Thursday, August 18, 2011

Running with Two: My First 5K

For me, training for a race is like preparing for a graduate school final.  I go through all these emotions during the process.  I sign up for the race with confidence (“I’m gonna kill this.”); I start training with authority (“I am definitely gonna kill this.”); I may encounter a road block such as a missed run or a less than desirable run (“Oh, boy.  I don’t think this is going to go well.”); and, finally, just before race day, I’m filled with doubt (“Yea, I’m not going to do well.”).  Since history repeats itself, I went through the same process after registering for the Alburtis 5K.  I signed up a few weeks after having my daughter in the hopes that this goal would kick start my training and get me prepared for a 10K at the end of August. 
Because I maintained somewhat of a running schedule while pregnant, it did not take long for me to get back into the swing of things, which also included getting acclimated to a double jogging stroller.  The majority of my training runs took me through surrounding neighborhoods, peppered with inclines.  I focused on keeping my upper body in line with my lower body (“…relax your shoulders, abs in…what’s left of them, breathe, RELAX YOUR SHOULDERS!”) especially while running uphill.  I prepared myself both mentally and physically for the landscape I may encounter on race day. 
The race was scheduled on a Saturday, but my heart sank Thursday morning after realizing that I had been training with a twelve pound baby.  My three year old daughter did not go on any training runs with us.  Oh, boy!  After freaking out, unnecessarily, I took a deep breath and got comfortable with the thought of walking.  There’s no point in worrying about my performance, or lack of, in a 5K.  Everything was going to be okay.  Early race morning, I got both girls up and ready to rock.  Thankfully, I picked up my packet the night before, so I could arrive with enough time to put the girls in the stroller and walk to the start.  I carefully pinned my bib number to the front of the stroller, handed Ava a water bottle and put a pacifier in Allison’s mouth.  Here we go. 
I met a friend at the start.  My nerves were settled by the excitement I had for her first 5K.  Within a few minutes the horn sounded and we were off.  Alburtis is a cute little town nestled outside of Trexlertown.  We were led to the bumpy trails of Lock Ridge Park, out towards the end of town, then back again.  Bumpy trails and hills.  Bumpy trails and hills.  At one point the hills were so steep that I felt like kissing the ground - it was virtually impossible to stay upright.  I stopped to walk twice while the peanut gallery (Ava) noted that I wasn’t going fast enough for her.  Allison, not knowing the difference, maintained a steady snooze.  It felt like an eternity before I made it to the flat stretch leading to the finish.  I sprinted, as best as I could, to the chute and crossed with a respectable 33:16, my two-child PR.  The Alburtis 5K was my initiation back into racing.  I knew I’d have to work harder to get in the game again.  I believe I passed this test.
At times it can be a challenge to stay positive in the face of adversity.  Pick up your head, pull your shoulders back and move those feet.  Relax, you’re in for the ride of your life.  Keep breathing and happy running!            

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Perfect Job: An Open Letter

Yup.  I think I found the perfect job, but it’s not mine.  Sure, I applied and believe that I’m close to qualified.  I feel that I crafted one hell of a cover letter and I’m sure that I won’t get a call for an interview.  History repeats itself – twelve years of rejection.  Here’s my story:
In 1995 I left Allentown, PA to embark on a mission – a college mission.  Unsure of my academic path, I oozed confidence in my social journey.  On a sweltering August day my family helped me move into a college dorm on Staten Island, NY.  Oddly enough, I was assigned to a room on the thirteenth floor (I thought they didn’t ‘exist’) of a building appropriately named Harborview Hall.  It stood tall on the northeast side of the grounds, overlooking the New York Harbor and a skyline that was home to the Twin Towers.  My five years on that campus (yea, I spent an extra year to focus on my social journey) gave me more knowledge and experience than I ever asked for.  After grappling with an ideal major for a few semesters I settled on a focus in the English Arts.  The program focuses on the development critical reading and creative writing.  We read A LOT: African American Literature, American Literature, every Shakespeare play and sonnet (twice, since I had to repeat the class), classic fairy tales (ruined forever) and volumes of poetry.  I wrote A LOT: micro-fiction (ultra short stories), stories, poetry and papers – lots and lots of papers.  My final paper was for an independent study surrounding the works of the late poet A.R. Ammons.  I wrote a thirty page thesis on Ammons’ use of bird imagery in his writings.  Sure, sounds boring, but I was in love. 
I returned home after a few dead end months post-graduation.  I lacked guidance to get my buns in gear to obtain a real job in which I could apply my knowledge.  I crammed all my belongings into my childhood bedroom and started applying for local jobs.  All the while, I spent two weeks living on the couch watching the 2000 Olympics.  Damn, I can’t get enough of the swimming!  Unfortunately, most places did not find me qualified for much of anything, let alone a job that paid more than $10 an hour.  I had no experience.  No publishing experience, no retail experience, no writing experience, no! no! no!  I eventually interviewed for a secretary job at a health network and was hired on the spot.  Fast forward eleven years – I’ve grown to love healthcare (even got a master degree in health care administration – ahem, with honors), but I would love the opportunity to showcase my writing in a more professional forum.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all five of you that read my stuff. 
Aside from the technical requirements I need to have energy (check) and be passionate about fitness (check).  Being a runner is a plus (check).  I was not in the market for a new job; I like what I do. I might not have the experience that they’re looking for, but I think I’d be the perfect candidate.  Take a chance on me.  I’m up for the challenge.  After all, this is the perfect job.           

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ahhh, Summer…

I love everything about summertime: sunshine and heat, grilling and swimming, day trips and good friends.  But the food.  I have to mention the food.  This time of year yields some of the most delicious fruits and vegetables that you will ever taste.  I’ve been fortunate to have this entire summer work-free while staying home with my newborn daughter.  I have seized the opportunity to hit up many of the local outdoor farmer’s markets in search of good produce and delicious treats. 

Last week I visited the PPL outdoor market and, although the vendors were sparse, I found a goldmine of heirloom tomatoes.  I happily handed over my cash for a few pints of the colorful and unusually shaped fruits.  I barely made it in the door before I was washing and cutting those beauties.  There’s something so refreshing and comforting about a sliced tomato sprinkled with kosher salt.  I don’t even need an olive oil drizzle, just a bit of salt.  Delicious!  With more tomatoes on hand I cut a few into bite-sized pieces and let them marinate with cubed farmers cheese in olive oil seasoned with kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, oregano and crushed red pepper.  I finished the last of that glorious salad this afternoon.  Magnifico! 

Today marks the start of my training for the Hershey Half Marathon on October 16th.  I have a few more pounds of baby weight to shed, so I’m incorporating cleaner eating for the first few weeks of training.  ‘Clean’ can be defined in a myriad of ways.  I decided to make my own interpretation of the word.  I’m going to focus on cutting out some (not all) of the red meat in my diet while increasing the volume of fruits and vegetables.  This should be an easy task considering all the fresh food markets during the season.  To ensure that the rest of last week’s tomatoes didn’t spoil I decided to make a delicious salsa to accompany the grouper I plan on making for dinner. 

Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Salsa

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Quarter four medium/large sized tomatoes.  Quarter a red onion.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Toss together and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

Let cool.  Remove tomato skin and rough chop.  Place in bowl.  Rough chop softened onion.  Season with garlic powder (or use fresh garlic), kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Add one 15 oz. can of rinsed black beans. 

I used ingredients that I had on hand.  Next time I will roast some fresh garlic and add cilantro.  I wonder what grilled peaches could do to this.  Hmmm…  Ahhh, summer!