Our home-buying journey

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It only took us a month and a half to find and purchase our first home, but the journey to get there was actually a very long one.

We’ve been married since August 2008, but for the majority of our marriage, we lived in what we knew were temporary situations, and we weren’t saving money or thinking about the long-term future.

Shortly after getting married, we lived overseas for 8 months and lived off donations while we did missions work. For 3.5 years, we lived in Baton Rouge while Hunter went to law school and lived off my salary in a tiny shoebox-sized apartment. For 3 years, we rented a duplex in DeRidder during Hunter’s law clerkship and started paying off his student loans.

Finally, six months after moving here to Shreveport-Bossier, where we were living with my in-laws, we attended a Dave Ramsey class and got serious about preparing for the future. For almost two years, we squirreled away money to go toward our down payment (we wanted to do 20 percent). Once I finally found a full-time job, the majority of my paycheck went to savings every single pay period.

Sometimes I felt like it was never going to happen. I would morosely look at houses on Zillow and get upset that we still weren’t in a place to buy a house. But finally, this past spring, we were ready.

First, in early April, we went and bought some new bedroom furniture at a store that was going out of business. This was my first step towards saying to myself — “It’s really going to happen, we’re definitely getting a house!”

We got a queen-sized sleigh bed (after years of sleeping on Hunter’s full-size bed he’d had since high school) and a matching dresser.

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We then set up a meeting with a Realtor who was recommended to us by friends, and sat down to chat with her on a Sunday afternoon — Tax Day, April 15. She was so awesome and helpful, and that night she sent us several listings that fit what we were looking for.

That Saturday, April 21, we went and looked at 7 houses with her, which was super fun for me because I had been compulsively watching House Hunters and wanted to experience what I’d been seeing on the show 😉

There was one house that had been my favorite ever since I’d seen it on Zillow, and I held my breath when we arrived, hoping that it would be as nice in real life as it was in the pictures.

It was! After sleeping on it that night, we eliminated 5 of the houses we’d looked at and knew we were seriously considering two others — my favorite house, and a smaller, less expensive house that had some super nice renovations inside.

While we didn’t sit on our hands and we kept the process moving along quickly, our Realtor was so helpful in also making sure everything was taken care of right away. When we told her about our two favorite houses, she set up second showings that same week at both, then worked up comparisons for us and got rate sheets from our mortgage lender.

Less than a week after looking at houses, we made an offer on the finalist, the house that had been my favorite ever since I first saw it on Zillow. We decided to go with that house over the smaller one because after looking at the rate sheet, there wasn’t a huge difference in the monthly mortgage payment, and we knew we’d grow out of the smaller house too quickly.

We went back and forth with the seller just a few times over the next couple of days, and on April 27 — 12 days after we first met with our Realtor — we were under contract for the house! Closing date was set for May 30.

The next month went by so quickly. There was only one hiccup — the roof was original to the house (built in 2005), and a recent hail storm had damaged it badly. We asked the sellers to make an insurance claim, which they did, and then we ultimately agreed to pay for half of the deductible.

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We got to go pick out the shingle color, and it was so easy after that. The roof was put on very quickly, and it was such a relief to know that wouldn’t be something we’d have to deal with in the near future.

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New roof!

We went through the inspection, picked out flooring to replace the laminate and carpet that was in the house, and started packing! The night before closing, my husband had left the cashier’s check for the down payment in his desk at work. I freaked out because I wanted to have it physically in my possession — that money had been taken out of our bank account and it was A LOT! So at like 8 PM that night, we drove back to his office to get it, haha.

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In the elevator after successfully retrieving the cashier’s check for our house deposit from his desk at work.

On May 30, closing went off without a hitch. We celebrated with lunch, then went by the house to check it out.

That was when we discovered that the A/C, which had been working fine through the walk-through the previous day, was out! I could not believe it! Thankfully we had a home warranty, and they covered the cost of getting the A/C looked at and repaired (it did not need to be fully replaced).

One project I undertook while waiting to be able to move in was painting our kitchen table and chairs. I did not like the old wood color and wanted something different. I ended up getting Valspar chalk paint at Lowe’s and it was incredibly easy to get the job done — just took several hours and coats, plus a wax seal finish.

The next frustration was waiting for our floors to be replaced so we could actually start moving in. The A/C was only broken for two days, but that pushed back the flooring job, and then there was a problem with the material not being ordered, which pushed it back ANOTHER week.

We weren’t changing the tile floors in the kitchen, so we ended up moving a bunch of boxes in there and in the garage to wait to be unpacked. We finished moving out of our storage unit June 2, but it wouldn’t be until June 15 that the floors were finished and we could actually start putting our beds together and moving stuff into their proper rooms.

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New floors!

My parents came to visit that first weekend we were finally living in the house, and they were a huge help getting our washer/dryer and new kitchen sink faucet installed, replacing the mailbox, fixing the flower bed and more. Then we had a new over-the-range microwave installed, and finally at the end of June, our new couches were delivered from Wayfair.

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Moving into a new house was SO exhausting, and if I’d have realized how much work it was going to be, I’d have taken off a week of work to deal with it! We have now been all moved in for almost four weeks, and the novelty has not worn off yet. I love it!

I was really leery about going into this process because I knew absolutely NOTHING. My husband knew a few things, but he also wasn’t super knowledgeable about the process. My top tip would be to find a super helpful Realtor who knows their stuff and will explain things to you thoroughly and who will advocate for you to get the best options possible.

Our Realtor was such an expert on everything and was very upfront with us about what she knew regarding the neighborhoods, the quality of local builders, contractors, everything. Because our Realtor was so awesome, the process was *almost* painless!

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A Week of Rest

I’ve had some lingering issues after Little Rock, most notably a tight IT band and hip, but nothing too serious. I spent most of the week resting, sometimes using my heating pad to focus on certain areas, and by Sunday I really wanted to get out and try to run again.

The verdict? I still need more time. I was able to walk-run four miles, but my IT band was definitely feeling very tight and uncomfortable throughout.

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I’ve dealt with IT band syndrome before, and it just takes patience and TLC to get over. I went home after the run and took an Epsom salt bath, and I’m also continuing heat therapy, foam rolling, stretching etc. My SF Marathon training doesn’t techincally start for another two weeks, so there’s no need to rush it.

Meanwhile, we’re starting to see signs of spring!

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San Francisco Marathon Plan

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With the Little Rock Marathon behind me, I will now turn my full attention to training for the San Francisco Marathon, which is a little less than five months away. The weather is going to turn hot here pretty quickly, so this is going to be very different from training for Dallas Marathon in the fall. My long runs are not going to be done in 50-degree weather – try 30 to 40 degrees more than that, or worse!

Even so, I’m going to try and do the same basic plan as I did this past fall. Running 20 miles in Louisiana in June and July is not something I’ve ever done before, so that should be VERY interesting. I do have a CamelBak and imagine it will be wise to use that on my long runs this summer. I will also probably have to get up a lot earlier than I’d normally want to, in order to get some runs done before the heat gets to be too much.

Anyways, below is my training plan, including two errant weeks before the 18-week cycle starts. Each week will include a speed run, tempo run, easy run and long run. “Easy” days will include hill work – climbing stairs, doing certain workouts that are meant to help with climbing hills, etc., because we don’t have very many hills here, and San Francisco will likely be very difficult in that regard. Having just come off of Little Rock, and seeing what those hills did to my IT band over the course of the race, I know I will need to specifically train for hills, get my body used to that, and also pay special attention to my IT band throughout the training cycle.

SF Marathon Training Plan

I will mostly be resting this week, with the plan to run on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t have any other races planned right now, though that is very likely to change!

Little Rock Marathon Race Recap

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We left for Little Rock late Saturday morning and had an uneventful 3.5-hour drive. Before heading to the expo, we stopped for lunch at Heights Taco & Tamale Co. in Little Rock. I got some really good chicken tacos, and we also had chips and queso.

We headed to the expo next, and I quickly got my race packet and took some photo ops. Nothing really caught my eye, so I didn’t stop to buy anything. That evening we went to walk around the riverfront area and cross some pedestrian bridges. It was all really nice!

Then we had dinner at Three Fold Dumpling and Noodles – I got my typical pho-like dinner. I hadn’t been to Little Rock in about 13 years – we went in 2004 and 2005 for conferences in college. I don’t think I did very much exploring, because I didn’t know how cute downtown Little Rock is around the river. We also really enjoyed everything we ate there.

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The race started at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. When I woke up right before 5, I checked the forecast and saw that there was once again a chance for rain during the race. I made sure to apply Vaseline where needed and wrap my phone in a ziploc bag in preparation. It’s a good thing I did!

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Pre-race crowd

The first 6-7 miles went by really quickly, I was surprised! I didn’t really have a time goal, but I felt pretty strong in the beginning and was somewhat optimistic that the race as a whole could go well.

It started raining in mile 8, and continued for about 30 minutes straight. It finally stopped when I was properly drenched, with soaking wet shoes. Some notable sights in the first half of the race were Little Rock Central High School and the state capitol building.

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After the halfway mark, things got really interesting hill-wise. There were quite a few hills from miles 14-16, and I felt my left IT band start tightening up like it always does. I was hanging around the 4:40 pace group for awhile, and we ran through a really pretty wooded area.

Then, the out-and-back started. I’d read about this in some race reviews, that there is a monotonous out-and-back in the waning miles of the race. Basically in mile 19 we started running one way down a road, and coming from the opposite direction were runners who are at about mile 23.

The turnaround point was a little past 21 miles. During the out-and-back, my left IT band and hip started REALLY bothering me, to the point that I felt like my range-of-motion in my knee was very limited. It was so tight and somewhat painful, and I had to stop and try to stretch SEVERAL times. I was practically hobbling at this point.

At mile 24, we passed an aid station and I noticed a volunteer was holding a sign that said the event warning level was at “HIGH.” I wondered what that was all about, and then about 5 minutes later, the skies opened up and it began raining again, hard. It was very cold, too. Weirdly, I felt like this might have helped my leg because it stopped hurting while it was raining! Or maybe I was just able to focus my mind on something else.

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Anyway, it didn’t rain for very long, and we had to go up two more hills right before and after mile 25. Ugh! So many hills! I walked up those two. This course is tough. Finally, I approached the finish line. Right before the end, there was a lipstick station where they were handing out lipstick. Not sure if it’s my color, but sure!

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You can see I am holding my free lipstick

I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 4:43:36, my fourth best marathon time out of 11. Considering I was somewhat under-trained and my IT band went haywire thanks to the hills, I will take it.

Next I got my medal. Little Rock is known for its ridiculously large medal, and this one did not disappoint. I saw some of their themes in years past and am not really a fan of those, but I LOVE this one.

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All in all, a great race! The course is tough, and I would definitely recommend training for hills before you tackle it. Little Rock was cute and had some really good restaurants. We will have to go back one weekend for a getaway that doesn’t have anything to do with running!

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Looking to Little Rock: Week Four

This week felt like a year, but it’s finally Friday and tomorrow we head to Little Rock! I took it pretty easy this week, running twice. I’m hopeful my foot will hold up during the race on Sunday.

Earlier this week there was rain in the forecast for LR on Sunday, but now the weather looks perfect – forecast to be about 42 degrees at the start. Rain is still projected for the afternoon, so hopefully that holds up and the bad weather doesn’t start until after we’re all done running!

Here were my two runs this week:

Tuesday, Ran 3 miles/9:30 pace

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I’m pretty relieved the weather has been warmer lately. I know once summer-like temperatures get here, I am going to be HATING it, but for now, I will enjoy the mild warmth.

Thursday, Ran 2 miles/9:09 pace

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I have discovered the joy of discounted, pre-worn Lululemon items up for bid on Ebay. I can never bring myself to spend full price on these items, but I definitely don’t mind paying about half normal price for some gently-used clothes! This bright green Run Swiftly shirt is one such item, which I got off of Ebay for $25 (regular price $68). And it’s pretty much like new.

I did this run quickly after work, because that night we went to the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium to see Leon Bridges! I fell in love with his voice after hearing his song “River” on Big Little Lies. He was wonderful.

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A funny thing happened on Thursday – I went to Academy for the first time in a while, and all of a sudden, there were two of them!

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Academy is on the far other side of town, so I normally go to Dick’s which is much closer when I have some immediate running apparel needs. I had to go to this side of town for work yesterday, and I was flabbergasted to see two Academys side by side. I went into the old one, and was told that it will be closing in April and the new one will be opening at that time. I will definitely have to go check it out then. I wonder what they’ll do with the old building??

Anyways this is what I got from Academy, all on clearance:

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Definitely getting ready for summer!

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

I am beginning to pack for the Little Rock Marathon this weekend, and I’m trying to do everything in my power to make sure I have a better experience than the Louisiana Marathon in January.

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For that race, I didn’t eat very well the week before, I ate unhealthily the weekend of the race, I didn’t bring enough medication with me for potential issues I could have — I wanted to be casual and have fun, but I went into it a little too casual, and that lessened the amount of fun I actually had during the race because I felt terrible.

So, in the spirit of worrying only about what I can control, these are the things I’m doing this week and what I’m thinking about as I pack for Little Rock:

  1. Eating healthy all week long. I’m not being as strict as I was the week of Dallas, where I ate no processed foods and did not go out to eat, but I am consciously trying to eat pretty healthy all week. I’m also making tropical fruit smoothies with orange juice and almond milk every day, drinking only water (over soda), and choosing healthy-sounding items when we go out to eat. I am also trying to make meals full of vegetables and protein when I do cook at home.
  2. Giving my body some TLC. My foot has been hurting off and on over the past three weeks when I run double digit miles, so I got some Epsom salt foot soak and am going to soak my foot every night this week. I am also stretching and foam rolling each day, particularly my left hip, which has gotten tight every time I run. This is a new issue for me!
  3. Packing liquid Pepto Bismol, and planning to carry more than one serving of Pepto tablets during race. The morning of the Louisiana Marathon, I inexplicably got an upset stomach after eating my typical bagel and peanut butter combo. I made the mistake of only bringing one serving of Pepto Bismol chewable tablets, so I put off taking them until mile 9 because I kept hoping my stomach would feel better, and I wanted to save them for as late in the race as possible. Thankfully, they did the trick and helped me endure for another 17 miles, but if I had brought more than one serving I would have taken them earlier, and perhaps the whole race overall would have been better. If God forbid my stomach isn’t feeling the best on race morning, I will definitely take some liquid Pepto before leaving the hotel and then have 2 servings of the tablets on me to make it through the race. I also usually carry a couple of ginger chews and Tylenol, just in case.
  4. Preparing for rain. There is rain in the forecast for race morning, so I have to be as prepared as possible for these conditions. This includes applying some Vaseline on my toes and feet, protecting my phone and other items that I’m bringing with me in a Ziploc bag, and wearing a hat to keep rain off my face. All of these items are on my packing list!
  5. Researching Little Rock restaurants. We’re only going to be there Saturday and Sunday, so I just need to find two restaurants — for lunch and dinner Saturday —that would have menu items amenable to a happy stomach and good race the next day. In the day or so before the Louisiana Marathon, I ate buffalo wings and french fries… these were not good choices. I also plan to stick to my normal pre-marathon dinner of pho.
  6. Making a great playlist AND downloading some interesting podcasts. Podcasts have gotten me through a lot of my really long runs the past 6 months. While sometimes I just want to listen to music, other times I need an intriguing podcast to take my mind off of what I’m doing — running for hours. I plan to start the race with a music playlist, but if I hit a wall or am just struggling mentally, I plan to have some podcasts at the ready to switch to, if that will help get me through.

Looking to Little Rock: Week Three

Another week full of rain! I am still having right foot problems, ugh. I don’t know if it’s my shoes, or something else, but I am going to try and give it some extra TLC with the marathon a week away.

Tuesday, Ran 2 miles/8:26 pace

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Speed run: I’ve found it difficult to get up early enough for a run of any substantial length during the week before I have to stop and get ready for work. I also am finding it hard to regain my speed that I was seeing in my runs this past fall. This was a run I did before work, and I basically just went out and tried to run hard and fast without really looking at my watch.

Thursday, Ran 3.1 miles/9:04 pace

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Tempo: We got a ton of rain all day Wednesday and a little on Thursday, but I took advantage of a break from the precipitation on Thursday evening and got a 5K tempo run done. The weather has been consistently warmer recently, which I’m sure also contributes to how well my lungs work and how good or bad I feel during runs.

Friday, Ran 2 miles (hill work)/9:31 pace

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Easy/hill run: I used this run to climb lots of stairs and run a few of our little hills by the running path after work on Friday. Whenever I run after work, I don’t typically have much daylight left, so I ended this workout as the sun started to go down.

Sunday, Ran 10 miles/9:36 pace

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Long run: Third Sunday long run in a row where the weather was so dreary! The rain was supposed to hold off until noon, so I thought I would be okay to run to the river path from home (about 1.5 miles) rather than drive there like I normally do.

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Did you know there is a conspiracy theory about the Titanic? I don’t really read much into conspiracy theories, and I don’t really believe this one, but it is very interesting! I listened to a podcast about it during my entire run.

Because of the amount of rainfall we’ve gotten recently, the river is in a minor flood stage. When this happens, it ends up obstructing the running path I use because the path is inside the levee. I had to turn around when I got to the water 😦

Then, with about 2 miles left, it started raining! My phone was in my Spi Belt, so I tucked that INSIDE my waistband and ran the miles home as fast as I could. This made my average pace much quicker than it would have been.

I got a later start than planned, so when I finished my run I had to take a 1-minute shower and then go to church with my hair in a wet bun! Jesus loves me anyway.

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This week, I will focus on eating healthy, drinking water, getting lots of vitamins, drinking fruit smoothies, foam rolling, stretching, and icing my foot and IT Band. Hoping that I can enjoy the Little Rock Marathon as much as possible and then get a funny photo op with that humongous medal.

If you’re going to San Francisco…

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…be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

Each year, Hunter and I usually go on a vacation that requires an airplane flight. I don’t really like the beach, and he doesn’t really care either way, so our trips are usually to some big city where we can explore and take up lots of activities.

In 2012, we went to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. In 2014, we went to NYC – and then when I got into the NYC Marathon in 2015, we went back. In 2016, we went to Chicago, and last year, we went to Boston (followed by Bar Harbor, Maine).

I’ve never been further west than Texas, and I’ve long wanted to visit San Francisco, so we had been talking about a vacation and decided this would be the year to go to SF. Our 10th wedding anniversary is in mid-August, so I was looking to go around that date, and then… bam. I somehow saw somewhere that the San Francisco Marathon is July 29…. so close to the time period I was looking at to make the trip out there.

And then I started thinking… if I run a marathon in July, it will give me motivation to keep in shape and keep training all through the spring and early summer. If I run the San Francisco marathon, I’ll get to run over the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ll get to add another state to my list of places I’ve run a marathon. I very quickly fell in love with the idea.

So, after a little discussion with Hunter, I registered. Shortly after, I booked a (very expensive but affordable thanks to the marathon rate) hotel near the finish line. Then I booked plane flights. We’ll be heading out to SF about four days before the race to give us time to do our normal vacation stuff, and then we will fly home the day after the marathon.

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So, an 18-week training plan will begin about 3 weeks post-Little Rock Marathon. I’ll be doing the same thing I did leading up to Dallas, except I will be incorporating A LOT of hill work. We have absolutely nothing compared to what San Francisco has hill-wise, but I will be looking for ways to train in anticipation of what waits for me there. I am so excited!

Looking to Little Rock: Week Two

Meh…. I ran four times this week, but I still didn’t feel up to doing the amount of miles that I normally would do at this point in a training cycle. It also rained off and on all week, which messed with some of my plans.

Wednesday, Ran 2 miles/8:49 pace

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I did this before work, and I got a later start than planned because it was raining heavily when my alarm went off at 6:30. I woke up again at 7:10 and the rain had stopped, so I went out just to get SOMETHING done. It started raining again shortly after I did the 2 miles.

For Valentine’s Day, we went to a really nice restaurant, Ernest’s Orleans. There were free pictures being taken in front of a green screen, so we posed for some! It was funny. It felt like we were at a high school dance taking pictures 🙂

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Thursday, Ran 3 miles/8:50 pace

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I went out after work to get this done, and it was a struggle. I had a moderately speedy first mile, a faster second mile, and then I was so out of breath that I took the third mile slower, rather than just quit. I’ve found it hard to breathe during faster runs this week. It was annoying.

Saturday, Ran 2.8 miles with “hill work”/10:37 pace

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Saturday was a rainy day, but around 5 p.m., after several hours of volunteering at the cat shelter, I was able to go out and run to the local arena where I could do some “hill work” via climbing these stairs five times. My heart was pounding when I was done!

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Sunday, Ran 13 miles/10:27 pace

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We had to be at church at 10:30, so I headed out at 7 to ensure I would have enough time to do a double-digit run, then shower and dress before church. It was “misting” a little, but otherwise no rain, just wet, cold, dreary – just like last week! But about 20 degrees warmer. Heather McDonald’s podcast and her interviews with Camille Grammer and Spencer Pratt got me through this one.

My foot started hurting again, just like last week… 😦 I wrapped it with an ace bandage and am going to try and spend some time icing it this week.

Little Rock Marathon in two weeks! It’s probably going to be rough. From what I’ve read, the second half is harder than the first, with a 2-mile long hill starting around mile 14, and then a long out-and-back that is mentally tasking, then another hill in the final miles. Yuck. Combine that with my lackluster training and a foot that keeps hurting, and well… we’ll see how it goes!

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In other news… I am getting a new pair of Brooks running shoes! They were on sale at Zulily, so I ordered a pretty pair of Brooks Ravenna 8s.

It is always an exciting day when I find a new pair of running shoes! I’ve been running in two different pairs of the Mizuno Catalysts for the past year, but with this Zulily deal, I decided to return to the old faithful Ravennas.

Friday Faves

TGIF!

I wanted to document some things I was enjoying this past week – it’s felt like the longest week ever!

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I got this hummus from Whole Foods, and it’s ah-mah-zing. I LOVE curry, so this is absolutely delicious to me. I’ve just been eating it with tortilla chips, plus some freshly-made guacamole I also got from Whole Foods.

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Holy Kombucha and Bobo’s Oat Bars (with chocolate almond butter filling) – also from Whole Foods. I’ve been trying all kinds of different kombuchas, and I really like this brand. The oat bars are a little higher in calories than I’d like, but it was a great filling snack to get me through the rest of the work afternoon and fuel me for an evening run before I ate dinner.

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I’ve watched errant episodes of Real Housewives shows before, but I just discovered all the episodes are on Hulu. I started the Beverly Hills edition from the beginning, and I’m already on the Season 1 finale. Addicted.

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I requested this pretty Yeti thermos for Valentine’s Day, and my husband delivered. I’ve been using it the past two days to bring hot caramel Starbucks coffee (made with my Keurig) or iced coffee to work.

This weekend is going to be the norm – volunteering at the cat shelter, church, and running! Oh, and watching RHOBH and the Olympics 🙂