Race Report: Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler, April 12, 2015

I guess it’s about time I write about this race from last Sunday! Well, if you’ve been following me at all, you know that there are several races recently that I’ve had to walk. This was no different. Up till that morning, I was hoping to feel good enough to give running a shot, but the ever-present swollen bumps in my leg said no. So walk I did. I knew there was a strict cut-off time, to allow the hordes of tourists to view the cherry blossoms, so it was firmly established that if you didn’t maintain a 14:00 minute/mile pace, you’d be forced to re-route to the finish or picked up by the sag wagon. If I were running, this pace would of course be no problem. I’m pretty sure, though, that even the races I’ve walked have been under that pace. (Not the most recent one, though, because that course was a killer.) Still, I didn’t want to suffer the further indignity of being too slow. Insult to injury, literally.

I took the metro to the race start, and only a few minutes before I left my apartment did I think that maybe I should have biked there. I was afraid the metro would be too crowded. It wasn’t, but what was the problem was once I got off at Smithsonian. Sure, the race start was nearby, but then bag check—for which there were NO signs to direct us—was located waaaaay down past the start. There wasn’t a line, but it was still annoying. On race day, there are people going every which way, so it’d be nice to have signs indicating where things are. Didn’t help that the volunteers I asked didn’t know either. Since I hadn’t arrived particularly early for the race, I had to book it to bag check (in hindsight, I should have just planned to NOT wear warm clothing before the race, and carry my small things with me) and then book it back to my corral. It was already a comfortable temperature by this point, so there wasn’t much shivering going on. Which is good, because the worst thing in the world is to be standing around in shorts and a tank top when it’s cold with nothing to do but wait.

One thing that was a bit curious was that when I had initially arrived at the race start, I heard the announcer say something about the course not being exactly ten miles. He said to “think of it as a 15K”. I had missed the beginning of his announcement, so I was surprised that they had goofed on the distance and *just* found out. Turns out it wasn’t quite that. The real reason for the shortened course was that there had been some accident/crime on a part of the course involving personal injury, so a part of the course had to be closed off as a crime scene. And it had just happened that morning, which didn’t give officials enough time to measure the shortened course and tack on the missing amount. It seemed like it was handled well, for the circumstances, because when I was on the course, I couldn’t tell where the re-routing had been done. It seemed more-or-less seamless.

The course itself was like the course for most other DC races- that is, it runs through only the nice, scenic parts of DC, e.g. Tidal Basin, Arlington Memorial Bridge, West Potomac Park, Kennedy Center. There were so many people, SO MANY PEOPLE. Thousands upon thousands, it’s just crazy. At no point during the race did I not have several people in my vicinity. If I’d been running, I would have been dodging people during the entire course. HUUUUGE contrast to the Red Rock Canyon marathon, which had just over 100 people, and large stretches where I might see someone far off in the distance, or no one at all.

Considering I started in my original corral (which was one of the first) and considering the course had been shortened, I had nothing to worry about in terms of not being able to finish in time. I was well under a 14:00-minute pace, and oh how I would have loved to just RUN! I hate walking races, but I shouldn’t say that, because at least I can do that. One day soon, I will be all better and I’ll be stronger than yesterday. Keeping the positives in mind, it was great to be able to enjoy the beautiful spring day with a brisk walk through downtown DC and enjoy the cherry blossoms with thousands of other people who, rather than obstructing my path, were going in the same direction :-) I got some nice photos afterwards, and then went back to my apartment where my parents were waiting for me. Not a bad way to start the day. (not the best, but still…)

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I still remember five years ago, my dad ran his first race, the Cherry Blossom 5K. (I ran with him, since I was, surprise(!) injured. Masking that pain was tough.) It’s still the only race he’s done, but he keeps (not-seriously) saying that he should sign up for this or that race. Here’s hoping that 2016 might be the year that he tackles Cherry Blossom again, maybe even the 10-miler!!!!

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Forever incomplete

Empty spaces fill me up with holes

Distant faces with no place left to go
Without you within me, I can find no rest
Where I’m goin’ is anybody’s guess

I tried to go on like I never knew you
I’m awake but my world is half asleep
I pray for this heart to be unbroken
But without you, all I’m going to be is incomplete

Voices tell me I should carry on
But I am swimming in an ocean all alone
Baby, my baby, it’s written on your face
You still wonder if we made a big mistake

I tried to go on like I never knew you
I’m awake but my world is half asleep
I pray for this heart to be unbroken
But without you, all I’m going to be is incomplete

I don’t mean to drag it on
But I can’t seem to let you go
I don’t wanna make you face this world alone
I want to let you go
(Alone)

I tried to go on like I never knew you
I’m awake but my world is half asleep
I pray for this heart to be unbroken
But without you, all I’m going to be is incomplete
Incomplete

— Backstreet Boys, “Incomplete”

I miss you so much and it pains me every day.  Why does it hurt so much?  I feel like I lost your love, but then I realize that I never really had it in the first place.  I try not to think about you, about the deep hurt that you have caused me, but it’s all I can think about.  It should get easier with each passing day, week, month, year, but it doesn’t.  The pain feels fresh, and even gets worse, because it’s just that much more of our lives that are spent apart.  I have tried so hard to reach out to you, but you push me away.  I’m so sorry for making you angry, and I know I have done some stupid things, but I want you so badly that sometimes I can’t even breathe.

I crave your love and I don’t think I’ll ever have it.  It makes me very sad and I feel like I’m all alone in this world.  I don’t know what I can do to fix this hole in my life.  I don’t think there’s anything I can do, because you’ve made it so very clear that you don’t want me in your life.  And if I really loved you, shouldn’t I respect your silent actions and let you live your life without any reminder of me?

I hate myself for what I’ve done.  Had a been a better person, we would have had a relationship.  We would talk.  We would spend time together.  But the sad reality is that when I do see you, I feel so awkward because I know I’m not wanted.  And when you say something critical to me, I just have to silently acquiesce, because I feel like anything I’d say would push you further away.  Or is that even possible?  If the relationship is already non-existent, can it be made any worse?

I often wonder how my life ended up this way.  I find it impossible to be happy now.  I try to distract myself as best as I can, but my thoughts always go back to you.   Without you, my life feels forever incomplete.

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A roller coaster of sorts

The past several days have been full of ups and downs. Well, really just one down, but that one down was so heavy that it really weighed me down and got me feeling melancholy. It’s been an eventful week-plus, to say the least.

Last Friday, my sister had her baby. She wasn’t due until today, so everyone was caught a bit unprepared. My parents, of course, drove up as soon as they got the news, eager to see my sister and provide help. Now, I’ve written in the past about my angst towards my sister, and this was no different. Well no, this was different; different in that it was worse. Who could have predicted the kinds of hurtful things she would say, the way she’d act, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. She’s so devoid of compassion that I wonder what would even possess her to have a baby. The couple of people I’ve talked to haven’t really understood the enormity and gravity of this problem; it’s something that’s been going on for over a decade. No one would understand, least of all my cousins, who all believe my sister is a great, cool person, but that’s because she actually talks to them. She’s friends with them. With me, not so much, or actually not at all. I don’t a thing about her, so I can’t really mourn losing a relationship with her, because I never had one to begin with. Still, it was extremely hurtful to experience the pain she delivered to my parents. My parents are so very important to me and I love them more than anything, so that is why I empathize so strongly with them. It was as if I could physically feel their pain. The birth of their first grandchild should have been a happy, joyous time, but it instead was one fraught with a quick temper, betrayal, extreme hurt, and bitterness.

My new niece

My new niece

All that pulled me down and made me feel as if it were ‘08/’09 again. That was when my sister had her first aggressive episode against us (me and our parents) and I felt like we’d lost her. It took everything I had to hold it together, to stay strong for my parents, and now I felt like I was right back there again. But from what my dad has said in the past couple of days, it seems as my sister may be coming around. I’m not holding my breath, though, and her relationship with me hasn’t changed: I’m still completely shut out from her life.

Enough of that! So let’s get to some happy events. That weekend was also the weekend of the circus protests against Ringling Bros. for their cruel treatment of animals. It should be noted that any circus using/enslaving non-human animals is treating them cruelly, but Ringling is the biggest name out there. Every year, they come to DC and every year, we’re ready for them with our protests. Circus attendance numbers have been dropping, and it’s been getting harder for Ringling to draw people to their show, but they remain devious and lure people regardless. Because of the above-stated family issues, I was able to attend only two of the circus protests this year. Last year I’d gone to four. Even though I only went to two this year, I was so glad and so happy to be taking a stand against cruelty and be alongside others who shared my passion. As more and more people become aware of the horrid treatment of animals used in the circus, fewer will actually want to go and support such a terrible industry.

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Shut it down!

Shut it down!

A couple weeks ago, I’d heard that my fave—Britney Spears—was going to be on the cover of Billboard magazine. So I tried in vain for several days to get the magazine, to no avail. Finally, last week I found it, bought it immediately, and was oh so very happy! I don’t know why I didn’t buy her Women’s Health magazine cover, but from now on, every time she graces a magazine cover, I’m going to buy it. I can tell that’s going to quickly become an expensive endeavor, haha. $8 for Billboard magazine, and I don’t even care for the rest of the magazine, only the two pages about Britney!

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I’d also been hearing rumors about Britney releasing a new single soon with Iggy Azalea, and last week it was confirmed in a People magazine interview. The song, “Pretty Girls”, will be released on May 5th. That’s five days after my birthday. Here comes the smasha, here comes the masta. Here comes the big beat, big beat to blast ya! I’m so excited for this song, and for the accompanying music video. I can just feel it, it’s going to be epic.

You know how I said I’m going to buy every magazine that Britney graces? Well, yesterday I searched for the latest issue of People magazine—went to two CVS stores, which BOTH had old issues, and then tried a nearby magazine store, where I hit the jackpot—and was again so very happy when I finally found it. The photos, the quotes, are all so wonderful. Britney is so incredibly happy, and that’s what makes me happy. She doesn’t need to be churning out music and performances and tours like she was a decade ago, because her priorities have understandably changed. I’m so glad she’s regained primary custody of her kids, who look GREAT and seem to love their mother so much. Seriously, go get the April 6th issue of People magazine. It’s $5 and worth every penny just for the section about her. I don’t care for the rest of the magazine, because I’m not emotionally invested in any other celebrity.

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Well… there’s a caveat. I care about Mulder and Scully, the two greats of The X-Files, so I of course care about David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. The big news, I mean the REALLY BIG NEWS, is that The X-Files really is coming back. Remember a few weeks ago I wrote about the push, started by Gillian Anderson herself, to bring the show back, with the hashtag #XFiles2015? It finally happened. Earlier this week, it was confirmed that The X-Files is coming back for a six-episode run. My initial thought was, six episodes? All this hoopla for just six episodes?? But I’m putting my faith in Chris Carter, who is also returning to the helm, that he’ll write some great stories and please all us rabid X-Philes by providing some closure, maybe answering some questions about mythology (maybe!), and bringing back Baby William (who should now be a teenager!!!?!). No air date has been set yet, but I’m excited nonetheless. It’s been 13 years since the series ended, and nearly seven years since the second movie, I Want To Believe, came out in theaters, so it’ll be very interesting to see how the lives of Mulder and Scully will pick up from there. Last we saw, in the movie, neither of them works for the FBI anymore, and Scully had expressed her desire to get away from all the darkness. One thing we do know now without a doubt is they are in a relationship, like, an actual relationship in which they live together, sleep together, and kiss. There’ll be no more of the “are they or aren’t they?” uncertainties that provided for oh so many discussions back in the day.

So, to sum up everything, it looks like I have plenty of reasons to be happy, and one reason to be unhappy, but that one reason is never, ever going to change, so I might as well just continue to pursue my passions and accept the fact that I will never, ever know what it’s really like to have a sister.

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Race Report: Red Rock Canyon Marathon- March 7th, 2015

Well, it ended up not being too much of a “race”, unfortunately, for reasons I stated in my earlier post about being sidelined.  Even a couple of days before I was to fly out for my trip to Las Vegas, I remained hopeful that I’d have some kind of miraculous recovery.  Sadly, it just wasn’t meant to be.  At least I could take solace in the fact that I had trained, had actually trained, all winter long, even having done some 20+ mile runs.  So I still have it in me.  My body just also happens to be injury-prone; maybe it’s a sign of getting older.  My poor body mechanics are catching up on me and making themselves known loudly.

Anyways, so let’s talk about the Red Rock Canyon Marathon.  I had found out about this race through MarathonGuide, and was pleased as punch to know that Britney Spears had a performance on this date as well :-)  Because it was be kind of crazy for me to go all the way to Las Vegas just for a race, especially if Britney, who has a residency there, wouldn’t even be there during that time!  The timing worked out great for me.

DSCN4567DSCN4536I had been to Red Rock Canyon last year when I visited Las Vegas for my 34th birthday (and to see Britney!), so I knew how beautiful it was.  The race course would be on the 13-mile Scenic Loop, which is a paved road.  Since Red Rock Canyon is a conservation area, people aren’t allowed off the paved road, except on designated trails.

I’d looked at the course elevation map in the weeks before and it was….. challenging.  Some big elevation changes, so I trained by embracing the hills in my area.  At least I no longer go out of my way to avoid hills now.  So something good had come of all this.

On race day, since I was staying on the Strip, there was a designated shuttle that would take us to the race, leaving at 4:30am.  Yep, 4:30am.  I thought that 6am was a crazily early time to start, but I didn’t realize how hot it would get.  Leaving my hotel at 4am, I was surprised to see how lively the Strip was.  People really don’t sleep in Las Vegas!  The temperature was comfortably cool.  I wasn’t thinking that at the Canyon, it’d be much colder.  I was in for a rude awakening!

It was so cold and so dark at the Canyon!!  I had harrowingly escaped frigid temperatures and a snow storm on the East Coast, only to get lulled into comfort with the Las Vegas weather the day before the race, and then was shocked again by the huge temperature drop.  So I stood around and shivered for, oh, 45 minutes or so.  And then the race began promptly at 6am and off I… walked.

Yep, I walked 26.2 miles.  I’ve never, ever done that in my life, maybe the most I’ve walked is 14 miles, but this was a totally different animal.  And the temperature climbed up until it was super-duper hot (but not humid… it’s weird, I wasn’t sweaty or anything) and my feet felt so incredibly swollen.

It was a small race, so with a field of only about 100 marathoners, I didn’t see too many people along the way.  Oh well, I guess that made it more of a test of endurance, I needed so much mental stamina.  I just really wish I could have run it.  Even now, a week later, I still can’t run, but I feel like this knot in my leg is smaller.  I think the key is just to try to demolish it with aggressive acupressure.

So I was on the course for nearly 6 1/2 hours.  Yep, that’s the longest, by FAR, I’ve ever taken for a marathon.  But it’s also the first, and hopefully the LAST, I will ever walk.  Once I got back to my hotel room, I noticed something weird- a tan!  Not just that, but I was reddish.  Oh, I’m sunburnt!  My nose and shoulders got the brunt of the burn, and was uncomfortable to carry a bag on my shoulders for the next couple of days.  Oh, and my nose was very reddish.

This is one photo in which it looks like I *might* have been running ;-)

This is one photo in which it looks like I *might* have been running ;-)

And then as the days went on, and I was back home, my nose, shoulders, and forehead started peeling.  Haha, what a new experience for me!

Well, like I said, this race definitely didn’t go as planned, but I’m glad I still got something out of it, and I’m glad I didn’t just decide to bag it altogether, because what else would I have done in Las Vegas on a Saturday morning????

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Britney: Piece of Me, the 2015 edition

I feel like I am STILL recovering from my crazy weekend in Las Vegas! What made it so crazy? Simply put…. BRITNEY!!! (There was also a marathon in the visit, but the main attraction was Britney.)

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For the time that I’d be out there, I knew she had two shows, but I was originally planning just to see one, since it wouldn’t make much sense to watch the exact same show two nights in a row, right??? Fortunately, I changed my mind the weekend before and bought a ticket for the other show as well, because I was so wrong. So wrong.

Getting out to Las Vegas was an ordeal in itself since I had to escape a raging snowstorm on the East Coast that day. I was so worried that my flight would get cancelled, and that would have spelled doom for my lovely Britney plans, because I would then very likely miss her Friday show, for which I had a FRONT & CENTER ticket. I’m so glad that the flight was delayed, not cancelled, and I got to Las Vegas sometime in the wee hours of Friday, March 6.

For this first show, I had a ticket for a reserved seat, so there wasn’t any pressure to get there early, although I still got there about an hour ahead of showtime because…. why not? I wanted to savor the energy of the venue, of the crowd, and feel the anticipation. And it was great to actually be staying at Planet Hollywood, because the venue- the Axis Theater- is located there. So unlike last year, when I stayed at Circus Circus, there was no bus commuting involved. And Planet Hollywood is awesome because there were Britney posters everywhere. Everywhere!!

So Friday night, I get to my seat and am just amazed by how close I am to the stage. I’m about ten feet away from the end of the catwalk.

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Last year I’d sat in the rear orchestra section, so while I could still see the whole show, it was from a bit of a distance. And I hadn’t taken a lot of photos. I was determined to make up for that this year, and oh boy did I ever accomplish that. About 500 photos across both shows, hehe.

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Freakshow

Circus

Toxic

As for the show itself, oh my goodness, it was so amazing! Britney exuded so much energy, so much passion into her show, and I feel like I was just frozen every time she’d come down the catwalk and be a mere few feet away from me. She really is very beautiful in person. I mean yes, she looks gorgeous in all her photos and videos, but when you actually see her up close, it just takes your breath away. She’s got this natural beauty and warm, down-to-earth spirit that make her so inspiring. And yet… I haven’t met her in person… one day, though. One day. As a true fan, I owe it to myself.

If you haven’t yet seen her show, Piece of Me, I suggest you high-tail it to Vegas and watch it. It’s just something else. It’s not something that you just watch, but that you’re involved in. You get up and dance, sing along, it’s just so much fun. The production quality is very, very high, so it really shouldn’t be surprise that this show is still hugely successful even 15 months in.

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Yes, that’s Paris and Nicki Hilton in the audience!

After feeling drunkenly happy and satisfied with Friday night’s show, I went back up to my hotel room for a few hours of sleep before the next day’s race (more on that in another post). And then, another Britney show! For the Saturday night performance, I had a GA ticket, which meant I should get there early to get in line and try to secure a good spot in the pit.

It’d been suggested to me that I try to arrive no later than 6pm, so that’s what I did. By that point, I’d already been on my feet for several hours that day, due to the marathon, but I’d do what I had to for Britney! As I was waiting, it was fun to start talking with people around me, because of course we’re all huge fans if we’ve got GA tickets to her show and are there three hours early!

Full house.  Completely full house.

Full house. Completely full house.

Fast-forward a few hours and we’re finally allowed to go into the theater. I think I got a pretty good spot, right in the corner of the stage and catwalk, so now I was one foot away from the stage. My vantage point was definitely different from the previous night, and I think that the two complemented each very well. While the front&center seat was great for taking photos and getting a full view of all the action, the pit section was amazing for all the crowd energy and the many opportunities to be very close to Britney.

   And to feel in my body the boom at the beginning of “Work Bitch” and the heat from the flames during “Circus”, wow!

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All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus.

I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to see her shows, and that I made the right decision to see them both, instead of being boringly practical by only seeing one. I really couldn’t imagine how I’d have felt lying in my hotel room and knowing that Britney was performing just downstairs! I’m so glad that work at a great job (at which I just passed my three-year anniversary!) where I can now afford to spend money like this. And I’m so glad I made some friends at the shows, because it’s so important to me to be around people who share my passions.

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P.S.  Why are you still sitting here?  Go book tickets to see Piece of Me!!!  And take me with you :-)

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Failings of a big sister

I started thinking yesterday of my sister, who’s pregnant, and just how much information she’s shared with me during the past eight months.  Actually, I should say, how little information she’s shared.  Quite literally, the only thing she’s actually told me is that she’s pregnant.  That’s it, nothing else.

The few other pieces of information I’ve gathered- the due date, the baby’s gender, that my sister was having a baby shower, when and where it was, where she was registered- all that was obtained indirectly through my parents.

I mean, I don’t think I’m all that shocked or anything by my sister’s reticence, since it’s not anything new, but it’s still really sad.  Not just for me, but for my parents.  Knowing how little she keeps my parents in the loop, when they’re about to become first-time grandparents.  It’s not hard to tell that they want to be more involved (well, anything is more than the level of involvement my sister has currently permitted, which is essentially non-existent), but they also have to walk a fine line because they know what she’s like, and one false step or wrong word could send her over the edge and shut them out.

It’s always been like that, so you can’t even blame pregnancy hormones for that.  I’ve tried in the past to reach out to her by calling her just to say hi, at the insistence of my parents to stay in touch with her.  But it’s so hard, so very hard, when you know the other person doesn’t want to talk to you and just responds, at best, with one-word answers.  And then for me to have to pretend that I’m totally unaware that this is a very fractured phone call… it’s just too much.  Thankfully, my parents have stopped insisting I call her.  They finally realize it’s futile.

But like I said, it’s still sad.  I wish I had some sort of good relationship with my sister, but I don’t even know what that’s like.  I don’t have anything to fall back upon, any remembrance of “the good ol’ days”, because, quite honestly, there never have been.

There was a time when she didn’t loathe me, and then there was a time that she did.  Now I guess it’s more like disdain, and it just makes me feel like a failure.  Add to that my absolute certainty that she’s great friends with every single one of our cousins (every single one!), and I just feel really isolated.  It makes me want to keep to myself as I have been, because I just feel so incredibly awkward.  I don’t know, I just lack that something “cool” that everyone else seems to possess.  My sister detected that, or decided that, early on, so I’ve just been given/adopted the role of the dorky sister/cousin.  And why would you ever want to have girltalk with a dork?

It’s not ever going to change.  The best that I can do is come to terms with it and move on.

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Review of “YOU: Being Beautiful”, by Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz

I had heard of this “YOU” series, such as “YOU: On a Diet” and “YOU: Staying Young”, but had never read any of them until I saw “YOU: Being Beautiful” on the shelf at my local library booksale. At only $2, which goes to support the library, why not? Well, I can say that this book is DEFINITELY packed with a lot of information. Authors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, both MDs, use their medical insights to convey knowledge to the reader, and what they do really well is avoid dry language. The book is easy to read, and talks about being beautiful both on the outside and the inside.

I wasn’t crazy about the parts in which they almost seem to encourage cosmetic procedures, such as fillers, instead of discussing natural ways to improve your appearance. And the part about women and periods- they almost offhandedly say that, if monthly cycles are bothering you, to go ahead and just try birth control for the once-a-year period. Now, it’s not like I have any personal experience, but I’m pretty sure each birth control pill/shot/etc. comes with some risks, which these doctors don’t even discuss (figures… what would you expect of men?).

There are good parts of the book, though. It’s thorough, in that it covers a lot of different parts of the body- hands, feet, mouth, nose, hair, skin, etc.- and how they can make us feel beautiful or how improve them to make us feel beautiful.

I was disappointed that the theme of this book wasn’t that one’s outward appearance is a reflection of how one treats one’s body. There are places here are there where they seem to suggest that, but not as the underlying message. I thought there should have been an emphasis, and a major one at that, on eating healthily to achieve, i.e., glowing skin, instead of discussing microdermabrasion and chemical peels. There should have been a major emphasis on the dangers of consuming animal proteins, how they can reek havoc on the organs and make you feel sluggish and unbeautiful. I don’t know, maybe that’s all the focus of “YOU: On a Diet”.

I can’t exactly say I’d recommend this book, unless you really don’t know a thing about health and beauty.

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