Book Review: Fall of Giants

Fall of giantsIf you are in search of a new book to read, this one is FANTASTIC.  It took me a little over a month to read but was totally worth it!

This book is the first in the Century Trilogy.  The Second is Called Winter of the World and the third is Edge of Eternity (not released until next fall).

The story follows various families from all over the world through the first world war.  Each character’s tale is woven together seamlessly with the next in such a masterful way.  The writing is remarkable and gives such a vivid depiction of what occured.  The best part, I ACTUALLY know what happened in World War I now.  For those of you that are good with the details don’t judge me but I feel like World War II was much more emphasized in school and I had a much better grasp on the events.  That being said, I can’t wait to dive in to the second one that is about WWII.

Side Note: The Book Thief which I read last year is being made into a move coming out November 8th.  It looks fantastic and I enjoyed the books so much, I just hope it does justice to the novel.

For now I am tackling Allegiant, the last of the Divergent series and I am devouring it.  So good!!  Though if you are like me I recommend brushing up on what happened at the end of the second one (Insurgent) so you are up to speed because it starts right in on the action!

Jog in the Park

This weekend consisted of a lot of couch sitting.  Yep, I was a huge couch potato both days.  Other than a nice slow run with Casey through town yesterday and a Halloween party last night we spent a lot of time catching up on sleep and watching football (college and pro alike).  After last weekend I needed the catch up on the sleep.

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter


Case and I

Case and I

After spending so much time training hard the past few months, then getting ready for the relay it is nice to be in a place right now where I can just run.  Some days I feel really great and can go out and run really hard and other days when I feel like my legs are full of lead, thats okay too, I just trudge along at whatever easy pace I settle in to.  It is nice not to put any particular pressure on any run.

I had been afraid that this cut back in intensity would put me in a bad place to start training for Boston when the time comes (late January I am thinking).  So with that I started doing some research and it turns out these breaks are not only okay, but vital to good competition.

Some benefits include:

  • Mental break from intense training (remembering why you love running)
  • Muscle and connective tissue repair
  • Maintaining fitness: this one is tough to find the balance but you don’t have to go at the same crazy intensity to keep from losing fitness (crazy right)
  • Building a foundation: having a good strong base can come from consistent effort and an easy logging of miles to make the next start of training cycle easier

So with this I have been enjoying running with Casey, Scarlett (the pup) and anyone else who wants to run.  More importantly I have been purely blissful in my running without putting any pressure or importance on any particular run.  Before I know it I will be back in the swing of things training for Boston but I know I will be physically, and more importantly mentally ready to tackle the challenge!


TGIF has an entirely more powerful meaning after a full week of working full time!  I know I will adjust to the schedule but man it is kicking my butt right now, especially after the weekend.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t get up until 1 in the afternoon tomorrow!  Mad props to all you working people!

Post work I got a nice mid distance run in with my friend Maribeth.  It was so good to see someone from school and swap stories from clinic.  It put me in such a good mood to run and boost my energy; I started dragging so bad around 1 this afternoon and it was a drag coffee didn’t touch!

More importantly, when I got home I made a pork tenderloin from Budget Bytes that was amazing.  This is the second time I have made it and it was amazing both times so I figured I should share the ridiculously easy and fantastic tasting meal!

Photo Credit: Budget Bytes

Photo Credit: Budget Bytes

Click here for recipe

As for this weekend, I will be doing A LOT of relaxing and I have never been more happy to plan to sit on the couch (and go for a few easy runs of course).

Do you have any big weekend plans or are you running MARINE CORP?!

What I Ate Wednesday

I knew today was going to be a busy day from the start.  I had to be on my rotation from 8-5 then in our school free clinic from 6-9.  When my alarm went off at 5:30 and I saw it was raining, I immediately hit the snooze button.  Once I finally dragged my butt out of bed, I had a quick bowl of cereal and brewed some coffee for the road.


After a full morning in clinic we took a quick lunch break so I could do my first mock evaluation on my Clinical Instructor.  It went as well as I could have hoped and definitely boosted my confidence.

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Right after I practiced my fake evaluation on him, a real patient came in for an initial evaluation for a shoulder problem so I transitioned right into it.  It also went well and I was able to fairly quickly figure out what was going on and what to do for it!  It was really awesome to see I actually have learned quite a bit and am well on my way to being a PT.  During the afternoon, I also decided that I would go to the gym and get a quick run in after going to CARES clinic for the night.

When I got home I had a quick snack before I was planning to head back out to clinic.


While I was devouring this and about to head out the door, I got an email that my first patient had cancelled so I laced up the shoes real quick and hit the road.  I wanted to get 5 miles in and knew I was crunched for time so I ended up running pretty hard and I felt pretty good.  I for sure am still recovering from the weekend though; my legs just don’t quite feel 100% again yet.

I hurried home, jumped in the shower and still was able to make it to the clinic at 6:20, which was good because there was a miscommunication about BOTH of my patients were there to be seen.  Whoops!  But it worked out perfectly that I was able to get everything accomplished and was home by 9.

The best part, I Casey had whipped up a fantastic meal by the time I made it home!

Rosemary and Sage Pork Chops, Broccoli and Couscous

Rosemary and Sage Pork Chops, Broccoli and Couscous

This girl is so relieved it is hump day.  I can’t wait for the weekend to finally catch up on all the sleep I lost last weekend!

Back to Reality

After almost two weeks of doing nothing but easy running and sitting around reading books, I started back on my second clinical rotation this yesterday.  Getting back to an 8-5 is rough, add a weekend of very little sleep and the most fun you ever had and you get even more bummed out to go back.

I am getting used to my 6:30 alarm again (though it will have to be 5:30 tomorrow so I can run) and remembering what it is like to actually be indoors for 9 straight hours.  The first few days are also always rough because you have to learn new computer systems, clinic operations, scheduling and how to manage a full day without getting overwhelmed.  I am sure as the week goes on I will settle in and by next week I will really be in the swing of things (especially after a weekend catching up on sleep).

After work I was able to meet up with Lauren (from the relay team) for a short easy run.  It was good for my morale to see someone from the team.  It also made my day that when I plucked my phone from my purse before leaving I saw this…

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Yep, thats 95 texts in 4 hours people.  We all kinda miss each other, haha!  Once again, I can’t explain it, just run a relay, thats the only way you will know.

Hitting the bed super early tonight.  Early run, rotation 8-5, CARES clinic 6-9.  Alex will = Exhausted!

The Bourbon Chase: Drunk is the New Black

Let me start by saying three things:

1.  I am sorry the pictures are so bad, they are all cell phone pictures because I didn’t have enough space to pack my good one.

2.  There is no way any post I write could possibly do this experience justice.

3.  This was the most insane, fun, crazy, ridiculously amazing thing I have probably ever done!!

Before we Left

Thursday afternoon we headed up to Rock Hill to meet the team, have some dinner and sleep before getting up bright and early (5:00 am) to hit the road for the race.  We had a few drinks and dinner at Six Pence Pub in Rock Hill and hung out for a little bit before hitting the sack.

Day One

We got on the road right around 5:45 and with a few pit stops for breakfast/coffee/bathrooms we made it to the start at the Jim Beam Distillery around 1:00.  There we met up with two more members of the team and transferred our stuff to “van 2” for the actual race.  After going up and checking in, we wandered around Jim Beam for a while.  It was absolutely gorgeous!

Jim beam

Team Drunk is the New Black

Team Drunk is the New Black


girls pre race

At 2:30 our first runner, Justin kicked us off!


Then it was time to start waiting.  Once Justin was out of site, the vans split up and van 1 headed to the first exchange while we took our van to the first major exchange (exchange 6 of the race).  This exchange was at Makers Mark which was a really awesome distillery.  They also had bourbon truffles which were to die for!

Makers Mark Tasting Room

Makers Mark Tasting Room


First major exchange

First major exchange

Leg One

At around 7ish, Ryan from Van 1 handed off to Carlos from our van and away we went.  The five hours while your van is going absolutely FLY!  Pretty much as soon as your runner leaves, you get in the van, head to the next exchange point and start warming up/stretching out.  When you are done your leg, you race to get in the van, and ride until the next exchange point and change clothes once you get there.  This first leg for me started at 9:49 PM and was 5.8 miles long.  I have never run in the real, pitch dark so I was very skeptical but with the reflective vest, blinking light and head lamp I was more than covered!  At the very end of this leg I saw the most perfect shooting star I have ever seen.  I swear it fell for a full 5 seconds.  I wished that the large hill in front of me would be my last and it was!!  I managed to average 7:16s and was more than pleased with that time.  Our van certainly pushed one another to be our best to say the absolute least!  Plus, every time you passed some one you got a “road kill”, but if you got passed you had to subtract; all the teams kept track of their “road kills” on the side of their van so everyone could see as we traveled!!

What we weren’t expecting was the 40 degree weather.  I had only packed one pair of full length tights and two long sleeve Lululemon Swiftly’s.  It was 87 degrees when we left Charleston so I thought even that was way over doing it but man was I wrong.  I didn’t wear a single pair of shorts, wore one pair of crops and wore the tights twice (they were almost dry, gross right?).

After everyone ran their legs, we hit the next major exchange, handed off to van one and then went to the third major exchange to try to get some sleep.  Let me tell you, trying to sleep 5 people deep in a yukon (I think thats what we were in) is not the easiest thing I have ever done.  Luckily, I was deemed to be the hardest sleeper so I got 2-3 hours of van sleep before we got back out and hopped to it.

Leg 2 (and 3)

Because we ran the race with 10 instead of 12, three of us in our van had to run a double leg.  My second leg was my double coming to a grand total of 9.5 miles.  This leg was pretty much all on the highway (though it wouldn’t have mattered because it was so dark still).  I took the hand off from Lauren at 5:51 am and averaged 7:45 min/mile.  I thought for sure that by the end of my leg the sun would at least be starting to make an appearance but it looked like it could have been 2 in the morning.  At least at the end of this leg, I knew for sure it was going to be sunny for the next one.

After I handed off to David and then off the Barbara we headed to meet with Van 1 at the next major exchange at Four Roses.

four roses

We looked around the distillery for a bit the headed to have some breakfast at a little local diner and then off to our next major exchange at Woodford Reserve.  This was the first place I finally tried Bourbon and y’all, I did not like it one little bit!  It would have been nice if I did because it would have warmed me up but I was pretty much one and done with that stuff.  About half way through our break time, it started to POUR down rain.

Survival > Competition

Survival > Competition

We joked that during our last legs it was going to be all for survival instead of the competitive running we had all been doing.  Luckily for us (not so much for Van 1) it stopped in time for us to start our final legs.

Leg 4

Carlos went first and he absolutely destroyed some major, MAJOR hills.  He came in for his final hand off to Lauren looking mighty strong!

hand off cl

This was Lauren’s double leg and it was all rolling hills and picturesque Kentucky beauty!  She had 9.5 miles to cover too and absolutely killed it.  She handed off to me and I was ready to take down my last leg.  It was ranked 3rd hardest on the course but I was ready to conquer the beast.

final exchange

The leg was amazing.  I was so glad I could see everything around me.  It was exactly what you would expect from Kentucky.  kentucky

Only times that picture by a million and thats how pretty it was!  The leg was tough but gorgeous and I was so motivated to do well and be done!  I managed to average 7:45 miles again (I have no idea how) and was so pleased with my whole performance along the entire race.  I finally came over a hill top and could see the exchange ahead at the top of one last hill.  I pushed it as hard as I could up the last hill and made my last hand off to DK!

Hand off to DK

Hand off to DK

We hit the van, headed to our last exchange and the sun finally came out in time for the husband-wife hand off from DK to BK!

last handoff

We all piled into the car, changed into our team shirts and hurried to downtown Lexington where we could meet as a whole team and run in together once BK made it to the end of her leg.  It was absolutely freezing at this point but we were euphoric.  I can’t wait to see the official pictures that got taken at the finish line (I will share as soon as I have them).  We don’t have an official time yet but it was somewhere around 28 hours and 15ish minutes.

We didn’t hang at the post race party long because we were seriously freezing and ready for a shower.

Tallest person on the team and shortest (new nick name: Little Bit)

Tallest person on the team and shortest (new nick name: Little Bit)

Van 1

Van 2

After the boys got enough bourbon to satisfy their cravings, we hit the hotel for showers and went for some dinner in downtown Lexington.  I couldn’t believe we were all actually still awake at 11:00 sitting at dinner.  I definitely learned I can sustain life on much less sleep than I thought I could.  We also were just basking in the glow of our achievement which was fueling our energy big time!


We got up around 7:15ish on Sunday to head back to South Carolina.  In the van Carlos warned us we were going to have a serious emotional let down and he was absolutely not kidding.  I can not explain how intense of a bonding experience this was.  I feel like I have known these people for years, not 4 days.  I miss them so much and our group text has been going like crazy all day so I know the feeling is mutual.  Luckily we have made plans for a few from the team to come down for the James Island Connector run in two weekends!  It is good to have something to look forward too now or I would be so sad!

So the moral of the story is, if you EVER have the opportunity to take part in something like this, don’t hesitate for a second to say yes.  No matter how much you will lack sleep and drag for a week, no matter how much it cost or you are nervous you will not regret it.  You will come away with amazing new friends, an experience that can’t be described (as hard as I have tried) and two days that will be some of the best in your life, I promise you this!

To the members of Drunk is the New Black: I miss you all dearly already and can’t wait to see you in a few weeks.  Thanks for welcoming me and giving me the experience of a lifetime.  Hood to Coast anyone?  #awesome, #bourbonchase, #fast #DrunkistheNewBlack, #hashtag, #love!

Down Dog

Today I decided to get in a good yoga session before we hit the road to Charlotte.  On every run I have set out on for the last few weeks it has taken me about a half mile to get my hip flexors and hamstrings to stop aching.  I have been doing a lot of sitting around reading, putting my hip flexors and hamstrings in a shortened position (I sit pretty much in the fetal position).  Last night I took a gander at my workout log and it had been a MONTH since I have done any yoga.  WHOOPS!!  Really fell off the wagon there, no wonder my muscles felt like crap!

I have been collecting pictures of what Scarlett does every time I try to do yoga.

Photo on 2013-09-03 at 11.16 #2

Photo on 2013-09-03 at 11.16

This one is my favorite!

This one is my favorite!

Photo on 2013-10-17 at 10.43 #2

Just wants to get involved I guess.  I think she just really loves the yoga mat.  She comes running to it every time I roll it out!  Too bad her down dog puts mine to shame, haha!!

Now I am off to do last minute packing.  I will be without the computer while we are gone so I will write a full update on the Bourbon Chase on Sunday!  I will also try my best to document on Instagram.  You can follow me: ahellams!

WIAW: 3 Square Meals

If you have ever read one of my WIAW posts before, you would know that I am quite the snacker.  My meals are usually relatively small but I feel like I usually am almost constantly eating in between.  Today was just one of those days that didn’t really allow for that so it was pretty much a 3-square meal type of day.

Breakfast: Pumpkin Spice Bagel with Cream Cheese and Coffee with Pumpkin Spice Creamer


Lunch: Today was laundry day so I treated myself to Persimmon (since it is in the laundromat) to lessen the blow.  I had a Butternut Squash Sandwich with Curry Cashew Butter, Honey and Goat Cheese.  Yep, it was amazing, hands down no questions asked!

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Dinner: After what started as a short JOG and ended with Casey running like someone was chasing us I made a Chicken Stir Fry with broccoli, peppers, onions, mushroom and carrots for dinner.  I love a good stir fry, you can have just a little bit of meat (or none if you don’t feed a boy) and as many different veggies as you want!


Night Snack: Just before I sat down to write this post I grabbed a mug of Chocolatey Strawberry Cereal with Almond Milk for a snack.


Modern Family just started so I am off to watch!

Food Store

I have a ridiculous love affair with the grocery store.  A task that most people despise, I actually revel in.  There are endless meal possibilities!  It is also a task Casey and I always do together and I really enjoy that time together (how cheesy am I).  It is always better though when we have had dinner before we go though or some questionable choices always make it in the cart.

After getting in a good run with Lauren and making dinner (Shepherds Pie), we headed on our bi-monthly endeavor.

I found something I am especially stoked about on this particular trip…

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I was in search of bagels to have some easy to digest running food for the relay so I got those and some whole wheat as well…and Casey got two packs of bagels so that is a grand total of 24 bagels, for two people.  Yes, we are nuts!  Whoops!  The funny thing is, we don’t usually ever buy bagels.

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Unfortunately, I do not enjoy the end result of the grocery store where you have to exchange the green paper for the mostly green foods.

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This is followed by the worst part, finding somewhere in our fridge and pantry shelves for all of our booty.  This was actually one of the easiest times we had fitting everything in the fridge, probably because we just cleaned it out a few days ago, but thats not really saying much around here.

Tomorrow is always fun because there are so many possibilities I am the most indecisive about what I want to eat, I CAN HAVE ANYTHING!!  Wooo Hoo!!

Bet you may be a little happier next time you make that grocery store trip!

I’ve got a secret

Here is a fun secret I haven’t told any of you yet.  I am running a 200 mile relay in Kentucky, THIS FRIDAY and SATURDAY.  AND, it goes to all the bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, hence the name Bourbon Chase.


About two weeks after the marathon, my friend Lauren who I run with quite a bit asked me if I wanted to do this 200 mile relay with some of her friends.  I JUMPED on this.  I have always wanted to do something like this but didn’t quite know enough crazy people to join me in the endeavor!  She had to make sure she would get the time off so I only found out officially like 2 weeks ago (maybe less than that) that we were actually doing it.  I am not sure exactly why I have kept it a secret since then.  I guess there were just so many other things going on in my life I had almost forgotten.

We are doing it with a bunch of people who do Crossfit (aka. BEASTS) that she knows, many of them living in Charlotte from what I understand.  The plan is to drive up to Charlotte on Thursday and then head to Kentucky Friday for our 2:30 start time.  I am runner 10, so there will be 52.3 miles run before I hit my first leg.  I am thinking I will probably do my first two or so in the dark.  It should be absolutely gorgeous there this time of year though.


Because we only have 10 people (because we are that awesome) me and two others are taking one extra leg for a total of 4.  So I will also run Runner 8’s second leg, an easy 3.5 miler which is NBD.


I am really excited; it will be a really cool race in a gorgeous place and I’ll get to make a bunch of new friends.  The only down side is that I am sure we won’t be sleeping much, will probably get back late Sunday and have my first day of my new clinical Monday.  But as my friend Maribeth would say, YOLO!!  It may be a rough, tiring week, and I may miss the Eagles-Cowboys game but I know I will never forget this experience for the rest of my life!!

So I say, BRING IT ON!!