Friday, April 24, 2015

The race itch.

Guys, I am getting the race itch SO BAD!!!

Since the half marathons in March, I haven't been training for anything.  I have been running (I am 3 miles away from hitting 100 miles!!!!!!!!) and working out hard, but I haven't been training for anything.  I hit a major goal of mine of breaking 2 hours and sometimes with that, there is a down period.  You've done it!  You did the thing you worked hard for!  But now what?

My goal for this year was to do an Olympic distance triathlon in the summer and I have yet to pick a race.  I have been mixing in cross training and did a spin class on Monday morning and started today at the pool for a swim workout, ending it with a ridiculously stupid 8 mile run on tired legs (I wanted to get to 97 miles so I would finish the challenge at the race tomorrow.)  So it's not that I necessarily need a race to have the motivation to work out (which is a little different for me) but I just need a race because I love races.

The Boston Marathon had me itching.

I need some triathlons.  I need some half marathons.  And mostly, I want a marathon.  I want to pick my fall marathon so bad and have it on the schedule.

I find out next week whether or not I get into the Chicago Marathon and I SO hope that I get in.  We find out during the day on April 28th and I am going to be refreshing my e-mail like crazy.  I want it really bad!  I am anxiously awaiting the 28th and if I make the lottery cut like a kid the week before Christmas.  

It's funny because I don't even think that I mentioned on here that I also entered the lottery for the NYC Marathon this year.   See, I wasn't this anxious about the NYC lottery because in the back of my mind, I really didn't think I wanted to do that race.  Ideally, I wanted to do Chicago first (it's a flat course!) and this is the race that I have had in my mind for a while.  I think it is the perfect next marathon for me and I have also heard rumors that they let a lot of people in through the lottery.  So I somehow think that I have a pretty good chance and I have high hopes.  But I'm so nervous because of that!

And yes, I know that there are alternative options besides waiting around like a nut until Tuesday.  I could get guaranteed entry and run for a charity, and who knows, maybe I will think about that more after I see what happens on Tuesday.  However, I don’t want to do a race for a charity this year because very soon I am thinking of running the Boston Marathon, which I will 100% need to run for a charity. Where I have the option of doing races that I can get in through a lottery or regular sign up, I want to try.   

But I have the race itch soooo bad!!  Following Tuesday, you best believe I am going on a race registration blitz!  Here I come!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Running and workouts plus cupcakes and beer

So, you guys can tell that I’m doing a really good job of staying active, especially while I am not training for anything in particular right now. It’s been another week with a lot of ups and downs as far as making smart decisions about what I eat or drink. I just can’t seem to get my eating on point this week.

On Monday I had a work dinner and passed on all alcohol so that I could go to the gym afterwards. However, I did eat all the chips and quesadillas. Then on Tuesday, I came into my meeting late and had to spend the entire day sitting in the back of the room at the food table right next to the stash of goods from Panera that started with bagels and pastries in the morning and then delicious looking sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes in the afternoon. I avoided them ALL, ALL day, which I was so proud of.

 But then I went to dinner and ate alllll the food including nachos, kielbasa, bacon wrapped dates, crusty bread with goat cheese, fish, grits, French fries, salad with dressing, and of course, drinks.

I passed on burgers but drank the beer. I ate a healthy lunch but had pepperoni pizza and a cupcake at our Girls on the Run celebration party.

It was just up and down all throughout the week.

I’ve written about this before, but I feel like I should be losing weight for all the opportunities that I have to eat and I don’t. I should get like bonus credit for that or something, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. I think that I probably just need to go back to counting Weight Watchers points, I have been trying to step away from that for a while and just eat and drink how I feel rather than tracking everything but I think I need to go back. I will try again maybe next week but the next few weekends will be busy with visitors which my mind reads as “special occasions.” One day at a time I guess!

As I mentioned it was a busy week with lots of work meals. I had dinners out planned for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; and a work lunch on Tuesday as well.

I started my day on Tuesday doing a sprint workout on the treadmill at the gym. It was one of the more basic ones that I did when I first started doing sprint work in January. It wasn’t a ton of mileage but got me sweaty and moving. I followed it up with some legs and abs, as I knew that I wouldn’t be able to work out in the evening at the usual sprint workout that I’ve been going to.

After the 10K on Saturday, I started to get worried that I am losing the ability to run fast that I had built up by doing speedwork consistently from January to March. I can’t even imagine right now how I maintained the pace that I was doing at that race for 7 more miles. Granted I tapered leading up to the half marathon and I ran on Saturday on tired legs from lots of miles this month and a Nike Training Club workout that included lots of squats on Thursday. But still. I thought I would be able to go faster.

I’m going to have to pair up with some faster runners for tempo runs and also work to motivate to do harder and more consistent speed work. I hate taking steps forward just to take steps backwards, which pisses me off with my eating habits in general. Gym? Step forward. Cupcake? Step backward.

But cupcakes are just sooo good!

Wednesday I ran a total of 6 miles in the evening. I initially intended to go to the gym in the morning too but I just couldn’t get out of bed after staying up a little later than usual going to an RnB show the night before that one of the members of the running group was working at. He had invited us all to attend and support and we ended up with a great turnout. I was able to bring my friend Melissa along with me as well, who was in town for work! I was excited for her to see a little bit of what my life is like in Atlanta and meet some of the people I hang out with. I had no idea what the show was going to be like but it ended up being a very cool venue with great drinks (and everyone said great food too!) so I am excited to see if there are more events there in the future.

My 6 miles on Wednesday night consisted of 3 solo and then 3 with the Movers and Pacers. It was a fun group run with lots of new faces for midweek and a cool opportunity to try out a new pair of running shoes.

There were some samples of the Nike Lunar Tempo sneakers that we all were able to try and I actually really enjoyed running in them. They were very cute and felt lightweight on my feet, but didn’t feel like they had a whole lot of support.

 For the three miles that I did in them, they felt okay and were pretty enjoyable, my feet did go a little bit numb but not as bad as when I have tried other shoes and they might have just needed to be broken in to my foot a little. I would definitely consider buying them and actually have it in the back of my mind. Mostly because they are really cute too and I haven’t bought sneakers based on their cuteness in a while.

I’ve spent the past 5 years running in Saucony shoes, which have always been really good to me. They fit and feel well and I just keep on buying the exact same pair over and over. Over the past year as I have started running marathons I have been wearing through my shoes faster than when they release new colors and designs so a few times I have had to buy the exact same color and style shoe, which disappoints me.

I’ve actually just been craving shopping a lot in general lately. Atlanta is a MUCH more fashionable city that Albany and I feel like I need to step up my game! The back of my mind tells me to wait until I lose a few more pounds to do a spree, but sneakers wouldn’t hurt to buy, right?! Oh and I also have in my mind that I should get some cross training shoes for when I am doing weights and working out in the gym. That seems like something I need too, right? Right.

As I mentioned, I got a couple beers after the run with friends which was a fun night and led me right into Thursday where I again, slept in a little, and then worked and am doing my workouts in the evening. I had my final Girls on the Run practice today before our 5K that is on Saturday morning! I am excited about the race and had fun with the girls today, running with two in particular who I was proud of how well they did. They kept moving further than they thought that they could go and we actually fit in 2 miles, whereas we only had 1.5 scheduled for the day and that’s what the rest of the group did.

We celebrated with a pizza and cupcake party and with a slideshow of pictures that I made from images we’d taken throughout the whole season. I am hoping the weather isn’t as bad as it says it is going to be on Saturday (right now the forecast is a 100% chance of rain…) and am excited to have the season come to a climax!

I was also excited because this week I have been feeling myself a little bit.  I always can tell when I've lost a little bit a weight because all of a sudden my selfies go way up.  I've been doing the bathroom mirror pics quite a bit lately.

Do you hate me for it?  I'll try to hold back but I'm using it as motivation. Keep going, me, keep going!  It's bizarre to me how last week I was writing about how motivated I am and this week I wrote about how I'm struggling to eat right.

But the workouts?  The workouts are getting done! I did 2 miles with Girls on the Run today and then 3 more miles with a friend before Nike Training Club.  And I definitely put in work at the NTC event tonight!  Lots of squats and another new pair of sneakers to try!!!  I swear, Nike is really trying to get me to buy their shit.

I'm really enjoying working out lately.  But sometimes I do know I need to push myself harder and tonight I tried to do that.  I ran a 9:20 pace for the last 3 miles and tried to not give up as much as possible in the workout.  I kept thinking about the cupcake that I had eaten earlier in the day!!!

Also, I'm getting really excited to finish this 100 mile challenge.  I should do it this weekend and I am getting anxious to hit it that I sort of just want to keep running nonstop.  I'm trying to temper myself!

Hope you are all having a great week!

Singleton 10K Race Recap and Weekend Update

[Delayed post... meant to put this up on Monday!  I am slacking this week so I figured I'd just post it live regardless.  Don't hate!  Blogging duties take the back burner when there are drinks to be drunk.]

It's the start to another beautiful week here in Atlanta!  Except it's another rainy week here in Atlanta and the past couple of days have been filled with fun tornado warnings.  Today's was particularly exciting as alarms started going off while at work and we all had to go down to the building basement/ground floor.

Well, to be honest, I don't know if we necessarily HAD to.  But as soon as the alarm went off on my phone, I got up off my butt and said, "Welp, see ya! I'm getting out of here!" to the people in the meeting I was with.  Because we sit on the 14th floor and I do NOT mess around with weather.  It was two years ago that I totally panicked when we had a tornado warning in Albany and I hid in my unfinished basement for a half hour.  

Much like that time, the weather didn't really look too bad.

But I don't take chances, you guys!!

Today's weather extremes fell after additional ones came up yesterday.  The weather warnings we got yesterday actually caused the group run I participate in to get cancelled.  It is the first time I have seen that happy, but it is important to always be safe!  With the afternoon free, it was weird to have a full Sunday with nothing to do, but I filled it with a trip to the farmer's market, some time cleaning up at home, dinner with a friend from out of town, and a three mile solo run as the weather cooled down.

Despite not having a Movers and Pacers run on Sunday, I did have a lot of time with the running group on Saturday as a bunch of us went and ran one of the Atlanta Track Club races, this one was a 10K called the Singleton 10K that is named after the man who started the Peachtree Road Race, which is the big 60,000 person road race in July in Atlanta.

It was a really fun race to go to as a group and cheer for everyone running, and also run into a number of other people I have met by being a part of the local running crew.  It makes me proud that I've already met enough people in the time that I have been hear that I now run into people I know at different events.  I guess I need to stop thinking of myself as a newtimer in Atlanta as its now been about 7 months that I have been here.  It's crazy how time flies.

The Singleton 10K was a PR for me and I ran it in 55:02 - my fastest official race time.  However, I somehow feel less proud of it than I do other times I have gotten PRs.  I guess I feel like I should be able to run faster at a 10K.  And by looking at the numbers, I should be able to.  My 10K split time from the Publix Half Marathon where I broke 2 hours was a 55:22 and I ran 7 more miles after that (seriously guys, how did I run that fast?)

The race on Saturday was a tough one mentally.  It was a looped course with some sharp turns and out-and-back sections.  You spent the whole course running across from other people who were running and did the same 5K loop two times.  I wasn't a huge fan of it, but it was a fun course to have a lot of people that you know running because I got to cheer for them all throughout the many times of crossing their path during the course.

It was great to have such a big group out there at the race and everyone waited to cheer for all the finishers.  One of the best parts of the race to me was when one of the girls finished who was not only running her first road race, but her first 10K ever - it was the first time in her life she had run that distance and, as I do too at the end of hard races, she finished crying.  It was so incredible and I started crying myself, I am a total sap when it comes to races because I know SO well the feeling of not thinking you can do something and accomplishing it.  I have felt that pride and that sense of empowerment and excitement and emotion.  It is what I love about running and chasing that feeling is what keeps pushing me to run harder and further and faster and continue to accomplish and go after the things that felt impossible at one point.  Conquering new distances or times makes you feel invincible and is the greatest high I have found.

After everyone finished, we lightened things up a bit with some playground pics.  Seriously, who does not love a good photo op in a playground?  Okay, well, probably a lot of people would walk by a playground and not feel the need to take lots of pictures on the different equipment.  BUT if you enjoy it as much as I do, then we are going to be friends.  But then again, there is also not much in my life that I come across that I don't see as an opportunity to take lots of silly pictures with.

We followed the race with brunch at Cracker Barrel, I did a quick body shower, and then headed to a volunteering event put on by an organization another one of the members of the running group founded.  It is called Hip Hop Gives Back and the group is all about promoting the charity work and public service that members of the global hip hop community take part in, as an effort to change the stereotype of hip hop.  It also puts on its own public outreach and service events, such as the one on Saturday called "Breaking Bread" in Atlanta, where everyone got together to make sandwiches to distribute to homeless shelters.  There were lots of DJs and music and a fun atmosphere at the event, and overall everyone made more than 1300 sandwiches, which is pretty incredible!

It was a really cool event and I was really happy to participate in a volunteering activity in Atlanta.  I know that coaching Girls on the Run is also a volunteer activity, but coaching girls at a private Catholic school after school is a bit different than preparing food to be donated to people who don't know where their next meal is coming from.  It was also FUN to have the music blasting and people dancing and I met a number of cool people.  My general practice is to dance around my apartment and blast music while I am cooking and hanging around so it is fun to be around people who do the same!

And believe it or not, my Saturday was still going on with a number of other social events and happenings.  I knew going into the day that I had overbooked myself, but in my normal fashion, I also said screw it, I just want to do everything.  So, on Saturday night I met up with a couple other members of the running group for my SECOND race of the day, this time running an evening 5K through Piedmont Park called the lantern run.  It was supposed to be run in the dark with glo sticks and whatnot, but they moved the time of the race earlier in the day because of forecasted bad weather (the damn weather lately!!!)  It was still a fun race with lots of energy, that I ran with one other person who had also run in the morning, and another friend came out to cheer us on.  When I tell you that this is the most supportive group of people I have ever met - I mean every word of that.

So, my original intent was to run this race easily, not get too sweaty, and then change in my car and go meet some people out.  But let me tell you, I WAY underestimated the amount of sweaty I was going to get during this race.  I figured 3 miles easy?  I could do this without getting TOO bad.  Yeah, not the case.  At some point it got super muggy out or something because I was DRENCHED after the race.  I have no idea what happened, but I was so gross and there was no way I could go anywhere like that.

Well, anywhere enclosed that is.  We did all go for a drink after the race at a place where we could sit outside.  And when I say "we" all went for a drink, I mean I was the only one that got a beer and I drank it.  But, hey, semantics.

I did a quick (uplanned) trip home to shower and change after the 5K and then went out to see a friend (from the running group...) host a poetry slam competition that was taking place that evening at a small venue that I had been to one other time for a performance, Apache Cafe.  It is a really cool venue and it was PACKED for the poetry slam, which was neat to see.  I had been to some spoken word and poetry events before but never a competition like the one I went to Saturday night where there were 3 different rounds that concluded with one final winner.  And because this is my life and these things happen to me, I ended up being a judge for the final round of the competition.  I was SO uncomfortable judging because I felt bad and didn't really know how to score people!  It was funny today at work because I mentioned it to a friend and she said, "Of course you were chosen to be a judge!" as I had totally forgotten about my celebrity judging experience at the improv show in Schenectady last year!!  Apparently I have a pattern.

I was really impressed with all of the people who had the guts to get up and perform, whether or not they actually were good.  It still takes a lot of courage to just put yourself in front of people with the knowledge that they are going to judge and critique you!  It's scary and hard and I don't know if I ever have or could do it.  I had the same respect recently when I went to the auditions for The Voice when they were in Atlanta and saw all the brave people singing in front of strangers waiting to be judged.  That's scary!

So, it was a fantastic weekend.  I stayed on track eating healthy for the moooost part.  I ate a bigger meal on Sunday night (okay it was a burger and sweet potato tots) but also put in a lot of work between the 9 miles I ran on Saturday and the 3 miles on Sunday.  Today I started the morning off with a spin class and a 1.2 mile run that puts me at 76 miles for the month.  I've been aiming to do 25 miles a week and I am pretty much on target for that!  I also went back to the gym in the evening to do a short arms/upper body workout.  It was really a workout that I could have done in the morning with the other stuff, not a full workout, but I had run out of time.  I also felt guilty because I ate a bit more than I should at my 2nd work dinner of the week.  I just cannot handle myself in front of chips and quesadillas and so much goodness!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Boston Marathon Monday 2015


My love for the Boston marathon started as a little kid watching it on TV every year I had the Monday holiday (Patriots Day is a holiday in New England... which is really all about the marathon.)  As I grew older and became a runner myself, it because even more iconic and memorable to me.  It is a race that I now cannot wait to someday conquer myself and that gives me chills to think about.

Last year I went to Boston and cheered during the race, my first time supporting marathoners as a marathon finisher myself!  It was an amazing day, seeing the city bounce back the year after the bombings.  I love being in Boston for the race and seeing all the runners out there last year, the year after such a scary tragedy that shook the city, New Englanders and the running community to the core. I seriously get goosebumps when I think about when I will run it.

I live streamed the race while at work, signed up to get text message alerts for Hilary Dionne, a runner that was a year above me in high school and part of my extended group of friends.  She is an "amateur elite" athlete, who runs for Boston Athletic Association and clocks crazy fast times, yet is not a professional athlete.  She works a full time job and trains on the side (unlike others in the elite field, in which running and training is all that they do!)  I also tracked a friend from college and blog reader who was running her first marathon for a charity.  I'd been cheering her along throughout all of her training and was SO excited and proud for her to do her first race.

It was so exciting to watch along, never in my life would I have thought it was that exciting to watch people run, but it was.  It was great competition and there were some really exciting moments.  The most exciting moment of the whole race however came when Hilary Dionne, my high school classmate, crossed the finish line.  Now, I had been tracking how many times I would start to choke up and cry throughout the race, and I think I was up to 4 or so but when I watched this happen, it was all over.

So, the TV wasn't actually watching Hilary finish, but was showing Meb's finish, who was the winner last year in incredible fashion by being the first American to win Boston in many years (and the year after such a tragedy.)  He is a beloved elite runner and a huge patriot after winning for Americans last year.  The cameras were following him as he ran down Boylston to the finish and you could see that there was a runner up ahead of him during one of the camera shots of him from behind.  As he got closer to the finish, you see that he comes up next to a woman's elite runner and he sort of surprises her running to her from behind right before the finish, grabbed her hand, and they crossed the finish together.  You can see the surprise and happiness on the female runners face and what makes this amazing display of teamwork, community, camaraderie, and class even more amazing is that it was the girl I went to high school with who was Meb's finish line buddy!

He is such an iconic runner, and this is such an iconic race, so to witness this moment happen for someone I know, was so incredibly cool.  I paused the live recording and watched it again, filming the finish on my phone and posting to Facebook.  I posted with the caption "Did anyone else catch this?" and the answer to that was pretty clear shortly after when the internet started to explode with articles, stories, pictures, etc. of marathon elite Meb Keflezighi surprising Hilary Dionne at the finish.  She's been interviewed and featured a number of places and her Twitter account started to explode with retweets and favorites of her post that it wasn't her best time, but her most memorable finish.

Man, have I become a marathon sap, but I love this stuff.  I love seeing the reaction and seeing these things go "viral."  Hilary has gained a ton of Twitter followers today and her name is popping up now all over the internet.  Such a cool story and a deserving person to be a part of such praise.

I think these "amateur elites" are a really interesting population of runners.  Or even the "middle of the pack" athletes for any distance race.  Hilary (and many other runners at her level) must have to train hard and it must take a lot of discipline to stick to schedules and put in the work to be able to run a 2:42 marathon and run with the elite runners.  YET, she is (likely) never going to win the race.  She didn't run in the front pack of women who had the cameras trailing them and commentators giving attention to throughout the whole race.  She isn't written up about in magazines or celebrated as one of the professional runners.  She (and many other runners) are right behind the podium again and again.  It's not really in their sights.  But they are still way above average.  It's got to be a challenging place to be mentally.  To be back of the pack of the best.  You are a crazy rockstar compared to the amateur runners like myself.  But you're not really even a contender to the professional elite athletes who train full time.

I feel like I am not really expressing myself well right now and it's getting late so I need to get to bed, but I am so happy that Hilary is getting attention and recognition out of the finish with Meb.  She deserves it and it makes me happy to have one of these "amatur elites" making some noise.  They are an interesting category of runners and worthy of praise and recognition for being such high caliber athletes, but probably don't always get it.

Oh and before I go to bed, also a shoutout to Jillian G. who ran NEGATIVE SPLITS in her first marathon, finishing around 4:24.   Negative splits!  Who does that?  AMAZING, AMAZING accomplishment that I am so proud and excited for her for.  She posted to Facebook that it was her best day of her life, and all I can say is I know that feeling.

So proud of all the runners today and all the amazing stories of endurance and triumph and overcoming obstacles with the 2015 Boston Marathon, and all marathons.

I'm a sap and it's time for me to go to bed but I will be dreaming of someday running my own Boston and I already have butterflies for it!  HAPPY MARATHON MONDAY AND CONGRATS TO ALL RUNNERS!!!!!!!!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Runcation to Tampa Recap and Photos

So, I mentioned last weekend I went away to the beach and if you follow me on Instagram that you've definitely seen a few pictures, but I wanted to spend a little more time writing about the trip in depth.  And I want to start by saying that I remember back last summer when I was in Provincetown for my Uncles' wedding, I started my post recapping the weekend saying some weekends are so fun that you are a little sad even while it is going on because you don't want it to end.  Well, one of the things I realized this past weekend is that things can be on the opposite end of the spectrum as well.  Sometimes, you don't realize quite how much fun you had until the weekend or time is over.  That's how I felt about the past weekend's runcation to Tampa, Florida.

I initially anticipated writing this blog like I do most weekend recaps and walking through everything I did, how I thought through things, what I packed, what the ride down was like, funny things that happened, etc. etc. But I then realized that in this scenario and for this weekend, it is better to consider it at a whole because it truly was something special.

From the moment that we met to drive down, to the time we left, everything went smoothly, everyone was easy going and things just seemed to go with the flow.  The people who helped to organize the trip really took care of so many details, and I felt like I was on an amazing vacation that I didn't even have to plan any details for!

I didn't know many of the people before we left and the ones I knew, I don't think I knew them all too well but at some point during the trip, at some point over the three days we became a family.  I am honestly not quite sure when it happened, but by the end of the weekend, I felt like I knew everyone.  I felt really tight bonds with some people that just sort of happened out of nowhere.  One moment we were talking and laughing with one another and the next we were hugging and crying and understanding one another without words.  Maybe it was the sunshine, maybe it was the endorphins from the running, or the looseness from the drinks, but looking back at the weekend and the group, I just feel such a fondness for everyone that was on the trip.  And truly, I didn't realize it until the end of the trip.

There were moments in life that I think we all have sometimes that you worry if you fit in, which I had at moments during the weekend, but they were only moments, and by the time we returned to Atlanta, those thoughts were gone.  I made so many connections with people and have so much appreciation for the conversations that I had with people, the amount I was able to open up, the honesty that came out, and the people who I let to see who I was and who showed me who they were.

I know it sounds silly, but I feel like I came back from the trip with a group of friends rather than a group of running acquaintances.  I have had a lot of fun weekends lately, but I haven't laughed as much as I have this past weekend in a long time.  I haven't been brought to tears by text messages recapping jokes from the weekend until this week in a long time.  It is hard to explain, but I had such a wonderful weekend in Tampa and am so thankful to have returned to Atlanta with these new bonds!  I am so thankful for this group, for a few individuals especially within the group, and cannot wait to spend even more time with the running family we created while in Tampa.

Oh, and did I mention that there was a photographer that joined us on the trip?  Yeah, there was.  I mentioned Allie's half marathon was the most well documented race anyone had ever run, and I think that the weekend in Tampa was the most well documented weekend anyone has ever been on (there was a total of 4 selfie sticks that were along for the weekend.)  There were so many amazing photos, I decided to just mostly make this post about pictures from here out.  Enjoy!

Runcation Day 1:

Drive down to Tampa, late lunch, nap, group stretches, 4 mile sunset/evening run along the water, recovery beer, dinner on the go, clean up, out on the town.

Runcation day 2:

Morning by the pool, drive to St. Petersburg, 2 mile ocean run, beach, drinks, shenanigans, sunshine, return to Tampa, relax and clean up, dinner and Flamenco show, Ybor City bars, hotel late night pool party.

Runcation Day 3: 

Early morning run with the Run Tampa crew and @2brothersrunning (from Instagram) along the ocean, brunch, naps, pack, return to Atlanta with lots of traffic and a stop for my first food from Zaxby's.

Runcation The Week After:

So many group texts, sharing of pictures, discussions of withdrawal and wanting to go back, renewed energy to run, stronger friendships, new friendships, feeling like I actually live and have friends in Atlanta, and just lots and lots of smiles and happiness.