Thursday, December 18, 2014

Closing Out a Year of Courage...

I teased recently that I would be sharing my word for 2015 soon, but I can't really move forward to 2015 before looking back and reflecting on the year we are in now. My word that I chose for 2014 was Courage. Did I always live with Courage in 2014? Did I do Courageous things every day? Did I jump out of planes or run through war torn streets dodging bullets like other courageous men and women do on a daily basis? No...absolutely not.

But I lived as courageously as I could for me.

The number one most courageous thing I did in 2014 was to sign up, train for, and complete my first and only marathon. But there were also lots of little courageous things on a daily basis. Sometimes just getting out the door was an act of immense courage! hahaha

I knew at the beginning of the year that choosing a word like Courage didn't mean that the road would be paved with easy moments that encapsulated my word. I knew that it would provide the challenges, and it did. But I courageously tackled each and every one of them. I may not have always wanted to, and there may have been times that I first huddled in the closet trying not to have a mental breakdown, but I eventually inhaled my courage and exhaled my fear and found the strength to face whatever it was.

I think the biggest thing I can take away from Courage during 2014 is that just because I was scared by things that were happening in my life and that it wasn't always easy to handle, that simply finding enough courage to FACE IT - whatever it was - was courage enough. It didn't always mean that it all worked out like sunshine and rainbows or that I was able to stand on the mountaintop and declare victory over all things. It meant that I was scared, but I didn't let it STOP ME.

I have a feeling that when I look back on my words years from now that I will always hold a fondness in my heart for Courage. It was a good word and it helped me accomplish some things that I really didn't think were possible.

So farewell, 2014! And goodbye to Courage as my One Little Word. You have changed my life and I will forever be thankful that YOU chose ME and that I was courageous enough to listen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thoughts on My Marathon...

Okay, so any of you that are regular readers know that my marathon was actually back on September 7 of this year and it might seem just a little odd that I'm barely now really doing any kind of serious thinking and sharing on it. I had fully intended to do a race recap and review, but I think I just wasn't really ready to actually process it into bite-sized pieces. It was still just occupying too much of a big picture place in my brain. Honestly, I think I'm still kind of surprised that it even happened. It feels like a dream and I sometimes have to pause for a moment to convince myself that it really DID happen. I actually did complete a marathon. Crazy...

I did write one post where I briefly talked about the marathon and posted a few pictures. If you missed that one, don't worry about going back and re-reading as I will probably say a lot of the same things here and share the same pictures. That's not my usual style, but since I've taken so long to really process the marathon experience I figure ya'll have forgotten it anyways. tee-hee...

My first thought always when I think about my marathon was that I'm really glad I did it and that it was really, really, really hard. I am even more amazed now by folks that run these things repeatedly than I ever was before I actually experienced it. I said it before, and I'll continue to say it until the day I die - completing a marathon is no friggin' joke.

How it all started...with a registration confirmation!
I remember the elation and terror all mixed into one when I hit the submit button on my registration. It felt like I had temporarily given myself over to some crazy bodysnatcher that decided I was crazy enough to run a marathon. That bodysnatcher stayed in control for about 24 hours before I got my mind back and went "Oh sh*t...what have I done?!?!?" I think I pretty much vacillated back and forth the entire time wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into and feeling like a crazy badass that could actually pull off a marathon. hahaha

Flat Kristen...ready to go!
Let's talk training for a training was less than stellar but I feel pretty good that I managed to get through it without dying or serious injury. Some of my training highlights include: new distances that I'd never run before; finding new routes to run; seeing my city from a different perspective; watching my legs gain strength and definition that weren't there before.

One of my favorite training spots was Diamond Valley Lake
A training run in Manhattan Beach with my DIL's and much deserved reward of feet in sand afterwards
A training run in Dana Point through the Harbor
Hmmm...looks like I enjoyed pretending I live near the ocean because a lot of my running was near bodies of water. However, there were also some lowlights to my training: It was hotter than Hades through a majority of my training (more on this in a moment); I did suffer from some anterior tibialis tendonitis - AKA upper foot/ankle pain - for several weeks of my training that threatened to derail me; most of my long runs were completely and totally solo for major chunks of time which could be nice for parts, but were really boooorrrrinnnngg for others. Honestly, it was hard to keep my motivation up all the time when it was so hot and so boring and that I had to get up earlier and earlier to try to beat the sun. I ended up having to abandon Diamond Valley Lake as a training location because there was simply NO SHADE at all and it was just too hot once summer really heated up. So that meant hitting the city streets and running 18-20 miles through town which exposes you to a lot of stinky exhaust while simultaneously having to stay close to restrooms and well populated areas for safety. It was challenging to say the least. If I ever lost my mind had to run another marathon, I would choose one in the early to mid-spring so I could avoid training in the middle of summer. It wasn't very bright on my part to not consider the fact that I would be training during the hottest months of the year.

Hot, Sweaty, Mess...and I wasn't even done...Still had 12 miles to go!
Okay, let's talk actual race...but before we get ahead of ourselves, I'm not talking about my performance in the race. I don't feel the need to go back and rehash all the times I walked or all the times I hurt or how I had blisters on my feet that took about a month and at least a hundred gazillion applications of lotion to repair the damage or how I lost one toenail completely and battered all the rest of my little piggies on a weekly basis. I'm not even going to talk about how long it took me to finish the race because I just don't care how long it took. All that matters to me is that I finished it and that my husband was there to see me cross the finish line.

Giving my Hubby the thumbs up just after crossing the finish line
LOCATION: I had never been to Ventura before and really wasn't even sure where exactly it was at on the map before choosing this race - I just saw BEACH and that was all I needed apparently. HA! So now that I have been to Ventura two times I will say that I chose a really perfect location for my marathon. It is absolutely beautiful there!! Even in early September the temp on race day was upper 60's/low 70's which is still a tad warmer than I would prefer, but was still way cooler than if I was running in my hometown where it is common to be in the low 80's/upper 90's by the time the sun comes up.

Panorama of Ventura Beach from my hotel room balcony
It was easy for us to get there too. My husband and I drove to Los Angeles and took the Amtrak from Union Station (our first time on a train!) to the drop-off platform in Ventura just a short walk from the hotel. We both loved riding the train and would totally do so again. We paid a little bit more for the business class seats and the slightly higher cost was definitely worth the upgrade as you had a guaranteed seat and snacks that aren't available in the regular fare section. It's also elevated seating on the upper level so we had great views the entire time. I will add though that the Amtrak route - even though billed as the Coast Starlight - does NOT follow the coast between LA and Ventura. We really didn't see any water at all while on the train until we were actually in Ventura. So don't do that trip expecting to see miles of beaches...not gonna happen. But it was pretty and I saw areas of my state that I wouldn't normally see.

The afternoon before the race it was just a *tad* breezy...
RACE PERKS: There were a lot of nice little race perks. The race organizers did a great job at communicating with runners throughout the lead-up to the race. They provided a well-organized website with timely and accurate information. One of the biggest benefits, even though I was too far away to take advantage of all of them, is that they offered three free training runs leading up to the race! I thought that was a really awesome benefit to have and I wish I had been closer so I could have done all three. However, I did drive out for the last one with another registered runner and my daughter-in-law who did about 6 miles out with me before turning back. I was so glad I did that training run because it provided a great opportunity to see the location, get a lay of the land, run with others and enjoy the cooler weather for the morning. A major perk of the race in my opinion. The other big perk is the Beach Party that is part of the entire race weekend. They had bands, a beer garden and more which made for a very festive atmosphere.

After the training run
EXPO: I've seen better, but it wasn't terrible. There were a variety of vendors and I even purchased a Flip Belt since I'd been wanting one but didn't want to buy it sight unseen. They had a good amount of race merchandise, but I would have preferred to see even more variety in what was offered. Call me spoiled because I've been to too many runDisney expos which, IMHO, are the absolute best. The hubby and I did have a good time wandering around checking stuff out though, so even though I wouldn't say it's a good enough expo to make it a must-go destination, it wasn't disappointing.

COURSE: The actual race course was pretty awesome. It was an out and back course running from the Ventura Pier to the Port Hueneme Pier and then back again. You have sections that are near the ocean, but I don't remember actually seeing much ocean during the race. You cross a couple little inlets that are quite pretty and the waves crashing on the rocks at the turnaround point were pretty spectacular. There are a lot of long straightaways which is actually kind of nice, unless you like a lot of variety in the scenery, then not so nice. Personally, I liked using the long straights to get in a zone. There's good stretches of shade and lots of places where spectators can cheer (more on this in a moment).

One of the inlets as the sun was coming up

AID STATIONS: There were plenty of aid stations along the way stocked with lots of water and Fluid Performance beverage. They also had more than enough Clif Shot gels at the aid stations that they were designated as being available at. And not just a single flavor, they usually had a variety so you could get one that you liked. I learned during the training run that I really enjoy the Vanilla Clif gel. It is like eating vanilla frosting! I tend to be a Gu Girl, but if I was buying vanilla it would be the Clif brand. I also have to say that the volunteers manning the aid stations were fabulous!!! They were very complimentary and encouraging and ready to help with whatever you needed if they were able to.

I would have LOVED to see an aid station like this! LOL
THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE: I don't have a lot of negatives about the race, but there's always at least a couple things that could be improved, right? Keep in mind that these are only MY observations, others might have had a different experience. There wasn't a ton of spectator support even though there are plenty of locations perfect for it along the course and since it is an out and back, you get double the bang for your buck. It would be nice to see the community support the runners more in the future especially once you get to the Oxnard area where I saw almost none.

The aid stations didn't have anything else but water and Fluid Performance, and Clif Shots at every other one. I always hear about aid stations that have gummy bears and licorice and bacon and pretzels. I didn't see anything like that at all which was weird to me because they had ALL that stuff on the training run that I attended previously. I was a back-of-the-packer though, so perhaps there had been things that were gone by the time I got there. Totally possible. But at one point I would have died for a popsicle, but got lucky that one girl at the turnaround point had ONE ice cube left. I treasured that single, solitary ice cube like it was the last one I would ever have.

The second part on the aid stations was that none of them had any kind of body glide or vaseline available. They did have some folks helping with medical needs so I was able to get a band-aid and finally at the next to last aid station a gal finally had some vaseline. You see, I had some arm chafing and the aforementioned blisters on my feet and would have KILLED for some body glide. (Side note: I had body glide on my person when I left but it fell out of that previously mentioned Flip Belt that I purchased at the expo which was extremely frustrating and disappointing, but had nothing to do with the actual race).

And seriously, those are the ONLY negatives I have. The tech shirt and medal are AMAZING! The race organizers were fabulous. There were a ton of port-o-potties (although there could have been a few more on the route in a couple places, but not a deal breaker), the atmosphere, location and course were wonderful. If it wasn't so far away from me at about 2.5-3 hours driving, I would totally do the race again - well the HALF anyways. hahaha

This picture...well, it just says it all!!!
In closing, running a marathon is hard, but if you want to do one, you could certainly have a great time doing the Ventura Beach Marathon!!

And just in case you think it was just writing this post that took forever, I just barely put my 26.2 sticker (that I ordered the day after my race) on my car on the 7th of this month - exactly three months after actually earning it! Apparently my marathon processing time is 3 months. :-)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ultimate Pre-Race Checklist

I know that racing season is in full swing and since I'm doing my normal pre-race ritual of doing anything and everything that I can to completely bomb my upcoming race, I figured it might be a good time to share this cool graphic so that at least on race morning I can pretend that I nailed my training cycle and hit those workouts, right???

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday Randoms...

Ahhh...a caught up Bloglovin' feed = a happy girl!
I get way too much joy and satisfaction over catching up on my Bloglovin' feed. is like I think it is my job or something and I've just accomplished this monumental task that took FOR-EV-ERRRR and was so super-duper important that everyone should cheer when I finally hit that "Mark all as read" button, then refresh and it still comes up as all caught up on my reading. Speaking of, you can follow my rarely-published blog on Bloglovin' here or by using the button on the sidebar. (That's what is called a shameless plug...)

Speaking of shameless plugging, I have found that I have a very difficult time doing so. I read a lot of blogs (yeah, see item above) and one thing that is fairly consistent in the ones that have oodles of followers is that the author has no problem whatsoever saying "hey - follow me on TwitterFaceGram, you won't be sorry you did!" But me on the other hand, I have all of those things and I have the hardest time even asking my close friends and family to check them out. What the heck is that?? Some misplaced sense of humility or something. But just in case you're interested and I'm in the mood for shameless plugging, here's my feeds for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also follow me on Google+ over on the sidebar.

Found this on Google Images...Is that not hilarious?!?!

Speaking of humility, several coworkers complimented the boots I was wearing the other day and I politely said thank you, but at the same time I was somewhat embarrassed that anyone mentioned them because I felt like they were too flashy or something because people actually...GASP!...took notice of them in a nice way. I did the same thing when my husband got me my upgraded wedding ring several years back. I actually hid it behind my back when I would talk to someone. That's just so silly, but at the same time I can't help it. I don't know where it comes from; it's just kind of who I am I suppose. Which is probably also why I'm a horrible blogger - I never think anyone could possibly care about what I have to say or what is rattling around in my grey matter.

I'm currently totally obsessed with the Serial Podcast. Have you heard of this amazing thing yet??? If not, and you're a fan of true crime stuff, you are missing out and need to get caught up ASAP.

So the title doesn't refer to serial as in Serial Killers, but Serial as in a story told week by week; it's a new episode each week detailing a different part of a crime that happened in 1999. Here's what the Serial website says about it: Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial will follow one story - a true story - over the course of a whole season. We'll follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we'll bring you the latest chapter, so it's important to listen in order, starting with Episode 1. If you need help knowing how podcasts work and how you get one, watch our tutorial.

It is absolutely mesmerizing. I have been sucked down a rabbit hole. I basically binge listened to the first 10 episodes because I didn't find out about this little gem until I read an article in Entertainment Weekly magazine. It's funny, because almost about the same time I was reading it in hard copy format, I get a text from my oldest, who is living in Japan, saying he heard about this new podcast in the electronic version of EW that sounded really cool and that he had just downloaded the first episode. HA! That kid - he is definitely mine. So he started listening, his wife started listening, and I started listening. And let's just say that the text messages between here and Japan have been flying ever since. It's been a good rabbit hole to get lost in and I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to the story. I still don't know if the guy actually did it as I vacillate back and forth minute by minute. And its really made me think about our judicial system and how it works. Maybe I'll talk more about that in a different post as this one is already getting a little long as it is.

My final random for today is that I understand how beneficial Greek-style Yogurt is to a healthy lifestyle - I mean, all that protein!!! OH MY! But, honestly, I haven't liked the flavor of Greek Yogurt at all...until now. I have found my dream Greek in Yoplait Greek Yogurt. It has the thick, creamy texture and slightly tangy flavor of other brands of Greek, but it also tastes pretty darn good with absolutely no additional ingredients added by me. I realize that it may not be as healthy as other Greeks, although I haven't actually researched it so I'm just guessing on flavor alone - but if I can't stand the way other Greeks taste so I dump a bunch of stuff into them to make it more palatable, but I can eat Yoplait Greek as a standalone, then I prefer to go with the Yoplait even if it might have a slightly less healthy profile, which again, I don't actually know if it does. It might just taste so darn good that it seems less healthy for all I know since I'm not a nutritionist and don't play one on TV. (And no, I have not been paid or compensated for this in any way, shape, or form. I just happen to really, really like it a lot).

Is there anything that you get unreasonable satisfaction from completing like I do with my Bloglovin' feed? Do tell...Do tell!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Little Bit of This...A Little Bit of That's just interesting sometimes how it speeds by in a blur. We go along our daily lives collecting little pieces of memories from here and there and before you even know it or have a moment to breathe you realize that days, weeks, months and years have zipped by!!!

I've been pondering a lot lately - this time of year has a way of doing that, no? - about just being present in my life. Actually participating in it instead of letting it fly by with barely a moment's notice. Do any of you do the same thing? Just me?? haha

I think in this day and age of technology and disposability (not a word, but you get the idea...creative license and all) we spend so much time hopping from one thing to the next that we very rarely just STOP and take a moment in. I'm so, so, so guilty of this too. We might take in the BIG life moments like births and weddings and deaths and family vacations, but I'm talking the little moments. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the "Hey Nanas" fifty gazillion times in a single day, the phone calls, the emails, the lunches with friends, the "I love you's", and the trips to the grocery store.

Yeah, the trips to the grocery store.

Like taking for granted that we have the ability to go to the grocery store just down the street from work or home. You do realize that there are places in this world where they have to travel for HOURS to get some groceries? Or the fact that we have money to go to the store and then bemoan the fact that milk has gone up by $.50 a gallon. Some people can't even afford to BUY milk or anything else for that matter.

Okay, okay...I couldn't resist a chance to put David Beckham in here. I don't even care what it you?!?!?!
And yes, you're welcome

I'm gearing up to revealing my word for 2015 and it's a perfect word for me right now. I'm excited for it and I'm excited to live it. I'll be sharing more about it in the near future so just try to be patient until then. If you want to read more about this whole "word" thing you can check out past posts here and here.

Just so I have it down in one place and since I haven't blogged all of them, here's the list of mine and my BFF Rebecca's words since we started. Mine is first and then hers.

2010 - Peace/Joy
2011 - Quality/Faith
2012 - Strong/Let Go
2013 - Light/Story
2014 - Courage/Brave
2015 - TBA

I couldn't ask for a better partner in crime, confidant, BFF...

So why do I include my BFF in this? Well, she's the one that actually introduced me to the one little word concept and it's something we have done together ever since. And it truly has made an impact in both of our lives; together and separately. I can't separate it into just one of us - they just go together. Plain and simple. We always come up with our words completely on our own and then share them with each other once we know for sure what it is. Most of the time, the words actually choose us; we just listen closely to them whispering to us in the background. I kind of think of it like words percolating on the stove. Some come up to the top and pop quickly; others never even make it to the top; and then you have the one that comes to the top, sometimes it might even fade back down before bubbling back up again, and then it just grows bigger and bigger. It is then that I usually pluck it from the stew and make it mine. LOL You probably didn't need that glimpse into my head, but I gave it to ya anyways! ;-)

This time of year is no less crazy than it always is, but I'm just trying to take it all in and enjoy it. Every moment may not be a memory made, and some moments I may want to entirely forget. But the important thing for me is to just be there living with gratitude for all my blessings during these final days of 2014.

Here's a couple of such recent moments:

Black Friday Shopping Selfie with Joshua

Joshua and Angie at the Christmas Tree lot...oh, and Sven of course - can't forget Sven! lol

The Tree - in all its glory. I say it every year, but this year it really IS the best ever!!
Have a great day, friends! Take time to enjoy the moments...

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Slow" Runners

I hear and see it all the time, and I'm guilty of saying it myself on way too many occasions - I'm a slow runner. There's lots of variations and here are just a few: I'm slower than a turtle running in peanut butter; I'm not the fastest runner; I'm slower than most; I'm not running much faster than people walking. The list could go on and on...

And you know what? I think we all need to just quit it already. Just stop with the whole thing of qualifying the speed in which we run or walk or whatever. Just staaaaahhhhhppp.

Because it's actually pretty ridiculous and offensive. Yes, I've laughed at the sayings. I've even sent one to my sister because it was pretty funny. As a matter of fact - it was this one right here:

But you know what my problem is? When I see someone saying that, but then they post their finish times and they are what I would consider fairly speedy. I'm not a super fast runner but at the same time I also recognize that my fast is someone else's slow, and my slow is someone else's fast.

And that's it right there - we all run at different paces and our pace is just that...OURS. What I can run doesn't change what you can run and vice versa, right? I don't run "slow"...I run MY PACE. And honestly, it's still not slower than this:

So let's just stop doing that, okay? No need to make qualifications and dismissals. Just run your own pace, run your own race and enjoy doing it while you're at it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How to NOT Prepare for a Race...

So I have a race coming up this weekend on Sunday - the Riverside Mission Inn 10k in Riverside, CA. This is a race that I have participated in previously; in fact it was my very FIRST half marathon and then I did the 10k last year as well. It's also the second in a 3-part race series.

Half Marathon at Riverside Mission Inn in 2010
Now, I've mentioned multiple times that my plan is to PR in every race distance this year. So since I've only run one other 10k this year and ended up coming in far below a PR because I was battling a stomach bug, this is basically my last chance to meet that goal. No pressure, right?

Not feeling too great, but ready to run the Idyllwild 10k in June 2014
And let me tell you exactly how I'm ensuring I am going to be successful in meeting that goal! Because it's pretty awesome...

1. Sleeping in a LOT - yep, the alarm goes off and I hit snooze for close to an hour until the time for working out has passed and I am now rushing to get ready for work instead.

2. Getting sick - yep, my last 10k I ended up battling a stomach bug; this time I'm battling a nasty cold. I swear I've had it for a week and a half and it still isn't showing signs of letting up. I tried running last Thursday and the congestion in my chest was such that it just didn't feel good at all so I walked it instead.

3. Skipping workouts - I haven't worked out since last Thursday when I somewhat attempted to run, but ended up doing a brisk stroll instead. I skipped working out on Friday; I skipped long run on Saturday; I skipped Monday; and then I skipped today. So that means I have 3 days to get some quality workouts in before the race.

4. Eating ALL the candy - Usually I can skip the candy jar for the most part but the last two weeks I have been acting like I live off of the stuff. It's terrible.

So Dangerous!!!
5. Forgetting repeatedly that I even have a race this weekend - I should be thinking strategy and figuring out my game plan, and instead I was actually surprised when my co-worker mentioned the race this weekend because it was the FURTHEST thing from my mind.

So there you have it - five surefire ways to ensure your race is a not very pleasant experience! Sounds like a great plan, huh?

Seriously though, I'm going to go out and do my best. I recognize that I have a fairly decent training base under my belt so a week of missed workouts isn't going to kill me and that by the end of this week I should be back to feeling 100% from this cold. And I also know that if I don't meet my goal, it isn't the end of the world. The economy won't crumble and millions of fans won't be disappointed. At least I hope not...ha. ;) Kidding...

I still think it is entirely within reason to walk away with a PR for this race. My previous best is 1:16 and some change so really all I need to do is maintain a 12 minute/mile pace for 6 miles. I think that is totally within reason and attainable. I'm not looking to crush my PR, I just need to beat it.

I'll let you know how it all goes! Send me good vibes!