November 28, 2016

Coffee Date: November Edition

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I ended up in a food coma from way too many side dishes, but it was well worth it. 

I'm starting my morning with a strong cup of coffee and an omelet with sweet potatoes and kale (which I roasted and sauteed for dinner last night). I've got a busy week ahead, and an even busier month, and I'm going to need all the sustenance I can get!

If you were joining me for this coffee date, here's what I'd fill you in on. 

I went to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture on Thanksgiving Day with my mom and The Pilot. We got really lucky and were able to walk in without standing in line. I actually booked tickets about three months ago for this Thursday but my mom really wanted to try to get in, so I was able to give my tickets to some friends. 

The Museum is spectacular and easily ties the Newseum as my favorite museum in DC. The exhibits were harrowing, emotional, and evocative, and I can't wait to go back and really spend a full day exploring, rather than a few hours.

I haven't run since the marathon. I ran a strong race in Philly and my legs were numb almost from the start. My knees and hips have been really achy ever since, so I decided to take the full week off. Today, I'm planning on using the elliptical or bike, doing some gentle cross training and yoga, and see how I feel. I'm not planning to start running for a few more days. I can't take too much time off because training for the Disney Princess Half starts later this month and I'm setting a bold goal to break my 3-year-old PR and try to go sub-1:50. 

I am totally buying my race photos this time around because they are awesome. 
Speaking of running, I'm determined to do a lot more of it next year. I'm already signed up for Disney and planning to run DC Rock 'n' Roll. I've got a spring 26.2 that I'm very, very seriously considering and I'd like to do the Pacers 5k Fridays series to try to break my 5k PR. If Philly taught me one thing, it's that I desperately miss racing. I haven't run a race distance less than 10 miles since 2013 and I really want to change that. 

I watched the Gilmore Girls revival this weekend. (No spoilers, don't worry.). After binge watching the entire series for the first time from May through July, I was interested to see what the revival would entail. Honestly, I was pretty bored for most of the series and felt like they tried way too hard to fill the space of 90 minutes for each episode. I enjoyed the end but think the rest of the series fell flat. 

On Friday, Carolann and I were supposed to host our book club link up. I had planned to say that we would postpone the link up until this coming Friday because of the holiday, but I guess I forgot! Carolann posted her review today, which you can read here, but I'm still working my way through the book and will get it up this week! If you're also still working through "The Pearl that Broke Its Shell," you've got time, the link up will be open through Monday. 

The Pilot and I are hoping to head out on one last getaway before the year is over...which means, I really need to finish posting about our trip to Australia! 

What would you tell me over coffee? How was your Thanksgiving? Is your Christmass tree up yet? What are you looking forward to through the rest of the year?

November 22, 2016

2016 Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

One week ago today I woke up with intense tightness in my left calf. It was so bad, I could barely put any weight on my leg. I booked a massage that offered temporary relief but wasn't a fix. I took to the internet, soliciting advice from friends, which led me to acupuncture, graston, and cupping. I felt better, but I definitely didn't feel in shape to run a marathon. On top of that, I was coming down with a cold.

Come Saturday, I was in a dead panic and dreading the race. I had no idea how I was going to feel through the marathon and the weather was calling for 40mph winds on Race Day. Walking back from dinner on Sunday night was brutal, and my family and I were being blown into the sides of the buildings in Philly as we tried to make our way back to our hotel.

I was a nervous wreck. This was exactly how I didn't want to feel the night before the race.

I fell asleep relatively quickly on Saturday night at 8:30, but my 5am alarm came quickly. I had a hard time getting out of bed, I was having some stomach issues, and I was a mess. My mom and The Pilot walked me to the start which was barricaded for security. I've never seen security at a race like this, not even Chicago, and it took awhile to actually find the start corrals. I left the hotel later than I wanted to but by the time I got in line for the bathrooms, it was 6:52. I was still in line when the gun went off at 7, but luckily had enough time to get into my corral and start at the time I was supposed to. I think I was so stressed out about missing the start, that I didn't have time to think about how nervous I was anymore, and when I hit the start line, I just started running.

This was my 3rd time running the Philadelphia course. The full was my first marathon in 2010 and I ran the half in 2011. I remembered the course well (even though it changed a bit), and my focus for the first mile was to put one foot in front of the other and not try to weave too much. The course wasn't very crowded and I was able to do that easily. I missed the Mile 1 marker but it came up relatively quickly. By Mile 3, I was still only focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I wasn't thinking about finishing, I still didn't know if that was a possibility.

There was virtually no spectator support in the first 5 miles of the race. My calf started bothering me shortly after the 3rd mile but by Mile 4, my legs were so cold, I couldn't feel anything anymore.

I saw my mom and The Pilot right around the 10k mark and that's when I started thinking that I could actually finish. I was running faster than I wanted to, but the wind kept me from running any slower as it was at our back during the earlier parts of the race. Just after the 10k mark, the sub-4 pace group caught up to me and it was tempting to stay with them. I was running a 9:10 pace and felt good, so why not see what I could do? We hit a hill, which I powered up against the wind, passing the group, and let them pass me on the downhill. It was too early in the race. My race was just starting. The 10k was my warm up, and now, it was time to dial in and race.

I knew that the hills were in this portion of the race, but I trained for hills, so I was ready. Every incline was met with a strong headwind that made pushing up those hills immensely difficult. Again, the spectator support was pretty minimal, but when we hit Mile 8, we hit the Greek houses at Drexel which had fewer spectators than in years passed, but there was a few crowds and music to keep us going.

At Mile 9, I had to make a pitstop. I definitely drank way too much water before the race started and, since I didn't carry water with me, I was stopping at every water station and I think I was a little overhydrated. Once we hit Mile 9, I knew the hills were mostly behind us, and I was feeling really good. The road flattened out and the spectator support picked up a bit. I saw someone holding a sign that said, "Taco cat spelled backward is taco cat," which made absolutely no sense, but I spent the next mile thinking about that and trying to spell it backward, that I appreciated the sign for taking my mind off the race! Mile 10 came and went and at Mile 11, I started panicking. This is the second time I've run a marathon that I've started panicking at Mile 11. I think it's the realization that you're already 10 miles in, and still have so much further to go.

Around Mile 12, I still didn't feel great. I was 2 10ks into the race and quickly approaching the Half so I pushed on. I saw my mom and The Pilot cheering at Mile 14 and waved to them. My calf was bothering me again at this point, but I pushed on. At Mile 15, we hit the roughly 10-mile out and back part of the course that I had been dreading. I saw some of the lead runners, including the lead female pass at my Mile 15 and their Mile 25. I also saw someone with a sign that said, "Forward is a pace," which I loved.

At Mile 16, I noticed the Mile 24 runners and saw that they looked miserable. They were fighting a strong headwind, which I had at my back and all I could think was that I was so happy I wasn't at Mile 24 at that point. My calf was still bothering me and I wanted to wait until Mile 18 to stop and stretch it out, but at Mile 17, I thought I should just stop in case it got worse. I stopped, stretched my calves out for a minute, and pushed on. At Mile 18, I started realizing that I was doing this, that I was running this marathon, that at this point in the race, there literally was no turning back. I started to get excited, and, despite the minimal crowd support, I started smiling. At Mile 19, all I could think about was getting to that turnaround. Miles 19-20 are along Main Street in Manayunk and I remember the crowd support being overwhelming there, and that held true this year. I high fived every person I saw, "powered up" at every sign I could, and danced my way through cheer stations. I felt good. People were yelling my name and cheering and telling me I looked good, and I shouted back to one woman, "I FEEL good!"

Once I passed Mile 20, I knew I had this. I knew I was going to finish. I knew I wasn't going to hit the wall. I felt incredible. I broke the last 10k into 2 5ks and I cruised through to Mile 23. Once I hit that mile marker, I was pumped. I felt great, and I was ready to pick up the pace and cruise to the finish line. I spent Mile 23 thinking about what I wanted my next marathon to be. THAT is how great I felt.

Except, remember when I said that at Mile 16, I saw the Mile 24 runners and they looked miserable? With 5k left to go, the wind picked up something fierce. We had hit strong headwinds during most of the course, but this was brutal. My watch slowed from a sub-9:30 pace to 10, 10:30, 11, 11:15 and there was nothing I could do. It was HARD. At Mile 24, I started getting antsy. My face and legs were frozen and I was so cold. I knew that the Finish Line and warmth were just 2 short miles away but I couldn't get there any faster.

At Mile 25, I saw my mom, which was a huge surprise! I yelled, "I'm doing it! I'm going to finish!" Though, I don't think I sounded audible since my face was so frozen and it felt weird to talk. I never saw the mile marker for 25 and I couldn't see or hear the Finish line so I started panicking. How long is a marathon again? Is my watch off? How much farther do I have to go? I started seeing crowds, and finally caught the Mile 26 mile marker, but I still didn't see the finish. My watch was a little bit off, but I knew it was from pretty early on. The course's Mile 26 was my 26.2. I knew I only had a bit further, so I started sprinting up the hill into the wind and I finally saw the teeny tiny clock and heard the finish line announcer. They had had to take down the finisher's arch because of the wind. I picked it up, sprinted to the Finish and immediately started crying.

The sweetest girl gave me my medal and said, "You did it! I'm so proud of you!" and I said, "Thank you! Can I give you a hug?" and she gave me the biggest hug and I cried and cried and cried and cried.

I had done it. I had finished my 7th marathon. At Mile 1, I had no idea if I was going to make it but I did, and I felt incredible. I never stopped to walk, and the only times I stopped were for the bathroom at Mile 9 and to stretch my calf at Mile 17. Last week, I said that I thought 4:20 was a realistic time goal. I ran a 4:21:06 and I'll take it. It was a tough day and I ran in the strongest winds I've ever run in. I smiled through the entire race, I had fun, and I did it. I'm so grateful that this wasn't another Chicago and I'm so happy I was able to finish strong.

This should give you an indication of how windy it was.
So, there you go. Marathon #7 in the books!

A few post-race thoughts:

I was really disappointed with the spectator support in this race. I don't know if it was the weather that kept people away or the fact that they ran the Half on Saturday instead of with the Full, but it was pretty minimal compared to the two years I had run this course before. The designated cheer stations had awesome support, but in between those sections, it was pretty sparse.

My favorite signs from this race were, "Run as fast as Mike Pence ran out of Hamilton," "Run as fast as you want the next 4 years to go by," and "Philly Marathon TODAY, Gilmore Girls Marathon SATURDAY."

November 14, 2016

It's Race Week

On Sunday, I will toe the line of my 7th marathon. I'm nervous and excited, but I'm definitely ready. I can't wait to get to that starting line. I'm pumped.

I conjured a very eloquent, motivating post in my head yesterday during miles 3 through 5 of my 12-mile run and, of course, all of it swiftly left my brain the minute I got home and realized there were breakfast burritos to be had.

I thought a lot about how I got here.

I don't think I actually knew the distance of a marathon when I signed up for my first. I trained for that race perfectly. I didn't miss a training run, I didn't try anything new on race day, I followed all of the rules. My goal was to run as close to a 4:00 marathon as possible. I ran a 4:08. I was thrilled. I had just run a freaking marathon. I was on top of the world on a high that I didn't think I would ever come down from (until I woke up the next morning and tried to go downstairs).

One year later, I ran my 2nd marathon with the goal to run under 4 hours. I ran 4:03. I didn't care that I didn't beat my goal. I had just run my second marathon with a 5+ minute PR. I was elated.

I never actually meant to run my 3rd marathon. I was visiting friends in DC (before I lived here) and someone gave me a bib for the DC Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. My goal was to use the race as a training run, jump out at Mile 22 and take the metro to the finish line. There was no metro at Mile 22. Someone told me, "You gotta finish this thing." So, I did. It was my slowest marathon, but it wasn't supposed to be a marathon! I felt like the world's biggest badass because I woke up on Saturday morning with no plans to run a marathon and then, I did. Oops.

I trained like hell for my 4th marathon. I was determined to break four hours. I felt incredible during that race. I was nailing my paces and on track for a strong sub-4 finish. Then, at Mile 20, my body said, "You need sleep" and I ran a 4:24 marathon. I threw my goal out the window at Mile 21. I had just finished my graduate thesis 3 days before and had barely slept in a year and I was tired, but I had just finished my graduate thesis and I was running a marathon in Spain, so who cares?! I'll go sub-4 at the next one.

My next one got canceled. One week later, I got in a car with a few friends and a few strangers and drove to Richmond and ran the fastest marathon I ever have. In four hours, one minute, and five seconds. I wish I could say it hurt, but it didn't. I ran every step of that race. I never stopped to walk or stretch, I didn't stop at water stations (I carried my own water), and I cruised through that finish line knowing I couldn't have done anything differently.

Then I got hurt. I couldn't run for 2 1/2 years and it was horrible. I had so many "comebacks" and that put me back in PT and I gave up so many times.

To this day, I don't know how I crossed the finish line of my 6th marathon in Chicago. At Mile 23 I stopped in front of my mom and husband and sobbed. "I don't want to do this anymore. Everything hurts and I just can't do it." I was a mess. Neither of them had ever seen me like this, and they both told me that it was ok, that I didn't have to finish. I think I needed to hear that. I didn't have to finish. I wanted to finish, and I did, just under 5 hours. I barely trained for that race because I was convinced from Day 1 that I wasn't going to run it. I was convinced that I would reinjure myself. I woke up the morning of that race absolutely terrified. When I crossed that finish line, I promised myself that there would be a number 7 and that I would never, ever let myself feel that terrible in a marathon again.

So, here we are. Number 7 is upon us, and, while it isn't the race I thought it would be. It's exciting to go back to where it all started. I've long had dreams of going back to Philly and blowing my PR out of the water, but that isn't going to happen. I'm not going to run a sub-4 marathon, but I do have goals for this race like I've had for every race (except Chicago). I don't think you should ever go into a marathon without a goal. It doesn't have to be time-specific, but it should never be to just finish.

My goals for the Philadelphia Marathon are:

  1. To smile. To enjoy every step of this race. To fight through whatever doubt and negativity is waiting for me somewhere between Miles 18 and 23 and know that I don't have to do this. I want to do this and I can do this.
  2. To run a strong race. Despite taking some time off, I've trained well for this race. I'm not in the best marathon shape of my life, but I know I've trained well enough to run a strong race. My three best marathons are all under 4:10. My three worse are all over 4:20. I would like this to be the "best of the worst." I'm definitely capable of running somewhere between a 4:08 and a 4:24 and that's what I would like to do. I think a realistic goal is sub 4:20. 
No matter what happens on Sunday, I don't want this race to be anything like Chicago. Philly is a great course and I'm excited to get out there and see what I have to work from because there definitely will be a number 8 and I will go sub-4 but right now, I'm focused on Sunday. I'm going to have a lot of fun on Sunday.

November 9, 2016


I had a post scheduled today about my visit to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. While, I think we could all use cute pictures of koalas, it doesn't seem right.

I live in the epicenter of our democratic system, a system that elected a different candidate than the the American people popularly elected, a system that I no longer know that I can believe in. 

I am a first generation Latin American woman and I am heartbroken and scared that my country, that our country chose hate. 

My heart breaks for the America that my mother came to after her father was imprisoned for political persecution. My mother didn't come to America by choice, but she stayed by choice. This is no longer the America that my family would have sought refuge in or chosen to stay in. This is no longer the America that I grew up in, believing that I could do or be anything regardless of my ethnicity, religion, or gender.

This isn't about who lost or who won. This is about hate and fear winning. Hate and fear of people who don't look a certain way. Racism won. Sexism won. Homophobia won. Hate won.

I don't know how to move forward today. 

I know that I will but today, I am speechless. I am scared. 

November 7, 2016

Weekending...DC Edition

One thing I really love about living in DC is showing out-of-town visitors around. I love taking friends and family around the Mall, to the museums, and to all of my favorite places around DC. It's also a great excuse to bring people to places that I haven't tried yet!

Over the last few weeks, The Pilot and I have hosted a few friends and have had a great time exploring DC with them!

I know that DC is a popular destination, so I've pulled together a list of some of the things we've gotten up to to inspire your next trip to DC!

The Library of Congress When my friend Steph and I went to the Library of Congress for a tour, I was so mad that I had never visited before. I run passed the Library almost every time I run and it's pretty sad that it took me nearly 4 years to get there, but I finally did!

The Library of Congress is easily the most beautiful building in DC...inside and outside. I couldn't believe how beautiful it was! We took a (free) tour which lasted about an hour, and was a fantastic way to learn about the history of the Library and fully appreciate everything we were seeing!

The East Wing of the National Gallery of Art The East Wing of the National Gallery reopened last month after being closed for renovations for three years. I had never been to the East Wing since it closed shortly after The Pilot and I moved here so I don't know how much the renovations changed the building, but I wasn't disappointed. 

There are some incredible pieces in the East Wing, and we were lucky to be there for their reopening celebrations this weekend, where they were handing out free sketchbooks and supplies to draw with. I am, by no means, an artist, but I took the opportunity to sketch something I liked and it was surprisingly therapeutic. I may have to make this a frequent occurrence!

Penn Quarter/Chinatown This neighborhood is one of my favorites in DC. Home to the Verizon Center, the National Portrait Gallery (one of my favorites), the International Spy Museum, Ford's Theater, and so many other things to do, there's a lot beneath the surface of this DC neighborhood. The barbecue at Hill Country BBQ is out of this world and the cocktails across the street at Jose Andres's Oyamel are heaven. I love A Baked Joint for lunch and excellent coffee, but Compass and La Colombe are great spots for coffee too. If you're up for a good workout, Sculpt is one of my favorite studios for either spin or yoga. 

The Kennedy Center Most people don't know that you don't need tickets to visit The Kennedy Center. It's open to the public and well worth a trip! The views of the Potomac are stunning, especially at sunset, and you can always catch a free performance Millennium Stage performance every day of the year. 

The IMAX at the National History Museum The National History Museum is a must for just about everyone on a first trip to DC, but they usually show some pretty great films at the IMAX. I saw "National Parks Adventure" last month and it instilled in me an insane desire to visit all of the national parks in the US. If you're ever caught in DC on a rainy day, or are tired from walking the entire length of the Mall, take a break and check out an IMAX!

The Monuments at Night If you come to DC and have limited time to see the monuments. Do it at night. I promise it will be worth it. If you can sneak in at sunset, that's ideal. DC has unbelievable sunsets. I honestly think the only place I've seen better sunsets is in Sydney. 

My favorite Memorial is easily the WWII Memorial. It's also where The Pilot and I got engaged
This is obviously a very condensed list, but these are just some of the things I've gotten up to lately while friends have been in town! 

What are your favorite things to do in DC?
What do you show friends when they visit your city?

November 4, 2016


Feeling... Relaxed. I'm enjoying a nice, warm cup of pumpkin-spiced coffee, reading blogs, and catching up on the news. I haven't had a morning like this in months.

Reading... I started "The High Mountains of Portugal" by Yann Martel last week and I just can't get into it. The book is divided into three sections, each being over 100 pages long. There are no chapter breaks, no line breaks...It's tough to read. I may have to put it down and start my book club reads for the month, "Year of Yes" and "The Pearl that Broke its Shell."

Thinking about... Marathon training. I'm not running the Richmond Marathon anymore. Instead, I'm running the Philadelphia Marathon the following weekend. Long story short, something came up. I have really mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I'm excited to return to the place where I ran my first marathon, though I'm not thrilled about the fact that it will likely be 20+ degrees colder than Richmond will be and that I've always thought I would go back to Philly and blow my first marathon time away, but I know that isn't going to happen. I've taken taper a bit too seriously, taking 2 days off after my 22-miler this weekend, and now I'm struggling to hit the mileage I need to this week with exceptionally tired. Yesterday, I had 8 miles plan, and I could only manage 3.

Watching... so much fall TV. I've only watched the first episodes of "Timeless" and "This is Us" but I loved both. I'm also hooked on "Good Girls Revolt" on Amazon Prime. If you're looking for a good Madmen-inspired feminist, newsroom show, I highly recommend it!

Working on... my goals for November. I feel like I have a lot of them. I need to get my multiple inboxes down to zero. Miraculously, my work inbox is in good shape, but my personal inboxes feel a little bit like my life right now!

Planning... 2017 race plans, holiday adventures, 30 before 30 things, and my cookbook challenge!

Needing... a massage. I think I want to go for a massage and acupuncture session before the marathon. I've had a lot of tightness in my right hip flexor. It was fine on my last run, but it's a lingering annoyance that I don't want creeping in at Mile 24!

Wanting... to take the month of November and start focusing more on me. I want to spend more time reading, more time with friends, more time blogging, and generally doing the things I love. It's been a weird year.

Excited... that I voted early! As a rule, I don't talk about politics on my blog, but I can't emphasize enough how important this election is. Regardless of whom you support, there is a strong likelihood that this election will be contested and the only way to combat that is to ensure that enough people show up to the polls! Aside from the candidates, I also got to vote YES to the referendum to make DC the 51st state, and that is really exciting. While I don't love that they want to call us "New Columbia," I just want us to have Congressional representation.

What's on your 'Currently' list today?
Interested in the DC Statehood movement? Check this out. 
What Fall TV shows are you watching?

November 2, 2016

November Recap

October was a great month, but it was exhausting! I feel like I've trained for a marathon in just the 5 short weeks of October, and, in many ways, I did. I ran my first long run after Labor Day the first weekend of October and have run long every weekend since without stepping back. 12 miles, then 16, 18.5, 20, and finally 22 on Sunday. It had been exhausting and I'm so happy to have that behind me. 

I was also home for 4 of the 5 weeks in October, which is a record since I was gone for every single weekend in August and September, and it was so nice to finally get our "new" apartment in order. I never fully appreciated the luxury of cooking in my own home until now! It helps that I love my kitchen!

So let's take a look at how the month went, in numbers!

Miles Run: 140

Minutes of Yoga: 190

Spin Classes Taken: 1
  • I took a Sculpt Fusion class at Sculpt in Penn Quarter and loved it! It's a 40-minute spin class followed by 20 minutes of yoga. the class had a lot of hip openers and it was the perfect cross training class! I think I'll be doing a lot of that during taper!
Number of Books Read: 4

  • Favorite: "My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry" by Fredrik Backman.
Trips Taken: 2
  • Chagrin Falls, OH - I didn't blog about this trip because I'm trying to play catch up on my Australia trip but I went to OH with my sister for the Chagrin Falls International Documentary Film Festival because her film was premiering at it. We had an amazing weekend and the festival didn't disappoint! I might have to make this a tradition! Chagrin Falls was so cute! It was like the real Stars Hollow!
  • Warrenton, VA - My company took us on an overnight work retreat to Virginia and we stayed in these gorgeous homes in the middle of picture perfect fall leaves. It was nice to get out of the city for a few days!

Blog Posts Written: 5

30 Before 30 Items Completed: 1
  • The Pilot and I got all dolled up for the annual Junior League soiree last weekend! We had an amazing time and even won something in the silent auction!

  • Marathon training! I started this month feeling severely undertrained to run a marathon. This weekend, I ran 22 miles and finally felt ready to toe the line of my 7th 26.2!
  • I had two friends in town this month, my friend Steph from San Francisco, and Holly! I loved playing tourist with Steph and having a girls' weekend with Holly. Both weekends were perfect!
Lowlights: Marathon training! It was rough. I came home from most of my long runs and didn't get off the couch for 4 hours. I really struggled to get these miles in, but I'm so glad I did!

The Month Ahead:
This month is the marathon! That's the biggest thing I'm focusing on! I also desperately want to get back to posting regularly on my blog, show you our new apartment, and fill you in just a little bit about my job and why it's keeping me so busy! I have a lot of posts planned for this month, and I hope I actually get them written! 

I'm also planning out the end of the year, not just in terms of holidays, but planning out my goals for next year - races, finances, blog plans, etc! I'm hoping to have more free time on my hands once the marathon is over, but I'm also thinking about signing up for another one shortly after. We'll see! One thing at a time!

How did your month shape up?
What are you looking forward to in November?
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