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Archive for November, 2011

Getting It Back

I put my running watch away when we moved to Colorado. I had to. The combination of altitude (6000 feet), hills (1100 ft elevation gain on my neighborhood loop) and weight gain (moving + holidays+ life stress) had done some no good very bad things to my running pace, and I found myself getting more and more frustrated with every attempt to hit the trails.

I struggled all last spring and summer. I was getting back into shape thanks to Crossfit and better eating habits (turns out not traveling full time for work makes it easier to, you know, cook meals), but I was still missing my running groove. I didn’t feel happy when I ran; I felt tired. Every time out was just as hard as the time before. I couldn’t breathe. I had no energy. And it really bothered me, because generally, no matter what else is going on in life, running has been my quick and easy way of resetting, of feeling clean, of doing something nice for myself. Back in August, Mike and I discussed registering for Ironman Lake Placid, a race I’ve always wanted to do, and thought of it just exhausted me. How could I train for an Ironman if I couldn’t even go on a four mile run without needing a nap? (He registered, I didn’t. Anyone want to keep an Ironwidow company this spring??)

So, I put the Garmin away. It wasn’t doing me any mental favors to see my pace and HR and overall time on these miserable runs. I started just doing a shorter loop through the neighborhood, one that still included major hills but was just under 20 minutes to run. In my past life, I wouldn’t have bothered lacing up for a sub 20 minute run, but I figured it was better than nothing and the fact that it was all uphill made it still a worthy effort. I kept going to Crossfit. I went to track workouts with the Rocky Mountain Tri club but refused to keep track of my times. And after a few months I started bringing a watch back into play – not a Garmin, just a watch – still not ready to track distance or  heart rate, or any of the other obsessivey runnery things that I like to track, but just to baseline how much time I was out there.

Last week, my longer neighborhood loop– the one that took me about 35-38 minutes to run when we moved here– I ran in 28 minutes. My shorter neighborhood loop? I’m getting that done in about 14 minutes, not 20.  And these times are reflecting everything else – I finish running feeling energized,  the hills don’t slow me to a walk, I’m able to push up and over. I’m getting it back. Maybe it’s just getting used to the altitude, maybe it’s the increase in overall strength I’m getting from crossfit, maybe is the iron supplements I started taking for altitude related anemia (um, maybe it’s a lot that last one), but whatever it is: I feel like myself again.

And I’m ready to bring back the Garmin. I’m ready to start training again. And it feels so, so good.

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So I’m thinking that whole post about how I was basically forced to read Mindy Kaling’s book because of my library hold system prowess might prompt a “Thanks for a post about how much you like my book now could you go actually buy the damn thing it’s not like I’m writing for fun, here” response.

Which in turn reminded me of the night I met Jack Johnson and told him I stole all his music:

My brother and some friends and I went to see Jack Johnson right when his “Brushfire Fairytales” was juuuuuuuuuuuuuust becoming big news. He was playing at a great but small bar in Arlington, VA (Whitlows on Wilson, for those who know/care.)

Given the small venue, the line to get in was insane. It was one in/one out by that point and we were totally kicking ourselves because my brother lives like three blocks away, and the only reason we didn’t get there earlier was because we were watching reruns of Seinfeld (our bad.) We had just gotten to the front of the line when the bouncer asked us “Hey, are you guys like, real fans? If so, leave one person in line and the rest of you go around to the parking lot.”  When we got back there, we found Jack Johnson playing an acoustic set (with his drummer on bongos) for everyone who couldn’t get in (the opening act was currently on stage.) (This is in no related to how I made a total jack(johnson) ass of myself, just kind of a cool part of that night. Well done, sir. Well done.)

Anyway, we finally did get in before the opening act ended, and my brother and I found ourselves standing next to Jack Johnson himself at the back bar. Super excited, we started going on and on and on about how much we LOVED Brushfire Fairytales. (It’s true! I loved that CD. LOVED IT!) I told Jack “My brother burned the disk for me, and now every time a friend of mine hears it they want a copy ,and we burn it for them, and it’s basically taking over my college campus!” and my brother chimed “Yeah, we’re burned it for like, everyone we know! Everyone loves it!” to which Jack replied: “Guys, that’s awesome. But it’d be even awesomer if you actually BOUGHT the CD. Just saying

Doh. Good point, Jack. Our bad.

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So I’ve been rocking the Mindy Kaling book, like every other chick in America.

Look, I didn’t want to. I knew that I would likely enjoy the book – excerpts I’d read were funny and I enjoyed Bossypants enough to know that I’d likely dig Bossypants 2.0, but I just finished a memoir for book club and frankly I wasn’t really in a first-person-memoiry type place. So much so, in fact, that I picked up The Great Gatsby from the library to immerse myself in and yes I know The Great Gatsby is written in the first person but shut up that is not my point. I’m in the mood to get swept away by a story, not over identify with a lovely and funny but still unknown to me individual.

HOWEVER. THRWARTED. I completely won the library hold system contest by apparently being the first person to request this book. I am the FIRST PERSON in Douglas County to access to Mindy Kaling’s new book, and what am I supposed to do? Not read it? Come on, there are kids in Arapaho County who don’t even HAVE library hold systems, GOD.  So, I reluctantly put aside my Great Gatsby and dove into “Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)”

(… I do understand my library system probably bought more than one copy and I’m not the literal only person in the county with this book. NOT THE POINT)

Of course, as predicted. I like it. It’s charming and funny and the section on Best Friends Rights and Responsibilities means I will likely be sending underlined and notes-in-margins versions to my close friends. But here’s the part when Mindy completely won me over: her quick little discussion about how ridiculous the John Cougar Mellencamp song “Jack and Diane” is:

 “I wish there was a song called “Nguyen and Ari”, a little ditty about a hardworking Vietnamese girl who helps her parents with the franchised Holiday Inn they run, and does homework in the lobby, and Ari, a hardworking Jewish boy who does volunteer work at his grandmother’s old-age home, and the they after school at the Princeton Review…

The chours of “Jack and Diane” is: Oh Yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone. Are you kidding me? The thrill of living was high school?

Ok, Min. We can be friends (even though I copied from your book illegally and then stripped out the money portion of that section where you talk about how it’s ok to be quiet in high school and the wonderfulness of getting to spend time with ones family.) (And called your book Bossypants 2.0) (even though you already made that joke in the book already.) Because you know, my stepdaughter just started high school, and I love seeing her love it, going to Varsity Football games, getting involved in all the high schooley type stuff, and it’s easy for me to be so excited for her to be having this great experience, but you know it’s like that Indigo Girls song (what? We’re talking high school here, people. It’s excessively on-point for me to be quoting the Indigo Girls) – “I don’t want the things that mean the most to mean the things I miss.”

Anyway – I hadn’t thought much about it, but I did like the look at our nice little American idealized view of how high school is the best years of our life (“Glory Days”, anyone?) and how, actually, if you’re doing it right, that’s not it, not even close.

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Handling Things

That last post where I spoke about how my husband is basically in charge of the personal administration in our house, so much so that I sometimes wonder what I would do if he went *poof*

This in turn reminded me of my favorite part of The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s memoir of the death of her husband and the year that followed. (Note: I did not much care for that book, which I think is more because I dislike memoirs, but regardless, when I say “my favorite moment” I do mean it was my favorite in the book but adjust your scale accordingly for how awesome I thought that moment was, exactly.) Anyway, the night of her husband’s death, Joan comes home from the hospital and finds her self smoothing out some crumpled dollar bills and placing them in her wallet, carefully, in an organized fashion, and she mentioned “I would like to think he would have thought I was handling things.”

Ooooooooof. Yes.  That just struck me as so sad, and so relatable, this idea of the roles we fall into in our relationships and then when that relationship – for whatever reason – isn’t anymore, our discovering that we can fill those other roles, and the pride we’d feel, the wanting that person to see us doing it, see us being ok, but of course, it’s too late. They’re gone. And that’s just the way things go, but man.

Kristen Armstrong -Lance’s ex – wrote an article for Runners World while she was mid-divorce from Lance. The article was about her training for her first marathon, and I have always remembered how she described what it meant for her to achieve this huge thing:

Last December, four days before my divorce from cyclist Lance Armstrong, I did something I never thought I could do. I ran my first marathon…

At mile 22 I could feel the rumblings of a revolution in my legs. By mile 24, I was getting cramps in my calves…I thought about Lance and his ability to withstand pain. And I thought that he might even be proud, and a little surprised, to see me hauling my tired body and toting my invisible pack of sadness over all those miles

Now, I know Mastering the Art Of Opening Mail is not the same as running a marathon, but the idea of what she is saying feels the same to me. It’s funny: I suspect if I were to suddenly become amazingly efficient with getting the mail and opening it right away and filing it and basically handling that one particular administrative aspect that I HATE, I would want my husband to acknowledge it, to be proud of me, to congratulate me. And I suspect he would instead — much like I would if he suddenly started changing the sheets on our bed with regularity — simply be like: “finally.” And be confused as to why something that he just does without thinking is something that I feel is worth being thanked for.  Which is unfair, of course, because should I ever become proficient in those things that he is great at and I am not (and, to be clear: I don’t doubt I could be. I lived for many years opening my own mail and he lived for many years dealing with his own sheets) it would be because of the training I’ve gotten from our life together, and while being on top of the mail is a non-event for him, I would want him to see me handling it, and I would want him to be proud of me for it.

(I say this, of course, with the disclaimer that while of course we would manage just fine without each other, it’s one of the nice treats of life that we don’t have to. And hopefully never will.)

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Getting Things Done

My brother just wrote a post on getting things done and then told me to write one as well.  So, obviously, I have no choice: here guys go: here is how i get stuff done:

(Apparently I get things done by just doing what my brother tells me to do.)

My husband would suggest that I don’t get stuff done, and he’s not ENTIRELY wrong on that count in that I am the worst- THE WORST – at personal administration. Unread mail? No bother! Moved to Colorado in February — still don’t have a license! I am almost horrifyingly capable of letting non-work related paperwork and to-dos go to the wayside.

BUT! Having said that, I would suggest that I have cultivated some FANTASTIC coping mechanisms, because I do recognize that it’s Not Good to Not Care about unread mail. So I would say one of the smartest things I’ve ever done is marry someone who DOES care about unread mail. And putting on snow tires.  And the dog’s flea and tick meds.  Etc.

(Oh, stop looking at me like that. I’m not a total freeloader of his organizational mastery. I’m excessively on-point when it comes to clean sheets, grocery shopping, dishes in the sink, and kicking ass at my job. It all works out.) (I think.) (I mean, I am sure we both wish the other cared a little bit more about the things we care about, but I also wish that running shoes were free, so, like, you know, we don’t always get what we want in the world.)

Ok, having said all THAT, I clearly must have some skill at Doing Things because I have managed to juggle a pretty decent career, a lot of Ironman training, and a puppy that seems to love me and not be resentful of not ever seeing me, so:

1. Schedule. If there are things to do at work, it goes in the outlook calendar (which synchs with my phone.) I’ll block time in the day for my to-do list, and put those items in the body of the calendar appointment so I know exactly what I’m doing during that time. The biggest moment of weakness in my day is the first five minutes of my work day: if I don’t have A Plan in place with with very specific action items there’s a good possibility I’ll go “Oh, I’ll just check my email/reader/twitter” and pooooof! It’s 10:30 and nothing is done. This to-do list is always first scribbled on a steno pad notebook I have at my desk and can bring to meetings, because a) I prefer to handwrite things than type, so I always handwrite notes at work and b) I do love me some good old-fashioned Checking Off Of Stuff.  And for things that aren’t as simple as “Do this than it’s done” , I still schedule in the calendar — figure out milestones for bigger things and see when in a week I have time to devote to inching toward that end state. And as with the to-do list, that calendar notice has notes in — what I was thinking when I blocked the time, what info I need to pick up and start that effort, where I want to be at the end of that time block. It’s painstaking, but I’m a step by step person, and if I break the bigger things into those steps:  ain’t no thang, it gets done.

2. I also schedule working out. Physical activity is a Really Important (side note: I should title this post “I Capitalize Words That Don’t Need It and You Can TOO!”) part of my life and I like to assume that it’s going to be a time block in every single day. I don’t always succeed, of course, but when I think of the day in front of me I assume that at some point in between work and making dinner and seeing friends and husband and dog walking there will be working out occurring, and I figure out where that’s going. When I’m training for something specific I keep that schedule on my Outlook calendar at work as well; that enables me to see if it’s realistic to assume I’ll run for an hour in the morning on Wednesday, or if I have an early meeting that will make it a no-go. This, by the way, has been the biggest key to me successfully training for races — pre-planned scheduling of not only what the day’s workout(s) are going to be, but WHEN they’re going to be.

3. For family stuff, we use Google Calendar, and I generally try to synch that with my Outlook cal as well (my outlook pushes reminders to my phone via the exchange server, vs. gCal with pushes reminders to my GMail, which I’m more likely to miss)

I’m an EXTREMELY out of sight out of mind person, so I need things like a white board in the kitchen with a grocery shopping list on it, reminder notices that pop up on my phone, a to-do list in a calendar reminder AND a notebook that sits open on my desk.

But my biggest thing I do to get stuff done?

I get up in the morning. I know that I’m about 10x more clear minded and focused at 6am than I am at any other point in the day, and being up at that time of day lets me see how all the pieces — things I want to get done at work/working out/making dinner/running errands/playing with the dog/playing with the husband — how they all tetris together so it fits. While I *love* sleep and could easily sleep until 11am, I know if I do, I’ll get nothing done. I’ll have missed my window. The single nicest thing I do for myself is getting to bed early enough to support getting up early.

So. That’s it. Getting Stuff Done is NOT my strong suit, and if my husband still blogged he’d have a helluva rebuttal for this post, but I manage to make it work (although I’m sure there is an overdue library book that would beg to differ.)

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