I’m Not Alone!!

Apparently I’m not the only nincompoop getting lost on the trails.

An excerpt from our Parks, Rec & Forestry Commission meeting minutes this week:

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If you can’t read that, it says that a committee member recommends that the trail staff assess the trails to see if they need route maps so users (aka wayward trail-users like myself) can note where we are and help us find our way.

No kidding. I wholeheartedly endorse this motion!

I also need to see when this committee meets next so that I can propose we name our trails and add route markers. I still think this is a good idea.

It Keeps You Running

The news I am about to report may seem a little far-fetched if you know me and my adoration for my annual workout.

I have now completed 7 out of 8 weeks of a Couch to 5K training program.

I am currently running about 2.25 miles without stopping, averaging about a 9’30” pace.

The journey here has been a fun one, for the most part. I, like so many claim, am not a natural-born runner. I hate getting hot. I hate being out of breath. I’m convinced I don’t sweat like I’m supposed to, my face instead turns bright red and puffy. Like all the sweat rushes to my pores, then says, “Nahhhhh” and just hangs out somewhere else.

My first run was ridiculous. I got lost. Stubbed my toe. (That toenail is black now, by the way. I’m official.) I had no running gear, so I basically looked like this, out on the road:

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But I kept going. Andy was right. I didn’t need to figure out how to plan my life around running. I just needed to plan my next run.

It took just one more run after that first one before I deemed my shoes unwearable. My feet grew a bit with each of my pregnancies, enough that my toes now rubbed the fronts of my shoes with each foot strike. A promise for more black toenails in the future. New shoes it was!

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I went to a schmancy running store this time… instead of the DSW like last time. Nothing wrong with the DSW, per se. I just had a problem to fix this time around, and I desired professional help.

Just a few weeks later – and tired of doing constant laundry to turn around my two running outfits – I bolstered my fitness clothes too. Now I definitely look the part.

Some things I’ve realized about myself during these 8 weeks.

  1. I really, really, really am a morning workout person. I would so rather get up at 5:45 am and be assured of getting my run in than try to find another random place to wedge it in during the day.
  2. Runners are crazy about data too! There is literally no end to the number of apps and contraptions you can download or buy to track just how your run is going. So, so many opportunities for data collection. I boot up two apps before I run. The C25K app – which tells me when to run and walk during the training session – and the MapMyRun app. I used to use Nike+. I don’t really know why I went looking for something else. MapMyRun tells me pace over splits (or pace per mile for each mile I’ve run) and also shows my pace across the elevation of my run route. Which…. how does it know??!

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  3. Wisconsin has HILLS TO PAY THE BILLS. Dear lord. But I think… no, I KNOW it’s making me a stronger runner. My pace at 7 weeks of training proves this to me. I’m a lot faster than I ever was in Dallas.
  4. My favorite thing about running is that I have more wiggle room in my diet. My true reason for being.
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  5. I love my new view. There is a nearby nature preserve that has hike/bike trails all around it. It’s a 4-mile loop. It’s my goal to run the whole thing as my regular workout. I think I’m capable of this.

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    It really does beat my old master-planned neighborhood sidewalks. As much as I liked them too.

    Although, if we’re being honest. I never had an issue getting lost in our old neighborhood. Just this past Saturday morning, I got so far out in our little nature conservancy I had to call Andy to come get me. YES, SERIOUSLY.

    First, I sort of miscalculated how long the main loop was in the first place. So there was problem #1.

    Also, there are a bunch of little offshoot trails. At our home nature preserve, Rock Springs, the trails had names. Big Oak, Prairie Path, etc. And on each trail marker, the arrows had the names of the trails on them. So you could, like, plan how long you wanted to be out, pick a corresponding trail, and then follow that trail around the park. Done and done.

    Our conservancy – being just a li-ttle more survivalist just has arrows on the path markers where the trail splits. As in: “You could go this way… or you could go this other way! Good luck, sucker! Maybe in Illinois you use cute names to help you get around, but this is Wisconsin. We don’t do that here. Also, try the cheese curds, they are delicious. Pending you get out of here alive.”

    And no, the trails are not marked on Apple Maps, and the forks in the road are like… a 25-degree angle difference, so to hell with your natural sense of direction too. My phone has battery issues, so it only lasts about 2 hours on a full charge. (Then it hangs at 1% battery for like 6 hours before dying at an unpredictable moment.)

    Basically, it’s not going to be long before the boys put out a missing person’s report on me after I fail to return home from a morning run. Some years later, they’ll find me, wandering the same [beautiful] trail, looking like my buddy here.

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And that’s all I have to say about that.

Journey of a Thousand Steps

I rang in 2014 ready for a fight. I didn’t make resolutions, I had resolve. I had a new FitBit, and I dusted off the MyFitnessPal app.

Now, I’m ten pounds lighter and wondering what’s next. Andy and I had a long talk last night. I want to start running again, but it seems like such a huge thing to take on. Too big. Andy channeled his inner Confuscius (apparently) told me “You don’t have to plan your life around running, you just have to plan your next run.”

So, tonight after I put Reid to bed, I threw on running clothes, grabbed my iPhone and set out. I started Day 1 of my Couch to 5K app and my Nike+ running app (uses GPS to tell me how far I’ve run – and how fast). I made it to the end of the block and pulled out my phone again to check the map. Our neighborhood is basically a couple of concentric circles with random connections.

I unlocked the phone, typed in my passcode and watched the phone promptly POWER ITSELF DOWN. Auuughh! “Alright,” I told myself, “[all evidence to the contrary] I’m not 100% reliant on technology.” So I decided to work my way around my neighborhood loop in a very easy run/walk pattern.

Except, I haven’t lived here that long. And it’s kinda wind-y. And it was dark. And yep…

I got lost. 

I had somehow wandered into an adjoining neighborhood. I got so lost trying to make a complete loop (one that, in my defense, requires a ton of switching of streets and 90-degree turns when you’re doing it right) that I eventually had to do an about face and run back.

Our little corner of suburbia is about as harmless as can be, but in my predicament I imagined that there was someone ready to spring out from behind every bush. And there I was – lost – running with a dead phone in my pocket.

I made it back to my neighborhood and breathed a sigh of relief. About mid-exhale, I tripped over and uneven part in the sidewalk and completely stubbed my right big toe. I limped home and wondered if my big toenail had seceded from the union. 

It didn’t. (But it does still hurt.) And I now have my first run behind me. For whatever it’s worth. 

And now, I get to plan my next one. :)

Debbie and Stephen’s Excellent Adventure

I’m here in Pennsylvania with a few of my colleagues. There are four of us, and we ended up renting two cars [to allow for a bit more flexible travel schedules.] As is the norm with my plant trips, we fly into a great metro airport, then drive an hour or more into the middle of nowhere. (Although I hear Jon & Kate, of ‘Plus 8′ fame, live very near here…)

We got off to a rocky start. Stephen, my lucky co-worker/passenger, and I loaded our suitcases into the car, a white Hyundai, got our GPS all rigged up and were about to pull out of our spot when we saw another businessman standing very near to the front of our car, holding his reservation ticket, looking very confused. Long story shorter, the two of us were told to go to the same parking spot, but were provided with two completely different car descriptions. His ended up being right, and Stephen and I unloaded our suitcases, hauled tail to the complete opposite end of the lot, where we were greeted by our new car: a cherry red Dodge Charger with 9 miles on the odometer. Up. Grade.

Stephen and I set out with my trusty GPS, Jenkins. We’re chatting along and realize suddenly that Jenkins had directed me to zig when I should’ve zagged. No biggie. A few mile detour, and we’re pointed back in the right direction. We pass through a toll gate, and I somehow take my next exit one exit too early. This gave Jenkins a seizure.

I’ve never seen my GPS react the way this one reacted. I think I finally took one wrong turn too many. And it’s too bad neither Stephen nor I had a camera handy, because the resulting “recalculation” had us turn three different cloverleaf-style exits onto three different highways. We had to drive 3 miles in the wrong direction, to loop around and drive 5 miles in the correct direction. At one point, Stephen pointed at the screen and said, “I’m not sure where he wants you to go.” I looked and, sure enough, instead of my one arrow directing me where to go on my purple route, I had multiple roads painted purple, with three arrows pointing in different directions. Two of those arrows were pointing at each other.

We sorted it out, sure enough, and all said, we only drove 22 miles out of our way to the hotel. ::snort::

Finally on a straightaway, we relaxed somewhat, until we saw “the thing” in the road. At first, it looked like a dead animal. Then, when I realized that the carnage was scattered in a 10′ x 10’ square in my lane, I thought it was an animal that had spontaneously exploded or was hit by a semi. It wasn’t until I was right up on “the thing” that I realized – too late – that “the thing” was a completely shattered wood pallet, with layers of shards of wood stakes and nails scattered in a thick layer across my lane. Too late to swerve without seriously compromising control of the car, I hit the brakes as reasonably as I could without, again, losing control of the car.

We crunched and rolled over that wood, hearing it kick up into our undercarriage, at a pretty good pace. I immediately started to smell a burning oil smell, and Stephen told me to find a widened shoulder and pull over so he could inspect the exterior. Good news was that we had no blow outs and no obvious damage to the underworkings of the car. Great news was that the oil smell went away as soon as the car ahead of us (who had also rolled over the wood) drove off. Miraculous news is that there are zero scratches or dings to the 9-miles-old Charger that the car rental company entrusted to us.

We finally made it to our hotel, in amazingly good spirits. As I rolled up to the hotel driveway, I started thanking my lucky stars at our good fortune. Stephen told me that it was right to do so, “but,” he said, “let’s wait and see if we don’t have four flat tires tomorrow morning.” So ended our adventure. We’re here!!

Update: We found out that only one of my tires was flat in the hotel parking lot this morning. Thankfully we had another car to take into work, and the rental company is sending out roadside assistance to change the tire before I get back to the hotel. Sweet.

Camera Progress (Alternate Title: How I Recovered from My Bonehead Move)

So I shipped my beloved camera to the wrong address, right? I tell myself that it was nothing any other blond in a major purchase situation wouldn’t do, but regardless, the object of my affection was still on a truck headed for an imaginary address. This is how I fixed it.

First, let’s call this Package 101. UPS (and FedEx, DHL, etc) is all digital these days. That means that every package you receive has a barcode on it. The barcode recalls all the information about the package that is stored on UPS’s database. When the UPS guy scans the barcode, all the package’s information pops up: the shipping address, the weight, the shipper’s name and address, etc. If you’ve ever tracked a package on UPS, you know that every time the package loads or unloads from a truck, it gets scanned, and, to boot, the truck makes one or two stops between the package’s origin and its destination. Takeaway from that last sentence? Your package’s barcode gets scanned several times along its route.

Alrighty, so Friday morning, after I realized that I’d given the camera company an imaginary shipping address, and after I saw that the package had already been shipped, I called the store’s customer service. I asked the customer service rep if he would please contact UPS and have them reroute the package to the correct address, which I promptly gave him. Andy assured me that they did this all the time at CDW. I felt pretty smart, to tell you the truth. I knew that not many consumers would be so savvy as to request a package reroute.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but we don’t do that. UPS has been known to lose packages that way.” What? “We have to recall the package back to us,” he continued, “and then reship it to you.” I was floored. But that was their policy, and the mistake had been mine, so I conceded and hung up.

I checked the package’s progress this morning. At this point, I was waiting for the UPS truck to hit Texas, so that they could send my camera back to New York, so they could send it back to Texas. All of a sudden, the thought of my camera traversing the United States several times started to really irritate me, so I hopped back on the phone to customer service with intentions of having them just ship me another camera while they wait for my original package to return to them.

Customer service rep #2 said, “I see here that they contacted UPS and rerouted your package to the correct shipping address.” I’m sorry? “Yes, we always try and reroute first, then if UPS can’t execute, they ship the package back here, and we resend it to you.” I tracked my package on the UPS website again. Sure enough, the package had just arrived at the sorting facility near here, and was still estimated to deliver tomorrow.

If you had trouble following these last few paragraphs on UPS cross-country shipping logistics, I’ll sum it up here: the problem was fixed, and I should be getting my camera, at my address, tomorrow – per the original estimated delivery date. Ohhhhh tomorrow can’t come soon enough.