Archive | February, 2016

Happy February 29th!

29 Feb

I don’t get to write the date that much as an adult, at least not as much as I did as a student. Back then leap year was a big deal. Nowadays I’m just excited I get to date my freelancing invoice 2-29-16. And also blog so I can say I posted on leap day.

So far the most exciting thing that happened to me today is that I got a free frozen pizza at Iceland. I then had to eat it for lunch immediately because it wouldn’t fit in my tiny British freezer. I also had to eat the entire pizza myself because … well, I lack self control. No leftover pizza means I can eat clean and healthy tomorrow, right? Except I also bought this:

creme egg mug

All this time in London and I’ve never bought a proper Easter egg. This one was on sale and I wanted the mug (and of course, the chocolate).

creme egg mug egg.JPG

Here’s to making the most of this extra day, even if that just means eating pizza and chocolate.

pug excited pizza

(This is not my pug, I found this photo on Reddit. If I did have a pizza-loving pug, you would definitely know about it in every single post)

You can’t trust theatre reviews, hand to god

24 Feb

I should know by now to take theatre (and movie) reviews with a grain of salt. A few weeks ago I saw Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming because it got rave reviews and the description sounded interesting. I went home in a funk and didn’t even understand half of it. And then I realized all the shows I haven’t LOVED in London have a common theme: Harold Pinter. First Old Times, then The Homecoming. Then it occurred to me that my high school junior drama class performed a series of short plays that didn’t make sense to half of us, all written by, you guessed it, Harold Pinter. Am I allowed to call myself a theatre fan and not enjoy Pinter?

hand to god london

You know what I do enjoy though? Foul-mouthed puppets. And that’s what I saw today in Hand to God. It was described as Avenue Q meets The Book Of Mormon, two shows I adored, so I was all in. The New York Times called it “Kinda Sesame St meets The Exorcist” which was true. It’s the story of a Lutheran puppet ministry that goes south when one of the boy’s hand puppets appears to be possessed by the devil. It was certainly raunchy and scandalous, but it was also laugh-out-loud funny (in the literal sense. I laughed out loud multiple times, which I rarely do at the theatre). Naturally it got panned by critics, which may explain how I was able to get such a good seat for such a good price. It’s a shame, but I can’t really complain too much.

If only I had seen it in NYC, where Bob Saget played Pastor Greg. I saw Bob Saget’s stand up show in college and it was so raunchy my first guess was that Saget would somehow be playing the possessed puppet. Though I distinctly remember someone waiting in line for the Saget show all those years ago shouting “Bob Saget is God!” so maybe playing the pastor isn’t too far off.

My first real long run

16 Feb

Today I ran 7.3 miles. Seven! That’s almost 12 km. Until today the longest I’d ever run was 10K (6.2 miles). I want to say I did it because I’m following a strict half marathon training plan, but I’m not. If I do sign up for the half it isn’t until September and most training plans are only 10 or 12 weeks. I did it because it was a beautiful sunny day (a balmy 43F/6C degrees), I ate way too much cake and chocolate over the past few days, but mostly because I wanted to see if I could. And I did! Not only that, but I did it well — though my legs were getting a bit tired by the end, part of me wanted to go longer. I even ended up with negative splits! (Translation: I ran the last few miles faster than the first few). It was such a refreshing feeling, especially after my disaster of a run last week.

I think part of what got me going was the new route. I ran through Hyde Park down to Green Park and Buckingham Palace then through St. James Park. The change of scenery was nice, though it seems every other Londoner and tourist was out and about enjoying the weather too, so I had to do a lot of weaving and dodging. I did manage to see the famous St. James Park pelicans, though none of them were eating a pigeon.

st james pelicans.png

Then I stopped to take a photo of Buckingham Palace to prove I was there, but the combination of the glaring sun, my tinted sunglasses and gloved fingers gave me this:

blurry buckingham palace.png

I didn’t even realize it was blurry until I got home. I snapped 5 photos and this was the only halfway decent one.

buckingham palace.png

We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, but right now I feel good. I did fall asleep for 20 minutes while working with my laptop on my lap this afternoon, so I guess I was a bit exhausted, then later on I wanted to eat ALL THE THINGS, but hopefully my hips and legs will not be too sore tomorrow and I can make long runs a regular thing.

Hitting the wall at mile 2

10 Feb

Yesterday I got a notice that they would be turning the water off in our building from 10am to 2pm. At least they gave us advance notice this time — a few weeks ago I found out the water was out only when my washing machine gave an error message halfway through the cycle. For most people who work in an office building, like Stephen, having the water turned off for 4 hours during the day has no effect whatsoever (aside from that sudden surge of water that comes out that never fails to scare the crap out of you even when you’re anticipating it). But for someone like me who works from home and usually takes a post-run shower around 1pm, it’s a huge nuisance. But since I knew it was coming, I could plan for it. I filled my Brita pitcher up to the top at 9:30am and decided I would do my usual morning routine of breakfast, work, run, I’d just have to push the run back a little bit so I’d return home after 2 to shower. This seemed feasible. But at around 12:30 I started getting really hungry. I ate a Belvita breakfast biscuit but it didn’t help much. I didn’t want to eat too much and be weighed down on my run, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would be starving come 2pm.

I’ve heard many times by many runners that running is mostly mental. Sure, your legs, feet and lungs can hurt, but it’s your mind that can really hold you back. After today I can attest that this is 100% true. When I left my flat I told myself I would do 5 miles — I’m slowly trying to up my weekly and daily mileage and the 5 miles I ran yesterday went well. I had a course in mind and an audiobook playing through my headphones, but there was a voice in my head that couldn’t be silenced: “You’re gonna be hungry. Are you hungry yet? You ate breakfast awhile ago. There’s no way you have enough energy to do 5 miles. Are you feeling tired yet?” After mile 2 I gave in and listened to it. Suddenly I felt completely drained, exhausted and hungry. The voice was right — there was no way I could do 5 miles. Unfortunately I was still 2 miles away from my flat. I trudged along doing a run-walk mix, walking because I was tired, running because it meant I could get home to food faster. The cold wind whipped through my Thanksgiving Day Race shirt and I almost felt embarrassed to be wearing it — people who run 10K in under an hour don’t hit the wall after 2 miles.

baby panda falling

Except of course they do. Every runner has bad runs, caused by everything from the weather to diet to their own state of mind. I’m guessing what separates the good runners is how much they dwell on their bad runs. As Alexander would say, some runs are like that, even in Australia (or a sunny day in London).

As soon as I made it home I made a beeline for the bag of mixed nuts I was saving for our Valentine’s Day chocolate fountain. The mix of salt, fat and protein really hit the spot, even if my insatiable hunger was half mental. To be honest, a bad run like that questions my ability to ever run 13.1, but I just have to remember to shake it off. (And take tomorrow as a rest day since the water will be off again).

Speaking of 13.1, I haven’t quite bitten the bullet yet and registered, but I’m considering the Richmond Half Marathon in September. It’s a bit further from me than Hyde Park, but running through Kew Gardens and Old Deer Park would be pretty awesome. Now I just gotta work on my mental (and miles) game…

helpless baby panda.gif

Running spitting etiquette

8 Feb

no spitting signOn Sunday Stephen and I were doing our usual morning run. We were stopped at a light when an old British woman approached us and said, “Young lady, do you think we appreciate you spitting on our pavement? Don’t you have a handkerchief you could use?” I just stared back at her. I was expecting her to ask me the time or the location of the nearest bus stop, not to chastise me for spitting.

I will admit spitting is gross. I would never do it while out and about in regular clothes. But when running it’s often one of those gross necessities, like snot rockets. (Oh, if only she had seen me do that…) I quickly muttered “next time,” as if I was seriously going to carry a spit collection cup on my next run, and jogged on. Part of me wishes I had told her to jog on (British for “go away,” used as expression of anger or irritation).

Stephen told me not to let it bother me, and I tried not to, but as we jogged on I couldn’t help but think of cheeky replies, from the downright mean to the practical. Of all the things people do to desecrate the pavement — like throw down cigarette buts and gum and let their dogs leave landmines, at least my spit was washed away by the rain today. That old lady would have a field day in China, where not only is someone spitting every 5 seconds, but it’s accompanied by a wretched deep hacking sound.

A quick google search told me that almost all runners feel the need to spit, and it’s perfectly OK as long as you mind your trajectory and don’t hit another person. That same search also pulled up that spitting used to be seriously monitored and prohibited in Westminster because it spread TB. *The more you know* So maybe crotchety old lady was just concerned about my health and the health of those around her.

…Or she’s just a crotchety old lady who has nothing better to do than nitpick. In that case she can jog on.

The great half marathon conundrum

5 Feb

Sometime last year a friend and I were talking about a very specific kind of “bucket list” — things we wanted to do before we turned 30.

My friend, who has run half marathons in the past and had a baby in 2014, said she’d like to be done having kids by the time she turns 30. I never really thought much about my before 30 to-do list, but just then it was out of my mouth before I could take it back: “I’d like to run a half marathon.”

I started running in May 2013 with the couch to 5K program. Since then I’ve run two 5K and 3 10K races and got under my goal 10K time, but for the most part I’ve been stuck in a run 3-5 miles 3-5 times a week rut. A half marathon seemed like the perfect goal to work towards. And since London and the Royal Parks have played such a big part in my running journey, I decided the London Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon would be the perfect first half for me.

I knew training for a half marathon would be hard. I knew running for 13.1 miles would be hard. But I didn’t expect securing a spot in the race to be the hardest part.

I went to the website a few months ago to do some preliminary research and see when registration opened. I thought the course through central London and the royal parks looked amazing — and apparently 100,000some other runners thought so too. It turns out the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon is so popular that there is a public ballot to secure a place. A metric crap-ton of runners enter and only 16,000 are chosen. I entered the ballot last week and crossed my fingers.

royal parks half ballot.png

I tried to keep my hopes up — 16,000 is a lot of spots, surely one of them could be mine! — but the more I browsed the half’s official Facebook page, the more I lost hope. People have entered every single year and never won a spot.

At 11:34am today I received an email titled “The Results Are In.” The fact that it didn’t say “Congratulations!” made it feel like a small envelope from a prospective university.
Sure enough, I was right.

royal parks half ballot email.png

I was gutted. This was supposed to be my grand plan for 2016, and just like that it vanished.

The email assured me that charity spots were still up for grabs, so I went to check them out. Maybe I could run for a breast cancer charity in celebration of my mom being cancer-free for 10 years. Or I could join WWF’s Team Panda (!!) which comes with this kit:

wwf half marathon kit.png

There’s just one little issue with claiming a charity spot: it comes at a cost. A big one. You must raise £400. I really, really hate asking my friends and family for money. I get flashbacks to slinging Girl Scout cookies, magazines and wrapping paper as a kid. I spent days canvassing the neighborhood and harassing distant relatives, but in the end my only customers were usually my parents and grandparents. I hate bugging people for money so much that I’d probably just put up all the money myself, which is equivalent to $579 at the current exchange rate. As my cursor hovered around “Get a WWF place,” it hit me — what are you doing?! Are you really going to spend (or beg your friends and family for) $600 so you can fulfill some stupid before-I-turn-30 dream?

If I want to run 13.1 miles before I turn 30, there’s nothing stopping me (well, aside from my exercise-induced asthma and general out-of-shapeness). Doing it on an official course with cheering crowds and a medal at the end would be nice, but it’s definitely not worth £400 (even if that £400 goes to a good cause).

Maybe I’ll try the ballot again next year or time a visit to Cincinnati around one of their half marathons, like the Flying Pig. But until then I guess I’ll save my money and keep hitting the pavement, slowing working my way up to a long run of 13.1.