Weekly Randomness

With my nasal congestion putting my brain in a rather good fog today I’m going to just highlight some randomness from this past week.

-My lifelong concert buddy, Lindsey, informed me that Breaking Benjamin will be performing in Hershey this summer.  Thanks to her presale code from attending a Bears game she was able to order us tickets a day early and score us great seats.  This will be my 6th time seeing them in concert.  They’re performing with Chevelle who I haven’t seen, and Three Days Grace who I have seen, but not since the lead singer was replaced.  I didn’t attend any concerts last year which is a rarity for me, so I’m super excited to have one on the calendar for this year.

-Jason found several restaurants in New Orleans of interest as well as a plantation tour, so our TripAdvisor trip profile is growing.  I have a list of hotels narrowed down to three, and plan to read more reviews closer to our booking before making a final decision.  In addition to New Orleans and our usual Ocean City, MD trip, we’re considering a long weekend in Jamestown, NY to check out their comedy museum.

-I really hope the weather this spring for track season is not nearly as erratic as this past week’s weather was.  On Wed. I watched about 5-6 inches of snow fall throughout the day then turn around and ran in 40 degree temps Thurs. afternoon with my track kids.

-I was finally able to find a way to thank my running buddies, Todd and Armand, for their mentoring over the past two years.  The three of us ran 6 miles yesterday then went out to breakfast.  I surprised them and myself by polishing off two pieces of French toast, 2 scrambled eggs and 2 pieces of bacon.  Normally the French toast would be enough to fill me, but I guess I worked harder during those 6 miles than I realized.  I picked up the bill and told them that I owed a lot of my growth as a runner to their guidance and friendship, and they graciously accepted.

-I am currently reading The Wisdom of the Native Americans, a book Jason bought me for Christmas.  I’m really focusing on taking my time and reading each section slowly, something that I tend not to do as I’m a fast reader and fly through books.  I think it is helping me to appreciate the philosophy and spiritual guidance contained in the book.  I am fascinated by what I am learning about Native Americans’ beliefs, and am only saddened by the thought that they seemed to have taken much better care of the planet than those of us from European cultures have.  We could learn much from their ways of thinking and living.

-Coincidentally our church’s guest speaker this morning was a Native American, Frank Little Bear, a lecturer of Native American history, musician and artist.  He played his flute at the beginning of the service, led a Lakota prayer, told a Cree story from his tribe to the children, spoke on the subject of “trust” during his sermon and concluded the service with playing a drum.  It was one of the most interesting church services I have attended to date, and am grateful to have found a church that is vastly different from the churches I have attended in the past.

Here’s hoping that this head cold vanishes sooner rather than later as I’m one week away from the official start of spring track season when life gets super crazy!

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The Laziness of Our Communication

I was recently required by my employer to buy a new cell phone.  I work from home and utilize a VPN and to add extra security to it, our IT department implemented the use of the app ImprivataID.  I attempted to download the app on my old phone only to receive an error message.  I discovered in order to run the app, my phone required an Android version newer than the one I had.  After much grumbling and annoyance, and an attempt to find out if I could be reimbursed for the cost (unfortunately not since working from home is a “privilege” of my position and not a requirement) I ultimately bought a new phone.  The upside to this hassle was that Jason and I decided to quit Straight Talk and switch to Xfinity Mobile’s pay by the gig option and are now saving roughly $70 a month.

While my phone is nothing fancy compared to most (it’s a Motorola e5) it’s certainly more advanced than my previous one.  This includes a much more sophisticated auto correct feature and something I had never encountered before – suggestive text responses when I receive a message.  I was partially disturbed by its ability to anticipate the most likely response.  I will admit I have used it on occasion when the suggested responded was actually what I planned to write.  The more I’ve thought about it though, the more disgusted I have become by it.

Are we so predictable in responses as a species that a phone can speak for us?  Are we that lazy as a species that rather than think up a response we’d rather choose an auto suggested one?  Are we even conversing if the person on the other end is doing the same thing in simply selecting the phone’s recommended reply?  Are we communicating or are the phones?

As technology advances, our communication options increase in quantity but certainly not in quality.  Facebook’s feature to “like” statuses and comments gives people a chance to respond to others without actually engaging with them.  Twitter’s character limit promotes writing shallow snip-its vs longer, more well written thoughts.  There are numerous other apps that I hear about from my track kids that seem only to encourage quick “check ins” with one another instead of actually chatting.

Case in point – two of my track girls were talking the other day and the one mentioned that she could probably have her mom take the other one home, but she didn’t know where she lived.  The other girl told her.  Puzzled, I asked weren’t they best friends and if so, why hadn’t they been to each other’s houses already and did kids not hang out in person anymore?  The one responded that she would hang out with some of her neighborhood friends, but the other said anytime she invited people to her house they declined and just wanted to Snapchat with her instead.  It broke my heart to hear that as I thought about all the time I spent as a teen hanging out in my bedroom with friends or in their bedrooms.

Although it may be considered weird by some, I am quite a fan of just randomly checking in on people who I haven’t chatted with for periods of time.  Sometimes I’m inspired by a dream I had involving the person, and other times I just randomly think of them.  The spring-like weather recently reminded me of a friend who abhors winter more than I do, and I knew she would be happy to enjoy the warmth.  I spontaneously texted her to ask if she was enjoying the warmer temps and we enjoyed a catch up chat.  Texting with her reminded me of another friend I hadn’t interacted with in over a year, so I texted her the next day.  She was so grateful that I reached out to her.  I’m certain my random texts to initiate conversations with these ladies made them feel more cared about as people than a thousand “likes” on their Facebook statuses ever would have.

While the argument could be made that it would’ve been even more meaningful to have called or visited these friends, I prefer to only phone with limited people (years of working for call centers makes you apt to hate the phone in general) and with everyone’s seemingly super busy lives, sometimes a text conversation is the best option.  That said I do much more enjoy talking face to face with friends than texting as I find it creates a deeper bond.

Convenience is great, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of deeper connection.  I am glad I made the decision to quit Facebook as I feel it has forced me to interact better with people.  Blogging affords me the opportunity to meet new people the same way that social media does, but with the added benefit of actually reading about their lives on a deeper level.  Technology has enabled us to connect over greater distances and with much more speed and ease, but we shouldn’t allow it to make us lazy in communicating deeper with others.

Do you utilize the suggested text responses on your phone?  Do you feel more or less connected due to social media?  Do you randomly call or text old friends?

 

 

 

 

 

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Springettsbury 10k – Year 2

The week leading up to the Springettsbury 10k certainly proved interesting.  On Sunday I wore shorts while I ran 9.5 miles in very spring-like weather.

On Tuesday I went to the high school before track practice to run.  I was going to run 3-4 miles, but during the first mile some random desire to run a speed workout came over me.  I can only assume it was due to a combo of gorgeous weather yet again, and the fact that I would be making the track kids run a hard workout as well.  After a mile warmup I ran four 400s on the track.  I didn’t time my recovery in between each, but I ran 1:30, 1:34, 1:33, 1:33 splits then ran a mile cool down.  I was quite pleased with my consistency in the 400s given I never do speed work.  My legs felt like I could run forever, but the heavy, gasping breathing at the end of each loop reminded me of why I should do more of those workouts.

On Wednesday I fell in the living room on our ceramic tile floor.  I can only figure that my pants caught under my moccasin and I slipped on them.  My right buttock took the brunt of the fall but my right ankle also turned.  My first thought was “Oh no I race on Saturday!” followed by “This really hurts”.  I stayed down for about a minute before getting to my feet.  I had to ice my butt twice just to be able to sit remotely normal while working.  It remained very tender the rest of the week, so I chose to complete yoga and upper body workouts instead of trying for another run before the race.

Saturday morning’s weather was a stark contrast from the beginning of the week.  Sustained winds of 10-15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph with feel like temps of teens were not my ideal racing conditions.  I immediately ruled out my reach goal of a sub 50 and went with my regular goal of a 52.  During my warmup the fierce head wind caused me to put on a second pair of gloves, something I never did in a race.  I also added my light windbreaker jacket to my Under Armour cold gear long sleeved top and half zip.

Although I knew the course from the previous year, my running group had pre-ran the course two weeks earlier.  This really helped prepare me mentally for the first two miles of hills.  My splits were 8:17 and 8:34 respectively.  The wind was a crosswind for most of it, and by the third mile I had already removed my extra pair of gloves.  The third mile split was a 7:59 thanks in part to a long downhill.

I felt twinges in my right buttock at times, but it was never actual pain.  I was proud of my ability to free fall down the short, steep downhill leading into a turn to the dirt road.  I took water at the water stop feeling like it would help later in the race.  A girl I had began watching through the third mile and dubbed “Purple girl” pulled farther ahead of me because of this, but I didn’t want to try to close the gap on her too early in the race.  I hit 8 mins flat for the fourth mile split which surprised me given I was running into a head wind at times.

I felt really wore out during the fifth mile.  My quads ached in a way that they don’t normally during a race, and I could only figure it was due to battling the wind.  Mentally I was just over running at that point and wanted to be finished.  I was glad to have ran in the wind a few weeks ago that inspired my tips post as that did help me mentally in some regards as well as physically by putting petroleum jelly on my face that morning.  Despite my less than stellar mindset and somewhat tired quads I only slowed to a 8:08 at the five mile mark.

At this point the course transitioned into a development and the winds were mostly blocked by houses offering a much needed reprieve.  I’m not sure if I was that happy to be out of a headwind or if I got my own second wind, but I really started to pick up my pace.  I passed a girl who had passed me in the previous mile and started working on reeling in “Purple girl”.  I didn’t think she was in my age group, but I treated her as if she was just in case.  I was gaining ground on her when I turned into an apartment complex and was inconvenienced by a car that prevented me from crossing over sooner.  It was driving nearly my same pace for several feet before I finally got ahead of it.  This messed with me mentally, making me feel as if I had expended extra energy and I worried I wouldn’t catch “Purple girl”.

I reached the parking lot and 6 mile mark in a 7:28, proof of how much I had picked up during the sixth mile.  I rounded the final corner but didn’t want to “go” until I could see the finish line.  As soon as I saw it I went and passed “Purple girl” and another woman, partially afraid they would give chase and make me work even harder.  The entire final stretch felt so long and I kept repeating in my head “This is why you ran the 400s, this is why you ran the 400s”.  I crossed the finish line in a 49:03.

Looking back on the race I still can’t wrap my head around how I could run that fast (7:54/mile avg pace) in those conditions.  It certainly took its toll on me as I required an hour nap later in the day.  I’m really proud of how I ran and ended up being the 8th overall female.  I finished 3rd in my age group and am now tied for second in my age group for the entire series.  I am hoping to secure second place for good at the final race in March.

 

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Running Q & A

In an effort to get to know more about fellow runners who follow my blog as well as divulge more about myself as a runner I’m posing the following questions with my answers.  Feel free to copy any/all the questions into the comments section and post your answers as well!

Do you remember your first race?

I consider 2 races to be my “first”.  The actual first one would be the 400m dash I ran in 4th grade as part of an elementary school track meet.  I remember my parents driving past the high school track in advance of the meet and thinking that one lap didn’t look very far.  I ran the race and promptly cried after because I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.  I can’t remember if I placed or not.

The other race I consider my “first” race would be my very first 5k.  It was the River Run in Wrightsville in May 2003.  I was in average shape coming off track season, but being a sprinter/hurdler I had no distance base and running the race would be my test if I could handle running cross country.  It was a light rain and I ended up way overdressed and overheated within the first mile.  The highlight was passing my dad up the final (and only) hill and beating him.  I have never beaten him in a race since that day.

What do you consider to be the hardest distance to train for and/or race?

I think the half marathon is the hardest distance to train for because it requires so many weeks to get a solid base and you have to keep up the consistency of running.  You also have to keep increasing the long run mileage.  Not to mention I feel like I want to eat nonstop while training for a half marathon and I get bored of eating.  Granted I have yet to train for a marathon, but I would imagine that’s even harder.

I think the hardest distance to race is the 5 miler.  It’s probably my favorite distance to race, but I always have to remind myself I can’t go out as hard as in a 5k.  It’s always a challenge to figure out how hard to push as I don’t want to push too early and burn out, but I also don’t want to wait too late and have too much left at the finish.  I think it’s also challenging because it’s not a common race distance so I don’t get to practice racing it as often.

What is your ideal race course?

Back country roads with rolling hills.  I prefer this for aesthetic purposes as well as it closely matches with my typical training routes.  Rolling hills allow for a change up in my leg muscles that keep my hips from tightening (super flat courses make me ache) and while I can handle tough hills, I prefer rolling ones because I can recover faster.  I run a lot of my long runs alone and these type of races usually don’t draw the huge crowds that city runs do.  This means there are sections of the race I can run by myself and I prefer that.  I have only ran 3 half marathons to date but I would say the Blue-Gray half marathon in Gettysburg is my “perfect” course so far.

What is one stereotypical runner behavior you perform?

After years of training without a watch I now find I can’t run without my Garmin.  If I finish a run and it’s almost to the next quarter mile (Ex I ran 5.90 miles) I have to jog around until the watch hits exactly on the quarter mile.

What is one weird/unusual thing you do as a runner that most other runners don’t?

I complete the majority of my runs wearing boys’ mesh basketball shorts.  For years they were the only type of shorts I wore to run.  I’ve always found them comfier particularly in hot and humid weather when I want to go commando.  I do now have UnderArmour running shorts that I wear for my longest runs while training for half marathons and use for racing, but I still run in my other shorts most of the time.

 

 

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Tips for Running in Winter Winds

Coaching off season track practices twice a week and some rather nasty cold weather recently has caused my usual three runs a week to become two runs a week.  I’m hoping to soon increase this back to three, but another major cold spell due to arrive later this week may prevent that.  That said I have been tackling some hilly courses on my runs and managed 6.5 miles last Friday afternoon.  The temperatures were in the low 30s but with sustained winds of 15-20 mph and gusts up to 30 mph.  In the past I would’ve been deterred enough by the wind to stay indoors, but I knew I needed to get a quality run in that day.  I managed a semi-decent, albeit slow run, thanks in part to the following:

1. Chapstick.  I finally picked up a tube the other week and have actually been remembering to wear it.  It prevents the cracked, sore lips that make my mouth feel dry on runs.

2.  Petroleum jelly.  My skin is very fair and I flush easily.  This means when I suffer wind burn my face stays red for quite a long time.  It dawned on me Friday afternoon to apply some petroleum jelly to my nose, cheeks and forehead before running.  My skin felt better moisturized even after the run, and my usual redness did not persist into the evening.

3.  Windbreaker pants.  I’m not sure if the type of Adidas windbreaker pants I wear even exist anymore.  I own several pairs that were purchased while I was in high school and have been blessed to be able to still fit in them.  While I don’t enjoy wearing two layers of pants to run, by layering them over my leggings I’m assured to stay warm and winter winds do not penetrate to chill my legs.

4.  Staying in town.  I began my run with a quarter mile through the cemetery by my house which was a very rough start.  A strong crosswind made me second guess wanting to run that day.  Fortunately when I returned to the alley and had buildings to block some of the wind the run became a lot more tolerable.

5.  Utilizing the woods.  Much like the buildings in town, the woods on either side of a rural road I ran ensured the winds were kept at bay.  I did encounter a nasty head wind upon turning on another road with an open field to one side, but pushed through and was soon back in town.

I recommend anyone who is wanting to brave the winter winds to keep running, try the above tips.  By preparing in advance physically with appropriate clothing and skin care, and mentally with a well planned route, a windy run can be a challenging but manageable experience.

Do you let windy days keep you from running outside?  What other tips do you have for surviving winter’s winds?

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5 Mortgage Payoff Tips

The end of November Jason and I accomplished a big financial goal of paying off our mortgage.  This was the last debt we owed after I paid off my 2005 Chevy Cobalt in 2013 and my last student loan in March 2015.  Becoming debt free has always been a high priority for us.

We bought the house the end of July 2015 for 87k with a mortgage of $56,500.  I include these figures because I realize that 1 – the majority of people’s houses cost well over 87k and 2 – not everyone has a large of a down payment like we did.  I also want to mention that our house was not a “fixer upper” as I know those tend to be a lot cheaper.  Neither of us are handy enough or enjoy home projects enough to undertake that challenge.

Instead it is a smaller house of 1008 square feet on a 4900 square foot lot.  It is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath with a small kitchen, laundry room, hall with closet, large living/dining room and large attic.  It also came with a small shed and a fenced in yard.  For the two of us it is more than enough room and while I’ve always preferred eat in kitchens, I’ve learned to improvise when more space is needed.  I would encourage anyone looking to buy a home to consider buying smaller.  It will cost less initially and save money in utility bills.  It also requires less cleaning and limits the number of random items purchased to decorate.

With many people resolving to spend less and save more in the new year I’m going to offer a few tips we utilized to pay our house off in less than 3.5 years and achieve financial freedom.

1 – Pay more than your mortgage payment requires as often as possible.  Nearly every month since buying the house we made an additional payment.  In March 2018 we made it a goal to pay an extra $1400 a month minimum.  Some months we came up a little short, but other months we were able to pay even more.  This decreased the amount of interest owed and assured more money was going to the principal.  Even a payment as small as $50 a month can make a difference and ensure a mortgage doesn’t require 30 years to pay off.

2 – Put any “extra” money towards the house.  This can include bonuses, money from side jobs, tax refunds, etc.  I coach track and line judge volleyball games and the money earned from those went towards paying down the mortgage.  Jason picked up extra “on call” shifts whenever he could to increase his paychecks and pay more on the house as well.

3 – Limit eating out.  I feel like this tip is offered all the time on money saving articles, but it really is a huge way to save money.  There were some months where Jason and I only ate out once at a restaurant.  Sometimes we would treat ourselves by just going out for a shared appetizer and drink or picking up a pizza.  We also chose to eat out for breakfast instead of dinner if we wanted to eat out since it was a cheaper meal.  The best plan to stop eating out calls for cooking at home and meal planning which is a subject for another blog.

4 – Cut the cable cord.  Last spring our Comcast package lost a few of our favorite channels.  We took this as an opportunity to explore other options.  Jason found Philo and for $16 a month we receive 43 channels, some of which we didn’t even receive with our Comcast package such as HGTV.  I will advise a streaming device is needed for the service.  We already had a Roku because we had Netflix.  We also bought a cheap indoor antenna to receive local channels.  We had to retain Comcast’s internet services as my work’s VPN network cannot run on satellite internet, but we reduced our Comcast bill from around $120 to $75 a month by cutting out TV.

5 – Break the consumerism mentality.  I’ve come to realize this is a big challenge for most people as consumerism is ingrained in the brain.  It requires a change in mindset and philosophy towards buying “stuff”.  I recommend reading about simplicity and minimalism.  While it’s not needed to go to the extreme of these concepts, the overall principals are very applicable.  Once the desire to buy unneeded items (clothes, electronics, etc) is overcome, the extra money saved can be put towards paying off the mortgage.

What are your favorite money saving tips?  Does being in debt bother you and if so, do you pay extra to get out of debt faster?

 

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Indian Rock 10k – Year 2

Similar to the John Rudy 5 miler, this was actually my first year of running the Indian Rock 10k.  Last year I deemed the weather too dangerous due to snow and ice and also hadn’t felt the greatest.  Also like the 5 miler the race was ran on the York Rail Trail though a different portion.

It was also my first race running as a member of the Flying Feet racing team.  I asked Les, an older guy who I’ve known for years and who I couldn’t beat most of the summer, at the start of the series how someone gets on the racing team.  He jokingly told me if I beat him that he would talk to the owner of Flying Feet for me.  After beating him three races in a row, he kept his promise and I picked up racing shirts and singlets this past week.

Yesterday morning was very cold with feel like temps barely above 20*.  The saving grace was that there was no wind.  I wore several layers for my warm up run with my dad, but thanks to the awesomeness of Under Armour’s cold gear, I was able to take off my windbreaker pants to run in just my leggings.  I like to think that I’ve finally gotten the hang of figuring out how to dress for cold weather races.

Dad and I hung out with the majority of the runners in the elementary school until 5 minutes before race time.  I figured keeping warm for as long as possible would help my hands and face, the two body parts that felt bitterly cold after the warm up.  At 9am we took off from the parking lot down a slight grade and across the road to the rail trail.

I went out faster than I did in the last race.  Even doing that my dad only stayed with me for about a quarter mile before he took off from me.  I ended up running beside a woman who I ran near in the last race.  I need to find out her name because we’ve talked in the past and enjoy pacing next to each other particularly because we’re in different age groups.  The first mile was a 7:40, twenty seconds faster than last race.

The race was ran on a portion of the rail trail that I have ran often.  Oddly enough despite running faster and having plenty of people around me, it seemed to take a long time to get to the second mile.  Dad and I have often discussed how the rail trail is mentally deceptive in that way; you feel as if you’ve ran for a long distance but really haven’t.

My high school assistant cross country coach cheered me on as I passed by him as his wife was running the race.  I skipped the water station and hit the second mile in 8:06.  I kept an eye out for any ice during the third mile as the race director warned us there might be a few spots.  Fortunately the one mud-turned-ice spot we were able to go around.  The lead runners began passing us on their return and I was able to distract myself mentally by watching them.  Likewise once I reached the turn around point I watched those still heading out the trail.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people of all shapes and sizes and fitness levels come out to run the winter series.

I utilized the water station on the way back, but only took a bit once I realized there were some tiny pieces of ice in it.  I was decently warm by this point, but didn’t want to chill myself.

After placing third in the last race part of me kept focusing on every female in front of me, wondering if the woman who beat me by four seconds was ahead of me.  I knew I was running fairly comfortable and needed to work.  I began trying to catch as many females as possible without increasing my pace too much.  With 1.5 miles to go I was feeling very good and decided to pick up my pace.  I was hoping my pacing partner would choose to go with me, but I realized there was still a lot of race to be ran and normally I wouldn’t have even started a pick up that early if I hadn’t felt so good.  Unfortunately she didn’t, but I had plenty of people to work on catching.  I didn’t count how many people I passed, but it seemed to be more than I usually do that late in a race.

With less than a quarter mile to go I turned off the trail and started striding harder to cross the road.  I pushed up the only “hill” into the school parking lot and across the finish line.  I finished in 48:48 and placed third in my age group.  A different woman had placed second; I had beaten the one who beat me in the last race, so I’m currently still ranked second in my age group overall for the series.  I have to miss the next race due to taking my track kids to an invitational, but I should have enough points accrued to not lose my position.  After that it’ll be two races remaining!

 

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