Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pointless Points

If you've been hanging around here for a while, or if you know me at all, you surely know that I'm an expert procrastinator, I don't freak out when my house looks less-than-perfect, and I love running.  So, here I sit, procrastinating housework while writing about running (and etc.)
  • Running has seemed more like a chore than usual, lately.  I have some ideas why this is the case.
1. My dear sister/MIKR (most inspiring known runner) broke her foot.  It's not that I'm trying not to love running while she is unable to do anything involving foot use, but my heart hurts for her.  It's kinda like on every sitcom, ever, when the woman is in labor and the man who loves her has sympathy pains and ends up screaming along with her.  

24 hours post-break.  People who run 50+ miles per week get their toes cropped out of pictures.  You're welcome.
2. I have some non-sympathy pain of my own.  My *expletive* right *expletive* calf hurts something fierce--but only sometimes.  Usually, it's really bad when I start running, bearable after a mile or so, and eventually forgettable.  Sometimes, though, it hurts just to walk, or just to be a leg.  New "doctor" (she's actually an RNP but I don't like using that as a title) ordered an x-ray- inconclusive, a venous ultrasound- more on that in a moment, and an MRI- to be performed tomorrow.  My left ankle also hurts a lot, ever since I *expletive* fell backwards over the *expletive* concrete step on our *expletive* carport and knocked it.  I feel like such an old woman.  The Fall was almost 2 weeks ago, I don't have a bruise, yet every time I touch or move my left ankle, it hurts.  If you couldn't tell, pain makes me *expletive* angry.

3. It's hot.  I'm not complaining.  I would much rather deal with the sweltering heat for 9-10 months a year than snow and ice for any months, but it does make running outdoors much sweatier, stinkier, and slower.
  • I've been doing many more non-running workouts than ever before.  Just look at all my figures!
Cycling, yoga, dancing (that's what I call the Classical Stretch workouts I do), swimming, weights, & walking.
Swimming is fun, but I'm still terrible, and terribly slow, at it.  Cycling is also fun, but I find myself unable to push myself.  I'm always riding at an easy pace, which gets boring after not very long.  I love yoga, and I love working out with weights, and I love the 1/2 hour stretching workouts that I DVR.  I've also been keeping up with a 30-day planking challenge, using the Plank-A-Lot app.  I'm up to 90 seconds!
  • Every once in a while, I come up with something that I feel is quote-worthy.  Okay, so every once in a while, in this case, means twice.  Ever.  Here are the quotes that I wish others would use and attribute to me:
  • "The truth is the truth regardless of who believes it."
    - Know-it-all-Miss, 1995

    "It's not that I'm bad at keeping my house tidy, it's that I love the challenge of a well-designed obstacle course."
    -Know-it-all-Mrs, 2014

  • Did you know you can make a heating pad that works just as well as a store-bought electric one?  This is money-saving advice!  Unless you already own a heating pad, then you can skip to the next bullet. 
Step 1- Dampen a cloth (I use a hand towel) and fold it so that it fits inside a quart-sized ziploc bag.
Step 2- Keep the bag open and microwave for 1-1 1/2 minutes on high power.
Step 3- Remove the bag from the microwave with tongs, zip it closed, and wrap it in a dry hand towel.  

I wouldn't have expected a zipper plastic bag to retain heat so well, but it does.  It'll stay hot for at least an hour, or until you open the bag.
The instructions I read, though, say that you shouldn't use it for more than 20 minutes at a time because of the possibility of burning yourself.  Yeah, it's that hot!  And now that I've added that disclaimer, you can't sue me if you burn yourself on your homemade hot compress.
  • Why is she using a homemade heating pad? you may be wondering.  Well, it just so happens that there is more evidence of my old-lady-hood in my legs.  Remember the venous ultrasound the "doctor" ordered?  They say I have "varicose vein thrombosis" in my right leg.  I was told by the nurse to use a warm compress and elevate my leg for 10 minutes every few hours, and to take an aspirin or other NSAID every day.  The problem is that the Omniscient Google doesn't agree.  OG seems to think that there is no such thing as varicose vein thrombosis.  There is deep vein thrombosis, which is a pretty serious condition, and there is superficial thrombophlebitis, which is not at all serious and not supposed to be painful.  But, it wouldn't be like me at all to argue with a health professional, so I'm going along with the recommended course of action.  For now.
  • You know about that big scandal going on in the NBA right now, right?  It strikes me as odd that the last names of the two main guys being talked about are Sterling & Silver.  What do you think are the chances that I'm the only weirdo in America who has noticed that?
  • I'm back on Facebook after my 40 day break.  I've learned that Facebook, for me, is like driving a vanful of my friends' kids around.   I love my friends, and I do want to help them out by driving their kids, but they're just. so. loud.  They talk about boring stuff, they're all talking over each other and trying to outdo one another with their stupid stunts, they're distracting and sometimes outright rude, and yet, I can't just ignore them.  So now, I've backed off a bit on my carpool driver responsibilities.  And I sure do appreciate the quiet when all the kids are finally dropped off (at the pool-heh heh heh).
  • Rip Claw's first season of Flag Football ended last Saturday.  He is a talented, focused, and very driven player.  I think Charming and I are going to miss watching his games just as much as he is going to miss playing every weekend.  

I guess that's enough pointless drivel bullet points for now.  

Anybody want to place bets on whether or not my next MRI will reveal a stress fracture?

You got the Sterling/Silver thing, right?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

Do you ever wonder why nursery rhymes are practically eternal?  I do.  I ponder things like this a lot, actually.  I'm almost always in the thinking box shower, and I'll start thinking about "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" or whatever, and begin analyzing it like I'm going to have to write a report.
Who is saying 'baa baa'?  Is it the sheep?  Or is the sheep saying 'yes sir, yes sir'?  Is the sheep's name BaaBaa?  Maybe shepherds used to baa at their sheep to get them to give them wool.  I always thought black sheep were bad.  Maybe black sheep got a bad reputation because they never gave enough wool.  Are there even black sheep?  Well, there are albino humans, and albino rats, and albino dolphins, so maybe black sheep are like that.  Or maybe black sheep are dirty.  I wonder who wrote this rhyme.  Probably nobody did.  Probably someone said it to their daughter, and then she changed it a little to repeat to her kids, and it got changed over and over until someone wrote it down the way that their mom taught it to them, like the way my mom's Pat-a-cake version is different from the others, and then they got credit for it.  Is there a lesson in every nursery rhyme?  Like, even if you're dirty and rejected by your flock, you can still be a productive member of society?  Who is this 'little boy who lives down the lane' anyway?  Was the black sheep being charitable? 

But that's not what this is about.  This is about little girls, and society, and how disturbing it is that sex appeal is a marketing tool for selling things to children.

Oddly enough, it was an article in Allure magazine from October 2013 that made me-- you're not going to believe this-- think.  It was the only magazine in the exam room when I went for a check-up at the doctor a few weeks ago.  I usually wouldn't pick up a magazine like that, because all the beauty and celebrity worship is annoying, but you know how it is when you're waiting in a tiny, cold room without your Kindle.

The article was written by a mom, about dressing her 7 y.o. daughter for school.  The mom had painstakingly selected the daughter's wardrobe for all 7 years of her life, until one day, the daughter asked to choose her own clothes.  Dunh dunh dunh!  The mom was sleepless with anxiety over what her kid might decide to wear to school, and had discussions with her child about the importance of a sense of style and blah blah blah blarf blarf.  Spoiler alert!  The kid had good taste in clothes, and all was well down in Allure Author Alley.  I told Charming about the article that evening, and he readily shared my annoyance. My point was simple:  I've gone my entire life without a sense of style, and I turned out just fine.  I have never lost sleep over clothes!  The thought of placing so much value in material things (har har) is just mind-blowing to me.

There is a 'but' to this story, though.  The article's author talked a lot about how clothes for girls are so very much the same: Pink.  Purple.  Sparkly.  Princess-y.  It was important to her that her daughter find her own individuality, and not buy/wear just the things that every other little girl wears.  She chose to demonstrate the importance of individuality by taking her daughter to a vintage jewelry store and letting her select a brooch within her $13 budget.  I chose to lecture my 2 y.o. under my breath in Toys 'R' Us.  "No princesses.  You don't want to be a princess.  Smart is better than pretty, anyway.  Does this toy even teach you anything?  No.  It just sings about bows.  You know, in real life, not all princesses are pretty and sweet."  When it comes to clothing and toys designed for and marketed to girls, there are two adjectives that come immediately to mind:  Pink.  Alike.

You may have heard the stories about young girls recently protesting to big companies about gender stereotypes.  There's the teenager who convinced McDonald's to stop offering "girl" or "boy" toys, and the 7 y.o. who wrote to Lego about how lame the girl toys are.  I'm no activist.  I'm not even sure I know how to contact my Congressmanorwoman.  I can't say I don't care about women's rights or gender equality, because I do care.  I just never really considered doing anything about the problems until having a daughter of my own.
When 2-yr-old Cupcake looks at pictures like this, of her 8-day-old self, she squeals and says, "Aw!  Baby!  Cute!  Hugs!" and then tries desperately to hug the picture/computer screen/photo book.
For a couple of years, Rip Claw's favorite color was pink.  Not surprisingly, other kids eventually started questioning his choice.  When he asked me whether it was okay for boys to like pink, I said, "Of course it is.  Colors are colors.  They aren't for just boys or girls."  Eventually, pink moved down his list of favorites to second, then third, and now it's pretty far down the list, but I think it was a natural progression of changing preferences rather than peer pressure making him move green up and pink down.  Cupcake loves babies, and bunnies, and butterflies, and Minnie Mouse.  She also loves playing with Rip Claw's cars, putting stickers everywhere she can think of, throwing and catching any ball or object which looks like it may or may not be a ball, fweeping, fwimming, and fwinging (sweeping, swimming, and swinging).  "Look, Mommy!  Fwings!  I'll try it!"  She is particular about her clothes, and has been since before she turned one.  She likes when I fix her hair "pretty" so she 1. doesn't have her bangs in her eyes, 2. can "Show Daddy see mirror?" and 3. might get to see the "Picture?  See girl picture?"  She loves to sing, but her favorite song is not about bows, it's "Happy Birthday" with "Driving my Car" (her version pictured below) coming in a close second.

Don't ask me for the link to the song she's singing.  You'll be sorry if you do.
My point, which might be muddled by all the cute pictures and anecdotes, is simple.  I'm really sick of feeling forced to like/buy specific things for my girl and my boy.  I want options, and I want my kids to know that they have options.  Rip Claw doesn't have to look for toys in the "boy" section, and Cupcake shouldn't have to look just in the "girl" section.  Which brings me to another point, that "girl" stuff is. so. awful.  I mean, it's awful from a logical, realistic perspective, obviously.  It's cute stuff.  I remember loving the sound of dress-up plastic high-heeled princess shoes on the terrazzo floors of my childhood home, and I'm sure Cupcake would love it, too.  But why do we as a society think that we can tell our girls all their lives that they can be a Cheerleader- Popular! or a Princess- Pretty! or a Mom/Cleaning Lady- Look at how well this pooping, crying doll prepares you for real life!  Have a pink, practice vacuum cleaner! and then expect them to do well in science and math and go on to solve the world's problems?

I'm not the type to go looking for scapegoats, or to yell and shake my fist about Society!!! and expect things to change.  But give this a think, please.  Airplanes and cars are "boy" toys.  Only ~ 5% of pilots are females, and we all know how terrible I am women are at driving.  Female drivers are involved in over 68% of crashes and only, like 4 of those involved yours truly.  Boys are encouraged to build, perform experiments, save helpless girls, and fight for any or no reason with or without weapons.  Girls are encouraged to wear pink, look cute, get a boy, and rock out while wearing various hairpieces and tiny clothes.  Girls' creative toys are used to make jewelry or make-up.  Boys' creative toys are used to make other, useful, fun toys.  I can't be the only one who thinks this is a big problem.

Oh, and remember up there where I said this post was about sex appeal being used as a marketing tool?  Yeah.  Check out these then and now pictures of Strawberry Shortcake.

That isn't even the worst of it!  Have you seen these impossibly beautiful, completely unrealistically thin, large-breasted dolls that our girls are supposed to be able to dress for every situation?  I think they're called Barbara...no Barbie dolls.  What is this world coming to?

It's been happening for many years.  It's getting worse.  If we want anything to change, then we have to start doing things differently.  Don't buy anything pink or blue, ever.  Okay, maybe that's a bit too extreme.  If your son loves cars and construction trucks and making volcanoes, great!  But if he wants to make rubber band jewelry, play house in the kiddie kitchen, read Beverly Cleary's books about Ramona and Beezus, and watch "Cinderella," please support him in the same way.  There's nothing wrong with looking pretty, and there's nothing wrong with wanting your daughter to look pretty.  There is a problem when pretty trumps all, or anything else.  It isn't my place to tell you what toys or clothes to buy for your kids, but I would ask that you be aware of the advertisements, especially when they send the clear message that looks/sex appeal are so important, and why you're buying what you buy.  I, for one, don't want my daughter to dream of being a princess in a shining castle.  I want her to dream of ways she can change the world, and I want her to know that she doesn't need a Ken or a Kristoff (I'm telling you, I've been watching a lot of "Frozen" lately) or a unique fashion sense in order to fulfill her potential.  Girls can be rock stars without getting naked in public (seriously, Taylor Momsen) and girls can be pilots, architects, or builders while remaining sugary and nice.

If you decide not to buy a particular product because it reinforces restrictive gender stereotypes or is marketed in a way that you think is inappropriate, I hope you'll consider letting the manufacturer know why you chose to spend your money elsewhere.  With Twitter and Facebook, it's really easy to make your voice heard.  Plus, you can almost always find an email address on a company's website.  Send a short message saying, "I thought you should know that I decided not to buy xxxx for my daughter because I disagree with the limiting gender stereotype this product promotes.  I would like to see more products from your company that can be enjoyed by, and are marketed to, all children."  Or whatever.

What was your favorite childhood toy?

If I make up a nursery rhyme, can I count on you to repeat it to your kids and grandkids until it goes on until the end of time?

Monday, April 14, 2014

War. Huunh. What Is It Good For?

Perhaps the most useful advice I have ever offered is going to be in this post.  Brace yourselves, boys and girls, this is a goody.

You don't need to fight.  Be patient.  Think about your words.  Let go of your anger.  With few exceptions (which I will share in just a moment), I am a stellar example of peace and calm, so you can trust my experience with this.

First, the exceptions to my lover-not-a-fighter-ness.

  • The Wet Willie-  You know it.  Someone disgusting, immature, and usually male licks his finger and sticks it in your ear when your back is turned.  Spit= Gross.  Surprises in your ear= Gross.  The word 'earworm' makes me shudder.  For real, I just shuddered when I typed it.  The phrase, "I just want to put a bug in your ear about this" makes me want to barf.  I worked with a guy years ago who thought it was hilarious to give me wet willies at every opportunity.  After the first couple of times, I realized he thought I was just regular grossed out by it, so I took him aside and very calmly informed him that if he ever did it again, I would punch him in the face.  About a week later, at our company Christmas party, he licked his filthy finger with his putrescent tongue and shoved it in my ear.  I turned around and punched him in the face.  My only regret is that I didn't hit him harder.  He didn't speak to me much after that, but he also stopped the wet willieing.  Violence was the answer.
I'm not ruling out the possibility that "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" made me disturbingly phobic about things in my ears. 
  • The Drunk Friend-  Sometimes, it is possible to reason patiently with a wasted friend trying to drive home.  Sometimes, it isn't, and you have to take the car keys.  Sometimes, when you take the car keys, it makes the drunk friend angry.  When the drunk friend is angry, she might try to knock you down and wrestle the keys out of your hand.  On such occasions, it is then acceptable to fight back.  In my experience, the alcohol will numb the minor physical pain inflicted by (me) the sober friend, and by the next morning, only the hungover friend's pride will hurt.
  • The Deserved-It-  I was out with a guy I was dating.  He said something that I'm not going to share here, and I knocked him out of his chair and onto his back.  Trust me, he deserved it.  I was much younger then, and hadn't quite mastered the skills I'm about to describe, but even now, when I think about his words and my reaction, I know that I did the right thing.  
  • The Big Liar-  The year was 2004.  I was about to graduate from the University of Central Florida with my B.A. in Psychology.  It should go without saying that I had worked hard, for years, to obtain my degree.  A couple of other people at the restaurant where I worked were also graduating from college, and our manager was kind enough to buy us cards and congratulatory gifts.  The Big Liar asked where her gift was.  She claimed she was also graduating from UCF, earning a Civil Engineering degree.  My goodness.  I could write an entire post, just on this one story.  Short version is that she was lying, and it made me furious.  I didn't punch her or knock her down, physically, but I used my words to make sure everyone knew she was a big effing liar, and to make her sorry for her idiocy.  It's possible that I gave her nightmares.  I do kind-of regret a few of the mean things I said to her.  I'm sure her pathology ran deep and she had little control over her stupid, ridiculous lies, and I could have handled the situation better.
  • The Justifiably Annoyed- There are certainly times that I'm irritated by other drivers' actions, but I'm not a road rager, yeller, or even a horn honker.  Cupcake made me laugh a couple of times recently when we were in the car, and made me glad that I am careful with my words, even when I get cut off in traffic.  Each time I brake suddenly or sharply, she gets this (familiar) annoyed tone and says, "Really?  Really?  Uggghhh."  Could be so much worse!

While we're on that subject, here's another super cute thing our little Cupcake did recently to make me laugh:  As I was cleaning up the dinner dishes, she was playing in her little kitchen, banging around her mini pots and pans, making tea, etc.  She came up and handed me this
with the words, "Here guys.  Dinner time."

Anyway... Now that I've confessed, let's move on.  I feel that I am really quite good at conflict resolution, and many people I know are not, so it seems important that I give a little how-to.  When someone does or says something that makes you angry, you should follow these steps in order to calmly and peacefully manage the situation.
  • Step 1- Stop.  Emphasis on stop.  Seriously.  STOP.  Don't say anything, don't do anything.  Except breathe, of course.  Actually, breathe deeply.
  • Step 2- Think.  Think about what the other person is thinking.  No, don't say aloud, "What are you thinking?!?!?"  Think about whether or not the other person is actually an idiot.  I'm so serious about that.  If the answer is yes, your next step is different than if the answer is no.  
  • Step 3 (Yes, idiot)- Be the bigger person.  You don't need to prove how smart you are, or how angry you are, or how stupid the other person is.  Solve the problem if you can, if not, move on with your life.
  • Step 3 (No, not an idiot)-  Continue thinking.  Think about something the other person did that showed how smart, sensitive, cool, nice, non-idiotic he/she is.  Think about why that person is in your life.  Think about how you will wish you had handled the situation when you look back on it.  Think about your own flaws, as a reminder that nobody is perfect.  Force yourself to think about something else, for a while, and then think fresh, new thoughts.  Think about what you would want the other person to say to you, if your roles were reversed and you were the upset-er instead of the upset-ee.  This step may take a while.  Sometimes, it takes hours.  Also helpful during this step is to do some exercise.  Running helps me to think, but so does practicing yoga.  
  • Step 4- Talk to the person who made you angry.  Sometimes, it will be tempting after all those calming thoughts to skip straight to step 5, but in the long run, you'll be happy you addressed the issue.  Even if you're no longer seeing red, it will be beneficial for you to get all your thoughts out in the open, and it will help the other person to realize, recognize, or defend their words or actions that upset you.
  • Step 5- Let it go.  Come on, did you really think that wasn't going to be one of the steps?  I have never found pleasure, happiness, joy, or peace in stewing over a wrong that's been done.  Once you've explored the problem thoughtfully, and addressed it with the offender, drop it.  Think about it this way:  After I punched the wet willier, and he stopped delivering wet willies, would there have been any benefit if I had punched his face every time I saw him?  No.  Probably by the second time, and definitely by the third time I punched him, he would have hit me back.  I had gotten my point across to him, solved the problem, and if I hadn't then let it go, I likely would have gotten fist willied in my ear.
A couple of years ago, Charming and I were having trouble dealing with Rip Claw's tantrums.  He was 4 years old, and he would go off like a complete and utter maniac sometimes, usually when Charming wasn't around.  Something small would upset him, and he would react badly.  I would dole out a punishment, or yell at him for his bad behavior, and then it would spiral downward until he was screaming and flailing and hitting.  Not good.  

A day or so after one particularly bad episode, I sat him down and talked to him about why he thought he would get so out of control when he was upset.  His words struck me like an Ice Queen's magical icicle to the heart (sorry, just watched "Frozen").  
"I'm not mad at first, but then when you get mad at me, I have to get mad back at you.  It's like you want me to be more mad than you.  So I try to show you that I'm the maddest one."
Oof.  I think what he was trying to articulate, in his late toddler-hood way, was the truth that anger breeds anger.  Yelling leads to more yelling, not less.  Since that conversation, I've made a conscious effort to be calm, even when he or his sister is making me feel absolutely crazy.  It has definitely worked.  He hasn't had a maniac tantrum in over two years.  

So, there you go.  You're welcome.  Feel free to share with the United Nations and/or any warmongers you happen to know.

Ever been in a fight?  Regret it?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why I Love Chafing (And You Should, Too)!

This title is a little strange, I know.  I can't imagine there has ever been a person on Earth who loves chafing, and after last Saturday, I am even more of an anti-chafeite than ever before.  However, Shut Up + Run referred to a fun blog topic generator site the other day, and when I typed in the words on my mind after Saturday's half-marathon (running, chafe, motivation) this title was one that came up.  It made me snicker, and it made my mind wander to all sorts of weird places, so I decided to share it.  This is actually a race recap of what was originally going to be my 2nd 1st full marathon, but ended up being my 3rd 1/2.

First, the basics.  The course started at a place called The Casements in Ormond Beach, where I hear John D. Rockefeller used to live.  There were many beautiful houses along the shady, oak lined streets, the course was filled with friendly volunteers, paramedics on bikes, easy to see markings, and there were more than enough water stops (10 aid stations with gatorade, water, and gels [at one] for the half).  The buckets of rain stopped falling just after 6 a.m., which made for a nice mile walk from our hotel to the start line, but did not help the cone setter-uppers at all.  They couldn't start marking the course as early as planned because of the torrential downpour, so the race started nearly 30 minutes late.  Fortunately, the delay was communicated well, and not just to me, as a relative and friend of the people in charge.  I was really impressed with the organization of this race (again, I'm not just saying that because I'm related to and friends with the race managers).  As an inaugural race, with an inaugural distance for Volusia County, I know that the logistics and planning that went into pulling this off were huge.  Bag drop was easily accessible.  Communication was great.  There were 2 hidden port-o-lets without long lines.  Perfect start!

My training had kind-of fizzled after deciding for sure to switch from the full distance to the half.  Some of the reasons, which sound like excuses to me, but maybe not to you, follow:

  1. There was a lot of sickness in our household.
  2. I have some weird, pretty bad pain in my lower right leg that reminds me of last year's pre-stress fracture pain.  Same spot, different leg.  This pain isn't quite so just-one-spot-there-on-the-bone as when the bone was actually fractured, though.  New doctor ordered an x-ray to check for a stress fracture (sigh) and a venous ultrasound to check for insufficient circulation.  Supposed to follow up with results in a few weeks.
  3. We went out of town for a few days.
  4. March is full of birthdays for our family.  Celebrations don't plan themselves, you know.
Due to my laziness lack of training, injury, and the difficulty of the course, I made it my goal to finish proud.  I committed myself to not walking unless I absolutely had to, and to really giving my best.  

So much prettier on days you don't have to run over it twice.
My good friend/sister's sister-in-law, Kap, has also been dealing with an injury and not running very much, so she and I planned to stick together as long as possible.  I was feeling okay for the first couple of miles.  My leg pain was at a manageable, steady throb, and nothing else really hurt, except for my lungs as I climbed the bridge.  Kap was having a harder time.  She decided to make a pit stop at the second water station, just after the 3rd mile.  There was a small wait for the port-o-let, but I was still quite confident that she would catch up to me, so I didn't argue too much with her insistence that I continue running.  As I ran on alone(ish), I was able to enjoy the silly signs along the course, wave to the few spectators, and respond when people spoke to me.  It didn't occur to me until quite a bit later that I was probably only putting forth about 85% effort.  We turned into Tomoka State Park around mile 4, and then ran on the dirt road through the park for 27 years.

I said "dirt" but meant "mud."  Remember the morning's torrential downpour?  
Lots of Rain
+ The Road Made of Sand
Tiptoeing along the edge of the road with palm fronds slapping your shins

There were mud puddles that spanned the entire width of the road, and other spots where there were narrow paths between 6 or so smaller puddles.  Those were deceptively sticky.  I didn't witness any twisted ankles, but I did worry a lot.  I got to wave to my friend K as she passed after the turnaround, and then got to see Kap again after I had turned around.  Shortly after I turned to go back along the mud road, my mental strength started showing its, well, lack of strength.  
I should walk now.
Not yet.
Yeah.  I should walk now.
Kap shouldn't see me walking.
Kap should see me walking.
There's no reason to walk.
I said I was going to be proud!
But this leg pain...
Ok.  I won't walk until I see Kap.
There she is!  I don't think she's looking.  Walk.
I can still run.
But walking...walking is so nice.
I'll run until the 8 mile mark.
Or maybe the mile markers are off?  It's probably been 8 miles already.

I gave in to the sissypants devil on my left shoulder and started ignoring the confident angel on my right shoulder before the 8th mile marker.  You know how they call it "breaking the seal" when you pee for the first time on a night of drinking?  Because once you go the first time, it's way harder to hold it?  That's how walking during a race is for me.  I broke the seal, and as we all know, seals don't just get unbroken.  

The graph above shows my pace throughout the race.  You can see how I started strong, and didn't even slow down too significantly when crossing the bridge the first time.  When Kap and I split up, I wasn't feeling upset or nervous or anxious about running without her.  At least, not consciously.  But, as the evidence above makes clear, I gradually slowed my pace from the moment we separated.  Oh, and can you point out where exactly I decided to walk for the first time?  I decided to run again, but each running interval grew shorter and shorter.  At one point, I saw an older couple out for a stroll.  They smiled at us as we passed, and I thought, "Walking is good exercise.  From now on, I'll just be a walker.  Lookit how happy they are!  I'm so miserable, and they're so happy.  Running is terrible.  I can go through the rest of my life without being a runner.  I'll just be happy to go outside to meander."  Just then, I noticed someone trying to back his car out of a driveway a few houses ahead.  Immediately, I engaged my Worst Case Scenario talent and thought, "Oh, great.  This guy isn't going to see me.  I'm going to get hit by this car and never be able to run again.  Mental image pops up of me, using a walker for the rest of my life. Okay, okay.  So maybe I'll want to run after this.  I'm sure I've enjoyed it before.  Does he see me?  He stopped for that guy ahead of me.  He's going.  I'm far away.  Now I'll probably fall off the bridge or something."
The thing is, I really wasn't in unbearable pain until very late in the race.  After each walk break, I would gingerly start to trot, and then realize that it actually felt better to run than to walk.  The biggest/only problem was in my *&$%#@! head.  My 11th and 12th miles were each over 14 minutes.  Granted, I did see the bridge during that time, and expended some extra energy to laugh.  It looked so.impossibly.far.

Legoland mini model of San Francisco.
The bridge seemed as far away as California from Florida, and as high as the Golden Gate.
Just before the bridge came into my view, I noticed how pretty the sunlight looked on the water, and how lovely it was to be outdoors.  Then, I saw the bridge and thought, "There is no way I can do that." I slowed to a walk, again, while I chuckled at the idea that anyone, even me, thought for a moment that I would be able to run to, and up, that bridge.  I started to run again, but my knee was hurting from ye ol' IT band issue, so I actually stopped and stretched in the grass for a minute.  Soon after I got back on the road, I saw my dear sister running toward me.  She had worked to set up the race since around 4 a.m. that day, and had already helped 2 other friends over the bridge and across the finish line before running over it again to meet me just before the 12th mile marker.  I was able to converse easily, which I know she must hate.  We walked through the last water stop, and then started up the bridge.  She got a little way ahead of me and told me to focus on her "dumb bun."  She meant the one in her hair.  I told her that I was going to focus instead on the Massachusetts shaped not-sweaty spot on her back.  I did walk on the bridge for about 10 seconds, but ran again when I realized that I didn't need to walk after all.  My 13th mile, over the impossible bridge pace was 3 minutes faster than either of the 2 miles just before I saw my sis.  See what I mean about my brain being the problem?  Maybe she's right, and I wouldn't have been able to speed up at the end if I hadn't walked so much between miles 8-12.  Or, maybe she just knows the right things to say to keep me from beating myself up.

Result: 2:29:40- my slowest half-marathon to date

You've heard "the mind is willing but the body is weak" (it's from the Bible, Matthew 26:40-43)?  Well, when it comes to my racing, the opposite is true.  Mental strength takes practice, discipline, and hard work.  I think it's also important to offer rewards, like chocolate, guilt-free bragging, or some extra time spent with a good book, for good mental behavior.  Starting a tough race without mental preparation is even more detrimental than neglecting to use Body Glide to prevent chafing of sensitive areas.  Trust me.

If you deserve to brag about your mental strength, do so here!  No guilt!