Sunday, March 5, 2023

Race Recap: The 10-Mile Challenge

 At the beginning of January I signed up for  a 10-mile race that took place at the end of February. I wasn't sure if that gave me enough time to train, but I found an 8-week training plan so I figured if that piece of paper thought I could do it, I could probably do it.

Past Stimey strikes again.

I knew I could get to 10 miles in my 8 weeks, but I also know that I am a person who can use a longer training plan and work up more slowly. I knew that my pace at that time was slower than usual. However, the race was an RRCA running club challenge and my local club sent out an email saying you could be slow and still participate. It was scored cross-country style and after reading the runners' guide I knew that I wouldn't be a drag on the team.

I was, however, a little concerned by the very stern paragraph on page 3 of the runners' guide that said:

"You have seen it repeated often: website, during registration, and multiple times in this guide. You must be trained and able to run 10 hilly miles in the winter within a 13mpm pace. There is a strict time limit on the course of 2h10m from the gun."

It was followed on page 6 with:

"The 10 Mile Club Challenge course is not for the faint of heart. It is a very hilly, challenging route that winds through Columbia, MD."

Complicating this vaguely threatening language was the fact that last year at almost this exact same time, I tried to train for a half marathon and couldn't do it. My body, most specifically my right leg, said no. That said, I'd spent the past year building my base and started going to physical therapy, with great results. I got custom orthotics to offset the weirdness of my foot and started running in them in mid-February.

Training was going really well. And then. A few weeks before race day, my left leg starting bothering me. Two weeks before the race, when I started running in my orthotics, I got giant, full foot arch blisters because of the different way they touched my feet. These were not good omens for this particular race.

Once that leg started hurting, I let go of any pace goals and slowed way down. I just wanted to baby my leg through the race and then let it rest and do some rehab and strength work. I did long runs, including up to 9 miles, but the last miles were slow and I took untimed breaks that I knew I wouldn't have on the course.

I knew I could at the very least run/walk ten miles. I didn't know if I could do it in under 2 hours and 10 minutes. I hadn't been so nervous before a race for a really long time. I showed up on race day with the race map on my phone so if they closed up shop before I finished, I could still complete the course. My goal was to finish; my stretch goal was to finish under the course time limit. My method was to be slow and steady and work really hard to have fun.

Selfie of me at a start line in a shirt that says "MoCo Road Runners" I have necklaces on and sunglasses on top of my head.
You probably can't read it, but the very apropos word on my necklace is "concerned."

I wore a shirt repping my run club even though I don't know anyone in my run club and my social anxiety was super freaked out by the possibility that someone would pay attention to me because of it. But Ten-Mile-Stimey decided to fuck it and embrace the experience.

I even struck up a conversation in line for the porta-potty where a guy who'd run the race a bunch of times before was complaining about the hills.

"I like rolling hills," I said, which was perhaps the dumbest thing I could have said, especially once I remembered saying it when I was running those hills.

I set off cheerfully with a few people behind me. I said hello to all the volunteers and thanked them for being there. I waved to the people on the sideline who were cheering. I greeted dogs. One runner dropped her bandanna so I picked it up and sprinted to return it to her. I passed one runner. I was really enjoying the first couple miles of the race. Related: Those first couple miles were mostly downhill.

Here I am right near the start line. You can see the oh-shit-we're-really-doing-this look on my face, can't you?

Photo of me in a group of runners. My pony tail has swung up so it's standing nearly straight up.
Why doesn't anyone else's hair do this?

I was glad I'd worn my MoCo shirt because I got some cheers from other MoCo runners and some spectators. I continued to have fun, even when it got hard -- and it did get hard. I took the whole race at what felt like an easy(ish) run and just kept chugging it out.

Empirically I ran exactly the wrong race strategy. What you're supposed to do is start easy and slow and pick up pace as you go. I did not do this. Every single one of my miles, except the last, was slower than the one before it. My first mile was 11 minutes, which was a pace I knew I couldn't maintain. I'm chalking that one up to the downhills at the beginning. 

Then I hit some hills.

Graph showing the elevation which is shaped in a V and has little jagged hills the whole way.
Hills upon hills upon hills.

I finished the first half of the race in slightly under an hour. "Banking time" is a thing you are really not supposed to do (see paragraph about race strategy), but in this case, I was so glad to do the math and realize that even if I ran every one of the last five miles at a 14 minute mile pace, I would hit the time limit. I knew I wasn't trained enough to speed up, so I was okay with the positive splits. 

I kept on grinding through the hills as people who had raced smarter kept passing me. I walked for a couple of short stretches in miles 8 and 9. Honestly I spent most of mile 8 fighting my Flipbelt to get my water bottle out and back in, but at least it kept me busy.

By mile 10, I was back in a slow, steady run that I kept up until the end. The hills eased up and I cruised into the finish line where I was handed gloves as a prize for finishing. I watched the woman that I passed way back in the first couple miles come in with the sweeper bike.

Screenshot of the results of the last five finishers. I am in the middle, #633 out of 635.
These were the last five finishers.

The people behind me were close enough that they got official finish times, but I would like to point out that I was literally the last person to come in under the course time limit of 2 hours ten minutes.

People always worry about being the last person to finish, but I'm here to tell you that the people who finish last are really fucking proud of themselves. We ran the same ten miles and we spent twice as long on the course. Back of the packers are tough and I am proud to be one of them.

Photo of me smiling after finishing.
See? Proud. And bright red.
I have plans and schemes and goals for future races and distances but before then I'm taking some time to work on my knees. Until then, I can rest knowing that I can do hard things -- things not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Prune and Purge

I rarely go on Facebook anymore. I spend most of my social media time on Instagram and even then, it's mostly looking at stories. I post pretty much only on stories, but I have them feed over to Facebook as well. Because my mom lives there. But in terms of posting or reading updates, I almost never do. If I have a notification, I'll open the app and usually read the top post, check my notifications, and leave. 

Since I'm barely there, Facebook has a hard time finding things to notify me of. For a while it was notifying me when a friend posted, but that felt like overkill to me. I mean, if you have your dumb algorithm, at least let me be victim to it. So I started marking those notifications as "Turn off notifications about XXX's updates." I still let myself be notified of about four people. One of them is, yes, my mom.

Eventually Facebook ran out of people I know and started sending me notifications for people I am "friends" with but have no idea who they are. I turned off notifications for all of them. I have 743 Facebook friends. Honestly, in my life, I have maybe ten friends and fifty acquaintances. I'm a solitary person.

I recently got a spate of new friend requests from people who are friends of friends and accepted most of them, the exceptions being when the friend that connects us is someone who is a total mystery to me. But then I started thinking about how I post stories about my life and my kids and maybe complete strangers aren't the best audience for that. So I am going to go through my friends list and unfriend anyone who's name I don't recognize.

I feel a little bad about this. I mean, most of these people are in the autistic community and are nice folks and the last time I sort of halfheartedly did this, I got a couple messages from people asking why I unfriended them, which was sort of mortifying because I had no real good reason.

But this time I will be strong. And let's be honest, how many of these people will even notice I'm gone? And if they notice, how many will give a shit?


Well that was a thing. I have 605 friends now which is way more than I really have, but eliminates people whose names I do not recognize at all. Some of these people I friended after maybe one interaction and the relationship didn't continue. Some are bloggers from the days of old who I never interact with and maybe don't even remember who exactly they are. Some are folks from my Peloton community who have fallen off my radar.

It is entirely possible that I deleted someone without meaning to, but for the most part, if I could connect a name with a face and an interaction, I kept them. That said, I am faceblind and have a terrible memory for names, so if you hear from someone who is really offended that I unfriended them on Facebook, just tell them that I am a dingbat.


Feeling motivated. Now that the purge is over, I might go back through and prune a little bit.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Good News?

Well, the knee seems to have held. It's a little sore, but since I ran 3+ miles on Friday and 8 miles today, I'm not that concerned about it. Great news, right? Except now it's looking like I HAVE to run my 10-mile race and a thing I learned during my eight miles today is that it made me very tired and I'm not sure I want to run ten miles all in a row just two weeks from now.

Here's something I've said a lot in life and on Instagram in the past two years that I haven't been writing here: Fuck Past Stimey. Why did she think running long distances was such a great idea? And as long as we're at it, let's give a fuck you to Future Stimey as well because I'm pretty sure she's going to sign up for long races in the future.

Fingers crossed that getting back to my normal training schedule keeps all my parts working smoothly and I can hate Past and Future versions of me without pain or interruption.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Run Recap/Kneecap

I have been really excited about running recently. Over the summer, I was having significant right leg pain and stiffness during and after my runs, but I didn't want to go to my orthopedist because I had a feeling he would just tell me (again) not to run longer than a couple of miles. 

Instead I started going to a physical therapist whom I loved starting on day one because that is when she told me that it is okay to run, but maybe slow to a walk when the pain starts. Things started improving almost immediately and soon I didn't need those walk breaks. I decided to do a run streak of at least one mile a day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, which I successfully completed.

Katie, on stopping running every day on January 2: "That's not how resolutions work."

I ran a ton of races in December, including a 12k, which was my longest in quite a while and signed up for a 10-miler at the end of February. When I told my PT, she was enthusiastic. She was excited to get me back to marathon distances, but then I had to tell her I hadn't run a marathon for at least five years so she suggested a fall half marathon instead. 

A medical professional that is encouraging me to run? Where has this woman been all my life?

I've now moved on from knee work with her to shoulder work because I have no shortage of body parts that don't work like they're supposed to.

Which brings me to my left kneecap, which did something wonky a couple of weeks ago. It was during a cutback week in my training, so I slowed way down on running and just did a couple long runs, but the knee hurt after each run. So I took this week and acted like a grown-ass, responsible adult and didn't run on it at all even though my training plan tells me to. Who even am I? The knee feels awesome right now, so I'm hoping the break is helping. I'm willing to not run my 10-miler if I need more time, but I don't want to back out.

Fortunately, I'm doing more than just resting to help. My PT sent me to a podiatrist. The one she suggested is next door to the PT office and when I arrived for my appointment, I was put in a room with marathon posters on the wall. I mean, come on. I am finally seeing the right doctors.

I also got this fun photo of the inside of my body.

Photo of a screen showing an x-ray of my right foot.
If you're a podiatrist, I bet you can find at least three problems.

I didn't get a single bit of "you shouldn't run" talk, just four options to fix the myriad problems my right foot features, starting with custom orthotics, which I'm pretty sure are going to fix all of my problems and not require steps two, three, and four, at least one of which involves surgery.

I'm breaking in my orthotics now but I can't run in them for two more weeks. However the doctor told me to buy new running shoes immediately because mine were worn down in just the place that causes stress injuries and I was like, "Well, if the doctor says I HAVE to buy new shoes..." and two days later these amazing beauties arrived at my door.

Photo of Hoka running shoes that are blue, pink, and at least two kinds of orange.
Aren't they snazzy?

I haven't run in them yet, because of my status as a responsible grownup, but I have looked at them a lot. They are the exact same model as my disappointingly bland current pair that I loved right up until I opened my shoe box and saw the multi colored version.

Photo of my feet wearing beat-up bright pink Hokas.
They look ready to be replaced. And boring.
I can't wait to try to run. I hope my kneecap likes my new shoes as much as I do!


 Hi, friends! I am thinking of starting to blog again. (Don't make a big deal out of this--or really mention it at all; I'm skittish.)

A friend that I hadn't seen in a long time stopped by a while back. We were catching up and he asked if I was writing much. I'm not so I said so, but I've been thinking about it since.

I really like to write. I miss it. At this point, I'm pretty sure it's just me reading what I'm writing here, so I'm not all that concerned about boring people if all I write about is the great new running shoes I just bought. (Seriously. See next post.)

So we'll see. It's possible you'll never hear from me again. Or maybe this is my comeback.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Don't Let the Door Hit You In the Ass On the Way Out, 2020

 Happy fucking new year, amirite?

I love how when there is a particularly crappy year, we're all somehow convinced that the calendar ticking over to January is going to mean things will be better. In fact, they're not better, and may in fact be worse, but at least there isn't an entire calendar of shit holding up the specific calendar square on which we stand.

That said, I see very little way that 2021 could possibly outdo 2020 on the What the Fuck is Happening This Year Scale of Crappiness.

(Universe: "hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!")

When I reflect on 2020, it has been really awful. So many people are dead, are sick, have lost their dreams and livelihoods. I am so lucky to have been on the light end of the loss scale this past year. I see that, I acknowledge it, and I am grateful for it.

My beloved uncle died this year and my family is heartbroken by his absence. I don't know how to finish that paragraph other than saying (without hyperbole) that our lives and the world are a sadder place without him.

Otherwise, my family has escaped relatively unscathed. We've missed trips, lost celebrations, struggled through virtual school, and mourned not seeing friends in person. And don't even get me started on how the pandemic and fear of public transportation has delayed my Project Crow. I have three kids and it's starting to look like two of them will miss in-person high school graduations. Katie had to start college from a spot in our home office. But we had it easier than a lot of people and are certainly grateful.

On the plus side, my sister and her wife, both doctors, have received their first vaccinations. I have a car so I don't have to worry about taking public transportation. My family is healthy. I have been able to stay connected with friends online. I am lucky to be able to telework most days, meaning I get back two hours of commute time every work day that I am home. My kids are old enough that I don't have to watch them every second. For the most part, they have been able to handle virtual school. I have spent more time with my family that I ever thought I would this year. Things are okay.

Photo of Jean
Photo for visual interest.

I was able to accomplish fully half of my 2020 resolutions, partly because of the pandemic and all that time I saved on commuting. I surpassed my resolution to read 25 books this year (I read 26!) and hit both of my fitness resolutions (my injuries healed enough for me to run again and I lost weight — 55+ pounds since April). It wasn't a resolution, but I am properly medicated for probably the first time in my life, giving me a baseline of solid ground instead of my usual baseline of drippy gray despair. (If you're not properly medicated for depression and anxiety, you should fucking pursue it because let me tell you, it changes everything.)

I don't imagine that everything will change in 2021. I think the president will be a vast improvement, but the country will not magically change come January 20. We will be masked and not allowed to travel for months to come. Two of my babies will likely leave me and go to college. Readjusting to non-pandemic living is going to be a challenge.

But I have hope. And hope is something we need.

I also have resolutions, which we don't all need, but which I like to have: 

I considered upping my reading goal to 30 books, but decided to stick with 25. Maybe next year I'll increase it.

I want to reach my goal weight. I am far closer to that now than I am to where I started, so I think I can get there. I would also like to be clear why I am losing weight. Part of it is internalized diet culture, yes, no matter how hard I try to be immune to it and how much I believe it is bullshit. Most of it, however, is because I want to be able to run better. I want to be lighter so my joints aren't burdened as much and so I am less likely to be injured. I also know that losing pounds increases my speed and damn if it isn't fun to see my average pace go down.

I plan to resume Project Crow as soon as I get both parts of my vaccine. I find myself looking longingly at Metro stations and paths that run by them. I can't wait to get back on them.

My most major resolution is probably to declutter my house. I want to move systematically room by room and make this the house I want to live in. Because "Kon Mari the fuck out of my house" was one of my failed resolutions for last year, I am going to put some thought into an action plan for this.

My last resolution is to decrease time-wasting. This resolution probably also needs some fleshing out. Maybe my word for 2021 will be "efficiency." (Universe: "hahahahahahahahahah")

Big love to all of you and I send wishes that 2021 improves upon this year for you—for all of us.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Singlehandedly Saving Democracy

You guys! Finally some hope! Oh thank God.

I wrote most of this prior to Saturday, a.k.a. The Day That We All Started to Breathe Again. I have lots of thoughts about elections and the next two months and imperfect candidates and the problems that still lie ahead and keeping in the fight, but I also have thoughts about sometimes just needing a few minutes to be happy. So instead of all of those thoughts, I'm going to tell you how I singlehandedly saved democracy.

For the first time ever in my life, I worked polls this election. Honestly, it had never really occurred to me before and then with COVID and fascism, it looked like we needed a bunch of new non-high risk poll workers or we would have one central voting location in each state and I don't care how much you love farms and interstates, that commute from San Francisco to the Bakersfield Voting Hub is a bitch.

I had a moment of inspiration two or three months ago when it occurred to me that *I* am not high risk and that if I contracted COVID, I'd probably be less likely to have serious problems (knockonwoodknockonwood) that the usual poll worker I am accustomed to, who is often elderly.

I went to my Board of Elections web site and signed up and felt really good about myself. I posted it on social media and took in the accolades from my friends. Then I started getting emails about training. At first it was "Watch these two videos and read sections 1, 2, and 5 on this document." Then it was, "Your work day will be 6am to 11pm," and finally it was, "Do your online training and quiz soon! It will probably take you six hours! Do it all in one 24-hour period, okay?!"

I got a little sadder then, but I did the damn thing and I got 100% on my quiz and I bragged about it on the internet and got more accolades and I waited for the BOE to contact me to schedule my in-person training, but no one did. I sort of half-heartedly sent a couple emails but didn't get a response. I thought about just not fucking pursuing it farther, but I'd done so much goddamn self congratulating that if I didn't work a poll, I was going to have to pretend that I did to save face. And frankly, that seemed like a lot of work.

I finally managed to talk to someone who scheduled my training and mentioned that they needed early voting workers too and was I interested? And it seemed wrong to say no, so I said yes and then I learned that to do early voting you have to work at least two days, which is weird because it's almost like they're trying to make everything awful, but I'd already said yes and it seemed like an asshole thing to do to take back everything at that point, so there I was.

I ended up working two early voting days, 6 am to about 9:30 pm both days, a set-up couple hours the night before election day, and a 6 am to 3 pm shift on election day. The mercy of that last scheduling made me so relieved that I almost cried.

There's a lot to know about working polls. The night before my first shift, it took me a really long time to fall asleep because I was so stressed about all the unknowns: Where would I store my lunch? What job were they going to give me? Do you think an active shooter will try to take down the voting center?

To aid anyone who might be wondering if poll working is for them, I have compiled a list of FAQs. I'm considering sending it to the Board of Elections so they can put it on their website.

Gosh, you've done a lot of complaining. Are you glad you did it? Yes. One hundred percent yes. It was not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it was really cool to see the voting process and the care that goes into it up close. It felt good to be doing something productive during these terrible times. I am happy that helped people vote. Plus I got all those accolades on social media.

Are you going to do it for the next election? Dude. It is way too soon to ask that question. Give me time to forget my stress and tiredness and I'll probably do it again.

Why on God's green Earth do they make you work a 6 am to 11 pm shift? This is the million fucking dollar question. There are 9-hour shifts, but the BOE seems to intentionally make it hard to sign up for those. If I could sign up for a 6 am to 3 pm shift, I would work every single election. But a 17-hour day seems sadistic.

What jobs were you assigned? I was literally never assigned a job. It was more of a "stand in the vicinity of the machine you'd like to operate" sort of thing. My first day of early voting, there were quite a few unstaffed poll books (the little computers where you check in upon first arriving) at 6:30 am, so I sat down at one and lived there for the next million hours. The next day of early voting, I sat at the exact same poll book because I fear change. 

On election day, I had several jobs. First I was a pointer, meaning I stood where people would see me and pointed at the place they were supposed to go. Then I worked the exit table with the comment cards and the pen return and the stickers. Finally I was the Lysol girl. I sprayed down voting booths after every voter.

What was the best job? Need you even ask? Clearly it was the sticker table. I spent a good two to three hours there and it was GREAT. No one had any hard questions. No one was mad because they had to vote a provisional ballot. There were never any lines. Everyone got a sticker. And we all know that the sticker is maybe the best part of voting. Plus there were three very cute Maryland-themed stickers this year as well as the old-school "I Voted/Yo Voté" classic. Everyone was happy. I got to make the joke "this is your last choice for this election" over and over and people would laugh every time. I was extremely liberal with my sticker disbursement. If you ever work an election, try for the sticker table.

What was the worst job? After the polls close, one of the things you have to do is count all the unused ballots so they know if any are missing. No, I didn't say count all the unused packs of ballots—I said count all the unused ballots. If a 100-pack has been opened, you have to count every. single. piece. of. paper. Oh, by the way, this election there were 255 different styles of 2-page ballots in my county. That's a lot of mind numbing counting.

Was it hard? Well. I did almost cry when I had to set my alarm for 4:45 am on election day. And the first four hours of the day did go a lot faster than the last 12. It was absolutely very difficult to hear people spell complicated names through a mask, plexiglass, and a large room full of noise. But it wasn't too bad. I mean, I basically got to say the same sentences 800 times. ("You are allowed to mark your ballot one of two ways: by hand on a paper ballot or electronically with a touchscreen ballot marking device.") Plus, very short, kinda scripted conversations with strangers are my favorite. It's not until I have to spend a full two or three minutes with someone that I get awkward. 

Was it hard for the voters? It's funny that when someone isn't expecting it and you ask them the month and day of their birth how long it takes for them to come up with the answer. Also, the decision to mark their ballot by hand or machine was extremely difficult for some people. It was the one question that wasn't in the sample ballot.

Was it COVID safe? Why don't we wait another week and I'll let you know? I don't have COVID yet! I mean, it wasn't ideal. I interacted with more people in three days than I had for the previous six months. And there were times when social distancing was very difficult. But the BOE tried! There was that plexiglass and required masks and some people got face shields and optional gloves (gloves would have been a deal-breaker for me—I cannot stand the feel of plastic gloves). Everyone had their own pen that they carried with them through the whole process and a lot of thought was put into trying to arrange lines in the best way. (By the way, it is really hard to direct people to a socially distanced line—it's tough to locate the end. And directing people to a specific place in a busy, huge room with multiple lines is difficult as well. The biggest innovation I saw was when someone put a traffic cone at the beginning of a line so I could say, "go stand by the orange cone" instead of my "stand behind the person with the hair" or a co-worker's "stand behind the lady with the mask.")

Was it busy? I worked three days. My first day was the second day of early voting (Tuesday) and it was very busy. We had more than 3,000 voters that day. I went back on Thursday and it was a lot slower, but it was raining and that had a dampening (haha) effect, I think. We still had more than 2,500 voters. Surprisingly, election day itself was pretty sparse—although that could be due to where I was assigned, which was a smaller center.

What was the best part? Other than learning about the voting process, I really liked working with a bunch of very nice people going out of their comfort zones to do a good thing. Many of us were first-timers, but we all wanted to help. It was lovely to have voters thank us for being there. It was exciting to celebrate first-time voters, young and old. Oh! And one of my co-workers' husbands brought us Dunkin' Donut munchkins, so that was pretty good too.

Were you mean to people wearing Trump/Pence stickers? No. I remained professional and treated them politely. Even if I thought sad thoughts looking at them.

Did you see election fraud? Only my egregious over-handing out of stickers. Also, I'm faceblind, so even though it looked like the same white guy with short, grayish hair voted 168 times, I'm pretty sure he didn't.

By the way, who won this election? 

Stylized photo of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Hope. Hope won this election.