Monday, March 28, 2016

What's Kristine Reading? March Edition

   Recently, I've been getting a lot of my books from lists I've stumbled across on the internet. You know the ones I'm talking about: "50 Books You Need to Read Before You Die." "The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge" (yes, it's a thing). "100 Must-Read Books from Southern Writers."  There are a ton of them. This month's book came from the list of of books that are going to be released as movies in 2016 - "Me Before You" by JoJo Meyers.

   Before I go any further, I'm going to be giving some spoilers for the book in this review. Not the BIG end-of-book spoiler, but major plot lines that a reader (if you're like me) might not want to know about ahead of time.  Just FYI.
   This book is the story of Louisa (Lou) Clark, a quirky 26-year old English waitress who is perfectly content spending each day serving coffee at the local cafe, until the cafe closes and she needs to find another job. Fast. Though she doesn't have any experience in the field (she doesn't really have a lot of experience in anything), she interviews to be the caretaker for a 35-year old quadriplegic, Will Traynor. Surprisingly, even without any qualifications, she is hired for a six month contract.
   Will, prior to the motorcycle accident which caused his paralysis, was a wealthy, adrenaline-seeking, world-traveling business executive who thrived on risk-taking life experiences: bungee-jumping, skydiving, etc. His new life in a wheelchair has been one that, in his opinion, isn't worth living. He has already attempted suicide once, and has asked his family to move him to a facility in Switzerland which will help him end his life. Seeing how desperate Will is, his parents agree...but after six months. And this is when Lou enters the story, hence the six month contract. Though Lou is originally unaware of the agreement between Will and his parents, she eventually does figure out what is going on and decides to go on a mission to change Will's mind about ending his life. For me, this was the main crux of the book. Sure, there is romance and other plot devices to keep the book moving forward, but the heart of "Me Before You" is whether or not Will has the right to choose if and when he dies.
   I'll be honest, I haven't thought a lot about medically-assisted suicide. Fortunately, I've never had a reason to. But "Me Before You" brings up some good points for discussion about what is considered "living a good life." And if you are completely unable to live this life for reasons of paralysis or severe illness, should you be forced to live in pain and suffering for years or even decades? And who gets to make those decisions? You? Your parents? Your spouse? Doctors? What if you meet someone who might make your life worth living again?
    Of course, it's impossible to have a blanket answer to all of these questions, but it's interesting to think about, which is why I think this book would be a good for a book group. The book itself is a VERY easy read, I think it took me a day to read, and definitely kept my interest. It kind of has a Nicholas Sparks / Jodi Picoult hybrid thing going on. You'll have an ugly cry or two but then also wonder what you would do in a similar situation. If you like those authors, you'll probably like this book. 
   On a sidenote: I'm currently reading another book that I have seen on several of the aforementioned lists - "Luckiest Girl Alive" by Jessica Knoll. I'm about mid-way through and it's taking me forever to finish. Anyone else read this thing? I think it's taking me so long because the protagionist is kind of a bitch. She's a bitch for some very good reasons, but it's still hard for me read about her. This book is completely throwing off my book-a-week average as I think it's taken me three weeks to read so far. Sigh. I'll plow through it this week, but just FYI - not every book on these lists are good.
   Happy Reading!

I'm raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! Please help me save a life! Donate today by clicking here:  Thanks!  


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

NYC Marathon

    A few months back, Dudley and I entered the lottery for the New York Marathon. Knowing that this is the hardest marathon (other than Boston) to gain access to, I didn't have a lot of hope that we would get in - especially after both of us got into the Peachtree Road Race, the Chicago Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon last year. The chances of us getting into NYC this year had to be pretty slim. And they were. For me.
   I was excited on lottery day at first because I could tell that one of us had made it into the race. The big clue? Our bank account had been charged a registration fee...but just one. The question remained as to who because neither Dudley or I had received any official notification from the actual race yet. Then about mid-day, I remembered that I could log into the NYC marathon website and check my race status. And, as you should have already guessed, Dudley got the golden ticket.
   However, I was not deterred in any way about not getting in. I had already decided that if this happened, I would try for a charity bib into the race. I ran as a charity bib as part of Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society a few years ago at the Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC, and it's been one of the highlights of my running career. I had no hesitation in signing up and running for LLS again.
   Why LLS?  Because cancer sucks. I have had friends and family lose children, parents, spouses and other family members to leukemia and lymphoma. We all have. And it sucks. My mother currently struggles with a blood disorder that is in the leukemia family and takes daily medication to fight it. Since I'm not a doctor or researcher who knows how to find a cure for these diseases, the best I can do is raise money to help fund those doctors and researchers who DO know how.
   What's also wonderful about the LLS is that the research they do for leukemia and lymphoma benefits patients suffering from other kinds of cancer. In fact, and this comes directly from the LLS website, "nearly half of all cancer drugs newly approved by the FDA since 2000 were first developed for blood cancer patients." Y'all - in the past two weeks, I've lost a friend to colon cancer and another one announced a diagnosis of neck cancer. My own father was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year (he is doing well currently). All three of those types of cancers, among with many others, have benefitted from the work of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
   So, over the next few weeks, I'll be bugging all of you to help me raise money for Team in Training as I train for the New York Marathon. I've committed to raising $3,500, but I'd like to hit $5,000. Go big or go home, right? Please know that none of my funds raised will go to my travel or hotel. I'm funding that on my own. My fundraising allows me to run the race - that's it. I would really appreciate your support.  Please click here to donate:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Injured and Angry*

   Yes, I'm injured. Ugh. Just when I started to really ramp up training for the season, I developed a small tear in my calf. I didn't think it was a huge thing at first. I felt a little pain when running an easy three about a week and a half ago. Nothing really to worry about though - or so I thought.
   The issue continued during a nine-mile run two days later. Again, it didn't really "hurt" when I first started, but as the miles went on the pain became more noticeable. I stopped at seven miles to get a drink of water and my calf seized up. In hindsight, it would have been really smart to stop running then. But did I? No. Because I'm stubborn and I wanted my stupid nine miles.
   I finished the run with my calf really hurting, but I still didn't think I was injured. Denial, mostly, I'm sure. I figured I'd give it a day or two off and it would be fine. Nope! Now it's almost two weeks later and I still haven't been able to run.  I tried as recently as Monday and I got about seven minutes in before I could barely walk from the pain.
   I since have gone from denial to full-panic mode because I have races coming up and I need to be healthy. So yesterday I went to see my friend Leah Sawyer, who is a Physical Therapist. I think I should go buy her a car or something because one session with her and my calf feels SO much better. I'm not healed yet - that will still take time - but it definitely doesn't hurt as much as it did and I have hope that my recovery isn't going to take six weeks as I had feared. One of the biggest mistakes I was making while I was "resting" last week was that I was stretching too much and incorrectly. Every chance I got, I was doing the foam roller, the stick and the lacrosse ball. Leah basically told me to chill out and only do one torture device twice a day, and she showed me the proper form for my specific injury. And it helped! Imagine that. Let that be a lesson for all of you stubborn athletes out there: if you're hurt - don't wait it out. Go get help.
   I'm trying to stay positive and stay active with other workouts (swimming has to be adapted, but biking is OK), but I'm still really frustrated. I was just starting to gain some speed after last season's marathons and was training to PR at the Flying Pig Half Marathon in May. Now I'll just be happy if I'll be able to participate in the race at all. I'm taking the remainder of this week off and will revaluate over the weekend. Maybe I can start running again next week, maybe not. We'll see.

*Thank you to Daniel Hudgins for the title "Injured and Angry."  I thought it was cute, so I stole it from him.  :-)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Adventures in Travel - Las Vegas Style

    I hit the road again recently. This time it was a quick trip (about 72 hours) to lovely Las Vegas to help celebrate my Mother-in-law's birthday. I hadn't been to Vegas since I was 12 when we were out there for a bike race. The only thing I remember about that trip was going to Circus Circus because that was the only place that allowed kids (there was an arcade on the top floor of the casino). It's an understatement to say that Vegas has changed a little bit since then.
The Grand Canyon courtesy of Southwest Air

  We arrived late Friday afternoon and I realized something almost immediately upon leaving the airport - people still smoke here. Seriously - it's everywhere. I know so few smokers in Nashville that I kind of forget that it even exists. Cigarette smoke is generally pretty easy to avoid. Not in Vegas though. From the airport to the Strip to the casinos, smokers were everywhere. Just FYI for anyone going there.
   As soon as we got in, we met up with Dudley's mom and sister for a show. Dudley's mom has a friend who works for one of the Cirque shows and was able to get us tickets. I'm not sure how aware everyone is with the Cirque shows, but they all have different themes: The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Water...  Well, this one had a more adult theme. It was called Zumanity.  Without going into detail, this show is "centered on erotic song, dance and acrobatics." While not X-Rated, it was definitely raunchy and not for people who are easily offended. The show was really good, but just something funny to go see with your 80 year old mother-in-law!

Yeah...he has chains.

   The rest of the weekend was mainly spent oohing and ahhing at all excessiveness that is Vegas.  Neither Dudley or I are gamblers, so we kind of just wandered through all of the casinos looking at all of the people. Well, I did a LITTLE gambling.  How could I not when I saw this:


   I spent all of three dollars on this slot machine. Big spender, I know. I'm sure I had to be quite the spectacle for experienced gamblers though. I had NO clue as to how to work this thing. I was just randomly pressing buttons to see what would happen. Yes, I guess I was kind of expecting old school slot machines with a pull-down arm. I need to get out more.
   While I didn't get the chance to run the trail half-marathon as I had originally hoped while I was in Vegas, I did get out and run Saturday and Sunday. I don't know Vegas at all, so I just ran up and down the Strip. It was hysterical because I went around 7:00 am both mornings when a lot of people were still out from the night before. They were all staggering around with their giant beers and empty hurricane glasses and I'm all "On your left!" I wore my GoPro on Sunday to capture some of the ridiculousness, but the footage is too wobbly and would make everyone sick if I posted it. Again, as an FYI, Vegas has an obscene amount of stairs on the Strip. The traffic is horrendous there so they have pedestrian crosswalks that go over intersections. It's great for walking around, but really messes with your running pace. Plus - stairs. Ouch.

Random photos:
HAD to go see the sign.

MGM Lion

New York, New York

Ceiling at the Venetian

The Strip at night.

   The weekend was a blur, and a lot of fun. I'd like to come back out and check out a few more shows, as well as the Hoover Dam, and maybe take a day trip to the Grand Canyon. I obviously have to come back since I didn't get to mark Nevada off of my half-marathon list this time around, right?! But it will probably have to wait until next year as my race season is fulling up quickly! I'm officially signed up for Flying Pig in May, and for 70.3 Raleigh in June. And then...the NYC Marathon in November if it all works out! Woo Hoo!
   See you on the roads!