Saturday, December 26, 2009

what it's about

First, let me start by saying, yes, I realize that I haven't published anything since the first part of 2009 so to those of you who keep watching...surprise! I actually have written many posts over the past nine months, but haven't published them for one reason or another. Either I couldn't quite get the wording, the words were too personal for my comfort level, or other times I just flat didn't bother. In any case, I do have plans to put the majority of them on the blog...not all, but most. Luckily, I kept note of the date and time of the original writing, so there will be some continuity to this ongoing story. That brings me to the reason for finally making my thoughts public after all this time....

I should tell you that this post has absolutely nothing to do with running, but it warrants a read probably more than anything I have, or will, put out there. I'm in Texas at the moment, visiting family for Christmas. It's loud, tiring, chaotic, and wonderful! Every year I head south with excitement because it's been a whole year since I've seen everyone, and trepidation because it's only been a year since I've had to combat all the nosy questions from everyone. That being said, I'm very lucky to be surrounded by the unthinkable madness and overly inquisitive family. As you've probably seen plastered all over the news (or been stuck in), Oklahoma got pounded by a blizzard on Christmas Eve - the day after I left. So many people I know had to rearrange their Christmas plans, but luckily most had family nearby and were not faced with spending it alone. I know a lady, though, who is 80 years old and aside from her 15 year old dog, has no family any closer than Tulsa. I know another lady, who also doesn't have family here, but being Jewish, she doesn't celebrate Christmas. Given the part of the country that we are in, her heritage puts her well into the minority category and she is forced to constantly remind people that Hannukah is her winter holiday. Unfortunately, the difference often precipitates incorrect assumptions or crude jokes...not always intentional, but wearing nonetheless. Her response is to try to educate those individuals on Judaism, and teach them that diversity is a positive thing in this world. Sometimes it works. More often than not it doesn't. In any case, she walks a frustrating path on a near daily basis.

So back to the blizzard.... While this storm separated a lot of people who had planned to observe this holiday together, it brought two very different women to one dinner table on a snowy Christmas Day. You see, my straight-out-of-New York, Jewish friend who continually battles society forcing Christianity on her set that aside for an evening to keep her 80 year old, native Oklahoman, very Christian neighbor from being alone on this day. She took care to find out what constitutes a traditional Christmas dinner and even took in consideration the always anticipated leftovers. She then cooked said dinner, invited her over, and spent the evening celebrating a holiday she doesn't believe in just so her neighbor didn't have to celebrate it alone. That, my friends, is what this season should be about. The giving of yourself, embracing the idea that we can have varying beliefs, welcoming differences...

Now before I upset anyone, I know December 25 is a Christian holiday, but this wasn't a story about Christmas vs. Hannukah, or Christian vs. Judaism. It is merely a story about one woman doing something amazing for another and I hope that's what you take from it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

seeing it for the first time

Merry Christmas Eve everyone and let the madness begin! I arrived at my parent's house late last night after a long drive through both sides of Dallas traffic (completely forgot that they like to get a two hour head start on 5:00 traffic), a stop at Whole Foods (where I spent an hour and a half talking to the super cool beer and wine saleslady), and several rounds of turtle-speed inducing sideways rain. As soon as I walk in I'm bombarded by "Aunt A!" screams from little ones who should be sleeping, and gut-wrenching barking from another room. My initial reaction is an enthusiastic "Hi and What the hell is that?!?!" I forgot they got a new pet. They call it a dog, but I'm not convinced. Anyway, it's a clear indicator of the chaos that's about to ensue over the next couple of days, so in preparation I quickly lug Henry (my dog that is unmistakably a dog)in, immediately pull him from the grasp of the unidentified screaming creature, and crawl into bed.

Several hours later, I'm up and on the search for the coffee pot. My parents are lovely and store a coffee pot just for me to use at Christmas because nobody else drinks the wonderdrink. How anyone survives a normal day, let alone the holidays, without coffee is beyond me! Anyway, I quickly find the pot and am excited to discover that the coffee filters are still in the cabinet since I forgot to buy any on the way down. So after chiseling out last year's used filter (yes, I forgot to take it out when I put it away and literally was chiseling it out with an ice pic), I start the coffee and oatmeal and shout out that I'm going for a run. I throw on some shoes (no socks because I forgot them), running shorts, a sleep shirt (yes, I forgot my tank, too), and head out. I did, however, remember to load my iPod with Christmas tunes and a few NPR podcasts.

Headphones on for the first time in eons, I latch the screen door, brush past the old, wooden swing, and hop off the porch. I'm moving at a slightly quicker pace than anticipated. It's a chilly morning, completely overcast and with slight breeze...almost too chilly for the little bit of clothing I've scrounged together. God, it feels good to have the legs moving! As my mind starts to wander, I realize that in over two decades of either living in or visiting that house, I've never gone for a run there. Sure, as kids we'd take off down the street, but it was always just to get to our destination, and we were so focused on what we'd get into once we made it that the world between those two points went unnoticed. So this morning, as I'm moving forward on my own to no particular ending point, I actually see how much the trees have grown. You used to be able to see paths through the bushes, but now it's a virtual forest. I pass by the ditch where we found my neighbor's cat who didn't survive the snake he apparently got too close to. I remember her older sister and I trying to keep her from seeing it as we bagged it up and brought it home to bury. Where the dirt road from my parent's house meets the blacktop is the little church they go to. I was dragged to that place three times a week until I graduated high school! Don't get me wrong...great people, but it just wasn't for me. Just about a half mile down the road is my step-grandparent's home. Papa died a few years back, but Mrs. Swearingen is still there running the show. She's good like that....always has something very grandmothery going and just likes to take care of things. Incidentally, everyone calls them 'Papa and Mrs. Swearingen,' related or not. Papa used to take us on wheelbarrow rides through that yard. He taught us to drive in the pasture next to the house. There were many weekends that he'd have us out there bailing hay all morning and after stacking the hay in the barn, we'd pile in the back of his truck and cut into a fantastically juicy, home-grown watermelon, and it would be gone in a matter of minutes! A little further up the road is an old shack that we'd venture into if we wanted a good scare. It was never very sturdy to begin with, but it really looks run down now. Years ago when you snuck in, you were faced with a wall decorated with satanic praises. As you make your way through it, you'd see depictions of devil worshipping rituals, heavy metal band names, and random violent-looking splatters of red paint. I don't care to be spooked today, so I speed up just a little bit. About three or four minutes later, I pass the house of a former classmate. I don't recall much about him...just that he was really quiet and for the first few years I was at that school, he was in the special ed class. I kind of think that he wouldn't have needed to be there if he had the proper help at home. I do remember, very vividly I might add, his crazy dogs! They would bark and growl at their first sight of you. Needless to say, we only ventured that far on foot once. Truthfully, had I remembered that I would've turned around at the satanic shack. Luckily those dogs are no longer there waiting to pounce. I'm enjoying this unexpected nostalgia and would like to keep going, but I know that there is a little red-headed fireball waiting for me back at the house, and I'm anxious to see what sort of mischief she plans to drag me into. So I start back, all the while looking for anything I may have missed along the way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

invasion of the santa clauses and all things christmas

Just a short post to say that the inaugural Santa Pub Crawl was an absolute blast tonight! We had a wonderful mix of costumed people from the Landrunners, Trailrunners, and Tri-OKC jingling through Bricktown and spreading more Christmas spirit than Oklahoma City has probably ever seen!

On a separate note, a year ago today (well, technically yesterday since it's now 2:30 a.m.), I had one of the best unplanned runs downtown ever and accidentally stole a napkin from my favorite pub. To my readers: long story as to how I remember this; and To my favorite pub: my most sincere apologies, but I've probably more than made up for the cost of that napkin over the past year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

now i believe it

So this weekend was the Dallas White Rock Marathon, and what a great weekend it was! There weren't as many Landrunners participating as there were in 2008 (only three that I know of), but we still had a fun time. Upon our arrival into Dallas, we headed straight for the expo where we promptly picked up the race packets, tested out our acting skills, chastised our friend for skipping out on announcing this year, and tried unsuccessfully to stalk Bill Rodgers....typical expo activities, really. That evening was much more low key than last year's White Rock Eve. There were NO Brazilian soccer players in the immediate area and the wine consumed was limited to the tiny samples from the wine guy at Whole Foods. I even tried to go to bed early, but insomnia kept me up watching reruns of Law & Order SVU. At least it was the good L&O series, though. Anyway, I finally caught a couple of hours of sleep before bounding out of bed, wide-ass awake at 3:45 a.m. - two and a half hours before the alarm was set to go off! With very little sleep and a whole lot of time to kill, I made my way down to the lobby in search of some coffee. Of course they operate on reasonable hours and the breakfast room didn't open until 6:00. The kind front-desk lady did offer me one of those awesome Doubletree Hotel cookies, an apology for being unable to caffeinate me, and directions to the nearest place with fresh coffee. Quick sidebar here... If you've never had one of the famous Doubletree Hotel cookies, you are missing out! It's so good that I saved the package with the list of ingredients so I could try to replicate it, and this is coming from someone who would rather have an extra hunk of bread or glass of wine for dessert! Okay, so it's 4:00 and I'm heading out for coffee and to fill my car up. By the time I make it back to the hotel, other runners are starting to stir, so I chat a bit with a man and his kid while they wait for his wife to come down. Finally it's time to throw on the shorts and head to the start line with zippy Christmas music blaring all the way over.

It's chilly to me, which means it's perfect for most everyone else. Very little wind and no drizzle already makes for much better running conditions than last year. As the gun goes off, I start repeating my Tulsa plan to myself - run the first six miles slowly, walk the next, and repeat. I'm still, yes STILL, trying to be smart. I need good running karma for my body since I have a lot to make up for from throwing it into that ultra a few weeks ago. I feel too good, though. My legs have missed the hills, there is no pain, and they don't want the slow, boring miles that Dr. Tom has prescribed. I compromise and settle into what feels like about a 9:00 pace next to this intriguing set of runners who invited me into their conversation. Nearly to the six mile mark, the guy says to his friend "We're doing great...holding between 8:23 and 8:33 pace." My comment was something along the lines of "Holy fuck, Dr. Tom would have my head!" and I back off. Okay, so intelligence comes and goes with me...

Once again, I'm reasoning with myself. Since I slowed down as soon as I heard the pace, I can go ahead and run the next two and then take a walk break. It didn't hurt. I ran to the eight mile mark. I walked mile eight. Okay, so it wasn't the original plan, but it was definitely preplanned. I'd conjured it up TWO WHOLE MILES ago! At the tenth mile, I entered back into a run, but quickly forced another walk break even though running felt better. I wanted to be able to fly down the Katy trail to the finish line without my conscience screaming at me. Wasting no time once I hit the end of the walking point, I sped up and started picking my people to catch. If you're a runner, you know what I mean. It's one of the oldest mind games out there, but somehow it works every time. I chase and catch my targets all the way to the end. I feel fast and nauseous and wonderful, and I'm completely clueless about my time until I round the corner onto the straightaway that takes me to the finish line. That's where my blurry eyes notice the clock says 2:10:33. It's over ten minutes slower than last year, given the injury plaguing me since the middle of the summer, I'll happily take it. Not only that, but for the first time I actually believe that I can make it to Boston one day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

kitchen mishaps

It turns out that our group run originally scheduled for this morning was postponed until tomorrow due to a snowstorm we were supposed to be pummeled with. Of course Oklahoma weather being Oklahoma weather-like, nothing ever happened. Believe me, I waited up as there were great plans in the works to commence at the fall of the first flake! So with an extra day on my hands and a freezer full of half-used packages of fruits and nuts and the like, I decided to do a little experimenting in the kitchen. First thing's first - the success of the day was a yeast bread that allowed me to use up the rest of a cooked millet, aramanth, and quinoa mixture (yes, this sounds like bird food, but no, it's meant for human consumption) and the remainder of some agave nectar hanging out in the pantry. I'm defining success by taste, by the way, and not appearance since it came out of the oven with a sunken middle. Anyway, while the bird food bread was rising (only to fall as it baked??), I moved on to this sourdough cherry and pineapple coffee cake concoction that I thought might be a fun change to bring for the group tomorrow. Now before anyone gets too excited, this turned out quite disastrous and will not be making an appearance. It seems you can't just stir frozen cherries and a can of crushed pineapple into batter without the entire dish turning a violent orange as it bakes. Remember Bridget Jones and the blue soup? That's what it was like, only food should be that color! This was the sort of thing that could only be brought to a child's Halloween party. Luckily I've got a back-up loaf in the freezer that is not deflated or of demonic color.

Many of you know I'm an NPR junkie and listen to NPR podcasts when I'm running. Well, while frittering about the kitchen I was listening to this new non-NPR podcast (new to me, at least) called The Extra Mile. It's this fantastic piece that a guy called Kevin has put together. Runners around the world call in or email audio clips with stories about their training, racing, recovery...whatever, and they are compiled into various episodes for our listening enjoyment. It features snippets by everyone from Bart Yasso to a random lady who goes by Petra out of London....a sort of 'for runners by runners' collection. You can subscribe for free through iTunes and I just downloaded four more episodes to carry me over those hills tomorrow. I'm so excited! Sorry NPR. I promise you'll stay in the rotation! Anyway, since I don't know how to put a link in this text, I'll add the site to the list of blogs I follow in case any of you want to be a giant podcast-loving nerd, too.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

this post's for you

Yes, Willie, this one is for you. It seems I've been dragging at the end of your blog roll for quite some time now, and it's time I move up, even if only for a brief moment. I thought it was bad when you had to say something to me for the third or fourth (or twelfth!) time, but then my sister who NEVER keeps up with this sort of thing mentioned it. Apparently that still wasn't enough and it took someone who has joined our running group and whose name I don't even know to get me into gear! I'd like to say that I have a good know, like nothing blog-worthy to post on, no time, spontaneous implosion of my computer and all those I have access to, but all that would be untrue and I'm a pretty terrible liar. My only excuse is that I've been sidetracked with meeting new people, catching up to the rest of society on pop culture, and vampire books. Those are valid reasons, right??

For those of you who are scratching your head because the title of this post sounds vaguely familiar, you caught me! I nabbed it from that timeless Anheuser Busch slogan, 'This Bud's For You.' I found a random can of Budweiser in my collection and just experimented with an Italian Herbed Beer Bread to bring to the training run tomorrow. I've got to say, my kitchen smells fantastic! Who knew that something good could come from a can of Budweiser?! Speaking of which, the timer is yelling at me so I'll hit 'post' now. I mentioned earlier that I do have some blog-worthy topics, so the next post will actually be running-relevant. Stay tuned....

Friday, January 9, 2009

a week of mondays

Seriously! It's Friday people! The day of anticipation for the weekend, wearing jeans to the office, and happy hour. Yet it still feels like Monday and it has every day this week. Monday felt that way just because it was Monday, and funnily enough, they tend to do that. Tuesday, I started my day by exploding oatmeal all over my stove. It seems that in my sleepy stupor, I turned the burner to high instead of low, and well, we all know what happens when water gets really, really hot. Along the same lines of food mishaps, I made a giant pot of delicious tuscan white bean, kale, and smoked bacon soup the night before for weekday lunches only to discover through a mouthful of grit that I didn't wash the kale. I hate waste, so I've been eating fantastically flavored, yet, very gritty soup all week. Yesterday Henry (my super-cool, but extremely curious dog) found a yummy little treat in the grass that he deposited right in the middle of my living room a short time later. He's not delicate when he gets sick,'s like he's trying to turn himself inside out or something! And finally, this morning I wake up and my oven timer is going off! It's this constant "eeehhhhhhh" sound, much like "the most annoying sound in the world" from that movie Dumb and Dumber! I first heard it at 5:00 a.m. and when I left for the office at 7:30, it was still drowning out the voices in my head. Hopefully they were able to fix it before I get home otherwise my sanity my permanently be in jeopardy. I won't bore you with the office-related "Monday incidents," as they are meaningless to someone who doesn't work here.

Tomorrow is our second group run for the marathon training. It's only eight miles, for which I'm thankful because the temp is going to be low and the winds high....very Oklahoma-like. If only I had time to go get the heated gloves before tomorrow.... Maybe I'll try to hang with the fast guys again. The quicker we finish the quicker we get coffee.

I started the FIRST training plan this week, as well. It's that three-runs per week plan (speedwork, tempo, and long) that many runners have used to qualify for Boston. I'm not concerned with a BQ at the moment....just something to mix up my runs. I'm pretty loose about it, though, as I've already added an additional run this week. I am following the prescribed speeds, though. Just for the record, this week my runs have been:
Tuesday morning: speedwork - 6 miles
Tuesday evening: running off the "Monday" feeling - 3 miles
Thursday morning: tempo run - 6.5 miles

Anyway, this post is becoming rather boring so I'll sign off. More will come your way later!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

wishes and dreams

I just got home and Sleepless in Seattle is on. The little kid has just called into the radio show and that particular episode was titled "Wishes and Dreams," so that's where I nabbed the title of this post from. It's fairly appropriate because I was just attending a Sneak Peak Open House for some good friends of mine who are FINALLY opening their own gym. It's been a goal of theirs for several years, but you know how much time and money these sorts of ventures take. In any case, they are seeing their "wishes and dreams" come to fruition so we're all really pleased for them.

This morning started the 2009 OKC Memorial Marathon training. We had around 125 runners show up for a six mile run! I'm really proud of this because a) we have one of the greatest marathons in the country, b) this training group started and grown in 2001 by a hero, and c) I'm honored to be on the newly formed committee to keep the training up to that hero's standards. The Oklahoma wind notwithstanding, it was a beautiful morning! Sunny, clear skies and a relatively mild temp of 49 started us out. Of course I was running with three friends who are significantly faster than I am, so my focus was more on the voices in my head screaming "what the @#$%@$# do you think you're doing?!?!" I could have easily dropped back without anyone giving it a second thought, but pride and curiosity to see if I could hang wouldn't let me. I kept up, but sweet mother! By the last half mile, I was contributing nothing to the conversation because I decided that breathing was slightly more important than talking.

Afterward, a few of us jetted over to another area lake to do an annual trail run organized by a friend of mine. He has a 50K and 25K route marked, but you can run whatever distance your legs will take you. Mine only took me seven miles. I started out with the same speed demons from the road earlier, but we grouped off fairly quickly. I ran the last half alone on the trail, and as much as I love running with others, it was rather enjoyable being talked to only by the trees. I'll never be one that only craves solitude when running, but it's a nice change from time to time. I ran back to the start (after turning the wrong way out of the trail head and tacking on an extra hill... I have no idea why I can run the trails with perfect direction and get turned around once I get out!), and waited for my coffee compadres to get back. We headed over to the nearest Starbucks, which, by the way, is NOT just across the interstate as the sign says, and replenished the depleted coffee supply in our bodies. I'm convinced that I need to be at least 98% coffee in order to be fully functional. Medical doctors would argue water, but you know how studies are always contradicting themselves....

While sitting there, we got in a conversation about wine - how bad Oklahoma wines are, how good wines in the rest of the world are, and the joys of Missouri's cotton candy flavored wine. I kid about that last part..... not about the fact that they have cotton candy flavored wine, because they do, but about them being joyous. They are only joyous in the sense that you have something to laugh about, not joyous in flavor. Well, it just so happens that there is a swanky little wine store just a few doors down that custom blends wines for you and will even customize labels! What better way to end the morning than a little bit of wine tasting! We walked over to discover some very interesting blends, such as black currant merlot, raspberry zinfandel, and a nontraditional ice wine (can't remember the flavor of that one). He also let us try a FANTASTIC old vine zin and an incredibly bold barolo. He teased us with the description of a Chilean rioja before telling us that it was no more....sold out at Christmas. Anyway, the place is called Vintner's Cellar and it's on 15th and Bryant in Edmond. Check it out if you get the chance.

So with 6 miles on the roads, 7 miles on the trails, good coffee, and an impromptu wine tasting, it was a great first day of OKC Marathon training and I'm looking forward to next weekend!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

resolution running

Well, I ran it, although it was about a minute and a half slower than my normal 5K time. I'm guessing, anyway, as the link to the results isn't posted yet. I did place second in my age group, but I don't think that my age group was well-represented this morning. Truthfully, it wasn't that bad. The wind was ridiculous, but since the race was an out-and-back, it was at our backs for the second half. Also, I was entertained by another runner's musings on nutrition, supplements, and IBS. It's funny what runners talk about to pass the time....usually it goes from current running and injuries to digestive issues to food. He was doing most of the talking, though, as I was using every ounce of energy I had to move my wine-filled legs. Afterward, a group of us met at the nearest Starbucks to warm up and rehash the prior evening's events while waiting for the annual Runner's Brunch.

Being New Year's Day, there was a lot of talk of resolutions. I heard everything from eat more fruit to doing more yoga to just making it to the year 2010 (probably the most logical goal, eh?). One runner's wife who comes out and cheers everyone on (seriously, she's fantastic - loud, energetic, makes signs.... she needs pom poms!) randomly decided to walk the course today with some of the injured runners. She enjoyed it so much that her resolution was to start entering the races to walk with the possibility of working up to jogging. Good for her! I tend not to make resolutions in the traditional style, but decide to actually do something that I'd been wanting to do. For example, last year I decided to start working my way down the list of restaurants that I'd been wanting to try out. Naturally I stuck to that! This year I plan to successfully can things. I don't have a garden (my thumb is actually on the opposite side of the color spectrum from green!), so I don't really know what I'll can or where I'll get it from, but I will can something. There's a very real danger of botulism poisoning from improperly canned goods, so I guess by successful I mean that I can eat whatever it is without dying shortly after. Anyone else set goals for 2009?

happy new year!

Just a quick post to say Happy New Year to all two readers of my blog! ;} I'm trying really hard to be excited about the Resolution Run that's taking place in an hour, but the 20 mph winds and the location (Overholser is my least favorite place to run) are working against me.....not to mention the fact that my body is protesting all the cheese, chocolate, and wine from last night. I don't understand that. Haven't the French proven that those are the staples of a healthful diet??? I mean, cheese is loaded with calcium and the chocolate and wine are full of antioxidants. If anything my body should be thanking me for keeping my bones strong and waging war against cancer, right?! In any case, this should be an interesting three miles. We'll see if I have anything to add later, so stay tuned.