Tag Archives: expat

Getting back in the saddle, then wiping out

25 May

After nearly a month off from running, I finally decided it was time to get back out there on April 29. I took it slow, which was easy to do, because after a month off, my body had nearly forgotten how to run. It wasn’t my foot that was bothering me, it was everything else — my lungs, my heart, my calves. It was frustrating not being able to just jump back in to the fitness level I was at post-half marathon. Cherry was certainly happy to have me back in my running shoes, and took me for a few celebratory laps around our neighbor’s yard. She had a serious case of the zoomies and was absolutely loving it! I’d never seen her so happy.

cherry running.png

As my parents talked to their neighbor, I chased Cherry around the yard. She zoomed from one end to the other, then made a sharp turn towards the backyard. I kept up with her, but didn’t anticipate the dip in the grass, and suddenly I was on the ground. I had completely wiped out right in front of my parents and the neighbor. I wish I could tell you Cherry sensed something was wrong and came to my rescue, but in reality she took one look at me, then took off running again. Thanks, pup. Thankfully because I fell on grass instead of pavement, I came out unscathed save for some grass stains on my jeans. It was hard not to take it as a omen that I shouldn’t be running yet, though!

grass stain.png

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That was nearly a month ago and I’ve been slowly building my speed back up. Because of the heat I haven’t run farther than 5 miles, but I’ve been focusing on running 5K. I know I have zero chance of breaking 25 minutes at the Hunger Walk 5K on Monday like I had originally dreamed, but that’s a goal I can continue to work towards. For now I’d be happy if I finished in the top 50 women again and got a medal… and if it weren’t oppressively hot or raining. Here’s hoping!

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Rest

26 Apr

Since the Palace Half, I’ve been feeling this weird mix of post-race blues and euphoria. I was so happy that I was able to finish the race, but there was a part of me that felt like I could have gone harder and done better if I had only been in the right coral. And not gotten the flu. Not two days after the race I was already in “what’s next” mode, searching for another race to run. I wanted another goal to work towards. For months I worked on running farther, but now I want to run faster. I want a 25-minute 5K. Not even sub-25, just 25-something. I let my running fitness slide after my first half, and I was determined not to let this happen this time around. I continued to do a weekly long run of 6-8 miles and started doing speed work on the treadmill. My goal was to run a local 5K near my parents’ house on April 27th, as well as the Hunger Walk 5K on Memorial Day. Everything was going to plan, until I noticed some pain on the top of my foot during my long run on the treadmill on April 2. I chalked it up to my shoes getting old and maybe too tight, but the pain was enough for me to stop after 6 miles instead of going for 8. Then next day I took a day off from running, hoping whatever was wrong with my foot would heal. It didn’t. But I continued to walk and run like nothing was wrong. I had a cholesterol test scheduled for April 10, so I mentioned my foot pain to my doctor then. I told him it was likely caused by kicking the edge of the desk with the back of my foot while attempting to do a plank in a small area, even though hitting the back of my foot didn’t explain why the top of my foot hurt. He sent me for an X-ray just to be safe, and then I walked home 3 miles because I am a Fitbit step addict who doesn’t know how to rest. I kept racking my brain trying to remember what could have caused my injury. It felt like I had dropped something heavy on my foot. And then it hit me.

The plaster ceiling rose.

I pulled up my notes from our ongoing bedroom renovation and the dates confirmed it. We had ordered a giant plaster ceiling rose to hang in the guest room, but since we are only focusing on the master bedroom renovation now, we decided to move the rose onto the balcony to store it for a while. There’s a big step up onto the balcony, so while I was helping to move the rose, I steadied it on my foot, somehow forgetting the thing weighs over 100 lbs. That was on April 1, which explains why I first noticed the pain on April 2. I explained to my doctor what happened and he told me it was likely a soft tissue injury then, since the X-ray showed no stress fracture. And then he told me to rest. He didn’t give me an exact time frame, but I needed to stop running so my foot could properly heal. I was devastated. Happy that my foot wasn’t broken, but upset that a split second stupid decision could have such a debilitating effect.

It was hard not doing something that has become such a core element of my daily life. I kept telling myself that maybe I could still do the April 5K, despite the fact that I haven’t run in over two weeks and should absolutely not go for a PR with a sore foot. I suddenly found myself with more free time now that I wasn’t running, which I used to go shopping and buy more running shoes. I couldn’t wait to get back at it. I decided Thursday, April 25th would be the day I got back out there. And depending on how that run went, I might still register for the 5K.

And then at 3am on Thursday I got the stomach flu. Or maybe it was food poisoning. Or maybe it was my body saying enough is enough to all the candy and junk food I’ve been consuming since I got to the US over a week ago. Whatever it was, it was a wake-up call that I really needed to rest. I’m feeling much better today, but I’m still in no condition to run a race tomorrow. There will always be other races, but we only get one body, so right now my health needs to be the priority.

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Half marathon training update

9 Mar

So my half marathon training was going well. Note my use of the past tense.

But it really was going well. Despite a busy work schedule and hectic bedroom renovation drama, I stuck with my training plan. There was only a handful of times that I questioned why I chose Higdon’s intermediate plan instead of the beginner, but I ticked off every long run, even when it got up to two long runs a week.

I was in week 10 of the 12-week program when I could feel the beginnings of a cold coming on. I had a bit of a cough and itchy eyes. Despite having never had a cough from allergies in the past, I convinced myself it was allergies and that my new pack of allergy pills just weren’t working. Despite not feeling 100%, I still went to the gym for my 11-mile long run. And surprisingly, it was one of my best runs yet! The time flew by (relatively), and I took minimal walking breaks. I felt like I glided home afterward, I was on cloud nine. I wasn’t even sore the next day — I went out and ran 5 miles.

And then it hit me that night. Fever, congestion, chills, cough.

cartman cough.gif

I didn’t have allergies. I had the flu.

I can’t remember the last time I got the flu. I always considered myself low risk since I work from home and lead a healthy lifestyle. I never bothered to get a flu shot or jab. But this one hit me hard. Forget running, I couldn’t even work the day I had it worst. (And I can work from my bed, so that’s really saying something)

It’s been over a week now, so I’m definitely feeling better, but I still have this cough. This all-consuming cough that won’t let me go 5 minutes without reminding me that it’s here. I tried cough syrup for dry coughs. I tried cough syrup for chesty coughs. I tried taking both at the same time. I tried googling “what is the best cough syrup?” only to find out that no cough syrups really work and you just have to give a cough time.

zoolander black lung.gif

Except that’s not really something I have now, time. The half marathon is in 8 days. I already took 8 days off from running. I went for an easy run on the treadmill a couple days ago just to see how I would fare. For the most part I was fine, but the cough was still there. This morning Stephen and I did our usual 4-mile route. I forgot to use my inhaler before I left, so I’m not sure how much of my struggle was from my sports-induced asthma or the cough. I survived though, and it wasn’t as rough as I feared it would be.

I’ve googled every combination of “cough running sick” and found a common theme: runners are crazy. I probably didn’t need to tell you that. I found everything from “running while sick is actually good for you” to “if you run while sick, you will die.” The general rule of thumb is that if your symptoms are above the neck — a runny nose, stuffiness, or sneezing — you can still run, but if they’re below the neck, you should rest. I knew I needed rest when I had a fever and aches, but now I feel fine except for this cough. It’s not one of those deep “oh god, there’s so much mucus, I am definitely sick” cough, but rather one or two productive coughs followed by “hey, we heard we were into coughing now, so let’s make a habit of it and do it every 5 minutes even if there isn’t anything to cough up” coughs. Which worries me because I know my coughing is irritating my airways, which in turn is making me cough more, and I don’t want to be stuck in this vicious cycle.

But now I’m not sure what to do. I’m pretty sure jumping back into my training plan and attempting to tackle a 12 miler would not be wise. But should I continue to try easy runs? Sit out from running completely until this cough is gone, knowing that could be weeks, meaning I’d miss the half? Or just rest until the half and attempt the race after not having run for two+ weeks?

I know I should follow the most common advice I read: listen to your body. Take things one day at a time. I think my plan will be to attempt some easy runs next week and continue to monitor how I feel. I would hate to have done all this training and paid the money and not be able to run the half, but I would hate it even more if I hurt myself attempting it because my body wasn’t up to it. Runners are crazy, but I’m not that crazy!

I caved and joined a gym

23 Jan

I resisted for a while. “Why should I pay to run on a treadmill when running in London’s gorgeous parks is free?” I always thought. But the one thing I didn’t think about when I signed up for a half marathon in March is that my training would take place in January and February, the coldest months of the year. While London’s “cold” is nowhere near Midwest and East Coast America cold, I still didn’t want to do my long runs in 30-degree weather. That, and we are finally starting renovations on the master bedroom next week (something we’ve been talking about for more than 2 years now), and I don’t want to run and shower while the builder is here, and don’t want to run when it’s dark after he leaves.

So I joined a gym.

I chose the gym nearest to me, which also happens to be the cheapest. It’s cheap because it’s no frills — there’s no pool or sauna, there’s not even someone to check you in. When you sign up online they email you a code, and you type that code into a keypad before you enter the glass chamber that permits you entrance to The Gym. That wasn’t a Trumpsque bout of random capitalization syndrome, that’s its actual name — The Gym.

I made my first visit to The Gym yesterday as a bit of a trial run before my 8-mile long run today. I am in week 5 of the Hidgon Half Marathon plan, which means my long run this week needs to be 8 miles. I didn’t want to just hop on a treadmill and bang it out, I wanted to ease myself into treadmill running, so I thought I’d knock off the easy 3-mile run in this week’s plan. I successfully entered The Gym through the almost claustrophobic chamber and immediately hopped on the first treadmill I saw. I didn’t want to be seen wandering with that newbie look in my eyes, I wanted it to seem like I belonged there. I started walking as a warmup and put on my new favorite podcast to run to, My Favorite Murder. It got me through last week’s 7-mile long run, so I figured it would make these 3 miles blow by.

I didn’t want my walking time to affect my distance and pace measurements, so I started a new session when I was ready to run. I figured I’d start at a 10-min mile pace, then slowly increase and bang out these 3 miles in less than 30 minutes. I set the distance to miles and the pace to 6. I started running, allowing Karen and Georgia to regale me with the tale of Rebecca Zahau’s murder… except it wasn’t working.

I watched the boxing class happening in front of me. I watched the people walking by outside through the window. But mostly I just watched the numbers on the screen in front of me.

Has it really only been 2 minutes? I wondered.

Then my thoughts began to wander. I needed to pick up mushrooms at the store on my way home. Maybe I should get broccoli too. I wonder who convinced the sheriff that Rebecca Zahau’s death was a suicide when she was so clearly murdered? Why do people tamper with dead bodies instead of immediately calling the police? I bet broccoli would be good in my new air fryer. I bet it’s been at least 5 minutes now.

14 seconds had passed.

I had forgotten how mind-numbly boring treadmill running was. Outside it was so easy to escape into my podcast or music and Pokemon Go, but here I couldn’t stop obsessing over the time and distance. Which, by the way, I realized suddenly wasn’t adding up. 10 minutes had passed and I hadn’t run 1 mile yet — not even close. I slowly increased my speed of 6 to 8.5. It said my pace was 7 something. “I am really flying!” I thought. “Treadmill running is easier than I thought! Now the miles will really fly by!”

Except they didn’t. I was still running slower than a 10-min mile pace. I googled treadmill pace cheat sheets and couldn’t figure out why my numbers weren’t lining up. What unit of measurement was 6 or 8.5 if not mph? Just “speed”?

30 speed

I could think of only one reason why the distance wasn’t displaying correctly — the treadmill was broken! It was a cheap gym with cheap machines that were obviously not calibrated correctly. After the treadmill clock hit 30 minutes I started the cool down. I had probably run 3 miles even if the display didn’t show it. I hopped off and decided to explore downstairs, which I just discovered existed.

It was a lot more crowded than the upstairs, so I reasoned that was where the good machines were. I would do my 8 miles on a treadmill down here tomorrow.

The next day (today), I headed straight downstairs. I knew podcasts and music weren’t going to cut it for essentially an hour and 20 minutes of running in place, so I came armed with my iPad loaded with Netflix shows. I hopped on a treadmill that reeked slightly of body odor, so it had been used recently and at least wasn’t broken, and decided to do a little experiment. This thought occurred to me yesterday while I was running, but it didn’t seem right so I didn’t test it out. What if the distance was in miles, but the speed was actually in kilometers? So if I wanted to run 6 mph, I had to set the speed to 10 kmph. I tried it for 10 minutes, and sure enough my distance was 1 mile. Which meant that whole time I thought I was running fast yesterday, I was actually running really slowly. I knew it felt a little too easy, but I chalked it up to all my training. I settled in at 10 kmph, which is slower than I was hoping to run the half, yet still somehow felt strenuous. Man, I hate treadmill running. My iPad at least covered the screen so I couldn’t watch the time and miles tick by, even though I lifted it up to check every 5 or 2 minutes. I watched the first episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which I was hoping could become my new favorite running show, but I didn’t love the musical aspect of it (and I love Broadway and West End musicals, I know). It helped me kill 45 minutes though, and then I switched to The Great British Bake Off. I’m still deciding if watching a show about delicious desserts while you’re burning calories is the best or worst idea ever, but it helped distract me so I could power through. I ate Jelly Babies for fuel at miles 5 and 7 and pretended they were made of Victoria Sponge and not just cornstarch-dusted glucose. And I did it. I ran 8 miles on a treadmill!

The iPad definitely helped, but I still think treadmill running is the worst, especially on a treadmill that measures distance in miles and speed in kmph. Next week the long run on the schedule is only 6 miles, which I’ll be doing outdoors racing the London Winter Run. I run a 10K on Thanksgiving in Cincinnati every year, but I’ve never actually raced a 10K in London. I’m actually a little excited for it and pray the weather holds up. There’s no iPad and treadmill option for races!

A look back on 2018

7 Jan

It’s that time of year again, friends. That time when I reflect on the past year and completely ignore the fact that I’ve neglected the blog for the majority of it.

As an adult I’ve come to realize days, weeks, months, and years all tend to melt together, but I have to say 2018 was a pretty great year. I kept two of my resolutions — I didn’t eat meat at all in 2018 (aside from fish) and I learned calligraphy. I didn’t manage to run a half marathon in 2018, but I just registered for a half marathon in March, so that’s my 2018 resolution sorted in 2019.

A look back on 2018:

-We renovated our living room, a project we’d been talking about for over a year and finally got done. It took approximately three months even though it was supposed to take 2 weeks, but we feel like we’re living in a palace now.
-I fell head over heels in love with calligraphy, particularly brush lettering and pointed pen. I amassed over 1,200 followers on my calligraphy Instagram account. I am by no means a calligraphy master, but my work looks a lot better than it did on day one!
-I got to visit my friends in Chicago and Milwaukee not once, but twice!
-I attended Milwaukee Pug Fest with my best friend
-I got really into skincare and spent a small fortune on it, but I was able to reduce some of the sun damage on my face caused by running outside. Always wear sunscreen, kids! Even in England in the winter.
-I ran a 5K race with Cherry in 90+ degree heat (well, I ran it, she walked it)
-I voted in my first U.S. primary and midterm elections and vowed to never not vote again
-I went to New York City and saw two Broadway shows (Come From Away and The Donna Summer Musical)
-I was in the studio audience for a taping of The Daily Show
-I survived the worst heat wave in UK history, but not without complaining every 5 minutes about it
-I reached level 40 on Pokemon Go, which is the highest level. I wish I could say I quit the game then, but I still play daily, though not as obsessively
-We traveled to Croatia, where we fed wild peacocks and bunnies, explored Game of Thrones filming locations, and learned the hard way that we are not cut out for sea kayaking
-I went home for Halloween and made Cherry a Wonder Bread costume
-I got a 10K personal best in the Thanksgiving Day Race
-We traveled to Tenerife in the Canary Islands where we fed monkeys and guinea pigs, saw dolphins and whales, and went on an epic buggy safari through Teide National Park
-I got a Vitamix blender for my birthday, something I should have done years ago
-I saw 9 West End shows, which was not a record, but still an impressive and enjoyable feat

2019 is already starting on the right foot. We spent New Year’s Day stripping wallpaper in preparation for our bedroom renovation. I pray once we get the builders in the job really does only take two weeks! Then maybe we can focus on the kitchen, which started as “Let’s just repaint and add some more cupboards” but has evolved to “let’s just completely gut it!” Gulp. Meanwhile I just finished week 2 of my half marathon training plan and crushed my 5-mile “long run,” so at least that’s going well. Ask me again once the long runs get longer than 6 miles though! I’m also still working on my calligraphy and want to try new things like iPad digital art with Procreate and making process videos. Maybe this will be the year I get off the proverbial bench and start selling my work and services(!). Addressing all 30 of our Christmas cards made me think I might be able to do envelopes and place cards for a wedding one day… a small wedding, at least!

doug the pug 2019

Image courtesy Doug the Pug

Here’s to 2019!

My latest addiction

4 Sep

I have a problem. I am addicted to mobile live trivia games and it’s kinda sorta ruining my life.

It started innocently enough. My brother’s girlfriend introduced us to HQ Trivia. We were sitting around the kitchen table at my parents’ house a few months ago when her phone pinged at 2:58pm.

“Hey, it’s almost 3pm, we can play HQ Trivia!” she exclaimed.

We gathered around her phone as Scott Rogowsky asked us 12 multiple choice questions. The live aspect of it was appealing — playing against people all around the world in the moment. But the prospect of winning real live money was even more appealing. However many winners there are split the prize pot, which is usually $5,000 or £1,000, and on Sunday nights is $25,000 or £8,000.

After my brother and his girlfriend went home, both my parents and I downloaded the HQ app onto our phones. Because I have a UK phone number, I could only play the UK game. The US game (which apparently everyone in the world can play except for those in the UK) airs at 3pm and 9pm EST on weekdays and only 9pm on weekends, while the UK game has the same schedule only in BST. Which means when I was in the US I was playing 4 HQ games a day — the UK 3pm game at 10am EST, helping my mom with the US 3pm game on her phone, playing the UK 9pm game at 4pm EST, then at 9pm EST my parents and I would stop whatever we were doing to play HQ.

It was fun at first. It brought us together and gave us a chance to show off our random knowledge. On the Sunday night big prize games, UK players can play the US version, presuming they can stay awake until 2am, but it worked out well for me when I was in Kentucky. Each game each day brought a new thrill — maybe this time would be our Slumdog Millionaire moment, when each question relates to our own life experiences and expertise and we win big!

That’s part of why it started to become a problem. If any show could be my winning show, missing a show became difficult. I had to revolve my life around being on my phone at 10am, 3pm, 4pm, and 9pm. One night we thought about going to see a movie in the evening, but decided against it because we wouldn’t be able to play the special NBA Finals $400,000 prize game.

I thought things would be different once I got back to the UK and could only play twice a day. But then I discovered HQ isn’t the only mobile live trivia game. So I started playing Q Live at 1pm, HQ at 3pm, Q Live again at 8pm, Cash Show at 8:30pm, and HQ at 9pm. I had to plan my run or errands so they would fit between 1:15pm when Q Live ended and 3pm when HQ started.

“Maybe we’ll stop playing once we win,” my mom said a few weeks into our HQ obsession.

But then she and my dad both won on the same night — a whole 17 cents each. Because that’s the thing — if the questions are easy enough for you to win, they’re easy enough for a lot of people to win. The thrill of winning was sweet, but fleeting — we wanted to win a bigger prize.

I won my first UK game on August 1st. I was especially proud because the UK show is harder for me as an American — a lot of the questions are about UK history, football or TV shows I’m not familiar with. I won £2.65, which is $3.47. I was elated. But I didn’t stop playing.

HQ had a special 3-show night to celebrate its 1-year birthday on Sunday, August 26th. The first show started at 8pm EST, which was 1am BST, around my bedtime. But I stayed up to play. I got out on the 8th question, but my dad ended up winning — 40 cents! Then Scott said the next show would be at 8:30pm, 1:30am for me, but it was only 15 minutes away, so I decided to play. And I won! $7.22!

hq trivia win

There were questions about Chinese culture and ancient Greek language — it was my Slumdog Millionaire moment! I should have gone to bed after winning, but there was another show in 15 minutes, and with my adrenaline pumping there was no way I’d be able to go to sleep before 2am anyway. So I played and lost.

Since my big win I’ve been trying to ween myself off. But they recently added a new feature that rewards you with an extra life (an ability to rejoin the game if you get 1 question wrong) if you play 5 days in a row. Way to reel people in, HQ. Besides, if I don’t play, I can’t win, and who’s to say the next game won’t be my biggest win yet?

Send help. And extra lives.

The heatwave that never ends

26 Jul

When does a heatwave stop being a heatwave and just become the weather? This is the fifth week of this heatwave. Is this oppressive heat just what English summer is now?

English summer used to be 2 or 3 days — it didn’t even have to occur during the proper summer, it could happen in April, July, or October. The sun would come out, the temperatures would soar into the 80s, half of the population would flock to the park or beach to sunbathe, and the other half of us closed the curtains, cranked up the fan, and got on social media to complain about their face melting. Then it went back to 60s or low 70s and overcast and all was well.

I miss that summer! I do not like this new summer one bit. It is 96 out there right now. 96! That’s 36C. Someone posted this on Reddit:

london summer heatwave

Yesterday I went to see a matinee solely because I wanted to sit in an air conditioned theatre for two hours. But I got so sweaty walking to and from the theatre that it all felt in vain (except, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, Fun Home). This weather is taking a toll on me both mentally and physically. I hate everyone and everything and have no energy to do anything. After weeks of suffering in my unairconditioned flat, I have come up with a solution: water. Not drinking it or swimming it, but covering myself with it. The minute my hair starts to dry after I take a shower, I wet it again. Whenever I wash my hands, I splash water on my arms and neck. I look ridiculous, but working from home has its perks. Then I sit 6 inches from the fan and wait for this whole heatwave to blow over.

wait for this to blow over gif

Except it’s not, because this isn’t a heatwave, this is summer now, and deargodimgoingtodiecanistartsummeringiniceland?sdajfksdja kldsfjaksldfjaklsd