Saturday, October 18, 2014

It is what it is

Tomorrow I will be running in my first long race of the season -- a 10-mile race to support Friendship House in Newark, DE. A race I only heard about a week ago from friends Jean and Bill. A race I am doing because it supports a good cause, but also because I have not been doing the training I need to do for running a half marathon.

Next weekend I signed up for the Perfect 10 Miler in Mercer County Park. I ran this race last year and loved it -- it is a women's only race not far from my house. The course is FLAT. Many of my friends will be with me.

The following weekend I conclude intensive racing season with the Princeton Half Marathon. THIS is the race that has me quaking in my running shoes. THIS is the race that has me wondering if it will be my first DNF (Did Not Finish). THIS is the race that serious running friends stay away from because of the hills. THIS is the race that cut its time from a maximum 15 minute/mile pace to a 14 minute/mile pace in order to be able to open the roads sooner. THIS is the race I am a committee member for. THIS is the race I was talked into doing so I could wear their GoPro camera to give a back of the pack view. THIS is the race as a committee member I had a say in designing the shirts -- they are awesome and they have women's cut this year.

My training has been minimal to say the least. My longest run to date has been 7.5 miles (a half marathon is 13.1 miles). My second longest run was 6.2 fairly flat miles at Six Flags. My third longest has been a hilly 5.5 miles. While I did maintain less than a 14 minute pace for both training runs (and the one in Massachusetts), it was barely. Both runs (if we can call it that) were off-roading mostly walking experiences. These races are mostly on-road ones. The races will include water and other support (which should help A LOT).

Blame it on my frozen shoulder. Blame it on my sneakers (probably too late to buy new ones now). Blame it on the weather (which has mostly been perfect, so it is hard to blame the weather). Blame it on ennui. It is easy to cast blame. However, it truly comes down to I did not put the work into it and that will be painfully obvious on race days.

Think of me the next few Sunday mornings as I wake before dawn and race before many people are awake. 

Trying to tell myself next year's races will stick between 3.1 and 10 miles -- mostly in the 8K-10K range (5-6.2 miles).

Good thing I'm a strong walker, since even after running for the past few years, I have not become a strong runner, nor a passionate one. We all have our talents, and running is not on of mine, but walking is -- my walking pace might even be faster than my running one. We all get the same medal in the end.

UPDATE: I bought new sneakers. Hoping that helps!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Librarian Shoulder

The phrase "no good deed goes unpunished" has been floating around in my head a lot lately. You see, during the last ice storm I helped some neighbors take down trees using my pruning shears. This was on top of helping our next door neighbor shovel after every storm, often before clearing my own driveway and then helping a neighbor who used his chain saw to take down one of our trees after Hurricane Sandy

I think it was on the last tree that I pulled a muscle in my arm. No big deal. I've pulled this muscle in the past and will pull it again. I then took a three month job as a librarian where I held books during story time for hours each day. Yeah, my arm hurt.

It kept hurting.

I thought, well the summer is almost here. I'll baby it and it will get better.

It kept hurting.

I tried asking friends for advice. They told me about their ails and we never got around to a solution for mine. That is until I met Terry at the Virtual Talk Like a Pirate Day race we organized as a live race in the park for fun.

Terry recommended Complete Health Care of Lawrenceville. 

Life got in the way. I did nothing about this for a few weeks, even after Terry emailed me their contact information.

A trip to Massachusetts, where I found it hard to hug my more than six foot tall cousin, followed by a trip to Ohio to see family (yup, more hugging) and finally I saw the chiropractor.

He took one look at me and diagnosed me with a frozen rotator cuff. That doesn't sound good.

Turns out, this is a common ailment for women between the ages of 40 and 50 (let's just say that's my age range, and we'll leave out which side of that I fall). It happens just like it happened to me -- we ignore a twinge, it gets worse, we find other ways to do what used to come easily, it gets to a point that the workarounds no longer work, we seek help. A relatively minor injury turns into months of physical therapy (or as the French and Canadians call it "physio"). 

Yup, months for helping a neighbor take down a tree and holding books to the side.

So where does the phrase "Librarian's Shoulder" come in? While subbing in Princeton I mentioned my ailment to the school librarian. She said it is common in baseball players and librarians. She even called it Librarian Shoulder. I like that term better than Frozen Rotator Cuff, so I'll stick with it.

A month later insurance has told me I no longer qualify for chiropractic care (they only allow 12 sessions a year -- that's not much). I need to switch to physical therapy. But wait ... first I need a note from my Primary Care Physician prescribing PT. But wait again ... I don't have a PCP (don't start on me). I went to the place recommended by the chiropractor and was told I would have a 2 month wait for an appointment. Umm.. that won't work. Fortunately the receptionist extraordinaire squeezed me into a cancellation the next day.

The upshot? This is making me very appreciative that we hardly ever use our healthcare for anything outside of routine stuff. The deductible and co-pays stink, especially considering how much Don spends a year on health care through payroll deduction. 

Another upshot? Now I have a PCP who is a woman about my age and a runner, plus a chiropractor I trust -- in other words a team of people to see sooner next time so I don't freeze up my shoulder again.

The hope is I'll be back to 100% by the end of the year so I don't have to tap into my deductible again next year. The goals are being able to scratch my back (okay, unhook my bra strap) and rotate my arm so I can go back to working on my goal of doing a triathlon before I turn 50. Wish me luck! Prayers this goes faster would be appreciated. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blessing of the Animals

With our beloved bearded dragon, Sandy Claws, getting more frail by the day, it was very important for us to have him blessed one more time. Or what turned out to be two more times.

Sandy came into our lives 28 months ago. He was already 8 years old at the time. Bearded dragons have an average life span of 8-10 years. Anyway you do the math, he is old.

In 2012 and 2013, has was blessed by Father Vince during Ashley's school's Blessing of the Animals.

This year it was canceled. Students could bring in a photo or stuffed animal for a mass blessing -- but NO live animals. 

Ashley was near tears when she found out. Her awesome teacher found two local places holding blessings that weekend (it ties into the liturgical calendar to fall around St. Francis of Assissi day). We also knew about one happening at Sandy's vet's office (NorthStar Vets in Robbinsville). 

We took Sandy to NorthStar. He was the only reptile was saw being blessed. There were tons of dogs, no cats in sight, two bunnies, and him. The blessing was done by the pastor and elders at Allentown Presbyterian Church (my parents' church). After asking us a few question (what is name, how old is he, what is he, does he have any special prayer needs, that type of thing) Elder Kathy gently laid hands on him and prayed for his health and his strength.

The next day he walked to his food dish on his own and ate. Quite a feat considering for the past couple of months we have been placing him in front of the food dish and/or hand feeding him. He also ate crickets on his own.

Buoyed by that success, when I found another blessing of the animals, this time by Abiding Presence Lutheran Church of Ewing at Community Day in Village Park, I hustled home to grab Ashley, Don, and Sandy for another blessing. 

The blessing went well, but there was no sudden improvement in his health. We've come to accept there will be good days and bad ones, and that injecting him under the skin with saline solution and putting kidney meds in his mouth are just daily occurrences. Chalk it up to "things we do because we love our daughter." 

On the way home, Sandy "blessed" Don and Ashley. That, too, has become a more regular and messier part of life. Ah, the aging process is not for the feint of heart.

Funny the dragon is a Presbyterian at heart, just like us.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ocean City 5K (OCNJ)

 When Don signed up for the 2014 MS City to the Shore ride, I decided to join him at the halfway point in Ocean City, NJ. Ashley made plans with a friend,so it was date night.

We walked about 6-7 miles around Ocean City, mostly up and down the boardwalk, talking pictures and enjoying the perfect Indian Summer evening. After riding 100 miles, Don enjoyed the chance to stretch his legs.

As serendipity would have it, I noticed a guy carrying a plastic bag with a race bib and a t-shirt inside of it. I asked him if there was a race tomorrow. He said there would be a half marathon the next day. I asked if there were shorter distances (I wasn't mentally or physically ready to do a half marathon the next day, plus there was the issue of checking out of the hotel room by 11 AM -- a challenge with a 9 AM race start).

This would be a short story if his answer was no, or that they were sold out. Instead he told me to go to the Sneaker Shop on Asbury to sign up. In addition to the half marathon there was a non-competitive 10 miler (new that year, I'm guessing there were no prizes for that one) and a 5K. My plan had been to run 5K after Don left for the second leg of the ride, so for $25 I got a t-shirt, a medal, and a group of people to run with. Otherwise, I would have been running on a crowded boardwalk against the flow of traffic and wishing I was racing.

There have been two other times when I should have run a race, but didn't because I found out about it too late or did not have my running gear with me. The first time was in Osaka, Japan in June 2013. The second time was in Portland, Oregon in June 2014. In Osaka I saw them setting up for the race, but my sneakers, etc. were in Tokyo. In Portland, I searched for a weekend race on Friday night, 15 minutes after a race started down the hill from our hotel. I was extra excited that this time I found out about the race in time and I was prepared.

The race itself was easy peasy -- 1.55 miles south on the boardwalk, turn around, 1.55 miles back to the finish line. My time was much better than the 5K I ran in the Pole Farm the day before. The race was a bit warmer than should be at 9 AM in late September in New Jersey (60 degrees, with very little breeze). The sun was shining. People were happy.

Speaking of people, it felt like A LOT of people. Looking at their website, though, there were only 366 in the 5K, 921 in the half marathon, and only 52 for the 10 miler. Looking at the results, I would have placed and possibly won my age group. Again, they said it was non-competitive, so I suspect that means no separate awards.

There was also a separate category for those who did the first leg of the MS Ride then did the half marathon. They would then need a ride back to Cherry Hill to get their cars as the start time for the ride back was before 8 AM.

Next time I should pack a sparkle skirt "just in case." 

Super excited this included a really nice medal!

A Night in the Village (Lawrenceville's Main Street)

In 2012, Lawrenceville Main Street kicked of a new event -- call it a movable feast, a taste of local restaurants, a walking restaurant tour, or it's official name "A Night in the Village," you get the idea.

The event is the biggest annual fundraiser for Lawrenceville Main Street (LMS). LMS is most famous around here for their Music in the Park summer series of Thursday night concerts in Weeden Park.

For each of the three years they have been blessed with absolutely perfect outdoor dining weather. The other two years I walked home from church, saw everyone enjoying their meals and wished I could join them. This year I talked Nancy into joining me (she, too, had been thinking about going). 

We went to the second seating (at 6:30) in order that I could attend worship at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville. I really like their WiNK (Worship in a New Key) 5 PM service and did not want to miss it.

The event was extremely well organized. We were to visit 11 places within a two block radius in 3 hours. Each place was slotted for a 15 minute window, but we were the only ones enforcing that. We knew we would have to hustle to enjoy every last morsel.

Personally I feel we had the best schedule. We were walking group F, meaning five other groups left before us.

Our first stop was Chamber's Walk Cafe for butternut squash soup and some other tiny appetizer (I knew I should have written this a week ago when it was all still fresh in my mind!).

A quick turn around to Enzo's, which is not located on Main Street. They set up a station in front of Wealth Strategies, a business on Gordon Street. Enzo's served us tiny meatball, salad, and toast (all picture).

By 7 PM we were having tapas at Wildflour Bakery/Cafe. They are a gluten free and vegetarian dining establishment.

By this point we've had many wonderful appetizers and were ready for our main course. That's why I feel we had the best tour! Our next stop was Leonardo's II. We love Leonardo's. Rob and Marta (Mary Magdelena) both greeted me as if I was returning home. I need to go back. Again, a restaurant not located on Main Street, so they set up shop in Melz Salon, a hair salon. We took our plate of chicken and butternut squash gnocchi outside and dined on their front porch. The idea of eating where hair is cut is a little gross to me (the place was spotless, more my hang up). I want to go back to Leonardo's for more butternut squash gnocchi. Fortunately the event came with a wine bag and coupon for most of the establishments involved.

The half-way point was Fedora Cafe -- my go to restaurant when meeting friends. Fedora's outdid themselves with table clothes and centerpieces. They dressed themselves up for us. We had the choice of butternut squash soup or salad with quinoa, apples, squash, walnuts, feta cheese, dried raspberries, roasted garlic and honey vinaigrette. The portion was enormous! It took us every bit of our fifteen minutes to finish it. ;) 

It was tough, but we pressed on (or is that waddled?) next door to Acacia. Acacia served us a sampling of mini meatball, kale and something else (pictured below the salad). Delicious!

Stop #8 was another favorite restaurant located temporarily in a hair salon: Amalfi's located in the Mane Design. Amalfi's had delicious chicken and pizza. Nancy and I dined in salon chairs. I should have taken a picture of that!

At 8:15 we walked up Philips Avenue to Vidalia's. It was the end of the night and they were cleaning up. They served a beet side dish, and two other side dishes (that if I wrote this when I should have, I would share with you). It as good, but we were stuffed and still had three more stops to make!

Cherry Grove Farm set up a cheese tasting in Bambu Yoga -- a yoga studio that opened earlier in the week. One of the cheeses was soaked in cider from Terhune Orchards. One of the cheese (maybe the same one) was paired with 3 Monkeys Mustard, which started a couple of blocks away in a neighborhood kitchen and has evolved to earn the World Mustard Award two years in a row. Having the cheese course just before dessert was perfect timing!

The evening ended with a scoop of pumpkin ice cream (my choice) from Purple Cow and a chocolate cupcake from the Gingered Peach, slated to open on October 18. The dessert was even more perfect by listening to Stringzville serenade us.

It was a perfect evening.

I then waddled my way 3/4 of a mile to my house.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I have been fortunate to be able to see a lot of family in the past week. The first visit was for a happy reason. The second a sad one.

After completing the Roller Coaster 10K, Don, Ashley, Maia and I drove up to Boston to have lunch with 98-year young Aunt Elva and two of her children, Martin and Helen. Aunt Elva recently suffered a stroke, but is working hard to get stronger.

The get together turned into a impromptu birthday celebration for me, which was very sweet. Helen even provided my favorite cake -- chocolate ganoche. Mmm... it was good, and very thoughtful.

Boston was not at all on our way home from Springfield, MA. But, whenever possible, it is important to honor your elders and make time for them.

This became even more apparent when we learned my Uncle Tom's mother, Marge, passed away at age 86. Though I am not directly related to Marge, we consider her part of our extended family. whenever we gathered in Ohio to hang with the Smith family, Marge came along. Last December when I was in Ohio for the Christmas Story Race, I went to visit her in the nursing home. We chatted about how New Jersey will always be God's Country to her (take that, Sterling!). I don't remember what we talked about exactly. We used to talk about Janet Evanovich, and how her brothers went to Princeton University, and how she grew up in Montclair. It didn't matter what we talked about. She was always up for a good conversation and a visit.

When I learned of her passing, I looked online for a cheap airfare. I found one flying on Frontier Airlines from Ewing, NJ to Cleveland, OH for less than it would have cost me to drive. Of course flying to Cleveland meant renting a car, but it was still a bargain.

As a bonus, I was able to visit with Smiths ranging in age from under 2 weeks to 94 years old. The great thing about funerals is that normal life slows down so you can enjoy those who matter to you.

As an extra bonus, I was able to catch up with Heidi for lunch. This has been my third visit to Ohio in 12 months. While I am grateful for being able to go, I'd also welcome playing hostess and not putting so much wear and tear on my car. Hint, hint friends ... come and visit!

Oxen Stampeding in Hopewell

Newsflash: Hopewell, NJ has been invaded by 68 oxen!

The 68 painted oxen are all part of the Hopewell Valley Stampede, the largest public works art exhibit in Hopewell. Their website includes links to pictures of the oxen, maps, and trails you can follow to see them. You can also vote for your favorite ox.

On a lovely, but warm, afternoon, Don and I saw about 20 of the oxen. We didn't love all of them, but we admired them, studied them, and took pictures of them.

The exhibit is reminiscent of the Cow Parade movement that was started in 1999 in Chicago (we saw it in NYC in 2000), and is now mooooving to Shanghai. In 2004, we saw giant sculptures of Frogs in Erie, PA. 

Local artists paint the animals. Each one is unique. Many are themed with their location -- such as the one in front of the elementary school has little drawings on it done by students. They are then on display for a couple of months. During that time, online bids are accepted. A few are held back to be auctioned off in person. 

Periodically some have had issues (mostly due to vandalism) and have been taken in for repair. Check the website for details.

In the meantime,they are out and about to be admired through October 19. Kate took her kids around to see 65 of the 68 in one day (three were out for repair or had not yet been installed), so, yes, it is possible to see them all in one day, but it makes for a long day. If you decided to go that route, be sure to visit one of the local restaurants for a snack and to show your support.