“Today I will run ….

… what you will not so that tomorrow I will run what you cannot.”

I never thought I would be a runner. In fact, the truth to be told – when growing up, I totally, absolutely hated running. I simply couldn’t understand why people would like to log miles after miles in rain or shine. Mountain climbing and biking were things that considered enjoyable but running – oh boy, no way. But then sometime in my early 20′s for a reason that I can’t even remember anymore I thought I could give it a  try .

And the first thing I realized was that I sucked at it. I thought I was in a decent shape but running was something else. I think I ran maybe a mile, mile and a half and my lungs were screaming, legs were tired and I was ready to tops the running shoes in to the first garbage can I saw. But then on the other hand, I did have that little thought of  what if . So I started painfully slowly to build my running stamina – run, walk, jog, walk, move your feet, walk…. and in a few short weeks I was able to run a 5K (3.1 miles).

Running became addicting, fun and easy. It became a habit that I greatly enjoyed. Especially with the significant amount traveling I was doing, there was no way I could have found a nice gym, rented a bike, found a yoga studio in every city I was visiting. But running shoes – they fit greatly in the suitcase, or are really comfortable to wear on the plane and at the airports. And you can run nearly anywhere. Sometimes I do research about local running clubs and groups before arriving: especially in the places that may have several shady areas for a lonely runner. Group runs are great way to learn about the new town as well as make new friends.

Over the years my speed increased, hunger for miles grew and races started to call my name. From hardly able to run a couple of miles I have become to a sub-13-minute 2-mile runner. 8-minute miles don’t sound nonsense to me anymore. In fact even a couple of days break from running makes me grumpy. Running truly has been the saver of my sanity through the stressful and busy times: most of university thesis has been written in my head while running, a huge number of work challenges have been organized on trails. Trails are my escape when I need to think, they make me happy when I am sad, and they are an awesome place to share my happiness. I run for every single emotion on earth.

Now I can understand those people who lace up and head out – rain or shine – and most importantly,  enjoy  it. In fact I enjoy so much that I am trying to run a full or half marathon every month this year.

Do you have a favorite workout that you greatly enjoy?

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My faithful running buddy: he is not too thrilled about logging miles in pouring rain but appreciates the nap afterwards.

And The Buffalos Roam…

One of the best part of moving to a new town is the excitement of finding all the new favorites: favorite restaurant, favorite hiking trail(s), favorite running spots…. We both love good adventures, and exploring the hoods is always such a blast. Last weekend we checked out Land Between Lakes (LBL),  national recreation area in southern Kentucky, just on the other side of the state border.

LBL has more than 200 miles of trails, which makes it an awesome destination not only for hiking but also trail running. However in addition to the trails and gorgeous lake sceneries, LBL is also a home for elk and bison herds. Tassu was in awe about the buffalos: he didn’t know what to do, and wanted to go and play with them so badly. Sorry pooch – these guys are too big buddies for you!

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Bison herd in LBL
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Could have petted a bison!
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Elks hanging out

And then to the trails… how couldn’t someone fall in love with the views like these? And even more so, not to fall in love with trail running? We did a quick few miles in the park: trail was gorgeous, not crowded, and wildlife was abundant. We saw a Great Blue Heron  (which sighting I even reported through my Audubon app at NatureShare  - I will figure out this ornithology business one day…), a bunch of geese as well as found a beaver’s house. Tassu really wanted to visit the beaver family but after hearing some hissing and squeaking from the nest, we figured it was probably better not to stop by. Beavers may not be too happy about visitors – that’s what I learned in Alaska .

Our outdoors adventures in the lovely state of Tennessee have started well. We truly enjoy this beautiful, friendly state. As the state motto says,  Tennessee – America at Its Best ….  I agree, wholeheartedly.

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Runner’s paradise
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New trails
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Checking out the beaver’s home.
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Hematite Lake in LBL

Hello, 2014!

January 1st, 2014. I sure will be dating my checks for 2013 for quite some time – it feels so odd and almost awkward to write 2014. But here we are, looking toward New Year and new adventures.

As I promised last night , it is time to talk about resolutions and plans for this year. In fact I don’t believe in resolutions…. the decisions to make significant changes starting on a certain day do not make a whole lot of sense to me. If you want to get skinnier, healthier, smarter, whatever – why would you want to wait till January 1st when you could have started right away?

However, I do have some plans and goals for the New Year that I hopefully can accomplish. Since we just moved to the new place, one of the biggest goals (for the sake of my sanity) is to get out there and start making friends. My dearest friends are right now hundreds and thousands of miles away, and while I love to stay in touch with them over the phone, text messages, social media …. I also miss knowing people with whom I can grab cup of tea or coffee, go running, hit the gym, play golf. So gotta get a bit more social again.

And then there is the school…. it’s a no-brainer but I better continue keeping my nose in the books, excel at my classes, and work hard on my research projects. With my passion for the education and science, this shouldn’t be too much of a trouble in any case. In addition to that I am hoping to be able to get more into professional sports psychology and horse therapy for folks who suffer from various mental health problems from ADHD and autism to PTSD…

Sports. There is no New Years without talking about fitness, and healthiness, right? In fact I already train 5-6, sometimes 7, times a week. But I am thinking of signing up for a  (half) marathon every month this year. We have quite a few running events around us nearly every weekend, so running events might be a great way to be social.

Lastly, and most importantly, I will be making the best out of 2014. May this be the best year ever, full of exciting adventures, great times, and memorable moments.

What do you look forward in 2014?

Cheers for 2014!
Cheers for 2014!

New Year’s Eve

“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” ― Brad Paisley

A few more hours, we enter the New Year of 2014, and 2013 is history. This blog posting should be about the accomplishment of this year, as well as plans and resolutions for the next. I am not going to disappoint you so let’s take a look at our 2013.

January was colder than cold in Alaska. And we did a weekend trip to Seward with a goal of doing some Alaska photography, visit SeaLife Center as well as cheer my friend and professor Dr. B. on his charity jump into  ice cold water.

Dr. B jumping into ice cold water in Seward, AK.
Dr. B jumping into ice cold water in Seward, AK.

February was a busy month… I felt like I was coming and going all the time. I was speaking to young female students and telling how awesome it is to be an engineer and in the technical field. And reminding them that there is no reason why girls couldn’t pursue each and every dream they have. I think I did well.

Note from a student.
Note from a student.

March was another traveling month. I went to north and south, and north….. Don’t ask me what I was thinking when I decided to go to Barrow in February. Brr. It was -35F and the windchill on top of that. Very, very cold.

Jason and I also traveled to Arizona for a few days: gotta thaw at least once or twice during the winter. We had a good time, enjoyed the warm weather, I hugged some cacti, played golf and ate too much ice cream. At the end of the month we did a quick overnight trip to Fairbanks to see the ice sculptures . It was a very cold time to be in Fairbanks, and while the ice sculptures were gorgeous and my professional pictures turned out to be awesome, my greatest memory from the trip is pain. Some of you may know that my fingers have been badly frostbitten in the past on my mountain expeditions, and the cold weather is not helping at all. Instead, it causes some excruciating paint that nothing helps. But most importantly, we had a blast and we got the pictures.

The northernmost city of the US - Barrow.
Alaska Airlines terminal in the northernmost city of the US – Barrow.
Arizona desert.
Arizona desert.
Ice sculptures in Fairbanks, AK.
Ice sculptures in Fairbanks, AK.

April started to be a month of getting ready for our major road trip, and Jason’s career course in Virginia. However, we had time to go to Chicago (again), have dinner at one of our favorite steak restaurants, The Cut , and see the in-laws. We did some hiking, target shooting and golfing while in Indiana as well…. great times (and a wonderful break from packing and organizing).

Beach hiking in Indiana.
Beach hiking in Indiana.

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In May we road tripped from Alaska to Virginia, 5,924 miles in the truck with the husband. For the record, we are still married – very happily so. In all seriousness, we did have a great trip. We saw some awesome places, added quite a few spots on our to-go list. However, before our road trip we had to make an emergency trip back home. Jason’s grandma passed away less than two weeks before we started our travels.

Ready for the road trip
Ready for the road trio
Bye bye Alaska
Bye bye Alaska
Mt Rushmore, SD.
Mt Rushmore, SD.
Tassu living it up in hotels...
Tassu living it up in hotels…
Hello Virginia
Hello Virginia

June marked the start of Jason’s training in Virginia and I returned to Alaska. Sad events continued in June: our dear friend Karen passed away in May, her celebration of life being in June. Unfortunately Jason couldn’t attend and I made a quick overnight trip to Nevada to respect her memory.

Otherwise I was keeping extremely busy with the work but managed to squeeze in some quilting, muddy trails, running events with awesome friends. First time ever I also went to a local baseball game in Alaska (better late than never). And no, there is no NBL team on the Last Frontier.

I was able to spend some time in Virginia as well, and we went to see Chincoteague ponies and some quint Virginian towns among other east coast adventures.

Baseball in Alaska
Baseball in Alaska
Chincoteague ponies
Chincoteague ponies
Quilt blocks
Quilt blocks

July is the month of celebrations for us. My favorite holiday aka 4th of July, our anniversary, my birthday…. This year we spent the Independence Day in the nation’s capital, and had such a blast! With all the crowds and everything. On my Alaska adventures I was able to visit Ketchikan on a sunny day: that doesn’t happen often, usually it is raining cats and dogs there. And I played even more golf – yes, my handicap is looking really good right now. LPGA, here I come!

More golf ....
More golf ….
Ketchikan, AK
Ketchikan, AK
In DC
In DC
Capitol
Capitol
Budweiser Clydesdales ready for the 4th of July parade
Budweiser Clydesdales ready for the 4th of July parade

August was such an exciting month! I did my first presentation ever in APA Convention that was held in Hawaii. It was a super quick trip but had a great time: my research presentation was such a success, and I did have time for a Mai Tai or two.

Our friends Grace and Rob got married in August. Luckily I was able to make it to their wedding right outside of Seattle, and in fact I was taking a bunch of their wedding pictures too.

As far as running goes, August was a month of misery. I hurt my knee already in May, and it sure didn’t make it any better that I ran a couple of times from Waikiki Beach to the top of Diamond Head and back while in Hawaii. My sports doc was mad as a bee at me. Hmpf. In fact, the knee got so upset that I had to rely on taping, MRIs & taking easy (which I totally hate d ). As well as the doc decided that I needed a cortisone shot. Talk about ouch, especially afterwards.

APA Convention
APA Convention

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Ready for Grace and Rob's wedding.
Ready for Grace and Rob’s wedding.
Runner's problems ...
Runner’s problems …

And then came September .  We made a decision to put Alaska house on the market and started house hunting in Tennessee/Kentucky. The Army kindly decided to send us to TN/KY border, instead of Ft Riley in Kansas (this turned out to be one of the best things ever – Tennessee is awesome ). After talking and thinking and wondering, we chose to buy a house at the new duty station. So we spent a really long day in Tennessee looking for the houses, found the one that we absolutely loved, made the offer that was accepted.

September also marked a trip to the world’s lobster capital, Maine. Jason successfully lived there the whole day by eating lobster on  every meal.

Maine lighthouse
Maine lighthouse
Lobster roll at Red's Eats in Maine
Lobster roll at Red’s Eats in Maine
Welcome home!
Welcome home!
Our new home in TN
Our new home in TN

October was an official moving month. Jason had taken some things with him to Virginia but practically all the household goods were in Alaska. Also, we got the Alaska home sold, and then there was Halloween – of course! I had the most awesome time trick-or-treating with my friend’s kids. Surprisingly it wasn’t freezing cold and snowy in Alaska this time – unlike earlier years. In fact it was fun to be outside with the girls.

Lots of stuff packed .... we ended up to having about 300 boxes.
Lots of stuff packed …. we ended up to having about 300 boxes.
Found a buyer!
Found a buyer!
Halloween trick-or-treaters.
Halloween trick-or-treaters.

Finally in November Jason’s career course was over, and he & Tassu headed down to Tennessee while I was working on the other side of the country. Poor Jason had so much to do with unpacking since I couldn’t make it to our new home until a couple of days before Thanksgiving. And he did really good – I was so glad to see the house  perfectly organized. In-laws road tripped down to TN for Thanksgiving, which was a blast! We had such a lovely family Thanksgiving, and I so hope we could do it again next year.

Tennessee and new neighborhood have turned out to be better than in my dreams. I am in love with the area and people, and secretly hope to be able to stay here for a long time…. says the girl who loves moving every few years.

Last final trip to Virginia for Jason's graduation. We spent a lovely day in Alexandria.
Last final trip to Virginia for Jason’s graduation. We spent a lovely day in Alexandria.
Running trails near new home in Tennessee.
Running trails near new home in Tennessee.
Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving dinner

And December …. We traveled again. Hello Hawaii…! Yes, I will write a  separate blog entry about the trip as soon as I have time to sit down and organize my notes.

I tried to do tons of Christmas preparations, decorate our new home ….. but again, Christmas came way too fast and some of my awesome ideas will have to wait till next year. That’s how it seems to be every year though, and I am seriously thinking of starting to shop for Christmas presents already in July this coming year. Maybe that helps with the last minute panic and stress.

In addition to Hawaii, we also made a trip to Chicago: yeah, I know it is becoming a habit but we do love the Windy City.  Although Nashville, the capital of country music, is getting lots of points from us too….

Sea turtle and monk seal in Hawaii
Sea turtle and monk seal in Hawaii
Waikiki sunset
Waikiki sunset
Christmas decorations at home
Christmas decorations at home
Martha Stewart moment in holiday decorations.
Martha Stewart moment in holiday decorations.
Gingerbread house art...
Gingerbread house art…

I am sure I have managed to scare some of the readers by now and probably put a few asleep…. hence I will save the resolutions and 2014 plans for tomorrow.

I hope you have a fabulous New Year’s Eve, and that your 2013 has been as amazing and wonderful as you wanted it to be.

Happy New Year!

12 Days of Christmas: Merry Christmas (Day 1)

IMG_1194 Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas has been everything you hoped for. Ours sure has been. Good food, great company and lovely presents. The best part of Christmas is to celebrate it with the loved ones.

This year the Christmas dinner table was covered with traditional delicacies such as turkey and ham, corn, green beans, potato casserole, …. and of course we had gingerbread cookies, apple pie, chocolates… Food was so good – again. But I managed to avoid overeating, thanks to green salad on the table that I was religiously piling up on my plate. Yes, I know, I am a health nut 365 days a year.  Pathetic .

Santa was very friendly this year too. Apparently I keep making it on the nice list year after year. We got lovely Moomin stuff from Finland (anything Moomin and I am in love), gift cards (Hobby Lobby, here I come!), practice target system for shooting, jewelry, champagne for New Year’s… And then Jason truly surprised me with a new Smith&Wesson for my target shooting stuff. I really didn’t see that coming – he is apparently a way better at keeping secrets than I can ever be. For Jason I got a book on Larry Thorne , a Finland-born soldier who fought under Finnish, German and American flags, making it to the rank of Major in the US Army. I also got him tickets to Nashville Predators game, a wooden chessboard (I better brush up my chess skill ….) and of course some (mandatory) clothes – there is no Christmas without soft packages, right?! Shortly, it was a wonderful Christmas. Another beautiful chapter to add to our book of 2013.

Merry & Blessed Christmas to You and Yours!

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Merry Christmas from Chicago Art Institute’s Lion – “on the prowl”.
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Santa at Macy’s window.

Army Life and Adventures. Notes from here, there, everywhere.