Funny how much can change in a year…or a month in my case!

About 4 days after my last post I packed up all my clothes (and my bike) into my 17 year old vehicle with only the promise of 2 job interviews and confirmation from friends that I had a room to stay in and drove for 2 days back to IL. There was a time at the end of the first day I wasn’t sure the truck would make it, but like me, it’s pretty tough and it started back up the next morning and got me here.  So I got to experience a gorgeous fall again and reunite with friends that have become family. I’ve had several really good interviews, but so far jobs keep falling through for me. In any case, it’s still more interest than I had in Texas and I have another interview on Monday and more interest for another position and another possible interview. My old boss has also spoken with me about a new position there, but for various reasons, I’m very hesitant about it.

I can honestly say that a year after I left and even though I’m still stressed about not working, I think the crazy risk of driving across the country again was the right choice for me. Things aren’t perfect, but I’m happier than I’ve been all year. This weekend I have a 10k that I was sad to miss last year a week after I moved. I’m super excited to run with my old running group again. This race is traditionally a really fun time and I don’t even care about my time…I’m just happy that I can do it.

I’ve heard frequently in the last month that I’m brave and that people don’t think they could have done what I did. My furniture is all still at my mom’s place in Texas and I kinda feel like I’m a nomad drifting around right now. It’s a bit strange, but it was something I had to do. I was so depressed and unhappy that I just had to make a change. I may fall flat on my face again, but I’ve done that before and survived. Maybe I’ll end up failing again and driving back to Texas but I don’t think I will. I don’t feel brave at all…I feel slightly crazy and that it was my only option.

I’m not completely sure things will work out for me, but at least I feel better now. I don’t dread weekends anymore. I don’t feel so trapped. And I’ve got some hope again…so that’s something…

September was a crazy month. I can honestly say it has been (for the most part) better than the rest of 2011 has been but it was crazy nonetheless.

My ancient laptop finally breathed groaned its last, and my mom insisted on buying me a new one. So here I am. It’s all new and shiny and after 8 years of old Microsoft products, the new ones are confusing the heck outta me but I’m learning. I’m also learning to accept help, which is hard for this “I can do it all myself” girl.

In the new laptop process, I lost my wordpress password (it was saved in my old laptop!) and I couldn’t log in for a while. I also lost my google login and so haven’t been reading blogs. Oh and I worked a miserable temp job for 2 weeks where I had no internet access and between work and Houston traffic hell, spent 11 hours away out of the house. The people in the office were great. The job was the most boring thing ever. And I re-affirmed how much I truly hate Houston and it’s traffic mess.

Last Weds I returned from another week in Illinois and from being a bridesmaid in quite literally THE most fun wedding I’ve ever been to. The wedding was perfect, the crowd was perfect, the weather was perfect and I absolutely did not want to go back to Texas. There are just so many people in Illinois that blow me away with their kindness and friendship. Somehow it became my other home over the 3+ years I lived there and I’m hoping and praying I’ll be able to move back soon. As in…this month. One year from when I made the mistake of moving back to Texas into my mom’s house with no job and started the worst year of my life. I have been told that no one would be surprised if I showed up to cheer on my friend B as she runs her very first marathon in Chicago this weekend. After all, I’m the girl that randomly decided to move across the country with 2 weeks notice a year ago. I could see myself driving across the country again very soon.

Besides…October IS my favorite month in Illinois… ;)

I really don’t have anything to blog about today and I don’t feel like being sad and negative, so I’m stealing an idea from Amber, who stole it from someone else. Because obviously fun ideas should be stolen shared!

What are you really good at? What are you really bad at?

I’m really good at: math, motivating people to run, being a loyal friend. I’m really bad at: talking on the phone (hate it), sales, forgiving myself (I’m trying), opening up when I really need to, cooking (sadly), figuring out what I want to be when I grow up!

Have you ever been in a car accident? What happened?

Two major ones within a month of each other…and neither was my fault! In Feb 2009 while on my way from Houston to New Orleans to visit my brother for Mardi Gras (and 7 weeks away from what was supposed to be my first half marathon), I was a passenger in a car that was sideswiped and run off the road and into the concrete median of the interstate. I broke my leg, my rental car was totaled. The semi driver never stopped and was never caught.

Then in March I was driving home from work (in a cast-I know that sounds ridiculous but it was a small town with minimal traffic and I had no choice but to drive since I lived alone) and several blocks from my house a car ran a stop sign and tried very hard to T-Bone me. I sped up and swerved to avoid the collision, but it was rainy and I skidded on the pavement into a parked truck, spun around, jumped the curb of the house across the street and stopped when my car hit the porch of that house. I wasn’t hurt, but my car was totaled. I was successful in avoiding the stop sign runner, but he didn’t stop and despite a very detailed description (you remember the car coming at you pretty well), like the semi driver, this one was never caught. The cast had nothing to do with it…if anything it should have slowed my reaction time and I would have been T-boned! Oh and the house had no damage-I had slowed down enough by then that I didn’t hit it very hard.

Needless to say I had some serious driving fears for a while after those incidents!

Why did you attend your college?

I started out at a small, liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, but after 1.5 years, I transferred to Texas A&M. The PA school just wasn’t right for me although I had a great group of friends and the traditions and atmosphere at A&M when I visited a friend won me over.

Describe your morning routine today.

I really don’t have much of a routine since I don’t have a job and my half-marathon training is over. Today I got up about 7:15, had coffee and checked email and then got on my bike for a 20 miler.

Have you ever snooped through someone else’s things? Did you find anything interesting?

I’m pretty sure I have at some point but since I can’t remember any specific time I guess I didn’t find anything interesting!

What do you think happens when you die?

I honestly don’t really know. I’m pretty sure something happens but what I’m not sure. I was raised Catholic, but I am not practicing and definitely don’t agree with all of catholicism. I’m more spiritual. And I really hope karma exists. *ahem drivers who don’t stop when they cause accidents*

Are you superstitious?

Somewhat. If I notice 11:11, I make a wish and I’ve also wished on stars but I don’t really care if a black cat crosses my path or anything (I’d probably just pet it).

Do people think you are younger or older than you actually are?

Younger. I actually got carded multiple times in January when I was in WI/IL and it was rather ridiculous since I had just gotten my Texas license after moving. Texas gives you a “temporary” paper license for about a month until you get the “real” one in the mail, so all I had was this piece of paper. So I had to show my passport to prove that I was indeed, old enough to drink because who believes a piece of paper license? But at 29, I was totally OK with that.

How did your parents’ relationship influence you?

Oh geez. More than I knew. My dad was rarely ever around and my mom raised my brother and me. They were married, he just lived in an apartment in another part of the city and he rarely came home. They finally divorced about a year and a half ago. Very strange, I know. But it was normal to me and I didn’t think much about it until recently when he became ill and I realized how much it hurt that my dad was never there and only really contacted us if he needed something. I’ve realized how important communication is in a relationship and I’ve realized that I have issues with fearing people (guys I date especially) are going to leave me. Lovely, isn’t it?

However I have also realized that despite our differences in personality, my mother is a living saint and an amazing, strong woman.

What were the three happiest moments of your life?

Finally finishing my first half-marathon, almost exactly a year after the wreck ended my previous attempt and feeling like I overcame something huge. My brother’s wedding. And I’m going to cheat on the third one and say any of the every other year family reunions with mom’s side of the family.

 

Well that was fun! Anyone else want to play?

Have you ever been in a place so low that you don’t know if you’re ever going to be happy again? Something happened yesterday that I don’t want to talk about but I think it might be the last straw that breaks me. I don’t know how much one person is supposed to have to take in one year. I find myself unable to eat. I was unable to sleep last night. I got on my bike this morning in an attempt to work myself out of the mood despite the fact that I still have some major rib and back pains and found myself sobbing for most of a 20 mile bike ride. I’m that girl.

I’m reading The Help right now after seeing the movie last week (both are excellent). Yesterday I came across a line that went straight to my heart because it’s exactly how I feel:

I’ve been dropped off in a place I do not belong anymore. ~Skeeter

I’m afraid that I’ll never find a place where I truly do belong. And I’m so very tired of choosing the wrong path. And scared that I’ll be lost forever.

I work out pretty much every day. I know that rest days are essential, but to me a “rest” day might involve yoga and a bike ride. I just don’t feel right unless I do something active. Plus working out puts my mind in a much better place and Lord knows my mind has been in some scary, dark places lately.

I find that when I take a true rest day and don’t do any kind of workout, I have a hard time regulating what I eat. You would think that I would think “OK self, since we’re not burning any calories, we need to eat less today.” You would be wrong. Instead my brain is like “Free day! Woo! Carbs! Sweets! Nom!” When I work out, there is a voice that says “Good job, lady! Now let’s not counteract the good you did by eating crap!”

This is what happened yesterday. True to my word I did not work out. I knew I needed to rest: there was a sharp pain shooting through my back and chest every time I sneezed! So I rested. And I ate. Way too many carbs and way too much sugar. That’s gonna help me lose that 5lbs in the next month!

Today I felt less like my chest is being ripped apart so I attempted some lower intensity kickboxing. I discovered that I can jump and kick and do pretty much as long as I don’t twist or bend my spine too much or attempt to use my chest or upper back muscles. Good to know. I think this may also mean I can run. I guess we’ll see how I feel tomorrow though.

This also means that so far today (it’s 3:30pm) I’ve done an excellent job at eating right. Now that I’m typing this I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to eat well today so as to not make myself a bloggy liar.

I realize my attitude towards food isn’t completely healthy. I have a tendency to binge and sneak food (who am I cheating? Just me!) and when I am being diligent and logging what I eat I tend to under eat: “Oh look how good I am – UNDER my calorie goal for the day!”

I also realize that this is probably the main reason why I’m currently 12 lbs above my goal weight. Well, that and stress. Lord knows this year has been stressful to the extreme. Stress and boredom: not a good combination. Even when you DO spend hours a day working out.

Does anyone else have similar issues? Do you let yourself feel like an awesome or horrible person depending on how well you ate that day? Does your mood also reflect what you ate? And on a completely unrelated note, anyone have a good (cheap) laptop recommendation? As I’ve mentioned before, mine is on its deathbed and with 10 months of no income as well as more car repairs during that time than should be allowed, my “new laptop fund” isn’t exactly impressive. Or there at all.

Happy weekend to everyone. The last one of August! Thank God! Maybe this heat will start to subside!

I’ve been pretty busy the last couple weeks!

If it wasn’t clear from my last post, my Illinois trip was amazing! I saw tons of friends (both old coworkers and running friends) and EVERYONE wanted me to stay.  From the time my flight arrived (“It’s 20 degrees cooler! The grass is green! There’s WATER in the rivers!”) I barely stopped going.  My first night I met up with about 9 old coworkers and caught up with everyone.  The next day I did a 2 mile shakeout run with B.  The temperature was about 62, which it hasn’t been since maybe early April in Houston. Then we went hiking with her girls and had a picnic and then went to watch a local 5k. SO fun being with my old running club again. This race was actually my first one back after I broke my leg in 2009 so I really wanted to run it but knew I should save my legs. Everyone brought food and drinks so we had a cookout in the park after the race followed by a later meetup at a favorite local bar. Where I ran into more people I knew. It really felt like coming home even though I only lived there for 3.5 years!

Saturday B & I got up (despite staying out tll 2am) and stumbled the mile to the start of another local 5k to cheer on runners. There I ran into even more people I knew. I can’t even describe how awesome it was to see everyone. After that we headed back to the house and packed up for Chicago. Thanks to a major traffic jam where we barely moved for an hour, we made it to the expo about 20 minutes before it closed. Stressful! Then the 3 of us checked in our hotel, went out to eat and came back early to get ready for the race. Start time was 6:30am so we wanted to make it a really early night!

The race itself was awesome. Although no one’s Garmins worked correctly due to running through tunnels downtown, it was absolutely amazing to run Chicago city streets. I loved the whole thing. Even when it started to rain on and off. This girl hasn’t seen much rain all year so I was thinking “bring it on!” Plus it cooled us down. Not that it was even hot! My average pace for the race was about 90 seconds faster than I’ve run all summer. Proof that heat/humidity really do slow you down! I missed my PR by 4 minutes, but considering what I trained in, I was very happy with the result. I really enjoyed chatting with other runners and watching the spectators and taking in the city.

Bret Michaels (B’s FAVORITE) was supposed to play the after-show, but apparently he had the flu/dehydration and canceled. Sad day for B. But it was rainy anyways and sweat + rain = cold, so we opted for brunch in the city and then meeting up with a couple other friends for a drink and then going back to B’s house. Of course it didn’t rain at ALL there and the weather was perfect, so we lounged in the yard for a while before going for a bike ride to loosen up our legs.

I had 2 more days in Illinois and I spent them bike riding (21 miles the day after my half!), visiting my old work and having lunch with them and hanging out with B’s girls. It was so much fun and time flew! I also did a 4 mile run my last morning there because I knew it was the coolest running temps I was going to get for a while and I had to take advantage!

I did NOT want to come back to Houston. I realized how much I missed the small-town feel and all my friends there and I was literally in tears when I exited the airport in Houston for my mom to pick me up and walked out into the 90 degree weather at 11:30pm. Houston is really the wrong place for me. I’ve always known that but being stuck here without a job for the last 10 months has really cemented that. I need to escape.

Luckily I will escape again soon because my close friend and old coworker L asked me to be in her wedding in Sept. Long story, but another bridesmaid is pregnant and didn’t really want to be in the wedding and I really wanted to come back for it. So L and her fiance are flying me up in a month for that. So I came back to Houston with a bridesmaid dress in my luggage that is in serious need of alterations (the girl the dress was ordered for is bigger and WAY more well endowed than me). But I’m beyond excited about that and while I’m there I’m going to see about finding a temp job so I can move back to the area. 4 different people have said I can stay with them while I look for something and even my mom agrees I was much happier there than I am now.

Funny how a year ago I wanted to get back to Texas and now that I’m here I realize it was the wrong move for me. That’s typical of me though. Always learning lessons the hard way. I think the difference is that I’m really a small town girl at heart and the big city of Houston depresses me. Plus I made some fantastic friends there and although I have amazing friends in Texas too, they’re spread all over the state. As we all know, Texas is BIG, so I only get to see them a couple times a year.  Really no more than I did when I lived out of state. Not to mention that the running community in that part of Illinois is fantastic! I literally could have run 3 5ks and the half marathon while I was there. It’s such a friendly, supportive community that I just can’t find here.

Speaking of my Texas friends, last weekend was our annual River Trip, where we camp and float the river. So 2 days after getting back to Texas, I was packing up again for more days away (see a theme here? Me escaping Houston?) We usually float the Guadalupe but due to the drought, water levels were low so we floated the San Marcos. You would think camping 2 nights in 100+ degree weather would be awful. It was surprisingly not! First of all, that area is much less humid than Houston, so that helped. Then we staked out a camp site under trees.  And finally, the river is spring fed and COLD, so that cools things down quite a bit. Friday while we were waiting for people to get there (I was in the early crowd to get the tree-shaded site) we set our chairs in the river so we just hovered above water level and it was SO nice. With battery operated fans in the tents at night, it wasn’t bad to sleep in either. Although after 2 nights of no a/c, no showers and only porta-potties it was very nice to get a shower on Sunday when I got back to Houston.

River Trip was a great time as usual. We floated a group of around 15 and it was nice to reunite and relax together. I flew back for River Trip 2 of the 3 summers I was out of state (would have been all 3 had I not broken my leg and been in a boot one year!) and it’s always a highlight of the year. I may only see some of these friends once a year but we always pick up and have a great time like it was only yesterday we were last together.

Between the river, the rocks and the alcohol, someone always ends up with a river injury and this was my year. I really have no idea what I did but I was floating outside my tube on the last shallow, rocky section and got scraped against some rocks on my back so I’m guessing that’s where it happened. I either severely bruised or dislocated a rib or something because it hurts to breathe, cough, laugh, lay down and raise my right arm and the pain runs from the right center of my back around to the right center of my chest. Ow.

I ran 4 miles Monday morning and then did yoga which was a bad idea. Running didn’t hurt but the twisting and bending of yoga killed me. So I’m trying to take it easy but I’m missing working out! And I’d like to lose 5+ lbs before this wedding and not working out doesn’t help. I did do a Jillian Michaels workout yesterday after feeling less sore and now it’s worse again. Ugh.

So today I WILL NOT work out. I will be friends with my ice pack and ibuprofen and will relax. A neighbor lent me “The Help” to read and I just saw the movie last night (Fantastic! Go see it!) so I may just start that book. I haven’t read anything for fun since moving back because I felt that I should be spending that time job hunting and not reading for pleasure. Maybe some days it’s ok to take it easy. Especially days when there’s a mysterious sharp pain in your ribs!

Longer post to follow when I have a bit more time (and my laptop isn’t about 10 seconds behind my keystrokes) but the short version is this:

HALF MARATHON #5 IS DONE!

I missed my PR by about 4:something which annoyed me a bit because the Garmin kept losing its satellite and I thought I might have had a new PR, but I’m still very happy because not only did I run faster than I have in months but it also felt great for the first time all summer.  Loved the course.  Loved the weather (even though it rained it still felt good to me).  Loved the trip.

Apparently training in a Houston summer makes running a half in Chicago feel easy.

Despite what is almost definitely going to be the 10th day in a row of 100 degree temperatures and a slight red wine headache from drinking about half a bottle last night, I knocked out my final training run for the Chicago Rock & Roll half marathon this morning.  I only ran for 30 minutes but holy crap was it tough!  My Garmin unfortunately wasn’t cooperating and I had to hold it tightly to get the power to stay on.  Annoying.  Frustrating.  I’ve added another rubber band and am praying it works on Sunday.  Don’t die, Garmin!

I’m debating on getting up early and doing tae bo before my flight tomorrow.  But I have to leave at 8-8:30ish for the airport so I’m not sure if I will.  I was planning on doing a yoga DVD after I ran today but just as the DVD started, the power in the house went out and stayed out for about 45 minutes, which caused me to lose motivation and get tired of waiting in sweaty running clothes.  So I figured that wasn’t meant to be.  I’m very thankful it was only 45 minutes because the house was getting hot!  And I’m wondering if that was part of the rolling blackouts due to high power demand we’ve been hearing about.

I’m really trying to find a sense of peace with the way things in my life are right now.  I’ve been reviewing algebra (it’s been over 15 years since I took it and there are some major cobwebs. Also? 15 years?  Now I feel old!) the last few days because I think I may take the GMAT and go back to school.  I took a practice test and the math part made my head hurt!  I feel like maybe it’s time to do something else because over 9 months of applying for jobs and I have nothing to show for it.  Watching the economy continue to crash doesn’t make me feel any better.

Tomorrow at this time I’ll be about 1hr 45mins from landing in Chicago.  I can’t wait.

Lately I feel like my life and everything in it is held together by rubber bands and duct tape:

  • My ipod (which I generally use for training, but not races) went through the washer 3 days before my last half.  It (thanks be to rice!) works, but has a permanent watermark on the display (which no longer lights up) and I keep a rubber band around it because the top part likes to pop off.  Also I have sweated 3 pairs of earbuds to death this summer.  My last remaining “spare” pair is held together by duct tape.  And the sound isn’t quite right.
  • My 2 year old Garmin keeps popping apart.  It kept randomly dying when I was running or when I hit a bump when biking and I figured out the connection is no longer tight, probably from popping it on and off the bike mount and wrist strap.  I hot glued it back together, but that didn’t quite do the trick so I have a fat, purple rubber band around it now.  Which interferes with display visibility (annoying!), but at least it stays on!
  • My 8 year old (!) laptop is beyond description.  Let’s just say, it’s painfully slow and sounds very much like a jet engine trying to take off when I ask it to “think” too hard, has a key that has decided to be permanently pressed down (ironically it’s the down arrow key) and there may or may not be superglue holding pieces on.
  • My 17 year old vehicle just got a new alternator last week after dying while my mom was driving it.  Waiting an hour for a tow truck in an unshaded parking lot while wearing a black tshirt when it’s 100 degrees out isn’t fun, fyi.  Also,  the heat keeps melting the damn glue from the auto supply store and I go outside to find my rear view mirror dangling by the electrical cord of the lights on the mirror.  The a/c kind of works, but can’t keep up with Houston’s heat (but then what can?) so I still sweat when I’m in it.  And the dash developed some kind of leak, so last winter on the few days it got “cold”, the moisture caused the inside of the windshield to fog up.  Driving with the windows down and a/c blowing was the only way to keep enough visibility to see.  Not that Texas gets too cold, but driving with windows open at 45 degrees really isn’t pleasant.  And the perma-fog isn’t too safe!

We won’t even talk about the runner’s knee brace I usually wear (when it’s not falling off due to being sweat-soaked), the blister-related bandaids on my toes or the fact that I can’t really remember the last day I didn’t cry over something. I’m sure it was when I was in Indiana with my family.

Basically I have a lot of old, worn-out things that I can’t afford to replace.  And I feel like all that broken, worn down-ness represents my life right now too.  I don’t have a job.  Nowhere feels like “home” to me.  I feel like a permanent houseguest.  I’m still trying to figure out what I’m meant to do, what makes me happy and where I belong and I feel like I just need a road sign to tell me where to go.  Aren’t I supposed to have this figured out at 30?  In Garmin-speak: “satellite lost.”  Or maybe “recalculating.”

But enough of that.  I ran 5 miles yesterday and 30 minutes this morning.  In 3 days I’ll be back in Illinois and have lots of fun planned while I’m there.  In 6 days I’ll run my 5th half marathon.  As broken down as I feel, I can still run.  And for now that will have to be enough.

For the last week I’ve been throwing up the white flag on non-running days.  We’ve been above 100 degrees and under a heat advisory all week and I have just decided to let the heat win.  So instead of my 20ish mile bike rides on non-run days, I’ve been refusing to leave the house.  Seriously.  Not even to get the mail.  Just call me a hot weather hermit.  Besides…I’m tapering, right?

Bike sidenote: I seriously need some padded biking shorts or something.  I just ride in regular workout/running shorts and 20 miles on a bike makes me very saddle sore.  Add the heat/humidity factor and let’s just say “swamp ass.”  I know…TMI.  But really, anyone have any good biking shorts that will help me to not walk like a cowboy when I get off the bike?  My mom has been riding 2000 miles a year for nearly 10 years and she doesn’t have his issue despite riding in jean shorts.  Jean shorts!  I am amazed.  Buns of steel?  Perhaps.

Instead I’ve gone back to the DVD collection.  Today I did an hour of tae bo.  I was going to do one of the 7 Jillian Michaels DVDs I have after that but then mom started watching TV when she got home from work and there’s only one TV (well, there are 2, but the 2nd is in “dad’s room” and there’s no DVD player and I don’t have enough room to do anything in there) and it is her house so I skipped that one.  I think it’s ok though because I used my weighted gloves from kickboxing classes and I’m still ridiculously sore from a back to back tae bo/Ripped in 30 session I did on Thursday.  And like I said…I’m tapering!

I think it’s really funny that in Illinois I refused to go outside on the coldest days and in Texas I stay inside in the summer.  Maybe I need to move somewhere that is neither extreme?  Tennessee?  North Carolina?  Believe me, I’ve applied for jobs in both.  Actually I just got a real-life snail mail rejection for a job in South Carolina today.  They actually paid for a stamp to reject me!  Exciting!

I just got off the phone with B a few minutes ago.  There’s a lot going on in Illinois next weekend!  Pool party, cookout, 2 local 5ks (which I will be watching, not running…don’t wanna wear my legs out racing before a half) and of course, the half marathon and time in Chicago!  I really can’t wait to see everyone and let go of some of this tension that settles between my shoulders when I’ve been in Houston too long.  I’m going to get to see a lot of my Illinois running friends and that makes me happy.

At the same time I was talking to B, my mom was on the phone with my grandma.  She’s amazing and I want to be just like her when I grow up!  She’s full of life and spunk and is just wonderful.  She’ll be 88 in October and after 60 years, just got her kitchen remodeled.  It’s gorgeous!  No one deserves it more.  She’s also my godmother and she told my mom she wanted to pay for me to take the GMAT if I choose to do that.  Speechless.  And grateful.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

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Questions? Comments? Email me at: RunNikki (at) gmail (dot) com
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