#OHolyBracket – Round 1 Voting

Ok all, instead of tweets getting missed/lost in the feed, I am going to update this post daily with the polls. Results of past days polls are listed below the daily match up.

Current Matchup:

Listen to the artists by clicking on their names below, then cast your vote. Voting closes in 24 hours from posting.

  • Matt Wertz vs Tyrone Wells
  • Phil Wickham vs Third Day

Results

Day 4

  • Pentatonix – 91%
    GoFish – 9%
  • Mariah Carey – 73%
    Whitney Houston – 27%

Day 3

  • Ella Fitzgerald – 61%
    Celtic Woman – 39%
  • Celine Dion – 52%
    Cher – 48%

Day 2

  • Jennifer Hudson – 54%
    Leona Lewis – 46%
  • Martina McBride – 62%
    Carrie Underwood – 38%

Day 1

  • *NSYNC – 63%
    98 Degrees – 37%
  • Kari Jobe – 57%
    Lauren Daigle – 43%

#OHolyBracket

It’s here. Finally. The long awaited… O Holy Night bracket.

I’m OBSESSED with the song O, Holy Night. And there’s exactly 13,429 renditions (and counting…) of the song. I want to find the best one. And the best way to do that, of course — a la March Madness brackets. Except December.  And not basketball.

So here were the super-official nominations I received via the Twitters:
1. Kings Kaleidoscope
2. Carrie Underwood
3. *NSYNC
4. Martina McBride
5. Eric Cartman
6. Phil Wickham
7. Celtic Woman
8. Josh Groban 
9. Michael Ball
10. Tyrone Wells
11. Hanson
12. Matt Wertz
13. Kari Jobe
14. Mariah Carey
15. Third Day
16. Leona Lewis
17. Anthem Lights
18. Cher
19. 98 Degrees
20. Jennifer Hudson
21. Bing Crosby
22. Lauren Daigle
23. 38 Special
24.  Pentatonix
25. Celine Dion
26. John Legend
27.  Ella Fitzgerald
28. Journey
29. Whitney Houston
30. Go Fish
31. Nat King Cole
32. Tiny Tim

Here’s how it works — I matched up the nominations as best as I could based on style/genre. It didn’t feel fair to have such masterpieces as Eric Cartman matched up with Josh Groban, after all. Each day, I’ll open up the voting and the nominations with the most votes move on to the next round. Until we crown the winner. Simple as that.

And without further ado… here are the first round match ups. Stay tuned for the next post with the first rounds of voting.

oholybracket_round1Click on the image to see the full size/readable version

Whole 30.

The past 30 days I have been on a food adventure and mission. It’s called Whole 30. I committed to eating whole, real foods for 30 days. Absolutely NO cheats, ZERO exceptions. And carry on with living a normal life of working out, socializing, and traveling. What is the Whole 30 eating plan? It’s simple…but it requires discipline, a little bit of creativity, and simply paying attention.

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How you do it…Each meal you eat your normal portion of any protein of choice. Eggs, turkey, chicken, beef, steak, etc. Then you fill the rest of your plate with veggies, some healthy fat, and occasionally some fruit. What are you NOT allowed to eat? Simple answer: ~ 85% of what’s sold in America’s grocery stores. More specifically: No gluten, no dairy, no added sugars or sweeteners (not even stevia! Gasp!), no beans/legumes, no processed foods, no making things out of “compliant ingredients” into treats… It’s an extensive list of NO’s. But it opens wide the door for all the YES’s of what you SHOULD be putting on your plate and eating on a daily basis. Real, whole, nutritious foods.

Sidebar: You’ll notice, there are no before and after pictures. Why? Because that doesn’t necessarily prove overall health or healthy change. It can’t show how you’ve changed your relationship with food or your nutrition, necessarily. Before and after pictures don’t show the whole picture. It can show very short-term results via (usually) short-lived, un-maintainable eating habits. As long as there are people still dieting via means of starving themselves of proper nutrition, (and those people may always have better abs, thighs, glutes, biceps, you name it, whole-body-better-looking than me) I will stand firm on this. Bottom line: this is about nutrition and healing your body. Mindful eating. Lifelong habits. This kind of stuff doesn’t truly happen in just 30 days. Yes, there are physical results, yes that is awesome and should be celebrated. But that shouldn’t be the sole focus. (Okay, rant over. Also, disclaimer — I hold nothing against anyone who does post progress pics. You all look FAB and I appreciate your motivation for hard work and healthy habits.) From me, you just get graced with food pictures slidin’ into your insta feed. Sorry for those hoping to see me in a sports bra and booty shorts: you could stop reading now if those were your hopes and dreams.

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The starting line
On Sunday, March 27th, Lindsay Guentzel posted on Facebook that she was starting the Whole 30 the next day. I was like, hey. I should do this too. Lindsay would be great for accountability and I would love this challenge in discipline and to just see what happens with this. So without any preparation, or too much thinking ahead, (SEE! There already goes your excuse to start TOMORROW) I jumped right in. Now would I recommend not planning ahead? Depends. I find if I think too much about things, I find excuses to delay. I also am a single lady with no kids/family/spouse/boyfriend to have to plan meals for. I only have to provide for myself. Miss Independent. Say it. Sing it.

Why did I do this?
Mostly as a tool to refine and rein in my eating habits. A practice of discpline, mostly. Like most people, I have a sweet tooth. It bothers me that on any given occasion I would always (not sometimes or never, but always) give in to sweets and treats. I simply wanted to do what I could to practice more discipline in this area. Will I eat a cookie ever again? Yeah, I’m sure I will. Actually, I hope I will just so I can prove to myself I can do it on occasion. But I’m a very black and white person. Grey area is such a slippery slope for me. I found myself always treating myself. And that’s exactly what I wanted to stop doing. And start being more mindful.

Admittedly, Whole 30 wasn’t as huge of a change in eating habits for me. I already didn’t have a diet that regularly consisted of eating bread, pasta, or processed carbs. But I was still really bad about eating enough of the right carbs — vegetables. (More on my nutrition background below…) So, some of the “withdrawl” side effects they talk about, I don’t think were as severe for me.

What did I learn from this? 
Honestly, everything that I had never expected to learn from this. I learned how to meal plan and plan trips to the grocery store better. I also ended up wasting less food. I learned how to say no to foods without feeling like I had to give an explanation why. (And felt strong enough to just decline or stay away.) I learned how to travel and stick to the discipline. I learned how to kick and scream and not eat desserts on said vacation. I also learned how to reluctantly give away really good looking pancakes on my plate to my friends when brunching. Oh man, it was painful. But you know what? I’m still here, and I believe, more disciplined because of it. Oh, also I learned that Mexican food is truly your best friend. GUAC AND SALSA VERDE ON EVERYTHING.

I learned there are many others out there venturing this same street of Clean Eating. There are so many great recipes and resources out there. Many recipes you can even easily modify to be compliant. I think I enjoyed the part of finding new things to make. And hand to God: there was never a recipe that I made that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. But there are lots of bloggers who have already paved the way and done a lot of the dirty work for us. Leverage their tips and findings.

A little before midway through, me and broccoli had to break up. I was so. sick. to. death. of. broccoli. But you know how many other vegetables there are besides broccoli? Yeah. Lots. But are me and broccoli back on speaking terms now? You betcha. But I learned to try new vegetables. (And now I eat onions with almost everything. Mom was right. One day I may change my mind.)

I learned it’s not just about 30 days. (or 21 days, or 60 days, or 365 days.) No, I don’t believe 30 days will “fix” your weight or your health issues. You may lose lots of weight doing this depending on your previous diet (and a whole lot of other factors). But that isn’t the goal. Lifestyle changes don’t completely happen in 30 days. Lifestyle changes happen through the course of your LIFE. Continual decisions, daily. Is a lifetime without any added sugar feasible without making yourself crazy or miserable in the process? Probably not. Is 30 days? yes. (You guys: sugar is in E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. — read your labels. Not just the grams, but the ingredients. And don’t even get me started on artificial sweeteners.) Do I think this 30 days will completely provide me the discipline I need to say no to sweets and treats for the rest of my life? No. I do know it will continue to take constant discipline for me to continue down this path. I do think it’s gotten easier, and I believe it will continue to get easier if I continue to stay disciplined and declare my own personal parameters.

What changed? 

  • My clothes do fit better. I honestly don’t know that I’ll even weigh myself after this. Numbers don’t matter. During the 30 days you’re not supposed to weigh or measure yourself. Previously, I’d start off my day weighing myself like some sort of wrestler weighing in for precision weight before a match. I don’t think I realized how that affected me. And why was that even necessary? I feel more confident about my body now. Is it perfect? Heck no. But do I treat it well? Do I feel great? Does it function well and allow me to be active and run the miles I want to run and lift the weights I want to lift? Heck yes. All of that matters more than a number on the scale. This is probably one of the most important revelations I had. I don’t think I fully understood what this daily habit was doing to me. Fearfully and wonderfully made, remember that.
  • I sleep like a BABY. Previously a night owl, up until midnight or later, I now am ready for bed at 10pm. Sometimes earlier.
  • I wake up feeling fully rested. (Oh, I am was the chronic snooze button hitter.) Most of the time waking up right before my alarm even goes off. Hello, circadian rhythm.
  • Digestion. Will not go into detail on that. You are welcome.
  • I didn’t drink any coffee for 27 of the 30 days. Say what? Yeah. I don’t like black coffee. And heavy cream is not an option. Coconut milk and coconut cream were, but I just found I didn’t enjoy the taste as much. (Read: coffee was a vessel for heavy cream for me. Bad? Nah, not really. Nothing wrong with heavy cream if your body can tolerate it. But I don’t need it. Hence: I saved money, daily.)
  • Afternoon crashes minimized. 
  • Fruits tasted almost too sweet for me not long into the 30 days.
  • Hunger. This is not an effort or experiment of restricting food. If you’re hungry, you need to eat. I need to eat more when I workout. You guys, food is fuel. I don’t think I gave myself enough credit for how intense some of my workouts can be. Midway through I made a connection that on days that I workout: Eat a little something before. Then do the same after, if not a whole meal. Even if you don’t “feel hungry” then… later on your body will turn into a hungered monster. Feed it. Good grief, Angie.
  • I had dreams about food. Dreams that I was eating food I wasn’t supposed to eat, like cupcakes, but just did it without thinking. That showed me just how habitual mindless eating was in my life. Treats were treated as a reward for me. Which, in a sense, there’s nothing wrong with that on occasion.Again, mine was just everything deserved a treat, and that’s immediately what I turned to. That cycle is something that I didn’t realize so much that needed to be broken.
  • I just feel good. I think it’s all the things listed above culminating into an overall “good” feeling. I’m rested. I’m well fueled. I’m energized. I’m motivated.

Some tips… 
If you decide to jump on board and do this, here’s my advice. (Take it with a grain of salt, because salt is whole 30 compliant. See what I did there?)

  • Don’t cut corners. Don’t cheat yourself. Because you’re only cheating yourself. One thing I constantly told myself is: “at the end of 30 days, do I still want to wonder ‘what if I hadn’t eaten that… or what if I did stay 100% disciplined?’ I wanted a true, un-tampered result. I know some people do “cheat” on whole 30 and still get good results and learnings. But I’m an all or nothing person. Black, meet White.
  • Rally. Be excited and motivated to do it. Go into it ready to give 110% or wait until you’re really ready to commit. Don’t go into it with the back door unlocked. Lock that puppy up tight, and don’t even look at it. Day 1 of my challenge someone brought donuts into the office. But the option wasn’t even on the table to have a bite.
  • Meal prep is key. Plan ahead. Set aside one or two nights a week to prepare the meals. And then eat them. I’m busy (if not busier) just as anyone else, and I set aside Sunday afternoons and evenings solely to do food for the week. Yes, I may still have a night in the middle of the week where I cook something. But I’m not constantly reacting, trying to scrounge up something. There’s a plan in place.
  • Accountability. I always roll my eyes at this one. Because I think I’m pretty disciplined on my own. (Yeah, except read that paragraph about sweets and treats and how I can’t be…) But honestly, do this with someone. There’s something about the mind set of “if I mess, up, they’ll be likely to slip too, and I don’t want him/her to fail either” that really keeps you from cheating. But also — vent, mourn, whine, complain, cry real tears to them. There really is something to be said about strength in numbers for this one. Because YOU WILL MOURN FOODS sometimes and grieving is just easier with others.
  • Be up front about it. Tell people you’re doing it and what it entails. My friends that I traveled to Boston with were 120% so supportive of me. They were not doing the challenge, but you know what? They encouraged me to keep going and remind me how close I was to reaching my goal. (And may have helped talk me off that chimicheesecake ledge… but again, that has to go back to me, too.) If you don’t follow me on instagram, I also posted pretty regularly my meals. Not to be that obnoxious person who has to show off what they’re eating (BUT I DID BECOME A SELF-PROCLAIMED AMAZING COOK!) but more so for that extra herd accountability. Not that social media can see what you do behind the instagram feed, but knowing that I’d have to admit I quit or gave up or cheated to all my 800 followers, or the 35 people that actually engage regularly with my posts.
  • Read up on Whole 30’s website about the foods you can and can’t eat beforehand. There are printable lists that you can take to the grocery store with you to help figure out what’s compliant. There is also a page dedicated to “what to expect”. It’s kinda crazy how everything happens like clockwork on there.
  • Pinterest/blogs/nutrition sites. Use your internets. Some of my favorite resources were just searching any food/recipe + whole 30 on pinterest. (Just always cross check ingredients for yourself.) Simply Nourished has a bunch of whole 30-specific recipes on their blog. Eat. Them. All. Healthy Simple Life (run by my good friend: Dietitian Cassie) also has a host of paleo/real food recipes that already comply with Whole 30 or can be easily modified. Mostly the ingredient I’d have to leave out is cheese. Pretty easy.
  • Take small steps first if you’re not ready to dive in. Up until about 4 years ago, I hardly touched vegetables. I knew that was probably not a good thing for my health. But I don’t think I fully understood how detrimental it was either.  I started taking it upon myself to get educated on nutrition about 4 years ago. I noticed with all the running/working out I was doing, and what I thought was healthy eating, my weight was doing crazy things. The calories in, calories out theory just wasn’t adding up for me. I ended up finding Dietitian Cassie on Twitter and following her, reading her blogs, taking her advice, reading scientific articles about nutrition, and learning the foundations of nutrition and how your body processes food as fuel. Over time, made little changes. Then, eventually became a client of hers to get more personalized help with other things going on within my body. So, truly, to say I didn’t just start this all 30 days ago, is no lie. It’s been a good 4 years. And don’t worry, I never have been, nor will I claim to be perfect at this. Nor will I pass judgement upon anyone else who eats differently. Hey, it’s your body and this is mine. (I may respectfully argue false nutrition claims that you’ve also been tricked with and try to tell me…but that’s because I want truth to be known.)

All in all. I’ve been a little anxious for this ending. Mostly because I’m a freebird now, which will be the real test. Carrying on without the parameters of 30 days. Re-introducing foods that I wasn’t allowed to eat, and paying attention to how my body reacts when I eat them. But I’ve moved on from feeling scared, to feeling really empowered. Now I get to figure out what “treating myself” looks like. Once a week? Once a month? Once in a blue moon? I don’t know. I guess, it kinda depends how my body feels when I feed it that food. My assumption (and hope) is: it will not be well, with my gut.

I once read that everything you put in your mouth is either going to heal or harm your body. It’s your choice. And, you may not always make the right decisions each time, but you have the power to make a better decision the next time. Always a work in progress. As Lysa TerKeurst calls it in her book, Unglued (which I recently read through with my small group) — Imperfect Progress.

“It dawned on me what kept me from change was the feeling I wouldn’t do it perfectly. I knew I’d mess up. Sometimes we think only instant progress is acceptable. But there’s this beautiful thing called imperfect progress. The day I realized this is the day I dared to believe things could be different. I told myself, “It’s okay to have setbacks, Lysa. Just keep moving the line forward. Change will come. And it will be good.”Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued

The Finish Line
Truth be told, there really is no finish line for me. Early on in the 30 days, I joked about the things that would be awaiting me at the “finish line of Whole 30” and now I see how silly that mindset was. Don’t do Whole 30 if you look at it as a temporary, short-term fix hoping for lifelong change. But more so, think of it as a great way to kick start new nutrition habits. Because as we all know: it all starts with proper nutrition and we live in a very brainwashed society of what proper nutrition truly is.

Also: I still kinda can’t believe I actually did this. I’m pretty proud. Keep me posted if you ever try it. I know your results and experiences will be different. I’d love to hear them. It’s kinda fascinating.

My official RXBAR power rankings

I know you all have been waiting on pins and needles for me to rank my RXBARs that I ‘grammed about last week. I clearly was targeted in some insta ads a while back and was very intrigued by the ingredients, and I’ll admit, the beautiful packaging and color palette. Yes, I am a design nerd. So I decided to order the sample box of them so I could A) see if I even liked them and B) see which ones I’d buy as a whole box and enjoy regularly (Disclaimer: I’m not a hugely picky eater at all and food texture doesn’t bother me. All of these bars are really, really chewy. So if that bothers you, you may wanna jog on from these.)

So quick logistics: each bar consists of about 12g of protein (from the egg whites), 9g of fat from the nuts (usually almonds and cashews – yum); and around 22g of carbs and 12-15g of sugar which all comes from the dates (very sweet, if you’ve never had dates before) and any of the added fruit. I still think the sugar content in these is just a tad high, but they ARE from naturally occurring sugars (mostly the dates). Which, before you roll your eyes at me, just know I like to keep my sugar intake in check. So, to me, it matters. But on the flip side, I appreciate that it’s all naturally occurring sugars. These contain zero added sugar and no artificial sweeteners. (Nasty…)

I found that these bars work really great for an afternoon snack. I also had one before a short run instead of a normal breakfast, and a couple times before evening strength training workouts. So there’s that, too.

Without further ado…my top 5 RXBAR picks:

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#5 Peanut Butter

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So admittedly this one comes in the bottom 5, mostly because I always favor chocolate over peanut butter. But that doesn’t mean if they created a chocolate peanut butter flavor it wouldn’t be my top pick. (hint, hint…)


 

#4 Blueberry/Apple Cinnamon (tie)

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I am very hit or miss with blueberry stuff. But I think because this is actual blueberries in it, I can get behind it. It was a nice little break from my usual love for chocolate.

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The apple cinnamon was less of a surprise for me. Mostly because I can always get behind anything apple as long as it’s not fake flavor.


#3 Mint Chocolate

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So, the next 3 really should be a tie, but that would really defeat this top 5 thing. So I forced myself to pick. I never complain about anything that’s chocolate and mint paired together. I just don’t think I’d want to eat it every. single. day. I’d rather rotate it out. Maybe in March when all things grasshopper come around I’d want one everyday though. Of my top 3 faves, this one also had the most sugar (14g).


#2 Coconut Chocolate

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Between this and my number one pick, this was a hard one. I love all things coconut and chocolate. It’s like my momentary tropical escape from winter. Or something… this one is lovely.


#1…*drum roll*… Chocolate Sea Salt

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Ok, honestly: chocolate sea salt errrrrything for me. So this should really not be a surprise. The sea salt in here really was everything. And this one had the least amount of sugar (12g), therefore, making it easier to rank the champion.


Honorable mentions

If you pay attention to detail (and know how to count to 8…) you’ll notice I’m missing 2 from here. Pumpkin spice and Coffee chocolate.

Pumpkin spice. I truly would never eat this one again. Pumpkin spice can be done very right, but it can also be done very, very wrong. This was neither, more like somewhere mediocre, but given the cost of these per bar, (~$2.75 each when you factor in shipping costs) I need to LOVE it for me to order a whole box.

Coffee chocolate. So, maybe not fair… but I haven’t actually tried this flavor yet. I love coffee. I love a little chocolate in my coffee. I do not usually love anything coffee flavored that’s not actual drinkable coffee. So honestly, I’m scared to try it. If it comes in a raging first, totally shaking up the standings. I will update this post.


 

All in all, I’m still just as excited about these now, as when I first got the box in the mail. I am always looking for portable, nutritious snacks to take to work. Or something quick and light to eat before a workout. But also my travels to Haiti, I need need need more stuff like this. I will definitely be ordering a box to take with me on my next trip in May.

That’s all I got on this topic. I didn’t think I’d write so much about protein bars. But these ones deserve some attention. Give them a try. I’d recommend the sample pack so you can try the flavors for yourself and argue my power rankings.

Kbye. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Souri in Haiti.

Today marked our 4th day in Haiti.

Monday, the first day, was full of travel, getting acquainted with our team, and much laughter. Seriously, this team is borderline ridiculous at all times. Someone is always laughing. I’m thankful our team has come together as it did.

Tuesday was our first day out in the field. We went to the catholic mission hospital (Home For Sick and Dying Children, aka HFSDC) and La Pherre orphanage.

HFSDC is always a hard place to see. Kids who are malnourished or sick with other diseases that, most, would be easily curable in the United States. We take so much for granted.

Souri in Haitian Creole means smile.

That is the first thing I saw walking into the room I was assigned at HFSDC. A little boy just grinning the biggest, toothiest grin at me. The majority of the other kids were crying or raising their hands to cue someone to pick them up. This is all they want: human touch.

I picked him up and noticed his diaper was sopping wet. With close to probably 75 kids there and 10 sisters (total guesstimate) to take care of the kids… I’m guessing they get changed only a couple times a day.

The parents of these kids are only allowed to visit for very limited hours each day. Then they must leave, which results in many meltdowns as I’m sure anyone can imagine.

During our visit, we were able to help out the sisters by folding cloth diapers while they prepared lunch. Then we were able to help feed the kids lunch. The first child I was instructed to feed was coincidentally that same little boy who grinned at me when I walked in. He ate like a champ. The next little girl however… well, girlfriend wanted nothing to do with the hot dog piece in her rice/soup concoction.

After feeding the kids lunch, we were on our way. In our wake, many crying kids who didn’t want us to leave. This breaks my heart every time.

We ventured back to the guesthouse to do a quick “costume change” and gather our supplies for our visit to La Pherre orphanage. Orphanage visits are among my favorite parts of the trip. I always feel like I can connect with a couple kids more closely being in a smaller group of kids.

We brought face paint with us.

Of course this resulted in pandemonium and extra long showers for all. The guys had face paint covering their whole heads.We also brought jump ropes with us which created many laughs and gave most of us a good cardio workout. So many smiles from all of us.

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Wednesday was our first water truck day. This is always a physically and emotionally draining day. Words cannot describe what you experience in Cite Soleil. It’s the poorest of the poor. Most people live in tin shanties and don’t have basic necessities such as clean water.

Seeing kids chew on bottle caps or pieces of plastic is not uncommon. They chew on these to trick their stomach into thinking they aren’t hungry. They are also fed dirt cookies as a way to trick their bodies into thinking they’ve eaten food. It is beyond words. It isn’t fair that people live this way.

I wish everyone would have the desire to experience this just once in their life. Pictures don’t do it. Second hand stories don’t do it justice. Video won’t cut it. Until you are there actually experiencing it first hand, I don’t believe anyone can fully understand it. Even after experiencing this for a second time, it still almost doesn’t seem real to me. Surreal is a good word for it.

We did 3 different water stops where we bring a 3500 gallon tanker full of clean water to different areas of Cite Soleil. Here we help fill buckets, carry buckets, keep people in line and play with the kids.

As you enter Cite Soleil you can hear little voices chanting “hey you! hey you! hey you!” until you stop the truck. They flock to the back door of the tap tap, hold up their hands and just wait for someone to pick them up. This is all they want: to be held, loved, and noticed.

The kids LOVE taking photos and seeing themselves in them. It makes me wonder if some of them even know what they look like? Something we see more than enough of each day: ourselves.

Once the water runs out, we load up the tap tap and head out. It’s not an area we can linger in. In fact, most other missions groups are surprised we even go there. I was surprised, they were surprised. These people need our help and love the most.

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The boy in this picture is from our second water stop. He had been trying to cling onto our teammate Nicole as she was trying to simultaneously hold the water hose and hold a child. When another little boy had tried to steal a woman’s bucket, the woman ripped it out of that boy’s hand. She flung the bucket backwards and this this boy square in the head. He immediately started crying. I’m so glad I saw the whole thing happen because none of the other people of Cite Soleil even flinched. This boy couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old and he had no one to console him while he cried. I would have been crying if I got hit in the head that hard with a bucket. I ran over to grab him as he held his hand to his head in pain. He cried for a while and eventually settled back down. These are just some of the little things that break my heart. When I hurt as a kid, and sometimes even now at 29… all I want is my mom.

Thursday.

We started out our day by making a trip to Apparent Project. It’s a shop that hires Haitians to make jewelry and other such metal and clay art. We go to see the behind the scenes of where and who makes these. This shop is amazing. I’d buy one of everything if I could!

After this, we travelled over to Juno’s orphanage. This. Is. My. Favorite! I was so looking forward to seeing the little boy Edmison who stole my heart back in March.

As we approached the orphanage and the gate opened, I kept looking for him. He’s easy to spot because he’s the littlest.

I couldn’t find him.

When we got off the tap tap, I kept looking around for him. I said hello to and hugged some other kids I remembered from the last trip. Still no Edmison though. Finally I asked a little girl Julie, who spoke relativelg good English. She said something I couldn’t understand, but I could tell we were both talking about the same little boy.

I grabbed Brunet, one of our translators, for help. He asked the girl where Edmison was, she said he was at the hospital. He was sick. And my heart absolutely sank. I keep praying for him everytime I think about him today. I know “minor illness” for us in the USA can be something life threatening for Haitians. I don’t know that this is the case for him, but either way, I pray his body heals fast for that sweet boy.

Despite this sad news for me right off the bat, we had such a fun time at Juno’s. The kids are all so sweet and so fun. It’s so fun to joke around with them. A young girl named Julie came up to me right away and I remembered her from my last trip! She was one of the girls painting my nails last time.

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We brought stickers, markers and rolls of paper for the kids to draw on. And then we gave them the friendship bracelets Nicole had gotten from some kids back home that made them. They LOVED them.

The kids at Juno’s always sing for us. This makes me smile so much. When we did our nightly slideshow, as one of our teammates said “I don’t know who’s smiles are bigger in the pictures.” It’s so true. I think they give us even more reason to smile than we do for them.

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Our final stop of the day was Gertrude’s orphanage. This is an orphanage for handicapped and physically disabled kids. Not an easy environment for most to feel super comfortable in.

But thank God it’s not about our comfort. These kids need human touch the most. We spent our time mostly wheeling kids around in their makeshift wheel chairs. (Some are made out of plastic lawn furniture, that’s been actioned into a wheelchair.) I found my main man Phonsley right away. It was so neat to see him again. I’m not sure what his exact disability is, but if I had to guess in my non-medical knowledge, I’d guess he has cerebral palsy. He’s not able to walk or hold himself up. He laughed as I bounced him around on my knee and loved zipping around in the wheel chair and “honking” at others who got in our way.

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I got on the tap tap after Gertrude’s and I felt like everything had been zapped of me. I was sweaty, tired, hungry but so filled with joy from these kids.

We got home, ate an authentic Haitian dinner (my faaaavorite!! because: fried plantain) and then decided to go over to the nearby hotel to swim. We were able to take a few of the neighbor boys, one of them our good pal Dickinson — such a sweet kid! We had so much fun there, but mostly, I enjoyed watching the excitement of the boys as they got to come with us. We paid their way in and bought them cokes. They were just thrilled.

I hope to write more of my adventures while I’m here, but its busy busy busy. Friday is water truck again, and Saturday we take our trip to Grace Village. Please keep our team in your prayers that we continue to stay protected and healthy, as well as renew the health of a few of our team members

Marathon Quatro: Twin Cities Marathon recap

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about running marathons it’s this:
They’re hard, man. They never get easier.
And if they do get easier, you’re not running hard enough.

October 5th started as the perfect day for a marathon.
Cool. Crisp. Some sunshine to keep it not too cold… and a slight breeze from the west.
(Translation: tailwind for Summit Avenue.)

We departed from my apartment complex for the lightrail station well before dark.
Upon arrival we found the kiosks weren’t accepting cards that day.
Of course. Why would they?
Thankfully I had cash with me (by some act of God…) and all my pals got tickets courtesy of me.
(I pulled an Oprah: “you get a lightrail ticket and YOU get a lightrail ticket…”

We made it downtown about an hour pre-race, probably unnecessarily early.
We found shelter and respite in some corner where we were blocked from the wind and settled there for a bit.

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about 40 mins pre-race, we wandered back into Porta Potty City (RACES take note: TCM did this right. NO LINES. So when you think you have enough porta potties for your race, DOUBLE that and you’re good.)
We then dropped our sweat bags off (bye warm jacket!)… and then did a quick easy warm up to wake up the body.
By that time it was time to go hang in the corral, where we stripped of our excess layers… (RIP my UMD Bulldog sweatpants that I’ve had for 10 years….I’m sure you’ll go on to live a great second life.)

Shortly after, the banner was sung… followed by the first wave start. And pretty soon Corral 2 (us… the sub-sub-sub-sub-elite marathoners) were off.

There was something about the first mile of the marathon that reminded me of Chicago marathon last year. Just the feeling I got of running through downtown. It was a fond memory.

The race itself starts downtown, heads west towards Hennepin, which you follow towards Loring Park, then up towards Isles and the lakes.

I knew miles 21-23 were a steady climb.
But nobody really talks about the pretty decent hills that you climb early on.
I knew: take them EASY.
As Meghan Peyton said in the press conference the day before… “Be patient. You don’t win a marathon in the first 5 miles.”
So true. It seems tedious… but on this course, the more energy you can bank for that end of the course climb, the more people you pass.

Miles 1-3, I really focused on just keeping it comfy and keeping those hills really really easy.
No passing on those hills. Let others pass you. In the end, you’ll pass them again.

By mile 4, I finally started pulling into my marathon pace (goal pace 9:00-9:05).
I felt very in control, very relaxed… very comfortable.
I weirdly enough started to feel slightly nauseous around mile 8.
I still can’t figure that one out.
But then I saw Anthony and his wife and daughter hootin’ and hollerin’ and life was okay again.
They must have cheered loudest because that was my fastest mile!
Despite the weird nausea, I paced very consistent there thru mile 11.

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Mile 12 I was doing a gut check: “how am I feeling approaching the half marathon.”
I knew I needed to still be feeling alright/confident because the real half is 20 miles.
I wasn’t quite feeling so comfortable or confident in that pace at the half.
I told my musher Brady that I needed to pull it back to about 9:20’s at least for this mile.
We did. And stayed around there for the next 4 miles.

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Mile 18 got really tough, and our pace slowed about :20 seconds that mile.
I saw my friend Cassie (aka Dietitian Cassie) at this mile.
She trotted a little while with us… which helped me SO much.
I needed that distraction.
Even though I felt like I couldn’t exert the energy I wanted to be excited she was trotting next to us… I was happy to see her there!

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Miles 19-21 honestly went by fast, despite the climb at 21.
21 hosts the East River Parkway hill (the hill before St. Thomas Hill).
Definitely was feeling these hills, but kept our pace pretty consistent.
(See? Earlier hills going easy helped.)
Mile 22 and 23 were my definite Death March Miles.
But, as promised (and hoped for…) this is where we began passing lots of runners.
Summit Avenue is my mind trap, anyways.
I think I need to run that more often or something…
But it’s a very gradual, steady climb there, and by that time your legs are feeling it.

22 and 23 were also my slowest miles (10:05 and 10:22), but we managed to pick up the pace under 10:00’s again for the last 3 miles.
Sure didn’t feel like I was moving at that pace at all! (Guess that’s probably adrenaline and the will to get this thing over with!)
We ran past Ann somewhere around here…
I knew Summit would be one big party, and Ann was there to start that party!

Mile 24 I saw, what I will deem, my favorite sign of TCM. “Lebron already cramped.” …complete with a Lebron cut out pasted on the sign.

I NEEDED that laugh there.

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We also saw THE Tony Cloyd there… which he trotted alongside us too.
I was really hurting there.
I think Brady enjoyed the company because I was less than happy to be running at that point.
But I appreciated Tony’s energy and encouragement.
Again… I felt like I couldn’t muster up the energy to properly exhibit my happiness at the time.
But… fellow marathoners get it. He understood.

Very shortly after this, I saw Lindsay holding some awesome sign that I know said “Norviscotia”
But in my End of the Marathon Delirium… I don’t remember the rest.
BUT… it. was. awesome.

The majority of the run of Summit I was feeling like I was definitely aboard The Struggle Bus 2014.
But thankfully I had Brady as my musher (or pacer, in runner terms…)
Quite honestly, if she hadn’t been by my side, I know FOR FACT I would have started walking at some point.
There were so many times, in my head, I said “I just need to walk… I just need to walk…”

Clearly I didn’t.
And for that I’m proud…

Around mile 25 I heard another “GO ANGELA” cheer… and saw the lovely, badass, Ironwoman Erin!
I was surprised how quick the last mile went by.
Usually the last is mentally just gruelling.
But before we knew it we were in sight of the Capitol.

I always think I’ll get emotional at the finish line.
But I’m always wrong.
I’m always way too happy to just be done to even think about crying.

We saw Brady’s family for the 3rd time here (the pics at mile 7 and 15 were compliments of them!)
And I love the snaps they took!

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And the glorious finish line snaps.
So happy to be done.

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I finished my 4th marathon with a big 26 minute, 17 second PR.
Quite honestly– I was going for bigger, but I’m not at all disappointed.
I have Houston Marathon in January to take another crack at my A-game goal.

I’m hoping I can go into that one feeling as ready and excited as I did for TCM.
But also, more confident, too, having run this pace once.

I’m not there yet, but I’m definitely on my way.
Huge congrats to a few of my fellow runners (Nathan, Mr. MinneapolisRunning.com himself) who got the BQ!
Lots of PRs set on Sunday.
Lots of BQs from Zoom Performance athletes.
It was a great day.

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I’m now excited to go cheer on Andie, David, Justin, BJ, and Chanthana in Chicago marathon this weekend.
I love spectating a marathon as much as I love participating in a marathon. (Love/Hate the participation… haha)

TC marathon training… week 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13.

Remember the time I promised I’d pay attention to my blog and talk about TC training?

If you forgot, just go back to my last post.
YEAH.

I’ve just come to realize blogging isn’t my priority.
And blogging takes some sort of interesting inspiration for me to sit down and talk about things.

Somehow I started out week one in marathon training and 12 weeks later I’m 4 days out from the marathon.

If you follow me on the socials, you already probably know more than you ever would care to know about my training. In a nutshell: training went flawlessly. Sure a couple sub-par workouts once in a blue moon. (See also: my attempt at marathon-paced long run off 3 hours of sleep in 90% humidity…) But all in all, I found victory in making it to the 20 mile run and actually feeling excited, strong, and not desperately needing training to be done.

During this training cycle I did a couple 10Ks for workouts, a half marathon (the one that I killed a few toenails in, RIP toenails), and a 20 mile race used as a training run. Of these, since I wasn’t “racing” any of them, but rather just using them as workouts… the only notable one is the 20 miler.

The Bear Water 20 Miler

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Each year the White Bear Lions Club puts on a 10 and 20 mile race around White Bear Lake. 1 lap = 10 miles; 2 = …. do the math. I was instructed by my coach NOT to race it, but just use it as an easy run. In which I still PR’d by 19 minutes from last year’s time. In case you’re not a runner, or can’t do math, or both… that’s almost 1 minute per mile. I was quite proud of this. Particularly because the 2nd half was done in negative split time… last mile being the fastest mile. Speaks volumes to what Antonio has helped me accomplish this year! (You can read my raving reviews about him on the Minneapolis Running blog).

Marathon week

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I made it. The 4th training is in the books. Quite honestly… I know it was my best training. I’m very proud of it. I worked REALLY hard. I won’t deny admitting how hard of work it was. (Those 2x2x2’s though!!!!!! aaaaaggggh. so tough).

But… I’m ready. And I’ve never felt so ready and excited for the 26.2 Dance.
Excited for it to be over and rest? Yes, past marathons I wanted it to be done.
But this time I’m excited to go after my goals.

Those goals are pretty lofty. But I know they are within reach. I know I’m capable.
I’m excited for the 26.2 miles of the Twin Cities…and I plan to ENJOY IT.

So, after these past 12 weeks of focused marathon training… I’ve killed 3 toenails (RIP…they’re on very borrowed time), hit 1,000+ miles in 2014 YTD, went down a pants size or two (yeah, had to buy a new Flip Belt even!), challenged myself beyond what I ever thought I was capable of…. thus proving to myself I’m stronger than I ever thought.

All things possible.