Category Archives: healthy living

Food Fads Going Overboard?

I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of exactly what I am about to complain about.  But that’s just because I didn’t realize the problem until recently.

Anyone with an Instagram account knows that there is a myriad of photos of crazy food items.  They are incredibly aesthetically appealing.  But they also promote narcissism, gluttony, and waste.

I first heard about Black Tap Craft Burgers’ milkshakes from a YouTube video by Casey Neistat (see below if you’re interested):

When I saw the milkshake with the cotton candy on top, I knew that I just had to have one.  However, I wasn’t too keen on the obscene wait time, or the drive to NYC just for a milkshake.  I figured that if I ever happened to be in the area, I would get one; otherwise, I would probably forget about it.

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Soon after seeing that video, I passed by Coney Waffle ice cream shop in Belmar, New Jersey.  They are famous for their Freak Shake, now renamed the Sideshow Shake.  I love milkshakes and candy, so when I heard about the Freak Shake, I was intrigued.  Could it be anything like the one in Casey Neistat’s vlog?

For $18, this is what my Freak Shake looked like:

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It was a mint chocolate chip milkshake with all of the following (and probably more that I have since forgotton) on top: cotton candy, chocolate waffle, ice cream cone with an extra scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate covered Oreo, chocolate covered pretzel with Reese’s pieces, ring pop, and gummy candies.

Does it look amazing?  Absolutely.  Is it possible to eat that entire thing? Gosh, I hope not.

Upon serving me, they handed me a plate and a ton of napkins, explaining that I could put all of the candy onto the plate so that I could actually attempt to drink the milkshake.  They knew that there was no way that one could possibly try to eat that milkshake the way it was assembled.

So the whole purpose of this shake is the photo-op.  I’ll be honest, I was excited about that myself.  I absolutely took a picture before I proceeded to take it apart.  I ate some of the candy, but most I kept for later.  I drank some of the milkshake, but it took me three days to finish the whole thing since I couldn’t even begin to fathom how many calories that would be if it was consumed in one sitting.

And you know what? It wasn’t anything that special.  The milkshake tasted like a mint chocolate chip milkshake.  Nothing more, nothing less.  You might as well go buy a vanilla milkshake from McDonald’s, add in some peppermint flavor, and then purchase a whole bunch of candy to put on a plate next to you while you drink that milkshake.  It would be MUCH more cost effective.

The craziest part of all of this is that the Freak Shake is actually small in comparison to the newer Sideshow Shake:

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And this brings me to my point.  I have realized that the main purpose of a person purchasing a Freak Shake or Sideshow Shake is the photo-op.  In our Instagram/Snapchat-obsessed culture, we care more about the picture than the experience.

We want everyone to see our picture and envy us for getting to go to such a unique place. Yes, I did go to Coney Waffle and yes I can afford an $18 milkshake. (Note: I did not purchase the milkshake for myself, nor would I ever even consider it because I have much better ways to spend my $18.  Someone else bought it for me.)

These items also lead to gluttony and waste.  Although most people couldn’t consume and entire Sideshow Shake, I’m sure that some of them will try.  Don’t even get me started on all of the restaurants offering free shirts if you eat some insane amount of a particular food.  We have a problem with obesity in America, yet you can have that 1-pound burger absolutely free if you can consume it in its entirety in 20 minutes without vomiting.  And we’ll throw in a free t-shirt so that everyone will know about your feat.  Hooray!

Many people who want the Instagram pic without the weight gain end up discarding most of the shake.  They just want the picture.  We are blessed to live in a country where most people are not facing hunger.  And this is what we do with our privilege.  Starving kids in Africa?  Ehh…someone else can help them…I’ll continue to find the best angle for my Sideshow Shake and post it with the best hashtags so I can get a ton of Instagram followers!

Not convinced yet?  Let’s go through a few more examples.

– Playa Bowls.  I love acai bowls;  I buy them because they taste amazing.  But I also notice how a TON of people order them and seem to care more about the picture than the actual taste.  People will walk from the Playa Bowl shop down to the beach before taking a bite because they need the perfect playa-bowl-in-front-of-the-ocean photo.

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And yes, I’m also guilty of taking pictures of my acai bowls.  They are really pretty, after all:

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Brother Bruno’s Pizza.  I loved dessert pizza when I had it in Brazil for the first time in 2012.  However, we American’s can’t keep anything simple.  Bruno’s took the dessert pizza and put it on steroids.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to try it.  But at the same time, they’re just getting out of hand.  I would love to try a pizza with some chocolate and bananas.  Or the one that has apples and caramel.  But here’s a more recent photo:

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That’s their raspberry/cannoli/nutella/brownie pizza, as if the other dessert pizzas weren’t unhealthy enough.  They had to take it up a notch.  Diabetes on a plate, anyone?

-The Unbaked Bar / Cookie DO NYC.  I love the taste of raw cookie dough, as do many people, despite the dangers of salmonella due to the raw egg.  A few companies realized that if they just made cookie dough without the egg, it could be consumed raw.  Enter the unbaked bar and other similar shops.

Yes, those images may appear to be ice cream, but they’re actually cookie dough.  And no, that cookie dough cone on the right wasn’t quite cutting it…they really needed the cookie dough-filled cookies on top.

The Bagel Nook.  I don’t feel very strongly about bagels.  They’re fine.  I rarely eat them. But Bagel Nook got me hooked with their Instagram pictures like the ones below:

I finally went there with my boyfriend, excited to order a tie dye bagel with cotton candy cream cheese.  Yes, I did take a picture:

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It looks nice, but gosh was it disappointing.  It just tasted like a plain bagel with funky cream cheese.  Nothing too special.  I don’t plan to ever go there again.  But the taste doesn’t even matter since Bagel Nook will probably always have great business since it makes such a great photo-op.

Back to the problem here.  We’re purchasing these food items not because of their exquisite flavor, but because of the image that goes along with it.  We can show all of our friends “hey, look, I went to this trendy place and here’s the photo to prove it!”  It ties in nicely with our narcissistic culture (something that’s on my mind lately, since I’m currently reading The Narcissism Epidemic…great book, I recommend it).  It doesn’t really matter if we enjoy the food item; we just want our followers to see it and in return, envy us and our lifestyle.

But that isn’t the only problem.  These food items also promote gluttony.  Some of these food items probably contain a week’s worth of calories.

Anyone surprised about the American obesity epidemic?  Not I.

On the one hand, we have a constant barrage of beautiful men and women in the media and advertising.  We have advertisements about the Brazilian butt lift, age-defying cream, weight loss surgery, plastic surgery, you name it.  We all want to be beautiful.  Most of us want to be beautiful without the hard work that coincides with working out and eating healthy.

“I want the six-pack abs, but I also want a cookie dough sundae.  Actually, I don’t just want that sundae…I deserve the sundae since I did such a nice job at the gym today!”

I keep hearing a radio ad for a bariatric surgeon who promises that his patients can lose 30 or more pounds without even working out.  Let’s not even try to get Americans to improve their lifestyle — that’s unreasonable.  Let’s give them the quick fix surgery that they want, which will eventually fail when they continue drinking their two-liter of Pepsi while eating that Big Mac followed by a dessert pizza.

So as I said from the start, I am absolutely guilty of trying some of these food items myself, and documenting them through my own photos.  Am I proud of that? No.  But I didn’t realize quite how crazy it was until my Instagram feed began to be filled with more of these obscene food items.

In a world in which so many people are starving and suffering, we Americans must become aware of our overconsumption, overindulgences, narcissism, and wastefulness.

This issue extend far beyond a silly cookie dough cone or an overfilled bagel.  But none of it can ever be confronted if we do not recognize some of the lunacies that are present in our society.

 

 

Yoga vs. Catholicism

A little over a year ago, I started attending hot yoga classes.  I have Lyme disease and I find that sweating helps to decrease my symptoms.  In Connecticut, I belonged to a gym that had a sauna, but here in New Jersey, I was unable to find an affordable gym that had one.

Instead, I decided to try hot yoga and I have had very positive results.

However, I remember hearing a Catholic priest warn us against yoga back when I was in high school.  I hadn’t ever practiced yoga at that point, so I didn’t look into his reasoning.  More recently, I decided to look into the stance of the Catholic Church on yoga.

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Yoga practice in my backyard

This article talks about this topic:

“Catholics should not participate in any of the “spiritual” aspects associated with yoga, but technically can do the actual physical exercises. However, many people who practice yoga caution that it is often difficult, if not impossible, to separate the exercises from the meditations.

For example, a common mantra repeated in yoga is ‘So’ham’ that roughly translates to ‘I am the universal self’. This focus on the self is contrary to the focus on God to which we are called. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: ‘Christian prayer… flees from impersonal techniques or from concentrating on oneself, which can create a kind of rut, imprisoning the person praying in a spiritual privatism which is incapable of a free openness to the transcendental God.'”

Another article also discusses the possible problems with yoga:

“Should you take up yoga? As a spiritual path, yoga is incompatible with Christian spirituality. But if you can separate the spiritual/meditational aspects of yoga from the body postures and breathing techniques common to yoga, then you might be able to use those postures and techniques beneficially for health. If you’re at all unsure of your ability to do so, you may well be advised to find another form of exercise.

It is important for Catholics to know that yoga should neither be hallowed nor damned. As a spiritual path for Eastern peoples unfamiliar with Christianity, it may serve to assist them as ‘they seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust’

On the other hand, Christians seek as the goal of their prayer to ‘flow into the way to the Father, which is how Jesus Christ has described himself. In the search for his own way, each person will, therefore, let himself be led not so much by his personal tastes as by the Holy Spirit, who guides him, through Christ, to the Father’.”


 

So to me, it seems that the practice of yoga could be acceptable if a person practices for the exercise and breathing techniques without the spiritual aspect.  That is what I do in my yoga class.  I like to work on my strength and stretching but I do not consider it to be a spiritual activity.  I also prefer certain instructors over others.

One of the instructors always reads from a yoga book that has lots of spiritual passages.  Every time I hear them, I think about how everything that she is saying is good, but it should be centered around Jesus rather than “the universe.”  “The universe” is meaningless.  It is God who reigns supreme; the universe is simply His creation.

So when she reads these passages, I either ignore them, or I think about the way they relate to God.

I do the same thing when it comes time to set an intention.  The instructors tell us to set an intention for our practice, a place to send our energy.  I don’t believe in that part of the practice.  I don’t think that by exercising, my “energy” is going to go heal my sick loved one.  If it did, I would go work out for hours a day to cure the ailing people across the world.  That’s just not reality.

So when it comes time to set an intention, I either just wait for us to move on, or I say a prayer in my mind since I believe that saying a prayer to God is more significant than choosing some place to send my energy.

At times, yoga also seems too selfish to me.  The instructors tell us to pat ourselves on the back for giving up 75 minutes to ourselves each time.  Yes, we must take care of ourselves, but some of the instructors seem too interested in this, which is opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  They act as though we are the center of the universe, which I do not believe to be true.

So I will continue to attend my yoga classes, but I will substitute a prayer for an intention and I will focus on my practice as a physical exercise rather than a spiritual exercise.

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Tripods on my kayak in the ocean

 

 

 

Spartan Beast – Vernon, NJ 2017

The Race:

I went to Vernon, New Jersey this past Saturday for the Spartan Beast.  My boyfriend, AJ, and I drove up to the race early Saturday morning and then we met up with my friend, Jayme, and two of her friends.  While registering, AJ met a guy he knew from high school who was also at the race.

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Me & Jayme

I had completed four previous Spartan races back in 2014, but this was going to be my first one since then, so I was feeling a little nervous. (Previous races: Sprint in Uncasville, CT; Super in Vernon, NJ; Beast in Killington, VT; Stadium Sprint at Fenway in Boston, MA)

I had injured my shoulder about two months ago, so although I had increased my strength training early on this year, I had to cut back tremendously in order to rehab my shoulder.

I knew that I was in good shape in terms of running, but I was curious how I would do with the obstacles.

Our start time was 9:45am, but the race was delayed since there had been thunderstorms that morning.

Once we started, the race went straight uphill.  I knew from previous races that hills are meant to be walked.  A Spartan beast is over 12 miles.  They told us that this one was mapped out to be 13.8 miles (though their mileage doesn’t account for obstacles, so it was probably actually between 14 and 15 miles total).  That’s more than a half marathon, plus crazy hills and obstacles.  If you try to run up the first hill, I can almost guarantee that you are going to use up too much energy.

The hills seem almost endless at times.  Before even getting to mile two, my quads were already burning (despite how often I had been running and climbing stairs before the day of the race).  I was actually feeling a little bit nervous at that point, knowing that I still had over 10 miles left, yet my legs were already feeling sore.

I tried to run or at least jog every time the race became flat or downhill.  I’m really good at running downhill.  Some people step very gingerly when going downhill, but I find that I do better letting my momentum take over.  There were many times when my legs felt tired to walk, but once I started running or jogging, they felt less fatigued.

Even going down rocky slopes, I still usually jogged, remaining confident with my footing so that I wouldn’t slip.

There were a total of 32 obstacles.  Here is a review of some of them (in no particular order):

Walls

In any Spartan race, there are a number of walls to get past.  Some are short and I can easily jump, push myself up on my arms, and climb over.  For the 10-foot walls, I definitely need someone to help give me a boost.  Racing with AJ made these walls a lot easier since he could give me a boost whenever needed.

There was also a wall in the water.  For this one, we had to swim under it.  I didn’t mind going under the wall, but the water is brown and muddy, so some people don’t prefer submerging themselves.  I just felt for the bottom of the wall at first, to make sure that I knew how deep I had to go underwater.

After coming out of the water, there was a slanted wall with ropes on it.  We had to hold the rope to pull ourselves up.

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AJ coming out from under the water at this wall

For obstacles like this, the type of sneaker you are wearing makes a HUGE difference.  Lots of people were slipping all over the place.  When I tried, I didn’t slip at all.  I just held onto that rope and pulled myself up, one step at a time.

I prefer racing in trail shoes since they have a strong grip on the bottom.  Lately there are a lot of running shoes, especially Nike ones, that are very flat on the bottom.  They have little grip and although their lightweight nature may be nice when running, they are not the best option when grip is needed.

I have Adidas trail shoes that I have used for the past three or four Spartan races and I swear by them, rarely failing at an obstacle only as a result of my shoes.

Water

There are a few times when you have to walk through water.  This time, there was no swimming obstacle, but for one part of the race, you had to walk through water.  I’m 5’2′ and eventually the water was up to my chest.

I expected the water to be really cold since it was only April, but surprisingly, it wasn’t bad.  It was actually pretty refreshing.

I really like the water, so I enjoy the water obstacles.  The hardest part is that you can’t see where you’re walking, so sometimes you trip on stones or branches.  In Vermont, I cut up my shin quite a bit because I kicked a rock that I didn’t see.

This time, there were some times when we had to cross a stream.  One time, I jumped into the water and tripped as I went to take a step.  I fell onto a rock and cut my knee.  I saw the blood coming down my sock and soon after, we were walking through deep mud.  It’s never ideal to get a bunch of mud into cuts, but that’s what happens during this race.

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Memory

I had forgotten about this, but there is a memory component to the race.  You get to a wall and have to memorize a certain word/number combination, based on whatever the last two digits of your bib number are.  My bib number was 12517, so I had to memorize “Romeo 213 1089.”

When looking at some YouTube videos, I can see that some racers did have to tell a Spartan volunteer their number at some point.  If they couldn’t remember, they would have to do burpees.  But somehow we never had to do that.  I don’t know if we somehow ran past the people asking, or if they stopped asking.  But after finishing the race, I was so frustrated that I had remembered my number for nothing.

Z-Wall

I love this obstacle.  It’s a wall with wooden rectangle hand and foot grips.  I’m usually pretty good at it; I think it helps that I’m small so I can more easily rest my feet on the rectangles and grab the hand pieces with my whole hand.

For this version, though, the wall isn’t just flat across.  It is in the shape of a Z.  I had made it 2/3 of the way across and AJ was standing behind me.  I told him to just spot me in case I needed help.  I got to one of the corners and I couldn’t see the other side of the wall. I tried to reach out my foot to feel for the next wooden rectangle, but I couldn’t reach it even with my leg fully extended.  The same was true with my arm.

So AJ put a hand out for me to step across since I couldn’t reach and I got my foot on the rectangle, but I still couldn’t reach with my hand, so I suddenly slipped and hit the ground.  I was so frustrated since I was so close to the bell.

I forgot that I could have tried again, but instead I went and did the 30 burpee penalty while AJ crossed the wall.

Log Carry

Men get a larger log and females get a smaller one.  You must carry it up and down a hill.  The logs are pretty heavy, so although they don’t feel too bad in the beginning, it gets tiring by the time you carry it up.

I like to carry the log on my head because I find that to be the easiest option while walking uphill.  Not too many people do it this way, but it works for me.  Most people carry it on one of their shoulders.

On the downhill, I carried it horizontally across my stomach and that wasn’t too bad.

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Spear Throw

I hate this obstacle.  It’s so hard to get the spear to actually stick into the hay.  So many people have to do burpees at this obstacle.  AJ was able to complete every obstacle without assistance except for this one since he missed the hay.

Sandbag Carry

The females and males have different weights to carry.  Just like the log carry, you walk up and down hills, over some branches, and through a little bit of water.  Some people carry it on their shoulder or behind their heads.

I carried mine on my head and later kind of hugging it in front of me.

Monkey Bars

These are my major weakness.  I just can’t do the monkey bars.  But one day I will be able to.  They have normal monkey bars…well, as normal as the Spartan race will have it.  They’re still wider than normal monkey bars, so they’re really difficult to grip with my small hands.

They have monkey bars that have a long metal piece that you must get across, followed by different chains, baseballs on rope, and grips that you have to cross.

They also had ones that spin around while you’re trying to reach the next one.  AJ completed each of these obstacles with ease…me, not so much.

Atlas Carry

They have these big cement stones on the ground.  You must pick it up, walk a few yards, drop it, do 5 burpees, pick it up, walk back, and then drop it.

Picking it up is the hardest part.  Looking online, I can’t find a definite answer about the weight, but it seems that most people agree that it is somewhere between 40 and 60 lbs for women and 80 and 100 lbs for men.

40-60 lbs doesn’t sound terrible, but the size of the stone makes it difficult to get off of the ground.

I squat as low as I can to the ground and try to push it against my stomach to get it up.  Looking at tutorials online, some people roll the stone up one of their legs while the other leg is in the squatting position.  That way they can get it up against their stomach/chest more easily.

Once it’s up, it isn’t too difficult to walk with the stone, but picking it up is the tricky part.

Gravel Bucket Carry

This is an obstacle that most people hate.  It’s brutal.  It always comes towards the end of the race.  In the Spartan Beast in Vermont, this obstacle occurred twice.  You have to fill a bucket with gravel.  It has to be filled up to the line, which is a little bit lower for women than men.

Then, there is an extremely steep hill that you must climb while holding the bucket.  If you drop it, spilling gravel, you have to start all over again.  This is an obstacle that anyone can finish, but not quickly.

This was at the end of the race.  My legs were so tired from all of the previous running and obstacles.  Every step was difficult.  I hugged the bucket in front of me, slowly putting one foot in front of the other.

Going up the hill, every time I needed a break, I put my right leg in front of me, up the hill.  I would rest the bucket on my thigh.  That gave me the break that I needed so that I could catch my breath.  Many people rest by putting the gravel all the way back down on the ground, but that seems to waste a lot of unnecessary energy since you have to bend all the way over to drop the bucket and then lifting it off of the ground is much more difficult than lifting it off of your thigh.

At the top of the hill, it was flat, so I was sure to rest before the top and then after the flat part.  I knew that if I rested at the flat part, I wouldn’t have a hill to position my right leg on in order to rest the bucket on my thigh.

I expected the downhill to be more difficult, but that was not the case.  The downhill was definitely easier, but I was still very careful with my steps.  Parts of the hill were very steep and had quite a bit of spilled gravel.  I didn’t want to risk falling and dumping out my gravel since I would then have to start from the beginning.

Rope Climb

I’ve still never been able to climb the rope in the race.  Usually, the ropes are over water.  This time, the ropes were over foam mats.  And for the first time, I am able to climb a rope at the gym.  However, this obstacle was the last one in the entire race.  My body was entirely drained, especially from the gravel bucket carry which I had just completed.  I hopped onto the rope and although I thought that I might be able to get up partway, I could tell that my arms just didn’t have the strength to get me all the way up and back down without just falling.  I opted for the burpees.  Again.

Here’s a nice video that someone took of all of the obstacles:


Results

I finished in 5 hours and 3 minutes, which placed me 9th in my age group (out of 280 females ages 24-29).

I was 27th out of all 1374 females.

AJ and I both finished at the same time, so we were 299th out of 4,200 total competitors in the open division.  Not too bad!

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Women’s Clothing:

Tops: I like to wear a sports bra with an athletic tank top.  I avoid cotton, t-shirts, and loose-fitting tank tops since they become heavy when wet.  Some girls just wear a sports bra, but I don’t want my stomach and back to get cut while crawling over walls and under barbed wire.

Bottoms: I wear spandex shorts, or capris with long socks.  If it’s around 55 degrees or warmer, I’ll go for shorts because I don’t like to feel too hot while racing.  If it’s chillier, I’ll wear the capris.  I opt to just wear the spandex without underwear so that there are fewer layers of fabric, but that’s a personal preference.

I used to wear shorter socks for my first few races, but then at the Beast in Vermont, I cut up my heels pretty badly since my socks were too low.  That was pretty painful.  I was running at last 10/17 miles with bleeding ankles.  They especially hurt when I had to do the rope traverse obstacle, dragging my bleeding heels across the rope.

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Those were my bleeding ankles in Vermont.  Ever since then, I remember to wear tall socks to avoid that unnecessary pain.

I tend to get blisters on my toes when I run, especially if my feet are wet, so I wear Injinji toe socks:

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Shoes: I always use trail shoes because of the grip.  These are similar to the ones I have:

I noticed that there were a lot of people slipping on the wall that we had to climb holding onto a rope.  We went from water straight to this wall, so it was pretty wet.  Thanks to the grip on my sneakers, I didn’t slip at all.  Most of the people who slipped had sneakers with flat soles that might work for running, but not obstacle racing.

Hydration pack: I prefer to race without a hydration pack, but I learned that it is almost essential on the beast.  In Vermont, there were times when I was so thirsty that I considered asking a complete stranger for a sip of their straw.

I have a small Camelbak.  It’s called a mini-mule and it’s actually a child’s size, but I found that the adult ones were larger than I wanted when I went to buy one a few years ago.  This is mine:

Even better than the fact that it held water was the pockets in the Camelbak.  I brought 8 GU gels to the race: 4 for AJ and 4 for me.  We ended up having 3 each.  In the past, I have stored my GU gels in my sports bra, but sometimes I end up with cuts between my breasts as a result.  It was nice to just keep them in the pocket of the Camelbak.

I also kept our headlamps in another pocket.  We didn’t need the headlamps in the end, but we had them as a precaution because you get kicked off of the race if you don’t have a headlamp after the sun begins setting.


 

 

After the Race:

Upon finishing, they give you your medal, a banana, and a protein bar.  Then you can grab your T-shirt.  I was happy that the T-shirts were specifically for the Spartan Beast this year.  In 2014, all of the shirts were exactly the same, regardless of whether you ran the Sprint, Super, Beast, or Ultra.  I have 4 of the exact same T-shirt since I ran 4 races that year.

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T-shirt, headband, and finisher’s medal

 

I tried to walk around a little bit after the race because I knew that my legs would tighten up once I sat down.  I was pretty dirty, so I rinsed off some of the dirt before getting on the shuttle back to our parking lot.

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Dirty face after the race

After the two-hour car ride home, my legs were super stiff.  AJ and I were both super tired and sore, so we just went out to get dinner and then had a lazy evening.  Sunday was another lazy day.  They suggest running a slow, short jog the day after the race, but my legs were already so sore that I don’t think that I could have gone for a jog.

If I had, maybe that would have helped my sore legs.  I’m not really too sure.  I can’t even describe the pain I felt with each step.  It felt as though my quads and calves had been torn apart and were unable to support my legs.

Stairs were my absolute enemy.  I have had sore legs after running full marathons, but I think that I was more sore from this race than from the marathons.  My right knee was locking up every time I stepped because my muscles just weren’t firing accurately.

We were finished with the race around 3pm on Saturday.  Sunday and Monday were the most painful days in terms of my sore legs.  Tuesday was still pretty rough.  Wednesday I was almost walking normally.  Thursday was normal other than steps.  Finally on Friday I could walk up and down steps normally (though there was still some soreness).

After the race, I had rolled out AJ’s legs, but mine were already so sore that I told him that I didn’t want it.  Maybe it would have helped.

I was also really sore in my inner arm.  I had bruised it when getting up and over one of the 10-foot walls.  I had an immediate bruise during the race, which just kept getting darker after the race.

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Bruised arm

Anyway, I’m really happy about the race overall.  I wish I could have avoided my shoulder injury so that I could have performed better at some of the obstacles that require mainly upper body strength, but I guess that is what next year is for.

Here’s another medal to add to my race rack:

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Until next time, AROO!

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Are the Side Effects of Birth Control Really Worth It?

Yesterday, I was reading a CNN article entitled “Women Rush to Get IUDs Because of Trump.”  Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act guarantees free contraceptives to most women.  Trump wants to change that, so women are rushing to determine their birth control plans.

Many are choosing to have IUDs implanted.  According to CNN, an IUD costs around $1,000 to insert and it can last for up to ten years.

So before I get into the problems surrounding The Pill, let’s get into IUDs.

IUDs

They can perforate the uterus upon insertion, or if they accidentally move around inside of the woman.  Although non-cancerous, they have been proven to cause ovarian cysts.  They can cause problems with a woman’s menstrual cycle, in addition to headaches, mood swings, nausea, and acne.  Although the IUD doesn’t create infections on its own, if a woman gets a genital infection and she has an IUD, the infection can much more easily be spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes.

Now, I would rather not experience any of those side effects, but what amazes me is that multiple websites readily admit that the Mirena IUD causes ovarian cysts.  They list it as one of the “common” side effects.  It isn’t even like it’s something that is hidden from the general public.

In addition, lawsuits have been filed against Mirena for not being more forthcoming in the past about the uterus performation that can occur if the IUD moves.  There have been over 500 lawsuits against Mirena for this reason.

I’m sure that many of the women flocking to have the IUD inserted are well aware, and that’s what astounds me — that women readily accept potentially life-threatening side effects so that they can have sex without risking pregnancy.

Pregnancy is so terrible that women would rather face cysts and perforations of the uterus.  Really?    You know, condoms have pretty high rates of pregnancy prevention as well.  And as far as I know, they won’t rupture your uterus.  And there’s something even better – Natural Family Planning (NFP) that is completely free.

And then there’s the Pill.

The Pill

I was having a conversation last night with a friend who had stopped taking the pill due to some side effects that she was experiencing.  She mentioned how it made her feel extreme levels of anxiety as well as depression.

I am a high school English teacher.  Without considering this potential correlation, I had noticed over the past few years of teaching that I have many females with anxiety issues.  I know that the stereotype is that females are more emotional, but I have seen girls who have abnormal levels of stress and anxiety.  I have also seen many girls writing in their journals and other assignments about their experiences with depression.

I know that depression can exist on its own, but my conversation with my friend made me wonder if there could be any link between this increase that I’ve noticed in anxious females and birth control use.  After all, many girls start taking birth control as soon as they get their period.  Some of them take it for pregnancy prevention, while others are prescribed it because of acne or menstrual irregularities.

Upon doing a little research, I stumbled across this CNN article, “Birth Control Linked to Depression, New Study Says.”

According to the article, 30% of women eventually stop using the pill because of side effects.

“We have known for decades that women’s sex hormones estrogen and progesterone have an influence on many women’s mood. Therefore, it is not very surprising that also external artificial hormones acting in the same way and on the same centers as the natural hormones might also influence women’s mood or even be responsible for depression development,” said Dr. Øjvind Lidegaard, a professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and lead supervisor of the study.

Lidegaard performed a study that involved one million Danish women ages 15-34 over the course of 14 years and he did not include any women who had been previously diagnosed with depression.

Here are some of his findings:

Among all hormonal birth control users in the study, there was a 40% increased risk of depression after six months, compared to women who did not use hormonal birth control, the researchers found.

Adolescents seemed more vulnerable to this risk than women 20 to 34 years old. Further studies are warranted to examine depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use,” the researchers wrote in their study.

According to the article, 62% of women between ages 15 and 44 use some form of birth control.  16% of them use the pill, 16% use female sterilization, and 7% use IUDs or implants (National Center for Health Statistics.)  Other studies have shown 4 out of every 5 American women use birth control.

Now I don’t know about you, but a 40% increased risk of depression is absolutely cause for concern.  40%?!? Those are pretty good odds.

Of course some OBGYNs were quoted in the article about the fact that more needs to be studied since “causation is hard to prove.”  One doctor said that “Although this study suggests an increased risk of depression with combined hormonal contraception, the increase does not seem so great as to significantly change how I counsel patients.”

Really?  You don’t plan to counsel patients any differently?  You know that there is a pretty good chance that they could become anxious or depressed as a result of the pill and that isn’t going to change that much for you?

The CNN article continues to say that although some side effects of birth control include things like strokes, there are also health benefits like pregnancy prevention (well…isn’t that the point?), menstrual cycle regulation, and acne.

Think about the 13 year old girls who are prescribed this pill only because of acne.  Depression is a better alternative to skin that isn’t clear?  Okay, your face is flawless, but I’m sorry to tell you that you might have a stroke.

So you won’t get knocked up, your cycle will be normal, and your skin will be clear.  You might just have to deal with a stroke here or there.  No big deal.


Now I’m one of those people who does not believe in contraception at all.   My opinion stems from my religious beliefs, but I also try my best to live an all-around healthy lifestyle.

There was another CNN article published about the fact that some women are opting to ditch birth control because they have realized that it isn’t healthy to mess with your hormones and reproductive organs the way that birth control does.

Natural Family Planning

This article talks about women switching over to Natural Family Planning (NFP).

I was shocked to even see an article about this on CNN’s website.  NFP was something that I had only heard about through my Catholic college or Catholic friends.  CNN even admits that it was started within the Catholic Church, but it is apparently becoming more secular.

The way that NFP works is that the woman monitors her cycle, bodily changes, and temperature to determine when ovulation occurs and then she chooses not to have sex on the days when she is fertile.

The woman interviewed in the article explained that she switched to NFP once her doctor told her that she was at a high risk for strokes as a result of her birth control.  She was 29 years old, yet at risk for strokes.  Kudos to her for taking action and ending her birth control.  Many other females accept the horrifying risks so that they can have sex as they please.

In the article, an OBGYN said that 1 in 4 women using NFP will get pregnant.  However, it also says that if it is used correctly, it has a 99.6-99.4% rate of success in avoiding pregnancy.  That does require women to take their temperature daily and monitor their bodies, but isn’t that a much better alternative to depression, strokes, weight gain, acne, etc?  It’s effective as long as it’s used properly.


So I know that plenty of women will disagree with me, but I’m absolutely supportive of Trump wanting to change Obamacare’s free contraception.

I mean, almost nothing in life is free anyway.  For what reason should contraception be free?  A woman will not die without her birth control.  There are sick people all across the country who cannot afford the medications they need in order to survive, yet our taxpayer dollars are helping people to have sex without worries.


And if you’re interested, here’s a previous post about the dangers surrounding NuvaRing:

Risking Death to Prevent Pregnancy?

God is so Good

I’ve been wanting to write a blog regarding my recent joy and gratitude for a while, but because I’ve been so busy (doing a bunch of awesome things), I just haven’t had the time.  So here are some of the things that have been taking up my time:

Bible Study

I am so incredibly thankful for the new amazing Catholics that I have met in my area, mainly as a result of attempting to start a Catholic young adult group here.  Through that, I met a great new friend and through her, I learned about a Bible study that meets each week.

Basically, we meet at a different person’s house most Thursdays for dinner and Bible study.  We share a meal and then study the Bible together.  The first time I was invited, it was a group of 6 or 7 of us.  This was some time in July.  I thought that these people had been close friends for years.  Only weeks later did I find out that their Bible study had started recently and some of them didn’t really know much about each other at all.

Since then, our numbers have continued growing.  Now we also have once a month Thursday holy hours, holding them at a different church each time.  I had been praying to find local Catholic friends basically from the moment I graduated from Franciscan University in December 2009.  It took a while, but I am currently so blessed in that I have met so many amazing passionately Catholic young adults.  And what is crazy to think about is that I didn’t know any of these people before June.  Most I’ve only known since July or August.  It’s interesting how quickly life can change in such dramatic ways.

This past Thursday, I hosted Bible study in my apartment.  We had 15 people there.  It was a little tight since I have a small apartment, but that was a great problem to have.  We just keep growing and meeting more amazing Catholics who desire to grow in their faith.

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Bible study

Kayaking

I lived here for almost a full year before getting to use my kayaks.  It was tricky getting my ocean kayak to the beach by myself.  There is also a river where I can kayak, but I can’t get either kayak on my car alone.

Toward the end of the summer, I used my kayak twice in the ocean.  Then I figured out how to get both of them to the river by putting one in my trunk and one on my roof rack.  I’ve gone kayaking there 4 or 5 times since September with two of my friends.

I love living in a place where I can walk a few feet and be at the ocean or drive a few blocks and be at the bay.  (They call it a river, but to me it seems to be a bay since it’s connected to the ocean.  I don’t know).  It’s pretty awesome.

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Kayaking Shark River

It’s also great that I have a job where I can finish a full day of work, be home by 3, and still get a few good hours of kayaking before it starts to get chilly.  It has been a nice autumn because the weather has been pretty warm even into November.

Here’s a quick video of getting to see the train while kayaking and also seeing the drawbridge:

Tenth Avenue North concert

I went to this concert back in October and it was just amazing.  They are my favorite Christian band and I had never seen them live before.  It was just what I needed at the end of a great, but long week.

This is my video of compiled video clips from the concert:

I am so happy that my friend Amanda invited me because I would have never known about the concert if it hadn’t been for her.  She is another friend who I met as a result of trying to start the area young adult group with my church.

At the concert, the lead singer for Tenth Avenue North talked about Compassion International, which is the organization I found in order to sign up to sponsor Patience, my sponsored child in Rwanda.

I know from my own experiences in meeting Patience back in August 2015 in Rwanda that Compassion International seems to be doing great things across the world, but hearing even more accounts about it solidified my view of the organization.

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With my sponsored child, Patience, in Rwanda

What is great about Compassion is that they don’t bring in Americans to do the work overseas.  Rather, they use local churches and hire people within each country to oversee the program.  In some places where other sponsorship organizations were denied the opportunity to work in some dangerous areas, Compassion is allowed since they are based out of churches  that already exist in the community.

Catholic Underground

For Catholic Underground, a group of us from our Bible study drove up to NYC.  The church we went to for adoration was completely packed.  They had confession and praise and worship music during adoration and then there was live music downstairs afterwards.  It was an awesome experience, and great to get to know some of the people from my Bible study a little bit better through the long car rides.  I am so thankful for all of these new friends, even though I have only known them since this past summer.

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Some of the people from our Bible study at Catholic underground

I’m also excited about Catholic Underground because I met a guy from Connecticut there who also has an interest in overseas volunteering.  Through him, I might be able to find a connection to Catholic volunteer organizations to potentially serve with in the future.

The beach

It’s so simple, but I just love the beach so much.  I never expected this fall to be so warm that I could continue swimming so late into the year, but I’ve been lucky.  Maybe it’s a sign of global climate change, but for now I’ll just be thankful for the many beach days I’ve had since the end of the summer.

I’ve gone out for many morning beach walks, looking for beach glass and seashells.

I was even able to go swimming the day before Halloween!

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And THEN there was a whale at the beach on a few separate occasions.  Most recently, though, the whale was really close to the shore and it was feeding, so it kept leaping out of the water.  It was so incredibly exciting.

There is a person who lives in a house that overlooks the ocean and early last Saturday, I saw that he posted a live video of a whale.  I could tell it was right by my house.  I was still wearing pajamas, so I pulled on some leggings, threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera, and ran outside.

It was incredible.  The whale stayed in the general area for over an hour.

The picture below is just amazing.  I didn’t take it, but I did see the whale doing that multiple times.  The picture was taken by the guy who lives in the house right by the beach.

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Who needs to pay for a whale watch when you live right by the ocean and can watch them swimming on a random Saturday at 9am?

Here is my video of the whale:

Atlantic City Marathon

Although I’m not completely satisfied with my result since I had an injured achilles tendon and subsequently didn’t beat my previous marathon time of 4:20 (I finished this one in 4:29), I’m happy that I have gotten my health back to a place where I’m even able to attempt (and finish) a marathon in the first place.

When I first moved to New Jersey, I was pretty healthy, but then I quickly started experiencing my Lyme symptoms again.

Last February I started going to hot yoga and that has helped a lot.  Last March I started running again for the first time after almost a year off.  In that  year I did go running, but never enough to actually train for any races.

I also found that I love yoga…something that I had never expected.  I always looked at yoga as glorified stretching, but it’s definitely more than that.

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Backyard yoga practice

I think that yoga helped me to get back into running.  It also seemed to make me faster.  I ran a 10k in May in Sandy Hook, a half marathon in June in Connecticut, a five mile race in July in Belmar, a relay race across the state of New Jersey in August, a half marathon in Sandy Hook in October, and a full marathon in Atlantic City in October.  I had a full year off from running, completing no races at all in 2015 and then I was able to compete in 6 races in 2016.

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Now that I finished the marathon, I have to take a few weeks off from running to rest and heal my achilles.  I know that I would have done better if it hadn’t been for the injury, so I need to make sure that I don’t get back into running too quickly only to re-injure it.


I’m so incredibly thankful for my faith.  It’s not easy.  Sometimes I wish I learned about my faith about an older age.  But right now, I’m so at peace with my life in general and I think that a huge part of that has to do with my faith.

I know that God has a plan for me.

It’s really interesting because it’s the first time I’ve been single in five years.  I’ve been single now since February.  Back when I was in my last two relationships, I really thought that I was happy…especially in my more recent relationship.

Was I happy?  Sure.  But now I feel so much more peace and joy.

I have never been the type of person who needed a relationship to give me confidence in myself, but at the same time,  I liked being in relationships.  They were comfortable.  As a person who likes routine, I liked knowing what to expect each weekend.

But I realize now that both of these relationships were holding me back.  Yes, I was Catholic, and my exes were Catholics as well, but I wasn’t being pushed to grow in my faith.  I was remaining static.

Upon finding myself single last February, I started focusing more on God.  When I prayed, I kept getting the same message.  “Wait.”  Through the entire spring, I just kept doing just that.  Summer arrived and I was still without local friends.  I was still just trying to follow His advice, but it was hard.

I turned to God and running to maintain some sanity.

And then, without even realizing it at the time, things started changing.  I started to meet new people who have turned into new friends.  I found out about Bible study, which has led to many other events.  I found out about the race across the state which led to other new friendships.

Here I am now in November.  I’ve been single for almost exactly 9 months.  And I feel so incredibly joyful.  I feel like my life is exactly where it needs to be right now.

I am healthy.  I am running and going to yoga.  I have awesome students this year at my job and I’m getting to teach the AP class that I love so much again.  I’m living by the beach going for walks, bike rides, and kayaking.  I just got a stand up paddle board this week.  I have amazing friends and Bible study.  God is a main focus in my life right now, and I just feel so blessed.

I didn’t know how to word this post because I know that other people are facing more struggles than I am right now, so I don’t want to sound like everything is sunshine and rainbows.  But at the same time, I can’t contain my gratitude.

I literally drove to work this week with a smile on my face, just thinking about the place I am right now in my life in general.

So if you’re a person who isn’t yet in a good place, you need to turn to God first.  None of my happiness found me until I left it in God’s hands, waiting for things to fall into place.  I was on my knees in tears at adoration.  I was at Stations of the Cross on Friday nights with no other plans for the upcoming weekends.  I was at Mass by myself each Sunday just praying and trying to be patient.

Things do get better.  It may not be according to our own timeline.  God’s timing may not be what we want.  But I don’t think that the joy I feel now would be the same if I hadn’t had the difficult times last winter and spring.  I needed that to now see the dramatic shift that my life has taken.

I don’t know where things will go from here.  But I am content in my belief that God has good plans for me.  He is in charge of my life and I am trying my best to make choices that reflect His will for me.

And right now, it all seems to be working out.  I am joyful, I am thankful, I am blessed.

Marathons – Why We Pay to Inflict Major Pain Upon Our Bodies

On Sunday, I completed the Atlantic City marathon.  This was my second marathon.  I ran my first back in 2013, in Hartford, Connecticut.  I finished in 4 hours and 20 minutes, which I was happy about.  My main goal had been beating 4 1/2 hours, so I succeeded.

Since then, I have been running other races (half marathons, a 10k, Spartan races, and a Tough Mudder), never wanting to put the time into training for a full marathon.  But I also always wanted to see if I could beat my original time.

This summer, I ran the River to Sea Relay across the state of New Jersey.  I ran 3 legs of the race, for a total of 16.5 miles.  It was that race that convinced me to try another full marathon, since I was already pretty far along in the training anyway.

However, over the past 3-4 weeks, I have been experiencing pain in my achilles tendon while running.  I took one week off because I was sick.  Then I ran 6 days the next week, but I had to take another full week off because of my achilles.  But after that week-long break, I set a PR (personal record) at my 4th half marathon, in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

I was determined to get to the Atlantic City marathon.  Some people suggested I defer since I wasn’t completely healthy in terms of my achilles, but I had been training all summer.  I was going to that race.

Saturday I went to Atlantic City so that I wouldn’t have to drive there super early in the morning for the Sunday morning race.  I felt fine, but after a little too much walking on the boardwalk and through the casino, my achilles was feeling sore.

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With my mom at the race expo on Saturday afternoon

I was really nervous.  I didn’t admit to my mom how much it was hurting or how scared I was, but I was just hoping that I would be able to finish the next day’s race.

On race morning, I felt great.  I ate my banana, a tiny bit of chicken, and 2 lemon Oreos.  But I was feeling really full, so I actually only ate half of each Oreo.  That was strange for me.  Maybe it was just the nerves, but later on in the race I kept having that same full feeling even though I knew that I wasn’t actually full.

I was so excited to start the race.  I warmed up a little with some dynamic stretches.  I tossed my sweats and long sleeve shirt to my mom, and crossed the starting line.  Here was the breakdown in miles for me:

Miles 1-4:  Feeling great.  Maintaining a pace around 8:45.  My achilles was sore, but not changing my stride.  I started to pray for people, offering up my race for the souls of my uncle Lowell who recently passed away, and my Brazilian grandma who had passed away just a few days after him.

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Mile 5:  It was pretty windy, so I was running a little slower.  Mile 5 was a 9:04 pace.  I downed a GU gel and kept going.

Miles 5-9: Still feeling pretty good.  Maintaining a pace around 8:58.  (I knew that in order to finish in under 4 hours, I couldn’t let my average pace get above 9:09).  The wind was pretty brutal at times, but it didn’t slow my pace too much.  I prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet, though, because I was nervous that my achilles pain was going to get worse.

Mile 10-12: Feeling great, maintaining a 9:10 pace. Still in line to break the 4-hour marathon mark.  I was ahead of the 3:55 pacer.  Around 10.5 miles, I saw my mom and my friend Adam cheering me on, so that always gives me an extra energy boost.  I took at GU gel at mile 11, hoping for a little boost.

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Feeling great at 10.5 miles

Mile 13: Half marathon crossed at 1:58.  I was starting to run slower than before, but not by a significant amount.  My pace was 9:26 at mile 13.  I knew that I would have to get faster, but I was starting to feel more and more achilles pain on my right leg and knee pain knee my left leg (probably for compensating for my achilles on the other side.)

The 3:55 pacer crossed me.  I decided I would just try to not let the 4:00 pacer pass me.

Miles 14-15:  Tons of pain.  Doubting my chances of finishing under 4 hours.  Now just trying to beat my marathon time from my 1st marathon (4:20).  Mile 14 was a 9:46 pace and also my last mile that I was able to finish in under 10 minutes (which I didn’t know at the time).

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The 4:00 pacer approached.  I was determined to stay with him and his group.  But no matter how much my mind wanted it, my legs just wouldn’t go any faster.  No willpower was enough to get them to move more quickly.  They felt so heavy, but I wasn’t even close to the dreaded wall that marathoners fear, which usually happens between miles 18-20.  I knew that finishing this race was going to be excruciating, if not impossible.

Mile 18: This was the worst.  I suddenly dropped from a 10:30 pace to an 11:30 pace.  I don’t think I’ve ever run that slowly before.  I don’t even know if it can be called running.  It was more like a wobbly jog.   I was feeling so much pain that I was getting a little dizzy.  At one point, my eyes even seemed a little blurry.  I took a 3rd GU Gel and drank some Gatorade, hoping that the extra sugar would decrease my overall fatigue.

While running, my legs felt like lead.  Every step was painful. But any time I walked, I had a severe limp.   My right achilles was incredibly sore and bending my ankle hurt quite a bit.  And my left knee felt like someone was stabbing a knife into it.  So I would walk long enough to stop limping and then I would continue running.

Mile 19-21: I got a little bit of a second wind at mile 19.  Maybe more like a second breeze, really.  I was still running slowly, but I was able to run continuously without walking, at a 10:10 pace.  Since I had been so fast in the first half, at mile 20 I was still at a 9:30 average pace.  Still fast enough to beat my original marathon time.  Miles 19-21 were all a 10:30 pace.  Not a pace I’m proud of, but still running.

Mile 22: By now, the pain was there to stay.  11:08 pace for mile 22.  I saw the 4:15 pacer and I was determined to stay with her.  I could still beat my original time.

But eventually, even she passed me.  That was a huge blow to my morale, but I still thought that if I kept her in my sight, I might be able to at least break even with my original time.

Mile 23: By now, I was heading back to the boardwalk.  It was the last 5k, just a straight shot to the finish. Only 3 more miles.  Usually 3 miles sounds like nothing for me.  But I had to take 3 more walk breaks because the pain was so terrible, resulting in a 13:39 pace.  I knew I wouldn’t beat my original time at this point, so I decided to make good choices so as not to cause myself a major injury like a ruptured achilles tendon.

I am extremely competitive, so accepting the fact that I would finish after 4:20 was really difficult.  At one point on a walk break, I was limping pretty badly from my simultaneous left knee and right achilles pain.  A guy passed me, asking if I was okay.  I couldn’t even speak.  I just nodded and then some tears started running down my cheeks after he passed.  The tears were mainly a result of the pain, but also feeling let down that I wouldn’t accomplish my goal.

I stopped even looking at my GPS watch when it buzzed after each mile to tell me the average time.  I didn’t even want to know.  I only know now that I uploaded the data onto Garmin Connect.

The pain was so severe that I kept noticing that my hands were balled into tight fists.

Miles 24-25: I was so over it.  I just wanted to be done, not even caring about my time.  The only thing that kept me running was the fact that even running a slow 11:00 mile would be faster than walking.  I did not want to be out there any longer.

Mile 25: I ran/ walked/limped an incredibly slow pace of 13:53.  I was so close, but I just couldn’t force my body to be any faster.

Mile 26: Passing the mile 26 mile marker was exciting.  Then a man next to me tripped on the boardwalk.  I could tell he was struggling even before that.  I reached out my arm (though he was a big guy…if he fell, I couldn’t have stopped it from happening) toward him, but luckily he didn’t fall all the way.  He let out a loud groan, though, since I’m sure stubbing his toe was the last thing he needed.

I could see the finisher banner, so I kept trying to motivate him.  “We’re almost there.  Look, you can see the end!”  Motivating him actually helped me to feel a little better also.

Then the corral got closer.  Once I was close to the finish, I somehow had one last burst of energy.  I think it was actually more anger.  I sprinted to the finish, thinking ,”I hate this, I just want to be done.”  But then I crossed the line and I suddenly couldn’t breathe.

Sprinting at the end after feeling that much pain was probably not the best idea.  That’s probably how marathoners drop dead from heart attacks at the end of a race.

I just felt my “beast mode” click on.  The anger and pain and desire to be done just took over and I could no longer feel my aching ankle and knee.

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Sprinting to the finish

I finished.  I got my medal.  I grabbed a water and gatorade and then the tears just started pouring down my cheeks.  My mom came to congratulate me for finishing.  I know she had been nervous about this race because of my recent achilles issues.  She asked why I was crying, thinking that it was because I was relieved to be done.  Or she thought it may have been sadness for missing my goal.

Actually, it was just tears from the amount of pain I was in.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever cried as a result of pain before.  I’ve suffered though pretty decent pain without crying.  I got a tattoo that took 3 1/2 hours.  I’ve experienced 9 years of Lyme-disease-related aches and pains.  Although Lyme has definitely brought me to tears, it was usually more of the emotional pain that was difficult for me — not tears as a result of my physical back or joint pain.

Obviously, I was sad about missing my goal.  I told my mom that I had failed.  But the tears were just from the sheer pain that I was feeling.

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2016 Atlantic City Marathon finisher

So it makes me think, why do we pay to compete in marathons?  I love the half marathon distance because it’s difficult and competitive, but it doesn’t stress my body so badly.  But full marathons?  Pain is inevitable.  We pay hundreds of dollars to experience what I felt over the course of those 26.2 miles.

The Atlantic City marathon was $112.  The New York City marathon is over $400.  Lots of people travel far to get to their marathons.  They pay for flights and hotel rooms.  People are spending hundreds (and even thousands) of dollars for this pain.

Yesterday I wasn’t sure if I’d ever run another marathon again.  I thought maybe I’d just stick to halves.  But part of me is still so determined to beat a 4:20 marathon because I am absolutely positive that I can do it if I am uninjured and if I start slowly.

I think for me what makes the full marathon more meaningful than a half marathon is the sheer level of difficulty.  It takes such mental strength to push through that pain.  I could have tapped out at any moment after mile 13.  I could have sat down and given up.  But I didn’t.

Although I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in the race, I’m still proud of myself.  I still finished, in a time that many people would love to have.  4:29 isn’t a bad race.  It was a 10:15 pace.  (My recent half marathon pace was 8:45, just so you have an idea of how slow 10:15 is for me.)  The average finishing pace for females was 10:51 and for males it was 9:58.  I did fine.  I’m just super competitive, so fine isn’t really enough.

I’m only 28.  I don’t think I could already say that I would never do another marathon because I’m pretty sure that at some point I will want to try it again.

I feel accomplished in knowing that I have the ability to push my body to run 26.2 miles.  13.1 miles is tough, but most people could work up to that type of race with minimal training.  A full marathon requires so much more training and mental fortitude.  To me, that’s what I love so much about it.  It’s just as much mental as physical.  I could have tapped out.  But my mind did not allow that.


What was really interesting to me was what happened when I went to church after the race.  The second reading was from the book of Timothy.  It was the one about competing well and finishing the race.  2 Timothy 4:7 “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”

Then the last song had the line, “we will run and not grow weary, for our God will be our strength.”  How fitting.  I love how God has such perfect timing.


So that was my experience with my second marathon.  I am really proud of all that I have been able to do since getting Lyme disease.  2 full marathons, 4 half marathons, 4 Spartan races 1 Tough Mudder, 1 10K, 1 five-miler, and 2 color run 5Ks.  I really shouldn’t beat myself up over one race that wasn’t ideal.

I finished.  I am proud of myself.  I am a marathoner.

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Nicaragua Video Part 1

Last week I had an amazing time in Nicaragua with Living Water International.  We drilled a 220-foot well to provide a community with access to clean water, taught hygiene lessons and Bible stories, made crafts, and formed relationships with the Nicaraguans we were serving.

I’ll be writing a blog about my experiences, but with school starting soon, I’m trying to enjoy my last beach days while getting ready for my classes, so it might be a while before that is done.

For now, here is the video I made of part 1 of my trip.  Part 2 will be coming later on.

 

28 Things I’ve Learned in 28 Years

With my 28th birthday taking place tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the things I have learned thus far in life.  So, in light of turning 28 years old, here goes…

1. It doesn’t matter what people think.

I don’t really care what people think about most of the choices that I make in my life, but that is something that hasn’t always been true.

My middle school and high school self definitely cared what people thought of me, but once you remove that weight off of your shoulders, it really sets you free to become who you want to become and to do what you love.

I will continue to be myself, whether or not people like it.

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2. God must always remain my top priority.

When I am feeling depressed, lonely, or in pain, it’s so easy to turn to God in prayer.  But it’s also easy to forget about Him when things are going well rather than praising Him in thanksgiving.

Just like friendships will fade, family is not perfect either.  But God is my perfect father who has been by my side through every obstacle.

He is my main focus, since Heaven is my goal.  He is the source of all joy.  He has to come before everything else in my life – money, friends, relationships, work…everything.

Without Him, I am nothing.

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Christ the Redeemer with my sister in Rio de Janeiro

3. Family will be there during the toughest times.

Friendships sometimes weaken, relationships end, and once that happens, it is family who will be there to support me no matter what, even if they don’t necessarily agree with my decisions.

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My mom’s side of the family

4. True friends are people who lift you up and who push you to become the best version of yourself.

I don’t need to have tons of acquaintances.  I would rather have a few solid friendships, and those true friends are people who will push me to become better and to make positive choices in my life.

A true friend will be honest with me and let me know when I may be making a bad decision.  She will let me know that the guy I’m interested in might not be the best choice for me.  She will support me during the tough times and she will be there to laugh with me through life’s adventures.

A friend is not someone who I need to prove myself to; rather, a true friend will love me for me.

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With Lizzy in NYC

5. Exercise should be a priority.

Now that I’ve endured a 9-year continuing battle with Lyme disease, I’ve tried many different treatment options.  But when it comes down to it, exercise seems to be the best remedy, at least for me.  I did the antibiotics (doxycycline, tetracycline, ceftin, biaxin, and mepron).  I cut nightshades from my diet (tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers, eggplant).  I used herbal supplements (fish oil, resveratrol, andrographis, cat’s claw, astragalus, garlic, B-12).

And I absolutely believe that a combination approach will always work the best for Lyme.  However, exercise would have to be my top choice.  When I run, I feel free.  It removes any sadness or stress.  It strengthens my body.  In order to maintain my health as well as my sanity, I need to exercise on a regular basis.

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Running the Hartford Marathon

6. Yoga is much more than glorified stretching.

I don’t know why yoga always had such a negative connotation in my mind.  I thought it looked boring and easy.  But now that I’ve been going to hot yoga since February, I’ve come to love it.

It has strengthened my body, increased my flexibility, decreased my stress and tension, and made me a faster runner.  And it’s definitely not easy.

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7. Dessert is absolutely acceptable.

I eat healthy and I pay attention to the foods I put into my body.  I try to eat as much organic produce as I can, I opt for grass-fed beef, and I avoid farm-raised fish.  But I am against dieting and tight food restrictions since they usually don’t work anyway.

So while I eat healthy most of the time, I won’t give up desserts.  I have a sweet tooth and it’s not something that I’m trying to lose.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat massive, decadent desserts every day.  Sometimes my dessert consists of 6 Reese’s Pieces or two Starbursts.  But still, I love dessert and I don’t plan on changing that.

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Mint chocolate chip Freak Shake

8. Material objects do not provide lasting happiness.

I’m not a very materialistic person, so this is something that I’ve always known, but it amazes me how many people my age still seem to believe that new car or computer will cause them great happiness.

I don’t own designer clothes.  With the cost of one designer blouse, I can instead buy at least four shirts at cheaper stores.  I don’t think I’m any less happy because of it.

I’ve never had a new car.  I prefer used.  Then, if it gets some scratches, I don’t really care, since it already had some to start with.

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My first car (used Plymouth Grand Voyager from my grandpa) and my second and current car (used Honda Civic)

9. Financial stability is nice, but wealth is unnecessary.

Do I seek to be poor? Of course not.  I am happy that I am financially stable, but wealth is not my goal.

I want to be able to provide for myself in terms of the things that I need in life, but I don’t need to buy that beach house or that Maserati to consider myself successful.

If I one day have a family, I hope that my husband and I can provide a level of stability without spoiling our children.  I want to be able to do the things that I need to do, but I don’t want to be so wealthy that I forget what it is like to struggle.

10. A yearly vacation is necessary.

So many people never go on vacation.  Others go once every few years.  For me, yearly vacation (or vacations even more often than that) are an essential part of life.

That doesn’t mean I have to shell out thousands of dollars to fly to Hawaii, Fiji, or Cabo.  I’d be happy with a week down the shore, a weekend getaway, a trip to see Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon.

Growing up, my mom never had much money, but vacation was always a priority.  She saved all  year so that we could go to Long Beach Island for one or two weeks and for that I am grateful.  Everyone needs time to hit reset, time to forget about work and problems at home and simply relax.

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Long Beach Island, New Jersey

11. Volunteering benefits the volunteer as much as the people being served.

I love traveling overseas on mission trips and serving the poor of the world.  But what is always amazing to me is how I end up being served, how I end up learning so much from the people I think I am going to help.

The Rwandans I met last summer were the happiest people, yet the poorest I’ve ever met.  They had nothing.  Some of them lived in one-room homes that were constructed from mud.  They had torn clothes.  One pot to cook with.  But their smiles could light up the room and their prayer was incredibly heartfelt. They worshipped God through their song and dance like nothing I’ve ever seen in America.  I was humbled to meet them.

Everyone should participate in some sort of community service.  It doesn’t need to be overseas; it can be down the road at the soup kitchen, or helping out with Habitat for Humanity.

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With my sponsored child, Patience, in Rwanda

12. A simple smile can brighten one’s day.

I try to be friendly and welcoming to everyone I come into contact with.  I say hello or wave to people I pass on my runs.  I care to hear the answer when I ask the supermarket cashier how her day is going.  I smile.  A lot.

Just like that famous quote about how we never know who may be falling in love with our smile, we also don’t know what obstacles the people we encounter on a day to day basis are facing.  Our smile might seem insignificant, but it could be what lifts a person’s spirits and makes them feel loved.

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13. Love is powerful.

I have a tattoo from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.  This verse reads: “If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have the faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Love is what it all comes down to.  If you volunteer only to convince people that you’re a good person, it’s meaningless.  If you help the poor while judging them and looking down upon them, you’re not really helping.  We must do everything with love.

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In La Jolla, California with Amy, Lizzy, and Kara

14. Struggles strengthen and shape us.

Nobody wants to face pain, but it is those moments when we come close to rock bottom that we learn from the most.  It is those times of weakness that build us up.

During the various obstacles that life brings, it’s often difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but looking back, it becomes more clear how each struggle helped us to grow.

15. We must take pride in our work.

I love my job as a teacher and I take a great deal of pride in that.  I wish more people felt the same way about their jobs.

But even if you don’t have your dream job, you should still take pride in it.  I didn’t always have the perfect job.  I was a custodian for two years during college, but I still put forth my full effort.  I vacuumed every little corner in the library and I washed every smudge off of the windows.  Was it my dream job? No, but I still did it to the best of my ability.

There are custodians in my school who are the most positive, energetic people.  Did they grow up hoping to clean schools for a living?  Probably not, but that’s where they are at the moment and they are carrying out their responsibilities without complaint and with their full effort.

My generation is full of entitled people who think that they deserve that position as CEO with very little work.  They don’t want to accept anything lower than their dream position, but for most people, that dream job won’t ever happen without the stepping stones that lead to it.

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With two of my former students

16. We need to stop judging others, comparing ourselves, and being so critical.

If I spend my time judging someone, I will have no time to love him.

There will always be someone with a better job, prettier face, more toned body.  We live in such a cutthroat world that leads us to compare ourselves to everyone.  I can’t say that I’ve never done this before; we all do.

But this judging just hurts us as well as the people we’re looking down upon.

We don’t know what someone has experienced in his life.  We don’t know why people make the decisions that they do.  We must spend our time loving them rather than critiquing them.

17. We must savor the moment.

We need to be present in the moment, rather than waiting for the future or living in the past.

So many people waste their life away hoping for the future.  The high school student thinks that life will begin after graduation.  The college student is waiting for the “real world” that will open up to him after earning his degree.  The girl who spends her days hoping for her future husband.  The married couple longing to have children.  The older couple waiting for retirement.

Every day is special and we must acknowledge that, rather than wasting our time waiting for what we want next.  Be happy with today.

18. We should strive to remain child-like.

As the Bible says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

As children, we long to become adults.  And sometimes as adults we take life too seriously.

It is not just good, but necessary, at times, to be like children and to have their childlike faith.  We need to step back from our hectic lives to embrace laughter and silliness once in a while.

Children can accept the idea of God and Heaven so much more easily than many adults.  They have that childlike faith that God really wants from each of us.

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19. We must be aware of current events.

I’m not always the best when it comes to this.  Since I don’t have cable, I never see the news, so I have to make a point to look at the news online.  Some days I’m better than others.

I know that the news can make us cynical or frustrated, but we have to make ourselves aware of the world.

And we can’t just focus on America.  We must pay attention to international news as well.

If you have never heard of the Rwandan genocide, you should go do a little research.  If you know nothing about the many recent terrorist attacks, you should spend a few minutes educating yourself.

We can’t give into the “stupid American” stereotype.

20. Experiences are more memorable than tangible objects.

When I think about my experiences in life thus far, these are some of my most memorable moments (and none of them has to do with a tangible object):

-Teaching a group of teachers while volunteering in Haiti

-Trekking with gorillas in Rwanda

-Blowing bubbles while running around with a group of young children in Ecuador

-Hiking up a waterfall with my now brother-in-law in Rio and swimming under one in Brasilia

-Sitting on the hang-gliding platform with my aunt and cousins, enjoying the view of Brazil

-Family trips to Long Beach Island and Myrtle Beach

-Standing in line to get to stand front row at the Eminem/Rihanna concert

-Standing in line to wait for Adam Sandler’s autograph

-Hiking with my dog, Butterscotch, at Tarrywile and Lover’s Leap

-Meeting my sister for the first time at the airport in Rio and meeting my Brazilian grandparents for the first time in Cruzeiro do Sul

I could go on an on, but none of those memories has to do with any tangible object.  They are all experiences that are memorable because of the activities I was taking part in and the people I was spending time with.

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Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

 

21. We can’t let fear stop us from living a fulfilling life.

I grew up terrified of airplanes.  I told my mom that I would honeymoon at the Jersey Shore because I had no need to travel if a flight was required.

But ever since my first flight during my trip to the Dominican Republic with my mom during my senior year of high school, I have learned how this silly fear of airplanes would have stopped me from experiencing so many places like Ecuador, San Diego, Brazil, Haiti, Rwanda, Texas, and Nicaragua (in a few weeks).

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

22. We ladies with curly hair need to embrace it.

I used to despise my curly hair.  Although it’s not as curly now as it was when I was young, it’s still quite curly.  Although I would still love to have naturally straight hair, I have learned how to maintain my curls and how to make them look better by using mousse.

So many girls with curly or wavy hair straighten it every single day, but that just ruins the health of their hair.  So will I still straighten it occasionally?  Sure.  But most of the time, I now embrace the curls that I was born with.

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23. We must never stop learning.

I might be going into my 7th year of teaching, but there is still so much for me to learn.  We must never become satisfied with our current level of knowledge, as there is so much to know in this world.

Not only do I want to learn more about the best teaching methods, but I also want to become fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, two languages that I can understand and speak (Spanish more than Portuguese), but not fluently.

My mom started college when I was in high school.  She graduated with her associate’s degree when I graduated with my bachelor’s.  She graduated with her bachelor’s when I earned my master’s degree.  There is no age that is too old to keep learning.

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Mom’s graduation from WCSU the day after mine for my M.S.

24. Jumping pictures never get old.

I love them.  I take them everywhere.  I may be 28 years old, but I have no shame.

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With Amy in Coronado, California

25. We shouldn’t always take ourselves too seriously.

Life is meant to be enjoyed.  Sometimes, we need to just let ourselves loose and be silly.  We can’t be so rigid that we forget to enjoy the simple moments.

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With my cousins in Frost Valley, NY

26. Cousins are the friends we get to keep for life.

I love my cousins so much and I have so much fun with all of them.  I started off just knowing my two cousins on my mom’s side, but then as aunts and uncles started to get married, I got so many more.  And then I met my family in Brazil, along with even more cousins.

I’ll probably always be closest to my two cousins, Doug and Dan, on my mom’s side, since we spent so much time together, especially when going on vacations while growing up.  They’re more like the brothers I never had than cousins and I’m blessed to have them in my life.

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With Doug and Dan on Christmas Eve

27. Dogs truly are man’s best friend.

I love dogs and I miss Butterscotch so much, even though he hasn’t been with my for two full years now.

And rescued dogs are the best, since you can save them from previously rough lives.

I had so much fun walking him, hiking with him, and just cuddling up next to him on the couch while watching a good movie.

He licked my tears off of my cheeks when I cried.  He could tell when I was not feeling well.  He was with me for ten years and he was such an important part of my life during that time.

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The day I adopted Butterscotch for my sweet sixteen

28. Laughter is the best medicine.

I love laughing.  I laugh all of the time.

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His Perfect Timing

I really believe that everything happens for a reason.  I find myself repeating that line over and over in my conversations, especially with my students.  But sometimes it’s so difficult to actually heed my own advice.

I can’t say that I love the fact that I have Lyme disease, but it has forced me to grow in so many ways.  If it had not been for Lyme, I might not be a runner right now, something that I love so much.

Upon graduating from college, my goal was to move to the Jersey shore.  Things didn’t work out initially and I had to work in Connecticut for five years, but I had amazing experiences at my job there and I had the opportunity to meet some awesome students and coworkers.

Two years ago, I met a man who I really thought I was meant to be with and when he suddenly ended the relationship, I was lost and confused.  I felt especially lonely since I was living in a new state.  But looking back, I think that he was the reason why I had the courage to take the leap of faith that required me to pack up my life and move to New Jersey.  If I had been in a relationship with someone in Connecticut, I may have second guessed myself.  Or if I had been single, I may have simply been to afraid to move somewhere where I didn’t know a single soul, leaving behind my job, apartment, friends, and family.

I could go on and on with examples of other times when, looking back, I can see God’s work, but the most recent occasion happened last night.

Since moving to New Jersey, I have been hoping to meet some like-minded, Catholic friends.  I don’t want to be picky when it comes to friends, and I have met great people at work, but I want someone who really gets me and understands why I am the way that I am.

I was so fortunate to have attended Franciscan University, where everyone is Catholic and it is so easy to find people who will push you to be a better person.  Out in the real world, things aren’t quite that simple.  I want a friend who I can talk to about my faith without them thinking I’m too hardcore, or some sort of Jesus freak.

So about a month ago, I was reading the church bulletin, hoping to find something geared toward people in my age group.  I saw a little blurb asking for young adults in their 20s and 30s to try to start a CORE team for Theology on Tap.  I immediately sent an email when I got home to say that I was interested.

We ended up meeting at a place in Belmar a few weeks ago, but the turnout was not great.  There were 5 of us, and only 2 of us were actually from the parish.

We had a nice time, but I was not looking too optimistic about this group, considering that there was only one person who was actually from my church and in my age group.  So we met again the following week and this time, there were only 4 of us.  It wasn’t looking very promising at that point.

In trying to think of possible future activities, we decided to go to a place near St. Rose for dinner at 6pm and then walk over to adoration (my church has Eucharistic adoration from 7-8pm on Monday evenings).

Last night, to my surprise, there were 8 of us at dinner!  I was so excited that it was more than just the four of us.  I ordered my typical water without ice and then I heard the girl across from me, Gabby, order the same thing.  I know it seems totally random, but most people think it’s strange when I order water without ice.  When someone asked us why we don’t like ice, we immediately responded with the exact same sentence at the same time about how it makes the water too cold.

Then I was talking about my previous day’s 11.5 mile run and I found out that Gabby also runs and that she’s done a half marathon before.  I was really excited, thinking that maybe this was finally someone who I could get along with well.

I had a great time at dinner just talking with everyone and getting to know everybody’s back story.

Then we walked over to church for adoration.  A few people had to leave due to prior commitments.  During adoration, I usually pray the whole time, read a book, or do something else that really requires my full thought.  I started off that way, praying about the things on my mind, but then I just felt like being still and trying to listen to God, knowing that He has a plan for me.

I didn’t feel particularly inspired, but I left church feeling happy that I had left time to be with God on my busy Monday.

As we were walking outside, I saw Gabby approaching us in running clothes.  She was trying to get back in time for benediction, but she had just missed it. She asked if I wanted to go for a run since she was headed to the boardwalk.  At first, I didn’t really want to since I had eaten a BLT and fries for dinner and I never run that close to eating.  But how could I turn down the offer to finally have someone to run with?

So I drove her to my apartment and changed into my running gear, and then we went for a short jog on the boardwalk.  I couldn’t believe how many things we had in common.  My birthday is July 20th and hers is July 16th of the same year.  She’s also left-handed.  Obviously those are pretty insignificant things, but I felt like we could have talked for hours.  We talked about relationships and the struggle that it is to find a guy who is actually committed in his Catholic faith.  How it’s easy to find nice guys, but that nice isn’t good enough.

I sometimes feel like I’m too picky when it comes to guys, but I don’t just want a nice guy.  There are plenty of those around.  I want a nice guy who loves God and who loves his Catholic faith.  And being Catholic alone isn’t really good enough.  If a guy simply goes through the motions of attending Mass, that’s still not really what I yearn for.  I want someone who is passionate in his love for the Lord, someone who makes his faith a priority.

Yet while I want someone who is passionate, I also want someone with other interests, someone who likes to do things outside of church as well.  I have looked at guys on Catholic Match before, trying to see if there was anyone who I was interested enough in to actually pay for the subscription, but I don’t love the idea of paying to find a relationship.  And many of the guys who I’ve been on the site are one of two options:

Option 1: They’re Catholic in name only, mainly on the site to meet nice women, but they aren’t passionate about their faith.

Option 1: They’re passionately Catholic, but they seem to lack social skills and they don’t share common interests with me.  It seems that all they do is related to church.

And this is why I sometimes feel too picky.  Yes, I want a Catholic guy, but despite my love for my faith, I have many other interests.  I don’t want to spend the entirety of my weekends in church.  I love running, kayaking, hiking, going to the beach, mini-golfing, and just being outside in general.  I want someone who can share those interests.  Is it impossible to find someone who shares these feelings?

Looking back on my relationship with my ex, I really thought that we were headed for marriage.  We had talked about engagements and future plans.  I was confident in us.  But I see now how I was still settling.  Yes, he was Catholic, but he refused to say grace aloud at a restaurant because he didn’t want people to look at us.  He didn’t want to go to Mass on holy days.  He went to church with me every Sunday, but he didn’t mind missing Mass here or there.  He was always complaining about the homilies.

He didn’t really like going to do outdoor activities as much as I did and was very happy to watch TV or movies instead — something that I only really do on a rainy day when I have no other plans.  He loved going out to watch movies at the theater, while I would rather spend my money going to a nice dinner and watching a movie at home.

He had no desire to travel  — something that I am so passionate about.  Yet I was okay with that.  I thought that our relationship was worth sacrificing travel for.  And it wasn’t even his refusal to go on mission trips with me…he wouldn’t even go on a day trip to another city.  I had accepted the fact that I would probably just continue to volunteer overseas alone, while he stayed home to coach football.  Football was his passion and although I learned a lot about it, I really don’t care at all about the sport.  He was a great guy, but he was probably right when he eventually decided that we weren’t right for each other.

Maybe it could have worked out just fine.  But I am still hoping that God has something even better in store for me.  Maybe, once I meet the right person, I won’t have to sacrifice some of my passions.  I know that any solid relationship requires some sacrifice and compromise, but it’s tough to decide how much is acceptable. It’s difficult to know if I’m giving up too much of myself in order to be in a certain relationship.

Gabby has the exact same feelings as me, and similar situations with dating.  If it wasn’t a work night, I am sure that we could have just talked for hours.  And she said something that really resonated with me, about listening to the desires of my heart.  If there is something that I really seek in a man, that is something that I shouldn’t give up on.

I know that if I had to choose the perfect person for me, he would love God above everything else, but also enjoy being outside and staying active, and be eager to travel with me.  I don’t want to have to compromise on any of those three things.  If I did compromise and find myself in a marriage with someone who didn’t fit those criteria, I think I would be always curious if I could have found a better person if I had waited it out.  And that is what would lead me to a divorce.

Do we necessarily need to enjoy all of the same outdoor activities?  No, but some should overlap.  I’m not expecting or even seeking a guy to accompany me in marathon training.  But I hope I can find one who will cheer me on at the finish line.  I don’t need a guy who loves kayaking, but maybe instead he enjoys hiking.  He has to enjoy some of the activities that I enjoy.  Does he need to jump on a plane for 14 hours to go trekking with gorillas in Rwanda?  No.  But going on a drive to the Baltimore Aquarium, or flying out to see the Grand Canyon would be awesome.  And he would need to be supportive of the mission trips that I go on, not upset with me for leaving for a week or two.

So Gabby and I chatted about jobs, relationships, dating, our faith, and friends over our 2.3 mile run.  She told me how she loves going kayaking and stand up paddle boarding on a river that is close to where her sister lives.  She also enjoys running and the beach.  Although I don’t drink, she assured me that I will enjoy going out with her to experience the Belmar night life with her and some of her other Catholic friends.

I drove her back to my car, we exchanged numbers, and I left feeling so excited about the way the night had played out.

A few hours before, I had come home from work, went to the beach, and I was actually feeling a bit frustrated knowing that I would have to leave the beach early to shower and go out to dinner.  But I am so happy that I went.

I have no idea what will come with this young adult group or this friendship, but I am absolutely thrilled to find out.

I couldn’t even fall asleep last night because I was just in awe of the way God works.  My relationship ended in February and I took time to work on myself.  During Lent, I had been going to adoration every Monday and Stations of the Cross every Friday.  I went to Mass every Sunday and I went to confession twice.  I was reading my devotional daily and trying to pray more than I had been in the recent past.

I also worked on restoring my health, through hot yoga and running.  I needed to be alone during the past few months to get to where I am right now.  And maybe He now knows that I’m ready for more, whatever comes from all of this.

They always say that things happen when we’re least expecting them and I think last night was a perfect example of that.  I went to dinner expecting there to be four of us, maybe five max.  But everything fell perfectly into place.

I wish that I was better at waiting patiently and trusting in Him, but I get so impatient when I feel so alone.  I need to remember that He truly has the best plans for me, even if they don’t happen as quickly as I think they should.  Waiting is key.

And the idea of waiting reminds me of a blog that I wrote on February 11th, about The Difficulty of Waiting.  At the time, I was just frustrated that I had to wait to see how life would unfold, but now, in June, I am starting to see the fruits of that message in my devotional about waiting.  It had said this:

“Your path is difficult.  There is no work in life so hard as waiting, and yet I say wait.  Wait until I show you My Will.  Proof it is of My Love and of My certainty of your true discipleship, that I give you hard tasks.

Again, I say wait.  All motion is more easy than calm waiting.  So many of My followers have marred their work and hindered their progress of My Kingdom by activity.

Wait.  I will not overtry your spiritual strength…

All your toil in rowing and all your activity could no have accomplished the journey so soon.  Oh, wait and trust.  Wait, and be not afraid.”

Four months later, and maybe the waiting has finally paid off.  I am eager to see what unfolds next.

God is so good and I am feeling incredibly blessed.

 

Jogger or Runner?

I recently read an article in Runner’s World magazine about the different connotations that the words “jogger” and “runner” have.  The writer, Mark Remy, explains how the term “jogger” is almost always the preferred term used by media outlets when a crime happens to a person who had been running.  It’s always the joggers who are raped, mugged, hit by cars, and who find the dead bodies along the trails.  The word “runner” is rarely used when concerning crimes.

I found this article so interesting because it’s so true that the word “jogger” is almost always the preferred choice when it comes to the news.  And the word “jogger” typically comes with a much more negative connotation than the word “runner.”

So what is it that determines which category we fall under?  I consider myself a runner, not a jogger.  But why?  What makes a runner?

Do I need to run a certain pace to be a runner?

Must I wear a certain type of sneaker?

Must I run a certain number of days or hours per week?

Must I participate in a certain number of races?

Must I run through the wind and rain and winter weather?

Must I have completed at least a 10K? Half marathon? Full marathon?

What makes a runner?

And how is a jogger different?  When I think of jogger, I think of someone who is running in order to lose weight, probably wearing gray sweat pants, and who is hobbling along rather than running smoothly, most likely out of breath.  Or I think of someone who is just taking a very short, leisurely job along the beach, running with the intent of embracing the beauty around them more than focusing on the running itself.

The definition of the word “jogger” is to move or shake with a jerk or a push.  So even the denotation of the word does not equate to smooth running.

Like many runners, I don’t like to be told that I’m a jogger.  Jogger?, I think. No, I’m not a jogger.  I RUN.

If someone calls me a jogger, it makes it seem less important, less significant.  It makes my running seem like more of a little hobby than something that I take pretty seriously.

Running is a relatively significant part of my life.  It’s what helps me to stay healthy and keep my Lyme under control.  It helps me to relax after stressful days.  It helps me to push myself to get faster and stronger so that I can get better at my race times.  It allows me to take time out of my day to simply be alone and think about what ever is on my mind.

In light of the problems of the world, this bit of semantics really isn’t the most significant thing to write about, but it’s something that I found so intriguing upon reading that Runner’s World article.

Do other sports have similar situations where one word for the sport is much more negative?  I’m not really sure.

And why is is that we runners aren’t the ones who are mugged and raped?  Is it because we run at a fast enough pace that we’re not the ones attacked?

It’s only the slow joggers who get into these situations, obviously.

Of course I’m just kidding, but really, why can’t a runner be mentioned on the news when some of these events take place?  It’s not like we runners are safe from being victims in a crime.

I think we should just phase the word “jogger” out of our vocabulary altogether.  If you take the time to get outside or get on your treadmill and go for a run, then you should just consider yourself a runner.

It doesn’t matter if you are running a 12-minute pace.  You’re still out there.  You’re still running.

It doesn’t matter if the farthest you’ve ever run is 1 mile.  You’re still running.

So let’s all embrace the term “runner.”  I am a runner.  Jogger?  No.  Definitely not.

run
Hartford Marathon