Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back: 2014

While I'm definitely very excited for next year, I think now might be a good time to take a breather and look back at everything I accomplished in 2014. While it seems to have gone by so fast, there were definitely a few weeks that dragged by, and I know I've blocked out some memories. Here's some of my biggest accomplishments for 2014:


- Glass Slipper Challenge: This was my first Disney Challenge, and, despite doing it by myself, it was awesome! I wore my Mulan costume, got a ton of pictures, and got really dehydrated.
- RnR USA Marathon: My second full marathon! As expected, law school and snow got in the way of "ideal" training, but I'm now part of the super small "I did a marathon 1L year" club!
- Nike Women's Half DC: Tiffany's. 'Nuf said (oh, and the weekend before finals/my wedding)
- Zooma Annapolis Half: I only ran this for the shirt.
- Baltimore Women's Classic 5K: First short race I've done in a long time! I forgot Baltimore had hills....
- Iron Girl Columbia sprint tri: I always love IG races! UCF did a great job this year.
- Nation's Tri (Olympic minus the swim): Is there anything more inspiring than running around DC?


- Wedding: So, almost four years after we "legally" got married, we finally had a wedding! It was definitely worth the wait, and the stress of planning, and the stress of finding out it was literally in the middle of finals....but still perfect!

- Law School: I finished 1L year, made the Maryland Journal of International Law, and am half way done!
- Home: K finally moved in with me after a little over a year of being separated in Afghanistan/Georgia, and we moved to a new place in Baltimore!
- Travel: According to my TripIt account, I traveled over 30,000 miles this year (by plane, train, and automobile) and over 40 days. We went to San Diego and Ohio several times, a few short trips to NYC and Virginia, and, of course, Mexico!

I am so excited for 2015, and I know there will be a lot of great surprises and opportunities to jump on! Huzzah!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Back from Vacation!!

Just before my last final last week, K surprised me with plans to spend a week in Mexico before Christmas! While the thought of spending time on the beach and relaxing was awesome, the short time for preparation was in itself a bit stressful. I had a busy few days, packed with one last final (HALFWAY DONE WITH LAW SCHOOL!!!), my Christmas party, the Army-Navy game, cleaning and packing on Sunday, then we were off on Monday morning! 

We stayed at the Sandos Playacar near Playa del Carmen, a little bit south of Cancun. After a four hour plane ride, picking up a rental car, and a bumpy ride as K re-learned how to drive manual, we arrived, and it was heaven! We spent the days lounging on the beach with frosty drinks, reading and tanning, and a lot of time eating. The water was absolutely beautiful, a perfect blue, and the weather was a perfect 75 every day. While I managed to mostly get rid of my "library tan," my "library muffin top" was more prevalent than ever after a long semester of no racing. 

We walked in to Playa del Carmen one evening, and tried out the Cherry Mocha frappucino at the starbucks, and had dinner at Alux, which is a very fancy little restaurant in a natural cave. 

On the last day, we drove to Chichen Itza, because it's not a real vacation unless you visit a UNESCO heritage site. Every time I visit a site like this, it blows my mind to think that I am walking on the same path as ancient peoples I've read about in books. It's just as amazing to think they were able to build such amazing structures that have lasted this long.

K tried to ruin my selfie
As usual, I overpacked, since I left it until the last few hours before we left. If you're going to an all-inclusive and planning on just staying there for a week, here's what I recommend packing:
- I had three dresses, two maxi dresses and one shorter one (my favorite lulu dress) and they were perfect for the weather in the evenings. I brought a sweater, but I never needed to wear it. I wore these to dinner in the fancier restaurants on the resort, with some fancy flat sandals. 
- I also brought two t shirts and two tank tops. The t's I wore as cover ups with my towel, when I was walking to the beach or pool, and the tanks were great with shorts when I was just heading to a buffet (again) or walking to PDC. I brought two pairs of shorts, one pair of Lulus with a wide elastic waist band and deep pockets, and a pair of running shorts, which I never actually used. Pockets are always clutch, and, when I have the option, I always pick breathable, wicking fabrics. 
- For the beach, I brought three different bikinis. I wish they were the ones in the collage up there, but, again due to last minute packing, I ended up just grabbing three clean ones I could find and that fit. My favorite suits, though (and the ones I showed), are by Kovey. The swell top is great for any activity, and I've even worn it for doing laps. I hate having to wear a wet swimsuit, so I usually wore one in the morning, then changed around lunch to a clean one.  I had a flowy coverup to wear over top on my walk to beach, or just wrapped my beach towel around my waist (see Kovey for her awesome pareo towel). 
- My beach bag was a stuffable REI backpack I've had since college; it stuffs into itself, so it's very easy to pack, but still has padded straps, so it was comfy enough to bring to Chichen Itza all day. I always brought a water bottle, SPF 55 sunblock spray, and my nook. I read Mrs. Lincoln's Rival on the beach, which probably isn't the best beach read, but I loved it! I also picked up some aloe lotion, and used it every night even though I was lucky enough to avoid any burns. 
- K brought a coffee mug for all his delicious drinks, which was great for keeping them cold out on the beach. If I had ever let them sit around long enough to start melting, this might have been a good idea. Oh well. I don't mess around with beachside-delivered pina coladas. 
Oh, and a vacation isn't a vacation without K forgetting something. This time it was just his socks, though, which means he got to squeeze into my socks (remember that time he forgot his shoes when we went to WDW for the Princess Half? Hilarious).  

And now that I'm back home, I'm doing lots of laundry, and packing two more bags for more travelling! We're off to Ohio for Christmas, and then the weekend in Atlanta for a wedding and the Panthers-Falcons game! Since we're leaving tomorrow, I plan on packing both of my bags at the same time, so hopefully I don't forget anything and can just move my toiletries bag. 

Does anyone else have any holiday travel packing tips? 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Awesome news! SOAS Brand Ambassador 2015!

I got some awesome new this week: I am on the SOAS Racing 2015 Brand Ambassador Team! I'm pretty excited!

In case you haven't heard of them yet, SOAS Racing makes THE BEST triathlon kits for women. They're based in San Diego, so that must explain why they have the best designs. I really can't explain how awesome their designs are: the triathlon shorts are cut perfectly on the leg and have just enough padding, and the running kits are practically like wearing nothing, in the best way. Though I've been rocking the Team RWB Eagle this year, I do love wearing SOAS gear for training, and I'm super excited to be wearing their kits this year! Woohoo! 

Surviving Finals: Law School Edition

So, planning for finals for law school is pretty different from planning for finals for undergrad. And not just because Mary Baldwin has, literally, the best finals system in the world. In case you didn't know, MBC has an open finals week, so students can go take their finals anywhere in the academic building during any exam period they want, and are just on the honor code not to talk about them with anyone else. In law school, finals are scheduled, are not nearly as flexible, and require a LOT more information.

My finals record so far has not been that great. My very first semester, I got some pretty intense food poisoning, and woke up the morning of my first final literally unable to get out of bed. I rescheduled that one, crawled to the doctors office, and then ended up throwing up during most of my other finals. Believe it or not, I didn't do so great. The next semester, I actually had my wedding (in San Diego) right smack dab in the middle of finals. Thankfully I was able to reschedule my last two finals for after the wedding, but that means I had to focus on two finals, go enjoy my wedding, then come back and jump right back in to two more finals. Despite all that, here's my advice on planning for law school finals:

- Take care of yourself! See above story about food poisoning. If you aren't feeling great, chances are you aren't going to ace your exams. For me, this means making sure I have time to get in a few quick workouts during finals prep, eating healthy and taking my vitamins and supplements, and keeping my mind calm so I can focus.
One thing I like to do is make a meal plan for every week. During finals, I try to focus on easy make-ahead meals that I can prep and heat up and eat without really putting in too much thinking. I like a lot of salads, grilled chicken breast or skirt steak, and burrito bowls. I just put everything in disposable containers and throw it in the microwave. I also try to write down meals on my schedule so I don't forget to eat! I also stock up on some of my favorite snack foods, because I KNOW I will be snacking a lot (I like twizzlers and baked cheetos).
For workouts, I try to focus on quick, easy workouts during finals prep. This usually means a half hour cardio workout on the elliptical or treadmill, and fifteen minutes or so of kettlebells. If I'm sore, sitting through three or four hour exams is horrible.
To stay calm, I also like to add some yoga maybe once or twice a week. Other things I do to keep my mind free of stupid stuff is to keep my backpack packed with everything I need (highlighters, Picky Bars, chargers), and lay out my clothes for the week on Sunday night. When I wake up, the last thing I want to think about is putting together an acceptable outfit, so laying out clean t shirts/sweaters and some leggings just removes this worry.

- Strategize your outline prep. I make a day-by-day schedule of what exams I have and when I'm going to do what to prepare, and then add in things like meals and workouts. If you have little things that you tend to forget (like printing out your outline), throw that on the schedule too! Here's what my google calendar looked like this past week:

I tend to sandwich my outlining, so I start with the outline for my last exam, then finish with my first exam outline, and prepare for exams the night or morning before the actual exam.
For outlines, I always start with the syllabus and the textbook, and create a skeleton outline of the major topics the class covered. Once that is in place, I take a look and see if I need to organize it in a way that makes more sense to me, or that's more specific to the professor. Then I start adding in my notes, very brief case briefs, and notes from supplements. I sometimes ask around for any other outlines from people who have taken the class before, and see if they hit anything that I skipped.

- Strategize exam prep. Exam prep and outlining are hand-in-hand, but still different.
The day before an exam, I review my outline again, to make sure I understand everything on it. Then, I look at past exams or practice problems the professor or textbook has provided and write out practice answers. If there are sample answers, I look at that and compare it to my answer, or ask a friend to do the same thing, and compare our answers. If there is anything major I missed, I review my outline again to make sure it's on there, and I also check for any details I may have skipped. After all this, I hand write my final "attack" outline, which is a two or three page outline of the major issues, and how I plan on attacking each question. Most of the time, this includes a lot of flow charts. That night, I make sure to print out my outline, if it's open note, make sure the exam software is updated and restart my computer, and pack my bag with whatever I need. I make myself get in bed eight hours before I have to get up, whether I'm tired or not.
The morning of the exam, I plan on getting in my seat at school no less than 30 minutes before the exam starts. Before this, I make sure to get my coffee (usually a venti latte with 3 pumps of peppermint and 2 pumps of vanilla), fill up my water bottle, and eat something. Once I sit down, I lay everything out: my computer, plugged in and connected to the network with a backup cord on hand; a pencil and a colored pen or highlighter, my notes, and my water and coffee.

Also, one of my favorite professors always posts this article in his syllabus. Definitely a good place to go when you start to overthink everything in life.

- Once its all over, relax! If I have another exam coming soon, I know I need to relax and refocus quickly. I am usually too caffeinated to take a nap, so my "thing" is to go home, lay on the couch with something to munch on, watch some mindless tv (probably Bravo), and let my brain crawl out of my head. After about an hour or two of this, I'm awake enough to maybe go to the gym and take a shower, or head back to the library to refocus on my next exam.
And, after the last one, it's time to pop the champagne! This semester I'll be halfway through law school! Huzzah!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stocking Stuffers

What if you have a white elephant exchange with your running group, or just need a stocking stuffer? Don't worry, I've had tons of time to think about this:

1. Socks: Who ever has "enough" socks? Not only that, but they can be a little pricey to get nice socks, so maybe splurge and get some nice Feetures! merino wool socks for someone you love!

2. KT tape: it's always nice to have around for any niggly knees after a long run!

3. Nail polish: Because you run faster when everything it's necessary to have lots of colors of nail polish to match every pair of running shoes you own

4. Charms: A running charm, or a marathon charm, or maybe a charm from a city from a special race. There are so many options!

5. Picky Bars: I kind of have been eating these a lot lately. Yes, I did join the Picky Club.

6. Head bands: I don't know about you, but my hair is always a mess. More head bands! 

Christmas Wish List!

It's almost Christmas! While I may have been a little too generous with myself over the past year and bought all the "good" stuff I could have asked for for Christmas, I do of course have a few ideas of great gifts for your favorite runner/triathlete/law student. I always try to get gifts for people that are things that they normally wouldn't purchase for themselves, so here's what I would suggest:

1. Portman Pants or the Hero Pants: Aren't these adorable?!?! I can definitely see myself living in these if I had them, wearing them for school and the gym. I can't decide which I like better, the turquoise or blue

2. Lucky Long Sleeve Top: I love the neckline on this top! Again, something I would wear ALL THE TIME, for class and outdoor activities.

3. Bike trainer: Because I'm tired of trying to walk home after a 90 minute bike workout at the gym, and I wouldn't mind working out in just a sports bra.

4. Lululemon anything: I showed the pouches for separating clothes, which are great for throwing your sweaty clothes or wet swimsuit in your gym bag or backpack.

5. Fuel: Who doesn't need more caffeine?

6. A runDisney experience: If you know someone who is doing something like the Disney Princess Half, Disney does offer a ton of extra activities throughout the weekend, like the Race Retreat or Pasta in the Park Party. Maybe it would be nice to check their schedule and see if adding an event like this to their itinerary, or just a dinner reservation and gift card at any Disney restaurant, would be awesome! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tri Talk Tuesday: Race Season Planning

It's Tri Talk Tuesday again! And, according to my schedule, it's finals week! So much going on!

Meanwhile, I'm linking up with Cynthia at You Signed up for WHATCourtney from The TriGirl Chronicles and Phaedra from Blisters and Black Toenails, to talk about Race Season Planning!

Why do it early - While it might not seem like it's all that necessary, there are definitely big benefits to planning out your season early in the year. It helps you plan your big goals, so you don't go into an early-season race feeling like you're not prepared. You can get early bird pricing on races before January, which can save a lot of money! Also, it helps prevent burn out from signing up for too much in too short a time. Also, when you realize there are two events you want to do on the same day, you have a little more time to think about which you would rather do. All good reasons!

How to choose - Usually I start planning by picking my one big "A" race, which is the focus of my season. This past year, I had a full marathon in March, then focused on Nation's Tri in September, and taking off the rest of the Fall. I knew the time in between would be super busy and a little uncertain, so I tried to find races that fit into my known schedule.

Once you have your big race penciled in, you can start filling in smaller races to help build up to that goal. If you're doing a half-iron tri, it's good to build up with a "tune up" race and maybe a few "B" races with less pressure on yourself, as well as some shorter running races. If you're doing a big event like a runDisney Challenge, you should definitely practice with shorter races leading up. Last year I managed to fit the Glass Slipper Challenge into my training plan for my marathon, and lined up my training plan perfectly. Let's be honest, it was probably the only long run I did that I actually hit my goal pace.

While you start looking for build up races, keep in mind your own non-racing schedule, and try to plan around that. It's easier to have support for your training and racing habit if you don't skip a family wedding to race. This was a rough summer for me, since it seemed like all of the three "B" races I planned on doing ended up coinciding with weddings and I had some choices to make (I always opted for the wedding and took a less ideal race).

What I have planned - For next year, so far, I have a few big races planned, and an alternative schedule depending on my health:

Depending on how my summer turns out (I still don't know where I'll be stationed, or how long, or what I'll be doing), FrogMan might not happen. But hopefully it will. If it does, I'll probably add at least two more shorter, local triathlons during the summer to prepare.

Have you started thinking about 2015?!