Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Agony of Victory

“The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” is a well-known cliché in the world of sports, particularly during BIG events, like the Olympics or the World Series. But, no one ever talks about the agony of victory… victory in my case meaning finishing the half marathon at my chosen four-minute run/two-minute walk pace.

To get to that potential victory, there have been a number of small victories (and a few defeats) along the way. When I finished the Shamrock Shuffle (an 8K) in March or April, I can’t exactly remember when (just for reader understanding, I just finished a 12 mile run/walk about an hour ago and my mental clarity is still dicey, at best), five miles seemed like a distance further than any other, something so insurmountable that I was my own hero for a day, just having run the race at a measly 12-minute per mile pace.

But, now… now… five miles is nothing. A five-mile run is a cakewalk, a joke, a good day compared to, oh I don’t know, let’s say today… a 12-mile run.

Ahh… the agony of victory. And it’s honestly not the mileage so much in this case; it’s the heat. Most of us know, firsthand or from news coverage, that a large part of the country has been experiencing heat waves. Now, Chicago isn’t as bad as other places, but 12 miles in 90-degree heat isn’t pretty.

But I felt good and I felt strong. For a while I was in a “zone,” in part thanks to my iPod.

Then came mile 10. The only problem with the run/walk program, is the farther you go, the harder it is to start running once you’ve stopped. Around mile 10, I really started to feel my legs tighten up and the thought of another four minute running interval became daunting. But I kept going.

Then came mile 11. My stomach started to hurt in an, “I’ve had too much water and Gatorade” kind of way. That was uncomfortable. I keep removing my hydration belt during the walking intervals to see if that gave me any relief. It didn’t.

Then came mile 12. The last mile. From our group of about 18 people who started with us, we were down to six. “I think I’m out.” The remaining groups members convinced me though; we were almost done and I could make it.

And I did. I felt nauseous, slightly confused and immediately left the group at the end of the run. I couldn’t handle being around people. I just needed to sit by myself.

Agony and victory… not so unrelated my friends.

Am I glad I finished the 12-mile run despite the pain? Yes. It gives me confidence. Will I finish the half marathon? Yes. Is it possible that I will be crawling across the finish line? Sure. Could I have gone another mile in this heat? Yes, but I could not have run it.

This is the home stretch. The half marathon is a mere two weeks away. If I could have control over one factor, I would choose to control the weather. The heat is a killer. So whatever it is you do… if you pray, or chant, or light candles, or cross your fingers, or send positive vibes… think of me once or twice over the next couple weeks and hope for cool weather on August 13. It’s a tall order, I know. But, 60 degrees would do wonders for my mind, body and spirit. Here’s to hoping!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Greetings from the ER

I went against my better (I say better, some may use the adjective “clouded”) judgment and listened to my boyfriend, my mom and the anonymous commenter on yesterday’s post, and went to the urgent care facility at Northwestern yesterday after work to have my thumb wounds looked at by a resident.

The verdict (and I kid you not): Put a band-aid on it.

Isn’t there a hotline I could have called for that advice?

To be fair, the resident did have the attending physician look at it as well. Wounds can’t be stitched (or “sutured”—I am apparently the only person who had no idea what the word sutured meant before this ordeal) if it’s been more than 24 hours since the accident. They told me to keep it dry and keep it covered. If it gets red, irritated, swollen, or any kind of liquid or solid begins to ooze out of it (sorry for the mental picture), I should probably come back in.

Thanks doc. I’ll go ahead and help myself to a few rubber gloves. I’m going to make glove balloons out of them. Bonus.

Now, to whom do I sign over my firstborn child?

Honestly, I don’t know how much that little piece of advice is going to cost me. I just gave them my insurance card from my last job and will wait for them to kick it back. By the time that happens, I should be able to sort out the Cobra mess and figure out if it’s worth it to get coverage for this one visit.

I feel a Mastercard “Priceless” commercial coming on:

Kitchenware I cut myself on… $20
Pack of band-aids and Neosporin… $8
Visit to Northwestern’s urgent care… $400
Peace of mind that my thumb’s not going to fall off… yet…

Priceless.

Monday, July 24, 2006

I Have an Even Harder Life

It’s been a rough couple of days. Not because of my training (the eight mile run on Saturday morning actually went well… what a difference a week and about 10 degrees makes!).

No… yesterday, in an attempt to eat better and not rely solely on Amy’s black bean frozen enchiladas for dinner, I decided to cook three different meals and freeze them for the week. Ever the lazy cook, I used what I believe is called an accordion to dice onions for some spinach enchiladas (do you see a pattern with me and enchiladas?). Basically, you slide the onion along a row of blades that chop the onion for you, rather than using a knife. Well, ever the careful cook, I accidentally ran my thumb across the blades.

There was some blood. There was a little bit of pain. But other than that, my thumb seemed to be OK… except that I was actually cut in three different places with one deep, horizontal cut running through the two, even deeper vertical cuts, which makes it appear as though a chunk of my thumb could fall off if the wounds don’t properly heal.

Maybe I should go to the doctor, have the cut looked at, maybe stitched up, no big deal, right? Wrong. First of all, I don’t even have a “real” doctor. I’m not afraid of doctor’s or against them, I’d just rather not go and to date, I’ve been lucky enough that I really haven’t had to visit a doctor more than once or twice a year.

But, it gets worse. As you know I just recently started a new job. My insurance from my last job ended and my new insurance hasn’t kicked in. I could use Cobra, but that costs a ton and not only would I have pay to be covered by the health insurance for at least two months (which would probably be a couple hundred dollars a month or more), I’d have to pay a co-pay.

My other option is to just pay for it myself. I called a walk-in urgent care facility in the city and they told me that JUST TO BE SEEN by a doctor (no stitches, no meds, no tests, nothing), it would cost me $400 without insurance. They told me that I could fill out paperwork to see if I qualify for special assistance. HA! That’s a good one.

Let’s recap: $400 without insurance for a doctor to JUST look at the stupid cuts on my thumb.

Do I think that’s worth it? Absolutely not. Hand me a needle and some rubbing alcohol, I’ll do it myself.

My boyfriend is very upset that I would take money into consideration when dealing with my health. This, in theory, is an understandable position. If my thumb was completely severed and I was carrying it around in a cooler, would I go to the doctor? Of course I would. If I broke my leg, ankle, arm, neck, or hip, would I go to the doctor? Absolutely.

Do I need to go into debt for a few cuts on the tip of my thumb that may or may not be deep enough for stitches? I’m weighing my options. It’s not as if I didn’t put Neosporin and a band-aid on it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I Have a Hard Life

The CES Wednesday night workout involved… in a word… pain. We did hill repeats, which means that the coaches put together a course for us to run with lots of hills and we had to repeat that course for 25 minutes.

It doesn’t sound that bad, right? You’re probably thinking, “Whatever Lou, I take an hour long step class, 25 minutes of any exercise is a snap.” OK… why don’t you take that step class out of the air-conditioned studio into the extremely humid Chicago outdoors, turn the step a hill and start running. See how long you last.

I’m sorry, that was out of line. I’m just a little bit angry. Sometimes, running makes me angry, which is probably counter-intuitive to what one would assume. For me though, on occasion, running frustrates me terribly.

Let’s take last night for instance. I’m running along, practically passing out and watching every other person leave me in the dust. Now, I know that some of the people in CES are really strong athletes and I don’t compare myself to them, but when I see that pretty much every other person in the running group can beat me, it’s rough. Whether it’s a middle aged overweight man, an 80 year old woman, or people in my "beginner" walk/run training group who haven’t followed the training schedule as closely as I have, it’s difficult to admit that I might just be the slowest of the slow.

At a few points I stopped running and took a walking break. It’s those times that I have to wonder, why isn’t any one else struggling as much as I am? Or are they? Am I just listening to my body or am I not pushing myself enough?

I really don’t know the answer to that question.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Catching Up...

Sorry that I’ve been out of touch for a few days, but I needed some downtime between finishing the old job and beginning the new job.

On Saturday I had a CES long run and it was long with a capital L-O-N-G. Worse, it was hot with a capital H-O-T. Crazy hot. Extreme heat warning hot. Stay in the air conditioning hot. You get my point. Well, we ran 10 miles in that heat and by run I mean, I walked two minutes/ran four minutes for nine miles and then walked one mile to complete the "run." I didn’t feel too bad about my sad finish though. The heat was bad news.

I started my new job on Monday. So far, it’s going well. I’m very happy with the department I’m in. Everyone is super laid back as evident by the “official business hours" of 8:30-4:30. Nice. This was one of my key requirements when looking for a new position. I wanted a job that wouldn't be my life, that didn't drain me emotionally and didn’t require me to be working even when I have no work to do. With my extra “life” time, I’m hoping it will spur me to develop some of my non-work hobbies. Right now, I’m considering taking a writing class in the fall.

So that’s the news for now. Tomorrow is a hill repeat workout with CES. I’m not looking forward to that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Today, I am officially unemployed… for two days.

Yesterday was my last day at the PR agency. I spent the last two weeks trying to get the rest of my team up to speed on my projects and going through an unexpected range of emotions.

Last Friday, I explained to a friend over dinner that I was feeling overprotective of my work and getting annoyed that people were, “getting into my business.” Particularly when it came to introducing other team members to my vendor contacts, relationships that I had managed for more than a year with people that I really enjoyed working with, I found myself feeling slightly upset that I had to hand them over.

In reality, I got it. I knew that this was a necessary part of my moving on to a new opportunity. At the agency, the one thing I valued above everything else was my team. I enjoyed working with them, I respected them and I always wanted to see the team succeed. I had an obligation to tie up loose ends and make sure that my transition off of the team was smooth.

But, at dinner, I explained to my friend, “It’s like I want them to realize how much work I did and really miss me once I’m gone.”

She said, “It sounds like you’re breaking up with a boyfriend.”

How insightful! That’s exactly what it sounded like… like I was some crazed, “You’ll realize what you had when I’m gone” girlfriend, who decided SHE wanted to move on, but still wanted him to be hurt. Wow. That’s sounds like something I would do/think/feel.

I got over it. This week, I felt differently; this week, I handed things off, never once feeling annoyed or upset. Why? Because I finally got that they did value me, they knew how much work I did, and they were going to miss me. And I realized that I was going to miss them.

I really thought that leaving this job would feel like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Something along the lines of, “Whew, I never have to deal with that again.” But it didn’t—I had to fight back the tears more than a couple times yesterday. This is not something I expected, but even though there were definitely good times and bad, I felt camaraderie among my team members. I genuinely liked and trusted them, which is something you don’t find everywhere. I value that and can only hope that I find the same kind of colleagues in my new job.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Quick update: I Managed to Not Hail a Cab

I made it. Today I ran farther than I’ve ever run before—nine miles. I was starving, thirsty, tired, and salty, but I made it. That’s the nice thing about the group runs. By myself I would have probably quit at five miles (truthfully, I probably never would have started in the first place). But the group pushes you, encourages you, and makes you feel like you’re in it together.

It was a good run. It got really hot towards the end, but I stayed strong. However, I was DEFINTELY glad when it was over. I got a Starbucks and rode the EL home. It was nice to sit down.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Contemplating Nine Miles

I should be asleep right now. Yes, it’s Friday night and it sounds lame, but tomorrow, I have to get up and run nine miles at 6:30am. I should be asleep.

I’m compelled to share with you that I am scared. Nine miles seems far. When I think about nine miles, I picture myself getting in a car and arriving somewhere 15 minutes later. I don’t really see myself running nine miles (Didn’t I read somewhere that it’s good to visualize a run?) and that petrifies me.

The farthest I have ever run is seven miles. Maybe I would have more confidence if I hadn’t missed the eight-mile run with the group. Maybe I would feel better if I wasn’t concerned about the heat and dehydration. Maybe I’m just worried that I can’t actually run that far.

Sometimes, I think that I’m not a “runner” and I’m not cut out to run 13 miles. I could just stop. I could just leave my group run and never come back and not show up for the half marathon. But, there’s something about training that makes me feel committed—obligated if you will. So, I’m going to run nine miles tomorrow… at 6:30 in the morning.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Longest Weekend

I am a person who tends to thrive on schedules and routines. While I don’t exactly love the idea of working nine-to-five (or eight-to-six), it does provide a structure that I can plan around. In particular, when it comes to eating, being at my desk keeps me from “grazing”–or, more accurately and more often, gorging myself—every couple of hours.

So, I’m sitting here, on the third day of a four-day weeken celebrating the Fourth of July, with a stomachache because I felt it necessary to polish off the last of a carton of ice cream after dinner. Worse yet, it was the third time today that I ate the ice cream, which pretty means that I entire carton of ice cream. Nice.

Well, despite my poor dietary choices, I did manage to stick to my workout schedule with only a few minor mishaps.

On Saturday, I was supposed to run six miles. The CES training group did not meet, but I ran with a friend and her boyfriend along the lakefront. Unfortunately, I did not make it six miles. Shortly after we started our run, I felt fatigued and around mile three, I started to get the chills, a symptom of dehydration. I threw in the towel before I reached mile 4. This is the second time I have had signs of dehydration (the first time was during the CES seven mile run on June 17). I still have not started drinking Gatorade, but after Saturday’s six miler, I will definitely be drinking it and during before next week’s nine mile run.

To make matters worse, I didn’t want to hold my friend back so I told her to run ahead and I would met her back at the car. Well, the paths along Chicago lakefront, while absolutely beautiful, are a bit confusing. I know this sounds stupid, but there are three or four paths and they split off from each other and it’s just crazy. Bottom line, I got lost and wandered around looking for the car for nearly an hour. Finally I found my friend, her boyfriend, and his car. It pretty much sucked.

But, I bounced back this morning and met with my trainer for an hour-long workout. I was sweating like crazy and by the end I couldn’t even lift a 15-pound weight, but the workout gave me a much needed confidence boast after my poor performance on Saturday. I know having a trainer may seem like a superfluous expense, but I really love it. I would never push myself as hard as my trainer does. Plus, I can ask all the questions I want, including, “Why do I keep dehydrating during long runs?” and “How can I stop eating entire cartons of ice cream?”

So far, we haven’t solved the ice cream dilemma.