Dino Dash 5K (NaBloPoMo day 4)

Yesterday morning I desperately wanted to ignore my alarm when it went off at 5 AM, even though I had taken full advantage of the extra hour of sleep afforded us by the end of Daylight Savings Time. I even went to bed relatively early on Saturday night because I had the Dino Dash 5K Sunday morning in Irvine. It’s a much larger race than the School Ghoul 5K last weekend so I had to factor in about 25 minutes of drive time and some parking difficulties when I arrived. After turning off my alarm I seriously debated going back to sleep, but I registered for this race for a reason. I know that I need motivation if I want to run more. With my low energy levels there’s no way I’m going to lace up my running shoes on a random weeknight, so races are necessary to get my rear in gear. Plus, my endurance is in the tank these days so running even a few miles is painful. A race at least offers the accomplishment of crossing the finish line, and usually a medal too. I need these proverbial carrots to get me moving in the right direction (rather than back to the fridge for a some leftover pizza). It’s demoralizing to look back and remember how much easier running used to be for me, but the only way I’m going to get better is if I put in these painful miles first. So I reluctantly turned on my bedside lamp at 5 AM, threw off my covers, and started getting ready for the Dino Dash 5K.

The race itself was really fun. I didn’t appreciate the uphill portions of the freeway overpasses, but their downhill counterparts were great. My finish time for the 5K wasn’t anything near what I would call impressive – maybe not even respectable – but I ran 3.1 miles more than I would have otherwise. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t miserable either. Progress! I hope that this is the beginning of my journey back to half marathons, and perhaps marathons (Disney World 2021), because I sincerely miss them. Not only do I love challenging myself, but there’s also the social aspect of running with friends and strangers who are meeting the same challenge. The medals are great too! I know that getting back into this hobby/habit will be extremely beneficial to my body as well. I’m not in terrible shape thanks to my gym membership, but my cardiovascular health could definitely use some improvement. (And don’t even get my started on other aspects of my body that are less than optimal right now.) I’m headed to boot camp tonight at 8 PM so that will help not only boost my physical well-bring, but also my mental well-being. That’s the number one reason I need to run more often. I have more races in a couple of weeks and I really need to break in a new pair of running shoes by then. I’d better get started!

Halloween 2019 (NaBloPoMo day 2)

I had a busy Halloween considering how low my energy levels are these days. The only thing I’ve been able to do consistently while on medical leave from work is exercise. I have managed to attend boot camp classes three to five times a week for the last few months and it really makes me happy. (My runs have been few and far between, however, but I’ll write about that in another post.) I still have a long way to go in my fitness journey, but I definitely feel stronger after three months of weight training, even if my dress size hasn’t gotten any smaller. Although I don’t like the number on the scale right now I am trying to have a positive attitude towards my body in its current form. It’s not easy! Getting back to the story, I was determined to get to the gym on Halloween, but I had to go at 9 AM since my usual evening class was cancelled for the holiday. As you can see in the above photo, my gym buddy and I had matching floral skeleton outfits from INKnBURN. She even brought flower crowns so that we could enhance the effect. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays so celebrating it this way was really fun. The workout itself was pretty difficult, but at least I started the day by doing something healthy.

I had plans to meet my BFF and goddaughter for trick-or-treating at 5 PM. After an egg sandwich for breakfast and a post-gym shower I attempted to take a little nap to replenish my energy stores, but my stupid restless legs had other ideas. I may have dozed for half an hour or so, but my twitchy legs did not allow any more than that. (I know it’s my brain causing the muscle spasms, but sometimes I daydream about a leg transplant that will fix my PLMD.) I knew that the long drive to/from my BFF’s house, as well as several hours of Halloween celebration, were going to be hard on me, so I took half a dose of my stimulant medication to ensure that I wasn’t dead tired before even arriving. (I use the stimulant very sparingly to get me through events that demand a lot of energy, but it’s a band-aid rather than a long-term solution to my constant fatigue.) Trick-or-treating with my goddaughter’s Girl Scout troop was a lot of fun. Safely guiding about ten girls from house to house to gather their candy while trying to avoid anyone getting left behind was quite the balancing act. I’m really glad I got to share the holiday with my goddaughter, though. It was the most human interaction I’ve had in months (unless you count Disneyland), but it was very draining. By the time I got home I was fading fast. My nighttime medication generally requires about two hours to take effect, but I somehow managed to pass out in about half that time. You know I’m exhausted when even leg spasms can’t keep me awake! The next morning my gym buddy and I were planing to go to the 9 AM boot camp class again, but neither of us was up for it when our alarms went off. I ended up sleeping very late to recuperate from all of the Halloween festivities. Still a fantastic holiday!

What I learned today

This morning my alarm went off at 5:30 AM. This would be ridiculous for most Sundays these days, but today I was trying my darndest to make it to the School Ghoul 5K in Los Alamitos. I have missed so many races in the last couple of years due to my poor health, and every time it happens I feel a little bit worse. My near constant fatigue has gotten in the way of just about everything in my life, no matter how hard I struggle against it, so I try to gain ground whenever and however I can. Fortunately this morning was a win. I successfully got out of bed at 5:30 AM and got ready to leave for the 5K. It helped that this race is small and local (Los Alamitos is not far from my house) so I wasn’t facing a long drive or difficulties with parking or crowds. Also, it was the only Halloween race I had any real chance of participating in this year, and I had a whole outfit planned for the occasion. If at all possible I was not going to miss this 5K.

I arrived at the race start line plenty early, picked up my shirt and bib, and walked back to my car to put on sunscreen. I had 50 minutes to spare. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t brought my GPS watch with me. Or my headphones. In fact, I had forgotten all of my running electronics at home. Is it obvious that I haven’t run a race in almost two months? At first I remembered that I have a spare set of earbuds in my glove compartment for just such an emergency, but then it hit me that my phone hasn’t had a headphone jack since 2017. So no help there. Facing the prospect of running 3.1 miles without my usual playlist was so daunting that I decided to rush home and grab the items I needed. If you thought getting home and then back to the race would be the most difficult part of the morning you’d be wrong. That part was pretty smooth! I got back to the race start with a full 25 minutes before I had to run, so I thought I was in great shape. Then I tried to set up all of my electronics.

Fortunately my interval timer is stand-alone so all I had to do was clip it onto my pocket. The watch and headphones proved to be more of a problem. Last month when the iPhone 11s came out I went to the Apple Store and took advantage of the newly lowered prices on older models to buy an iPhone 8. My iPhone 7 was slowly dying and it was time for an upgrade, but I didn’t go crazy and buy anything too fancy. Unfortunately, I haven’t run a race since before my phone swap so my Bluetooth electronics had never been paired with the iPhone 8. After a couple of attempts I gave up trying to get the Garmin app to recognize my watch since that connection wasn’t essential for the race, but I really needed the headphones to cooperate. The best part about wireless earphones is the wireless part, but it is also the most breakable link in the chain. No phone pairing = no music. I tried everything I could think of up until the moment the race started, but it was no use. My iPhone 8 and my Bluetooth headphones were just not going to play nicely together. I was resigned to run the race with no soundtrack, the useless headphones tagging along as ballast.

Plenty of folks have told me how much they enjoy “unplugged” running with only the ambient noise of nature and their inner thoughts to entertain them. Today I learned that I am not one of those people. There are two reasons I absolutely need my favorite playlist in order to make plodding along on the pavement tolerable. 1) Running by itself is boring! Without a the distraction of music I lose interest in this particular form of exercise very quickly. It’s monotonous and every mile seems to drag on forever unless I have songs to listen to or friends to talk to. Ideally both. 2) I have difficulty regulating my breathing without the aid of a tempo. I learned this a long time ago I got my first iPod and it completely changed my workouts. While running the 5K today I had to sing to myself the whole time (silently, of course) in order to keep from breathing erratically. It was rough. I was completely exhausted, mentally and physically, when I crossed the finish line. As happy as I was to run the 5K, it was a miserable experience without my playlist. I will definitely make sure all of my electronics are working before my next race!

State #36

Back in 2014 I made a New Year’s resolution to visit as many new states as possible. By the end of that year the number of states I had personally visited rose from 27 to 33, thanks to an East Coast road trip and a Yellowstone National Park vacation. 6 new states in one year wasn’t too bad. Then in 2015 I added another two states to the list (New Jersey and Alaska). But since then my travel has stagnated somewhat. However, I am happy to announce that in 2018 I have finally added state #36 – Oregon! It’s hard to believe I’d never been there before considering how long I’ve been living on the West Coast. Fortunately I had the outstanding excuse of a friend’s wedding reception to get me there in 2018. It was an extremely short trip, but I had a great time.

I arrived in Portland later than I expected the day of the wedding reception due to my connecting flight from Seattle being delayed twice. Yes, I had to fly past Portland to Seattle on one flight only to backtrack to my final destination on my second flight. Very annoying. Knowing that my flight was delayed, I applied my makeup in an extremely crowded Seattle airport bathroom to save myself a little time later. Then, when I collected my checked bag in Portland, I changed into my dress for the reception in a nearby bathroom. I was way behind schedule. I had originally planned to take the train from the airport to my hotel, I had even pre-purchased a $2.50 ticket, but it was going to take too long so I reluctantly took a taxi instead. It took about 30 min and cost $60. Ugh. But I got to the hotel in just enough time to stash my bag in my room and catch an Uber to the wedding reception with some of my friends. Phew!

The reception itself was lovely. We ate mini cupcakes as appetizers (genius), deconstructed tacos for dinner (delicious), and tres leches cake for dessert (the best cake I’ve ever tasted). But the most meaningful part was hanging out with my online friends who I don’t get to see very often. Several of them I was meeting in person for the first time, and the others I vacationed with in Hawaii in 2015. (A couple have been to LA since then so I was able to spend time with them at Disneyland, but that’s the exception.) I am so lucky to have found this group of women. It’s remarkable, really. Over the last 13 years they have been there for me through everything, both good and bad. They have changed my life for the better and I seriously don’t know what I would do without them. Flying all the way to Portland for a little over 24 hours was completely worth it.

That night after the reception I was exhausted and passed out early after taking a much-needed shower. Unfortunately that meant I missed a lot of shenanigans that happened after hours, including a midnight trip to Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnut. I am so annoyed that I didn’t get to go, but my body apparently needed almost 12 hours of sleep! The next morning we all headed over to the bride and groom’s house for a donut reception. Yes, more donuts! We had a great time gorging ourselves on sugary pastries, laughing, chatting, and being our usual weird selves. And attempting to ingratiate ourselves with the resident cat, Nibbler. At one point I picked him up to prevent him from escaping out the front door, but he didn’t appreciate that. He bit me several times. (Just little warning nips on my arm so nothing serious.) Fortunately he forgave me later and purred when I pet him. My friends and I reveled in spending all this time together. One of the ladies had already hopped a flight back home, and other folks had to take off for the airport throughout the morning and afternoon, so it was a little sad that our brief reunion was coming to an end.

After the donut reception I went back to the hotel, retrieved my bag, hugged everyone goodbye, and started making my way to the airport. This time I was able to take the train and it was fantastic. I only had to walk a few blocks from the hotel to the train stop, the train was clean and not crowded, and the trip to the Portland airport was scenic and relaxing. Totally worth the $2.50 fare (and way more cost-effective than my taxi ride the day before). And I had a direct flight to Orange County this time so my travel home was completely uneventful. I was upset that my trip to Oregon was over so quickly, but I will definitely go back and spend some more time there in the future. It was way too beautiful not to revisit. Plus, I have friends who live there and have a guest bedroom! It’s a shame that my online friends are scattered all over the country because seeing them makes my heart happy. I am going to do my best to organize another get-together next year so that we don’t go three years between reunions again.

It was the right choice

I’m working on another post to share all of the details about my fantastic trip to Portland last month, but I wanted write something about my wedding reception dress choice first. That’s the most important part, right? As the line in A Cinderella Story goes, “In true L.A. fashion, it’s not about who you are, it’s about what you wear!” I wouldn’t be a true Angeleno if I didn’t describe the apparel!

As you can tell by the above photo, I ended up wearing my red lace Mormon church dress to the wedding reception in Portland. And it was perfect. Dressy and flattering, yet also pretty and comfortable. Plus, I wore it with my Converse for the ultimate quirky, yet sensible ensemble. I loved it. (I had to change into the dress at the airport because I was so time-crunched before the reception, but I’ll save that crazy story for my other post! Even though I wasn’t flying that far, it wasn’t the most relaxing travel day by a long shot.) So what made me change my mind about the dress? Well, the weather in Portland turned out to be absolutely lovely the weekend I was there so I didn’t need to worry quite so much about getting hot and sweaty. It felt like fall. The high temperature earlier that week was in the 90s (gross), but by Saturday afternoon it was barely 70 degrees when my flight landed in Oregon. The original dress I had selected (I’ll write another post about that one later) was sleeveless due to the possible heat, but with the more temperate weather I was perfectly comfortable in something with two layers and a tad more coverage. I was actually happy to have the elbow-length lace sleeves on my arms when it got cooler that evening. No cardigan or hoodie required! I’m so glad I listened to my BFF and kept the Mormon church dress even though it was a bit fancier, and a bit more expensive, than what I was looking for. I like it a lot more than I expected to, and now I’ll have something dressy hanging in my closet in case I need it again. In fact, I’ve been filling out my wardrobe with a lot more dresses lately because I realized how useful they are while summer is still lingering here in SoCal. More on that in yet another post!

The unexpected benefits of online friendships

“Doree and Kate,
After hearing [on your podcast] that you two met on Tumblr I wanted to reiterate that online friendships can be very powerful! Thirteen years ago when I got engaged I started posting in a Craigslist forum about weddings. The group of brides there were all planning their weddings in the same time frame as I was. It didn’t take long for me to bond with all of them over our shared experiences. Fast forward to today and about 100 of us maintain a Facebook group and I consider them some of my closest friends. In fact, I met my BFF through the group and her daughter is now my beloved goddaughter. Fortunately we both live in the LA area so we can see each other regularly. So even if online friendships seem very modern and possibly impersonal, I have experienced the exact opposite. I love all of these women, I will do anything for them, and knowing them has changed my life for the better.”
-5/28/18 email

I wrote this email to the hosts of the Forever35 podcast a while back because I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to extol the virtues of online friendships. In this day and age as we are questioning the effects of extended virtual interactions on our mental health it’s easy to forget that beneficial things can come out of internet relationships as well. I often find myself thinking I should limit my exposure to social media in order to maintain my sanity, especially since I’ve had so many difficulties this year, but I keep finding myself back on Facebook in order to communicate with my wonderful online friends. They lift me up when I feel down, they give me advice when I feel lost, and they remind me that the world isn’t as bad a place as it seems. It is an invaluable connection. We’ve gone through so much together. Love and heartbreak, celebration and devastation, joys and sorrows. We even lost one of our members to cancer last year. Yes, we sometimes argue (politics is so polarizing!), and we disagree on occasion, but we always know that we will stand together no matter what.

Luckily for me these relationships haven’t been exclusively virtual. Most recently, on Saturday I had a girl’s night with two of my online friends who live in LA. We don’t get together nearly often enough so it was a significant achievement that all three of us were able to follow through on the plans we made a few weeks earlier. We ate dinner together (I had my weekly cheat meal that included a mountain of delicious sweet potato fries), they supported me as I tried on dresses at Ann Taylor and Loft (I am still two dress sizes larger than I want to be, which makes me sad), and we acted like crazy teenagers while walking around the clothes section of Target. We even put green bras with a weird combination of lace and netting on over our clothes and took pictures (which I will not be sharing in any public forum!). It was an amazing time. I have often thought that every woman needs a group of steadfastly supportive friends like the one I stumbled upon thirteen years ago on Craigslist, and outings like this one reaffirm my belief. I can’t always share all of the details of everything I’m going through with other people in my life, but these ladies have heard it all. I’ve ranted about my marriage, my divorce, my dating debacles, my work issues, my body insecurities, my illnesses (both mental and physical), and everything in between. And I’ve listened when they need to vent about what their circumstances too. I am extremely fortunate to have the trust of these lovely women and I don’t take that privilege lightly. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them.

The race that almost wasn’t

You don’t know how happy I was to run the Seal Beach 5K on March 24th. Not because it’s my beloved hometown race or because I can basically roll out of bed and walk to the start line, but because I had to defy the odds to get there this year. I was on a business trip to two different cities during the week, and I booked my flight home on Friday evening so that I would be back in time to run the race on Saturday morning. It wasn’t ideal with my plane landing in Orange County at 10 PM, but I was committed. However, things didn’t exactly go as planned.

On Monday my flight from Orange County to New York (with a layover in Atlanta) was blessedly uneventful. It was so cold in New York, though. Luckily there was no snowfall while I was there and I didn’t have to deal with much ice due to covered parking at my hotel. That leg of my trip was very successful. Then it came time for me to fly to DC on Wednesday evening. Of course that was the day Winter Storm Toby was terrorizing the eastern seaboard so it seemed very likely that my travel plans would have to change. But as the day progressed Delta never modified my itinerary or downgraded the status of my flights so I headed to the airport as planned. My co-workers who were on direct flights that afternoon had to reschedule their travel for the next day. However, since I had a completely out-of-the-way layover in Detroit first, I somehow made it to Dulles without any trouble because my flight landed around 9 PM. By then the snow had stopped and the roads were perfectly clear when driving to my hotel. It really couldn’t have been any easier. I thought the worst was over, but I was so wrong.

On Friday evening I headed to Dulles to fly back home, with a layover in Minneapolis first. My flight from DC took off late due to “air traffic” (Delta’s explanation) which caused me to miss my connection to Orange County. When the plane landed in Minneapolis I ran to attempt to make the connection, but when I arrived, out of breath and fairly sweaty, the jetway doors had already closed. I was out of luck and so annoyed. Delta had already rebooked me on another flight the following morning so things were looking bad, but I hadn’t quite given up hope of getting home that night. My final opportunity was a flight to LAX that was leaving a few hours later. Of course it was overbooked, but an airline employee put me close to the top of the standby list. Miraculously I got the last seat on the flight so I was headed home! It landed at LAX at midnight. Remember that I was originally supposed to fly to Orange County? This meant that my car was 40 miles away. I took a very expensive taxi ride from one airport to another, picked up my car, and drove an additional 30 minutes to get home at 2 AM. At that point I had been awake for about 20 hours and I was exhausted. I fell asleep around 2:30 AM with my alarm set for 7 AM in order to give myself a bare minimum amount of time to get ready for the Seal Beach 5K in the morning. So everything worked out and I got to run the race, but I never expected it would be such an ordeal!

St. Patrick’s Day 2018

St. Patrick’s Day on the weekend for a change is a rare chance to do something exciting for the holiday without the constraints of a workday. So can you guess what I did today? I ran a race, of course! Big surprise, I know. The Big LA 5K at Dodger Stadium this morning was delightfully St. Patrick’s Day themed with green shirts, green race bibs, and a medal with a shamrock on one side. It was fantastically festive. And I got to wear one of my holiday-specific running shirts for the occasion. It proclaimed my heritage as “Irish Every Day.” Very accurate. Even the weather cooperated (winter finally arrived in Southern California this month and it’s been gorgeous). Everything was great, except for the course. There are some serious hills around Dodger Stadium and they make for less than pleasant running. I’m still getting back in shape after a few months of inactivity so it wasn’t an easy 3.1 miles for my weak body, but I’m so glad that I went out and did it. The LA Big 5K is also the last race in the Triple 5K Tour of LA Challenge (Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Los Angeles) so I got an extra medal at the finish line. That’s always good motivation to get up before the crack of dawn, drive an hour, and hit the course even when I don’t want to! Let’s hope this marks my return to regular running again. 2018 has been rocky so far, but I think it’s looking up. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

Thor 10K (NaBloPoMo day 29)

How do you follow a post like the last one? I’m still in shock over the loss of my friend and I hardly know what to think. My first idea was to share a funny story from work yesterday, but I jotted it down on a sheet of paper and then forgot to bring the write-up home with me, so that lighthearted interaction will have to wait until tomorrow. It will have the honor of closing out NaBloPoMo. Until then I’ll share something else that’s upbeat. Especially since I need to finish my Disney race recaps before they completely disappear from my mind.

The Thor 10K took place at Disneyland on November 11th. The theme of the Avengers 10K changed each year depending on which Marvel movie has most recently been released or is up next in theaters. In 2015 when the 10K was born it was the Captain America 10K (the race was held between “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War.”), and then in 2016 it was the Doctor Strange 10K (“Doctor Strange” was released about a week before the race). This year we got the Thor 10K due to its proximity to “Thor: Ragnarok.” (I actually went to see it in the theater on opening day when I was in Orlando and I really enjoyed it. More humor than your average Marvel film. I’m already looking forward to the 2018 releases.) I do like the rotating theme because it gives us some variety on our race shirts. I woke up at 3 AM the morning of the race, quickly got dressed, and walked from my hotel to the start line. Our course I selected my Thor running shirt for the occasion, and I paired it with a red skirt. It was another opportunity for me to run without having to apply sunscreen since the race started at 5 AM. Perfect! I didn’t break any speed records during the 10K, but I was happy with my pace and I thoroughly enjoyed the 6.2 miles through the Disneyland and California Adventure parks. At the finish line I quickly grabbed by medal and started walking back to my hotel to avoid the rapidly rising sun! I originally intended to have breakfast at LaBrea Bakery at Downtown Disney after a quick shower, but instead I stumbled into the much more conveniently located breakfast buffet at my hotel. Fortunately the food was delicious, especially the exceptionally crispy bacon. I ate more than my fair share. After that I took a lovely nap. Later in the afternoon I walked over to the resort area because I had a dinner reservation that evening. I spent some time in Disneyland taking in the first days of the Christmas decorations before heading over to California Adventure for dinner at Wine Country Trattoria. I had some lasagna in preparation for the Avengers half marathon the next morning. On my way back to my hotel I bought some cupcakes from Sprinkles at Downtown Disney. Their seasonal pumpkin cupcake is one of the best bits of baked goods that I’ve ever tasted. It was the perfect dessert. I was exhausted that night so I actually went to bed at 8 PM, hoping to be well rested when my alarm went off super early the next morning, only to be woken up at 9:30 PM by the nightly Disneyland fireworks. That was annoying, but I still managed to get a good amount of sleep before getting up to run 13.1 miles the next morning.

Be on the lookout for the final installment of my 2017 runDisney adventures sometime next week.