Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October reading recap

Well, just a few more hours and October is done. And since I'm barely a quarter of the way through the book I'm currently reading, I'm pretty sure it's OK for me to report my monthly reading totals.

I read three books in October for a total of 1,336 pages. That brings the totals to 35 books and 12,534 pages through the first ten months of the year. Compared that to the stats through the end of October 2011 when I had finished 27 books and 10,048 pages. Nice little increase.

Big picture: I've got to read five more books in the next two months if I'm going to hit my 40-book goal. And for giggles? Since I began tracking what I read in 2006, the highest number of books I've read in a year has been 45 in 2006 and 2008. Hmm. Maybe I can break that. I guess it depends on what I choose to tackle and how much time I devote to curling up with a book. Might be fun to try though.

So what'd I read in October?

Fallen by Lauren Kate
Torment by Lauren Kate
Reflected in You by Sylvia Day

Hmmm. Young adult fiction involving angels and devils and a second installment of a Fifty Shades of Grey-type series. But in my honest opinion, this series is much better than the Fifty Shades books. As for what's next? Well I've got a small stack started that came in for me at the library. And at some point I really need to pick out that one "classic" that I told myself I'd read this year. Any suggestions? Preferably nothing too massive or that requires way too much concentration in order to understand what's going on. Or maybe I'll just skip it this year. After all, Les Miserables did check in at 1,260 pages. That should count for two years, right?

Freaky 5K Race Report

Not going to lie. I didn’t want to run this. I’m blaming it on the funk I’ve been going through the past few weeks. I just don’t want to run. But that’s another post for another time.

So the 5K. I didn’t want to run. But I got myself out of bed early Saturday morning. And boy, it would have been nice to stay in bed since it was cold outside. Like 27 degrees and sunny. Thankfully there was no wind.

I left the house too early, which meant I had almost an hour to stand around at the park waiting for the race to begin. In other words, almost an hour to freeze. But finally it was race time.

This course is fairly flat. Except for the first mile. Where there’s a nice downhill right out of the starting line. Which would be great, except this race draws a ton of little kids. And as hard as you try to place yourself within the starting masses, you still end up having to weave or come to an abrupt halt in order to avoid running over the little boy dressed as Spiderman on that downhill. Thankfully, this year that didn’t happen to me. I had a pretty clear path all the way down the downhill.  And of course, what goes down must go up. And that uphill was nasty. But I ran it.

And that, my friends, is when my IT band started to get angry. I’m not sure if it was the cold or if it was the hills, but it wasn’t happy. So I backed off, slowed down and didn’t hate myself for taking those two short walk breaks (once at the top of the hill, once through the water station). And with every step I was wishing I was done.

I ended up finishing in 32:25. Not my fastest 5K, not my slowest. Given the cranky IT band, my lack of running mojo lately and the fact that for a while somewhere between miles 1 and 2 I couldn’t feel my foot due to the cold, I’ll take it.

You'll notice a lack of photos in this race report. They exist. They really do. I just didn't grab them off my Mom's camera, so I'll add them later.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The best kind of vacation: The one with no plans

Before I give you a photo heavy post of what I did during a week off of work, I want to take a moment and send off my thoughts and prayers to all those on the East Coast whose lives are being impacted by the monster storm called Sandy.

As I sit here and the news of what's going on on the East Coast floods in, I'm almost dumbfounded. Never did I think I'd hear of NYC going dark, the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange under three feet of water or see a picture of a shark - yes a shark - swimming in front of a home's front porch in Brigatine, NJ. (Update: I admit, 12 hours after the storm was at its worst, I now know some of these things didn't happen - the NYSE didn't flood and that pic of the NJ shark? Suspect. But we can all agree this was a crazy storm that caused a ton of damage and some of the images and stories coming out where downright surreal.)

Once again, thoughts and prayers go out to you guys. And I hope you all stay safe.

Now. On to that week of vacation.

The Capitol at night.

My week started with a road trip to Madison, where I met up with my roommate from college. We met up Friday night and caught up over dinner at The Old Fashioned, this really great restaurant on the Capitol Square. Then it was time to head back to our hotel and get ready for Saturday.

Camp Randall. I love spending my Saturdays here.

It was time to head to Camp Randall to watch the Badgers! It was the Border Battle weekend, when Wisconsin and Minnesota battle it out on the gridiron for Paul Bunyan's axe. That axe is making a bit of a home in Madison, and guess, what, after the Badgers beat the Gophers 38-13, it's staying in Madison.

A couple of Badgers

It was great to be able to catch up with my old roommate and of course get the chance to watch the Badgers. But sadly, I wasn't able to stick around Madison for long after the game because I had to get back home to catch the second half of my cousin's wedding.

Hay ride through the woods

There was a trip to the apple orchard on Sunday where I indulged in a caramel apple with sprinkles and a hay ride followed by a drive around Lake Winnebago. It's been a long time since I took that drive and it was worth it.

The rest of the week off? There was a dentist appointment (no cavities!), a trip to sell some books I'll never read again at the used book store, some reading and I watched the entire fifth season of Gossip Girl (what, the library only let me have the DVDs for five days). Oh, I also ran a Halloween-themed 5K on Saturday (race report to come soon) and almost died watching the Badgers lose to Michigan State that afternoon. A death that was almost quickened due to hearing the Badger basketball team lost its projected starting point guard due to a torn ACL.

The rest of the time? I did a whole lot of nothing. And let me tell you, it was glorious.

Unfortunately it all came to an end today. Going back to work kind stunk. Sigh. When's my next day off?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

St. Joe's 5K Race Report

Hanging with Dad before the race.

Two weeks after this race, I still chuckle a little bit that the race theme was waddling ducks and the T-shirt featured ducks in swim trunks.

This race was wet. But it could have been much worse. It was the weekend where all it did was rain. And not just a light rain. More like a constant downpour. I think we ended up getting almost 5 inches of rain.

But lucky for the runners who lined up for the St. Joe’s 5K on Oct. 13, the rain took a brief break. It was still sprinkling, but nothing like what the walkers had to contend with a half hour after I crossed the finish line.

The race is a Portsmouth start, so no mass start, and the course is an out-and-back. A short jaunt through the city streets, across the Trestle Trail (which is an old railroad bridge that spans the river) and back. 

The first half of the race? I felt good. Keeping a nice steady pace. I passed my Dad (who started about 2:30 in front of me) about 3 blocks before the bridge and told him I’d see him on the way back. I hit the turn around and headed back across the bridge. When I took that first step on the bridge? BAM! The wind hit me. Not a light wind. A fairly stiff wind. And there was no escaping it since I was running on a bridge across a river. And don’t forget wet since it was still sprinkling.

I threw in two short walk breaks during the second half of the race (battling the wind was hard) and finished in 31 minutes and a few seconds. Decent given my lack of running lately. 

 This was supposed to be me finishing, but somehow I ran right out of the frame before Mom could snap the photo.

Thankfully the rain stayed away for the Saturday 5K. The rest of the weekend? Not so much. My planned 13 miles with Peggy never happened as it POURED all day Sunday, never letting up. And I don’t run double digit miles in a downpour. And since I can’t handle that many miles on the treadmill? The weekend long run never happened. Oops.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Does an umbrella slow you down?

Well, nothing like waiting until the absolute last minute to blog. Oh well. At least I’m doing it, which is something I haven’t been doing lately. Another thing I haven’t been doing much lately? Running. As in I’ve run a total of three times since Fox Cities.  I haven’t had a lot of motivation, even with a final half marathon staring me in the face less than a month from now.

Yeah, good thing I’m doing that one solely for fun.

But I’ll be running this weekend. Or  maybe I should call it swimming since it’s supposed to be pouring. Some storm system is supposed to be moving into the area in a few hours and it’s going to be bringing rain with it. A lot of rain. As in the weatherman said 2 to 3 inches. And it’s supposed to be getting under way right in time for me to head out the door tomorrow morning.

See I’ve got this 5K on the calendar. The St. Joe’s 5K. It’s a race I’ve run in the past with my Dad. And even though he hasn’t been doing a lot of walking and it’s supposed to be pouring out, Dad’s a trooper and is still intending to do it.

Really? Are you sure? Because I’m pretty sure my bed is going to be pretty comfy when it’s raining cats and dogs. Oh well. I’ll still get my butt out of bed. After all, at least I’ll be able to notch one more run in my log in the last, oh, three weeks, bumping my average to just over one run per week.

 Anyone else find it ironic that the theme is involves waddling ducks? More like swimming ducks.

Assuming I don’t drown, I still have to get a long run this weekend. So right now the plan is to head out for 13 with Peggy on Sunday. We thought we dodged a bullet since early forecasts were saying the rain would be gone by Sunday. Not sure why we were excited. Seriously. When was the last time a weatherman was right? Because of course now the rain is supposed to stick around a good chunk of the day Sunday as well.

Looks like I’m in for a soggy 13 miles on Sunday too. Good thing I have an older pair of shoes. I just hope they can dry out enough between runs.

Add in a baby shower and the annual Halloween party for The Rugrats and it should be a pretty fun, if waterlogged, weekend.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fox Cities Half Marathon Race Report

 Or what will also be known as, "This is going to hurt. Deal with it."

I went into race weekend feeling pretty calm. I'm not sure when it started happening, but somewhere along the way, I've realized I don't really get nervous for half marathons anymore. Maybe it's because I've run the race distance so many times. Or I'm not putting a ton of pressure on myself for results. I don't know. But for like the last year, I haven't been getting super nervous. I'll take it.

So Saturday I watched the Badger game and then headed over to Fox Valley Tech to the race expo. I met up with Peggy, my running partner in crime who opted not to run the race this year, and we browsed for a bit. I picked up some BioFreeze, she picked up some socks and we were done. We headed over to Starbucks for some caffeine, where we proceeded to hatch a plan for next year and beyond, chat and talk race strategy, because even though she wasn't running, she gave me good advice. And she wanted to let me in on her spectating plan for the next day.

Race day dawned bright dark and early. I got up, put on my race day outfit and headed out the door at 5:45. While my mom was driving over to my brother's house to pick up my sister-in-law, I did a quick race morning social media check - Twitter and Facebook, very important pre-race tasks. While I was at it, I posted this:

See even though I had taped my IT band that morning, I knew it was still going to hurt. But I didn't want to let the pain win the mental battle. I wanted to gut it out. The day before Peggy gave me advice: Run the first part with your head, the middle with your personality and the final third with your heart. And then there was Jeff's advice from last year still rolling around my head: Run your own race and then throw the hammer down in the final miles.

This was my race. Not my IT band's race. I wasn't going to let  it decide what kind of race I was going to have.

We got to the race site, I made a quick stop in the port-a-potty while the lines were still short and tried to find my Fleet Feet team, but was unsuccessful. Soon it was go time.

Right before the gun went off, one of the assistant coaches from the Fleet Feet group, Sue, found me. She asked me if she could run with me. I said I didn't care, but I wasn't going to be talking. See here's the thing. I like running with other people.

During training runs.

When it comes to racing, I actually prefer to be on my own. I like to zone out to my iPod and run my own race. I'm actually pretty good at pacing  myself to hit the goals I set for myself.

But she said she understood I wasn't going to be chatty, so I shrugged my shoulders and said OK.

Years of practice is paying off. I like this one my Mom snapped at the start.

The gun sounded and we were off. I saw my Mom just after the starting line and I settled in at a nice easy pace. Sue tried to chat a bit, but I kept my answers short and then plugged myself back into  my iPod. Remember, I was running my own race.

Shortly before Mile 1 I started to scan the crowds lining the street, looking for Peggy and her daughter. All of a sudden I saw a bright neon pink sign with my name! I cut across the road and gave them high fives and I was off.

Coach Eddie was out on the course snapping pictures. Never saw him here.

The first four miles went really well. I was feeling good, keeping a decent pace and carrying out my plan of walking the water stations. Right before Mile 4.5 I saw my aunt and I handed her my gloves and kept running, through the roundabout and past my non-family cheering section of Peggy, her daughter and Rita, another runner I know.

I was feeling good. Strong. The IT band wasn't cranky. I turned the corner onto Plank Road and kept running. Even with the light winds that I was running into, I still felt good.

Miles 5-7 were uneventful. Pretty much a 2-mile straight away. I saw my cheering crew around Mile 7 again. It was great seeing someone so often. It gave me a little bit of a boost of energy and I could feel myself picking up the speed right after I spotted them and for a bit of time afterwards.

Right around Mile 7.5 I had a bit of a problem. Seems the wonderful Menasha Police Officer thought it was completely acceptable to see a pack of 6 runners approaching and still wave the car through the intersection even though said runners are like 5 feet from the car. That's what he did though. Which meant we either had to stop suddenly or alter or path really quickly. I yelled at the cop. Would have said something much worse and given him a one-fingered salute, but then decided against it. After all, he was a police officer.

I saw my Mom and my niece and nephews at Mile 8 and kept on running. I didn't hear him, but apparently the youngest rugrat (he's 6), yelled, "Go Aunt Jenny! You stink!" His reasoning was that if he yelled something mean, I would get mad and run faster. OK.

Swiped from the official race photographer. Note: It's hard to run, smile and make a W with your fingers.

I made it to the aid station at Jefferson Park, which is right around Mile 9. I walked a little bit further through the aid station than I had been at previous ones. This was really the only time I walked much longer than 10 seconds or so. The legs were starting to get a bit tired at this point, but that makes sense. I had a quick conversation with my IT band, reminded it to deal with anything that would be coming over the next four miles. I exited the park and started to run again.

My cheering crew right at Mile 10!

The next mile was a long straight away until you turned the corner before the second bridge on the course. At the corner I spotted my bright pink sign and Peggy. Up until this point, I hadn't really been looking at my Garmin. But as I approached that corner I glanced down. 10 miles. 1:45.

Say what?

I did some quick math in my head and also realized that I was running the same pace as I did at Fox Cities last year. Whoa. Could a PR be in my sights?

As I passed Peggy I told her this. Well as much as I could in 2.5 seconds. She told me I looked great and was kicking ass and to keep running.

So I did. Up and over the Racine Street bridge, through the next aid station - which was decked out in a Badger theme complete with "Jump Around" blasting from the boom box - and on my way towards Mile 11 where I saw my crew again.

Another one from Coach Eddie. Just under 1.5 miles to go.

Even knowing a PR was in my sights, I didn't constantly check the Garmin. I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Because I knew with every step that got me closer to the finish line. It worked. Pretty soon I was making the turn on to the last big straight away before I made a final turn for the loop around the park past the lighthouse and to the finish line

When I could see the finish line arch in the distance, with about 0.2 miles to go, I let myself look down at my Garmin. It would be so close to a PR. But perhaps more importantly, so much faster than I was anticipating I would be able to finish in. I admit, I teared up a little bit. I kicked into my finish line sprint and crossed the line.


Finish line swiped from the official photographer

Holy cow! Totally not expecting that kind of result! But I guess that just goes to show you what can be accomplished when you put your mind to it. Although I'm not going to lie, there's a tiny piece of me that wonders what I could have done had I not had some setbacks in training this summer due to that pesky IT band.

I went through the finish chute, got my Mylar blanket (which felt oh so good on this chilly day!) and medal. The first people I see? Peggy and her daughter. My cheering crew that kept me going through this 13.1 mile journey. Seriously. I can't even start to form words that express how grateful I am for their support.

Post race runners high. See the bridge in the background? That's right around Mile 11.5.

I looked for my Mom, didn't see her. While I went to the med tent to get some ice for my IT band, Peggy called my Mom. Turns out I ran too fast for her and the Rugrats to get to the finish line in time to see me cross.

For those keeping track at home, that's 10 minutes faster than my fastest half this year (which was at the Oshkosh Half way back in April) and just 46 seconds slower than my PR. And that's after a summer long struggle with an IT band injury.

I'd say the IT band is a pretty good listener though. It hurt. But it just shut up and dealt with it. At least until after the race was run. :)

Because it's nice to have numbers, here's my splits. I'm pretty happy with what I see. For one thing, my slowest mile isn't my last mile!
Mile 1 - 10:29
Mile 2 - 10:32
Mile 3 - 10:10
Mile 4 - 10:18
Mile 5 - 10:19
Mile 6 - 10:20
Mile 7 - 9:59 (where the heck did I pull a sub-10 minute mile from?!?)
Mile 8 - 10:34
Mile 9 -  11:00
Mile 10 - 11:39 (slowest mile, also had that extended walk through an aide station)
Mile 11 - 11:05
Mile 12 - 11:18
Mile 13 - 11:17
Mile 13.1 - 1:07
Total: 2:20:13

Monday, October 1, 2012

September reading recap

After a pretty decent month in August, I kind of lost my reading mojo. I'm  not sure if it was because I was struggling to find something that I wanted to read and would hold my attention or if I just needed a short break. But that's what I ended up doing. Taking a break from books. And it shows in the totals.

I ended up finishing two books in September for a total of 621 pages. That brings the yearly total to 32 books and 11,198 pages. Compare that to last year at the end of September when I had finished 21 books and 8,317. I'd say I'm pretty happy with this year's progress. I've got eight more books to read by the end of the year, just over 2.5 books per month. I think I can do that.

So what I'd read in September? Take a look:

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strand
Stunning by Sara Shepard

I really liked Wild.

Stunning? Not so much. Honestly I just need to stop with the Pretty Little Liars series. This is number, what, 11 in the series (12 if you count that collection of short stories) and they've really gotten almost painful to read. I mean seriously. They're on version 3 o r 4 of A, the anonymous text messager. What is this latest version of A going to turn out to be the long lost triplet? I know I say I'm giving up on the series, but I guess I wouldn't be surprised if the next book comes out and I find myself reading it. That's what I do.