Race Report: Pints to Pasta 10k (The one in which I surprise myself)

I surprised myself this weekend.  I ran the Pints to Pasta 10k on Sunday and managed to pull out a much better performance than I had anticipated.

Kudos to anyone who recognizes what my tattoo is.

Looking serious before the start. Kudos to anyone who recognizes what my tattoo is.

I say that because I have not been ‘officially’ training for this race.  I’ve been focusing very specifically on building my weekly mileage at the expense of any real speedwork or fine-tuning for any performance peak.  I plan to add more variety (including speedwork) back to my training techniques once I’m comfortable averaging right around 40-43 miles per week on a consistent basis.  I signed up for this 10k knowing full well that was my plan and, as such, I expected that my pace would be slow, but I still wanted to participate in the event regardless.

But, I repeat, I surprised myself.  I ended up finishing several minutes faster than I expected and even had (what I consider to be) a decent showing in the final rankings.  Here’s how it fleshed out:

  • Finish Time:  50:44
  • Average Pace:  8:10
  • Overall Finish: 299 out of 1738
  • Age/Gender Group Finish:  18 out of 203
Reuniting with Mr. Move Eat Create after the finish.

Reuniting with Mr. Move Eat Create after the finish.

This was my first 10k race, since I jumped right from 5ks to half-marathons and then the full marathon in my running, and I will say that I was pleased to see how much I enjoyed racing this distance.  The route was quite enjoyable, too.  We started in North Portland, headed South, crossed the Broadway Bridge, and then headed further South along the waterfront.

Yes, that’s right, we crossed a bridge.  This is another reason that I surprised myself.

Let me explain.

I am TERRIFIED of water and, by extension, bridges.  While various things may freak me out to some extent, this is my major fear.  I don’t know how to swim (no triathlons in my future!) and deep water really unnerves me.  I cross the various Portland bridges by car or bus almost every day to commute across town, but crossing one on foot felt even scarier to me.  I was definitely intimidated by the prospect, but decided to look at it as another challenge to conquer.  I even managed for a short time to look out over the side of the bridge at the Willamette River below without getting overwhelmed by the watery aisle of terror and death that flowed beneath my feet, and without hesitating in my stride one bit.

Shannon = 1, Scary Water = 0

Fun Morning!

Fun morning!

Another thing that stands out for me about this race was my prowess on hill inclines.  Now, this race was not very hilly at all, but where hills did exist, I was quite happy with how I took them.  I managed to gain some solid momentum on the elevation increases and passed quite a few other runners in those key spots.  Living in a hilly neighborhood is paying off!

Overall, this 10k was a big win for me.  Beautiful day, fun course, and to top it all off, with today’s race I have now logged over 1000 miles for the year

Not bad.

Newport Marathon Race Recap (i.e. I Did It!)

Is there any other feeling quite like crossing the finish line at your first marathon??

Not that I’ve ever experienced.

Me nearing finish 6 - edited

Months of training, hundreds of miles, and hours of mental and physical effort finally peaked for me this past weekend at the Newport Marathon.  And though I was seriously having some pre-race jitters in the 24 hours before the start, I am incredibly proud to say that I did it!  Not only can I say that I did it, but I am pleased with how I performed, so even better.  Before I get into some of the details of the event, here are my final numbers:

  • Finish Time: 4:08:28
  • Overall Place: 384 out of 751
  • Division Place: 36 out of 77
  • Gender Place: 154 out of 385

I had hoped going in that I could finish under 4:15:00 for my first marathon, so I am thrilled that I beat that by several minutes!  I would love to get myself to a sub-4 hour performance, but there is time for that, right?  One thing at a time.

Start Sign - edited

I was definitely nervous going in, though those nerves didn’t really kick in until the night before.  I actually did better then I had expected during my final taper week (though I still didn’t enjoy tapering one bit), but by the time I went to pick up my race packet the night before the marathon, I was all over the map.  I was excited, anxious, doubtful and confident all at the same time (yes, that is possible).  One thing that helped with my nerves was the fact that the race was really well organized.  The packet pick-up was smooth; there was a shuttle the morning of the race that stopped at all the popular hotels, picking up runners and spectators to take them to the start line, and the race started promptly.  All excellent things so kudos to the race director!

The course was beautiful.  Even for someone like me who is TERRIFIED of the ocean and deep water in general, it was gorgeous.   We started out with the first few miles running through the city, then headed down by the ocean and along the bay.  The views were definitely a plus – sparkling water to one side, lush trees to the other, with a smattering of homes, shops, and ocean-front businesses along the way.  The locals were also amazing – many of whom set up outside their homes to cheer everyone on.  To top it all off, the weather was pretty much PERFECT.  After a week or more of cold, constant rain pounding the Pacific Northwest, all was well.  The sun was out, the wind was calm, and temps were moderate.

So, with all of that good energy, how could I not be set up for success, right?

Me waving - edited

At the start, I was eager to go, but still a bit nervous.  But, I settled into a rhythm that I carried pretty well for well over the first half of the race.  I felt good.  I felt loose and strong.  I remember at one point, around mile 13, thinking: This is great!  Maybe it won’t hurt after all!

Oh, that’s funny to think about.  Sometimes I’m just silly.

Anyway, the majority of the way things were really solid and I was pleased with my pace.  I certainly started to notice some pain, though, and realized the error of my earlier thinking.  My left hip and lower back began to ache around mile 18 or so.  It grew steadily until the end of the race and during miles 22-25, I honestly was in quite a bit of discomfort.  My pace slowed significantly (though I never once stopped running).  At that point, though, it was close enough to the end where I could just focus on each individual mile.  I celebrated every little blue mile marker I passed.  When I strode by mile 25, I was thrilled.  That last 1.2 miles was actually pretty amazing.  Knowing that I was that close to finishing, the pain I felt became irrelevant.  I was able to pick back up my speed somewhat and finish with a surge.

Finishing a race with a surge feels GREAT.

Me with medal 3 - edited

When I crossed the finish line I was certainly tired and sore, but I was also thrilled.  I have some great moments in my life, don’t get me wrong, but the feeling of that moment is uniquely special to me.  And it reminds me of how very important running has become to my life.

I’m already thinking about my next races and my future marathons.  I never doubted wanting to run the race or wanting to run the next one.  I knew even in those moments of pain and fatigue that I was ready to do it again.

And again.

And again.

Gear Basics: 6 Essentials To Get You Running

Spring is here.  Dare I say that?  I hope I didn’t just jinx it back into hiding.

Warmer weather and longer days lend themselves to encouraging people outdoors – to the trails, the track, the pavement.  For those who are returning to the outdoors for the sake of running or for those considering a running routine for the first time, I offer you some tips on what you need to get started successfully.

It’s been said time and time again that one of the wonderful things about running is that you don’t need much to do it.  Put on some shoes and go!  And, while this is technically true, a few additional items can help to increase overall performance and enjoyment – both essential to sticking with it.

Me at start - sharpened a bit

Please note that I’m not going to discuss shoes in this post, because of course you know you need shoes to run in (unless you’re going all-out barefoot and, in that case, there are lots of resources for how to do that safely).  Plus, there are so many different types and styles specific to each individual runner.  So, on the issue of shoes, I will just say this: seek out a running store, not a big box retail chain, if you can to buy shoes.  You’ll get expert advice tailored to your needs by real runners and your money will be better spent.  You can also check out one of many running shoe guides like this one here from Runner’s World.

The Basics: Enough to Get Out & Go

  1. Clothes that wick

Ahhhhh.  Wicking technology.  It’s a glorious thing.  To get out and run comfortably you’re going to need some proper running clothes and proper running clothes wick.  You’re going to sweat, even in mild temperatures, and the last thing you will want is to feel that sweat trapped on your body as you’re striding along.  So while cotton is great for everyday, it is a runner’s enemy (chafing and perspiration-soaked clothes are nobody’s friend).  Look for items that have wicking technology, or at least include cotton as only a minor part of the overall material blend.

Fit is also highly important.  You don’t want anything so tight it will be restrictive during your run, but you also don’t want to wear something so oversized that it’ll flap around you (that’s just distracting and, frankly, not aero-dynamic whatsoever).  Depending on the climate that you’re running in you may need:

  • A comfortable pair of running shorts or capri pants.  Look for pairs with small pockets in them.  You’re going to need a place to store a house key or other small items and a good pocket means you don’t have to worry about buying and wearing an additional item to do so.
  • Long, heat trapping running pants
  • A sleeveless or short sleeve breathable top
  • A long-sleeve breathable top (or a lightweight jacket)

My All-Around Favorites:

  • Oiselle brand for women is absolutely amazing.  Materials, fit, and style are unsurpassed.  I shared my love for them once before here.

    roga

    Best Running Shorts Ever

  • For women and men, I also like Brooks.  Excellent quality and a brand that really focuses on knowing runners’ needs.

My Favorites for Those on a Limited Budget:

Building a running wardrobe can be expensive at first, so if you’re on a tight budget check out Target for tops.  Their lines may not be as durable as some of the other brands, but they’ll get you started.  Also, I’ve had some success scouring racks at discount shops, like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.  They carry a surprising amount of Adidas, Nike, and other big name brands at deeply discounted prices.

  1. A hat

This one’s simple, really, but will make your life a lot easier.  Not only does it allow you to head out for a run first thing in the morning without sharing your crazy bedhead with the rest of the world’s early risers, but it’s a great help in keeping both rain off your face and sun out of your eyes.  I have both a warm skull cap and a breathable cap with bill.  I switch them up depending on the weather and have even worn them together on really cold days.  A lightweight, vented baseball-style cap is a good place to start.  It will help rain roll off of your face on wet days and shield your eyes a bit from spring’s earliest rays of sunshine (without having to yet invest in pricey sunglasses).

A Good Buy:

I often represent one of my local running stores (LYS) during my runs and wear a Brooks-made hat from Portland Running Company.  Check out your LYS, too.

  1. Good Socks

I know that you can get three- or six-packs of standard, white sports socks just about anywhere.  I highly encourage you to get the best quality socks you can get.  This is probably one of the most important parts of building your running gear inventory.  You will be pounding your feet into the ground repeatedly, in a variety of weather elements, and you want to take good care of them.  Making the switch from average, general athletic type socks to socks specifically designed for running was one of the best things I ever did.  I didn’t even know what I was missing until I experienced something different.  Running socks that breathe and provide cushion and support, without bulk, are something special.

My All-Around Favorites:

Oh, Balega, how do I love thee?  Balega socks are the ones I trust the most to keep my feet happy.  They provide a substantial amount of balegaprotection against the harshness of the pavement, while still remaining thin enough to wear comfortably with my Mizunos.  They are my go-tos for all my long runs and my races.

If I was to give a runner-up award in this category it would go to Experia with Thorlo.  These are a bit bulkier than Balegas, but for street runners like myself, offer excellent cushioning.

  1. A durable, strong, comfortable sports bra (guys, feel free to skip this one if you like)

For so many years of my life, one of the reasons I thought I could never be a runner was because of my chest.  Running is high-impact, no doubt about it, and depending on your body type, it can be downright painful to do without the right sports bra.  No pull-over stretchy sports bra I ever tried from any department store or big-box sporting goods stores were ever effective for me.  Most of them come in three sizes only – small, medium, and large.  And, what if your cup size is large, but your band is small?!  There are way more than three sizes of women out there!  It’s downright infuriating.

This is an area to really focus on.  One good quality sports bra can turn you from aspiring runner to inspirational runner.  It’s that important.

My Favorite Hands-Down:

Moving Comfort is incredible.  When I discovered their bras, it was like a moment in a cheesy television show where harps are strummed, a choir sings, and the room is flooded with beautiful light.    These bras fit all shapes and sizes of women’s bodies.  They stay put.  They last through multiple washings.  And, they’re not even that expensive, really.  They rock.  Buy one.  Quickly.

  1. A book

Yes, I’m serious.  Running seams so simple, I know.  But, there’s a lot to it if you want to do it effectively and safely.  There are hundreds of books out there about running.  They cover running form, marathon running, increasing speed, maximizing your diet, preventing injury, and on and on and on.  I’d also be willing to bet that once you start running, you’ll discover how much there is to learn about it.  You’ll start to ask questions and wonder about ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’.  Pick up a beginner’s guide to running and read through it.  Then, keep it on your bookshelf for reference as you advance in your skills.

I Recommend:

I wrote a post about this a while back.  Check out my resources for new runners to learn, be inspired and connect.

Bob Glover’s book was a great beginning book for me.  It covers a lot of topics and was a quick, easy read.

  1. A Training Journal

Some people feel that a training journal is only necessary once you are, you know, training – for a race or a specific goal.  I beg to differ.  Training Log 2Training journals are fantastic tools from the get-go.  They give you a dedicated space to track your runs (and other workouts), times, aches and pains, overall performance, feelings, moods, and sometimes nutrition.  Keeping an eye on this information from the beginning will help you learn how your body is reacting to your new routine.  By periodically looking at this data, you can discover patterns that you have (it helped me learn that Mondays need to be rest days or light workout days for me – I am no good on a Monday run) and respond accordingly.  You can track aches and pains which will help you notice and treat them early on – before they turn in to a sidelining injury.  You can pay attention to how what you eat sits with you during a run and whether you run fresher in the morning, midday or evening.  Essentially, a training journal is one of the most effective tools to helping you coach yourself.  As a bonus, they’re fun to look back on to see what you’ve learned and how you’ve progressed along the way.

My Favorite Training Journal:

There is a variety out there and most any of them would likely serve you well.  Heck, you can even create your own with a basic notebook if you want.  But, for what it’s worth, I like this one by Matt Fitzgerald (running guru).  It has space for all the information that I deem to be important and extra room to write in random notes as needed.  It’s spiral bound for easy flipping and bending and has little tips each week to expand your knowledge and motivation.

There you go.  The basics.  As you progress, there are loads of other fun things to pick up (Sports Watches!  Fuel Belts!  Hydration Packs!  Energy Chews!  Headlamps!) and I’ll likely do a follow-up post about some of these items in the future.  For now, take advantage of spring sales, weather, and energy to get the essentials that will get you started.  I encourage you to look for local running stores in your area and get moving!

Newport Marathon Training Update: This Is Starting To Get Real, You All!

Being that today marks week 6 of training for my first marathon in Newport, I figured it was about time to check in about how it was going.

Newport symbol

First, I will say: so far, so good.

Thus far, I haven’t done anything that I haven’t done before, so to speak.  Honestly, I’ve been doing a bit less than I’ve done before.  My training plan (as training plans are keen to do) builds up over time, so my first few weeks have been relatively easy.  I’ve been consistent with my schedule and laying the groundwork to start increasing mileage.  I’m happy to say that I’m feeling strong so far.  My body is feeling healthy; I’m running what I should be and I’m fitting in some cross-training for overall balance.

Second, I will say: I think I’m about to turn a (exciting, but sort of nerve-inducing) corner.

In the coming weeks, I will surely test my endurance, time commitment, and mental resolve.  This current week is still ‘easy’, but things will start to steadily build from there.  My plan calls for me to start increasing my weeknight running mileage, as well as to build up my long run up on Saturdays.  In a month’s time, I will be pushing myself close to setting new distance personal records for myself.  I’m excited to make this progress, but, of course, my mind is always chirping at me with some self-doubt, too.

One of my biggest concerns is simply the time factor.  I know that I will make the time to log the miles that I need, but being a person with a tightly packed schedule, it does give me a bit of stress thinking of what I will have to cut back on or forego in order to make it happen.

But I will.

I will make it happen (and I’m sure I’ll tell you how it goes).

The reality of my marathon-mission set in this weekend as I took two more steps forward.  I finally booked my hotel room for the overnight stay and I registered for a half-marathon as part of my training.  My plan actually recommends that I run a half-marathon right around the mid-point of my plan, so I set out to see if there is a local one happening that weekend . . . and there is!  I’m now registered for the Hop Hop Half on March 24th!

hop-hop-half-logo-2013

So, there you have it.  Marathon training is fully underway, accommodations are arranged, and I’ve got a new race to complete in three weeks!

I know many others are also ramping up your training as spring heads our way.  How’s it going for you?

Let’s Talk About Hills, Shall We?: 6 Tips For Effective Hill Running

Hills.

Oh, hills.

photo credit: OBScurePIXels.com via photopin cc

photo credit: OBScurePIXels.com via photopin cc

How do you feel when you read or hear that word?  If you’re a runner you may have a strong reaction.  Do you love them?  Hate them?  A little bit of both?

Plenty of runners do hill repeats.  I’m not one of them yet.  I say yet, because I’m not against trying them and I likely will before too long. But for now, I’ve ignored that particular brand of glorious torture.

Now, this is not to say that I don’t run hills at all.  My neighborhood and running territory is fairly hilly.  Regardless of which direction I head out in, I am definitely running up and down at least one hill, often more, so while repeats aren’t in my current regimen, I am no stranger to inclines and declines.

As many runners may tell you, hills are an important part of running.  Not only can they provide an interesting twist on a standard run, but they provide unique and different ways to work specific muscle groups.  Also, being an effective hill runner can make all the difference in a race.  The ability to conquer hills most definitely adds to a competitive edge.

photo credit: Sam Ilić via photopin cc

photo credit: Sam Ilić via photopin cc

There are a couple of particular notes about hill running that I’d like to share based on my experience.  First, let’s talk about going uphill.  Often, I dislike going uphill.  But, I do appreciate it.  I appreciate what it does for my fitness level and my overall running performance.  I have learned a few simple tips that have helped me increase my speed and endurance as I head uphill that I include here.

Uphill Tips That Work For Me:

1)      Keep your head slightly tilted upward. 

I don’t mean to encourage anyone to crane or strain your neck here, but it can be tempting to look down and hunch over a bit when going up.  I had it pointed out to me in a helpful running book that a slight tilt in the chin/head will help keep breathing paths open while your lungs work a bit harder on the incline.  I tried it and noticed an immediate difference in my breathing.

2)      Strength train your UPPER body

I spend a decent amount of time strength training (more posts on this to come in the future).  For a while, I thought that lower body strength would help me up hills (which, is true), but I didn’t consider how much upper body strength would help, too.  I did work on my upper body because I wanted a toned, strong all over effect, but it was separate in my mind from having anything to do with my running.  Then, one day while going up a particularly steep hill, I noticed just how much the power in my arms and upper body, pumping and moving, was propelling me upward and onward.  I tuned in to my arms and the way the strength in my back and shoulders was urging my legs forward and I have never underestimated the power of strong arms, back and shoulders again.

3)      Shorten your stride

I try to be conscious most of the time about not taking strides that are too long to begin with, but it is especially important to me uphill.  Shorter strides equal quicker, less impactful, less strenuous movement up those hills, allowing me to feel less fatigued at the top and shave seconds off my time getting there.

For as much as I don’t enjoy going uphill, I so very much love going downhill.  I know that downhill running can be hard on the body, but I love it regardless.  It’s fun.  REALLY fun.  The feeling I get when I’m striding downwards, like I’m floating across the pavement is one of the greatest feelings I know.  It’s joyous and incredibly freeing to me.  Here are some ways in which I try to enjoy this wonderful feeling, while still being effective and efficient along the way.

Downhill Tips That Work For Me:

1)      Be mindful of your landing. 

When you’re really cruising downhill, it can be hard on your legs.  Running puts plenty of impact on your knees, feet, and ankles as is, but the extra impact when running downhill can really do a number on some folks.  Try to tune in to how your feet are striking the ground as you descend.  A quick step and pick-up, letting the balls of your feet (as lightly as possible) make contact and rapidly kick back up again will help minimize impact and make for quick work of those downhill miles.

2)      Lean into it – but don’t overdo it

You’re running at an angle, so it makes sense to have your body at an angle, too, but you want to be careful not to lean too far forward.  A slight lean has helped me work with gravity to move quickly and efficiently, but maintaining control is important, as well.  The last thing you want is to feel like you are careening (not striding) down the hill.  So, you may be going fast and enjoying the speed, but don’t forget about body alignment.

3)      Strengthen your core

A strong core is a great asset for runners for a variety of reasons and an important one has to do with #2, listed right above.  Being able to control your body when gravity is pulling it down is vital in preventing falls, injuries, and running chaos.  A well developed abdominal core provides me with the strength to keep my body upright when the forces of nature urge it to topple forward.  Planks, crunches, standing abdominal twists, supermans, all of those types of moves and more are valuable tools for you in this regard.

If you have key running tips for hills, please feel free to share them in the comments below.  Or, you know, just feel free to moan about or rejoice in the wonders of hill running!

In Regards to Selecting A Marathon Training Plan . . .

. . . frankly, it’s a bit overwhelming.  I mentioned previously that I committed to running my first marathon.  So once that decision was made, I logically moved on to the next step in the process, which is to plan my training for said marathon.

Now, for those of you have trained for your first marathon (or maybe you are beginning to now), you may have noticed that training plans abound.  They are not difficult to find.  Plenty of running coaches and successful marathoners have published their ideas about how one should train for running the infamous 26.2 miles.  So, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the one that’s right for you.  Complicating the matter for me was that while dozens of marathon training plans exist, they actually tend to exist on opposing ends of the fitness spectrum, leaving many folks sort of in the middle, like myself, feeling like they don’t quite fit.

Training Log 2

What I mean, you see, is that most marathon training plans I found are either:

A)    For complete novices, new runners, with little to no base weekly mileage to start; or,

B)    For runners who have completed a marathon or two and are looking to improve on their overall speed and performance (i.e. ‘Run Your Best Time Ever!’ plans or ‘Race Your BQ!’ plans – BQ, by the way, is runner’s lingo for completing a marathon with a time that will qualify you for the legendary Boston Marathon).

I don’t really quite fit into either of these categories.

Story of my life.

This will be my first marathon – so am I a novice?  But, wait, I’ve been running consistently for over a year now, so I’m not brand new to the sport.  I’ve got a base weekly mileage of approximately 30 per week, which places me above what most ‘beginning’ training plans say a ‘beginner’ usually has, but I’ve not looking to run ‘my best time ever!’ – just to finish a marathon the first time around.  I’ll worry about speed later.

Beginner training plans often start out with weekly mileage somewhere in the low 20’s, which would be a significant cut back from what I’m used to doing now.  Long runs start at about 6-8 miles, when currently I run long at a minimum of around 13 miles.  Yet, looking at the more advanced plans, I’d be getting up to 50 miles a week, with multiple runs at 20 or more miles, something I’ve never done and am told as a first-timer, isn’t smart to do.

Nothing quite fit.

Grr.

MarathonGuide4_mdIn the end, I sought some advice on the Runner’s World forums and decided to go with a trusted expert – good ole’ Hal Higdon.  Hal, at least, has a novice 1 and a novice 2 training plan, plus intermediate 1 and intermediate 2, thus offering a bit more variety.  As a first-timer, I’ve based my plan on the novice 2, but am taking the advice of my fellow runners and letting myself be open to running my long runs a mile or two longer than the plan initially begins with, so as to not cut too far back on my current base.

It feels good to have made a decision and have a schedule laid out before me (I am a planner at heart).  Being that the plan is 18-weeks long, I officially begin this coming Monday and, in response to feeling a bit run down lately, have decided to make this week an easy, scaled back run week to give my body a chance to rest up for what’s to come.

If anyone else is currently marathon training and/or you’ve used Hal’s plans, please feel free to share your thoughts – I’d love to hear them!

Bring it, Newport! (Or, Finally Committing to My First Marathon)

I’ve done it!  I have finally made a decision about my first marathon.  Newport it will be!

newport

I am not a good decision maker.  I agonize.  I research and I plan and I debate with myself until I’m exhausted.  Just when I think I’ve made a decision, I second guess myself and begin to pick it apart.  Deciding on which marathon to select as my first was no different.

There are so many factors to consider and I just wanted to make sure my decision was a good one.  The right one.  The best one possible.

No pressure or anything.

In the end, it came down to two primary factors:

  1. Location – I didn’t want to travel too far.  Newport is only a couple hours by car.  I can easily travel there the day before the race and have plenty of time to rest after arriving.
  1. Timing – The idea of running the local Portland Marathon as my first was very tempting, but I just didn’t want to wait until October.  While I still have training to do, I really don’t think I need quite that much time to prepare and the extra wait felt a bit painful to think about.

The Newport Marathon is a smaller event, capping out at 900 runners, but after much research I have found it to be generally well-reviewed by other runners.  It has a pattern of being well-organized and is a mostly flat course.  I think June will be ideal as far as weather is concerned and it’s not so small that I’ll feel too lonely (I hope).

So, with just a bit under 5 months to go, the training plan is being finalized so I that I can stay focused through the rest of winter and spring.  Having run a personal distance PR of 17.5 miles last weekend, I’m feeling good about  being ready come June 1st.

If any of you seasoned marathoners out there have any tips or advice, I gladly welcome them.  I am both incredibly excited and somewhat terrified all at once – but that’s what conquering new personal challenges is all about, right?