Closing Out December Goals

Back on December 2nd, I blogged about my running goals for the month of December. As we are getting to the end of the month, I thought I would take a look back at how I’ve been doing.

First Goal: I am running the Dopey Challenge in January 2016 (48.6 miles over 4 days, which includes a marathon on January 10). So this month I have two 20 mile training runs in addition to quite a few back to back runs. My first goal is to stick to my training plan!

Update: I am pleased to say I stuck with my training plan (especially the long runs) this month. As of December 30th, I only have 4 runs left before the Dopey Challenge, including 8 miles on Saturday. I’m in full taper mode!

Second Goal: Currently, I have run 1070 miles for the year. My goal is to try to hit 1200 miles (an average of 100 miles per month) for 2015.

Update: Yesterday’s run put me at 1201 miles for the year! I am very happy with an average of 100 miles per month, especially with some right knee issues this summer.

Third Goal: I want to work more on my core. This is where I struggle the most during my longest runs. My goal is to do a 1 minute plank each day in addition to ab workouts.

Update: I have been way more intentional with my ab workouts this month. While I didn’t get to the 1 minute plank each day, I did get 23 out of 30 days so far.

Final Goal (non running): Since I started this blog a few weeks ago, I’ve been good about blogging 5-6 times week. My final goal is to continue to blog at least 3-4 times a week.

Update: So far I’ve been updating the blog at least 3-4 times a week this month. I am very happy with it so far!

Final thoughts…as we enter into 2016, I am excited to set more goals for myself. I hope to share a few with you all in a few days.



Christmas Holidays

I love celebrating Christmas with family! The last several days have been busy but so rewarding.

To start, we spent Christmas Eve/Christmas Day with Rachel’s family. After going to the Christmas Eve church service at St. James UMC, we headed over to Rachel’s grandmother’s home for dinner with her family. It was good to catch up with all of them. Rachel’s grandfather passed away this summer, so I think it was really good for everyone to be together at some point over Christmas.

We ended up spending the night with Rachel’s parents (they live about 45 minutes Northeast of us). The next morning, Rachel’s brother (Travis) and his wife (Erin) along with their grandmother came over and we spent the next several hours eating and opening presents.

Later that afternoon, we went to see the movie Joy. While I really enjoyed the director’s last 2 movies (American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook), this one was just ok for me. Rachel liked it more than I did for sure.

The next morning (after a 6 mile training run), we headed down to Auburn, Alabama to spend the day with my side of the family. We had a great time eating and opening presents with the family. (minus Will and co.) After dinner, we got back on the road to Atlanta.

The next morning Rachel and I got in a 12 mile training run (our last double digit run before the marathon). Then we spent the afternoon down at Ponce City Market in Downtown Atlanta. We had been wanting to get over there for several months now. We mainly just walked around the stores and food places while enjoying the crazy warmer temperatures for late December.

All in all, it was a great Christmas Holiday! Hard to believe we are less than 4 days from 2016! And less than 2 weeks from the WDW Marathon weekend!

How was your Christmas?

New Orleans Trip (Will’s Graduation)

I love my family. I am very blessed to be a part of a large family who genuinely cares about each other. So when monumental moments happen in our lives, we all try to be there to support one another.

Last weekend, my younger brother Will was getting his doctorate after many years of hard work and dedication. He would be receiving his Doctorate in Musical Arts in Church Music from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a music minister at a Baptist Church in Buford, GA (a suburb of Atlanta).

So obviously with this amazing accomplishment Will would be receiving, I knew I would want to get down there to support him. However, since I was gone so much in November, I knew I would need to fly so I wouldn’t be gone for more than 2 days tops.

It was a wonderful weekend. My Dad and his new girlfriend (Suzanne), my older brother Warren and my sister Julie along with her husband PJ all made the trip to support Will and his family.

I got in early Friday afternoon and was able to walk around for a few hours before meeting up with the rest of the family.

Once everyone else arrived, we headed over to The French Quarter to have dinner. After dinner, we walked around more of the French Quarter (including the famous Bourbon Street) before stopping over at Cafe Du Monde to get beignets. They were so good! (Sugar overload!)

The next day, I got up early and headed down to the hotel gym for a nice and easy 5 mile run (training for a marathon never stops!). Later that morning we headed over to the Seminary for the graduation service. Most of Deanna’s family (Will’s wife) came down along with a few friends from the church Will works at. Needless to say…we had a huge “Will Cheering Section” upstairs in the balcony.

It was a wonderful service and celebration for so many men and women receiving degrees, including quite a few masters and doctoral degrees. The amount of time, dedication and work Will put into this degree is amazing. He went through quite a bit during the years he was working on it. Between the loss of our mother, grandparents, Will’s father-in-law and nephew, I couldn’t be more proud of him. I know how proud our mother would have been of him as well.

After the service, we headed over to a wonderful lunch celebration hosted by Deanna and her family. I caught a ride back to the airport mid-afternoon and flew back to Atlanta that evening. While it was a quick trip, it was such a meaningful time with my family.

Congrats Dr. William Whittaker!

Guest Post (21 Mile Marathon Training Run)

(I asked Rachel to be the guest blogger today. I thought it would be good for her to share her own personal experience about our last long training run before the WDW races in January.)

For our final long marathon training run, Allen asked me to write about my experience. Let me begin by saying I wasn’t convinced I could finish….

Mentally and physically I felt prepared. I had had a pretty good 20-mile run a few weeks before, so I was hoping the next step up would go smoothly as well. I packed up my Osprey Rev. 1.5 hydration pack, grabbed a couple of Clif and Huma gels and a pack of Extreme Sport Beans, and made our way to Cochran Shoals Trail.

The goal was to run more than 20, as that was the mileage of our last long run. Neither of us felt we needed to go farther than 22, so anything slightly over 20 was going to work just fine.

It started out chilly, in the upper 30s, so we were bundled up. By about mile 6, both of us had ditched our outer layer and gloves – luckily, the sun was out! The steady breeze coming off of the Chattahoochee River kept us cooled the entire time.

We started off great, chatting and eventually listening to music. And then, out of nowhere – BAM! I hit a wall (as they say).

Now, my biggest running ailment is my feet – running almost any distance causes my feet to swell, and thus they start to bother me after a while. This particular day, my right foot started aching in full force – a sensation like it was bruised on one side.

About halfway through the run, my foot aching terribly and my knee (a new, fun pain from the previous long run) being bothersome, I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish.

Somehow, through a trick of my brain (I assume), I managed to crank up the music, refuel, and focus, and I was able to finish 21 miles. Don’t ask me how that worked…I’m still not sure myself! (Allen’s encouragement was also helpful, as always.)

And thus with two 20+ mile runs under our belt, we’ll taper over the next couple of weekends, just in time for the race next month!


Favorite Running Accessories

As runners, we all have our own personal favorite running accessories. From shoes and socks to GPS watches and hydration packs, running can get expensive. But it’s so important to find what works for you, especially when you are getting to higher mileage.

Obviously there are a countless number of brands and items that I could have included on this list. But these are my personal favorites. Here are a few of my favorite things…

  • Shoes: I run in Nike Pegasus and Brooks Launch. I am more of a neutral runner, which these shoes are great for. Because I typically run 4-5 days a week, especially when training for a race, I like to rotate two different pairs of shoes during the week. One for shorter runs and another for longer runs. Also…I definitely wear out the life of my shoes within about 4 months, so I go through multiple pairs in a year.
  • SocksPro Compression are my go-to socks. I am a huge Pro Compression fan. I love their marathon socks. They look and feel amazing. Plus, the compression really does help me recover faster after a long run. (Compression and awesome patterns…Sold!)
  • WatchGarmin Forerunner 220. For the last several years, I ran with the Nike GPS watch. But I finally made the switch this spring to the Garmin and I love it. It’s much smaller and lighter. The battery life is better. And it does everything I need it to do. If you aren’t ready to spend money on a watch to track your run, there’s an app (actually, several) for that – two of my favorites are Nike+ Running and Map My Run.
  • Clothing: I run in Dri-Fit/Tech shirts and running shorts. My personal favorites are Lululemon (their shorts and shirts are ridiculously amazing and super expensive), Under Armour, and Nike.
  • Safety: I don’t carry my ID when I run. I especially don’t like to run with my phone, unless I’m going to be gone for a long time. So I use the Road ID (the Shoe ID). It has my name, 2 emergency contacts and any medical alerts I might need them to know.
  • Hydration: When I’m running longer than 7-9 miles, I carry the Osprey Hydration Belt. I love it. It has two bottles and plenty of room to store fuel, sunglasses, hat, etc. I tried to use a hydration pack on my back, but just never felt comfortable with it. I carry water in one bottle and Nuun (for electrolytes) in the other bottle.
  • Fuel: I use several different kinds of gels and chews. But I tend to yield to the PowerGels and Honey Stinger Organic Chews as they are lighter on my stomach.
  • Few Other ThingsBody GlideSwiftwick socks, Raw Threads Clothing (Rachel’s favorite but I do love their shirts as well), iPod ShuffleSuncloud Sunglasses and SPIbelt.

What are your favorite running accessories?

Best of List: Top Movies of 2015

Today’s post will feature my favorite movies of 2015. It’s an interesting list because Rachel and I usually are big moviegoers. We normally go 2-3 times a month, especially during the summer and late fall. However,this year we didn’t get out to the movies as much. With movie ticket prices continuing to rise and the fact that you can stream movies within 3-6 months after they are in the theater, we limited which movies we saw to the ones we really wanted to see sooner rather than later.

All that to say, we are behind on quite a few films that we were hoping to catch after the summer ended. So this list is shorter than I would have expected. But we still saw some excellent films this year. Here we go…

  • Inside Out: I love Pixar movies. They stand the test of time. I have watched most of them numerous times. The last several Pixar movies have been good but not great for me. But wow…Inside Out brought it right back! Rachel and I both loved it. It’s deep, funny, sad, sweet and hits you in all on the right places.
  • The Martian: This movie was so good for me. It was funny, intense and captivating. I loved Matt Damon’s character. You know it’s a good film when the movie ends and you can’t believe it was 140 minutes. I can’t recommend it enough!
  • Ex Machina: I love movies that are different and unique. This is one of those movies. It’s weird and dark and really makes you think. And the acting is top notch. I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but it definitely makes my top list.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: This movie was so great. I had no expectation going in, but it blew me away. The action sequences alone make this a must-see movie. Plus, Tom Hardy is one bad dude (in a good way).
  • Spectre: Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond since Sean Connery. Plus, I just love the Bond movies. They are always so entertaining. And anytime Christoph Waltz is the villain in a movie, you know it’s going to be a good one.

Several movies that I haven’t seen yet but hope to soon:

  • Southpaw
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (seeing this on Thursday night!)
  • Joy
  • The Revenant
  • Trainwreck

What are some of your favorite movies from 2015?

Best of List: Top TV Shows of 2015

A few days ago I started my first “Best of List” with “Top Moments Of 2015.” I enjoyed taking a look back at the last 12 months. It’s been a great and busy year.

Today I wanted to take a look at my favorite TV shows from the year 2015. I love watching good TV shows. Once you get me hooked into a good storyline and compelling characters, I will stay with a TV show until the very end. Two of my favorite shows (Mad Men and Parks & Recreation) ended this year. But several new shows have entered into my weekly viewing.

I have 4 comedies and 4 dramas on the list this year. Several (House of Cards and True Detective specifically) would have made the list last year, but put up disappointing 2015 seasons in my opinion. Below is the list of shows in no specific order (but broken up by drama and comedy). Enjoy!

  • Fargo: Fargo is easily becoming one of my favorite shows of all time. I loved the first season, but I actually might be enjoying this season even more. The final episode of this season is tonight. I have high hopes!
  • Mad Men: Mad Men ended this year with a fantastic second half of Season 7 (the first half aired in 2014). I started watching this show in season 2 and never looked back. For me, Don Draper is one of the best characters in the history of television. If you have never seen this show, I can’t recommend it enough.
  • Game of Thrones: HBO is responsible for some of the best TV shows of all time. GoT has definitely joined this list. If you have never seen this show, be warned…do not get attached to any specific character. That is all.
  • Better Call Saul: To know me is to know that I am a huge Breaking Bad fan. It is my favorite TV show of all time. I think it got better every season and ended on top. That’s a huge accomplishment. So I was very apprehensive about the prequel/spin-off Better Call Saul. It did not disappoint! I am very excited about the second season starting in a few months.
  • Parks & Recreation: I will miss this show. Rachel and I loved watching it together. We loved the characters. They felt like family. It’s one of those shows that also improved each season. Plus, Ron Swanson will forever be one of my favorite characters on TV.
  • Last Man on Earth: Will Forte and Kristen Schaal have some of the best chemistry on TV. They are both so funny. While this show is only in its second season, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite comedies on TV.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: First off, the theme song alone puts this show on the list. I still find myself singing it. Secondly, Titus Andromedon is unlike any other character on TV. But mainly, this show is quirky, witty and flat-out hilarious.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Michael Schur (The Office and Parks & Rec) helped create this show and it does not disappoint. In my opinion, this show has the most potential to be the next great comedy.

This is my list. There are several shows that were close to making the cut and several shows that I haven’t seen yet, but have heard great things about. What were your favorite TV shows of 2015?

Best of List: Top Moments of 2015

I’m a sucker for a good “Best of List.” Whether it’s movies, concerts, music, tv shows, sports teams…I always find myself reading them and then creating my own list in my mind.

So for the month of December, I thought I might do my own version of a best of list. Not sure how many I will do and how often but for today, I wanted to start with my personal top moments of 2015. Quite a few of these will include running and Disney because I love both of those things.

This list is in order chronologically, not by importance.

  1. Running the “Goofy Challenge,” which included my first full marathon, in January. (Goofy Challenge is a Half Marathon on Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles.)
  2. Moving into our new house in February.
  3. Rachel’s brother getting married in March.
  4. Running my first sub 2:00 half marathon in Montgomery, Alabama in March.
  5. Duke Basketball winning the national title in basketball in April.
  6. Staying on property at the Walt Disney World Resort for Rachel’s 30th birthday in May.
  7. Going to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in late May/early June with Rachel’s family.
  8. Visiting my Dad with my siblings over the 4th of July.
  9. Visiting one of Rachel’s best friends and her husband in August up in Durham, North Carolina for the weekend.
  10. Spending a week over Labor Day at the Disneyland resort while running the Disneyland Half Marathon. This was our 2nd straight “coast to coast” year (running at least a half marathon in Florida and California in the same calendar year).
  11. Renewing our season passes at WDW in October for another magical year.
  12. Having a super busy but amazing November.(Officiating my friends Ellis and Colleen’s wedding, California road trip from San Francisco to Anaheim, beach trip to Florida over Thanksgiving with my family)
  13. Turning a new decade in December as well as going to the SEC     Championship Football Game.

Below is a small sample of my top moments from the year 2015.