Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back / Moving Forward 2015 - 2016 Edition

   Another year is coming to an end. Amazing how quickly it goes by. Let's see how I did with my Goals:

Goal 1.  Run a sub 2:00 half marathon. Yes! I did this! Twice! Once at the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon and once at the Oak Barrel Half Marathon.  Grade: A

Goal 2.  Run a stand-alone marathon. Yes! I did this one, too! TWICE! My first full was Chicago and I followed it up with the Marine Corps Marathon two weeks later.  Grade: A

Goal 3.  Read 52 books.  Done! What's really funny is that 10 minutes ago, I thought I still had a half-book to go before finishing 52 books. But I realized while reviewing my books for this post, that I forgot to log a book. So I'm actually finished with 52 books with a day to spare!  For more information on what I have read this year, check out my Goodreads page here.  Grade A

Goal 4. Take a cooking class.  Umm- yeah... I looked at cooking classes early in the year and then promptly forgot about it. Grade D 

Goal 5. Leave the country.  Didn't happen. Neither did a cool US vacation. We went a few places (Chicago, DC, South Carolina), but nowhere crazy. Part of the reason was monetary (we bought a car and some furniture this year instead of travel) and some was timing / family obligations. Life happens sometimes and changes your plans. Hopefully, next year we'll leave the country.  But for this year: Grade D 

State Challenge:
   Most people know I have a long-term goal to run a half marathon (or further) in every state.  While I didn't add that many states this year, I did add two: Mississippi and Illinois. I've pretty much hit all of the states within reasonable driving distance, so they're getting harder to cross off my list now. However, I think I'll be able to get three or four more in next year - most likely including Ohio, Kentucky and North Carolina. We'll see.

    Overall, I guess I did OK with my goals this year. Honestly though, this year has sucked so bad that I'm surprised I accomplished anything at all. I don't think I have ever had a year as stressful as 2015. My father was diagnosed with cancer, my mother had a heart attack (they're both OK now) and we lost our beloved dachshund to cancer all within a few months. It was terrible and I'm ready for 2015 to be over and get a fresh start in 2016.
   Speaking of 2016. I haven't set any Big Hairy, Scary Goals yet. I'm going to - I need figure out my work schedule first. I'm toying with a few Half Ironmans and Half Marathons - probably no fulls in my 2016, but you never know.  ;-)  I might get a wild hair and sign up for something. I'm sure I'll come up with a few non-fitness related goals, as well. Gotta keep things in balance, you know?
   I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's and a blessed 2016!  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Medal Recap

   Unfortunately, this isn't going to be a very long post - I didn't race that much in 2015.  However, the races I did do were pretty cool, so let's recap:

Mississippi Blues Half Marathon (January):

   The Mississippi Blues race is known for their unique medals, which makes it popular on the 50-state running tour.  I think the medals all have a guitar theme, but they're different every year.  I really liked this year's. It was pretty heavy too. Made you feel like you accomplished something when you got this thing.

Tom King Half Marathon (March): I didn't actually do this race.  In fact- no one did.  It was cancelled due to unsafe conditions on the trail (flooding), so everyone did the 5k and received the half-marathon medals. Wasn't going to post it, but thought someone might be interested in seeing what the medals looked like since it's a popular local race.  I think it's the same every year, but with a different colored ribbon.  The same design is on the shirt.

Music City Half Marathon (March):

   Not my favorite medal of the year, but it's not bad. I guess that it's just a little generic. I actually think what bugs me the most about it is that there isn't a date or even a year on it. When I'm old and senile, I'll have no idea when I did this race. And let's be honest, that could be as soon as next year.

Oak Barrel Half Marathon (April)

   As always, Oak Barrel has one of the coolest medals of the year. Nuff said. 

Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 (May):

   The Ironman organization usually has good medals, and this one was no exception. I kind of wish they would move away from the Choo Choo theme though. My Ironman medal from last year had at train theme, as well as the same color scheme. It would have been nice if IM changed it up a bit between the races.

Mach Tenn Triathlon (June):

   Mach Tenn doesn't give out medals, but this is my age group award. Yes, I'm posting this here because I actually won my age group and I still can't believe it. Plus, I like the plate.

Peachtree Road Race (July)

   The Peachtree Road Race doesn't have a medal that is given at the end of the race - you have to buy it. Kind of surprising considering how big the race is (it's the largest 10K in the world), but it was just a 10K.  Most 10K races I've done don't give out medals.  But I bought one (you order them when your register) because I like medals and I doubt I'll be doing this race again so it's a nice momento.  I dig it. It's very patriotic, as the race was on the 4th of July, and the middle parts rotate. 

Chicago Marathon (October):

   Here it is - my first marathon medal. It's not as blingy as I would have liked, but it's not bad. A silver medal that features a giant silver bean just has a lot of silver on it. I probably would have picked a different landmark had I been designing the medal, but that's just me. I just kept thinking of the people who didn't know what The Bean was. They probably looked at the medal and wondered why there was a giant blob on their medal. Plus, I thought it was a little small for a marathon medal, however since it was my first marathon - I love it.

Marine Corps Marathon (October):

   Now THAT'S what I'm talking about. That's a medal with flair. I love this medal. It's pretty big and has a lot going on. Probably my favorite medal of the year. OORAH!  

Hope you enjoyed my recap! Looking forward to a great year of racing in 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What's Kristine Reading - December Edition

   As a calendar year ends, I frequently find myself frantically reading short or fluff books in order to meet my Reading Challenge of 52 books in a year. This year is no exception. I have two weeks left in the year, and am currently reading my 49th book of the year. While I should make my deadline, my books over the past month haven't exactly been great literature. However, that doesn't mean they're not enjoyable, as this month's selection was. In fact, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, so let me tell you a little bit about "Sh*t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern.

   I first heard about "Sh*t My Dad Says" a few years ago when it was just a Twitter feed - a very popular Twitter feed, but the books and TV show hadn't been released yet. The backstory of the author and the book is this: a 28 year-old guy (Justin) gets dumped by his girlfriend and has no place to live so he moves in with his parents. His dad (Sam) makes hysterical, and usually inappropriate, comments and the guy starts tweeting about it. So many people follow him on Twitter that publishers come calling and the result was "Sh*t My Dad Says."
   I was presently surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I actually audibly laughed a few times, and I'm not that kind of reader. Sure, I'll cry at the drop of a hat when reading, but not laugh (which probably is some crazy insight into my personality, but I'm not pursuing that now). Each chapter was an antidote from Halpern's childhood that was followed by 5-10 quotes from his dad. Sometimes the stories were funny, sometimes they were poignant. Sometimes I really felt sorry for Halpern because, damn, his dad could be brutally honest. But the book works because his dad was never purposely cruel - it's obvious how much Sam loves his son. He was just telling the truth as he saw it and he wanted Justin to do the right thing.  Example: one time Justin faked the results of his science fair project and his dad (a scientist) made him publicly apologize to his teacher and to the class for being a disgrace to science. Unfortunately, now a days that parent might be thrown in jail for the public humiliation of their child, but to me that's just good parenting.
   So, if you're looking for an easy, funny book to get you through the dark Winter months, check out "Sh*t My Dad Says." It's worth the read.

Monday, December 14, 2015

PSA - Old Dog Vestibular Disease

  Almost two weeks ago, our dog Buck got sick. This story has a happy ending, so don't worry about finishing this post, but it's a weird illness that I had never heard of before and I wanted to spread the word about it.
   What happened was Buck got up to get a drink of water and almost immediately puked up all of his dinner.  And then while we were cleaning that up - he got sick again. Everything else seemed normal at this time, but we decided we were going to take him to the vet in the morning to get him checked out.
   When we got up in the morning, Buck wouldn't eat and his mobility had diminished. He wasn't moving much, but when he did move, he was kind of stumbling. He also looked weird. His eyes were kind of darting and his head was a little tilted. I actually asked Dudley if maybe Buck had a stroke. It was pretty scary.
   Dudley took Buck to the vet and it turned out he had Vestibular Disease. It's kind of a doggie vertigo that is caused by an irritation to the nerves that connect the inner ear to the brain. It can be caused by an ear infection, or even a brain tumor. However, sometimes it just happens - especially in older dogs. Dudley was told that it should be very treatable, was given some medicine and took Buck home. In theory, he'd be pretty bad for about 72 hours, but then things would start turning around.
   By that afternoon, Buck was worse. He was incredibly dizzy, which made him nauseated and unable to function as usual. He wouldn't eat anything, could barely walk and had to be carried outside to go potty. And he wouldn't straighten out his head. He kept it tilted to the side no matter what he was looking at.
   For the first 72 hours, Buck pretty much slept the entire time. We kept his room really dark and quiet and we tried to not disturb him too much. He would drink water, but had no interest in food at all. Unfortunately, when ever he drank too much, he would get sick so we had to limit how much he drank whenever he visited the water bowl. By Sunday (96 hours after onset), he had a little more energy and was walking a little better (he started trying to follow Dudley around the house again - Buck LOVES Dudley), but that was it. We were especially concerned because he still wouldn't eat anything -  not ground beef, not plain chicken, not rice - NOTHING.  This, of course, freaked us out because Hef stopped eating when he was sick, and he ended up having cancer.
   So on Monday, I called our vet to let him know that Buck still wasn't eating. After scaring the bejeezes out of me by mentioning the possibility of a brain tumor, he recommended a prescription food that we should try - Hills A/D. We were a little scared to give it to Buck because if he didn't eat it, then he probably DID have a tumor. But, Thank God, he loved it and ate that stinky food right up (seriously, it reeked!). Bless his heart - he was probably starving but nothing smelled good until we got that.
   Now almost two weeks later, Buck is about 80% back to normal. His head is still tilted, but not as dramatic as it was. He's not bumping into walls or falling over anymore. He might stumble a bit, but it's not often. He still refuses to eat his regular dog food, but we're starting to mix it into the food he will eat. We're hoping that by he end of the year, he'll be back to 100%
   I'm writing about this because I know most of my friends have dogs and this could happen to any of them. It was really scary to watch Buck go through this at the beginning, and honestly, it looked like something that was terminal at first. I read that some people believe that their dogs have had a stroke and have them put down. So, if your elderly dog suddenly starts showing signs of dizziness and loss of balance, or his head starts tilting and he gets sick - don't immediately panic. It might be vestibular disease.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Training Runs - The Supernatural Edition

   OK, would someone please tell me what is going on here? I had an easy three-mile run on the schedule last night and decided to do a quick buzz around the neighborhood. Though I've only lived in this neighborhood for a little over a year, I've run this route many, many, many times in varying weather. I'm very familiar with it.
   It was about 50 degrees when I left my house with a cool breeze. Good running weather.  But after I ran about a half-mile, the temperature changed by about 20 degrees for 5 seconds. It like a blast of warm air enveloped my body. You know when you're swimming in open water and you swim into an area that is significantly warmer than where you just were, and then you start to wonder what just peed there? It was like that. Well, except for the peeing part - because it was the air and I don't even want to think about running through vaporized pee.
   Anyway, as I stated, the sensation didn't last very long, really just a few steps, and then it went back to 50 degrees again. "Well, that was weird," I thought and continued with my run. Then it happened again about a quarter-mile away. And then again. By this time, I've started looking around trying to figure out what's going on, but I really can't find a cause. As I said, I'm very familiar with this route, and this has never happened before. The houses are all on one-acre lots and none of them are close enough to the road to cause the temperature change. I wasn't running over any man-holes or grates at the time - just regular old asphalt. And it was dark out, so it's not like I was running in and out of sunshine. This happened a total of five times during my three-mile run, both out and back, but on different places in the route.
   Can someone please tell me what happened here? Some sort of weather phenomenon? Aliens trying to beam me up to their spaceship (but I was too fast, obviously...)? At one point I toyed with the idea that I was running through ghosts who were trying to warn me about some evil that lurked ahead. You think of weird things while you're running. Of course, I made it home safely, so there goes that theory.
   Any thoughts? Anyone?

   Oh - and I bailed on the 12S Winter Warmup on Saturday, in case anyone was wondering. After coughing all night and only getting two hours sleep, I figured it wasn't a very good idea. Stupid cold.

Friday, December 4, 2015

2015 Riverside Screw Race Report

   OK - this isn't so much of a race report, as the Riverside Screw isn't exactly a race. It's more of a race / fun run hybrid where everyone gets a prize. And it's awesome.
   This was the 2nd Annual Riverside Screw and it took place on Thanksgiving (we missed last year's race because we were in DC). It was created by fellow East Nasty Zach as an alternative to other Thanksgiving Day runs because East Nashvillians REALLY don't like to leave their 'hood. Well, it could also be for other reasons, but I thinking that's the main one. The basic idea for the Screw was this - meet at Shelby Park, run down Riverside Drive for 2.5 miles, turn-around and come back.
   While this could have been the end of the planning, Zach had other things in mind. What's a race without bib numbers, right? Since the race was free, and bib numbers cost money, we all got Uno cards as bib numbers. Also, when you checked in, you received a number for a drawing at the end of the race. Fun!
   We met up around 8:00 am, and started running soon after. The first thing we hit on this course was "The Nasty," which is one of the worst hills in Nashville. I didn't even try to run up the thing. I ran and chatted for about two miles (I only had four miles on the schedule) then turned around back to the park. Dudley was there too, but he had our foster Big Henry, so he just walked a bit. Big H isn't much of a runner. He's more of a loper.
   When we all returned, the lottery began. Zach had his car full of t-shirts, socks and other random items people had donated to the Screw.  Some of the items were legit prizes - shirts, running belts, a Nashville Running Company beer growler...while others? Not so much. My friend Ashley won a baggie full of dental floss and another person one cocktail napkins from one of Zach's weddings. I won a CD case and a pair of Injinji toe socks that I'm pretty sure were previously used as sample socks at NRC. It was hysterical and a lot of fun seeing what everyone won. The Riverside Screw is definitely going to be our new Thanksgiving Day tradition. Thanks Zach, for a great run!

The 2015 Riverside Screw crew! (Photo by Alicia Hunker)

   I pretty much ate the rest of Thanksgiving weekend (I mean, who doesn't?), and was all ready to hit December head-on fitness-wise. I had my diet ready, and my workouts scheduled. I was set. And then I woke up on December 1st with a sore throat. I was so annoyed. I pushed through for a few days, but admitted to myself yesterday that I need to take a few days to get better. I cancelled last night's swim and will do the same for today's run. I'm supposed to run the 12 South Winter Warmup 12k tomorrow.  We'll see how that goes. I don't have great hopes for it.
   Happy running, everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's Kristine Reading? November Edition

   For the past two years, I've been a part of the Goodreads Book Reading Challenge. I have a set goal to read 52 books a year. I've actually achieved that goal both years without "too" much trouble as I'm a pretty fast reader and I just love to read. However, this year, I've read several books that were 900+ pages, and I forced myself to finish my two-year journey of reading Wolf Hall, which is not only long but incredibly boring. Plus, I just got busy. As a result, I'm six books behind and only have five weeks left in the year. That means I need to knock out 11 books by the end of the year.  
   This may sound a little daunting, but this time last week I was nine books behind. How have I been catching up? By reading good, but short books that I can knock out in a day. They've actually been pretty easy to find too, as a quick Internet search of "Good, short books" will bring up a variety of lists from different sources.
   One of the more interesting books I read is the focus of this post - Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century by Sean Patrick. If you only know of Tesla as the name of the high-end electric car, then you need to read this book. This guy was brilliant and responsible for inventing many of the things we use today including alternating current electricity, fluorescent bulbs, neon lights and x-rays. Oh yeah, he also invented a little thing called the radio.
    What? You thought that Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi were responsible for electricity, light bulbs (Edison) and the radio (Marconi)? Nope. It was Tesla. Edison and Marconi were just better connected politically and financially, and were able to be awarded credit. What's even more amazing is that, with the exception of Edison (who totally screwed Tesla out of a ton of money while Tesla was working for him and THEN tried to destroy Tesla professionally), Tesla didn't really seem to mind that he wasn't getting credit for his work. He wanted to advance science, not get rich and famous. 
   I could go on and on about everything that Tesla did, but then you wouldn't have to read the book. Seriously - it's that short. I think I read it on a lunch hour. It's an easy read and very interesting. But if you don't have that much time and want to know more about Nikola Tesla, check out The Oatmeal's comic on him. This is how I first heard of him. 
   Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon - Race Recap

   Dudley and I rolled into the DC area the Wednesday prior to Sunday's race. My parents still live in the DC area, and the race gave us an excuse to have a quick family visit and to catch up with some long-time friends. Plus, was nice that we didn't have to rush around the day prior to the marathon like we did in Chicago.
   The expo was on Friday. We had plans to meet up with our friend Ron, his friend Amanda and several of her friends, who were also running the race. Amanda ran MCM last year and told us we needed to be there right when it opened to avoid the lines. I was kind of confused about this, but then remembered that the MCM has higher security than most races - even for the expo. Fortunately, the security line wasn't too bad and after a few minutes we were in.

Hello, Expo!

   We picked up our shirts and bib numbers. I was happily surprised because rather than regular shirts, we got long-sleeve fleeces! Very nice.  I'm generally happy with any shirt I get, but it's fun to get something different every once in a while.

   I'd love to give you a rundown of what was at the expo, but I really don't have any idea. Why? Because the line in the merch area was so long that it took us almost an hour to buy a shirt and a visor. It was crazy. There were a lot people, but apparently the registers went down for a while, too.  By the time we bought our swag, we only had about 10 minutes before we had to leave for the Pentagon where we were meeting people for lunch and a tour. I did a quick lap around the expo, got some free ice cream and left. I'm sure it was quite nice though. Any expo with free ice cream gets a big thumb's up from me.
   We then all headed down to the Metro and went to the Pentagon where we met up with Darrin and Shane for the aforementioned lunch and VIP tour. (Thanks, guys!)  Though I grew up in the DC area, I had never been to the Pentagon. It's a pretty amazing place. Really fascinating, especially for a history buff like I am. I'd love to show you a bunch a photos but, as you can imagine, they don't allow cameras in there. But if you're ever in the DC area, I highly recommend taking a tour. Wear some comfortable shoes though. We walked about four miles - that place is huge.


   Sunday morning, Dudley and I got up around 4:30am. We had plans to meet Ron at the Pentagon (where the race started and finished) at 6:00am. This was a little early, but as with the expo, there was security we had to go through and we wanted to miss the lines. I'm REALLY glad we did. While we waited about 20 minutes, other people who arrived later actually missed the start of the race because the lines were so long. This wasn't a regular bag check either. We had to go through metal detectors. That was a first for me. 

The Marines don't slack on security.

   Once through security, we had a while to hang out. It started to sprinkle a little bit, but nothing too bad. We were under a giant tent and we also all brought trash bags so we didn't get wet. 

Who can rock a trash bag?  We can rock a trash bag!  

   I want to take a minute here to talk about the organization we ran for: wear blue to remember.  This organization "is a national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American Military." We learned about this group through Amanda, who I connected with a few months ago on Facebook but hadn't met until this weekend. She's the wife of an Army man, and has run with wear blue for several years. When I heard about the group, I knew I wanted to run with them during the MCM. What an amazing organization.  Founded by the spouses and friends of the 5-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which suffered a large amount of casualties in Afghanistan, the group got together to run as a way of supporting each other. The organization then grew throughout the country and now has official wear blue events, with the MCM being one of them. 
   Prior to the race, all of the wear blue runners got together for the Circle of Remembrance, where the runners called out the names of the fallen service members they were running for that day. This was the first time I cried that day.  
   After the Circle, we headed to the start line. As with Chicago, it was crazy crowded. But unlike Chicago, the MCM didn't have corrals. They had self-seeding areas based on time, but they weren't separated by ropes or anything. We were just kind of crammed in there. But we were all so excited about the race that we didn't really care. 
   The MCM doesn't slack on the opening ceremonies. You know how some sporting events has military fly-overs? Well, so does the MCM. With V-22 Ospreys. 

Bad. Ass.

   At 7:55 am, the howitzer fired and we were off! And yes, you read that correctly. Not a starting pistol - a howitzer.  As I said, the MCM doesn't mess around.
   The first few miles were really congested. REALLY congested. With Chicago only two weeks behind me, I was OK with starting slow. In fact, I was OK with running slow the entire race. I had felt really good the two weeks in-between Chicago and MCM, but as the race went on, the fatigue set in. Setting it on cruise-control for this marathon was good with me. 
   The MCM course is fantastic. As I mentioned, it starts at the Pentagon and continues into Virginia for a bit.  This section was really pretty, as we ran down George Washington Parkway which has a lot of trees and the leaves were all turning. From there we ran into Georgetown, where I had flashbacks from when I used to go down there in high school and college. It was kind of rainy at this point, so there weren't many spectators on this part of the course, but it was so fun going down memory lane that I didn't miss them too much. We wound our way through DC, running along the Potomac River and passing landmarks like the Kennedy Center. Around the half-way mark, we hit Hains Point and the wear blue mile. And this was the second time I cried. 
   The wear blue mile honors fallen service members by posting their photos on both sides of the course with their name, date of birth and date of death. I swear, even though there were thousands of runners on the course with me, you could have heard a pin drop while we were running through this section. It was very emotional. After we passed the photos, we ran through 300 (I think) American flags held by wear blue volunteers who lined the course. Again, this was just awe-inspiring. They were cheering, clapping and thanking all of us for running. It was, by far, my favorite part of the course. 
   We then headed back into the city where we passed most of the monuments and the Capitol. I can't tell you how much I love this city. I've been fortunate to have participated in several runs through the DC and every time I do, I'm floored by how beautiful this city is. I'm so lucky to have grown up there.
   But back to the race... After we passed the Capitol, we headed down towards the 14th Street Bridge at mile 20. This bridge is infamous during for this race because it's the time check. You have to "Beat the Bridge" by a certain time (1:30 maybe?) in order to finish the race. Fortunately, we made it to the bridge with plenty of time.  It was right before the bridge that I saw a pony on the course. That's right - a pony. A Marine Corps Pony to be exact. 

Of COURSE, there's a pony on the course.  And I just noticed the expletives on the signs behind the pony.  Oops.  

   We then headed back to the Pentagon for the finish line.  Let me say for the record - two marathons in a month was tough! Fortunately, I didn't have any of the problems here that I had in Chicago, but it still hurt. Unfortunately, Dudley DID have issues and had a hard time running, but I stuck with him like he did with me in Chicago. We were both really relieved when we saw that 25 mile marker. I kept hearing about a hill at the end of the race, and we finally hit mile 26.1. Are you kidding me? The LAST thing we do before crossing a finish line is climb a hill? Yep. That's exactly what we did. It was brutal. But as my husband said, "If you go deep enough into the pain cave, there is a Marine there waiting to give you a medal." Which is exactly what happened.


God Bless America.

   I loved this race so much. I can see why people run it every year. It's a beautiful, scenic course that is well-supported by both the race organizers and the crowd (who came out in force once the weather cleared up). The only thing I would have changed about it is that I would have worn something to honor my dad, who was a Marine. A lot of people did that and I wish I would have had the foresight to think of something to honor him during the race. If I run it again, I'll definitely do that. 
   I have no idea what's next. As of this moment, I don't have anything official on the calendar other than a Thanksgiving Day Fun Run. I've been recovering over the past few weeks, and it's been great. I'll start planning things soon enough though. If anyone has any suggestions for 2016, let me know!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What's Kristine Reading? Belated October Edition

   Wow - I'm bad at this. I just started my monthly reviews of books a few months ago and I've already forgotten a month.  In my defense though, I've been thinking about this book for so long that I actually kind of thought I already wrote a review for it.  And I've also been traveling a lot and ran two marathons this past month, so I deserve a little slack, right? OK- enough with the excuses. Here is the book: Room by Emma Donoghue.

   Y'all - this book!  I don't think I've ever read a book that has disturbed me so much, but yet couldn't put down. Room is told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, Jack, who lives in a fortified 11 by 11 backyard garden shed, known as Room, with his Ma. They live here because Ma was kidnapped by creepy pervert (Old Nick) when she was in college and has been forced to live in the shed ever since as his sex slave. Jack was conceived and born in the shed, and it is the only world he has ever known.
   Ma is fiercely protective of Jack, and tries to make his childhood as happy as it could be in spite the horrific circumstances of their entrapment. Given that Jack was conceived of rape, the book really didn't have to go in this direction, but I'm glad it did. It would have made a dark book even more dark and possibly impossible to read if Ma wasn't such so loving of Jack and didn't shield him from the horrors of her own existence. And this is why the book is so fascinating for me. Since Jack is so young and Ma is so strong, Jack has no idea that he's in captivity. Ma has a routine, limited as it may be, of exercise, education and playtime for Jack. He even has some TV time, though not too much because too much TV is bad according to Ma. And, of course, Ma keeps Jack as separate from Old Nick as she possibly can.  Jack doesn't know that there is literally an entire world outside of Room with other children, toys and family. Because of this ignorance, Jack seems to be relatively happy in the confines of Room, which is kind of off-putting as a reader of obvious reasons, but it works.
    However, all that Jack knows might change when Ma sees a chance to escape from Room and Old Nick. And she needs Jack to make it happen. Think about this for a minute. You're five. You're happy. You've been in one room your entire life. It's ALL you know. And suddenly your mom is telling you that she wants to leave and you have to help. It'd be terrifying. Again - there's the conflict. Jack SHOULD want to leave. He should be terrified of where he is, not where he might go. But he's not. If he were older and could comprehend more of what was truly going on, yes. But he's five and scared of what might be outside of Room, not what's inside.
   I'm not going further with the plot as I don't want to ruin the book for anyone, but I absolutely recommend this book. I feel weird recommending it because of the horrible subject matter, but Donoghue does such a great job of writing through the innocent eyes of Jack, so it's not as brutal of a read as it could have been. Read it and let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tomorrow Morning

  So, I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow. This possibly might be one of the worst ideas I've had in a while. Who runs marathons two weeks apart?! Crazy people, that's who. It might be a different story if one of the races were in Nashville, so I didn't have to travel but NOOOOO.  They're both out of state - Chicago and DC.
   But we're all checked in and I'm taking today to just sit around. Maybe I'll be rested enough tomorrow to run a decent race. The weather is iffy - it's supposed to rain in the morning. We'll see. The MCM is supposed to be on par with Chicago as far as crowd support goes. I hope the threat of rain doesn't keep people away. If you're in the DC area, come down and cheer us on!  I'm going to need all of the help I can get!!


Friday, October 23, 2015

Chicago Marathon Race Recap - Day 2 RACE DAY

   The day started at 5:30 AM. The race wasn't until 8:00, but I wanted to start heading down to the start line at 6:30.  Considering how crazy the expo was, I didn't know what chaos would lie ahead at the start line, and I wanted to get down there with a ton of time. The last thing I wanted to do was get lost wandering around Chicago and not make it to our corral before it closed (about 20 minutes before the race start). I knew the hotel was a little less than a mile from the start line and it was a straight shot down Michigan Avenue, but knowing me, I'd still get us lost.

   Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The race start truly was a straight shot down Michigan and we got there around 6:45. Like the expo, it was huge. Runners and spectators were everywhere. We had to go into a pre-determined gate (based on your bib number) to get to our corral, and we had to go through security at the gate. That was a new one for me. I guess I should have expected it after the Boston Marathon bombings, but it kind of shocked me...and made me sad. 
   After a few photos and an obligatory stop at the porta-potty, Dudley and I headed to our corral. The Chicago Marathon actually had two starting times.  The first wave started around 7:30.  This one was for the elites and corrals A-E.  Dudley and I were in corral F, so we were in front of the second wave. We got into our corral just as the National Anthem started. It was about then when I started getting emotional. The National Anthem gets me emotional anyway, however, there was something about being surrounded by 45,000 people who were all about to do something (dare I say) epic. And I was going to be a part of it!  How amazing was that? I actually got a little teary while waiting for the race to start.
   The Elites started right on time, and the earlier corrals soon after. Since my corral wasn't scheduled to start until 8:00, we had a few minutes to hang out and wait, but it didn't seem like "that" long. We moved through slowly through the streets of Chicago moving closer and closer to the starting line, until we heard "CORRAL F!  GO!"  And we were off.
  We ran through the skyscrapers of Chicago for the first few miles. This really threw me off because you know what doesn't work when surrounded by skyscrapers? My Garmin. I didn't even think about that! Of course, you're not going to get reception in downtown Chicago! I got a little more frustrated / stressed by this than I really should have been, but I was worried about getting caught up in the race and running too fast! That's the #1 mistake of first-time marathoners! And now I had no way of knowing how fast I was going! We tried to go off of Dudley's Garmin, which had better reception than mine did, but his was still wonky. Finally, we just forgot about our Garmins and tried to deduce our times by the clocks that were set up at every mile marker. While running a marathon and doing math at the same time is a little difficult, we were able to figure out we averaging about a 9:45-10:00 mile. Which actually was a little fast pace-wise for us in a marathon, but not too bad.
   This might be a good time to mention that I did actually have a plan for this race. This wasn't just a "go out and run for 26.2 miles and see how you do." No. I had a pace for every mile, which was why I was so freaked out when I couldn't get any reception for my Garmin. I can't work the plan if I didn't know my pace! I'm not going to break down every mile here (you're welcome), but the gist of the race plan was to start at a 10:00 /mile and speed up throughout the race and hopefully finish around 4:10-4:15.  Everything in my training supported this plan, and it was actually pretty conservative - so I thought.
   So, we were running through Chicago and things seem to be going OK, but I noticed that my legs weren't really waking up around mile 3 like they usually do. They still sort of felt heavy. They didn't hurt, but they definitely didn't feel as good as they have in recent training runs. Everything else felt good though, so I didn't really think too much about it.
   However, mile 6 came along, and the thought of how my legs felt popped up in my mind again. They still felt more tired than they should have at this point in the race. Again, I tried not to focus too much on this, because if I did, I'd start to panic and it was WAY too early to panic. Unfortunately, this is about when it started getting hot as well. Not crazy hot - it was perfect if you were a spectator (mid to upper 70's with bright blue sky) - but definitely hotter than I like as a runner.
   Mile 8 was the first time that I really felt like I might be in trouble with the race. We were still keeping the pace OK, but it was a lot harder than it should have been. I tried to distract myself by paying attention to the spectators. They were AMAZING and so enthusiastic. In some places they were 3-4 people deep. How crazy is that? Such a huge crowd to watch strangers run by! It was fantastic! They were a great distraction until about Mile 13, when I officially knew I was in deep s**t because I was only half-way there and I wanted to die. I had no idea how I was going to run another 13 miles. (Sidebar: When we crossed the 13.1 mile marker, the runner behind me yelled "WHOA!! WE'RE HALFWAY THERE!!" To which I responded "WHOA! LIVIN' ON A PRAYER!" This exchange made me chuckle because you KNOW that the guy was waiting his entire race to yell that. I was also surprised because I pretty much was the only person who responded to him. I mean, isn't that the automatic response to someone yelling that? How was I the only one?)
   Without going into detail - miles 14-20 were just awful. Miles 16-17 were the worst, but they all sucked pretty bad. Everything was starting to hurt, and I couldn't keep my pace. I was also getting really hot. I wasn't cramping, Thank God, but I was really having a hard time picking up my feet. The worst part was that Dudley was having a GREAT race, but he wouldn't leave me. Though I'm glad he didn't, I wanted him to just go on because I felt like I was holding him up.  He was trying to do that tough love of "I know you can do this! I've trained with you!  You can do this!" But that only upset me more because I KNEW I could do it! I'm trained! I was better than this!! But my body just didn't want to run anymore. Though I didn't actually start to cry, I wanted to. Then some nice runner came by and gave me gummy bears and I felt better. I love gummy bears. Thank you nice stranger!!
   Finally around mile 23, things turned a corner.  I still hurt, but I knew I would finish. Granted, it was way past my expected time, but I would finish. We slowly jogged, as there was no "running" now - it was a jog, past the mile markers.  Mile 23.... Mile 24... Mile 25...  I had promised myself that I wasn't going to walk at all after mile 25, even for water stops. I was kind of regretting that decision because right when you hit the 800 meter mark there is a hill. Granted, it's the ONLY hill on the course, but it's still a hill. Kind of mean for the race organizers to throw a hill in right there after 24 miles of flat, but they did. But we made it up and then hit the turn for home. The finish line. We did it! Final time: 4:41:16.
   Yes, this post would be much more effective if I actually had the photo of Dudley and I crossing the finish together hand-in-hand, however MarathonFoto somehow didn't get a photo of us together. What is up with that?!! There are 20 photographers at the finish and not one of them got a photo of the couple holding hands?!  REALLY?  So I didn't buy them. Oh well. We did see a proposal at the finish line. That was kind of neat.
   After the race, Dudley and I made a beeline to the post-race massage tables. Well, we sat down for about 15 minutes THEN we went to the massage tables. I generally don't even visit these tables because the lines always seem too long, however, the line here wasn't that long. With good reason - Chicago had 275 massage therapists working!! CRAZY! They were like a machine! They got the runners in there FAST. Thank you Chicago for providing this service and doing it so well. The massage felt great and was exactly what we needed post-race. We then went and hung out in Grant Park with the 45,000 other runners and their families. Everyone was so happy and it was a perfect day to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere. After a while, we headed back to the hotel, cleaned up and went back to the park to take a photo at the Bean. Because that's what you do in Chicago. Additionally, the medal had the Bean on it! We HAD to get a photo at the Bean!

My first marathon medal!!  

With our Bean medals at the Bean!

   To wrap up - the race was amazing. If you only want to do one marathon in your life, Chicago is a good one to do. Everything it BIG. The expo, the crowd, the's all a huge deal and quite the experience. The only thing I would change about the weekend would be to have flown in on Thursday, hit the expo early on Friday and then rested all day Saturday before running on Sunday. Looking back, I think the main issue my run suffered was just because I was tired from work and travel. That and the weather, but mostly exhaustion. But even though I wasn't happy with my time, I still had a wonderful experience. Thank you, Chicago! I'll be back...maybe even to race again.
   Oh - just in case anyone was wondering- I'm racing the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday. As in two days. We went to the expo today. I'll write more on that next week if I can still function!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chicago Marathon - Race Recap Day 1

   Last Sunday, Dudley and I ran the Chicago Marathon. It was truly one of the most amazing things I've ever done.  For those of you with a short attention span, here's the end result: a disappointing 4:41.  For the details: read on.
   We arrived in Chicago Saturday morning. We took the first flight out of Nashville (6:00 am), so we had to get up at 3:30 am. This was really stupid looking back on it, but it seemed like a good idea when I booked the flight back in May. Anyway, we arrived in Chicago around 7:30 am, caught the train and were at the hotel around 9:00 am. It was immediately obvious that Chicago LOOOOVES their marathon. I mean, duh - it's the Chicago Marathon, but it's still a huge city and lots of BIG things go on in a huge city. But Chicago was all about the marathon this weekend.

My ticket for the L.

Free pocket-sized spectator guides were everywhere.

   Since we were too early for the hotel check in, we dropped off our bags with the bellman and caught the shuttle to the expo. Funny story about the expo - I hadn't really paid that much attention to the logistics of race weekend before we got there. I mean, I knew when the race was, and what time it started, but I figured everything else could be sorted out once we got there. One of the nice things about a running race is that there aren't a ton of details. It's not like a triathlon that has a crazy amount of gear and transition areas to set up. For a running race, even a large one, you generally just check in, show up and run. Easy, peasy. So, Dudley and I were in the hotel lobby and were looking up the location of the expo. I had assumed that the expo was somewhere downtown near the race hotels because that's what is standard. Surely, the expo would be within walking distance from the hotel, right? Umm- no. It was 12 minutes away - BY CAR. Oops. Fortunately, while we were debating on whether to take a cab or the train down there, one of the hotel employees pointed out a free shuttle that was literally outside of our hotel that would take us down to the expo. Maybe I should have read the participant's guide, huh?


The Expo:
   Holy Mother of Expos. This thing was HUGE and, honestly, a little overwhelming. Looking back, we probably should have eaten something before we went down there because we were both starving and you needed your energy to check out this expo.

Obligatory photo in front of a giant sign.

   The first thing you do when you get to the expo, other than take 900 photos with giant signs, is check in. That's how the expo is set up. They had these check in kiosks that reminded me of airport security. There you had your participant's e-mail scanned and your ID checked. My check in person legitimately looked at me too. It wasn't just a "I trust who you are and this is a formality" kind of thing. She was making SURE I was the person on the ID and that it matched the participant e-mail information. 
   After I was approved, I was sent further back in the building where another row of check in people were waiting. Not that I could go to any of them...No, I had to go to one specific person that check in person #1 told me to go to. Why? Because check in person #2 already had my participant packet ready for me when I got to her. I didn't even have to tell her my name. I just walked up and she said "Kristine?" and gave me my packet (after checking my ID again, of course). These Chicago Marathon people don't mess around. 
   Then Dudley and I went on the quest to find the t-shirt and goodie bag pickup. All we were told was that it was on the other side of the wall. Little did we know what chaos was behind the wall. Just look at this madness:

Just a random shot of the expo floor.

Goose Island Beer brought their BUS.

The Brooks display.

I don't even know what this thing is.  

   Because Nike was the official clothing sponsor, they had a huge presence at the expo. They had a separate section for the official Chicago merchandise and it was surrounded by signs like the one below.

   But on one of the walls, they had giant letters that spelt out #ownchicago. People could write good luck (or whatever) on them. This must be a thing for Nike at large races because they did a similar thing at the Nike Women's Half I did in DC a few years ago.

There was a line to write on the letters.

Seriously big letters.

And again, I have no idea what this is, but I think it's Nike's.

   And y'all - this was a minor part of the expo.  I'm not even scratching the surface with this. All of the major running retailers were there, as well as representatives from major races world-wide. Even retailers that you don't really think of as being running oriented, such as The North Face, were there with special Chicago Marathon merchandise. It was insane. As I stated, the expo was kind of overwhelming and, due to how hungry we were, also kind of annoying. There were just so many people and vendors and lights and noise... We were there for probably two hours and we didn't even see all of the expo. (And for the record - we were very good. We only bought some Swiftwick socks. Because we love them and want to support our Nashville retailers.)  
   Though we knew we missed a good part of the expo, we caught the shuttle back to the hotel because we HAD to eat something other than free vendor samples. Though when we pulled up to the hotel, I was REALLY glad we went to the expo first thing rather than waiting until after we ate. The line for the shuttle back to the expo was about a half a block long. Apparently, Dudley and I had hit the expo at the right time. It had to have been crazy crowded later in the day.
   After getting some food, Dudley and I were finally able to check into our hotel and relax for a bit. I was a little bummed because it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY in Chicago, and we couldn't take advantage of it because we needed to get off of our feet for the rest of the day. But, I guess there are worse things in life than to hang out and watch Texas beat Oklahoma!! Hook 'em!

Next up: Race day!  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Next Stop - Chicago Marathon

   It's officially Chicago Marathon Week!  Just a few more days anxiously counting down the hours until we head off to Chi-Town! I'm ready to get up there, buy a bunch of overpriced swag and get my run on!

   I'm actually a little nervous about this race. Yes, I've completed a marathon before, but that was a IMCHOO and that's a completely different kind of marathon. Well, so I've been told. I've only done one Ironman and I've never done a stand-alone marathon, so what do I know? But, in theory, it makes sense. I was SO happy to get off of the bike at IMCHOO that the thought of running 26.2 miles afterwards was almost a relief. "Woo Hoo! Only a marathon to go!" The elation wasn't only because I didn't have to ride my bike anymore, but because I knew the remainder of the race was completely up to me. I didn't have to worry about water currents, or flat tires. I only had to worry about putting one foot in front of the other until I covered the distance. I didn't have any pressure on time. I didn't care if I walked. I just wanted to finish. (But for the record, I only walked at the water stations. I'm pretty proud of that.)
   I don't have kind of luxury for the Chicago marathon. I've been training to run the entire thing. And my training runs have been pretty solid. I "should" finish almost an hour faster than my Ironman marathon time. But here's the rub - I'm torn on how to approach the race. I want to run and push myself and see how I can do. But I also want to bring my phone and take pictures and make this into an event. I'm probably only running Chicago once. May as well enjoy the experience, right? And, of course, I still have the Marine Corps Marathon on the 25th I need to think about! If anyone has experience running almost back-to-back marathons, please let me know! I need your advice! And if you're going to Chicago, let me know! I'd love to see you!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ironman Chattanooga from the Other Side

   This post is probably going to be one long stream of consciousness. Sorry. My brain is too fried at the moment to create an organized post.  Just go with it.
   Sunday a few of us (Kathy, Bree and Ashley) headed down to Chattanooga for IMCHOO. Though I have cheered at triathlons before, the four previous Ironman-branded races I've been to (Augusta 70.3 twice, Chattanooga 70.3, IMCHOO) have all been from the participant side, not the sidelines. I was looking forward to seeing how the race was from the other side - the spectator side. And while it was a lot of fun, it was completely exhausting. Seriously. Exhausting.
   We started our spectating adventure at the top of the last hill on the bike course. We figured that we would be able to catch all of our friends right when they needed a boost the most. Bree had her spectating on-point and brought costumes, a white board with markers, and a bullhorn. Because what good is cheering people on if they don't notice us, right? We yelled and cheered for every cyclist that rode by. We were really enthusiastic for the first hour or so, and tried to think of clever things to yell at everyone. But really, there are only so many ways to cheer someone up a hill, especially if you don't know the person. It's kind of a "Go person with the yellow shoes! Go yellow shoes!" Lame, but at least the person in the yellow shoes knew we were talking about him. I want to say we were out there four hours. By the end, we were all sitting or kneeling while we were yelling. Bree actually laid down for a while. God love her, she was still working that bullhorn.

Top: Left - our badass friend Meg, Right - Mike (another badass)
Bottom left - me looking like an angry protester yelling at Mike, Kathy cheering
Bottom right - Tired Bree still giving it her best. (Photos by Ashley)

   After all of our friends passed, we headed to downtown Chattanooga for the run course. We set up camp right before the split on the course that either leads you to the second lap, or to the finish line. Again, we yelled for everyone that passed by. It was so much easier to cheer for the runners than the cyclists. Part of it was because they had their names on their bibs, so you could actually cheer by using their names, but also there were a ton of other spectators and it was easy to build off of their energy.
   Again, we waited until we saw all of our friends at least once, and then headed back to Nashville. All of us had to work the next day, so we couldn't stay at watch everyone finish. Honestly, I'm not sure how I would have made it to midnight anyway. I was so freaking tired. I loved it, but it was exhausting.
   Now here is kind of where the stream of consciousness comes in. It was kind of weird not participating in the event that took up the majority of my mental and physical energy last year. I wasn't sad exactly, but I guess I was a little bummed that a year had already passed from when I did my race. It started last Friday when I finally took down the remaining decorations that had been hanging in my office from when my co-workers decorated it after my race last year. My epic event is now a year in the past, and I kind of feel like it has less meaning now. Which is completely stupid, I know, but I never claimed to be completely rational. My friend Kim, aka The Blonde Mule, did a similar post about this in reference to her race at Augusta 70.3, so I know I'm not alone in feeling like this.
   But what is even weirder is that even with these feelings, I had NO DESIRE to be racing IMCHOO this year. At all. There were several times when I thought "I am so glad that's not me riding up that hill" or "Oh - he still has another half marathon to go. Poor thing." Usually when I'm spectating a race, I'm all "I can't believe I'm not out there!" But not Sunday. And that confuses me because I really want to do another Ironman. I guess maybe that just means that I'm not ready to actually do another one yet.  Right now, I probably won't be doing one until 2017. We'll see. I need to get through the Chicago and Marine Corps Marathons first!  Only one more week until Chicago!!