I’m Alive! And a Fur Mom!

Merry Christmas! Cause that’s the last time I wrote a blog entry!

I ran on Christmas Day. I felt really proud. And cold, as I was in Virginia.

Then I ran maybe twice more because, people, I won a battle… I’ve been lobbying my husband for a dog pretty much since the day we met. When I started running and getting really into it, I really upped my game and pressed the defense. The thing is, I really want to be This Girl:

https://roguerundown.wordpress.com/tag/german-shorthair-pointer/

Not only because of her fabulous legs and seemingly impressive lung capacity, but check out that adorable furry companion, matching her stride for stride, grinning from ear to ear. The two are bonded and in sync, spurring each other on!

I won the battle! The day the snow storm hit Atlanta, I drove to Georgia. Because I’m smart, right? After sixteen grueling round trip hours in less than par conditions, I came home with the little love of my life, a field-bred English Cocker Spaniel dubbed Virginia’s Wemba Lea, affectionately known as Wembley. The husband’s terms, I suppose, were giving the dog a soccer related name. See Wembley Stadium. And my terms were that she have a British name.

Long story short, raising a puppy from 8 weeks to running shape is no small feat. I have run maybe two miles since bringing Wembley home in January. NOW, however, watch out world. Cause Wemble-eena is in fighting form! She is athletic, energetic, and loves to run and leap!

I’m making today the day to go out and get a running harness so we can re-start our grand running adventure, which is definitely labor, this time with our new mascot!

The Wee Baby Wembley! At this age she could only run as much as I could; which is to say, barely and clumsily.
The Wee Baby Wembley! At this age she could only run as much as I could; which is to say, barely and clumsily.
Growing up big and strong; on a hike!
Growing up big and strong; on a hike!
She definitely loves kisses and hugs and will demand them frequently.
She definitely loves kisses and hugs and will demand them frequently.

Cuddlebug

Let’s Talk About Books

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Notice the subtitle of this blog. 

At this moment, I’m sitting on the couch reading while texting about books with my BFF/cousin, Kylie. What should I be doing? Running. That’s right. But this is more fun. I’ll run afterwards.

I love my job and current situation, but am honest: if I could write my ticket and suddenly be plopped down in the life of my dreams, I’d be a writer. Well-known enough to make a living that afforded me a house in a small Connecticut town, the seaside in Florida, and a home base in a row house in D.C. I realize this is asking for a miracle. Iowa Writer’s Workshop, if you’re reading this, I’d sell my soul. No joke.

Reading has been my life since I can remember. My first favorite book was The Fox and The Hound. The one you read while listening to the cassette tape. I remember this book as large and majestic, laying open on my chubby little two year old legs. When I turned 30 my mother found a copy from the year I was born and gave it to me. I felt very confused and upset that the book is actually quite little. At that age I also very much loved a book about what-does-this-animal-say, and a book the title of which I can’t remember, but it was about a little boy’s Favorite Time of Day, which ends up being when his father comes home from work. I remember that the family is black and back then I did not notice it, or anything odd about that I identified with a 12 year old black boy, so I know that kids don’t give a rat’s ass about race (i.e., prejudice must be taught). I also remember being puzzled as to why pancakes weren’t his favorite time of day, but since my favorite time of day was my dad coming home, too, I gave him a pass.

From Kindergarten through about the second grade, I was grade-1 obsessed with anything that had to do with “the olden days,” as I called them. Addie Across the Prairie was a winner. Then came Little House on the Prairie, which reigned supreme for about a decade. 

In college, in a meta war of ontology, Poisonwood Bible beat out Little House. Poisonwood Bible is Barbara Kingsolver’s magnum opus, and can’t possibly be described in less than a thesis. Mumia Abdul Jamal read and approved her manuscript from death row. How’s that for clout.

Today, here are my favorites and recommendations. I majored in 20th century English before my nursing degree, so there are a lot of 20th century classics. I’m a Fitzgerald devotee and hold This Side of Paradise in a special place in my soul.

  • This Side of Paradise (F. Scot Fitzgerald), all time favorite
  • The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway), the first “great” book I ever “got” and loved
  • Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
  • Tender Is The Night (Fitzgerald)
  • In the Land of Invisible Women (Qanta Ahmed), subtitled “A Female Doctor’s Journey In The Saudi Kingdom”
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Anne Fadiman); if you are a medical or public health professional of any kind and have not read this book, you are doing something wrong
  • My Own Country (Abraham Verghese), an MD’s chronicle of the onset of HIV/AIDS in small-town Tennessee, see above
  • All The King’s Men (Robert Penn Warren)
  • A Moveable Feast (Hemingway)
  • Dreams From My Father (Barack Obama); gorgeous – he is truly talented as a writer. This book is the reason he and Michelle have no student loan debt.
  • The Summer We Read Gatsby (Danielle Ganek) is an adorable light beach read 
  • Beautiful Unbroken, A Nurse’s Life (Mary Jane Nealon)
  • The One Hundred (Nina Garcia) is a fashion book every girl out of high school should own
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is charming, scientific, and will make you very hungry (Kingsolver)
  • The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
  • God’s Bits of Wood (Sembene Ousmane), I read it before I went to West Africa to study and it somehow made me feel closer to where I was headed
  • Sex God (Rob Bell), the case for preserving your sexual life for God. I didn’t, but I still very much connected to this book and appreciate anything Bell has to say. He glorifies our sexuality in ways that I think are applicable to everyone.
  • The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova), the first book my husband ever gave me, a great epic read, will surprise you on every page
  • The Harry Potter series. All of them. Don’t get me started on calling them children’s books. They are deep, very finely nuanced, and are most truly about very adult themes like war, justice, mercy, defining one’s self, racism and prejudice, the social science of revolution, trustee vs representative government, how we come to be who we are, insecurity, and the love of family.
  • Tinderbox (Timberg and Halpern) about how the west is actually more responsible for the AIDS epidemic than anyone else we’ve tried to blame it on
  • Poser (Claire Dederer); which you must read if you are either a woman, a mom, or a yogini
  • Flight Behavior (Barbara Kingsolver); not my favorite of her books but a fascinating read that will familiarize you with the plight of the Appalachian lower class
  • My Pet Virus (Shawn Decker); Shawn is my friend and is also the funniest writer I know. That is not hyperbole.
  • Reading Jackie (William Kuhn) gave me a better understanding of who Jackie Onassis really was, and tells her story through the books she loved
  • Nursing Against the Odds (Suzanne Gordon); I read it when I got into nursing school and again when I started working. It rings true to both versions of myself. An accurate, provocative, and maddening expose of American nursing.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khalid Hosseini). Jesus this book is good.
  • The Irresistible Revolution (Shane Claiborne); a really nice breakaway from typical Christian writing, which is almost always self-serving and uninformed. Shane makes you really get it, and does the gospels their real credit.
  • The Yonalossee Riding Camp for Girls (Antoin Disclafani); a beautiful coming of age story involving horses and sexual scandal
  • Ahab’s Wife (Sonya Jeter Naslund). INCREDIBLE.
  • Julia Child: My Life in France. Way better than Julie and Julia. Although I do love that one, too. 
  • From Silence to Voice (Buresh and Gordon); mainly focused on nurses in the media and not as great as Nursing Against the Odds
  • The Lacuna (Kingsolver); another gem from Barb. A coming of age story about a young man, lots of lovely themes
  • Forever (Pete Hamill); I cannot say enough about how much I love this book. I couldn’t put it down. A man is born in Ireland in 1740, gets to Manhattan, and is cursed to live forever. A crappy description of one of my top 5
  • The Preppy Handbook (Lisa Birnbach); the original one from the 80s that truly defines preppy before she sold out and allowed everyone to call themselves preppy by wearing extra-large monograms and expensive clothes.

I’m currently trying to read:

  • Brain Rules (John Medina) about how the brain works and how we can harness our brain’s power
  • FDR (Jean Edward Smith); this is an attempt started almost four years ago when my AMAZING father in law started reading the book. He has long since finished it and I am still plodding through like 20 pages a year.
  • On Food and Cooking (Harold McGee); a wonderful book that I may never just finish as I read little bits here and there. Elucidates the science of why food looks and tastes the way it does, and thus the best way to prepare it. A gem.
  • Florence Nightingale (Mark Bostridge); if you know your stuff, you know Nightingale was no sweet angel. She was enigmatic, WAY out of her time, provocative, strange even. One of the most brilliant women to ever have lived. He tells you why. 
  • Ulysses (James Joyce); this is, and deservedly so, taking a really long time
  • Life of Pi (Yann Martel); sitting on my nightstand
  • The Awakening (Kate Chopin); waiting until I finish the current Hemingway I’m on
  • I Am Malala (Malala Yousefzi); currently reading. A slow read, not great, but I feel honored to even read it.
  • The Beautiful and the Damned (Fitzgerald)
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi); totally not what I thought it would be! Really deep, beautifully written in delicious elegant prose, a real feminist read. I love it.
  • Flapper (Zeitz); I get really irritated about the modern sorostitute’s adaptation of the flapper, which is especially bad now that Luhrman’s masterpiece version of Gatsby has hit us. This is the real story of the flapper.
  • Hunger Games. All of them. I think her writing could be a lot better but I really enjoy the story. The movies are even better, which is hard to say about anything.

I really want to read:

  • Soul of a Citizen (Paul Rogat Loeb), subtitled Living With Connection In Challenging Times, evidently about being a public servant and keeping heart
  • Long Walk To Freedom (Nelson Mandela), which I’m embarrassed to have not yet read
  • The Ragamuffin Gospel (Manning)
  • Pathologies of Power (Paul Farmer) yet another one that takes me years to read. It is so dense and I want to weave the information into my brain over time rather than cram. I think Paul Farmer should be given sainthood. Truly. 
  • How To Change the World (David Bornstein); given to me by afore-mentioned AMAZING father in law; good to come back to here and there as its separated into episodes
  • To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee); HOW have I not read this – it’s embarrassing. I did read it in 10th grade English but who on earth remembers that far back.

Admissions:

  • I really don’t like Dan Brown. Like I think he’s just a bad writer. Angels and Demons was good and that’s it.
  • I didn’t love Tina Fey’s Bossypants even though I love her and feel a certain kinship to this other theatrical, wry, Greek chic that went to UVA.
  • Wicked. Really wanted to like it. This book is totally gross. It’s about beastiality. Stick to the play.

Books that don’t live with me yet but are on their way to being adopted, to be read:

  • The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton)
  • Age of Innocence (Wharton)
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard)
  • True at First Light (Hemingway)
  • The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner)
  • Light in August (Faulkner)
  • Absalom, Absalom (Faulkner)
  • Leaves of Grass (Whitman)
  • A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking) 

Tropical Music

Dear Florida,

I’m so sorry to bother you while you’re attempting to saute’ your residents, but it appears you’ve missed the memo. Christmas is in two weeks and it is still August outside. Anything I can do to help?

Yesterday I was depressed about seeing Christmas trees at the beach and carolers in tank tops, but today I went on a good run and thought to myself, “I can get out here and really work, without having to worry about being too cold.” With all the obstacles we already deal with in getting fit, it is a special kind of blessing that “it’s too cold” or “its icing out” can’t be an excuse. I also was probably depressed because the only workout I did yesterday was in the gym, and I hate the gym. I hit the gym with the huz about every other day, but it is seldom the only thing I do that day. I usually fit a run in after that. More to follow on gym workouts, which promise to be as weird and entertaining as my running stuff as I know nothing about either.

Anyway, today I had  bit of a wild hair. I’ve been really depressed for a couple of days because of a sad night at work (comes with the territory). Yesterday I asked huz to go on a walk with me, and he was hungover so he was walking like a sloth. So this morning I was consumed with this feeling of just wanting to GO. I’ve been actually enjoying the feeling of running during these little interval workouts I’m doing, so I figured, “Go enjoy it. Run.” You know, like Forrest Gump.

I made a super Kristin-like playlist and actually did it! I ran for about 20 min straight, then did little intervals here and there. It was a way of testing myself out to see if I’m going to be able to meet my goal of running in the Gasparilla in February. I committed to the Half with my friends Molly and Sarah, but will probably only be ready to do the 8k (and proudly).

Here is my aging-30-something-nerd playlist.

All This And Heaven Too (Florence and the Machine)

Shake It Out (Florence)

Dog Days Are Over (Florence)

Radioactive (Imagine Dragons)

Bleeding Out (Imagine Dragons)

Feel Again (OneRepublic)

Elephant Power (MC Yogi)

Angeline (Martin Sexton)

Angel of Harlem (U2)

I Will Wait (Mumford and Sons)

No Church In the Wild (Kanye and JayZ)

Let’s discuss Bleeding Out. I may or may not have pretended I was gutting through the end of an epic race and crossing some epic finish line as this song played, on the tree-lined suburbs of Tampa. You will have to concentrate on not clapping.

MC Yogi, by the way, is amazing. I used to be really into yoga (would LOVE to pick that up again), and my favorite teacher always warmed us up to him. Try him out and you will be happy for the rest of the day.

Martin Sexton is the most underrated dude on earth. He should have the popularity level of Dave Matthews, and this coming from a huge Dave fan. The music alone is awesome but – guess what – all the sounds you hear are coming from him. Google.

OK kids, see you out there! And Happy 4th of July! No wait, Merry Christmas. Yes, Christmas. It’s Christmas, right….?

Christmas ornaments on a palm tree

Running New England

Some days are hard and some days are easy, but I can definitely feel myself improving as a runner. I am able to control my breathing for the first time since high school (1998!). I hit a point about halfway through the workout where the endorphins come out to play. The are super fun, those little guys – completely the reason people get hooked on running. I remember times I had tried to get into running before, and I would get so puzzled by people saying they had to stop because their muscles or legs were burning. I would think to myself, “I have to stop when I can’t breathe… my legs never hurt…” I used to be so out of shape (and unknowingly asthmatic) that I couldn’t even run to the point that my muscles would feel it. I could only run for a few minutes at a time (total!), so I never knew that feeling of “the burn,” when you really know you are working your legs. It sounds so small, especially to someone who has been a runner, I’m sure, but actually feeling my legs working and my muscles burning and building is an incredible feeling. I’m physically doing things I’ve never done. That’s certainly something to be Thankful for during this season…

We traveled to Newport, Rhode Island for one of our best friend’s wedding last week. I woke up the morning of the wedding determined to get a run on the books. This was the first run I would take after my last post saying I was swamped with work and missed my runs. Four days off of my legs didn’t feel good for my body, but they did feel refreshing to my legs once they started working again. I felt agile and fresh and could run with a spring to my step.

I had never been to Newport but had always wanted to go. It occurred to me, as I set off, that running is such a great way to see new places. If I hadn’t run that day, my purview of Newport would have been from the passenger seat of the car, to the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), to a restaurant, to the bridge out of town. Instead, I got to experience the sights, smells, and sounds of Newport on the inside.

I have some distance from it now, but that day and in the days following, all I could think about was how cold it was. Drew and I have discovered that we have both become 100% Floridian. We stepped off the plane in New England and turned into little icicles, and we were both raised in that climate! I felt really proud that instead of wimping out and curling up with bourbon underneath ninety quilts, I got out there (the bourbon came later). And loved it! A few minutes in, your body heats you up and the cold turns into a nice cool breeze. This not without some snot rockets into the perfectly manicured grass, mind you.

We are both huge Kennedy-family fans, and I had known that Jackie and JFK were married on her family’s farm in Newport (leave it to me to transition from snot rockets to Jackie Kennedy… I will just never be an elegant person… sigh). I knew we wouldn’t have time to seek out Hammersmith Farm so that I could have a little commune-with-Jackie moment. But on that run, I found myself – literally just accidentally found myself – on Hammersmith Road. I felt, in that moment, like fate was giving my running efforts a little nod. A little reward. The ultimate sign-off on the fact that running really will take you places, and is the best way to see those new places.

The next run that weekend was from my mother-in-law’s house in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Aside from being the birthplace of Lyme’s Disease, it is actually the most picturesque little town I know. White picket fences everywhere, cemeteries with gravesites dating to the 16-1700s, little old New England churches, an ice cream and sandwich shop in an ancient little house across from ours. I have a wonderful memory of Christmas Eve Midnight service in a little church in Old Lyme, with my mother-in-law and stepfather-in-law (the place would collapse if Andrew ventured in). I was looking out a little window, which was lit up with candles and decorated with evergreen branches and red bows, and it started to snow. It was so incredible timeless and beautiful. Needless to say, I love that little town. Interesting fact, the editor of Runner’s World has a family house in Old Lyme. I am not a stalker. http://kmhitech.com/beg/runnersworld201110-dl.pdf

Running through Old Lyme the day after the wedding brought me down new roads and to old little houses I’d never seen. It was cold – bitter cold – and crisp and sunny. But most of all, I got to experience something I miss in Florida: finishing my run and flopping down into a massive pile of deliciously crunchy, autmny-smelling dead leaves. Glorious.

Here are some pics from the runs, and of my dear New England. See you out there!

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The view from NYYC out into the harbor in Newport. The little building is the original 1800s NYYC, and is where our friends David and Aliza were married.

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The road up by Hammersmith, and the scenery I enjoyed running in Newport.

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Lots of these pretty stone walls around that neighborhood.

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Finishing my run in Newport!

photo 2

The apartments and the greenhouse at the NYYC, where we stayed. COLD. FREEZING COLD.

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The sun sets over the NYYC in Newport, Rhode Island.

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Finishing my run in sweet Old Lyme, Connecticut, in front of my mother-in-law’s home.

Feeling Groggy

… in a good way!

I am an obstetrics RN and I work night shifts. My shifts are 12 hours long, which usually translates to 13-14 hours on my feet. I work three shifts a week. This week, my three shifts are bangbangbang all in a row, so my days are about getting SLEEP. I work, sleep, and repeat for three days.

Thus, I haven’t run in three days. This is making me sad. I’ve only been running for two weeks, and I can already feel and see a difference in my body and my mental health. Today I feel like I have excess energy that needs to get out of my legs, I just feel generally unhealthy. I’m also craving things like donnuts and chocolate. I find that when I am actually working out or running, I don’t want anything like that; I know this is placebo effect talking but I swear that when I am physically active, I can feel things metabolizing. It feels way better when it is kale than Reese’s.

I’m excited about this because it means that I’m not taking advantage of work days, slacking, or falling off the running wagon. I am actually excited to get out and do my run!

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I Can Feel You Breathe. But Sometimes Not.

I’ve been so encouraged by how each run really is getting easier. The next three runs will be 8 reps of running for 90 seconds and recovering for a full two minutes. Even with the longer running bursts I find that I want to keep running.

This week leads me to my asthma story, which I want to share as a bit of a public health message. Since I learned about asthma after my own diagnosis, my nursing mind has started to notice symptoms in other people who think they don’t have it. My mom is an example. She has a chronic cough, is unathletic just like I was until I started treating the asthma, and coughs a lot at night. I’ve learned that asthma is a misunderstood condition that carries a specific rep, but the clinical picture has wide variations. My asthma, for instance is intrinsic – which means it isn’t caused by outside sources like allergens, it is just part of my makeup – and falls under the category of moderate persistent, which means I have symptoms every day if untreated, sometimes all day. For the issues I have had with asthma, and some very not-fun episodes, I have been very lucky that I’ve never had an attack that sent me to the emergency room or fully prevented me from breathing.

This chick here? Paula Radcliffe, the best chick runner on earth. She was diagnosed with asthma at age 14!

Paula

They say nurses are the worst at taking care of themselves. I am a prime example. Some things that might have tipped me off over the years:

1. Mountain biking with my friends in high school. During a couple of rides, I would have allergies to weeds or grass, and begin wheezing and freaking out so badly that I would have to turn around, ride home in this condition, and lay at the bottom of a steaming shower to clear myself up.

2. Many nights in my life, I’ve lay in bed thinking, “It’s a real pain to have to hold my throat open when I’m trying to go to sleep… I wonder why on one else ever complains about this.” This is not a joke. I would actually have to be conscious of physically widening and opening my throat in order to breathe at night, and this was evidently very irritating to me…

3. During a very tragic time in my life, I tried to take up running as a way of getting my thoughts controlled and working out my anger. I could only run a couple of laps around my tiny block before I just couldn’t run anymore, even though my legs would never hurt, I would never get nauseous, I just ran out of breath.

4. During one of those lame attempts at running, one late fall day, I think I actually had a legit asthma attack, even though at the time I just thought I was out of shape. That has happened so… many… times… but this time particularly sucked. It was cold, I was running through a field, and the air hitting my throat caused what I now know was spasming – a hyper reactive airway –  and it was incredibly painful. I just thought, “Oh, cold air hurts in your throat, weird.” I was in pain for a couple of hours, wheezing terribly, laying on my living room floor trying to catch my breath for quite a while. Note to current self: don’t run in cold air without inhaler. #propstomeforlivinginflorida

There are countless instances in my past which I can now look back on and say, “Hey, dummy, you have asthma.” Which is essentially what my doctor said when she diagnosed me:

“Oh, so you have asthma.”

“No, I dont…”

“Yes, yes you do.”

“I’m 30 today, I would know if I had asthma.”

“Well Happy Birthday, now you know. Sorry to give you the worst birthday present ever.”

That is really how it went.

So today… asthma could be a challenge for me, a mountain that I see as insurmountable on top of the fact that I have always believed I’m incapable of athletics anyway. But, like I’ve said, I am pretty driven and competitive, and I have decided to make it into a molehill instead. As long as I treat my condition well, stay on top of it, listen to my body, and keep my docs in the loop, asthma is just another notch in the belt that I will wear when I can say “Look at all I’ve conquered; I am a runner.”

This week, I visited my new doctor (just moved to Florida). I’ve had a few uncontrolled symptoms and we’re trying to get to the bottom of that. If you have asthma and you are not controlled, ask your doctor about these two things before you add yet another med:

Silent Reflux: I have this! Silent reflux is essentially the same thing as GERD, which a lot of people know about or have. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or, heartburn. Silent reflux is the same pathophysiologically, but the acid stays at the level of the larynx, so sufferers don’t have that typical heartburn pain that comes with GERD. The symptoms are pretty specific though, and I can check off every one: oftentimes a hoarse voice, chronic and constant throat clearing, feeling of a lump in the throat, increased symptoms after eating, unproductive cough, sensation of being unable to swallow, and often these people have asthma because the acid does aggravate the airway. If you have these symptoms, make sure you talk to your doctor, because untreated acid in this area is  a bad thing. Congesting acid over a long period of time around specific cells can cause funky proliferation (my favorite medical term) which means, you guessed it, cancer. Silent reflux is treated with PPIs (proton pump inhibitors). I have only been on them for two days and I can’t believe the difference.

Vocal cord dysfunction: I probably have this too. I have an endoscopy on Monday so they can see the little suckers, and if we determine that’s what’s going on, to speech pathology I go.

It feels good to get these things taken care of. It makes me feel optimistic, because when I can eliminate factors that are holding me back, I’ll be a better runner!

Speaking of asthma and collapsing on runs, stay tuned for my next post when I’ll tell you about the Road ID.

Here is a great little jot from Runner’s World about tips for runners with asthma: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/running-asthma

Changing a Life, Week One. Or, The Omelet

I planned to blog on the first day I ran because it was such a comedy of errors and disaster. So much so, in fact, that I may or may not have spent the rest of the day sleeping. Remember the “I can’t run 3 miles without throwing up?” Yeah, I now can’t run 60 seconds without throwing up.

Looking back I think this was because I ate an omelet and thought “I don’t need to digest, I’m barely running.” Oh yes you do.

***By the way, my omelet recipe is freaking delicious: 2 eggs (cage free and organic if you can), generous sprinkle of thyme, garlic salt, cracked pepper, shredded cheese, and some diced tomatoes. Either you make a pretty omelet or you end up with an omelet/scrambled eggs hybrid. Both are delicious. Cholula will make it perfect.***

My “training strategy” for The 5K of Doom was to just put on shoes and run. Wherever, however, just run for 30 minutes. This is not a good idea. I do not recommend this and have evidence to tell you it sucked.

So this time I decided to have a brain about it. My husband, Andrew, is obsessed with football (not oaf/meathead/slam-people-to-death American football, but the REAL football, also known as soccer). He listens to his podcasts all day every day. We’re talking around the house, in the car, doing work, working out, on the phone. It’s very grating to the nerves… but they are British and I like that sound (maybe another blog can be about my psycho-inpatient-worthy Kate Middleton obsession). The way I benefitted from this is that Andrew, knowing all things The Guardian, found a podcast for me. The podcast plays pretty great music, and the British dude talks to you throughout, telling you when to run and when to walk, while giving you a little encouragement along the way.

Almost all couch to 5k programs or beginner’s running programs will have you start off walking and running at specific intervals. Your beginning week will be 60 seconds of running following by 90 seconds of brisk walking, times 8 reps. As you progress through the (usually) eight weeks of the program, you walk less and run more, until you can sustain running for 30 minutes. This sounds like a complete miracle to me. It is shaping up to be one.

The first day I headed out for a run, I was scoffing a little. “Cake. How hard can it be to run 60 seconds.” IT CAN BE REALLY HARD. Especially if you haven’t digested your omelet.

I got through that brisk walk (after six inhaler puffs which is the equivalent of a neb treatment in the ER). The first 60 seconds of running that followed revealed to me that I am in fact a 90 year old osteoporosis patient with GERD and esophageal incompetence.

That first workout was incredibly discouraging. I hadn’t realized just how out of shape I was, just how difficult of a goal a half marathon in four months was going to be. I thought the approach I had chosen was conservative and would make me feel encouraged, but the opposite proved true. The beginner’s geriatric training method was just right for me. My husband, who tends to receive what you tell him at total face value, made a face that basically said, “no making you feel better after that kind of failure,” realized that this was probably not the best response to his discouraged and beaten down wife, and promptly bought me an iPod. He called me from the car a few hours later (while I was recuperating in bed from this cumulative eight minutes of agonizing physical activity) to tell me how proud he was and that the iPod was his way of saying he supports what I am doing, and knows that I can do it. Forgiven.

As you might imagine, approaching the second workout was daunting. This time I let my breakfast digest, I got good sleep, I gave myself another chance. And guess what? It was actually great! It was still hard, I was still struggling, but it felt that much easier!

The third workout I did for my first week was one of those that runners wait for. I realize this was a pretty easy “workout” by some standards, but let us couch bookworms have our glory, ok!? I had worked thirteen hours overnight (I work night shifts), and had more coffee than people should probably be allowed to have at 4am, so there was no sleeping when I got home. I strapped on the shoes, put Andrew’s iPod gift to use, and headed out into a cool Florida fall morning. I felt so great, I wanted to run further than my 60 seconds. Here and there, I did. My lungs felt good, my legs felt strong, and of course my brain felt high because I’d consumed more caffeine than a lab rat.

My first week, I stayed right on schedule. Run/walk splits every other day, weight and strength training in between, and one rest day, which was yesterday. You’re meant to do the week 1 workout three times before moving on to week 2, but I stuck an extra one on the day before yesterday. I want to move into week 2 still feeling like I am improving every time I run. So the 4th time I did the week 1 workout, I let myself keep running when I wanted to, within reason.

This feeling of accomplishment, progress, and learning about my capabilities for patience happened in just my first week of becoming a runner! To all the couch potato, study-butt, bookworm non-athletes out there who have secret dreams of finish lines and local medals, I’m here to tell you it feels possible just after it feels impossible. Get out there and do it!

Guardian photo week 1Week1 photoHere I am after my runner’s-high. Been waiting for that for too long!

Definitely labor? What the heck does that mean?

Kara

So here’s a fun fact about me. I am a labor and delivery nurse. Meaning I am a high-risk obstetrics nurse and I take care of triage, obstetrical emergencies, and plain old labor and delivery. Read: I manage patients who feel the worse pain and intensity that a human can possibly feel. Don’t believe me?

Here’s another fun fact about me. I am completely in awe of Kara Goucher. Isn’t she gorgeous!?

Kara is an Olympian and an elite runner who has written a few books and is a public speaker and all-around awesome/inspiring role model for women and girls who want to run or just be great athletes. Kara and her equally kick-butt partner, Adam, had their first child a couple of years ago. She was asked in her postpartum period “which is harder, running a marathon or labor?” She responded, “Labor. Definitely labor.” Apparently without a moment’s hesitation.

The article is great. She explains her labor process, which as an OB RN I am thankful for, because of the massively unrealistic expectations women-at-large have about the birth process. It is a great article, check it out: http://karagoucher.competitor.com/2010/10/01/labor-definitely-labor/

The article is the inspiration for the name of this little blog I’m doing. I’m a labor and delivery nut. If you go into L&D as an RN, one of two things is going to happen. You crash and burn and just can’t cut it because it takes intense smarts, willingness to be wrong – a lot, and a lot of guts (literally and metaphorically). Or, you fall deeply in love with it and will never leave it, to the point that you do this intensely physical work until you’re 80 and have back problems from holding legs and applying counter pressure and picking people up and leaning over tubs and shower edges to monitor babies. Thus, when I read my role model state emphatically that labor was “definitely” more difficult than running 26.2 miles in 2 and a half hours (if you can’t do the math, then just trust me, this is not within the realm of human capability).

I wasn’t half bad at Cross Country in high school. But that was almost twenty years ago (I graduated high school in 1999). Two or three years ago, I tried to run a 5k race, and literally threw up the entire last mile. Bottom line? I think running, even really short distances, is really… really… really hard.

But, every day, I am physically and emotionally connected to women who are undergoing pain and strain that one of our country’s best runners has called “definitely” worse than what she does every day. I have never given birth, or even been subjected to long-lasting intense pain. But I understand my women, I have total empathy for them. I know how awful it is. Thus, do I really have any excuse to be whining and crying when I have to run a mile? Is there any excuse for letting my body be in such bad condition that I can’t run for 60 seconds at a time? Or that I can’t run for three miles without throwing up? NO. No, I have no excuse.

Kara has been my inspiration for learning how to run, respecting my body, believing in myself, being patient with myself, and setting real and attainable goals. If you are a female trying to accomplish a goal, you must check her out. More to come on her.

So, that’s the reason for the whacky name of my blog. When I am out there sweating and wheezing, wondering if I’ll ever be able to complete a mile with a smile, I remember my role model telling me that the women I work for every day are going through something MUCH harder. I can do it.

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be an Athlete

So there you have it. I have study butt. I have “I’m in my 30s” padding over my tummy and my thighs. Gravity is hitting. I cannot, I tell you I CANNOT, open a pickle jar without summoning the Power of GreySkull. I cannot climb up the stairs without needing my inhaler (oh – more on the exciting discovery, “I have asthma?!” to follow, hold tight for that thrill ride). And you know what? I miss competition. Not competing for Miss America, no, because that is something you can only do once because it takes the endurance, stamina, and mental willpower of an elite marathon runner. Just competing in general. Having something to work for, to strive for, to want, and my God, that moment when you Reach The Goal. And Win.

I have a very competitive nature, and a very perfectionist nature. I have to be working towards something all the time.

Without getting into this, because it makes me very emotional and I go on about it for hours: I graduated the year Yeardley Love was murdered at U.Va. I didn’t know her, but many of my friends were very close with her; her death – and the legacy she left – affected U.Va. in a way I can’t begin to describe. Visit http://www.joinonelove.org. A truly worthy cause and something that is very dear to me.

About three years ago, I got a wild hair and started feeling some of the things I’ve described above. I wanted to compete. I wanted to work. I wanted to open pickle jars. So I signed up for the Every Yard For Yeardley team to run the 5k at the Baltimore Running Festival. A story will follow, when I can, about the running community and how amazing Yeardley’s family was to me. At any rate… I believed that this 5k was the absolute pinnacle of difficulty for my poor little body. I don’t remotely remember how I “trained” for this insurmountable obstacle I saw before me, but it involved “Go outside and just run.” That sounds smart but when you have no idea what you are doing, it’s really not going to get you ready to run even 3 measly miles without puking a little bit.

I puked. Like, at mile 2.5. I finished the race in what was actually a respectable time for a 30 year-old who hadn’t run a step since cross country in high school (37mins?). Yeardley’s awesome cousin Ryan ran with me the whole time. It went something like this: “I’m definitely gonna puke.” Ryan laughs. Kristin moves to side of route, dry heaving bananas. Ryan: “Whooooooaaa you’re not kidding!” Wide eyes.

I was really proud of running that Impossibly Hard 5k, and of course more so proud to have run for Yeardley’s cause. But I know I was uninspired about running, I had no guide, no clue, no resources. So I didn’t run again after that 5k.

Baltimore

Andrew and I recently moved to Florida. People here curl their hair and put on false eyelashes in order to go to the beach or the pool (whereas I cram on a baseball cap and flip flops and a ten year old suit; you’re lucky if there’s lip gloss). Needless to say, there is quite the preoccupation with bodies here. One that I don’t think is healthy. But I am big enough to admit that being surrounded by lithe, muscular, feminine yet strong, totally lean bodies made me wish for my Miss America body one more time.

The cascade began. I started thinking about Kristin in Sexy Version –> it would actually be really nice to go workout again and feel a little stronger –>you know, self, if you worked out you would be a better horseback rider –> wow, if I worked out, I could actually open the pickle jar –> I feel… a wave of competitive spirit coming on… And yes, over three months, this lead to more thoughts about running. The Baltimore Running Festival was about to happen all over again.

Right around this time, I was enjoying wine with girlfriends, and they did what good friends always, inevitably do. They brought up a race, dropped it in my lap, and there I went. I was locked in, to two girls whom I really respect, and if I told them I was gonna run, I was gonna run! Whether it was a mile, the 5k, the 8k, or by some Achillean miracle, the Half Marathon.

I went home and told my husband this in a voice he recognizes as “you’re going to do this and get obsessed with it and not think about anything else and there’s nothing anyone can say to deter you, right?” Right.

Tune in later to learn how, this time, it’s already different…

A Twig Is Not Strong.

K Cupcake

This is me doing what I do. Laughing, celebrating something – anything – with my family, and being sedentary with bad posture, eating something horrendous for my body. I am a bookworm; let me sing you the song of my people: cccccooooouuuuccccchhh and cccaaaatttttt…..

For as long as I can remember, I have adored athletes. I’ve had a very secret envy for them. I come from a ladylike mother who wasn’t into the idea of me playing lacrosse with my friends in elementary school because I would be brutalized. I was a dreamy and imaginative kid, always lost in the ether, writing poetry and falling ever more in love with theatre. I adored athletes because I did not have the capacity to be one.

I adored – adore – their speed, grace, confidence, serene faces yet with jaws set in quiet determination. Yet I am a twig. A very skinny twig with the mighty endurance of an elderly sloth.

Look, its not that I didn’t try. I “played soccer,” which, in my childhood home has been renamed “picked daisies.” I would get very consumed and thrilled with dramatic little fights on the field, ever more the theatre student than the striker. Soccer faded when I went to high school and theatre was available all day.

Ever seen Glee? That was me. Sometimes its hard for me to watch Glee because I have flashbacks of being Rachel Barry with nowhere near that singing voice. Show choir totally consumed my life, interspersed with hobbies you would think might make me an athletic chum. I loved mountain biking; my group of friends was composed entirely of Boy Scouts. That is not a joke. I could keep up with them, take scrapes with the best of them… even though they told me almost every day that I looked like Mary Poppins riding my gritty gnarly mountain bike: back rimrod straight, hair in a bun (always), and lips pursed in what I thought was keen determination but I now realize looked simply prissy. I ran cross country with them – no interest in the sport whatsoever, just wanted to hang. I ran track in the winter and off season.

Those guys taught me how to play tennis, we hiked parts of the Appalachian, took day hikes and day mountain-biking trips. Somewhere in here someone talked me into being a cheerleader, which I did for about five point five seconds before I realized I hated myself (back then it wasn’t the death-defying butt-kicking phenomenon that it is today).

Then, the most decidedly un-tomboyish thing happened. I accidentally won Miss Virginia Teen USA (this was 1999, when Carson Daly was a heartthrob and Britney Spears hadn’t had boobs put in yet). They decided I was too skinny from all of this mountain biking and running cross country and track, and I was to start lifting weights and drinking protein shakes. Sure, no problem. But then after Miss Teen USA, in August of 1999, I didn’t lift a finger for weights, bikes, tennis racquets, trails, or alarm clocks. I. Became. Lazy.

For the next few years I lived in a hippie house. That is also not a joke. I lived with people who conceived children at Woodstock. As you might imagine, this was not exactly a healthy phase. Fishing was the extent of my athletic prowess. And not fly-fishing either. We’re talking hold on to the rod waiting for a catfish that you’re going to fry to the dickens and eat while drinking microbrews and reading Hemingway.

Round this time I became very involved at school. The story for another blog is that a professor, whom I adore to this day because he literally changed my life, took me aside and said, “You know, all this beauty stuff is well and good, but are you aware that you are smart?” And then, “You are someone that should be going to grad school.” So, for five years, I had study-butt. Which is to say, no butt at all.

Long story short, I won Miss Virginia USA during this time, and went through another year of weight-gainer protein shakes (which made me throw up on the side of the road when I was driving – anywhere). Year ended. Back to study butt.

All of this study butt led to a serious need for money to pay for all of this studying. After a LONG talk with my dad, I made my way to Miss Virginia, and I won. Most don’t know that the Miss American Organization is the largest provider of scholarships to women in the entire world. The MAO paid for my undergrad, my nursing Bachelor’s, my study abroad in West Africa, and the beginning of my doctorate. I’m giving this shout out because I’m always and forever indebted to that amazing organization. I worked my non-existent butt off that year, almost two years if you count preparation to get there. Although I did Stuff that year that I am way more proud of than this, the relevant piece is that I won the Swimsuit competition. The dirty secret is that I didn’t have to do much. I am slender already, I am confident, I know how to use a stage because of theatre. It worked. But let me tell you, when you win the Swimsuit competition at the Miss America pageant, you pretty much decide you never, ever have to work on your body again. Like… “back off, treadmill, I won Swimsuit at Miss America. Go bother someone else.”

Miss America SwimsuitThat’s me! Look how cute I was!

I’m pretty sure that SEVEN YEARS is a long enough break in my “training.” Like I’m resting my quads or something, for my next big Body moment. I mean I have literally been known to respond, “Whatever, dude, I have my Swimsuit trophy, I am therefore eternally hot,” when my husband asks if I want to go to the gym. Yes, Kristin, you want to go to the gym, because you haven’t been in seven years and your glutes have spiderwebs and dust on them.

So this is the story of how I Always Wanted To Be An Athlete, and just was never really cut out for it. I dipped into it, here and there, if I was lucky and had guides. But I was never more than a beginner, at best mediocre. And when it came to stage competition, it was something I had to do to win my scholarships. And it was easy for me. People will HATE me for that, but I just have that kind of body (read: the kind of body that you can gently fine tune to look pretty good but when in remission very closely resembles a Tim Burton character).

Stay tuned, because next I’m regaling you with tale of why in the HECK I told you all this in the first place…