Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do Life: Seattle and My DetermiNation!

I first wrote about Ben Davis in October 2010 in a post called Start taking your dreams very, very seriously. I was inspired by the video he made about his 120-pound weight loss and began following his blog, Ben Does Life.

I also took his advice, "If you want to do it, all you have to do is do it," to heart and set a goal to buy a DSLR camera and begin pursuing photography. I had ridiculous anxiety and self-doubts about taking up a new hobby, but decided to stop being silly and just do it.

Fast-forward to this past weekend. Ben visited Seattle with his dad and girlfriend to meet up with some of his readers and run an unofficial 5K. I brought my camera, plus Aaron and his camera. Together, we made this:

Do Life: Seattle from Devon Mills on Vimeo.

And took a bunch of photos, including this shot of me with both of the Davis men:

In an interesting way, Ben's weight loss inspired me to get my camera. I spent most of the meetup using that camera to try to capture the inspirational effect Ben has on others (and trying not to destroy it while running).

I'm just now realizing how things have come full circle. Life is funny, huh?

In other running news, I'm about to start training for the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll half marathon! I recently joined the American Cancer Society's DetermiNation team to train for the race and raise money, working toward a goal of $1,250 by June 10. My first team run is this Saturday at 8 a.m. (eek!), but I've already received my tech shirt and am super excited to rock it!

When I registered for the half marathon several months ago, I actually opted out of fundraising for the American Cancer Society. At the time, it seemed like too big of a challenge on top of actually running the race.

But, once again, I realized that I too-often say "no" to things just because they are outside my comfort zone. I also realized that nothing bad could come out of making this commitment. I might not reach my fundraising goal, but at least I'll have tried, done some good and made some new friends along the way!

I kicked off my fundraising efforts today and raised $111 with the help of several of my Tumblr buddies. Even Ben threw down some money and encouraged his readers to contribute! If today's donations are any indication, I think I have a good shot at meeting my ultimate goal.

If you'd like to support my efforts to raise money for the American Cancer Society and crush 13.1 miles in June, please visit my fundraising page to make a donation!

Anything helps, and each gesture of support gives me a fantastic mental boost as I go into training for my first half marathon.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Parties, Go-Karts and Vegas, Baby!

What a weekend! (I know, it's almost Wednesday, but this past weekend was so exhausting that I had to recover a bit before the recap.)

It kicked off with my roommates and I finally throwing our housewarming party, nearly three months after moving in.

On Saturday, I knocked out a 4.5-mile run in the sunshine! And since sunshine is such a rarity in Seattle these days, I took full advantage by rocking shorts and my stunna shades (also known as my silly, cheapo sunglasses that I don't mind losing or breaking — and they worked wonderfully).

Then it was off to a fabulous dinner party in honor of my good friend's 24th birthday.

I slept in nice 'n' late on Sunday and woke up just in time to head to my big brother's birthday celebration at Traxx Indoor Raceway. I drove my go-kart under the intimidating pseudonym White Chocolate, while Aaron ended up owning the track under the guise of Gato Negro.

This was my first time go-karting and it was super fun! The karts went way faster than I expected and left my arms and legs pretty sore from maneuvering away from walls and flooring the gas. I was quite happy to sit out the second race and just take pictures!

I also... (drumroll, please)... booked a trip to Las Vegas this weekend! But not just any old trip — a three-day stay that will include running the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon on December 4.

Remember my list of 2011 goals? My running-specific goals included tackling every major race distance, ending with the Las Vegas marathon. I'm already registered for the race, and now that the flights and hotel are locked down, there's no turning back!

A very cool change to the marathon this year is that it'll take place at night. That means I'll be running down the Las Vegas strip in its full, lit-up glory!

A not-so-great change is that there's a new course time limit of 4 hours and 30 minutes — not an unreasonable feat to achieve at an average pace of 10:18/mile, but certainly a tall order for a first-time marathoner. I'm fairly sure I could run the marathon in under 5 hours, and perhaps even under 4:45, but a 4:30 time limit is a lot of pressure.

I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't secretly enjoy this extra layer of challenge. I'd love to finish under 4:30 even if there was no time limit, so this just motivates me to train extra hard.

But there was a moment when I was about to register that I considered backing out. Would it be stupid to even attempt a sub-4:30 time? Most people say you shouldn't have a time goal for your first marathon — just focus on finishing. But I'd like to seize the opportunity to finish and kick some butt, too.

If, after several months of training, I feel like it's absolutely impossible for me to drag my body across 26.2 miles' worth of Las Vegas in any time close to 4:30, I can always drop down to the half-marathon.

But telling myself right now that I can't do it is unacceptable. Quitting before I've even started is far more foolish than gunning for a sub-4:30 first marathon. And even if I attempt the marathon, get kicked off the course and earn myself a big, fat DNF — Did Not Finish — I'll at least be satisfied in knowing that I trained like hell and tried my hardest to do something awesome.

I'll take Did Not Finish over Did Not Try any day.


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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Giveaway WINNERS!

I'm pretty excited to announce who won my super-nerdy giveaway. Notice how the title of this post says "winners" rather than "winner"?

I'm kind of having an Oprah moment.

"You get a car! You get a car! EVERYBODY GETS A CAR!"


I'm obviously not ballin' like Oprah, but I loved all the comments you guys left describing what you want to do in your lives. And since only four people entered, I decided to give all of you a copy of The Total Money Makeover!

You get a book! You get a book! EVERYBODY GETS A BOOK!

Seriously, though, it's awesome to learn about other people's dreams. I feel like once you get a dream out of your head — by writing it down, telling a friend or leaving a comment on a little blog — it's one step closer to becoming a reality. Here's what all the winners had to say:

Becky: "I want to be able to run a half marathon distance. Not necessarily DO A HALF, but be able to run that far. : )"

Christina: "i want to payoff my debt, visit africa and the south pacific somewhere and get my phD!"

Jen: "I want to teach English overseas!"

Moses: "I would like to set up a fund to educate kids from my village who have mostly given up on education on account of knowing their parents cannot afford."

Thanks for sharing, Becky, Christina, Jen and Moses! Please email me at right away so I can hook you up with your books.

Keep dreaming big!


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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hawaii Video & What To Do On Oahu

This will be the last post about Hawaii, I promise!

{Previously: Oahu in Photos and Oahu Through Aaron's Lens}

Here's a video I put together of some of the most fun stuff we did on our trip, including snorkeling, bodyboarding, skydiving, surfing and hiking. Aaron used a waterproof GoPro Hero HD camera for a lot of the footage, and the rest was shot on our Canon DSLRs.

Devon & Aaron in Hawaii from Devon Mills on Vimeo.

Fun fact (and TMI) that didn't make it into the video: I was really sick the week before this trip, and was still congested for about the first half of it. I'm not sure how or why it happened, but when I landed from my skydive, I had a massive glob of snot on my face! The first thing I did when I got my feet on the ground was clean myself up. I artfully edited that lovely scene out of the video...

Anyway! A friend who's heading to Oahu next month asked me to tell him about some fun things to do there, so I figured I'd just put it all on the ol' blog for anyone who's curious!

This is not a comprehensive list of everything there is to do on Oahu, nor are the following necessarily the most fun activities and the best places to eat (I have no idea what those are). It's simply a list of things we enjoyed while we were there — plus, a handy map for reference.


North Shore Surf Girls: I've always wanted to learn how to surf, and the lesson we took through North Shore Surf Girls in Haleiwa was fabulous. Our instructor was Carol Philips, the founder of North Shore Surf Girls, who was also a bodyboarding champ back in the day. She was an awesome instructor and had us standing up on practically every wave. It was much easier than I thought, but proved harder when we rented our own boards in Waikiki and didn't have an instructor pushing us into waves at the exact right time...

Skydive Hawaii: If you've ever wanted to go skydiving, there are few places more beautiful than the North Shore to do it. We jumped out over the ocean and saw whales on the way back down to Dillingham Airfield. It was partly cloudy when we jumped, but on a clear day, you can supposedly see the whole island.

Snorkel Bob's: A good place to rent snorkel gear and bodyboards — both for two people was $100 for a week.

Diamond Head State Monument: We hiked the trail to the summit of Diamond Head (see video), which provides an awesome view of Waikiki and the surrounding areas. The trail is only 0.8 miles long, but it can get pretty steep (so many stairs, ahhh!) and hot. Go in the morning or when it's cloudy. There's a $5/car or $1/pedestrian entrance fee.

Honolulu Zoo: What do you do in Hawaii when it's too cloudy and/or rainy to hang out on the beach? Go to the zoo! It's your standard zoo... lions, tigers and bears, oh my! We had to leave in the midst of a torrential downpour, but it was fun while it lasted! The entrance fee is $12/person. (Photo by Aaron.)


Waikiki Beach: We stayed at a hotel right across the street from beautiful Waikiki Beach. It's a very touristy area — the whole street that runs along the beach is full of stores (from kitschy gift shops to Louis Vuitton), hotels and restaurants. The beach itself is small and can get crowded, but it's worth seeing. The waves aren't all that big, but there are surf lessons available. We rented surfboards here one day (see the video) and didn't have much success!

Hanauma Bay: This is where you want to go for snorkeling (see fish and turtle in the video)! The bay is part of a nature preserve, so there is a $7.50/person entry fee and you have to watch a short informational video before you can go down to the beach. We avoided the fee because the ticket sales booth closed at 3:00 and the guard just waved us in. Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays. (Photo by Aaron.)

Sandy Beach: Go here if you want to see surfers and bodyboarders tackling big waves! This is one of the most dangerous beaches, since the waves break in shallow water, and the lifeguards give you plenty of warnings about how many people break their necks here. The beach is beautiful, though, and a good place to check out the Halona Blowhole — a naturally occurring lava tube that shoots water up to 30 feet in the air when waves crash into it hard enough.

Makapu'u Beach: This one is kind of hard to find and isn't on the above map, but it's north of the Blowhole and south of Waimanolo. We didn't actually go here because we kept accidentally driving past it and found an even prettier beach, but apparently this one is great for swimming and bodyboarding. (Photo by Aaron.)

Waimanolo Beach: This one is my favorite! The white sand is soft and not rocky at all, and the water is a gorgeous turquoise. This beach was also never that crowded, and good for bodyboarding. There was a jellyfish warning here one day, but we risked it and didn't get stung.

Waimea Bay: This is a popular beach on the North Shore. We did a little swimming here, but the current was pretty strong and by the time we left, the waves were slamming people into the shore. Yikes!

Turtle Bay: You can drive onto the property of the Turtle Bay resort (as seen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and get a public beach access pass from the gatehouse. There's special parking for the small public beach, and supposedly good snorkeling — it was very windy when we went, and too chilly to get in the water. We did check out the resort lobby, though, which was instantly recognizable from the movie!


Sweet Home Waimanolo: This place is a must for a delicious lunch! And it's a very short drive from Waimanolo Beach, so I suggest a one-two punch. Just look at the fish tacos — to die for!

Kua 'Aina Sandwich Shop: This North Shore joint in Haleiwa came as a recommendation from the good folks at Skydive Hawaii as a great place to grab a burger or sandwich. We went here for our, "Woo-hoo, we survived!" lunch after skydiving and it was fan-freakin-tastic.

Tiki's Grill & Bar: I have a special place in my heart for this Waikiki restaurant and bar because it's attached to the hotel we stayed at. The patio looks out onto the beach, the decor is festive and Hawaiian-feeling, and the live music every night just makes it a fun place to hang out and have a beer (or three). The babyback ribs and fish and chips were incredible.

Roy's: This upscale Hawaiian fusion restaurant (which also has several locations on the mainland) served up one of the best meals of my life, period. Plus, the service was incredible. I was in a full-on food coma after eating at the Waikiki location, and luckily I was able to roll myself the short distance back to the hotel without incident.

Kona Pub: The Kona Brewery is on the Big Island, but Oahu has a Kona Pub featuring all of Kona's delicious Hawaiian-inspired beers and plenty of yummy food. It's situated on the docks of Koko Marina — a pleasant place to enjoy a beer by the water. We caught an amazing sunset on our last night from the pub's patio.

Well, that's it! I hope it helps anyone who's planning to visit Oahu. I'd love to visit all the other islands (I've been to Maui) and see even more of paradise.


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Monday, March 14, 2011

One-Year Blog Anniversary and GIVEAWAY!

Whoa — I've been blogging for a whole year! I didn't tell anyone about this blog for quite a while after I started writing it, so it seems like it's been a shorter amount of time.

I started one year ago by writing about my debt and the steps I was taking to get out of it, and I was pretty embarrassed about the situation I'd gotten myself into — nearly $9,000 in the hole between a credit card, a student loan and some money I owed my mom.

For a long time, I had trouble admitting all that to myself, let alone admitting it to my 600+ closest friends and the vast, anonymous Internet. I was ashamed that I couldn't manage my money and I didn't want my friends to know that I had been barely scraping by before I moved back into my mom's house after college.

But coming clean — to myself, to my family, to my friends (who couldn't have cared less, honestly) and to the Internet — was a vital part of the process for me. It kept me accountable to my goals, and reminded me that all the number-crunching and budget-scribbling was important and worth the effort.

became debt-free on July 16, 2010 — a mere six months after I made it my top priority. It could have easily taken forever — I could have been in debt for the rest of my life. I couldn't be happier that I've gotten my finances straight and am now able to be financially responsible while having some fun adventures, too.

This blog, and the support I've gotten from so many people through it, has been a huge part of that.

So in celebration of my one-year blog anniversary, I'm going to do a super nerdy giveaway: a hardcover copy of Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover.

This is a simple, straightforward book that taught me all about basic personal finance, including how to create a budget, how to get out of debt, how to build a comfortable level of savings and how to plan for retirement (it's so important to start early!). I can safely say that I wouldn't be where I am financially today if I hadn't read and re-read this book.

I've loaned my copy to several friends, all of whom have said they learned so much from it, and it's currently on loan to a co-worker who easily makes double — maybe even triple — my salary. We all like to think that the more money you make, the better off you'll be financially, but oftentimes mo' money = mo' problems, and my co-worker has told me The Total Money Makeover is exactly what he needed to read.

Enough about the book — here's how to win! 

Just leave a comment on this post by 5:00 pm PST on Wednesday, March 16, telling me one thing you'd like to do in your life. Do you want to visit a certain city or country? Fly in a helicopter or become a certified scuba diver? Whatever you want to do, big or small, let me know and you're entered to win. Even if you don't particularly want the book, you can always sell it on eBay and use the money for a few burritos from Chipotle — with guac.

I've updated the comment settings, so you should be able to leave a comment without creating an account! Be sure to leave your name so I know who to get in touch with. I'll randomly choose a winner and announce it on Thursday.

Aaaand if this prize is a little too nerdy and nobody enters? Then more burritos and guac for me!


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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oahu Through Aaron's Lens

OK, folks. Yesterday's photo post was amateur hour compared to this one.

Here are some of Aaron's best photos from Hawaii. So amazing! You can check out more at Aaron Pass Photography.

Click any photo to view a larger size. (The one of the little girl near the bottom... I die every time I see it. Ahh!)

Self-portrait while skydiving! The veins!

Just ridiculous. And I get to learn photography from this guy.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Oahu in Photos

I've been contemplating how to write about my trip to Oahu since I arrived home Sunday morning.

I could try to tell you about snorkeling in Hanauma Bay and glimpsing a sea turtle, or shockingly standing up during my first surf lesson, or tumbling out of a plane backwards over the North Shore and spotting whales off the coast during the freefall.

I could try to tell you about the amazing fish tacos at Sweet Home Waimonolo, or the all-you-can-eat babyback ribs at Tiki's Grill on Monday nights. I could try to tell you about enjoying my favorite beer, Kona Wailua Wheat, at the Kona pub in Honolulu as the sunset streaked pink through the sky on our last evening.

I could try to tell you how much ice cream I ate, but that would be nearly impossible. I'm not sure how many scoops of strawberry there are in a metric ton.

Today, Chris Guillebeau posted an entry on his blog called — I kid you not — Homecoming and the Adventure Detox. He wrote:
After your big adventure, you're looking forward to the homecoming. The adventure was fun and challenging, but toward the end you're ready for something familiar.
But then, just as you missed home while you were away, you start missing away while you're home... You want to share everything with the people you love, but even as you tell the stories, you realize there's an unresolvable gab between an experience and its retelling...
It doesn't make the memories any less special; in some ways they are more special as you realize they can't be easily reproduced for the world. Some things are yours alone to cherish.
It would be very difficult to write about my experiences in a way that would do them justice, and pictures are much prettier anyway. So here is Oahu in photos — at least the photos from one of at least six (!!!) cameras we took on this trip.

Please enjoy them in no particular order, and try to pretend I wrote something cool to go along with them. As always, click any photo to view a larger size.

(This photo of me is the only one that was not shot with my camera. Aaron took it with his super expensive/amazing/ridiculous camera and lens.)

Big props to Aaron for taking this midair shot. Amazing!

Just a monsoon little rainstorm at the Honolulu Zoo!


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