The Old Pine Tree
30 Days of Green
Yesterday I had my 30th green smoothie in 30 days. In late May I read about a 30-day green smoothie challenge that required no changes in your diet, just adding a green smoothie every day, and I thought Hey why not! That sounds like something I would do. So I did it.
I learned a lot about green smoothie making that I thought I’d share:

I don’t like oranges in smoothies (although I like OJ in fruit smoothies). There’s just too much pulp, even if you freeze them first

I like water as the liquid in green smoothies. I used to use OJ or apple cider, thinking that water would bring forth too much “green” flavor. However, it kept it light and allowed the fruit flavors to come through

I’m not a big fan of almond milk, the flavor throws me off a little, but I liked almond milk in the smoothies

I hate coconut water. I’ve tried it multiple times and my taste buds just can’t warm up to it. Turns out I don’t even like it in smoothies. Regardless of what is in it the flavor just sneaks through

I preferred kale to spinach because it had a lighter taste. At the end I was using a baby saute blend of cooking greens. These tasted a little greener but are super healthy

At the end I stopped using recipes because I’d gotten the hang of it, but overall I liked having the recipes

I wish more recipes had fresh lemon or lime in them, especially the ones with orange. Lemons especially are cleansing, so I wasn’t sure why they weren’t included more. I have started throwing them in my own concoctions though (1/2 a lemon peeled is a good amount)

I made the mistake of not freezing any ingredients for one smoothie. big mistake

I love frozen cherries. I didn’t realize that frozen cherries were even an option at the grocery store, but they are, and they are fabulous in smoothies 

I usually made just over one serving. Without meaning to make the change the smoothies replaced my afternoon snack. It felt good knowing I was replacing whatever I would have snacked on with fruit and veggies. I do eat healthy regularly though, so this wasn’t a huge change for me. I will note that because I was getting fresh greens in the smoothies I made fewer salads at home. So in the end, not sure which is better

I’m going to hold onto the recipes I liked so that I have more ideas at my finger tips when I make green smoothies in the future

I’m going to share the recipes with other people I know so they can do their own 30-day challenge, or just enjoy having new recipes

I didn’t notice a change in my body, but it was definitely healthy and I do feel really good

Because I had to make one every day I felt like I was always rushing trying to squeeze in smoothie making before I had to be at work

The smoothie recipes incorporated greens but not really other veggies. I would have liked to see more adventurous and more green in the smoothies. One of the recipes did have cilantro though, which was fun and kind of weird

None of the smoothie recipes had fresh mint, which was kind of disappointing. Mint goes so well with fruit and it has tons of benefits for your body. I didn’t get it.

I think doing a challenge like this is a good way to transition to lighter, fresh foods for the season

I won’t be making them every day, but I will definitely be making them more often.

30 Days of Green

Yesterday I had my 30th green smoothie in 30 days. In late May I read about a 30-day green smoothie challenge that required no changes in your diet, just adding a green smoothie every day, and I thought Hey why not! That sounds like something I would do. So I did it.

I learned a lot about green smoothie making that I thought I’d share:

  • I don’t like oranges in smoothies (although I like OJ in fruit smoothies). There’s just too much pulp, even if you freeze them first

  • I like water as the liquid in green smoothies. I used to use OJ or apple cider, thinking that water would bring forth too much “green” flavor. However, it kept it light and allowed the fruit flavors to come through
  • I’m not a big fan of almond milk, the flavor throws me off a little, but I liked almond milk in the smoothies

  • I hate coconut water. I’ve tried it multiple times and my taste buds just can’t warm up to it. Turns out I don’t even like it in smoothies. Regardless of what is in it the flavor just sneaks through
  • I preferred kale to spinach because it had a lighter taste. At the end I was using a baby saute blend of cooking greens. These tasted a little greener but are super healthy

  • At the end I stopped using recipes because I’d gotten the hang of it, but overall I liked having the recipes
  • I wish more recipes had fresh lemon or lime in them, especially the ones with orange. Lemons especially are cleansing, so I wasn’t sure why they weren’t included more. I have started throwing them in my own concoctions though (1/2 a lemon peeled is a good amount)

  • I made the mistake of not freezing any ingredients for one smoothie. big mistake
  • I love frozen cherries. I didn’t realize that frozen cherries were even an option at the grocery store, but they are, and they are fabulous in smoothies 

  • I usually made just over one serving. Without meaning to make the change the smoothies replaced my afternoon snack. It felt good knowing I was replacing whatever I would have snacked on with fruit and veggies. I do eat healthy regularly though, so this wasn’t a huge change for me. I will note that because I was getting fresh greens in the smoothies I made fewer salads at home. So in the end, not sure which is better
  • I’m going to hold onto the recipes I liked so that I have more ideas at my finger tips when I make green smoothies in the future

  • I’m going to share the recipes with other people I know so they can do their own 30-day challenge, or just enjoy having new recipes
  • I didn’t notice a change in my body, but it was definitely healthy and I do feel really good

  • Because I had to make one every day I felt like I was always rushing trying to squeeze in smoothie making before I had to be at work
  • The smoothie recipes incorporated greens but not really other veggies. I would have liked to see more adventurous and more green in the smoothies. One of the recipes did have cilantro though, which was fun and kind of weird

  • None of the smoothie recipes had fresh mint, which was kind of disappointing. Mint goes so well with fruit and it has tons of benefits for your body. I didn’t get it.
  • I think doing a challenge like this is a good way to transition to lighter, fresh foods for the season

I won’t be making them every day, but I will definitely be making them more often.

These Days

Lately I’ve been spoiled. When I drink beer it’s homebrew or local microbrews, and if it’s cider I’ve got friends who harden their own. I ferment my own kombucha.

imageCheck out the head on that beer

All of my friends can cook. Well, that might not be completely true, but there’s only one in particular I can think of who truly can’t (or doesn’t try, I’m not sure which it is). The last two weekends I have been treated to the fruits of friends’ kitchens.

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It’s kinda-sorta spring but it’s still cool and that makes me a little bit crazy. We’re stuck in the high 40s low 50s with wind and it feels like there’s no break in sight. We’ve wrapped up another month that ended up being slightly cooler than average. No surprise there. Next winter better be the warmest on record*. The ten day forecast does nothing to ease the pain. I’ll show you what’s in store for May 1st:

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This was before the weather.com app update, which I’m still getting used to

Last weekend I explored a nearby trail that I had only seen part of before and loved having time in the woods. This evening I pulled on some leggings and my bright trail runners and hit the same trail. It was much more technical than even the trails I’m used to but I loved being out of my running element and having something so familiar feel so new and invigorating. I’m so relieved to live so close to nature, and to live in a place where access to it is a reality. There are four other trails in town I’ve been looking forward to exploring for the first time. I love this blend of city and wilderness living I’ve got going on.

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I’m determined to get faster (having put such little time in to it so far, I’ve got high-ish hopes) and stronger and I’m excited to lean on trail running to help with both. Last night I pushed through a speed workout at the gym and felt empowered afterwards having worked through the discomfort and meeting my goals. 

The gray weather on Sunday didn’t stop me from putting some seeds in. I planted two types of peas (oh the thought of fresh peas!), a lettuce mix, and spinach. If it’s gonna be cool for the foreseeable future I’m gonna capitalize on it. I realized that the soil is a disaster though, so it’s time to get some compost and top soil and peat moss and help it out. Hopefully the first batch of seeds do alright.

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A brand new garden 

Wednesdays are always long days for me, usually 12.5 hours. I’m glad I got some hard workouts in before two days off so I can let my mind be elsewhere without feeling guilty. A few lines are getting written each night, and I’m still sleeping so darn well. Life is good today, in this moment.

*I know, careful what I wish for.

Freedom

I have forever been tied to my expectations and if there is one thing expectations are good for it is letting you down. The beauty of being at the end of your twenties is that you’re learning to have less of a hold on your expectations and life makes a little more sense because of it. Expectations are truly just a product of our fears, wanting what is comfortable on one end of the spectrum, to expecting the worst on the other in order to prepare ourselves and avoid discomfort. I recently read an article about tolerating discomfort for growth and it resonated with me, because when I want to I’m masterful at avoiding discomfort.

There is such freedom in loosening up your expectations and just letting people be who they are, and understanding how much of our actions stem from insecurity. It is freeing to take less personally instead of holding onto something someone else did as though it sums you up in one, small, judged action. There is also freedom in letting people be who they are and loving them or liking them or supporting them in spite of their faults. We all could live with a little less pressure, and it’s a reinforcing cycle. It’s also just plain beautiful to care about someone just because of who they are. I think about some of my friends from growing up whom I’m still close with, or the girlfriends I formed deep bonds with in college. There’s little that could do anything to bruise those friendships, let alone break them. It can be freeing to trust in that.

It is so easy to point to the worst in people, or ourselves, and direct the blame somewhere else. Somehow it’s harder to just take care of one’s self, remind yourself that you are fine. Taking responsibility is always hard at first.

I have been loosening up my expectations and the freedom I have already experienced is so lightening. It’s something like springtime on the inside.

Pysanka

Pysanka - a Ukrainian decorated egg

Last Sunday I drove with my mother through the rain down a muddy, rut filled dirt road, to a house that sits up on a hill overlooking a dam in the middle of the woods. My mother’s friend Lesia, whose ancestors were Ukrainian, had invited us over to paint a pysanka, a Kkrainian egg.

After a first look at the Pysankas from previous years I was intimidated.

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I couldn’t possibly create an egg so elegant! Many of the patterns were intricate and clearly required a steady hand. After looking through some books and studying sheets with symbols and their meanings on them, some ideas began to take shape in my mind.

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Lesia explained that you use wax to seal the dye on the egg. Any color you cover with wax will remain that cover despite multiple rounds of dying. If you have a white egg and you draw lines with the wax over it, and then you dip it in an orange dye, those lines will be white in the end (after you’ve removed all of the wax).

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After you have applied the first dye you continue with the wax. If you dye your egg pink first (like I did), and then you add wax, anything you draw with wax will be pink in the end.

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This process continues. You have to both keep in mind which colors you’ve already used and which items will be those colors, as well as look forward to what you think you will want to do, especially when it comes to the dyes. You have to start with the lighter dyes and move to the darker dyes, because a yellow dye won’t take over, say, a purple one. You cannot use any wax, it must be a kind that contains carbon, like bees wax, which is what we used.

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One of the things I found most interesting was that different eggs took the dye differently. My egg was a pale-ish green (from an araucana hen).

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The woman sitting next to me had a white egg and we used the same dyes in the same order. Look at how differently they looked (we used the same blue! Mine came out so much darker).

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Pysanka was only ever practiced by women, after they had finished the nightly chores. They were often thought of as good omens and were placed in caskets, gardens, and given to chrushes as a token of love. I chose my symbols with omens in mind. I did a reindeer for prosperity, a rooster for the fulfillment of wishes, trees for a long life, and fig branches for wealth.

Traditionally the eggs were not blown out. The yolk symbolized the sun and the whites symbolized the moon. Don’t want to get rid of that! An egg that has no cracks whatsoever will harden on the inside and sound like a faint rattle when it has dried out. People store them in plastic boxes when they are not blown out and are drying because the smell is so horrendous if they crack and explode. 

After three or so hours of creating our eggs we left them wax covered to drink homemade dandelion wine and snack on some treats.

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Then we uncovered our eggs (traditionally one would hold the egg near, but not on, a flame and the wax would melt off. We used paint thinner). Below are the finished products.

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What a festive easter activity that got the creative juices flowing. Now I just need to spray my egg with shellac so that I can keep it through the years. I hope to try this again in the future, and look forward to testing my hand at an intricate, pattern based design.

On writing, or rather, not writing

When I was a junior in highschool I took an advanced writing class. One of the first things we were taught was to start calling ourselves writers. We had to write a brief history of our life as a writer, from when we were young and just starting school, up until that present moment.  

I lived in Pittsburgh for a short time in 2009 and 2010. My first week there I joined a writing group and began writing regularly. It was the first time I truly felt like a writer, often penning multiple pages every day. It was the first time I believed that I was a good writer and had something to offer. 

Lately I haven’t been writing very much. Not just lately, over the past few years. I go through spurts where I will write on and off for days, and then I won’t, for months. During those months I will think about writing, I will feel inspired here and there, but mostly I will feel guilty that I’m not writing. 

I haven’t written about this much lately, but I am one of those people that believes that if you visualize your deepest desires in life they will, eventually, come your way. I read something recently that reminded me of this, that just visualizing and believing that what you want will come your way is enough.

I thought about how I visualize being a writer, about having a lovely creative space to write in, about taking my time each day, mixing in writing with exploring and enjoying a good cup of tea and gardening and making salads (there you have it - my perfect day - simple as it gets). For a moment I doubted that this would ever happen. I’ve been doubting more lately, and the more I doubt, the more that dream slips from my fingers.

This morning I realized I’ve been visualizing all wrong. Maybe I need to stop visualizing this cushy, easy, peaceful life as a successful writer, and instead see myself writing (or at least add a new, separate vision). The dream always involves me enjoying a carefree life as a successful author, but it never involves me actually writing. 

This morning I started visualizing myself writing a lot, and often. We’ll see where it takes me.

Pinch me

It’s not even summer yet and I’m already a little in disbelief that I get to live in such a beautiful place. The warmer days we have been treated to are just a glimpse into what the warmer months will be like and it seems kind of unfair that I get to live here while other people have to live, well, anywhere else.

Yesterday I could smell the ocean from where I work. One of my favorite roads to run on is low and winding and hugs the river right before it enters the bay. The road is almost always empty (of cars or pedestrians). It continues on up and over hills always maintaining a view of the water. This is my regular run. There are other routes that take me to equally as beautiful spots and I have an overwhelming feeling of joy to be so close to such beauty. It’s not like when I lived in Boston and my heart hurt for the natural world, or when I lived in Pittsburgh and I didn’t know where I’d go to find it if I tried. Portland is a special place and sufficed in its own way, but it wasn’t so close. Here it feels like it is wrapped around me all the time. 

I know what the summer will be. It may be hot, but it will be ocean breezes and after dinner walks by the water. It will be putting my feet in the ocean after a long run. It will be anxiously waiting for one of my girlfriends to invite me on her dad’s boat. It will be sun sparkling off the water in the morning. It will be walks and running through the woods to get out of the heat on a warm day. It will be ultimate frisbee by the sea. It will be barefoot on the lawn, going out to check the veggies in the garden. It will be sitting with friends on the porch, screened by lilac bushes and hydrangeas. It will be summer dresses and long evenings that don’t dare ask you to call it a night. It will be beautiful, because anything set against this backdrop just has to be.

In some ways I’m still settling in. I’m still trying to carve out some sort of social life for myself, one that balances old friends, wanting to meet new friends, and being busy. I’m still coming into myself in my job, a process that will probably take years but one that I’m enjoying every day.

One of the lessons that a long winter teaches us is to let the warmer months be light and full so that we may appreciate the rest when the darker months return. I’m ready to enjoy this amazing place I get to call home.

Ukrainian egg painting

Rainy Sunday folk art lesson. More to come (including my first taste of dandelion wine!). Reindeer signify prosperity.

Ukrainian egg painting

Rainy Sunday folk art lesson. More to come (including my first taste of dandelion wine!). Reindeer signify prosperity.

Season of creativity

April seems like a good time to shake off my winter coat and plant some creative seeds. I finally put up the chalkboard contact paper I’ve been holding on to.

I made the sculpture you see above when I was a kid. I put it on my desk as a reminder of my creative side.

Yesterday I planted my first seeds (cabbage and shallots). Soon they will be sprouting, and maybe by then I’ll have written a page or two.

Today, by the sea

Today, by the sea

Grateful Friday

Today I’m grateful for:

The promise of a sunny day. This morning I was walking to work (in ankle pants and tweed sneakers) and the rain had just stopped and in the distance was the rosy hue of the approaching sun pushing against the clouds.

The freedom that spring brings. Today we’re supposed to have “near record-breaking highs.” They were talking about the temperature, but maybe they were also talking about people’s moods, because everyone is ready to shed off the quiet reservedness we embody in the winter to be more light and happy and free. Even me.

Changing wardrobes. It’s been four and a half months since I’ve worn ankle-length pants (or gone without wool socks, or worn dress shoes without socks), and it’s always fun to pull out the warmer-season clothes and suddenly have more options. I always think: “oh ya, I do have cute clothes.” Almost time to pack away the corduroy. 

Coconut oil. For the past six to eight weeks I have basically stopped using lotion on my face and instead use coconut oil. It seems kind of crazy to put any kind of oil on your face (a recipe to break out within an hour, right?), but I read something that seemed really obvious to me, that when your skin is dry it needs more oil; it’s dry because it is lacking oil. Coconut oil is very gentle and light, and turns out it’s kind of a thing, people using it as a facial lotion (always go with organic virgin coconut oil - Trader Joe’s has it). It hasn’t made my face breakout at all, and when I put it on somehow my skin looks young and fresh (you need only a very little amount). 

Chamomile tea. I sip this stuff every night and I’ve been sleeping like a baby goat this spring. 

Planning trips. Like vacations that are two. weeks. long. 

Catching up with friends. Made even better by walks in the woods that drop you out where the river mixes with sea. I’ve got a number of weekends in the next few months that are all about my girlfriends and I’m so darn excited to see them, especially getting to see some that live out of State multiple times.

Little moments of creativity. I’ve been bad about devoting time to my creative pursuits. It’s just plain my fault. I need to be better about choosing to use my free time for my creative expression, because I don’t feel great when I’m ignoring that part of me. I have had some moments this week though, and some coming up, and I’m really looking forward to them (I will share the finished products with you all).

Collaboration. I’ll soon be working to get young people (like me!) involved in their community, because while we might be the oldest State in the country (the median age is over 43-years-old), we’ve got a lot of brilliant, creative, inspired young people too, and it’s time to take advantage of that.

Contact. Did you know that I’m on Instagram (@theoldpinetree)? You can also reach me via e-mail, and you’re always welcome to stop by my ask box. I love hearing from you guys!

Boy, Friday is great.

What are you grateful for today?

Oxbow Brewing: A trip to the hobbit hole 

Last weekend, after a great time exploring Damariscotta, I stopped over at Oxbow with some friends. This isn’t your usual brewery, and it wasn’t what I was expecting. This is not some industrial site; I felt like I had pulled up at one of my friends’ houses on a back road in Waldo County. The tasting room is small, it really felt like a hobbit hole to me. It’s cozy and inviting inside, and was a great place to relax and catch up with friends.

Oxbow is a newer brewery. You never know what that means for quality or flavor, but Oxbow immediately brought the big guns when they hit the scene, and there has been no looking back. They’ve been brewing good beer since day one. I put them up there with Marshall Wharf as far as quality goes. It is because of in-state breweries like these that keep me from drinking commercial beer. 

As much as a I like beer, I also don’t like beer. I can’t appreciate everything that comes across my palate. Of the beers Oxbow had available for tasting my favorite was the Space Cowboy. It was really, really good. We picked up two kinds of beers to share with our friends Fred and Jane, who have never had Oxbow before (if you guys are reading this, let’s get together soon, because I’m not sure how tightly capped this stuff is). 

If you go to Oxbow you can get 4oz tastings for $2/glass. Not too bad and you can try everything. The glasses are well designed, so you might pay a few bucks and take one home (unfortunately they didn’t have any of the ones that said “The Goods from the Woods” when I was there). I don’t know how they support traffic in the summertime because they really are a small operation in the woods, so if you live within two hours of Newcastle and you like beer, get yer butt to Oxbow before Memorial Day. Go on a mild day and enjoy your friends and good beer outside among the pines. Don’t forget your boots though, it might be a little muddy.

I look forward to getting to know the Oxbow line of beers even better, and seeing what they put out in the future. Maine is lucky to have this place. As they say: “loud beer from a quiet place.” I’d agree with that.

Walks with friends

Preferably in the woods

Walks with friends

Preferably in the woods

We have a government that says it’s okay to eat Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs and Mountain Dew, but it’s illegal to drink raw milk and eat compost-grown tomatoes and Aunt Matilda’s pickles.
From my heart to Rebel Heart

A few years ago I started following this blog. The woman is the friend of a friend and it wasn’t long before I was pulled in by their story and their real take on life. After over a year of living in Mexico on their sailboat they set off across the Pacific Ocean on the next leg of their dream trip to sail around the world. I have a lot of admiration for this family, following their dreams and sticking to their convictions. Sure, they are living life differently, but that’s in part what makes it admirable.

From reading their blogs I have come to realize that many, many families and couples and solo individuals live on sailboats and travel around the world. This is not something new, and it is not unusually dangerous.

I was deeply saddened to learn this morning that the family aboard s/v Rebel Heart had to evacuate their boat because their daughter, little 1-year-old Lyra, was sick. I was even more saddened to read that their sailboat, Rebel Heart, was being sunk in the ocean because it had broken down and was taking on water. Unfortunately, a number of people took to their blog to comment about how stupid it was to try and sail around the world. Imagine being in your home and your daughter gets terribly sick so you call 911. Then, you find out a house fire started and your home is being burnt to the ground (except that loosing a sailboat would be like losing the ownership to your land as well). And then a bunch of strangers who heard your story on the news took to the internet to tell you how stupid you were.

Dear Eric, Charlotte, Lyra, and Cora: your family has captured my heart and I wish you peace, calm, and quiet time together and with your family and friends in the next few months as you recover from this harrowing experience. I admire your dreams, and I hope you continue to pursue them.

Running faster 
Ask a long distance runner how they feel about 5ks and 10ks, and you’ll likely get a loud groan (I imagine the response is pretty similar when you ask a short distance racer to think about running a marathon). There are two types of running, and for the last few years I have been squarely in the long, slow category. 
This morning I ran a 5k for the first time since 2006. I was honestly dreading it, and if that wasn’t bad enough, it was frigging cold and it was windier than hell. Put all that together and I was over it before it even started. I was also not so secretly afraid that I was going to be slow, and being a somewhat, at times, competitive person (can any runner not be?), I cared about that. 
The race was at a pretty great location, starting high over the Penobscot River on the Penobscot Narrows bridge (you can see the point of it behind me in the photo) next to Fort Knox. The first mile went surprisingly well, and then the next mile felt crummy. I told myself to hold on and keep at it because my goodness this race was so much shorter than what I was used to, so all things considered, it was temporary. 
A final push at the finish line chute and the clock read 22:55, so I kicked in all I had to get over it before 23:00. I was pretty happy with myself, because I was worried my marathon-slow legs wouldn’t dare give me anything faster than an 8:00 minute mile today. According to my Garmin though, I averaged a 7:38 pace. I know that this isn’t really fast for a lot of you dedicated racers out there, but It’s been a hellish winter and I haven’t been running much and I have barely been training (a speed workout on the treadmill here and there to remind my legs of a faster cadence).  And then there’s those 7.5 years since I’ve run one of these things.
The icing on the cake? Turns out I finished first in my age group (which was an unforgiving 18-29), and I won a prize. I’ve never won a prize for running before!

Running faster 

Ask a long distance runner how they feel about 5ks and 10ks, and you’ll likely get a loud groan (I imagine the response is pretty similar when you ask a short distance racer to think about running a marathon). There are two types of running, and for the last few years I have been squarely in the long, slow category. 

This morning I ran a 5k for the first time since 2006. I was honestly dreading it, and if that wasn’t bad enough, it was frigging cold and it was windier than hell. Put all that together and I was over it before it even started. I was also not so secretly afraid that I was going to be slow, and being a somewhat, at times, competitive person (can any runner not be?), I cared about that. 

The race was at a pretty great location, starting high over the Penobscot River on the Penobscot Narrows bridge (you can see the point of it behind me in the photo) next to Fort Knox. The first mile went surprisingly well, and then the next mile felt crummy. I told myself to hold on and keep at it because my goodness this race was so much shorter than what I was used to, so all things considered, it was temporary. 

A final push at the finish line chute and the clock read 22:55, so I kicked in all I had to get over it before 23:00. I was pretty happy with myself, because I was worried my marathon-slow legs wouldn’t dare give me anything faster than an 8:00 minute mile today. According to my Garmin though, I averaged a 7:38 pace. I know that this isn’t really fast for a lot of you dedicated racers out there, but It’s been a hellish winter and I haven’t been running much and I have barely been training (a speed workout on the treadmill here and there to remind my legs of a faster cadence).  And then there’s those 7.5 years since I’ve run one of these things.

The icing on the cake? Turns out I finished first in my age group (which was an unforgiving 18-29), and I won a prize. I’ve never won a prize for running before!