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?