Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Personal New Year's Resolution: To Be Me.


For my entire adult life I have made resolutions and never kept them. A few of those years I even opted out of making them so I wouldn't have anything to break. Before I go into this year's resolution, I need to provide a brief background. 

I'm 34 years old. I'm in a solid relationship and have a decent job. I'm healthy and happy. But this may throw you off because I said I was happy. I also have depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem.

Depression. I was diagnosed when  I was in college. A "chemical imbalance" as they like to say. I've seen my fair share of pyschiatrists, psychologists, and dabbled in the medication department. I discontinued all of it because I literally couldn't afford it and taught myself to manage independently. While doing so I ended a previous engagement (beneficial to both of us in the long run), made some horrible decisions, and bounced from state to state searching for happiness. I still battle depression but thanks to my outlets of running & yoga, and the supportive people in my life I know how to navigate through it. I may burst into tears for no apparent reason and I may be unable to get off the couch for days hiding from the world, but I'm fighting it and winning.

Anxiety. My anxiety comes off as being shy. When I meet new people or am even around family and old friends I constantly beat myself up. "Nobody wants to be around me because I don't have anything interesting to say" or "I've put on a few pounds so I don't deserve to go out for drinks" are just a few phrases that circle my never-ending thought process. It's EXHAUSTING.

Self-esteem. I think everyone battles self-esteem issues at some point in their life. It's basically a given when you're in middle and high school and we assume as adults it won't effect us anymore. Maybe it's true for some, but for me it has been a struggle. I've battled disordered eating because of it. At just 12 years old I would only allow myself 6 baby carrots for an entire day and then a very small dinner when my family sat down to eat in the evening so nobody would catch on to what I was doing. Other times I would go on a binge after depriving myself of calories for so long. I am no longer at these extremes, but I am still a work in progress. Self-worth is very important in caring for yourself, and I want to get better at it. 

With that background, I can move onto my resolution. One I know I can keep and HAVE to keep: Take Care of Myself. In every single way possible. What exactly does this mean?

This means I will truly honor my feelings. I will say no (very hard for me to do) to situations, people, and events that are not beneficial to my soul and well-being. I will not exhaust myself, within reason, to make everyone around me happy. In 2016 I felt left out with certain 'friends' and dwelled on it for so long that it physically hurt. I will always be there for anyone who needs me, but I also have concluded that not everyone is meant to be your friend and that's completely ok. I don't ever hate anyone and friends do come and go, and sometimes come back again better than before. I've learned it's not about how many friends you have, but the quality of the relationship. I'm ready to embrace all current humans in my life, ones who may have disappeared and will come back again, and those I have yet to meet. And if I say "no" to something or leave an event early it's nothing personal. I'm just taking care of myself and still love you all the same. :) 

This resolution also means I will learn to be extremely mindful. I love the word 'mindfulness' and it resonates with me everytime I see or hear it. I will try to be mindful with whatever I'm doing. One example of this means putting my phone down more often (it won't be 100%, I'm only human!) while I'm eating or having conversation with people without distraction. Social media has been a powerful influence in my life. I've been inspired, met great people, and made connections I may not have made without it, but I can honestly say I need to be more present and put the tiny device down more often. Mindfulness will allow me to determine more easily when I'm tired, when I need to cry, or go for a run. I will be more aware when I am full while eating, or need a nap, a bubble bath, time alone, and in general what my needs are throughout the day. I will journal more often and remind myself of the amazing qualities I was given. I will learn to respect myself. 

I want to focus on laughing a lot more. Exploring and opening my heart and mind to new opportunities. Take advantage of all the things life presents to me, the great and the ugly. I truly believe if I do these things I will genuinely become happier than I already am. I want to be the best friend, co-worker, daughter, niece, grand-daughter, cousin, aunt, sister, dog mama and especially future wife that I can possibly be. By keeping up with this resolution I also hope to experience freedom from my personal struggles so I can live an amazing life. I deserve that. Don't we all?

My final day of 2016 has been incredible and exactly what I needed. I started my morning attending yoga and winning a full month of unlimited yoga at my studio. I had brunch with Brad and we laughed a lot during our conversation. We cleaned our little apartment and bathed the dogs to start the new year fresh. I'll end the year spending time with my family. It has been perfect and exactly what I needed THIS day. I plan to do more of this in 2017. One day I may need extra sleep, and the next I may want to spend all night out socializing. Whatever and whoever each day presents I will be all there. Mindful and present. But most importantly I will be ME. Raw, kind, supportive, open, forgiving, accepting, free, and unapologetically ME. 

I wish everyone who made it to the end of this (and even those who did not!) an extremely Happy Year 2017. May it be healthy, magical, and everything you dream it to be! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Christmas Story Run Race Recap

So many great things to say about this race as always. This was our second year running and basically our Christmas kick-off celebration! But for real, you need to just go to Cleveland and experience it for yourself!

Packet pick-up is nice and easy at the Rennaissance Hotel downtown. If you don't stay at the hotel there is a HUGE parking lot across the street with easy access to it.l and many hotels in the area within a few miles of the race. This year the actor who played Randy was signing autographs inside the hotel.


After grabbing our packets we went to the "A Christmas Story" house (free one time admission with race entry!) where we actually witnessed a sweet proposal inside by the Christmas tree! The house is interactive so you're allowed to touch things (even the leg lamp!) which makes for great photos.




There's also a neat museum across the street of items from the movie and we always spend some time inside their gift shop to get a yearly souvenir. This year we got a leg lamp ornament, haha!


The race had a 9am start which meant it was a little warmer and we got to sleep a little longer. Here are a few pre-race photos. So many people have asked where we got our shirts. We just found them on Etsy!



The race is mostly flat so beginner and family friendly. There is a bridge you cross twice that brings some elevation. Every mile marker has a quote from the movie which is great and gets you reminiscing a bit.


The race gives you a choice at registration to run the 5K or 10K. The 5K finishes at the Christmas Story House and they bus you back downtown. The 10K runs past the house and loops back to the starting area. We always run the 10K and there's a great view of the city as you run back over the bridge during mile 5.



At the finish you are presented with a "major award" and Ovaltine!



The medal this year! 

This was last years themed medal so I'm pumped to earn another one next holiday season!


Any other fun holiday races to run in the country? I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Stocking Stuffers for Runners

Christmas is HEERRRRRREEE! I love this magical time of year. To celebrate Cyber Monday (which I prefer over in-store shopping ANY day) I've put together my top 5 favorite stocking stuffers with some discount codes as well! Stockings are my favorite because you can get really creative with them. So here are my favorite items I've used over the past year for your favorite runner:

1. Nuun Hydration: A variety of flavors that are all delicious. These little tubes are the perfect stocking size and while you can buy them at stores (like Whole Foods), Nuun's website has them for 20% off on Cyber Monday using code OPTOUTSIDE2016 plus free shipping!

2: Sparkly Soul Headbands: These headbands are the best investment I ever made! I have a very thick head of hair and these headbands keep my locks in check and out of my face. They stay put for the duration of marathons so that says a lot. If you've never tried them, check out their website and use coupon code CYBERMONDAY for 20% off any single item!  

3. Clif Bars: These bars are one of the only snacks that fill me up and don't mess up my stomach before or during runs. Tons of flavors for all tastebuds. My favorite is the chocolate peanut butter...But I ate it before I took this picture :) 

4. Mile Markings: I love this family owned business. They create affordable and customizable tattoos for motivation during runs and races. Perfect gift for a runner you know! Use my code MILE5 for 25% of your order.

5. Procompression Socks: The best socks for running and recovery. They are colorful and festive, as well as comfy. Code CM44 gets you 44% off your purchase and free shipping! 


Friday, November 11, 2016

EQT 10 Miler Race Recap

My FAVORITE Fall race- hands down! If you live in Pittsburgh or want a Fall race but not a half or marathon, run the Pittsburgh EQT 10 Miler. This was my 3rd year in a row (sadly I missed the inaugural year) and each time the swag gets better. 

Packet pick-up was smooth sailing. They started it a few days before race day so I picked up mine on Thursday after work. The race shirt was super nice- long sleeves and lightweight. I usually donate the little drawstring bags but this one I kept because it was better quality and had POCKETS! 

They even threw in a sample of Rachel Ray's brand dog food which we've been giving to our pups as treats. As you can see, they hate it ;)


This particular year the race happened to be on daylight savings, woohoo! Pair that with an 8am race start and I was in heaven. I woke up before my alarm and felt plenty rested. Of course I've been fighting a cold but you can't feel great at all of your races. I decided to wear my race shirt because I have been really chilly the last few years and needed something lightweight for when the sun appeared.

Brad was kind enough to wake up early and drop me off at the starting line (he's the best!). Have I mentioned I love living 3 minutes from downtown on race days?! Somehow, even living so close I made it to the starting line with only 30 secs to spare (don't ask, but I am a procrastinator!). Within those 30 seconds I squeezed in a pre-race photo opp, haha!

Now onto the race. I love the 10 miler course. It's not super easy, but friendly for less experienced runners and the hills that are along the course aren't long at all. The last few miles through the Strip District and back into town are basically flat too. 


The fluid stations were about every 2.5 miles and the volunteers were enthusiastic and kind. My favorite part of the course? Running over the bridges. That's a trademark for Pittsburgh! 


The finish is always full of spectators on Liberty Avenue and I was pumped to see Brad with our dogs at the finish line. I don't focus too much on race times but I ran a 2:03 for this race. 


And how about my favorite, the bling!! 


I am already looking forward to next year's race, so if you get a chance register for this one! It's the perfect Fall race to use as a training run or as a distance race that doesn't require the training for a full or half. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pittsburgh Penguins 6.6K

The Pittsburgh Penguins 6.6K is a race that has been on my list to run ever since I moved back to Pittsburgh two years ago. Every October something prevented me from running except this year! I registered Brad and I a few weeks before the race and was super excited when my friend Lindsey decided to run too. 

{Photo from the race website}

On Friday afternoon we headed out to Wexford to grab our race shirts and bibs. The race provided multiple times/locations throughout Pittsburgh to pick up packets, including on race day. I think it's great when races attempt to accomodate all runners' schedules and I have learned to appreciate this perk with my busy lifestyle. 

An email was sent a few days before packet pick-up with a virtual goodie bag. I absolutely love when races do this because virtual bags are environmentally friendly and don't include things I would typically just throw away when I get home. This email included great coupons from ProCompression, Reebok, Fleet Feet Pittsburgh, and True Runner. We headed into the Health and Wellness Pavillion and easily picked up our bib, timing chip, and t-shirt. There were plenty of friendly volunteers to prevent long wait times so we were in and out within minutes. 


I personally love the t-shirts. Brad wished they were yellow but those were reserved for the walkers. 

I also love timing chips unique to races. I collect them and wish more events did their timing this way with a race specific design.


Race morning was an early one (aren't they all?). Lindsey met at our place and around 6:45am we drove the 5 minutes to get downtown. I love living so close to the city!

Parking was convenient at a garage between the start/finish line. We got there with enough time to snap a few pictures and make a bathroom stop. 


I looooved the course! We all did actually. I run a lot of races in Pittsburgh and this course was much different because it took runners across the Smithfield Street Bridge, onto back roads in the Southside, across the 10th St. Bridge, and through the Armstrong Tunnels leading back to PPG Paints Arena. 

{Photo from the race website}

Best part, high-fiving Mario Lemieux as we crossed the finish line!!


I've realized during my last few races a few things I have been doing wrong when running. I really don't care how fast I run a race, but I also haven't pushed myself to full potential. Brad and I have literally been practicing longer strides and picking up the pace a bit. It's been working and thankfully Brad and Lindsey helped me push the pace during this race. I fell apart during the last mile but overall ended up with a 10:02/mile pace which is the fastest race I've run in AWHILE! It felt so good :) 


After we got our medals (and bananas!) we admired the Stanley Cup and had waffles for breakfast at Waffles Incaffeinted off Carson Street. Perfect little Sunday Runday in the burgh!


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My First Ragnar Trail Relay

Back in 2012 I was asked to join a Ragnar Relay team in the Adirondacks and then I ran again in 2013 for Cape Cod. Those two experiences were placed in my life when I needed a boost with running motivation. Earlier this month, after a 6 month running "funk" I ran my first Ragnar Trail Relay in New Jersey for the NYRR's! Another  life-changing experience!


If you love trail running, camping, the outdoors, and friends, run one!! We ended up with crazy cold and wet weather, but still had a blast! Here is a view of our campsite before other tents arrived:


Our start time was around 9:30am and each runner runs 3 different loops. A red (longest), yellow, and green (shortest) loop. I was on a team with 6 other runners so we had to come together and pick up the extra legs. I volunteered for an additional night run which brought my total mileage for the weekend to 21.5 muddy, wet miles. The next two photos are from the red loop which was my final run of the weekend.



Those trails are no joke, especially in the dark! One tip, if you plan to run one of these, bring an extra headlamp or bright flashlight. I was able to see so much better at night using a seocnd light. 

One of the things I loved about this race was that we had a home base. During the traditional Ragnar Relay everyone lives in a van and you honestly don't sleep much. We all were able to get a few hours of sleep in our tents between runs which was a great bonus. I also love that Ragnar Village has so many things to do: Bonfires, Salomon shoe trials, goodies, food, massage, and so much more! You can also hang out near the transition areas with your team to cheer on all of your teammates! 

Was I sore at the end of this weekend? YES! Was my heart full of adventure and friendship? ABSOLUTELY! I wish I could afford to run them all the time!


Did I mention the unique medals? Not only do they open beer botttles, but all of the medals placed together create a Ragnar message on the back that always connect you to your team. Love! 



Monday, May 2, 2016

Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend

The Pittsburgh Marathon weekend is by far my most favorite weekend of the year related to running. I have finished as a marathoner in 2009 and 2014, and as a half marathoner (with Brad for his first half!!) in 2015. This year I signed up for the Steel Challenge which included running the 5k on Saturday and either the half or full on Sunday (in my case the half).


On Friday after work Brad and I headed down to the expo at the convention center. I finally got to meet Elle! We follow eachother on Instagram (@ellej8200) and she was volunteering at bib pickup that day. After chatting a bit I picked up both bibs and browsed around the expo. I ended up buying some Hoka trail running shoes (nervous and excited about this purchase), tried AboutTime protein pancakes from a Pittsburgh based company (DELICIOUS!), shopped at Fresh Factory for Pittsburgh gear, and enjoyed all the amazing vendors that were there!

On Saturday the 5K started near the Pirates' ballpark which is conveniently 2 miles from where I live. I literally rolled out of bed less than an hour before the start and met up with Elle where we decided to run together. 
 We weren't trying to go crazy with pace to save our legs but we did end up running negative splits and I had an overall 5K time of 33:54. Afterwards we hung around the finish and saw lots of people we both follow through social media. I'm always running out of state and I never get to spend time with local runners so that was a lot of fun to connect with fellow Pittsburgh runners in person!

Sunday was half marathon day! I ran into my old neighbor Emily while waiting for the T to head into town. She was running her 3rd full marathon and killed it! Her uncle was running his 105TH marathon- can you even IMAGINE?! I met Elle outside of our corral to run together and her friend Alicia (they both run for Team RWB) also joined us. We took a few pre-race photos as it started to rain right before the start.

This race (like most of mine are), was all about having fun! It rained for the first few miles and then let up for the remainder of the race. One of the coolest parts of running the Pittsburgh Marathon and half is running over all the bridges and different neighborhoods. So much energy through the city with bands, fuel (beer!), and general crowd support. I saw my uncle in West End so we grabbed a photo and most of the on course port-a-potty lines were so long we decided to go in the woods. Hey, you do what you gotta do! 


We all were running with some sort of injury or nagging discomfort so it really helped to have us all motivating eachother at different points on the course. We finished in one piece and were super happy about that! 

After saying good-byes to Alicia, Elle and I picked up our Steel Challenge medal for completing 16.2 miles over the weekend.  

The finish line festival at Point State Park is really great. The vendors and booths circle the entire park so even if you didn't run you have plenty to eat and do. 

I'm already excited for next year and am contemplating tackling the full marathon again because I have really been missing the second part! Much thanks to Alicia and Elle for getting me through 13.1 miles with a smile on my face and for many of the pictures that appear on this post. You ladies ROCK!! 

Congrats to all of the runners who participated in any of the races this weekend. Pittsburgh is not an easy course to run! And Pittsburgh Marathon, you hold an incredibly special place in my heart. I'm 100% sure many others feel the exact same way. :)