Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My First Marathon

I'm happy to say that I have finally ran my first marathon! It took 4 months of training, countless amounts of miles, and a whole lot of determination but I made it across a marathon finish line with a smile on my face! I definitely wanted to recap this whole process, from the moment I decided to run a marathon through all the training and then recapping the actual weekend. Hopefully this might inspire a few of you to run a marathon (or any race for that matter!).

Earlier in the year, I was running regularly with my running group on Saturday mornings and a few of them mentioned a 20 mile trail run that they were doing. A handful of people were going to do it this year and were using the Saturday runs as part of their training. I honestly thought the 20 miler was too long for me, but I was happy to go along for some of the training runs. I remember specifically doing a 15 mile training run on one Saturday morning. It was the furthest I had ever ran and I finished the run feeling great. For whatever reason, being able to finish 15 miles comfortably gave me more confidence in myself. I was also inspired by all of my running group friends who were pushing themselves with the longer distances.

I had talked to a few people previously about their experience and training with marathons and found it interesting that the top mileage most plans call for is 20 miles. 20 miles for whatever reason sounded much more reasonable than 26, especially since I had just run 15 miles comfortably. I honestly figured if I could train up to or close to 20, I could always walk the last 6 miles of a marathon and finish the distance with a mixture of walking and running. So with that thought in mind, I signed up for the Portland Marathon. I joke that I must have been crazy when I had done it, but I was actually very excited about this new goal. I had plenty of months to train for it and was determined to give the training my best effort. 

I began talking to more people and researching training programs. I have run a handful of half marathons (5 official ones) so I had some experience with those kind of large scale races. The only difference was that I was going to be covering twice the distance than I had previously. I decided to loosely follow the Hal Higdon Novice 2 training plan. I was definitely new at training those kind of distances and I wanted to make sure I didn't get hurt or over-train. I actually ended up cutting the program down by only running 3 days a week and cross training 2-3 days a week. I pretty much cut all the Wednesday runs in the chart below. However, I followed the rest of the program relatively closely, especially on the long run distances.

As I worked my way through the plan I felt like it was definitely enough training to get me through without getting too injured or sore. I liked that the Saturday long runs slowly worked it's way up and then gave slight breaks between the 18, 19, and 20 weeks with a slightly shorter run in between. I think this really helped me build up my distance without injury. I also followed the taper weeks (12 & 8 mile long runs) and found that it allowed me to recover in time for the marathon. I was worried that tapering would hurt me, but in the end I felt like I needed the time to help recover from all the training and that long 20 miler.

Before I start talking about the race weekend itself, I wanted to share some advice for those of you who are working their way through a training plan. If you are training in the summer, wake up early and run in areas where there is shade. If you are able to bring water and electrolyte/sugar gels with you, definitely do it. I personally found it helpful to run at least part of my long runs with people. I would wake up early and run some extra miles and then meet up with my regular running group to finish up my run. I found it super helpful and motivating to have people at the end of my run as opposed to starting with people and then finishing it myself. I liked having the distraction when my legs were heavy and I was having trouble finishing up the distance. After my 20 miler and the marathon I got a massage which helped tremendously, but for those in between weeks make sure you stretch and foam roll after every run and fuel yourself with proper food. It makes a big difference.

Now onto the race itself. I knew that I wanted to run a marathon in my home town to make it as comfortable for me as possible. Traveling always brings a bunch of unknowns and I didn't want to deal with that on top of the idea of running a full marathon. I was able to keep to my normal routine and even have a fun pasta dinner before race day. It was also a huge benefit that I knew the course pretty well, and I knew that some friends and family could come watch the race and support me. That ended up being a huge bonus for me, but I'll get into that in a minute.

I went to packet pick up a couple of days in advance and did a quick walk around the expo. I think its always good to look around the expo for a bit because generally it has the most up to date information on starting corrals and finishing arrangements. 

Race day started bright and early. The race started at 7am, so I made sure to give myself plenty of time to find a place to park, walk over to the race, find my corral, and have time to find a bathroom and stretch out my legs.  One thing I wasn't expecting was the constant rain that day! It was supposed to be a decent day but the weather changed the night before. I ended up wearing a rain jacket to keep me warm at the starting line but ended up taking it off pretty early on into the race. I had my water backpack with me, so I was able to stuff it in there and carry all of my water, energy gels, and phone in one place. I had trained with the pack and decided I'd keep it with me. 

Right before the race began, I decided to put on a visor to keep the rain out of my eyes. I ended up keeping the visor on for the entire race. It wasn't too hot, so I didn't feel like I was trapping in a lot of heat by wearing it. Plus the benefit of not having water streaming down my face for hours was definitely worth it. 

The race began promptly at 7am and I got to the starting line around 7:20am. I was definitely nervous but kept telling myself that I needed to start out slow. I wanted to run at a pace that felt pretty easy- a "I could run this all day long" kind of pace. I decided to break the race into chunks in my mind. I had trained and decided earlier that I was going to take a gel every 5 miles or so in order to have enough in my stomach to avoid hitting the wall. While my stomach wasn't feeling amazing toward the end of the marathon, I felt like I had enough energy to finish and wasn't feeling light headed at all. 

The first half of the marathon didn't feel especially different for me. I had run that length before and was training longer than 13 miles for months now. Crossing the half way mark feeling good did boost my confidence a bit. I continued running my slow and steady pace in order to save energy for the end of the race. Miles 14-15 were pretty boring- it was along the side of a road and was kind of loud. As we ran towards Mile 16 though I saw the St John's bridge in the distance. I was excited to get the hill over with and cross over to the east side. While the hill was steep, it wasn't as bad as the one I had run in SF. I took my time and made it up the hill slowly but surely. 

Once I got up the hill, I was excited to run over the bridge and look south towards Portland City Center. I had never run on this bridge before, but I have always thought it was beautiful. After crossing the bridge we started running south towards the city center and towards University of Portland. Right around mile 20 I caught up with one of my friends who then ended up running the last 6 miles with me. Seeing her was so exciting! It was a great energy boost to have someone by my side and chatting with me. I had done a lot of training runs with people and was definitely missing that aspect of the run before meeting up with her. If you ever have the change to have someone run the end of a marathon with you, I highly suggest it. It was so helpful to get through those last painful miles with a friend.

I definitely started feeling tired around mile 22. I had never run over 20 miles before, so every step that I took was the furthest I had ever run. The great thing about the course was that mile 23 and 24 are downhill, which was definitely a welcome feeling to my tired legs. My pace definitely slowed down around mile 23 despite the downhill, but my goal was to just keep chugging along at a slow shuffle jog and to not stop. I ran into a few friends during the second half of my race. It was so nice of them to be standing out in the rain cheering people on. It meant so much to me to have so much support along the course- I get emotional just thinking about it!

As we ran across the Broadway bridge and past mile 25, I found my husband and another friend who joined up with me and ran towards the finish line with me. It was so amazing to have 3 amazing people by my side, cheering me on. It was so sweet of everyone to be there supporting me. When we got close to the finish line, my friends went off the course and made their way to the finish. I entered into the final chute and saw the finish line. It felt so amazing to see the end in sight. I could hardly believe that I had finally reach the end of my very first marathon! I cross the finished line and teared up. It was amazing to finish the marathon with a smile on my face- I wasn't sure if that was going to be the case. After initially crossing the finish line, volunteers helped me into a jacket to keep us warm and was handed a rose for finishing. I walked around the corner and grabbed some food- I ended up drinking OJ and taking a few bites of a bagel which definitely were good choices, and grabbed all the other goodies that finishers got. I finally made my way towards the exit and went to give everyone a hug.

All in all, I was happy with how everything went. I ended up not feeling too terrible, which I was really happy about. My back and knees were stiff, but the rest of me was fine. As for results, I felt like I ran a relatively safe race. I was worried about going out too fast and then not having anything left in the tank after mile 20. I ended up finishing at 5:03:45, which was a few minutes over my goal of hitting 5 hours.

I'm incredibly proud of my training going into the marathon and my performance on race day. I knew I was going to take it slow, but for a marathon that is always a safe beat. People keep asking me if I will do another one and the answer is I'm not sure. The running schedule was intense and I was starting to get some aches and pains (in my back and shoulder) during the tougher weeks. It also is a huge time investment. Post marathon I feel like I have so much more time and energy during my weekends! All of those things considered, only time will tell if I will run this distance again, or if I will stick to shorter races. However, I'm very glad that I ran a marathon. It forces you to be a bit more vulnerable than you normally are, and that forces you out of your element which I think is always a beneficial thing.

That's a wrap!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Places to Visit in Portland

Hello! Time for a round up of places I love in Portland! My sister in law and her boyfriend just recently came to visit and had a couple of days to themselves while Dan and I were stuck at work. I decided to come up with a pretty comprehensive list of my favorite things to do if you are new to Portland. Obviously you can't do all of them (unless you had at least a full week out here), but I figured I'd put different options in case the weather was bad one day or if you just weren't feeling a certain type of food.

Things to do

Places to eat
  • Bamboo Sushi- a bit pricey, but very tasty and high quality.
  • Serratto- Upscale Mediterranean (I love the ambiance and food here).
  • Salt & Straw Ice Cream- usually a long line after dinner when its warm but so very worth it. They let you sample the flavors so you get to try lots of different kinds.

  • 23 Hoyt- Pacific NW Food (try the donuts with caramel sauce!)
  • Tasty & Alder- Long wait but delicious. One tip- the bar is seat yourself, so if you wait around by the bar you can sometimes get a spot faster than putting your name in.

  • Jam on Hawthorne- Brunch wait less than Tasty and it has an extensive menu. A great place to people watch.
  • Pine State Biscuits (can get these at farmers market).
  • Blue Star Donuts-- there may be a line, but I think they are better than Voodoo.
  • Ken’s Artisan Bakery- for lunch or a coffee and pastry.
  • Hot Lips- casual pizza place with cool toppings.
  • Pok Pok- thai food that has a long wait but you can put your name in and wait at the whiskey lounge across the street or get it to go. Get their fish sauce wings!

  • Irving Street Kitchen- comfort food. Great for brunch or dinner.
  • Verdigris- great for brunch, small, in North Portland.
  • St Honore Bakery- fast and delicious brunch.
  • Screen door- Fried chicken!

Places to drink
  • Heart Coffee
  • Courier Coffee
  • Coava Coffee
  • Coffeehouse Northwest

  • Kure- smoothies
  • Green leaf- smoothies
  • 10 Barrel- Brew Pub
  • Deschutes- Brew Pub
  • The Commons Brewery
  • HUB
  • Old Town Brewery (MLK)
  • Portland Cider Company

  • Cascade Brewing- Sour Beers
  • Green Dragon- has board games
  • Ground Kontrol- Arcade Bar
  • Lucky Lab
  • Vault Martini (love the drinks here!)
  • Barlow/ Picnic house (restaurant attached)

Places to hang out
  • Pine Street Market- has multiple food vendors

  • Any of the gardens I listed above
  • Coffee shops!
  • The Fields Park (on NW Overton and NW 11th Avenue)- stop by Ovation Coffee & Tea and get a pistachio latte)

  • Walk Division St
  • Walk Hawthorne St
  • Food Carts (multiple pods- alder & 10th, 32nd & Hawthorne, etc)

Hopefully this can be useful to anyone who will be traveling to Portland soon! There are tons of amazing places here, but I figured have some of my favorites listed out could help guide those who want to brainstorm and plan ahead a bit.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hood to Coast 2016- Packing Tips, Runner 9, and Reflections

After months of preparation it was finally time to run Hood to Coast! For those of you who don't know, HTC is a relay in Oregon from Mount Hood to the pacific ocean via Seaside beach. It came in at a whooping 199 miles in total. This year was the 35th anniversary since the start of the relay and is nicknamed the "mother of all relays" since it was the first of its kind. Over 1,000 teams participated, which meant over 12,000 people and over 3,000 volunteers came to help out with this event. It was truly an amazing experience, something I'll always remember and cherish. Let me start out by talking about how I prepared to captain a HTC team, how my legs went (I was runner 9 so I did legs 9, 21, and 33), and finish with my overall reflections. I personally found reading other bloggers post about HTC so helpful, so I wanted to make sure I added my voice to the mix as a way to thank those of you who posted helpful information as well as pass on information to those of you who want to learn more about the relay.

Since I've moved to Oregon and started working at Nike, I've heard a lot about HTC. My first real experience with HTC was a couple years ago when a coworker asked me if I would be willing to volunteer for her team. I didn't have anything going on that weekend and I love volunteering for these kind of things so I decided to take her up on the offer. I remember getting so excited as I drove over to St Helens to begin my volunteer job. It was amazing to see people running at all times of night. Once I got to the exchange, I continued to be impressed by the energy that the volunteers had. Everyone was excited and happy to be apart of this huge event and I couldn't help but get swept away by the positive vibes. My job that night ended up being a person who helped direct runners to turn onto a specific road to stay on course. We had lanterns going and used flashlights to direct runners. I worked with a couple other people who was very nice. Overall I came away from that night really impressed with the HTC organization. I think that was the night I started thinking about actually putting a team together.

Flash forward to last October when I decided to enter the lottery. I had a few half marathons under my belt at the time and thought this would be an exciting new challenge. I started to put out feelers and some of my friends seemed interested. I decided to try entering the lottery this year, half expecting not to get in. I knew that if you get rejected from the lottery one year you have a better chance of getting it the following year so I figured I mines well start working towards it. When I found out we got in I felt both excited but also nervous about pulling everything together. After many hours of researching the HTC website as well as talking to past participants and reading some blogs, I was able to compile together all the information I needed to captain a team. 

As the race got closer, I started pulling together a bunch of stuff that people deemed useful to bring. Since people generally all needed similar things, I decided to pack a bunch of stuff that people could share to avoid everyone bringing duplicates.

Here are the basics I packed to share with the van (I packed the same thing for each van)- paper towels, toilet paper, sun screen, bug spray, advil, pepto bismal, head lamps, safety vests, LED flashers, purell, garbage bags, ziplock bags (multiple sizes), cups, first aid kits, shower wipes, the handbook, body glide (anti- chafe), safety pins, foam roller, and ice packs.  

Here's a list of the food we brought from Costco: Bagels & cream cheese, apples, bananas, granola bars, supplies for PB&J (made the night before), cheez its, fruit snacks, pretzels with peanut butter, tortilla chips, hummus, water bottles, gatorade bottles, and GU. 

And here's a list of personal stuff each one of us packed: 3 running outfits in separate gallon sized zip lock bags (a good way to keep the sweaty clothing away from other things in your bag), running shoes, clothes to wear in between legs (included a long sleeve top and sweat pants), flip flops, cash, toiletries (deodorant, soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc), water carrier, hair brush, tooth brush, chapstick, sleeping bag, pillow, GPS watch, phone, phone charger, and sunglasses. 

A couple of other things that I found super helpful during the event was the shared spreadsheet I created with expected start and finish times for each leg. This was helpful to help estimate when each exchange would happen and therefore be able to back into what time I told people we needed to leave by. I also put together a team meeting the week before the race. It was good to have everyone meet each other and go over all the rules together. It was great to also chat about any questions my teammates had. Finally, it was nice to use our house as a base point. Everyone was able to meet up here and park there cars by the house which made everything a bit easier.

That brings us to the actual event. As I already mentioned, I had an incredible time and felt like I was really able to bond with my team. Normally I feel like running is kind of a solitary sport. Joining a running group has changed that a bit in my mind, but this relay made running really feel like a team activity. I really loved that aspect of it. When I was tired, I remembered that my teammates were counting on me to do my best. However, I did stress to my teammates that they could take it easy on themselves, since we were all rookies of HTC and were only doing it for fun (not competitively). I think that helped relieve a lot of stress going in.

As for my legs, I was runner 9 which was rated as the 2nd hardest in difficulty. I found it useful to read other people's experience with my specific legs, so I'll go into each one a little bit in case you were interested in being runner 9. My first leg was around 3pm, which normally would be fine but that day it was unusually warm (it was 95 degrees when I ran). There was a bit of shade, but no van support on this run since it was a path away from the road. In hindsight I should have brought a water bottle to dump water on myself to cool off, but I only had my camel back water backpack on my back. While I was able to get a little water out to splash on my face, a normal water bottle would have been much easier to use. There was one spot at mile 4 where someone put out a hose (which was AMAZING!), but the heat definitely did slow down my pace almost a full minute for a couple of my miles. Luckily the path was flat the whole time, which I was grateful for.

My second leg (21) ended up starting around 2:45 am (which meant I had to wear a vest, flashers, and a headlamp for safety). I was thankful that it was much cooler than my previous run! Leg 21 was also relatively flat (with a slight downhill I believe), but was challenging since it was on a dusty, gravel road. Whenever vans would drive by dust would kick up and it was difficult to see. I was able to keep my head down and have my head lamp shine a few feet in front of me which seemed to work out fine. I brought along a mask to help with the dirt, but it did sting my eyes a bit. If I were to do another gravel leg I might try wearing safety googles to keep some of the soot out of my eyes. Even with all that, I thought it was a nice, fast, and cool leg. Also the stars were pretty incredible that night!

Finally, I got to my last leg (leg 33). I was a little apprehensive about this leg, since it was almost 8 miles after little sleep and a couple of other legs beforehand. It was rated as hard since it had some rolling hills and it was the longest leg there was. However, this leg ended up being my favorite out of the bunch. The hills weren't too crazy and it helped keep the course interesting. The temperature was perfect, and it was overcast. While it did feel a bit long, I really liked feeling like I had to challenge myself one last time before I was finished. Maybe it's the long distance runner in me, but I liked that I had to dig deep and remind myself why I was running this race. It was a great time for me to reflect. Once I made it to the exchange, a few of my teammates came out and did a TP finish line that I ran through. It was so thoughtful for them to do that and it really made me proud of what I had helped bring together.

Overall, I was really happy that my team had a great time and stayed in high spirits even when the elements weren't ideal. I think HTC challenges each runner both physically and mentally, and I was proud that my team face those challenges and made the best of it. I had way more fun than I thought I would and felt more emotional than I was originally expecting. I'm so proud of all of my teammates for their first HTC experiences. Some people were new to running, while others were revisiting the sport after taking some time off. Some people ran sub 8 miles while others were there to complete their legs comfortably. We each challenged ourselves appropriately, which made finishing the race that much more rewarding. While it was a lot of work to captain a team, I'm so glad I did. It was great to hear the positive feedback from my teammates and see them have a great time. It made all of the work and training worth it. 

I hope to be able to do HTC again soon! It was a great experience with some awesome people. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The After Effect

To begin this post, I have to apologize for once again falling off the blogging band wagon. It seems that once a different part of my life picks up, I no longer have the time or energy to sit down and reflect on things (sometimes with this blog being that vehicle). It seems that with a full time job, an active fitness schedule, and my attempts to be social and take care of myself take up a majority of my time (albeit manageable), but if something else is added into the equation I end up having to drop a hobby to make room for that. While the diligent student part of me condemns myself for not being more on top of posts, my intuition is telling me to have more grace with myself and only write posts when I feel like I have something authentic to say and not because it's been a while since I last posted. That's a long winded way of saying wedding planning took over my life.

Back to the present, I recently listened to a podcast (Dear Sugar tackles a lot of interesting issues and I'm just starting to work my way through the archives while I multitask at work or while I'm running, driving home, or cooking) that talks about how in life we tend to build up the large events that are to come. It's similar to when you were in college and you had a final exam looming over your head- all your efforts go into tackling that event and there is little to no head space left for what will happen after the huge event is over in your life. This can occur for very positive things in life as well. For example, I acted in that similar fashion towards my wedding to my now husband. All of my thoughts and efforts were working towards this one event, but as the day folded out I recognized that while it was an amazing day full of love and joy, it was not something that was going to drastically change who I am and was definitely not the best day of my life.

However, I began to feel a bit guilty about that. Why am I not a more happy, upbeat person now that I have officially married my partner and have all of the things I thought I could ever want for this season of my life? Does that mean I'm not grateful or even not deserving of all these positive things in my life? What it comes down to is that at the end of the day you are who you are. While your happiness and contentment may increase from outside events for a while, you will eventually fall towards your baseline unless you make fundamental changes aimed at altering your life.

I feel like as a society, we tend to struggle with this concept. Many of us always think that if only I could get that promotion or after I buy that new phone I'll be happy. But when the happiness wears off, we reach for the next thing to fill the hole inside of us. Some people hustle for their whole lives, not realizing that the happiness and peace doesn't come from an external source, but from the inside. No matter how much marketing pushes us to think that this product or this service will truly make a difference, I think it's an important realization that chasing those things may make you more happy momentarily but won't change who you are at your foundation.

This concept can also be translated into what people deem healthy and productive. Chasing after the next grade or the next assignment at work or the next fitness goal seems like a very productive thing to do. But accomplishing these external goals will only bring a person so much happiness before they drop down to their baseline contentment, and instead of trying to alter that they distract themselves with the next big time goal and how to take the steps to accomplish it. But in the end, you are not defined by your accomplishments. Humans have an inherent worth just for being present. You don't have to be the best to be loved and respected. You don't have to get first place to finally be happy. You have that all within you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Things I miss from New Jersey

Alright, since I just put up a post about my love for my new home (Portland!) it made me realize that I should also do a post about the things that I miss from my old home. I really did enjoy growing up in New Jersey and I hate how everyone jokes about how horrible it is. NJ has a lot of great things about it, especially growing up as a kid. Here are some of the things that I love about NJ and oftentimes miss.

1. Amazing public schools- Ok I realize that I'm no longer in school so this doesn't really apply anymore, but there are times when I am really thankful for the amazing public schools that I went to as a kid. They really did set me up for success, giving me a strong foundation to build upon. I was able to easily get through college and feel like I became a really good student/learner because of the school and the environment I grew up in. When you are surrounded by talented and hard working students, it helps to elevate you in order to keep up.

2. Diversity- This one really depends on where you are in New Jersey, but the high school that I went to was about half Asian and half Caucasian with a few other ethnic groups thrown in there. It was really cool being able to be friends with people who had such diverse backgrounds, who spoke different languages at home with their parents and carried on some of their customs. Portland definitely is lacking in that, and there are times when I really miss being surrounded by a diverse community.

3. Wawa, Dunkin Donuts, Boston Market, Wegmans- There are some stores that haven't made it out to the west coast which really bums me out. Although there are some stores that work as substitutes, I do still miss the real thing. If only Wawa would come to Portland...

4. Proximity to New York, Philadelphia, and other Northeastern cities- this is something that I really did miss in the beginning. It was so nice feeling like I was in the center of some really important cities. Time zones were never a concern. Neither was viewing live events- a lot of the time I have to leave early from work if I don't want to miss the beginning of a live event.  I really do love the energy of those big cities and always having something to do. Living in NJ was nice since I didn't have to live in the center of the cities to enjoy their benefits, but I was only a train ride away.

 On the High Line in NYC

5. The Seasons (and for me the sunshine!)- This might seem strange, but there is a lot of sunny days in New Jersey in comparison to the Pacific NW. I also liked that NJ always had a few decent snow storms in the winter. While a lot of people complain about the snow, I always got excited as a kid and even as a college student when a snow storm was on it's way. It's always so beautiful and a fun change of pace. However, I'm glad that the snow isn't permanently around for months (like it is in the midwest) but comes once a year (unlike in the Pacific NW, where some years there isn't much snow at all).

6. Bagels- Alright this is the first of a few specific foods that I miss from New Jersey. Again, there are some substitutes that help, but the quality just isn't the same. Bagels from the NJ/NY area are crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy in the inside, so you don't even need to toast it- eat it just the way it is. My first job was actually working at one of my favorite bagel shops, and I was seriously in a bagel eating, coffee loving heaven.

7. Diners- You know the ones- with menus that are at least 10 pages long and take you half an hour to make a decision on what to eat at 1 in the morning. Oh how I miss diners.

8. Pizza- Similar to bagels, there are substitutes to help you when  you have a craving, but NJ pizza is just the best. Thin crunchy crust, homemade pizza sauce (and yes people call it gravy from up North), and gooey cheese cooked to perfection. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.

9.  Chinese Food- Again, when  you grow up with amazing Chinese food, all others seem to fall short of what you are used to and expect.

10. Last but not least- my family and friends! Ok this one is a bit biased since obviously not everyone has family in NJ, but I just love coming back to a welcoming community of friends and loved ones.

So as you can see, New Jersey definitely has it's upsides (even though it does receive a lot hate). I do miss it often and enjoy going back to visit a few times a year. Too bad it's 3,000 miles away!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Why I love Portland (OR)

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who has read, commented, and reached out to me about my previous blog post. I've been meaning to write that post for a very long time. Anything that I can do to reduce the stigma in this country regarding mental illness is a huge win in my book. I'm extremely happy that I was able to connect with some people and hopefully make them feel like they aren't alone in this. I'm right by your side.

With all that said, I'll be moving to a different, much lighter topic. However, I will likely revisit it in the future, as it is something I'll always carry with me. As I've mentioned previously on this blog, I moved out to Portland, OR over 3 and a half years ago. I'm extremely lucky that my fiance's job lead us to this amazing city. We both absolutely love living here and can see ourselves living here for a very long time to come. Here are some things that I love about our city. Maybe I'll be able to convince those of you who haven't visited to come over and see Portland for yourself.

1. The Food- this alone would keep me happy in a city. The amount of amazing food is absolutely incredible. There are always places on my list to try! I can't seem to keep up with it all. Part of it has to do with the amazing amount of fresh produce we have in the region. It inspires chefs from all over to come to Portland and open a restaurant. Inspired chefs = delicious, complex, interesting foods. Need I say more? Some favorites include but aren't limited to: Beast, 23 Hoyt, The Picnic House, Park Kitchen, Irving Street Kitchen, Screen door, Brix, Saint Honore Bakery, Ken's Artisan Bakery, Serratto, Bamboo Sushi, Pok Pok, Blue Hour, Urban Fondue, Departure, Natural Selection, Jam on Hawthorne.

2. The Hobbies- Running, biking, hiking, camping- anything outdoorsy is huge in Oregon. There is just so much to see and do in Oregon. It's a beautiful state, with everything from mountains, beaches, forests, deserts, rivers, and lakes. While I still haven't seen much of the state, every time we venture out to explore I am completely in awe of the beauty Oregon holds. I also love that so many people who live in Portland really do appreciate all there is to see and do. It really motivates me to see others enjoying the outdoors like Dan and I do.

3. Environmentally Friendly- I love how environmentally conscious the city is. I love having the option to compost things, both at work and at home. It's great to live in a city that is concerned with protecting the environment and takes steps to ensure a healthy future.

4. Community Based (i.e. farmers markets, Portland Timbers, etc)- I love the vibrancy of the community, especially at sporting games (Portland Timbers Football Club) and at the many farmers markets. It is fun to see people who are extremely passionate about their community. These aspects quickly made me feel like I was part of a community, even though I was so far away from the community I had grown up in.

5. The Drinks- Coffee, Wine, Beer, even the water tastes better in Portland. Try some Willamette Pinor Noir or stop by one of the amazing coffee shops- you won't regret it.

6. The Size- I really do love how walk-able the city is. It's the perfect size for us- not too big but not so small that it feels like nothing is going on. It's great being able to explore all the different parts of the city without having to commute hours and hours to get there.

7. Eclectic/Cool- Another thing that I like about Portland is that it definitely has a personality (especially on the east side). While I can't grow a beard and haven't gotten tattoos, I'm definitely embracing the casual work/life attire, drinking delicious coffee and green juice, and taking a bit of a slower pace than I used to on the east coast.

8. The Weather- It is always mild here, which enable people to be outside year round. This helps with all the outdoor hobbies mentioned above. It also extends the growing season for fruit, vegetables, and flowers.

9. The Scenery- this one can speak for itself. From Portland proper, to Mount Hood, to the Oregon coast, there is so much beautiful scenery around Oregon that pictures alone can't capture. However, here is a small peak at home of the beautiful things I've seen.

10. People are friendly- In general, I find people in Portland to be friendlier to strangers than on the east coast. This took some getting used to at first, but now I actually do enjoy chatting with people. Here is a group of girls from a running club I joined recently! They are all so nice and supportive, and a good representation of what you can find out here in Portland.

While there are probably hundreds of other smaller things we love about Portland, I feel like the list above really captures the overarching pieces that make up the city we love. Have a good one!