Wednesday, December 19, 2012

15.5 Miles and Not a Penny More

On Sunday, I was supposed to run 20 miles. I was all set, or as all set as I could be. I had run 16 miles on the last long run, so this would just be a push of 4 more miles. Doable. I awoke at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning- that's FOUR. Four in the morning. Just to be clear, I got out of bed at FOUR A.M. to go run. I got my gear together (water bottle, hat, phone arm band, earbuds, recovery drink, and towel), ate some cereal, and got in the car.

As I drove out of my neighborhood and toward the highway to go to the meet up spot, drops of rain began falling on the winsheild. Oh, no! I was wearing a technical t-shirt and a cotton hoody. That cotton hoody would not fend off rain, it would just soak it up like a sponge. Yuck. I seriously considered turning around and re-gearing. "No, just go," I told myself. It was 65 degrees, and I could run without the hoody in the rain. I had a hat, would keep rain out of my eyes. At this temperature, that would make running in the rain not too bad.

How the sky looked at 4 a.m.
I turned onto Mopac and began driving south. The rain was serious, no-kidding rain now. There were grumbling sounds in the distance, and as I approached downtown, those grew into unmistakable thunder sounds, soon accompanied by unmistakable lightning flashes. Oh, no. This was getting really bad. The temperature had dropped ten degrees. I parked and sat in my car in the pouring rain. The sky lit up with lightning. Another person in my running group tapped on my window and said that the group run was cancelled. I drove back home and went back to sleep.

When I awoke, there was no sign of rain and I pulled myself together. "I've got to run," I thought, "because the 23 mile run will be impossible without this one." You see, I had convinced myself to train for a marathon. I ran a full marathon in 2010, and I have one of those 26.2 stickers on my car. I wanted to re-earn the sticker, to prove again that I could run a ridiculous distance and not die. I had paid the pricey change fee to switch from half to full for the 2013 Austin Marathon. I was committed.

Then I did this run. I logged onto MapMyRun, which will help you track a workout route in one of two ways. The phone app I have is great- I can just turn on the app and hit "record" and it will draw a map of where I have run. It will let me know how far I've gone and how fast, using the phone's GPS. Another way to use it is to open up their web page and pull up a map and draw your route on there. It shows you how far your route is and where each mile marker is. I drew a 14 mile square route from my house up to Pflugerville, and back. I grabbed my water bottle and stashed some cash in my Spibelt and left.

I ran up Dessau, which after two blocks ran out of sidewalks. I ran on the grassy median for about four miles. It was not so bad, except when I saw a bit of rebar jutting randomly out of the ground. There was a Coke can nearby, and I jammed it over the end of the dangerous metal. From then on, I watched the ground in front of me like a hawk. I ran to Pflugerville Parkway, from which I could see Loop 45, and turned left, running up an incline and into a strong wind. I ran past cows and was mostly in the country for a while. As I was looking over at the cows, a hawk swooped down out of a tree, soared across the field, and flew right in front of me! Wow! That was the closest I've ever been to a hawk.

At about 7 miles, it was time to turn again. I turned left and stopped in to buy a bottle of water. I filled up my water bottle and dropped in a fizzy tab of Nuun, which contains electrolytes without adding sugar. I ran on, through lovely neighborhoods with nice, wide sidewalks.

At around ten miles, I started feeling discomfort. My feet were beginning to feel tingly and tired, my back was starting to hurt a little. I decided to focus on running with good form, which I knew would prevent my back from really becoming painful. From there, I was really counting the miles and looking for landmarks. The neighborhoods ended, and I had to cross the road at an intersection hosting a Dairy Queen, a Taco Bell, and a Wendy's. The smell of that place was awful. None of the pleasant, come-hither smells of fast food- only the grease odor prevailed. I couldn't wait to get out of there.

On I pressed, southward. I was in the country again, just fields around me. I heard a sudden "bap!" immediately to my right. I turned my head just in time to see a dove having just been hit by a car, flapping his wings in an attempt to fly, and then getting smacked by a second car, and falling helplessly to the ground. Oh, very sad. I looked for meaning in this incident, but I guess sometimes things collide in this world.

Oh, back into my home territory! I began checking my mileage every 15 minutes. 13.5, 13.75, still nowhere near 20 and not even 16. I decided I would head back into my neighborhood and just circle around till I hit 16, the distance of my last long run. I was at 14.75 in my neighborhood, and my body was in ridiculous pain. When I ran, the pads of my feet cried out in pain. When I walked, it was the backs of my knees that were on fire. I started just walking, unable to trot anymore. My inside voice was telling me to lie in the grass. "But... the neighbors will think I've died." Lie down lie down.... "No! I'm walking home!" And I did, limping, I made it home having registered 15.5 miles.

And right then and there I decided that I am not running a marathon. If 16 kill me, then ten more than that are not going to work at all. So I'll have to be happy with 13.1 in February. There should be a sticker that says, "I was going to run another 26.2 so that I could feel like I still deserve this sticker, but instead I'm going to run 13.1 because I don't want to hurt myself like that." It would say that but in a cooler, more concise way.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Here's a Novel Idea

As it turns out, November is known to many people across the country as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

I learned this last month in October, when I Googled "writing" (because I want to do more of that) and the internets guided me to the NaNoWriMo web page. Here, I learned how people take the challenge each year to write a 50,000 word novel within the time constraint of 30 days in November. 

"No plot, no problem!" is their motto. Doesn't matter if you don't have an outline or a plot graphed or any characters developed. You just start writing and you write and write until you're finished, hopefully at 50k and hopefully by November 30. If you succeed, you win. Winners may purchase a winner's circle t-shirt or NaNoWriMo hoody sweatshirt.

If you know about me and competitions, you know that I MUST HAVE THAT TSHIRT. Therefore, I must win, and therefore, I must be writing.

So that's where I am this November. I am writing a novel. Currently at 28,738 words.

And by the way, don't laugh. Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and Sara Gruen's Water For Elephants were both products of NaNoWriMo, and last time I checked, those both made the New York Times Best Sellers list.

What's in your novel?

Saturday, October 27, 2012


This week, I had the opportunity to attend the Texas Conference for Women. I went several years ago with a group from work. Martha Stewart was the keynote. Which sounds impressive, except that this was during the time of her troubles with the law, and did she, a most powerful woman in the world speak on this? No. She showed us pictures of Turkey Hill and her hydrangeas and reminded us that she makes a magazine we might want to buy. I was shocked at the lack of fascinating content that she cranked out that day. Nevertheless, that year this conference rocked my world a little, and introduced me to Julie and Julia and other wonderful books and ideas that inspired me.

For a few years, this conference went to Houston so I did not go there for it. But this year, it came back to Austin, and I got to go!

imgres.jpgimgres.jpgIt started off with Charlotte Beers, whom I had never heard of before, but I will never forget her. For one thing, she is from Beaumont, where I am from. But then she made her way to become CEO of  big deal advertising firms and Undersecretary of State (senior deputy) to Colin Powell. Her book is I'd Rather Be in Charge, and she wants to empower women to be outstanding communicators and powerful professionals. Her articulacy moved me. I can't wait to read her book.

Then there was Brene Brown, who is the most downloaded TED Talks speaker. She speaks about how important it is to allow vulnerability in yourself, and her book is Daring Greatly. Here is her TED video:

The speaker/author/person I really fell in love with at this conference is Danielle LaPorte. She simply drips with wisdom and deep spirit and authenticity. She spoke about getting real and doing away with what you don't need. She did an entire session called "Your Big, Beautiful Book Plan," where I took 4 pages of notes. She spelled it all out. She is amazing, and I am going to read everything she's got. Here's a video of Danielle from

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Macrobiotics... It's complicated

I read the Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics. It was not what I expected. I thought it might be easy. Like, "eat vegetables."

But it's about the energy of the universe, which is slightly more complicated.

The book starts with yin and yang. Really the whole thing seems to be about yin and yang. Everything in the world is yin or yang, yin being expansive and yang being constrictive. People are yin or yang, with yin being more feminine and yang being masculine. Yin attracts yang and vice versa. Yin repels yin and vice versa. Everything changes, and what is yin becomes yang. Everything has both yin and yang in it. Foods are yin and yang, and macrobiotics is about keeping these forces in balance within your diet.

I hate to say this. I do not want to be disrespectful, but ugggh...

No beef (extreme yang), no chicken (even more yang + crazy chicken energy), no eggs. No caffeine, no dairy (food for baby cows is not good food for adult humans). No sugar. No nightshade vegetables, so tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes are out. Pretty much no alcohol, though you can sip on some beer if you need a little yin balance. Very little salt. Nothing spicy. No microwaving. No freezing.

What do you eat? Whole grains. Certain vegetables, but keeping in mind their yin/yang business and balancing that. A little bit of pickled stuff. And seaweed. Yup. Seaweed.
Photo from "How to Heal with Macrobiotic Foods" at 

This is entirely more woo-woo than I was prepared for.

What the author did say over and over again is that if you get nothing else out of it, eat whole grains each day. Whole grains will make you feel good, focused, and light. And chew your grains- chew each mouthful 25, 50, ideally 100 times so that you really get the nutrition and energy out of them. Keep doing that and then come back if you want to, so you can go, as she says, whole hog.

I  couldn't help but think of the movie Bernie where the last thought that Bernie had before he shot Mrs. Nugent four times in the back is that he cannot bear the idea of having dinner with her again, watching as she chews each mouthful twenty. five. times.

So now I know, and I wish I didn't. I'm just not prepared to give up coffee, craft beer or cupcakes. I will continue with the occasional macrobiotic lunch and I will chew up whole grains regularly and see what happens. Maybe someday if I become more enlightened, I can do this. For now, I'll just be chewing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


For a few weeks now, I have been eating lunch once or twice a week at a restaurant that serves macrobiotic foods. I chose it because it is quiet and serene. I can go there and read a book or write in my journal and eat a delicious, nurturing meal. I am really loving that. But what I’ve noticed is that I feel really good! The food feels so clean and healthy, but at the same time it is as comforting as if my grandmother prepared it. I have brought three people now to eat lunch there with me. I am going to make this a habit.

The thing is, until yesterday, all I knew about macrobiotics is that it’s vegetarian and in-season foods. Yesterday, I learned just a smidge more, that the different kinds of foods on the plate have energy. Grains are calming. That’s all I know so far, except that this food is really good and a great fit for my direction toward my best health and fitness. A book has been recommended to me, The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, by Jessica Porter. I bookstore-read the first chapter, and I can’t wait to read the whole thing.  But I’m over my book budget by a lot... Ooh! Public library. Hah.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Weight Loss, Even Temporary, is Good for You

Interesting article on Dr. Weil's blog today about weight loss. Even if you regain, the benefits of losing weight are long-term and real.

Even Temporary Weight Loss Cuts Risk, by Dr. Andrew Weil <- click here to read

It's interesting that he mentions a minimum of 10% loss; that's what Weight Watchers sets as your goal for losing. Seems to be a magic number.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Swim Bike Run Kerrville

So I learned to swim from February to March of this year, 2012. I am 37. Figured it was about time. Then I did three triathlons this summer, and then I did one more, the Kerrville Triathlon Festival.

I picked Kerrville because the sprint distance was on a Saturday. Since my husband works on Sundays, this provided an opportunity for him to come to the race. We drove to Kerrville on Friday, a beautiful 2 hour drive from Austin, and checked into Inn of the Hills, a classic kitsch motor lodge from the 60's. The expo was right there at the hotel, so we picked up my race packet, t-shirt, and chip and looked at some of the vendor booths.

Great volunteers. Freeze frame on nice volunteer guy handing me my timing chip: what I did do was throw it in my bag. What I should have done was look at the chip and make sure it was the right one. Lesson #1: Double check everything.

Then came the tedium of setting up the appropriate things at the appropriate places. Kerrville utilizes a two-transition-zone setup and a "clean" transition. Which means you have a bike, a red bag labeled "bike bag" (onto which you stick your "swim bag" sticker), a "dry clothes bag" and a "run bag." The bike and the bike/swim bag go at T1 (transition zone one) the day before, and the run bag goes to T2, which is 2 miles away from T1. You leave everything in the bags, not out, and all bags will end up at T2. Confusing as all get out. 

Morning of, we are getting ready and I look down and see that the timing chip around my ankle is number 1294. Great, except that every other thing I have (race number, stickers, body markings) say 1194. We go over to the start area, and ask volunteers until we are directed to someone who says with great authority that the number on the chip doesn't matter. Lesson #2: Trust, but verify. Then re-verify, because people will outright lie to you. 

It is raining, and we watch in the dark as athletes prepare their spots. We head down to the water for the pre-race meeting. I see lots of friends from training, and vacillate on whether or not to wear the wetsuit I rented. After probably driving my husband crazy, I decide to wear it. I went to all the trouble, and all. That turned out to be an awesome choice. Lesson #3: Wetsuit? Yes!
View of the swim start and carpeted runway to T1
With friend Bianca from training
Swim waves start. I find the other yellow swim caps and eventually, we go. The hardest part really is standing around waiting to go. We get in the water and "tread water." I am just sitting there, in my wonder-suit, which just floats! Love the wetsuit. Then bang! The gun goes off and we start. This is the first race where it is easy for me to just start swimming, no shock at all. So I swim! I don't mind being in the middle of my group. I try to draft, but there are feet and arms everywhere, it's hard to lock in. Around buoy 1, great. I look over and someone next to me is backstroking. Someone else is doing a breaststroke and I watch her feet underwater as they swish in wide circles near my face. She doesn't kick me. I sight, and figure it's 30 strokes to buoy 2. Around that one, and to the next. Man, the water feels good. There are no weeds, and it is deep. Can't see anything weird down below me. It's clean and perfect. 40 more strokes to the next buoy and make the final turn. 
I'm one of these yellow-headed swimmers.
OK, I tell myself. Soon I'll be getting out of the water and have to get this wetsuit off, and I'll have to run up that long hill. Out of the water! Later my husband says I look like an angry wet cat getting out of the water. I'm not, just disoriented. A team of 5 people strip the wetsuit off me within seconds! That was awesome! Up the hill.

Wipe feet, don socks and shoes, helmet on, get bike & go! The air feels cool and good. I am soaked and it is raining, but it's not a bother. We ride through town and start a loop. My riding glasses are fogged up and covered in rain droplets. I eventually scoot them down my nose and look over them! Man, I was missing a lot there- the road is covered in water, gravel. Lots to look out for. I pass some people. Some people pass me. We see a man who has fallen off his bike and an ambulance is there. Later, I learned that he had a heart attack. I hope he is okay. Back into town to start second loop. I see my husband! "What loop are you on?" he shouts. "'Bout to start 2," I said, but he misunderstands and thinks I said 2. He rushes to the finish line where he has to wait for 20 minutes. Oops. Sorry, dear!
On the bike, just past the mount line. Big smile because I don't have to swim anymore!

Second loop goes smooth, though there are lots of water bottles to dodge. Back around and to the second transition area. We dismount at the line and run our bikes down a muddy hill to the racks. I rack the bike, ditch the helmet and bike shoes, and slip on my running shoes and grab my cap and racebelt. Out of there pretty quickly and on to the run.

On the run, a young woman comes up and asks if she can jog with me. We stick together through the whole run. Her name is Jocelyn, a local resident and pre-med college student. I am grateful for her chattiness and energy. We run down the street, over the bridge, into the park, through the grass, through a beautiful little forest, then turn back and do it all over again in reverse. My buddy is delightful, and restores my hope in humanity and youth. She is involved in every possible activity, and is sweet as can be. She calls me Miss Angela, which makes me feel 80 years old. But I don't even care, because we are rocking this run that turns out to be my best ever time on a tri 5k. Thank you, Jocelyn! Thank you so very much.

We get to the finish area, and my buddy breaks into an awesome sprint. I start to sprint, too, and then see some of my Trizones teammates. They give high-fives and take a picture. Then I really run to the finish. Wahoo!!!

Post-race. I'm a hot mess.
I find my hubby and get some delicious barbeque. I check the results board and I am not on it, but "Unknown Participant - 1294" is. Huh. That would be my chip. A volunteer helps me find the timing guru, and he is easily able to make that me. My total time is 1:49. Under 2 hours! That is really great. I am 18 out of 27 women in my age group, 66%. It's the best I've done in a tri.

Even though it rained all day, it was a really beautiful day. I am so grateful to my hubby for putting up with it all, and to my training buddies and to that awesome young lady who helped me run. And to the many volunteers who helped me eventually figure it out.