IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE (July 2017)

Didn’t we all just celebrate New Year’s Eve? How is half of the 17th year of the twenty-first century already done? I guess the only way to find out what happened is to do a small throwback and join Coco and Deb on ‘The Ultimate Coffee Date’. Do check out their blogs and other link-up blogs to get to know what everyone’s up to! This is our fourth time together of sharing some coffee as well as some tidbits from my life happenings. Too much to say because I’ve been MIA since April. So, let’s dive right in!

The Ultimate Coffee Date

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that:
My parents paid me a visit for three whole weeks!! To say it was a fun time is an understatement. It was absolutely wonderful to spend Mother’s day with Mom after ten long years. We had special pedi-mani times! She was so fascinated by gel nail paints – something we don’t get back home. We also travelled to Chicago (my first time too!) and binged tons of Garrets popcorn. It was such a perfect vacation – just quality time with them, random walks with dad, yummy tasty food by mom, and lighted hearted giggles. We keep forgetting that as we grow old, they too are! And our time is all they ask of us. Even if it’s just a 15 minute phone chat, do it often!

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that:

I am currently pursuing a certificate program in business communication and May brought my first set of seminar series with some dynamic human creatures. It was so enlightening to be in a room full of inspirational people, people of such high calibers and motivation. After all, anyone who came for the class, was here to but improve on themselves. Goes to show that surrounding yourself with the finest of people, carves you into a nice pretty figurine.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that:

This is the kindest thing anyone has done to me. A big bag of coffee sprinkled with words of genuine appreciation – enough to touch my heart. Take notes future hubby!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that:
My laptop had a near death experience in early May. After several resuscitation attempts by myself, I decided to throw in the towel and send it to the expert folks at the Genius Bar of the Apple store. Close to two months without my laptop (and loads of free time to spare for reading), she finally arrived looking pristine as ever. I decided it was time to give her and her little sister (aka my iPad) a new look and of course, a new outlook for myself. Obsessed with my new Walt Disney decal!

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that:
I had the opportunity to try out Blue Apron last month amongst a busy schedule right after vacation. I received a FREE shipment and literally loved the whole idea! The produce was so fresh. The recipes were yummy. Such a neat idea for anyone who is too busy to hit the grocery stores or is too illiterate to cook anything edible. The ‘Creamy Lumaca Rigata Pasta‘ totally hit the spot.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that:
My latest obsession has been reading this brilliant literary piece. A book I shall recommend (**highly**) to anyone trying to find a little more motivation in life, or one who is completely lost and needs clarity, or one with really low self-esteem and needs that extra boost. In short, all the traits I exhibited in the recent past. I never thought I would say this, you know like famous people say all the time, but this book just changed my life. Actually not yet, it has “just” changed my attitude and thought process. It’s now in my hands to change my life!!! Just wrapped up this book and excited to get started with ‘The Book of Joy‘, written by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams.

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So, what have you been up to in life?

*****

Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k (2017)

As much as I love reading race recaps, I definitely do love writing them as well. I’ve come to realize that running (and any workout) is a lifelong commitment. It is all about doing the homework and working hard each day….in silence (hard to do that with social media…oh well). Racing on the other hand is like mini checkpoints that help me assess how I am doing and areas in which I can improve upon.

I am one of ‘those’ who runs regularly but races rarely. Today, I returned to racing after a brief stint post my first half-marathon to come run the Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k. After a 6-month rigorous training to get myself fit enough to stand at the start line of my first half-marathon, I knew I needed something light for myself and I spent a few weeks running for pleasure instead of a certain number of miles to attack each day.

The BWC 5k seemed like the apt choice for my next race. Plus, it was an all women’s race. After all, we women run the world. Girl Power! The race supports Cancerve, an organization involved in improving the overall well-being of cancer patients and survivors. Did I already mention that this was my fifth 5K. I didn’t realize it until this morning. Good cause, all women’s race, no goals (except fun of course) and 5th 5K celebration – I’ll take it!

There is barely anything to report for 5Ks.
Mile one – felt awesome and went out too fast
Mile two – felt horrible and regretted going out fast
Mile three – gave it all that’s left in the tank and reached the finish line

That has always been me for 5Ks and so was today as well 🙂

I did finish in one piece and as always, with a big smile on my face. But, this race was such a humbling experience and a couple of lessons well learnt:

I prefer slow painful death :
While 5Ks are over in a blink, they feel so terrible. Haha! I never thought I would say this, but I do prefer running 13.1 miles instead of 3.1 miles. I am yet to run a 5k where I would feel like wonder woman from start to end. It takes me around 2 miles to find my groove and in 5Ks, by then you can hear people yelling ‘You’re almost there‘. 

Someday….may be

Running GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Never take your body for granted:
Or anything for that matter… We may be a novice or an elite, yet we all have our days when some things are just beyond our control. If I were to choose my first half-marathon to be the best I have felt at any race ever, today’s 5k was the exact opposite end of the spectrum. On the brighter side, I have my extremities, so any race from now on, should be better than today (hopefully!).

Today’s feels

Dead GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Be prepared and smart:
We all have our weather preferences. Although it takes forever to get out of the door, I do prefer 
two layers of tops and bottoms, double insulated gloves, the biggest ear plugs, extra warm thick socks – I’d take that any day over warm shorts weather. Dreaming today of wintry chills did not help running in a sort of brutal 77 F with 56% humidity. I really need to work on hydrating better, embracing the sweat, and powering through the humidity.

My preference…really though!

Winter GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Always Smile:
My good friend at CCR gave this advice that ‘It takes more muscles to frown than smile‘. So, always smile no matter how south things go. Today, right around 2.8 miles, I was running beside this old woman who looked like she really needed a cheer. I know the power of a shout out from a random stranger! I decided to cheer her up. She hustled up, ran past me and dashed to the finish line. That brought a huge smile on my face. I would be so blessed if at her age, I was half as healthy as she was. Not to forget, her mental grit and enthusiasm.

(Smile…Well…not like this exactly)

Smile GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Today was such a fun race!! A pretty medal, pretty race shirt, ice cold towels and a rose for every finisher at the end – I do love this race and will come back again. And now, it’s time to think about that 6th 5K in September, recharge my spirits, reflect on lessons learnt and begin training with fresh vibes and new motivation. In the meantime, some foam rolling, good food and Netflix binging (#Riverdale) to wrap up this relaxing Sunday.

IMG_20170625_095821_309(The medal right in the center)

(I’m linking up with Courtney of Eat Pray Run DC for her Training Recap linkup and HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap! Do stop by their blogs to check out all the inspirational stuff they are up to. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.)

*****

 

F.E.A.R

In the month of January, I had the good opportunity to attend a workshop with a bunch of 108 dynamic young women and men. One of the four modules delved deeply on the topic of ‘FEAR’. ‘Don’t be afraid’ – that pretty much would be the gist of this module. What new are we going to learn about it in this session. Thought the great me. The module kick started with a team building exercise. Each of us were paired up with a total stranger and given about 25 minutes to share our deepest fears with one another.

25 minutes! Psst! We’re going to be done in 5 minutes and make small talk for the remaining time. I don’t even have that many fears to talk about – small tidbits here and there….Before we knew it, we were all gushing with our overflowing thoughts to this new face about our deepest and darkest fears. 25 minutes wasn’t even enough to scrape the surface. It’s been six months and yet, my mind keeps getting lost in contemplation of that theme.

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So, this fear thing, where does it come from? If we know where the problem arose, all we go to do is cut it off at the source, right? It’s simple mechanistic theory!

Were we born with inherent fears?
When I see small babies playing around, the sheer smile on their faces and the sweet innocence; they fall a hundred times and yet persevere to stand back on their own feet. The fear of being hurt – doesn’t seem to exist in their cells. Yet, how many of us have tried to learn to ride a bike and failed because of those cuts and scrapes endured? Myself guilty. If we weren’t born with fears (Let’s set aside past life side effects from this article for now), has our little childlike innocence metamorphosed into fear as the age trickled up. We find every single individual whether he be in his teens or early 30s or early 60s – all have fears!

What caused this transformation?
If we call this ‘reason’ of transformation the very cause/source of our fears, may be we can eliminate it right?

  • Is fear just a sheer manifestation of the very thought process of some imminent ominous path?
  • Is fear just concocted feelings based on the circumstances and experiences of the people around us?
  • Is fear a by-product of the ripple effect of a small hurtful incidents of the past?
  • Is fear manifested based on the notion of being judged by others?
  • Or simply, is it just a common trait to keep up  with the tenets of evolution?

Is ‘your’ fear same as ‘my’ fear?
Yup! Pretty much. The lakes and oceans might look different, but the water is one. Fear is the same, while our attitude towards it is vastly different. Some channel it as goals to run towards, some channel it as adrenaline to reach our highest potential, while some of us navigate around it as cautious risks.

What can we do about it?
You’re in for a great disappoint if you thought I would be able to provide you with a cookie-cutter solution to it. The answer is I don’t know myself.

But, it feels like fear has become such an inherent part of all our lives. It’s almost like the other side of the coin of life. Just gets me thinking that may be, just may be, if we flip the right side up, may be, we might be able to experience a fulfilled life.

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Something to ponder and wonder about… 

*****

The Emporiyum 2017

I had a chance to check out ‘The Emporiyum‘ that returned to Baltimore, MD in the first weekend of April. Let’s just say it involved an entire Sunday of gorging down food – GOOD FOOD! Whether you are an epicurean or you just eat to stay alive (the rare ones), this food festival had something for all.

Held at the heart of the Baltimore Inner Harbor, it featured yummy bites and sips made by local artisans from the DMV area as well as from around the country. You would think small businesses, but they indeed had some of the finest and top-quality products. My phone camera of 100 pictures and my expanding waistline is enough proof. Ticket prices ranged from $15 to $40, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust and Vision Workshops, who were the co-sponsors along with our very own Whole Foods Market.

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This view never gets old!

For some of the ticket prices, you did snag a cute tote bag which made the whole shopping experience super convenient.

While it would be super hard to collate all the vendors I had a chance to interact with and nibble on their samples, I definitely had some favorites. Here are my MUST TRY list for you if you ever get a chance to check them out online or in-store. It was hard to rank them in order of my favorites, so I listed them alphabetically. Go figure your favorite!

The premium dried plantain chips by Amazi (Bethesda, MD)
The olive oil, chili and salt was my favorite flavor (Spicy food always)


Righteous pickles by Brother Floyd’s (PA, MD)
Hand picked and hand packed – Perfect juicy and acidic blend!


Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost Ginger Ale (Brooklyn, NY)
I tasted the sugar free ale and you really don’t have to imagine the ginger.

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The simmer sauces by Calcutta Kitchens (Norwalk, CT)
The Makhani Tikka was my favorite and so too for many.


Handcrafted ice cream sandwiches by Cream Cruiser (Baltimore, MD)
How could I go to the Emporiyum and not indulge in the ‘double chocolate and mint’ sammy from our very own local Fells Point buddy.

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Gourmet hot sauce and condiments by Huckle’s Store (Baltimore, MD)
All those three spicy sauces were just perfect for my palate. It’s hard to pick a favorite.

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Healthy Organic Coffee by Javazen (MD)
Their Matcha and Cacao Coffee totally hit the spot! No brownie points for guessing that the founders bonded over coffee to bring this idea to fruition.

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Nut Butters by Nutty Novelties (Souderton, PA)
Their cappuccino peanut butter and butterscotch peanut butter is what
I’ll be going back to. Just saying.

Seasoned Popcorn by Popcorn Queens (Washington, DC)
My favorite was obviously the classic Baltimorean flavored – Old Bay Seasoned popcorn.

Chocolates by The Velvet Chocolatier (Stevenson, MD)
Just take all my money and get me some some of their Toffee Bark flavor. Let’s just say what I bought did not last for more than few days hours.

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Mediterranean Spread and Condiment by Zesty Z (Brooklyn, NY)
Being from the Middle East, Za’atar leaves are my favorite condiment that I add to my Chai tea. So, it was my surprise to find it here. A mother-son duo initiative, their Za’atar inspired spread was heavenly!!! Can’t wait to get some for me and try out new recipes.

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Overall I thought the event was a huge success. It was a nice place for vendors and buyers to bond over food. The Emporiyum was perfectly sized, giving you enough time to check out all the vendors and did not feel too stuffy or overwhelming. I can’t wait to visit them again in 2018 and check out some new and top-of-the-line local products.

Did you visit ‘The Emporiyum’ in Baltimore? What were your favorite products?

*****

 

Happy 1st Blogiversary + Giveaway

Chronicles

Today Ponder ‘N’ Wonder turns One!

It feels like yesterday when I opened this tiny slice on the internet with absolutely zero clue on blogging. I definitely read tons of articles titled ‘Blogging for Dummies‘ and still continue to read them. The funny thing is that it took me the most time (almost a fortnight) to create a name that said ME. When I think back on those several proposed names, I now know why they didn’t click (Spoiler Alert: They sounded so lame). During a 1 20 am pre-Monday emergency laundry session to my basement was when Ponder ‘N’ Wonder was born (for real!). And that’s when I knew, she was mine!

During the past one year, I have learnt a ton from some fantastic bloggers and readers (aka YOU!), built bonds with some beautiful humans, gotten to know what makes people special and no matter how mature we all seem, we all are simple strong humans trying to find our ways and means in this lovely journey of life. Doing things that I love (writing) has most certainly freed up some space in my heart to love all that I do!

Now, let’s get down to why you really hopped over here. It’s Giveaway Time! First anniversaries are special and I believe in celebrating all the little joys in life. My baby blog wouldn’t exist without my readers. On this special occasion, I have not one, but TWO gifts of love for you.

Nuun Hydration Kit

Nuun is a hydration product packed with electrolytes and clean ingredients. Their four major products Nuun Active, Nuun Energy, Plus for Nuun and Nuun Vitamins, cater to the needs of everyone alike. Let’s not forget to mention that these products come in a range of yummy flavors. My favorite ones are Lemony Lime, Grape, Ginger Lemonade and Blueberry Pomegranate. You can check out their website and also follow them on Instagram and Twitter for more info. Word on the block is that they have a new product coming out soon. Stay tuned!
#MakeYourWaterCount

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And you thought I had enough Nuun products?

Momentum Jewelry

Momentum Jewelry creates athletic jewelry, that are stylish as well as inspirational. You guessed right! The inspiration behind this line of jewelry was during one of those challenging workout sessions, when Amy (the founder) was looking around for something to distract her mind and motivate her. That’s how their several products ranging from motivate wraps, foot notes, sparklets, necklaces and many more were born. You can check them out on their website, and also follow them on Instagram and Twitter to find out more.
#findyourSPARK

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Had this cute motivate wrap on my wrist every single day during my first half-marathon training and race day.

The giveaway has begun and will end on 15 April, 2017 at 12:01 AM. It is open only to US residents. You can enter the giveaway by filling up the Rafflecopter form below. Two winners shall be notified by email once the giveaway ends. Will you be one of my two lucky winners?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:
(1) I am a Nuun Ambassador 2017 and receive a discount on their products. The ‘Nuun Hydration Kit’ was sponsored by Nuun and contains a mixed collection of flavors and other accessories. The kit will be mailed to the winner by me.
(2) Momentum Jewelry sponsored the motivate wrap (or) footnote of your selection and the winner will be mailed by them directly. I hold no affiliations with Momentum Jewelry to disclose.
(3) Any product on this post and my blog has been personally used by me and no compensation was received for sharing my thoughts. You can read more on my disclaimer

Thanks for being a reader of this baby blog!

*****

If we were having coffee (April 2017)

Is it April 1 already? We’re already into the second quarter of the year! Where does time go? Like for real, where? Today, I am joining Coco and Deb on ‘The Ultimate Coffee Date’. Do check out their blogs and other link-up blogs to get to know what everyone’s up to! This is our third time together of sharing some coffee as well as some tidbits from my life happenings. After January and February, I missed out on the March date. So, there’s tons to catch up on. Let’s dive right in!

The Ultimate Coffee Date


If we were having coffee, I would tell you…
I’m officially a Half-Marathoner!!!! Last week, I ran the Philly Love Run as my first half-marathon. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out my race recap here. The feeling is so surreal and it hasn’t even sunk in. I definitely feel some post-race depression. But, with new goals in sight, that’s going to vanish soon. After all, running is a lifestyle for all the years to come.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you…

Success is never an individual effort. I couldn’t have done it without my training buddies at ‘Charm City Run’, the local store here in Baltimore. I felt the need to write a piece on training with a group since most of us are under the notion that slow runners are not welcome. There’s an apprehension, I had that too. Joining a group changed my whole life. I was still struggling to run 1-mile when I joined and look at me today cruising along 13.1. What was totally unexpected was that CCR loved my article and decided to feature it on their blog. Even more unexpected? I was invited to be a monthly contributor for their blog. I guess, I gotta continue this running thing now.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you…
If all that wasn’t enough for unexpected surprises, Kelly Roberts from Run Selfie Repeat commented on my Instagram post. I admire her courage and mental grit to get done what she sets her mind to. She is chasing after a ‘Boston Qualifier’ time in few weeks at the London Marathon. I know she is going to do it!!! People like her give me (and us all) hope that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve anything you want!


If we were having coffee, I would tell you…
My blog will be turning 1 year next Tuesday. I can’t believe a year has passed since I decided to go public. I always had this love for writing and did so (secretively). But, to see it grow into something that I never expected people would read, is a whole different feeling. I am so grateful for all the relationships I’ve built over the virtual world. I love spreading some love and I do have some fun giveaways to share with all my readers. Don’t forget to check back.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you…
A good friend of mine left me this advice right after I finished my first half-marathon. I did share it on ‘Medal Monday‘ (my first ever!). But, I loved it so much that I had to share it over coffee too.

“There’s no limit to what you can do!
Don’t let anything and anyone ever stop you from chasing your goals.”

Always make time to caffeinate your soul!

*****

 

 

Philly Love Run 2017 – Race Recap

The past weekend involved a lot of ‘I can’t believe myself‘, ‘Did I just do it?‘ and ‘Am I dreaming‘. Turns out it was one of those picture perfect weekends and the most ideal scenario I could have asked for a first half-marathon. Yes, I am a freaking HALF-MARATHONER!!!!! Say what?

It would be ironic to say that ‘there are no words to express my feelings‘ because I just made this post the longest I could have. No time for 2500 word ramble? Worry not, I have a nice abridged version for you. For the rest of you, grab that cup of joe and let’s get started.

Race Logistics:

The Philly Love Run kickstarts the Spring racing season in the city of Philadelphia, PA for about 10,000 runners. I’ve been eyeing this race for the past two years (I am not kidding!). Almost 98.63% of my reasons involved that free coffee mug. The remainder involved some craziness. Because I can’t run a mile, sure, let’s do 13.1. This is the fourth year for the race since its inception in 2014. Without much thought, I decided to sign up for it on opening day in September, when prices were the lowest. Only runners are crazy enough to pay $$ to get physically tortured. Free race photos and great swag – I’ll take it. I didn’t have much idea of Philly from a runner’s perspective, but knew it was a nice city to run in. I did hear the word ‘lesser hills’ for 2017 and that was enough for me. A very scenic route with the Schuylkill River by your side for most of the race.

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Picture Courtesy: CGI Racing

Packet pick-up was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center on the Friday and Saturday, preceding race day. Being a newbie to races with such humongous crowds, I didn’t know what to expect. I decided to get everything done early. I actually waited 3 hours (with a cup of coffee of course) for the expo to open on Friday. I collected my race bib, race shirt, free coffee mug and took a cursory walk around the expo. Before I knew it, I was out of there and watching ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (for the second time). Best way to calm your nerves and rest your legs before a race!


The Night Before and the Morning:

The entire week leading up to race day, I was pretty calm and composed. Being the type-A person that I am, I was surprised that I took everything with ease, in spite of the crazy busy week. Definitely hydrated like a camel! But around 7 pm, the nerves started to kick in. I couldn’t think of anything else apart from the race. I took a brief stroll outside, blabbered a bit a lot to my two besties (who also ran their first half and kickassed!) about mentally getting ready (I think I needed it more than them), carbo-loaded with pizza and pasta, laid out my clothes and went straight to bed. The breathing exercises and meditation prior to sleeping definitely helped me sleep like a baby.

4 am and my alarm sprung me up. I’m a firm believer that the first thought in the morning, decides the destiny of your day. ‘You Got This. Go own you first half-marathon’. Post oatmeal, banana and coffee, we were out of the doors by 5 30 am. The plan was to drive to the Villanova train station and take the Septa train to race start. Long story short with some crazy memories to be cherished, that didn’t happen. We drove straight to Art Museum with a huge prayer in our hearts to find parking. Me, not being me, I was surprisingly calm. I dunno how, don’t ask me! The Parking Gods were on our side and we found parking 0.3 miles from race start. Score!

My Race Recap:

It was a nice crisp day for the race! Those expected rains disappeared (Thank You Weather Gods!). We got into the corrals with just enough time to spare for some dynamic stretches. The national anthem heralded the start of the race at 7:30 am. The waves were released every minute or so. As I tip toed to the start line, my first thought was ‘This is for you Grandpa‘. Training and running these past four months have helped me significantly during times of grief. Just thinking of him gave me a burst of energy and I was on my way cruising.

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Being my first race of such huge magnitude, I was in awe!! Running past the flags on Benjamin Franklin Parkway was a sight of its own. Love truly runs the world! (Picture courtesy: CGI Racing)


Miles 1 to 4:

As soon as we were off, I felt I found my groove. Rarely does that happen! The first few miles went through Center City. I was definitely feeding off the energy from the crowds. Some of the race signs cracked me up. Seeing Wava coffee and Dunkin Donuts caffeinated my soul for sure (I’m not going to lie, but I did think of stopping for coffee because hello, priorities). The tall buildings threw off my GPS tracking significantly. My watch was 0.4 miles ahead of mile marker #1 and it lasted throughout the race. I decided to go off the mile clocks from here on. I was aiming for was 15:45 min/mile HM pace. That calculation would be mentally hard, so I decided loosely to go with a 15-minute difference between each mile clock, in areas where my watch pace was off.

On a scale of 1 to 10, You're a 13.1

One of my favorite race signs!


Miles 4 to 10:

As we neared mile 4 (ish), the course brought us back to the Art Museum and we were off on MLK Drive. From here on, it was an out and back along the Schuylkill river until the end of the race. Time really flies when you’re staring at water. Speaking like a true Baltimore Inner Harbor running trained gal. At this point, you could see the ‘elites’ and faster runners speed from the opposite direction. I spotted Lauren and she either screamed ‘You’re crushing it‘ or ‘Go crush it‘. Either way, that split second shout out gave me a huge boost to get me through the remaining miles ahead. Before I know it, I was at mile 7. At this point, I felt really good. It didn’t feel like I had run 7 miles already. It was the best I’ve felt at this stage ever. Yet, I knew, it was too early to judge my race with 6.1 miles to go. Time to get cautious! As these thoughts were racing in my mind, lo and behold, a runner’s “all time favorite” – a massive hill. I’m not even going to comment on that hill. That’s what my GPS elevation picked up.

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Everyone around me had resigned and were walking up that hill. I had done plenty of hill repeats during training. Thanks CCR! Since I went in the race with the mindset to ‘trust my training‘, the ‘Loch Raven‘ hill training was the first thought that flashed in my mind. I have done worse – I am going to run up that hill!! And so I did. As soon as I was atop, I felt like death! All that feeling awesome instantly vanished. I was struggling really hard to maintain less than a 16 min/mile pace. At times, even 17 min/mile. I was almost in tears. Didn’t I just tell myself that I was feeling great? Such a jinxer! My thoughts (and heart rate) were racing. That’s when I decided – No sister, that’s not happening! A few feet of hills ain’t gonna ruin your 13.1 miles. Time to gather all my mental mantras!

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My race mantra!!! And had this cute motivate wrap on my wrist throughout training as well as on race day!

Chanting my mantras with each step, I took in big gulps of Nuun and took in some really deep breaths to bring my heart rate down. If not speedy, at least back to HM pace. The next mile or so involved us looping around ‘Strawberry Mansion’ before heading back onto MLK drive. It felt forever! There was a guy who shouted out that it was all downhill from there. I knew those were big fat lies. But, just listening to him, made me feel better. Turns out he wasn’t lying after all.

Miles 10 to 13.1:
I am going to call these miles, the ones that could have broken me from within. But, I did not let that happen. As soon as we were back on MLK drive, the headwinds blew with gusto. I was struggling really hard to keep up with my HM pace. At mile 10, I saw 2:40 on the clock and knew that, even if I kept my slowest pace, I would still finish within my goal time. It was all mental from here on! I ditched my watch (lest it sabotages me mentally) and decided to give in all that was left in my tank. I was breathing heavily from here on. I usually don’t run with music and by this point, my brain was numb to think further. I was literally counting sheep with each step. As I reached 100, my counter reset itself and I started again.

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#mentalgame (Picture Courtesy: The Awkward Yeti)

At mile 11, being able to see Art Museum (the finish) with your eyes, but knowing that was 2 miles away, was THE hardest part of the race. At that time, a fellow runner few feet ahead of me had the shirt that read ‘You Think It, You Say It, You Do It‘. That was my new mantra that helped me move forward. I am going to cross that finish line with a smile.

Mile 12.7 arrived and my GPS beeped 13.1 miles. I knew I was less than half a mile away. Less than 0.5 miles!!! The thought that I was going to be a half-marathoner in less than 10 minutes hit me and it hit me hard. I thought of my grandpa and how proud he must be looking down at me. He used to tell his friends that I ran marathons, when reality meant 5Ks. I was already breathing hard here, but now I was also emotionally hyperventilating. All I could think of was him and I was sobbing out loud. People around me must have thought I was in pain. But actually, it all felt like redemption. Closure of some sort! Within 30 seconds, a sense of calm just seeped into me. A calm, never felt before. All those tears were wiped off. That smile at finish line was SO going to happen. I took a left, the final turn of the race, and there I saw the finish line in all its glory. My two best friends were right there and shouted out. I saw 3:29 something on the clock and just ran like a maniac to the finish line of my very own first half-marathon!!!

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Post 13.1:
I was officially a half-marathoner!!! As soon as I finished, I was mentally numb!!! I kept walking further and all I could see were some human creatures handing out medals. I grabbed mine and kept walking further. Nothing registered in my mind those few moments. I was dazed and just walking. I didn’t care for a heat blanket or anything else. That feeling cannot be described in words. It can only be felt! I am not sure how long that lasted. May be 10 seconds. May be 5 minutes. I found my friends and that’s when reality hit me like a brick (once again). I was hugging them and was crying my eyes out!!! We had done it. I was a half-marathoner! I had just run for 3 hours and 24 minutes without a break (like for real). It was such an emotional moment!!!


Nutrition:

I’m a Nuun girl and had my Nuun handheld bottle with me throughout the race. It included ‘Plus for Nuun‘ and ‘Nuun Active – Grape Flavor‘. They were real life saviors during the race and I didn’t have to pause at any of the water/Gatorade stops. I just cruised along, grabbed a glass of water and kept topping up my bottle as I went along. I did have an extra Nuun tablet in my FlipBelt for backup, but, I didn’t find the need to use it.

I had a Gu Salted Caramel flavor at around 2.5 – 3 miles. That’s when I start internally freaking out about having 10 miles to go and somehow, having a Gu that early psychologically helps with my self-confidence. At around mile 11, I was on second thoughts whether to have a second Gu or not. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally, but I was worried that a second Gu will not sit well in my tummy. I couldn’t make up my mind. So, decided to find a balance and had half. Right decision!

Post race, we did get a goodie bag that included a Philly Soft Pretzel, Nesquik chocolate milk, a banana, a bottle of water and some other eatables. I had a bit of each for instant refueling. I knew I was ready for lunch. My friends and I attacked a nice Indian buffet. Tip: always have your comfy food after racing. It totally hit the spot.

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“Always smile throughout the race. It takes way more muscles to frown than smile” – CCR coach advice. I heeded for some good race photos. 


Final Thoughts:

It was THE PERFECT first half-marathon I could have asked for!!! I know for many people, the first races have gone south. But, 26 March 2017 felt so perfect in every sense for me. It felt like the Universe was going out of its way to make sure everything aligned for me. It makes me feel so special and blessed at the same time! All those days, weeks and months of training had finally came to fruition. I couldn’t have done it without my CCR training group and my two slightly really crazy gal pals by my side (On a completely different note, our 3-member team was called ‘Flab to Ab‘). Challenges are what make us grow and this training has taught me just that.

“At that finish line, a new person was born”

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Thank You for sticking until the end. This post was a marathon of its own. 

I am linking up with Courtney, Amanda, HoHo and TriciaIlka and AngelaAnnmarie, Nicole, and Jen for their respective link-ups. Don’t forget to drop by and check out their posts and several other bloggers for some inspiration!

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I’m a Half-Marathoner {First Thoughts}

Emotions are overwhelming! Feelings are disarray! Thoughts are running wild. THE ONE goal I’ve had for about a year (secretly for 2.5 years) has finally worked its way into reality.

I’m a Half-Marathoner!

When I started this whole ‘Let’s try to get fit‘ thing, I never realized that one day, I shall be a half-marathoner. Little did I know, that it would spruce into reality at the Philly Love Run this soon in my life. Considering me and my procrastination habits, I knew the only way to get this done was to sign up for something huge that I thought I wasn’t capable of. Months of getting my foot out of the door after a long work day, those several weeks of waking up at 5 am on Saturdays to get the dreaded ‘long runs’ done, months of arranging my ‘real’ life schedule around my training, months of mentally overcoming the small fears and big fears – have finally paid off!

I never spoke in detail (or publicly) about what I wanted this race to be for me. I had two major goals – one was to finish strong and second was to finish with a huge smile on my face. CHECK. And CHECK. Yesterday was THE best day I could I have asked for a first half-marathon. I felt physically good and mentally great! I shall definitely have a full race recap and all the thoughts that went through during the race sometime soon (once I stop walking like a penguin and recover well). But, for now, here’s a little tease for you. I finished 5 minutes faster than my goal time. Don’t ask me how! I’ve never run that long and fast ever before in this lifetime (and previous ones too).

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I’m going to leave you with a piece of advice I received from a good friend yesterday, amongst all my congratulatory messages. After all, this is all just the beginning!

“There’s no limit to what you can do!
Don’t let anything and anyone ever stop you from chasing your goals.”

(I’m linking up with Courtney of Eat Pray Run DC for her Training Recap linkup and HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap! Do check out their training and other bloggers for some real inspiration!)

So, It’s Your First Race? {Guest Post}

It’s no secret that my first half-marathon is in 4 days. That’s pretty much all I have been talking about on this blog (and in real life too). Being a running rookie, with barely any knowledge of big races on one hand, and my life’s most challenging goal on the other, I’ll be honest, it’s getting pretty intimidating. So, I decided why not have one of the running pundits whom I have been following for a while now, tell me (and you) on her five pieces of advice for your first race. 

Suz, thanks so much for being kind enough to guest post on this baby blog. It’s all you now!

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Hi Everyone! I am so excited to be guest posting for Madhuri today. For those who don’t know me, my name is Susie, and I claim the little slice of internet called Suzlyfe. Suzlyfe is a running, fitness, and healthy life blog written with the intention to educate, connect, and inspire readers to live beyond expectation! I am also an RRCA Certified Running Coach and NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Now, enough about me, let’s talk training!

Also, before I forget to mention, today is Running Coaches Corner, a weekly link up that talks all things running! Check it out and link up with myself and my co-hosts every Wednesday!

There is nothing like your first race. The excitement, the nerves, the exhilaration, the frustration. And hey–you know you will be getting a PR! Over the years, I have coached many runners to and through their first races, ranging from 5Ks to marathons, and in so doing have distilled my pre-race conversation to 5 major points to share with you! Of course, these are great reminders for each time we go out, so don’t one and done this list!

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1) Problems are speed bumps, not the end of the world
Problems are going to arise, no matter how well you plan. Trust me. Clothes that have never chafed before are going to chafe; rain will happen on days with none predicted; your shoe laces are going to become untied right as you hit your stride; you are going to need to use the rest room 1000x or not at all. Your race isn’t going to be perfect–nothing is–and trust me, the imperfections will make the experience all the better.

When something happens that goes counter to your plan, take a deep breath and deal with it. Ask for help if you need to–runners and the running community are awesome, and we take care of our own!

2) Trust your training, your strategy, and your gear
On race day morning, I want my runners to be on autopilot. No decisions race day morning. Know what you are going to be eating and drinking before, during, and after your race. Know what you are wearing before, during, and after. Who you are going to see before, during (as much as possible), and where you are meeting who after. After one of my marathons, my mom was asking me all of these questions, and I had to tell her (in very slow language) to treat me like a child; I was incapable of decisions.

As for your training… too late to change it now, right?

3) Always have a backup plan!
Decide your backup strategy and gear prior to your race. If I am traveling to a race, I generally take 2 pairs of everything with me, as much as possible. That way, if the weather changes quickly on me, or something happens (such as exploding Gu) I have a back up without even having to think about it.Again, autopilot on race day.

4) Run the Race You Trained for
You are not going to be able to nail 6 min miles in negative split, continuous run fashion if you are a solid and totally consistent 11 min/mi run walker. Be proud of the race that you are about to run, are running, have run. Don’t you dare question how awesome you are!

5) Qualitative Goals > Quantitative Goals
Your first goal? Make smart decisions. I wrote a post about this, and I really think that focusing on the experience over focusing on certain times is just the way to go. Think about it: you may not get the exact time that you want, but if you make good decisions and have an awesome time, do you really care?

Bonus: Read this letter to first time racers and repeat that mantra to yourself over and over 😀

Congratulations, I am already proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself. Come over to my blog and tell me how it went!

Want more? Find me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram and check out my coaching page for Coach Suz Training!

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 Still looking for more tips for your running journey? Head over to the Coaches’ Corner linkup to check out what Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs and several other bloggers have to say.

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And you thought of doing it alone?

Exactly a week from today, I’ll be a half-marathoner. I believe a lot in positive affirmations. So, yes, it’s happening! Whether I run or walk or crawl or fly (or go on a medical stretcher), I’ll be at the finish line of the Philly Love Run 2017 this Sunday. Most of you know how my training is going so far. If not, you can check out my letters to the future half-marathoner in me right here, here, here and here.

Now that I’m in Taper Ville, I seem to have a lot of free time for reflections. It all takes me back to September 2016. I had been trying to take up running for at least a year and a half. Yes, a year and a half!!! But, I still wasn’t in a place to consistently run even a mile without a break. That’s when I read this quote during some mindless aimless internet surfing (Hey…it paid off).

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I needed something to frighten the wits out of me and get me going. Without much thought and total impulsivity, I signed up for a half-marathon. I can’t run a mile, but sure, let’s do 13.1! From September to December, I tried various online training plans, various running apps, etc. But, I couldn’t get past it for more than 10 days. I can’t even count the several times I pressed ‘reset my training plan’ on my run training app. This whole ‘let’s do a half-marathon‘ thing seemed to be moving farther and farther away from reality and into my dreams. I had only one option left, only one; and that was to join a training group. I knew ‘Charm City Run‘ existed in Baltimore, but nothing beyond that. Apparently, they were the 2016 running store of the year. So, why not check them out, thought I. To be honest, I was really anxious about joining a running group. But, I knew that was my only hope. So, I had to give it a try to find out.

Showed up on Day 1. We had to run 5 miles. It seemed way too hilarious for me. Sure, 5 miles. Not a problem at all. We started running. Within 1000 feet, everyone was nowhere to be found in sight. At this point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But, I tried to get 5 miles done by foot (No points for guessing that I walked almost all all of that distance). I was the last one to show up back at the store. I was very confident that there isn’t going to be a Day 2. But, my day job as a research scientist has trained me to experiment anything at least three times before totally throwing in the towel. Day 2, I showed up. Surprisingly, I liked it!! Okay, let’s try Day 3. That went alright. And before long, I knew that even if I decided not to run my half-marathon, I wasn’t going to quit on my group. It was something to be a part of it.

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  1. Runners are good people: If ever you feel like you’re losing faith in humanity, the first place you go to is a running community. They are one of the sweetest and kindest people I have ever met (Thanks partly to all those endorphins kicking in). And mind you, I have had the good fortune of being around some genuinely nice people all my life.
  2. Go for the camaraderie and support: I can’t even tell you how you how many times I showed up for our training run thinking, “haha, is my couch completely nuts? 8 miles isn’t happening today!“. Spoiler alert: It did happen….EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! Just having people believe you can do it and cheering your name out loud, when deep down you have the firm conviction that you can’t, makes a humongous impact! They help you realize your true “limits”.
  3. They’re the ones with all the ‘know hows’: You would think running is all about putting one foot in front of the other. Literally yes! But, little did I know that words like strides, fartleks, tempo, pace, splits, cadence and other running jargon had  some real meaning to them. Having someone teach you the ‘tips and tricks’ of running can definitely help you fly along.
  4. It builds mental toughness whilst keeping you mentally light: Somehow knowing that there are people counting on you bolsters your mental grit to get your day’s run done. Contrary to popular belief, running, akin to anything else in life is all mental! Your body is on autopilot once your ‘can’t do‘ switch in your brain is turned off (Words of wisdom from my CCR coach when I had one of my ‘It ain’t happening‘ moments). Also, knowing that there are others who are torturing themselves with 18 miles of running makes it easier for you to run 12 miles. Like there’s a difference.
  5. It’s a humbling learning experience: There may be days when everything goes south, more often than not. There will be days when you finish last. There will be days of real struggle and only self-doubt. There will be days of regrets and pain. But, being in it all together allows you to have greater acceptance of the present moment. It’s all about putting your best foot forward…..every single day!

TAKE HOME LESSON
JOIN A RUNNING COMMUNITY!
THERE’S NO LOOKING BACK!

Disclaimer: I paid for my training and received no compensation from Charm City Run to write this post. I REALLY benefitted from training with them and wanted to share it with you all.

I’m linking up with Courtney of Eat Pray Run DC for her Training Recap link up and HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap; and also, MCM Mama Runs for her Tuesdays on the Run series. Do check out their training and other bloggers for some real inspiration!

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