Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Doing My Own Thing

To train for my first half marathon, I searched for training plans until I found that I liked.  I ended up using this one from Pink Runner, and I liked it a lot.

This time around, I had a much more difficult time finding a plan that worked for me.

I started with Smart Coach from Runner's World.  I've heard of lots of people being successful with these plans, and I did like what I saw.  However, my struggle came when you plug in your weekly mileage.  Right now, it's low, but I would like to gradually move it higher.  Smart Coach gave me plans that either consisted of an 8 mile tops long run (I want to get up to 12) for shorter weekly miles and sometimes 5 runs a week for the higher mileage plans (something I don't think I can commit to).  I really liked that speed work and tempo runs were worked in, though.

5 days a week may work if I was here...but not in good ol' Illinois, during the school year!
After more searching, I found a pretty promising one on About.com: Running/Jogging.  In particular, I liked this one catered toward "Advanced Beginners."  It had the mileage I wanted, but lacked the speed work I am hoping for in order to meet my time goal.

More searching ensued, and I finally decided to throw in the towel.  It was time for me to make my own plan.  So, I looked at all three plans I mentioned and made a 12-week training plan for myself.  It looks a little something like this:

Week Monday Tuesday Weds. Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Total Miles
1 3 mi Easy XT 4 mi Speed XT XT 5 mi Long Rest 12
2 3 mi Easy XT 4 mi Tempo XT XT 5 mi Long Rest 12
3 3.5 mi Easy XT 4 mi Tempo XT XT 6 mi Long Rest 13.5
4 XT 4 mi Easy XT 3 mi Easy XT 7 mi Long Rest 14
5 4 mi Easy XT 4 mi Speed XT XT 8 mi Long Rest 16
6 3 mi Easy XT 4 mi Tempo 3 mi Easy XT 9 mi Long Rest 19
7 2 mi Easy XT 4 mi Tempo XT 3 mi Easy 7 mi Long Rest 16
8 XT 3 mi Easy 4 mi Easy 3 mi Easy XT 10 mi Long Rest 20
9 4.5 mi Easy XT 4 mi Speed 3.5 mi Easy XT 8 mi Long Rest 20
10 5 mi Easy XT 5 mi Speed 3 mi Easy XT 12 mi Long Rest 25
11 XT 4 mi Easy XT 5 mi Tempo 2 mi Easy 7 mi Long Rest 18
12 XT 2 mi Easy XT 3 mi Speed XT Rest 13.1 Race 18.1

As I planned, my essentials were:
  • Start with low mileage, and gradually build up to about where I was last time. 
  • No more than 4 running days per week.
  • Speed work and tempo runs built in.
  • 12-mile longest run.
  • Sunday rest days.
(PS: Please excuse the green boxes; I'm highlighting my progress as I go :)).

If this plan works, I will be ecstatic.  I feel like I am taking a bit of a gamble, because I have never flown solo like this before, and I have zero experience when it comes to creating training plans of any kind.  Heck, I've only been running for two years in the first place. 

Why do I have Central Park on the brain today?
Training started yesterday, and my shin definitely gave me some trouble.  This is unsettling, but I'm trying some things to make it work.  I'm kind of intimidated by tomorrow's speedwork (using Smart Coach's suggestion of 2x1600 at an 8:47 pace with 800 jogs), as I have never really done it before (short of sprinting during the chorus of a song).  Wish me luck!

Have you ever made your own training plan?  Any suggestions for me?

Check out my guest post at Pink Giggles for more half marathon talk!  :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Random Sister Facts

This weekend, we went on a lovely sister date to see The Vow.  Of course, we forgot to take pictures.  Afterward, we went back to Ashley and Matt's house and chatted about a bunch of random things we did as kids.  So, I figured this would be a good time to post some random stuff you might not know about us!

1. When we were little, people thought we were twins.  Not sure why though.

2. We love country music.  We get it from our dad.

3. This picture shows a RARE occasion when Ashley has let me play with her hair.  Generally, these situations involve her squirming away and taking out whatever I did to her hair only minutes later.  This may or may not have something to do with the time I tried to pluck her eyebrows and got some skin...oops.

4. We are on a never-ending quest to find a set of clown salt-and-pepper shakers at an antique store that make us laugh every time.  How's that for random?

5. We find it rather hilarious to pose like we had to in our first-day-of-school pictures as kids.  We do this often.  And it does not get old...at least to us.

6. Ashley has some mad skills at rapping like M.I.A., and it makes Amy laugh every time she hears the song.

7. We will take just about any opportunity to take a rockstar picture at a special event.

Bridal showers included.
8. We like to hide random, rather ugly objects among each other's stuff in order to get rid of them.  A certain snowman sweatshirt comes to mind.  Our mom is generally the mastermind behind this plan.

9. We rarely fight.  This is rather shocking if you knew my sister's temper.  :)

10. We like to sing...obnoxiously.  I'm sure Matt greatly appreciates this.

Your turn!  Tell us something random about you!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snow Day Favorites

Well...it's a snow day!

I'm pretty surprised my school district called it.  In fact, I got up a little earlier than usual so I could squeeze in my work out and still have time to drive a little slower than usual.  I was in the shower when I got the call.  So, I've been up for quite awhile. And I am officially bored.

So, now that I've caught up on my blogs, I figured I'd give myself something to do and play along with Tina's little survey from today.

Favorite herb or spice to cook with: Cinnamon.  It goes on everything.
Favorite item in my makeup bag: Mascara.  I pretty much don't leave home without it.
Favorite item in my closet: My brown boots.  If only they went with my favorite grey sweater!
Best workout song on my iPod: "T.H.E." by Will.I.Am
Favorite aisle at the grocery store: Health aisle, because that's where I get my favorite PB, or the bread aisle.
Movie I've watched the most: Probably Finding Nemo or Transformers.
Favorite ice cream flavor: Cinnamon...on top of apple pie of course.
Favorite sandwich: I'm kind of obsessed with egg sandwiches lately...pretty bummed that I'm out of bread today!

Anyone else off work today?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eyes Back on the Half

Well, I finally did it.  I signed up for my next half marathon!

As you might remember, one of my goals for the year is to run a race in every season.  This race will cover Spring for me, as race day is May 20th.

Yay, Spring!  No long sleeves and tights this time around!
My first half marathon was an amazing experience, but, this time around, I want to do several things differently:

  • Incorporate more strength/cross training into my weeks.  I have been doing a lot less running lately, and I have really been enjoying the variety in my XT workouts and the more toned muscles I'm seeing.  I definitely don't want to lost that, and I think it will definitely help my time.
  • Don't become a crazy germa-phobe the week before the race.  I will try, but this will be tough.  I was SO stressed last time!
  • Run with buddies more often.  I really flew solo in training last time, which was good for my first.  I'm worried I will burn out without a buddy this time...maybe a running club?
  • Race without an iPod.  Eeek!  What a scary thought!  However, there will be live music on the course, so it could definitely be doable.
My brother in law does rock at race playlists though...
  • Finish under 2:00.  Another of my goals for the year.  I will be especially excited if this happens, because I plan to...
  • Make my own training plan.  Last time, I used this training plan from Pink Runner.  This time, I want to include some tempo runs and speedwork while gradually increasing my mileage.  I'm having trouble finding a plan that fits everything I want, so I tried to make one of my own.  More about that on Tuesday!
I admit I was dragging my feet a little on signing up for my next half (in fact, I waited so long that my first choice Spring race filled up).  Now that I took the leap, I'm really looking forward getting back into running longer distances.  I looked at my foam roller this morning and smiled...is that weird?  :)

Any big races coming up?
Has anyone made their own training plan before?  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Black and White

Have you ever felt silly for liking something that is really simple?  There's nothing special about it;  it doesn't DO anything, but still you just really enjoy it?  I feel that way about a lot of things, but for this post I'm going to focus on the simple colors black and white.  Some of my favorite photos are black and white; it seems to make something much more simple in this colorful world.  They are not "busy," nor over-stimulating, and, even when mixed-up, still only make gray.  That's what makes me feel silly for liking something so simple.  I love to use the black and white tones on my camera, however, I am not a fan of the fact that some image settings on my camera (like Kids & Pets!) can't be changed to black and white before I take pictures, but it's just as easy to change them myself -- another project I enjoy.   Who would have thought photography could turn someone into such a perfectionist!!  So in this world where everything is judged by looks and color, enjoy the originality, simplicity, cut and dry ways of black and white!

Photo Challenge Results!
My challenge:  A photo primarily showing my favorite color

Raindrops on the window... My favorite color is blue (yes even after all of that B&W talk!)

Next week's challenge:
 A picture that shows one of your goals for yourself.

What simple things do you love?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We Showered Today

Today was a pretty awesome day.  I (really, I should say "Ashley and I," because she was a HUGE help) threw a baby shower for our very good friend, Amanda, who was my roommate in college.

To start, there was a "shower" theme for a couple of reasons.  1.) It goes along with the baby's nickname, and 2.) the Mom to Be is a weather geek.  :)


I served a couple different types of salsa, including a pineapple version, since pineapple has been the MtB's biggest craving, which I found here.

There was all sorts of other good stuff, like veggie pizza, cupcakes, and fruit salsa with cinnamon chips.  And, of course, chocolate pretzel buttons.  And lots of them.

And I am left with way, WAY too many leftover cupcakes.  Plan to bring them to my dad tomorrow.  :)


I went sort of low-key on the games, since I don't have a ton of space.  On the invitation, I asked each guest to bring a onesie that represents herself.  The Mom to Be had to guess who brought which onesie.  It was fun, and Amanda did a great job guessing!

I also made a quick little trivia game in which the Mom to Be answered questions and the guests had to guess how she would answer.  Ashley got the idea from another shower she went to recently.


Our Pinterest addiction led us to several fun ideas that we worked on for the big day.

My favorite was this one.

Not sure why I never repinned it, but I saw this idea on a wedding pinboard.  The tree goes great with the theme for the baby's room, so I had each guest label her thumbprint on the tree.  It turned out really cute!

This pin led me to try to make clouds with raindrops.  They didn't turn out quite as adorable as the pin, but cute nonetheless!

Ashley came up with the great favor idea of making little raindrops out of tulle and m&m's and putting a cocktail umbrella on top.  Adorable!

Aside from all the fun and craftiness, we had the awesome opportunity to catch up with some friends from college that we very rarely see.  We ended up extended the party by several hours just to chat.  What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Today was just one of those great days that is all about someone really special to you who deserves the best.  I will definitely go to bed with a smile on my face tonight!

What did YOU do this weekend?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Old Memories

I've been thinking more about WHY I want to pursue this love for photography and didn't have any trouble realizing why it is so important to me-- simply put, the memories.  A photo (good or bad) provides a memory; it tells a story; it's a description in some sense.   Even if a memory may be one we want to forget, there may come a day when you feel the desire to have the memory resurface. 

As many people in the general area and across the world have heard, on February 14, 2008 the world of Northern Illinois University was shaken.  As Alma Mater to both Amy and myself, as well as most of our friends, it hit close to home.  I was on the campus of NIU that day, so this week was the anniversary of this heart breaking day, and it has made me appreciate the memories I have of college.  Some are great, some are not, but each one tells me a story, which to me is extremely important. 

Since I have felt the need to take a break from my camera this week, I haven't taken many photos to add to this post but along with my photos come my memories so I've picked a few photos that tell an important story to me.

A photo of me as a child feeding a baby doll.  This is around the age I established that when I grew up I wanted to be a mom.  While I have no children of my own, I still carry on the passion of working with children.  A photo to begin years of memories...at the time this photo was taken no one could have told me that it would be a preview of what my life would be 20 years later.

Sorry about the way this photo is presented, it has been scanned and cropped and now wont present correctly.   Anyway, this is a photo showing me as Amy's "mirror" a way to show I've always looked up to my sister.  Little did we know at this time we would be so much alike yet different in so many ways. 

There is not enough ways to describe the memories depicted in old photographs, but I find it amazing to think that the same photo has so many different meanings to every person who looks at it! 

That, my friends, is WHY I want to take this photography thing and run with it!

Amy's Photo Challenge!
Challenge:  A photo of something I like to spend my free time doing... to which I'll also provide you this picture of the cover of the book The Hunger Games (more information found here.)  a recommended read by you guessed it....


So here you have it... I love to spend my free time READING!!

Until next time....

Alright sis...for next week's challenge, I'd like to see a picture that prominently shows your favorite color.

Have you read The Hunger Games?  Who's excited for the movie?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being a Sports Fan

If you know me, you know that I love sports.  I grew up playing softball, definitely dropped the ball (no pun intended, haha) when it came to exercise during college, and got back into softball and started running after graduation.  I also love my teams--Blackhawks, Cubs, Colts, Steelers.  So, I was really interested when I saw this article from Fit Sugar pop up on my twitter feed about how being a sports fan is good for your health. 

Let's go Hawks!

According to the article, being a sports fan has these 5 health benefits:

1. "It inspires you to get active."

This one made me laugh, because I instantly thought of when I was a kid.  I loved to watch figure skating and gymnastics, but you had better believe I was "ice skating" around the kitchen for the rest of the night.  Kristi Yamaguchi was my girl.

2. "Watching live sports is a workout in itself."

Sure is!  Especially for my BIL.  He paces during big Packers games, and it sure is funny.

3. "You'll live longer."

Hope so!  That is all.  :)

4. "It's good for your relationships."

No relationship to speak of here, but I certainly feel like sports are good for my friendships.  The BIL and I love a little friendly football rivalry.

5. "It will make you smarter."


Here is what I love about sports:

1. They bring people together.  I mean, really...who doesn't love a good tailgating party?

2. They're an awesome adrenaline rush.  Nothing is quite as fun as dancing at the United Center after a Blackhawks goal.  Kind of like the endorphins after a great workout!

3. Generally, there is good food involved in one way or another.  Priorities people.

4. They make you part of something bigger than yourself- a team.  And how cool is that?

Your turn...what do YOU love about sports?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bucket List

If you're a Pinterest junkie like we are, you know of the trend that is sparking up of people pinning their bucket lists.  There are all sorts of cool pictures on the Perfect Bucket List blog to pin if you want to check them out.  To end the weekend, we thought we'd lay out some of the things on our bucket lists.  We'll start with Amy.

Write a letter to yourself and open it in 10 years.

I did this one just recently.  It was actually really fun, and now I have it hidden away in my "special things" box with the date I'm allowed to open it.  It should be really cool to read when I'm 37.

Run a marathon.

My good friend Amanda and I are in agreement on Chicago Marathon 2013.  It will certainly be epic!

Adopt a puppy.

I'm itching to get one.  My friend at work loves to send me pictures of adorable dogs to adopt.  I'm just dragging my feet with it comes to taking the leap.

Learn fluent sign language.

Sign language has always fascinated me, so I can't wait to find the time to truly learn.

Find someone who will treat me right.

Cheesiest item on my list, but it's there.  Does it count as a bucket list item if fate/luck is in charge?

Get a matching tattoo with my sister.

This. is. happening.  And Mom will probably not be happy.  :)

So I (Ashley) also have a "bucket list" board on Pinterest and some important things on my list are as follows...

Reach my Goal Weight:  Which is part of my New Years resolution this year (establishing a workout routine that I like)

Open my own business : What can I say I like to be my own boss... and with as many goals and aspirations I have in my life what better way to do that is opening my own Early Childhood program.

Own a nice camera:  The goal of all of my photography blogging...
I'd also LOVE to see and photograph a pack of wild horses.  I think animals in their natural habitat is an awesome thing to see and one thing you can't see at the zoo (yes I know the zoo is not natural for the animals)  is a pack of wild horses.

and to combine a few on my bucket list into one
Have a healthy pregnancy, have a son AND a daughter and be a good parent.  

of course... get a matching tattoo with my sister, and no Mom will not be happy  = )

C'mon, Mom...you know it will be awesome!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Only the beginning...

After last week's feeling of defeat, I'm feeling much better about myself behind the lens.  I'm realizing that a hobby is just that, a hobby; some people are better than others, and others learn to be the best.  So, in order to learn to be the best,  I've started to study what it takes to establish yourself in the world of photography.  Thanks to Pinterest, I've discovered numerous lists of props that a photographer should have, and I've also discovered some tutorials on camera settings.
I plan to enroll in a beginner's photo course once my camera is purchased. 

Another must-have is a portfolio.  Some things I have on the list to add to my future portfolio are...

A photo (or gallery of photos) including-
- Engagement
- Maternity/ Birth Announcements
- Newborn/ Children
- Family (including kids and pets)
- Famous monuments or landmarks
- Sunrise/sunset using shadows
- Animals (specifically a pack of wild horses)
- Memorable Reunion (parent/child, Army/Miltary family, spouse, sibling)
      I have many more ideas but that will all come with time. 

Here are some more of my photos I'm proud of!

One of my favorite shots of nature...If animals could talk, what would this goose be saying...

Amy's Photo Challenge:  Something that reminds you of High School 
Well here is one of my group of friends and I when we were actually in High School...

and I have a few more photos that I'd like to share

Yes, this IS a collection of my graduation materials from college... but it reminds me of high school because a certain teacher I had tried to convince her students (me included) to not give college a shot.  In other words I was forced to feel as though college wasn't for me, but I followed my dreams and got the degree I had dreamed of my whole life.  I hope this photo can serve as an inspiration to someone out there who may be doubting themselves.

This photo has been seen on this blog before... but here it is again.  Why does it remind me of high school?  Because Amy was my biggest fan, my support system as well as my motivation.  When I didn't like something someone said or the doubt that was forced upon me, she was the one who remained positive and believed in me...this picture was taken at her half-marathon, and it is proof that now it's my turn to be her support system and motivation!! 

Uh...ok...that description made me cry.  How about for next week...a photo that shows one of your favorite ways to spend your free time?
Until next time:   Who do you turn to for motivation?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Superbowl Shuffle

You may remember from our 2012 goals post that one of my goals is to run a race in every season of this year.  Well, so far, so good!

This past weekend, I ran a Superbowl Shuffle 5k.  As I mentioned last week, I did not have high expectations for this race.  Despite one of my best runs ever early in the week, my shin splints decided to make a return, and I was battling a nasty cold.

Luckily for me, I woke up Saturday morning feeling a LOT better.  Plus, the weather on Sunday was GORGEOUS.  Like out-of-this-world awesome for February in Illinois.

My cousin likes to run as well, and we decided to do this one together.  He, however, is much faster than I am and convinced me to line up with the 7-minute milers.  Mis-take.  Eight minute milers I could probably have hung with, but I was not in these peoples' league.  I did try though.

And then there were hills.  And about a mile and a half in, I started to burn out.  I had to walk twice during the last mile, which I was really not happy about.  However, I ended up finishing in 27:08, which is my second-best (official) 5k, so I have to be positive about that!

When I posted about the race, I set my goal at 28:30.  This was a lie.  :)  I really wanted to beat 27 minutes.  And I was close.  Darn close.  If only I hadn't walked that second time.

Alright, whining complete.

My favorite spectators (including my mom) came to cheer me on, which is my favorite thing about racing.  Afterwards, we used some awesome race-goodie coupons to satisfy my quite drawn-out Chipotle craving.  It was awesome.

All-in-all, this was a super fun race that I would do again in a heartbeat.  Just hoping that next time there are no sniffles!

Does anyone else set goals for themselves and then keep setting them higher?  Or am I crazy?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Check It Off the To-Do List!

I've said it once, and I'll say it again...my sister rocks.

I'm a pretty independent person, but there are some things I just can't get accomplished on my own.  This weekend, I really wanted to get a couple of just such things checked off my to-do list, so Ashley was kind enough to come over and give me a helping hand.

This was the state of my living room as of yesterday morning.  Pretty boring.  I'm hosting a baby shower for my good friend in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to pretty this place up!  Plus, the art I got for Christmas has been sitting on my floor for two months now...time to put 'er up!

The spacing was complicated, which is where Ashley came in.  She helped eyeball it...

...and was great at helping me remember numbers as I measured. :)

I am loving the finished product!  (Sorry for the glare...working on learning to take pics with the new phone.)  So far, they have not fallen off the wall.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thanks again for the help, sis!  I am one lucky girl.

Did anyone knock some good stuff off the to-do list this weekend?

Thursday, February 2, 2012


While I am in no way, shape or form, by any means a PROFESSIONAL photographer, I give it my all behind the lens.  My mind is always working on ways to take the ordinary shot and make it into something that everyone wants to see.  I have found that some of my favorite shots have been candid photos of children doing what they do naturally...PLAY!

When given the chance to photograph some family portraits yesterday I can honestly say it was my first (while I'm sure not my last) time feeling absolutely defeated by the camera.  How an object that can't acknowledge me in any way could seem to cover my whole day with this tiny dark cloud...I do not know.  But I didn't seem to get a single good shot and just couldn't get the right angle or the right position being either zoomed in or zoomed out.  I wouldn't call it a failed attempt, but certainly not what I had hoped would come out of the opportunity. 

To reassure myself that I'm not the only one in the world who has walked away from the chance to give a family some memories through photography...I have looked up some quotes I'd like to share.
I found them here...

“ You don’t take a photograph, you make it." - Ansel Adams

“ Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." – Henri Cartier-Bresson
Maybe just random photography IS what I should go for... however setting a goal may get me a little further into this hobby... one last quote of goal-setting inspiration...
“ You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper." – William Albert Allard
So there you have it... on my journey to probing deeper and taking that shot that no one else can!
Amy's Photo Challenge result:
Challenge:  A photo of something people would think I'm weird for laughing at...

It's no secret to anyone that knows him... Matt is an avid sports fan.  He loves every sport, but football is his favorite.  Even though we don't live in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers are by far his favorite sports team of all time.  A few weeks back when they lost the game resulting in the end of their season, Matt watched in the position he is in this photo.  Amy and I thought it was funny how he sat like this for the majority of the game so I decided to jump in the photo and mimic him.  This photo kind of sums us up...I, really could care less about sports (except hockey), and he is my total opposite. 

For next week's challenge: Something that reminds you of high school.
Until next time....How do you overcome the feeling of defeat?