Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas Time Is Here! And a 2015 Retrospective

Ah the holidays are upon us and I am love, love, loving it!  Even better because its been warm except for a few days at a time here or there.  I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE El Nino!
I know its not popular, but here's what I have to say about that:  Its Texas and you choose to live here.  If it bothers you that much, move. 
OK, what else?  Well obviously I am not busy at work or I wouldn't be typing right now.  People are either taking this week off or next week.  Me?  I am off as of Thursday and will be out until Jan 4th.  So with so many out this week, its almost like having time off now as well.
I actually left at 3:30 yesterday to hit up the gym early.  Got in an AWESOME workout, and still get home right as its not yet quite dark, but close.  Thankful solstice has happened and now the days will be getting a bit longer even if its just a minute or two as the next few months fly by.
I am SO excited to spend extra time with T over the holidays.  He is almost 2 now so he is much more aware of the difference between normal days and holi(days).  At least I think so anyway.  We had a photographer on Sunday at a park for family pictures and he is a hot mess!  Oh how he makes my heart swell to like 10 million times bigger than it is.
Lets see what else?  Running.  Yep been back running with Kenyan Way for about 2 months now.  I only go in on Saturdays for the long run support but its been great.  It makes me run faster than I might otherwise and walk less too :O)  When you have so many people, you just naturally want to at least keep up with SOME of them when you can you know?  Totally worth getting up at 4:30am on a Saturday to make the drive in for a 6am start.  It generally takes me about 35 min I guess, give or take.  Again, totally worth it.
Once Houston is over, I will take my break from KW and just run in Cinco.  I signed up for a 10 miler (Texas 10 Series) late April so I am going to just chill with running anything over 5-6 miles for a month.
Before Houston, I have a 10K and a quarter marathon (women's only race), so I am enjoying the shorter distance kind of races.
This year I'll be taking an extended time off just like I did last year from running (after the 10 miler in April) ANY long distances, focusing on speed, endurance, and strength.  I'd like to go in to the late Summer, early Fall running a bit faster than I am today. 
With our new building at work we now have a top-notch gym available to us which I recently joined.  I am still going to keep my membership at the 'other place' as its close to home for weekends and when I am off.  Right now at least, the extra $43 a month isn't a hassle....which by the way guess what???????
I am debt freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!  I paid off my consolidation loan a year early!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Free and clear baby, free and clear.  I know I wrote recently about financial well being and my goodness how freeing is this?!  That's an extra $822 dollars A MONTH in my accounts.  Y'all that's a lot of damn money and for 4 years I was paying that out, desperately waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.  Bye bye student loans and mistakes of years of charging CRAP.    
Of course I have upped my savings and hopefully a raise in February, and another 1% added to my 401k deduction...well I feel very, very, financially stable right now for sure.  Both my checking and savings are nicely padded to say the least.
The decision in 2016 will be to either buy a townhome/condo, or to continue to rent.  February my niece and I will be conversing about me possibly taking on her house and she is ready to be out of it.  Its WAY too big for me, but I love it so much...We shall see what she decides to do as its really up to her at this point.  When we talked about it a couple of months ago, she liked the idea.
Man its been a great year.  First full year home again.  New car.  Paid off debt.  Happy.  Healthy.  Family.  Love.  No loss.
I can only wish that in 2016, I have half of that kind of personal success.  I sometimes worry about the shoe yet to drop, but that's not often.  I am a pretty positive, grateful person the last couple of years for sure...so that outweighs the sometimes doubt of troubles that might come along. 
Remember:  The places where you have the biggest challenges, are the places where you have the most to give ----Tracy McMillian

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Katy YMCA 2015 Turkey Dash (10K)

Definitely NOT the race I had hoped for that's for sure.  With it being 73 and 100% humidity (feels like of 81) and a strong wind to boot for about 1/2 the race I was just DONE. 
Once I knew what the weather was going to be like, I more or less loosened up my goal a bit, which was a 1:06 (10:39 pace).  I did do it faster than last year, in better weather, but in much less running shape than I am now.

I majorly struggled with even this result, but I didn't leave anything out there.  It was just excruciatingly miserable, miserable weather. 
I could feel how red my face was basically once I hit mile 3.  My first mile was OK, at 10:30 but looking back I should have done an 11, but I still had high hopes and figured I see what happened after the first mile.

Not the brightest idea considering I knew I was going to be overheating sooner rather than later.

Had I taken a more cautious approach in the first couple of miles, I might have been able to shave off some time.
I do like this race for many reasons: Its local, its easy in and easy out, great booths of vendors, great medals, and its one big loop.  The biggest bonus is that its roughly less than HALF of the nightmare of the Uptown Turkey Trot which is about 15,000 people.  I think Katy says about 7,000, but I would say more like 5 based on the results the past 2 years.
They also have corrals (new this year) which I royally screwed up on when I signed up because I didn't notice it and just it Submit.  This mistake put me in Corral A.  Oops.  Well I figured out afterwards what I had done once I picked up my bib etc., so I lined up at the front of the C corral like a good girl. 

My next race if New Years Day and is another 10K.  If the weather if optimal, I will be shooting for either that 1:06 or possibly even a 1:05:30. 
December is a high(er) mileage month for me going in to the taper early January for Houston, so we'll see how my legs feel that last week of the month.  I have a long run the very next day so I will have to either sacrifice the race time or the ease of a long run on somewhat tired but not in pain legs.
We shall see.
I've been ramping my monthly mileage up the past few months and December will be the highest.  75 in October, 80 in November and it will be 100 for this month.  BTW I am using not only GarminConnect (since I got my new watch) but also Training Peaks.  They have a great interface and I am able to disable the data.  This alone makes me a bit more competitive (with myself) and its paying off.  Plus I love that my new watch is Bluetooth and auto downloads the data into my phone and even the website with no effort. 
OK that's it for now...Not sure anyone is even reading but again keeping track of information again is mainly for me these days.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Katy 10 - Texas 10 Series

Love, love, loved this race!  If my schedule allowed and I had gotten in on the lower pricing for the Conroe and College Station races, I would so be doing those.  Next year I can plan accordingly.
First off I love the 10 mile distance. Love.  And this race had about 750 for the 10 mile distance...not sure on the 5 mile distance.  I do know that based on the email we got for reasons behind the delay in results, apparently a lot of people changed their mind mid-race and finished 5 instead of 10, and to complicate it even more, ran to the 5 mile split timing mat and THEN decided to run to the finish.  You should have just run to the finish you dorks.  Now you ran 5 miles plus, and you got a wonky race time.  Oy.
Anyway, I loved it.  Will DEFINITELY do this series from this point forward.
11:18 pace
goal was 1:56
11:36 pace

390 out of 750
16 out of 30 age

Warm, muggy, drizzling rain.  Windy from the north; not too much of a factor on this 2 loop course
Given how warm it was, I was quite pleased with this outcome.  Generally I would have probably caved but I felt ready to push it and not give in to my thought demons. 
I also thought I was going to hate the 2 loops thing, but surprisingly enough when I started that 2nd loop I was thankful for having done it once already and I knew where my water was, where the turns were and when there was a weird run one way for like 100m and then do a hairpin turn and go back to the original course (guess they had to get the 5 miles somehow!)

I am not able to get a screenshot from my GarminConnect account, but here are the general stats I look at; or rather STARTING to look at again...to once again move myself forward after losing a lot of fitness for various reasons.
Avg HR 162
Max 178
For reference, I try and train in the low to upper 150's
Avg Run Cadence: 164
Max Run Cadence: 186
Stride Length .87   This lengthens as I go faster for example, in the final stretch it was .90 but in some of my slower miles, it was low .80s
I am also slowly starting to eliminate the walk 1 min of my 4/1's.  I slow down during the walk interval, but not walking.
On this date, the last half of the race I all but eliminated the walk breaks.  There were a couple, but on the first half, I kept them intact.
My running pace averages between 9 and 10:20, with my fastest on this date to be 8:38.  What I need to do is slow down the running pace of those 4 min stretches, eliminate the walk break and I think my mile splits would be around 10:30 if I can just get the sweet spot.
I will be trying to do that at the upcoming Thanksgiving Day 10K.
As mentioned I am working my way back to my best running self.  I don't know what that looks like yet, but I know I lost it and even in the first 6-8 months of being back in Texas I couldn't seem to find it.  Failed attempts at new running group(s) etc..and I just lost mojo.  With all my new technology though and a like-minded competitive spirit partner/animal, I have found zest again in running.  The data crunching has made a return and its awesome.  My spirit partner/animal is helping me with that as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Save For A Rainy Day AND For the Winter of Your Lifetime - Having a Healthy Bank Account is Paramount to a Healthy Life!!!

I have had this post in mind for some time, and even had this draft saved with just the title so I would be reminded to get to it at some point.

It (the topic), and blogging in general hasn't been a priority for reasons I have stated before, but this is one topic I think I need to cover.  I certainly don't have the readers I use to on a regular basis, but I do get hits from certain topics being Google'd or Bing'ed, so maybe what I have to offer in the way of experience and advice might help even just one person, then that's OK by me.

What really brought this back to my attention is something that recently happened to a 'friend'.  I put the word in quotations because I honestly don't know her in real life, but through a series of online sites that brought together like minded people who loved Texas music.  After thinking about it further I figured out I had never even seen a photo of her.  Weird.  But I've 'known' her for years.

Anyway, regardless of all that, she could be anyone that any of us knows on any given day.  You always hear that the percentage of the population is one paycheck away from being homeless.  And that you should have 6months to a year of emergency money, and while those are lofty goals they are achievable for some, easier for others and sadly, yes impossible for a lot.

Her husband passed away just a few months ago, and while I am not sure of their exact circumstances, its been obvious that he hasn't worked nor she in some time.  I suspect since he was a vet, possibly disability etc.  I don't know.  But regardless of the circumstances, which are neither here nor there.

She has posted a few things on Facebook since about difficulty in receiving benefits, and having to file this or that which I understand to some degree (went through it w mom when dad died; and then with mom it was pretty easy).

So over the weekend she posted on FB something about her landlord being postal because she didn't have the rent and that she was guess going to have to move.

This struck me as CRAZY.  How is it that you are in your 50's (old enough to know better) and with an ailing husband for however how long that you didn't start to make sure you would be able to handle the finances at least for a month!?

How do you not have ANY money?  And that's just the rent.  What about food, or utilities?  Someone stepped up and started a money drive to get her the money she needed for rent, but I don't know...something about it didn't set right with me.  I am just going to leave it at that.

Now I have gone through a couple of hard times when losing a job, but even on those couple of occasions I STILL had a bit of a savings.  I had to use a lot of it the first time around (2003) but I also took a few months off so I used more than I prob should have.  I had just sold my house and had about $40K in the savings and checking.  I underestimated how long until I found another job (was less pay) and overestimated how much money I could blow.  Lesson learned.

Even again when in 2008-2011 when $ was tight, way less money at job, I still was managing to save to 401K and a bit here and there for my savings.  And cannot forget the amount of $$ I lost with the nose dive of the market.  But its recouped itself since...which is why the market is generally safe.  Over time. 

Since, at the time, I thought those times were SO tough I have become quite the saver since mid-2012.  Yes it was easier while in NE, plus I consolidated all my debts and pay on that 2 times a month much less than I was having to before (but got overextended and I paid the price for that eventually), which also helps.  Plus for the past 4 years I have paid cash for ever single thing I've bought.  And just yesterday I finally paid OFF OFF OFF that consolidation loan and for the first time in my life since the age of 20 I am COMPLETELY DEBT FREE!!  It took me 4 years, but it was supposed to be 5, but I paid it off early somehow; all the while still saving, saving, saving...and even managing to get a new (to me) car: Its a 2013...but way better than the 2003 that I had!

I am getting off track here, but my point is that NOW while whatever age you are (and I started at 32 I guess; some years more than others on the amounts) so that you don't have to worry about such things.  And if you aren't worrying, you should be.  Living paycheck to paycheck is no fun!

I am going to spout out numbers here, for reference sake, but everyone is different.  You set your limits, rules and budget.

One example is that I NEVER let my checking account go under $3,500.  If it goes below that or near it basically all spending halts.  Or crawls for example if I need gas that's a no brainer.  Food?  I always have some food so I can go till payday if I have to :O)
When I moved to NE, I had $1000 in the checking and about $3000 in savings.  No need to include 401K and my IRA's since I cant get to those anyway.

But now in checking I am generally sitting between $3700 and $5500 (AFTER bills are paid) and my savings is roughly $22K and I automatically send money to that savings acct each and every payday.  Right now I am saving for a down payment on a townhome plus the padding for after I put the down payment in someone's pocket.

I also go to the bank every payday, and withdraw a certain amount of money; some of which I put away in a hideaway in the house for Christmas and another of which goes into my purse for my 'allowance'.  Money that I can spend and don't worry about tracking.  Its like petty cash to me.

I am scared SHITLESS of being that person who has to move or God forbid be forced into a shelter or the street because I lose a job and cant pay.  I mean how sad is that? 

It has taken a lot of sacrifice (living in the tundra for 2 years) being away from family etc., but I achieved financial freedom again because of it.  I didn't splurge on things I didn't need (well ok I did, but only when it didn't interfere with my numbers!!)  IF it was going to set me below my limits then it had to wait until the next payday!

I make my own coffee at home, 75% of the time I bring my own lunch/snacks.  Every little bit helps.  And no I do not deprive myself of eating out, Sbux, buying clothes etc.  I think if you know me well enough (or thru here) you would know that is not the case.

I just make sure IT FITS IN MY BUDGET. 

Why pay more when you can just wait?  Instant gratification costs money.

I feel somewhat confident that if something were to happen God forbid at least I would be OK for a few months you know?  Also knowing that I have, at this particular point in time close to $80K (should be way more but ugh, my 30's!) with about 15 more years left to work I am going to be a lot better off than the majority of people I know who will unfortunately have to work a lot longer than I will.  And probably budget a lot differently as well even with SS.  As it stands now, I will be COMPLETELY DEBT FREE in 2 years.  I do plan on replacing my vehicle though (its 11 years old now), but intend on a used car/cash.

I feel REALLY bad for this person I mentioned above.  I really do.  But I also don't understand how that happens?  Especially at their age.  It wasn't like they were in the 20's when doesn't everyone live paycheck to paycheck??  LOL.

Also, just because you have kids, or a house or things of that nature, you can STILL save money.  I did it.  I had a house too once you know?  You just have to remember that at some point, before you even know what hit you, you are going to be my age and these things will start to actually MATTER....

If you're employer doesn't offer 401K then start an IRA.  I have 2 IRA'S and my 401K.  I no longer am able to contribute to the IRA's for a couple of reasons due to my income and how much I already contribute to my 401K.  But I have moved them in with my primary bank so that I can easily monitor all my money in one place instead of 3.

So as you can see I save a lot of money when and where I can.  I also don't go without that's for sure, but I just prefer to splurge on the things that bring me the most pleasure:  GOOD food choices at the grocer and when eating out as well, paying for high ticket items with cash and not worrying about how I would pay rent (most recently my big splurge was new mattress/boxspring). Clothes when I want, if I want.

I don't mean to make it seem like if you cant save a large amount that you shouldn't because everyone has to start SOMEWHERE...even if its just $10 a paycheck...sock it away...join your 401K for the min % allowed but if you can do the max that the employer will match (FREE money!)...BUDGET...
Go without ... maybe just cutting back from 5 Sbux a week to 4 or even 3...figure out the amount you saved and boom, move it to a savings account.

Put limits on your bank accounts!  I just recently did this and it keeps me from overspending in a 24 hour period; I have to REALLY think about what I am spending from checking in that 24 hours or otherwise it will get rejected if I go over and I have it set pretty low to be honest.  FOR a reason duh; whether its using a debit card or withdrawing from savings.  Also it protects you if your card is stolen too...

If you have no way to save ANY money each month then you are overextended.  You have too much house.  You spend too much here.  Or there.  Or somewhere.  When figuring a budget you HAVE to calculate in SAVINGS.  YOU.  JUST.   HAVE.  TO.

The end.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pre-Menopause or Menopause? How to Know The Difference AND the differences!

Every woman is different and that is pretty much the extent of any real information I gleaned from searching the internet.  And I would say that out of the women I know IRL, that pretty much is a true statement.
I can tell you personally what I have learned over the past 10 years though.
In 2004 when I first started gaining weight rapidly among other symptoms, my family doctor chalked it up to "well you ARE 40 now..."  No.  That is not what this is...this is not turning 40 and its not menopause. 
Well I was right...it was hypothyroidism and has since been contained with daily medication of course.
Then over the next few years, I would have on and off again night sweats, but when I asked my doctors (endo, OBGYN) if it was onset of menopause, their reaction was 'could be'.  I even got tested to see about my hormone levels and all was well.  So we chalked that up to the Synthroid.
I slowly lost the weight I had gained but was really never 'the same' in body comp.  Around late 2009 and basically through early 2012 I got in the best shape of my life at the high end of my 40's!  That came with lots of exercise and an eating regime of clean, clean, clean 95% of the time.
So I guess even that late, I wasn't really feeling any real what I thought would be considered pre-menopausal except for like I said the ever so often night sweats and not being able to sleep sometimes through a night without a few wake ups.  Annoying.
The other thing that started around that time was that I quit taking BCP's.  My periods regulated but nothing out the ordinary again for me to ever wonder...
Then about mid-2012 I started having HORRRRRRRRRRRRRRIBLE pre-menstrual symptoms...massive bloat, HORRENDOUS cramps and heavy heavy flow generally all at once.  Then it started to happen periodically throughout a cycle so you just never knew when you would feel a rush of 'something'.  You basically didn't go anywhere without having a tampon handy.  And that would be end of that.  A huge rush of fluid and then nothing...Gosh.
Additionally I had moved to Nebraska and that brought on extra weight due to the climate, and lack of things and people.  I spend a lot of time cooped up because of the cold, snow, wind and ice.  And since there was nothing to do there ...well lets just say my running and my body took a hit.  A big hit.
I thought once I got back to Texas (early 2014), I would be able to remedy quickly.  So not the case.  At 51 I was in the thick of pre-menopause.  My mid-section is the receiver of the majority of the dreaded pre-menopause that is for certain.  Unless I was willing to change my exercise and eating habits I was going to be stuck with what I considered someone elses body.
I call it meno-pot.  Its real and its horrible.  Also its just not the mid-section but mostly.  At least with me.  And let me tell you something.  There isn't a damn thing you can do about it.  I would say if your genetic makeup (look at your mom, your aunts, your sisters) and/or if you are already thick through the middle, well you might as well do one or the other...get that shit under control NOW, or live with it.
I do wonder had I not gone to Nebraska and not gone through that transition mentally and physically but yet stayed as I was before I left would I have the challenges I do now, but I will never know.
So yeah...back to what my pre-meno looked like....
So in 2013 I turned 50 and I was still having a period every 26-28 days.  And sometimes spotting in between but the cramps etc every month right on target.  I thought when the heck am I going to go through menopause???
So for 2 years I've been solidly in pre-menopause.  I might have had fluctuations of it for several years according to doctors but yeah 50-52 was definitely it.
I started using a tracker a few years back, and I guess over the past year I started noticing trends.  Shorter cycles both being days of bleeding/gush/spots (actually lasting a day) and then the time between started getting shorter and shorter and I noticed my pre-menstrual symptoms basically stopped.
Then about 6 months ago...that was it.  Right before I turned 52.  In reality they say you have 'gone through menopause' once you have missed a year of periods.  Well like I said its been about 6 months sooooooooooooo...
I also don't know if I have been lucky or if my lifestyle (food and exercise) has played a huge part in what has been a seemingly smooth transition.  My mom has been gone for some time now and my sister didn't remember hers being bad, but honestly I am sleeping fine and outside of a handful of 'hot flashes' ... nothing.  The hot flashes haven't lasted long when they did happen and I noticed a trend that seemed to cause them:  I had had a beer or two
So alcohol appeared to be a trigger.
Except for this past Saturday we were out and I had 3 beers, and yet no hot flashes.  Yay!
I am definitely considering myself lucky because amongst my friends they are really struggling.  Severe weight gain, hot flashes that seem horrible and insomnia, EXTREME mood swings....  However these same people are ones that weren't in great health to begin with...
My biggest advice to anyone ANYONE reading this is to get your health in order early 40's and don't quit!!!
We have tested my metabolism earlier this year (calorie expenditure on a rest day) and it is SEVERELY lower thanks to aging.  Even with my meds.  So earlier this year, I had a trainer to get a reality check on what I was actually eating and exactly what I was expending.  I can't recommend enough that you need strength and cardio!!!!!!!!!!!!  And counting calories...ugh... I have had to track EVERYTHING in a handy dandy app. But what a pain!
What an eye opener!!!  Lord no wonder nothing was working!  Now though while I still have a squishy mid-section it is reduced and I am still working on getting back to a new normal I guess.  At least my inflammation, bloatedness...overall body comp is better and I can fit in clothes that I couldn't pre-2015. 

I have even been back to running in a jog bra!  Not only because I feel better in my skin, but coming to the realization that NO ONE CARES if I do!  I see women out there so confident honestly not remotely looking like a Runners World cover, but yet embracing the sweltering temps in little clothing without a care in the world!!!

Another side perk of getting older:  not giving a shit

I want to say that if you are reading this and thinking you don't care about your size later in life, or that you have allllllllllllllllll this time to think about it...well you don't.  It will be here before you know it and again the best advice I can give is to rein it in now.  And honestly while vanity might not be a driving force, being HEALTHY should be.  Being out of shape and non-active, eating like crap will age you faster than you can shake a stick out...and duh, don't you want to be healthy and independent?????????????

Questions can be sent to my email address located in the right navigation bar.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mic Check...Mic Check...Is This Thing Still On??? Are You Over 50, a Woman and No One to Listen to You About Struggles?

I know its been a long time since I have written and truly I haven't missed it.
But fitting the description in my title, and attempting to find real answers from real women, well, its been kind of impossible.
Surely there has to be women out there just like me?  Struggling with the over 50 things...?  Or the late 40's women out there..You might have questions or yikes even be experiencing pre-menopause signs.  Believe me mine started earlier in my 40's especially due to combined thyroid issues.  Oh the joy!
So I thought well no one is probably truly going to be reading this from my yonder days of blogging about running this and running that, but maybe, just maybe I can either help someone by giving them some advice even if its not asked directly but rather through a Google search.
I am also thinking that if I can provide some real content here, I might be able to grow this thing again, just in a different direction.  Initially I think my plan is just to write, mostly with abandon which means no real direction so to speak.  That might organically happen at some point.  I will try to come up with titles that would perhaps be something a woman might Google (i.e. things I type when Googling)
So if my title led you here via search engine...welcome!
I am going to leave all the existing content for historical value if even just for myself.  I am still extremely active, so I will of course still talk about that.  I feel it is extremely important to maintaining sanity during a very trying time even if sometimes it feels like the laaaaaaaaaaaast thing you want to do.

I feel like I should wipe out some of the labels, but then what if someone coming here decides that a certain label/topic interests them?  If I delete them, some content important to some might never be found..

Also it seems like I started several blog posts way back when with ideas on some topics so that helps!  Yay for thinking ahead even if it was a year ago.

If any other bloggers are reading here, any insight on how to grow the blog at a semi-aggressive rate would be welcomed!