Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Today, Mike and I are celebrating three years together. I enjoy anniversaries of any type because they give you chance to reflect on the progress you’ve made in the past and realize how much things have changed.

The past year was certainly filled with ups and downs, as we transitioned from a couple in a long-distance relationship to roommates. We discovered a lot about each other, learned to co-exist in the same living space and developed ways to tolerate each other’s annoying habits. At the same time we grew individually, working towards achieving personal dreams and goals, as the other quietly supported and encouraged the pursuit.

While thinking about our anniversary, I began contemplating other anniversaries which afford us the same luxury of reflection. Most momentous occasions have anniversaries: we celebrate becoming another year older, the importance of our parents, our gratitude freedom and the protectors of that freedom - the list goes on.

But once we move past these society-wide anniversaries, there usually aren’t any anniversaries to celebrate the unique relationships which we purse as individuals.

I think my love for baking is likely wired into my genetic make-up. It is no coincidence that some of my earliest recollections are of being in the kitchen with my Mum, pretending to make miniature-sized versions of whatever she was creating.

Nowadays, I see my mother in me when I am happy to spend an afternoon baking delicious goodies, trying new recipes and cherishing the traditional ones. It the outlet which allows me to create and perfect. My love for baking has never been and never will be in question: we are soulmates.

On the other hand, my relationship with running was not nearly as natural. During my first three years of high school, I absolutely detested running, as it was a big part of conditioning for the upcoming field hockey season.

I don’t think I can put into words how much I hated running; I was slow, it was always hot and I just wanted to play field hockey. But, a coaching change during my senior year began to turn the tables. Running was the only the only time I had to mentally prepare myself for the disorganization and inefficency which were our practices.

In college, running and I had a love-hate relationship. I went through times where I absolutely adored running; I would run every day, every week. This infatuation would usually last about a month. And then I hated running. My running shoes would collect dust until I again needed a way to burn off stress or extra pounds a few months later.

After college, running and I really developed our relationship. Within one week of graduation, I had been transplanted into someone else’s adult life. I was lost, homesick and probably a little bit depressed. I was a young female who had left her family behind to purse her dreams in NYC; but there was nothing romantic or unique about this characterization – this described thousands of other young females I trudged to work with every morning.

I felt like I wanted to run away and never look back. So I put on my running shoes.

Running and I are now in a much stronger relationship than ever before. As soon as I accepted running for what it was, not as a tool for conditioning or for combating extra calories, it became something I couldn’t live without. Sometimes we meet-up for lunch, other times we see each other before dinner and every weekend we spend more time than usual getting reacquainted.

The meetings are sometimes dreaded and sometimes craved. Our relationship will be put to the test many times this year and in-between we will have to learn how to better prepare for the next. The relationship takes a lot from me, but the reward is always much greater than the sacrifice.

This afternoon, running and I enjoyed a lunch date. This evening, baking and I will enjoy creating chocolate pudding with espresso whipped cream. And tonight, I will celebrate three years with someone who whole-heartedly accepts all my other relationships.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fortune Cookies

I’m feeling good about the race next Sunday. My tempo run last Thursday went better than I expected; I ran three miles at a pace of 7:40 per mile – this was the fastest I’ve ever run. I was tired at the end of it, but I felt good. I was also starving by the time I got home and consumed a large amount of steak stir-fry in a relatively short period of time, a sight which undoubtedly frightened Mike.

Feeling good about my work out and refueled from dinner, I opened a little package from my Mum. Inside was a Chinese take-out box which held adorable felt fortune cookies and dark chocolate. Each fortune cookie had a slip of paper inside with a quote about running or baking! Each quote made me smile, the ones about running made me feel even better about my run and the ones about baking made me want to put on an apron and make all the recipes I’ve been meaning to try. So many of my favorite things wrapped in a small package - the gift was absolutely perfect.

By the time I got into bed that night, my shoulder was absolutely killing me. I think I’ve had a pinched nerve under my right shoulder blade for the past few weeks, probably a product of my strength training and running. It started off as an almost unnoticeable ache under my shoulder and then I lost a lot of strength and feeling in my right arm. But I must have really aggravated it during my run today, because the pain was suddenly quite noticeable. I put a heating pad on it, but it didn’t help. I was in and out of sleep most of the night.

I was exhausted on Friday and the pain had now made it’s way into my neck. The pain was unbearable and I knew I would not be able to sleep or run during the weekend if it didn’t get better. I decided to skip cross-training for the night and instead made an appointment for a deep-tissue massage. Mike recommended a massage therapy clinic, since the injury was sports-related. It is right around the corner from the apartment and about half the price of a massage at a spa. And it was totally worth it! She spent about half the time working on my right shoulder and back and the rest on my legs and arms. I think this place will be an excellent resource if I end up training for a marathon this year. Mike and I ordered take-out from the Thai restaurant and we both finished a grotesque amount of food. All in all, a pretty relaxing Friday night.

Although I usually do my long run on Saturday, as I usually have more motivation, this week I decided to run on Sunday to mimic my race schedule of the upcoming week. I went to spinning class Saturday morning, which I will not do next week so as to keep my legs fresh. Temperatures this weekend were cold, but much better than the last. And after my encounter last weekend, you couldn’t have paid me enough to go for my long run at the gym again.

Sunday morning, I bundled-up and set off for my longest run to date: 7 miles. I was frozen for the first half mile. But as my body realized I was not in fact kidding about foregoing the warm blankets for a cold run outside, it reluctantly warmed-up and allowed me to settle into a comfortable pace. I made my way towards Central Park, where I was planning to run one of the 5 mile loops. Running this loop was a bit out of my comfort-zone, as I have in the past always stuck to the little 1.5 mile loop around the reservoir. Truth be told, I am absolutely terrified of getting lost on a run; the paths through Central Park can be a bit tricky, especially for someone with no sense of direction. But today was a day to step out of comfort zones.

First mile behind me, I arrived at the Park and started down the path of the 5 mile loop. I noticed a fair amount of people on this stretch of road, which wasn’t necessarily uncommon for a Sunday morning. But then I started noticing cones and volunteers – I was definitely on the same path as a race. I racked my brain to think of what race this was – then I remembered it was a half-marathon being put on by the NYRR. I was intermixed with runners who had given-up hope and walkers who were determined to make it to the finish line.

The race had been going on for about two hours at this point, so running the same path was completely legal. While I usually feed-off passing other runners, I felt a bit guilty about doing it this time. There was just an air of defeat all around me. For each person I passed, I wanted to pat them on the back and tell them to keep going. I wanted to congratulate them for being out here; I wanted them to know I empathsized with their disappointment. But, I showed my respect my keeping to the outside of the lane. The volunteers called endless words of encouragement from their respective posts; I quietly remembered these words were not intended for me.

The hills on the East side of the park were there to greet me during the middle miles, just as my legs were beginning to feel like cement. The end of the run was somewhat uneventful, except for the fact that I finished my distance goal for the week. I ran 7 miles (7.14 miles, to be exact) in 1 hour 2 minutes 21 seconds. I felt amazing at the end; if not for the nagging blister on the bottom of my right foot, I’m pretty sure I could have kept running forever. My splits for the day worked out to be 8:43 per mile, a respectable time for someone slowly increasing their mileage.

Perhaps those fortune cookies brought more luck than I thought.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cruise Control

My training has remarkably stayed on schedule this week. I'm two weeks out from my next race, which is when I typically get complacent and bored with running. When a race is two weeks away, especially a shorter distance race, it is still far enough away to not yet be considered a threat.

I was a bit worried how the week would go when I skipped my strength training on Monday. Having the day off from work was as relaxing as expected, but threw me off my usual weekday routine. After a trip to Whole Foods, Mike and I escaped the cold and snow by watching Law & Order episodes. But as the afternoon ticked-away and the snowfall turned heavy, my well-intentioned plan to go to the gym was suddenly a distant thought. I did a quick yoga session and started the core workout, which I have now started incorporating into my workouts three times a week. But five minutes into the core workout, I was bored and had no energy.

Tuesday is my easy run day. I packed my gym clothes and was planning on going to the gym after work. But my dentist called in the morning and said he needed to check out two things from last week's X-Rays, but could only see me at 5:30 that evening. Knowing I would have no incentive to run afterwards, I headed to the gym on my lunch hour. Two easy miles on the treadmill and a quick shower later, I was back at my desk eating lunch. The visit to the dentist didn't go as well; I have to get my first filling in February. I don't like to talk about it.

On Wednesdays I either rest or cross-train. I figured taking a rest day wouldn't really be to my benefit this week and I needed something to keep me motivated for my tempo run on Thursday. So, I signed-up for my first spinning class after work. Truth be told, I had always been a bit terrified of spinning classes. The instructors always look too intense/scary and, most importantly, the classes looked hard!

I researched articles on spinning classes before I went (no, I am not kidding) and they all suggested informing the instructor if you were a first-time student. So I did this and the instructor helped me adjust my bike to the correct height and length. And, to my surprise, it was definitely one of the best workouts ever! It was high-intensity and was definitely a good compliment to my running. In fact, it was so good that I plan to add this into my cross-training schedule each week. I might have even convinced Mike to join me! My glutes are a bit sore from yesterday, but I'm headed to the gym after work to get in my tempo run.

I can feel myself starting to get restless with my current running schedule. I've set some pretty big goals for my running this year and I am anxious to start pursuing them. As in life, I don't do well in cruise control, maintaining my current state until I can again accelerate towards a goal. That said, I have another three weeks before I can start training for the half-marathon in April. It will be a long stretch of road.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Long Weekends

Despite the aggravation of yesterday, I absolutely adore long weekends. For some reason the extra day just seems provide a relaxing tone for the weekend. Long runs don't seem to cut into valuable time, I can linger a bit longer under toasty blankets and more thoroughly enjoy conversations over a delicious meal.

Mike and I went on a lunch date early this afternoon to a neighborhood Thai restaurant: Land. Intrigued by the number of people in the building who order take-out, I looked up their menu earlier this week. I had never actually had Thai food, but the menu looked delicious. They also have a lunch special where you can order two courses for $8. Mike quickly agreed to go with me.

We slept-in late, so decided to head over for a not-so-traditional brunch around noon. The decor was lovely and the food was absolutely phenomenal. For the first course, I ordered the root vegetable spring rolls and Mike ordered the beef consomme; for the second, I ordered green curry with chicken and Mike ordered the drunken noodle with chicken. I had not planned on ordering dessert, but decided to try the blood orange sorbet. Excellent decision on my part. I look forward to trying many more dishes from here and hopefully taking visitors to share in the deliciousness.

Today is much warmer than the past week, but the sky is still a bleak gray. Every once and while, I relish days like this. The day just seems to say, "They only thing you need to do today is stay inside and relax." Mike and I came home after a quick stop at the grocery store. We picked-up some of our favorite beer and he is making his amazing chicken chili for dinner.

I put on a full pot of coffee, which each of us will sip throughout the afternoon. I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies to accompany the coffee. Although I kept the recipe the same, I changed how I formed the cookies. I asked Mike which style he liked better. He announced he would need to taste-test two cookies in order to make an educated choice. Two cookies later he decided he didn't care how they looked - just as long as they tasted the same.

I usually just scoop the dough onto the sheet, which yields cookies that are not perfectly formed. This time, I rolled the dough into about 1" balls, which baked into a more traditional looking, perfectly round cookie. I actually think I like the appearance better when they are not so perfect; the imperfectness looks a bit more homemade and earthy.

Since I have been planning on adding photography to the blog, I decided to take a photo so you could all join.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Time Limits

With temperatures hovering below zero, an outdoor run was out of the question for today. I do not have the proper attire to regulate my body heat in such cold temperatures, so my long run of the weekend was going to be on a treadmill.

Apparently I spent a bit too much time catching up on sleep, because the gym was packed when I arrived at 10:30 AM. I waited in line for about fifteen minutes until a treadmill opened up and then began my stationary 6 mile run. The treadmill strips everything I adore about running outside - changing scenery, uneven surfaces and a general feeling of freedom. Jammed in between other sweaty runners and gasping for a breath of fresh air, the treadmill only affords its users the physical aspect of running. There is no mental escape.

The run was going well, until I felt a tap on my shoulder after 4.5 miles. I turned around. "Um, there's a 30 minute limit when there's a line. You've been on there for 37," a woman in a perfect gym ensemble quipped. I was shocked, "Let me finish up this mile and you can have it," I managed. I looked around at the other runners, many who had been running before I started. Everyone else had a towel over their screens; too bad mine had slipped off during the first mile.

Annoyed that my long run would be cut short by a mile, I felt another tap on my shoulder. The woman had gotten a trainer to pull me off the treadmill. I left the gym absolutely seething - I understood the time limit rule from a business standpoint, but as a paying customer at a gym, I expect to be able to purse my athletic goals. They were not fairly enforcing the rule; no one had been there to pull people off the machines while I was waiting.

That encounter set the tone for most of the day: I messed up the pancake batter, purchased the wrong size insulation for the bedroom windows, had to make two trips to Blockbuster because I didn't have my card the first time. It was one of those days where you feel like the world is against you.

There was only one cure for a day as frustrating as this one: a long, warm bath. I dropped in a Lush bath fizzy (my favorite), which unexpectedly released stars and confetti. I soaked, read and relaxed until the water was cold. Later, Mike and I enjoyed movie night with a bowl of popcorn. At least the evening left a good spin on the day.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


This week has been relatively quiet after all of the excitement of last week. The weather has turned bitterly cold, the kind that chills you right down to the bone. My electric blanket has been a welcome comfort each night.

A funny thing happened when I returned to my running schedule for the week. After completely shocking myself with the times I posted last Saturday, I realized I had absolutely no idea how I ran that fast; therefore, I had no idea how to continue training to keep my times down.

I had no training plan and no time goals for this race. In hindsight, my "training" had been rather unorganized, which is somewhat of a shock given my type-A approach to life. Although I tried to run 3 to 4 days a week, I did not always accomplish this. During the week, I mostly ran low mileage on a treadmill; sometimes running at a decent pace, sometimes struggling to finish two miles at an 8:45 pace. I usually managed to get in one long run on the weekends, although my times were usually a mystery, given my talent for unknowingly pushing the wrong buttons on my watch.

In fact, the only real consistency was incorporating strength training once a week. I also really started listening to my body, where in the past I would usually just ignore it. I thought that's what good runners did. But, maybe there was some benefit in adjusting my mileage and speed when my body was sore or not running at all when my body was exhausted and needed rest.

I tried to take these lessons and incorporate them into my running goals for the first part of the year. As I would like to start running and racing longer distances, I am looking to run a half-marathon in April. I would need to start training in mid-February and I could incorporate a 15K race in March. My worry, of course, is that my schedule will become hectic in March and I have not quite figured out how my running will fit into everything.

For the time being, I have registered for the Gridiron 4M Classic on Super Bowl Sunday. I am hoping to keep or improve on my times from last Saturday. Since I would not need to start training for the half-marathon for another month, I plan on researching training plans and continuing to increase my mileage during my long runs on the weekends.

I think each race provides a little insight into what works, and doesn't work, for us as runners. Just like in life, this insight never seems to completely prepare us for the next time we run, let alone race. It's just important to keep going.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fred Lebow Classic 5M

This race wasn't supposed to be anything special. Like I've said earlier, I only signed-up to continue running over the holiday season. I didn't have any goal times in mind. But somehow this was a recipe for success. Not only did I set a personal record (PR), but also recorded my fastest split time to date.

There was some question as to whether this race would actually take place - a snowstorm was predicted to hit NYC early Saturday morning. I'll admit, a tiny part of me secretly hoped the race would be cancelled. I mean, most sane people do not wish to get up at 6 AM on a Saturday morning. But the weather pattern changed and the snow storm was later predicted to hit Saturday afternoon. The race was on.

At 6 AM, I was in my pajamas checking the weather again, just to be sure. I tried to ignore the fact that it only felt like 13 degrees outside. Nobody likes bad news in the morning. I dressed in multiple layers, ate a banana with peanut butter and stretched my lower body. I was out the door at 7 AM.

I made it to the starting line about fifteen minutes too early and tried to keep warm with butt-kicks and knee-highs. At 7:45 AM, the announcer asked runners to report to their assigned corrals, which were determined by runner's most recent average split time. My previous average split time had been a PR (08:08 per mile), so I stood at the back of the corral. I knew my splits wouldn't be as fast for this race.

At 8 AM, we were off! My legs tingled as I suddenly demanded they start moving. The first mile always goes by quickly; for me, my body only runs on adrenaline. But still, I couldn't believe it when I clicked my watch to start the time for the next mile: I ran that first mile in 08:06?! I expected the times to drastically increase from there.

During the second mile, I realized my face was frozen. I couldn't feel my nose running. Gross. But otherwise I felt good; cold, but good. This was the first race I've ever run with my iPod (as it just became legal for runners to do this). I was enjoying the music and still passing people. I passed the sign for the end of mile two and clicked my watch for the next split. I couldn't believe it! I ran mile two in 07:37?! I had never clocked a split time that fast!

During mile three, my legs started to get heavy. My hands were frozen solid - these new running gloves were not living up to my expectations. Runners, including myself, had settled into their pace. Some runners started walking. But I still managed to finish the third mile in 07:45.

By mile four, I was frozen. I started shaking my arms and hands in attempts to get the blood flowing again; it did so, but not happily. My body was tired. The music was helping, but I needed to focus on something else. Last night, Mike unexpectedly said he wanted to come watch me race. Even though I told him to sleep-in since I wasn't going to do that well, he said he wanted to see me. I started looking for him along the course. Mile four was finished in 8:06.

Last mile. I'm usually running on fumes during the last mile. Even though my legs were heavy and my arms and face were frozen, my breathing felt good. I flipped my iPod to "I Run For Life" by Melissa Etheridge - the song that gets me through many a tough mile. I started recognizing the landmarks on my right - the Met, the Guggenheim - I knew I was close to the finish line.

I continued to watch for Mike; he would be distinguishable by his NY Giants hat with the pom-pom. Then I saw the finish line did something I've never had the energy to do at the end of a race - I sprinted to the finish line. I sprinted so fast, I didn't even see Mike. I looked at my watch, I ran the last mile in 07:49. I finished in under 40 minutes. To my right, I spotted a very cold Mike and exclaimed, "I just ran the fastest race in my life!!!". Despite my frozen face, I couldn't stop smiling.

On the walk home, we stopped at The Corner Market, my favorite bagel shop on 88th, to pick-up bagels for breakfast. Back at the apartment, Mike helped me stretch out my hamstrings, as my legs were still partially frozen. Then I enjoyed a well deserved whole-wheat everything bagel with peanut butter.

Official results were posted later in the morning and even more good news awaited me: I finished 12th in my age group (females aged 20 to 24). Here is the official break-down:

Finish Time: 39 minutes 27 seconds (PR)
Average Split Time: 7 minutes 53 seconds (PR)
Age Place: 12 out of 120
Gender Place: 158 out of 1434
Overall Place: 869 out of 3224

It's been a successful week; a great way to start out a new year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


It is official - I am a Pastry & Baking student at the Institute of Culinary Education! Beginning March 23rd, Monday through Thursday from 6PM to 10 PM, I will trade in my work clothes for a chef's uniform and learn to create beautiful, edible works of art.

I'm not really sure if it has all sunk-in yet. I guess I thought it would really hit me when I handed over the check or signed all of the paperwork. Or maybe when I was fitted for my chef's jacket. I'm not sure what I expected to hit me, but it didn't. It just felt like this was the next thing life had in store for me.

I need to pick-up my pastry tool kit from a store downtown and my uniform will be mailed to me. Much to my Mum's delight, my name will be embroidered on the chef's jacket. Unfortunately, I won't receive my books until the first day of class and, no matter how much my Dad makes fun of me, I'm disappointed. I wanted to read ahead.

The program is nine months long and I know life will be insane. I will have no time during the week to relax. Weekends will be spent catching-up on sleep and preparing for the next week. I will be exhaused and getting in my runs will be more of a challenge than ever. My grandmother summed it up the best: "Your life is going to become marathon". I couldn't have described it any better myself.

While I would usually do speedwork on Wednesdays when I am training for a race, I took today off. I have been really sore from the new core workout, so I decided to do a lot of stretching instead. There is no sense in overtraining when I am not overly concerned about my finishing time. At least for this race.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ice Storm

I do not like getting-up early to run; especially since this means running on a treadmill. I'm still too much of a wimp to run outside in the dark.

But, I didn't really have an option today - doctor's appointment during lunch and finalizing paperwork at ICE after work. If it wasn't for the race on Saturday morning, my alarm would not have played that awful sound until 6 AM and I would have hit the gym after work. But at 5 AM I was sleepily headed to the gym - and to the dreaded treadmill.

My plan had been to run anywhere between 3 and 5 miles, hopefully closer to the later. But somehow my quads felt like cement - I'm assuming thanks to that new core work out I tried last night. My body is also trying to fight off whatever Mike has been sick with lately; my throat feels like sandpaper. I struggled to finish 3 miles. When I run outside, I can almost always talk myself through a difficult run. But the treadmill is a whole different demon; especially this early in the morning. My split times weren't awful, 8 min 34 sec per mile, but I felt exhausted. Good thing it was only 5:45 AM.

When I got back to the apartment, I took the extra time I had left to do some yoga, in hopes of convincing my legs to run better the rest of the week. They are still stiff.

After the high of yesterday, being accepted to the pastry program, I absolutely couldn't wait until tonight to finalize everything and get fitted. But, because there is an ice storm coming through NYC later this afternoon, my admissions officer had to postpone until tomorrow. Boo.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I received a most welcome phone call today - I have been accepted into the Pastry Arts & Baking program at the Institute of Culinary Education.

Beginning in March, I will continue to work full-time and, again, become a full-time student. Classes will be held after-work Monday through Thursday for nine months. My schedule will undoubtedly become hectic and chaotic. And my disposable income will all but disappear while I pay for the program. But I couldn't be more excited to temporarily give up these luxuries - especially when I know I will be able to pursue my passion as a career at the end of it.

I go tomorrow after work to finalize the paperwork and get fitted for my chef's uniform. March suddenly seems too far away.

I do not typically run on Mondays and today was no exeption. Instead, I lift weights to help strengthen my upper body, especially my shoulders. I also tried out a new core program for runners. I think it will be a nice addition to my weekly workouts. T-5 days until the first race of 2009.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Whole-Wheat Everything Bagel

Even when I'm not training for an upcoming race, I always try to squeeze in a long run on the weekends - although the length of this "long" run may vary widely. It gives me a chance to run outside, a luxury I no longer have during the week thanks to the winter.

Doing a long run today was especially important, since my first race of 2009 - a five-miler in honor of the great Fred Lebow - is only seven days away. I'm not running this race looking for a great finishing time or split times; I registered to keep me motivated to keep running during the holidays. I knew I would take advantage of any excuse possible - too cold in NY, too hilly in VA, too many delicious baked goods to devour - unless I knew I had to cross a finish line in a few weeks.

Oh, but my bed was so warm (especially with the heated blanket I received as a Christmas gift). I did not want to move. I had been exhaused the last few days and, even though I had slept for almost eleven hours, I wanted to go back to sleep. I knew myself - if I didn't run this morning, it wasn't going to happen. But my legs refused to move; I needed some sort of motivation. Maybe I could pick-up bagels from my favorite bagel shop on 88th on my way home...done!

The morning was chilly and windy and the sun was making it difficult to decide if I wanted to keep my gloves on or not. I ran up to Central Park, which was not quite as magical as I remembered from my run on Wednesday. All of the snow had melted away and the silence I had relished was replaced by the familar sounds of bleary-eyed walkers, cyclists and runners. I started my loop around the Resevoir (1.58 miles) with the rest of the Saturday morning traffic.

When it's not too congested, I enjoy running this loop because of the beautiful views of the Midtown skyline. I also enjoy passing most of the people also walking/running this loop. No matter how I'm feeling, it gives me a target in the distance to think, "Okay legs, pick-it up...you need to pass this guy"; it makes me feel fast. I do not enjoy being passed by other runners.

On my second loop, I only thought about that perfect whole-wheat everything bagel with peanut butter awaiting me at the end of my run. After I left the park, I made a pit-stop to pick up the bagels for breakfast. I finished my five-mile run sprinting back to the apartment with a little brown paper bag.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Last Run of 2008

The celebration of New Year's Eve has always been somewhat elusive to me. Maybe it's because growing-up, my family celebrated with just the four of us - an intimate evening of snacking, movies and a glass of sparkling cider at midnight. Or maybe it's because by the time New Year's Eve comes around, I'm completely exhausted from the excitement of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Either way, I would be just as happy to ring in the New Year in my pajamas than in a glittery ensemble.

But, this year, pajamas were not an option; at least, not until after midnight. Mike and I were headed out on the town to ring in 2009. I was completely fine with this plan until my uber feminine side kicked-in: I had absolutely nothing to wear.

Tuesday night looked like a tornado had torn through my closet and drawers - none of my tops would do. How could I possibly ring in a New Year in old clothes?! Absolutely unacceptable.

So, I spent my lunch hour Wednesday battling the snowy weather and trying clothes on at four different stores. I returned empty-handed and completely frustrated. But at 3 PM, our team received a little gift - we could leave work for the day! I practically sprinted to the fifth store of the day. I left an hour later, still empty handed and now more upset than frustrated.

I headed to the gym to squeeze in my run for the day. All ready to go - except for one crucial item: I had forgotten to pack my sports bra! I didn't have an option here, I had to go home and get it. But, by the time I could get back to the gym, I wouldn't have time to get in my run - the gym was closing at 5 PM for the holiday.

I left in a huff. Nothing had gone according to plan. I didn't find anything to wear and I couldn't get in my run. The last thing I wanted to do that night was go celebrate. I had wanted Mike to be wowed by my outfit - instead he would be going with a girl in an outfit he had seen a thousand times before.

On my way home, reeling about the awful day, I noticed it was still light outside. I looked at my watch - 4:15 PM. I had 30 minutes before the sun started setting. I knew I couldn't make it back to the gym in time, but I could at least squeeze in a little run outside, even if it was snowy and cold.

I quickly changed, strapped on my iPod and watch and was out the door. I hadn't planned on which route I was doing, but my feet were taking me towards Central Park. It's exactly one mile from my front door to the Central Park entrance on 90th. This first mile was filled with all of the usual characteristics - dashing across cross-walks, dodging oblivious pedestrians and, of course, doubting my intelligence to run on such a miserable day.

As soon as I entered the Park, I was met with something I had never experienced there - solitude. The paths were still completely blanketed in snow and ice. There wasn't another runner to be found on the entire loop - just the occasional couple hugging each other close. Suddenly, a wave of comfort warmed my earlier disposition (but unfortunately not my legs). I took off my headphones to better hear the silence, giddy at the sound of fresh snow crunching under my sneakers.

I stared a moment longer than usual at the beautiful views of the Midtown skyline, imagining the chaos surrounding Times Square and sinking further into my unexpectedly relaxing run. I began thinking about how much had really changed in my life during the past year. I felt proud of my accomplishments and thought of the many things I had yet to accomplish. I thought about how much I missed my family.

I remembered all the doubt Mike and I both carried about living together and how, after 8 months, our relationship was stronger than ever. Suddenly, I realized I had been far too concerned about looking amazing for Mike for just one night. Our relationship was way past appearances at this point.

And then, I thought about me. That's the beauty of running - no one ever has to know if you are being selfish. I felt like I had learned more about myself in the past year than ever before. I had accomplished some pretty significant milestones - graduating college, moving away from home, paying my first bills. I also had lots of things I had yet to accomplish. Lots of things are bound to change in the future, but now I better know my strengths and weaknesses and am prepared for those changes to happen.

Before I realized it, it was dark and I was back at my front door. I didn't even look at my watch to calculate my splits; somehow a number seemed insignificant. I had just
enough time to jump in the shower before I got dinner together. Mike came home, likely prepared to find a second tornado had touched-down in the bedroom. But it was just me, stretching quietly in a semi-neat room.

"Did you find an outfit?" he asked nervously.

"No, I went for a run," I answered as I began stretch my quads.

He leaned over and kissed me, sweaty face and all. "Good," he replied. As lovely as the kiss would be at midnight, he had no idea how much more this one meant to me.

As I peeled the many sweaty layers of running gear from my frozen body, I thought about how I had never been at such peace with myself. Now that I had reflected on myself during the past year, I was ready to welcome the uncertainty and excitement of 2009.

And, yes, an outfit I already owned suddenly worked just perfectly for the evening.
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