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A look back on 2017

5 Jan

And just like that, it’s 2018. 2017 really flew by, so I figured I’d pull myself out of this jetlag fog to remember all the things I did last year.

-I became an expert in cholesterol and became obsessed with lowering mine, only to find its genetic and there’s not much I can do
-I got to meet Cherry, my parents’ new Chihuahua-corgi rescue, and promptly fell in love with her (The amount of photos of her butt alone that I have on my phone is probably cause for concern)
-I got to see my Chicago and Milwaukee friends twice
-I ran a 5K race in under 30 minutes and completely wiped out in a 10K race and still finished in under an hour
-I got to see my favorite band Over the Rhine twice, once at their farm and once in Over the Rhine
-I saw Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell the Musical twice from the front row
-I finally visited Greenwich
-Stephen and I had an epic holiday in Prague, Budapest and Tuscany
-We finally visited the Buckingham Palace state rooms
-I road a camel
-I got to meet my best friend’s daughter at the hospital a day after she was born
-I reached level 38 in Pokemon Go and still continue to play every day
-I saw Hamilton in Chicago
-I saw 16 West End shows, smashing previous years’ record of 9
-I became pescetarian in September and kept with it aside from a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving
-We rang in the New Year with new friends and a killer fireworks display in London

I don’t like to make formal New Year’s Resolutions, but there are some things I’d like to focus on in 2018. I’d like to continue my pescetarian diet at least until my next cholesterol test, just to see if it’s making any difference. Though to be honest, I don’t really miss meat that much. I think I’d also like to have another go at a half marathon this year, either the Flying Pig in Cincinnati or the Royal Parks Half in London (if I can manage to secure a ballot spot! Third time’s the charm, right?). On the hobby front, I’d like to pursue calligraphy and lettering more. I got into it a bit last year, but I got some nice pens and paper for my birthday this year that make me want to do it more. They say you should have at least 3 hobbies — one to keep you healthy, one that allows you to be creative, and one that makes you money. At least I’ve got the first two down! (Does writing and editing count as a money-making hobby if it’s your job?)

Here’s to a great 2018 — may I not spend the entirety of it jet lagged! (I’ve been back in London 6 days now and it’s starting to feel like I just might)

doug the pug new year

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Wipeout deja vu

9 Dec

Lately I’ve been entertaining the thought of running another half marathon. Heck, I even let the thought of running a full marathon enter my mind. My hip and knee injuries from the Thanksgiving Day Race have all but healed. I’ve even been keeping up with my running in the treacherous weather. This morning I did what all the running blogs and magazines say to do and laid out my kit the night before. I got dressed the minute I woke up, before I had a chance to talk myself out of it. It was freezing outside — literally, the temperature was in the 20s. Even Pokemon Go warned me that it was extreme weather conditions and I should be careful. But I still ran. I was actually feeling pretty good given the conditions. I ran a decent mile. And then my headphones battery died. And then my fingers started to go numb through my two pairs of gloves.

And then I wiped out.

Again.

corgi tripping.gif

In the very same manner I did in the race, ripping open the very same wound on my knee that was finally getting better. I laid back on the sidewalk and actually screamed out “Really?! Again?!” It didn’t seem possible, but the pain in my knee was very real and all too familiar. I contemplated how long I could lay there before one of my parents’ neighbors would see me. When I finally stood up I noticed the woman across the street getting into her car — did she witness the whole thing? If she did she didn’t seem at all concerned. I thought about shaking it off and running home, but I wasn’t in a race anymore. Instead of an adrenaline rush I was feeling anger and frustration. How did this happen? Does cold weather somehow change my gait? Did I step on a sidewalk crack and mess up my knee instead of my mother’s back? Was it because I was wearing the same shirt and socks I did during the race, and hadn’t worn since? That last one is a bit ridiculous. But I can’t help but wonder what’s going on considering I went a good three years in between running wipeouts, and suddenly I have two within weeks.

I know one thing’s for sure — I need to take some time off from running to let my knee heal (again). I have a lot of work to do before I go to Chicago and Milwaukee next weekend, and I want to be able to focus on spending time with my friends instead of racking up the miles. I’m pretty sure my knee is just skinned and bruised, so hopefully I can get back to running (without falling!) in a week or two.

2017 Thanksgiving Day Race recap

4 Dec

2017 thanksgiving day race.jpgI did not have high expectations for this year’s Thanksgiving Day Race. Thanks to Pokemon Go, I hadn’t trained as hard as previous years. My A goal was a PR, but I would settle for a B goal of finishing in under an hour. And after I did a 2-mile shakeout run the day before to test my new trainers and thermal compression shirt, a C goal of just finishing seemed more attainable. I was used to running on the flat park paths of London in 50-degree weather. The forecast for 9am on race day was 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 C).

In the past we’ve always gotten to the race too early with nothing to do but stand around and shiver, so we left later this year, only to find they really do close the roads at 8am, so it was nearly impossible to find parking. My parents dropped me off near the stadium while they searched for a spot. I had just enough time to queue for the loo (can I say that in America?) before I walked to the start. I was feeling ambitious and lined up with the 9-minute mile crew. I took two puffs of my inhaler and soon we were off.

The problem with the Thanksgiving Day Race (and a lot of other races that aren’t serious marathons) is that no one takes the timing corrals seriously. Immediately after I crossed the starting line I was boxed in by a crew of walkers, only to get around them and encounter slow runners. All my runs on tourist-infested Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus prepared me for this, so I maneuvered around them effortlessly, hopping up on the sidewalk, then down on the road, then back on the sidewalk. I was feeling good. I had my music blasting, my two pairs of gloves were keeping my hands warm, my new thermal compression top was doing its job, and I let myself think that maybe — just maybe — I had a personal best in me after all.

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And then I was on the ground. It happened so suddenly, but at the same time felt like slow motion. I could feel myself falling, but couldn’t do anything to stop it. My right knee and left hip hit the sidewalk hard and my brand new iPhone went flying. (The fact that it didn’t get damaged is a testament to my Speck case!) Runners around me stopped to make sure I was OK. I quickly got up and gave a little kick to make sure my leg wasn’t seriously injured. I was so close to the starting line that I could easily have called it quits and walked back. I decided I would try running for a minute and if it didn’t hurt, I’d continue on. I quickly discovered that a pain-masking adrenaline rush is a very real thing, and I felt faster and stronger than ever. It was also so cold out that it probably had the same effect as icing my knee. So when Britney came through my headphones and told me to “get to work,” I took off, as if the spectacular wipe out never happened.

I ever started to get cocky around mile 3. I opened Pokemon Go and started spinning stops for items as I ran. I even placed a Pokemon in a gym along the course. MapMyRun was telling me my pace was around 9 minutes a mile, which I knew wasn’t right, but I still felt like maybe my shot at a PR wasn’t lost. And then the final bridge came. I didn’t walk it, but it definitely slowed me down. The last mile of a race always seems to go on forever. I sprinted the last bit, but it wasn’t enough. I crossed the finish line in under an hour, but a minute slower than my time from two years ago. Not too shabby considering I wiped out in the first mile and almost didn’t continue.

By the time I met up with my parents and Cherry and collected my swag, the reality of my injuries started to kick in and really hurt. Blood was seeping through my two layers of pants. My hip didn’t begin to hurt until days later, but my knee was extraordinarily bruised and beat up. I spent the rest of the morning icing it while watching the parade. It’s now 11 days later and it’s still bruised and scabbed. I’m quite fortunate that I wasn’t seriously injured and that it only hurts now when Cherry jumps up on me or I forget and slam a cabinet shut with my knee. My hip was really bothering me last week to the point that I almost went to the doctor, but I tried some stretches I read about online and it really made a difference.This whole week I’ve felt 30 going on 70 complaining about my hip and knee pain. Getting old is the worst. I thought running was supposed to keep me young and healthy?

One year later

18 Sep

Exactly a year ago today I ran 13.1 miles. I remember the overwhelming sense of accomplishment I felt immediately after finishing the half marathon, followed quickly by an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, then — after a big meal and a nap — an overwhelming sense of pain. I thought I’d never be able to walk, run or use the toilet pain-free again, and yet eventually the achiness vanished… along with my long distance running motivation.

Yesterday I struggled through our usual 4 miles. Who knew taking two weeks off running and fueling your body with gelato, gnocchi and truffle oil could be detrimental? I foolishly brought my running gear on holiday too, not even realizing that none of our accommodations had gyms. We did manage to rent bikes one day and cycle around the beautiful walls of Lucca, Italy.

lucca bike rental.pngAnd one day we managed to seemingly walk the entirety of Budapest, logging 21,324 steps and 9.3 miles on my Fitbit. But now it’s time to get back on track. The Cincinnati Thanksgiving 10K is just over 2 months away. It’d be nice to get another PR, but realistically it’d just be nice to actually run 6 miles again without stopping.

Though as I reflect on my experience training for and running the Richmond Half, I wonder if I have another one in me. Should I keep trying to get into the Royal Parks Half, or sign up for a different one in England… or Cincinnati. And even crazier — if I miraculously am allotted a spot in the full London marathon, should I give it a go? For the moment I should probably focus on acing that 10K and running a mile without stopping, wheezing or catching a Pokemon. But the race bug really is contagious!

The thrill (and pain) of the 5K

29 May

Man, I forgot how exhilarating, exhausting, exciting and painful running a race is. I haven’t run a single race since the half marathon last September, and since Pokemon Go came out my runs have been focused on hatching eggs and catching them all, not piling on in the miles and increasing speed. But since my phone gets horrible reception in the US, these past few weeks have been a good time for me to work on running fast again.

The 5K is a weird race. It’s easy to brush it off as “only 3 miles” when you’re used to marathons and halfs. But to really race it properly, you have to go hard the entire time. As a recent article in Runner’s World put it: “If you reach the halfway point of a 5K race feeling calm, comfortable, and confident that you can maintain your pace to the finish line, you’re doing it wrong.”

That’s the mindset I went into this morning’s 5K race with: go out too fast, power through the [minor] hills, then hang on for dear life. I made a killer playlist that (ambitiously) was only 28 minutes long. It was a beautiful day for a barbecue, but for a run it was a scorcher. The sun was beating down the entire time and the course only had one small stretch of shade right before the finish. As expected, I went out too fast, was huffing and puffing on the “rolling hills,” but I never stopped to walk. The Runner’s World article stressed the importance of motivational self-talk during a 5K, so I tried different approaches: “Remember that time you ran 13.1 miles without stopping? You’ve got this last mile in the bag!” “The quicker you finish, the quicker you can see Cherry at the finish line and get out of the sun!” “The top 50 female finishers get an award!”

That last one seemed like a long shot — there were certainly a lot of people ahead of me, but were most of them men? I definitely saw only men pass me on the bridge out and back part. So I powered through. I kicked it into high gear during the last half mile. Sunscreen-laced sweat was pouring into my eyes behind my sunglasses and there was a brief moment I thought I might be sick. But then I remembered the final tip from that article:

“If you’re chasing a PR, you should seriously wonder whether you’ll make it to the finish.”

I full out sprinted when I saw the finish line in sight, passing two of the girls who were ahead of me the entire time. At the finish line they had separate men and women crossing points, and when I crossed a volunteer handed me a medal. I was feeling weak, a bit delirious, and like I had just ran way more than 3.1 miles, and I just assumed it was a generic finisher’s medal. But then the girl who finished right behind me got my attention.

“Is this for finishing in the top 50 women?” she asked, holding up her medal. It didn’t even dawn on me that that was why they had a separate female finish line point.

“I don’t know, that’d be great if it was!” I replied.

I put the thought out of my mind, collected all my food swag and found my parents and Cherry. I felt weird — more exhausted than I’d been in a while, short of breath, but also really excited. Even if I didn’t get an official award, I got an official PR. I was absolutely miserable during that last mile, and yet the minute I finished, I was already wondering when I could do another race. I guess the runner’s high is real and runners really are crazy.

And the proverbial cherry on top of it all? I checked the results online and I really did finish in the top 50 women! If I had run 30 seconds slower I would not have made it in.

corgi running gif.gif

Running and Pokemon updates

17 Feb

Just for kicks, I threw my name into the proverbial hat again for a spot in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October. Last year I was really counting on it and was gutted when I didn’t get a spot. This year I’m not even sure I want to run another half. And it turns out I won’t be, because once again I was not allotted a spot. Alas. I do feel like I need to work towards some running goal besides catching Pokemon. A half marathon is a big undertaking though, so I think I’ll just work on improving my 5K time. There’s a race in Kentucky I’m hoping I can do in May. If I hadn’t aged up into the next group I may have had a chance at a top 3 age group award, but those darn 30- to 39-year-old Kentucky women are fast! …I’m talking like I can actually run 5K quickly now, I’m not even sure I could do it without stopping. I haven’t in awhile. It’s been cold out, but mostly I’ve been lazy. Now that I have some goal to work towards, that should change. Then again, they just added 80 new Pokemon to Pokemon Go yesterday, so we’ll see how that goes.

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Speaking of Pokemon, yes, I’m a 30-year-old who’s still playing. The other day there was an AskReddit thread about trends that died out as quickly as they started and Pokemon Go was one of the top answers. But everyone reminisced fondly of the first few weeks it was out when everyone was out and about exploring their neighborhoods and interacting with people of all ages and backgrounds towards a common goal. I experienced a bit of that hanging out with my brother and our cousins in July. But I never really felt it in London… until the other day. I was battling at the Buckingham Palace Pokemon Gym, surely photobombing countless tourist photos, when I heard a little voice pipe up behind me, “Whoa, she’s got a Jolteon!” Jolteon isn’t even a good Pokemon, I’m not even sure why I was using him. The little boy had climbed on the statue behind me to get a bird’s eye view of my iPhone screen. His friends quickly joined him. When I went back to the main Pokemon screen and they saw my army of Gyrados, their minds were blown. “Oh my god, she has 6 Gyrados! 6! She must be really good!” They were talking about me as if I couldn’t hear them, maybe because I was wearing headphones. I turned and smiled at them, then jogged off victorious. I probably should have stayed to chat, but I’m already a fully grown woman who battles animated monsters, I don’t need to be the stranger who talks to little kids about them. Still, it was nice to hear someone appreciates my collection!

Cold running and power struggles

26 Jan

Can you get frostbite through gloves? I genuinely wondered this during my run this morning. It was just above freezing, but it was certainly the coldest it’s been in London all year. I’ve definitely run in colder weather — like my first two Thanksgiving Day Races in Cincinnati — but I’m not sure running in extreme weather is ever something you get used to. I also think the body is quick to forget how miserable extreme temperatures are. Facebook memories recently showed a photo I took of myself bundled up, ready to walk to work in the -30 windchill. Good thing I wasn’t a runner back then!

perfect texture for running.gif

running snow fall.gif

I only made it 3 miles before I had to call it quits and come home to warm up. I plugged my phone in so it could charge a little while I showered, but the charging icon didn’t come on. I flipped the outlet switch, but nothing happened. Then I noticed my computer wasn’t charging. And the lamp wouldn’t turn on. And …oh crap we lost power.

Back when we frequently had our water turned off at our old flat, I liked to play a little “would you rather” with myself — would you rather be without power or water? Now that I’ve experienced both, I’d definitely say water. Being without water is inconvenient — you can’t shower, flush the toilet or fill up the Brita pitcher, but as I realized this afternoon, without power I can’t do anything. I couldn’t shower because it was dark in the bathroom. I thought I’d eat first, but realized I couldn’t make my traditional lunch of a smoothie and warm Quest bar because the blender and microwave wouldn’t work. I thought maybe I’d do some work since my laptop was fully charged, but then I remembered the Internet requires power. So I just sat there and stretched while listening to podcasts on my phone, nervous that it was already at 40% battery. The porter assured me the power would be back in a half hour, and it was the longest half hour ever. I couldn’t stand being in my sweaty running clothes anymore, so I took a shower in the dark with the door slightly ajar. Thankfully right after I caved and ate my Quest bar at room temperature, the power came back. I never really realized how reliant my entire day is on electricity and how grossly unprepared I am for a disaster. We really should invest in a flashlight (or torch as they call them here) that’s not connected to an iPhone.