Run Like Everyone is Watching

The running community is really weird.

Really supportive. Really engaging. Really big. And really weird.

I think, in part, I feel that way because it is a community in which I don't always feel like I belong. You know the story, I was not a runner. To some degree I still don't think I'm a runner.

But I run half marathons. And 10ks, and 5ks, and maybe some day, a marathon.

I've run two half marathons.

I'm signed up for two more.

So why, why do I do it?

Because the feeling of accomplishment that you get from running a race - whether that the race is 3.1 miles or 26.2 miles - is unlike anything I had felt before my first 5k. Because it literally is mind over body. Because the community of runners when they are right there beside you is stronger than a lot of other - bigger things - that I have been part of.

And also because I have been eating a lot of carbs recently.

I think more often than not people expect that you either love or hate running. And that if you run races, especially long ones, that you must love running.

I don't though...I think. I mean to say, I don't think I love it.

Running is not something that I always enjoy. In fact, during my runs I still struggle, every single time. I still have to push myself to my milage goals. I still work for it, always.

I know though, that I don't hate it. Sometimes, I think once you start running to race, you can't hate it. There are just too many parts to being "a runner" that are so so good. Beyond of course having a place to blow off all that competitive steam.

First of all, runner's highs are real. And amazing. Really, there's no downside to crushing a 6 mile run and feeling on top of the world. Well, maybe the occasional blisters, but still.

Second of all, running is something that I can consistently accomplish. Running is something you can just go do. Assuming you know your limits/injuries/pacing abilities etc., you can always just go for a run. Consistently, I can finish a run. I can set the milage goal, get out there, and crush it. I can tell myself I'm going to just go for 30 minutes, get out there, and crush it.

That's always possible. Barring you know, general motivational issues.

And the best part is, there is this community of people in Vermont, on Instagram, and on the bike path that support that. Always. They support that drive, that need, that insane idea that running is something to be enjoyed.

That is still so weird to me, but I love it.

24 Things I Learned in My 24th Year

1. Saying no is okay. You get to say no to people, to jobs, to opportunities, and the negative shit that people may say about you. You get to decide what works for you, and what really does not.

2. Winning is not the end. Winning is great. And it may mean you've achieved something amazing. But it is not your whole story - it is not your whole life. Never, has someone won anything, and had it last their whole lives. Even Presidents must retire and move on.

3. I can actually throw a first pitch.

4. You cannot possibly own too many pairs of false eyelashes. And don't let anyone dispute that.

5. Sometimes, going to bed before 9 PM is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Resting keeps you going. And no matter if you are working one job, or three jobs, or you plan on being Super Woman, you're going to need to sleep.

6. Standing steadfast in your beliefs of justice, and equality is always worth it. No matter what.

7. Some friends will go, but in their place, you might just get sisters. Like, a lot of sisters.

8. In the end, the people that have always supported your dreams, your goals, your zest for life are the people you want to be around. They are the people that you'll always want close. Even when the dreams, the goals, and the zest changes.

9. Removing most carbs from your diet isn't really worth the tiny waist. I mean, not for long anyways. Bagels and booties forever.

10. Chris Harrison is shorter than you think.

11. Even the hardest season of your life will pass. Some days you'll cry because every single task is just too much, but you'll always get through it. As hard as it has been - the worst moments - I've never not made it through to the other side.

12. You can probably run any distance, even if your foot kind of breaks.

13. Meeting new people can be terrifying, or absolutely amazing. And yeah, it is usually just an either/or situation.

14. Watching someone else achieve a dream you share is heartbreaking and one of the most uplighting experiences you might ever have. I think the only time I have ever felt 100% selfless is when I felt myself turn over a dream and say, yes, this is for you. Just let me sit here and watch it unfold. (And can we talk about how only a true Miss America could illicit that in someone? Dang. Girl.)

15. You can actually own too many gowns.

16. Discrimination is a lifestyle choice, and you owe absolutely no one your compliance with their idiocy.

17. My parents religiously watch The Bachelor/Bachelorette together. Yes, this is actually something I learned.

18. Gratefulness is literally the only way through life sometimes. Being grateful costs you nothing. Literally. In fact, it usually means you gain some sort of appreciation or...I don't know other intrinsic mushy gushy feeling.

19. Food poisoning is something I definitely could have done without.

20. Self-care takes work, and takes a lot of different forms. It takes a lot more energy than I thought. It takes a lot more effort than I planned on. It takes a lot of tuning out your own little voices of self-doubt. It's work, and it's worth it.

21. I still don't care about chokers. And I'm not sure why we're still doing that.

22. The good guys are absolutely totally and completely out there, it will happen.

23. You do not have to prove your mental illness to anyone.

24. "That, after all, is why we serve - to make people's lives better, not worse." Your service shapes your life. When you choose to give selflessly, to give regardless of anything, to give time, to give effort, to give your heart - to anything - you are truly giving yourself purpose. I am forever grateful that I was able to give literally a year of my life exclusively to other people.

"No Makeup" Makeup

With a new job, and now, one less job as well - I have started to switch up my morning routine. Mostly in an effort to catch up on 11 months of lost sleep, but also to just...simplify things. You know, for a long time my mornings consisted of waking up wildly early, showering, making coffee, making oatmeal, sitting down to do a full face of makeup, starting my hair, getting dressed, finishing my hair, and hoping to God that I got to finish even a half a cup of cold coffee before running out the door.

So, that's a lot.

And, to simplify it dramatically all I really had to do was change one thing: makeup.

That being said, here's an updated list of what I use for a "natural" look. Also known as: yo, I'm exhausted, but here's my 10 minutes of well-intentioned effort.

Let's start at the top: moisturizer. Lotion. Lotion. Lotion y'all.

Tried and true, so many repurchases at this point, the Fresh Umbrian Clay Oil-Free Lotion.

You guys, I've talked about this lotion so many dang times, but honestly, it is the best.

And because I cannot get enough moisture into my skin right now, I've been following up with the Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer. Which, truthfully, I don't know how I feel about it as a primer. It's okay, yes, but I'll never opt for it over a really good foundation primer (like my ride or die, Makeup Forever Step One.) However, I do love that it has coconut water in it, because I'm basic like that.

Then, I'm not kidding with the moisture guys, I've gone back to the best BB cream I've ever used. The Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm. The coverage is so light. The finish is perfect, and it has SPF 25 which I need, because I'm very very very white.

To be honest, I haven't even been going in with concealer too often - much to the dismay of literally everyone since the dark circles are still so real. But if I do, I'm still using the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser.

Up next - usually - a bit of blush and bronzer. And I'm serious, I do this only about half the time right now. Which is still leaving me blowing my own mind. This routine is just too simple.

Anyways, my go-to is a classic. The NARS Blush/Bronzer Duo in Orgasm and Laguna. Definitely a cool combo I've been using for a while - but it works.

And I'm still sort of a mascara addict, so I've got about five tubes I'm working on now. But most recently I've been grabbing the Elizabeth Arden Grand Entrance Mascara. This was a gift during a Red Door Spa visit - but it has far surpassed my expectations. Since I'm a huge "no clumps, no spiders" lashes kind of girl, this stuff has been perfect.

Finally, I finish with the Glossier Boy Brow in Brown. By the way, this was a leap for me. I did not think I was a tinted brow gel girl. I mean, I love my clear brow gel, for sure. But I was worried about keeping a light enough touch with this stuff. And honestly, I shouldn't have been. This is great. It's a really light product. But the coverage is just enough.

That's it!

That's the whole thing. To some, this still may seem like a lot. But in the scheme of things this is nothing compared to my "full face."

New Normal, Same Booty

There are a lot of really great posts out there about what it's like to love your post-stage body. I've even written about this weird image of my own body before.

But given that I am back on that road, and just as a whole new class starts to move into the notion of being "retired" I wanted to add my two-cents onto the ever-growing sound board of what the new normal means. (I hope I'm not breaking my own rules here on posting about this post-Miss journey.)

So the reality is really simple: you train for months, years, sometimes decades to make it to that end game - stage of all stages - and when that is over, and you're not training...well, you need to figure out what normal means for you.

That's not to say that your life, your diet, and your workouts while training were abnormal. But, post-stage means you get to go more than 24 hours without being in the gym. It usually means alcohol and Oreo's move back into the "acceptable" foods. Actually, if I'm being really honest, I stopped having a notion of what I "can" and "shouldn't" eat.

Let's pause for a second and recognize how quickly training and prep becomes disordered. At some point this is something I'll talk about at length. But I want to stop and say this - if you're prepping for a state pageant, or national pageant, or anything that requires some sort of plan - and you are unhappy with the process of how you are getting there you need to stop.

There is a healthy way to cut down on carbs and sweets. There is a healthy way to embrace cardio, weight training, and finding those abs you've been fighting for. But if you feel guilty about eating certain things. If you beat yourself up for not going to the gym. If this process is making you mentally unhealthy you need to stop. Get a nutritionist and/or a personal trainer and start over.

So, normal. Well, that takes almost just as much work, in my experience as setting up that training and dieting regimen. Breaking down those notions of training, into just plain ol' healthy living is hard.

It is a lot of acceptance.

It is a lot of looking in the mirror and seeing someone you don't quite recognize. She's still you. She's still healthy. But she's less toned than the you of four months ago. She's a little...softer.

I'm still pretty sure there are no "cheat meals" in normal.

It is a lot of understanding that "normal" is variable. Normal might mean training for another half marathon. It might mean going three days without hitting the gym. It might mean you eat pizza every Saturday.

There is still plenty of cardio, weight training, salads, steel-cut oats, and gallons of water. But in different ratios. I think that's the best way I have come to describe this to other people. My new normal is a lot like my prep life, but in different ratios.

In part, that is what's hard to stomach. You're relearning your body and what it takes to make it happy, and healthy, and yeah, that usually means you won't be at stage weight. And I've said it before, and I'll say it again, but stage weight is not a livable weight.

I honestly don't care how into asparagus and chicken you are, or how much you love two-a-days and fasting cardio. If you do not have an end date, a goal, a driving factor - that life is unsustainable.

And with good reason.

So that is why I hope that as we all slowly come down from this season of life there is a recognition that some of our training behaviors have to end. Just as we won't be heat-styling our hair every day and gluing eyelashes to our faces, we won't need to eat 1/2 cup of brown rice at 2:30 in the afternoon just to hit our macros.

And, yeah, some things will be easier to let go of than others.

I'll be the first to tell you, as easy as it is to eat the pizza, it's the reflection in the mirror that's the hardest part to reckon with. It's true, it will make you want to keep training, keep counting macros, and to keep saying no to the tastiest food in America.

It will make you want that body back. Without a doubt.

*it is super weird that my friends come in GIFs but, let's roll with it. 

Look, you worked for that body, and you worked hard. And, not for nothing, you should want to stay in fighting shape. But it's understanding that inevitably you won't, and what comes after you hit that point.

After you hit that point, you've got to be ready to hit that new normal, and accept the body in the mirror.

I'm still running. I'm back to working with my personal trainer. I'm still not buying peanut butter M&Ms (very often.) But I eat Moe's with reckless abandon, and get the good stuff at Starbucks without guilt. If I don't hit my Activity Goal for the day, it's no big deal. That's normal now.

I'm still feeling squishy though. I'm still feeling like I'm too out of shape to have been a Miss.

And that's seriously ridiculous. I know that.

But also I know I'm not always going to walk around at 120 pounds. Sure, it's nice, but it's not livable.

I mean, pizza gave me my boobs and my booty back. 

And frankly, I don't want them to go away again. So, Leonardo's is one of the most used apps on my phone, and I'm signing up for races left and right. It's called balance, y'all. It's a struggle every day. It's a new shade of normal every day. And balancing the ratios of this journey is just weird sometimes.

But when I think about what season of life I just left, this is a piece of cake. Sometimes literally.

329 Days Later

I don't know who I think I am writing about this so soon, but here I am. Writing about this so soon.

Before we get rolling, I want to say something: this will likely be one of the last times I talk a lot about this Miss journey. With the exception of some annual-nostalgic-hanky-panky. This is Erin's year. This is Erin's time. And I won't be posting lots of throwbacks/old images/thoughts on this job. I am so thankful that this was my life, but it's not anymore. And that means that the light is on our new sister. 

Alright let's start at the top, right?

I didn't know what this was going to feel like. I mean, I had only ever given up the title of Miss Auburn, and that was...well, they didn't even ask me to perform my talent. Plus, this year has been so much more than that could have ever been.

This year, well, you know. It's been hard. It's been wonderful. It's be exhausting, magical, trying, exciting, and so much more. This year has been all that I ever dreamed it could be...and nothing like I dreamed it would be.

Does that make sense?

I think any state titleholder will tell you, this job is hard. I mean, it tests you, yes. But it tests your family, your friends, your budget, your will to eat well. It tests every notion of who you hoped you would be as Miss State. It forces you to be the most dedicated, most hardworking, most logical, most understanding, most adaptable, most resistant, most kind, and most relentless person you will ever be.

That makes this job hard. That makes this job something you throw your heart into. So, to part with it, well, I didn't know how that was going to happen.

How was I going to separate my heart from being Miss Vermont & Rylee, to just being Rylee?

And sure, we can argue that is where "forever" comes in. But you are lying if you say you walk off that stage ready to say you are a forever. 

Here's the reality: I could not be happier for Erin. I could not possibly be more excited to watch her live her dream. And frankly, I am done. I had my year. I did my duty. I served my damn heart out. I am ready for free time, carbs, and the ability to drink in public.

By no means did I want to lose those five weeks of my "year."
By no means did I leave this job feeling bitter or upset.
I love being Miss Vermont. I love being able to travel the state, to hear the stories Vermonters have to tell, to go to new places, to do new things.

But you don't have to be Miss Vermont to keep doing that.

And I am thrilled that it's Erin's turn.

However, it doesn't go hand in hand. I can be over the damn moon to watch Erin take this state by storm, and still feel like a piece of me is missing.

And that's how it feels, like a piece of me is missing.

It feels like grief. It feels like Miss Vermont is someone separate from who I am. I miss her. I want to call her, I want to say thank you and hi. 

It makes my heart ache. Like something amazing has ended, and the best you have left are pictures and memories. I think that's normal. And I think, even though now it comes in waves, it will pass.

So, how am I doing? Okay.

I am out here, living my dang life. I am eating bagels, and homemade grilled cheeses with The Mountain Man. I'm getting back to the gym. I'm actually doing my laundry. I'm entertaining the idea of going to the grocery store, believe it or not. I'm making weekend plans and looking at bikes.

I am just being Rylee again.

And I can promise you it is taking lots of love and support to hold my hand in this transition, just like it did in that last weekend in May.

Only this time? Oh the sisterhood is so much bigger, and so much stronger.

Y'all, if you are about to be going through this, let me promise you, your sisters will lift you up.

The texts, the messages, the Instagrams, the hugs...they have me living. Because - let's be so honest here - your job is about to be handed over to someone new. Your job that you worked tirelessly for years to obtain, is over. Your job that you gave your life to for a whole year, is going to be someone else's.

And that is scary.

We want those girls to succeed. We want them to find their own magic. We want them to get that crown, and that joy, and those memories too. But there's only ever one Miss State at a time.

So, truth time, that's gonna sting a little.

But let me tell you this...keep watching her, following her journey, enjoying the joy she is sharing with your state, the strength she shows just in week one, the passion she has from the moment that crown touches her head...because you'll know, she's the perfect one to fill your shoes.

Only one of us might be allowed to wear the crown at once, but it takes a sisterhood of love, support, laughter, and I got yous to keep the crown in place.

Here's to going after new dreams and knowing that, if nothing else, the crowns gave us each other.

And we all know, that's some of the best magic out there.

Miss Vermont 2016, The Farewell

When I decided six years ago that I wanted to be on the Miss Vermont stage, and that I wanted to represent my home, I had no idea the challenges, and the absolute blessings that lay before me. I had no idea that I would meet my best friend because of Miss Vermont. Or get the chance to go to four new states. Or run two half marathons. Or land my dream jobs. All because of a program that asked me to reach out side of myself.

One of the stories I’ve told most this year, is how I came to the Miss Vermont Program. I was in college, and I had plateaued. Socially, I wasn’t branching out. Physically, I wasn’t doing any thing to help myself - I mean PopTarts were my favorite food. I wasn’t pushing myself academically, and I really wasn’t finding new challenges at all.

That summer I landed on the Miss Vermont stage for the first time. I had figured out a talent - although no one bothered to tell me not to write my own poetry that year. I had taken up running, and learned to love broccoli. And by the grace of God, and the kindness of the judges that year, I was 3rd runner up. I had shown them the girl that was willing to push herself for the sake of the little fire that had been sparked by the idea of serving this state.

Here I am, almost six years later, Miss Vermont 2016.

I don’t think I can explain how important this program has been to me, and to the person I am today. I would not have the skills that I have. That make me who I am. That make me confident, capable, vocal about things I care about, a servant to my community, and someone who’s heart just runs over for the people that live in Vermont. It’s so hard to explain how all of that created one of the most memorable years of my life. In some ways, it barely feels like a year, in other ways it feels like all six have just happened.

I always knew that this job, was a job. But what I did not expect, was to realize how much of an honor it is. It is not only an honor to get to go to golf tournaments, rotary meetings, hospital visits, and apple pie contests, and every thing in-between. But it is an honor to meet everyone there. It is an honor to get to be a voice for mental health. It is an honor to speak about my story to people in every corner of this state. And it is an honor to serve the girls that stand on this stage tonight.

The whole reason I even started to think about being Miss Vermont, is because I kept seeing girls in parades who looked like me, who looked like they came from, where I came from. I feel so lucky that I am able to share all that I have learned through the years, with these girls. The mentorship that happens because of this program is unlike anything else. It is an absolute blessing to have been able to watch them all come into their own - their own version of Miss Vermont.

I’ve stressed with them all year that this is a job above all else, it’s a blessing, an achievement, and an honor, but it is a job. I can’t thank everyone enough who has helped me be the best I can in this position.

There is no better example of it takes a village, than what takes to be Miss Vermont.

To every member of the board - Cookie, Mary Catherine, Barb, Tammy, Brittany, and Katie - your support has been unwavering. Your encouragement never fails, and you continue to create the backbone of this organization. You’ve given Alex and I a year like no other.

And Alex, I am so thankful I was able to watch you grow and push yourself this year in every part of your life. Thank you for your continuous support.

To all the volunteers, to every friend of the PTP workshops, every fundraising champion, every host backstage, every parent that has lent us their young woman - you allow us the opportunity to thrive, to grow, to make the Miss Vermont family - thank you.

To all the people that shaped my journey to Miss America and gave me the gift of knowing that I could be the last one standing.

To everyone that gave me dresses, knowledge, questions, earrings, and everything in between - Gregory, Rachel, Jayne, Jon and Chris - thank you.

To the people that allowed me the freedom to take the year to live this dream - and still signed my checks each week, thank you for giving me space to serve your state.

To all my former Miss Vermont, who never let me forget that they exist, and that they are always happy to help - Hannah, Amy, Sarah, Laura, Caroline, Katie, Lucy, Alayna - thank you.

Jeanelle - thank you for going before me, and making some mistakes so that I could make new ones. Thank you for always responding to my text messages, even when they’re late, or way too early. And often very frantic. Thank you for being my sister and my very best friend.

Thank you to every friend outside of pageant world, who understood, who accommodated, who said, “let me help.” Tori, Alice, Jess, Maia, Alanah - anyone that supported me, that sent an encouraging word, you have lifted my soul for years to come.

To my family - to the people who never laughed when I wanted to be Miss Vermont, but kept me laughing all year long. Who kept my fridge stocked, and my gas tank full. Who drove the long miles when I couldn’t any more. Who made sure, I always felt like I was capable and prepared to do this job. And to Ben, for telling everyone he was Miss Vermont’s brother.

If you were here on May 27th, or you’ve seen me anywhere since then, you’ve made a difference in my journey as Miss Vermont - a difference in my life that has allowed me to go out and live a dream of trying to make a difference for someone else.

I will never be able to repay every one for what they helped me do this year - and thank you will never be enough.

Above all, I hope that whoever fills these shoes tonight, knows that for every struggle this job will bring, through every challenge that you will face - there are far, far more, accomplishments, far more better days. Because you get to tell your story, and hear every story this state has to tell.

And I hope - that if this dream is in your heart of hearts - that you don’t stop. No matter what happens for you here tonight. Don’t stop if you have a bad poem, don’t stop if people laughed at you, don’t stop if you think you’ve gained weight, don’t stop. Because if you are dreaming that you will serve your state, you are a person that we need. You are a person that will make a difference. You a person that deserves to be out there on the road, telling your story.

Don’t stop telling your story.

The Books: February & March Wrap-Up

So remember how I was trying to read a book every month?

Well, I'm not doing the best at accomplishing this...but I could be doing worse, I suppose.

I say this to say again, I am still plowing through the Harry Potter audio books on Audible, and it's still been great. I can't recommend them enough. They are relaxing and engaging. They are so much more beyond the films - naturally. But they elicit a whole new experience beyond reading the books again as well. I've read all the books three times, but this, this is different.

Totally still recommend.

I'm about half way through Tuck Everlasting (yes, it is still magical.)

And, I've got two on the "up next list:" The Ship of Brides, by JoJo Moyes and The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman. Let's hope that these will be finished by May. That seems attainable, right?

Well after that, I'm up for suggestions. (Seriously. Send me suggestions.)

I'm thinking:
Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeny