Is Chickenbone's last name really Jones? Of course not. His last name is, obviously, the same as mine.
The nickname "Chickenbone Jones" actually comes from this cute, and altogether true, story. About a month after he came to live with us last fall, Chickens was walking with his dad through downtown San Jose when they happened upon a bunch of trailers, lights, and ropes cordoning off an outdoor set at City Hall. Turns out it was a shoot for a rap video. The two of them walked around checking out all the neat stuff and trying to figure out who the rapper was, and they came upon a guy behind the barricade, relaxing on a bench in a hospitality area. Tall, skinny dude, with bling.
As Sal walks by, the guy stares down intently at the little dog, who stares right back. Sal feels moved to say something. "That's Chickenbone," he says. Guy's face breaks into a grin, and he nods slowly, knowingly. "Chickenbone," he drawls. "Chickenbone JONES."
The race results are in! I was finisher No. 261 in my age group, meaning I did better than 48 women in their 30s. Of course, 260 of them did better than me. Dammit! But I did improve on my overall time by a couple of minutes, despite the Crippling Cramp From Hell. My finish time was 2 hours, 35.23 minutes. (In October's half-marathon, I ran 2:38 flat, so I beat myself by around 2.37.)
P.S. The fastest woman in my age group finished nearly an hour before I did, 1:31.33. Holy crap.
First of all, I would like to say thank you, blog, for giving me something to keep my mind off the miles yesterday. You were a lovely and therapeutic distraction as I composed for you a mental list of all the things that made me struggle, caused me pain, and pissed me right off during an incredibly grueling 13.1-mile run:
Mile 1: I had worked myself into a tizzy all week fretting about what to wear, since the forecast called for rain. But at 7 a.m., the sun is out and there's not a cloud in the sky. We get off to a fine, fast start and begin to wind our way up the Santa Cruz coastline.
Mile 2: The course takes us through a fancy oceanside neighborhood, where we are greeted with the mouthwatering aroma of bacon. Several of us comment on the sheer torture of this scent. We hate you, mystery bacon-maker.
Mile 3: Turnaround point for the 10K runners. THAT'S RIGHT, BITCHES! TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND AND RUN HOME TO MOMMY! (Sorry to my girlfriends who ran the 10K and will read this. I didn't mean it, honest. This is just how I pumped myself up.)
Mile 4: I encounter a competitor so annoying, so obnoxious, so wildly unacceptable in a running competition that I burn with fury. She was speedwalking a half-marathon, which is mildly bothersome in and of itself. I know, speedwalking is hard, it burns calories, yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. But lady, I am RUNNING. I'm sweating and panting and running, and apparently I'm not even able to run faster than you can friggin' walk. So you irritate me. Also, do you really need six bottles of water strapped to your back during a WALK?!? But anyway, this isn't even the bad part. The bad part is she won't pick her feet up off the ground. Instead, she shuffles. She drags her fat, stupid feet noisily across the pavement, and I wince at every step. Scraaaape. Scraaaape. Scraaaape. And every time I speed up or slow down to get away from her, she seems to do the exact same thing. The Shuffler plagues me for the next mile or two.
Mile 6: A hill looms ahead. Most people stop and walk, but I am determined to lose The Shuffler. No way she can move her ass up that thing quickly. So I take it at a run. Halfway up, I feel slightly dizzy and my legs hurt so much that I consider stopping. Then I pass this girl who calls out to me "Wow, keep going! You're doing great!" Thanks to this most awesome stranger, I get a little second wind and finish the hill, leaving The Shuffler in. my. dust.
Mile 7: Runners are greeted with another interesting scent: horse shit. Like, the real stuff. We are near a horse ranch on a dirt trail that is dotted with huge, steaming piles of green manure. Later we are kept on our toes dodging potholes and puddles the size of swimming pools, along a path so thin it looks like it was carved by a wagon wheel.
Mile 8: I stop for a quick water break and ask for a gel packet. Guy tells me they're out. "WHAT? You are OUT?" I sputter. "For, like, the ENTIRE RACE?!?" Sorry, yes. For the entire race. Fireballs shoot out of my eyes, and I spend the next mile fuming about the incompetence of the race organizers and of humankind in general.
Mile 9: Race volunteer hands me an orange-flavored gel packet and a cup of cold water.
Mile 10: I actually do a tiny fist-pump as I hit double-digit miles and, for the first time, allow myself to look at my watch. I'm doing great, seriously. I'm on track to shave maybe 10 or more minutes off my last half-marathon time. My energy is good, I'm not in any real pain, and we're winding our way back to civilization.
Mile 12: Here, friends, is where it all goes to hell. I feel a tiny twinge of cramp in my right side, so I slow down and concentrate on breathing deeply. The pain subsides, so I start to run again, but then it returns worse than before. I fight as long as I can, but the cramp forces me down to a walk. I begin to freak out a little. I have never had my breathing trick fail me. Then I hear a sound that sends a chill down my spine. Scraaaaaape. Scraaaaaape. Scraaaaaape. Holy crap. ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME? I turn around and sure enough, it's The Shuffler and her goddamned water bottles. This makes me pick up my pace, significantly.
Mile 13: Cramp goes from uncomfortable to downright crippling. It feels like a tiny animal has sunk its sharp little teeth into my gut, and the pain shoots up and down the entire right side of my torso. I stop completely and bend over. I start crying because this pain is ruining the end of my race, and THE END IS MY FAVORITE PART! You could argue that my entire 12 weeks of training is all intended to get me to this part, the end, the most exhilarating, impossible miles that make it all worthwhile. And here I was, blubbering like a baby on the side of the trail. I begin to walk again, and well-meaning runners try to encourage me with things like "C'mon!" and "Almost there!" I wanted to turn around and yell at them, "No, no, no! STOP THAT! I don't need that! I don't do this!" I try to run again, but it's more like this really pathetic, limpy jog.
Finish: We hit the last quarter-mile. All of a sudden we're surrounded cheering spectators. I can hear music and I know the end is right around the corner. I forget the pain for a minute or two and hit the finish in a full run. I'm filled with relief that I did not have to WALK across the finish line. Sure, I very nearly crumpled into a heaving heap four steps later, but I did not walk across the finish line.
Overall a decent race, but that ending ... boy, did that sting. And the pain in my side is still there today, so I'm thinking it might have been a mistake to push it. I should have stopped and walked right away, making sure it subsided before I picked up the pace. Save that for next time, I guess. Official results haven't been posted yet, but I'm pretty sure that despite the late setback, I improved on my last time by a minute or two. And I did get a cool medal, which I will display for you now:
I just got back from picking up my race packet, and that's my number! Right up there! I gotta tell you, though, seeing the huge Santa Cruz Half Marathon banner as I walked into the store made my stomach do a flip-flop. Also drained my chirpy confidence of a few days ago. But 1230, that's gotta be a good one, right? Could be much worse! 1230 is nice, and solid-sounding. And also, it's a good time to eat lunch, right? And what's better than lunchtime? Am I right?
This week has taken a steady nosedive for me, a me who is increasingly cranky, irritable and exhausted, and I'm pretty certain I know the reason why. And that reason has four legs, a corkscrew tail, and a penchant for planting slobbery kisses all over my face at 4 a.m.
I don't understand where it all went wrong. Chickenbone used to be just the best dog ever at night. So cuddly and quiet, sweetly sleeping in my arms until the morning alarm. He even does this adorable thing where he lays his head on my pillow, with the covers pulled up to his shoulders like some sort of hairy 13-inch human being. Often when I come home from running in the morning, I find him still sleeping exactly like that, side by side with Sal, the world's oddest couple snoring in unison.
But this week Chickens evidently decided that the middle of the night is no longer the best time to sleep. It is, in fact, the PERFECT time to play. So he tries to wake me up, first by using his voice. He has learned how to do this long, low, and slightly creepy rumble from deep down his throat that really scares the shit out of a person when they are in a dead sleep:
He takes a deep breath, and then it comes a little louder:
He tries several more times, laying there with his wet nose two inches from mine. I watch him with my eyes half-closed, because I want him to think it's not working. And this little standoff really would be comical, if it didn't make me want to stuff rags into his mouth.
When the noise doesn't do the trick, he gets physical, slowly raising one outstretched paw and placing it on my face. The movement is sweet and gentle, almost like he wants to lovingly stroke my cheek and lull me back to sleep. Except then claws sink into my skin and he swiftly rakes them downward, as if to shout, "HEY! WHITE GIRL! Did you NOT hear me telling you to wake up?!?!" And this really is painful, so at this point I open my eyes and smack him, hissing "NO! BAD CHICKENS! Very, VERY bad!" He replies by scratching my cheek again. I smack him. He scratches me. I smack. He scratches. He finds this game to be hilarious.
When I finally get pissed off enough to roll over and face the other way, he either (a) turns in the other direction and repeats the entire process with dad, or (b) hops off the bed and goes to the living room, where he sits in the middle of the floor and barks. The first time this happened, we leaped up and went out there to investigate. Oh, the benefit of the doubt we gave that hairy brat! "What is it, Chickens?!" we asked excitedly. "Do you hear burglars, boy? Perhaps some sort of domestic dispute? Maybe you have to poop? What is it, boy?! What?" But on nights two and three, I started to realize it was all part of the evil game. The game of Look At All The Fun We Can Have Chasing Each Other In The Dark!
Last night we wised up and resorted to something we haven't used since we crate-trained him: The Shaker. We learned about The Shaker from our PetSmart trainer. She taught us to put a handful of coins in a container, and rattle it wildly when Chickens starts a barking fit. It freaks him out, like there's some sort of scary noise-monster out there that will swoop down and eat him alive, so he hunkers down and gets real, real quiet. So last night when he started barking in the living room again, we shook our ASSES off. Sure enough, he got totally scared and came creeping back to the safety of the bed, where he snuggled down in the covers and went back to sleep. I don't know how we'll cope if The Shaker ever stops working, but I don't think buying a chainsaw is out of the question.
I frequently run with a little group of girlfriends, two of whom are doing the 10K portion of my race Sunday. This morning one of them made the mistake of asking me a single, simple question about races. For the next 20 minutes, the poor thing had to listen to me be a big fat blabbermouth about racing tips and running advice and a multitude of race-day do's and don'ts. God, it was annoying - who likes a know-it-all? But sometimes I can't help it. I just get so excited when I talk about this. And even though I have only been running a few years, I have built up a solid collection of tips. Here are some hints I picked up from other runners - or learned myself, often the hard way:
1. Chewing gum when you run will keep you from getting too thirsty. I prefer Orbit, either Original or Wintermint. Citrusmint is good, if you like the flavor of puke. Also, I take a couple of spare pieces on race days, because one time I got nervous and accidentally shot the little wad of gum right out of my mouth, like a bullet. It was really weird.
2. Take two ibuprofen before long runs. It'll help with the pain before it starts.
3. If it's possible, pick up your race number and packet the day before. Last thing you want before a race is to stand in a huge line (unless you need the porta-potty). Plus you'll usually get a big bag of free junk you won't want to carry around before or after.
4. Don't sweat it if you don't sleep well the night before. I never do. And several times, I have read that Scientific Studies have shown that how much you sleep the night before a race does not affect performance.
5. Fight the urge to gulp water at every single stop during a race. They'll have stands far more frequently than you actually need, and there are few things more unpleasant than running with too much liquid burbling around in your stomach. I personally force myself to skip at least every other water station. At LEAST.
6. If you start to get a cramp in your side, slow down a little and take very deep breaths through your nose. Crazy, exaggerated deep breaths. Really focus on pushing that air as deep into your gut as you can. I actually try to visualize the spot where the cramp is, and I mentally "aim" the gush of air right into that spot. If I do this for about a minute or so, right when the cramp begins, I can usually make it go away.
7. Sometimes they hand out little energy gel packets, or maybe you want to bring your own. In either case, do not - I repeat, DO NOT - eat them unless there is water nearby. That gel is the consistency of melty hot glue, and if you don't wash it down with water right away, the inside of your mouth will be a sticky, goopy mess. Not fun when you are already kinda thirsty.
8. Walk through water stops. It's a great excuse to slow down for a teeny break, and you won't spill all over yourself. Plus your legs will feel rejuvenated when you start back up again.
9. If you fear you'll be too cold at the start of the race, bring a crappy old sweatshirt or jacket, something you don't really care about. You can wear it while you're standing around waiting for the gun to go off, and by the time you reach the first water station when you are all warmed up, just peel it off and toss it into a trash can.
10. Use your brain. Over the years, I have compiled dozens of mental tricks to preoccupy myself during a tough run. Sometimes I sing songs in my head, trying to recall complete lyrics and using my feet to punch out the beat. Or I'll carefully study my surroundings, like enjoying the beautiful trees, the breathtaking skyline, or graffiti. My current favorite on a sidewalk in Los Gatos Creek Trail: "Fuck the coks." But my favorite way to pass the time is to think about the delicious meal I will enjoy after the run. I'll think about all the calories I'm burning, and how I can spend those calories on, say, a scrumptiously cheesy cheeseburger. I mean, I REALLY revel in this. I think about the greasy, stringy strips of bacon cloaked in melted cheddar cheese. Or the way my teeth will sink through the sesame seeds and into the toasty, warm bun. Or how the crisp, chilly lettuce will feel nestled in a biteful of piping hot ground beef. I absolutely let myself get lost in the yumminess of it all, and before I know it, HOLY CRAP! Look at all those miles I just ran! Seriously, nothing makes me want to get healthier than cheeseburgers.
And there you have it, 10 ways to make running suck less! Try one or two, and let me know if they work for you, too!
Turns out, having your condo on the market isn't all that fun. I mean, all right, one one hand, it can be quite exciting. QUITE. We have had three official offers, and with each I flew into a fit of glee and immediately began to plan which weekend we'd move into our new home (which, no, we have not purchased, nor even found yet), how soon I'd be able to lay in my hammock and sip homemade sangria during my very own backyard barbecue.
But for one reason or another, those offers fell through, which made me very mad at people I have never met. "Perfect stranger," I wondered, "How on god's green earth do you not want to give us $399K for this incredibly cool one-bedroom condo? Did you not gaze upon its beauty? Did you not understand its fabulousness? DID YOU NOT SEE THE BAR DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET?!? C'MON!!!!"
But this isn't even the worst part. The worst part is living with staging. "Staging" is one of many new words I have learned during this real-estate adventure, and like lots of those words, "staging" now scares the hell out of me. Here's how it began: To prepare to go on the market, we had to cart out a bunch of our personal stuff. Like 20 boxes of books, a bunch of junk from our closets, any object on any countertop, and even our kitchen table set and two bookcases. Make the place look roomier. Next, our agent came over with shopping bags full of things like pillows and rugs, colored vases, and a bowl filled with plastic limes. For two hours she blazed around our place like the tasmanian devil, straightening this, moving that, tucking away this, tilting that. Then the staging people came in and gave us a ridiculously impractical glass-top kitchen table, plus a "bistro set" on the patio. Then the cleaning team came in and scrubbed floorboards, appliances, countertops, everything. They made my kitchen sink look exactly the way I would imagine kitchen sinks in heaven. Pristine, white, sparkly, divine. When I came home from work that night, I was flabbergasted at how perfect everything looked.
And my husband, my mother, or anybody else who ever lived with me, they all know this is the part of the story where euphoria overloads my circuits to the point that I actually pass out. You see, I am a bit of a "neat freak." (By the way, I loathe that term, though not as much as I loathe "anal retentive.") If I seem sensitive about this characterization, it's because I don't really see what the big deal is about hanging your blue shirts next to your other blue shirts, or using a towel to dry the inside of the bathroom sink. OK? I really don't. I like things neat, I like them tidy, I like them straightened out. So upon walking into a clutter-free house, where everything is just so, where every last corner is spic and span, waves of absolute joy washed over me.
Now, two weeks later? Oh dear god, make it stop. I mean, we basically have to keep the place perfect at all times, because you never know when an agent will want to bring over a client. Two weeks ago I would have told you this is my lifelong dream to end all lifelong dreams. But no! The pressure, it's too much! Apparently, I have a deep desire to stack piles of papers everywhere! Evidently, I enjoy cluttering the bathroom counter with makeup brushes and hair products! It appears I'm fond of leaving tennis shoes in the foyer, bras draped over the desk chair, and magazines on the back of the toilet! I NEVER KNEW! Nope, I never did, not until my ability to make a mess was taken from me. This discovery has rocked me to my very core. Everything has changed. I feel like I don't even know who I am anymore.
P.S. I'm pretty sure I can blame my husband for this. This is the same man who taught me that if you don't feel like folding clothes, just pop them back into the dryer. That a scrumptious dinner for two can be found at Taco Bell for under $7. That of course it's not silly to cook up a New York strip steak at midnight. BAD. INFLUENCE.
My very favorite blogger in the world, Dooce, has a great dog named Chuck who can balance things on his head. Today, when I showed him this picture, Sal raced excitedly to the cupboard and grabbed our new box of low-fat strawberry Pop-Tarts. Based on his glowering expression, which seems to say "Are you fucking kidding me with this?" I'm guessing Chickens does not have much of a future in balancing things on his head:
Since the beginning of February, I have been training for my second half-marathon. The race is in two weeks.
When I prepared for this distance the first time, the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon last October, I used this novice training schedule by Hal Higdon. This time I decided to try the intermediate plan, because, what the hell? And I really surprised myself, sticking to the schedule almost entirely. The cool thing about training for a half-marathon is you don't actually have to run 13 miles to get ready for the race. You only have to run, oh, perhaps 10. I really couldn't believe this at first. Other runners would be like, "No, seriously! Those last three miles are a cinch! It's the adrenaline!" Ha! A more absurd thing I could not imagine. My lone 10-mile run in the last training plan left me limping for days. Three miles ON TOP OF THAT will be a "cinch"?! But wow, were they right. The last three miles of that race were, in fact, my best miles. My most thrilling, unbelievable, holy-shit-I'm-actually-going-to-do-this miles.
Anyway, so my training was going great, I had already done two 10-mile runs, and next up was a 12. But then came the setbacks. It has been one thing after another, starting with putting our condo on the market a week ago. Preparing for that was this head-spinning whirlwind of boxes and cleaners and staging and inspections and painting and moving and about a million other tasks and appointments that wiped out most of a full week of training. I figured that would be fairly easy to make up, but then I got an awful cold and didn't run for another week. Two weeks without running this close to the race? Not good.
Yesterday, the training plan called for my final long run. The timing of this one - two weeks out - is really important, because on race day you want your body to be as rested and recovered as possible. If I didn't do this run, it would mean I hadn't logged a long run for a MONTH before race day. All week I fretted about this, wondering if I should just drop out and try again some other time. This might seem loserish of me, but I would seriously rather not run a race at all than run one unprepared. So I told myself I would take a little test. Even though I was still coughing and congested from my cold, I would try to run 10 miles. If I can do that under those circumstances, I would do the race. So off I went.
How did it go? Ahhh, not well. In fact, it was godawful. I'll even go so far as to call it my most excruciating run ever - and, friend, I have had some bad ones. Let me back up a little, because it is important to note that I spent Saturday night in a decidedly non-healthy, non-athletic manner: My husband and I scarfed down lots of greasy pizza and beer before going to a midnight showing of "Grindhouse." Plopped into bed at nearly 4 a.m., exhausted and wishing I hadn't stuffed down those last six Red Vines. So when I hit the trail Sunday afternoon, I was already completely wasted. The first five miles were OK, but Miles 6 and 7 were .... uncomfortable. The sun was beating down on me. My lower back was starting to ache, as did my feet. My nose was running, and I didn't have any tissue, so at one point I actually considered doing one of those pinch-one-nostril shots into the grass. Which is nuts, since I am quite ladylike.
Oh, the misery! The pain grew worse through Miles 8 and 9, the soreness in my feet growing from dull ache to fiery throbbing, and during Mile 10, I actually heard myself emit repeated grunts and yelps as I dragged my sorry ass to the finish.
But, that last word there, it's important. I finished. God almighty, I hated every step of it. Every step a struggle, every step a fresh burst of pain and suffering. But today? Oh MAN, I'm excited. I freakin' did it! Under all of those rotten circumstances! When the odds were so entirely stacked against me! In two weeks, at the Santa Cruz Half Marathon, they won't be. And I can't wait to see how that feels.
My last post reminded me of something I hadn't thought about in ages. When I was a little kid, maybe second or third grade, we put on an anti-drug play at our school. Part of the program was this "Just Say No" rap. There were eight kids in the rap, and we were split into two groups that stood on the stage behind two microphones. Each pair of kids took turns rapping to each other, and then you'd go to the back of the line and the next two rappers would come up.
At first I was super-nervous because I was paired with this boy named Tamon who was freakishly tall (though now that I think about it, what IS "freakishly tall" when you are a second-grader? 5-1?) but I had a crush on him anyway, and I was afraid he would think I was a bad rapper. But then at the last minute they switched me so that I was rapping with a girl, which I thought kind of sucked. I also remember that I wore my best sunday school dress the day of the performance, which doesn't seem very rappy at all.
Anyway, I can remember some of the lyrics. This was my part, which I had to rap into the pinky-and-thumb-extended hand "phone" held up to my face:
"Hey, Pam! Yo! This is Sue! I got some pretty hot news for you! Did you hear what happened at the prom last night? Some kids, they got into an awful fight! I heard they were drinking, and using drugs," (And then something that rhymes with drugs) (And then something else I can't remember) "I guess they didn't know that you can JUST! SAY! NO!"
That last part, the JUST! SAY! NO!, we were all supposed to yell really loud. Also, you were supposed to get into the rap physically, by snapping your fingers or swinging your hips. Way cool. But seriously, what is that missing part? What the hell rhymes with "drugs" that could possibly make sense here? I guess I could think of some possibilities for the missing lyrics, though very few of them would be appropriate for little children to rap.
Today I learned that when you are really sick, long after you have exhausted the comforting effects of nyquil, of cherry cough drops and pajamas and kleenex with aloe, pretty much the only thing that makes you feel better is stumbling across E!'s "True Hollywood Story: Saved By The Bell."
Seriously, how can you NOT be delighted by the memory of this toe-tapper:
(Rapped) Kelly: “Mirror, mirror from the mall, who’s the awesomest of them all?" Lisa: “Brace yourself queenie, this news is bad, Snow White is now a lot more rad."
But then your husband e-mails you an adorable picture of your sleeping little puppy, and that makes you feel a little better, because he is so damned cute all snuggled up in his blanket (which he pulled over his body all by himself, using his teeth - his TEETH!), and also because you can use it to stop being a lame-ass who doesn't give her three cherished and loyal blog readers anything new to look at in almost a week: