Monday, May 28, 2012

If Only I Was as Fit as I am Stubborn

There were two thoughts engaged in a duel for the dominant place in my mind as I ran in the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon last weekend.  The first thought was regrettably,  “How did that backstabbing bottle of Pinot Noir somehow convince me that signing up for this race on a whim, with no time to train, was a good idea?” On the other hand, as I looked around, I confidently thought, “Therefore, since there are so many effing people watching, I need to lay aside every mental and physical encumbrance and run this race with endurance.” (See, I totally paid attention in Sunday school.)    It was a mental battle between “WTF?” and “You got this!” My positive outlook and my sense of despair seemed to flip-flop with each passing mile marker.
Sadly, my pace resembles that of a water buffalo more than an actual athlete, and accordingly, the idea of running competitively is somewhat lost on me.  But I do enjoy running, or what is more commonly referred to in my case as “labored jogging.”  Running is one of the few things that can change my mood, eliminate anxiety, and ground me when I feel as if I am about to spin out of control.    It is also the mental space in which I come up with my most brilliant ideas, diabolical plans, and ponder the things that everyday life so often crowds out. 
My day-to-day schedule is packed, which makes it difficult to maintain running (or exercise in general) as a priority.  Having a goal to focus on is a good way for me to hold myself accountable and push myself beyond my slightly lazy tendencies.   I’ll be the first to admit, after a crazy day at work, a glass of wine with friends (or a bottle by myself) sounds like a far superior way to unwind compared to dressing in my uglies and pounding the pavement.  This is a key reason why I started signing up for different events, to keep myself in motion.  

It really began about 7 years ago when my friend Nicole and I decided we wanted to conquer the hills of San Francisco and run in the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon.   I’m pretty sure bragging rights and the nearby wine tasting had something to do with our event selection. However, the primary reason we chose this race was the promise of a Tiffany’s pendant guaranteed to all participants (we had our priorities straight!).    Nicole and I trained together for an extended period of time, but when our lottery numbers weren’t chosen for the Nike event, we lost some of our inspiration.   As it turns out, the idea of heading outside on cold rainy evenings in the dead of winter had lost its appeal once the shiny piece of jewelry dangling at the finish line was removed.

No big deal. I’ve learned that no matter how well-trained or ill-prepared I happen to be; on race day I can always seem to find plenty of motivation. If you mix my stubbornness with race day adrenaline, it becomes a potent blend. Often, this wonderful combination is what carries me through.  My fatigued muscles/blubber might be waving a white flag in surrender, but my mind will not even entertain the idea of conceding to my body’s plea for relief.  Mental toughness has rescued me time and time again when I have showed up to battle otherwise unarmed.   If one stops to think about it, it really is extraordinary how the mind has the ability to require more than the body has to give.  

The other aspect to me being able to perform beyond my ability is the energy of the audience.   When thousands of people are running alongside you, and thousands more cheering you on from the sidelines, the collective result is invigorating. 

All that said, for me, the most crucial ingredient is having running companions.  Last fall Nicole, Colin and I participated in the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon (no need to mention why this event was appealing). I thought it was a suicide mission.   No training, the hot humid Florida weather, a recovering hamstring, stuffing ourselves with food and drinks in the days/hours leading up to the event… this is not exactly a recipe for success!  Towards the end of the race, when my pace was slowing, Colin said that the boardwalk we were approaching was the end of the race, and that we should sprint the last leg to improve our time and finish strong.  I agreed.  Unfortunately, Colin, my life long friend, was a liar.  We still had over half a mile left before this hell-path ended, and my jello legs were now committed to a dead-run.   While the betrayal is unforgivable, the end result was pretty spectacular.   I had a similar experience with my friend, Tina, with the 15k Shamrock run.  I had not done anything physical or remotely healthy all winter when we signed up for this annual March tradition.   Being the flaky, irresponsible person I am, I never even looked at the course.  Tina, being the intelligent, clever person she is, failed to mention that on this particular snow-and-hail filled day, that we would be running uphill for the majority of the race… Again, maybe I need to make new friends, but I must say, it did feel gratifying to storm a hill I don’t even like to drive up.

Being able to produce under pressure is not the same as being prepared and strategically working toward achieving a goal.    While I was able to bust 13.1 miles out of my ass with no real training or preparation last weekend, it came at a cost.   For instance the chaffing that occurred from my larger-than-I’d-like-thighs rubbing against each other, and against the seams of the new clothing I had never worn was dreadful (big no-no to wear something for the first time on race day).   At one point there were volunteers passing out sticks of Vaseline. Let me tell you, I wasted no time smearing that all over my inner thighs and underwear line.  

P.S. I’m sorry to all of you who were inadvertently flashed as I lubed myself up mid-jog.   

Also, I’m pretty sure the runners who trained for the race also recovered much faster and had less overall soreness throughout the next several days.  

My accomplishment did however give me a profound sense of gratefulness… for having a cardiovascular system, lungs, and body that is healthy enough to even participate; and for having friends that cheer me on and push me when I’m growing weary (Tina, you rock!).  

All in all, it was a good reminder of how important training is an all aspects of life. We need to do our work ahead of time, so when the moment arises, we are prepared.    Even though we may obtain the goal by sheer adrenaline and mental discipline, when we go about things the right way, the journey is substantially more enjoyable, there is less chance for injury, and the recovery is quicker… or at least you can avoid rashes on your thighs and showing your vagina to all of Portland.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Don’t think I won’t put my push-up bra on and come back tomorrow.

Last weekend I was attempting to wrap up a few projects around my house in preparation to put it on the market.  Nothing huge, just a few things to improve curb appeal and to make my house scream, “I am far superior to the bank-owned home two doors down that you can buy at a fraction of the price.” 
Buying a house in this market reminds me of crossing the border from Tijuana back into Southern California.   You’re sitting in the hour-long line at San Ysidro and you have an ashtray full of change… how are you ever going to decide who to buy Chiclets and tamales from?   The selection is vast and the price is right. 

I am somewhat frugal.  Please don’t misunderstand me, nothing other than Bobbi Brown touches my face, and my dog, Riley, eats strictly organic specialty chow that cost approximately a zillion dollars per bag because of his skin allergies.  But in everyday life, I am mindful of the value of a dollar.
So when I‘m inspired with a project idea, or something needs to be done around the house, I take a do-it-yourself approach.   Perhaps this is because I believe that I am far more artistic and talented than I actually am. Or it could be because I am the daughter of immigrant, and I was raised in a home where you don’t pay someone to do something you can do yourself.  This would also explain some very unfortunate haircuts my brothers and I had growing up.   Another contributing factor to my DIY tendencies could be the fact that I literally sit in an office starring at a computer 10 hours per day.  Having an outlet for some good old fashioned creativity has probably saved me from going homicidal on idiot co-workers a time or two (you wouldn’t believe what working at a law firm for years can do to one’s mental health).

In general, my experiences at stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, True Value Hardware, etc. have been very positive over the years. The associates are quick to offer help, answer questions (even if the answer is wrong 26.7% of the time), and they have been consistently friendly.   Additionally, the employees usually go above and beyond to assist me in assembling things, cutting things, loading things, basically doing as much of the project for me as humanly possible before I take it home.   In fact, last year when I was building a wine rack, I was too cheap to buy an expensive new saw blade, so I had the guy in the lumber department literally make about 50 cuts for me (which turned out beautifully by the way).

So in looking for some help this past weekend and attempting to schmooze a few tile cuts out of the employees (as opposed to renting a saw), I was expecting everything to go smoothly.  And to my delight, it did.   However, after returning home I realized that I would need one more piece cut.  The next day, after my soccer game I stopped by with my lonely tile, and asked the guy in the rental department if he would make the one cut for me… and much to my shock, he said, “no.”  He then explained that I would have to rent the tile cutter I needed for my project.  Whhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaat???? This was unheard of; I had been weaseling “helping hands” out of this place for years.  What was the difference right now?
In the back of my mind I had an idea what the difference was. Even when I first walked through the door, I was aware at some level that instead of being in my dressy work clothes, with my golden retriever in tow (who by the way is the perfect accessory to any outfit), I was in my soccer jersey, shin-guards, and cleats. The finishing touch on my classy look was having turf particles stuck to my leg (must have been a rough game).    It is no secret that looking “your feminine best” is always beneficial when feeling lazy.    When I’m in my yard-work clothes, the service I receive is courteous, but never over-the-top.  However, if I enter the store wearing a skirt and heals, it is a pretty safe bet that when I exit the store, someone else will be carrying my purchased items out to my car.    

Just as I suspected… when I returned the next day with my wayward tile, I walked directly back to the tool rental section, and asked the same question.   This time, coming after work, the employee made the cut for me without any hesitation.

Whether selling a house in an oversaturated market, buying Chiclets at the border, or ensuring needs are met when visiting the local home improvement store... I guess there is something to be said for curb appeal.    Maybe the lesson to be learned here is that when service doesn’t meet your expectations, it might be time to step up the curb appeal, and trade that sports bar in for a push-up bra.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sarah’s Baby Shower

Babies and bubbly...the perfect Sunday afternoon!
I had the recent opportunity of celebrating the upcoming arrival of Sarah & Andy’s second son.  The shower was filled with their wonderful family, some friends, and much laughter.   Many thanks to the fine pinners on Pinterest who shared so many wonderful ideas!!!  We chose a mason jar theme for the décor and had endless inspiration.    Andy, Sarah and Caden I am so excited to see your family grow!!  xoxo
Photos by the lovely & talented Amanda Bondurant