How to run a PR and whine about it

1. Train for months.

2. Race.

3. Finish.

4. Grumble about your time to anyone wh0 will listen.

Anywho, I ran my second half marathon Sunday in Eugene, Oregon. I was aiming to finish in less than two hours, and all of my training indicated that I would.

The reality, however, was a bit different. I finished in 2:07:58, significantly slower than I hoped/trained for, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. Not so much because I missed my goal; more so because I missed my goal and I feel like the reasons for that were preventable.

I completely underestimated  how hard air travel would be on my body prior to a race. My sleep schedule was all out of whack. My nutrition was atrocious. I didn’t eat very well or nearly enough the day before the race. I had a huge, late lunch that didn’t contain enough carbs. I was so full for the rest of the day that I only managed to eat one slice of pizza before bed, which I had to force myself to do. I got to the race way later than I wanted to, and as a result, didn’t have time to putter around and wash down a gel with plenty of water before the gun went off. The hills toward the end of the race were tougher than I expected, and my lack of food didn’t make them any easier.

Here’s the breakdown:

Miles 1-3: Ok, it’s really crowded. I’m not going fast enough. I need to bust through and pick up the pace. It’s cold. My hands are cold. Oh well. Keep going. I really should’ve taken a gel. I’ll just down one at the first water station.

Miles 4-7: This feels good. I’m on pace, a little faster. I’m cruising. The course is pretty, things have opened up a bit and I can feel my hands again. Take a gel. Have some water and Gatorade. Feeling optimistic. (This is the best I feel the entire race.) On pace for a 1:58/59

Mile 8: Crap. This is a huge hill. I am a machine, I am a machine. What? I’m only halfway up the hill and feel like dying? What? This is miserable, but I will NOT walk. I’m passing tons of people who are walking. Why is this song stuck in my head? Only a little longer until I’m up this thing, then I’ll get to recover on the downhill that must surely be on the other side.

Mile 9: Phew, that’s over. Thank God there’s a downhill for me to coast on. Legs are a little tired, but that’s OK. I’ll perk back up here in a minute. Have some more Gatorade, choke down half a gel and my stomach turns. What?!! MORE HILLS?! I can do this. I can do this. On pace for 2:01/02. I can still get this.

Mile 10: Don’t walk. Don’t walk. You will hate yourself if you walk. You are only 5k away from being done, DON’T WALK. More hills. OK, you can walk through this water station to get a drink and eat some of those weird electrolyte-fruit-bite-thingies. But only for a second. MORE HILLS?!!!! Let’s do this. I can do this. Keep going.

Mile 11-12: *Hits wall.* Legs feel completely drained. I shuffling along. If I walk I will hate myself. Legs keep hurting. Maybe walking for a few seconds will make me feel better… OK, I’ll walk for a few seconds. OK, I’ll walk for a minute — maybe 2 minutes. Legs still feel like crap. I’ll run some more. Maybe a few more seconds of walking. I play this game for a while.

Mile 13: Get it together. Don’t embarrass yourself; the crowds are yelling, you can’t walk. Run the rest. It’s only another mile. It doesn’t matter how slow you are, just run it. Just finish. Cross the finish line and you can collapse and sleep all day. 2:07:58

So that’s that. I walked for the first time ever in a race. That even includes when I first started running in high school and was TERRIBLE. More than anything, I’m mad at myself for walking. It’s one of those things where when it’s happening, you feel like you’re doing your best. Then later, when you’re feeling better, you think back and say to yourself “I could’ve pushed harder. I didn’t do my best. It didn’t hurt that much.” Not a great place to be.

I’m left with this “Mission: Unaccomplished” feeling, and it’s not very fun. I realize that there are tons of people who would kill to run the time that I ran, so I don’t mean to be ungrateful or to come across as saying “this time sucks.” It’s not the time that I’m disappointed in as much as the reasons I ran that time and the feeling that I didn’t plan carefully enough. I guess it means I’ll just have to do another one! Mostly like the STL Rock ‘n Roll this fall. But what will I do until then?

I think I want to get back to my “roots” and do some 5ks. See what my speed is like after all these years. I’ve never raced a 10k, so those will be on the menu, too. Keep my fitness up while also taking a break from training for a half.

The EXCELLENT news is that there’s nothing major wrong with my back. I got into a great sports doc the Wednesday before. He popped my SI joint back into place and really worked me over to loosen up my hips and hamstrings. He slapped some kinseo tape on my back for support, and I was good for the race. So that’s a huge relief. I managed to make it through training without injuring myself, which is also awesome. AND, I have almost a solid year of consistent, significant mileage under my belt. Which means my base is strong and I’m ready for some harder runs.

So that’s what up. To quote Kid Cudi:

“The end is never the end. A new challenge awaits. A test no man could be prepared for. A new hell he must conquer and destroy. A new level of growth he must confront himself. The machine in the ghost within. This is the journey of the man on the moon.”


Trying not to freak

My race is a week away, and my back is killing me.

I’m trying not to worry about it, but it’s hard.

It’s particularly hard, because what I’m experiencing feels naggingly similar to the back injury I had in high school that ended my running “career” my senior year. Only this time, it’s on the right side of my back and not the left.

I’ve been training for this thing since January, with the goal of breaking 2 hours. Before this nonsense with my back started a few weeks ago, I was confident that I’d achieve my goal and probably even surpass it. Now I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to run the whole thing. It’ll be completely dependent on whether my back wants to cooperate.

I’ve been trying to take it easy and stretch a lot. I smell like an old man because I’ve been incessantly applying muscle rub. I have myself on a steady diet of NSAIDs, and I’ve been sleeping a lot more.

I ran once last week. A measly 6 miles. That’s it. I did a solid 9-miler the week before, so I’m not too worried about the training aspect, I guess. I wanted to get 10 miles in last week, but that’s not wise at this point.

I just wish that this would’ve started AFTER my race. Waaah, waaah, waaah.

At any rate, I have the name of a good doctor to call tomorrow morning. Even though I probably won’t be able to get in before my trip, at least I’ll have an appointment set. Mostly, I just want to have fun and not be a grumpy, uncomfortable mess.

Now, time to stop whining and start planning!

Dodging the bullet

So my boss was kind enough to let me know early yesterday that my job is safe. For now, anyway. An editor who’s been with the paper for more than 20 years took the buyout to concentrate on her academic pursuits. She plans to move to England at some point in the next couple of years, so it works out for everyone.

I’m certainly relieved that I don’t have to worry about work for a little while, but I definitely feel less safe at this job than I did before all of this happened. It’s always going to be in the back of my mind that I could still eventually be on the chopping block. What happens next quarter? Will I have to go through this again? Will things ever get better and stabilize? I guess I won’t know until the time comes.

McClatchy announced Monday that wage freezes have been lifted, exactly one week after it announced layoffs/buyouts. I found that out before I knew the status of my job, and it makes me wonder what, exactly, is going on in the accounting department. I understand that management wants to boost morale for those who get to remain with the company, but we’re not idiots … it just looks like bad math to say, “Oh, we need to cut X positions. By the way, the rest of you will likely get a raise this year.” If anything, it probably contributes to layoff survivors’ guilt.

If nothing else, this experience pushed me to explore some opportunities that I had formerly talked myself out of. I now have a few freelance sources for additional income, and I’m still flirting with the idea of going back to school.

The paper is throwing it’s Christmas party tonight. Seems like questionable timing but, apparently, “these things can’t be helped.” Instead of 2% raises for everyone, maybe the company should just expand the booze budget for the party. Seems like it’d be more useful right about now.

Isn’t it ironic?

Oh, my dear Alanis Morissette, your words are ever-so-true. It is ironic. And annoying.

Last week, I got an early morning call from one my editors at the paper. Never a good sign when you work the night shift. He proceeds to inform my sleep-addled brain that the paper is offering voluntary buyouts in an effort to cut a certain number of positions.

I wake up a little.

Then he says that, although the buyouts are voluntary, at least one position in the newsroom must go and if nobody else takes the buyout, the position getting the axe will be mine.

OK, I’m up.

He gives me a bunch of information about how and why and when all of this is happening. Nothing that really matters much, because none of it will enable me to keep my job or make the fact that I will likely lose it any easier to deal with. The company didn’t make as much money as it hoped to, revenue is to volatile, nobody saw this coming, people will have one week to apply for the buyout, I’ll know what my fate is 12/09, blah blah blah.

Well, crap. If you read my previous post in September about landing this job, you’ll know how excited and relieved I was to to work for a paper again. You’ll also probably know that I was a little apprehensive about taking the job and that I left an incredibly secure and stable job elsewhere to work for the News-Democrat. Looks like I was right to be concerned.

I won’t know what’s happening for a couple of days, but I’m planning my life as if definitely don’t have a job. I’m looking at my options and trying to figure out what to do next. It seems like the only way to guarantee your personal security and well-being these days is to be your own boss. With that in mind, I’m pursuing some freelance opportunities and seriously considering going back to school for a career change.

All I know is that when you’re only 25 and have been laid off three times in two years, something out there isn’t quite right.

A mixed bag

Last weekend was my birthday, and it was awesome. My parents and brother came in for a visit, and we planned to hit up the winery. The weather, however, had other ideas. It rained all day, so we had a delicious dinner on The Hill and watched movies instead.

We also acquired a new kitten.

We’d seen her around the neighborhood about a week earlier, skinny, dirty and lovable as could be. We spotted her again on my birthday, and because it was my birthday, I got to keep her.

I was so excited. I’d had my eye on her for over a week and regretted not scooping her up sooner. Needless to say, I was elated to have a second chance.

We brought her into our home, planning to get her into the vet as soon as we could, but office hours are the same everywhere. We opted to wait a week so we wouldn’t have to take off work.

During that week, we fell in love. When we finally got her into the vet, the news wasn’t good. She was pregnant. She was positive for feline leukemia. She was contagious.

In five minutes, the entire weekend was ruined. We had no real choice but to put her down; feline leukemia is a highly fatal and painful disease. There is no real treatment or cure.

I never imagined that the loss of a pet I barely knew and hadn’t even named yet would be so hard on me. I feel devastated. I know many people wouldn’t understand, but I’ve never lost anyone or anything close to me before. People who don’t have animals in their homes would thing she was ‘only’ a pet, so why don’t we just get another? But it wasn’t like that. I didn’t bring her into my home simply because I wanted a third cat. I didn’t. I wanted her. And she obviously needed us.

It was an incredibly hard decision to make, but I know that we probably gave her the best week of her life. And I know she went peacefully and painlessly.

The first time we saw her, she was wearing a collar. That was one of the main reasons we didn’t pick her up then; we though someone was caring for her. That obviously wasn’t the case, given the state we found her in. So, I say this: Please, people. Love your pets enough to get them spayed/neutered and vaccinated. Not doing so can cause more heartbreak that you know.

Ladies and gentlemen, enter career path #3

So life has been a little hectic lately, and I could write loads and loads about all the craziness pertaining to my work situation, but I’ll spare you some of the details to avoid sounding petty.

Basically, the company I worked for as a software tester decided to randomly cancel all of the workers’ contracts and give us the option to re-apply and interview. Really long story really short, they chose not to bring me back for who knows what reasons.  Me and one other girl had our contracts permanently canceled. Everyone else was rehired.

So, for the second time in less than 12 months, I was jobless. Until today.

Truth be told, I was already looking around for other work. I had probably a dozen resumes out in the jobosphere, which isn’t very many by today’s standards.  I was just hoping to quit my job on my own terms and have other employment lined up before taking the plunge. God apparently had other plans.

I lost my contract on Monday, had a first interview with American Equity Mortgage on Tuesday, had an interview with the VP on Wednesday and got a call offering me a job today (Thursday). And, it’s a “real” job– one that actually has the potential to be a viable career path. In 90 days –assuming all goes well– Dan and I will have medical insurance and benefits again for the first time in a year.

I have to give my best friend, Lacy, a huge shout out here, as I probably wouldn’t have gotten an interview had she not passed my info along to the HR person.

So, starting Monday at 8:30 a.m., I will begin my journey down yet another career path…as a loan processor. It’ll be my job to help people get the money they need to buy a house, a car, etc., and make sure that they filled all their paperwork out correctly. I know that sounds a little dry to a lot of people out there, but it requires the attention to detail and working on deadline that I thrive on. Also, I’ll be helping people get the money they need to accomplish what they want to accomplish.

Last time I lost my job, I felt like a loser and I was a really unpleasant person to be around. I took it personally and wallowed in my own misery. God has given me the opportunity to handle a similar situation with grace and optimism, and I’m thankful that all seems be working out for the best.

Yowza. What a week.

The past week started off innocently enough. Work was barreling along and the weekend was fast approaching. That doesn’t happen often.

Then Wednesday rolled around.

I left work a little earlier than usual to go pick Dan up so we could finally enjoy a home-cooked dinner together. We swung by the store on our way home and bought all the ingredients we needed to make a delicious meal. When we got home, however, the front door was wide open and a certain cat by the name of Slider was missing.

All of our stuff was fine. The front door can be a little tricky to shut properly, and it will blow open if you don’t get it right.

We dropped all our groceries and took off to look for Slider. Three hours later, we came home frozen, empty-handed and exhausted. It was incredibly windy and cold, and every squeaky gate or blowing plastic bag made my heart jump into my throat with hope that it was Slider.

When we got home, I made this:

Lost Slider

Thursday morning, Dan and I woke up and hit Kinko’s at about 7 a.m. We spent the next three hours papering the neighborhood/looking for the cat. Then we went to our respective jobs.

We looked for Slider again Thursday night. No luck.

Friday afternoon, I got a call from a guy who said he spotted Slider a few blocks from our house. Dan and I were both at work, so we couldn’t do much about it. We looked for him for another hour or so on Friday night, then went home and did some Tae Bo. Yeah.  A few hours later, Dan was on the phone with his dad in the kitchen and he heard meowing. Sure enough, it was Slider, freaked out, filthy and cold. I don’t think we’ve ever been so releived.

We gave that jerk a bath, fed him and he passed out for the rest of the night. The possibility of losing him forever and not knowing what he was up to was awful. I can’t even imagine what people who are missing a child are going through.

Moral of the story: always check to make sure the door is locked and put collars on your animals.

In other news, work has calmed down for me. We got our product out the door on time and in one piece. Dan’s hours should normalize in the next week or so, so more time together is likely in our future.