Hello, December

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Welcome to the final month of 2017! In a few short weeks, we’ll be ringing in 2018. Crazy. As axial tilt gives us shorter days and colder nights, partake in your traditions and enjoy time with loved ones and friends. *insert sappy holiday-isms and humorous anti-holiday-isms here*

 

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For example…

 

So, what have I been up to? Let’s see…

Starbucks Seasonal Beverages

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When I want to indulge in December, or when I have a terrible day at work, I choose a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks. Pairing that with a warm blanket to snuggle with and some TV is my favorite way to recharge that doesn’t involve copious amounts of sleeping.

Cozy Clothes  

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This was my Friendsgiving outfit. I am gravitating towards bigger and cozier clothes that offer more coverage around my core, as it is an area of self-consciousness for me. Most of my tops hit me right at the hips and ride up incessantly. Totally annoying. This pink cable knit from Walmart is chic and cute, especially paired with dark denim.

Cherry Blossom Kickoff Party

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I did a quick trip to DC to attend the CUCB kickoff party. I would not have made this free trip without frequent flyer points/miles, so shoutout to JetBlue and Delta. 

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We got to vote on the official shirt color, and while I voted for the green and pink one (shoutout to my sorority, Delta Zeta), the slate gray won.

There was plenty of food and fellowship between runners. I had the privilege of meeting Marine Corps Marathon race director, Rick Nealis!

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There were also 25 guaranteed entries to the 2018 CUCB 10-Miler, and I managed to acquire one. I will be returning to DC in April for the Runner’s Rite of Spring!

UO Fun Run 5K

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Recap coming shortly for this race that I did on Saturday. It was my third 5K, and while it was my slowest time (51:25), I definitely PRed in character stops with 11!

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Hello, October

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Out of all the months on the calendar, October has to be at the top of the list for me. Nothing can replicate the atmosphere in which this month encompasses: changing leaves, cooler temperatures (for my friends up north), apples and pumpkins, college football and marching bands, homecomings and rivalry games, loads of candy, warm autumnal colors sprinkled with the glitters of seasons’ past, that general feeling of coziness as wardrobes change from sheer tops and shorts to soft sweaters and jeans…

This list can go on.

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October is also peak time for fall marathons! My days off request for Marine Corps Marathon just got approved today, so I am set and ready to head back to DC to seek redemption for this race. If you didn’t know already, I was swept in 2015. Coming back to Charge the District, Beat the Bridge, and Take the Iwo will give my heart the closure it needs. I will be running with Chris and our friend, Lauren, and they will be completing their first marathons!

HHN 2017

Halloween Horror Nights is in full swing at Universal Orlando, and every shift feels like I’ve run a marathon afterwards! I average between 6-8 miles a night, and while that may not seem like a lot, I am constantly walking around between a variety of positions. There is a lot more that goes into the logistics of attractions operations than one may realize. I could be covering five different positions in a rotation in one night, which includes a LOT of guest interaction/service, queueing, ramping, loading and unloading cars, etc. I have a fantastic team to work with, and it makes the experience really fun and tolerable.

Now, with MCM around the corner and runners everywhere starting to enter Taper Town, here are some thoughts that I have…

Christina’s Thoughts on Marathon Tapering While Working in the Real World:

When it comes to marathon training, yes, the mileage is important, but the overall time spent on your feet is even more critical. If you’re not used to moving around for 4+ hours in one sitting, it’s going to suck come marathon day and you will probably tire out a lot faster. This is the biggest difference between my training now and from two years ago. Back then, I had a desk job in New Hampshire and wasn’t burning even a quarter of the calories I should have been. Two years later, my job is very active and requires more attention to my diet and the signals my body gives me. I play in the park a lot, and that gives me even more mileage, which I’m happy for. I make smarter choices with food to give my body the fuel it deserves, and I cut out alcohol and junk food no less than a month before the race.

Since I’ve been on the closing squad with my HHN crew for more nights than I can count, I am trying to figure out when I should attempt my last high mileage day before “tapering”. I put taper in quotations only due to closing several shifts in a row once again the weekend before MCM. For my first MCM in 2014, I tapered a full two weeks. (Being in grad school really helped this.) 2015, not so much. I’m curious to see what will happen in the next couple of weeks as I prepare to head back to DC.

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Do you have any fun plans for October?! Any races or trips?

 

It’s the Autumn Equinox!

Happy First Day of Fall! For me, this is my favorite time of year: cooling temperatures, hot beverages, foliage peeping, the smell of apple cider, Halloween…the list goes on. This will be my first fall not in an area up north. I am quite happy to be in Florida, but I really wish I had a vacation house in New England. I would retreat until the first snowfall and then come right back. 

So in the spirit of the season, here are some of my favorite pictures that I have taken: 












The locations of these pictures range from New England to Washington D.C., with the majority at Edinboro University, my alma mater. 
I know they’re pretty, but please do not use without my permission, and always give credit if you do. Each one has a unique story and technique that cannot be replicated through the eyes of another.

Hello, September

Ahhhh, September. The prelude to the most wonderful season. While we still have to wait a few weeks for the Autumnal Equinox, we can start the celebration a tad early with scenic pictures of leaves, countryside, apple cider doughnuts, and coffee, of course!

And if you’re so inclined, your Pumpkin Spice Latte… 😛

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The farther north you are, the sooner the temperatures begin to fall and the leaves begin to change. This shot was taken when I lived in Maine, and the autumnal fire began at the beginning of September. No complaints here!


As we start the last third of 2017, I am so so SOOOOO happy to announce that I have finally landed a job!!! *happy dance*

I am SO relieved that something finally came through. I’ll be starting in mid-September, and while that doesn’t assuage my financial anxieties, I’m content with getting back into the workforce and expanding my network. It’s still not my dream job, but it’s still fun and I plan on making the best of it. (Before you ask, it is not Disney. Trying to get a job in Disney World is like trying to get into Harvard or Stanford. Good luck.) 


 

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19 years later…all was well.

It’s September 1st, therefore witches and wizards are boarding the Hogwarts Express for the start of term!! Even better, September 1, 2017 marks 19 years since Harry’s scar last hurt. Truly, all is well.

 

 

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Back to witches and wizards and magical beasts…..

 

Speaking of Halloween, Disney has already launched Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This will be at Magic Kingdom and will run through the beginning of November. If you plan on going, MNSSHP is a seperate ticket that is required. Check out the details and information on the Disney Parks Blog!

 

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Nothing is better than seeing the Mickey pumpkins on Main Street!

If you’re an Alex and Ani fan, you’ll be delighted to know (if you don’t already know) that there have been new bracelets released just in time for the change of season! They are Haunted Mansion themed, and include the Singing Busts, the Haunted Mansion logo, and Madame Leota.

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Universal Orlando is gearing up for Halloween Horror Nights! I went last year and had a blast. If you’re up for a great scare and have an appreciation for horror movies and original haunted houses and mazes, HHN is the perfect place for you. Just like MNSSHP, it requires a seperate ticket for admission. Check out the latest details here!

Some scenes from last year:


I haven’t talked about running much, but that may change here very shortly. As the temps start to dip, we enter fall marathon season. You’ll see some of the big names like Chicago, Richmond, and NYC. For me, Marine Corps is on the agenda. The countdown is at 50 days!

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Do you have any exciting fall plans?

My Parting Letter to Washington D.C.

Dear Washington D.C.,

You pulled me in with your siren song three years ago. I will never forget stepping out of the National Archives metro station and basking in the grandeur of the Archives staring right back at me. It was spring 2014, and I had no idea that my journey to live in one of the most bustling cities in the world would begin right then.

I would be back, more often than I thought. Marine Corps Marathon, pet sitting, Marine Corps Marathon again, more pet sitting, Rock ‘n’ Roll DC 5K. I was lucky to only have been five or six hours away in Pennsylvania, because I could easily make your trip in one shot.

I finally made the move in 2016. I got a job (surprisingly, since apparently Higher Education didn’t—and still doesn’t—want me in their ranks), packed up my stuff, and traded the sleepy little hometown I grew up in for the lights and noise of the nation’s capital.

At first, I was like a kid in a candy store. So many places to explore (and revisit), so many things to see, so many things to EAT! With the distractions of the pretty things, there was also the issue of moving to a new residence, navigating the Metro, and figuring out my new job.

Soon the luster was gone, and reality kicked in. My presence from your city streets diminished as weekends were spent number crunching, as my current wage wasn’t cutting it. I spent those days in blissful silence, away from the district, only to be hit with a blow on Sunday evening that screamed, “Work week starts tomorrow! Welcome back to Hell!” and accompanied by crowds, screeching train brakes, car horns, and sirens. And, of course, the occasional rainstorm that greeted me the moment I emerged from the underground chasm of death known as the Metro. (Safetrack? Don’t even get me started.)

I do have to thank you for not killing me on your semi-unreliable transit system whose temperament reflected that of a hangry, tired toddler on an almost daily basis. I was only offloaded once in my fifteen-month tenure, and living on the Green/Yellow lines felt like a luxury. Also, thanks for the twice daily rush hour entertainment via Twitter. #wmata for the win.

As the seasons turned, my attitude toward you also did. Going into battle twice a day, five days a week against the city elements wore me out faster than I thought. I was trapped in this vortex of constant noise, noise that I wasn’t used to. I though that I could adapt and conquer, but I became more introverted and miserable. My annoyances aggrandized: Why were there so many people? Why were the trains never reliable? Why does it take an hour to drive nine miles? Where the hell did these tourists come from? Why are things so goddamn expensive?!

Oh, let’s talk about your pricing for a moment. I’m not sure who you’re kidding, D.C., but the average person cannot afford you. I don’t care how shiny the labels are advertising for locally-sourced, organic, gluten free, carb-free, blah blah food…you’re still charging $15 for a slice of “artisinal” bread. Who the hell are you? There’s a reason why Whole Foods is called Whole Paycheck around here. Honestly, your pricing me out is the number two reason why I’m leaving you. I feel like I didn’t get the full city experience because I couldn’t afford to do most things in your presence. Any time I did try to indulge in something like a “normal” resident would, my wallet was not happy and I would hold my breath ’til next payday, hoping to make it. Granted, I had many friends who offered to pay my way because they understood my financial woes, and I definitely appreciated the help. But financial anxiety is not worth nights of endless worrying, stomachaches, and tears, trust me.

A note for those who are considering moving here: if you’re not banking a $50K starting salary, don’t bother coming here. Seriously. DC is one of the most overpriced cities ever. It’s not quite as bad as Silicon Valley, but it’s up there. Apartments in relatively safe areas start around $1900/month, for maybe 600 sq/ft. The closer you get to the center, the more expensive it’s gonna be. I was fortunate to be just beyond city lines in Maryland, but when rent and the Metro were added together, that was half my paycheck. Going out after work? Ehhhhh. Hand-crafted cocktails start around $12 each (on average, about $15), same with appetizers. And brunch is still a phenomenon that I haven’t wrapped my head around. I mean, I did brunch a couple times with my cousins, but that was it. No big group outings or brunch parties or anything. Bottomless mimosas seem to be the cocaine of Saturday and Sunday morning brunch-goers, and I found by working in hospitality that if your establishment doesn’t offer them, you get ripped a new one. (Trust me on this…when I got questions about whether we were “bottomless” or not, and I said no, whoever was on the other end of the line would get so pissy. Newsflash: It’s not the end of the freakin’ world. If you’re so concerned about your precious mimosas, then buy the damn champagne and orange juice yourself. It’ll probably be cheaper.)

 

 

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Mmmm…waffles.

 

I guess I have to thank you for exposing me to a whole new variety of people, culturally and otherwise. The cultural aspect was definitely a shock sometimes, but it just goes along with your melting pot atmosphere. But upon observation, I noticed your typical city dwellers (“Washingtonians”) would fall into one of four categories: sincerely sweet (the rarest), utterly stupid, total snobs, or smart (arrogant or legitimately smart, mind you). The middle two (most common) were the reason why I didn’t go out of my way to make friends. All conversations seem to revolve around careers and politics. Snoozefest. If you don’t work the “right” job, or do anything “right”, you were promptly judged and smushed into the pavement. I knew was an outsider. I tried to fit in, but knew I failed that miserably. Thanks for increasing my awkwardness and reassuring that I was no city slicker.

Even though there was a lot of negativity surrounding my experience, there was some positivity that shone through, and not just through your brilliant sunsets. You are full of hidden treasures, whether it’s a cafe tucked away or a new eatery that’s not a chain; little-known historic sites or a back way to walk to the waterfront. Duck watching at the Lincoln Memorial became a weekly engagement, and people watching even more often. I could enter the Library of Congress and be surrounded by the most brilliant minds in history; it was the one place where I could go and feel intelligent, and be enveloped with that same energy. Walking in silence among the tombstones and untold stories at Arlington National Cemetery gave me a new sense of respect and appreciation for our young nation. Taking part of your race traditions during Rock n Roll DC, Marine Corps Marathon, and Cherry Blossom 10 Miler weekends showed me what DC truly has to offer by way of community and support. Sometimes all you need are a few good races to bring out the good in almost everyone you encounter. You are full of stories and history, and that’s one of your best attributes.

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My love/hate relationship with you will continue to linger far beyond the city limits. When I travel to Florida tomorrow to begin the next chapter, your lessons, both good and bad, will follow me there, as they have shaped me into the person I have become today. I may still be awkward and introverted and hate excess noise and unreliable transportation, but you also taught me how to fight for my career, to never settle or stand for mediocrity, to dig a little deeper for excellence, to keep your friends close and your enemies far, far away…and that there is better coffee out there than Starbucks.

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So to you, Washington D.C., I thank you. I will return in due time.

2017 Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Recap

This past weekend was the 45th running of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. Known as the “Runner’s Rite of Spring”, it is a widely attended race with national and international competition toeing the line for one of D.C.’s most scenic races. I ended up applying for the lottery and got selected a day after I got in for the Chicago Marathon. I’ve applied for this race in the past and have come up short, so it was a nice change of pace. After being rejected by London and Berlin (and I think something else in there), it’s nice to have a few major races to look forward to!

The weekend started with meeting up with Lauren at the expo on Friday afternoon at the National Building Museum.

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Course map. Only 31 feet of elevation change! Woohoo!
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The race directors have timing down to a T. Literally.

With regard to the itinerary above, one concept stood out in my mind: this race has a legitimate time limit: 2:20:00. When the start line closes at 8AM, runners have until 10:20AM to make it, or they would not be counted as official finishers. This gave me my race goal. Since I was in the Purple corral (last corral), we would launch at 7:53am, and I would be running with runners at a 12 to 13 minute per mile pace. Knowing I would have less than an 8-minute buffer between myself and the pace vehicles, this encouraged me to stay steady and hopefully not dawdle like I typically do during races.

I’m working to fix that last part. Promise. 🙂

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Lauren and I did some pre-race window shopping, and found that Sparkly Soul was going to be at the expo. They are my go-to headband and I have about twenty of them in my collection. We saw my friend and Sparkly Soul ambassador, Caroline, manning the booth!

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I picked up three new headbands and Lauren grabbed one. We poked around the expo a little more before I had to peace out. I then spent Saturday preparing for the race and heading to my cousin’s apartment, which was about a half hour walk from the starting area over by the Washington Monument.

One thing I forgot at home were my Honey Stinger gels. Ever since being introduced to them at the Everglades Half, they’ve been my go-to for fueling. I went to Safeway to see if they carried any, and they didn’t. I bought fruit snacks instead!


Race Day….

 

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Flat Christina!…until I found out how cold it was going to be….

 

I was up at 5:30am and out the door by 6:15am. With my corral launching so much later, I wasn’t in a mad rush to get out the door. This paid off as I read the weather report for the morning and realized it was going to be colder than previously thought: low 40’s with wind. Brrrr. Not having it. I swapped out my shorts for thermal tights and layered a jacket over my shirt, along with throwing on a Marine Corps Marathon end-of-race jacket and a runDisney Mylar blankie.

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Hair game strong, with bows and Sparkly Soul!

I started walking over to the starting area and the sun slowly coming up. I reached the area around 6:45am and walked around for a moment, getting a feel for where everything was at.

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I continued walking about and noticed two very familiar women taking selfies by the cherry blossom trees. I recognized them immediately as Malinda and Leah of Twins Run! I ran over and we all had a big group hug 🙂

 

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And, of course, a selfie! Photo cred: Malinda.

We talked for a bit about our upcoming big races (for them: Boston! YAY!), gave me some great insight on how to prepare for Chicago (build a base!), and they chatted about their experiences with the Cherry Blossom races from years’ past. We departed for our corrals after more hugs and good luck wishes.

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Purple corral!

While hanging out in the last corral, I finally got to meet Heather Mundwiler! We’re both members of Team Shenanigans and have been following each other on social media for awhile. One of my favorite aspects of running is being able to meet those that I have befriended online IRL. Always a great time!

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Right after the anthem was sung (by a gentleman who is studying at Westminster choir College…holy voice, Batman!), 7:18 am rolled around and the elite/seeded women were sent off. We stood around what seemed like forever waiting for our corral to launch. The temps were warming up ever so slightly, so I rather reluctantly ditched my space blanket and jacket. (I have a serious problem with being cold. It seems like if the temp is below 70 degrees, I’m freezing.)

7:53 comes and we were off! Woohoo!

With runners needing to submit a proof of time with their lottery entry, it was a true seeding of time. I was in a pack of runners that were literally my speed of 12-13 minutes per mile. My body wanted to run faster, but I couldn’t find a solid stretch of road to do so. I truly felt stuck where I was, even moreso than I am for runDisney events.

Around Mile 2, I got a hello from my old friend Side Stitches. (Seriously, when is this going to end?!) I slowed to a walk on the sidewalk of the Washington Memorial Bridge and stretched out. I kept on going at a more reserved pace for the rest of the race, but damn, it’s frustrating having to deal with those things.

Having started so far back, I was constantly on the lookout for the sweep vehicles. I was coming back up the bridge and saw them coming down in the opposite direction. This put a little pep into my step heading into Mile 3. Around the 5K mark, I noticed that a lot of runners were tripping and falling down; I saw at least three or four bite it around this area. Runners…be mindful of where you’re running and watch for those potholes/each other!

The first half of the race was scenically uneventful, having run the area recently for RnR DC and NAFHALF. I felt no need to take pictures, as the truly scenic parts were coming up during the second half of the race.

My pace around halfway was a 12:30 mile, and I clocked in at 1:02:32. Not too shabby. At least my miles were consistent.

At Mile 5.5 was the Tidal Basin:

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THAT was the scene I was looking for. After the cold snap that D.C. endured a couple weeks prior, there was speculation that the blossoms weren’t going to make it. But here they were!

From Mile 6 to Mile 9, we wrapped around Hains Point.

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There was also abundant entertainment and cheering:

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Go saxophones!

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During the Hains Point portion, I kept a close eye on my Garmin and my phone. I had until 10:20am to cross the finish line to be considered an official finisher. (They’re really strict like that.) I crossed the 9-Mile marker at 1:57:06 (13:01 pace). I knew I had it at this point 🙂

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Last big corner!

What you don’t see is the last hill I had to ascend at Raul Wallenberg Pl. SW to get to the finish line. Way to make you earn your medal!

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I finished in 2:10:05, ten minutes before the cutoff! Woohoo! This medal is absolutely adorable!

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I met up with Patrick and Lauren post-race. Lauren found me a discarded space blanket (she’s honestly the Queen of the Space Blankets, as Chris calls it), and we sat around, took some pictures, then trekked to Shake Shack at Union Station for celebratory burgers and fries.


Christina’s Post-Race Thoughts:

This race was incredibly well-organized…all the way up ’til post-race. After crossing the finish line, I walked through the finisher’s chute, which stretched the length of 15th St. NW. There was nothing in this chute: no one handing out medals, no water, no space blankets, no nothing. You had to cross back over onto Washington Monument grounds and find the appropriate tent for medals. En route, there were tables with water, bananas, and Nature’s Valley crunchy bars. Umm…yay post-race recovery?

I did, however, appreciate that there was a hoarde of volunteers checking and rechecking bibs to ensure those that ordered medals got their medals. Thank you, UnderArmour, for manning the medal tent!

Right after I got my medal and snackies, I found Lauren and Patrick. We started walking away from Runner’s Village and tents were already being taken down and things being put away. Wow. Glad I didn’t finish any later!

All in all, this was a solid race. The weather was great (unlike past years, from what I’ve heard/read about), the course support was decent, and the medal is super cute. The course itself is flat and fast (with the exception of that last hill), and with an elevation change of only 31 feet. I would do this race again, but only after I could secure a faster POT.


Next up: my last race of the winter/spring season: Clyde’s 10K!

The Weekly Review

Going to try something new here in the form of a Weekly Review. (Named as such until I can think of something cooler. Maybe I’ll bring back the runDisneyBelle Review…better alliteration…)

Thoughts on the Week:

-2017 is flying by way too fast. I cannot believe that TOMORROW IS APRIL 1ST. Just…wow. Where has this year gone?! I feel like I turn around and lo and behold, it’s Friday. (and this is after thinking that every day of the week is Thursday.)

 

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DC is blooming! Caught these tulips in Lafayette Park.

 

-I’m closing in on my one-year anniversary here in Washington D.C. on Monday (woooo). I’ve never been able to say that I’ve been with a company for an entire year, since I’ve spent most of my 20’s in university (that equates to semester assistantships/jobs or something seasonal in the retail/restaurant industry). I’m mentally preparing a more in-depth retrospect of my past year for Monday, so stay tuned.

 

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Meanwhile, in running land…

 

Welcome to Marine Corps Marathon Lottery Week! This is a pretty suspenseful week as marathon hopefuls put their names into the abyss in hopes that they get picked to run The People’s Marathon (also known as The Marathon of the Monuments). Above is my “The waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!” face.

So I waited and waited some more. Thursday was MCM Notification Day (aka “Break Your Refresh Key Day)…

And there was celebration! I am SO happy to have been picked for the 42nd MCM, and for good reason: it was my first marathon. And it was also the marathon where I got my first DNF in 2015. It is going to mean SO much to exact revenge on the course that did me in. Must do. Can do. Will do.

 

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It is also Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler weekend!! Also known as the Runner’s Rite of Spring, the CUCB 10M draws runners from national and international fields, with large prize pools and fast times. The CUCB course, which will take place in D.C. around the Tidal Basin, Rock Creek Park, and Hains Point, is super flat with an elevation change of only 31 feet at most, so there will be exciting racing within the elite field. There will also be a 5K run/walk after the 10 Milers have taken off. There will be roughly 16,000 participants (almost like a runDisney race!), and hopefully the remaining blossoms haven’t fallen off the trees yet. Temperatures are projected to be in the low to mid 40’s on race morning with sunshine (which is like a heat wave compared to Rock ‘n’ Roll DC a few weeks ago), so we should be good to go!


 

Congrats to the MCM Class of 2017! Let’s get out there and rock it! And good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

Anything notable happen to you this week?