30 October 2009

Crunch time...

Since accepting my new job, I realized I have some leave to burn in my current job. This couldn't come at a better time because I need all the extra time I can get to finish my final papers for my Masters degree. I took yesterday and today off from work so I could have a four-day writing extravaganza! They are due five weeks from today. Both are supposed to be at least fifty pages - one is currently at page 31 and the other is on page 16. Contrary to how I've written papers in the past, I didn't save these until two weeks before the due date to write them. I'm hoping to be at 35 pages on one and at least on page 22 of the other one before the end of the weekend. Both are interesting topics, so I don't hate doing the research and writing. I'm just hoping I'm doing the research properly and I'm actually saying what I'm trying to say.

In addition to writing these papers, I have a little thing called Ironman Florida eight days in my future. It hasn't completely slipped my mind, but I am surprised at how quickly it has crept up on me. My attention on my papers has also prevented me from being too nervous about the race. It's strange, I'm not nervous at all. It's not like I'm an old pro at these things, I've only done one Iron-Distance race (last year's Beach2Battleship), but it went really well, didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought it would, and I didn't have a problem finishing. I'm sort of seeing Ironman as just being a really long training day - I don't know if that's a good or bad perspective. Either way, it has kept my nerves calm. Plus I think it helps that there are no steep hills - I'm less worried about falling off my bike. I'm also using this weekend to get prepared for the race - packing, purchasing last minute fuel and race items, making lots of lists, etc.

Speaking of Ironman, I've made it a point to do EVERY SINGLE one of my workouts these past two weeks. This past Tuesday I swam 4750 yds, my longest swim EVER and I felt really good. Ironman swim will only be about 4100 yds. I did my speedwork, including 10x1200 on Wednesday of last week. Long run of 20 miles last Sunday to cheer Mark on during various points in the Marine Corps Marathon (he finished in 3:39 in his debut marathon!) and today I'm going to do my 2.5 hour ride on the trainer watching a girly movie (so I don't have to do it on Sunday). I'm feeling pretty good, a bit tired (unfortunately, my writers block always seems to disappear in the late hours of the evening and that's when I'm most productive. I expect to have many late nights after Ironman is over because the creative juices will be flowing!)

And today is Mark's birthday - his last year in his 20's! I'm going to surprise him with a few things - I'm looking forward to spending the evening with him.

And now - to the trainer and then back to the computer!

24 October 2009

Who I've Become...

This fall has been busy and full of some pretty significant changes (all good ones!). The big one is that we just bought our first home - a townhouse in the "straight-up thug town of Arlington" (cue "Arlington Rap Video" from YouTube). This townhouse has exceeded all of our hopes, in terms of space (three floors!), nice interior (remodeled top-to-bottom, hardwood floors, gorgeous kitchen!), plenty of storage (closets galore!), and location (ARLINGTON! On the bike path!! 3 miles from the Pentagon!!!). And it was within our target price range. AND we get the $8,000 tax break. We are pretty lucky with this awesome find. We close on 13 Nov and move in on 14 Nov (which happens to be five years, almost to the day, of Mark and my first date - 12 Nov 2004).
Also right around that time is when I have a pretty significant change of my very own - I start my new job on 16 Nov. I've been with my current company for five years (which is pretty much forever your entire career when you are only 28). I started off as an admin assistant back in July 2004. I was so, so, SO young and immature. I didn't know who I was, I didn't have much direction, no planned career path, and going out on nights and weekends was pretty much my biggest priority. I lived in a group house (any house that has mushrooms growing out of the basement carpet earns the title Grossest House Ever), with six crazy roommates (kid you not, there was excessive amounts of emotional instability in that house), and I didn't really have a hobby and I wasn't in grad school. I had oodles of free time on my hands and I did NOTHING constructive with it. I saw the admin job as a temporary thing (which it was), a way to get my foot in the door on my way to bigger and better things. Within two years I was promoted up to an analyst position and working at the Pentagon. I quickly learned that this new position was just a glorified admin position; I gutted it out for about two years, and found another job within the company in Crystal City as an ACTUAL analyst. When I took it, I thought, "this is what I have worked three and a half years for, something that involves actual analytical work, writing, reading documents, making a difference." And it was all of those things... but I realized that the subject matter wasn't for me, I didn't click with it, and it was likely that I was going to need to make a total career change to find something more in line with my interests.

About three years into working at this company, I finally started my Masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University. I loved my classes - they were challenging, opened my eyes to a completely different way to see the world, and I discovered how much I liked various topics within the Peace and Conflict and Development fields (human rights, issues facing youth and children in the developing world). I snagged an opportunity to go to Nepal for three weeks this past summer. I would complain about the time I would have to devote to writing papers, but I secretly enjoyed researching and writing about Youth and Sports in development, the resource curse of Sierra Leone, child marriage in Egypt, etc. I was finally starting to feel really educated! Everything I was studying was so different from the security and defense world I was working in... and I really preferred what I was studying.

So yesterday I gave my notice at work. I start working at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc on 16 Nov (day three in our new house!). Even though I'm excited about this new job and the new opportunities for learning and growth it will present me, in a field I am really interested in, it was still sad and bittersweet to realize I'm leaving the company that gave me my first grown-up job. It's also the place where I met my husband. I have made some really great friends there. I'm going to miss sharing an office with Aaron - it's going to be strange and rather lonely to have an office all to myself. And the people I currently work with are all super intelligent, driven, yet fun, helpful, and truly a team. I've never been part of such a cohesive, strong, fun group of co-workers and I don't know if I'll ever find that again.

Anyways, I've become a different person from that 22-year-old that was hired back in July 2004. I'm more mature, much more comfortable with the person I am, more confident, happy, and I'm really excited for the future. I am a triathlete, I'm going to have my Master's Degree in a couple short months, I've run 10 marathons (including two Bostons), I have a great marriage to the most understanding and supportive guy in the world, I've finally figured out how to get my curly hair under control, and I'm thinking about starting my PhD next fall in Conflict Resolution.

In training and triathlon news - I've actually done ALL of my workouts so far this week on the days that they were scheduled (except I swapped days for this weekends long run/long ride). All that's left is my long run tomorrow morning, which I will do while being a Spectathlete at Mark's first marathon - the Marine Corps Marathon!

15 October 2009


So, I'll admit, I can be a little... possessive... when it comes to food. I call dibs on food the way a teenage girl might call dibs on her crush, or the way people call shotgun for a car ride. But sometimes this possessiveness gets a little out-of-hand. And before I go any further, I will say right now that I owe my husband an apology for expecting him to be a mind-reader. When I'm not eating, I'm usually thinking about what I'm going to eat next, I like to call this planning ahead. So this morning on my way home from my 90 minute swim practice, I was daydreaming about the bagel and oatmeal I was going to enjoy when I got home. I opened the fridge, happy and expectant, only to have my hopes and dreams of a bagel crushed because MARK ATE THE LAST ONE! And, that's perfectly fine, perfectly normal that he ate the last bagel (I finished off the cereal the night before, so really he had no other breakfast choices). But I was MAD! And DISAPPOINTED! I had been looking forward to that bagel since 4:25am when I woke up. And a piece of me wondered why Mark didn't leave the bagel for me - after all, I was the one up early and working out while he was sleeping - I NEEDED the extra fuel.

And then when I arrived home from work, famished (of course), I was already planning to have toast with peanut butter. But when I opened the fridge, the bread I was going to use was MIA. I was mad again - because there also wasn't enough of my favorite bread to make a sandwich for the next day. But again, I never told Mark what I was planning on eating, so how would he know.

Lesson learned: just because my workouts may be longer and more frequent than Mark's, does not give me an extra right over the food in our fridge. And Mark will never know what I am planning on eating unless I tell him.

Bottom line - I think about food far more than what's probably normal.. And Mark is a saint for putting up with me.

14 October 2009

Goodbye Summer... See You in Seven Months (frowny face)

It was a cold, wet, dreary day today - the kind where you just want to stay indoors. So that was exactly what I did. I skipped my run, I simply wasn't feeling it. I don't usually skip run workouts but I REALLY didn't want to go outside. Unfortunately for me, it's going to be chilly, rainy, and depressing for the rest of the week - hello trainer! I'm also using the excuse that my knee is still sore from Sunday's ride (hence why I didn't do a trainer ride tonight in place of my run) and I have too much writing to do (the deadline on that 100 pages worth of papers is fast approaching!)

I've become a true cold-weather wuss since moving away from New England. Now it hits the 50s and it's simply too cold. And snow - what is that? With fall weather here, I'm already missing outdoor summer workouts. I love stepping outside and just feeling the heat envelope you. I don't care if I lose half my bodyweight through sweat - I would rather have hot weather than cold weather. And please don't get me started on outdoor biking in the fall/winter/early spring - four words: frozen fingers and toes. And one word to sum that up: MISERABLE. Thaaaaannnkkkk goodness Ironman Florida is flat because THIS GIRL is doing the rest of her rides on the trainer!

It's also the end of a long season (Boston was six months ago and I did my first triathlon of the season more than five months ago). I do love racing and I'm sad the season is almost over - but my motivation to go outside and workout (and this weather isn't helping) is severely waning. I don't know if it's because I have these papers hanging over my head, or if I'm just in a funk that I'll get over in a few days, or the fact that I keep thinking we need to pack because we're moving ONE MONTH from today, but my mind is simply not as Ironman-focused as I'd like. Can I just go out and wing the race? It's a combination of all those things, I think. I'm really struggling with one of my paper topics - and hopefully choosing the right path with my topic will be the hardest part and once I figure that out, the rest will come easy. I'm looking at Nepal and caste-based discrimination within that country. There are SO MANY angles I could take with that subject and I really can't figure out which one to go with. Right now I'm leaning towards investigating the roots of caste within Nepali society and how the social system perpetuates the oppression wrought by the caste hierarchy and how lessons from the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa could be applied to the Dalit Rights movement, even though caste-discrimination and racism are different forms of oppression with different ideologies behind them - the intention of both movements is the same: bring human rights to a population that has long been denied dignity and various freedoms. I've always had a love/hate relationship with research papers (mostly because I procrastinate) but I really am learning alot about defining a question and designing a research method to meet my objectives through these two papers. And with that said, I'm off to write more of my papers!

11 October 2009

Biggest Weekend for Ironman Florida Training...

...Has now been completed! Besides my left knee feeling unpleasantly tight and sore with every pedal stroke on the bike today, this weekend went without a hitch (and besides running out of ice cream sandwiches before the end of Sunday night). I did my 24 mile run yesterday and felt pretty okay during most of it. My pace was in the 8:40s (I think, but I'm too lazy to get up and get my workout log to actually check) but I wasn't doing a great job at keeping my heart rate in zone. I finished in under 3:30. Oh well, I just wanted the run DONE! And then today I got up at 5am to drive 1:15 outside the city to Maryland's Eastern Shore with Bryan and Scott for the 120 mile Team Z ride. We got there on time (I NEVER get to rides on time!) and did two rounds of the 54 mile loop that has two turns (and those turns are in the first/last two miles of the loop), so you don't even need a cue sheet. You just put your head down and ride. It's nice and flat. But it is ALWAYS windy, no matter WHAT direction you are going in. You almost always feel like you have a headwind. There were times during the ride today that I was just cursing out loud. That's when you know you're having an awesome ride - you're by yourself, surrounded by wind (phantom wind because none of the leaves are blowing on the darn trees - you really start to wonder if you're just making the wind up, if 120 miles have simply made you delusional) and talking to yourself. Ohh, and your face is covered with bits of PowerBar and peanut butter from your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. All that's left to do is pee on your bike and you are officially a complete mess (I refrained - I only pee on my bike during Savageman). But I'm getting off-topic. Started the ride out towards the front, jumped on the Kate Green train for a little bit, went off and got in my extra 12 miles (the two loops were only 108 miles) in the middle of the first loop, and then ended up riding solo for the rest of the ride because I wasn't catching up to anyone who was riding my pace. It was a beautiful day for riding, it was great to see friends that I hadn't seen in awhile, and there was pizza and homemade heart-shaped brownies waiting for us at the end of the ride. I did the 120 in 6 hours and 36 minutes, averaging 18.1 mph (definitely did not negative split the bike). I did a short 3 mile run after the bike just to see how I felt. My sore knee did not affect my running, fortunately. For the first half mile, I was running REALLY slow and felt really sore and stiff and told myself that it was probably not a smart idea to ride as fast as I did today at Ironman. But by the time I hit the first mile I had loosened up, my pace had quickened, and I did the three miles with an 8:34 pace, staying within Zone 2 for almost all of it. I have more confidence for Ironman Florida. I have time goals for all three disciplines and an overall time goal in my head, but I am not ready to share them. Perhaps after the race :)

Training was good this weekend. And now I'm off to sleep!

06 October 2009

Waiting on 14 Dec... with dread and anticipation

I am two papers - that's right TWO PAPERS - away from having my Masters degree in hand. But they are two long papers - 100 pages total between them both. And right now I'm on page 8. Of the first one. And they are due in two months and seven days. I've had all summer to get cracking on them. But I'm a master procrastinator - so it's typical that I didn't even start thinking about them until late August. I'm now trying to write a few pages a day, but my brain is not in school mode, it's in senior slacker mode. I really just need to make myself sit down, destroy facebook and blogger, and WRITE my two papers. The subjects are interesting, I want to become a SME in them, but I just feel overwhelmed and paralyzed with the thought that I don't have enough time to finish. One is on the role of community in the reintegration process of youth ex-combatants (case study of Uganda and Sierra Leone). The other will be on Nepal and the movement for Dalit Rights and implications for the country's social system (if we get rid of the caste system, what sort of social system will replace it, and how can that be installed with minimal disruption). Interesting subjects. Complicated subjects. And I only have two months and one week to pull it all together. Eeek!

PS - never again am I going to be doing the following things simultaneously:
- work full time
- school part time
- ironman training
- buy and move into a new house.

I've been so busy and tired I haven't even watched the episode of Greys Anatomy that I missed last week!