Tuesday, May 6, 2014

First Week Of 10k Training

Subtitle: Oh, No, Not Another Running Post! because I know that's what you're thinking. Sorry. Other than this, there's not a whole lot going on in my life right now. 

I started off the week with a 45 minute timed run. It went badly. Very badly. I waited too long that morning to get started, and by the time I did it was nearly 80 degrees and the sun was high overhead. About 30 minutes in, I came down with chills. I had goosebumps all over my arms and legs, too. I pushed through—not terribly successfully, since I had to stop and walk about four times—but I pushed through for a total of 3.5 miles. 

Bounced right through my three weekday runs, because we went at 6 pm or later. Even if it's still hot, the sun isn't beating down on my head, which, apparently, is the problem. 

Then came Saturday, and I did it again. A 4 mi run at four in the afternoon. Once again, chills and goosebumps, even though my face looked and felt like an infrared bulb. I drank all the water in my hydration belt, stopped several times...nothing helped. So I kept telling myself it was all in my head, and I was never going to successfully run a 10k if I kept letting my brain tell my body what it could and couldn't do. 

Weeeeellll...apparently I shouldn't have. Thankfully, I found this out the easy way (Google) instead of the hard way (collapse) but chills and goosebumps are actually a sign of dehydration and imminent heat exhaustion. So, if you should ever experience this, stop running immediately, find shade, and rehydrate. Do not attempt to push through. Ahem. 

Now, of course, I have to figure out how the hell to run in direct sunlight. Because I don't know if you've noticed, but the sun? It comes up every day. And it stays up for, like, twelve to sixteen hours. Problematic. I don't know what to do. Salt tabs? Add Gatorade to my pre-run hydrate? At least I have eleven weeks to figure it out. Suggestions are welcome and appreciated!

On a positive note, I am incredibly grateful for whatever genetic quirk allows me to be this pale (like, just-buy-the-lightest-shade-of-makeup-without-even-trying-it-on pale) and still tan so incredibly well. Forgot my sunscreen, and yet, after almost an hour in the sun, I'm a relatively benign light golden-brown.

Total miles: 15.5. 

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The Importance Of Playlists

Some people can just run. No headphones, no music, just...go. I wish I could do that, but sadly, I can't. I need the distraction, otherwise I'll start thinking about my breathing and before you know it, I've psyched myself into hyperventilation. Plus, it helps to have something to think about other than "ohgodohgoditHURTS."

Up until a few months ago, though, it never occurred to me to use music as a tool for something other than distraction. That's when I stumbled upon the 150bpm playlists on Spotify. Here's the trick--if you sync your breathing and your stride with a song that has a 150bpm rhythm, you will run a 10 minute mile. Want to run a 9 minute mile? Then you want songs with a 160bpm rhythm. Having tried it, I can tell you it definitely works. 

I'm sure you don't have a few days to spare to sit and vet your playlist with a metronome; that's why there are websites like jog.fm. You can also search Spotify for "150bpm" and you will get a ton of playlists. 

Sometimes you need pacing, though, and then sometimes you need motivation. Times like my race last week, when I was pushing uphill in my last half-mile, skipping song after song in a desperate attempt to find one to carry me to the top, wasting precious breath cursing because I couldn't. Times like that you need a song that lifts you on a soaring chorus and drops you into a free fall, the kind of song that releases that chilly flood of dopamine that, for me, anyway, is just as effective as adrenaline. 

Below, I've posted my new 5k playlist. It's designed to play in order, escalating in intensity; I've broken the songs down into a hot sauce classification so you can see the steps. The more tired you are, the more kick you need. If you plan to make one of your own, though, this is my recommendation: don't just go for songs that are fast. Go for songs that make you feel something. Emotion is a powerful physical motivator. Just make sure the cumulative song lengths match approximately with your mile times. 

Mild (steady songs with a good beat, nothing fancy):

Ready Aim Fire—Imagine Dragons
Fire Breather—Laurel
Came Back Haunted—NIN

Medium (stepping up the beat as well as the emotion):

Locked Out Of Heaven—Bruno Mars
Trouble—Robots Don't Stop (aka Robot Koch)
Raise the Dead—Rachel Rabin

Muy Caliente (this is where the songs go that make you catch your breath. Go for the throat.):

Bottom of the River—Delta Rae
Everybody Wants To Rule The World—Lorde
Say Something—A Great Big World

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Race Day At The Zoo

This morning, I ran in The Great Ambulance Chase 5k. It benefitted Cetronia Ambulance (specifically, their community outreach and education program). It's a fabulous cause, but the real reason I chose this race is because it was at the Lehigh Valley Zoo!

"Petunia, do you have any change?" "No, sorry, all I have is a $20."

This is only my second race ever, but it's definitely my favorite. It was really well-organized, and the volunteers were so friendly. Also, the organizers get mad props from me, for giving us a poly-blend t-shirt we could actually run in! (Most of the time, you get a cotton tee, and cotton chafes when you get sweaty.)

It matched my pants better than the one I was wearing, so I decided to change. 

Public bathroom selfies are SOOO high-class. Also, it was freezing, and I got caught by a stranger trying to warm myself up under the hand dryer. Awkwaaaard. 

And the course! OMG, the course. It was the most beautiful run I've ever taken. The loop went through the wooded Trexler Game Preserve, all along the Jordan Creek, over footbridges and even a covered bridge (!). It finished up inside the zoo, with emus and ibex cheering you on through the last leg. Thanks in part to their help, I beat my previous PR by almost a minute. 

A friendly volunteer welcomed racers at the finish line (the girl was nice, too).

With the hard part over, I got to wander around the zoo a bit, so here are some assorted photos: 

^see the little baby goat she's feeding?
^Peregrine's looking like, "Dat ass!"

It was a superb day, and I give the event itself a 10/10. Highly recommend, and I'll be back next year!

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Google "clover mites," and you'll find out what's wrong with the world

Yesterday afternoon, I was weeding my front garden. I looked down and saw those teeny-tiny, bright red bugs running around on the concrete. You know the ones; I think I've heard them called "brick mites" before. Anyway, I realized I didn't know what they were actually called, so I Googled it. 

As you may have guessed from the title, they're called clover mites. They drink the sap from grass and other vegetation, but not enough to cause harm to the plants; in fact, high numbers of clover mites are a sign of a healthy lawn or garden. They don't bite or damage property; interestingly, it's impossible for them to infest a home, as some strange quirk of their physiology renders them unable to reproduce indoors. 

And, after telling me this, every single page Google returned told me how to kill these "nuisance pests."


Yeah. They don't hurt anything, they don't eat anything, and yet apparently they are classified as a nuisance because, when you squish them, their tiny scarlet bodies leave tiny scarlet stains. 

And that's what's wrong with the world today. If you can't figure out the metaphor, take a good, long look in the mirror, and consider that you may be part of the problem.  

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Swedish Lessons

As some of you know, I'm married to a Swede. Like, an actual Swede, direct from the country of Sweden.

One of the things that bugs me, though, is that, after almost twelve years of marriage, I don't speak any Swedish. I mean, other than parts of the body and a few curse words. That's just laziness on my part, I feel, and so I've been trying to learn. Well, I've been trying to learn for years, but it's only in the past three months or so that I've made any progress. I can now sometimes communicate in rudimentary, halting Swedish with my husband (which I often have to repeat several times, because my accent is atrocious) and through text message (much easier, since I can check the dictionary first!) I can even make (small, weak) jokes in Swedish. 

What's different this time? Well, I think it's because I've diversified my approach, by using a variety of apps and other resources, which I'm about to list for you. I generally try to do three of these per day. 

(Please note, I have an iPhone, so availability might be limited on other platforms)
• Babbel: Babbel has a number of language apps, three which are specifically geared toward Swedish. One is a vocab builder, one is a language/phrase course, and one is a Swedish/English dictionary. The vocab app is a little buggy, but all three apps are really great. I especially love the dictionary--it has all the curse words, too!
•Memrise: Just discovered this one a few weeks ago. Each small course only includes about three or four phrases, but they will be hammered into your head by the end. Good use of mnemonics, too, and a great review program. My only complaint is that the Swedish courses are very limited, and I'm already getting close to the end!

Podcasts are great, especially if you're like me and have really crappy verbal recognition. I personally like Swedish Survival Phrases and SwedishPod101. Swedish Survival Phrases is my favorite; SwedishPod101 has a lot of fluff and is constantly bugging me to buy their shit.

Social Media: One plentiful resource I didn't expect is social media, especially Tumblr and Pinterest, though Twitter's pretty okay, too. Search tags on the language of your choice and I guarantee you'll come up with a lot of surprising gems.  

Books/Newspapers: A quick Google search will easily yield you several online news sources in the language of your choice. Try translating just the first paragraph or two of each day's top headline. 
It's also remarkably easy to find children's books in other languages uploaded in .pdf form to free international libraries. Just make sure they aren't pirated sources. Also, steer clear of books in verse, especially if you're a beginner—as in English, the author may have used less commonly used words, or changed the typical word order, to make the story rhyme. 
Another way to use books is to find the translation of your very favorite, well-read book. I actually managed to score Harry Potter 1-6 in Swedish on eBay a few years back. My first crack at it went pretty well, but that kind of heavy translation is time-consuming and headache-inducing, so I've set it aside, and will return to it when I build my vocab a little further. 

Well, those are my tips for language learning. Lycka till!

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The Week In Review (4/29-5/6)

Now that I've discovered I can write halfway-decent blogs on my phone, there really isn't any excuse, is there? I guess I just feel like I'm boring. Ah well, lovelies. Prepare to be bored, I guess?

What I Watched: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. I didn't think much of the first movie, since it was a badly mutilated carcass of the book, but enough time has passed since I read the books now that I could watch this movie without worries. Good flick, and Nathan Fillion's cameo was, as always, dee-vine. 

What I Read: The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I waited for a while on this one—for some reason, Barnes's books are always either hit or extreme miss for me—but this one was a definite hit. I also started from the beginning on Cassandra Clare's TMI series, since the last one comes out at the end of the month (squee!).

What I Did: Ran a lot, as usual, though a bit slower, since hubby is trying to get back into it with me after taking the entire fall/winter off. Going forward, though, the schedule should be interesting; I'm taking almost all of next week off in prep for my 5k on Saturday, and then the following week I start my 10k training. 
On that subject, has anyone used the Coach function on Nike+? The convenience is very attractive, but six weeks seems a little accelerated! I know comments don't always work here for some reason, so please feel free to leave a response on my Facebook page (link at the bottom!)

I guess the good news is that this post has given me several ideas for other posts, so check back in soon for more on the progress of my Swedish lessons and other running-related stuff. See you soon!

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bullshit Prevention Protocol

I love this with all my heart. I wish I could surround it in blinking neon lights. If I had my way, this would be on every cereal box in America. More importantly, it would be a daily pop-up on every social media website. 

I borrowed the above from this blog post: 
http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2014/04/29/the-pocket-guide-to-bullshit-prevention/, which you should check out; it's an intelligent, quick read. However, the original article is geared toward journalism; I'd like to look at how it applies to misinformation in social media. 

1. Who is telling me this? If you know the person in real life, consider their personal politics and views. Is it possible they believe the link or story without question because it falls easily in line with their beliefs?
If you don't know them personally, take a few minutes to scroll back through their feed. Seeing a lot of suspicious activity? ("Obama is a secret Muslim!") You can probably consider the case closed. 

2. How does s/he know this? What if this person seems pretty level-headed, though? Well, now it's time to consider their source. If they've shared a link, click through (provided your virus software is up-to-date, of course). What do you see? A blog with a somewhat canted title ("liberalsarescum.com")? Misspellings and grammatical errors? Lots of declarations, but no bibliographical links or attributions? Big ol' red flags, folks. Click away and think cleansing thoughts. 

3. Given #1 and #2, is it possible that s/he is wrong? So, you've screened the source individual, and the article looks pretty legit. The writer has lots of supporting links and a fair command of the English language. Now what?
Now we look closer. Click those supporting links and read on. Yesterday, I read a blog post on the dangers of vaccination which actually debunked itself with its own links. Because the writer didn't understand the science behind vaccines and how they work (specifically, the difference between "live" vaccines and "attenuated live" vaccines) and wasn't a terribly careful reader (due to recent travel, the possibility of "wild" virus infection in the child studied could not be ruled out by researchers) the post turned out to be an alarmist bushel of baloney, based on misunderstanding. 
Oh, and by the way...I didn't know the difference between "live" and "attenuated live" either. But, when I found a phrase I wasn't familiar with, I Googled it. 

4. If answer to #3 is yes, find another source. Which brings me to my favorite part ...Google. If you are reading this, you are on the internet, which means you have access to Google. So, for the love of llamas, frigging Google it already! A simple keyword search should get you page one results. And if you can't find a legitimate, independent news source--not another blog, but a newspaper or major media source--to back it up, then don't believe it, and don't share it. Assume bullshit.