Saturday, September 21, 2013

Things I Love About Fall

Fall is my favorite season, and every time I step outside and feel the crisp cool air, I can't help but smile.  I just love this time of year!  Even though the New England weather has been cooling off for a few weeks now, tomorrow marks the first official day of fall with the Autumnal Equinox at 4:44 pm.  Bring it on!! 

Some of my autumn favorites that I am loving right now:

1. Pumpkin spice coffee from Dunkin Donuts

The only way to start the day!

Friday, September 20, 2013

End of Summer & the Living's Easy

I can't believe it has been several weeks since I returned from an incredible trip to Cape Cod over Labor Day weekend and wrote my last post!  Things have been so crazy between work, grad school and long runs that I've barely had a moment to breathe.  At work, we are finishing up our fiscal year, which means wrapping up reporting on this year's goals PLUS planning for next year's goals, so twice the work!  That in addition to my least favorite grad school class ever - Inferential Statistics (yuck!) - has been totally mind-numbing.

Which is why I wanted to take the time to reflect on my AMAZING trip to the Cape with one of my most special friends.  We were so lucky that my friend could borrow her family's Cape cottage for the long weekend, and I was even luckier to be invited along!  It was just minutes away from the beach, and was so cozy and fun!

I want a Cape house just like this when I grow up!

We left right after work on Thursday, and through nothing short of a miracle, managed to avoid the infamous Cape bridge traffic, getting down to West Dennis in record time!

I was just a little excited...
On Friday, we spent much of the day exploring the endless cute shops along Route 6, and spending our hard-earned money on treasures we just COULD not live without!  I loved each store's distinctive Cape flair, with beautifully landscaped gardens and terraces, fountains, and even this incredible sandcastle sculpture.

We were pretty much loving life.
We ended the day with fresh seafood and drinks at the cottage, along with a bonfire and s'mores (and more drinks!)  Our night started like this...

 And ended like this...

I really love s'mores!
 With way too much fun in between!  On my Saturday long run and Sunday short run, I did some exploring of the beautiful oceanfront of West Dennis and Dennisport.  Here are some photos from my run.

Swan River, my favorite place

West Dennis Beach
The beach went on forever!
The water was pretty cold with the last bit of summer weather slipping away, but I couldn't resist wandering into the ocean while walking along the beach.

Taken shortly before a huge wave SOAKED my white shorts.  Cute.
 We spent the day finishing up our shopping adventures from Saturday, and then with some mini golf and ice cream.  Does life get any better??

Ice cream and mini golf are all it takes for me!
 I hated to pack up and leave on Monday morning to head back home.  Our long weekend away was just TOO perfect.  We enjoyed our last moments at the Cape cottage with mimosas for breakfast on the porch.  I think I could really get used to drinking before 10 am... yikes!

I'm sure it was 5'clock somewhere!
What a perfect way to say goodbye to summer! And now... back to reality!  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Celebrating the Last Days of Summer

I couldn't wait to post a few pictures from my amazing long weekend away with some of the best friends a girl could ever have.  Our weekend on Cape Cod was truly the perfect end to a pretty incredible summer.  I'll take some time for a longer recap soon, but now it's time to shake the sand out of my shoes, wash the ocean out of my hair, and get ready to re-enter reality tomorrow!



Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Great Outdoors: Blue Hills Trail Running

After a long run last Saturday, I ventured out for a shorter (but in many ways more challenging) trail run in the Blue Hills on Sunday.  I absolutely love exploring new trails in the Blue Hills and getting hopelessly lost.  It's something about that feeling of discovery and adventure that gets me every time!

This is how all good adventures start!

I started out following the green-dot trail near the Blue Hills weather observatory along Wolcott Path.  The soft dirt and pine needle-laden trail combined with the shade of tall oaks made for a fast first few miles.  Then, I inevitably lost the trail, but came upon the most beautiful field of wildflowers in the middle of a clearing.
This is why I love trail running
Once I get distracted by the beautiful scenery, all sense of following a certain trail goes right out the window!  There were a few trail maps, but with the confluence of unmarked paths jutting out in every direction, I had no hope of figuring out where I was.  So, I depended on my trusty (okay awful) sense of direction to find my way out!
I think these maps were meant for people much better at directions than I am!
 As I kept running, the trail got a bit rougher, with roots from the huge oaks darting across the path at seemingly unpredictable intervals.  Being an undeniable klutz, I saved myself from imminent disaster a few times, and managed to avoid falling flat on my face through nothing less than a miracle! 
See what I mean?  Downright hazardous if you're me!
I also managed to come upon a beautiful pond, that I never knew existed in this part of the Blue Hills.  I had to stop for a photo opportunity, because it was just so gosh-darn pretty!  (And I was WAY out of breath after running a few more miles than originally anticipated, so it was a pretty great excuse to rest!)
Perfect place for a hamstring stretch!
After my 5-mile run turned into a 9-mile run, I finally found the green-dot trail again and made my way back.  Another trail run success!  I will never get tired of these totally-lost-but-totally-loving-it adventures! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Demotivational Monday

I decided to participate in Rachel's Demotivational Monday linkup.  I just love this idea!  I'm not super techy as blogs go yet, but hopefully this is a good try!  

I know some runners have a great internal GPS, but I manage to get lost during nearly every long run I attempt.  Trail runs are almost completely out of the question.  I always end up with awesome Garmin maps like the one from my Sunday adventure below! 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

This Is All I Need: Weekly Wrap

I've been loving the new Goo Goo Dolls song, Rebel Beat, as a pick-me-up on my long run playlist.  It is just perfect.

"You know that life is like a ticking clock,
Nobody knows when it's gonna stop...

There's no worries, there's no cares,
Feel the sound that's everywhere, 
Take the sound that's ours for once
And run like hell...

You can take everything from me, cause this is all I need."

It always helps to bring me back to the moment, and reminds me that life doesn't have to be so gosh darn complicated!  Sometimes it's just as simple as a long run on the beach, feeling my heart pounding in my chest, breathing the ocean air, and watching the sun rise over the harbor.  Truly, this is all I need.

A few pictures from my magical long run this morning around Castle Island in South Boston, and then along the Harbor Walk in Dorchester, past the JFK Library and to UMass Boston.  Amazing.
I LOVE New England.
The tugboat's name is Success.  Love it.
What a beautiful start to the day!
After an awesome run, I treated myself to a trip to the running store!  With the increased mileage I am putting on lately, I need to get a new pair of running shoes every-other month.  This is quite an expensive hobby sometimes!

The new Brooks Adrenaline are blue!
 And I couldn't resist a new pair of compression sleeves... oops!  These really do work wonders in helping with long run recovery though!  I tried the CEP calf sleeves this time, and I think I am in love.

Going for the Rainbow Brite look I guess!
Since I am oh-so domestic lately, I decided to create my own carb-loving salad for a snack, with lots of leftovers for weekday lunches!  This one was super simple - pasta, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, oil and balsamic vinegar.  Yum!

I even impress myself sometimes!
And tonight, I'm off to one of my best friend's houses for dinner and a bonfire!  Saturdays really don't get much better than this! 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Worst Questions to Ask a Runner

I absolutely LOVED the new Runners World post of "The 25 Worst Questions to Ask a Runner.  If you haven't seen this, check it out!  

A few of my personal favorites...

"Tired of being so awesome, maybe!"

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My New Running Toy: Garmin Forerunner 10

I've been wanting to buy a new GPS running watch for quite some time now, but have been putting it off due to the expense.  However, this weekend when my trusty Timex Ironman watch, which I've had pretty much since I started running back in high school, finally ran out of batteries, I decided it was a sign! 

Dear Timex, I still love you!
So off I went to my favorite running store, the Greater Boston Running Company in Hingham.  I love GBRC for so many reasons... not the least of which is that it is part of the Derby Street outdoor mall, so a trip to the running store always seems to end in a shopping spree at Ann Taylor, White House Black Market, the Paper Store, and Barnes & Noble, and lunch at Whole Foods!  This weekend was no exception! 

Doesn't it just look like a special place??
After dragging myself away from rows of running accessories and new workout clothes that I just HAD to have, I forced myself to focus on the reason I was really there... Oh right, a running watch.  Yes... Which is when I fell in love with this beautiful piece of technology!

I feel so official now!
Oh Garmin, you just had to make a GPS watch in my favorite shade of green, didn't you??  Sold!  I really liked the Forerunner 10's simplicity.  It did everything I wanted it to do - interval timing, pacing, biking compatibility, and computer download - but none of those high-tech "extras" that can make running watches so complicated to use!  

After getting home, I was like a little kid at Christmas - I couldn't wait to tear open the box and play with my new toy!  Luckily the wonderful folks at Garmin must know that runners can barely control themselves when it comes to new purchases, so the watch came fully charged and ready for a workout, right out of the package!  It was just begging to be taken out for a test drive... 

I love everything about this!

I absolutely loved using the watch on a long bike ride on Saturday and my Sunday morning run.  Most of all, I was amazed by the technology available through Garmin Connect after downloading my workouts to the website.  I can see my workout calendar, courses, pace intervals, elevation maps, and even the weather during each workout.  For someone who LOVES data, I could play around on Garmin Connect all day!

Holy hills!  No wonder I always feel like death after this run!
I was amazed to see how hilly my favorite long run course truly was.  Don't get me wrong - I feel every one of those hills - but I always thought that I was just being a little bit wussy!  Now, my new Garmin gives me a great sense of validation!  It was clearly worth every penny...

What type of running watch do you use?  Do you use Garmin Connect or a different online running tool to track your workouts?  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taking a Deep Breath & Stepping Off the Cliff

Over the past few weeks, I have been struggling with a tough decision.  A new management position opened up at the medical practice where I work, and although I love, love, love my current job in administration, I was excited by the opportunity to do something new.  Aside from the fact that I am absolutely terrible at making decisions, I found myself really wrestling with this one.

This pretty much sums up the past few weeks for me
Over the past four years since joining the healthcare system where I work, I've been lucky to have been promoted twice, from coordinator to manager to director.  It's been quite a ride!  I have been challenged and stretched and have learned more than I've ever thought possible.  

But even more than that, I've gained coworkers who have become lifelong friends, soulmates and sisters.  Together, we experience the joys and struggles of working in healthcare, and understand each other like no one else can.  We make each other laugh until it hurts, and we comfort each other when all we can do is close the office door and cry.
Words can't explain how much I love these ladies

Which is why thinking about accepting another job within the organization feels a little bit like moving away from what I've grown to know as "home".  

Many sleepless nights and countless tearful conversations with coworkers over the past few weeks have been me realize how blessed I truly am.  I have a job that I love so much that on Sunday nights, I can't wait for Monday morning.  And I get to work alongside people who challenge me, inspire me, and love me for who I am.  It's really incredible, when I stop and think about it.

But in the end, with the support of my amazing work family, I decided to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and step off the cliff.  I accepted the new position, and I start over the next few weeks!  

I am a bit of an emotional train wreck of excited, terrified, heartsick, and elated all at once.  Yikes.  I've been a lot of fun to be around lately, and I don't see that changing anytime soon!  I wish I could fast forward to the part where the turmoil settles down, and I'm fully comfortable in my new role, and I look back and see that this was the best decision I ever made.  

But in the meantime, I'm choosing to embrace the uncertainty.  I won't continue to grow both personally and professionally unless I'm willing to step outside my comfort zone.  And I'll never experience all of the wonder and beauty that lies on the other side, if I don't take that first step forward.  So here goes nothing... Wish me luck!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Motivation Monday

After an awesome Monday at work (no seriously, a really great day!) this perfectly sums up my post-run mindset! Sometimes, I just need to remind myself that I do this for ME, because I love it.  Period. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

New England Escapades: Cape Cod Edition

While my friend Amy was visiting from Chicago, in addition to crossing our first finish line together, hand in hand, we had some incredible New England adventures!  I am convinced that Amy is meant to live in Boston with me, and hopefully last weekend convinced her of that truth as well!

We spent Thursday afternoon relaxing with drinks by the pool, and resting up for the adventure that we knew was in store!  It reminded me how AMAZING it is to leave work just a few hours early, and that I need to do this much more often! 

Why can't I have poolside happy hour EVERY day??
 On Thursday night, we headed to Marina Bay in Quincy for dinner on the boardwalk.  Luckily, the impending storm held out long enough for a dinner on the waterfront and a walk along Squantum Point Park.

Gotta love living so close to this!
On Friday morning, we drove to the Long Wharf in downtown Boston to catch the fast ferry to Provincetown on the Cape.  It was rainy and cold - not exactly the ideal beach day, so we were getting nervous!  When a car sped through a puddle and soaked both Amy and I with a tidal wave splash, it sort of topped off the morning!  Luckily, as soon as we neared P-Town, the sun came out and the first hints of blue skies appeared!  

Can't beat Cape living!
We had a fun morning exploring the Commercial Street shops as it got warmer and sunnier - the perfect Cape day!  I absolutely loved all of the unique Cape shops, and walking along the bustling streets lined with beautiful flowering bushes and Cape houses in every shade of pastel imaginable.  What an amazing getaway!  We discovered a unique used book store, where I purchased a new beach read (which I managed to finish that very weekend!) 

Yes, it was as cool as it looks!
After lunch, we decided to rent bikes and explore the trails along the National Seashore.  What an adventure!  We essentially had the path to ourselves as we explored miles of the Beech Forest trails, winding through lush foliage and glistening ponds.  As we began the climb through the dunes to Race Point and the beach, the trail became very hilly, so I was excited when we got our first glimpse of ocean!

Totally exhausted in this photo!
We had a much-needed rest on the beach, which was also surprisingly empty, enjoying the sound of waves crashing upon the shore and soaking up the summer sun.  It was like paradise!

No one I'd rather be there with!
After riding back to the bike shop, we were exhausted.  A stroll along the ocean and some more shopping were definitely in order!  Tough day...

Back on the southern coast of P-Town!
For dinner, we found an amazing hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant on an oceanfront pier, where we were given a table overlooking the open kitchen with a water view.  I loved that as several older couples entered the restaurant, they knew the hostess by name, and the waitress and chef knew just how they liked their meal cooked.  We had found a real "locals" spot!  

Pre-race carb loading at its very best!
While waiting for the return ferry, we read on the pier, and watched the sun set over Provincetown - the perfect end to the perfect day!  It was felt good just to sit and relax, after our day of adventures in the sun!  

I love New England SO much!

After such a rainy and dreary start, I felt so lucky to have had a beautiful, sunny day of exploration in P-Town with a special friend to share it with! 
It really doesn't get any better!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Triple Threat Rockport Half Marathon Recap

Last weekend, one of my most special friends from back home in Chicago came to visit me.  I was SO excited!  Amy is one of those friends who I only get to see about once a year, but when we're back together, it's like we were never apart.  We ran our first race together back in 2008 in Chicago, when we were crazy enough to take on an obstacle run-bike race called the Muddy Buddy together.
Our finish line victory!
 Last year, we got together in Louisville, Kentucky for the Kentucky Derby Marathon.  Amy ran the half and I ran the full, and we had the time of our lives together on a road trip from Chicago and exploring the city!  

Enjoying a well-earned post race drink!
 This year, Amy had the idea of signing up for a race together while she was visiting the East Coast, so we signed up for the Rockport marathon in a beautiful coastal town in Massachusetts a few months ago.  We were looking forward to crossing the finish line together for the first time, and couldn't wait for our weekend together!

A few weeks before the race, when we were both looking through the runners' packet, we came across the elevation map, and were slightly horrified by the rolling hills.  That combined with the 10:15 am start time in the heat of summer made for two VERY nervous runners!  Since we figured we would be running at a dead-slow pace, we thought we might as well look good, so thanks to some amazing online shopping, we bought matching sequined running skirts and headbands!  Check out our pre-race photo... pretty awesome.

Still in denial about the race at this point!
 We got lots of comments about our great matching outfits from the race photographers and spectators, which made the run even more fun!  Although it was hilly, we were lucky to have a cloudy day with a cool breeze, and the most beautiful ocean views you can imagine.  It was the perfect race day!  

And this is why I love racing in New England
 Although it was a really challenging course, we had a TON of fun posing for some of the best race photos I think I have ever taken.  I mean, it takes some serious talent to look good in race photos, and I think Amy and I mastered that pretty well!  I never buy race photos, but I think I won't be able to resist one of these!  Check them out:

Feeling great!
Doesn't get better than that!
We did it!!
I have run some pretty amazing races all around the country and the world, but nothing compares with crossing the finish line hand in hand with one of my most special friends.  We've been through so much together, and now being able to share the struggle and the triumph of marathoning together just makes our friendship even more incredible.

I love that the medals matched our skirts!
After the race, we grabbed armloads of water bottles and snacks, and collapsed on the grass near the finish line.  I can't even begin to say what I ate within a half hour of the finish, all while lying in the grass... it was pretty impressive, even for me!  After pulling ourselves together and enjoying a nice lunch in Rockport, we headed back to Quincy for a shower and a much-needed nap (Did I mention we had a 5 am wake-up call for the race?  Yikes!)

Once we were clean and well-rested, we headed to the Hingham Shipyard for our victory dinner.  After a beautiful walk along the harbor as the sun was setting, we settled down for dinner along the waterfront.  I had a watermelon beer, which was pretty much phenomenal.  

Obligatory marathon medal & victory drink photo!

Our post-race celebration was amazing, and the perfect ending to such a special weekend.  I can't wait to start planning our next race adventure together!