Saturday, December 31, 2011

See ya in 2012

I finished 2011 with a bang!
5K PR, baby.
Time - 28:12
Beat my previous PR by over a minute. :)
Now I'm totally ready for 2012!


Be sure to check back in the next few days for some pretty exciting changes to the blog. :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Back

Where did 2011 go? I feel like this year really flew by! It was such a great, fun, stressful, overwhelming, encouraging, exciting, terrifying, fantastic year.

Looking back I realized just how little I blogged about some of the greater events this past year.

Well, I guess at least you can get a little taste of them here in this recap.

Just for fun (and because I've been meaning to for quite awhile now), I'm going to link this list up with Stasha over at The Good Life.

Yes, I'm fully aware that it's far from Monday, but I've still got a few more hours to add my link.

So, here's my Top 10 of 2011...

10. Jeff and I got certified as SCUBA divers. This was definitely a challenge for me! But ultimately, I bucked up and finished. We've only done lake diving in MN and WI and are now really looking forward to getting to the ocean one day.

8. I joined my friend Laura for a women's Pedal and Paddle weekend. I can’t believe I never got around to blogging about the trip. Ugh. This was an hilarious weekend spent with women I didn't know. We pedaled. We paddled. We laughed. A lot. It was exhausting, but I'd love to do it again! 
7. I read and studied. A lot!
6. I passed the MTLE. This was a huge relief. I was so stressed about the test and SO happy to get the results.

5. I joined DailyMile in April and enjoyed tracking all my workouts.
Total mileage - 926.74, since April
4. I became a runner (again)! I already wrote a running recap. You can check it out here.
Total Running Miles - 392.2 since April
3. We spent a week and a half in Costa Rica. It was beautiful, fun, relaxing - just as any good vacation should be. I never ended up blogging about the trip. So sad! We spent a few days at the Arenal Volcano Lodge. It was cloudy much of the time, but we did get to see the top of the volcano one afternoon. Yes, it is an active volcano. No, it didn't erupt while we were there. We also we for a horseback tour (did not enjoy it) around the base of the volcano and ziplining (loved it) through the canopy. I did post some pics to FB here. The rest of the time in Costa Rica was spent on the Pacific coast in a little surfer village outside of Nosara. It was a trip and a half to drive through the poor roads, but a great adventure! This leg of the trip was just lots of sunsets, playing in the ocean, relaxing, and monkeys in trees. Go here for some more pictures, if you'd like.

2. I completed all my requirements (assuming I finish my e-portfolio by tomorrow night) to be able to student teach. There were many, many times when I felt like quitting, like it wasn't worth it. BUT I eventually overcame my defeatist attitude and I managed to knock it out of the ballpark!!!
And my #1 accomplishment for 2011 ...
1. I exceeded by blogging goal! Sweet!! I know this seems weird since I had so many blogging fails, but I did manage at least one post every month. :-)

What's up for 2012?

I'll be doing a Resolution post later, but here are few key events on the calendar already 
  • Student teaching
  • Swimming with the sharks at SeaLife MN
  • Trip to Vegas with some college girlfriends
  • Grandma's Marathon
  • Cross-country move

2012 is gonna be EPIC!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What a Mistake!

Yesterday, I was supposed to run 5miles at my goal half marathon pace.

My nose had other ideas, so I didn't get a run in at all.

If I don't go before work, I just don't seem to have time in the evenings - especially this week with my portfolio due date looming.

So, I decided I'd do my 5mile pace run this morning instead.

This was not a good idea.

During my warm-up walk - Ooh. These sidewalks are a little slick in spots. I'll just walk/run along the grass next to the sidewalks, and I should be fine.

Did I mention it was 5:30am and DARK?

0.8 miles - I tripped on a rock (or was it a root?) and fell. Hard. I took a second to catch my breath and decided to just keep going.

I ran a little further on the side, but figured it was stupid, so moved back to the paved path. My pace was SLOW, but I kept saying, well, this would be my half marathon pace if the conditions were icy. I was practically walking at some points; I felt like I was running in slow motion.

2.2 miles - I fell again. It still wasn't exactly the slipperiness of the path. No, this time, the path jumped up at me.  Yeah there was a buckle that I didn't compensate for, and I went down.

I really wanted to keep pushing for 0.3 more miles to get in my 5 miles.

2.3 miles - I succumbed and turned around.

I tried to push myself on the way home to try to gain back some speed, but my body just didn't want to.  I could feel bruising on my left arm and thigh from where I'd fallen. And I just wanted to cry!

4.2 miles - I gave up and decided to just walk the rest of the way.

I slipped a couple more times on my way home but nothing serious. I was cold and tired and cranky and sore by the time I walked in my door.

I was very concerned about my clothing. Thankfully, no tears. No damage! Yay!

Now nearly every step hurts.

This sucks.

Especially since there is no visible bruising on my thigh! I mean, c'mon, let me at least have some proof - bragging rights - that I attempted to conquer the icy running paths.

Now I have tomorrow to rest and, hopefully, recuperate. I'm running a 5K NYE in the evening, so hopefully I'll be feeling much better by then.

How do you deal with icy/slippery conditions? Any tips for sore muscles, bruises, scrapes that are a result of falling while running?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review: All I Want for Christmas is You

All I Want for Christmas is You (Fate with a Helping Hand)All I Want for Christmas is You by Lisa Mondello

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun, light love story. Centered during the few weeks leading up to Christmas, this is a cute twist on the classic love-at-first-sight story.

Six-year old Kristen Alexander asks Santa for a daddy for Christmas. Kyle Preston, owner of mall and Santa stand-in, takes note of Kristen's mom, Lauren, standing off to the side. Her bad luck (her car battery is dead after leaving her lights on) when leaving the mall turns into his (well, ultimately, their) good fortune. He helps her with her car that night and spends the rest of the book attempting to break through her hardened shell.

Unfortunately, this book is bit riddled with grammatical errors. It wasn't too distracting from the overall story, but they were definitely noticeable. They seemed to get a bit worse as the story progressed. This definitely would have gotten 4 stars if it wouldn't have been for the number of errors.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#HBBC, Week 5 Recap

I know. I'm really late getting this out. I guess I got distracted with Christmas, and, you know, being lazy.

This definitely was not my best week for #HBBC.

Week 4
12/17: 6.5 points
  • Ran 6.5 miles - Joined TCRE (my running group) for a run. This was a TOUGH one. Thanks goodness for running partners - otherwise I'm not sure I'd have been able to finish this one.
12/18: 3 points
12/19: 0 points
  • REST!!!  
12/20: 3 points
  • Ran 3 miles - Nothing really remarkable about this run. Familiar route. Walked a bit in the middle.
12/21: 5 points
  • Ran 5 miles - Not the greatest run pace-wise, but I did manage to pass another runner. It felt like a pretty great accomplishment. Plus, it was my anniversary, so I was happy to have squeezed in a run before work, so I could celebrate with my husband after work. :-)
12/22: 3 points
  • Ran 3 miles - Today's challenge was to not look at my watch. Success!
12/23: 0 points
  • REST!!!
Not once this week did I manage to get in the 7 fruits/vegs. :(

Week 2 Total: 20.5
Challenge Total: 94.95

Hope your Christmas was merry and bright!

Shared Photo

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best of 2011: The Running Edition

NOTE: I'm not sure yet if there will be other editions, but this one is definitely specific to running. It's been a great year!

I found this on RunToTheFinish, but it's originally from Miss Zippy. She asked her readers to share some running highlights from the past year, and I thought it would make for a great post.

So, here is my Best of 2011.

  • Best race experience? I think I'll have to go with the Urban Wildland Half Marathon. I'm not going to say it was easy, but I did it! It was my first in many years. I got to meet a couple DM friends. My sister ran it, too. Best of all, my husband met me at a couple points along the course, which made me smile. :-)

  • Best run? I had quite a few good runs this year. It's the year I really decided to get back into running. My first inclination for my best run; however, was my first run with Twin Cities Running Experiment (TCRE). It wasn't easy. I had to make us stop a couple times, and I got home to bloody toes. BUT it was the best run because a) I made a new running friend. Most of the group was a lot faster than me, but she ran with me and we paced each other pretty well. b) We talked almost the entire time, which made the 1hour+ run go by very fast. And c) Our overall pace was 9:40, which is something I never thought possible for that kind of distance. This run showed me just how fast I could go and still have fun while doing it! It was pretty shocking and eye-opening.

  • Best new piece of gear? I didn't really get a lot of new gear this year, but I'm having a hard time deciding between the amphipod Hydraform Handheld Thermal-Lite and the iFitness Ultimate Race Belt. Both of these items were really, really helpful to me throughout my running this year. I love the ease and convenience of always having water with me, but I also liked being able to run with my phone and not having to use safety pins during my races. So, I'm just going to have to leave it at a tie.

  • Best piece of running advice you received? Well, I guess it's probably not exactly running advice, but a friend told me about DailyMile back in April, and I joined. I love being able to track my runs (and other activities), but even more than that I've loved meeting new running friends. I've met a few irl now, and it's been great to connect with other runners. Best of all, through a fellow DM'er, I found TCRE.

  • Most inspirational runner? I'm going with a tie on this one, too. My first thought was Lauren @ The Running Cook (now Sweat-Junkie). Hers was one of the first running-themed blog I discovered that I really connected with. She was training for her first marathon but got back injury just weeks beforehand. She's now starting to get back into it, but it's a slow process. She inspires me not only because she remained upbeat despite her injury and DNS, but because she didn't push beyond her limits even though she wanted to. Sometimes we've just got to listen to our bodies...and for runners, sometimes that really hard to do.

  • My second most inspirational runner is Tyly @ one mile at a time. She's just got the cutest smile and some really fun running outfits. 2011 has been a very difficult year for her in a non-running-related way. As for running, she's totally rocked it with several PRs, I believe. I don't know why, but her blog is no longer public. I hope she comes back soon.

  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? I became a runner! I'm planning on writing up my running story in a separate blog sometime in the next couple weeks, so stay tuned for further explanation on this answer.

  • So there you have it. My Best of 2011. What a great year!

    What's your Best of 2011?

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    What's in a Name?

    Well, a lot. I think.

    A name draws you in.
    A name entices you to read.
    Am I right?

    I want to take my blog to the next level.

    I started this blog way back in 2006.
    Without a niche.
    Just a place for me to share some of my random thoughts.

    More than five years and a few hundred posts later, I feel like I need to change it up a bit.
    I'll still share randomness that goes on in my life, but I'd like to focus more on my running/fitness goals. Of course, that's kind of been the focus for quite some time now.

    Perhaps a name change is in order?

    I've been wracking my brain for the past week or so trying to come up with something creative and fun. Here are a few ideas I'm considering. I'd love to hear what you think.

    Middle of the Road Gal
    I'm average and that's OKAY
    (too whiny? too political sounding?)

    Don't Get Excited
    Just an average girl running through life

    Keep Your Shoes Laced
    You never know what's coming next

    Running Poppycock

    Enjoying the Course
    An average runner's journey

    What do you think? Which is your favorite or do they all stink? Do you have any suggestions?

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    #HBBC, Week 4 Recap

    Week 4 of the #HBBC was off to a great start, but really petered out at the end.

    Week 4
    12/10: 10 points
    • Ran 9 miles - Joined TCRE (my running group) for a run. I'd intended on doing a LSD run of about 8 miles. We went a bit faster and further than I'd wanted, but I still felt pretty good about the run. Plus I met a new friend who lives nearby and offered me a ride home - saving me from a mile walk in barely double digit weather wearing super sweaty clothes. I gladly accepted the ride.
    • Walked 1 mile - Walked to pick up the HourCar to pick up my race packet for the Get Lucky Triple 7K (half marathon) I'll be doing in March. I know it's super early, but I just couldn't wait for the super awesome sweatshirt.
    12/11: 5 points
    12/12: 1 points
    • REST!!!
    • 7 servings of fruits/vegs. Yay!
    12/13: 5 points
    • Ran 4 miles - Took advantage of the beautiful weather that has melted all the snow, and ran along the river. At night. In the dark. It's wasn't bad at all. Felt pretty good actually.
    • 20 min of weights - I was really short on time, but better than nothing, right?
    12/14: 4 points
    • Ran 4 miles - Treadmill. My goal was to run 4 miles at a 9:30ish pace. I set the treadmill to 6.3, random workout with average level of 2. I really had to push myself a few times to fight the urge to walk. I gave in 3 times and ended with an average pace of 9:43.
    12/15: 0 points
    • I had a final to study for a final bright and early Fri morning, so I chose to study instead of workout. It was my last final, so at least for a few weeks school won't get in my way of working out. :)
    12/9: 0 points
    • REST!!! - After a few days of little sleep preparing for my final, I really welcomed an evening with nothing to do. Plus, I didn't want to wear myself out for Saturday's run.
    Week 2 Total: 25 - most points in one week for me! yay!
    Challenge Total: 80.95

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    I PASSED!!

    I know you've all been on the edge of your seats awaiting the results of my MTLE.

    Well, the wait is OVER.

    I PASSED!! (obviously you figured this out from the title)

    I am so excited about it.

    My scores aren't terrific, or anything to brag about, but I PASSED and that's all that matters.

    Here's a little more info...

    FIRST, I was tested on my pedagogical knowledge. This was broken into 2 subtests.

    Here's a breakdown of what the Performance Indices mean...

    I did much better on the 2nd than the first, which means...

    Maybe I won't be the best teacher, but I at least I'll be ethical and know what to do & where to go to find ways to improve myself as a teacher.

    SECOND, I was tested on my knowledge of Social Studies. This also was broken down into two subtests and covered a wide variety of subjects.

    No big surprises here. I've never been good with Economics - and it shows.

    Now, I'm off to study for my US History final. It will finish off all my content courses.

    After that I have two weeks to work on my online portfolio.

    AND THEN ... and all-out break in January before I student teach.

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    #HBBC, Week 3 Recap &

    Well, Week 3 of the #HBBC was a bit of a dud, but there were a couple of successes as well.

    Week 3
    12/3: 0 points
    • Visited The Russian Museum of Art with my Russian history class. It was fascinating, but somehow it kind of drained me. I was pretty worthless after returning. Well, I do think I got *some* homework done.
    12/4: 7.5 points
    • Ran 7.5 miles - On the treadmill. I was not looking forward to such a long run inside, but I didn't want to run out in the cold, either. I brought A Bug's Life to watch and that helped a LOT, but next time I need to find something a little more engaging (i.e. something I haven't watched a million times already). After my run, I felt like I was positively gliding on my walk home. Bonus!
    12/5: 0 points
    • This was my designated rest day. Aaaaahhhhh!!!!!
    12/6: 0 points
    • I got distracted after work doing something on the Internet, I suppose. Boy, this week was really off to a rough start!
    12/7: 2.6 points
    • Ran 2.6 miles - Outside. It was a beautiful afternoon!! I couldn't resist taking Sallie out for a run. I'd intended to go 4 miles, but her little tootsies kept getting too cold. She had to stop several times to lick out the snow/ice. Before you think I'm a bad doggie-mom, we turned around after the first time she stopped. Poor girl.
    12/8: 4 points
    • Ran 3 miles - Back on the treadmill. Mostly I just don't feel comfortable running outside when it's dark, and I can't clearly see the ice patches on the ground. I was attempting 4 miles to make up for the miles I missed the day before, but just around 3miles, the power went out at the gym. Well, the whole neighborhood, actually. I'd intended on visiting the weight room, but once the power went out, I headed home instead.
    • I ate 7 servings of fruits/veggies! I. am. shocked!
    12/9: 1 point
    • This was another designated rest day. Aaaaahhhhh!!!!!
    • I ate 7 servings of fruits/veggies TWO days in a ROW!
    Week 2 Total: 15.1
    Challenge Total: 49.45

    Yes, I'm as shocked as you are that I managed to get in 7 servings of fruits/veggies TWO days this week. I find that it's much easier to accomplish if you have a plan. Making a meal plan ahead of time is really something that I struggle with. It's so time consuming! Towards the middle of the week, I decided to stop fighting it and let SparkPeople do the work for me. They have system generated plans that are super easy, super filling, and loaded with fruits/veggies. It makes it tons easier to just bring up the website and know what I'm going to make. If I don't like something they suggest, it's super easy to swap out the entire meal suggestion or just one of the components.

    I've also discovered MyPlate. This site is produced by the USDA and is a great resource. I haven't spent too much time on the site yet, but it appears you can create meal plans and track your foods. I think you need to sign up for an account of some sort, of course. They also have something they call MyFood-a-pedia where you can look up over 8,000 foods for nutritional info. You can even compare two different foods. There aren't name brands, but it's more general in nature.

    I think I'll play around with the site more in the future and do a full write-up/review of the website at that time.

    Have you visited the MyPlate website? What do you think? Do you plan out your meals ahead of time or just wing it?

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Five Question Friday

    It's my first time linking up with My Little Life for...

    1. What is your favorite Christmas cookie?
    I ♥ Christmas cookies!! It's so difficult to choose a favorite. Here's probably my top 3...
    Chocolate Crinkles
    Chocolate Pinwheels
    Candy Cane cookies, I just wanna bake some cookies!

    2. What's your favorite holiday movie;  why?
    I honestly can't think of a favorite.

    3. Is there a gift that you bought for your kids that you wish you hadn't after they opened it?
    Of course, this could be because I've got no kids - just the sweetest, cutest little dog.

    Playing with her favorite toy.
    Or, taking a break from playing with her favorite toy.

    4. What is the messiest room in your house right at this moment?
    Hands down ... the kitchen. The dishes are always needing to be done. It's worse than laundry!

    5. What is the furthest you have driven for the holidays?
    Not far.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    It's a Good Day!

    I had an incredible day!

    Wanna know why?

    I handed in paper #4 for my Russian history course. I didn't really read this book, but scanned it to find information that would support my thesis. I hope I did a good enough job to fool my professor.

    Only one more paper to go!!!

    I got an A+ (150/150) on paper #3. This was on a book by Gorbachev that I found very interesting. I really would recommend it. Here's the comment my prof wrote: Excellent paper, Clarinda - very focused and clearly argued. :)

    That alone would have totally made my day,
    but wait...there's more...

    I went to my clinical practice (student teaching) placement meeting this afternoon, and I got assigned to my TOP CHOICE SCHOOL!! I'm super excited. Clinical practice will be Feb 1st. While I still have a bit to do to prepare, it's a relief to know that I at least got a good placement.

    I'm cutting things really close with some of my content courses. I just turned in one final on Sunday, and I'm taking the other final on Friday, but I'm concerned about the time it will take for the profs to grade the essays/exams and for BYU to get my transcript to UST. I was assured that if the transcript isn't in my Jan 1st it isn't the end of the world. I just need to keep the Director of CP informed of the situation. Yay!

    I still haven't found out my scores for the MTLE (licensure exams), but I asked what would happen if I didn't pass them. I was told, "You just retake them." In other words, , but I will need to pass them before I can get my license. What a relief! Btw, I should get the resultsI can still student teach even if I didn't pass next week.

    We had a birthday lunch at work today. I actually missed it because of my CP meeting, but I got to enjoy some delicious leftovers at my desk. Chicken Tortilla soup? YUM! Chocolate cake? DOUBLE YUM!


    Things are really starting to fall into place, and the nearer the end of the semester I get, the more elated I get. Yay!

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    #HBBC, Week 2 Recap

    Did you notice the button over in my right sidebar? I kind of threw it up there without any explanation, but I joined up with the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge 2011. I'm new to it this year and signed-up a little late, so I don't qualify for any of the fun final prizes. Still, I thought it would be a good way to challenge myself through the holiday season.

    Here's how I can earn points each week:

    1 Point per mile (run/walk)
    1 Point per 3 miles biked
    1 Point per 20 minutes of weight lifting, Pilates, yoga, stretching or abs
    1 Point per 15 minutes of low impact cardio (i.e. low impact aerobics, easy biking, skiing, skating, water aerobics, snow shoeing)
    1 Point per 10 minutes of high impact cardio (i.e.spinning, kickboxing, lap swimming)
    1 Per day where you reach a minimum of 7 servings of fruits and veggies (here are details on what is a serving)

    I'd like to do a brief recap here each week. Since I missed week 1, here's a recap from both weeks.

    Week 1

    11/19: 0 points
    • Studied all day for MTLE on Monday morning
    11/20: 0 points
    • Same as Saturday
    11/21: 5 points
    • Weights - 20 min
    • Elliptical/Stairmaster - 30min
    11/22: 0 points
    • No real good reason. :(
    11/23: 1.1 points
    • Walked 1.1 mile
    11/24: 4 points
    • Walked 1 mile - had to pick up / drop off the car
    • Turkey Day 5K - ran with a friend from high school. So. Much. Fun! (and crazy crowded)
    11/25: 2 points
    • Ran 2 miles
    Week 1 Total: 12.1
    Challenge Total: 12.1

    Week 2
    11/26: 0 points
    • Skipped my run. Went to a wine tasting with my stepmom, sister, and brother's girlfriend. Well worth it. :)
    11/27: 7.25 points
    • Ran 7.25 miles - Very pleasant run spent listening to the radio. Quite enjoyable, in fact.
    11/28: 0 points
    • I can't even remember what happened this day.
    11/29: 3.9 points
    • Ran 3.9 miles of hills on the treadmill. Was very tough!
    11/30: 2.1 points
    • Ran 2.1 miles outside. The weather has been so pleasant!
    12/1: 2 points
    • Cycled for 30 min. Slowly. While attempting to read. Not very successfully.
    12/3: 4 points
    • Ran 4 miles on the treadmill. Attempted speedwork.
    Week 2 Total: 19.25
    Challenge Total: 34.35

    Where I'm really falling short is the fruits/veggies part of the challenge. I really struggle to eat nutritiously. Hopefully this will improve once school is finished, but right now it would be a real challenge for me to even eat 3 servings a day, let alone 7. That seems like an incredible amount to me.

    What tips do you have for incorporating fruits/vegs into your diet? How are you battling the heaviest eating season of the year?

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Well, that was weird...

    I was just taking a little Friday afternoon nap.

    When I abruptly awoke from my 1st ever, bona fide blogger dream.

    Now I know that dreams are a bit nonsensical, but there were such fun bloggers appearing in this little ditty that I can't help but share the bits I can remember.

    First, I was neighbors with Ally from Two Normal Moms. She lived on the street behind my house, down a hill, and a few houses over. She had a gorgeous, pet friendly home.

    I know because not only were we neighbors, we were friends.

    Good enough friends that I felt comfortable entering her home.

    And hanging out.

    When no one else was there.

    It wasn't creepy, I promise.

    While it was most definitely Ally's home, there was a sense of Mark from Forward Progress. He didn't actually appear in my dream, but he recently lost two dogs, and I remember making a comment in my dream about how comfortable Sallie was in Ally's house because of the loss of her two dogs. I'm guessing that's how that tied in since I know Ally hasn't lost any pets (and least not that she shared on her blog).

    There were some funny occurences happening at Ally's.

    For some reason, Sallie kept escaping to Ally's house.

    And there was a misunderstanding with my family, who apparently didn't like the people in the house where she kept ending up. I kept thinking, Who couldn't love Ally? She's my favorite neighbor??

    You know how dreams can flip in an instant, so suddenly, I was hanging out with Lauren from Sweat Junkie. We were all in some kind of class. I wanna say it started out as some sort of exercise class / boot camp type of thing, but it may have morphed into some thing more ladylike. hehehe.

    All I remember is at the end of the dream, Lauren, sweet Lauren, was getting berated by an older woman (50ish) who was teaching/conducting the class (and no longer were any of us wearing workout-type attire).

    And then.

    In swooped this guy (presumably a celebrity of some sort) who got right in the face of this older woman, and yelled, "Say Sweat Junkie!"

    This totally flustered the woman and sent the class into riotous laughter, with everyone repeating Say Sweat Junkie.

    Trust me.

    It. Was. Hilarious!

    And then I woke up and thought, "Well that was weird."

    Dreams are funny things. I don't usually put too much stock in them, and I rarely try to find meaning from them.

    And I'm not going to today either.

    But these are a few of my favorite blogs, so I figured I'd tell you a little about them and maybe why you should check them out.

    Two Normal Moms
    Meet Ally and Lela. Two best friends that grew up together and now blog together. They blog about a wide variety of things - each of them writing separately. It's fun to follow their lives. Ally tends to blog a bit more frequently than Lela, so I'm a little more familiar with her. They are both well written and funny.

    Forward Progress
    Mark and I are friends on DailyMile. His blog is fairly new and mostly tracks his running progress and everyday activities.

    Sweat Junkie
    Formerly the Running Cook, Lauren recently switched to a new blog. She loves to sweat and share all her sweaty stories with us. Last month, she had to take a DNS for her first marathon because of an injury week's before the big day. So sad.

    I find inspiration from so many blogs/bloggers - not just these three.

    I love blogging and connecting with bloggers from across the country. It's fun to read about different experiences by real people.

    So tell me. Have you ever dreamt about a fellow blog or blogger?

    It's December!

    Which is scary.

    And overwhelming.


    Of course, I've pretty much been saying that since September, but now I really am down to the wire.

    Here's what I still have to finish:
    • Read TWO books
    • Write THREE papers (one 4 pg and two 3-5 pg)
    • ONE quiz
    • ONE final (scheduled for a week from today)
    My plan, my hope, is to have all that finished by the 15th, which will give me about two weeks to finish my online portfolio. I started this earlier in my program and haven't really looked at it in a couple years now. It will take a lot of work, but I think two weeks is pretty reasonable to finish it.

    I'll admit this past weekend and early part of this week, I had a completely defeatist attitude. I doubted highly I would be able to finish everything, and I wondered if it was really worth it to push myself so hard to student teach and get my license in MN when we're planning on leaving the state next summer.
    But writing this out, it doesn't seem that bad.

    I CAN DO THIS! Right?

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    On Mortality

    Yesterday morning, when I asked my boss how her holiday had been, she mentioned that her nephew had died. He was in his early 20s. Apparently, he had too much to drink on Thanksgiving, slept on his back, and choked to death on his vomit.

    I wonder what it would be like to die in such a manner. Would you realize what was happening? Would it hurt? Would it be a peaceful way to go? Did he struggle? Could it have been prevented (other than the obvious of not over-imbibing)? What would it be like to just not wake up one morning?

    This led me to thinking about mortality in general. Life is pretty fragile and can end at any moment. Everyone dies; no one is immune.

    What happens next?

    I, obviously, have no concrete answer for this. I could spout on about what religion has taught me or what I hope might happen.

    But maybe a better topic for consideration is what happens to those left to grieve.

    I'm not an expert. I can only share my experience.

    I lost my mom suddenly when I was 17. She died in a tragic car accident. It was very sad.

    And life changing.

    Just like that my life changed completely and would never be the same.

    Over time, the heartache lessened. I'm sure I experienced all the appropriate stages of grief. It will be 17 years this December. I still miss her a lot. She often appears in my dreams. Usually as someone who has come back to me, someone who faked her death. Perhaps that's weird. Maybe I haven't truly gotten to that Acceptance stage. I don't know.

    Although these dreams are often troubling, they remind me of her and keep her close to my thoughts. I have many great memories of her that I will always cling to.

    I will always love her.

    Wow. This post took a totally different turn than what I had intended. That's OK, I suppose.

    Perhaps this is more what I needed.

    What are your thoughts on mortality? Have you lost someone close to you? How has loss affected you?

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    Well, I've been busy...

    Remember this post from back in January? My goal for 2011 was simply to publish at least one post every month. There were a few banner months over the summer, but overall, that lowly little post of the month was the only one you got.

    With the start of the 2011-2012 school year, it became real to me how much work I needed to finish and how little time I had to accomplish it all. I knew I needed to prioritize and make sure that my school work was my top priority. I've done surprisingly well and am on pretty good target for getting everything in order for me to student teach in February.

    To give you a little glimpse, here is what I have accomplished since my last post.

    ► I read. A LOT.
    • Daughter of Han by Ida Pruitt
    • The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck
    • Selected Stories by Lu Hsun
    • Wild Swans by Jung Chang
    • Hungry Ghosts by Jasper Becker
    • Son of the Revolution by Liang Heng
    • China Pop by Jianying Zha
    • Cement by Fedor Gladkov
    With the exception of Cement, all of these books were for my Modern China Since 1500 class. Thankfully, they did get much better than the first book I read for the course, Emperor of China by Jonathan Spence. There were even a couple books that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I think reviews of those books warrant their own post. Yeah, that's how fascinating they were.

    All those books were in addition to keeping up with the reading for my 20th Century Russia history course that I'm taking at St Thomas this fall and doing the other lessons for that China history course. I can proudly say that I just have two more essays to write to finish off that China class.

    ► I registered for my final history course (US History to 1877) and my teaching licensure exams. The exams are scheduled for the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I should be all finished with my US history course by December.

    So yes, mostly I've been absorbed with schoolwork, but life needs to have some balance, right?

    ► I ran 61 miles and biked 75.86. Some of those running miles were with my running group, which has proven to really push my speed and endurance. Yay!

    ► I ran a 5K race (included in the above mileage) with my family yesterday.

    ► I went scuba diving a few more times for the season.

    ► I registered for Grandma's marathon next June. It will be my first marathon since 2003. I'm both nervous and excited.

    ► I watched the runners at the Twin Cities Marathon. This was my first time ever going out and spectating at a race. It was fun! I knew several people running, but I didn't end up seeing any of them. :-( There were so many runners! Watching the race really got me pumped up for Grandma's.

    ► I squeezed in a trip to Valleyfair (local amusement park) with my sister and her kids. So. Much. Fun!

    ► I attended a friend's wedding reception.

    ► I got my hair cut and colored. The bold colors didn't turn out quite as bold as I'd asked, but it still looked really great. Sorry, no good pictures were taken.

    ► We took my niece to SeaLife MN to celebrate her birthday, which was in June. It was the first opportunity that we could make it work.

    ► I played church volleyball. I've always enjoyed playing volleyball, though I've never been good. It's been fun playing this season and seeing improvement. It feels so good when I'm actually able to make some good plays and get congratulations from my team.

    ► My CSA provided me with an abundance of squash, so I experimented with squash. I even posted 8 recipes on my recipe blog.

    That's about it. Like I said, I've been busy! I feel good that I've also managed to be quite productive. It's nice to be on target school-wise and also know that it hasn't really come at the expense of having fun and enjoying life.

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Maybe she's born with it....

    Maybe it's Maybelline.

    Well, it's neither, actually.

    For my birthday, my brother and his girlfriend gave me a gift certificate to Juut Salon and Spa to get my eyelashes tinted. I had never had this done before but was very excited to give it a try.

    I made an appointment for after work one evening. I thought ahead and purposely didn't wear any mascara that day and chose to wear my glasses instead of my contacts - just in case that was necessary.

    The overall experience was fantastic.

    I lied down on a table (kind of like a massage table), and the aesthetician applied some kind of guard under my lashes. Then, I simply closed my eyes while she applied the dye.

    It needed to set for about 15 minutes or so.

    At first, I wasn't sure what to do. It seemed weird to lie there with my eyes closed. I had to fight the urge to open my eyes.

    But then the best part started.

    As I lied there with my eyes closed, she sprayed some aromatherapy in the room and began massaging my scalp. My face. My ears. I relaxed immediately and no longer had to fight the urge to open my eyes. The ear thing she did was especially amazing.

    When it was time, she rinsed off the excess dye, and I opened my eyes.

    She brought over a mirror, and wow, if I didn't have just the prettiest eyelashes ever!

    Self-portrait taken a couple days after the tinting.
    Perhaps not the best picture to highlight the lashes. Oh well.
    I was very pleased with how they turned out and the experience as a whole.

    I love not having to take the time remember to apply mascara in the mornings.
    I love how my lashes are beautifully dark but not at all heavy or clumpy.

    With all that being said, I was a little disappointed with Juut and this particular aesthetician.

    **It would have been nice to have the person who scheduled the appointment tell me things like "don't wear make-up" and "it's recommended to not wear contacts." I did these things anyway, but it would have been nice to have been warned as well.

    **There was no consultation. We didn't discuss the procedure. There was no mention of the massaging. She even picked out the color - automatically mixing up the most popular choice.

    **There was no after care advice. Whenever I've gotten my hair dyed, the stylist generally gives tips on how to make the color last longer, etc. There was none of that. Do I wash my face and eyes like normal? Maybe that's a silly question.

    **Not really related to the spa or the aesthetician, but when I first opened my eyes, it really burned. She said she's never had anyone complain about a burning sensation afterwards. Guess there's a first for everything.  *sigh* We rinsed my lashes again, and the second time I opened my eyes was much better.

    Would I get my lashes tinted again? Absolutely.
    Would I go to the same girl? Not so sure.

    Have you ever gotten this done? How did you like it?
    What other beauty treatments would you consider "must-trys"?

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Road Rash Rocked Ragnar!

    The day after the Great River Ragnar, Jeff and I went scuba diving in Wazee Lake, and then it was back to work on Monday. It's actually been a really busy week, but I still wish I had taken the time to write this recap earlier.

    Our team after 34h8m of running....
    Let me start at the beginning...

    I saw an old friend from jr/sr high school post something random about running Ragnar Great River this year on her facebook page. I'd only recently heard of this relay race and had looked over the website and was very interested in joining a team. Naturally, I zipped her a message asking for more details and if they had any more spots open.

    They did! I was super excited. :-)

    My confidence in my preparation waxed and waned throughout the following weeks. Two weekends before the race, I run a half marathon. I thought, if I can run a half, certainly I can survive Ragnar. Then I looked at the Ragnar suggested training schedule. I wasn't prepared.

    Still....I CAN DO THIS! became my motto.

    We spent the beginning of the week up at Big Lake Wilderness Lodge north of Ely on a family vacation. I had all Thurs morning to pack, but I was lazy, so only after Jeff took off for his scuba class did I realize that we hadn't taken all the bags out of the car. The bag that remained had so much of my running gear - hat, belt, shot bloks, bug spray, sunscreen, etc.

    I had to get that bag! Thankfully, Bryce and Mike from my team were nice enough to pick me up and drive me to South Minneapolis to retrieve it. Jeff had stuffed it under the car - luckily it was still there!

    We headed back to St Paul to meet up with the van and begin the journey down to Winona, MN. Since we had a 6:00am start time and a 5:00am safety briefing, we decided to get a couple hotel rooms for the night. Despite that, 4:00am came super early!

    I was filled with growing excitement as we checked in and picked up our swag and, yes, even during the safety briefing. ;)

    I wanted to RUN.

    Of course, being the last runner in my van, I had hours to go before my feet would hit the pavement runnning.

    Starting line
    It was a cool, beautiful morning!

    It certainly did heat up by the afternoon, though! Andrea and I got the worst of it during our first legs (okay, well, not nearly as bad as van 2. sorry guys!) plus the hills just about killed me!

    Just after a beastly hill with another off in the distance
     I ended up walking a LOT more than I'd wanted to during my first leg, but its completion meant a break for van 1. While van 2 ran their first legs, we found a park in Pepin, WI, where we ate lunch.

    We also found a public beach which was actually closed, but we pretended not to notice the small handwritten sign on Lake Pepin (i.e. the Mississippi River) where we swam lounged in the water to cool off and to rinse of the cake of dried sweat we were all sporting.

    Lake Pepin - DONE with legs 1-6!
    After a nice nap back at the park, we took off to Exchange 12 to meet van 2 to begin our second legs. It was still relatively light out for runner 1, and runner 2 started out without needing her headlamp, but it was dark by the end of her leg. Someone kindly gave her an extra headlamp to use. :-)

    My second leg started at roughly 11pm. I'd never really run in the dark before and never with a reflective vest and headlamp. It was a weird experience! I'd totally do it again, though.

    I ran with my own water bottle, so I didn't particularly need van support during this leg. I kind of thought my team was just going to meet me at the finish. I was listening to my music and concentrating on not tripping in the darkness, when I heard someone yell out "I love this song!" I refused to use headphones and just blared my music right from my running belt! Several steps later, it clicked that it wasn't just some random person yelling that was my team. Unfortunately, they didn't recognize me. What?! All runners with the reflective vests and headlamps look the same?! :-) I kept looking at all the passing vans to see the one that said Road Rash.

    When I saw the One Mile To Go sign, I still hadn't seen them pass me by, so I figured I should try giving Andrea a call. No answer. Sent a text that said something like You at exchange? I've got less than 1 mile to go.

    They weren't.

    Good thing I was passing off to the next van! This exchange was the most complicated for me. This could be due to the dark, but I had a difficult time figuring out which way to go and where to go. Thank goodness for a couple of teens randomly sitting on a busstop bench that corrected my wrong turn!

    After the exchange, I texted Andrea again to say I would meet them where the vans entered this particular exchange. I found them with no problems whatsoever.

    And we were off to Exchange 24 where there was promise of indoor showers and sleeping. It was a junior high school. So, yeah, the showers sucked just as much as you could imagine. Apparently, I had no problem sleeping on the gym floor, though. I slept soundly from about 1:30 to 3:30 when I got so cold I had to actually get inside my sleeping bag. I quickly fell back asleep until 5:07 when I heard my teammates rustling to pack up their stuff.

    Runner 1 would be starting us off again soon.

    It was another beautiful, cool morning. While it did heat up quite a bit before it was time for my 3rd leg, it was much more bearable. :-)

    My tummy wasn't too pleased with me as my leg was approaching, and I did not really feel up to running another leg, but I did it. I was actually able to stick to my 10/1 intervals, too for the most part! The running got easier as I went along, and I actually did end up enjoying this leg. Towards the end, but before the 1 Mile To Go sign, another runner came up behind me and asked if I wanted to run with her for a bit. I declined. She was just a tad too fast for me, plus I was set to do a walk break right when she asked.

    The end of my third leg came with mixed emotions for me. I was glad to be finished running but not so much looking forward to waiting the 5 hours for van 2 to finish. We headed straight to the finish to wait for our teammates. The after-party was in full swing - and the beer and pizza consumption began. If I drank beer, this might have been fun - and certainly would have made the time go faster.

    Finally, we saw our last runner coming down the path along the river. We all ran to meet him, so we could cross the finish together. GO TEAM ROAD RASH!

    We pretty much finished right on target!

    Would I do this again? Absolutely!

    Definitely it was physically challenging but also so much fun! I was surprisingly able to finish each of my legs really strong - which is, ultimately, always my goal of any race.

    It was fun to run and make some new friends, but it was also really fun to see the creativity of all the other teams - from the team names to the costumes to the van decorating. There was just a lot of fun energy surrounding this race!

    I think most, if not all, of Road Rash hopes to do this again next year. Sadly, I won't be able to join them because I'll just be settling into life in St Thomas.

    Perhaps Ragnar Florida Keys in Jan 2013... Who's in??

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Urban Wildland Half Marathon

    What's that they say about good intentions? :)

    Finally, I'm getting around to blogging about last weekend's half marathon. I'll use the excuse that it was my birthday this past week.

    I had such fun running this race!

    It was great to meet a couple friends from DailyMile before the start.

    Ray, Treva, Me, Courtenay
    I even somehow convinced my sister to join in the fun.

    Me, Treva
    A lot of runners had some difficulty with the weather, but I thought it was a perfect morning for a run. Guess I'm a bit more of a hot weather runner than most. I did notice a distinctive drop in humidity as the race progressed because I didn't seem to be quite as sweaty.

    I was planning on just running and then walking through the water stops, but after looking more closely at the map, I decided to stick to doing 10/1 interval splits. I figured it would help give my legs a brief rest and keep me going strong through the entire race.

    I also figured I'd be ok just getting water at the water stops, so I left my handheld in the car.

    This turned out to be a bad idea. I was pretty thirsty by the time I got to the first water station and didn't quite get satiated during my 30-sec water walk. I think between WS1 and WS2 there were some kids handing out hard candy. I grabbed a piece just because I wanted to generate some saliva flow in my mouth (TMI??)

    Other than being thirsty, I was feeling really pretty good when I met Jeff at the halfway point.

    Of course, I grabbed my handheld to take with me for the rest of the race! I also ate some Clif Shot Bloks. Yum!

    Overall, I think this course was really pretty. It was mostly roads, but there was also some trail running mixed in through some parks in Richfield. I liked the change of scenery. :)

    I had tasked Jeff with meeting a few times on the course, so he could get some pictures of me running. I hate how most of them look like I'm walking, when I totally wasn't. Alas.

    The second time I met Jeff was between mile 9 and 10. During the picture taking, my new DM friend, Ray, caught up with me. She started the race further back in the crowd than Treva and me. After the race, when I was looking through the photos Jeff took, I absolutely busted out laughing at how this series turned out. I had to put it into a slideshow.

    I wish I knew how to make a slideshow not automatically start playing, because it's funnier if you watch it from slide 1. In the pictures, it looked like we were running together, but in reality, I had no clue she was so close to me.

    I think it was around this time when I really felt like my pace had super slowed down. Technically I was still in motion like a runner, but I'd bet there were a few walkers that could have passed me.

    Ray only ran with me for perhaps a minute or two before we separated.

    Around mile 11, I had to stop to use a portapotty. I figured I could have probably made it the last two miles, but then I thought why put up with that discomfort, so I stopped.

    It was SO worth it.

    Probably around mile 12, the tummy queasiness set up, but I still managed to keep my pace fairly steady - from what I could tell without any kind of pacing device (gps, garmin, etc).

    When I came to that mile 13 sign, I decided, hell yeah, I'm going to push it to the end. I increased my pace. A LOT. I ran and I ran hard. So hard that I didn't even see Jeff taking my pictures just steps before crossing the finish line.

    To the Finish!

    I definitely needed a few minutes after I'd finished to catch my breath! I couldn't even consider going through the food line right away; I was way too queasy. I walked around the park - sipping water and powerade until I started to feel hungry.

    Eventually, Jeff and I headed back to the spot where he was when I finished, so we could wait for my sister to cross the finish line. Tony joined us just a few minutes later.

    I started to get a little antsy after about 20 or so minutes, so I said I was going to walk back along the course to go cheer her on. I met up with her just before mile 13. She was walking, so I said we were going to start running once we got to the mile 13 marker. She agreed.

    Racing with my sis

     It was fun to help encourage her to finish nice and strong!

    So close!
    I'm so proud of the two of us! We both met our goals and, look, we're both smiling at the end.

    2011 Urban Wildland Half Marathon Finishers! Whoo hoo!
    I would absolutely do this race again and recommend it to anyone looking for a good half marathon. Everyone was very helpful. During one of my 1 min intervals, a medical aid person even asked if I was ok. It made me feel good that he was doing his job and paying good attention to the runners on the course.

    I managed to pull off about an 11 min/mile pace, which I'm very pleased with.

    My time - 2:24:35
    Treva's time - 2:57:29

    Oh, and I almost forgot how great is was that several people had turned on their sprinklers for runners to run though. I definitely took advantage of