Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Books of March 2015

I slacked off in March. While I read four "real" books (not a graphic novel or audiobook in sight!) it took me a very long time to get through my last book. In the end, March is a four book month which, while it sticks with my general goal of a book a week, still falls a bit short of my normal progress.

March included my first non-trail 10k, first race volunteer stint, higher weekend miles, no work trips, and some other things I honestly can't remember. It felt like the longest month in recent memory. I guess between not reading much and not being intensely busy, I've had a bit of a chance to recover from my months and months of non-stop stuff and now I'm ready to be a functioning member of society! 

Let's look at the books:

Finished March 6, 2015
by Cheryl Strayed 

Review: 4 / 5 
Made me want to hike the PCT. I'm surely more prepared than the author! It's definitely a pity party, but probably less self-indulgent than Eat Pray Love. I'm not sure I got the ultimate result of her trip (what she quickly summarizes in about five sentences at the end), but I found it to be a pretty interesting tale. 

Cheryl made me extremely mad at times. I could (mostly) overlook her pre-trip recklessness, martyrdom, and drug use, but the thing that drove me wild was her inability to budget. She rarely needs money on this trip. I can remember three examples of her pouting about being broke before her next re supply box, then spending her last few dollars on something she doesn't need. Also, her blind trust in weirdos kind of freaked me out. 

While I'd love to hike for months (and I think I could, even though it would suck most days), I can't get over my fear of The Other. Creepy dudes, creepy chicks, mauling bears. On that front, she was blindly brave and it worked to her advantage!

I'm excited to watch the movie. 

Finished March 12, 2015
by Lois Lowry

Review: 4 / 5 
Once I had time to read, I flew through the last half of this novel. I forgot a lot from book two (which I read in 2012) and had to go back for a refresher. Once caught up, I thought it was interesting how all of the past characters intersected. I never felt like The Giver was very magical when I was younger, but I suppose that was an oversight on my part as this world appears to be slightly fantastical. 

Anyway, another good story. Probably better than book two (Gathering Blue). I'll read book four before I forget anything else! I'd recommend these novels to anyone who loved The Giver and wants a few quick, quality reads.

Finished March 16, 2015
by Lois Lowry

Review: 4 / 5 
Hmm. I didn't like this as much as everyone else, but it was a good story. I've realized I enjoy reading about the original community (found in The Giver) the most and I really flew through the first part. (I'd probably read a billion of these if we could learn just a little bit more about each village, but I know that's not really the point.)

I really loved The Giver in Junior High and I'm not sure the final three books live up to that (they feel like an afterthought, but a well written one!). In the end, I appreciate the series. Much better than the three-novel YA crap I keep getting sucked in to. 

Finished March 31, 2015
by Shirley Jackson

Review: 4 / 5 
I read "The Lottery" in high school, but that's where my Shirley Jackson experience ended. For years I searched Half Price Books for a Shirley Jackson collection and finally came across this book. It's a great set with a mysterious shared character and themes of mental instability, racism, and conformity. 

It took me a long while to get through the entire book as I'd only read one or two at a time to keep them from blending together. Occasionally, I read an online study guide with summary and analysis of each story. I found this helped me verify the deeper meaning (and keep my long-forgotten analytical reading skills in check.) ;) 

While I would recommend the collection, I have a hard time with short stories: I appreciate each story, but unless I go back to each individual entry multiple times, I forget most almost as soon as I've finished.

- - - - - - - -

As always, these reviews were ripped from my Goodreads

What did you read in March? 
What are you reading now? 

What I'm looking forward to:  I have no idea. I will not be reading another short story collection for a while. I'd like to find something I can't put down. Anything to keep me off my phone at night...  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Four Things

My favorite place: Molokai, Hawaii

I have some new readers these days (hello!) and I've seen this Four Things post on several blogs, so I thought I'd give it a go. It reminded me of email chains and Myspace surveys.

Four names that people call me, other than my real name:
Betty (Alex calls me this)
Lizardbreath (my sister, a loooong time ago)

Four jobs I have had:
UI/UX Designer (current)
"Multimedia Design Assistant to Curator of Education"
Cosmetician... at Walgreens
Christmas display setup... in July (Hobby Lobby)

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:
Pride & Prejudice (BBC)
Die Hard (1 or 3)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Four books I’d recommend:
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
O Pioneers! (Willa Cather)
Lexicon (Max Barry)
Attachments (Rainbow Rowell)

Four places I have been:
London, England
Berchtesgaden, Germany
Molokai, Hawaii (see photo above)
Arches National Park, Utah

Four places I’d rather be right now:
Somewhere sunny
Somewhere warm, but not too hot
Somewhere without any tasks or obligations
Somewhere with a good book and a good view
(...see photo above)

Four things I don’t eat:
Besides completely weird things like squirrel or rat, I'll eat pretty much anything.
Maybe peas

Four of my favorite foods:
Air-popped popcorn
Sautéed Brussels sprouts
Egg White Delight + hash brown

Four TV shows that I watch:
Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones
Switched at Birth (guilty pleasure)

Four things I am looking forward to this year:
Getting rid of clutter

Four things I’m always saying:
Follow your heart

That's all! What are your four things? 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Race Recap: Scioto Miles #1

Photo by Robb McCormick
Race #1 in the Scioto Miles Spring Training Series took place Sunday, March 22 at 8:00am. The series includes two races (next in April) across three distances: 5k, 10k, and 15k. I ran the 10k. [Race Information]

Downtown Columbus at 6:45am. (The only photo we took.)
Pre Race
We didn't feel like getting our packets last week, so we got up at 5:50 and arrived early for packet pickup. After quickly grabbing our bibs and shirts we headed back to the car to escape the cold. It was 30 degrees, which felt much colder after Saturday's sunny, 60 degree weather. Luckily, when the sun came out just before the race began, it was a clear, cloudless day.

I won't lie, we weren't feeling it. I woke up at 3:45am with a thumping migraine. I took pills and willed myself back to sleep. When we woke up to get ready, my stomach felt gross, but that's kind of normal for me when I'm a little nervous (as I generally am for anything "different" than my daily routine). Normally after we're finished running we both feel much better and are happy we signed up. Whatever the reason, Alex and I both felt pretty slow during the run and kind of "meh" about the whole experience. But let me be clear: this was not the fault of the event organizers! The race went off without a hitch.

I tried something new with this race: making A and B goals. I've done this unofficially in the past ("Finish in a respectable time." "Run under a 10 minute pace"), but this time I made a conscious effort to look up the necessary pace to achieve my goals.
A goal: maintain a 9:00-9:05 pace for a 56:00 finish
B goal: maintain a 9:35 pace for an under 1:00:00 finish 
I'm behind the pink lady with the pink thing on my head. 
The Race 
The field included 2,000+ runners over three distances. Everyone starts at the same time, but there are pacers to maintain order. I stood between 56:00 and 1:00:00 10k pacers. We set off and I kept them in my sights. People were dashing past me and it was difficult not to get caught up. I kept reminding myself that most of the people around me were racing the 5k and I needed to keep a steady, sustainable pace.

The course was pretty flat for the first mile. Mile 1.3-2 was in full sun and I got a little warm, but never enough to remove a layer. After mile 2 there were several hills. I won't lie, they weren't huge but they hurt. By mile 2.5 to 3 I was no longer running near the pacers, but they were in my sights. I always forget how far a 5k feels when you're trying to go faster. How on earth did I run 5ks at an 8:30 pace a few months ago?

When we crossed the start/finish to begin our second lap I was ready to be done. I wanted to stop at the 5k and I could not picture myself completing a second lap. At that point I knew I'd have to take it mile by mile or I would give up. (Goodness, I sound like I'm talking about a marathon!) I took off my gloves and saw Alex waiting in the wings. He ran beside me for a few seconds. Long enough for me to pass him my gloves and say, "I feel terrible." He said something supportive (no idea what. Couldn't function.) and I continued on to the first turn.

Lots of small hills along the 5k loop.
I slowed down on mile 4. I needed it! It felt nice to go slower, but as the pacers slid out of view I knew I wasn't going to meet my A goal. I tried to concentrating on what I've realized is my (lame) mantra: "Just keep running." I don't care if I slow down, it's better than walking. I couldn't believe I wanted to walk during a 10k, but I definitely would have if I didn't have goals.

I look like I'm in a good mood. (Lies.)
Photo by Robb McCormick 
I knew we were back to the small, but steep hills after mile 5 so I tried to make myself speed up on the downhills and straightaways. Technically, I did... but it was the slowest form of speedy possible. By this point we started passing walkers. While I dodged and weaved a bit, they weren't all over the path. About .75 mile to go I found myself near two other women. I hung with them and tried to think "Just keep running. Only 7 more minutes." Around this time I looked at my watch and saw we'd passed the 50 minute mark.

I don't remember exactly when I started thinking I shouldn't sign up for more long distance races. I wasn't having a good race and wasn't feeling it. What if Cap City goes the same way? How could I expect to ever run a half marathon in under 2 hours if I couldn't even stay with the 9:00 min pacers on a race that's half the distances? It was kind of a downer. (Let me add: I like running far and if I didn't care about going faster I wouldn't have these thoughts.)

I looked at my watch again after a medium hill before the finish and saw 54 or 55 minutes. Well, there went my A goal. I was starting to worry about the B goal as I huffed and puffed the last part. Man, it was tough. I wanted to walk so badly. What a shame because I've had some really quick training runs over the past week. Maybe too quick before race day?

I stuck with the ladies near me, passed some walkers, and finally saw the finish ahead. I scanned for Alex, but didn't see him. I felt so crappy and wanted to be done and almost didn't wave at the photographer (I really need a new default reaction. How about not waving?) I saw the clock: 58 something. "Well, that's not too bad..." I crossed the line, spotted Alex, and went to get my medal and free snacks (so many!). One of my MIT pace coaches congratulated me and I was so out of it I hope I said thanks! I can't remember the first thing I said after I met up with Alex, but it was probably something like "that was terrible" or "ughhhhh."

Swag included shoes!!! (And a great shirt)
Final Stats and Thoughts
Despite my bad attitude, the race wasn't nearly as terrible as Emerald City. I know I can run the distance and I didn't let myself walk. If I'd run it all at 9:30 or 9:45 pace I wouldn't have been as tired, but I really wanted to run it faster. I'm not sure if I trained too hard in the week leading up, not enough, if I need more speed work, or if I'm just not meant to be fast. (Pity party.)

Mile Splits
Mile 1     9:02
Mile 2     9:03
Mile 3     9:04
Mile 4     9:26
Mile 5     9:16
Mile 6     9:19

Final Time: 58:27
My Garmin says the 10k distance took me 56:57. Garmin Connect and Map My Run say I ran 6.4 miles at a 9:10 pace, but my official results obviously use 6.2 miles to get a 9:25 pace.  I'm a little salty over my GPS vs. official results. Did I swing wide? What a bummer to run a pace apparently good enough for a 57 minute finish, but fall short. (Yes, yes. I know. The pity party continues.) How do I deal with these discrepancies? My saltiness subsides a bit when I see my place in the pack. If I stopped at the 5k –even at my non race pace– I would have had a top 10% finish! A side note: Alex ran a "slow (for him) 5k of 21 minutes. Because most of the fast dudes continued on to the 10k and 15k, he ended up finishing 7th!

Overall (10k finishers): 226/750 (30%)
Gender: 115/521 (22%)
Age Group: 55/226 (24%)

Next up: The Westerville Bunny Hop 5k on April 4 (probably my last 5k until fall/winter). April 12 is race #2 in the Scioto Miles series. I considered bumping up to 15k, but no way. Laps are not my forté. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Five: Spring!

Happy Friday! The theme of today's Friday Five Link up with MarCynthia, and Courtney is SpringWe had a taste of sunshine and warmth earlier this week, but I'm a little bummed it'll be cold Sunday morning for my next race.  Oh well, I have faith it'll warm up soon. In the meantime, here are five things I'm looking forward to this Spring:

Magnolia time at Goodale Park 
Seeing and photographing the magnolia bloom at Goodale used to be a yearly event for Alex and I, but over the past two years we've missed peak bloom. (I believe a late frost ruined the flowers last year.) I think it will be good to get back out there and appreciate the park. The photo above is from 2011.

(Technically Detroit, but same idea,)

Columbus Auto Show
I can't believe I'm putting this on the list, but one year the auto show fell during Magnolia time at Goodale so I associate the two. We're going this weekend and I doubt the flowers are blooming quite yet. Alex brought me to the car show a few years ago and I surprised myself by enjoying it. I don't really care about cars (I've had the same VW Jetta foreverrrr), but it's fun to see what's out there if I need to upgrade. We went to the Detroit Auto Show in 2013 and it was even better. I think it helps that Alex doesn't spend oodles of time ogling one car. The auto show is great for people-watching and usually guarantees a good meal downtown.

Ash Cave, 2013
Spring ushers in new opportunities to explore trails near and far. I don't mind winter hiking, but the sunshine makes everything more enjoyable.

Alex took a photo of my group last year. This was after my first 12 mile run!
Earth Day
We're big Earth Day celebrators. Alex usually hosts a tree planting for the City of Columbus, but it's up-in-the air this year as his normal point of contact moved. No matter what, we'll be planting trees on Earth Day.

Soaking up the sun in our backyard
We normally plant our flowers and veggies in late spring. In the past two years we've waited until the last minute. We've also missed perfect backyard BBQ weekends. I'm hoping to remedy this in 2015. Spring is perfect for backyard hangouts because mosquitos aren't out in full force. Sometimes I forget why I don't spent more time in our yard... and then I go outside in June and get bit 10 times within one minute. (I am a mosquito magnet. Alex and our friends don't have this issue. Ugh, summertime bugs suck.)

That's all for this week. I'm feeling pretty amped for spring! Looking forward to all of the above plus spring cleaning, dinner and drinks on patios, being able to wear lightweight clothing, and running in comfortable temperatures!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Linkup: A Day in the Life

Happy Friday the 13th! I'm back with another Friday Five Link up with MarCynthia, and Courtney. I missed last week, but this week's theme is Day in the LifeHere's my typical (non happy hour) weekday: 

Alex's alarm goes off and he gets out of bed. I get up for a few minutes, say goodbye, then turn on two fans and put two pillows over my head to drown out his getting ready sounds. (He's quiet, I'm a light sleeper.) Sometimes I get right back to sleep, but about once a week I'm up til 6:30.

My view at 8:40am.
8:40 - 9:10am 
Yes, you read that correctly. I do not wake up until 8:40am. I am a web designer. That means a flexible office environment and a later start. I usually wake up slowly, play with my phone (check Twitter, Facebook, and weather), then get dressed and go downstairs. It only takes me 10-15 minutes to get ready. I don't look particularly ravishing at work, but no one cares. I live less than a mile from the office and this week I've been walking (my car is getting worked on). In nice weather I usually bike. This winter I drove like the lazy, cold person I am.

I work in an old flour mill that's been redeveloped as office space. Lots of weirdos in the area. 
9:20am - 12:00pm
Get to work. I eat breakfast at my desk (oatmeal) and drink coffee while I check emails. Then I get into my tasks for the day. Tasks range from wireframe, designs, illustrations, QA, design reviews, meetings, etc...

Our office cat, Tony. Oh yeah, I basically work in an arcade
I take lunch around noon. Unless we have an office outing, I sit at my desk and read a book or my Feedly subscriptions. I usually don't take the full hour so I won't feel guilt when I leave exactly at...

Unless I have a pressing task, I leave work at 5:00 on the dot. When I get home Alex is either making dinner, asking me what we should make together, or planning to go out to eat.

What I come home to.
If it's a running day, I go out for my prescribed milage while he makes dinner (unless he's waiting for help). I missed many weekday runs in the negative temperatures, but I'm trying to stay on track now. I generally run Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, and sometimes Friday or Sunday (depending on which fits my schedule). Dinner happens right after a run unless we eat after I get home from work.

Normal dinners include protein + veggies with pasta/rice, pizza, or tacos.

If it's not a running night... or if I've got lots of energy I do a 28 minute Kayla Itsines workout. I've only been at it for two weeks, but it fits into my nightly routine without much hassle. Directly after I take a shower. I am a night-time showerer because I have very thick hair that needs tamed by sleeping on it. I try not to wash my hair every night, but in the summer this becomes unavoidable.

10:00pm -12:00am
Alex heads to bed. I go with him, but I read (or play with my phone) until somewhere around midnight. I really need to cut down my phone time, but it's tough. I've been slacking lately and haven't finished books at my normal rate. I think it's time to get back to reading before bed!

Not at home, but it illustrates our love for beer. 
Things I didn't include:
  • We drink beer or red wine at least 3 days a week. 
  • I used to eat air-popped popcorn every night around 9:00pm, but not as much lately. 
  • Until a few weeks ago (during the winter depression) we would watch TV or Netflix from 7:00-bed time. Now we watch during dinner. 
  • If I'm not doing the things outlined above, I'm probably playing on my laptop or phone. Addicted. 
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