Category Archives: Vacation

Mad Half Recap Part I

Well it is safe to say that “The World’s most beautiful marathon” (as it is described on the website) was also the hilliest half marathon my mom and I have ever run! The world's most beautiful marathon- the Mad Marathon in Waitsfield, Vermont. Despite all the crazy changes in elevation on the course, my mom and I had a FANTASTIC weekend and successfully bagged another state! 🙂 We kicked off the trip by first stopping by the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont. There was a bit of a summer crowd and we probably waited on line for 30-45 minutes, but our ice cream was well-worth the wait. Our visit to the Ben and Jerry's Factory in Vermont. After that, we got back on the road to go to Waitsbury and pick up our race packets before navigating our way to the little bed and breakfast we were staying in, the White Horse Inn. This little inn was adorable and so reasonably priced that we were able to stay for two nights, rather than just the one. There was a white carousel horse statue in the foyer, freshly baked cookies at all times (which were almost too yummy!), and a warm, cozy atmosphere that you just can’t get at a hotel. The owners were very friendly and gracious, and gave us a heads-up to keep our eyes out for bears! Apparently for the last month or so, bears had been visiting their dumpster, tempted by all the delicious smells. My mom was very excited when we realized our room had a nice view of where the backyard met the forest- and the dumpster. A prime bear-spotting location! After settling in and unpacking our things, we set out to explore the little downtown area and to drive the half marathon course. mad elevation I had looked at the elevation map provided on the race website, so I knew we were in for some hills, but boy oh boy, driving that course really brought those hills to life! The worst hill of the Mad Half! Are you seeing this hill?! My reaction on seeing this as we drove the course – “Are you KIDDING me?!” Sure, it had this nice downhill bit, but after that, it just goes up and up and up. Basically, we were going to have to run up a mountain.

There were some scenic views along the Mad Half course too.

the Mad Half Course

I will grudgingly admit that it was pretty darn beautiful, despite all those stupid mountains.

After seeing that course, we knew we were going to have to take it easy and not make the same mistakes we had made during the Heartbreak Hill Half (namely, getting a little too excited and going out too fast). We decided to try to stick to a run six minutes-walk one minute plan. By inserting more walk breaks earlier on, we hoped to maintain a strong pace through to the end.

Once we had finished driving the course (and thoroughly psyching ourselves out!), we grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant, where we sat outside, enjoying the beautiful Vermont weather.

The all-important pre-race dinner.

The all-important pre-race dinner.

I’m not usually a burger person – but this burger, topped with bacon, cheese, and caramelized onions served on a pretzel roll drew me in. I can honestly say it was probably the best burger I’ve ever eaten. My mom had steak with a creamy cheese sauce, and she said that was really good too. For two people who generally stick to a more veggie-based diet, we sure enjoyed our beef! We went to bed early that night, since we had our race at 7 am the next morning. Thankfully, the inn was pretty much full with runners, so everyone was very quiet and respectful, and we slept wonderfully in our big, comfy beds (quite a step up from the freezing cold Boston College dorms we stayed in for the Heartbreak Hill Half!).

Stay tuned for Part II to hear how the Mad Half went (and how we survived all those mountains/hills!)

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Greetings From the Mad Half!

Hi there!

Just wanted to post a quick update – we drove up to Vermont today, and we are getting ready for what looks like a beautiful (yet extremely hilly) course tomorrow.

Our lunch today? Well, we stopped by our friends’, Ben and Jerry’s obviously.

Ice Cream at Ben and Jerry's Factory in Waterbury, VermontWhat’s a trip to Vermont without a little ice cream? Also, those waffle cones were INCREDIBLE. And the lady who served us told us we got the last two, so that just makes it even better. 🙂

Some other glorious Vermont sites we took in-

Nothing is more Vermont than this scene right here. :)

Nothing is more Vermont than this scene right here. 🙂

A view of the Green Mountains from the Mad Marathon course

A view of the Green Mountains from the Mad Marathon course

We have to be up bright and early to run 13.1 miles tomorrow, so that’s all for now!

Hope you’re having a good holiday weekend! 🙂

 

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Heartbreak Hill Half Part I

What a whirlwind weekend!

The weather was absolutely gorgeous!

The weather was absolutely gorgeous!

The Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon and Festival was so much fun and a really incredible experience. It was, as I put it to my mom, like “going to running camp”. We stayed overnight Friday and Saturday in the dorms at Boston College. It was very nice for a dorm room, but the beds were certainly not the comfiest, and our room was freezing, despite the warm temps in Boston. Weird.

Our common room area

Our common room area

We drove into Boston on Friday afternoon and after checking into our room, headed to the expo  to pick up our race packets and check out the vendors.

We even picked up a little souvenir for one of our biggest fans!

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The rest of Friday afternoon we had to ourselves since all the running seminars were scheduled for Saturday. We went to Brio Tuscan Grille, a nearby Italian restaurant. My mom and I split the field greens salad to start and it was delicious! We followed that with some generous servings of pasta, which were also very good.

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On Saturday, the 5K and 10K races took place, but we weren’t running either of those, so we were able to sleep in a little bit before the seminars began at noon. When we woke up though, my mom and I were faced with the pressing difficulty of having NO AVAILABLE COFFEE! The horror!! So after showering and getting ready, we found the closest Starbucks and made the fifteen minute walk over.

Successful in our coffee quest!

Successful in our coffee quest!

 

After getting our coffees, we headed over to the start/finish area in time to see the end of the 10K and the Eukanuba 2-Mile Dog Run!

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dog run

This was absolutely the cutest. The race directors were also really good about ensuring the safety of all the dogs, given the warm temps. They filled big tubs of water and had the owners get their dogs soaking wet before the start of the race, and were advising owners over the loudspeaker that it wasn’t the day to “put the pedal to the metal”. Even so, some of the dogs sure seemed like they wanted to gun it!

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After watching the start of the dog race, my mom and I headed over to a seminar all about running for women. It featured four speakers – including Shalane Flanagan! For those who don’t know, Shalane is an elite long-distance runner who won the bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics for the 10,000 meters. In this year’s Boston Marathon, Flanagan ended up placing 7th, after leading the pack for 19 miles. I was so excited to hear her speak.

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She didn’t disappoint. She was funny, down-to-earth, and a pleasure to listen to. She talked about how hard it hard it had been for her to lose the Boston Marathon this past year, but how the winner Rita Jeptoo had thanked her at the end for setting such a fast pace. Shalane’s response? “Thanks, now you owe me a glass of wine.” Hehe. She also mentioned going on a donut binge where she ate five donuts during a meeting with her trainer. Her advice was not to do that though! All the women were great speakers and so fun to listen to. It was inspiring to hear how much running meant to these women, and how it had helped them through times of crisis in their lives.

My mom and I also went to a seminar on sports nutrition, given by Nancy Clark. She was very informative, and definitely gave me a lot of ideas about things I can do to improve my diet! One of the things she said NOT to do was what she called “crescendo eating”. This is when you eat a small breakfast, but end up starving by dinnertime and overeat as a result. She suggests breaking up your food for the day into 4 small meals so that you’re eating every four hours or so. This is best for sustained energy (very important for endurance running and athletes in general) and hunger control. I ended up buying her book, Food Guide for Marathoners. I’m still browsing through it, but I’ll be sure to post a full review once I can explore it in more detail!

food gude

After the nutrition seminar, I went to a seminar on fitness blogging (it was a busy day!). I got to meet some of my favorite bloggers, including Julie from PBFingers. The panel of bloggers included Katy Widrick of katywidrick.com, Matt from No Meat Athlete, and Karla from Run Karla Run. They definitely gave me some ideas for sprucing up my blog, so don’t be alarmed if my site looks very different in the coming days!

My mom and I then went for an early dinner, because we were hearing Sarah Reinertsen speak at 7. Sarah was the first woman amputee to complete the Ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, topped off with a 26.2 mile run).

We wanted to stay nearby to make sure we weren’t late, so we grabbed some Mexican food for takeout at El Pelon Taqueria, a restaurant about five minutes away from BC. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about eating Mexican the night before our race, but it was delicious and didn’t cause any problems on race day (thank goodness!).

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My mom and I both got the fish tacos and a side order of rice and chips and guacamole. It was all so fresh and authentic-tasting! If you’re in the Chestnut Hill area, I highly recommend checking this place out!

A little before 7, we headed over to hear Sarah’s keynote speech. Again, she was wonderful to listen to. At just over 5 feet tall, she was this tiny ball of energy – so dynamic and with such a powerful story! She talked about having her leg amputated due to a tissue deficiency at the age of 7, and not knowing how to run and play with the other kids. She talked about a soccer coach who wouldn’t let her scrimmage with the other kids during practice, and instead made her kick a ball against the wall by herself. This was all part of what fueled her to run marathons and eventually to compete in triathlons, including the Ironman!

 

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I bought her memoir, In a Single Bound, and was even lucky enough to get her to sign it after her speech. I certainly have my summer reading cut out for me!

sarah

Race day recap coming soon!

P.S. – Props to you if you read this whole post! It was another long one 🙂

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Easter and Boston Strong

Hi there! 

I apologize for the long wait between posts again. I had a big term paper due yesterday, and I found myself needing to devote all of my time to that, but I handed it in this morning, and NOW I’M FREE! 

easter

First of all, I hope everyone had a happy Easter! I went to Syracuse to spend the holiday with my boyfriend and had a great time. On Saturday, we went to the zoo, and I had a blast! I was like a little kid fawning over all the cute animals. It was a perfect day for it too, sunny with a little breeze.

I was pretty psyched to see elephants!

I was pretty psyched to see elephants!

phone convo

Hehehe. This was my conversation with my mom when I texted her a picture of the elephants! 

Hey I found Nemo!

Hey I found Nemo!

The lions were being super lazy, napping in the sunshine.

The lions were being super lazy, napping in the sunshine.

The tiger wanted to play though!

The tiger wanted to play though!

Secondly, a huge congratulations to everyone who ran in the Boston Marathon yesterday, especially my runner friends in the Squannacook River Runners Club and the 48 runners from my town who competed yesterday! Last year’s race still stands out in my memory – where I was standing in the college union when I found out there had been an attack, my immediate fear for my friends going to school in Boston and for the runners I knew who were there. To my relief, no one I knew was hurt, but it was still a gut-wrenching and frightening experience to realize that something like that could occur in a city I loved and around an activity as peaceful as running.

But boy oh boy, did Boston show the world the meaning of Boston Strong yesterday! Nearly 36,000 runners competed, making it one of the biggest field sizes ever. And an American won for the men’s division for the first time since 1983! Meb Keflezighi took first for the men with an incredible time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds (so roughly twice as fast as me .). The winner of the women’s division, Rita Jeptoo, set a course record, running the 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds. But really, anyone who ran yesterday was a champion (no matter their finishing time) and truly showed what it means to be Boston Strong.

boston strong graphic

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Shamrock Half Marathon Recap Part II

The next morning was Saturday, the day of the Shamrock Expo and the 8K race. My mom and I enjoyed sleeping in a bit, and then got up for a little breakfast and coffee before hitting the expo.

coffee breakfast

The expo was held at the Virginia Beach Conference Center, an absolutely beautiful building! We lucked out with the weather on this day – it was sunny, a little breezy, with temps in the low 70s. Perfect for a day of walking around and exploring!

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At the expo, we got our race bibs and shirts, and then were free to look around at the huge assortment of vendors, selling all types of running gear. We saw some pretty funny T-shirts- one of our favorites read, “Run a 5K and drink beer like it was a marathon”.

We were tempted by some of these shirts

We were tempted by some of these shirts

 

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While we passed on most of the merchandise, my mom and I did make a couple purchases. We were looking at charms for running sneakers made by this company, BeeCause, when my mom spotted a charm that read “Mother Daughter”. It was too perfect to pass up! So we each got one to put on our sneakers.

The Mother Daughter Sneaker Charms!

The Mother Daughter Sneaker Charms!

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We also purchased a couple of running-related coffee mugs, because well, we do enjoy our coffee! 

After walking around the expo for a while, we decided to head over to the Virginia Beach boardwalk to walk around and take in some gorgeous views of the ocean. We tried to take some selfies too, but the wind made for some interesting hairstyles!

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expo 8

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At least the photos of the scenery came out well! After walking along the boardwalk for a while, we decided to get some lunch. We both settled on seafood tacos – mine were made with grouper (a fish I’d never heard of before) and a chipotle sauce, and my mom’s were with shrimp and a sesame ginger/wasabi sauce. We were both so hungry that we ate them before getting a picture. Oops.

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After lunch, we headed back to the expo to hear Runner’s World contributor Bart Yasso give a talk on the joys of running. Being avid fans of Runner’s World magazine, it was so exciting to hear one of our favorite writers speak about his experiences running literally all over the world (including places I don’t think I will ever want to run- like Antarctica!) It was very inspirational, and when we left, I was feeling pretty psyched about running the half-marathon the next morning.

That evening, we hung out and relaxed at the hotel. We had another secret package from my dad to open, so I did the honors…

race day1

More Snickers and peanut M&Ms! Got to get that pre-race fuel you know! After watching a little TV and enjoying our candy, we went to bed, knowing that we would have to be waking up early to take the 6:15 shuttle from our hotel to the starting area.

Before I knew it, my alarm was ringing and it was time to get ready. It was race morning! For some reason, I find getting up at 7 to get ready for class so much harder than getting up at 5 to run a half-marathon. Call me crazy! We made ourselves a little coffee and each had a Clif bar, and then it was time to go down to catch the bus to the start.

Race morning!

Race morning!

It was still completely dark out, but the atmosphere on the bus was cheery even at the early hour. We left a few minutes late, but I wasn’t too concerned. After a short drive, we were dropped off, about ten minutes away from the start. My mom and I started off at a brisk walk, chatting with a fellow runner. As we approached the buses where we were supposed to check our bags, I curiously checked the time on my mom’s phone – 6:56 and the race was supposed to start at 7!! Not wanting to panic my mom, I suggested that we jog the rest of the way. Luckily, there was no line where we needed to check our bags, and we were able to make our way over to the corrals as the National Anthem begun.

In hindsight, we definitely should have tried to get there earlier in the morning. It was a little hectic and stressful trying to make our way to our corral at the last minute. In the hubbub, someone even stepped on the back of my mom’s shoe, pulling it completely off! So she was hopping along on one foot, trying to put her shoe back on, while I was trying to find us a place to stand in the crowd (and regretting that there wouldn’t be enough time to use the porta-potties before the start). What I wish I had known, was that starting in corral 7, we did not end up going until almost 10 minutes after the first corral left! We had a little more time than my mom and I realized, but oh well.

Finally, it was time for our corral, and we were OFF! There were bagpipes, noisemakers, and music, and it was such an exciting and happy atmosphere! People had gotten very festive for the St. Patrick’s Day theme of the race, and it was like running through a sea of green. My mom and I both wore our new green race shirts, but they were covered up under some warmer layers, as the temps had fallen dramatically overnight, going down to the low 40s for the race. A little cool, but very comfortable for running.

The course itself was almost completely flat, which I was thankful for. After winding down some residential areas, we went down a road through a pretty, wooded area. Along one side of the road were signs with Irish-themed jokes and sayings. My favorite was “What’s Irish and stays out all night?”, the answer on the next sign read, “Patty O’Furniture”.  Cheesy I know, but they were entertaining to read as the miles went by. This race also featured more entertainment than any other race my mom and I have done. There were DJs and live bands almost every 2-3 miles.

Apart from a little pain in one of my ankles early on, my mom and I were pretty comfortable through the whole race. Having had a rough winter training-wise, I was content not to push for a PR, and to just try to cruise along and enjoy the experience. I was surprised and grateful that I was able to do just that! Through the first 5 miles, my mom and I averaged just over a 10-minute mile. I was happy to see that I felt good enough to manage a negative split, running an average pace of 9:54 from mile 5 to the end. It’s nice when you’re able to finish a race feeling strong as opposed to crawling across that finish line!

I ran with my mom just past the 10-mile marker, and then surprised at how strong I felt, decided to push myself to run a little harder for the last 3.1 miles. We made plans for reuniting at the finish, and off I went. The crowd support near the finish was incredible! All the cheering really added to the fun of the whole race.

Near the end, I was starting to feel it, and I was thrilled when I rounded the bend onto the boardwalk, with the finish line in sight. It probably wasn’t more than three quarters of a mile long, but the WIND! It was awful; I could actually feel it pushing me. And not in a helpful, tailwind-type way.  Ugh… I ran harder, just wanting to be done at this point, and finally crossed the line in 2 hours, 9 minutes. Not too shabby for my first race of the season! My mom ended up not being far behind, finishing in 2 hours, 11 minutes. We happily claimed our new medals, finisher hats, and some post-race snacks.

nora results

Our final results!

Our final results!

We got our bags from the truck, and then pulled on more layers, as the wind along the ocean was rapidly cooling us. Then, we went to check out the finisher’s party.

post race 1

The tent was packed, a band was playing, and it was a happy chaos. We hopped on a nearby line and got some beef stew. The salty broth really hit the spot after running 13.1 miles. My mom then went to claim one of her free Yuengling beers (Yuengling was one of the sponsors of the race). Sadly, I was not able to join her in having a drink, as I was still TWO DAYS away from turning 21. 

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I was NOT ready for a close-up after finishing the race!

I was NOT ready for a close-up after finishing the race!

After hanging around for a bit, my mom and I decided to leave in search of a more substantial breakfast. As we walked along the main road, we cheered for the marathoners who were passing us at around mile 18 in their course and battling the cold winds. We quickly came upon a little diner that was rapidly filling with runners, and stopped in.

New medal!

New medal!

It felt great to sit down in the warm and cozy restaurant. We sipped our coffee and ordered some pancakes –banana ones for me, pecan pancakes for my mom. In my opinion there is no better way to celebrate a big race than with a nice, hearty pancake breakfast! We were served in no time despite the busy hour, and we devoured those pancakes in even less time. They really hit the spot after running 13.1 miles.

We caught the shuttle back to the hotel after, where we took nice hot showers and cleaned ourselves up. We also caught the weather report – it was looking more and more likely that another big snowstorm was coming, and this time, it was going to hit the midatlantic and southern states. And of course, it was supposed to hit the next day, when we were scheduled to leave and be driving all day. After consulting with my dad on the phone, we decided not to risk driving in the messy conditions and booked our room for another night.

Unfortunately, by this time the weather was already starting to get bad. A light rain had set in and it was getting colder. Not ideal for walking around and exploring.  Instead, we decided to do a little shopping at a nearby indoor mall for my upcoming birthday. It was great, apart from all the walking (or should I say limping).

The following day, we were again somewhat stymied as to what to do as the bad weather continued. My mom and I finally decided our best bet was to go see a movie at the very same mall since it also contained a theater. After some deliberation, we decided to see Frozen. It just seemed fitting with all the weather drama we had experienced over the past days! Apart from two other families, we had the theater all to ourselves.

 

We had the theater all to ourselves!

We had the theater all to ourselves!

I had heard a lot of good things about this movie, and it did not disappoint! It was very cute and the songs were great! It was a really nice post-race day activity.

On Tuesday, we finally made the drive home. Again, it took us 11 hours, which is a long time to spend in a car, but at least the weather had cleared and the roads were fine. When we got home, there was a chocolate cake waiting, to celebrate my 21st birthday!!! (Thanks to my brother for picking out a good cake!).

post race 5

It was a great way to wrap up our first big travel/half-marathon excursion. Despite some snafus with the weather and many long days of travel, this was a wonderful race, well-organized, and filled with friendly people. And, my mom and I are now one state closer to our 50 state goal! Woo!!

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Shamrock Half Marathon Recap Part I

Hey there!

WHAT AN ADVENTURE.  My mom and I just returned from successfully crossing off another half-marathon in another state!  This time we tackled the Shamrock Anthem Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach.

Let me tell you, the travel elements that went into this race were pretty darn exciting! The race happened to coincide with my spring break, so the plan was for me to get picked up a couple days before the race by my aunt and to then take the train home the next day. Well that would have been fine and dandy if not for a serious last blast of winter! The day before I left was sunny and mild, in the mid-forties. I went for a last run in shorts! The following day – the worst blizzard in decades. My school even cancelled classes for the first time in years! Luckily, that meant my aunt was able to come pick me up first thing in the morning, rather than waiting for me to finish up my classes. The conditions were becoming slippery fast. By 3 PM, the county closed the roads for travel, and if I hadn’t gotten out earlier, I would have been stuck! It was a crazy way to start the journey.

snowstorm edit

The day after the blizzard, I took the train home. It would have been smooth sailing… except for the 3 hour delay.  Ugh…  It was rough, but I finally made it home, where my parents picked me up and had homemade pizza waiting for me! That sorta made up for the long day of travel.

The following morning, my mom and I got up bright and early to begin our long drive down to Virginia. After a few cups of coffee, we were ready. Apart from some serious traffic on the George Washington Bridge in NYC, it wasn’t too bad. With a few pit stops, it ended up taking around 11 hours. A long drive for sure, but I was excited at the prospect of the fun weekend to come.

I would have to say the prettiest part of the trip was driving over the Chesapeake Bridge at sunset. Not being from the area, we didn’t really know what to expect, but the 20 mile long bridge really took us by surprise. I was able to snap a few pictures of the gorgeous sunset as we drove along.

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Another fun part of the trip were the sealed boxes of surprise goodies my dad packed for us to open over the course of the trip. Each box was labeled with when we were supposed to open. We opened the first one at a rest stop in Connecticut and got… snickers and trail mix!! Nothing like some yummy road trip snacks!

Even with the snacks, music, and good company, it was a long drive, but we finally arrived at our hotel around 8 pm. After bringing our bags to our rooms and getting settled, we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. I had some pasta with veggies (I was in a carbo-loading frame of mind!).

Tired and full from our late dinner, we went back to our room to catch some Zzz’s.

Check back later for Part II on the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon and Half-Marathon Expo and the race recap!

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Back in Action!

WOW.

I’m finally back. I have to apologize for the very long blogging hiatus. Towards the end of the fall semester schoolwork increased by an exponential amount, and I caught a nasty virus that had me feeling miserable and not running for several weeks. And then, I just fell out of the habit of blogging. 

But now, I am back! For real. I missed documenting my adventures, and there are so many more on their way that I had to come back to blogging. Not to mention, keeping this blog helps keep me motivated. And in this month of New Years’ Resolutions, staying focused and motivated is a must.

A little recap of my holiday break so far~

We had a quiet, peaceful Christmas at home. After coming back from school, I was happy to reunite with my favorite reindeer (aka my dogs!).

Brady the Reindeer!

Brady the Reindeer!

One of my favorite presents this year was the Runners’ World cookbook I received! I’ve tested out quite a few of the recipes since I’ve been home, and I’m excited for some fun cooking in 2014.

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My mom and I have been doing really well getting the runs in despite some FREEZING POLAR VORTEX temperatures. Yep, we’ve been dealing with some single digit temperatures plus serious wind chill.

winter runs

Not fun. Despite the crazy cold, my mom and I were able to run our two favorite winter races this year – the Lowell First Run on New Years Day and the Resolution Run to Kick Cancer. The Lowell First Run was a 10k and the Resolution Run was a 5k. Both my mom and I ran well and were happy with our performances, but we certainly didn’t set any PR’s!

The start of our first run of 2014

The start of our first run of 2014

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Post-race selfie!

Post-race selfie!

The other bit of exciting news I have is that my mom and I have officially set our sights on another half marathon and another state – VIRGINIA! That’s right, we’ve registered to run the Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach over my spring break. Doing the bulk of my training while at school is going to be tough, but I’m ready for the work. It’s so exciting to finally have another race in our sights!

march break

The next few months are going to get busy, especially when I go back to school (only 9 days from now!). But I’m ready for the new challenges, adventures, and achievements that await in 2014! 

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