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31 December, 2013

Guess What Day It Is...

It's the day of the traditional Year in Non Sequitur!  If you've been with the blog for any length of time, you'll know that the following is a hodgepodge made of the first sentence from each month's first blog post.

I think this screenshot says a lot about my running progress: 19 miles one week, then only 2 the next.  Take a look at my summer work schedule.  Six Classes...I have six classes to go until I finally have my Bachelor of Arts degree.  Last night I tried out a new recipe that I copied out of a magazine at work.  I don't think I've mentioned the Zimmerman case here before, and I probably won't mention it again, but I was sort of shocked to wake up this morning to a "not guilty" verdict and to find so many of my out-of-state friends on Facebook proclaiming once again how effed up Florida is.  They switched up the process for Candlelight choir this year.  I don't think I've mentioned on the blog (though Facebook knows alllll about it!) that my work building has a... considerable challenge with German cockroaches.  Oh hi, guess what!  I had a really good idea a few months back: heading out to do my longer training runs out at Disney resorts. Thirty-eight hours ago, I was waking up for the Space Coast Half Marathon.

Honestly, of all the years I've been putting these posts together (they really are some of my favorites!), I don't recall a post that less represented the peaks and valleys.  And boy howdy, there have been some peaks and valleys.  Among others:

  • School!  Though I had hoped to graduate in December, I think things worked out for the best.  Two semesters on the Dean's List, all A's and A-'s, and just one class this spring before graduation.  Plus, my Master's application is filled out, resume and cover letter uploaded, and references secured.  All that's left is to pay the application fee and order my transcripts.
  • Running!  There were some significant roadblocks - physical, emotional, and other - during the first 3/4 of this year, but I ended up completing THREE half-marathons and a bunch of other races.  I dragged friends into running 5k's, encouraged (and sometimes inspired) others to run longer distances, made runner friends, and can't seem to stop signing up for more races!  Running has become my outlet, my therapy, and on multiple occasions the one thing I could point to and say "I'm proud of this."  I wonder when I'll stop gazing at my medal display and getting a little choked up...
  • Separation! (note: the exclamation point was just there for style continuity -- this falls into the "valleys" category for sure)  It was hard then, and continues to be hard in so many ways.  I know I handled a lot of things terribly - things that never hit the blog - and that this shit hurts, but I still believe I'm on the path I'm destined to be on.  
  • Other assorted drama! (again, a valley)  There are a lot of people in the world who are selfish, mean-spirited, broken in any number of ways, or who bring negativity into your life in ways you can't possibly anticipate and don't understand.  I've had quite a few of those people meander along my path this year.  I'm not playing the victim card, because sometimes you invite the wolf in because if you squint and tilt your head to the left maybe he looks a little like a sheep... But I've definitely learned that when my health, heart, and happiness are on the line I am quite capable of standing up for myself.  (hmm...maybe not completely a valley after all...)
  • New Friends! I've made more new friends this year than I can count.  Most of them exist in only one facet of my life - work friends being a prime example - but having people to rant at, laugh with, cry to, and even run with has made this year much more positive than I feel I deserved.
  • Old Friends (and of course family)!  Some are in my life now more than they have been in a decade or more.  Seriously, who'd have ever expected me to be planning running vacations with high school friends?  Some have been around for forever.  They are my biggest cheerleaders, my secret keepers, and my ultimate supporters.  Thinking about the outpouring of love and understanding I've gotten when I needed it the most continues to humble me.
I've learned more about myself this year than possibly any single year of my life.  I brag about the things that I love, and continue to examine the things that aren't so great.  I've grown in ways I can barely fathom, and also done some incredibly stupid, careless, and irresponsible things. Like I said, peaks and valleys! 

Looking ahead, I wish for less drama and more fun in 2014.  I will graduate from college a mere 14 years behind schedule.  I think I can (at least) double the number of half marathons I ran this year.  I hope to get a new job, though the idea of leaving the one I have now makes my heart ache a little.  I need to handle my personal business (including the D-word and some financial stuff) and not hope that everything will straighten out if I ignore it long enough.  And I'm going to nurture my new and old friendships.  After all, no Jamie is an island.

Happy New Year to you and yours.  May your 2014 be filled with love, happiness, and wonderful memories.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for coming along on this voyage with me.

30 December, 2013

Doth the Lady Protest Too Much?

Conversation at work today between me and my officemate:

Me: I have a new top I want to wear, but I don't think my black cami is clean. Actually, to be dress code legal, I guess I need to wear my sleeveless black tank top instead...but I think the neckline on that one is too high. 

Her: So it's see-through and low-cut?
(She gives me the Single Raised Eyebrow of Judgment)

Me: you're making me sound like a ho! It's really not that low-cut!

I am acutely aware of where I am at this point in my weight loss: somewhere between looking way better than I used to and looking as good as I think I do! It's a dangerous place to be, full of pitfalls of ego (see the size-medium pants incident). I see people every day out and about wearing clothes two sizes too small - muffin tops a-poppin', navels visible beneath too-tight shirts, back and/or armpit cleavage - and I don't ever want to BE those people. How do I know I'm not getting dressed wearing rose-tinted "less fat goggles?" 

I have a feeling I might be doing that, if today's conversation is any indication. Perhaps it's time to find some new work clothes that are a happy feminine medium between flirty and frumpy. 

Ironically enough, I think the new shirt in question is exactly that. I tried it on with the sleeveless black top underneath, and it works perfectly. 

26 December, 2013

Portrait of the Artist in a Christmas Ornament

Happy Boxing Day!

I took the self-portrait above yesterday, and have been thinking about it quite a bit.  There's a lot of information about me here, both obvious and just below the surface, and I wanted to make a note of it before it becomes just another of the hundreds of silly random pictures of me on Facebook.

The obvious:
  • I'm wearing running clothes.  This picture was taken during a walking cool-down following a five-mile run on Christmas morning.  I ran past this tree twice, but it wasn't until the sun came up and I was moving slowly that I noticed my reflection in the ornaments.  I started to walk away, but thought I'd try to get a picture.
  • Long sleeves!  That means cool weather - my favorite running conditions.  (that's my free race shirt from the Orlando Half, by the way)
The less-obvious:
  • There's no chance I could have taken this photo inside my house, because I didn't bother decorating for Christmas this year.  However, a few boxes of my ornaments (just the impersonal ball-type ones) are out and proudly displayed...on someone else's tree.  A new-to-Florida friend mentioned that she only had 4 ornaments on her tree, and I gladly loaned her mine so hers wouldn't be so sparse.  
  • The photo is a selfie because there was no one else to take it.  
So there you have it - seasonal happy runner and lonely Scrooge all in one picture. 

23 December, 2013

Please Stop Yelling and Start Listening

I fear my "left-wing radical liberal" card is about to be revoked.  I'm also treading Biblical waters I don't understand.  But I'm genuinely hoping someone can help me understand what the HELL is going on in this country right now.  Here's the question I'd most like answered: why are the so-called open-minded left-leaning people all up in arms over the now infamous Phil Robertson interview in GQ?

Apparently I'm supposed to be offended by Robertson comparing homosexuality to bestiality...and also adultery, greed, drunkenness, and slander.  OK, the bestiality thing - I guess if I was gay that would really piss me off.  But seriously - let he who hasn't committed one of those sins call for the first boycott.  Since the media is pulling quotes left and right out of the article, I'm going to do the same:

Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
...
“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

Anyway, what *I* interpret there is "love the sinner but hate the sin."  Am I so off-base there?  As far as I can tell, Phil has just as much of a problem with me going out for too many drinks after work as he has with gays.

Is the problem with him calling homosexuality a sin?

I think the big problem that we all have decided that our own interpretation of the Bible and the sins it includes - be it not eating pork, not having sex strictly for the purpose of procreation, not getting tattooed, not having gay sex, or not gossiping - is the only correct one.  And somewhere along the line we have decided the only way to convert others to our point of view is to scream at them that they are wrong until they relent and agree with us.

Duck Dynasty is a guilty pleasure of mine.  It's silly and staged, but at the end of the day the show has heart.  It's about an extended family who, though they usually think each other are doing things the wrong way, love one another.  Every episode ends at the family table with a pre-meal prayer of thanks and not a request for the salvation of the rest of us sinners.

Phil Robertson thinks that being gay is icky.  His quote about anal sex? Well, you can read it for yourself.  But he's not advocating any anti-gay legislation, hate crimes or even "pray the gay away" activities.  He's saying, if I'm allowed to interpret one more time, "I think homosexuality is wrong, but that's their eternal problem, not mine."  I personally think hunting is icky.  And while the Robertsons eat what they kill, their vast multi-million dollar empire rests on folks who I'm certain only kill for sport.  Is that a sin?  Who am I to judge?  I'm pretty sure I commit at least one sin a day, and I'd be willing to bet you do as well.  And I'm also willing to bet that we each judge someone whose life choices don't align with our own at least once a week, if not once a day.  What's the damn difference?

Frankly, Robertson's thinly-veiled racism in the same article was more offensive to me than his opinion of various sins.  And yet the NAACP doesn't want to re-educate him.  GLAAD seems to want Phil Robertson to change his moral compass to one that they find more palatable.  "Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe," said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. "He clearly knows nothing about gay people..."

Where were the lies?  I've read the article fully through twice, and I have found nothing but opinions likely shared by a lot of people in his demographic.  And what do "true Christians" believe? 

I'm not saying he's right.  But I think that rather than scream and shake our fists and threaten boycotts every time someone makes a statement we disagree with, perhaps we should ALL step back and consider things from their point of view first.  Maybe we should look deeper than the quotes pulled for the evening news or the memes posted on Facebook.  Maybe we should stop our pearl clutching that an old Louisiana redneck Bible thumper said something offensive.  Maybe we should take a second to sit our kids - or nieces or nephews or neighbors - down and have a heart-to-heart about how we are all God's children, and if God is willing to love us despite our shortcomings, then we should be willing to extend grace to those around us as well.

OK...I know that many of you disagree with me on this.  Can you tell me why?

13 December, 2013

5K PR...and Looking Ahead to More

I put off my Thursday morning run until Friday morning when it would be cooler. Then this morning I decided what I wanted was an extra hour of sleep and I'd run after work. Then I got home 2 hours late from work and decided to just skip the run.

 ...then just as I sat on the couch I got a text from a friend who got home from work and ran a 5k in under 29 minutes and asked how my run went. My response? "Just got home...heading out momentarily."  So I hauled myself upstairs, changed into running clothes, and did my own 5k. I PR'ed with 41:21, which is a 13:20 pace. I also did my first mile in 12:43.  (normally after that pace, I'd have needed to walk the next two miles)

Peer pressure is awesome!

By the way, I apparently love to make a liar out of myself.  Just six days ago I said "It's unlikely I'll do distance races two weeks in a row again any time soon."  That lasted exactly as long as my sore ankles.  This morning I signed up for the Melbourne Half Marathon, which takes place the weekend after Celebration.

Why?

Well, mostly because I lack impulse control.

In addition to that, I also came to the realization that adding another half in January or February would make a milestone even more wonderful than my original 6 Halfs in 6 Months goal.  Check this out:
1. Princess 2013
2. Space Coast 2013
3. Orlando 2013
4. Celebration 2014
5. Melbourne 2014
6. Princess 2014
7. Sarasota 2014

Six half marathons (plus two ten-milers, a bunch of 5k's and one 4k) before I turn 35.  When I turned 33, I hadn't even yet signed up for my first race.  At 34, I had just run my first half and wasn't sure what future date I might try to run another one.  Now?  I feel like I've just set a goal that I can be tremendously proud of.

Additional Short-Term Running Goals:

  • Complete a 5k run in under 40 minutes
  • Complete a half marathon in under 3:05 (14-minute pace)
  • Complete a half marathon in under 3 hours

07 December, 2013

Orlando Half Marathon Recap

The Space Coast Half Marathon was just six days ago.  This very same calendar week.  I can't recall what crazy pills I took that made me think I was capable of running 26.2 miles in one week, but I'm so glad I did.  This race turned out to be an amazing experience for a lot of very different reasons.

I woke up this morning in my own bed, early enough to take a shower.  That probably sounds like a silly thing to mention, but it's the first time a) I slept at home the night before a half and b) had a start time late enough to shower in the morning.  I still had to eat my oatmeal in the car on the drive to downtown Orlando, but it was really nice to have a bit of 'normal' in my race morning.  I also got lost trying to find parking and ended up in the most wonderful place - a Catholic school charging $10 to park in their lot about 100 feet from the start/finish line.  A guy walking out of the lot at the same time told me it was the best $10 I'd spend today, and I definitely agree!

Pre-dawn Orlando
and Lake Eola
Pre-race was normal stuff: stretch, wander aimlessly, people watch... a whole lot of hurry up and wait.  The girl who sang the National Anthem ROCKED it, and we were off. The other girl from my building who was registered ran past me pretty much right at the beginning (she's a runner though, so no big surprise there!) and I was glad to have had a chance to yell "HEY!" at her as she passed. From a physical and mental standpoint, I knew right away that this race wasn't going to go as well as the last.  My legs were tight but not sore, but I had no pep in my step.  It was hot as well, and my shirt was bunching in weird places from the start.  I wasn't even a mile in before I started wondering whether I could - or even wanted to - finish.

Another girl struck up a conversation with me about 1.5 miles in, and we leap-frogged each other for a while after that.  After a water stop around mile 3, I asked if she was running set intervals or just doing what felt right.  She said she had been doing 30-30's but her watch had died.  We decided to run together, and kept it up for the whole rest of the race.  She had also just done Space Coast, plus a Thanksgiving race and a whole laundry list of other runs, and we're both doing Celebration and Glass Slipper.  She's also doing the Dopey Challenge.  Crazytown!  Having someone to talk to got me out of my crappy brain space and made the race much more fun than I had expected.

Cheers!
Also on the fun front, the course had musical entertainment at various locations.  We past two bagpipers around mile 4 and a whole troop of Japanese drummers a few miles later.  I'm not generally a fan of either, but they were great diversions.  We also passed a non-official "Beer Stop," which I didn't take advantage of, and a pair of ladies making mimosas and bloody marys to-order.  We did stop for mimosas, and then couldn't resist posing for a terrible selfie.  (what you can barely see behind my shiny red face and the earphone cord dangling in front of the camera is the car of the cop directing traffic.  I'm not sure it's legal to walk down the street drinking booze, but he didn't stop us)

I also made another friend in the weeks leading up to this race, and met him for the first time this morning.  There's an internal social media network at work, with all sorts of sub-groups including one for running.  We've all been chatty recently, with lots of others running the two races I did, and I struck up an unlikely friendship with someone much more of a runner than me.  We texted back and forth, and met and talked for all of three minutes before the race.  And then after he finished the race he came back and ran for a while with me and my other new friend Jackie until he got back to the street where his car was parked.  We even passed a race photographer, so there might be a picture of me and my two new friends together.

The topography of this course was WAY tougher than Space Coast, with a bunch of hills (granted, I know Florida hills aren't really such a big deal) and a large portion of the course on brick roadways, which are sort of tough on the ankles.  And Orlando's neighborhoods weren't quite as breathtaking as Cocoa and Rockledge.  But there was something special about this race I can't put my finger on that I really liked.

I know I was way in the back of the field - by the halfway point, the traffic cops were letting cars cross the road in front of and behind us - and that was a little unsettling, but I really appreciated not having to jostle for position.  (actually, I just looked my results up - I finished 3305 out of 3344.  Doesn't get much closer to DFL than that!)  And there was no one else finishing around me, so for the first time in any of my races, I actually heard the announcer say my name.  I looked over at him and smiled and yelled "hey that's ME!"  And then I crossed the line, got my medal and my water/Gatorade/banana/mini muffin (did I mention the race was sponsored by Publix? mmm...muffin...), and wandered around the post-race party enjoying my chocolate milk and beer (not at the same time).

It's unlikely I'll do distance races two weeks in a row again any time soon, and if the weeks line up the same way next year I will probably choose Space Coast, but I really do want to try this race again when I'm in better physical condition.  Like I said, there was something really special about it that I want to try again.

My Race Stats:
Clock Time: 3:23:25
Chip Time: 3:20:33
Pace: 15:18
Overall Place: 3305/3344
Division Place: 299/303

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
mile 1: 12:52 min/mi
mile 2: 13:50 min/mi
mile 3: 13:46 min/mi
mile 4: 14:31 min/mi
mile 5: 14:28 min/mi
mile 6: 14:16 min/mi
mile 7: 14:40 min/mi
mile 8: 14:42 min/mi
mile 9: 14:42 min/mi
mile 10: 14:54 min/mi
mile 11: 15:48 min/mi
mile 12: 17:34 min/mi (Mimosa stop included)
mile 13: 16:02 min/mi

...and so I finished my THIRD half-marathon of 2013 with a time halfway between my first and second.  I have a beautiful new medal that I can't wait to show off at work on Monday.  And I have two new friends.  I'm exhausted, I've been alternating ice packs on my ankles all afternoon, and the same blister from last week now has another blister under it.  But I'm good.  I feel happy and strong and really freaking proud.

Next weekend is my last race of the year, a 4k "beer run" I'm doing with Scott. There's some rain in the forecast, but at least it'll be a little cooler than today.  I'm looking forward to a race I won't have to train for, and one I'm likely to not finish 4th from last!
 

05 December, 2013

Medium Well

As I think I mentioned recently, my compression running pants have started to become much less compression-y.  I decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy a new pair, so I stopped at Old Navy yesterday on my way home.  Their compression capri-length pants were on sale, and the display looked like a bomb hit it.  There was no organization of sizes, lengths, or colors.  I finally found an XL hanger with a black pair that were the right length and grabbed them, along with an interesting gray-ish silver-ish pair, and headed to the dressing room.

I tried on the gray ones first, and aside from the color not being as cool as I thought, the calves were loose.  Of all the weird fits I've encountered, I have to say boot-cut capris were pretty much the weirdest thing ever!  So then I grabbed the black pair and started tugging them up.  They were TIGHT, even going up over my (ever-so-muscular runner's) calves, but I kept going.  It was sort of like the control-top pantyhose dance getting them on, but I did it.

You know you have a problem when your black pants are stretched so far that they're almost sheer like black tights.  And I stood there staring at my reflection in the mirror contemplating whether I had really lost thigh size like I thought.  Maybe the old running pants had just given up after over a year of trying to squeeze me into them!  The tag on the hip was stabbing me, so I reached around to move it.  That's when I saw the most ridiculous thing ever: the letter M!

Ego Boost!

I managed to squeeze all of my biggest problem areas into a pair of MEDIUM pants!

Move over, [insert skinny runway model here]!

Granted, this was most definitely a case of "just because you can squeeze into it, that doesn't mean it fits."  I admit to having a moment where I thought maybe I should try on the Large, just in case...but then I came to my senses.  When I left the dressing room, I told the attendant that the pants were on the wrong hanger, "which is sort of a cruel joke," and laughed.  I went back to the racks until I found an XL pair in the correct length and left without trying them on.

I did try them on last night before pulling the tags.  You know, because I'm not completely stupid.  I have to say I wasn't completely displeased with my reflection....

Right about now, I wish that I had sucked up my pride and taken some 'before' pictures in the Spring of 2012.  This girl pictured to the left is still heavy.  Hell, she's still technically obese.  But I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of her for how far she has come!

I don't love my hips or my thighs, but I do love my curves.

I don't love my belly fat, but you can't see much of it from this angle.  It's a trade-off, because I do love the way my butt looks in these pants, but you can't see that either!

I also think that black tight pants really are more flattering than my naked reality, but since none of you are likely to see that EVER, we can all just pretend that this is how I look all the time!

So for future reference, this is my 'during' picture, taken 12-4-2013.

Medium?  Well, no... but definitely headed that general direction!

02 December, 2013

Space Coast Half Marathon Recap

If your birthday happens to be 3-3-79,
then this is almost the most perfect race bib ever !

Thirty-eight hours ago, I was waking up for the Space Coast Half Marathon.  Of course, like most pre-race nights, I had been up just about every half hour all night looking at the clock.  Around 1 am I woke up with a headache at the base of my skull that hurt so bad my first thought was "I've cancelled training runs for headaches that hurt less."  I didn't have any ibuprofen with me - they say not to take anything but Tylenol within 24 hours - and Tylenol doesn't really do much for me, so I went back to sleep rather than get up and take pills.

When I woke up for real, it still hurt, but not half as bad as it was at 1.  And my face felt hot.  And I stumbled when I got out of bed and started walking.  I thought maybe there was something wrong with me.  I also figured there was NO WAY I was going to bail on the race, so I got up and dressed and out the door.

Mom and I were staying at the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach.  You know I'm not one to name-drop random hotels, but I cannot say enough about the hotel.  The room was spacious and clean (though it smelled vaguely of feet), and the staff was wonderful.  The morning of the race, they had to-go bags with bottled water, an apple, and a cereal bar.  I had my own pre-race food, but appreciated the extra boost.  We took the 4:15 shuttle to the race site, and then played the hurry up and wait game until "blast off" at 6:00.  I was trying to keep my spirits up, but my headache was weighing my spirits down and I was worried about a weird twinge I kept getting on my right shin.

Side note: they were having audio problems, and the microphone kept cutting in and out.  During the singing of the National Anthem, the crowd just started singing along whenever the audio stopped.  It was kind of awesome.

Before this race, my goal for the whole race season was to finish a half marathon in under 3:15:00, which is a 15 minute/mile pace.  Since this course was flat, and the weather was cool and overcast, I thought it might be a remote possibility if my body aches and pains quit.  I pointed out the lady holding the sign for the 3:15 Galloway pace team and told Mom that I'd probably finish a little after her.  I also lined up in the corral slightly ahead of her, but well behind the 3:00 pacer.  When the race started, I figured I would just run at whatever pace was comfortable until it wasn't comfortable, and then I'd slow down.

At the 5k point, I was running directly behind a lady with a bib on her back indicating that she was a 3:00 pacer.  I made the conscious decision to stay behind her, because I knew I couldn't keep that pace for the whole race.  At the 5 mile mark, I was still keeping pace right behind the same woman, but staying behind her was slowing me down.  And so, I passed her some time before the 6-mile mark and waited for her to pass me.  I never saw her again.

I had a total mind-screw right after I passed the 10K timing mats.  For some reason, I was convinced that 6.2 miles was the halfway point, and I couldn't understand why we were still going straight.  Where was the U-turn?  The distance from 6.2 to the actual turnaround was (I'm guessing) less than half a mile, but I struggled the whole time because I was mentally already half done and resented having to keep going.

After the turnaround, my mood picked up and I started looking at RunKeeper in disbelief.  At mile 7, my average pace was still 13:34 (I think - I didn't take a screen shot). I knew my 5 mile run the weekend before had good numbers, but that was only 5.  Here I was 7 miles in, feeling strong, and running FASTER?!?

...and then disaster struck.  I grabbed a handful of Craisins and popped them in my mouth during a walk break.  I'm not sure what happened, but all of a sudden I took a sharp breath and was pretty sure I inhaled one.  I had a pretty wicked coughing fit, but when my interval timer beeped I started running again.  The coughing made my throat feel raw, and I had that "you might puke if this keeps up" feeling.  The persistent scratching in my throat wasn't getting any better...and then *cough* there was a cranberry in my mouth that wasn't there before.  Oh lord...it was stuck in my throat!  Problem solved?  Not really.  Another few minutes of running and walking, feeling like crap and I did that sinus-clearing snort thing and HEY! Another cranberry!  It turns out the second cranberry, which I hocked into the grass as if it were a loogie, was the source of my discomfort.  Instead of inhaling it down into my lung, I somehow snorted it from my mouth up toward my nose.  Once it was out, the pain was gone.

That's a first!

By the time I hit miles 8 and 9, I actually pulled up the calculator app on my phone to see what time I'd finish if I maintained a 14 minute average pace.  I also realized that I was most likely going to finish well ahead of my original 3:15 goal.  AND I realized that Disney was requiring proof of time if you thought you were going to finish the Princess Half in less than 3:15.  I sent a text to Scott that said "holy [redacted]. Gonna have a sub 3:15 to submit for Princess."  (I love that my phone knows that Princess a proper noun in my world) I also sent one to Mom right at mile 8: "5 mi to go. Pretty sure fkonosh b4 3:15." I don't know if she understood what I was saying, but it wasn't really important.

At mile 11, I sent another text to Mom saying "mile 11. c u in half hour."  That's right, even though my legs were starting to scream during the last 5k I knew there was no chance I was going to slow down to a 15 minute pace.

After mile 12, the lead runner for the full marathon passed me.  I took a picture as he went by, and tried to run along with him during my 20 second run interval.  Boy was he speedy...but when else would I ever have the chance to say I ran with a marathon champion 25 miles into his race?  Plus, all of the other marathoners running the opposite direction were cheering and it was easy to pretend they were cheering for me.

The last stretch of the race was on brick, and full of people cheering.  As much as I wanted to run and smile with them, the best I could manage was to maintain my intervals. As I passed a race photographer, I did my patented fake run pose.  A volunteer mimicked me and asked what I was doing and I laughed and said "fake running for the camera!"  He laughed, told me that was awesome, and gave me a high-five. One turn before the end, I saw Mom videotaping, and I figured I had to run for that.  I smiled and waved, turned the corner, and there was the finish.  So I ran straight on to the end.  I even managed to get my arms mostly up for the finish line photographers.

check out those post-race sausage fingers!
The "RaceJoy" app posted to Facebook that my finish time was 3:16, and I was heartbroken.  I couldn't figure out how I could've lost so much momentum in the last two miles.  And I was disappointed that I didn't have a proof of time for Princess 2014 after all.  And I was mad at myself for not being over-the-moon thrilled at coming in 15 minutes faster than my time from Princess 2013.

After I reunited with Mom, got my big cup of beer, a banana, and a bottle of the most delicious ice cold orange juice in the history of mankind, we took a few pictures of the "sweaty delirious girl with new bling" variety and then shuffled to the hotel shuttle, full of oh-so-stinky runners.

On the bus, I took a look at my RunKeeper, and realized that the time/pace posted to Facebook must have been the clock time and not my chip time.  I realized that for sure when I saw it had my 5k time as 49:50. My mood definitely improved, though I wasn't sure when I would find out my actual time...and the anticipation was killing me!

Eventually, while enjoying my post-race bubble bath, I logged back into RaceJoy and found my unofficial chip results, which turned out to also be my actual results:
What? You can't read this GIANT text?  See below!
Clock Time: 3:16:42
Chip Time: 3:10:26
Pace: 14:33
Overall Place: 2261/2937
Division Place: 195/259
(not pictured: Previous PR: 3:31 -- that's a 21 MINUTE improvement!!!!!!)

I have almost nothing negative to say about this race, but here are the only critiques I've got:
* The expo was CrazyTown.  You had to go through 4 different lines to get your bib, race bag, check your tag, and then go to the back corner of the expo for your shirt.  The first 3 lines were in the small circular entryway of the expo hall, and my inner crowd-phobe freaked the heck out during the 15ish minutes we were inside.
* The shirt is white and fairly sheer.  I'll wear it for early runs around the neighborhood when it's more important for me to be visible than for my bra to be invisible.  But I love the logo on it, and would wear it out if not for the modesty factor.
* The RaceJoy app was a massive disappointment.  Supposedly there was a way to have race updates texted to people, but I could only figure out how to post updates to Facebook.  And as I already said, those updates were based on clock time and not chip time.
* Supposedly there was Gu available around mile 8, but I never saw it.  I can't imagine how I missed it, but I guess I'll chalk it up to my own flakiness.  I'm glad I had my Craisins and wasn't relying on it though!
* Twice in the last 5k, I encountered residents leaving their driveways and driving onto the race course.  The first was right next to a cross-street, and was only on the road for a few seconds basically long enough to make the turn. The second was driving behind me, and I was so pissed off I refused to move to the side of the road.  I also trudged nearly a mile behind two girls in jeans and sweaters who had apparently been cheering for someone and were moving toward the finish line.  They were walking faster than I was able to run, so they weren't actually in my way, but other runners did have to run around them.  It would've been nice if a volunteer had told them to GET OUT OF THE WAY.
* I was disappointed by the weather.  I had hoped to snap some spectacular sunrise-over-water pictures, but it was gray and overcast...

...which is an excellent point to carry into the list of awesome things about this race:
* The weather!  Though the sky was depressing to look at, I was so happy to be running in cool temperatures with a pleasant breeze...even when that breeze turned into a headwind around mile 7 or 8.
* The course is beautiful.  It's an out and back, with lovely houses on one side and water on the other side.  The road curves a lot, is pretty flat, and the field of under 3,000 half marathoners was spread out enough that I never really felt like I was part of a herd.
* The volunteers at the water stations were great.  There were a lot of kids/teens, lots of costumes, and I never had to stop to wait for a full cup to be put in my hand.
* The residents of the neighborhood we ran through were good sports about being trapped at home.  Lots were out sitting in lawn chairs watching the spectacle.  Some had signs and were cheering.  Some even had their own water stops set up.  I took a cup of water from a little girl who couldn't have been 4 or 5 and told her that her family was the awesomest on the street.  I also saw a family pouring beer into little paper cups and another with a hot plate cooking something that smelled awesome and something that looked remarkably like bloody mary mix and a stack of paper cups!
* The post-race amenities, including pizza, beer, pancakes, juice, and fruit - plus plenty of space to spread out and enjoy them - were fabulous.  Now I know why people get so annoyed with Disney for charging extra for similar stuff after their races!
* And last but not least, the finisher medal is spectacular!  It's huge - even bigger than my Princess medal - and more importantly, absolutely stunning.  Pictures don't do it justice.  The shuttle is silver-tone, and all of the white and colored areas are sparkly.

I'm almost certain I'll be back to run another Space Coast Half.  I had an amazing run, and can't imagine another race comparing!

FACTS & FIGURES
Injuries:
* one large blister (the size of a lima bean) on the outside of my right big toe, and several smaller ones that aren't really worth mentioning
* immediately after the race, both of my big toes hurt under the nails.  thanks to the dark nail polish (which you can see at the bottom of the picture above), I don't know if there's any visible bruising.  but they hurt WAY less today.
* I'm having difficulty lifting my left leg in front of me.  I can do stairs just fine, but the range of motion of lifting my leg straight out is only about 1/3 of what my right leg can do.  While I don't generally do kick lines, this motion is apparently used getting my pants on and off, and is therefore an issue.
* General stiffness in my hips and thighs.
...in other words, wow - I'm practically fine!!

Split Paces: 
(according to RunKeeper...which also thinks I ran 13.55 miles at a 14:06 pace, so take these with a grain of salt)
mile 1: 13:05 min/mi
mile 2: 13:39 min/mi
mile 3: 13:39 min/mi (even split!  woo!)
mile 4: 13:42 min/mi
mile 5: 13:55 min/mi
mile 6: 13:43 min/mi
mile 7: 14:11 min/mi
mile 8: 14:07 min/mi
mile 9: 14:16 min/mi
mile 10: 14:24 min/mi
mile 11: 14:41 min/mi
mile 12: 14:35 min/mi
mile 13: 14:54 min/mi

Of course, I'm going to have to do a delicate balancing act of babying and pushing myself this week, because the Orlando Half is coming up this Saturday.  I plan on doing short slow runs tomorrow and Thursday mornings, as well as plenty of walking on Wednesday.  I feel really good and strong, which boggles my mind, and am really confident that I'll do fine on Saturday.  My plan for that race is to take it easy, listen to my body, and hopefully finish in about 3:15.  I do not expect to PR again without adequate recovery time, and it's also going to be warmer which will probably slow me down.

It may slow me down, but it won't stop me.  I'm feeling pretty unstoppable today!

28 November, 2013

3...2...1...

Today is Thanksgiving, but aside from the fact that it was quiet in the office and I had turkey and assorted pot luck sides for lunch, it's just another Thursday.  Actually, that's not true.  It's VACATION Thursday.  As of 2:30 this afternoon, I'm on vacation for ten days.

Ten!  Days!

And of course, I won't be sitting on my butt a whole lot during that time.  I'm in the "final countdown" for the Space Coast Half Marathon this Sunday.  Two weeks ago, I did my final long training run, wrapping up at a distance of 10 miles.  Of course, the race is 3 (point one) miles longer, but I'm pretty confident that race day adrenaline will carry me that last 5K.

Though I haven't managed to beat my 12:49/mile PR, I also haven't tried.  I've been trying to be injury-free going into the next weeks.  It hasn't been an easy road though.  Last week I went to the doctor when pain in my left foot got so bad I started to worry that I might have a broken bone.  (I don't.  I put the insoles from my old shoes into my new shoes, and my feet are happier than they have ever been.)  And even though I haven't been pushing, it still feels like I'm improving.  On my 5-mile run last Saturday, each of my my miles took less than 15 minutes.  And on my 3-mile run yesterday, my overall pace was 13:41/mile.

That last milestone is especially significant because I've been eyeing a handful of future races that have a pacing requirement of 14 minutes/mile (hello, Hershey!) (does anyone else find it ironic that the race through the CHOCOLATE town isn't just a slow fun run??) (excessive parentheses live here).

But I digress.  I wanted to take a minute to write out all of the things I've got planned between now and next Monday when I go back to work...partly because I'm sure I won't end up doing everything I have on the list.

Tomorrow - morning run and breakfast (corned beef hash is carb-loading, right?) with Scott, mini grocery trip (mostly for race day Craisins and pizza fixin's), possible trip to the pharmacy for prescription refills, Mom arrives, home-made pizza for dinner, pack for the trip

Saturday - drive to the coast, race packet pick-up at the expo, hotel check-in, dinner someplace carb-tastic, shower, blow-dry, chalk pink & purple streaks in my hair (if I can find the chalk), and early sleep

Sunday - RACE DAY!  no solid plans after that, but I'm hoping for a dip in the hot tub and a hobble on the beach

Monday - back home, lunch with Mom before she heads home, group project due tonight

Tuesday - laundry, cleaning, homework, short conditioning run

Wednesday - pot luck at work (yep, during vacation!), Candlelight show

Thursday - more homework, more cleaning, another short run

Friday - race packet pick up

Saturday - Orlando Half Marathon

Sunday - more laundry, Candlelight show

Wow...I shouldn't have written it all out.  All of a sudden it looks awfully overwhelming!

Anyway, wish me luck on Sunday.  Hopefully I'll have a race recap up by Tuesday.

14 November, 2013

12:49

Presented without commentary:

...ok, just a little commentary: OMG this is 14 seconds faster than my previous PR, which I set about 13 hours before! All of my social media friends, most coworkers, and even my chiropractor have heard about this today. 

Woot woot!

13 November, 2013

New PR?

I ran two miles after work today.  I figured I should really start pushing myself on my short runs, so I increased my running interval from 30 seconds to 33 (still walking 40).  That one little adjustment kicked my ASS.  But with a first mile of 13:05, I think I PR'ed.  The second mile was more my normal speed at 14:29. I walked a few of those intervals, and had to slow down to stop deep-breathing because there was some sewage work going on near the front of the development.

Thank God for cooler weather.  It's so much easier to get out when it's pleasant... and I'll gladly trade in sweat stains for watering eyes any day!

I'm back out tomorrow morning before work (yep - 4am run - yet another thing I once said "never" about doing!) and hoping that after a good night's sleep maybe I can really push and knock that down below 13.

Everyone needs a goal, right?

11 November, 2013

Retirement


another in a series of "all about me" posts

It is with great pride and happiness, and also a little bit of wistful sadness, that I announce the impending retirement of my favorite pair of pants. 

Truthfully, they haven't fit me properly for over a year.  When I originally started losing weight, the first place I lost was in my waist.  The pants started slipping to my hips, and then off my hips, so I just put in a half-assed dart at the waistband using a safety pin.  And that's pretty much the way it's been ever since.  (for the sake of the photo, I pulled off the safety pin)

I noticed today though that they are getting saggy-baggy basically through the butt and thighs, to an extent they look pretty ridiculous.  So as soon as I can find a comparable pair on sale, these will be going to the donation pile.

Did you catch that?  BAGGY IN THE THIGHS!  I sort of noticed recently straight out of the shower that maybe at just the right angle my thighs might look a little smaller than they used to.  And when I ran this weekend, my compression pants were no longer compressing (though that could just as easily be because they are old and the Lycra is giving out...).  But these pants?  I know these pants.  They were never this loose before.

And so, it looks like I'm actually making progress again.  For anyone who just stumbled here and is currently thinking "what are you talking about??" I'd like to acknowledge that yes, I'm still fat.  I'm still just about 25-30 pounds lighter than when I started almost two years ago, but I feel like I might be at a turning point right now.  I've decided to tweak my work schedule a little bit (which I still need to clear with my boss) so that I can run in the morning two weekdays and still do my long runs on the weekends.  I'm doing much better with eating decent food at home - broccoli has become my staple veggie, and I eat 2-3 bags of it a week. And though I've been slipping and eating more fast food than I should, when I get my butt in gear and cook enough food for the week in one day, I cut that out completely too.

...and I acknowledge that I've been ending far too many posts this way, but I just added another race for March and I like to keep my running tally (pun unintended).  Here's what I have coming up:
- This week: Running for Lemons Virtual 5k
- Dec 1: Space Coast Half Marathon
- Dec 7: Orlando Half Marathon* (I'm considering buying a new pair of shoes just so I can use the VIP potty hahaha)
- Dec 14: Tap n Run 4k Beer Run
- February 22: Disney's Enchanted 10k (day 1 of the Glass Slipper Challenge)
- February 23: Disney's Princess Half Marathon (day 2 of the Glass Slipper Challenge)
- *new* March 16: Sarasota Half Marathon

So now that I've got four half-marathons scheduled in four months, I figure I might as well add one in January to make it five in five...and maybe shoot for one in April or May...just to round it off to a half dozen.  Woah...I might have an addiction!  Oh well, at least this one is unlikely to kill me! 

*after the Orlando Half, I'm eligible to join the "Half Fanatics."  Whether I'd actually spend $40 for a membership to a club just for the sake of belonging isn't the point.  

10 November, 2013

Get off My Lawn!

Being childless, I mistakenly assumed that I wouldn't turn into my parents.  After all, why would I?  But alas, it seems God has a sense of humor.  A sick, sick sense of humor.  

Back in September, I had the following exchange with a coworker:

Co-worker: I'm hungry
Me: do you want my applesauce?
Co-worker: Nah
Me: then you're not really hungry!

This was a classic Jamie-Mom exchange through most of my childhood.  You can substitute thirsty or bored as well.  Apparently bedroom cleaning was a valid boredom buster in her eyes... I still disagree with that one!

Last night, I channeled my father and was genuinely mortified.  A small child (6-8 years old, I'd guess) wandered up to my screen door last night and was looking into my house.  He made eye contact with me and a smile started to brighten his face.

Me: Go home.
Him: Why?
Me: Because you don't belong in my doorway.  GO AWAY!

("Why?"??? I'm going to throw a "this is what's wrong with kids today" in at this point, just to increase my crotchety points.  But it did annoy me.)

I know it seems harsh, but it was about 8:45 at night.  It was pitch black behind my house, and there are no children that age living in my building or the buildings on either side.  I don't understand why this boy and the other two he was with felt compelled to play behind my house.  At the time, I thought they were the little unsupervised monsters who live across the street from me - who once stood on top of a construction sand pile and threw rocks and dirt clods at each other.  I went upstairs for bed at 9, and could see a group of adults a few buildings down, also yelling and carrying on, so at least the kids weren't completely unsupervised.  They finally left my backyard a few minutes before I was going to yell out the window.

So anyway, I guess it's official: I am the "get off my lawn" guy of the neighborhood.  Oh well...I guess someone needs to do it!

09 November, 2013

Running at the Port

I had a really good idea a few months back: heading out to do my longer training runs out at Disney resorts.  I've run at Pop Century before, and found that running loops around unfamiliar vistas broke up the monotony of doing the same 1.5 mile loop around the neighborhood.  Of course, life got in the way, and my long training runs have sort of been ideas more than actions.  So last night I decided I was actually going to leave the neighborhood before the sun came up.

Things worked out even better than I expected, because I woke up at 4:45 and my alarm wasn't even set to go off until 6:15.  I was actually pulling into my destination when the alarm on the phone went off!  And so, I set out along the banks of the "Sassagoula River" to do some laps around Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter resorts.

It was lovely.


There were also a surprising number of runners out doing what I did, considering there was a 5k (the Jingle Jungle - guess that makes today a race-iversary for me!) this morning and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon this evening.

I had a totally unrealistic pie-in-the-sky goal of 11 miles (the plan was then to do 12 next Saturday and taper for the next two weeks, doing no more than 5 miles until the the Space Coast Half), but I figured 9 wouldn't be too painful and I'd just sort of shoot for something inbetween the two.

I actually averaged a 15 minute mile pace for the first 6 miles, which was impressive to me, and then kind of pooped out.  I went into the gift shop at Riverside to see if I could get a single-serve pack of Tylenol and bottle of water, but they only had aspirin in small packages and I wasn't about to pay Disney prices for a full bottle.  So I went out and did one more full resort lap, but my toes were aching, I hadn't had enough to drink, and I was getting a little light-headed.

I wanted to keep going, but since I plan to do another long run next weekend (considering that prep for my two half-marathons six days apart) I decided to give myself a break.  I ended up doing 8.39 miles in 2 hours, 10 minutes.  I know I could've gone another 5 miles, with cheering fans, water breaks, and Gatorade available.  It's kind of a good feeling to actually feel good and confident three weeks in advance.

I also need to talk to my boss this week to see if I can start my days on Tuesdays and Thursdays an hour later.  I need to get back into the habit of doing shorter runs (with more aggressive intervals) during the week and have just given up on ever forcing myself to do it after work!

So...my next races are 3 and 4 weeks away.  I'm really excited to tackle these new races, spend two nights at the beach with my mom, and enjoy the week off from work between the two.  It should be a pretty exciting few weeks!

30 October, 2013

Unexpected Revelation

Yesterday was kind of a roller-coaster. I ended up leaving work early because I hadn't slept well the night before and my brain was going in 18 different directions that had nothing to do with staring at a computer monitor and scheduling training.

The biggest part of the day I'm not quite ready to share.  I'm wrapping my brain around some things, processing, and trying to put a positive spin on it.

Looking back, the unexpected highlight of my day was carpooling to a (pointless) meeting with my area's safety manager.  I was really tired to the point of acknowledging that I was talking without using my brain, and yet he kept the conversation rolling both to and from the meeting... and maybe made some faces at me during the meeting.

On the way back to our end of the world, I was totally nerding out about my safety & health class.  I complained about OSHA and bad employers and bad Congressmen.  And when I shut up long enough to let him get out 5 words I realized the guy actually knows his stuff way more that I assumed he did and cares - GENUINELY CARES - about the people he's responsible for.  He knows how bad it sucks for everyone involved when things go really wrong and is doing what he can to keep his people safe...even if it means shoveling elephant poop!

I've sat in enough (pointless) meetings to know that the general managerial perspective on employee safety is making sure everything is OSHA-compliant.  They are more concerned about covering their own - and the company's - asses than in actually being proactive and protecting their employees.  My job exists so that if something goes wrong (and it has), the people over and around me can point to a few sheets of paper and say, "not our fault...blame the injured or dead guy."

I'm glad that my people are also his people.  Though I'm sure I'm more personally invested in "my guys" than he is, I know he's more invested in them than some safety managers for other departments are.  And at the end of the day, the more people who care about my guys, the better for all of us.

28 October, 2013

Ten Things

John Scalzi posted a list of "ten things I have done that you (probably) haven't," and while I don't think my list compares to his, I thought it would be fun to come up with my own list.  Most of these are obviously Disney-related, but that's what happens when you spend your entire adult life affiliated with The Mouse.

1. Watched a veterinarian draw blood from the toe of a silverback gorilla.

2. Watched The American Adventure from both the pit below the stage and seated on the stage.

3. Been alone with the original "Jolly Holiday" dress from Mary Poppins.

4. Climbed up 2/3 of the way to the top of Cinderella Castle and looked over the parapet.  (after that, my fear of heights kicked in pretty massively).

5. Watched Magic Kingdom fireworks from the rooftops of Main Street USA.

6. Pet a baby white rhino.

7. Sang back-up for Celine Dion on a nationally-televised Christmas show.

8. Gave Drew Carey directions to the bathroom (and when he asked if he could just use the bushes nearby told him "we'd prefer you not do that sir.").

9. Rode in a van from Pittsburgh to State College (and stopped for dinner on the way) with Reel Big Fish.

10. Ran 13.1 miles in a tutu.

What about you?  What's on your list?

Too Funny to be TMI

I was Facebook messaging with Scott this evening about my thrilling return to Dr. Ponytail (OMG he started a new practice, where the people all TALK to you and LISTEN to you and... it's like the complete opposite of my primary doctor!!).  Following is a screenshot of part of our conversation...


There's really not much else I can add to that!

God bless you, iPhone auto correct!

24 October, 2013

The Ballad of JC Penney

The following is a copy of the e-mail I just sent to JC Penney "customer care" following a series of ridiculous service failures.  It's long, so I'm going to put it behind the jump, but if you're interested in call center or supply chain logistics, then this is the post for you!

19 October, 2013

Something About Pumpkins

Hello, my name is Jamie and I have a confession:

I don't get the pumpkin spice latte.

I had one a few years back, and I couldn't understand what the fuss was about.  It tasted like coffee... with cinnamon and cloves.  Every year around this time though, my social media feeds fill with breathless excitement about the "PSL."  Even McDonald's is getting into the act with a PSL of its own!  So yesterday I thought maybe the first one I had was just a fluke.  This time, I got it iced.  It was even worse than I remembered.  It was too sweet, had a bitter aftertaste, and tasted somewhat like the pumpkin hand sanitizer I have in my car that always makes my eyes water when I use it.

Here's the thing though: I love pumpkin.  Did you know this time of year McD's has a pumpkin pie?  I haven't had it, but I bet it's delicious. Tasty Pies come in pumpkin as well.  Disney carries pumpkin fudge, and once upon a time I was even able to get a pumpkin-fudge-covered apple there.  Delicious!  Jello's instant pumpkin pudding is delicious as-is, or in any number of different no-bake pies.  Pumpkin breads, muffins, or cake?  Yes, please!  And of course, the most wondrous pumpkin treat of all...


The Little Debbie Pumpkin Cake is the happiest seasonal snack of all.  I distinctly remember one year in high school that my mom bought A LOT of these at the Arnold thrift store and froze them.  I would rather have one of these than any other packaged sweet treat, even the oatmeal cream pie.

So maybe if there was a pumpkin coffee beverage that tasted more like pumpkin than potpourri I would love it.  Maybe I would even lose my s--t over it like everyone else.  But for now I think I'll stick with my regular coffee and enjoy pumpkin in other incarnations.

16 October, 2013

100% Awesome (and 0% modest)

Today has been a wildly awesome day for my internal number nerd.  It's also been a day where I shamelessly bragged about various things to anyone who would listen politely.  And since I haven't gotten all of the bragging out yet, here we are!

First of all, I don't recall whether I've mentioned my Workplace Safety and Health class.  Basically, the title is self-explanatory.  I took it because it's interesting to me (most of my job revolves around OSHA-mandated training) and because the company is reimbursing me for it.  Win-win!  Anyway, I'm fairly familiar with the subject material, and the requirements for assignments have been very clear.  So I managed to get 100% on all of the assignments up to the midterm.  I knew that the odds were slim that I'd be able to pull off a perfect score, but I was still disappointed that my exam grade was a 94.  Yep...I'm not sure when it happened, but I have become that person.  The one who humble-brags about "only" getting a 94.

The instructor sent out an email to the class today discussing the midterm, and he mentioned that there was a "slight curve" applied to our exam grades, so I logged in right away to check.  Imagine my shock, wait...perhaps GLEE is a better word, when I saw that my exam grade was curved up to 100%.  Yep...halfway through the class I still have a perfect grade!  (we won't mention that I'm scraping by with an A- and B+ in my other two classes right now)

Keeping with the perfect theme, last week I told my "bad news bears"/"mighty ducks" department that if they had a perfect regulatory score this week I would bake cookies for all of them.  I tried this trick a few months ago, and a manager screwed it up.  But hey - just one delinquency isn't so bad.  For the team that was consistently dragging down the rest of my region for my first two years, I was thrilled.  Anyway, the monkeys actually managed to clear out all of their delinquencies this week.  I guess that means I need to start mixing dough so I can make enough slice and bake rolls to cook up this weekend to feed NINETY people.

This department was my last holdout to get to the 100-mark at least once.  My next challenge is to get the entire region to 100%...preferably on the week that they run the "global compliance" report.  Everyone needs a goal, right?

Speaking of the global report, last month I was over the moon thrilled that my region was up to 99.6%.  Not only was it our highest score ever, but it was a full percentage point higher than any of my peers' areas.  I sent an absolutely gushing email to all of the managers in my region thanking them for their hard work, dedication, blah blah blah.  And I meant every word.

I should have waited a month.

I couldn't believe my eyes when this month's report came out and my region was up to 99.9%!  To be fair, they are actually at 99.87, but the one-decimal rounding works in my favor.  Across my entire domain, there are a handful of smaller departments at 100%, but I've got to say my region is a HUGE sparkling diamond of awesomeness.

It's really nice to have quantitative measurements to point to and say "this is good."  And because I'm not actually a trainer or a manager out there seeing what really is or isn't working, I sort of live and die by the numbers.  Rationally, I know that what I see is only a small part of the overall equation that keeps things running and keeps my people safe, and I'm an even smaller part of that equation.  

The thing about my region's success that makes me so happy is that I genuinely believe I have streamlined the process enough that when I'm finally ready to move on, they will do just as well without me...they'll just miss my sparkling personality and charm.

bwahahahaha

Anyway, this ego trip has taken me halfway to the moon.  It's probably best that I return to Earth now.  Thanks for coming along on the journey.  And next time I'm having a pity party, someone please remind me about today.

06 October, 2013

Tower of Terror 10-Miler, Times Two

Oh hi, guess what! I ran ten miles last night.  You're probably wondering why I didn't tell any of you in advance that I would be running.  Truth is, I didn't find out for sure I'd be running until Thursday.  I was given the opportunity, and despite my hip muscle issues I said, "well, I'm scheduled to do an 8 mile training run this weekend anyway...what's another two?"  Literally, those words. 

Who IS this crazy girl?

It turns out my hip (which was still bugging me on Friday) was just fine when I woke up Saturday.  And unlike the miserable weather last year, it was under 80 degrees (barely) and less than 90% humidity (by about 5%).  There was even a breeze...once or twice.

I'm not going do recount the whole course - lots was unchanged from last year - but I did manage to get the two pictures I wished I had gotten last year: the skeleton wearing a race bib and the lady whose sign made me cry last year.  I actually stopped and told her I remembered her and thanked her for being there. 



Despite my lack of training, I felt strong for nearly the whole race.  For the first two miles, my pace was actually below a 14 minute mile, and I knew I needed to slow down.  Unlike last year, when the first two miles were my hardest, I was pretty miserable from miles 3-5 this time.  I was actually getting chills, so I shortened some of my run intervals until I cooled down a little bit.

My stats from last night:
5K split: 45:51
10K split: 1:36:30
Finish: 2:39:27

I'd like to pause here to point out that my net finish translates to a 15:57 minute/mile pace.  This is the first long race where I finished faster than a 16 minute/mile!  I also beat last year's time by nearly 4 minutes...even though I stopped to talk to the lady with the sign and stopped 2 miles later to hug Matthew at the medical tent where he was working.

Overall place: 8189 of 9478 finishers
Division place: 838 of 1003 finishers

Some day I'll be fast enough to run one of these races and stop for pictures.  There were a few characters last night I regretted not being able to stop and pose with - the evil queen from Snow White (in wicked witch form!!!), Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas, and Hades from Hercules come to mind.

I was on my own this year, mostly due to my last-minute registration, and I made some decent decisions I want to note for future reference.  Rather that wear a belt pack, I stuck with shorts with pockets (and a tight drawstring).  In one pocket, I kept my little boxes of Craisins - my race fuel of choice - and in the other pocket, I had a snack-size zip-top bag with my ID, credit card, and spare car key (my purse was in the trunk of the car with all my other stuff).  I safety pinned the bag inside the pocket, and then "locked" it in by pinning the pocket closed.  I also pocketed a folded Disney merchandise bag, mostly because they fold flat quite nicely.  That bag stayed in my pocket until after I crossed the finish line, and then I pulled it out and put the bottles of water and Power Ade, snack box, and other assorted stuff in it.  It's tough to juggle 18 things at once, especially with post-hot-race sausage fingers, and the bag made it so much easier to navigate post-race.

...and of course, no race post would be complete without a tally of assorted injuries.  I have some random spots of friction burn in weird places - the underside of one arm and a few patches around the bottom of the bra I was wearing.  I have one blister: a nickel-size one near the hot spot from my old shoes.  And of course, most of my leg and foot muscles are stiff and achy.  My ankles are also cracking a lot.  My worst injury actually took place on Friday and was aggravated yesterday.  At some point I got a piece of dirt or gravel in my shoe and did a lot of walking.  A blister formed under my second toe, right where it meets my foot, and popped.  It's not a place where a bandage would ever stick, so the best I could do was slather it with Neosporin.  Judging by the damage there now, I'd say the original blister rubbed itself even bigger, and another blister might have formed underneath.  It's angry red, and hurts like a mo-fo when I wiggle my toes, but I think a few days of Neosporin and socks will cure me.

At the end of the day though, nothing can stop me from smiling with pride at what I have accomplished.  Last year, I trained for six months for this race.  This year, I was in shape (well...more in shape) enough to do it at the last minute.  AND I got a PR!  And now, my first ever race medal has a little brother.  Pretty sweet, right?




Next Races:
December 14: Tap 'n Run 4k
February 22: Disney's Enchanted 10k (day 1 of the Glass Slipper Challenge)
February 23: Disney's Princess Half Marathon (day 2 of the Glass Slipper Challenge)
March 2: (tentative) Excalibur 10-Miler

22 September, 2013

Running Milestone

Sometimes the sunrises are worth waking up
early and lacing up the sneakers 
Bless me, running gods, for I have slacked. It has been far too long since my last weekend run. After my new running shoes failed to magically make me run faster, and caused me blisters in a place I wasn't expecting, I fell into a state of apathy.  But this past week I had a few minor victories. 

My manager suckered me back into Walking League, and last Wednesday was my first time back.  They've started a separate path for running.  It's a one-mile course that goes around a few sports fields and I found myself running over hilly grass, gravel, and occasional sidewalk.  I only made three miles, but considering it had been about a month since the last time I even wore my running shoes, I put that experience in the 'win' column.  The duct tape on my heels (the shoes rub my Achilles tendons on both feet) gave out near the beginning of the second mile, so even though I had enough time to do another 1/2 mile I decided to stop.  When I got home that night, I brutally warped my shoes, repeatedly bending back the part that rubbed on my tendon.

Thursday morning, I had crazy-sore muscles in a brand new place: the outsides of my thighs, where they meet my hips.  I chalked this up to the uneven terrain from Wednesday.   After some stretching and ibuprofen, I was fine.  Then I spent all day Friday in the theme parks with family, and the left side got sore all over again.  The silver lining there was I wore my running shoes all day with no trouble.  Apparently the shoes have been beaten into submission!

This morning, I set the alarm for 6:15 and got up to run.  My goal was 5 or 6 miles.  For whatever reason, my pace was slow from the get-go, but as long as I was running the speed didn't matter.  The big loop around my neighborhood is 1.5 miles, and by the end of the first mile I had settled into my (slow) pace and didn't get winded, form blisters, or otherwise lose my motivation.  Right when I hit mile 5, I realized that my sore hip muscle had come back with a vengeance, and it was cramping up.  It felt like a Charlie horse in the WAY wrong place.  Since my initial goal was 5 or 6, I considered turning right and heading back toward the house.  But I turned left.  I actually committed myself to the last mile.

That's right, I voluntarily ran a mile in pain, albeit loping a little like someone whose legs were different lengths.  I walked funny to stretch the muscle, ran my intervals as scheduled (because running actually hurt less), and made it to my goal and then some: 6.05 miles.  My race pace should've been just about 1:30-1:36, and I came in right at 1:40.  That's a snail's pace, but I'm just glad I finished.  I no longer feel like the half marathon I've got 11 weeks from yesterday (and the other one I've got 12 weeks from today) is an insurmountable goal.

So...wondering about the title of the post?  Well, today is the first time I can really recall running through muscle pain.  Aside from my various foot ailments, my only other running injury to date was an occasionally sore knee.  And generally speaking, I chicken out when there's pain involved.  But I know what a sore muscle feels like and knew I wouldn't do any actual damage to myself if I kept going.  And I kept going.  And I'm still sore, but it's nothing I can't handle.

Today, the sunrise,the rainbow, and all the friendly neighborhood dogs weren't my only rewards.  Today I'm wearing my sore muscle like a badge of honor.  Tomorrow, however, I'd like to be pain-free.  Seems that would be a way better reward!

11 September, 2013

Three's Company...Four's a Crowd...Let's Have a Party!

Below is a snippet of a conversation this morning at work between me and a guy who also works in the building.

Him: what are you drinking these days? (he has some sort of booze hook-up and often brings in bottles to people at work)
Me: nothing really. I don't like to drink alone.

Me: well, I occasionally make Jell-O shots with vodka...
Him: we should go out for a drink some time.
Me: eh...I only really go out on Fridays to Applebee's.  Don and I befriended the bartender there, and he only works Fridays and Saturdays. So Fridays are sort of my designated day to have a social life.
Him: oh, well then I'll go there and buy you a drink.
Me: thank you?

Yikes!

There I was, picturing awkward drinks with my usual Friday "date" and another "date."  So I did what any rational person would(n't) do: decided to invite more people to join Jamie's Awkward Party (also known as Jamie's Inappropriate Men Party).  So far, I found one other guy to come along - a guy friend (married, so he definitely fits in the parameters for the second party name) who works in another department. He doesn't know the other players, and apparently thrives on awkward.  I joked about inviting Scott, but...well, that just seemed like a bad idea on many levels.  I really am planning on inviting some more people from work.  If I build up enough of a crowd, then it'll be much more of a party atmosphere and (hopefully) less awkward.

So...anyone free on Friday around 2:45?  First round of fried green beans are on me (or one of my dates...)!

08 September, 2013

Culinary Creation

I found this recipe for Cheesesteak Stuffed Bell Peppers on Pinterest, and immediately wanted to try it.  Though I don't think bell peppers have any place in civilized cheesesteaks, I love stuffed peppers and thought it sounded delicious.
 
For me though, something about this recipe was lacking.  The stuffed pepper recipe I have in my memory, courtesy of the mom of my college boyfriend Ryan, was pretty much just rice and ground beef and tomatoes.  I can't imagine a stuffed pepper without rice.  It just seems wrong.  So I made up my own hybrid recipe.  It was so good I thought I should write it down before I forget about it!
 
 
Cheesesteak-Stuffed Peppers
Ingredients:
4 bell peppers*
1 small box Steak-Umms (6 steaks)**
1/2 yellow onion, diced
8 oz. baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 bag of boil-in-bag brown rice
1 small can of diced tomatoes
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
salt
 
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. Cut the tops off of the bell peppers, scooping out the seeds and ribs from inside.  Dice the onion and slice the mushrooms.
2. Bring about 6" of salted water in a stock pot to a boil.  Submerge the peppers in boiling water for 2 minutes each. Use the same pot of water to cook the rice according to package directions. 
3. Brown the "steaks" according to package directions, draining the steaks on paper towels as they come out of the pan.  Either shred the meat as it cooks, or chop it after removed from heat.  Use leftover pan drippings to brown the onions and mushrooms, cooking until soft and lightly caramelized.  Drain onions and mushrooms well.
4. Open the canned tomatoes, pouring the liquid from the can into the bottom of the baking dish.
5. Combine rice, tomatoes, steak, onions/mushrooms, and half the cheese in a bowl. This is the time to check your salt level and add more if needed.
6. Place the peppers, cut-side up (duh!) in your baking dish, stuff with filling mixture, top with remaining cheese.
7. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until cheese on top is browned and beautiful.
 
* I definitely had enough stuffing for one more pepper, but just cooked the leftovers in a small single-serve dish.  If you have someone in your family who is pepper-averse, I recommend the same.
 
** My cousin Alicia balked at the idea of eating Steak-Umms.  You can absolutely substitute thinly-sliced steak, ground beef, slices of roast beef, ground turkey, those vegetarian crumble things... whatever makes you happy!

07 September, 2013

Could Be...

There is a song early on in West Side Story, sung by Tony before he even meets Maria.  The song "Something's Coming" describes the feeling he has that something major is about to happen.

It's only just out of reach, down the block, on a beach, under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due, gonna come true, coming to me!

The song is stuck in my head today.  See, I've got butterflies in my stomach.  I have no idea why - it could be one of a half-dozen different things racing through my head, or maybe it's just heartburn from breakfast!  But if it's heartburn, it's the most optimistic heartburn I can remember.  I'm genuinely happy for the first time in a while, and I really do feel like I'm on the verge of... I don't know.

However, I can't give myself over completely to this unsubstantiated wonder.  See, there was another movie that featured this song...


(TERRIBLE quality video and audio, and no clue what the graphic in the middle of the screen is doing there.  Skip to 1:10 and you'll get the idea.)

(also, slightly off-topic: this is another example of the type of driving I tend to see from men driving BMWs)

So, I don't know what is coming.  It could be something wonderful and amazing and unexpected... or it could be a bus.  For now, I'll accept the moderate insomnia and randomly sweaty palms and feet and hope for the best.  And until the bus hits me, I'm going to keep smiling and enjoy the ride!

04 September, 2013

Another Hodge Podge Post

Prologue:
I don't think I've mentioned on the blog (though Facebook knows alllll about it!) that my work building has a... considerable challenge with German cockroaches.  I had one run across my desk last week, and I'm still a little emotionally scarred!  The pest control department even came out last week to spray the lockers in the hallway because it seemed like all of the guys were shaking roaches out of their clothes and shoes.

One of my trainers stopped by today to tell me had training forms for me, but they were in his locker.  I asked him to shake the roaches off before bringing them to me, and he laughed, telling me there are no roaches in the lockers on his end of the building but they are in the microwave in that workshop.  He told me that he was heating a frozen meal - 4 minutes on high heat - and when he opened the microwave a roach ran out from under the turntable.  That's right, you can kill a Gremlin in the microwave but you can't kill a cockroach that way.  They.  Are.  Monsters.


skip to 2:00 for gratuitous exploding Gremlin action

In other news, I barely slept last night.  (I'm fine, just letting someone live in my head rent-free.)  After laying there not sleeping until 10:30, I got up and came back downstairs.  I watched The Daily Show and Colbert Report before going back upstairs.  After falling asleep around 12:30, I woke up at 1:20 and 3:05 before my alarm finally went off at 4:15. 

Ordinarily, on tired days I wear my hair in a bun and wear comfy/frumpy clothes and keep a low profile.  And I hear "are you ok?" or "no sleep?" from the folks in the building all day long.  This time, I made a conscious effort to hide the bags under my eyes behind glasses, hair down, a dress, and heels.  And all day I heard variations of "you look pretty today."  You can judge for yourself whether that really meant "thank you for showing me your boobs," but I'll take it!  (btw, I had a cardigan on at work)

Though I still feel generally off and it's likely I'll be asleep long before 8:00 tonight, I left today with a solid self-confidence boost I desperately needed. My original plan for tonight was to bake chicken thighs and make mashed potatoes for my next few meals, but I didn't want to commit to that much manual labor.  Instead, I stopped for a sub - half for dinner, half for tomorrow's lunch - and will try that whole cooking thing again tomorrow night.

For now, I'm just hoping I've evicted my brain tenant enough to sleep for a really long time tonight.  And perhaps I'll try this dress-up thing again tomorrow.