This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Things That Make Me Anxious #1

So there are things in life that make us all anxious...sometimes they are odd things. Here is an odd thing that makes me anxious:

Finding seats for people in a crowded room.

This happens a lot. An example is when in a theater, and it's, say, an opening night for a popular movie. We try to get there early to get our favorite seats, which is the very back row, in the middle. Once planted, everything is fine. I have no stress factor whatsoever.

However, when the seats start to fill, my eyes start seeing the empty seats and it becomes a game of tetris.

A party of four, there are four seats there, there and there. Uh-oh, that looks like seven or eight teens...let me re-count. OK. That is eight...that's going to be tough...ah, there seems to be eight seats right there.

Once it's really full and the empty seats are harder to see, full anxiety sets in. Three people come in and they can't see anything but I've been noting the empty seats all along. I try to make eye contact so I can direct them to the seats. I am oblivious to my family around me because my duty is to get non-seated people into seats. Of course, no one will ever see me and, the one thing I don't do, is stand up to direct anyone to seats...unless they get close to the back for me to be acknowledged. This anxious time will continue until the lights go out and I just give up.

Now, it doesn't only happen in the theater. At work, there are a couple of meetings I attend that fill up. Here, I CAN direct people to chairs. And fortunately, but surprisingly, not always, there are people who tend to the chairless.

Yesterday there was one such meeting. For some odd reason, people don't sit next to each other and fill these chairs up...and still do the "I'm going to sit one chair away from this person". Which then gives the illusion that there are no chairs, when the room gets full. But, because I'm this weird person that is hyperaware of empty seats, I know where the empty seats are. In fact, I do the prairie dog bob and look for empty seats in the room, DURING THE MEETING, when I start seeing people entering the meeting (minutes late...which is the MO at our company).

So back to yesterday, but similar to other yesterdays, people come in a few minutes late, then stand right by the door, or start sitting on the floor. This makes me crazy with anxiety. THEY CAN'T POSSIBLY BE COMFORTABLE OR STAND THERE FOR AN ENTIRE HOUR!! THIS CAN'T BE!!!

So I stare at them until I get their attention. Usually, the person next to me stares back and I then look at them and say "I can't stand it. It gives me anxiety until they sit." Then that person laughs and then the attention goes back to the meeting.

If the non-chaired person stares back at me, I then point them to the next available chair. If they don't, I then get the attention of the seated person next to the non-chaired person, THEN I point them to the next available chair.

Yesterday, I took it a step further. I tapped the person near me, made him get an empty chair, move it to a closer place, then get the non-seated person, and escort her to the chair. I think I like that process better. That made her think: what a gentleman this guy is. And I'm sure that guy thought: she thinks I rock. And all because of me. I could care less that I didn't get credit for anxiety was relieved and that lady is comfortable, and that guy felt good.

Now maybe he'll do it on his own next time. I've just paid it forward.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Running, Fractured Toes, and the Mad Dash to La Guardia

Brooklyn view from my hotel room
I was in Brooklyn the last days of April (27-30) for a work related conference. It was, as expected, amazingly awesome. NYC is my second home, after three visits.

Upon my return, like, IMMEDIATELY setting foot at RDU, I noticed I had to start adjusting my gait because my right big toe hurt. Uh-oh, I think to myself. I recognize this pain. This is similar to the pain I had in 2009, when I had a stress fracture on my LEFT foot. I ran through it, not knowing it was a stress fracture, and now, I was thinking: has this been going on and I've been running through it? No. I've had pains everywhere else BUT my right big toe.

I didn't do that much walking in Brooklyn, which, coincidentally, I think - a conference in LA - aided in the stress fracture of my left foot in 2009 (I was in heels and walked A LOT on tired runner's feet). So WHY NOW?

The only thing I could think of was the mad dash to La Guardia.

We (my colleague and BFF, Sam) had a flight back to RDU from JFK at 2:55. At 2:15, we were told the flight was canceled. Not postponed. CANCELED. Fortunately, technology for me was faster than everyone else at the airport, including Sam, as I received the text message quite a few seconds before anyone else, and managed to get us to the front of the gate check-in (second, specifically) before it was announced to the waiting passengers.

I heard the "friendly" (sarcasm) airline employee tell the old lady in front of us that the next flight available to RDU was at 9:30 at La Guardia. All flights at JFK to RDU were canceled. Of course, the next question is always: can't you find something earlier? And for some reason, they do...he found a 6PM at La Guardia...but only one. And she took it.

We're next. We get the same spiel. I ask the same question. He says no. I ask for the 6pm flight. He says he gave away the last ticket. So I said Book It Dano (not really, since I was feeling very festive).

Sam is not happy. It's 2:45ish now. 9:30 is a long time away. And when you're ready to go home, you're ready. But I knew my next step was to call my company's travel department because, I just don't believe nor trust airline employees. Surely, there is a flight out of JFK, or something sooner than 9:30.

The sweetest, most patient person was on the phone, despite me yelling (not angrily) WHAT? CAN YOU REPEAT THAT? over the loud noises of intercoms at JFK. But she did confirm that there were no flights out of JFK...however, there IS a flight leaving La Guardia at 4:30. Maybe you can catch that?

Well, despite NYC being my second home, I've lived near, and have worked in Cary, NC, for over 18 years, and I still can't manage that town without my on mother nature's green earth do I know if I can make it to La Guardia from JFK, at now 3PM to a 4:30 flight in La Guardia?

The sweet voice was like: I think you can make it and I was like: let's do it.

So it was a race out of the airport, after I told Sam what we had. I ran along Sam's fast walk and STILL could not keep up. And how lucky was I that I did NOT check in my bag, as I usually do.

We were on one end of the airport, running (well, I was) to the ground transportation area. Once there, the line for taxis was way too long, and we were told that the bus to La Guardia would not get us there in time. So I flagged down those illegal "taxis" that solicit near the "no soliciting" signs and asked how much to La Guardia. He said "$17". I repeated "$17?" and he corrected "$70". Seventy? I repeat back? and I'm thinking: WTF am I repeating back - let's go!

The whole drive my friend Sam is like: we will not make it. we are never going to make it. I am unusually calm. I have faith in mr. illegal taxi man. In a line of traffic, Sam asks: what time do you think we'll get there? He says: 3:30. She scoffs back: hahahahahaha! you are kidding? we will never make it.

And guess what? He got us there at 3:33. Security check-in was a breeze and naturally, our flight was just a tad delayed before we boarded the 4:30 flight.

So...when I had my right big toe examined by an ortho two weeks ago, he asked me what activities I had been doing that may have led to this toe injury. I explained the running-through-JFK event.

Doc: "What kind of shoes were you wearing?"
Me: "Wedged combat boots".
Doc (with a tone): "_Wedged_ _combat_ _boots_?"

It's the only pair I took with me! I packed light!

No fracture. Just a bruise, akin to a sprain. He told me to take two weeks off of running and do some hot/cold bath thing that i didn't do.

Run on Mother's Day - Lake Lynn
So last Mother's Day, I went for my first run. Started out great, but then an unforeseen emergency hit me that required me to turn around and get back home immediately. Nothing major. Just something that trails can't help a runner with.

And then this busy week kept me from my run routine so I went out today and had a kick-ass short run. BUT I can feel the toe. Is it pain? I don't know but I feel something. Will I run again on Tuesday. Yup. Let's see how this plays out...

In the meantime, this was my playlist on this lovely, cool but cloudy day, 61 degrees:
Dirty Laundry by Bitter:Sweet
Painted Faces and Long Hair by The Orwells
Cruci-Fiction in Space by Marilyn Manson
Ottoman by Vampire Weekend*
Normal Person by Arcade Fire
Other Voices by The Orwells
Target Audience by (Narcissus Narcosis) by Marilyn Manson
Safe & Sound by Capital Cities
Breezeblocks by Alt-J**
Sunday Morning by Velvet Underground*
Loud Pipes by Ratatat*

* From a mixed CD that CJ put together for me for Mother's Day
** From a mixed CD that CJ put together for me for Xmas

Mixed CDs from my daughter are the best. She also introduced me to The Orwells.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Broke the Curse

I finally did it. I made it to a race I paid for.

For the past two years, I've signed up for several races and on race day? A no show. I really didn't want to miss this one - the inaugural Rock and Roll marathon in Raleigh. And I just couldn't be sure if I'd show up until a few days before, when I was pretty sure I was ready.

"Ready" is a stretch. When my friends and I signed up, almost as soon as sign up for the race opened a year or so ago, we had visions of major training; being in tip-top shape by this point. My estimated time to finish was 1:50, a PR.

Fast forward to the last month before the race and, while I had been training, I started too late (January?). My long runs, starting at 8 miles, were crap. My legs just couldn't handle the long miles. While I ran two 10 mile long runs, I had not done more than that; I'd never made it to a 13.1 mile run. And these runs had a lot of walking involved. I think it was around the 9 mile training run that I decided to update my estimated finish time to 2:15.

Race day - April 13th. I'm feeling pretty good. Excited. Tim drops me off, which is great. Because this place is crowded - the race is sold out with 12,000 participants. That doesn't include everyone else helping with the race, including spectators.

Corral 13 - Looking ahead
I find my corral, #13. I can't find my friend Melisa. I think she decided to start in a faster corral. She could do it; she can push through pain.

I recognize my friends Joel and Erick and meet Erick's beautiful daughter. I notice a person from my work right next to me. I don't know her name; just someone I see at the gym. We chat a bit - she tells me she overslept and decided not to do the race. But at the last minute, she asked her husband to drop her off. She got there at 6:41. Race start time was 7AM. It was delayed but she didn't know that when she scooted over...

Corral 13 - Behind me
It took nearly 30 minutes for our corral to cross the start line. It felt great. I was going to keep a conservative pace. I wanted to run the entire race, or at least see if I could do it. Despite having walk breaks in my long runs, I've run a long time through those runs with minimal walk breaks. I thought that I could try to keep a slow pace and just run the entire 13.1.

The start of the run went great. So many spectators with wonderful signs. I loved it immediately. I usually don't like big races - too many people - so I don't get to see many people on the sidelines. This was really nice to see people cheering everyone on. And they *literally* were. One sign said "I'm so proud of all you strangers!" I couldn't stop thinking about that one. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I would have really loved to see that sign within the last half of the 13.1 miles.

Band on the Bridge
I took pictures while I ran. I took several shots, hoping at least one wouldn't be blurry because I WAS running as I took pictures. Unfortuantely, at some point, I pushed something that made the rest of my pictures black and white and I did not have the brain power, nor the coordination, to figure out how to bring back I was like "fuck it - black and white it is".

In these first few miles, I was sensing a lot of uphills. I knew there would be more, as I had run part of the race course with my friend Melisa a few weeks back. But I was feeling GREAT. The hills were not bothering me.

Running through the neighborhoods was great.
People were out with their kids, in their PAJAMAS, drinking coffee, cheering us on. Again, so nice. I thought about how nice it would be to live off the route so that you could do that. At one point, I passed a couple dressed in wedding garb. I think the woman's sign said "You caught us!" I can't remember. It just made me smile.

Lots of things were making me smile. And still, at this point, miles 3, 4, 5, I'm taking in each of those hills and seeing people around me walking. Wow. There are a lot of hills. I wondered what out of towers thought of this course. And I wondered what marathoners were thinking, having to start like this and having 20+ miles to go? Is Boston this hilly?

The bands were great. To be honest, I didn't feel like they were close enough. Were they really at every mile? I don't know. There was music, which helped, and the bands did help, when they were there. Counting helped. When does counting not help? It's my saving grace.

After passing mile 5, we are running up Peace Street. One of my miserable 8 mile runs, I ran the first four feeling spectacular, and as soon as I turned around for the final four, it was like an abrupt feeling of "yuck". Just like that. I thought: I made it to five, let's make it to six and I'm almost halfway there. If it all goes to shit then...well, I can manage.

Peace Street Holy Hell Hill
Well, it was shortly after passing mile 5, running up the rolling hills of Peace Street, where my legs were like "what the fuck? these hills?! seriously?" So I decide at the next water stop, I'll take a little break, fuck the 'no walk' plan. I have to give my legs a break. I have seven more miles to go. I go up yet another hill. And then down, and then? ANOTHER GOD DAMN HILL that was quite steep. I was done. My legs were like 'uh, no'. So the first walk came at the hill to Glenwood on Peace Street.

I started back to my run at the top of this hill but I think I walked again at the next hill. And when I got to the water stop, I didn't stop running because I wanted to cross the 10K line in a decent time. But once I crossed it (because it was hill to run to it), I walked UP that hill.

My legs were killing me. But I felt better after the water and the walk so I kept on moving. I was determined to get to the finish faster than walking would do, even if I had blown my 2:15 time. Whatever. 2:30 will work. 2:45 will work. Just let me finish.

It's around this time that, not only do I stop taking pictures, I stop looking at spectators. I had to dig down to just get myself to the finish. Take each mile and just go. Count them down. They're getting smaller. Then mile 7 comes. Nearly the entire mile 7 to 8 was just UP. I walked most of it. This was CRAZY.

Pointing to the walking (winning) marathoner
At mile 11, which was mile 24 for marathoners, the race folks were asking us to move to the left to let the lead runner have room. I wanted to get a picture of him, which was a great distraction for running up the hill that I was on. When he finally appeared, I had made it up the hill and turned to take a picture when I heard the race folks in the lead truck say "Wait. He's walking again." I looked, and yes, that poor guy was walking up that hill. And they said "AGAIN". Well, that is telling. Marathoners in the lead do not walk. This course is hilly. I cheered him on and screamed "It's HILLY!!" There would be more hills ahead of him, I would find out later.

I'm sure he's not happy that I caught this photo in his most humble minute but, hey, it proves a point about the hilliness of the course. It *is* beautiful though. I just needed to train better.

My pattern at the water stops was to get gatorade AND water. At this point, I didn't care what it would do to my stomach, being that this wasn't anything I did in training. In fact, I did no water during training. Yeah. That was stupid. I couldn't find my Nathan belt and never bought another one. And once I reached my 10 mile runs, I was like: well, they'll have water on the course, no need to buy one now.

It actually affected me well, the gatorade-water-walk pattern. I felt re-invigorated after that and would start running, feeling great as worn out legs could feel. That would last until half of that mile and I'd feel tired again. But when I reached 12? I was like I GOT THIS! I'm going to finish this race!!

And I did. I ran that last mile like there was no tomorrow. Well, more like this sign I saw: "You run like dogs pulling (squirrels)." I don't even know if I was running that fast. But I was running - that's what I'm going to say.

I didn't have much in my legs to put in that last OOMPH to race to the finish. I just tried to stay upright and cross it. I did and almost instantly, I felt great again. I could walk OK. I searched for water and gatorade. The gatorade was warm :( but it didn't matter since I could get it opened. I found a banana and that was the best damn banana I've ever had.

I texted Tim to meet me at the Mickey D's by the auditorium. He got me and I asked for help for my gatorade. Apparently they have a foil cover. 'WHY DID THEY DO THAT TO ME?" I pleaded. He said "They didn't do that to you. They do this to every gatorade."

My finish time was 2:27:56. Yes. I would have love to done better. This is the very opposite of a's a WR - Worst Record. But I'm not bothered (maybe a teensy bit but truly, it's just teeny). I enjoyed the run despite having to fight through nearly 7 miles. But that's what makes me proud. I loved the spectators. I thought the race was set up wonderfully. And if I do it again, I have to train better. My finish time is all due to me and not training well. But I trained well enough to run 13.1 miles and THAT makes me happy.