Tuesday, May 28

Memorial Day Service Over Self 5k: Intro to "Pain Face"

Exhibit A: Trying to force a smile
In what was surely one of the most well-organized local 5k races I've enjoyed, I was finally the victim of what other runners consider "Pain Face" photography. See Exhibit A.

Exhibit B nails it. I'm not really in terribly too much pain, but I wasn't trying to smile anymore. My only thought was just to get to the finish line.

Let's be honest, here. The best part of these photos is the sweet Oiselle hat I'm wearing. Yay!

After some somber, thoughtful, moving moments at the Memorial Day 5k, I ran a decent pace through a wildly hilly course. I finished in 32:23. Not great, but not awful.

The major hill in this town (home to my alma mater) is one-way in almost all directions for cars. In college, it was this hill that made poor drivers the fool du jour when their stick shift skills couldn't keep them from stalling out.

Exhibit B: No smiles
I was not going to power up that hill. That's okay. Hills aren't my forte. I know I need to work on them (a lot). They're a big part of my training plan for this second half marathon (in October), so I intend to improve. I just didn't feel like killing myself over this insane incline. It was making me feel a little icky in the asthma department anyway. Oy.

So hills and strength training are on the menu as we say g'bye to May and hello to June, welcoming the longer days.

Anyone have any favorite hill workouts to share? What about other training that has helped you conquer hills? I am ALL EARS!

Monday, May 27

Summer Run Streak!

Memorial Day is marked as the unofficial start of summer. For runners, I have a better mark: a running streak!

Runner's World magazine is hosting the summer streak! The goal is to run at least ONE mile each day from Memorial Day through Independence Day. Pick up the sweet #RWrunstreak badges here at PavementRunner.com.

Me? Yes, I'll be streaking. I plan to begin my Arbonne detox at the beginning of June, so this is the kind of motivation I need to keep on trucking with my workout plan.

Follow me on Twitter (@grammarissa) to check out how I'm doing with my #RWrunstreak!

Monday, May 20

The Soul-Crushing Job Application Experience

I've been unemployed for three months now. I've come to terms with it. While it's neither fun nor easy, I'm making it through each day... one day at a time. If too many days come at me all at once, I tell them to get in line. That usually does the trick. Usually.

Applying for jobs and waiting for responses is really tough work. When you apply, you have to make your application the best you can and you have to write the cover letter as though this job is your one true love. But you have to do that for ALL the jobs you apply for...

The first job you apply for in a day is okay, but with each subsequent application it's like you're cheating on that first job, then the other, then all the others... until at the end of the day you have told every single job that you love it and every potential employer that you only want that job. None of it is true. It can't be.
"I'll bet you say that to all the nice looking jobs out there," the hot-shot job advertisement said to me.
My smile quickly faded into a trembling frown. My face went red. I knew all along that I had lied to myself, but his flirtation showed me the startling possibility that I had lied to everyone else. I pushed the keyboard away from me and sought solace in my Twitter feed. No more job applications today.
Enough. This soul-crushing work of job applications is really for the birds. I'm taking a different approach with the adage of "It's not what you know but who you know" to a different level. I've assessed my personal network, my talents and the "what" I know, and set out with a guide to help connect me with the "who."

I began seeing a career counselor (my guide, as referenced above) to help me make the lemonade from the lemons ruthlessly hurled at me. So far so good. Personality tests and identity development aside, the discussions we've had about my skills and the things I enjoy doing actually have me excited about what kind of work I might be able to do. The guy I'm seeing takes a different approach to placement, which I like very much. I'm still applying for jobs (feeling like a sellout, as described above), but I'm putting more effort into the exercises he gives me so I can develop more of that side of myself. I want to make genuine connections with people, to help people, to feel like I'm making a difference in the work I'm doing. I have hope that I will find more fulfilling work. I do. It's tough to keep that hope in my mind's eye sometimes, but I just try to remember that I'm getting to know myself better than most people and I'm solving problems most people don't even know they have. That feels good because I want to know that this work, this hiccup off the so-called "beaten path" is worthwhile.

I still have a list of concerns. I still get tingles of panic about bills and car repairs and things I need and so forth, but I absorb that, acknowledge it, and plan my response. I feel much better about life when I do that because I'm not stuck in React Mode where all I'm doing is reacting, reacting, reacting to things around me. (It's one way to do things, but it's exhausting and leaves little room for much else.) Taking time to plan my reactions and consider repercussions feels more validating. It also makes me feel way more competent as a human being even when tough stuff is bringing me down. I'm getting better at processing the uncertainty thrown in my path months ago.

So I'm dreaming a little, trying to find a job that I'll be good at *and* enjoy. A novel idea, eh? I thought so too until I realized that some people do have it both ways.

Friday, May 17

Trixie's Adoption Anniversary: Six Years

It was six years ago today that I adopted my pup Trixie.  It's been FAR from an easy journey with her for a number of reasons, but today she is the best dog I could ever want. She is so smart and loyal. I love her with all my heart.

Photos of Trixie from the day I adopted her to present. :)
5 months (5/17/07)
8 months
6 months
2 years
4 years
5 years

Wednesday, May 15

How to Organize Your Running Gear

Ah, yes, organization... one of the few aspects of life that still makes my heart skip a beat despite all the daily doldrums and temporary crud I'm dealing with.

Back before I lost my job, Wendy at One Tough Mother Runner wrote a post about organizing her running gear. At that point in time, I had "gizmos and gadgets a plenty" and "whozits and whatzits galore." (Wendy loved my Little Mermaid reference, natch.) :)

Since I'm an organizer at heart, I thought I'd share my process here on my blog on the off chance that it might be helpful to one of you!

I used Wendy's post as a starting point with my own gear. Since I had started running, I had a small snack table next to the kitchen door that served as my running things station--it's where I kept my shoes, my inhalers, my earbuds, and my gym bag. But my clothing was stored separately in a single drawer in my dresser. As my collection grew, I had to shift things to other drawers and it became annoying and time consuming to find what I needed. Things needed to change!

Here's what I did.

This makes me happy. Neat & organized!
  1. Pick a location. I chose a closet in my spare bedroom as the new location for my running gear. I had been leaning towards making this spare room a "workout room" anyway since I have a 60 lb. punching bag hung in the corner. I decided that I wanted all of my gear, clothing, shoes, and fuel to be kept in the same spot. That way I could grab what I needed (or just get dressed right there in the spare room) and be on my way. I already had things in that closet: rubbermaid containers of seasonal clothing, sporting equipment (bike helmet, gorilla lock, tennis racket, rain boots, softball glove, ski helmet... I have a thing for helmets... I like my brain), and an organizer for my winter items like gloves, scarves, and hats. But these things don't have to relocate just for my running stuff. My running items actually make a welcome addition because it's technically sporting equipment and I have some seasonal items I'll want to swap out at some point.
  2. Decide on a structure. My closet doesn't have doors, and I already had one of those long hanging organizers for my gloves, hats, and scarves (it attaches to the pole in the closet with velcro). I liked the way it looked and worked. Because I wanted to be able to *see* all of my things at once--and not have to root through drawers or boxes to find what I want--I found this solution to be best for me. I went to a local discount store (Ollie's, but I'm not sure if that's a national chain or not) and found precisely what I wanted. It was billed as a "sweater" organizer, but this kind had extra mesh pockets on the sides. Perfect! For people who want a more closed, "put away" look, this kind of organizer is not for you. You might like a tower of drawers or one of those cube structures with the little boxes you can use for storage. Then again, if you have closet doors, the sweater organizer might still be an option for you!
    Mesh pockets rock.
  3. Organize! Put things where they make the most sense. I took a top-down approach. I put my shirts on the top, my shorts and pants in the middle, my socks and shoes on the bottom. The smaller slots near the bottom also fit random items like hats, water bottles, my SPI belt, and shoe pouch. The side pockets are excellent for holding my gloves, hats, facemask, reflectors, Road ID, heartrate monitor, and bag tags. I use the other side for fuel options--chews, gels, Nuun, and Picky Bars. (Note: I keep wellness items like wrap bandages and pain creams in the bathroom cupboard because, for me, that's where they're most likely to be used. I keep my asthma inhalers in my gym bag and in my purse so I always have them with me. Also, I keep my iPod near my computer because that's where I sync it and charge it.)
  4. Keep it organized. Organization is a commitment. It means putting things back where they belong every single time. When I do laundry, I fold things so they fit into the organizer I bought. I always return my shoes to their slots and refill my fuel pouches so I can grab and go. If you take a few small steps to restock your gear and keep the area neat, you should feel less anxious and more ready to conquer whatever run you're doing.
    Again: je t'aime, mesh pockets.
Pre-run: I grab the clothes I want to wear, my socks and shoes, and any accessories I'll need. If the run is the next morning, I set these things out on my small table so I can dress and be on my way.

Pre-race: The night before, I lay out what I'll wear, what fuel I'll use, and what water bottle I'll take. I put my clothes on the small table and my food and water bottle choices on the kitchen table next to my keys and phone so I have everything I need in the morning. My focus then will be eating breakfast and leaving for a wonderful racing experience!

If you have any questions about organizing your gear, or want any help, let me know! I love to organize and I'm happy to advise if I can. 

I'd also love to hear about your solutions for your gear! Tell me about what you're doing or what you've done to deal with the swell of stuff. :)

Monday, May 13

Feeling like a champ again: Race for the Cure 5k

At the starting line with Ryanne.
Running a 5k the week after you run a half marathon is, in my opinion, a great idea. You feel like The Champion of All Things Running because you just conquered that 3.1 in the time it took you to get warmed up last week.

Yesterday morning was really cool (like 39º) but beautifully sunny and otherwise springlike, complete with pollen and allergens! The Race for the Cure in Pittsburgh is evidently the largest in the state. (That's what the announcer fella said anyway.) There was a great crowd. Not everyone in the 5k was running competitively. I was because I wanted to be timed. My friend from college, Ryanne, wasn't, but she was an excellent running companion.

Ryanne is an amazing biker chick--as in she's doing the Race Across America (RAAM) next year with a team of ladies raising money for pulmonary hypertension. Her cousin was doing the Race for the Cure and they wanted more people on their team, so I signed up. Yay for teammates! She met me at the starting line and we took off together.

Little did I know that she was snapping pictures of me while I was running!

The course was hilly. I should have known. It's through a park I've run through only a handful of times with my friend Jenny, but it's in a neighborhood called "Squirrel Hill," so you know how the hills of Pennsylvania kinda creep up on you... That's how this race was. Oh well.

Finish line shot! Woohoo!
I felt really good, considering that I was still tight from last week. I slowed down a few times to climb the hills, which is typical for me. My training plan for my next half (in October) includes much more hill work. I kept moving and when we approached the finish line, I took off like a rocket when I saw I could get in under 33:10. I finished at 33:07.

I feel okay today, which is nice. I expected to be a little more sore, but I was definitely exhausted last night! I have 5ks planned throughout the rest of the summer. My goal? Finish
a 5k under 30 minutes this summer. I know I can do it. I know it. I've come close. I just need to push a little harder.

Saturday, May 11

I'm on Bloglovin!

Hello my dear followers!

I've been trying a few new things on the backend with my blog to make things easier for you to follow and access my posts. I decided to become active on the service Bloglovin, which is a great way to keep up with multiple blogs. I personally follow at least a dozen blogs, so Bloglovin helps me stay on top of the most recent news by sending me daily updates from the blogs I follow. It's really helpful because I never miss a post!

I invite you to try out Bloglovin--it's free, and yours truly is there so you can keep up with me even easier. :)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Friday, May 10

Refusing to Stay Blue

I was warned. I prepared. I acknowledged my feelings, and still they persist.

My post-race blues are hitting me a little harder than I anticipated. It's difficult to tell what's post-race related and what's the-rest-of-my-life related though because I'm still not working full-time, I'm still not doing fulfilling work, and I'm still kinda lonely most days of the week. Nevertheless, I'm trying to see these blues for what they are: temporary.

Monday when I was still sore and I felt a little like I had the flu, I rested in a fog and let myself be sad that my big race was over. Tuesday, though, I had to go to my part-time job, so there was no way to abide in relentless sadness throughout the day.

Just what was so sad anyway? I met my goal! I finished a half marathon! I had trained so hard for several months. I had overcome personal and physical hurdles to be there and do well. Yes--yes, I was proud. I was glad I finished, that I ran well, and that I knew I could meet my goal. Nothing was particularly sad about the event. It's the LACK of the goal, created by the goal's completion, that creates an emptiness... and feels sad.

Several sources about post-race blues recommend a psychological reset button of sorts--getting back in touch with friends, allowing yourself a few indulgences, and setting a new goal. I'm beginning to do just that.

  • I've been stretching all week to soothe my soreness. I'll go running today. I'm doing a 5k on Sunday--our local Race for the Cure, which is sure to be a positive event. 
  • I got to catch up with a good friend (a non-runner) yesterday and that was delightful.
  • I drank a Pepsi on Tuesday. (It was mega sweet, but it tasted good.)
  • I'm planning to start my Arbonne detox in the next week or two to get my nutrition back on track.
  • I repotted several plants on Wednesday and I'm planning to get my garden in the ground next week.
  • I'm revamping my training plan for the half marathon I'm running in October (Staten Island). My dearest friend from college is running with me so we're training together but from afar.
Just typing out that list makes me feel a little more hopeful. I think if I can get back to my typical to-do list ways that my day-to-day accomplishments will be more fulfilling.

Anyone else ever deal with post-race blues? How did you deal with them? 

Tuesday, May 7

My First Half Marathon

It's unbelievable! It's over! I ran a half marathon. (And I can still walk.)

After working so hard for so long for this one goal, I'm a little down now. I've been told that post-race blues are pretty normal. I have another half marathon in October, and I have several other shorter races in the months leading up to that, so hopefully the sadness won't last for long.

At the Dog Walk on Saturday before the race.
I'm proud to live in a city that puts on such a great event for runners. Even with the amped up security measures, things were fluid and felt very under control. Everything from the expo to the dog walk, the race itself and the VIP post-race fun was delightful.

I'm glad that I stayed with a friend who lived closer to the city. Not only was it more convenient, it was more fun because we were in all our pre-race prep together. She was a gracious host and made lots of food for us to eat. I also had a comfortable place to sleep and kept my dog with me so I didn't have to spend money (money I don't have) to board her somewhere. I really enjoyed it and I'm lucky to have such a good friend.

The start of the race made me pretty anxious. I'd never been part of an event this large. There were roughly 30,000 people racing! It helped that I knew the course really well and had expectations of when and where I would slow down. I still had the jitters though!

We got started and after about a mile I separated from my friend. Her pace was a little too quick for me (even though we'd trained together just fine). I was feeling a little nauseous and I couldn't figure out why! I thought that if I threw up and got it over with that maybe I would feel better and I could go on... Well, I never did throw up. The stomach feeling just waned slowly over the course of five or six miles. I just tried to distract myself from the discomfort by looking at the crowds cheering and enjoying the pretty day. (The weather was beyond perfect! 49º and sunny to start and it warmed up to 64º by the time I finished!)
Me and my hostess with the mostess at the starting line.

Unfortunately by the time my stomach pain was gone, my left achilles tendon was stirring. Now here's the part that I hate--this had only started to bother me in really recent runs. Never before had I experienced this pain. When I first had it, it was after running. Eventually it started creeping in to longer runs, making its presence known. Not enough to make me stop, but hurting enough that stairs are tough to do once I'm done.

This bridge is clearly uphill.
So I'm about half way through the race and my achilles is barking at me. Seriously? I was a little ticked, to be honest. No amount of stretching along the course would've helped, so I just trudged along. I made compromises with myself: "You have to run from 4th Street to 5th Street. If you hurt, you can walk until 6th Street, but if you feel okay then you need to run to 6th Street." That mindful element was very helpful in getting me through the Southside (where I used to work), the longest straight stretch in the race. When I made it to the Birmingham Bridge, which is one big incline, I just walked. No bridge was worth the pain. I wanted to finish the race RUNNING, not limping.

And I did. The last few miles were a little easier because I really did know that part of the course from running The Great Race 10k back in September. The incline near Duquesne University is so slight that it feels like it's parceling off chunks of your knee to be sold to the runners behind you. If you get past it, though, you've really only got a tiny incline at the finish to worry about.

Oh, Pittsburgh... You and your inclines.

My official time is 2:58:22. I originally anticipated that I'd finish closer to 2:30:00, but too much walking to baby that achilles pushed me back. Oh well. It's my first half so my time is a PR by default and it's definitely something to beat!