Monday, February 27, 2012

T Minus 6 'Til Little Rock!

Yep!  Less than 6 days from now I'll be lined up at the start for the Little Rock Marathon/Half Marathon.  I've been watching the weather forecasts, mentally packing for the possible weather contingencies, and worried that my last long run a week ago won't be enough preparation.  And convincing myself that I'm being ridiculous about this.  I did, after all, just run a half marathon 3 weeks ago and, in any other circumstance, this period would be spent in taper-down mode for the upcoming race.

I'll leave Friday morning early, to get ahead of the morning rush hour traffic, since I'll have to traverse Houston from south to north, driving straight through the heart of this congested city.  Then, when I arrive in Little Rock sometime that afternoon, I'll check into the hotel and walk next door to the Fitness Expo to get my race packet, browse the wares.

Saturday I'll go in search of some nice lunch and might even walk the short several blocks to the Clinton Presidential Museum.

Sunday morning I'll do the race, clean up afterward and check out of the hotel, then stop at the first McDonald's I pass, to get a cappucino to go before hitting the road for home.

Gosh!   Reading back over what I've just written makes this all sound so routine, but believe me!  It will be far from routine...a race in a new-to-me city is always exciting!  I'm really looking forward to doing this race, its route taking me across the Arkansas River twice and then winding through several of the historic neighborhoods and past the Governor's Mansion in this architecturally interesting city, before returning us back to the Arkansas River and to River Market and the finish line. 

Running a half or full marathon is certainly one way - and a really good way - to get an intimate view of a city.  Don't you agree?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Avoiding "Mom Jeans"

After reading this most hilarious blog about How to Avoid Mom Jeans, I decided that I needed a jeans wardrobe overhaul.   No woman in her right mind willingly goes through the agonizing and frustrating process of trying on jeans.  Only when her current jeans collection no longer fits or has become so raggedy she looks like a homeless person or a pop singer, will any woman subject herself to this torture.

I've struggled for years to find jeans that I liked.  It used to be so easy.  Stone-washed Levi's in a classic traditional fit.  Buy two pair, wear until the bottom hems became hopelessly frayed and the rivets at the pockets started to pull holes, then go buy two more new pair. 

But times have changed.  Fashion has changed.  Fit has changed.  And truth be told, my good old-fashioned go-to Levi 550's are dangerously close to being "mom jeans." 

Today was the day.  There's a good-sized Levi's store in the Katy Mills mall and that's where I headed.   A few years ago I drove to that store, bought a couple of pair of Levi's in a style that was at that time new to me.  I brought them home and they languished on the shelf in my closet, with the tags still on them, unworn and unloved.  I just couldn't bring myself to wear these new-fangled lower-cut jeans!  I thought they made my butt look big.  Little did I know...that's apparently a good thing.

But that was a few years ago.  Since then, as I've purchased new pants, shorts, and running shorts, their fit has crept lower and lower until they now sit well below my belly button and I've come to appreciate - even love - that fit and look.  So I felt confident that I could re-visit that Levi's store and walk out with a couple pair of new jeans, styles that were "hip" and that weren't "mom jeans."

A lovely woman about my age, her name was Bea, swooped down on me and with some measuring tapes specifically designed to help the customer choose the right "fit," determined that my shape is "demi-curve."   On a scale of 1-5, it's a "2" in terms of voluptuousness.  I guess it means that while I have a definite waist, I'm not as curvy as other women.  We picked out a couple of pair of jeans in the "demi-curve" Classic straight leg category, and she bundled me off to the dressing room.   I also took a pair of the "demi curve" Modern straight leg category to try on, as well.  "Classic" sits just below the waist, and "Modern" sits about an inch lower than the Classic.

When did jean cut/size/style selections get so complex?  But I gotta admit, Levi's has definitely got this figured out!    They fit me like a glove!  I even was tempted to go with the Modern cut, but in the end opted for the Classic.  I bought two pair:  One pair in a scrubbed, whiskered color (don't ask - I have no idea what this means!), the other pair in a dark denim color with some scrubbing on the thighs. 

When I got home, a few pairs of "mom jeans" went into the pile of donation clothes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sound Effects and Valentines

Our Drama Club - The CountryPlace Players - is in rehearsals for the spring play, an original production entitled Black & White TV.  Imagine all of our favorite sitcoms from the 50's and 60's:  I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Lone Ranger... 

Imagine all of those memorable TV commercials from that era:  Bob Hope promoting Texaco, Speedy promoting Alka Seltzer, Dinah Shore promoting Chevrolet... 

Now imagine all of the sound effects and the theme music that go along with all of this. 

I was asked if I would take charge of Sound Effects, given my computer expertise and my experience doing this for other productions, although the amount of sound effects required for these prior productions was much smaller than for this current production.  This new project involved researching and sourcing legally downloadable theme music for more than a dozen shows and commercials.  It also involved searching for and downloading a number of sound effects and pieces of music, including such bits as stripper music, organ music, and sound effects such as a toilet flush, a rocket missile, a shotgun blast and many more.   More than 40 separate sound effects in all.  It was a fun and interesting challenge! 

I converted the mostly MP3 files to WMA files and edited many of them for length, volume consistency, to insert fades where appropriate, and to splice a few of them together for better control and effect.

The play is now in its second week of rehearsals, all sound effects have been loaded onto the club's laptop computer that connects to the master soundboard, all minor changes and adjustments to these sound effects have now been made, and my job is now done.

An interesting and fun project for sure!!

So where does Valentine's come in?  Earlier this evening I put on my running shoes and jogged the 1/2 mile to the Carriage House where rehearsals are underway.  One of the sound booth crew had a small heart-shaped box of delectable Lindt Truffles for me - his way of saying thanks for all of the work I put into getting the sound effects set up.  Then, when I ran home, I stopped at my mailbox and found an envelope filled with two home-made valentines for me, one from my granddaughter Mimi, the other from grandson Trevor.  Refrigerator art!!  Nice end to the day!

Hope your Valentine's Day was everything you wanted it to be.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Most Excellent Morning

Being retired means that every morning is Saturday morning.  But this Saturday morning dawned crisp and clear and with an agenda. 

It's been a very long time since I entered a 5k race.  It was possibly 5 or 6 years ago, when I entered the Fallen Heros 5k (a countrywide initiative of the Wounded Warriors Project) in Sugarland.  Now I'm entered in another 5k race, this one in Katy TX.  I realized just now that both of these little races involved doing it with a friend who is, or who has been, on a "journey."  

My entry in that little race a few years ago was the result of trying to get a girlfriend involved in USAFit, a walk/run program intended for folks who've never run a step in their lives.  She desperately needed to lose weight and diet alone was not going to help her.  She needed to get active...get moving.  I got her signed up for the USAFit program and then got her signed up for that race.  It was an out-and-back loop and I ran out ahead of her with the plan that she would short-circuit the route when I came back on the return leg and we would walk together to the finish line.

My entry in today's little race was as a result of another friend who's on a weight loss journey of his own.  He sent me a copy of his race entry confirmation email, in hopes that I would enter the race as well, and we could do it together.  Well, what better reason to do this race, than this?!

So last night I checked the weather (cold and blustery!) and laid out my running clothes in preparation for the next morning.  This morning I awoke on my own without an alarm, got up, got dressed, ate breakfast and then drove to Katy TX, to Christus St. Catherine Hospital parking lot, where the race would start and finish.

I'd forgotten how pleasant and easy these small little races really are.  No crowds, no parking problems.  Informal - almost too informal - starting line procedure. 

We almost missed hearing the start gun, we were so busy talking to a local high school drum line group who were there for start line motivational noise.  But we quickly caught up, got across the start line mats (yes...they even had timing chips for the 5k race!). 

My friend started out at a blisteringly fast walking pace...much faster than he led me to believe that he was capable of.  Then he broke into a fast jog, again faster than I expected of him.  We mostly walked, but he jogged for short stretches through to the mile 2 marker.  It was great seeing him doing this!!
Rewarding - although very cold - morning!
Flirting with the Chick-Fil-a Cow!

I ran ahead to each of the mile markers so that I could photograph him as he passed these landmarks.  I ran ahead to the finish line, too, so that I could get him and the timer clock in the shot as he ran through.  It is so motivating watching my friend take this journey to personal improvement.  Great day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February Waffle Houses

I decided to get out for a couple more Waffle Houses today, get a couple more up "on the board" for the month of February.  One of my goals is to be sure to post at least one Waffle House every month.  Our Drama group is in rehearsals for a spring production, but rehearsals got out early enough that I could get home, change into riding gear, and get out for a couple of Waffle House photos by lunch time. 

Keeping to my strategy of holding certain Waffle Houses in reserve for future planned rides and for late in the year, when no road trips are planned, I mapped a route that took me on some pleasant roads to get to a couple of stores down near the coast.

The sun was struggling to peek out from the high cloud cover, but never quite made it and, even though the weather man said temps would be in the low 60's, they struggled to get out of the low 50's.  I left the electric jacket liner behind and, while not quite cold, I was on the edge, especially when I got down near the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston.

Waffle House #999 in Lamarque, TX, at the intersection of FM 1764 and I-45:

Waffle House #1260 on 61st Street in Galveston TX:

My Waffle House Grand Tour rally flag and some new "bling" for my motorcycle:

Personalizing the rally flag:

It felt good to get the Zooty BMW out for a nice 100 mile ride!  Later this weekend or early next week it will be the FZ's turn for a little "spin."    Wonder where we should go??

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Fought the Weather for This Half Marathon Medal

Have you ever gone to the beach, looked up and seen a seagull suspended in the air, flapping its wings but going nowhere as it tries to fly directly into a stiff wind?  Well that was me today, as I ran the Galveston Mardi Gras Half Marathon. 

I'm on a quest this year...I want to run a half marathon every month in 2012.  Last month it was the Houston Aramco Half Marathon.  This month it's the Galveston Mardi Gras Half Marathon.  Even though this race was a relatively short distance from home, I chose to stay at the Tremont Hotel in Galveston...a block away from the start line...rather than risk the high possibility that bad weather and fog would get in my way of reaching the start line. 
Tremont Hotel, one of the Mardi Gras arches near it's entrance.
The arches are a Galveston Mardi Gras tradition.

I haven't stayed at the fabulous historic Tremont House in years - not since my husband passed a way.  It was a favorite getaway of ours.  The hotel is gorgeous!  Built in the 1800's, it's restored to a fine jewel of a hotel, with hardwood floors and high ceilings in each room, gorgeous bathroom, luxurious bed linens, many excellent boutique restaurants within a block or two.  It was a nice personal treat to myself, sort of a lap of luxury evening before the race the next morning.

And what a race it turned out to be.  This morning's race day weather included 45 degree temperatures, steady rain, and a strong 25 mph wind, gusting to 35 mph, coming straight out of the north.  The nice thing about being so close to the start line for a small race such as this one, is that I could walk out the door and head for the start line, just minutes before the race starts.  The hardest part about doing 1/2 and full marathons is the logistics of getting to the start line, standing in possibly inclement weather waiting for the starting gun to go off. 

I started chatting with a woman near me, as we waited for the start.  She was getting back into running after a hiatus of a few years.  She looked to be about 10 years younger than me and from her fine running physique, I was surprised to hear that she's not been running these longer distances for a few years.

I've run marathons in cold...and I've run marathons in rain...but this is the first time I've run a race in cold, windy rain.  This was ugly!  The first 3 miles of the route took us down the Galveston Seawall heading south, northerly winds at our back, toward 45th Street, where we did a several-block loop and returned back to the Seawall heading north...straight into that strong cold, northerly headwind.  

Just before I got to the turnaround point, a pair of young women, adorable in their purple tutu's, caught up with me and commented on how they were impressed with my pace (do I really look that old?) and that it took them a long time to catch up with me and pass me.  They asked me if this was my first race ( I really look that old?).  This was their second 1/2 marathon so I congratulated them and wished them a good run and then they moved on ahead and gradually extended their lead enough that I could no longer pick them out from the other runners.

Now I had to run almost 7 miles straight up the Seawall - straight into that headwind - before the route turned us around and took us onto the Strand in downtown Galveston and over the finish line.

So...back to those seagulls.  The headwind was so strong as I was running north along that Seawall, that I felt like those seagulls must feel.  My "wings" were flapping furiously, but I was making very little headway!  Not only were those headwinds hindering my forward progress, they were even knocking me off balance periodically with the strongest of the gusts.  The rain was stinging against my face, being driven nearly sideways by the wind.   If I wasn't so cold and miserable, I'd have laughed out loud at how ludicrous this was!

"Hang in there, hang in there," I kept telling myself.  "This miserable strong wind will be at your back the last 3 miles."  Past the mile 8 marker, past the mile 9 marker...and then the turnaround to head back toward town and the finish line.  Ah....!  The wind was now at my back and there was a noticeable improvement in my pace.  The effort necessary to forward locomote was noticeably less.  It was as if I were running downhill.

The full marathon was a two-loop version of the half marathon route and as I made the turn at mile 11 toward downtown, the eventual winner of the full marathon passed me by.  Ouch!  That always hurts, but at my age and pace is inevitable.  At mile 12 I was pretty much spent, my legs used up from having to dig in and "drive" myself forward for 7 miles against 25 mph winds.  Running into such a strong headwind is equivalent to running uphill.  I had to drive my legs harder than usual to overcome the resistance. 

I walked some of the distance between the mile 12 and mile 13 markers and then broke into a run again.  It was pride that forced me to run across the finish line, run as the finish line cameras snapped away.

I was pleased with myself for having run nearly the entire 13.1 miles, even though my time for that distance was disappointingly slow.  Guess that headwind really affected my pace.  But what really matters to me is that I did run nearly the entire distance.   This, compared to the Houston race 3 weeks ago, in which I walked much more in the last 4 miles.

I grabbed a slice of pizza and a banana at the finish line then hastened to the hotel, changed out of my wet running clothes - I didn't even bother to clean up - and then checked out of the hotel.  A stop at McDonalds for a large cappuccino was foremost on my mind at this point.  Then it was a relatively short drive back home, where I savored my cappuccino, ate the tacos I purchased at Jack in the Box enroute, before heading into the shower to clean up.


From the Galveston Mardi Gras Marathon Facebook page:

the race directors would like to thank everyone for their support today. RUNNERS for braving the conditions and running in such adverse conditions. THE VOLUNTEERS for hanging in there to help make this race a success, the City of Galveston for allowing us to put on this event in their great city and our wonderful sponsors. I will say that in 25 years of putting on events, this was the most challenging conditions for the participants and volunteers. Thanks for making this event a success.