Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dead Weight Teammate

I'd imagine from an outsider's point of view, I might appear to be a decent teammate.  I'm guessing (and this is all pure speculation) that when it comes to choosing someone with whom to work on a project or assignment, one might think, "She doesn't seem to be stupid, and she always has a story, so...what the heck...I'll team up with her."  And (again, speculation), while I'm pretty sure I'm not stupid and I'm certain that I always have a story, turns out I'm a lousy teammate.

This semester entails an inordinate amount of group projects.  One in medical nutrition, one in advanced, one three-parter in food systems management and two in experimental foods.  This means a crazy sum of our senior grades depend on our ability to play well with others.

I'm really lucky in three of those classes to have been placed with/chosen by responsible, upstanding, organized, PowerPoint savvy students.  They, however, are probably beginning to think they drew the short straw.  Yesterday while working on one project, I was unable to find a single important piece of paper in my folder while Young Miss whipped out her detailed notes, syllabus and textbook, all the while tweaking the presentation as I scrambled to catch my breath.  And...sheesh...an assignment that I'd turned in via the net for that three-parter The Valedictorian and I have been charged with...well...the instructor returned it today.  Um...it's a good thing points will be awarded when the final draft is submitted. After The Valedictorian's fabulous additions to my measly contribution, she sent it to me, suggested I check it, make changes I thought necessary and then forward it to the teacher.  Naturally, I was tickled with her work, then submitted the project.

Ooops, I sent my first draft.

I have to wonder what the instructor thought when she read phrases like, "OMG. I forgot the name!" and "xx%" in what should have been an intelligible page of text. 

All that said, I can take comfort in knowing I'm not the worst partner in the dietetics class of 2011.  That title is reserved for one of my two teammates in yet another class (and two giant projects).  So while I quietly fume (but have been caught more than once in a full-on tizzy) about the gross ineptitude of that person, I have to hope that the same angry ranting isn't being done in my name.

May I please blame this on the stroke?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Long Run Deserves a Long Story

First off, carb loading is serious business! I managed about two days of it and (Mark will confirm this) after our (gluten-free) pasta dinner on Friday night, I was a jittery, energized mess.  It might have aided the run more had I enjoyed a solid night's sleep, but after a few hours of rest, my brain and adrenals went haywire so I excitedly watched the clock.  I guess it was about 5:30 when I rolled out of bed, enjoyed my favorite breakfast (steel cut oats, Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts, cappuccino) then Mark and I headed to the race.  Traffic on I-35 started jamming more than two miles before the recommended exit and I was relieved to not be at the helm. My downtown-savvy boyfriend navigated a superior route, we parked, then walked about 1/2 mile to the starting line.

We warmed up a bit before I kissed Mark "goodbye" and each of us navigated the crowd to find our respective pace leaders. There were just over 1000 marathoners, and a zillion other folk (or maybe 9,000) running the half and 5K, along with a pretty good contingent of relay runners, so I kept my eyes open for the green bibs and nodded to them in silent camaraderie.  We were the rarest of the bunch.  Or perhaps the craziest.

The first ten miles were pretty painless. (My bruises from the crash had apparently surrendered to my obstinate nature). The pack was thick until the half marathoners split off so I made a mental note every minute or two to stay near my pacers.  (Those pacers are amazing.  They give up their own time for the sake of helping a bunch of mostly-rookies make the best of their own marathons.  Very. Very. Cool.) I occasionally had to remind myself  to enjoy the city on this lovely morning. Downtown Kansas City is a neat place.  I was especially tickled when we cruised a site from a very special first date.  A handsome fella earned his nickname there...


Somewhere between "Hey, this is easy!" and "Hmm, this is getting hard," I spied Mark's dad, Geoff and dog, Ella.  I jetted to the side of the road and grabbed a quick hug from one and patted the other on the head (you figure it out) and kept moving, only with a little extra zing in my step.  High-fives and hugs are as good as glucose when it comes to fuel (though I wouldn't want to go without either of them).

Just as promised, the run became exponentially harder.  I knew there was a pretty steep grade that built up from miles 21 to 23 and found myself fretting over that.  I was also starting to get a little loopy (and that's such a rare state of being for me).  The water/Gatorade stops that were every two miles guaranteed an audience of delightful volunteers, so I'd chit chat a bit as I walked through them (the only walking I did over the long course) (don't try to run while drinking from a paper cup) (I learned this the hard way during my first Hospital Hill run).  A sincere "thank you" might have been accompanied by a quiet "this is kinda hard," or "by the way, this hurts!" telling them as though it was a well-kept secret only seasoned marathoners knew.  I wove my way over to a spectator who reminded me of my mom, told her exactly that and thanked her for coming to the race.  I'd guess it was at about 22 that I felt a bit of an energy surge at the same time my iPhone graciously played Proud Mary. So I sang out loud, channeling Tina Turner while running.  Those antics might have bitten me in the arse only a mile or so later as I slowed to a walk to grab liquid refreshment at the next station and my legs turned to jelly.  I felt a bit wonky and realized that my body was starting to break.

I knew Mrs. Diggs was trying to make her way to my kids and then to the race in an effort to give me a boost sometime before the end of my run.  I was doubtful that she'd make it on time knowing her morning obligations and the distance she needed to cross, but was looking forward to seeing the crew as I rested my legs.  After I passed mile marker 25, I thought I would see that finish line any time.  I mean, what's a mile? Nothin'!  But that mile Dragged. Out. Forever.  And as I turned a slight corner, I spied a crew of lunatics that
No one slays a dragon like Mrs Diggs
could only have been mine.  First I saw Princess Pearl's long legs and a big bouquet of flowers.  Then I noticed waving swords and guns and lots of hooting and hollering  My friends and family had come to help slay my dragons!  I grabbed super-charged hugs and kept moving.  Mrs. Diggs ran with me for a bit then I got serious again.  The end had to be near, right?

Finally, I saw the finish line.  Up a hill.  Seriously?  I had to run up another hill to complete this?  I trudged forward with what little remained in my legs.  Surprisingly, I heard my name, looked over and saw a summer classmate who had run a leg of a relay jogging by my side.  Sweet Amanda put a pep in my step that I would have never expected at that point in the race.  I was giddy to have been given such a gift and crossed the line with a huge smile on my face.  I was done.  I slowed to a walk.

The slower I walked, the more I hurt.  I hugged Amanda goodbye and found my sweetheart who had finished 17 minutes earlier.  We were limpy, gimpy pathetic folk who weren't much for company, but my cheerleaders had joined us so we did our best.  I was pretty giddy having done what I'd just done.  Mark was a bit bummed by his time and had hoped to run a couple of minutes faster (though his Garmin indicated he'd run 26.45 miles, so I think he technically hit his goal).  We eventually headed toward the car, which was akin to a million miles away (didn't seem that far just a few hours earlier when we parked).

Getting in the car.  Ouch.  Getting out of the car. Ouch. Three steps up to the house.  Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. We each grabbed water or food or something (I don't really remember. The brain fog had settled in) and then we sat.  That was pretty much the theme for the afternoon. Mark's second-born stopped by a couple of times that day and seemed amused by our sloth.  The second time he popped in, we'd migrated from chairs to the couch. "Oh, you moved," he chided.  We deserved it. We'd earned it.

The ache has now faded, but the pride remains.  Mark's friend of many years, Ellen, (who I knew from spin class before the three of us connected the dots) has run more than her fair share of miles and reminded me more than once during training, "Pain is temporary. Glory is forever."

Or at least until the sticker peels off my window.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'd Like to Thank All the Little People...

Running a marathon is easier than childbirth.  And afterward, you aren't put in charge of another person for the rest of your life.  
--Jennifer Diggs, 2010

Admittedly, I'm feeling a bit full of myself right now.  I just ran a marathon.  A hilly, badass marathon.  And I'm farily certain that I am awesome.  Yup.  I said it. Awesome.

I told Big Sis a few days ago that running is the easiest part of my life.  (I soon corrected myself and ranked being Mark's girlfriend as the easiest part of my life, with running coming in at a close second.)  It is a wonderful distraction from my otherwise panicked life.  School, parenting, laundry...they all require thought (sorting socks is hard!).  Running.  I just go.  Slip on my shoes and go...well, slip on shoes plus two bras and then I go.

Anyhoo.  Let's get down to it.  I could never have made it to the cocky side of 26.2 without the incredible friends who make my life so darn fabulous.  From all those "atta girl"s when I bragged about each milestone crossed (it was getting annoying, right?) to a generous loan  for new shoes midway through training to those who kept me grounded while I recovered from heart surgery to a two-hour massage to rid my body of the scooter crash and ready it for a ridiculous run just eight days later, I'm the luckiest girl in the world.

So I now proclaim you to be more awesome than the awesome I'm feeling about myself (you're waaaay more awesome than you'll ever know), because without you, I wouldn't be sitting here looking like a giant dork with a medal hanging around my neck.

I might wear it to school on Monday.  I think it's high time we have Show-and-Tell in Experimental Foods.  And I'll tell them all about you.  Because you are awesome.

Friday, October 15, 2010

For Crying Out Loud!

I could blame it on the events of the past week, but I'm going to be honest here.  I've been on the verge of tears for a solid month...maybe longer.

School.  Sigh.  Each class has its share of stressors, but it's Wednesday afternoon -- Senior Dietetics Seminar -- that kicks my arse every week.  Sure, there's a gigantor term paper and presentation due soon, but what gets me is the whole "growing up" thing that I'm faced with every seven days.  Now, I adore my instructor.  I understand that this is not the consensus among my classmates, but I really do dig her.  She is incredibly intelligent, has an occasional sense of humor (which I enjoy tremendously because it's a surprise treat when it pays a visit) and holds great expectations for each and every one of us.  But each week we are faced with the realities of the career we've chosen and the seemingly impossible internship upon which it hinges, and each Wednesday my drive home (and it's a long one, folks) is filled with negative thoughts and self doubt.

Anyway...(I recognize that I have a propensity to ramble), back to the tears...so...this morning the kids didn't have school nor did I.   My Friday is usually a catch-up-with-school and volunteer-work day (I just remembered that I forgot to go to my volunteer gig. Ugh.) So we were all hanging out and eating and chatting when I decided to finally read a couple of links that Spinning Marcy sent to me after last weekend's not marathon.  The kids are in the kitchen, buzzing about this and that while I'm reading the chronicle of a woman (who loves food and running) who ran the Chicago Marathon last weekend with a few of her friends.  And before I knew it, I was crying.  I hid it for a bit until one of the kids asked me a question and I couldn't speak.  I then started weeping, trying to explain to them what had gotten me started.

Even when I'm out running, when I visualize crossing that finish line after trekking 26.2 miles, I get teary.  Heck, when I ran the two half-marathons, I got a little choked up when I realized I was part of a massive crowd of fabulous fit folk capable of shutting down a city for a morning.

Admittedly, the crying thing has been coming for awhile and I'm pretty sure I still have a solid 30 minute bawl sometime in the near future, but I think that tomorrow, along with my Gu and Snickers Marathon Bar, I'll tuck a hankie into my running belt.  With 12,000 likely participants, I'll probably be moved to tears before Mark and I make it into the parking lot.

And I really feel like I should warn my professor before our one-on-one meeting next Tuesday that tears will be part of the package.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trading Up

I'd barely entered the office when a gal intuitively asked, "The Vespa?"

(I didn't correct her...Aprilia is a mouthful).  "Yes.  May I see her?"

She directed me to a garage not far away.  I could see her green fender from across the lot and hesitantly proceeded.  Seated in a lawn chair, a dusty man smoked his cigarette and humored my need to say "goodbye."  I'm probably not the first gal with an attachment to (and a name for) her ride.

At first sight, she appeared to be in reasonable condition.  Her "trunk" had been knocked off, but she still looked like Viv.  As I got a little closer, I could see her front end was misshapen and the fender that I'd spied earlier was only half of one.  As I slowly circled her body, I noticed a missing foot rest, a dangling blinker, numerous scratches and scrapes. She was clearly no longer for this world.  My eyes welled with tears and I rambled a bit to the old man.  Before long, he knew that I'd given her to myself to celebrate the final year of my thirties, that her name was Viv and that she and I had shared an adventure or two.  He reminded me that those good times didn't have to end, that I could replace her. But  I shook my head in doubt. Call it being a chicken.  Call it PTSD.  Call it coming to my senses.  I don't think I'll do it again.

When I was presented the opportunity to buy her, I was wholly single and had the means (by miraculous happenstance) to purchase her.  There was no one whispering in my ear how senseless a scooter would be to a mother of three.  I'd lived so many years concerned with the financial uncertainties of Mr. X's career and worries about keeping food on the table that I rarely indulged in extravagances (the exception being kitchen equipment...All Clad makes me weak in the knees).  I did the numbers.  I checked with the insurance company. I bought her. And she became a symbol of my freedom.

She was my favorite study break.  She took me to stretches of road that I'd not before driven.  She made me feel like a million bucks.  Sure, she was there when I found myself face-first in a pile of muddy leaves -- and she tried to leave me stranded once or twice.  Plus she was a garage hog.  But I could overlook all of those shortcomings. She was fast, sexy and sassy.

Now that I've experienced first-hand how dangerous life on a bike can be (and am completely cognizant of how very, very lucky I am that it wasn't worse), I won't buy another.  At least not for awhile...

...because I have another favorite study break who takes me places I've not before experienced and he makes me feel like a million bucks too.  After nearly a year, he's yet to leave me stranded at Whole Foods and has resisted the urge to toss me face-first into a pile of muddy leaves.

And while I can't fill his tank on less than $3.00 a week, spending time with Mark doesn't require a helmet or liability insurance.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On the Road Again

Mark suggested a short run to knock out a few kinks as well as give me an idea whether or not I could handle 26.2 next week in KC.  I went to bed with the notion that I'd run two quick miles in the morning.  When I woke after a decent night's rest (thank you, Benadryl), I put the number "four" in my mind and decided to tackle my favorite hilly route.  And though my stride was shorter than usual and the bruise that sits at the top of my left hip complained with each and every step, my legs were in heaven.  As I approached the spot where I normally turn to head home, my brain, legs and bruise all had a serious talk.  And while the bruise posed a valid argument, my brain was easily swayed by the highly influential legs who had been planning on a much longer run this morning.  I kept going.

By then, the goofy grin across my mouth was wide and sincere.  I could totally see running next weekend.  I even questioned skipping this morning's marathon (it would have been a bad idea, but I specialize in second guessing myself).  I quickly remapped my training plan to squeeze a long-ish run into the next few days.

While my legs would have gone on awhile longer, I knew it would be foolish to go too far.  I also was without fuel or hydration, so I wrapped my run at just shy of six miles.

I'm icing my back right now and mentally preparing for a hillier trek than I'd anticipated during those long weeks of training.  And while it would have been fun to speed past a high school classmate or two on Route 66, I'm envisioning accepting a few more high-fives from the locals that make this life of mine so very fabulous and interesting when I run that marathon next weekend.

Don't stop me now...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

To-Don't List

The to-do list was long and detailed.  I only had a few hours in which to run errands, grocery shop, clean the van and study.  From carb loading to car loading, I had my hands full.  The marathon was just two days away.

Viv and I geared up for a fabulous autumn ride.  Heading down Johnson Drive, I was taking a green light straight through an intersection when I realized my bright orange helmet hadn't alerted another driver of my presence.  And his left turn took me out.

Even before I was thrown off the bike, my thoughts rushed to the marathon.  In those long milliseconds that I waited for my body to meet the pavement, my heart broke.  And when the driver of the car looked down on the wreckage and asked if I was okay, I could only respond with a somber, "No."

Soon there were more than a few bystanders with cell phones to alert emergency services and offer comfort. And as they asked if I could wiggle my toes and grip their fingers, I told them about the run I wasn't going to be able to complete.  The consensus among my amateur caregivers was that I'd be fine and there would be more marathons.  I knew this was true, but after eighteen weeks of training, I couldn't shake my disappointment.

My usual irreverent self resurfaced -- perhaps because I realized I had an audience -- and I was able to ask a bystander to leave a message for Mark, then take a picture of the madness with my phone for blog sake (she tried, but apparently wasn't successful.) Police and EMS were on hand within minutes (I don't think I was 1/2 mile from either of the stations) and before long, I was strapped to a board, neck brace and all, and took my first ever ambulance ride.

I was able to speak with Mark shortly after I arrived in the ER, sincerely apologetic for ruining the race plans that we'd made so long ago.  He quickly corrected my thinking and reiterated the song and dance that everyone surrounding me had chanted.  You'll be okay soon enough. There will be other races.  It could have been worse.

I tried to keep my wits about myself.  When they cut my pants off, I let them know that I didn't like those ones anyway.  I thanked everyone who was nice to me (and that was each and every one of them) and I surprised them with my medical tales of ridiculosity.  An x-ray tech wanted to hear about my running addiction.  And when she asked if Greek yogurt was a good snack, I forgot my problems for a moment and excitedly told her which brand to buy and how with honey and walnuts it is an indescribable joy.

Soon enough, the neck brace and constraints were removed and I was able to call Mr. X for a ride home (with some clothes from Em's closet). Diagnosis: Contusions. Bruises and road rash (but not much -- I was wearing the sassy leather jacket Concert Katrina had given me for my birthday.) My left hip and hand took the brunt of the abuse.

Right now, I'm unsure of Viv's condition.  I didn't see  her after the wreck and don't even know where she is right now.  The police report isn't yet finished, so I don't know who hit me, whether or not he was insured, nothin.'  I'm sure I'll get details soon. And I don't know if I'll hop back on her saddle. I'll let some time come between myself and my injuries before I make any final decisions though.

I'm hoping the next few days bring great healing so I can continue my quest to finish a marathon sooner, not later.  And for those of you taking notes, I busted yet another New Year's resolution by landing in the ER.

I apparently signed up for an adventure when I entered this lifetime.