4 Miles on the 4th

We celebrated July and Independence Day with the CRMC 4-Mile run.  This was a 4 mile run in a small community, and the funds raised went to support their local hospital.

Packet pickup was on Monday.  Cinderella and I made a day of it by getting a haircut and then heading up to packet pick up.  We got our packets and then went to attempt to find the route for the race.  I had a map of the route of the race, the only problem was that it did not indicate the direction.  It did not take long to find the arrows already marked on the road indicating where to turn and for me to realize that we were going backwards.  I turned around and we then drove what we thought was the route of the race in the correct direction.

After that, Cinderella and I found a local diner, and we both had a delicious and inexpensive meal.

I was a little apprehensive about this race because I had not been consistently running distances over two miles.  My last race was a 6K (3.8 miles) and I had walked a lot of it.  My goal for this race was to run a majority of it and to finish in at least the same time as the last race even though it was a longer distance.

On the morning of the fourth, we had typical summer weather (hot and humid) but we were blessed that it was cloudy and overcast.  When we lined up for the race, we lined up going in the opposition direction I thought we’d be going, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I had told my daughter that it was a pretty flat course, and she’d be fine.  The first thing we did was run up a big hill!

Evidently, I had somehow missed the first leg of the race.  I was not mentally prepared for the two big hills that were in that leg.  I decided I wasn’t going to wear myself out on the first mile and then be pooped out the rest of the race, so I did go ahead and walk some of the hills in the race.

I was about the same pace as a guy that told me he had been running for 30 years, hadn’t done any running in the last 11 years, and was starting to run again.  After I told him I had just started running two years ago, it seemed like he was trying to be an encourager.  Evidently, we had opposite strategies, so we kept passing each other.

The race was exhausting, and I definitely felt like I had reached my max.  However, not only did I reach my goal, I actually finished over a minute under my last race which was a shorter distance!

Afterwards, we hung around for the awards and then went back to the same local diner for breakfast.  It was a great way to kick off the Fourth and enjoy the freedoms we have thanks to so many that have gone before us and made many, many sacrifices.

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:36

 

Walking Down Memory Lane

June 10th was the Get Outdoors Day 6K.  This race benefited the Watkins Mill Association.  This one was close to heart and home.  I grew up two miles from the lake that we would soon run around.  It holds a lot of memories.

As has been our practice with previous races, we ran the course a couple of times before the race so we knew what we were getting ourselves into.  This race was on a paved trail that circles the lake.  Originally, the trail was about 4.1 miles, but it has been modified on the north end so that it is now only 3.8 miles.

Technically, the trail was much shorter in the beginning.  It started at the north end of the park where there was a picnic and playground area.  You could park there and then ride your bike or walk along the west side of the lake and across the dam where the trail came to an abrupt halt.

In what seemed to be 100 years to this little girl, the trail was finally completed so that it circled the lake.  At that time, it was about 4.1 miles and still began and ended at the picnic/playground area.

As a teenager, several of us would ride our bikes up and down a few enormous hills, past the old church and octagon schoolhouse, and then down the gravel road and across the wooden bridge to the beginning of the trail.  We would then race around the trail four times and then ride home for a total of about 20 miles.  If it was extremely hot, we came prepared, and often did, take a dip in the lake.

As a younger child, I remember the church and schoolhouse being restored.  One day while out garage saling with my mother, we went by the church to find that it was open and there were men working on it.  We stopped and asked if we could take a look inside, and they obliged.

I rode across that wooden bridge every day on the school bus.  We would hang on tight to the back of the seat in front of us in hopes that the driver would fly across the bridge at just the right speed and angle as to send us bouncing up out of our seats.  There were many picnics at the picnic area with church, 4-H, and other groups.  This always involved playing in the creek and under the bridge itself.  We also found the creek to be a great place to work on our rock-skipping skills.

The forecast for race time was sunny and 72 degrees, so I did not wear the heavy t-shirt we were given.  Instead, I wore a tech-shirt that I received at Tortoise and the Hare 5K.  The race started near the parking lot for the swim beach–something else that has changed over the years.  We ran in a counter-clockwise direction, which to me is the “right” direction after spending years riding my bike mostly in that direction.

We ran up and down a few shady hills and then out into the sun and across the dam.  The same dam that I spent many hours fishing, but never really catching anything, with my dad.  I remember one night going fishing with my dad and a neighbor.  I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old.  A thunderstorm suddenly rolled in and we had to quickly pack up our things and head to the truck.  We packed our things up and walked across the dam as fast as we could with me in the middle, my dad holding one hand, the neighbor the other.  It was so windy, that I thought I was going to blow away.  There were times that I would take a step and I knew that neither one of my feet were touching the ground.

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Turkey vultures making breakfast out of what last night’s fishermen left behind.

This race was not chip timed and it was 3.8 miles.  I hadn’t done any 4 mile runs for a while, so I wasn’t feeling real confident about it–especially with it being as warm as it was.  Also, my friend Velma was there who I hadn’t seen for a few weeks, so we spent a good part of the race walking and talking.  It was all good.  We had a great time, and I got to take a walk (literally) down memory lane.

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“Good morning,” says the cardinal to the owl.

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:27

Heart and Sole 5k

On Saturday, May 6, my oldest daughter and I (and a few other friends) ran the Tri County Heart and Sole 5K.  This race benefits local children with mental health issues.

Last year, this race was my first race of 2016 and the second race of my life.  I had taken the winter off and was just starting to get back into running again.  Not only was it wet and rainy the morning of the race, we had had torrential downpours a few days before.  There were patches where the trail was covered in one inch deep mud.  I had never ran the race route before, so I had no idea what to expect.

This year was completely different.  It was sunny and warm the morning of race day.  We had not had a lot of rain beforehand, so the trail was dry and clean.  My daughter and I had gone out a few times before the race and ran the course, so we knew what to expect.  Also, we did not take the winter off.  In essence, we were much more prepared this year.

This was not just a race, it was an event!  Before the race, there was a Zumba warm up by my favorite Zumba instructor, Shertoine.

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After singing the Star Spangled Banner, it was off to the race where we had great trail support!  This is the stuff that makes you smile and run a little harder.  Thank you to whoever got up early to do all of this!

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Then it was time for the kids fun dash.  My granddaughter ran her first race and got her first finisher’s medal!

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After that, we got to test drive this awesome vehicle!  (Wishful thinking.)

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Vroom, vroom!

 This was a fun morning with family and friends.  Like I said, this was not just a race, but an event–all for a great cause.

Indeed, may you see your children’s children.  Psalm 128:6a

First Place Runner!

One evening during a meeting, I received a phone call.  I recognized the number as coming from the family that I grew up next door to.  My first thought was that something horrible had happened.  Instead, I was asked if I wanted to run a 5K–in two weeks.  A business had purchased bibs and had two that were unclaimed.  My daughter and I could have them for free if we wanted.  No runner is going to turn that offer down!

April 22 was my second 5K for April, and one that was not planned.  The money for this 5K went to support a local Christian school.  This school is attached to a church that many, many years ago my two older kids took co op classes at.  So, I was familiar with the church and school and felt like it was a worthwhile cause.

At packet pick up we got some cool swag.  Lots of local coupons including $5 off at a local grocery store.  We also got red t-shirts and glittery headbands that aren’t supposed to slide on your head.

The race itself was at a local park with a trail.  We were somewhat familiar with the park but not the trail in particular.  We had to drive by it to get to packet pick up, so we took a drive through the park and looked over the trail the best we could.  Upon leaving we noticed a big hill with a monstrous grade.  The only question was, were we going to be running up it or down it tomorrow?

The forecast for the race was 45 degrees and a light rain.  The only race I’ve had to run in the rain was warm enough that it wasn’t cold.  I didn’t know how I would handle this one.  I’ve been told by veteran runners that the secret is to stay dry.  How to do that, I wasn’t sure.

As Friday progressed, I kept checking the weather forecast for Saturday morning at race time.  The temperature kept going up and the chance of rain kept going down.  By the time I went to bed, the forecast was 53 degrees, windy and cloudy, but no rain.  I was thankful and dressed for the forecasted weather.

Saturday morning arrived and it was 53 degrees, very windy, and the sun was shining.  I was thankful not to be running in the rain, but I was also a bit overdressed since I was expecting it to be cloudy.

The race course was interesting.  We were told that last year the course was a bit short, so we had a little out and back we had to do before running on the paved trail.  We had to do two laps around the trail.  It didn’t take long to realize that we had to go up that gnarly hill twice!

Other than the hill, it was a nice course.  I mostly ran up the hill the first time around and did more walking up the hill the second time around.  I knew it wasn’t worth it to wear myself out running up this hill.

I crossed the finish line huffing and puffing.  Then, when I saw my time I was very disappointed.  It was the worst I had done in a very long time.  Once I caught up with my daughter (literally), she told me that she was also disappointed with her time.  We blamed the wind, we blamed the hill, we blamed everything except ourselves!  Then, I looked at the stats on my Fitbit.  We had actually run 3.3 miles–nearly a quarter of a mile further.

I’ve been telling people that I’d get first place as soon as I found a race small enough.  As far as participants go, this was probably the smallest race I’ve ever run.  In fact, it was small enough that I was probably the only runner in my age group.  Which, of course, put me in first place!  Yah, check out that white ribbon around my neck that says “1st Place.”

Cinderella Runs Her First 5K

Well, official 5K, anyway.  Last year I signed Cinderella up for a one mile fun run.  The only problem was that instead of turning around at the one mile point, she kept going and ended up running the entire 5K.

On April 1, I ran the Tortoise and Hare 5K with both of my daughters!  My youngest has been asking me to sign her up for a 5K.  I didn’t think she was ready for it and told her that she needed to do some running beforehand.  This race had a reduced price for children, so I didn’t mind signing her up.

I was only able to get her to run with me one time before the race, and it wasn’t pretty.  Two days before the race, she realized the race was around the corner and it was too late for training.  She was starting to feel like she had a mountain to climb and was not at all prepared for it.

The morning started out as many days have this past winter and spring–cloudy and overcast.  This was one of the more casual races we’ve run.  We had bibs and prizes were given out for the best in each age group, but this race was not timed.

When the gun went off, I wasn’t quite ready and everyone took off like it was the Kentucky Derby.  I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace, so I backed off a little.  I was concerned about Cinderella not knowing where to go, so I decided I would stay with her no matter what.  Before we got to the one mile mark, she was complaining.

During mile two, she said she was never running another 5K again.  After that, we went into run/walk mode.  We would run until she tired out, then we would walk until she caught her breath and we could run again.

We were nearing mile three when Cinderella told me to go on and that she would walk the rest of the way.  By now, we had gotten to the point that the people that were participating in the two mile walk were close behind us.  We were close to the finish line, but she didn’t know it because there was a curve in the road right before the finish line.

We couldn’t see the finish line, but I could see part of the building that we had started in front of.  I said, “We’re almost there.  Do you see that building?  That’s where we started.”

We continued to walk, until we made it around the curve and could see the finish line.  I told Cinderella that we were going to sprint across.  I found a landmark and said, “When we get to that sign, we’re going to run as fast as we can.”  A few seconds later, I grabbed her hand, and I drug her across the finish line. Finishing with her was a great feeling!

Hospital Half and 5K

March’s race was an inaugural half marathon and 5K organized by our local hospital foundation.  The weather was great, the location was great, the course was great–it was all around a great race!

This race started and ended at our local community center which is just a few minutes from my house.  I drive there several times a week.  On Tuesday evenings I meet with a few friends and we take a two and a half mile run down the street and back.  You can imagine our excitement to learn that the race started at the community center and followed the same path we’ve been taking once a week for the last few months.

Anyone that’s done some running (and I’m sure this is true for a lot of other sports as well) knows that a lot of the battle is mental.  Knowing or thinking you can do it will get you there.  Doubting yourself will not get you across the finish line.  I knew the course, and knew most of it very well, so my confidence level was through the roof.

This was also the same location and almost the exact same course as my very first 5K.  I had gotten the flu and was sick the day before that race, so I was excited to run this route again, hopefully illness free.  The last hill on this course is a nasty one, and I could not run all the way up it without walking last time.  I was now conquering that hill instead of letting it conquer me.  So, for many reasons, I was pumped for this race.

There were more than 1200 people signed up for this race.  The half marathon started at 8:00 with the 5K starting at 8:30.  I was concerned about parking and traffic, so I had my husband drop me off at the race at 7:30.  There were lots of people there and lots of excitement in the air, but everything went smoothly.  This was one of the most organized races I’ve participated in.

I ran the race and everything went as expected.  I finished this race 50 seconds under my last race and 50 seconds away from my PR.  Yip, right in the middle!  My time on this last race is now second to my PR.

Afterwards we browsed the vendor booths.  Many of the local restaurants had booths and were giving out food items.  There was an old-fashioned photo booth where we got our picture taken, I got a free t-shirt, and all kinds of coupons.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day.  It was perfect running weather, I completed the race in superb time, conquered the hill, and was able to share it all with friends.

305 lbs. Entering a New Season

I never thought of my job as stressful, and most of the time it wasn’t.  I worked from home and it seemed to very easily blend in with what I was already doing.  I made Saturday my day to stay home and do laundry, prepare meals, and clean house.  It was easy to get caught up on things at home and work at the same time.  However, once I was no longer employed, it soon became apparent how much stress my job did bring into my life.

I was now footloose and fancy free.  The stress was gone.  I was no longer carrying around a burden like Christian in “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”  My heavy load had been lifted.  I was enjoying life.  I fell in love with running, weight loss became a breeze, and I was approaching a huge goal.

My weekends soon became full of all kinds of events that I would have normally skipped out on if I had been working.  By mid-March when the Commit to Get Fit program had ended, Spring was here and it was a great time to be outdoors.  I started running as much as I could.  My goal was to run three times a week, assuming that the weather cooperated.

My oldest daughter talked me into signing up for a 5K on Saturday, April 30th.  It would be the first 5K of the year, and the second 5K of my life.  I hadn’t been running regularly since the fall, so I had a lot of preparation to do for this race.

On the first Sunday in April I got a phone call from one of the drivers I used to work with.  He had nothing but bad news to tell me.  First, one of the drivers was suspended and probably was not going to come back to work.  Second, Mr. G. had quit, he thought for medical reasons.  Third, Bob, my boss who had become ill just over a year ago, had passed away.

This hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was too much bad news at once.  I went into the bathroom and wailed.  Bob was one of the good guys.  He cared about Jesus and his family.  I knew his family would miss him severely.  I really felt bad for Mr. G.  This was his baby, this was his life, and he had walked away from it.  I could not imagine what it was like for him.

On Monday I received a phone call from a nearby trucking company with a possible job opportunity.  I wasn’t looking for a job and hadn’t applied, but we knew someone who worked there, and he had given the manager my phone number as a dispatcher out of a job.  The woman I talked to said she would get back with me.

On Tuesday I went to Bob’s funeral.  I arrived a few minutes early and found a driver that I knew.  I sat with him and his family.  We chit chatted and caught up with each other before the service started.  He was in the same boat as I was–he was part-time, so he was not hired on by the new company.  He said, “Have you seen Mr. G. yet?”  I said, “He’ll be here at five after.”

Sure enough, at five minutes after Mr. G. came in and sat across the way from us.  We made eye contact and he nodded to acknowledge that he saw me.  I was glad to see that he at least looked well.

The service was beautiful.  The music was fabulous and very uplifting.  I know it sounds odd, but it was just what I needed during a time that I was feeling very down.  You don’t usually go to a funeral expecting to get anything out of it.  My belief is that funerals are for the living, and I usually go to support those that are grieving and missing their loved one.  This family was definitely grieving.  Bob’s death was sudden, and his family was feeling a great loss.  In my attempt to be a blessing for Bob’s family that day, they had been a great blessing to me.

I was hoping to talk to Mr. G. after the funeral, but he went running out the door before it was over.  I went home afterwards and within an hour had a phone call from Charles saying that they wanted to hire me.  I guess when it rains, it pours!  I confirmed that Mr. G. was no longer there.  He told me that he and another guy had been working there the last 60 days without a day off, and they wanted to get someone in there so they could get some time off.

I wasn’t sure what to think.  I now had two companies bidding for my employment.  I was really enjoying a stress-free life and being able to do things with my family whenever I wanted.  However, that came with a price–literally.  It meant no paycheck.  It wasn’t money that we relied on for our day-to-day expenses, but it had paid for things like a new washing machine, a new furnace, a new air conditioner, medical bills, running shoes, vacations, etc.  I at least wanted to consider these two offers.

In the end, I took the job Charles offered me.  We did some negotiating, and he bent over backwards to accommodate me.  The only thing he could not give me was working from home–the company wouldn’t allow it.  I was to work Fridays and Saturdays from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.  This would make for long days and for some big changes at home.  I knew I was entering a new season in life.

Sweetheart Run 5K

Last Saturday my daughter and I ran the Sweetheart Run 5K.  We were glad to be well prepared for this run.  We had a couple of friends that also ran this 5K with us.

This run was on the other side of town, so it was in an area that we were not well familiar with.  We had to pick up our packets the day before our race.  I went with a friend and we made an afternoon of it.  We picked up our packets, went out to lunch, and then decided to drive the course since it was nearby.  Once we saw the course, we were glad we did.

As any experienced runner knows, a big chunk of running is your mental state of mind.  If you’re convinced that you can do it, you are very likely to succeed.  Not knowing what to expect or what is around the next bend (literally) can defeat you.  Below I am inserting a course map for your visualization.  Yip, it was basically a big square.  Easy, peasy, right?

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Sweetheart Run course map

Wrong.  How this is even possible, or how anyone was able to find a place in the city that is mostly uphill, I’ll never know.  We started at the top of the map where the red pinpoint is.  Our first turn was a left hand turn, then there were four right hand turns, and a final left hand turn to put us back at the start/finish line.  This is not a particularly hilly part of town, but we were surprised to find that after each turn you got to run uphill!  None of these were big, nasty hills, but gradual inclines.  We were glad to find that at the beginning of mile 3, there was a reprieve.  There was a very nice decline in which we were hoping to get a bit of a break and try to make up for lost time.

Race day was here, and it was perfect running weather.  The morning started off a bit cloudy and foggy, but it had all cleared by the start of the race.  It was 52 degrees and a nice, sunny day.  We got to the race plenty early and had time to take a look around at the running expo that was taking place that day.  We were glad to know what was ahead of us.  We weren’t expecting a PR on this course but planned to do the best we could.

The race started in waves, so I knew not to pay any attention to the clocks I saw along the route.  Knowing what to expect during the race kept me going mentally and physically.  I had my metronome tick-tocking in my ear at 180 beats per minute to keep me focused.  I looked down at my Fitbit a few times during the race and was happy with the time I saw.

I crossed the finished line completely depleted but was happy with my performance.  Once I got my official time, I was really excited to find that I had run this race in my second best time ever!  Physically I was prepared because I have continued to run and train this winter.  Mentally I was prepared by reviewing the course before the race.  If it weren’t for these two factors, the outcome would’ve been completely different.

And, my daughter did get a PR!  Woot, woot!!

Afterwards, we strolled through the running expo and picked up several freebies and registered for some give aways.  I also found a really cool headband that I had to buy.  After that was lunch with my daughter and a friend.  Another great day to be alive!

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Loving this bright headband I found at the running expo.

Make Your Own Energy Bars

Sometime last year I saw a video on how to make these energy bars.  I put it on the back burner and let it percolate for a while.  At the time I had found some protein bars that I could buy that really tasted great.  I could get them at an affordable price, so I went on buying them.  Eventually, I was no able to get them at that great price, and I noticed that every time I ate one that I would get really, really thirsty afterwards. I decided that for my pocketbook and for my health, it was probably better to make my own so that I could control the ingredients.

I invite you to take the recipe and make it your own.  Experiment by using different nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.  I have stuck to almonds on this one because it’s a nut that no one in our house is allergic to.  I have tried various seeds and dried fruit as they are available and as they go on sale.  Some I like better than others but all have been delicious.  The important thing is that everything is raw, not roasted, unsalted, and no added sugars.

As a side note, I never did see an attribution for this recipe; so I am unable to give credit to the creator.

Almond Berry Energy Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (berries are best, make sure there is no added sugar)
  • 1/3 cup coconut, no sugar added
  • 1/4 cup pitted dates
  • 1/8 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips (optional)
  • salt to taste (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the bottom of an 8X8 baking dish with parchment paper.  Grease the sides with coconut oil.  Believe me, the hardest thing about this recipe is getting it out of the pan!

In a medium size bowl, mix dry ingredients except for the chocolate.  If you like your bars chunky, set aside 1/2 cup of the mixed dry ingredients.

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Add the bowl of dry ingredients (except for the chocolate) and the remaining wet ingredients to a food processor.  (I used dried blueberries for my fruit in this one.)  Blend well.

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Pull the blade from the food processor and add the chocolate chips and the 1/2 cup of dry ingredients that was set aside.  Stir well.

Place the mixture into the 8X8 baking dish.  Use a spoon to spread and pack well into the dish.  Bak at 350 F. for 25 minutes.  Make sure your bars are well done so that they will stick together.  The edges should be brown and the center should be firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before removing from baking dish.  Go around the edge of your dish with a knife and make sure they are all free from the pan before flipping the bars out onto a cutting board.  Once removed, allow the bars to cool to room temperature before cutting.

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Once cooled, cut your bars to the desired size.  I cut mine into 10 bars.  Wrap your bars in foil and store in the fridge.  I keep mine in a gallon ziplock bag so they’re easy to find and I know how many I have left.

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These are great before or after a workout.  Sometimes I have 1/2 before a workout and 1/2 after.  They really go great with a glass of nut milk.  They are also easy to take with you.  You can put one in your purse or jacket pocket if you’re out running errands and think you might need a snack while you’re out.

Please tell me about any variations you try.

Enjoy!

Making my List; Checking it Twice

As I mentioned in my last post, I have begun reflecting on the past year and setting some personal goals for 2017.  I made a list of things I’d like to accomplish this year and how I’d like to get there.  Making the list is easy, but none of these things will happen if I don’t come up with a specific plan on how I’m going to get there.

The exercising part, I feel like I have down.  It’s as addictive as crack cocaine, so once you start doing it, you’re good.  There are those days that I don’t want to do anything.  I’ve had a couple of those days lately.  However, I’ve never had a time that I went for a run or to the gym and later thought, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t done that.”  I know if I make myself just go and do it that I’ll feel better afterwards.

Unfortunately, sugar and carbs are also just as addictive as crack cocaine.  I do not believe that I have a good handle on that part of the equation.  I probably do 75% of the time, but the social gatherings, holidays, and special dinners really blow me out of the water.  There’s been plenty of times with food that I’ve thought, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t done that.” This year I want to come up with a plan so that those times are fewer and fewer, even non-existent.

Below is my list of things to work on for 2017.  This list is not in any particular order.  Some of these things I’m already doing and I just need to continue with.  Some of these things I’ve done in the past, and I need to pick them up again.  Some of these things, like the social events, I need to come up with a plan and keep trying until I find something that works.

What are your goals for 2017?

  • Run a 10K:  Sign up, train, just do it!
  • October:  There is a destination race that I plan to go to.
  • Couch to 5K Group:  Do it again this year with an eye on improving myself and encouraging Cinderella who also wants to do the program.
  • Exercise 5-6 days a week:  Schedule (that means put it on the calendar) a run or workout everyday.  Go to the gym if the weather prohibits outdoor running.  Sunday:  walk in the afternoon if nothing else.  Keep a log.
  • Get a grip on social events:  Make a written plan to adhere to before the event.  Share it with someone else attending the event that will help keep me on track.  Or consider bringing my own food (salad in a jar?).
  • Vacation/holiday:  Create a written menu plan for vacations.
  • Quiet time:  First thing everyday.  One verse if nothing else.
  • Lose 50 lbs:  Log, log, log everything that goes into my mouth.  Drink lots of juice.  I am already signed up for a 30 day juicing challenge starting January 5.
  • Read more books:  No screen time until I have read at least one chapter in a book.
  • Less screen time:  Read more books.
  • Chi Running:  Work on figuring this thing out.
  • Review this list, reassess, and adjust monthly.  Set a calendar reminder.