Thursday, May 26, 2011

All I get are book reviews? What is happening!

I've been so busy I somehow forgot I'm a blogger.  I may have forgotten I'm a writer for a little bit, too.  Right now all I am is a mom and a runner...  And I'm not even doing either of those very well. 

Wow, doesn't that sound like a pity party?  If I were one of you, my faithful if anonymous followers, I might shake my head and mutter about the downer and stop reading.  But, guess what - life is as full of downers as it is uppers.  And I'm not talking about little pills either.  So, instead of suffering alone, I'm sharing with the world - my small corner of it anyway - and hoping somehow it is the key to turning it all around and getting me out of the current slump.

It isn't even a slump really.  I'm just overwhelmed with my life.  It happens.  Occasionally. 

Hubby isn't happy with his job.  I'm not happy with my job.  Big Sister is, I'm hoping, a typical nine year old who would rather lolly-gag and watch TV than pick up after herself regardless of how often I yell at her and ground her and take away her phone.  Little Sister is in the full blown "terrible two's" and is constantly throwing tantrums and screaming when she doesn't get her way.  Hubby's work schedule - at the job he hates - has begun interfering with everything from co-parenting to my running and we barely get to see each other.  I have the equivalent of a part time job on top of my regular full-time day job in required after-hours support.  And, I haven't written a thing in weeks - unless you count a couple of book reviews.  Oh, and I am so busy both at work and at home that it's been days since I got to talk to my friend who abandoned me at work and who I miss desperately.  You know, now that I think about it this can all be blamed on her - since she left there is no one around who lets me vent and keeps me sane.  Great.

So, that's my life in a nutshell. 

Plus, I'm freaking out about Ragnar because I've been so crazy busy the last two weeks that I haven't gotten to run regularly and now we only have about three weeks of training time left before the big show.  Oh, and did I mention that we've had to replace five of the twelve team members in the last few weeks?  Yeah, try finding runners insane enough to even consider doing this relay race who aren't already on a team and who are willing to jump in with only a few weeks left to train.  It is pretty difficult.  Luckily I know a lot of people but we've pushed the limit on scraping the barrel so hopefully it is over.

Oh, and did I mention that I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?  Yeah, I'm thirty nine and I still have my wisdom teeth - don't judge.  And the recovery time is going to either interfere with Ragnar OR trump our trip back to Glacier we had planned... Do you see why I'm a wreck these days?

I do have stolen moments here and there like glimmers of light to cling to in the darkness and keep me going.  Book club last week was amazing and the brief brainstorming session with a fellow writer afterward may have finally gotten me past the little block I had going with moving forward on my novel.  Although I haven't had a chance to write, I'm constantly thinking about the characters and the story line and wondering where it is going to take me.  Dance season is over so I'll get a month off from the shuttling back and forth three nights a week and school is out next week so my mornings will get less intense.

So, if you find yourself wondering where I've been and why all I've been posting are a few book reviews, picture me screaming through life with a toddler on my leg and my hair on fire juggling more than my usual share.  And with this picture in your mind, I hope you'll forgive me...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris

This was a book club pick about a girl growing up in occupied France during WWII.  She returns to her childhood home as a widow hoping no one will recognize her as the young girl who's name she no longer uses because of the scandal that occurred with her Mother.  It's been a week since I finished reading AND participated in the book club discussion and I still don't know exactly how I feel about this book...  I really liked the story but there was so much anticipation and suspense built up around this big secret the main character had kept hidden forever that when I finally learned the truth it was almost a let-down.  I read this book (vs. listening to it) and I found all the french in it distracting.  I feel like I missed whole pieces of the book between not knowing all the food references and then not being able to interpret the sections in french or even know what some of the names of the characters should sound like in my head.  That alone was enough to knock this book from four stars down to three.  However, if you're looking for a book that keeps you guessing until the end with interesting characters this is still a book I would recommend for a quick and light read.

One thing I really liked was how the author showed us things that done by an adult would be appalling but when done by a nine year old child seemed almost harmless.  And the added layer of character development getting to see the same child grow to adulthood and look back on the role she may have played in her own Mother's actions was fabulous.  I loved the book club discussion and took away may other insights I hadn't come up with on my own - as always!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Don't Want To Kill You

I looked forward to this, the newest book from Dan Wells, with great anticipation.  And while it was an enjoyable read, sadly it wasn't as good as the first two.  I felt that the main character was too different in this third and final book and I wanted him to be the same dark and terrifying teen we had glimpsed and gotten intimate with in the first two.  The story and the twists and turns it took were very interesting and exciting enough to keep me reading but the character of John and the inconsistencies left me wanting.  What happened to the guy who obsessed so much about killing that he had to resort to starting fires in Mr. Monster with all his rules to keep him from behaving like the sociopath he really is?  He's completely gone and if you hadn't read the first two books you could almost miss the fact that he IS a killer, not just some good guy who has to do bad things occasionally to save the people in his community.  Most of the time he comes across as just an awkward teen, barely noticing that he's gotten himself a girlfriend, rather than the chillingly creepy sociopath walking a thin line and fighting his inner demons constantly.  It was clumsy character development at best.  While the story came to an exciting conclusion with more action and more demons, I just didn't feel emotionally attached anymore to the main character so it left me feeling flat.  I wanted to love this book and while I still will highly recommend the series, this was not my favorite installment. 

I'm really so sad... but can't wait to discuss it with all my reading and writing buddies who have been waiting somewhat impatiently for me to "get done with it already!"  Kudos to all of them who kept their opinions to themselves and let me read with unbiased eyes - I don't know if I could have done the same for them! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Don't forget the sun on your shoulders

Gadget geek checking in with news of her latest acquisition:  I'm SO excited that I have a GPS for running.  Even cooler is the resourcefulness I exhibited (usually Hubby's forte) in obtaining it FOR FREE because the guy selling the older model his wife never used couldn't find the charger and thus it is pretty worthless to either of us.  Apparently it was easier to just let me take it off his hands than to throw it out himself once we realized it was missing.  Thank you, Amazon seller who still had an old style charger, and $25 later I have a Garmin!!  For those unversed in the runner gear world, that equates to about a $250 savings.  So you can see why I'm so excited....

Okay, all gushing aside at the coolest thing since my Nike+ for a moment so I can update you on the insanity that I call Ragnar training...

First, I am totally behind.  And I mean seriously behind.  Like I should have run a sixteen mile run last weekend and I logged a mere five mile limp-fest instead.  The reality of trying to run long distances even once a week with two kids and a husband, who I would really like to stay married to and see frequently, doesn't exist in my universe.  So, I'm doing the best I can and hoping that my training approach will be just as good as the one on the website assuming their training program is only one way of preparing.  Sort of like how speed limit signs are merely a suggestion when I'm driving.  It's possible.  My approach is this:  Instead of stressing about my total distance of twenty one miles - yes, that's five miles shy of a FULL marathon - and thinking I need to be able to run that in one long run, I'm focusing on mimicking the act of running my specific legs of the relay in relatively close intervals.  Which means my "every day" run in the middle of the week needs to be about eight miles and I need to do two of those about twelve hours apart then throw in another four mile run twelve hours after that.  Sounds do-able, right?  I am capable of running eight miles at a time already, it's just the challenge of finding the two hours to do it amongst the chaos of the rest of my life.  If only I didn't have to work all day... think of all the training I could get done!

Then there's the limp-fest I mentioned.  The last few weeks I've totally been babying my stupid knees that are fine when I'm not running and then are excruciating daggers of pain with every step while running.  This is nothing new if you've been following my training this year but even when I've been diligently icing and resting and not trying to increase my mileage too fast it has still been a problem, like last week.  I started my hill training and I wondered if it was because I was using different muscles - I KNOW I was using different muscles in my ass because for a few days after the first hill run I could barely sit without pain, but that's another story.  So I searched all the runner websites and all the blogs and I found a few references about re-training your gait in order to prevent recurring injuries.  The theory is that it is because of the bio-mechanics of your stride and gait that you have the pain that you do and if you change the way you run you can prevent the pain and injuries.  What the hell, after starting out last Sunday for an eleven mile planned run feeling awesome and then having to WALK most of the way until I called for a pickup, I was willing to try anything!  Three runs later - one on the treadmill and two outdoor - I am happy to report that it seems to be working.  I have even minimized my old nemesis plantar fasciitis while I was at it and I haven't needed to ice my knee for a week.  The secret?  Realigning my pelvis so it isn't tilted and engaging my core muscles differently plus making sure my feet are equal distance apart with my knees pointing straight ahead.  Sounds so easy, right?

Which brings us back to the joy and agony of my new Garmin GPS.  Remember, I am a numbers and data kind of girl who tracks every run and what my pace is and all the other stats with my Nike+.  But, as my distances have increased I have noticed more and more of a discrepancy between what my mapping software says the run is and what my Nike+ says I've run when it is all said and done.  Which is probably the real reason I searched long enough to find the replacement charger if I'm being honest.  I was excited to have a GPS accuracy for my pace and distance tracking but also a bit nervous about what I might find out.  My first outdoor run was canceled due to weather - I had cool weather gear packed but wasn't equipped for sub-freezing temperatures in the last week of April. When I finally did get a chance to use it I was running an uphill route.  The data was discouraging but hey, it was UPHILL.  So I did a downhill run just to be sure of the accuracy AND wore both gadgets to compare them real time.  Picture it: left arm strapped with my Garmin which is the size of a small cell phone.  My right arm has both my heart rate monitor and my Nike+ band which is only slightly smaller than a regular watch.  I looked like Madonna in the 80's with her bracelets to her elbows.  What I found is that I was right - the Nike+ was off in both distance and pace calculations.  I ran 3.05 miles by the GPS but Nike+ said 3.48.  I ran a pace of 14:30/mile by the GPS but the Nike+ said I was a 13:30/mile.  Considering the Ragnar start time and logistics live and die by the average pace of the team, to know I was a minute slower per mile was disheartening to say the least.  Plus the realization that my long runs have been about a mile shorter than what I thought which means now I'm even more behind in my training...  It was another low point for me.

But, as I ran with my heart in my chest, the self-doubt thoughts swirling in my head, the strong and chilly headwind whistling past my ears and the obsessing about running the right way marching like a cadence to the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, I felt the sun warm on my shoulders.  And for just a minute I remembered that none of that other shit matters.  What matters is how I feel when I run - the freedom, the joy, the exhilaration.  JUST RUN!  My pace is what my pace is no matter how badly I want it to be faster but it doesn't matter - because running is an individual sport and all I have to do is better than I did the last time and I win.  And the more I run the faster I'll get.