The beast of a half-marathon

It is finally over. I dragged 13.1 miles out of myself and somehow got a medal for it. They say that the pain doesn't matter when you cross the finish line because you're so overwhelmed by the feeling of accomplishment, but I beg to differ. That was a whole lot of pain to be able to say "I did it."

Pain excluded, the half-marathon was definitely enjoyable and the scenery was beautiful. We even caught a glimpse of a bald eagle sitting in a tree right next to the trail, and only 8-10 feet from the ground. Our course took us directly along Lake Washington and then through the I-90 express lanes toward downtown. I've never been so excited to see the finish line at Qwest Field, and those last two miles were the longest miles I've ever run. Part of that was psychological, I think: the 10th mile marker was in the I-90 tunnel, and I hadn't been paying attention when I suddenly saw the 13th mile marker. I was momentarily elated, thinking that I was almost done and I didn't even hurt too badly! Then the 13.1 mile marker came and went. We were still on I-90 heading toward the stadiums. The runners around me started expressing dismay too and we wondered if we had missed something. Turns out the 13th mile marker was for the FULL marathon runners, who had joined up with us somewhere on I-90. We figured this out as we saw the 11th mile marker, marked in yellow for the half-marathoners. The realization that I had not yet finished but was in fact still two miles away was sort of a blow. You may think two miles isn't much but when you add it on top of 11 miles... you have to dig for some reserve energy.

I had the privilege of running my first half-marathon with my brother, Richard, who flew over for the weekend from Denver. We ran the first five miles together, but my pace is slower than his and he arrived at the finish line a solid 20 minutes before I did. Richard's a born athlete but had only completed a 6-mile run before the half-marathon. Training in Denver has its merits though, and I think he found the Seattle air to be quite more oxygenated than Denver's! He did great and I'm glad I got to share the experience with him!

Greed doesn't pay

My normal excursion to Costco happens during my lunch hour, where I head back to the produce section for a bagged salad. This takes me past at least one sampling station, sometimes three. I try to be as inconspicuous as possible, which is hard because I’m always the only shopper without a cart and a gaggle of children. Plus, I walk fast because I know exactly what I want and exactly where it is. Nevertheless, I always grab a sample and hope the server doesn’t notice my lack of stuff (or my presence at all) because she’s surrounded by clamoring kids.

Monday’s sample was a chicken burrito. Hearty! I picked up my salad and a box of tomatoes and headed back the way I came. I couldn’t resist another bite of chicken burrito and was thus destined to shatter my relative anonymity. As I reached for my second sample, my box of tomatoes slid out of my arm and crashed to the floor, sending tomatoes in all different directions. The server was sweet about it and helped me pick them up but I think she knew. I could see it in her eyes: that’s what you get, missy, for thinking you could get by me! I man my station like a pro!

Costco didn’t charge me for the tomatoes, which I thought was nice (although really, how much could that have cost them? A nickel?) The next time I consider double sampling I’ll just think, do I really want to be that person? Of course, it depends on the sample. If it’s a meatball, I’m all in!

You know you're spacey when... forget that you left your car at work over the weekend.

Mark picked me up from my office on Friday so we could head straight from Southcenter to Wenatchee. Our plan was to pick it up when we got back, but we somehow forgot that detail until I left the house this morning to go to work. I walked out to the street and tried to remember where I parked it, until I realized that I had no recollection of parking at all. Because I never did.

In my defense, I never drive my own car on the weekends, so I usually have no reason to look for it until Monday morning anyway. But for both of us to forget to go pick up the car is kind of sad...

Mark, thanks for the ride to work!

The newest addition

Mark has been on the hunt for some sort of buffet table for months, and Craigslist finally came through. Mark picked up this mid-century credenza the other night and somehow fit it into his Mazda 3 hatchback for the 3-mile drive from Capitol Hill. I didn’t even know what a credenza was until yesterday, but my co-worker told me they used to be pretty popular. We’re retro!

Reasons to celebrate:

1. The credenza provides ample storage, which means we can move all our baking supplies and foodstuffs from the top shelf in our kitchen, eliminating my need for a chair whenever Mark isn’t around to grab things that escape my reach.

2. I can move the blender and mixer from the closet to the credenza, making them more accessible in the hopes that I might use them more frequently (or so Mark hopes).

3. The credenza creates counter space. If you’ve been to our apartment, you understand. We can stop using the pull-out cutting board as part of the buffet line when we have people over.

MUCH THANKS to Tyah and Andrea, who happened to be in the neighborhood when we needed movers. Little did they know they’d be put to work! Thanks girls!

13 days

The countdown to the half-marathon is on: 13 more days before I can finally get 13.1 miles out of my system. I’m looking forward to the marathon being over for a few reasons.

1. I can stop sacrificing time with friends for exercise. I think exercise should be a priority in our lives, but it shouldn’t become something that we place above our relationships. I’ve tried to balance the training with social commitments (i.e., I’ve skipped a run to hang out with friends who are moving to the east coast soon), but there’s only so much you can skip before it becomes detrimental to your training. You don’t want to be unprepared on race day!

2. Anything over six miles is just plain boring. I’ve set my “reasonable run” limit at six miles because that run will take you a full loop around Lake Union, starting and ending at our apartment. I’ve discovered that I like listening to podcasts on a run because I have to think about the discussion, which takes my mind off my legs. However, my podcasts are limited to Adam Carolla and the occasional Mark Driscoll sermon… any suggestions?

3. I can stop feeling guilty because I don’t usually run on Saturdays like my schedule tells me to. Saturdays are for play, not work… but hopefully the Saturday race won’t catch me off guard (see number one). Here’s hoping!

Jazz and Vinyl

I like to say that I can’t imagine my life without Craigslist, but we didn’t even need Craigslist to find this gem. All we had to do was be in the right place at the right time. Turns out the right place was Capitol Hill and the right time happened to be Mark’s birthday when we stumbled upon this lonely piece sitting on the sidewalk begging for a new owner.

A piece of notebook paper was taped to the top, which read “WORKS. FREE.” That was all we needed to hear, so our friend Philip went for his green, ’83 pick-up and we put it in the back. None of the stuff that we’ve accumulated in our 23 or so years include vinyl, so we took a trip to Jive Time in Fremont to see what they had. We ended up with a couple of jazz records and “Abbey Road”, by the Beatles (obviously), which we promptly took home to try. The previous owner’s ad was true in the sense that the player did indeed work, but I certainly can’t say it works well. Mark worked some engineering magic on it to restore one of the speakers and downplay the loud hum that tried to drown out any music, so it definitely works better than in its previous Capitol Hill life. Records still skip occasionally and we (ok, just Mark) are trying to figure out if it’s the player’s fault or the records themselves.

We’ll replace the needle and see what happens, but I think our record player is around to stay. If you ever have a hankering for some old-timey jazz coming from an undoubtedly awesome record player, our door is always open! You’re free to sit on our couch, drink some wine and tap your feet to some Duke Ellington! And if you have any experience with fixing record players or taking care of vinyl, we’d love some advice!

Mark's almost birthday gift

Mark’s birthday was on Friday, and I was yet again reminded of how much easier it is to find gifts for girls than it is to find gifts for guys. I struggle every year to think of something original. This time though, I was pretty sure I was onto something good, with a little help from Seattle Magazine. This shirt is perfectly Seattle in every way: reusable and local.
For those of you who are thinking, I don’t even know what’s on that shirt, the illustration is of the cranes in south Seattle that load/unload containers at the port. The cranes are lovingly referred to as “dinosaurs”, because of their striking resemblance to brontosauruses. (So when the cranes are down, we say, “Oh look, the dinosaurs are drinking.”)

To make things easier, I shall now refer to the gift simply as Shirt.

Mark was flipping through the magazine the other day and pointed Shirt out to me, which cemented its gift status. Approved by the husband! The magazine listed two shops where I could find Shirt: one in Fremont, one in West Seattle. The West Seattle shop was quickly ruled out due to location. I could handle Fremont. The moment I walked into Evo, my eyes were drawn to the multiple racks of women’s Reef flip-flops: 49 pairs! Yes, I counted. Footwear aside, I quickly found the rack I was looking for. It held two Shirts, both size small. Five minutes of riffling through lesser shirts took me to the counter with a small Shirt, where I asked the associate if they had any more. He gave me one of those concerned-salesperson looks and said they were all out but he would be happy to show me more of the same brand. I humored him and looked over the others in stock, but I was now determined to find Shirt. And Shirt was destined to take me into unchartered territory: West Seattle.

The day before Mark’s birthday, I called Coastal Surf Shop in West Seattle. I figured I wasn’t making that drive unless I knew for sure Shirt was in stock. I described Shirt, and the sales girl said Shirt would be waiting for me at the front counter. I thought, this is great! I’m a day early! The drive to West Seattle took half an hour. It was 90 degrees outside, and I felt a little ridiculous walking into a surf shop across the street from Alki Beach in my professional black pants and heels.

I approached the counter where Shirt was supposedly waiting for me. I told the sales girl that I had come to pick up Shirt, and she said, “Oh yes, I talked to you on the phone! Here it is.” She proceeded to pull out a shirt that bore some resemblance to Shirt, but was clearly not Shirt. I thought, hmm, I don’t remember Shirt being this color of blue. And Shirt looks awfully small.

“Is this a medium?” I asked.

“Yes, women’s medium,” she said. Uh-oh. We had clearly suffered a misunderstanding.

“Oh gosh,” I stammered, “I need a men’s medium. Do you have any?”

“Oh… no, we’re all sold out of those,” she said. “Do you still want this one?”

I could’ve throttled something. I said thanks but no thanks and left the shop. It was too beautiful a day to be overly disappointed that Shirt had dangled itself in front of me, only to disappear into the Alki haze. That floozy. I’ve since ordered Shirt from Evo’s Web site (free shipping if you want to pick it up in the store). So I didn’t have an actual gift to give to Mark on his birthday, but in my defense, I tried pretty hard. Shirt’s going to have to earn my trust once he finally gets here.

Self-help books

Just for giggles, I went to and searched for "self-help books". I just wanted to see what would come up. The top three titles were:
1. "Self-Defeating Behaviors: Free Yourself From the Habits, Compulsions, Feelings and Attitudes That Hold You Back"
2. "When Am I Going to be Happy? How to Break the Emotional Bad Habits That Make You Miserable"
3. "Self-Help"

It seems like everywhere you turn, a new and popular self-help book is entering the market. Everyone wants to be the next Dr. Phil, making tons of money and maybe helping some people in the process. I wonder how individuals come to the point where they think they have something to say to others to make their lives better? Is it some sort of divine calling, where the writer feels a burden to get the message out? Is it self-confidence, maybe even a bit of arrogance, where a writer thinks to him/herself, "I've been through this, I've got it figured out now, everyone needs to know!"

Just wondering. And also, why is it even called self-help? The author is the one telling you what to do. You didn't come up with it yourself. I guess the reader has to make the individual decisions to stop letting emotions control them or cancel bad thoughts or whatever these books say, but the author is the one trying to help. So really, they should call it outside-help. But something tells me that wouldn't sell.


I ran across this account of a man’s brief encounter with the ups and downs of menopause and thought I’d share it. I can’t say I’ve ever had a hot flash, but I have experienced the random crying that hits out of nowhere. Best line: “Not only was I temporarily menopausal, but it appeared that I was also turning into a teenage girl from the early 1970s.”

Heat wave!

One thing I love in Seattle is it’s always socially acceptable to talk about the weather. In fact, I think Seattle residents are actually expected to talk about the weather. The weather and Microsoft.

Check out the names of the guy’s dogs in the story’s photograph: Pork Chop and Cheecharones (which means pork rinds). Cheecharones sounds like a great chinchilla name!

Turn it into a game!

“Give people a competition, and it can transform a dull-but-important task into something exciting.”

I’m not a gamer by any means but I read Wired Magazine online. (My inner nerd must want to be free). A recent article called “The Future of Games: The Game of Life” just validated my competitive spirit. Friends often laugh (or roll their eyes) at my competitive streak, which tends to show itself at times when a competition is non-existent in the first place. Succinctly said, I create my own games. I am my own competitor. I do think this drives me to accomplish more. I have to keep track of my running times so I know if I’m getting better or worse. I calculate my gas mileage and see if I improved it from the last time I filled the tank. Every day, I try to beat my driving time to and from work (my fastest drive home is 22 minutes – what rush hour?)

I love the example at the end of the article where people took the competition in the game too far and their lives became about online points and badges. My life is about finding balance between my addictive personality and the rest of the building blocks that make up my existence. I’m not saying I’d be the one clutching a can of Mountain Dew and playing WoW in the basement at 3 a.m., but I have been known to disappear in a game (or three) of online Scrabble.

Fitness Schmitness

Remember how I told you about how fit and active my co-workers are? A new guy just joined our office a couple of weeks ago, and today he brought his bike in. My guess was he was going to take it out for a spin during lunch time on the trail next to our work, but I later learned he planned to ride it home. I googled his address (stalker that I am) and discovered it’s a 20-mile commute on the highway, which means it’s probably further by bike.

I guess I need to get myself a bike just to fit in here. Forget the health benefits. Or maybe I’ll start adding Seattle bike language to my vocabulary and try to impress people. Suggestions? Let’s see, Burke Gilman, Speedy Reedy’s…

5 years for them, 4 years for me

Four years ago this September will mark the day I climbed in a car with some friends one Sunday, visited a new church in Bellevue and never looked back. That Sunday happened to be the church's one-year anniversary, and while I didn't go to the anniversary party after the service, I was hooked enough on the people to go back next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. Now I find myself at the same church four years later, although we've moved the anniversary party from the fall to the spring in an attempt to avoid September rain (that didn’t work last year). I posted some pictures below, but they don’t do justice to the clouds of floating cotton that happened to be swirling their way around Lake Sammamish State Park. It was EVERYWHERE. In our hair, in our food, in our eyes… sick. But the food was great and the water balloon fight was very entertaining!

Our church is called Blue Sky Church, and it’s a church plant from a larger church in southern Illinois. Five years and counting!