GBN: That time I ran a marathon

Well, I did it.

It was one of the most difficult, amazing, ridiculous, painful and spiritual things I have ever done, but I did it. I finished a marathon.

On Saturday morning (after a quick stop for breakfast), my mom and I headed the hour south to go to the race expo. After picking up my packet and sweet (and by sweet, I mean BRIGHT orange) half-zip windbreaker, we meandered around the gym, visiting with volunteers and looking at what the vendors had to offer. Note: They had my mizunos for significantly less than I paid for them, but I restrained myself from buying a new pair–Farmer Ben was so proud.

This was probably the smallest race expo I’ve ever been to, but it was really nice because we weren’t fighting a crowd and didn’t feel rushed to get in and out.

After the expo, my mom and I decided to scope out the course. We took the leisurely 26.2 mile drive around Schroon Lake. My mom’s reaction? “This is beautiful,” followed by, “You’re going to run this?!”

I knew the hills were going to be tough, but now, at least, I had a point of reference and would have an idea of what was ahead. We started out on the main drag, turned onto a side road that just kept going up and then came out right next to the lake, then, we went back to Route 9….

Here are some pictures from the drive:

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

Saturday night, Farmer Ben and I stayed in and watched Ratatouille, complete with a big bowl of pasta and marinara sauce.  After laying out all of my clothes and fuel for the day, I showered and went to bed… but I’m sure you already know that I barely slept.

I woke up on Sunday morning, a big ball of nerves, complete with a nervous stomach. I toasted two English muffins and put a smear of peanut butter on each and grabbed a banana to eat on the drive down (it’s about an hour and a half from our house). Unfortunately, I was so nervous that I could barely swallow… I only managed to choke down the first English muffin and most of the banana.

After parking, I immediately found the bathroom. Then we had some time to kill, so we meandered around; Ben got a coffee, we went back to the car so I could drop off what I didn’t need and grabbed my fuel belt, put on my number and did a last check…then I found the bathroom again…

I don’t know if it was the realization that I was actually about to run a marathon, or if it was just nerves (or maybe a combination of both), but I was a complete basket case on Sunday morning…at one point, I was holding back tears and was starting to have some serious doubts about running…. luckily Farmer Ben was there to hold my hand and talk me down.

He told me that once I started running, I would get into the zone and be fine…and he was right…

I managed to get a pretty good spot on the starting line and started off at a relatively quick pace…when we passed the first time clock, I realized I was going way too fast (even though it felt comfortable) and slowed down.

I was still going a little faster than I should have, but I was feeling good.

At mile 4, the hills started. Now, the elevation chart shows a straight up-hill until mile 6, then a straight down-hill…and then some little hills in between miles 7 and 11 (the next giant hill). This was not the case.

Instead, you went up, then flat, then up, then flat, then up, then down, then flat, then up and up and so on and so forth… I looked at my splits on mapmyrun this morning and they are all over the place…. I managed to run all of the hills until mile 11…I decided to sacrifice running up this hill in order to save my strength for the rest of the run, looking back, I definitely made the right decision.

I was feeling really good for the first half, once you hit mile 12, you come out right next to the lake…it was a beautiful day and the sun shining, but after running so many hills and being super sweaty, the breeze from the lake was not pleasant… the last half of the race was very cold.

I got to the halfway (13.1miles)mark at 2 hours and 27 minutes… I kept a steady pace until about mile 16. I was getting tired. I slowed down a bit and took a few short walk breaks.

Throughout the entire race, I was repeating three things.

1. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

2. Run your own race.

3. (Wo)man can plan their course, but the LORD directs their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

At mile 18, we turned onto the Word of Life Campus and were welcomed by a wall of cheering people on either side (Note: I could hear their cheers all the back at mile 16, I could NOT figure out where it was coming from).

This gave my spirits the boost I needed to keep going… people were yelling for me, cheering me on, playing music, calling my number and my name…

Not gonna lie, I almost cried because I was so happy…so grateful for these beautiful people who were helping me go on.

Actually, I almost cried a few times throughout the run because of the volunteers and the spectators… everyone who came out and watched the race, supported the runners… it was an emotional day. Hearing people call my name, who took the time to look up my bib number and find out my name, I was completely overwhelmed.

I made it to mile 20, still riding on the cheers of that amazing group… but then I started to hit the wall… I hurt. Everywhere. My feet were the worst, every time I took a step, I felt like a thousand knives were being pushed into my feet, my bones felt like they were shattering… but I kept going.

My hands swelled up to twice their normal size and I could barely bend them, my wedding ring was starting to dig. I was covered in salt from my sweat and my under-arms were raw…not to mention, the pain in my feet and legs was getting worse.

Luckily, there was a girl running near me and we ended up duking out the last 6.2 miles together…slowly but surely. We ended up doing a lot of power walking for that last 10k…at that point, running was so painful that power walking was a faster mode of transportation… we did the power-walk/run together and I told her I was glad we ended up together because we kept each other going.

There were two more hills (though, I must admit, they were not even close to the hills between miles 4 and 12) before we finally neared the finish… we came around a big corner and realized we were less than a mile away.

I looked at my new friend (Liz) and said, “come on, let’s go!” We started kicking it to the finish…I managed to look up just in time to see Farmer Ben standing there with a big smile on his face, iPhone ready to take pictures and yelling my name.

You can't tell from this photo, but I am incredibly happy at this moment

You can’t tell from this photo, but I am incredibly happy at this moment

I turned onto the side street and pushed it to the finish, my entire being hurting and fighting to make those last steps…. I made it!

My time was 5:24:37…not the best time, but it’s a PR for me (the perks of it being my first marathon)…and this was a crazy difficult course! I’m just happy I finished….and now I have a time to beat.

I got my medal and my thermal blanket (thank God!) and turned around, waiting for Liz. I hi-fived her and thanked her sticking with me… and then Ben and I took a couple more pictures….

I did it!

I did it!

I would not have been able to do this without my amazing husband.

I would not have been able to do this without my amazing husband.

After finishing, we went down to the finishers’ area and I managed to get a bagel, a bottle of water and some grapes…unfortunately, my body and brain were on power-save mode at that point…I tried to walk around for a few minutes, but ended up just sitting down in a chair, staring off into space. Ben had to hand me grapes and small bites of bagel in order to get me to eat anything.

Again, I had to hold back tears…the realization that I had just finished a marathon was heavy. My body and soul felt absolutely empty.

All finishers were entitled to a massage, but I worried if I got one, I wouldn’t be able to get up, so, when my lips starting turning blue from the wind, Ben made the decision and helped me hobble back to the car.

In the warmth of the Versa, my brain starting working again, slowly but surely.

In my post-race fog, I knew that I needed to change out of my sweaty, and consequently, soaking wet clothes. I told Ben “I need your help.”

I pushed my seat all the way back and Ben fumbled around in the back seat for my big comfy sweat pants and long-sleeved shirt… I painstakingly started pulling off clothes, not caring if someone happened to walk by.

I started with my sneakers, then my socks. I don’t think my feet have ever hurt so much in my entire life. Then I pulled off my leggings and my underwear. I slowly pulled on my sweat pants, with Ben’s help, really glad I had gone for the XL pair.

The next part was a lot more difficult. my shirt was soaking wet and my skin under my arms was raw (Note: I used Body Glide, but apparently I didn’t use enough under my arms). I managed to pull the sleeves from my tank top down and held my shirt over my chest (I am a lady, after all!) while Ben helped me pull my sports bra off, one side at a time. After I pulled on my long-sleeved shirt, I ditched the tank top.

We debated going to one of the restaurants in Schroon Lake, but everyone else had the same idea, so we headed home. I could not get comfortable and spent the entire trip putting my seat up and down, moving it back, propping my feet on the dash, and stretching them out on the floor… then I passed out for the last 30 minutes of the trip.

Upon reaching our apartment, I realized that I was going to have to climb the stairs in order to get inside. My heart sank. Luckily, Ben took everything in from the car so I could use both arms to pull myself up.

After sitting with my feet propped up for an hour or so, we got an invitation to go to a friend’s house and visit with them and their family. Ben whipped up a quick dish to bring with us and I took a hot shower. I cannot even begin to describe how good it felt.

I conquered going down stairs, slowly but surely. And we got to our friend’s house for a great night of relaxing, good food (a lot of it!) and good times. It was the perfect way to end a monumental day. I finally had the energy to snap a picture of my sweet medal….

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I’m so blessed I have the ability to run, that I was able to finish a marathon. I still get teary-eyed remembering different parts of the course, how I was feeling, the spectators and the volunteers… It was amazing and something I will cherish forever. It tested my faith, my mind and my body, but I survived…and came out stronger (and somewhat chafed).

Today, I’m sore…I hobbled around the office at work all day and am looking forward to a week of rest… but, I wouldn’t mind doing another marathon sometime in the (sort of near) future. I’ve already scoped out a few races… as a 14-time marathoner that I befriended yesterday told me, “you definitely picked a difficult course, your next race can only be easier.”

Before I end this post….

A major thank you to Farmer Ben. You are the world’s greatest husband. The end.

And to my friends, Jona and Kristy. You are both such strong, amazing women and hearing/reading your running journeys continues to inspire me and helps me to keep pushing in mine.

Also, thank you to my other friends and family who have had to deal with my ridiculous schedule, constantly listening to me talk about my training and just being supportive.

Did you race this weekend? What is your best race moment/memory? What’s the worst thing about post-race recovery?


Real Talk: Food for Thought

As you know, I recently hit the 17 mile mark (ahem, 18 mile mark!) in my training program. That means I’m officially past the half-way mark. Holy moly! It’s going to be marathon weekend before I know it!

I’m finding that I need to be more careful about what I eat. Not only the day of my long runs, but the few days before and after.

I’ve also found that I’ve hit a point where I need to have something extra during the run. 17 miles (or for me, over 3 hours) is a long way to go with just water. This really hit me during my last two long runs.

I asked some of my friends (on twitter, myfitnesspal and in real life) what they use for long runs.  Thanks to all who responded!

From my running guru friend, Kristy:

Water. I never brought anything with me…When I ran the marathon I had orange slices, part of a banana and a gu. They all agreed with me.

From some MFP running friends:

I’ve used GU gels in the past. They work well for me if I’m going for more than an hour.

I usually take sport beans on long runs.  Anything over 10 miles gets a clif bar halfway.

I have not really used anything. I did try some energy gummy things but they left my throat phlegmy which was pretty gross. The thought of eating actual food during a run isn’t very appealing to me.

Energy Bits every 5 miles and after 10 dates or a slice or two of fresh mango!

I’ve used GU gels in the past. They work well for me if I’m going for more than an hour.

Gu gels or powerbar energy blast chews.

I use Gu gels also. It’s worked the best for me the last couple of years. I’ve tried clif blocks and they work ok (for me).

And from Twitter:

 Jess @Mywalkonmoon:  @IslandBoost is nice b/c I don’t have to take it w/ h2o & not heavy on the belly @HoneyStinger chews for caffeine

Skora Running @skoraRunning: Drink to thirst. Cals from @honeymaxx and regular MCT oil mixed in, couple hundred cals per bottle.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Clif Shots and Bloks I had leftover from a race have worked… but my finicky stomach isn’t happy after the runs, especially immediately after. They work well in a pinch, and heck, they were free! So I can’t complain…but I don’t want to use them all the time. I don’t think my digestive system could take it.

Needless to say, I’ve been searching for something easier on my stomach and a bit cleaner. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I shy away from long/weird ingredient lists and I am not big on artificial/man-made colors, dyes, and ingredients.

Enter ENERGYbits.

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I had heard about this product before from two of my favorite blogs and was actually thinking of trying them. (Shout out to Zee Lemons and Healthy in Detroit!)

Not gonna lie, the only thing that stopped me was the price-tag. $115 for a bag of 1,000…. which, broken down by serving (20-30 bits), isn’t really that much…but to buy a product without trying it…and then getting stuck with something I didn’t like…well, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Then, I recently participated in my first #runchat on Twitter and was tweeted by ENERGYbits when I posted something about long runs.

Long story short, I was sent a sample and was able to try them on my 17 mile run.

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Before I give you the dirty details, I have to say, I love that this a US company. I also loved that it was founded and is owned by a woman. Not only that, but the staff is so passionate about what they are doing. They truly love and believe in the product they are promoting. To me, that’s a very good sign. Further, ENERGYbits are 100% organic, non-gmo and have 1 ingredient. O-N-E. That’s it!

Here are the nutrition facts (check out all of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids!) taken directly from their website:

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And here is a comparison chart to other popular products:
Nutritional Comparison Chart

Anyway, I received my sample about four days after my twitter connection. The packet I received was full of information… I was still a bit skeptical because, well…it all sounded too good to be true. I’d read about the benefits of spirulina but… I still wasn’t convinced.

You’re probably wondering, how does algae taste?

Well, as Farmer Ben put it, “it kind of tastes like fish food.” The nice thing about the bits is that, because they come in pill form, you can swallow them as such, with a big glass of water. You can also chew them, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  I swallowed about 10-15 at a time with a few good gulps of water.

In all honesty, taking these during my run was a bit hard. The initial smell was hard to get past…but they didn’t upset my stomach, which is a major plus. Taking these on long runs is going to take some getting used to, but the effects on my digestion are non-existent compared to what other products do.

So, here is what happened:

  • I took 30 bits about 40 minutes before my 17 mile run.
  • I took more about 9 miles into the run (I also had some Clif Shots on this run).

I feel the need to mention that I had worked both jobs the day before. This means that I worked from 8 am until after 11:30 pm. It also means that I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, which I mentioned in my 17 mile post.

I also feel the need to mention that after my post-run shower, I received a phone call from my boss begging me to go in to job number 2. And it wasn’t an easy night. I, once again, didn’t get home until late. You can imagine how thrilled I was to be called into work after running 17 miles.

  • I took the last of my bits about 30 minutes after arriving at work and didn’t stop moving all night.

I won’t tell you that I felt an immediate surge in energy, because I didn’t. BUT, I made it through a 17 mile run on very little sleep. I also made it through a (super insane) Saturday night dinner shift after running the furthest distance of my life. I did both of these things without crashing.  Yes, I was tired…but I made it through an extremely long and strenuous day better than I should have.  I still had pep in my step–after 17 miles and a night spent entirely on my feet.

I will also tell you that, although I was sore, I wasn’t as sore as I expected. I’ve felt worse after shorter runs.

I recovered faster from that 17 mile run than I have from some 6-8 mile runs.

All of these things speak to me.

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Love this!

I recently ordered a full bag of ENERGYbits with my own money and am applying to be an ambassador for the company, because, well… I’m finally convinced.

Side Note: I ordered these on Friday afternoon, standard shipping. They arrived today (Monday). LOVE THIS!

Will this be my only pre and during workout fuel? For short runs, yes. For long runs, not yet…but maybe someday. BUT you can bet that I will be incorporating this into my regular regimen. I am not big on powders, vitamins and supplements…I’d rather get my nutrients directly from the source.

This is a food, and your body digests it as such.

If you have any questions about ENERGYbits, feel free to comment or shoot me an email and I will answer as best I can…If I can’t answer it, I will find out for you.

If you’d like more information about ENERGYbits, visit their website: http://www.energybits.com/

UPDATE: If you’d like to order ENERGYbits, you can use discount code “NoellesNotebook” for 25% off your total order.

Have you ever tried algae? What did you think?! What is your favorite way to fuel?

*DISCLAIMER:  ENERGYbits provided me with a sample of their product for review purposes only. All opinions are my own.*

UPDATE: If you order ENERGYbits using my discount code, I do receive a little bit of money, however all opinions are still my own.

I am not a doctor, I am simply writing about my personal experience, as with any food or supplement, don’t forget to consult with a medical professional.


“A List for the New Year,” an Update.

Oh hey! It’s March 4, 2013. Where has the time gone?! I figured I owe you all an update on how my 2013 To-Do list is going.

So, here you are! Enjoy!

Noelle’s (Updated) List of Things to do before December 31, 2013:

1. Create a logo for the blog and go self-hosted.

I haven’t given this much thought….I can’t even pretend.  Shame.

2. Excel in my new position.

I’m still learning a lot of new information. Every day.

Just when I finally think I have something down, something happens and I realize I am just scratching the surface…. Whether I am excelling or not, I don’t feel that I am, yet…. but I am definitely enjoying the learning process.

I’ll check back in another month or so.

3. Make 2013 a “Yes!” year/7. Be more present.

I think I’m doing pretty well with this one.

  • The hubby and I did a Valentine’s Day Wine Tour. Wine and Chocolate. Perfection.
  • I attended a farm and food event and got to chat with some local farmers and producers.
  • I signed up for some fitness challenges
  • I volunteered to make favors for a bridal shower (super excited about this…even though I’m not very crafty)
  • Expanded my cooking/recipe arsenal.
  • I am working on the perfect dessert for the wedding of two friends. It’s not cake!
  • I’m also signed up to take two online nutrition courses. I cannot wait!

With everything else,  planning Strides for James (a charity run) has gotten me out to meet a ton of new people as a direct result. Getting sponsors and taking the lead on this has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.

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Terrible picture, but here is an initial race flyer design. I love it!

Yes!

As far as spending less time on my phone, it depends on the day. Race planning has taken up a lot of my time the last couple of months and because I get emails, texts and check our Facebook page on my phone, some days I spend a lot more time doing these things than I should… it’s a work in progress.

Any suggestions to continue my “Yes” Year?!

5. Take more time to read.

I’m killing this one! So far I’ve read a lot of books and have expanded my blog reading (some blogs have been added to the current web obsessions page)…

Books include my Bible,  all three Hunger Games Books, A book of stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald (which, surprisingly, I hadn’t read before), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Garlic and Sapphires and I just started The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest… that’s been in the last month.

I’ll be re-reading the Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice… just because, I need to.

Any other reading suggestions?

4. Run a half marathon/6. Run 26.2 miles.

As you know, I started marathon training. However, winter running is not going as well as I had hoped….between being sick, silly injuries (falling down a flight of stairs and shin splints) and my body not wanting to cooperate, I’ve had a tough time.

Initially, I planned on doing a May race but given some setbacks, I am starting to have second thoughts. I realize that a few bumps in the road are part of the training process, but I worry that I won’t be ready.

So, I am tossing around the idea of doing a fall marathon and checking off the half marathon in the spring. I haven’t made any decisions yet. And I won’t for another couple of weeks.

I’ll keep you posted. And don’t worry, the GBN posts will be starting up again soon!

8. Pay off at least one big bill–Get better about saving money.

Not gonna lie, I’ve had some setbacks with this one, some out of my control… but it appears that I am back on track.

I’m working on practicing an incredible amount of self-restraint to get me even closer…. we’ll see how I do.

9. Do 100 Burpees in a row.

Not gonna lie, I haven’t been working on my burpees. Fail.

10. Do more food-ing.

As I mentioned above, I’ve expanded my food-blog reading in the last few months, I also signed up to take some nutrition classes online…done some wine-tasting and gone to a farm/food expo.

I’m working on expanding my cooking knowledge… I feel like I do pretty well, but being married to a chef, a lot of times I just let him take care of our meals. Not anymore. I’ve tried a few new recipes, nothing crazy difficult, but still tasty and have been dabbling with vegan and gluten-free cooking/baking.

I also have been doing some food research. With friends, for other people and through other people. Food research is a great conversation starter!

Farmer Ben has been diligently planning his garden and I am pretty pumped. I hope to improve my growing skills and help him out a lot more than I have in previous years.

Oh! And we are looking into a CSA. Meat, Dairy and Eggs. So excited about this!

So, there you have it. I’d say for the most part, I’m doing pretty well…

Don’t forget to sign up for Strides for James!!!! (Sorry…shameless plug… I know!)

Now it’s your turn! How are you doing with your goals? Anything you’re struggling with? OR, do you have any advice to help me out?! Let me know! 


Confession Time: Life, Lately.

It’s finally Friday.

The weekend.

Today, we are doing a lunch-time perch fry at work . I made pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips. Recipe is coming…I still have half a pumpkin in my fridge!

There are some perks of living in the North Country…like random Friday Frying at lunch. Yum. Is it sad that this is the highlight of my week? I don’t feel bad.

I’m obsessively reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I started The Girl Who Played with Fire last night and I have a feeling I won’t be sleeping much until I finish it..probably sometime in the next two days.

I am also obsessed with the library. Movies, books, cookbooks. My inner nerd is so happy these days. Yesterday, I borrowed Citizen Kane and requested a few books that I have been dying to read. I also took out a book on Jewish Food for Farmer Ben. He loves it. I love him. It’s perfect.

My last post highlighted a serious food event. I melted a giant chunk of dark chocolate in a double-boiler. Then I dipped pretzels, placed them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and stuck them in the freezer. Such a quick and easy snack to satisfy your sweet and salty craving. Farmer Ben had gotten to the pretzels during the day, so I’ll have to make more this weekend. Le Sigh. Thankfully, I have a ridiculous brick of chocolate that is dying to be used.

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Chocolate Pretzels.

That’s another thing. The hubs and I have gotten into a routine of prepping food on Sunday night for the week. I blame our Financial Peace class…

But I love it. I get to mess up the kitchen, chat with the hubs and daydream about all the delicious things we’ll be eating throughout the week.

We typically soak some kind of bean, cook off some rice, pasta or quinoa, make a batch of tortilla dough to hang out in the fridge until we are ready to whip up some breakfast burritos or wraps, chop up some veggies, boil some potatoes for breakfast and cook some kind of meat or lentils. I even make granola or bread when the mood strikes!

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Aprihop Beer Bread with Lemon Peel and Tarragon. Another Sunday Adventure

It’s almost therapeutic. Until I have to do the dishes.

Also… Farmer Ben and I have Serrano Cream Cheese. Delicious. And Brilliant. Especially on breakfast burritos.

I’ve also rediscovered my love of all things pickled… like pickled asparagus.

Pickled Asparagus and beer bread. Dinner.

Pickled Asparagus and beer bread. Dinner.

Running has been rough. It’s been cold. Really cold. I feel shin splints coming on. I hate shin splints…I am not sure what to do. On one hand, I need to keep running. I need to get those miles in. On the other, I don’t want shin splints or other weird aches and pains I’ve been having.

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A surprisingly warm night. You can’t tell but I am actually wearing 37 layers.

My body hasn’t been very happy with me lately, which further frustrates me. I’m playing around with my food intake to see if I can figure it out.

On a happier night, the hubby and I, after a bit of a hiatus, moved onto Level 2 of the Shred. It’s hard, but in a good way!

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Post Shred.

I desperately need new running shoes. But I’m broke. I think it’s time to get a part-time gig…as much as I don’t want to.

I recently discovered Pinch of Yum. Great site with some great recipes. Check it out!

I also discovered Dinner with Julie. Ditto.

This is probably going to offend some people, but I want to put it out there. You are NOT going to hell if you eat meat on a Friday. Sorry to disappoint you.  If you need further clarification, open up your Bible and read Mark 7:15-23. If you still feel that you need to deny yourself, that’s fine, too. To each their own.

Speaking of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 has been all over my brain lately. I think it has something to do with the fact that I am training. Regardless, this passage has kept me pushing through a lot of tough situations lately.

Race planning has officially taken over (most of) my life. Speaking of which, if you’d like to enter Strides for James, click here. Not only do you get a sweet t-shirt, you also get entered into a drawing for some amazing prizes. Do it!

The amount of sponsors we are racking up is crazy. I am just overwhelmed.

This is a lot of hard work, but I am so looking forward to the outcome. Seriously. We are not only going to reach our goal, but we will surpass it.

I think that’s all for now.

Happy Friday. 🙂


Oh Hey, It’s 2013-Or “A List for the New Year”

A new year… A clean slate, if you will.

In the spirit of starting anew, I figured it was time to come up with a few things to do for 2013.

I don’t necessarily like the term “New Year’s Resolutions,” so I’m calling it “Noelle’s List of Things to do before December 31, 2013.”  That has a much better ring to it… yeah.

Anyway, this is the first moment I’ve really had to sit and think, as my NYE was spent working 18 hours and helping others have a good time.

I could have done it yesterday, but let’s be real. After getting home just before 3 am and being busy all day, I wanted to do nothing more than hang out in my giant sweats and be a bum….and I did just that.

Some of the things on this list are not very impressive…but others are kind of a big deal…at least for me. They are in no particular order…some are meant to be repeated and others are one-time items.

So, it’s the second of January. Better late than never!

Noelle’s List of Things to do before December 31, 2013:

1. Create a logo for the blog and go self-hosted.

As I’ve gotten more passionate about blogging, I’ve decided that I want this to go somewhere. Maybe not as a full-time thing, but as a creative outlet and something more.  

It’s so touching to hear/see people tell me that this blog is helping them and inspiring them to do more and it just makes me want to make it better. Period.

That means it’s time to get serious. I’ll probably be asking some of you wonderful people for feedback and maybe even some design ideas! I’ve got a lot to learn!

2. Excel in my new position.

I’ve been holding out on you, mostly because I wanted to wait until it was official… but I’m getting a promotion. I officially start next week and I know it sounds corny, but I want to do the best job possible. I’m super excited and a little nervous to start a new chapter and to learn a ton of new information and skills. But I’m all over it.

3. Make 2013 a “Yes!” year.

I always lament that I don’t make enough time to do more fun things. Not this year. I’m going to say “yes” and make time for new adventures. Whether it be taking a vacation, doing something silly or learning a new skill/hobby, count me in.

Just hanging out with Larry, Curly and Moe. No big deal.

Just hanging out with Larry, Curly and Moe. No big deal.

4. Run a half marathon.

No big deal. If I can do 10 miles, I can do 13.1 miles.

5. Take more time to read.

I haven’t been reading as much as I used to and I miss it.

6. Run 26.2 miles.

Maybe a big deal… but I’m turning 26 this year, and what better way to celebrate than running a marathon before it happens?!

I figure that if I put all of these fitness goals into writing, I’ll be more likely to succeed.  This means that the GBN posts will be making a comeback. I’m sorry and you’re welcome.

Also, the half marathon fits into the marathon training schedule… coincidence? I think not.

7. Be more present.

This kind of goes along with the third item on the list. I want to be around and available to my loved ones. I want to share in the joy, love and wonder of every day. I don’t want to work my life away. I want to live it!

I’ve realized in the last 24 hours while my phone has been completely dead–and I still totally enjoyed myself… I spend far too much time online or messing with my phone,  instead of in the real world. I’m going to work on that.

Love spending time with FB!

Love spending time with FB!

8. Pay off at least one big bill–Get better about saving money.

I have student loans, a car payment, a credit card payment and the regular monthly bills… I’m not terrible with money but I never seem to be able to save it–at least not for very long. While I have enough to cover my expenses (most of the time), I don’t usually have (much) extra. I want to change that this year.

9. Do 100 Burpees in a row.

I think that would be bad-ass. Right now I can do about 20-25 on a good day.

10. Do more food-ing.

Whether it be researching, growing, baking, cooking or enjoying. I want to know more about my food.

 Let’s do this.

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Here’s to a new start!

I’m sure this list will grow and change as the year grows on so I’ll be creating a separate tab to keep track. And so you can hold me accountable!

Now it’s your turn! Do you have any goals or items to check off your list this year? Tell me about them! Any advice for me? I want to hear from you!


The Daniel Fast-The Experience

So now that you know the details of the Daniel Fast and what we ate, I suppose it’s time to tell you what I got out of the whole thing.  

As I said, I’ve been a bit hesitant to write about the experience because it’s definitely not something for everyone…and I really don’t think some people will get it…which is totally fine.

While Ben and I were doing the fast, we only told 1 or 2 people. If someone asked why we weren’t eating certain foods, I told them that we were just watching what we ate.

What were some of the every day trials?

As I said, there were a few social situations that were a bit difficult to navigate, but we managed. It was especially hard this time of year because of the constant influx of candies, cookies and baked goods at the office. I passed by the back counter in the office every day and had to avoid the temptations of the season.

To be honest, I’d usually go over, scope out the goods and then scurry away before I got too close. And really, I didn’t feel like I was deprived in the dessert department.

I was very surprised to find that it wasn’t the sweets, or even coffee,  that I missed the most. I actually missed cheese and products with yeast more than anything. I am not a huge bread eater (anymore), however I absolutely love sandwiches of any kind–subs, wraps, paninis, burritos/tacos, etc.

In the second week, we started eating matzos with peanut butter. This was a nice change and was a great substitute for crackers or chips. Love crunchy foods!

I found that I could survive without caffeine but I missed the feeling of drinking something hot. In order to manage this, I started drinking mugs of hot water. Sometimes I would add a lemon.

 Working in a restaurant–especially a steak and seafood restaurant–is especially hard when you’re on a special diet–vegan or not! The last month has been full of parties, tasty treats, appetizers, specialty items, cheeses and dips…and I couldn’t eat any of it!

The biggest thing was that we needed to plan ahead. The nights we worked at the restaurant, we’d pack the ingredients to make dinner. The fast also forced me to pack my lunch each day (luckily, I have an amazing husband who does way too much for me and takes amazing care of me) because it’s so difficult to eat out.

The days I wasn’t prepared were difficult and I found myself scrambling to find a snack–vending machines are pretty much off-limits and it’s hard finding time to run to the grocery store, especially since you have to pay attention to ingredient lists.

So what did I learn?

I learned that I am a lot more patient than I give myself credit for. Yes, I still have some work to do, but I’m getting there. Doing the fast took a lot of planning, time and preparation and I was surprised that I was able to do so well.

Again, Farmer Ben was a big help and those three weeks were a great reminder that we can lean on each other for support and encouragement…or just to vent about how badly one of us wants coffee or cheese.  

I also learned that I can go without, and practice self-control, something that can definitely be applied to my every day life. I found that, even though I was restricting certain foods, I was still getting everything I needed and I wasn’t starving to death by any means. He takes care of me and continues to provide for me, even if I don’t always get immediate gratification.

We saved a lot of money during this time…and that was perfectly okay.

I won’t go into my personal reasons for doing this, but I definitely learned a lot. There were a few verses that I kept in mind during this time period–something to focus on if you will–and they were so encouraging, especially on days when all I wanted to was  a cheeseburger and a beer…or something of the like.

It was a much-needed push to take time out of my day for prayer, studying The Word and reflection. I’ve always struggled with this aspect of my life and I feel like this journey has helped me refocus.

I will admit that some of the lessons from the Daniel Fast were not what I was expecting, but they were valuable nevertheless.

I managed to lose a few pounds…it’s amazing how much your calories are cut when you aren’t eating certain foods. I didn’t do this to lose extra weight, but it was a side effect. I have to say, some days I was hungry most of the day and other days I could barely eat.

It was very strange and my body is still trying to balance out the changes. I’ve gained back a few pounds, but I’ve also noticed that my appetite and cravings have changed. I’m not hungry and I’m wanting to eat different things than I did before.

After 21 days, my head was clearer, my body was cleaner and my spirit was calmer.

Would I do the fast again?

In a word, yes.

I definitely think that deliberately setting that time aside to plan, refocus, and organize your mind, body and spirit is a necessity.

I will tell you that I usually get very stressed out between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This time, while I did still have some stress, I was at peace and was ready to take on all of the activities that come with the season.

I can tell you that you need to go into this time with an end purpose, a goal of learning something, having a prayer answered or making a change. You need something to focus on. If you don’t, you’re not doing it for the right reasons.

It’s amazing what you can do when you take yourself out of the everyday hustle and bustle and set aside time for a higher purpose.

I cherish the three weeks and continue to remind myself of the small lessons I learned along the way.

So, any questions? Have you ever thought about doing a fast? What would be your biggest obstacle/item you’d have a hard time cutting out? What would be your focus?


Daniel Fast-The Plate

In my last post, I spilled the beans on what the hubs and I have been up to for the last three weeks. I also gave a brief explanation as to what the logistics of the Daniel Fast are… In my next post, I’ll discuss my personal experience.

This is the fun post. I’m talking about the food.

So, what’s been on my plate?

As you probably know, I am a huge breakfast person…as in, I can barely survive if I skip it. That being said, I stuck with oatmeal most days of the fast.

Because you can’t have dairy or sugar during the fast, I would just cook with water, then throw in some apples, cinnamon and peanut butter to spice it up a bit. Other days I would do bananas and pecans. It all works.

Toward the end of the fast, I started cooking the oats in (unsweetened) almond milk to add a little more calcium and iron. I’ve been tracking my food on MFP for a long time and was noticing that I wasn’t getting enough of the two. The almond milk definitely helped. 

My main snacks were popcorn, apples and matzos with peanut butter.

The key to making this fast work is to plan your meals. It’s possible to go out for lunch or  dinner on this plan, but it’s very difficult–Mostly because you never really know what restaurants are putting in your food.  Thus, you want to plan ahead and cook a  few meals at a time.

I tried to snap pictures of what I was eating throughout the 21 days. Apples and oatmeal aren’t very pretty, so here are a few photos of other meals.  Keep in mind, these are all meat and dairy free; Vegan, with more restrictions. 

I’d say we still ate some pretty delicious things!

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Burrito Bowls: quinoa, beans, vegan sausage (ToFurky Brand), onions, tomatoes garlic peppers, olives and guacamole

 

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Skillet Meal (makes multiple servings): Corn, black beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and peppers served over volcano rice. Great with a splash of hot sauce.

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Veggie Packed Miso Soup: Red Miso, Water, rice noodles, peas, broccoli, sprouts, tofu

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Veggie Packed Tabouleh: sprouts, carrots, avocado, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, scallions, cashews, lemon juice, parsley served over romaine

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Tofu Breakfast Scramble: tofu, curry powder, potatoes, onion, garlic, broccoli and spinach.

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Mostly Plain Pasta: Organic Bow-tie Pasta, Olive Oil, smoked salt, black olives, parsley and some secret spices

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Fresh Tomato Sauce and Pasta: Whole wheat pasta, tomatoes, olives, garlic, onion, basil, parsley, capers and peppers

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Salad and Latkes–kind of: greens and broccoli with balsamic, shredded potatoes and onions, olive oil and leftover tomato sauce.

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Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao): One of two times we ate out, veganized for us.

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This was probably one of my favorite meals-more salad with balsamic and a Moroccan chickpea stew over rice. YUM!!!!

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Burger (I adapted the Lean Green Bean’s recipe) over greens with Tabasco sauce

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Veganized Minestrone with rutabega, kale, potatoes, carrots and loads of other veggies.

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Popcorn: my snack of choice for the fast, popped on the stove in the trusty old cast iron, seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper and smokey paprika.

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Thai coconut curry soup with lots of veg and tofu

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The other time I ate out-a burrito less the shell: rice, peppers, onion, tempeh, black beans, tomatoes and roasted potatoes, with salsa. Yum!

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Another pasta sauce with vegan sausage. Onions, garlic, peppers, basil, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and capers.

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Tofu Tikka Masala

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Another breakfast scramble.

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Another salad, matzos and peanut butter ( another go-to snack)

Again, this isn’t everything, but it’s a good description of what our diet was like.

We ate a lot of beans, dark leafy greens, pasta, potatoes and rice. I’m not complaining. I love all of these things. We also ate a lot of tofu and tried tempeh in a few meals.

Peanut butter and apples became a staple (not that both of these weren’t before..but it was more pronounced).

We also experimented with seasoning and made sure to pack in a lot of veggies in almost every meal. I noticed that the amount of fat, sugars, and cholesterol I was eating dropped a lot, not that it was high before, but it was even lower in these three weeks.

I mentioned before that we didn’t have any coffee… I tried to trick myself by drinking hot water out of my coffee mug. It worked about half the time.

Anyway, stay tuned for my next post where I will give you a look into my personal experience with the fast.

Do you have any favorite vegan staples? Do you think you’d be able to give up meat, dairy, drinks and sugar for three weeks? What would you miss the most?  Let me know!


The Daniel Fast-An Explanation

What Have I Been Up To?

The last three weeks have been a bit of a blur. The hubby and I have just completed a crazy journey. We’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and working to better our minds, bodies and spirits.

This is part of the reason why I haven’t been blogging as much as usual. I needed to temporarily shift my focus.  I can tell you that it did me (and the hubs!) a world of good.

It’s been a time of reading, listening, writing,  meditation and prayer, but it’s also been a time of cleaning house, if you will.

We just completed the Daniel Fast. 

I have been hesitant to write a post about this because I honestly don’t think a lot of people would get it or understand our reasoning to try it. It’s something very personal and obviously not for everyone. As hesitant as I was to do a post on this, I feel like I have so much to say!

This isn’t a typical “fast”, rather it’s a restrictive diet based on scripture. Fasters are to follow a very specific diet.

The best way to describe it is “vegan, with even more restrictions.”

The Rules:

The fast consists of limiting any and all meat and dairy products. So no animal products, period-this includes honey and you’ll see why in a moment.

You are also cutting out any added sugars/sweeteners (including honey, stevia and agave nectar…etc.) and processed foods. 

Basically, you’re doing a lot of label reading-if there is any type of sugar or un-whole item in the ingredient list, it’s out. For us, this even included a vegan vegetable stock!

This plan really forces you to eat real, “whole” foods. And to experiment in the kitchen. Always a good thing!

No bread.  Or anything with leavening agents (yeast, baking powder, etc.). So again, lots of label reading. No crackers.

On top of that, you can only drink water. No soda, no tea, no alcohol, no juice. No coffee. Yes, I did not drink any coffee for three weeks. And I lived to tell about it!

Typically, you do the fast for 21 days, but you can extend it or shorten it depending on your goals and needs. We did the full 21 days.

To say that it was tough would be an understatement…but it wasn’t hard for the reasons I thought it would be. There were a few social functions that were a bit stressful, but we got through.

Other Information:

There is a book by the creator of the website, Susan Gregory, I haven’t read it but I linked the image to her site.

The Book

The Book

I can tell you that I spent plenty of time perusing the website and I did sign up for her daily devotionals. The devotionals were really good to have, and I received one on each of the 21 days. Some days it was a bit spooky because the subject would go hand in hand with something I was going through that day.

If you do sign up for the devotionals, you will get a few extra emails as well… but it’s easy to unsubscribe. I haven’t gotten another email since we completed the fast.

The website also has a blog and some recipes, as well as a place to buy some of the books written by Susan Gregory.  It also gives a detailed explanation of the fast, tips, advice and a comprehensive guide of what is and isn’t allowed.  Obviously, if you have any health issues, consult a doctor before beginning this fast as you would any other health plan.

Again, we didn’t do this as a “diet,” we did it as a refocus. Yes, our eating habits changed a little bit, but for the most part it wasn’t a huge shift.

Because I have so much to say, I’ll be writing two more posts about the experience. The next one will focus on food and the last will be an overview of my personal experience.

Stay tuned!


Real Talk- Legs.

I’m back!

As much as I loved sneaking off to the city for a couple of days with the birthday boy man, I have to admit, it is nice to be home. It felt so good to put on my super-soft, enormous sweats (They have always been big, but now they are …even bigger!) and a t-shirt and crawl into my own bed.

Don’t get me wrong, NYC was great. We ate and drank and walked and walked and ate and watched and walked all over. But there’s just something about coming home, dumping your stuff in a pile in the middle of the floor and immediately putting on those previously mentioned sweatpants. 

Say it with me, “Aaaah…”

Anyway, I know we have a lot of catching up to do. I’m working on a couple of posts…one I am having an especially hard time writing because it’s something very personal…and I am honestly unsure how exactly to approach it. In the end, I’m sure I’ll choose my normal verbal-vomit, dump whatever comes to mind out on the page screen approach. And that’s fine.

Before I do that, there are a few things I really need to get off my chest.

Allow me to give you a play-by-play of something that happened to me on Saturday.

Prepare for a rant.

1. I love boots. Especially tall boots. I just love them. And how they look.

2. I have big calves and always have. This makes buying and wearing tall boots very difficult. Sometimes impossible. So, you know that when I found a pair at Target last year on clearance for $20 that I had to have them. It was the last pair, and I could actually zip them all the way…okay, most of the way, but it was close enough that I bought them. And wear them often…even though they only zip most of the way.

3. I really love the way jeans look with tall boots. But I hate that I have to stuff them inside my already over-flowing boot leg.

4. That being said, I decided that I needed to find a pair of skinny jeans.

4b. I currently own two pairs of jeans-one that I saved from a few years back and one that I purchased…so I figured it was okay for me to buy a few more pairs. Both pairs are boot-cut, size 8.

5. I’m not a huge fan of skinny jeans. I don’t know why…But I decided that if I want to wear my boots as comfortably as possible, that I should get a pair. Give them a go, if you will.

It’ll also save my boot-cut jeans from getting super wrinkly if I decide to wear a few times between washes…not gonna lie, this happens often.

6.  On Saturday, I went to the mall to find an over-the-shoulder bag for our trip and decided that I would also find at least one pair of skinny jeans.

7. Instead of finding a cute pair of skinny jeans, I discovered that my previously mentioned big calves prevent me from being able to wear skinny jeans. Period.

8. This discovery is really depressing. I can’t make this stuff up…and furthermore, who would make this up?!

Seriously, I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gone down so many pants sizes or what, but most of the jeans I tried on I couldn’t even pull up all the way. Apparently if you wear anything below a size 12, you have chicken legs…or something.

I know what you’re thinking, Home Girl is in denial about what size she wears! 

For all of you thinking that,  I can tell you, every pair of boot-cut jeans I tried on, in the same size fit perfectly. But I wasn’t looking for boot-cut jeans, was I?

So no, it was NOT because they were too small or I couldn’t get them over my hips (which,yes, can happen and I am sure if you’re a bit curvy you can relate-you move up the size chart and move on with your life), but because apparently I have such monstrous calves that I could only get them up to a certain point until they got stuck.

9. Yes, the jeans got stuck on my calves, so much that I couldn’t pull them up all the way, no matter how hard I tried, and then I had to sit down and use both hands to peel them off. Try doing that in every store. Talk about a workout!

10. This initially made me feel like a freak! I had to do this little dance, not once, not twice, but over ten times in ten different stores…with numerous brands of jeans. I even tried going up a couple of  sizes in some stores, with the same result! I left the mall empty-handed (well, except for the bag I initially set out to get…which was also a huge disappointment–it broke!) and extremely discouraged. No wonder I can hardly ever find tall boots!

11. Why do clothing companies think that all women are created exactly the same? Why do clothing companies think that all women have tiny non-existent calf muscles?! Why does the “ideal” woman have to fit a certain image or set of measurements?! 

12. I’m 5’4″ and a size 8, however I’m also very curvy. And I have short legs. And big calves.

I have big boobs and a big butt…even after losing thirty pounds.  I’m not going to give you my measurements, because it really doesn’t matter and I think that would be a little creepy…but I will tell you that even after losing that much weight, my bra size remains the same… my hips and butt are smaller, but they are still very much there. And I am okay with that. So is my husband.

13. I run. Yes, I am a runner. This means that I have big legs. Big thighs and yes, apparently monstrous big calves. That doesn’t mean that I am “fat,” it means that I have muscle.  I admit, I was fat, but that is not the case anymore.

14. Growing up, I always had an issue with my legs. I wouldn’t wear certain things because I didn’t want to accentuate them and I was extremely self conscious–especially as a teenager.

15. Now, as a 25-year-old woman, I am embracing my body. This is what keeps me working to improve myself both physically and mentally. God gave me this body for a reason, but I know that He expects me to take care of it. This is why I work out and aspire to be better.

I know that I have my trouble spots, but I’m not focused on them. I know that I embrace my curves, my muscles, and even those giant calves.  I know that I am healthy.

My “big” legs carry me through long runs, giant hills, fast runs, mud and snow,  new challenges and every day life and I am so blessed to be able to use them to their maximum capacity. And I will continue to do so as long as I can.  

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After an awesome workout... check out those gams!

So, I guess this is my way of taking a stand against those in the industry who try to make me conform to a certain size and shape. If you can’t make pants–or any clothing, for that matter–that work with my body, then I won’t wear them. Thanks but no thanks.

I am not a perfect creation, but I am perfectly me.


Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

I don’t broadcast my political beliefs on my blog and I try not to rant and rave about too many political issues on this site–It’s not the place for that.

However, I will use it to remind you to get your butt out and vote today. It’s your right and your duty.

I voted, did you?

 But don’t just vote today. Practice your beliefs every single day.

Vote with your dollar.

People forget that they have a choice every time they go to the store…pump gas…buy clothes or makeup… or order online. Even when they go out to dinner!

Whether it be trying to buy from local farms instead of large supermarkets, buying American-made products as opposed to items made overseas or supporting companies who are committed to the environment and their employees instead of those who are focused solely on the bottom line and the latest technology, your dollar is the biggest weapon you have for change.

I realize that sometimes it’s a tough choice and it can be a little more expensive (although many times, this is a myth), but if you want to change the system, every dollar–or vote–counts.

An example of this? My husband and I are very committed to knowing where our food comes from and eating local. 

We grow a lot of our own food and what we can’t grow, we get from local farms that we know and trust. Or order from companies that we have researched.

When we go out to dinner, we try to pick local restaurants that we know support local farms over chains and big food vendors.

We also try to buy products made in the US, whenever possible.

Again, this takes time and effort…and sometimes extra money, but it can be done.

I grow very tired of seeing people rant and rave about their personal beliefs and politics, who then go out and support the exact opposite with their dollar.

Do your research. Be educated. And use that knowledge.

So today and every day,  put your money where your mouth is.