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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

10 Second Book Reviews

Island Beneath the Sea: I wanted to love this one, I really did. It's the story of a slave woman and her life. The story takes her from Saint-Dominigue, Haiti to New Orleans, and is truly epic. Isabel Allende's prose and imagery is beautiful and then brutal. The history of slaves on Haiti is told in great detail. The brutality of the slave owners is sometimes difficult to read, and the historical sections sometimes dragged for me. In the end, the reason I didn't love the book was because it was just too heavy for me at the time that I was reading it. I did like it, and I do recommend it, but it was just... too much.

The Hangman's Daughter: This book is the first in a four-book series. I bought the fourth book because it was on special on my Kindle for 99 cents. Then, I was kind of obligated to read the first 3 books in the series. So, I started with this one. It's less about the hangman's daughter as it is about the hangman himself, and his physician friend, who happens to be in love with the hangman's daughter. It's a bit of a crime drama, but it's a crime drama that takes place in 17th century Germany. It was a good start to the series, and it did make me want to read on. So, I recommend it.
The Dark Monk: This is the second book in the Hangman's Daughter series. It's much the same as the first, except that the hangman's daughter actually takes a larger role in this one. It's a mystery set in 17th century Germany and includes the same cast of characters as the first book. I enjoyed it, and I will eventually finish the series (although I took a break from it for a while).

The Dog Lived (and So Will I): This one is honestly a nice break from animal stories where the dog doesn't live. It's clear from the title that it doesn't have an Old Yeller kind of ending. Yes, the dog lives. This is a personal memoir by the author about her fight with cancer which just happened to happen right when her doggie is fighting cancer as well. It's a cute story, and a quick read. I very much liked it.

Allegiant (Divergent Series): Ugh, this one was so disappointing. I loved the first two books of the Divergent series, but this one fell flat. The writing was sloppy, and the story really deviated from the original premise of the series. In fact, a lot of the fighting and whatnot from the first two books was rendered basically pointless. I won't quibble over the ending (which many fans hated), but the book itself wasn't very good. It didn't help that it had been something like 2 years since I'd read the last one.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln: I listened to this one as an eBook, and it was long. 41 hours. I listened for 30-60 minutes per day and it took me from September to January to finish. It really gave me some true respect for Abraham Lincoln and how great he was as president. I also learned a lot about some great men whom I knew very little about. My biggest lesson is that politics really isn't that much different now than it was then. We like to think we're all fresh and new, but no, it's all just more of the same. The disappointment that I had with this book was that the movie only covered a very small part of it. I'd love to see more of Lincoln's life covered in film.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Back to the Grind

Galloway training, Week 1
Photo courtesy Fleet Feet Sports Baltimore
Well, I'm running again. You know, for real. The Baltimore Galloway program kicked off on May 24, and I'm back in it!

I signed up for the training program in the hopes that it would get me back on track. So far so good, as I've managed to get most of my runs in so far this season (granted, it's only been a few weeks).

My old group is... I don't know, dispersed, I guess. Plus, I am slower than I was pre-baby, so I've been added to the marathon training group, even though I'm only doing a half marathon. The last time I led a marathon group (2011), I had someone doing this, so it's no big deal, but it means my mileage is picking up faster than I'd like. I'll end up turning around earlier (either with the group or without the group) later in the season. At least the pace is right, and I've felt pretty comfortable running with them so far. Plus, this particular group has the highest number of my close friends compared to other groups, so that makes me happy.

On week 2 (May 31), I ran my first magic mile since 2012. Well, that's not totally true. I ran a magic mile in the fall on the NCR trail and was so ashamed of the time that I quickly wiped it from my memory. This one was on the track, and it was better, but still my second slowest magic mile since I started keeping track of them in 2006. My worst one was 2007, when I hadn't been running at all in months. My time was 11:31... only 8 seconds faster than my per-mile time on my half marathon PR, and slower than my per mile time for my 10K and 5K PRs. So, I have some work to do.

The good news is that both the 10K and the 5K that I've run since returning to running have been faster than the pace that Jeff Galloway predicts for a magic mile time of 11:31. The bad news is that the predicted half marathon time would be slower than any other half marathon I've run, including the one where I rode a roller coaster during the race. So, I have a pretty big goal of getting faster over the next few months.

I haven't decided what race to run yet, but I have a few ideas. The tricky part is that Todd wants to run a fall half marathon also, so we have to balance out TWO races (since one of us has to watch the baby while the other runs). Someday, I'm going to start a "parents half marathon" where one parent runs a half on Saturday and the other runs it on Sunday.

Anyway, my ideas:

  • Richmond, November 15. One of my good friends is running the full marathon, so it would be nice to go down and run the half at the same time. The bad part is, I don't really want to wait until mid-November to run my goal race. But... that would give me more time to improve my speed, so maybe.
  • Gettysburg Blue-Grey Half, October 26. The biggest benefit here is that it's only about 45 minutes from my house. It's a small race, which I like, but likely to be pretty hilly. And, I only have a ho-hum interest in the civil war theme of this race. It also doesn't run on the battlefield
  • Runner's World Half, October 19. This one has been on my bucket list since it was introduced. The course looks beautiful... but challenging. The exciting part is that there is a 10K on Saturday that either Todd or I could participate in.
  • Hershey Half, October 19. Fairly close to my house and an interesting course, I think this would be a nice one.
  • Monster Mash Half, October 18. Probably the one I'm least interested in at this point, but it's not too far from home and you get to wear a Halloween costume.
We'll see.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

2014 Sole of the City 10K

This was my first race of the year and my second race since starting running again after baby!

I have to admit, I was skeptical of this race. Back in January, I decided to buy an entry after it showed up as a Livingsocial deal. At the time, I hadn't been running much because I was just coming off of weeks of illness and holidays and cold weather. It looked like it might be a nice course, so I went ahead and bought the deal and registered for the race. The crappy part of the deal was that I had to register in person, but the good part of that was that it got me a really good coupon to Charm City Run ($20 off a $50 purchase!) and so I got a new bra for cheap out of the deal also.

I started training when I bought the deal in January, and I was faced with 20 degree and below temperatures daily, and snow, ice, sleet, snow, ice, and more snow. I wasn't able to run outside for basically all of my training runs. The only runs for this race that I completed outside were the last 2 long runs and the last few weekly runs. Incidentally, right as the weather warmed up, work commenced on our basement again, blocking off our treadmill, so now I have the opposite problem - I have to run outside.

I wasn't sure how my training was going, but two weeks ago I had a pretty nice 6.5 mile run out on the NCR trail (in the rain), so I was feeling slightly optimistic about this race, I guess.

Race day yesterday was beautiful. 50-ish degrees at the start, sunny and warm and beautiful. Probably a little warm for me, but I didn't really feel too hot for most of the race. The start of the race was off of Fort Avenue in Locust Point. I was running with my friend Kristen, who was planning to walk the race. When I showed her walk/run, though, she was impressed. I was doing 1:1s and that was perfect for her. She ended up sticking with me until mile 5.

The course took us from Locust Point around Key Highway and down Pratt Street - way down into what I think was the Canton area (Honestly, I get confused about what part of the city I'm in), and then took us back on the waterfront. We passed marinas and fancy restaurants. Right around mile 4, which is where my conversation tends to turn to food, we were passing RA Sushi, Talara, Pabu, Lebanese Taverna... Yum yum yum.

Then, we headed past Pier 6 and across bridges between the piers - past more restaurants (Chipotle, Hard Rock Cafe) and the aquarium, right through the inner harbor. We went under the World Trade Center and in front of the Pratt Street and Light Street Pavilions, past the USS Constellation, and around to the Maryland Science Center. The course photographers were in front of the Light Street Pavilion, so race photos will have the backdrop of the inner harbor. We then went back on the street to head up Federal Hill (the only hills on the course) to end back where we started at McHenry Row.

It was THE BEST course I've ever run in the city. Hands down.

I really liked this race. I wasn't super fast, even by current standards. I could have gone faster, but I took it easy since 6.2 miles is actually a daunting distance for me right now. I finished strong and felt great at the finish.

There was beer at the end, if that interests you, but I wasn't all that interested in drinking and I was in a rush to get back to my little boy, who was home with daddy.

The swag was pretty great for this race - a half zip long sleeve Under Armour top that was embroidered with the Sole of the City logo. It was a great race all around, and I had a great time. I am glad I did it!!

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Friday, March 21, 2014


Todd read my blog yesterday and pointed out that I last posted "I'm sick of running" and then disappeared. Well, I haven't disappeared because I've stopped running! I actually haven't posted much because I feel like I don't have a lot to say that doesn't have to do with what is going into or coming out of my little boy. I also lost my BlogHer advertising, so the pressure is off to post regularly enough to not lose the advertising (I lost the advertising for not posting regularly).

So, I've been running, although entirely indoors. I'm training for the Sole of the City 10K, and the snow and cold has been so terrible that all but one of my training runs has been on the treadmill. I think I can finally get outside this weekend, and that's good because I think work is going to resume on our basement (which yes, is still under construction 1 year after we started) and the treadmill will be out of commission.

I am still contemplating whether or not I will try and run a half marathon in the fall. I would love to, but I don't know if it is going to be possible to get my training runs in. I'd hate to sign up for the Galloway program only to not be able to keep up with it. My runs have been sporadic, but I have been doing them. So, we'll see. I'm still thinking on it. I'm getting so close to weaning Owen, so that will be a big help in allowing me to have time to run.

In the meantime, I've included a cute picture of my little family at my cousin's wedding last weekend.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Confession Time

Here's a confession, and one that I haven't said aloud to anyone. Not Todd, not any friend, nobody. It's time for me to be completely honest.

I don't really want to run anymore.

I feel terrible about this, and I've been lying to myself about it for a few months. I finally started really thinking about why it's been so hard for me to get my runs in. It's not just that I lack the motivation to run, but also that running has gotten less fun and more difficult.

Running is less fun for me now. I miss my running group, and I run alone the vast majority of the time. I cannot run on the weeknights from my running store anymore because doing so would get me home at 7:45 at the earliest, and Owen's bedtime is 7:30. I need to be home by 6:30 in order to start the going to bed process (his last meal is at 6:30). I'm tired of running alone. I'm tired of always having to run in my neighborhood, which is the hilliest area that I ever run. I'm bored with the hills, I'm bored with running in the same place all the time. But, running elsewhere is too much trouble. Plus, since I've been away from running, I have lost a lot of my stamina and strength. I ran 7 miles in early November and it was miserable and knocked me out for most of the day. Ugh. I know if I run more, I'll get it back, but in the meantime, I'm hating it.

For various reasons, I had to miss both of my potential goal races this year - I had two different 10Ks I was thinking about, and I ran neither. Now, I have nothing that I am training for, and no reason to really push myself. No fun.

Running is more difficult. It's more difficult because, like I said, it's harder because I've lost so much of my stamina. It's also logistically difficult. Running in the morning during the week is nearly impossible because Owen's day starts at 6:30am and I am not getting enough sleep at night to get up earlier than him. Todd leaves fairly early in the morning, so I have to watch Owen in the morning. It's been too cold to take Owen out in the jog stroller, and my neighborhood is so hilly that I don't like the idea of pushing a stroller there while I run. Running in the evening? Well, like I said, I need to be home by 6:30. In order to both be home to run and be home to feed Owen, I would need to leave my office before 5pm... And I'm already taking 1 to 1 1/2 hours away from work a day to pump. I can't spare any more time away from work, so the best time to run during the week is after 7:30pm, when Owen has gone to bed, getting me done at 8:30, meaning that I don't get to eat dinner until after 9pm, most likely. And I go to bed around 10pm.

How about running on the weekends? Well, I need to devote my first part of the day to Owen, and most of my running venues are a minimum of 30 minutes away. Plus, then I'm away from Owen for a minimum of 1 hour, but more likely 2-3 hours depending on how far I run. I have to find people to meet me later in the morning, since my old time of 7-7:30am just doesn't work for me anymore. And, I'm way slower than most of my previous running partners. Not to mention my lack of sleep, which has meant that I just plain don't have the energy to run lately.

Plus, did I mention that I have been sick for three weeks? And I was sick for a week two weeks before that? And I had a stomach virus in between those two illnesses? That hasn't made me particularly excited about racing or running, and it's also the reason that I missed the two races I'd been thinking about.

Honestly, I went to a half marathon with Todd last weekend. He was running, I was just watching, and for the first time, I went to a race and had no feeling like I was wishing that I was the one running.

I've been seriously considering giving up running indefinitely and going back to step aerobics. Step is so much easier to do at home, and so much more fun to do alone. I don't have to worry about weather, and I really enjoy it. That doesn't mean I'll never run again, but if I want to get exercise in, I'm wondering if running just isn't my best choice. This entire year has been a giant bust. I haven't run since Thanksgiving.

Feeling sad about the whole thing...

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Blog Almost Never Now and THIS is what I Choose to Write About?

I like to dress Owen up in matching outfits. My friend Michelle told me I would be addicted to gymboree, and I said "No way!" But she was right. I'm addicted to Gymboree. So, this morning I had him all dressed up in a cute little matching outfit. Then, I picked him up and brought him into the bathroom to show Todd, who was showering.

Me: Whoops!!
Todd: What?
Me: Did you hear that? That was the sound of your kid's head hitting the door as I walked into the room.
Todd: What??? Is he Okay?
Me: Yeah, he's fine. Look, he's not even crying! And look at his outfit!
Todd: Seriously. Are you serious? You hit his head?
Me: Yes, but he's fine!!! Look at his outfit!!!
Todd: Be more careful!
Me: The outfit!
Todd: Yeah, it's cute.

I've been sick with RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) for two weeks. It is miserable. I also am barely sleeping. Prior to the RSV, I had some other cold and a stomach virus. I've had 5 colds since May. Running isn't going so great, as I have decided not to run again until I am 100%. Boo.

Anyway, here's a picture of me and my kid in the snow:

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Thankful For This Year

Five years ago this month, my former boss passed away. His passing helped me to learn that sometimes you lose people when you just aren't expecting it, and so you should cherish every single day.

Last week, I had actually been pondering the anniversary of my boss's death a few hours before I got the call that my cousin, Paul passed away very suddenly and very unexpectedly. His funeral was on Tuesday, and I spent the day surrounded by my family, passing Owen around as a way to add a little bit of happiness into what was a ridiculously terrible day. As I sat there, I looked around at my cousins, aunts and uncles and thought about how happy I was to have them. Paul's death was preventable, and I know that in a heartbeat any of those people would have stopped it if they had known that they could have. I know I certainly would have.

I am going to miss Paul like you would not believe, but his death has made me stop and think about my family and how incredibly happy I am to be a part of it. There are people out there who hate their families, and I cannot understand this. Mine rocks.

So, this thanksgiving is for you, my cousins, my grandmother, my aunts and my uncles. I love you guys, and I'm there for you, if you find that you need me. Please don't forget it.

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