One Down, Eight to Go

99 Problems Running

I can now officially say that I survived my first week of half marathon training. Okay, so survived may be a bit melodramatic, as I’ve quickly come to learn that this process is far less about survival than it is about simply enjoying the process.

I won’t lie that I used to be daunted by the prospect of running a half, and by distance running altogether for that matter. But, now that I’ve embraced running and taken it more seriously in terms of consistency and competing in a few races, it’s become a mainstay; a required yet welcome part of my routine.

A friend once told me how he starts feeling like some kind of “grouchy fucking bum” after a couple days of not running, and I can totally sympathize. Another friend recently remarked that “Running is a lifestyle.” Again, holla. I view it as not only a means of fitness, but a way to be more in touch with your body and better aware of how you treat it. I guess it goes back to the whole “Your body is a temple.” mantra, which correlates nicely with the vegan thing.

And moreover, why be intimidated by a half? I mean, let’s face it, we all know someone who’s done one that you’d in no manner refer to as a “runner,” a notion that has allowed me to adopt an “If they can do it, then hell anybody can.” mentality.

When it comes down to it, I think the single most important factor involving running is motivation (one’s playlist being a close second). Running gets me out of bed in the morning or feeling inspired to hit the gym over the occasional lunch break, either leaving me feeling hella good the rest of the day.

For much of this, I’ve gotta thank my girl, TL, who lent me her training schedule (below) and who’s become one helluva guru. Between her explanations (I took one look at Wednesday’s training and gave her a call.) and insightful stories, the wise and often inspirational words from others in my life, along with what I’ve found online (pic above), I think I’ll be golden.

With that said, bring on week two!

Half Training Schedule Screen Shot

Do It For Christina!

Christina

Those who know me know I’m not one to get emotional or to ask for money (okay, well at least not often, Mom and Dad), but I’m going to do a little of both here.

Before I ask you to donate, though, let me first ask if you recall your response when people ask you about your role models growing up. Our first response is typically a parent or adult relative or sometimes a sports star or other celebrity.

But how often was one of your greatest role models another peer? This was the case for me with my cousin Christina (pictured above – weren’t we precious?), who has long suffered from cystic fibrosis. I have vivid memories of her having to cart around an oxygen tank in middle school and of her experiencing serious shortness of breath during our trips to the mall.

I think back to the hospital visits, and to the night in college when I learned that a match was found and Christina would soon be undergoing a double lung transplant. I remember my mom calling the match a Christmas miracle, which of course it was. Nevertheless, I was used to miracles bringing joy and not precipitating apprehension. Thankfully Christina made it through the surgery and ensuing several months of recovery – almost literally living in a bubble cut off from most family members and friends – as well as anyone could have hoped.

Through it all, Christina has been both a trooper and a fighter. I’ve never met someone who’s been through so much yet remained so implacably positive; more so than anyone else I’ve ever known. She’s always appeared undaunted by her condition; unfazed by her outward differences. I mean, she was a cheerleader and basketball player growing up – to hell with the oxygen tank!

Christina embodies every bit of what a role model should be. And I’m proud to say she continues to impact the lives of others and to live her own life to the fullest as a pharmacist, wife and proud wiener dog owner. Oh, and as one helluva cousin and friend.

I’ve learned many lessons from her, including courage, perseverance, living each and every day to the fullest and always doing your best not to complain because you can always have it worse. Another equally important lesson I’ve learned is the need to fight for those people who have so greatly impacted our lives.

This is why I’m writing this post and why I’ll again be volunteering at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides Walk next Saturday, May 18. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a fan of asking for money, but I’m going to do so here.

Please support Team Do It For Christina! with whatever amount you’re willing and able to give. Seriously, every extra dollar helps to find a cure.

If I meet my goal of $300, which I set in honor of Christina turning 30 this past year, I plan to finally take the plunge and sign up for a half marathon – the Patrick Henry Half Marathon here outside of Richmond in August. Meeting my goal, then, would not only help me cross another item off my bucket list, but to raise money to help give kids with CF more years to complete their own bucket lists as well.

You can find my team page here and learn more about CF here. Thank you in advance if you choose to donate. Thanks also for taking the time to read today’s post.

Move Over Taylor Swift

Guitar

If T-Swizzle can play the guitar, then anyone can, right? Learning the guitar has been secretly sitting on my bucket list for some time now, so I recently decided to take the plunge and bought an acoustic guitar. Now mind you that I haven’t played a musical instrument since my middle school days of playing the oboe, which did as little for my social status as it did for my parents’ discretionary income given the countless $8 reeds that I destroyed – sorry again, mom and dad.

In addition to bringing back some unpleasant memories of my overweight younger years, taking up the guitar has helped me recall how learning a new instrument represents the perfect combination of fun and frustration. After a few short weeks, though, I can easily say that the “fun” has totally trumped the occasional moments of frustration. It’s awesome to just get lost in playing and not give a single thought to the real world for a while.

Along with self-teaching out of one of those ridiculously juvenile (but admittedly appropriate) beginner books – we all remember those, right? – to add more fun to the process I’ve begun taking lessons at a local guitar store in my neighborhood.  

Forgive me for the unkosher yet fitting reference, but my teacher is the tits. Just a few minutes into my first lesson, I not only had a good feel for Jay’s exceptional guitar playing, but the way in which he’s able to put himself in his students’ shoes and teach to their individual level as well.

One of the best parts of our lessons is the humor, exemplified by him cupping his hands around his mouth and mocking the roar of an arena crowd after I cleanly played “Ode to Joy”. He also rips on the Taylor Swifts of the world a fair bit, which is cool… until he brings Bieber into the discussion.

For homework this past week, he asked me to devise a list of five songs I’d like to   ultimately learn to play down the road. I mentally tossed around a ton of tunes over the past few weeks and came up with 10 songs (narrowing it down to five was entirely too difficult) that I feel are pretty representative of my musical tastes and who – without the risk of sounding overly precocious – I’d like to consider as influences. I appreciate the fact that he’s already having me learn the chords to a couple of them, too.

I thought I’d share my list here along with links to each considering a few aren’t generally well known. Oh, and I’d also like to thank my parents for having legit tastes in music, as I fondly remember them playing a number of these growing up.

6.2 Miles and All Smiles

Me Rach 10k

We came. We ran. We actually finished. was our mantra (check my Twitter timeline) after my friend Rachel and I finished Richmond’s Monument 10k on Saturday. The race was my first 10k and only the second run I’ve done in my adult life. The first run was a 5k turkey trot that I ran with one of my fourth graders in Savannah, so needless to say this was my first quasi-competitive run.

I was initially a bit anxious about the race given my inexperience and the fact that 40,000 others were descending upon downtown Richmond for the event. But after a strong 6.5-mile run earlier in the week, creating the perfect playlist and some solid advice from my friend and running guru, TL, any anxieties began to be replaced by growing excitement.

And following a Friday night chalk full of carbs and Arrested Development, I awoke on race day ready to conquer the world. A beautiful morning and spectators beginning to line the street greeted us as we walked to the start line to join the other runners in our wave, which was comprised largely of unseeded runners like myself.

Then, at 9:08 a.m. we were off. It took mere seconds for me to realize how truly the race lived up to all the hype, what with the throngs of chanting folks (many drunk) dotting the streets and median and the sea of motivational signs (“Run Now. Chase Later.” and “Go Random Stranger Go!” topping the list) suffusing your gaze every which way you turned. The incredible atmosphere, along with the simple fact that such a diverse crowd had come out to participate, made the race so much more inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable to run.

I ended up finishing in 52:27 – well under the one-hour goal I had set for myself. I have to admit, however, that just finishing the race was reward enough and the reason for me smiling like some kind of smitten school girl as I met up with Rach afterwards before proceeding to pound a Powerade and wolf down a granola bar.

This euphoric feeling lasted all day and continues to creep up when I smile back on what was one helluva Saturday. I was toying around with the idea before, but now I have no doubt a half-marathon is in my near future. As a few friends have commented, I’m hooked!

As I sat watching the live stream of yesterday’s Boston Marathon, I imagined the sense of euphoria that the marathoners would soon be enjoying after crossing the finish line. It was only hours later, however, that a completely different feeling filled the streets of Boston; one of shock, panic and utter dismay at the senseless bombings that occurred near the event’s finish line.

I was so thankful to find that my friends in the city were safe, and I know I join people all around the world in praying for the victims and their families, the authorities and the people of Boston. I hope justice is soon served and that one of the nation’s greatest sporting events in the Boston Marathon returns in full force in 2014.

My First Time on the Ice

ice skating

I’ve always wanted to try ice skating, but can’t say I’ve ever really had the opportunity until this past weekend in D.C. I’d like to attribute this to some kind of childhood deprivation, but we didn’t have access to a rink in our my hometown. I recall some folks skating on their ponds during the winter, but I didn’t deem this altogether safe. I’m thankful my parents never considered it an acceptable option either.

Nevertheless, at the age of 28, I can now say I’ve checked ice skating off my bucket list. That it was in the National Sculpture Garden and in the spirit of the NHL’s Opening Day were added bonuses.

My friends cautioned me that one’s first time skating typically involves the occasional fall and a significant amount of clinging to the rink’s wall, so I fully expected to find myself on my ass a few times. And while I admit there were some close calls, given that I’m average at most physical activities (but not great at any particular one, mind you), I can proudly say that I never fell during our two-hour session on the ice.

My friends, who congratulated me afterwards amid feigned attempts to mask their obvious disappointment in my fortitude and their lack of added entertainment, were great with giving pointers and positive encouragement throughout. In the end, I was mostly able to keep up with their speed and even pulled off this sweet yet inadvertent crossover move in order to avoid colliding with a small child.

While I don’t anticipate becoming some kind of modern-day Dick Button at this point, I do look forward to the next time I have the chance to lace up a pair of skates, which will hopefully come next winter when I compel my family go with me over the holidays. Now that will be entertaining.