Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Philadelphia Marathon 2015

If I don't get this post written before Christmas, it's probably never going to happen! If you want the short summary of my marathon experience- it was absolutely incredible! (You can stop reading now and just look at pictures). If you want to read more about how a person who said she was never going to run a marathon (ever), and ended up loving it so much that she wants to run another one....then please continue on.

Philadelphia Marathon

This is the race recap that I posted on our Gilbert's Gazelles (my training group) forum, with a few extra details.

Gilbert's Gazelles
It's not official until you have your own t-shirts.

My story starts almost two years ago, when Hank and I decided we were ready to start a family. In a perfect world, things happen when you want them to, but that wasn't the case for us. During this time I put everything on hold, "just in case". No race plans, no big trips, no nothing! We started fertility treatment, and eventually decided it wasn't for us. For a multitude of reasons we walked away from the idea of starting a family, and made peace with that decision (with the help of a professional counselor). From there I decided that life was way too short to not make plans.

Over breakfast tacos one Saturday morning, there was discussion over the next destination marathon for Hank's group. We had all traveled to Napa in early 2014 and had an absolute blast, and everyone was ready to do it again. The infamous Wish (local Austin runner and writer) joined us this fateful day, and wouldn't stop talking about what a great course the Philadelphia Marathon had. From there- it all snowballed and I somehow agreed to run my first marathon. Yikes!! Having never been a distance anything...I knew I would have my work cut out for me.

Fast forward to training season. I faithfully attended every work out. I made so many friends, sweat more than I ever though possible, and slowly watched the miles add up. Each Saturday was a celebration of a distance I had never run before (past 13 miles), and it was exciting to see the progress. As we creeped up into the 18 and 20 mile runs though, I started to have doubts that I could run a full marathon the way that I wanted to (living with a Gazelle = lots of pressure to run fast). Everything hurt and I was never able to finish a run without having to walk. It was too late to do anything about it at this point, and I had to accept that my primary goal for race day would be to just finish.

Philadelphia Marathon
Saturday morning warm-up run 
Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes
Carb-loading breakfast- chocolate chip banana pancakes for the win!

We traveled to Philly with a group of about 20 Gazelles, and the entire weekend was an absolute blast. Carb loading, expo visiting, and obsessing over every logistical detail- I feel like I got the full marathon experience! When marathon morning came, I put on my Gazelle-phia shirt, wrote "Dig Deep. Run with joy." on my arm, and made my way to the starting line with my running buddy Meghan. Hank told me good luck and kissed me goodbye, and I immediately started crying. They were tears of excitement, fear, and joy just for making it to the starting line injury free.

Philadelphia Marathon
Race day ready!

Philadelphia Marathon
Waiting to get through security to the starting line.
The race itself is almost a blur now. We ran a really smart and conservative first half, holding a consistent pace as we zig zagged all through downtown Philly. Historic buildings and unique neighborhoods made up the bulk of the first half and provided plenty of distraction. We enjoyed the excitement (and hilarious signs) that the crowd brought, and just soaked it all in. After crossing the half way mark- the course took a more scenic turn along the Schuykill River, and we were running against those who were making their way back to the finish. For about 3 miles we kept watch for the faster Gazelles, cheering them on as we saw them. It was so good for me to see Hank on the course- and let him know I was doing ok. Before we knew it, we hit mile 16- when I would normally have a total meltdown. Yet somehow I was still smiling, my legs were still moving, and we were still holding a consistent pace. (Thank you to Coach Gilbert for engraining that in our head!)

Philadelphia Marathon
Running with Meghan, and still smiling around mile 16!

Philadelphia Marathon
So close to the finish line!

We hit the last turn at mile 20, and I knew that I had just one hour to go before I could call myself a marathoner. I wasn't going to hit my time goal, but I made the decision that I was absolutely not going to stop running. My body was holding up fine- it was all mental at that point. This is where the fantastic course came into play. Cheering spectators lined up so much of this section- it was such a huge rush. Meghan felt good enough to pick up the pace, and I just kept going until I met my good friend (and very fast runner) Bonnie at mile 23 to help me finish. What an honor to get to run with her! Those last 3 miles were so tough, but she kept me going with some positive pep talk and before I knew it- the finish line was in sight. I saw and heard my husband cheering as I crossed the finish line (4:44:00), and was so overcome with emotion. It is almost impossible to describe what it feels like to finish your first marathon.

Philadelphia Marathon
I did it!

Philadelphia Marathon
Hank surprised me at the finish line with this awesome finisher's jacket. LOVE!

Philadelphia Marathon
The most amazing medal ever.

It was an absolute perfect day. No blisters, no cramps, no lost toenails...I didn't even have chafing issues! I was tired and cold at the finish, but the happiness of the accomplishment far surpassed sore legs. After chatting with my family and reading almost 100 Facebook comments, we showered and joined all our friends for a well deserved day of eating and drinking (and more eating and drinking). Honestly- the marathon was such a small part of the overall experience. It was more about the friends you make, and the good times (and hard times) you share as part of the training process.

Post-marathon celebration shenanigans, Rocky style.

So thankful for my awesome running partner. Couldn't have done it without her!

Next day sight-seeing. Legs were sore, but it was good to get out and walk around. 

It will be hard to top my Philly experience, but you better bet that I'll give it another shot. I can't say enough how thankful I am for this wonderful training group known as the Gazelles. They inspire, motivate and support me beyond words, and I feel lucky to be a part of it!

Philadelphia Love Park
Philadelphia Love Park

Monday, November 9, 2015

On the road again....

I've been on a five year hiatus from work travel (it was my life before I started working at Apple), and I feel a little bit like I got thrown back into the fire my first two weeks on the job. Let me recap last week for you.

Monday- Austin to Boston (after a 3 hour flight delay), then a drive to Portsmouth, NH
Tuesday- Portsmouth to Boston (for 2 hours of sight seeing) to Milford, MA
Wednesday- Milford to Meriden, CT
Thursday- Meriden to Hoboken, NJ (quick pit stop to visit a good friend) to Philadelphia, PA
Friday- Philadelphia to Orlando (flight) to Austin (after a 2 hour flight delay)

The Holland House: Scenes from the North East
Pics from Boston and Portsmouth

Counting the drive through New York, I was in a total of eight states in five days. We had four days of customer events and meetings, and it was absolutely glorious! I haven't been this tired in a long time, but it was exactly the kind of work that I needed to feel energized and excited again. I spent a super lazy day at home on Saturday, snuggling with Hank and the animals, and then left again Sunday morning for a week in Madison for training.

The Holland House: Madison Capitol Building
Madison Capitol Building

The Holland House: Hyatt Place Madison
Hyatt Place Madison- My home for the week
I absolutely love Madison. I'm staying downtown, and it's so nice to be able to walk down the street to a coffee shop or an Indian food restaurant or a sports bar. On Sunday I made my way to Fromagination- quite possibly the world's best cheese shop! I'm not too far from the University of Wisconsin campus, and hope to make my way over there in the next few days to pick up a Badgers shirt for Hank. It's cold, but not too cold. This Texas girl doesn't mind a little taste of winter! It's also nice to just be in one place for the week. I got to unpack and have more of a regular schedule. Last week I barely worked out twice, and this week I should be able to almost every day. We're tapering for our marathon that is less than two weeks now. I'm trying not to freak out about that, and just focus on learning as much as possible while I'm at the office headquarters.

The Holland House: Fromagination

Life returns back to my new normal next week- with an entire week of home officing. I still haven't finished the office, even though Hank bribed me with a new Lululemon outfit to get it done. Hoping we can at least finish painting and get the desk put together on Sunday. It would be nice to have a space to work in other than our dining table. Until then, I'll continue enjoying my time in this fun city, but look forward to getting back home with my family.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fall is a season of change, part 2

Today is my last day at Apple. I can hardly even type that sentence without tears streaming down my face. These past 5 years have been an amazing professional experience, with some of the most incredible co-workers a person could ask for. When I think about not showing up to work tomorrow, running across the street to grab tacos with my breakfast crew, popping my head into other offices to ask questions or chat about something ridiculous that just happened....I start wondering if I have made the right decision. I know without a doubt that I have, but that won't make today any less difficult.

When I left off at Part 1, I had made the decision to meet with a Career Coach to start mapping out what my possible next steps could be. My goal was to begin a career search in January. I swear not a few days after my initial phone call to set up an appointment, I was contacted about a possible position that was highly intriguing. It was an expansion role for this company, and would allow me to continue working with the Apple Education team- just in a different capacity. I decided to pursue conversations, and eventually flew out to Madison, WI for my official interview at the end of September.

Meanwhile, I attended three coaching sessions with my friend Amy at Wolfgang Career Coaching. At my first appointment, we switched gears from identifying possible career paths, to focusing on whether this particular opportunity would meet my needs and be more fulfilling. Investing in that time with Amy is one of the best decisions I have made, and I cannot recommend her practice highly enough. She helped me form the right questions to ask, evaluate the role from a perspective I hadn't thought of, and navigate through negotiating an offer that made sure my value was recognized. When it came time for me to say "yes", I was absolutely confident I was making the right decision.

One of my favorite parts about working at Apple is the people. They aren't just co-workers. They are an extension of my family. Even through some of the more difficult changes we have gone through recently- I could always rely on them to make the days better. So when it came time to consider leaving them, I knew it would have to be a really amazing group of people that I would start working with. My interview in Madison was a special experience, and gave me an opportunity to meet everyone who works for this small, but global, company. In fact, my first meeting was a team dinner where I was literally just thrown into the fire. It was perfect for someone social like me, and felt like it gave me the chance to get to know everyone before sitting down the next day for more serious conversations.

There are lots of positive things about this career move. It's a higher level role with more responsibility and decision making authority. While it involves some travel, it puts me in front of my customers again which is something I have been sorely missing. But most importantly- it will allow me to partner with all of my favorite people at Apple. I won't be at the office with them every day, but I'll get to call/visit/and present with them on a regular basis. It really is a "best of both worlds" position, and I can't wait to get started. Bonus is that I'll be working from home! The dogs are totally prepared to be my new favorite co-workers.

So today isn't necessarily about saying goodbye, but more- I'll see you in a few weeks. I'm making a big breakfast to take in this morning along with some bubbly to make mimosas and toast my fabulous teammates. I hope to goodness that I can make it through the morning without ugly crying all over myself. It just won't be the same not seeing them everyday! Change isn't always easy, but there is definitely something hopeful about a fresh start. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall is a season of change, part 1

The Holland House: Madison Arboretum
University of Madison-Wisconsin Arboretum

Five years ago I embarked on a career move that I never dreamed of, and accepted a job with the Apple Education team. I knew nothing about inside sales at the time, but was ready for a challenge and excited to be working for a global company. I was wide-eyed and overwhelmed those first few weeks. Not only was I in the throws of job training, but I also drank from the firehouse at my very first National Sales Meeting, just a week into my new job. It was just as exciting and exhilarating as most new jobs are.

The first two years flew by and were a huge success. I exceeded my sales quota both years, and was rewarded with awesome trips to Hawaii and Nevis. And then things started to change. My quota skyrocketed to a number that I haven't been able to obtain again. My beloved field partner left the company, and I was tasked with managing a large strategic territory all by myself. The fall of my third year, I ended up with not one, but two new field partners. It was at that point that I realized how much I had learned, and loved sharing that knowledge as I helped train them. We've been a fantastic team ever since and I'm so thankful for the amazing people that I get to work with.

Change is inevitable in all facets of life, and I have certainly learned how to embrace it over the past two decades. At work we've had changes in management and changes to the way we do business. While some of it has been good, it has led to changes in how I feel about my work. Without complaining too much, I'll just say that I no longer feel as fulfilled as I did when I first started. At almost 40 years of age, I want more control over how I do business, and I want to be in front of people again.

About a month ago I sat down with my manager (who I love and respect dearly) to talk about how I was feeling about my work. I wanted her guidance on what other options I might have that would allow me to stay at Apple. She was supportive and understanding, gave me some good advice, and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted after that conversation.

Knowing that my options were limited, I made an appointment with an old friend who runs a successful career coaching business. I was in no hurry to make an immediate change, and wanted to be very thoughtful about what my next move might be. I established a goal of working to identify options that would be more challenging and fulfilling, with January being the time frame for when I would actively start searching for new options.

And this is when things started to get interesting......  (stay tuned for part 2).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

B is for Blair, Baseball, and Birthday!

It's hard to believe that my adorable, hilarious, sweet as pie nephew is 2. It seems like just yesterday that I was at the hospital holding a little tiny baby, wondering how I could love something as much as I loved my niece. It didn't take long to realize there was plenty of room for both, and now that he is pretty much a full blown toddler, life is so much fun.

The Holland House: Blair through the years
Blair from newborn to 2

Blair LOVES baseball. He goes to Texas State games with his family all the time, so my sister thought it would be fun to see an Express game in Round Rock. After the full blown First Birthday Fiesta last year, she opted for a much more low key, family only affair. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief. We all met at my parents for a baseball themed dinner, presents, and dessert before heading north to the ballpark. Blair also loves sweets almost as much as he loves baseball, and could barely wait to dig in to some cupcakes. No party would be complete without Sweet Elise treats, so I made him some fun cookies as well.

The Holland House: Birthday Cupcakes

Sweet Elise baseball cookie favors

Everyone loaded up and headed to the park. It was pretty hot, but luckily our seats were in the shade. I absolutely loved seeing how big Blair's eyes got when we walked into the stadium. He wouldn't let go of his new baseball glove, and had the most fun saying "Let's go, blue" over, and over, and over again. (If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen his cute video.)

Not to be outdone, my niece Georgia stole the show as well with plenty of cheering and picture taking too. Even harder to believe that she will be starting kindergarten in just a couple of weeks.

Overall it was a super fun way to celebrate a birthday, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Marathon Training: Month One

I did it. I survived the first month of training for the Philadelphia Marathon. It's crazy to say this, but I am actually really enjoying the training. Despite the ridiculous heat and humidity, I am finding joy in each bit of progress that I make, and am learning a lot about myself in the process.

At the beginning of June, I struggled to run 3 miles. I was out of shape, and not very motivated. So I used that whole month to get my rear in gear- I cleaned up my eating with the Earn That Body plan, I consistently worked out 5 days a week, and I formed habits that would make July a lot less painful. In July, I did the work. I showed up, gave 100% effort, and took pride in each workout that was faster or longer than the previous. My personality type thrives on schedules, goals, and progress. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that training has been so motivating for me. It also helps that my husband is doing the same exact thing. I don't have to worry about being lame when I get in bed at 8. He's right there next to me. Five days a week, our alarms are going off at 4:30am. We're in this together, and it makes it that much more fun!

The Holland House: Marathon Training

Our training schedule was pretty consistent for the whole month:

Monday- Circuit workout
Tuesday- Recovery run (30-40 minutes, easy pace)
Wednesday- Track/speed workout (2400m test, or 4-6 mile fartlek)
Thursday- Recovery run (30-40 minutes, easy pace)
Friday- Rest
Saturday- Long run (I did distances of 10, 11, 11.5, and 12)
Sunday- Rest

Each month we do a 2400m test on the track. It's basically 6 laps, all out. Your time on this test helps determine what your Marathon Goal Pace (MGP) should be. In June, my time was 13:26. I was one of the slowest in the group, and just tried to view it as just a starting point. In July, I shaved over a minute off that time, finishing in 12:23. Wednesday morning we have our August test, and I'm hoping to finish at an even 12:00. That's an 8 minute mile, and that sounds fast enough for now. At my current pace, my MGP is 10:15, which translates to a 4 1/2 hour marathon. I would love to finish faster than that, but I'm still sticking to my main goal- finish it without a meltdown.

The fartlek workout is basically intervals. We have done one minute fast/one minute slow, two minutes fast/one minute slow, and 3-2-1 fast, with 1 minute slow in between. We've increased the miles that we do this, and have also picked up our pace. I'm proud to say that I can hang with ladies that I wasn't able to keep up with a month ago. It's a hard workout, but really satisfying when done. 

Saturday long runs have been a different ball game. We alternate flat and hilly routes, and they have been a beating. Part of the problem is that we're running them at MGP, when we should really be doing them a minute slower pace. I had two 11 mile runs that were so, so tough. I had almost nothing left at the end. So this past Saturday we actually listened to our coach, and we slowed our start way down. We then progressively got faster over the course of 12 miles. The result was a solid run with a strong finish. I could have continued going, even though I was more than happy to stop! We've been rewarding ourselves with a dip in the Barton Springs spillway afterwards to cool down (the water is a perfect 68°), and I look forward to that almost as much as I do the breakfast tacos and coffee that we have shortly after.

The Holland House: Marathon Training
Barton Springs Spillway

There is absolutely no way that I could be surviving this training without the wonderfully inspiring group that I run with, Gilbert's Gazelles. Gilbert's motto is to "Run with Joy", and we practice that on a weekly basis. I've gotten to know some really lovely ladies, and my husband and his faster group of friends have been so encouraging and supportive- recognizing the progress that I'm making. I'm quickly realizing what a group effort it is to accomplish something like this, and I'm so thankful for the support. 

There are a few other essentials that I absolutely could not survive this training without.

1- Good running shoes. I'm a Mizuno girl, and just replaced my blue Wave Riders with this pretty purple/green pair. I really can't run in anything else! It's important to keep your shoes fresh and cushy, and I plan on purchasing one more pair just before the race. 

The Holland House: Marathon Training Essentials

2- Hydration.  It's hot and humid in Texas, and staying hydrated all week is really important. I recently switched from Nuun to Skratch Labs Hydration Mix, and am a big fan of the pineapple flavor. The Matcha Green Tea with Lemon flavor is surprisingly refreshing too. You can buy single servings to test out flavors, and then a big bag once you decide on a favorite. For Saturday long runs, I also take 1-2 Hammer Endurolytes. I haven't had any issues with cramping, and I've found that I don't have bad headaches later in the day. (This has always been an issue for me.)

The Holland House: Marathon Training Essentials

3. My Garmin watch. Right now I have the Forerunner 110, and I plan to upgrade to the 220 at the end of August. The one I have is perfect for basic pace monitoring, and getting a summary of your run at the end. But I can't program it, and that is a functionality that I'm finding I could really use. Luckily I run with plenty of friends who have the 220, and have been able to rely on them for our interval workouts.

The Holland House: Marathon Training Essentials

4. Anti-chafing balm. Did I mention how hot and humid it is? I produce an enormous amount of sweat on the long runs, and have run into some chafing issues that have been less than pleasant. I use Glide under my arms and on the part of my thighs that rub together (you won't be finding any thigh gap here!) I'm hoping that with a November marathon, this won't be such an issue. But you can bet that I will pack some in my Spi-belt just in case!

The Holland House: Marathon Training Essentials

I'm glad to have July under my belt, and I'm hoping that August goes by pretty quickly because the heat just isn't letting up. For month two, our Saturday long runs will bump up to the 12-15 mile range, and I should start averaging 30-35 miles per week of running. I keep telling myself that if I can keep running in these conditions, then a November marathon in Philadelphia should feel like paradise. It's testing my mental toughness, for sure. But I'm having a blast doing it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Adventures in Fostering: Percy

It's sad that we've actually had two foster dogs over the past several months, and I never got around to writing about them. I'll come back to recap the most recent, as we actually had him for almost two months. But today is all about Percy. Get a load of this little guy:

The Holland House: Percy the Foster Dog

We got an email last week from Wags, Hope, and Healing, asking if we would be interested in helping to socialize a feral pup. Some people had purchased property, and found a litter of 5 dogs on it with no mother in sight. One of the pups was deceased, and the remaining four were filthy dirty and in need of a few good meals. Our schedule is crazy busy right now, but we said we could commit to two weeks. Luckily, there is an adoption event planned on August 8th, so the timing worked out perfectly.

We've had a variety of foster dogs, but none that had ever been feral. These pups had likely never seen a human before they were found, and were rightfully frightened of people. It's said that the first 12 weeks of a puppies life can make or break them, so thankfully there was a window of opportunity to show them how fun people (and homes) can be. He is estimated to be around 10 weeks old.

The Holland House: Percy the Foster Dog

Hank picked the name Percy because it's short for perseverance. It's also a little bit "country" which is exactly what Percy is- a country mutt! Having been with him for a few days, the name is a perfect fit. He is definitely warming up to us, and loves to snuggle (especially at night). More than anything though, he LOVES his foster siblings. He follows them everywhere, and is so cute when he tries to instigate play. Brees has been really good and patient with him, and will engage in play and snuggling. Maddie is a little more hit or miss. Her contribution has mainly been teaching him who is boss.

The Holland House: Percy and Brees

I have no doubt that he will continue to come out of his shell over the next couple of weeks, and I know it will be hard to say goodbye when the time comes. But we love getting to help like this, and we'll make the most out of our puppy time.

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