Uber Frugal Month – A Recap

Although a few things unexpectedly cropped up, this month was a rousing success both in savings and goal terms. I’m going to go line by line over everything I have spent this month. Don’t worry, this list isn’t very long.

$396 – tithe. This is non-negotiable, the first thing that I do with my earnings, no matter what. I usually try to tithe at least 10%.
$100 – gift. I give this to my mom and stepdad each month to help them pay down debt. She has done so much for me over the years. It’s the least I can do.

Rent and Utilities
$300 – I am incredibly blessed in my living situation. My mom has told me many times that I do not have to pay rent because the rent from my two roommates covers the mortgage payment. I choose to pay rent though in the form of contributing to their debt repayment.
$63.46 – Verizon, cell phone bill. I have briefly looked at possible ways to lower my bill. I do not like how high this is. At the moment, it does not seem likely that I will be able to switch in the near future but I will keep looking.
$9 – pest control split three ways. I hate bugs; this is $9 well spent
$19.99 – Charter internet, split three ways. Unfortunately, Charter is the only Internet provider for my subdivision. We are stuck with the $60 monthly charge for this necessity.
$39.08 – Duke Energy, power bill split three ways. When this is my cost after the bill being split in three, I cringe. Winter and summer power bills do that to me.
$13.49 – water, split three ways. I worked really hard to lower our water bill this month by taking shorter showers, using just the amount of water I need to wash dishes and things like that.

Other Regular Monthly Expenses
$16.47 – gas for Siena, my car. I get gas each time I go out to Costco which is usually every other week. The prices are always cheaper. The first few years of my Costco membership I did not take advantage of this savings. I would have had to use my debit card. The cash back on my credit card was better than the savings per gallon. Then this past June Costco switched to Visa. My switch was a no brainer.
$115.94 – groceries. This is one of the lowest totals I have had for groceries. While I would love to keep it this low, there were a few times this month where I got into a food rut caused by not having excess around plus a lack of imagination on my part. Also, I have only one freezer meal left from my massive prep back in August before the start of the school year.
$12.71 – Netflix subscription. I am watching less TV than I used to but this subscription is used by several people in my family. I’ve thought about asking them to contribute but at $2-3 per month, it seems petty.

Regular Monthly Savings
$15.22 – car taxes. I started setting aside money each month to pay my yearly car taxes so that I would not be taken by surprise like I was the first year I had to pay for my “new” car.
$20.00 – Christmas. Since the process worked well with car taxes, I decided to start doing this for Christmas. Hopefully this year I will still be able to save in November and December 2017 unlike 2016.
$300 – At a bare minimum I devote $100 a month to each of my three savings funds: travel, house in cash and emergency.
$40 – Health Savings Account. I am currently transferring this on top of the $20 withdrawn pretax from each paycheck. At the next possible opportunity I will up my pretax contributions as well. When I first filled out the paperwork I was coming from a period of income uncertainty which played a significant factor.

Other Expenses
$9.53 – Starz add-on Amazon Prime subscription. This is the charge that I hate the most this month. I actually generated it at the end of last month when I wanted to show a portion of a movie to my students on the last day before Winter break. It was a movie I had shown to my students back when I taught Spanish. At that time I had a DVD copy but I assumed that I had gotten rid of it along with 95% of my other teaching materials when I left teaching back in 2011. I not only found the DVD during my minimalist purge a couple weeks ago, I also discovered that what I thought was a free trial was not actually because I had already used the free trial months ago.
$82.85 – This was my total for teaching related expenses, higher than I would like. Part of that was caused at the end of the month when I found myself participating in a new rewards system for some of my kids. I liked the idea that another teacher presented but had no idea that he planned to put it into place that very week. The other portion is for the prizes for the rewards system that I’ve had in place for a while. I want to figure out a cheaper way to get their prizes. Plus, three rewards systems (the school has one too) is too many. I need to work on this or I will go nuts trying to keep it straight.
$11.14 – new journal. Since writing is a priority to me, this was a mandatory expense. It just happened to fall in this month.
$45 – Performance Therapy. Once again, this charge is related to my goals for the year and is thus mandatory, for me.
$124.01 – new running shoes. They wear out and have to be replaced.

Additional Savings
$460.84 – It felt really good to transfer this money back to my travel savings account. I have categorized it as savings since it is going back into the savings account. Technically though, I am paying myself back for the money I “borrowed” from my account to cover expenses that cropped up (like needing to buy a new laptop) during the time I had no income.
$183.42 – I had hoped to be able to contribute more to my travel fund but what I was able to save brought my monthly savings rate to 40.91%. Definitely a success.

After breaking everything down, what did I learn from this month? DO I consider it a success? Short answer to the latter? Yes!

The biggest takeaway, one that I did not expect, was the realization that I am incredibly blessed. God has given me so much. Intentionality causes one to slow down and savor, to be thankful for everything that I do have. That to me is more valuable than any dollar amount saved.

Thoughts on Minimalism

Over the past several years I have been drifting – slowly at first but much more rapidly now – towards minimalism. Based on my family history, this is unusual. As a general rule, both sides of my family have collected and held onto large numbers of things.

Of itself, collections and keepsakes can be quite innocuous. The line between a well0curated collection and a horde of junk often appears blurry to the collector which potentially leads to hoarding. My great aunt crossed that line helped by an unhealthy sense of paranoia. She so feared identity theft that she held onto every item that held her name – from magazines to empty prescription bottles. At some point she moved out of her rent-controlled apartment and into the family home with her brother. She continued paying rent on the apartment though, unable or unwilling to part with anything. That job fell instead to my grandpa, mother and aunt.

These experiences led to a shared aversion for my mom and me. Neither of us wanted to leave such an onerous task to anyone who might come behind us. Periodically, usually on a day off, both of us go through the house filling large garbage bags with things to donate. Each time I continued to be surprised with how many bags I filled.

Each time I fought my own hoarding tendencies. My number one strength is context. According to gallup, creator of strengthsfinder, a person whose strength is context “look[s] back because that’s where the answers lie. You look back because that’s where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present.” (source) For me, this meant that I held on to everything that might possibly hold a memory in the event that some day I might look back on or use again. This made it difficult to get rid of things. Each time we packed up donations, I forced myself to take a second look at those maybes.

For example, I once held onto every piece of college writing or assessment that I received back with a grade. I also still had many of the rough drafts for those papers. While I no longer have any of them, I did not get rid of them all at once. The first time I went through the stack(s) I recycled all of my notes. Yes, I had saved my notes. The second time I recycled all papers except for any essays or term papers. The third time, just this last summer – nine years after I graduated from college – I recycled the remainder after first photographing the pages, a suitable compromise for my need for context.

This process began to accelarte a year and a half ago when I first discovered Frugalwoods and the previously unknown to me world of personal finance/minimalism/frugality blogs. Many different things started to come together for me. Unbeknownst to me, God started using what I was learning through these blogs and other events in my life to help me begin the process towards learning what truly made me happy.

This brings me to the inspiration for this post. As seems to be a tradition, the second week of January brought snow and unexpected time off. One of the things I crossed off my imaginary list of things to get to was finally watching The Minimalists documentary. I had originally planned to write a review and commentary of sorts but this entry has taken a different turn so I will save those observations for another post.

I came away from watching that documentary with a renewed desire to pare down my belongings, to figure out what truly matters. I spent several hours on January 10th combing through my belongings and asking myself the following questions. Does this bring me joy? Why do I have this? What purpose does this serve? Do I need this?

THe first thing I got rid of was the mason jar three-quarters full of the extra crossstitch thread that I clip off when I finish a thread. I can’t tell you why I first started “collecting” these bits of thread. It just started happening and kept happening. While watching the documentary that jar kept coming to my mind. I couldn’t think of a good reason for having it so it was the first thing to go.

By the time I finished I had filled a large black garbage bag of items to donate and another with recycling.
Blog Post Pic
That does not include anything I threw straight into the trashcan.

After I returned from dropping off the donation and the recycling, I returned home and looked at my room. It still looked like I have too much stuff. Who knows, maybe in six months or a year I will fill up another garbage bag of items to donate.

One thing I know for sure though, that bag will not contain items purchased between now and then. I want to become more intentional in every part of my life including my possessions. Every item needs a purpose. If it has none, I don’t need it. Life is a lot better lived unencumbered with things.

The Rest of the Goals

I am a goals oriented person. I derive immense satisfaction from making lists and then crossing through each line. I become giddy when I set goals and surpass them handily. (I should remember this for those many times I attempt to shoot for the moon.)

Instead of devoting a separate post to each of these other goals since that would push non-goal oriented posts until some time around my birthday in July, I will lump them together in this post. There are a few categories.

Health and Nutrition
This ties directly to running. However, running is not the only thing that affects my overall fitness.

Overall, I want to clean up my diet. I have been trying to work on this for years. I think that I lacked specificity and staying power. So, I am going to focus on one or two habits each month. Hopefully by the end of each month I will have acquired a new healthy habit that will stick for the long term.

For January, I have been (since this post will be published mid month) focusing on drinking at least two full water bottles each day including weekends and limiting myself to two Ghirardelli peppermint bark squares (or four mini squares) each day.

As to the specificity of the latter goal, I have discovered in recent years a distinct weakness for this deliciousness. Once I open one, I have a hard time not opening three or four more. Since I think I should cut back on sugar overall, this is a specific goal that I will have, hopefully, until the end of February since for Christmas I received three bags of the regular sized squares and two of the minis.

As to the water goal, I noticed very early on when I started back teaching that the water I took to school in my water bottle often came right back home with me as well. Regular water drinking became an early casualty of my resumed teaching career. I used to drink three bottles minimum a day during the work week although my weekend water drinking has always been less than stellar. It’s all about building a habit through. I have started making sure to bring my water bottle down to lunch with me. It’s still a bit challenging on days when I have duty and have to roam the cafeteria but one step at a time. I also now try to make sure to drink another bottle after school while I work. If I do not finish before I leave, I try to finish on the way home.

Reading and Writing
These two things have been loves of mine for as long as I can remember. Once I started teaching the first time back in 2009 they started slipping away. Other newer, shinier things attracted my attention. When things reached a tipping point early this semester God used the pressure to show me what gave me true joy. I never thought that I would give up keeping up with an insane number of TV shows but I have not regretted a thing. Back on topic though.

These two things bring me pure pleasure. Thus, I want to prioritize them. First I will name the goals and then the method I plan to use to achieve them.

I want to read at least a hundred books this year. Those golden years back in 2009 and 2009 when I read over 300 books in a single year may be long in the past but I can still cross that century mark.

This is the plan. First, I want to adopt a habit I learned from my sister’s boyfriend and carry a book with me at all times. I would much rather read a good book when stuck waiting on something (like a meeting to start) than scroll mindlessly through the internet.

Second, I want to set aside fifteen minutes each day, minimum, for reading. Except on very rare occasions, even with the highest work load, fifteen minutes is a reasonably manageable amount of time.

Third, I will read for at least 40 minutes each Saturday and Sunday. I will also do this before I start work so that I don’t get wrapped up in something and run out of time. Priorities. This will also apply to days off and vacation except my international trip on which I will not be taking any books aside from my journal.

Speaking of my journal (and writing)…

I want to journal every day and write at least one blog post a week, two on race weeks. Long term, I hope to get back into fiction writing but for now I am focused on getting the tap repaired and functioning again.

First, I will journal before I settle in to cross stitch at the end of the night. I will also write without any other distractions present like a podcast or TV show. Of course, if I am somewhere other than home, I will do my best in whatever circumstances are present.

Second, I will not time myself. This means I will not, for example, start writing at 8:40pm with the goal of finishing by 9. Instead, as long as the words flow, I will write.

Third, I will keep my composition notebook with me at all times so that passing brilliances can be captured and remembered. I may not be able to expound on all of them but it’s better to have an abundance from which to choose.

Fourth, I will establish a dedicated time on the weekend in which to write a post for the blog. Snow the first weekend of the year has delayed this a little but I need to make this a priority. Ideally, I would like to work up to writing at least two posts, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Depending on the nature of the post, one of those days may be devoted to research and preparation.

Although this is not quite as much a passion of mine as reading and writing, it is not far behind. While I would love to have more time for all three, I will take what God has given me.

This goal is simple. I want to resume my habit of daily Instagram posting. Just like so many other things, this one quickly fell by the wayside when I resumed teaching. From mid-September until December 31st, I posted nothing.

Part of how I will achieve this goal will depend simply on making the act of publishing the photo a habit. There are, however, a few things that will help me reach this goal.

First, when I have time, I will edit and name the photos in Flickr so that all i have to do on the day of, is download the photo, post and add the appropriate tags.

Second, when I sort anything into the appropriate Flickr album, I will go ahead and name and edit them.

Third, I will seize every available opportunity to take as many photographs as possible. I had the opportunity to do this back at the beginning of January when South Carolina got one of the most beautiful snowfalls. SO often we get a little bit of snow and a lot of ice. This time we got a lot of snow that held off becoming ice until we had time to tramp around and marvel in the beauty while snapping hundreds of photos, 300 to be exact. This will also be very easy to do with my summer of travel upcoming.

Fourth, I need to learn how to operate my camera better to improve the quality. Either that or I need to research a potential purchase of a better camera. This may not happen in the time frame that I would like but if a magical few extra moments materialize, I will make the most of them.

My overall goal is very broad: become a better teacher. The how becomes even more important for a goal like this.

First, I want to stay on top of daily maintenance items like the tardy log and behavior log. Since I now use google classroom for the bellringers, I also plan to get them graded right away each day. I have made peace with the fact that this may mean that I stay later than most other teachers but I will arrive home without schoolwork hanging over my head. That is at trade off that I am willing to make.

Second, I want to fully engage with all of the PD (professional development) sessions that we have no matter what I think about their appropriateness or effectiveness. I might learn just one thing but is one thing that I did not know before. Plus, this presents an excellent forum for increasing my writing volume and my skills because the tool I intend to implement is note-taking. I have used it once this year so far and am surprised at how much I remember from that meeting.

Three, I want to incorporate more reflection on my teaching into my daily practice. I am not sure what that will look like quite yet. This might be something that I need to develop over the summer and implement next year as I undergo the ADEPT evaluation process once more.

Fourth, amongst all my travel next summer, I plan to set aside a chunk of time to do some focused reflection on the previous year and make intentions for the coming year. I will return to this goal sometime in the summer to update/adjust the method.

Although this entry turned out to be longer than I expected, it helped clarify my thinking on a few areas. I hope you will continue to join me as I share my thoughts.

Resolution Run Half Marathon 2017 – Race Recap

Race #118
Half Marathon #36
SC Half Marathon #27
2017 Race #2
2017 Half Marathon #1
Resolution Run Half Marathon #4

We sandwiched this race in between 60 extra minutes. I think our inadvertent taper (10 miler on New Year’s Day without the planned 30 extra minutes thanks to the rain and a long run cancelled entirely thanks to snow last week) may have helped.

We managed to arrive with just the right amount of time to get in a twenty minute warm up on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. (That was another reason that I nixed the extra 30 minutes at the 10 miler; I don’t know the Spartanburg area very well.) We also thought that we had enough time to use the restroom before the start. Thanks to a three minute delay, we did. There were no portopotties available, only two stalls permanently installed in Trailblazer Park.

I’m not a huge fan of the combined start of the 5k and half but since it’s a relatively small race, it wasn’t that much of a problem.

The first 5k is touch. It’s full of all the challenging TR hills, the ones that the Swamp Rabbit conveniently avoids. Thanks to my increased fitness courtesy of Ellis’ strength training expertise, the hills presented a tough challenge but one not nearly as difficult as last year.

As we passed by the turn to Trailblazer Park and the finish line for the 5k, Ellis stood nearby, ready to take pictures. Of course, he had to cheer us on by letting us know that we were “almost done.”

Resolution Run Half Marathon 2017

Mile 1: 8:48
Mile 2: 8:36
Mile 3: 9:35 (fuel “break)

Once we got onto the trail, things felt incredibly routine. I miss running on the SRT. Although I love being able to head down the road just a few minutes from my house, I might head back to the SRT for a few runs, especially the next few since the SRT is much more similar to the marathon course than my regular route.

Only two things stand out before the turn around at mile eight. One, we passed a runner (a few times thanks to our routine of walking while we fuel every two miles) who had the strangest breath sounds I have ever heard. Without an audio recording, it is next to impossible to describe what it sounded like. I’m thankful that we didn’t run within earshot of him for too long but I am insanely curious about how/why his breathing made that sound. Two, I noticed that Mom has a habit of throwing in mini sprints when she passes another runner; it’s pretty funny.

Mile 4: 8:39
Mile 5: 8:59 (fuel break)
Mile 6: 8:21
Mile 7: 9:00 (fuel break)
Mile 8: 8:20

At the turn around I felt good but was well aware of the forty minutes we had to run after we finished the half. I kept wondering if we should slow our pace since this was supposed to be just a training run after all. Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment and just couldn’t slow down.

Perhaps it’s because I’m writing this entry hours later than I normally do or perhaps it’s because I just zoned out but whatever the reason, I don’t remember much until about a mile until the end.

Mile 9: 9:10 (fuel break)
Mile 10: 8:36
Mile 11: 9:16 (fuel break)
Mile 12: 8:40

We took our last fuel break and then only a mile remained until the finish line. Both Mom and I picked up the pace a little. Although I knew that I would probably pay for it later, I couldn’t help it. Ellis waited at the corner to take more pictures. This time his encouragement was more appropriate.

Resolution Run Half Marathon 2017

We turned the final corner and Mom unexpectedly poured on the speed. As much as I wanted to join her, I held back a little. For the first time in a race that we have run together, Mom pulled ahead.

Resolution Run Half Marathon 2017 Official Photos
See! I have proof!

I almost let her pull away but I just couldn’t so against my better judgment I poured on all that I had left in the speed tank and just barely pulled even. Such a fun race finish and sub 1:55 too!

Mile 13: 8:37
Final time: 1:54:48

The 40 minutes after definitely were pretty ugly just like I expected but they got done and we topped 19 total miles for the day. Not too shabby!

Race Review
Registration and Packet Pick Up:
Everything went smoothly. Since I, yet again, did not pick up the packet for this race, I cannot speak to it.

Race shirt:
It’s fantastic. I realized when we arrived at the race that I wore the shirt from last year. I think that’s the first time that I’ve done that. This year’s shirt, a different color, will likely also become a staple in my minimal collection of running shirts.

Pre-race/morning amenities:
The biggest shortcoming here was the bathroom situation. Yes, it is nice to have indoor, permanent facilities. However, two stalls are not nearly enough for the several hundred people who turned out for the 5k and half marathon. Someone from the race had to go to the nearby fire station to ask if we could use their facilities as well. Since I spent 20 minutes in the line, I did not have a chance to observe anything else pre-race.

This course lacks imagination but is still nice nonetheless. I do not miss the constant hills of the old course. I do appreciate the copious number of motivational signs that the YMCA added every so often along the trail.

Course support:
Since I had my OrangeMud water carrier, I did not partake of any of the water stops. The out and back nature provided plenty of well-manned water stops. I believe all of them had Gatorade as well.

Finish line and post race amenities:
I think the course directors may have read my review from last year about the medals because although they were once again pottery, this year they had holes in the top with a rough rope looked through for a lanyard. (More likely though is the idea that several other people mentioned/suggested that.) The actual hand out of the medals was a bit awkward. Even though the volunteer had plenty of time to see how many runners were approaching the finish line, she did not grab enough from the box. I had to stand and wait for mine. She also did not ask for the strip on the bottom of my bib although I saw her ask for others who finished shortly after. I opted not to grab a couple free Zaxby’s sandwiches because I was running 40 more minutes. (I should have just given them to Ellis to hold for me.)

Race Photography:
There was plenty from both the race and from Pace Magazine.

Social Media:
Since I do not partake in this much any more, I will leave this point off from now on unless something significant crops up.

Race Results:
I love the data provided with racemine and wish more races used it.

2017 – The Financial Year Ahead

By the time this post publishes, the year will be 10 days old. That’s what happens when I have limited my posting schedule to once a week during the school year. (#lifeofateacher)

Back to the post…

A year ago I wrote out a financial goals/philosophy post. Even though I never published it, I found it to be a good exercise. It would be nice to resurrect that post but I could not publish it in its original form. So much has changed since then. Life changed. It has a habit of doing that, some years more than others. 2016 was the year of unexpected change for me in more ways than just financial, as I mentioned in my running goals post.

That, however, is a post for another day.

Today I focus just on my financial goals for the upcoming year with the full knowledge that things can change in a heartbeat.

I’ll start with the overall goals.

First, I want to become more intentional with my spending. I have already been working on this but have gotten a little sidetracked lately. One thing tends to lead to another. I started teaching again, without all the supplies I had given away when I thought that I had left the profession permanently. My hard drive started failing so I had to buy a new computer before receiving my first teaching paycheck. Things just kept cropping up. I had planned to have my travel fund reimbursed over a month ago but I had to keep “borrowing” the money I had budgeted to pay back. Becoming more intentional will help curb spending and help me reach my second overall goal.

Second, I want to increase my savings rate from 30% of my income to 40%. Originally, before I looked at the numbers, I wanted to save 50%. It’s a number I’ve seen bandied about by a number of personal finance bloggers. After looking at the numbers I realized that just because a number seems pretty, doesn’t mean that it is the right number for me. (In a future post I plan to go over my spending, the breakdown and categories and etc, so I won’t discuss that here.)

30% is definitely not a small amount. However, I have big goals. Plus, I want to be a good steward of my money. This helps get me there. That total savings rate breaks down into a few categories: emergency fund, health savings account, travel fund, life goal fund and adoption fund. My thought process behind the individual allocation for each of those different funds will come in a separate post.

In addition to those two yearly goals, I have a few short term goals. This section may be a section that I add to as the year progresses and short term opportunities present themselves.

First, I am participating in Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge. Frugalwoods started me on my frugal minimalist journey. (I already had a propensity towards this lifestyle; I just needed a little nudge.) When I first read about their uber frugal month, I thought about it but decided to choose certain aspects of it while not adopting the whole thing. This time I felt motivated. This will help me with my number one overall financial goal. I have been going over my expenses, all of them, and eliminating all that are not fixed mandatory expenses. Sometimes that elimination will be according to dictionary definition. Sometimes that elimination will actually be a substitution with a less expensive alternative or a reduction in a category like groceries. I think some smaller goals will come out of this.

Second, I want to minimize spending while maximizing the experience on my UK trip coming up in June. (There will be plenty of posts coming from that trip.) This will be my third international trip excluding three mission trips to Ecuador. I have learned a lot from each trip and although I still have more to learn, I consider myself a fairly savy traveler. Already I have minimized spending in the area of lodging by finally using Airbnb like my sister has been recommending for ages. For nine nights and two people – this excludes one night on a sleeper train which combines transportation and lodging – I spent $710. That’s approximately $500 less than what we spent in Rome and even more of a savings from my first trip to the UK five and a half years ago. I hope that we will be able to spend less than $5000 total although we have enough in the travel fund to go up to $6000. (That’s taken 2 years to save up!)

2017 is going to be a great year!

The Year in Running – Behind and Ahead

2016 did not turn out to be the year I had planned in a lot of ways and on a lot of fronts, some of which will eventually be discussed here. Running certainly formed one of those fronts.

Admittedly, I started off declaring that 2016 was the year of no goals, the year of rebuilding which ironically for me, turned out to be precisely true. I said those words with the thought in the corner of my mind that the rebuilding process would conclude prior to year’s end enabling me to resume competitive training just in time for a winter marathon. I eyed Keowee for this comeback.

God had other plans, like He usually does.

I used the first part of the year to build back up to the marathon distance. I wanted some redemption after the Chicago DNS. I successfully executed a decent marathon performance at Tobacco Road in March but thanks to my slow build up and the warmer than usual temps, my time was nowhere near the time I had originally wanted to notch.

Next came the return to square one. After a reasonable time off period I resumed running again but began to be plagued with aches and weirdness in my left leg too. In May I took advantage of a coupon for Performance Therapy that had been offered in the race packet for Reedy River. This was hands down the best decision I have ever made with regards to running.

I ended up not using the coupon but rather taking full advantage Performance Therapy’s services. I started with the free assessment for functional training. Naively, I thought I would discover what was the root of my problem, pay attention and get some more exercises and be all hunky dory. I had no intention of actually paying for any services. I am a frugal weirdo after all.

My trainer, Liz, spotted a lot of the same weaknesses that Kent (the physical therapist I went to in October 2015) noticed before. This proved to me that I had a lot of work still to go and would not reasonably be able to fix this on my own. So, I bit the bullet and paid #300 for the ten session package.

Liz was awesome. There must be something about the name Liz when it comes to trainers. (My personal trainer years ago had the same name.) After the initial session she formulated a plan that would help me work on my trouble areas: weak glutes and hips aka the same thing that Kent observed.

Every habit takes a while to build; it takes just as long if not longer to undo the habit and replace it. I wanted a quick fix but had to keep reminding myself of the process. Through this time – albeit not the entirety – my left leg decided it had had enough and wanted some of the attention. Although I never found out a specific name, it likely was simply the result of years of incorrect form and the new effort to fix and improve said form.

In June I started to have huge success. On of the ART (Active Release Therapy) specialists performed a quick gait analysis and gave me three important tips that I still strive to include: lean forward, minimize the bounce, keep lugs under body.

Then came big life changes in July, the end of my ten session training package, renewed issue with my left glute and the start of my renewed teaching career. With everything happening at once, I had no problem backing off in intensity, duration and frequency.

The thing that finally helped things turn around – the missing puzzle piece – was ART. The theory is that my left leg got irritated and there was something in the glute that needed to be worked out. A few sessions of ART and I was raring to go.

I had a tiny set back recently when I got slightly too aggressive in strength training and irritated the left glute again. Thankfully I had a maintenance ART session scheduled for two days later. Things finally seem to be back on track for the next year in running.

After a year of rebuilding, what does 2017 look like?

First and foremost, I plan to continue rebuilding. I have learned a lot about myself as a runner and about running in general. That will continue. Running is a journey that keeps evolving. The runner I am today is not the same runner that ran her first half marathon in 2010 nor am I the same as I will be when I run my hundredth. (Yes, I intend to run at least that many.)

In specifics, this is what rebuilding will look like. I plan to keep up with regular ART sessions. At the most frequent these will take place once a month. If I remain injury free the appointments will be spaced out further. Sometimes muscles get tight in a way that simply stretching and foam rolling cannot address. Additionally, it is much easier to maintain and head off potential problems than it is to fix those long ingrained. I will also maintain the hip and glute routine Liz gave me for a minimum of four nights a week. I also intend to keep up my weekly sessions with Mom and Ellis. The core strength has helped tremendously with overall fitness.

Second, I plan to chase the BQ goal again. Iv’e thought that previous years were “my” years and yet the goal still eludes me. 2017 may not be my year either but after a year without an attempt, I plan to chase it. My first marathon of the year will be Hilton Head in February. As much as I would like to shoot for the moon, I’ve learned that the fall sometimes causes a pretty significant set back. This year’s attempt will come in October, at Chicago. I shelled out the almost $200 and will make the trek up north in search of a little redemption.I have no idea what training will look like since that will be the start to a new school year but I know it can happen. Hilton Head is good practice for that.

As for the inbetween? I want to rack up the half marathon medals. I will run an occasional 5k but I really want to focus on the longer distances, build up a more substantial base.

The running talk on this blog will likely be limited to race recaps although the occasional goals post may crop up.

Here’s to the new year in running!

Hair of the Dog 10 Miler 2017 Race Recap

Race #117
10 miler #2
Hair of the Dog 10 Miler #1

This is the first year I have started the year with a race. I’m pretty sure that this is a tradition that I will keep up for years to come. If I can combine that with a PR that’s just icing on the cake.

[Side note: Yes, there will be two blog posts in one day and three in one week, however, that is not the usual, just a matter of timing with the race and launching the blog.]

Backing up a bit…

I wish I had discovered this race earlier since there is a scarcity of 10 milers in the area. It’s been five years since I last ran a 10 miler, the only other time. Spartanburg is a little bit of a trek from Greenville but not too bad.

We arrived at 8:#0 with plenty of time to pick up our packet and prepare. If we had known how far away the start was from the YMCA and finish area, we would have left the truck a little sooner.

Thanks to the walk, the race started a few minutes late but other than that, the start went off without a hitch.

Hair of the Dog 10 Miler 2017
(The video is a little long but we do make an appearance near the end.)

Since this was supposed to be a test for the marathon, I knew that I wanted to push the pace but not sprint. (We were also supposed to add on 30 minutes to the run but in light of the forecast for chilly, rainy weather, I nixed that.) The problem is that I am unsure of what that pace is. I decided to run on effort alone and avoid looking at my Garmin. Since we were standing near the front we took off pretty fast but soon settled into a reasonable pace.

Mile 1-Mile 2-8:33
Mile 3-8:20
Mile 4-8:57

Shortly after this we reached the split for the 5 and 10 miles. 5 milers turned to the right, 10 turned to the left. Ellis waited there with the volunteer to cheer us on.

We took the turn and headed down the rail trail. It was a nice relief from the rollers of the first half.

A little after we turned, a runner came back the opposite direction and with a look of desperation asked if there was a turn around ahead for us. I hoped for her sake that there was because any deviation from the course can feel absolutely devastating. The only turn around I vaguely knew about though was the one for the two milers.

Then we got to the turn around. Nothing on the sign indicated which race that particular sign was for. We kept going hoping that it was the right way based on my sketchy prior knowledge and the fact that other runners in front of us kept going. A few minutes later, still on the trail, we started to doubt our decision because we saw no more signage for the race. Thankfully, moments after Mom wondered out loud if that sign was possibly for us after all, we saw a sign indicating a right turn off the rail trail. It was a relief to know that we had made the right decision. Unfortunately, several other runners were not so fortunate. Hopefully the organizers can find a solution before next year.

Mile 5-8:43
Mile 6-8:18

The next portion of the course, hands down, was my favorite. The course headed down towards a small lake/pond and a “trail” that made its way around the lake. I hated to leave that section. It was like running on an actual trail only with pavement instead of dirt, rocks and tree roots. (I also hated to leave because of the significant uphill at the end of the trail.) Our pace also benefited (up until the final portion) from the flat terrain. It was also at this point that i started thinking of a new mantra, one I quite like. For some reason I remembered spin class-even though I haven’t been to one in months-and the consistent urging from the instructors to “add one more turn” to the resistance knob. That’s what I started telling myself.

Mile 7- 8:25
Mile 8- 8:45

I hadn’t looked at my Garmin nearly the entire race so I wasn’t quite sure of where we were in relation to the finish. When we left the rail trail and headed back into the “city,” I glanced down. 8.24. We could do this. We could add one more turn, maybe two. Our pace picked up. We passed a few people. (In a larger race we likely would have passed quite a few more.)

About .75 away from the finish line we saw Ellis ready to dance take pictures and cheer us on. We picked up the pace and headed for home – to the end of the rail trail, a couple quick turns and through the YMCA parking lot to the finish.

Hair of the Dog 10 Miler 2017
Hair of the Dog 10 Miler 2017

Mile 9-8:34
Mile 10-7:39
Final-1:23:22 PR!

Honestly, I expected a more significant PR since my only other 10 mile time came from five years ago when I was just getting started as a runner. I think the discrepancy between my expectation and reality boils down to a couple things. One, that winter/spring of 2012 formed my first real peak in terms of running fitness and training. Two, I could have paced this race better. I’m still figuring out what my post injury fitness level is and it is remarkably easy to underestimate.

Oh, and the course profile was a little bit different and difficult too.
Hair of the Dog 10 Miler 2017

Overall, I am very pleased with my performance-and Mom’s too!-at this race. It is going on the race calendar now with the intention of notching yet another PR to start out 2018.

Race Review

Registration and packet pick up: Registration was a bit confusing as it was available on multiple platforms. When I registered myself a few weeks ago I registered through the YMCA website. I almost gave up after getting to a screen that made it seem like I needed (or was about to) sign up for a membership at the Y. I finally figured it out though. Then when I went to register Mom the price had gone up on the YMCA page but not on go-green. Packet pick up on the other hand was a breeze.

Race shirt: I love it! As I write this review I am currently wearing it. It’s a soft, long-sleeve t-shirt absolutely perfect for lounging but not for running.

Pre-race/Morning amenities: The Thomas Hannah YMCA is fancy. I wish ours had even a little bit of their amenities. It might be worth it then to switch from Pivotal. We had full access to all the indoor facilities. Some people even used the indoor track to warm up.

Course: As I mentioned in the recap, this is a challenging course full of hills, especially in the first half, that come at you unrelentingly. It is, however, the prettiest course I have run in Spartanburg.

Course support: IN terms of water stops, this was extremely lacking in the 10 miler only portion. All of the water stops could be found clustered int he first five miles. In terms of course markings, with one particularly egregious exception, they were excellent. Signs graced every turn making it exceptionally easy to navigate the fairly unmanned course.

Finish line and post race amenities: The finish line was fairly non-descript. It was nice to have use of the YMCA locker room facilities to change out of our damp clothes. (The rain did make a couple brief appearances.) The YMCA also provided breakfast from a local restaurant which was quite tasty. Awards on the other hand? No awards ceremony. We simply walked up and chose some socks from a box.

Race photography: I have been unable to find any information on this.

Social media: I have been unable to find any information on this.

Results: I have been unable to find any information on this.

An Introduction

Words have always been my happy place. Some of my earliest memories center around books; I cannot remember a time when I was unable to read. As I progressed through school that love of words expanded into writing. I found that I could express myself with facility through the written, or typed, word.

This blog, the third for me, will serve as the host for the myriad of essays that have for years languished in my head not finding expression on the page.

On the pages of this blog, the reader will find essays on topics ranging from public school education to personal finance to current events and politics. Race recaps will also find their way onto these pages. The topics will vary because my interests range wide.

That leads to a little about me personally. I am a thirty-something public school English teacher with a background (two degrees) in history. I am a readaholic, baseball fanatic, coffee addict, amateur historian, numbers nerd, Spanish-speaking, wandering traveler, cross stitch crafter, marathon maniac wannabe, minimalist seeking, child of God.

On any given day this blog may shift from a post about the current political situation and its potential historical ramifications to a monthly budget recap or perhaps an essay on an aspect of teaching. During breaks from school there will likely appear more posts than deep in the semester. I hope to publish regularly, though.

Welcome to my little corner of the internet.

A penny for your thoughts?