Sunday, October 25, 2015

Because I'm Only Half-Crazy

I just completed my first (!) half marathon.

Crazy, right? Who'd have ever thought?

4 years ago, I ran regularly on a treadmill, working up to 7 miles. One of my New Year's resolutions that year was to run 10 miles, but I never did.

Last year, I started running again. My gym membership expired and I decided not to renew. Running is a cheap sport, right? This time I took it outside. I realized I enjoyed dodging chipmunks a lot more than staring at numbers on a screen.

Earlier this year, I ran my first 5k. It was a color run, so it was just plain fun with no pressure. It was so much fun in fact that before I knew it my friend had talked me into registering for a half marathon with her. She is extremely persuasive, not to mention optimistic.

These past few months, I've been training. I used a schedule that helped me build my mileage each week. I hit 8 miles, the longest I'd ever run. Then 9. Then 10 - my 2011 New Year's resolution! My confidence grew and a half marathon seemed possible. I even stopped using the word "allegedly" as I told more people of my plans to run 13.1 miles.

The morning of the race, anxiety hit. What if I couldn't do it? What if I had to walk, or even worse, stop? What if I didn't taper correctly? Did I run too much the week of? Not enough? It was going to be 30 degrees. How much should I wear?

My alarm was set for 5AM. I woke up at 3. There would be no more rest. I tried to talk myself down from the ledge but there was no reasoning with this panic attack. Spreading peanut butter on a piece of Ezekiel bread gave me something to do, but the smell turned my stomach. Twenty minutes in the car on the way to the race and I'd swallowed two bites. Woof.

As soon as my friend and I arrived on-site, I started feeling better. This was real, this was happening and it was all going to be fine! I promised myself that after this, I never had to run again if I didn't want to. That was, um,  super reassuring.

Bundled up in our extra "throwaway" clothes, we waited in line for the port-a-potties. We wanted the full experience, after all. In no time at all, the race was on and my adrenaline was kicking into high gear. No corrals, so there was some confusion. Close to 5,000 runners made for a crowded start.

We started out and it was odd but exhilarating to run with so many people. The first 3 miles were a blur. I couldn't believe how quickly they went. I got my first "taste" of an aid station and enjoyed the true race experience of grabbing a cup from a volunteer's hand and attempting to drink the water while running. (Result: failure and mild humiliation with a side of dribbling.)

Around mile 7 and 8 things started getting hairy. The never-ending rolling hills had me fearing every turn. It felt like we kept climbing and climbing. Periodically I would chew another gummy from the bag I was tightly clutching and visualize an energy boost. I kept thinking that I COULDN'T stop and I WOULDN'T walk. No matter what. I was going to run the whole way.

My saving grace was the spectators. People of all ages, bundled up outside their homes and on the streets with signs and cheers of encouragement. When I was trying to remember why I had ever thought this was a good idea, I heard cries of "You can do it!" "Great pace!" and "You're doing awesome!" I'm so thankful for people who will get up early and do this. I'm sure for a lot of runners it made the difference between carrying on and quitting. I know it did for me.

I hit mile 11. The farthest I'd ever run previously was 10.5. I hit mile 12. One mile left! How hard can that be?

Pretty hard, apparently. It was the most difficult mile as I subconsciously increased my speed and started feeling like I didn't have much left in the tank. It was a surreal final few minutes as time seemed to slow and I felt so. spent. Trying to keep myself distracted, I cued up what had become my theme song of the past few months, "On My Way Home" by Pentatonix. Most of my training runs had ended with that song. I had tried to imagine what it would feel like to finish 13.1 miles. Now it was finally happening.

At the end I strained to at least beat one woman who was ahead of me, you know, because I'm that cool. As I slowed to a walk my legs did NOT like it and I felt like I would fall over. I received my medal and walked around in a state of stunned silence. 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 34 seconds. I had thought I would perhaps cry or smile or leap over the finish line or something. None of that happened, just a sort of numbness.

Reflecting on my experience now I have to remind myself to be proud. This is a big deal! I did what I set out to do! Slower than I wanted, and not with as much pizzazz, but I did it. Sadly I am tempted to compare myself to others who passed me along the way, but I'm not telling their stories. This is mine. My journey. My sweat. My pain. My fears. My determination.

This race has reinforced for me a lesson I've been learning all year: I am stronger than I think and I need to find opportunities to prove this to myself. Adventure, travel, discovery: I want to say yes! My fear is that years will pass one after another, all the same. I am determined to take advantage of new opportunities and not let fear or complacency hold me back.

I will do hard things. If only to prove to myself I can.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Packing Rhymes With Snacking (What I'd Rather Be Doing)

Guys. I am so not good at this blogging thing.

Do me a favor. Take a look at some posts from two or three years ago. Look how consistent I was! Are you impressed?

Here's another thing I'm not stellar at: packing.

I recently got back from a pretty super awesome trip, which I will (fingers crossed!) write about more later. But in the days leading up to said trip, I was preoccupied with "packing," loosely defined here as piles of random objects slowly inching closer and closer to my suitcase.

When it comes to packing, I am very visual. I don't like anything to be hidden away until right up until the last possible moment. Out of sight, out of mind. I just know I will forget what I've already packed, even if I check it off a list.

Yes, I love lists. No, I just don't feel like I can trust them when it comes to packing!

So my floor becomes a maze of shoes, leggings, Clif bars, scarves, lotions, books, etc. in piles that get larger and more spread out as the days go on. Sporadically, like a grumpy lumbering bear, I'll hulk around the piles and shuffle things around.

During the week of packing (it is an EVENT, I tell you!), I get to have fun nightmares where I have either forgotten something important on my trip or I have to pack in five minutes because I'm leaving early for some reason.

And then of course there are the items I need to pack that I truly do have to wait until the last minute for because I'm still using them (makeup, I'm talking to you).

For a girl who loves her lists, they are surprisingly unhelpful when it comes to packing. Not sure why. I will make them, but they are barely coherent and rarely consulted.

Packing helps me get excited for a trip so I can anticipate what I'll be doing, but it also makes me a nervous, disorganized wreck. I'll relax when it all gets UNpacked!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Read This Blog Post and You Won't BELIEVE What Happens Next!


Nothing. Nothing happens.

This was a total waste of time.

Honestly, you should've seen this coming.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Salute to Nutella

So yesterday was World Nutella Day. And what a day it was! Baking with Nutella was a must. On Wednesday, I spent far too much time browsing online to locate the perfect recipe.


I settled on Nutella-Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar Muffins. Goodness gracious. I followed the instructions almost exactly, using half whole wheat and half white flour. I was especially excited to get tips on how to make muffins with nice tall domed tops. (Thick batter, full muffin tin cups, and the first 5 minutes of baking time at 425 degrees.)

Well, maybe excited is not quite the right word...interested, I was interested. The excitement hit around the time the oven timer went off...

They turned out quite nicely if I do say so myself. And the cinnamon and sugar coating on the top really takes these guys to the next level.

The amount of Nutella in each muffin is perfect. Honestly, though of course I love the stuff (as any sane person does), I don't go nuts with it. I notice when as I try to keep processed/sugary foods out of my diet that products like Nutella start to seem extra sweet. In a *yipes my teeth hurt* kind of way. So a little goes a long way! If you're looking to enjoy the good stuff, this is a nice simple recipe to try. And there's wheat flour in there, so it's almost a breakfast food, right? Right?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

See You Soon, Big Baboon

I feel that there are few things on this earth more gratifying than reading to children.

Seriously, if *all* my job involved was storytime, I would be a happy camper.

Tuesday is my big storytime day - I have 3 groups. Though each storytime is 30 minutes, the day simply flies by. At 5PM, I am utterly spent. And utterly blissful.

It doesn't matter how many times a sweet voice calls me "Miss Laura." I can't get enough.

When a child starts at the very back edge of the storytime rug, clinging to a parent, and then by the end of our time together has crept up closer and is hanging on every word, I feel like I won the lottery.

Even when I have a particularly rowdy bunch, there is always at least one moment when everyone is silent. When a story has captured the attention of every child and adult in the room. When I sneak a glance around, taking my eyes from the pages, and see mouths hanging open and eyes fixed in concentration.

The moment passes; we jump up to sing a song. I'm a rock star surrounded by adoring fans.

At the end, right before we move to the craft tables, we sing our goodbye song. Little voices pipe up proudly, everyone knows this well since we sing it every week:

See you later, alligator; in a while, crocodile.
Give a hug, ladybug; blow a kiss, jellyfish.
See you soon, big baboon; out the door, dinosaur.
Take care, polar bear; wave goodbye, butterfly!
(Source: this lovely video)

Hugs, shy thank-you's, waves. They show me their completed crafts, bursting with pride.

My heart is so full.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ding Dong Merrily

Before Christmas, I participated in something new. I volunteered as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army.

Crazy, right? I always wondered who these people were that I saw ringing bells outside Wal-Mart. Seems simple enough, though. I mean, anyone can stand and ring a bell.

I got involved through my library and the local Rotary. Minimal instructions were given, but I showed up at the appointed time at a nearby shopping center. I was bundled up and ready to go for two hours.

The volunteer I was replacing passed me the bell and apron, and I started ringing my little heart out.

And ringing.

And ringing.

And ringing.

Has it been two hours yet? What? 10 minutes?

Let's just say that I really underestimated the toughness required to stick it out in the elements. 

The dancing around was a necessity, really. Had to keep the blood circulating.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many people gave. Most donations were a dollar, but it varied. Some gave on their way into the store, while others promised to give on the way out. Either way, they got a smile and a "Merry Christmas!" from me. (And the guy who just said "Aren't you cold?" and did not donate got a bonus fake laugh.) 

Honestly, it was a joy to feel like I was helping in some small way. And all the lovely people I met made the experience feel truly gratifying. And, not to brag, but my crazy good bell-ringing skills and winning smile had people stuffing $$$ in that red bucket like nobody's business.

Of course, awkwardness finds me no matter what, and bell-ringing was no exception. I kept running into the problem of whether or not to keep ringing while someone was fumbling in a purse or wallet. I didn't want to stop and stare, but it seemed strange to RINGRINGRING when they were standing there in the act. 

I don't mean to rush you, but RINGRINGRING.

By the end of the two hours, most of my body parts were numb and I was more than willing to relinquish the bell, which by now just felt like an extension of my hand. 

Uncomfortably cold? Yes. Lengthy and at times boring? Yes. Will I do it again next year?

Also yes!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Smelling Chocolate Once Again

New Year's Day: the ultimate Monday.

And what a perfect day to plunge back into this blog, which YES I have neglected for an entire year. What of it?

Time to begin again. To discipline myself by writing and sharing. To put my feelings into thoughts and my thoughts into words. And then to present them to the internet.


Beginning January 1, 2014, I became Head of Youth Services at the library I have worked at full-time since my college graduation. In August 2014, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a master's degree in Library and Information Science. In short, it has been the fastest year of my life.

If you're joining me for the first time, or just trying to catch up and remember what is up with the chocolate, take a look back at some posts through the years:

On introverts

On being a librarian

On the children's library

On The Hunger Games

On hope

On Harry Potter

On nutrition