Weekly Wrap Up: 7/5/15

Well, I’m off to a pretty decent start on the running front. The Boilermaker is next Sunday, and that will be my first race of the season. I’m taking it easy on the racing front this year – focusing more on general fitness. However, I need structure or I will languish at the gym – la la, lift some weights, run some miles, la la.

So this was the first week that I am back on the structure train. July is mostly improvisation, with a formal base-building plan beginning August 3, as prep for the Carmel Marathon next spring.

Anyway – this week. Total of 21 miles! All but 4 of those occurring in July. Not bad! The long run today was an easy paced 9 mile run, which felt good. Unfortunately, I didn’t do much of anything in the way of lifting or strength training this week. This is something that will need some time and attention in the future. Core and hip work are particularly important.

I’ve been doing pretty well with recovery foam rolling, and even an Epsom salt bath!

On the reading front: I finished 2 books this week! Don’t get excited, this is not common – two books complete in one week. A dedicated day off to finishing Maddaddam helped. I was also very close to finishing the audio of Tinseltown, so that’s done too. Not too shabby.

Next up for weekly goals – finish strong at the Boilermaker, in under 2 hours. And be mindful of dietary choices (particularly of the liquid variety)! Whats on your agenda for the upcoming week?

Mid-Year Reading Check In

I cannot believe that 2015 is already half over! Crazy talk. Since I didn’t do a beginning of the year post on my reading goals, I suppose I will have to back it up before telling you how I’m progressing toward those goals at the half-way point.

This year, I pledged to read 25 books. 2014’s goal was 20 books, and I capped the year off at 22, so bumping it up to 25 seemed reasonable. In that 25 books, I decided that a sub-goal would be completing the David Mitchell back list. If you’ve not read Mitchell, I strongly recommend him. His books are twisted, and artistic, and lead you down crazy paths of intertwining characters, and his writing is just brilliant.

Due to my discovery of absolutely loving listening to audio books while running, I am well on pace to exceed my 25 book goal for this year at 16, with 2 books currently in the works, one of which will be completed probably this weekend, if not both of them; it is a holiday weekend, after all! I am actually excited to see where I end up in terms of total books read at the end of the year. I am loving my non-fiction on audio, but am limiting it to not formal history books. While those are the non-fiction books I am dying to read,  I need those in paper. They will be annotated. I’m loving true crime on audio right now! I just finished the audio of Helter Skelter, unabridged. It was about 26 hours long, but so, so worth it.

On the Mitchell front, I’m down to two remaining titles! I have remaining The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet and Bone Clocks. My goal is to have both of these complete before the end of October, when Slade House is released. I’ve heard awesome awesome things about Slade House and cannot wait! Though, Cloud Atlas is still my favorite (do NOT watch the movie, just don’t.)

Add in marathon training to my audio book time (which is pretty much a guarantee for running time now because I think I lost my ipod, again), and I’m sure my final year number will be far beyond 25. If you have any good audio recommendations, please leave them in the comments. I am always looking for more!

Currently, in paper, I’m working my way through the third book in Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy. So good! This series is my first Atwood experience and I am absolutely loving it!

What’s everyone else been reading lately?

Don’t Call it a Comeback

I’ve decided it’s high time I resurrect this blog. I miss writing, and feel guilty anytime I see the WordPress app on my phone. Who avoids an app? Me. I do. Weird.

Anyway, this is either the best or worst time ever to make a promise to start writing regularly again. My personal and professional lives are going through a major state of flux/change. I’m essentially working 2 jobs (regular job and also teaching), trying to apply to grad schools, and stay sane. So what do I decide to do? Re-up my blog, of course.

Here’s the thing, though. Writing has always helped me to stay centered, focused and accountable. I haven’t been writing, and yes, my focus has been hazy. Something else that keeps me centered and focused? Running. So yea, I’m doing more of that, too. In fact, that plays into a reason why I’m re-starting the blog. I’ve decided to maximize the accountability blogging brings me by running another marathon. Wha-what?!

Now yes, I know I said I was never going to run another marathon, but time heals all wounds, right? The goal race is the Carmel, Indiana Marathon on April 16, 2016. Yes, it’s a way off. I have not just a training plan, but a base-building plan to get my fitness back up.

I am hoping that starting the blog back up at the same time will keep me accountable, not just for my running, but as a reminder to document, and participate in more of the activities that I enjoy. This includes more book reviews, and a new-found love: Mindfulness meditation.

And now we are off – back on another journey! I hope you’ll join me!

Internet Trolls

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Lately, I’ve been engaging in some online behavior that’s been generally annoying the crap out of me. When I read an article on the web, I’ve then been clicking on the “comments.” Big mistake. I have a hard time with understanding what possesses someone to write some of the nonsense I read on there.

Now, we all know, there’s a lot of idiots on the internet. But, that’s another post. People write things with no thought, no facts, no grammar. However, my real problem is the actual internet trolls. The trolliest of trolls.

This is what I don’t get – are there actual people who sit around in their house, surfing the internet for any article with comment activity, and then write really hateful stuff on the post … for fun? I mean, this is a thing?

How did this happen? Is the anonymity of the internet really such a great shield that these “people” can actually sleep with themselves at night. Are we sure some jackwagon didn’t just invent some “hate generator” that auto comments on posts? Are there really that many people out there with such few morals, with such little decency?

I suppose my questions might be a bit naive. I guess the reality is that yes, there are that many baseless assholes out there. But, man, the internet really has emphasized the darker side of humanity.  

The Ice Bucket Challenge

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Let me disclaimer this post with two things: I’ve not dumped any buckets of ice on my head, nor have I donated to ALS.

There’s all this random hate flying around the interwebs about how “stupid” this ice bucket challenge is; that people should just donate and not foolishly dump water over their heads because it’s not going to make a difference. (Side note: in 2 weeks over $4 MILLION has been raised as a result of this “fad.”) Railing against a charity drive seems a bit harsh to me, but ok….

Admittedly, I’ve seen some variations on the rules. Lately, the one I like best goes as follows: If you get nominated, you have to dump a bucket of ice water on your head within 24 hours of the nomination, and donate the dollar amount of your choice to ALS. If you miss that 24 hour deadline, you have to donate $100 to ALS. A hundred bucks is pretty steep for most folks. Thus, the incentive to then dump ice water on your head and donate an amount better for your budget becomes clear. And, you’re putting that video on social media and spreading the word, and awareness. Although, one friend of mine took a different spin on it, donated to ALS and then posted a picture of champagne in an ice bucket. Now, there’s some creativity!

I don’t know if the original rules included the “dollar amount of your choice” thing, or not. Nor does it matter. The intent of the ice bucket challenge was to raise awareness for ALS. And my goodness, has that been a success.  People are so aware, they hate how mainstream ALS has become. Seriously, folks? I do hope that those of your raging against the ice bucket challenge have donated, prior to being hipster-esque haters on social media, either to ALS or another charity of your choice. Otherwise, that’d make you quite the hypocrite!

I suppose you’re thinking I’m a hypocrite too, because of my disclaimers. Well, I have a small amount of money that I use for charitable purposes every few months. My most recent was for St. Jude’s Heroes. BV is running his fourth marathon this October, and is running for charity! If you want to buck the trend, and donate to something that isn’t getting all the media hype, here’s the link.

Inspiration Overload

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I have found, over the past few years, the directing my social media towards positivity and happiness is just better for me overall. I’ve slowly started to weed out those people on my news feed who are only posting personal life drama, ill-thought political rhetoric (I often wonder if they even know how much intolerance they are perpetuating), the timing and detail of their infant’s every move. I’ve added in inspirational quotes, positive outlook groups, runners and workout folks abound to help me get out of bed in the morning and get motivated to get my workout in, etc.

Today, though, my efforts are backfiring (no, I still do not want to hear your ridiculous argument about the “immigrant invasion,” and no, I am still not interested in the color and texture of your child’s excrement). But today there are way, way too many posts about following your dreams, and never giving up, and being true to your heart/soul/self. I’ve read 3 different articles on this topic. It’s too much.

My bias is evident, however. I am currently chewing over some ideas of what my “dreams” are and how I might consider achieving them. And let me tell you – it’s scary! Generally something is a “dream” because it’s not easily attained. Sacrifices must be made. Comfort zones must be bust through. Risks MUST be taken. It doesn’t get much more frightening. Allegedly, the payoff is worth it. I’ll let you know if that’s true if when I get there.

With all that weighing on my mind – all these facebook posts about realizing yourself, and getting out of your own way, and forcing yourself to pursue your passions – it’s getting a little overwhelming. Even writing this post! I actually got really uncomfortable putting on paper that I am “chewing over” some things, and closed the document, declaring “I don’t want to write this right now!” I hit the red X and then recalled that google docs insta-saves. Document not gone. I revisited the post. (clearly).

So anyway, I can’t be the first person thinking about making the big plunge into a possible life event with all sorts of risks, trying to decide if it’s the right decision, and how to best go about approaching it. Have you been there? Have you teetered on the edge? Did you jump? How’d it turn out?

I need some reality, not some touchy-feely facebook poster.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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**This review contains “spoilers.” In whatever that means for a work of historical nonfiction.**

Essentially, this book is about the 1893’s World Fair in Chicago and the men that made it happen. Tangentially (unfortunately), it’s about one of America’s earliest serial killers.

Overall, I gave this book three stars. It was well written, and well researched. For me, it contained a bit too much White City bureaucracy and not enough Devil. But, both aspects are interesting in their own right.

The history of the World’s Fair, how it came to be, what it encompassed, and what it took to get it done, is impressive and intriguing. It could have been a book on its own. I’ve never given much thought to architectural history before, and this book proved a welcome introduction to the topic. Larson did a wonderful job making a 120+ year old event still feel relevant. Politics, bureaucracy, the pride of powerful men, all still themes ringing true today. Additionally, Larson’s ability to tease out the events and people that intersected, or resulted directly from the 1893’s Fair that are still relevant today (Helen Keller, Susan B Anthony, Disney, Oz, Shredded Wheat!), certainly keeps the reader engaged.

The “story” of Prendergast as an assassin could’ve developed much more thoroughly. The snippets one gets of him are most intriguing, but disappointingly scarce.

The story of H.H. Holmes could’ve been a separate book in and of itself. Unfortunately, it didn’t occupy as much time as it should have in Larson’s pages. The last quarter of the book, following up on Holmes’ activities after the Fair, was among Larson’s crowning moments. Tying the story together with the hunt for proof that Holmes had committed even a fraction of the atrocities that he may have was exciting. But, admittedly, I wanted more. If Holmes’ case was the media frenzy that Larson led us to believe, then there should be sufficient historical fodder for more time spent to this aspect of the book.

Larson’s attempt to intersect Holmes as a devil that would affect the end of the great men of the Fair and the case investigating Holmes fell a bit flat. Part of it was that the crux of the book centered around the bureaucracy of building the Fair and it’s impact on American architectural history. During the building and exposition of the Fair, there was no real intersection between the main characters and Holmes; and, not enough development of those that spent the time investigating, defending, and dealing with him in the end.

All in all, I enjoyed Larsen’s approach to writing history. He attempted to make history relevant and exciting for the reader today, without sacrificing academic rigor. I enjoyed the way he was able to tease out events of the events of the time that would ring familiar to today’s reader. Additionally, it was quite stimulating to reflect back on the progresses that have been made in areas of public works, public safety, psychopathology, criminology, and even the concept of “evil” in a seemingly common man, over the past century.

My essential admiration for Larson, and this book in particular, is the making history relevant, and useful. Reflection on historical events, and progress, as well as creating additions to the collective historical memory are the supreme asset of the continuation of the study of history. While the book does have its flaws, over all it is a great read. Though, I do hope that Larson dives deeper into the details and connections in his other and future works.

I Killed A Bee Yesterday

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It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I am a total spaz when it comes to bugs. I hate them. They freak me out and I go into total psycho mode over a house fly. Gross. Bugs are gross.

On my lunch break, I busied myself around the house shutting windows before the afternoon sun baked the apartment, and to turn the AC on for the afternoon. As I shut the kitchen window, I heard a buzz. I slammed the window down just in time. It was a big one, yellowjacket, caught between the screen and the window. No where to go. I was safe. That terror! How did it get in here? Buzzing about the house, taunting me with it’s deadly stinger. How dare it. Nuisance, rampaging bee!

I’ve gotten stung by a few bees in my time. It is not pleasant. I’m not allergic, but I have an unreasonable fear that one day I will randomly become allergic and die of anaphylactic shock. Recently, I’ve become concerned about what would happen if my poor cat got stung. Absolutely terrified. I suppose I could google it. Maybe Dinah would kill the bee. She’s got a few pounds on it, after all.

I came home from work, and the bee was twisted and broken, caught in the screen. Dead. Desperately trying to get out, between the tiny holes of the taught window screen. But it couldn’t. It was dead. For no reason other than my own fear – irrational fear of something so tiny, so basic. The bee was just trying to live its bee-life. A simple life of simple survival. Just buzzing around, pollinating the world, making honey. It just buzzed into the wrong house – wrong place, wrong time. But I killed it. I killed it because it was a bother to me, because I was scared the bee would behave “irrationally” (as if bees comprehend human rationality). I could’ve opened the screen, if I hadn’t been so irrationally scared of the nuisance bee. I could’ve managed the situation better – spared the bee’s life, so it didn’t have to die a horrible slow death caught in a screen, smelling the outside air, but not able to fly free.

I killed a bee yesterday, and I feel horrible about it.

**This post is dedicated to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and those that fought, on NYS Animal Advocacy Day, to save (or at least better manage) the #AlbanyBear.**

#yesallwomen

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This misogyny conversation is a good one. It needs to be had, frequently. I am glad people are getting ragey about it. I am glad women are speaking out. I am glad #yesallwomen has been trending on Twitter for days.

But, I won’t lie, I’m super freaking frustrated. I’m frustrated this is the reality of our lives – needing a buddy system to get to our car late at night, not being able to walk home alone without fear, a risk assessment that must occur when you try to figure out how (or if) to turn down unwanted advances. I’m frustrated that a perfectly good, novel, innovative idea will be over looked, until it comes out of the mouth of a male coworker. I’m pissed that we might not answer the door if someone knocks if we’re home alone – who knows what is on the other side. I’m mad as hell, that whenever I’m mad as hell, I must be PMSing.

So no, not #allmen, but enough that we can’t be safe, secure, comfortable in our own neighborhoods, work environments, and sometimes our own homes. It frustrates me the most that the men that really need to understand this, won’t, ever. They will never see past themselves and their own entitlement.

But, I hope it’s not all women. I hope there are women out there that haven’t been harassed by a man when you’ve said no or no more, and he refuses to accept it – texts, instant messages, phone calls, emails. I hope it’s not all women who have sat on the floor clutching their phone trying to decide if this is the time you call the cops, or if he will just leave, stop sitting outside your front door so you can go to class or work.  I hope it’s not all women who’ve looked in the mirror and tried to figure out how make up was going to cover that up.  I hope it’s not all women, who’ve suffered silently through worse, much much worse.

I hope it’s not all women, but it could be unless we keep having this conversation. We are not here to please you, we are not here to be objectified, we don’t owe you anything. We are people first, and women second.

Spontaneous Racing: Doing it Right

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Spontaneous racing. To a runner, this just sounds like fun. Running a race on the upcoming weekend at the drop of a dime (or $20), just “cuz”. Ahhhh if only….

Last year BV and I tried spontaneous racing, mostly in the form of spontaneous half marathons, while training for another full. I have always had a goal of being “half mary” ready, at a moment’s notice. To be at that point of fitness where I could say, “hey, I’m gonna run a half marathon this weekend,” on say, a Tuesday, and it’s no big deal.  I tried to live this goal, prematurely, last year. It translated into a miserable failure, and a steep decline in running motivation.

This year, with BV recovering from a knee injury, we’ve taken our spontaneous racing to a different level. We spontaneously race small races, of shorter distance. To date, we’ve both done a 5k, 4 miler, 5 miler, and 10k (or two). And, there’s at least two more 10ks in the next few weeks that we’ll decide “last minute” if we’ll run.

This is doing it right. Keeping the spontaneous race distances manageable. This keeps physical and mental preparedness at a low shock level, while still being able to keep training goals on a longer distance race (my long distance for the year is an 18 miler in August. But, BV won’t be satisfied without another marathon 🙂 ) .

There are a lot of advantages to this. 1-  FUN! It is fun to lace up, pin your bib, wait for the gun to go off, and race with people on a Saturday or Sunday. 2. Build PRs! You get PRs, or reset fitness realities, in these races. They are legit, they “count”, you can add them to your race total. 3. FUN! 4. Meet people – the same people show up to these races week after week. It’s cool to be part of a community. 4 FUN! 5. Variety. Admittedly, we train on the treadmill – a LOT. And that gets wicked boring after a while. This gives us “something to do” this weekend, and it also gets us outside, reinvigorating our love of running.

So, my advice is, if you’re regularly running 3 miles (ish) a few times a week, and you want to spice things up, go ahead and sign up for that race this weekend. It doesn’t have to be a super competitive race (unless that’s your thing). It can just be a fun opportunity to break out of your norm, and spice up your training.

Does anyone else spontaneously race?