Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 48 - So long, 2011

Today's scheduled run: 14 miles

Today's completed run: 12 miles
Pace: ?

I thought today would have a terrible out-and-back of 14 miles for me. Instead, it had a terrible attempted 14 miles in... a gym. I know, I know. I'm crazy to try something like that, but it was super windy here in the mountains this morning. Like, the kind of wind where you actually blow off the mountain. As you can see above, I didn't complete the 14 miles. I wanted to, and I could have physically; but I couldn't get out of my own head, and I was so miserable at the gym. My legs felt great, but I caved at the end. Oh well. Next weekend...

It's almost 2012 here. We've been celebrating all night with lots of good food and fireworks that my dad smuggled across state lines from Tennessee to North Carolina. Okay - that's dramatic. He really just put them in the car and drove home, but I like the smuggling idea better. They were awesome; big and bright and loud - real fireworks!

 I'm off to watch the last few minutes prior to the ball dropping, then I plan to sleep forever, approximately.

Happy New Year!

Day 47 - Goals-ish

Apparently this vacation is making me a horrible blogger. I keep forgetting about it. Oops.

Today was a delightful day of shopping and hanging out with my step-mom, who is wonderful. We finished out the day by watching The Help, which was amazing. I'm still in the middle of the book, but I caved and watched the movie.

Tomorrow (which is technically today already) is the last day of 2011. Duh, Leslie. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, it is also a day for a 14-mile run, which is longer than any run I've ever done. Ever. Not just in training for this marathon, but ever, in my life. Ok, you get it.

I'm somewhat apprehensive, as I'll be running in rural NC, on an out-and-back route. Rural is pretty to look at, most of the time, but I struggle to run here because I get bored. As I've mentioned before, the city has spoiled me. As for the out-and-back method, I think you know how I feel about it. Bleck.

Enough with the complaining. I've been noticing over the past few days that a lot of runners are posting their 2011 recaps and 2012 goals. It's weird to think about making goals for a whole year, because so much can change. I'm not going to make a list. I don't think the goals will really do much to motivate me anyway. If I want to do something, I'll do it. If not, having it on a goal list won't really help me. Still, I do have one running-related goal for 2012, and you all know it.

Run a marathon.

By March 17, 2012, we will know whether I've met this goal. Assuming that I do, I don't know where I'll go next. I might decide I hate running and never do it again (doubtful), or I might decide to run marathons every weekend (also doubtful). Somehow, I expect I'll go back to being your average runner, though -- putting in a few miles during the week and logging some longer runs on the weekend. I'm pretty content with that plan.

See you on the other side of 14 miles...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Days 45 and 46 - Yawn

I knew it would happen eventually. I totally forgot about this blog yesterday. Good thing it was a non-running day.

Conclusion from Day 45: I like Megabus a lot, but I will not ride it overnight again. Ever. It makes for a sleepy Leslie.

Moving on to today...

Today's scheduled run: 4 miles

Today's completed run: 4.1 miles
Pace: 9:44 (avg.)

Today, also known as the-day-the-hill-made-a-slow-poke-out-of-Leslie, I ran in North Carolina. The worst part about that is the fact that the hill on which I ran would make a seasoned Blue Ridge Mountain runner chuckle. They run mountains; I work at 110 percent to make it a mile up from the river. These elevation charts explain why my Baltimore training does not prepare me for a mile of uphill, ~300 ft gain.
A typical 4 miles in Baltimore. No hill to even warrant a rating.
The 4 miles in today's run. A long, steady climb.
So I did it... just a little slower than normal. I'll probably run along the river for Saturday's 14 miles. I confess: it's beautiful here in the mountains of NC, but I hate running here. I get so bored. All the trees and farms and big diesel pick-ups look the same to me. Running in the city, where there is always something to look at or read or notice, has ruined me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 44 - A Lesson in Endurance

Today's scheduled run: 7 miles

Today's completed run: 7 miles
Pace: 8:44 (avg.)

If you live anywhere near Baltimore or DC, you know how disgusting our weather was today. If you don't, let me tell you: it was really, really disgusting. Rainy, windy and cold. Everything on campus is closed this week on account of winter break, so I had no gym to go to.

I set out around 10:45 in a jacket I thought was rainproof. By 11:15, I realized it was not. It was raining steadily, and I was running along the water, so the wind was pretty fierce. A fog had settled in the harbor, and between it and the rain smacking my face, I was having a hard time seeing. So much so that I almost ran smack into another runner coming toward me. That would have been interesting.

Getting through the first half of the run was pretty terrible. In addition to the yucktastic weather, I had a recurring stitch in my side. Around mile 5, though, I realized I was as wet as I was going to get (i.e. soaked), and that I might as well (wo)man up and kick it into a higher gear. So I pressed on, chanting to myself that I was "almost there, almost there." And finally I was there. The finish was a beautiful thing.

After drying off and finishing the rest of my packing, I headed back out into the rain, where I once more got soaked walking to the train station. From there, I took the Marc (Maryland's commuter rail) into DC. I spent a bit of time reading in Union Station while waiting for a friend. When she arrived, we set off to her apartment to enjoy a fabulous dinner and even more fabulous conversation.

She and her husband were kind enough to drive me back to Union Station, which is where I am now. I'm on a new adventure - an overnight bus trip, via Megabus, to Charlotte. I've made this bus trip before but never over night. I'm hopeful that today's mileage will make me sleepy enough to sleep. We shall see what kind of trouble I can get into! :-)

As an aside, my feet are still wet from the earlier walk to the train station. Let this be a lesson to us all that TOMS are very absorbent and do not dry easily. And also that they smell when wet. Sorry, fellow passengers.

Next time I write, I'll be in NC, enjoying some mountains and southern accents and missing the hustle and bustle of city life. I'll also be missing the sidewalks.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 43 - Two Are Better Than One

Today's scheduled run: 4 miles

Today's completed run: 4.07 miles
Pace: 8:30 (avg.)

It's a beautiful day in Baltimore - sunny and warm for December, though a bit windy. I forgot how many tourists would be out downtown today. Oh well. They'll just have a runner in a lot of their pictures around the Harbor. Inadvertent photo-bombing.

My mom gave me a heads-up this morning that the Today Show did a segment on Alopecia. It's embedded below. I find the hair restoration featured really interesting, and it seems like a great alternative to a wig for kids who want to be active. Who wants to worry about their wig falling off or getting wet when playing with your friends? Also, 1-in-50 people have Alopecia. That's crazy. That means I'm probably not the only one you know. I know I'm not the only one I know. I can think of three other people off the top of my bald head. (Pun intended)

I also really appreciated what the doctor said about how you can help someone with Alopecia. She is right in saying that it can be psychologically devastating. Since hair loss doesn't limit a person physically, it's hard to know how to help. It's not like bringing a meal to a person on bed rest or cleaning for a person recovering from surgery. But being there is greater than any meal cooked or bathroom cleaned. I'm so thankful for friends and family who support me in this, especially those who supported me in the early days, when my hair was still falling out. We need people to help us remember who we are, who God has created us to be, with or without hair.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow." - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a (ESV)

Video from the Today show:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 42 - Christmas!

Today's scheduled run: cross-training

Today's completed run: 3.64 miles
Pace: 8:58 (avg.)

Merry Christmas! I love Christmas, though I confess that today doesn't really feel like Christmas. In fact, it doesn't really feel like December, or like the end of the year is right around the corner. I'm not sure if that's because it's been so warm or what, but it's odd. Regardless, I celebrated today by sleeping in, eating, getting back into bed, running, and then eating for the rest of the day while spending time with family. Really, I think I was putting food in my mouth from about 12:30 to 7:30 pm. It was great, but I'm paying for it now, because I'm totally stuffed.

Of course, this week is also the week I increase my weekday mileage. I'll be making a few changes to this week's training, because I'll be traveling to NC on Tuesday night. My normal Monday rest day will be a 4-mile run, Tuesday's scheduled 4 miles will be Wednesday's 7 miles, and Wednesday will be a rest day. I will resume a normal schedule on Thursday. I have a 14-miler to look forward to this weekend, though I'm still trying to figure out where I will run it, since I don't know the back roads of Western NC very well. Maybe I'll just run off into the forest...

I'm off to do more exciting Christmas things. (Actually, I'm doing laundry, but I wanted to make that sound exciting for my own well-being.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 41 - Short and Sweet

Today's scheduled run: 9 miles

Today's completed run: 9.06 miles
Pace: 8:56 (avg.)

Merry Christmas Eve, blog friends!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 40 - Christmas Eve Eve

Rest day!

Greetings, friends; and a merry, merry Christmas eve eve to you. I'm currently baking (again). I've taken on dessert duty for Sunday, so I'm making red velvet cake balls. They are the greatest thing you'll ever taste, guaranteed. Have you ever tried them?

Today was an awesome rest day. My mom and I went to lunch at Alewife, a pub in Baltimore, and then went over to The Hippodrome to see The Lion King. Lest you be confused, as two of my friends were, this was the traveling Broadway show, not the 3D theater version. So, when I say I laughed and cried, please don't think I was watching the animated version that we all saw when we were in elementary school. It was an absolutely incredible show. The costumes were breathtakingly beautiful and original; the music, instrumental and voice alike, were moving. I'd definitely recommend it if it comes to a city near you.

Tonight, I will relax and bake, spending some Leslie-alone-time before joining my family for the next two days to celebrate. Tomorrow, I will run and then head over to my sister and brother-in-law's house to begin the festivities. As you know from a previous post, they are expecting. Even more exciting, now, is the news that they are expecting TWINS!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 39 - Cookies and Speedwork

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 5.06 miles
Pace: 8:23 (avg.)

Today felt like a very adult day. There's something about being in your 20's and single and the master of your own schedule that makes things like dropping off boxes at the UPS store a sign of adulthood. I cannot explain this, but I know other 20-somethings experience it, too. Productivity!

S'mores cookies. Divine!
Anyway, post-UPS store, I headed to the grocery store for the fourth time this week. Clearly I need to start planning ahead and going with a list. I'm so bad about that. I picked up the last few baking items that I'd need for today's cookie baking extravaganza. You'll remember yesterday's raving about the new mixer. It's beautiful, and I love it. I'm considering keeping it in my bedroom. Okay... probably not. But really, it made baking 11-dozen cookies a cinch. I can't wait to make more things with it. An especially fun part of the day was baking with a friend of mine.

Post cookie-making, I headed over to McHenry Row for the weekly run with Charm City Run. I ran the five-mile route again, and it was crazy. We started off in a group of four at an ~8:45 pace. We dropped two and I continued on with a guy from the group at an ~8:30 pace. We picked up a [very fast] friend of his around mile 3 and finished our last two miles somewhere between 8:02 and 8:10. I was definitely maxing out at the 8:02-8:10 window, which coincided with the last mile. But I did it, and that's what counts. Also, it's really awesome to be able to keep up with men. Go team Leslie.

Recipes from today:
Basic, no-fail sugar cookies
Snickerdoodles
S'more Cookies

Music from today:
Page CXVI

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 38 - Rainy Day Run

Today's scheduled run: 6 miles

Today's completed run: 6.13 miles
Pace: 8:33 (avg)

Today was my first official day of break. I took advantage of it by sleeping in until 8:30 (party animal, I know!), chatting with a friend, and not leaving for my run until 11. I threw in a few episodes of 30 Rock, too. Approximately 3 minutes into my run, it started raining, and it rained on-and-off for the whole six miles. Still, it was warm out, and not too bad. I wore shorts again; I love this shorts in December thing. Initially, I thought my legs felt tired. Now, though, looking at my pace, I realize that it must have been my brain that was tired. I was pretty bored this run, and it made it feel really long. Don't ever let anyone tell you running isn't a mental exercise.

In other exciting news, I opened a Christmas present tonight. You may remember my mention of a very large, heavy present that my dad left under my tree. Tonight, upon returning from dinner with him, I opened it. Voila! A fabulous Christmas present - a Kitchen Aid mixer. I am so excited about it! Last year, they got me a bread machine, which I love and use all the time. I'm looking forward to making some wonderful delicacies on this baby. I think I'll name her. Any suggestions?

If you need me, I'll be baking.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 37 - Free Run

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: ?
Pace: ?

Remember in elementary school when you had free play in gym? That was like my run today. No watch, no distance measured, no nothing. Just me, some shoes and the sidewalk. Oh, and the 16-ish year old boy who followed/mocked me for half of a block until I turned and said, "You couldn't keep up if you tried." Yeah; I did that.

As an aside, it's weird to me that 16 now seems young. I must be getting old.

Anyway, it was nice to run without keeping track of numbers. I think I'll make that a regular thing for Tuesday runs. Seems like as good a day as any to do it, and it will be nice to run for the sake of running, not for the sake of competing with myself. Traffic lights dictated my route and allowed me to incorporate several hills. I also avoided the agitation of planning a route and then having to stop on account of traffic. It was also nice to run in shorts... in December! Five days until Christmas! (In case you missed the memo...)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 36 - Rest Day, Part B

Nothing too exciting to report today. It was a planned rest day, and I'm happy to report that the twinges I was feeling yesterday have not returned today. Hooray! I'll resume running tomorrow, as planned.

I fit a lot of students in at school today, as well as a bunch of paperwork that needed to be done before the end of the year. Very productive! I also took in a ton of sugar cookies and let my kids decorate them after we'd finished our sessions. They love stuff like that, and so do I. After tomorrow, I'll be done until the second week of January.

I've discovered new resources in our office in addition to the resources I got from SAMHSA, so that's adding to my reading list for the break. I look forward to finding a warm spot (because it's finally consistently cold here) and reading away.

Until tomorrow...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 35 - Rest

Today's schedule: a cross-training day.
Today's reality: a rest day.

I'm having a weird tinge that may or may not be my sciatic nerve. I also really just want to spend the day resting, so that's what I'm going to do.

I plan to listen to a lot of Christmas music. For example: Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss "The Wexford Carol"; Mariah Carey and Patricia Carey "O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus"; and Sufjan Stevens "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Enjoy those.

Happy Sunday, readers! And happy one week until Christmas!

Day 34 - Mish-Mash

Today's schedule run: 12 miles

Today's completed run: 12.06 miles
Pace: 8:55 (avg.)

Another run that I am so pleased with and encouraged by. Y'all, I really enjoy running. Have I mentioned that? The weather was great, I felt strong, and it was a really nice time to think and pray and sing. I also threw in some hills, which challenged me in all the right ways. Loved it, though I confess that I'm a little sore now.

Moving on, I do realize (shame on me) that it is technically no longer day 34. The night has crept into Day 35, but since I'm still awake from day 34, I say it counts. Today was full. Full, full, full.

After the run this morning, a friend and I prepared for the Christmas party we hosted tonight at my house. It was a phenomenal mish-mash of people from multiple areas of my life: church in DC, people from school in Baltimore, my family, and some friends-of-friends. It was great, though. We ate yummy food, had some great laughs, sang lots of songs, and went to see the lights in Hampden. Overall, a smashing time.

Afterwards, I used our new Dyson vacuum as soon as everyone was gone. For me, that was almost as exciting as the party itself. (Disclaimer: Dyson did not pay me to say that; nor did they give me the vacuum for free.) Now you know how awesome I am in real life. I get excited about vacuums.

Until tomorrow...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 33 - That Bald Thing

I realize I haven't written much about the bald girl part of bald girl running. It's not for lack of wanting to, because it is a pretty important part of the blog and my life. I find that I often don't know exactly how to talk about it. I am naturally inclined to humor; it's how I deal with serious stuff a lot of the time. I'm thoughtful about things, but I try to avoid making my life more dramatic than it needs to be or really is. I can only be serious for so long before I have to throw some levity in the mix. But I don't ever want to sound insensitive or as if I'm making light of something that is really a big deal.

Losing your hair is really hard. It's an incredibly stressful time, whether you know it or not. What I mean by that is this: I didn't realize how stressful it was until it was all over. While I was living it (for 11 months, from Sept. 2010 - August 2011), it was life, and I tried to ignore it. Now that I'm on the other side, with all of my hair gone, I realize how much time the process of losing my hair stole from me. Or maybe how much time I let it steal from me.

I was always thinking about it. There was hair everywhere, all the time. It was hard to ignore the receding hairline and forehead that was quickly become a fivehead, then a six head, and so on. Even my dramatic comb-over was failing to cover things by late April. I transitioned to wide sashes, purchased on Etsy, and then to scarves that completely covered my head. Then there were the questions: Will it stop? Will it all go? What's making this happen again? Why now? And, of course, what do people think?

Some of these questions are moot now, like will it stop and will it all go. Others don't have answers that I can know, like what's making this happen and why now? And that last pesky one, well, I can be content knowing that it doesn't really matter what they think. Shortly after it all fell out, the questions of when will it come back and will it come back lingered nagged. That's not a question I ask anymore, though.

For now, I'm bald. But I'm also healthy and blessed and grateful. And I'm still Leslie, just with a shinier head.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 32 - Charm City Runs

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: ~4.9 miles
Pace: ~8:38 (avg.)

Tonight I had the opportunity to run with a group from Charm City Run, a local running store. It has four outlets in two of the surrounding counties, and they are opening a store in the City (Federal Hill area) in April. I'm so excited, because I've been waiting for a quality running store to open downtown. My wish is their command.

I learned about their Wednesday night group runs via Twitter and knew I had to check it out. Plus, it was a warm night, downright balmy, if I do say so myself. It was 58 degrees when we left, with 70 percent humidity.

Charm City provides 3 mile, 4 mile, and 5 mile routes, but it's pretty informal -- a show up and run kind of deal. It was so much fun to run with other people! There was that awkward initial phase of figuring out who would run with who based on distance and speed, but it worked itself out. I hung out with the front of the pack for a good two miles before three of the six took off at a sub-8:00 pace. I'm not ready for that, so I settled in around 8:40 for the remainder, running with two others.

It's good to meet other runners and talk about running and life in general. I really enjoyed it, and it made the run go so much faster. Good, good times.

For tomorrow, a rest day, I'll finally get to talking about that whole bald thing. :-)

Until then...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 31 - One Month Down

Today's scheduled run: 6 miles

Today's completed run: 6.06 miles
Pace: 8:26 (avg.)

I'm so pleased with today's run. It was a nice way to celebrate my one-month anniversary of official training for the marathon. I felt strong, and I think I could have given more. As a runner, I can see ways I'm developing and growing, especially when it comes to pacing. I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting to know Leslie-the-runner pretty well, and that's a good feeling. Happy one month, to me!

Two things for you:
1. A girl I went to college with has qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials. She was a crazy good runner in college. That obviously hasn't changed. You can read her race recap here. Most notably, her qualifying marathon was her first marathon... ever.
2. Sara, aka Endorphin Mom, wrote a really emotional post yesterday, telling a pretty significant portion of her story. She'll be running RnR DC (same as me!) and for a great cause. Go check it out!

Until tomorrow, friends...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 30 - Cement Legs

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 3.02 miles
Pace: 8:06 (avg.)

I did not enjoy today's run very much. I did it, and ran pretty strong, I suppose. But my legs felt like cement, and my pace felt erratic. It's a shame, too, because the weather in Baltimore is perfect for running -- low 40s with brilliant sun.

Alas, tomorrow is another day for running. For now, I'm off to study for a final I have at 2 pm.

Until tomorrow...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 29 - Counting Down

I'm knee deep in a Literature Review focused on mitigating PTSD among active-duty service members, so this will be brief and random.

1. A really great running resource- http://www.strengthrunning.com/. This site has answered so many of my lingering questions today.

2. A news team is coming to P.S. 124 tomorrow. I don't know why, but we were instructed today via school-wide announcement to make sure our bulletin boards look good. No joke. There is one particular bulletin board in a stairwell that has had a curse word (misspelled, of course) written on it for about a week. Today, someone took the paper down. And, lo and behold, behind the paper was... another curse word! Written on the wall. Oh, P.S. 124.

3. Dad stopped by today to drop off a table and four chairs for my upcoming Christmas potluck. He also brought a gigantic, heavy Christmas present and put it under my Christmas tree. I have absolutely no idea what it is, but he says I can open it as soon as finals are over, when I don't have to worry about being distracted from my work. Hmmm...

4. The anticipation of aforementioned Christmas present is overwhelming. Imagine what it must have been for people waiting for the Savior of whom the prophets of old spoke? Phew.

5. I'm counting down the days for a few things.
The end of my first semester of graduate school - 3 days.
Christmas Potluck Extravaganza - 5 days.
Official start of Christmas break at P.S. 124 - 10 days.
Christmas - 13 days.
2012 - 19 days.

Until tomorrow...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 28 - Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Things that happened today:

1. A relaxing morning reading, just me and my [amazing] heated mattress pad. I'm reading "Counterfeit Gods" by Timothy Keller, and I'd definitely recommend it.

2. Church. A blessing, as always.

3. Friends for lunch and another chance to fix that delicious chicken paprika I mentioned a few weeks ago.

4. Library time. It is finals time, after all.

5. 45 minutes of cycling for my cross-training. Nothing to write home about.

6. More library time.

This week will be busier than normal as I attempt to wrap up academic things in order to close out the semester. I'm confident it will all get done, but I'm not confident that I'll get enough sleep while getting it all done. Oh well. I'm hopeful that this week's runs will prove a respite from the busyness, rather than an added stressor.

Hope you're all well!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 27 - I Am A Runner

Today's schedule run: 11 miles

Today's completed run: 11.01 (Yes; I just did that.)
Total time: 1:41:15 / Avg. pace: 9:11

Variables: Wind. Crazy, whipping wind.

"If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run." -John Bingham, marathoner and author
I realized today, as I was pounding the pavement, that I am, in fact, a runner. There's always going to be someone faster, someone better, someone with more endurance, someone with better form, someone who runs for 24-hours at a time, someone who [fill in the blank]. But that doesn't change the fact that I'm a runner; or the fact that anyone who runs any distance is a runner.

I've long said that running is a community sport, and I always get snarky when people treat it otherwise. You can't run alone. You might do the physical running by yourself, yes; but you're not really doing it alone. Even when you do the actual run alone, you probably see other runners. Plus, someone inspired you to run, or encouraged you to keep at it, or taught you how to run, or bought you a burrito after you ran (thanks, mom!). Even if it's only your running friends on the Internet, someone else is involved in your running. And that is a beautiful thing. We all run together.

Forgive the abrupt transition, but we're getting a little too transcendental here. So, let's move on.
Today I combined two familiar routes to make my 11 miles -- Ft. McHenry and the longer of two Inner Harbor routes. It was a glorious day -- 40 degrees and sunny -- though a bit windy, as noted above. I haven't yet figured out how to make myself more aerodynamic when encountering wind resistance; this is much easier on a bike, I think.

I didn't stop to take any pictures, even though the scenery was beautiful, because I was too busy running. Seriously, I loved today's run. Even better, I did it without any music, and that made me love it more. The miles seemed to go quickly, and I was so glad to be running in Baltimore. I was glad to finish and felt accomplished, but I know I could have done more had it been asked of me. I need to hold on to all of these great endorphins for the next time I encounter a run that makes me hate running.


Other great things about today:
1. I found out that my sister is expecting a baby, who we're calling Sticky for the time being. Pretty sure that's the cutest name ever.
2. Burrito for lunch. 'Nough said.
3. My mom got me a Christmas tree and a rug for my living room (FINALLY!). My house is more and more of a home every day.


Now, I absolutely must work on a take home final for my policy class. And probably watch Elf. I'm the worst student ever these days.

Until tomorrow...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 26 - To Be, Not Do

"God asks us to give away everything of ourselves. The gift of greatest efficacy and power that we can offer God and creation is not our skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions. The wise men had their gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Paul and Peter had their preaching. Mary offered only space, love, belief. What is it that delivers Christ into the world -- preaching, art, writing, scholarship, social justice? Those are all gifts well worth sharing. But preachers lose their charisma, scholarship grows pedantic, social justice alone cannot save us. In the end, when all other human gifts have met their inevitable limitation, it is the recollected one, the bold virgin with a heart in love with God who makes a sanctuary of her life, who delivers Christ who then delivers us. ... What if, instead of doing something, we were to be something special? Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised."
- taken from "To Be Virgin" by Loretta Ross-Gotta

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 25 - Brrr

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 3 miles
Pace: 8:15 (avg.; I was treadmillin' but switching speeds.)

Winter has finally arrived in Baltimore. We enjoyed 60-degree days through November, but I fear those have bitten the dust. Today's high is 46. That may sound warm to some of you; but for someone who breaks out the long underwear as soon as it hits 50, it's cold. I just wasn't made for cold weather. I should have considered this more when I signed up to run a marathon in March, meaning I would train most heavily in the dead of winter. Alas, I did not.

Nonetheless, I press on. I wanted to get my run in this morning in order to put less pressure on the rest of my day. It was a struggle to get out of bed, seeing as I had only gotten into it 5.5 hours before my alarm went off, but I did it. I headed over to the gym and pounded out my 3 miles. It was a good run, all in all. Nothing too exciting to write home about.

Tomorrow - a rest day. And then Saturday - 11 miles. The longest run of this training plan yet. I almost wrote "I'm excited!" but what I actually mean is "I hope I'll be excited after tomorrow's rest day!"

Until then...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 24 - Running All Day

Today's scheduled run: 6 miles

Today's completed run: 6 miles
Pace: 9:05 (consistently; I was treadmillin' again.)

In actuality, I feel like I ran about 15 miles today, as I started running as soon as my feet hit the floor this morning. P.S. 124 kept me on my toes, with a visiting presenter, a few crises, lots of paperwork, and my normal client load. I didn't actually get everything I needed done before I had to leave for a training, so I'll go in on Friday to see a few more kids and meet with another staff member. A few notable happenings:
  1. An angry child put his foot (with a shoe, of course) right through the wall in the hallway.
  2. One of my students said to me, "You sound like one of those white chicks that talks." Okay then...
  3. Although I beat him twice at Connect4, I lost eight games of Tic-Tac-Toe... to a nine year old.
  4. We might be getting some back-up social workers! This is wonderful news, because two part-time and one full-time are not enough for P.S. 124.
After a two-hour training I attended this afternoon, I headed through the rain to the gym. It sounds like it was some treacherous walk, so I'll confess -- the gym is a block and a half from the building where my training took place. ::sheepish grin::

I felt pretty strong during the run, and it went faster than I'd expected, which is always nice. I wanted to actually run close to the pace I'm aiming for (9:09), since this is supposed to be a pace run anyway, so the 6.6 mph on the treadmill was ideal. I rocked out to some Florence + the Machine, a favorite of mine lately, in case you couldn't tell. I also watched more of Planet Green. This time, they were airing a show on a new engine created by Airbus. This thing was gigantic and cost an absurd amount of money. It was actually very interesting.

On the screen next to that, which I watched during commercial breaks, was the show Right This Minute. I'd never seen it before, but it's my kind of show. Two of the features were especially notable: "Hiya! The Taekwondo Fighting Hand" and one in which a wife/mom serving in Afghanistan surprised her family by popping out of a box. One made me laugh, one made me cry -- I'll let you figure out which was which.

Although the TVs distract me from the boredom of treadmilling, I don't really like getting lost in them anymore. I used to enjoy that, but now I find they distract me from my stride and make me forget to breathe evenly. I look forward to this rain stopping soon, so I can get outside.

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 23 - 10 am Gym Call

Today's schedule run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 3 miles
Pace: 8:35 (consistently; I was treadmillin'.)

I found another ideal time to go to the gym: 10 am on a weekday. I had my pick of whatever treadmill I wanted and a lot of free mat space to stretch. Love that.

Normally I'm in class from 9-12, but I had an exam this morning that took less than an hour to finish, so I was free for some gym time. I thought an even 7.0 pace on the treadmill seemed like a good goal, so I pushed the up arrow, put Florence + the Machine on repeat, and ran. Every now and then, I would glance up at the TVs in front of me. My choices were Rachel Ray's cooking show or a show on Green Planet that featured volcanoes, man-made avalanches, tribal hunters, and sky burials... All that in one show!

All in all, a good run. I step up my Wednesday mileage to 6 miles tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to it. I only hope the weather in Baltimore isn't as yucky tomorrow as it is today!

To end on a nerdy note, I received two packages today, both of which contain reading I plan to get done over Christmas break.

- Inside box #1: four books from Ligonier (R.C. Sproul's ministry). I got the books plus shipping for just $23 on Black Friday.
- Inside box #2: six FREE resources from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Social workers can't turn down free resources... ever.

And, in case you did the bulk of your growing up in the 90's, like me, you'll be very excited to learn that Lisa Frank has a clothing line... for adults. Yup. I like the Rainbow French Terry Top, personally. Stylin'.

Until tomorrow...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 22 - Social Workery Things

It's another rest day. I'm getting a little tired of rest days. I'm sure I won't feel that way when the mileage increases, but for now, they're getting a little old. It's okay, though, because I'm still cranking out papers and studying for tests -- both of which I must do tonight.

I was at P.S. 124 today, and my day was a bit longer than usual. After the students had left, I got caught in a conversation with a teacher. I see four of her students -- three in a group and one individually -- and I've had an inkling for some time that she's a little upset about the morale at P.S. 124. As it turns out, she's more than a little upset. Teachers at P.S. 124 lack support and encouragement, making their already challenging job extremely hard. Because I'm an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) concentrator, my ears perked up at her wanting to talk.

We talked for about 45 minutes -- she discussed struggles and frustrations, I listened, and then we brainstormed about things we might be able to do together to create a support system for her and other teachers. It's probably the most satisfying discussion I've had at P.S. 124 since I started back in August. Don't get me wrong -- I love the kids. But therapy with children is just not my jam, it appears. So, this was awesome. I'm excited to see where we're able to go with it.

In other social workery news - check out this NPR article from 2008: "A Victim Treats His Mugger Right"

That's all for now; life feels pretty boring, but I did promise a post each day.

Tomorrow we run!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 21 - You Thought I'd Forgotten

This post has absolutely nothing to do with running and everything to do with things in my life that are wonderful.

I bet you thought I'd forgotten you, but I haven't... and I still have 1.5 hours left to get today's post in. I'll be brief, because today was too great to cover this late in the evening.

After sleeping in a little bit, my friend and I had coffee and tea, respectively, and then headed out for a nice 30 minute speed-walk. I wasn't planning on cross-training today, because I knew I'd be busy, but it was great! The morning was cool and crisp, and I'd forgotten how nice it is to talk to someone while working out. Also, speed walking is hard work. I'd go as far as to say that it is more challenging than running. At least, while I'm doing it, I'd rather be running. Anyway, the walk was great, but the company made it.

Post-walk, I headed into DC for brunch at the Cheesecake Factory with a friend, and then for an afternoon of cookie-baking and catching up with my mentor. Both were delightful. I wish all days could be like today. My mentor and I headed over to church, which is always a wonderful blessing for me. Being back in DC and going back to Grace DC always feels a bit like coming home. Everything about tonight's service was awesome. I miss that place a lot. After church, I ate at Austin Grill with some friends. The tacos al carbon there are to die for.

I'm back in Baltimore now and looking at a pretty full week, as usual. I'm sure it will fly, also as usual. Only two weeks left of my first semester of grad school! Then, Christmas and New Years! Have I mentioned that I love this season?

Until tomorrow...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 20 - W&OD Trail

Today's scheduled run: 6 miles

Today's completed run: 6.5 miles
Pace: 8:57

Greetings from Shirlington/Arlington/Alexandria, Va. It seems like I'm in all of those places at once. Really, they just all happen to intersect right where I ran today -- a portion of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. I'm staying with a friend who lives within running distance of the trail, so I ran out of her neighborhood and headed out and back on the trail. It was a good run and a nice trail, though I was slightly annoyed by the "wanna be Lance Armstrong" cyclists. Out of at least 10 that went zooming by me, I can only recall one who announced their passing. Argh.

I enjoyed the run, and the weather was perfect. There is a hill in my friend's neighborhood that I went down at the very beginning of my run and was determined to go up at the very end of my run. It was a doozy, but it really shouldn't have been a doozy. I did it, but it made me realize how badly I need to start training on hills. I'm used to running where it's flat, and it's made me a sissy when it comes to hills. This is especially important if I decide to run the New River Marathon, or even half-marathon, in May.

I know what you're thinking. "Leslie... signing up for another marathon before you've even run your first?" I know, I know. I can't help it. I'm just so excited about running these days! I love this.

I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon cranking out a paper and will then enjoy some more friend time. I don't expect to have time for any official cross-training tomorrow, but I do plan to eat a very large brunch, so I'll make that count.

Until tomorrow...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 19 - A Busy Rest Day

As usual, today is a rest day, which is good because I am busy, busy, busy with a lot of fun things. I am headed to DC this weekend to spend some time with friends there, which is always a gift, because I have some wonderful friends there.

The weekend starts with volunteering at the race expo for the RAM Racing Hot Chocolate 15k/5k, which is tomorrow at National Harbor. I was supposed to run the 15k, but my plans changed. However, I'm still going to pick up my swag (because it's a jacket, not a t-shirt!) and volunteer. I've never been able to volunteer at an expo because of work schedules, so I'm looking forward to it. Happy running to those who are running this weekend, BTW!

After the expo, the weekend will be filled with visiting friends. It won't be all fun and games, as I have a 20-page paper to write for my Human Behavior class, but I've already planned a study party with a friend of mine who is taking classes right now. It's always nicer to study together, even if productivity drops significantly during that time. :) I'm also looking forward to the 6 miles I have scheduled for tomorrow. It's a drop from the last few weekends, and I'm feeling strong for it already. Let's hope that stays!

To close, I'll leave you with two very interesting articles from Runner's World.

Why Is Running So White? This article was so interesting to me, both as a runner and a social worker. In fact, I brought it up yesterday in my policy class, because we were talking about health disparities based on various demographics, i.e. income level, race, etc. Something so basic that I had never thought of before is that if you are living in an unsafe urban area, as so many people of color do, running is not an option. Running is a flight technique, not exercise. So interesting and so relevant for so many of our Baltimore residents and neighborhoods.

Transcendental Steps I read this article this morning, mostly because I've been trying to figure out if I want to challenge myself to run iPod-less. I'm not interested in the Buddhist meditation aspect, for obvious reasons, but I do think the principles are transferable in some ways. I could spend time meditating on the things of the Lord (Philippians 4:8), and I could simply talk with Him. I should relish that opportunity, not fill it with bad music. I'll let you know how it goes...

What are you up to this weekend? Anything fun? Any running?


Until tomorrow...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 18 - Why You Have Eyebrows

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 3.05 miles
Pace: 7:56

Before I say anything else, don't be too impressed by that pace. The street crossing gods were against me today, so I had lots of stops and starts, which may have contributed to lots of sprinting.

All in all, though, it was a good run, especially since I did it on 4 hours of sleep. Yes, folks, it's coming up on finals week here at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. I had a policy brief due this morning, which was an interesting but very challenging paper to write. Regardless, I made it out of bed and onto the streets for a wonderfully sunny but cold run. The Harbor was stunning, as always.

Now, let's talk about the title of this post. The majority of you have eyebrows and eyelashes. Or at least I think you do. I, on the other hand, do not. This is one of those "You don't know what ya got 'til it's gone" moments. I mean, really, I didn't know all of the things eyebrows and eyelashes kept out of my eyes until they weren't there anymore to do the keeping out. Primarily, on runs, this means sweat in my eyes. Sweat, when applied directly to the eye in large doses, burns. Like crazy.

I wear a hat while running, which absorbs quite a bit of sweat, but some still gets out, or in, rather. I have yet to figure out a solution, especially because I probably can't rock the cotton sweat band around my forehead and still show my face around Baltimore. Hello, Richard Simmons.

Moral of the story: be glad for your eye-related facial hair. I won't ask you to be glad for that stray chin hair that pops up every now and then, though...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 17 - Bonk

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: ~1 mile
Pace: Who knows?

It's a good thing I began this blog with a post about a run on which I totally bonked, because I'm now free to write another, and likely more in the future. As excited as I was to tell you about the 8:10 pace yesterday, I am equally disappointed in telling you about today's "run," which was, in the words of some, an epic fail.

It was a chilly (around 43) but sunny morning in Baltimore, and I set out feeling pretty good about getting in the planned 5 miles. However, around minute 6, every organ in my abdominal cavity began protesting any and all movement. I mean, those puppies were rolling around. I think they were playing tag, or something. I slowed, thinking maybe I could run it out, but it only got worse, turning to dull pain punctuated by sharp pangs. I stopped to walk across a street, thinking that might settle everything, but it didn't. Those organs just kept on hopping.

So, I turned around; and I did the nearly 20-minute walk of shame back to my house. The walk of shame itself wasn't so bad, even though I was dejected and plagued by more rolling organs for most of it. The worst part was that I'd dressed just warm enough for running at 43 degrees -- shorts, long-sleeve shirt, thin pullover and a hat. As you may surmise, this is not warm enough for walking in 43 degree weather, with wind, in the shade of tall buildings. Brrr.

By the time I got home, I couldn't feel my hands or my legs. Not my best moment.

I'm glad to look back on some stronger runs these past few weeks and remember that a bonk is not forever. Thankfully, tomorrow will be a new day.

Did you know that the official definition of a "bonk" is when an athlete depletes their glycogen stores in the liver and muscles? I didn't know this until this morning. Technically, then, I'm using the word bonk incorrectly, because that's not what happened here; but I like the term so much, that I'm going to keep it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 16 - Wrong Turn

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 3.67 miles
Pace: 8:10

Although the weather has since turned, it was absolutely beautiful this morning when I left for a run. I headed out a little later than planned, because I read today's "Watch for the Light" before I even got out of bed. By the time I left at 7:15, it was a balmy 65... in November! The sun was shining, though I think the birds were too confused by the warm temperature to be singing.

My plan was to run a quick three miles. I was intending to try and run at a faster pace than normal, just to see what I could do. Well, I ran my little heart out. I ran it so far out that I forgot a turn and wound up running 3.67, instead of 3 miles. I knew I was running more expeditiously than usual, so I was really confused when I began approaching the 28 minute mark and had still not finished. I kept wondering, "Am I actually running really slowly? Do I have cement legs today?"

I needed to know what was wrong with this equation, so I headed to MapMyRUN right when I got home. I discovered that I'd added the .67 by accident. The route I ran is a portion of a 4.5-mile route I like to run. In my speed-induced delirium, I must have combined the two. Still, seeing that I ran an average 8:10 pace for the 3.67 miles was very encouraging. It makes me want to do a 5k to see if I can come in around 25 minutes. I've never come in under 30 in an official 5k, though I also haven't run one in quite some time. It's nice to see this kind of improvement. I don't want running to become a numbers game, but I like paying attention to them nonetheless.

I'm so glad I ran this morning, because Baltimore is back to yucktastic weather. It is expected to stay through the night, which is actually perfect for hiding away in the library and writing a paper.

Until tomorrow...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 15 - My Favorite Season

Yesterday was the start of my favorite season.

Well, that might be a bit of a misnomer, because my favorite season proper is actually Summer; but my favorite season is Advent. The expectation and anticipation, the active waiting -- I love it all. I am in awe of what we celebrate at Christmastime -- God Incarnate. I have to pause every time I think of that just to meditate for a few moments on what that means. Just as I did last year, I'm using readings adopted from the Book of Common Prayer. I'm also going through a book called "Watch for the Light," which has daily readings from a variety of writers. I strongly recommend both.

Today's "Watch for the Light" reading was a piece by Henri Nouwen -- "Waiting for God." Nouwen writes:
"Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. Therefore, hope is always open-ended. I have found it very important in my own life to let go of my wishes and start hoping. It was only when I was willing to let go of wishes that something really new, something beyond my own expectations could happen to me." (emphasis mine)
It's a good reminder that the things we so often wish for pale in comparison to the things God has for us. That is humbling. In this way, hope is risky, because it means we relinquish our control, our intentions for the circumstance. Still, we know the certainty of God's promise and have it "as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain." (Heb. 6:19, ESV)

We live our lives waiting for something. I want to live in hope and trust.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 14 - Highway Miles

Greetings from route 81 in Draper Valley, Va.!

Dad and I are headed back to Maryland after a 4-day stint with the family in the mountains of North Carolina. I didn't have any time to write this morning between my Wii workout, church, lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant and hanging out with some friends; so I'm writing now.

Yes - you read that correctly -- my Wii workout.

I did a variety of workouts, ranging from muscle-shaking yoga poses to this one ridiculous activity involving my Mii in a chicken suit and me having to flap my arms like wings. It was quite the cross-training event. I might want to fine-tune it a bit were I going to do this on a regular basis, which I'm not, but I could see how the Wii could be a good workout tool, sans the chicken suit activity, of course.

That's all for now. I'm praying for a good transition back to "real life" tomorrow. P.S. 124 requires a lot of energy, something I'm feeling a little low on right now.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 13 - Christmas Cheer

Today's scheduled run: 9 miles

Today's completed run: 9 miles
Pace: 9:27

The view for all 9 miles
Nine miles through Christmas tree country and along the river -- this was nice. As far as the running was concerned, I was struggling. It was cold, and I don't like cold under any circumstance. Plus, my route was an out-and-back, which usually means boring. Still, I finished. The finish was my favorite part of today's run.


 The rest of the day consisted of a recovery lunch at Chick-Fil-A, shopping and decorating for Christmas.



Now, we're watching The Santa Clause 2, which is one of my favorite "new" Christmas movies. As far as "old" Christmas movies, the classics, I can't wait to watch White Christmas and Miracle on 34th St.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 12 - Wide Open Like a Lake

Price Lake, Blowing Rock, NC
When something can be that beautiful in a picture taken with an iPhone, you know it is really beautiful in person.

While the siblings attempted to skip stones and make boats out of leaves, I sat in the sun, taking in the flatness and stillness of Price Lake. Over the worry of what is to come, I sang Sara Groves' "Like a Lake."
so much hurt and preservation
like a tendril round my soul
so much painful information
no clear way on how to hold it
when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake
standing at this waters edge
looking in at God's own heart
I've no idea where to begin
to swallow up the way things are
everything in me is drawing in
closing in around this pain
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake
bring the wind and bring the thunder
bring the rain till I am tried
when it's over bring me stillness
let my face reflect the sky
and all the grace and all the wonder
of a peace that I can't fake
wide open like a lake
everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I am fighting to stay open
I am fighting to stay open
open open oh wide open
open like a lake
Tomorrow, I will run 9 miles, and I will decorate a Christmas tree and bake cookies, and I will love on my family and let them love on me. And I will stay open, like a lake.

Until then...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 11 - Never Leave a Man Behind

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 4.05 miles
Pace: 9:48

Greetings from Ashe County, North Carolina, home of Christmas trees, cheese, blind sheep, and open spaces.

I had some company on my run this morning. Allow me to introduce you to them:
Josh (12), Olivia (15)

Although they refused to run, they were kind enough to accompany me via bicycle. We ran out of our neighborhood, down toward the New River, along the river and then back up to the neighborhood. The river is touted as being the second oldest river in the world, second only to the Nile. Where they come up with these things, I do not know.

The route was tricky for me because the first 1.2-ish miles is all down hill, the bulk of the middle is flat, and the last 1.2-ish miles is uphill. I don't normally run hills, and this particular hill is long and boring and not fun and filled with barking dogs and long and steep in some places. (I had some help writing that last clause from my giggling bicycle riding companions.)

However, we finished, and I finished 1-mile over the scheduled run for today, so that's nice. Unfortunately, my sister broke a cardinal rule of running and cycling with other people. She left a man behind. Two men, to be more precise. I was holding up the middle of the pack, and Josh was bringing up the tail end; Olivia was nowhere to be seen. By the time we arrived home, she was already lounging in the overstuffed chair in clean clothes.

One of the most wonderful parts of the run was being in the fresh, cold air of rural Ashe County. As an added perk, we were passed at least once by a tree truck, carrying freshly cut Christmas trees and spreading its wonderful scent along behind it.

Pre-run
For our next workout, we'll be heading to WalMart tonight at 10 pm, when it opens for Black Friday sales. How something can open on Thursday and still be considered a Black Friday sale is beyond me, but I don't ask these questions. We've decided to go toothbrush shopping, walking slowly, meandering through aisles with carts, stopping in the middle of the store, and asking as many questions as possible. People will love us.

To all of you, a very happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 10 - Spring in November

Today's schedule run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5.08 miles
Pace: 9:04

Today's running entertainment: Timothy Keller sermon, "Real Friendship and the Pleading Priest" -- I'm sure I was "mm-hmm"ing, and I know I was chuckling at some points, but I bet the passersby just thought I was a happy, content morning runner.

Despite not being able to fall asleep until 12:15 am, I woke at 5:50 am to hit the road. My dad and I are traveling to NC tonight as soon as I leave P.S. 124, so I wouldn't have had time to get a run in otherwise. I thought it was going to be raining, so I headed off to the gym, which is about an 8-minute walk from my house. There, I was informed the power was out across campus. Couldn't they get a back-up generator for my treadmill? Apparently not.

Somewhat dejected, I headed back home. About 4 minutes into my walk back, the obvious dawned on me: it's not raining, and it's pretty warm out. I dropped off my gym stuff and headed back out the door in shorts and a t-shirt (in late November!!) to run outside. The weather -- 60 degrees and humid -- had me confused as to whether or not Thanksgiving is actually tomorrow, but I was grateful nonetheless. I cruised at a pretty steady pace through Downtown, past and around Little Italy, around the Harbor and then back through Downtown. Traffic was pretty light for most of the run, as rush hour hadn't quite started yet.

About 35 minutes in, an e-mail popped up on my phone from the campus alert system, alerting me that the power was out across campus. Thanks a lot, guys.

All in all, a great morning run. I often struggle to run in the morning, but I seem to be getting better here. It's a great way to jump-start my day, and it's really nice to feel so accomplished before the day has even started.

Tomorrow I will write from the mountains of North Carolina, where sidewalks are a commodity and I use the altitude as an excuse to run pitifully, even though my dad tells me the addition of 3,000-ish feet shouldn't make a difference...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 9 - Presbyterian on a Treadmill

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 3.1 miles (a nice, even 5k)

The yucky side of fall -- rainy and cold -- has descended upon Baltimore, so I took to the treadmill once more. I felt good and figured I'd bump my 3 miles up to 3.1, just for fun. I kept a pretty steady 9:14 pace; I'm pleased with the run.

Rather than music, I tried a new form of "entertainment" today -- podcasts. I know people have been talking about podcasts for the last decade, but I never quite got on the bandwagon. Well, I'm on it now. Today, I listened to a Timothy Keller sermon, titled "Praying Our Tears." My only regret was that I couldn't take notes while running! It was an excellent sermon, just as I'd expected, and it kept me going. Of course, I'm an "mm-hmm"-er, so I'm sure people thought I'd lost it.

Here are a few things that really caught my attention:
- Religiosity tells us to stuff our tears (feelings), and secularism tells us to dump our tears. What are we really to do with our tears? Expect them, invest them, and pray them.
- Becoming a person of faith will cause you to weep more. [Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26 - "I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh."]
- Planted (invested) tears produce joy. [2 Corinthians 4:17 - "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.] The knowledge of this frees us to involve ourselves in the messiness of the world, as well as others' lives, because we can expect joy if we plant our tears.
- Keller notes that the psalms, a majority of which are laments, end with psalms (146-150) of pure praise. He quotes Eugene Peterson: "What the psalms are teaching us is that all true prayer pursued far enough will become praise. Any prayer, no matter how desperate its origin, no matter how angry and fearful the experience it traverses, will become praise. It does not always get there quickly. It does not always get their easily. In fact, the trip can take a lifetime! But the end is always praise. This is not to say that other kinds of prayer are inferior to praise, but that all prayer pursued far enough becomes praise. Don't rush it. Don't try to push it. It may take years, it may take decades before certain prayers arrive at the hallelujahs of Psalm 150. Not every prayer is capped off with praise. In fact most prayers, if the psalms are a true guide, are not. But prayer is always reaching toward praise, and if pursued far enough, will arrive there."

I'm certain I'll be listening to more of Keller's podcasts, as well as some TED Talks, to make the miles fly.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 8 - Smorgasbord

Today is a rest day, but I actually thought about running. Alas, since I don't have to, according to the Master Plan, it is better that I make an attempt to conquer the huge pile of work I have been putting off.

Still, I promised to post everyday, and I'm not a girl to back away from a promise like that. So, my smorgasbord of random things:

1. I'm still eating candy corn, even though Halloween is well over. This is what happens when candy is 70% off at Target.

2. Last week, a student that I work with came in with her "hair did". It looked really good, and I told her so, at which point she said, "Miss Leslie, you could get your hair done like this." Hmmm... probably not, even if I had hair! It was funny.

3. That same student also told me I was light-skinned, not white. I love it.

4. A spell check on the word "smorgasbord" confirms that I have been pronouncing it incorrectly for my entire life. Anyone else always said smogasborg? Shame on me, the English major.

Sunrise in the NC mountains               





 5. I absolutely cannot wait to visit my family in North Carolina. My dad and I will drive down on Wednesday evening and stay until Sunday night. I expect it will be a great time of respite for me. It's hard to be stressed when you're visiting a place that looks like that.

6. Today I felt joy and peace in the midst of trial like I have never felt them before. I am certain beyond any doubt that they are from the Lord. I am so grateful. (See my exact thought at that moment here.)

7. I read an excellent post on Friday night by a college friend of mine, Meg @oursomethingnew. She speaks the truth we all need to hear.

Angry about these numbers
8. Over the weekend, I went to the beginning portion of a sleep-out held at City Hall, coinciding with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. I wasn't planning to sleep-out, and I could write a whole post on my philosophy there (but won't!). My politics don't necessarily align with most of my fellow social work students, but there is one bi-partisan issue on which most of us agree.

That's really all I have for today. Not too terribly exciting, I know; but some days will be like that. I'm off now to write a policy brief on Title I. Sounds fun, right?! Right...

Until tomorrow...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 7 - Cross-training and the Pursuit of Glory

Today's scheduled run: not a run. Cross-training!

I have successfully completed the first week of marathon training. Only 17 more to go!

The weather was perfect for a run, but I headed to the gym instead to get in some cycling. The gym on Sunday afternoons is just the way I like it -- empty.

I spent an hour on the bike, covering 14.25 miles and alternating between reading Tabletalk and watching the Ravens game. If you saw my earlier tweet, you know that I could see the game on television as well as see the stadium out the window. Of course, I couldn't see any of the on-the-ground action from where I was sitting, but I could see the lights and the rows of fans all decked out in their purple garb. It's a pretty sweet view, and I'd rather be in the gym watching than out there with all of those crazies.

An hour on a bike that's not going anywhere is even less thrilling than an hour running in place, so I was thankful to be able to read. I'll leave you with this piece from Montaigne (AD 1580), as quoted by John D. Currid:
"Of all illusions in the world, the most universally received is the concern for reputation and glory, which we espouse even to the point of giving up riches, rest, life, and health, which are effectual and substantial goods, to follow that vain phantom and mere sound that has neither body or substance."
 Something to think about as I pursue the "glory" of completing a marathon.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 6 - Oh Say Can You See

Today's scheduled run: 8 miles

Today's completed run: 8.35 miles (double woot!)

The Fort
I'm glad to report that it is a beautiful day in Baltimore. It was in the low 40s when I set out this morning, but the sun was shining brilliantly. Perfect conditions for a fall run, and I decided to venture over to Ft. McHenry. I played around on MapMyRUN last night to figure out how to craft an 8-mile route out of that. It turned out to be relatively easy, as Ft. McHenry is just over 4 miles from my house. How convenient!
Ft. McHenry entrance

As I was approaching the Fort, I was inspired by imagining the broad stripes and bright stars, the rockets' red glare, and the bombs bursting in air. Sound familiar? I felt triumphant.

As I ran the loop and headed out of the site, however, I mostly felt the headwind into which I was running . Still, it was a strong run for me. I averaged a 9:01 mile, which is really where I'd like to be. All in all, a very encouraging run. Yay!

Good things about today's run: beautiful sun, strong pace, running past the Domino's Sugar plant (yummy smells) and lots of other runners on the road.
Less-than-good things about today's run: too many layers when in the sun, and I need a running buddy. Any takers?

And now, for something completely unrelated to running: I got a pair of TOMS today -- an early Christmas present from my mom. In her words, there could not be a more "Leslie" pair of shoes. They say "Carpe Diem" on them and -- for my favorite detail -- the insides are a world map! I'm so excited to wear them and to remind myself to seize the day, every day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 5 - Gratitude

The latter days of this week have been equal parts challenge and promise, which have been wrapped tightly together in one place -- gratitude.

When life goes topsy-turvy and something familiar become unfamiliar, it's easy to lose focus on just about everything. The issue at hand becomes paramount, and we develop a sort of tunnel vision that is nearly impossible to break. We must refocus. We must cast our gaze elsewhere, look upon something different, something greater.

This is what gratitude in the midst of trial does for us.

In her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp writes, "Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant—a seed—this plants the giant miracle."

And so I thank God for sun falling through slats in the blinds. For the laughter of children. For delicious dinners and hot tea. For the encouraging words of friends. For colors. For the smell of a new book. For a blue sky speckled with clouds. For hooded sweatshirts. The longer I spend looking, the longer the list gets. These are the seemingly insignificant things.

Then the miracle comes -- the giant miracle in which I am able to thank Him for things like hurt and sadness. For things like pain and trial. For things like conviction and boldness. And in this giant miracle, in this gratitude for blessings I cannot yet see, I can know a promising truth:
"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed." -Hebrews 12:11-13 (ESV, emphasis mine)

a journal of gratitude


 And so I write down these things. I list them in a book. I look at them. I stare at the pages until I am reminded of promise.  I stare at a list of little things, things I would miss were I not looking; and somewhat magically, as if by miracle, I realize gratitude for the big things, the hard things, the good things.

 


My wasteland, my despair, my wilderness -- they become as a lush garden, with joy and gladness, thanksgiving and song.
"For the LORD comforts Zion;
     he comforts all her waste places
 and makes her wilderness like Eden,
     her desert like the garden of the Lord;
 joy and gladness will be found in her,
     thanksgiving and the voice of song." -Isaiah 51:3 (ESV)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 4 - Encouragement = Speed

Today's scheduled run: 3 miles

Today's completed run: 3 miles (woot!)

Today was not quite as yucktastic weather-wise as yesterday, but it was blustery and cold. The forecast called for rain, and the skies looked ominous; so I took to the treadmill once more. Of course, as soon as I got on, the sun came out for a beautiful sunset. Alas... I completed my three miles at an average 8:38 pace, which was great, though not a speed I could have sustained for much longer than that. Still, it's good to get in some speed runs. Hal Higdon always says you won't race fast if you don't train fast.

Running tunes included the same three "top hits" stations I mentioned yesterday. Today's cool down song was "Sweet and Low" by Augustana.

EmBz and me, circa March 2010
The most notable part of this run was the phone call I got .35 miles in from my friend, EmBz, who lives in faraway Cleveland. Okay, it's not that far, but it sure feels like it sometimes. I told her I couldn't chat for too long, so she told me she just needed to say one thing before we hung up. That one thing was one of the best things anyone can say to a bald girl: You look really good without hair. She said it in more words than that, which made me blush and grin terribly; but you get the picture.  I was pleased that I didn't start crying. Instead, I was grinning; by the time the two-minute call was over, my jaw hurt. EmBz, you made me run fast today; and I love you for it and many other things. (Since she mentioned her sister had a part in it, too - here's your shout-out, KBz!)

I promise you that no matter how much confidence someone appears to have, they need to be encouraged. I think it's fair to say that most of us don't encourage people as much as we should, or even as much as we want to. The encouragement burns on our tongues, but we feel weird saying it, or we don't want to offend, or we don't want to sound condescending. In my experience, genuine encouragement very rarely does any of those things.

So, go. Go be encouraging. Tell someone what they are good at, or why you like them, or even how beautiful they are. You'll feel great; they'll feel great. Win-win.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 3 - Yucktastic Weather

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5 miles (woot!) [Note: my policy in life is to celebrate everything.]

Baltimore had some yucktastic weather today - rainy and cold with a mix of bleh. I don't mind running in the cold, and I don't mind running in a light rain, but I hate running in a cold rain. So, off the gym I went. As an aside: I'd planned to go to the gym this morning, so I set my alarm for 6. It went off accordingly, but I decided to stay in bed until 8. ::sheepish grin::

Running on the treadmill is hit-or-miss for me. Today was pretty good, and I completed the miles at an average 9:37 pace.
The best part: finishing.
The other best part: not having any shin pain. Hooray! My week of rest paid off, so far.
The slightly torturous part: the inordinate amount of Chick-Fil-A commercials that came on while I was running. Drool.

I consider surviving runs on the treadmill to be an art form, because it is so boring. I readily confess that I listen to terrible music, i.e. a lot of pop/Billboard hits. I also readily confess that I love it. I usually go back and forth on the iHeartRadio app between three stations, two local and one in NYC. They all play the same songs, but they are the ones that keep me running. Then, I cool down and stretch to music worth listening to. Tonight's choice for cool down was Christa Wells' "On the Mountain." It's good; real good.

Other survival tricks include scheduling my runs based on what's on TV (crime shows are the best, because the suspense keeps me running), and - my personal favorite - covering the treadmill screen with a towel so I'm not watching the seconds tick away.

Do you have any tricks for making treadmilling more bearable?

Post-run, my dad came over to Cafe Leslie for dinner. I know this isn't a food blog, but you must try this recipe for paprika chicken from Jenna over at EatLiveRun. It's so simple! I was feeling lazy, so we ate it over angel hair pasta, rather than with dumplings, and it was delicious.

That's all for today, but I'll leave you with a comical picture from P.S.124 (the city school where I am interning as a social worker).

That is the boys' bathroom across from my office. I followed my normal policy: Just don't ask.

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 2 - Gross

Today's run was short, only 3 miles. Since I'm coming out of training for a 15k, 3 miles should not be a big deal. The way I ran this morning, it was like 3 miles was 20 miles. I was looking forward to the run, as it would be the first after a week of rest induced by shin-splints. I don't usually run in the morning, but an unusually early bedtime last night had me ready to be up and on the road.

I started strong, feeling good, running an 8:28 mile. This is entirely too fast for me; I usually sit somewhere between 9:10 - 9:30, depending on the distance I'm running. Still, I was feeling good.

Then, I bonked.

Right around mile 1.5 I hit the wall. I was almost certain I was going to throw up. I slowed down, but I couldn't even keep a slow pace, so I walked, which is terribly demoralizing when you're not planning on it. Plus, the street crossing gods were not on my side today. Almost every intersection I came to had an orange hand, instead of my friendly little neon walking man.

I finished my planned course in a walk-run-stagger pattern. Somewhere along the way I cried, and when I got home, I threw up. (Hey - I promised to be honest.)

Lest you think, "And this girl wants to run a marathon?!," let me assure you that there are a lot of other things going on in life this week are making everything, including running, a challenge. I am discouraged, and this disappointment of a run reflects my emotions.

Still, training (and life) happens one day at a time, by putting one foot in front of the other and leaving the disappointing miles behind. Tomorrow will be a new day.

There were two things that made me smile this morning:
1. When I arrived home, I found a gnat squished on my forehead. Normally this would be disgusting, but it made me feel like I'd been moving as fast as a car on a road trip.

2. Anyone who runs in Baltimore City gets the pleasure of running along the Harbor, where mornings feature still, flat water and a beautiful view of a distant sunrise. This is a gift.



Until tomorrow...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 1

Conveniently, Mondays are a rest day, which means this blog is being kicked off with, well, no mention of mileage or mile times. Lucky you... and me!

I'm slowly collecting links to blogs related to running and Alopecia, though there aren't any I've found that actually combine the two consistently. I'm also amassing a list of people to follow on Twitter. I don't know why I didn't do this before -- it's a whole new world of people I want to know. Thank you, Internet.

For today, I'd like to share the stories of two other runners with Alopecia.

Megan at Watch MeGo Run (@watchmegorun). She recently wrote about bullying and Alopecia. Of Alopecia she writes, "I can't control it, but I can't let it control me, either." Yes.

Abby Ter Harr, a freshman cross country runner at TCU. As highlighted in this video, she is an inspiration.

Running is a hard sport, and the temptation to compare endlessly nags. We find ourselves comparing times, form, shoes, etc. etc. etc. The list is endless. Being bald is just one more thing to add to the list of comparisons, but we are so much more than we think. Competition is good, but self-deprecation is not. I'm so impressed by and thankful for the confidence Abby exudes and the heart Megan has. Run fast, girls.

--
In case you missed it -- a greeting from bald girl running.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

hello.

Welcome! I'm Leslie, aka bald girl running. It took me months of thinking about it to decide whether or not I wanted to start a "running" blog. It took me just two days of a weeklong, shin-splint-enforced rest to say, "Well, alright then; let's do this."

The blog: I will begin officially training on November 14, 2011 for my first marathon - the Rock N Roll DC Marathon on March 17, 2012. As such, I will post each day on my training and any other reflections on that day's workout. This could be a simple, "16 miles today; I hate life." Or it could be a funny story or a thoughtful reflection. Lest you think I'll be writing solely about distances covered and mile times, which would be less than interesting to a non-runner (and some runners), I will use my "rest" days to create a space for storytelling, one of my favorite things. More on this later.

The bald: The title of my blog isn't simply "girl running," as you'll note. It's bald girl running, because that's what I am - a bald girl running. At age 4, I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack the hair, which then falls out. The condition is cyclical, meaning that since my diagnosis I've had periods of patchy baldness followed by a thick, full head of hair. Beginning in September 2010 with just a small bald spot, I began losing my hair. By August 2011, I had no hair. I've been a runner on-and-off for about 6 years now, but right around the time my hair started falling out, I began running more regularly. I don't think the two are related, necessarily, but you can psychoanalyze me later if you'd like.

The name: In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, the title phrase initially came from joking with a friend about starting a cooking blog called "Bald Girl Cooking." At the time
of the phrase's creation, I was cooking dinner in a retro kitchen in a condo we'd rented at the beach. Alas, I'm a better runner than I am cooker.

Who am I? Currently, I'm pursuing my MSW at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. I live in Baltimore City in an old row house that I love. As part of my program, I'm interning at a Baltimore City public school as a school social worker. I'm an ENFJ, a follower of Christ, and a big fan of people, and I'd never turn down a good burger.

Why blog? Well, first of all, it will be a place for me to keep myself accountable for logging the miles, as well as a place for me to look back and remember the road to the marathon. I suppose I could have left out the bald part and made this a straightforward running blog, but there are enough of those. Second of all, I think it's time to tell this story.

So, sit back, grab a cup of tea (I'm a chai fan, myself), and read on.