Westward Bound

After several years of dreaming about running the Mother of All Relays, this Friday I will finally make my way to the starting line at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. Over the course of two days my 11 Wild Berry teammates and I will cover 200-ish miles through beautiful Oregon.

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We received our itineraries from Nuun for the week and I’m kinda-sorta-maybe-ridiculously pumped for what’s in store for us. I poked around on Yelp and Googled “Top 10 Things to Do in Seattle” over the weekend, compiling a list of restaurants to try and landmarks to visit. Also if I could find a nametag somewhere that reads “Hello, my name is: TOURIST” that would be ideal.

After skimming flight times and plans for the week, the amount of sleep I won’t be getting between Wednesday and Sunday is glaringly obvious. Maybe I should have taken another day off post-relay?

Wednesday: 3:30am wake-up call, 6am flight to the west coast

Thursday: all sorts of jetlag, 5:00am wake-up [guaranteed it] – 8:30am shakeout run

Friday: 4:30am departure for Van 1 of Team Wild Berry – proceed to stay up for 36 hours

Saturday: still awake from Friday, most likely suffering a severe case of delirium

Sunday: 5:30am departure for Seattle – fly for umpteen hours – return home to Austin at midnight

Monday: sleepwalk to work.

Stay tuned for incoherent tweets and desperate pleas for all of the coffee in all of the land. But guess what? I don’t care! Because I will be running HOOD TO COAST and it’ll be 110% worth it.10418999_927601913921803_1130609836037782024_nNow, let’s take a look at the legs I’ll be running on Friday/Saturday. I’m runner #6 [Van 1] which has the 4th most miles and the 4th most difficult legs. That freaked me out a little bit while typing it. Here’s what I’ve gotten myself into:

HTC Relay - Legs for Runner 6

NBD, just a few hills.

I was runner #6 during Ragnar Cape Cod as well and loved feeding off the energy at every major exchange. I’m also feeling pretty damn lucky to have snagged a spot in Van 1, since due to logistical issues and traffic Van 2 cannot go up to Mt. Hood. Being completely new to the PNW, I have a feeling the views will be amazingly breathtaking.

The HTC packing list is queued up in Google Sheets and I should be able to start check-check-checking things off tonight as they go into my bag. We have the option of leaving a larger suitcase at Nuun HQ during the relay so I’m struggling with whether I want to stuff the duffel to the brim or have a little extra breathing room for souvenirs in a suitcase on the way home. But larger suitcase = baggage fee. Decisions, decisions.

I have most of the day Wednesday and a few hours on Thursday free to explore all that Seattle has to offer. Any must-sees [other than the Space Needle, Starbucks, Pike Place Market, etc.] or restaurants I need to find my way to?

Life Lately

I don’t want to be different than every other blog on the Internet, so let me start out by saying: OMG guys, it’s August! Can you believe it?! This year is just flying by!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way – let’s catch up on a few things, shall we?

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1. I’m 110% over summer. Almost positive I say this every year. Sure, Austin has only seen a handful of days over 100 degrees making it an exceptionally mild year for us. Lora, if it was you who brought these “cooler” temps then you’re never allowed to leave. While we may not have broken 100, we’ve been in the high 90s most days and the daily low is between 75 & 80. This occurs somewhere in the 3-4am timeframe and is hideously accompanied by 90% humidity. I’m jealous of you northerners flaunting your windows-open weather and enjoying morning runs in the 60s. Anyway, I’ve decided it’s definitely okay for us southern state dwellers to complain about how hot it is since we spent all winter listening to the rest of the country complain about how cold it is. What’s fair is fair.

2. Recently I received a promotion and have been splitting time between training my replacement and transitioning into the new role. I had been in my past position for two and a half years so I’m really excited for the challenge and experience in a new role. That being said, work has been keeping me very busy. The hours are a little longer but it doesn’t really bother me until we’re eating dinner at 8:30. Once the transition is over everything will settle down. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

3. With marathon training starting in mid-September, we decided it was time to clean up our eating habits. 3 weeks ago we switched to a modified Paleo lifestyle. I say modified because we still have coffee, sweet potatoes and dark chocolate on occasion. Moderation! In the first 2 weeks we collectively lost 14 pounds and it wasn’t terribly hard to stay on track. I also noticed a significantly positive difference in my sleeping habits, which was a welcomed surprise. Last weekend while friends were in town we definitely bent the rules [because pizza. Tex-Mex. beer.] so we’re starting from scratch again.

Via 313 - Craft Pride

The plan is go hard for 30 days to allow our bodies to adjust and then maintain an 80/20 balance afterwards. The only downside is all of the cooking. The prep work can be tedious and letting a spaghetti squash cook for an hour in the oven after walking in the door from work at 7pm results in several late dinners each week. Eventually it will be second nature but for right now I’d rather just pour a bowl of cereal and call it a day.

4. Relay #2 is just around the corner! It’s hard to believe Hood to Coast is only 3 weeks away. I’ve never been to the PNW so spending 4 days out there should be pretty damn fantastic. Much like my last foray into slap-bracelet world, I haven’t met a single one of my teammates in real life. Each and every one of them is a Nuun Ambassador so we’ll have that in common at least. I’m fairly certain this girl and I will get along just fine, based on her appreciation for the Red Sox and stellar social media posts. The sarcasm that girl throws around unabashedly is top notch. I also just found out my best friend from high school will be out there running HTC as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to rendezvous on the beach in Seaside Saturday night. This will be the second Seaside city [next to our neighboring one in NJ] we’ve wreaked havoc in. Can’t wait.

5. Sox has pretty much turned into Dora the Explorer on our hikes and two weeks ago managed to snag a sweet case of poison ivy. Thankfully she didn’t eat any or it could have been a lot worse. Her poor face did swell up though. Dog - Poison Ivy

Sox - Poison Ivy

Sad puppy. Google Machine to the rescue, since it was Sunday and a visit to the emergency clinic would likely result in a $200 bill. A few rounds of Benadryl and she was good as new. Now that we’ve seen what Benadryl can do to her, we sometimes talk about giving it to her when she’s being spaztastic and we’re trying to sleep. Kidding, kind of. Parents of the Year over here.

6. Weird Al released “Word Crimes” [his spoof on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”] and it touches on almost every grammatical error I find myself getting fired up about. If you’re passionate about using the English language correctly, you’ll love this video. If you’re one of my friends on Facebook who doesn’t know what a run-on sentence is, writes words like L8R, or misuses ‘literally’ on a regular basis – you might not understand most of this video. But plz watch it neway, k thx.

7. I probably spent too many dollars at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but you won’t find any traces of regret here. I was able to grab a tote for work large enough to hold my beast of a laptop but small enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m carrying the entire world on my shoulder. I’ve been on the hunt for 6 months so it was nice to finally quit that adventure. I also picked up my first pair of Fryes– a little gift to myself for the recent promotion. Treat yo’ self, kids.

8. I had the absolute best Manhattan of my life last weekend at Travaasa. Not usually one to choose Makers Mark over other whiskeys but the bartender said he’d make one with it for us and we could order something else if we hated it.

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Rather than using sweet vermouth and bitters, he used a bottle of something delicious from Barbados that sent the Manhattan way over the top. Between the two of us over the course of the evening we sent the bartender dashing out of the building to grab another bottle of Makers after flying through the first and landed ourselves a pretty healthy bar tab. Sadly, I can’t recreate this cocktail at home unless someone wants to make a quick trip to Barbados for me. Any takers? I will pay you in tasty whiskey beverages.

And that’s all folks! Until next time…

Packing for Ragnar Relay Cape Cod

While scouring the internet for Ragnar Relay packing lists, there was a common theme: don’t bring a huge bag and only pack the necessities. I condensed my own list down pretty far but it still seemed like a stretch for it all to fit in a reasonably sized bag. Apera reached out earlier this year and offered to send me one of their bags to try. I’ve been using it for several months but wanted to wait until after putting it to the true test in Cape Cod before sharing my thoughts.

So, here is all of the crap I was attempting to cram into their Performance Duffel:

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Packing

The Usual Suspects

3 sets of running clothes packed into separate bags specifically marked for each leg, Road ID, 2 pairs of running shoes [there was rain in the forecast so I wanted to make sure I had a backup pair], flip-flops & sweatpants for downtime, fuel [Nuun / Picky Bars / Honey Stinger Chews], compression socks/sleeves, The Stick to work out kinks between runs [TSA didn’t take it away, hooray!], anti-chafe stick, phone wall & car charger, auxiliary cable for van music, Garmin & charger, iPod shuffle, headlamp, reflective vest, Nathan handheld, hat, sunglasses, iFitness belt, hair brush, elastics / bobby pins, toothbrush / toothpaste, deodorant.

Good Decisions

Spike Bag: This was super helpful to keep all of my frequently used items in, rather than having to rummage through my duffel in the back of the van every time I needed something. The spike bag held my headlamp, reflective vest, portable charger [see below], cowbell, runfinity scarf, Picky Bars, wallet, and extra hair ties.

Jackery Giant: Obviously being away from an outlet isn’t ideal when you spend a lot of time on social media, so the Jackery was a life saver. This particular model will charge my Samsung Galaxy S4 three times, which was more than enough to get through our time in the van. There are smaller, lighter options but you won’t get as many charges out of it. This was perfect for the weekend.

Colgate Wisps: A last minute addition to my cart in Target, but these minty little gems were well-loved by everyone in our van. It’s funny how much better you feel after “brushing” your teeth with a Wisp at 3am.

Dry Shampoo: Sure, this might be strictly a vanity item but if you sweat while on your first run, you might not want to spend the rest of the weekend hiding under a hat. The travel sized can took up minimal space in my bag and helped freshen up the lion’s mane in under a minute.

Apera Performance Duffel - Pearl

Back to the packing. The Performance Duffel had plenty of pockets, possibly even too many considering two weeks after I got back to Texas I couldn’t find my compression socks or sleeves. Apparently there was a pocket I forgot to empty. There’s 10 total pockets, including two in the front for water bottles and two spots on each end for shoe storage. In a previous bag, there was a separate compartment on the bottom for shoes but unfortunately when it was filled, it took up space in the bag’s interior. With the Apera bag, I was able to fit a pair of running shoes in each end with absolutely no impact on the space inside!

Apera Performance Duffel - Shoe Storage
Even with all of my crap packed inside [yes, ALL of it fit – a Ragnar miracle] the padded shoulder strap made it comfortable to lug around the airport. Heading up to Boston it served as my carry-on and fit comfortably under the seat in front of me. On the way home, I used it as a checked bag to test the durability and surprisingly, it arrived in Austin unscathed. The huge skeptic in me was absolutely positive the baggage handlers were going to ruin this thing.

I was incredibly pleased to see how well the duffel performed for traveling, even though it appears to be used mostly as a gym bag. The pockets made it easy to keep everything organized and the bag was able to hold much more than I initially expected. This will definitely be my new bag for weekend trips. Simplicity FTW.

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Apera Bags

Apera bags inspire a healthy, active lifestyle. The interior and exterior of each bag is coated in antimicrobial protection, with vented compartments and linings which can easily be wiped clean. Included is a removable washable insert to store your wet gear in, keeping it away from the rest of the items in your bag. Also, Apera donates a custom bag to a Special Olympics athlete for every three bags they sell. Pretty cool, right?

 

Apera’s Current Deals:

*Anniversary Sale: All bags are 20% off with the code SUMMER2014! [ends July 31st]

*All Duffel Packs are 40% off

*Time to Get the Blues: All blue bags are 40% off

*Monthly Giveaway: Sprint Pack, enter to win here

It’s a Choice, Not an Obligation

This post has been sitting in my draft folder for quite some time and floating around in my brain even longer. It’s hard to write about certain topics without feeling like you’re going to ruffle feathers or have people jump down your throat. I’m certain it won’t stop the questions from coming, but at least it’ll let me vent a bit about why the answers are the way they are. 

In the 5th grade I turned to my best friend and declared I wasn’t going to get married or have children. She laughed at me but I was quick to assure her how serious I was. And everyone else when I told them. “You’ll change your mind when you get older,” they said.

But I knew I wouldn’t. 

The idea originated while thinking about my future. Yes, I’m well aware it was a little early in life to start thinking about my future. If I were to work and focus on my career, would I want my child to grow up in daycare? I would miss their childhood. That wasn’t something I was willing to do. And I wouldn’t ask my significant other to give up their career to stay home with our child. It wouldn’t be fair, in my opinion. Since I wanted to be in an equal relationship and wasn’t willing to let my child grow up with a nanny or in daycare, it was clear having children was something that wouldn’t work for me. Let me reiterate – for ME. Not for everyone.

Most people would read that paragraph and immediately call me selfish. And rightfully so. I mean, the audacity I must have to want a job to pay bills and support myself. I’ve always been an independent person, sometimes even working 2 or 3 jobs to ensure everything would be paid. I need financial security. I couldn’t imagine not working because what if, God forbid, my significant other & I were to split up? After years of unemployment I’d be thrown out into the job force expecting to find a job in a world full of much more qualified people. I cannot [and will not] rely on someone else to pay my bills for me while I am physically capable of doing it myself.

I’m not a normal girl. I don’t have the biological clock that supposedly ticks inside of you, driving you to procreate “before time runs out”. The countless baby photos strewn all over my Facebook and Instagram feeds don’t make me fall all over myself or cause my ovaries to ache. Side note: what does that even mean, to have your ovaries ache when you look at a baby photo? I don’t have a perfectly curated Pinterest page chronicling my dream wedding or wonder how Brad will propose someday.

Although it’s changed somewhat over the years, society leads you to believe natural life progression for a woman is marriage –> baby –> house. Apparently all you need are those three things and you have life figured out. People are always asking when Brad is going to “make me an honest woman” and if children are in our future. The shocked face and silence after responding with ‘maybe never’ and ‘no’ sometimes causes me to wonder if I’m making some kind of mistake.

But then I remember I’m not.

Brad and I both work hard to be equal partners in our relationship. We fight less than most married couples I know because we actually talk about our problems rather than sweeping them under the rug and pretending they don’t exist.  We bust our asses at work day in and day out. There is no “his paycheck” or “my paycheck” because the money is ours. Neither of us are interested in having children, so we’re not having them. I still can’t comprehend why this concept is so hard for people to understand. We’re doing what we want and because it’s our lives, these are decisions we have to live with for the rest of our lives. And if being a dual income household with no kids is something which makes us happy, why isn’t that acceptable?

We may be unconventional in buying a house first and not being interested in a wedding or having children. When you’re in a relationship, you have to work hard to keep it together because it’s much easier to walk away from than it is to walk away from a marriage. It’s a choice, not an obligation. 

You don’t need to be married to reap the benefits of marriage. I think we’re doing just fine the way things are. As I’ve always said when people ask why we just don’t get married already…

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Tuesday Things

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1. My work-life balance is struggling. Our annual audit begins each year in March but doesn’t really kick into high gear until the end of April and carries through the month of May. May is also one of our busiest months on the revenue side. For the past several years I’ve made the stupid mistake of taking vacations the first week of May: New Jersey Marathon, Long Branch Half Marathon, Ragnar Relay Cape Cod. No matter how well I plan for the time off, I’m inevitably buried for the remainder of the month. The third week in May is always our annual user conference, so basically as soon as I have a handle on my to-do list I have to somewhat abandon it again for four days. I try to stay caught up on emails between sessions but it can be overwhelming. This was my 5th year working the conference and for the first time I actually came back to the office to get work done. It definitely helped me stay on track but there were still items that didn’t get done and ended up coming home with me last weekend. No idea why I keep doing this to myself year after year, but I want to declare right now that MAY 2015 WILL BE A VACATION-FREE ZONE. It has to be. I miss my sanity.

2. I was chosen as an ambassador for the Houston Marathon!  I was blown away in January by the organization of the race, the number of spectators on the course and how great the course actually was. The weather was pure perfection [this is a variable, I know] and despite having a miserable race performance-wise, I knew this wouldn’t be my last time in Houston. As an ambassador, this also means I will be running the Houston Marathon. After quite a lengthy hiatus, I’ll be making my grand return to the marathon distance in January 2015. And possibly the most exciting part of all? Training doesn’t start until September. So while I may be slightly jealous of everyone running Chicago and NYC this fall, I won’t have to do any sauna-running at 4am this summer.

COME RUN HOUSTON WITH ME! Early registration for my fast friends [sub-4 full marathon or sub 1:52 half marathon] closes on May 29th. The lottery opens up on June 4th and will run through June 19th , with results announced on June 23rd.

Houston Marathon Registration

3. In August I’ll be running Hood to Coast with Nuun. After several years of trying to make it on the team and now finally securing a spot, it still doesn’t seem real. Airfare has been purchased and 3 months from today (!!) I’ll be heading out to Seattle. After running Ragnar Cape Cod last weekend I feel less nervous and much more excited for HTC. I have a loose training plan sketched out for the next few months but probably will push the kickoff to the 26th. My shin & knee are now more of a dull pain, but I don’t want to rush into it just because the plan was supposed to start this week. Once it’s underway I’ll talk a bit more about the training. HTC_logo4. RedFest starts on Friday and we FINALLY won tickets. I’m not even sure how many different contests we were entered in to win tickets to this festival. Eventually we came across a voting-based contest, which allowed us to plaster the link all over social media. All of the begging [so annoying, I know] paid off when we scored 3-day VIP passes! To be honest I’m a little nervous because there is little to no information about the event on their website. They finally uploaded a map and schedule over the weekend, but there is nothing about what time the gates open or what activities are included with the ticket. I emailed them two weeks ago to find out and apparently they were “still in the process of figuring that out”. Two weeks out from the event. In any case, we’ll be drinking and eating for free all weekend while listening to country music. I highly doubt we won’t have a good time.

KASE-101-Cutest-Couple

5. We’re going to Europe! Unfortunately, the trip is 18 months away. After we unexpectedly had cancel our Mexico trip [which coincidentally freed me up to run HTC…] Brad was on a mission to find us a replacement vacation. One of his suggestions was a European cruise. I was hesitant initially because while our all-inclusive resort in Mexico was fairly pricey for 7 days, the airfare to Cancun was about $350 per person. A trip to Europe requires a ridiculously expensive [and ridiculously long] flight and the total cost of the trip was almost twice as much as Mexico. There was no possible way we could go anytime soon, so we pushed the date out to Fall 2015.

Cannes, France

It’s hard for me to get excited about it because it’s really far away and there’s definitely potential for a wrench to be thrown in our plans. But this didn’t stop me from ordering a couple books on Mediterranean cruise ports. On the agenda: Barcelona, Cannes, Rome, Naples, Palma Majorca, and Florence/Pisa. I’ve already been researching hotels and we’re in the process of learning Spanish. The plan is to be pretty damn fluent en Español by the time we leave. We’ll be spending an extra day before/after the cruise in Barcelona so if you’ve been there [or any of the ports we’re exploring] please tell me EVERYTHING.

2014 Ragnar Relay Cape Cod Race Recap

If you had told me five years ago I wouldn’t think twice about flying across the country to meet a group of strangers and proceed to spend 30ish hours in a van with 6 [we're fancy & had a personal chauffeur] of them, I’d undoubtedly declare you crazy. Since the idea was tossed around back in the fall, our team went through several iterations and the final Flock You Like a Hurricane runners who met up at Union Fish in Plymouth the night before race day were Ali, Anne, Rebecca, Amy, Danielle, Carolyn, Jess, Jessie, and our team captain Stacey. Kelly was coming down on Friday morning, Lindsay was dealing with horrendous travel delays out of Dallas, and Deb would be meeting up with Van 2 at Stacey’s on Friday afternoon.

Union Fish - Group Photo

Our team started at 10am on a super foggy morning in Hull and Ali was our leadoff runner. This girl had just run a marathon [and PRed!] the weekend before and absolutely crushed all of her legs. Anne and Amy were seriously fast and as many times as they said they were going to “take this leg easy”, they flew from exchange to exchange ticking off miles consistently in the 7s. I loved Rebecca – her last leg was tough and she was definitely hurting, but was still all “I LOVE RUNNING!” Wish I could kidnap her and run with her in Texas every day. Kelly displayed her impressively strong running skills as she powered through a hilly first leg and finished out the race with about 32 miles under her belt.

Van 1 Runners
I went into the relay with a twisted left knee and achy right shin, both courtesy of a nasty fall I took when Sox cut me off during one of our early morning runs. The knee was my main concern because shin issues are the bane of my running existence. My first leg went off without a hitch and as runner 6, passed off the slap bracelet in Duxbury Beach to Van 2’s first runner – Lindsay.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Duxbury Beach

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Van 2  Runners

Our van had a break from 2 to 8ish, so we grabbed a quick lunch at Driftwood Publick House and then attempted a nap in a field at the exchange where we’d start running our second legs. Napping is a skill I’ve never been able to master so I spent the downtime Stick-ing my calves and following Van 2 via the #FlockYouLikeaHurricane hashtag on Instagram. We kept in touch with the other van through text message but Instagram was a great way to follow along and see which runner was currently out there knocking out their miles. Despite not being able to nap, it was still nice to take my shoes off and just stretch out the legs. Once nighttime fell, it was time to dress head to toe in reflective gear and prepare to send Ali on her way!

Van 1-2 Night Exchange
The night leg seemed to be everyone’s favorite so I was super pumped by the time 11pm rolled around and it was time for me to run. However, my right shin was less than enthused and throbbing only a mile into it. I decided to walk/run to keep it somewhat happy but running quickly turned into a shuffle. My gait started to change in an attempt to relieve the pain in my shin and then I felt the strain on my other knee. The last thing I wanted to do was bail on the leg, so I grabbed some ibuprofen at mile 3 and Kelly jumped in to keep me company. She was a lifesaver and kept my mind off of running while we finished out the leg together. After the handoff to Lindsay in Hyannis, Anne grabbed me some ice from the aid station and we set up some sleeping bags in a ditch [no, seriously…] near a school to sneak in a couple hours of rest.

Van 2’s night legs weren’t that long so we only had a few hours before it was time to run again. Shaun (Kelly’s husband and our fantastic driver) woke us up and we tried to quickly get our shit together after realizing we weren’t even at the right exchange. I had a minor meltdown when I realized my phone was missing, but while we were driving to the exchange Amy found it rolled up in one of the sleeping bags. Crisis averted. Once we pulled in, Ali hauled ass to the exchange and made it there just in time to grab the slap bracelet from Jessie as she ran in.

I spent the next couple hours trying to convince my teammates I could run my final leg, since it was “only” 3 miles. The response was a resounding “NO” and eventually I accepted it would be for the best if Kelly picked up the mileage. After she was done, we handed off to Van 2 for the final time and headed to brunch in Wellfleet. This was followed by a killer cheer session on either leg 33 – or was it 34? This is what I get for not writing the recap right away. We positioned ourselves at the top of a huge hill and busted out the megaphone and cowbell, blasted music from the van, and yelled at the top of our lungs for every runner that came by. Definitely a lot of fun and one of the highlights of the weekend.

It was also at this point where we started playing #SELFIE by The Chainsmokers on repeat. I entered the weekend with an extreme hatred for this song, but now every time I hear it I think of Van 1 rocking out and it makes me happy. But first … let me take a selfie! We made it to the finish in P-Town around 12:30 and just after 3pm Van 2 joined us. We backtracked on the course to find Jessie and then jumped in with her to cross the finish line together! Pretty sure this one is going in a frame – so many freakin’ amazing women in one photo:

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Finish Line

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - P-Town
I have to send a HUGE thank you to Kelly’s husband, Shaun, for being our chauffeur all weekend. He navigated us from exchange to exchange flawlessly and surprisingly didn’t seem irritated at all to be stuck in a van all weekend with a group of girls he barely knew. He also was our professional photog, snapping 200+ pictures of us on our journey from Hull to Provincetown. He was a rockstar and made our lives so much easier.

Also a big shout out full of gratitude to Stacey, who despite being unable to run stayed on as captain and helped keep our team organized over the past several months, as well as through the weekend. She was Van 2′s driver / photographer and provided a place for Van 2 to stay between legs 1 & 2. She also took in 6 internet-turned-IRL-friends on Saturday night, which all of us appreciated SO MUCH. Her and her husband cooked us dinner, all while keeping the champagne and wine flowing as we recapped the incredible race. Best hosts ever, hands down.

I had always heard that team relays were a life-changing experience and couldn’t help but write it off as an exaggeration. How could spending almost 30 hours in a van with people you didn’t know be enjoyable? All of my skepticism flew right out the window while we were dining at Mamma Mia’s on Thursday night. The conversation flowed effortlessly and everyone’s passion for running caused us to bond instantly. The transition from ‘strangers’ to ‘friends’ was almost instantaneous. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates – each and every one of them are phenomenal. A reunion [Ragnar location: TBD] for 2015 was already in the works before we had even left the cape.

 And I absolutely cannot wait.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - White Crest Beach

All photos courtesy of Stacey Hedman, Shaun Gallagher, and Jess Clarke.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

Disclaimer: Runner’s World provided me with a copy of this book and no additional compensation has been received. All thoughts, opinions, and awkward running habits are my own.

When running first became a priority to me in the spring of 2010, I was completely winging it. My runs were done in a pair of Nike+ running shoes that synced to my iPod, which never produced accurate mileage on outdoor runs no matter how many times I calibrated the damn thing. I trained with Gu on 5 mile runs and ran in cotton T-shirts until finally discovering tech tees several months down the road. Five days a week, as fast as I could, and wondered why I could never finish a run without walk breaks. No one ever told me running would be easier if I just slowed down. That I didn’t HAVE to maintain a 9 minute mile as a brand new runner. No one told me not to judge running shoes by their color. I wanted to be a runner and figured the best way to get there would be to put one foot in front of the other.

Runners World - Big Book of Running for Beginners

One thing I wish I would have had in my corner back when I started is The Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners. It serves as a fantastic reference for beginners and even a source of inspiration for experienced runners who might be in a rut. I’ve had a subscription to Runner’s World for several years and while some of the information in this book I already knew, it was still an informative read. It’s split into three sections: Getting Started, Nutrition / Weight Loss, and Staying Healthy / Managing Injuries. One of my favorite parts of the book is the testimonials from normal non-athletes, explaining how and why their journey to become a runner began. Many used running as a tool to lose weight, stop smoking, and overcome illness. As someone who has absolutely no sports background, I found these testimonials to be very relatable and inspiring.

If I had to fault the book in one area, it would be the lack of training plans. There’s a Run for 30 Minutes plan in the appendix, but nothing for a beginner looking to complete their first 10K or half marathon. One might not use the terms ‘beginner’ and ‘half marathon’ in the same sentence but the 13.1 distance has become more popular over the past few years and a basic plan might be helpful for a runner looking to complete their first. It does reference The Starting Line, Runner’s World’s online training program for beginners which range from $9.99 to $19.99.

Overall, I definitely would recommend this book to runners of all levels. My skepticism was pretty high initially as it appeared to be geared towards beginners, but found a considerable amount of value in it as someone with a few years of running under their belt. I’ve flagged many of the pages with post-its to easily reference when training starts to ramp up (base building for marathon #3!) over the next few months.

And I Will Run 200 Miles

… well, at least 13 of them.

Ragnar Relay Series

In roughly a month I’ll be heading up to Massachusetts to run Ragnar Relay Cape Cod with 11 strangers. In any other life situation this would be considered ridiculously dangerous and downright dumb. But since most of them are my Oiselle teammates and we’ve been chatting in our Facebook group for several months now, I think everything will be just fine. Also no one threatened to kick me out when I went all Type A on our doc in Google Drive. We’ll see what happens when I show up at our team dinner with color-coded binders for each van.

Ragnar-Relay-Cape-Cod-Hull-to-P-Town
All jokes aside, I’m incredibly excited for Ragnar Cape Cod and have been counting down the days for months now. Since it’s my first relay that pretty much means I’ll do almost everything wrong.  I plan to Google “relay tips” eleventy billion times between now and then, filling my brain with everything I could possibly need to know to get through my 3 legs successfully. Speaking of legs, this is what’s in store for me as Runner #6:

Ragnar-Relay-Cape-Cod-Runner-6

I’m in the process of putting together a personal packing list and would love any additional input from those of you who have done a relay before. I have all of the basics down: 3 sets of running clothes packed into 3 separate Ziplock bags, baby wipes, comfortable clothes for downtime, portable charger, reflective vest/tail lights, etc. Please share your favorite “lifesaving” item for an overnight relay in the comments below!

Ideally I’d like to avoid checking a bag for the flight since handlers like to beat the crap out of duffel bags. Carrying on a bag will ensure everything I need for the relay makes it to Boston, which (unfortunately) isn’t a guarantee if the bag was checked. However, this means I probably can’t bring my Stick since TSA will likely assume it’s a weapon. Which, of course, it’s not.  Although my calves would beg to differ. A duffel bag will be big enough for 4 days, right? Please say yes.

Now I’d like to introduce you to my lovely team (if something happens to me, this list is a good place to start – kidding) and our fantastic sponsors!

Team Flock You Like a Hurricane

Ali // Anne // Rebecca // Kelly // Amy // Lindsay // Danielle // Greer // Carolyn // Jess // Jessie // Stacey

Sponsors

Oiselle // PRO Compression – use discount code FLOCK for 40% off all socks & sleeves // ShowerPill // EnergyBits // Pocket Fuel Naturals // Mission Athletecare

Evolution of a Writer

photo of laptop and notebook 
Writing is something I’ve been passionate about since grade school. Several summers were spent as a member of a Young Authors Club at the local library, which resulted in a published book. High school was filled with AP English classes and writing for the school newspaper. I knew initially it would be tough to earn a solid living as a writer if I pursued a journalism degree in college. While money shouldn’t have been something to sway my decision on a major, I was paying out-of-state tuition and an entry level writing gig post-college wasn’t going to help me pay off those student loans. Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo currently own me. So I went into finance. But the English classes were still my favorite and my secret power was being able to crank out 20-page papers in less than 4 hours on zero sleep.

After moving to Texas and securing a full-time job, an opportunity to write for an online publication came along. While it was awesome to make a small income on the side doing something I enjoyed, the company I was writing for wasn’t my favorite. I struggled with it for awhile but in the end decided writing for myself for free was more desirable than the money I’d make writing for someone else about content which didn’t interest me.

A week after crossing the finish line of my first half marathon I created an account on WordPress and became co-author of the blog We Run For Wine. It has been 3 1/2 years since I published my first post and it’s pretty amazing how far I’ve come since that day. My Google Reader (remember when that was still a thing?) was filled with healthy living blogs and a handful of running ones. I was under the impression I should be posting as much as possible, no matter the length or quality. Some people even posted 2, 3 times per day. Back in December while transitioning Melissa Runs (Phase 2 of Blog Life) over to So These Are My Thirties (Phase 3 – and hopefully the last), I was pretty embarrassed by the content in the early days. The quantity was clearly there, but the quality? Not so much. It took awhile to get the hang of this whole blogging thing.

Over the years the way I wrote and the blogs I read changed quite a bit. HLBs were left behind and replaced by inspiring runners, both fast and back of the pack. Race recaps and track workouts were more interesting to me than repetitive photos of overnight oats and veggie burgers. It turns out runners are more honest and transparent than any HLB I’ve ever read. A picture perfect online presence is pretty easy to maintain but let’s be honest: no one’s life is perfect. My favorite writers are the ones who hit the tough subjects, smack you in the face with a dose of reality, and speak from the heart. I want to hear about this impossible tempo run that almost broke you and how you powered through it to nail splits you didn’t think were possible.

One of my goals in 2012 was to post more consistently, but in the back half of the year I had done quite the opposite. While one might classify this as a ‘fail’ in the resolution department, I’d have to disagree. I appreciated the direction my writing was headed and embraced “writing for a reason” in 2013. An identity crisis mid-year had me yearning for a change. An overhaul of my Google Reader Feedly resulted in the addition of several lifestyle blogs and the push I needed to leave ‘Melissa Runs’ behind. I wanted to share more of my personal life and a fresh new blog was the perfect way to do it. In hindsight I wished I had done it sooner.

I’ve been awarded some pretty fantastic opportunities through this blog and not once have I wished I was still writing for the online publication with a side income. There aren’t any advertisements on STAMT and I fully intend to keep it that way. It’s not about the money for me. It’s not about the page views or the clicks, the sponsored posts or blogging for a living. It’s about the writing. It’s about the people I wouldn’t have otherwise met without this small space of mine on the internet. It’s about the doors which never would have opened – or I would have never even thought to approach – along the way.

Whether you’ve been around since the beginning, somewhere in the middle, or just happened to end up here today: thank you. Writing is incredibly important to me and I’m glad you’ve decided to come along for the ride.

What are your favorite topics to read about? What would you like to see more (or less) of on So These Are My Thirties?

I Need to Ask You a Huge Favor

It’s no secret we’re HUGE country music fans and try to make it to as many concerts in Austin as possible. Jeff Foxworthy [yes, you read that correctly] recently announced a new festival to be held out at the Circuit of the Americas: RedFest. It’s a redneck festival 3 days of live music, comedy, reality stars, and outdoor events during the last weekend in May. The music lineup is killer: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tim McGraw, Florida Georgia Line, Justin Moore, Kip Moore, Kellie Pickler, Easton Corbin, Craig Morgan, Big & Rich, Love & Theft, Parmalee – and that’s not even all of the acts!

We REALLY would love tickets to the festival, so I entered us into Kase101′s Cutest Couple contest. I normally wouldn’t do this sort of thing, but for a 3-day festival full of country music in Austin? I think it would be wrong NOT to enter.

KASE 101 Cutest Couple

So here’s where that favor comes in. If you’re logged into Facebook on your current computer and have 30 seconds to spare, I would be forever grateful if you headed over to our entry and commented on the photo, letting KASE101 know that we should definitely win a set of tickets. Not sure why, but if you click on the link from your phone it will take you to the first photo in the set, rather than our photo. We’re entry #135, if you don’t mind clicking through. Otherwise, desktop voting is the easiest! It would be much easier if you could just click ‘vote’ and be done with it, but I guess they’re trying to weed out cheaters? I did find quite a few couples that commented on their own photos – not sure if those votes count, but it seems somewhat unfair. But if they do count, BRB I need to go vote for myself…

Anyway, we’d love it if you could click on this link and leave a quick comment under our photo before 11:59PM tonight, March 20th. The fact I even entered us in a Cutest Couple contest is slightly embarrassing, but it goes to show you just how much I want to attend this festival! The comment could be something as simple as “Melissa & Brad love country music so much, tickets to RedFest would be perfect for them!” or “I vote for Melissa & Brad” .. that’s it. 30 seconds & I’ll love you forever. THANK YOU!!