Friday, December 31, 2010

1400 Miles and Last Reverb Post

First, I have to announce that I met my 2010 resolution in terms of distance.  In 2009, I ran just over 1284 miles, so I resolved to run 1300 in 2010.  I hit 1300 near the end of the White Rock marathon earlier this month.

Now, I've somehow come down with some kind of cold or something and I felt awful when I woke up this morning.  But because I'm reliable and I'm neurotic, I went to meet my friends anyway.  There was an informal charity run this morning around the lake, which I did with my local bestie and another friend. 

The running rule I've always heard is you can run if you're sick if the symptoms are above your collarbones.  And mine are -- sore throat, headache, sinus pressure.  So I went and ran about 9 miles and topped out the year at just over 1400 miles!  I'm proud of myself -- but also a little nervous because I think I'm going to leave that number in the dust in 2011, like it or not.  I don't think I'm even going to set a mileage goal/resolution for myself. 

By the way, still thinking about goals and resolutions and have to wait for some free time to make a serious list, hopefully this weekend. 

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 31 – Core Story.  What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.) (Author: Molly O’Neill)
This is kind of tough since the stuff is at the core of me is mostly covered on my "about me" page.  What else is my central story?  I think Italy is at the core of me.  I always joke that I am Italian in my heart and also in my hips because I am in my stomach.  It's funny how you make some decisions in your life and you know they're big, but you have no idea how you'll change your life forever.

Not many people have ever seen the movie Sliding Doors with Gwenyth Paltrow.  I highly recommend it.  The whole premise becomes clear in the first few minutes of the movie.  She gets fired from her job and is tearfully heading home.  As she is running downstairs to catch the tube (set in London), there is a woman and her daughter coming up the stairs.  The daughter is kind of fooling around and not behaving well.  The little girl gets right in her way, and she has to run around her and then she misses the subway train.  But then there's a flash back in time and you see the same woman and her little girl heading up the stairs, the woman looks up and sees the main character coming, and she pulls her daughter out of the way.  The main character runs downstairs and slides onto the train, just as the doors are closing.  She then gets home to discover her boyfriend/partner is having an affair.  Of course, in the scenario where she misses the train, she doesn't find out.  And then the movie goes from there, showing these parallel tracks her life takes all because of whether she catches or misses this single subway train.

Well, I knew studying abroad in Italy was going to change my life.  But when I got back from that semester, it seemed like that was the end of it.  It had changed me for sure, something I'll always remember, but I didn't see it continuing to shape my life.

Then after I'd worked for a few years, I wanted (and the firm wanted me) to get involved in some community organization/non-profit.  I chose an Italian cultural organization.  That choice led me to meeting my husband and changed my life forever.  We love to travel to Italy, we have many Italian friends, we go back to the club where we met and meet friends there for dinner, and starting in 2011 (tomorrow!), we're going to try to speak Italian at home mostly. 

If I'd chosen to study abroad somewhere else in college, I have no idea what my life would be like today.  Sometimes I think the stars would have aligned for me to meet my husband some other way, but that Italy connection was the first thing we knew we had in common.  Either way, I'm glad it's all worked out as it has.

BONUS:  I've joked with Bella that we both seem to have many recurring themes in our Reverb posts.  As I've written some of these responses, it seems like I could link to a post about my two big running events this year about every other day.  I got my 5k PR when I didn't expect it.  And I qualified for Boston.  Those were both watershed moments for me in 2010.  Hopefully I won't always remember the 5k -- because I'd like to beat it next year!  But yes, the BQ is in my mind for good. 

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope everyone has a safe and fun night, and a healthy and prosperous 2011.  I'm going to work on my resolutions this weekend.  And I'm going to start official marathon training on Sunday!  Wow...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gifts

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 30 – Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)
It's funny that this is today's topic.  Last night I was putting away tangible Christmas gifts and I took a few photos and figured I'd have to do a post-Christmas post soon to talk about some of them.  And of course I don't have access to the photos right now.  So maybe I'll come back and add a few pics to this post over the weekend. 

The clearest intangible gift was the addition to our family of my future-sister-in-law, a gift about which I'm quite excited, but it probably doesn't count as a gift to me!  And of course I know I've got some gifts that come with both weddings next year, which is more time with my awesome family.  And there's all that love with family and friends that hasn't been taken away from me this year, despite my ever-present flaws, but that's all mushy and would be a weird post to read. 

So it's easier to stick with tangible gifts.  I'll recap some of the gifts I got for Christmas:  books (two cookbooks, one running book), bags (five mini reusable shopping bags, a new carry-on suitcase, the new Vera Bradley briefcase-sized bag to match my purse), kitchen stuff (a 12-inch springform pan needed to make my mother-in-law's recipe for ricotta cake, a new blender set), running stuff (running pants, a little balance-type bracelet watch, a hand-held water bottle), things to wear (dress watch, a t-shirt that my family got a big laugh over), games (a chat/questions Christmas game, a puzzle made from a photo taken in Italy for our wedding, which is similar to our photo below that we took on vacation in 2006 (in Tropea, which is a sea-side town in Calabria, Italy)), things to use (a paper shredder, a vase, netflix, lotion and shampoo), and of course things to eat

And there's also the non-gift I got -- used silverware.  Haha.  We have three different sets of silverware basically.  1.)  One set of silver that was my grandma's, service for 8.  2.)  One set I got from my family brand new, service for 8.  3.)  And one mostly-complete used set that my mom gave me when she got new stuff, service for 8ish. 

So that means we have plenty, but when there's something like book club or Thanksgiving and more than 8 people are eating, at least one place setting doesn't match.  Well, the same person who gave me the second set in my list above got new silverware this year for Christmas and gave me all of her old stuff, which was identical to the new set she'd given me about 10 years ago.  So now we have about 20ish (a few pieces missing) of one set!  Wow!  My brother who got engaged on Christmas Eve is about to be living alone starting tomorrow (he had lived with my baby brother, who is moving in with his fiancee tomorrow when the lease for the place he and my bro shared ends this month).  He'd mentioned that in his Christmas list so I got him a few kitchen things since he had very little.  Of course, as soon as he got engaged, everything we got him seemed kind of stupid -- sure, he'll be able to use it over the course of the next X months before they get married, but they'll probably register for stuff they want.  But either way, if I'd known I was going to get silverware leftovers, I could have brought the used set my folks gave me and let him have it.  Oh well!  Either way, the new-to-me supplement set is awesome and I'm excited to have things all matchy-matchy.  I'd still like to track down a few more settings of my grandma's sterling silver, so we'll have service for 10 or 12, but that can wait. 

I got a couple awesome birthday gifts -- hubby gave me a gel kitchen mat.  Not terribly romantic, but I was having major foot pain at the time and our neighbor has one and I'd let him know how much I coveted hers.  The funny things, my hubby does all the dishes, so I don't even stand at the sink very often!  But I move the mat to my fave countertop chopping space when I'm cooking.  I also got from my folks a really funky white fish pitcher for my birthday.  It's hard to remember what I got for Valentine's Day (flowers for sure), for our anniversary (though I do remember a jigsaw puzzle!).  But I know I love everything I received this year.  My family and friends are quite sweet --I got many things I knew I wanted, and some things that I hadn't mentioned but are great nonetheless. 

But I'll probably choose as most memorable the plane ticket my husband got for me.  It's a ticket that goes from Dallas to Pittsburgh to Boston and then back to Dallas.  The return date is more than two weeks after we leave, so it's pretty definite we'll be heading to Italy after the race.  But he said he was so proud of me for qualifying for Boston that he wanted to support me in getting there.  That was particularly sweet of him since the race is on our second wedding anniversary. 

My sweet hubby really is my biggest fan.  One funny story to relate about that from a couple months ago -- a few days after the marathon (MTCM), we were going to get our flu shots.  One thing led to another with his work, and he was really late to meet me, so I went in and got my shot alone.  As I was leaving, he and one of his co-workers showed up.  He was dealing with work stuff still and I was chatting with his co-worker, who I know but not particularly well.  His co-worker asked me if I was excited about the marathon.  I replied something like, haha, the marathon was actually this past Sunday, it was great.  And then his co-worker said, no, I meant are you excited about the BOSTON marathon.  It was a little surprising for me to realize that my husband's not just proud of me and complimentary to my face, he's also saying great things about me behind my back!  The gift of the plane ticket is the gift of a trip I'll always remember.  Now I just have to log the miles that will carry me to another finish time that I like!

The subject of the photo puzzle I got for Christmas this year (Tropea, Italy): 

Some other Christmas gifts (including the shirt that my family all thought was oh-so-funny) (but no, we didn't get my parents' cat):






Oh, and an UPDATE, 1/3/11:  Over the weekend I got another gift and it's potentially my favorite.  It required a great deal of thought, and is super-meaningful.  At our new year's eve morning run, my local bestie gave me a metal water bottle and a map.  The map is a Streetwise Boston, and the water bottle was created by one of those photo websites and it features pictures of me at MTCM and it notes that I'm Boston-bound in 2011.  She was so proud of me, it touched my heart! 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Soul Food, a/k/a Momma Cooks! (lots of pics)

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 26 – Soul Food.  What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth and touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)
Well, this year was filled with many old favorite foods, as well as several new ones, particularly while we were in Russia!  So here are a few "food" shots of some of the things I ate there.  The food was awesome in Sweden too, but that would just be too many pictures to post in one day. 

First, a cafeteria in GUM in Moscow:

 Breakfast at our hotel one day:

Best dinner of the trip, Georgian food in Moscow (cheesy bread that I dream about!):


An Uzbek dinner in Peter:


A random dinner:

Which included traditional borscht! 

And of course blintzs!  Or blinis.  Whatever you call them:

Dessert blintz! 

A breakfast blintz (and yes, that is a plain cheese single on my bread, this hotel had boring breakfast):

Plate o' mushrooms near the Church on Spilled Blood in Peter: 

Wow, that trip was filled with good eats.  If you're potentially dissuaded from going to Russia because you don't think the food will be good, you're wrong!  Go and eat!

But realistically, the food that went into my mouth and touched my soul, it would no doubt be something my mom made.  I know lots of people think their moms are great cooks, and I'm no different (but of course, my mom really is!).  She's been wonderfully accomodating of my transition to vegetarianism, though admittedly for the first few years she seemed surprised I was "still doing that."  But growing up we had meatless meals every so often, now she makes awesome meatless dishes whenever I'm home.  Here are a few photos of some things I got to eat when I was home over Christmas -- not enough energy to go back and find photos from further back in time (and yes, I know many of the cookies I make are copies of hers, what can I say?  she's a great cook!).





To choose one food that I ate in 2011 that touched my soul, I'd have to say stollen that my mom made.  This Reverb post came out on Dec. 26 and I ate stollen for the first time this season on Dec. 25, so it's okay to use that as my example (and I also doubtless ate some in Jan. 2010).

First, a photo.  This is my breakfast plate on Christmas morning.  The stollen is on the left side of my main plate (that's panettone (an Italian Christmas bread that is only a family tradition since my hubby's been in the picture) on my bread plate to the left/at the top of the photo). 

Also, just to show the complete Christmas breakfast offering my mom prepared, here's a pic of my now-official future sister-in-law's plate, which, besides stollen, quiche and fruit, also featured the pork pie my mom made.


Stollen is a German Christmas bread that my mom makes every year.  When I was home for Christmas, we had a big conversation about foods, stemming from my mom wondering how there are so many foods I hate (bananas, raw tomatoes, eggs on their own, cucumbers except in tzatziki sauce, and doubtless many others), when there are so few foods she hates (organ meats from animals and blood sausage were all we could think of, but those don't even count to me as normal foods).  Anyway, during the course of the conversation, it came out that many people in my family (not me, not my mom) don't like raisins and/or other dried fruit. 

My mom's stollen recipe makes three loaves, and basically she makes it all for me and her!  Sometimes my hubby will have a piece, but he doesn't love sweet things.  Sometimes one of my brothers will have a piece.  And now my future sister-in-law has some.  But mom and I eat most of it.  We usually eat part of one loaf Christmas morning with breakfast.  Then she sends some home with me.  Some years, I get both loaves -- I'll eat one over the week or so I'm first back in Dallas (and sometimes I'll share a couple slices with a very select crowd of friends all of whom I believe might enjoy it as much as I do (someone is allowed only a very small part of a slice first to determine whether they like it enough to be in the running to get an entire slice)).  And then I'll eat the second one next or occasionally I'll freeze it and then have my own little "Christmas in July."  But some years, she gives me only one loaf and gives the other to someone else.  This year, my new future sister-in-law's parents were the lucky recipients.  I hope they appreciate it!! 

This Christmas stollen tradition tastes delicious but it touches my soul because of the great effort my mom undertakes to make it, the fact that it's mostly for my benefit, and the memories it brings of other wonderful Christmases (Christmasses?  Christmasi?) with my family! 

And before anyone asks, no, I don't have her recipe.  She might give it to me if I ask, but using yeast makes me nervous, and she'll always do it better, and I wouldn't trust myself to make it only at Christmas, and what doesn't taste better when it's made for you with love by your mom?  It's my soul food!

Updated 1/1/11:  Here is a shot of breakfast this morning, finishing off my loaf of stollen:


And I found a picture from 2004 of my mom packing cookies near her freshly-made stollen:

Photo of Me: Gross, consider yourself warned

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself.  Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.
Tough, since I don't really like pictures of myself and wouldn't really want to post one for the world to see (and possibly criticize). 

But here's one of me taken today (Dec. 29, 2010) by me at home in our bedroom.  It's gross, so I'm posting it at the very bottom of this entry. 

I already wrote about the subject a bit -- as I mentioned before, while I was home for Christmas, I got to go to a couple gyms a couple times each.  I wore worn out running shoes hubby and I have stored with family across the country.  The shoes are great for a few miles of running (and they happily carried me through many training miles).  The shoes I learned are not great for much more than a few miles.  I ran 8.1 miles on Monday on a treadmill and felt a bit of arch pain.  I took Tuesday off, then ran 9.3 on a treadmill on Wednesday in different (but also old shoes) (and I commented about how these shoes seemed better).  Then I wore those same shoes Thursday.  That day I (1) ran fairly hard for 22 minutes, (2) did a workout with my mom that she got from her trainer (lots of plyometrics, things like short sets of push-ups, squats, etc.), (3) got on the bike for an hour (until it timed me out and I'd almost finished reading my book), and then (4) got back on the treadmill to round out my distance to an even 8 miles.  I wanted to run for longer but the arch pain was back.  It continued to hurt the whole drive home.  I took off my shoes and got my pa to look at it since I was afraid -- sure enough, BLISTER.  Ugh. 

I don't usually have issues with blisters on my feet while running.  It happened once this summer in a freak occurrence (same socks and shoes as always, same terrain as always, etc.) (oh, and if you follow that link, just ignore all that marital stress/frustration stuff, living with someone can be hard!).  And now it's happened again this year, but this time the clear cause is old shoes.  Possibly treadmill-induced gait change also contributed to the blister, but particularly since it's just on one foot, I'm guessing I would have been fine in my current not-worn-out shoes. 

But as gross as it is, this photo describes me well -- I'm very committed to running right now and I have been for a few years.  It's sometimes not easy, pain-free, or fun.  But this year I put in a lot of work to reach my primary running goal of qualifying for Boston.  This photo represents the work I've had to put in to reaching this goal. 

The photo describes me both as who I am and who I strive to be.  I am someone who's running regularly, despite things like blisters.  And I strive to be someone who keeps running with this same dedication for many years to come.  But as I've admitted before, whether I remain this committed after Boston will require some serious soul-searching. 

So here's the photo.  It's the blister on my foot.  With a coin for scale, which is a tactic I learned from another blog I've read for a very long time (in theory, a dating chronicles blog, but lots of stuff about life and knitting, which is where she uses the coins).  Brace yourself, it's pretty gross. 

Ordinary Joy

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 27 – Ordinary Joy.  Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: BrenĂ© Brown)
I've said it before on this blog, but I'm aware of how lucky I am to have lots of "ordinary joy" in my life.  It's hard to pick a single one, so I'm going to pick two, though even that is tough.  And both happened many times over the year.

First, I would pick lazy Saturdays with my husband, which seem to occur about once a month, which is far too infrequent in my book.  We really only spend every other Saturday together, and it seems like every other one of those is filled with errands or friends or other commitments.  But I get so much joy from the ones that we're able to reserve for ourselves.  My best friend would sometimes put "BBD" on her calendar on a weekend day, which stands for "Big Blank Day," meaning nothing scheduled.  It was fine if things ended up getting done, but there could never be a list.  I'm trying to do the same thing.  Then we have the option of sitting and watching movies all day, cooking something unplanned and wonderful together, going somewhere just for fun, playing a game, napping most of the day away, going for a walk or a run or to the gym or the pool, just doing whatever we want.  I love those days when we just hang out and relax.  There never seems to be enough time for that otherwise.  During the week, we get home from work and hurry to eat and then get to bed since we both wake up at 5 or earlier every weekday. 

Second, something I've posted about before, I ran with a great group of guys during the week this year, a few of whom I've run with for years and a couple new people.  It was all male except for me and one other woman, though she was out for a few months with injuries -- though we haven't logged as many miles together, we'll hopefully have many more in 2011 as she's also Boston-bound.  Anyway, the other day on FB, she sent an email to our little group and asked if we were up for about 8 miles early tomorrow morning from a Starbucks right by my house.  I responded saying that it was so early, but of course I'd be there because I missed them like crazy. 

The second half of December is always an odd running time for me (and likely many others in Dallas).  The big local marathon has just finished, and training for spring races doesn't start until Jan. 2, and then with people on vacation, etc., it's been routine for the last several years to have no routine.  You run with a few people on random days whenever schedules coincide.  I'm looking forward to next week Tuesday, Jan. 4, so I can settle back into my weekday running routine. 

Running with more guys sometimes means there's a lot more discussion about sports than I want (particularly during the months I was the only female there, and the weeks/months of brackets/division assignments/coaching changes/World Series/all kinds of stuff I kind of tuned out) but some of them get roped into watching The Bachelor by their wives (one of my guilty TV pleasures) or other such things and will happily talk to me about that for miles. 

But seriously, I feel a lot of ordinary joy when running with them.  We talk and vent about so much, jobs, marriages, families (or pressure and decisions about whether to start families), hobbies, vacations, politics, news, life, pretty much everything.  We share a lot.  I once read something about how it's sometimes easy to talk in the car because people are facing forward and sometimes that can encourage you to share things you might not otherwise if you were looking at someone directly.  Well, that's also true of running. 

And besides the ease of conversation, there's also the quantity!  It's rare to spend so many hours of free time with the same people and be talking the whole time.  I don't spend 3 hours a week talking to my best friend on the phone, so these people end up being a lot more involved in my daily life. 

My running buddies provide me with a lot of ordinary joy in my life.

Defining Moment 2010

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 29 – Defining Moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)
Another kind of repetitive response for me.  I've already posted an official race report that kind of summarized the whole race, but the defining moment for 2010 for me was probably sometime during mile 25 of the Twin Cities Marathon.  At about that point, I realized it was pretty definite that I'd qualify for Boston for the first time in my life.  I'd slowed down over the last 10k, but at some point I realized it was a given, even if I slowed down even more.  By the time I hit mile marker 26, I knew I could just walk to the finish line and I'd make it with time to spare, but of course I ran.  As I mentioned in my race report, there was a huge flag suspended by cranes hanging at mile marker 26 and I thought that was the finish line so I went for it -- only to get close and realize the finish line was still a ways away.  But I knew I had it. 

I've posted before about what the Boston dream was like for me, particularly since I don't think I have any natural speed or running ability.  I started off as a slow runner.  Boston wasn't even a goal b/c it was outside the realm of possibility.  But this year, it became a reality.  Now I just need to run it! 

Even if I were to stop running completely after Boston (or even now I suppose), having qualified is a badge of honor and something I think I will always view as a defining moment in my life.  It seems like there are few moments that have been so important in my life.  My wedding day for sure, probably also the day we got engaged.  Maybe the day I became a vegetarian, but at the time I had no idea how long-standing or important that decision would become.  But even big things like the bar exam didn't really count as a defining moment -- that was 2.5 days of exam, then 3 months of waiting for the results!  Qualifying for Boston was my moment this year, and the realization over the few miles before the finish that it was really going to happen was so exciting. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Everything's Okay...

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 24 Prompt – Everything’s OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

What a fitting topic for a Christmas Eve prompt, as I think of that day as one of my perfect moments of the year, showing me that all was right with the world -- and will hopefully remain as such!  This is kind of a tough question though because I don't think I really doubted that everything is going to be alright.  I have had numerous moments over the last two years, particularly the week before our wedding, where I actually worried a little that things wouldn't be alright, that in some ways things were too perfect and I was just waiting for some shoe to drop or for something to come crashing down.  But instead my life has remained so blessed!  But one of the final pieces, my brother's long dating relationship with this awesome girl, was still missing. 

Our day on Xmas Eve was great -- hubby and I woke up kind of early and hung out in the kitchen with others as they woke up.  Ate a small breakfast and then an early lunch.  My mom made two kinds of soup, both vegetarian, a potato chili and a bean soup.  Then we all went for a ride in a "two-horse open sleigh."  The sleigh ride was especially exciting for my husband who adores horses but is also allergic to them (though slightly less so than I am).  It was cold but spectacularly beautiful.  We rode for a while then stopped at a bonfire where we had a few spiked hot chocolates and just sat around.  Then we got back in the sleigh and went back to our cars.  From there, we all went back home and then my brother's proposal happened.  They came back into the house and we all drank champagne and watched them change their facebook statuses to "engaged" and called her family and friends to share the news.  Next thing we knew, it was time for dinner.  Usually on Christmas Eve my mom makes kind of an appetizer dinner, lots of little things like dips and sometimes a cheese fondue or something.  It's good but I prefer a regular meal.  This year, she made three casseroles, so it was awesome.  One was a turkey tetrazini (my grandma's recipe, one of the things that makes me miss eating meat), one was pork country spare ribs over homemade sauerkraut and mashed potatoes (also not for me), and then a macaroni and cheese...  I'm going to have to do a post showing how good this meal was when I finally get around to sorting through all my Xmas photos.  Anyway, after dinner, we got ready for church and made the long drive.  We left a little earlier so that we could stop at a bar in town for a pre-church drink, which has become a new tradition over the last few years.  Then we went to church.  First several carols, then the service. 

My moment where I knew everything would be alright was during Silent Night, the second-to-last song of the service (it ends with Angels We Have Heard on High, possibly my fave Xmas carol (tied with Silent Night)).  I was standing between hubby and my baby brother.  They dim the lights in church and the acolytes take their flame things down the aisle and light the candle held by each person on the aisle, then they in turn pass the flame to candles in their aisle.  So I lit my candle from my brother's, and then hubby lit his from mine, my newest future sister-in-law lit hers from his, etc.  We were singing and I grabbed my brother and pulled him closer to me and then moved right up next to my husband, so we were all standing shoulder to shoulder, singing a beautiful song.  I felt so loved and safe and peaceful and satisfied and happy, everything was alright!

As for incorporating this reminder that everything was/is going to be alright into the next year, I guess the best thing I can do is remember it.  As I've mentioned before, with two brothers getting married in 2011, I'm guaranteed more family time than I got in 2010, so I guess that will add to my feelings of peace and happiness.

Achieving in 2011

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.  This entry is out of order because I haven't had time to go through and find an appropriate photo yet, so I'm hung up on that one and have a couple others in the works as well! 
December 28 – Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (Author: Tara [...]
This is a tough choice for me.  I have two very clear but competing running-related goals and it's hard to say which I want more.  And the one I think I want more is actually the WRONG answer.  I've been working on thinking of non-running-related goals/resolutions for 2011, but I haven't given it sufficient thought yet and sadly will likely wait until Jan. 1 or 2 to make my 2011 resolutions officially. 

Anyway, a friend on facebook had asked the general question:  what one fitness-related goal do you most want to do next year.  I told her it was tough to pick one. 

The two big goals I have for next year are to get a marathon PR and to get a 5k PR. 

But the whole point of my friend's question was to pick ONE, which is similar to what this reverb prompt wants.  Which do I want more?  Honestly, as much as I hate to say it, I think I really want the 5k PR.  And I will feel tired and sore from the major effort it will take (and probably thirsty, and maybe hungry and/or like I have to puke) but I will also feel proud of myself, happy, successful, triumphant, blissful, and free (from pressure to improve, even if only temporarily) if/when I do it. 

Why do I want the 5k PR more than the marathon PR?  Sadly, but truthfully, to beat Adam.  We've tossed our 5k title back and forth several times and he has now held it for almost a year and a half.  When I had my amazing 5k in September, it was marred only by the realization when I got home that I was 1 second behind his PR.  If only I'd gone 1 second faster, I could have tied him!  Or a mere two seconds to beat him!  I seriously could have done that, why hadn't I pushed just a tiny bit harder??!!  When Adam gave a toast at my rehearsal dinner, the 5k title was mentioned, and he admitted that it was in my hands at the time but he was ready to reclaim it, which he did just a few months after I got married.  It's high time I took that title back. 

But it's more than just beating him.  I'm sure as soon as I beat him and get the title, he'll race another 5k seriously and the title will be his.  I think he'll likely always be faster than me -- he's a guy, he's younger, and he's completely a natural athlete.  He played sports professionally and is just a machine when he puts in the time and effort.  Plus that pro sports thing probably gives him a mental edge in terms of competition, drive, threshold for pain, etc. 

But if I can get a PR, I'll be so proud of myself -- it will predict an even faster marathon time for me, which will give me the confidence to push harder in a marathon and in training, and really make me believe that it can happen. 

And beyond that even, the 5k is my main goal because I loooove running 5ks.  It's like, it's just over so fast!  I mean, you start running, you keep running, and then you're done, and it hasn't even been that long since you started.  Even a fast marathon for the world's elites takes HOURS, plural!  And I'm not even close to that fast!  5ks are plentiful, filled with interesting people, and can be fun to be competitive.  I'm just not fast enough to be really competing with anyone other than my own goals in a marathon. 

A final reason I want the 5k goal the most is that in this past year I met my long-standing marathon goal -- qualifying for Boston.  For many years that goal seemed out of reach, and now that it's finally a reality, I'll admit I'm not sure where to go next with distance running.  I've discussed that on this blog before, and I've concluded that I'm going to run Boston as hard as I can and then re-evaluate, but I may transition to doing races for scenery and experience rather than time, or move to running ultras and/or running on trails, or just stick to shorter races after I finish the last few marathons that I really want to do. 

But having my 5k PR being the main thing I want to achieve in 2011 doesn't fit into my training plan well.

I am going to have a new running coach starting on Sunday, Jan. 2 for Boston.  And I had to work hard to be qualified to become this guy's coachee (? at a loss for a better word?).  And I am confident from what I've heard from others that this running season with him as my coach is going to be the best and most challenging of my life.  It's a privilege to be coached by him and he gets tons of people to massively fast PRs in Boston and other spring marathons.

But the coaching program is very strict.  Among the rules, no races unless they're on the schedule or otherwise authorized by the coach. 

We had a goals sheet we had to fill out in advance of Sunday's first training session.  One of the questions was what our expectations/objectives are for the class.  I answered honestly and listed the two goals.  A 5k PR at the big St. Patrick's Day race here, and a marathon PR in Boston.  He replied and told me basically to drop the 5k goal.  He told me what I know, that you can't work simultaneously on speed and distance without a very high likelihood of injury. 

He noted that the 5k PR still might happen as my mileage gets high for the marathon training.  And it is relevant to note here that I seriously only need to improve my 5k time by at least 1 second to tie Adam (2 seconds to beat him), but ideally 7-8 (if not more).

I replied to my new coach and asked permission to race St. Pat's, telling him I've had a lot of success getting 5k PRs just a few weeks before a marathon (because, yes, the higher mileage of marathon training does work well for me at short distances).  And I also told him how St. Pat's is my favorite race in Dallas and how I've done it for several years in a row and don't want to break my streak.

Denied.

He said I can run it as we have 7 miles on our schedule that day, but he did not want me to race it as we have a very tough long run scheduled for the following day. 

What to do?  I'll likely have to make a game-day decision.  I'm definitely going to do the race, and it might be nice to run it easy with no pressure and drink the beer and enjoy the party.  But wow, I love that race and I have PRed there on several occasions (though last year was a bust).  It will be so hard NOT to race it.  And really, by mid-March, if I don't follow my coach's instructions for one Saturday, what is going to happen?  Especially in light of what I've admitted above, that I want the 5k PR in 2011 more than I want the marathon PR. 

When I got my current 5k PR in September, I failed to stretch well afterward and I was hurting.  I felt all the effort I'd put into that race, and part of me worried I'd sabotaged my months of marathon training.  I was a little worried that I wouldn't be recovered in time for the marathon a mere 2 weeks later.  But when I honestly looked at that possibility, I realized it was okay with me.  Though the Boston goal was huge for me, I was so thrilled with the 5k PR that I felt like I'd already reaped the reward of my months of marathon training.  Although the 5k PR wasn't my goal during training, it was just as important to me and I was so proud of it.  I'd put in months of training for the sole purpose of getting a 5k PR and it hadn't happened.  I'd failed.  And then to put in months of marathon training and get the 5k PR, it made the training worth it. 

So if I race St. Pat's and manage to beat Adam by a second or more, I think in my heart, I'll consider it to have been worth these next few months of training, which I know are going to be intense.  Looking at my training schedule, I'm going to be over 50 miles per week on multiple occasions.  I don't think I've ever gone over 50 miles in a week before, certainly not in the last two years!  Shoot, going over 40 in a week for the first time this year warranted a post!  But whether all this training, all this early morning running, all this getting out of bed in the cold, all this going to bed early pays off with a 5k PR instead of my coach-approved marathon PR goal, it's likely going to be all the same to me.

You just might have to remind me of this if I manage to get the 5k PR and then as a result end up having a sucky training recovery week or even a sucky marathon performance in Boston! 

Oh, and as for the 10 things to do to achieve the 5k-PR feeling today, I guess I might get that feeling if I set a PR at some other distance, but that's unlikely because I'm not in shape or trained enough to get a PR that will make me as happy as a 5k one will be (and since my 5k PR predicts the best marathon time for me of all my races, it is a challenging goal, any PR I could get right now wouldn't predict me as fast as a 5k one would).  So the 10 things to do to achieve that 5k-PR feeling sometime in 2011 all relate to laying the groundwork:

1. Register to work with the best coach in the area (done)
2. Commit to heart-rate based training (ordered garmin!)
3. Maintain a training log (always!)
4. Race short distances successfully (ongoing)
5. Get to bed early to be ready to run on running days (I'm pretty good about this)
6.  Get out of bed and show up at all my training runs -- on both group days (no problem-o) and on solo days (which is going to be a real challenge for me since my running success and consistency largely stems from having so much fun running with my buddies)
7.  Clean up my eating to eat like an athlete (which will hopefully mean dropping some L-Bs!) (tough!!)
8.  Push myself when appropriate on my training runs (tough!)
9.  Envision success (I'm getting better)
10.  Register for the races (done for Boston, will do in Feb. for St. Pat's)

Really, doing all those things should make me feel proud and happy now that I'm doing what it takes to get me to what I want to achieve in 2011.  But nothing I can do now is going to feel as awesome (and maybe painful, but no pain, no gain) as crossing that finish line and seeing my new PR time. 

And then calling Adam to tell him (if he doesn't witness it).  Haha!

New Name

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 23 – New Name. Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcott)
Haha, my blog name was inspired by Bella, whose blog I read very frequently.  I don't think of myself as beautiful (bella in Italian), but maybe I could pull off cute (carina in Italian).  Overall, I'm fine with my name, though my middle name comes from my ex-aunt (uncle's ex-wife, bitter divorce), so that kind of sucks. 

Oh, and I should add that I am very opinionated and strongly oppose sexist name changes.  Though I love the idea of sharing a last name with my husband, this would only be okay with me if roughly equal numbers of men and women changed their last name upon marriage; while it remains sexist and only women participate in this practice, I don't want to participate.  So I haven't changed my name, I like both my last name and my husband's last name and I think our last names could be fused into a beautiful new last name, but he's not on board with that.  But fortunately, he's Italian and in Italy women don't change their names upon marriage (don't think it's progressive though, it's out of respect for the woman's father).  Since we want to move to Italy some day, we don't want to have the same last name -- men and women there who have the same last name are siblings, and that's just creepy! 

But let's see, what else would be a good name?  Growing up, I always wanted to be named Amy or Jennifer like all my friends. 

By the time I got to high school, I think I'd settled on my true alter ego name:  Cassiopia Emerald, so I guess that's what I'd choose.  I could go by Cassie, which is quite carina.  Or I could be Emmie, which I'm not as enthused about now as I was in high school.  And I'd probably have sparkling green eyes to go with the name (since I don't, if that were my name, maybe I'd get colored contacts). 

So hello blog reader(s), my name for today would be Cassiopia Emerald.  Enchante (to throw in some French).  Or "piacere" (to get ready for my Italian 2011).  I'd choose the name because it sounds so interesting, exotic, alive and unique.  My name isn't super common, but it's certainly something you hear about a million times more than Cassiopia! 

I've never used a fake name that I can remember when meeting someone, though I suppose I may have done it when meeting some guy or something.  One time in law school, I went on a spring break road trip with two friends and we ended up at a party in Atlanta primarly attended by people who were attending a "lesser" law school.  One of my friends had clerked with someone at the school, which was our connection.  But we didn't know anyone else at the party, so we thought it would be fun to pretend to be something other than law students from our law school.  So one friend told people at the party she was a roadie for the Dave Matthews Band, another told people she was a tarot card reader, and I told people I worked in the exchange department at the National Zoo (so when you see a sign that an animal is on loan from another zoo, I'd have set that up and I was in Atlanta to see about bringing their giraffes up to DC for two years) (I had the whole story worked out).  It was fun but of course we couldn't keep it up for more than a couple hours.  I don't even know if zoos have exchange departments!

Travel, my favorite non-running topic!

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 22 – Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt)
Fun question, perhaps better asked as how DIDN'T I travel in 2010!  Planes, trains and automobiles were all in play in 2010.  Trying to remember if there were any boats in there, but nothing springs to mind.  Though we did get to tour a boat, the Vasa, which sank in 1628 and is in a museum in Stockholm.

The highlight of my 2010 travel was our spring trip to Europe, visiting Sweden and Russia.  Our spring trip was long, a few weeks, and included time in Pittsburgh, DC, Charlottesville, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Pushkin, and Moscow.  Absolutely amazing.  I actually posted about one of the highlights, seeing the Amber Room, already.  But there were also wonderful visits with family and friends during the rest of the year.  I've said it before, we work to travel, we live to travel, we shop to travel, etc.  We make lots of our financial and time-management decisions based on our shared love of travel.  We love to do that together and wish we could work even less and travel even more, but at a certain point, we both recognize diminishing returns.  Right now, about one month of vacation seems to be perfect for us.  One long trip over two weeks, a few long weekends, and a week or so home for Christmas. 

2011 travel will officially include two new cities for us as a couple, Boston and Paris, though I've been to both before (and don't remind my husband, but with different guys!).  Technically, I received a plane ticket for Christmas to Boston, so I can't say we'll definitely make it to Paris, but the return date from Boston is more than two weeks later so I should say that it's likely we'll add Paris to the trip -- as well as Italy!  My husband's family lives in Calabria and we love it there.  We got engaged there and then got married there a year and a half later.  We go visit about every 2 years on average.  Hopefully our 2011 trip will provide an opportunity to meet up with another Calabria-loving lawyer blogger, Michelle, and/or another years-of-Texas-living blogger, Cherrye, so that would mean travel to other parts of Calabria, likely that I have never seen before.  Despite my inability to understand what his relatives say (at least the older ones) because they consistently speak dialect, we always have such an amazing time and it goes too quickly.  We eat like crazy, his aunt shovels more food than can be conceivably consumed onto our plates, and there is no understanding in his house of the concept of being a vegetarian, but the food is so good, it's always worth the weight I gain. 

Beyond the big 2011 Spring trip we're planning, Boston, Pittsburgh, Calabria and Paris, we'll have at least a few other little trips during the year.  We're going to Detroit in July for my baby brother's wedding.  I think we'll go on Wednesday to spend a few extra days with our much-loved neighbors who live there part-time (and next to us the rest of the time).  And now we'll also have my middle little brother's wedding sometime next year, place and date to be determined.  Likely somewhere near Lake Michigan.  And there's another cousin's wedding in Madison in August, but I'm not sure we'll make it there.

And apart from all that travel, which is fairly certain, I'd love to take a weekend road trip somewhere together at least once.  Since neither of us is from Texas, there's lots to explore.  An amazing running friend who lives in San Antonio that we need to go visit.  East Texas, which just sounds like something different.

And it's possible, just possible, I'll get in a trip to Cali in about 11 months.  One of my all-time favorite running buddies who moved away almost a year ago now lives in Cali and he is attempting to convince me that we should jointly undertake to run a 50-miler there together.  I told him I'm deferring all decisions until after Boston!

Letter to 2015

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)
This topic was very thought-provoking, and this post is much-delayed because I wanted to give it sufficient thought.  I don't foresee any major changes in my life in 2011, and I'd be happy to end the year as happy as I am now -- though for certain life will be different with TWO of my little brothers getting married next year!  Of course I also see myself in 2011 as someone who casually wears "Boston 2011" running apparel, but there has to be more than just that.  When I picture myself at the end of 2015, it may be easiest to look at the ways I currently define myself, most of which are listed on my About Me page

Runner.  When 2015 is wrapping up, I hopefully will have run Boston and requalified several times.  I'd like to have knocked several other marathons off my "must run" list.  I'd like to have run at least one ultra and at least one trail race, maybe one and the same.  My advice to Carina in 2011 would be to buckle down on eating clean, which will hopefully mean some weight loss and easier and faster running.  Carina in 2015 is well-aware of what the 2011 training schedule looks like, and she would remind Carina 2011 to put her head down and work hard at it, as the work will really pay off.  2011 is going to be the first year where I have several training weeks over 50 miles per week.  That seems like a lot to Carina 2010, who is used to spring mileage around 25 per week and marathon training mileage usually around 40 per week.  Carina 2011 and Carina 2015 both run with the same group of people with whom Carina 2010 has already logged so many miles over the last few years.  And in 2015, at least the 2015 of my dreams, Carina's other favorite running buddies, Jeremy and Tom, who have moved away to California (one to the north, one to the south), have both moved back to Dallas and they run with Carina several days a week.  Not sure how to manifest having that happen.  Guess Carina 2015 would remind Carina 2011 to keep up her email correspondence with those guys and see them whenever possible. 

Wife.  In 2015, I see us as a settled and secure married couple, who know each other well and think of each other first.  That's a tough transition to make after being single for 30-ish years!  As I've posted before, more experienced friends have shown me that marriage will never be easy and that it's not realistic (nor desirable) to expect that we'll ever be the same person with the same interests, the same priorities, the same thoughts.  But the advice of Carina 2015 to Carina 2011 is to always think before she opens her mouth, to make more of an effort to let the little things go and to have the word "squadra" (Italian theme for our goal marriage) at the forefront of my actions. 

Vegetarian.  In 2015, I'm still a vegetarian and have even gone vegan on many days.  My compassion toward all living creatures is also reflected in my choices of products like shoes and cars.  Carina in 2015 is an adventurous cook, always trying new recipes and relying more frequently on homemade leftovers for lunch instead of frozen meals or restaurants.  Carina 2015 would tell Carina 2011 to use those new cookbooks she got for Christmas 2010 (you can tell I'm behind on these posts, since I already know I got Everyday Italian and 1,000 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes for Christmas!  either that, or this really is Carina 2015 writing this!). 

Dallas-dweller.  This right now seems to be the biggest question mark for how I really see myself in 2015.  Where exactly do we live?  In all likelihood, right where we do now.  But having been home for the holidays (and knowing there's an Italy trip on the near horizon), I am less certain I'll still be in Dallas.  I'd like to move back home, or near hubby's parents, or near hubby's "parenti" in Italy (forgive me for trying to start my transition to Italian here, parenti means relatives, it's a false friend in that the word looks like it would mean parents, but that word is actually genitori).  But that whole earning-a-living thing gets in the way.  Hubby doesn't want to move away for at least 6 or more years, preferably more like 10.  And I'm not thrilled by the idea of taking another bar or even going through a reciprocity application process.  So in all likelihood, Carina 2015 still lives in Dallas, and if she's moved home or near hubby's parents, that is likely for a very unfortunate reason like a very ill turn in someone's health.  So Carina 2015 says to Carina 2011 that she should put aside more of a house reserve fund for any major repairs that may be needed, and that she should hammer down on that mortgage!

Attorney.  Carina 2015 is still a practicing attorney and she loves her job.  She still doesn't like talking about work on her blog, but she would tell Carina 2011 to do whatever is necessary to make that happen, whether it means developing stronger support and opportunities in her current position, or finding another position.  Carina 2011 is more likely to work on the former but still isn't sure how.  Carina 2015 is a zealous advocate for a pro bono cause dear to her heart, and does what she can to help children who encounter worse circumstances in their living arrangement than most people can imagine or would ever want to consider. 

Traveler.  Carina 2015 still goes overseas every year, and roughly every other one of those trips includes Italy.  She is more comfortable speaking Italian than Carina 2010, and she converses freely with hubby's "parenti" who are older and speak solely in dialect -- they understand Carina 2015 perfectly, and are impressed that Carina 2015 can even add a few words of dialect!  They never ever joke about mistakes Carina 2015 makes because her Italian is so clear.  Carina 2015 would highly endorse Carina 2011's plan of speaking Italian at home and is very glad she is going back to an Italian conversation group, but would urge her to do some actual studying outside of class, both to become more comfortable with various verb conjugations and tenses, and to build her vocabulary.  Carina 2015 has also had the chance to visit a couple more places that Carina 2011 still really wants to see.  She's been to Egypt, India and/or China.  Carina 2015 would advise Carina 2011 to manage her work schedule and finances as needed to allow for an overseas trip each year, which strengthens her marriage, her perspective, and her sanity. 

And for the bonus, ten years ago, I had just found out I passed the bar and was settling into my first few months of work.  I'd tell myself to balance work and life better and to decide earlier that if my big firm job wasn't going to give me the balance I wanted, that I should prepare better (and earlier) to find something that would give me a better balance.  I'd also tell myself that eating dinner in the office is going to have negative consequences for my waistline, so I need to order better and be serious about exercise. 

But the bottom line about work, family, health, etc., is that I'm very happy where I am now and wouldn't change a thing if it would possibly make me less happy than I am now.  It's all worked out quite well.  There was an overnight word processor I knew far too well at the big firm where I worked (that's what happens when you're still cranking out edits at 3 a.m. at least once a week).  Her theory was that things always happen for a reason.  I'd complain about how late it was and how tired I was, and she'd say something like it was meant to be because maybe I'd stop for coffee on my way home and meet the man of my dreams, some doctor getting off night shift.  Or maybe if I'd left work when all the 9-to-5ers did, I'd have been in a car accident.  Or maybe I wouldn't have been able to advance as I did at my job. 

Working like crazy for years meant I didn't get to meet my husband until I was ready for a good relationship.  If I'd met him earlier a.) he would have been married to his ex, b.) I would have been dating someone at work who wasn't a good match, but was nice and convenient and comfortable (who would actually be perfect for someone else, I don't want to suggest he's not a great guy), and c.) I wouldn't have had the interest and commitment needed to make our relationship a priority.  Plus, I managed to make one connection in particular that lead me to my current job. 

As for ordering dinner at work for years, well, that gave me an incentive to start running, which has become a huge part of my life.  And the extra pounds gave me both security that my husband didn't love me solely for my body, and the incentive to join boot camp, which is something I started and continue to enjoy with my husband.  I think the dinners at work didn't do permanent damage to my waistline, though there were definitely some bad habits I acquired.  Oh well.  Like I said, it all worked out!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reading List

Made it back to Dallas and already miss things I'd forgotten that I missed about home.  The trip was so wonderful.  I have several Reverb posts in the works and will probably just publish them as I finish them, like Bella does, instead of doing one long post with several.  I'm hung up on the one doing a letter to myself in 5 years, which is fun but time-consuming! 

I can't post much about running.  I did 8 treadmill miles at my brother's gym on Monday last week.  Then 9.3 at my folks' gym on Wed., then 8.1 at their gym on Thurs, and I got a blister on the arch of my right foot, and that put an end to the running (though I was going to take off on Fri and Sat anyway).  But yesterday instead of running, I just did some biking and then some lazy exercises and weights over the course of a couple hours at the gym -- don't think I even broke a sweat. 

The blister happened because I was wearing old shoes.  Hubby and I decided at one point to leave older running shoes at houses that we frequently visit.  The shoes I have up north are great for a few miles, but don't hold up well with some more miles over a few days.  I could feel the blister starting to form on my foot, so I called it quits on Thursday on the treadmill.  When I got home, I was afraid to look at it -- bigger than I expected, about nickel-sized.  I put a blister band-aid on it and haven't taken it off yet.  It's on my right foot at the part of the arch nearing my toes.  It doesn't hurt anymore, but I've laid off the running just to be safe.

The work-out part of being home was fun.  I was at the gym each of the four days I went for more than 2 hours each time.  I'll admit that on two of the days, I spent an hour on the bike each day and that barely counted as working out.  I had a book I was reading and wanted to finish it, so I just set the bike at level 6 and pedalled leisurely, usually my rpms seemed to be in the low 60s.  But when I got timed out by the bike after an hour on Thursday, I had less than 3 pages left of my book, so I kind of stood by the bike, leaning over the book on the seat and stretching.  Reading and working out was a very fun change of pace for me!

So I thought it might be fun to post about what I'm reading or just finished over break (one I had to read, two I choose to read):

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  Had to read for book club and found out on the plane that it was the second book in a trilogy, and of course I haven't read the first.  The book is kind of teen-fiction style and it was a quick and interesting read, but I felt somewhat lost and then was disappointed by the ending (basically, if I want closure, I'll have to read the third book).  It's set in the future and is the story about this young woman who has to fight in something like a survival Olympics to the death. 

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed.  My choice and I'm only about 1/3 of the way into it.  Very interesting!  It's described as an economic history (non-fiction), so far largely about what led to the failures of the European central banking systems in the early 1900s and the perils of the gold standard.  Pretty much can't wait to get back to reading it! 

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.  Another fun non-fiction book.  About the author's quest to resolve his own foot pain by studying the Tarahumara Indians and their ultra-running success.  Includes some stories about races like the Leadville 100, where the Tarahumara competed, and then a race set up by the "Caballo Blanco" to pit the Tarahumara against elite ultra-runners on the Tarahumara's home turf. 

So those are the pages I'm currently turning.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Growing Family

I want to shout it from the rooftops!  Woot!! 

This morning we all had an early lunch and then went on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the woods.  It was so beautiful.  We got home and my brother told his girlfriend they were going down to the lake to check the augers (?? something about ice fishing).  They came back soon after and he'd proposed!!  I'm so happy for them!!!  They've been dating about 8 years, so it was about time, but I really believe it's better not to rush into anything.  I adore her, and my other brother is getting married this summer, so we'll have a lot of weddings this summer and I completely love both of my new sisters.  Here they are a few minutes ago.  I'm so happy, I'm crying!!! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dreadmill

I wish I had my camera nearby or knew how to upload photos to this computer, I'll have to share some when I get back to Texas, but it's gorgeous here.  My folks live in the middle of nowhere basically and it's a winter wonderland.  Almost 1.5 feet of snow on the ground and I'm having the best time. 

Update:  Here's one from today! 

I went to the gym again this morning, my second time this week!  And it was better.  I was wearing different shoes.  Hubby has large feet and we made the decision a couple years ago to leave older pairs of running shoes with several family members in different cities that we visit regularly, that way we never have to pack shoes.  Well, the shoes I wore to the gym in Milwaukee tend to give me blisters on my arch.  I'd forgotten all about that.  They're probably fine for a few miles, but they were bothering me by the end of an hour on Monday.

Today was a different old pair of shoes in a different gym and it worked much better.  My mom was there too for the first hour of my workout, but again, since I'm on vacation, I decided to drive separately to the gym so I could stay as long as I wanted.  It was awesome!

I did about an hour on the treadmill (it times you out automatically after 63 minutes, wtf?), and then did some weights, then an hour on the bike (again, it times you out automatically after 60 minutes, but I didn't care, I was just pedaling easily and reading my book), then back to the treadmill for a little while.  The most fun thing I did though was the punching bag.  I took off my rings and just swung at it for a few minutes, trying to make sure I was doing some ab twisting, and it was fun.  But most of all, I liked just being able to do what I wanted at the gym and stay as long as I liked.  It makes me feel like I'm really on vacation, though when we actually go on a "real" vacation, we pretty much never go to a gym (though I got hubby to join me at a Zumba class in Stockholm this past year!).  But whenever we're visiting his parents, we go to their gym.  And when we visit my folks and it's not the dead of winter, we usually workout there too.  And when people come visit us, if they're interested we bring them along with us to boot camp or for runs.  Either way, long periods of time in the gym with no schedule forcing me to hurry on my way makes it feel like the day is my own and it's really vacation time. 

Not much else to report.  Eating tons but mostly healthy stuff.  It's strange, I can make some of the exact same things my mom makes, but it always tastes better when she makes it!  I also got to eat a few Christmas cookies today, which is a rare treat in our family (though I break the rule in Dallas all the time!).  Generally, my mom makes us wait until Xmas Eve to eat them.  But today after my three hour visit to the gym, I came home, hung out with my pa for a while, then went to meet my mom at her office for their holiday party where she'd brought cookies.  Yum!

Hubby is hopefully in the air right now, on his way to boys' night in Chicago with two of my bros.  Then they'll bring him here tomorrow when they come.  Oh, I can't wait.  It's just getting better and better!

And the one thing I don't like about being here usually, freezing all the time, isn't so bad.  My folks gave me permission to use the electric heater last night in our room, which made it so nice!  Now I'm about to go outside and help him shovel, so that will warm me up a bit too!

Saving the reverb posts for another day.  There's a quick fun one about travel I could do now, but the one before that is about looking 5-10 years ahead, and that will take considerably more thought, and I don't want Mr. Snowblower to have to do my promised shoveling too, so I need to get out there subito (Italian for at once, or right away, see I'm making progress on my transition to Italian for 2011!).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Home!

I'm home!  Got here yesterday.  There's snow, but it's melting a little, but I actually complete the trek tomorrow and the snow up north isn't going anywhere.  So it's guaranteed I'll get my white Christmas -- whew! 

Since I've been here I've spent a lot of time with my nieces and nephew.  My youngest niece is almost 1.5 and she's a cuddler.  She loves to be held, so I've spent lots of time doing that.  Her older siblings are 5 and 6 and somehow, incomprehensibly, they think I'm great!  They have tons of hugs for me and love to ask me things and show me things and have me do things.  It's so much fun being with them.  I have no idea how my brother ended up with such cute kids!  Haha, that's not very nice.  Both he and his wife are very nice looking, he just used to be mean to me when we were kids so I still reflexively say mean jokes like that. 

My nipoti (is there a word in English for nieces and nephews combined?) and I made ornaments for their Christmas tree.  A tree, a cat, and a stocking (glued shredded toilet paper to it to make the top fluffy, I couldn't find any cotton balls in their house).  And today I went to my niece's Christmas program where they sang and danced.  The most surprising thing to me is that when it was over, we all went to the back to link up with the kids, my niece saw us and came running up and I was the first one she hugged!  How is it that they like me so much?  I'm so lucky.  I mean, I think of them so much, but we just don't get to see them very often, so I love that somehow they like me (especially since they were afraid of me for years and I was basically a stranger). 

Not much else to report, just enjoying the family time.  My brother and his wife gave me a guest pass to their gym, SCORE!, so I'm going to hopefully run 10-15 miles this afternoon on a treadmill.  Sounds miserable, but given the crap that I've been eating and the alternative of running outside, it sounds like heaven to me!  Anyway, I want to stay kind of up on my Reverb posts, so here goes.

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.

December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)
Right now the thing that comes to mind first is trying to spend more time with my family.  Of course, I know that's not likely.  Hubby and I are going to use a lot of our vacation time in the spring for the Boston/Italy trip.  But seeing my family over the summer at my brother's wedding will count for something.  But I'd like to watch those short-term weekend flight deals and see if I can't manage to get up here to visit a bit more frequently. 

The thing I tried in 2010 that comes to mind is running related.  It was my first year to make a serious attempt at qualifying for Boston and really trying to hammer down my 5k time.  I qualified for Boston on the first shot (whereas it took me several tries to go under 4 hours), and I tried and failed at getting my 5k time where I wanted.  Oh well. 
December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)
Hmm, this should be deeper but I don't feel like I had any deep healing in 2010.  I think of my massive foot pain (plantar fasciitis) that is gradually, drip-by-drip, subsiding.  I'd like to just not get injured in 2011 so there's no need for any healing. 
Honestly, try as I might, I really can't think of much healing that's happened.  For the most part, I don't have anything that needs to be healed.  As I said above, my brother and I didn't get along well all the time (or even most of the time) while growing up, but in the last 5 or so years, basically since he's had kids, we seem to get along much better.  So I guess that's healed?  And I've worried before that his wife didn't like me (or others in our family) very much, but we really get along fine.  I'm glad no healing is required!  I don't feel like I've been particularly hurt in the past.  Even ex-boyfriend hurts seem to have faded away in the last couple years, whether through the passage of time or getting married.  And right now, I'm happy enough I'm not even so disturbed that my back-up prince got engaged to Kate Middleton.  No healing needed there either!
December 20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)
This is hard to answer for a different reason.  An answer quickly jumps to mind, but it's work related, so I don't really want to write about that.  Maybe I'll do it in 2011.  Maybe not.  I guess I should have tried to make a better effort to watch what I ate, but I kind of avoided thinking about it.  Marathon training gave me a ready excuse when I made bad eating choices, which sometimes leave me feeling poorly for days.  But it all balances out I guess. I thought I'd lost a bit of weight this year, but according to the scale where I'm staying, not so much...  Oh well.  I'm not sure if I didn't worry about it for fear, worry, uncertainty, being busy, or other deterrence, I just can't say I really made it a priority.  I'd like to change that in 2011. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Trying in 2011

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.
December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

It's another one that seems a little repetitive.  Or maybe it's just that my life isn't that interesting!  I'd say the thing I want to try the most in 2011 is to get a new 5k PR.  On the big 5k in September where I got a PR that I wasn't expecting, I still missed the ultimate 5k goal (for now) by 2 seconds.  My goal for the 5k is a little strange in that it can't be defined too well -- all I want is to beat Adam.  And he's not running very much right now, so if I can do it in the first few months of 2011, I probably only have to improve my current PR by 2 seconds.  But if he races again and sets a new PR, then I'll have to beat that.  So maybe it's a dual strategy.  Train hard and make a few strong attempts at the PR while the weather is good for running.  And second, ply Adam with cookies, alcohol, pizza, etc. to make sure he doesn't set the current bar any higher! 

As for something I wanted to try in 2010, I definitely wanted to try to beat him.  As I've mentioned before, I went for it a few times in the spring and never suceeded.  Then I almost did it in September.  I got a new PR, but missed beating him by 2 seconds (and I missed the tie by a mere 1 second).  It was a fun goal for the year, and even though I haven't accomplished it yet, it will keep me working hard in 2011. 

I might be able to offer a more interesting answer for something I want to try in a couple weeks.  I go home tomorrow for Christmas.  One of my projects is going to be to work on my 2011 resolutions.  I might be able to come up with some other good things to try, but right now I'm distracted by (and procrastinating doing) my to-do list to come up with a good post.  Fun things like the bank, the post office, buying the January book club book (Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, any thoughts?), loading up my carry-on (hopefully adding some grapes or other snack from the grocery store), washing whites and adding to the suitcase, shopping for blank or Italian cards (still on my list!), finishing my two "work-required" gifts, a bit more wrapping, etc.  But instead I'm reading blogs and watching Hoarders...

I ran a quick loop of the lake this morning with a few friends.  One had to turn off early and on the second half of the lake, there was a new path that has recently opened up, the Santa Fe trail I think it's called.  Anyway, I saw it last weekend during the 5k with my co-worker's daughter, but we weren't in a position to run on it, so I just looked.  This morning when we hit the part with the new trail, I asked my running buddies if they'd be okay with adding a mile or so to our route.  They agreed, so we turned onto the trail.  I grabbed hands with Fred and Joy for my first few steps on the trail (an odd personal tradition, held hands with two of my besties first time on the pedestrian bridge at the lake, held hands with weekend friends on my first little part of the extension of the trail near our house).  We ran almost half a mile on the new trail and then u-turned back.  It was really cool.  A little strange that there is a fence on each side of you for much of it, and the fence is right next to the running path, so there is no dirt or grass alongside the path for people who like to run on the softer surface (or for dogs to poo, which seems to be a problem, there were several piles in the path). 

I'm not sure what I'm going to do for running while I'm home.  The high is 21 on the warmest day.  Ugh.  I have 2 gym mornings planned on Wed and Thurs, but think I'll be outside the rest of the time.  If I could push myself to do 8-10 miles outside on Mon and Tues, then 8-10 on the dreadmill on Wed and Thurs, then I can take off on Fri and Sat, see if I can get motivated to run outside on Sunday, and then I'll be back in Dallas!  I will aim to run on at least a few days early in the week and maybe do weights once, then Fri is the traditional New Year's Eve lake loop, then Sunday marathon training will officially begin with 8 miles, at least according to the rumors I've heard. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lessons of 2010

I'm participating in Reverb 10 for the month of December. Each day has a new prompt to encourage participants to reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011.

December 17 – Lesson Learned.  What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)


It seems like some of my answers touch on the same topics as other answers this month, but I guess it's logical.  The big memories, lessons, etc. of the year aren't infrequently related I suppose.  My lesson was running related:
No matter how experienced and/or strong I get, I need to remember all the basic rules of running, they still apply to me.
Like build your distance back gradually if you take more than two weeks off.
Like pace yourself from step 1 of the race.
Like watch what you eat the night before a long run (for me, NO DAIRY! and not a lot of veggies or protein).  Only bad things come of that. 
Like I need to stretch after all my runs -- and this is getting more important as I get older.
Like dress for the weather as if it's 20* warmer.
Like I still can't mix gatorade or similar drink with gu or blocks or other fuel.  Only bad things come of that too.
And while it's not so much a general rule, a specific rule for me:  Don't stop pushing in a race because you think your goal is impossible because you make frequent math errors and even if you miss your goal a solid effort makes you feel better. 

Some of the rules I'm now okay with breaking, like not doing anything new on race day, but it's only with new things that I consider safe or races that don't matter too much. 

My biggest mistake of the year was either not running on our very long vacation, or jumping back in where I left off when we got home.  Hard to say which was the problem.  I could have changed either and had much less pain. 

This is a good reminder for me since I looked at a picture from early this morning of our Spring vacation destination:  Italy!  Snow in Calabria!  Woo-hoo!  Copied the picture from someone in the town where hubby's family lives. 



And on this trip, I may attempt to meet a blogger, Michelle of Bleeding Espresso!  I don't know yet exactly how far she is from where we'll be, but it would be fun.  We don't have all the details of the trip worked out yet, but I think the plan will be Dallas-Boston-Pittsburgh-Lamezia-Paris-Dallas.  I'm getting excited.  Right now I'm mostly getting excited about going home (will be there in less than 48 hours!  and the temp won't be above 25 the whole time I'm there!  yikes!), but I'm also letting myself get excited about the spring trip because otherwise I'll probably be kind of sad when I get back to Dallas after Christmas.  It's hard to be away from my family.  Those of you who live near your families are very lucky, though I know there are always different headaches that come with that (but right now, I'd rather be in that boat).