Running the Cape ~ Ragnar Cape Cod

So, Ragnar Relay Cape Cod.  Where do I even begin?  The fact that I ate more bread in a four-hour period than I had in two weeks (I’m talking heavenly delicious blueberry granola bread from When Pigs Fly)?  Or that I got a total of 3 hours’ max of restless sleep?  Or that I had three of the hardest runs in my life (or last four years) and pretty much was crying on leg #3, my second 9.6 trek? Or that I had an absolute blast and couldn’t stop laughing the entire trip?

Yeah, I don’t know where to begin either so let’s just start at the beginning.  As I mentioned last Friday, I had completed a few of these Ragnar Relays in the past.  As a matter of fact, I completed the Wasatch Back Relay, which was the inaugural Ragnar (it started back in 2003).  When you tell someone that you are voluntarily paying to run between 15-22 miles and sit in a car for 24+ hours, they will probably think you are insane. I tried again and again to explain what would happen and why it was fun but it turns out you can’t comprehend what will go down on one of these trips – no matter how many posts and articles you read – until you have completed one.

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(Source)

It started back when my friends Kayla and Lauren decided to enter the race lottery.  Due to the size of the cape and the sheer fact that we would be running through the streets during the day and night, a lottery application system was required.  When they found out that they had won a spot, they immediately started to fill a team.  To fill a full team, you will need 12 people.  For the longest time, we only had 6.  It fluttered between 5 and 6 a few times and then I started to freak out.  We were about a month out and still didn’t have a full team.  By the sheer grace of God, we managed to find enough runners only to have three drop within 2 days due to injury.

At this point I had many reasons why the universe was against us. Many of them I no longer remember and probably had made up to be dramatic.  In the end, we managed to get to the starting line and finish AND almost placed in our category (spoiler alert).  But let’s jump back to Thursday.

On Thursday morning, about five of us met up to pick up the minivan from La Guardia Enterprise and drive up to Boston.   Around 7 or so hours after meeting up, we had picked up food at Costco and arrived at Kayla’s house to spend the night.  Kayla’s mom made the most amazing dinner of cous cous, grilled vegetables, and salmon, which was topped with a maple glaze.  At some point during the afternoon we discovered that the van had a low tire and would need to be replaced.  (<< This was one of the incidents that made me believe the universe was against us).  The remaining runners arrived later that night and once we had a mini pow-wow about race strategy, we were off to bed.

Originally when we had submitted our running paces, we (Van #1) were set to start the race at 12pm.  By estimating a 9min mile pace for every runner, we were set to finish by 6:35 or after the race finish area was closed.  I didn’t consider the fact that some people might be 1) injured or sore and need to run slower or 2) people would feel fabulous and run like a bat out of hell.  Let’s just say that everyone had 2 of their 3 legs (and sometimes 3/3) with scenario #2.

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In the morning, we woke up and started to decorate and pack both vans.  Van #1 headed off early in hopes that they could start earlier than 12 and sure enough, they were able to start around 10:15!  Kayla’s mom was the real winner that weekend because she made both teams their own frittata.  Yours truly decided to eat breakfast with both teams because why not?  Well, my stomach would later regret this decision big-time.  Once we sent Van #1 off, a few of us went to pick up bread from Kayla’s favorite bakery When Pigs Fly as well as some cold brew coffee bottles for the next couple of days.

Folks.  This blueberry granola bread is crack.  Whether you toast it with a little butter or don’t toast it, it is pure heaven.  I would know since I pretty much ate half the loaf and I’m sure everyone commented on it.  Awwwwwkward.

Our van left the Boston area around 11:30ish, drove to the wrong destination, back tracked, and finally arrived at exchange #1 by 3:15 or so.  To be completely honest, I’m giving estimations of time because I didn’t note down every.single.thing.  Just go with me. 🙂  Once we arrived at the exchange, we were able to catch up with Van #1, pick up some free samples, and then check out all the other team’s decorations.  Like I said, people had dressed up their cars to the nines and had taken this thing super seriously.  I made mental notes for if (when) I do another race.  Our team was really rolling by the seat of our pants – a Kaitlin classic.

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When runner #6 from Van #1 came flying through the arch, it was time for our van to head off.  Kayla jetted out and away we went!  This was probably my favorite part of the day since I was driving and loooooove to drive (except in traffic but who does?).  It was also a bit like the Amazing Race, always needing to figure out the logistics on the fly, check in with the runner and make sure we were at the next pit stop in time, which we were not always.  I would blame that on the fact that one of our runners – Zoe – was SPEEDY and there were a couple of legs where we just couldn’t get in and out of the parking lot in time.

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Around 7:18 pm (thank you Strava) I headed out for my first run.  It was 9.6 miles and I was a little over eager at first.  You can totally notice the excitement start to decrease as the miles went on {7:38 – 7:48 – 7:40 – 7:52 – 8:16 – 8:06 – 8:12 – 8:48 – 8:34 – 8:51 all for a 8:09 average pace} .  Even though the scenery was pretty and the sunset was gorgeous, I was regretting the snacks and REALLY regretting that bread.

As soon as I finished, it was time for Van #1 to start their second leg and Van #2 to take a rest.  By our initial calculations, we should have finished around 11pm and should be ready to nap but that wasn’t going to happen.  In fact, runners usually get no more than 4 hours of sleep during these types of races.  Yikes!  Anyways, I chugged a chocolate milk in the back of the van and attempted to stretch out.  We ended up at the next pitstop and tried to catch a few winks of sleep.  I stretched outside, talked to the family for a few minutes, and then curled up in the van for about 2 hours of restless sleep.  People would be coming and going through the parking lot and chatting at all volumes so sleep was really pointless.

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Around 12:45, the girls came back from sleeping (resting) in the gym since it was time for Kayla to get ready and pumped up for leg #2.  Again, I must note that we didn’t expect for people to be racing these and yet, were running the legs a lot faster than anticipated.

Some people worry about running in the middle of the night but there is nothing to be concerned about.  You are required to wear a headlamp, vest, and reflector clips (“taillights”) and there are plenty of cones and volunteers to help along the way.  Plus, you do end up running most legs with other runners, passing some and some passing you.  My teammates had at least 10 “kills” (where they pass someone) on their routes but since I was stuck with the arguably tougher or just longer legs, I got a total of 9 between all three.

I ran my second leg around 4:15am {2.8 mi – 7:54 – 7:58 – 8} along a bike path and again regretted the bread and snacking that had occurred during the middle of the night.  This whole stomach situation I know is only minor in comparison to what some people have to deal with but is new to me.  It’s also why I love running on a fasted or semi-fasted stomach first thing in the morning.  When I finished around 4:45am, we packed up to go to the last exchange and settled down for a nap in the parking lot.  Ok, I settled into the van in the parking lot and a few of the girls tried to sleep in the school gym.  Again, it was colder and louder than anticipated and they later came back to rest in the van.

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Funny story though about the last exchange.  It was located 15 minutes away from Kayla’s Cape Cod house where we were planning to spend Saturday night.  That meant that we could have easily driven there, showered or at least passed out for a couple hours of SOLID sleep before running the last leg.  I had done something similar in Utah but didn’t realize that Kayla’s house was that close!  Well, hindsight is 20/20 right?

Around 10:15 (or so), our first runner Kayla set off for her third and final leg.  By this point, muscles were tight and stomachs were still out of whack (oh, just me? Cool).  It was an invigorating feeling to know that we were on the homestretch and that we were also crushing our anticipated finish time.  Everyone was coming back with at least 9-15 kills and I was somewhat dreading my last 9.6 miles.  Well, the time came for me to get moving and around 1:15 pm I headed out for the last leg.  For 9.6 miles I ran along a dirt path, side road, and main road to Provincetown {8:54 – 8:10 – 8:48 – 8:32 – 8:50 – 9:41 – 9:43 0 9:33 – 9:42 – 9:29}.  I passed a few people and a few passed me, including someone dressed as Forest Gump.

In my moments of weakness (yes, there were quite a few since it was hot and I was tired) I wondered why I had signed up for something like this.  Why was I running and what am I doing in my life?  Right now running and working out is a passion and there’s a passage from the latest Runner’s World that sums this up perfectly:

{It’s a way to push our limits, prove that we can accomplish something. It’s the stitching that holds our lives together; a means of training to step out of your comfort level.  Running isn’t about the places it takes you but the people you meet on the way.}

Just some food for thought.

So, while contemplating oh so many things and almost 90 minutes later, I arrived at P-Town and reconnected with the rest of my teammates.  Our team had finished in just over 28 hours and we later discovered that if we had a team of all girls (which we had initially), we would have placed 5th!!  Not only that but our name “Big Apple Cod Squad” was ranked as one of the top names from this year’s race!  After a quick and complementary meal of sandwich/soup, we started to head out to Kayla’s house for a night of celebration and relaxation.

All in all it was an amazing weekend.  I had no idea that it would go this well and I have not laughed this much in so long.  We had plenty of time on Sunday to chat/laugh about what went right and what went wrong.  There’s no point in writing it all out since it would be it’s own post and most of it wouldn’t make sense to anyone besides our van. But there were some tips and tricks we took away from the trip and were certainly use when/if we were to do this again.

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Tips

  • When runners are on deck (getting ready to run), you should have someone walk to the exchange point and wait for them to head off. You can also bring water, food, a blanket or whatever requested to hand over to the runner finishing their leg.
  • NYC poncho: Since we were in the NE, there were a ton of people who had run the NYC marathon and brought their super soft (and warm) poncho along. This is perfect for in the car or even while waiting between legs.  I definitely need to get more use out of this!
  • Try to cheer for your runner along their leg – either pick a halfway spot or cheer as you drive by (carefully…duh)
  • Portable speakers: Again, something I own and just don’t use that often. This would be helpful when hanging in the car or if we are camped out somewhere.  Our minivan didn’t have a cord to connect the phone to the speakers so portable and wireless would have come in clutch.
  • Pack your clothes for each leg in a separate plastic bag.  Bring warm clothes because it does cool off at night!!
  • Shelving for the van: There were tons of expert teams with mega vans, lights decorating the interior and exterior and a couple teams with better layouts than we did. Some had hammocks and sleeping bags and others had mattresses in their vans.  One team – Team Sloth – put a piece of shelving in their trunk so that they could place the bags on the bottom and plastic containers for each runner on the top. For a team that pretty much unpacked and repacked the car every.single.leg, this might have been helpful.
  • Have fun.

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Have you done a Ragnar or have any interest in Ragnars?

Life of Late ~ 5.12.17

As you read this I will be en route to start my 5th (or 6th since I can’t really remember) Ragnar Relay.  Back in high school and college I ran the annual Wasatch Back Relay with some friends in Utah.  Since that particular race happens in June, it was always a “fun” way to wrap up the school year.  I put that in quotes because most people would 1) call that insane and 2) it really is somewhat of a 24 hour suffer-fest.  My coworkers actually have started to just assume every PTO day I take or “vacation” is running related.  So far this year they aren’t wrong. 

Anyways, being a runner, I forgot what the pain was like and decided to do it again.  This time around has been a bit more intense since I’m actually helping the captains get ready for the race and let’s just say the universe was very against us running.  Between finding an additional 7 runners, runners dropping due to injury (total of 4 runners dropped), issues with driving insurance, and more injury, it’s been a fun time.  I don’t start until later this afternoon and then I will embark on a total of 22 miles (9 + 3 + 9).  Now if I don’t get kicked off the finish line (there’s a slight chance we may not make it based on timing…) it’ll be a grand success.  I’ll have to check back in next week to let you know the result.

As for now, sit back and enjoy this week’s edition of Life of Late.

Yes, a majority of my life is about running.  My dad hinted that I might need to cut back on working out so that I can enjoy some other parts of life.  I know there will be a time where exercise may not be #1 in my life but for now, it provides me with social opportunities, peace of mind, and energy to take on the day.   I don’t take it to extremes and it really doesn’t interfere too much with “normal life” since my workouts are always in the morning.

I probably should have taken more of a break following Paris but instead got caught up in the weekly schedule of workouts and continuing training for Ragnar.  My hips have been bugging me so I might have to take a step back in the next month or so.  The nagging pain probably has to do with the fact that I’ve been rooted on my butt from 8:30-6:30 most days at work but that’s a pretty petty excuse.  I really need to get back into stretching, strength, and foam rolling.  Alas, I’m only human.

It’s true I haven’t been to NP as much but still have my Tuesday track and Thursday stairs workout.  I do still love NP but have been feeling a bit out of it lately and need to reevaluate.  However, speaking of November Project, I re-connected with an old sorority sister through Instagram and start chatting about November Project. Turns out that she moved to Portland and has been one of the main members of the fitness pledge and THEY BECAME A TRIBE!!  How neat is that??  I will certainly have to visit.

Looking back at college I think I would have been even more satisfied or happier if I had a solid workout group like November Project.  Then again, hindsight is 20/20 and I was still figuring my way around and trying to figure out myself.  Heck, I’m still doing that.

Last week was my birthday and I think 26 is off to a very solid start.  I started the day with a run – actually crashed Ali’s event – in the park.  Our friends Jackie and Laura Ann were simply amazing and picked up balloons, necklaces that said Happy Birthday and birthday hats.  All of the above made running 6 humid miles around the park a bit difficult but it was so worth all the smiles and birthday greetings we received from people.  I mean, how can you glare at someone trying to maneuver a massive golden balloon as they run?

Later in the day after brunching at Blake Lane and grabbing a coffee from Joe, my friend Melissa and I held a joint birthday bash at a bar downtown.  I’m not the biggest bar person but when you are in NYC, that seems to be the big thing.  Well, for anyone looking for an awesome space, look no further than D.B.A., which allows dogs, food to be brought in (because of said dogs), and has an awesome covered outdoor space.  We stayed all afternoon long and had a blast!  I think what made me the happiest was that over the course of the day, I was able to see pretty much every person in New York City that I love.  That right there is the key to a good time!  Oh and possibly a few too many bottles of the Wolffer Cider.

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^^ Sunday brought some gloomy weather and somewhat of a hangover from the lovely Wolffer Cider.  Not the best hangover but certainly not the worst.  I had been gifted tickets to the NYCFC match up at Yankee Stadium and so despite the nasty forecast, I traveled up to the Bronx to watch some good ‘ol futbol.  I haven’t followed MLS of late but grew up watching the Galaxy so it was fun to reminisce and also to walk around the baseball stadium.

Fun Reads (because it makes me happy to share)

The Real Life RD ~ “Why You Should Take A Lunch Break” ~ When possible, I do try to go for a walk or even a quick gym class and it’s totally evident with my refreshed mind and body.  But the past two weeks have been tough to even get out of work on time.  Let’s just say working 8:30-6 or later with no break does nothing for my achey hips and back.

PureWow ~ “8 Hikes within 2 Hours of NYC” ~ Maybe now that I’m not training for any half or full marathons this fall I’ll have some more weekend time to hike and enjoy the beach!

NY Post ~ “Llama Weddings Are Real and as Bizarre as They Sound” ~ Goodness knows I’ve got time before I get married BUT OH MY GOSH HOW COOL! THEY HAVE LLAMAS!!! (also not sure where my obsession with llamas came from either…) November Project ~ “How My Body Healed When I Took Off My Watch” ~ Comparison is the thief of joy and I certainly need to remind myself of this DAILY.

Quartz Media ~ “Employee Burnout is Becoming a Huge Problem in the American Workforce” ~ If anything, there are times where I feel guilty for taking time off, but that shouldn’t be the case!

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  I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend and wishing all the mother’s out there a very Happy Mother’s Day.  You are all rockstars.

Secret Spots of Central Park

My name is Kaitlin and I’m a history geek.  I grew up with a family that would make a detour in order to tack on an extra Civil War Battlefield or museum so I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Right now I’m working my way through New York City via a walking tours book and some spontaneous running adventures.  November Project has been a huge help since the workouts range from Battery Park to deep into Harlem.  But the most wonderful place (biased) is that of Central Park and it turns out that there’s a lot more to this grand oasis than I ever realized!

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This amazing plot of land is smack dab in the middle of the concrete jungle, it happens to be the most visited park in the U.S., and it tops out as one of the most filmed locations in the world.  I can easily say it’s one of my favorite places in the city and I make sure to run some form of the loop at least 1-2x per week.  I also happen to work near the park but the reality of me leaving the office during the day is bleak…so I rely on the epic views we have from the kitchen and cafeteria.  Anyways, enough about me.  The important part is that this park should always be on your NYC bucket list whether you are here for the 1st or 100th time.

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Last Sunday my friend Maura and I went on a jogging tour of the park with a group called Jane’s Walks.  Maura tends to stick to the West Side Highway during her runs and as her time in New York is actually coming to a close (off to grand adventures in D.C.!!!!) so we thought it would be good to accomplish some bucket list items.

Now I have taken many many pictures of the park and posted them here.  From the Great Lawn to the reservoir, they are all pretty note-worthy places.  Today’s post will be more about the more secretive spots that blew me away.  Who knew these lush gardens could be found by simply walking an extra 10-40 yards off the main path?

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It was established back in 1857 on a portion of city-owned land and the design was picked out of a design competition.  With the expertise of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, a design was picked, construction began, and the first public area was introduced to the public in 1858.  The construction continued through the American Civil War and in 1873 was expanded to the 843-acres that it is today.

 The park had been home to a number of shanty towns – Harsenville, the Piggery Disctrict or Seneca Village that needed to be rid of in order to continue construction and there was even a convent on the upper right side of the park called Mount St. Vincent’s Academy.

We started around 72nd near the Daniel Webster statue and ended up around 102nd.  We passed through the west side of the park, through the gardens along 5th avenue and up on the hills of Harlem.  We didn’t run through the Zoo but did pass the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (<< one of the most difficult words for me to spell).

We crossed over and under countless from back in the 19th century and are still standing.  Along with those bridges are waterfalls, which are flowing a plenty now that it’s spring and we’ve had our fair share of rain.  Then you have the above picture (right), which is a blockhouse, the second oldest item in Central Park next to Cleopatra’s Needle, and was created back in 1814 for defending the park.

Now when writing this post, I spent some time bopping around Wikipedia.  Yes, I was using Wikipedia because all the information is there and I don’t have access to encyclopedias.  Anyways, since I can’t copy and paste and am not going to link back to every single thing, I highly recommend spending some time reading up on Central Park.  It’s fascinating what you can find and if you would rather take a walk in the park, then be my guest and come explore the wonder of New York City!

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Have you been to Central Park? Do you have a favorite place in the park?

 

Life of Late ~ 3.17.17

Hold up, wait a minute, we are past the middle of March and there seems to be no sign of spring in sight.  We are flip-flopping outfits from day to day – one day dresses sans tights for it’s hitting the 60’s and then another we are bundled up with every last item of clothing to brave the single digit temps.  So all around good times and good thing I didn’t actually put all of my winter clothes away a few weeks ago.  That would have been stupid. (Just kidding, I actually did put all of my winter gear away only to drag it back out…)

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Sights and Scenes from the Weekend ~ 3.13.17

To be honest, all of last week felt like a blur and a bust.  I’m not sure if I gave my legs the rest they needed following an 18-miler but every time that I ran, it felt like I was dragging through cement.  Every workout was a struggle and even my swim on Friday was lackluster.  Then I went home with either a 12-hour stomach bug or food poisoning.  Either way, it wasn’t how I had planned to spend the week/weekend.  But, we can’t always control what happens and this was an excellent example of going with the flow.

After 9+ hours of sleep on Friday, I woke up with the hopes of running 12-14 miles.  Just a mile in I realized this was not going to happen.  I dragged myself to mile 4 and met up with some girlfriends who quickly told me I shouldn’t be running.  But I was so determined to finish a run, scared that if I didn’t run I would be a failure, and grasping to hold onto any potential social time.  Well, after total of 7.5 miles, I decided to call it quits and walked myself to breakfast.  Don’t be fooled by my smile below – I loved running with these gals but felt awful.

Accepting defeat of a run is tough and so is taking a rest day.  But I know that having these days will only help me down the road.  Not to mention it was SO DARN COLD (maybe exacerbated by my body chills or potential fever…I don’t know since I kept forgetting to take my temperature…#adulting) and running with any type of flue is just stupid.  Lesson learned.

Obviously when running doesn’t work out, washing away your feelings in brunch is the next logical step.  I had been craving avocado toast and Bluestone Lane just happened to be where I stopped by run.  In retrospect I certainly could have found a cheaper place to dine but was in such a foul mood, I let the $25 bill (+ tip) slide.  I mean I never truly know what to do about tip – how much does one tip?  If you don’t tip the 20% are you rude?  What if they are practically watching as you select the buttons on the touchscreen iPad right in front of you?  Oh the moral questions, right?

Once brunch was finished and my expensive solo-bill was paid, I made my way downtown and made myself stop in Trader Joe’s to pick up this week’s groceries.  One of my goals is to be better about meal prep and that includes making recipes other than grilled vegetables and fried eggs.  I’ve been feeling a little “blah” about life and can’t quite put my finger on it.  I know that winter is one element but maybe a change in routine – including eating routing – can help.  Plus one of my roommates is gone for the next week, so we have a 1/3 of the fridge to takeover.  (<< shelf and fridge space are also the things you think about when living in a tiny apartment in Manhattan)

These enchiladas (slightly modified recipe by Ambitious Kitchen) were delicious and almost better after being in the fridge overnight.  It must be the way that the ingredients settle that makes it so delectable.  Anyways, add a little avocado and Greek yogurt and viola!

While Sunday was the day where we turned our clocks forward, I decided to let myself sleep in.  That usually means 6:30 or 7 since my body naturally likes to wake up early.  Nope.  Yesterday I slept until 9am, which with the time change meant I had slept for a full 10 hours!!!  Obviously my body was trying to tell me to slow down between the terrible workouts, body aches and two nights of epic sleep.

After lounging in bed watching the Today Show, I cleaned up the apartment and walked out into the bitter cold (real feel of 11 thank you very much) to meet a couple of friends for brunch.  My goal is to be better about making meals during the week and then keep exploring food spots on the weekend.  This way I don’t feel nearly as bad when we go ham ordering a few extra items.

^^ Ruby’s Cafe is 1) a place where of course it’s mega-popular 2) is run by a crew of Aussies (they seriously know what’s up for brunch) and 3) can be excellent for brunch OR lunch/dinner.  The Murray Hill location had actually been recommended to me by a few of my friends but when their Instagram “liked” my Saturday brunch photo, it was almost serendipitous – we had to go there.

After hemming and hawing over the menu (like I said, they have it all) we agreed to order brunch items and promise to come back for the classic burger and sandwich options.  It was only right and after polishing off our orders of BLTA+egg, Breakfast Bowl, and Green Breakfast Bowl (+ a treat of coffee granola w/ poached pears and greek yogurt), we knew that we had ordered right.

After brunch I decided to check another item off of my bucket list, which was the New York Transit Museum.  I don’t entirely know why I was so driven to see it over the last couple of years but the MTA does an excellent job of advertising for it within the current subways and so, over the Brooklyn Bridge I went to check it out.  The museum itself is housed in an old subway station so for starters, that’s pretty awesome.  Then, for general admission of $10, you get access to the story boards and gidgets and gadgets that helped our public transportation evolve over the last 100+ years.  They even housed every version of subway car on the old tracks so that you could actually see and touch the trains of the past.  I only spent about 45 minutes in there but it was like taking a step back in time.

Then it was back into the cold to walk/ride into Manhattan, where I got distracted by a craft store going out of business, and then took a vinyasa flow class (aka glorified stretching by I love it).   It may not have been the weekend I imagined but I have to constantly remind myself that I’m on my own journey – whether it’s for running or work or just life itself and that’s okay.

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Now it’s time to conquer the work week, continue to make plans for the rest of the year including a few trips around the country and of course my Paris trip, which is right around the corner.  Until then, enjoy this extra sunlight in the evening and if you are in these neck of the woods, good lucky and stay safe with this crazy nor’easter!

“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Life of Late ~ 2.3.17

Looks like I’ve been doing an excellent job at keeping my blog updated. Not.  Maybe it’s a blogger burnout or a sugar crash that I’m experiencing right now maybe it’s too much screen time.  Really though, who wants to go home after sitting in front of a computer and under florescent lights for 8+ hours, and then stare at another screen?   Ok, to be honest, I actually go home and immediately have my nose in my phone while watching TV.  (This generation is certainly going to have eye/back/neck problems and carpal tunnel. )

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