Monday, November 28, 2011

Make sure Rocky's theme song is on your play list...

13.1 miles? I can now officially say, "Been there. Run that." WOW. What a morning Thanksgiving morning was for me as I buttoned down to run my first half-marathon.  Prior to race day, the furthest distance I have completed is the Peachtree Road Race, the world's biggest 10K. And any 4 year old with a mediocre sense of math knows that 6.4 does not = 13.1.  Oh, and I don't really like running. That is another special element I had not mentioned before.

As for the big race? The great news is, I loved it. My goals were twofold: 1. Finish. 2. Don't walk. Two goals accomplished. I will admit I was a bit squirrely on my way there. Was a half-marathon really for the elite runner? Would I still be on the track when they were sweeping up cups and traffic resumed? Thankfully, no.

So here are training tips for anyone who is not an elite runner and wants to check Half-Marathon off your bucket list:

1. If you go it alone, be super appreciate that your husband is willing to get up at 645 am and drop you off. AWESOME. If you run with friends, you better paper/scissor/rock it out to see who is going to drive because parking can be a challenge at these things.  Extra bonus when your little man wants to ride along. Super extra bonus when he yells out the car window as you leave , "Win the race, Mom! I know you can!!!" Smile about your child's love and positive attitude. Smile bigger that clearly, your child knows nothing because clearly, you are not actually going to win.

2. Dress appropriately for the weather. The day was gorgeous here but OH BOY it was less than 40 degrees out. I brought a jacket and a hat but woooops..where are you gloves, missy? My hands were SO cold I was tempted at one point to put them in my pants. Yes, it occurred to put them in my jacket pockets. Oops, those were full. I bought some "energy" concoction called "Gu" I had read about but also saw at the race number pick up expo. I also had my cell phone because I had to ring up aforementioned awesome husband to fetch me when the race was over.

3. When dressing appropriately for cold weather, layer it up with things you could easily discard on the ground and never think about again. The race course is strewn with shirts, jackets, hats, gloves as runners heat up. Hey guy I will never see again, thank you so much for getting warmer quicker than me and giving me your gloves so I didn't actually have to run with hands in my pants. But listen, my hands were more brittle than an ice sculpture and I would have done what I had to do.

4. When in doubt, don't wear the Eeyore costume. Oh, you were cozy when it was 40 degrees and you had many envious looks as you were snuggly warm but when it hit 60, you were hot. And I can't imagine it was smelling good in there. But I love your spunk, you grown man who happens to have a full-sized Eeyore costume.

5. Speaking of spunk, hey all you wild and crazy people who ran with stuffed turkeys on your heads. I love your spirit! I think a stuffed turkey on my head would throw me off my game. I think the stuffed turkey with the wobbly neck which caused it to bob up and down in front of the runner's face would be a weird twist on the rabbit used at a dog track. And a stuffed turkey with a big long neck doesn't actually look like a turkey as much as it looks like a another part of the turkey. If that turkey was a horse.

6. Bring your cell phone and get a fun pre-race photo. Not of Eeyore or the stuffed turkey hats but of yourself.  My goal: try to look that motivated and refreshed come finish line time. And I have many friends who ran  half-marathons the past 8 weeks and I LOVED seeing their pics. I also liked the status updates, I have to tell you. Why? Because it was motivating and one day when I saw a friends update about her first half-marathon, it actually motivated me to register to do my own.  And yes, I did give a status update mid-run. I was in line for the port-o-john and had some great fanfare supporting me virtually that day so a little status update never hurt anyone.

7. Run with your iPod. Unless you're good like that and can run without it. If you can, are you crazy? Unless you are going to chitter chatter all the way (which I saw hardly anyone doing) I think you need some pep in your step and my way of achieving that is via music. And a kick ass playlist. Several months ago I was turned onto this amazing DJ Greg Gillis (stage name: Girl Talk) and thankfully, he has remixes that carried me through a few unsavory hills and Miles 11-13. And make sure Rocky's theme song is on your playlist too. By Mile 11 I was definitely needing some Eye of the Tiger. I also use the Nike+ iPod tracker system so I could track calories, mileage, and pace.

8. Listen to your body. My body started out saying, "This is awesome" and proceeded to ramp me up to roughly 9 minute miles. Then we hid mid mark and we were clocking about 11 minute miles and my body exclaimed, "Feeling superfly TNT." At aforementioned Mile 11, my body said, "LEG CRAMP" and I ignored it. Have fun ignoring that message. I tried to stretch it out while I was running which was pretty and ineffective. And by pretty I mean, it was a hybrid of the Elaine dance from Seinfeld + a deer bounding through a dewy meadow + and what 2 year olds look like when they have something unpleasant in their pantalones.

9. Watch the carb loading the night before. What goes in, has to come out. I had a little pasta the night before and oatmeal and a protein bar the morning of the race. And I never tried the "Gu" either. It actually feels like goo and I couldn't get on board with it when it came to actual race day. Maybe I should have and then it would have been Mile 11 getting its ass kicked and not me.  Oh, and you can have a glass of wine the night before too. How do I know? Because someone on the Runner's World blog said so. And because you know you aren't going to win. Unless you are the guy who ran it in 1 hour and 8 minutes and then not only are you going to win, but you are phenomenal.

10. Keep in mind, you can do it.  Seriously. People were walking from the starting line so getting out there and doing it is half the battle. And seeing people walking from the starting line really takes the pressure off. And the participants are all shapes and sizes as well as covering an age range from 18 to about 118. Doing anything for the first time is just that, you will only be new to it once. I am already looking forward to my next race. And extra bonus at the end of my race: My husband, son and brother came to see me at the finish. About 400 meters before the finish line, I see my husband and son. MiniMac wants to jump on the track with me and run it in. That is exactly what I needed after 13 miles and a cramp dance on the route. We raced down that hill through the finish line and he got to wear my medal. Later, he whispered to JMac, "I hope Mom is ok because I beat her in the race." I feel more than ok, pal. I feel fantastic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I hope I outpace the short, fat one...

Oh, I miss blogland. New job = fantastic. New job also = ass kicker. Remember when you took a new job the last time? I had forgotten what it feels like to be face down on the learning curve luge. But I love it. It doesnt make for frequent blog posts but I will get the schedule down. I am enjoying being in NYC more often so I will work on getting the schedule in sync.

And because I apparently didnt feel I had enough to do, 8 weeks ago I registered for my first half-marathon. When is it? Tomorrow am. The good news is I have been training well for it. The less-than-good news is that the furthest I have run in a race is a 10K. Even one of the most dedicated runners we know remarked, "Wow, 13.1 is tough." Thanks for the pep talk, Bobby Knight!

But he is right. Alas. And the race tomorrow is called the Turkey Trot. I can overcome a turkey right? At least I can plan to outpace the short, fat one.

I found some tips for running your first half-marathon. One of the tips said, "Watch a movie about running." Really? This is also what I would call one of the worst tips on running your first half-marathon. The only movies I know that even have running elements are Chariots of Fire, Prefontaine, and the excerpt from Rocky where he runs up the stairs in his grey hoodie and sweatpants. Those are also in a subcategory I like to call "NOT motivating."

Another tip I read, "Try not to think about the distance you are trying to complete." Awesome. Because I can keep telling my legs, "We are just going one more block!" I will try it but I am confident it wont work as well as the thought that at the end of the run, I will have done something I have never done before. And I am fairly certain I will be sipping wine tomorrow afternoon while I parade around in my race t-shirt.

And perhaps I will create my own list of motivational tips for the first time half-marathoners. And perhaps I will put as my #1 tip: Get tips from the many other runners you know in real-world and blogland who have been down this road already!

Sending you and yours a fantastic wish for a great holiday. I hope you are only surrounded by people you like, eating food you like, having conversations you like, about topics you like.  I am thankful for many, many things 12 months of the year. Our gratitude should spread itself far and wide beyond November 24.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Stars and Stripes Forever

With my new travel schedule, I have certainly increased my time in the airports. Recently, while waiting to board, I started a conversation with a young man in uniform. Turns out he was flying to Atlanta on his way to Afghanistan.  Since he was not allowed to consume beverages when deploying, he had to (regretfully) turn down my offer to send him cocktails on the plane.  He did relay he had enjoyed many, many cocktails the night before and couldn't enjoy them on the plane even if he could enjoy them if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

When we boarded the plane, I asked the flight attendants if they would make a comment about him and the nature of his trip.

Once boarded, we had a mechanical issue and had to remain on the plane for over an hour while it was repaired. This makes people very, very pleasant. Once in the air, the pilot thought we could make up some time but in fact, we did not.  As we began to descend, one flight attendant inquired how many people had connecting flights in Atlanta and 97% of the plane raised a hand. The pilot came on the PA and indicated the exact state of affairs.  The exact state of affairs meaning most of the people on the flight would miss connecting flights. There were grumbles. Many people take it in stride (because smart people know that being obnoxious and overly vocal about a problem does little to resolve it) but some people were blatantly and angrily displaced by the news.

A few minutes later, one of the flight attendants got back on the PA and talked about the soldier I had mentioned. It was a thoughtful, witty and wonderful thank-you given to this young kid to which the majority of the crowd responds with whoops and cheers. Thank you. It really made missing a connecting flight pale in context.

Yesterday, I heard a conversation about war and US deployment. One man claimed,  "but war is stupid." Well, that is saying something.  It was weird that the word 'but' was included because it wasn't like the conversation went "War sounds fun...BUT it is stupid." War is tough. And dangerous. And irreversible. Thanks Smarty.  No one thought it was a fun Saturday night where we dress in whipped cream bathing suits and tickle each other.

And listen, I know wrenches thrown in our schedules is never our first choice. I just think most of life is about perspective. And on Veterans Day I want to have this perspective: Missing flights sucks. No doubt about it. Guess what doesn't suck? People, other people as in NOT me who risk life to protect the freedom I so sweetly enjoy to talk openly about whatever I choose (including how preposterous it must feel at times to miss a flight.)  I don't even know if I would have the moxie to suit up, furnish weapon and fight. Guess what else doesn't suck? That I will never have to know if I have the moxie because we are not required to join the armed forces in this country. So another thanks to men and women who are clearly braver than I.

We have the 2nd largest military in the world and it dates back to 1775. But, there are vets all around this globe as well as those actively serving in almost every country (seriously, not every country has military including Vatican City which we all know who runs that place and St. Lucia because it is really about sunbathing and tropical drinks there!)

Give a vet a thanks today. He or she has done, seen, and lived in ways I will never experience and I am ever grateful for it. I am also grateful for winning a beautiful Freedom lottery by being born in the USA.

Stars and Stripes forever.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Heartbreak in State College

I rarely write about controversial topics because we all deal with plenty of negative, controversy, and disgust at what we absorb daily from the media. Controversy is not why you come here and we have Bill O'Reilly to point all kinds of fingers. And with my insane travel schedule right now, and my infrequency of posting why not keep it on the laugh track? But I do want to add my name to the long list of people disheartened by the recent breaking news involving Jerry Sandusky and his activities some of which occurred on the campus of Penn State.

There are so many levels of dismay and confusion following this topic: whether the school knew, or the reality that multiple people at the school knew but did nothing to stop it, how long did it go on, what the trainer saw, why no one removed the child from the situation immediately. A 28 year old trainer witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and a 10 year old boy, contact of which there are now various versions of the truth but the constant in all the alleged stories is that the contact was incredibly inappropriate. Sandusky's charity, The Second Mile, immediately terminated their relationship with him in 2008 when a second report of misconduct with a child surfaced. I can't talk about whether Paterno should be forced out because frankly all of these topics are topics in which we don't know the full level of detail needed. And also because I am not representing either Sandusky or Paterno or the University (thankfully. Good luck legal team that is.)

But I have no shortage of opinion about it trust me, as I am sure those of you following the story don't either. 

But I will, with a distinct level of heartache, include that I know someone who was molested as a child. Molested by someone older, established, and trusted.  Which is not surprising given 90% of victims know their abusers.  I have only a spectator's version of the damage and disconnect these incidences caused to this person's psyche and soul. But very clearly I witnessed it created a gritty sense of distrust in others. For years this person has painstakingly carried not only the secret but the ache of feeling responsible.  And there is simply no reversing 100% of the damage.

When I heard the story as it began to unravel, I thought of all of parents who gasped for air over morning coffee because they had a child who participated in Sandusky's many outings. Who asked themselves Could something like that happen to my son? Did something occur he never told me? Parents who then picked up a phone filled with anxiety to call their son who might be at a friends house, baseball practice, or even in college by now to ask if they too had seen the news.  And braced themselves for the response.

And I wonder if there will be other young men who come forward with a story to tell.  

As a parent, how could you avoid imploding with rage?

Prayers and thoughts extended to the young men and families who are directly impacted by this story:  those already known, those we will soon discover and those who will twist and turn with this in secret the remainder of their lives.  Emotion is not easily translated across the web but today I hope somehow the collective concern and empathy of strangers could provide at least one layer of love in this awful situation. And maybe there can be some reverse to the damage now.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Viva Las Vegas

I am off to Las Vegas for much needed R&R. Oh I know. Vegas is hardly the place for R&R. Let's edit that to say I am off to Vegas today for a long weekend at the ubergorgeous City Center with a gaggle of girls where we will not be drinking tea and talking about our feelings. One of my favorite Vegas posts is in order. Let's run this show again my friends.And you know I should just print this out and pass it around...

10 ways to know if you are Vegas Dirty:

Vegas...the world's best free carnival. We had a gorgeous time complete with incredible meals, some gambling luck, some delicious wine. We thoroughly enjoyed an adults only weekend. It is truly a combination of Sin City and the City that Never Sleeps. The hotel and casino business in Vegas is in constant motion. With the opening of City Center and the much anticipated The Cosmopolitan, the draw is no longer a 19.99 room rate and a 3.99 All You Can Eat Buffet. The restaurants are incredible including three 5 Star locations and there are more sommeliers in Vegas than any other US city.

But there is so much more to do than drink, gamble, and participate in shenanigans. I know, I know, many people trek there specifically for those purposes but for the many great people comprising the actual permanent resident population of Las Vegas, sorry. I think it is the many visitors that give Vegas its reputation as a stateside Caligula's playground. We love Wynn, Encore, and Bellagio. Ditto on Palazzo. Last visit, JMac and I went to see Rod Stewart (who at 65 is still rocking and doing it well) at the Coliseum at Caesar's Palace on night and a few pre-show cocktails and a stroll through the casino presented some serious characters. For most visitors, they might have a little dirty going on under their countenance anyway but when they go to Vegas, all that dirty gets highlighted and magnified. A phenomenon I like to call Vegas Dirty

And listen, I like to prance about and sip extra cocktails on my visits to Vegas just like the average girl. But Vegas Dirty is not about being average. I think Vegas can bring out the dirty in everyone, I after all put on lip gloss before I went to the gym one morning to work out. After brief contemplation, I decided the fact I even went to the gym, IN VEGAS, negated my silly glam move of slapping on shiny gloss at 9 am to go sweat it out in the pilates studio. But I still have a long way to go to get Vegas Dirty.

You are Vegas Dirty if:

1. You wear a bright yellow track suit jacket and matching pants, with the jacket unzipped, no shirt, sunglasses, and a hat on sideways. You also refer to everyone as "Bra" or "Son" and announce sweet sentiments like "I'd hit that..."
PS: Unless you are under the age of 20, in Eminem's music video, or Blossom (or Punky Brewster), wearing a hat on sideways as a grown adult is a universal sign of D-Baggery.

2. You play blackjack with your child in a stroller parked next to you. 

3. Your dress is so short, all your nether world is on display the minute you sit down. I know the Kardashians taught you that but not everyone wants to see your doo - dads. 

4. Whatever make up is not left on the pillow from your crawl home to bed at 5 am is not rinsed off when it is time to later start your day but simply slathered over. 

5. You are out at 2 am with your fully awake infant and since you don't want to choose between beer, cigarette, or baby, and you only have two hands, you simply hold baby in one, cocktail in one, and let the cigarette dangle from your mouth.

6.  You agree to a tryst that would likely be illegal in certain countries because you believe "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Just because you saw that mantra on TV does not make it accurate. Don't believe me? Remember seeing The Lion King on TV? Lions don't really talk.

7. You sit down at the black jack table after you have clearly been over-served. You introduce yourself to the dealer first as Kimberly, then as Jessica. And you later knock your drink over before you compliment him on his hair. He is completely bald. When you get up to leave, you leave your shoes behind and proceed through the casino barefoot.

8. You wear a shirt that reads Gold Diggers. Just like wh_res, only smarter. Or if you are a man who wears a shirt emblazoned with The Legend with an arrow pointing to your bits.

9. You are the reason my receipt from one of the boutiques at Wynn included this disclaimer " Undergarments may NOT be returned."

10. You wear a t-shirt that reads Instant Sl_t. Just add alcohol. That is colossally DIRTY.

Allegedly, or what I heard from a friend: You are NOT dirty if you try to instigate some hanky panky while your husband is watching the Patriots game but you are certainly not using womanly wiles to deter him from the game by any means. He offers to turn it off and you say, no need. He is not dirty either for showing his sheer appreciation at being able to engage in aforementioned hanky panky AND watch the Patriots game, he is merely a smart opportunist because this show doesn't go on at home.