Woohoo!

I just paid off the last of my colonoscopy bill, which feels less exciting than, say, paying off a car or a credit card but is still nice since the bills have been looming on my desk for almost six months. While the amount paid was not nearly as atrocious as it could have been, it’s nice to not have to worry about that any more every month. I’m also about to register for a 10-miler in Virginia Beach in December, which is – yay! – another race to put on the calendar to look forward to.

I’m also pleased to report that my experiments in trying out new running clothes have gone quite well. I tried some Smartwool socks on Wednesday, and my feet were singing my praises all the way out and back. The other new bra and sleeveless shirt I got were fantastic, too. So, I’m happy on that front.

Of course, I’ve not yet had enough of test-driving new things so I took a day off yesterday to go to the closest REI store – which is about an hour away, conveniently located close to saint of a boyfriend, whom I met there since he also had a day off – and shop their anniversary sale. Good God, I can’t remember the last time I spent that much money in one place that wasn’t a hospital… but I got some good, good schwag, and none of it at full price, which is even better. I got two more sleeveless shirts, some more Smartwool socks, an ultra-light running jacket, and a real, honest-to-goodness rain jacket, which is something I’ve been lacking for several years. (You’d think, living in mountainous Virginia, that I’d have fixed that much sooner, but no.) So, I’ll have to wait to try out the long-sleeve stuff, but the sleeveless shirts and the socks I can try out on my runs next week. So I spent a lot of money (erk), but it was well worth it.

After shopping, we had lunch at an absolutely fantastic sushi place just down the street; I have the leftovers for lunch today, which is doubly fantastic since I’ll be on the road and don’t much want fast food just yet in my weekend – that will be Monday on my way back, HELLO COOK OUT AND CHIK FIL A. Then, we went to an ale house around the corner and had a couple of lunch beers, whiling away a leisurely afternoon. It was definitely better than spending the day at work, I’ll tell you.

And then I came back home, packed, and lost myself in this book for a few more hours. The Stonecutter, as I think I referred to last time. It is the type of book I’d cancel social plans for, it’s so good. Pick up a copy if you can find it!

After running some errands and fixing myself a late (lazy) breakfast – I got this morning off, which was another delightful thing – I’m hitting the road to North Carolina for the famed Memorial Day weekend trip. Should be a great time. See y’all on the next week’s side of June, and have a great one!

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Discoveries!

Well hi. It’s been a while, eh? Last week was insane – the play for which I did all of that fun and awesome research opened last week and I was dumb enough to leave a lot of the work until the last minute [and I mean that almost literally: the opening performance was at 8pm, and I finished my very last bit of work at 7:15pm], but it all got done, though I think I felt for two days the effects of the sleep deprivation that went with it – but it ended with a somewhat last-minute trip down to Virginia Beach that proved to be a most fantastic way to spend a couple of days. (Not least because it let me avoid all of the crowds and traffic here for my university’s graduation on Sunday.)

Before I get into the list of discoveries, though, I have to say that on Friday I went to opening night of the play on which I was working and actually watched the show for the first time. I decided to keep away from it during its rehearsals partially because I didn’t want my own work to be clouded, but also partly because I secretly felt like waiting until the show was complete to see how the director and cast put this crazy work together on their own terms. I know it isn’t actually complete per se, since shows continue to grow and change during the performance period, too, but I wanted to see it at its first into-the-world foray- I’ll see it again in the middle and again at the end – and I was handsomely rewarded. It was an amazing, fantastic, wonderful, speechlessness-inducing show. I actually cried at the end, which is something very, very few pieces of work can get me to do. It was just… wow. So, so excellent. Totally worth the wait, and totally worth the complete lack of sleep with which I went into Saturday. Which brings me to….

DISCOVERY NO. 1. The human body – mine, specifically – is an absurd thing. I mean, this is not exactly news to me or really anyone, but I’m astounded at its ability to say “to hell with everything you’ve given me this week, we’re doing what you set out to do, so deal with it.” To clarify: for most of last week I got about 4 hours of sleep every night. Normally I can skate by on 5-6, but over a few days anything less starts to take a toll on me. Add to that that I was stressed out from the play-work stuff, and that I was mostly on my feet for at least 17 of the 20 hours I was awake each day, and the result is one pretty exhausted me by the time Friday rolls around. [Thank gawd for coffee in abundant supply.]

I referred earlier to a last-minute trip to Virginia Beach for the weekend, which came about at the hands of saint of a boyfriend, who had a volleyball tournament down there and had asked me weeks ago if I might like to come along and spectate. After some hemming and hawing and finally figuring out that I could go, I agreed on Wednesday to join him, and ultimately we agreed that it would be best to leave late Friday night after I was done at the theater instead of leaving early Saturday morning and possibly running into traffic. (It was a 2.5-hour drive from where he was, and an hour between me and him.) The problem with that was that I didn’t leave home until close to midnight, which means I didn’t get to his house until close to 1am. By the time we left and arrived at the beach, it was 3:30am.

The problem with this? I’d decided to find a group of people to run with because it was Saturday-long-run time, and I didn’t feel like wandering around possibly getting lost in a place I’ve never been before. I did find a group to run with, and got in touch with them and figured out that they left for their run at 7:30am on Saturday. Normally this is not a problem, as it means getting up at 5:30am and I’m used to getting up between 4:30-5:30am on Saturdays for my long run as it is. But, when it’s 3:30am and you’ve just rolled in from a car ride during which you barely slept more than an hour, well… a sane person would think, Screw this, I’m taking a pass here and sleeping in, but we’ve already quite rather established that that is not how my brain works. My thought was, Well, this could suck, but I’ll slog on through and just make some extra coffee when I’m done. So when the alarm went off at 5:30, I got out of bed, set about my routine, and managed to get myself out the door in plenty of time to meet the running group. Which leads me to…

DISCOVERY NO. 2.  Running groups are awesome. Well, at least this one was; they meet every Saturday at this particular running shop, and it’s free, and anyone of any level and mileage can join, and they all know each other but are super-friendly and ridiculously nice and helpful. A tangential couple of discoveries to this are that a) I need to get out of my comfort zone more and do things like this more often, and b) my town could really, really use a group like this (we only have training programs for races, or particular clubs for racing teams that aren’t quite as open to plodders like me). So I’m sort of inspired to start one. One of the guys in the group won the Disney Marathon in 2002 and is this really fantastically nice retired British naval officer who bounded right up to me and introduced himself, and even waited around way later than I think he wanted to to make sure I got back to the running shop okay (I started out with them but everyone sort of went their own way after about an hour, which was totally fine). I was so impressed with the way these folks were totally welcoming and fun and encouraging, and it makes me think this is something my little ‘ville could find worth in, too.

Ah, but the run, you ask (or not). How was the run?

DISCOVERY NO. 3. This ties back into Discovery No. 1, but the run purely in a physical sense was as if I’d gotten normal sleep all of last week and normal sleep the night before. I felt fine. More than fine, in fact; I was chipper, perky, awake, firing on all cylinders, loving the scenery and the beautiful weather, so much so that I decided to add some extra mileage to the loop I was on and see how it felt. (It felt wonderful and dandy and awesome, is how it turned out.) I remember thinking towards the end of the run that it was wonderfully stupid for my body to be able to churn out all of those miles on so little sleep, and found myself just amazed that a collection of water and organs and bones and fibers held together by skin and hair is capable of doing the ridiculous things I ask it to do. Still shaking my head, sort of!

Anyway, I’ve not yet gotten to the real discovery here, which is that I need to run in Virginia Beach a whole hell of a lot more, because it is FLAT. Pancake-flat, flat-Stanley-flat, flat-as-I-was-in-sixth-grade flat. After having run for so long in my hilly town, it was so delicious to just be able to kick back and relax and enjoy a complete lack of elevation. Pursuant to this, I was able to do a “slow” run at a pace faster than I’d been doing most of my runs for the week itself (which is a no-no, really, but I couldn’t help it it just felt so good!), and thus was also able to tack on the extra distance without any issues. The woman I was running with for the first 6 miles told me that I should sign up for some races down there, and after having done some research once back home, I’m totally convinced: the half-marathon they do in the spring has an elevation change of about 10 feet, and the Santa 10-miler they have in December runs most of that route plus looks like tons of fun. So, both of those are going on the racing calendar, which is exciting, because it gives me something to look forward to after the marathon in November (which is also in a flat place).

The run went from the running shop a couple of miles up the road into a state park, which was delightful because it was shaded and full of greenery and birds – I saw several herons in the marshes off the trail! – and also awesome because there are something like 22 miles of trails in the park so you can really pick and choose what you want to do and never get bored. Also, there are water fountains and toilets at opportune locations along the trails where they meet the road, which was a lifesaver that day, as I had no way of pre-leaving a water bottle somewhere since I had no idea where I was going. I stuck to the straightest of the trails that was a six-mile loop, and was told that if I followed it to the halfway point – a parking lot with water and toilets – all I had to do was turn around and retrace my steps and that would be an 11-mile route. (I’d intended to do 12, so I figured I’d turn around, run a half-mile back, turn back around and run the half-mile back, and then turn around and head for the shop, giving me 12 total.) I did that, but I somehow missed the half-mile marker on the trail that I’d been looking for, so I ended up going a full mile before I got to a marker. At that point, I could have just kept going back to the shop, but I was feeling so sprightly that I decided to turn back to go the mile back to the halfway point and then turn around and run back to the shop. In sum, I added two miles to what I thought was going to be 11 miles, which, eh, okay, I guess I can handle 13 instead of 12 at this point, I thought.

Before the nice-lady and I parted ways, she very explicitly gave me instructions on how to get back to where we’d started. I get lost in my own house, sometimes, so I was not too careful in asking her to be as pedantic as possible. I was absolutely certain I’d gotten it right when she left me, so towards the end of the trail – when it joined back up with the pavement path that winds through some woods before reaching the main road – I had no doubts that I was going the right way. But instantly, I negotiated a small set of curves that I could have sworn we didn’t hit on the way in towards the trail. I decided not to panic, and kept going. This kept repeating for a good ten minutes, and I found myself thinking, Well, okay… if all else fails, just turn around and maybe that means you’ve thrown in a couple of extra-extra miles. We’re still good though, right? Right! It sounds insane now, but the thought then of maybe doing 15-16 miles didn’t faze me one bit. (Stupid adrenaline.) I had to remind myself to really seriously not panic as I kept going, and several times I told myself that no, we were -not- going to turn around, that we were going to trust our internal, often-faulty GPS and actually be okay and get to where we were going.

Which leads me to DISCOVERY NO. 4: trust that GPS, stupid, and panicking will only make you worry and expend needless energy. I was fine; I’d only remembered one landmark on the paved path into the trail, and I eventually rounded a curve and saw it beckoning in the short distance. Nonetheless, I still thought, hot dog! I’m not lost! and did a mental happy-dance at my ability to follow simple directions.

At that point I knew I was okay, so I hit cruise control and got myself back to the running shop, where Mister Nice British Marathoner was waiting for me. We chatted, and I popped into the store to thank them for being awesome, and I stretched in the parking lot and decided to find my way back to the hotel.

That journey was uneventful, but I did make DISCOVERY NO. 5 not long after leaving the shop, which is that drive-through Dunkin’ Donuts stores are the most awesome things ever. I was already sort of running late and knew I’d miss saint of a boyfriend’s first game, so I when I spied the familiar happy block colors and letters of the DD I decided to pull a mostly-legal U-turn and get myself a tall, hot cup of coffee to save myself the time of making it back in the hotel room. Oh, sweet, sweet, portable genius caffeine. How lovely it was. Speaking of which, tangentially related are DISCOVERIES NO. 6 AND 7, which are that coffee before my runs is now something I think I’ll be doing regularly, especially before the long runs, and that the Clif Shot Bloks in the black-raspberry-with-caffeine flavor are totally a keeper. So long as I allow myself plenty of time to digest the coffee and get a poop in before I head out the door to run, the coffee is doing a fine job of keeping me perky, and the Shot Bloks do not upset my stomach and taste decent enough and give me a very nice little pick-up. I’ve yet to try the strawberry or cranberry flavors; one of those will be had over the next couple of weekends, and then the other over the two weekends after that, so the experimentation will continue.

Aaaaanyway. I got back to the hotel, and couldn’t resist looking up how far I’d gone on MapMyRun, because I wanted to confirm that it was indeed 13 miles, and not 11 or 16 or something else. I was floored to discover (oh wait, is this DISCOVERY NO. 8?) that I’d actually gone 13.6 miles-  half a mile farther than a half-marathon, which is now my personal best for farthest-distance-run. And it felt like nothing! Well, not nothing, but it felt fantastic. Whaaaaaaaat. I was so happy – and my time was good, too, probably because it was so damn flat. (2:19 for the distance; you’ll recall my half was in 2:15, so that’s faster than my half-marathon pace. Whaaaat.)So, you can see why I was and continue to be enthused about running in Virginia Beach, land of the flat pavement. Hot dog.

Speaking of hot things, once I finally checked myself in the bathroom mirror, I made DISCOVERY NO. 9, which is that HELLO STUPID I NEED TO START WEARING SUNSCREEN and probably a hat too WHEN I RUN, yes, even on my early-morning long runs that take me through shaded woods. I have the most ridiculous farmer’s tan right now, which I should have seen coming when I started noticing an off-white strip on my wrist where my watch usually goes. Good God. You’d think I’d know this, but for some reason I think that the sun doesn’t count as hitting me as long as I’m moving somehow to avoid it. I mean… seriously? Seriously. Duhhhh. So I’ll try to be better about that, though this morning I definitely did not put anything on before heading out on a 3.5ish-mile run in a sleeveless shirt. Sigh.

And that’s DISCOVERY NO. 10: where the hell have I been, not running in sleeveless shirts this whole time? I had a good day of small-retail-therapy on Monday – I’d needed to go get new flip-flops, having totally worn out my old pairs, and Monday was the first chance to do it; on a whim on my way home, I stopped into Marshall’s to see if they had any cheap-ish running stuff, and wouldn’t you know, they had some sleeveless, thin Avia shirts in ridiculous colors that did not at all match the colors of the two more pairs of Nike shorts I’d bought on Sunday on the way back from the beach (pause for breath), so I bought two of them, as well as two sports bras, and decided that a short-run day would be the best day to try out all of this new stuff in case something went wrong – good God, where was I? Oh yeah, I wore one of the new shirts I got this morning, and it was amazing. It’s almost certainly all psychological, but I felt so light and non-sweaty even though I knew that I was sweating buckets in the getting-more-hot-and-humid morning cloud/sun. The bra and shorts performed beautifully, too, which was also nice. Tomorrow I’m trying out some new socks – Smartwool, with blister protection – on my 5-mile run, which may end up being a little more than 5 depending on what I feel like doing. (Not to mention how hard it’s raining.)

Okay, so, boring stuff about shopping done. As far as the rest of the beach weekend went, it was a fantastic time; the volleyball didn’t have the best result, but the weather was gorgeous and the beer and company were all delicious and, um, riotously fun. I had a gigantic ice cream cone for lunch on Sunday amidst a pouring rainstorm, because one does not do otherwise when one is at the beach, and was in that moment a totally happy 5-year-old kid stuck in a 32-year-old woman’s body. So, in sum, it was a fantabulous weekend, and I’m very much looking forward to returning to Virginia Beach for more ice cream, running, and salty ocean breezes.

Other discoveries I’ve made (this is NO. 11 by now) are that pleasure reading is a wonderful thing – I just started Camilla Läckberg’s The Stonecutter last night and I cannot put it down, much to the chagrin of my need to catch up on sleep still! – and (now for NO. 12) one of my new favorite things to do is to while away an evening with the windows open, listening to storms roll on by, watching the Nats on TV and thumbing furiously through said book during the commercials. I have a very strong feeling that I’m going to be dragging saint of a boyfriend to a Nats game next weekend, because it’s getting to the point where I feel like I’ll kick myself if I don’t go at least once this season and watch this team play. Plus, I secretly sort of want to do the thing where you pay entirely too much money for ballpark food and beer and have a grand old time shelling peanuts and tossing them right on the cement at your feet and heckling the opposing team and its possible nearby fans. I guess now that I said it, it’s not really a secret, but I guess the word is out: I’m a baseball fan now, and I might live and die by this team. Football season could be difficult, once I have two teams to live and die by…

I think I’ve blathered on enough, so I’ll end the journey of discovery here. I’m very much looking forward to this weekend, in which I get to make my annual Memorial Day jaunt to visit my family in North Carolina; the added bonus this year is that my dear, dear friend from college and former roommate who lives in London and whom I only see once or twice a year is able to actually join me this year, and she is bringing her boyfriend for all of us to meet, and he makes her absurdly happy so I am quite thrilled to finally meet him (and see her!). I anticipate lime cheesecake, beer, boat rides, grilled meat and veggies, pool time with my nieces and nephews, and lots and lots of relaxation. Word.

Mini strawberry-rhubarb pie.

I have some, firmly under wraps and hidden from my view so I don’t eat it all right now. I’m enjoying the day’s second cup of coffee, and I feel like said pie would be a perfectly cromulent companion to said coffee. But no; I shall resist, and have a slice later when I get home from being out, and the rest for breakfast tomorrow.

I bought said pie at the farmers’ market this morning. I’ve been craving rhubarb all week – I know; that’s weird to me too – but when I saw the rhubarb/strawberry combination I knew I couldn’t resist because both are in season right now.  I also bought my usual spinach and strawberries from my usual spinach and strawberry people, and what is becoming a new ‘usual’ salad mix from an organic farm that undercharges me per ounce because they are really nice. I’ve learned that that salad mix goes fantastically with some strawberries and almonds, and today I am going to throw some avocado in there as well. (I’m getting hungry just thinking about it… better hurry up with this coffee. But I have a sort of leisurely hour to spend, and I hate rushing through coffee.) Look at me, being all good-food-eating and whatnot.

Don’t worry, I’m going out later to watch the Caps try to put away the Rangers in Game 7, and also try to catch the Nats go for the series win against the Reds (apparently I missed a good game while I was out watching a play last night, but the play I went to go see was so very, very good and mind-bending. Plus the set had really neat contraptions – for example, stairs that pulled out into flowerbeds and then folded back. I love little details like that.), and there will be beer consumed. It’s been the sort of week that needs to end in shots of Jaegermeister, but I know I say that now and will actually keep to beer later on.

Another thing I found at the market this week was a vendor who was there for the first time selling her little energy bites – literally, she had plates full of tiny homemade muffins and bite-size energy bars, which are mostly gluten-free and all preservative-free and have all sorts of good and crunchy and natural things in them. I sampled a few of them, and they were damn tasty, to the point that I bought two of the little energy bars and just gobbled them up right there. I figured I was justified in snacking, having just run 11.5 miles (which I’ll get to in a hot minute). YUM. They’re the Sun Bytes shown here (scroll down to the February 14 post):

http://lilslitebytes.com/

Not vegan, but still delicious. I have a soft spot for anything with chia seeds in it these days, which made these all the better.

Speaking of chia seeds, and running, today I decided to experiment with more food and drink stuff on long-run days. I was actually pretty tired when I woke up this morning, so it seemed natural to make a cup of coffee; plus, I’d wanted to see if it would help perk me up a little in my first few miles. I have no idea if it did or not, since my first few miles were nothing special, so I may have to try again (oh darn, please no don’t make me drink more coffee) – though I can tell you it, um, cleared me out pretty effectively right before I left to run. I also took a few of the Clif Shot Bloks I’d bought with me; I have them in three flavors now – strawberry, cran-razz, and black cherry with caffeine – and today I chose the black cherry with caffeine. I ate them around mile… 7ish? I think? I’m not sure, but it was about a mile after my pre-planned water stop. Anyway, the taste was pretty okay; bearable, but not great, but not awful, either. They were very easy to chew and swallow, which I confess I like better than having to dig knockoff Swedish Fish out of my teeth, and they didn’t upset my stomach, of which I was a bit wary having read that they’ve done that to other people. [This is why I’m experimenting with all of this stuff; everyone responds to different stuff differently [PROFOUND STATEMENT OF THE YEAR RIGHT THERE!], so I take with a grain of salt anything I read about one person’s anecdotal experience with a training method. Anyway.] It could have been a bit of a placebo effect, but I certainly felt a little kick in my stride about a mile and a half later, though that could have just been my body getting some much-needed sugar and sodium regardless of the caffeine. I think this trial went well, so I’ll try a different flavor next week and see how that goes.

But man.  I’m hurting a little after those 11.5 miles; the first eight were fine and dandy on a beautiful morning, but I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, throwing a gigantor hill in at the end of mile 9 because I thought it would be fun. It, um, wasn’t really fun per se, but I guess that’s just part and parcel of running in this town. There are hills, and I must deal with them. Happily, my finish was a slight downhill, so that made me feel better coming in to the final mile, and by the time I was done I thought, dang, really? I was just starting to get into this! Which I guess is good, but since I’d arrived at the market it was really time to stop and do some local shopping.

Anyway. That coffee’s more or less history, which means it’s time to get that salad together (hooray!) and get going on my work for the day. It’s a gorgeous sunny day outside, which makes me a bit wistful that I have to spend it inside doing work – unfortunately, it’s the sort of work that requires me to be near a computer and a scanner, so I can’t take it outdoors – but that’s okay; this is my final push of work to be done for a little bit, and then in a couple of weeks I get a fantastic Memorial Day weekend with the family and one of my dearest friends who is bringing her boyfriend to meet everyone ever and it will be great fun with lots of Cook Out and cooking out and boat rides and margaritas and (shhh don’t tell them) lime cheesecake. Light at the end of the tunnel, y’all. Light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Versatile Blogger Award! (eeek!)

So the awesome thing that my friend Sam (http://digitalambler.wordpress.com/) did was to nominate me for a Versatile Blogger Award:

Read all about the award here: http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/

I was quite surprised to receive this nomination, but also quite honored and humbled, since I feel like there are a metric ton of blogs out there far worth more reading than my inane ramblings on running and poop. But, I am quite grateful for the recognition, especially since I think Sam’s blog is pretty awesome itself. (And Sam is awesome too. But that might go without saying.) He writes about a corner of the universe in which I have exactly zero experience, but it’s fascinating, and I learn something every time I read one of his posts.

I’m also rather over-using the word ‘quite’. I’ll stop that now. 🙂

Anyway, the award comes with some stipulations (http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/vba-rules/). First, I get to tell you all about fifteen blogs that I think are worthy of nomination as well. I, um, don’t even think I follow fifteen blogs, but I’ll come up with what I can. These discuss a variety of subjects, from a wide swath of people all over the world, and you should go check them out (and then come back here to learn seven things about me, which are bound to be delightfully embarrassing).

1. Annie’s Eats (http://annies-eats.com/)

2. Quick Brown Fox Bakery (http://blog.quickbrownfoxbakery.com/)

3. The Wandering Bean (http://thewanderingbean.blogspot.com/)

4. Hyperbole and a Half (http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/)

5. NJ Runner Girl (http://www.njrunnergirl.com/)

6. Inspiring and Healthy Running in London (http://inspiringandhealthyrunninginlondon.wordpress.com/)

7. Brainstorm (http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/)

8. GradHacker (http://www.gradhacker.org/)

9. Far From Moscow (http://www.farfrommoscow.com/)

Ack, that’s where I stop since I don’t apparently read that many blogs – but you should also go check out the blogs on the right side of my page, though there is a wee bit of overlap with this list here.

——

Okay, now that you’re back, another stipulation of the award is that I get to tell the person who nominated me seven things about myself. Happily, you all get to be privy to this conversation, too. 🙂

1. If I’m going someplace I’ve never been before and I’m with someone else, that person has to open the door and go in first. If I’m alone, I’ll just suck it up and open the door myself, but I prefer to hang back and wait for a stranger to go in so I can follow them and make it look like we came in together.

2. Up until three years ago, I’d never eaten any of the following: oysters, clams, soft-shell crabs, catfish, lobster, or sushi. When I was growing up, I hated the smell of fish, so I assumed that all seafood tasted as bad as fish smelled. Boy, was I wrong about that – seafood is now a fairly regular part of my diet.

3. When I run, I think about absolutely nothing. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to meditation; my mind is completely blank, which is an absolute blessing for the few hours a week it happens. (Yes, this is a major reason I do it.)

4. I hate having dirty feet. I get made fun of for wearing shoes in houses with perfectly clean floors, but the feeling of dirt on my soles is horrible. Yet, at the beach or even when hiking, it’s totally fine for me to not be wearing shoes.

5. I still haven’t been able to eat anything pineapple-flavored since my colonoscopy in December.

6. When I laugh hard enough, I start crying. It doesn’t take a lot to make me laugh very hard. I’m fun at parties. 😉

7. I was on Teen Jeopardy! my senior year of high school. No, I did not win. Yes, there is video evidence of this. No, you cannot see it on the Internet. 🙂

So that’s that! I hope you enjoyed reading this and discovering other blogs as much as I enjoyed writing it and pointing you to said blogs. Carry on!

So very far behind!

Ugh, this week has really thrown me for a loop. I’m still getting over the sinus infection that I had last week, though (fingers crossed) I do really think it’s on its way out for good at the moment. I’d said in my last post that I wouldn’t run if the infection made its way down into my lungs, but, um, I lied about that. Oops. (I was feeling a little wheezy on last Saturday’s long run, and by Monday, I was coughing up greenish goo. [Sorry.])

See… running last week actually helped me feel a lot better, and helped clear goo out of my sinuses pretty well. Running also helps me relieve stress, because when I’m stressed out I run harder, because it’s like I’m physically beating the stress out of me one footfall at a time. Monday night triggered a serious case of “holy crap, everything is coming down on me at once”, which meant that on Tuesday, even though I was feeling even more wheezy and goo-coughingly-crappy, I went out for my usual Tuesday run anyway. And it felt really, really GOOD. I then tried to set a new land speed record for making it through my weights routine, which is why I was still sore when I woke up this morning, but the end result was that I went into Tuesday afternoon feeling physically much better, and, for a couple of hours, mentally much better as well. I had my actual serious freakout Tuesday evening, and strongly thought about going for another run just to get it out of my system, but I decided against this and went home and had strong, hoppy beer (Terrapin Hopzilla, which clocks in at 10.3% and is amazing) for dinner. (And vegetables for dessert.) That actually made me feel much better, and I calmed down a whole lot.

Wednesday I was still feeling a little mentally out of sorts and sleep-deprived, so I decided to make my 5-mile run a fast one. I thought I was going to die by the end, but again, it felt amazing. I’m afraid this means that I might only be compelled to run faster when I’m angry or stressed out, which is a bad way to live your life, but I was noticeably more relaxed today and ran my usual Thursday run at a much more reasonable pace – not long-run pace, but closer to my actual race pace (Tuesday and Wednesday were both run well below race pace). The sun was out for once, and there was a nice cool breeze, so it felt more like fall than spring, and that made me perk up a little. As far as green goo goes, none of it is any color any longer, and I feel like it’s more or less gone from my lungs and only marginally residing elsewhere. I got better sleep last night, and I hope to again tonight, so with any luck this crap will actually really be gone by Saturday’s 11.5-mile jaunt.

Anyway, so, lesson learned this week: Stressing out is good for my running, but bad for the rest of me. Hmmm.

Not at all speaking of stress, my friend Jill and I are signing up for a Color Run in Richmond in July, which will be awesome, I think. (Check it out here: http://thecolorrun.com/richmond/) We’re putting together a team so we can have an excuse to make shirts (not like she and I really need an excuse, but, you know) – hooray! I’m excited. I also really like having a race to look forward to, which in these days of sort of aimless running is a very nice thing.

Okay, enough about running. FOOD. The farmers’ market – you know, I think I’ll take pictures this weekend – continues to supply me with amazing spinach and strawberries for salads, which, man, I am going to hate having to go back to bagged spinach over the winter. It’s just so much better when it’s fresh and local. I’ve got half a mind to buy a rhubarb pie from my favorite baker on Saturday, just because I’ve been seeing rhubarb recipes pop up all over the place and while I’m terrified of cooking with it, I’d still like to eat it before it goes out of season. Yum. I love the farmers’ market.

I made a lime cheesecake last weekend, with my own blackberry sauce, and it turned out fantastically. I have an entire half of a box of graham crackers left (they’re what I used for the crust), and I am trying really really hard not to just make another one, like, now and eat the whole thing by myself. (I brought that one to a party, so it’s possible people were just drunk and only thought it tasted good, but I sampled it and couldn’t believe I’d actually made something that good.) Here’s another lesson learned this week: zesting and juicing limes is a total pain in the ass, but so 200% worth it.

Okay, sort of food but not really: supplements. Saturday I’m going to try out Clif Shot Bloks (chewy energy gels) for the first time. I bought two flavors – cran-razz and black cherry with caffeine – so I’ll see which of them I like, if any, and whether or not they treat me well. I might also try a cup of coffee before my long run on Saturday, because I had (oops) three cups before my stupid-fast run on Tuesday, and I’m wondering if maybe that might not help perk me up a little before I head out for a couple of hours. (And yes, I will remember to use the bathroom this time.)

And finally, medicine: I’m now only taking medicine every third day, instead of every other day, and the hope is that I can pare it down to once a week and then eventually off it entirely (it’s a steroid, remember, in foam form, and they’re not intended for long-term use) and remain symptom-free. So far so good, except for a few hiccups around that time of the month, but by and large my insides have been treating me well. I did learn that bison meat in the form of a burger is overwhelmingly okay for me to eat, which is great because most ground meat in burger form causes big trouble. If only bison meat wasn’t so damned expensive… Ah well. Not the sort of thing I should be eating all that often anyway.

Okay, so that’s that! I owe my friend Sam a shout-out, which I’ll give him in my next post, because he was awesome and did an awesome thing for me that made me all warm and fuzzy inside. (Or was that the beer….?) Read on to read all about it!

Numbers (and how I’m bad with them) (and other things)

Today is May 5, or Cinco de Mayo if you’re into adopting holidays from foreign countries in the name of excessive celebration. It’s also Kentucky Derby day, which for me is a little like Christmas; even though I generally find the fluff with which NBC fills the Derby broadcast mostly unbearable, I do enjoy watching the undercard races and feeling that little chill go down my spine when the gate finally opens and the race begins.

It is ALSO a playoff-game-day for the Capitals, and the second game in a three-game series between the Nationals and the Phillies, so it is apparent that I have a lot of sports to watch when I get home in a little while – I’m waiting for the last of my students to drop off their final exams, so I can take them home and laze about on the couch all afternoon, grading and watching three channels of sports programming at once. (Or at least trying.)

I’ve earned my lazy afternoon; I ran ten miles this morning, because I wanted to (and, okay, because I got a secret thrill from adding the fives of 5/5 and getting ten), and it was a pretty good run. Not great, but not horrible, just sort of in between, though I did stumble across the phrase “happiness is a choice” written on a sidewalk square in bird seed. I nearly tripped doing the double-take, but it made me smile nonetheless. It was a beautiful morning, which is always appreciated; my pace was good, my legs felt good – though they are sore now, boy howdy will I be massaging them later! – and by and large my breathing was good, which I was a little worried about given the lingering effects of the sinus infection and all. What I’ve learned from this week is that running actually helps clear a lot of crap out of my sinuses and nose, and eventually makes me feel much, much better, which is good to know for the fall when the inevitable autumn sinus infection(tm) strikes during marathon training.

I’ve not yet really gotten to numbers, though, so I guess I should do that. In my first few miles – which are always my least favorite, because it takes me a full 5k to really get going – I started thinking about Cinco de Mayo-Kentucky Derby days coinciding, and wondering when the last one was. So I started doing the backwards math, taking into account leap years, and I worked it back to 2007 as the last occurrence. (This is actually true.) I then worked backwards again, getting to 2002, and got excited because it meant that maybe this whole Cinco-Derby thing happens every five years, which, whoa, 5/5 every 5 years! Someone play 5-5-5 in Powerball or something! And I got way too enthused about this. And then I thought, okay, well, let’s think forward to 2017 and see if it holds. (Insert sound of air hissing out of a popped balloon here.) Erm – no, it doesn’t, because the next one as I calculated, should be in… 2016? Argh! I got annoyed, and tried to do the math again, and came up with the same thing. And then I was somewhere deep into mile 5 and forgot about it, because I knew I had a (pre-planted, which is a brilliant idea) water stop coming up and decided to get excited about that instead. (My life is terribly exciting, can’t you tell?)

As it turns out, I was only right about one of those Cinco-Derby doubles, the one in 2007. The one prior to that was in 2001, not 2002, and the next one after this is in 2018 – and then there’s not another one until 2029. Yikes! So, embarrassingly, this exercise really just proves how poor I am at counting, though I counter (ha!) that my math was so wonky because I was doing it while running, when my blood is not really in my brain and is instead taking oxygen to other places. It’s kind of amazing that I actually manage to ever get where I’m going when I run, because I’ve had this duuuhhh-gone-stupid thing happen before on longer-ish runs. I guess what I’m saying is, if you ever want to sell me something, track me down at, I don’t know, mile 14 and make your pitch. (wait, no, on second thought, don’t…)

Anyway, this is apropos of nothing, but I was also thinking about how it takes me a few miles to warm up and really get going, after which I always finish strong and (relatively) fast, and I was thinking about horse racing and how my favorite style of running is the come-from-behind victory. Personal Ensign, a filly from the late 1980s, never lost a race in her career, and she ran in this fashion, stopping my heart pretty much every single time – most especially in her last race, in which she looked totally defeated but came back in the last furlong to win by a most desperate nose. More recently, the mare Zenyatta got a lot of attention for doing the exact same thing; she won 19 straight races – against both the girls and the boys, something Personal Ensign never did – until losing in her final race by an also desperate nose. She was a massive horse; most female race horses are easy to pick out because they’re, well, a little on the dainty side, but not Zenyatta. She was a monster (and I say that in an admiring way); she stood 17.2 hands, or 5 feet 9 inches (that’s TALLER THAN I AM), and weighed over 1200 pounds. To put that in perspective, height-wise at least, the cutoff between a horse and a pony is 15.2 hands, and most race horses are about 16 hands tall. Zenyatta was BIG. And it took a while to get that mass moving, but once it did, it was pretty much unstoppable, and watching her move into gear and then gather all that and just mow horses down through the stretch and pull out the win – well, it was just thrilling.

Some days I liken myself to Zenyatta, which I know is silly, but I play this game in my head of “if I were a racehorse, which one would I be?” And the answer I usually come up with is “Zenyatta”. I’m not tall – I’m only 5 feet 4ish maybe 5 inches – and I’m not, you know, 1200 pounds, but compared to what people normally think of as distance runners, I’m rather more wide than they are. (I’m okay with this: my frame carries muscle well, but it can make me look stocky sometimes.) So I take it as a point of pride to liken myself to Zenyatta; I’m a little bigger than what you might expect, but it’s the right (to me) kind of big. I take a while to rev up and get going, but once I do, watch out – that’s me, flying past you in the final tenth of a mile. And if you engage me in the run to the finish, I’m going to do exactly what she did – snort (figuratively) and dig deeper and beat you there. Pppbbblllltt. 🙂

Okay, all of the exams are in and I see that Ovechkin has scored to put the Caps up 1-0 at the end of the first, and the Nats-Phillies are still scoreless, so I’m packing up and going home! Happy Cinco-Derby day, y’all.