Pittsburgh Half Marathon, Here I Come!

I’ve trained.

I’ve stayed uninjured.

I’ve created a new playlist just for the event.

I took advantage of the fact that my feet aren’t entirely tore up to get a pedicure from a professional when it isn’t TOTALLY embarrassing.

I mostly successfully stayed on the edge of the plague that took down my family one by one over the past two weeks to make it to a state where I am fully embracing denial and claiming to be NOT SICK and being about 95% right.

I am going to go run the motherfucking Pittsburgh Half Marathon on Sunday.

Probably in the rain. Because what is more fun that 13.1 miles on foot? 13.1 miles on foot in the rain.

This will be my second half marathon. I ran my first a year and a half ago and fell down twice. I’m hoping to, if not run faster this time, then at least stay vertical. Also, I’m running with (or behind) my running buddies Heather, Lyda, and Bob, so at least I’ll have someone to meet me at the medical tent afterward if I do fall.

I have lots of thoughts about my running and the races I’ve run recently and how awesome I feel about myself and stuff, but I haven’t packed and I’m due in Pittsburgh this afternoon. However, I haven’t updated you on my Project Stimey/New Year’s Resolution running/weight loss goals, so I’ll do that quickly.

Until I ate that burrito last night, I was down 19 pounds this year, which I feel great about. I feel like that is the kind of weight loss I can sustain. All of it is through running and tracking what I eat. I’ve noticed some changes in my body, mostly in that my pants are all too big now and I don’t want to buy new ones until fall, but not changes that people who aren’t Alex would probably notice. I’m okay with that too.

Four photos of me during or after races. They were taken in January, February, early April, and late April. In each, I am wearing black pants. In the first and third one, I am wearing flourescent yellow and in the second and fourth, I am wearing purple.

Look at how I coordinate! (From January, February, early April, late April)

In that last photo, I was actually running faster than I normally do, but somehow I look like I was standing still. I guess Shuffly Jean is faster than Runny Jean.

Anywho, wish me luck this weekend and send non-rainy, non-fatigued thoughts to me on Sunday morning.

Because Pittsburgh, here I come.

You Might Not Want to Come to My House For a While

About four years ago, I purchased a praying mantis egg sac for my family. Things went well. They hatched, we released them into our backyard, and we even saw grown up manti* in our garden, like a year later. Success!

But then we moved and our new home had no mantids.

*sad face*

Alex asked me to procure another egg sac so we could populate our new garden with mantises and only remembering the cute little babies from last time, I eagerly looked up Insect Lore and made my second lifetime purchase of an egg sac.

We put the egg sac in its little net and hung it from a window. Then, much like last time, the egg sac just sat there until I became convinced it was a dead sac. It had been hanging below the window and I thought that maybe if it were in the sun, it might hatch better. For reasons that were logical at the time but disastrous in hindsight, I ended up turning the little habitat upside down in the windowsill.

Say what you will, but it seemed to have worked. The next day, Alex and I came home from a trip to the farmers’ market to find a net full of manti.

Photo of a net enclosure with a solid green top filled with with many small praying mantises.

Us: Oh cool! The mantes hatched!

But then we saw what was behind the little habitat.

Photo of a window sill covered in baby praying mantises.

Us: Oh shit! The mantids escaped!

I think you can picture what happened next. Whatever you are imagining though, you should add Alex loudly blaming me and me quietly coming to the realization that *I* had released dozens of tiny, vicious insects into my home.

See, when I turned the habitat upside down, I neglected to notice that the bottom, where the egg sac was supposed to sit, was solid. And the top, where the egg sac had come to rest when I turned it upside down, was mesh.

I had only one question, which was, “Why would you make and sell a praying mantis egg sac container THAT ALLOWS PRAYING MANTIS BABIES TO ESCAPE WHEN A DIPSHIT TAKES CARE OF THEM?” I mean, really. I can’t be the first person to turn that fucker upside down.

Alex, on the other hand, was FULL of questions, but they all sounded like, “WHY?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! WHY?! WHY?! JEAN, WHY?!”

There were so many manti. So, so many.

And they were EVERYWHERE.

We freaked out for a little while about how to get them back into their net without releasing the other billion mantis that had compliantly stayed in their intended home. Fortunately, we’re also raising butterflies and our caterpillars hadn’t yet moved to their larger net, so we put the mantes’ net inside the butterfly net and Alex set to work catching the baby manti one by one with an index card and carefully placing them in the butterfly net.

Photo of Alex trying to pick up mantises with his index card.

In case you’re wondering why we didn’t just open the window and shove them out, (a) it was supposed to freeze that night and Alex was all, “If we put them outside, they’ll diiiiiiiieeeee and (b) that window apparently doesn’t open.

Alex sucked at that, by the way.

I stood nearby taking photos and telling Alex what a terrible mantis catcher he was as he continued to say, “WHY, JEAN?! WHY?!”

I tried to point out the silver lining that since we now had praying mantes living in the house, we would never have spiders again and Alex was all, “Yeah, we’ll have far more terrifying insects living here.”

Photo of two praying mantis babies. The one on the window is not in praying posture.

Until they become terrifying, they’re super cute though. Just look at them. Although when I posted this photo on Facebook, my friend pointed out that the one on the window is an athiest.

Eventually I took over mantis duty and, caring slightly less than Alex about their little lives, was far more efficient in escorting them to their new habitat.

For the rest of the day I felt like they were on me. And, different than most every other time I have screamed, “ARE THEY ON ME?! I THINK THEY’RE ON ME!” they probably fucking were.

After we had everyone with six legs (or at least most of them) contained, we showed the children the miracle of mantis birth. Or tried to. Some of our kids wanted nothing to do with them. Alex started telling them about the great escape before I shushed him. He then altered course.

“Quinn, if the manti had escaped in the house, would you want to know about it?” he asked. Quinn’s response was swift and vociferous: “NO.”

I guess he wants to be surprised in a few months when a fully grown praying mantis jumps out at him from our coat closet. More power to him.

 

* There seem to be several ways to pluralize “mantis.” I prefer “manti,” because it’s fun. My editor friend swears it is “mantids,” which is also great. I found a website that listed the plural form from different dictionaries that also suggested “mantises,” “mantes,” or even “mantis,” which is the exact same word as the singular. I have decided to use all these terms completely interchangeable because that amuses me.

Race Report: Zombies, Run! Spring 2016 Virtual Race

I’ve never run a virtual race because for the most part, I don’t really see the point, but zombies are sorta my thing* so when I discovered that my Zombies, Run! app hosts a virtual race, I signed right on up.

First, I should tell you about Zombies, Run! in case you are unfamiliar. It’s a story-based running app. The story takes place after the zombie apocalypse in the UK. A whole crew of voice actors act out the story, with you, the runner, playing the part of Runner 5. Runner 5 listens to the other story characters over headsets and as they are sent on missions.

The way it works is when you start your run, you start a mission on the app. There is a snippet of story and then a song from whatever playlist you’ve chosen plays. Then there is another snippet, then a song, then so on. Each mission is about 45 minutes long. And Runner 5 has to run all of them.

It’s really fun and just motivating/interesting enough without being obnoxious. I love it. There are other app functions that I haven’t mentioned here. Check it out; it’s cool.

The virtual race was set before any of the regular Zombies, Run! seasons, taking place at the very beginning of the zombie outbreak. They did such a great job with it. After signing up, I started getting Mission Briefings via email that were pre-story. There were also two training missions you could run prior to the race that set up the story.

Then there was the package I got in the mail from England. Alex was all, “What the hell is this mysterious package?” and then I yanked it from his hands and started jumping up and down.

Four photos in a collage: 1. A photo of the international airmail package with the zombies run logo on it 2. A photo of some of the contents, a card that says "eyes only briefing," a race bib that says, "operative 5 emergency task force," a plastic bag on which is written "special task force uniform" placed over a gray running shirt, an envelope that says, "to be opened upon completion of mission."

I geeked out so hard on all this.

There was a two week period when you could run the race. The day before the race, I got my last email mission briefing that included a phone number to call. Because I am afraid of the telephone, I immediately went online to Rofflenet (if you have the app, you know what I’m talking about) to make sure there were no actual human beings answering the phone and once I was assured I would get a recording (because, duh, there wouldn’t be human operators available at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse; everyone would be too busy), I called what turned out to be an emergency phone number where the panicking public could get regional and health information about what was going on.

I gotta tell you, these people went all fucking out. It was great. I definitely got my money’s worth.

Oh, right, I also had to run. You could run either a 5K or a 10K (the story was the same). I set out on a Thursday afternoon in an effort to save my area from nuclear apocalypse. Because everyone knows that nuclear apocalypse on top of zombie apocalypse is good for almost no one.

I tried to pick a route with the fewest street crossings, so as not to adversely affect my time on the race leaderboards. I had a really good run, right up until I experienced Ham Fatigue*** and had to slow down for a good half mile as I decided if I was going to barf or not. (I did not.) I finished in a totally respectable time and saved the world.

Selfie of me in my Runner 5 running shirt, giving the camera a thumbs up after my run.

Runner 5 at your service.

Well, except for the zombies. I didn’t do shit about the zombies. Also, most of my team was killed.

You can’t win ’em all.

In lieu of a proper medal ceremony (pomp and circumstance is scarce in the zombie apocalypse, yo), I opened my post-mission envelope and Sam awarded me my medal in my living room.

Two photos: 1. Sam putting a medal around my neck 2. Selfie of me with the medal.

I really need to install that medal podium in my home.

As of today, there are four more days for people to run the virtual race. My position on the 10K leaderboard is totally respectable.

Screenshot of my results that show I am #385 of 561 10K runners and I ran it in 1:14:01.

Jack just kindly pointed out that this result is not in the top half. Thanks, Jack. I’m still respectable.

All in all, I’d say that this was a really positive experience. I liked all the pre-race fun and I appreciated that the company really put an effort into making the whole thing fun. I am unlikely to run a normal virtual race, but I would definitely run more of these.

After all, someone has to save the world.

_______

* Speaking of zombies, I still haven’t quite recovered from the season finale of The Walking Dead. Such a scary damn episode. Like, really. Soooo scary. Negan, OMG. And I’ve read the comics and I know what is “supposed” to happen, but I think it’s Abraham.**

** OMG.

*** Related to cheese fatigue, but barfier.