Boone Life: Good, Familiar

Yesterday morning, after snacking on a couple Snickerdoodle cookies from our gathering the night before, I made a bowl of fruit salad: watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries drizzled with syrup made from sugar, water, and oranges. I put on a blue cotton dress and a flannel shirt, and Bret made me stand outside to make sure I wouldn’t freeze since it was only 44 degrees outside. In May. Surprisingly, I didn’t freeze! I’m acclimating.

We got in the car, and drove 20 minutes to our friends’ house. Ten minutes of that drive were spent driving up, up, up a narrow mountain road. As usual, we couldn’t rely on the GPS completely. Something about winding gravel roads on a remote mountain doesn’t scream “priority” to google, I’ve learned. More than once, when trying to navigate home at night from a friend’s house, we’ve been stranded without GPS signal… or phone signal! Thankfully, Bret has an incredible sense of direction.

When we arrived, the house that looks like a log cabin was full of friends. They’d arrived with trays of homemade muffins, polenta, and salad. I added my fruit bowl to the table. Our hosts were making a frittata with local eggs that one of Bret’s colleagues had gathered from the chicken in her backyard. There were Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas and Turkish tea. We’d agreed that it was too cold to eat on the back porch, so we pushed tables together and gathered around and enjoyed a really good meal. It felt good, familiar.

Boone View

Last week, we went to a pot luck overlooking the best mountain view I’ve ever seen. It was breathtaking, truly. And Saturday night, we’d invited friends over to eat cheese fondue and watch a movie. We got a lot of last minute cancellations because grades were due this weekend, but we had fun with our small group. We talked and laughed and snacked. It felt good, familiar.

And then I went to the local farmer’s market with my friend and her new baby.  We talked about needing to plan another girls’ night. The girls that I met through that Spouse Orientation are the biggest Boone blessing, I think. We all moved here from bigger cities, and while most people I’ve met find Boone perfectly endearing, we talk about how crazy it is that homes in Boone don’t typically have air conditioning, or trash pick up, or state maintained roads, or dishwashers. These girls are my reality check. Spending time with them always feels good and familiar.

I’m writing this to say, THIS is my Boone life: good, familiar.

We’re coming up on our first year of living in Boone, and everyone told me that after a year we’d know how we REALLY feel about it here. There are some things that are not ideal. There are some things that I’m still getting used to. We may not have a Target or a beach or a whole list of things I could tell you I miss, but, I have friends here. I have people who I care about and look forward to spending time with. And for that, I feel really, really lucky. I don’t imagine calling Boone home for the rest of my life. But. I’m grateful for the people that it has brought me. And sometimes, people mean more than Target.

Weekend with Vanny

Lately, I’ve been spending my weekends on the road: driving to DC for work, driving to visit family. I don’t mind the hours spent in the car when I’m with Bret. We talk a lot and listen to podcasts and stop for meals at Sheetz and Bojangles. It’s fun!

…But the solo trips can feel long and draining. I recently admitted that maybe I’m stretching myself too thin and pushing my own travel boundaries. If you look at the last two months, I’ve spent WAY MORE weekends on the road than not. And I’m not talking about two hour road trips. I mean, waking up before dawn and spending up to 75% of my waking hours in a car. Maybe I need to practice saying no. Maybe I’m trying to do too much. I’ll reassess that after my next trip to DC later this week, but for now, I wanted to share our craziest recent trip: An 18 hour round-trip drive completed in a giant cargo van in under 36 hours!

Meet Vanny:

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Vanny is the name we gave to this giant cargo van that we rented to drive up to Bret’s childhood home. Bret’s parents recently moved to Florida, and they left a lawn mower, a dresser, a bread machine, a snow shovel, and pretty much all of Bret’s childhood things for us up in Pennsylvania. We thought about renting a Pod or moving truck, but this was the most economical option. And, by far, the most entertaining. Also, this option allowed Bret to get another slice or ten of his all-time-favorite pizza.

Bret’s parents had lovingly boxed up all of Bret’s books and childhood toys so all we had to do was load it up in the van. We knew we needed a lot of room, so we rented the biggest van we could find:

Vanny_2  Vanny_Interior

On Saturday, we woke up at 4AM, and hit the road. This was the view pulling out of our driveway:

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Drive_0Vanny’s windshield was huge. I mean, HUGE. And unlike a normal vehicle, you couldn’t see the nose of the car because it was almost completely flat, so I kept saying I felt like I was riding along in a hovercraft being propelled by air instead of wheels.

It was such an odd sensation. I tried to capture the feeling of floating over the road with these photos, but it’s something you just have to experience, I think.

Driving in the tallest vehicle means you can always see the road in front of you and pretty much everyone gives you plenty of space on the road. It kind of went to Bret’s head. He was talking about buying a pick-up truck!

Drive_1

Our trip was mostly interstate driving, but due to a road closure, we had to take a detour through a small town sandwiched between highways and it was kind of magical.

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I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know how to explain anything from this trip, apparently. We were maybe sleep deprived and definitely sick of the monotonous highway but this detour sparked something inside me. I suddenly felt so awake and alive and grateful for this random weekend adventure.

Vanny_Gas

Vanny didn’t get great gas mileage so we had to stop for gas every couple hours.

What can ya do?

We passed about a hundred Sheetz (a luxury we don’t have in Boone) so we made a point to gas up exclusively at Sheetz. This way, we could grab a coffee or a made-to-order breakfast sandwich for the road.

I usually don’t let Bret eat messy food in our car because I love our car and I’m paranoid about crumbs, but with Vanny? Anything goes. Egg biscuit? Pretzles and hummus? A crumbly cookie?  Road food.

We drove through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. When we made it to PA, our first stop was for pizza at Bret’s all-time FAVORITE pizza place! We met some of extended family members and enjoyed perfectly cheesy slices of deliciousness. It was so wonderful to see familiar faces and catch up with long-distance family who we usually only get to see once or twice a year. It was a sad realization that we won’t be up for Christmas this year, but we assured them we’d be back to visit. I may have promised Bret an annual pizza from this place for the rest of his life… here’s hoping that works out!

We enjoyed the family time and then we bought two additional pizzas “to go” so we would have something to share with Bret’s kind friends who were coming over to help us load the van:

Pizza

I know what you’re thinking. I look GREAT for waking up at 4AM, driving 9+ hours, and moving boxes. Thank you!

Oh did I mention Bret was on crutches? Bret was on crutches. Which means I did a LOT of box lifting and I was feeling EXTRA grateful for his sweet friends who did most of the loading when my arms felt like jell-o. This is what I moved by myself before his friends arrived:

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That’s maybe half of our load? I didn’t get a picture of the full van loaded up, sadly, but man… it was full! After everything was loaded up, we visited with friends, I played Star Wars vs Star Trek space ships on rolling chairs with an eight-year-old, and then we said goodbye.

We spent the night on an air mattress in an empty house in the middle of the woods. It was weird, and kind of sad because it was officially Bret’s last night sleeping in his childhood home.

On our way out in the morning, I spotted this:

Treasure

How could I leave this sweet little star magic wand from the North Pole? Apparently, Bret really wanted when he was a little kid. I just couldn’t leave it behind, so now it will be part of our Christmas decorations.

Me Driving VannyWe left early in the morning and then we drove, drove, drove the long 9+ hour drive back to Boone. This picture is deceiving because Bret did most of the driving, but I drove Vanny, too!

You’d think we’d be sick of each other and the road by this point, but I think we drove for 5 hours before we even turned on the radio. We just talked!

And then, when we made it back to Boone, I was exhausted. We had to unload the van, so I suggested that we make two piles: “house” and “basement”, and then leave the rest for morning. We did that:

Garage

(For context, our garage is usually completely empty except for our car). But then, Bret convinced me to move the basement half to the basement. We managed that and were still holding up okay, so then, we moved the house half into our living room and kitchen.

I was so sleepy! But so happy that we could pull Sparky (our real car) back into the garage. In the morning before work, we returned Vanny to the local Enterprise, and that was that.

And now, a week later, if you visited our house, you’d probably think it looks like we just moved in again. Whatever. I don’t even care. Bret promised me he’d unpack a box a night and so far I’ve really enjoyed looking through his childhood books and school projects.

I hope that’s our last weekend driving a 18-hour road trip for a while, but all in all, it couldn’t have been any better. The weather was good, we barely hit any traffic, and mission “bring back Bret’s stuff” was accomplished successfully!

14 Weeks Without Facebook

You may remember that I de-activated my Facebook account at the beginning of the year.

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It’s been a really healthy change in my life, for the most part. Now that I’ve had some time to step back and zoom out, I realize how much I depended on this site as my source of information about my friends. Now that it’s gone, it’s something that I often forget about. That is, until I miss a friend’s birthday, or realize that I don’t know something that everyone else in the room does because it was posted on Facebook.

To sum up, here are the Pit Falls I’ve hit so far…

The Drawbacks

  1. I have forgotten WAY TOO MANY birthdays. I hate to admit it, but I really depended on that Facebook calendar for reminding me of friends’ birthdays, and I’m sorry. I’m a big birthday person, so I’m going to need to make my own birthday calendar to keep track.
  2. I write Facebook content for work, but I’m out of the loop, so I have to read up on new Facebook features. Not a big deal, but something I took for granted before.
  3. Friends expect me to know things about them that I don’t. The funny thing is, I remember having this expectation when I was a regular Facebook user. After I shared a picture of Velveeta on Facebook, for example, I expected everyone in my life to know that I had adopted a cat named Velveeta. Sorry, facebook-less friends. I adopted a cat in 2011.
  4. Occasionally, I worry about being forgotten. I’ve had friends tell me that they’ve almost posted an old picture of me or that they’ve tried to tag me in something and then stopped because they remembered I’m not “there” anymore. It makes me feel oddly absent from the digital world.

All of those things are okay, though, when I consider all of the benefits being Facebook-less has afforded me.

The Benefits

  1. I have more room in my head and in my day. I read more at night. I feel way more creative. I am writing A LOT more. I know that there haven’t been frequent blog posts, but I’m heavily editing/writing/re-writing my novel and I’ve got some other fun projects in play. That’s been really good.
  2. I write/talk/text my friends directly and more often. Without Facebook passively passing me updates, I realize when I haven’t talked to a friend recently. And I especially look forward to catching up with friends in person. I just had lunch with a friend that went something like this:
    • her: “I got the job!”
    • me: “Oh my gosh congratulations!”
    • her: “And we found a house!”
    • me: “That’s amazing news!”
    • her: “Oh how was your half marathon?”
      …It’s just nice to tell your own stories, you know? And, apparently, a lot can happen in 2 months!
  3. I just feel better. I compare less, and strangely, I feel simultaneously less exposed and less alone. I don’t worry that I’m inadvertently about to learn some weird fact about a former friend who I really don’t know anymore. Translation: I don’t feel like a stalker.
  4. This is a big one… I don’t define my friends by their political leanings. I didn’t even realize how much I was inundated with political posts until I turned it off. I’m still passionate about equality and animal rights, and, well, a lot of things but I read on my own and donate where I want to donate and I vote. When I do talk about controversial or political things, these conversations tend to be real back and forth thoughtful conversations. And they happen in person. And people are kinder without screens to hide behind.

You would think that I would feel extra isolated and lonely, but I don’t. Being away from Facebook just makes me more focused on the real life things that are happening in front of me.

In short, I don’t miss it, and I don’t have plans to re-activate my account anytime soon. I’ve logged into Facebook approximately 3 times in 2016 including the time I just did to grab these pictures, and each time, I’ve spent less than a minute in the site. This is compared to the hours per day I spent perusing Facebook in 2015.

Oh, look, I have 50 notifications and I haven’t updated my picture since Christmas:

Facebook_1

Overall, it’s been a good thing. I am aware that something that used to have a big presence in my life is now absent. It’s kind of how you feel after moving away or going through a break up. It’s an adjustment, but mostly it’s incredibly freeing. And I know a lot of people love Facebook, use it only in healthy, limited doses, and would feel way to disconnected without it. I admire you. For me, right now, this is better.

Three Years of Marriage

Bret and I have been married for three incredible years.

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I clearly remember driving up from Florida three years ago and wondering if the snowstorm making it’s way through Virginia was going to prevent our vendors and guests from making it to our wedding. The sky was clear and the sunshine was warm and we just laughed because we knew we were heading into a blizzard. It’s funny what you remember.

This past weekend, we celebrated our third anniversary, and took our annual photo:

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When we were living in Florida, we took these photos among the Spanish moss and palm trees:
Exported-0035-2 Tallahassee-87

This year, we had to find a scenic spot in Boone. I suggested the Blue Ridge parkway which IS beautiful, but it was hard to find a place to set up the ol’ tripod without falling off a cliff:

Anniversary_2_edit   Selfie_editAnniversary_8

Taking these photos is a fun tradition, and I know I’ll love looking through them each year, but it also makes me kind of sad. After we snap the last photo, just like that, Year 3 is in the books! And what a year it’s been…

This third year of marriage led us from our first home in Florida to our new home in the mountains of North Carolina.

2015-03-08_0002This transition has been a struggle, but it taught us to support each other in ways that we haven’t had to before. We’re still adjusting to life in the mountains and we miss the sunshine and the palm trees and the beach and our Disney life (who wouldn’t?!), but even though North Carolina has been a big change, I think the most significant life change in Year 3 is that Bret transitioned from being a grad student to a full-time professor.

Aug 2015_2

In some ways, it was an easy change. Bret is a natural teacher and a really phenomenal writer, so shifting into a position that allows him to continue to do these things he did in grad school WITHOUT the added responsibilities of writing a dissertation and meeting course requirements feels very do-able.

Moving was hard for both of us, but I think it was especially tough for Bret. While I unpacked my home office and maintained my normal travel schedule, Bret transitioned to working with new people, planning new courses, and taking on new responsibilities. I loved helping him set up his new office and get some App State gear, but he had to do the tough stuff on his own, and he’s doing an awesome job.

But this year hasn’t been all about work!

Podcasting

In Year 3, we both really tapped into pursuing our creative hobbies and interests. Bret is the first person to help me talk through a new idea, and I love talking with him about his new goals, too. I’ll always support his creative passions, even if they have nothing to do with his professional responsibilities. I mean that sincerely. I’m so impressed every time he takes on a new challenge. This year, I watched Bret launch his first podcast series, build a computer, and pick up the saxophone for the first time in a while.

And Bret supported me by helping me maintain my writing schedule as I tried tirelessly to write [a first draft of] a novel. He also encouraged my new hobby – card tricks – by being my guinea pig audience and watching the same trick over and over and over with all it’s flaws. And, Bret trained right by my side when I signed up to run my first half marathon.

2 hours Rain or Shine
Sick January Training

Magic Kingdom_2

I can’t thank him enough for running with me in every possible weather condition. He met me step for step and cheered me on when I felt like giving up. He’s the best training partner. And my best friend.

That’s another thing. In year 3, I started admitting that Bret is my best friend.

May 2015_3

It used to annoy me when people called their significant others their ‘best friend’ because I interpreted that to mean that your other friendships don’t matter so much anymore. They do matter. I’m so grateful for my friends and they will always be a priority. But. Bret is the person I want to share every day with and the fact that that’s a reality… I just can’t describe how lucky that makes me feel. He’s my spouse, my partner, my roommate, my training partner, my co-chef, and, yes, my best friend, too. We share joys and fears and responsibilities. Every day that we get to spend together is a gift. I can say with confidence that it’s something I do not take for granted even now after being married for 3 years and living together for 4.

We do fight. If I’m being real, in year 3, Bret and I had some of our biggest fights, but we apologize. And we talk through how to handle similar situations in the future so we don’t have the same arguments over and over. I remember way back before we were married right in the middle of one of our first arguments, Bret looked at me and said,

“I still love you so much right now.”

It is one of the most profound things that anyone has ever said to me. Disagreements are a real part of being in a relationship. But. Even when we’re really frustrated with each other, we still really love each other a lot and to me, that’s everything.

I just love being married. I never thought I would.

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Before I met Bret, I resisted the idea of marriage. I thought marriage came with a lot of sacrifices. And the idea of being legally tied to another person made me gag. I know that sounds horrible, but I just wasn’t optimistic.

And then I met Bret. And I realized I could marry him and we could just keep on living out our exciting, unpredictable, magical lives. And so far, our marriage has been exactly that. I know we’re still in the newlywed phase. And we’re living the DINK lifestyle (dual income no kids) which means we’re not facing the same kind of financial burdens or sleep-deprived struggles that we may one day if we add children to our family. I know we have a lot of challenges ahead of us either way, but so far, marriage is better than I ever imagined. And I feel like we have a really strong foundation. And I feel really lucky.

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After 3 years of marriage, I can say we know each other better than ever before, and we love each other more than ever before. I know that’s cheesy, but it’s true. And I mean it when I say this has been our best year yet. I won’t give Boone credit for that, but I will say it’s challenged us in new ways and we’re thriving and I’m grateful. And I feel very fortunate. We are healthy and happy and in love. What more can you ask for?

Here’s to many more years together, and an exciting future full of adventures!

TheFuture

Running the Disney Princess Half Marathon

So, in case you missed the earlier posts, I registered for my first half marathon last summer, trained for six months, and very much enjoyed my Disney vacation leading up to the race.

…which brings us to RACE DAY! Finally.

Sunday February 21, 2016
We woke up at 3:00AM. I managed to get a decent night’s sleep and even woke up a few minutes before my alarm clock which was a great way to start the day, but I still felt a lot of race day nerves.

I made a peanut butter banana sandwich for breakfast and got dressed, but in hindsight, I would have allotted more than 10 minutes for breakfast. Even though I’d made a detailed schedule to follow, I felt rushed. I struggled to pin my bib in the center of my t-shirt, and then really wished I had put on my shoes first because my bib crinkled when I bent down to tie them. I was just so grateful that Bret was there to help me and keep my nerves in check. He kept assuring me that everything was okay and that I was going to do great even when I said I felt like throwing up. By 3:50am, I was ready!

Pre Race

Everyone staying at a Disney resort gets free transportation to the race. Bret walked to the bus stop with me and I couldn’t BELIEVE how many other Disney princess runners were already in line. In your race information, you’re asked to board the bus by 4AM to guarantee your spot in your corral. I was in line by 3:55, and it worked out fine, but the buses start running at 3AM I heard there was no line then. We watched a few buses come and fill up, but another bus was always right around the corner. When my bus arrived, I hugged Bret goodbye and told him I’d see him at the finish line. I couldn’t believe THIS WAS IT.

The ride over was great and I would HIGHLY recommend taking a bus over driving yourself. It reduces traffic (there was a lot of traffic) and the bus will get you right where you need to be. Plus, buses are not the typical Disney transportation buses, they are really nice charter buses so everyone gets a comfy seat. As soon as I arrived at Epcot, I found my friend Kris and we got to walk over to our corrals together.

Foto_NicoleKris

Everything was super well organized and I was happy to see that there were plenty of bathroom facilities available where the buses drop you off and again when you reach the corrals. I would recommend NOT taking a bag. You have to go through bag check and it’s time consuming, plus you can’t carry your bag with you to the corrals. I just decided to wear my jacket and I left it behind to get donated.

Finding my corral was easy. I was so impressed with the signage and Disney volunteers there to shine flashlights to make sure no one sprained an ankle before the race. The walk over is long, but I didn’t mind. It was a good way to cool my nerves and wake up my muscles. I had a quick moment of panic when I realized that I was wearing my wedding ring. I never run (or swim or lift weights) when I’m wearing my wedding band because it’s uncomfortable when my hand swells. I worried about taking it off, but I was able to secure it safely inside my flip belt because it had a little hook for a key ring which worked out great.

I found my corral, talked to a few other runners, ate my luna bar (thanks, Disney!), took some Aleve, and drank some water while I waited. I adjusted my shoe laces and before I knew it, the first corral was ready to begin!

Race_11

Each corral starts running a couple minutes apart to space out the crowd, and soon it was my turn to run! The DJ’s are fun and motivating and Disney does fireworks for every single corral which was amazing.

I started off at a slow jog because of the crowds and also to conserve energy. I jogged along passing a high school marching band and my knee was feeling pretty good. Bret gave me his stopwatch to wear so I could keep track of my time. I forgot to start it until after the first mile, but that was fine, I just started the watch when I passed the first mile marker, and I was SO HAPPY at mile three to discover I’d been maintaining 12 minute miles. These felt effortless – honestly – and I felt like I could easily keep running, but I’d made a decision to walk mile 4 to let my heart rate regulate so I did.

I’d been told that because I trained in high altitude, it would be SO EASY to run at sea level, and that was SO TRUE. I couldn’t believe the difference. I never felt out of breath. Along the way, there are water stations, DJ’s playing fun music, and lots of Disney characters to pose with for pictures. I didn’t stop to stand in line for character pictures, but I did take a selfie when I passed Aladdin!

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While I was walking, I thought about when I wanted to eat my gu. Gu is this magical thing I discovered that tastes like chocolate pudding and gives you an extra boost of energy (amino acids) in the middle of your run. I decided that if I could make it through the Magic Kingdom, I would wait and take it after (around mile 6).

Running through the Magic Kingdom was absolutely magical.

Race_12 Race_13 The energy from all of the on-lookers, the scenery, running through Tomorrowland and the Castle… it was just perfect. I saw a dad holding a little baby dressed up like Mickey Mouse, and the woman running in front of me stopped to give the baby a kiss. It was so sweet that it made me cry. Everyone was so encouraging and everything felt magical running through the Magic Kingdom. Here I am running through Cinderella’s castle:

Foto_MagicKingdom

I ate my Gu shortly after leaving the Magic Kingdom, and it was the pefect pick me up. I took another walking break here and realized that my knee was hurting a bit. The stretch of road seemed so boring after being in the most magical place on earth, but there was another DJ set up playing 90’s music and it was fun and kept me feeling good.

During the long stretches, there was often music playing to keep us motivated. When there wasn’t music, it was harder, but magical things happened including a fellow runner passing me with Justin Beiber playing in her backpack. I followed her for over a mile listening to The Little Mermaid and anything else on her playlist. Music fixes everything – it made running feel effortless and painless!

Another big source of motivation was all of the signs along the way. There were SO MANY good ones! All of the runners also encouraged each other. I passed a runner with a sign on her back that said, “Hey Stranger – I’m so proud of you, too!” And while some runners said things like, “Why am I doing this?” or “I’m never going to be able to finish…” other runners responded with, “You’re doing a great job!” And, “The hard part is over – it’s all downhill from here”. (That was a lie, but it did make me feel better around mile 8.

I can’t tell you how many times I LAUGHED during the race, too:

  • A guy standing on the overpass as we ran under shouting, “There are only 4 hills in Florida – this is one of them!”
  • A woman holding a sign that said, “Poor Unfortunate Souls!” when we ran by.
  • A guy standing alone with a sign that said “Just waiting for a princess”

There were choirs and marching bands and performers. I was having so much fun! I decided to take a couple walking breaks and then when I reached Mile 9, I had to stop for a picture.

Race_7 Several people had told me that mile 9 would be the hardest (especially considering I’d only run a max of 10 miles previously). Mile 9 is where you are supposed to feel a lot of fatigue but also realize you still have 4+ miles to go which can be mentally tough. When I got to Mile 9, though, I felt good! Really good. A volunteer offered to take that picture for me, and I’m so grateful. All of the volunteers were fantastic. [Note – keep in mind that even though the clock says 2:40, I’d only been running for an hour and 40 minutes here – that’s because my corral started an hour later than the first one.]

Passing number 9 made me feel pretty great. Until it didn’t. Shortly after taking this photo my knee hurt really bad. It gave out completely, actually. I couldn’t really put weight on it and I didn’t know what to do. I stumbled over to the grass and gave myself a little pep talk that basically went like this, “You have more aleve in your flipbelt. Take it. If you have to stop at the next medical station, you can, but you can’t stop here.” I really don’t like taking medicine unless I have to. I had some liver issues last year where I wasn’t allowed to take ANY medicine so taking double the max dose seemed like a bad decision. But I did it anyway because I had come this far and I couldn’t fathom NOT finishing at this point.

I assured myself that I could walk the rest and still get the medal, but I really had been hoping to finish the race in under 3 hours. It hurt to walk, but it was actually easier and less painful to run. So I ran. And within a few minutes, I was feeling okay. I just had to keep going. I think I may have walked a bit more until I reached mile 10, but once I was there, the aleve kicked in, and I just kept going. I looked at my watch at each mile and told myself how much time I had to run the next mile while staying under a 3 hour finish. We were running on and off exit ramps. And I was feeling tired and sore and my knee hurt but not badly enough that I had to stop. I just kept running.

When we pulled into Epcot and crossed the 12 mile mark, a huge grin spread across my face. There was SO MUCH encouragement in the form of words and signage. I felt so good. I smiled for the camera and just tried to push through. I knew I was in the home stretch, and even though I knew my knee was hurting, I was able to focus my attention elsewhere. Like toward the cameras!

Foto_Epcot_1

The crowd toward the end of the race was AMAZING. Everyone was shouting, “Less than a mile to go!” and I just kept running. I had a brief thought about how impossible running a mile felt only 6 months ago, and now it was just the home stretch after the first 12 miles of the race. I was feeling ridiculously proud of myself at this point.

Bret spotted me right before I crossed the finish line! Here’s a picture once the finish line was in sight:

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I just can’t describe it. Crossing the finish line was just perfection. I put my arms up in the air because I was so happy, and so proud, and also because I knew my picture was being taken!

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And then my knee was really hurting, but I didn’t care. Disney does everything so well. After getting my medal, and I was thrilled to be handed an adorable Disney Princess draw string bag, a box of food, Gatorade and water as soon as I finished. Bret met me practically right after I crossed the Finish Line, and at that point I had already downed a bottle of water and a banana and was sipping on some blue Gatorade.

My knee hurt so I got some ice from the medical tent, but mostly, I felt amazing.
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I’m pretty sure the first thing I said to Bret was, “Was I under 3 hours?!” I was pretty sure that I was, but I hadn’t seen my official time. Bret had been getting text updates with my progress, so he got to tell me that I was 2 hours and 56 minutes and I was SO. HAPPY.
Bret got to ride on the fancy charter bus with me back to Caribbean Beach. Post Race_1  And then, after a shower, I was ready to spend the rest of the day at the Magic Kingdom! brandi

It is definitely one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had in my life, and my medal is my new favorite accessory. I’m going to take a running break for at least a few months while my knee heals, but there was no point in the whole race where I thought, “I would never do this again.” In fact, a few weeks later, I keep thinking about how much I DO want to run another Disney half marathon. I honestly don’t think I could have done so well without Bret. Having a training partner made training so much more fun. I’m so happy that I was able to run, and mostly, I’m just sad that it’s over.

 

Disney Half Marathon Vacay

When I signed up to run the Disney Princess half marathon in the middle of winter, I don’t think I realized just how badly I would need an escape from my first winter in Boone. I’d been uncomfortably cold for months. After six months of training, I was so ready for this race and for the four-day Disney vacation that came with it!

Thursday
After waking up at 3:30am (let’s call this a practice wake up call for race day) and driving for 10 hours, we checked in to our hotel. The drive was long, but we didn’t mind. We love Florida. We miss Florida. Driving to Florida felt like a breath of fresh air and sunshine after being trapped in the mountains for nine months.

When we arrived at our hotel in Orlando, I was feeling good and confident. Our first stop was the expo where I collected my race bib, t-shirt, and picked up some running essentials and Run Disney merchandise! I had never been to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports before, so it was fun to see that venue.

Expo

…but my knee started to hurt after walking around the Expo and the hotel. I checked my phone and realized that I’d already walked several thousand steps and 6 flights of stairs… which is more than I’d been walking since my injury. The pain I was having was significant but not overbearing. I was mildly concerned, but it did not stop me from enjoying our night at DISNEY SPRINGS (formerly Downtown Disney), though.

We had a 8:30pm dinner reservation that we were both really excited about at an Irish-themed restaurant called Ragland Road. We were tired (we’d been up since 3:30am!), but happy to be there. Dinner was perfect! To start, our server brought us the most delicious soda bread. He said it made from Guinness beer and brown sugar, and we dipped it in a honey balsamic glaze. We devoured it. It was heavenly and exactly what I needed to feel good and awake again.

For dinner, Bret ordered the Shepard’s pie and said it was fantastic, and I had the Ragland Rosoto which was greener than I expected (I was happily surprised – lots of peas) and it tasted great with my pear cider.

Disney Springs_2 Disney Springs_3

The food was so, so good. And there was entertainment throughout the whole meal and I didn’t feel tired when we left… just cold. I forgot that Florida gets cold at night, too, so the walk back was chilly. But worth it!

Friday
My knee felt a lot better after a good night’s sleep, so I attempted a full park day as planned. Bret and I had an amazing morning together in Epcot. We both kept saying how good it felt to be ‘home’ and we enjoyed visiting The Land, the Nemo ride, and walking around the world showcase. In the afternoon, we connected with my friend Brandi and some fellow half-marathoners. We walked around world showcase and rode Spaceship Earth. Then, Bret and I had an amazing sushi dinner in Tokoyo! I was craving sushi and it was really good. We shared this platter and a piece of green tea cake for dessert!

Epcot_1

Walking up the stairs to dinner was extremely painful and I was really worried about my knee at that point. Thankfully, Bret found the elevator so I didn’t have to walk DOWN two flights of stairs (walking downstairs hurts more than walking upstairs right now). I really wanted to ride Mission Space and watch the Illuminations show, but after dinner, we decided to go back to our hotel so I could ice my knee, and we committed to a full rest day on Saturday.

Saturday
Our “rest day” didn’t disappoint. We spent the morning enjoying a fancy buffet breakfast and sitting outside of the Boardwalk soaking in the warm weather and scenic views. We decided to take a bus into Disney Springs for a couple hours, but we took it easy: we browsed the Christmas shop, sat at a little tea bar and drink some delicious tea, and shared a pretzel. Other than that, we spent the day lounging around our Caribbean Beach resort. My knee was feeling pretty good.

Resort_3 Resort_2 Resort_1

We had an early dinner at our resort, and I had all of my clothes laid out and was in bed by 7:30pm! One of the tips I have for long-distance races is to wear a FlipBelt or something that can hold your phone, ID, and anything else you need without bouncing around while you run. In my flipbelt, I had:

  • Aleve
  • Gu (think: chocolate pudding with amino acids)
  • My cell phone (for pictures and to find Bret afterwards)
  • Tissues

Race Prep 2

I may have forgotten my wallet and ID in the morning (oops!), but this wasn’t a problem. On the back of your race bib you write your name, allergies and medical info, as well as phone numbers for your emergency contact and doctor. And then I went to bed at 7:30. I knew I’d have trouble falling asleep that early so we brought the noise machine, I wore a sleep mask, and we listened to a podcast. Bret scratched my back. Magically, I was asleep before 9pm.

AND THEN IT WAS RACE DAY! I’ll share all of my race photos in my next post!

How I trained for my first half marathon

I’ll just begin by saying that running in the Disney Princess Half Marathon was everything I hoped for and more. I truly couldn’t be happier with my results or the experience, and even though I am exhausted and sore and possibly injured, I’m mostly just sad that it’s over. I’m going to share all of the details (AND PICTURES) soon, but first, I wanted to write a blog post about my half marathon training process.

I still can’t thank my friend Brandi enough for convincing me to register for this thing. When she asked me to run 13.1 miles with her – my first half marathon – my immediate thought was, YAY DISNEY WORLD followed quickly by, I don’t know if I can do this. I remember almost saying no. I remember almost signing up for the 10K instead, but I did it. I talked it over with Bret and he was completely encouraging and supportive so I registered for my first half marathon. I committed to running 13.1 miles, and then the training began!

August-September
I started half marathon training back in August. The official Run Disney training program doesn’t begin until October, but at this point, I hadn’t run in years, so I knew I had to start early. Bret and I started with the couch to 5K app which means we started out running for only sixty seconds at a time, walking for ninety seconds, and then running for sixty seconds again. This is a COMPLETELY FREE APP that you can download using your Smart Phone. It will verbally coach you through each session.

We’ve tried to do the Couch to 5K program before and I’ve never continued the program for the full 9 weeks, but this time we did because I had a BIG goal in mind. We tried to run three days a week, but if we missed a session here or there, we just picked it up the next time. We mostly ran around a portion of the Greenway in Boone and I remember thinking will I eventually be able to run two laps without stopping? Will I be able to run for an HOUR without stopping? We also spent Saturdays doing distance run/walks. Here’s a picture of us as after our first two hour (mostly walking) run/walk:

2 hours

October-November
We completed Couch to 5K in October, and by November, I could comfortably run 3 miles without stopping. This is something I hadn’t been able to do in years – 8 years to be exact – so I was psyched about this accomplishment. I thought about signing up for a Turkey Trot 5K (3.1 miles on Thanksgiving), but the logistics of that weren’t ideal for our travel plans, so I decided we would keep training and run a 10K (6.2 miles) in December.

We kept training, loosely following the Disney Princess Half Marathon beginning runner training schedule that went something like this:

  • Tuesday | 30 min run
  • Thursday | 30 min run
  • Saturday | 3+ miles (we’d build up gradually each week following a schedule like this: 3 miles, 4 miles, 3 miles, 5 miles, 3 miles, 6 miles)

Here’s a picture of us after running 7 miles in 90 minutes even though I had a pretty awful cold:

Sick

December-January

By December, we could comfortably walk/run (more running this time) for EIGHT miles, and we were approaching the 10 mile mark. This was huge. I felt like the 13 miles was within reach. I didn’t sign up for a 10K because there were no 10K’s that I wanted to do in 30 degree weather. Plus, I realized that it was too late to submit my time to Disney. (If you submit proof that you can run a 10K in a certain time frame, they let you start the 1/2 marathon in a earlier corral which means your run starts earlier, ends earlier, and is less crowded). I had a few hiccups with the snow and ice, but for the most part, I continued my training. I even got to run on my BIRTHDAY in December because it was so warm when I was visiting family in Richmond.

Bret was by my side through everything. He encouraged me when I did well, he motivated me when I felt like giving up, and he joked that the Disney bus was behind me ready to pick me up if I said I wanted to stop running, haha. He also stopped and walked with me when I needed to, and assured me that I could walk at points during the half marathon and still finish the race in time. It was such a fun, healthy thing for us to do together. At the time, I don’t think I realized how memorable the training would be, but now I just feel so happy when I think of us doing this together. I know some people prefer to run alone, but running with Bret was the best thing for me. We also incorporated daily at-home yoga into my training for these last two months. We mostly did the 30 Days of “Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube” this is COMPLETELY free and was a great compliment to running or great exercise for anyone who wants to try yoga. Check it out!

January Training

February
I had intentions of running 12 miles three weeks before the race, but after only 4 miles, my right knee starting hurting really badly. So I stopped.

I was worried. I had made it through six months of careful, gradual, calculated training without injury, and now, just a few weeks before my race, something was wrong. I elevated and iced and stretched and wore a brace and did everything I could to stay off of it (well, everything you can do when I was commuting to DC which meant walking several blocks to a metro station sometimes with broken escalators… hello stairs!). And it felt better. I was feeling okay.

After my injury, I decided not to run anymore until the day of the race. Instead, I focused on building the surrounding muscles and my quads. I kept doing yoga, and I walked a few miles on the weekend before and it went INCREDIBLY well. I was feeling pretty confident …until our second day in Disney when I couldn’t walk down hill without pain(!).

I’ll get to that in my next post, but the important thing is this: it worked out. Despite some pain, I was able to run just as much as I’d hoped during the actual half marathon. I only took a few walking breaks and I paced them out well exactly as I had planned. I even met my goal of completing the race in under 3 hours! I just needed some ice from the medical tent after I crossed the finish line…

Post Race_2

I’ll write more shortly about the actual race experience and running in Florida as soon as I have all the race photos to share! I just wanted to write this post first to say that if you can jog for sixty seconds right now (and even if you can’t), you can work your way up to running a half marathon in six months. And if you’re not interested in a half marathon, there are so many 5K’s (3.1 miles) and 10K’s (6.2 miles) out there, too. I know it sounds intimidating, but I believe you can do it. I’m happy to talk more about my training schedule and experience if you have a questions!

Winter in Boone: a new kind of miserable.

Winter is the worst.
Boone is the worst.
Winter in Boone is downright miserable.

Driving around narrow roads with hairpin turns and cliffs is terrifying enough when they AREN’T coated in ice. Working from home is isolating enough WITHOUT giving up on every evening walk because it is always 4 degrees outside. And living on the side of a mountain is suffocating enough BEFORE seeing layers upon layers and layers of barren branches between you and the sky.

Boone you so pretty

This is literally the first thing I see every morning. Good morning, Boone. You so pretty.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. Maybe life in this weird little town would be more manageable if I picked up skiing or maybe I wouldn’t mind the cold so much if I didn’t move here straight from the SUNSHINE STATE where I routinely spent “winter” weekends beachside with a light jacket, but here’s the thing: I did just move here from Florida.

Winter in FL

Ah, yes. There I am gloating away in January standing in the ocean with my rolled up jeans and light scarf.

I’m spoiled. I recognize that. But I don’t like this kind of winter and I’m not handling it well.

I try to surround myself with positive people, but finding other friends who are new to Boone and just as uncomfortable with these living conditions has been so HEALING. It is so gratifying to know that you aren’t crazy for struggling. I’m finding community through others who agree that winter in Boone is really The. Worst. Thing. Ever. and it’s helping me. And, don’t worry, we don’t only focus on the awful weather. We also talk about how it feels so isolating to live hours from the nearest real city or airport. And we text about how badly we miss Target. WE ALL MISS TARGET.

I convinced a couple friends to go get a pedicure with me never mind the fact that it was 12 degrees outside. We laughed about how you’re supposed to put on winter socks and boots over a fresh pedicure and tried to come up with an invention to fix that. Naturally, I showed up in my Mickey Mouse flip flops to crunch in the snow.

And I used to like snow. Now? Nope. We’ve had several inches of snow on the ground consistently for the past three weeks. It seems like it snows a little every other day and not ONCE has the sky produced the type of snow you need to build a snowman. So we just shovel it off the driveway until our fingers are numb and call it a day.

Jan Snow 4

Bret walked into our very cold (because our heat is so expensive) house last night and declared, “THIS IS THE WARMEST I’VE BEEN ALL DAY” And our house is COLD. I mean, really cold. And he brought me a piece of chocolate that was so cold I thought it must have been from the freezer. Nope. Just got that cold on the trip from the grocery store to our house.

I know people are dealing with much more difficult struggles right now. I’m so grateful for my job (that routinely pulls me out of this winter-y place), my health, my cats, my Bret. I know this is a season and seasons pass. But right now, I’m mostly grateful for my Boone friends – the people who are here with me struggling alongside me – thank goodness for them.

In Florida, I had the sunshine and luxury of walking to pretty much any of my favorite stores, but I didn’t have the friendships. Community matters so much in times like these. People make all the difference.

Here’s hoping for an early spring.

De-activated: Life after Facebook

A couple weeks ago, I deactivated my facebook account.

de·ac·ti·vate

1. make (something, typically technical equipment or a virus) inactive by disconnecting or destroying it.

“the switch deactivates the alarm”

synonyms:

disable, defuse, disarm, disconnect, inactivate, make inoperative, immobilize, stop, turn off

“don’t forget to deactivate the alarm”

Yes. I needed to disable the virus that is facebook from having a role in my life. I decided to do this for a few reasons.

  1. I needed a break. I needed a timeout. I was in the habit of checking my facebook account way too often. I relied on it too much as a method of communication, but even more as a mindless distraction. I used to sign in to facebook at my dorm room computer once a day. Now, as a 29-year-old adult, I was sliding my thumb over my smart phone app several times an hour. AN HOUR. And for what reason? I needed to break the addiction.
  2. I needed to feel better. Even though I’d say I use facebook with good intentions: to catch up with my friends and see how everyone is doing, I always end up feeling worse than before I looked at it. I can’t explain why that is, really. …I’ll try. I felt isolated and jealous of the tiny pieces of former friends lives that they were choosing to share on the internet… which brings me to the next point.
  3. My Facebook friends are not my friends. I have some good friends who I actually talk to. We talk on the phone and make an effort to spend time together in person. I trust them and I care about them. And then I have facebook friends. Every time I update my facebook status, I’m sharing news with an anonymous audience of 500 people. Sure, I knew each of these individuals at some point in my life: a former classmate; a former co-worker. But the assumption that they are going to see, read, and care about something I post makes me feel entitled, selfish, and lazy. The fact that I may not have personally spoken (or texted, or emailed) with someone in 8 years but I know their dog’s name, where they went on vacation last summer, and what they ate for lunch today is WEIRD. I’m convinced that’s why my 10-year-reunion felt so weird.

So, I’m taking a break, and while I do feel a bit disconnected, I feel a lot better in general. So many of my friends post negative or insensitive things. I’d hidden most of them, but, honestly, that’s taxing. These days, I’m making an effort to write more letters, to text more friends, and to stay in touch on a personal level because I WANT to, not because I feel obligated to be one of the ‘likes’ on a photo you posted.

One thing I hated about facebook is the lack of intimacy. When you wish a friend happy birthday, and you may say something like, “Happy Birthday to one of the most amazing friends and most talented women I know!” …it seems disingenuous to me. Because you aren’t writing this in a birthday card for her to read and hold on to, you’re shouting it to the world along with a collage of pictures of the two of you that scream, LOOK WE ARE FRIENDS AND HERE IS PROOF. That message is not just designed to make your friend feel good, it’s designed to make YOU feel good. And, I know everyone won’t agree with me, but I also think a status like that is designed to to showcase your friendship and status to see how to rates with her other friends. In turn, you’re making everyone else feel a little bit bad, or a little bit left out.

I never *really* thought about this until I listened to a podcast where 12-year-old girls were talking about Instagram rules and expectations for liking and commenting on photos. I still have my Instagram, by the way. I’m not addicted in the same way and I don’t use it in the same way so I think this is okay for me right now, but if that ever changes, it’s going, too.

One more thing. The ONLY thing about I truly miss about facebook is Humans of New York: https://www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork/

Fortunately, you don’t need a facebook account to view the content. If you have a faceobok account and by some impossible feat have not yet discovered Humans of New York, please go “like” the page. It will brighten your news feed and make you feel things and give you some much needed world perspective in a sea of mindless updates.

The Last Day of Christmas

This morning, I woke up before Bret, turned on the Christmas tree, lit the fire, and found Miracle on 34th Street on Netflix. I made some coffee and now I’m cuddled up in the lazy boy with Velveeta. It feels like Christmas, but it’s actually January 10th.

By most accounts, the holiday season is behind us. It’s January, now. It’s time to embrace a New Year and accept that cold winter temperatures are going to stick around for a while without the soft glow of Christmas lights, but it’s tough. I’m not ready. I have a really difficult time saying goodbye to Christmas season because I look forward to so much.

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2015: Year of Adjustments

A few months ago, while Bret and I were shopping at the Outlets, I spotted a pair of heavy-duty waterproof boots. Our Boone friends had lectured me whenever I showed up to their homes in flats. You’ll need a good pair of boots. So I bought them. And I waited patiently for the first snowflake. All October. All November. And then, in mid-December, it snowed just a little. I laced up my new boots. I crunched in the thin layer of snow on our front deck. I took a picture of the boots in the snow to validate the purchase. And I thought: This is my Boone life.

Boots

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