Monday, April 30, 2007

T +1day

I actually don't feel as bad as I thought I would. I am clearly sore, but I don't know if I'm any more sore than I was yesterday. I was warned that I might not be able to get up from the toilet. But I can, with a little pulling and pushing of the sink counter and towel bar. I managed to walk to school to keep my legs loose. Stepping down anything, even the curb, is rather excruciating. And I scheduled a 90-minute massage for tomorrow. I think that one's going to hurt...

The Georgia Department of Revenue's way of customer service is by attrition. I noticed that the check I mailed them for my 2006 tax payment still has not been cashed. So I decided to call this morning and ask what is going on. Not that I'm eager to have them take my money, but I don't want to get fined, either. I was on hold for 57 minutes until I talked to a person. She promptly told me that she doesn't see anything posted, and transfered me to "accounting", where I was on hold for another 55 minutes, until my phone ran out of juice. I mean, if you have to have your customers hold for that long, isn't that a sure sign that you need to hire more people????????? I called the Federal IRS, this morning, too (though by accident). And I was only waiting for less than 2 minutes before speaking to a real person! I'd imagine there are more people calling the Federal IRS than there are people calling Georgia!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Marathon: 4:38:02

I think the moment I crossed that finish line was one of the happiest moments of my life. I just couldn't believe I actually did it. Particularly when the last 6-7 miles were really brutal, and I was fading fast. I really thought that at mile 20, I would get a second wind, knowing that only 10k is left. But I didn't. All I could think of at that moment was, "Oh my God, there's still 10k left???" I had nothing left in my legs -- I don't really understand why, since I never felt like that during training. All the Gu and sports drink I had consumed was making my stomach queasy, so I didn't want to take any more. I was literally just putting one foot in front of the other. People around me were suffering, too. I saw this one guy, who had his girlfriend/wife pacing him, and his dad taking photos, and they were going at a pretty decent clip, and all of a sudden, his left leg just went berserk! It was like he completely lost control of his left leg! It was nuts. He had to stop and stretch. I never saw him again. I kept trying to tell myself that four months of training had culminated in this, and I only had so much left to enjoy it. And I really tried to believe it, too. But I just couldn't. It took all I had to make sure I didn't stop. The thought of going to the bathroom occurred to me a couple of times. But honestly, toward the end, I really felt that had I sat down on a toilet, I might not be able to get up -- my thighs were *killing* me.

I never got my "second wind" until the last 0.2 miles :) And particularly the last 0.1 mile, when everyone was screaming. I finally kicked it in. I was elated to cross that finish line. I think there's probably a really good photo of me crossing that line from the official photographers -- I literally had my fists up in the air. I think I looked like somebody who just won on "Price Is Right."

The morning started out a little chaotic. Even though I got up at 4am to make sure I had enough time to make my latte, drink it, and relax and get dressed and all that, I forgot to eat breakfast! So I chowed down a banana right before I left the house. Then, the bathroom lines were *huge* at the start. With 8 minutes remaining before the start, there were still 15+ people ahead of me and the lines were *not* moving fast. So Kasey and I just went behind somebody's dumpster. Not the most lady-like thing I've ever done. But hey, you gotta pee.

With all the rushing, I did manage the start the race on time. I ran with a sharp pain in my left foot for the first 6 miles or so. I really weren't sure if I would be able to make it all the way through with that pain. But since it didn't get worse, I figured I'll learn to deal with it. And really, the option of dropping out of the marathon was even more painful than the foot. Then miraculously, around mile 6, it stopped bothering me. The funny thing is, what I *thought* would cause me problems during the race (i.e. the foot) really didn't end up being my problem at all.

My thighs started to hurt around mile 13. They have never done that before in training. I really don't know what it is. It just goes to prove that the marathon is a rather brutal race -- *anything* can happen during the 26.2 miles. If it's a shorter race, you push through and an hour later, you're done. But with the marathon, whatever happens, you just have to live with it. For hours and hours. I was pacing with Kasey, Rob, and Ed the whole way. Ed dropped back before the half-way mark. I dropped back around mile 13-14.

I was still on pace to finish in 4:22 at mile 18. But then that's when things really deteriorated. Maybe that's what "the wall" feels like? I couldn't run any faster even though I knew I was going way slower than a 10-minute mile. My legs were just dead. It all made me think I should have finished my pasta dish the night before -- I was so concerned with not getting to the starting line feeling stuffed that I didn't finish my plate! Note to self: next time, stuff your face.

Michal Young and his wife were able to meet me at different points of the course to cheer me on. The first time I saw him was around mile 3-4. I was feeling strong, and gave him an enthusiasitic scream and high-five. The next time I saw him was around mile 7. I was still feeling pretty good then. Then I didn't see him again until around mile 14. I was visibly suffering by then, I think. I knew I didn't have the energy to give him the high-five's that he got the previous two times. That was an indication to myself that I've really gotten tired. They rode their bikes along side me for much of the last couple of miles and snapped some photos with their cell phones. I have no idea why I was even smiling in one of them -- I was feeling pretty bad. It must have been toward the *very* end.

I have to say that I'm proud to have finished a marathon. Would I do it again? I'm not sure. Probably. But most certainly not anytime soon. Maybe in a year, after I've recovered from the mental abuse -- the physical abuse will heal soon enough. I'm really looking forward to adding a little more variety into my workout for now. I'm looking forward to swimming more, and taking up biking.

I'm not extraordinarily sore. Although, I think it'll all get worse tomorrow. That's always the way it is. And the pain is coming back into my left foot. I can feel it... I iced it some today. Probably not enough. I did take a 2-mile walk from the finish line back to my apartment. So I'm hoping that helped keep me loose. We'll see tomorrow...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Prep

17 hours 'till the marathon. I'm so nervous of screwing up something that I couldn't even decide what to have for lunch -- nothing too greasy, nothing too spicy, nothing with dairy, nothing with beans... I ended up having chicken teriyaki with rice. And some chocolate -- dark chocolate is suppose to be good for blood pressure, I read recently. And certainly I need to keep my blood pressure under control right now. It's all in the name of health.

I thought the only thing that might calm me down is to document the prep. Also I was inspired by this photo, and figured I should do something of the same.

So, I decided that I'm going to wear exactly what I wore for my 21-mile run for the marathon -- everything has been battle-tested.

Our training group will have 2 separate aid stations, in addition to the aid stations provided by the marathon planners. This is nice because then I wouldn't have to jockey other runners for a spot at the water table. I also wouldn't have to carry all the gels with me -- I carried 4 packets of gel for my 21-miler and I could have sworn they were weighing me down! Today's the last day I can stop by Eugene Running Company to drop off my stuff for the aid stations. There is one bin for each station. To show how anal I am, I have shown 10 packets of Gu neatly separated into two zip-lock bags, annotated with my name. I really don't think I'll need any more than 5 packets. But just in case. It doesn't hurt to have more. I also purchased two bottles of water, one for each station. This is not just *any* regular water. This is "Smart" water, for smart people. I think I might be the only one who's ever taped her business cards to bottles of water -- but hey, I didn't have markers, and I needed someway to mark that the water bottles are mine. When I put my water in the bin though, I realized that I wasn't the only one with creative ways of marking their own bottles. Bob has decided to put highway signs on his bottles so he can spot them a mile away!

I have had foot pain for the past week and a half, and it all started when I wore these really cute leopard print flats to school. They just didn't have much support, gave me blisters, and caused me to overstretch the arch on my left foot. Dammit. That's the last time I try to look cute before a marathon! People say it may be plantar fasciitis. God I hope not! I've been icing and eating aspirin and it still hurts somewhat. But certainly much better than it felt last week. I think the adrenaline will push me through. Either way, I'm doing this thing.

The coach told us that we need some sort of mantra, something that we can say to ourselves when the going gets tough -- and it will -- to push us through. She said we need to come up with something before hand, because we won't be able to during the marathon. So I thought, well, how about this:

"I've trained for 4 months for this thing. For 18 consecutive Saturdays -- okay fine I've missed a couple when I had a little too much to drink on Friday's -- but for the most part, I've gotten my ass out of bed at 5:45am, so I can make my latte, eat my banana, and get myself to the store to run at 7am. And after all this, I really only have 4.5 more hours to enjoy the fruit of my labor. If I want to do this again, I'd have to train for another 18 weeks. So however tough it is, I should savor it, because it'll be over very fast."

So, yeah... I, too, am realizing that it's a bit long for a mantra. I think the coach had something shorter in mind. Something that can be repeated over and over again. Something like, "one foot in front of the other". And I suspect that at mile 21, when my thighs are feeling like they're in labor, and at that moment, if I tell myself to "savor the fruit of my labor", I'm going to have a strong urge to tell myself to shut the hell up. So I'm strongly considering revising my mantra... Christoph said I should picture myself punching somebody. I honestly don't have anyone I want to punch. Although, it's highly possible that I might at mile 21...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I am mighty!

I have found my personal ANTHEM!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

T - 12 days

Count down to the marathon begins. I've been sick for a week, and finally it's letting up. My cough is almost all gone. I went for a short 5-miler tonight and felt pretty good -- Missy Elliot sets a good beat to running ;) I hope somebody will be spinning some Missy on the Marathon route... I don't know why I'm nervous. I've done all the training I'm suppose to. I missed last weekend's 9-miler. But that shouldn't be a big deal, since I ran a pretty hard 5.2-miler in Sunday's relay. I'm healthy and injury free. I know it's gonna hurt, but I should be able to do this.

I've gotten serious about eating well this week. I'm hydrating myself like Oregon is running out of water. I've cut down my wine consumption. I'm hitting the salad bar like salad is the new black. And I haven't had any dairy -- usually I cheat and have diary and pop my lactase pills. But not this week. Not even goat milk cheese. I'm simply not risking it.

Okay I think I'm psyching myself out...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Team Tigercats dominates

In Eugene's Marathon Relay this morning, Team Tigercats (comprised of me, Kasey, Jen, Keri, and Lauren) dominated the competition, winning the division (all female open) by nearly 4 minutes, over a 26.2 mile course. The fact that the division consisted of only 2 other teams is completely irrelevant. The fact that the fastest team overall finished over an hour ahead of us is also irrelevant. What matters is that we won, and we won ourselves Nike hats. Nice ones. Ones that cost $20 each, when we only paid $17 each to enter the competition. Running is *clearly* a money-making business. I'm going to autograph this baby and sell it on ebay.

I set a personal record by running 5.25 miles in 44'51". Some might say that a personal record isn't hard to set when you've never run a particular distance before. Again, I consider this a trivial and irrelevant detail. What *is* completely relevant is that I ran it with a cold, a cough, and having suffered from food poisoning just two days ago. I am clearly the toughest woman on the planet.

Team Tigercats also demonstrated extraordinary sportsmenship by making disparaging remarks about the losers right in front of the losers' husbands, and dropping the f-bomb in front of a 4-year-old child. All acts were performed without malicious intent...

Saturday, April 7, 2007

21 miles...


I feel really good. It took 3 hours and 27 minutes. My back didn't hurt. Everywhere else does, but that's expected. It felt easier than the 18.5-miler.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Happy Hour

For about a month and a half now, I've been charged with organizing a department happy hour every Friday. You'd be surprised at how hard it is to get people to come out and drink a few beers. The following is my latest effort at rallying people. Despite of it being a masterpiece (in my not very humble opinion), it still only drew 4 people, myself included. And one of the other 3 is my German officemate, who really doesn't need any encouragement at all to come out and drink...

-------------- BEGIN EMAIL -----------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2007 08:52:35 -0700
From: "Shan Shan Huang"
Subject: Happy Hour -- Call to arms!

AP recently reported that 80% of Americans between ages 16-64 do not believe in the existence of "Computer Scientists". When asked why, the #1 reason for their lack of faith is that they've only heard of these "Computer Scientists", but have never seen one.

Is this the kind of world you want our children to grow up in?!? A world devoid of values, references, or reference values? A world where garbage collection is a dead-end job with no career advancement options? A world where Lisp is just a speech impediment, and Smalltalk is something you do before getting into deep conversations
about the embodiment of the meaning of life in Impressionist paintings???

Restore the faith in "Computer Scientists"! Let yourselves be seen!

Organizational meeting:
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Eugene City Brewing Company. 844 Olive St.

Shan Shan Huang

-------------- END EMAIL ---------------------------------------------

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Drinking Chocolate

I like chocolate quite a bit. I'm not willing to name my first born Xocoa or anything, but I am more than willing to make character judgments about people based on their chocolate preferences. Personally, I like dark chocolate. The darker the better -- up to about 85% cacao. Milk chocolate is for wimps. Or people who like milk. I don't like milk. I'm lactose-intolerant. I also like chocolate *without* nuts and funny crunchy things mixed in it. I don't like anything that breaks up the texture of the chocolate. I do like spices -- cayenne, cinnamon, and even anise, all taste quite good with dark chocolate.

I had this drinking chocolate in a chocolate shop in Portland some time ago. I loved it. It was thick and creamy and it is to your regular hot chocolate what Peet's French Roast is to Foldger's Instant Coffee. I think I'm a little late to the party, though. A quick search on the web tells me that drinking chocolate has been in fashion in the States for at least 2 years now. Even Starbucks tried to sell it! I don't know how it's possible that I didn't know about it. Oh wait, I do -- because I've been stuck in the South eating pulled pork instead!

So when I saw this at the store, I really just had to buy it. (Check out the rest of Kekau's savory chocolate collection. Yumm!) I followed the stove-top directions at first. But now I've gotten the process down to under a minute in the microwave. And it tastes delicious with regular soy milk -- all the better for those of us who are lactose-challenged!

I tell myself when I drink this that it aids my "recovery" from my runs.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

French Press and Mukka Express

I was actually trying to *simplify* my kitchen when I made these two purchases...

It all started with the French press. All I've had for a few years now is a Krupp's espresso machine. It's a steam-driven little thing, and it works relatively well. I'm not terribly picky about my espresso -- not *nearly* as picky as I am about my alcohol -- so the Krupp has served me well. While the latte's and cappucinos tasted ok, I can't seem to be able to make decent tasting Americano. I know it's just espresso with hot water. But whenever I added hot water into the shots of espresso the Krupp made, it just tasted like crap. I think it's because the Krupp always burns the espresso just a little bit. Now if you add milk to it, as I normally do, the milk masks the burnt taste. But if you just add hot water, the burnt taste really lingers around. So I wanted something I can make just regular coffee with, for those times when I want the kick without the milk (or soy milk, in my case). I've been impressed by the simpliciy of the French press. And it doesn't take much counter space -- counter space is at a premium in my kitchen. So I set out and bought the
Bodum Shin Bistro. It's a pretty impressive little thing. All you do is put some really coarsely ground coffee on the bottom, and mix it with hot, but not boiling, water. Wait 4 minutes. Press the screen down, and voila, you're done!

A confluence of events led me to my second purchase, the Mukka Express.

Event 1: Vicky has been using the Bialetti Moka Express for making espresso for as long as I've known her. And that's what we did in Barcelona.

Event 2: In conversation with Martin, I found out he uses the Moka to make espresso, as well. I've seen the guy drink 3 shots of espresso in one sitting, so I figured he knows his espresso pretty well. However, Martin gave a rather negative review of the Mukka Express, the cappuccino/latte making version of the simpler Moka Express. Reviews on the internet about the Mukka Express are quite mixed, as well. But my impression is that the only people complaining are people who are not mechanically inclined (read: can't screw the top/bottom parts together correctly), or can't seem to follow directions very well.

Event 3: I am on a "simplicity" kick, I found the idea of a simple little stove-top replacement of my Krupp's electrically-powered, steam-driven thing rather appealing.

Event 4: I happen to be talking to Michal Young, the U of O resident coffee expert, at the department Happy Hour Friday. I made some comments about my steam-driven Krupp's machine, and Michal said that the Bialetti for sure makes better espresso than the Krupp, because the steam-driven machines need to run the water way too hot to get enough steam -- I guess that explains the burnt taste in my espresso!

Event 5: The final event that set my buying spree in motion was that the Mukka Express was on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond for $30 off its regular price.

So I plunked down $59.99 and bought the thing. My experiences so far have been *very* positive. I made three pots on Sunday -- it is advised that you throw away the first three pots, because it takes that many times to "temper" the pot well. But honestly, they were quite drinkable. But if you're serious about your cappucino/latte, you might want to temper the thing with cheaper beans -- I realized after the three throw-away pots that I'd just tossed 6 shots worth of Peet's French Roast. The foam the machine makes is quite impressive, and I must say, the espresso does not taste burnt at all!