Friday, January 27, 2012

Other Goals for 2012

I know this is a little late, but I recently realized that I put a lot of thought into my running goals for 2012, but I hadn’t spent much time thinking about goals for other parts of my life. Running is pretty much the only hobby I have, but I need to remember it is just that, a hobby. During most my PhD program, I was barely keeping my head above water trying to get through the day to day, so I didn’t really have much time to think about longer term goals. That is over and it is time to set some goals for other areas of my life. Here is what I would like to accomplish financially, professionally, spiritually and family-wise this year. 


I have two big financial goals this year: increase our retirement savings and create a true emergency fund. Both of these took a hit while I was in school. It was hard to save when that money could be spent on a plane ticket to see my husband or vice versa. Since I moved to Richmond, we have made a little progress on these, but we really need to step it up this year. Having some extra cash on hand will also make it easier to take advantage of opportunities that may come our way. 


I want to work on setting myself apart from others in my field. Part of this will be working on my professional brand and getting involved with some of the professional organizations here in Richmond. My other goal for this year is to create a personal strategic plan and start to work the plan. It has been a while since I have done this and I am at a point where it would be appropriate. 

I also need to make sure I wrap up my prelim paper soon. Once that is done, I will officially be ABD. While it doesn’t mean a lot, it will ensure that the two years I spent in Michigan were not a complete and total waste. 


We just recently joined a new church here in Richmond and this year I want to get involved with the church and help out in the community. On a more individual level, I need to work on my faith. I believe God has a plan for each of us and the challenges we face are all part of the plan. I just struggle because it always seems like things are harder than they need to be. 


One goal for this year is to call my parents more often. I am terrible about calling them, really I am terrible about calling just about anyone, but that is not a good excuse. I know they will not be around forever and I need to make sure I don’t regret the calls I didn’t make. 

My second goal is to work on being more present in my life now. I know that everything is not exactly what I would like it to be, but I want to put more focus on the really great things that are going on right now. I have an amazing husband and we are living in the same place. That is a thousand times better than when I was in graduate school. 

One of the things I strive for is balance and while I love it, running has been taking a lot of my time and attention the past few months. Now I need to work on balancing that with other things that are important. Not having a marathon on the calendar will help with that too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Marathon’s over….now what?

I am really struggling with figuring out what to do right now. Since I was on vacation and running my first marathon during the first week in January, I didn’t really do the new year, new goals thing that so many people did. I was focused on the race and spending time with family, but now I need to set some and figure out what I am going to do this year. I have been training for the marathon for so long that it is strange to not have it on my mind anymore. 

The other thing was that I wanted to make sure my goals were challenging, but still realistic and achievable. I needed to complete the marathon before moving on to something new. There are two things I learned from doing the marathon that I am using to help guide my goals for this year. 

First is that it really reinforced how much trouble I have running in cold weather. Anything below about 55 F causes serious havoc on my ears and upper respiratory system. This makes running a lot more work than running when it is warmer. Overall, the weather in Florida was good while we were there, but a couple of mornings the temperature got down close to freezing. My last training run was scheduled for one of these mornings and I was out there, but I swear that “easy 3 mile run” felt harder than the first half of the marathon. I have been to multiple doctors and no one can tell me what is going on, so until I move someplace warmer, I am going to adjust my races accordingly. The pain is just not worth it. 

The second thing is that I feel comfortable saying that I can do the distance and endurance thing, but I need to focus on speed and strength. I know I will never be a speed demon, but it is about beating my previous times. Overall, I have been seeing my pace on short runs increase, but with the focus on the marathon I haven’t really seen the increase in race times because the few I did recently were high distance. Speed is going to be my focus for the next few months. Two goals for this year are run a 10K race at a 10-minute mile pace and get my half marathon time under 2:30. 

So far, these are the races I am planning on doing in 2012. 

It is a little sad. I really need suggestions for some late-spring and summer races (preferably not May 5 to 19). I would like to add at least one more half-marathon and a couple of 5K or 10K races. We are trying to balance racing with saving money, so trying to find fun races in drive-to destinations, probably Virginia, DC or North Carolina. Do you have any race suggestions? 

BTW…I would like to do another marathon, but I don’t think this is the year for it. I can only juggle so many things at a time.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Going Home

It is amazing how as you become an adult, the concept of home changes and grows. Over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, we were lucky enough to visit both my childhood home and the city that I refer to as home. I have been living in Richmond full-time for a little over 6 months, but it still doesn’t feel like home and I am not sure it ever will. 

I grew up in a small town in the Southeastern corner of Wisconsin. My parents and sister still live there. I also have a number of friends living in the area. I moved away when I was in my early twenties and haven’t been there for anything longer than a week in years. There are a lot of memories in this area, both good and bad, but it is not the place for me to live. Don't get me wrong, I miss my family and friends a ton, but it is not a good fit for the type of life I want to live. The weather is a big part of it. Lack of sun and warm weather makes me a crabby girl. 

I moved to Orlando in my early 20s and even though I had been living there for several years, it really started to feel like home a few months before I got married. My husband and I had been living together for a little over a year at this point and all of a sudden it dawned on me I had created a home of my own. We traveled a lot that year and on one trip to Orlando I realized this really was now my home. My husband and I built our lives in Orlando for several years before we decided that it was the right time for me to work on my PhD. Leaving was really hard, because it felt like I leaving home…again. 
Ice skating with the family

A substantial portion of my husband’s family still lives in Orlando, so when we lived there we would see them on a regular basis. It was so amazing to watch our nieces and nephew grow up. This year, we got to spend New Year’s and most of the week after with them and the rest of the family. During the week we went ice skating with them (I know we went to FL to ice sounds silly), took them to the airplane park by the airport and did some other fun things. We also spent time with some really great friends we hadn’t seen in a while. In addition to the great people, I am much happier when I am not forced to stay inside or freeze for 6 months out of the year. 

Giant airplane by the Orlando airport

Traveling during the holidays is a little crazy, and this year it left me completely exhausted, but was really worth it. We got to spend time with both families, and visit some of our favorite Orlando places. It may have been almost three and a half years since I left, but going to Orlando still feels like going home.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Race Recap - 2012 Walt Disney World Marathon

I am so happy I chose this for my first marathon race. It has been on my list for a while and it was an amazing experience. It is a really friendly race and a great one for a first marathon. I may have been a little slow, but I really had a great time. 

Like other Disney races, the marathon starts very early. To make it easier to get to the start and to turn it into a mini-vacation, we stayed at a Walt Disney World for a few nights, including the night before the marathon. 

Before the race.
It was early :)

I got up about 3:30 a.m. and was out of the hotel by 4 a.m. There was a little bit or traffic on the way to Epcot, but it was not that bad. I went through the bag check at about 4:45 a.m. It was a bit of a walk to the corrals, and I got to my spot about 15 minutes before the beginning of the race. I would have been there sooner, but the lines for the porta potties were a little long. It was chilly standing in the corral, but much more comfortable than it was for the Richmond half. 

The race officially started at 5:30 with the national anthem and fireworks. Each wave of runners got fireworks and I would love it if all races started with fireworks. It is much more exciting than just a gun or person. Since I was in the last wave, I started just before 6 a.m. The first few miles were a little chilly, but I have run in much worse weather and I knew once the sun came up, I would be fine. During the first 3.5 miles, you wind around Epcot and then through the park for the first time. It was great to get into a park right away. I also got to pass my husband, who is my biggest cheerleader, twice in these first few miles. 

I got a little worried when by mile 4 I was beginning to feel hungry. I had eaten a mini-bagel with peanut butter and a granola bar at the hotel, as well as a few cliff blocks before the race. On training runs, this worked well, but didn’t hold me over this time. I took a cliff shot and some water and that helped. Once you come out of Epcot, you are on the highway for a few miles; then you hit the Transportation and Ticket Center, pass the Contemporary Resort and are into the Magic Kingdom. You are only in the Park for a mile or two, but this is my favorite part of the race. I also saw my husband both coming and going from the Ticket and Transportation Center. 

The first 14 miles went quickly. Going through the parks is exciting and Disney does a great job of having fun things on the course to take your mind off the distance. For me, the hardest part of the race was from mile 14 through mile 17. Here you pass through a lot of backstage areas and past a water treatment plant. Additionally, at mile 16 I started to feel a little tired and my knee was getting a little sore. 

Miles 17 and 18 take you through Animal Kingdom and needed the distraction at this point. I was running slower than I had at the start, but still feeling good overall. At mile 19, I was struggling and let myself walk the mile, but picked up running again at mile 20. Just past mile 22, you enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios and you begin to feel like you are getting close to the finish. I don’t know if it was the course or the adrenaline, but this was the most exciting part of the race. You have crowds and support from the time you enter Studios until the finish line. 

Just before mile 25, I saw my husband again and he brought the signs my amazing nieces and nephew made for me. It was really what I needed to get through to the finish of the race. I was getting really tired at this point. The only bad thing about this part of the race is that at about mile 25.25, you pass a stand selling funnel cakes and the smell just taunts you. I was starving by this point and I found it a little mean. 

Finishing. It took me
so long to get here.
The race was well organized, the people were incredibly friendly, the weather was spectacular and I don’t think I could have picked a better race for my first marathon. Disney races may cost a little more than others, but you can tell where the money goes and the races are well worth the price. The course was crowded in spots, but that is to be expected with about 21,000 people running. There were tons of characters and other entertainment on the course and it helped the miles go by.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Ran A Marathon!

Heading into mile 9
Last Sunday I finished the Walt Disney World Marathon. It took me 5 hours and 58 minutes to complete the course, but it took me four years to finish a marathon. Completing a marathon was on my list of things to do before I turned 30. I first registered and trained for the 2009 race. That time I was officially sidelined by a dislocated knee cap a couple of weeks before the race, but the reality was I got married that fall and would have been severely undertrained if I had actually made it to the start line. The next year, I started a PhD program and moved to Michigan. I soon realized that the workload of the program and cold weather did not make marathon training realistic. I gave up before registering and kind of gave up on my marathon goal. 

In 2010, I ran two half marathons and really realized how much I enjoyed running. However, I was still in grad school and living in the cold, so training for a marathon, especially one that takes place in January, was not really an option. In May of this year, I began to ramp up my running and things started to fall into place. I moved to Richmond the beginning of July and started training. As I discussed a few months ago, I was hesitant to commit to the race because of my previous training difficulties and I didn’t want to fail again. While I was following my training plan, I didn’t sign up for the race until late October when it was a now or never decision. I am so happy I signed up and did the race. I was amazing. 

The other thing I enjoy about races at Disney is the congratulations you get from both cast members and other runners after the races. It gives you a chance to celebrate your accomplishment and have some fun at the same time. When I ran the Richmond half marathon earlier this year, we got our medals, stopped for coffee, and then went home and it was a weekend just like any other. We normally spend a day or two at the parks after the race and it is nice to have someone congratulate you. If people wouldn’t think I was crazy, I would still be wearing that medal. 

I am not setting any speed records, but every race I finish and every new PR gives me a little more confidence in myself. Before the race, I picked up a ribbon that is supposed to be a bracelet, but I wore in my hair during the race. It says, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” It was not that long ago that I thought running a marathon was impossible. Now I need to decide what other impossible things I can accomplish. 

I’ll post a full race report in a day or so.