What I Read in 2019

I love a good book recommendation. Most of what I read comes recommended from someone I know. And I want to share what I have read this year in case you want some recommendations too!

I have always loved to read. My Mom got me involved with the local library at a young age and having time to read has always been important to me. As my responsibilities grew, my time to read for fun often became hard to find. Some years were better than others, but in 2017 and 2018 I felt like I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted.

So for 2019 I set a a goal of 15 books for the year. I thought it was ambitious, but as soon as I set the goal, I prioritized reading time and I quickly hit it. By August I had doubled my goal to read 30 books for the year. This means I have to read roughly one book a week for the remainder of 2019, but that is doable. I am so grateful I have more time to read right now and I have been seeking out cute bookstores and cafes to read in all over AUS.

I’m sharing the list of books I have read with a star rating and a quick few sentence review. I could go on and on, but that would make for a super long blog post. If you want to chat more about any of the books – please message me!

I read a lot of nonfiction and young adult fiction, but honestly I will read anything that gets a good rec.

And one quick caveat: I RARELY give a book 5 stars. 4 stars is really good for me. I save the 5s for truly incredible books.

Okay, so here we go. In the order I read them in below from January on. I’ll keep adding as the year continues.

  1. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade (4 stars). Cleo Wade is my favorite. I had seen a lot of her poems, but at the beginning of the year I ordered her book and sat down to read it cover to cover. She has such a way with words.
  2. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (3 stars). I wanted to read this book before watching the Netflix film. I always want to read the book before the movie. It was a quick read with a heart warming story, but just okay.
  3. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (4 stars). This was a really unique perspective on running. I have read a lot of running books and they often say a lot of the same things, but this one felt different – in a good way.
  4. Becoming by Michelle Obama (4 stars). Oh Michelle. I love her and loved this book. It was so interesting to read her life history, especially the early years. Highly recommend.
  5. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero (4 stars). I like self-helpy books. This one was pretty motivating, even though I do think it gets a little over hyped.
  6. 26 Marathons: What I’ve Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life From Each Marathon I’ve Run by Meb Keflezighi (4 stars). Meb! The sweetest, most genuine guy. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him twice and will never forget it. His publisher actually gifted me this new book before it came out and it did not disappoint. I love his attitude and his storytelling. And I enjoyed this book more than his first!
  7. So Here’s the Thing…: Notes on Growing Up, Getting Older, and Trusting Your Gut by Alyssa Mastromonaco (3 stars). I wanted to like this, but it felt pretty repetitive and random. I like her, but this seemed hastily put together.
  8. Not Afraid of the Fall by Kyle James (2 stars). I loved the idea of this book. Quit your jobs, travel the world, do cool things. But basically everywhere they went…they ate and drank. Cool. I found it repetitive and dull. The idea was still cool though.
  9. Run Strong Stay Hungry by Jonathan Beverly (3 stars). A running motivational book that had some good lessons in it. Nothing truly ground breaking to me, but it was still worth the read.
  10. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco (4 stars). This was Alyssa’s first book and it was WAY better than the second. I probably should have read this one first. But either way, I loved learning more about Obama and the administration and Alyssa’s role in it. Definitely recommend.
  11. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (4 stars) Laurie always enthralls me. Difficult subject matter, but such an important read. Worth picking up if you have never heard of her (or even if you have).
  12. The Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life by Brad Stulberg (3 stars). I love following Brad on Twitter and wanted to love this book. It does offer some good advice, but I guess my expectations were a little too high. And I felt like I disagreed with a few things I read. Maybe it was the mood I was in or the job I was in, but I didn’t completely love it.
  13. Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France by Craig Carlson (3 stars). This true story is so fun. I love Paris and I love American breakfast food, so I am thankful for Craig. A really neat story of him bringing his dream to Paris and the hard times he faces before making it.
  14. I Am Her Tribe by Danielle Doby (4 stars). Danielle’s poetry is moving. I bought her book because I knew it would be one I flipped through regularly. I keep finding myself back in the pages.
  15. That Summer by Sarah Dessen (3 stars). I love Sarah Dessen. I read all her books as a teenager and now decided I want to reread them. I started with That Summer. It was never my favorite of hers, but still fun to relive.
  16. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (3 stars). This book was ALL OVER my social media for months. It seemed like everyone was raving about it, so I read it. Honestly, did not think it was all it was cracked up to be. Sure it kept me interested and I read it quickly. It was an interesting story, but I felt like the ending was a little abrupt and I walked away not feeling like it was as amazing as I thought it would be.
  17. Beyond the Pill by Jolene Brighten (3 stars). This book was recommended to me by a few people and I found it helpful to read before starting my transition off birth control. Take it for what it is, it does push a lot of supplements, but I think a lot of the information is useful.
  18. The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (3 stars). The newest in the Sarah Dessen collection. This one did not keep me as interested as she usually does. It wasn’t bad, but it was set in a summer lake town and I think I was just too overwhelmed with my own life at the time to put myself there. Will always read anything she writes though!
  19. Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World by Cleo Wade (5 stars). Wow is just about all I can say for this one. Cleo did it again and in a bigger way. I actually had tears in my eyes when reading many of these poems.
  20. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (3 stars). I randomly picked this up at the library. It’s a collection of short stories, all from different time periods. It was good, and thought provoking, but I felt some stories were kind of hard to follow.
  21. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (4 stars). I couldn’t put this one down. You follow three women during the Holocaust with alternating chapters in their voices. It was tough to read some of it, as these type of books always are for me, but it was captivating. I cried at the end.
  22. The 12-Step Mind-Body-Food Reset by Jessica Sepel (4 stars). I have followed Jessica on Instagram for years and just recently bought this book. It includes a lot of great recipes that I know I will go back to, but it is so much more than a cookbook. I really enjoy her approach to eating and living your life. Can’t wait to hear her speak at the Sydney Almost 30 event in a couple of weeks.
  23. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan (3 stars). The general idea here is to eat mostly plants. I knew this. I was hoping I’d gain a little more insight as to why. And I guess I did, but it felt very negative. I know there are a lot of conflicting opinions when it comes to food and the food industry, but this book kind of made me feel worse rather than better.
  24. Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels (4 stars). Jack Daniels is the best. Smart training goes a long way. I have learned a lot of what he teaches through coaching and my last two years of running, but it was really interesting to learn even more about him and his philosophy.
  25. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (5 stars). Up there for best book I have read this year. This poetic, unique storytelling was captivating. This book is over 500 pages, but I read it in two days. I simply couldn’t put it down. If you enjoy historical fiction and great stories, I highly recommend it.
  26. The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory by Corey White (4 stars). Woah. I picked this book up randomly at the library over her in Australia. It’s a memoir that talks a lot about the foster care system in this country. It was pretty gut wrenching, but really interesting.
  27. The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates (4 stars). I loved this book. Hard to read some chapters, but they were all important. The things women go through in this world…it breaks my heart. But this book left me feeling inspired and hopeful of change.
  28. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. (5 stars). I could not put this book now. It might have been my favorite book of the year (even though it didn’t come out in 2019). This story is an honest look at race in America. I loved the main character and shed many tears for her and the people in her life. It’s a really really important read.
  29. I Was Here by Gayle Forman. (3 stars). I have read a few Gayle Forman books. I’m a big young adult fan and I like how these are quick reads.  This one was heavy, dealing with suicide and life after losing someone you love. Wasn’t my favorite of hers, but still liked the characters and the way she dealt with a serious topic.
  30. The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr. (4 stars). A collection of short stories! Picked this up since I loved All The Light We Cannot See so much. This collection was very random. I never would have guessed the topics they covered, but each story was more interesting than the next. Definitely recommend!

Hope you enjoy. Happy reading!

A Chicago Bucket List

So, I have lived in the city of Chicago for almost 4 years. I have done a lot. But one of the great things about this city is that there are always new adventures to be had, new restaurants to try and new people to meet.

I also have so many favorite spots that I feel require a “last stop” before I leave (even though it isn’t forever).

I wanted to write a short bucket list to try and accomplish in September. I wrote it, but I haven’t crossed too many things off yet. With working so much and having to finish some wedding planning and move out of my apartment, it has been tough to find extra time.

I have 9 days left living in Chicago. Then, I move back to the suburbs for 22 more days. And that’s it. My anxiety has been waking me up at 3 a.m. every night this week like “hey girl just checking in to make sure you’re aware of all you have to do and that you move across the world in a month!!” Sleep hasn’t been great. But I’m kind of just accepting it for what it is right now.

All that said, I’m still determined to get more of this bucket list done before I leave in October. And I wanted to share what I’ve done and what I have left.

So, here’s what I had:

  • The Allis Chicago for brunch or lunch
  • Forbidden Root √
  • Au Cheval
  • Outdoor Voices store stop
  • Peckish Pig
  • Run the 606√
  • Run south to the Shedd
  • Run to coffee truck & walk home
  • Spacca Napoli Pizzeria
  • A last zoo lot 800 meter workout
  • Aba√
  • Swallow Cliff stair workout
  • Riot Fest √
  • Philz for coffee √
  • Sox Game
  • Hopewell Brewing
  • Colectivo Coffee √
  • A last Fleet Feet stop for new shoes
  • Get a Chicago necklace from a local spot √
  • Run to Revolution Brewing √
  • Evanston sleepover
  • Lone Wolf √
  • Green Mill Jazz Bar
  • Furious Spoon for a last ramen
  • Final Cubs Game √
  • Class at new lululemon space
  • Tanuki
  • Lincoln Park Nature Walk
  • Pollyanna in Lemont
  • FARE for a work day lunch
  • Gilt Bar for a final hurrah

This list could have been pages and pages long. But this is a good mix of new, some favorites, some eating, some drinking, some exercising. I’m not giving up on it yet. Hoping to get it all in by October 22nd!

It’s getting real.


Race Recap: Stewart Tunnel 50K

I became an ultra marathoner on August 4th, 2019. It has only been seven days since then, but race day still feels like a dream. It’s hard for me to put this ultra experience into words.

But I’ll try.

Let’s start with the decision to run this race. It might have seemed last minute (it was) or a little crazy (it was) to sign up for your first ultra with less than six weeks to train. I knew my friend Lex had been signed up for her 50 Miler this day for months and months. It was always in the back of my head that I would join her. I knew attempting to run 50 miles without truly training was silly, but I talked with my coach and we decided that a 50K really wasn’t that crazy for me. I had run two successful spring marathons, taken a pretty big break, and could ease back up to be able to cover the distance in the amount of time I had. My training was ALL RUN/WALKING. I did not do any speed workouts. All of my runs were at an easy pace and had some form of walk breaks throughout. My plan for race day was to run/walk, so that is all I was doing in training. And to be honest, I really enjoyed it. Summer running is not my favorite and having walk breaks always made me a little more excited to get out the door.

My first long run of this little training cycle was 10 miles. The last one was 18 miles. And that was that. I covered a decent amount of mileage each week and I felt fully capable of covering 31.50 miles on August 4th.

This 50K was part of the Badger Trail Series in Belleville, Wisconsin. They offered a weekend with a 100 Miler, 100K, 50 Miler, 50K, marathon and half marathon. Every race covered an out and back course on trail through the Stewart Tunnel. Our races started on Sunday, so we drove up Saturday afternoon.

I was in an Airbnb in Madison with six super supportive friends. My pre-race meal was a $3 grilled cheese from a bar and a Spotted Cow. I told you guys I wasn’t worried… I was trying to be my calmest pre-race self. Sure, I was a little nervous. But I knew at that point I had to remain confident. I was toeing the start line that next morning no matter what.

I probably didn’t fall asleep until almost midnight. Alarm went off at 4:55 a.m. Not ideal sleep, but it was what it was. Jen got up with me and drove us the 30 minutes to Belleville to meet Lex and watch her start. The sun was just coming up, that beautiful pink and orange sunrise sky. We gave her some quick hugs and watched her take off at 6 a.m. to run her first 50 Miler.

Somehow the next hour passed WAY TOO QUICKLY. We chatted with Lexi’s family a bit, and by 6:18 a.m. I was like wait I need to eat. Ran back to Jen’s car to eat my almond butter banana toast and get my race clothes on. It was 6:40 by the time we were walking back over to the start line and the pre-race instruction started. I had to go to the bathroom super quickly. Jen was rubbing sunscreen on me as I strapped into my water vest and tried to listen to the details. The gist was, “If you get confused, do what a train would do.” It made me laugh. These people were really fun.

7:00 a.m. hit and suddenly I was running my first ultra marathon.

There were just under 100 people starting with me. I was around a decent clump of people for about 5 miles, then people started to spread out. I was following my run/walk plan from the start. I ran for 14 minutes, walked for 1 minute, repeat. It was already a hot and humid day and I knew I had to keep this in control.

So, remember how my race is called the Stewart Tunnel 50K. Well, yes it goes through a tunnel. We were warned to wear a headlamp because the tunnel was dark. I figured I would be fine with my phone flashlight. WRONG. Just over four miles into the race is when you hit the tunnel for the first time. The second you are in you are overtaken with complete darkness. It’s wild. A man in front of me shouted out pretty soon after we entered. Turns out there was a giant puddle down the center. Luckily, I heard him, stopped, and took to the concrete edge. Managed to keep my shoes dry (thanks Adam – I later learned his name). The darkness goes on for about a half a mile. My phone was honestly just not enough light. And I planned to listen to music on the second half, so I was afraid it would die before I got back to the tunnel on my way to the finish line.

Naturally, I took out my phone and called my Mom. They were on their way down and I had plans to meet them at mile 22. “Hey Mom, yes I’m running an ultra marathon right now, but can you please bring me a flashlight?” I felt ridiculous, but it was a necessary phone call.

I took my first Huma gel one hour in. It actually tasted good, which was a good sign. And I was hydrating as I went.

The best part about this being an out and back course was that you saw all the 100 milers on their way in. How cool right?? I was inspired just by seeing them out there. And the amazing thing about trail runners is that every single person was saying ‘great job’ ‘you look strong’. Everyone was so nice.

I was next to the guy I went through the tunnel with for awhile. Turns out, he follows me on Instagram and said to me that he had told his wife that morning he thought we might end up running near each other. Small world. It was nice to have a little company. It was his first 50K too.

I saw my cheer squad at mile 9. They looked happy and excited (early in the day) and I just loved that they were there, but I didn’t stop.

I knew I had to keep moving. It was already getting so hot. 85 degrees by 9 a.m. Thankfully a decent part of the trail was shaded. But it made you feel the parts that weren’t so much more.

I felt pretty much on my own by mile 13. You had the occasional person come at you from the other direction, but I had no one around me on my side of the trail. I then spent a good while thinking about how I wish Lex and I had walkie talkies so I knew where she was and how she was feeling. It still felt cool to know we were both out there together.

It felt a little strange to hit 15 miles and not have turned around yet, but I was feeling better than I had expected. I had the 50K turn around in my sights for what felt like a long time. And it was funny that there wasn’t a soul there to see me turn around. But on my way back in within another mile or so, I saw Adam on his way out. He yelled, “How you feeling?” And I said “well I am half way so I feel really good.” And he goes, “F*ck yeah.” Made me laugh. My thoughts exactly.

I decided to wait until after mile 17 to put headphones on. Truthfully, I had been enjoying the silence. There was something peaceful about being in the woods alone. Once I hit 17, I gave myself the ‘treat’ of the music. My playlist was probably the most random thing it could have been. I’d listen to a Motion City Soundtrack song, followed by a RENT soundtrack song, followed by Lizzo. I have a weird taste, I know. But it was a nice distraction.

At this point, I was just looking forward to seeing my people at mile 22. I kept trying to ignore how hot it was and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I got to 22, saw my Mom & Dad and decided to take a break. I got my flashlight (thanks!!), drank some Gatorade, and let the aid crew refill my pack. I had gone through over a liter and half of water at this point…yikes. I really had no idea. But that gave me a good indication of how hot it was. I stood around for probably 3 minutes. It felt short and long at the same time. I had been paying attention on the way out though and counted how many women took the turn around in front of me. I thought it had only been 2. So, I said to my Dad “I think I’m third female.” And he goes, “then what are you doing wasting time?” That’s my Dad for you. Made me laugh and it was time to get running again.

I knew the last 9.5 miles were going to be all alone. It was a weird feeling, but I was ready for it. I was just sticking to the plan. 14 minute run, 1 minute walk. And again. My run pace was between 8:10 & 8:40. And that was consistent the whole race. I was just looking forward to the walk minutes every time.

The last aid station was just over 6 miles from the finish line. I stopped to drink one small cup of water and use the bathroom. Probably just a 2 and a half minute stop. This was now the home stretch. I won’t say I wasn’t hurting, because I was. My left knee was throbbing (it had been giving me some trouble) and my arms felt tired. But there was something really motivating when I looked down at my Garmin and saw I had gone 26.50 miles already. Take that marathon — and I was still going.

I do need to say again that this heat was no joke. I took my fourth gel at mile 26 ish and it pretty much came back up instantly. Not so fun, but oh well.

It was time for that tunnel again. I paused my music. Thankful the flashlight, I turned it on and entered confidently. It was at least cooler in the tunnel. And I had never run in this kind of darkness before. It really was such a wild experience. The stillness of it kind of made me feel like I was pausing time.

I reached the end of the darkness, put my flashlight away, turned my music up, and knew I had less than 4 miles to go.

At this point, I extended my walk minute to a walk two minutes. That one minute was just going by way too quickly. I knew I only had three more ‘breaks’ left, so I chose to make them a little longer. My run pace had still stayed about the same, but having a little extra walking time was making me happy, so I took it. There was no pressure on this day. It was not about speed, it was not about beating a PR, it was just about finishing. It was a distance PR day.

With less than one mile to go, I picked it up. You know I love a good fast finish. I was truly surprised by the little burst of energy I felt. “Fighter” came on at this point and the tears came too. I had been having a hard month, and been trying to deal with my loneliness in a healthy way. For me, that means a lot of miles and leaning on my people. And I knew they were going to be at that finish line. I was so stinking proud of myself that I couldn’t help but cry.

The last little bit of the race includes a stone staircase (that felt like a mountain), and then a home stretch into the grass to run under the finish line. I gave it every last bit I had to cruise through looking strong.

I felt strong. I had just become an ultra marathoner. And I had to walk for a minute to keep sobbing to myself.

I gave all the hugs. Mistakenly got a first place marathon medal. And then figured out I actually was third female for the 50K. And I finished top five overall. Pretty dang cool. 4:48:17. 9:07 pace. Farthest distance ever.

This day was a true test of my mental toughness. Sure, it took some physical toughness too. But I will always say I think running is more mental than physical. How you talk to yourself matters. You can’t get to mile 27 of an ultra and give up on yourself. Today gave me the chance to lift myself up. I knew I could do it. And that’s what I told myself all race. I had an incredible support system out there, but it still was me vs. me for most of the hours. And I was really really proud of how I responded. I do things like this because I like to remind myself that I can do hard things. No part of this was easy, but every single minute was rewarding.

And I could not have asked for a better crew. Having them all there meant the world to me. I’m lucky so many people support my crazy. And we really had fun as we waited for Lex to finish her 50 miles. Seeing her cross that finish line was as emotional for me as finishing my own. It was just the best day.

The vibe was so different than a road race or a major marathon. It’s still hard to explain. But there was a new energy that was kind of contagious. I knew as soon as I crossed the finish line that it would not be my last ultra.

You all know I love the marathon. I do. And it’s not going anywhere. But this ultra bug has my attention. New challenges are always fun, after all.



Why You Should Say Yes

This post has been sitting as a draft in the form of notes on my phone for about a month. I feel like I haven’t sat down to take a breath in awhile. I haven’t blogged much. And I haven’t really shared my training as much I used to. But something I keep thinking about is how saying a simple ‘yes’ can change your life.

I have made new year goals to get better at saying ‘no’ in the past. And honestly this is something I still need to work on. While I have gotten better at saying no to things I know I don’t need to do, I have also learned over the course of this year how important it is to say yes, even when it scares you.

I have said ‘yes’ to two very big questions in the last few months.

“Will you marry me?”


“Will you move to Australia with me?”

I knew that first question would be asked at some point, but the second one? Yikes. This was new.

The first question was an easy yes. Kyle’s the best person I know and I have no doubt we will have a happy life together. The second question made me stumble.

He asked me to go on a run at 9 p.m. at night a few months ago (how I should have known something was up) and said, “Dale it’s real, they want me to go to Sydney.” And I instantly started crying. I know how great of an opportunity this is for him and for me too truly, but that doesn’t mean I’m not terrified. I have never lived outside of the United States. I have never even been to Australia. But I knew that if there was ever a time to take this adventure, it’s now. And there’s no one else I’d rather do this with. I calmed down night of and asked to think about it. And I was told I had about 24 hours to make a decision. Talk about pressure. It’s like “Hey do you want to totally uproot your life, quit a job you love, and move across the world? Great let us know tomorrow.”

I was emotional to say the least. But in the end it wasn’t really a question. I wanted Kyle to go. And I wanted to go with him. So, I said yes. I said yes to him the next day after work and cried again, but it also felt like the butterflies in the stomach first day of the rest of your life kind of thing.

I stand by the ‘yes’ but I also realized I couldn’t up and leave my job in June. I care about what I do and my relationships and I never want to be seen as a person who bails on things. So, what did this mean? I decided the most logical thing for me to do was work through the summer/busy season up through the Chicago Marathon. Kyle is always supportive of me, so even though this logical decision meant four and a half months of long distance, he said it was a good idea. So that was the plan.

He moved on June 21st. I haven’t cried as much as I did that day in a very long time. It made me realize how truly happy I have been the past year, but also scared me for having to take on the looming months alone. Kyle makes everything fun. Like, everything. Washing the dishes, doing laundry, dealing with screaming neighbors, etc. I’m not exaggerating when I say we have fun every day. We have lived together for over three years and now all of the sudden we don’t. We used to see each other every night. Now we don’t. The time change is tough (15 hours!). So I usually leave work as he wakes up (a day ahead). And say goodnight as he goes to get lunch. It’s weird. And it has been difficult to actually find quality time. But we’re making it work. Because we have to. I won’t tell you long distance is easy or fun. But I know it will be worth it.

I still stand by the yes. We’re 6 weeks down now, 11 weeks to go. I’m lucky to still be home with all my amazing people. I’d probably be lost without them, but I’m also learning how tough I am. I still have my worries of being so far from my friends and family once I move. I see them all so often now that it scares me to think of how long I’ll have to go without. But I know all my real relationships will last. And I’m soaking up the time now. I’ll make it work.

Another reason I’m glad I said yes to this distance challenge: I’m spending more time alone and learning more about myself. It is kind of cool. I don’t mind a lot of solo time.

But ultimately I’m putting up with the distance because it means yes to an incredible adventure. And I know the adventure will be worth it. I truly never thought I would be saying “yes I’m moving to Australia in October.” But it’s the truth.

I said yes to possibility. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know what I’ll do to make money. I don’t know what life will look like. And for the planner in me, this is so hard. We’re in that transition time right now and I feel like I don’t have any control. But I am still excited about the yes.

So even with the unknown and the fear I am glad I took the leap. And I want to tell you that you should too. If there’s something you have been afraid to try, why wait? If you’re avoiding doing something because it’s scary, try to say yes to the potential instead. I know how unnerving it can be to say yes to something uncomfortable. But I also know it can be great.

I can’t talk about the outcome yet, but I’ve had time to sit with this big ‘yes’ for a bit and I feel good about it (even on the days I don’t).

So, I’m encouraging you to say your ‘yes’ too. And if you want someone to vent to about it – send me a message.

I’m ready for the adventure, wherever it takes me. I’m glad I said yes.

Winter Running Fixes

It’s no secret that training through a Chicago winter is tough. But if I’m being honest, winter is my favorite season to train in. I just think you have to be prepared.

1. Have people to meet.

I am way more likely to get up early on a cold Saturday morning if I’m going to meet friends. It’s so easy to cancel on yourself. You can just roll over, hit snooze, and say you’ll run later. In the summer I always want to go early to beat the heat, but that isn’t an issue in the winter. So, having a group or a few friends to meet is way more motivating.

2. Be flexible

If ice is bad on Saturday, run on Sunday. If you know a snowstorm will hit at the weekend, maybe run longer during the week. Weather is unpredictable during Chicago winters, but I try my best to plan my schedule so I can run safely and outdoors. I am not a treadmill person, so I’ll do whatever it takes to be outside. Most of the time, this requires me to be flexible.

3. Have the right gear.

I’ll expand more on this later, but having warm gear makes a huge difference for winter running. I swear by a wool base layer, fleece tights, wool socks, and proper shoes. You’ll want to keep your feet as comfortable as possible. When my feet are cold, my whole body is cold.

I’ve been running in the new Mizuno WAVEKNIT R2s recently and can attest that they fit wool socks nicely and do a good job of keeping my feet warm. Since they’re so light to start, they don’t feel as weighed down by snow or rain. Finding the right shoes is crucial for being a happy runner anytime of year.

4. Make your goals prominent.

I try to put motivation on my refrigerator so I see it every day. I write out my time goals, my goal race and put something up from the race itself. It motivates me to get outside when I see that in the morning before I go face the cold.

5. Sign up for a couple fun races.

I think a warm weather destination race is a great escape from winter. I usually go somewhere for a fun race in February for my birthday and I look forward to it through all my December/January training. I think I’m more motivated when I have a fun race in the future. Try it!

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

You remember that phrase “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you” ? I was getting ready for bed tonight and this popped into my head. I don’t agree with it. I think what you don’t know can hurt you.

And that’s coming from someone who struggles with anxiety. I can’t fall asleep most nights because I’m thinking of the 19184719 things that could happen the next day. Things I worry about, things that probably won’t happen. But it’s crazy to me how fast your situation can change – for better or worse.

I think there is a fine line between oversharing and sharing enough of the human side of yourself on Instagram. I try not to overshare. But I also think there’s something to be said for sharing real things that other people might be going through as a way to find authentic connection through a platform.

I’m not going to get into all the details of my personal health problems right now. The truth is, I still don’t have any answers yet. And I don’t really want to talk about the “what.” I want to talk about the “why.” Why fearing the unknown can feel as bad as having bad answers. Why not knowing what’s wrong can eat at me all day long, even when it shouldn’t.

I try to put things into perspective each day. I personally know so many people facing tough challenges. Life beats people up, good people who don’t deserve it. I feel other people’s feelings and I forever wish there was a button I could hit to take pain away from people I love. But there isn’t. And the more I think about it the more I think not knowing what the future holds is one of the scariest things.

I get the whole “just try not to worry about the future” idea. Relax. Be here. It sounds easy enough. But really, who can do that? I know I’m a worrier, but is there seriously anyone out there that never worries or has a negative thought or fear about the future? It’s hard for me to not think the worst. When I feel chest pain, I think heart problem. And then my anxiety makes it worse. I know this. But not having a concrete answer makes me crazy.

It’s not that I would want a whole life timeline, or to know exactly what would happen to me every day, but sometimes I wish answers were more clear.

This is rambl-y and doesn’t really have a point. Word vomit from a phone screen when I was too worked up to drift off to sleep. But sometimes I think words & feelings are worth sharing.

Basically, I think my point is, not knowing what’s next or not knowing what’s wrong can be exhausting. And if you’re just hanging in there, that’s okay.

I have to hang on to the idea that everything will be okay. For me, for you, for anyone who needs to hear it. Hang in there.

Miles in Mizuno WAVEKNIT R2s

Post marathon time for me means less mileage and time to reset. I take a look at what worked and what new things I want to try. Usually, trying new shoes is something I’m most excited about.

What I’m running in right now: the new Mizuno WAVEKNIT R2.

Mizunos are new to me. It’s my first time running in the brand, but I’m excited to share what I think of this pair.

Here’s what they look like:

Cute, right? I was really happy when I opened the box. I haven’t had a black pair of running shoes in a long time and I love how easily they match with everything. They’re knit, so they’re breathable. I slipped them on and noticed how comfortable they were immediately.

I’ve been walking in these guys a lot lately too, in addition to running. I wear running clothes a lot of the time, so I’m happy these shoes go well with my outfits and offer my feet the support they need. No shame in my walk to work running shoe game. I always told my Dad I’d never become that woman, but here I am. Comfort over everything most days. And then if I want to run home? I’m ready! I’ve been doing that more and more lately and I like being ready to go at any time.

So let’s talk motion. Mizuno is focusing on “Fit In Motion” with these. Meaning they know your foot changes shape when pounding the pavement and they want these shoes to be comfortable at all times. The shoes almost feel like socks because of how easily they slide on and how snug they are on my feet. There’s plenty of support, but they’re also light and responsive. When my feet swell a bit after some miles, the shoe responds. They don’t feel too tight or restrictive.

I like trying new things, but they don’t always work out. This new pair of shoes was a nice surprise. I’ve got a lot of miles to put in on these and I’m excited for where they’ll take me.

The Boston Dream

The Boston Dream: To Conquer the Original.

I decided I would one day run the Boston Marathon before I had ever run a marathon. I had run some half marathons and I knew I really enjoyed running, but the marathon was a distant dream for me. 26.2 miles? At a sub 8 minute pace? Crazy.

In August of 2014 I went to Boston for the first time as an anniversary trip and one morning I decided to lace up and run to the finish line. I stopped when I got there and kind of just stared at it. It’s weird to feel like paint on concrete is emotional, but I was overcome with emotion standing there. I stood for a few minutes, decided I was going to cross it for real one day, and jogged home. I bought a Boston Strong shirt and I wrote down in a notebook: “I am going to be a Boston Marathoner.”

I wrote it down, so I had to make it happen, right?

I ran my first full marathon in October of 2014. I didn’t train with a group, I didn’t do a lot of speed workouts, and I didn’t think a BQ would be attainable any time soon. When I said I would cross the Boston Marathon finish line some day, I meant it – but I didn’t say how long it would take. Who knew. I figured I might have to wait until I was in my 40s or 50s. I finished that first marathon with a 4:13:20. I was so proud. And I thought, I’m faster than that.

Fall of 2015: the trail marathon. I had what I would call my worst marathon in terms of how I felt. I was under fueling pretty consistently, I bonked, I cried, I in all honesty did not enjoy it. But I crossed the finish line in a 3:53:33. A 20 minute PR when I was feeling horrible. Part of me doubted that I could ever run faster than that, but the little Boston dream in my head made me want to try again.

Fall of 2016: I joined a running group. I started taking speed work and eating well seriously. I started eating to fuel my runs rather than eating for what I thought would make me look a certain way. I gave into my appetite. Because marathon training makes me HUNGRY. It should. And you should eat to fuel your goals. I still had a similar attitude throughout this training cycle as I had in the past. I didn’t know that I would have a stronger race, but I knew I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to smile. I needed a new marathon experience where I felt good. And that’s what Chicago 2016 was for me. I ran strong. I had energy left for the last 6 miles. Arielle ran up to me at mile 24 and said, “Dale are you going to Boston?” I screamed in her face (and had to apologize profusely later), but it was kind of an out of body experience. Her words stuck with me for those last few miles and I thought, this is it. Yes. I am getting my BQ. I kicked it into high gear. I tapped into that dreamer in me who knew I was capable. I had a negative split. I flew for the last few miles. And I crossed that finish line with a 3:33:53 (yes flipped those exact numbers for another 20 minute PR)! The best part? I felt amazing and I was smiling. I had my first Boston qualifying time (sub 3:35 for my age group).

Now, the timing with Chicago Marathon means you can’t apply for Boston until the following fall. I was proud of my time, but I knew it would be hard to wait a year to apply and risk not actually getting in. I toyed with this decision for a long time, but I knew I had earned my spot at Boston 2018. I wanted it. So, I didn’t want to risk not getting in with my 3:33 since Boston takes the fastest people first if they have too many applicants.

After a shorter training cycle in the summer of 2017 I decided to race a last chance to BQ in Grand Rapids in September – the weekend before applications for Boston 2018 opened. This marathon is a flat loop course designed specifically for people trying to BQ. I think it’s mentally more difficult than a major marathon, but at least you can kind of zone out and just go round and round. I had an incredible support system there that day that helped me get to that finish line. I hurt at the end. I kept frantically checking my watch thinking I had lost my goal time. But I had Steph next to me for the entire race and she said, “Dale if you look at your damn watch one more time I’m taking it and throwing it.” So I stopped looking. Sometimes you have to ignore your brain and all your control freak tendencies and just have a little faith. We turned the corner and saw Arielle and Jenny jumping up and down screaming at me to run faster. They hopped in with about a tenth of a mile to go and we all crossed that finish line together in 3:30:54. I can’t even say how grateful I was for them that day. I needed the extra support. And I knew I had it. I was going to Boston 2018.

Sure, I still had to wait to apply and get confirmation of acceptance. And those days waiting for that email were filled with anxiety and doubt. What if everyone was even faster that year? What if I didn’t do enough? But I had to wait. I had done all I could. Years and years of work for a dream I carried with me every day came down to an email.

I was sitting in a meeting with my phone in my lap, when I saw the notification. I discreetly opened it under the table and saw it: “Congratulations! This is to notify you that your entry into the 122nd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 16, 2018 has been accepted.”

I had chills.

I teared up immediately and had to remain calm hoping no one noticed. I waited until the meeting was over, went back to my desk and did a happy dance. It was the best email I have ever received. I was going.

With the pressure off, I was still planning to run the Chicago Marathon a few weeks later for fun. I had no time goal since I’d already locked in my spot. But the beautiful thing? Running without pressure is amazing. I stuck with Cait the whole time and crossed that finish line with a 3:28:30. Another 2+ minute PR and a BQ for 2019. It was unreal.

For me, this training cycle has been all about staying healthy. I know not putting pressure on myself works for me. It’s easier said than done, but that is what I have been focusing on this winter. After all this work I didn’t want to do anything stupid and hurt myself before I got to the start line. I have an incredible team behind me who have helped me stay healthy and become a stronger version of myself. I have so many people supporting me and rooting for me who have made this journey all the more worth it.

I get to run the Boston Marathon one week from today. I could type that over and over and it still won’t feel real. I’m having “pinch me” moments every day. I know I earned this spot. I worked so hard to earn it. It wasn’t luck and it wasn’t a fluke. I consistently worked hard and dedicated myself to this dream for the past three and a half years because I knew I was capable. You have to believe in yourself because if you don’t, who else will? It starts with you. In 2014, little inexperienced half marathoner me had no real reason to believe she would qualify for Boston, but it was a dream I wanted to work toward.

So I did.

And at this time next week I will be a Boston Marathoner and that is pretty freaking cool.

2017 Goals: What Happened

At the end of 2016, I set my goals for the new year. I do this every year, but for 2017 I wrote down one that I’d never written before and still didn’t know if I would really make it happen.

Bet you know what it was.

I wrote down 7 goals last year and I didn’t complete them all. I sort-of completed most, but I’m proud of what I did accomplish. Spoiler: the last one, the big one, the scary one – I get to cross it off.

Here’s what goals I set and what actually happened:

  • Run 1,400 miles
    • Almost completed.
    • I’ll be a little short on my yearly mileage goal. I’m at roughly 1,320 as of today and I won’t be running ~80 miles in the next 5 days – that’s okay. I wanted to run more miles than last year and I like even numbers so I picked 1400. I obviously wasn’t planning on getting injured and taking two months to recover without much running. Either way, I’ll still end up running more miles than 2016 so I’m considering it a win.
  • Eat more mindfully
    • Half completed?
    • There wasn’t an end goal in mind with this goal. It was about forming better eating habits and it’s something I’ll always be working on. I did better this year. I ate more vegetables. I meal prepped. I tried not to eat junk just because it was there (like Kyle eating chips next to me). I was nowhere near perfect and I still have a lot I can improve on, but I did take steps in the right direction.
  • Strength/cross train 2-3x a week 
    • Completed.
    • I was successful in adding in more cross training this year. I almost overdid it – some weeks I probably did. I’m working on finding the right balance, but I did cycle or practice yoga almost every single week this year and I know that was good for me. Practicing yoga more did wonders for me mentally and I want to continue to get to the mat at least once a week in 2018.
  • Add 3 new states to 50 state goal
    • Kind of complete.
    • So, I didn’t add 3 new states. I added 2 new states and a new country. I ran a half marathon in Sedona, AZ in February, a marathon in Nashville, TN in April, and a half marathon in Dublin, Ireland in August. I had no idea I’d complete my first international race in 2017, but I’m so glad I did. It sparked a bug to travel and race even more. I have a lot more states to go, but I’ll aim for 2-3 new ones a year as well as an international race each year. That’s the dream.
  • Stretch and plank every day
    • Did not complete.
    • Every day was an aggressive goal. I was definitely BETTER about stretching and planking this year than I was the year before, but I can still be better. This is another one of those goals that is more about making habits and continuing to improve on them. I was better, but I can always use more stretching and core work in my life. Life gets busy and I sometimes have to hop right in the shower after squeezing in my run and I neglect the stretching – but I’m trying.
  • Take my vitamins
    • Did not complete, but I’m set up for 2018 – that’s progress.
    • So I wrote this down in 2016 without any idea what vitamins I should really be taking. I had a few I thought I should take, but I’ll admit I was great about it in January and then totally let this one fall away. But I wanted to get serious about my nutrition before Boston training, so I saw a nutritionist in October, got tests done, found out what I truly need, and have now been taking 13 pills/supplements a day for four days. I’m set up for a successful, healthier 2018 and I’m determined to stick with this routine and be the strongest version of myself.
  • Run sub 3:32 marathon
    • Crushed it.
    • This goal scared me. I kind of felt like I would never run faster than a 3:33 marathon, but I wanted to try. After running a 3:28:30 at the Chicago Marathon this year I realized I’m capable of a little more than I think. It feels good to have another PR from a summer of hard work. What should I write down for 2018? I’m still thinking. But big goals have to be chased and I’m ready to put in more work. I don’t think I have hit my peak yet.
  • Register for the Boston Marathon 
    • Complete.
    • Yes. Yes yes yes yes. I wrote this down not really thinking my 3:33 would be enough to get me in for 2018. I didn’t know if I would have a faster time in me before mid-September, but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I’d find a way to make this dream happen. If I hadn’t run a last chance to BQ race in early September, I would have had to wait to register for Boston until 2019. I still would have been super proud of this year, but getting to lock in my spot for 2018 was one of the absolute best feelings. Registering for that September race without a full training cycle took guts. I was super anxious and I almost regretted signing up. But I had the best girls with me to support me along the way. I couldn’t have done it without them. One goal I didn’t write down for the year was to “make new friends” or “find supportive women who push me to be better” but this was a bonus. I truly found an amazing support system that I can’t imagine my life without. I’m lucky. They got me to Boston.

A lot happened this year and I wouldn’t exactly call it an amazing year, but in terms of my running it was definitely a success. I didn’t fully complete every goal I set, but I made progress. I learned a lot. I am more in tune with my body, the care I need, and the toughness I can handle. I wouldn’t even take back my injury from this spring because it taught me so much. I would not have come back with my PR in the fall if I didn’t learn from the mistakes I was making. Experiences make us who we are and there is always something to learn. I wouldn’t change any of it really.

I’m ready to work harder, learn more, and push new limits in the new year.

Now I just need to put my 2018 goals to paper.

Keep in mind that if your goals don’t scare you – they aren’t big enough. Sometimes you might just surprise yourself.

Dear Future Marathoner Me

So, why did you sign up to run 26.2 miles? 

I’ll bet you’re scared thinking about having to run just 14 miles. Or 17. Or 20. You’ve never run more than 13.1, so why do you think you can do this?

You know you like a challenge. You know you can accomplish a goal if you put in the work. You know you love that half marathon finish line feeling, so the marathon has to be even better. You know that it won’t be easy and not everyone can do it, but good things come from hard things. 

I know you’re going to have a few freak outs. You’re going to question why you signed up. You’re going to regret staying in on some Friday nights as a 21 year old. You’re going to doubt you’ll ever be able to run for 4 hours. But guess what? It’s worth it. And here’s some advice to help you get there. 

Take it one day at a time 

THIS is probably the most valuable thing I learned. If you start looking at your September mileage and your 40+ mile week in week one, you’re going to feel a little intimidated. Just look at the week you’re in. You can look ahead to your upcoming long run, but don’t start thinking ahead to the 20 miler. Run the miles you should today. And do the same tomorrow. Take it one day at a time. 

Don’t be scared 

You’re allowed to feel a little nervous. This is new. This is a challenge. But do not be fearful. What are you really scared of? Scared you’ll run farther than ever before? Scared you’ll like it? Or scared you won’t? Fear can be hindering and I promise there’s really nothing to be afraid of. 

Celebrate every new distance personal best 

I want you to be proud of every single long run. Be proud of each new “farthest run” your Garmin chimes in to show you. Getting to that marathon start line isn’t about one huge run or one great week of training. It’s about a collection of efforts day in and day out for months at a time. That takes dedication. And you deserve to celebrate every hour of hard work you put in. Treat yourself to that post-run latte. Go buy a new running outfit when you reach over 13 miles. Celebrate yourself. 

Get enough sleep

If you want to have the energy to run for hours you’re going to need to be well rested. I get it – you’re 21 and feel like you can sleep when you’re dead, but sleep is more important than you think. Sleep helps your muscles recover. You need it. Some days will be harder than others, but try to prioritize sleep as much as you do the actual runs – it’s all part of training. 

Set an attainable goal

You don’t know how you will feel at mile 20. You don’t know if you’ll hit the wall.  And you’ve never run a marathon before so why set a time goal? I strongly believe that the only goal for a first marathon should be to finish feeling good. I get that you could estimate a finishing time based on your half marathon time, but this is a very different distance. Finishing should be the goal. There shouldn’t be any disappointment in your finishing time. We can talk time goals after you’re on your second full training cycle. 

Find your jams

You’re going to have some quiet solo runs, so you’ll want something motivating playing in your ears. For long runs, check out Rich Roll’s podcast. Time will fly by listening to inspiring stories. For speed workouts? Find your pump up songs. And anything you find that gives you the feels. The “I want this playing as I cross the finish line” thing? Start adding those songs to your race playlist. I know you won’t forget Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine, Stronger by Kelly Clarkson, or Schoolin’ Life by Beyoncé. 

Eat enough

This one is tough, but try. Don’t think about calories in/calories out. If you burn 1500+ calories in a run, you need to refuel your body. And not with junk. Don’t get home, eat some pretzels and think that’s enough. Don’t skip a meal just because you know you’ll be drinking that night. Your body is working hard to achieve a goal for you, so help it out. Treat it well. Fuel up with substantial meals – that includes the night before your long run. Put some effort into your meal. If you feel lightheaded while running, think about why. You can’t expect to run for hours on an empty stomach. Have some toast before you head out. Bring your Clif Bloks to eat every 30 minutes throughout your run. You might not think you need them, but you do. And you’ll need to get your stomach used to them. It’s okay to not have this all down your first time around, but you love what your body can accomplish, so treat it with respect. And here’s a spoiler: by marathon three you’ll have no shame in your post-run breakfast game. 

Don’t skip your cross training 

I know you love to run and that’s all you make time for, but trust me on this: you need to cross train. Bike occasionally. Try yoga. Do your hip exercises. Lift some weights. Skimping on this area will catch up to you. So, be smart. You’ll help prevent injuries if you dedicate some time to some other exercises besides running. 

Focus on hydration 

This sounds a little silly, but you should practice your water intake. With half marathon training you haven’t needed that much water – an occasional stop at a water fountain wasn’t a big deal. But with marathon training, you’ll want to carry water on you. Get a water belt. Drink before you’re thirsty. Get your body used to taking in fluids while you’re moving. This is a crucial part of a marathon. And if you really want to look like a pro? Get some paper cups and practice drinking out of them while doing a slow jog (maybe somewhere without a lot of visibility since people will probably judge you). Drinking out of a cup while moving really does take some practice. Bend it and take small sips. Yes, some will end up on you, but that isn’t the worst thing. One little practice session and I’ll bet people won’t peg you for a first timer. 

Find your support system 

Guess what? When you tell people you’re training for a marathon, they might think you’re a little crazy. You’ll get a lot of responses like “Oh wow I can’t even run one mile” or “Be careful you don’t want to destroy your knees.” Everyone has their own opinion and that’s okay, but you’ll want to surround yourself with people who support you, even if they don’t get it. You’ll want your friends to be willing to stay in with you some Friday nights or for your boyfriend to show up at 5 AM to watch your race. You’ll feel more motivated if you have supportive people to vent to. Positive, supportive people matter more than you know. You won’t be the runner you are without their support. And don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and join a team later on. Supportive people who understand your crazy love of running are the best kind of friends (and you’re going to find some absolutely amazing ones). 

Dedicate each mile to a person

When it comes to race day you’ll appreciate having some distractions. Take in the crowd. Feel grateful for every step you’re taking. And think about what it took to get you there. The week before the marathon I want you to think about everyone that played a part in your journey. Take out a piece of paper and label it 1-26. Write down the name of a person that helped you get to where you are for each number. Memorize it. And while you’re running that specific mile: dedicate it to them. Thank them. Think of them. It will help the race fly by. How cool is it that you have that many supportive people in your life? You’re lucky. And that last 0.2? That’s for you. 

Trust your training 

Through all of this I want you to have faith in yourself. Trust your body. Trust your hard work. You will be able to do this. You work hard for months so you can be prepared come race day. You’ll be prepared. Try to remain relaxed through training and trust the plan. Not every run will go how you want it to. Not every week will be perfect. You might miss a few days of training. You might skip a long run. THAT IS OKAY. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Marathon training is a learning process (that never changes whether it’s your first or your tenth). So, learn. Learn what works. Learn what doesn’t. But always always trust in yourself. You have to. 

Right now you do not know how much of an impact this journey and this race will have on you. I know you’re thinking you’ll be a one and done kind of girl. You think you can cross 26.2 miles off your bucket list and move on. It’s okay to think that way. It’s okay if that’s what you decide. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: you’re a marathoner at heart. This is your distance. You and marathons have a lot ahead of you. New personal bests, new destinations, new lessons learned. No marathon is the same. No training cycle is the same. So remember that as you work through your first one. You and the marathon? You’re about to have a lifelong relationship. 

I dare you to train for a marathon and not have it change your life.