As I’ve done for the past three years (2014, 2015, 2016), here is my 2017 year in review. Last year, I was incredibly thankful for having met my new friends from Bible study and starting a new relationship. Now, I have even more to be grateful for this year. So here is what happened since last year:
-AJ and I rang in the new year at Devin and Elise’s wedding in Connecticut
-Then we went hiking at Lover’s Leap in New Milford, CT and Kent Falls in Kent, CT the next day
-Frost Valley in Claryville, NY
-I met up with Lizzy in Philadelphia since she was there for clinicals for vet school (before graduating in May!!!)
-Camden Aquarium with AJ
-Hiking with AJ and Bolt in Freehold
-Hiking at Lover’s Leap in New Milford, CT again with AJ
-Grandma’s birthday party
-Valentine’s Day dinner at Rooney’s in Long Branch
-Going to Absecon Lighthouse, the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and Lucy the Elephant in Margate with AJ, Sway, and Denielle
-My mom’s birthday
-Escape room in Freehold with AJ, Daniel, and Brady
-AJ’s 25th birthday party
-United States Marine Corps Educator Workshop in Parris Island, South Carolina
-Sway’s Confirmation at the Easter Vigil
-Easter in Connecticut
-Hiking at Bushkill Falls for AJ’s birthday
-Finishing the Spartan Beast with AJ in Vernon, NJ
-Bible study at the Freehold Mall
-Battleship USS New Jersey in Camden
-Father Larry’s talk with Bible study
-Abby & Lauren’s Irish step dancing recital
-My cousin Lauren’s first communion
-Scoring AP exams in Tampa, Florida
-Acro yoga in my back yard
-4th of July in Connecticut for my grandpa’s birthday
-Vacation in LBI with my mom
-Churrascaria for my early 29th birthday dinner
-Acro yoga attempt #2 in my back yard
-Volunteering in Uganda with Go Be Love International. Sole Hope in Jinja
-Free day at the Nile River
-Volunteering with Go Be Love International at Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja
-Phil and Marissa’s wedding in Pennsylvania
-Chris and Grace’s wedding in Pennsylvania
-Visiting Franciscan University for the first time since I graduated 7 years ago
-Jersey Shore Half Marathon in Sandy Hook
-Getting engaged on October 9th
-Connecticut for a family party
-Pro-Life dinner at Doolan’s in Spring Lake
-Lizzy visited & we went Halloween bowling
-AJ’s cousin, Jared, took engagement photos for us
-Celebrated Thanksgiving with AJ’s family in Somerset, NJ
-Hiking at Hartshorne Park
-Christmas Eve in Connecticut at Grandma & Grandpa’s house
-Christmas Day in Connecticut: morning at Grandma & Grandpa’s house, shoveling snow, and then Christmas Day at Aunt Suzi & Uncle Bob’s house
-Young Adults in Faith Christmas celebration at St. Robert’s in Freehold
2017 was a great year. Looking back at January, when AJ and I had only been together for a month, I never expected that by New Year’s Eve, we would be planning a wedding, figuring out where we want to live, and having intense conversations about the future. So much can change in one year and I am thrilled to see what 2018 entails.
I thank God for all of His abundant blessings and pray for an amazing 2018.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
My friend came to cheer me on with my mom
Before the race
With my mom
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
My race rack
AC Marathon medal
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.