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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

10 Second Book Reviews

A Feast for Crows: I am a big fan of the Song of Ice and Fire series (television viewers know it as the Game of Thrones series), but I put this one off for a while. This is book four. Book 3 was so very good, and I'd heard that books 4 and 5 were not as good. I just couldn't bring myself to read them. Finally, I decided to read it and it was just ok. There were plenty of new characters introduced and some of the main characters were missing. The story almost stalled, basically, which is a disappointment given that this book is 1100 pages long.

The Last Unicorn: I loved this movie so much when I was a kid. The book was a freebie on, so I thought I'd give it a read. I enjoyed it. It was a short, easy read. I haven't seen the movie since I was a little kid, so I had forgotten a lot of the plot. This was the movie that inspired me to go on a unicorn phase until I was about 12, so it was nice to return to it for a little while. Definitely a nice book to read, especially for little girls.

Seriously...I'm Kidding: Another book that I listened to because I enjoy comedians who read their own books on Audible. I'm a big fan of Ellen, and this is actually the second book I've read by her. Lots of silly anecdotes and stories, and plenty of nice light, funny, reading. If you love Ellen, you'll love this book, period. Some of the reader complaints I've heard is that it contains a lot of material from her monologues on her show. I don't get to watch her show every day anymore, so I definitely enjoyed listening to this one. Runners - this is a perfect listen to while running book.

A Fighting Chance: Political memoirs are not usually my cup of tea, but I'm an Elizabeth Warren fan, so I thought I'd check out her book. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I found her to be an honest, amazing woman who is really and truly working for a better America. It was really interesting to hear about her work towards making Wall Street a better place. I also very much enjoyed hearing about her struggles raising her kids while also having a career. The audiobook is also read by the author, which is a plus.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: This book had been on my to-read list FOREVER. I finally decided to give it a read. It is a non-fiction book about the women whose cells were used to create the HeLa cells that are used for medical (especially cancer) research. It's an incredible story to read. It was so interesting to learn about Henrietta and her life and family, but also to get some serious background information on medical ethics, cell cultures and how medical research was conducted on African Americans in the past. The story takes place at Johns Hopkins and Baltimore, so it is close to home for me.

A Dance with Dragons: Once I read A Feast for Crows, I had to go on to read the last of the currently published books in the series. This one contains the stories of Danerys and Tyrion, who happen to be my two favorite characters. I knew that nothing crazy was going to happen in this book (and by something crazy, I mean Dany reaching Westeros). It was plodding to read through her plot in Essos, and it just DRAGGED, but the ending was good enough that I felt like I was happy to have read it. I just need George RR Martin to finish the next book in the series. Please, GRRM, let's finish it.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Second Book Reviews

Geez, I'm so behind on this.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?: I listened to this one. I love listening to audiobooks written by comedians, because they normally are also read by the author. Mindy's was a good, funny one with a lot of thoughts about weight, as well as a lot of interesting tidbits of info about what it was like behind the scenes on The Office. Not as good as Bossypants, but still a good book by a female comedienne.

Prayer for Owen Meany: This seems like one that everyone had read except me. I chose to read it mostly because my son's name is Owen, and therefore I get comments occasionally about Owen Meany, so I wanted to read the book so I'd know what they were talking about. I loved it. It was funny and touching and heartbreaking all at the same time. I loved the character of Owen Meany so much, even if it was hard to get used to him speaking in all caps. The religion in the book is a little heavy-handed, but that was also something I could deal with while enjoying the rest of the story.

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries: I do love Neil Degrasse Tyson. My only disappointment with this one was that I listened to it as an audiobook and it was not read by the author. Come on, NDT, I know you'd do a brilliant job reading your own book!

I learned a lot listening to this. The book included plenty of information about the formation of the universe, and what is out there beyond our planet, solar system and galaxy. I will say this though - the more I read of NDT, the more atheist I become.

Confessions of a Scary Mommy: I wanted to love this one more than I did. I think a lot of new moms (or even not so new moms) would really love how honest and true this book is. It is a lot of stories about motherhood, but also includes a lot of opinions about motherhood and how motherhood should be. I got tired of some of these very opinions. It's tough to read a book that preaches about not wanting to be judged by other mothers, which then turns around in the next chapter to judge other mothers. Right?

Orange Is the New Black: If you are a fan of the television series, this one may be a disappointment to you. The television series is loosely based off of the book. But, the TV show is over the top and outlandish, while the book is a bit more down to earth. That's because the book is true, the TV show is not. You will read about characters that you recognize, and you will find out a whole lot more information about what life is really like in a women's correctional facility.

I thought the book was a terrific companion piece to the TV show. It will make you rethink how we treat prisoners in this country.

12 Years a Slave: Oh gosh, as soon as I started reading this, I started thinking "why in the world am I reading this depressing book?" But, it was good. It's a real first person account of what it was like to be a slave in the south. The historical significance of this book just cannot be denied. The story is just plain heartbreaking and will make you angry.

Shortly after reading the book, I watched the movie. It did an excellent job of being true to the book. So, please either read the book or watch the movie so that you can understand what went on in the south in this country.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Kelly St. Patrick's Day 5K 2015

I've run this race a bunch of times. My 5K personal record is here, set back in 2010. It's easy to set a PR on a course where the first mile is essentially all downhill. Because I have run this race so many times, I have a system. I park at the lot at Pier 5, right at the end of I-83 and walk up the hill to the start in front of the Washington Monument (no, the one in Balitmore). But, Charm City Run was advertising as where you should reserve parking, so I thought, ok, I'll reserve parking in advance.

Well. I reserved it a different lot, the one at Power Plant Live!. The one that is right at the finish line of the race. When I got to the end of I-83, traffic. So much traffic. I thought I'd find a different way to get to the parking lot. I still had an hour before the race started (remember, though, that it's a long walk up to the start). Bad choice. I ended up circling around, finding roads closed all around (for the race) and finally getting to the entrance of the parking garage but unable to enter because of the line of cars going into it blocking my way. I was going to miss the race if I didn't park and start walking, so I ended up parking in the next garage I passed. It was somewhere on Lombard Street, and it took parking panda, but not my reservation :( So, I double paid for parking.

I walked up to the start and arrived only about 6 or 7 minutes before the race was going to start. I couldn't get to the back because I was approaching from the starting line and the street was too crowded. I was panicking about this. After all, this is a crowded, fast first mile and I was going to get trampled. I was up at the front, where the people are that finish half marathons before I get across the starting line.

The race started, and I tried to get through the crowd to go farther back, moving in the opposite direction of the crowd. I guess this was disruptive, but I was really careful to not knock into people or whatever. Regardless, some guy said "you are going the wrong way." I replied "I should be in the back." He said, "No, you belong right here. Just run." So, I said, f-it, And headed on down. He was right, the course was all mixed up with no sense of anybody placing themselves properly at the start. People were weaving, people were walking, people were creating roadblocks, people were cursing walkers. All the usual cast of characters.

I was expecting to meet up with some friends at the race, but in the end couldn't find them. I ended up running alone, which was actually fine. I figured I'd find them at the finish. They were probably legitimately in the back of the pack.

It was a pretty fast first mile, as it always is. I seriously always amaze myself at this race. Then, the course flattens out but never really turns very uphill. I felt pretty good about it in general. I ran one minute of running and 30 seconds of walking and that worked out pretty well.

I crossed the finish line with a final time of 35:44. Not my best, not my worst, but my fastest 5K since having the baby (I have started re-categorizing my PRs as "before baby" and "after baby" since chasing my pre-baby PRs is too frustrating).

The finish was crowded. I decided that I wasn't going to find my friends and ended up just leaving without getting beer. I was still annoyed about the parking (and spent the entire race annoyed by it). In the end though, parking panda refunded my money for my parking and so I can say that I would recommend the service :)

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2015

In front of Cinderella's Castle
I can't tell you how excited I was to return to Florida for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend this year. Since I started distance running in 2006, I had previously made every year to run one of the races, with the exception of 2011, when it conflicted with my trip to Indonesia. Then, in 2013, I was pregnant and in 2014 I had an infant and missed both years :( So, this was my first trip back for the event since 2012.

I chose the half marathon, since I am just uncertain when exactly I might be feeling ready to tackle 26.2 again. Maybe never. Who knows.

Anyway, Todd, Owen and I left for Florida on Thursday, January 8. Our departure was rather confused and rushed because Southwest decided to play this little game where they called and said our flight was delayed until 5pm. Then, later, they called back and said our flight was delayed until 4pm, causing me to skip Owen's nap and run around the house yelling "We're out of here in THIRTY MINUTES, GUYS!" Then, on our way to the airport, they called and said our flight was delayed until 3:45pm. Not cool. But, we made it fine anyway, we just ended up getting into our hotel (Animal Kingdom Lodge) very late. Late enough that Owen had to sleep in his clothes since our luggage hadn't arrived yet.

Todd and Owen before Owen's race
Friday morning, we headed over to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the Expo. Oh, how I've missed this expo! The first thing we had to do was pick up our packets - all three of us since Owen was running a Disney Kid's Race. We looked around, bought a couple of things (sunglasses, mostly) and got our packets.

Next, it was time for Owen's race! He and I waited in the corral, and he enjoyed a little pre-race nutrition (a granola bar). The kids in his age group were racing first, and they were racing about 10 kids at a time. But, there were maybe 200 kids waiting to race, so waiting was taking forever. It was getting so close to lunch and nap time that Owen was getting super grumpy.

Finally, after about 30-40 minutes of waiting, it was our turn. We were rushed up to the starting line, and in doing so, Owen dropped a plastic hand clapper that someone had given him. There was no time to turn back and get it, so we left it behind. Well, this was no good for Owen. He wanted it and started to cry. I tried to calm him and the race started. I put him down so that he could run, but he went boneless and would not even stand. Other kids were starting to line up at the starting line, so I picked him up and carried him down the track, dropping him down every 15 feet or so to see if he'd support him self (nope). Kids from the next heat were passing us. Then, kids from the next heat were passing us. Finally, we finished, with Owen still super-sad and boneless. We saw Mickey, crossed the finish, and got a medal, which Owen slapped away when I tried to give it to him. Naptime, Mommy!!!

The finish line amenities included a chocolate kids clif bar and some water. Owen was all about the water, but wanted nothing to do with any photos. We got him into his stroller, and I gave him the Clif bar, which he devoured. Then, we headed back to the hotel. He fell asleep on the stroller ride to the bus, and stayed asleep on the bus. It was only when we got back to the resort and put him back into the stroller that he woke up. And that was his nap for the day (not good).

Later, Todd's parents and nephew came by and we spent some time at the playground at the resort. They went home and we had dinner, and my sister and niece came by. They were staying with us to watch Owen during the race, so that both Todd and I could run.

We were up at 3am or so. Owen didn't sleep well, so I'd been up off and on all night. Todd woke up with a terrible cold and decided that he wasn't going to be well enough to run the race. He ended up coming along to spectate for me, though. I was waiting for the bus in the lobby of the hotel when I read an email from my aunt and uncle about my grandmother who was not doing so well. They were calling hospice, so things weren't so wonderful for me as I was heading to the starting line.
He is proudly wearing his medal

We made it to the runners village after sitting in front of quite possibly the most irritating two women in the universe on the bus. I found Jeff Galloway's tent, and Todd had some coffee and I had some water, and we sat down and talked to other Galloway runners while we waited. Jeff also had his own set of portable toilets to use, so I went ahead and used one of those, too. Yay, Jeff! We missed meeting Jeff, though, by a few minutes. It's ok, I've met him before.

Soon, it was time to leave Todd. I headed down to the starting line and Todd headed to the monorail to wait for me. The walk to the starting line was LONGER than I remember. Granted, I haven't walked from the runners village to the starting line since 2010, but it just never seemed like it was quite THAT long. Finally, I made it down there, and then FINALLY I found my corral. It took FOREVER. By the time I was in my corral, the race had started, but I was in corral K - the 11th one. So, MORE waiting.

What I like is that they were shooting off fireworks and making a big deal out of every single corral start. How awesome is that? By the time my corral started, though, Todd had been waiting at mile marker 4 already for... um, maybe an hour? LOL.

As my corral was getting ready to start, I threw away the pants I'd been wearing. They were Starter pants that I'd purchased for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2007, and I'd either brought them to or worn them for a TON  of races. Todd even wore them (they were mens pants) when he ran the 2010 Disney marathon with me. They were purchased to be thrown away at a starting line, and finally, 8 years later, they were being thrown away. So sad :(

The course was crowded. The last time I ran the half marathon, the course was crowded but there were fewer waves. The additional waves didn't help much. The course was packed the entire 13.1 miles. I was enjoying the entertainment on the course and the general awesomeness that is a Disney race, and I was also in awe of the amount of people doing the Dopey Challenge. This is the first marathon weekend for me since the Dopey Challenge came about, after all.

I felt great at the first mile marker, and then I checked runkeeper. Oh, I was doing a 14 minute mile. No wonder I felt great. But... I couldn't go faster. There just was not a way to go faster without weaving and I didn't feel like expending my energy weaving through a crowd. I wanted to enjoy the race and I didn't feel like the conditions were right for trying to go really fast. That was the mistake I made in Indianapolis.

not actually sure where this is
on the course...
So, I settled in. We headed on down the course. I saw Todd at mile marker 4 and briefly talked to him. I told him that I am slow. In the Magic Kingdom, it was awesome as always, but I decided to stop and get a picture in front of the castle, a photo op that I'd always avoided during races because of the lines. But, the lines for all of the characters up to that point had been LOOOONG. The castle lines were better, so I thought, why not. And, that is how I ended up blowing any chance of getting decent time.

I looked for Todd in front of the castle and finally found him, but I actually had to double back a bit to find him, wasting more time. So, eh, whatever.

There isn't a ton to report on the race, honestly. It was so wonderful to be back at Disney. I was heckled by a guy wearing a Patriots jersey because I was wearing a "Fleet Feet Baltimore" shirt and the Ravens were playing the Patriots that night. The crowds on the course never thinned. I took vaseline from a medical tent at mile 10, the first time I've done that. I was wiping my hands off for the rest of the race. Mile marker 12 was the Frozen mile marker, with Elsa blasting her music LOUDLY.

Epcot... almost done
The gospel choir that I love to death was still at the home stretch at the finish line. I love them so much, you have no idea. I saw Todd near the finish and then crossed the finish line, collected my medal and ate some awesome applesauce (omg... awesome sauce!).

Final time... 3:05:59, my worst half marathon time ever and the first time I've finished a half marathon in over 3 hours. Eh.

We headed back to the hotel and found my sister, niece and Owen, and they took Owen out for a while so Todd and I could shower and rest. I love my sister. Later, my mom joined us and we ate dinner at Boma.

The rest of the weekend was Disney all the way. I was so grateful to not be running the full marathon. We did get to see it in Animal Kingdom on Sunday morning. I cheered them on, but I was happy to not be one of them. We had a great time all around, heading home on Monday.

Now I just have to think... what about next year? Registration for Marathon Weekend 2016 opens April 28.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Celtic Solstice 5 Mile Run 2014

This is, in fact, the perfect race. Bear with me here, let me explain why. It's in December, at a time when few other races are going on, so unless you're doing a January marathon (which I sometimes am), it doesn't interfere with your training. Even if you are doing a January race, you can usually work it in because it's a great non-long-run-week run length - 5 miles. Speaking of the length, it's also longer than a 5K, so you don't feel like you're just showing up for the "beginner" distance. That being said, it's short enough that you don't have to put in a million miles of training. It has a warm tent to stand in at the start and finish, it's never too hot (although it's been a white out before!). At the finish is mulled wine, soup, and cookies. It's at Christmas time, the best time of the year, so people dress up! It has a wonderful, amazing premium every year. TONS of people do it - I see so many people that I know at this race. And yet, it's small enough to feel like a good ol' hometown race.

Yes, I love the Celtic Solstice. That's why I was sad for the past 3 years because I was in Florida the weekend of the race all three years and couldn't participate. This year, though! I was at home and happy to go down to Druid Hill Park and run!

The weather wasn't too bad. 30 degrees or so, cold and crisp, but sunny. The tent at the start was warm. Todd was home with Owen, so I was looking for friends. I knew my friend Elizabeth was running, but I'd made no arrangements to find her at the start. I had forgotten my watch, so I was hoping to mooch intervals off of someone. Then, I ran into Robin, who hasn't been running with us in a while and I hadn't seen in some time. I also found Elizabeth (and a whole lot of others, wow), but ended up sticking with Robin for the actual run.

We did 1:1s, which was difficult at the start. The course was pretty crowded. We separated for a while because it was just too hard to walk with all of the people. I expected that I wouldn't find Robin again, but then there she was! She was awesome and it was great to catch up with her.

The race was nice, same course that winds through some gentle hills in Druid Hill Park, around the lake and then a downhill finish. At the finish, like I said -- cookies (yum!), the most delicious soup ever, and mulled wine. Ok, the wine made my stomach turn a little, but it was still delicious.

The perfect race.

Final time: 1:04:57, a perfect 13 minute pace. Nice and comfortable.

Robin and Me and the finish

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