Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Heart Will Go On

In considering yesterday's race, it's possible that I may have been too hard on myself.

This is a typical problem for me. If I do a presentation and receive five positive comments and one negative one on the evaluations, I only remember the negative one. I've never in my life walked out of anything I've done, a play or a presentation or a workshop or a training, and not dwelled on something that I could have done better.

Now that I've had a good night's sleep and some time to think about it, I wondered if this might be the case. Just this morning, I asked my good friends Angelina Jolie:

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Dolly Parton:

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and Jennifer Lawrence:

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if they thought I was being too hard on myself, while my friend Orlando Bloom asked to see my finisher's medal more closely:

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Those two jerks from "Twilight" tried to see it, too, but I pretended not to hear them.

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Angelina, Dolly, and J-Law suggested that yes, maybe I was dwelling excessively on the negative. Yes, I was unhappy with my race time, but that was partially my own fault, and I was definitely overlooking the fact that I finished at all. Lots of people wouldn't have.

Thinking about that, I asked a few more friends what they thought.

Brad Pitt wanted me to hit him, as hard as I could.

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I wasn't really down for that.

James Dean thought self doubt was tearing me apart.

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Maybe he was right. After all, Katie Perry thought I was a firework.

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And Dale Jr. thought I was a champ.

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Adam Sandler was slightly skeptical of this whole exercise:

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Cameron Diaz was bored by the whole thing:

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and I didn't really care what Shia LaBeouf had to say:

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but Taylor Swift advised me to just shake this off:

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and Tom Hanks reminded me that races are sometimes like a box of chocolates, and you never know what you're going to get:

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I had a bad race, but it's not the end of the world.

As Channing Tatum and I stared off into the distance, contemplating the race after this one:

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Jack Dawson reminded me to never let go:

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and I decided that yes, my heart will go on.

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There's another race after this one, and I'll do better.

But I also completed this race, and that's also an achievement.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Mystery Finish

I did the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon today, for the second time. Unlike the first time, though, I don't really know how I did. The published finishing times don't include me, which would not be terrible if I had noted what time I crossed the starting line.

I, of course, did not do so.

I was at the start line:

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I was actually at the start line well in advance, before daylight was at the start line:

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

but they start us in waves depending on when our projected finishing time is. I was so focused on getting in my wave and starting in a good mental place that when I finally made it over the start line I didn't think to check the clock. I did think to take a photo of every mile, though, and by adding up the time in between them I have an idea of how I did.

The answer to that question is "not so good".

I finished somewhere before the 3:30 pacer, but I have no idea how much before, since I finished and immediately headed to the car, because my feet were killing me. I was also mentally drained, since I did this race by myself, and wasn't really thinking anything other than "Shower, chocolate milk, I might be crippled, shower, I have a medal, chocolate milk, shower..." on endless repeat through my head.

So how did the race go?

Mile 1

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I was mostly fine here. A little cranky, as I usually am at the beginning of races, but moving at a good pace.

Mile 2

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

No matter where I am walking or racing, there is always someone pushing a baby stroller who manages to be faster than me. You can't see the stroller in that picture, but right around Mile 2 it went past me and I never saw it again.

I was walking a solid 15 minute mile pace at this point, based on photo time stamps, and managed to do so for five or six miles. Overall, I managed to keep on a 14-16 minute pace the whole way, except for a weird blip about 2/3 of the way through where I dropped down to a 19 minute mile, then must have realized I had slowed down, and did the next mile in 13 minutes.

Mile 3

I have no memory of Mile 3.

It is a thing that existed.

Mile 4

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Mile 4 also exists. While I don't remember anything specific about it, it was around this point that the road really started to tilt. It's a very winding road, so it tilted one way and then the other, and the uneven walking started to loosen one of my shoes.

This will be important later.

Mile 5

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I was in my zone at this point. Around the 5 or 6 mile mark, I can usually forget that I'm walking, and just move forward automatically.

That blonde in the light blue shirt next to the girl in the orange shirt? I stayed with her almost the entire race. She was doing a run/walk thing, so she would run ahead, then when she slowed down to walk I would pass her. We did this until Mile 12, when she finally passed me for good and I did not catch up.

Mile 6

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Mile 6 is where I lost track of reality for a minute.

Somewhere after Mile 5 I decided that we had actually already passed Mile 6, and that the next mile marker, Mile 7, would mean we were over halfway done. So there I was, happily trucking along, and then I came around the corner and saw that we were at Mile 6, not Mile 7.

For a second I thought, "Why did they put up the six mile marker twice?" and almost said something to the people around me, but then I realized that no one else thought it was weird, so I wisely did not say anything.

Mile 7

This is the best photo I have of Mile 7:

Great Smoky Mtns Half Marathon 2016

I was really trucking along at that point, I guess, because all three photos of the Mile 7 marker are blurry.

Note that the road is still slanting.

Mile 8

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Mile 8 is also slightly blurry, but it's because we were going downhill for a second. Not only that, but there was also suddenly a breeze at Mile 8. I don't know what happened there, but for a minute or two, it was fantastic.

Mile 9

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Mile 9 is where I realized I had a problem with my shoe.

The tilting, uneven road had caused one of my shoes to loosen a little, so now instead of a snug fit, my left foot was rubbing back and forth on the bottom of the shoe with every step, and my sock was in between my foot and the shoe, rubbing and bunching and chafing.

I should have stopped for a second to re-tie my shoe, so that it would be good and tight again, but since I was making such good time and I was probably getting a little exhausted, I decided that I should just finish instead, because four miles is nothing. I walk four miles after work all the time. I'd just power through those four miles, and then my foot would be fine.

Mile 10

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At Mile 10, I could feel a blister forming on the foot with the loose shoe.

I convinced myself that I only had a 5K left, and I walk those all the time, so fuck that shoe. Fuck that blister. I am a warrior, and I walk through the pain.

I really should have tied my shoe again.

Mile 11

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Sometime during Mile 11 I realized that I had a problem in my other shoe, too.

At first, I thought there was a rock in my shoe. I don't know how one would have gotten in there, eleven miles in, but there was definitely a small stone-like object in my right shoe. On each step, I tried to shake my foot around a little, so that it would end up between my toes and not right in ball of my foot (the same spot where a blister continued to form on my left foot), and when I did get it up by my toes I realized I could feel it with my toes.

One of my toenails fell off inside my shoe.

After the race, I discovered that it was my pinky toe nail, and that it will grow back. During the race, I was filled with uncertainty.

"Do I need that toenail? Will it grow back? Did it cut the bottom of my foot, or is my foot just sweaty? I can't tell, but what if my shoe is filling up with blood? How many miles are left until I can take this toenail out of my sock?"

Mile 12

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I slowed down here. People that I passed early in the race started to pass me now. My left foot was killing me, since the blister wouldn't burst for some reason, and every few steps I had to shake the toenail in my right shoe back into place.

I'm going to say right now, though, that these are not the only reasons why I slowed down. The God's honest truth is that I was not in the shape that I should have been for this race. I took a bunch of rest days all summer long, and ate a bunch of garbage. I have put some weight back on, and my speed is down because I have become a slightly larger person who didn't train enough.

This is my own fault, and I admit that.

These are problems that I will remedy.

In the meantime, I hit Mile 13:

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I was almost limping at this point, definitely favoring my right foot over my left, but I was still ahead of the 3:30 pacer. Someone called my name, someone gave me a medal:

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and I gave myself a chocolate milk and a donut.

Now, I'm waiting to hear back from the race management, to find out what my actual times were.

In the meantime, I've resolved to do better next time.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Month in Books: August

I may have gotten a lot of reading done in July, but that didn't happen again in August. It rarely does, because August is one of our busiest times at work, so I'm always happy I got to read anything at all. Unfortunately, most of what I did read was kind of a waste.

With that ringing endorsement in mind, here are the four books I read:

1) It's been years since we saw the Adare family of VC Andrews' Whitefern, and the years have not been kind. While Sylvia has grown into a beautiful young woman, she still has the mind of a child, helpless to care for herself. Papa is in frail health, Arden is drinking heavily, and Audrina is surrounded by memories of the past. When Papa dies, his lawyer reveals the shocking news that Papa cut Arden out of the will, leaving the business and Whitefern to Audrina and Sylvia. What shocking secret prompted him to do so? And how does it threaten the fragile peace of Whitefern and threaten Audrina's quiet, peaceful life?

All of the "shocking twists" in this book were telegraphed chapters before they happened. Read it if you're curious, but you're not missing much. I expected this to be trashy garbage going in, though, so I wasn't really disappointed.

2) Cassandra French is a bored lawyer in LA, tired of dating the wrong man over and over. They're crass, uncultured, insensitive, selfish, and boring, but some of them seem to have a little bit of potential. Cassie, deciding that the best way to find the man of her dreams is to train them herself, opens Cassandra French's Finishing School for Boys, and promptly sets out drugging men and chaining them to cots in her basement. Each day she drugs them with morphine and takes them through a series of lessons in things like matching clothes, getting in touch with their feelings, and how to please a woman. She thinks they're getting closer to graduation, but will she be able to keep the school from being discovered before they can finish their course of study?

This wasn't funny, or clever, or witty, or any of the other words it said on the cover. It was boring.

3) Patrick deWitt's Undermajordomo Minor was a fairy tale that didn't seem to really go anywhere. Lucien "Lucy" Minor leaves the tiny village where he's unhappy to take up a position at the Castle von Aux, where he'll be assisting the majordomo. The castle is full of secrets, and the village below full of quirky characters, and Lucy might fall in love, and the Baroness may return from her long exile, but really none of this seemed terribly interesting. I was bored for most of the book, and when I got to the end I wasn't sure why I'd bother to read it.

This was recommended by a website that usually points me to good things, so I'm wondering what I missed here. Something about it just didn't work for me.

4) Ron Horsley's Beyond the Grass Ocean is a children's book, but engaging and moving enough for adults as well.

Nary, a young girl in the fishing village of Rains Perish, lives alongside the great Grass Ocean, a wide sea of grass so deep that ships sail on it and unknown creatures live in its dark depths. When Nary was younger, her mother got very sick, and then went away, forever away, and now Nary wants to know where forever away is, and why the people who go there never come back. When no one can answer her question, she and her friends set off across the Grass Ocean, searching for the Twined Cities and the twins, Somnol and Mortol, who run the world.

In some ways, this is a typical coming of age novel, but it's also filled with magical, lingering imagery. It made me think a lot about grief, loss, and coping, but also it was just an interesting read. The illustrations are well done, too.

I'm glad I read this. It's the only book out of the four I read this month that I'm going to keep.

The book I'm reading now is pretty entertaining, so I have high hopes for September.