Thursday, October 31, 2019

October Books

I can't believe my goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (ha, I ended up with 88 in 2017 and 77 in 2018!) has morphed into this passion for books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" also gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;) {PS One of my goals for 2019 is to read 19 books, let's see how many times over I can do that.}

There were FORTY-EIGHT books in the first eight month, so when I add October's TEN that brings my total for 2019 to FIFTY-EIGHT thus far! If you're interested in what I read (or how I would rate them and whether I would recommend you giving them a read or not), make sure to check out my previous monthly book recaps! {January's BooksFebruary's BooksMarch's BooksApril's BooksMay's BooksJune's BooksJuly's BooksAugust's Books, September's Books}

  • The Only Kayak by Kim Heacox - A friend of mine mentioned this book was the best book he read all summer... and with that endorsement you know I had to grab it from the library. I didn't know anything about it, other than he loved it, but that was enough for me. What I found in this book was not only an author's love for Alaska, land preservation and conservation, but beautiful words that made me yearn for the outdoors. I've never been to Alaska (my parents did take a cruise there earlier this year), but I can definitely see the allure in the beauty and wildness. Once I started this book I had a hard time putting it down (the only reason I did was only because I started it late in the afternoon and had to go to bed... I ended up finishing it the following morning). I appreciate that the author weaves environmental issues into his personal journey. I'm slightly nervous to recommend this book to the hubby because he already has a dream to become a park ranger and I think this might tip him over the edge and get us shipped up to the great north ;) I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Three Women by Lisa Taddeo - Oh golly gee, I feel like a broken record, but I'm not sure where I saw this title (it might have been on a friend's IG story or maybe a "must read" list), but whatever the reason I threw it on my recent check-out pile from the library. Well, let's just say this wasn't necessarily my jam. As you probably have noticed, I am not all that keen on the "scandalous" topics when it comes to the books I read (which is probably why I tend to stick with the YA genre), but that is pretty much all this book was about. The concept was interesting - the author followed three real women for eight years through different periods in their lives and "reported" on it, but for the most part it revolved around the sex they were or weren't having in their lives. The author's hope was to focus on the topic of "desire", but the way that read (at least to me) was sex, sex and more sex. Now maybe had I known what the book was about before I checked it out I would have been a little more prepared (or not have grabbed it in the first place), but I guess I was caught a little off guard (I guess you can call me a prude...). Recently I haven't had an issue stopping a book if it doesn't grab my attention in the first few chapters, but I kept holding out hope that the stories of these women would change and head in a different direction... Well, they didn't. Again, I thought it was well written and interesting (quite the broad array of women in the book), but it wasn't my cup of tea. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel - After sharing my book recap last month, a friend mention that she had just read this book, loved it and was now sharing it with everyone who asked for book recommendations. I didn't know what it was about, but the rave review made me snag it from the library and give it a try. And I am so glad I did. I absolutely loved this book. It was the story of a gender nonconforming child and their journey (along with the journey of their family and friends) while navigating life. Although the author does have a transgendered child, she says the story was inspired by her child but is still very much a tale of fiction. Whatever the case, I think this is a topic that doesn't get much attention, yet is extremely important, needs more representation and should be talked about (openly, actively and positively). I love how supportive this family was, but at the same time, even with all of the positivity they provided, things were still extremely difficult. Familial acceptance doesn't make everything rainbows and unicorns, but it sure does appear to be a make or break factor in a lot of kids' lives in the LGBTQ community. Even though the topic is a serious one, there's a light-heartedness and playful spirit throughout which I appreciated. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent - This was another book that was recommended to me when I shared the books I read in September. I was warned that the story included abuse and incest, but other than that I didn't know anything about it when I grabbed it from the library. I'm not sure why, but for some reason this book never really "grabbed" me. Maybe it was all of the talk about guns (which I am very anti) or the fact that I could never really connect with the main character. I was actually very surprised to see all of the positive endorsements for this book because it felt horrific, shocking and somewhat unbelievable in my opinion. I wouldn't say it was the worst book I've read, but I definitely won't be recommending it to others as a great read. I still pushed through and read it all (even though I probably could have saved myself a few hours and returned it uncompleted), but I never found anything really redeeming in the book. I would give it a 5 out of 10.

  • Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris - Hmmm... this was another book recommended to me after last month's recap and I had high hopes for it. This was the story about the bike journey a woman and her friend took along the Silk Road. Like the previous book, this never really grabbed me. I kept waiting for something exciting to happen, but there wasn't much. It was hot, it was rainy, it was hard to find places to sleep, etc. I can't imagine biking for a year straight, don't get me wrong, so the feat in and of itself was pretty amazing, but the story about it wasn't overly engaging. It was pretty slow going and I think had I had another book already checked out from the library I might not have finished this one. I appreciated some of the self-discovery conclusions she made throughout the journey, but other than that I was left wanting more. I would give it a 5 out of 10.

  • In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - A friend of mine had recently finished this novel and mentioned she would give it a 9 out of 10, so I figured I would grab it from the library. Originally when she shared about it on her IG stories I saw the quote on the bottom of the cover mentioned you should be prepared to be scared... Well, I don't like anything scary so I double checked with her and she said it was more of a suspense thriller than a horror, so I decided to give it a go. I started it while I was waiting in live at the DMV (Pro Tip: Never go to the DMV without something to keep you entertained) and ended up finishing it the following day. Like my friend mentioned, it wasn't scary, but kept you on your toes. I'm not sure if it's because I grew up on Law & Order or not, but I sort of guessed the outcome of the book about halfway through. Even though I had an idea of where the story was going (which turned out to be spot on), I still kept reading and stayed engaged. I believe they are turning the book into a movie, which I'm sure will be suspenseful, but, honestly, nothing too shocking. If you like suspenseful books, I'm sure you will enjoy this, but I found it a bit predictable (at least in my opinion), even if it was still entertaining. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Sadie by Courtney Summers - A few weeks before the Ventura Marathon the hubby decided he was going to sit the trip out so he could stay home and work on home stuff (we are oh-so-close with having everything done). Since he wasn't going to come, I figured I'd listen to an audio book on the drive there and back. I did a Google search for the best 6ish hour audio books (since it normally takes about 3-4 hours depending on the traffic to get to Ventura). This title appeared on the list, although it did say it was slightly longer than the 6 hour time limit for the article. It was available at the library so I snagged it and popped in the first CD once I left the house. Like most of the books I grab, I didn't know anything about it when I started listening. It turned out to be a story about a missing girl, written in the format of a crime podcast. The hubby and I enjoy listening to those types of podcasts on road trips, so I thought this was awesome. I also think it went well with the audio book format because they had different actors reading the different parts (over 30 voices in total). At times I forgot I was listening to a book and thought it was a legit podcast. The story would flip back and forth between the podcaster and the girl who was missing, Sadie. Real talk, I was a little bummed at the end (mostly because I like when writers wrap up their stories in a pretty bow and this one definitely had some unfinished business), but all in all I thought it was great. It is in the Young Adult genre, but I still felt as though it was realistic with just enough shock and suspense thrown in. It definitely has some triggering topics, with serious subjects including child abuse, sexual assault, physical violence. And even though this is a novel, it seemed to have some undertones about society as a whole today - how people tend to be too wrapped up in their own busy lives to pay attention to those around them, how often times girls don't feel safe and how kids are asked to grow up faster and faster. I think I would have enjoyed this just the same had I read the physical book instead of listening to it, but do think the audio format was great. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • How Happiness Happens by Max Lucado - I've read a few of Max's many books in the past, so when I saw this recent release pop up on a popular list I put a hold on it at our library. It was a very quick read (I think it's only about 150 pages with an additional 20 or so at the end with "questions for thought" if you were doing this as part of a study or wanted to dig a little deeper), I finished it in just a couple hours. Max walks through his tips on how to find lasting joy in a world full of comparison, disappointment and unmet expectations. He breaks it down into 10 points, all of which can be found within scripture. The underlying theme through the book seems to be giving. Like the old adage says "it's better to give than to receive" and the more we give the happier we become. I really like the "Happiness Challenge" he extends at the end of the book, where he suggests folks to take 40 days and try to alter the joy level in at least 100 people (and keep a journal about the encounter). He believes that not only can you change your world, but it'll change you in the process as well. I'm thinking it's a great idea, now I just need to get a journal so I can keep track of it all! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan - A week or so ago I had seen a friend on Facebook ask her friends what the best or most impactful book they had read recently was... so obviously I had to scan the list and add a few to my "must read" list. This was one of the first ones that became available at the library and I was stoked. The bi-line said "one gift, three rules and a life-changing journey around the world". I was hooked before I even opened the cover... and it did not disappoint. I love stories about travel and this was right up my alley. The author and her husband sold all of their stuff, quit their jobs and hit the road. Before they left on their epic adventure two of their friends gave them a gift - a yellow envelope with a check to "do good" on their travels. As with all "real life", the story has its fair share of ups and downs (and a lot of relational drama which was a tad much at times), but man I couldn't put the book down. Not only did I enjoy reading about the couple's trip, I absolutely loved reading about how/ why/ when they decided to give away the money they had received. This couple truly learned how impactful and transformative giving, not just of money but also of themselves, could be. Side note - I also appreciated the author's delineation between tourist and traveler. The book even comes with a yellow envelope so you can do it to - how awesome is that?! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - I think this book was recommended to me on Amazon when I was adding past books to my "Books I've Read" list. I didn't know anything about it before I grabbed it (like most of the books I read), but did see it was turned into a major motion picture, so I guess I'll have to see if I can find it on one of our streaming accounts. Anywho, this was a fun (and quick, I read it in an afternoon even though it is over 300 pages) read. It's about a quirky mom who disappears amongst some interesting circumstances. The layout of the novel is rather unique, told through emails, faxes, police reports, hand written letters, etc. I feel like it could be a Real Housewives of Silicon Valley (or Seattle, since that's where it's based) - with a mix of drama, outlandish and kooky. It may not be my normal genre of read, but it was entertaining (would probably be a great beach book during the summer or on a vacation). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, October has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list!

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you read this year?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

No Spend November

Can you believe we have just over two months left in 2019?! I mean, oh my goodness gracious... where did the time go?!
At the beginning of the year I laid out 19 goals I wanted to try and accomplish... and with 83% of the year done and gone, it's time to get serious about tackling the ones I have yet to cross off the list (which, unfortunately, are more than I would expect at this point in the year, but there's nothing like a little fire under your booty to get your butt in gear, right?!). 
If you couldn't tell from the title, I wanted to chat about (and put on the calendar) our No Spend {November} Challenge. 

The idea behind the challenge is to see if we can go an entire month without buying anything. Now we are making TWO allowances - groceries and gas - but hopefully you can see why we're doing that ;) Other than those (and the bills we pay automatically like our mortgage, HOA fees and utilities), we aren't going to spend anything extra. {Obviously an unforeseen emergency may pop up that we need to handle, but the plan is to limit our spending to essentials ONLY!}

The hope is after the month is up we can a) see a bump up in our savings (especially after what seemed like six months of constant spending when it came to the home renovations) and b) see what we really "need". Sure, we may miss going out to eat a couple times a month or seeing a movie every once in a while, but I have a feeling there is a TON we could cut out and not even notice a change in our lifestyle or comfort... I'm hoping this experience will be eye opening as to where and how we are spending our money and whether what we spend our money on is actually enhancing our lives.

I'll be honest, November is going to be a hard month to try and not spend any extra money, with days dedicated to consumerism like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc, but at the same time, I think this is the PERFECT time to attempt it.


Have you ever tried a no spend challenge?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Q&A with Carlee

I posted on my social media accounts last week, asking folks if I did a Q&A if there were any questions they were dying to ask me and I got a plethora of questions (and quite the variety too!). I figured I’d answer a few of them a week. If there’s anything YOU want to know, make sure to leave the question in the comments so I can touch on it in an upcoming post.

What made you start your blog?

I started my blog in 2006 because I had moved across the country and it was an easier way to keep people in the loop on what I was doing - as opposed to sending individual emails to everyone. I’d say for the first couple years my parents were probably the only ones reading my blog (and the content was pretty embarrassing, to be honest). When I started running in 2012, the blog slowly transitioned more into that realm because it quickly began taking over my life (joking... sorta...).


Where do you store all the treasures you find on your runs?

After the first year of #CarleesTreasures I actually turned the treasures into an art piece (I glued everything I found onto canvases) and donated them to a local art space that does monthly trash clean-ups. After that first year I slowed my role (mostly because the storage of the treasures wasn’t something I was thrilled about) and now either just photograph the goodies and throw them out or donate them depending on the find. I donate all of the money I find to Girls on the Run.

What’s your favorite race memory?

Oh golly, do I have to choose only one?! Well, it’s my blog and I can do what I want ;), so I’ll pick two. First was qualifying for Boston at St. George Marathon. There were four of us ladies running and each of us hit our goal. I crossed the finish line after one of their husband’s and I yelled his name. He turned around, knew I qualified (based on his time) and pumped his fist in the air. It reminded me that although running may be a solo sport, there are so many people in the community pulling for you! Next has to be my first Boston. I mean, do you remember the weather of 2018?! It was CRAY-CRAY! But I soaked up every single moment (literally, HA!) and that race is forever solidified in my mind!

What made you want to renovate your condo?

We bought our place back in 2010. It was move-in ready when we bought it, but it just wasn’t our taste. The only thing we did when we moved in was paint the bedrooms and master bath. Over the past year or two the hubby and I had been tossing around the idea of either buying a house or redoing the condo. We eventually decided on renovating because we didn’t want a larger mortgage - which would have been required to purchase what we wanted (not sure if you are familiar with housing prices in SoCal, but they are stupid). The project has definitely taken longer than we would have liked, but we have really only been able to work one day a week (our HOA only allows work Monday thru Saturday, 8am-6pm and obviously the hubby is at his “real job” during the week so it leaves us doing everything on Saturdays). The good news is we are ALMOST DONE! We just have a few last little detail projects to finish up and then we will finally be able to sit back and enjoy it (I'll also share a blog post or two with some before and after shots in case folks are interested).


Do you make a living running?

Ha, I wish! Wouldn’t that be awesome?! (If you know someone willing to write me a check, hook a sister up!) Technically I'm a stay-at-home wife and dog mom with a part time job helping a running brand with their social media. I'm extremely lucky to have a hubby whose job affords me the ability to blog and run for fun (in case you were curious, he's a designer at adidas Golf). At times I do have partnerships or campaigns that I get paid for, but for the most part everything I do on my blog is just because I enjoy it... and hope you do too... (FYI: I often receive complementary race entries in exchange for pre- or post-race social media shares or free product in exchange for a blog review, but I would say 99% of the time there is no money being exchanged... and obviously new shoes or a half marathon registration doesn't pay the bills.)


And, there you have it, a handful of your questions with my honest to goodness answers. Hopefully you found some of the information interesting. I think this might be a fun series to continue, so as long as people keep supplying the questions, I’ll keep supplying the answers. Leave a question in the comments or reach out any of the social media platforms you follow me on (I should be @CarleeMcDot on all of them) and let me know what you've been dying to know about me.

What answer did you find the most interesting?

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Workout Recap - Week 43

Sunday, October 20th – 10 minute warm-up, Ventura Marathon, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Monday, October 21st – Rest day, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Tuesday, October 22nd – Rest day, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Wednesday, October 23rd – Rest day, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Thursday, October 24th – 25 minute run

Friday, October 25th  42.5 minute run

Saturday, October 26th – 60 minute run with 1 minute pick-ups

Although the marathon on Sunday didn't go how I would have liked, I am still happy with my decision to "live to fight another day" and save my legs for REVEL Big Bear in less than two weeks (it'll be here before we know it). In fact, my little fartlek run on Saturday was just the confidence booster I needed. Obviously I will need to run faster and for longer, but I was stoked with my paces (and that it didn't feel like I was dying). Here's to hoping these next two weeks (along with the MAJOR downhill of the course) will get me ready to crush the half marathon come race day.

How were your workouts this past week?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday Favorites {& GIVEAWAY}

Happy FriYAY! Hopefully this weekend not only brings a little maxing and relaxing, but maybe a little reprieve from the heat. Man alive, you would think after 13 years in the San Diego area I would get used to the "SoCal Fall", but year after year I forget how intense it can be. The high for the past three days has been above 90 DEGREES AT THE BEACH! The heat wave is supposed to break soon, but, let's be real, I'd much prefer a week long heatwave than the snow or freezing temps some of you are dealing with. Anywho, besides our fans, let's see what else I am loving lately...

The Great British Baking Show

I don’t remember who I heard talking about this show recently, but someone I follow on social media was mentioning how he/she was loving it so I added it to my list in Netflix. I wouldn’t say that I love it as much as Nailed It (I mean, that is pure gold), but it’s something fun to have on in the background when I’m doing stuff around the house. It’s a little different than some of the other cooking shows because the contestants can practice some of their "bakes" at home, but I still can get down on a baking competition (especially since we don't have the Food Channel anymore after ditching cable a few years back). I’m only mid-way through the first season thus far, but enjoying it enough to continue.


Amazon Fire Stick

While I’m on the subject of Netflix and “entertainment”, I’ve gotta mention the Amazon Fire Stick. Now I know we are WAY LATE to the party on this, but we had been using our Xbox to stream Netflix or Amazon Prime on our TV for a while. Well, our Xbox is old and LOUD (like you can hear the fans running and the gears grinding the entire time it’s on so the volume of the TV has to be extra loud to drowned out those noises) so when we saw a good deal on a Fire Stick we snagged on. Um... let’s just say I can’t believe we haven’t done this sooner! It is so easy and silent ;).


Christmas Music

Okay, so I ALWAYS LOVE Christmas music, but I normally try to limit when I allow myself to listen to it because I don’t want it to get played out (although I’m not sure that could ever happen in my book, but still). Well, normally my official start date is my birthday, but this year I actually waited until THIS WEEK to turn on the Classic Christmas Radio on Pandora (it was my treat after the Ventura Marathon). It obviously feels a little weird singing about a white Christmas while it is almost 100° outside, but hopefully with the break in the heat soon it’ll feel a little more like the holiday season ;).

PROBAR's New Website

I have been lucky enough to be an ambassador with PROBAR for a while now, but even if I wasn't I would still chow down on their products because they are plant-based, real food and oh-so delicious. I could eat upwards of five of their products in a single day (a PROTEIN bar for breakfast {frosted coconut or frosted peanut butter are my jam}, BOLT chews during my run for fuel {pink lemonade is my fave}, a pack of the nut butter with my banana for a snack {superfood almond is my go-to flavor}, a MEAL bar for lunch {thankfully I don't have to pick my top choice because they have a variety pack} and a BITE bar for a evening snack {coconut almond is the one I'm currently digging the most}). Anyway, they have recently updated their packaging and within the last week or two pushed out their new, pretty website. If you haven't given it a look, you definitely should. Well, a couple weeks ago they sent me some extra product and I want to pass it along to one of you. One lucky reader will win a 12 pack of the Raspberry BOLT Chews to keep them #FueledByPROBAR. Entering is easy, simply use the Rafflecopter widget below and throw your name into the proverbial hat. The random winner will be selected on Tuesday - easy peasy, lemon breezy! {FYI: If you don't win, can't wait or want a different product, you can use code "CARLEE" to save 30% off on your order. But, don't wait, the discount code is until valid through November 30th!}

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway will run through Monday, October 28th at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be contacted on Tuesday, October 29th via the email address on their Rafflecopter account and has 24 hours to claim their prize (make sure your information is up-to-date and you check your email regularly). US Residents only. All entries are verified, so do whatever the required action for the entry is or it will be disqualified. I'd hate for you to miss out due to a technicality, so if you're going to click the option, make sure you do whatever it asks or a new, random winner will be selected in your place. Best of luck!

What are loving lately?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ventura Marathon Race Recap

Sunday was the Ventura Marathon - my fall goal marathon, the one I'd be attempting to run a new PR {personal record}.

Any finish line that I can cross with a smile on my face is a MAJOR WIN in my book!

Well, at least that was the thought process back at the beginning of the summer when I was putting my fall racing schedule together. You see, I was having a tough time deciding whether I wanted to chase fast times or longer distances. I was going back and forth, reaching out to friends for their input and even turning to the InterWebs to get their opinions. When the hubby "kindly" reminded me that I wasn't getting any younger and that maybe I better chase down a new PR while my age was still on my side, I figured he might be right and decided speed would be the focus for the fall.


I ran the Ventura Marathon last year and despite having tummy troubles it was the location of my fastest marathon, so I figured I'd try to go back for a "redemption" race. Okay, okay, maybe it wasn't so much redemption, seeing as I couldn't be upset with running a PR last year, but I thought all things being equal, if I didn't have stomach issues I could have run even faster, so why not attempt it again?! I guess you'll just have to read on to see how things "weren't equal" this year...


Well, if you're new around these parts, first, WELCOME, but second, you may not know that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia when I was in 9th grade. I have been dealing with this chronic illness for the past TWENTY YEARS. There are good days and bad days decent days and terrible days, but for a stretch of about six weeks (but it felt like an eternity) during this training cycle I had a major fibro flare that knocked me on my booty. In fact, there was a point where I was worried I might have a tumor on my spine and broke down to the hubby that I was scared it might be cancer or something equally as serious because I couldn't find any relief. (FYI: I did go to the doctor and after test upon test was told "everything was perfectly fine"... but, hey, that's fibromyalgia for you...) I was doing my best to honor my body, but also trying my best to stick with the training plan my coach had laid out for me. Some days that meant I would scrap the speed portion of the workout and just get in the miles, other days that meant alternating between ice packs and heating pads and trying not to cry the entire day. Eventually the flare let up a bit (not sure if it was due to the praying, the weather, the stretching, the CBD salves, the new mattress, the fibromyalgia just loosening its nasty grip ever-so-slightly or a combination of all of them) and I was able to get back to business. Well, that was until I came down with some summer sickness (aren't they the worst?!) that started out feeling like the flu and then transitioned into something more like pneumonia. I would say I was hacking up a lung for a good two weeks before I was able to start getting a little relief. All-in-all, before we even made it to race day I'd say one of the MAJOR things that wasn't equal when comparing last year's race to this year's race was my training (but not due to a lack trying...). It's like my body had made its mind up and it was not in the mood for a PR attempt... but I didn't care. When I was able to put in the effort, I pushed as hard as I could. Even still, I knew I would need to adjust my goals from what I originally had in my head at the beginning of the training cycle. I took the time goals off the table (although, more on that later) and decided to focus on effort rather than outcome.

About week or so before the race the hubby and I still hadn't decided on a place to stay in Ventura so we were chatting about the accommodation options. He asked if it would be okay if he sat this one out because he wanted to try and knock out some of the last remaining house tasks that needed to be done on the renovation. He is normally my number one cheerleader so I told him it was totally fine to skip this race. Since he wasn't going I decided to just stay in a room I found on AirBnB (the hubby looked over the options to make sure he felt comfortable with the people I would potentially be staying with). It was much cheaper than a hotel (especially when we had waited so long to book) and since I was only using it to sleep in, it worked out perfectly - but I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's back it up a bit.


The race was on Sunday morning, but I needed to get up to the Ventura area on Saturday to pick up my bib (last year race-day bib pick-up was free but they had made it a $20 fee this year... I obviously wasn't planning to drive up to Ventura the morning of the race since it was a 3+ hour drive, but it did mean that I needed to make sure to get into town before the expo closed for the day, which was at 5pm). I left the house around noon on Saturday, hoping the weekend traffic wouldn't be too terrible. Thankfully there were only a few accidents along the way and I was able to get to Ventura a little before 4.

Trip essentials - a good audio book, snacks and water to hydrate!

Thankfully I enjoy driving, so didn't mind the journey too much.

Bib pick-up
was super easy. I was able to get in and out of the "expo" in just about 5 minutes (and that's probably because I had to use the restroom after drinking 40 ounces of water on the drive up). There were a few vendors with tents, but nothing seemed to tickle my fancy (but, let's be real, I rarely ever shop at expos anyway) so I was in and out lickety-split.

Bib acquired - LET'S DO THIS THANG!

Then it was time to CARB LOAD! Pizza is normally my go-to pre-race dinner, so I had done a little research before heading to Ventura and found Native Pizza (Yelp to the rescue ;)). They had a pizza that sounded AMAZEBALLS - the Mad Hatter. I love me some mushrooms and when I saw they offered a homemade vegan cheese I was sold. Thankfully the pizza was as good as I was hoping (and had I known it was going to be as tasty as it was I might have ordered a larger pizza and saved the leftovers for the drive home after the race #YouLiveAndYouLearn #NextTime).

After I chowed down it was time to go to the AirBnB. FYI: This is the first time I've booked an AirBnB where the owners would still be there (I was just "renting a room" rather than taking over the whole space). I was worried it would be a little awkward, but since my game plan was technically just use the place to sleep I figured it wouldn't be too terrible. Thankfully the couple who owned the home were nice, the room was fine and I even was able to do a little walking around the neighborhood to get my legs moving a bit after being in the car for a big chunk of time before settling in for the evening.

This little water inlet was at the end of one of the neighborhood streets... FANCY!

Since I knew the alarms would start super early come Sunday morning, once I got back to my room I did some stretching, grabbed my book and tried to mellow out for the evening (the AirBnB didn't have WiFi so it kept me off my phone). I was hoping to be "asleep" by 8pm (although I never sleep well the night before a race) in hopes of getting 7ish hours of sleep.

Thankfully I had triple checked to make sure I had all of the gear I needed for the following morning (I went through everything before I left home, once I arrived at the AirBnB and then again before going to sleep... one can never be too careful, #AmIRight?!), so there was one less thing to stress about while I lay tossing and turning in bed.

I was struggling to decide on a race outfit for this race so sent a few options to different friends and this seemed to be the winning combo, so
we went with it. #FlatCarlee included: Black and Yellow Dot PRO Compression Socks, Yellow Sparkle Athletic Skirt, #teamsparkle trucker,
Nathan Speedmax Handheld, PROBAR BOLT chews, Sarah Marie Design Studio "RUN" muscle tank, elite Road ID, black QALO
silicone wedding bands, black and yellow Momentum Jewelry wraps, COROS APEX Watch and Brooks Ghost 11.

As I suspected, I didn't get much sleep Saturday night. I'm sure it was a combination of being in a new place, stressing about the race itself, worrying that I would sleep through my alarms, my fibromyalgia sleep issues, etc. (FYI: Because I know I never sleep well the night before, I do my best to prioritize sleep the week before the race as best as I can.)

I think I was out of bed by 2:30am anyway...

The Ventura Marathon is a point-to-point race, meaning you do not start and finish in the same location. The race provides shuttles from the finish line to the start line for runners. They recommend you park near the finish line and get to the buses (for the full marathon) by 4:45am since the shuttles are all supposed to leave by 5am. The Ventura Fairgrounds parking lot is open, but they charges $8 to park (last year it was $5 and we "splurged" so we wouldn't have to worry about finding a spot to park before the race) so I decided to leave a little earlier and look for a free spot. (PS Before I reserved the AirBnB I did reach out to the owner to let her know I'd be running the race and planned to be up around 3am and gone by 4am to make sure that wouldn't be an issue with them. She said they were totally fine with it, but just thought I'd mention it so if you were planning to do something similar you were courteous to those you may be staying with.) Seeing as I was near the finish line of the race around 4:10am, there was plenty of street parking available. I snagged a spot about a block from the finish line festivities. (FYI: If you're planning to do the same, make sure to take note of the signs. Some of the free parking lots said you couldn't park in them between 4 and 5am {assuming it's their way to make sure folks aren't camping overnight in the lot} so I was worried to park and risk a ticket {which I assumed would be more expensive than the $8 fairground parking I was trying to avoid ;) }. The spot I found was a 2 hour spot, but it started at 9am, which meant it'd give me until 11am before I was technically required to move my car and I was hoping to have finished the race by that time.)

When in doubt, selfie it out!

Before I move on, I've gotta pause to share a quick video. When I got down to the car in the morning, it was all decorated. The hubby had asked me for the address of where I was staying when I got there, but he is normally extra cautious so I didn't think anything of it. I was flabbergasted when I walked out and saw the notes covering the car.

{PS At this point I didn't realize who had decorated it. We have a Ragnar sticker on the back window and when I quickly walked around the car I thought it was in the same "paint" as the rest of the notes so thought maybe it was some Ragnar friends, but didn't put two and two together until later in the race... but more on that soon!}

The word "FRAMILY" should have keyed me in immediately... or the hashtags they put on the side window,
but I guess I wasn't thinking clearly that early in the morning ;)

The shuttles were picking up runners from the fairgrounds starting at 4:45am and I still had about 30 minutes to kill so instead of sitting outside I chilled in the car and listened to more of my audio book. Around 4:35am or so I made my way over to the buses. They were all ready for the runners to hop in and bus us to the start. I jumped in line and just happened to be behind Eric and then we saw Carleigh, who was volunteering and helping get runners onto the buses.

Seeing friendly faces before a race (especially if you aren't expecting them) is such a great way to alleviate some pre-race stress.

Last year we had a less than amazing experience with the shuttles (I am always a little leery, if I am being honest), but thankfully this ride went off without a hitch. We got on right around 4:45am and got up to the start line at about 5:20am.

This was how the path between the bus drop-off and starting line was 'lit'...
Glow sticks in water bottles, but I thought it looked like radioactive Mt. Dew ;)

My game plan was to jump in the port-o-potty line as soon as I arrived at the starting area, then max and relax a bit (I had a Mylar blanket to wrap myself in/ sit on), then get back in the port-o-potty line (even if I don't have to go, it's always better to double check, especially because the closer to the race start time you get, the longer lines and wait times can become), then my coach wanted me to get in a 10 minute warm-up jog before the start. I normally never warm-up before a race (isn't that what the first few miles are for?!), but I was trusting her with my training, so I better trust her with my pre-race plan too. A word of warning - the starting area is DARK (in case you are reading this in preparation for running the race). I ran from back and forth from the start line back down to where the buses dropped us off until my watch hit 10 minutes. I don't think my GPS had officially located me because my distance was just over a mile and I didn't think I was running 10:00/mile pace, but it was more about getting the blood flowing than anything else so I didn't really care or pay attention.

Obviously I had to snap a quick selfie before we got ready to run!

Eventually it was time to get the race started, so I made my way into the hoard of runners (the race offers pacers, which is great, but they tend to bunch up in the starting area which makes it hard to find the correct place to stand - thankfully runners don't care about personal space and are okay being smooshed together like sardines) and got ready to run.

It's always a little confusing as to which side of the start line runners should line up... Eventually we were
told which side to stand on (and then very specific directions for the course which no one was listening to).

Now, if you read my goals post {HERE}, you know I had to throw my time goals out the window. My training cycle didn't go the way I would have liked and I knew the stars would have to align perfectly and my shoes would have needed some a ton of magic dust on them to hit the times I originally was aiming for. Well, being the numbers girl I am, it was hard to throw those goals entirely out the window, so I still lined up around the 3:20 pacer. I know this is silly, but deep down I was still holding onto hope I might make a sub 3:20 race a reality. I told myself I'd stick with the 3:20 pacer (if I could) until Mile 23, then push the last 5K to try and get in under that. (I even printed off a pace band with a finish time of 3:19:59.) I knew I might be shooting myself in the foot, but since my reworked goals included "No Limits" and "Give It Everything", I was somewhat okay with pushing myself and potentially blowing up in the process (obviously hoping that wouldn't happen).

MAJOR THANKS for Almi who was not only out on the course cheering
us on (she is pregnant and her doctor has told her she shouldn't be running
currently), but she snapped some pictures of me throughout the race! 

Let me tell you, I had a strong 11 miles... If only the race was 15 miles shorter than it was I might have hit my goal... HA! I was able to stick with the 3:20 pacer through the first 40% of the race... but then I could feel myself slipping. It was getting warm quick (not using this as an excuse, just telling it like it was) and I could tell I wouldn't be able to hold on with the pacer. I didn't let off the gas per say, but switched my mind-frame a bit from "Original Goal A" to "Original Goal B" which was instead of a sub 3:20, maybe a PR was still within reach (I still felt like I was following through with my "Updated Goal B", giving it my all {I don't think I was pushing beyond my limit for "Updated Goal A", because in my mind I was "okay" with not hitting sub 3:20 and once I accepted that the drive to push past my limit quickly flew out the window}).

Another picture captures by Almi (this one was probably around the Mile 12 mark)

I crossed the halfway point about a minute passed where my pace band said I should have been, but I could still see the 3:20 pacer, so I thought if I could stick with it maybe I could still get a PR... but in the back of my mind I knew it wasn't a possibility. Around Mile 15 the 3:25 pacer passed me and I knew a PR wasn't a reality. #RealTalk - I was a little bummed because of the time, energy, blood, sweat and tears I put into this training cycle, but I knew from the jump it would be a long shot and after giving myself about 30 seconds to be frustrated I turned my frowned upside down and switched to an attitude of gratitude instead. I shot up a quick "Lord, thank you so much for the ability and opportunity to be doing something I love and I pray I can bring your name glory in the process" and kept chugging along, coming to terms with the fact that my "Updated Goal C" was now what I would be chasing. #LiveToFightAnotherDay

Around Mile 15.5 there was an official photographer on course so I started cheesing it up a bit for him (one of the best perks from this race {in my opinion} is that the race photos are FREE, so you better believe I was going to live it up for any photographer I saw). Shortly after I passed him I heard some folks yelling "Carlee" and thought it might be Almi on the course again or maybe friends who follow me on social media... To my surprise it was my three bestest friends who came to surprise me on the course! Like, guys, I was FLOORED! I started running in 2012 and these girls have never been to one of my races (and I wouldn't even ask them to because I know how stressful and, let's be real, somewhat uneventful spectating can be when you only see your runner 1-3 times over a 4ish hour race). Below is a video Kelly caught of me running towards them. I don't know if you can fully see the surprise in my face (since I was just cheesing it up for the photographer and heard folks cheering for me), but I literally could not believe it. THEY ROCK MY FREAKIN' SOCKS!

This is the picture the photographer caught shortly before I saw my girls!

I'm not sure if you heard at the end of the video or not, but I say "Oh, I'm not going to PR" because they were telling me to keep running. At this point I had already come to grips with the fact that this wasn't going to be my magical PR day. Also, I didn't realize until I watched this video how close the 3:25 pacer was at this point... so maybe I could've stuck with her for longer, but once I saw my girls I knew I had to stop, give hugs and thank them from the bottom of my heart for being there.


Here is where I must mention the next MAJOR reason why last year was different from this year... THE COURSE. You see, about three weeks before the race there was an IG post that said the course would be changing... Apparently a portion of the bike trail was under construction so they needed to reroute the runners. Well, let's just say the gradual downhill, somewhat shaded course we were expecting became an exposed uphill slog for a good 2 miles. I realize I had already made the mental switch to save my legs for Big Bear in three weeks, but had I not, this probably would've been where I threw in the towel. I walked a large chunk of the uphill, tried to cheer on runners around me (so I might avoid getting in a negative headspace myself) and drank as much water and electrolytes at the aid stations as possible.


Trying my best to stay positive... 

By the time we finally got back on the bike trail I was fried and pretty "over it". I kept plugging along mostly because my friends were there and I didn't want them to have to wait forever and a day for me to finish. They surprised me again around Mile 20 (for never having spectated a race before, they were pretty boss at getting around and seeing me multiple times!) and so I stopped briefly to chat. It was funny, Almi was a little further up on the course from them and she was yelling "Your non-runner friends are here!". Apparently she saw their signs that said "Carlee" and she mentioned she also had a friend named Carlee and they quickly realized it was ME! It's funny to have your two worlds collide.

How fun are their signs?!

My cheer squad!

The last 10K of the race was pretty craptastic. Seeing as I had already decided it wasn't my day, anytime I even contemplated slowing down my legs had already started walking. The desire to push was no longer there and the heat was zapping my energy with every step I took. In my mind, there is no real difference between a 3:35 marathon and a 4:35 marathon because neither is a PR and both are a finish. With that mindset, it's easy to see how my mental game was in the gutter way before I crossed the finish line. And although I really enjoy progression runs during training (where you get faster throughout your run), I am terrible at executing negative splits during a race. In fact, I even selected "positive split" on the pacing strategy for the pace band I made because I knew I would likely be slowing down. I never like "wishing away" miles, because I should be grateful I've been blessed with the opportunity and ability to run, but man I was done-zo.

Heading towards the finish line with a smile on my face, ready for it to be over.

Surprisingly, looking at my splits, they weren't too terrible. I mean, sure, I slowed down... and I wasn't close to the pace I wanted (for a sub 3:20 marathon I needed to run an average of 7:37/mile and my average ended up being 8:27/mile - 50 seconds per mile slower), but any day I can run a 3:41 marathon is a good day! It was actually my 10th sub-4 marathon!

My paces (via my Strava account) along with the elevation gain in each mile

I was able to cross the finish line with an official time of 3:41:40. But, let's be real, this race will not be remembered because of my pace, it'll be remembered because my girls came to support me. They may not be runners, but at the finish line they had tears welling up in their eyes and said that they can see why I love the sport so much. Watching a marathon can change your life - seeing people overcome doubt, adversity and training to cross a finish line is AMAZEBALLS! 

I DID IT! Marathon #25 is in the books!

Because my friends were there, I decided to opt out of the waffle at the finish line (last year I was a bit disappointed, so instead of grabbing a less than stellar breakfast I gave my waffle {and free beer} ticket to a runner's significant other so they could both partake). We snapped a couple quick photos, said hi to some friends and made a bee-line to the exit.

These ladies... I just can't... They mean the world to me!

Casey caught me at the finish line and of course I had to thank Almi for all her energy and support on the course!

We did stop and grab food together (because it was only fair that I reward them for having driven 3+ hours Saturday night, stay in a 'shady' hotel, wake up early on a Sunday, spectate a marathon and then drive another 3+ hours home), but we did so a little ways away from the finish line in hopes of avoiding the crowds. After brunch, we all made our way back to North County. On the way home I had to bust into a bag of Red Fish because I had given up sweet treats for the three weeks prior to the race in hopes of making it to the start line feeling as healthy as possible and was ready to celebrate ;).

Please ignore the crusty salt marks around my eyes... OOPS!

Once I got home the hubby wanted to go for a run, so I changed my clothes real quick and then we grabbed the pup to make our way to the beach. I walked Walt for about a mile and a half while the hubby got in a 3 mile run. (Because after you run 27+ miles and drive 3+ hours, of course you want to walk a slow-poke dog for 40 minutes ;))

It might not be Ventura's beach in the background, but it's still the Pacific Ocean ;)

All-in-all, it wasn't the day I wanted, but it was the day I got and I'll be forever grateful for it. Could I have pushed harder and ran faster? Of course, but in the long run, no one will remember my times... It's a personal thing... And I'm personally okay with how the day unfolded (FYI: I absolutely believe you can be both disappointed and proud at the same time). I will continue to celebrate finish lines (and finish times) and pray my body allows me to keep running for many years to come.


PS Just because I didn't run a sub-3:20 marathon this race doesn't mean I'm giving up on the goal forever... I don't plan to run another "fast" marathon anytime soon, but that doesn't mean I won't attempt it again in the future! #FasterAsAMaster

How do you bounce back after not hitting a goal?