Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012, Cheers 2013!

This year has definitely been the most difficult year of my life so far. My mom passed away somewhat unexpectedly in March, and its a pain I can't even explain. Somehow, though, I was able to channel all my sadness, grief, anger, and confusion into raising awareness and funds for research for the Aplastic Anemia and Myelodysplastic Syndrome International Foundation. Within a month of my mom's passing, we had raised $17,000. I still can't believe it. My fundraising efforts still continue as I fight in memory of mom and all those affected by MDS.

After my mom passed, I felt like time stood still. I can't believe it's the end of the year. But, my mom was always the most positive person I've ever known, and that positivity is something she instilled in me.

Despite the loss of my mom, a lot of positive things happened this year and I know in my heart she would be very happy and proud:

1. We raised $17K for AA&MDS International Foundation
2. My husband and I brought home two adorable puppies, a chocolate lab and a great dane...they light up our lives :)
3. I had the honor of being in two weddings: 1. one of my best friends in NYC, and 2. my brother in law and my now Sis :)
4. My brother in law and his wife are pregnant!
5. I am training for my first marathon (LA 2013) and running for MDS in memory of Mom
6. I got my first tattoo
7. I completed my first triathlon
8. I graduated from Chapman University with my Masters in business Administration (MBA)
9. My husband and I traveled to Italy for our 1st wedding anniversary and fell in love with the beautiful country
10. We spent more time with family and friends, and appreciating the little things in life.

This year has been a very trying year for my family, but with the darkness there was some light.  I am grateful for all the wonderful things that happened and are happening.  I pray for a happy and healthy 2013 with many many more happy and wonderful things to come!

Cheers to 2013!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!!

Merry Christmas!
Love The O'Neils

Monday, December 10, 2012

1st Anniversary in Italy!

My hubby and I just got back from spending 2 incredibly memorable weeks in Italy celebrating our first anniversary (I can’t believe we’ve been married one year already!). We went to Rome, Florence, and Venice, and loved all three cities. Rome is full of rich history, Venice has the beautiful canals, and Florence…well, we almost didn’t leave Florence :)
In front of the Duomo, Florence
I took a million pictures, and I am so excited share some of my favorites here. So stay tuned!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

2013 LA Marathon Training Plan

Official training began this week so I thought I'd share my training plan.  Remember from my last post that this time I'm training differently-I'm training by my heart rate and running for a set time instead of distance.

In this plan, I've color coded the types of runs I have, which is explained in the key below the plan.

This marathon is very important to me because I'm running in memory of my Mom and to raise awareness and donations for MDS.  Please consider supporting me, whether it's $1, $10, or $1,000.  Every dollar counts and will fund research for this rare disease that affects less than 1% of the population.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Training By Heart

This time around I’m training differently. First of all, I have a running coach. Second of all, I training based on my heart rate. I’ve never paid attention to my heart rate until now, and it’s been a fascinating learning experience. I’ve learned so much about myself just by wearing a heart rate monitor.

My training program is comprised of 5 components:

Anaerobic threshold (burning sugar for energy-this will carry me the last few miles of the marathon)
Aerobic capacity (burning fat for energy-this is the level at which most training occurs)
Motor skills development (brief, precise intervals that challenge neuromuscular motor recruitment)
Lactate tolerance training (train the body to diffuse the lactic acid accumulation in the working muscles)
Active recovery (walking, swimming, biking, etc)

Most of my training will be done below my anaerobic threshold (AR), which for me begins at a heart rate of 154. So I need to maintain runs with a heart rate of 154 or less, unless it’s a specific AR training day.

Last Saturday, I ran a test mile at my aerobic capacity (154 or less). It was eye-opening, because I kept hitting a heart rate of 170 and would have to walk to slow my heart rate back down to 154. No wonder I have never been able to run long distances without walking, getting tired, and ending up running super slow. I was never running efficiently for my body. And now I’m learning how to do that by listening to my heart. Right now in order to maintain a 154 or less, I have to run very slowly and many times my heart rate shoots into the 160s-170s and I will have to walk to slow it back down. It’s a little frustrating, but my coach tells me everyone who trains this way experiences this in the beginning. Over time, I will be able to run faster and consistently at my heart rate of 154 without it unintentionally shooting over. I definitely notice a difference though…I am able to run for 1.5-2 hours without stopping, because I’m running efficiently for my body.

I’m sure this all sounds complicated. It is! I’m still learning, but it’s very exciting! I’m seeing a vast improvement, and I’m eager to see the changes in my body and my running capabilities as my training continues.

Do you train with a heart rate monitor?  What's your feedback?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

129 Days To LA!

The LA Marathon is just under 19 weeks away!! Wahoo!!!

I have been training with my coach for about a month now, and I am so happy with my improvement. When I first started running with him, I couldn’t run longer than 15 minutes (I hadn’t been running much at that point so I wasn’t conditioned at all for running). Now I’m up to 47 minutes. Honestly, I believe I could run for longer, however last week my old IT band injury flared up around minute 40. Remembering how bad it got in 2010 when I injured it, I’ve taken this past week very easy and have been nursing my knee (ice, elevation, foam rolling, etc). I’m also taping it which helps tremendously (Rocktape is my new obsession). Tonight I have a track workout with my coach and my knee feels good and ready to go. I just need to remember to foam roll and ice it after every single workout especially since soon I’ll be getting into the long runs!

T-minus 129 days!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Go Vote!

Happy Election Day!  Make sure to vote!!!!

Friday, November 2, 2012


November is a month to give thanks, and I am blessed to have to so many things to be thankful for. Because there are 30 days in November, I am going to list 30 things that I am thankful for, even though there are plenty more :)
I am thankful for:

1. My health, both physical and mental

2. My loving husband, my soul mate, my best friend. I love you baby

3. Our sweet kitty

4. Our handsome chocolate lab

5. Our beautiful baby great dane, soon to be our gentle giant

6. My incredibly strong, caring, and goofy dad

7. My big brother and his family who live far away but luckily I get to talk to and skype with frequently

8. Technology that allows me to communicate with my big brother in real time so the 2,000 miles between us seemingly doesn’t exist.

9. My little bro who isn’t so little, and can always make me laugh

10. My marvelous extended family

11. Living so close to all my family and that we get to see each other multiple times a week

12. A house to call home

13. A career that I love

14. My car to take me where I need to go

15. My education, thank you Mom and Dad for the gift of knowledge

16. Great friends who are there for me no matter what

17. My fantastic parents-in-law who are two of the kindest people I know

18. The ability to pay my bills on time

19. Sunsets, I’m a sucker for sunsets

20. Seeing the sunrise every morning because it reminds me I’m alive on this day and to make it count

21. Where I live (5 minutes from the beach, 1½ hours from the mountains and desert)

22. Movies

23. Food and my favorite drink, water

24. My love for cooking and being able to do so

25. My community

26. Having traveled around the world to the places I’ve been to (with many more places on our travel list)

27. This blog to share my thoughts

28. My readers on this blog

29. Music

And last but definitely not least,

30. My Mom, who was and will always be my mentor, my idol, and my best friend. I miss you every single day. I love you to heaven and back.

I am thankful.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Slice of Life - Happy Halloween!

Last weekend Sean and I threw a party at our house, and sticking with our Dexter/Rita theme, we turned one of our sunroom into Dexter's kill room:

Can you guess who is on our table?  HINT:  Dexter got his revenge for Rita's death ;)
And tonight we're handing out candy for the first time in our house!!  We're so excited!

What do you have planned for Halloween?  What are you/did you dress up as??

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Meet Juno :)

Last weekend, Sean and I made the decision to get a second puppy. We had been thinking about it for a few weeks, and last weekend we found the perfect girl. We immediately fell in love with her and had to bring her home. She is an 11-week old great dane puppy. Sean and I have always wanted a great dane and when we saw her it was love at first sight. She is such a snuggle bug and loves to be either in your lap or touching you. Even though she is a great dane, she is the runt of the litter (which means she'll likely be 100lbs instead of 140!) She and Rugby, our chocolate lab, get along so well! Rugby loves having a sister and a playmate.

Without further ado, here are some pictures of our new furbaby.

This is the day we met her and she crawled into our laps:

At home frolicking in the backyard with Rugby:

I love our growing family :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Three Things Thursday!

1.  Marathon training: I began marathon training for the LA Marathon, and I’m glad I started early. After a gait analysis, I learned that I am an over-strider and a heel striker. Both not good. Now I know why I’ve had knee/IT band issues. So the benefit of beginning to train nearly 5 months out is that I can take the next month to focus on my form, especially mid-foot striking. I’m working with my coach 3x/week and it’s great! He is full of knowledge and I am confident I will be in the best mental and physical state I can be in by the time March 17, 2013 rolls around.

2.  New addition to the fam: No, I’m not pregnant. Yes, hubby and I brought home a new puppy! Hubs and I have been entertaining the idea of a 2nd dog for a few weeks. Well, last weekend we brought home a little girl and she is the cutest thing.  Her name is Juno and she is the sweetest little cuddle bug. Rugby loves her, and they get along so well!  Pics to come soon!

3.  Deliciousness: I’ve been cooking up a storm lately! My most recent creations are a Sweet Potato Jalapeno soup, herb and lemon pork loin, pesto chicken, paleo pancakes, and more. Everything is so delicious. Tonight my wonderful parents-in-law are coming over for dinner and to meet their new grandpuppy, and I’m making tequila chili chicken, butternut squash, and an arugula salad with walnuts, avocado, goat cheese, and apples. Yum!

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cheerleading @ the Hermosa Tri!

This past weekend I had the fun opportunity to be a cheerleader/spectator for one of my dearest friends as she tackled the Hermosa Beach Triathlon. My friend is one of the most athletic people I know, and when you throw competition into the mix, she’s unstoppable.

A couple months ago she swam the South Bay area Pier2Pier 2 mile ocean swim where she finished first in her division. Last month she did the LB Tri (she’s the one who convinced me to do it), and she smoked it finishing in 1 hour 21 minutes and third in her division. She’s inspiring!

Needless to say, it was a blast cheering her on during all three legs of the Hermosa Tri. Koks, I am so proud of you!!! You’re a rockstar!! Love you friend!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Training for the LA Marathon with Coach Chris & A Natural Running Network

As you know from my previous posts, I am running my very first marathon, the LA Marathon in March 2013!  The Aplastic Anemia and Myelodysplastic Syndrome International Foundation is sponsoring me, and I am running to raise awareness and funds for this rare blood and bone marrow disease that my mom passed away of this past March.

I know it is going to be battle both mentally and physically.  I am ready for this challenge and I am pulling my strength from Mom, the strongest person I’ve ever known.  I want to do this right, I want to do it well, and I want to finish strong for Mom.  So when a coworker of mine told me about Chris at A Natural Running Network and how he coached him to his first marathon, I immediately reached out to Chris.

We chatted about his training philosophy and what my training plan would look like.  That’s the key right there…what my training plan would be.  Yep, he will be my personal coach on this endeavor.  He will test my heart rate and gait, and make adjustments to my form to help me run most efficiently, and he is going to build a plan specifically for me and my ability to best reach my goal (to finish STRONG).  Additionally, we will train together 3x per week!  I’m stoked about this because he will hold me accountable.  If I have a 14 miler and I don’t feel like waking up, I HAVE to because my coach is waiting for me.  Some people might say that’s dumb, but I know myself and I want that accountability.  And we kick off training NEXT WEEK!  I am beyond excited for LA and I know Chris will help me reach the finish line feeling strong, healthy, and successful!  I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but I know I’ll be the most prepared I can be when race day comes.

Another motivating factor for kicking ass at LA is that my bestie has signed up to run it with me!!!!  We will be running our first full marathons together!!  And we’re both running for wonderful causes (me for MDS and she for pediatric cancer).  Bring on LA and let's kick cancer's ass!

Do you guys have any marathon training advice for a newbie?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Exciting things in October!!

I love October for so many reasons including:
~Breast Cancer awareness month
~All things pumpkin (pumpkin patches, pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin carving, etc)
~Decorating for Halloween & fall
~Halloween Time @ Disneyland
~Kick off the for holiday season (Turkey Day & Christmas are around the corner!)

This October is especially exciting because:
~I started a new position at work, one that I am beyond excited about!  Same wonderful company, new and exciting role!
~I get to dress up my puppy for Halloween for the first time (no guarantees to how long his costume will stay on)
and…drum roll please…
~I registered for the 2013 LA Marathon!!!  (I will be posting some exciting updates on this soon, so stay posted!)

Happy October everyone!  What’s your favorite thing about October?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Grain-free = pain-free for me!!!

For many years, I've had GI issues usually after I ate.  Over the past two years, they have gotten significantly worse-painful cramping, terrible bloating, etc.  Two years ago, my big brother was diagnosed with Celiac disease, and he is on the extreme end of the spectrum (he can't even eat anything that was cooked near wheat-products without having horrible stomach pains).

A few weeks ago I got fed up with my own stomach pain and saw a doc.  Turns out I am gluten-intolerant.  Next I went to see a nutritionist.  She was amazing!!  I am now on a grain-free diet (paleo), and since I started eating this way I have had zero stomach issues!  It's been incredible!!  I did, however, eat pizza when I was in NYC last week (NY pizza is the best!), and man oh man did I regret it later that night.  

Now that I am paleo and pain-free, I've realized how much processed crap I was eating, despite me thinking I was eating "healthy".  I have learned about new products, such as coconut oil in lieu of vegetable or olive oil, and almond flour in lieu of wheat flour.  This has taught me to be very creative in the kitchen, and so far I've made some kick-ass meals that even my hubby likes!!  Sure there are times when I really want mac-n-cheese (mmm), but the pain I would get from eating it (like my NY pizza experience), is SO not worth it.

So here are some of the delicious things I've made recently:
Banana Walnut Muffins
Almond crusted salmon

Chicken fajitas
Paleo Waffles (I drizzled them with organic maple syrup)
A great snack my friend told me about it trail mix.  I make my own from the bins at Sprouts and I mix macadamia nuts, dried blueberries, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, almonds, carob chips (like chocolate chips), walnuts, pumpkin seeds.  I then divide them into snack bags so they're an easy on-the-go snack.

One snack I love is guacamole, but now that I can't eat chips I wasn't sure what to eat the guac with.  A friend of mine who is paleo introduced me to plantain chips from Trader Joe's, and they are absolutely scrumptious with guac!

There are a lot of foods I eat that I don't have to change, like chicken, fish, steak, pork, fruits, and veggies.  The things I have to really become creative with are things like the waffles and muffins above since they have to be grain-free.  There are some awesome resources out there, some of which I linked in the picture captions above.

This has been a culinary adventure for me, and I love it.  I love the way I feel (no stomach pain) and I love being adventurous in the kitchen!  It's going to be fun exploring new recipes and writing about it along the way.

On another note, tomorrow registration for the LA Marathon opens, which is the beginning of my journey to running my first full marathon to raise funds and awareness for the horrible and rare disease called MDS that my Mom recently passed away from.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Long Beach Triathlon Race Recap!

I did it!  I finished my first triathlon!!  Because this was my first tri, this is a lengthy recap and I am posting a TON of pictures.  Enjoy!

On Sunday, September 16, I became a triathlete by swimming, biking, and running the Long Beach Triathlon.  I did it with two of my best friends and my younger bro, and my dad, hubby, and friends’ hubbys came out to be our cheerleaders and photographers!  Btw, it was all our first tri!

The day before Lisa, my bro, and I cruised down to the expo to pick up our packets.  The expo was tiny with only four vendors, so we were in and out in no time.
At the LB Tri expo
When I got home, I laid everything out to make sure I had what I needed for my early wake-up call the next morning.

Race day I woke up at 3:30am.  The night before I laid everything out the way I wanted to lay it out at my transition area (TA going forward), and had it ready to go in the morning.

After making some eggs (I knew I wasn’t going to eat for a few hours) and taking care of business (gotta do it before a race!) I picked Lisa then my brother.  We parked and arrived at the TA by 5:30am and to our benefit we were some of the first people there.  We got prime spots and set up our items.  Around 6, my other friend K arrived with a couple of her friends and they set up next to us.  We were all ready to go way before the TA closed at 6:45am, with ample time to pee before heading down to the water.  Here are some pics of us at our transition spot:
Me and my baby bro
Me and Lisa
Lisa, baby bro, me, Koko
We headed down to the water around 6:30am to dive in and get acclimated before my brother’s wave, Wave 1, took off at 7am.  Side note:  it was the most spectacular morning…it was foggy, cool, and the moon was lingering over the Long Beach skyline as the sun rose.  Here is a picture and this is not enhanced:
Sunrise over Long Beach
The water felt so good when we dove in and no wetsuit was necessary, although a majority of people were wearing them (I hear they make you very buoyant).  Sam lined up and he took off with the Elites and Males under 29 promptly at 7.  Lisa, Koko, and I were in Wave 5 which didn’t take off until 7:12.  I was told by some pros that if you’re a weak swimmer (ME!) stay back and to the left.  That means I’d be further out in the ocean and swim an extra lot of yards, but I’d be out of the chaos and have “safe passage.”  So I left my friends who are very strong swimmers, and found a nice spot on the left and towards the back of my wave.  At 7:12am we were off!  I leaped into the ocean and began swimming and holy moly was the water choppy!  A week prior I swam the course and it was like a lake:  calm and glassy.  This week was the complete opposite.  The ocean was so choppy, but I kept chugging along alternating between freestyle and breast stroke.  I stayed away from the crowd and had zero issues.  The 800meter swim that previously took me 15 minutes, took me 24 minutes on race day.  It was still exciting and fun.

Once I made it to shore, I ran the 400m through dry sand to the TA.  My friend's bf hollered my name as I was running out of the water so I turned towards him and he snapped this photo:

I ran into Lisa there who was gearing up for the bike leg.  I poured a jug of water over me to wash the salt water off (thank you to my brother for the brilliant idea!), dried my feet and put my shoes on.  Lisa and I rode out together and stayed with each other the entire 11 mile bike ride.
T1: Swim to bike (Lisa and I are in center in the distance) 
Riding out {& up a hill} together, and smiling ear to ear

Still smiling :)
It was unsually foggy and misty.  I was wearing sunglasses and kept wiping them because I couldn't see.  Here is a picture that shows the fog well:

Finally I took my sunglasses off and tucked them in my sports bra.  I was soaked from the mist and my bike and helmet were drenched, but the dampness kept us nice and cool.  After tackling a few {large} hills/bridges on what was expected to be a flat bike ride, Lisa and hit the TA area for Transition 2.

After taking off my helmet and sipping some water, I headed out for the run.  We ran along a beach, a path I am very familiar with, then out and back through Shoreline Village (which happens to be where the Hope Steps & A Cure Walk was in April for MDS, for my mom).  I smiled the entire.

I wasn’t tired at all, in fact I felt invigorrated.  I never was out of breath, but from the swim + bike before (and my lack of training, let alone a brick workout) my legs were dead.   I kept asking Mom for strength to keep me running.  I wasn’t going to stop no matter how dead my legs felt…and I didn’t stop.  My legs were fading fast, but as I got closer to the finish, I heard someone shout “Go Magster, yea you got this girl!!  Yeaa!!” and I saw my Dad cheering me on and waving his arms like crazy.  He was with my brother who had finished {a while ago} and together they gave me the extra motivation and strength for me to finsih STRONG.  I know I am a slow runner, but I always have to finish strong.  So I high fived my Dad and bro, and took off in a full fledged sprint.  I heard random people say, “Damn look at her go!” and I felt so encouraged.
Me rounding the corner to the finish!  Accidental Gatorade ad?

I dashed through the finish line, then literally slid to a stop when a lady flailed her arms at me and said “stop stop I need your chip.”  My hubby and Lisa’s hubby were at the finish line and they said I looked like a cartoon character sliding.  I don’t understand why they make you stop right there.  Give us some distance to slow down and catch our breath.  Oh well. 

After crossing the finish and getting my chip clipped off my angle, I gave my hubby a giant hug and kiss, and hugged Lisa who had already finished, and her hubby.  My Dad and bro walked over from where they were standing and I gave them a huge bear hug.  We stood around talking for a while and taking pictures (see below), before heading to a local joint for the most delicious veggie omelet with a side of bacon I’d ever had.  Oh, and a mimosa :)
We are triathletes!!!

My family :)  Daddy, hubby, and baby bro
My extended family :)  Love these guys! 

Thanks for coming out and cheering me on baby!!!  I love you!

I love this girl!! Friends since 1994  :)
Btw, she finished THIRD IN HER DIVISION!  I'm so proud of her!
YUM!!!  Post race veggie omelet...DELISH!
It was an unbelievably fun race, and I feel comfortable saying that I can see myelf getting addicted to tris.  Next time I will make sure to train though.  But next on my plate is the LA Marathon for MDS in memory of my Mom on March 17, 2013, and I am being sponsored by the Aplastic Anemia and Myelodysplastic Syndrome International Foundation.  But more on that to come later.

Here are my finals stats, and may I just add, I achieved every single one of my goals, including finishing in under two hours!

Overall Time = 1:57:45
Swim (800m) = 24:08
T1 = 4:12
Bike (11 miles) = 50:09 (13.2 mph)
T2 = 1:40
Run (5k) = 37:38 (12:33 pace)

I am so stoked about the entire triathlon experience.  I will definitely be doing another one, and I can't wait!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I did it!  I completed my very first sprint triathlon (800m swim + 11mi bike + 5k run)!  And I can say without a doubt that it won't be my last :)  I had so much fun I can't even explain.  It was difficult (the ocean was choppy), it was challenging (the bike course was not flat), and most of all, it was fun (good experiences with good friends)!

We did it!  We are triathletes!!!!
Lisa, Sam (baby bro), me
I'm so proud of my brother, Lisa, and Koko (not pictured above, but she came in 3rd in her division!) for competing and finishing!

Race recap to come!!