Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Best Advice That I Take No Credit For

Day 4 is all about advice for the big day.

This is called "the best advice I take no credit for" because that's exactly what it is.

It's advice from others that was given to me and helped me so much on my wedding day.

So now, I am giving this advice to you no matter what side of the pond you are on. 

Don't lift a finger

I wanted to go to the venue early in the morning and supervise set up of decoration and stuff. (I'm a control freak, what can I say!!!)

Two of my family members said that they were going instead and that I would stay at home. I was freaking out!! No, I had to go! Obviously the world would end if I didn't go! 

My family literally had to sit me down and say "no, you're not lifting a finger today!" the morning of my wedding. If they could have tied me to a chair, they probably would have. 

I'm so glad they told me no. There was really no point in me going except that I'm a control freak and wanted to do everything myself. The venue was beautiful without my help, and I'm glad I had time to relax that morning.

So seriously, don't lift a finger. Let people help you. You'll be on your feet all day and all night. Take time to sit. I promise you won't regret it.

The only fingers you should be lifting that day... I'm sorry, that was cheesy...

Take in the moments

This was the most common piece of advice, and I can see why. Everything really does happen so quickly. You want to remember and cherish everything. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, just stop. If too many people are talking to you, go unwind by getting fresh air outside. It's not worth it getting anxious, stressed, or busy. Take everything in. Act like a guest, not a host/hostess! (To an extent)

We're clearly taking in the moments here.

Don't drink too much

I feel like this is kind of a given, but I guess in England it just had to be said! People will be offering to buy you drinks like crazy, and your first reaction might be to take everyone up on the offer! (Seriously, when will this ever happen again?!) But it's also a looonngggg night. Remember when I said "take in the moments" above? You can't do that if you're drunk. 

Ask for water, too! I know that seems lame, but it's worth it. Again, it's a long night, and it can't hurt to drink water! I switched between wine and water throughout the night. Of course, I would have loved a few pints of cider (I know, I'm a classy bride), but I wanted to have a good, memorable time more than anything.   

That's cake in my face.... And there was zero alcohol involved in this.... Imagine if there was!

Ask for help if you need it

Like I said, I'm a control freak. I'd rather do everything myself. But my family had to remind me to ask for help when I needed it. Even help with the little things makes the day go by so much easier, like having a trusting and knowledgeable friend not in your wedding party keep track of your phone (when guests inevitably call because they got lost) or having someone responsible for a spare pair of shoes.    

Don't be afraid to NOT talk to people 

Obviously, don't be rude and blow people off. But literally, the day is all about you, and people will acknowledge that. There were times where it took me forever just to sit down for a hot second because I kept getting stopped by people! It was so nice and the attention was great, but it was also tiring! Don't be afraid to excuse yourself from a long conversation or to say you'll find them again in a little bit.  Or if you've found yourself in a big group conversation, lead everyone to the dance floor so you guys can have some fun!

Or if people keep bugging you, give the Best Man a knife and have him deal with them.... (Mostly) Kidding!

Like I said, the day and night goes by so quickly. It may not seem like it at the time, (seriously, I asked someone what time it was at one point and was like "gahh I'm exhausted and it's only 8:43!!!" I will forever remember that exact time....) but it's over before you know it. So follow this advice and take in those special moments with the ones you love!

Any more advice for the big day?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Week To Go

Day 3 of Wedding Week is everything I did the week of my wedding!

Most people probably don't do what I did. I was in and out of London multiple times, in and out of the country, re-doing and then re-re-doing the table plans, and seeing more of Heathrow than I ever wanted.

Basically, I was completely ignoring the fact that there were decorations to be finalized, hair/nail appointments to be made, and somethings old/new/borrowed/blue to be found.

Remember when I told you the perks of Destination Weddings? This is where that all comes into play....

My hectic week was definitely not the best strategy by any means. But it's do-able if it's what you want. And if you love being on the go like I do, this pre-wedding challenge may be just for you!!

Here's a little glimpse into all of my fun adventures that I went on the week of my wedding!


We only live about an hour or so away from Stonehenge, so Alex's parents took my sister and I there.

Stonehenge ROCKS!

It was my third time to Stonehenge. It was Alex's moms first time ever! (And my sister's first time, but that's not too shocking...)

The Making of Harry Potter (WB Studios Tour)

This honestly blew my mind. I am a massive Harry Potter fan and I loved it. My brother-in-law doesn't even care for Harry Potter and he loved it. 

In front of Hogwarts... No big deal!

I'm going to do a full post on this once Wedding Week is over. But honestly, it was one of the best places I've ever been to! (And I've been to the HP park in Orlando.... This is better than that!!)

Day Trip to Paris

My sister was in England for almost 2 weeks, so of course Paris was on our agenda.

Of course we also went to the top!

Our Eurostar train left at 5:40 in the morning, meaning we left at about 3 to get to London. We got back to my house just past midnight. It was a long day to say the least (and 2 days before the wedding! I know how to keep things interesting!) but it was loads of fun!

Day and a half trip to London

My sister and I roamed around London (with me as the tour guide... It's a miracle we're not still lost!) and it was the first time I was completely alone in London without Alex!!

I'd say I was an excellent tour guide, though. I navigated the tube like a champ, and took her to London's hot spots! Of course the shopping at Harrods, Hamley's, and on Oxford street were our favorite part of the day! Seeing Big Ben was great, too!  

(And I can honestly say I took zero pictures while in London. That was definitely a first for me!) 

Endless trips into town/shopping

It's what my sister and I do best! Any moment we had "spare time" we walked into town and shopped.

I'm sorry, what?! Florida State University?! No no no you've got the colors ALL WRONG! #EnglandFail

I think that was the benefit of having a "small" wedding. I had done a lot ahead of time because I fully knew how busy I'd be once my family arrived! I'm glad I had a high pressure week because it took my mind off 1) getting nervous, 2) family drama, 3) trying to keep track of everyone and everything.

If you want to have these adventures the week of your wedding, I'd definitely plan in advance. Don't wake up and decide "I want to go to London today!" Have a plan. Tell your family that plan. If they want to do something different, it's all on them. Obviously your family who have traveled have a plan, too. Some are very independent and would rather do things on their own (or they acknowledge, respect, and accept that you're busy). Some want to monopolize your time. (Seriously, the day before the wedding my dad [who by the way was staying a good 30 minutes from my house] wanted to randomly go sightseeing. No dad, I can't go sightseeing! Stick to the plan!!)

Obviously if appointments and/or "down time" are your priority, make them a priority. I chose to make the most of my family being here. There's nothing wrong with whatever plan you choose to make!

Busy wedding week or would you rather relax?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Traditions Across The Pond

Day 2 of Wedding Week is a Bridal Battle of epic proportions. Just kidding. I like to be a bit dramatic.

I get asked all the time, "What are differences between American and English weddings?!"

I end up babbling for hours on the subject and eventually give up and just say "Google it"

Sometimes I would ask Alex "is this normal??" or "is this how you do it??" regarding our wedding planning. He would respond, "I don't know, I've never gotten married before!" Thank Zeus and all the heavens he has a pretty accent, because he was seriously zero help at times.

Obviously, American weddings and British weddings have a lot of similarities.

But there were also plenty of differences everywhere, from planning the wedding to the actual ceremony to the party in the evening!

With my experience of planning a wedding in England, this is what I noticed are some major differences between American and English weddings.

(Note: Our ceremony was a civil ceremony, which meant no religion was incorporated or even allowed. Our wedding planning/ceremony is where this list of differences comes from. It may/may not differ from other types of ceremonies.)

Ceremony vs. Celebration

In America, you tend to invite everyone to both the wedding ceremony and the party afterwards. Everything just sort of flows into the next event without more people arriving.

In England, the wedding ceremony is much more intimate. It's really only family and close friends that attend. And they're the only ones who eat a full sit-down meal, as well.

The celebration guests come later. This consists of all of the people from the ceremony, plus other friends and colleagues. There is usually a buffet for the evening guests throughout the night, but nothing like the presentation and elegance of the intimate sit-down dinner.

(Our wedding consisted of about 40 ceremony guests and 120 evening guests.)

The party has arrived! By the way, in no part of the evening was I drunk. I know it appears like I am, but I'm not!

Personally, I like this concept better. I know there's always stress knowing who to invite and "whether you want to spend the money on a meal for your mother's sister's grandchild's stepsister". But for us it was pretty clear who was coming to the ceremony and who would just be coming to the evening celebration.

The only thing I will say is that because of this, we had to have 2 different invitations with 2 different times to arrive. It honestly wasn't that big of a burden, but just make sure you stay organized so you know who you invited to which part!


In America, you can get married practically anywhere! Getting married on the beach is common where I lived in Florida. All you have to do is arrange someone to come marry you at a certain time. You don't even need to reserve the part of the beach or let anyone know.

In England,  they are much more strict (which I found incredibly frustrating when first planning the wedding). The venue has to be licensed. Because of this, they are also quite pricey.

And also because of this, getting married in a registry office is common.

(Here's where I'm going to sound like a snob. I have no intention of sounding like a snob, but I know I will. It's not my intention to offend anyone, so I'm sorry if I do.)

There is nothing that I wanted less than to get married in a registry office. I felt like Alex and I had sacrificed enough in our 3+ years of dating, and that we deserved not to have to settle for a registry office wedding. (See, I told you. Snob.) Especially when we could get married on a free beach in Florida and have a gorgeous surrounding instead of a stuffy registry office. (Snob.)

I kept telling Alex that I would rather get married in our back garden than a registry office. (Snob.) He just kept saying "you can't do that!" and I didn't understand why! He said it's to preserve the meaning of marriage and I said "bullshit, I don't care."

We ended up finding a lovely, affordable place to have both the wedding and the evening celebration.

But keep all of this in mind if want to get married in England.

Giving notice vs. having a marriage license

I was completely clueless about both of these things to be honest.

In America, you get a marriage license. (Which sounds hilarious to me.... Like a drivers license for your wedding.... Waiting for hours at a DMV to take a test and a bad picture...) I couldn't tell you the first steps of how to get a marriage license.... Good thing I never had to!

In England you "give notice". It's basically giving your intentions to marry. They post your intentions to marry, as well. They ask you basic questions about each other. (spelling of names, birthdays, occupation, very basic things) You can get married 15 days after giving notice and it's valid up to one year.

Carrying a horseshoe 

I've never heard of this custom in America, but I also haven't been to or been a part of many weddings. So I just decided to go with this one. 

I was given a small, decorative horseshoe a few days before the wedding. I opened the box, looked up at everyone, and just said "I don't get it". They said it's for luck. Noted.

Then, when I was nearly ready at the venue, someone handed me my bouquet and the horseshoe. I was like, "what do I do with this??" Finally, someone had explained to me that you hold it with your bouquet. I wish someone told me this sooner so I didn't sound like an asshole the whole time wondering what I was supposed to do with it!

Stuffing cake in each others faces

Purely an American tradition, and I was set on keeping it that way. My husband, however, had other plans....

Nice picture before he went to the dark side...

We talked about it and agreed no caking stuffing. But when the moment came, my American family starting shouting "Stuff it in her face!!!" and like a good in-law, he did.

(I also got the feeling that if I did it to him, some of the older English family would be appalled. Like I would get the "Ugh... Americans..." glare and head shake. I know that's probably not the case. I just felt like that at the time.)

The wedding party was sitting

Alex and I had a small wedding party consisting of 2 people..... His Best Man and my Matron of Honor.

I was utterly confused when they had them sit in the front row (on their respective sides) instead of standing next to us during the ceremony! I thought maybe it's because we had a civil ceremony instead of a religious ceremony that things were less formal. But then I Googled it and it turns out it's normal in the UK.

Something blue, and a sixpence in your shoe

Everyone knows the rhyme "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" for items the bride wears on her wedding day.

In England they add "and a sixpence in your shoe" meaning an old form of currency.

I didn't do this one. Not for any reason. I could have found a sixpence somewhere (and John Lewis actually sells them for brides at a ridiculous price.... Ridiculous considering what they're worth really...) Oh well!

Oops upside your head

This is a popular dance done at wedding celebration parties in England.

I had never seen it before until it was turned on and I was dragged to the dance floor and plopped on the ground! (in a white dress... classy) It's like a Macarena, Electric Slide, or Time Warp dance... Everyone just knows what to do!

Basically, everybody lines up and links legs while sitting on the ground and you shimmy or clap your hands from side to side a certain way. My freakin' hips and legs were killing me afterwards! Even though you're sitting, you're moving your upper body around so much and your hips take the brunt of the strain. Maybe I'm just out of shape!

Regardless, I don't think my American family participated. Actually, that's a lie. One of my family members stood at the front of the lines and conducted everyone into perfect synchronization! But no one got down on the ground to clap and shimmy with me. 

In the end, both weddings get the job done, am I right? I'm sure there are plenty more differences (Bachelorette Parties vs. a Hen Do, bridal showers, etc.) but these are what played major roles in our across the pond UK wedding!

Anything else you can think of? Have you been to a wedding that was different to your traditions? What traditions did you/will you incorporate into your wedding?? Have you done the "oops upside your head" dance??

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Destination Wedding

Welcome to Wedding Week!! This is the week where I will completely nerd out with wedding details.

I never really disclosed a lot of information on here about the wedding except the date and the Fiance. Honestly, there was no real reason behind this. We had a short engagement (less than a year) due to my priority of moving to England. We didn't have time for "save the dates", I didn't have (or want!) a bridal shower, the people in our wedding party was a grand total of 2, and a lot of our planning was basically done on the fly!

Speaking of "on the fly" (completely natural transition here, just go with it), loads of my family had to fly from America to England for the wedding! 

So Day 1 of Wedding Week is all about the destination wedding.

My family in the USA is pretty concentrated in New York and New Jersey. My mom was really the only one to move away to Florida. So when family weddings happened, we were always the only "out of towners".

I never considered those destination weddings. They lived there. I didn't. It was as simple as that.

So I didn't think of my own wedding as a destination wedding. I live here, in England. They don't. It was the same thing, right?

Well, I'm going to say wrong, actually.

About a quarter of our ceremony guests were flying in from America. That's a lot of people to be traveling out of their way to another continent for the wedding. 

Although Alex and I didn't pick an exotic island or a mountain top to get married on, it still was about as much work and planning as those destination weddings. 

It was a lot of planning that was out of our control, as well. My procrastinator parents had to get their first ever passports (not joking... they never left the country until this month...) expedited. Some others had to renew their passports to make sure it was valid. Others booked their own hotels in different cities or had their own agendas for their time in England. And all of that was fine.

But also, it was our responsibility to keep track of these people. Who was flying in what day? Where they were staying and for how long? When could I see them?

That added to the wedding stress, not going to lie.

Do I regret any of it? Absolutely not.

But would I do anything (regarding the destination wedding aspect) differently? A million times yes.

Here are my pros and cons for having a destination wedding.

Pro - New locations are exciting!

Even if it's not a new location for you, it's just as exciting seeing the looks on your family's faces when they're sightseeing or talking a walk around town. And I felt like a professional tour guide knowing where I was going better than they did (which is pretty sad because I'm kind of clueless).

Yay, exciting rocks!

Con - Obligatory sight seeing.... 

New locations also mean obligatory sight seeing. Sure, they are there for your wedding, but they're also in a new, exciting country and want to make the most of their trip. I was able to do a lot during the week of my wedding in terms of traveling and sight seeing (which you will hear about this week). I could handle the long days, constant walking, and unexpected traveling, but it is definitely not for everyone. If you have a lot on your plate, don't do it. Make your friends and family go by themselves or do a group tour.

Pro - Vacations for your family feel like vacations for you, too!

Even though I was home here in England, my family's vacation mentality rubbed off on me. It was almost like nothing else mattered. We had a blast even if we were all just sitting in a room doing nothing. And my family is Italian; imagine "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" but with pasta. We were constantly eating, reminiscing, and having a great time.

Me and my family appearing to be causing mayhem

Con - It's easy for friends/family to commit to the idea, but not actually commit in real life.

Probably the biggest issue for several reasons.....

First of all, a lot of them ignored the RSVP date. To be honest, it doesn't sound like the worst thing in the world, but it makes things more complicated and stressful (especially when more and more guests do it). I think family try to bend the "rules" because they can; they're your family, you have to love them and deal with them.

It's easy for them to say "yes, I'm definitely coming". What's not easy is all the work after that on their part. If they let you know in advance that they can no longer make it, that's fine; there's nothing you can do about it. But don't be surprised if the week of the wedding, someone says "I'm not coming" after their spot at the wedding has already been paid for (true story... it happened to me).

Other family members, just didn't respond at all. No RSVP, no phone call, no letter, nothing. I would have settled with a Facebook message if they didn't want to spend the money on an international stamp.

Be strict. There is a difference between giving your traveling friends and family leeway and letting them walk all over you.

My advice for destination weddings or guests traveling far: Be very clear about time constraints. If you have to put it on the invite/RSVP, do it. I know I know, it may sound like a crappy thing to do, but it will be worth it. Kindly harass whoever you have to so you don't get a phone call the Sunday before the wedding with people still dropping out. (can you tell I'm angsty about that?) If travel arrangements haven't been made by a certain date, don't pay for their spot.

Obviously, only you can be the judge of that. You know your family better than I do. Maybe they're waiting for their next pay check or a better price on airfare. But also keep in mind that a few of my family members surprised me by their actions. I thought I knew them well, too. I was clearly wrong!

Con - Lot's of friends/family won't be able to come

Think about how you'd feel if certain people couldn't make it solely on the fact that it was a destination wedding. If you can't come to terms with that, then a destination wedding is not for you. I'm not saying this to be negative; I'm saying it because it's true. I went into this fulling knowing that I wouldn't have many people there from my side. None of my American friends made it to England for the wedding and only a handful of my family came. Of course I was upset, but I was prepared for it. Obviously they knew that the gesture was there; they were more than welcome to come to England and to our wedding. But I mentally prepared myself that I'd get a lot of straight up rejection.

Pro - The destination makes you happy

Hopefully you picked this destination for your wedding because it means something to you and makes you happy. It kind of makes it more like the wedding of your dreams if it's somewhere meaningful, exotic, or new. 

England was the right choice for me; it is my new home. There really wasn't another option.     

Happy! Actually I was just crying through the whole ceremony... Happy Tears!
Con - Some people will inevitably be upset about the location

Some people won't agree with the location. Maybe they have a good reason. Maybe (in my case) they just like to have something to complain about. 

Alex and I decided to get married in England because that's where we would be living. I had a handful of family members that I wanted at the wedding, and I knew those people would come no matter what. Of course, there were also family members that decided to put their two cents in, which really wasn't fair.

Without turning it into a long dramatic story, their argument was "you're the bride, it should be where you live." My argument was, "you're not paying for it", "you don't know what I want", and "just keep in mind, it's happening whether or not you attend".

Maybe I just have a stubborn family (duh). But keep in mind friends and family might object to a destination wedding because they can't attend for whatever reason. If they're kind about the situation, it's easy to feel bad or let it put a damper on the wedding planning. If they're kind of rude about it, it's easy to think they're being selfish and also let that put a damper on the wedding planning. So just think about how they and you approach the situation if you are having a destination wedding.

Con - International communications

Obviously, if you have a destination wedding, a lot of the planning may have to be done across time zones or continents! Keep this in mind when trying to communicate with different people in charge of your wedding. In my case, as well, some aspects were done completely blind on my part! Alex booked the wedding venue without me seeing it in person! I had to trust him and his family to make a good decision. Otherwise, we'd be screwed!

It may look like there are a lot of intense cons on the list. But if you are thinking about having a destination wedding, you obviously have a reason for it! Don't let the cons scare you away. It's obviously worth it! Every wedding has it's own little drama and stress; it's unavoidable!

Tips for destination weddings:
1. Think about guest transportation to/from the wedding. If it's in the budget, I'd definitely recommend hiring something to take them to and from the venue (especially if it would be a bunch of expensive taxis!). Select a meeting point if they aren't all at the same hotel or house. We hired a mini coach (bus) for my family which was amazing, simple, and efficient! 

2. Tell family to pre-book as much as possible when they get to the country, especially if they're traveling in large groups. Example, look into "airport vans" for when they're going home. If you have a large group (about 7 family members give or take), it's an affordable way to get to the airport/hotels around the airport together when you split the cost.

3. Look for group discounts when sightseeing. Example, look at the options for day tickets for the London Underground; they have discounted group tickets on the screens, but you have to look for them (they won't change the discount automatically if you select 4 tickets!) Another example, if you take the train into London, you get buy one get one free passes to the Tower of London (if you show your train tickets and print a voucher online).

4. Travel care packages always help! Obviously, they don't have to be sent to everyone. If you don't have the time/money, mass emails of information also do the trick! Send a group email to international guests with weather updates, if they need outlet converters (and what kind), the best way to exchange currency, addresses, phone numbers, any tips or information think they'll benefit from! It will make their life easier, and it will make YOUR life easier! (So you won't be bombarded with emails/phone calls the week of!)

Have you attended a destination wedding or a wedding that was out of your way? Would you add any pros/cons or tips to the list? What do you think about destination weddings?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wonderful Announcement For Next Week

Hi there! Happy Friday!

So next week, I'm doing things a bit differently here at Running Across the Pond....

I'm ignoring the running part...

I'm kinda sorta ignoring the across the pond part... but not really...

Next week is all about weddings!

Yes, 5 full days about weddings.

Particularly, my wedding! But I won't get greedy, I promise. I want YOUR input, too!

You'll hear everything you want to know from my experience getting married here in the south of England! Everything from what I did the week of, how I totally almost got dropped on my head, and quirky advice on how to make things go smoothly.

I should warn you, I am/was NOT your typical bride. If you want to hear about elegant floral arrangements, Harrods gift registries (I wish!), or sparkly tiaras, don't bother looking on here!

However, if you would like to hear about the aches and pains of doing the "oops upside your head dance" on the floor in a white dress, I'm definitely your girl!

So tune in next week for a full week of wedding talk!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Give Me Some Tips On Tips

Let's talk about tips.

Not tips as in "here's a tip, eat the new Snickers limited edition 'more nuts' chocolate bar because it tastes like love." (No but seriously, that's a real tip. You're welcome.)

Tips as in money.

I went and got my hair cut yesterday.... 

Awkward selfies! Don't mind my Donald Duck sweatshirt....

I didn't know if it was standard to tip the hairdresser. Or expected. Or customary.

I always noticed that people don't really tip in England. And if you did, it's because someone went above and beyond.

(From personal experience, we tip at nice restaurants here. But never so much as 18-20%. It was always usually a few pounds.)

But to be honest it always just felt wrong not leaving tips. Not because I genuinely feel strongly about it, but because of habit. I've grown up tipping. I've worked in a restaurant and "lived off of tips". It's just what I'm used to. I'm sure if I grew up here and went to America and was expected to tip at least 15% I'd feel outraged!

So I took my issue to Google.

This is what I noticed. (Nothing is directly quoted. This is the jist of the um-teen billion forums I read.)

Pro tipping:

"Why not show them that they did a good job?"

"Service industries should be tipped."

"They don't make enough money without tips."

Against tipping

"I work in a supermarket/office/store and I don't get tipped when I do a good job. And I don't expect to be."

"If they want more money, they should increase the price." 

"I'm already paying a ridiculous amount for _____. Why should I pay more?"

And then there was the dilemma of how much to tip (if at all). There was zero agreement on this.

For example, say you were getting a pricey hair cut/style/colour/etc.....

"If you can afford a £70 hair treatment, you can afford a £5 tip to the hairdresser..."

"If you're getting a £70 hair treatment, you don't need to tip because you already paid a lot for the service."

(At this point I wanted to throw my laptop and say "I quit!")

And a lot of people blamed America for putting it in worker's heads that tipping is the norm.

(Not my fault, I promise!)

The most common consensus was to tip about 10%, or round up to the nearest 5/10 pounds. But even that had counterarguments.

"Don't you feel giving them a measly £2 is a bit insulting?"

"Any amount is always appreciated! Even 50p!"

What is an expat to do?

So, what do you think? How do you feel about these differing opinions? Why is it the "norm" but "not the norm" at the same time?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winding Down

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind to say the least, but in a good way!

I feel like I haven't really sat down to unwind in forever. Everything has been go go go go GO!

Yesterday, I had an obligatory rest day. Literally, I felt like I had been hit by a bus! Everything hurt. It was a good hurt, though. A "be proud of yourself, but don't do that again in the immediate future" hurt. And a "have fun standing up or sitting down!" hurt. And definitely a "hahahahahahahahahaha don't even look at stairs today" hurt.

Thanks, muscles.

I realized what I really needed to do was to finally wind down after weeks of excitement.

And these are the 3 things that I turned to! 

1. Post Half Marathon Goodness - Alex was sweet enough to meet me at the finish line with a bag full of Lush products, including this one that I had never tried before! (Or maybe he was just trying to politely tell me something....) It was just what I needed to pamper my poor, tired feet. Alex's dad, on the other hand, knew I'd need some Deep Heat (kind of like Icy Hot for Americans...) and I've been using it like it's about to go out of style!

2. Good Reads - While I'm lathering myself in Deep Heat, I need something to occupy my time. I bought "The Casual Vacancy" the second it came out in September. I read about a quarter of it before I gave up. Come on, JKR! Where are the wizards?! (Kidding, kind of.) But I recently picked it back up with full determination! I'm nearly done. Next on the list is "Gone Girl" which has been popping up everywhere recently! I knew I had to grab a copy. (I have a terrible habit of buying books in the midst of reading 2 or 3 other books... gahh...) I'm most excited for one month from today when "Clockwork Princess" comes out. It's the last book in one of my fave series, and the suspense is killing me!

3. Tea & Biscuits - DUH. I can't sit down for a good book or just some peace and quiet without a cuppa tea. Call me British at heart; I've gotten so accustomed to drinking tea and letting it make me feel warm and cozy on the inside. And don't get me started on Hobnobs. I have a pack by my bedside table (don't judge me) and I think that may explain my strange dreams......

It feels good to unwind finally! Don't get me wrong, I can't wait to start running again and finally start work here in England (a topic for another post). But for now, it feels good to relax!

How you do like to unwind??

Monday, February 18, 2013

Brighton Half Marathon Race Recap

In case you didn't know (sarcasm! I know I've been spamming your Twitter feeds...), I finally ran my first half marathon yesterday in lovely Brighton! It was everything I expected and more!

If you just like stats and don't care about the aches and pains or when I coughed up water at mile 3.5, here's the Spark Notes version:

1. I didn't negative split like I intended..... Actually, I positive split the hell out of this race! But I kind of don't really care about that.

2. Lovely (mostly) flat course! Just 2 inclines towards the beginning of the race that weren't too difficult.

3. I only really announced it once, but I did have a time goal. Most importantly, I just wanted to finish. But I did beat my time goal with minutes to spare (and not seconds like I anticipated!!)

My goal was to finish around 2:30:00.

I finished in 2:24:45!

I forgot to stop my watch at the end!! I was too busy focusing on the pain in my legs and trying to find my hard earned medal!!

See! Queen of positive splitting.... But I'm okay with that.... It didn't ruin my race.

And my Garmin was mostly accurate throughout the whole race which I am super thankful for! The road signs weren't too far off from what my Garmin said. I read this article a day or two before the race and I am so glad I did! It just gave me a lot of insight that probably saved my race yesterday.

With the Spark Notes out of the way, here's how it all went down.

First, let me just say that I don't get nervous.... Ever.... I wasn't nervous to move across the world. I wasn't nervous the day of my wedding. But thinking about running this half was making me nervous. I think it's because my last 2 weeks of training were kind of messed up. When I say "kind of messed up", I really mean "I didn't run for 2 and a half weeks because I was sick and then my family was in England and then I got married".

I thought, "well there goes all my awesome training down the drain..."

(I tried making up some training this past week.... I had to skip my intended long run of 12 miles and just do a kind of taper week instead. Don't follow the Taylor fever wedding training plan; I had no idea what I was doing.)

Yep... Combined 2 weeks of training into 1.....

Needless to say when I woke up yesterday, I felt more confident than I should have. I wasn't feeling as nervous or negative as I was before. I thought of my great 11 mile run (from close to a month ago...) and just said, "If I could do it then, I can do it now!" I forgot to tell myself that I'd need to add on 2.1 miles more than that, but whatever.

Selfies at 5 in the morning!

I wrote 13 on my hand. Taylor Swift writes 13 on her hand when she performs, so I always said when I ran a half marathon I would write 13 on my hand, too. 13.1 miles in the year 2013! How perfect?! (And no, I didn't accidentally wipe the permanent marker on my face or something totally embarrassing... Come to think of it, that's quite shocking I didn't make more of a hot mess out of myself...)

The drive there was nice and relaxing. I ate 1 and a half slices of toast with peanut butter and cinnamon and a pack of fruit punch sport beans.

I thought I had used up all of my weather luck getting perfect wedding day weather.... I was wrong! Yesterday's weather was absolutely perfect! The sun was shining but there was a chilly breeze. Which is why I changed my outfit about 8 times while waiting to start.

Squinty from the sun!

I ended up wearing a tank top and shorts without the jacket, but made a last minute decision to wear leg warmers. (You know, as one does when they think leg warmers are cool...) I definitely could have done without the leg warmers (I ended up pulling them down to look like really awkward socks at mile 11), but compared to what everyone else was wearing, I looked pretty comfortable! Yes I was freezing at the start line. I actually heard people talking about how crazy I was and pointing out the goose bumps on my arms. I wanted to be like "Oh you are so cool, people! Talking about my goose bumps like you own the place!" but refrained... Anyway, the people who were bundled up like we were in the arctic looked like they were regretting their hat, gloves, thermal shirt, fleece jacket, trousers, and electric blanket (kidding about the last one) at about mile 1....

A little past the start line! Not me... faster people...

I started about 9 minutes after the gun went off. I remember it was pretty crowded at the start which slowed everyone down. I remembered the article I read and tried not to weave at all. I knew we would spread out eventually, so I just waited patiently until we got to bigger roads.

The first 3 miles went by super fast. A few times throughout the race I remember going "OMG I'm running a half marathon!" I knew I was going faster than I should (goal was to stay around 11:30 miles... I was doing about a minute faster) but I felt great. There was a water station at mile 3 that had pouches of water called "rip and sip". Best idea I've seen so far in a race! The tops were like fuel wrappers (like Gu or SiS) and they were easy to drink from.... Almost too easy.... Between miles 3 and 4 I ended up coughing up loads of water that just "went down the wrong pipe". It went everywhere. I should have stopped running and pulled to the side, but didn't. Oops! I had already spilled it everywhere; the damage was done.

The first turnaround point was probably one of my favorite spots. I knew that once we got back to where we came from, we'd be about half way. I loved watching the runners coming the opposite direction both before and after the turnaround. I thought that they all looked like they were working so hard. I thought maybe that's how I looked, too, instead of thinking I looked sweaty and disheveled.

I think Alex took this while looking for me between miles 6-7. I could be wrong though.

I saw Alex and his mom and dad around the halfway point. I screamed my head off and was so excited! I still felt really good at that point, so was excited that I was able to give them a thumbs up instead of looking miserable.

The crowds were definitely the biggest at the half way point, which was also close to the finish (so you could see the runners twice throughout the race). The best part was that we had our names on our bib numbers. I would hear random people shout my name or saying "Go Taylor!" (but in British accents, so it was more like "Go Tay-laaa!") and it made me smile and power forward. I don't think I ever want to do a race without my name somewhere on my shirt/bib. It definitely made running that much better.

Pretty pic of Brighton that Alex took

Mile 8 is where I hit my wall. I actually thought mile 6.5 would be where I would tank because we would "only be half way". But no, mile 8 was killer.

The amount of spectators had significantly decreased. It was also one of the first times where most of what you saw in front of you was "one way". Throughout the race you could almost always see runners going in another direction or making turns. This was just straight. And everything was between buildings. I could see runners going the opposite way (towards the finish) in the distance to my left between the buildings, but the turnaround point was nowhere in sight. This was the point that was most daunting to me.

I slowed down a lot. There were no spectators cheering you on. There was no pretty beach side to look at. It was hard.

I skipped the first Lucozade station earlier on in favor of water, but I took a bottle of Lucozade at around mile 9 out of sheer boredom I think. I tasted it and hated it, but just needed something to occupy my time so I just kept it in my hand. I probably only got through a quarter of the bottle before just throwing it to the side. I didn't want crap Lucozade; I wanted a finish line.

The second turnaround point finally came what felt like 7 hours later! Finally, we were running the last stretch of the race all along the beach. The sun was beaming down and it was definitely the hottest point of the race, but it was also quite breezy. The wall I hit was slowly coming down (even though my pace doesn't reflect that).

I had broken the race up into 5 miles, 5 miles, and then a 5K. When we got to mile 10 I thought, "this is it.... Just a Park Run left. I can do this."

I stopped once around mile 11 to pull down my legwarmers and walked a bit to take my last gel.

The last time I ran 11 miles (my longest run before the race), I did it in 2:03:04. This time when I looked I my Garmin at mile 11, I hadn't even hit 2 hours yet.

I decided to stop regretting going out too fast the first half of the race. I knew that even if I did 12 minute miles, I'd still be comfortably under my time goal. And plus, everything after 11 was a new personal distance. I had made it this far; I was not about to give out!

So I just kept going. And going. Seeing mile 12 was amazing. The crowds of spectators were increasing drastically. Everyone was screaming and shouting. I didn't think I'd want to hear the phrase "you're almost done!" at all throughout the race but hearing it was actually kind of spectacular.

They put up signs for how many meters were left starting at 1 KM and decreased every 100 meters (900, 800, 700, all the way to 100). Again, I thought these signs would be an ugly reminder of how little was left, but they were really quite exciting.

I saw Alex and his parents close to the 400 meters left sign. I started laughing and crying and threw my arms up in the air. I don't know what I was trying to accomplish by this. I think I was signaling I wanted a hug, or to be carried across the finish line.

I can't believe I am openly showing this picture to the world! It's dreadful. I swear I'm laughing, not bawling. And there are those cool legwarmers scrunched down like I told you..... And my arms half in the air... Maybe I'm trying to fly?

I didn't even see the mile 13 sign which I'm disappointed about. But I had looked down at the 13 on my hand enough times to remember what my fave number is and how many miles I was running.

I had enough energy in me to sprint to through the finish line. I almost didn't want to stop running. I knew if I stopped, I'd ache. But everyone else had stopped and I didn't want to look like an ass. So I stopped. And ached. I didn't even want a space blanket. I wanted my medal.

New bling!

I knew my time was where I wanted it to be. I dug deep for that. I didn't even care that I went out too fast or that I wanted the second half to be stronger than the first half so I didn't "hit the wall". I didn't care about anything. I just thought, "when can I do this again?!" 

Alex's dad said if I finished below 2:30, we'd have tea at The Grand Hotel, and if I finished over 2:30, we'd have tea at Ted's Cafe. He owes me tea at The Grand Hotel!! (Which we are standing in front of)

And I will do it again sometime soon!

But for now, some thank yous to Body Glide, the makers of the rip and sip pouches, Nando's (which I demolished for lunch), Alex and his/our family, and YOU!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'm Back! Kind Of...

Hello world! How have you been?

It feels like it's been eons since I've sat at a computer screen. It was a nice break because usually my face is glued to my laptop and/or iPad. But it's bittersweet because all of this spare time means my family is back in America, things are getting back to normal, and I'm now married.

Oh yes, did I mention I'm married?!?!?!

This is literally the best picture I could find right now on Facebook and my mouth isn't even closed. And excuse the random arm on the side of this picture. My brain has forgotten how to edit photos right now.

Yes, the Fiance is now the Husband. Except I promise not to call him "the Husband". Or "Hubs". Or "Hubby". (Do those names bug anyone else??) He will forever just be known as Alex.

But getting back to the wedding, it was absolutely the best day and night of my life!

Even better news, I now have further leave to remain in England for another 2 years! I can stay! I can stay!!

More to come on both of these topics. This week is going to be another slow week for writing as I sort my life out and and then run 13.1 miles for fun. But on the plus side, this Sunday I will get to wear the shirt.

I'll be posting what I've been up to and such starting next week. Maybe even a bunch of wedding themed posts?! Hint hint!

But for now, just a major thanks to everyone who continues to read my journey across the pond!

And Happy Valentine's Day to everyone! Side note: This is the first Valentine's Day that Alex and I will spend together. Like, together as in on the same continent. (Our first v-day we were both still at university. Our second v-day I was working and at university and he was getting ready to work on a cruise ship. And our third I was working on a cruise ship in the middle of the Pacific! Crazy!) 

How are you?!?! Is everyone alive and well out there?! I haven't talked to you in ages!! What's new?!?