new year, new resolution

After watching Frontline‘s “Gunned Down this afternoon, I found myself considering the power of this programming.It is fascinating and engrossing educational television. These films consistently educate and inspire. I really marvel at the skilled and powerful storytelling in these productions.

While watching this film I bounced between profound sorrow at the loss of life our country has suffered from gun violence and an exasperated frustration at the distortion of the Constitution and the manipulation of our political system. The final result of which is a motivation to do something.

I miss feeling like that. Throughout my teens and twenties, I often felt empowered and driven to affect change through political channels. My first post-college campaign job disabused me of that desire, and I gave up far too easily for the easier working world. I have grown more complacent with each passing year, to the point that I realize I now consider it a chore to vote!

This is all a wordy way of getting to the point – I have so genuinely enjoyed this last week of immersion in WGBH productions. Watching Masterpiece‘s “Downton Abbey” season premiere was an entirely joyful experience. I had the pleasure of watching Antiques Roadshow with no work distractions and was so delighted with experiencing the show as a fan again, discovering those splashes of history and art. And watching Frontline this afternoon rounded out the full experience by challenging me.

I am about the luckiest girl in the world right now, working for an organization that produces some of the best of television – programming that educates, entertains, and inspires. I am at an organization that reflects my values, and, if I allow it, will strengthen and reinforce my embodiment of those values.

Note that I love New Year’s resolutions. I think they are fantastic – year-long goals that can drive real change in life, or serve for an interesting personal project; whatever you desire, they are that. And this year, I just could not think of any new and interesting intentions to work into a resolution.

But now I have one!

This year, I will watch all of the programming WGBH creates through its national programming: Masterpiece, American Experience, Frontline, Novaand Antiques Roadshow.

I often let myself off the hook here with the argument that I’m skipping television viewing for something else – the gym, reading, dinner with friends, etc. But the truth is I always make up that time on the weekend. It’s not important that I re-watch all of New Girl, as delightful as it is. It is important that I keep learning and discovering and enjoying the best that television has to offer.

So – yes, amusingly, my New Year’s resolution is to watch more television.

a year in review 2014

january. I returned from my holiday vacation with one determination: to ramp up my grit and get through my work days. Things were not going well with the job that brought me to Boston, but I came back fresh and resolved to be positive at work and simultaneously start looking for my next move. Two weeks later, I was laid off from that job. Life has a funny way of giving you exactly what you need.

Things I loved in January: I took a leap of faith and signed up for a half-marathon.
Books I read and loved in January: The Interestings

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february. Or the first month of “recovery.” This was my first layoff. The first time I’d been asked to leave a job, for any reason. I had a few interviews, went to a lot of midday yoga classes, spent a weekend dog-sitting Wingman (the best!), and generally just tried to deal with my new reality.

Things I loved in February: The Olympics!, #gobooksorgohome book club

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march. Still unemployed, I began really training for the half-marathon, trying new (local, organic) vegetables in my cooking (and cooking more often), and just generally trying to survive the last gasp of winter. I splurged on a viewing of the Veronica Mars movie. More resumes, more interviews, no luck.

Things I loved in March: Meeting Sarah Kay and awkwardly (but bravely!) telling her just how important her work has been in my life.

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april. Despite continued unemployment, my birthday month was such a spectacular few weeks this year. I celebrated my 32nd birthday with close friends at dinner, a warmly lit and warmly felt evening. A week later, I cheered on a few friends at the Boston Marathon and more deeply understood what it means to have “grit.” 

Things I loved in April: the all-night dance party at the Chromeo concert (thanks, Shannon!)

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may. I traveled to Wisconsin to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day – totally worked! As the month ended, it was clear that I wasn’t going to have a new job very soon, so I let my lease expire, put my things in storage and headed out to travel with a small suitcase and a backpack.

Things I loved in May: I ran a half-marathon!
Books I read and loved in May: We Were Liars, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Luminaries

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june. Adventure: a long weekend in Maine, a few days in San Francisco, a month in Mount Shasta, and a family vacation in the Midwest. Bus rides, longer train rides, several flights scheduled as the trip unfolded. I cooked, I hiked, I read more books. I interviewed more and took an online class. I met great new people and forged deeper friendships. 

Things I loved in June: Hiking with Anna (#worthit), hiking alone once — how did Cheryl Strayed do it?!
Books I read and loved in June: Vivian Versus the Apocalypse, Everything Leads to You, Americanah

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july. I left Mount Shasta too early, but needing to get to the Midwest for a family vacation. Three early, solo days in St. Louis brought me baseball games, an art museum, a day of eating down a trendy street, and a 5k. A glorious week at the lake and a whirlwind 24 hours in Chicago flew by and I arrived back in Boston to an exciting job interview.

Things I loved in July: My first jury duty – not selected!
Books I read and loved in July: Longbourn, The Sound of Things Falling

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august. I have a new job, but no home. Once again the lucky girl I am, I spent the month house and pet sitting for various friends on vacations while looking for an apartment. 

Things I loved in August: This one perfect movie night in the park; new job new job new job!
Books I read and loved in August: Making Masterpiece, finished Tiny Beautiful Things

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september. I mean… I don’t know… I barely remember, between moving and being a month into a new job, anything about September other than being tired and overwhelmed a lot.

Things I loved in September: I went on this one great hike, and got this one great hair cut. (Yeah… that does stand out that much.)
Books I read and loved in September: Radical

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october. The fall was really just about working and trying to settle into my new apartment. Living in a city neighborhood again was great, but things just weren’t clicking easily. I think I spent most of the month wishing I had a dog and looking up adoptable puppies after work. 

Things I loved in October: Being on the periphery of Rocktober again!
Books I read and loved in October: Brown Girl Dreaming

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november. And now into the holiday season, things started picking up. I launched my first product at work (lots of late nights). I spent Thanksgiving at a wonderful dinner with friends.

Things I loved in November: Hanging out at the Markey and Healy election night parties!

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december. Ah, December, my favorite month. I spent an entire week around the Christmas holiday in Wisconsin with my family and it was absolutely perfect. So much time with my nieces and nephew, listening to Serial while working on crafty gifts, traditional trip to a family movie (every other year it’s a musical). Despite being terribly sick on Christmas Day, it was an ideal holiday trip.

Things I loved in December: What a stellar work holiday party!
Books I read and loved in December: Wild (re-read)

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What have I learned this year?

I read something earlier this year that lingers in my mind: If it’s both terrifying and amazing, then you should definitely pursue it. The latter half of the year has been so different than the first six months, and both brought new challenges.

The terrifying and amazing things I tackled: running a half-marathon, being patient with my job search to find the right thing, traveling around the country and returning to Boston with no solid plans (the scariest!).

When thinking about resolutions for 2015, I initially thought I wanted to structure some goals around a theme: Be brave. But, in writing this and really thinking over the last year, I actually feel pretty good about my level of bravery. I say yes to a lot of opportunities. This year brought more “opportunities” that I think one year really needs, but I met most of them head on, and I’ll mark that down as a success.

To another great year!

Half-Marathon Recap and Reflections

I’ve been running for a year. That’s really it, just one year.  My first run was in May of last year, 3.16 miles in 34:28. I regularly use RunKeeper, and I was surprised to see that I have only gone out on 53 runs in the last year. My races have been few: a handful of 5ks, two 10ks, and, as of May 25th, one half-marathon. I headed into this year’s Boston’s Run to Remember already pretty proud of myself: to go from a 5k to 13.1 miles in a year, a year which included no running between November and March at that, was something to celebrate. And the race was really just that: a celebration.

A very tough and at times painful celebration. This was not an easy race for me. I don’t expect anything of this distance to ever be “easy” for me, but I certainly learned some lessons this year that will hopefully make the next half-marathon easier.

1. Follow your training plan. I used this Hal Higdon half-marathon training plan, with a couple tweaks from my trainer. Most weeks, I shuffled runs around. Or had extra rest days. Or skipped my rest day. I ignored speed work almost completely. The only thing I did semi-faithfully was build up my distance by hitting my 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 mile runs.

After my 10 mile run, I was hurting. I was unsure if I was going to be able to run the half. My whole taper week was RICE-ing my (likely) tendinitis and extra yoga classes. I felt very pessimistic about how my body would hold up during the half-marathon and those worries were realized around mile 11 on race day. Indeed, it wasn’t even halfway through the race when my left knee began to bother me, and by the last few miles, my left ankle and right knee joined in.

I actually ran the last two miles more quickly than the previous six though — definitely because I knew the next time I stopped, I was not going to be able to start again. So I wouldn’t be stopping until the finish line!

Next time, I will do better. I will give myself more time to train more slowly for a longer-distance race. Training plans are there for a reason, and building up mileage slowly is a critical aspect of training for most of us. Be patient.

2. Nutrition matters. Every trainer and athlete has some version of this saying: you can’t out-train a poor diet. I completely believe this to be true now. I was perhaps skeptical before; I did not faithfully adhere to this tenet. I will never train for a long-distance race again without making this a visible part of my plan.

Reflecting on how hard this all was, training and the race both, has made diet considerations a matter of practicality actually. Eating for fuel has become more of a natural consideration in my life. Did I have ice cream on vacation in Bar Harbor? Of course. Is it a daily indulgence? No.

3. Go into the race with a goal and a plan. My goal and plan were the same for this first race, actually: to only walk through water stations. It’s pretty typical for a new runner’s goal to be to simply finish, especially when tackling new distances. However, this plan-goal’s specificity gave me something on which to focus my race. There were also ten water stations, fairly evenly spaced, in this race; this plan then guaranteed short bursts of intense focus followed by brief reprieves.

I also carried with me a super-secret pie-in-the-sky goal of running the race in 2:30:00. To do that, I would need to run with just under an 11:30 mile pace, which was about thirty seconds faster than my long runs had been in training. I used my RunKeeper app during the race, and according to that, ran 13.82 miles (wide race!) in 2:42:30, for an average pace of 11:46 per mile. My official time was 2:40:55 over 13.1 miles for an average pace of 12:17 per mile.

Look, honestly, I’m taking that RunKeeper data and sticking that in my brain.

I still consider myself a new runner and, as such, I am still figuring out how to both push myself and pace myself, trying to find that sweet spot of running a steady, “fast” race. I feel pretty good about my pacing in this race though; it seems to fall into a few chunks of steady running:

half-marathon splitsThis race was a success, a very important mark on my life’s timeline.

I set my goal to run this race late in 2013, when I hadn’t been running much and felt like I needed something to work towards. But I only signed up for the race after my job ended. Having this race to focus on, to train for, was an important part of my year. 2014 will always be the year I ran my first half-marathon.

Isn’t it wonderful to have something so grand be this year’s main memory? That’s what running gives me, and I’ll always be grateful for it.

rabbit rabbit it’s september!

September is my favorite month! (December is a very very close runner-up, though.) This whole “back to school” thing still gets me. New pencils, fresh notebooks, clean calendar pages. Time to get after it!

Things I want to do this month:

Already scheduled events:

Month-long endeavors:

  • stock up on pumpkin beers for October (yep, I’ve pushed out pumpkin kickoff to October 1)
  • watch all the football
  • no sleeping in on weekends (how else will I get to do all of these fun things?!)
  • read more books!
  • relearn how to knit so as to be able to make [redacted] for [redacted]
  • all the running, yoga, spinning, lifting heavy things I can handle
  • resume working with Healthworks Community Fitness – summer vacation is over, time to work ya’ll

What’s missing from my list? What are you favorite things to do in September?

i love a good workout fundraiser

A few weeks ago, I participated in a spin-a-thon fundraiser for Jess of Little Miss Runshine. My favorite spin instructor, Elise, was teaching one of the sessions, and I love a good workout fundraiser, so I signed up. My donation (you can donate here) came with a few raffle tickets and I ended up winning a five-class package to The Handle Bar studio, a new cycling studio in South Boston (and this cute tank and water bottle). Of course, I put all my raffle tickets into that one drawing as Elise had recently announced she was joining the team at The Handle Bar.

Raffle winnings courtesy of The Handle Bar and Little Miss Runshine

On Monday, I finally had a chance to check out her class there. It was phenomenal! The studio is lovely – very open and bright and clean. The staff is incredibly friendly. And an amazing bonus? It’s less than a mile from work, so I was able to take my workout even another level higher and run to and from class. (Awesome!)

Everyone at The Handle Bar uses clip-in shoes, which they have available to rent for $2. This was my first experience using the clip-in shoes. It took a few songs to get used to it, really, but it was a much better experience once I got a feel for it. I was able to work so much harder, and I really felt the movement more in my muscles (especially my calf muscles!) The whole experience felt more like “true cycling” than I have previously experienced. I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again here – Elise’s class has definitely gotten harder but it’s that much more rewarding too!

I was so glad I was able to check out the class with Jess, too. It’s always great to know someone in a new class, and it’s even better to work alongside someone who is giving it 100%. There were definitely moments I pushed through sprints because of seeing Jess’s effort in my periphery.

If you’d like an intense and rewarding spin experience, come join me at The Handle Bar! I’m definitely going to Monday’s 5:45 p.m. classes, but can be easily convinced (I’m sure) to fit some other times in, too. Need more convincing? Elise had a Beyonce vs. Jay-Z playlist. Yeah, it’s that kind of awesome over there.

P.S. Jess is embarking on a 100+ mile bike ride to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. You can show your support for her dedication and this amazing organization by making a donation here.