I’m A Marathoner

It’s been one month since I crossed the finish line.

One. Whole. Month.

 

The emotional roller-coaster I dragged myself on kept passing by the station. I sat frozen in my seat.  I couldn’t jump off. I’d see my friends off in the distance. I’d try to yell out to them, but they couldn’t hear me. I forced myself to smile – to have the appearance that this constant up-down-up-down had no effect on me. I couldn’t pinpoint when it happened, but the roller-coaster slowed down enough for me to attempt to get my footing. The ground felt unstable. My legs felt like bricks.

My legs still feel like bricks.
One month later.
I keep looking to see if someone told their toddler to wrap themselves around my legs and not let go.
No one is there.

Everyone talks about the hardships of training for a marathon. You carve out so many mornings. You skip out on a lot of Friday night drinking plans because, “Sorry, I have a long run Saturday morning.” Instead of your friends asking, “So what are you up to this weekend,” they’ve learned to ask, “How many miles do you have?” And each and every time you answer that question, your friend gasps at the amount you’re doing each week.

“Are you sure that’s good for your knees? Your body?”

Yes.
Yes we are sure.
There’s a reason why training programs are designed they way they are.
Trust the training process.

I knew what I was getting into when I decided to train for a marathon. At least I knew what I needed to give up. I prepared myself for what training would look like. My support system astounds me. I feel so thankful to have these people in my life. From family to friends to “IG friends.” We are just all here to support each other. I had some of the best cheerleaders around. People got up to start a run at 0500 with me. Once I started getting beyond the half-marathon distance, people would plan to split runs with me so I would never be alone. People texted making sure I ate enough and drank enough water. People messaged asking how training was going. The actual training process is something that I will always look back on with such a grateful heart. I would never have been able to get through this alone. I cannot tell you how much the “I am so proud of you” messages really kept me going.

I leaned on people a lot. I had to. I don’t know what I don’t know. And everyone was always so willing to talk with me. I asked for advice with stretching and hip strengthening exercises. I asked for advice on the best types of foods to eat. I asked for advice on fueling during a run, and what types of things to bring with on a long run. I asked for advice on the training process.

But you know what I never asked for?

How to mentally be “okay” after my marathon.

I have never felt so emotionally challenged before. When people say “Want to change your life? Run a marathon” or “If you are losing faith in humanity, go watch a marathon” they really aren’t joking. I just did not understand the magnitude of this until I was knee deep and couldn’t look back.

It felt like I was out having celebratory drinks that I had one more month left of training, and the next day I woke up getting dressed to get ready to become a marathoner. I don’t know where time went. But there I was getting ready to start. I was so nervous that I barely slept the night before. I am an anxious person, and not someone who particularly enjoys the fear of the unknown. It’s very hard for me to just JUMP right in. But every year I challenge myself to do something new despite how much of a nervous-wreck it makes me.

 

I had a lot of things to distract me until my own race day.  I had friends running a race in my hometown the day before. I stayed up late to make signs. I got up early to cheer them on. It was a great time!  I still didn’t feel like my own race day was coming when we were on our way to Kalamazoo. It just felt like a little road trip.   You’d think that after getting my clothes together, I’d feel like the race was coming.  Nope.  It wasn’t under after we got to the race and went to take our group photo. After we took it, I was surprised with a sign that everyone signed for me. I found out later that people were passing it around at a KRC event – THAT I WAS IN ATTENDANCE for might I add – and I had no idea it was happened. Kudos guys. But that’s when it hit me. I was about to run my first marathon. It brought tears to my eyes seeing the support from everyone. I attempted to read what people wrote, but all I could do was stare at it in awe.  I know sometimes when I talk about KRC, I joke that I make it sound like a cult. But these people have become like family.

I pulled myself together and got to the start corrals. The first three miles I enjoyed so much. I ran with Janet, who was participating in the Mittens Challenge – Half. She made it her goal to take photos of me, to which I am forever grateful for. She yelled to a few people “IT’S HER FIRST MARATHON!” It still hadn’t quite sunk in that I was in the process of running a marathon…

… It didn’t hit me until three miles in where Janet and I ran through Kalamazoo’s super cute downtown, and up head I see the split ahead.  “Half goes straight. Full to the right.”  I felt ready. “YOU’RE DOING IT!” Janet yelled.

 

 

And I was off. The rest of the race was by myself. 23.2 more miles!

I trained for this! “The race is a celebration of all the miles you put in during training,” I could hear Abby’s voice in my head. “You’ve already put in the work. Enjoy it!”

64 training runs
85h 40min total
411 miles
10,554ft in elevation

“I DID train for this” I kept reminding myself. I course was very diverse. We went through all different parts of town. I kept a slow and steady pace. Mile 8 presented itself with a lovely hill. BUT I DID HILL TRAINING!  It could never have been more proud of myself. I took the hill slower since I knew I had so much more mileage to go, but it was nice knowing that at mile 11 was the downhill for that same hill.  I was tired, but knew I needed to press on. It was getting hot. I was tired. And I was only just about half-way done. To my surprise, as I was just down that hill and turned the corner, I see some familiar faces! Josh, my mom’s boyfriend Loren, and my half-brother Chad. (My mom was volunteering at the finish line, otherwise she would have been there as well.)  I had thought about quitting so many times at this point. I threw my arms out and ran to Josh to give him a hug. I was SO happy. I felt like I got a little energy boost from them.  I found out later that they had JUST missed me as I went up the hill (at mile 8) and they were driving around looking for me, but blocked off roads and timing wasn’t in their favor. But it worked out for me! I NEEDED that boost right when I saw them, so it was meant to be.

 

I still had ~13 more miles to go. I didn’t feel terrible, but I didn’t feel great either. In hindsight, I could have used a little more sleep, and a LOT more water in the days leading up to the race. I passed all sorts of signs that gave me a good laugh. “Way to go Team Poor Life Choices” was one of my favorites. Someone also made a sign that said “Here’s some photos of my dogs” so naturally I stopped to take a photo of that sign. I sent it to a few people. I jokingly said “Look I stopped for puppies!” Little did I know that one of the KRC members Lisa wrote on my card “Don’t stop for puppies.” Whoops.

Mile 18 came and I began to feel emotions that I wasn’t ready for. I was ready for the hills and ready for how much my legs hurt. I wasn’t ready for the wall. I thought I had hit the wall before. Oh how wrong I was. I started to feel down on myself. “You got farther than this in training! And faster, too!” I was trailing a little behind of where I was for my 20 miles run. I needed to keep myself in check. Of COURSE I could go faster during my 20 mile run. I WAS DONE at mile 20. Not this time.

I hit mile 20 and had tears in my eyes. “This is it,” I told myself, “You’ve come this far. You are not quitting. It’s game time now!” 20 miles was the farthest I had run. I wanted to quit. My legs hurt. My hips hurt. My brain hurt.

I had so many people following me through the tracker. “You can do it!” “Drop the hammer! Go go go !” “It’s smooth sailin’ now!!” And my favorite “THIS IS WHAT YOU TRAINED FOR!!”

My friend Kristin ran her first marathon the day before. Her emotions from the race were so raw that I felt like I had a friend RIGHT there with me. We were not physically together, in fact, we didn’t run any of or training runs together. But the entire time, we had the same distances on the same week. The feeling of support from someone who has already ran a marathon and someone who hasn’t ran a marathon and is just so proud of you isn’t quite the same as someone who is balls deep with you. Feeling the same things at the same time for the first time. And I by NO MEANS ever ever mean to say that the support from other people meant less – furthest from the truth. But hey, It’s 2019 and the Internet all hates each other sometimes. I LOVE YOU ALL!! It was just in THAT moment. Mile 20.01 when Kristin texted “this is what you trained for” I about lost all hold of my emotions. She was right, though.

But I wanted to quit. I faked a jog for mile 20. At that moment, the pacer I was trying SO HARD to stay in front, passed me. The 16 min/mile pacer was now in front of me. My confidence dropped. I could feel the weight of my legs. I walked damn near all of mile 21. I passed a couple who were walking. We high-fived each other as i fake jogged by them. “GREAT JOB!” they yelled back. It looked like the the woman had hurt her ankle. I picked up my feet and trudged along: not quite slow enough for a walk, but a struggle to call it a jog. I texted Josh nearly in tears, “I feel like I’m letting everyone down. Everyone is just sitting around waiting for me.” I hated that feeling. I hate when people are waiting on me. He reassured me that it was okay. That there was no pressure to finish quickly. And that he was proud of me.

My calves kept seizing up.
My hips tightened.
I couldn’t feel my feet.

I rounded a corner to just about mile 22… TO A HILL. A BIG HILL. What kind of a sick joke was this? I stood there, right at the bottom, with the two ladies clearing up the water table. I started up the hill. One lady handed me my water, took my other hand and said, “You got this. You can walk up that hill. But you got this. You are so close!” All I managed to get out was, “This isn’t fair.” before the three of us busted out laughing. I was pretty delirious at this point. I’m not sure if they were laughing out of awkwardness because I started laughing first, or if they really thought I was funny. I’ll never know.

You bet your ass I walked right up that hill. It was near a half mile long. After the hill, the route switched from residential to go into a park. Right as I was passing mile 24, a truck pulled up and took the mile marker down. My heart sunk. I wasn’t fast enough to have them keep the mile markers out. I asked him if the signs of where to go would still be our. He assured me the directional signs were out, but he was just picking up mile markers. He wished me luck and I was on my way again. I get to a point in the road where it looks like I could veer off from the driving road and go onto a path. BUT, written in chalk it said “Not this way.” I wish I had taken a photo of it, but I hadn’t. I had to focus all of my energy on not falling over. I kept looking around for a sign, but didn’t see anything. There weren’t any volunteers around. I heard from close behind me, “Hey! Are you in the race?” I told him “I think so. I feel like I’m going the wrong way.” He said “Don’t worry you are RIGHT next to the path where all the runners went. They followed the walking path here instead of the path for the cars.” So i quick shot over to the path and followed it. It was eerie. Taking directions someone a random group of fisherman. I was on a paved path. It reminded me of some of the paths back home. I rounded a corner and thankfully saw some volunteers packing up the last water station. They had music going and cheered me on as if I was the first person through their station. I put my sunglasses on and tried not to cry. I was so close yet felt so far away.

 

My feet were dragging from under me. I could barely feel my legs. I rounded another corner to a hill – smaller than before – but I reached the top. Mile 25. ONE MORE TO GO. Austin and Robert were there waiting for me. Another very needed surprise. I fake jogged again. My jog was so slow that they could walk next to me. (Hey it’s ok to joke about now.)

One more mile.
Two more corners to go around.
I had to finish the few blocks of residential-ish area.
Take a left.
few blocks on the coned off area for a small stretch.
Then a left into the finisher’s chute.

I see Josh and Chad just before the first left. I now had Robert, Austin, Josh, and Chad jogging along side me. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about someone carrying me. I was done. I kept going back to all the signatures on my card of people telling me that I could do it. I had to finish now.

We take that first left. And I can see it. Just ahead. I can see the finisher’s chute. It’s RIGHT THERE. I tried to pick up the pace, but I was pretty sure someone tied bricks to my legs. As I was nearing the very last left, the guys broke off so I could finish the race. Janet and Roy were at the beginning of the finisher’s chute. She was videoing. You can watch it here on IG. I see Molly… and Jen and Patrick… and right there at the finish line is my mom. I hear the announcer “Hello Megan!” I waved.

And I ran.

I wasn’t going very fast, but I was pushing it as hard as I could to get across that finish line. I could almost reach out and touch it. Just a few steps in front of me.

And there it was.
I was a marathoner.

My mom gave me my medal. I cried. SHE cried. By the time I managed to pull myself together, everyone was around me hugging me. Of course the first words out of my mouth are, “people chose to do this more than once???”

 

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I don’t think I could thank people enough for sitting around and waiting for me to finish. I can’t put into words how much all the support had done for me: whether it was in person or messaging me along the way. I needed it all more than most people know.

Being a part of the Kenosha Running Club has been life-changing for me: the friendships, the inside-jokes, the camaraderie, the unquestioning support. I often wonder “what would I be doing RIGHT NOW if I didn’t know anyone from KRC?” It’s so much more than “oh that group of people I run with.” We laugh and cry together. We share secrets and inside jokes. We drink beer and a lot of coffee. We challenge each other to be better both in running and in life. We pick each other up when we fall down. We have way too many FB group messages. But mostly, we are all better for having known each other.

So for now. I’m navigating this whole marathon recovery process. I still can’t watch Janet’s video without crying. I’m keeping busy with volleyball three nights a week. I’m not running more than 3-4 miles at a time. I don’t want to start to hate running, so I’m taking it day by day. I know I am not mentally in the place where I was before marathon training. Or even when I finish my mile 20 training run. I’m not usually an emotional person so for all this to be happening — it’s emotionally exhausting.  I find myself struggling to get out of bed at 7am to run 3 miles when I was fine waking up at 4am to run 18 miles. I don’t know how to answer “So you going to run another marathon??” Some people have told me it’s normal to not feel normal right now. I just need to give it time.

Despite the struggles, I am so proud of myself for finishing my training and becoming a marathoner. It’s something that I’ll always be able to reflect on. All of the memories that I created along the way and the friendships that became stronger because of it I will cherish forever. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to the family and friends that have been there for me. It will not be forgotten. 

“I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life.”
– Susan Sidoriak

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Oh We’re Halfway There

At this point, I definitely feel like I am living on a prayer…

 

But let’s back up a bit.

JANUARY

January seemed to creep up on me. It was as though from Sept 28th, the day I signed up for the marathon, to Dec 31st, just flew by. And all of a sudden it was January and I now had a specific schedule to follow. January didn’t seem as daunting as I thought it was going to be. I kept up my running through the end of the year – doing running between 3 miles to 5 miles max. I tried to find a balance between not wearing myself out to not January“losing my base.” I also very much so enjoy running and my running club, so it was easier to keep going through the holidays. I felt prepared for January. There were a few days in the middle of the week that I was unable to run – or even truly think about reworking my schedule – so I didn’t feel all that guilty about it. In the past, I beat myself up if I didn’t follow my schedule exactly. I found that I would let that affect the rest of that week and I would miss even more running. I swore not to do that this time.  I had an important two-day work conference. Life happens. I didn’t let myself miss any of my long runs. I typically run Sat morning – in fact, about 90% of my long runs are on Saturday morning – but if something came up, I would do it on either Fri or Sun. As long as I got the long run in, I felt great.

It is really hard to not get caught up in the numbers game. I try to have a minimum of 80 miles per month; however, I ended January with 51.90 miles. I reminded myself what more frozenoverwas to come in March and April… more than I have ever ran, so I let myself not be so focused on the number.

January had it’s challenges though. Cold weather running is a beast all on its own. I had to learn what worked and didn’t work for laying my clothes. The photos looked pretty, but it was chilly.   (Photo Frozen Over. ) We even hit some Canadian-cold weather with a -21 degree day… before windchill. And no, I did not run outside. In fact, I didn’t even get in my car to go to the gym. Our “feels like” temp was -50.  Frostbite in 5 minutes. No thanks. But alas, this was during the week so my long run wasn’t moved around.

FEBRUARY

Now, I know that this is Wisconsin, and I know what winter in the Midwest means. I’ve lived here my entire life. Snow. Cold. Dark. I was prepared for that. Well. I was more prepared for the cold than I was for the dark. The thing is, I’m actually a morning person. But there’s quite a difference in “Oh it’s 0430 and I can’t sleep, so I’m going to lay in bed Februaryand scroll through Facebook and scowl at the fact that Josh is a heavy sleeper and still sound asleep” to “Oh my gosh is 0430! I need to get out of bed and find my 576439 layers of clothes and get out the door and START RUNNING by 0500/0530.” It’s a way different feeling. The darkness made it very hard to get up.  When I was asked, “How did you get up?” “What was your motivation? It’s so early!”  Part of it is the fear of “well if I don’t slowly increase my mileage, I could overexert some muscles and pull something.” And it’s true. There are reasons that professional lay out a training plan they way they do. Slowly increasing mileage is the safest way to train. So part of my “motivation” was fear. May sound silly I realize this, but it’s the truth.

Another part is having accountability buddies. It really makes such a huge difference. I will not cancel a run if I know I’m meeting someone.  Plus, sometimes my work days are just too unpredictable. I cannot always guarantee that I can run by a certain time, so early morning plans were necessary. Did I whine about it? Absolutely. It was barely 0 degrees. We are allowed to whine about it.  I truly tried to give myself the first few minutes of running to whine about how cold it was. But that was it. Why focus on it? Unless I plan to move, this is what I get. (Let’s be real though… if I move more south, I’m going to whine about the heat in the summer…)

February is the shortest month, yet I somehow jam packed a lot of things into my month.hearthimom I started doing more cross training – which included lifting weights at the gym and snowshoeing.  I had done weight training in the past, but just never kept up with it.  Snowshoeing is a new adventure that I am learning to love. If it’s going to snow, I may as well enjoy it right?? I planned a Valentine’s Day run with the Kenosha Running Club. It was another early morning run but I have to say, making fun shapes really helps the time go by quicker!  I planned a weekend get-away in Galena with Josh the last weekend of the month (it was our 6 year anniversary), which prompted me to have to run on a Friday instead of the weekend. So I created a route for my mom as a surprise. I mapped out a “Hi Mom“- it truly helped get me through when I just wanted to be done. I closed out February with 91.60 miles. 

It might look like I have it all together. I’ve been asked for advice, “So how do you do it? How do you fit it all into your schedule?” And the truth is — I don’t. I have inner struggles every day that I don’t always advertise to people. Some days I do. Some days I don’t. I’ve had to rearrange social events. I’ve had to tell people “no you can’t come visit in March and April because I will be too exhausted to actually hang out with you.” I have really long days. I typically work 45-50 hours a week, so in order for my work to not suffer, I NEED those 0500 or 0530 runs.  I try my hardest to commit to hill training with the running club, but being somewhere by 1700 on a weekday is incredibly difficult. I’ve had to tell people “No I can’t hang out Friday night – Sat is my long run.” more times than I can count. And now, Wednesdays are up to 7 miles… starting 8 miles next week.  I’ve pushed off cleaning my house, which was NOT a good idea. It stressed me out even more.  (Don’t worry, it’s clean now! Josh and I spend 4 hours cleaning last Sunday.)  Finding a balance it really difficult. I’ve felt like I needed to apologize to people for not being around… and I’m only half-way through this journey. The next two months are going to really pick up.

Fitting in time for Josh, my family and friends, running/working out (including Hot Yoga and cross-training), my job, including some social media work on the side, meal planning and keeping up with the house and the dreaded laundry, it has left little time for blogging – which I really love to do – but most importantly, just me time. I need a mental health day.  I am trying some new time management tactics this next month, which is starting with taking a mental health day on Monday. No work. No running. No social hanging out. My plan is to go to Hot Yoga in the morning (I will need it since I’m running 15 miles on Sunday), then get my office at home organized, and then just catch up on some TV shows. Knowing myself, I will probably only be able to sit on the couch for two hours, but hey – baby steps.  Whiteboards are my new best friend and I have ordered one for my office… I’m slowly putting together a post of what’s been working and not working for time management, so after a month, I should have something ready. Boom.

“So if it’s that much work and you don’t have time for it, why are you doing it?” (Yes, I’ve actually been asked this…)  Because it’s a challenge. Because it’s pushing my beyond a point I’d never thought I’d be. Because it’s helping me grow. Because it’s helping me better my time-management. Because I’m healthier at nearly 33 than I was at 23. Because it’s teaching me discipline. Because I am capable.

Because. I. Can.

As of March 3, 2019, I am halfway through marathon training. I’m halfway there. HALFWAY! Livin’ on coffee and dreams (and carbs and Honey Stingers and protein powder) over here.

Here’s what’s to come:

March

April

(Special thanks to Molly who put together this calendar!)

On that note, Happy International Women’s Day! And thank you to everyone who has been supporting me along the way!

Cheers to early morning and frosty hair.

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According to Megan

I’ve been trying to revamp what my blog is for me for the entirety of 2018. I like a lot of things so it’s always been hard to try and have a “brand.” Well, I’m semi-throwing that out the window and doing what I want.

I’m changing my Facebook page and this blog from “Creative Imaginations” to “According to Megan.” Creative Imaginations just wasn’t fitting anymore for this blog. I used to do a ton of poetry and short little excerpts. So it made sense then. I created this blog in 2011 and picked a title on a whim, never thinking too much about it. I didn’t know a lot about social media. I didn’t understand much about marketing.

Oh times are a-changin’.

I have found myself always getting asked for recommendations, whether someone is going on vacation to somewhere I have been, or what local spot to try out, or what festival is going on, or even what wines would be the best for them. I really enjoy doing that. It didn’t really dawn on me that I could just be making my posts more about this. Especially because it is very easy to add links and have it be a very nice reference.

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I started to put some of my recommendations on Instagram — that’s where this idea started to blossom. At first, I was going to try and just stick to Kenosha, but that’s not me. I love travelling. Josh and I go somewhere every year. We do a few-mini weekend road trips, but we fly one place every year. There was no way I could just market myself to just Kenosha.

Plus, I know a few amazing Instagramers and bloggers who already do that.

Two other passions of mine are photography and running. I joined the Kenosha Running Club this year and PhotoKenosha last year. KRC has been just absolutely life-changing. (That is another blog itself… so stay tuned!!) And I’ve learned so much in photography. (Even more blogs to come!) I couldn’t pick just one of these to talk about!

I tried thinking of a name, but I didn’t want to try and get “trapped” with only writing about one thing. I even tried combine a few names together – like running and photos. I didn’t like that either. There was no way that I could combine all the words that I could use to describe this blog.

“According to Megan” was born.

What you’ll expect to find me writing about:

  • Running
  • Photography
  • Kenosha
  • Travel (tips, places, recommendations along the way)
  • Wine (and other alcohol related things)
  • Relationships (i get asked this a lot because Josh is introverted and I am not. Among a few other things as well, but that’s the biggest one.)
  • … and who knows what else!

What will remain the same:

  • My photography blog (click) and my photography IG (click) will both remain under “Creative Imaginations” since that is what makes the most sense!
  • This blog will keep the same url, but I’ll be revamping the photos at some point.
  • #Caffeinatedopinions (click) will still be active, but with no set schedule. I don’t have near the interest that I thought I would. And that’s totally okay! Live and learn!

I have my first official post as “According to Megan” set to go up Sunday. ❤

XOXO,
Megs

The Art of Maybe

Do you know how many drafts I have saved for blog ideas? Or actual blogs I just never posted?

Go ahead. Take a guess.

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32!!!

Thirty-two blogs.

I never realized how much I’ve wanted to say, but just don’t say until I look at that number. I’m sure there will be people out there who say, “well, why won’t you just post it then?”

See, here’s the thing.

We have freedom of speech. Everyone knows that it’s supposed to be a right.  BUT. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without consequences. You can’t just go around saying whatever you want to say and expect nothing to happen. Do you have the right to say it? Sure of course you do. However, once you put something out on the internet, it is there forever. Forever is a long time. And ONE thing… some simple thing…can change someone’s perspective on you.

“But Megan, stop caring what other people think about you.”

Honestly, that’s bullshit. It’s so easy to say for people who have anonymous blogs. I do think the majority of us deep down care what other people think about us. I sure do. I have opinions. LOTS of them. But is it worth sometimes coming off like a jerk just to exercise the freedom of speech? Not really, no.

Okay, I hear ya. “Well, if you aren’t even saying what you want to say, then are you even being real? Is this your fake personality.”

No. No it isn’t. I don’t write about things that are false. I don’t fake an opinion. I just chose what to write about and not write about… publicly. I have had plenty of conversations in person with family and friends that I would never post on my blog. It’s censorship of my blabbering mouth. Not a fake personality.

I’m not here to talk about huge world issues, specifically politics or religion. And I do think it’s very easy to stay away from those topics if I’m being truly honest; however, I think that fear still trickles down into the rest of my writing when it shouldn’t.

Maybe it is because I grew up before social media.

Maybe it is because I don’t really believe in my writing.

Maybe it is because I’m afraid people don’t really know my sense of humor.

Maybe I’m just straight up lazy.

Maybe I’m out of ideas.

I don’t know. But year after year I have some sort of an excuse to not keep up with my writing. (Or I do keep up and just not post it.)

There comes a time where all the maybes start defining who you are as a person. And it defines your writing style. All the maybes start becoming a firm no. “No do not post that.” “No you cannot say those things.” There are no longer any debates about what to do.

And you know what the irony is?

I like to write about wine, food, running, and travelling. And the occasional poem, which I haven’t shared in a very long time. Literally none of that is political or racial or controversial. Will people have opinions on it? of course. It’s the internet and people can’t scroll passed a meme about peanut butter and jelly without complaining about it. I do have thick skin when it comes to comments and corrective criticism. In fact, I always embrace it. When corrective criticism is actually that, and not “i’m going to tell you something mean just to be an asshole,” it really does help us grow.

What I’m saying is that maybe I just really don’t have an excuse as to why I’m a terrible blogger. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Hopefully I can pull myself together at some point to actually write from time to time!

Until then!

Cheers.

Happy One Year, Prius! 🚗

Happy belated one year to my car! ✌️ I’ve done so many fun things this last year! I put about 15K on my car and I’m not even mad about it:

I started off my New Year in January with a trip to the Dells with Sokhon, Monica and their girls.

In March, I drove to Madison with Ally and DeAnna to meet up with Sokhon to run the Shamrock Shuffle that kicked my ass. ☘️

In May I drove to Pewaukee by myself to run my 4th half-marathon.

In June, I drove to Chicago with DeAnna for Emily’s bachelorette party and then the longest road trip I’ve ever taken: Ally and I DROVE to Denver, Colorado Springs, and Georgetown, CO. Nebraska is booorrringggg. Yes we drove the whole way. We toured around Colorado and even walked a half-marathon in Georgetown. Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs was gorgeous. But lemme tell ya, DRIVEing down the mountains was SCARY! 🏔️🗻

In August, I drove to Mackinac Island with Justin, DeAnna, and Josh to surprise my mom. She had no idea we planned to come to surprise her. Such a fun family vacation! The very next weekend, Josh and I drove to Door County to celebrate Janelle and Andrew’s wedding. 💍 I was so honored to be a bridesmaid!  And the next weekend after that, Sokhon drive down from La Crosse and then I spend to the Metra station so we could get to Chicago for LADY GAGA.

In September, Josh took me to my first metal music festival: Sonic Boom in Janesville. 🤘

In October, i drove to Milwaukee to run a half-marathon with my brother-in-law Chris, who was running his first. Such an emotional race! I also drive to Chicago with DeAnna to run the Hot Chocolate 15K race. Her longest race length to date! So so proud of both of them! 🏃

In November, Josh and I drove to Chicago to have a date night and watch the Packers win against the Bears.

This month in December, we drove to Door County to have a relaxing night away and stock up on wine. 🍷

From Oct – Dec, I completed a Photography Certificate from UW-Parkside. 📸

So many fun things happened this year!!  And the above are the ones I used my car for!! Crazy! Josh and I also went to St Louis for his 30th birthday to see Iron Maiden, but we took his car. DeAnna and I drove to La Crosse to go camping, but she drove. I attended a few more races, planned a few girls nights, and made many many many trips to the grocery store.

But the biggest thing… NO MORE METRA!!! This was the first year in a very long time that I haven’t been on train time. And it’s been amazing!

Can’t wait for 2018. ❤️🍷✌️

“Creative Imaginations Photography” Officially Launched

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For as long as I can remember, I have always loved photography. I never took the time to really learn the craft. As a child, I had a disposable camera that I would take photos of my dog Abby. Yes, the ENTIRE roll was of her: dressing her up and trying to get the perfect shot. I should dig up those photos at my mom’s to share. They are quite comical. 

Quite a few years ago, my sister Adrienne received a nice DSLR camera: Nikon D3000. I took a slight interest in it, but I was in college at the time. I didn’t live at home. And, to be honest, I did not have the disciple to learn. I had a post back in 2011 of some of the first photos I ever took with my sisters camera. You can see them here. We all have to start somewhere, right?

While I loved borrowing my sister’s camera from time to time — Thank you, Adrienne!! — I still did not really know what I was doing. I knew nothing about photography. I shot in fully automatic mode. I got mad because “the camera didn’t work right.” Aka, user error.  I put “learning photography” on my bucket list and never pursued it.

Until this year.

A friend of mine and I planned a road trip to Colorado. I knew this was just the PERFECT time to learn. We officially booked the trip early 2017. Our trip wasn’t until June.  I spent nearly 4 months researching cameras and another month researching about lenses. I finally decided on the Canon T6i. Of course if I had a few extra thousand bucks in my back pocket, I would have picked the 5D Mark III. And you know what, even if I did have that extra money laying around, I would still start off slower. What if I ended up not really liking it? I know there’s always an option to sell a camera, but what a hassle. I do want to capture a lot of life moments so at least if photography didn’t end up being a huge passion of mine, the T6i didn’t break the bank.

In any case, I found myself in the internet black hole with watching countless hours of Youtube videos. It’s all so fascinating to me. I love learning the reasons why the camera functions the way it does.

Colorado was beautiful. Although I hadn’t taken any official classes at that point, I did get some beautiful scenery shots while we were there. But it piqued my interest even more.  I enrolled in a Photography Certificate through UW-Parkside. 20 class (40 hours), plus an additional 2 classes (4 hours) of a Lightroom workshop.  I had saved up the money to do it so I jumped into it head-on.

I am currently just over halfway through my classes. I went from shooting in fully auto mode to shooting in manual. I have learned SO MUCH about my camera. More than I ever would have by myself. I fell more in love with photography that I quickly snagged up my friend’s children to practice taking their photos. I was also taking photos during my lunch breaks. I have my camera with me all the time.  My camera has already been to Denver & Colorado Springs, Colorado, Mackinac Island, Michigan, and St Louis, Missouri — all done in three short months! June, July, & August were some very busy months! 

I even started up a separate website for my photography. It took me over 2 months to really start setting everything up. I’m happy to announce that it is officially launched!

I’d be honored if you hopped on over to check it out!

 

Creative Imaginations Photography

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This was the first photo I took of the rain while trying to get that bokeh effect. I loved how it turned out so much that I have ended up using it on my website.

There are still a few updates that I will be doing on my photography page, but it’s at the point where people have asked to see more of my photos and to start booking with me so I wanted to get something together. I can’t wait to learn more and more about the craft!

Thank you!

Megan Elizabeth

#BloggingFundamentals – Day Four: Identify Your Audience

Day Four: Identify Your Audience

We often create posts hoping that a specific person (or persons) will see our work. Who’s your ideal reader?

Today, publish a post you’d like your ideal reader to see, and include a new-to-you element.

Here’s how:

  1. First, brainstorm the kind of person you hope will read your blog. What do you want to say to them?
  2. Next, start your new post by clicking on the button below. Remember to include a media element (an image, a video embed, etc.) you haven’t experimented with yet.
  3. Finally, give your post a few tags, including bloggingfundamentals, and publish it.

Writing with a specific person in mind is a great way to focus your thoughts and goals. Exploring new media elements adds more tools to your storyteller’s toolbox and helps engage your readers.

 

I decided to join “Blogging Fundamentals.” to try and challenge myself to write more and learn more about the WordPress community.  I did not do the first two days. Day One was a “why are you here” type of entry, which I have done in a previous WordPress class. You can read that here.  And Day Two was to create a tagline. These two are more geared to people who have never blogged before, so I skipped them since I already had that part done. Day Three was about connecting more with other bloggers. So the last two days I spent time searching through blogs and finding other people with common interests. I followed quite a few bloggers and commented on a lot of posts.

This brings us to “Day Four: Identifying the Audience.”

This is something I’ve always struggled with, since I never really had an audience in mind. I started off writing poetry, which was mainly for myself. I started writing about running a lot in hopes to connect with other runners. And then I started #CaffeinatedOpinions recently, which I am really enjoying so far.  I took a leap of faith that this would be something that people would be interested in reading so I hope to not be too boring. 😁

I can’t and won’t try to categorize my ideal audience. But instead, I want my audience to be respectful of others and open minded. People are too offended by everything these days. I of course everyone is entitled to their opinions – I have enough of my own – but I also do not ever want to see people others down for their ideas and opinions. I want to create an open and safe place for people to respectfully discuss topics.  I realize that this is nearly impossible to do, but I will always try my best to see every aspect I can. 

Until next time 

Megan Elizabeth 

Welcome to #CaffeinatedOpinions

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Hi! And welcome to #CaffeinatedOpinions!

For the longest time, I never really knew what direction my blog should go towards. It was all over the place. Poems, random posts, fitness… No real direction.

I’ve been told my entire life that I’m a really good listener. That I take the time to see both sides to every story. Over the last year or so, I’ve really taken to heart when people tell me this. I’ve finally started to really believe it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not one to really sugar coat anything. I do try and be transparent as I can without being a total monster, but also being very informative. I never ever make fun of people. I don’t actually think it’s funny when people say “um that’s common sense.” Well maybe not. Everyone has a different background. We all have so much to learn from each other.

I’ve decided to make a dedicated section of my blog for people to submit questions that they would like an opinion on. Now, let’s just get a disclaimer out there… No, I am not a doctor. I am not a trained therapist. But sometimes, we just need a second opinion on topics.

Categories to start off with, but don’t think by ANY means that you are limited to ask me what is on this list.

To submit a question, head on over to this link. Click here. You are ALWAYS welcome to remain anonymous. You have the option to tell me who you are and have me link back to your own blog; you can tell me who you are, but I don’t post any links and keep you anonymous, or you don’t even tell me who you are. Whatever you feel comfortable with!

– I love to cook. I’ve been cooking my whole life and have a few scars to prove it. I acquired some of my first scars on my knuckles from learning how to flip pancakes. I’m sort of a closet vegetarian. Since I was very little, my mom would take me to the state fair, and I could see the cows and get very upset because I thought they looked sad. I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that I refused to eat meat for months. I’ve gone through spurts of not eating any meat for months and even years, and then I’ll revert back. I currently don’t eat any meat except chicken. And I really do try and watch my dairy intake, simply to cut down on cholesterol. I have quite a few opinions on food. (Whether or not I decide to take my own advice of “stop eating so much pizza” is another story.)

– Running is life. I’ve trained for three half marathons in 2016. And right now, as of April 12, 2017, I’m in week 4 of my 8 week training for a half marathon. I definitely have some opinions about running.

– I have insomnia and restless leg syndrome. And yes, this is confirmed by a doctor and not WebMD. I went through sleep training and quite a bit of doctor appointments, so I definitely have opinions on this.

– While I might not be married, Josh and I have been together for 4 years (it was 4 years as of Feb 2017) and we have lived together for 3.5 years. So, I might not have advice on planning a wedding, but I definitely have some opinions on living with a significant other. Especially one who doesn’t share the same hobbies. I’m extroverted (for the most part) and he is very introverted.

– I am the oldest of four siblings. Me, my two sisters, and my brother is the baby. We are all roughly two years apart. I have quite a few opinions on dealing with siblings. (Don’t hate me guys. 😉 )

– I come from a divorced family. My mom divorced my father when I was seven years old. It wasn’t the prettiest of divorces. My three younger siblings have a relationship with my father; whereas I do not. I have quite a few opinions about dealing with family, especially when everyone doesn’t quite get along.

– I’ve had friendships last for 10+ years. I’ve had friendships just stop for no reason. I’ve had friendships start while drunk in bathrooms. I’ve had to cut toxic friends out of my life. I’ve kept long distance friendships. I’ve lost touch with people who live a mile from me. I have many opinions on how to keep friendships, and what ultimately lead to never talking to someone again.

– From 2004 to 2015, I moved NINE times. Yes, 9 times. In five different cities. I have learned a lot about looking for roommates, navigating new cities, finding jobs, going to college plus having a job, leaving friends and/or family behind after moving, learning what things to let go of and what mementos to hold on to. I believe there is a fine line between true mementos and junk. I’ve also learned a hell of a lot about packing efficiently.

– I am not a Esthetician (yes i feel like I need this disclaimer often), but I swear by having a multi-step skincare routine and going for monthly facials. I have been following the Korean skincare routine religiously now for almost 3 years. I’ve half assed it for a few years as well, and I’ve been getting facials since 25. I turned 31 years old in April 2017 and people STILL think that I’m 25. I 100% thank my skincare routine. Got questions? feel free to ask!

– I have battled depression from grade school through high school. Therapist and drugs and all. I was diagnosed with PTSD after my parent’s divorce. (For those of you who do not know, my mother was a victim of domestic abuse that, as a 7 year old, I witnessed). PTSD took me a very very very long time to cope with. It greatly affected me even throughout college. I have no taken any anti-depressant medication since high school. I do have episodes from time to time. I have opinions on how to cope with a lot of this, and one of them is definitely that it is normal to ask for help.

– I’ve had a decent amount of death in my life. My grandma passed away in 2005, and my grandpa unexpectedly in 2007. I was very close with my grandparents, and even now 10+ years later, I think about them often. I’ve had a close coworker of mine die from a family member stabbing him. I’ve also lost a friend to suicide. It isn’t easy. And I’ll be the first one to admit that time really does not heal your wounds, but I’ve learned to love the scars.

Please, if anyone is reading this and is coping with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to reach out. There are people who will be there to help you every step of the way. Never ever be ashamed. You’re not alone. Confidential help is available for free.

Suicide Hotline:
1-800-273-8255

 

To submit a question, head on over to this link. Click here. I won’t really be able to filter through the comments section, so make sure you use this link to submit your questions.Thanks everyone!!

My 2016: Medal Monday

Looking back on 2016, I’m still in shock at how far I’ve come. It shouldn’t surprise me, because I worked my butt off, but sometimes, just looking back at my progress, I can’t believe it. I skipped out on a lot of drinking nights. I sacrificed lazy nights in lieu of meal planning. Instead of getting brunch with friends, I made healthy breakfasts at home and met up with them for coffee. I skipped out on some work parties so I could get home at a decent hour because I knew I had to get up early to run. “Sorry I can’t; I’m running in the morning” was a text I think my friends got use to hearing. And you want to know the best thing about all of that?

It was worth it.

Every single decision. Every gathering I CHOSE to miss. Every glass of wine I decided not to pour and drink water instead. Every Sunday I would meal plan or plan out my running schedule instead of doing nothing. Every time I turned down going out to lunch at work and getting major crap for it… “you never come out with us!” Sorry guys. Plus, Chicago is expensive. All of it. Worth it.

I feel great.
I have more energy.
My skin looks more youthful.
I’ve lost weight.
I gained some absolutely amazing friendships.
My self-confidence boosted.
I am more positive.
I fight less.
I forgive more.
I listen more and talk less.

In 2016, I ran 21 races. TWENTY-ONE. Of those 21 races, three of them were half-marathons. I ran my first ever in June 2016 and loved it so much that I did two more. 2015, I could barely run 4 miles…. and I completed THREE half-marathons. I am so proud of that!

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I also participated in the #HolidayMile which was a challenge to run or walk one mile every single day from Thanksgiving to New Years. And that was a challenge, let me tell you. I missed a few days, but I ran more than I would have without this challenge.

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I ended my year with 547.34 miles. My original plan was to do 1,000 solo miles, but due to some poor planning in the beginning of the months and lack of discipline, I did not hit that goal. But my running buddy Ally and I decided to do a team effort and we hit 1,000 miles together. (More on that here.)

With the 21 races and 2 challenges I participated in, I gained 17 new shiny medals to proudly display:

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I have a plan of attack for 2017. I’m going to hit 1,000 solo miles. But I’m giving myself a different kind of challenge than I did in 2016.  I split the months up into sections of three. So, for example, Jan, Feb March is one set, then April, May, June is the next, and so on so so forth.  I picked one month out of the set of three to be my 100 miles in one month (one set I chose two) and I made sure I didn’t have any back to back months of 100 miles. I was strategic with what I decided to pick.

Here’s the breakdown:
JAN-Because it’s the first month of the year and I should start off strong.
APRIL-It’s my birthday month
JUN-I’m training for a half-marathon anyway. Plus, it will get me outside.
AUG-Josh and I usually go on vacation in Sept, so I can’t pick that month, and I needed at least a month in-between the last 100 mile month.
NOV-Because Nov 2016 was my first 100 mile a month ever.

So there’s half of my 1,000 miles in a year right there: five 100-mile months. Which will then leave me with six months to do an average of 84 miles each (which can consist of running, walking and biking). The month directly following my 100 mile month will most likely have a higher biking mileage since I’ll want to give my knee a rest.

But my challenge to myself is a two-parter. In my 100 mile months, I’m only counting actual RUNNING miles as a part of that. Here’s a visual to make more sense:

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My plan for 2017 is to also incorporate some biking, which I will count towards my grand total of 1,000 miles in the year, but during my 100 mile months, I’m keeping a separate note for just running.  So, for example, today I ran 3 miles and did a half mile cool-down. I logged my 3 miles in for running and the half mile down for walking.  So, my grand total for the year (including my New Years Day walk), is 4.75 miles, but only 3 miles of that I’m counting towards my 100 miles for January.

The reason I’m doing this is because I wanted a little more of a challenge. I really learned a lot in 2016 about the importance of planning week by week. When I hit 100 miles in Nov, I counted both my running and walking. I accomplished that, so now I just want a bit more of a challenge for myself. I also found that I would make excuses to not run. “Oh I can just walk 2 miles and run 3 miles for a total of 5 miles for the day,” when really my body is perfectly capable of doing a 4.5 mile run with a half mile cool down. I want to get faster and break my PRs and that will not happen when I’m walking.  Again, I’ll still count my walks towards my 1,000 miles for the year. Walking is still very important. I am by no means putting down walking, but this is the goal I picked for myself.

Some of my other 2017 goals:
Plan my week every Sunday night
Blog more
Run a half-marathon in a different state that is far enough to have to spend the night. (road trip!)
Read 10 books
Cross-train (I literally did none of that last year. Oops)
Explore healthier foods and blog about it
Be more positive

I’d love to hear some goals my readers have made! Comment below with yours!

Best wishes to all.

Vegan Gluten Free Healthy Brownies

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In my previous post, I talked about my entire journey of becoming a healthier person. One of those things was to really watch what I was eating.  I became more cognizant of what i was putting into my body. No I don’t really count my calories – that is just not something that worked for me. But I watch cholesterol, sugars, and fats. I make sure I’m getting enough protein and vitamins.

(I shouldn’t need to put out a disclaimer, but just in case: no i’m not a nutritionist. I am not a doctor. Everyone is different. Please do not use this to make any life altering decisions.)

Also, another disclaimer. I am not vegan. I do enjoy eating a LOT of vegan meals, though. I will still eat chicken occasionally. I will not eat pork or red meat if I don’t have to. Too much fats and cholesterol for me. I will not make hard boiled eggs or scrambled eggs for myself, but if someone offers me a food, I will more than likely eat it. I eat cheese, but I try and limit my intake of that as well. A lot of people think that because I post about a lot of the meals I eat and label them as vegan, but I’m personally not a vegan, that I’m being a hypocrite. Well, the meal itself is still vegan, so I’m not going to stop that.

Okay back to these brownies.

One of my sisters has a dairy allergy. And I love to bake. So I wanted to try and find a good recipe that I could make for Christmas that tasted good and was also dairy free. I found a brownie recipe that I was dying to try: Black bean avocado brownies. Sounds gross, I know, but it’s actually VERY good!  I already ate a row of brownies. Okay, a small row. It is made in a 8×8 pan. 😀

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large flax egg
  • 1 – 15oz can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 medium to large ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. Place flax egg, black bean, avocado, vanilla, and brown sugar and process in a food processor until smooth. Add in cocoa powder, coconut oil, baking soda, and baking powder and process again until smooth. Batter will be thick. If batter is way too thick and won’t process, you can add in a tablespoon or two of almond milk. This batter needs to be very thick in order to produce fudgy brownies. Fold in chocolate chip or sprinkle onto batter then transfer to prepared pan and use a spatula to spread evenly to sides. Sprinkle top of batter with 2 tablespoons of remaining chocolate chips.
  3. Bake for 22-30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out somewhat clean. We don’t want these to dry out, but we also don’t want them completely raw either! The top of the batter should be completely set and no longer jiggle. Cool pan completely on wire rack then cut into 12 bars.
NOTES
You may be able to sub the brown sugar for honey, agave or maple syrup. I would reduce to 1/3 cup though.
The brownies are best went made in a food processor so that beans can blend together better.
The brownies are best when served at room temperature or cold.

Recipe credit here.

Vegan GF Healthy Brownies

I followed the recipe almost exactly. Instead of the flax egg, I used a chia egg instead since I already have a huge bag of chia seeds. (To make a chia seed egg: For each egg, combine 1 tablespoon of ground chia seed (or flax seed) with 3 tablespoons of water. Stir well, and place in the fridge to set for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the result should be a sticky egg-like substitute) For the powder, I used Viva Naturals Cacao Powder, (which you can actually find on Amazon!) and the Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs for the vegan choc chips (again, hello Amazon!). I was a little weary about trying this at first because it’s black beans and avocado, but if I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed this was packed full of chocolate (not the vegan kind). I do not not taste black beans or avocados AT ALL.

I decided that since this is a relatively healthy recipe, and my sister can eat these, that I am going to bring them to Christmas for all to enjoy!

Happy baking!

P.S. I’m always open to making new things! Anyone have any dairy-free and/or vegan desserts they love? Post below!