That was never a split I intended on running and I definitely didn’t feel like I was running that fast.  I decided to just go with the flow and keep running.

We also started running with a woman who was in the 50 mile race who was keeping an impressive pace (I think she was actually running faster than we were at some points).  She was extremely friendly and it once again distracted me from any soreness or fatigue I was feeling.  I don’t know your name but I hope you also did well in your race!

received_10207427470022838Once we were back on trails our legs didn’t hurt as bad from the pounding on the road.  By this point 95% of the paved part of the course was done.  We just had to finish the last 4-5 miles of trail and we would be home free.  We took one last cup of Gatorade at the aid station, saw one of our Instagram followers, saw my parents, and started running up another hill.  I knew at this point that we would be under 5 hours if we just kept pushing.  We did end up powerhiking some of the last few hills and we bombed the downhills as much as we could (well, at least it felt like we were bombing the downhills).  I just kept repeating over and over again that we were so close to being done.  Josh probably thought I’d never shut up about being close to the end.  So. Close.

received_10207427468822808The last few miles are a series of rolling hills but we just kept pushing.  We exited the woods with a little less than 4 minutes to get to the finish line before the clock struck 5 hours.  I knew we had it.  I knew we would run under 5 hours.  We ran towards the finishing stretch, made the last turn into the grassy field and made our way towards the finish line.  We crossed the finish line in 4:58:04.  My Garmin Forerunner 230 recorded we averaged about 9:40 pace – not too shabby!!  My legs hurt but I was happy.  We had totally crushed our original goal of being under 6 hours and Josh’s prediction of us running 5:15.  We had ran our sub-5 like the new goal we had agreed upon mid-race and we had finished our first ever ultra.

At the finish line two patient gentlemen ripped off our bib tags.  The one gentlemen also asked me my age and I was perplexed by this question.  I answered with a fatigued “22” and before I could process what was going on he handed me a box and congratulated me on being the 3rd female in the 20-29 age group.  Well, this was a shock!  Josh and I were handed a hat and a medal that also functioned as a bottle opener (pretty awesome medal if you ask me!).

We staggered further through the finishing chute, exchanged a sweaty hug, and reflected briefly on actually completing an ultra.  Shortly after, my parents found us and congratulated us on a job well done.  At this point all I wanted to do was sit down.  We staggered over to a bench and I slowly lowered myself onto the bench.  We took a post-race picture to further document our accomplishment.

received_10207427421301620I soon started shivering because the air was still a bit cool.  I changed into a long sleeve shirt and we all agreed to start walking back to the cars.  This is where the fatigue and soreness finally hit me.  I could barely pick me feet more than 1 inch off the ground and I had a half mile walk back to the car…uphill.  It probably took me close to 20 minutes to walk that half mile.  Runners who were starting their 3rd lap of the 50 miler probably thought I was being overdramatic or something.  I’m sure I looked ridiculous and because I was staggering I probably even looked like I was somewhat drunk.

Later that night Josh and I indulged in some wine (me) and beer (Josh) and pizza – the perfect way to recover from an ultra!  We reflected on the race and all the wonderful people we met along the way.  Surprisingly neither of us ever felt like we “hit the wall” during the race.  I think this is because we ran together the whole time which allowed ourselves to be distracted by any fatigue or pain we may have had been feeling.  Unlike my marathon last November when I still wore Asics, my feet never truly hurt and my toes never started to bleed all thanks to my Altra LonePeaks and their wide toe-box feature. (I am completely obsessed with Altras!)  Throughout the race, Josh and I also paid close attention to how much and how frequently we were eating and drinking.  I believe that our training was perfect for this race which gave us a great advantage with confidence out of the hilly and trail sections.

Just as this race was described, it’s a great 50k to start with for the 1st time ultrarunner.  The course was extremely well marked and not very technical.  Because of these qualities, I would recommend this race to anybody who is just entering the ultra world.  Uberendurnace races are always very well-organized and they always have great prizes, food, and music (i.e. the accordion player!)

We are both extremely happy and pleased with our ultra debut.  I am beyond excited that I got to accomplish one of my goals for this year.  I’m lucky enough to have done it with such an amazing guy – without him I definitely wouldn’t have done as well as I did.  Cheers to many more ultras in my future!  I can’t wait to do another one!

15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 3 of 3)

15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 3 of 3)

If you missed part 1 and 2 check them out here and here!

#11:  Be yourself.  This seems pretty straight forward but I’ve seen people change they way they talk or act when they’re with others.  It’s extremely frustrating when dealing with someone with a double-sided personality.  The best thing to do for personal growth and life enjoyment is to just be yourself.  If someone doesn’t like who you are then so be it.  And if you don’t like how someone else is behaving or treating you, you have no reason to feel ashamed to cut them out of your life.  Cut out the negative people in your life and I guarantee your state of happiness will increase tenfold.  When you cut out negative attitudes in your life you’ll find yourself drifting more towards people who are like-minded.  These people are similar to yourself in work ethic, motivation levels, and approach to life.  When you embrace your own individual personality you’ll be happier and more truthful to those around you.  Don’t hide who you are because most likely you’re limiting your friendships and relationships with others.  Be yourself – you have nothing to lose!

#12:  Trail running is my favorite:  I think I’ve known this for awhile but this year I’ve become even more appreciative of the trails.  There’s something about being outside, breathing in fresh clean air, and getting lost in the woods that is mentally refreshing.  I’ve found it easy to lose myself while trail running.  I’m not sure what I’m thinking about during a trail run but when I’m done running I feel instantly less stressed and less anxious.  Perhaps I’ve become more appreciative of the trails this year because at college 90% of my runs were on the roads. There’s something special about the dirt shifting beneath your running shoes and leaping over roots and fallen trees.  I may not be a strong climber (and several of my trail running companions will probably agree with that) but I just love being outside surrounded by trees.  Here’s to hoping both me and whomever if reading this blog right now will find new trails in 2016 and that we’ll follow the trail where ever it might lead us.

#13:  I don’t like gambling.  This year I turned 21.  For my 21st birthday, I opted to visit Atlantic City’s casinos.  The appeal of possibly winning money seemed great!  Two of my guy friends and, unstereotypically, my parents came to AC with me to celebrate.  After dinner and some wine, we went to Tropicana to play the slots.  (I know nothing about table etiquette in casinos so we avoided the tables).  I didn’t win any money that night – I walked out with less money than I walked in with.  Granted, I don’t like spending money anyways so I really didn’t even lose that much money, but I was still unhappy that the casino “stole” my money.  That’s when I knew I would never have a gambling problem.  My brother and I also visited family in California this summer and one night we decided to go to a casino.  My brother is only 18 but we went to a casino on an indian reservation where the legal gambling age is indeed 18.  I don’t even think I spent any money that night because I knew that I would probably walk out with less money than I went in with.  On the other hand, I think my brother gambled $5 and walked out with like $30.  Just my luck.  He gambles for the first time in his life, at age 18, and instantly earns money.  This was the second occasion where I realized I would never have a gambling problem.  Casinos and betting of any sort does not appeal to me.  I can at least say I went to a casino to celebrate being 21 but I probably won’t be returning to the slots any time soon.

#14:  Make new friends and keep good friends:  This year, with so many new adventures, I got to meet a lot of new (and awesome) people.  A lot of new friends came from the running community.  As I’ve mentioned before, people from the running community instantly earn my stamp of approval because 99% of runners have the same work ethic and approach to life.  Runners are also extremely easy to get along with.  (That’s why I swear if I ever get married, I’ll probably be marrying a runner.)  There’s some special bond that runners instantly share whether you’ve ran with them once or twice or countless amounts of time.  I probably sound like a broken record, but I am extremely grateful for all my friends who I’ve met through running – you all have a special place in my life and I look forward to the miles that lie ahead of us.  Likewise, I’ve come to learn this year to keep my good friends.  These are the people that look out for each other, give you advice when you need it, and check up on you at random.  These are the people that made this year survivable because without them I would probably be mentally lost.  These are the people that I was excited to share good news with.  There comes a time in your life when friends you thought would be by your side for eternity are no longer there for you.  Or maybe these people were poor influences on your behaviors and actions.  It’s ok to say goodbye to these people.  You deserve the best life possible – after all, you only get one lifetime.  I’ll say it over and over again, I’m the kind of person that would rather have four quarters than 100 pennies.  Choose your friends wisely.

#15:  Be a goal-setter and a goal-achiever:  Thanks to my Believe journal (which I encourage all (female) runners to buy), I set and achieved all the goals I established for 2015.  I had a life-changing year of running that will be hard to beat in 2016.  After running the Broad Street 10 Miler, completing 73 miles on the Appalachian Trail in three days, and completing my first marathon in under 4 hours, I realize the importance of goal-setting.  It’s easy to say “oh I want to run a 10 mile race” or “I want to go on a hike this summer” or “I want to run a marathon one day”.  By writing it down, making a plan, and then actually doing it you’ll feel an irreplaceable sense of accomplishment the day you reach your goal.  There’s a lot of preparation that goes into achieving a goal but it’s the feeling of accomplishment that occurs in the days following a completed goal that make you realize how powerful goal-setting is.  A lot of people will start 2016 with New Year’s resolutions (me included), but by writing it down and putting it somewhere where you see it every day you’ll having a greater chance of sticking to that resolution.  Find someone to hold you accountable for your actions (or lack there of).  Find a new workout buddy or drag your family members into your goal to keep you in check.  And it’s equally important to remember that you can be flexible with your goals.  If an injury comes along, you can alter your goals and then come back to your ultimate goal when you recover.  Set goals.  Work towards your goal.  And achieve your goal.  Let’s make 2016 another great year of goal setting and achieving!

I hope you learned a lot about yourself and your life this year.  Don’t lose sight of your dreams and aspirations.  Love your friends and family and, most importantly, yourself.

Wishing you a very happy new year with many blessings and good health in 2016.