Sunday, November 30, 2014

Race Recap: Annapolis Half Marathon

After the Vegas experience, I returned home to work Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday. I drove up to my parents house Wednesday night so that I could hop on a plane Thursday morning to head out to Annapolis. There aren't enough words to express how excited I was... to see my friend Mark, to see Annapolis and the DC area from his point of view, and to run ANOTHER half marathon - with him.

I arrived early, read and snacked on salted caramel Brownie Brittle (go buy some... now) while I waited for Mark. He brought me a surprise - DONNER (the famous weim I have heard so much about). In my years of working with animals, I have to say he is one of the best looking ones I've seen - a really handsome creature. We arrived at his house - which is completely adorable and awesome, an old historic house, just blocks away from the downtown area. It's like a movie... people actually live like this?!?

We strolled around downtown with Donner, complete with Starbucks (of course), and he showed me the lay of the land. What an absolutely beautiful place. The open water just draws me in, I love it... We went home and got ready for a dinner at USNA - I got to be pretty and dress up. We walked over to the academy and joined the cocktail hour for a second before dinner. They couldn't really figure out who I was (Mrs. P, Ms. P, Ms. M?) - it was cute... We got arranged in a line to proceed into dinner, but we got split up so I made friends with the people around me and a few midshipman. Dinner was delicious - really cool to hear the different people talking and the midshipman next to me was kind enough to explain different Navy things. After the dinner, we walked around a bit and headed over to their after party. I met a handful of the tri team members - super nice kids, really great to talk to. It was sweet to see Mark talking to the kids - they really like him and obviously respect him and its clear he cares a lot about them.

We walked towards home (me with shoes in hand) and stopped at a couple of bars for drinks which was quite fun. Class the next morning, so we didn't stay out too late.

Biked to USNA in the morning and got to sit in Mark's class for a few hours. Very cool. I even learned some things... after being a career student for so long, I almost miss sitting in class and learning. We headed back to the house for a bit so he could have a new fridge delivered, then biked back to USNA for SWIMMING. We swam in the "prison pool" - the good pool was being used for water polo - and it was fun! I tried to give a pointer or two about his stroke, but I am a terrible coach. Plus, my stroke is close to unnatural so there's that...

It was time to pick up the race bibs, so we biked over and checked out where the race would start/finish. At that point, people were arriving at his house, so we biked back and got ready for dinner. Dinner was delicious, his friends on the tri team are great, really friendly, good people. Adam, Holly, and Lee were staying at Mark's house too. Met Andy Baldwin (go ahead, google him too) and we all had a good time at dinner. After dinner, Lee, Mark, and I went to a bar for a bit, but they were kind enough to let me buy a caramel apple along the way.

Woke up in the morning (early!) and got dressed in layers for the chilly run that lay ahead of us... it was about 25 degrees at race start - BRRRR. I had warm tights, a tech shirt, a long sleeve compression/warm shirt, and a cold weather hooded running jacket. The hand warmers really hit the spot inside my gloves! Adam, Holly, Mark and I jogged over to the start, maybe 3/4 to 1 mile away - perfect warm up. Mark handed out the bibs we had collected the day before and we joined the customary bathroom line before the race started.

We were still near the port-a-potties when the race began, so we were a bit behind - it wasn't a very large race, but we definitely were jogging around, passing people for the first handfuls of miles. There were hills... oh the hills... but it wasn't too terrible. Super cool to run with someone and just enjoy the morning and running together. We ran a comfortable pace so we could still chat and I really enjoyed it. We ran near his house and downtown, passed USNA, and hit the hills - it was an out and back course with a few turn-arounds. Around mile 5 or 6 was a clusterfuck of crossing paths... but besides that interesting obstacle, it was a good course. The last half mile ends up in the stadium parking lot and the finish line is directly outside the stadium. We finished together, finally warmed up and collected our gear. The finisher long sleeve half zip was quality - the best that I've gotten from a race so far for sure.

I can't express how cool the post-race party was. An irish band was playing, and there were oysters and beer/cider galore. Ah, heaven. They had a warmed oysters with cheese and bacon bits and spices - it was simply incredible. We listened to music, dined on oysters, and enjoyed the drinks for awhile. Eventually, we made it back to Mark's house to clean up and head out for food and drinks. The Iron Rooster is a newer restaurant that Mark and I went to for lunch Friday and again after the race with everyone. The food is all amazing, I would live there, in that restaurant, if I could. It was a really great group of people, so different and AWESOME to find people with similar interests as me - that's what I'm lacking where I live now - other than Dayle (I don't know what I would do without her) and T. It is really important to me to find a club that I can get into to make friends and train. It really was quite cool...

Mark gave us a USNA tour (!!!) and the group started to part ways. We ended up making a fire in his backyard and later going to dinner with Kate and Blaine, his friends that own Tri360 in Virginia. Good people, good times...

The next morning, we went to church - a completely different kind of spiritual experience than anything I've ever been a part of. It was a contemporary christian church and I was really moved by it. I won't launch into a religious rant about the Catholic church and my personal issues with it, but I left the service feeling like I had learned something, things that I could go and directly apply to my own life. Quite an awesome experience to say the least. Also neat to share it with someone.

He surprised me afterward with apple fritters and Starbucks. We sat at Starbucks and read the paper for awhile - I could get used to spending Sunday mornings like this! We walked around town, stopped in a few stores, and headed back to the house. We drove to Washington so I could see what it was like and we walked Donner along the water. Neat running paths and people all around. Yet another surprise - Georgetown Cupcakes! I LOVE these... I ordered them for Mom for mother's day last year, the variety of flavors is quite awesome. They didn't have my favorite that day (Earl Grey Lavender) but pumpkin spice and salted caramel hit the spot and we ate them on a park bench. We ended up driving over to the Lincoln memorial and walking through the WWII memorial, how incredibly beautiful and special... I got a little taste of a history lesson from the trusty tour guide, but it came time for me to get ready to go.

I loved visiting Annapolis, for many different reasons. Like I've said before, you never know who you'll meet at races... I'm grateful for the experiences I've had this year and the really special people I have met. Very happy to be where I'm at in life right now.

Race Recap: Las Vegas Run The Strip at Night Half Marathon

So much to update! First up - Las Vegas Half Marathon...

Slept at Dayle and Kevin's house the night before we left so that Kevin could take us to the airport at 4:30AM (thanks Kevin). We got to sit together on the plane, I, of course, passed out halfway through watching Swingers (Baby, you're so money!). We landed in Dallas and had to split up while she went straight to Vegas and I flew to LA - thank you credit card points for the cheap, yet inconvenient flight itinerary.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, she was waiting for me in Vegas and we made our way to New York, New York. The room was great, we spent a second being girls and making a mess of our clothes in the hotel room. Carrie arrived and we headed over to the expo to pick up our packets. The expo was decent, sampled lots of food and drinks (I am in love with the berry Powerbar wafers). There was a promotion to "Run with Meb" if you were in the 1:45 pace group - I know that I'm faster than that at this point, but a chance to run with Meb is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

After the expo, we walked a couple of miles over to Caesar's Palace for the buffet. It was a 90 minute wait, so we wandered around the Forum shops, tried on outrageous accessories, and got our make-up done at Dior. We ended up nearly running away from the shops to make it to our reservation. OH. MY. GOD. It was amazing. Crab legs, sushi, cheese, gourmet pizza, crab legs, dumplings of all kinds, oysters, shrimp, did I mention the crab legs? I'm not dessert person per say... but they had large mochi, summer shandy ice cream, creme brûlée, and flan. It was all phenomenal. I was so uncomfortably full after 5 plates of food, but we walked back to NYNY, enjoying the lights and people, and went to bed fairly early.

The next morning I woke up early, as usual. I let the girls sleep while I watched youtube videos of interviews from Kona and caught up on magazines (how I acquired so many magazine subscriptions I don't know, but I really enjoy them). We had breakfast downstairs at a little cafe - it was hard to plan out food for the day, knowing the race was beginning at 4:30PM. I had a bagel with cream cheese and lox that was perfect. We wandered back up the strip to find a Walgreens so we could stock up on goodies, checking out the M&M factory and Hershey's factory along the way. Sensing a bit of a theme here? The day was gorgeous, mid 50's, little breezy. We hung out in the room for awhile, got dressed in our matching shirts (though we wouldn't be running together), and headed down by Mandalay Bay for the pre-race concert by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - AMAZING. I was a bit jealous of the beer drinking all around... but I really wanted to see Meb and try for a PR (despite odd race conditions).

There were 60+ corrals... I was in 3. The girls and I split up around corral 20 and I headed up to the start line. I found the 1:45 pace group sign in corral 6 and cut in. I could see people looking around, same as I was - where was Meb? Race started, the first corral took off and I ended next to a man similarly dressed as QuailMan from Doug... underwear and a cape. At this point it was about 40ish degrees and QuailMan looked pretty chilly so I sneakily took a picture and he caught me and we had a laugh together.

We approached the start line... and out came Meb with his posse. I ended up directly behind him, snapping a variety of completely blurry pictures throughout the first mile. Of course my watch wasn't finding the satellite, so for the first 2 miles or so, it didn't track mileage... I turned it off and started the watch when I heard all the beeping around me (I saw ZERO mile markers the entire race) - thank you GPS watches on strangers!

I was annoyed with the watch, but running behind Meb was too cool. He was chatting with people around him, other runners would fly up and chat for a second, only to fall back behind the group, or we'd catch up to people and they would realize who he was and they'd freak out. It was pretty awesome. I felt like we were running an easy pace, my watch was reading 7:45-7:50 minute miles - but I honestly couldn't believe how easy it felt. Seeing the lights on the strip and running down Las Vegas Blvd was really very cool. I was surprised how few spectators knew who Meb was - we didn't get a lot of cheering as we ran past, but I suppose the running community may be smaller than I realized.

I ended up chatting with one of the guys that was with Meb. I asked how he got the gig, we chatted about our hometowns and road races and tris. Nearing mile 9, I finally got the guts to talk to Meb - once in a life time opportunity right? I told him congratulations on Boston and asked him to give my brother a shout-out on video - once in a lifetime indeed!

After hitting end on the video, I decided to smoke Meb and take off! 3-4 miles to go, I could totally PR. I ran away from the group, putting distance between myself and the 1:45ers. With the watch being off, I wasn't quite sure on the time, but I tried to enjoy the last few miles going south on the strip and taking it all in. Ran through the finish line and figured I was right around 1:43 something. PR yes, but with how fresh I felt, a little disappointed I didn't go much faster. My legs weren't sore, I wasn't breathing hard, but I got COLD very quickly. Dayle had passed me as I was near the finish line, I estimated I was about an hour ahead of her and I grabbed a foil blanket, chocolate milk and settled in for the long haul. Eventually, I was too unhappy with the cold and shivering so I grabbed some free beers, flashed the man a smile, and he gave me a cardboard case of beer to carry my goodies in, full of more beer. Thanks man.

I race-walked back to the hotel, chatted with my family and Mark and waited for the girls to arrive. The hot shower was simply divine. We got fancied up and walked over to Haakasan - a perk of running the race - for the free happy hour. We took full advantage of the hour and ended up chatting with a couple of very interesting men. I met Clay Treska (google him, he's incredibly inspiring and a super nice guy) and we all ended up having a lovely night. We grabbed food after leaving the place (because lets be honest, I need to eat all the time) and the fish and chips at 5AM really hit the spot. You never know who you'll run into... I was quite touched by Clay's story - really amazing.

The next morning, the girls and I woke up and headed out to hike with Dayle's friend from OTS (vet frat). He took us about 30-45 min away from the strip and the views were GORGEOUS. We spent a couple hours hiking to a little waterfall (okay, trickle of water), but it was simply beautiful and peaceful and a version of Vegas that I enjoyed so much more than the stereotypical casinos and tourist attractions. Surprisingly, I wasn't really sore - a testament to the training of the past year.

We ate, returned to NYNY and proceeded to nap. We had big plans to check out the Mirage, the fountains, and - by my request - the Sprinkles cupcake shop - but we were exhausted from the race, the late night, and the hike that we were all okay with relaxing and watching movies until bedtime.

The return trip was fairly uneventful, other than almost missing the connecting flight to Champaign. We got in 20-30 minutes late, race walked to our gate and were met with a pretty serious attitude from the gate attendant. "Where WERE you guys! I've been paging you and holding the plane for you!" ... Ma'am, really? Did you see that our flight was late? We came in through a K gate and had to get to G - they are definitely NOT close together. After apologizing for not parachuting out of the plane (okay, I only said that in my head...), we made it through the 40 minute flight home and Kevin picked us up and drove me home.

I later looked up my time, 1:42:55 - PR by a minute and a half. Quite pleased with that, but I know I can do a 1:40 eventually. Always looking toward the next race... I'm really happy with my fitness level at this point, it gives me hope that qualifying for Kona is a possibility next year. Who knew that the kid that joined high school track to talk to boys would actually become something of a runner?

Until next time Vegas...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Humane *random* thoughts about veterinary medicine and euthanasia

*warning - this is emotional for me. you may or may not agree with how I feel but please be kind.*

I want to start out by saying - my job gets crazy. Over the top, mind-blowingly insane. While I enjoy my chosen career path the majority of the time, its far from easy. Clients depend on me. My patients (unbeknownst to them) depend on me. My colleagues and co-workers depend on me. And I would not have a job if it weren't for any of them... I need them too.

I have had an overwhelmingly high number of euthanasias lately. I won't say how many. Honestly, you wouldn't want to know. With a thriving business and new clients daily, you have to expect that with the increased number of patients, the quantity of euthanasias increases proportionately as well. That being said, it is a service that I thank God we can provide. There is no reason for an animal to needlessly suffer through their last days on this earth. I personally would extend that thought process into human medicine too... but that is a topic for another day.

I had one euthanasia yesterday - it was a decision that the client and I eventually came to together based on the condition of their beloved pet and my interpretation of the lab work. I know they weren't expecting that news when they brought their pet in to see me - those are some of the hardest conversations we are forced to have with our clients. As an advocate for their pet, it is our responsibility to speak on their behalf and mutually decide with their owners the best course of action, keeping their pet's well-being at the forefront of the conversation. Sometimes we don't have all the answers... but with this particular case, I was confident that we were making the best decision.

Sometimes I have trouble handling grieving clients. I try to be as sympathetic as possible, because I honestly do understand the gut-wrenching feeling of deciding whether or not to have a pet euthanized. Many times, from my position, the decision to euthanize is painfully obvious. The client does not always understand the severity of the situation, and in those cases I know I need to take a deep breath and calmly explain that their pet is suffering... and may have been suffering for a long time.

Sometimes I get angry. My tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve is not helpful in these types of situations. I see the condition of the animal and I want to scream because I probably could have helped them two years ago. Or two months ago. But I JUST. DIDN'T. KNOW... because the client didn't call. Age is not a disease. Animals age, yes... but that doesn't mean they have to be in pain or be uncomfortable throughout their final years... months... days.

Sometimes I cry. I understand that I am the professional and I am in control of the situation. My clients trust me to be the rock, something sturdy for them to lean on when they are at a weak point. And even when my science brain KNOWS that ending a pets life is the ONLY humane option... that doesn't stop the emotional side of my brain. We feel something with each euthanasia that we perform. The day that I no longer feel compassion for the pet is the day that I no longer can rightfully practice medicine.

Honestly, some euthanasias hit me much harder than others. It is not because I care more about one pet than another. But sometimes life is cruel. A sweet, loveable two year old pet didn't deserve to have a body riddled with cancer. When I met her owners, I saw the close bond that they had with their pet. I saw how much she loved her owners and the complete trust in her owners to take care of her and keep her safe. Sometimes, I think you can just tell... I can't give details about what happened in that exam room... but I held it together as best as I could while I euthanized her, walked out of that room, and immediately began sobbing.

How lucky are we that we get to share our lives with these special creatures? Much like relationships, owners and pets are not always suited to each other and sometimes we have to try to make it work as best as we can. Occasionally, it just doesn't work out. But sometimes... sometimes there is that magic connection where you know that the person and the animal were brought together to enrich each others lives and share that awesome bond. I saw that with the young pet with cancer. I saw how much her parents adored her and how they knew exactly what would make her happy, even in her final moments. That bond isn't always a given. They weren't planning on having to say "good-bye" after only having her in their lives for 2 years, but they knew what was best for her and I was fortunate to be the one to help ease her pain and suffering. And lucky to bear witness to that particularly special kind of love.

Are you crying yet? Because I am. This is an emotional career that I chose. This aspect of my career is tough but completely necessary. Someone asked me the other day, "What's it like to play God?" I think the comment was not intended to be hurtful, but weeks later, it sticks with me. I'm not playing God. I'm a medical professional for pets and I have the ability to permanently eliminate a pet's suffering via a non-painful procedure. Humane euthanasia is just that - humane. You may not all agree with this practice, but understand that we only want what is best for the animal.

End random stream of consciousness regarding euthanasia. Not a happy topic... but one that we as veterinarians face daily and is a reality of our chosen careers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Support System

I was in a bit of a car accident this past weekend and it made me think about a few things. Let me start by saying, I am completely fine, but after seeing the situation in broad daylight and taking time to think about it, I realize things could have gone very poorly and I could have been seriously injured.

That being said - I had to rely on a friend to help me with the initial towing of the car and taking me back home. After that, I shut myself in and attempted to take care of it completely on my own. I rode my bike to work (something I've actually been meaning to do and it was a couple of lovely days for it) and tried to get this taken care of without any outside help. Yesterday, it started raining and the temperature dropped about 25 degrees from the morning. I broke down and called a friend/co-worker to drive me to the rental car company instead of attempting the journey on my bike (something I had fully intended to do).

I know that I have people in my life that I can call when I need help. My problem is I try to be so fiercely independent that sometimes I take on too much without enlisting the help of others. I know this is a fault of mine, and after this episode, I know I will try to reach out to my support system that is more than willing to help me. And vice versa - I know that I would do the same for them, but for some reason I despise feeling like a burden to others.

The point Im trying to make (TRYING) is I think this also translates into training. I did so much of the training on my own and followed a generic training plan that I tweaked (without really knowing what I was doing). It could have ended poorly (luckily it did not) - but I know there are so many people far more knowledgeable than myself that may be able to improve my training and racing and help me reach my goals. Does this mean finding and hiring a coach? Joining an active tri club? Reaching out to friends that run, bike, and swim? The possibilities really are endless, but all would involve including more people in my little bubble and understanding that IT. IS. OKAY. It is more than okay - it has the potential to be great.

I actually HAVE run with a couple of people this year - something I haven't done since undergrad. And it always ends up being fun! I think a part of me is afraid of holding them back and not letting them have the workout that they desire. Is that a ridiculous thought? Why am I such a goofball?!?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Countdown to Half Marathons!

Our long-awaited girls weekend in Las Vegas is almost here! The weekend is focused around the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon that we are running Sunday afternoon. I think we are going to a show of some sort Sunday night or Monday night - but the Michael Jackson show isn't available AND Britney is on hiatus. Sad... I'm hoping for a Cirque show, maybe Ka or O? Regardless, I'm excited for a few days away, running a race (another state to check off on my list - I have this goal to run at least a half marathon in every state), getting dressed up and going out with the girls - it should be fantastic.

Two days after we get back, I fly out to Annapolis for another half (and ANOTHER state to check off!) and visiting someone special. I've never been to Maryland and I'm excited beyond words. I get to visit the US Naval Academy, which I'm very pumped to see. And the after race party include oysters and beer - its like they designed this race for me! It will definitely be tough to come home after my travels... after the trips, I'm done with races for awhile and I can start that off season training I've been thinking and toying with in my head.

Speaking of off season training and my goals - I've been actively trying to eat better. I made this amazing turkey pumpkin chili in the slow cooker over the weekend - really healthy and good for about 7 meals. I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I'm beginning to like cooking... I must be ill. I instituted "pancake sunday" in my house for Jazz and I - I had this unopened box of Fiber One buttermilk pancake mix and thought, what the hell. They were surprisingly good, so the following weekend, I attempted waffles - even better. This Sunday I'm leaning toward trying pumpkin pancakes. I'm drooling just thinking about it, and I have turkey bacon to boot. One day I hope to have someone to share "pancake sunday" with, but in the mean time, princess Jazz and I are doing pretty well on our own.