Tuesday, January 31, 2012

11 Facts!

I think these fun facts posts are so fun to read, so when I was tagged by Amanda and Rena, I just had to participate!

The rules are:
1. Post the rules
2. Give 11 random facts about yourself
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag

Here are my 11 random facts:

1. As most of you know, I'm a chemical engineering grad student. My research is on inhalation pharmaceuticals and making polymer films change color.

2. I absolutely hate centipedes. The amount of legs they have is totally unnecessary.

3. I love running, but I don't wear running clothes out anywhere aside from a workout. I do wear yoga pants/crops everywhere though.

4. I love baking!

5. I eat peanut butter on or in something daily.

6. I'm a crazy dog lady. I take a ridiculous amount of pictures of Zoe.
7. I think overnight oats are just gross. I know so many running/healthy living/food bloggers love them, but I am just weirded out. I'll eat hot oatmeal though. With peanut butter on it.

8. I know I've told y'all this before, but I love m&ms. I love them so much. I eat them daily. Some days it's 2 m&ms while I'm cooking dinner, other times its 20 m&ms. Either way, I can't part with them. Zach and I will definitely be having m&ms at our wedding.

9. My favorite zoo animals are the zebras and giraffes.

10. I just started collecting Christmas ornaments every place we travel. I want to be able to remember all our fun trips and Christmas ornaments are a great way to do that!

11. I love broccoli. I could eat it every day. Zach hates broccoli. I usually cook him peas when I want broccoli.

I was tagged by Amanda and Rena, so I'll do a couple questions from each of them so I don't overload y'all!
From Amanda:

1. If you could travel to any country, where would it be?
I would say Greece. It looks so pretty and I would love to see it!

2. Cats or dogs?
3. What is your favorite restaurant to go to?
Hmm...probably Mojo's in Jax Beach, FL.

4. Are you crafty?
Yes! Wait till y'all see my DIYs for my wedding!

5. Tea or coffee? Flavors?
Tea for sure. I like hot green or black tea, and I love sweet tea!

From Rena:

6. What did you do for fun in your childhood?
Go to the beach!

7. What's your favorite movie of last year?
The Help

8. What's your fashion must have?
I would probably say riding boots.

9. What's one of your life goals?
Be a mom.

10. What's the one material thing you can't live without?
My "A" necklace! I got it from my parents.

My 11 Questions are:

1. What's your favorite type of cookie?
2. If you could live in any US city, where would it be?
3. If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?
4. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
5. What's your favorite healthy meal?
6. What's your favorite un-healthy meal?
7. What is your favorite band?
8. What's your favorite color?
9. Do you have any pets?
10. What's the best vacation you've ever been on?
11. What is your biggest accomplishment to date?

I'm tagging:

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Back on Track! Monday Motivation

Happy Monday everyone!

I have had a chest cold/no voice almost all weekend! My voice is not pretty!
After work I really wanted to go home, order in, and sleep on the couch. But I didn't!
I motivated myself to stick to my workout goals and I'm doing the same for you now!
I ran from work to the gym (only about 0.7 miles), pumped some iron, and ran back to my office to get my things!
Running was tough with my chest cold, but I am really glad that I stuck to my goals and didn't give up and start the week off on the wrong foot. I ran 1.4 miles and did leg and arm weights as well as some ab exercises. Operation Fit Bride is here to stay!

Sticking with my workout today was not only a workout with my wedding dress in mind, but continuing with my determination for a healthier life. I struggled a bit with motivation after my second half marathon because I felt with no race in sight, I had no incentive to get moving. I do think those two weeks was a much needed mental and physical break. I recharged my batteries and while I still don't have any half marathons on the calendar for this spring, what better motivation is there to work out than my health?

I've come so far with my weight loss journey. You all have been there from the first day I reclaimed my life and started running again. Many of you have commented, emailed me, and tweeted at me with questions, advice, or a much needed good job! You have shared your healthy living journeys and goals, and I am here to remind you that you can succeed and reach that goal!

Not giving up on my workout today is just a small hurdle to overcome on a very mountainous journey. We will all face some obstacle that we have to overcome. But that is what makes the goal so much more worth it.

You can do this! Whether you want to run a half marathon or a 5k, swim a mile or bike with your children, learn some nutritious recipes or pledge to eat out only once a week, you can attain your goal!
Don't start on Monday to get your healthy lifestyle back on track, start at the next meal.
Don't wait for the free moment to work out, make the free time happen.
Realizing how you can achieve your goals is the first step in making them happen.
Make a healthy lifestyle exactly that - a lifestyle! You can reach the goals you have set for yourself! Every small step adds up to big leaps forward towards the ultimate prize. Even if it's as small as not skipping your Monday workout.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Workin' on my Fitness

My goal this week was to complete two strength training workouts and two runs.

On Monday, I did The Biggest Loser Power Sculpt workout.
This workout was no joke! I did the warmup, Levels 1, 2, and 3, and the cooldown. My favorite Level would have to be Level 3 because Bob is my favorite trainer. And let me tell y'all my butt muscles were sore for two days. The curtsey-squats were killer!
Jillian taught Level 1, Kim taught Level 2, and Bob taught Level 3. All three levels plus the warmup and cooldown only took me 50 minutes!
Zoe was very entertained by my workout. She kept trying to lay down next to me when I was doing push ups and planks!

Tuesday morning I ran 3.25 miles before work!
I make weird faces. No judgement.

Wednesday we went on a mini-family walk. Zach and I took Zoe (and a little white dog that followed us) on a 2-mile walk before dinner.
Zoe loves going for walks!

Thursday I walked the track with my friend Emily before taking Butts and Guts. I love going to that class! It's so hard but I love the challenge! I look forward to it every week.

Zach ran around the track and did weights while we were in the class.
I get a huge kick out of this shirt.

I had a 5-miler on the plan for this morning but I've had the worst sore throat for the past 4 days and woke up with no voice this morning so I needed some extra sleep. I'll make up for it this weekend though!

How were your workouts this week?
Anything fun planned for the weekend?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Mason Jar Accents

Wedding Wednesdays are so much fun! I'm still having a great time getting to participate in them and share all of my ideas with y'all! I love hearing everyone's suggestions and helpful tips so keep 'em coming!

Last week I shared my wedding colors: Fuchsia and Champagne-Gold.
Lots of weddings I've seen in magazines and blogs seem to have a theme. There are so many wonderful ideas. I think the overall vibe we're going for is Charleston/Carolina charm. Our save-the-dates and wedding invites will have the palmetto moon on them, as well as some napkins and maybe something included in the centerpieces.

The other element we want to include a lot of is mason jars! They are so versatile and will be a lot of fun to use for the reception!
I absolutely love the idea of dipping the bottoms of the mason jars in glitter. I want to incorporate this idea into our centerpieces. I'm thinking of using either gold or fuchsia glitter (depending on the tablecloth color) and using 3-5 per table and filling them with candles and magnolia flowers. I think that would be just so beautiful! And if you know me in person, you know I looovveeee glitter!
I definitely want to serve drinks in mason jars! I love the idea of having signature drinks. We are thinking of having Palmetto Brewing Company beer, muscadine wine, Arnold Palmers, sweet tea, lemonade, soft drinks, and having two signature drinks, one for each of us.
(I'd love to know y'all's opinions on this subject...open bar/no open bar...having unlimited beer and wine with two signature drinks, etc. Help!)
We could have a huge ice bucket with a palmetto moon on it and fill it with lemonade and sweet tea!
Zach and I can even have Bride and Groom mason jars for our drinks!
I'm definitely using this idea-using mason jars to display pictures of our families' weddings. I would love to have my parents and grandparents as well as Zach's family's weddings! These would be great on the guest book table.
Filling mason jars with favors is such a great idea! For a Charleston wedding, I'd love to fill mason jars with pralines and include some Charleston Tea Company tea strung on a ribbon around the top. I also love the idea of giving Mississippi State muscadine wine as a favor to our guests. I have to look into that!
How beautiful are lanterns hanging in the trees? At night this would add to an amazing atmosphere for an outdoor, Southern spring wedding reception. Mason jar lanterns would be even better!
These napkins are too cute! I would love to include these in our wedding, maybe at the cocktail hour!

All images are from my Pinterest board. Come see my board and click on the pictures there for the websites they came from!

Did you use mason jars in your wedding or go to a wedding that had mason jars? Please tell me any great ideas you have!
Do you have any advice for me for my wedding? I love any and everything y'all tell me!
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Peanut Butter Lovin'

It's National Peanut Butter Day! What a fantastic holiday!

I made peanut butter cookies in honor of the day! I'm going to share with you a few of my favorite peanut butter treats!

These are the best peanut butter cookies I've ever had. I've blogged about them once before, but they are so good I have to write about them again.

They are super easy to make:

1 egg, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of peanut butter, and one teaspoon of vanilla
Mix it all up, drop about tablespoon-sized drops onto a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle some sugar on the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven and ENJOY!!

Zoe also enjoyed some peanut butter. She LOVES peanut butter!

She loves peanut butter so much I even made her a peanut butter doggie pupcake on her first birthday!

I legit eat peanut butter at some point every day. I love making peanut butter Rice Krispy Treats (to die for!), topping oatmeal with peanut butter, adding peanut butter to my morning breakfast shake, or using peanut butter as a healthy snack.
Mix 1 tablespoon of peanut butter with 1 tablespoon of light cool whip and dip apple pieces into the peanut butter whip dip. It is sweet and filling at the same time! And low calorie!

I also like having chocolate Vitamuffins and topping them with a tablespoon of peanut butter.

Peanut butter is just so awesome! It can be healthy and indulgent all at once!

I found these peanut butter recipes on Pinterest and I can't wait to try them! My future Mother-in-Law's birthday is today so I just might have to make her a peanut butter themed birthday treat next time I see her!
Peanut Butter Ball! Dip Nutter Butters into that! Looks amazing! Recipe here.
Elvis milkshakes! Peanut butter and banana! Recipe here.
The recipe calls for vanilla ice cream, but I would substitute vanilla Greek yogurt for a healthier version!

Do you love peanut butter too?
What's your favorite peanut butter treat?

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Monday, January 23, 2012

No Race to Train For? Now What?

This is going to be a majorly honest post.

I haven't ran in 16 days.

I finished the MS Blues Half Marathon January 7, and aside from a 2-mile walk/run/interval session at the one day I went to the gym last week, I haven't taken a step since. I've gone to the gym twice, once each week. I've eaten whatever I wanted.

What the heck am I doing? I've come way too far to be sliding back into my old habits!

I think I was just plain old burnt out. I love running like crazy and I'm actually starting to miss it. But with nothing to train for, I just stopped doing anything. I have zero motivation to break a sweat. You would think summer, a wedding, engagement photos, etc. would be motivating. But I just couldn't force myself to go bang out even a mile.

I feel lost. I have no race to train for, no date on my calendar.

But that doesn't mean I shouldn't have goals! I have big goals, actually. I want to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon in 2:20, I want to become stronger and more toned, which I think will help me become a stronger runner (Do stronger legs = easier miles? I believe they do). I have a pair of jeans I want to fit into, wedding gowns to try on, and my overall health to take care for. GET IT TOGETHER ASHLEY!!

Part of the problem may be adjusting to a new schedule this semester. Last semester I was working a lot from home since I was writing my thesis. This semester I'm back in the lab full time until May when I graduate. But still. NO. MORE. EXCUSES.

I'm NOT giving up. I guess I just needed a mental and physical break.

Since I don't have a race in the very near future (except for a fun St. Patrick's Day 5k), I'll be switching it up a bit and taking advantage of my spring "off-season".

I want to strength train two days a week. Monday and Thursday are looking to be best schedule-wise for meeting this goal.

Tuesday and Friday are running days. I don't want to lose my endurance, so I will be completing some longer runs, like 7-9 miles, as well as some speedwork sessions. I really want to get faster. I would like to run 3 days a week, with Wednesday or Saturday as my additional running day. I'd also like to incorporate yoga on one of these days that I don't wind up running, since I really enjoy it.
I CAN do this! I MUST motivate myself to stick to my goals that I know I can reach!

What do you do to keep yourself motivated? Tell me your tips and advice!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My First Wedding Wednesday: Color Scheme!

This is my first Wedding Wednesday y'all! I'm so excited to share what I've been planning (so far) with you!

So far Zach and I have picked out our colors, the city we'd like to get married in, a timeframe, a photographer, and have made appointments to see 5 different venues!

We are planning a February or March (hopefully March) 2013 wedding in Charleston, SC!

I made appointments to see The Charleston Place Hotel, The Renaissance Hotel, The Wickliffe House, Thomas Aiken House, and Lowndes Grove Plantation. We are also hoping to see the Thomas Bennett House (plus any suggestions anyone has!)

Last but not least: our colors!

I just love how fuchsia and gold-champagne look together! The colors compliment each other so well and look even better in person!
I love how bright and vibrant a pink wedding party looks!
Aren't these pink and gold cake pops fantastic? I love them! Maybe I should make some for my wedding!

These are my inspiration swatches I have at my house so far! I know they look really red/orange but I promise they are a fabulous shade of fuchsia in real life! My iPhone/lighting doesn't do them justice!

The fuchsia pashmina is just gorgeous! I love the color - it's EXACTLY what I had in my head. I picked that up this weekend and it will be awesome to have with me to match colors to!
I also have my fuchsia hair flower my sister gave me last year. I may wear it in my hair as my "something old" on my wedding day. It matches perfectly to the scarf!

The ribbon swatches are color samples for a waist sash I'm having made to go with my wedding gown!

And the mason jar invite (I REALLY hope my bridesmaids don't see this...I don't think they read my blog anyway haha!) is the invitation I'm sending to the girls I'm asking to be my bridesmaids! I wish I could show y'all in real life how fantastic everything looks together!

What do you think so far? Any ideas for a Charleston wedding?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Uncle Sam Cereal: Wholesome, Filling, and Decadent?

Right before Christmas, I was sent three types of Uncle Sam cereal from Attune Foods!
They sent me Original, Strawberry, and Honey Almond!
I had never had Uncle Sam cereal before, and let me tell y'all, this stuff is great!

I tried the Strawberry flavor first, and had a bowl of it for breakfast with some light chocolate soy milk. It was SO GOOD! I loved the strawberry chocolate combination. I had this combo another day as well with some bananas cut up on top. Delicious! The rest of the box of Strawberry Uncle Sam came on my Christmas road trip and I ate it right out of the box for a snack on the road. This was definitely my favorite flavor!

I tried the Honey Almond out of the box as well, and the honey flavor is very strong. It was also the sweetest of the three types of cereal. I liked the honey almond best when I mixed it in with some vanilla or peach Greek yogurt. It stayed crunchy and I loved the honey flavor when paired with fruit or vanilla. It was a little strong right out of the box but it was so tasty!

The Original flavor was a little plain to eat on it's own, but the plain turned out to be SO AMAZING! First, I used it crushed up with some panko to make some fantastic and crispy homemade chicken tenders. They were soooo good and so crunchy!

The star of the Uncle Sam show is definitely the Uncle Sam No-Bake Cookies I made. I can't rave about these enough! I read a ton of recipes on the Attune Foods website and when I came across this recipe, I couldn't resist. My mom and I have made similar cookies using only oats in the past, but I think I'll be changing my recipe to include Original Uncle Sam because the cookies are absolutely to die for!

I didn't use the recipe as-is. I made a few changes, so I'm posting my directions and recipe below!
Top Left: Combine 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup dark chocolate Silk almond milk, and 1/4 cup cocoa in a saucepan.

Top Right: Add in 1 tsp of cinnamon

Bottom Left: Bring to a rolling boil, and allow mixture to boil for 1 min.

Bottom Right: Remove mixture from heat, and stir in 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup oats, 2 cups Uncle Sam Original cereal, and 1 tsp of vanilla.

Mix together thoroughly. (Take a bite-because it is so absolutely delicious).

Spoon mixture onto a cookie sheet and place in refrigerator.
Stuff your face with these decadent delights.
"Why are there so few cookies?" you may be wondering. Well...I ate like 10 of them so far.

Who knew a cereal could add so much to cookies? They are crunchy, fantastically chocolatey, and such a treat!
There are so many other recipes I can't wait to try as well: banana bread, peach crisp, peanut butter honey granola bars. I am now a HUGE fan of Uncle Sam cereal! I really recommend that y'all go get a box or three and try them!

Check out @attunefoods on Twitter!

I was sent three boxes of Uncle Sam cereal by Attune Foods. I am reviewing them on my own and all opinions are mine. I was not compensated in any way for writing this post - I just wanted to share a great cereal with y'all!

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Monday, January 16, 2012

13 Tips for 13 (.1) Miles

When I read the comments from the Go Sport ID giveaway, many of you said your goal in 2012 was to run your first half marathon. I loved hearing this from so many people!
I've only recently become a half marathoner. I ran my first race in the beginning of November and I ran my second race January 7 of this year! I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I truly love the 13.1 distance and I do have years of running experience (even though I took a few year hiatus). I also keep up with articles and new training plans. Running bloggers have provided tons of inspiration as well as tips that really helped me with training and racing. Here are some of my favorite tips as well as things I've learned along the way that hopefully will help some of you while you are training!

1. Find a training plan - Before you go out and start training for the race you've just signed up for, do some research and find a training plan that works with your schedule. I personally followed Runner's World's training plan for a first-time half marathoner for my race in November, and for this past race I combined a few beginner and intermediate training plans I found on the Runner's World website to make my own plan. Make sure you give yourself enough time to train for a race. Training plans can range anywhere from 6-18 weeks. I think 10-12 weeks is an ideal amount of time to train for a race. Most importantly, make sure you are realistic with the plan you decide to use. I do best running 3-4 days a week. My training plan with 5 days of running did not wind up working for me. Lessons learned.

2. Invest in quality shoes - Make sure you visit a running store and get fitted for the best kind of shoes for your feet. They have been trained for what to look for, and can identify whether you need stability, motion control, neutral cushioning, etc. shoes. These places can be pricey for buying the shoes, so I usually look on 6pm.com, runningwarehouse.com (my favorite), or Zappos. Good shoes are essential to running success!

Some people have asked what shoes I wear. I run in Asics Gel Kayano 17. I love the Kayanos and have been running in Kayanos since 2003. I can't wait for the 18s to come out this spring!

3. Be able to run 3 miles first - Before starting a half marathon training plan, it helps a lot if you can run at least 3 miles comfortably prior to beginning the plan. With this base, the long runs in the beginning of the plan (5-6 miles) are attainable, as well as the tempos and interval workouts. An improper base could lead to injury or plain old discouragement.

4. Some runs will be bad - Some days, running will suck. It will be too hot, too cold, too early, too late, you're hungry, you're tired, whatever the case may be. The best thing to do for this is accept that the run didn't go as planned and move on. Don't let one bad run deter you from moving forward toward your goal. You can do this! The occasional bad run will not ruin your training!
Running in the summer in MS is freakin' hot. And its sucks.

5. Indulge - You are working so hard! Make sure you take time to relax, enjoy yourself, and indulge in something that is a reward! Go to the movies, buy a new dress for your rockin' runner bod, make cookies, or do like I do and stuff yo face with frozen yogurt. Whatever you do, just make sure you treat yourself for all the hard work you've been doing!
Frozen yogurt is always amazing. And Zach always judges the amount that I get. Whatev.

6. Have fun with running - This training plan of yours lasts several months. Have fun with it! I am always getting new jams for my running playlists or signing up for smaller races to spice it up and have fun. Strategically placed 5k's and 10k's can actually work out nicely for your training.
I find that wearing orange and black for a Halloween run was festive. And Zoe also enjoyed running in her candy corn bandana. We had many smiles from passing people.

7. Have a support system - Tell your family and friends about your training and how your runs are going. They are proud of you and your accomplishments and they can provide encouragement for you as your training progresses! You can also coerce them into being your running partners.
Mom! Run 10 miles with me!
Zoe! Run every single run with me!

8. Do the long runs - Completing the long runs was something I struggled with during the training for my first half marathon. I did have a knee injury in the beginning of September, but when it was healed enough for me to run, I just stayed in my safe zone and ran the longest run of 8 miles once before heading to Savannah for 13.1. This is probably why I struggled horribly after mile 7 during the race. This time around, I ran a long run every week, ranging from 7 miles in November to completing 3 10-milers in December. This past race was significantly better and I was way more confident headed into my second half. I did struggle a little around miles 11-12, so I know next time I need to run probably two 12-milers leading up to the race. Regardless, the long runs helped my confidence as well as my overall race experience, so I really recommend completing as many of the ones on your training plan as you can. They are essential.

9. Cross train - I did not do this the first time around or the second time around. But I've already begun doing it for the third time around. Strong legs, arms, and core is crucial to overall performance, general health, and will help prevent you from getting injured or overworking your body with too much running. It's tempting to run every day while training, especially in the aftermath of a really good run. But I knew during both races I wasn't strong, even though I had the endurance. All I have been doing since last April is running, and while this is awesome and I have a lot of endurance built up, I'm not strong and it's a miracle I wasn't injured from running so much (my knee injury was a fall, not during a run or caused by running). This time around, strength training and yoga are already in the mix.

10. Don't try anything new on race day - Use your long runs as test days for trying out what gels, chomps, fueling strategy works for you, how you need to hydrate, and what upsets your stomach. Some people are sensitive to certain types of gel or food. I can't eat any dairy before I run, so I know not to eat yogurt on race day morning. I also know that Powergel works best for me for fueling during a race. Test out all the products and meals on days you are running long as a trial for race day. This also works for your outfit. Make sure your race-day outfit is comfortable for a long run. You do not want to be uncomfortable or chafing with an upset stomach on race day!

11. Don't get intimidated - So now it's race day, and you've prepared well and are at the start line. There will be lots of hardcore runners that can run a half in 1:30 and have been doing this for 25 years and will be talking about the 35th marathon they ran last month. Do not let these people intimidate you. They were first time half marathoners once too. I usually just keep to myself, talk to Zach, or make friends with the nice people around me. Gather all the pep talks and support you can. And listen to "All I do is Win".

12. Bring throw away clothes for the start - If you run a race in cold-ish weather, make sure you wear gloves or a sweatshirt you can throw to the side of the start or the road during the race. It's better than freezing while waiting for the race to start, and you don't want to get stuck carrying your nice running gear. Fall races or early spring races where the weather warms up nicely as the morning progresses but are freezing at the start is where you will see this happen often. Hit up Walmart or the Dollar Store.

13. Have fun during the race! - This is by far the best advice I have for anyone. You have come this far - make sure to enjoy it! Look around at the scenery, crowds, and other runners. Listen and enjoy the bands on the course. Read the funny signs the spectators are holding up. Enjoy the race experience, even if you aren't making your goal pace or your leg hurts. Have fun! Not every race will go as planned, you won't always PR, but you will always have fun!

And here is my 0.1 of other advice to make it 13.1 tips: All of the hard work is completely worth it. When you cross the finish line, you'll know exactly what I mean. You can do this!

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Winner of the Nuun Giveaway!

Thank you all so much for entering my Nuun giveaway (and my Go Sport ID giveaway!). I've loved reading every response!
The winner of the Nuun giveaway is Michele from NYC Running Mama!
Congratulations Michele! I'm e-mailing you!

You all have got to go check out Michele's blog! She is so inspirational!

Thank you all so much for entering! Check back later for my tips for half marathoners!
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winners of the Go Sport ID Giveaway!

I have the winners of the Go Sport ID $25 gift cards for y'all!
The winners are #50, Jessica of It's Just Jess
and #89, Randi of S Club 4

I'm e-mailing you ladies!

Thank you all so much for entering my giveaway! I loved reading each comment - you are all so inspiring! You have all accomplished so much in 2011 and have huge plans for 2012!

I noticed a lot of you will be completing your first half marathons this year! I'll be posting my tips for training for your first half marathon, as well as fueling tips next week so keep your eyes out for that post. Hopefully it will help some of you!

Thanks again for you support! And don't forget my Nuun giveaway doesn't end until Sunday night so you still have time to enter!
Enter HERE!

Happy Running!
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