Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekly presence v.3

In an effort to be more present in my life and utilize this space for documentation and sharing, this is a weekly series to display happenings and special moments in my life.

After my fourth half marathon, I got amazingly lucky with three back-to-back snow days after my day off.  It's been splendid.  I've enjoyed a lot of coffee+Baileys, Parenthood episodes, and completely resting my body post-race.  I've indulged in zero guilt for not working out and taking every moment I can to relish these mindless days.

Bloody Marys are my snow day jam.  I recently switched up my signature recipe by adding pickled okra.  You guys.  This is a game changer.  This is one of my favorite ways to start a snow day.

Cuddles with the kitties have probably been my favorite part of snow days (aside from the obvious fact of not having to put on real clothes or be around children for the day).  They both love curling up next to me and/or in front of the space heater.  Pair those cuddles with a mimosa and a heart-warming episode of Parenthood, I'm in heaven.  

While I've been home this week, I've had plenty of time to catch up on my internet reading.  Here are some links I've been loving:

+I've been trying to be more mindful and rid myself of a lot of the anxiety of my daily life.  I love this five minute meditation that I can do any time of day to refocus and de-stress.

+I love these tips from Christine for staying healthy at home and on the road.  I try to live most days like this when I am home, and then allow myself a bit more freedom and "fun" when on the road for a shorter period of time.

+If this doesn't put healthy eating into perspective, I don't know what will.  I've taken on the motto of everything in moderation but make healthy choices the majority of the time.  It's all about finding what works for you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mercedes Half Marathon.

I had been looking forward to the Mercedes Half Marathon for quite a while.  It was going to be my first winter race, and I was going to get to share my friend's first half marathon experience with her in her own town.  I trained hard; I trained smart.  And, in the end, all my hard work was completely worth it.

The weather varied so greatly in the days before the race.  I was terrified of rain and, as per usual, the weather channel just couldn't get it right.  Saturday was dreary but the rain was only predicted at less than 30% for the 7am race start time.  By the time we woke up at 5:30 on race morning, rain was predicted at an increased 90%! Luckily I had hoped for the best but planned for the worst.  I started my morning with my favorite pre-run yoga from Yoga by Candace.  I was afraid of being starving since I would be awake so long prior to the race, so I fueled up with a half a bagel and coffee before leaving the house.  I ate again about a half hour before the race start with my trusty Blueberry Boomdizzle Picky Bar.  

We parked in downtown Birmingham and walked through a light drizzle to drop off our checked bags.  I decided to ditch my rain jacket, even though it's pretty ventilated and light, because I knew the high 40s temps would have me regretting anything to hold heat.  We didn't have time to go to the bathroom, and I was worried I might need to stop along the course (I didn't!).  Right around 6:45, the rain got heavier.  I was starting to wonder if I should have ditched my jacket.  We stood under an awning for about five minutes before filing to the start line in the rain.  It wasn't pouring, but it was enough to get my hair pretty damp.  I was most worried about my phone getting wet, but the radar was predicting that the rain would only last for about the first hour of the race.


My goal finish time was 2:30 or less.  All of my long runs had been on pace for this (mostly with negative splits), and I felt confident.  I looked for the 5:00 marathon pacer and planned to stick nearby to meet my goal.  Once the gun sounded for the start, it did not take us long to get to the start line.  I was expecting maybe 10-15 minutes like the Rock N' Roll Raleigh did, but I think we only waited about five minutes max. 

KD and I started off running together.  I've learned to go a lot slower than I want to at the beginning of a race, especially a half marathon.  It's tough!  Between the adrenaline and crowds, it's so easy to start at a quick, yet easy, pace, forgetting that you want to maintain for 13 miles!  KD left me around mile one, and I was definitely ok with that since I wanted to pace myself appropriately.  The rain was light yet constant.  There were a few times within the first three miles that I lost track of the 5 hour pace group.  That made me nervous, but I tried to stay focused and remember that I had a long way to go and plenty of time to catch up.  

I'm having a difficult time remembering if it was at mile three or four that I finally caught up to the pacer group.  I believe it was around mile three, which was when the rain got a bit heavier, I caught up and passed them (never to see them again)!  I had some strange left arch problems that would come and go.  I always tried to keep an eye on my pace and not jump ahead.  Around mile 5, I had a really tight left IT band.  There was one point where I almost thought it was going numb.  It came and went, and I just tried to focus on my breath.  Between miles 5.5 and 8.3, there was a pretty consistent elevation rise.  I also did some brief walking between miles 6 and 7 only to drink water and consume my GU.  During those miles, I wasn't too worried about how quick or slow I was.  I just needed to focus on the end goal.

And focus I did.  My official time splits were: 10k 11:10, 15k 11:10 and final 11:02.  I met up with KD around mile 11 and stuck with her until she needed a water break.  After that I ran my heart out to the end.  After realizing I was going to come in drastically under my goal, I started crying.  I tried to mess around with music and get in the zone, but it was useless.  My mind was only focused on finishing.  I finished strong and happy.  

My official final time was 2:24:23.  This was 12 minutes under my Rock N Roll best time.  Aside from general soreness (mainly in my knees, later in my IT band) and being freezing, I felt amazing post-race.  I didn't feel sick.  I was consumed with happiness.  I had worked so hard for this, and I achieved it.  I am confident that this is probably one of the best races I will ever finish.  Somehow the stars aligned for what ended up being the perfect weather (if the sun would have peaked out, I don't think I would have fared as well), the hills were not near as bad as I had anticipated, and I was strong and confident.  It's been a long time since I've seen splits in the 10 minute range, and I am still in awe of how hard I was able to push myself.  I'm so grateful I was able to share this experience with KD and visit Birmingham.  It was a great weekend full of laughs, pains, and delicious food.  I could not have asked for a better race weekend.

For now, I'm enjoying a snow day as an extra reward (and rest time) for my hard work.  Then, it's on to the next race, the next challenge.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekly presence v.2

In an effort to be more present in my life and utilize this space for documentation and sharing, this is a weekly series to display happenings and special moments in my life.

While I don't enjoy the early mornings, I really love the break I have in my day to indulge in the simple things.  I absolutely loved Yes Please!  The color pages and additional pictures made it fun to read.  I thought it was relatable, funny, and real.  It was a quick read for me, and I would definitely recommend it.  And these Caveman Cookies?  They are amazing!  Simple, natural ingredients and individually packaged.  I like to keep them at work for a little sweet treat after lunch or for a snack, so I don't resort to candy.

One of my favorite things to do lately is text D adorable pictures of kittens.  But the cutest kitten will always be my first love.  This is Bailey as a kitten.  At almost nine years old now, he can be ornery and annoying.  But damn if that face still doesn't make me smile from ear to ear.  Pets truly bring so much joy to your life.

This is a scene from my last long run, 12 miles, before my half marathon this weekend!  I ran all my long runs this training session on the greenway near my house and it's been splendid.  I have loved exploring new areas and running past the Raleigh skyline.  My runs have been fast and strong.  I've worked extra hard to stay balanced.  I'm hoping that my snow/ice day snacking didn't get my body too out of whack.  I'm ready to rock this race!  Ps. Peanut Butter GU is the best flavor!

We had some snow/ice here in Raleigh, and it practically shuts everything down.  My county public schools have been completely closed for four days now!  I was lucky enough to have two days off and extend my long weekend!  I'm trying to forget the fact that two-hour delays feel torturous and much harder than my normal schedule (I basically lose my mid-day break, have a ton of kids, and still have to come in earlier than all the other teachers) and enjoy the beauty that was Wednesday's snow.  There are no pictures or videos that could describe the huge flakes consistently falling to the ground.  The moment felt so special, even when there was no one to share it with, that I never wanted it to end.  That and the fact that we won't have to make up snow days with Saturday school :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Favorite ways to sweat.

While I haven't been completely successful with my yoga challenge this month, I have been working hard during my current training cycle (my next half marathon is this Sunday!) to stay balanced with my fitness in order to avoid injury.

My work schedule allows me the perfect window of opportunity to hit the gym in the morning, and I have found that going straight to the gym is my best motivation to sweat.  Over the past few months, I have developed a standard of go-to workouts that are my favorite ways to sweat at the gym or elsewhere.


I still consider running my first love and absolute favorite way to sweat.  It doesn't hurt that it feels like one of the most efficient ways to burn calories.  I have yet to find a good running route near my job so week day runs often occur on the treadmill.  I make it a priority for one of my treadmill runs to be a hill or interval work out.  This helps to beat the boredom and burn some extra calories!  Pop Sugar has a collection of HIIT (high intensity interval training) treadmill workouts for any type of runner or walker.  While distance running will always be my happiest sweating place with the challenge and will to push myself further and complete the distance, it's nice add a little variety to my routine.


Over the course of winter training, I have been strict about adding in lots of ab work and strength.  The Nike Training Club app is my favorite place to find workouts I can use at the gym.  Before my runs, I always start with a "Get Focused" 15 minute ab workout.  I love the app because it incorporates your own music while walking you through your workout.  The work outs aren't videos (which don't tend to stream well at my gym), but you can view video or step-by-step directions for each move.  There is a ton of variety within the app.  I've only recently started using the "Advanced" work outs (you have the choice between Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), and those workouts are hard!  I'm literally dripping sweat throughout the entire workout.  I use this app any time I travel, so I have can work outs on the go.


I still have a love-hate relationship with hot yoga.  With my asthma, I was nervous to try this form of yoga since warmer temperatures tend to make my breathing worse.  Since a lot of the condition is psychosomatic, I found that I appreciate the challenge of hot yoga.  My asthma isn't severe (I don't have asthma attacks), so I don't believe I'm risking my health.  Personally, it feels like the perfect balance between my mind and body.  The only thing I'm ever concentrating on is my breathing, the sweating, the postures, and how much longer until I've accomplished this work out.  This is a work out that pushing all my boundaries and certainly keeps me sweating. The biggest downside?  The cost.

Now that my training is coming to an end, I'm looking forward to finding some new ways to sweat.  What are your favorite ways to work out in or out of the gym?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Balance + Peace :: Incorporating yoga into my daily life.

I don't consider my daily life to be overwhelming or hectic.  I work normal hours, Monday through Friday, and don't have many social outings.  The most stressful parts of my day can be my students or co-workers.  That being said, I am an overly anxious person.  My brain tends to work in overdrive, considering all possible options and outcomes of any given situation, large or small.  This is the reason the idea of putting our house on the market and buying again is extremely stressful for me.  I get the feeling 2015 is going to be quite the stressful year for me.

Over the past six months, I have made an increased effort to bring yoga into my daily life.  I've practiced yoga for almost four years now, but that participation may vary between 1-3 classes per week.  My goal for the month of February is to practice yoga every single day and build my practice into week day mornings before work.


When I started consistently practicing yoga, it was my time to relax and be at peace.  I still prefer a gentle, restorative, or yin yoga practice to any other type.  These classes allow me to stretch my weary, run-exhausted muscles and truly focus on my breathing.  My stresses and anxieties slip away, and I can {mostly} enjoy an entire hour of bliss.  I don't always have the time, energy, or ability to fit in an entire hour of practice into my daily routine.  For that reason, I always make some time for peace and relaxation even if it's with an extended savasana at the end of a practice.  Ultimately yoga makes me more at peace with myself and the world around me, and I want that awareness to become a part of my daily life.


I am in awe of the strength and health of many of my yogi muses.  This is the strength I want to build within myself.  I am trying to amp up my practice by challenging myself more.  With my goal of participating in an obstacle race, I know that upper body strength is crucial.  Yoga can be the perfect balance between challenging yourself and letting everything go.  I can always tell a difference in my running when I've been consistently utilizing yoga to strengthen and stretch my muscles.


If you practice at a studio, the cost of yoga can become increasingly expensive.  Many of the studios I've found in Raleigh average around the $100/month range.  My YMCA membership is around $35, and I certainly can not afford both.  I've been lucky enough to find a class here and there at the Y with which I've fallen in love.  While there is little comparison to actually attending classes at a yoga studio, I've found a few resources that have made my at-home practice a bit more enjoyable.

-I discovered Yoga by Candace last month when I started her 31 day strength challenge.  She has a YouTube channel with a ton of great yoga classes.  I like the options (such as a quick 15 minute pre-run warm up or even a 60 minute flow) and her style. is another great, free resource with a ton of options depending on what you're looking for.  There are a lot of different teachers there, so you may want to play around to find one you really like.
-The Yoga Studio app is amazing!  Again the variety is splendid, and they even have an entire section with runner-specific classes.  You can download a class and utilize it anywhere.  I appreciate that I can easily choose a class based on the amount of time I have.

I have found that I prefer websites with lots of choices in comparison to a DVD because I get bored participating in the same practice over and over.  I'm still trying to find a space in my home where I can truly detach like I can in a class outside the home.

Do you practice yoga?  At home or somewhere else?
How often do you practice? 


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