Monday, May 26, 2014

Adventures in the Rain - A Short Story

As of late I have not had anything interesting to blog about. My runs have been boring. I've had good runs and bad runs - runs that have left me feeling clean and energized and runs that I thought I would possibly die before I finished because they seemed so long and exhausting - but all and all nothing new. I have been running 4-5 runs a week in distances of 4, 5.5, 6 or 8 miles; usually at least one 8 miler and two 5.5-6 milers. In addition to that I have been doing Body Pump typically twice a week and doing one session of cross-training cardio depending on how many times I've run and how the week is going; either Zumba, elliptical, or walking.

Saturday's afternoon run broke up the monotony of the past several months' work outs like a hurricane. But let us start at the beginning, shall we?

Friday night, rather than go for a run, I decided to stay in and enjoy thunderstorms and to listen to what I now consider THE BEST rain album EVER. Mark was shocked to come home to me listening to a record, I'm almost always busy doing something; relaxing is not a norm for me!

Just what a long week called for!
After Portishead, we moved on to Fleetwood Mac; another good mood-setter for the rain.

Saturday, I decided that I would go for an 8 miler; I wanted to make sure to get my long run in for the weekend in case it rained for the remainder of the weekend as predicted, especially since I did not run the night before. I putted around the house a bit in the morning - cooking and cleaning whilst I waited for a break in the rain. I finally got to a stopping point in my busyness and the rain had ceased so I prepared to head out for my run.

I put my phone in a sandwich baggy on the chance that it may start raining again and strike out. I spend most of the time I'm running daydreaming, meditating and planning, so the first three miles were cool and quick. I hardly remembered running them by the time I wind my way through the neighborhood and come upon the park, I'm engrossed in my thoughts. In fact, I barely notice the darkening sky and the stronger winds until I enter the drive of the park and start running into the wooded area. It's as though the sky is just barely sniffling as rain drops sprinkle around me. I press on. Who doesn't enjoy a nice spritzing when they are sweaty and radiating heat? As I continue forward, the thought crosses my mind that perhaps the sprinkling was temporary and I might ought to prepare for a downpour. The logical option would be to immediately run home. I am not always logical though. The thing is, I had already made the decision to run 8 miles and short of extreme physical pain, I was not prepared to quit now.

Lightning illuminates the sky and I can barely hear the thunder rumbling over the music on my phone. I have entered a land of magic. And then Zeus unleashes his wrath. The sky opens up and the clouds writhe, wringing tears from its' swollen pillows. Minutes in and I am drenched. The rain was relentless, yet rather than weigh me down, I feel rejuvenated, regenerated - I feel alive. I enter the heavily wooded area around the lake/pond at the park and already water was sweeping mud onto the paths. The lake bubbled under the downpour and the tree branches quivered and drunk from the water. I keep going. I reach a bridge over one of the streams that led to the lake and water flows ankle deep. My clothes are completely soaked and I've already submitted to the fact that not an inch of me would come out of this dry, so I splash through the stream and keep on. Soon there is no portion of trails not submerged in at least inches of water. I get to the final bridge in the park at one of the lowest points and muddy looking water pours over in rivers of murkiness. I wade through it as water clings to my body, crashing around my calves and reaching for my knees. Pearl Jam is reverberating in my head. At approximately 4.5 miles in, I've reached the other side and am running uphill; in my mind, the excitement is over.

I reach the hill peak and start my descent, running alongside a small street which wraps around the outside of the park and is lined with residential neighborhoods. This particular road is rather annoying as a driver, low points for which you must slam on your brakes to breach if you're not driving slow enough or else be bumped all to hell once you hit them (going at a liberating speed of 30 mph), but I love it as a runner. It's a steady downhill jaunt with increments of plateaus and valleys scattered throughout. Super fun to gain a bit of momentum. Water is still pulsing all around me, grassy slopes under inches of water with rivets carving maps into the earth; in some spots the levels are ankle deep and I feel like a giant smashing footprints into the lakes of the world beneath me. Cars are driving past, splashing water which I no longer feel up onto the sidewalk and into the grass. I hit my first "valley" about a third of the way down this portion of the street and find the water not only submerging my ankles, but sucking at my calves, as though trying to claim me as part of the earth. I break out of the suction and press forward just as one of those huge trucks (you know, the trucks that sometimes have balls hanging from the hitch and are often driven by really annoying dudes) flies past me and in slow motion I see a tidal wave coming at me. The wave literally sweeps over the sidewalk, slams into me, reaches above my head, and up the grassy slope to crash against the brick wall that separates the housing addition from the street. I waver, wobble and cannot keep from grinning as I continue on. What a dick! But man, oh man, what a rush! Do not get me wrong, it hurts, but not bad and the thrill of it overwhelms any other aspect. Thankfully I was not inhaling the moment I was submerged so I did not breath in the water, I merely sputter on a mouthful of it.  At this point I feel unstoppable. "I am Jack's inflamed sense of rejection"**, "I am Jack's smirking revenge"**, I am enjoying myself immensely. I reach another valley in the road and can barely see the sidewalk at all under the sweeping streams. I figure the walk is just hidden by the murkiness of muddy waters and do not hesitate to run forward. I make it only a few steps before the water is suddenly at my knees and I feel my feet start to sweep out from under me and I start to tumble towards the ground. The water is relentless and trying to suck me down into the street and I steady myself on the slope and scramble up the side until I can walk alongside the brick wall. I breathe a few moments, trying to gather my bearings as an SUV slows to a stop down in the street below me. A man leans out the passenger side window, I assume, to offer a ride, my headphones were streaming APC and I doubt I could have heard him over the rain anyway; but I just smile, yell my thanks and wave him off. I start running again until I run out of sidewalk/grassy hill to run on and to the point where I needed to cross the street. After nearly being swept off the sidewalk, I am a bit apprehensive of crossing the street with the water rushing as it is, but I have no choice and tentatively scuttle across the street in mere ankle-high waters. Phew. Onward I go. I approach the lowest point in the street and try to gauge the depth of the water rushing past and I imagine I hear a roar beneath the soundtrack streaming in my ears and I decide to very cautiously attempt stepping into the water to see if wading through it would be manageable. Keep in mind, this entire duration lightning is still flashing, the sky is dark, angry and sobbing tirelessly. I hedge down the sidewalk, going deeper and deeper still until the water is knee deep; my feet remain solid so I continue. I unexpectedly drop into the street (a miscalculation of distance from sidewalk to street on my part) and the water is swishing around my thighs, down from the horseshoe of homes above and flowing into the street, tumultuous and raging yet. I think I can foot my way to the landscape island in the middle of the outlet and slowly move forward and now I am hip deep and waves are crashing against me and pulling at me and pushing at me and I'm being pushed closer and closer to the street and I see a car. It's in the water tire deep and stopping and reversing and I'm losing my footing and I'm not going to make it, I'm not going to make it, I'm not going to make it. And I'm no longer cautious, I'm panicky and backtracking and stumbling onto the sidewalk, grasping at the brick walls, climbing out of the water and onto the bricks, and maneuvering my way up and into the neighborhood to go around the pit of waves. I walk walls until I reach the other side. More cars are backing up and turning around, unwilling to risk driving through the flood. I finally reach sidewalk again and start running again, endorphins are flowing and I feel like I'm running on air. I'm still high on the thrill I just experienced and I reach recess in the sidewalk where a drainpipe is pouring out more rivers of water and I jump across it, landing on the sidewalk on the other side and I sprint forward, leaving the adventures of A River Runs Furiously behind me.

Now I'm back to the neighborhoods, running through only inches of water and small waves rush the path around me as cars drive past. I'm running down a street that bottoms out on a bridge over a creek and there's more roaring and flowing. It looks at least knee deep. I step up on a ledge by a metal handrail that lines the bridge and am about halfway across when a car drives past and another wave of water crashes up around me, pushing me against the rail. I barely feel it. On the other side I jump off the ledge and continue forward, running on yards to avoid the deep waters, I hit a driveway where a young man is hanging out the driver side window and he looks disgruntled and is yelling at me so I slow and take one of my ear buds out - come again? He proceeds to profusely apologize and affirming that he had absolutely no intention of "doing that", I could only chuckle and stare at the dude. Seriously? I respond: "Look at me dude, do you think I even felt that? Haha, no worries!" and I spring forward... only 1.5 miles left! The remainder of the run is a cinch, water levels remain shallow and I'm kicking it, I feel rain-kissed and clean, no smelly sweat on this girl. I am running along, about 3/4 of a mile from home, passing a strip mall, glancing at people sitting in front of a small local grill/cafe and water is lapping at my ankles and bam! I hit what could only be referred to as a pot hole and son of a bitch I've gone and rolled my ankle! M&(*&*$#^ F#$(&#$*&#!!!!! SHIT! These obscenities are spewing out of my foul mouth as at least four elderly people sit in lawn chairs about a quarter mile from me under the eaves of the grill look on. I limp a few yards to steady myself against a tree and carefully apply weight to my ankle - ouch. I stop and lightning flashes nearby and I envision lighting striking the tree I'm leaning against. I stretch my foot out, roll it around a bit, and start walking. The pain starts to ease and surprisingly so does the rain, and I walk faster, then a bit faster and now... now, I'm running again; I'm running faster and I'm only a half a mile from my house. I'm running through puddles, the sun is peeking out, only a drizzle remains and I'm standing on my porch and the sun is smiling down on me and I'm exhilarated; I'm enthralled. I am Jack's sense of accomplishment.

** Fight Club quote.
Soundtrack to "Adventures in the Rain" includes music by: Pearl Jam, The Cure, APC, The Dandy Warhols, Coheed & Cambria, Our Lady Peace, Tom Petty, and New Order.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Perfect Snow Day AND Gumbo Soup

Monday, I got snowed/iced out of school and I am normally off work on Mondays for school, so I got to be a bum. For me, the best bum day goes as follows: sit in nightgown until 1:00 pm watching House of Cards and doing homework (I KNOW, bum days = no school or work, but I've got a serious problem!), do some laundry, get dressed and head out for a run with the intention of running 10 miles so you can say "I ran 10 miles in 10 degrees!", then cut the run short at 9 miles when you realize that the burning sensation in your hands is NOT going to go away and ending up with 9.25 miles on the books (hey it's a "bum" day!), shower, go grocery shopping, come home, set up laptop in kitchen with wireless headphones to continue watching House of Cards, cook dinner and..................... bake brownies. Okay, I know, I know... as a proponent of health, talking about baking brownies is a little counter-intuitive, but here's the thing. I really wanted some brownies. And not in one of those "eat some fruit to curb the sweet tooth" kind of ways, no this was a week-long, carnal, burning desire for some chocolaty, chunkity fudge brownies with pecans rolled up in them. After a week folks - you just have to give in. Sometimes you have to indulge and honestly all this running and being healthy isn't worth it if you don't get to indulge a little. So brownies were made and indulged upon, and they may or may not have included a handful of chocolate chips, a handful of white chocolate chips and a couple handfuls of pecans. (Thank goodness I have a 16 year old boy in the house to devour such things).

My hands were burning! 

That's the look of satisfaction.... and coldness!

Disclaimer: I have since been scolded for running in such cold weather due to it being unsafe (for various reasons), please keep that in mind on your own running endeavors.

I might also point out that last night (Tuesday), I made a point to get 7 miles in on the elliptical and do a taxing session of Body Pump so that I could indulge again last night guilt-free. With healthy eating throughout the day, I still managed to keep my calories at 1388 for the entire day!

Monday night Gumbo sounded really good, I was craving the spiciness of it and the protein rich foods that come in it... nothing about Gumbo did not sound yummy. I wasn't quite looking for something as heavy as gumbo, though, so I decided to try my hand at what I like to call Gumbo Soup. It turned out DELICIOUS and was super easy to make! So whilst I continued my House of Cards binge, I whipped up a tasty one pot meal:

Gumbo Soup

3 - chicken breasts, diced
1 lb - small shrimp (I used the cooked and just threw them in at the very end)
1 pckg - Smoked Turkey Sausage, sliced
1 bag - frozen broccoli cuts
1 bag - frozen okra cuts
1 bag - Barilla 3 cheese tortellini (everything is okay in moderation!)
1 bag of spinach (frozen or fresh - I used fresh)
1 pckg of mushrooms (I used sliced)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper (I used a half a green and half a red), chopped
LOTS of garlic, chopped
2 cans of diced tomatoes
2 small cans of tomato sauce
beef bouillon to taste
Cajun seasoning to taste
Salt to taste
black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
3-4 bay leaves
cornstarch or flour

Fill a VERY large pot (like the kind you steam crab legs in) halfway with water and bring to boil. Add onion, garlic, bouillon, diced chicken breasts and seasonings and cook on a medium boil for about 15-20 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, sausage, spinach, mushrooms, okra and broccoli and bring to boil again. Once boiling, add either a roux of flour and margarine or a cornstarch and water mix to the pot to thicken to taste. (I did not measure this part at all so if you're not familiar with the technique, you may do a little searching on thickening of soups and stews... or some may just like a very light soup with no thickness at all.) I used the cornstarch method because I ran 9.25 miles on ice earlier in the day and had just gotten home from grocery shopping and was STARVING, so I didn't have the patience to make a roux (although it may have been even tastier). After stirring in your thickener (or not), add the tortellini and shrimp and cook at least 15 more minutes on a low boil (this may require a lowering of stove settings). I let mine cook about 20-25 more minutes after I added the cornstarch to achieve the optimal consistency. Add seasonings to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

New Goals, New Missions - Keep on Keeping on!

Ah, how fast time flies. You know how when you were a kid and you complained because Christmas took so long to come around? Or that you couldn't wait until your birthday came again? And so on and so forth. Every time someone would always reassure you to enjoy it while you could, because soon it would pass by all too quickly. I believe it's safe to say that I'm there, and that I'm terrified to see how much worse it gets the older I get. The amount of time I have available keeps shrinking and the things I have to do keep rising! It's a wonderful problem to have however; I'd much rather be able to say I have a full life than an empty one. So here's what's been going on.

First, the usual: My eating and exercise have been pretty well here lately. My weight has not changed, however my clothes are fitting better, so I'm happy. I've been running, doing Body Pump and the occasional elliptical session. I'm logging between 15 and 30 miles a week, depending on the week, and trying to get two Body Pump classes in a week. I've been playing around with my schedule, trying different times and classes to see if mornings or nights are better for what I'm trying to accomplish. I'm really not certain what my conclusion is on that yet. I've been eating much less sugary, refined and processed foods lately and have felt better for the choices I've been making. Over the winter I've enjoyed plenty of icy, snowy runs and have loved every minute of it. I have not done any races lately, but I am planning on doing the Memorial Half Marathon coming up in a couple of months!
Something about cold, treacherous runs gets my blood flowing!
For Christmas, my dad got my sister and I a Fitbit Flex. I love this thing, I've got to say. I know there is a recall on the Force, but I wouldn't have liked that one as much anyway, it's a little bulkier than I prefer. My goal is 10,000 steps a day, which I usually beat by thousands if I've gotten a run in, but is surprisingly more difficult to reach on a rest day. It has helped keep me moving knowing that I've only walked x amount of steps for the day.  

School has been going swimmingly, the first semester gave me the confidence I needed to keep trucking forward and this semester I decided to go ahead and take three courses. Last week was killer in that I had two exams, two quizzes, three new chapters, two papers, and three homework assignments. On top of all that, I am in the middle of a pretty intensive training at work, the first part of which I take online and the second of which I will go to a week long course and do training in person. It's safe to say that my brain has been a little mushy when I stop studying long enough to think about something! ;) 

I've also partnered up with a friend to work on a project he started over a year ago - Rev Hifi. The goal of Rev Hifi is to help unite the Oklahoma City area to develop our local culture and help promote thriving artists. There are numerous bands, filmmakers, photographers, and all around artists that are not recognized in OKC and we hope to help promote them through a Youtube channel that my friend has started. Since I've been on, I have had the pleasure of meeting some really cool people and we've already shot a music video, interviewed an awesome band and interviewed an insanely talented poet! It's crazy the kind of talent we're surrounded by that many are not aware of. Check out our promo video below:

This project, along with school and other forms of bettering myself, has become a large piece of the mission I've tasked myself with. Not only do I want to better myself, I want to help better society and people. I want to help people lose weight and become healthy, yes, but that's such a small step in what people are capable of doing. I want to make a difference, somehow, somewhere.

This brings to me where my mindset has been lately. Throughout every new experience, I strive to take something new away from it, if only a tidbit to become more self-aware. I've been introspective lately, struggling to figure out who I am and who I'd like to be. I find myself striving to be perfect, rather than accept myself for me. Rather than try to be "perfect", I need to work on aspects such as the way I think, being less judgmental, how I interact with people and being more optimistic. The problem with being introspective is that it can also trap you into being too caught up in yourself, it's a fine line. It's a tough task, to own up to one's flaws and to try to change them. Sometimes it's easier to play ignorance and just continue on in your own fashion as if you do not realize that you could be better. I did it for years. Now that I'm realizing how much better things could be, it's hard to take things as they are. But now I'm going into subjects way above and beyond our scope of topic at the moment! ;) It's suffice to say that I'm thinking about things way beyond my life, my house, my office, my school - all these little pieces are meaningless in the scheme of things, until you bring in everyone else and how we all make up a neighborhood, community, city, county, state and country... The broad scope of things make my everyday triumphs and struggles seem so trivial, I just wish I could see these things in advance, instead of retrospectively. Luckily, humans are adaptable and capable of improvement, we will see if that theory is applicable in my case. 

Anyway, that is what has been going on with me lately, nothing too terribly new. To end, I have a humorous conversation to share, I find it's something that both females and males should get a kick out of, although here is your TMI disclaimer!

Me: It's icky, it hurts. I hate being happy one minute and I hate being sad the next. I hate being crazy. I hate being a girl. It's not fair. I hate it!
<Insert my most pathetic of patheticist pouts here.>
Mark: I'm sorry... Why don't you take that Midol stuff or something?

This had me rolling for a good five minutes, because God bless him, gotta feel for dudes when they're around hormonal women! Maybe I can be psychotic, but thank goodness I'm not one of the ladies that throws a fit about being told to take Midol! And on that note, forgive me for I find all sorts of stupid things funny, TTFN!