Monthly Archives: April 2013

Living Room Yoga

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This morning, I awoke wanting to practice yoga.

(…what?)

Let me emphasize the practice part, because I am no yogi. I bought a beginner’s yoga book several years ago when my roommate was taking a yoga P.E. class at Longwood and promised to teach me her ways (she was incredibly flexible and very good at poise). Well, we never got around to it–surprise, surprise–so my poor yoga book has been collecting dust, and my interest in learning the art of yoga waned.

In training for my half-marathon, though, I have a renewed interest in slowing my thoughts, decreasing my mind “clutter,” and increasing my flexibility. Perhaps most of all, I want to work on the mental aspect of yoga. When I run, my mind races right along with my feet. I’m constantly calculating, counting down, making predictions, anticipating… I would like to be able to shut this off and enjoy the run.

When I say I have a renewed interest, I don’t know how far this interest will carry me. While I’ve participated in a number of seminars that offered mini yoga sessions, I’ve never attended an official yoga class. I plan to attend yoga at the Y when I’m home in Richmond for the summer, but let’s be honest — 6 a.m. classes and a bitchy sleepy A.K. won’t make for a great combination…

So! Living room yoga:

Tree Pose

Okay, so it’s possible that I found these poses by Googling “easy yoga poses” and then accidentally/on purpose selecting an AARP website that also catered to beginners…

Downward Dog

If you want, we can pretend that my heels are flat on the floor, my legs aren’t hairy, my yoga pants are of even lengths, and I’m not milliseconds away from falling on my head as I attempt a picture on my phone. Your call.

I tried to transition between poses as smoothly as possible, but my session went about as smoothly as expected for trying to scroll through poses on my laptop and ignore my clock app timing me. #Fail

I found some poses incredibly easy to focus on, such as Child’s Pose, Lotus Pose, Cow Pose, and Warrior I Pose. I mindfully tried to clear my head and focus on my breathing and the tautness in my muscles. I found that closing my eyes helped with this on some poses, but hindered my balance on others (e.g. Lunge Pose, Tree Pose). For the most part, slowing my thoughts wasn’t a problem; clearing my mind of clutter and focusing only on my yoga will take time and effort. I guess that’s why they call it practicing yoga.

Before I knew it, 21 minutes had flown by. My muscles felt more limber and relaxed, and I felt fairly stretched out. My mind immediately began “going” again, planning this post, creating mental to-do lists, contemplating what to have for lunch…

Ah, well. I didn’t expect to become a certified yoga instructor after one gawky living room session in my hole-iest yoga pants 😉

Question: Do you practice yoga? If so, do you recommend attending classes or practicing on one’s own time? Are there any materials you have found to be helpful, such as a CD or a book?

[Edited to add: For the month of April, I “traveled” 61.41 miles! In keeping with my goal of traveling 2,013 miles in the year 2013, I “should have” traveled 661.8 miles by April 30. I have traveled 199.64 miles thus far this year, which is just shy of the 399.45 of miles I traveled in 2012 — in 4 months alone! Keepin’ on keepin’ on ;-)]

Half-Crazy

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Well, blends, it’s official:

I’m crazy.

Actually, I’m half-crazy 😉

One of my best friends and I have decided to run a HALF-MARATHON in September! We put a lot of thought into which event we wanted to be our first half, and in fact, our very first race together. We decided on the Divas Half just outside Washington, D.C.

We determined this race would be best for several reasons: (1) it’s catered to women who want to dress up in silly, frilly costumes and act like divas while kicking serious ass, (2) it’s a relative compromise on distance, as Lauren is in the 757 and I’m in the 434 half the time and the 804 the other half of the time, (3) it will [theoretically] give us enough training time, and (4) and it’s on a Saturday, making travel arrangements easier for us and for our enormous band of fans 😉

Divas Half

We have already begun training. I’m at the point where running 4 miles is a comfortable distance, so that means 5 is next! I already know I can accomplish 6.2 comfortably, so I’m almost halfway there. My dad and I plan to run a race a month throughout the summer,  so I’ll be able to work on improving my speed while competing. Lauren may be participating in some of these events, so the half will not necessarily be our first race together.

The race is September 14, so we’ll have had 5 months of training and race preparation. I’m toying with the idea of using Hal Higdon’s half-marathon training plan for novices, combined with a personalized cross-training schedule. I’m planning to swim this summer, as well as begin doing yoga to increase my flexibility and my focus.

Everything I’ve read says beginner half-ers need only (ha! “only”) run 10-11 miles max during training, and adrenaline will carry me through the last 2-3 miles. If you have run a half (or longer) before, please weigh in on this!

I’m also considering getting some tape to minimize chafing areas. I’d like to look into Gu or Gatorade Performance Chews another energy source for a mid-race burst. I need to consider some sort of race pack, as well as possibly a watch/heart rate monitor combo. I’d love to hear from fellow runners what you like to use and what you recommend!

This is all new to me, so I’m incredibly excited to be able to share everything from training to product reviews to costume-making to the actual half-marathon experience with you. I hope you’ll stick around! 🙂

The First Look

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As Ian’s and my wedding approaches (ha! Just kidding! We’re still ~18 months away…) one thing we’ve been considering is the First Look: the first time the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day.

First Look

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We (read: I) firmly believe that we should not see each other on our wedding day before we are in our wedding regalia. As in, I’m not going to spend the night with him, pop out of bed, and say, “Well, see ya there!”

We have been considering seeing one another, me in my gown and Ian in his tux, just a few minutes before the ceremony in the style of a fairly recent tradition. If we did this, our photographer would have the opportunity to capture our first look at each other as soon-to-be husband and wife. There are, of course, pros and cons to this notion.

Pros
– The photographer would be able to capture both of us as we saw each other for the first time on our wedding day at this very emotional moment.
– This moment, being inherently emotional, would be very private.
– We (read: I) would probably not be as nervous or emotional walking down the aisle, having already seen Ian.
– Our families are not pushing us in either direction or forcing us to uphold ancient traditions.
– I’m going to be so doggone spastic, this might be a way to bring me down a few notches 😉

Cons
– The photographer(s) would not necessarily be able to capture both of us in a single shot as we saw each other for the first time.
– We could potentially regret not having waited for our First Look as I walked down the aisle and Ian waited at the altar.
– Our family and friends would not be able to share in our First Look.
– Seeing each other prior to the ceremony might take some of the excitement and anticipation out of it.

[I’m sure there are far more pros and cons — I’m just a bit scatterbrained this morning. I do not personally know any couples who have had their First Look prior to the ceremony, so I have no basis for comparison. We still have a lot of considering to do — and plenty of time to do it — but I’d love for you to weigh in!]

When do you think a couple should have their First Look?

Society’s Lemmings

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For as long as I can remember, I wouldn’t get one.

I refused.

I want to be different, I said. I don’t want to have the same one as everybody else, I said.

Well, not everybody has one, but it sure seems that way.

Still, I held on. I stayed true to my self-promise. I clung to my “values.”

I didn’t give in.

Slowly, though, they wore me down.

They made me believe I couldn’t live without one. They made me believe that my prized “different” one was garbage.

Then, mine actually started malfunctioning. Maybe it knew it was being talked about and it backfired on me. My beloved choice to swim upstream, to be a salmon among so many of society’s lemmings.

For months, their snide remarks and their form of conversion therapy chipped away at my supposedly tough anti-conformist exterior.

And then the unthinkable happened: I actually started to believe them.

They got into my head, their voices bouncing around like so many marbles:

“You know you want one…”

“Sooner or later, you’ll have to…”

“Why don’t you just give in?”

“There’s a reason everybody loves theirs…”

They broke me, blends.

As of Saturday, I am the owner of an iPhone 5.

[Hence my mini blog hiatus and my ridiculously naive use of Emojis…]

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Dear Practicum

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Dear Practicum,

This parting of the ways is bittersweet. I’ll admit: at first, I wasn’t sure how much we’d learn from each other. I was skeptical about the kind of counselor education lessons you’d teach me. You’re not exactly the type of Practicum everybody else wants, but that’s always been okay with me. In the end, though, I am grateful for the time we have spent together.

Over the past ten weeks, I have learned how to read a child’s body language to determine how he is feeling. I have learned how to anticipate a tantrum, a forceful hug, and a lengthy pout. I have gained a renewed sense of patience and a new perspective. I’m not a naturally patient person, so you really helped me out!

Over the past ten weeks, I have cultivated a compassion I never knew I possessed. I have come to care deeply for those whose stories are difficult to tell, those whose lives may be overflowing with hurt and heartache and deprived of logic, reason, and simplicity. Without you, I might still be wondering about that empty place within me that compassion was meant to fill.

Over the past ten weeks, I have coached myself on how to speak with children who are anguished, who long to feel heard and understood. You provided me with an opportunity I might not have been offered anywhere else in this city.

Over the past ten weeks, I have soaked up every possible moment of training and supervision so that I will feel prepared as you and I part company. You provided me with excellent teachers and colleagues who have each left a unique, indelible mark on my soul.

Over the past ten weeks, I have looked forward to coming in to see you twice a week. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with our arrangement, especially after I was assigned teenagers with whom to work independently… But we worked nicely together, don’tcha think?

As I said, I wasn’t sure how much you had to teach me in the way of counseling. I mean, how much could I really learn in a hundred hours? Turns out, more than I ever could have imagined. All of these lessons, tidbits, parables, and precious moments have woven themselves together to create a memorable “learning experience,” as they say. Patience, compassion, empathy, positive regard, listening, reflecting… I improved it all; sometimes it’s just hard for me to see the forest through the trees.

Because of you, I’m ready to tackle what’s next. Sure, I’ll still feel nervous on my first day, a small cog unsure of its place in the monstrous mechanics of the machine. I’ll still ask too many questions and doubt myself when the answer isn’t obvious. I’ll still second-guess myself, even though you taught me to be confident in my ability to adapt. But most importantly, I’ll keep going when the going gets tough.

You and I, we may not have fallen in love at first sight, but we’ll always remember each other.

Thanks, Practicum. For everything.

From Runner to Runner

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As a runner, as a future counselor, as a Christian, as an American, and most importantly, as a human being, what has happened in Boston is absolutely breaking my heart.

I know that I should turn off the news and stop Googling the latest updates, but it seems that every minute some vital new piece of the story is revealed.

I was just finishing my elliptical workout and cleaning my machine when Ian called. I wasn’t expecting to hear from him at 4:15 because he had an exam scheduled for 3:40. He said, “Have you seen what’s happening in Boston?” in this strange, something-isn’t-quite-right tone. I said, “No…” and he went on to tell me about the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Maybe my mind is totally in the wrong place right now, but I can’t help but think about the tragedy of where the bombings occurred: at the finish line. Just as these individuals were on the verge of crossing the finish line, after running 26.2 grueling miles, they were thwarted in the most horrible way.

In the hours and days ahead, as more and more victims are identified, news stations and the Obama administration will reveal the details of who is responsible for this horrific attack and why. Until that time, I have so many thoughts…

God, I know that you work in mysterious and often misunderstood ways, but why children?

Who in the hell could commit such an atrocity?

Mr. President, why dance around the word terrorist for political reasons? It was a bombing that has killed and injured many, many people. Let’s call it WTF it is.

No matter who did this and why, I am reminded again of how poverty-stricken this nation is with regard to access to mental health care services.

I am so tired of hearing the words “al Qaeda.”

My sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, families, friends, survivors, runners, bystanders, acquaintances, military personnel, safety officers, and every other individual even remotely affected by this tragedy.

From runner to runner, God be with you.

The T-Shirt Collector

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This morning dawned perfectly perfect in Richmond, Virginia.

I was up at 7:00, unfortunately, but it was for good reason: the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k!

This was my very first 10k; thus, a PR and a PDR 😉 See how I did that?

Dad and I were out the door by 7:50. We parked at the old University of Richmond football stadium and caught a shuttle to just a few blocks from the Start line. Dad pointed out that as we boarded the shuttle, the fastest Ethiopian and Kenyan runners had already completed the race!

We clung to our granola bars and our paper cups of water as we weaved our way through nearly 40,000 people — not including spectators. We finally found our time bracket group, UC, behind a young soldier carrying the UC sign. We made our way toward the front so we could be among the first of our bracket to begin running.

After what seemed like an hour, it was finally our bracket’s turn to begin! We crouched on the Start line, my hand poised and ready to begin Dad’s watch that I was using to time us. There is an official clock timing the race, but that began when the entire race began, with the men who completed it in under 30 minutes. We also had plastic strips on the back of our bibs that kept our official time and could even notify our loved ones of where we were on the course. As the countdown began from 30 seconds, I couldn’t help jumping up and down and waving like a maniac at the news cameras.

…and we were off!

We started slowly and steadily, and we maintained our pace for the first two miles. Our goal was to complete the race in 70 minutes, because we complete 5ks in 35 minutes. Because Dad hadn’t run a 10k in quite awhile, and because I never have, we decided to break the race into 2-mile segments and pause after each segment for water.

At the 2-mile marker, I thought about blazing right on through the water station. My legs felt great, my breathing felt great, my energy was high, my adrenaline was flowing, and I wasn’t one bit hungry. I decided at the last second to pause at the water station to cool off and get myself a little sip.

We continued like that throughout the race. Rather than trying to run the entire thing without stopping, we paused (still moving) at the 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-mile markers for about 15 seconds each, to get a cup of water and relish it without choking. At the halfway point, we rounded a curve and started back the other way. We had completed 3.1 miles in just over 38 minutes, so I decided that completing the race in under 80 minutes would be our new goal.

We were running about 12.5-minute miles; we would have needed to run steady 11-minute miles in order to complete the race in 70 minutes, but I was thrilled with our progress. Wearing Dad’s watch and giving him periodic updates was perfect for me. I need to know the time and how we are doing pace-wise. Besides, we were enjoying ourselves and the entertainment too much to be disappointed about our time.

I continued to feel energized, excited, and proud of us throughout the race. At the 5-mile marker, I suddenly got hungry. Not oh-shit-my-blood-sugar-is-dropping hungry, but boy, was I craving Panera! I turned to Dad and asked, “Can we get Panera after this?” as if we were on a light jaunt instead of approaching the 5.5-mile mark of a 6.2-mile race. His affirmative answer and my craving for a Mediterranean Veggie sandwich and an Asian Sesame Chicken Salad propelled me through the last half-mile of the race. Of course, with bands, rowdy and drunken spectators, sports teams, sororities, dance troupes, and sign-wielding supporters on every block, there was plenty to keep me occupied throughout.

As we crested the 6-mile marker hill, I started to get really excited. Not only were we going to complete the race, with little more than a minute spent at four different water stations, we were going to cross the Finish line together!

The crowd got louder and louder as we neared the giant Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k banner and the official clock. I said, “Okay, we put both arms up!” instructing him on how to cross the Finish line. A few seconds later, as we subconsciously picked up our pace to a near-sprint, we put our inside arms around each other and raised our outside fists, victorious!

Just after we crossed, I stopped our personal timer: 1 hour, 18 minutes, 35 seconds.

We didn’t meet our original goal, but that doesn’t matter. We completed the race in under 80 minutes, we completed it together, and we nearly ran the entire thing. I don’t remember the last time I was so proud of accomplishing something. It’s truly amazing how humbling a long-distance run can be, and how simultaneously the crowd can make you feel as if you are a celebrity, the only runner they came to see.

We wound through the crowd again, picking up bottles of water and fresh bananas as we moved. We sat down for a few minutes to catch our breath and enjoy the beauty of the day. It was neither too cold nor too hot, and the sunshine was bright but not blinding.

Not thirty minutes later, we were dining at the Carytown Panera — and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since we crossed the Finish line.

My heels are impossibly sore, the left side of my face and my left arm are sunburned, and I ran holes right through one of my favorite pairs of Underarmour socks… but none of that matters, either. What we accomplished and the morning we spent together will always be glorious memories for me.

I’ll have official race photos available soon, so check back! 🙂

P.S. Did you run the 10k this morning? If so, how did you finish?

[I titled this post as such because my growing collection of race T-shirts reminds me of each race I’ve completed and each new PR. I plan to continue to collect, and you can look for my race recap of the upcoming Susan G. Komen 5k on May 11!]