Merry Christmas

The holidays came up so quickly this year. My mom caught me off guard wondering what we were doing for Christmas Eve. We don’t usually do anything with her since we spend Christmas Day together, but since it was just her and her husband this year I could tell she wanted to do something. So I invited them over for dinner. I was inspired to make something new, but light and with simple ingredients. I prepared a tomato and vegetable white bean stew from Minimalist Baker, this Oh She Glows salad with butternut squash instead of delicata, and apple cider sangria from the Kitchn. The sangria was a fun way to start the evening. The soup and salad were delicious. Dessert was a lemon loaf my mom brought and pineapple.

We ended the evening at Christmas Eve party with Carlos’ best friend’s family. We might have stayed longer if I hadn’t worked the night before at the hospital and still had presents to wrap for the morning.

Carlos doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but he was still up at 4:45am! We convinced him to climb into bed with us and wait until 6. He lasted until 5:30 before he began puttering around in his room making just enough noise to remind us he was waiting.

I always try to make the gift opening last a little longer than 5 minutes. Carlos was really excited about each gift. There were nerf guns, Xbox games, books about soccer and the Illuminati (he’s fascinated!), and a Spy School book, a portable speaker, a Messi soccer ball, and the almighty Adidas cleats.


adidas Men's X 16.3 FG Soccer Cleats - Dick's Sporting GoodsMy 10 year old is wearing men’s shoes because boys sizes end at 6.5 and he’s now a 7.5. I bought the cleats in a size 8 because they won’t be worn until spring. This child is growing way too quickly!

There were huge smiles, lots of thank yous and hugs too. His birthday was a week ago and he got an Xbox. That was the big gift. He is obsessed with soccer and Xbox FIFA is amazing according to Carlos.

The morning was lazy. It involved lounging around under my new super soft blanket from Costco and coffee. Around 10ish I went out for a run. It was unseasonably warm for December. I ran and ran. It was glorious. The sun felt so great against the slight bite of cold in the air. The roads were quiet and the air seemed so fresh. I saw two horses riding down the street!

I wrapped up my 10 mile run with a family Nerf battle in our front yard.

We spent the rest of the day at my mom’s. Her husband made lasagna, one was vegan and the other vegetarian. My cheese-less lasagna was incredible. He does it a little better each time. It was chock full of mushrooms, squash, peppers, sweet potato, tomatoes and carrots. It was enormous! I have about 10 portioned out packages in my freezer now. We ate, drank wine, watched movies/football, and relaxed.

After a crazy 8 weeks of Nursing Theory and the most unbelievable work issues for my team culminating in our wonderful boss being let go for a horrible reason the week before Christmas, I desperately needed a stress free holiday.

Merry Christmas!!


Manchester City Marathon

I can’t believe it has already been a week since I ran my 7th marathon. I feel like a lifetime has happened since last Sunday. Last weekend was a whirlwind, but it was a much needed getaway. Even if I could discuss the nightmare that is my job right now, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I halfheartedly tried to quit this week, but my boss refused to accept my verbal resignation. I wouldn’t really do that to her or to my team. She told me that because all of the issues are completely out of my control I need to let go of my personal expectations and high quality of work. It’s difficult to do for me, but after talking with my boss it helped me to slow down a little bit and not stress as much about how backed up I am. This is a statewide problem that is affecting all of the nursing team.

Back to the weekend…M and I got up to New Hampshire in the early afternoon. I picked up my race packet at Millennium Running Store. Not five minutes from packet pick up on the same road was LaBelle Winery. We did a wine tasting and enjoyed some of the wineries unique wines like Cranberry, Virginia Mae Sweet Blueberry, Spiced Pear, and Harvest Apple. I am not a wine connoisseur and I enjoy wine on the sweeter side. These were fun wines, not overly sweet, but light and refreshing. After our 10 tastes we had a delicious lunch in the winery’s cafe. I left with a bottle of the Spiced Pear and the Gerwurtzaminer

We relaxed at the hotel. It was nice to have absolutely nothing to do. I left my work computer at home, and I vowed not to do any school work. Since we ate a late lunch we didn’t venture out to dinner until about 8pm and I wasn’t the only in search of pasta at Fratello’s Italian Grill. There was an hour wait so we sat at the bar and had a glass of wine. I haven’t done anything like this in a very long time. I would miss Carlos and Orlando at the finish, but they attended fall clean up at Carlos’ school and they were in need of boys only weekend. My bowl of pasta was perfect. Then us wild women went back to the hotel and got ready for bed!

I didn’t sleep great because I was worried the time change would somehow screw up my alarm. The marathon has a late start at 8:50AM. The weather was gorgeous for early November in New Hampshire. It was a relatively small crowd especially in comparison to my last marathon.

There were eventually a few more people at the start! I have never run two marathons so close together. My training for the last few weeks since Chicago was not heavy in mileage because I opted for extra hill work due to the course in Manchester. I was a little nervous at the start, but I quickly settled into a nice steady pace telling myself it was just a long run with new scenery.

This marathon course is the complete opposite of Chicago. It’s a very hilly mix of road, trail, and bike path. The foliage is fading fast in New England, but it was still a beautiful sight to see in many places along the course.

Just as I came upon the halfway marker the weather got a little cooler and breezy. We had to run past the finish line for the first time. It’s a mix of emotions when you run a full that also has a half and you run by people finishing their race knowing you are only half done.

I have an affinity for running over bridges and this course did not disappoint. It was a quiet race in contrast to the 1.7 million spectators that lined the Chicago course. I took in the scenery and did a lot of thinking. I was practically alone for long stretches.

I had an internal conversation going on throughout the first 15 miles about how magical it would be if I could will myself into feeling that great until the end of the race, but by mile 16 there were twinges, mile 17 the aches started to creep in, mile 18 my feet were screaming at me, mile 19 mental math begins to fail me as I try to add up how much longer I need to run, mile 20 I just want this to be over because my legs hurt, mile 21 I can hear my yoga instructor in my head telling me to unclench my toes and breathe into the pain, mile 22 breathing breathing breathing, mile 23 I got this, I can do this, mile 24 I’m running my 7th marathon what?!! wait we have to go up that huge hill we already climbed at mile 4.5 well that’s just cruel, mile 25 hey it’s the finish line and I have to run right by it for the second time, back over that bridge we already ran over around mile 5 and back the other way, oh not another hill, that’s it I want this done…as though a mighty wind blew from behind suddenly my legs took on a life of their own and I ran as hard as I could for those last two tenths of a mile. Mile 26.2 tears!

4:45:53 was my official time. I am not at all disappointed with this time given the challenging nature of the course. I really didn’t have a time goal in mind for this race. I was meant to do this race with my friend M as her first full marathon. She was injured very early on in our training. She is still injured. I contemplated dropping out of the race, but I am so glad I didn’t. M was gracious enough to join me and cheer me on, and we enjoyed a fun weekend getaway. I can’t wait until she is healed and ready to run with me again.

This year has been all about learning to run with new friends after years of solo running. I have done more trail running this year. It is great charting new routes in different places. It is motivating to have a friend who will meet me at 5AM and run with headlamps and LED shoe lights. It’s fun to go for a run and then out to coffee. My two running friends are not competitive or concerned about pace. We have proved over the course of long runs that there is no shortage of conversation. I am grateful for a wonderful, healthy year of running. I have some new goals in mind for 2017 including running the Big Sur Marathon in April. 2016 isn’t quite over. There is still some time to enjoy more early morning runs and maybe a race or two before the new year.


Happy Halloween

I took the day off today because Carlos has the day off from school due to a teacher in service day. We had breakfast with my cousin who is visiting from Arizona. She came into town for her baby shower this past weekend. She is due with her first child, a baby girl, in February. My mom has one sister, and they both have two children. The four of us were very close growing up. I am the oldest and this cousin is the youngest. She is the one that inspired me to begin running. She was a Team in Training coach when she lived in Florida. She has since abandoned running and joined the Cross Fit movement along with her husband.

On Saturday after the shower my mom and my aunt were trying to get my cousin to divulge possible baby names. I never give parenting or pregnancy advice because it’s annoying. Seriously, everyone’s pregnancy is totally different, and people are going to parent in their own way. However, the only thing I suggested to my cousin was to consider keeping the name to herself. When I told my family I was going to name the baby Carlos if it was a boy my grandmother actually said, “Oh I don’t like that I’ll call him Carl!!” My mom and my aunt gave a little eye roll at the time too, but once Carlos was born it was such a suitable name for him and everyone loved it. My grandmother did call him Carlos every now and then and Carlos would say, “Noni, my name is Carlos!” There is nothing worse than deciding on a name, loving it, and having someone ruin it for you. Despite my mom and my aunt putting the pressure on my cousin, she stood her ground and didn’t tell us anything.

Let me backtrack for a moment to Friday night. I am the designated scary attractions chaperone for my son and his best friend, Tyler. Last year we did Six Flags Fright Fest. We went on two ghost tours in Gettysburg in the spring. This Halloween season they really wanted to do a haunted hayride at a local farm. The only issue is that the line can be many hours long. So when I saw an ad for Fast Pass tickets on Facebook this summer I grabbed 3 tickets. We were all ready to brave the hayride last Saturday night and it got rained out. Luckily this past Friday was perfect weather. We jumped to the front of the line and got right on the hayride. The boys and I were unimpressed and disappointed with it. It was basically people with masks jumping on and off the wagon, getting into your face, and then making some kind of noise. There was one section with creepy clowns. It wasn’t scary, but clowns bother me. At end after you get off the ride you enter a haunted house on foot. Now that was scary! It seemed as though it was never going to end. We were spooked every time we turned a corner. The boys had a blast and so did I. They are really such fun to be around. We decided we will try to do one scary/haunted attraction every year.

I finished my first graduate course two weeks ago. It was challenging to do it between work, Carlos’ schedule, Orlando’s schedule, marathon training, and a trip to Chicago. I spent many nights at the library until it closed at 2AM. I got an A, and two days after the course ended I began the next one. I contemplated taking time off, but after discussing it with my student advisor, and a couple of reasonable people in my life, I knew that breaking the momentum right now could potentially be the end of my studies. This course follows the same rhythm as the last one, assignments due on Wednesday nights, and follow up comments to classmates due on Saturday nights. This is not quite the graduate school experience of my dreams. That one didn’t have work and family balance to negotiate. I am doing the very best that I can to balance everything.

Work has been an absolute nightmare. Computer issues across the state. They fix one thing and three more issues arise. Enough said!

Running is my sanity. Fall running is probably one of my favorite activities in the whole world. It’s crisp, the air smells so clean, and the colors are striking even when they begin to dull like right now. My friend and I have enjoyed mild temperatures on our last few early runs. I still can’t believe she is willing to meet me at 5AM and run with a headlamp. We laugh a lot, and the runs go by so much faster. She never complains and will even run in the rain.

I will be going to Manchester, NH this weekend to run my 7th marathon. I will be with another friend who was supposed to run the marathon too. She has been injured since early on in our training. I feel so awful for her, but I am grateful she is still willing to take a road trip to cheer me on in the race. I still cannot even believe I am doing this. The shortest time I have ever had between marathons was 4 months between Vermont City and Hartford last year. My training plan since Chicago has been surprising low in mileage. The Manchester City Marathon is a bit hilly so the emphasis has been on hills and flexibility training. I have really enjoyed the change in training over the last few weeks.

I started going to yoga again on Tuesday mornings with my favorite instructor. The studio closed and she is now doing a class close to Carlos’ school. It is a Vinyasa flow class. I love the class and her teaching style. I am the worst at yoga. I feel like a big clunky elephant in the room. However, I love it, and I want to get better at it. Like running there is such a powerful mental aspect to yoga. I love pushing myself beyond the limits I once thought existed.

No political commentary from me. I am keeping my nose out of those conversations. One neighbor has huge Trump and Make America Great Again signs in front of his yard. They have been vandalized a few times. He repaints them and puts them right back out there. To each their own I say!

Carlos and I have a giant pumpkin to carve and then major trick or treating to get to in a few hours.

Happy Halloween!!

Chicago Marathon 2016

The scene on the way to Grant Park this morning was exciting. There was a buzz of energy in the air. The sky was clear. The temperature was cool, but not cold. I followed the crowd and finally located corral H. It took about 40 minutes from the time wave 1 started at 7:30am to get to the start. There were 40,000 runners! To put it in perspective, 27,488 runners lined up at the start of the Boston Marathon this year. Despite Chicago’s massive number of runners and more than 1.7 million spectators, the race went smoothly.

I ran a really strong first half. I had no clue what my time was along the way because I forgot to look at the clock when I crossed the starting line, but I sensed it was a good pace. I don’t think I went out too fast. I’m not a negative split runner no matter how hard I try. At a race I go with how I feel and inevitably in long distance races my second half is slower. I keep working on it though. Today everything was in sync for at least the first 15 miles.

Side note: I was having major iPhone battery issues prior to today. I bought a Mophie charging case so my battery wouldn’t drain during the race. I have worn my wireless Plantronic headphones for long runs and last year’s Hartford marathon with no issues. Darn it if the headphones didn’t die around mile 15! I had warnings from around mile 11. I know they were fully charged going into the race, but maybe they are getting warn out. This was good practice for Big Sur next April. That marathon prohibits headphones. However, I don’t think Big Sur has the incredible spectators that line nearly every inch of the Chicago Marathon. They are fun, loud, energetic and very supportive.

I may have lost a little pep in my step, but I kept chugging along, smiling, and high fiving spectators especially the little kids. The aid stations were plentiful. I got a kick out of the vaseline offered at nearly every aid station and then I started to feel like the body glide I had used on my bat wings under arms was no longer effective. I thought aha vaseline will be coming up soon!

Two things happened in the last 8 miles which made me slow down as well. My feet hurt all over, nothing I couldn’t run through, but an awareness that these shoes need to be replaced. I knew I was taking a chance with them. The other issue was my stomach was not enjoying all of the sweet options on the course, Gatorade, shot blocks, and Powerade strawberry banana gel, my least favorite flavor. I drank water, but could no longer tolerate the Gatorade. I had brought a Larabar which I ate earlier from mile 6-10. I grabbed a couple of pretzels from a kind spectator who had a bowl of them out for runners. They were difficult to chew and swallow. Then at mile 24.5 like a glowing light saber appeared a cherry freeze pop in the hands of another angelic spectator. It was a little sweet, but the cold icy treat hit the spot.

Other than that nothing major happened. I ran the entire way save for 30 second to a minute walk through aid stations towards the end. I finished in 4:34:02. This represents 9 minute improvement on my 2015 Hartford Marathon time. I’m proud of it. I trained really well during a very hot summer while balancing work, Carlos on school vacation, and beginning grad school. I worked hard during the race too. I enjoyed myself and can honestly say I did the best I could.

We hung around for a bit after the race. Then walked the mile and a half to the hotel. In all honestly I probably did the equivalent of 2 full marathons since we arrived in Chicago! After a luxurious shower (because seriously every shower after a marathon is the best!), we  went out to dinner. We decided to go back to the Chicago Diner because it offered something for all of us, it was open, and we didn’t anticipate that we would have to wait for a table since it’s a little bit removed from the race area. Also many restaurants were closed. I had cauliflower curry soup and the Soul Boul – blackened tofu, quinoa, flashed greens, mashed sweet potato, black beans, chimichurri. I really wanted this decadent peanut butter dessert, but I couldn’t even finish my meal it was so filling yet not heavy if that makes any sense.

We stopped by this Millennium Park on our way home to check out this interesting illuminated photo exhibit. The photos were stunning and all were captured with a mobile device or tablet.


I think he wanted to fall in!

It has been a truly wonderful weekend. We leave later tomorrow so still have time for a little exploring, but we all agree Chicago is a place we would love to visit again!






Saturday in Chicago

Carlos and I were up early. We went for a walk to Whole Foods to pick up my pre-run necessities – chia, banana, oats and nut butter.

Before heading out to brunch I got the final text announcing my training partner had just finished her first half marathon. She ran the Hartford half and did a fabulous job. I cannot wait to hear all about her experience. It was my first half marathon too so I have a soft spot for it.

We’ve joined  modern times and took our first Uber to the Chicago Diner, an iconic diner that has been meat free since 1983 and survived!

Practicing our selfies in the back of our Uber

The Chicago Diner was delicious. Going out to breakfast isn’t all that enjoyable since I started eating a plant based diet. It’s cheaper and honestly I make a much tastier breakfast at home. This was a delightful splurge. It’s a good thing I’m running a marathon tomorrow!

Vegan cinnamon roll – AMAZING!
Mexicana Tofu Scramble

Then a much needed walk to work off breakfast and enjoy the gorgeous day! First stop, a park to swing 😀

Sitting pretty
Family selfie practice and a 9 year old who loves to make goofy faces

We walked along the lake while we searched for a Divvy bike station.


We finally found a Divvy station and rented some bikes so I wasn’t on my feet too much before the race. It was such a beautiful day to outdoors. There were so many people out. We rode for a while and docked our bikes across from Maggie Daley Park. There was a huge playground for kids (and adults I might add). I’ve been to a lot of playgrounds in the last 9 years and this was probably the most creative, family friendly playground I’ve seen.


We walked back to our hotel through Milenium Park. I was looking down from an overpass out towards the finish line. Seeing everything set up gave me goosebumps. I still cannot believe I’m running the Chicago Marathon. I swear if you had told me 10 years ago I would be running marathons I would have been able to comprehend that as a reality for me.


We went back to the hotel for a little bit. I had a few supplies to get like more blister bandaids, some gloves, and a throw away long sleeve shirt. The weather looks perfect for the race, but it will probably be really chilly in the morning. I ended up with a $5 thermal shirt and a $1 pair of fuzzy socks from Walgreens. They didn’t have gloves out yet so I grabbed the socks to use as mittens! I’ll end up throwing them to the side anyway when I warm up on the course.

We left in search of more Divvy bikes and we continued our bike ride. There is a 30 minute limit on the bikes or you get charged a fee for each additional half hour. We returned the bikes on time, but we were unable to find 3 bikes to continue on our ride. With 40,000 runners, their families and friends, and all of the Cubs fans in town the bikes were a hot commodity. We walked around the Shedd Aquarium in search of bikes. Unfortunately the next two stations we found were out of bikes too.


It was nearing dinner time so we caught an uber to Lou Malnati’s per Biz’s recommendation. Deep dish pizza for the guys and a bowl of pasta with marinara sauce for me. I keep it simple.

It’s easier on the stomach!  It’s an early tonight tonight. My race clothes are set out. I scared Carlos and Orlando with my anti-aging face mask! I am relaxing in bed watching a little Netflix.


Chicago Pre-Marathon

We are in Chicago!! I pulled an all nighter (because I like to pretend I’m still an undergrad) Wednesday night to finish a healthcare policy paper. I have 3 weeks left of this first grad class and I’m honestly surprised I haven’t quit. I have spent every night in the library. But anyway that’s boring. The paper is done. I turned it in 11 hours late. The professor knew I wasn’t going to finish on time. She’s really forgiving thankfully. She is also brutally honest, but I have a lot to learn so I will use the feedback to improve.

In the midst of trying to finish the paper I actually had to work at my job. Thursday mornings we have a webex meeting. I packed while listening to that and then responded to work email. Our horrendous new computer software was acting up so I really couldn’t do much anyway. I am so backed up with my paperwork because of the computer issues. Everyone is, and it’s becoming a serious problem. We do full, tedious, time consuming assessments only to lose them somewhere in the save process. It’s so frustrating, but I am sure as hell not going to complain to my boss about it. She knows!

I was so relieved to get to the airport. Although I have a ton of work to do in any spare time I get here in Chicago, it’s just nice to be away. After checking into the hotel we went to dinner. I had a blogger meet up planned with Biz from and Jacky from Jax House. Unfortunately something came up and Jacky was unable to meet. Biz met us just around the corner from our hotel at Native Foods. Native Foods is a vegan cafe. Biz is not vegan so it was really kind of her to brave a menu full of tofu, seitan, and tempeh! I tend to eat very simple foods prior to a marathon so I enjoyed the sesame kale macro bowl. Although we said the place was vegan a few times, Carlos still doesn’t seem to know that his chicken strips were not real chicken. He even asked for a second order!

I can’t quite remember how I found My Bizzy Kitchen, but it was at least 6 years ago. Biz was doing a holiday challenge to encourage herself and anyone interested to stay on track with health goals throughout the holidays. I loved it. It was just the support and accountability I needed. I found myself becoming very active in the comment section. I read Biz’s blog daily because I felt like I could have written many of the posts myself. Finally someone who got it!  The weight struggle, the ups and downs of Weight Watchers, the frustration of losing only to gain some back…I hate seeing anyone else go through that, but it was helpful to know others understand. There was a real genuine nature to the blog. I wasn’t surprised that when I met her in person it was easy to fall into conversation and chat away. Please visit My Bizzy Kitchen to see a photo of us at dinner and read more about our meet up. Thank you so much Biz, it was a fun evening!! Next time I make it to Chicago I’m counting on a foodie tour with Jacky and Biz.

My first full day in Chicago started with a 5 mile run along the water. It was a gorgeous day. I didn’t realize how much I truly needed a change of scenery. Look at this! It would take me a lot longer to get sick of this view.


While Carlos and Orlando explored the waterfront on their own, I took the train to the expo. It was massive! I wandered around collecting lots of freebies. It was so smoothly run I didn’t wait at all to pick up my packet.


The afternoon was spent on an architectural river boat tour. It was fascinating. We all really enjoyed it. Our guide, Jim, was the best. He was knowledgable and funny, but not in an obnoxious way.

After an early dinner at Navy Pier we took our time walking back to the hotel. We stopped by Milenium Park to see the bean.


It was a nice night out and I would have gladly kept exploring, but I was developing a blister on the right 4th toe. I wrapped that sucker in a blister bandaid immediately. I’m hoping it goes away by Sunday morning!!

Goal for Saturday – some photos to prove that I’m actually here too!

Loving it

I have a serious accumulation of draft posts including this one that I begin and never finish. I may have started this one months ago, but I am still loving these things.

This spring I bought myself a new pair of everyday non-running sneakers. They are Brooks Vanguard in Grey. They are extremely comfortable and a little nicer than the Converse I’ve been wearing around for far too many years.


Reusable Mesh Produce Sacks because I really hate using so many plastic bags at the grocery store. According to my son I’m a little too excited about these bags. Maybe I’m not saving the planet, but I feel a little less wasteful.


Quart Size Ball Jars to make some of these:


Clear Apple iPhone 6S Case because I really like the look of my phone and hate seeing it all covered up by a bulky phone case. This case is thin, goes on easily, and seems to provide adequate protection.

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s still my favorite coffee from one of my favorite cafes so I don’t mind mentioning it again. I love this Mexican coffee from Esselon Café in Hadley, MA. It’s one of my favorite restaurants as well. The menu is small but it accommodates a plant based diet.


Running: After months of marathon training I am still in love with running. It was an awesome training that I really want to write about soon. The Chicago marathon is on 10/9/16. I am in taper right now and ready as I’ll ever be. I came to a really profound decision through this training that although it is great to have time goals ultimately I really want to cross the finish line feeling physically well, uninjured, and smiling. This is not the year for a PR. It simply is not and that is ok. I went through a rigorous training, got some of my fitness back, and I am beginning to develop a clear idea of where I want to go from here.

Music: My running playlist needs a serious overhaul. Here are few new tunes I’ve added recently –

  • Renegades – X Ambassadors
  • Wild Things – Alessia Cara
  • Drinking from the Bottle – Calvin Harris feat. Tinie Tempah
  • Cheap Thrills – Sia feat. Sean Paul
  • Hymn for the Weekend – Cold Play

Reading:  Healthcare Policy and Ethics, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)… Jealous?!!

Watching: We don’t have cable and I don’t have much time to watch shows or movies, but I tend to pick one series to watch while I’m cooking, cleaning, or doing mundane computer work. This summer I watched 6 seasons of Pretty Little Liars. Yes I did! Don’t judge. It was so addicting. There is a 7th season, but it’s not on Netflix yet thank god because I don’t have time for that right now.

Podcast: I love podcasts. They make a long drive more fun. They are great to pop on while cleaning or cooking. Like television shows I tend to sort of binge on one or two podcasts at a time. This summer I discovered the One Part Podcast by Jessica Murnane. It’s an eclectic mix of guests along with Jessica’s enthusiastic and genuine interest for their stories.

However, can I just say I really yearn for a podcast that features people more like myself. Most of the podcasts I listen to highlight people who make their living online or in a non-traditional way. Many of the guests have left less desirable careers to follow their dreams. As enticing and enviable as that is, it is often not financially feasible or responsible. Maybe I will start my own!!