Monday, September 15, 2014

Things Runners Know (+ Announcement!)

Runners know the difference between a flat road and a flat-ish road. The difference between a steep and a "long and slow" uphill. They know the ups and downs of every road in town, the streets to fly down and the ones to challenge themselves on. Runners know the peaks and valleys that punctuate the neighborhood and when it's time to go for each.

Runners know every crack in the sidewalk and what roads pitch on the south side. They know which tree roots are beginning to grow through the cement and where it's safest to run with their eyes down. They know where those low-lying branches loom and where it's best to step into the street. They know where the walnut tree that deposits those big green shells waits and how to dance around their skeletons, weaving and bobbing through limbs and casings. They know where the rosebushes creep onto the sidewalk and which sidewalks are better avoided altogether.

Runners know where the dogs live. They know which ones will bark when they hear a sound a mile away, which ones are always after a new friend, and which ones come with the friendliest or grouchiest humans. They know where to dodge Frisbees and tennis balls, lawn sprinklers and softballs. They know where the new couple just moved in and which nest just emptied. They know which dads water their lawns by hand and which kids cut the grass to earn their allowance.

Runners know where the kids live. They know where the rope-jumpers, the future quarterbacks, the grinders, and the trouble-makers live. They know where to find a great hopscotch course and which house always has a light on upstairs. They know which families sit down for dinner together at 6 sharp each day, and which kids snuggle up with Gram for Jeopardy! at 7. Runners know when soccer practice is.

Runners know how the air feels just before a storm, when the last mile that separates them from home and the thunder is suddenly as steep as Everest or as long as the Nile. They know the difference in the wind on a breezy fall day and the gusts that mark a pending boom, splash, crash. They know where the other runners are. They have a favorite house, a gentle loop, a favorite challenge.  They know their streets like an intimate partner, like an old friend, and like a new discovery all at once. Runners know that the roads, like little else to speak of under the sun, are always there waiting.

A few days ago, I chatted a bit about this little party Tracy and I have cooked up, and I want to revisit that today so we can all find the right page and hop onto it. (Click here if you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Now we're not trying to be bossy here, but we do have a few, let's say, strong suggestions. Guidelines for harmonious linking, if you will. Check out how we want to roll:

1. Write a blog post about whatever fitness-related goal you're working toward. It can be ANYTHING. No goal is too big or too small. You might write about...
- A race or triathlon you're currently in training for, like Tracy and I
- Your weightlifting goal of any kind
- To establish a workout or fitness routine, like hit the gym 3 times a week or start going to weekly yoga classes
- To touch your toes
- To be able to run a mile without stopping (Tracy and I both started out with this as a goal!)
- A time or distance personal record (PR) with running, swimming, biking, anything!
- To tone those calves and quads
- A headstand, handstand, crow pose, or whatever pose or asana currently alludes you
- Anything else you can think of!
2. Link up your post with Tracy and I on the last Tuesday of the month (we're kicking things off on September 30th!)
3. Add the button to your post or your sidebar and/or link back to either Tracy or I in your linked post so your readers can find similar posts and we can all connect!
4. We'd love to create a community of ass-kickers here, so hop around to other linked blogs and read about the goals others in our little family are working toward. A few words of support, advice, encouragement, or even commiseration can go a very long way. Spread the love and build your community of cheerleaders and motivators!
5. Go out there and keep being awesome!
6. Don't have me arrested for my heinous abuse of exclamation points! (I'm just really pumped about this.)

We'll be back every month with another link-up post where you can either tell us about how you did on this last goal, ask for help on how to make your dreams a reality, or share a new goal! We'll keep you posted on the dates, but mark down the last Tuesday of the month as the Training for Tuesday so we can all stay up-to-speed on each other's progress.


Are you in?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Letters Vol. 2

Dear Blog Readers on #TeamApple, You guys made my week, putting pumpkin in its place (second, in case you weren't following along) where it belongs.
Dear Chiropractor, I will never quit you. That adjustment Wednesday left me feeling drunk and wobbly in all the good ways. Thanks for being a magician and also for acknowledging that I'm a badass.
Dear New York Giants, Please don't hurt me again. All I do is love you.
Dear J. K. Rowling, I've finally hopped aboard your magical train and so far so good, but I'm actually terrified now that everyone is going to turn out to be a traitor and I have so many trust issues right now.
Dear Entire Rest of the World, I've only just discovered how impossible it is to avoid spoilers of a series that's over a decade old. Please just stop talking about Harry Potter until I'm done, k?
Dear Baby DSM, Today is about to be your birthday, and I cannot wait to meet you! Your mama is my best friend and I have no boundaries so you had better brace yourself for lots of auntie kisses and hugs because my favorite kind of kids are the ones I can leave when they start crying and you're going to be my guy.
Dear Sauconys, We're going places this weekend. Get ready.
Dear Stella, You've been a great car for me for the past seven years, and I know you don't want me to send you off to the big garage in the sky, but the time has come for us to part ways. And no amount of surprise Wednesday morning flat tires I have to spend dollhairs to fix is going to keep me from hanging up your accessory belt because you, my princess, have done enough. Time to hit the golf course.
Dear Sam Hunt, Promise it's not weird that every time I play "Leave the Night On" I have to play it at least two more times immediately after? And it's also not weird that I do this several times a day?
Dear Friends, I still want to know — are you in?
Dear IKEA, I really don't want to have to go visit you tomorrow to make this return, but we all have our cross to bear. Please don't make it hurt too much.
Dear Super-soft Oversized Sweater and Leggings, I can't wait to be inside you.
Dear Eyebrow Threader Whose Name I Don't Know, You da real MVP.
Dear Google Analytics, As helpful as you are, you can really freak a girl out. Who is reading from my home town, my work town, my current town, his town, and my parents' town? Reveal yourselves. (Or don't because I'm really not sure I can handle that.)
Dear Blogosphere, What's on tap for your weekend? I hope you've got a great one planned!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Caramel Trumps Pumpkin

There are some things I've been wanting to get off my chest, so thank a frog it's Wednesday again. Here's your weekly installment of confessions, this time with no rhyme, no reason, and no BS. Let's get to the soul cleansing...

Listen. I know you're all pee-your-pants excited that the PSL is back. And look, I love it too. But I only get about one or two per season. Three tops. Because you know what's better than pumpkin everything? Apple. Apple everything. GO AHEAD AND TELL ME I'M WRONG. More apple stuff for me.
I'll never not use this gif when it's applicable.
Also. ALSO. Very important. The Salted Caramel Mocha. The SCM. Do it. Yes, I prefer this to the PSL. Seriously underrated seasonal drink at Sbux. I've always been one to root for the underdog.

I cut cable when I moved into my new place. Between Netflix and Amazon Prime and my inability to commit, I never watched a whole lot of real-time TV anyway, so it made sense. But it's football season, so it looks like I'm about to become a regular at the bar around the corner. Related: Because I'm a plan-in-advance kinda gal, anyone want to have me over to watch the Oscars next year? I've never missed a broadcast in my life and I'm not about to start.

(Related: I was born on Academy Award night in 1989. During the announcement for Best Picture. Rain Man won Best Picture that year and Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor. #funfacts.)

Also related if you go back to the root: I've been watching nothing but Teen Mom 2 reruns. Thank you, Amazon Prime for feeding my addiction to teenage baby mama drama.

Also Kieffer makes me want to throw up every time he speaks. GIRL, BYE.
It's officially official. I am registered for my half marathon next month. Of course, I've known I'd run this race for some time. But now that I've thrown my hard-earned dollhairs at it, it's legit. I'm doing it. Someone hold me.

Last week sometime I crossed a major threshold. I officially (I like when things are official, obviously) went one full year without corresponding with a particular person, with whom I've had an aggressively rocky, painful, and confusing relationship since our first meeting about 150 years ago. The end of last summer also marked the end of that relationship, but part of me worried that that goodbye would go the way of so many of our previous goodbyes, which were only half-assed "see ya laters" that fell apart months in, sucking me back into the storm. A full year later it's pretty clear that I've finally made it out of the woods for good. And I'm celebrating this, because a few years ago I never thought I'd be able to do this.

I get irrationally angry when I run past other runners on the street and they do literally nothing to acknowledge me. Why are you so antisocial? Not that we need to stop and chat, but a courtesy wave? A nod? A super big smile and thumbs up like that one older gentleman who always makes me smile for a good quarter mile because he just seems so excited to be alive? Nothing? I don't get it. Especially the ones who appear to go out of their way to not acknowledge others. They make me mad, which is probably ridiculous.
Me, whenever I cross paths with an unfriendly runner.
Also, there are way, way, way too many cyclists in my town and they need to settle down a bit. This isn't Tour de France, guys. It's Mountain Avenue.

Whew, that felt good. Right? It's always nice to get the important stuff off our chests. What confessions are you spilling today?

Linking up with Kathy, as always.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Five Mile Freedom (+ A Sneak Peek Mini-Announcement!)

If you came to see me yesterday you know by now that I accomplished a nine-mile run this weekend. For the first time in my life. All my long runs here out will be new personal best distances, until I run my first big race — a half marathon — next month. Even though eight, nine, 10, 11, etc. miles have been on my calendar since I started this half training program over the summer, actually getting here has felt surreal.

I won't bore you with the beginnings of my life on the run (though you can read it here, if you'd like), but to say I never thought I'd be here is the biggest understatement of the month. When I first started running, and couldn't make it a mile without stopping, winded, hurting, nine miles wasn't even on my radar.

At the time, the distant goal in my mind, the goal I wouldn't really even let myself think on too often, was to run a 5k. That's 3.1 miles. The thought of being ready for one three months away was laughable.
But then I got there. And then I knew I would keep going, and longer distances took over the 5k as my "big deal" distances. Once I knew I could run three miles comfortably, I began anticipating the day I could do five miles the same way. Even from three, five looked tough. I think there's just something about certain numbers. Five is one of those that just feels... solid. I don't know, I don't think I can explain it much better than that. But as a young runner, I couldn't wait for the day I could casually say I had just run five miles, no big deal. Though it felt at times like that day would never come.

My nine-miler on Sunday was one of the best runs of my life. I was quick (for me), I felt strong, I was so happy. It was a beautiful night and my town is so precious. It was the kind of run that makes a person who runs a runner. It was every reason I keep lacing up, all rolled up into one jaunt through town.

I ran to my alma mater and past the campus that looks almost unfamiliar to me now, for all the new additions and renovations. I ran past an iris memorial garden that I've passed by car thousands of times, but saw differently from my closer (and slower) viewpoint. I ran through one of my town's many quaint and pretty parks, past a soccer practice, family picnics, first-date walks, and solo strolls. I ran past dog-walkers, runners, bikers, sidewalk chalkers, plant waterers, and chatting neighbors. And I could have run for another hundred years.

During my run, I shaved a little more than three minutes off my previous (unofficial) best five-mile run time. I wasn't aiming for that. Generally, in runs over four miles, I don't worry so much about time; I'm still working on just being comfortable at longer distances. But when I got that dose of reality — three minutes off! — I started thinking about how five miles used to feel so unreachable. I thought about how earlier last week I had a sixer and a five-miler scheduled back-to-back nights, and when I first stepped out for the six I decided halfway through that I would swap them "just do" five because I wanted to take it easier that night.  Five miles was my taking it easy last Wednesday.

Five months ago, five miles was my holy grail. It scared me and excited me at the same time. Remembering things like this, relative to where I am as a runner now, is easily one of my biggest motivators. The thing about running is that all you have to do to be good at it is... do it. And just keep doing it. And do it even when you don't want to, and even when it's a little too hot, or there's something good on TV, and even when yesterday's run sucked and you want to never lace up again because what's the point in running if you suck at it? The point is that practice really does make perfect. Well, maybe not perfect. I'm no Shalane. But it does make you the best you can be.

And it makes your once-impossible sights and goals into realities. Here's hoping I can carry this attitude into the weekend, where I'll go for double-digit mileage for the first time in my life.

And in this spirit, I want to give a sort of sneak-peak announcement about something Tracy and I are working on. She and I are both in training for big races this fall — me, the half marathon; Tracy, the Richmond Marathon. We like to talk about our training with one another, and a good deal of our readers seem to like sharing their training wins and woes with us too. So we're proposing a monthly blog party where we can all link up to talk about our training goals, spread some always-appreciated motivation, encouragement, and support, and hear about what everyone's working toward.

Whether you've got a race or a tri coming up, whether you're just trying to touch your toes through a new yoga practice, whether you're trying to hit that next deadlift goal, or whether you just want to run one mile without stopping, we want you to share your training triumphs with us and others. We want to give us all a space to talk about what we're working for, introduce readers to others in similar boats and create a strong, motivational, supportive training community. All will be welcome — no goal is too big or too small.

We'll both share some more about the linkup details when we get closer, but for now I just want to know... are you in?

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Adventures

I believe that in this life, there are always opportunities to learn and to try new things. To broaden your experiences. Take on new challenges. Taste new flavors and explore new territories. And if those chances and opportunities come to you and you let too many pass you by, what kind of life are you really living?

In that spirit, I took some time during last evening's run and thought about all the ways I try to keep pushing myself into new territories. And as I thought about it, I realized that this weekend alone was filled with new things! Like...

1. I watched The Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time. No, I'd never seen any of them before. Yes, I have a soul. There are just a whole lot of movies I haven't seen. And I never felt the need to go out of my way to check out Pirates because I just really didn't think I would like it. It's not my genre. But then again, neither is Harry Potter and I'm on book #3, so.
Anyway, yes I liked Pirates, and I'm really looking forward to checking out the rest of the movies.

2. I rooted for a college football team. I should explain this one. I love football. I really do. I love it. Today, the NYG season opener, is one of the best days of my whole year. But due to certain circumstances, I went to a D3 college that really couldn't have given a damn about football (though club hockey was a big deal, for some reason?). My campus was mostly about baseball and lacrosse. And all my school friends were arts students, for the most part. I literally went to zero games at my alma mater while I was a student there. It just wasn't really important to anyone but the players themselves and the girls they were hooking up with. In fact, I've been to exactly one game at my alma mater, and it was when my little cousin's college played there — and I cheered for his team. School spirit, I have none. (Worth noting I was a cheerleader in my younger years. We don't talk much about those days.)

Anyway, as such, I have had a hard time getting into college football because it's hard to have allegiance to a school I didn't go to. But after many, many, many persuasive chats with my friend over the years, wherein he's appealed to my Giant fandom and tugged on my heartstrings, I found myself sitting alongside him and rooting for Notre Dame Saturday night. Just call me a front-runner, I guess. (Although I've been a Giants fan since before I could talk, so maybe you shouldn't.)

3. Watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. My mom and stepdad are big Harry Potter fans, so they're pretty stoked I'm finally finding the magic myself. During a visit there this weekend I joined them for a viewing of movie #2, as I'd just finished the second book not long ago. I'm diggin' it, guys. I think that makes me a real blogger now or something.

4. Sent texts to the Middle East. A couple of you may remember that a while back I had to say a sad "see ya later" to one of my best friends as he prepared to ship out to Afghanistan with his Army unit. Saturday night (or Sunday morning if you're on his time) I was so beyond pleasantly surprised to see his name pop up on my phone. I didn't know that texting would be an option at all for us to keep in touch, but I'm so glad he reached out to me on his bit of time off to reassure me that he's safe and sound. It was a huge relief and a wonderful surprise.

5. Did laundry in my apartment building. You guys, this is a big deal. My old building had no laundry whatsoever, and though the laundromat a mile down from my office was clean and lovely and had free WiFi, there's nothing quite like being able to do laundry without having to lug the hamper to your car. Coin-opp, schmoin-opp. I did laundry bra-less, and I don't care who knows it.

6. I ran nine miles. This was the new "longest run of my life." It was also, honestly, the best run of my life. I kept a good pace, I felt strong, I felt like I could have run another nine. For the first time in my training, I felt like I would really, really be ready for my half marathon come race day. Runs like this are what keep me running.

What new adventures did you find yourself on this weekend?
Join me in linking up with Biana and share with the whole class!