Yankee Homecoming 10 Miler – My Race Writeup.

So last night, I ran a 10 mile race. And honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect. Because it was only a week ago that I was diagnosed with strep throat, and even though I FEEL fine now, my runs this week have been tough. Nothing I can put a finger on – just general fatigue and kinda dead legs.

But fortunately for me, I don’t run a lot of 10 mile races. 🙂 My last one was in March, where I bonked at mile 8 and finished at 1:32:01. And when I last ran this race, back in 2011, I finished in 1:36:01.

So I told myself that I would be happy with anything under 1:30, though I am capable of – and was going to aim at – as close to 1:20 as I could get.

First of all, yesterday was a GORGEOUS day – in the low 80s, much less humidity; just beautiful. Usually this race is hot and humid and nasty and last night was NOT one of those nights.

Got there with only 15 minutes to spare to get my race number and met up with my running club. Then it was time. Found a place towards the front of the pack and we were off.

I decided to start the race around an 8:00/mile pace and see if I could make that comfortable; knew there were some hills on the course and discovered at my last half marathon in May that it’s better for me, hydration-wise, if I walk through the water breaks.

I was hoping to end the race around 8:10 – 8:15 average pace. For me, that’s a good long race pace, and it would match and/or better my average pace for my last half marathon.

First 3 miles were good at that pace. I ran into a guy I used to work with and was able to chat with him briefly. But he was JUST faster than me in those early miles and I knew I didn’t want to be that fast, so I told him to have a good race and let him go ahead.

Miles 1-3: 7:54, 7:56, 8:11

Usually the first few miles are tough for me while my legs warm up. That was not the case last night, I felt really good those first three miles. It was the NEXT three that started to suck. There is a small incline at mile 4; it’s a tenth of a mile or so, but enough that my legs kinda rebelled a little. I kept my focus with music (thank god for recommendations from running friends!) and just kept going. Powered up the first real hill in mile 5 – a half mile beast…

… and then the wheels kinda fell off. Legs died. Heart pounded. I had that moving through quicksand feeling. So I walked it off for what I THOUGHT was a millisecond, made it to a water stop, and walked through that. When my watch flashed 9:22 for mile 6, I did a double take – I really thought it was a mistake. What?

Miles 4-6: 8:17, 8:42, 9:22(ugh!)

I was determined NOT to have another mile over 9. I run my long runs pretty regularly right now in the high 8s. It was time to engage my long run zone –  the pace you find when you’re tired but still need to finish your run. That zone allows for you to run and not think; to just find a comfortable space in the physical discomfort but not feel so depleted you can’t keep moving forward. So for the next three miles I did that. There was another steep but short hill at mile 7, once I was up that I ate three sport jellybeans and drank water and hoped they’d kick in.

(Oh, yes. Here’s where I admit it: I was enjoying the scenery in the form of, ahem… running eye candy. I ran behind some guy – never saw his face. From the back, though, he looked pretty darn nice. He was bronzed and built and fit… and it was kind of nice to run behind him for a couple of miles. Sadly, he took off at mile 8 and I never saw him again.)

Mile 7 and 8: 8:31, 8:40

I was pretty dead by mile 8. Ironic because a good friend of mine, who was watching wit her family at this mile texted me later that I looked really strong. I did not feel strong. I was tired and footsore at that point. I had decided on wearing a new pair of running sneakers that weren’t all that broken in. They’re great, but it really wasn’t a good idea to wear them. My right middle toe was pushing against the front of my shoe (nice and bruised today – first toe injury!). My legs hurt and I wanted to be done. Mile 9 was the WORST – no eye candy to look at, the scenery at that point SUCKS, and I was soooooo tired.

Mile 9: 8:55

But I told myself I wasn’t going to stop until the end, and that it was only a mile, and I could do anything for 8 minutes. I actually started to get a spark in my legs at this point; they started to feel better. And I decided to see if I could reel some people in. So I started running stronger, and passing people. First a guy who was 500 feet in front of me. Then a girl. Then another girl. And another guy. There was a girl next to me who had the same idea, and as we turned the corner to the finish she tried to pass me. No [expletive] way! I thought. I blew by her on the incline up to the high school, saw the numbers on the clock at 1:24:40-something, and knew if I really added some speed I’d get in under 1:25.

I finished at 1:24:59 – again my official time matches my garmin time (yay me!).

Mile 10: 8:07

This was not my best race, nor was it what I KNOW I’m capable of. But I am really happy that when the wheels came off at mile 6, I found a zone where I could sustain running the next number of miles – and then finished really strong.

And, of course – I can’t overlook this! – I did have a personal best. I was gained 7 minutes on my March 10 mile race, and 12 minutes on this particular course (I last ran it in 2011).

I’ll take it.

More on Balance.

Owen and I took a road trip last week to visit my sister and other assorted friends and family. And, like most things, conversations turned to work and career and balancing all of it, especially as parents of young children. Even my retired aunt and uncle talked about how hard they thought balancing parenting and work is for everyone now (especially with the DC traffic – holy crap I do NOT know how people sit in that traffic day in and day out!).

In the context of these conversations, I found myself talking with everyone about the positives of my working experience. And it struck me one afternoon: I actually kind of LIKE my job.

It’s true: I don’t love being an accountant.

But I do love my current work SITUATION.

Because it’s flexible. I have one client through the rest of the year. Which means I can structure my work weeks the way I want them. I have been working 2 days a week in July, a few hours here and there from home, and therefore haven’t been stuck in the car for three hours a day, 4 days a week.

I am able to take a week off, like last week, at sort of a moment’s notice. Without needing to apply for vacation time.

I love that about my job. I love that I am in charge of when and how the day to day tasks get done.

Of course, there’s times I am needed onsite, and days where I have my work reviewed and come away shaking my head and feeling like a loser and a failure. And the mornings where I have a 9am meeting and therefore HAVE to get on the road at 7:15 at the LATEST because otherwise I’d be too late and miss it.

And then there are the days where the sheer drudgery of doing a job I don’t love makes me loathe to do anything at all. Where I spend the hour and a half drive home cycling through a list of careers and wondering if any of them might actually make me happy.

In 2005, Steve Jobs spoke at a Stanford commencement, and he uttered a quote which I have not been able to let go since I first heard it maybe 5 years ago. This is what he said:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Find something you love to do.

For years now, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about what kind of career might make me happy. If you added up all the time and energy I’ve spent on it, it probably adds up to weeks of my life of thinking about what my ideal career would be.

All that time spent ruminating – and I’m no closer to an answer.

I’m 37 years old and I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

I’ve been trash talking being an accountant now, for, what, 10 years? I don’t love it. I don’t like talking about it with people, because they assume I’m good at math (and trust me, I’m NOT. I rely heavily on my calculator!) and am one of those “finance people” who has no personality or communication skills.

And there is always a part of me, deep inside, that wants to cry to these people who think I’m great at math and don’t have a personality or communication skills: But I love to write! And read! I was an English major and I played the clarinet and I have actually cried from the beauty of a piece of music!

The fact is, I AM an accountant. An accountant who blogs and reads and cries when she hears beautiful music.

I envy the Steve Jobs of the world; the people who knew exactly what they were meant to do and do it every day with passion. One of my best friends in college was like that: she knew from the moment she graduated high school that she was going to be a landscape architect. And damn if she doesn’t own her landscape architect business now. She loves what she does, and I often wish I had a career I could focus on with similar passion.

I don’t. But I don’t HATE my profession, either. In fact, I love it right now: Love it for the flexibility, for the freedom to work as little or as much as I want to. I love that I can work from home without having to explain myself. I love that the quality of my work is what’s judged, not the time I spend in the office. I love that it changes and moves and I have to stay on top of changes and figure stuff out on my own.

I love that I can take a week and do a road trip with my fast-maturing 5 year old in the summer before he starts school. I love that I can take him to dentist appointment and swim lessons and have family dinners ready and be able to run miles without having to worry about fitting it all in. I love that when he’s sick (or I am, since I have strep), I can adjust my schedule and not worry about long term career effects.

And you know. Maybe it’s GOOD that I don’t love my job. Because this way, I can be around for my family and run and cook and travel and do things I enjoy, instead of having a single-minded focus on my career, my passion.

And I’m now starting to wonder if my definition of “doing great work” has been too limited. Maybe doing great work, for me, means making sure that Jeff, Owen, and I have dinner together nearly every night. Maybe it means that I keep myself healthy and fit and mentally clear by running long distances. Maybe it’s about having the space and time to blog regularly, cook healthy meals, raise a happy child and have a happy marriage and life.

Maybe that’s enough, and I can stop wasting my energy on trying to figure out the career which Steve Jobs said I should find.

Why I Might Have Turned Into A Dog Person.

Before we got a puppy, I was dubious about dogs.

I’ve mentioned it before – I grew up with dogs. And they were nice and all, but they all LOVED my mother and only tolerated me. Also, from my perspective, they were a lot of WORK. Walking them, taking them out, playing with them, grooming them, etc. They could be smelly and slobbery and shed EVERYWHERE and barked and could be annoyingly enthusiastic.

I wasn’t sure they were worth it.

Cats, on the other hand, groomed themselves. They used the bathroom INSIDE the house. (Which, yes, I admit, really sucked to clean.) They were warm and small and fuzzy and smelled good and purred and left you alone a lot.

So when we made the decision to get a dog, I was kind of nervous. I was a Cat Person, after all. How would I do with a dog?

I have to say, I love our dog more and more every day. I tell Jeff that it’s because he’s Insidiously Cute; they HAVE to make puppies that cute because otherwise they wouldn’t survive to adulthood.

But it’s more than that.

I think I’m starting to see why dogs get the moniker of Man’s Best Friend.

Finley follows me EVERYWHERE. If he’s sleeping, and I walk into another room, he’ll get up, follow me, and then flop down none-too-gracefully at my feet.

He knows that we don’t like it when he barks, so when he needs to get my attention, he does this barky-growly-whiny thing which is NOT a bark, but does the trick to let us know he needs something. And if I have my headphones on? He’ll nudge me gently, then stare at me expectantly.

He’s ALWAYS happy to see me, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve gone; I get the royal treatment when I come home regardless of whether it’s been 5 minutes or a full day.

He will do ANYTHING for a treat. (And he actually believes ice cubes are a treat!) It has made him very trainable in many ways.

It’s a level of unconditional love that I am not sure I’ve ever experienced. Certainly not with Puck, who loved me, but on HIS terms. Finn is happiest when he’s around us – his pack. And when he looks up at me with those liquid eyes, I want to hug him and kiss him.

I am so happy he’s a part of our family.

The 30 Day No Yelling Challenge: What I Learned.

So. My No Yelling Challenge.

I HAD intended on updating you weekly about how it was going; the writer in me imagined that I’d see real progress over the course of the month and I could close out the challenge with a neat and tidy ending: I learned so much about myself, and I’m kinder, gentler, and a better mom and wife to boot!

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I still yell sometimes, even AFTER working at it.

Part of it is years of ingrained behavior and reactions. My default to pretty much everything is annoyance. Little annoyances over the course of a few days turn into frustration. Lots of little frustrations build up over time, and like a pressure cooker, I inevitably POP.

And then I’m yelling.

It was clear to me that first day (where I yelled at every one of the Important Beings In My Life at least once) that this was going to be a REAL challenge for me.

Because it’s a simple fact: I am not zen, as much as I’d like to be.

So last month was not a success if you define success as becoming a zen mother/wife/dog owner who never yells.

But it was a success in other ways. Because I figured some stuff out.

The first thing I figured out? Generally, I yell before I even realize I’m yelling. It’s a weird thing to say, I know. But there was a moment soon into the month where, as I was talking, I realized that my voice was raised and I was punctuating my statements with emotion. I wasn’t angry at that point.

But I could see how someone outside my head would think that I was mad.

I had never noticed that about myself.

And, of course, it makes sense that I don’t just go from calm to screaming in 60 seconds, that things build up before I lose it.

I spent time trying to figure out how to prevent getting into a situation where I yell. What were my hot buttons? What did it FEEL like when I was getting into the red zone where I snapped and let my frustration out?

I noted a couple of things:

1. I need space. I need, on average, an hour or two a day where I don’t have to interact with anyone, where I can be alone with my thoughts and feelings and breathe. (And yes, this confirms that I’d be an abysmal stay at home mother.) I struggle with this, because time alone seems like such a luxury. But I am a better person for it.

2. I need to simplify. My worst days are the ones where I am trying to do too much: squeezing in a run before daycare drop off then 3 hours of commuting time and a busy workday, only to have to go out for dinner with a friend or do dog training classes or whatever. Then, Jeff’s focus on work only while I’m gone – the coffee cup on the dining room table, the dirty dishes in the sink – are enough to blow my top.

3. I need sleep. I can subsist on 6 hours of sleep for a bit, but it’s not enough, and when I’m tired I get snappish and grumpy and have very little patience. Ideally I need 7-9 hours each night. Which means I need to commit to a regular bedtime, no matter what. And I also need to be on alert when I haven’t gotten enough sleep that I will have a harder time with patience.

4. I need to let go of expectations. I discovered that I was far more stressed out and therefore yelled when I was trying to do something special for Owen or Jeff or the dog. Seriously, go ahead and laugh, but I was that mom/wife/owner who was hissing through my gritted teeth I am doing this for YOU, so you better [expletive] ENJOY IT. And it was because I had set myself up with EXPECTATIONS. In my head, I had created a fantasy image of how things would go, and when it didn’t meet those expectations, I would get angry at them. Which, if you think about it, is a twisted sort of hurt. Acknowledge, please, I’m doing something NICE for you? I’d love it if you thanked me for it.

The biggest thing I got from this month was the ability to take a step back and observe my actions and reactions. Because until the Challenge I had never really acknowledged that my yelling was because *I* was missing something – either sleep or space or my expectations were out of line or I was doing too much.

I always explained it simply as the fact that no one listens to me, and they only way they listen is when I yell.

I still find myself raising my voice more than I prefer to, and I will be the first to admit that there are days where my patience is worn thin within minutes of waking up in the morning.

(Or when I say something to Owen for the THIRD. FREAKING. TIME and he looks up and says, “What, Mommy?” like he’s never heard my voice before. ARGH.)

So, yeah, it is inevitable that there will be days where I’ll snap at him or Jeff or the dog. This is real life, not some fairy tale where I make some sweeping changes which results in Happily Ever After.

But when I do lose my cool, it’s a warning: I need something. And if that means I need a few minutes with my pandora Trip Hop station or I need to text my best friend and bitch or I need to go for a walk around the block, then that’s what I have to do.

And so I’m calling last month a Win.

Why I Deleted All of My Facebook Games.

Without any real planning, today I deleted the Candy Crush app from my Facebook account.

And then Criminal Case.

And then Gardens of Time.

And then Bejeweled Blitz.

And then Words World or whatever the new app I just played this morning for the first time.

Why?

Because I spend too much time on the computer, and on my phone, playing games that are essentially mindless. Which would be fine if I could do it in moderation.

But the problem is that I can’t. It’s SO addicting to match colors and crush candy and find hidden objects on a screen; enough that I need a few minutes here and there when I should be doing other things.

Like playing with my kid.

Or running a load of laundry.

Or taking my dog for a walk.

Or connecting with my husband at the end of a long day.

I’m not against playing games, or gaming, or whatever. And honestly, I loved Candy Crush, I loved that my friends loved Candy Crush, and I loved playing it.

But seriously, it’s gotten bad. I figured out that I could play my 5 lives on the computer, and then play another five lives on my phone. And I’d get so angry at a board where I was stuck that I’d play it as much as possible to get the perfect combination of candies to finally, FINALLY, win the board. And then I’d cruise through another 4 or 5 boards, and then repeat the SAME. DAMN. CYCLE. AGAIN.

(If I’m being honest, the final straw was Level 158, with the stupid multiplying chocolates and the cherry you had to bring to the bottom. It was impossible. Ridiculous and impossible.)

And it struck me, this morning, when I lost my first 5 lives on the computer and then switched over to my phone to play another 5 lives, that went just as quickly as the first 5 lives on Level 158…

… This is completely RIDICULOUS.

I don’t have nearly enough time to read, I keep telling people. Yet somehow I manage to spend minutes of my day playing games.

If I’m going to escape from responsibilities, and disconnect, maybe I should do that with a book, instead.

Or maybe I could take those minutes spent on my phone and play cribbage – which is also low-intellect – with my husband and a glass of wine.

Maybe I should meditate. Or go to bed early. Or take the dog for a walk around the block. Or give someone a call on the phone and catch up.

Maybe it’ll help me, overall, to step away from Facebook and CNN and ESPN and Yahoo and Google. Maybe I’m spending too much time a day on my computer.

Time goes so quickly.

How do I want to spend it?