Random updates

I can’t believe I have less than 2 weeks left until my move. It’s time to stop procrastinating and start packing! At least I already packed away my Wii and PS3 so I won’t be tempted to play video games anymore. I still have my tv out, but I’m pretty good at multi-tasking. Last night I finished up my income tax forms while watching Heroes and CSI: Miami… can’t wait to get my $700 refund from the state!

I’m making good progress setting up/canceling my various utilities and services. It stinks being put on hold, but I’ve been using that time to catch up on posts in Google Reader… see, more multi-tasking! So I have been reading your blogs, even if I don’t always comment.

Also on the productive front, I contacted a dealer in Maryland and my new Mini Cooper is scheduled for production! (I like that I can follow the status of my car online.)

I took a crash course in new car buying and learned the phrase “out the door”, as in “what’s the best price you can give me out the door?”, meaning the final price without any additional hidden fees. I was able to negotiate for the dealer to cover the tax, title, and license so all I’ll be paying is the MSRP on the car. For my first ever car buying experience, I think it went pretty well.

I’ve been a bit under the weather* the last few days. Thank goodness it’s nothing major, just a slight cough and sore/dry throat. I’m really making an effort to get more rest and hoping that will take care of it.

The past couple weeks I’ve been doing short 2-3 mile runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and “racing” on Saturdays. But since I’m not feeling well, this week I’m going to cut back to just one short run sometime before my last half marathon in my 5-in-a-row streak on Sunday. I read somewhere that it’s better to be 5% under-trained than 1% over-trained (or something along those lines) so I’m going to hope that’s true. It makes sense to me. Since I’m just out there for fun, I don’t anticipate any problem being able to finish the upcoming race. But it would be nice to get back under the 2:30 mark…

My time for The Sedona Half Marathon was 2:38:46. Race report and photos will be posted eventually. By the way, for this Sunday I decided on the MasterBlock Half Marathon. I know Lost Dutchman is a fantastic race, but I just wanted to run in a different part of the Valley.

Finally, I’ve been updating my Half Fanatics profile after each race and today it was awesome to see that it automatically added four little moons next to my name for reaching Jupiter level (4 half marathons in 23 days). Way cool!

*I started wondering where the phrase “under the weather” originated from and found this explanation… “When it’s gray and rainy out, does that affect how you feel? This expression comes from the idea that bad weather might hurt a person’s health and mood. The saying also may be related to “under the weather bow,” the part of a boat that will take the force of rough seas during stormy weather. If you were in that part of the boat, you might get seasick!” Source: http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/come_from/under_weather.html.

Decisions, decisions (and some free socks!)

It’s finally hitting home that I only have three weeks left before my move… and so much to do! I thought my experience moving from Houston to Phoenix would make things easier this time around, but Baltimore is a lot farther away and there are more decisions to be made than before. It’s like all my time is spent tossing around pros and cons in my head, and trying to reassure myself that I’m doing the right thing.

The biggest decisions were to sell my bike and car. While I like my bike, it just doesn’t really make sense to have a mountain bike in Baltimore, especially when I don’t even like mountain biking that much. I finally put my bike on Craig’s List last night.

It was harder to let go of my car because I’ve had it for almost eight years and A LOT of road trips. Even though there’s nothing remarkable about my car, it’s special to me. I had to force myself to think practically and accept the fact that it’s better to sell the car now than pay over $1,000 to ship it out to Baltimore where I’d be a little uncomfortable driving it around the city (and trying to parallel park) anyway due to the size. Also factoring into my decision was the fact that I had a buyer already lined up so it was a quick and easy transaction and I know my car is going to a good home.

On the bright side, it’s exciting to think about getting a new car. Since I’ve been wanting a Mini Cooper for a few years now, that was a fairly easy decision. But then I had to figure out the colors and features. The Mini USA website let’s you design and build your own Mini and I’ve been spending way too much time playing with it. Here’s what I think I’ve finally settled on… the blue looks a lot better in person than it does in the image.

With everything going on, I haven’t really been in the mood to work out. I’d feel a bit guilty about it, except that doing a half marathon every weekend kind of evens things out. But I did make the time to go to Road Runner Sports on Thursday for the monthly fun run. I have to admit that the main reason for going was in hopes of getting some free stuff. And it paid off because I was the first name called in the drawing. I actually won a free RRS top, but since I’m already stocked up on tops I switched with someone for socks instead. It was a win-win for both of us.

My third half marathon of the month/year was yesterday. It didn’t go as well as I would have liked, but I had fun. I think I want to add a fifth half to the schedule, but I’m still debating which to go with.

Lost Dutchman Half Marathon:

  • I did the Lost Dutchman 10k last year. It was neat, but nothing special really sticks out in my mind except the long walk from where I parked my car to the start/finish area.
  • The course is a scenic out-and-back. I thought I didn’t like out-and-back courses, but then Yuma wasn’t too bad so now I’m not sure. After London’s Run yesterday, I realized that “scenic mountain views” are nice for photos but otherwise don’t really make much of a difference.
  • The finisher’s medals are awesome!
  • RunningLaur and Rio will be there too.
  • Registration is $60 if I do it TODAY. Otherwise it goes up to $75.
  • Day of race packet pick up is available.

MasterBlock Half Marathon (associated with the IMS Arizona Marathon):

  • This race is located in a part of the Valley that I haven’t run in before. I’d kind of like to run someplace completely new. Part of the Lost Dutchman 1/2 course is the same as the 10k.
  • The course is a point-to-point. I think I like this better than an out-and-back. I don’t think the course is as “pretty” as Lost Dutchman, but there might be more to look at.
  • I’d have to park at the finish line and take a shuttle to the start. Good news is that the finish line is only a half hour drive, as opposed to an hour drive for Lost Dutchman.
  • No day of race packet pick up. I’d have to make a 45 minute drive to the Expo the day before the race.
  • Based on photos from last year, the medal is just a basic medallion.
  • Registration is $70.

Arrrgh. I can’t decide! Why do both races have to be on the same day?

Running and living in Baltimore

For once I’m doing something productive during a flight. I’m still madly in love with my new laptop and it’s so nice to have it with me while traveling. (Although it wasn’t so nice lugging two laptops – personal and work – around the airport and through security.) My visit to Baltimore overall was productive too, but I’m definitely happy to be heading back to the warmth of Phoenix, at least for another month and a half or so.

I guess I’ll start first with the running news. On Monday night, I decided to check out a group run that I found online. The Federal Hill Runners meet every week not too far from where I’ll be working and living. I was a little hesitant because I’ve never run with a group before, but the website says they have runners of all types and abilities. Right now my life is all about change and moving forward, so I figured why not embrace the change and try something new.

When I arrived outside the fitness center where the group meets, I felt intimidated because all the guys standing there looked tall and fast. As more and more people arrived I kept hoping to see someone who seemed like a potential running buddy. Everyone seemed nice and I chatted with a guy who was very welcoming, but I was getting very worried that I was out of my league here.

Besides me, there was one other first-timer there so the group did really quick introductions, each person announcing their name and pace. Now I was really intimidated because the slowest pace was a 9:30. Somehow I was the last one to introduce myself and putting on a brave face I said that I’m more like a 10, but I’d try to keep up with the 9:30 runners. Luckily a woman named Christine spoke up and said that she’d run with me.

Christine and I chatted for a bit and I told her my story about getting ready to move to Baltimore. About a mile or so in, another woman named Regina joined us. The course we took was partly through city streets, and partly along the Baltimore Inner Harbor. We even went right past my company’s office where I’ll be working. Most of my attention during the run was focused on just trying to keep up, but I look forward to running through there again in the spring when I’m better able to take in the surroundings.

We ended up doing 4.39 miles total at an average 10:13 pace. I was tired but pleased with myself for surviving the run. A bunch of people asked if I’d be back next week and I responded that they’d probably see me again in March after I move. I hope that I wasn’t lying. I’d really like to go back, but I hate the idea of being the slowest person there. Not that anyone in the group ever made me feel bad, it’s just my own insecurities that are making me worry. I think I’ll make an effort to go back at least one more time. I’m hoping that either I’ll get faster, or that some slower runners will join the group again once the weather in Baltimore warms up.

After the run, the fitness center holds a free group class for the runners. Keeping with the trying new things theme, I went to check out the class too. It was quite an experience, to say the least. For some reason I had in my mind that it was a stretching class. But it was actually an abs and stretching class, with an emphasis on the abs part. I was so out of my element. The instructor was up front shouting things out and I had no idea what all the terms meant. I just did my best to mimic what everyone else was doing. Add to that the fact that I have no ab muscles at all and I was only managing to do about half the exercises. Again, I put on my brave face and just bluffed my way through the class. All I could really do was laugh at myself for getting into such a crazy situation.

So now that I’m done reporting about all this running stuff, let’s move on to my main reason for visiting Baltimore… finding a place to live. After looking at a bunch of places, I finally settled on renting a nice rowhouse only about a mile away from my office. (When the weather is nice, I’m thinking about walking or biking to work.) It wasn’t my number one choice, but it’s still got everything I need and the rent was $250/month cheaper, which adds up to a lot over a year’s lease.

This is a photo of the street the rowhouse is on.

And here’s the exterior of the building.

On the first floor is a living room, dining room, kitchen, and half bath. Apparently “exposed brick” is a very desirable feature in Baltimore rentals because it’s included on pretty much every Craig’s List posting.

The second floor has two bedrooms and a full bath.

There’s also a basement for laundry and storage. It sounds like a lot of space for one person, but all the rooms are really small. I’m pretty sure all my furniture will fit, but I’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, I’m happy to cross finding a place to live off my moving checklist, and it will be fun to actually move in and start making the place my own.

A look back at 2009

A lot has happened in my life in 2009. In January I ran my first half marathon. In April I set my half marathon PR that still stands even after five more races. In June I did my first duathlon at the happiest place on earth. In September I returned for the second Expedition Everest Challenge and while I didn’t do so well defending my title, I still had an awesome time. Then in December, I finished my eighth half marathon which qualified me for membership to the Half Fanatics. (More on that to come in another post.)

And of course in non-running related news, the last quarter of the year has been full of change. From getting sick, to being single again, to preparing for a major move.

But coming back to running, to me this photo really sums up how amazing a year 2009 has been.

(Okay, so there are two medals from 2008. But it’s still pretty darn impressive.)

Winter Misery One Miler – aka My Return to Running

Last night I did my one mile for RunningLaur’s Winter Misery One Miler virtual race. It was also my first time running in over two months! (The last time I ran was at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose on October 4.) At first I started off slow, almost at like a shuffle. It felt very strange to be running again and I could tell that I was using muscles that hadn’t been used in awhile. As I got more comfortable, I picked up the pace a little as you can see by the neat chart below. (Have I mentioned how much I’m loving Garmin Connect?) Despite all the spikiness, there’s a definite downward trend.

I’m not a natural runner, and I’ve never run just for the fun of it or felt the need to just go out for a run. I run as a form of fitness and because my ultimate end goal is to participate in a race (and hopefully earn a medal) and in order to achieve that I have to train properly. I’ve never experienced the “runner’s high” that people talk about…

But yesterday, I think I came pretty darn close. I was happy to actually be running again and I enjoyed the feeling of my feet carrying me along down the street. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it was because I knew I was just doing one mile, but there was something about the run that just felt good. There were no “why am I out here again?” or “how much farther do I have to go?” thoughts in my head. In fact, I even thought about doing another mile, but didn’t want to push myself too far too soon.

So thank you RunningLaur for providing the perfect opportunity for me to start running again!

I also did a 1 mile walk before and after the run. Here are my times:

  • Mile 1 walk: 13:53
  • Mile 2 run: 11:28
  • Mile 3 walk: 15:42

I realized it’s really hard to speed walk when I’m by myself. There’s something about the race atmosphere (probably the fact that I don’t want to be dead last) that brings out my competitive spirit and makes me go faster.

The virtual race may have been called the Winter Misery One Miler, but there wasn’t anything miserable about it for me. It was a nice, clear night and about 60°. However, I did bring in the winter aspect by taking some photos of my neighborhood during my walk…

It seems like everyone has these reindeer. My next-door neighbor is the only one who also included Santa though.

I liked this little nativity scene.

I thought this was a creative way to decorate what’s typically just an ugly looking box. I’ve never figured out what these boxes in some people’s front yards are for. Something to do with utility services maybe?

Here’s something you’ll only see in the desert. Are those supposed to be upside-down stockings? Mittens?

And finally, one way to describe how I felt about having a successful return to running.

Get Fit Seminar and more Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ugh, I don’t know what happened… WordPress somehow ate my whole post. Maybe it was because of the “snow” that I enabled on the blog? Anyway, here I go again.

So for the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona races, there’s been a series of free “Get Fit” seminars held monthly that cover different aspects of preparing for a race. I went to my first seminar last night, which was also the last of the series. The main reason I went was simply because it was being held about five minutes away from my house so I figured why not. The seminar mainly consisted of nutrition advice and Q&A. It was definitely geared toward beginners and I already knew a lot of the information being discussed, but it was good to have a refresher. The speakers were energetic and engaging which kept me from being bored. There was a raffle at the end, but by the time my name was drawn the only thing left was a t-shirt that I already have (got it when I registered for the race at an Expo). I was a little miffed because the lady sitting next to me has just barely started training for a race that’s in a month and didn’t even know what an Expo is and she won both a Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ branded slingback bag and the grand prize of a pair of Oakley’s. Aside from those items and t-shirts, there were a few P.F. Chang’s gift cards given away too. Oh, well. I can’t always be lucky.

The one takeaway for me was that it’s a good idea to try to eat right away after finishing a race. I’m really bad at this because it always takes me awhile to get through the finish area to the food, and even then I don’t always eat if what’s there doesn’t appeal to me. To solve that problem, I think I’ll start carrying an extra GU with me to use as post-race fuel. The other interesting aspect of the evening was that I got to try a foam roller. I didn’t go too crazy with it because I was wearing everyday clothes and I don’t really have any sore spots at the moment. But I can see how it would help. Once I start running again, I’ll probably give some serious consideration to buying either a foam roller or “The Stick”.

Speaking of running again, I’m thinking about giving it a try next Monday. RunningLaur is holding another of her fantastic virtual races, the Winter Misery One Miler. (I love the cute snowman graphic!) The one mile distance seems perfect for my return to running because it’s just far enough to gauge my current running ability, but not so far that I’ll strain myself. As I start running again, I definitely want to take things slowly this time around to try and avoid any further illness or injury. I know I’ve got to take the time to build back up to running longer distances. As such, I’m probably going to continue to walk any races I do in the near future. I guess I could do a walk/run plan with say 4 minutes walking and 1 minute running. But I have this weird desire right now to keep walking separate from running. When I’m walking, I know that my time and pace reflect the fact that I’m just walking. But if I throw in an occasional bit of running, then I can’t classify it as a walk anymore and I think I’d start to feel frustrated by my slowness as compared to my previous running stats.

Originally for RnR AZ I registered for the marathon. This was back at the beginning of September when I thought four months was plenty of time to train. Then after I got sick, I realized there was no way I could do a marathon in January. Even if I walked most of it, that would still mean I would be out there on my feet for seven hours. Yuck! So I emailed the Competitor Group and “downgraded” to the half instead. As just explained above, I’m not sure I want to mix walking and running yet, so right now my goal for the race is to beat my time from RNR Las Vegas for walking a half.

(RunningLaur, to answer your comment… yes, I’m still planning on doing RnR AZ and I’d definitely love to meet up with you and other local bloggers either before or after!)

Beyond RnR AZ I’m not registered for anything else yet, although I do have some tentative races in mind. The first is the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas 1/2 Marathon in March. I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing all the new inaugural RnR races for 2010, but there’s already five of them on the calendar and I don’t really want to commit to another year primarily devoted to RnR. It’s time for some new experiences. The reason I’m interested in RnR Dallas though is because 1) I have a good friend who lives there who I haven’t seen in a few years, and 2) the timing is good because I have carryover vacation at work that I’ll have to use up before the end of March anyway. So maybe RnR Dallas will be my target race for getting back to running. Or at least run/walking.

Corral 4?!?

RnR San Jose corral assignment

I got an email from RnR San Jose earlier with links to my confirmation sheet and final race instructions. I’m a little worried about being placed so far up in corral 4. Admittedly, my predicted finish time isn’t all that accurate, but it’s what I’ve been using for all my half marathon registrations since my PR at the Havasu Half. At RnR Chicago the 2:00 time put me in corral 8, which seems a bit more reasonable. Maybe there are a lot less people doing RnR San Jose? (A good possibility since unlike RnR Chicago it hasn’t sold out yet.)

I’m sort of thinking about moving myself back a couple corrals because I don’t want to be in the way of the faster runners. But on the other hand, starting earlier means finishing earlier, which means slightly less of a rush to get back to the hotel before check-out time. Well, I’ll just wait and see what happens. I still have the Expedition Everest Challenge to get through first. And with my track record, I’ll probably arrive late at the start line anyway so it’ll be a moot point.

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