Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ironman Louisville - Race Recap

   Well, that happened. Ironman Louisville 2017 is in the books. While it wasn't my finest hour, it was a great weekend surrounded by wonderful friends and inspirational people. Here's how it went down.
   Dudley and I arrived Thursday afternoon, and I was so relieved to make it, because I wasn't 100% sure we were going to. My car died twice the day before we left AND we got a flat. Nothing like a little car stress before an already stressful weekend! Fortunately, it wasn't anything a new battery and new tire couldn't fix.
   The first thing we did was head down to race check in. This was the whole point of arriving on Thursday - so I wouldn't have to deal with long lines on Friday, when the majority of athletes arrived.

I'm here!

   The rest of Thursday through Saturday was spent with friends and absorbing the Ironman experience. And, of course, buying all the things. 

My friend Mark from GMU. Go Patriots!

Obligatory IM swag purchases

I didn't buy this, but I thought it was funny. Ironman caftan!!

Kathy and I dropping off our bikes.

That's a lot of bikes!!  

   I also hit the practice swim on Saturday morning. The main reason I was concerned about this race was the swim. I'm a decent swimmer - not crazy fast, but consistent. And I don't generally have issues with open water. However, I did have concerns about the Ohio River, which was where the swim took place. It's just so BIG. And dirty! I've heard countless horror stories about how gross the water is and how sick people got after swimming in it. Years ago, I was supposed to do an Olympic race in the Ohio, and I received text the night before stating that there were abnormally high levels of E. Coli in the river and we had the option of switching to the duathlon, which I did.  So, with that history, I really had a hard time getting in THIS river. (This is called foreshadowing people, so pay attention.) But I suited up an went down to the practice swim, and all was well. 

Look how BIG that river is!! 

   We had lunch and dinner on Saturday with my IMLOU training group, Kathy, Johanna, Marne and Becky, affectionally known as Team Rom-Com (TRC). We adopted the name because we set up our bike trainers together and watch rom-coms while suffering - generally something with Hugh Grant. This is the crazy group that inspired me to sigh up for IMLOU four months ago, and they were with me every step of my journey. I'm very fortunate to have them as training partners and as friends.

Team Rom-Com!  (L-R: Kathy, Marne, me, Johanna and Becky)

   Race day began at 5:00 am, but I was up much earlier than that. I never sleep the night before an event like this. I was pretty calm, actually. I just couldn't sleep. This was a weird race in that I have been in DEEP denial that it was going to happen. Even the morning of, I wasn't crazy nervous. It was more of an attitude of "Well, I guess I'll go do an Ironman now." Which is completely different from my IMCHOO experience. But this was also my second IM, so I should have expected it to be different. 
    All of TRC met up at 6:00 to walk down to the race together. With the race starting around 7:30, we had plenty of time to set up our race gear, get in our wetsuits and relax a bit before the race.

Notice the flag. It was a bit breezy.

SWIM:
   My swim started pretty uneventfully. We had to swim about 800 meters up river in this "protected" area next to Towhead Island. Though the winds were around 12 mph at this point, the current wasn't that bad, and I was able to get into a decent rhythm while keeping my heart rate down. Knowing the Ohio freaked me out, I just wanted to stay calm and steady and maybe kick it up a notch the last 500 meters. And it was going well until I got hit by a competitor, swallowed some of the lovely Ohio River and started coughing. That in itself wasn't that bad. Stuff like that happens in open water all of the time. I recovered and kept going. But then I hit the turn around where we left the protection of Towhead Island and were in the main current. The river was choppier than it had been previously, and I had to work harder, which caused me to breathe deeper and I started coughing again. I apparently had swallowed more water than I had thought, as I could NOT clear my lungs. Mentally, I tried to keep it together. I have a swimming mantra of "Reach, Rotate, Relax" that I repeat over and over. Generally, this settles me, but not this time. Every time I tried to take in a good breath, I'd cough. And then... I couldn't breathe, and my wetsuit felt extremely tight. Suddenly NOTHING else mattered other than getting OUT of that wetsuit. That became my entire focus - not finishing the race, but getting out of that damn wetsuit.
   The closest support kayaker was about 100 feet away. So, I breast-stroked over to her (my head was NOT going back in that water at that point) and held on to her boat while I wiggled my way out of the suit. I can't tell you how good it felt to be free of that thing. I asked the kayaker if I could leave my suit with her, and she said she'd get it back to me at the end of the race. Honestly, I didn't care if I ever saw it again. 
   I still had about 1.5 miles to swim. Fortunately, I like swimming in colder water so the temperature didn't bother me. Considering my options now were to swim until the end or drop out, I started to swim. And swim. And swim. I was told to not use the bridges as landmarks because they are deceptive as to how close they are, and it's true. Those stupid bridges never seemed to get any closer. I tried to use the buoys as measurements, but they were extremely sparse. Finally, I saw the green roof of Joe's Crab Shack, which I knew was the swim exit, and that became my light at the end of the tunnel. My mantra became "Green Roof, Green Roof, Green Roof." After an eternity, I reached the stairs and a volunteer pulled me out of the water where I almost collapsed. Though I didn't think it at the time, it had taken every ounce of energy I had to make it out of the water. All I wanted to do when I hit land was lay down in a ball and go to sleep. I had nothing left....and my day had only just started.

Sheer exhaustion.

BIKE:
   Normally after a swim, I make some sort of an attempt to jog to transition. We are being timed, after all. Not Sunday. I walked the entire time, trying to regain some sort of composure. Don't get me wrong- I never thought I was going to drown, but literally, my survival instinct kicked in while I was in the river and I think I kind of went into a mild shock once I stopped swimming. I couldn't get my heart rate down, and I would still cough up river when I would try to take a deep breath. To add to the fun, I get these things called optical migraines. If you have never experienced one of these, picture a zig-zag formation that starts out very small in one of your eyes that proceeds to get larger and larger until your entire field of vision is blurred. They basically blind you in one eye for about 20-30 minutes, and then they go away. I rarely get them, and when I do, they are triggered from being tired and looking at a computer screen too long. Apparently, stress causes them too, because I got one while taking my bike out of transition. So, not only did I not have any energy, I was also blind in one eye. Awesome.

I have no idea how I'm functioning here.

   The first 10 miles of the IMLOU bike course is flat, and is basically the only true flat part of the course.  I felt like crap, but my plan was to try to recover as much as I could on this section before I hit the hills and while the wind (which had picked up) was at my back. I felt like I was crawling. EVERYONE was passing me. It was frustrating because the bike is my thing! To have everyone pass was pretty deflating, but I knew if I wanted to get through the rest of my very long day, I had to be smart. I was riding on fumes and any energy I had needed to be saved for when I hit the hills, especially on the second lap. 
   Unfortunately, I never really recovered. This seems dramatic to say, but every pedal stroke was a struggle. I had scouted this course several times over the past few months, so I knew it. It was hilly, but I had worked on my hill strength and knew I could stay in aero except for a few hills. That all went out the window. I had to sit up on every hill. Truthfully, I wanted to walk some of them. Everything was SUCH an effort. It was exhausting. And that was before the weather really turned bad.

 

   I guess I should touch on the weather. As I mentioned, the wind had picked up by the time we got on the bike (not that 12 mph during the swim is calm). Throughout the day, we had sustained winds of 20 mph with wind gusts of 30-45 mph. It was ridiculous. The temperature also couldn't make up its mind in that we had a high of 80 and then it dropped 30 degrees. I think it was about 54 when I got off of the bike. All of this, with still no energy, a cough that didn't go away until mile 60 and yet another optical migraine. 
   I did have two moments of feeling OK. Miles 60 - 80 were pretty good. I had finally worked the river gunk out of my lungs and could take a deep breath without coughing, I could see with both eyes and had a bit of strength. Though, it might have just been a caffeine buzz because I downed a baby Coke at Special Needs. I was also out of the wind for a bit, which was nice. But mile 80 meant getting back on 42, which was the last 30 miles home and it was all in a headwind. This was also when the worst of the storms hit. I got rained on, but missed the hail (fortunately). There was debris everywhere. Wet leaves, pine needles and acorns littered the roads. I actually got hit by a falling tree branch! It just brushed my leg, but it really could have ruined my day. The last 10 miles were pretty decent, too. Granted, I knew I was almost done, so that helped.
   I pulled into transition and gladly gave my bike to a volunteer, again not caring if I ever saw it again. Unlike the swim exit when I was the only one walking to transition - mostly everyone was walking off the bike. The wind and storms had deflated everyone. I know I wasn't the only one who was wondering how they were going to get through a marathon.

RUN:
   I was able to talk to Dudley for a few seconds while coming out of transition, and I told him about my day. He asked if I was going to be able to finish, and I said "Yes, but slowly." That urge to just lay down and go to sleep that I felt after the swim was still with me. It's funny because while I had no idea how I was going to run 26.2 miles, quitting never entered my mind. I wasn't trying to be a bad-ass - I just knew that dropping out wasn't an option. So, like the swim and bike, my only choice was to move forward. So I did. Slowly. I picked a pace that felt like something I could sustain for the marathon, with a plan to walk through every aid station. This is what I did for IMCHOO, and it worked great. Of course, right before I left transition, my training buddy Marne came bopping out of T2 like the damn Energizer Bunny. I would have loved to have run with her, but I couldn't follow. I just shuffled along as I watched her run off. Sigh.
   The good news is that the IMLOU run is as flat as an Ironman can be. If it had been hilly, I would have been screwed. I plodded along with my slow pace and ticked off the miles. I don't recall a whole lot of the first lap other than it was cold and windy, and that I just wanted to stop. I saw many of my friends out on the course, which gave me a small boost. While they looked miserable too, they were crushing the race. I could tell that some of them were going to have really good finishing times. 
   I had messed up my Garmin when I was in transition, so I was a little off on my milage and times. Ironman didn't have consistent mile markers (what is up with that, BTW?), but I knew I had to hit the half-way mark at a certain time to make the race time cutoff. I didn't pay any attention to the time cutoffs before the race because I didn't think I needed to worry about them, but with the day I was having, I kind of started to worry.
   When I got to around mile 16, I walked out of an aid station with a woman and asked her if she knew what the time cut-offs were. She assured me I was fine. And with that, any remaining motivation I had for the day was gone. We started to talk a little bit, and I thought "I'll just walk a mile with her (she was injured and couldn't run) and then start running again." But then one mile became two, two became three and then I pretty much walked the last half of the race. It wasn't that I couldn't run - I just was having a much more enjoyable time talking to my new friend Kara. And since my times were already shot to hell, I just kept right on walking. I know, it's not very Ironmany of me, but at the time, I didn't care. I was exhausted, cold and bitter. This was the most fun I had had all day, so I kept walking. And yes, I'm kind of regretting it now, but I'm not going to dwell on it. After the day I had, I was pretty happy that I had made it as far as I had without quitting. 
   At mile 25, I told Kara good-bye and started my slow shuffle towards the finish. I have a thing about running in the last mile, and I wanted to continue that tradition here. I could hear the roar of the finish as I grew closer and closer, until finally, I turned the corner of 4th Street and saw the finish line. Thank God. I was done.


Officially a 2-time Ironman.

   I don't really have anything more to add about my day. It was long, and hard, and not a whole lot of fun. While there is a part of me that is annoyed I chose to walk that back half, another part of me is pretty proud that I didn't drop out after the swim. Because I really wanted to. As my dear friend Kathy said, "Ironman is not all smiles." And it's not. I was very spoiled by my perfect IMCHOO experience, and I knew that. I almost didn't want to sign up for another Ironman because I knew I would never have a race as perfect as IMCHOO. Boy, was I right. IMLOU was the complete opposite. But I survived and for some reason haven't ruled out doing another Ironman, so that must say something. Not anytime soon, mind you, but I absolutely can see me doing another Ironman in 2019 or 2020.  



Happy RomCom finishers!!  (We missed you, Marne!)

   Thank you to Dudley, for being the best sherpa a girl could ask for. He even managed to get my wetsuit back before my race was over! Love you, D. Thanks also to Andrew at FTP for getting me fit enough to finish with only 4 months notice after a 9 month lay-off. Shockingly, until the run, I wasn't "that" far off my pace. If I hadn't been in decent shape, things could have ended much worse than it did, especially in the swim. TRC - you ladies got me into this mess, and I love you all anyway. I hope we have many more stupid adventures together. Mark - Congrats on your first IM. You crushed it. And to my friends from all over who supported me both at the race and virtually - Thank You. You might not think that seeing a familiar face on the course or knowing that someone is tracking you online makes that big of a difference, but it does. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ironman Louisville Countdown

   Today is October 11th. I'm racing Ironman Louisville on the 15th. Four days. Four freaking days. I've been doing ok mentally in regards to this race, at least until yesterday. I took about nine months off prior to registering for IMLOU, so I'm not as fit as I was for IMCHOO, but I feel good about my ability to complete the course in the allotted 16.5 hour timeframe. My training has been consistent (Thanks, Andrew!) and I can tell I'm stronger than I was 100 days ago. I also have some AMAZING friends (TEAM ROM-COM 4EVER!) who are also doing the race and have kept me accountable over the past few months.


   But even with all of the training, and knowing the race is in a few days, I've been in DEEP denial about what is going to happen this weekend. Even as of two nights ago, I was thinking "I guess I should start packing," and then went back to knitting and binge-watching Gilmore Girls for the fourth time. This is a complete turn-around from IMCHOO. I had everything all packed a ready to go days before I left. I read the Athlete Guide several times. This time? I printed it and started to read it, but then moved on to something else by the second page. I still haven't read it completely. And I wasn't freaked out by it at all. I've been pretty stress-free about the entire thing.
   That is, until yesterday afternoon. That's when everything hit the fan and now I'm completely freaking out. Here are a few things that are stressing me out right now: 1) My car (that we're taking to Louisville) died yesterday afternoon. We thought it was just a battery, but it's still not running properly so Dudley is running around trying to take care of that this morning. We might have to rent a car, which is fine, but this weekend is going to be crazy expensive already and I really don't want to add to that total. 2) The weather in IMLOU is going suck. So much for a nice, crisp Autumn day. Nope! It's going to be in the 80's with high humidity, 10-20 mph wind and, my favorite, a 60% chance of RAIN! I know that everyone will experience the same race conditions, but I have some great carbon race wheels that work wonderfully when it's dry. But get them wet? Good luck stopping because the brakes won't work. And IMLOU is a hilly course (much worse than IMCHOO, in my opinion), and I'll definitely need my brakes! So, now I'm debating on whether to rent some other race wheels that have aluminum rims so I have the ability to stop or slow down if needed. And I know, I shouldn't use my brakes when racing, but I've ridden this course three times, there are times when I'll need my brakes!  3) I haven't swam in my wetsuit yet this year. I know, this is COMPLETELY my fault, but I was in denial. I always thought - I'll go to the lake next week. And now it's race week and I haven't put the thing on yet. Hope it still fits!!  4) We have an elderly dog who has dementia and I don't want to leave him. We have an awesome pet-sitter who moves into our house when we're gone, so he'll be in good hands, but I still don't like leaving him. 5) I'm racing an Ironman in FOUR DAYS! GAHHH!!
   I need to figure all of this stuff out, and quick, because we're leaving for Louisville tomorrow morning. I'm bib #1166 if anyone wants to track me. Ironman has an amazing tracker app that is free if you want to see where I am on the course at any time. Wish me luck!


 


Friday, September 1, 2017

What's Kristine Reading? August Edition

   I'm still knitting like crazy trying to finish up gifts for the Holidays, so my reading has been limited, but I'm still keeping up with my book group reads. This month, we read "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n. "Shadow" is the first book in the "Cemetery of Forgotten Books" series, of which there are four. Well, technically, there are three books and a short story right now.  From what I understand, the fourth book is due to be published in 2018.


   ANYWAY, "Shadow" is about a young boy named Daniel Sempere who is being raised by his father (his mother recently died), a bookstore owner. When Daniel is around 10 (? I think), his father takes him to a secret library of rare and, for all intents and purposes, forgotten books (hence, the name of the series). This library is huge with thousands of books. Daniel is told to wander around and select a book - a rite of passage in the Sempere family. The book he selects? "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax.
   Daniel loves the book, and basically becomes obsessed with finding out more about Carax and his other works (I can totally relate with this feeling). And this is where the story gets interesting - someone has mysteriously destroyed every copy of Carax's books, except for what was stored in the "Cemetery."  Daniel's fixation on discovering what happened to Carax and who has been burning his books, and why, takes Daniel on a multi-year quest filled with unusual characters, intrigue and murder.
  All of this SHOULD be a set-up for a great book. And a lot of people think it's fantastic (I recently saw "Shadow" on a list titled something like "Books You Need to Read Before You Die.").  For me? It was a little slow in many parts which could have been fixed with editing. At almost 500 pages, it was WAY too long. And I'm not afraid of a long book. I read "Gone with the Wind" in a weekend, and I can burn my way though a Harry Potter book in no time. But reading "Shadow" was like pulling teeth for me. Which was annoying because I love the premise of the book and it was very well written. It just needed to be about 100 pages shorter.
 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Knitting for a Cause

   I've been knitting a lot recently. A lot. As in - I didn't finish a book in July because I've been knitting so much. CRAZY, I know. But I'm working on some things for gifts and knitting takes time.  I need to get into audiobooks so I can keep up with my "reading." Oh - and I'm also training for an Ironman. Have I mentioned that? Yeah - Ironman Louisville. It's a long story as to how I ended up doing this race, but I'm in and kind of doing a Couch-to-Ironman program. It's not THAT extreme, as I had been running some, but until recently, I hadn't been to the pool or really on my bike in about nine months. So, I wasn't exactly starting in tip-top shape, but I'm getting there.
   But that's all for a different post. What I want to talk about today is knitting. Specifically, knitting for a cause, or causes. One thing I didn't realize when I first started knitting is that many, many non-profit groups would love some donated knitted items. I frequently see posts out on social media about hospitals needing baby hats or blankets. Since I have a lot of friends who knit or crochet, I wanted to collect information on charities in need, in case anyone wanted to donate something.
  • Oasis Center (www.oasiscenter.org) - My group of knitting friends donated items to them last year. It's an organization that helps at-risk teens, including homeless teens and runaways. They could use hats, scarves and blankets. 
  • Knitted Knockers (www.knittedknockers.org) - This group provides soft, comfortable knit prosthetics for breast cancer survivors.
  • Tennessee Kidney Foundation (www.tennesseekidneyfoundation.org) - Needs hats and fistula sleeves for patients receiving kidney transplants. If anyone has a pattern for a fistula sleeve, please let me know! 
  • Comfort Cases (www.comfortcases.org) - Needs small throw blankets (40" x 60" max) for duffels given to children entering foster care.
  • Local hospitals - In need of hats, socks, booties or blankets for preemies in the NICUs, and also hats for chemotherapy patients.
  • Halos of Hope - (halosforhope.org) Collects and donates hats for chemotherapy patients nationwide. This site has patterns too!!
   And that's just a few. If you google "where can I donate knitted items in Nashville" all sorts of charities pop up. In fact, the organization Knit & Crochet TN (https://knitandcrochettn.org) focuses on creating knitted items for Nashville charities.  If you're involved with an organization that needs items, please let me know! We'll donate to you, too!  Now get knitting! 

  

Monday, July 17, 2017

What's Kristine Reading? Belated June 2017 Edition

   Well, June just kind of snuck by me and I didn't write a review. That's not to say that I haven't been reading - I just haven't been writing about reading. But I have a really good book for this month. It will rip your heart out, but it's good. It's "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler.



   This non-fiction book tells the stories of the unmarried girls and women who gave up their children for adoption in the period between the 1945's and 1973. You know - those girls who went to go visit their "out of town aunt" for a few months, and then mysteriously returned. These are the true stories about what really happened after they left town.  
   Let me give you the set up for the book. Ann Fessler, the author and adoptee herself,  interviewed more than 100 women who had given up their newborn babies during the above time period. The time period is important for several reasons. For one, it's post World War II. Unlike the previous Depression Era when people were just trying to get by financially, class and social standing became very important in the post WWII Era. People worked very hard to maintain appearances as being upright, moral Americans. Having a teenage daughter get pregnant just wouldn't do. So, they would ship their daughters off to a home for unwed mothers for a few months, lie to their neighbors about what was going on, and then act as if nothing happened after the girls returned. The end date, 1973, was the year that Roe v. Wade was decided and legalized abortion in the United States.   
   There is no other way to describe this book other than heartbreaking. While the details of the women's story change, the basic facts remain the same: 1) girl gets pregnant,  2) parents ship her off to home for unwed mothers to avoid social scandal, 3) girl is treated horribly at "home" by social workers, employees or members of the church (including withheld medical attention during delivery), 4) girl has baby taken away even if the girl wants to keep the child, and 5) girl told to never speak of it again.
   The aftereffect of this trauma for these women was also consistent, even decades later. Though manifested in different ways, the baby they gave up (or were forced to give up) for adoption haunted them through the rest of their lives. Some could never get over the sense of betrayal from their parents, and would never trust anyone again. Others became overly-protective of their later children because they were always afraid someone would come take them away. But none of them ever forgot about their first child. The one who was taken away from them. It's just tragic.
   It's hard to recommend a book that is so emotionally difficult to read, especially when it's non-fiction, but I highly recommend "The Girls Who Went Away." Just have a box of tissue nearby when you do.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fargo Half Marathon Race Report

   I did the Fargo Half Marathon about a month ago. Nothing really to report other than it was AMAZING! Seriously. If you're running 50 states - THIS needs to be your North Dakota race. No detail for this race was overlooked. The communication was great. The swag was awesome. The race course had amazing volunteers and was FLAT FLAT FLAT! Sure, it was a little tough to get to Fargo, but I had an awesome travel companion (Hi Janet!), and we had a blast! Plus- the race freakin' had MIKE REILLY as a guest speaker! From Ironman!! They also had Dave McGillivray, who is the RD for the Boston Marathon and is comparably awesome, but being the tri geek I am, I freaked out a bit more about Mike. Oh - and because they know that most people don't know what to do in Fargo after the race, they scheduled a Pub Crawl afterwards where you received a matching medal! I tell you - these Fargo people know how to throw a race! Here are some pics. GO DO IT!

Obligatory pre-race bib pic.

Pre-race.  We started in the Fargodome

MIKE REILLY! 

Banners like this were everywhere.

A bison, natch.

The HUGE finisher's medal.


The matching pub crawl medal and stein.


SWAG!  

   I repeat- if you can, DO THIS RACE! Preferably with friends. It's awesome. Thanks, Fargo!  

   

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

TDOC 5k Race Report

   I am WAY behind on posts, but I've done two really cool races within the past month that you should know about. The first one was the TDOC 5k. Why was this 5k so special? Because TDOC stands for Tennessee Department of Corrections. And we ran at a prison. Just not just ANY prison, but the historic Tennessee State Prison that has been featured in many movies, including The Green Mile. This place has been closed for years because it wasn't fit for human habitation. So, it's not only a prison, but an abandoned prison. Kinda creepy, but cool.
 


   There isn't a whole lot to report about the race, as it was only a 5k, but the experience as a whole was really neat. I picked up my packet the night before when it was rainy, which really gave the prison an ominous vibe. We couldn't go in - it is condemned after all. But I was able to take some photos. You can immediately see why so many movies and shows have used this site for their projects. The building is beautiful. Built in 1898, it was in use until 1992. It had cells for 800 prisoners, but had over 1,400 admitted the first day, so it was overcrowded from the start.
   Anyway, getting back to the race, the next day we met up with some friends and ran the 5k. It was pretty flat. NBD. But afterwards, TDOC gave a walking tour of the grounds and told us a bit of the history of the prison. Our guide was a former guard who worked at the prison when it was functioning. Really interesting. He was a guard during the Pork Chop Riots of 1975 when prisoners got mad because they were served bologna instead of pork chops. Seriously - you can read about it here. He also told us about Death Row and some of the infamous prisoners who were incarcerated there, including James Earl Ray.
   If you live in Nashville, you need to do this race. You get to run in a crazy cool place, learn a bit about Tennessee history AND help raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I'm absolutely doing it next year.








Next up: My recap of the Fargo Half Marathon!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's Kristine Reading? May 2017 Edition

   This is going to be a quick recap because it's the last day of the month and the Preds are about to play Game 2 in the Stanley Cup Final in about 45 minutes.  If these books were great, this review would take longer, but they were only so-so.  Therefore, they are only going to receive a so-so review.
   Sticking with last month's theme of getting my books from the 100 Best Books of the Decade (So Far), I picked up #1 "Open City" by Teju Cole and #6 "Skippy Dies" Paul Murray by from my local library. After loving "Just Kids" (#2) last month, I had high expectations for these books.  Maybe too high, though I don't think so.  Let's start with "Open City."


   Mostly based in New York City, this novel is about Julius, a Nigerian immigrant who is studying psychiatry.  While beautifully written, there isn't much of a "story" to this book.  It's about Julius wandering around NYC and thinking about all of the mindless things one thinks about when wandering a city.  Things like bedbugs and Alexander Hamilton.  And that's pretty much the entire book.  He'll go visit a friend every once in a while, and we learn a bit about his background, but for the most part, it's just him wandering and running into people.  However, because the writing was so lovely, the book wasn't as bad as I'm probably making it out to be.  I can understand how it was selected to be on this list.  I wouldn't have placed it as #1, but I can see how it made it to the list.



   Now, the second book, I just don't get.  "Skippy Dies" is reviewed as being really funny.  But as you can tell from the title - Skippy dies!  And Skippy isn't a goldfish or anything.  He's a boy at a boarding school who overdoses.  (Not a spoiler - it's in the title and is told in the first chapter.)  I get dark humor, but I just didn't find this book funny.  Additionally, I didn't like any of the characters.  If you have read any of my past reviews, I need to like at least one person in a book to be able to tolerate it.  I didn't like "Gone Girl" or "The Goldfinch" for similar reasons.  Plus, for heaven's sake, where was the editor for this book?  It was 600 pages and could have been edited down by at least 200.  It would have been a much better read (again like "The Goldfinch." Editing would have helped tremendously).
   However, I do have to say that I'm obviously in the minority here regarding every book I've mentioned in this post.  If you look up any of them on Goodreads, they all have four-five star reviews.  So, read them for yourself and let me know what you think!
   Oh - and GO PREDS!!




Sunday, April 30, 2017

What's Kristine Reading? April 2017 Edition

   I got this month’s book from the “100 Best Books of the Decade – So Far” list.  Y’all know me. I’m a sucker for book lists and feel the need to read every book on them, especially if the list is “Best of” or “Greatest Ever.”  Of course, being me, I typed up the list in Excel and then highlighted the books I have already read. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I have only read 14 of them. So, I immediately reserved a few books on the list at my library, and this was the first book that came in. And that book is “Just Kids” by Patti Smith (the punk rock Patti Smith, not the 80’s band Scandal lead singer Patty Smyth.  Huge difference).


    As usual, I didn’t do any kind of research on this book before I started it. Literally, all I knew was that Patti Smith wrote it. I assumed it has something to do with her roots in rock and roll, but I wasn’t sure. The book starts out with her childhood. You notice right away that Smith is a beautiful writer. Not in the superfluous, “I’m sticking lots of long words in this paragraph to describe this scene” style of writing that many authors have, but in a very tasteful, poetic way. Which makes sense because she started out a poet.
    Since I assumed this book was solely about Smith, I got a little confused when she kept mentioning “Robert.” Who was Robert? A brother? Am I supposed to know who Robert is? Ummm – yes. A quick google search of “Patti Smith” brought up controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who was Smith’s, for lack of a better term, soul mate. Their relationship is pretty legendary in artistic circles and I had no clue. Again, with the shame...   
   The story really starts to take hold when Smith moves to New York, meets Robert, and starts living in the Chelsea Hotel. The hotel, and those who lived there, fascinated me, and I’m now obsessed with reading the everything ever written about the Chelsea Hotel. If you are unaware, the owner of the Chelsea Hotel would use an artist’s portfolio as a down payment for a room if he thought you had talent. As a result, the hotel became a haven for struggling artists, which attracted other artists. Smith mentioned walking into an accompanying restaurant and Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were there. This is going to sound a little weird, but it just seemed like such a legitimate time to be an artist or musician. I guess I’m a little burnt out of the music industry right now with so much manufactured crap out there these days. Reading about musicians who turn down record deals because they care about their art was refreshing. Granted, they were poor as dirt, so I suppose you have to take that into consideration.
    While the struggle for Patti and Robert to make it as artists is what moves the book forward, the heart of the story is their relationship. You need to read the book to truly appreciate the depth of their connection. And I highly recommend you do, especially if you have an interest rock, photography and the arts in the late 1960's, but also because Smith’s writing is so damn beautiful you’ll want to cry.
            

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Columbia Half Marathon Race Recap

   What?  What's this?  A race recap?  Yes, I know.  It's been a while.  While I've raced one or two smaller races since the NYC marathon, this is the first one that has been anything longer than six miles (and that six-miler about killed me).  I have no excuse.  Life has been busy, and I haven't been training.  But lo and behold, I found out that I had conference in DC and I don't have Maryland crossed off my 50-state half-marathon list yet, so I signed up for the Columbia Half Marathon.  I wasn't exactly sure how stupid this was because it's been a long time since I have done a race unprepared, but I figured I'd give it a go.


   The race started at 8:15, and Columbia is about an hour from my parent's house in Northern Virginia, where I was staying over the weekend.  I left the house at 6:00, in case I got lost or hit traffic.  You never know what can happen when you're in the DC area.  Fortunately, I got there at 7:00, and was able to park and check in without any issues.  The race started right next to the Columbia Mall, and google didn't have any issues finding the start line.
   However, checking in was when I received my first bit of bad news.  I spoke to a man who had run the race before and stated about the course: "It's not bad the first half - only rolling hills.  It's the second half that has the steep hills.  But you can walk those.  Everyone does."  Umm - what?  And yes, I know this course elevation is widely available on the race site, but who has time to look at that?
   I spent the next hour killing time in my car, and debating on how many layers to wear.  We had a break from the rain, thankfully, but it was 45 degrees and cloudy with a little wind.  But it was supposed to clear up and be 50 and sunny during the race.  Not a huge difference if you're a spectator, but five degrees and sun makes a world a difference when you're running.  I went with the two-layer, long sleeve over the short sleeve combo and was feeling good about my decision until 8:14 when we had a break in the clouds and the sun can shining through.  Oh well, too late to run back to the car to drop of the extra shirt now.  The gun went off and we started to run.
   As I expected, we hit a hill immediately. Nothing too steep, but it went on a while.  After a short recovery, we hit another hill.  And then another.  Again, most of them weren't terrible, but they grinded on for what seemed like forever.  I was really wishing I hadn't spend the little training I HAD done on the treadmill.  The course went on like this for most of the first six miles when we finally had a nice long downhill.  Problem for me is that it was TOO steep (I'm a horrible descender), so I didn't really make up any time there.  Others were flying by me, so I should probably work on this skill!
    We meandered through the neighborhoods of Columbia.  It was a nice course with many of the neighbors coming out of their homes to cheer.  That was fun.  We did have one stretch that was kind of on a highway, but the police and volunteers were out in full-force, so we didn't have any issues with traffic.  Seriously, this was one of the best-supported races I have been to.  They did a great job.
   I was OK physically until about mile eight.  I figured this was when the wheels would start to fall of, and they did.  The second half of the course was harder not because of the steepness of the hills ( I actually think they were about the same as the first half), but you were just so tired and beat down that the hills felt harder.  And yes, I had a to walk more than I would have liked.  Stupid hills.
    The course was mostly a circle, with us returning on the main road back to the starting line.  This was great because, other than one small hill a half-mile out (which was mean), we mainly had a descent back to the finish.  HAZZAH!

Not sure why this is hazy, but this is the race village.

And the finish!  

    This is where I would normally post a photo of my finisher's medal, however, they didn't arrive in time for the race, so they are being mailed to us.  Yes, that's kind of a major faux pax, however, this race was so well-run in every other aspect, that I can overlook that.  If you're in Maryland next year in mid-April, you should check out this race.  There is a 5k too!!

Columbia Half Marathon: 2:13:18