A Taste of Spring

The great thing about running a race in Florida in March is that you get to go to Florida in March and it will be warm and happy and also the only time ever that you will be grateful that it is humid.

Seriously, it was awesome.

I was with my friend Heather (of Disney fame) and my friend Lyda (of my trip to run a race in Florida fame) and we stayed at Lyda’s family’s house on the beach.

Photo of me with a big smile on my face. I am standing in front of the ocean.

It was TERRIBLE.

I kid. It was wonderful. And there were many exciting things about this particular beach.

Like this jellyfish… (and all the other dead jellyfish strewn all over the beach)

Photo of a jelly fish on the sand.

I touched it. Then I felt sad that it was dead.

And these shells…

Photo of a big pile of shells on the beach.

I didn’t collect any because I didn’t think my kids would want any and when I got home, Quinn was all, “Where are my shells?”

And this crab guy…

Closeup of the beach with some shells and a small brown crab.

He was an anomaly though. I only saw the one.

These adorable birds…

Some birds on the beach. There are sandpipers in there and maybe some other birds.

I think some of them are sandpipers, but I don’t remember if the sandpipers are the big ones or the little ones.

And pelicans!

A pelican flying through the sky.

I know this is a terrible photo and this pelican isn’t actually ON the beach, but IT IS A PELICAN AND PELICANS ARE COOL.

This stick family…

Picture of sand with five stick figures (my family) drawn in it.

It took me WAY longer than it probably should have to draw these stick figures.

Sand…

Selfie of me on the beach with a very grumpy look on my face.

I find sand to be very upsetting.

These goofballs…

Photo of my friends Heather and Lyda.

Hi friends!

All of that great beach stuff happened on Friday. Then on Saturday we had to run nine miles, like saps.

Photo of four women runners.

This is before the race. Please to notice our friend Holly who didn’t stay with us, but did run with us.

After the race, we ate everything that we could find in Jacksonville. And I made my friends pose with every weird animal sculpture we encountered.

Two photos. One of Heather posing with a brightly painted jaguar sculpture; the other of Lyda sitting on a brightly painted sea turtle.

My friends are good sports.

Sunday was Sightseeing Day, also known as Lyda Faces Her Fears Day. Seriously. We did everything that Lyda found frightening on Sunday.

We started by doing an elevated obstacle/zip line course over an alligator park. Also, it turns out that elevated obstacle courses are vaguely terrifying.

Photo of Lyda and Heather standing on a platform in a tree. I am walking up a series of "stairs" leading to the platform. The stairs are dangling from cables.

Can you see the terror in my posture? I can. Can you see how relaxed my asshole friends are on their stable platform? I can.

That said, courage is not about not being afraid, but keeping on even when you’re scared. ‘Round about halfway through the course I got my shit together and transitioned from terror to fun.

You know what is NOT terrifying though? Ziplines.

Photo of me mid-air on a zipline. I am making a happy face at a camera.

Holy hell that was fun.

After we finished the “45 minutes to an hour long” obstacle course that took us a good hour and a half to get through, we headed off to tour the alligator farm.

Photo of Heather and Lyda watching alligators in water from a wooden boardwalk.

For the record, Lyda isn’t afraid of alligators.

Photo of Heather crouched down with her head inside the open mouth of a fake alligator.

Neither is Heather.

No, the alligator is not real.

The alligators were cool, but I really enjoyed the hayseed tortoise they had there.

Photo of a giant tortoise with a piece of hay sticking out of his mouth.

It is *great* to be inside my head. I find myself to be extremely amusing.

There is a lighthouse near the alligator park and on our way out, Lyda was all, “Ha, ha, I assume you don’t want to climb the lighthouse,” and Heather and I immediately replied, “Yes. Yes, we do,” which was unfortunate, because Lyda doesn’t care for stairs you can see through.

Photo of me making a face as I lean out over a spiral 15-story staircase made of black metal stairs, each step of which is made of metal with round holes cut in them so you can see through them.

Fifteen floors, friends.

The lighthouse was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I like lighthouses. I think they’re neat.

Photo of a convex mirror. In it you can see a lighthouse reflected with me, Lyda, and Heather standing in front of it.

I bought a little wind chime model of this lighthouse. It makes me happy. I also bought some fudge in the gift shop. I don’t know why they had fudge, but who am I to question their logic?

Selfie from the top of the lighthouse.

This is me at the top of the lighthouse.

When I got to the top of the lighthouse, I found some tourists talking to a staff member about the efficacy of said lighthouse as a safe place during the zombie apocalypse. I’d found my people. Even if they thought zombies couldn’t climb stairs. (They obviously can. They’re just not very good at it.)

We left for the airport on Monday at the crack of damn dawn, but it was even kind of worth it because we walked out of the beach house to this amazing scene:

Photo of a hammock suspended between palm trees in a pool of light. The photo is otherwise dark except for a crescent moon in the sky and reflected on the ocean.

Note: the reality of this photo was about 800 times prettier than this picture.

Photo of an airplane wing in front of a sunrise.

Then on the plane, I annoyed the hell out of my window seatmate (Heather) by elbowing in front of her to take 17 photos of the sunrise.

That is our trip to Florida. We arrived back in Maryland to what suddenly felt like extremely cold and grim weather. I gotta say, I see the appeal of living in a tropical place. Spring is a-coming to Maryland finally, but it was really nice to get a little preview.

Thanks for putting us up, Lyda, and for suggesting the race. Thanks for putting up with me, Heather. You guys rock. I had a blast.

Victory. Is Mine.

There is something to be said for walking into a race with extremely low expectations.

Usually when I go to a race I am hoping to meet or beat a time goal. For the 15K I ran last weekend, my out-loud goal was to somehow ambulate through the entire course. My in-my-head goal was to actually run it—at whatever speed I could.

Per usual, I walked through water stops. Because of this:

Panel from The Oatmeal web comic showing a runner choking on water at a race aid station. The text reads "Do not stop running when getting a drink at an aid station. By enduring the "sprint-choke," you could shave three, possibly four seconds off your 5+ hour finish time! Remember: marathon success does not come from training or perseverance, it comes from waterboarding yourself at aid stations."

Please go buy the book this comes from immediately. You won’t be sorry.

But other than that, I ran the whole damn thing. All 9.3 miles of it. I really wasn’t sure I could do it based on my total lack of training—or any running at all—over the past month and a half. I was hopeful, but skeptical, especially considering the sharp incline that I knew I was going to have to run up roundabout mile eight.

My strategy? Run super ass slow. I averaged 13ish minute miles. I actively worked to not run fast for the first couple miles when I was still fresh. I was the tortoise letting all the hares pass me.

But the tortoise finishes.

Photo of me post-race with my Finisher medal around my neck. I am also holding a popsicle stick.

Related: The strawberry ice pop that used to be on that stick I’m holding was the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

I’m proud of me. Plus, since it is the first 15K I have ever run, my, like, two-hour time is totally a PR.

What’s more, I feel reinvigorated. I am ready to start hitting the (snow-free) sidewalks. My new treadmill was delivered to my house so I am prepared in case of rain. I have a full and fun race calendar ahead of me this year and I am ready to go. This race was hard, but I am so glad I did it. Bring on the next one.

Remind Me Never to Sign Up For a Spring Marathon

I’m in a bit of a pickle.

I’m running a 15K race on March 14th and I am seriously undertrained. I was doing really well on my training and then I got sick and then it started snowing all the time and then I lost motivation and then I got really busy and then it snowed some more and then I lost even more motivation and then I realized how totally screwed I am.

I keep trying to run, but all of my good running paths are either covered in snowy ice or feature invisible spots of the even better kind of ice that makes you fall down. Usually that’s not a big problem because I have a treadmill and can just run on it. But my treadmill is broken so I can’t run on that either.

I feel trapped.

Part of me is all, “Fuck it, I’m running through the ice.” I tried to do that yesterday. I got two houses down my block before I slipped on some of that invisible sidewalk ice and clonked my knee. I stood up, dusted myself off, turned around, and walked home.

Do you see how it is?

I did manage to go on an 8ish-mile run last weekend, which at least makes me believe that I can ambulate through 9.3 miles, but that doesn’t make me any less undertrained. I say 8″ish” because I had to walk sections of the route due to deep, crunchy, uneven snow.

Photo of my foot in a running shoe in ankle deep icy snow with frozen footprints that I am stepping in.

It was extremely frustrating.

Needless to say, I am devastated about my treadmill.

I believe it to be irreparable. It’s been weirdly bouncy for months. Then it got kinda bumpy. Then it felt as if a hole was forming in the deck. I checked under the belt and it is all kinds of cracked all over.

At first I was all, oh the shame of being a chubby runner who smashed through her treadmill deck, and then it occurred to me that the deck might have gotten cracked during our move last year and gotten worse over the months since due to, well, due to me being a chubby runner. But once I started thinking about when the weird bounciness started and flashed back to the shoving and pushing and pivoting the movers did to smash the treadmill around our basement corners and into position, it occurs to me that I may not be entirely at fault.

While it is too late to file a claim with the movers, all is not lost because yesterday I did run at least a tenth of a mile while doing reconnaissance at the treadmill store. If you add in the six laps I took around the running shoe store earlier in the day, it’s almost like I ran an ultramarathon.

I mean, I feel proud of myself that I can just go out and (mostly) run almost 8 miles after not doing any significant exercise for a while. I think that says good things about me. Crawling the last mile of my upcoming race will say fewer good things about me.

Even better? I’m flying to another state for this race, so I get to embarrass myself in front of a whole new crop of people. Wish me luck. Or at least wish me funny stories.

Sad Cone

I don’t remember if we were driving or running the first time Alex called my attention to him, lying on his side in a muddy puddle. We couldn’t figure out what his purpose was there. There was no logic to his being placed by the side of a running path in the center of a collection of rainwater where it was unlikely anyone would step, whether he was there or not.

“You know what I feel sad for?” Alex asked, pausing before gesturing to the side of the road and answering himself. “Sad Cone.”

Photo of a bright orange cone lying on its side in a puddle of water.And it was. It was so sad. There he was, lying face down in the muck and the freezing cold and the rain. And no one cared about Sad Cone.

Except Alex and me. We cared about Sad Cone.

Sad Cone lived in a puddle by the side of Alex and my running route. We would also regularly drive by Sad Cone. We always made note of him as we passed, checking to see how deep his puddle was or whether his mud coat had climbed higher. Sad Cone became a character in our lives.

During our runs, I told Alex about running mantras and how sometimes internally repeating such a mantra can keep a runner moving when they think they can’t go on. One day, during a particularly difficult stretch, Alex said, “I AM NOT SAD CONE!” and thus was born a running mantra.

(He also sometimes uses, “OUTTA MY WAY, JERKASS!” complete with flailing arms and shoving, but I prefer the Sad Cone mantra.)

We kept Sad Cone company all fall and he gave us a smile every time we ran passed him. We noted when his puddle seemed particularly cold or dirty. We commented when tire tracks appeared around him. His mantra pushed Alex to run when it was hard. We were contemplating bringing a Sharpie on a run so we could give Sad Cone a face and share him with the other runners on our path.

Then, just as Sad Cone’s puddle shallowed and started to ice over so that we could start thinking about reaching him, we drove past one day and noticed that someone had saved him. He was still on his side, but he was on dry pavement on the other side of the road. By the time we went running the next day, Sad Cone was gone entirely.

We didn’t even get to say goodbye.

We’ve been running a few times since Sad Cone left and it’s just not the same. We’ll never know who put him in that puddle or why and we don’t know who took him away. Sad Cone is gone, but we will always remember him.

Project Stimey Enters Year Three

Photo of me running with type over the top that reads "Project Stimey: Part III"Happy New Year, people. I suppose today is the day of resolutions, which I am in full support of. For me, however, it is a day of reaffirming and evaluating Project Stimey, my multi-year Stimey Improvement Program.

For the past couple of years, Project Stimey has been focused on exercise and fitness, something that I have been extremely successful with. I ran nearly 617 miles last year and ran in a dozen races, including a half marathon. Just today I ran my first race of 2015, a 5K in which I set a new personal record.

I still don’t have the body I want, but I finally feel like a runner.

I still have a lot of goals for my running. For example, I want to run 720 miles next year. That’s 60 miles each month. I really want to run 70 miles a month for a total of 840 miles in 2015, but I’m going to make 720 the goal, with an eye on trying to get 70 miles in during as many months as I can. We’ll see how that goes.

I also want to get faster. I’m aiming for consistent 11 minute or faster miles by the end of the year. We’ll also see how that goes. Although my 5K this morning had an average 10:45 minute/mile, so I’ve made a good start.

Project Stimey’s new aspect this year, however, is going to be a focus on my diet. Alex and I want to work on this together, which is great because we are each other’s worst food enemy.

We also have plans to spend less money, allow our kids to play fewer video games and go on hikes every weekend, but mostly that improving our diet thing.

So those are my Project Stimey goals this year: lots of miles, faster pace, better diet. I think that’s enough to keep me busy for the next 12 months, but even so, there is one other thing I want to keep at the front of my mind this year: I want to keep my eye on the joy in running and fitness.

I have fought for a long time to get where I am and I think it is important to make sure I look up and enjoy not just where I’ve gotten to, but the journey I am taking. In fact, that is why Project Stimey is back for a third year and why I chose a photo of me grinning to represent it. Because at the heart, that’s what Project Stimey is all about: joy—joy in being the person I want to be and joy in doing the things that make me that person.

*****

Per usual, you are welcome to follow along by checking out my race calendar and my mileage log. Not only that, but I want to support you and find out what is going to bring you joy and growth this year. Let me know in the comments so I can cheer you on.

Stimey’s 2015 Mileage Log

Image of me running. I am smiling. Text on the image says "Project Stimey: Part III; Mileage Log"2015 goal = 720 miles

Date Distance Time Pace
JANUARY
Th 1/1/15 3.1 miles 33:20 10:45 min/mi
Su 1/4/15 2.38 miles 28:49 12:08 min/mi
M 1/5/15 2.40 miles 31:12 13:00 min/mi
Tu 1/6/15 5.03 miles 1:01:00
Th 1/8/15 3.34 miles 40:07
Th 1/15/15 3+ miles 40ish min
Sa 1/17/15 2 miles 20+ min
Su 1/18/15 5.61 miles 1:05:21 11:39 min/mi
M 1/19/15 4 miles 47:55
Tu 1/20/15 3.46 miles 42:18
Th 1/22/15 3.28 miles 39:19 11:58 min/mi
Sa 1/24/15 5.42 miles 1:02:32 11:32 min/mi
Su 1/25/15 5.91 miles 1:08:29 11:35 min/mi
Tu 1/27/15 2.54 miles 30:56
W 1/28/15 5.37 miles 1:07:28 12:34 min/mi
F 1/30/15 3.87 miles 46:16
January Totals 60.71 miles 12:05:02
 FEBRUARY
Su 2/1/15 3.1 miles 34:57 11:16 min/mi
F 2/13/15 3.57 miles 48:18
M 2/16/15 3.42 miles 40:50
Tu 2/24/15 3.71 miles 45:11
Th 2/26/15 2.24 miles 26:41
Sa 2/28/15 7.76 miles 1:43:47 13:23 min/mi
February Totals 23.80 miles 4:59:44
MARCH
Su 3/8/15 2.46 miles 31:07 12:40 min/mi
M 3/9/15 2.29 miles 28:04 12:16 min/mi
Tu 3/10/15 2.33 miles 29:18 12:34 min/mi
Sa 3/14/15 9.47 miles 2:01:46 12:51 min/mi
M 3/16/15 2.26 miles 27:31 12:06 miles
Sa 3/21/15 ~2 miles ~24:00
M 3/23/15 3.28 miles 40:27 12:20 min/mi
Tu 3/24/15 5.54 miles 1:09:35 12:33 min/mi
F 3/27/15 3 miles 43:28
Sa 3/28/15 4.46 miles 55:22 12:27 min/mi
Su 3/29/15 3.16 miles 35:15 11:08 min/mi
March Totals 40.25 miles 8:25:53
APRIL
Sa 4/4/15 2.4 miles 28:22 11:49 min/mi
Su 4/5/15 2.19 miles 28:15 12:54 min/mi
M 4/6/15 1.41 miles 20:22 14:25 min/mi
Th 4/9/15 3.47 miles 46:01 13:16 min/mi
M 4/13/15 2.11 miles 28:58 13:45 min/mi
W 4/15/15 ~4 miles ~1:00:00
Sa 4/18/15 5.69 miles 1:09:57 12:18 min/mi
M 4/20/15 2.39 miles 27:48 11:37 min/mi
Tu 4/21/15 4.71 miles 57:26 12:12 min/mi
Th 4/23/15 2.27 miles 29:00 12:47 min/mi
F 4/24/15 5.89 miles 1:08:33 11:38 min/mi
Su 4/26/15 6.2 miles 1:11:51 11:34 min/mi
Tu 4/28/15 6.59 miles 1:18:23 11:53 min/mi
April Totals 49.32 miles 10:14:56
TOTALS: 177.18 miles 35:45:35

Run Notes:

April 28: I think I’m back. Thank God, I think I’m back.

April 15: I’ve been having a really hard time getting motivated lately. Today I couldn’t force myself outside, so I just put some random program on my treadmill and figured that as long as I was moving, it was better than sitting or napping.

April 13: Gah. I need to start actually running again.

March 29: This was the Alum Run 5K in DC. It is *crazy* how much faster I ran today than I have run all month. I have no idea what it was. It didn’t feel like much more exertion either. It was definitely flat, but it’s not like I’ve been out running hills all month.

March 14: This was the Gate River Run 15K. My official time was 2:01:44 with a 13:05 min/mile. (Difference due to 9.47 vs. 9.3 miles.) I was really proud of myself and what I did in this race. I ran it really slowly, but, except for water stops, I ran the whole, whole thing.

March 10: I am running a 15K race on Saturday. Clearly I’m prepared. Silver lining: That race will more than double my mileage thus far for March. So there’s that.

February 28: I know how slow this run was. I have a 15K coming up in two weeks and I had to know if I am still capable of running more than five miles. Turns out I am, thank god, but it also turns out that all the sidewalks in the world are buried under ice, forcing runners to walk part of their runs. Also, I haven’t run very much recently, so I’m pretty slow. Dammit.

February 26: My treadmill is dying. This is really bad for me. Please direct your thoughts toward efforts to get the snow to melt so I can run outside.

February 24: In terms of running, February has not gone well. I gotta get my shit together.

February 1: This was the Penguin Pace. I ran it about 3-1/2 minutes faster than I did last year. Yay, me.

January 30: I hit my monthly goal today, but it looks like I’m not going to hit my stretch goal of 70 miles a month. Some people run more than this many miles in a WEEK. I can’t even fathom how they do that. I mean, I guess they’re probably substantially faster than I am, but still.

January 28: Super slow run today because my path was icy. Also I fell at mile 3.5. And then I had to roll off of the ice sheet so I wouldn’t break through to the icy puddle below if I sat up or tried to stand where I fell. All pretty standard, really.

January 25: I paused my Garmin at a streetlight and forgot to turn it back on for a good chunk of time. Maybe a half mile?

January 18: This run felt so great! I haven’t run more than 3ish miles for such a long time that it felt great to know that I actually could still run a longer distance. I did get bitten by a dog, but it only ripped my pants and didn’t actually get to the leg itself, so it could have gone worse.

January 15 & 17: My Garmin was glitchy these days, so I don’t have exact info for these runs.

Stimey’s 2015 Races

Photo of me running. I am smiling. Text over the image says "Project Stimey: Part III; Races"January 1: New Year’s Day 5K
Reston, VA
5K
Official time: 33:20 (PR)

February 1: Penguin Pace
Columbia, MD
5K
Official time: 34:57

March 14: Gate River Run
Jacksonville, FL
15K
Official time: 2:01:44 (PR)

March 29: The Alum Run
Washington, DC
5K
Official time: 35:09

April 26: Pike’s Peek
Rockville, MD
10K
Official time: 1:11:51

May 25: Jeremy’s Run
Olney, MD
10K
Official time:

June 6: Colleen’s BA 5K
Kensington, MD
5K
Official time:

July 18: Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest
Rockville, MD
8K
Official time:

September 27: Rock the Creek Relay
Rockville, MD
30 miles
Official time: