Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vern's No Frills 5K - #24 Race Report

A few weeks ago, I learned about a series of 5K races that takes place monthly in Georgetown, TX (about a 40-minute drive from where we live in Austin). The series is called Vern's No Frills 5K and takes place on the 3rd Saturday of each month. As the race name suggests, it is a "no frills" event (no awards, no shirts, no timing mats/chips, no clocks on course, etc.) . . . but hey, considering it only costs $1 for adults to run (students K-12 run free), I figured it was worth a shot!

After having stayed up WAY too late last night watching March Madness, Wilson and I woke up to the alarm blaring at 5:30 this morning. Ouch. It had certainly been quite some time since either of us had seen that hour! But I, for one, was definitely pretty giddy to be getting back to racing after a 6-month hiatus (9 months for Wilson!).

We sipped on our coffee and ate some plain grits, which seemed like an okay idea at the time; but soon I realized that my tummy was pretty darn unhappy with me. Meh. I've eaten grits as a pre-long run meal and have never had any problems; so I'm not sure if it was nerves or what. But let's just say that my gut was making some pretty crazy noises at me. I got dressed and took care of business, which made the tummy feel a little bit better (temporarily). Before I knew it, it was 6:45 and past time to hit the road!

Luckily, there was no traffic at all and we managed to arrive at the race site (Berry Springs Park & Preserve) ahead of schedule. Finding our way around was a piece of cake, as was parking and registration.* We had a good 25 minutes or so until go-time and my tummy was still a little pissy, so we hit the bathrooms (REAL bathrooms, yeah!!) then went for a quick warm up jog, including some strides. Not gonna lie, my legs were definitely all "WTF, chick?!" when I started the strides. I mean, it HAD been nearly six months since I'd done any speed training, so I wasn't at all surprised . . . but still, I started to get a little bit nervous.

Now, before I go any further, I should mention that I didn't really have a time goal going into this race. Having done nothing but easy runs since some time in early October, I knew a PR was almost definitely out of the question (current PR = 24:47). I think my biggest goal was just to get out there and leave everything I had on the course, so as to get as accurate a sense of my current running fitness as possible.

The start was casual. I wasn't sure where exactly the "start line" was, but I tried to line myself up in an appropriate area judging by the runners around me. When we were all lined up, the race director gave some last minute instructions and a description of the course; then made all of us raise our right hands and repeat, "I promise . . . to be safe". After wishing us good luck, the air-horn sounded and we were off!!

Right away, I realized I probably should have lined up closer to the front than I did . . . I was trapped behind a bunch of slower runners. I ended up going off the path and running around a number of them to get ahead. This seemed to be going well until I rolled my ankle a little on a divet in the grass. Ow. Luckily, by that point, I had gotten around enough people that the path seemed to open up for me. I glanced down at Gertie Garmin and was shocked to see that I was running at a 7:40 pace . . . oops! That was WAY faster than I should have been running, given the circumstances, but it really didn't feel that difficult. Still, I knew continuing at such a pace would likely lead to disaster somewhere down the road. I eased my pace a bit and decided to stick behind the tall dude in front of me. Soon, we hit the 1-mile marker, ran around a cone and headed back in the direction from which we'd just come.

Mile 1: 7:57

After we turned back around, we hit a quick uphill that wasn't particularly difficult; but as I crested the hill, I started to gasp for air. It was at this point that I really began to notice the humidity. Although it was only 64 degrees out, the 92%(!) humidity was making things a tad bit uncomfortable! On top of that, a nagging little ankle/achilles/calf injury I've been dealing with started to rear its ugly head, thanks to the pounding my legs were taking on the concrete path. I knew I had no choice but to pull back a bit more. As I watched my pace fade, negative thoughts crept into my mind; thoughts that would have, in the past, consumed me. "I'm so far off of a PR; what's the point?!" "My time is going to be SO humiliating!" "Wouldn't it be nice to just slow down and jog the rest of the race?" "Hell, maybe I should just drop out." I fought against the nasty voices in my head and pushed as hard as my body would allow. By this time, though, I was starting to fade . . .

Mile 2: 8:27

At some point in the previous mile, I'd noticed a small child--maybe 9 or 10 years old--who kept trading places with me. Now, at first, I thought this was adorable--I was just thrilled to see him out there racing and having a good time. But then, during the 3rd mile (as I began to struggle more and more), I started to get a little frustrated. The kid would sprint up ahead of me and run for a minute, only to sit down on one of the many park benches lining the course. There, he would wait for his dad (who was somewhere not too far behind me) to catch up with him. Then, of course, he would start running hard once his dad finally caught up to him . . . and pass me again. This went on for the remainder of the race. Looking back, I actually think it was pretty funny. I am positive I wouldn't have been so frustrated with it had I not been hurting so badly at that point. But, BOY, was I ever hurting. I looked down at Gertie at some point and noticed my pace had dropped to an awful 9:07. Ouch. I forced myself to pick it up a bit and pushed myself with everything I had left in me, praying for the finish to come soon. Finally, I could see it up ahead. Unfortunately, so could everyone else around me. Almost immediately, I got passed by another girl. I tried my hardest to catch back up with her, but I was running on empty. On top of that, I could feel myself quickly approaching the puke threshold. I wanted so, so badly to catch this girl, but it became apparent that I just didn't have it in me. I gave it one last hard push and FINALLY reached the finish line.

Mile 3: 8:51
Last .1 (or .19, according to Gertie): 7:37 pace

I was SO glad to be done. But still, I felt like vomit was imminent. I took a moment to compose myself. Finally, after a couple minutes, I felt like the contents of my stomach were safe. I walked over to the nearby pavilion where water and Gatorade were available** and met up with Wilson (who had finished in 22:16; a little over a minute slower than his PR). We animatedly traded race stories and splits for a while before heading back to the car (and then on to Round Rock Donuts for a post-race treat--YUM!). Even if this race wasn't the best race ever for us, I think it's safe to say that we're both glad to be back to racing! :)

Final Stats (according to Gertie): 26:17; 3.19 miles; 8:23 pace
Official Time: 26:19; 3.1 miles; 8:29 pace

Some Final Thoughts:

1. I LOVE this race series. Everything was run really well and everyone there (both runners and volunteers from the Georgetown Running Club) was nice as can be. I think it will be really cool to get to run a 5K on the same course every month, and a great way to judge my progress once I mix speed work back into my routine.

2. As horrible and inconsistent as my splits were, I kind of expected it. While I am bummed at how badly I faded as the race went on, I think I am more depressed that running a 26-ish minute 5K caused me to approach the puke threshold. That's just sad. I knew going into this that I wasn't in 5K racing shape, but c'mon!! My ego definitely took a hit there.

3. At the same time, I am in shock that I managed to push myself hard enough to actually approach the puke threshold. I'm sure my icky stomach could be partially to blame for this phenomenon, but I definitely DID leave everything I had in me out on the course this morning. I didn't have an ounce of energy left in me after I crossed that finish line. Considering how badly I wanted to give up throughout much of the race, I'm extremely proud that I sucked it up and found a way to hold on.

4. Somehow--and I don't even know how this is possible--I ended up finishing 9th place female. SAY WHAAAAA? I cracked the Top-10, baby! Now, as I mentioned before, this is a "no frills" race and there are no awards (nor age groups). But according to the standings, I finished 9th out of 90 women and 57th overall (out of 194 runners). Um, looks like all of the fast ladies must have stayed in bed this morning . . . but hey, I'll take it!! Sure beats those races back in NYC where I would inevitably finish in something like 394th place in my gender!

5. I can't wait to smoke today's time and earn myself a course record at next month's race! ;)

Thanks for reading, y'all! Hope you are enjoying the weekend!

*Having never been to the park before, we were a little bit worried about figuring out where to go; but everything was super easy and clearly marked. There was even a really friendly man out directing the parking. He asked us whether we'd been there before and welcomed us when we said we were new. He pointed out where everything was, from registration, to restrooms, to the start area. It was such a nice touch. We felt like VIPs!!

**I was pretty shocked that a race that cost $1 to enter--and aims to raise money for the park it is run in--offered Gatorade at the end. How could they afford to do so on $1 a head?! Well, apparently the Austin Marathon--which was run back in February--donated their leftover Gatorade and cups to this race series. How cool is that?! By the end of the race, the thought of Gatorade made me want to vomit; but still, it was a very cool surprise!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Memory Lane . . .

You guys! Guess what Wilson and I just found?! Well, remember back over a year ago when I said there was a video that went along with my Goofy Challenge Race Report? Yup. That is what we found. Ah, memories! It makes me want to go back and do it all over again (but maybe without falling on my face this time around)! At any rate, here is my post-Goofy interview. Enjoy! :)


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Two Black Cats . . .


Wilson and I were out for a blissful 5.5-mile run the other night, when two--yes, TWO--black cats crossed our very path. Now, I know there are cultures that consider black cats to be harbingers of good luck . . . but everything I've ever seen/heard has suggested otherwise. When I somehow managed to dump a huge glass of seltzer water all over my laptop later on that night, I began to get worried. After all, I WAS still waiting to hear back about a job I had been through three long interviews for. The last thing I needed was (double?) bad luck on my side!

Well, the bad news is that my laptop's keyboard is totally FRIED despite our best efforts to salvage it. The good news, though, is that I will soon be able to replace said laptop using my very own shiny, new paychecks! Yes, that's right. The nightmare that was our never-ending unemployment saga is finally over. I was offered the job I've been up for yesterday and I accepted it without hesitation. It's a techie job, which I find hilarious . . . I guess I just never thought I'd find myself in a tech position. But hey, it's a job, it pays (decently), and I'll make it work! The semi-bad news is that it's a night/weekend gig, so I'm still trying to work out what that will mean for my running schedule*. But hey, if I managed to figure it out at the old law firm job--where I essentially worked both the "day shift" AND the "night shift" (and more often than not, the "weekend shift" too)--I can't help but feel like figuring this one out should be a cinch! ;)

Speaking of which, running has been going just swimmingly! Wilson and I have been running regularly and even threw in an 8-mile long run last weekend. It was ah-mazing! I felt strong enough to really push it through the last mile, so I was definitely very pleased. At this point, we're still working on building our mileage back up, but I am definitely getting VERY excited about the prospect of adding speed-work back into our routine sometime soon. Have I lost my mind?! Perhaps . . . but whatever the case, I am seriously jonesing for some speed!!

Well, that and apparently some ultra fun. Hehe, I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I am highly considering tackling El Scorcho 50K on July 17. Because what could possibly be more fun than running from midnight until sun up? In July? In the Texas heat? We shall see whether the new job will allow for time off, but if so, I'm pretty sure I'll be toeing the line at my first ultra-marathon come July!

Alright, well I'm going to wrap this up now so I can get right to work catching up on what y'all have been up to . . . but thank you so, so much for your kind and encouraging words. They've helped more than you can imagine! I'm sure I'll have some deep thoughts about this whole experience at some point in the not too distant future; but for now, let me just say that I think I've decided that black cats really ARE good luck :)

*You know you're a running nerd when: you don't worry AT ALL about how your social life will suffer as a result of working the night/weekend shift, but DO worry constantly about how you are going to figure out your training/racing schedule!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quick Update . . .

Thank you all for bearing with me during this seriously wacky point in my life. I can't believe it has been almost a month since that last post (it seems like it's been a few days, at most!). But alas, here we are. I keep thinking I should have more time than ever to blog right now, seeing as how I'm unemployed . . . but somehow, the days fly by and there never seems to be enough time in the day. Go figure.

So where does the time go? Well, for starters, we're still working on the job thing . . . so that's been more or less monopolizing our lives as of late. I know it's probably healthy to take a break from it every once in a while; but there's a part of me that fears that any second I take away from job-hunting, cover letter-writing, resume-updating, networking, etc. could be the second that I miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. I've had a few interviews that haven't amounted to anything and I'm still in the running for one other job. But Wilson hasn't found anything at all yet. **Sigh**. Each week that passes gets more and more depressing, and I get more and more desperate for basically anything that would pay. Take the job I'm up for now: It's something I would never consider were we not in such a crazy situation right now. It's a law(ish) job (ugh), but it's a weekends/night shift kind of thing. So my hours would be 4 p.m.-1 a.m. and I would have to work on weekends. It's not exactly what I was hoping for (and not exactly the best schedule for someone who loves training for and running races) . . . but I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

On the upside, running has been going a little better as of late. Not great, but I'm getting out there probably 3-4 times a week, which is an improvement. I'm in crappy shape and it hurts, but I know I have to get through this rough patch to get back to the place where running is magical and dreamy (at least most of the time). I did learn recently about a "No Frills" 5K series in the area that takes place once a month and only costs $1 (1 FREAKING DOLLAR!!) to race in. That has definitely given me something to look forward to and some motivation to get training. I'm also starting to think about the New York City Marathon coming up in November, and I really want to make sure I have an AWESOME base going into training for that one. So I'm happy to report that my motivation is improving steadily!

On the days that I'm not running, I've been making an effort to get some form of movement in, whether it's going for a hike, playing tennis, doing some body weight resistance training (push-ups, squats, hip extensions, lunges, planks, bench dips, etc.) or vigorously cleaning the entire apartment (totally counts!). I REALLY want to get back to lifting weights as well, so I think Wilson and I are going to sign up for a membership at Planet Fitness in the next couple of days. As much as I tend to be a gym snob--and as much as I REALLY don't want to support a gym chain that makes use of a "Lunk Alarm" (seriously?!)--I figure I should probably just suck it up and sign up, considering it costs $10 a month and it's a month-to-month contract. You better believe I will be out of there as soon as one of us snatches up a job. But for the time-being, we'll make it work.

In other news, some jerk stole a bunch of my running clothes out of the laundry center at our apartment complex. REALLY?! Who does that?! At the present time, I have identified 4 sports bras and 2 pairs of running shorts that are missing (along with who knows what else that I haven't noticed yet). And somehow, this person seemed to know exactly which items were my favorites . . . because the items that are missing are those that were always the nearest and dearest to my heart. You know the items you turn to time and time again when planning your race day outfit? The loyal shorts that stay ever-so-nicely in place? The comfy sports bra that never attempts to chafe/saw your boobs off? Yup, that's exactly what this jerk-face stole. In a matter of minutes I went from having 3 of those trusty sports bras and 3 of those perfect pairs of shorts down to just one of each. GRRR. Well, lesson learned. I guess I will not leave my laundry unattended in the laundry room ever again. And hey, at least it will be that much easier to pick out my race-day outfits from now on!

To end this on a happy note, here is a photo of Wilson and I in front of the Texas Capitol on Valentine's Day.

I'm not typically a huge V-Day fan, but we DID have a pretty nice evening, all things considered. First of all, it was a gorgeous day as you can tell from our attire--in the mid-70s!! We splurged and went out to dinner at a cute but inexpensive restaurant in an adorable old house. The food was to die for and the place scored extra points because it had its own vegetable garden on site (LOVE!). We haven't been doing much eating out lately, and while I was a little hesitant at first, I'm glad Wilson made reservations and insisted on taking me out. Eastside Cafe will for sure be a favorite of ours if/when we get back to the point of being able to afford eating out! After our meal, we decided to stop by the Texas Capitol, since it looks SO beautiful all lit up at night. Thus, the photo of us above. Then, we ended the night with some fantastically crappy tv. Not bad at all!

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm going to try to get a post up about my thoughts on the new Boston Marathon registration process sometime in the next couple days . . . so stay tuned for that. Also, the Austin Marathon is on Sunday! I'm quite sad I won't be running it, but still very excited to get to participate in the weekend's events. We're debating whether we should volunteer for the race or just spectate and be the best cheerleaders ever. To be honest, the call times ranging from 4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. will probably lead us to go with the latter, but I'll be sure to post a report either way!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The state of my running (or lack thereof)

So, first of all, a quick but heart-felt THANK YOU to the handful of you still out there in blogland! I'm honestly blown away that anyone even bothered to finish that long and tedious post! But seriously, thank you. Y'all are the best.

Now, onto the state of my running. Well, let's just say that I haven't been lacing up the running shoes as often as I ought to be, considering this is the only season in Central Texas where you can run without sweating buckets! Sadly, the motivation to run just hasn't been there. I'd be willing to bet this lack of motivation stems from the fact that I have approximately ZERO races penciled in at this point. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE and dearly miss racing . . . it's just that Wilson and I really can't justify paying (ever-climbing) race fees at the moment, considering our financial situation. We still make it out to run every once in a while, but not nearly often enough.

So, I am wondering . . . does anyone else find it all but impossible to get motivated without races
on the horizon? If so, what do you do to snap yourself out of it? I'd love to hear any strategies you might have to offer . . .

Monday, January 10, 2011

Another Year Gone . . .

Well. It looks like I *ALMOST* managed to make it an entire year without posting; not that I'm proud of that fact or anything. But in my defense, life HAS been kind of chaotic as of late. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that my hesitation to post stemmed from the fact that I REALLY wanted to wait until I was sure things were on the upswing before admitting to some of the crazy stuff that has gone on over the past year. After all, who doesn't love a happy ending? But last night (as I lay wide awake at 5 a.m.), I had a thought: Maybe I should be posting about this stuff NOW. After all, I'm pretty sure there are quite a number of folks out there in similar situations. And who knows? Maybe--just maybe--it would help those people to know that they aren't alone. Then, there's the fact that I'm pretty sure that Wilson and I MUST be approaching some kind of turning point in life; and if that turns out to be the case, wouldn't it be nice to have a record of it? So, here I am . . . back from the blogging dead (again). I'm not quite sure whether anyone is still out there; but if you are, prepare yourself for the longest post in Irish Cream history!


Where do I even start? Well, I guess we should start with the point at which I left off: I had some exciting news to share (man, what a cliffhanger!). Well, the big news was that I had been offered a job at an upscale, big-name gym, just a few blocks from my apartment in Brooklyn. My instructor at school (who had brought in a recruiter from the company to interview any of us who were interested in the possibility of working for the gym) basically guaranteed me that it would be a great place to work. It was a dream come true!! Or so I thought . . .

Instead, the job turned out to be a disaster from the very start. Lets just say that the gym's management left a little something to be desired (understatement of the century, but whatever). Now, in all honesty, I probably should have known this would be the case when one of my potential managers scheduled a final interview with me and then didn't bother to show up to work that day (or when the same thing happened AGAIN upon arriving for my scheduled appointment to fill out new hire paperwork) . . . but a) I was really trying to keep an open mind, and b) hindsight is 20/20, isn't it? Well, I made it about 3 months before I got sick and tired of not getting paid (my minimum wage rate) on time (or at all), and figured I owed it to myself to call it quits before I got into another situation like I was in at the law gig. So that was that.

At that point (early May), knowing our lease would be ending in a little over two months, Wilson* and I had a decision to make: Should we sign another 12-month lease in one of the most expensive cities in the world, despite the fact that neither of us was gainfully employed? Or should we attempt to make a move somewhere else (preferably less expensive) in the world? We grappled with this question for quite some time; but in the end, we decided it was probably time to move on and start our lives over elsewhere. After all, I had saved up a pretty huge sum of money while working in law . . . but, if worse came to worst, we knew that large sum would go MUCH further somewhere cheaper than NYC.

So Wilson began applying to animation companies wherever he could find them . . . Vancouver, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, Jacksonville, Greenwich, CT. Our Plan-A was basically to go wherever he found employment (after all, I can do what I do anywhere; but there are only a handful of cities that offer animation gigs). Of course, aware that the economy was sucking, we also knew we had to make a Plan-B (in case Wilson didn't find a job before we had to vacate our Brooklyn apartment). So, after much deliberation, we decided Plan-B would be to move to Austin, Texas. Austin was a place we'd visited a while back and had simply ADORED (see here). Not to mention, we knew it was a popular spot for video game animation (an area Wilson wasreally interested in pursuing). Well--whadyaknow--six weeks passed without Wilson finding a job, and we eventually came to the conclusion that it was time to move forward with Plan-B. So, we got in touch with an apartment locating agency in Austin (thanks, Yelp!) and asked them to find us an apartment within our (rather low) price range. Well, bless our apartment dude's heart . . . he found us some really fantastic options!! And after stalling for as long as we could (on the off chance Wilson was offered a job elsewhere, at the last minute), we eventually signed a lease at one of the complexes, sight unseen.

Once we signed that lease, we considered Austin to be a done deal. Wilson changed his job search focus to Austin alone, and I worked diligently, trying to figure out all of the rather complicated details that a cross-country move entails (this was especially time-consuming considering we were attempting a cross-country move out of NYC--without a car--and on a pretty tight budget, to boot). We sold most of our worldly belongings (HUGE pain in the butt, btw). We packed the rest (our couch, books, kitchen stuff, and clothing) onto a moving truck in 100+ degree weather, without so much as an ounce of food or drink.** We ate dinners on the floor of our apartment. We visited all of our favorite NYC hang-outs one last time. We sipped champagne out of plastic cups.*** We ate, drank, and partied with great friends until the wee hours of the very morning we were scheduled to leave (always a BRILLIANT idea when you have a 14+ hour drive ahead of you . . . but I don't regret it for a second!). And when all was said and done, we bid farewell to NYC on the morning of July 31, 2010.

So long, NYC!

Now, in an ideal world, we could have driven straight to Texas, stopping for a night or two on the way. Unfortunately, though, our apartment in Austin wasn't being vacated until August 15. This meant we had to find a place to stay for a couple weeks until our new apartment would be ready. Thank goodness my parents are saints and generously offered to let us stay at their winter home in South Carolina during this gap! Otherwise, I'm not quite sure what we would have done . . .

Our stay in South Carolina was relaxing and fun. For the first time in several months, we were able to decompress a bit and truly enjoy ourselves. We swam in the lake behind my parents' house as often as we could, caught up on episodes of our new favorite TV show, Breaking Bad (SO GOOD!), grilled out, watched scary movies, went to minor league baseball games in nearby Greenville, spent a fair amount of time cuddling (schmoopy, I know), and we even got to spend a few days with my older sister and 5-year old niece (who came up from Beaufort to stay with us). Needless to say, our time in SC was pure heaven after all the craziness of attempting to orchestrate a cross-country move.
Me, enjoying a "big boss" (aka, delicious hunk of meat) at the Greenville Drive game

After two glorious weeks on the lake in SC, it was time for Wilson and I to continue on our journey. On the way, though, we made a brilliant decision to stop for a couple nights in New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been . . . and we found some REALLY cheap hotel rates (it was the SWELTERING off-season, after all). Plus, we figured it would break up the 18-hour drive from my parents' place to Austin quite nicely.

Oh man, did we have fun in New Orleans!! We managed to fit in a RIDICULOUS amount of deliciousness . . . drinks ranging from pimm's cup, to hurricanes, to hand grenades, to absinthe . . . and eats ranging from muffaletta, to cajun fried chicken, to shrimp creole, to seafood gumbo, to rabbit & sausage jambalaya, to red beans & rice, to alligator and crawfish po-boys, to beignets & chicory coffee from Cafe Du Monde.**** We also managed to fit in a very fun Russian vodka bar, dueling pianos at Pat O'Brien's, a lot of exploration/photo time, and a really cool ghost tour. Needless to say, we loved it and made a mental note to return to NOLA ASAP!

Cute photo I took of Wilson, trying to find some shade while exploring New Orleans (it was HOT!)

Enjoying my first ever hand grenade on Bourbon Street

We were sad to see our time in New Orleans come to an end; but at the same time, we were VERY anxious to get to Austin and check out our new digs.

Crossing the Texas state line!!

After an 8-9 hour drive, we arrived "home" to our apartment in Austin . . . and it was perfect. It wasn't the newest or most luxurious complex in town, but the location was FANTASTIC. It was about 100 yards from the Barton Creek Greenbelt (a great location for trail-running, hiking and mountain-biking); not to mention, just a mile or so from Zilker Park (home of Austin City Limits) and a few minutes drive (or a quick bike ride!) to downtown.

The Barton Creek Greenbelt, our new backyard!

More greenbelt . . .

And still more greenbelt . . .

AND? Our apartment (which worked out to cost just over ONE-THIRD of what we paid for our place in NYC) included a dishwasher, a nice kitchen with new-ish appliances, a linen closet, a big pantry, a good-sized balcony (with storage closet), a HUGE walk in closet, a community pool, tennis courts, sand volleyball court, a small fitness center, and on-site laundry (none of which was available in our shoebox apartment in Brooklyn!). We immediately wondered why the heck we hadn't thought to leave NYC sooner!

Of course, everything wasn't 100% peaches and cream. We had no internet (nor smart phones, nor a phone book) for several days, and we had to figure out how the heck to get around a city we were new to. Um, for the record? This is hard, y'all. We ended up calling parents, siblings, friends, etc., and begging them to look stuff up for us ALL. THE. TIME. We were SO annoying. Also annoying? The fact that we had to unload all of our crap from the truck we'd packed it on (again, from a sketch moving terminal) and transfer it back to our new apartment. And since we'd gotten to Austin on a Sunday (moving terminal = closed on Sunday), we had to sleep on the floor for a night (OUCH--I am seriously too old for that crap).

I will say, unloading the truck was a million times easier than the loading part (which was great news, considering it was 109 degrees outside the day we did it). I think we also must have learned a thing or two from our experience on the front end . . . because we somehow managed to unload the truck using just THREE trips back-and-forth (as opposed to the FOUR trips it took us to get the truck loaded in the first place). Granted, our strategy in Austin involved crushing me under massive boxes and haphazardly tying our couch cushions to the roof of the car (we like to call this strategy, "whatever the hell it takes to get this sh*t over with ASAP") . . . but hey, the important thing is that we got it done fast! And at that point, we were more than ready for the move to be OVER (I mean, we HAD been at it--in some form or another--for almost a month by that time!).

Hiding under a stack of (heavy!) boxes. The 20 minutes it took to get to our apartment from the moving terminal seemed like an ETERNITY!

Once unpacked and somewhat settled, we spent the first several months in Austin exploring our new city.
Enjoying a cold beverage at Bat Fest, a super fun street festival dedicated to the colony of bats that lives under the South Congress Bridge in Austin

Wilson, sampling chicken fried bacon at Bat Fest. I had no idea such a monstrosity existed . . .

Me, at Bat Fest, with my chopped beef sandwich (with extra jalapenos, of course!)

Wilson and his ice cream at Bat Fest

Showing off my new cowboy boot koozie

First trip to Salt Lick (best barbecue EVER)!!

You know you're in Texas when . . .
Entering the Round Rock Express minor league baseball stadium

Wilson and I at the Round Rock Express game

Enjoying a drink on our balcony

Wilson, chillaxing on the balcony with his g&t

Nico (our cat), trying to steal Wilson's string cheese

Me, rocking out in our apartment

Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas!

My cute boyfriend, lounging around at the Gruene Music & Wine Festival

Me and Laura (one of my college roomies who currently lives in Dallas) at the Gruene Wine & Music Festival.

Texas friends (Me, Wilson, Laura, Chelsea & Michael) at Salt Lick BBQ after spending the day at the Gruene Music & Wine Festival

The Zilker Park Christmas tree

Wilson and I inside the Zilker tree

Throughout those first months in Austin, we also had a TON of traveling to do, including:
  • A trip back to Chicago/NW Indiana/SW Michigan to a) help my parents move, b) attend a Notre Dame football game, and c) run the Chicago Half-Marathon (the day after having tailgated my face off--worst/most bad-ass decision EVER!)
  • A good friend's wedding in Massachusetts.
Wilson and I, dancing the night away at Megan & Noah's wedding . . .
  • ANOTHER cross-country driving trip (our third in 9 months) back to NJ to return Wilson's father's car, which he had generously allowed us to borrow to move down to Texas
  • A Thanksgiving trip back to my parents' place in SC (where we also picked up an old car of theirs to borrow until we purchase a vehicle of our own . . . thanks, Mom & Dad!!).*****
WHEW. Considering we had all that stuff going on, we were not exactly in a huge hurry to secure jobs. We figured it best to wait until things settled down a bit, seeing as how it's not exactly ideal to go into a job and immediately request all kinds of time off. But still, we kept an eye out for any opportunities that might be too good to pass on.

During that time, Wilson DID secure an interview with a pretty great video game animation company in the Austin area; but sadly, they ended up giving the job to someone else. This was a bit of a bummer, but we figured there were better things to come. Shortly thereafter, Wilson DID end up receiving job offers from one place in Seattle and another in Dallas, but considering neither of them were ideal situations (no relocation package offered, short term work, lower pay, etc.), we figured it better to stick with Austin.

I received a job offer in Austin around Thanksgiving, but I ultimately declined it, since it was WAY below the salary-range I was looking for (almost to the point of being insulting) . . . and I just wasn't sure I could deal with working alone with the ONE individual I would be working with. Plus, it was one of the first jobs I applied to. I (erroneously) assumed that if I had landed an offer that quickly, I should have no trouble finding something else.

WRONG-O. Fast-forward a couple months to the present. Wilson and I are desperately spending just about every minute of every day searching for jobs . . . and it's exhausting. I have done everything I can think of: whoring myself out to the Notre Dame alumni network, "connecting" with everyone I know on Linked in (and even upgrading to a premier membership), applying to job ads, sending out cold resumes, submitting my resume to temp agencies. I even found an ex-supervisor and a fellow ND alum with connections in Austin who were both kind enough to look into opportunities for me. But sadly, nothing has come of it.

I wish I could put into words how demoralizing this whole process has been. I have had friends and family tell me over an over again that I am an intelligent, talented individual and that my trouble securing something says nothing about my worth . . . but rather, makes a more general statement about just how bad things are out there. I know they're probably right . . . but still, it's exceedingly difficult to not lose hope and/or confidence in your abilities when it's THIS difficult to find work. I do have a couple side projects I have been working on (a couple shops I opened on, including one where I sell some of my photography); unfortunately, they just haven't brought in much income.

Wilson has been receiving unemployment since he was laid off about a year ago . . . and he has also managed to find a few days of freelance work, here and there. Besides that, though, we have basically watched our hard-earned savings dwindle down to a fraction of what it used to be. Now, don't get me wrong . . . I feel super blessed that we had a decent net of savings to fall back on. I know many people haven't been that lucky. At the same time, though, we were hoping to put that money towards a house . . . and a wedding . . . and children. And now, it just feels like we're moving further and further away from those things each day that we don't find work. It sucks, to say the least.

All this being said, I do want to reiterate that I am still REALLY glad we made the move down here. We absolutely, positively LOVE Austin, and we are quite excited about the prospect of raising a family here (way down the road, that is). I have no doubt in my mind that once we figure this job stuff out, we will be happier than we've ever been. And I am also confident that we will bounce back quickly from this rough patch. We have gotten so good at spending only what is absolutely necessary that I would imagine it will take us no time at all to get our savings back (and then some). But right now, things are just really hard, not knowing when this crazy period of our lives will end.

The one good thing I will say is that (minus a few stupid squabbles, which I think are inevitable given the stressful financial situation we are in), my relationship with Wilson has remained strong--and I would venture to say that it has actually gotten stronger. I am not sure how he's dealing with me at the moment, seeing as how I seem to teeter back and forth between complete & utter despair and giddy optimism. But I'm sure glad he puts up with me!

Alright, well I think I'm going to cut this off for now, as it is already way too long. But I'm sure I will have more thoughts to share soon. Maybe I will even talk about running--gasp!! In the meantime, though, please keep your fingers crossed that something works out for one (or both!) of us soon.

I hope you are all well. I can't wait to get caught up on the great things y'all have been up to once things finally settle down a bit!

Hugs to everyone!

*I should mention here that Wilson lost his job in NYC back in January, 2010.
This was a pretty huge bummer because he had served the company very loyally for 3 years (too loyally, if you ask me--they never once offered him a raise or promotion of any kind) . . . and also, because he had been led to believe that they would hire him on as an animator when he graduated from animation school in June, 2010. Instead, they informed him that his services were no longer needed within an hour of arriving to work one day. They claimed that he had "lost some of his enthusiasm for the job." My question for them would be, "who wouldn't lose a bit of enthusiasm after doing grunt work for 3 years and receiving no discernible reward?"

**Because of the location of our apartment in Brooklyn, bringing a moving truck TO us just wasn't a possibility (there was nowhere to park it). Therefore, we had to make a bunch of trips back and forth, between our apartment and a super-sketch moving terminal, where our truck was parked. We had one day--and one day only--to do this. Unfortunately, it took us MUCH longer than we had planned (packing a truck and tying stuff down is NOT an easy task). This meant no time to stop for lunch . . . or even to refill our water bottles. UGH. In the end, we got our truck packed up with about 5 minutes to spare before the place closed; but let me just say, it was seriously one of the most grueling days of my life . . .

***We had been saving it for quite a while, thinking we would drink it once we had something to celebrate. Well, 1) we were moving and had to empty the 'fridge; and 2) what could possibly deserve celebration more than embarking on a cross-country journey with your best friend in the world and starting life over in a brand new place?

****When I posted this on facebook, I think my friends and family were horrified by the amount of food they assumed we had consumed in our 60 hours in NOLA. Sooo . . . I should mention that rather than eating 6 meals a day (as it would appear), we actually accomplished this by splitting things and ordering sample plates whenever possible!

*****On a side note, I should mention that I FINALLY got to meet Lindsay, of Chasing the Kenyans, while we were in town! We chatted, drank delicious coffee drinks, and even got to introduce our men to one another. It was so wonderful to finally get to meet her (and J!)!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Goofy's Race-And-A-Half Challenge: A Race Report - Part II

Dang, yo. There has been all kinds of craziness happening in the life of Irish Cream as of late. But before I let too much escape me, I wanted to go ahead and complete my Goofy Race Report. I mean, it HAS been nearly a month since it took place . . . yeesh!


Race morning once again came nice and early, with Wilson and I rising sometime around 3 a.m. We got ourselves ready, chowed down on some breakfast and were out the door before you could say, "Goofy." Once we stepped outside, it hit us . . . it was EFFING COLD OUT. OMG. The temps, as predicted, were hovering in the 20s with a "real feel" in the teens. Ouch. Luckily, I was wearing the warmest $4.00 size-XXL Grinch flannel pj pants EVER over my race clothes. As hideous as they may have been, they were truly toasty. I may or may not have shed a tear when I had to throw them away prior to the start . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We zipped down I-4 and made it to Epcot in no time at all. Then came the difficult part . . . dropping trou in sub-freezing temps. I contemplated holding it, but finally sucked it up and went. By the time Wilson and I made it through the porta-potty line, it was just about time to head to the start area, knowing from experience that it was a good 20-minute walk to get there. Wilson hit up gear check on the way, and then we wandered through the dark with the masses of runners gearing up to run 26.2. I don't know about anyone else, but I always find the moments just before the start of a marathon to be SO incredible. I think part of it has to do with the fact that marathon training tends to be a lesson in solitude; that is, unless you are lucky enough to have lots of marathon runners in your life. But you all know how it is . . . you train for months and are more likely than not called "crazy" on countless occasions during those months. Then you finally make it to that start line and you are surrounded by people just like you. How incredible does it feel, knowing that those tens of thousands of people went through exactly what you went through to get there? It is truly awe-inspiring.

Anyway, we moseyed over to the start area, thinking we had oodles of time; only, once we got there, we realized that my assigned corral (Corral D), was actually part of the FIRST wave thanks to a split start. Wow, good thing I looked into that BEFORE the race. Oops. Talk about unprepared! Considering the National Anthem had already been sung while we were en route to the start area, we knew we didn't have much time before the gun went off. We found the corral and Wilson immediately hopped the fence, stumbled and fell. Luckily, he just scraped up his palms a little bit, but it was still scary. I, after seeing this, insisted on heading up to the actual entrance to the corral. After all, someone as clumsy as me has NO business hopping fences! This was a good idea in theory; however, once I saw the line of people at the entrance to the coral (where they were very diligently checking bibs) I went into panic mode. Ultimately, I decided to live on the edge and do a little fence-jumping myself. Somehow, I made it over that fence with the assistance of a kind runner man and found Wilson. Whew! We'd made it!

Shortly thereafter, the same video and fireworks from the half-marathon the day before went off--and holy Deja vu--it was like I was in my own personal version of Groundhog Day! Only this time, I had Wilson with me, video-taping everything that happened with his trusty Flip camera. Before we knew it, we were moving! And holy crap, it was weird. Our feet were literally frozen after being out in the cold for so long prior to the start. And let me tell you, it was really hard to run with ice blocks for feet! Luckily, within a mile-and-a-half or so, they seemed to thaw up a bit. Of course, shortly thereafter--somewhere around the 1.8-mile mark--I had a bit of an "incident". We were running through the entrance gate area for the parking lot at Epcot, and Wilson dropped back to take a video of the scene. I kept looking behind me to see where he'd escaped to since it was PITCH black, and I was convinced I was going to lose him. All of a sudden, BAM!!! I was on the ground. The collective gasps all around me were enough to let me know that it looked REALLY bad. Somehow, though, I managed to spring right back up onto my feet. I looked back again to see what had led to my fall . . . a frickin' speed bump! Incidentally, there WERE gate attendants hanging out all around, telling us runners to watch our steps. But I didn't really notice that until AFTER I'd fallen, since I'd been so preoccupied with trying to find Wilson. Oopsies. Just as I turned back, Wilson came running up and said, "Did you just fall down?" Yes sir! We were off to a GREAT start.*

Mile-1: 10:54
Mile-2: 11:14

As we hit the Mile-2 mark, I assessed the damage of my fall. I'd tweaked my left wrist a bit, my palms were scraped up and my knees were REALLY banged up--especially my right knee. In fact, I could tell my knees were so torn up that it was best not to pull my pant leg up and check. I figured it was better to wait until after I finished the race before I took a look. Still, I was okay . . . and I counted my lucky stars that such a hard fall hadn't caused a more serious injury. On we ran, albeit slowly, as I tried to get back into some kind of a groove. This, however, was easier said than done . . . especially since the course seemed REALLY crowded; probably because just after mile-3, the split start groups had come back together, so there were twice as many people as there had been for the first three miles. We jogged on, passing people whenever we could, if for no other reason than to get a little room to breathe!

Mile-3: 10:48
Mile-4: 11:13

By Mile-5, I was in pain. My right knee was throbbing with every step and I could tell that it had swollen up pretty good. In fact, I was so preoccupied with the pain that I don't even remember much about the next few miles. We kept moving (slowly), but I was NOT a happy camper. Wilson tried to cheer me up, and I did my best to oblige, but I was really hurting. I started to wonder how on earth I would make it through 20+ more miles. Another crazy thing I started noticing around this point was that the aid stations had turned into all out ice-skating rinks. Apparently the spilled water was freezing over, making for some pretty hazardous conditions. Wilson and I would slow WAY down every time we made our way through an aid station, just to be on the safe side. The last thing either of us needed was ANOTHER fall!

Mile-5: 11:33 (gel break)
Mile-6: 10:26
Mile-7: 10:38

The next few miles were truly miserable. We were on service roads outside of the parks, I was hurting pretty badly and we still had 3 miles to go before we would make it to the Magic Kingdom. In fact, by this point, I had developed a hint of a limp. I remembered an article I'd read once that said you shouldn't finish a run/race if you are limping. So I focused on trying to NOT limp. On top of the knee issue, I could NOT for the life of me get comfortable temperature-wise. I would get warm and push my sleeves up, only to get cold two minutes later and push the sleeves back down. I'd unzip my half-zip top, only to zip it back up 30 seconds later. It was more than a little irritating. But still, I am nothing if not stubborn . . . and knowing I had TWO medals on the line was more than enough to keep me going. On we schlepped, praying for the Magic Kingdom to come soon!

Mile-8: 10:09
Mile-9: 10:23
Mile-10: 11:24 (gel break/Wilson pee break)

Finally, we hit the Mile-10 mark and entered the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps I was simply grumpy on account of my fall and subsequent injuries, but for some reason, it just didn't seem as cool as it had the day before. I kept telling Wilson how much cooler everything had looked in the dark. Luckily, he seemed to really enjoy the mile that ran through the MK despite my foul mood. He stopped on countless occasions and took videos of the various characters and attractions. Of course, this made me nervous, since I was convinced I was going to lose him. And knowing what bad shape I was in, I was pretty sure that I'd be done if I lost him. But somehow, we made it through the Magic Kingdom without losing one another.

Mile-11: 10:20

After exiting the MK, we embarked on another LOOOONG trek between the parks. I started to get really excited about making it to the half-way mark. But still, it was uber crowded, and a lot of the roadways we were running on were super narrow. The one good thing was that there was really a lot of crowd support. I can't tell you how many times I heard people yell out "Go Goofy!" when I ran by (the Goofy Challengers had unique bibs). This gave me a boost every time. In fact, I'm not sure if it was the crowd support or what, but somewhere near the half-way point, my knee even started to feel a little bit better.

Mile-12: 10:15
Mile-13: 10:22

We ended up crossing the half-way point at 2:21:30, and to be honest, I freaked a little bit. As much as I knew we were trying to take the race easy and have fun with it, I thought back to my secret wish to PR in the marathon. At this point, it looked like that goal was out the window, considering I'd crossed the half-way point almost ten minutes faster during the Chicago Marathon (my prior marathon PR). Oh well, guess I'd just have to have fun with the rest of the race. But not long after I'd resigned myself to the idea, Wilson and I got separated at an aid station just past mile-14. Wilson stopped to get some water, and I kept going but slowed to a walk to allow him to catch up to me. When several minutes passed and I still hadn't seen him, I knew we were in trouble. And to make matters worse? Wilson had been carrying one of my gels in his shorts pocket. Crappers. Eventually, enough time had passed that I was convinced that Wilson must have passed right by me without me noticing . . . after all, he WAS wearing the same thing as 90% of the race field: black tights with black shorts over them and the white long-sleeved race tee. I took off in an attempt to catch up with him.

Mile-14: 10:45 (gel break)
Mile-15: 10:35

As I ran on, I came to realize I probably wasn't going to find Wilson. In the past, I would have been beyond bummed about this. In fact, I likely would have allowed it to ruin the race for me. But instead, I thought about how awesome it would be if I finished strong despite so many hiccups early on. After all, I was still feeling pretty good. The knee had been downgraded to just a dull ache. I was getting a little bit tired, but I told myself that if I just made it to mile-18 before walking, that would be good enough. As I ran on, the course cleared up a little bit, making for a much more pleasant running environment. That, and the sun came out and felt awesome beating down on us. I was finally back to my happy running place :)

Mile-16: 9:59
Mile-17: 9:53
Mile-18: 9:17

While I had promised myself that I could walk if I made it to mile-18, I got to that point and I actually WANTED to keep running. My last split had been pretty stellar and it had felt REALLY good. Plus, somewhere around this point, we got to run through Animal Kingdom, which was a definite highlight for me. For whatever reason, I was passing people left and right as we ran through Animal Kingdom. That, combined with the awesome cheering of some Animal Kingdom employees propelled me on and gave me a huge boost. Oh, I should also mention that just before entering the Animal Kingdom, I had managed to procure an on course gel to replace the one Wilson had run off with. That was a HUGE relief for me. It wasn't a Roctane, but it would do. As I stopped to gel up after leaving the Animal Kingdom, I came up with a new strategy--a bit of an experiment, really. Basically, I wanted to push myself and see how long I could hold on. I decided that if I could just hold on until the 20-mile mark, I would be thrilled; but in reality, I started to think that maybe--just maybe--I could hold on until the end.

Mile-19: 10:14 (gel break)
Mile-20: 9:05

I crossed a timing mat at the Mile-20 marker, which prompted me to check my time at that point. I looked down and saw 3:30:59 staring back at me. Holy. Crap. I realized at that point that if I could hold on and keep my pace at 10:00 miles or faster, I could actually earn myself I nice new marathon PR along with my two shiny medals! This motivated me like nothing else. I thought of how awesome it would be to say that I ran the Goofy Challenge and PR'd at both distances. Suddenly, what had started as the ultimate pipe dream was within my reach . . . and I knew right then and there that there was no way I would let it escape. Miles 21-22 passed pretty quickly as they consisted of a nice out-and-back stretch. By this point, I felt the strongest I had felt all race. As I hit the turn around point, I kept my eyes peeled for Wilson coming in the other direction. No luck, but I WAS passing people left and right, and that felt AWESOME. I looked down when we hit the Mile-21 marker and saw my first sub-9 split. I was CONVINCED it had to be wrong. How on earth had I just pulled off a sub-9 split at mile-34.1 of the Goofy Challenge?!

Mile-21: 8:57
Mile-22: 9:14

On I went, and before I knew it, I'd arrived at Hollywood Studios. This was super exciting, as I knew the remainder of the course would be in/around the parks. The crowds were thick and crazy supportive. Everywhere I looked runners were slowing to a walk, or pulling off course to stretch, but I was feeling really strong. Sure, I was tired . . . but I had a PR to earn, thank you very much! I stopped for one last gel break during Mile-23, just to give me an extra boost throughout the last few miles. But from that point on? I was all business. I didn't so much as stop to take a sip of water during the last 3-4 miles.

Mile-23: 9:24 (gel break)
Mile-24: 8:52

As I approached the mile-25 marker, I did get super excited about the possibility of seeing my favorite Redhead and Spike, who were stationed somewhere in the area, complete with balloons and bright yellow posters. Somehow, though--and I still don't understand how this happened--she never saw me, and I never saw her. Perhaps I was a little more out of it than I thought by that point? Whatever the case, once I made it to somewhere around mile-25.5, I knew I must have missed them. Thus, what else was there to do but to pick the pace up and push myself toward the finish? As I did so, I decided that PRing wasn't enough. I REALLY wanted to finish in less than 4:30.

Somehow, despite everything that had gone down, I managed to pull off my fastest mile of the day during that last mile. I have NEVER had enough energy left in a marathon to do that . . . and holy crap, was it an amazing feeling to go flying towards the finish line! I started hurting pretty badly with about a half-mile to go, but I was so close I could taste it. There was no way I was backing down now! I crossed the line in 4:28:21 and smiled the biggest smile EVER.

Mile-25: 9:18
Mile-26: 8:47
Last 0.52 (according to Garmin): 4:23 (8:24 pace)

I could NOT believe what I had accomplished. Somehow, I had pulled off a negative split by nearly 15 minutes . . . after falling on my face . . . after having run a half-marathon the previous day. Even to this day, I do not know what possessed me to push it so hard that day. I only hope whatever it was sticks around and joins me in future races!

Once I finished, I snagged my mylar blanket and my marathon medal . . . and then I made my way to the Goofy tent to collect my third Goofy medal. I was so proud, I was almost brought to tears. To think that just a few years earlier, I had thought I'd never be able to run a marathon . . . and here I was, a Goofy Challenge finisher! It was awesome to say the least. I had my official finisher photo taken, grabbed some food and then tried to figure out what to do about finding Wilson. I figured the best idea would be to wait for him outside of his assigned gear check tent, knowing he'd have to collect his things after finishing. But I waited . . . and I waited . . . and I started to worry that he might have finished ahead of me. So I made my way over to the appropriate family meet-up tent where he had mentioned we would meet his mother after the race. I looked everywhere, but there was no sign of Wilson. Damn. I stood, shivering for a good 20 minutes before he finally came walking up. And holy crap was I happy to see him--he had the car keys in his gear check bag! I begged him to let me go to the car despite the fact that we had not yet located his mother. I was just SO COLD, I couldn't bear to be outside another second! Luckily, we were much more successful at finding the car than we had been the previous day. We hopped in, BLASTED the heat and I attacked my food baggie with everything I had left in me :)

As I began to thaw out, I began to realize just how painful my knees were. Ouch. I finally took a peak at them, only to realize they were both cut up and bruised pretty badly . . . and my right knee was pretty darn swollen. Yowsers. I couldn't believe I had gone on to run a PR on those suckers! Ha. Once Wilson finally got in touch with his mother, she came and congratulated us and took a couple photos . . . then we headed back to the hotel, anxious to take a hot shower and get some hot food in us. We opted for some "dirty food" from Applebees, as Wilson called it (beer, artichoke dip and burgers--yum!). I figured that after running 39.3 miles in two days, I'd probably earned it :)

After stuffing our bellies nearly to the point of discomfort, we headed back to the hotel and vegged/napped for the remainder of the day. Other than my banged up knees, I actually felt great . . . not even a hint of muscle soreness. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I don't know, but I might just have to hop on the back-to-back long run bandwagon come my next training period!


Whew! Okay, so now that that's out of the way, I have a big announcement coming up soon. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook already know, but let's just say that it's quite a good one :) Thank you again for being so amazingly understanding about my recent absence from the blogosphere . . . I should be back soon, I promise! And while my Google Reader is far too out of control for me to pretend like I can get caught up with everyone, I should at least be back to commenting very soon. I've said this a million times, but wow, I've missed you guys! Until next time . . .

*Unfortunately, Wilson JUST MISSED catching this episode on video. If only he'd kept taping for another few seconds, I'd have video evidence of my spill. Oh well, there's always next time!