Belated Ragnar Chicago Race Recap

Where's Waldo at the starting line (with half of Matt...this is the only pic we have!)

Where’s Waldo at the starting line (with half of Matt…this is the only pic we have!)

It’s been over a month now since I completed my first Ragnar Relay with my team, Where’s Waldo, but I still wanted to write up this recap. Our team of 12 ran nearly 200 miles in about 30 hours from Madison, WI to Chicago. It was one of the most challenging (mentally and physically), but fun races I’ve done. A few people asked me afterwards if we were running for charity only to be surprised (or shocked) to find out that we were doing the race for fun! Yes, there are charities that run Ragnar to raise money, but there are also a lot of crazy people who do it for a good time. So here’s a little recap of my race experience. I may do some other posts later on tips for captains or what I wish I’d known before I did Ragnar to help anyone (or myself) preparing to do one of these awesome races.

If you’re not familiar with Ragnar, it’s an overnight running relay with 12 runners (or less if you’re one of the ultra or more intense teams). Each team has 2 vans with 6 runners in each van. Runners 1-6 are in van 1 and runners 7-12 are in van 2. After you drop off each runner you drive to an exchange to meet them and switch to the next runner. The vans meet each other every 6 exchanges. So when your van’s not running, you have a little bit of a break.

I was the team captain for my team since I was the one who recruited the whole team and coordinated everything (which can be a big job in itself…that’s for another post). For the actual race, I was runner 12.

Our team got together at my house on Thursday night before the race for a team dinner and to decorate our vans. This was the first time our whole team (or at least most of the team since a couple people didn’t make it) got together before the race. It’s interesting because most people knew some of the people or were acquaintances (many were from my church). I knew

Finally got to decorate vans once the rain stopped

Finally got to decorate vans once the rain stopped

everyone at least a little bit except for 4 people (others recruited their friends, one was a youth group member I didn’t really know, and another was my husband’s coworker). So it may have been a little awkward at first, but after spending 30 hours together with the five other people in your van, you really get to know them pretty well and I thought we had a pretty good group (speaking for van 2, at least). Unfortunately van decorating didn’t happen that night because it was raining. :( But afterwards, I got a few of the girls on the team to jam their nails with a Runner Girl accent. :)

We drove up to Madison super early on Friday morning. Van 1 left earlier because they had to be at the starting line to check in and do the safety briefing one hour before our 7:30 am start time. Van 2 drove up about an hour later because we wanted to send our first runner, Rachel, off. Unfortunately for her it was raining a lot at the start. It was a little sad because all the vans weren’t decorated since the rain would’ve washed off any decorations people did with window markers. The energy was still great at the start as people were excited. After Rachel left, Van 1 had to head to the first exchange to meet her and those of us in Van 2 headed to the nearest Target to get some extra supplies we forgot and for some Starbucks. :) We hung out there for a while before driving over to Exchange 6, which was actually really nice. As we got updates from Van 1, we found out we were running ahead of schedule according to the race pace calculator Ragnar gave us (which was based off the 10k pace times each person submitted for themselves). Many people were running faster than what they said!

Ted & Kimberly passing off the bracelet!

Ted & Kimberly passing off the bracelet!

While we waited for Van 1 to show up at Exchange 6, we did our safety briefing, tried lots of free Nuun samples, and decorated our van. I still had a while to go before I’d have to run since I was the last runner to start on our team, but I felt a little nervous. I actually didn’t eat much that whole day before I ran aside from some oatmeal for breakfast before we left and some popcorn and a cereal bar. In retrospect, I probably should’ve eaten a little more since I didn’t actually start running until about 5pm that day. Normally I would’ve eaten at least a full meal for lunch if I ran after work like that.

Leg 12 – 6.8 miles: My first leg; 5pm on Friday
I started out planning on taking this run easy to save my energy because even though my second leg was going to be short, I knew I had a long run for the end. This entire race I was going pretty slow, actually–slower than I normally run in races. Usually the adrenaline kicks in and helps me push it more, but this race is different. I think part of it had to do with the fact that I didn’t always see people on my runs. Since you start when your team’s runner passes the slap bracelet off to you, the starts are staggered. I didn’t really run into groups of runners–just a few here and there. Sometimes I didn’t see anyone for a while on this first leg too since it was mainly just on a trail. I think when I’m running races with a lot of other people it’s more motivating to run faster and pass people when you can actually SEE more people on the course. The other thing that threw me off here was my volume was down on my RunKeeper app and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it (this happened on my first and second legs). I didn’t realize there weren’t mile markers along the Ragnar course except for the “One Mile to Go” sign. So I stopped a couple times just to see how far I went–had to take out my phone (I really need to get another Garmin watch).

Here are my splits for this leg:
Mile 1: 9:35 (fastest)
Mile 2: 10:05
Mile 3: 10:09
Mile 4: 9:56
Mile 5: 10:13
Mile 6: 10:06
Mile 7: 10:11

Total distance: 8.62 miles; 1:08:22; avg. pace 10:02

I was a little confused near the end of the leg because when I looked at the map I thought it had an in-and-out part before the finish, but it turned out it wasn’t like that. It was pretty exciting being a runner that goes into one of the major exchanges though because tons of people are there including your whole team (van 1 & van 2). My teammates got some great pictures of me coming in! :)

Coming in strong at the end of my first leg

Coming in strong at the end of my first leg

After I finished, my van went out for a quick dinner. We actually got nervous because we were waiting for a table and found out van 1 was already on their 3rd runner! We sped through our meal and made it to the next exchange with time to spare. Good thing we were there too because Albert (Runner 6) had to run a 5k for his second leg and he beat his van to the exchange! He’s a beast–ran that in about 15 minutes AND he had blisters…

Speedy Albert coming in from his second leg

Speedy Albert coming in from his second leg

Leg 24 – 2.9 miles (Ran at 2:15 AM on Saturday)
I was actually really excited about this run because it’s the first time I’ve run at night (generally not safe for a woman to do by herself). Ragnar makes you wear safety gear though. Unfortunately I don’t have picture. The weather was cooler (perfect, actually) and this was my shortest run. So I was planning on really pushing myself, which I did. The only problem was I got lost! When I started I was behind some guy and ended up following him when he took a wrong turn near the beginning of the run. To be fair, i actually thought I was supposed to go that way too because when we drove into the exchange, we saw runners going that way. Apparently a lot of people got lost on this run though. Since then I’ve learned that if you don’t see a sign telling you to turn and you’re at an intersection, GO STRAIGHT! Thankfully a couple girls were running toward us saying that we were going the wrong way. I got to a point on this run where I didn’t see anyone else either, which is a little unnerving since I’m running in the dark and don’t know where I’m supposed to go, but I just kept looking for the red blinking lights on Ragnar signs to direct me. I got to run by the lake in Racine, which was nice even though it was pitch black and I couldn’t see anything out there. There was also a hill near the end which was killing me. When I got to the exchange, Rachel wasn’t there in the exchange chute (she was on the beach but my teammates saw me coming and started yelling to her). So I had to wait a minute before she got there and then got to enjoy some s’mores on the beach before our van booked it out of there so we could spend a few hours in nice beds at Ted’s house. The warm shower & a decent few hours sleep was SO worth it! He lived only 20 minutes from our next exchange so if you’re able to crash at someone’s house in the middle of the race, I totally recommend it. We also got a nice breakfast in the morning.

My second leg splits:
Mile 1: 8:40 (yay)
Mile 2: 9:22 – realized I got lost, trying to get back on course
Mile 3: 9:48 – starting to lose some energy now

Total distance: 3.53 miles (added about half a mile to my run); 33:21; avg. pace 9:26 (finally under 10!)

*I also need to add in that this was my first night away from Jaylen ever. He did fine with Daddy (& grandparents who came to help out). I missed him, but I did okay too. :)

Sammy checking off her final box after finishing her last leg!

Sammy checking off her final box after finishing her last leg!

Leg 36 – 7.5 miles Final leg – Run to the finish! (12:55 PM start on Saturday)
This was one of the hardest runs I’ve ever done–even harder than the half marathons I’ve done. A few factors contributed to this: I was hungry (didn’t get to really eat anything for lunch & didn’t feel like eating anyway beforehand), it was HOT (thankfully I brought my own water because the only 2 water stations were at the beginning and the END of the leg…I actually ran out of water and had to stop at a drinking fountain when I got to the lakeshore path), and I was tired (going on only about 3 hours of sleep in less than 30 hours). I know some people can run crazy fast even in those circumstances (many of those people passed me & a lot of those people are on my team), but it just made this run extra challenging for me. I was also feeling really sore. My shoulders were sore for some reason and my legs were aching a bit. I may have been getting a little dehydrated. I’ll admit it–I took more than a few walking breaks (also paused to check the map to make sure I was going the right way). Maybe I also purposely slowed down so I would get stopped by a traffic light. It was pretty awesome though to run by the lake (but also hard when i could see the finish line across the lake…so close, yet so far!). As I got closer, I felt like I was running at a snail’s pace, but other Ragnar runners who were walking back to their cars would cheer me on as I ran toward the finish. No way was I going to walk now! The best part was when I heard Albert cheering for me by name and then I saw the rest of my team near the finish line. Then they all joined me and we ran across the finish together. That was such a relief and such an accomplishment!

Right after the finish (apparently we don't have a full team pic with our medals?!)

Right after the finish (apparently we don’t have a full team pic with our medals?!)

My super slow splits:
Mile 1: 9:54 (last time I’d be under 10)
Mile 2: 10:29
Mile 3: 10:22
Mile 4: 10:33 (I was doing so well up until mile 5…)
Mile 5: 11:57
Mile 6: 11:41
Mile 7: 13:24 (can you tell I was walking a lot near the end?!?)

Total distance: 7.7 miles (so actually a little longer than planned); 1:26:13; avg. pace 11:12

I have never been so proud to put a race decal on my car. :) I would definitely do a Ragnar again. The major downside is the cost. It’s the most expensive race I’ve done when you add everything up, but it was a great, unique experience. It also gave me some added stress and took lots of extra time since I had to plan and prepare as the team captain. I think if I did it again I’d want a co-captain to help share the load (and to organize one of the vans). I also would offer to be a different runner…or I would need to have gotten in more training time. There were a few weeks when I didn’t get the training in that I was supposed to so I didn’t feel as prepared for this race. I loved my team though. I just wish I got to spend more time with van 1!

Jonathan & Matt at their final exchange

Jonathan & Matt at their final exchange

Ragnar complete!

Ragnar complete!

Cousins & awesome Van 2 teammates

Cousins & awesome Van 2 teammates

Me with my brother-in-law, Andy

Me with my brother-in-law, Andy

Daddy & baby came to see me at the finish

Daddy & baby came to see me at the finish

A few of our team mates are missing here

A few of our team mates are missing here


Rachel, Drea, Jenn & me...wish I could've spent more time with these van 1 girls!

Rachel, Drea, Jenn & me…wish I could’ve spent more time with these van 1 girls!

Since I was the last runner, I got to keep our sweaty slap bracelet. Great momento though.

Since I was the last runner, I got to keep our sweaty slap bracelet. Great souvenir though.

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How to Help Your Publicist

Normally I’m pitching my own authors for guest posts on Seekerville, so I was honored when asked to write a post of my own. Today I’m sharing tips for authors and aspiring authors on how you can make your publicist’s job easier and hopefully make you and your book more likely to attract some media attention.

Get the full post here.

You’ll also have the chance to win a bundle of books I’m currently promoting!


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Being a Mom Doesn’t Make Me More Worthy of Appreciation

I became a mom nearly 17 months ago and it has drastically changed my life. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been doing this for years…like I can’t remember what life was like before Jaylen. Other times, I feel inadequate for this task of raising a young person. Before I became a mom, I always used to write my mom cards about how much I appreciated the things she did for me and sacrifices she made (like taking me to horseback riding lessons even though she was allergic to horses). I never really fully understood the depth of the sacrifices my mother made for me until I had my son. I loved this list I saw on Facebook a month or so ago (taken from a HuffPost article):

10 Things Your Mom Never Told You


As I read this list, I got a little teary because all of these things are true for me (except maybe #2 because we don’t let Jaylen eat pie, but I know this will be true later in life). It’s not always easy or fun, but I would do it all over again.

However, as much as I love being “mama” to someone, my identity is not dependent on whether or not I’m a good mom. I know Mother’s Day can be challenging for many women–those who struggle with infertility or who have suffered the pain of miscarriage or even abortion. Being a mom can be hard work, but it doesn’t make moms any more important than any other woman. We are all valuable and loved not because of who we are, but because of Whose we are.

I think this quote from Ann Voskamp explains this well.



So this Mother’s Day, yes, let’s all appreciate our moms for the sacrifices they’ve made–for essentially giving their own lives (their time, their desires, etc.) for ours. But let’s also remember to love and honor all women today as well because we can all be like a mother to someone whether we have our own children or not. We all can find our worth in the love of our Heavenly Father. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, He declares us worthy.

If you want a reminder of this, check out this video from Rachelle Dekker‘s site, and share your own story! {Disclaimer: I am the publicist for Rachelle’s upcoming novel, The Choosing, but I LOVE this message and would promote it even if I wasn’t her publicist!}


And Happy Mother’s Day to my wonderful mom! :)

My sister, my mom, & me at our church's Mother/Daughter tea

My sister, my mom, & me at our church’s Mother/Daughter tea

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Brown Bear Birthday Party

On Saturday we celebrated Jaylen’s first birthday. One of his favorite books over this past year has been Brown Bear by Eric Carle (even these past 3 days he’s been bringing it to me to read as his bedtime story). So I decided to use Brown Bear as the theme for the party. There are tons of great ideas on Pinterest, of course. We had Jaylen’s party at the Heller Nature Center with family and friends. It was a great venue with a little nature area kids could explore.

Here are some great photos that capture the day by Jake Preedin of Dirt Cheap Photography. If you ever need a photographer in the Chicago area, he’s very affordable and great to work with!

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Banner from The Banner Shoppe

Banner from The Banner Shoppe

The centerpieces were flowers in the animal colors from the book.

The centerpieces were flowers in the animal colors from the book.

My little baby model...look at that pose!

My little baby model…look at that pose!

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I made a banner with Jaylen’s monthly growth photos. We could only use painter’s tape to hang things so that’s why it doesn’t look as nice. I don’t have a picture of both strands of the banner, but you can see it behind the table in some pictures.

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Jaylen is one quarter Korean and first birthdays are a big deal in Korean culture. So my mother-in-law set up the traditional Korean first birthday table for Jaylen (my husband had a similar table on his first birthday). The objects on the front table represent different careers Jaylen might choose in the future (stethoscope – doctor, paintbrush – artist, tambourine – musician, Bible storybook – ministry, little basketball – athlete, apple – teacher, rope – long life, marker (which I added in after this picture was taken) – writer). We had guests vote for which career they thought Jaylen would pick.

Traditional Korean 1st Birthday Table

Traditional Korean 1st Birthday Table

Korean Rice Cake

Korean Rice Cake

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Love this one. :)

Love this one. :)

We lay all the career objects out on the floor and let Jaylen pick one out. He was definitely drawn to the book first–a boy after his momma’s heart! So maybe he will have a career in ministry. We let him choose a second object and he picked the tambourine. So we said he’ll be in music ministry. Then we drew a name from the people who said he’d pick ministry as his career and Jaylen’s Uncle Pearson (who is a pastor) won the prize! It was a little owl ornament because Jaylen loves owls too.

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I also got this great poster from Petite Lemon to hang on the wall. It’s available as a free download. I got it printed at Staples for less than $10, which is not bad consider how large the poster is! The photos are 8×8 printed from Mpix (the picture Jaylen’s blocking is one of his newborn photos). I plan on doing this every year, but next year I’ll probably print the poster and laminate it so I can reuse it instead of printing a new one each year. I just noticed Jaylen always seems to be standing with the same pose…haha.

Poster from Petite Lemon

Poster from Petite Lemon

Lovin Oven Cakery did a great job with the birthday cake. If you order a first birthday cake from them they also give you a complimentary smash cake. Pretty good deal!

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I made the “I am One” banner from some instructions I found on Pinterest. It’s really easy to do and I thought it turned out great.

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Jaylen loved all the attention. He smiled while everyone sang to him. :)

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Playing around the nature exhibit

Playing around the nature exhibit

One other thing we had guests do was write a letter to Jaylen that he will read on his 16th birthday. That’s something my mom did at my first birthday party (and subsequently did not do it for my younger siblings…that’s what happens when you’re the firstborn). I thought it was a really cool idea back when I was 16 and I hope Jaylen feels that same way in 2029!

This last picture isn’t from the party because the shirt arrived at our house while we were at the party, but it’s a personalized birthday shirt from Petite Lemon. It’s hard to get a one year old to sit still for photos so this is the best I could get. Love the shirt though!


Although I was stressed the week of the party because my birthday was that Monday, Jaylen’s actual birthday was on Friday, and I had lots to do to get ready for the party on Saturday, everything turned out just the way I’d planned. Jaylen and everyone else had a great time and our parents did a lot too with getting the food (we catered Chinese and Gerald made some Korean food–kimchi fried rice–since Jaylen’s Chinese & Korean…and white), bringing things I forgot, and just helping out in general. Thanks to everyone who helped set up and clean up too. Jaylen won’t remember this party, but these pictures will help him relive it when he’s older!

Vendors I used:

Invitations/Favor tags/Food Tents // Bee Bee’s Dezigns

Photography // Dirt Cheap Photography

Venue // Heller Nature Center

Banner // The Banner Shoppe

Birthday Poster // Petite Lemon

Flowers // Mariano’s

Cake // Lovin Oven Cakery

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To My Son, On His First Birthday

One year photo by Alyssa McNally

One year photo by Alyssa McNally

Dear Jaylen,

One year ago today you made me a mother and I discovered another part of my heart that I never knew existed. You hadn’t done anything, but I loved you. Those first few days, weeks, and months were rough. Even though I was exhausted, as I gazed at you during those middle-of-the-night nursing sessions and when I felt frustrated because you wouldn’t sleep and nothing I did would soothe you, I would hold you in my arms and be overwhelmed with love for you. I chose to continue to give up sleep for you (I still do–you’ve never slept through the night)–really, I’d do anything for you–simply because you’re my son. Becoming your mother has given me a deeper understanding of God’s unconditional love for us as His children. One day I hope you’ll understand God’s love for you in this way too. I never want to see you get hurt–physically or emotionally. I don’t want to see you make bad choices. I know I can’t protect you from everything (nor should I), but I want you to know that no matter what you do or don’t do, I will always love you. God’s love is the same way. He loves us just because we are His children, not because of anything we’ve done. I love you because you’re my son. Nothing will ever change that.

It’s amazing how you changed in 12 months from a needy little baby to an active, increasingly independent toddler. It’s hard to believe a year ago at this time you could barely hold your neck up and now you’re walking around,

Jaylen & Chloe - Photo by Alyssa McNally

Jaylen & Chloe – Photo by Alyssa McNally

understanding what we tell you, and playing with cars. I love watching you explore and discover the world for the first time–like when you first felt sand on the beach in Door County. You just couldn’t get enough of it! Or when you realized Chloe is another living thing that you can play with and who loves to eat your food. I love your baby giggles,

your adorable smile, and your social personality (much like your daddy here), and your awesome bouncing dance moves. Most of all, I love how your eyes light up when you see me and how you give me the biggest bear hugs. You don’t really do that for anyone else right now.

I know there will be days in the future when we’ll get on each others’ nerves. You may even tell me you hate me and it’ll break my heart. Even in those moments, I hope you’ll remember that I still love you. And those big bear hugs? I hope you’ll still hug me like that when you’re a teenager–or at least once you go off to college.

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Photo by Alyssa McNally


Happy Birthday, dear Jaylen! May you always remember that Daddy and I love you because you’re our son. No other explanation is needed.



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A New Decade

On Monday, I officially said goodbye to my 20’s and celebrated a milestone 30th birthday. It almost didn’t feel like my birthday because I’ve been so focused these past few months on preparing for Jaylen’s first birthday (which is tomorrow) that 30 kind of snuck up on me. It will probably be like that for the rest of my life since our birthdays are so close together, but isn’t that what parents do? Put their children before themselves?

Gerald did a nice job planning a party for me though. It wasn’t a surprise, but I didn’t know exactly what he was planning. We had a nice dinner at our house on Sunday night with family and some friends. The party was a coffee theme and he made a cute little coffee bar with my Keurig machine and a sign idea he found on Pinterest.



I know Gerald had a lot going on over the weekend too with an observation from the assistant principal (he’s a teacher) on Monday morning. So I’m well aware of the prep time he sacrificed for his observation to prepare for my party instead! I think it all came together nicely though and he said he thinks his observation went well.

Baby's getting into Starbucks already

Baby’s getting into Starbucks already


My small group asked me the other day if I had any goals for this new decade. I honestly haven’t taken the time to think about my goals for my 30’s. The 20’s are such transitive years. So much change happened in my 20’s–I graduated from college, got a job (that I still have…surprising for most millennials), got married, got a pug, bought a house, and had a baby. These were all goals or things I wanted to happen (or at least thought would happen) before I turned 30–and these are just the milestone things. So while it was a great decade full of joys, I also experienced some of my hardest, most devastating moments in those years. It was definitely a decade of growth and maturity, but I know God is using all those experiences to shape me to be more like Him and into the woman He wants me to be.

So if I had to think of some goals for my 30’s, so far I only have a few off the top of my head:

  • Complete a sprint triathlon
  • Have another baby
  • Invest more in my marriage
  • Spend quality time with the Lord daily (or at least on a more regular basis)
  • Learn how to better manage my money (you’d think I should know this by now)
  • Improve running times
  • Develop deeper friendships with other women

It’s interesting how a lot of these goals now involve more personal and spiritual development rather than achieving something. Of course, I also want to continue to learn how to be a good mother to Jaylen (and any future children), which will happen more in my 30’s.

This new decade makes me think of the movie 13 Going on 30so here’s to being 30, flirty and thriving!

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My Little Monkey – Halloween 2014

We had quite the exciting Halloween here. For starters, we woke up with a light dusting of SNOW on the ground. It’s too early for snow in my mind. Anyway, this was Jaylen’s first Halloween and I was excited to dress him up even though he had no idea what was going on. I found a monkey costume for $5 at a consignment sale back in August, which was adorable on him. It was a little small on him because it was a 3-6 month size (he’s 10 months old), but it worked because he’s not very big for his age (takes after his mommy). The arms and legs were just a little too short. I also loved that the costume had a belly!

Baby Monkey Costume


Chunky Monkey

Chunky Monkey

Since we didn’t plan on taking Jaylen trick-or-treating (he can’t eat candy–it’d be more for us–and it was too cold), I needed a place for him to show off his costume. So I brought him to Gerald’s school for part of his class’s Halloween party and the school’s Halloween parade. The students loved meeting Jaylen and several of them came over to play with him. Jaylen seemed to be enjoying them too.

By the time of the parade, it was snowing/mini-hailing outside so they had the parade in the gym instead. Jaylen and I sat to watch (though he was getting more squirmy at this point). A few times he was waving at some of the kids. We enjoyed seeing Daddy and his class as they went by too.

Photo by John Middleton Staff

Photo by John Middleton Staff

I didn’t dress up, but Gerald and the 5th grade team were the seven dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He’s Sleepy. I also have to show Chloe’s costume. I got her this race horse costume on sale from Target.

Race horse pug

That one’s fitting for me since I used to ride. :) I took her for a little walk as trick-or-treating started (and there was practically no one out there) but a few people saw her costume and they seemed to get a kick out of it. I think she’ll just wear this every year. Maybe next year we’ll actually go trick-or-treating with Jaylen and Chloe. We actually didn’t get too many trick-or-treaters this year, but our neighborhood is kind of tucked away by itself so I guess not many people would drive down to trick-or-treat there. Oh well…more candy for us!

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{Race Recap} Prairie State Half Marathon 2014

IMG_3480It was a great weekend to race in Chicago! The big event, of course, was the Chicago Marathon yesterday. My cousin, Sammy, rocked that one–her first marathon! She finished in 3:41:41 (only about 6 minutes away from qualifying for Boston!) I’m so impressed by her. :) She was nice enough to come out to cheer for me during my race, the Prairie State Half Marathon, on Saturday.

This was my second time running the Prairie State Half so I was familiar with the course. I ran it two years ago as my second half marathon. Last year I didn’t race at all because I was pregnant during fall racing season, so this race was always on my mind as a postpartum goal. This race was my big post-baby fitness goal. I didn’t really start training until the beginning of July once I got my jogging stroller. That made it easier for me to get out for more runs because I could take baby with me (he was 6 months old when I started running with him). I followed a half marathon plan I found online that required me to run 5 days a week, but I was generally only able to do 4 runs a week because the days I go in to the office were tough to fit a run in. I also didn’t get to go all the way up to the 12 mile long run because a 5k I did one Saturday made me skip the long run that week. Still, I knew I could finish the distance after doing my 11 mile long run a couple weeks ago. As much as the physical training is important for a big race like this, running really is mental too.

Race day came and I planned on getting up around 5:45 to have time to eat some breakfast, get ready, and maybe feed Jaylen if he woke up before leaving to catch the shuttle to the race site, but with a baby that still wakes up a few times in the middle of the night, I ended up turning off my alarm. Luckily I still woke up in time even if it was an hour later. That sure got the adrenaline going! It worked out though because Jaylen woke up and he and Gerald dropped me off and got to watch me start the race.

The weather was perfect for running. It was chilly to start, but I’m glad I didn’t overdress because I definitely warmed up quickly. I felt great for the first 8 miles of the race and kept a fairly consistent pace. Then the exhaustion began to set in a little bit and I ended up taking a few walking breaks until the last mile, where I pushed through to the end (that ended up being my fastest mile). I was using my RunKeeper app to keep track of my miles and pacing, but it didn’t quite match up with the mile markers on the course. According to RunKeeper I reached the mile markers slightly ahead of the course markers, but then somehow at mile 6, I reached the mile marker quite a bit after I passed that mile on the course. Not sure what happened there, but here are my splits according to RunKeeper:

Mile 1 – 9:30
Mile 2 – 9:31
Mile 3 – 9:38
Mile 4 – 9:54
Mile 5 – 9:32
Mile 6 – 9:53
Mile 7 – 9:33
Mile 8 – 9:52
Mile 9 – 10:12
Mile 10 – 11:03
Mile 11 – 10:31
Mile 12 – 10:39
Mile 13 – 9:29

My pace picked up a little bit between miles 6 and 7 because that was where a lot of the spectators (including Sammy and my Uncle Lary) were waiting to cheer us on as we ran by. They almost missed me the first time I ran by (this was right before the turnaround) so I had to wave them down. Encouragement really helps in these endurance races. In the last mile this man and woman ran past me. He was obviously pacing and helping her finish the race and he was so excited and yelling encouraging things to other runners that it helped me pick up my pace as I finished too even though he wasn’t specifically encouraging me.

It felt so good to finish the race, and Gerald was right there at the finish line waiting for me (he had taken Jaylen to his parents’ house). My official finish time was 2:09:35 (an average pace of 9:54). It’s not a PR, but my goal was just to finish this time and I’m pleasantly surprised that I kept an average pace under 10 minute miles. On my training runs I always ran 10-11 minute miles. Almost exactly 10 months ago, I gave birth to Jaylen and now I finished a half marathon. So to me, that’s quite an accomplishment!

I really love the half marathon distance because it’s challenging, but doesn’t seem as daunting to me as a marathon (plus I don’t have time to train for a marathon…I know there are some moms who can do it, but right now I’m not one of them). This was my last race for the year, but with my race and with the marathon this past weekend, it makes me excited for the next one! :)

Third half marathon complete!

Third marathon complete!

Post-race with my baby. He's biting the medal like a champ.

Post-race with my baby. He’s biting the medal like a champ.

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Advice I Would’ve Given Myself Before the Baby was Born

I’m nearly ten months into this motherhood journey. I know I still have lots to learn and I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in parenting an infant by any means (though how can you really be a parenting expert? All kids are different!). However, I have several friends who are expecting their first baby this year and as I think back to where I was a year ago (7 months pregnant), I keep thinking of advice or things I would’ve told myself back then as I was just enjoying the excitement and anticipation of being pregnant and preparing for birth. People always give unsolicited advice to new parents (and particularly new moms), so whoever may read this can take what they want from it, but more than just advice, I think it’s just an honest reminder of the reality of motherhood (and parenting in general).

So what would I have told my pregnant self?

1. Babies have their own schedules, so go with the flow.
I felt this reality more as I waited anxiously for my due date to approach. Starting from 3 weeks before, I was constantly wondering when I would go into labor. I was born three weeks early so I didn’t know if Baby J would follow my lead or if he’d be “late.” Babies will come when they’re ready and there’s no sense in trying to rush it or in putting your life on hold in expectation. It’s better for baby to stay inside longer (at least 39 weeks) since baby grows best inside his mother. I learned the most predictable thing about labor is it’s unpredictable.

Once the baby’s born, the baby’s schedule seems to dictate your day (particularly if you’re a new mom and only have one child to worry about). He eats, sleeps, eats, sleeps, eats, sleeps…all day long. It’s best to just accept it for what it is and do what your baby needs. As Jaylen has gotten older, he does have a more predictable schedule, but even then there’s variation. Sometimes he’ll take long naps, sometimes he won’t. Sometimes his nap schedule will get messed up or he’ll end up having a later bedtime, but it’s okay. {To further prove this point, I should mention that I started this blog post just before Jaylen turned 6 months old. I’m now publishing it when he’s almost 10 months. PRIORITIES.}

2. Babies don’t go by the book.
I was so excited for Jaylen to turn 6 months old so I could start giving him solid food. Part of me hoped this would help him sleep longer at night (which it does not necessarily help with that) and part of me just couldn’t wait to see him try new things and be a little less dependent on me for food. I was looking into the baby-led weaning process for introducing solids and was anxious to offer Jaylen regular food so he could feed himself and eat with us at meal times.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try baby-led weaning much because Jaylen wasn’t that interested in solid food at 6 months! I would put food in front of him and he wouldn’t even try to pick it up. Then I put a toy in front of him and it instantly goes into his mouth (go figure). So I ended up giving him baby cereal and purees (but not chunky ones because those would make him gag and throw up). Now he’s great about feeding himself and loves food, but he still doesn’t have any teeth yet so we’re still waiting on those.

I’ve also learned that just because a website or a book says your baby should do something by a certain age (like sleep 4-5 hour stretches by the time he’s 5 months…Jaylen would do 1.5-2 hours instead), doesn’t mean your child will do it. Once you accept that each child is unique and will reach those milestones in his own time, your life will be so much easier. This leads into point #3.

3. Babies aren’t meant to sleep through the night.
I know parents can have very strong opinions on this one, but after reading various articles about this topic (mostly because I still haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in nearly 10 months), I believe that babies are not meant to sleep through the night. They’re supposed to wake up every couple hours to eat (especially when they’re newborns). They may still even wake up once or twice even after 6 months. Yes, there are some lucky parents whose babies start to sleep through the night (however you want to define it–some say 5-6 hrs straight, others say 11-12 hrs straight) at an early age. My baby is not one of those. On average he still wakes up about 2-3 times a night (although last night he woke up once…yay!). I’m still waiting for that day when he’ll sleep 11-12 hours straight at night. People have told us to let him cry it out, but we are not completely comfortable with that. This doesn’t mean that we don’t let him cry at all, but we just don’t let him cry hysterically for long periods of time. I am also not completely willing to night wean him because he doesn’t drink much milk during the day even when I nurse him so I think he may be reverse cycling. I’m concerned too about my milk supply, which seems to be dwindling (since I don’t pump as much when I’m at work anymore) and the stash I once had in the freezer is now gone as of today. As tired as I am, I do cherish those night feedings (sometimes) when I look at my son in my arms. I love that bond I have with him. And when I think I can’t take this phase anymore, I reread this KellyMom article and it reminds me that I’m still doing okay by doing what I think is best for my baby and me.

4. Don’t forget to pursue your husband and your marriage.
This is probably the most important thing I would’ve told myself before having a baby. I admit I still need to do a better job of this. It’s so easy as a mom, especially a new mom, to spend all your time and energy on the baby. When Jaylen was a newborn, it seemed like all I had time for was caring for him round the clock. Even now when Jaylen goes to sleep around 7 or 7:30, it’s easy for me to feel like I’m too tired to do anything–including invest in some quality time with my husband. It’s not a good excuse and a healthy marriage is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children. So all you moms out there, no matter how tired or overwhelmed you are, make a commitment to try and love your husband well in spite of how you feel.

There are plenty of other things I’m still learning as a new mom. With Jaylen’s one year birthday around the corner, I can tell those brand new moms that it does get easier (even if I’m still not sleeping well). So I know the stage I’m at with the sleepless nights will also get easier eventually. Then I know I’ll probably be dealing with something else, but there’s no greater joy than having Jaylen in my life. Sure, we may not stay out late anymore and right now our days may revolve around Jaylen’s nap schedule, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Life wouldn’t be the same without seeing this smiling face. :)


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Baby Boy Style

Before I found out Jaylen was going to be a boy, part of me wanted to have a little girl so I could dress her up in adorable outfits. There are a TON more clothing options out there for baby girls, but there are some pretty stylish clothes out there for all those boy moms to dress up their little guys too. I like to dress my son (now nine months old) in clothes that make him look like a little man. Of course I dress him in more babyish clothes too since people have given me their hand-me-downs or bought me clothes for my baby showers, but if we’re going out somewhere, sometimes I like to make him look a little more stylish.

Last weekend I realized Jaylen’s six month clothes were getting a little snug on him, so I was excited for him to wear one of the new outfits I bought him months ago.


The weather was a little more fall-like, so Jaylen wore a chambray shirt and camo fleece sweatpants from Carter’s. . The pants are still a little long on him since he’s on the shorter side, so I had to roll them up a little bit. Daddy loved this outfit when he saw it.




It started to warm up before we left for church, so I changed his camo pants to camo shorts (from Kohl’s). I’ve gotten other stylish boy clothes from consignment sales (you just really have to look through the racks to find good stuff) and H&M Kids. You can get cute clothes at fairly reasonable prices, which is great when your child is growing so quickly.

Want Jaylen’s style for your baby boy (or your toddler)? It looks like Carter’s doesn’t sell this particular chambray shirt anymore, but I’ve linked similar products below:

Chambray Shirt (similar)

Camo Fleece Pull-On Pants (Carter’s)

This is not a sponsored post. 

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