Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Now Writing in Rock. River. Run.

Hey all, Narcissistic Narrative is now retired! I've started up a new blog with my husband, Derek. You can read about our adventures at Rock. River. Run.

Be sure to check it out as we are leaving Alabama to go on a four month long road trip before moving to western North Carolina to work with Outward Bound.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Run

Sunday afternoon was my last long run before my next race. It had been my intention to run 12 miles, and I inadvertently did 14 due to my failure to map my route at Munny Sokol Park before hand. I'm okay with my mistake since it has proven to me that I can run the entire length of my race next weekend without stopping. While I have 'run' two half marathons before, this Sunday was actually my first time running 11+ miles without stopping to walk at any point. It is amazing how much of a confidence boost this has given me.

But running that distance was not without some consequences. I've been needing new shoes for a good, long while now and have been putting it off. I've been taping up my feet for long runs to avoid hot spots and blisters with a fair degree of success. Taping aside, it's still hell on my feet, knees, hips, and low back. Long story short, I need new shoes.

Beyond joint issues, running is hard on your body overall. In a discussion with my mom this weekend, she expressed her concerns that it was unhealthy to run marathon distances due to the many damages that it can cause to your body. This led to a discussion of why one would run such distances at all, and more specifically, why I am motivated to run long distances.

For me, distance running is not merely a physical achievement and it's not something I do because it is 'healthy' per say. Rather, distance running is an achievement of willpower, endurance, and self discipline. It took me two hours and ten minutes to run 14 miles, and I spent every minute of that time willing myself to continue. I ran with no iPod, no partner, and really no plan other than to finish it - to not give up until it was done. That's a long time to be with your own thoughts, and a long time put the will of your mind over the will of your body.

Your body wants to quit when it gets tired. It wants that hot shower, soft bed, and blissful rest. You are the one who must choose to run every step. It is a true mastery of one's self.

That is why I run.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't Play With Scissors

I had a very eventful weekend. Not only did I go to my first football game, but I also got a haircut... heh... oy... okay, I cut my own hair. I know, I know! I do it every time and regret it and promise I'll never do it again... and then I do it again.

It always seems like such a great idea at the time... Anyway. It still fits into a pony tail so I'm leaving it alone until it grows out enough that I can go get it fixed by a professional, and still get it into a pony tail.

For your comedic pleasure, photos:

The Before Shot, with my pretty long locks... and farmers tan...

The during shot... alllll the hair that is no longer attached... yea, I did not realize I was cutting off that much.... probably should have used a second mirror or something...

And the after shot... decidedly spiky and short....

My First Football Game

I took a time off from school, work, and training on Saturday to go to a hard core Alabama Tailgate! I've never been a big football person, but football is the life of Tuscaloosa so I figured I should go to at least one real tailgate. And this one was definitely a 'real' tailgate.

My friendly hosts had four tents set up on the quad, with two flat screen TV's, an open bar, and whole roasted hog (we were playing Arkansas). To top the day off, one of my climbing friends found me on the quad and gave me 3 free tickets to go watch the game! It was crazy awesome. I got some video of carving the pig (which just affirmed my desire to be vegetarian, haha) and some videos of the band playing. I'll try to post them later.

Here are some snapshots from the day:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Last Week...

...did not go as planned. Thursday night, after I posted my anxiously excited blurb about my WFR, I got a call from the Memorial Hospital in North Conway, New Hampshire. I heard what no wife really wants to hear - Derek had been admitted to the ER.

Derek was in New Hampshire for his Rock Instructor Exam with the American Mountain Guide Association. He has been practicing for his exam on Thursday when he started feeling ill, then felt bad enough that he got a hotel room for the night. Not long after he got his room, he realized he needed to get medical care. Thankfully, this kid is always prepared - he already knew where the ER was and drove himself. Once there, he had the nurse call me because his phone had died.

She asked me, "Do you want to go ahead and drive over?" ... It took Derek two full days of driving to get to New Hampshire. Clearly, this lady had no clue that I was in Alabama. She put Derek on the phone. He sounded okay, and said that I didn't need to come just yet. We'd wait and see what the doctor said.

Even though he said I didn't need to be there, I started looking up flights. As soon as I could, I called his sister and made a plan. If I got the call from the hospital to get moving, I would let her know and would immediately start driving. She would then book me a flight from Birmingham and get me to Boston. There, I'd get myself a rental car and drive the remaining three hours to North Conway.

At 1:30AM, that plan got put into action. Derek was going into emergency surgery.

Driving through the night, I made it to Birmingham in record time only to wait for the airport to open for business. Derek's sister, Courtney, got me the first flight out. I boarded the plane with no word from the hospital. During my layover in Atlanta, I called the hospital, got transferred a dozen times before I finally got put through to Derek's nurse. He was okay. I got to speak to him briefly, but his voice was hoarse from being intubated and he was exhausted. Letting him rest, I went ahead and updated the rest of the family then got on my next flight.

I landed in Boston around noon, grabbed a car rental and started driving. I was quite proud of myself for making it through Boston traffic with no issues. I'd never driven in a city like that before. My pride was quickly deflated when I got to my first toll.... I had no cash. I pulled up to the booth and said the only thing I could,

"I'm from Alabama..."

This tactic successfully got me through all tolls.

By four o'clock I was pulling into a parking spot at the hospital. I wandered around inside for while, following signs for patient rooms. When I finally found Derek's room, I was a bit startled by how he looked. He was pale, eyes sunken. He pretty much looked like crap. I think I lied and told him he looked good.

The doctor wanted to keep him overnight for observation. I hung out until 8:00PM when the effects of no sleep in two days started wearing on me. I got a room in a motel and came back the next morning. Derek was discharged early, but thankfully they let him hang out for a while so I could run errands - get his prescriptions, check out of the motel (their front desk wasn't open yet when I left for the hospital), and return the rental car. Some friends of ours from Alabama were actually in the area as well, and they came to see Derek and gave me a ride from the car rental place back to the hospital.

We tried to get out of town a quickly as possible due to the impending hurricane. Yeah, we're good at being in the way of storms. We started driving around 11:00AM on Saturday, and made it to south of Scranton, PA that evening as the rain was starting to come down. We stopped at several exits looking for a hotel. The first hotel had no staff present that I could find - just a praying mantis sitting on the desk phone. I waited awhile, until I saw a lady with a parrot on her shoulder walk by. Between her, the insect, and the lack of service I figure this was not the hotel for us. We continued our search for a hotel, but each place we stopped was fully booked. Finally, we got the last vacancy at an extended stay hotel.

We bunked down for the night, ready to continue our drive in the morning. The next morning however, the hurricane was still sending crappy weather our way. The area was covered with flood and wind warnings. We waited a couple hours until things started to die down before driving again. Even though we waited, it was still a tense drive until we got out from underneath the system. We made it to Derek's parents' house in Tennessee in time for a late dinner.

We stayed with his parents for an extra day to recover from the driving and to visit. Derek was looking much better by the time we hit the road again. We finally made it home on Tuesday evening.

Derek is on medical restrictions - no lifting 20 lbs or more; no ab work outs - for a month due to the surgical incisions. I should be getting a refund from my missed WFR exam, but the AMGA is refusing to let Derek reschedule or refund his $1700 Rock Instructor Exam. He's appealing their decision now, and hopefully they'll demonstrate some compassion for his situation. However, the fact that he's having to appeal to the AMGA at all damages my opinion of the company.

We spent the rest of the week at home, carefully increasing Derek's activities each day, resting a lot, and taking care of household type things. I returned to work and school yesterday.

So. That was last week.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Well. Tomorrow I head to NC to take my WFR. Pronounced 'woofer' - like how a dog might "woof" but with an rrrr on the end. WFR.

WFR is short for Wilderness First Responder. I'll learn how to take care of folks with medical emergencies in a wilderness setting. I've been reading up with Derek's old textbooks to get ready, and what I've learned so far is that what you 'do' is pretty frequently 'evacuate.' I guess I was kind of expecting there to be some magic tricks or something to save a life in the woods. Not so much.

Anyway, I've been studying. I made flash cards. I've been reading up to get ready. I've packed pretty much all my clothes so I'm prepared for any situation - rain, snow, sun, indoor, outdoor, etc. I've packed a whole box of food. I've printed directions. I've got road maps and trail maps. I've got backpacks in multiple sizes. I'm good to go. I have everything I need. I am insanely prepared for this.

And yet I'm not.

I feel almost sickly anxious about the whole thing. What if I fail? Or what if I don't have what it takes to be a medical responder? What if I freeze, freak out, panic, spazz?? I mean, I know we won't have any real situations during the course. But still.

What if I fail?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Best Last First Day

Today is probably the best last first day of a school semester ever.

This morning started with an awesome phone conversation with my mama. She had some fantastic news about her health care that made me super happy for her.

Next, I got to see Chelsea and WALK with her to her very first class of this semester! So unbelievably wonderful. Every time I think about the obstacles this young woman has overcome, and the sheer willpower and courage she has in her, I am amazed. I feel so fortunate to know her.

After that, I got to work right on time and was able to make a last minute tweak to my course schedule. Instead of taking Cataloging & Special Libraries on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I am now taking Archives on Tuesdays and Special Libraries on Thursdays.

This is fantastic for 3 big reasons:
  1. Archives is freaking cool
  2. I will have two of my most favorite professors (Riter & Campbell-Meier) for my last semester at SLIS
  3. The Tue-Thurs schedule is much easier to work my race training into - and when doing work full-time AND school AND anything else, good scheduling is absolutely crucial!
 Then, to top everything off - the amazingness continues:
  • I had a yummy mint-chocolate protein bar for breakfast (seriously, those things are like crack to me, I LOVE them)
  • I have a 'ball-chair' to sit in at work now, which I think will help loads with my low back pain AND help build up some core strength
  • I'm only two days away from my WFR!
  • I don't have to go to class tonight like I thought I would, so I actually have time to go grocery shopping and pack for my WFR tonight (leaving straight from work Friday, and I have class tomorrow night - so I do need to be ready in advance)
And I feel like I could keep going. Today is really a fantastic day. What a beautiful start to my last semester at SLIS!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Killer Bambi

Today I was reminded yet again of why I much prefer trail running to road running. It never fails to be interesting.

I was plodding along the trails in the Sokol park (yes, by myself again. I know I said I wouldn't do that anymore... whatever). I was feeling pretty done, the temps being 100+ again because I overslept again and got too late of a start...

Anyway, just about when I was ready to stop running and walk, I was given some powerful motivation to keep running from the most unexpected avenue.


A young deer had been playing around the creek that my trail followed. I ooo-ed and aaaah-ed at him but kept running. And soon ran right into his mama! And let me tell you, that mother was not happy to see me between her and her baby. She responded appropriately for a mom in fear for her young.

She charged me.

Yeap. I turned around and ran for dear life (har, har). I didn't really feel like taking on a deer. They have sharp hooves and teeth. If it came down to it, I would probably bet on the deer and not me. So yeah, I got chased off by Bambi's mom. It gave me a nice long 15 minute sprint on the tail end of my run (she didn't chase me that far, I just felt the need to get to the car ASAP after that).


Does this stuff happen to anyone else??? 

cause seriously... 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Progress Report

It's been a week. Stuff has happened.

I ran a new personal best - 5 miles in 39 minutes and 10 seconds. It was on a treadmill, but whatever. I'm proud. I've been a solid 10 minutes mile runner for years, so it's pretty dang cool to be making real progress on my speed goals.

I'm doing okay distance wise. It's a little more than halfway through the month, and I've already gotten in a total of 41 miles. Hoping to keep the momentum and finish strong with the second half of the month.

I failed again at my ten mile run attempt. Feel kinda like a looser for that one. That's twice now I've stopped at 8 miles instead of going for the finish. You'd think after 8 miles that it wouldn't be a big deal to go two more, but it's like I hit some wall. Anyway, I'm adjusting my training a bit this week to add in a rest day (today) then I'm going for the 10 mile on Sunday hard core. No excuses. I'm doing it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Water Hates Me

Did you know that swimming is really hard? Seriously, I paddled, flailed, floundered for a mere 20 minutes and thought I was going to drown from exhaustion. I kept getting water under my goggles, up my nose, in my mouth. Ew. And to top it all off, I was the slooooowest swimmer in any of the lanes. Embarrassing.There I was gasping away like I was struggling for dear life while others glided by at much greater speeds.


I also had some slight awkwardness with my swimsuit. I don't really have an athletic swimsuit right now, so I wore one of those tie-in-the-back numbers. Don't worry, it didn't come untied, thank goodness, but the front kept catching water and sagging open with each forward stroke. I had to swim facing a wall the whole time to avoid flashing folks, and I had to stop frequently to 'adjust' myself. It's was okay, because I needed the breaks to catch my failing breath. 

Overall, the whole thing was pretty depressing. But I'm not giving up. If I'm this horrible at swimming, I can really only get better (I hope...) and it is definitely excellent cardio for me. After my swim, I climbed for a little while then went home to eat a huge healthy dinner and went to bed early. My 'rest day' wore me out!

Today I'm feeling mostly refreshed and ready for my 5 mile run this afternoon. My time goal for the run is 40 minutes. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Train Smarter...

... not harder.

While I have not been successful with all of my long runs, I have been getting out and running almost every day. This tactic worked initially to get me into the level of fitness I needed to be in before starting my more intense training for longer runs. However now that I'm attempting multiple 6+ mile runs in a week it is starting to wear me out. What's more annoying is that I'm also starting to get low-back pain, hip pain, and ankle pain. Stupid joints.

So, it's time to train smarter which means that this week I'm changing tactics. Instead of running every day, I'm running every other day with my off days being 'active rest' days. What's an active rest day? It's a day where I still do stuff but I don't run. For example, today I'm going to go swim some laps at the pool then climb at the gym for a while. Hopefully this will help me stay in peak physical condition, while also allowing my body to recover from my harder running work outs. Oh, and yeah, I'm actually going to start eating healthy again.

In addition to all that, I'm re-introducing yoga into my life. Right now I'll probably just do yoga as part of my cool downs after a run, but it may become an every day thing depending on how the low-back-pain situation progresses. Of all my recreational activities, I'm pretty sure yoga is the only one that hasn't led to a sprain or a concussion...

Hopefully this training change will set me up for success this Saturday when I attempt my next 10 mile run, which may or may not happen at Lake Lurleen depending on if I can find somebody to go with me or get snake proof running gaiters (so far, I haven't been able to find those. Snake proof gaiters, yes. And running gaiters, yes. But not the two types in one product...).

Whatever happens, I'll be hitting the road after my run to go climbing up at Sandrock for the weekend! Woohoo!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Snake Bite Post

Here is what I found:

Additional fun factoids that weren't appropriate for the work blog:
  • While juvenile snakes can have more potent venom than adult snakes, they do not have sufficient quantities to make their bites more dangerous that adult bites. They are still dangerous, true, but an adult snake can inject you with 17 times as much venom as its juvenile counterpart [source: Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine, 5th Edition]. Either way, don't mess with a snake!
  • Copper Heads are the least scary of the scary US snakes as far as venom goes. Water moccasins/cotton mouths next. Rattle snakes are the big bad and cause the greatest number of deaths (in the US due to snake bites - although the overall number of deaths due to snake bites is really low and usually tied to something else, i.e. child being bitten, or old due with a heart condition having a heart attack after being bitten, etc.). Coral snakes could totally kill you but they aren't as mean or as prolific as rattlers, so their reputation isn't quite so bad. 
  • Juvenile water moccasins/cotton mouths look a LOT like copper heads. In fact, my snake might have actually been a water moccasin - he was kind of stubby and had a white mouth. The pretty brown/red leaf pattern on his back threw me off. Of course, if he was a juvie, he was a dang big juvie... either way. I'm glad he didn't bite me

Scream Like A Girl

This past Saturday I went on the first 10 mile run of my training cycle. Where shame and embarrassment failed to motivate me to eat healthy, this 'run' definitely succeeded. I trudged through the first 4 miles feeling sluggish and icky, then gave into alternating between 9 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking... then the 1 minute became 2 minutes which soon became 5 minutes...

Not long after that, I gave up entirely. I felt like crap, my stomach was cramping, I was out of water, and most of all - I was not enjoying my run one bit. Now, I know that not all runs will be fun all the time. But what's the point in running as your hobby if you are not enjoying it? So, I turned off my timer, made a new plan for this week's training, and enjoyed spending my Saturday morning outside. I walked when I wanted to, ran a full speed down every hill just for fun, and simply enjoyed life. It was fabulous.

So, it was in this peaceful carefree mindset that I started walking across the grassy earthen dam that marked the two mile point from the parking lot. Normally when I cross this area, I'm very careful - it's right next to the water, sunny, and full of tall grass. In other words, it's the perfect place for snakes. Have you guessed where this story is going now?

As I walked through the sun bleached grass, swinging my arms, singing "Boom Boom Aint It Great to be Crazy" to myself, I noticed a flashed of white by my left ankle. I looked down. And immediately screamed and jumped into a run.

Within inches of my left ankle was a copper head, coiled to strike, mouth wide-friggin-open, pointy fangs aimed straight at me. The white I saw was it's mouth as it opened to strike me.

I stopped running almost as soon as I had started - but quite a few feet away. I let out another solid scream just to make myself feel better and did the shuddering shakes of the totally freaked out.


I pulled myself back together.  I figured I should find a long stick and get the critter chased off the path into the woods. This area was still close enough to the parking lot that folks come along with little kids and pets. With that thought, I wondered what would have happened if the thing had bit me - two miles away from my car. Or worse, what if I had been at the halfway point of one of my long runs, 6 to 8 miles away from the parking lot where few hikers venture. I really need to find myself a running partner. Or buy some running gaiters to protect my legs from snake bites. If they even make gaiters like that. Anyway, I'm not going out there by myself again until I have some better safety measures in place.

So I started looking around for a stick when I noticed that I couldn't see the snake anymore....


I've never pissed off a copper head before, but I remember my Dad telling me that they were mean snakes. Where other snakes might put on a mean show at first, they'd run off the second they felt they could. But a cooper head will come after you. Maybe my Dad just had some bad experiences with copper heads, but maybe he was right too. So I held very, very still. Before too long, I saw the grass next to me start moving. I stopped breathing. The snake slithered out of the tall grass onto the path about a foot in front of me. The critter looked over, flicked his tongue at me, then slithered the rest of the way across the dam to get into the woods.

I almost screamed again. It was a big snake. Definitely full grown. Very pretty, but very scary.

The remaining two miles of my hike went very slowly. I stomped the ground with my feet repeatedly to chase any other snakes away before I got close, and I studied the grassy, swamping areas as though my life depended on it. 

The experience made me realize: I have no clue what to do if a snake actually did bite. Do you make a tourniquet? Or so you try to 'suck out' the venom? Should you stay still and wait for help, or should I run like hell to get help? Would taking a Benadryl or Advil help? What can you possibly do by yourself in the middle of the dang woods?

So beyond telling my scary snake story, I'm also going to provide hopefully helpful info: What to do if you are bitten by a snake and not near immediate medical care. Just don't sue me later if you follow my advice and still lose a finger or a toe. I'm going to do some thorough research, but it's your own job to look out for your own health. I'll be posting this info in my professional blog ( later today or tomorrow since it seems like it could be useful to anyone recreating outside. I'll post the article link when it's up.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Food Confessions

I think Derek and I have been getting reputations as 'health nuts' with our friends and family. We are both constantly in training, trying to eat right, and lead generally healthy lifestyles. While I've not always bothered to be strict about it during family gatherings, I've been an on-and-off vegetarian for a couple years now...

Those of you who were at my wedding might be laughing now if you recall the predominately meat-based menu that we offered during our reception. No I didn't eat any of it. Yes, I actually was trying to be vegetarian then. I think all I ate that entire day was a few pieces of fruit, some dip and bread, and some lemonade that one of the catering staff forced on me when I was looking woozy. Oh, and my bite of cake and champagne. My nerves wouldn't allow for any more than that.

Back to the main idea of this post. Despite the fact that Derek and I try to lead generally healthy lifestyles, I do have some guilty pleasures in my diet. Especially when Derek is out of town, I tend to fall off the 'healthy' bandwagon and go for complete glutton.

Por ejemplo - today I had a large pepsi and large curly fry from Arby's for lunch. Ooooh yeah.  And it was amazing. I mean, yes - it made me instantly nauseous and I'm about to reach for my tums to kill some heartburn. But it was totally worth it. Not that bad, you say? Well keep reading...

My food sins for this month already include (in addition to the Arby's):
  • Poptarts
  • Doughnuts
  • Potato Chips (I always tell folks I don't like potato chips, but I secretly love them. It's really a problem. If I start eating them, I can't stop. Like Pringles sprinkled with crack.)
  • Rainbow Sherbert
  • Peanut Butter M&M's
  • Beer
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • And of course, insane amounts of coffee
The beer and coffee really give me acid reflux, so I shouldn't drink them. I know coffee can actually be good for you if consumed in reasonable quantities, but I'm rarely reasonable. Hence my daily Prevacid popping this month. 

So there is it. My food confessions laid out for you to see. I'm really not that healthy. I'm only in day 5 of August, and I've already had all that junk. I was hoping that confessing it all would embarrass me so I'd be less likely to indulge later.... but now I'm just hungry...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Funny Fears

You may or may not have guessed this about me, but I am a big fat scaredy-cat.

I have many irrational, ridiculous fears. Most folks know I'm afraid of water. Well, really I'm afraid of drowning. That fear is kind of understandable I think, given how many times I've had to be pulled, gasping, out of the water when it tried to kill me. Yes, the water actively tried to kill me. You cannot convince me otherwise.

I'm also afraid of spiders. Fewer people know about that one. On more than one occasion, I've gone cruising up a climbing route on lead only to stop in a frozen panic because there is a spider in my way. Silly right? I mean, there I am clinging to rocks by my finger tips, tens of feet up in the air, and the thing that scares me is a spider - not the possibility of falling. Not that I'm not afraid of falling - that one gets me worked up more often than I'd like as well. But it's not nearly as freaky as coming across a spider. And really, I think the falling-fear is a little more understandable since I have fallen before and ended up in crutches for a month. But I've never been bitten by a poisonous spider. Silliness.

So what's got me writing about funny fears today?

Well, I had to go to the dentist yesterday. Do you remember those stupid commericals for dental insurance where the weird looking lady is sitting in the dark at the dentist office and confesses her dental fears - "It's not the drill - it's the bill!" Remember? Well, I'm not her. I do fear the drill. Much more than the bill. Just the sound of the drill in another room will get my heart pounding, my underarms sweating, and my vision narrowing. I really fear going to the dentist.

It's not rational really. I've had a fabulous dentist the vast majority of my years. The folks at Palmetto Dental Associates are pretty much my heroes - if they hadn't been so fabulous, I would have never gone. In fact, since I've moved away and can't see them anymore, I haven't gone back to the dentist at all. Until yesterday.


What could drag me into see a dentist despite all my irrational fears? Nothing less than a broken filling... which still only got me there after a month of procrastination. And now that I've finally gone in, what two words do you think they told me to strike complete and total fear into my heart?

Root canal.


So, make me feel a little less stupid and share - what are your irrational fears? Have you ever had a root canal? Want to come be my personal assistant and kill every spider I come across?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Good Bye July!

July was a good month. An insanely busy month, but a good one. I'm in a list-making mood today, so here are the highlights:
  1. I learned how to steer a canoe by myself. You try that.
  2. I got to go to the beach with my families!
  3. I got to go to the mountains with my families and Derek :)
  4. My oldest niece turned 7. Last year, she cried when she turned 6 because she didn't "want to get old" - ughs. No such problem this year.
  5. I turned 27... ughs... Definitely feeling my niece's problem from last year.
  6. I ran 57.75 miles (total for the month)!!
  7. My research paper was accepted to be presented at the SC/MLA Annual Conference in October
  8. I guess I rescued a kitten? I didn't keep it, but I took care of it for a while.
  9. I enjoyed telling folks that Derek and I have been dating for four years now. I know we're married, but that doesn't mean we're not dating still :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Training for Trails

So, I've been dutifully training for my Tashka Trail Run this December, and I've been getting a fair amount of miles in on actual trails instead of on roads. But trail running is really different than road running. Here are a few fun things I've learned so far:

  1. No matter how tired you are, you can always run faster when you see a snake
  2. No matter how hard I try to be graceful, I will always look like a retarded duck when running down steep hills (arms flapping uselessly while I hop from foot to foot trying not to face-plant)
  3. Derek is freaking fast
  4. Up-hill sucks.Wait. That's the same for road running... so was #4...
  5. I may be slow, but I can outrun overweight mountain bikers
  6. Blisters happen a lot faster

Okay, so I haven't really learned that much new stuff. But it's been fun. Except for the blisters part. And that snake. And those hills.

Why am I doing this again?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fall Schedule

This fall should be my last semester as a graduate student at UA SLIS. And just like I did with my last semester as an undergrad at USC, I've already packed it full. Eesh. Should be more fun than undergrad though. Here's my line up:

August 23: SLIS Orientation to recruit new ASIS&T and SAC members
August 27-Sept 5: WFR in Brevard, NC
October 5-9: SC/MLA Conference in Augusta, Georgia
October 22-24: Rock N Roll Half Marathon in St. Louis, Missouri
October 28: Freaky Friday 8K in Alabama (maybe)
November 13: Couch to 5K in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
December 10: Tashka Trail 50K in Coker, Alabama

Oh, and then there's those silly 'attending classes' and 'going to work' things...

I might be just a little crazy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Titty Pictures

When my oldest niece, Lucy, was just learning how to talk - she would pronounce all K's a T's. It made for some entertaining moments whenever she saw a kitty. I won't even mention how she pronounced "Falcon" - loved the look on my brother's face when she called that one out for the first time :)

So, here are some titty pictures for ya!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tashka Trail Teaser and Parenthetical Abuse

Taking a break from the tornado monologue. Time for the Tashka Trail 2011 Teaser!

Today, I ran into one of the race directors of the Tashka Trail Run - you might remember me being silly and signing up for the 50K only to drop down to the 25K after I failed to train at all (in my defense, I was rather ill (seriously, I had to have surgery one week after the race (I know! I know! I shouldn't have run the race at all (get out of my head Mom!!(also, here is the race report)))).


Talking to him got me excited. I'm fairly certain that I will still be in T-Town through December at the very least. I could run this race again. I could actually train seriously. Hell, I actually could have a shot at winning! Lake Lurleen is literally down the road from me. I could train on the course repeatedly before the event. I'll have a home field advantage. I have six MONTHS to train. I can totally do this!

But if I'm going to do it, I absolutely have to do it right. Remember my New Years Resolutions? No more entering into races, then not training for said races OR getting hurt before said races, then still running the race anyway. And since I wasn't able to run in the Ranger Run (it was one week after the Tornado (yes that capital T is intentional) - wasn't super high on the priority list), I still get to pick out a race up to 50K in distance to run this year.

So, here's my to-do list:

1. Get in touch with my inner librarian: I'm going to take full advantage of the resources available to me through my library and research marathon training to best of my abilities. Email me/comment if you want the bibliography.

2. Get a base level of fitness: Running has been pretty sporadic lately. Gee. I wonder why? And my eating habits have gone to the crapper. Time to return to running regularly and eating right

3. Get running friends: I need accountabil-a-buddies (South Park, anyone?)

4. Follow through: also know as "Get 'er done!" or "Just do it!" or "Shut Up and Run!" or occasionally, "TWO BIRDS!" (yeah. only Derek and maybe Ryan will get that last reference. If you figure it out, I will buy you dinner).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Days After - 1

It would be nice if the story ended with the tornado passing. But the truth is that the next few days were much harder to bear than the tornado itself.

Hunkering down in a bathroom, waiting for the span of a few minutes, knowing there was nothing to do but pray - there is a kind of peace in that. Terror to be sure, but also peace, because you know the time in that hell is finite and there is nothing to do but breathe and wait for the end.

In the days after, I lost all sense of time, normalcy, or routine. The order of events is hazy, sharp memories standing out in contrast to gray images from the past. Time itself is missing.

The morning after, I stayed lying down on the mats in the climbing room as long as I could handle. The anxiety I felt about getting back to my apartment to retrieve what I could was more potent that a pot full of sludgy coffee, and it had a similar effect on my digestive functions. I could not stand thinking that my apartment was left in one piece with all of my belongings inside - and a roof that could collapse at any second, windows that could be broken by looters, on land that could be condemned so I could never return…

Hope can be a painful feeling, and it made my chest ache as I thought about the possibility of getting my belongings back, and the more likely scenario that every thing that made up my life would be bulldozed over instead – despite surviving the initial storm. I know what you are thinking. It's just stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Be grateful to be alive. I know. And I knew I had been blessed. My life had been spared. I walked away with a mere scratch on my arm. Derek's life had been spared. That was so much more than I had deserved. Much more than what my neighbors had been given. But God, I just wanted to go home. To HAVE home. And that meant getting the pieces back that I could.

So that's what I set out to do.

Getting ready to return to the apartment felt like running in water. No matter how hard I worked, everything took longer than it should have. Trying to eat breakfast without puking, finding keys for a borrowed van, finding help, finding my damn toothbrush. It was somewhere near 10 o’clock I think when we were finally unpacking what bags we had so we could use them to carry what we could back to the shelter. Derek had packed them thoughtfully albeit quickly, grabbing all of our clean underwear, socks, and a few other clothing items along with all our food that would fit.

Unpacking my underwear, I remembered that I had kept my mother’s wedding ring in a black velvet jewelry box in my underwear drawer. She had given it to me after my father's death. I asked Derek if he had taken everything from the drawer. Yes, he had dumped the whole thing in the bag. I went through the bag again. I unfolded and refolded every item. I looked around the floor. I checked the empty bag. No black velvet box. I repeated these actions maybe three times before I felt the shaking of panic in my hands and stopped.

I had lost my mother’s wedding ring.

I stood from where I had been kneeling on the floor of the Outdoor Rec Office. Derek was talking to someone about something. Their voices were static. There were too many people standing around me. I walked away from everyone and went behind the shelving where Derek and I were stashing our stuff. I sat down on the floor and cried. Catherine followed me back there. She held me and waited out my tears.

She understood. It's more than just stuff.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shelter Found - 2

Downstairs was organized chaos. The walls echoed with voices and none of the typical white noise I was used to hearing in the gym. No AC running, no music playing. Just voices echoing in large open rooms. We moved around a bit before settling on a location for the first aid station. Tables were set up, trash cans readied, supplies opened and organized. I felt a mild panic going through the supplies. I didn’t know what to do with half of the stuff. Didn’t even know what it was called or what it was for. My Red Cross First Aid training had not prepared me for this. God I wished I knew what to do.

Hank was with me again. He had been able to get in touch with his parents - they were on their way to get him and bring him home. Derek had been in touch with our families during the slow drive to safety, but my phone still wasn’t working. I grabbed a Gatorade and some point and chugged it. Thank you sugar rush! Sam tried to break us into the Sports Rehab office so patients would have some more privacy and we would have beds to lay them on. The master key didn’t work in the lock. Lance called Derek away to discuss something.

Men in scrubs arrived. Thank you, Jesus. I recognized them from work. They were physicians and med students from UMC. Dr. Uzlen, our interim dean, was with them as well. I was beyond grateful. Their presence meant someone with more training and more experience was officially in charge. Derek and I could back out if we wanted to. It wasn’t on us to save anyone. We could take care of ourselves for the time being. I slumped against a wall, sat down, and spaced out again.

When Derek returned, he had a package of chocolate cookies that his mom has sent him for his birthday. He shared them with everyone. It seemed strange that it was still his birthday - that this was the same day that had started just that morning with me waking to sunshine in my bed. A bed that I would never return to, in a home I would never live in again. I could never have imagined that would be my last time waking up there.

Derek and I both needed to get away for at least a minute. We decided to head to the rock wall - Derek had keys and no one else would be there. I felt a little guilty since there were so many people there who wouldn’t have the luxury we were about to indulge in, but that wasn’t going to stop me from taking a minute to breathe. It was around midnight I think.

Derek and I went into the rock climbing room, shut the door behind us, and sat down on the mats. There was a single emergency light. The echo of voices was distant. It was almost quiet. Before we had any real time to ourselves, someone found us though and called Derek away. I was left by myself in the dimly lit room. I got up, grabbed a rolled of paper towels and sat back down on the mats. In the familiar space, where I’ve climbed & hung out with friends, I finally took my moment. With all the weight of the day, I let go of all my control and cried, gasping sobs. I cradled my head with my up drawn knees and let tears flow freely. But just as quickly as my crying started, it stopped. I rubbed my face with paper towels, feeling the itch of the fiber glass insulation that covered me with its invisible residue. I sipped my water, and I waited for Derek to come back.

He came back with Hank, who was still waiting for his folks. We all sat together in the quiet, attempting to process the day. Hanks folks arrived soon after. Derek and I decided it was time to bunk down for the night. It was sometime after 1:00AM. We met back up in the Rec office with Sam, the Haynie’s, and others? We grabbed camp pillows and fleece liners from the Outdoor Rec office and headed back downstairs. Lance slept in the office. Catherine went to stay with friends. I have no idea where their dogs went, or where Kyle went for that matter. Derek, Sam, some other guy, his dog, and I went to the climbing wall.

We laid out our beds for the night. Refilled water bottles. Made trips to the darkened bathrooms. Tried to settle down. We all laid down and waited for sleep. I heard my watch chime 2:00AM. And 3:00AM. And 4. I know I slept some because with every person that walked by, every time the dog stirred, and every time the wind howled I woke up. I laid there, staring at the ceiling, listening to the wind, waiting for the roof to rip off. I did not dream.

Shelter Found - 1

Driving from our wrecked home to the shelter was a lesson in patience and endurance. The adrenaline which had been carrying me through began to lessen, and I could feel the effects of having not eaten since eleven that morning. I started getting tunnel vision while driving and frequently clenched the muscles in my legs and stomach to keep from passing out - a trick my brother taught me after I blacked out on a roller coaster ride one summer. I did not share this information with my copilot.

Hank was amazed that I was so calm after the calamity that had happened. He asked how I could be handling everything this well. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t handling it. I was in a state of shock, both emotionally and physically. If we didn’t find shelter and food soon, I was going to pass out.

Halfway through the drive, Derek and I swapped leads. I drove ahead and constantly had Hank checking behind us to make sure Derek was still there. I was borderline paranoid about losing him. All my mirrors were busted, so I couldn’t check for myself. After a circuitous route, we finally made it to campus. Campus in its entirety was dark - they had no power, only emergency lighting.

Hail was just beginning to fall when we pulled into a rear entrance to the Rec. Assuming this was the beginning of the next tornado (which never actually came), I parked haphazardly and we all rushed to the doors of the Outdoor Rec Office. Derek got there first and began pounding on it - the door was locked but people were inside. Please for the love of mercy let us in…

Soon, a familiar form appeared in the doorway, silhouetted by the emergency lighting. Kyle Stephens. Bless the sweet Lord. I was so grateful that he was alive and well and that he, like us, had decided to come to the Rec. It was then that I realized people we knew, our students & classmates, could be dead. It was a heart stopping realization. Until then, I hadn’t really thought beyond Derek and myself - despite witnessing death first hand. I focused on feeling grateful that Kyle was alive. We got inside, hugs all around.

Derek, Hank, & I dumped our possessions on the floor. Broken glass tumbled with it. The Haynies were there, with their puppies. The dogs were running loose - over the glass and our bags. I saw their crate and leashes set aside and wondered why they were not in use. It wasn’t safe for the pups to be running underfoot, over glass. The next few hours are even hazier for me. My blood sugar was beyond low.

Derek and Lance discussed the status of the Rec Center. It was serving as a shelter and first aid station for the community. Sam England was around, helping out. I had no idea he was even in town and was immediately grateful he was okay too. Derek ran downstairs to see the status of the first aid set up and find out what was needed. The guys all went with him I think?

I grabbed a water bottle and some dried apricots to eat. Finally. I was filthy and certain that I was going to take a header to the floor if I wasn’t careful, so I went ahead and sat down on the ground. The dogs kept nipping at my face though, so I got back up and sat on a chair. I sipped water, nibbled on the food, and spaced out.

Derek came back. He kneeled in front of me to check on me. The dogs kept biting his legs and jumping on him. He yelled at them to get off, and then stood up when they remained uncontrolled. He spoke to me. I have no idea what he said, but at some point I understood that help was needed downstairs and all the Wilderness First Responders (Derek, Sam, Kyle? and Lance) were going down to help. Others began gathering first aid supplies. I decided to go with them. I didn’t know what I could do honestly, but at least I would be moving. I wasn’t ready to be still yet. I had taken off my helmet, but kept my headlamp. We made our way downstairs.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuscaloosa Tornado, Part Five

We gave instructions to Hank and the college kids - yeah, we found them again. We were all going to grab necessities from our apartments, only what we could carry, and meet back in the parking lot. Food, water, clothes. Derek and I decided to split again - he would pack our things, and I would check on the cars. My heart clenched as we separated, but I was grateful for something constructive to do that wouldn’t require much thinking. I just hoped I would have good news for him.

I made it back to the parking lot on our side of the building and got some instant heartburn. Cars were not where they had been parked. Trees and power lines were down. And there was more of that damned barbed wire. I looked for our cars. I almost missed them from not recognizing them. The windows had all been shattered, they had wooden beams on top, tree limbs inside. My car had the shell of an AC unit on it. Shit.

But as I got closer I realized we were lucky. Both of our cars were free from other cars – not everyone could say that. If they turned on and if I could get all the crap off of them, we should be able to get out. Other cars had been shoved into each other and wouldn’t be getting out anytime soon. I got to the Matrix and reached my arm in through glass to turn the ignition. It started. I almost cried in relief. The tightness in my chest released a little. I turned it back off and went to my Camry. We just bought it last week. I maneuvered my way in and turned the key. It started too. Holy hallelujah! I got out and began pulling tree limbs and boards out from under and off the top of the cars. I shoved the AC unit away and tossed pieces of roof into the grass. I would have sat down and giggled if it weren’t for a second tornado and glass being everywhere.

It was 6:45PM. I ran to find the guys and get them the hell out of there.

They were in the stairwell below our apartment talking to one of the neighbors. Derek offered them a ride, but the neighbors declined. The college kids had a working car so they took off on their own. Hank rode shotgun with me in the Camry and Derek led the way in the Matrix. As we were readying to leave, 3 firefighters (I think) arrived and asked for the area status. They thought we were search and rescue as well. Derek told them what we had found so far and let them know that we were leaving. We asked if they knew anything about a second storm, but they did not. As we got into the cars, they told us there was no way we were going to be able to drive out of there. Well, we were still going to try. Backing out of my ‘parking spot’ I realized my arm was bleeding. I cut myself on some glass without realizing it. It wasn't a bad cut but it kept dripping onto my pants. I thought about it and realized it had been about 13 years since my last tetanus shot. Oh well.

As I said, Derek led the way out. As we were turning the corner of the parking lot, the Matrix got snagged on some barbed wire. After a struggle, the car was freed and we continued on. Thus began the two and a half hour journey to get us a mere four miles away to the shelter of the UA Recreation Center. The route we took was clogged with traffic and winding as every North-South road in the city had been blocked from fallen trees, destroyed buildings, downed power lines and more. We actually had to drive all the way to Kicker Road in Alberta City and then go back around to get the Rec. Alberta City was hit even harder than Tuscaloosa, but somehow that road was clear enough.

Driving around, our way was frequently blocked by shiny cars with uninjured people who invariable called out to us in their excitement - “Did that just happen to your car?? Is that from the tornado??” Teens and adults alike swarmed the streets in titillation to see the annihilation of their neighbors lives. Not one of them was out there to help. Every one of them was blocking the way of emergency vehicles and evacuees. With every second they stood in the way with their cameras, mouths gaping and eyes wide doing nothing, someone was dying or in pain because help couldn’t get through. It’s a damn good thing I don’t carry a gun. I almost wish the second tornado really had hit so every one of those self centered, mindless bastards would know exactly what it felt like to have their world destroyed. That’s what they were so anxious to see after all.