More Than Just Sweat

I did that little half-marathon today. And I have that little oral prelim meeting on Tuesday. I’ve been pretty freaked out about the latter. Because this semester is already whack and you just never know what will happen next.

Somewhere between miles two and three this morning, I got to thinking about how everyone who does longer races will tell you that you train the best you can, rely on your training to get you through the miles on race day, and let that be enough.

There’s a parallel process here.

I have been well-trained in this program. I know that. This past week, I’ve been wondering if that were enough. Just like I’ve wondered whether my training for this race was enough. What I have consistently found to be true for myself is that race day always goes better than any training day I’ve had. The training runs may be good, but I still enter the race day with some doubt. And then I cross the line and start running. And I move along, mile by mile until I cross the line at the finish.

And so, I’m hoping the same will hold true for me for Tuesday morning. That my training IS enough. That I DO know more than I think. And that my training will carry me through the meeting.

And for your viewing (and inspirational) enjoyment, thanks to Chelsea for supplying this link:


Running Tobacco Road

Mama ran a half-marathon this morning. And scored a new PR. And maintained a rockin’ (well, rockin’ for me) average pace.


Here’s the skinny on Tobacco Road.

Parking: A+

And that was satellite. But I think that has a lot to do with the time I arrived. Also, for you local peeps, head over to satellite parking via Davis Drive. Cuts WAY down on traffic. If you ARE going to do this race, I highly recommend springing for a parking pass or having my kickass support staff watching over you.


Volunteers: A+

These people worked HARD…started early…and by the end (more on that in a sec) received a lot of crap that should be directed to the organizers. There were plenty of volunteers to help with parking, make sure you got what you needed at the finish, and lots of people handing out beverages and snacks along the way. (I was even handed a cup of Gatorade by one of my professors. True story.)


Race course: A

This course makes you forget you live near a city of any size at all. And when I turned onto the actual Tobacco Trail, I felt a twinge of nostalgia. It was like running on home turf. And that sentiment says to me that I’m over all the miles and hours I logged on that trail for Disney and could once again run it. It helps that the trail is open into Chatham County now too. Of course, that may have been true for a while and I’m late to the party on that one. I’m OK with that. The rest of the course was through farms and edges of neighborhoods. It’s pretty flat, though there are some long, gradual hills. But I trained on steeper hills, so I was good with that.


Schwag: A

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that this year’s logo/design were 5,000% better. Of course, this was only the second running of Tobacco Road. It could only go up. The t-shirts were technical and divided between race distance and gender. The women’s shirt has a good fit and is what you would expect size-wise. The expo offered other opportunities to buy more schwag specifically designed for this race, and the prices were VERY reasonable. And the medal had a great design and is one of the biggest I’ve earned.


Overall organization: C+

They started lining us up in the corral for the on-time start of 7:00 AM. The gun went off at about 7:20 AM. Did I mention it was 46 degrees? Granted, the weather was PERFECT for running…but not for standing around. Apparently there were some late shuttles from satellite parking they decided to wait for…which meant the stagger start for the marathoners was pushed back even more.

Post race was good in terms of where things were located in the venue. Getting back to the parked cars was an altogether different matter. There was no signage to get you back to where the shuttle would pick you up. Once you finally figured it out (Thank you, Mr. Ossifer), you got in a line that ended up having everyone waiting. Word on the sidewalk was there were 15 charter buses running shuttle. Try 5. It literally took me 2 solid hours from the time I got in line until the time I got to my car.

Mr./Ms. Organizer, my legs were tired. I was tired. I was cold…and freakin’ hungry. From a recovery and nutritional standpoint, you’re asking for trouble when you make your runners wait for at least 2 hours to get back to their cars.

People were seriously calling cabs to pick them up and take them to satellite parking.

THIS is why you spring for that parking pass (BTW, who knew THAT was an option?) or have your support staff with the car parked relatively close by.


Overall experience: B+

I mean, I DID get a PR. In fact, I was rockin’ those first 10 miles…it was after that I started to have some issues (dang hips). But that’s about me and my training. We couldn’t have ordered better weather. The course was delightful. The wait to get on the bus not so much.

I might be willing to do this one again, especially since it’s local, but they still have some kinks to work out first.

Running for Warriors

I picked up my packet today for the Tobacco Road half-marathon. Driving in Cary is still hell, but the t-shirts and logo for this year’s race are 5,000% better than last year. And the medal is freakin’ HUGE.

I’m running this race without my support staff…and I probably won’t stick around at the finish for a tasty adult beverage. (I did get a commemorative pint glass to which I’ll add my own mirth and jocularity later, I’m sure.) I’ll be alone for probably all of my 13.1 miles.

And yet, I’m still motivated to do this one.

Last year, I ran several races, including the Warrior Dash in Georgia. The Dash was more of a fun romp through the mountain area with an obstacle course and entertaining costumes thrown in. This weekend I’m doing a different kind of warrior event. Proceeds from this year’s Tobacco Road Marathon and Half-Marathon go to The Wounded Warrior Project. I had the goal of running a race as a Project benefit last year, but it didn’t work out for me then. So I’m doing tomorrow.

Thinking about doing this race solo reminds me that these wounded warriors leave our soil as one person and return from someone else’s soil a different individual. Though they are surrounded by those they love and who love and care for them, the road to recovery is often long, hard, painful and lonely. And who knows when they cross the finish line to recovery…or how many finish lines they will cross along the way. And so, early tomorrow morning, I will join a long, hard, exhausting and lonely road–no longer chasing down a new PR but finishing one leg of a journey for me…and for them. Mostly for them.

Thank you to the many brave men and women who make the choice to live a life of service to our country, even at a high cost to themselves and the people they love.

This is why I run.

Gibbs’ Rules for Supervision

Many of you know of my love for NCIS. Most of you saw my rants during basketball season about NCIS always being preempted by UNC basketball (I’m not down with it, people). Part of my love for NCIS comes from the team and their chemistry with one another. Most of it comes from my love of Mark Harmon who plays Special Agent Gibbs.


Some of you know of my history with some not so great supervisors. One in particular seems to be making my life…well…hell…these days. So I’d like to give bad supervisors everywhere a page from Gibbs’ play book. Because he does it much better than all of you.


Rule #1 Expect the best from your people.

Rule #2 Believe in your people and trust them to do their job.

Rule #3 Never be unreachable.

Rule #4 Care about your people.

Rule #5 Never let your people down…and they won’t let you down.

Rule #6 Never apologize…it’s a sign of weakness. [But take responsibility for your stuff]

Rule #7 Sometimes you have to get their attention. A little slap to the back of the head is effective. Use sparingly or its effects will wear off.

Rule #8 Be ballsy and equip your people to do the same.

Rule #9 Reward your people’s hard work. Praise is good…CafPows are optional.

Rule #10 Laugh with…and sometimes at…your people.

Rule #11 When the job is done, walk away.

Rule #12 Never mess with a Marine’s coffee if you want to live.

Wait…that’s Rule #23.

Never date a coworker…THAT’S Rule #12.

Gibbs has good people who work for him (and themselves). You can’t break up the team, and you can’t give them another boss. It just doesn’t work. What does work is having a boss who’s differentiated and ballsy and caring and concerned about his people and has high expectations and is…well…Gibbs.

Once in a while, I’ve had the opportunity to work with really great supervisors. They were kinda Gibbsian themselves. And so I salute and give thanks for Steve, Terry-Michael, Lil, Mac, and Sue.

Finding the “Break” in Spring Break

For your average grad student (and many undergrads), Spring Break is a misnomer in every sense of the word–assuming you live in, to the north, or the west of North Carolina. It is most assuredly NOT spring right now (it’s 40 degrees outside). And most of us grad students have yet to find the break because the to-do list doesn’t stop during this week. In fact, we stand a chance of at least crossing some things off the list this week, thanks to not having to show up to the many places we ordinarily do.

I spent the first half of the break in the office, along with a friend, both of us working on our respective dissertations. I am pleased to announce that by Wednesday afternoon, my friend submitted her final draft to her committee for her defense. By Tuesday afternoon, I sent an outline to my advisor. By Wednesday afternoon, after working on prep for my oral prelim in now less than two weeks, I was fried. (When you have to ask “The predictor variable is the independent variable, right?”…you need a break.)

We both left the office mid-afternoon on Wednesday. I came home and decided to try to clear my head by breaking in my new meditation cushions. I learned it’s a helluva lot easier to meditate when your brain is smoldering–it doesn’t want to think about anything anyway. Fifteen minutes later, I was in a better state. You see, not only was my brain fried from the past…25 weeks?…of work, but my anxiety was jacked by my upcoming oral. I reached a point where I felt like I knew NOTHING. At all. Whatsoever. Not good when you will have to account for any and every thing you’ve learned in 3.5 years in 2 hours’ time. The meditation helped bring down my anxiety level. So did the realization that I HAD to take a break this week. I HAD to step away from the schoolwork. Or I was going to implode.

Spring break is great for getting work done. No question. But when you’ve been working under the gun for as long as most of us have, you gotta stop for a minute. By Thursday, I stopped. I did zero work. And meditated. And brought the anxiety back down. This morning, I got a massage (so now my neck moves in all directions again). This afternoon, I started looking over prelim stuff again. And I was fresher and more ready to integrate and prepare for the firing squad.

A funny thing, that spring break. By the time it gets here we so desperately need it. Yet so often, we keep pushing through. And that’s only good if you can truly be productive. But for me and my people from school, we aren’t productive at this point. We’re just tired. And we really really should take the advice we so often dole out and rest. Even if it’s just for a day.