Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year In Review

I did this post last year and really enjoyed writing it, so I decided I'd tackle the same "year in review" questions this year.

I originally found this "year in review" list on a blog called brie-fit.com, and she said she'd copied it from "Temerity Jane via Sundry". Anyway, I thought it would be a fun way to look back on 2013.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

I won our local beer mile.  Twice.
I went to Liechtenstein.
I went on a gondola ride in Venice.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I'm going to again do a resolutions recap. Overall, I'm happy with how I did.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

The guy who was my platonic travel buddy for years (together, we've gone to Kenya, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, and of course Italy, when he came to our wedding) got married a few years ago and they had a baby very recently.  We're actually spending New Year's Eve tonight with them, so we'll get to meet their little guy. 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully. My grandpa unfortunately had a stroke this summer and now has a live-in nurse and a feeding tube and can't do much with the right side of his body.  You can tell it's very frustrating for him.  It's hard to understand him, but when he talks, he mentions how unhappy he is, how his savings are being spent on the nurse, how much you need two arms for things, etc.  I'm glad he's still with us, but his quality of life has changed drastically, which is sad

5. What countries did you visit?

Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italia, Netherlands.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

My goal marathon time and a winning lottery ticket.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

September 29, 2013, the date of my marathon PR in Berlin.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Probably running-related, but I can't decide if it's the marathon PR or the beer mile win (and successfully defending the title).  Probably the marathon PR.   

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not getting my marathon goal time.  At mile 16, I wanted to slow down, and by mile 18, I gave in to that.  Due to a tragic combination of a satellite malfunction and a lack of knowledge of the metric system, I also ended up missing my "B" goal.  

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious, thank goodness.   I'm having some foot pain right now, possibly from 28 miles on a treadmill on two days within a three day span.  Of course I can't get in to see an ortho this week, but I am fairly certain its some tendon inflammation.  I ended up resting it this morning, the first year I haven't done my traditional New Year's Eve loop of the lake in more years than I can count.   

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Best money spent was probably the gondola ride in Venice.  I didn't keep track if that was "my" money or "hubby's" money.  But after having been to Venice a couple times and not being there with the love of my life (hadn't met him yet), I saw people on gondolas.  Of course I could have gone alone or with friends, but it was something I wanted to save.  I wanted to kiss someone as we went under every single bridge.  I wanted to hold hands and ooh and aah together.  It was everything I dreamed of! 

12. Where did most of your money go?

Good question!  Since my husband and I alternate paying for big trips, he paid for the 2013 trip for the most part.  I guess I spent most of my money on debt reduction.  I've gotten really into the idea of making extra mortgage payments.  I like knowing that if something happened to me, my husband could take his time sorting things out and he wouldn't miss any payments.  Plus obviously paying even a bit more on a massive debt like a house can make a big dent in how long you pay.  I've heard (and believe) that if you have a 30 year mortgage and you make one extra principal and interest payment per year, you end up being done in 23 years.  That's huge! 

13. What did you get really excited about?

The trip to Europe. 

14. What song will always remind you of 2013?

"Blurred Lines" -- my husband told me it was "the song of the summer" before either of us had heard it.  Second choice is "Roar", but that's an answer to a question below. 

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? About the same, which is to say very happy.
– thinner or fatter? Fatter by about 5 pounds!  The last couple months haven't been good!! 
– richer or poorer? Richer.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Organizing, cleaning and purging around the house (same answer as last year...).

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Eating!  Particularly in the last couple months.  My clothes are far too tight right now. 

18. How did you spend Christmas?

Home! Meaning at my parents' house in Wisconsin again.  Traditional Christmas Eve having dinner at home, then going for carols and church. This was the first year that my baby brother's wife was with us, which was fun.  Christmas morning presents, brunch, then organizing and packing, a long 5 hour drive to Milwaukee, and then another family Christmas with lots of excitement for my nieces and nephew.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

House of Cards, by far.  My boss loved and recommended it. It did not sound like something I'd enjoy, but by the second or third episode, I was totally hooked. 

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

I am going to post a separate list of what I read in 2013, but as I looked over where that draft post currently stands (I want to finish a couple in progress books before posting), I think my favorite was actually Lean In.  I would highly urge all people, not just women, to read it and think about it. 

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I'm not a big music person, so this is hard to answer.  I guess pop/hip hop stuff that is good for running, boot camp, or just being in the gym.   Every time I hear that "Roar" song, I feel inspired and want to run faster and work harder. 

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which we saw just a couple days ago.  I don't feel like we saw a lot of movies and actually can't think of anything else that we saw! 

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I'm knocking on 40's door now.  I ended up working late, going out for pizza with my husband to one of my favorite pizza places (Fireside Pies, which he definitely does not love as a pizza snob).  One of the highlights was eating the three mini-bundt cakes that my accounting buddy gave me. 

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If I'd run the Berlin marathon about 10 minutes faster than I did. 

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

More of the same. I don't buy lots of new clothes.  I wore a lot of scarves and (embarrassing) I wore better bras that made a freezing cold office less evident...

26. What kept you sane?

A combination of a white board in my office and our diary system at work that lets me set reminders for when things need to be done on cases.   Having my major cases and deadlines on the dry erase board, coupled with checking my diary entries meant that I felt very on the ball at work.  I'm so happy to feel like I'm more in control.  It was one of my best resolutions (to not drag my feet on things like checking voicemail) and it really paid off in that I had far fewer "work freak out" dreams and generally met my deadlines (which are soft and internal, and therefore very easy to blow off, even though I shouldn't). 

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

I won't be healthy and active forever, so I should appreciate it now. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

#Reverb13, Day 15: Anchor

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 15 – Anchor:
What kept you tethered to 2013?

(I'm out of order here, want to do some photos for day 14...).

This one is bizarre since tethered seems to have a kind of negative connotation and I don't think there was any particularly negative thing that will keep me "tethered" to 2013 as time marches on. 

If the question is more about what kept me grounded, it's the same stuff as it has been the last few years -- my husband, good friends, physically distant but emotionally close family, my job, my running and boot camp schedule. 

My rock for 2013 really was the Berlin Marathon.  A lot of my life revolved around that.  It was a big trip with husband and with friends.  It was the use of almost all my work vacation days.  It was a financial focus.  It was the goal I had in mind when I woke up at 5:00 or earlier 6 days a week for the vast majority of the year leading up to our late September departure for Europe. 

So the Berlin Marathon was my anchor. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Yasso Culmination

Well, this is the time of year that I make friends with the treadmill I guess.

I flew home on Thursday night to a winter wonderland.  After a night of late packing followed by an early airport run (meaning less than 5 hours of sleep), followed by a night of the beer run followed by an early run with my buddies (meaning less than 4 hours of sleep), I elected to sleep late on Friday morning and it was glorious.

Given the gym holiday schedules here, I moved my long run to Saturday and my Yassos to Monday.

So Saturday I planned to go to the gym with one of my sisters-in-law.  When we were hanging out on Friday night, she said she wanted me to meet at her place at 10 the next morning to go to the gym.  I told her I'd have to drive separately because I had 18 miles on the schedule and I wanted to allow about 3 hours.  She said that was fine and at one point later in the evening asked me what my ideal running time was.  I said about 5:30 a.m., mostly just because that's what I'm used to doing (the whole work thing, plus the fact that it gets hot, hot, hot after 10 a.m. for several months of the year in Dallas). 

Well, I woke up Saturday and was on track to be at their place at 10.  Until she called at 9:30 and said that she was still a little sore in her hamstring, so she was going to take a pass.


That meant that I basically just pissed away the morning for no reason.  I would have much preferred to be at the gym at 8 and done before lunchtime.  Maybe even before 8! 

But oh well, that stuff happens.  I sucked it up and went to the gym solo.  I bought a day pass and hopped on a treadmill.  Fortunately, I had earphones, so I was able to watch TV.  Unfortunately, the treadmill shuts off after 60 minutes.  So after the first hour, I took a gu and then started back up.  I pushed a bit harder during the second hour, and completed 3 intervals of 1 mile each at theoretical marathon pace.  It did not feel sustainable ever for more than a mile at a time.  When the treadmill shut down after hour 2, I took another gu and fired it back up to finish out the balance.  I was absolutely amazed to be able to say that I did 18 miles on a treadmill.

It helped that there were windows nearby and I could see all the snow, reminding me why I was putting myself through the treadmill misery.

Unfortunately, it drained a lot of my energy.  After the run, I swung by the mall to get the last 2 items I needed, then I took a massive unplanned nap.  Oops.  Saturday night was uneventful.  Take-out and a wrapping marathon.  After about 8 hours, everything with the exception of one pair of tights for another sister-in-law was wrapped. 

I'm so excited about some of the gifts we're giving.

Most notably, exactly what my nieces (a guitar and a fur baby dog thing) and nephew (a huge Nerf gun) wanted, as well as a few other things I think people will love. 

Well, Sunday was more of a planning mess.  Hubby was supposed to land at 11:30 on a flight from Chicago, where he flew that morning from Pittsburgh.

I woke up Sunday to snow coming down hard, so I scrapped my plan to go to the gym to do some weights (guest pass was good for 24 hours), and I mostly got packed up to drive north.

But then hubby's flight got cancelled.  And then the 11:55 bus to Milwaukee was full.  And then he couldn't get on another flight, but managed to get on the 12:45 bus.  But the bus was late, so we weren't reunited until about 2:30. 

Fortunately, by then the snow had stopped, but given that the sun goes down around 4:30 here, it meant some very treacherous driving up north.  Ugh.  The roads weren't great and it was very slow going (I was paranoid about last year's car accident in the snow repeating itself). 

We finally made it up here, safe and sound, around 8.  My mama had held dinner for us, and it was wonderful.

Finally got to bed in a VERY COLD house around 10:30ish. 

That meant my 4:45 wake-up came early.  My mom wanted to leave the house by 5:10 to go to the gym, and hubby and I were eager to tag along and get in workouts. 

Especially since by the time I got home from the gym and got to work, the weather had warmed up to this: 

But when my mom heard that I had 10 Yassos on my schedule, she determined that we had to take separate cars.  She just wanted to do weights for about 45 minutes, and I knew I'd be closer to double that, particularly since I kind of wanted to do some weights after my run.

I hopped on the treadmill and fired it up, thinking that I would attempt the magical number of 10 Yassos.  I warmed up for .75 miles, then already hating the drudgery, decided to cut my warm-up short and just start on the intervals already. 

My mom came by my treadmill after I was recovering from the first one.  I told her I just didn't think it was my day, and that I was thinking of running easy instead of doing the workout.  But in my head, I knew I needed to suck it up and do it.

So I buckled down.  I did the first 5 right on pace (treadmill magic), with an incline of .5.  Then I kind of cheated and put the incline down to 0 for repeats 6 and 7, and then I was mad at myself, so I put it back to .5 for repeat 8.  But then I was blasted exhausted, so I put it back down for repeat 9.  Finally, for repeat 10, I decided to bump the speed up another .1 mph (I think the difference in mile time was about 5 seconds, so about 2.5 faster for the final Yasso). 

And then, gloriously, I was done. 

I don't feel like it's totally legit because:
a.) I had the incline at 0.0 for 4 of them.
b.) the treadmill did my pacing for me.
c.) I did quarter mile recoveries after each (needed it the last few times, but did it for all because it made the math easier).
d.) I walked all of the quarter mile recoveries except one that I jogged.

But it was done.  I decided to cool down for about 1.25 miles. 

And that's when it seems something went wrong.  I have some weird pain on the top of my right foot.  It doesn't hurt at all to walk or anything, but it's almost like I bruised the top of my foot.


Well, it's not the end of the world.  I'm planning to go back to the gym dark and early tomorrow, but I was planning to do a spin bike or something like that instead of running, and to mostly focus on doing weights.  This gym has more different machines than maybe any gym I've ever seen.  It's not huge, and they only have one of each, but there are some really different machines that I've never tried before.  I think if I spent 1 minute figuring each out and setting the weights, and 1 minute using it, I could easily spend an hour there. 

Sun coming up in the coulds outside the gym:

A winter wonderland driving back home from the gym.  Yeah, attempting speed work on that would have spelled a broken ankle and/or missed paces.  Just not an option...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Defending My Title

Far and away one of the most fun things I did in 2013 was running, and winning (at least for the women), a local beer mile race.  Full story of how it worked and my experience is here

The group actually does the race twice a year, and this week was the winter version.

I successfully defended my title.  I was given the bib number 1F and it was warranted. 

Unfortunately, as I've mentioned before, I'm kind of out of my running groove and have been since about September 30 (the day after the Berlin marathon). 

It showed in my time.  I was 6 seconds and change slower than I was in May, but I still had first place locked by more than 30 seconds, and third place was more than 3 minutes behind me (despite the fact that she is a significantly faster runner than I am). 

The guys that I finished right next to in May both pulled further ahead of me this year.  One of them beat me by a minute and change (with an asterisk, set forth below), the other beat me by about 45 seconds. 

Once again, I had some pretty serious confusion about how many beers I had left at one point.  I was far more concerned this year about getting a penalty lap.  I'd eaten lunch early, so not long before leaving work to go to the race, I had a Lean Cuisine frozen pizza.  That's not necessarily a wise choice to eat in any event, and certainly not before a run, let alone a beer mile.  I felt on the verge of vomitting as I drove to the race.

But I put my game face on and held it all together. 

This year, I decided to go with Bud Light Platinum.  It's a 6% beer, and that might have cost me the PR.  I felt pretty rough after the first beer and was burping before I even finished the first lap.  But with dogged determination that seems to evade me in marathons where I really give a $hit about my results, I kept my head in the game and stayed focused. 

I was somewhat concerned because one of the women was drinking some kind of light beer that was 4% alcohol or something, which isn't legal under the rules.  She explained that since she barely weighs 100 pounds, 4% alcohol had the same effect on her as 5% did on someone bigger.  Whether she's right or not, rules are rules, right?  I mean, yeah, I'm well over 100 pounds, but some of the guys there were way bigger than me. 

But in the end, I never had to worry.  While I was the first woman out of the drinking zone, I was passed in lap 1, but was then the first woman done with beer 2, and that was the end of women in front of me who weren't a lap behind.  In turn 4 of my third lap, I got passed by the overall male winner.  I attempted to use him as a rabbit and I kicked up my running pace significantly for about 50-75 meters.  But then I realized that was a BIG mistake and had to stop immediately.  I slowed back down and hit the drinking zone for my final beer as he was celebrating his win in 6:24 (he'd run a 6:19 in May and come in second, but the May winner was not present to defend his title).  I tried to kick a little in my final lap, but I tried to balance that with making sure no pizza and no beer resurfaced.  There were a few guys I could pace off of, and that helped, but in the end, not enough to PR.

In retrospect, it's hard to figure out where I can focus on trimming time next year.  I believe it's on beer 2 or beer 3.  One of those chugs seemed to take forever.  Beer 4 went down easy (as did beer 1), but those beers in between are where I need to focus on picking up about 10 seconds.  Next time I will work harder. 

After the race was different this time because my husband was out of town, so I was flying solo.  I had gotten a ride from a friend's nearby house to the track, so I rode back with them as well since the after-party was there. 

I transitioned straight to water and had to wait several hours before I felt I could safely drive home.  While a bit of beer had been gracefully expelled from my body into a ditch about 10 minutes after I finished, it wasn't much.  Well, during the after-party, one of the guys who I'd finished with in May came by.  He'd had a work party earlier in the evening that he couldn't miss, but he had brought his running stuff.  So a bunch of us who were already intoxicated piled back into my friend's wife's minivan and the late comer drove us back to the track for him to do a solo beer mile. 

Of course his results have an asterisk since it wasn't during the actual race.  It would be like counting a PR from a particular race course but not during the race -- hardly fair as when you run the route solo, weather conditions and crowds can be/are significantly different.  The weather didn't change much in those two hours, but it wouldn't have really been fair if he'd been awarded the overall male title or something.  But it was moot -- he did his solo beer mile, beat his time from May by almost a minute, but missed out on first place by more than 90 seconds. 

So then we all got back in the van and went back to my friend's house to hang out some more.  It was such a fun night and I think I have convinced the organizer that if I'm not running the beer mile in 10 years and he's still organizing it, the first female bib number assigned should be 2F.  I should be permanently assigned bib 1F and the number should be retired when I retire from beer miling.  :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

#Reverb13, Day 13: Favorite things

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 13 – Favorite things:
Give us a list of your favorite things from 2013. Could be material items, food, people, anything!

Since I don't think people are "things", I'm kind of disregarding that part of the question, and since I'm behind on these posts, I know there is a food one coming up next, so I also will diregard the food part of this question.  As to my favorite material items...

I've said it before, I'm not much of a things person. We try hard not to buy much "stuff" so that instead we can buy plane tickets to Europe and drop 120 euros on the long gondola ride for example.

So far and away, my favorite "thing" in 2013 was passport stamps.  Plus, I got a new country for the first time since 2010 maybe (?) -- Liechtenstein!  My second favorite "thing" was travel within the US.  2013 held non-work trips to Pittsburgh (twice), Mardi Gras in Mobile, Kansas City, San Francisco, and San Antonio.  Plus the trip tonight up to Wisconsin. 

But of course there were a few legitimate material "things" that really made a difference this year.  While I have awesome stuff that works in my life on a daily basis -- a car, my Garmin, my workout gear, my iphone, my work calendar, etc., instead I'm going to focus on material things that were new to my life in 2013. 

First and foremost (since I'm loading up my suitcase to fly home for Christmas tonight!):  compression packing bags.  I'd heard about these before, but I never investigated.  Part of me thought you had to have a vacuum to use them, which would be totally useless in a hotel when you packed to return home.  While that may be true for some, I ordered a few sets from Amazon and you just squeeze out the air.  They're basically like big and durable ziplock bags with special slides to close them.  And they have totally revolutionized my packing.  Even for things like a business trip where my suitcase has plenty of available space, I love using the bags to keep everything separate.  One bag for my dinner clothes when I land, one bag for workout clothes for the morning, one bag for work clothes the next day, etc.  And it works even better for Christmas when I'll be in three separate places -- clothes for Milwaukee, clothes for up north, clothes for the couple days before we fly home.  Each in its own bag!  Ahhhh, it's like what I think guys experience in a wet dream.  The absolute best was going to Europe and putting ALL my marathon stuff into one bag.  It made it very easy to be sure I didn't forget anything race morning.  And then being able to pack up dirty, smelly clothes (especially running clothes) and zip them away, wow!  So nice!  The one caveat is that when you use the bags, especially for a long trip where you're filling your suitcase to the brim, you can cram a lot more clothes into your suitcase and essentially it makes your suitcase feel like a brick.  I've had the same suitcase for several years, so I thought I had a good sense of its weight when it was jammed to the gills.  But jammed to the gills using compression bags seemed to transform it from something I could hoist into an overhead with some effort into a bag where I had to alert seated passengers below and carefully attempt to lift it in using several steps (armrest, headrest, overhead bin) (or find some nice guy to do it for me...) (blech, I hate that).  But I'll gladly deal with a dense and heavy suitcase to have a huge range of stuff with me, or like I said, even without a lot of stuff, just using them for organizing.  What they look like: 

Second, my new Vera Bradley garment bag.  I'd been using some freebie garment bags over the last year when I brought my clothes to the office on Mondays so that I could run my commute on other days.  You can kind of see it in this picture (which is what the passenger seat of my car looks like on a Monday morning -- ghetto lunch grocery bag for in the fridge, regular lunch bag with frozen meals, Vera laptop bag, Vera purse, Vera bag with running clothes, Vera garment bag (over on the far right, it's a brown-based pattern with lots of different colors).  The garment bag was on my wish list of things I wanted for a long time (I know I mentioned it first and foremost on a wish list I made here).  I finally bought one when we were on vacation in San Francisco.  Ironically, I've been running to work much less frequently since that trip, but it's been cold and lots of holiday and other events requiring a car after work.  But I plan to get back into my training groove by early Feb., and I expect I'll be using it weekly then! 

Third, I'm slow to the ball game, but I got silicone baking mats this year and last weekend during the Christmas cookie baking extravaganza, they were awesome.  Nothing burned on the bottoms, no creepy chemical non-stick spray, no throw-away parchment paper. 

And this is totally lame, but I am loving having a second wall-mounted spice rack in our pantry.  I had one that looked exactly like this one, and I'd gotten it for Christmas about a decade ago.  And I kept cooking spices on it (in alphabetical order, which I think is genious and saves time in a big way).  But not all of them fit, so some had to stay on the shelves with baking spices.  So if it wasn't there in alphabetical order, I had to root around for it on the shelves, which was a huge PITA sometimes.  I've wanted a second one for years, but I finally saw one on Amazon, had a gift card, and decided to splurge and buy it for myself (well, $18 isn't really a splurge, but dear God, given how long I'd held off buying it, it felt like a splurge).  It's now mounted in the pantry under the other identical one and all my spices are there in lovely alphabetical order (though I'm still struggling with pepper -- does white pepper go under W or P?  and red pepper?  hmm, can't seem to decide so feel free to weigh in with any thoughts!).  My spice rack(s): 

At least several times per week I think about how much easier my cooking life has been this year due to a Christmas present I received in 2012.  During last year's reverb prompts, one of the questions was about the greatest gift I received in 2012 and I kind of hemmed and hawed on my answer, saying I loved concert tickets I'd gotten, but that I really hoped there would be an electric can opener under the tree!  And indeed, last year for Christmas, I actually got TWO electric can openers.  Goodness, I wanted one so much that two people bought it for me!  My boss thought I was so lame when I mentioned it as one of my biggest Christmas scores.  So I returned the one from hubby and picked out other things instead, and I use the one I received all the time.  Ever since I fell while running and bent my finger in March 2011, it hurts to grip things like a manual can opener.  Pain no more!  And especially for something like a bean salad that involves opening 4 cans together or something, it's downright life-changing! 

Cuisinart Deluxe Stainless-Steel Electric Can Opener

And finally, another gift that I've had for about a year now and appreciate almost daily... My husband gave me a new thing that hangs from the shower head and holds shampoo and stuff.  Every now and again this year in the shower, I've remembered the old shitty one and how sometimes it used to just fall down and you'd have to shield your head and hope it didn't fall all the way down and hit your feet.  I don't appreciate it daily because I don't shower at home daily, but it's just one of those things that when you lived with a piece of crap for so long, you really learn to appreciate! 

There you have it, the things that were my favorite new additions in 2013!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ugh, Yassos

So I had Yassos on my schedule again today.  And I was doing them alone.  And we have plans tonight with our neighbors, so the run absolutely had to be done before I went to work.  I set my alarm and then lollygagged at home for nearly an hour, dragging my feet, trying to find some excuse not to do them. 

Finally, I sucked it up and left the house.  I ran 1.5 agonizingly slow miles to the track.  I just felt like I had no pep and I was dreading the actual workout.

I got to the track and slowly talked myself through each one.  The first three were all 3-4 seconds too fast. 

But you're only as good as your slowest Yasso, right? 

Unfortunately, my last two were my slowest.  Yikes.  Both 4 seconds off.  That works out to 8 seconds per mile pace too slow, which is a much bigger gap than I'd like to see during half mile repeats. 

If I'd been able to reverse that, starting with the two slowest and then finishing with the three fastest, the workout would have been a big success in my mind, but in reality, I was seriously sucking wind.  I had a total difference of 8 seconds between my fastest and slowest repeats, which is more than it should be.  Ideally, I like to keep them all within 5 seconds if they can't all be right on pace. 

By the time I finished the first four, I told myself that I was halfway done, but in my mind, I was already thinking I'd maybe cut it short.  I started counting down the laps, thinking if I did the full workout, that would only be 8 more laps around the track.  A few steps into the fifth repeat, and I was already telling myself only 7.xx more laps. 

The fifth one was on pace and didn't feel quite as miserable as all the others.  So I told myself to at least do the sixth one so that I could match what I'd done last week on the treadmill.  Then if I really wanted to stop, at least I'd have done 75% of the workout. 

I managed to get in six (again, pretty much on pace) and then I told myself I really needed a seventh so that I'd have stepped it up at least one from what I did last week.  And at that point, only four more laps.  The seventh one was too slow (4 seconds) but it was over.  Then it was just a matter of doing one more.

By that time, since I'd dawdled so long at home, the track was completely deserted.  It was that magical time around 7:15 when everyone who uses the track is either done working out and at home getting ready for work, or just waking up to go work out. 

So I decided to mix it up and run the last one in the reverse direction on the track.  This always makes me paranoid, thinking someone (or worse, a group) will show up and then I'll have to run right at them or reverse direction in the middle of my repeat. 

But I told myself it was only for a few minutes.  And odds are if anyone came, they'd take a minute or two to get started, and maybe they'd be walkers in the outer lane.  So really, maybe I could do the entire last one backwards.  I failed to check my watch when I started, and it was showing total time instead of lap time, so after the first lap, I had no idea if I was on pace or off.  But the track was still empty, so I kept going. 

I tried so hard to push hard particularly on the very last straightaway, but the 8th and final repeat matched up exactly with the 7th, coming in at 4 seconds too slow. 

Oh well, it's done.  Next week will be treadmill Yassos on Monday at the gym near the closest big city to my folks (well, if 4,000 people counts as a big city, but big enough to have a Y that lets you buy a day pass!).  And then the next week ideally will be 10 Yassos at the track.  And then the final two weeks before the marathon will be some theoretical race pace work.  At least it's almost over.  One month and two days and I'll be done with marathon training for a lovely 4 months probably...

Monday, December 16, 2013

6 Cups of Butter Later

And this is what you have:

My neighbor helped me with some of the decorating:

All SEVEN kinds of cookies we made: 

And then the process of putting them on plates and into tins for the dozen or so people I give cookies to: 
My weekend was insanely busy, but productive.  Saturday I ran some miles with my buddies that were way too fast for me.  I fell back from the group within 2 miles and they really dropped the hammer then.  But a couple guys stayed with me and we had a good time talking.  Then we had brunch at one guy's house.  He lives in a gorgeous house and always puts out an awesome spread when he hosts, so that was fun.  Then it was a lot of errands and Christmas shopping.  Then I went home and did all my wrapping and started getting organized to pack to go home in just a couple days!  I also managed to make 2 kinds of dough that required refrigeration and to make a breakfast casserole (it's called French Toast Souffle) to have on Sunday morning.  Then I ended Saturday night with an awesome dinner with a friend who was in from out of town (and staying with us that night, which is why I made the breakfast dish). 
We went to a souffle restaurant, which is a little tradition for us.  She usually comes to visit Dallas in December about every other year, and we always go to dinner there.  I had a creamed spinach souffle for dinner and a pumpkin souffle for dessert: 

Sunday was another intense day. I was up and running by 6 a.m. I had to do 4 solo miles before meeting up with a friend. I decided that I would literally run an errand, which is unique, particularly at 6 a.m. My husband had bought regular chocolate chips instead of mini, so I decided to run to the grocery store less than 1.5 miles away, buy mini chocolate chips, run home to drop them off, and then run to meet my friend.
I went to "ghetto Albertson's" and since I get screwed almost every single time I try to shop there, as I ran there, I tried to predict how I'd get screwed on this trip. Most likely scenario I thought was that they'd be out of mini chocolate chips. Second most likely was that their credit card machines would be down. Third most likely was a sole cashier working and someone from the Dallas Fire Dept in line in front of me buying their week's worth of groceries.
I was utterly shocked that my shopping trip went off without a hitch! I walked into the store and the baking aisle was directly in front of me. And there was no one in line to check out at the open register. And the credit card machine worked! I was in and out in less than 5 mins, and carried the bag of mini chocolate chips back home, and then set back out.
I went to meet my friend, we looped the lake together, and then she ran me home. I'd put my breakfast casserole in the oven on a timer, so I had a real incentive not to run any slower than my planned pace!
I ended up doing my 20 mile run. While the last 5 miles were ugly slow and I didn't have any "fast" miles, either way, it was 20 miles in the bank which means I should survive in Houston, even though my finish time won't be pretty.
At home, I had breakfast with our houseguest, then she left and I took a quick shower and got right down to baking. My neighbor came over to help, and we made 7 kinds of cookies as planned.
Then I rushed off to book club, had dinner there and a fun gift exchange. Then a quick stop at a friend's house to visit and share some tears and hugs (she's going through a very tough time right now). Then home to finish packaging cookies, and finally to bed around 10:30, which is WAY past my bedtime.
But considering all I got done this weekend, I'm thrilled. I have to buy my husband's main Christmas gift, a picture frame for my dad, 2 girlfriends, and something for one sister in law, and then I'm done, done, done.
Well, tons of wrapping when I get home for all the stuff I shipped there, and we still have to mail a couple packages and write out our foreign Christmas cards, but done on the Dallas end!

Friday, December 13, 2013

#Reverb13, Day 12: Free writing

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 12 – Free writing
Write for five consecutive minutes on the word “jump” as it pertains to this past year. No editing. Set a timer. Just write.

Jumping makes me think about jumping, literally.  I posted over the summer about the awesome all-comers track meets hosted by one of our local running stores.  For six weeks in the early part of the summer, there is a track meet one night filled with everyone from age 3 to about age 75.  While they do separate heats for the little kids, the overwhelming majority of adults are way out of my league.  Admittedly, I could probably beat a fair number of them if the "random" event one night was longer than a 10k, certainly if there were a random 15 mile run or something, but I'd by far at the bottom end of the runners out there competing in events like 800 meters, 1000 meters, the mile, the 100 meter sprint, etc. 

It's so disheartening in some ways, but honestly, I still love it.  There's something about being at the track with all those people, feeling like you're dying and running your heart out.  I guess I should have tried to run track or something in high school.  I always make an effort to start in the slowest field, the announcer sometimes specifically calls it "the distance runners' heat".  And he's also let me run with the master's women (over 40) even though I'm not over 40, because there is a significant dearth of women between ages 25 and 40, most women running are high school or college aged track runners. 

Anyway, two years ago, I made an effort to compete in the long jump at the track meets.  This past summer, I did that again, set a new PR, and this year, I also attempted the high jump twice.  I really, really, really suck at the high jump.  I can't seem to master the one-footed launch, let alone getting over the bar, even when it's really low.

The whole endeavor has been humbling.  Especially when I excitedly PR in the long jump and then ask someone random (a running friend, a coworker, someone at boot camp) how far they think I can jump with a running start and they'll say something like "10 feet," and I have to admit, no, I PRed but uh, I'm not even close to 10 feet.  I think I was excited to get over 6 feet the first time.  The only thing that sucks about it is getting sand EVERYWHERE.  And when it's 95 degrees and you're already sweaty and fall forward into the sand, it sticks to you like crazy.

Anyway, I'm proud of my literal attempts to continue to jump in 2013, despite my lack of talent.  It's fun and it's a new challenge, and that can't be a bad thing! 

#Reverb13, Day 11: Fail

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 11 – Fail:
What just didn’t work out this year? Is that okay with you? Or are you going to try, try again?

This one is easy!  I failed to meet my goal marathon time in Berlin.  I set an ambitious goal of an 11-minute PR.  I had a solid history of 11 minute PRs, but obviously, at a certain point, your PR gets more and more indicative of your true capabilities, and improvements are rarer, smaller, and hard-fought.  I had this time in my head that I thought would be insanely cool to run.  And 11 minutes seemed do-able.  But in the end, it wasn't, at least not in Berlin in 2013 for me.  I did PR, but only by a couple minutes.  I had a very solid race for 16 miles, and then I felt like I was falling out of it.  My pace stayed strong for about 2 more miles, but then I slowed down.  I still need to do a recap about the major problem (think kilometers) in the final miles that I think cost me a bit more time in going for my B goal. 

I am mostly okay with the fact that I failed, but I may try again.  That's still undetermined.  As of right now, I don't think I'll be able to do it in Houston (I'm so not in shape -- I gained weight on vacation in Europe for a couple weeks and then nearly a week in California, and I just haven't been motivated to get out and train in the cold, particularly since I'm largely training alone right now), and I don't think I'm going to make it one of my central goals of 2014 (I will definitely set some 2014 running goal, but not sure yet what it will be).  But marathon training has a way of taking over your life, particularly if you want to do well, so if I go for it again, by default, it will become a central goal of the year. 

Whether or not I attempt it largely depends on where and when we go on vacation in 2014.  We like to travel in the fall, and we know we need to be in the US the weekend of Sept. 19-21.  Fall marathon season generally starts that weekend (it's part of an intricately calculated BQ calendar) and it wraps up in early to mid-December (of course there are marathons year-round, but that is the traditional season).  I tend to like to do earlier marathons in the late-Sept to mid-October time frame, particularly since we would rather go on vacation in October or so to give us a bit of time to come home and recover before Christmas.  Last year when we came back from China at the end of October or beginning of November, it felt like we got hit by a bus because we went straight into the holidays without any chance to get back to normal. 

But whether we travel in October 2014 involves checking the weather (including rain charts) for the various places we want to go to decide if that's a good month.  We've ruled out December since it's so close to Christmas (though many people have said December and the spring are the best time to be in India), and I'm inclined to rule out November for the same reason (at least the second half of it). 

If we went in August (unlikely) or September (highly possible), it would pretty much completely derail my training and strongly undermine any attempt to hit my goal in October or November.  While I do love running on vacation, what I love is a leisurely 5-10 miles through a new city.  Not trying to include tempo miles without getting lost.  Or figuring out logistics for multiple runs over 16 miles each (assuming we go away for about 3 weeks as usual).  Or including 40-60 miles of running in my weekly vacation schedule. 

Of course it comes down to priorities.  No one is making me go on vacation, but for 2014, seeing India and whereever else we go at the ideal time of year after Aug. 1 (paranoid about squandering all my annual vacation too early) is more important to me than getting this dream marathon time. 

So it's not quite clear yet if I'll try again this year.  If I don't go for my 2013 dream time in 2014, maybe I will the following year, though as I start knocking on 40's door (if I'm not already), it seems less and less likely that I'll meet that goal.  If I do manage to plan a vacation that would be after whatever marathon I choose, I'd definitely be open to taking another shot at it.

I'm open to suggestions for late September and early October marathons if anyone has any ideas!  I don't want to run anything I've done before, and I'm looking for a fast course if I'm going for a lifetime PR...

#Reverb13, Day 10: Inspiration

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 10 – Inspiration:
What inspired you this year? How do you think this inspiration will impact the year to come?

It feels kind of cheesy, but I felt largely inspired by several blogs I read, my accounting co-worker who made huge fitness strides, and my running buddies.

This was intended to be the year of the marathon.  So when I read blogs about people losing weight and getting more active, or about buckling down and training hard for a goal marathon time, it made me want to do the same.  I feel like I've got a few blogs that I love, that are well-written and interesting.  They're linked in my sidebar and they regularly inspire me. 

As I mentioned, I had an accounting co-worker who was just starting her fitness journey in January and I spent a lot of time with her.  Seeing her run for her very first minute on a treadmill.  Seeing her at the end of her very first mile with only a single walk-break (I remember exactly where we were, and even what the sky looked like!).  Seeing her finish her first 5k.  And most especially now, not seeing her -- or I should say, seeing her but not recognizing her.  She has undergone a complete transformation (along your lines, Bella) and everyone in our office has noticed it.  While she and sometimes others are quick to pat me on the back for getting her going, as we all know, if you don't want to get healthier, all the encouragement in the world won't mean a thing.  She did the work, she deserves the credit. 

And then there are my running buddies.  Several of them have made very significant leaps in the last few years.  It's crazy to think that we were running together and now several of these GUYS have their BQ times and are flirting with sub-3 marathons.  My core group of running friends have all been pushing the envelope this year.  Lots of great track work.  Lots of strong base miles.  And since we have fun at the same time, they all inspire me to want to work hard so I can continue to hang.  They're an awesome group and I wouldn't trade them for the world!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

#Reverb13, Day 9: Surprise

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 9 – Surprise:
What surprised you the most this year?

Funny, I was just talking about this with someone within the last week.  In my Italian conversation group one night in June, we had a set topic to discuss:

a.) in what ways is Dallas a perfect city?
b.) in what ways is Dallas not a perfect city?
c.) of the things that could be changed, what would you most like to change about Dallas?

My answers (though I don't recall "a." exactly) were:

a.) Growing economy with a good job market, good housing market, low taxes (no income, moderate sales/property), big airport, central in the country, cultural attractions, warm weather, cool neighborhood where we live, many things I care about near our home (short run to work, close to running store, close to boot camp, close to cool restaurants and shops, lots of museums nearby). 
-- Reasons for my list:  the first two were certainly inspired by where we come from (Milwaukee and Pittsburgh aren't booming cities), and this was June, before the awfulness that can be a Dallas summer had hit.

b.) "no mountains, no mare (sea)", too sprawling, not enough urban life downtown, poor public transit.
-- Reasons for my list:  I was thinking of where we'd like to live one day, a town in Italy with mountains and the sea right there. 

c.) Rework the public transit system, possibly at the expense of highways, to get more life centered on downtown and move away from car dependence. 

And honestly, the very next day, this was my surprise:  http://carinaruns.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-monumental-shift.html

Yes, my complaint in point B about Dallas was proven wrong.  Dead wrong, as I shared here:  http://carinaruns.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-hill-loop-heart-rate.html

#Reverb13, Day 8: Adventure

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 8 – Adventure:
Did you go on an adventure in 2013? What sort?

Our adventure of the year is usually our big annual vacation.  Travel is very important to my husband and me.  My husband actually went to hear Rick Steves speak one night last week and one of things that resonated with my husband was what Rick Steves said about "travel as a political act."  I'm paraphrasing my husband's paraphrasing, but basically, by traveling and seeing the world first-hand, you're able to form your own opinions about people and the world, rather than relying on what you hear from various media sources.  So yeah, that.  Plus it's fun! 

Before we got married, my husband and I reached an agreement that we felt worked for both of us.  Every other year, we would go to Nicastro, Italy to visit my husband's family (and usually to somewhere else in the general area), and then on the "non-Italy" travel years, we'd go somewhere else. 

The last few years have gone like this:
2009:  Italy, Greece, Turkey
2010:  Sweden, Russia
2011:  Italy, Paris
2012:  China
2013:  Germany, Austria (day trip), Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, Amsterdam

And the 2014 plan will feature India, and possibly some other places like Nepal, Dubai and/or Maldives.  2015 we're toying with Italy, Spain, Morocco.  And the list goes on, and on, and on...

But there was no question that our trip was my big adventure this year.  Liechtenstein was a new country to me, and even though I'd been to Berlin and Munich (and of course to Lamezia Terme and Venice) before, going somewhere foreign is always an adventure.  Sorting things out when you don't speak the language (Germany), sorting things out when you do speak the language (Italy).  Seeing how things have changed, how things have stayed the same, how something is seen for the first time through the eyes of someone you love. 

But if I were forced to narrow it down to a single discrete experience that was an adventure -- I guess I'm okay with saying this since hopefully my name will never be associated with this blog -- it was in Amsterdam when I tried pot for the first (and likely last) time. 

My husband had done it before a long time ago and he said he would not do it again and didn't particularly want me to do it, but at the same time said if I really wanted to, he wouldn't stop me.  He said there was no way he would do it because if he somehow killed someone at work, he'd be drug-tested as part of procedure and he couldn't have anything show up.  But of course most lawyers don't get drug tested (I certainly don't). 

As I considered the idea for MONTHS before we went, I polled tons of people.  Turns out, lots of people have done it and they're just fine (well, fine for now, they'll all probably end up addicted to meth eventually, because marijuana is a gateway drug).  Among the people I learned who have done it in the past:  both of my parents, several of my brothers, all of my brothers-in-law, and many of my very successful friends.  And most of them said it wouldn't be a big deal for me to do it, particularly if I was going to be with someone safe (not alone).  They all seemed to compare it to getting drunk. 

Because I'm exceedingly paranoid, in the months before we went, I talked about the idea of trying it with not only a medical doctor who I run with, but with my own doctor.  Both of them gave me the go-ahead, saying doing it once wouldn't cause any health issues.  Just to be safe, and I probably will sound crazy now, I did some research with both my health insurance company and with various drug treatment facilities to figure out where I could go for rehab if somehow I got addicted to it.  There are some really ritzy choices!  But I found a few options in-state where I could get in without a long wait.  My husband told me repeatedly that this was unnecessary, but I think I have an addictive personality (I know I've posted about jigsaw puzzles before!), and I wanted to be safe. 

So yeah, in Amsterdam, I did it.  We went into a little cafe place on the very last night of our trip.  They had a list at the counter with a bunch of choices.  I didn't know what kind or how much I wanted.  My husband talked to the woman working there and said something not strong for my first time, and they picked something very "natural" apparently.  My husband put it in a pipe for me (I know that's not a bong or a joint, but maybe that's a doobie?  not sure still).  He sat with me for a little while.  This place had movie-theater type chairs and little tables and some booths.  Most of the tables were full with people about my age or younger.  There were also a few people at the counter.  There was one table with 4 girls who all appeared to be college-age Americans. 

The attempt to smoke it was a total disaster. 

Turns out, I don't really know how to smoke.  I had tried a cigarette once in junior high and failed miserably then (my best friend took it away from me since I wasn't "really" smoking it and she wanted to save it for later).  As in junior high, on our great adventure this year, I kept trying to inhale but I'd start coughing like crazy.  My husband thought it was hilarious and ridiculous for the 5 minutes that he managed to stay with me, then he said the smoke was bothering him and he went outside.  I proceeded to try to follow his advice on how to inhale and I met with mixed success.  I think I probably got 5 or so legitimate puffs, but for the vast majority of the time, I pretty much sucked it into my mouth and blew it out.  So I played on my phone and maybe got semi-high? 

I must have inhaled some or gotten a contact high from being in there because the rest of the night was weird.  It was somewhat like being intoxicated.  I was hungry (but uh, it was dinner time so hard to tell if that was related), I was tired (but it was evening, so that usually happens...).  But the main thing I noticed was that I was INSANELY forgetful.  I'd start talking during dinner and I'd realize that I had no idea how I'd started the sentence I was on or what my point was.  At one point, I looked over at my husband, and he was counting something on his fingers.  I had no idea what he was counting or why.  So I pretended to count on my own fingers.  Finally after a few seconds, I asked him what he was counting because I honestly had no idea.  My husband looked at me and said, "Seriously???!!!  I'm counting how many times we had pizza on this trip, we JUST talked about this like 20 seconds ago."  And then I was like, oh yeah, I remember now...  The whole night seemed to go like that.  Not remembering anything. 

The forgetfulness was very unexpected because I really thought it would be like being drunk, and while I might not remember stuff the next morning, I never had the experience of not knowing how I started the sentence I was speaking (though I will admit that I do forget what my point was, but honestly, that happens to me drunk or sober sometimes).  I've heard about short-term memory loss, but I thought it meant I'd forget something from the day before or something. 

So that was my big 2013 adventure.  Now that I've gone through the gate-way, it's just a matter of time until I try crack, heroine, ecstasy, cocaine, mushrooms, speed, uppers, downers, meth and everything else... bear with me, the blog might change drastically when that happens. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Allergic to Yassos

Against all odds, last night I stepped away from my desk around 6:45 and went to the gym in our building to run my Yassos. 

The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that my accounting buddy was there.  Actually, she went down to work out at 6:15 because it was taking too long for me to finish work (she has a longer drive home than I do).  At 6:45, right as I was shutting down my computer, she texted me to say she was done.  I asked her to wait, as I was on my way.

When I got to the gym, she had her coat and purse in hand and was ready to leave.  I begged her to just walk on the treadmill next to mine for 10 minutes.  She gave in -- total pushover!  Haha, we tease her about that at work because she always accommodates everyone, even when it's totally not her job. 

So she walked while I ran my warm-up.  Ideally, I should have spent 1.5 miles warming up, or at the very least, a mile.  But I was worried about how much I hate the treadmill and seem to lack self-discipline, so even though I had company during my warm-up and wasn't even mildly bored, I cut the warm-up short. 

I did my first Yasso from .8 to 1.3 miles.  The nice thing is my pace was perfect -- ah, one of the good things about a treadmill! 

The first one felt the hardest.  My legs were a bit sore from boot camp on Monday, and after a leisurely warm-up, it was tough to get them into gear.  But it was over quickly, and I walked a couple minutes, still talking to my co-worker.

Then I did the second one from 1.5 to 2.0.  After about 30 seconds of running my second Yasso, I told her to do it with me for just 30 seconds.  She agreed (like I said, pushover in the best way!!!), but when she got to 8.0 on the treadmill, I got a little nervous and told her to just keep it there.  She made it sound like she was dying, but indeed, she did 30 or so seconds, then slowed down.  That was the best distraction.  By the time she was recovered and seemed to be back to normal, I was in the final turn of my second Yasso (I tried to picture where I was on the track). 

So I walked a quarter mile and we kept talking.  At 2.25, I started my third, and again, convinced her to join me.  It took her about 15 seconds to get up to 8.0, and then she stayed there for 45 seconds (I kind of fibbed and told her she was only going 30 seconds).  When she bumped her speed back down and recovered, I told her it was actually a minute at higher speeds, and 45 seconds of that at 8.0.  She was so surprised she'd done it.  She's so much stronger than she gives herself credit for being.  Again, the distraction of having her company for a bit of the run, then her recovery totally carried me to the final turn on the track on my third Yasso. 

By the time I finished my third at 2.75, she was ready to go home and I didn't try to fight it.  She'd basically given me the gift of two free Yassos -- I didn't even really notice I was running them.  Like butter, baby! 

So I walked to mile 3, and then went for number 4.  Smooth sailing again.  I was just wishing I had something more interesting to look at than the treadmill screen.  There was a TV, but not sufficiently interesting so I basically just watched the blinking lights and the distance until I was done.

I walked for about 30 seconds when I finished, then got myself to do a slow jog for the remainder of my 4th recovery, which actually meant that when I was at 3.75 and starting my 5th Yasso, it was somewhat smoother.  I bumped the speed up another .1 for part of it, just because I felt that good. 

For the 5th recovery, I think I walked all or most of it, but I knew that I'd be able to manage the 6th one.  Of course, I was thoroughly confused about what number I was on.  I couldn't remember if I had one or two left to do.  So much easier at the track!  Usually there, I can make a little rule about grabbing my water after even-numbered repeats or something.  But I did the math and was eventually about 90% convinced the next one would be my last.  By then, I was at mile 4.5 and it was time to go.

Got it done, again, right on pace thanks to the beauty of the treadmill (see how I'm trying to be positive about it??). 

I decided to walk until mile 5.1, then cool down until I hit mile 6.2.  When I got to about 6.0 or 6.1, I bumped the speed way, way, way up (approximately mile pace) just for about 30 seconds to get a feel for it.  And then I was done.  I walked until 6.3 and called it quits. 

I keep meaning to post a Christmas update about where I am on shopping and other projects (mostly so I will have a good reminder of what I need to do), but I haven't gotten around to it.  Anyway, I bought kind of for my husband for Christmas a new kitchen trashcan.

Ours is broken right now (you have to manually lift the lid, which totally grosses me out in a kitchen).  And there was one at a good price on Amazon, so I ordered it. 

What my husband really, really wants for Christmas is a wine fridge.  And I'm planning to get him one this weekend.  But I was thinking it would be a lot of fun to wrap the trashcan and put that under the tree, have him think it's a wine fridge due to the size, and then see how he reacts to the trashcan (but then of course go next door and get the wine fridge surprise!).  Or would that be mean?

Either way, the trash can came to work yesterday, so as I was leaving the gym, I was "carrying" a huge box.  At least 3 feet tall, there must be lots of packaging or something.  It was too awkward and big to really carry it, so I basically set it on my foot and was walking with my foot flexed and the box on top of it.  Not graceful. 

As I was getting close to my car, my eyes felt kind of strange.  I put the top down on my car so I could jam the trashcan box into the backseat, then put the top back up and drove home, calling my father-in-law on the way to wish him a happy 81st birthday. 

But something was definitely wrong with my eyes.  I could see okay, but it felt like they were getting swollen, and it was a little hard to swallow. 

I have a very serious nut allergy, but I haven't actually reacted in years because I'm careful.  I was mentally going through a list of everything I'd eaten in the afternoon:

A Lean Cuisine mac and cheese frozen meal.
An individual serving of frozen peas.
Black pepper (not something I've ever added to a meal at work before).
A Ghiardelli dark chocolate caramel square.
A yogurt covered pretzel with sprinkles on it.
Some caramel popcorn (all three of these things were holiday office goodies, it's that time of year, but I specifically checked the ingredients on the caramel popcorn).
And finally, at 5:45 or so, a bag of green grapes I'd brought from home.

I figured it couldn't have been any of those things, primarily because if I have a reaction to food, it's almost instant.  Within about 60 seconds, I recognize the feeling mostly in my mouth, lips and throat.  And within 10-15 minutes, I'm not breathing (the key is to be at the hospital or at least in an ambulance by then).  So there was absolutely no way it was anything I'd eaten.

But both my eyelids were crazy swollen and I told my husband there was a chance I needed to go to the hospital.  I was starving though -- it was about 8:15 by this point and I hadn't had dinner yet.  I said I wanted to take out my contacts (which weren't bothering me at all), flush my eyes with water, eat something, and wait to see if the Benadryl I'd taken would help.  It did.

As of today, my eyelids are still somewhat swollen, but I feel okay and look about a million times better than I did last night. 

There are only three possible conclusions:

1.  I touched something that had nut residue on it (a door handle leaving the gym or the office, or maybe the trashcan box in some way).
2.  I touched something else that I am allergic to of which I am not aware (and then touched my eyes).
3.  I am allergic to Yassos.

I think all evidence points to number 3, so I may have to rework my Houston Marathon training schedule! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Price of Procrastination

This morning it was below freezing when I woke up, and the wind chill was in the 20s.  I'm fully aware that a majority of this country has similar (or worse) conditions for at least a couple months of the year in the early morning hours.  And I'm fully aware that a majority of runners get out there and get it done.

But I'm just feeling like a wimp lately.

I've mentioned that since my race in Berlin, I've lost motivation and gained weight. 

The result of that is that this morning I decided I'd just do today's workout (Yassos) on the treadmill after work.

What was I thinking? 

The dreadmill?  And Yassos? 

Because if I couldn't make my least favorite workout any more miserable, I just did.  Fun stuff.  Something tells me I'll be super-productive at work today, attempting to stay very busy until it's "just too late" to go run on the treadmill. 

Reason # 481 why I hate evening workouts.  Too easy to make excuses. 

Have I mentioned that Houston is not going to be a pretty marathon for me?  It might even be ugly on the scale of San Antonio, though hopefully not with temps at 89...

A blast from the past

First picture of my face ever included on this blog I think...

This past week, one of my brothers must have been doing some digging somewhere and sent me this picture from back in my ballerina days.  I'm guessing I was maybe in 3rd grade here?  I look a bit pigeon toed (still am), but even without that, haha, I didn't exactly grow up to have the body type of a ballerina...

Yep, that's me.  Oh my, no wonder I'm not a big person to post recaps of races or trips -- as you can see, looking back at the past is generally a bad thing! 
I'm fortunate that it was my brother who doesn't do FB or Twitter or Instagram or anything who found this, but unfortunately, besides sending it to me, he then sent it to a bunch of my other brothers (who are all giving me crap, particularly the younger ones who claim to have never even known of my ballerina days), and then he also sent it to my husband.  I guess I should be glad that he thinks it's adorable.  Interestingly enough, one of his comments about the picture was about how I'm holding my hands like that -- he says I still do that to this day.  Funny. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

#Reverb13, Day 7: Victory Laps

Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.

Day 7 – Victory Laps:
What was your biggest accomplishment of 2013?

Definitely the marathon PR in Berlin.  I feel like I have to fight hard for every minute of a PR, so even though I didn't reach my goal time, a PR is a PR...

I also managed to get a PR in the half-marathon, and at the 10 mile and 10k distances. 

It's odd, because as I tend to look back on 2013 in terms of running, it seems like it was kind of a let-down year.  Mostly because I had a goal for the marathon and I didn't meet it.  Aside from the marathon, the distance that matters most to me is the 5k.  And I didn't PR there either.  I got within about 20 seconds of a PR, but alas, 20 seconds is 20 seconds. 

But when I list out the 2013 PRs: 
  • marathon,
  • half-marathon,
  • 10 mile,
  • 10k
how can I complain???  I definitely worry I don't have that many more years of PRs ahead of me.  Data indicates most adult runners tend to peak after 7-8 years of running.  I'm there.  And now I'm officially in my "upper" 30s, so that's not on my side either. 

Of course when you're just starting out, you compare yourself to yourself, you're constantly improving, and that's a great measure. But lifelong running isn't like that.

Fortunately, one of my very first running coaches instilled in me that running should never be viewed as a competition UNLESS you're looking at age group competition.  You should never compete against yourself because as you age, at some point, you won't beat your younger self and if you start competing against yourself, when the PRs end, you'll stop running.  And you're not even supposed to compete against your own recent times because of variations in courses, weather, etc.  He said the best thing you can do is compare yourself to others in your age group.  They're also getting older.  They're also running a course with 5 massive hills.  They're also dealing with temps of 95 degrees.  Whatever. 

So maybe I'm approaching my peak, and I will continue watching age group standings, and of course just focusing on feeling like I ran my own best on any given day, but right now, I guess I'll hope that 2014 still holds a few PRs for me. 

The marathon PR was definitely my biggest victory.  If I don't ever break that time, it will be okay.  It's something I can be proud of. 

FMM: Share Your Favorite Holiday Recipe

I am happy to report that I'm back in Dallas!

EXACTLY TWO flights went from Philly to Dallas between Friday morning and Sunday night.  Both happened to be Saturday afternoon, and I was on the first one of them.  Flights were landing here fine on Sunday, multiple friends and colleagues made it back to Dallas, but of course Philly was getting hammered that day, so nothing was able to leave.

I got stuck spending a lot of time at the airport though.  Friday night, after a work disaster (which basically meant the entire trip had been futile and made me want to cry), I tried to catch two flights home, both eventually cancelled. 

Saturday morning, there was one early flight around 6:45 and one around 8:20.  I was on standby on the first, but they couldn't put me on the standby list for the second until after I didn't get on the first.  So back to the airport, only to have them both cancelled.  All I can say is thank goodness I was flying on American and I have status there.  I managed to get a confirmed seat on the 11:30, which was not easy.  Pretty much everyone had massive status on the plane except for the few people who had seats on that flight originally. 

But on the upside, the 8:20 flight Saturday morning was cancelled early, and running groups in Philly run later in the morning (no need to avoid 100 degree temps, so I guess they're just not in the habit), I was able to meet up with a group for the Rocky 50k.  Of course I wasn't doing the 50k, but it meant company for my 15k before I went back to the airport yet again...

I'll have to do a separate post about the Rocky 50k, or #Rocky50k as we're supposed to say. 

Well, when I finally landed in Dallas, I discussed with my husband the idea of leaving the airport, driving to a nearby hotel and then taking a cab home and ditching my car there.  Instead, I decided to white-knuckle the drive home.  The roads were 90% fine.  The bridges were 0% fine.  They're calling it "cobblestone ice" here but it's nothing like cobblestones.  It's like driving over a washed out road in Kenya, but more slippery.  The ice has formed into these rock-like knobs that protrude and make it impossible to move forward in a straight line, no matter how slowly you go.  Instead, your car shakes and moves right and left as you drive over the rock-like knobs.  But as soon as you're off the bridge, it's dry and smooth sailing again.  It took me more than an hour to get home from the airport.  And I think in some ways, going home wasn't the best.

My husband was so happy to see me but I was CRABBY.  Yes, with a capital C.  And with all the other letters capitalized too.  I was obviously over-tired from all that time trying to catch flights at the airport, and having my settlement conference bust was disappointing.  I was just pissy in general.  But we managed to get the tree up, though not decorated.  And since I was so miserable my husband actually didn't complain at all when I put on the New Kids Christmas CD.  Well, that's a lie.  When it got to Funky, Funky Christmas, he made a few jokes and complaints, but he stuck it out. 

After a night in my own bed and plenty of sleep, I woke up Sunday in a much better mood.  And then when I saw the crap hitting Philly, oh I was so happy I'd made it home! 

We have a few trees down near our house, but for the most part, it's life as usual here.  My office has a delayed start today (10:00), but since I usually get to work between 9 and 9:30, it doesn't really make a huge difference to me. 

friend makin mondays

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: www.alltheweigh.com so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

Share Your Favorite Holiday Recipe
Well, my favorite holiday recipe is a German Christmas bread my mom makes (stollen), but I apparently (and rightfully) can't be trusted with that recipe.  She knows I love it so much I'd make it in July or something!

My mom's stollen:


So since I can't share that recipe, I'll pick something I can share.

Christmas cookies have always been a big family tradition.  Lots of the traditions I grew up with I have adopted myself.  One tradition in our house was that my mom would make several different kinds of Christmas cookies, but we weren't allowed to eat even a single one until after dinner on Christmas Eve.  Then we could eat a bunch, we'd make a plate of cookies for Santa, then we could eat them again on Christmas and all through the 12 days of Christmas. 

My mom's cookies one year:

Actually, that picture reminds me.  Another favorite holiday recipe is the one for the cookies shown at about 7:00 in the photo above.  They have jam in them and are so good!  Another recipe my mom won't share with me though!  Maybe this year I will have to make another pitch to get both of those recipes. 

Anyway, I have adopted the Christmas cookie tradition, but modified it slightly.  I always spend a full day baking Christmas cookies with my neighbor, and I give plates of cookies to at least 10 people.  This year, I actually have more than a dozen people on the list -- a few people at work, a couple boot camp friends, a few neighbors, and a few friends.  But since I always go home for Christmas, I make mine early and I do eat some before Christmas. 

This year, we will be baking this coming Sunday (I'll make a couple of the doughs that need to be refrigerated the day before).  One thing I got done yesterday was making a list of the cookies I will make.  A few I make every year, but I usually try to make at least one new one. 

But since my "new" cookie from last year was awesome, I had to do some rearranging this year. 

Here are the cookies I'm making this year:
  • Christmas wreaths (think Rice Krispie treats but with Corn Flakes, green, wreath-shaped) (made originally by my mom for the first time when I was in high school and every year since, but now it's traditionally the recipe I make when I'm home (my mom does all the others), so I actually have to make these cookies twice, once for me and my friends, then once at home) (at about 2:00 in the photo of my mom's cookies above, and below:)

  • Scottish shortbreads (my mom's recipe, she's made these every Christmas I can remember) (at about 10:00 in the photo of my mom's cookies above, and below:)

  • White chocolate cranberry cookies (one of my favorites, a recipe I found) (on the right below, most years I've also made them with oatmeal, on the left below, but something had to be cut this year...:)

  • Swirled mint cookies (I was surprised by how many of my friends tell me these are their favorites of the ones I make, a recipe I found) (below):
Cream Cheese Kolacky Recipe

  • And -- last year's "new" cookie that has earned a permanent spot in the rotation -- hot chocolate cookies. 

Here is a link to the hot chocolate cookies:  http://www.hungryrunnergirl.com/2012/12/14974.html, well, that's where I heard about them.  Hungry Runner Girl actually posts a link to the recipe, which is here:  http://www.seededatthetable.com/2012/02/29/hot-chocolate-cookies/.

And here is the recipe: 
Yield: 3 1/2 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 packages (or 1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons) Hot Chocolate Mix (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mat.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then blend in the vanilla.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, hot chocolate mix, and baking soda and salt. Slowly add to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Drop dough balls onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 7 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven. Working quickly, carefully add about 5 to 7 miniature marshmallows to the top of each cookie, and gently press. Return to the oven and bake an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until the marshmallows start to puff. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes before removing. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Hot Chocolate Cookies
Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s question! Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments! Happy Monday!