Friday, March 29, 2013

It's race season y'all!

It's taken nearly three months, but tomorrow I'll be running my first 5k of 2013. I've only done one race this year - the inaugural Portage Half Marathon. I haven't done a 5k since November, and I'm not anticipating a PR. Also let's be honest - my husband's Michigan State Spartans play in the Sweet 16 tonight at 9:45, so I'll be imbibing in adult beverages late into the evening. That generally doesn't bode well for a great 5k time.

Tomorrow I'll be running the Irondog 5k in East Lansing. The Irondog Fund helps provide medical care for animals when it would otherwise be financially unfeasible. We took our cat Daisy to MSU Veterinary Hospital last month when she passed away, and her care was amazing. I'm happy to run for this cause that has helped so many animals.

Next week we head on our annual Washington, DC pilgrimage where I'll run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. In all of our trips to DC I've never been during peak cherry blossom time, so I'm excited to be there and run along the Potomac among the cherry blossoms. Very fun.  A few weeks later we'll head to Pittsburgh where I'll run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. At the end of May we'll be in Chicago for the Soldier Field 10-miler and a few weeks later in Ludington, MI for the Lake Stride Half Marathon.

During our 2012 DC trip at the FDR memorial
I'm looking forward to a busy few months with lots of fun races. The best part is getting to spend time in some of my favorite cities - DC, Chicago and Pittsburgh and getting to see friends and family on each trip. Traveling, running, family and friends - all of my favorite things together!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Peaceful running

One of the biggest hurdles for new runners is getting to that point where you no longer hate running. It can take a while. It's not easy to enjoy running particularly when you're starting out. It just takes gritting your teeth and getting through it. It does get easier, but the only way is through consistency. Even now, after nearly seven years of running, I have days where I don't like it. I would have to say with honesty that 30 percent of my runs are not that fun. It's the good ones that keep me going through the bad ones.

For me, a key to running peacefully is to find places to run that are calming and relaxing. As I'm training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon I need to find hills for training. Lansing is extremely flat, and it's difficult to simulate the conditions I'll find in Pittsburgh. I've discovered the hilliest course in the city is around the Mount Hope Cemetery.

It seems odd in a way running on the road around the cemetery. It's a 1.5 mile loop around, and there are some seriously challenging hills. I also find it very quiet and peaceful to run through the cemetery. Some may think it morbid, but there's something calming to me to wonder about the stories of all the people who have been laid to rest there. I think about Jerry who lost his wife Linda 12 years ago at the young age of 49. He has his name and blank date of death on the marker, and a bench where he can sit and mourn her. I run by there 3 or 4 times and think about these people that I don't know, and I find it peaceful running amongst them.

On Sunday I did my long run in the cemetery. It was so quiet that the only sounds were feet pounding the pavement and my ragged breath as I struggled on some of the steeper hills. And while not every run is tranquil, it's sometimes important to find that place where running and quiet meet. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What is success?

Merriam-Webster defines success as: a degree or measure of succeeding; a favorable or desired outcome. On the other hand it defines failure as:omission of occurrence or performance; specifically : a failing to perform a duty or expected action.  Although failing is a part of life, failure is my greatest fear. I know that it's impossible to succeed 100 percent of the time, but that doesn't stop me from setting lofty goals and sometimes not succeeding.

Success, I've discovered, is relative. One person's success isn't necessarily the same as another's. But for me, as an overachiever with absurdly high expectations of myself, it's become about redefining events I initially consider failure.

One of my life's biggest disappointment sounds silly to even put into writing.  When I was a freshman in college I tried out for cheerleader at West Virginia University. I worked really hard, and I thought my tryout went really well. The team had a 120 pound weight limit, and I was a solid 121 pounds of muscle (with six-pack abs I would KILL for today). After I didn't make the team I was devastated. I will never forget having to tell everyone on the floor in my dorm that I had failed. And when I called the coach to discuss the reasons for not making it, she indicated it was my weight. That one extra pound. Ouch.

As silly as that was, it was traumatic for me at the time. In retrospect I had a better college experience without being on the cheerleading team, but it was awful then. When I think about that as probably my biggest failure, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. And when I really analyze it I see it was really a success that I was able to accomplish so many other things in college - excellent grades, time with my friends, good jobs. These accomplishments may not have been achieved had my focus been on cheerleading.

I'm really hard on myself. I analyze everything and expect as close to perfection as possible. That's unrealistic and impossible - I get that. It doesn't stop me from expecting it. The last few months have been extremely difficult. We had a death in the family, I took the bar exam, and I lost my cat who was my faithful companion for 15 years. I've found myself in a funk, and while my expectations have remained high, I haven't been living my life at the excellent level I expect of myself.

One of the worst things is I haven't felt like running. I've been doing it, but I'm not logging nearly enough miles or pushing myself like I need to during marathon training. That led me to the decision earlier this week to switch from the full marathon to the half marathon in Pittsburgh. The idea to switch feels like failing, and again I have to analyze it and realize that is ridiculous. To be honest I really don't enjoy training for marathons. A half is a different animal, and I won't myself being a slave to long runs as I am marathon training. So I'm doing the half, and that's going to be great. It will keep me sane. And my sanity and maintaining joy in my running is a success.

I'm working on getting my groove back from this late winter funk. Running the half will allow me to actually enjoy my weekend runs without having to dig in for 18-20 mile runs and not enjoy the weekend. I can go to DC and run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler without stressing that I need to be getting in additional training miles. 

I don't know what it will take to get me to stop being hard on myself. Probably nothing at this point. But I am making a conscious effort to make choices that set me up for personal success. And success, after all, is what I make of it.  


Sunday, March 17, 2013

I don't know how she does it.

My husband was out of town this weekend, so I spent my alone time as I usually do by eating way too much Chinese food, clearing out the DVR and renting a cheesy chick flick that he would never watch with me. Or at least not without some serious cajoling on my part. I decided to rent I Don't Know How She Does It starring Sarah Jessica Parker, the always adorable Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan. It was incredibly predictable but had a Carrie Bradshawesque voiceover that only SJP can pull off.

SJP stars as Kate, a mother of two who works at a high powered investment firm. She's always trying to deal with her perceived shortcomings as a mom that exist because of the demands of her career. She describes herself as a juggler being forced to juggle family, job and everything that comes with both.

 I think we all have one of those friends (maybe you are one of those people) who has it all together. There are lists upon lists, trying to cram tasks into every free minute of every day. Her house is spotless, her children are impeccably behaved, she's excelling at her job. She's just amazing. I aspire to be one of those women.

One year ago as we were finalizing our adoption paperwork our caseworker described me as "particular". She was using that word as a nice way of saying I'm insanely anal, I pack every minute of every day with some sort of task, and the word "relax" isn't in my vocabulary. In order to relax I have to schedule it in. True story.  Adopting is the ultimate in challenges for a person like me. I don't know when our baby will arrive, and I have no idea if we'll meet a birthmother in her third trimester or get a call from the hospital to come pick up a baby or some in between scenario.  I understand from all my friends that parenthood is completely unpredictable, and I keep thinking this waiting process is God's way of preparing me for the continued unpredictability of parenthood.

The movie had me thinking: can we really have it all? I don't have kids yet, and I know the baby will change everything. I have zero illusions that our life will change dramatically and irrevocably. This morning as I took off for an early run to try out my new shoes, I realized that I won't always have this flexibility. I won't be able to just run out the door without having to have someone to take care of the baby. At some point, maybe tomorrow or in six months, we will have a baby. And he or she will turn our world on its head.

My fab new shoes
I don't think I have it in me to stop being anal and to stop constantly cleaning up my house or filling every minute of every day completing the next task. I'm hoping my excellent time management will help me be less blindsided by motherhood, but I'm not overly optimistic. It's going to be a huge change, and as much as I am trying to prepare myself emotionally I know there's no real preparation.

Not to spoil the end of the movie if you haven't seen it and love a good B movie, but guess what she chooses at the end of the day: her family or her career? Like I said before - it was predictable. I'm not sure that women who are as ambitious and "particular" as I am can really have it all. And maybe that's okay. Maybe we don't have to have it all, and we'll always have to straddle the fence. And that will definitely be okay. This wait for the baby is preparing me for it. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Running with cheetahs

Okay so I wasn't actually running WITH cheetahs. Just near them. Earlier this week I went to one of my favorite places in the world, Washington DC, to attend the National League of Cities annual conference. It's a time for communities across the country to get together and discuss what we're doing as well as to meet with our congressional delegations. For me it's also a time to get away from Michigan for a few days and run with cheetahs.

The conference is held at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in the Woodley Park neighborhood. It's near the National Zoo and the National Cathedral. And it's HILLY. The hills vary in degree, but there are some that are extremely steep. Even worse, however, are the long, slowly climbing hills throughout the neighborhood.

The hotel is a mere half a mile from the National Zoo, and as a giant animal lover I love running up the hill to run through the zoo early in the morning when nobody else is there. There aren't a lot of animals out and about, but it's quiet and peaceful. I do some of my best thinking when I run there. The only animals who are always out are the cheetahs. I run right by the cheetah exhibit and generally wake them up.

My cheetah friends at the National Zoo
Running into the zoo is fun because it's down hill, but the run out is always a challenge. It made me realize how much work I have to do before the Pittsburgh Marathon in a few months. My hill training thus far has been woefully inadequate. To make up for it I found myself climbing escalators when leaving the Metro station. That probably counts right?

Only about six weeks until the Pittsburgh race. I'm going to need to chase more than a few cheetahs in the next few weeks.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sister time in the Mile High City

I haven't posted in a while, and I definitely need to get back to it. Life has been crazy - taking the bar exam (my nemesis), overscheduling myself (what else is new), and working a ton.  Last weekend I got some much needed R&R by meeting my sister in Denver for Sisters Weekend 2013. 

I went to Denver in 2008 for work but have never spent any time there otherwise. We decided Denver would be a fun spot and met there late on Thursday night. Friday morning I forced myself to get up early and go for a run. I was slated for a 12-mile training run, but with my fatigue and the altitude I only ran about four before calling it a day. When I was in Denver five years ago it was summertime and about 100 degrees. I blamed the heat then for my difficult run. Even though it was cool and perfect running weather, It turns out the altitude was the real challenge. My lungs were on fire!

The view from the Colorado Capitol Building. Breathtaking - literally.
After my run we headed out to explore downtown Denver. Our hotel was right near the 16th Street Mall, the fantastic pedestrian mall that runs right through downtown. It is a fantastic mix of shops and restaurants. We did a lot of shopping damage during our three days in town. There were so fabulous shops near 16th Street and also in Larimer Square a few blocks away.

Shopping on the 16th Street Mall
This weekend was about several things: sister bonding, shopping, cocktails and food. The food in Denver was AMAZING. We ate at some really fabulous restaurants including The Kitchen, Rioja (home of the best brunch ever) and Tom's Urban 24. Not only is Denver a foodie town but it has extremely creative cocktails too. My husband and I are Moscow Mule fans, and I've never seen those at a restaurant in Lansing. They are everywhere in Denver, and I even bought some copper mugs so we can make them at home (which we already have - several times).

We also discovered Larimer Square, a fantastic neighborhood downtown with more shops and restaurants (Rioja and Tom's Urban 24 were there). There were also chic boutiques and people everywhere. I fell in love with Fiona, a Golden Retriever at Equipement de Vin, a fabulous store in Larimer Square (where I purchased my copper mugs). The owner is from Michigan, and she was encouraging me to move to Denver. I should've asked her if she and Fiona were hiring.

Snuggling with Fiona
We were there for two and a half days, and I think we shopped in every store downtown and probably sampled most of the cocktails. Thankfully we were walking a lot, and we could burn it all off. Again I fall into my old pattern of falling helplessly in love with a vibrant city and wanting to move there. This was is made more fun because my sister fell in love with it too. We could all move there - how fun would that be?!?

The Jones sisters out on the town
It was a fabulous weekend and exactly the getaway I needed after a stressful month. Now the big question remains - where to for Sisters Weekend 2014?