Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year of Celebration

In January I posted a blog that this year I would seize the day, run faster, and push my own limits. I am happy to declare that I exceeded each of these resolutions in ways that I couldn't have imagined when I wrote them. In a lengthy cocktail-filled brunch earlier this year with dear friends we proclaimed 2014 a year of celebration. In 2014 I ran faster than I ever have, I pushed my own limits, and I fell in love over and over again.

Before writing this blog I started thinking that I hadn't traveled very often this year. It turns out that isn't true. I rang in 2014 in Los Angeles and visited Chicago, Louisville, Washington, DC (four times), Buffalo, Montreal, Quebec City, West Virginia (four times), Atlanta and Norfolk, VA throughout the year.

I got to play a small part in some place based projects for work, and I fell in love repeatedly while doing it. I fell in love with Michigan cities like Marquette (where I traveled three times this year), Holland, Midland and Kalamazoo. I fell in love in ways that were unexpected. I didn't expect to have Marquette and Holland in particular capture my heart. They are small cities located on different great lakes (Superior and Michigan respectively). Their downtowns are vibrant and walkable. Their community vision is infectious. Those cities have made me love Michigan (and winter surprisingly) in ways that I didn't before this year. They reminded me that having a part, even a very small part, of seeing change in a community feeds my soul. I fell in love repeatedly this year, and it was amazing.

I didn't run nearly as much this year as the last few, but I had my fastest times ever. I had a goal of breaking my 26 minute PR in the 5k, and in May I shattered that by running a 23:55 5k. I did it again in November running 24:12 in the Harbor Lights 5k in Norfolk, Virginia.  

I resolved to run faster than 57 minutes in the 10k, and I shattered that PR running 53:26 in October in the Wicked 10k in Plymouth, Michigan. After more than 10 half marathons, I had never broken 2 hours. This year I did it twice running 1:58:59 in April in the Cocoa Classic Half Marathon and 1:58:12 in May in the Kalamazoo Half Marathon. These times weren't just fast for me - they were blistering paces. They all led up to my first triathlon in June, and at 35 I felt the fittest I had in my entire adult life.

July threw a curve ball when a routine abdominal surgery turned into a bowl obstruction requiring another surgery. I then developed a blood clot. I spent the better part of the month in the hospital and lost nearly 20 pounds. It was not how I planned to spend the summer, but it helped me refocus my attention on what's important to me. Despite the chaos of being in the hospital, I felt oddly relaxed and peaceful. I was reminded to enjoy every chaotic minute of life.

My husband and I moved to Downtown Lansing. Living Downtown is everything I thought it would be and more. It's amazing to walk everywhere, and my heart is full.

2014 was indeed a year of celebration. My resolutions for last year were so great that I think I'll copy them again this year. I'll fall in love, run fast, and push my limits. After all isn't that what makes life great? Here's to a fabulous 2015 my friends!    

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

When I was a little girl I used to wake early before the rest of my family and just sit quietly in front of the Christmas tree. It is one of my favorite holiday memories, and every year I promise myself that I'll slow down and recapture that magic. Every year I fail miserably. This year, however, is the year that has changed. This year, as I promised I would be, I am reflective and content. I haven't been for a run in over a week, and we don't have our next vacation planned (things that generally drive me crazy), but I feel sated nonetheless.

We moved into our new house in June, and it's a gorgeous 1884 Victorian. I felt a large responsibility to decorate the house appropriately for the holidays, and I think we've done it justice. In honor of my relaxed attitude this holiday season, I present you holiday decorations that I think have at least in some way contributed.

Our smallest tree in the entry

These deer (from Target) are my FAV new decoration this season.

Our main Christmas tree (and the only real one)

These vases were centerpieces at our wedding. I love getting them out every year.

Ornaments that were favors at our wedding.
I have vases filled with Christmas bulbs everywhere. This little tree I painted in 1980.

The mantel. Yes, our pets have stockings.
Holiday tabletop
Our West Virginia tree. Obviously we have one of those.
I love this ornament I got on Etsy a few years ago.

Geno and Tavon the snowmen made by my lovely friend Deb last year

One of the built ins. The little fox is one of my favorite new decorations.

There's no place like home (West Virginia) for the holidays!

Target took a lot of our money for new Christmas swag this year.

Slaton the Snowman! (Do you see the WVU player pattern?)
Small things in the kitchen.

Me too, buddy. Me too.

Looking into the kitchen.

Wrapping paintings is such an easy way to add holiday cheer!
We have three of these lines displaying holiday cards!
This holiday season enjoy the beauty around you. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer on a Super Wide City Street

Earlier this week I talked about some of my favorite running things, and it got me thinking about my favorite city things. The key to what makes all cities great is walkability. The foundation for a great community is being able to walk safely across the streets and on sidewalks and destinations to visit.

Washington Square in Downtown Lansing is pretty walkable. It's one lane in each direction, has lots of well marked crosswalks, and has angled parking. It could teach pretty much every other street in Downtown Lansing a valuable lesson. Many of the other one-way, five lane streets in our downtown are just absurd. Yes I'm talking to you Grand Avenue, Capitol Avenue, Pine Street and Walnut Street. Santa would land his sleigh on Capitol Avenue at basically any point in the day and hand out toys. There's not enough traffic to sustain that insanely wide street, and that needs to be changed.

I should NOT be able to do this easily in Downtown Lansing.

And please don't even get me started on Michigan Avenue.  You have this beautiful view of the Capitol Building as you drive from East Lansing to Lansing. It's also two lanes in each direction, a turning lane and parking on both sides. It should be a boulevard leading up to the Capitol. I know the City is working on Michigan Avenue, and I'm excited about its great potential. It's a project that should be pushed sooner rather than later. The walkability of Michigan Avenue is critical to expanding downtown towards the eastern neighborhoods in Lansing. 

Traffic engineers will say these lanes are necessary for traffic safety and for public safety vehicles. Shenanigans. Those theories have been debunked in new urbanist texts across the board. What's really detrimental to public safety are wide streets with speeding cars that pedestrians have to dodge to cross.

As I think about cities that have great Christmas vibes, I realize it has everything to do with walkability. People crowd sidewalks in Chicago and New York to look at Christmas window displays. Even here in Michigan cities with dense, walkable downtowns like Holland and Ann Arbor have a great Christmas feel. The key is walkability. The longer we ignore obscenely wide streets like the 10 lanes of Michigan Avenue running through Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, the longer it will take for those communities to be able to capitalize on being places that will grow economically and attract and retain talent.  

The places that I love the most - Portland (Maine), Marquette (Michigan), Boston, Chicago - all have one major thing in common: walkability. It's time to think outside of our cars to how the streets feel to pedestrians. That, my friends, is a real economic argument. If you want people to come and enjoy your downtown, it has to be a walkable place.

As I look for the next cities I want to visit and/or run, walkability is a key factor in why I'll choose it. As an avid walking resident in Downtown Lansing, walkability has become my rallying cry. This Christmas all I want (besides all of the running gear from my last blog) is at least a willingness to tackle some of these wide streets in Michigan but particularly in my town. Traffic engineers are on the naughty list, so how about if we don't reward them with perpetuating the wide street cycle?     

Monday, December 8, 2014

These Are a Few of My Favorite (Running) Things

Every year my husband tells me he doesn't want to get me running gear for Christmas. He finds it annoying that it's really all I want, and then he tries to be creative and buys me something else that I don't really use. When he does this I think if he'd just bought me running stuff like I wanted we wouldn't have this issue. So to make it, ahem, easier for my husband, I'm compiling a list of a few of my favorite (running) things.

Compression leg sleeves are the best. I LOVE them. They are the perfect running accessory for most of the year when pants are really too hot, but shorts are really too cold. Also they look adorable. I have one pair of Zensah leg sleeves that are yellow, and they are fabulous. I'm thinking I need at least one more pair...maybe two. Pink? Purple? Both?

Running tights are where it's at. I live in Michigan, and it's cold here a lot of the year. Running tights are very expensive, and that makes them the best gift. Right now our fabulous local running store, Playmakers, has an adorable pair of purple striped SmartWool tights. I love them, and I want them. Hey Santa (Honey?), are you writing this down?

Sweaty Bands headbands are the best thing to ever happen to a runner with short hair. I have five of them, and I wear them all. They're pricey for a headband ($15 each), but I love them so much. Sassy headbands are like high heels - one can never have too many. My favorite Sweaty Band is my silver sparkly one. There are so many adorable styles to choose from that I would love to have more. Sparkles are optional.

An argyle Sweaty Band? Yes, plesae.

Another winter must have here in Michigan are running hats. Last year my husband got me a great SmartWool running beanie, but I need more. When you run several days a week your hats get gross. You don't want to wear the same one every day. Plus you need different hats for different running outfits. Obviously.

SmartWool beanies!
Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year.  I love buying gifts and decorating and drinking coffee out of my favorite Tiffany Christmas mugs. Those are my actual favorite Christmas things. The only thing that makes those activities better is following them with a run while wearing a cute outfit.  'Tis the season!

Just My Imagination

I have an extremely active imagination. It even transcends into the world of dreams. I have very vivid dreams and almost always remember them. Last week, for example, I dreamed that I was sitting in a group of friends (maybe 6 or 7 of us), and Taylor Swift was with us. I dreamed that she was whining about how kids were mean to her, and I said, "So now are you just like 'What's up, bitches? I'm Taylor Swift!'" And in my dream she started crying, said I was mean to her friends and ran away. Then I woke up with that wretched "Shake it Off" song in my head. It was a nightmare the rest of the day.

Running is the best way to deal with my active imagination. You won't believe the number of imaginary confrontations I've had (both work and personal) while running. I've come up with brilliant ideas and dismissed silly ones. Running is where my best thinking happens. I've written legislative testimony and dozens of these blogs. I insist on running naked (without technology) so I can get lost in my own thoughts and daydreams. It's my version of meditation.

In Michigan legislative sessions are two years long. At the end of every two-year session the month of December is a crazy feeding frenzy of legislative "priorities" that haven't been important enough to pass in the preceding two years. Lame duck is a political minefield of craziness where anything can and does happen. I honestly don't know how people who don't run make it through.

During these lame duck days my schedule looks like a game of Tetris. I have meetings on top of meetings, and nothing gets my full attention. It's about triaging issues and somehow making sure everything is covered.  Tempers run high during lame duck as contentious issues that have been buried for two years somehow make their way to the surface. Although my feet are generally killing me (because only quitters wear flats), the only way to work through the frustration caused by lame duck is to abuse my feet a little more with a run.

My imagination nearly keeps up with my schedule and inexhaustible energy during lame duck.  Sometimes I wake up from some weird dream, mentally walk through some legislative testimony, and I somehow manage to get myself back to sleep. I think about all the things that need to be done in addition to work: Christmas shopping, cleaning, dogs to the groomer, trips to be planned. All of those things are worked through while I'm running, and I can burn off some of my active imagination as well. Now if I could just get that damn Taylor Swift song out of my head...   

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Love a Turkey Trot

I'd never done (or heard of) a turkey trot before I moved to Michigan. My first was in 2008 when I ran the Lansing Turkeyman Trot. I ran that race in 31:56, nearly 8 minutes slower than I ran the Harbor Lights 5k a few weeks ago. It turns out I've gotten a touch faster over the years. 

With a young Murphy after the 2008 Lansing Turkey Trot

I ran the Detroit Turkey Trot a few years ago in 2011. It was my first race post abdominal surgery.  That race is almost unmanageably colossal. I'm glad I ran it, but I'm happy to never run it again. There were 20,000 people running the 5k and 10k. It was relatively organized, but it was really just too much.

In Detroit after the Detroit Turkey Trot in 2011
In 2012 and 2013 we ran the inaugural and the second annual Morgantown Running Turkey Trot. The one in 2012 was my husband's first 5k, so that race has a special place in my heart. I was sad to not be doing it for the third consecutive year. We stayed in Michigan for Thanksgiving, so I decided to give the Lansing Turkeyman Trot another go.

Morgantown Running 2013 Turkey Trot
I love doing races that start downtown. My husband and I walked to the race from home. There were thousands of runners which made me realize how the race has grown since the last time I ran it. The start was extremely crowded. My husband and I just pushed into the crowd from the sidewalk and jumped into the race. 

I was running with my husband and knew I wasn't pushing for a PR. If I had been attempting to run fast I would have been really frustrated with the crowds. But I forced myself to relax and enjoy the race. The course ran through downtown Lansing which is beautifully decorated for the Christmas holiday. On Washington Square Christmas music was piping from speakers. I found myself smiling throughout the race just enjoying the crowd in my downtown.

Crossing the finish line
After the race we walked back home. I love having so many people downtown enjoying what is always the most fun race of the year. We then headed to my mother-in-law's house for dinner. I felt like I could eat a few more carbs because I'd run a 5k that morning. Running a turkey trot has become as much a Thanksgiving tradition as green bean casserole. It's one of my favorite races of the year, and it is a great reminder of how grateful I am for running.
All smiles when it's over