Thursday, November 30, 2006

Slow and Steady Literally Won the Race

My competitive nature never ceases to surprise me. Every time I feel like I’ve reached a place of acceptance regarding my running pace, I’m thrown into a situation where I am compelled to “keep up” with the running masses.

Case in point, Wednesday evening CES training consisted of a 5K predictor race. In a predictor race, you “predict” your time then run a 5K “race” sans watch. The goal is to finish as close to your predicted time as possible. It’s basically an exercise in knowing how to pace yourself, which for long distance running is important.

Prior to the run, I wrote down my time as 35 minutes, which seemed reasonable, considering in the last 5K predictor I ran with CES over the summer, I finished at 37 minutes. I figured 35 minutes was a solid estimate taking into consideration my improvement as well as my current easy pace.

Of course, this was an individual run; we didn’t stick with our pace groups and when the “gun” went off at the start line the entire CES crew was huddled in one big mass. I was determined to stay with the middle of the pack. Every time another person passed me, I told myself that I would just follow her pace, but I kept falling farther and farther behind. My legs were tired (thanks to the Spin class I took on Tuesday), the weather was unpleasant to say the least and classic late-fall Chicago, windy, rainy and cold, conditions that I, to be quite frank, have never run in before. I was struggling to keep up.

Once again (yes, again), I had to have the internal discussion about not measuring myself in relation to other people’s running ability, but to focus on my own successes, measure myself based on my goals and how far I’ve come. How many times do I have to tell myself this? “Enjoy the run,” I told myself, “despite the rain, the cold and the wind, if I slow down, I’ll enjoy the run.” And finally I reached my Zen-like place where I can accept the truth; I gave in to my ability, my body, slowed down and enjoyed the run.

When I crossed the finish line, the coach yelled out my time… 35 minutes on the freaking money friends, which meant, I won the race… literally, there was a prize for the person who came closest to his/her predicted time. Not only did I get an awesome CES baseball hat, a free burrito, and a pack of shot blocks (little gummy blocks of energy people eat during long runs), but I also got the praise of the CES coaches (which on the “feel good” scale was only second to the hat… I really wanted that hat).

I have realized that with every run, there is a lesson, often a humbling lesson about one's limits, about the elements, about one's ability to overcome obstacles. Wednesday night's taught me that it sure is nice to win. What? Me? Competitive? No...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Can't Handle It

I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle just eating like a normal person. I don't think I know how. Sure, I managed to eat what I wanted during Thanksgiving, which by the way, was lovely. Of course, “eating like a normal person” over a holiday that revolves around food is easier said than done. By the time I found my way back to Chicago, I felt like I had gained 100 pounds (despite the fact that I managed to stay committed to my running schedule).

Unable to cope with the idea that I could just “eat right” without a plan to follow, I picked up a book that I bought about a year ago when I was going through my “I think I want to become a dietitian” phase and was reading up on different diets just for the heck of it.

I choose the Abs Diet for a few reasons, first and foremost because it is imperative that I start eating more protein (if I eat pita bread for dinner one more time…). Second, the Abs Diet provides more of a set of guidelines of what you should eat more of rather than outlining exactly what you can and cannot eat.

So I’ll give it a shot. Given my track record, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to stick to it, but I think if I can just start to vary my diet a little and add in some much needed protein, I’ll at least be better off. It would be nice to head back to Ohio for Christmas a few pounds lighter.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Keeping Up with the Joneses (and Everyone Else who is Faster than Me)

There are a couple of things that I’ve been noodling around lately and want to discuss in this post; so unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to have a smart, witty theme like I usually do. Haha! So please, bear with me.

First of all, lately I have been extremely focused on my weight. I haven’t lost nearly as much poundage as I wanted to over the last few months and I get very frustrated when I think about how active I am compared to years ago when I was thinner. Working out and running have become important in my life and while I still slack from time to time, I have had a pretty solid year of increasing my fitness level. And yet, not only did my weight go up at one point, taking off even 10 measly pounds has been a struggle.

So, I was getting angry about how focused I was on my weight "issues." Why is it that I can section off my life into periods of time when I was “fat” versus periods of time when I was "thin" (often coinciding with adjectives like “bad” versus “good” and “sad” versus “happy”). But I won’t go all psychoanalysis on you. Then I realized that for much of my life, I have been on a diet and eating with the mentality that I need to lose weight… and, what’s more, when I do eat poorly, I go completely overboard because “I’ve already messed up anyway.” With the holidays quickly approaching, I was in the process of devising a “game plan” about how I was going to sidestep Thanksgiving dieting traps knowing that all of my best intentions would go out the window when stuffing and pumpkin pie were starring me in the face. Then what? I would just feel bad.

That’s when I decided. I am done dieting. I am done measuring portion sizes. I am done having “bad days” where I eat about 5,000 calories. I am going to simply eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full and, overall, strive to make sensible choices. If nothing is off limits, then nothing I do can mean failure. So that’s my big revelation. No more dieting. No more worrying constantly about my weight. No more focus on food. I am sick of it. I’ve been doing it for at least 15 years, and I think that’s definitely enough time to obsess over one thing. I am hoping that with this realization/revelation/resolution, I can affect the kind of mental shift in my brain that took place when I quit smoking.

Next thing... training got back on track once I came home from my very long business trip. On Saturday, after getting approximately three hours of sleep (that’s another story and no, it does not involve alcohol or boys), I managed to kick my butt out of bed at 6:30am for a six mile run with my training group. It went really well, so I will continue to run with the 11:30 pace group and see how seven miles goes.

Today, I had a 45 minute run on the training schedule. My sister decided to do it with me and it was nice to have the company. But, as I mentioned above my pace is about 11:30 for longer runs, hers is about 10 minutes. I kept up with her for about three-quarters of our run.

It took a lot for me to admit that I needed to drop back—not quit, mind you, I probably ended up 30 yards behind her at the end of the run—but when my competitive instincts kick in, I hate being the one who can’t hang. But, I dropped back and told myself that she has been running much longer than I have and that my pace now is whole minute and a half faster than it was three months and that’s a really significant improvement. Chances are, if I don’t hurt myself (say by pushing what I'm physicially capable of too hard and too fast), I will only continue to improve. And I reminded myself, again, that this is not about racing anyone else, but myself. It's all about me... it always is.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Number 8: Save the Cheerleader; Save the World

Hello Chicago! I finally returned home today after a week on the West Coast. It is good to be back.

I have to tell you though… I don’t know if it’s the adjustment to the time change or maybe it’s PMS, but at around 11pm, I was wide-awake and suddenly, very lonely. While what I’m about to write may seem a bit melodramatic, I believe my experience is universal and what I feel are things that other single women think and feel as well… sometimes it’s good to write these things down.

So that’s what I did. Like the good little aspiring writer I am, I keep a notebook next to my bed so every night before I go to sleep I can write. So tonight, I picked up my favorite hotel pen and wrote the loneliness down… “sometimes, I think that I may not ever meet someone special again and I might be alone… for a long time if not forever. Sometimes I take comfort in statistics because in our culture, it’s safe to bet that most of my single, woman friends (who happen to all be smart, attractive, interesting people… like yours truly) will end up in long-term, serious relationships, be that marriage or something else, eventually.”

Now granted, I haven’t been single for too terribly long—I wholeheartedly admit that—but the thought that there’s no one out there who is going to fall in love with you and who you are going to simultaneously fall in love with, is still kind of scary. So, I started thinking… what if? As in, what if I end up alone… forever or just for the next five years? What do I want my life to look like then?

This “planning” comes at a very opportune time, as with my dead computer (may it rest in peace) so went the goals I had written down for my 27th year (I think I cleverly titled it something like “27 goals for 27 years” but could only come up with about 16 goals for June 28, 2006-June 27,2007). Since I’m just about to reach the halfway point between 27 and 28 and, lest we not forget, we are approaching the New Year, I figured I was due for a revise anyway. But instead, today, I just wrote down the big stuff, or well the sort of big stuff… Here it is:

2007-2010

  1. Finally reach a weight that I’m happy with and can maintain so I can stop bitching about it and focus on something else.
  2. Run 2-3 half marathons a year, ultimately improving my time to a 9-minute per mile pace
  3. Run my first marathon in under 5 hours and run my second marathon in under 4 and a half hours.
  4. Go to Europe at least once.
  5. Write a collection of essays.
  6. Get something published (if not the collection of essays, then an article, a paper, something, anything).
  7. Buy a condo.
  8. Save the cheerleader; save the world (you didn't think my list was going to be entirely self-serving did you?).

That last one is obviously at the end of the timeline because I’ll be paying off that trip to Europe until at least 2009. Oh, and this list is not exhaustive… after all, there were sixteen for just this year…

But those are some of my goals. Lofty? Maybe not. Trite? Perhaps, but it’s my life and if I’m going to live it alone, then I’m going to do what I want to do (or at least what my 27-year-old self thinks my 30-year-old self is going to want to do). It might be silly to write this stuff down; it might be even sillier to admit it by writing it down here for all of you to read, but I guess I just like sharing… else I wouldn’t have this blog, now would I?

I suppose the bottom line for me is, even if I’m destined to lead my life alone… or even just a good portion of my young life… or if I meet “the guy” tomorrow and live happily ever after with him, the goals don’t change. Priorities shift and timelines can be fluid, but I guess what’s nice about being alone (no matter how old you were when you had that alone time) is that you get to figure out what you really want and, if you, like me, continue to get “time alone” throughout your life, you can reassess, edit, and revise the list.

Ultimately, I just want to be able to look back and say, “Wow, my life was pretty f-ing awesome, I had unique experiences and I had fun and I was happy.”

Friday, November 10, 2006

Depends on Where You're Coming From

Greetings from Sacramento, friends! This is my first time in California and after being here approximately 10 hours, I can report with a fair amount of integrity that Sacramento looks like just about every other small to mid-size city in the country. Nice weather though.

As I believe I mentioned in my last post, this is my first business trip for this employer (but certainly not the last, from here I fly to Seattle on Monday, I got back to Seattle in January, San Jose in March, and Washington, DC in June). In my last position at the PR firm, I traveled constantly… at least it felt that way. Forgettable trips included Orlando (nightmare), Boston, Hotlanta, Cincinnati, New York City (a couple times and those were kind of fun), New Jersey, Arizona, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida (another nightmare).

Business travel is one of those cool concepts that when you’re young (read: early twenties) sounds like a super fun way to see the world for free while climbing the corporate ladder. Turns out… business travel not so super. Let’s look at the pros and cons of business travel:

Pro:
1) Traveling sans spending your own money.

Cons:
1) Getting up really early to catch a flight.
2) Having to look good on that fight because chances are you have to get off the plane and go straight to a meeting.
3) Being “on” at all times because you’re hanging with your client.
4) Sitting in your hotel room and watching television gets really, really boring after awhile.
5) Saying you’re going to workout at the gym fitness center, but not actually having the energy to do so. If you do actually make it to the gym, you find out that all the equipment was purchased in 1980.
6) Eating crap because there’s nothing else to eat and you’re hungry… all the time.

There are probably more cons, but I’ll stop there. If you don’t have to travel for your job, rejoice. I am envious. I will admit that most of those cons reflect my experience at my last job; maybe traveling for this job will be different.

So we’ll see. So far, I decided to forgo the gym in favor of a nap; I had pizza as a snack, and I shared an ice cream dessert with co-workers. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do better. My one goal is to not stray to far from my half marathon training program, but I will admit, I’m still extremely sore (I think I pulled some muscle near my rib cage, not to mention that I went to my trainer last night and he kicked my butt), so a day off might not have been a bad idea. Here’s to hoping, but old habits die hard.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ouch. That Hurts.

One word: Pain. That’s what I felt when I woke up this morning. A few Advil later (I should seriously buy stock in Wyeth Pharmaceuticals), I’m good, but man… this morning, like I said… Pain.

Last night I ran with CES. Wednesday night runs tend to be a little less organized than our Saturday long runs. There aren’t really pace leaders, so you have to just kind of find people who are in your pace group and hope that somebody wore a watch. I found a decent portion of the girls I ran with on Saturday and we stuck together for the 40-minute run (that’s still “long” right?).

First thing, I have never run on the Chicago lakefront path at night. We began the run heading north away from downtown and then, 20 minutes later turned around and headed back towards the city. WOW. The view of the Chicago skyline from the lakefront path has always been one of my favorite parts of the CES Saturday morning runs, but it’s spectacular at night. I’m going to take a picture of it eventually so I can share it with all of you. So worth it…

Second thing, without a pace leader, people tend to run faster. I kept up with my group, but I’m pretty sure that was more because I was afraid of getting lost on the lakefront path in the dark than because I actually could. I have no idea what our pace was, but I was definitely pushing my limits. This morning pre-Advil, my legs were killing me.

It’s good for me to be in a group that does push me. However, I don’t want to be pushed so much that I end up with an injury. It’s a delicate balance. Perhaps I will discuss with my trainer tonight.

Tomorrow I’m off to California for work. I traveling from Chicago to Sacramento to Seattle and finally, back to Chicago. It’s my first work trip for this employer and I hope it goes well. Provided that my wireless Internet connection works (cross your fingers for me) I will probably post… mostly likely about whether or not I eat like a maniac (I enter an airport and immediately need ice cream) and whether or not I keep up with my CES training program (5 miles on a hotel treadmill is not something I’m looking forward to).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Got it to Work!

Hey readers, I got the video to work. Enjoy. I totally heart this song.

Alarm Clock Catastrophe (Dunkin' Donuts commercial)

From round 2 of the 2006 Dunkin' Donuts ad campaign, "American Runs On Dunkin'". Music by They Might Be Giants.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I'm As Far Behind As a Human Being Can Possibly Be...

I wanted to be super cool and high tech on my blog today and post the new Dunkin Donuts commercial, which is, FYI, totally awesome. However, after attempting to get Google Video to cooperate about a dozen times, I gave up and am just going to give you guys the link. You have to check this out. You might have seen the "Karateeee" commercial, which was Dunkin Donuts first installment in the "America Runs on Dunkin" campaign. "Alarm Clock Catastrophe" is the second and blows the first out of the water. You'll be humming this tune created by They Might Be Giants all day! Check it out:
Alarm Clock Catastrophe

Monday, November 06, 2006

T-Minus Eight Hours

I hate double posting; it makes me look like I have nothing else to do, which may be true, but you know… appearances. I felt like the news about my laptop deserved it’s own post so I’m posting a second time to update you on a few items.

Friday
Match date numeral dos: This was my first date with the “slow adult” (how I ever managed to make that his code name is beyond me… ). Now, if you remember, this is the guy who I’ve had two hour and a half long phone conversations with, so needless to say, I was interested to find out how we would interact “live.” We met for lunch on Friday at a sushi restaurant. There were definitely some first date awkward moments, but for the most part, it went well. When we parted ways he said he would like to see me again, and I agreed. And then… nothing. No email, no phone call. I thought for sure if he was really interested I would hear from him by Sunday, but again… nothing. To be fair, we will give him until the end of the day today to call before we completely write him off. I’ll keep you updated.

Saturday
Winter Warriors Day 1: I rolled out of bed at 6am to make sure that I could make it to my running group by 7:30 via the trains… it’s about four miles away (ah the joys of living in the city without a car). As planned, I decided to give a solid running group—rather than a run/walk group—a try. I joined the 11:30 minute pace group and hung for the entire four miles. Actually, I surprised myself. I was nervous about not being able to make it, but sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit. Joining this pace group was definitely the right decision if I want to continue to improve. If I need to, I can always drop back in to a run/walk group.

After running, I was drawn to the grocery store and entranced by the hummus’ siren song. Damn you hummus (I’m shaking my fist at the sky)! The rest of the morning consisted of my passing out on my couch on and off until 3pm, getting a bloody nose and destroying my laptop with liquor. Then I went out and drank more to feel better about all of it.

Sunday
DOA: I trekked downtown to the Apple store to see if my laptop was salvageable. The answer was “maybe” to the tune of $600-$1000. No dice, my friends. It’s time to get a new computer. After my trip downtown (there’s only one thing I hate more than Michigan Avenue on the weekend during the “holiday” season and it’s Michigan Avenue on the weekend in the summer), I sat on my couch and ate Cheerios and peanut butter to make myself feel better.

Monday
The fallout from Applegate 2006 continues: Kidding. Monday starts a new week and it is time to move on. Following the CES training booklet, I went to the gym during lunch and got in a 40 minute run, which reminded me how careful I need to be about my diet when I’m training… excess amounts of Cheerios and peanut butter did not serve me well.

Tonight is my last creative writing class, and I’m struggling with whether or not I want to show up. While the first few weeks of the class really helped me come up with new ideas for essays, the final weeks have been disappointing. The instructor often allows the class to spiral out of control into various directions that hinder any sort of progress. And I am so tired of hearing stories about drug-induced insights while traveling through strange lands. Please. If I wanted to read Kerouac, I would have done it when I cared… which was probably at about age 19. Besides, I need to get my pants hemmed… is that a good enough excuse not to go?

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye...

I have a bit of sad news to report, my friends. On Saturday, November 4, at approximately 6:30pm, my MAC Titanium G4 laptop, Sally, passed away. I’m just kidding… I never named my laptop Sally, because I’m not weird like that. However, unfortunately, the laptop bit it on Saturday night.

Laptop and I spent six years together. It moved with me to nine different residences in four different states, served me well through obtaining my graduate degree, and has traveled with me around the country. My trusted laptop was used and abused—-it weathered traumatic events including being dropped more than once, losing various parts and pieces, and destroying the CD-Rom drive-- but it held it’s own in the good times and in the bad and never let me down. In it’s final hour, laptop was defeated at the clumsy hand of its loving, if not graceful owner, who splashed a small amount of vodka onto your keyboard. I dedicate this post to you, laptop, because of you I will forever pledge my allegiance to one nation under Apple. RIP.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Trigger Happy

Today, my friends, I put my commitment fears aside and pulled the trigger. I am officially signed up to train for another half marathon starting Saturday, November 4. The training program is called Winter Warriors because I’m in Chicago and you have to be insane, and I mean killing machine crazy, to get your butt out of bed every dark and cold Saturday morning to run at 7:30 between now and the New Year. There is light at the end of this 13.1-mile long tunnel… Hello Miami half marathon in January!

So this is what’s next. After Miami, the plan (which is primarily the brainchild of my trainer, who’s goals for me tend to be loftier than my own) is to train for the Indianapolis half marathon in May, then the Chicago Distance Classic half marathon in August, and finally, next October, oh yes… the Chicago Marathon. Let’s keep in mind, this is his plan, not mine… but I am seriously considering it.

I haven’t trained since August and I’m ready for it. For the last two months, I have been running four to five days a week because I actually want to run. This time around I’m going to see if I can’t keep up with a group that just runs, rather than a run/walk group. We’ll see how it goes the first couple weeks when our mileage is low, but I can always drop back if I need to.

Sometimes I can’t even believe how far I’ve come. If you would have said to me a year and a half ago, “Lou, you should run half marathons… just for fun,” I would have laughed and lit a cigarette, then perhaps, just for the sake of theatrics, blown smoke rings in your face. Now, I’d look you in the eye, take a swig of my vodka on the rocks, nod, possibly poke you, and say, “That’s one hell of an idea my friend.” Oh how times have changed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Let There Be Light

Update on the light in my bathroom: Last night, I rushed home after work and called Oz around 6pm to see if he could come over and screw in a new light bulb. No answer. I’m sure that after publishing our earlier exchange this shocks you about as much as it shocked me. Oz, it turns out, is unreliable.

Luckily, my ex-boyfriend came over last night to drop off a box of my stuff left behind in the move. When he came over, I told him about my conversation with Oz and how he hadn’t bothered to return my phone call. Then I gave my ex, who is about 6’1”, my sad eyes. "I think you could probably reach the light fixture if you stood on a chair. Would you put a new light bulb in for me?" He wasn’t pleased, and I was forced to endure his noises of exasperation, but he did it.

Problem solved. And, even though my bold move to ask the ex to fix it might be considered co-dependence, I look at it this way... I may not have a boyfriend, but I have an ex-boyfriend... I also have a cute, tall male living one floor below me (I totally could have asked him)... and if in the future all contingency plans fail and Oz is still no where to be found, I have a job and I can pay a man to come fix stuff. Take that Oz.

Oz: 0
Single women who need broken stuff fixed: 1

And you thought feminism was dead.