Friday, October 30, 2009

What Am I Reading?

Besides my Women's Health, Runner's World, and GRE study book, I am reading a Very Good Book. It's a long book, but the pacing is so well done that I'm not at all sad that I'm only half way through with the story.

What does make me sad is that it's supposed to be the first in a trilogy, and the author is a, particular about the book. The second in the series was supposed to be released in April 2009; however, he has yet to turn in a draft to the publisher, so...

With that warning out of the way for those who dislike waiting for the next book in a series, the book I am discussing is Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind.

Again, I'm only half-way through the book, so I'm unsure of how it ends, but so far I LOVE THIS BOOK. I WANT TO READ IT ALL THE TIME BUT CAN'T BECAUSE I...*ahem* I don't have time to plow through it in the manner to which I am accustomed, but I'm also content to savor it. It's a finely constructed novel, with layers and good storytelling. I'm obsessed with a good narrative, and I'm even more obsessed with framed narratives, which this is.

What is it about a framed narrative that I just can't put down? It's one reason I love The Arabian Nights' Entertainments and The Princess Bride (just to name a few off the top of my head). I think it's the intricate levels, the feeling of holding two (or more) stories in my hands. The frame gives the story some purpose or point toward which it moves, which means that I don't feel as lost if the threads don't make sense.

Anyway, I feel that I can recommend The Name of the Wind to any fantasy lover, or anyone who loves books that play with the idea of storytelling. Hopefully the rest of the series comes out within the next couple of years AND is as good as this one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Running Fast(ish)

The rain had finally stopped by the time I pulled into the high school parking lot, next to the school track. The ground was still damp from the persistent mist that had fallen for most of the day, but I was relieved that it let up enough to allow for the run development training.

I was early, so I sat in my car and read a book for a few minutes. Then I went to meet my fellow 10k runners on the track, dressed in cold weather gear. I was perhaps a bit overdressed, but I like my running top with the thumb holes that I found at a thrift store for cheap.

First, for a warm-up, we ran up and down a hill twice. Then we did drills that are meant to train us to think about our strides differently and to strengthen our running muscles. We then headed back to the track to do 4x400 meter intervals.

Intervals are a training trick that I almost never do on my own. Basically, you run at a moderate pace, enough to get your breathing up to where you can only talk in short answers, but not so much that you can't talk at all. Basically, a pace that you can sustain over the course of the repeats, since the idea is to try to run them at roughly the same pace.

It turns out that I really enjoy intervals. Maybe I'm just weird, or maybe it's because I love to run fast, and the break between repeats lets me catch my breath and build up for the next. I found myself running each repeat faster than the one before, and I think I could even pick up the pace a tad more earlier. My time for each quarter mile interval was 2:07, 2:05, 2:00, and 1:55, which means I was averaging about an 8-minute mile. The last two I managed to run faster than all of the other women in our training group, and one of the men. (Since I thrive on a little competition, this was an encouraging occurrence). Our coach called out "good!" every time my times got faster, making me smile.

Before we started, I would have placed myself in the middle of the pack. I think of myself as slow. But I guess my weeks of running up and down the roads around my house and setting the treadmill on a 1% incline makes track running...well, easy. I ran fast and loved it.

Now I just want to run even faster. Maybe enough to beat out those other guys.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I have aspirations to one day complete a marathon. Not because I'm some great athlete, but because I'm a runner. I enjoy running, and the challenge of training and finishing a marathon appeals to me greatly.

However, if someone told me that since I'm not an elite athlete, I wouldn't be allowed to register for the event, I would be sad. There's no way I can ever be fast enough to compete with the elites--even if I trained for years, I might barely make it to the middle of the pack.

The New York Times has an article about those rail against "plodders" in marathons: folks who finish in six hours. They laugh at that finish time being a joke and demeaning to the challenge of the marathon. Most individuals in a marathon event are, however, these so-called plodders. As the article points out, they are who funds the events through their entry fees.

John Bingham, a runner who is known as the Penguin, is often credited with starting the slow-running movement, in the 1990s. “I have had people say that I’ve ruined the sport of running, but what I’ve been trying to do is promote the activity of running to an entire generation of people,” he said. “What’s wrong with that?”

Bingham added: “The complainers are just a bunch of ornery, grumpy people who want the marathon all to themselves and don’t want the slower runners. But too bad. The sport is fueled and funded by people like me.”

That's how I interpreted those against slow runners: they are just complaining. There are essentially two runners in each marathon: the one who is competing against others, and the one who is competing against herself. And I feel that there's nothing wrong with either type.

People have different motivations for running the marathon. The most important thing is that they're running. They have to train to be able to go the distance, and even if they accomplish the 26.2 slowly, they still did it. I find attitudes like the following horribly elitist:

“If you’re wearing a marathon T-shirt, that doesn’t mean much anymore,” Given said on the eve of this month’s Baltimore Marathon, where vendors were selling products that celebrate slower runners. One sticker said: “I’m slow. I know. Get over it.”

“I always ask those people, ‘What was your time?’ If it’s six hours or more, I say, ‘Oh great, that’s fine, but you didn’t really run it,’ ” said Given, who finished the Baltimore race in 4:05:52. “The mystique of the marathon still exists. It’s the mystique of the fast marathon.”

If you ran/walked 26.2 miles, you ran a marathon. And with elite athletes running 26.2 in almost half Given's time, who is she to say that she really "ran" the marathon while someone two hours slower did not?

I suppose I'm an inclusive runner because I'm not very fast. But I can admire someone for taking up the challenge to run 26.2, to dedicating to the training to be able to accomplish that goal, and to achieving it no matter their final time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Being a Daughter

I am one of five children. Out of those five children, I am the only daughter. I grew up with two older brothers and two younger brothers, and although our teenage years weren't particularly pleasant, we all made it out relatively healthy and happy. I talk to my brothers regularly, and I enjoy visiting them when I'm able to. They would probably like to loom protectively over me as I move through my life, but they mostly keep that to themselves. We have learned to be adults with one another, and I have to say I really like it.

There's a scene in the last season of Gilmore Girls where Rory is lamenting having to act like "a grown-up," and Lorelei comments, "You know, real grown-ups don't call themselves that. They say adults and pronounce it aw-dult." I feel, sometimes, that I'm in that intermediary space where I'm a grown-up who hasn't quite figured out how to act like an adult.

The hardest part of it is how to deal with parents now that I'm, well, grown-up. The relationship shifts--parents can offer advice or comment on their child's life and actions, but in reality, they have no say. All they can do is comment, smile or shake their heads, and realize that they can no longer control what goes on. Or at least this is what I think.

There comes a point when the child (now an adult) gets to examine the values and belief-systems that she was brought up in, and she gets to discard bits, keep bits, add new bits; in other words, she forges a new system that she uses to live her life. Sometimes it resembles that of the parents, but sometimes it doesn't.

I'm in that situation now: I'm living my life as I see fit, with my own beliefs and values. I make my own decisions and don't feel any compunction about not doing the things my parents think I ought. I am twenty-seven, and I have worked hard to get to a place of happiness and contentment in my life and with the way I'm living.

My parents, however, seem to think that I still need to live by their rules. And since I broke a major one by living with my boyfriend, they have seen fit to attempt to punish me for my "misbehavior".

Here's the thing: I'm not thirteen; I haven't officially lived under their roof since I was twenty-two (when I graduated), and unofficially since I was nineteen. I paid my own way through school, bought my own clothes and food and glasses, paid for my own healthcare, and bought my own car and paid to insure it. By living with Lance, however, I have made it clear that I no longer follow the rules that they wanted us to live by. I'm sure they suspected it as I grew increasingly vocal about my political leanings, but Lance and I moving in together was concrete proof. And now I'm struggling in that place where I know I'm an adult and am responsible for myself, and craving my parents' respect and acceptance (and approval).

I have no problem with them disagreeing with how I live. No parent will ever fully agree with all of their daughter's choices. All I really want is them to respect my decisions and let me live my life in the way that I have decided is best. Yet, they can't seem to let go. My father to the point where he won't talk to me. It's cruel and harsh, but it's reality. Hopefully they'll get over it because I have no plans of changing who I am and how I live to gain their approval.

Until then, I'll be the black sheep and the prodigal daughter.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Driving Adventure

A couple of months ago, I got an e-mail from my favorite band adding tour dates--and, lo and behold! they would be in Tulsa. Though I had already seen the Hazards of Love concert once in Kansas City, I was eager to go again and to go with friends.

Tulsa isn't far from Fayetteville, definitely doable. And since the concert was on a Sunday, making it to work on Monday was feasible. So I discussed the trip with fellow fans and we purchased tickets and made plans to go eat Indian food (since there's not a bite to be found in Fayetteville).

A couple of weeks ago, two friends commented that they had, perhaps, maybe, lost their tickets. Oh noes! They decided to simply replace them, but it was portentous of the nature of our trip. Nevertheless, we set out to Tulsa on Sunday afternoon in high spirits. I had booked a hotel room for Lance and A and I, since the other three folks were staying with a friend.

We ate delicious Indian food (aloo parathi, saag panneer, biranyi, and dishes I don't remember the names of but consumed with great gusto), then set out to find our hotel. According to Google Maps, it was supposedly near the concert venue. When the navigator followed the GPS directions, however, we found ourselves at a hotel far away from downtown Tulsa. I popped in quickly to check that my reservation wasn't for that location, and the front desk clerk told me that I didn't have a room booked there.

We went to the concert, puzzling about where it could be, and enjoyed the show immensely. It was great--the Decemberists give a fantastic show. We happily poured out of the venue and headed to the car, confident we'd find our beds for the night.

One hour, a frustrated driver (Lance), several phone calls to area hotels, and too many U-turns later, we ended up at the hotel we had stopped at initially, which was NO WHERE NEAR the concert venue.

I was furious, since I had been told that my reservations weren't there. We get into our room, and the stench of stale cigarettes wafts into my nostrils. Apparently, when I exclaimed, "Oh, NONSMOKING, please!" the guy booking my room heard "smoking". Huh.

Since I had to sleep in a room filled with the residue of past cigarettes, I woke up with a horrible headache and a stuffy head, since I'm allergic to cigarettes. And my two compatriots were not much happier. The lessons? Jenn is not allowed to book hotel rooms; you get what you pay for; Google Maps is a LIAR.

We got to go see the Decemberists (again) and had fun, however, and our trip concluded with lunch at a charming Mennonite restaurant in a tiny town near the Oklahoma border. That bread pudding was worth all the trouble of the night before--their food was simple and divine. A good end to our driving adventure.