Friday, February 10, 2017


Recently I was put on a big project at work to help build the "nursing role" within my company. Since nurses working for insurance companies is a fairly "new" idea. I chuckled a bit when I was invited to participate on this committee...for this is my 3rd "RN Retention Committee" I've been asked to serve on in my short 6 1/2 years in this field.

After serving on the committee, I got a phone call from a "Leadership Consultant" in my company (one of the perks of working for a big many resources!!) -- who said she wanted to be my mentor. I was ecstatic about this. As every time I listen to her speak or lead a meeting, I always thought to myself "Wow, I want to be like her when I grow up." She is an incredible leader and communicator.

She has given me several tasks to do, books to read, videos to watch on my own time, to grow me as a leader.

But the most interesting task I was given was to take this "5 Strengths" Test through Gallup. It's a $15 test online that will outline your strongest qualities. And when I finished the test, I was directed to call her back and talk about those strengths.

Not that I am compensated by any means by Gallup - but if you'd like to learn about what type of lead (and really, person) you are - I strongly recommend this!

The test took me about 45 min-1 hr, and is pretty darn accurate.

My Top 5 Strengths:

1. Individiualization
This was definitely summed up by her 1st question to me after reading my results. "Is there anyone you hate?" My answer is no. I am extremely quick to forgive. I look at every individual, and can see someone good about them, and therefore get along with just about anyone.

Are there people who behave in ways I don't like? Of course. I'm not Mother Teresa in any way. But I feel like I can "name" the issue, and move on quite easily. In fact, I kind of enjoy connecting with people are are incredibly different than me -- because it makes me realize that we can all get along and love another if we try!

2. Achiever
This strength isn't so much on being an "achiever" as it is getting great joy of "doing". People strong in this area, are often the one's who don't like the sit down. We can sometimes irritate our family members, because we overbook our calendars and overcommit. We love "to do lists". The 1st question from my mentor was "Abby, How many *to do lists* do you have going?" I started laughing. I have them everywhere in our house. And sometimes I'll even write things down that weren't originally on my to-do list JUST to cross them off.

And I am currently in an "over-committed dilemma". So this trait definitely fits me.

3. Strategic
This trait was described as the type of people who get from Point A to Point F in the most direct unique manner. And if other people don't see your method, we often get annoyed.

I never really think of myself as "strategic". I'm horrible at "strategy games". (Especially when I play with my husband who is an engineer. )

However, when explained in that way - I do come up with some clever ways of doing things and figuring things out. I wouldn't say I "cut corners" - but I use "strategy" to get what I need.

4. Learner
I'm kind of surprised this wasn't higher up on my list. The learner is always wanting to learn and try new things. This is absolutely me. This doesn't mean I'm super intelligent or an expert at learning

 We read hundreds of different articles about different things. We probably aren't an expert in any one thing. But we have our hand in every pot we possible can get our hand in.

This can be a weakness. And it is for me! I want to be everything. Just look at my job history: Health Insurance Case Manager, Cross Country Coach (part time), Pulmonary Research Nurse, Hospital Case Manager, ER Nurse, Travel Nurse, Fitness Intstructor (part time), Telemetry RN, House Supervisor, Charge Nurse, Bank Teller, CNA, Waitress, Hotel Housekeeper.....

Sometimes for fun I just research random nursing jobs. Ex: The other day I looked up what it takes to be come an Esthetician. And how I could start a business as one. What in the what?!

And then 20 minutes later I'm researching how to build yourself as a Private Youth Athletic Coach. I am all over the place. My husband is a patient man.

5. Communication 
This one is kind of obvious. It relates to being able to express yourself without difficulty. Anyone who has spent time with me knows I'm not one to "hold things in". "Communicators" take great care in conversations, and we put a lot of thought into making our conversations come out positively.

My apology for the novel. This was just kind of fun. In fact, when I saw Ryan 3 weeks ago in NY, I told him about this test. and he has taken a variety of these types of tests in his job - so it was fun to share and talk about our results. Doing so really "clicked" as to why we work well together!

Have you had to take a leadership-type test? What were your top strengths?? 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Peculiar Destinations

As I was writing about our trip to Syracuse, I made the statement " I don't think we would have visited this part of the country, if it weren't for Ryan's job.". And it dawned on me that there are a lot of beautiful, amazing places I wouldn't have explored...if it weren't for just that!

"We will see how things play out" are words that come out of my mouth several times/week, in fact. When trying to make plans in advance.

And I'm okay with that. We cannot control what we cannot control!

So here are few gems we have found due to our situation:

1. Tucson!! When I look back at "me" 10 years ago, I would not have chose Tucson. In fact, if you gave me a map and said "Pick anywhere" -- I'd pick someone with more seasons. But, WOW, I can't picture life had we need found this place. Our adventures, the hobbies we've picked up, the friends we've made, the lifestyle we developed....

2. Montgomery, Alabama. Now this would not be my #1 place to visit. But since Ryan graduated from officer school here -- I visited him for his graduation back in March of 2012. If you ever have to be there -- it is a gem of a downtown! Really good restaurants, very charming old buildings, great history!

3. Las Vegas. Ryan has had to go to Vegas for various trainings over the years. We are exactly crazy about Vegas, but always have made the best of our trips! 
City lights views from the Stratophere

I went to visit him a few years ago, and while he was in school all day - I ventured out to Red Rock Canyon Park to trail run. Incredibly beautiful!!

4. San Antonio/Austin, Texas. We got to live in San Antonio for about 5 months summer of 2013. I do not recommend the Riverwalk. But there are many gems to found be in this region. Pictured below are a few of my favorites!
Guadalupe River. We went tubing down this with friends a few times. 

I also found a bike route that goes along the river for about 20 miles! It was just a stunning place for cyclists! This picture marks such a fun and memorable day. We biked the Guadalupe River, and then had lunch in a German Town called Gruene. So fun!

This is a picture of the running rails of McAlister Park in San Antonio. San Antonio had some beautiful parks and trail running in the outskirts of town. It was common to find deer early in the morning when I'd go running!

And of course, the Texas state capitol. Bigger than the US Capitol. Of course! Everything is bigger in Texas ;)

5. Alamogordo, NM. Now I would not tell you all to get on the 1st flight to Las Cruces. Ha!!! But Ryan had to live here for 5 months in 2014, and darnit we made the best of the weekends I would come visit him!! 
White Sands is incredible. That is all sand around me. You can sled in the sand! 
I also highly recommend the mountain town of Cloudcroft!! Very charming with art stores, pubs, and good restaurants. 

6. Keystone, Colorado -- While Ryan was stuck in New Mexico - his group of classmates did a weekend of skiing/snowboarding in Keystone. It was about an 8 hour drive. This was a fast but incredible weekend!

7. The wild blue yonder. Ryan had to get his private pilot license for his job. Due to that - I have been able to go up in the sky with him. I absolutely LOVE flying. I don't like taking the yoke, but I love helping navigate and taking in the scenery!
This was our view flying over the Salt River just north of Phoenix, AZ.

8. And finally...Syracuse/Ithaca! And soon NYC because he is in Syracuse! 

So whenever I get frustrated with the process and lifestyle, I need to just be referred to this page of my blog! I cannot wait to see what adventures await. We never know in advance! ;) 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Upstate New York Adventure

When we learned Ryan would be heading to Syracuse for a few months for work....we decided that we would take advantage of this time to visit NYC ( as neither of us have ever been there!). But I decided 3 months with only 1 visit was NOT enough. So I was able to score some tickets to visit Ryan in Syracuse with frequent flyer miles.

That is the beauty of the military. It sometimes send them to random places. And those random places can be gems - and places I probably wouldn't have visited otherwise!

Which a post about this is soon to come....

I fell in love with upstate NY.

I think if you took a normal person that grew up in, say, AZ .... they wouldn't find this part of the country that thrilling. But for me -- I felt at home at times. Rolling hills, tons of trees, snow, farms, rivers, lakes....hmmmm sound familiar? Yes - it reminded me of Minnesota. My 2nd home.

Now we visiting in the most undesirable time of the year. But I still just loved it there.

Syracuse itself is filled with beautiful historic buildings, great restaurants, and is such a lively place. Being a university town -- there really is a lot to do. If we would have had more time there -- we totally would have hit up a Syracuse basketball game (Ryan has been to one..and said they are very impressive!)

I got there Friday morning after a red-eye flight from hell. That's all I'm going to say. Guess what? There is a good story to that. I seem to run into weird situations in my life.Maybe it's because I spend so much time observing human behavior....

I had about 3 hours of sleep in 48 hours by the time I arrive Friday. So after some freshening up -- Ryan took me out for lunch a great Thai restaurant down the street from his hotel. Lemongrass was the name of the restaurant. If you are ever in Syracuse -- I HIGHLY recommend this place! And get the GREEN CURRY!! It is insane.

We then headed to the mall. And Syracuse has the 4th largest malls of North America! After a little shopping, we found ourselves at Dave and Busters drinking a beer and in a vicious battle of Ski Ball and Buck Hunter.

**The day Ryan and I don't get viciously competitive over games like Ski ball and Buck Hunter is the day something is wrong. I hope I'm never "too old" to find these games an absolute blast.....**

For dinner that evening - we walked to Pastabilities. Again - another MUST EAT. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives had an episode here. It was this little, authentic Italian restaurant - where they make their pasta fresh every day. We had a 2-hour wait to get a table. But being we hadn't seen each other in 3 weeks - we enjoyed that 2 hours to sip on wine and catch up on life. We ordered the Wicki-Wicki Chicken Ravioli -- which was recommended by Guy Fierari. And that did not disappoint! Also - their brussel sprouts appetizer was to die for!

"Disapproving mustache look". I hate his TDY-mustache. He thinks it is hysterically funny.

Saturday morning we woke up, did a quick workout, had breakfast at Ryan's hotel and walked over to a great local coffee shop called Kubal Coffee. They make a REALLY good espresso drink! I thoroughly enjoyed my latte.

We hit the road to Ithaca. I am so glad we ventured here. It is a beautiful 1-hour drive from Syracuse! Ithaca totally has that "small town vibe" - and it houses Cornell and Ithaca Universities. It is filled with coffee shops, bars, local art shops, and the nicest people.

In the center of the city was a large "war memorial" - and each war had a different stone. This was the WWI stone.

My favorite part of this park was that it had an Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist, and Catholic Church all surrounding this park. On Sunday mornings - everyone comes to the same area and parks in the same parking lot. Kind of cool!

After walking around and shopping a bit - we headed to an Irish pub for lunch. 
We got seated right next to the fireplace and kicked off the afternoon with a pint of Guinness. Yum!

I had one of the best lunches ever! Scotch eggs (my favorite), Soda bread, provolone cheese, and pickled vegetables. It doesn't get better than that paired withGuinnessess in Abby's world!

We  headed out of town to the "Finger Lakes" for some exploring. We hit up Taughannock Falls. We were told this is actually taller than Niagara Falls. Due to the wintery weather and snow - we could not hike down to the falls. But we did get to hike around the area a bit, and just take in the energy of the sound of that waterfall!

Pure smiles on our faces. If he just didn't have that mustache -- this would be Christmas Card worthy ;)

Oh, that's better! (that's my case you are wondering) Hahaha!

On our way back to Ithaca, we hit out a winery called Americana Vineyard. Upstate NY is known for it's Rieslings becuase of the cool, wet climate. They also do great iced wines - where they actually pick the grapes during a freeze, and they go into icy barrels as little ice-grapes! 

And although Ryan and I are more into dry reds...we were very impressed with the wine. Our favorite was a blueberry wine! It was made from blueberries instead of grapes. It was so interesting!

Did you know that the "vineyard scene" came to Upstate NY before CA? It makes sense, since CA was such a late state to develop. But when you think of NY - One doesn't typically think of vineyards.

I didn't get any more photos of the weekend - because we spent more time talking and enjoying our time. We had very limited time together, and really made the most of it! 

I will end this post with a picture I took at the beginning of my trip. I landed in NYC (Newark airport) with ZERO sleep. I found the quietest corner I could....attached my belongings to me, and fell asleep on the floor. I woke up to this view -- and It was the most energizing way to wake up! I have dreamt of this sight my whole life. It was kind of surreal to take in...
NYC Skyline from a distance...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Not every mile is beautiful

Remember last week when I said marathon training is going amazing?

"I am just loving my long runs" -- She said.

Ha! I am writing this Sunday afternoon while the feelings are still fresh, and the wounds are still gaping.

No, I don't really have wounds.

I had 20.5 very humbling miles.

My last 20 miles, I literally sprinted the final 3 miles. I felt so amazing, and wanted to keep going!

Today, I wanted to lay down and take a nap at 10 miles. So from mile 10-20, I kept questioning "What. Went. Wrong."
  • My nutrition was spot-on all week long.
  • I rested on Saturday to get fresh legs.
  • I ate a great, well-balanced meal Saturday night. I even had a small bowl of ice cream to give me some extra calories to burn ;).
  • I hydrated all day long Saturday. Didn't drink any alcohol.
  • I had a banana with peanut butter 1.5 hours before the run. And foam rolled pre-run.
  • I had bites of fuel (gels) along the course to keep me going.
I was the perfect athlete. But that did not come to play on the run.

At 16 miles, I fell behind my partner, texted her and said "I'm walking to my car. You keep going! I'm done". Well, she came and got me and reminded me "Abby, marathon training isn't easy. Are you injured? Are you hurt? No? Then we push through the hard miles."

It was a good reminder. Not ever long run is going to feel amazing. Marathon training should be tough! And race day, I may not feel "amazing". So I need to learn to be uncomfortable! (Isn't that true with life, too?"

Luckily, she had a protein bar in her car. (which I never eat stuff like that on a long run! But I needed it!) And I had a few bites of that at mile 17, and finished that baby off. I totally hit a wall! And post run I felt weak and defeated.

I returned to my car wobbling, covered in mud (there was a LOT of mud on the path today....), wind-blown, and very thirsty.

Now, hours later - I realize, "Wow, I didn't die." Kind of makes me smile - because I think we all go through these feelings in life. Something can feel so hard - and then when we reflect on it, we find ourselves saying "Well, that wasn't so bad!"

And all I can pray is that I don't feel like that come race day! But I am confident that my much-needed taper will prevent that from happening!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What's in the kitchen?

Cooking good food - it's kind of a goal, but more of an evolving lifestyle for me.

This is something I struggle with when Ryan is away, because it is so easy to grab cheese, hummus, and crackers for a "meal".

But that does not fuel me for the 45-mile weeks I've been running lately ;)

One thing that has helped with my cooking is purchasing in a spiralizer. I 1st ordered the cheap one on Amazon. And immediately sent it back. You get what you pay for....

So I went with the Amazon best seller. And am in love!

I have done many batches of spiralized zucchini.
I've done spiralized sweet potatoes - sautéed in sea salt and coconut oil (my favorite, thus far).
To fuel me up for my 20 mile run, I spiralized red potatoes last night.

I am guilty of using ketchup with potatoes like this. But crisping them up with cumin, sea salt, and coconut oil? -- NKR (that's No. Ketchup. Required) :D They were a great accompaniment to Dijon chicken breasts and roasted garlic.

Besides sprializing a lot of vegetables.

I have been roasting away. This is the time of year where it is okay to use the oven, as it's not 9000 degrees outside. My new favorite food to roast? Broccoli! I highly recommend you all try this!

Toss broccoli in olive oil, salt, pepper, and lots of garlic.
Roast at 450 degrees x 20 minutes
It will crisp them up, and taste so good!

Last Sunday I roasted my 1st chicken! Ryan and I eat roasted and grilled whole chickens all the time. But guess who cleans the chicken, handles the gizards, and carves it?

Not me ;)

I felt like a real "grown up" when I did this last weekend!
This provided meals all week long for me!

And my final new food I tried last own home-made Larabars!

Lara bars are a "Paleo-approved" (not that I'm 100% paleo...more 80/20). But they are so easy to make, and quite good for you. I really like knowing exactly what I'm putting in my stomach, and that happens with this recipe!

1 cup raw almonds
1 cup pitted Meejol dates
1 cup unsweeted coconut flakes
2 Tbsp good cocoa powder
1/4 cup 70% cocoa chips
~ 2 Tbsp water

I put the coconut and almonds in my food processor, added in the dates and cocoa, and enough splashes of water to make it stick together. I pressed it into an 8x8 in pan, and stirred in the cocoa chips. These are a great pre-workout snack! Or when I'm craving something sweet. It's like a piece of fudge.

Okay, I lied. They aren't as good as Mom's fudge. No paleo recipe will ever be as good as real, Christmas fudge. ;)

I am going to make a Vegetarian Moroccan Stew tonight for dinner, to give me leftovers for the whole week. It will have lentils, chick peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, and many wonderful anti-inflammatory spices. I hope it cures me. I had a really brutal 20 miler this morning.

What have you been cooking lately?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January's "Currently"

I always like to circle back to these every once in awhile. Last time I did a "currently" update, we were getting ready to close on our house. I feel like a whole lifetime has happened since June!

So here is my current "currently's"

Reading: "Crucial Conversations" -- it's a leadership book I've been tasked to read by my mentor at work. It's actually really interesting - and talks about how to handle the soft skill of gracefully handling difficult conversations such as "confrontation" or giving out criticism.

As much as I'd prefer some mindless reading - it is entertaining.

Thinking: About how I want to decorate our house. I need help mixing modern with SW rustic (which is the style of our home).

Feeling: Quiet. Ryan is gone. I work from home. If it weren't for my running girlfriends or my "Run Club" kids I coach on M, W, Th....I think I'd be talking to myself. I already have found myself talking to my dog more often lately ;)

Anticipating: A trip to Syracuse next weekend! We are going to spend a night in Ithaca and check out Ithaca College/Cornell University (as it's supposed to be beautiful), some local wineries (at least the tasting rooms due to the winter weather), and if there is snow on the ground do some cross country skiing! There are also some waterfalls that are open to "hike" in the winter -- so will check out the Finger Lakes, as well!

Sad: That although I have a work-from-home job that can take me anywhere....I can't be in NY with my husband. Have to be honest and admit as positive as I'm trying to be....I don't really want to be here.

Working: Hard and happy. This time of year is insanely busy in my industry -- and I've taken on quite of bit of extra responsibility over the past month. But I love my job - so it's all worth it! :)

Grateful: For all the rain we have been getting! Although it is making for so wet training runs....I will never turn down rain! Neither will my garden ;)

Listening: To a lot of classical music. I've gotten hooked on "Mozart In the Jungle" - an Amazon series - and it has put me in the mood for classical - Baroque era music, specifically.

Wishing: That I continue to stay healthy and injury free through February 25! Race day.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Marathon Training: final weeks

With just about 6 weeks to go until race day, I thought I'd check in with a marathon training update.

So be prepared to be bored with splits and details! ;)

As I've said before, this is the 5th marathon I've trained for. It will be the 3rd I actually get to complete. And I will complete it. Gosh, I hope nothing stops me this time!

How am I feeling?
Really good. I am right on track with my pace. My only problem is I've dealing with the slightest bit of plantar fasciitis. It isn't enough to bother me while I'm running - but I definitely feel it the hours after a sprint workout! But as long as I'm good, and I ice, foam roll, and stretch -- it is all good.

What kind of workouts am I doing?
I'm running about 40-45 miles/week.
Every other Tuesday, I get on the track and do 800 m repeats. On the weeks I don't get on the track, I do an 8 mile tempo run with 1-2 mile repeats.
I run about 4-5 days/week.
1 speed/tempo run, 1 aerobic run, 1 LONG run, and 1-2 normal/easy runs
My long runs are an easy conversational pace, and we try to push a little race pace at least the last 6-8 miles.

My speed/tempo runs - I keep my pace between 6:30-7:00/mile.
My aerobic runs are about 7:40-7:50/mile.
My easy and long runs are around 8:00/mile.
My goal marathon pace is 7:45/mile.

Long runs:
Have been my favorite part of training. I have felt so strong and good on my 18-20 milers. It does help having training partners. But we talk the ENTIRE run pretty much (except maybe the last 1-2 miles were we just want to finish). I also finish feeling like I could keep going. I'm religious about taking a LONG Epsom salt soak after. And I feel pretty good after the run!

Cross training:
Gentle yoga and spin class. My strength training is more "physical therapy"-like exercise that I do post-run. Body-weight lunges, stretches, core holds, hip extensions, etc

Nutrition to carry me through my long runs is pretty minimal. I just don't take much due to a very sensitive stomach. I pre-fuel with a banana and peanut butter, and take a few clif blocks along the course along with water. I really like the caffeine in Clif Blocks for a little extra kick!

But the really importance nutrition is what I'm eating between the runs! Tons of vegetables, protein-protein-protein, sweet potatoes, squash, good fats (nut betters, avocados, etc). When I put in my daily food intake into "My Fitness Pal" -- I am getting more fat than anything else. And that is what I feel my body needs during this time with how hard I'm training!

Burnt out yet?
Nope. In fact, I kind of want to keep marathoning. This is the 1st training cycle that hasn't made Ryan say "I wish you wouldn't do this..." lol!

But let's talk after February 25. My mind may change after the race.