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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!

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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.

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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!

green-park-charmander

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.