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.

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.

Captain Stimey: Lord of Boring

Hi, friends! I’ve been doing a terrible job of writing twice a week, but I have a perfectly cromulent reason and that is because I have not a lot going on.

Pretty much all I do these days other than parent and go to work is run. Based on the way Alex’s eyes glaze over when I detail my runs to him, mile by mile, I’m starting to think that juuuust maaaaybe the minutiae of my runs is less interesting to non-Stimey individuals. I’m really just looking out for you by not writing about it.

Buuut…I’m a runner and evidently it’s a rule of running that you have to write about your training or it didn’t happen. This was a tough week for it though. On Sunday, I ate a lot of cheese and then went running, which isn’t the greatest combination. The next day, Quinn informed me that I had been “crabby” after my run and that I had been suffering from “cheese fatigue,” and now that’s a Thing at my house. Also, I learned not to eat a lot of habanero colby cheese before lacing up.

I also took two runs in the rain, which was actually kind of refreshing. I took one of those rain runs around Jack’s school before I picked him up from an after-school activity. On the way home we saw this other guy out running. I was all, “Huh, Jack, I thought I was hardcore for running in the heavy rain until I saw that guy pushing a double stroller, running uphill.” Jack stopped, looked at the guy, checked my jacket and long pants, and agreed, “Yeah, and he’s only wearing shorts and a t-shirt.”

Nothing like kids to keep you humble.

Photo of me after a run. I'm wet and wearing a green visor from which you can see water dripping.

I took this picture on my less rainy run to show my mom how awesome I was for going running in the rain. I’m not sure she was totally as impressed as I’d hoped.

Then today I ran 9.17 miles and, yes, I’m going to be that precise because those last couple miles I fought for every one of those hundredths of a mile. Also, I live at the top of a hill, so every single run I take that ends at my house finishes with a half mile up a fucking hill. It sucks. But it’s making me tough, I guess.

^ And that was me NOT talking about running. Consider yourselves lucky.

Hmmm. What else? Oh! Oh! A while back I started reading the Game of Thrones series and I am happy to report that I finished the first book today. Do you know how long it takes to read an 807-page book in 25-minute increments on the Metro to and from work?

*searches Facebook to see how long ago she posted about starting to read the series*

Oh, God. It took four months. Well now I’m embarrassed.

Screenshot of my November 7 Facebook status. It is a photo of "A Game of Thrones." The text is "I've made the decision to start reading the Game of Thrones series. It feels like a big commitment--like, I chose to get married, I chose to have kids, I chose to commit myself to 5,000 pages of reading material. ‪#‎stillhaventwatchedthetvshow‬ ‪#‎iamonpage13‬ ‪#‎seeyouinsixmonths‬"

Guess I was overly optimistic.

I’m loving it though. I just need to figure out how to sit down with a book on my lap without falling asleep. It doesn’t matter what book it is, if I sit down and stare at a page, I fall asleep.

Oh! So, I know this is about a decade later than everyone else in America, but my family has started shopping at Whole Foods. See, I made the mistake of watching a documentary about the food production industry and I started feeling really bad about the farmers and the animals. It was like a repeat of when I read Fast Food Nation a decade ago, but now we can afford to buy meat from farmer’s markets and Whole Foods, so that’s what we started doing.

I mention this not to be all, “I AM A GOOD PERSON,” but instead to be like, “ALEX AND I ARE NOT GOOD AT CHANGE.”

On our first dual trip there, we seriously had a whisper-shouted fight between the dairy and meat sections because we were so overwhelmed by the unfamiliar foods and the packaging with its muted colors and the damn omelet bar in the deli section. If you were at the Rockville Whole Foods on Valentine’s Day, we were the couple that nearly had a fist fight and abandoned a cart next to the chicken refrigerator.

Well. This has turned into kind of an embarrassing post. And that’s without even mentioning my trip this morning to get my driver’s license renewed only to find out that said license is good until 2021 and it’s actually Alex that needs to renew his.

I think I’ll stop here before I embarrass myself more or bore you more. Captain Stimey, signing off.

So, Stimey, How Are Those Resolutions Coming?

Well. I’m having some mixed results with my 2016 resolutions.

I haven’t created any photo books yet. And I’m not doing such a great job with writing more, am I?

Well, maybe that’s because I’m spending so much time doing such a kickass job of my goal #3, which was to lose weight, but also had increased running and fitness folded into it.

I’m down a solid number of pounds and I’ve gotten healthier about my eating. I am proud of me. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m doing it! I’m using My Fitness Pal to log my food and exercise and it has been helping a huge amount. I have exactly two friends on the app (Alex and one other person), which is perfect. It has become this great little motivational, encouraging space that I’m kind of addicted to.

I’ve run a couple of races this year so far, one on January 1st and one on February 7. In a weird coincidence, race photographers captured me in almost the exact same place in my stride in each of them.

Two photos side by side, almost identical, except I'm wearing a yellow shirt in the left one and a purple shirt in the right one.

It’s weird how similar they are, isn’t it?

January is on the left. I think my leg position in the February one is slightly more flattering, but I also think I’m starting to see a teensy bit of body change, which is a great feeling. Let’s only hope that the photographers at my next race capture the same pose so I can continue my comparison.

Speaking of running, I have been so happy doing it recently. All last year I struggled to get out and run. I always felt great afterward, but I was completely lacking in motivation. I didn’t run as much as I’d hoped and it was often a real struggle.

This year I’m falling back in love with running. I’ve already run my first 100 miles for the year—100.04, not that I’m counting or anything—and my body feels so strong while I’m doing it. Instead of seeking flat routes, as I did last year, I’m running up hills (and back down, yay!) and pushing myself to get stronger. Instead of having to force myself to lace up and go outside, I’ve found myself craving runs.

This is a good thing, considering I’m registered for a half marathon in May and a 20-miler in September. I am not playing around this year, people. Tomorrow is my weekly long run—I have 7.3 miles planned—and I can’t wait.

That all said, talk to me in July when I have a 15-mile run scheduled in 95-degree heat. If I’m still this enthusiastic then, well, I will have won 2016—especially if I have some photo books sitting on my shelf as well.

Lacing Up

I was really tired when 6 p.m. rolled around today. I’d gone to work, I’d gone to a Geek Squad appointment, I’d been late to pick up Jack from his after-school activity, and after all of that, Alex dragged me out to pick out a new refrigerator. I was beat.

I mention this because I’d planned to go running today. But by the time I actually had a chance to do so, running was the last thing I wanted. However, I’ve been trying to get back on a regular running schedule and I know that it is so easy to talk myself out of one run and then do it again the next day and before I know it, it’s been a week and all I’ve done is sit on my couch.

I had good reasons to take the day off, but my fitness level doesn’t really care if I have a good excuse.

With sadness, I laced up my shoes and headed out for a two and a half mile loop.

Selfie taken in dusky evening light of me after a run.

After. I was cutting it close with the oncoming darkness, but it was worth it.

I am writing about this because I am struggling. I am struggling with getting out there several days a week. I’ve signed up for a spring half marathon, so I have some motivation, but over the next couple of months, I’m trying to build a solid base and bring my speed back up to where it was when I was putting in decent weekly mileage.

It’s going to be some work.

In an effort to make myself accountable, you might be seeing more Stimeyland Facebook posts that look like this:

Selfie of me after a run.

“Proud of myself for getting outside for a run this afternoon! #runner #sweaty #obnoxious”

Feel free to unsubscribe now.

Or! Feel free to join me there and comment about your exercise victories and struggles. We can motivate each other!

Because I had a great run this evening. I was hungry and tired and annoyed and didn’t want to go, but once I was out there, I was so glad I went. I came home feeling one million percent* better than when I left.

That is a feeling worth chasing—even if I think I don’t want to.

 

* approximately

The Half Marathon That is Trying to Kill Me

Last year at this time, I ran the Parks Half Marathon. I have slacked off a lot on my running this year (although over the past couple of months I’ve been coming back), so there was no way that I was even close to thinking about wondering if I could race a half marathon. The race goes close by my house though, so I dragged my family out first thing in the morning to cheer on the runners.

Photo of Jack, Alex, Quinn, and Sam at a picnic table. Quinn is playing on an iPad, Sam is listing to headphones and staring off into the distance. Jack and Alex are just sitting.

Good job, family.

The best though, the absolute best, happened when we were walking down to the race course. I was literally mid-sentence about how the kiddos should be careful walking along the side of the road because there were cars and…BAM.

I stepped halfway off the edge of the walkway, my ankle caved, then my other knee collapsed and before I knew it, I was roll-sliding through the grass and mud by the side of the road on my face. I know I fell face first because that’s where all my abrasions are, but I also know that I ended up on my back, because I felt the bag of pretzels I had in the backpack for my kids crushing, so I must have done some rolling too.

Ta-da!

I am sometimes not good at things.

I really did appreciate the irony of the fall, what with the perfect timing of me being all, “Okay, guys, listen to me, we need to be careful walking there, because—AAAAAAAAIIIIIIIGGGGGGHHHH!!!!!”

Also, if you remember when I ran the Parks Half Marathon last year, I fell twice. So obviously the only conclusion I can come to is that the Parks Half is trying to kill me in a hilariously ironic manner.

Thanks, Parks Half Marathon.

I pretended I wasn’t hurt and hobbled with my family down the side of the road to where we planned to stand and I unfurled my sign. I had never brought a sign to a race before, especially a sign that was making an effort to be funny, so I was very worried about its reception.

Photo of me holding a sign that reads, "Keep going! Your free banana is waiting for you!" There's also a drawing of a banana wearing a race bib (#42!) and running hard.

I was more animated that this photo lets on. I promise.

See, I was worried because my family of non-racers was all, “What if there aren’t bananas at the finish line?” and I was all, “Dudes, it’s a thing. It’s almost irrelevant whether there are bananas there or not,” but they just wouldn’t let it go. Fortunately the runners were with me and I made a lot of them smile and laugh.

Close up of the banana drawing on my sign.

My running banana helped with that, I think.

Jack made people smile and laugh too. He spent a good chunk of time boogying down and singing, “I am a banana! I am a banana!” He was the only one of my kids who was willing to do any cheering. Alex wandered off to look at a bird. Happily, my mom is visiting and she was willing to stand near me and clap for the runners.

Although I did have to shush her when she started saying, “Geez, my hands are going to be blistered from all this clapping,” because someone running their tenth mile in a row probably isn’t all that interested in hearing about your applause-related injury, Mom.

My family bailed after about a half hour, but my mom and I stuck around until we couldn’t see any more runners at all. I hope that all those runners are proud of themselves. I was so happy to be able to cheer them on. Maybe next year I’ll be one of them again.

At least if I run it next time, I won’t be injured at a race I didn’t even participate in.

Disaster Struck! Running Edition

Photo of me running to the finish line in a pink shirt with a race bib attached to it. It is NOT an attractive photo of me.

It can’t all be smiles and PRs and flattering race photos. (Photo by Ken Trombatore)

This photo was taken at a 10K race I ran in April. I did not share this photo then for obvious reasons. I share it now because I am kind of delighted by its awfulness and also because it sort of eloquently makes the point that sometimes in a fitness journey, you biff it.

Over the past several months, I have very much biffed it.

I went from running 4-5 times a week to running once every couple of weeks. I lost a huge chunk of my fitness base. I got so bogged down by pace and distance that I had to entirely ditch tracking my runs and wearing my Garmin for the indefinite future.

It’s been ugly.

I lost motivation and then I got sick and then I was out of the habit and then I got sick again and I got busy and then I just didn’t feel like running and then I developed this cough that came with decreased lung capacity and all of a sudden, I wasn’t a runner anymore.

I’m clawing my way back though. I’ve been making an effort to get on the road or the treadmill every day and not feel bad if I walk instead of run. I’ve made peace with shorter mileage. I’m postponing the Big Running Goals I wanted to accomplish this fall and not beating myself up about it.

But I went on a run today that felt incredible. (Hooray for increased lung capacity again.)

My new mileage goal for the year is just to keep running. I’m going to finish out the year with no races longer than a 10K. I’m going to aim for a spring half marathon if I can find a good one. I’m going to sign up early for those big fall running events that I originally intended to do this year.

I’m finally feeling inspired to be a runner again and I’m realizing that inspiration is what I was missing. I hope it is here to stay.

 

* Disaster Strikes! Soda Edition: As long as I’m coming clean about my inactivity, I should let you know that even though I haven’t mentioned it, I am a soda drinker again and have been for months and months. I know. It’s shameful.