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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!

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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.

Why you shouldn’t text and run

18 Jan

I pride myself on my ability to multitask while on the move. Every day I play Songpop while walking around getting Fitbit steps and am constantly flinging Pokeballs while running. But as I was walking around playing Songpop after dinner tonight, I realized my knees were hurting a little. And then I remembered what happened this morning.

Every driver thinks they can text and drive — until they get into an accident. I thought I could text and run. Until today. I was running along the Thames, having just caught a rare Lapras in Victoria Embankment Gardens, and was heading up to Green Park where another Lapras had spawned. I don’t normally run south on Victoria Embankment, though I obviously knew what direction I was going. So when I got a text from Stephen, I didn’t look up before replying — I could sense there were no people in front of me, just a guy running right behind me. However, I could not see that there was a bridge support column right in my path, and so I ran into it. Literally. At 6 miles an hour.
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Luckily I hit the lower part of the column pictured below, so I bent at the waist and only my knees crashed into the concrete.
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The whole experience was so completely disorienting and shocking that all I could do was laugh. I’m dying to know what the guy running right behind me was thinking. Probably “Stupid kids and their phones! I bet she was playing Pokemon!” (For the record I was, but not at that instant.) My knees hurt initially, but not enough to make me call it quits and walk home (I had another Lapras to catch, after all!). I’m really lucky I was not seriously injured. There’s a lesson to be learned here — probably “don’t text or play Pokemon while running and always stay aware of your surroundings,” but I’ll just stick with “only text and play Pokemon while running if you’re absolutely sure there are no obstacles ahead.” (Baby steps!)

Charmander mania in Green Park

25 Oct

Remember Pokemon Go, that augmented reality mobile game everyone was really into 3 months ago? It seems the majority of PokeTrainers have thrown in the towel, but I am still into Pokemon Go — like really, really into it, to an almost embarrassing extent. Stephen came home from work the other day and asked me why I was so happy.

“There’s been a nest migration,” I told him. “Green Park is teeming with Charmanders. I can’t wait to go tomorrow!”

He laughed. “I wish I had something that made me as happy as Pokemon Go makes you,” he said. Yes, it is embarrassing that I am a grown woman running around catching imaginary monsters on her phone, but it makes me happy. And I think Stephen secretly likes the game too. He downloaded it when it first came out, but never got into it. Now every night he asks me to see my Pokemon and asks me how many more candies I need to get a Charizard and Dragonite. Perhaps he’s just being nice and acting interested in my interests, but even if that’s the case, that’s nice too.

This past weekend we went to lunch in Soho, then walked up to Tottenham Court Road to go sofa shopping. When we left the store I asked how we were getting home.

“We can walk a little bit,” he said. “You have to get more Charmanders, right?” So we walked all the way from Oxford Street through St. James Park to Green Park. To those of you who don’t know London, that’s about 3 miles of walking (after we had already walked a mile to the furniture store and ran 4 miles in the morning). As we got closer to Green Park, I opened up Go Radar for the first time. For over 3 months now I have been playing Pokemon Go without the help of any trackers or radars — it felt like cheating and I heard you could get banned for using some of them. But then I was in Jubilee Gardens the other day and a wild Snorlax appeared (a very, very rare, very, very good Pokemon), but it disappeared before I got a chance to click on it. I couldn’t let that happen again. I also need to up my roster if I’m going to have a chance in the Pokemon gym scene. So I downloaded the radar app, which tells you where and when certain Pokemon spawn, but it only seems to work in a very small area of London, so I don’t feel too bad about cheating since most of the time I’m still playing the game blind. The radar app told me there were 5 Charmander in Green Park. Even Stephen got a little excited when I caught the first one. But after 20 minutes of chasing little red dinosaurs up and down the park, he was done. I caught 7 Charmanders before we made our way to the bus stop.

“Next time you’re coming by yourself,” Stephen said.

And so I did. This afternoon I ran to Green Park again, because it’s not a childish waste of your time if you’re getting exercise whilst doing it, right? And just as the park was teeming with Charmanders, it was teeming with Pokemon Go players of all ages. I saw everyone from parents playing with their children to businessmen on their lunch break. It was the most crowded I’ve seen Green Park, the wimpiest of the Royal Parks, in years. This Charmander nest is bringing in people from all over the UK and getting everyone out and active. Well done, whoever is in charge of Pokemon nest migration!

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I ran around the park for a half hour until I caught 14 Charmander and had enough candy to evolve one into a Charizard. Starting tomorrow, Pokemon Go is having a Halloween promotion where you get extra candy for every Pokemon you catch or hatch. That probably doesn’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t play (in fact if you don’t play, I’m impressed you made it this far in this post), but it’s a really big deal. If Green Park was crowded today, I can’t imagine what it’ll be like tomorrow. I guess I’ll just have to see, because of course I’m going to have to go back, there’s no such thing as too many Charmanders!

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(Remember Pokemon Snap?)

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The Fitbit superglue conundrum

10 Oct

The other day my Fitbit Charge HR fell to bits. It’s been hanging on by a thread for the past few months, but it finally said “enough!” when I tried to plug it in to charge it.

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I had planned to spend the afternoon working and was feeling particularly productive. But when I could not charge my Fitbit nor press the side button because it had fallen off, everything else took a backseat. One of my previous Fitbits had fallen apart before and I was able to salvage it with superglue. I rummaged through my cabinets, only to find the superglue had dried up. I switched my sweatpants for jeans and hurried next door to the little overpriced hardware store that had somehow replaced the always-crowded laundromat where I used to wash my duvet. I even took the lift down instead of the stairs, because why take the stairs and get exercise when your Fitbit isn’t counting it? I still swung my arm on the walk there out of habit though. Overpriced superglue in hand, I went back to finish my mission. I carefully practiced how I would place the tiny bits of plastic, then applied the glue. Mindful not to superglue my fingers together or to the plastic, I held the pieces in place for a few seconds. Success! I thought. I still need to buy a new Fitbit, but I could wait another month and have my parents bring me one from the US.

I placed my Charge HR back on my wrist, ready to get back to work, only to remember I got into this whole debacle because it needed to be charged. So I went back to my computer and tried to plug it in. The charging cable would not connect.

I had filled the charging hole with superglue.

I googled “how to remove superglue,” which was a purple link because I had obviously searched this before. The answer was acetone. So I got out my nail polish remover, some cotton buds, and a needle and frantically started scraping at the hole. Slowly bits of glue came off, but no matter how much I scraped, I couldn’t get the cable to connect. I had fixed my Fitbit, but it would only work for another day or so on low battery. After more time than I’d like to admit, I was able to get the cable to connect, but it would only charge if I held it in with both hands.

The next thing I googled: “Where to buy Charge 2 UK.”

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Fitbit Charge HR on the left, Fitbit Charge 2 on the right

The only thing good that came out of this time-wasting situation is that I got the cool new Fitbit Charge 2 the next day, and thanks to the falling value of the pound, I paid about the same as I would if I bought it in the US.

And I learned never to underestimate the watery nature of superglue.

Half marathon aftermath

28 Sep

If the shiny new medal and T-shirt didn’t give it away, you could easily tell who just ran the Richmond Marathon or Half by the way they were climbing the Tube stairs. I should have anticipated it, but nobody told me just how much running a half HURTS. Not so much during — I’m actually surprised by my lack of blisters — but after. Oh, after. It didn’t really hit me until after I got home, took a shower, went to Chinatown to stuff my face with dim sum, then came back and took a nap. When I woke up from that nap I couldn’t move. Everything hurt. It hurt to stand up, to walk, to sit on the toilet, to bend my knees, to straighten them.

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“My knees hurt so bad,” I remember some girl saying right after the race. “Oh my god, is this what it feels like to be old?” If that’s true, I am not looking forward to it one bit. Stephen couldn’t help but laugh at the way I was hobbling around.

“I can’t even complain,” I said. “I totally did this to myself.”

The best way I can describe the pain is jetlag mixed with the flu — the kind of flu where your whole body just aches. I felt tired and exhausted, but not sleepy. I just laid in bed staring into space. I didn’t have the energy to work or even to browse Facebook on my phone. It took everything I had just to put frozen chicken wings into the oven for dinner. And about that — I’m realizing now that I probably should have taken post-run nutrition a little more seriously. I went the “I just burned 1,200 calories and am gonna eat all the bad things!” route instead of “I’m going to fill my body up with goods things to help it heal.” The dim sum, chicken wings, and cake could have been another reason I felt like crap. Eventually I was able to pass out and after 9 hours of sleep I felt much better. I was still sore, but it was a functioning sore. I definitely took the bus to my hair appointment instead of walking 2 miles though.

We went to China a couple days later, because there’s nothing better for sore knees than cramming them in an economy plane seat for 12 hours. Though I was feeling better by then. We were only there for a few days for a friend’s wedding. It’s funny that pre-race me was debating whether I wanted to bring my running gear on the trip. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d be too sore to even think about hopping on a treadmill! Today was my first day back running after 9 days off. I took it slow with lots of walking and Pokemon breaks, but it felt good. Though it’s nice to have a goal you’re training towards, it’s also nice just to run for the sake of running (and hatching Pokemon eggs, of course).

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Richmond Runfest Richmond Half Marathon recap

19 Sep

I stood by the baggage drop van taking last minute puffs of my inhaler.

“Um, are you OK to run 13 miles?” The nice lady manning the van asked me, genuine concern in her voice.

“Yeah, of course,” I replied, much more confidently than I felt. I was about to run the Richmond Half through Kew Gardens — my first half marathon.

During my training runs I questioned why I was doing this, but when my alarm went off at 6:30am, I really started to doubt my silly before-I-turn-30 goal. But I suited up, downed my overnight oats, and hopped on the tube to Richmond. The train was filled with other runners boasting their half or 10K bibs. And like true sheeple, when we got off at the Kew Gardens stop, each of thought “I’ll just follow the other runners, they’ll know where they’re going,” and we all started walking in the complete opposite direction of Kew Gardens, despite the fact that we all had GPS on our phones. After a couple blocks the runner in front pulled out the map and realized we were going the wrong way. Just what I wanted to do before running 13.1 miles — walk an extra mile. It was good warm up I guess. I still arrived with plenty of time to use the loo, and then immediately join the queue for the loo again because there was no way I was stopping along the course to use a porta-potty. I dropped off my bag and made my way to the start just as they were calling for my wave. Could not have timed it better.

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We all started in a giant group, which made it hard to pick up speed or pass anyone. We moved as a giant amoeba through the scenic garden.

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Then before I knew it, I was on my own — where had the rest of my amoeba gone?

The thing I love about running is that it can be either a solo or group sport. I was surprised to see more runners running the race by themselves than with groups of friends. Yet there was this subtle “we’re all in this together” spirit in the air as we powered towards the same finish line. At times running can be lonely though. At mile 5 we were back in the woods dodging sticks, rocks and whatever a pothole is called when it’s in the woods. To get the full experience (and because I read they were banned) I ran without headphones, so I only had the jukebox in my head. Which for some inexplicable reason was playing Jim Steinman’s Left in the Dark on repeat. It’s a sad song about an unfaithful lover. It is the furthest thing from a pump up running song. But I went with it. The only thing I had to focus on was not tripping, and even that wasn’t going well — I tried to dodge a rock and almost wiped out, but luckily caught myself without getting injured.

Around mile 5.5 we went through a cheering tunnel, which was encouraging. I felt ready to sprint towards the finish. But then I realized the cheering was meant for those doubling back on mile 11.5. There were people already 6 miles ahead of me. I still had 7.5 miles to go. I ate a Jelly Baby and buckled down for the long haul.

I always assumed I would walk a portion of the race. Besides my 10K race last November, I never run non-stop. There are always stoplights and stop signs along my routes, and even when I’m only doing 4 miles, I often have to take a walking break just to blow my nose and catch my breath (and most recently, catch a Pokemon). So it was just a matter of when my walking break would be. Around mile 7 my knee started to hurt. Just make it to mile 8, I told myself. That’s a respectable, even number. You can say you ran 8 miles non-stop. But then at mile 8 I ate a Jelly Baby and didn’t feel a desire to stop. So I pushed on. Slowly, mind you, but at a pace faster than walking. “You only have 5K left!” I told myself, then quickly realized it was 5 miles, not 5K (3 miles). Bollocks. Cue more Left in the Dark.

At mile 9 something weird came over me. I expected to be feeling like death, alternating a minute of walking with a minute of running. But instead this inner voice piped up: “What if you did it? What if you actually ran this entire half marathon? You only have 4 miles left. That’s a literal walk (run) in the park.” So I ran, getting a little boost each time I passed a runner who had thrown in the towel and started walking.

At mile 10 I decided to reward myself. Since I had made it 10 whole miles without a walking break, I opened up Pokemon Go and hatched my 10K egg (which was at 9.1K so I only had to run 0.9K). (I got a Pinsir in case you were wondering. I did not have him. It made me momentarily happy, which is what I hoped it would do). At mile 11.5 I ran through the cheering tunnel again and got a boost from all the charity volunteers. I was actually doing this! I was running — RUNNING — a half marathon! And I only had 2 miles left! At mile 12 volunteers rang bells and cheered us on. “One more mile!” They shouted. I spotted a photographer and gave him a thumbs up — thumbs up at mile 12. Who am I?

And then I remembered what I overheard a runner say around mile 10: “I hate the finish line of this race. You get into the park and everyone’s cheering and then you think you’re done, but they make you weave around.”

She was right. I was hurting, sure, but I had this fire inside me and was ready to finish. I ran into the park, high-fiving the crowds of supporters. I was on cloud nine! I could see the finish line! I looked at MapMyRun and saw my time — 2 hours and 10 minutes. I said I didn’t have a goal for this half aside from finishing, but my farfetched goal was 2:15. I couldn’t believe there was a chance I could attain that. I just had to go 100m, turn right, and sprint towards the finish. …but then I realized there was a sign after that 100m. “Half Marathon turn left, 10K turn right.” Turning right took you right to the finish. Turning left took you alllll around the park. I wanted to cry. I suddenly was emotionally and physically drained. It was the longest half mile of my life. Every runner around me was either walking or making “I want to die” huffing noises. There were no supporters around us — just grass, barriers and runners running out of gas.

I want to say I powered through, dug deep, gave an inspirational speech to those around me, and shot towards the finish. But I feel like I need to be honest with you, dear readers. I walked. Only for about 10 seconds, just to blow my nose, but at mile 12.8 of my first half marathon I took my first walking break. “You don’t get near the finish line and stop!” Jillian Michaels used to scream at me while I did her exercise DVDs. Well, apparently I do.

But this part happened for real — when I rounded the bend and saw the finish line straight ahead, I dug deep. I sprinted like it was a 200m race. I like to think the other runners plodding along gazed on in amazement as I shot past them. And then, like a scene from a cheesy movie, I actually threw my arms up in the air and crossed the finish line in that pose, victorious. (I can’t wait to see the photo, though I doubt it’s as magnificent as it is in my head). A volunteer handed me a medal, I put it on and held it up proudly for the photographer, and then my eyes started to water as the mental and physical exhaustion started to hit me. I ran a half marathon. And I actually RAN it, aside from that tiny infraction close to the finish line that we won’t talk about. My time ended up being 2:16 — 1 minute from my goal. By no means fast, but a solid first effort.

When I texted my runner friend the news she asked me if I was ready for a full now. As I write this Jim Steinman’s What Part of My Body Hurts the Most is playing in my head, so the thought of putting my body through 26.2 miles seems insane. I think I’d rather focus on improving my 5K, 10K and (maybe) half times. But then again, when I finished my first 10K race I thought there was no way I could run twice that distance, so in the words of (ugh) Justin Bieber — never say never.