Highlights of the Holidays

I am so grateful to have such a nice long holiday break! Although I work at a university, we don’t get all the same holiday breaks as students. However, we have time off from right before Christmas Eve through New Years and it is glorious. Pittsburgh had its first white Christmas in about five years, and I found a perfect balance of places to be and time to stay home and read. πŸ™‚

– Celebrations –

This year, Joe and I drove back to Pittsburgh on our one year anniversary so we went straight to the restaurant where we went on our first date! I love Mexican food, so it fits that we first ate at Mad Mex together. December = my birthday, Christmas, and our anniversary, so we decided to exchange little gifts to commemorate the day.

We continued celebrating happy occasions when we spent time with Joe’s family the next day. His cousin is getting married in September, and since he lives in Florida, there’s rarely a time when the whole family is together. So, his parents hosted an engagement party for them while they were home for the holidays!

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The happy couple, Brian and Lindsey, are in the middle. πŸ™‚ Their announcement was just published in the newspaper this past week. So exciting!

– Heinz Hall –

Joe, his mom, and I met up with my mom and brothers to see Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical at Heinz Hall downtown.

IΒ loveΒ the Grinch, and this show was really well done! I think I was expecting to see the cartoon or the movie done in a live performance, and there was much more singing in this show, because you know…musical. πŸ™‚ The Grinch was played by a really animated actor and Cindy Lou Who’s voice was amazing! Our favorite moment was probably when the Grinch came on stage waving a Terrible Towel. Only in Pittsburgh!

– Christmas Eve –

My brothers and I have a tradition of going out to brunch with my Dad on Christmas Eve. This is usually followed by a bit of last minute shopping, and this year was no exception! I just had a few gifts to pick up that I had ordered online and planned to pick up in the store, and my brothers found the most amazing suits to wear to Christmas Eve dinner. πŸ™‚

That night, we went to Joe’s Dad’s house for dinner. We left for a second dinner and games at my uncle’s house, and then went back to Joe’s Dad’s for a Secret Santa gift exchange!

We played Minute to Win It style games at my uncle’s house, and they were hilarious! In the game above, you started with one stack of cups, and in 60 seconds you had to build a “tree” and then disassemble the cups back into your one stack. It got very competitive! We also used candy canes to pick up marshmallows to assemble as many snowmen as possible in one minute, and used a straw to move as many M&M’s as possible from one plate to another in one minute. My family has never done a Secret Santa, so it was fun to participate in Joe’s family’s tradition and see everyone open something they loved!

– Christmas Day –

Christmas Day brought snow! I helped my mom get brunch in the oven, and once my Dad arrived, we started opening our gifts to one another. My brothers and I are lucky to have parents who will still celebrate the holidays together for us. πŸ™‚

On the topic of parents who are divorced…both my mom and my dad got Jake a leather Steelers notebook for school, and they had no idea. Haha! Great minds. πŸ˜‰ I quite enjoyed watching the dogs open gifts. Colby loves to chew and shred the paper…he seems to really know what he’s doing. And Amigo…well, after a few prods at the paper, he just carried his gifts right over to my mom’s lap!

After brunch, I left for an afternoon with Joe’s Mom’s family where we did a Secret Santa gift exchange and broke out some more Minute to Win It style games. I was most excited to get back to my house for dinner so that Joe could open his gift from me…a new Xbox!

The Xbox was well received and I spent lots of time over break reading while all the guys I love enjoyed Joe’s newest gadget. πŸ™‚ We ate dinner with my Mom’s family and watched the Steeler game. Then my Dad tried to teach me how to play poker, and I’m still sure I have no idea what I’m doing. Ha!

– Favorite Friends –

I keep in touch with my best friends from college via a group text message, and a few weeks before the holidays, my friend Lindsey stepped up and decided to plan a get together for us. We all met for dinner and drinks at Narcisi Winery, which is just north of Pittsburgh.

As you can imagine, we were not out walking around the vineyard on this night…I’m pretty sure it was about 5 degrees. πŸ™‚ But we enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner and sipping on different bottles of wine. We talked for hours and it was so fun! Another reason to celebrate during this get together: Johna and Jeff, second from left in the group photo, got engaged on Christmas Eve! Yay!

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Later in the week, I met up with my friend Randi for coffee. Randi and I went to elementary school together, but we reconnected in the last few years via our blogs and we could not be more alike. πŸ™‚ We took over Starbucks for a few hours, exchanged Christmas gifts, and talked about everything under the sun. The best kind of time!

– New Years Eve –

This is what I like to call reality vs. Instagram. πŸ™‚

The evening started at the casino where my mom walked away a winner! It ended at home playing Scrabble and hanging out with Joe, my brothers, and their friends. A great evening, especially since it felt like negative degrees outside in Pittsburgh AND in Times Square. I was happy to be hanging out by a fire!

I had so much fun celebrating the holidays with Joe and his family for the first time, and I loved having lots of time to see my mom since she is a teacher and gets lots of holiday time off too. πŸ™‚ Of course there were other things that filled my days like lunch out with siblings, chiropractor appointments, a trip to the movies, and Sunday breakfasts at my aunt’s house…overall, a great time at home for the holidays. ❀

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Long Weekend Travels

I was so excited thinking about sharing this post because on the 10th of December, not only was I traveling, but it was also my 26th birthday. I spent the weekend in the one and only Las Vegas! Joe and I have both traveled there before, but we wanted to take a trip together, and after findingΒ ridiculously cheap plane tickets, we made it happen!

We were also lucky to find great flight times, so we left around 7 AM on Saturday morning, which put us at our destination around 10 AM west coast time. The day we left was the first day DC had seen any snow, but we weren’t sad to leave it behind for a few days of sunshine! We stayed at the Aria Resort & CasinoΒ and it was beautiful!

We spent our first day eating lunch at the Aria Cafe and walking one end of The Strip. The Aria is near Monte Carlo, New York New York, and MGM, so we decided to see some sights right away. Also included was a trip to CVS to stock up on snacks. πŸ™‚ I love New York New York so much that we headed back there for dinner and drinks. The city was all decorated for Christmas and it made everything more fun to see!

Las Vegas has a monorail, but we stayed on the other side of the street from where this is located, so we used the mini monorail that ran between Monte Carlo, Aria, The Shops by Crystal, and the Bellagio to get out of the cold after dinner! I planned on staying up until midnight East Coast time to celebrate my birthday because I didn’t think I could hang…but I was distracted by all there was to see in the Bellagio!

The Conservatory and Botanical Garden in the casino had a huge Christmas display that included a 42 foot tall Christmas tree and 28,000 poinsettias! Everything you saw was made from flowers, and of course they had a classic train set running around the bottom of the tree. The train had a camera on it so you could see yourself in other parts of the room as it drove around! We gambled a little bit on this night but didn’t walk away as big winners. πŸ™‚

Sunday was my birthday, and I woke up to a nice delivery from my mom: chocolate covered strawberries and champagne! I woke up before the sun, and had a great view of the desert behind the hotel. I loved that our room faced away from The Strip and figured out that the HUGE mountains I was staring at were actually about 18 miles away. They seemed so grand and close! Joe decorated with a banner, heart shaped balloons, and those big paper circle lanterns. So sweet!

We spent the day doing all the best things — drinking champagne, eating at The Aria Buffet, taking advantage of the free hotel gym, and laying by the pool reading a book. πŸ™‚ It was close to 70 degrees on this day, so although that would feel a little chilly on a summer vacation, I was more than happy to lay in the sun in December in that temperature. The Steelers played the Ravens on this night, so we ate a quick dinner and settled in to watch the game. I was convinced I was going to win on a slot machine called Fu Dao Le becauseΒ everyoneΒ I was watching was winning, but I had no luck and ended up watching Joe play Craps for awhile!

Monday was a fun day because we decided to walk the opposite end of The Strip and see as much as possible. We missed the Bellagio water show, but were able to see Bally’s Casino, some shops outside, Caesar’s, and The Flamingo. The objective was to make it to The Venetian, but we got distracted playing Blackjack at a really cheap table in Margaritaville in The Flamingo. I can finally almost hold my own playing Blackjack after watching Joe play for a year, so that’s exciting. πŸ™‚

Caesar’s was a fun stop because I have been to another Caesar’s casino in Atlantic City and while some things were the same, others were much more grand. We also had to check out the Sports Book at practically every place we stopped, and I thought their set up was the best. They had so many TVs and other statistics on the wall! I know next to nothing about betting on sports games but Joe had fun with this all weekend. πŸ™‚

I was so excited to go back to MGM on this night because we had tickets to see a Cirque de Soleil show called Ka. Neither of us had ever seen a show in Vegas, so it was a new experience! When we were buying tickets online, we saw that some of the top level seats were similar in price to some in the third row…so of course I chose the third row. πŸ™‚

The show is described as a story of coming of age through love, conflict, and the duality of Ka. I have to be honest, I had trouble following the storyline at some points because what was happening looked so cool! The stage could move 360 degrees, and there were also smaller platforms that the performers were on at some points. You could also see them behind the railings on either side of the stage from time to time. I was amazed at their flexibility and coordination!

And now I’ll leave you with some professional pictures we had taken at the Cirque show. A photographer stopped us on the way in, and I couldn’t say no. You can’t put a price on memories, right? πŸ˜‰ This was such a fun trip, and kind of spur of the moment because we jumped on the cheap plane tickets as soon as we saw them. We had a great experience flying, at our hotel, and really wherever we went around town. But two fun facts about the way home:

  1. We were seated next to a very enthusiastic passenger who was certain he was sober enough for another drink. The flight attendants did not agree. There was some foot stomping and yelling on our neighbor’s part. #yep
  2. When we got to our car, the battery was dead, and it was 15 degrees. #winterisawesome

Thankful

Although Thanksgiving is very much its own holiday with its own traditions, you can’t help but admit that it kicks off the Christmas season, right?! I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper, but I enjoy spending the days after Thanksgiving decorating for Christmas, listening to festive music, and starting marathons of my favorite Christmas movies. And although Christmas is right around the corner, I want to recap the fun that was Thanksgiving!

I always get anxious and excited on a week that I know I’m going home to Pittsburgh because I just want toΒ be thereΒ already. This year, my youngest brother Jake flew to D.C. on the Friday before Thanksgiving and stayed with me until it was time to head back home for the holiday. Having him here made me feel like the holiday had already begun because I had someone from my family with me! We watched football games, played games like Jenga and Chinese Checkers, and ate out for as many meals out as possible. Let’s just say the pancakes I made on Saturday morning were a little undercooked. #oops

 

We went hiking at Great Falls Park on the Billy Goat Trail, took advantage of every sale at the Leesburg Outlets, and went bowling at what I’m pretty sure is Arlington’s oldest bowling alley. The cool, newly updated bowling alley/restaurant/bar in Georgetown was fully booked and although our night of bowling was much cheaper than that would have been downtown, it was pretty insane how dated everything was where we ended up!

 

Β Jake was my lunch date on Monday and Tuesday, which made for fun work days. πŸ™‚ He made the most of the work days by hopping on a City Bike and riding around town. He visited the National Mall and the Museum of American History. His favorite adventure, if you asked him, would probably be leaving the history museum and walking across town to where I was going to pick him up. This sounds easy, but his phone died and directions from random passersby left him walking around for about 45 minutes. Ha! Tuesday evening after work, Jake and I started the long drive home.

 

It really does not take that long to get from D.C. to Pittsburgh, but there are never good stories about traffic around the holiday weekend, so we were happy to get out of town as early as possible. We left at about 3 PM, made it to Bethesda to get Joe at 4 PM, and had to take a bunch of side routes through northern Maryland because of accidents on the highway. I was coming down with a cold and felt pretty terrible, so it was nice to have Jake and Joe in the car to share the driving with. πŸ™‚

On Wednesday, I had to work from home for part of the day, but I had these two to hang out with while I typed away on my computer. Then it was hair appointment, doctor’s appointment, and Panera for lunch!

 

I got to spend all night with both of my brothers and then I convinced myself to go out in public on Thanksgiving Eve. The restaurant/bar wasΒ crowded but I got to see some old friends, I snagged a bar stool to sit on all night, and it was an all-around win!

Thanksgiving morning = informal Turkey Trot around my neighborhood with Joe and my dogs. It was chilly but bright and sunny, so we decided to adventure over to my aunt’s house since she doesn’t live too far away. She lives on several acres of land so the dogs had aΒ blast running around her yard. And then we got home and Colby showed off his new tricks of bringing in the newspaper. πŸ™‚

It was a busy and full day of Thanksgiving meals. We started at my aunt’s house, where we ate “dinner” at 1 PM and celebrated my cousin’s 26th birthday. Below are some of the only photos I took all day!

Then we headed to Joe’s Grandma’s house for dessert and the beginning of Christmas decorating. She pulled out her tree and we swapped names for Secret Santa! We ended the evening with dinner at Joe’s Dad’s house and more Secret Santa name swapping. I was ready to crash in bed by 8:30 PM, but I am so thankful that our families are so close by and we can see all of them in one day!

It felt like Thanksgiving lasted a whole lot longer than one day thanks to Jake’s visit to D.C. at the beginning of the week. Thanksgiving 2017 was definitely one of my favorites. πŸ™‚

10 on 10 [November]

Ten pictures on the 10th day of the month!

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{Document a snapshot of your life & find beauty among the ordinary things in your day!}

I love reading this post on Mel’s blog each month, and I did my own take on it once too…but that was back in March of 2015!

Friday, November 10

This day began with a morning run. 3 miles around Arlington and I got to see the sunrise! It was a cool, brisk morning which is so welcomed after many months of heat and humidity. When I got home, I found myself ready to leave for work early. This only happens on mornings when I wake up to work out!

Starbucks is across the street from my apartment and also right outside the metro stop, so I treated myself to a coffee, all in the name of getting to carry around a holiday cup. #basic

Then I took the metro and walked to work, so I was very happy with my step count for the day. πŸ˜‰ And of course I had to snap a picture of the pretty leaves even though I was carrying Christmas in my hand.

It was a pretty normal Friday in the office. I did some work in the morning to get online courses ready for the Spring semester, and then I had three back to back meetings that filled the afternoon. I ended up not eating lunch until 2:30 PM and I was HANGRY! I also very much enjoyed my outfit of the day, which included my new black jeans, a blanket scarf, and the comfiest flats.

The lunchtime hangry-ness carried over into the evening and I requested an early dinner. πŸ™‚ I took Joe to Pupatella for the first time (his, not mine) and it was so delicious! The restaurant prides themselves on their Neapolitan technique for cooking the pizza, which includes four-ingredient crust made fresh and wood-fired ovens. You order in line, and then cross your fingers that a table is available, and we were some of the lucky ones! There was a wine tasting going on, so we took advantage of that while we waited for our pizza and took home a bottle of sparkling white wine. You’d think I would have taken photos of this, no?

I had the Eggplant & Red Pepper pizza with added prosciutto and Joe ordered a classic Pepperoni pizza with bacon!

Then it was back home with our new bottle of wine because there were important things to do like watch the 300th episode of Grey’s Anatomy and finish the second season of Stranger Things. We try to be as exciting as possible. πŸ˜‰ And we felt the need to document our “fancy” shoes: my snakeskin flats and his blue suede shoes. #nowyou’resinging

So there you have a regular Friday in my life! The next 10 on 10 is my birthday and I will be traveling so the pictures will be fun. πŸ™‚

Friday Favorites [October]

– Family in town –

My mom and her best friend came to visit at the beginning of the month. Her friend was attending a workshop in the area, so she joined my mom and I at night for some fun weekend activities. πŸ™‚

Since her workshop was out near the airport, we hung out in Reston one evening and had drinks at Barcelona. I had a wine flight and actually ended up ordering a glass of one of my 4 choices after a few sips! We also went to National Harbor to shop at the outlets and gamble at the MGM Casino.

– Apple picking –

I organized a social event for my small group and we drove a bit north to visit Homestead Farm. I’ve visited several different pumpkin patches in the DC Metro area and I loved this farm for its simplicity, and the fact that there was no admission fee! There was a farmer’s market, an apple orchard, a pumpkin patch, and a few areas with animals.

We were very excited to go apple picking because most of us never had before. We quickly realized we do not know what constitutes a “good” apple, so I picked half a dozen and hoped for the best. Update: I just ate the last one yesterday and they were delicious! We also walked through the rows of pumpkins, but most of us settled on the more interesting looking pumpkins…the ones that are colorful and bumpy or the Cinderella pumpkins. πŸ™‚

– Around town –

I saw shows at two different venues this month. Joe listens to the ESPN Fantasy Focus Football podcast on a very regular basis, and while I play fantasy football and occasionally listen, I can’t pretend to know the podcast hosts as well as he does! Matthew Berry, Field Yates, and Stephania Bell brought their podcast to town one Tuesday night for a live show, and it was so fun!

The show was at DC Improv, which is a small venue, and we were seated much like you are at tables in a restaurant. For a very inexpensive price, we were served dinner, and got to talk to the podcast hosts before and after the show. They have great chemistry and are hilarious, so even if your football knowledge is lacking, you probably still would have had a good time. πŸ˜‰

This past Tuesday, the Museum of the Bible, which opens to the public on November 12, held an event in its theater. Someone at church had a connection, so a few girls from my small group and I were given tickets and went to check it out! For the second year, Kirk Cameron held a live event that was recorded and played in movie theaters around the nation.

Revive Us 2 was focused on “issues that divide us” and we heard from guest speakers like Alex and Stephen Kendrick and Dr. Ben Carson. My favorite part was the worship band with lead singer Zach Williams! He just released an album and we sang some of those new songs. I added Chain Breaker and Old Church Choir to my Spotify playlist as soon as I got home. πŸ™‚

– Day trip –

Then, there was the Saturday that started with brunch and continued on with a visit to a new-to-me pumpkin patch and a winery. While I was at brunch, I saw one of my friends post a Snapchat story of a corn maze, and I was excited because this was not part of the farm I previously visited, and Joe and I had planned to go get pumpkins on this day anyway!

After a quick Google search, we were off to Great Country FarmΒ in Bluemont, VA. It’s 53 miles from Arlington, so it was a commitment, but Bluemont Vineyard and Dirt Road Brewery were right across the way, so there was plenty to do once we were out there!

While we made our way through the corn maze, we kept hearing the loudest banging noises…there was just an area right nearby where you could shoot apples out of cannons at targets! Besides the corn maze, we walked through where some of the animals were hanging out (although we missed the pig race by 10 minutes), took a hayride out to the pumpkin patch, and grabbed some kettle corn for the road.

We dragged our two 18 lb pumpkins to the car and drove right across the road to Bluemont Vineyard. And when I say drive across the road, I literally mean we pulled out of one driveway and went straight into another! It was quite the trek up the driveway, and then quite the trek from our car to the building…it was really directly uphill. But the views were awesome and we had fun trying to figure out what skyline we could see off in the distance. πŸ™‚

There was indoor and outdoor seating, live music, and pizza that smelled delicious! We both ordered a wine flight to try some different red and white wines, and ended up realizing we are true city people because the bugs were out of control and on our nerves. Ha! Bugs aside, I will definitely return to this winery.

That’s October in a nutshell! Up next on the agenda is carving pumpkins and keeping myself from pressing play on the Christmas music because I’m just over here like…

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Linking up with Five on Friday and Friday Favorites

What I’ve Been Eating

I am not the kind of person who enjoys cooking. This is mostly because I usually wait to cook until I am already starving, but that’s beside the point. Last week, I found myself drinking my breakfast shake while making a big pot of chili for lunch and a chicken skillet for dinnerΒ at the same timeΒ and even though I wasn’t hungry while cooking, I still didn’t enjoy myself. πŸ˜‰

If I don’t plan out a few meals during the week, I find myself drinking a shake for breakfast, eating a salad for lunch, and having an omelette for dinner. It just works for me, and I don’t really feel the need to eat out unless it’s the weekend. You’d be surprised at just how often I eat these three meals (with snacks in between, of course). Recently, I have been trying to break my routine and add some different flavors to my meals. You’ll notice that most of the meals I make have vegetables hidden in there somewhere…it just makes eating veggies so much easier! Most of my recipe ideas come from Pinterest…or else I find myself taking a screenshot of someone’s recipe on Instagram Stories. Do you do that too?!

Here’s a look at what I’ve been cooking lately:

– Turkey Chili –

This is one of my favorite recipes, and it comes together quickly. This is key for me. πŸ™‚ I prefer ground turkey to ground meat, and while there aren’t a ton of ingredients, there are enough to be flavorful and tasty. Plus a warm lunch is just better than a salad sometimes, am I right?

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– Cauliflower Pizza –

Trader Joe’s has all kinds of goodies that you justΒ needΒ to buy, and after making cauliflower pizza from scratch several times, I knew I had to try their frozen variety. It’s put together with minimal ingredients, which I appreciate, and it’s MUCH faster than making the dough from scratch. I made a half pepperoni, half buffalo chicken pizza last week. Hit the spot!

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– Mexican Chicken Cauliflower Rice Skillet –

Keeping with the theme…if I buy cauliflower rice, I usually buy it in the produce section. However, I’ve had a frozen bag in my freezer for way too long and after checking out the ingredients in this recipe, I knew I could put this together if I just ran to the store and got chicken! I think rubbing the chicken breasts with taco seasoning before cooking really made a difference. This tasted good on its own or with a side of tortilla chips. Added bonus: there were plenty of leftovers, even after sharing with Joe!

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– Bacon Garlic Spaghetti Squash –

The bacon garlic spaghetti squash recipe is actually a paleo recipe I found on Pinterest, and although it contained some different ingredients, the list was still short enough that I could justify making it. πŸ˜‰ I’ve rarely cooked with coconut milk, but it was part of the sauce in this recipe and I think it was supposed to remind me of Alfredo sauce. While I can’t say that it was really like creamy Alfredo sauce, Joe ate this with no complaints and he doesn’t even know what Paleo means so I think that’s a win. πŸ˜‰

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And just for fun, I recently found Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios at the grocery store and didn’t think twice before tossing them in my cart. I was so obsessed with peanut butter Cheerios before they discontinued the flavor a few years ago! I wasn’t sure if I’d just pick all the peanut butter circles out of this mix or completely dislike the chocolate (because I don’t really like chocolate Cheerios on their own), but I’m happy to report the combination is a good one and it makes a great afternoon snack!

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Linking up with Peas & Crayons

Marine Corps Marathon 10K [Race Recap]

It’s been almost a full year since I’ve truly trained for a race, and this year has been all about running whenever and however I want to. That’s not to say I haven’t raced — I’ve completed a marathon relay and a 5K, but it feels good to have no training plan! At times this has left me a little unprepared for some of the races I signed up for this fall (cough cough Army 10 Miler that I did not run!), but I knew I could handle the Marine Corps Marathon 10K. I would still get to be apart of the amazing race day that is the MCM, but I would get to run and spectate. Two of my favorite things to do!

Race preparation started before race day, as it always does. On Friday evening, Joe and I headed to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at The National Harbor to pick up our bibs and my favorite part of racing…our new shirts. πŸ™‚ Bib & t-shirt pick-up were super easy as long as you had your bib number handy and could settle on a shirt size. There were plenty of volunteers at these stations and there was no line at all!

As you walked from the pick-up side of the expo to the shopping side, there were many more people. The official Brooks race clothing was your first stop as you entered, and it was pretty crowded with folks trying on clothes and shoes. Then you had your rows of sponsors handing out freebies, but by this point it was 7:45 PM and hanger was striking so we took a picture and hit the road!

Saturday was a rest day which ended with a nice pasta dinner from Olive Garden. I think my favorite part was that we ordered our pasta to go and ate it on the couch. My second favorite part was hearing that the wait at the restaurant was 45 minutes and my food was already cooked up and ready to go. #winning

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Chicken alfredo, chicken scampi, salads, and breadsticks!

After waiting until the absolute last minute on Saturday night, I finally went to Harris Teeter at 9:45 PM for English muffins, peanut butter, and bananas. This is my tried and true race morning breakfast, so it had to be purchased! Then it was time for sleep since we had an early alarm.

6:15 AM wake up call & out the door by 6:45 AM. I don’t like to have a lot of extra time in the morning because then I will talk myself into sleeping much longer. πŸ™‚ The metro wasn’t too crowded, but you could tell that everyone on board was a runner. The marathon runners got off a few stops after we got on, and the 10K runners continued riding the train until we reached the National Mall.

Mornings on the Mall are my favorite. πŸ™‚ It was pretty chilly early on, but I had an old pullover that I was wearing and ready to toss away at the start line. Race corrals and restrooms were set up outside the National Gallery of Art and the lines were INSANE. There was a small security checkpoint before entering this area, but it didn’t take very long at all. We were shocked at the number of people waiting for restrooms and quickly made our way over to our corral. It was about 7:35 AM at this point, and the opening festivities were expected to begin about ten minutes later so it felt like perfect timing.

Joe is much faster than me, but we decided to start out together. This was our view as we warmed up and waited to begin! The race was delayed about 15 minutes due to traffic issues, but the announcers were super energetic and kept us entertained with stories and music. We cheered for two runners celebrating their 86th birthdays! Then, around 8:05 AM, it was time to run!

The 10K runners go on a very similar path as the marathon runners, so in our first mile we saw a sign that said Mile 19! I could hear everyone in the crowd making the same joke about how amazing they felt after running 19 miles when really it had been about 0.5 at this point. πŸ™‚ I always start racing without music, so I was people watching and taking it all in. In the first mile, we did a quick turn around from the National Gallery of Art back towards the Washington Monument, and we also passed a water station early on. I skipped this one but so enjoyed seeing how encouraging the service men and women were as they handed out water and Gatorade!

We continued on toward the 14th Street Bridge, making our way into Crystal City. I was running consistent 9:10-9:20 miles, which is good for me right now, and I watched Joe’s hat for as long as I could as he sped off in front of me. πŸ˜‰ Around mile 3 I put my headphones in and quickly walked my way through the second water/Gatorade station. I always walk so that I can get all of the drink in me!

Steeler Sunday and race day calls for a little “Renegade” in the headphones, so I listened and sang and kept on moving. I was really proud of myself for feeling like I pushed the whole time, but never felt the need to slow down too much or even walk. I took deep breaths through a cramp I got at mile 3.5, and kept on moving towards the Pentagon.

This is really the home stretch of the race, and you start to see the corrals that the marathon runners lined up in. As you approach Arlington Cemetery and run the last mile, there’s loud music playing and you know you’re getting close. The crowd support is also much stronger here since you’re not running down the highway anymore. Joe had already texted me that he finished, so I was focused on making it to 6.2 before 60 minutes was up. Thinking back, it was a pretty flat course except for the on or off ramps we ran up or down from the highway. But the race directors must know this because there’s a nice sharp hill right before the finish line. πŸ™‚

I ran past the mile marker 6 and with 0.2 miles left, made a sharp right turn UP the hill towards Iwo Jima and the finish line. I was pretty annoyed by those in front of me who significantly slowed down or started walking at this point because I was trying to power to the finish, but I totally get why they did that! I just wish it had been on the side of the road instead of in the middle. πŸ™‚

I finished in 58:34 which let me reach my goal of finishing in less than an hour! My PR for the 10K distance is 52:45, so I have some work to do to get back to that time, but I was super excited for my finish yesterday. And Joe ran some nice 7:20 minute miles after he ran ahead of me that let him finish in 51:40, which is a PR for him since it was his first 10K! It was very cool to be “medaled” by a Marine — they saluted and placed our medals around our necks. So cool!

We took all our finisher’s photos, grabbed our free food, and made our way back to the metro. The Finisher’s festival was very well organized and easy to navigate. This was a good thing since we were headed back to the race after a quick shower/breakfast to watch friends running the full marathon.

We took the metro to Arlington Cemetery, walked through a small security checkpoint, and headed down towards Route 110 in front of the cemetery to look out for friends. I was tracking all of them, and knew just when to look for them passing! Because we were watching so close to the finish, I almost wanted to warn them about that terrible hill they were about to encounter at the end, but I refrained. πŸ˜‰ I love cheering for friends, but I also love cheering for people I don’t know who look like they’re running so strong right at the end or look like they just want to quit. The crowd gets so many people moving towards the end! All in all, it was a perfect day to race and spectate.

And fun fact: a race photographer took a picture of me and my sign. #ifeltaccomplished
“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 26.2!”