Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Letters Vol. 4

Dear Vlogging Plans, I'm sorry I had to abandon you last night. I really wanted to keep our date! But Dr. Magic had to spend a little extra time on me last night (writing beautifully professional notes about my car accident, including using the f-word to describe the state of the car that hit me), and then I had to make a pick-up pit-stop, and then I had to haul my old mattress downstairs to the basement storage area, and then I had to put together my new bed frame, and then I had to fight with 50 pounds of plastic wrapping, and then I had to marvel at the amazingness that is the comfort of my new bed.
Dear Tuft & Needle, Thank you for the new bed, the immensely enjoyable buying experience, the painless pricing, and the promise of decent sleep for a change.
Dear Tuft & Needle Mattress, Welcome home! I've finally upgraded my full to a queen and I'm glad (so far!) that I picked you to be my new Thunder Buddy. Let's make some sweet, restful magic together.
Dear Baby Bro, The fact that you came over last night just to help me haul my old mattress and boxspring downstairs makes me very happy and I love you and thank you for being a good brother to your dear old sis.
Dear Aziz Ansari, Your stand-up specials on Netflix were the perfect soundtrack to my mattress excursions last night.
Dear Nash F.M. Radio DJ, Until you mentioned how difficult it would be to buy toilet paper, eggs, or shaving cream last night, I had totally forgotten it was Mischief Night. I guess I'm #old now.
Dear New Jeep, Your new name is Sirius Black, and I love you.
Dear Chatty Gas Station Attendant, That was a fun game we played after I told you I was filling up my Jeep for the first time. I was expecting it to hurt SO MUCH MORE than filling up my Focus. But it didn't, and you made it the most talkative gas station experience I've had in ages, and for that I thank you.
Dear Half Marathon, I'm still high on you. I can't wait to play again.
Dear Dr. Magic, Three times next week, you say? WELL OKAY THEN.  :)
Dear Girl in My Office Who Moves to Florida This Weekend, Thanks for giving us a reason to have cake at work today.
Dear November, I see you.
Dear Sweater Weather Candle, You are everything.
Dear Everyone, Happy Halloween! What are you dressing up as this year? What are your Halloweekend plans? Hope you have an amazing one!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thanks for the Ride

So there I was. Getting all my last-minute things done so I could head down to my mom's where I was to spend the night before my half marathon. I was on my way to gas up my car and put air in my tires (because for whatever reason, Stella always had a problem keeping her shoes properly tied) when, with a lot of details I'm going to keep off the blog for now, my car is slammed into by another and I am officially in a car accident.

I actually laughed.

Because of course I had just been in a car accident. Why wouldn't I have been? It was just my luck. This car — that already had a scraped up front bumper from a 2013 accident (that was technically "my fault" but still was outside of my control, I'm a good driver I swear), that has been on her way to the great parking garage in the sky as soon as I could get my shit together enough to go car shopping again, that I JUST had to buy a new tire for (after I'd replaced all four back in February), and that I was mere days away from replacing with something new — of course, this car was hit. And of course, this driver was involved in a car accident on top of everything else she has had to stress over and deal with in the past two very hectic, very emotional, very trying months. And of course, it happened the day before my first big race.

Long story short... after seven years of loyal, unflinching service, uncountable bumps in the road (that she navigated like a champ), after thousands of miles, secrets, laughs, tears, trysts, jokes, short stops, long drives, movie scene moments, and traffic lights, I said goodbye to Stella. My first brand new car. My first "all by myself" purchase. The first thing that I could call solely mine, that I earned alone. For years, my escape route, my safe haven, my thinking spot, my sound booth. My girl.
She got me through so much, this one. I had traded in my old, beat-up Honda for my brand new wheels during my first semester of college, and I was in love with Stella from the moment I saw her. Together we carted around 6' high schoolers with their lacrosse gear (my brother and his teammates), brought friends and family to safety after one too many — no easy feat, considering she was a two-door — road-tripped to Cape Cod, Cooperstown, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and all over this great state of NJ. She heard me sing at the top of my lungs, cry my eyes out, laugh my guts up. She saw me fall in love, break up, and fall in love some more. She heard every whispered secret between me and strangers, friends, and loves. The past seven years of my life happened in and around this car.

But in keeping with this year's theme of "change," it was time to let go. Everything has to come to an end someday. This year, I'm seeing more endings — and beginnings — than I have in a long time. I'm an overly emotional person, newsflash I know, and it's hard not to almost feel bad about giving up a car that I've been through so much with. I'm insane, you can say it.

But I guess the best thing I could do for the four wheels that took me everywhere I needed to go, and brought me to this new place I'm in now, the place 24-year-old-me couldn't even see, the place where I'm a different woman than I used to be, the place where so much adventure and even more change lay ahead, more than I'm even aware of I'm sure, is to let her go out in style.

Thanks for the ride, Stell.

And on the note of new beginnings, here's my new addition:
Confession: I've wanted a Jeep since before I had my driver's license. It is literally the only car I've always wanted. (Oh, and whoever said money doesn't buy happiness never bought their very first car equipped with 4WD, heated seats, and remote start just in time for a New Jersey winter.) I can't wait to see where we go together.

One last thing: Since I've found the magic that is the Harry Potter series, (only a quarter through book 6, no spoilers!) I've decided it's right that I spend this time catching up on 15 years of fandom. So I'm thinking it just makes good sense to name my new wheels after a character from the books. I'm thinking Sirius Black, because he's my favorite, but I'm open to any other suggestions. What do you think? (It's a boy.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mile 14

On Sunday, I ran the Oktoberfest Half Marathon in Pennsylvania. In case you're new here, this was my first big race (over 5k). It was also on the 10-month anniversary of my first run. I ran my first half marathon in 2:16:12, crushing my race goal time of 2:30. I'm still flying.
My very first medal!
It was a day 10 months in the making, that I've been training for since I decided to go for it this summer and set a goal I thought impossible even at the time. 

For this race, I decided not to use my usual run tracker (I run with Runkeeper while I save up my pennies for a Garmin.) because I wanted to give myself totally over to the course. Advice from veteran runners encouraged me to leave it on the course, run the mile I'm in, remember that I am ready and trained for this. Sometimes I can get too far into my head, and I didn't want to worry about what mile I was in or how many I had left to go. I wanted to run each mile as it came to me, and finish when I finished.

There were a few mile markers on the course and a couple other dead giveaways so I wasn't totally in the dark. The first few miles were along a paved bike trail through Pennypack Park. The weather was a dream — low 50s and sunny — and the turning leaves gave the perfect colorful cover. We started out with some rolling hills, but nothing that felt insurmountable. I've been running on hills as long as I've been running, so I've come to feel pretty comfortable with them most of the time. 

At mile 6.5 (which I knew from the race info), the halfway point, the trail turned from paved to crushed gravel. There were some rockier sections and I knew this part of the course would slow me down, as trail always does, so I accounted for it when I set my race goal. I made it out relatively unharmed, aside from a small ankle roll that I so very gracefully recovered from and a few stomps through muddy path.

When I came out of the trail at mile 9 and back onto the paved road, I took about a 20-second pause to slam some Gatorade from the awesome volunteers and fix my falling pony. Shortly after this point the course retraced path we'd run prior, so I knew to expect more hills.

After I hit mile 10 (marked on the course), the really challenging part kicked in. Like I said a few days ago, I'd only been able to train up to 10 miles, though I really had wanted to get to 13 in my training runs. (Funny how life doesn't give a damn about your plans, huh?) Those last 3+ miles were the absolute longest miles of my entire life.

I'm guessing it's partly because I had no idea how far there was left to go (although I've gotten pretty good at estimating semi-accurately based on my music), and partly because I'd just run 10+ miles on hills and trail, and partly because the wind was kicking in, but the going got tough. At what I assumed was roughly mile 12 and after I'd climed and descended the biggest bitch of a hill on the entire course, I took the advice of my sweet friend Tracy and allowed myself to walk. I walked for about 30 seconds when another runner who I'd crossed paths and shared some sympathy with earlier came up behind me, said we had only a quarter mile to go and kicked my butt into gear.

Determined to finish strong and give the finish-line photographers my best smile, I picked it up and told myself I'd be there in less than one more song. But... the course was long. Or this guy's watch was way off. We passed each other again later and he said we were already at 13.2, but the finish line wasn't even in sight yet. Of course it's possible that his watch was off, but based on how long it had been since I saw mile 10, I wouldn't be surprised if you told me I ran more like 14 miles. 

Either way, eventually, the trees broke and the path beneath my aching feet turned into grass. The sun was blazing, the crowd was cheering, my mom and stepdad were poised and ready with their cameras as I came flying down the chute. And two hours, sixteen minutes, and twelve seconds after I set out, I crossed the finish line. It's still surreal. I still have to remind myself that after months of training and planning, I did it.

The rest of Sunday was spent hearing my parents gush over how happy they were to see me finish, foam rolling my aching legs, eating all the food I could get my hands on, watching Harry Potter, napping, and soaking in a warm bath of Epsom salts and a few drops of peppermint essential oil (thanks, Trace!). 

So now what? Well, now I rest for a few days. I didn't want to think about this at all before the race, but on Saturday, I was rear-ended in traffic and I don't think I can convince myself any longer that it didn't do any damage. My back and neck were sore as I lay down to sleep Saturday night, and now in the aftermath of the half marathon, I can add a weird knee pain (I've always had bad knees and knee pain isn't really anything new to me, but it's still pain) and a hip pain (bad alignment that I've been working on with my chiropractor for months), both of which are sure to be expected. I did just run a half marathon after all.  :)

Within a few days I'll be up and running again, but I'm taking a break from racing and training for the rest of the year. I did want to try and find a 5k or 10k to race in November or December, but the accident was the last straw for my little car so I'm better off saving my pennies (race registrations ain't cheap!) for the new car payment. But I still have running goals for the next two months and I still love running, so I'm looking ahead to 2015 races already — surprise, surprise.

On my mind already are a 10k in March (the race is a 5k/10k, and the 5k was my very first race ever. I'm trying to start a tradition here!), a half marathon in May, and posssssssibbly a full marathon in the fall, though I may just attempt the half. We have a year to go, so we'll see.  :)

I'm also hoping to add some runcations to my schedule for 2015, maybe even with some visits with Tracy, Kristen, and Lisa thrown in (?!), as I work toward the bananas goal I have of running a race in every state. (Two down, 48 to go!)

So that's where I'm at. I'm ready to set the next challenge and clamor toward it, too. 

What are you training for?
alyssagoesbang
Your turn! Link up your posts below with Tracy and me for the second edition of Training for Tuesday! (ICYMI, find the "rules" here. We can't wait to see how you're doing!)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Next Time You See Me...

When I see you on the other side of this weekend, I'll have participated in my first half marathon. My first big race. My first race over 5k. My first solo race — well, me and about 600 other people, but no running buddy of my own.

I'm not freaking out.

So many of you have been insanely supportive and encouraging since I first mentioned signing up for a half marathon a few months back. I can't thank you enough. You may not realize it, and it probably sounds so cheesy for me to say this, but every single "you got this" that comes my way keeps my legs moving and my breath flowing on a run. Honestly, when I reach the point in any run where I want to give up, most often, it's remembering that someone believes in me that helps me keep pushing.

This coming Race Day will be exactly 10 months in the making. I will run my first half marathon, 13.1 miles, 10 months to the day after my very first run. That day 10 months ago, I don't think I even ran for a full minute before having to stop and catch my breath. This weekend, I plan to run for more than two hours.

I'm nothing if not a planner, so of course you know I have had a list of things to do before Race Day to make sure I'm as ready as I can be, both physically and mentally. Running is hugely mental for me, and I think a lot of runners will tell you that it's often that the mind wants to quit before the body needs to. Gaining control over that is as much a part of being a runner as the physical training.

So far, I've spent some time recalling run memories and Race Day victories and motivational moments that I'll want to use as fuel on Race Day.
I've made my Half Marathon Playlist — it's just shy of eight hours long, so I think that should be sufficient.
I have my Race Day outfit picked out, my list of bring-to-the-race-and-make-my-mom-hold-for-me bag items.
I've had my last short, easy, shake-out run.
There are just a few things left to do:
  • Spend as much time as humanly possible in Legs Up the Wall Pose and Pigeon Pose the day before I race and the morning of.
  • Soak my body in Epsom salts and warm water the day before the race to get the last bits of rage out of my bones and joints.
  • Go grocery shopping for fruit snacks (my on-the-run fuel) (because I'm 5) and peanut butter (my pre- and post-race favorite). 
  • Figure out how I'm going to wear my hair during the race. High pony? Power pony? Pigtail braids? These are the important decisions.
  • Foam roll every last inch of my body from the hip down.
  • KT tape my feet and ankles the day before.
  • Stop sweating for long enough to get dressed in race clothes.
  • This quick yoga practice
  • Torture myself until I'm sure I'm not leaving anything out.
  • Try to sleep for like 10 minutes at least from now until Race Day.
Runners, am I missing anything? Any pre-(big)-race tips? Any sage advice for getting the nerves out? Any songs I need to have on my Race Day playlist?

I'll see you guys on the other side...
____________________________________

PS — don't forget that this Tuesday, October 28, it's time again to link up your training goals, progress, success stories, questions, and tales of woe with Tracy and me on Training for Tuesday! Get the Guidelines for Harmonious Linking here, grab a button, and have a great weekend!
alyssagoesbang

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Winter Reading Challenge: My List

I'm guessing many of you are book lovers, read blogs by book lovers, and are generally familiar with books and reading as concepts. So I'll spare you a long-winded introduction about my 25-year-long love affair with literature (which should be abundantly apparent given that I have a degree in English and work as a writer and literary editor) and just move along to the point.

The second I heard from Kristen that Megan would be hosting another book challenge to last us through winter 2014-15, I was pretty sold. You may know that I'm working my way through the Harry Potter series (for the first time), and when I'm done, I'll obviously need something new to read. I have lists on lists on lists, with no rhyme or reason, which can sometimes make it hard to narrow down the titles and pick something new to read. And on the success of this latest adventure with Harry Potter, I want to try to broaden my horizons again and reach out beyond my typical genre. What better way to do it than with a reading challenge?

Here are the rules for the reading challenge, and here are my picks to be read from 12:00 a.m. November 1 — 11:59 p.m. February 28:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
Leaving Time — Jodi Picoult (416 pages)
  • Usually I buy Jodi's books the day they come out (and read them within the first 18 hours) but this year I was really determined to finish the HP series for the first time in one sitting. I can't wait to finally read this book that is supposed to be amazing, as all her novels are!

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books.
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows — J.K. Rowling (759 pages)
  • I'm anticipating the timeline working out so that I'm finishing the HP series in November, so why not start the challenge off by finally finishing up?

10 points: Read a book of short stories.
Naked — David Sedaris (291 pages)
  • I just love this dude. This will be a re-read (three are allowed) but since I forget whatever I haven't memorized, it should be like new.

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title.
The Ginger Man — J.P. Donleavy (352 pages)
  • This title's on the MLA top 100, another list I'm trying to work through before I go blind.

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you (so no rereads for this one!).
Vision in White (Bride Quartet Series, book 1) — Nora Roberts (325 pages)
  • I've never read a single Nora Roberts book — I know, lunacy. This series has been on my list, so I'm looking forward to getting through it!

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language.
One Hundred Years of Solitude— Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gregory Rabassa (translator) (457 pages)
  • I think I was supposed to have read this in high school, but my senior English teacher was retiring at the end of the year and was pretty much out the door the whole time. I've been dying to get to this one — it's been waiting patiently on my bookshelf for ages.

15 points: Read a book written by a local author (either an author from your state if you live in the United States, or from your country if you live somewhere else).
Jessica Darling's IT List — Megan McCafferty (223 pages)
  • I've been a huge fan of Megan McCafferty (a Princeton, NJ native!) ever since I first picked up Sloppy Firsts as an eighth-grader. I grew up with Jess and idolized Megan, reading everything she's written up until this book. It's a middle-grade YA novel (YA FOREVER!), a prequel to the Jessica Darling series I love so, so much, but if I know Megan as an author (and I think I do) it's just as suitable for a twenty-(or even thirty-)something as it is for a tween. I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to this one since it's been at the top of my list since before it was published, but it'll be a great winter read, along with its sequel, I'm sure. 

20 points: Read a "bookish book" (in which books play an important role, e.g. the setting involves a bookstore or library, a major character is an author, or a book that celebrates reading and books. Examples: The Book Thief, The Shadow of the Wind, The Thirteenth Tale, etc.)
The Book Thief — Markus Zusak (552 pages)
  • I've heard such amazing things about this novel, I can't wait to see for myself.

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title (e.g. north, south, east, west or any combination of those).
East is East — T.C. Boyle (384 pages)
  • This isn't one I'd heard of before I did some searching for this challenge, actually. But the whole point is to discover new titles, isn't it? Fingers crossed!

25 points: Read a book from a genre you don't usually read.
Gone Girl — Gillian Flynn (560 pages)
  • I don't think I've ever read a book (at least not the whole way through) that classified as a thriller. It's not my style, but I've had plenty of non-thriller-readers vouch for this one and it's time I hopped on the bandwagon, I think.

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title. Be sure to tell us the song name and artist as well!
Yes Please — Amy Poehler (288 pages)
  • I think Amy is just wonderful and have been looking forward to this book since I heard about it months ago. I can't wait to see what she has to say. (Song connection: Yes Please by Muse)

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, brunch).
Naked Lunch — William S. Burroughs (289 pages)
  • About time I get around to this one, I think!
Breakfast of Champions — Kurt Vonnegut (302 pages)
  • This will be a re-read, but considering I don't remember it (or anything if it's been more than six months since I read/watched it, unless I have it memorized) it'll be like new. Vonnegut is one of my favorites, and all I do remember of this title is that I found it excellent.

What are you reading? Anything interesting on your list for winter reads? Are you joining the challenge too? I'm always looking for more titles to put on my never-ending lists...