Friday, December 19, 2014

Untouchable, Beer Mile IV


Last night was my final race of the year -- another beer mile (the event here is twice a year, once after Boston, and then once after our local marathon). 

I think I can officially say that I am untouchable in terms of women who participate in this event in Dallas.  If it weren't so painful and so fun, I would consider trying to find another local version of it to give myself some more competition.  But with the group that does this event, I really am untouchable. 

I was kind of hoping for a PR, but who am I kidding?  I'm just not in PR shape right now running-wise.  But to compound the situation, we had a rainy day on Wednesday, so the track was pretty sloppy last night.  The upside to a sloppy track was that it was a smaller field competing. 

It was my slowest win yet, another 12 seconds slower than the spring race.  And I was nervous.  As I was finishing up my third beer, the second place woman had just entered the drinking zone. 

Cutting it close...

There is always one guy in this group who finishes way, way, way behind the rest of us.  Last night, after I finished and caught my breath (and high-5'd the male winner), I saw he was heading out for a lap.  I assumed it would be his last, but I wasn't really thinking about it much.  I decided to run with him as a cool-down.  100 meters in he told me it was his third lap and he was struggling.  He actually stopped about halfway through the lap because he wanted to burp, and I was like, well, at least walk and make progress.  I was trying to point him to drier and more solid parts of the track, but it didn't help much.  He finished portions of his final beer (I think he knew they wouldn't DQ him), and then pretty much all of us set out with him on his final lap.  Good times!

Then we all went back to the organizer's house for a small party.  I only stayed until about 10 since I had to get up before 4:00 this morning -- my flight home left DFW at 6:15 AM.  Yikes!  And since I was flying Spirit (which I'd never flown before) and checking a bag, I wanted to be there early. 

Good choice on my part!  The line to drop off a bag was HUGE.  And then security took forever because Spirit apparently doesn't participate in TSA pre-check, so I had to wait in the regular line and take my shoes off -- gross! 

I planned to work the whole flight so I could wrap up early tonight and have extra time with my family, but I was just too tired and I slept the whole way.  Feeling a bit better but looking forward to a solid night's sleep tonight.  Hubby is on the same flight tomorrow, so that will be good.

It feels crazy cold here to me so I think it's going to be a lot of time indoors.  Tomorrow will be a big day of wrapping.  Ugh!  And shopping for the last gift for one person and a majority of a gift for one other person.  I also have to write out and mail all our Italian cards and 4 others.  Unfortunately, I did my shipping yesterday during the day and mistakenly put two cards into the mail with absolutely no address -- just a first and last name.  I meant to look it up but totally spaced.  Wonder how long it will take for them to make their way back to me...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Taxes Question

I have a "what would you do" question and I need some good advice within the next 10 days.

When we went on vacation this year, we'd been warned in advance about beggars in India.  And we'd been warned that in particular, there are lots of children begging. 

We know enough about that cycle to know that you should never give money to children, so we knew we would avoid doing that.  And we decided we'd do the same thing if we were asked for money by adults.  Our strategy for children and adults who were begging:  say no respectfully, meeting the person's eyes.  And when we got home, we would pick two charities working in India to make donations to.  To help end the cycle of poverty and need. 

As an aside, we actually encountered far fewer people begging than we expected.  And pretty much none aside from at the train stations once we got off the main tourist loop of Delhi-Agra-Jaipur in the north.  But even without having people ask for money, and even with people largely seeming so content and friendly, it was obvious that there is a lot of poverty and need, so we think giving year-end donations is very important to us this year. 

So now it's nearly year end and I've done some research into charities that look like good options.  And now I'm reconsidering my plan, so I need help.

I found 2 perfect charities that look amazing -- one works with children in a city in the north that we visited that seemed to have a lot of need (Jaipur) and one that works in a city in the south that we loved (Goa) that has a particular home they're helping.  So easy, peasy, right?  Just give donations to each of them and it's done.

But in addition to thinking about taxes this time of year, I'm also looking at some of the things we bought in India to give as Christmas gifts to people and I'm remembering how cheap they were compared to what we'd have paid here.  I'm thinking about how a little money can go so far in India.

The company I work for matches donations to 501(c)(3) organizations as long as the donations are big enough.  I can't remember if the threshold per organization is $100 or $250.  Either way, we would be meeting the threshold with our donations to each, so my company will double the donation, and we can help out twice as much. 

But my company match applies only charities with the 501(c)(3) status. 

The charity we found in Jaipur is based in India and the one in Goa is based in the UK.  So we could donate to each of them and that would be it.  Or we could try to pick 2 charities here in the US that work in India and donate the same amount to each of them, and then my company will match it so they'd actually get twice the money. 

I've found a couple 501(c)(3)s that are working on projects in India that seem important but the options for designating money for a specific project means that we would be choosing to support an important project in an area of the country that we didn't visit.  Somewhere I'm sure there is need, but we have no real connection to that city or project. 

What would you do?  Doubly large donations to charities doing important work in places in India that we didn't visit?  Or donations not doubled to overseas charities doing important work in places in India that we feel very connected to? 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Baking done

I know it's been quiet around here lately but as is the case for pretty much all of us, there's just so much to do this time of year! 

I'm not complaining because as always, no one is making me do anything, but wow, it's a lot.  Having a late Thanksgiving this year, and then going out of town for a marathon the following weekend (did I mention that?, yeah, marathon about 8 days ago, not a PR attempt, just 4.25 painful hours of an otherwise fun girls' weekend), then one weekend in town, and now just a few more days before I fly home -- it all adds up to mean that all the usual holiday stuff is not unfolding seamlessly.  Oh, and I have to add on work chaos since we're understaffed right now and the work is really being piled on.

So here's the general holiday status:

Decorating -- 100% done!

Cards -- 60% done.  Have mailed/delivered about half of them, and made a list and set aside photos for the other 50%.  Just have to write, address and mail all of those. 

Baking -- 100% done!  Baked with my neighbor all day Saturday this past weekend and we made 8 different kinds of cookies.  I made cookie plates for 3 holiday parties (1 for me, 1 for hubby, 1 joint), for several co-workers, for another neighbor, and for a bunch of friends. 

Shopping -- 65% done.  TGFAP (Thank Goodness for Amazon Prime).  Guess I know what I'm doing Wednesday night after the social run...  Unfortunately, I still need ideas for a couple people, but I've at least made progress on most of my family.  I need to sit down and make a big list of what I've got for each person, what else is needed and where/when/how I plan on getting what else is needed. 

Wrapping -- 0% done.  Maybe tonight?  It's perhaps my least favorite of these holiday to-dos.  Maybe this year I'll cheat and do gift bags?  But honestly, I love the way pretty wrapped presents look.  Almost all the gifts for my family are being sent to Wisconsin, so I don't have to lug them with me when I go, but that means that I'm going to be stuck spending lots of time wrapping over this coming weekend when I get there. 

Shipping -- 0% done.  I only mail gifts to two of my best friends, my stepson, and one of my brothers.  And I'm done with the shopping for all of them.  But back to that 0% on the wrapping...

So despite that massive list hanging over my head, I managed to have a thoroughly fun weekend featuring a 5k, marathon spectating, and the aforementioned baking.  Plus I went to my Chinese class, Sara's post-marathon and birthday dinner, and all kinds of other good stuff.

I spent the entire 5k warm-up holding this little guy.  I'm not usually big on babies, especially not for more than the initial 5 or so minutes of seeing them, but he was so quiet and alert and non-drooling and non-smelly and smiley and non-hair-pulling that I couldn't resist holding him for the better part of an hour.  He loved watching everything around us. 


And here are the cookie photos, the results of an entire day of baking! 


I also took about 100 pictures at our local marathon on Sunday.  My husband and I walked to a place along the route and watched the parade -- from runner 1 (a half marathoner who we almost thought had cheated by starting early because he was so far out front), to the lead marathon pack, to Sara Hall (who was being paced by Ryan Hall and who was going for an American half-marathon record), to my first friend (not far behind the elites, he was running on the co-ed relay team that won the race, so they were all flying), to my training buddies, to other friends, to pretty much the very end (the people who appeared to be 100% walking).  Then I drove to go see them all again.  I parked near mile 21 and missed the 3:05 pace group, but I was there several minutes before the 3:15 pace group, so I didn't miss many people I knew.  I ran a bit with several friends.  Unfortunately, I was right at the beginning of the suckiest uphill in the entire course, so people seemed kind of disheartened, especially since it was a humid day in the low 60s, so far from ideal weather.  It was fun to see the people who were still trucking along and it was fun to encourage those who seemed to be struggling.

One of my biggest race pet peeves I noticed during my marathon last week -- so many people who came out to cheer who were just standing there, watching and quietly waiting for their family member or friend to come by.  So I vowed not to be like that -- I would cheer and make noise constantly, not just when I saw a friend.  One of my friends said he heard me a mile away!  I hope he was joking, but I will admit that people definitely heard me because many times, I missed a friend's face in the crowd, only to hear that runner call out to me and wave, having seen me and recognized my voice.  It was so much fun!  But part of me understands why so many stand quietly -- it was a lot of work!  Trying to come up with things to yell, and then yelling the same thing again and again and again and again and again and again... 

My faves for my first watch point (mile 7):  Looking strong!  Nice job!  Keep it up!  Doing great!  Way to go!  Less than 20 more miles!  You're doing it! 

My faves for my second watch point (mile 20-21):  Keep it steady!  Keep going!  Keep your head in the game!  Last hill!  Looking strong!  Nice job!  Hold on!  You've got this!  Run, run, run! 

Anyway, a friend I ran with several years ago met up with me and we headed backwards on the course to look for his wife.  Eventually, I wound my way back to one of the beer stops right at mile marker 20, and I waited to find Sara, who was running her first marathon ever. 

Thankfully, I was watching and cheering instead of looking at the clock or the pace groups.  She came through way ahead of schedule.  By then, it was raining steadily, and I jumped in to run with her for a couple miles.  I assumed that would be the best place to meet her since it seems like that's where I (and pretty much 95% of other marathoners) struggle the most.  But she was ticking along, kicking butt!  She was in a great place mentally and running strong.  Within a few minutes, the sky seemed to really open up on us, and it poured.  After dodging some puddles, we eventually had to ford a small river across Abrams -- there was no avoiding it and our shoes got completely soaked.  But at that point, she was already nearly at mile 22 and 5 miles in soaking shoes isn't the end of the world, so she just powered through.  I'll leave it to her to tell her own race story on her blog, but it was one of the highlights of my weekend to get to join her for a bit. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Not Running in NM

So I have come to the conclusion that I don't really run in New Mexico.  I basically jog, stop for photos, jog, then take more photos. 

Seriously, what is it about this place? 

I run with my phone when commuting to/from work in Dallas, but pretty much never for any other local run.  Occasionally, I'll run with my phone in other cities if I'm worried about getting lost.  I have never in my life run with my phone with a plan of taking photos.

But yesterday morning, it was similar to my last NM run -- sunrise behind me that was so spectacular, I had to keep looking back about every 45 seconds, and then stopping about every 2 minutes to take another photo.

I don't know why I bother -- my iphone photos don't do it justice, but I just want to sear it into my memory I guess.

Yesterday morning in Las Cruces:






(Honestly, I took this so I'd also remember that about 75% of the residences I ran past were either RVs or trailer homes, but the sky was pretty too:)

And then after the run, yes, biscuits and gravy (only 2 on this plate):


Where I worked (and it went well, just made for a very long day):

 
For dinner, I met up with a former co-worker at Chope's, which used to be my favorite restaurant in the Las Cruces area.  Last night, my chile relleno wasn't quite as good as I remembered, but the company was wonderful and we had lots of fun catching up:

 
Today's plan is to head back to Dallas!  Done with work travel for the year now -- two trips for fun on the books, but nothing more for work!