La Jolla Half Marathon 2015

I will be the first to admit that I was not at all prepared for this race. I decided to run about a month ago since I had been training for my Tinkerbell Half Marathon anyway. This race is the second of the triple crown series of half marathons in San Diego, which I completed in 2013. Carlsbad in the January race, then La Jolla in April, and America’s Finest City in August. So I’ve run the course before and I knew what to expect… lots and lots of hills! The run starts in the Del Mar racetrack and follows the coast up and over the hills of Torrey Pines before ending in La Jolla Cove. It’s brutal. But it’s also beautiful!


Sunday morning, Sean and I drove down to La Jolla to stash our car by the finish before hopping on the shuttle with Kelly. My goal here was to NOT rip my contact while getting off the bus (click the La Jolla link above to read that story). I was successful and we spent the hour or so before the start stretching, staying warm, and discussing our race strategies. Even though Sean and I had done many of our training runs together, we concluded that to avoid injury it would probably be best if we ran our own races and started in our own corrals. I was wave three and he was wave four. Kelly decided to jump up to wave four with Sean to get started earlier. Our friends Vanessa and Dahlia found us in the parking lot and were both in wave three with me (pre-race photo below).


Starting off, my plan was to run comfortably and stay at whatever pace felt fairly easy. This ended up being about 9:30 pace, which was right at what I expected. I didn’t want to push too hard for the first five miles because of the big hill into Torrey Pines around mile six. It was perfect weather for the race and the sun came out just as we started, which made it a little warmer but also quite pleasant. The wind coming off the ocean wasn’t too strong, so I felt good turning up the hill (see first photo). Historically, I run hills well and I wasn’t expecting Sunday to be any different. I drove my arms and passed a TON of people of this section of the course. The photo below is a screenshot of an official photo so excuse the watermarks, but look past me at the rest of the runners and you’ll see what I mean. I got up without much problem and my legs were still feeling strong(ish).

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.30.07 PM

The next three miles are my least favorite because they are rolling hills through the top of Torrey Pines. It’s when I knew my legs would start to tire from lack of training and when I couldn’t see the finish line yet. I was expecting Sean to pass me at some point during this stretch so that gave me something to think about. He did end up passing me just before mile ten and our huge downhill. That gave me a bit of a boost because he said his shin and legs were feeling good as he passed me (he’s on the right in the photo below). I won’t lie, it was a bit humbling for me to be passed but I knew he was the more prepared runner between us. I was also really excited because I knew time-wise he was on pace to run a PR and possibly even break two hours!


After the big downhill, the top of my right foot started to tighten up and my left knee was a bit wonky. Both of these were things I expected with the lack of hill and distance training I’d put in. I was enjoying the race though and got to take in the scenery around me while I ran. Nothing was too painful to continue so I kept on cruising. The part of the course that winds through La Jolla Village was kind of annoying due to construction and the sun was starting to feel hotter. But I knew there was just one more section of hills before the downhill turn to the finish line. I did a quick assessment and confirmed that I couldn’t go any faster, so I just enjoyed the run as much as I could. I tried to encourage the runners around me who were starting to really struggle and who were less familiar with the course. Ultimately, I made it to the finish line without too much difficulty!


My official time was 2:07:03, which was about seven minutes slower than when I ran this course in 2013. But I felt VERY happy with those results given my preparation. Sean finished in an impressive 2:00:25, but was a bit frustrated at being so close to that two-hour barrier. He shaved about five minutes off his time from Carlsbad, which is a much easier course, so I was proud of him! Kelly, Vanessa, and Dahlia all finished within fifteen minutes of us, so we were able to meet up at the finish line. It was really fun seeing people I knew all day, either on the course or at the start and finish lines. I love the little group of runners I’ve come to know here and I think most of us are planning to run AFC in August as well. My goal for that race is to properly train and make a push to break the two-hour barrier again, if not PR. I’m quite confident that Sean will and you know I can’t be left behind!




Living Life in Leucadia

It has been SO long since I last posted about settling into California, oops? I’m excited to get back to posts about crazy adventures on the “Best Coast”. Jury is still out there, but for right now I’m leaning West. Anyway, so I told you that I bought a new car (SUV) and it’s still amazing. I have not picked out a name yet, but I’m sure that will come. For now, I’m just excited that I’ve driven over 1,000 miles so the engine is broken in and I can use cruise control. Work at Halstrom is going well, my hours are continuing to build and for right now it looks like I’ll be teaching a lot of AP World History and Algebra II, both of which are fine by me! I’m getting to know the new staff members and students and everyone seems really nice so far, so that’s great!


After a lot of searching that really began back in North Carolina, I finally found an apartment and have moved in. I wanted to be in the Encinitas area again, since living this close to the beach is amazing and I like to walk to restaurants and stores when I can. My top priorities were two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, and parking of some sort… and obviously proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Several places fell through or changed at the last-minute or I was the second applicant and it was starting to look like April 1st was my new move-in goal. But then I found a posting 23 minutes after it went live that looked great! I called the property manager, went over the next morning at 9am, applied on the spot, and signed the lease the next day. It was a bit crazy but it was the first place I’d seen with everything I wanted. And it was the cheapest place I’d looked at too! It’s a two-story “townhouse-style apartment” with the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs and the living, dining, and kitchen downstairs. There’s a great under-the-stairs closet for all of my athletic and camping equipment and I have an assigned parking space. There are only ten units in the complex and we have an adorable courtyard with a make-shift fire pit, ping-pong table, and outdoor shower. I’m still getting to know my neighbors but they seem really chill without being obnoxious. Yay!


Enough about the business side of life, now onto the fun side of things. I can’t believe that I haven’t even been back a month because (in true Karen fashion) I’ve hit the ground running! I’ve already taken a weekend trip to La Quinta in the desert with an incredible group of new and old friends (pictured above). Less than 24 hours after landing, kickball started back up for the season and I have a fantastic team this time around! We may not be at the top of the leader board, but I’d argue that we have the most fun. In addition to playing together on Sundays, a bunch of us have fallen into trivia on Tuesday nights. We won the first week, which got us hooked, and were third this week. Our prize for winning was a bar tab and we got an Easter basket of candy this week for third (even better!). Last night nine of us stayed out after midnight to see Furious 7 on opening night. For those of you on the fence, it’s 100% worth going to see. The Paul Walker tribute at the end was a bit drawn out for me, but the movie itself was just what you expect, lots of fast cars and hot girls with some street fighting mixed in.


I’ve also spent a good bit of time reconnecting with my core group of girls out here. I hit up a Dan + Shay concert downtown one night (pictured below), I hiked Cowles Mountain in Mission Valley one day (picture at top of post), I went on a training run along the coast, and I celebrated the first birthday of a very special little girl another night. It’s so good to be back with my support network and catch up on what’s been going on in their lives the last four months. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guys and I miss my East Coast people… but my girlfriends here are pretty incredible. We are starting our book club back up too, so I look forward to reading some new novels and having crazy discussions once a month going forward.


I also like to check in on my fitness/nutrition in these type of posts too. I have been struggling with workouts these last few weeks because I dropped a DVD player on my toe, which prohibited me from wearing shoes for a while. I also cracked a big toe while jumping on a trampoline with my favorite fifth graders. And my left upper-calf/knee are giving me some struggles. But I’ve registered for the La Jolla Half Marathon on April 26th in addition to the Tinkerbell Half in LA on May 10th, so we shall see. I am just excited to get back into racing and finish these two events with my friends that are running with me. Time won’t be so much of a factor this time around, but I do plan to have both of my contacts in for LJ 😉 Oh! And I ran the Wellness 5k with Sean a few weekends ago. It was a smaller race, which was nice for a change. Sean ran his personal best 5k time and I won my age group, so we were both pleased with that! Immediately after the race, SK donated platelets and two days later I donated whole blood. It makes my heart happy to think about the lives we helped to save with those donations and I encourage all of you to sign up to donate blood this month, if you can!


I’ve gotten some new Beachbody DVD’s to mix things up and they seem to be keeping me interested for now, but I’m craving getting back on the bike and in the pool. My road bike is being put back together on Monday and I need to figure out my plan for pool access so I can start triathlon training. Nutrition right now is taking a back burner just with the chaos of life. I’m re-adjusting to packing lunches and getting workouts/smoothies done before work, but it takes time and I’m trying to set realistic goals for myself. Finally, I have gotten actively involved in Girls on the Run again this season. My teaching schedule doesn’t allow me to coach, but I am a shoe fairy and am on the 5k planning committee. As a shoe fairy, I size girls on our scholarship teams for brand new shoes and then get to deliver them the following week. It’s like Christmas in April for these girls! If anyone in SD wants to help me cheer on our amazing girls at the 5k on May 17th, let me know! I’m in charge of coordinating the cheer stations, so any/all help that morning would be amazing… you get to dress up and be as crazy as you want… just saying.

Alright, that’s all for now but I promise not to wait another three weeks to post and happy Easter!!

East to West: STAT

My last update was posted from Virginia, where I was spending the week after moving out of North Carolina. I told y’all that I sold my car, Funshine, with no major issues. But that was last Friday morning, so what have I been up to since then? Maybe it’s better to ask what I haven’t been up to, lol. I’ll try to give you the quick overview below… but you’ll have to hustle to keep up 😉

Friday after delivering Funshine to Carmax, Mom and I worked on a few projects at her house before she drove me to Dulles Airport to pick up my rental car. I took advantage of the (free) airport lanes on the toll road to cruise into Arlington to see my east coast girls. We met up at MexiCali Blue… in Clarendon?… to grab dinner and drinks. I absolutely love the three girls that met me (shown below: Katie, Katie, and Claire). We spent a few hours talking about life, work, boys, family, etc. It was very relaxing and fun, in spite of the cold weather and snow everywhere. Then I spent the night with little sister Katie in Arlington before heading down to Richmond on Saturday.


Why was I driving to Richmond on Saturday (leaving at 8am)? Because the fourth of my lovely east coast girlfriends, Paige, is getting married this summer and has asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding! I feel so honored and excited, but Saturday was the day she’d picked (after learning that I was moving again) to have all of us bridesmaids get together to go dress shopping. We had a great time and settled on both a color and a style of dress fairly quickly before enjoying a nice lunch with the two mothers. I won’t post pictures from that group as I don’t want to leak any wedding details 😉 After lunch I drove myself to Richmond Airport, returned my rental car and started my journey west!

So Saturday night at 6pm EST I boarded a plane to Dallas, TX. After a 1.5 hour layover (barely enough time to find my gate and grab a quick dinner), I left there at 10pm Central time to fly into San Diego. I landed at SAN about 11:30pm Pacific time, which was the equivalent of 2:30am EST except that it was also daylight savings time so really like 3:30am. Woof. Luckily both of my flights were on schedule and I avoided any weather concerns. Sean picked me up and helped me lug my 100+ pounds of luggage to his car… don’t judge me, it’s the only stuff I have access to for the next 2-3 weeks.


Sunday morning started with a walk to a cafe for breakfast burritos before getting in a 5.5 mile run. It was definitely warmer than I’ve been used to, but it felt great to see the ocean and not have to wear a hat and gloves! Then I headed up to Carlsbad for the first week of our spring kickball season 🙂 I’m on a new team this year, because our old team decided to disperse. Although most of us are still playing in the league which means I have friends on all the teams. I was a bit nervous on Sunday because I hadn’t played since the last season ended in… September? I had also been asked to help line ref the game before ours. Luckily it was week one and everyone was still learning the rules and working out the kinks. I pitched half of the innings in our game and didn’t allow any runs to score, so I felt good about that!

After spending a few hours catching up with friends at the bar (Erica, Christy and Sean are pictured above), I called it a day. Monday I rented a car in Encinitas and drove out to Temecula to look at Subaru Foresters. I had found from my internet searching that they had the model and accessories that I wanted, and the price was the cheapest. After less than two hours, I had test-driven the SUV, gotten insurance, processed the paperwork, returned my rental car out there, and was driving away in my brand new vehicle! It was a whirlwind, but I knew what I wanted so I went for it. So far I LOVE it, but the first real test will be this weekend when I take four adults with our stuff on a mini-roadtrip. I’ll keep you posted how it holds up but I’m also taking any suggestions for names of this vehicle… even though I probably won’t get vanity plates since they are so expensive in Cali.



On another note, I do also have a job lined up (yay!)… really two. I’ll be teaching at Halstrom Academy again, but only teaching this time around, not working with corporate as a lead teacher. And I will dominantly be teaching math (Algebra/Geometry) instead of social studies, although I already know I’ll have some ACT/SAT test prep courses and an AP World History. Since it is mid-semester, my hours will build as the weeks go on which will give me time to move into a place when I find it and just adjust to living in SoCal again. I’m really excited to get back to working with kids and helping them in an area where so many seem to struggle.

My second job will start in April and is working with Pearson Learning, Inc. who publishes a ton of textbooks across content in the USA. I will be acting as an online test scorer for their end-of-course Geometry testing this spring. The project lasts April-June and I am allowed to log as few as 20 or as many as 40 hours a week grading test. This will help fill my time until summer semester starts at Halstrom and I have full hours there. It’s completely flexible as far as when I grade in a day, which will be perfect for my Halstrom schedule, and it will give me more experience in the testing/grading world.

Other things I’ve done this week include: getting a TB test, completing a LiveScan fingerprinting test, run with my good friend Dahlia, toured 3-5 potential apartments, gotten groceries, gone to a farmer’s market, and just enjoyed being back in SoCal! For now, my biggest focus is finding a place to live and enjoying being back in the place I truly feel I belong. Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to y’all soon!


Big Life Decision…

Things I Know I Love:

  • Being outside. All the time.
  • Being active. If it’s with friends, that’s a huge bonus.
  • Being involved in incredible organizations that work with youth in need.
  • Being in nature. Especially out of sight of civilization.
  • Being able to find healthy food close-by in grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Being surrounded by a network of friends that love and support me.
  • Being present in the lives of those same friends and supporting them.
  • Being in a place that makes my heart happy.

In case you haven’t already guessed it… this post is my official announcement that I will be moving back to California!!

I will be the first to admit that the last four months have been a chaotic whirlwind. I moved out of my house in Encinitas, drive the Cali coast with my mom, went to Mexico, crashed at one of my best friends’ houses in Cardiff, drove to Colorado for Thanksgiving at my brother’s house, drove on to VA and stayed at my mom’s house, spent two weeks in Argentina (had an absolute blast, but got robbed), crashed at another best friends’ house in south central VA, flew to San Diego for New Years, moved into an apartment in Wake Forest, went on an incredible ski trip to Montana… Did I leave anything out, lol?

In the midst of all that, I spent a lot… A LOT… of time thinking about my life and where I am and where I want to go. And most importantly, what makes me happy. I left California thinking I had used up my time there.  That I needed to get back to “real life”. I was frustrated about the lack of a full-time job (even though I hadn’t done that much looking). I had been telling myself since I made the choice to move there in 2012, that if I couldn’t find the perfect job that I could always move and try somewhere else. The problem with that thinking was that I got sucked into tunnel vision a little bit. I knew I was frustrated with my housing arrangement (our third roommate left a bit to be desired). I knew I wanted a full-time job. I knew I needed a change. And I knew our lease was ending. I could feel things changing so I just took the opportunity to leave.

Since college, I have thought about living in the Raleigh-Durham triangle area, so I figured why not? It was closer to my family, closer to my East Coast friends, not too big of a city, in the south where country music thrives, and has a lot of opportunities in the education field. Sounded great! And in fact, there is little wrong with this area. I’ve already made friends, gotten involved in an amazing church, had interviews and potential job offers, found a place to live… Except it doesn’t make my heart swell every time I think about it. It doesn’t put a smile on my face anytime someone mentions it or the thought of it crosses my mind. It’s simply not San Diego.

The first specific sign of a problem with my decision to move was the fact that I turned the car around that night in November when I tried to leave. Then I continued to think about the people I was missing throughout December… so I went back for New Years’ Eve. But I could tell that it was more than just the people… that it was the place and the community and the life I had there. I worked hard to establish myself in San Diego, in non-profits, at church, with friends. For the first time, I felt like I was setting up my adult life. Even though it didn’t include the house and the career job and the stability of my life in Ashburn… it included things I really felt passionate about. And that was so much more important.

I guess the bottom line is that I can’t neglect the things I’m passionate about. I need to put myself back in the place that makes me happy. And I might as well do it now versus later, right? It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s crazy, it’s a bit chaotic… but it’s right. I can just feel it. I’m still working out the details about exactly when I’m moving, and how, and when… but I’m going! I’ve put in my 30-notice at my current place and I’m working on finalizing the rest. I should say that I am sad to move away from my East Coast family and friends again. But I have to trust them when they say that they just want me to be happy, because that’s what I want too! I also feel really, really good about actively choosing a place because I know what it entails and I WANT to be there, instead of just leaving a place because I know it isn’t right and I want to try something else new. I will never regret moving to North Carolina because it opened my eyes to where I really need to be… But California, I choose you and I can’t wait to see you again!!

30B430 – Balboa Park Edition

Now that the cat’s out of the bag about my big move back east, I can admit that my “30 Before 30” project has secretly been a “30 Things To Do Before Moving” list. I turn 30 on December 2nd, but I hop in a car to leave California (at least for now) on November 24th. This cuts right potentially critical days off my 90 day project, yikes! But I’ve been making great progress in the last week and have managed to cross four items completely off, as well as two taco shops.
This post is the Balboa Park edition because last Tuesday I spent the day exploring the greenest space in downtown SD, home of most of our museums. Unlike Washington DC, you have to pay to enter the majority of museums here. I don’t mind that, but I also don’t mind taking advantage of deals offered either. Every Tuesday, certain museums in Balboa are free to residents of SD County. Conveniently enough, the Model Railroad Museum and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center were both on my 30 Things list and are both free on the first Tuesday of each month. So I hopped in the car and headed south last Tuesday afternoon!

My first stop was the science center and it was full of excited children. They had an interesting exhibit on illusions set up, which I enjoyed walking through, as well as a weather section and DNA exploration. I enjoyed this museum and appreciated that everything was extremely hands-on, but I will admit that most of it was geared for younger children. There were a few IMAX films coming out that looked interesting though.


From there, I detoured into the Natural History Museum, another free option for the day, and took a quick loop. Stuffed replicas of ancient animals aren’t super exciting for me, they fall into the same category as wax museums for me, but there was an impressive shark hanging from the ceiling! A portion of the museum was closed as they set up a large King Tut exhibit, which looked promising. But I didn’t spend much time there this week. Since I was waiting for X to join me in the Model Railroad Museum, I popped into the Timken Museum of Art. At the risk of sounding uncultured or difficult to please, I have to say that art museums don’t do it for me either, lol. I enjoyed the small museum and even saw a few paintings that were pleasing to my eyes (and understandable to my brain) but again, I’m not sure I would go out of my way to go again 🙂 Luckily after a short rest by the lily ponds, X arrived and we could go see the railroads!

This was my favorite museum of the day by far. Not only were there many train setups, but each one had elaborate scenes around them. Some were designed to reflect trains and locations in the local area from the past while others were fictional scenes, but I loved them both! We had trains growing up and the smoke pellets brought back pleasant memories. The museum did a nice job of explaining differences in sizes of trains and tracks, as well as describing the history of the museum and its creators. There were conductors operating each section that was being run and the older gentlemen were more than happy to answer questions or explain the layouts. These volunteers were all extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their craft, which I always love to see! This museum isn’t overly large, but I would recommend it for all ages and groups. It’s cute and informative and well-done.


After the trains, I had a few errands to run elsewhere in the city. Then I circled back to Balboa for a musical performance at the Old Globe Theatre. I saw Allegiance here a few years ago and more recently saw a Shakespeare performance in the open-air theater attached to the Old Globe, but I was back for more. My friend, Aswin, has a SD list of his own and on it was to see a performance in the Old Globe. So he told me to look at the upcoming shows and pick one that looked good. I settled on Bright Star, which is a new musical produced by Steve Martin, and added it to my 30 Before 30 list. I’m not sure Aswin was too sure of my choice going in, but he’s a trooper and agreed. We were able to buy $20 under 30 tickets, which allow younger adults to see performances for cheaper on weeknights. All we knew from the quick synapsis was that a soldier was returning from World War I to a small town in America. And there would be singing, lol.

I won’t spoil the story for those of you in the area who might be interested (you should be!) but I will say that it was an outstanding performance. The general plot was a twisting of stories and tales of various members of the soldier’s hometown. But they were intertwined and told in such a way that at intermission, we had no idea how the pieces were all going to be connected. How awesome is that? And the singing was not constant, but was very folksy when it was happening. The most interesting part to me was that all of the characters moved the set constantly. The scene changes were incorporated into the storyline and everything flowed together. Also, a portion of the live band was on the stage in a house frame on wheels. Again, they went from being in the background just playing to the foreground where they were subordinate characters in the story. Props to Steve Martin for keeping us entertained and engaged throughout the entire performance! And if you live in San Diego, I recommend you check it out before it moves on in mid-November!

As mentioned in my previous 30B430 post , I’ll save all of my taco shop reviews for one big post. I’m down to only two left to try! I will briefly mention that I went to Casa de Bandini last week as well, but I wasn’t blown away. All of the food our group tried was GOOD… which isn’t what I should be saying after all of the hype. So I’m glad I went, but I waste more of your time describing the mediocre meal I had. As a teaser, I’m planning on hitting 3-4 more items on my list within the next week so check back soon for that post!

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