Monday, August 18, 2014

Strongwoman Training Photos

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Shopping for granite

A kitchen makeover is long overdue at our house. When I bought the place back in 2009, the only pieces of the property that were seemingly updated were the kitchen cabniets. The appliances, flooring, and countertop were all stuck in the 90's, if not earlier. Throughout the years, a kitchen update has just not been a high priority because (although ugly), the kitchen was, and still is, functional. The appliances may be ugly, but they do their jobs, and same with the laminate countertop.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the kitchen when I bought it vs. with new flooring and a dishwasher installation.  Since the September 2009 photo, we've painted and installed a new light fixture, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

As Matt and I tinker with the idea of renting the house out if we purchase a 2nd home, we realize there are some upgrades that must be made to defend the rent that we want.  Hence, we realize that a kitchen update is the next priority. We've decided to keep the cabinets as-is and upgrade the appliances and countertops. We started by looking at prices at Home Depot, and then we went to a granite showroom. I loved being able to walk through the warehouse viewing the full slabs. It was just like HGTV! We found a single slab in the outdoor "markdown" section, since it was the only slab left in that pattern, so we got a 10% discount. It's a Class C, which means it has movement to the pattern, which I love.

Here's a photo of our granite slab:

Kashmir Cream granite

I hope it goes well with our light oak cabinets and brick backsplash!  Once we put the deposit down, Advanced Granite Solutions sent someone out to take a laser template of our kitchen layout, and then they sent us a mock-up of the design.  Installation is planned for next Monday the 20th.  Stay tuned for photos!

Monday, January 13, 2014

2013 goals: Year-end status

Back in early 2013, I wrote a post outlining a few goals for myself to achieve throughout the year.

Here were my 2013 goals (and status updates) below:

Financial goals:

1)  Pay off my debts!  Pay more than the minimum each month for my student loans and car loan.  My Sallie Mae loans are set to be fully paid off by September 2017 if I continue to pay the minimum each month, and my car loan is set to be fully paid off by December 2016.  My goal is to cut into those totals each month for faster pay off.

Update:  I've continued to pay more than the minimum each month for my student loans and car loan.  My Sallie Mae loans are currently set to be fully paid off by July 2017, and my car loan is set to be fully paid off by June 2016 now.

2)  In addition to paying off loans, grow my savings.

Update:  My savings has increased by about 30% within the year.

3)  Look into other money investment options.  Money sitting in a savings account with 0.01% interest rate seems stupid.  There must be better ways of growing savings right?!

Update:  In my Quarter 1 status update, I wrote about re-financing my mortgage to a conventional mortgage as opposed to FHA, and I also re-financed with a lower interest rate.  This lowered my mortgage payment each month.  As such, I was able to contribute a bit more each month to my 401(k) plan.  I still aim to look for other investment options this year!

Home improvement goals:

1)  Complete master bedroom makeover.  The room is currently in this process as I type, however, it still has a long way to go!  I'm thinking it needs new paint color, new window treatments, and new bedding.

Update:  Done!  You can view the completed photos in this master bedroom makeover post.

2)  Install new kitchen appliances and countertops.

Update:  Womp womp.  This was not completed in 2013.  HOWEVER, stay tuned for a post in the next couple weeks with an update on this project....

3)  Replace side door and back door.  We recently replaced the front entry door, but we wouldn't have saved any money by replacing all 3 at the same time, so we decided to stagger installations.

Update:  Womp womp #2.  This was also not completed in 2013.  Goal shifted to 2014 goals...

Personal goals:

1)  Cliche "stick to a workout plan" and "eat healthy meals."  

Update:  I think I was pretty good with this goal in 2013!  In 2013, I continued my strength training at Fivex3 Training, and I even competed in the "Fun" group of the Charm City Strongwoman Contest in September 2013.  I also trained and competed in my first 10-miler race in October 2013.  Matt and I also did our best to ditch processed foods.  While we still ate our fair share of "cheat meals", we also ate more organic foods and supported local farms.  We enjoyed going to the Farmer's Market in the summer and fall to pick up our share from One Straw Farm CSA.

Here are a few photos from the Strongwoman Contest.  I came in 10th place out of 21!

Truck pull
Kettlebell press
Barbell press
Crossing the finish line at the Perfect 10 Miler

2)  Spend quality time with my friends, family, and boyfriend. 

Update:  Well, for one... Matt is no longer my boyfriend... he is now my fiancè!  He popped the question in October 2013, and we've been enjoying our engagement thus far with our family and friends.  I'm sure I'll document more of the wedding planning process throughout the year!

Back in September, Matt and I planned a getaway weekend with Addie... just the 3 of us.  We rented a dog-friendly house on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia.  The backyard was fenced in, and it had direct lake access.  Addie loved the water, and she and Matt spent hours playing fetch with her Kong Safestix.  While she has no problem wading into the water, she still is a bit fearful of dock diving into the water.  She did "plop" in on a couple occasions, but she is definitely no champion dock diver.  Matt and I were able to go kayaking one day too, and it was a great relaxing getaway weekend!

Addie waits for us to throw her toy.


Smith Mountain Lake from Harper Kubicek on Vimeo.

All in all, it's been a great 2013, and my 2014 goals really mirror my goals for 2013.  Happy (belated) new year!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Looking back at my first 10-miler


Five days ago I completed my first 10-miler -- the Perfect 10 Miler -- an all female race.  And I think I'm still on a runner's high!  Prior to training for this race, I was not a runner.  On the contrary, I thought I hated running.  In high school, my least favorite part of playing team sports was the running: the 2-mile timed runs during tryouts; the 2-mile warm-up runs during practice; etc.  Each time, I tried to keep up with the fastest girls, and each time I was left feeling both extremely exhausted and extremely defeated when I would fall behind.  Hence, I hated running.

Fast forward 7 years, and a group of my college girlfriends decided to sign up for a 10-miler race.  This would be the longest race each of us had done, so we made a pact that we'd train together and support each other.  I figured I had nothing to lose, and heck, I could just walk most of it if I needed to.  Either way, I was determined to train my best and make the most out of it.

From the months of July through October, I stuck to a pretty solid schedule of running 1-3x a week.  I didn't try to push my pace, and over the months I discovered that I actually enjoy running.  I enjoyed the game of it.  I looked foward to seeing myself accomplish running further and further each week.  I looked foward to seeing if I could improve my times.  I looked forward to posting my runs on Garmin Connect and seeing my elevation gains.  It became a personal challenge, and I liked that.

A week before race day, I was very apprehensive.  My longest run was only 8 miles, and my shins/calves were overworked and gave me trouble on even the short runs.  The nerves were definitely there.  Being competitive in nature, I couldn't help but be scared that I would be the slowest one out there or that I would be much slower than my training times.  I knew I'd be crushed if I didn't run the race to my best ability.  When relaying my fears to my good friend, she replied, "That's silly!  It's just one race.  It's a learning experience.  This has been such a fun experience training, and if it doesn't go as planned on Sunday that's all the more reason to think of what you learned and try again!  Adrenaline leads to amazing things and I bet it will on Sunday!"

With a new perspective, I let my body rest a full 5 days with no running and decided I'd just let it be.  On race day, I said a quick prayer and set out past the Start line.  As I ran past the Mile 1 markers to lots of women besides me cheering, I felt a sense of pride.  By Mile 2, I was in awe that my shins weren't bothering me like they had just 5 days earlier.  By Mile 3 and 4, I felt great and picked up my pace (these were my fastest miles).  Along the way, I let my mind wander.  I thought of my friends... Matt (my fiance!)... my parents... my family... I thought of how supportive they were to me.  And that helped me to keep going.  Miles 5 and 6 were steady.  By Mile 7, I had my first wave of uneasiness, as I worried about finding the energy to get to 10 miles!  On Mile 8, I found some renewed energy and this one felt easier.  Mile 9 was the toughest.  My body had not run longer than 8 miles previously, and I was just out of energy.  My lung capacity was fine; I wasn't out of breath; I simply was just tired.  But when I turned the corner for the home stretch and final mile, I pushed myself.  The crowd was at its largest on the last mile, and I could hear the emcee in the background as I got closer to the finish line.  On the last straightaway, I pushed my pace.  I saw a lady in purple ahead of me, and I vowed to finish ahead of her (I said I was competitive!)  As I sprinted past her, a smile crossed my face.  I finished my first 10-miler!!

Pre-race... showing off our running shoes!

Crossing the finish line!  Photo courtesy of CGI Racing.

Lehigh girls.  My support system.

Post-race mimosas :-)

My No. 1 Fan!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Training for a 10-miler

As I explained in my last post, I'm registered for a this 10-mile race in October.  Since I wrote that post, I have been running more (1-2x a week), and I'm about 2 weeks into my "official" training program.  A friend of mine who's a seasoned runner and accomplished racer sent me this 10-week training program, which I've been loosely following.  My gym is also hosting a Charm City Strongwoman Contest which I will be competing in as well in mid-September, so I'm trying to fit in proper training for both events,.  Today's post is focusing on my training for the 10-miler, but I'll also write a post about my training for the Strongwoman event as well later :)

Since I'm training for both events though, I can't follow the 10-week running program to a T though, as some days I may be doing heavy strength training.  And of course, some days I just feel tired and don't feel like doing anything :-P  I think the important part about having a training program though is to have motivation to get out there and run and set a goal.  I will say that going for a 4-mile run the first week of my training was so intimidating, but I can proudly say I pushed through it without stopping, and that is the furthest I've ever run in my life!  As I increase my distances, I know I will feel so accomplished, and that's part of the fun!!

Below I'll outline a few of my running training tricks and tips.  What works for me may not work for everyone, but I feel it's always fun to compare training notes!

Running Gear

Admittedly, I am one of *those* type of exercisers who likes to look nice while working out.  No, I don't wear makeup while working out (I wear makeup maybe 1-2x a week at most).  However, I do love bright colors and high quality, comfortable clothes.  A few years ago when I ran an impromptu 5k, I went to a local running store and got fitted for running shoes, and purchased my first pair of Saucony ProGrid Ride 3's.  Right now, I have a pair of the Saucony ProGrid Ride 5 which I bought on sale because the Ride 6's are now out.  Remember though, everyone's feet and strides are different, so the shoe that works for me may not work for you!

My first ever Lululemon purchase was a pair of Speed Shorts, and I loved them so much I bought 2 more pairs (and wish I had more).  I wear them for everything:  running, weight lifting, and all types of sports.  They are a little pricey, but I've literally worn them more often than my favorite pair of jeans, so I think they're worth every cent (especially if you find them on sale in your size!)

Running belt
The last piece of running gear I'm sharing is an SPI belt.  When I run, I listen to my playlists from my Spotify phone app, so I have to run with my phone.  At first, I held it in my hand which was OK during shorter runs, but after awhile, the phone got slippery from my sweaty hands, so I tried tucking my phone into the waistband of my shorts.  Also a fail.  A friend recommended a waist band, and so far, so good!  It's great having my hands free now!

GPS watch
I logged a few runs with the free iPhone App MapMyRun early on and fell in LOVE!  I absolutely loved the fact that I could look at my routes on a map and see my distance and pace.  I also loved hearing my pace and distance at each mile mark.  Then my friend (with more running experience than myself) told me the cold, hard truth: MapMyRun is not accurate.  She recommended the Garmin Forerunner 10 watch, and I was able cash in some credit card rewards for a Best Buy gift card to purchase.  When it arrived, I was eager to test the accuracy of the Garmin Watch vs. MapMyRun, so I set out on the following run. 

Per Gmaps Pedometer, this run was 3.99 miles:

Above: Gmap Pedometer

According to the Garmin watch, I ran 3.91 miles:

Above: Garmin watch

And then last but not least, the MapMyRun app said I ran a whopping 4.28 miles:

Above: MapMyRun 

MMR was saying my pace was ~10:10, when my pace was really 11:07... so almost a full minute off, which is really misleading!!  Overall, I still think MapMyRun (or any other iPhone running app) is really cool, especially since it's free.  However, if you're one that wants more accuracy, a GPS watch may be a good investment.  I'd be interested in hearing others' opinions and experiences with this as well.