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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Books of February 2015

It's March! Sure, it's currently raining ice pellets and there are several inches of snow-slush on the ground, but spring is upon us. February went quickly (as it generally does) and I don't remember much. There were work dinners and client meetings, a few friend outings, and another trail 10k (feels like a billion years ago). I went through a puzzle phase and did two in rapid succession. I would have kept going, but had to reign it in. I ran in the snow, sat around a lot, and started some overdue house projects... 

Reading-wise, I didn't do so well. Yeah, I have an admirable number, but they're mostly comic books. (I went through a bit of a Raina Telgemeier phase.) I did enjoy the "real" books I read, but I wish there were more. Let's see what I did get through.  

Finished February 12, 2015
by Andy Weir

Review: 4 / 5 
The end was intense! My heart rate's still up. I felt like the story alternated between nerve-wracking sequences and hum-drum Mr. Wizard-style science explanations. 

I think this will be an amazing movie if they get it right. I also believe this would be better on audiobook. The author is obviously very intelligent and had a great story to tell, but at times this read like a bad Dan Brown novel. I learned a ton (in case I'm ever stranded on Mars), but occasionally Mark's logs felt like reading a recipe or instruction manual with a few jokes mixed in. That's really my only complaint. In an seasoned writer's hands this would have been 5 stars for me. 

I was very pleased by the diverse cast of characters. I looked at the movie cast list and there seem to be gaps (and made up characters?), but I'm hoping they do not compromise on the diversity. 

Paperback note: I loved the quick interview with the author at the end of the book. I highly recommend it!

Finished February 26, 2015
by Roxane Gay

Review: 4 / 5 
A great collection of essays. Gay's writing style is conversational, but still very smart. It took me a while to get through because I would get depressed and angry, but ultimately I was inspired. Gay is the perfect feminist in my mind: reasonable, flawed, and able to see things from many perspectives. 

I'd give this a 5, but for two things: as with many essay collections, the cultural references will probably feel dated in a few years. They already felt a bit stale. Second, the author's affinity for hard breaks in several successive essays ("And yet." "But."). It's a nice style trick, but got a bit repetitive. 

Final note: Gay wrote one of my favorite (fiction) short stories last year. She's a very talented and versatile writer and I will continue to make my way through her body of work. 

Finished February 03, 2015
by Stephanie Perkins

Review: 4 / 5 
That title is atrocious and I never would have read this if it weren't for positive Goodreads reviews. I can't really pin down why I liked this so much, but I couldn't put it down. I read it over the course of two nights (and would have read it in one if I didn't have someone sleeping next to me). 

Anna is a good lead character with only a few clumsy moments. St. Clair is a fun male lead and reminded me of a few of my high school boyfriends/crushes. Oh, the confusion and flirting!

Finished February 2, 2015
by Raina Telgemeier

Review: 5 / 5 
What a great story. I'm sensitive about teeth and thought I might barf during her accident. (It was also difficult to block out memories of the pain of braces and headgear.) But the way she wove in tooth tails with the overall story of middle school, friends, and crushes was fantastic. 

I read so many YA novels with narrators that are almost relatable, but then they have perfect skin, the perfect body, or the perfect level of aloofness. (They are never goofy.) Raina was completely relatable and made an interesting narrator. 

I'll read the sequel, but I'm not sure I'll enjoy the premise as much as this.

Finished February 4, 2015
by Raina Telgemeier

Review: 4 / 5 
I finished Raina Telgemeier's Smile the other day so I thought I'd check out her BSC revamp. While it was nice to go back to a familiar story, by the end I realized I probably won't keep reading these. I already know what happens and I'm too old. ;)

Finished February 9, 2015
by Liz Climo

Review: 4 / 5 
These comics are cute. I've seen about a third of them on tumblr, but it's nice to see them again. The author said she loved The Far Side growing up and I think it shows. Her work would be perfect in daily doses. I wonder if she's made a page-a-day calendar....

Finished February 25, 2015
by Raina Telgemeier

Review: 4 / 5 
I was going to give this a three because it was kind of ho-hum compared to SmileThis is a story set in the school theater program. Callie was a fine lead character, but I found myself missing Smile. Callie was dense about her potential suitors, but who isn't at that age? Some scenes moved too quickly, but through it all, the art was cute. 

A comment on the controversy (there are gay characters in this book): There are great Goodreads reviews detailing awkward moments between parents and children as they read together and reached "that part," but it was refreshing to see many of the young kids didn't care if the characters were gay or not. I didn't know it was such a controversial middle school book when I picked it up! I think it would have been nice to read something like this when I was younger because I didn't really get what gay meant until I was well into my preteen years. Once I figured it out, I understood some of my friends and classmates better! And you know what? I didn't care who they liked. I can always remember feeling that way and hope the kids of today are eating up the so called "gay agenda" some reviewers are hollering about. Wouldn't it be lovely if the next generation didn't a care who was gay and who was straight?

- - - - - - - -

As always, these reviews were ripped from my Goodreads

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

What I'm looking forward to:  Finishing Cheryl Strayed's Wild and getting back into reading "real" books. My mom is already 8 books ahead of me this year. Yeah, she had a bunch of snow days, but still. I slacked off in February. She also wanted to read Charlotte Bronte's Villette together, but I'm not sure I'm ready for a gigantic book. Baby steps! 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Five Things I Want to Do in 2015

Hola! Time for the Friday Five Link Up with MarCynthia, and Courtney. I missed last week due to a busy work week, but I'm back! This week's theme: Free Friday. I've read a few of the posts, but one about bucket lists stuck with me. I don't really have a bucket list because I have no idea what I'll be up to in 10 years, so let's call this 5 Things I Want to Do in 2015.


1. Figure out if we're going to move or stay in Ohio
This is the big one. We keep talking about our options: moving to another state, getting a bigger house in Columbus, or staying put in our current house and hoarding money. We can see a more exciting and self-sustainable life in another place, but it's far away. We're going to scope things out in November and we're hoping to figure it out once and for all by 2016! (And yes, we're very lucky they are all great options!)

2. Finish the 50 states, or at least cross off Alaska 
I've mentioned this before, but I'm two states shy of visiting all 50. Alaska and North Dakota remain. We're planning an epic adventure near Anchorage in June to coincide with the Mayor's Midnight Sun Half. North Dakota may or may not happen in 2015. I monitor plane tickets and am hoping for a big drop sometime this year. I'm aiming for Teddy Roosevelt National Park in Medora, ND. 

3. Get rid of crap! 
No matter if we move or not, I have so much crap to donate, recycle, or toss. I've made a dent in my clothes, books, and craft supplies, but there is still progress to be made. (Plus, Alex has even more stuff!) I've started giving things to friends and by the end of the year they'll probably get tired of it, but it's nice to see my un-used goods getting love.

4. Run at least three half marathons and get a new PR. 
I've been concentrating on different distances this winter and while it's been very low-key, I'm ready to get back to halves. I'm signed up for two: the Cap City Half in May and the Loveland Half in October. Cap City marks my one year anniversary of running 13.1 miles and I want to improve upon last year's time (2:19), but I'm not sure if I'll go for a PR (2:08). I may save the PR attempt for October. I'd consider aiming for an under 2:00 half marathon later this year, but I'm not there yet. I need to confidently finish a few more races, then I can get ambitious! Plus - let's be real - I'm a very lazy trainer.

5. Get a new 5K PR.  
I know, yawn. But yeah... I'd like to chop off a few more seconds per mile. My current PR is 26:31 so I'll aim for 26:00. For a single mile it'd be cool to get under 8:00, but we'll see. Alex thinks 2015 is the year to amp up my speed, but as mentioned before, I'm lazy. ;) 

Thanks for joining me. This round of Friday Five is complete, but there's another on the horizon. What are your goals for 2015? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Five: My Loves

Happy Friday the 13th! I'm back with another Friday Five Link up with MarCynthia, and Courtney. This week's theme: All About LOVE. I've seen many different interpretations of this topic including gifts to give your love and a list of beloved running gear (in the shape of hearts, no less!). I'll begin with a simple list of what I love

Ireland in 2010. The guy reminded me of a Ralph Lauren ad.
1. Travel
I cannot get enough travel in my life. I'm always scheming my next trip. When Alex and I first started dating he went on one trip a year: Canada with his family. They'd been to the same place for eons and he didn't seem to care about going anywhere else. It took a while to pass on the travel bug, but I think our camping trips and visits to Hawaii have changed his outlook. He had more fun than he anticipated in Europe last summer and wants to keep traveling!

This photo was retweeted by Half Price Books on twitter. I'm famous. (Also, I've only read 2 of those so far.)
2. Books
I loooove books. Since 2009 I've averaged 73 books a year. I'm currently in the middle of a book re-shuffle: I'm making a big library wall in our guest bedroom. I'm hoping to add a reading nook, but we'll see how it goes! By the way, my favorite book store is Half Price Books. My top 5 favorite authors are (no particular order): Thomas Hardy, Willa Cather, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Max Barry.

Our last Smokies trip
3. Hiking 
I love being outside. (I miss sunshine and warmth. It's NINE right now.) Growing up, my mom and I used to go for walks at the local metro park or Old Man's Cave. I went through a bit of a hiking drought between college and adult life, but Alex also loves hiking so we're always looking for a fun place to go. We try to go on one camping trip per year, but also make short trips to parks in the area to get our nature fix. (I can't motivate myself to camp for more than a few days in a row. I don't think guys understand camping struggles for ladies!)


4. Running 
Obviously! Man, I'm seriously considering a treadmill purchase. This extreme cold has me beat. I prefer cold weather running, but not when temperatures are under 15 degrees!

Hiking with Tobias!
5. My Dog
Man, he is so cute. (Tobias)

Thanks for joining me! Happy Valentine's Day and don't forget to visit the host's blogs to read their round-ups. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Race Recap: Rocks and Roots #2

Photography by RobbMcCormick.com
The Rocks and Roots Trail Series includes two races over two months. Race #2 took place Sunday, February 8 at Alum Creek State Park. The race includes 6 distances: 10k, 20k, 30k, 40k, 50k, and 50 miler (52.5 miles, to be exact). I ran the 10k.  [Race Information]
The course and elevation.

Pre Race
We arrived just after 7:30am, giving us enough time to relax in the car. Last time, there was a gorgeous sunrise and bitter cold temperatures. This time? No sunrise and an overcast 40 degree day. It was chilly, but nowhere near as brutal. Instead of double layers of long-sleeves and running tights, I wore a tank top, hooded zip-up, capris, and a Buff. We trekked to the starting area around 8:00am and most of the walk included blacktop covered in slippery ice and snow. Alex wore shorts and a t-shirt, so he took advantage of the campfire near the starting line.

The Race 
Like last time, the line up was pretty informal. I thought about heading to the middle/back of the pack, but decided to stay put near the front/middle. The first 3/4 of a mile covers a flat prairie with three water crossings. The race organizers added rocks to make them easier to traverse. The prairie grass was matted down and covered in slush. Careful footing was the name of the game.

The wooded part of the trail was an even mix of snow, ice, slush, and mud and it was very slippery in parts. Guess what? I fell at least four times. Maybe five. I also caught myself a lot. I fell making tight turns, I fell up a muddy hill (it was spectacular), and I fell on more ice. It happened every time I zoned out and stop concentrating on the trail ahead of me. I'd think about finishing or how good I felt (relative to last time) and I'd bite it. At one point, I said something about not falling for at least a mile and 1 minute later I was on the ground. I don't know if it was my shoes, my tired legs, or just general clumsiness. I have a giant bruise on my knee and some road rash on my ankle, but nothing terrible.

Muddy shoes after the race. 
Anyway, about a half mile in I found my mark. She was running a steady pace and I wasn't tired keeping up. There was a guy in front of her and we made a nice pack (there were some people directly behind me, but I couldn't see them). We kept trucking through the aid station at mile 2.5. I remember getting extremely tired after the aid station during January's run due to the many up and downs. This time, I kept my eye on the people ahead of me and powered through. They slowed down, sped up, slipped around, and I was able to keep up.

Photography by RobbMcCormick.com
When the lead guy let us pass, the group directly behind me also lost steam. Mile 3 is tough on the trail. I ate my gel on a relatively flat section, but fell up a steep hill because I was thinking more about my gel than my footing (and I squished most of the water out of my water bottle trying to catch myself). Around mile 4 our pack became a three lady group. Between mile 5 and 6.3 I was beginning to feel exhausted. (Maybe more mentally than physically.) If I didn't have my pack leader and my support in the rear, I think I would have walked or slowed down after mile 5.

The last half mile of this race is no joke and I knew what was coming up. After a road crossing the trail topography is up and down. You can hear the finish line, but can't see it. To make things even more difficult, the hills were coated in mud. Earlier, I was thankful for mud because it meant I wouldn't fall, but this mud was thick, deep, and sticky. In fact, our pack caught up with some other runners and try as we might, we all walked. The second to last terrible mud pit/hill was followed by the course photographer, so of course everyone started to run again. The final mud pit was within the sight-line of the finish. Our pack got separated but I stuck it out and crossed the line after my original mark.

With my post-race chili.
Stats and feelings 
I looked down at my watch when I crossed the line and my time was about a minute and a half slower than January even though I felt much better. That last half mile of mud was killer, but as soon as I finished my energy was back. My legs weren't as shaky and I knew if the course wasn't slippery I would have beat my previous time. I'm kind of bummed I walked through the mud, but I'm not sure I could have run it anyway.

I've realized something about myself in the past year: I cannot start in the back. Why? I slack off. If I see someone walk, I think I should walk. If I feel gross, I don't think twice about slowing down. But if I'm in the front half of the pack I find myself thinking, "keep up with [my mark]. They've got a good pace." "Just a little longer." "You'll get there faster if you keep running." "You can't walk. You'll get passed by the people behind you." When I look back at my suckiest race (Emerald City), I believe starting far back set me up for a mental battle I couldn't win.

Final time: 1:18:13 (12:37/mile)
Overall 46/126 (36%)
Division 17/78 (21%)
Last month's time was 1:16:51, but I did better overall (previously 40%) and in my division (previously 27%), so obviously the course was a bit slower for everyone.

Up next: We'll be volunteering at a St. Patrick's Day 5k, but we don't have another race until Scioto Miles on March 22. Crazy!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Friday Five: My Week in Pictures

Happy Friday! Are you pumped for another Friday Five Link up with MarCynthia, and Courtney? This week's theme: Fitness Snapshots. The hosts were very active this week and did a great job documenting their workouts. I was active, but forgot to keep up on my workout photos, so my snapshots aren't all fitness related. Whoops! Let's get started, shall we? 

I had to skip my Saturday morning group run because my knee hurt after my Friday 2-miler. I woke up at 6:45am, walked up and down the stairs a few times, did some stretches, and realized my knee still ached. I went back to bed after deliberating with Alex. It was soooo nice to sleep in! Instead of running, I did an hour of Tracy Anderson, Fitsugar, and random knee stretching videos on Youtube (while watching Gilmore Girls). I think I was inspired by last week's Friday Five!

On Sunday, Alex and I headed out to Antrim Lake. While he circled the lake, I went down the bike trail that snakes along the river. I saw 3 or 4 people the entire time. It was beautiful, but slippery so I only ended up running about 3.1 miles instead of my prescribed 5. My knee didn't hurt as much... but it still wasn't 100%.

A view from the multipurpose trail. 
Finished my Sunday run with a lap around the deserted lake.
Before Alex went to a Superbowl party on Sunday night, we made the best pizza ever. It was a white pizza with radishes, daikon, Yukon gold potatoes, green onions, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and cheese. We made a second red version with turkey pepperoni, but this was my favorite. (We use Target Whole Grain pizza crusts.)

YUM. (Photo taken pre-oven bake.)
I left work early for my Wednesday night run to take advantage of the warmer temperatures. Unfortunately, I didn't eat enough or I was in a funk because once again I cut my prescribed miles short. I have a trail run Sunday and I'm a bit concerned. It's going to be rainy and warm-ish (read: muddy) and it will be tough. My goal is to keep myself injury free.

Not really a snapshot, but... 
I'm currently reading The Martian. I wasn't loving the beginning (great concept, but it felt like the narrator was listing off steps in a science fair project), but it just took a turn and introduced a new storytelling mechanism. I hope it continues to get better. I've heard such great things about it.


That's all for this week. Next time I'll stick to the assignment. ;) Don't forget to check out the host blogs and other linkup participants!

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