Friday, August 31, 2012

Four for Friday


1. I love tennis. And I should be excited that the U.S. Open is on right now. But after hearing the news yesterday, I don't know if I want the tournament to end. On his 30th birthday, Andy Roddick announced late Thursday afternoon that the Open will be his final tournament. He's hanging up his racket and retiring. Sigh. I love watching Roddick play. He's fun to watch and he's done some great things for men's tennis in the United States. When I lived in Indiana in 2003, I got a chance to see him play in Indianapolis a few months before he won the U.S. Open, his only Grand Slam title. Needless to say I'll be parked in front of a TV tonight to watch him play his second round match at the Open under the lights. I like what what this SI writer had to say about Roddick's decision.

2. Speaking of sports. College football is back! I didn't watch the season's opening game last night, Vanderbilt versus South Carolina, but I'm counting down the minutes until the Badgers kick off their season Saturday against the University of Northern Iowa. And NFL football starts next week. This is what makes fall weekends so fun.

3. Running wise, it hasn't been the most stellar week. I spent a good chunk of time, about four days, battling a nasty migraine. I missed a 13-mile run over the weekend. I missed a short recovery run on Monday. I missed work on Tuesday and therefore speed work that night. I did get a short 3-mile run in on Wednesday and another 4.25 miles in on Thursday. Both of those runs felt pretty good, but I'll be interested to see how this weekend's long run goes.

4. I can't wait for the long holiday weekend. I don't think this statement needs any further explanation. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

August reading recap

I know. I know. There's still technically one day left in August, why post the recap now? I'll tell you why. I'm in between books, therefore it's highly unlikely that I'll finish another one before the clock strikes midnight tomorrow.

That being said, I'm pretty pleased with what I was able to do in August. I finished six books in August for a total of 2,318 pages. That's a lot of words. That brings the total to 30 books and 10,577 pages so far this year. Compare that to last year when I had finished 16 books and 6,745 pages by the end of August. I'd say there's just a little bit of a difference this year. As for the yearly goal of 40 books. I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to finish another 10 books during the next four months.

So what'd I read in August? There were some good ones in this list:

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Divergent and Insurgent. OMG. These were amazing. They're young adult books that fall into that dystopia genre, the same genre that The Hunger Games falls in to. Now, I loved The Hunger Games. But the Divergent series? Hands down I think these two books are better. Amazing writing. Amazing story. I seriously did not want to put the book down. If you haven't read them yet, stop what you're doing and go pick it up. You'll thank me. Now if only I didn't have to wait until sometime in 2013 for the third book to be published.

Two other good ones from this month were The Fault in Our Stars. Holy tear jerker. Kids. Cancer. Need I say more? Good stuff though. It makes you think. Put it on your list to read. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was also a good one. A quick read. Another young adult novel. I'm sensing a trend...probably should branch out and read some "adult" material. Maybe not.

The other two books on my list - Beautiful Disaster and Bared To You - fall into that adult category. And Bared To You was very Fifty Shades of Grey-esque. And actually? I thought Bared To You was better written. I'm not going to lie. I'm kind of looking forward to the next installment in a few months.

Right now I'm not sure what I'll be reading next. There was a lot of reading squeezed into a very short period of time, so I'm needing just a few days off.

What are you all reading these days?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Firecracker 5K Race Report

The Firecracker 5K, also known as the time I almost pulled a DNS.

That's a "Did Not Start" for those unfamiliar with the race lingo.

I'm not kidding.

Independence Day dawned hazy, hot and humid. I'm not kidding. It was 85 and humid before the parachuters fell to the ground before the 8 a.m. start time. So freaking hot I could feel the sweat dripping down my back as I stood in what very little shade I could find. And since it was so miserable, my head was throbbing. To the point where I was a little nauseous. A state I don't get to very often.

Add to all that my super cranky IT band was screaming at me. I had been to my first physical therapy appointment the day before and I was being reminded why I was going to PT. It hurt. A lot. Painful.

I don't look very thrilled, do I?

So minutes before I was supposed to head over to the starting line, I was seriously considering not even starting. But even if I didn't start, I'd still have to wait around while my Dad walked. So I decided even if it was going to hurt, even if it was hotter than Hades, I would finish the 3.1 miles. Somehow.

I lined up, the gun went off and immediately was cursing the race organizers. The route had to be altered a bit this year due to some construction. So we started uphill. Yes, you read that right. An uphill start. Over a grated drawbridge. Wonderful.

My IT band was really screaming now.

I kept going. Slowly. Kind of painfully. Saw my Dad pass me. Yes, my Dad who walks and throws in some short runs. Talk about a way to kill my confidence. I kept going though, but with every step I was planning on how I could quit. See the course made a loop to start, which would have brought me right by the start/finish area after about a mile. I could have just gone the first mile, then dropped out. A DNF is a little better than a DNS, right?

But I got to that point and for some reason I didn't stop. Instead I made a pact with myself. Run what you can, walk when you need to and for heavens sake walk those uphills because your IT band hates them. And don't die. It's too blasted hot to try to have a stellar race when you're first starting to rehab an injury.

So that's what I did.

It was slow. It was kind of painful. But I did manage to hit every single sprinkler that I could find during that 3.1 mile journey. And I was still the first one of my family to cross the finish line. Honestly I don't even know what my time was and I really don't care. All I know is that I didn't die.

Apparently I waited until I was done to almost die. Also known as, I can't believe I'm posting this incredibly unflattering picture.

I finished, hit stop on my Garmin and kept walking. I didn't find my Mom immediately. Instead it was off to the area with water and food. Not that food sounded appealing. Because it didn't. No, I was in search of water. Lots of water. And ice. I found some, shoved a handful down my sports bra and a handful in my hat. Then I went to find my family and some shade, where I felt like I was going to die.

Happy Fourth of July.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Madison Mini Marathon Race Report

If only I could have stayed in this chair the rest of the afternoon.

Race day didn't go quite exactly as planned, but I think the Madison Mini may have been the race that I've had the most fun at this year.

Why? Well, yes. Being in Madison and running through campus has a bit to do with it. But the big reason was the people. I got to hang out with some great people during the race weekend. Some I had met before in real life, but most? Most were people I've known and interacted with on Twitter for months.

From the expo to a big group dinner at Tutto Pasta on State Street the night before to running and then enjoying post-race refreshments on the Terrace and lunch on the Capitol Square. Such a great group of people and so much fun.

The bling. A medal that doubles as a bottle opener and the free beer.

So the race. What happened.

Leading up to the race, I always had plans to run this race as a training run. It would be the first time I've run 13 miles since way back in May and given the summer of training I've had with the pesky IT band, I wasn't sure if there was speed in me.

But then Katie and I start talking. And numbers are thrown around. 2:25? Could I do it? Would my IT band allow me to do it? Well, knowing I'd be running with a friend made it sound not so scary. And all of a sudden I found myself with a race plan and a goal of hitting a 2:25 half marathon on a fairly hilly course in Madison.


Pre-race photo

I met up with Katie on the steps of the Memorial Union with about 15 minutes until the gun went off. We took some pictures, handed off our bags to her husband Wyatt and set off for our corral, where we met up with another friend, Aaron. We chatted for a bit and then BANG, the gun went off. We started running and I got a starting line high five from Bucky Badger (which will tide me over until football season starts).

Katie and I had plans. While we wanted to hit a 2:25 and knew this would 11 minute miles, we also knew that we wanted to a build a little bit of a cushion in the first miles in preparation for the hills the Arboretum would throw at us later in the race.

And build a little cushion we did. We kept it easy as we ran down Langdon Street, past the Capitol and down State Street. We swerved through campus, passed the dorm I lived in, the Kohl Center and Camp Randall and headed towards Vilas Park. We were running side-by-side, both of us plugged into our headphones, but still having some random chatter.

We hit the Arb and kept running. And you know what? My IT band wasn't screaming at me as we conquered the hills. We passed the 10K mark, had some momentary confusion about just how many miles we had left at the 5 mile mark (note: it's not 7) and kept putting one foot in front of the other. We had a plan to run every single step through the Arb with the exception of the aid stations. And we were following that plan.

Until I got a freaking side ache. What the heck? I can't remember the last time I got a side ache while running. And this one was in a weird spot. Not quite my side, but closer to my back. Odd. And it was hard to run. I slowed down, watched Katie get farther ahead of me. And then - at the last freaking hill in the Arb - with an aching side, I had to walk. It pained me to. But I couldn't run. I needed to slow my heart rate down, get rid of that ache in my side.

Katie glanced back and I waved her ahead. It pained me to do it, but I did.

I walked a bit. Got rid of the pain in my side and started to run again. I went back to following my plan of running and then walking the aid stations. I had to throw in one more unexpected walk around Mile 9.5-ish. It was a particularly brutal stretch of never ending uphill, but I didn't let myself walk long.

Note: It's hard to do a W with your hands and run at the same time around Mile 11.5. But I did it.

Pretty soon I was on the west end of campus near UW Hospital and getting ready to jump onto the Lakeshore Path for the final 1.5 miles and I saw Katie. I yelled for her, hoping she would hear me and I got a yell back. I wanted to lace my encouragement with some profanities - the original plan was that profanity would be allowed starting at Mile 9 when we both knew it would start to be a mental struggle - but I opted not to since there were little kids around.

I kept running. One last short walk at Mile 12 and then I knew I was almost done. I came off the trail, was running behind College Library and made the turn onto Park Street next to the Memorial Union. One last little nasty uphill to the final turn onto Langdon and the finish line.


I had a nice little kick and crossed the finish line in 2:30 and some odd seconds. I was happy. I crossed the line, got my medal and snacks and was walking up towards the terrace for a post-race photo in an over sized Union chair when I saw Katie right in front of me.

Quite possibly my favorite picture from the race.

Pictures were taken, refreshments obtained, friends found and race recapping took place on the shores of Lake Mendota.

 This is a close second. Some of the peeps I hung out with during the weekend.

Overall, I'm happy with my performance. When I was planning on running this as a training run, I was aiming for a 2:30 finish, so this was right on track. Yes, there is a little piece of me that wonders if I could have hung with Katie (who finished in 2:25 and some odd seconds) and hit our goal, but I can't let myself get hung up on that. Especially when I look back and compare this year's result with last year. I finished 2 full minutes faster this year on a tough, hilly course. And I haven't been training hills this year and been struggling with an IT band issue that doesn't like hills at the moment.

It was a good weekend. Can't wait for next year!

*Note: Other than the "official" race photos, I stole the rest from Katie's Facebook page.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The end of summer approaches

For a lot of kids, it's the last week of summer vacation. One more week to cram in as much summer activity as they can before heading back to school.

Now, I'm not going to back to a classroom in a week. But it is almost the end of the summer. And I look at this blog and there's so much I haven't written about. Ragnar. A blistering hot Fourth of July 5K. The Madison Mini. Countless weeks of training for Fox Cities. Physical therapy for my cranky IT band.

So I'm taking on that mentality that thousands of kids around Wisconsin are having this week. Cram as much into this blog this week before summer is officially over.

There will be race recaps. And training recaps. And a look back on physical therapy and training. Let's see if I can get it all in before Labor Day weekend is gone.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Madison Mini Edition

1. So I'm running a race this weekend. Specifically the Madison Mini Marathon. It will be my second attempt at the race (remember last year's 1.5 hour delay due to lightning?) and I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of difference a year makes.

2. I've been hesitant to put together a list of goals for this race though. Technically it's just a training run. Heck, my training plan only has me running 12 miles on Saturday. And there's that whole IT band issue that I've been dealing with all summer. Guess what? It still doesn't like hills. Guess what the Mini has? You bet, hills. But the weather is supposed to be perfect - temperatures in the 50s at the start line and only a high in the low 70s - so of course I start thinking.

A Goal: Sub 2:25
B Goal: 2:25
C Goal: 2:30
D Goal: Don't die. Have fun.

I'll tell you right off, that A Goal? Probably not going to happen, unless some Kenyans invade my body overnight. I'm just not ready for that yet. I think the B Goal will be a challenge, but a good challenge. And one that realistically could be met. Of course it helps that I'll be running with a Twitter friend Katie, who is also shooting for that goal. And if I only hit the C Goal? I'll be happy. After all, it's just a training run.

3. The "Don't die. Have fun." goal shouldn't require too much work. I get to meet up with and hang out with a bunch of friends - both those I already know and new friends that I haven't actually met yet in real life. Can't wait. Should definitely be a fun weekend.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. I've got Olympic fever. When I've been at home the last two weeks, chances are the television is on. And chances are it's tuned into the Olympics. I just can't stop watching. I love it. The athletes. Their stories. The competition. The tears of joy. The tears of disappointment. Such great stuff happens when the Olympics roll around. My favorite events have been the swimming, gymnastics and volleyball. But I watch it all. I don't discriminate when it comes to Olympic sports.

2. I was off of work last week, giving me ample time to catch the first week of the games. It was pretty amazing. Being able to watch so much of the action and also having an entire week to do whatever I pleased and not have to worry about work. Granted, going back to work after 10 days off was hard.

3. Running has been going well. But I'll save that for another post. Because there's Olympics to watch and my bed is calling my name.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July reading recap

The monthly reading numbers would look a lot different if I hadn't stopped reading midway through the month. Looking back, I'm not sure what it was that caused me to lose my reading mojo. Maybe it was missing out on prime lunch time reading opportunities to watch the final days of Wimbledon or the Tour de France or spending a week on the AirVenture grounds. Whatever happened, it meant no reading. So less than stellar reading numbers, but there was some reading.

I read two books in July for a total of 784 pages. That brings the yearly total to 24 books and 8,259 pages. Compared to 2011, when I had finished 11 books and 4,930 pages, I'd say I'm doing OK. Still need to finish another 16 books in the next five months to hit that 40 book goal I've got for the year.

So the two books I read in July?

Pretty Little Secrets by Sara Shepard
When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

Maybe the mojo disappearing could be blamed on picking up Pretty Little Secrets. It's part of the Pretty Little Liars series, but it's not an actual book in the series, more like a collection of short stories. It was bad. Hard to read. Maybe it was the timing, it didn't really fit with where the series currently is time-wise, or maybe it's just that I'm done with the series. I don't know. What I do know is that it should not have taken me three weeks to finish it.

When You Were Mine was a good, quick, mindless read. A modern take on Romeo and Juliet. And yes, I shed some tears at the end.