Archive | April, 2014

My First 5K Race… 5 Months After My First 10K

28 Apr

I guess there’s never a good time to discover you’re coming down with a chest infection, but I’ll tell you when a particularly bad time is: during a race.

On Saturday I ran my very first 5K race, which I realize is surprising since I started the Couch to 5K program almost a year ago. I conquered the Thanksgiving 10K but never got around to running an official 5K until now. I admit I’ve been slacking on my “training” since doing the 10K, but I thought a 5K would be easy — only half what I ran in the last race! I figured I could easily do it in less than 30 minutes. In fact, I was so cocky about it that I made a music playlist that was only 30 minutes long.

And then I started running. I heard the gun go off but got caught up in the walkers group because I was fumbling with MapMyRun and my watch. Luckily this race was nowhere as crowded as my last one and I was easily able to maneuver around the walkers and catch up to the running pack.

“I am zooming!” I thought. “I’ve totally got this!” According to my phone, I ran the first mile in 8:50, which may be my fastest yet. And then I came upon a hill. During my last race I had one rule for myself — no walking, even on the hilly bridges. And I managed to continually jog/run for 6 miles then. This time I told myself the same rule — no walking, it’s only 3 miles! And then I finished one mile with a little too much exertion and started to feel a tightness in my lungs. I had taken two puffs of my inhaler before I set off, so I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. Was it because I started too quickly? Because I didn’t walk and stretch enough beforehand? Because I woke up too early and ate less than two hours ago? I had to break my rule and walk up a hill. And once I broke the rule once, I seemed to have no problem breaking it again and again. Not to get too graphic, but at times I had to “pull over” and spit up some mucus. I’m sure the other runners enjoyed watching that. My pumping playlist encouraged me to continue, but I couldn’t shake the pain in my chest. On one of my fitness videos Jillian Michaels shouts, “You don’t get to the finish line and slow down!” Except that’s what I did. I knew the finish line was around the corner, I had planned to gun it, but my lungs were burning. I started walking when another runner came up behind me and started shouting encouragement. I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying because of my headphones, but it was still exactly what I needed.

“I think I’m getting a second wind!” I shouted back at her, then took off. (Thanks to my mom for the great photo!)

renee running 5k

I crossed the finish line a proverbial hot mess — fallen off headband in my hand, one headphone dangling out of my ear, coughing and weezing like I had never ran before. I barely had enough energy to open the cold bottle of water that was thrust at me.

“What is wrong with me?” I kept repeating out loud. “I shouldn’t feel like this, it was only 3 miles!”

Then I met a pug who was breathing the same way I was. That made everything slightly better.

sugar pug
Even in the car ride home I was coughing. It wasn’t until I got home that it finally hit me — I didn’t perform so poorly because I hadn’t trained properly, I was sick. Whatever chest infection my dad has been fighting lately was probably lying dormant in me, and riding around in airplanes and trains in New York two days before the race probably didn’t help either. (Yes, I made a spontaneous trip to NYC last week, more on that later.) I’m still glad I did the race, and 31:52 isn’t a bad time when you’re ill. If anything it’s a time to beat at my next race. I’ll finish in under 30 minutes eventually!

That time I embraced my Kentucky heritage and visited Jane’s Saddlebag

14 Apr

Whenever someone (with knowledge of US geography) asks me where I’m from, I usually say “Cincinnati.” (If they have no US geography knowledge, it’s “Chicago,” where I spent most of my young adult life.) It’s mostly because Cincinnati is the nearest metropolis to northern Kentucky, but also because, let’s face it, Kentucky has some stigma attached to it — hillbillies, rednecks, cousin-marrying, barefoot hicks… you get the gist.

Most of the time I shun my old Kentucky home — I’m wasn’t born here, majority of the time I live and have lived elsewhere, and do not care about college basketball whatsoever — but sometimes — sometimes — I choose to embrace it. Like this past Saturday.

We started our Kentucky appreciation day with a walk with Squirt at Big Bone Lick State Park — yes, that is the actual name of the park. According to Wikipedia, “The name of the park comes from the Pleistocene megafauna fossils found there.” Apparently mammoths liked to hang out there because of the natural salt lick. Nowadays there are only bison hanging out there.

big bone bison
Squirt was ready to go!

Squirt hike

Although he promptly crapped out once we reached the bison and had to be carried. The old man is not a good hiker anymore (not that he ever really was).

squirt picked up

Bison! They actually do not do anything or move in the slightest. Maybe because it was starting to get uncomfortably hot for April.

big bone lick bison

chihuahua bison

Squirt was overheating a tad.

old hot chihuahua

He was also tired… or bored.

tired chihuahua

squirt car
After hiking back to the car, we drove further down the road until we officially hit the boonies.

welcome to the boonies
Jane’s Saddlebag.

“What is it?” I asked my mom when she suggested we visit. “Is it a town?”

“You’ll have to see,” she said. “There’s no way to describe it.”

When we pulled into the parking lot I knew exactly what she meant — Jane’s Saddlebag cannot be defined with simple words, or even photos. It’s everything that’s wrong and right with Kentucky.

wyatts general store
Upon exiting our vehicle we were met by a friendly big dog whom Squirt had no interest in, and were greeted by the ::whatever Jane’s Saddlebag is::’s creator? founder? owner?’s grandson, who welcomed us and encouraged us to walk around, try some wine at the Whine Shoppe, visit the petting zoo or check out the replica 1700s flat boat. He told us to let him know if we needed anything or had any questions, but I figured “What is this place?” and “Why?…” were too loaded questions for a sunny Saturday afternoon, so we set off to explore whatever-this-is:

janes saddlebag auto

janes saddlebag buildings

big bone chapel

Squirt did not know what to think. Neither did I.

squirt chapel

text if you want to meet him

national sarcasm society

“Hate is never a family value” — surprisingly progressive for the boonies. Right on, Jane’s Saddlebag!

janes saddlebag barn

I neglected to photograph the petting zoo, restaurant and replica flatboat, but that’s Jane’s Saddlebag. I learned “Saddlebag” refers to an old style of house on the property and is unrelated to thunder thighs. I had no idea such a place existed, yet alone within 20 minutes of my parents’ house. calls it “a heritage tourism family destination,” which is probably the best way to describe it. I’ll admit a part of me is a little sad I won’t be in the country for their annual wine festival, as such a place as Jane’s Saddlebag may be best experienced after three glasses of vino.

I’ll just leave this here now:

wanted squirt


wanted squirt zoom


wanted squirt super zoom

Why I decided to get LASIK… and then backed out

9 Apr

homer lasik

I feel like every good LASIK post begins with “I’ve worn glasses since I was ::insert age here::.” I never wore glasses as a child. I used to brag about my perfect vision… until I was in high school and had to squint to read the orange ink on the overhead. Then after about an hour of tearing up at the eye doctor because I was trying to insert a polymer sphere onto my eyeball, then some actual crying because I couldn’t get the polymer sphere to stay on my eyeball, suddenly I saw the world in HD. We immediately went to Burger King so I could marvel at the menu and a Whopper in HD.

Wearing contacts during the day and glasses at night soon became just part of my daily routine. I vaguely remember my eye doctor saying I’d be a good candidate for LASIK once my prescription stabilized, but I tabled that decision for when I became an adult. Flash forward to three months ago. Likely due to a combination of wearing daily contacts for more than one day, wearing too much eye makeup and consistently rubbing and itching, my eyes became very irritated. One day I even had to go without contacts or makeup, and I really hate wearing glasses and really like wearing makeup. That’s when a little voice spoke up in the back of my head — “LASIK?” Maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with the yearly costs of more polymer spheres and the irritation that comes with trying to milk a pricy six-month supply of daily contacts over two years.

So since I’m back in Cincinnati, I made a free consultation appointment at LasikPlus last week. Dr. Marino there has performed more than 81,000 procedures, so I knew I’d be in good hands. I wasn’t really thinking that far in advance, though — my prescription has changed a little bit each year, so I figured the consult would just tell me whether I’d be a good candidate down the road. They performed a variety of tests, then the tech slid a piece of paper in front of me with the final cost of the procedure.

“Should we schedule it for later this week?” He asked. I told him I needed some time to think about it. I knew my mom was off the next week and could drive me to the appointment, but was I really ready to have such a permanent, expensive, life-changing procedure?

“We can just book a date to hold it, you can always call to cancel or change it,” the tech suggested. So I did it. I booked the surgery. My reasoning was that if I was going to have the surgery, I should have it now before I waste any more money on contacts or glasses.

I left my consult bright-eyed (or rather dilated-eyed) and bushy tailed — they said I was a perfect candidate! I was approved for the 12-month, no interest payment plan! In one week I wouldn’t need contacts anymore!

I went home and started doing more research. First I read thorough first-person accounts of the procedure, which made it seem like a piece of cake. And then “LASIK ruined my life” came up, so I went back to “LASIK was the best decision I ever made!” Then I found a story about a guy whose eyes were so dry and painful after LASIK that he eventually committed suicide. I immediately switched tabs to “I wish I had gotten LASIK sooner!” I convinced myself that every botched surgery was because the person wasn’t a “perfect candidate” like me. I read success story after success story, feeling confident in my decision, until I read this sentence by Joe Tye in his “Before You Have Lasik Eye Surgery” guide:

“If you knew there was a one-in-twenty chance that an operation you don’t need except to not have to wear glasses would permanently impair your eyesight and cause you serious and ongoing physical and mental distress — would you take that risk?”

Everyone — LASIK doctors included — tells you to do your research and understand the risks. (Patients must sign a waiver that basically says “I won’t sue, even if you completely ruin my vision.”) Most people who are happy with their LASIK procedures say they weighed the risks and benefits and the benefits won, even if they have to battle dry eyes and nighttime halos for a while. That’s when it finally hit me:

What makes me a perfect candidate for LASIK actually makes me a bad one: my prescription isn’t severe. I didn’t require corrective lenses until I was 13. I can easily read my alarm clock at night without fumbling for my glasses, and if I somehow broke my glasses or lost a contact, I would not die trying to exit a burning building (hopefully). I already see in HD thanks to contacts. I merely wanted LASIK because I thought it might save me money over years of contacts (which is unlikely, as LASIK is pricy and still requires yearly eye exams. Plus I’ll still likely need reading glasses when I hit 40, regardless of LASIK). Most people, even those happy with their surgery, say they suffer from dry eye and need to regularly use eye drops. One of the reasons I was considering the surgery was because I was tired of dry contacts, but it seems I’d merely be trading in popping in contacts once a day to dropping in eye drops several times daily.

In short (although this post has been anything but), LASIK seems to have worked for many people, and probably would have worked for me, but it’s the “what if” that made me eventually cancel my appointment and instead book an appointment with my regular ophthalmologist to try out a new brand of contacts. You only get one pair of eyeballs in your life, and there’s no undoing cutting a flap in your eye (which never fully heals) and lasering off some of your cornea. For some, the thought of waking up with 20/20 vision outweighs any risk, but for me, contacts are just not that bad.

The great American surprise

2 Apr

For the past two weeks I’ve been working on a secret covert mission.

Stephen told me he would be traveling on business for most of April and the end of March.

“Do you want to use my United miles to go back to the US while I’m gone?” he asked.

I didn’t know what to say. While I enjoy my time in my old Kentucky home, I was mentally prepared not to go back for a year — I had only been back in the UK for two months. But then a little voice in the back of my head whispered “Over the Rhine. Live. With the Cincinnati Ballet.” I missed their joint performance in 2011 and it killed me. I could also be back for my mom’s birthday. I could give her tickets to the ballet for her birthday. I could be there for Easter. I could buy more PB2 (yes, this was seriously one of my first thoughts. Powdered peanut butter is ridiculously expensive on Amazon UK). I could have a LASIK consultation (more on that in another post).

I was sold. I booked my ticket less than a week before my travel date, and was struck with a dilemma — how should I tell my mom? Email her my flight with the subject line “Surprise! Happy birthday!” Tell her over Skype? …Or just show up and surprise her?

I knew what I had to do.

I crafted an elaborate back story about my mom’s “birthday gift.” I told her I bought her something online and it would not be ready until after 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 23 (the day before her birthday) and my dad would have to go pick it up. I texted her this information because I am horrible at lying face to face and it already took all I had to contain my secret when we Skyped three days before my intended arrival. I was so excited about my secret plan that I literally had trouble sleeping. I had never attempted a surprise of this magnitude before. I emailed my dad the plan and my flight schedule. He could not have done a better job executing it. Thankfully my flight was on time. My dad told my mom to count to 10 before she came out since he had to “set up” the present in the garage. I hid in the backseat and shouted “Surprise!” when she came out to look at her gift in the trunk. I believe there were tears of joy.

The thrill of the surprise was so great I knew I had to do it again — with my 38-week pregnant best friend. This was her first week off work, so we scheduled a Skype chat for Monday. For a week I had to keep the fact that I was in town a secret — no Instagram, blog or Facebook posts. I even went so far as to not like her statuses too late that would seem unreasonable for being on UK time. On Monday instead of Skyping from London, I downloaded Skype onto my phone, drove to her house and answered her call from her front lawn.

“Are you at home?” I asked her, then immediately rang the doorbell. She didn’t put the two together.

“Someone’s at my door, I think it’s this annoying election lady.” She said. I told her it was OK to answer it.

“No, I’m going to ignore her, she keeps bothering us!” she said.

Uh oh. I rang the doorbell again. And again.

“Maybe you can peak through the curtain to see who it is,” I suggested.

“No, then they’ll see me!” she replied.

Just as I was about to give my presence away, I saw her appear in the window with the biggest smile on her face. (Let me say here that I actually googled “Can surprise induce labor?” before I arrived because this was a genuine concern of mine. Apparently it can’t.)

After the initial shock and “I can’t believe you’re here!” wore off, we went out to lunch and a movie. I was lucky she had the rest of the day free, you never know when you just show up on someone’s doorstep instead of calling them from across the pond. Both of my secret covert missions could not have gone better and so far it’s been a lovely trip back. Here’s hoping the good vibes continue if I decide to have lasers cut open my eyeballs next week.

And now a gratuitous photo of Old Man Squirt:

breakfast butthead buddy

I sent this to my parents while they were at work the other day with the caption “breakfast butthead buddy.” He came into the kitchen still covered in his blanket from his crate so that he could bark at me while I was eating.