Friday, August 29, 2008

Football Time is Here!

Last night, I decided on impulse to meet some friends up at my alma mater for the first football game of the year. While MTSU doesn't boast the best football team around, it's still always fun to go tailgate and hang out with people.

I wasn't able to get in on much of the tailgating action for two reasons. First, I had to work, and then I headed to the gym to get in my 6x800m speed workout in. It felt good to run at about an 8:27 pace. Then, I got stuck in standstill traffic on the interstate. After about 10 minutes of not moving, a BUNCH of cars started turning around and leaving the interstate on the nearby entrance ramp. It was empty since no one was getting on the interstate because they could see that traffic was stopped. Normally I'd probably never have the guts to follow the crowd, but I didn't want to be stuck on the interstate so I joined right on in.  I turned my car around, drove down the ON ramp, turned back onto the main road (which is difficult since there is no light at the end of the on ramp), and made my way merrily to the Boro.

I called my friend to let her know I'd be a bit later than expected and relished a bit in the liberating feeling that came with blatantly doing something illegal.

I had a good time hanging out with several friends at the game, but they were losing badly when we decided to head out at the beginning of the fourth quarter.  I'm still glad I went and had a great time, but I'm looking forward to next weekend when I can go on a Saturday and participate in all of the tailgating activities.

In other news, I don't profess to be especially political.  In fact, I claim no party affiliation and find myself to be very much middle of the road on most issues.  I don't really like to discuss politics, and I'm certainly not trying to get something started here.  I'd just like to point out two things that have happened that I think are worth noting.

One - I think it's really cool McCain selected a woman as his vice president.  I think this was a very intelligent move.

Two - I didn't like something very specific that Obama said in his speech last night (I pulled the quote from one of the many transcripts online):

“Tonight, more Americans are out of work, and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes, and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay and tuition that’s beyond your reach.”  The blame, he said, lay squarely with “a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.”

Um, I HAVE to strongly disagree to some extent.  Americans are driving cars they can't afford because they CHOOSE to.  Americans have credit card bills that they can't pay because the CHOOSE to.  I realize some people will disagree, but I grew up in a home that had 2 kids and one income.  We learned how to manage money appropriately.  My parents taught us that you should never go into debt for things other than like your mortgage and that there is ALWAYS a way to make it work.  I'm sure some people are truly strapped and have a hard time avoiding debt, but I think that MOST Americans are perfectly capable of making smart decisions with their money and avoiding the things that Obama is referencing here.  They just don't.  That's not our government's fault.  People need to be held accountable for their own spending habits. 

Anyways, you are free to disagree (but only nicely if you choose to comment).  I'm in no way saying I have decided on a candidate to support.  I haven't yet.  But that one comment just really rubbed me the wrong way.  I am the only person responsible for how I spend my money, not my government.

Well, I'm off to start my Labor Day weekend.  Plans call for a 14-mile run tomorrow, lots of relaxing and a lot of fun!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

You Know You're a Marathoner When...

I always love the posts that pop up on running forums and in running magazines and websites about how to know that you're a marathon runner.

I have one to add to the list.

You know you're a marathoner runner when you dream about meeting Ryan Hall and his wife Sara.

I'm not even kidding.

First, check out his new blog post about his experience running the Olympic marathon. I thought it was an incredibly well-written piece and that he does a great job of being both honest and humble about how he felt about the race. I know he's only like a year older than me, but I really look up to him. He seems to be a good guy who's trying to use his talent to honor God and to lead a good example for others. I respect him.

Anyways, so I dreamed that I was coming out of a stall in a bathroom and found Ryan and his wife Sara standing at the sink. (Within the dream, it wasn't odd that they were both in the bathroom. Apparently it was unisex.)

I immediately recognize them and say how I know all sorts of people must bombard him all the time (because marathoners are such celebrities and all) and that I hate to do that, but that I run marathons and respect him so much and would he mind if I got his autograph.

He grinned and said yes and walked away to grab a copy of Runner's World (apparently they're stocked in the bathroom) and I chat with his wife and ask her about her running while he writes me a note on the front of the magazine. I'm super excited, and then I don't want Sara to feel left out so I ask her to sign it, too. (I think in the dream I also wanted to make sure she didn't think I was flirting with her husband or something.)

Then, they offered to sign my race number. Apparently, we were at a race. So they sign that and tell me that if I see them after the race when I have my camera to make sure to take a picture with them. I was going to be running in a race with Ryan and Sara Hall!

Then I woke up.

I had to laugh. I KNOW this sounds crazy. I'm sure it was spurred by looking through my copy of Runner's World that had Ryan on the cover last night. But I think it's safe to say that only a marathon runner would actually have dreams about Olympic marathoners.
***Photo from here.

TIART: Run. Rest and Recover. Repeat.

***This post is part of the Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday.

If it wasn't for the resting and recovering in between runs, I don't know that I'd be much of a runner. I LOVE resting. When it comes to sleeping, I can rock it out like nobody's business.

Unfortunately, I can't sleep my life away (and I don't want to!) so I have to do other things aside from a regular amount of sleep to help my body recover after a run.

Short workouts usually don't present much of a problem. As long as I hydrate and eat a good meal post-workout, I'm good to go. It's the long runs that kick my butt sometimes.

I usually do my long runs on Saturday so that I can have all weekend to recover. After the run, I treat myself to a good meal. There's nothing better than heading to Olive Garden after a 20+ mile run. Sometimes, I schedule myself a pedicure on Saturday afternoon as both a treat for finishing a long run and a way of pampering my feet after all of their hard work. I try to get home and take a short nap and then get back out with friends on Saturday night so that I can keep moving and prevent my body from becoming like that of a stiff brick.

On Sunday, I take it easy. NO runs. I sometimes hit the gym to go to yoga class to help my body stretch back out and prepare for the coming week. Believe me - it feels terrific to walk out of that class the day after a long run.

I don't have any fancy methods or any specific foods to recommend. For me, I just enjoy relishing in the joy that comes from finishing a terrific workout and then make sure I'm getting enough food, water and sleep. Planning the occasional reward also makes it a lot more fun and reminds me to forget about any aches and pains I might feel post run. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's 16 Miles to the Promised Land...

"... and I promise you I'm doing the best I can."

I did it. I ran 10 miles for the first time since I ran in the 10-Miler about two months ago. The conditions were PERFECT.

It wasn't really raining anymore by the time I got to the trail. There was a light mist that was enough to keep me cool without drenching me. It was definitely still cloudy and a little windy, but not so windy that it was problematic. I set out at a nice even pace and enjoyed a new playlist I'd made for the ipod. I got to the 5-mile turnaround point feeling pretty good. It had stopped misting so I got a little warmer than I'd like. My clothes were soaked through with sweat... I also had to keep wiping my face with my shirt because I was so drippy.

The last couple of miles were a little bit tougher, but mostly because I think it's time to retire my shoes. They've got about 460 miles on them, and I had hoped to make them last til 500. I can tell from the aches and pains I had that I'm going to have to go on and give them up. They'll probably be ok for short runs, but I have only run in my new Brooks Adrenaline's once so I'm going to have to get busy breaking them in on the short runs. Unfortunately, I'm kind of stuck for the next week or two. I don't want to wear the old ones on my long run this weekend since I know they've had all they can take, but I also don't want to wear the new ones until I break them in to my liking. Oh well. Life goes on.

It felt really good running 10 again. A 10 mile run is kind of my happy place... it's never a problem to go do, I always feel like I get a good workout, but it's not so much that it completely wears me out like my higher mileage training runs.

AND I ran it in 1:33, which was 4 minutes faster than when I ran the race back in June. I can do a 10-miler a bit faster, but it felt good to know that I've already improved on the poor shape I was in earlier this summer when I wasn't feeling well.

I'm hoping to get back up to 12-13 this weekend, and then I'll really feel a lot better about all of the long runs that are coming in the next 2-3 months. I couldn't fathom running 16 more miles when I finished yesterday, but I'll get there again.

Meanwhile, it remains a gloomy day here in TN. This means I continue to walk around feeling like all I'd really like to do is curl up in bed with a book and my cat.

Instead, I've got a few more hours at work, and then I'm off to get a haircut. Don't go getting excited... it's just a trim. But I love going and getting an inch chopped off every now and then to keep it looking healthy. After that, it's dinner with my mom and a g'friend of mine that neither of us have seen in a few months. It's shaping up to be a pretty good week, and I'm DEFINITELY looking forward to the 3-day weekend.

Bonus points to anyone who can tell me the artist and the song that my song lyrics in the title and first part of the post are from...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Running in the Rain

It's finally raining here in middle Tennessee. It's good because we need it, but it's not good because it's making me soooo sleepy today.

I love crawling into my bed when it's raining outside. I can hear it pretty well, and it definitely soothed me to sleep with ease last night.

I got myself to a spin class yesterday for the first time in ages. I've decided that spin classes are going to be my consistent method of cross training over the next 3 or so months as I train for Memphis. I'm also determined to get some yoga in once a week and do a little bit of ab work at least every other day.

It felt SO good to be spinning again. I can remember the first time I ever went to a spin class when I joined the gym back in 2006. It totally kicked my butt. Now I kick its butt. Hills with added resistance? No problem. Standing for the length of an entire song? Bring it on. Thirty second sprints on a flat road? Piece of cake. Don't get me wrong - it was a great workout, and I was literally dripping sweat. I'm just saying that I've come a long way. When I first joined the gym, I wasn't even really running that much. It's really exciting to remember how all of that felt and to know now that I've built a lot of strenght both in my legs and my cardiovascular system. Even though I was working really hard, I never got too terribly out of breath. It seems that my lungs are finally recovering from summer allergies, so I'm looking forward to getting deeper into my long runs. I don't feel terribly sore from the class, aside from the bike seat soreness. I'll adapt after a few more classes... always have in the past.

Speaking of long runs, I didn't do one in the midst of my busy weekend. I intended to make up with it today with a 6-8 miler. I can't run that long on a treadmill at the gym, so I'm planning on running outside. Yes, in the rain. I actually really like running in the rain. I got a half marathon PR in the pouring rain. I felt like I was a character on LOST running through a jungle from a monster in the rain, but apparently that works for me.

Besides, I know Tennessee weather. We've still got some hot and humid days ahead of us. Fall weather doesn't truly set in for good until almost November. I have to take advantage of any opportunity to get out of the gym and run on the trails when those days come along.

It feels good to be ready to train now. I've been building back up the past few weeks so that I could get back into the groove. I'm ready now. This week is only the beginning. It's time to get tough. I've got a marathon in less than 15 weeks that needs me to come kick its butt.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Volunteering, Birthday Parties and Other Weekend Fun

So one of the cool things about getting up at 5:30am on a Saturday to drive to the Boro to volunteer at a 5K? Seeing a gorgeous sunset like this.  Yes, I totally took this while sitting at a red light to turn onto the interstate. I have a tendency to keep my camera in my purse for such opportunities.

I had a great time volunteering.  I was positioned at the finish line to clip timing chips off of people's shoes.  At first, I was really excited because it meant watching everyone finish their race!  Then, I realized it also means seeing everyone when they're tired, out of breath and possibly on the verge of throwing up.  I became VERY aware of the latter possibility when they were hovering over me as I quickly clipped the chip.

I did see two people throw up before getting out of the finish line area.  There were a bunch of high school cross country teams there to run, and it seems that a few of the young ones haven't quite figured out what's ok to eat before a race.  I felt a little bad for them.  Hopefully they'll learn.

I headed back home and crawled back into my bed as any sane person would do at 9am on a Saturday morning after getting up before sunrise for a volunteer opportunity. Once I was back up and dressed appropriately, I headed back to the Boro to go to a first birthday party for one of my best friend's son. 

There was BBQ and present opening (one-year-olds rack up!) and chocolate cake... all the makings of a good birthday party.  Once the family left, we hung out eating some pizza and watching some of the final Olympic events.  I TOTALLY stayed up super late and watched the men's basketball final from 1:30 to about 2:30.  Then I drove home and caught the end of it, not going to bed until close to 4am!  I haven't stayed up that late in ages.

I became very aware of why I don't do that much anymore on Sunday.  I suppose I could have slept in, but I got up around 10am to head to meet someone at Starbucks for some coffee and conversation.

I spent the rest of Sunday hanging out and catching the end of the Olympics.  I have to admit that I'm kind of sad they are over.

It ended up being a really great weekend full of friends and fun.  My weekends always seem to go by too quickly, but I'm really glad that they've been so fulfilling these past few summer months.

Hope everyone else had a good one!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Finally Friday

This week has seemed to DRAG by. I'm really looking forward to the weekend for sure!

Yesterday I kicked butt on the treadmill. I just do a 4-mile tempo run, but I pushed to maintain a 9:00 m/mile pace so that I can work on getting some of my speed back. It felt so good to hammer it out. I also started working on breaking in my new Brooks Adrenaline shoes!

I also picked up my passport from it's safe spot so that I wouldn't forget when it's time to make my trip to Canada in a few weeks. I haven't used it since 2005 (sad) and forgotten how terrible the picture is that I had taken for it back in 2002. There's something really fun about passport stamps, and I like seeing the ones I've collected. There are still a LOT of empty spots, so I want to work on filling them in!

I haven't hit much on the Olympics in the past few days, so let's cover a few bases:
  • Women's Beach Volleyball - Heck yes, USA! Way to win Gold 2 Olympics in a row! I have never really be into volleyball, but there's something I like about watching Kerri and Misty play. I swear my heart was pounding for the whole second half of the second match. I was so nervous for them, and then I was ecstatic when they won. They're amazing! I also wouldn't mind if I had stomachs like either one of them... that may be some new inspiration for me when I do core workouts. I also liked the way they handled their interview and that they thanked the president. I felt like that was a very patriotic thing to do.
  • Men's Beach Volleyball - I won't lie, I fell asleep before it was over. (All these late nights are catching up). I was tickled to see they won this morning. But did anyone else notice the music they played during breaks in the match. "Whoomp! There it is!" Maybe the Chinese people in charge of the music thinks we still listen to that over here?
  • The MEN'S MARATHON is Saturday night at 6:30pm (CST). I will of course tune in at some point if I'm anywhere near a tv. Read Ryan Hall's blog here to read about his preparations for the race. He's favored for silver, but I hope he wins gold!!
  • If you want to see a bunch of Olympic pictures that haven't been making it to the news articles, go to this page. It's not in English, but the pictures tell you everything you need to know. Be warned: every now and then there's one that's kind of gross.
  • I about had enough of the track events yesterday when BOTH the men and women of the 4x100 relay teams dropped the baton during the final handoff. I also didn't understand why when they were asked what happened they respond with, "I don't know." Well, it's easy... you didn't get the baton.

Yesterday when I was driving home there was a man riding a bike in front of me who would NOT get out of the middle of the road. He was also wobbling all over the place. He finally moved enough that I could get around him, and I saw he was smoking a cigarette! I really wanted to roll down my window and let him know the bike riding would be easier if he wasn't smoking.

I also saw the Goodyear blimp on my drive home. No lie. It was random.

I'm super excited about volunteering at a 5K tomorrow morning. The race is held on the campus of my college and usually has a really good turnout. I'm also spending the afternoon at a birthday party for my friend's one-year-old. It should be good times.

Hope everyone has a good weekend and enjoys the last bit of the Olympics! I'm counting down the minutes until time to leave the office because it is GORGEOUS outside and I'm ready to go be in it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sometimes You Gotta Play Hardball

Yesterday I ran 3 miles... at 3:30pm... outside... in 93 degree weather. Why? Well, because I like the hard road. Ok, not really... it started that I hadn't shaved my legs and I figured less people would notice if I ran on the trail instead of at the gym. But I really don't care THAT much, so the bigger reason was that I wanted to calibrate my sports watch and needed to do it on a marked path so I could get it right.

People, I used to run every day at that time during this time of year when I was on the cross country team in highschool. I don't know how I did it!! I felt like trash by the time I finished 3 miles. I think I got the watch configured correctly, so I suppose it was worth it.

After I cleaned up, I headed to the Boro to meet up with some of the girls in my diamond family from my ADPi days (think big sister/little sister). We had such a great time talking and laughing and catching up. I definitely enjoyed having a girls' night and hope to have more in the future. It certainly brought back some memories from my college days. Then, when I was driving home I realized it's been ages since I'd done the ADPi rally. I seriously had to think about it for a second and make sure I remembered all the words! My little diamond and I talked briefly about trying to get an Alumnae Association going... it'd definitely be awesome to get that up and running!

So today has been on of those days when I've had to get a little rough and tough. I think anyone who knows me at least a little bit (whether in person or via this blog) knows that I have a generally happy disposition. It doesn't take a lot to get me truly upset, and I rarely flip my lid over something small.

However, I've learned over the past 2 years in my current job that sometimes you really have to change gears and play hardball. It seems like that's all I've been doing today.

Example 1 - I got an email this morning saying this:

"Well, I never got a response to my question. So I consider this order attempt failed, and I do not expect my credit card to be charged, nor for the items to be shipped. I will order from another supplier. Thanks anyway."

When I scrolled down (because I was confused and had NO idea what this guy was talking about) I found this that he supposedly had emailed earlier (but that is nowhere to be found in my inbox):

"I tried to submit an order this evening, but got an error. I do not have a lot of patience for Web sites that do not work. If you want to sell on the Internet, you need to invest in decent software. So, did my order go though or not? Please let me know. Here is the text of the error for your tech people, or the people you have hired to do the technical work (by the way, a Null Pointer Exception is an indication of very amateur programming and testing)"

Um, hello... first of all, if you don't have patience for websites that don't work, then why even bother to email me and try to place the order when you think it didn't work the first time? Second, who do you think you're helping by calling us amateur? If you call us names the first time you have any kind of problem, we probably don't want to deal with you anyways. And third, did you ever think to wonder why you didn't get a response to your first email... like maybe that you didn't actually send one?

I of course was very polite and wrote back that I didn't receive his first email or I would have responded and that our phone number is on the website so he could call if he'd prefer and that I have been receiving orders all week so I don't think there's anything wrong with the website.

It hasn't hurt my feelings he didn't respond again. We won't be crying any rivers over losing his business. Name callers are not accepted here.

Example 2 - UPS has been giving me grief for months. Normally, they're easy to deal with, but after they wouldn't pay for a package they damaged because they determined it was "insufficient packaging" they've been a pain in my butt. I've been calling for weeks about getting someone to come out here and look at what we do and tell us why the packaging isn't sufficient so that we can then go to the vendor and tell THEM why their packaging is crap and insist they change it.. and pay us for that damaged item.

Anyways, I had been talking with this one guy and he kept saying he'd come and then he quit calling back. So I called UPS to ask them to get me back in touch with him (because of course he never would give me his direct number) and they have a system of emailing your rep and asking them to call you. I asked them to do that, yet again, and the woman starts asking me a million gazillion questions about how many packages we ship and how much they each weigh. I was annoyed to say the least because they HAVE all of that information. It's how they send me an invoice every month.

I finally had to stop answering her questions and tell her that none of it is relevant and that I just need her to email this guy and tell him he better call me because my boss is threatening to switch to FedEx.

Example 3 - My boss ordered an iMac as a surprise for his wife. (I think he saw mine and was sooo impressed with it.) It came on Monday, but he called me from home to tell me it didn't have a power cord, mouse, keyboard or software. He was heading out of town, so I had to call and let them know. They apologized profusely and shipped the stuff Next Day Air.

I took everything over to their house today to hook it up for her and show her how to use it. When it came on, it went to a main screen and was like "Welcome Carlos!" Carlos? Who's Carlos?

It turns out it was a refurbished computer (and the boss ordered a NEW one) and they hadn't even cleaned off the hard drive. When we connected to the internet to go to her email page, all sorts of spam pop-ups cluttered the screen. I said it first: "The Bob is NOT going to be happy."

Before letting Bob know of this drama, I've called the company (who is not Apple, it's just a certified reseller, who clearly needs to be uncertified) to let them know and insist on them sending an UPS pick-up slip to take it back and reshipping a NEW computer Next Day Air. It crushes the blow to the Bob a bit when the situation is resolved before I email him in Atlanta and tell him what happened.

Example 4 - And this one is directly related to my blog. I didn't realize until yesterday that my blog accepted anonymous comments. This has already been corrected.

With my journalism degree came the opinion that anoynmous comments/letters to the editor are not valid, especially when they are in disagreement with what has been written. Don't get me wrong - I welcome disagreement. It does not bother me as long as nothing inappropriate is said. However, if you want to disagree with me, you have to tell me who you are..

To the person who left the anonymous comment yesterday (that has now been deleted): I do hope you'll continue to come back and read, and please know that you are welcome to comment. I will insist that you not be anonymous. I have deleted your comment only because of my policy that anonymous commenters are not appropriate and I didn't realize my blog was accepting them.

I would also like to say that I continue to disagree with you on your opinion of Dean Karnazes. I do not believe he is a self-promoter. I think anyone who runs the crazy kinds of things he does SHOULD write books and things of the like because other runners (and probably some non-runners, too) want to know how someone does such things. Nothing about him strikes me as being egotistical... he has never once come across to me like he's doing these things for recognition. He's doing them to see what he can do. And he has his reasons that fuel his passion for running, just like the rest of us do. More power to him. And if anyone else does these sort of things, I'd want to read how they do it, too. We need more positive role models like that in this world... people who are encouraging people to go after their dreams, believe that anything is possible, and never give up.

Example 5 - When I call you and ask for an updated item and price list, send it. When I call a second time a few days later and ask again, send it. If I have to call a third time, I won't be happy.

I think this gets all of the ranting out of my system. My regular readers know it doesn't happen often, but today is just one of those days. I definitely am a little proud of how I've learned to handle situations with other customer service people... maybe because I work on the other end of customer service and know how easy it is to take care of the customer. I've learned how to boldly assert myself and demand what I deserve as a customer without crossing the line of being a b*tch. I suppose that's a good thing to be able to do.

Going for a run today to get it all out of my system. Back to my normal happy-go-lucky self tomorrow.

TIART: The Middle Miles

***This post is part of the Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday.

The middle miles of a training run or a race can be tough. Every runner knows this.

When I'm training, there are days that I sail through the middle miles of the run and hardly notice them. Other times I feeling like I'm dragging my feet as I try to get to the point where I can tell myself there are only 2 miles left.

To keep myself from being overwhelmed by the middle miles when I'm training, I try to break up the really long runs so that the middle miles happen twice... I'll go to the local greenway and park my car at the trailhead. If it's a 20-miler day, then I'll run 5 miles out and 5 miles back. I'll go to the car and get some extra water/Gatorade and eat a snack. I'll use the bathroom in the rec center. I enjoy a solid 5-minute (at a minimum) break. I might meet up with someone else at this point who will run the next 10 with me, and we'll head out to run 5 out and 5 back. Of course I'm still tired on that second loop, but breaking it up really helps me to forget how much I'm running and where the middle miles even are since I try to pretend each time I'm only doing a 10-mile run instead of 20.

A race is a whole different story. I really struggled with the middle miles when I ran the Rocket City Marathon last year. I wouldn't say I hit the wall, but I was getting bored and ready to be done around mile 18 or so. For me, I have to dig deep and focus on just running one mile at a time, telling myself that when I get to the next mile marker I'll take a drink and tell myself that it's only one more mile... when I try to forget how many more miles are ahead of me, I can focus more easily on getting through the one I'm on. Before I know it, I'm seeing the 24-mile marker and heading toward the finish.

It's not impressive advice, but these things do help me. Sometimes it comes down to just making sure you keep putting one foot in front of the other and reminding yourself of all the reasons why you're running in the first place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On a Happier Note...

I fell in love last night. He's got super brown eyes... brown hair... and the most adorable smile you've ever seen. He looked into my eyes with his, and I could see he loved me, too. He lit up when I spoke to him.

Sure, he barely comes up past my knees. And he's three. But boy, I love this kid.

One of the guys I work with has a 3-year-old. I've seen him a good bit over the past 2 years, but he was always a bit shy and hid behind his mom and dad when I talked to him. I think maybe hanging out at their house and watching the Olympics some over the past week and a half changed something. Last night he RAN over to me, offering to help me clean up the hospitality area I had been in charge of this year. It was my last night in this position, and it was certainly fun to wrap it up with this adorable little boy helping me put things away.

It definitely made me smile. Having children of my own is certainly not anywhere in the near future from me according to my plans, but it's always fun to get to play with and love on someone else's adorable little bundle of joy. It serves as both a healthy dose of birth control and a reminder of why I do want to have my own some day.. like at least 5 years from now.

Meanwhile, I scored big time at the grocery store today. I don't think I mentioned that I just got my annual raise, which is always pretty exciting. I'm pretty much unphased when this time of year rolls around. I don't go out and start spending more. If anything, I figure out which account I want to start routing the extra cash into. So I keep on going after bargains and saving the extra money for the future.

I have a habit of eating Lean Cuisine pizzas. They're terrific for my lunch since they're not too big, but still filling and tasty. I went into Kroger thinking I'd pick me up a few to get through this week and found them on sale for 5 for $10. This is cheaper than Wal-Mart! Then, I looked more closely and saw that if you bought $20 worth, you could get an instant $5 rebate at the register. So this means 10 pizzas for $15. As if that wasn't already awesome enough, I had a coupone for $1.50 off of a Lean Cuisine, so I got 10 pizzas for $13.50.

Score. This is how Melanie likes to shop. Spend little on necessities and save the rest to spend on trips and other important large purchases.

I owe some props to this guy for providing me with this link and this link about the music that Michael Phelps listens to before a swim. Also, this gal was great at pointing me in the right direction to find this link. It's not what I was looking for in terms of his playlist, but it IS a picture of him with no shirt wearing all 8 medals for the cover of Sports Illustrated. It's worth taking a look (or two) at...

Disclaimer: I promise I don't really lust this much over shirtless men I don't actually know. But hey, what woman in American can help herself right now?

"Celebrate We Will/ 'Cause Life is Short but Sweet For Certain..."

(Photo from the news article linked to below.)

I hate to bring bad news, but I hopped on my computer this morning and was scanning the news page I like to check out when I saw the headline "Dave Matthews Band sax player dies."

I really feel kind of sad.

LeRoi Moore had been in an ATV accident back in June. I hadn't realized this until I went to the concert a few weeks ago and saw he wasn't there. Jeff Coffin (who played with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, another amazing band I saw once back in the day at Dancin' in the District in Nashville) was playing in his place. When I got home, I found out what happened. Everything I read then said his conditions were improving. Apparently he had some complications yesterday and didn't pull through.

Read the news article I read here. The band has taken down their website and placed a memorial page to Leroi here.

Some people remember when John Lennon got shot. Others remember when a slew of musical artists died from drug overdoses. I suppose some people of my generation remember when 2Pac died. For me, this is a musician of MY generation. This is hands down, my all-time favorite band. Now they've lost one of the most amazing sax players I've ever heard.

I can't help but feel sad. It's unfortunate news about a band I know and love. I'm thankful I had the opportunity to see him rock out on the sax when I saw them play 3 times previously. I'm thankful that there are so many albums and live recordings that LeRoi played on. I know it will be a time of mourning for the rest of the band, but I'm hopeful that they'll honor him in a positive way and that they'll keep on playing. It just won't be quite the same without Leroi.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Running on Daydreams

I intended on going straight to the gym after work yesterday. I went to change my clothes and found that I had forgotten socks. I know better than to go without those. So, my plans altered, I went home for socks and THEN headed to the gym, opting to skip a run and go straight to the 20/20/20 class.

I'm glad I did. One of my favorite instructors does the Monday class. She's super nice, but she's also great at giving everyone a good workout. She changes it up and covers a lot of different muscles. She also makes sure that we keep our heart rate up pretty much the whole time, sending us out in between everything to run a few more laps around the track. We also jumped rope, used the steps, did squats, did some pilates, used the bands, and probably more that I am forgetting. I was dripping sweat. My shirt was soaked. I could smell myself. Those are the best kinds of workouts.

I feel it today, but not as much as I would have expected. I must be bouncing back a little faster than I thought. I think the class was a good move in trying to get my lungs used to continuous activity again... it's a little bit easier to breathe hard during an hour of like 30 different things as opposed to just running. I did notice a smal twinge in my hip this morning, but I think it's because I haven't kept myself stretched out as well lately. There is more yoga in my future. I want to stay as flexible as possible throughout my training.

I spent the rest of my night having a quiet evening at home. I did laundry (which is good because I'd gone through a lot of my running clothes, socks and undies). I worked more on getting my files transferred onto my new Mac (I'm so close to being done and I'm glad). I chatted with some friends. I read up on some potential magazines that I may attempt to do some freelance writing for (if I can find the time).

Of course, I watched some of the Olympics. Can you believe those pole vaulting women? I enjoyed some of the track races and definitely paid attention to all of the gymnastics. I'm also excited to see Walsh and May-Treanor going to the finals for gold in beach volleyball. One of my favorite parts of the evening was toward then end when they offered a segment about how Americans are losing sleep over the Olympics. It's a nationwide phenomenon. I wish I could find the list of five things they recommend you do to help... it was something like get over it because the Olympics only happen every 4 years, and listen to the same music on your ipod as Michael Phelps (which I also wish I could find a list of what he listens to!) Terrifically funny.

I've been daydreaming a lot lately... maybe it's inspired by the Olympics. I've been thinking more about my training and the things I want to accomplish between now and the end of the year. I've been thinking about traveling and all the places I'd like to go and share with someone. Honestly? I keep thinking about what might be a cool honeymoon destination. I have no idea where that's coming from since I'm nowhere near going on one, but maybe it's because everyone else I know is getting married and talking about them. I've been thinking about the future and how really there is no way for me to have any idea where I'll be this time next year, or in five years, or ten. I know some things I want... I want to be writing/editing, I want a husband and eventually children, I want to keep running... but I can't plan everything out. Part of the adventure I guess is seeing how it all unfolds. But still - that doesn't keep me from doing all this daydreaming. It comes in waves for me, and right now just seems to be one of those time periods where I'm thinking about such things.

Anyways, here's to having a happy Tuesday! I'm gearing up for my last night at a function I've been committed to since the beginning of the year (time to move on) and then watching more Olympics! It'll be kind of sad when it's all over. But at least then I can start going to bed at a reasonable hour and hopefully start squeezing in some early morning spin classes. My daydream about a marathon PR is one daydream that I can certainly go after right now!

Monday, August 18, 2008

That Michael...

Yeah, I'd be splashing around in the water like a little kid, too, if I just tied Mark Spitz's record. Surely I'm not the only one who found his reaction Friday night to winning the 7th gold medal by .01 of a second absolutely adorable. He just seemed so genuinely excited, kind of like a kid on Christmas morning.

I couldn't watch the Friday and Saturday night races live, but you better believe I taped them. Yes, taped.. as in, used a VCR and a VHS tape. I'm a bit too cheap to buy a TiVo. Maybe one day... anyways, I made sure to avoid finding out the results (i.e. didn't open the internet, didn't turn on the radio, stuck my fingers in my ears and started singing "God Bless the USA" if anyone started talking about the race) until I had time to watch the tape.

I'm so excited for him. I think that what he did is incredibly and proves a lot that with a bit of talent and a LOT of dedication, commitment and hard work you can achieve great things. I find him to be an inspiration in my own sport of endurance running and think he's an excellent role model.
I've seen today that a lot of articles are being written that he was being greedy and that he should have allowed the "less fortunate" athletes win a few. Um, hello? The Olympics are a COMPETITION. Maybe that fact escaped a few people. I don't think the guy's being greedy... I think he set out to see what he could do, made a few goals, and accomplished them.

I've also seen some articles from some people who don't think that what he did is any better than things other athletes are doing in other sports. Well, I guess you can argue the "better" part, but as far as I'm concerned his accomplishment is right up there with winning the SuperBowl or the Masters. (And is it just me or wouldn't it be better if they showed swim meets on tv instead of golf? Talk about much more exciting to watch.)

I really hope that not only will this feat of Michael's be something that encourages people to go after their own dreams and goals, but I also hope it gets people a bit more interested in swimming. It's a pretty cool sport.

Other than watching more Olympics and winning a little glory of my own, I also got in an 8-mile run on Saturday, attended a wedding and spent some time with someone fun eating some delicious Greek food and later enjoying some Italian wine (or at least I think it was Italian... what I do know is it was good).

Unfortunately, all good weekends must come to an end. There will be no more Michael Phelps swimming to watch for a while. And I can't sleep in again until the next weekend.

Today's excitment? Booking a flight to get myself up to Toronto in a few weeks. The Wrecking Crew rides again, as Steph put it in an email this weekend. Excited is an understatement for how I feel.

It's off to the gym in a bit for me. Today is week 1 of the 16-week plan I'll be using to train for Memphis. I just need to get in some 800's, and I might hit up a 20/20/20 class to get a little extra strength and core training in for the week. I won't be winning any Olympic medals with my running (and PS - wasn't it so sad that Deena Kastor had to pull out of the marathon with a broken foot?), but I'm going to go after my own goals with my next races over the course of the coming months left in 2008. It's time to get down to business.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Howl at the Moon 5K Race Report

Friday night I ran in a local 5K. It was a very small race with about 225 participants that took place in our local park at 8pm. I had never run a night race before, so despite my distaste for 5K's I was intrigued and decided to give it a shot. The above picture is of me and my sister before the race got started.

At the check-in, I found that the shirts were pretty awesome. They gave us a nice long-sleeve tee that is a burnt orange and has the race logo of a wolf and a moon on it. I also found a lot of awesome coupons for free things at local restaurants.

Then I ran into Jenny, a friend that went to the same church I grew up attending. She had just run her very first 5K last weekend and was excited to make this number 2. I was excited for her! I'm always glad when someone else discovers the addiction of running.

So, the thing about small town 5K's? They go back to the basics. There were no chips for timing. The only clock was at the finish line. I loved it. It reminded me of my high school days. When you cross the line, you tear off part of your number and they push a button to record your time... later they match the numbers/names that they keep in order on a stick to the finish times. Very old-fashioned.

I always manage to do something goofy when someone is taking my picture.

The race was an out and back sort of thing. We ran out of the park, down a main road, made a circle around City Hall (and had a nice little water stop) and then ran back to the park.

When I took off, I told myself that I was going to just have a smooth run and enjoy the feel of a nighttime race. I went to turn on my ipod and it didn't work, so I was a little bummed about that. I just tucked it into my sports bra and started entertaining myself by singing in my head.

I hit the mile one split in 8:02! I couldn't believe it, and I felt like there'd be no way I could keep that pace up.

I continued on and grabbed a quick sip of water at the stop before gearing up to make the uphill stretch back to the park. At mile 2 I was at 16:30, so I had only slowed down about 30 seconds.

The last mile was tough. I'm not really used to maintaining a pace like that for more than a half mile when I do my interval training. However, I found myself humming the Olympic theme song in my head (it can't be helped after a week of watching Olympics day in and day out) and thinking of Michael Phelps... I told myself, "Heck, if he can go win gobs of gold medals, I can keep pushing myself for less than a mile to run faster than I thought I could."

So I did. My lungs were killing me (that's the only thing that I still haven't quite been able to whip back into shape after spending a lot of my summer fighting allergy problems). I kept moving. I didn't have much of a finishing sprint because I was pretty much going as fast as I could already.

I crossed the line in 25:54. It wasn't my fastest 5K, but it was the fastest 5K I've ran in the past 7 years since I got out of high school (back then my PR was 23:03).

I was happy. I was even happier when they gave me an icy cold bottle of water.
After a few moments of cooling off, we headed to the park pavilion for watermelon. I have to say that this is one of the best possible post-race snacks that a race can offer. They also had pizza, but I was pretty hot still so I skipped out on it.

I saw a guy that runs at the gym I go to and that I see around at various races. He had brought his 13-year-old son to run. I was excited to see that a lot of parents had brought their kids to run the race.

They did door prizes. Then they started doing age group prizes. Jenny was certain that I probably placed, but I kept insisting that there was no way on earth that I did considering my time.

So I was SHOCKED! when they got to my age group and called out my name for not third, not second, but FIRST PLACE!!!

I was also a wee bit ecstatic. I laughed so hard because not only have I never won my age group in a race before, but also because I never thought it'd happen now and in a 5K!

They gave me a really awesome plaque with both the race logo and an Olympic torch in honor of the fact that our race occurred during the Olympics. I seriously said out loud that I totally felt like this was my Michael Phelps moment.

And that's the thing: we don't all have to be winning Olympic gold medals. For me, the joy of challenging myself and finishing something I set out to do is just as fulfilling.

I finished reading Dean Karnazes's Ultramarathon Man and think that a favorite quote from the book goes along with this idea:

"Running has taught me that the pursuit of a passion matters more than the passion itself. Immerse yourself in something deeply and with heartfelt intensity - continually improve, never give up - this is fulfillment, this is success."

There is no doubt in my mind that Michael Phelps also subscribes to a similar mentality. When you know that you're doing something because you're passionate about it... when you are seeking to always improve yourself... then no matter what the goal is then you can feel success when you reach it.

I didn't have a goal to win my age group or even place in it for that matter. I DID intend to go out there and run as hard as I could. I did and because of that I feel success.

But the award is nice, too. :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Main Ideas are Overrated

  • I don't like it when people who don't even know me call me Mel. There's a customer who calls here from time to time that always calls me that. I have not given him permission to do so. I know it might sound silly, but I consider "Mel" an endearing name that only people close to me (family, friends, significant other) can call me. One of these days I'm going to have enough of it and ask him to call me by my name.
  • In case you live under a rock, Michael Phelps got Gold Medal #6 as well as World Record #6 last night. I'm seriously considering writing him some "phan" mail.
  • I passed out before the gymnastics got under way. Why do they have to come on SO late? Plus, I was worn out from staying up way too late all the other nights.
  • I'm tired of disappointment. I know it's part of life, and I'm used to dealing... but seriously. It'd be nice to catch a break on the disappointment front.
  • A nap is on my agenda before I run the 5K tonight. It's pretty cloudy here today, so it's a tiny bit cooler than usual. It should be fun, even though I won't be setting any records or winning any medals. I do, however, get a long-sleeved t-shirt. That's all I wear to work in the winter, so I hope it has a cool design.
  • I've been daydreaming a lot lately about traveling... not just short weekend trips, but like extensive trips to other countries that involve lots of trains and passport stamps and numerous cultures.
  • I'm looking forward to a couple of different things this weekend, and I love that kind of feeling.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh Yeah - We Run Around Here

Gee, if you didn't know any better you'd think I was a swimmer judging from my past posts. Alas, I am not (aside from that one year in high school when I did the breaststroke on the swim team... it was not my forté).

Since Michael Phelps only swam a semi-final and I have little to jump around the room for him about today, let's get back to running.

I usually participate in the Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday, but I'm going to skip over that this week. I'm feeling a bit distracted today and can't get myself in the mood to write for that.

Instead, let me share this article with you that I read last night in Runner's World. Ryan Hall is running in the men's marathon at the Olympics on August 24. He currently holds the record for the fastest American half-marathon (under an hour, dang!) and ran a faster debut marathon than anyone else. He's favored for silver... but we all know he's going to run his heart out for Gold. I hope he and Michael have been exchanging motivation techniques. I loved how this article revealed a lot more about Ryan to us aside from his athletic abilities. He's another one of those athletes that I think we can learn a lot from and that makes for a good role model.

Yesterday I went for an easy run at the gym, and I witnessed something that made me laugh and reminded me how many runners are so set in doing things a certain way. I watched a man come in that I have talked to before because he runs a lot of the same local races I run. He went to the front row of treadmills where there are 5 in a row. Four of them appeared to be on and no one was using them, but he got on the one with the blank screen. He tapped and pushed and nothing happened. Instead of getting on one of the other 4, he got down on his hands and knees in the floor to look under it and mess around with the cords. Next thing I knew, he had it on and he was running on it. I won't lie... I also have favorite treadmills. In the summer, it's one that gets an exceptional draft from the air conditioner and is away from the heat of the windows. In the winter, it's the one near the window where it stays cooler. Sometimes, it's whichever one is open near a hot guy. :) But I have never figured out why one wasn't working to use it.

I've opted to only set one goal for the 5K I'm running tomorrow night: run it in 30 minutes or less. I'm definitely still getting back into the groove, so I know I won't be smashing any records. I've done 5K's in like 23 minutes before, but that was when I trained for that distance. My body is used to running longer and more slowly. It should still be fun. I'll let you know.

Enjoy watching Michael go for Gold #6 tonight!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More on Being a Phelps Phan

I noticed today on Facebook that a friend had made her status say that she thinks the Olympics should really be called the Michael Phelps Show.

Well, why not? We have a reason to celebrate him here in America. Last night he won TWO more Gold medals and got TWO more world records. So if you're not keeping count, that's 5 golds and 5 world records in the past 5 days in Beijing. Not only that, but the man's goggles cracked during his butterfly race last night and filled with water. He couldn't see anything. And he still won the gold and the record!

He also surpassed the record for most Olympic gold medals in a career ever (he had 6 from Athens 2004)... and he's still got 3 races left, and he'll probably be back for the 2012 games in London.

I know some people think we're all getting a little obsessed, but he's like the world's greatest athlete. It's likely that we'll be old and grey before someone comes along to challenge this kind of record.. we'll be telling our kids that we remember watching Michael do it.

Did everyone like the commercial that aired after he did it? I found the transcript online... Morgan Freeman says over pictures of Michael (all in shades of gold)," He's competed against the past. He's competed against the history books. He's competed against time, expectations and everyone who came before him. But most of all, he's competed against himself... Congratulations Michael, on having won more gold medals than anybody. Ever."

Yeah. Pretty awesome. (And props to the commercial people who pulled that together before the event.)

Meanwhile, I want to know who China thinks they're fooling with their gymnasts? There is NO way some of those girls are 16. Hello China, the world knows what a 16-year-old looks like. Some of your girls? Not it.

I felt a bit bad for our girls, but as far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy with a silver Olympic medal. Take it and celebrate ladies.

I started reading Dean Karnazes's Ultramarathon Man book yesterday. So far I love it. Can't put it down, except to watch the Olympics. I came across a few lines where he says, "Reflecting back, that is how I did things. Either 100 percent commitment, total unwavering devotion, or nothing at all." It really struck a chord in me, partly because of the current Olympic situation and specifically Michael Phelps. You know that these athletes have to be totally committed, or they wouldn't be there. You know that Michael has utter devotion to swimming, or else he'd be nowhere near the records he's smashing. I mean, they of course have talent. But it takes a lot more, I think.

It also hit me that honestly, that's how I live my life. When I am committed to something, I am committed. If I'm going to do something, I'm going to give it my all. Of course I'm like that with running... you don't just go run marathons for the heck of it and without preparation (or it's not wise to, anyways). But I'm like that with other things too... my relationships, whether it's a significant other, a friend, or family... my extracurricular activities like volunteering... etc.

I believe we should do things that we're passionate about in life. So that's why I run. That's why I write. That's why I sing in the car. That's why I invest so much time and energy in relationships with other people. That's why I walk away from things that don't build me up or bring something positive into my life or that my heart is just not into... I'd rather not do it at all if it's not the kind of thing that I can put my heart and soul into with joy.

So I'll keep cheering for Michael Phelps and all of the other American athletes. They make me proud. They inspire me to run my little heart out and go after my own goals in life. They seem to be far better role models than some of the other people in this world we like to look up to.

And those Olympic commercials just keep making me tear up... there's something to be said for that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday Tidbits

Yesterday I ran again and it felt awesome. It was just 4 miles of speedwork, but after 6 miles of hillwork on Saturday I'm starting to feel like I'm getting back in the groove. Tempo run tomorrow, 5K race on Friday night, and then hopefully 10-12 miles on Saturday. We'll see how the weather is holding up that day...

So Michael Phelps is now 3 for 3 (both in Gold Medals and World Records). I loved the segment they aired last night about how he basically swims, eats, and sleeps (with a snoring dog). Can you believe how much food the man eats? I find that a lot of people are landing on my blog this week after googling him. I suppose I'm not quite what you're looking for, but I'll claim to be a Phelps Phan just like the rest of them. I'm certainly following him through his last swim on Saturday. Don't forget he has TWO tonight!

Speaking of Michael Phelps (ha)... one of the guys I work with said he must actually be a robot, and then he went on to ask me if I'd kiss him if he was a robot. My answer? Um, yes. If he's a robot that looks like that, what's the harm in a little kiss? I just might not marry him.

As if marrying Michael Phelps was an option.

I am going to the dentist in about an hour. I don't mind dentist appointments, though paying for them is a pain. The 20 minutes I spend in that chair is ridiculously expensive. But I love having nice, clean teeth. So I keep going back.

I'm quitting something. I know that sounds awful. I'm not really a quitter. But after much time, consideration and prayer I've decided that I need to uncommit from one of my extracurricular activities. I know it's the right thing and I'm not necessarily being a quitter so much as I'm being someone who is reshifting her priorities, but it still always feels a little bad to step away from something I'd previously devoted time to. I know I'll be glad I did, though.

I'm also prayerfully considering a few other things, but I don't need to write about them just yet. But if anyone wants to offer up an extra prayer for me and my life, they're always appreciated... and I'm always happy to return the favor. I always think that's what community in Christ is about anyways.

And finally, I found an awesome new wristlet clutch purse thanks to some direction of Chris over at Back to Good. I didn't buy the one she showed me, but I found another Hobo that was perfect for my needs... and I somehow managed to find it online for $23. I'd never heard of Hobo before. It came today, and I love it. Here's a pretty picture (though I actually bought it in black)!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Weekend Recap: Olympics, Friends, and Graduation

Michael Phelps might regret this look later, but then again... when your body looks like this and you just won another Gold medal, do you really care? More on this later in the post, but if you didn't watch the men's 4x100m freestyle relay last night then take a moment and find the video on Seriously... I'll wait. Make sure you see it. There's also an article and clip here.

On Thursday, I had made very few plans for the weekend aside from playing with my new iMac. This quickly changed.

Friday: I felt like I looked like a total geek once I got my new iMac hooked up. I moved my PC to another table and had them both up and running so I can transition on over. I also had my old and new printer out to deal with as well as 3 ipods (because I got a new ipod touch for free!) waiting to be synced with the new computer. It was like a technology explosion in my living room.

Sidenote - does anyone know how to reformat an ipod that was already formatted for Windows? My nano and shuffle were used on my PC and I need to figure out how to reformat them for the Mac so that it'll let me install updates. Help would be appreciated if you are in the know.

After getting everything hooked up, I managed to get all of my music transferred (clearly the most important thing) before heading out with my good friend Aleesha and her friend Sasha. Aleesha was graduating from grad school on Saturday, so we went to eat and celebrate. We later ended up downtown at The Flying Saucer, managing to get in free because we're cool kids like that. We met up with Aleesha's brother Andrew who had hitched a ride to town from Memphis with some of his friends.

We ended the evening back at my house, Andrew playing the guitar as we all sang along to classic DMB tunes. I also found out Tucker does NOT like the sound of a guitar, something I didn't know since I hardly ever pick it up anymore. (Note to self: pick guitar back up sometime when I can find a moment to learn again.)

I finally crashed way later than I intended.

Saturday: I was up at 6:30am (ugh) to go for a 6-mile run out at Percy Warner. Six miles might not sound like much, but when you factor in that you climb a little over 2200 feet on this course it kind of makes it a bit tougher. I had a good run before heading home to clean up.

Then I was off to Red Lobster to meet Aleesha and her family for lunch to celebrate her graduation that morning! (I ate 5 cheesebiscuits... soooo good. Must run extra mile (or 5) sometime to make up for the obvious indulgence.) Someone needed to get Andrew back to town to meet up with his ride, so I gave him a lift before going home to take the world's shortest. nap. ever. and then hit the road again (I spent a LOT of time in my car). I spent the evening at the home of one of the guys I work with, hanging out with him and his wife and 3-year-old. We had a good time eating dinner, playing with a Veggie Tale castle and watching Michael Phelps win his first gold medal of the games (along with some other less important Olympic stuff).

I seriously crashed HARD when I finally got to bed around 11. It'd been a busy and full day, but it was busy and full in a good way. I had thought I'd spend the day at home playing with my new Mac and watching the Olympics, but it was really nice to have a bunch of surprise opportunities to hang out with good friends.

Sunday: I slept in a bit. I suppose a good girl would go to church, but sometimes you can't be that good. I definitely appreciated having a lot of sleep after my crazy busy Saturday.

I headed to my friend Brett's place for a lunch to celebrate that he also graduated on Saturday. I got to catch up with a lot of old friends I haven't seen lately, and - you guessed it - we watched some of the Olympics... although all that was on was weight lifting and volleyball, so we hardly paid attention. We spent more time discussing Michael Phelps's goals and his 12,000 calorie-a-day diet. Seriously, I can't imagine eating that much.

Then it was back home (after dropping off some cds to a friend) to freshen up a bit and then hang out with Brandon. Despite being a Tennessean, he's new to the Nashville area and knew little of my alma mater. A campus tour was in order. I realize now how cheesy that sounds, but it was important for him to be in the know about one of our state's major universities. He seemed to enjoy it. Or maybe he's a terrific actor. We also checked out the greenway for a bit (apparently it was the day that families decided to come out in their khakis and white shirts to make photos for their annual Christmas card) and then had a little mexican food for dinner. Yum. I felt like I did my job to educate someone new on an important college town in Tennessee.
I spent the rest of the evening trying to finish cleaning up my old PC... my mom's friend is actually going to give me a little cash for it to buy it for her mom to use just for email and internet stuff. The monitor is totally still worth money, so I was excited that I'll get rid of the thing AND have a little money to take off of the "out-of-my-pocket" cost of my Mac.

People - this is how we do things in Mel's world. We buy computers on sales tax holidays and get a sister who is a student to buy it for you and get not only a discount but also a free ipod and a free printer and then use the $600 economic stimulus check that grew interest while sitting in a money market and also apply cash from selling the old computer and BAM - you've got over $2000 worth of technology for less than $1000 of your own personal money. That's the way I roll.

I also watched the Olympics (get ready for this to be a theme through August 24). I LOVE the summer Olympics. I so heart Michael Phelps. I'm pretty sure I was yelling at my tv during that relay last night.. I'm also pretty sure I scared my cat by doing so. It was just too exciting to sit there quietly. Even the commentators agreed: "Well, it looks like they're going to have to settle for silver. Wait! Wait a second! He's catching up!!! He just might do it! Unbelievable! Wait, no.. it's silver. NO!!! IT'S GOLD!!!!" Yep. Good times around 11pm last night.

I had so much adrenaline that I had to take a few minutes to calm down before I could go to bed. I wanted to call people and ask, "Did you just SEE that?!"

I did a little research today and found out when Michael's remaining 6 races will be showing on NBC (all times are Central Standard, b/c that's the world I live in):

Monday (tonight!) 9:16pm - 200 free
Tuesday 9:21pm - 200 fly
Tuesday 10:19 pm - 4x200 free
Thursday 9:48pm - 200 IM
Friday 9:10 pm - 100 fly
Saturday 9:58pm - 4x100 IM

I know people think that all of this stuff about Michael is a bit excessive, but he is one of the world's greatest athletes. He's setting world records... and then breaking them! He's racking up medals. He's in a position to win more Olympic medals in his career than anyone else has done in their's, as well as in a position to win more Gold medals in a single Olympics than anyone else. DAMN!

So support your fellow American... he's doing unbelievable things. I couldn't help but feel a little pride when the broadcaster asked one of the other relay team members, "Who's talking now?" (in response to how the French were going around claiming they had this race in the bag)... He replied, "We are. United States of America." Heck yes.

I'd also like to point out that it's not a good idea to go around talking smack about winning gold medals before you have actually done it. That always kicks you in the butt. It's kind of like on Saturday how American swimmer Ryan Lochte was going around saying he thought he could beat Michael Phelps in the 400 IM. I mean, really? You're going to go around bragging on WORLDWIDE television that you can outswim the world's best swimmer? Yeah. He got third (which is still good... yay America!)

I suppose it's fitting that I also let you know the women's marathon is being held Sunday, and the men's marathon will be next Sunday. America has some strong medal contenders in both races. It should be awesome.

Hope everyone had a terrific weekend. My plans for the next 2 weeks pretty much revolve around the Olympics, so stay tuned for more posts where I share my excitement!

Friday, August 8, 2008

I'm a Mac! No Longer a PC!

She's here. Or maybe it's a he. I haven't decided yet. But Mr. FedEx Man just delivered my iMac. I'm not taking it out of the box until I get home, but I had to stare at the box for a moment and admire the "actual size" picture and just how pretty it is... yes, the picture on the box! Maybe it IS a girl since she's so pretty... she'll need a name, I think.

I have a few things going on throughout the weekend, but I can guarantee that all the time in between will be spent transferring files over from my piece of crap PC to my Mac. MY. MAC. (I'm very excited, to say the least). I'm looking forward to getting it all set up and spending some time playing with her. Cheesy photo booth pictures will of course be a priority. And using the built-in camera and microphone to talk to Danielle in Korea, as well as anyone else who wants to talk to me on there!

Oh happy day.

And it's a GORGEOUS day here in Tennessee. Don't get me wrong - it's still sunny and hot enough to merit some pool action, but the humidity is down and there is a pleasant BREEZE. It makes me want to go on a picnic. Or hiking... I haven't done enough hiking this year. I'd say it makes me want to throw around a frisbee, but who am I kidding? I can't catch, or throw very well for that matter. It's just so nice that I want to be outside.

I have a lot of friends graduating tomorrow with some form of a degree, so I just wanted to offer up a quick congratulations to you all!

Have a great weekend.. my plans call for a run, some time with a few friends, and watching some of the Olympics (because you better believe I'm not going to miss Michael Phelps add a few more golds to his collection!)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Guy I Know is on Letterman Tonight!

I know what you're thinking - "Is she serious? A THIRD post today?"

But I just have to. We just found out here that one of the guys who works with us will be on David Letterman tonight. He's been traveling this summer playing in the band for Phil Vassar (a country music artist for anyone who doesn't know him) and they are all going to be on Letterman tonight!!

I already thought it was pretty cool that I know someone who is a REAL musician playing in a REAL band for a REAL artist. It's even cooler that I'll be seeing him on late night tv tonight.

Awesome. He's living the dream. He was totally hanging out in the green room when we talked to him (and we might have suggested he try to steal something as a souvenir, ha!)

Oh, and Keifer Sutherland is going to be on, too. I told Jason to find him and let him know there's a girl in Tennessee who'd be happy to marry him as long as he'd promise in his vows to act like Jack Bauer 24/7 (pun intended).

Maybe I'll at least get an autograph out of it, ha!

An Impulse Move

I know - two posts in one day? That's so not like me.

But I just did something a little impulsive (for me). I signed up for a 5K.

Yes, me being the girl who hates 5K's and claims they're too short. I still feel that way. However, I haven't run a 5K since July 2006. This one starts about 3 miles from my house next Friday... at night. How cool is that? 8PM instead of 8AM. And it was all of $15. It was too convenient to pass on.

So I signed up. I figured it's time to give the 5K another shot. Of course, I'm in no shape to run it very fast.. but I'll go do my best and see what happens. If nothing else, it's 3 more miles toward my marathon training.

If anyone else in the Nashville area is interested in running, email me for details!

TIART: Six Word Running Memoir

***This post is part of the Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday.

Defining my running in 6 words? Now THAT'S a challenge!

When I started running, I was in elementary school. Our gym teacher would have one boy and one girl race to the end of the gym and back. Until about the 6th grade, there wasn't a single boy who could beat me. It's the only time in my life I've been a decent sprinter. At that time, my 6 words would be :

Run hard and beat the boys!

I joined both the cross country and track teams when I got to high school. I knew then that I was better suited for endurance than I was for speed, but the 3-miler was the longest race available. I concentrated on doing the best I could do for the team and enjoyed being part of a running family. Some of my best memories from high school involve hanging out at practice or on a Friday night with some of my teammates. Six words for that time would be:

Do my best and have fun!

Once in college, I got involved with a LOT of extracurricular activities from my sorority to student government. Running wasn't really a priority until my last semester of school when I decided that there was no reason to put off my goal of running a marathon. I ran 4 days a week, and every run was done at 13-minute per mile pace. I was determined to take it easy, not get injured, and just cross the finish line. Keep in mind I jumped from a 3 mile race to a 26.2 mile race, never attempting the distances in between. My 6 words for my first marathon would be:

Cross the finish line still smiling!

(And I did.)

After that, I was hooked. Running became my addicition. I wondered if I could run faster. I wondered how often I could run a marathon. I wondered if I could ever run a BQ marathon and get a ticket to Boston.

Marathon #2: Don't pass out from the heat! (It was hot. And humid. And I just wanted to survive. I did, beating my previous time by 16 minutes.)

Marathon #3: Have fun. Meet people. Set PR. (It was one of the most fun race experiences I've ever had. The crowd was great. I chatted a lot with fellow runners. And I broke my old PR by 26 minutes.)

As I train for my next races, I feel as though the important thing is to just keep enjoying myself while I run as well as enjoy all the benefits of it... my sanity, my health, my body, making new friends with other runners, achieving goals...

I'd like to think that for now, my 6 words are:

Keep running. Keep smiling. Keep improving.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Post on a Variety of Topics

My right big toe itches. It has been itching since it got some sort of odd bug bite on Saturday at the concert. At first I just thought it was a mosquito bite. However, it's the kind of itch that makes me want to rip my toe off, except that would make running a little more complex. Mosquito bites don't usually bother me this much once the initial bite and itchiness has passed.

The annoying thing is it's not getting any better. When I put on my Chacos for work on Monday, I had to loosen the toe strap because my toe was so swolen. It hasn't gone down much since. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I needed to claw at it. (This was before I woke up later from an incredibly strange dream where someone had broken into my house and brought 5 puppies with them... it doesn't sound scary, but I definitely felt very panicky during the dream... more so because of the perfect stranger in my house, not the puppies.)

I'm sure you care little about my toe, but it's seriously getting on my nerves. I'm keeping cortizone cream on it in an effort to keep the itch from driving me nuts.

In other news, I left out one of my favorite parts about the DMB concert. I mentioned they played my all-time favorite DMB song, "Crash Into Me." Some of you true fans will be familiar with an extra line he throws in sometimes at concerts:

"I'll be your dixie chicken/ If you'll be my Tennessee lamb/ And we'll walk together/ Down in dixieland..."

We. went. wild. I mean, most of the people there were likely Tennesseans after all. I've always loved this song, and I really love these added lyrics. I'm a southern gal through and through who hopes to eventually be some lucky man's "Tennessee lamb," so I like this little touch to such an awesome song.

Anyways, I had an email this morning from a VERY observant reader who noticed my total mileage in my mileage stats (in the sidebar) shot up. I didn't magically run like 400 miles yesterday... I just found my planner from 2005 when I trained from my first marathon and was able to add all of those training runs into my log. I realize this sounds a bit crazy, but I now have in my log all of the runs I've done since January 2005 when I began training for my first marathon. I still wonder how many miles I've actually ran in my life, but since I never tracked it before then I guess I'll never really know unless I ask God when I get to Heaven... I bet He knows.

I'll keep tracking my runs in the future, so feel free to keep uP with my progress. It's actually really fun to see the charts and stuff of how much I've run in any given week, month or year. I totally recommend the online training log at Runner's World.

I've actually been ironing out my plans for the training I'm doing over the next few months. If all goes well, I'm going to do a spin class BEFORE work on Monday and Wednesday (yes, this will be insanely early, but I think if I can make it a habit it'll be sooo worth getting up before sunrise). Then, I'll run on Tuesdays and Thursdays after work - one day speed training, and one day tempo run. Saturday mornings will continue to be long runs. I'd like to make it to yoga once a week anytime I can. I think that'll be a good mix of things to improve my speed, endurance and strength.

Meanwhile, all the books I ordered came in yesterday. I have a nice little "to read" stack now. It's kind of exciting. It'll probably take me a year to get through them all, but we'll see how it goes. I have a feeling some of them will be pageturners.

In closing, I've been digging a song called Cathedrals by Jump Little Children for the past few days. I heard it on Lightning 100 one day and HAD to download it. It's one of those songs I can just listen to over and over. Check it out.

PS - It's really freaking hot. If anyone wants to go swimming, then let me know and we'll find a pool. Or a lake. Or a stream.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dave Matthews Band Road Trip to Memphis

As many of you know (because I've been writing about it for weeks), I headed to Memphis this past weekend to go to the Dave Matthews Band concert. I'm sure you've all been eagerly anticipating pictures and a few good stories from the weekend. I'm here to meet that need.

My pal Crystal went with me, and we started our trip on Friday with a quick dinner at Subway. I'm of the opinion that road trips require all sorts of random pictures, so we took one with Jared! And yes, I am sporting a Dave Matthews Band t-shirt. It seemed appropriate.

I don't know how many of my readers are from Tennessee or familiar with our fine state, but the drive from Nashville to Memphis is BORING. Seriously. I've driven from here to Knoxville numerous times (and maybe that's why it doesn't phase me anymore) and find it to be a much more interesting drive. Going to Memphis feels like running on a treadmill: you're moving, but you don't feel like you're getting any closer.

We finally arrived and settled in at the home of my sister's boyfriend's grandmother. One of the things I love about the south is that we do things like staying with random people that we only know through other people.

We had spotted a Flying Saucer on the way to her house and decided we'd go hang out there for a bit and then call it an early night in preparation for the next day. I had discovered a friend would be in town (and you should click that link to visit his awesome music blog), and it turned out that he and some of his friends were already at the FS. How random and crazy is that?

So we joined them and quickly made friends. We laughed. We talked. We had some good beer. They gave me a hard time for my DMB shirt and how it says "Facebook" on the sleeve. Can I help it FB was a sponsor of the 06 tour?

I'm not sure how these guys feel about being on my blog, so I'll call them B1, G, and B2. Talk of blogging came up as we chilled on the patio ("chilled" not being intended to describe the weather, which was sticky and in the 90s even at night). G was VERY concerned about his debut on my blog. So this next sentence is for him: "G proved to be a strapping young lad that Crystal and I both found to be both personable and possessing of a fine sense of humor." You're welcome, G.

The above and below photo are from our time at the FS on Friday. Good times. Good guys. You know how you can hang out with a group of guys and immediately know if they're good ones or if they're complete and utter jerks that you'd never want to see again? We found these to be the kind we wanted to hang out with again, so plans were made to have a BBQ lunch together the next day at Neely's.

Lunch was quite delicious and full of good conversation and many laughs. Crystal and I were a little out of the loop as the boys remembered some of their good times in college, but we also enjoyed a few of their stories. And it turns out G likes Bright Eyes, so he worked his way up a bit on the likeability scale.

After lunch, Crystal and I ran by Best Buy to pick up a jump drive. It was NOT tax-free, and I found this somewhat irritating. How is a jump drive NOT considered a school supply? It was at least on sale, so I bought it anyways and will find it useful in transferring some files from the PC to my new MAC (which should be here on Friday, hooray!)

On our way back to the house, we passed a sunflower field where a bunch of people were taking pictures. As any good road trippers would do, we pulled over to snap some photos, too. I'm really glad we did because the contrast of the yellow flowers and the blue skies is gorgeous.

We showered to get rid of the smell of our day (the heat index was 110) and got ready to head downtown for the show. Above you'll see us with our tickets. Below you'll see me trying to be the DMB headless dancer. Other than not being able to be headless, I think I pull it off well. It must have something to do with the 16 years of ballet.

It took a little longer than we'd like to park, but once the car was safely in a garage (with no valuables in plain sight because - come on people - it's Memphis) we headed toward the baseball stadium and found a T.G.I.Friday's. It was happy hour. We had a few drinks and eventually were joined by B1, G, and B2 before walking across the street to the show.

The next group of pictures are all from the concert. Yes, I did indeed sneak my camera in. I'd never been brave enough in the past to try it when I saw them in Nashville, so I was pretty glad to be able to get some good pictures.

He sang some of my favorite older stuff, in particular "Crash Into Me." He also sang a few of their new songs that will be on their next album. I was certainly not disappointed in the song selection, and I definitely spent a lot of time dancing and singing along.

Unfortunately, a baseball stadium is NOT the best place for a concert. The portable things holding up the speakers were kind of in the way, but we could still see and get some terrific shots of the band.

Willie Nelson opened the show, and he returned to the stage to sing "Gravedigger" with the band.

A true DMB fan will also be familiar with Tim Reynolds. I've said for years that I want to see him play with DMB live, and on Saturday night that dream came true. He played EVERY. SINGLE. SONG. with them. It was awesome. (Note: All of the captions between the concert pictures correspond with the picture above the caption.)

Classic Dave

Carter on drums

Boyd doing his amazing thing

Tim Reynolds!

Dave and that raised eyebrow

Stefan - by far the sexiest bass player EVER

Our favorite fellows weren't seated with us, but we hooked back up with them after the show to hit the town and have some food. Our restaurant experience wasn't the best (our waitress seemed to not exist, we didn't get everything we ordered, etc.), but I'm pretty sure we ended up with a $13 bill because B2 rocks and spoke with a manager about the bad experience.

It didn't ruin the evening. We had a terrific time hanging out, and I enjoyed my chocolate mousee cake. B1 caught me off guard at one point while at the table, but in a very good way. :) He didn't seem so concerned about what I'd write about him on my blog like G seemed to be, but I'll go on and throw out there that he also proved himself to be a lot of fun to hang out with. Heck, all 3 of them were a total blast. We were pretty lucky gals to find such a fine group of guys to spend time with during such a terrific weekend.

It certainly ended up being a late night, and Crystal and I definitely had to sleep in a bit before we'd be ready to make the drive back home.

It was around lunchtime when we woke up, so we headed to Cracker Barrell to have lunch with A. A is the brother of one of my best friends from college. We've met before on several occasions and since he lives in Memphis it only made sense to squeeze in a meal together. He had really wanted to go to the concert, so I helped him live vicariously through me as I told him all about the show.

After lunch and a quick visit to my sister's boyfriend's house to see the two of them (she had gone to visit him for the weekend), Crystal and I headed back to Nashville. The drive home seemed even more boring since we weren't driving toward something super exciting. However, we both agree it was a truly fantastic weekend. We had some great girl talk. We hung out with an awesome group of guys. We freaking saw Dave Matthews Band and Tim Reynolds!!! The concert alone made it one heck of an awesome weekend, and everything else just added more to it.

This was the first time I've gone out of town to see a concert, and I decided it's totally worth it. This weekend may have given me some of my best DMB concert memories to date.

In case anyone is curious, here's the setlist from the concert:

Don't Drink the Water
Old Dirt Hill
Eh Hee
Water/Wine Jam
Tripping Billie
The Song That Jane Likes
Drive In Drive Out
Burning Down The House
So Damn Lucky
Crash Into Me
Corn Bread
Where Are You Going
Smooth Rider
Louisiana Bayou
Two Step

Anyone Seen the Bridge? ...>
Too Much (Tease)
Ants Marching

What a terrific weekend. Other than a trip in September to Canada, this pretty much wraps up my crazy summer of traveling. I definitely found it to be a fine way to kind of finish my summer trips. I also can't wait for their new album to be released. If you're not a DMB fan, you should be. Period. :)