Custom Search

Monday, April 30, 2012

Let's Run

I might be the last runner in the world to find this, but is the most fun I've had online since I found Oddee. 
The site has all the running news, told from a runner's perspective (none of that nonsense from a typical news site, which might say something like, "Smith won a coveted BQ in his Sunday marathon" etc). It also has some really lovely message boards.
The message boards are great.
The topics vary, but many actually do have to do with running. Some you might even care about. There's a lot of "I'M A RUNNING STUD LISTEN TO MY OPINION!" stuff out there, but there is also really good advice from seasoned runners. 
Plus, message boards are just fun to read. They're like blog comments without the blog.  
Ever been to Ever posted a question?
I actually have. Not that long ago. I'll let you find it. First person to find it buried in the threads wins.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Foody Friday: Chocolate-orange cake

It's easy, it's delicious, it will make you fat.
Garnish with orange peel if you are so inclined

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
1 orange, mineola, or tangerine

For the filling:
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
Triple sec

For the frosting:
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 tub sour cream (you can take the 1/4 cup for the cake out of this tub and you'll still have enough).

To make the cake, mix all dry ingredients. Grate the entire orange peel into the batter, then squeeze the orange to extract all juice into a measuring cup. Add enough water to make 2/3 cup. Add to dry ingredients. Add other wet ingredients; mix. Batter will seem watery.
Bake in greased 8 or 9" pans for 30 minutes. Let cool. For best chocolate taste, remove cooled cakes from pan; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To make filling, cream butter and powdered sugar. Add enough triple sec to create consistency of frosting. Fill generously between layers.

To make frosting, melt bag of chocolate chips on low heat. When completely melted, remove from heat, quickly stir in sour cream, and beat until glossy. Immediately frost cake, then allow to set (15 - 30 minutes).

My cake is loaf shaped because I wanted to sneak a little batter out to make myself my own little cake (I was bringing this one for someone's birthday). However, the frosting ratios presented here are for a standard round cake. 

Try this, you'll love it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teeny tiny wine glasses

I hate this fad.
This is a typical modern red wine glass, and it is an astonishing 10" tall and holds 18.5 ounces! EIGHTEEN! A serving of wine is 5 or 6 ounces! 

The "in" thing is to have big, tall, unwieldy wine glasses. The stem is 10 inches tall. The bowl could house a goldfish - or double as a gladiolus vase. The design tests the laws of physics and tempts party goers to send glasses toppling.

It's a terrible design. I prefer a shorter, stouter wine glass.
L: My old, still reasonably-sized wine glasses. R: My new, smaller wine glasses  that hold 7 ounces and are about 7" tall.
For one thing, I am a klutz. These sturdy little fellas are much safer for me. For another, I like the greater exposed surface area a rounded bowl provides. The new tall and rather narrow design prevents aeration that improves the wine. Plus, I associate these smaller glasses with family-owned Italian restaurants and delicious food.

A few weeks ago the hubby and I went to a restaurant supply store and bought 2 dozen lovely, squat little wine glasses. I'm loving them. My whole house feels like an Italian restaurant now!
Question for you: Forget big wine glasses. Don't you agree that martini glassed were DESIGNED to spill? I think it's a ploy to get you to buy another drink. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crazy things that happened to me in Boston.

You know weird stuff happens to me. So here it is. 

- When we got to the airport for our flight out of New Orleans, the entire place was packed. We looked at the thousands of people and realized that they were in line for security! Earlier that morning a suspicious package was discovered and security shut down during the threat. They reopened as we waited, but the airlines were not holding flights. Amazingly we still made our flight, though we cut it close.

- The average BMI on our flight from ATL to Boston was like, oh, 19?

Chi party! 
- I met Danny Dreyer, of Chi Running fame, at the expo. I cheerily explained to him that "spilling your chi" has become a running joke in my weekly Bible study after I shared his book with another runner in the group. I really didn't mean for it to come out that way. However, he took it as a compliment!

Nice elbow
- I got in this car at the expo and some random stranger wanted to get a pic, too. Of me. In the car.

- Someone at the start village was thrilled to see me. Thrilled! I have no idea who it was. He told me his name. He's from New Orleans. He said, "Remember we ran that race together?" Eh...what race?

- The starting line was just oozing confidence! It was amazing! None of that "Oooh, I don't know if I can do this, fill in plausible excuse" stuff you often hear. These runners knew they rocked!

-Yet I've never seen people walking in a race that early or in such numbers. It was so weird. I saw the first walker drop at MILE THREE. By mile 10 we were catching earlier corrals walking. I bet the later waves passed a lot of wave one walkers!

- In this "slow" Boston, the lead men hit 18 miles in my half-marathon PR. WTH.

At the Atlanta airport cross-stitching and showing off my wounds.
- The smaller skinned areas on my elbows hurt way more during the race than my badly bruised and bloody knee. A lot more sweat got into them and it stung.

- When I made the decision to slow down or die, I scrolled my Garmin down so I couldn't see my pace. Good thing, it was freaking all over the place! From 7:01 to 8:36! (That must have been the badminton).

- I ran a Garmin 26.48 which I think is pretty good considering the crowds and the way I ran all over the course trying to get water. I'm still the queen of tangents, these were just extenuating circumstances.

- I purposefully slowed down so the heat wouldn't kill me. Didn't matter. The heat was STILL getting to me. My head was cooking. I should have run in a jog bra, but I wanted to rep Varsity.

- When I finished the race, I sat a curb and scarfed potato chips from the runner's food bag. Nearby a woman rushed to aid her ill and exhausted husband, who was sitting next to me. She forgot she was holding an umbrella chair and CRACKED me over the head with it. I was seeing stars and everything! Now I have a big egg. She was so apologetic I felt bad for her - especially since she was also trying to open Gatorade for her husband, etc.

- An ultra-runner named A.D. (cryptic, no?) I never met before Sunday made a sweet trade with me. I met him Sunday and picked up a huge bag of special gels and fuel; he planned to run from the finish to the start where I'd hand him his fuel for the second half of his ultra. In return, his family let me use their shower in their suite at the Lennox, right at the finish.

- Best shower ever. I was the only runner walking around Boston all afternoon in capris, a blouse, and heels! I even remembered to pack earrings (I forgot makeup and a brush, though. Nice.).

- So the Lennox. While I was waiting to be let in for my shower, I timidly asked the doorman if I could go in. He said certainly, all marathoners are welcome, whether they have a room or not! So - in I went and everyone clapped. Then they handed me a cold beer. What the. They did this for every marathoner who entered the hotel! Awesome!

Stolen from Runninghood
- After meeting Amanda for fries, nachos, and beer, David and I walked around a little before heading to dinner. A runner staggered past us, stopped, and puked all over the side walk. Two girls nearby and I offered aid, and I found myself once again giving first aid after a marathon - this time to a man who spoke only Romanian. Luckily he remembered his hotel name and room number, and the girls called his wife! I hate these electrolyte/osmolality emergencies. They could be minor - or fatal.
The bright flash in the dark restaurant was making me squint! 
- We had a post-race dinner at The Parker House and I finally tried the original Boston cream pie (it was unbelievably good). Just about everyone in the hotel was staggering around with a post-marathon shuffle. If you listened in to the conversations at other tables, you could pick up words like "splits", "Gu", "hamstring" and "wall". It was hilarious.

- Flying back to New Orleans we ran into some TSA trouble. These guys at Logan probably fly out thousands of marathoners every year, yet they could not identify my leftover Gu. They searched me and my bag, and cut open a Gu to scan it. Then they tried to give it back. Really? Like I want to fly with a sliced open gel?

- When I returned to New Orleans it was 20 degrees cooler than Boston. By the next morning it was 30 degrees cooler. Seriously.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A weekend I needed

This Sunday I didn't set my alarm, slept in, and woke up about the time we'd normally be leaving for Sunday school.
All I can say is, I needed that. After Boston on Monday, our Tuesday flight left at 6:15 am. David left me at our Atlanta layover to attend a memorial service for our late friend Alfred (this service was a dedication of a conference room at his workplace, named in his honor). I got home alone and slogged through clean up and laundry, then went straight to work. Have you ever taken a short vacation, then returned to find heaps of work saved up? That was my Wednesday. Unfortunately I could barely catch up; I had an off-site meeting on Thursday and was teaching a class Friday. The result was one rushed, exhausting week - and my body was protesting on Sunday!

I was actually already feeling tired on Friday night. As I headed to bed early, David said, "Don't forget our race tomorrow." WHAT?! Dude had signed me up for a 5k for charity weeks before and forgot to tell me about it. So Saturday I had a surprise 5k. I had been only doing easy running, so my legs were stiff and I wasn't warmed up; plus my toes are in kind of bad shape. The combination of Boston's downhills with my consistently water-logged shoes had my feet sliding around, and I have deep blisters and several black nails. Since I didn't know about the race, I picked at all the blisters, and they were kind of killing me. Despite that, I was first female out of a very, very tiny field with a 19:50. I hope I can do better than that in fitter shape, but 5ks are very hard for me so if I want to improve I need some serious work.
Focus on the right wrist.
I got a little surprise when I got home. There was a wrapped present on my desk! David got me this beautiful silver cuff. I love cuff bracelets, and gifts for no reason make me so happy!

On the deck of the Wasp

One of the tall ships
The rest of Saturday was fun: it's Navy Week in New Orleans and even though the Blue Angels show was canceled, we got to tour several ships (the USS Wasp and two tall ships). Because of the drizzly weather, there were no lines or waits, and we missed Sunday's large crowds.

Sunday the rain cleared and we had an amazingly beautiful day: sadly, it was still windy. so not only was the second Blue Angels air show canceled, so was the Ochsner Ironman 70.3 swim (it was replaced with a 2 mile run). I didn't ironman (can't swim, refuse to buy a bike half the price of a car), but I did play football with David after our picnic lunch in the park. Then later I went for a run. I ran ten miles in 1:07 for a 6:42 pace - and felt fantastic. Obviously I have leftover energy and speed that should have been used up in Boston but was untapped in Monday's slow run.
And that brings me to an interesting observation. I'm not sore. I never was sore. I think some hills actually prevent soreness!

And that brings me to another thought - my knee. Last I posted about it, it was enormous, hot, red, and swollen. The problem is that I wake up ok, but at the end of a day of standing and running around, the knee is swollen, stiff, and burning. It feels like it's on fire!
After I took the last picture, the pain was so crazy that I decided to see if I could drain it in case it was infected (do not try this at home). I used a large sterilized needle to probe the scabbed area - I was just trying to see if it would produce pus - and immediately it started gushing fluids. Unfortunately it seems like most of the swelling is retained fluid - perhaps synovial. I mean, I hit it pretty hard. There was no blood in the fluid, but there was a little infection, so I alcoholed it left it uncovered. It is much smaller now, and definitely improving, but it still fills with fluid at the end of the day and still feels like it's burning.

Now that this rushed week is over, I should be able to settle down a little. Once I do, the big question is: how do I spend my running summer? Something tells me my 5k needs some work!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Boston marathon pictures

David and I picked up ultra-runner A.D.'s special gels for him at his hotel right by the finish line. A.D. took this picture of us. 

It was so crowded at the finish line you couldn't get a pic by yourself for love  or money.

I hadn't seen David yet here...I ran near this girl Bridget most of the way; she finished just seconds behind me so I heard her name a lot! Look at my poor swollen knee :(

Hi David!!! This was mile 17. My clothes are soaked with sweat . All those lumps are stashed gu's in my back pocket and bra. 
Blowing a kiss as I ran off!

David caught some of the elite action - does anyone know who this is?

The elite women breeze by

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Warning: gross picture

My knee's not getting much better, especially the swelling. Can't bend it again. Is it infected or just very full of fluid?
If I actually had a doctor I'd call him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Boston mini-recap

Our trip to Boston was fun and drama-filled, as my races always are.
Today I'm just doing a little recap of the race itself, then I'll post more about the entire trip later.
First off, there were two factors that would affect my time on Monday:
2. Right before catching our flight Saturday, I went on a quick run. Somehow I spastically tripped and landed hard on my elbows and knees. I skinned my right knee deeply, but I was way more worried about the inflammation and bruising:

As it turned out, the weather was just as brutal as everyone said it would be (or more so). And my knee failed me in late miles, becoming so swollen (perhaps also from sodium and fluid overload as I tried to stay cool) that I could no longer bend it! But it played less of a factor than I thought it would, mostly because I'm so darn tough. Haha.

So the race. We were staying with friends in Lexington, and we borrowed their car so David could drive me to the start. This let me sleep in a little, since we didn't leave until about 6:50 am. It's kind of an ordeal to get to the start - runners get dropped off by buses or drivers, then take another bus to the start village, then walk half a mile to the actual start - but the B.A.A had it together. These people know what they are doing. I wandered into the start village and saw absolutely no one I knew. I was even looking for Varsity Sports jerseys - no luck. I read some of my marathon program, ate two bites of bagel, and headed out to check my bag (here I saw that there are really two start villages, and I guess everyone I knew was in the other half!). Bag drop was supremely easy and organized. I walked to my corral with everyone else and managed to pull off an incredibly tough task. You see, I had agreed to meet an ultra-runner in my corral with a bag of gels. He was running from the finish to the start - and back again. Crazy. I was worried about finding him, but he was right there as I walked up (BTW don't know his first half time, but he ran the last 26.2 in 4:15!).
Something awesome happened in the corral. An astoundingly talented runner, Joy, sometimes reads this blog. I'm friends with her on Facebook, and I'd put up a picture of my knee on Saturday. Well, a runner next to me was bent over tying her shoe and exclaimed, "Grace!" It was Joy! She recognized me KNEE INJURY!!! 
Joy, can I use your full name so everyone can look up your stats and be in awe?
We started and I was 5 min off the gun. I decided to go out at goal pace for 3 miles, see how I felt, and re-adjust (goal pace was 7:05). I loved being surrounded by so much talent as we started. Everyone worked so hard for this and looked so strong. Well, three miles in it was already very hot. I knew the announcers had said the temp was 80 F at the wheelchair start! That's before 9:30 am! At 3 miles, I knew I would overheat and fall apart at this pace. I slowed down to around 7:40 or 7:45 pace. I wanted to enjoy the Boston experience, so why not at a slower pace? Bonus: this way I might not die of heat stroke!
At mile six a bystander with a yard thermometer was calling out that it was already 86, slow down! It WAS hot. But worse, I was getting a cramp in my quad above my hurt knee. The knee didn't hurt, but it was messing with my stride somehow. I ignored it. 
The crowds were really amazing - cooking out, giving water and candy, holding signs. Whole families come out and cheer. I loved it! I didn't have music (yet) so I could take part in the atmosphere. 
Before the half many people were already walking. Many people were hitting both sides of the road for aid stations (increased congestion). Several people were dropping out. I've never seen so much early walking! I noticed that, despite my conservative pace, I felt HOT. I poured water on my head a few times. 
My friends and David were near mile 17. They were cheering champs! Not that I was doing much to cheer about, just running pretty slowly, thanking all the volunteers (who were incredible), and once in a while giving a high five if the kid was cute enough. At mile 19 some kids were playing badminton and I actually stepped off and batted the shuttlecock back and forth a few times! I happen to love that game. 
At the top of heartbreak hill I stopped to have a beer with some guys, but then it was back to business (look, if I'm going to have a fun run, it's going to be FUN. And the beer was the only cold fluids I got the entire day!).
After that, the loud crowd actually started to annoy me a little. It was getting extremely warm and many people were walking, so basically the crowd was now... yelling at people. "C'mon Ryan! Suck it up! Get  moving!" etc. So I tried to plug in just one ear bud. What ensued was a disaster of chocolate Gu. I forgot I was holding an open packet and ended up getting it inside my ipod. Oddly, it's working fine today. And it smells fantastic!
The biggest disappointment of the day waas my physical failure at mile 25. Here I was, already astonished that I could feel so overheated despite my careful pace, but happy that my muscles were fine when - knee stopped working. Suddenly I couldn't bend it! I looked down and it was very swollen, so the last mile was less a victory lap and more a hobble. And like 50 people passed me. Boo. I couldn't even sprint at the end. But I ran a 3:24:42 and had fun and now I can say I ran Boston! 
So that's my race. 
I will say more about the actual event later, but I did want to quickly add that I got to meet Amanda from Runninghood and she hasn't realized it yet but we're soul sisters. 

I am going to kidnap her and make her run RnR New Orleans with me next year. Oh, yes I am. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Boston bits and pieces

Tomorrow I fly out to Boston on the cheapest, most lay-overest flight ever. As I head into this race I feel the need to brain dump.
1. I wish I could say this is just taper setting in, but it isn't: I'm hurting a little. I like to think of myself as indestructible, a natural-born runner who is so biomechanically efficient that injury is impossible.
Then I see a photo of myself running and am reminded of my weird gait. Or I look down at my feet and shudder at them in horror.
So anyway. My hips hurt. I hate to admit it, but this pain has been here for several months. I'm sure the 600+ miles on my shoes have nothing to do with this.
2. In other news, I am still feeling a little fatigued and burned out. I think the heat has something to do with it (I am already disgusted with our 80 degree weather at 6:30 am); multiple races probably contributed.
3. Speaking of, I'm sure it will be 6,000 degrees for the race because I obviously bring the weather. Almost all my races this year have been during a heat wave (see New HampshireMississippi, and Publix; although not brutal, even Baton Rouge and New Orleans were a smidge above normal temps).
Right now it's a projected high of 84 F. Dude.
4. I will have almost 700 miles on my shoes come marathon morning. Should I bring a new pair? This pair doesn't feel bad to me and I got over 1000 miles out of the last pair of Kinvaras I wore.

5. Not on topic, I went to Buffalo clothing exchange and got these shoes in black - brand new in box - free because I traded in 2 skirts I got off Target clearance and an Eddie Bauer shirt I got at the Salvation Army. Dude, they're Donald J. Pliner and they are $240 shoes!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What I'll be wearing....


Varsity Sports made a freaking awesome singlet for its Boston runners. I love everything about it. I always wear race T-shirts, so this amazing dry-max softness is flipping me out.
Q for you: I never buy shirts to exercise in because I get so many race T-shirts. Do you buy running tops. and if so - how much do you spend? I was looking around at some other tops and oh my gosh some of them were insanely expensive!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Publix Georgia Marathon Race Review

I ran the Publix Georgia Marathon for free because I won an entry! 
The race: There is a half, a full, and a 5k the day before geared towards kids. It's a hot and hilly race since it's in Atlanta and it's mid-March. 

Start of the race
About 15,000 people ran the half and full combined.
Registration and cost: Lucky me, I didn't pay, but this is a more pricey race. Early registration for the full is $95. Registration can be done online or at the expo the day before. 

Swag: You get one of those race bags no one ever uses again, a shirt with different cuts for guys and gals (unless you're me and just wear the guys'), and lots of samples at the expo. Publix grocery hosts the race, so there is plenty of food at the expo, and there were samples of Luna bars and granola bars, Chobani yogurt, and sports drinks at the expo.
Course: It's all hills. There is not a flat tenth of a mile. 
It's also a really pretty course. You circle Atlanta and see many sites, plus two parks, two college campuses, and some ritzy neighborhoods. My favorite part was the section in Decatur. The town had a ton of poems posted on signs, all of which ended in "Decatur!" Most were about running or spending your money in Decatur. Loved it! I was laughing the whole way.
I don't love that the course ends uphill, but really, the whole course is challenging. Enjoyable but hard work. 
Climbing HILLS, all I did all day.
I did not like that there was no water at the start of the race! 
Post race: Finishers get a cute tote with chocolate milk, a banana, pretzels, MnMs, and cookies after the race. No beer. What kind of race is this?! The awards ceremony was running very late, so we didn't stay.
Etc - Start time is 7:00, which helps with the heat a little. There is a really interesting elite program that encourages runners from the South to compete, which you can read about here. Runners who want to be in the first corral must be elites; second corral, must be seeded and give proof of finishing time. I really liked this as there was no corral drama, crowding, walkers in front of you, etc. 
This is a pretty race and kind of a perfect size: At about 15,000 runners, it's big enough to have all the amenities (I doubt a tiny race could have scrambled to get cold towels for finishers at the last minute, which by the way was a nice touch), but not as big as some monster RnR races that have you waiting in your corral for an hour. Overall I recommend it. In fact, since we have friends in Atlanta I can see myself running it again! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

How did you people get in front of me?

Sometimes I finish a race and I have no idea how all these people beat me. I mean, couldn't be that they are faster than I am and that they go run speed intervals while I sit on my tush and eat clearance Easter candy, right?
But once I really had no idea how people got in front of me. No idea.
I saw this on the RnR website after finishing the race a few weeks ago.

I'm onto you, you peeps from corral 31. No way was your gun time faster than mine when you started an hour after me! 
See those "ladies" who beat me? The ones wearing bibs that place them in CORRAL THIRTY-ONE?! What the heck.
I knew exactly how many women were in front of me in this race, so I was stunned to see myself 12th on the leaderboard when I checked results. I was positive I was ninth. I counted at the turnaround.

Now I really do not have any idea how this happened. I at first assumed that these women actually ran the half marathon in that amount of time. But their results showed 20 mile splits, so that couldn't be right. Then I wondered if these were actually sold race bibs. Perhaps men had bought these bibs, which is why I didn't remember seeing that many women ahead of me? To check this out, I searched for some of the names on One of the women listed was in her late 50's. Hmmm.

Luckily, these were preliminary results, and when the official results were posted, the finishers in question were left out. Now that looks better!
Top ten, WHAT?! Oh and check out my friend Celeste's amazing 3 hour finish! 
So what actually did happen? I'll never know! The race numbers in question now show NO finishing time. Were they disqualified? Was it all an error (I don't even think there WERE bibs starting with 31)?
'Tis a mystery. But I just thought I'd put it out there that if you do buy a race number, don't wear your tag. Just in case you freak people like me out.
I've never bought a race bib and I probably never would, but I don't think it's the worst sin in the world. I'd rather you buy a bib than bandit entirely! At least someone paid! What are your thoughts?

Easter visit

Our god-children came to visit for Easter!
We dyed eggs...
He's ready to eat his egg!

Went to Audubon Park...
Shoes are off because we had a run in with ants  :(

Played football...
Picture taken by 2-yr old sister

And ate dinner.
I made a booster seat out of boxes of canning jars. I don't really have a kid-friendly house.

Aren't they sweet?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nonexistent Boston training

So Boston was kind of tacked-on this year, a late marathon, oddly spaced.
I ran the Louisiana Marathon in January. It was my "goal race". I PR'd, enjoyed it, could have stopped there. But 6 weeks later I had RnR NOLA. I threw in two 20-milers and barely much else (I was sick for most of the time) and ran a PR but didn't love it. Two weeks later was Publix, a hilly course that I'm pretending will be all the training I'll need for Boston.
That left me with just four weeks until the Boston marathon. That's weird. Four weeks is weird. You have to count one week out for recovery. And you probably need two weeks to taper. So just get one week of running.
Last week was that week. It was mediocre. Nothing special. In fact, I ended it with a crappy 10k (excuse the pun!) and a so-so long run. I'm feeling mentally and physically tired (work is unreasonably busy). I did about 50 miles last week, and 50 miles the week of Publix; other than that I've been in the 30+ mile range. Not enough.

 In other words I didn't train for Boston. This, I think, makes me almost unique among runners. I wear my non-training badge proudly.

Ha. Talk to me about that non-training badge at Heartbreak hill!

If you run back-to-back races, what's your ideal amount of time in between?
I think either 6 weeks or 2 weeks. Any more than 6 weeks and you have to pretty much start training all over; any less than two and you'll be tired. Anything in between doesn't leave enough time to fully recover or little enough time to count the last race as your last long run.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How I got in Helena Moreno's pants

Helena Moreno: she used to be my news anchor; now she's my state representative.
And of course, she's super cute.
From her Facebook page

This weekend I went to the thrift store and bought a pair of smashing tailored brown Limited slacks. As I was preparing to wash them, I pulled out an old dry cleaning tag.

And that is how I got in Helena Moreno's pants.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Work crazies

Lately my job has been a little crazy. Without boring you too much, here's the story:
Walgreens (my employer) and Express Scripts (a pharmacy benefits manager) didn't re-sign their contract for 2012. That means that people whose health insurance contracts prescription benefits to Express Scripts can no longer use Walgreens.
Who uses Express Scripts? Lots of companies and employers, including all branches of the US military, the  state of Louisiana, the city of New Orleans, and more. In my area, about 30% of all prescriptions were billed to Express Scripts. That means that since January my district has taken a huge hit in sales. Lower sales and lower volume means we need fewer employees, and for the first time I can remember (I've been in pharmacy for 14 years), cuts included pharmacists, as well. Some pharmacists got cut to a full-time 32 hour week (a 20% pay reduction) and some were actually laid off. It was a necessary move, but it was hard for us as a district. I knew I would not be fired nor would my hours be cut, since I'm in management, but I also knew that people I worked with would be losing their jobs. Two girls I graduated with were laid off, which was pretty upsetting to me. Both were sweet people and good pharmacists.
This has been a stressful few months. The odd part of this story is that while other people are cutting hours and losing staff, I hired a new technician who starts next week! I have gotten busier as I've branched out into other areas and grown my business. It's great for me but I've been inundated with work. I keep leaving later and later every night, and the number of things I've shoved onto my "tomorrow" to-do list gets longer every day. I hope that when my new tech starts and is trained she can do some of the little odd-jobs that take up some of my precious time.
A few things that have helped me stay head-above-water in tough times:
- Being vocal. Send informative emails, ask good questions, share successes. Your coworkers and boss should constantly be reminded that you are there doing a good job. Don't fall off the radar!
- Finding gaps. For me, that meant finding gaps in care in my area, specifically in the very hospital in which I am located. Once you create the bridge to that gap, you are the only solution to a problem. People will be grateful - and will be loyal to your services.
- Working smarter. Do more with fewer hours of work by streamlining slow processes.
- Volunteering to expand influence. I often volunteer in the local healthcare community. A side benefit is that other healthcare providers can meet me, learn about what services we offer, and share knowledge.
- Being creative. If one source of revenue is removed, what other revenue-generating activity can you replace it with? In December, when I realized that Express Scripts and Walgreens weren't going to kiss and make up, I looked through my monthly sales data and noted things that were high-profit, but which we weren't capitalizing on. One big area for me was injectables like Procrit, Neupogen, and Leukine. I ramped up my marketing for these drugs to the peds unit, pointing out how convenient my location was (just down the elevator!).
- Taking it on. Ask for, and dive into, extra responsibilities. The more irreplaceable you are....the more irreplaceable you are!

I'm sure many of you have faced down-sizing at work in this economy. How have you weathered the changes? How did you keep the stresses from work from affecting your life in other areas?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Last long run and a 10k disaster!

You know I don't like long tapers. They make me feel stiff and out of shape. So this past weekend was my last long run before Boston. Unfortunately I forgot that I'd registered for a 10k on Saturday.
I was torn on how to handle this. I didn't want to push my long run to Sunday because of church; I didn't want to run 14 miles after the 10k because it started at 8:00 am and the day was supposed to be record-breaking hot (it was, too). So I could either skip the long run and get a good 10k PR, or run before the race and use the 10k as practice for running hard on tired legs.
I went with scenario two. I ran 8 miles before the race, but I still wanted to go out at 6:30 pace. Um, NOPE. Not happening. I ran the first few steps and had major stomach cramps right away. I had scarfed a gel while picking up my number and apparently that doesn't do good things to my stomach. I was hanging on to a 6:30 pace for the first half, but during the second loop I HAD to make a bathroom stop. That meant running way off-course to the bathrooms in the park! It made my race a good bit longer than 10k and honestly didn't really alleviate the cramping. So I ended up with a very sad, pathetic 43:10: a pace slower than my half marathon pace. Ha! So much for a nice 10k PR!
The weird thing about this is that I won the women's race - absolutely no one opted for the 10k on this hot morning, although the 5k was crowded. I was so embarrassed to win with that time, I almost stepped out of the race before crossing the finish! Then I decided that would make me look like a jerk, but let me tell you I was so confused to be breaking the tape. It goes against all the rules for someone running over 40 minutes to win a 10k.
Students painted the awards for this race.

After I finished I drank water and stretched and decided to attempt the rest of my run. Well, the stomach problems didn't go away, but I ran through them. I actually did 4 miles and circled back to the start of the race and grabbed a beer and got a free massage before heading the final 2 miles home to complete my run! I had a good 15 minutes rest before the last two miles, but both were under 7:15, which pleased me.

This kind of pathetic performance isn't really inspiring as the last long run before a race (Especially the stomach issues: it has been a very, very long time since my stomach has been a problem in a race).
However, I'm going to try not to think too hard about this one. I often have crappy long runs, and before the Louisiana Marathon I had a terrible final long run (I had to end it walking). I still felt like I had a great race! So I'm going to let this one go, drop some mileage, and get ready for Boston.
Yay for taper!