Jenny Lewis: On The Line badges


Earlier this summer, I had the idea to illustrate some of my favorite lyrics from my favorite records. I thought I’d start with Jenny Lewis’ On The Line, one of the best so far in 2019 (IMO. I’m definitely biased because she is my all-time favorite songwriter + artist, but that’s another post). Shortly-put, this indie-rock record captures heavy grief of both the loss of love (a 12-year relationship) and family (her mother, whom she had a complicated relationship with, passed away from cancer). Despite the heaviness of the last 5 years for Jenny, this album shows that she’s faced these hard truths head-on, and even with a hint of optimism. It’s a body of work I’ve personally been waiting to hear since I wore out listening to her last record, The Voyager (which I now have tattooed on my wrist; go figure).

Jenny’s work is so uniquely beautiful and relatable, and I’ve felt that way since Rilo Kiley (her first band, which was active from 1998-2011). Her lyrics have always had an element of storytelling—both through fictional characters and her own experiences—that move me. But this record particularly hit it out of the park, which is why I decided to create the badges above.

I stuck with a minimal color palette that actually focused on more of the upbeat lyrics and ideas within the LP (you won’t see much darkness in these, but definitely give the record a listen; it’s there). Before creating the badges, I listened to the record on repeat, took notes, doodled, + concepted. That’s when I decided I liked the idea of making them more type-focused rather than honing in on the illustrations. I’m thinking of making these into stickers sometime soon. Hoping to design more from what I’m currently listening to! Jenn'y’s record is below, give it a listen :)

Moodboard: bold + dreamy


Wow—it’s been a while since I’ve made one of these.

So what’s new? I recently started a new gig designing digital for Grubhub/Seamless, and it’s been going wonderfully. And honestly, this fresh start at my day job has really inspired me to work on more of my personal aesthetic outside of that. So I figure that regularly curating + designing my inspiration into moodboards would be a good start to getting those juices flowin’ again.

Lately, I’ve been loving deep greens paired with light pink and sunflower yellow. I recently revamped my bedroom with this color palette in mind, adding some plants + succulents to pop against the more gentle pastel hues that hang on my walls. It’s made me so happy.

In this moodboard above, I wanted to capture this image in my head, that of bold + dreamy visuals that are kind of whimsical, but also intentional + striking. It’s funny because these two descriptions really wouldn’t seem to go together; dreamy creative can be soft, quiet and seemingly effortless, while bold may feel loud and forceful to some designers. Here, I was trying to strike a balance of both. Also, I’ve personally been diggin’ textured clouds + skies as of late so I added some of that into the background to bring the “dreamy” feel full-circle. I already want to create more of these. Hope you enjoy it!

Iceland, solo


Last year, I had a moment.

It felt strong and imminent and undeniable. I needed to leave.

Don't get me wrong, I had always wanted to travel alone. After months of studying in Spain during college, I experienced the feeling of falling for a foreign land and being overwhelmed in the most terrifying and beautiful ways possible. Although that was many years ago, I know how powerful travel can be. After that I'd always figured someday I would take the plunge on a solo trip, but expected it to include backpacking (I'd still love to do that eventually). What I'm saying is I'm all about strengthening the relationship with myself & doing uncomfortable things when the time is right. I like personal growth... & I actively seek it.

Iceland had been on my mind for a couple years now. A few friends who had been there raved about its natural wonders, but also warned me about the bi-polar weather and the high cost of a trip there. I knew I could experience the mountains, hot springs, and waterfalls on a vacation with friends, but going alone just seemed to fit for me. It was all timing, I guess. Call it what you will, but I was in need of some soul-searching by the end of 2017. I was seeking inspiration, clarity, resilience, courage. I thought, Why not Iceland? The variety of nature seemed unprecedented... & I'd actually have the space to think. So I saved up and I left.

I traveled there the first week of June, which ended up being a great time to visit. Just after Memorial Day Weekend, there weren't as many American tourists & the scenery had just started to turn green as the summer months creeped in.

I had 7 days to explore Reykjavík and beyond, opting to stay in the capital for a few days before embarking on a 5-day roadtrip through most of the country (I drove clockwise). Although expensive, I decided the roadtrip factor was non-negotiable for my solo trip. I wanted to drive the Ring Road (which is the main route throughout Iceland) & I craved that time to drive & explore by myself. I knew there was so much to see & discover so I also held myself to a pretty loose itinerary, only booking my accommodations ahead of time. I didn't want to feel rushed, which was one of the beauties of traveling solo: I had no one to worry about but me.

It was quite the adventure. Iceland is a gorgeous country with some of the kindest people I have ever met. Everywhere I went left me in awe. I soaked in hot springs both touristy & hidden (trust me, the Blue Lagoon is beautiful & worth it), drove through the mountains for hours, ate by myself in restaurants, went on a glacier hike, met local people, hiked, read, wrote. But I also made some costly mistakes, although I tried to learn from them instead of getting frustrated with myself.

I had heard that Iceland is a relatively safe country, especially for female solo travelers, and I felt that. I didn't feel afraid because I was alone, but sometimes I just felt unsure of myself. Traveling alone had sometimes made me feel more uncomfortable than I thought it would. I consider myself independent, but this trip taught me how to really trust myself... because I had to.


For anyone interested or heading to Iceland themselves, here's an itinerary of my solo trip:

DAY 1 - Reykjavík
Fly into Reykjavík on a red eye, arriving around 5:00 local time.
- Take transpo from the airport to the Blue Lagoon. Make a reservation ahead of time — also the face masks while in the lagoon are divine. I thought this place might be overhyped before I visited, but it was truly relaxing after such a long red eye flight. I also met a couple other solo travelers!
- Take transpo to Kex Hostel in Reykjavík, where I stayed for 2 nights.
- Explore Reykjavík + try to stay awake. I had heard that all you need is one day/night in Reykjavík to see most of it, and I agree. But here are a couple places to check out there:

• Hallgrimekirkja Church — you'll get a bird's eye view of the city
• Harpa Concert Hall — an iconic, beautiful concert venue / museum
• For food, I loved Kaffi Vinyl! It's an all vegan restaurant, coffee house and record shop, if you're into that sort of thing, which I totally am. A very hipster establishment indeed.
• Also enjoyed Emilie and the Cool Kids, a cute bagel + coffee shop near my hostel.

Additional tips: I recommend going to Bónus, the local grocery store, to stock up on some food and snacks if you're trying not to eat out as much. Going out to eat can get really expensive there, and one meal usually costs around $20. Depending on what you order, it can also be a lot more.


DAY 2 - South Coast
- Take a day-tour through the south coast. I booked the Fire & Ice Tour through Hidden Iceland and it was fantastic. I also opted to see the south coast through a tour instead of driving there, which meant I didn't need a rental car until a couple days into my trip. They picked me up at my hostel and the drive was about 3 hours one way, but there was so much to see along the way.
- First, we did a glacier hike on the Solheimajokull Glacier (so cool!)
- Also hiked around various waterfalls, such as Skógafoss, Skógar and Seljalandsfoss (note: "foss" means water)
- The tour also explored Vík and the black sand beaches
- I was back in Reykjavík by the evening, so I decided to go out and explore the nightlife there even though I was by myself. Although I was a little nervous, I'm so glad I did, because I ended up meeting some locals and having the best night exploring some pubs. Highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone if you're solo!

Additional tips: I was honestly hesitant to do a tour in Iceland as I thought I'd prefer to explore on my own, but I'm glad I did one. It gave me time to adjust to being there instead of just driving the south coast myself. I'd have plenty of time alone later on. Also it was SO windy and cold on the beaches, even in June, so I recommend bringing a windbreaker for sure. And/or a waterproof jacket so you can enjoy the waterfalls close-up :)


DAY 3 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula
- This was the first official day of my roadtrip, which started with my suitcase zipper breaking, which was fun. Blue Car Rental came to pick me up so I could get my rental car at their office, and I immediately drove to the only mall around and bought a new suitcase out of desperation.
- My plan was to drive the Ring Road northwest to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It was about a 2 hour drive, but I made stops along the way so I could arrive around dinnertime. In Iceland there are so many opportunities to pull off the ring road and explore — you couldn't see everything if you tried. I found a random hot spring among the mountains with no one else around — I wish I knew the name of it, but it was private and tucked away. It really allowed me to unwind.
- I stayed in Grundarfjörður at the Grund Guesthouse. It was hands down the most isolated area I have ever been in — but in a good way. Less than 1,000 people lived in that town (!!!) and there were only a handful of restaurants and attractions to see. But I loved that. I felt the power of silence and it seemed like my trip was really beginning.
- Ate at Bjargarsteinn, the best restaurant in town, which was known for their seafood. I don't eat meat or fish but they had this phenomenal local veggie dish that I loved.. with a glass of white wine. This was my most expensive meal on my trip as the place had this incredible view of the peninsula. I felt a little awkward eating at such a nice place by myself, but I read my book, sipped my wine, and just enjoyed it. Worth it.
- After dinner I drove a few more miles down the road to the Kirkjufell mountain/waterfall. It was really overcast but still absolutely stunning to see. Icelandic waterfalls don't really get old.

Additional tips: I was nervous to drive in Iceland, but it's really not different from driving in the states (you drive on the right side of the road). You just have to be careful that you don't speed, and that you go on roads your car is suited for. I got a 2-wheel drive Kia that worked just fine for the summer months and I stayed away from F-roads, which require a 4x4. You will drive and have sand, ash and rocks fly against your car and you just have to accept it when it happens, and be careful as much as you can. Get the ash/sand insurance when you rent if it makes you feel better!


DAY 4 - Akureyri
- I woke up to a sunny, beautiful day where I could actually see the mountains — up until this point, most of my time in Iceland was gray and overcast. That changed when I started driving up north to Akureyri. It was my longest driving day of almost 5 hours to my next guesthouse... and I stopped a lot on the way.
- About an hour into the drive I stopped to see a gorgeous group of wild horses. The guy there told me the youngest horses were 2 weeks old, such babies! It was amazing to see so much wild life when driving through this part of the country. I also saw lots of sheep and cows.
- I stopped at this gas station called Stadarskali which was a great half-way point between Grundarfjörður and northern Iceland. They had fast food and I got a veggie burger that actually wasn't half bad, but was still expensive. I stocked up on snacks before leaving Reykjavík which mostly held me over on a lot of my roadtrip.
- Akureyri is the 2nd largest city in Iceland but only has 16,000 people. It seemed like an urban New-England with mountains in the backdrop — there was sunshine and boats on the water. I really loved it, especially where I stayed, Amma Guesthouse. I had my own balcony and it was SO homey.

Things to Do in Akureyri:
- Climb the steps leading to the church of Akureyri (Akureyrarkirkja). It's gorgeous.
- Hit up Akureyri Backpackers for dinner + a beer (great local spot!)
- Walk to Brynja for some delicious ice cream (def stop by there if you can).
- Go to the geothermal outdoor swimming pool (Sundlaug Akureyrar). The sun was still out at 9pm as I people-watched and swam laps in the warm pool. I didn't want to leave!
- Go for a run along the water with the mountains behind you. Really enjoyed this.
- Get an icelandic hot dog here (or anywhere in Iceland!) They had veggie options too and whatever sauce / toppings they put on these is unlike anything I've ever had. Sooooo good.

Additional tips: You don't have to stay in Akureyri to see it — if you're on your way up north to Myvatn, you can make a stop. The views of the water and mountains alone are worth it, as well as a trip for ice cream :)


DAY 5 - Myvátn

- Hands down my favorite day of my trip. I packed a lot into the day & didn't need to drive as far (only 1.5 hours). This was the furthest point north that I would hit before I turned back around on the Ring Road.
- Hverir was one highlight — it's a geothermal area of Iceland with endless bubbling mudpots & steaming fumaroles. It felt like being in the desert.. and smelled like rotten eggs because of the sulfur. But it was a beautiful place that I really never expected to have in Iceland. It showed me how truly diverse in nature the country is. HIGHLY recommend stopping here for a very unique sight.
- Krafla was my favorite landmark I've ever seen. It's a volcanic crater that erupted over 300 years ago and is now filled with the most saturated aqua blue you could image. You can't actually go in the water but you can hike around it. I walked around it for a while and actually got really emotional. It was quiet and there were hardly any tourists there. A MUST.
- Checked out the Dimmuborgir Lava Formations, which was kind of like Bryce Canyon sans orange rocks.
- Stayed at Hotel Gígur which was right on Lake Myvátn. It was the most expensive place I stayed but most places in Myvátn were not cheap. I had a great breakfast the next day and there was also hiking + amazing views of the water right outside the hotel. This included the Skútustaðagigar craters which were neat.
- Got a super local meal on an actual farm — Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe. Great sustainable meat options if you're into that, as you can actually see the cows chillin' on the farm. 
- Hit up the Myvátn Nature Baths in the evening, which is like the Blue Lagoon of northern Iceland. Really incredible to relax there while the sun was trying to set (which it doesn't really in the summer).

Additional tips: Going to Myvátn made my entire roadtrip worth it. I cannot imagine my trip without going and it's absolutely worth it to rent a car just to drive up there. I can't say that enough!! But beware of all the little bugs that surround the Myvátn region — they will follow you everywhere and swarm your car. They're annoying, but harmless, like little knats. Just know that is just reality while being in this region.


DAY 6 - Borgarnes
- I knew starting to make the drive back to Reykjavík would be a little sad, but I was intent on seeing different parts of the country than what I saw on the way up north. This was a 5-hour driving day where I decided to stop wherever I wanted... I didn't really have a plan.
- Godafoss waterfall — one of the most massive waterfalls I had yet to see. Worth a stop.
- Glaumbær — this is a farm with turf houses and is actually a museum. It's really cute, but also cool to see how Icelanders used to use the turf to protect their houses from climate changes.
- Stayed at Helgugata Guesthouse in Borgarnes, a small town a few hours outside of Reykjavík in the west. It was my favorite place I stayed and when I come back to Iceland to see the northern lights someday, I'll stay there again.
- Ate at The Settlement Center, also called Landnamssetur. They had great food and this amazing raw, vegan dessert that I loved.

DAY 7 / 8 - Reykjavik
I woke up and ran a couple miles on a random track near my guesthouse. Cool views!
- Drove back to Reykjavík, about 1.5 hours. I was to stay there for my last night before flying out the next day.
- Ate at Krost, a yummy casual restaurant with legit the best vegan burger I've EVER had. And yes, I ate a lot of veggie burgers in Iceland because sometimes that's all I could eat. But no regrets.
- Stayed at Gestinn Guesthouse which was cute, but really tiny.
- I went on a Puffin Boat tour the morning before I left Iceland and it poured the whole time. Despite that it was disappointing and I wish I wouldn't have done it, although I did see some puffins.
- Dropped off my rental car at the airport the next day and then was back in NYC!

General map of my solo roadtrip (not including the south coast, which I visited but did not drive).

General map of my solo roadtrip (not including the south coast, which I visited but did not drive).

Additional/general tips:
- Don't bother taking out cash before you go. You can, but you'll just end up trying to get rid of it at the end. Every place accepts credit cards which is really convenient.
- Bring an aux cord. You will need it to jam to that kick-ass roadtrip playlist!
- I used the Maps.Me app to pre-save my main driving routes and save data. Highly recommend, although Google Maps works as well if you download those to use offline.
- If you do a Ring Road roadtrip, don't pack in too much every day. There is so much beauty to stumble upon in Iceland that you'd miss out on if you had a strict plan. Just go with it!
- Don't try and drive the entire ring road in 1 week. You can, but you'll feel rushed & miss out on a lot. Right before I left I toyed with the idea and I'm so glad that I only did a portion of it. And now I can go back and still see all of the east side!
- Bring a sleep mask if you go in the summer. The sun hardly sets and that makes it really hard to adjust to the time difference. I had a sleep mask but still struggled with this.


I will never forget this trip. It freed me. Iceland will hold such a special place in my heart forever. So, go. Wanting to leave is enough. And of course, tell me if you do so I can tell you more :)

Feel free to reach out if you have additional questions!
- Kait

2017 Through Food Pics: Confessions of Plant-Based Food Blogger


My name is Kaitlyn, and I need to disclose something: I love taking pictures of food.

Yep, I'm one of those people. And I'm not embarrassed one bit.

I guess this traces back to 2013, when I followed some healthy food bloggers online that nailed the food-photography-via-iPhone genre and made me actually want to eat vegetables. Seriously. They even made brussel sprouts look tasty.

As you know, Instagram exploded shortly after that with even more "food bloggers" snapping filtered pics of rainbow acai bowls, stacks of sandwiches + donuts for days. There are so many of these accounts now that it's probably actually annoying to most people. But I got a little hooked on what they were doing: how visually appealing and simple they made it seem. Or maybe I was hungry... probably that, too.

One of my goals as a designer the past couple years has been to improve my photography skills, even if that means just using an iPhone. Obviously just as design can focus on tools like composition, color, + alignment, photography can as well. I was excited to use my skills in a different medium, and I figured Instagram could be the perfect platform. I don't have much of a photography background, but I thought I should be able to get creative by just using my phone.

About a year ago, I also transitioned to a full-on plant-based diet, which resulted in taking more and more pictures of my food. A whole new world of food + cooking came about when I went vegan, and I had a lot to learn. Pictures of plant-based food on Instagram really helped me warm up to the idea of changing my lifestyle.

It's been cool to review all my photos throughout the past year. Practice really does help a ton.

For those of you wondering how I do this, I'll be honest... it's a little janky. I often have a "photoshoot" in my apartment to do the shots of the food I make, and I use a white poster, small marble cutting board + the natural light from the one window in my apartment. The other shots I take when I eat out, which is often since NYC keeps me out-and-about with my work + running schedules.

I edit my photos exclusively on my iPhone, using the VSCO cam app + some Instagram editing tools. I try to keep the lighting bright + natural, and only use subtle filters on my photos. I guess you could say that another goal has been to make vegan food look amazingly delicious, because it usually is :)

I've learned that it can be hard to maintain consistency, visually, within an Instagram feed full of food and I'm still working on that. But I'm excited to keep working on this and see where my little IG blog takes me. I hope it makes you hungry! Enjoy the below highlights...

Can you tell I like sandwiches? Cause I do.

Chicago Marathon 2017: Just Hold On


Chi Town, I've got to hand it to you — you surprised me.

A lot has happened since I ran the NYC Marathon last fall. It was my first marathon + the first race that really made me want to work at being a stronger, faster, smarter runner. A month after NYC, I got excited + entered the lottery for the Chicago Marathon. I got in, I trained, and the rest is history. I can't believe I ran my second full last weekend!

The race is one of six World Major marathons with 40,000 runners, so it's almost as huge as the NYC Marathon. I knew that going into this race, the atmosphere in New York would be tough to beat. But Chicago, you certainly know how to throw a party. As a tourist visiting the city for the first time in nearly 10 years, I felt so welcome. I was so excited to absorb the electricity of the crowd + run my best.

I almost feel the need to explain why I'm writing this. Why should my blog on my portfolio site, as a professional, get a glimpse into why I run? Because I think running encompasses me at my most authentic, vulnerable, happy + ambitious self.

Running energizes me every morning before I pixel-push all day at work — it even improves my mood + work ethic in other aspects of my life. Do I wake up every day and want to run 5 to 10 miles? Definitely not. But having the discipline + the desire to work at becoming stronger at this sport continues to teach me so much about myself, my priorities + my mindset. Having been training most of the year for races of every distance, 2017 has been pivotal in my growth as an endurance athlete. I love opening up about my experiences + what motivates me to reach new goals. It's just exciting, working to improve at something so personal, but that can also be shared with other runners on their own journeys. We all may seem crazy, I know — but I am moved by what draws people to this. I understand it.

My expectations for Chicago were a bit all over the place. Earlier in the year, I had shocked myself by hitting PRs (personal records) in every distance I competed in: the half marathon (beat my PR 3 times), the 10K, the 5K and the 4 mile. The way that I trained had changed — I was logging more miles than before, but also just understanding the intent of each workout I did. To give you an idea, 2 days of the week would be hard effort in a workout, but everything else was easy + very slow, including the long run. All that was left for me to PR in this year was the marathon, so I knew when Chicago training approached, it was time to grind + work really hard from June to September. I ran a 4:04 in New York last year (9:19 avg per mile), so that was the previous PR. With my knee injury from then under wraps, my goal was to just cut that down as far as I could. Also, Chicago's course is also very flat, and New York's is very tough and hilly, so I figured that would help.

I also decided that one of my goals (within the next few years) is to qualify + run the Boston Marathon. It's a big honor to do that as a runner. As a woman 18-35, I would have to run around a 3:30 to actually get into the race (8:00/mile... what?!). It's a prestigious race, it's hard, and it's heartbreaking because some runners try to qualify and run between a 3:30 and 3:35, only to be shut out by faster runners. Insane. Basically, If I ran a 3:30 marathon within the next year, I could qualify for Boston in 2019. In the back of my mind, that was kind of my goal — but I knew it was still a little out of reach for me to do in Chicago. I just didn't know how much.

My friend Albert, a strong marathoner and BQ chaser himself, was also running Chicago and was kind enough to offer to pace me to a 3:30 during the race (men need a 3:05 to qualify for Boston, almost a 7:00/mile pace. I can't even fathom that). Knowing that I may struggle to keep up, I kind of laughed at the idea, but agreed anyway. With this in mind, my goal + strategy for the race was as follows: stick with Albert + run the 8:00/mile pace until I literally can't hold onto it any longer. And that's exactly what I did.

On race morning, I did my usual routine: wake up extra early, drink a cup of coffee + eat my oatmeal with a banana + almond butter. I stayed in Lincoln Square and took an Uber downtown to Grant Park, where it all started. I used the bathroom about 10 times so I wouldn't have to stop during the race (every minute counts when going for time!) At 7:30 a.m., we were off — me, Albert, + his friend Marcus, who was also going for a 3:30.

The #1 mistake that runners make during the marathon? They go out too quickly. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement, the crowds + the energy on race day. It's hard not to surge ahead, you feel amazing. You're on fire. Everything is wonderful. You trained for this, it's easy! You'll be fine in 20 miles. Except... you won't at all. That said, I knew my race strategy to start at a faster pace was not a smart one. But I really wanted to see how I would do at the pace.

I wasn't worried about the first half of the race — we were aiming for a 1:47 half, a time I had run many times in the half marathon. Mile 1 was slow + congested. Around mile 3, I could hear everyone's Garmin watches buzzing as we flew through downtown Chicago. Our watches were so off + runners all around us were confused. "Is anyone else's watch acting up?" One girl asked. We all went through it. I decided not to fixate on that since it wasn't even accurate. I saw my parents at mile 4, who flew in from Pittsburgh to watch me run. It was amazing to see them and it gave me a boost!

I was keeping up with the guys OK through the early miles, using the marathon playlist I created and getting pumped by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes tunes I added. I took my headphones out sometimes to focus on the crowd, but they helped when I needed to focus on the pace. I fueled at mile 6 with dates, deciding not to use gels for this race for a change. I wasn't hungry but knew I needed fuel. I continued to trail a few steps behind Albert and Marcus, who I knew where going a little faster than we had planned. I just focused on each step, knowing we were approaching the half. Grind grind grind.

We hit 13 miles in 1:45. Only a 2 minute difference, but it was too fast. I was holding on OK by this point, but knew it was only a matter of time. The sun creeped out from behind the tall buildings and it started to get hot — it was 70 by this point. Marcus pushed ahead of us after the half and Albert stuck back with me. I ate a date, but I remember spitting out half of it, not wanting to eat at all. I was slipping during mile 15, feeling my pace fall from 8:15 to 8:30. "My wheels are starting to fall off," I remember telling him. "It's OK," he said. "Just focus on what you can do right now."

I chugged on but those miles were getting slower. Up until mile 18, I thought maybe I could bounce back to the pace. But it kept dropping. 8:30 to 8:40, then 8:45, 8:50. By mile 20 I was doing 9+ minute miles, it was hot, and my legs were getting exhausted. For the first time, I stopped running to gulp down cups of water at the aid station. I ran again after a few minutes, but noticed that Albert had dropped off behind me. He had done a race the weekend before and his legs had completely given out. I was on my own now.

Miles 20-26 during a marathon are some dark miles, man. All you have is your own mental strength. But this is exactly why I do the marathon. You grow more during those last 6 miles than you ever do during your 16 weeks of training. The heat was also getting real — at this point I was running a mile, then stopping at every water station to chug cups on cups of water. I didn't even care about time at this point, and I knew that mentally I had given up a little bit. I knew I could be pushing harder, but I just didn't feel like forcing it. I kind of accepted where I was — maybe because I knew that no matter what I was going to have a big PR. That 3:30 was not in reach; even the 3:35 pacers passed me + I just shrugged it off. This was my second marathon and it was not going to be the end of the world if I didn't qualify for Boston. I was still killin' it on the time, even with this ridiculous heat. At least that's what I told myself in the later miles. At 23, I saw my parents again. All the pain I felt in my body turned to love + happiness.

I saw the finish line approaching, and the last .2 miles were uphill. The worst. At this point, I knew I was finishing, I knew I had one of my best times ever waiting for me, but for some reason, I wasn't emotional about it at all. I figured I would be crying by this point, like in NYC when I constantly teared up. Maybe my emotional connection wasn't as strong outside of New York. But I was about to finish this marathon + I was suddenly filled with happiness + pride, not really anything sad or too transformational this time. I knew it was the end + just cheered until I couldn't any longer. I was so content to get to that finish injury free + in one piece. I was a marathoner, x2!

I remember crossing the finish + feeling pretty woozy, but you wouldn't know it from the finish photos. The heat just got to me — it was past 75 now. I drank 2 bottles of water in record time, then saw the free beer and went for it. I couldn't believe how good it tasted. I was kind of in a daze though, so of course I thought beer sounded good.

I got a notification that said my unofficial finish time was 3:41:22, with an average of 8:21/mile. I was stoked! A whopping 23 minutes off my previous marathon time. The flat course certainly helped, but I could also tell that my body felt less wrecked than after NYC. I had also trained smarter this year. Woo! I met my parents + started to feel normal about 30 minutes later. No headache, no limping, no tears of pain or distress. All I have to compare this to is last time, when I felt nauseous the rest of the day with a pounding headache + a very sore knee. With none of those issues and a strong new PR, the race was a success! 

I feel so proud of this one, guys. I worked so hard for this, and every smaller race I ran all year was leading up to this one. I know that I put in the work + it was not easy. Hell no, not ever.

I sometimes endured 4 am wakeup calls for long runs before work. I once ruined my running shoes from bleeding on them (thank you, blood blisters). I gave myself hundreds of pep talks during runs where I was not mentally into it. I ran on the track until I felt like throwing up. I once ran for hours through an awful thunderstorm. But most of all, I believed in myself every damn day. I was the only person who saw all the work I put in, especially everything that couldn't be measured like my miles and pace. Persistence. Resilience. Compassion. Discipline. Effort. Heart. I never decided to run for anyone but myself — I am the only person I am out there to impress. I want to believe in myself when no one else will. And I do. I want to grow as a runner because it motivates me to grow at everything else in my life. Nothing ignites a fire within me like working toward a big goal. I still think the BQ is possible for me down the line. I'll keep working.

But for now, I'm celebrating how amazing Chicago went. I loved those wide city streets and I'd do it again! Also still dreaming about deep dish pizza... yes, please!

Special thanks to Albert for helping me so much during this training cycle. And for everyone's love + support throughout all the miles this year. Much love. xx