Friday, May 27, 2016

10 steps to running a half marathon

Last month I ran my third half marathon - the Flying Pig in Cincinnati - and it was honestly the most fun 13.1 yet!  Maybe it is because I've learned a bit of wisdom from my other two halfs, as well as the full marathon last year (read about that whole, crazy, amazing experience here)  The more you do something, even if it is challenging, it does get a bit easier!

In the past three years I've gone from running 3-4 miles at most usually (besides a 10K here and there) to running several half marathons as well as a full marathon.  These goals were all accomplished AFTER I birthed two children and while raising two toddlers.  Not saying I'm a superstar or anything...but I accomplished several huge goals after life got exponentially more busy/challenging.

My long runs (the actual training) occurred on the weekends in the wee hours of the morning.  That was the way I was able to fit it in, since I am a SAHM the rest of the time.  One of the halfs I trained solely on a treadmill at the gym, which is doable...but I don't recommend unless that is the only way you can make it happen.

Alright mamas (or guys!) -- If you've never run a half marathon, but think you might want to make this 'your year' to train for one and accomplish that goal, here my ten steps for running a half - learned as a 'mama runner'...
{disclaimer : I'm not a professional so my "advice" is strictly what worked for me in my experience and should not be trusted as "medically correct" for all runners...just sayin'.}
1. Register for your race.  You have to just pull the trigger, pay the registration fee, and get started!  This will be motivation in itself. Find one that is local or even do a destination race!  It is really fun to plan a vacation around any race, especially if you go with friends. Which brings us to...
2. Get a friend to run with you. Even if you don't run the actual race side-by-side, it is so awesome to plan to run it with a girlfriend or two and keep up with each other during the training period.  Do at least a few long runs together on the weekend - this is awesome for catching up on life.  Then definitely have a celebratory meal or drink (or two!) post-race!  Make sure to take sweaty selfies and perhaps even coordinate your outfits.  Seriously - the camaraderie makes it more fun.

3. Update your race playlist!  Never underestimate the motivational power of music.  Inevitably one song will become your "anthem" during your training process and race.   Find your anthem!
4. Establish a pre-race and mid-race 'eating routine' and keep it up! cannot stress enough the importance of routine during the training process.  Get up the same time each week before your long run, and eat the same pre-race fuel.  For me this ritual involves a big plate of spaghetti with marinara sauce the night before, tons of water, and bulletproof coffee an hour before race start time.  I used to eat a piece of whole wheat toast with almond butter for my pre-race breakfast, but I have trained my body not to need it that early in the morning. You figure out what works for you!   Best to avoid eating too much or anything greasy/heavy, though.
For during the race : I bring two Gu packets on the race with me. One I eat ate around mile six, then another at mile ten - if I think I need it.  Some people eat orange slices, Starburst, or running "gummies."  There are lots of options - you just need to find one that agrees with your tummy! You might not feel hungry during the race, but eating something can give you a mental boost anyway!  On your weekly long run experiment with different foods and the timing of eating them. Do not experiment during the actual race!!!!!!!
5. Try not to skip your long runs!  I know that with kids and work and the cold season that stuff happens.  But, especially with a half marathon, you really need that weekly long run (meaning you only have a certain number of weeks to get to your goal, whereas with marathon training you'll have some cut-back weeks.)  You need to gradually build up your endurance. I personally like to make it to at least 11 miles before I consider myself ready for a half.   You'll find that 'race day excitement' will help you get through those last couple "untrained miles" -- but, trust me, you will feel it afterwards.  Find a training schedule on Pinterest and use it as a starting point. 
take time to run even while on vacation -- these will be your most enjoyable and memorable runs!
6. Lay out EVERYTHING you need the night before. Races are usually pretty early.  (My most recent started at 6:30am.)  Make sure you have your race bib with safety pins, music device fully charged, Fitbit fully charged, outfit picked out and laid out, shoes by the door.  The worst way to start out a race is rushed/stressed because you forgot something.
7. Never trust the first mile - of the race or any of your long runs.  It could be amazing...or it could be super hard.  Your body needs time to find a groove during your race.  I've had long runs where the first seven miles were horrific, then around mile eight I started feeling amazing!  Give it time and enjoy the process.  Really be present during your run and pay attention to your body.  Or maybe zoning out and focusing on the music works better for you.  Slow down if you need to.  Walk if necessary.  Just try to keep going until you reach your goal for the day!
"Did you win, Mama????"  Yes Cormac, yes I did.  ;)
8. Don't skip the water stations.  (or Gatorade if you prefer that)  I've run three half marathons now, and I don't run with a water belt because I find it just too bulky.  There are awesome folks there to hand you cups of water or Gatorade nearly every mile!  This is more than enough water to get you through the race -- provided that you were well-hydrated to begin with.   Also, if there is any other forms of water (misters, sprinklers, people on the sides spraying runners with hoses) don't miss those either!!!!!!  Seriously, getting sprayed mid-race with cold, refreshing water can be a major morale booster!  Just trust me.
    9. Reward yourself!  After the race make sure you reward yourself for accomplishing your goal!  Maybe it is to take a hot bath and then long luxurious nap.  A new pair of running shoes. A vacation?  Or make it as simple as going out for a meal and nice cold adult beverage with your running friends!  We had a couple margaritas after the last half, and, wow - they tasted amazing!   Everything will taste pretty amazing while you are on your runner's high post-race!  Try to avoid anything too heavy or fried, though.  Just sayin'.  (Bowel distress is common.)
    10. Have a positive attitude through it all! Remember, a race this long is not supposed to be easy. If it was easy everyone would do it!  Enjoy the challenge of pushing your body.  Your body is amazing!  It can do things you never thought it could if you treat it right and train properly.  I started out years ago barely being able to run a mile.  Part of that was because I had told myself "I am not a runner."  I hear this from so many people.  If you make it a point to run, you are a runner.   One mile turns into 3.1 which eventually can turn into 13.1, if you want it to!
    I hope this was motivating!
    I've seen so many friends go from "run haters" to regular runners, and it is such a cool transformation to see.

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    Happy Memorial Day weekend!

    Friday, May 20, 2016

    finola is three!

    Dearest Fin,

    Your third year has been fun, busy, and loud...kinda like you!  

    You are such a ray of sunshine in our lives -- always quick with a smile, hug, or a "joke," you definitely prefer to remedy any uncomfortable situation with humor.  You are known to laugh loudly for no apparent reason during awkward moments.  If there is a moment of silence you might insert a belch or a fart to lighten the mood.   

    You like to tease and irritate your brother.  Lordy. This year the two of you learned how to bicker and compete - constantly.  I have been a referee for the past year and I don't see the end of it any time soon.  

    You are my little helper in the kitchen!  You love to volunteer to help me prepare meals, or get the snacks out.  You kinda love food in general.  While I sometimes get initial complaints about eating your vegetables at dinner, you always end up chowing them down at the prospect of dessert.  I remember craving sweets to the extreme when you were in my belly, and your sweet tooth is strong! Favorites are powdered sugar donuts and vanilla ice cream with sprinkles!  No chocolate, though. 

    Favorite non-sugary food?  Easily mac n cheese.  Pretty sure you request this for every meal, even breakfast sometimes.  I limit it to once a week but you would prefer more often.  Hot dogs, cottage cheese and pickles are other frequent requests.

    While you have recently developed a weird bug phobia (okay, not so weird, I hate them, too) you are still my nature girl.  I think you would rather be outside in the dirt and puddles than playing with toys any day.  In fact, I had a hard time thinking of presents to get you for your birthday!  You tend to just want to play with all Cormac's "boy stuff."  Like, you want anything he might be playing with at any given moment.  Sigh. 

    You love singing and dancing and music in general!  You have been known to belt out John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in McDonalds, at Barnes and Noble, or anywhere else where an a random audience might listen. 

    Finola, we love you light and fun personality!  You never take anything too seriously, which is sometimes a bit frustrating, but probably a good thing in general.  You are also competitive, assertive, and sometimes bossy and demanding.  You have your share of typical toddler tantrums.  I've learned with you that when you throw a fit, I need to just give you a moment, wait patiently in silence with an understanding look on my face, and then you clearly see your outburst was out of line and then you'll let me hug you.  You say you're sorry without being prompted.  You are very self-aware.

    Other general things of note: you are doing AWESOME with potty training, though still need to wear a pull up at night, and there will be the occasional accident. You do things "yourself" so that makes me happy, even if I have to clean up a few more messes in the bathroom.  (Our concepts of "enough TP" are not quite the same.)  However, we still need to work on appropriate places to use the maybe not in one of the Lowe's display toilets.  

    And now, because your mama is obsessed with photos and particularly photos set to is your bday slideshow.  The first song is one of our favorites -- and one that really fits our life right now.   

    Finola, you are one of the "good things" in this life we've been blessed with that reminds me how present God is, and what is truly important every day...

    Happy, happy birthday Finola!!!!

    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    stitch fix : mother's day fix!

    This year, for Mother's Day,  I decided to treat myself to a Stitch Fix!  My shipment arrived the Friday before, and, as always, it was exciting to see it arrive!  

    I shared my unboxing in this post, and now I'm finally getting around to posting my photos of the items.  Usually I use my tripod, DSLR and remote for my Stitch Fix photo shoots...but alas the memory card for my camera has gone missing.  (Maybe it is lost in the couch with the remote???) Therefore I started off taking the photos outside with my phone propped on the railing of our second floor balcony.  Thankfully my phone didn't fall to a grisly death...but after a couple shots it started raining.  Doh.

    Here are the items from this Fix...
    #1 Loveapella 3/4 Sleeve Shirt
    I found these fabulous fringe Steve Madden sandals at DSW!!!!!  The shorts are the only jorts I own...from Target last year. 
    I know this is a very basic shirt, but I like it.  It is the softest material ever, and I like the contrasting stitching and 3/4 length sleeves (which make your arms look longer and leaner!)  I am still trying to figure out different ways to wear it...but it was a KEEP!  Besides being a nice casual shirt for everyday, it actually dresses up nicely with black pleather leggings and heels, with a statement necklace.  I like versatility!

    As it began to rain I headed inside I went to do mirror selfies - a modern art form I have not yet mastered.  My lighting is terrible, but I think you get the gist.

    #2 White Lace Detailed Tank
    This is a very pretty lace-detailed tank.  I'm not sure the flowy peplum cut is something that flatters me, however. Also, while  I loved the black and white of it, and it was lined, it was still very see-through.  Maybe this is totally okay fashion-wise, I don't know, but I didn't love seeing my strapless very clearly through it.  Not wearing a bra was definitely not an option for me with this it was a return.  Sigh...still searching for a white dressy tank!

    #3  Kyle Skinny Jeans
    These jeans fit, technically -- I mean as skinny jeans they are supposed to be form-fitting, and they were not uncomfortable per se, but a little too "skinny" for me.  Also, the distressing was a little weird.  I felt like someone just sliced two cuts across the knees and called it a day.  When I sat my knees popped out, which made me feel like I was going to completely rip the jeans.  I need to be comfortable - er, as comfortable as one can be in skinny jeans - and I just wasn't.  To be honest, wearing most skinny jeans makes me kinda crabby.  They are cute and fine while out and about and distracted...but then I'll find myself super cranky and I'll be trying to figure out why...then it dawns on me...I'm wearing skinny jeans!  Then, if I am at home, I promptly change into yoga pants.

    But for all you skinny jeans lovers...these were okay!  For skinny jeans.

    #4 Orange Suede Cork Wedge Heels
    I was excited that Stitch Fix offers shoes now, and even more pumped to find some in my Fix!  These wedges are bright and fun for spring, and I love a cork wedge.  However, the price point was pretty high ($120) and if I am gonna spend that much on a pair of shoes it needs to be a style I would wear A LOT.  This color won't work with a lot of they were sent back.

    #5 Collective Concepts Cold Shoulder Printed Top 
    jeans - Stitch Fix // shoes - TJ maxx
    This bright and fun top was the definite winner of this Fix!  I love the cold shoulder look, and am glad it is back for the summer.   The spaghetti straps are nice as I don't feel like it is going to fall off.  You could probably get away with not wearing a bra, although I am gonna wear a strapless for sure.

    Here is a closer detail of the print - interesting sort of boho, which I adore.  I am not a huge pink person, but I like it on this.  Bonus : Hubby loooooved this top!  So it was a definite keeper! 

     So that's it for this Fix!  

    Have you tried Stitch Fix yet?  
    I highly recommend trying out this online styling is so much fun!  You communicate with your stylist via online request notes, your Pinterest board, and your feedback on items she sends in each Fix.  I find it is best to be both specific and honest about your likes and dislikes.  

    You keep only what you like!  You schedule shipments for as often, or not often, as you like! 
    It's all about you, sister. 

    This is especially good for those of us who don't love shopping at the mall anymore.  With two tiny children I just don't have the time.  This makes it so I have several days to try on the clothes, with all my other clothes, make a good decision, then send it back it the USPS bag they provide for me.  

    I don't have to deal with crowds or leave the house at all.
    Introvert paradise!  :D

    Click the photo below to get started!

    ***If you sign up for Stitch Fix using the links on my website and end up getting a Fix shipped, I do get a small commission...which I would most likely use to do more Stitch Fix posts in the future! :D

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    In other news, we were part of a Prohibition/20's style progressive dinner this past Saturday night, and I am still recovering.  Since becoming a mama I rarely stay up past midnight, and as my close friends will tell you, I have been known to get sleepy pretty quick when drinking any adult beverages past 9pm.  However, we had a blast being one of the homes on the dinner progression, and while I didn't take many detail shots I had so much fun decorating our home to be 20's glam and preparing some "fancy" apps for our neighbors/friends!

    Here is a shot of me and my sweet friend Niki in our outfits for the night!

    I love this style...can it all come back in fashion, pretty please?

    Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016

    unboxing my stitch fix!

    If you follow my blog you know I love Stitch Fix.  This time around I thought it might be fun to give you guys a glimpse into the whole Stitch Fix experience if you haven't tried I'm sharing an "unboxing" video this month!   I've noticed a bunch of other bloggers doing this, and it looked kinda fun.  Or at least something different to try!

    Well, when my Fix is delivered I absolutely cannot do anything else until I open the box.  (Even though I had already peeked at my items on the Stitch Fix app!)  In this video you see me attempt to get a few minutes to do the unboxing on camera, but obviously with two tiny tots that no longer take naps it is pretty impossible to do anything solo in my house.  So you'll see and hear a LOT of Finola on the video. Huge props to the mama bloggers who somehow manage to film these with no distractions!


    Oh, and if you are curious, here was my note to my stylist, Hillary...
    Dear Hillary - Some ideas...I would love a fun off-the-shoulder top! I pinned some I am loving! A light-weight, neutral long sleeved shirt to quickly throw on. Still looking for a white, dressy tank top that is flattering on me! A cotton, comfy midi-skirt in a neutral (but not light gray.) Dark wash (comfy) skinny or flared jeans with a decent amount of distressing. I would try shoes! I like strappy heels, heels with fringe or some cute wedges! (No other accessories.) Thanks! So excited!

    Clearly I went a little crazy with the exclamation points.  Sorry Hillary.

    But...based on my unboxing, how do you think she did???

    Do you have a stylist with Stitch Fix that you request every time?

    Stay tuned for my official "Mother's Day Fix" post -- and find out what I kept! 

    To schedule your own Fix, click the image below!  

    Friday, April 22, 2016

    my sister.

    With Mother's Day coming up, I've been thinking about the mamas that inspire me.  Right now my circle of friends consists mostly of mothers.  Many are "beginners" like me, just struggling through. Some have careers outside the home, some stay at home full time.  Some with one tiny baby, and others with a gaggle of toddlers.  All just doing our best and surviving this beautiful + hectic phase of our lives!

    Although she lives across the country in Montana, I am happy to get to experience motherhood alongside my big sister, Heidi.  We were pregnant twice at the same time, and have leaned on each other for encouragement even from afar.

    Growing up I pretty much idolized Heidi.  She is five years older, and has always been very likable, fun, stylish, and beautiful inside and out.

    I was certainly the annoying little sister who stole her clothes, copied her hairstyles, read her diary/notes from boys, and tried to hang out with her and all her cool friends!

    When Heidi went away to college all of a sudden our relationship shifted -- and the separation in living circumstances actually made us closer!  I still adored her and followed all her friendships and dating adventures with fascination...but she definitely embraced her role of big sis to me then, when I wasn't underfoot and in her biz!
    When Heid got married and moved across the country (and I started college) we amazingly got EVEN closer!  I don't even know how it happened but sisterhood somehow deepened into friendship.
    with our mama, 2001,  makeupless (er, as much as we get!) post-canoe trip!  #beautybag #thehut
    Easter 2015 - fourteen years later!
    My sister was a teacher for years before she and her hubby decided to have kids.  Throughout the coming years they struggled through several miscarriages...and I felt Heid's heartache through it all, just as I experience her joy during happy times.  I listened to her announce to me with excitement when she learned of a pregnancy...and then call me again to share the news of sorrow of another baby going up to heaven. She dealt with it with prayer and strength in Jesus.  Her faith and transparency in such a difficult time was pretty incredible to me.

    Now, she is a mama to four beautiful kiddos, juggling an age range of 2 to 10, complete with a packed calendar packed with school, sports, and church activities.
    my gorgeous sister and her beautiful family of six
    Heidi chose to stay at home full-time, just as our own mama did, and just as, coincidentally, I also did.  This definitely is financial sacrifice, particularly for their family.  She does try to squeeze in babysitting and substitute teaching to help out, which I am completely amazed by given how busy her family is!  They make it work - again, by trusting in God, who always seems to provide.

    I could share lots of fun and embarrassing photos of me and my big sis...but instead I'll just say how happy I am to have such an awesome example of a mother in her.  Strong yet kind.  Soft-hearted, yet firm in her faith.

    I love you, sister!  I am glad your daughters will have each other just like we always did!

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    Got an inspiring mama in your life?  
    Surprise her with a gift card from Stitch Fix for Mother's Day!  
    I've enjoyed using this service for the past year (read about my Fixes here) and it's a fun way to surprise a busy mama with some lovely clothing/accessories!
    Click the photo below to get started!

    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    the beach.

    Last week we had the opportunity to spend a week at the beach with part of Hubby's side of the family -- our first vacation with them ever!  There is always a little nervousness at the prospect of spending a week with extended family - or any big group - especially when it involves children.

    I needn't have worried about this trip, though.  It went about as well as it could go when you have toddlers, babies, and various family units cohabiting in one house for a week!  It was very relaxed, as we didn't really make a lot of plans.  We ate all our dinners at "home" together as a big group, while the rest of the meals were grab-and-go, depending on where we were at the time.

    Though the weather was rainy some days, cloudy and windy others, with a bit of sunshine here and there - not ideal beach weather - we still found things to do and enjoy our time together!  We found a big park with huge playground for the kids, tried to get to the beach whenever it was decent out, hit up a couple state parks, and I even got some "alone time" -- which I spent buried in bed,  alternating between napping and reading Harry Potter.  Bliss!  Oh, and I even got in a few rainy runs on the beach.  

    Took a ton of pics, per usual.  Here is a small sampling!   I'll let them and their captions give you a glimpse of our week...
    en route to the beach - rest area shenanigans.

    tiny daisies.
    bouquet from cormac.
    "Are we there yet???"
    we made it!  the first day was the sunniest!
    sister pic!
    The sand was a big hit with both littles.  Particularly Fin who likes to immerse herself fully in nature.
    Paul dragged both kids into the waves.  Neither liked it at all.
    our home for the week

    Had a few Alfred Hitchcock moments after Finola fed some seagulls a Pringle 

    beach snuggles with dada.

    Almost everyone loves to swing...
    Hugo the turtle got chased around the nature center quite a bit that day.
    at the nature center we found during a park outing. 
    learning to be gentle with the baby ducks.
    the kids put on the sweetest performance of 'Let it Go' from Frozen.

    we clearly have some little performers in our family.
    "Good night Gulf Shores!!!!!!" 

    Despite her cold, Sloane was a joy to be around.  Got my baby fix!!!!
    Emmie took this pic of Paul and Fin -- love the daddy/daughter dancing moment she captured.
    had to flag down the creepy ice cream truck for a treat!
    Date night!  The fam watched our babies so we got a night out! Ate yummy seafood at this little spot on a super windy evening!  Then we went to see a movie...because that is what we do.  Dead Pool was so good!
    gumbo and beer.
    fat delicious oysters.
    Jen is so good at getting cute pics of her girls!!!!  Even on a windy beach day!
    Fin - and see Hubby waaaaaay in the background with his boogy board?
    These two beauties are only ten months apart and giggled together quite a bit on this trip...especially the night Cormac fell asleep early!
    "Can't you see I totally got this, Uncle Ben?"
    Fin had fun throwing sand back into the ocean.
    Cormac was not into the ocean...but threw his heart into collecting a bucketful of seashells.  Love that kid.
    Some of Cormac's beach spoils.  
    can I just say that the selfie stick does wonders for getting kids to smile for photos????
    I took a run on the beach the last day - despite the rain I still enjoyed some sand in my toes.
    after checking out a million beach houses I decided I like the pale pink ones the best.  this beauty needs some love but so fab!
    the gulf on that last rainy run.
    Bye bye beach!  We had fun!
    After saying goodbyes and checking out of the beach house our little fam drove halfway home and did one of our favorite things -- hotel + pool + pizza.  Thankfully our kids seem to love it as much as we do.  Cormac's questions about hotel rules were kinda awesome.  And Finola only called the front desk about thirty times...and wiped pizza sauce on the white duvet.  Good times!
    The next morning we drove back to real life.
    I'm blessed to be able to spend both vacation and normal everyday life with some pretty sweet folks.
    driving home -- we loved vacay!