Running for Wedding Planning

I meant to write this post months ago, in the throws of training for a (now complete) Half Marathon. Now on the heels of the New Year, I feel inclined to revisit my experiences this year, and this milestone in particular. As it happened, I shared my running experiences with only a few people, fairly self-conscious throughout the whole process and mystified as to why I had signed up.

DNA shoes for the running Geneticist

DNA shoes for the running Geneticist

Outwardly, I paid to run 13.1 miles for fitness, but inwardly I allowed myself to be swayed into registration to get a glimpse of understand into the limits of what my body could accomplish. I was in the middle of a very stressful period, having completed what felt like a marathon (no pun intended) of wedding venue tours and intense financial discussions, to finally book what I hoped would be the ideal location to wear my newly acquired White Dress without bankrupting myself. The location was secured only hours before flying 3,000 miles back to reality, and planning was put on hold again. Lapsing out of wedding planning mode gave way to a nervous anxiety in which I felt like I should be doing something, but what?

I have many runner friends, totally dedicated and awesome, who advocated running to me. Running, by all accounts, was the perfect way to clear your head, to think about exactly nothing, and that’s exactly what I wanted. With all the mental exertion of late, it was time for something physical.

In the beginning, I textbook trained, sticking to a rigorous schedule running up to 20 miles a week. That feeling of accomplishment when I pushed myself, all alone, to run farther then I ever had was peaceful. It’s a wonderful feeling actually, to know you are marching toward success slowly but surely. I liked to know unambiguously what steps should be taken, and lacking that elsewhere in my life, I was trying to create that with running. But little did I know that feeling I craved was much like walking up a downward escalator, what happens when you get to the top? You go down.

Leading up to the day of my half I barely slept at all. It didn’t help I was also sick, but the nerves prevented me from getting the rest I needed to get better faster. Being sick didn’t fit into my plan and jeopardized months of training. At the same time, it presented an easy out…the lurid prospect of not having to follow through without the social consequence of public failure. Who could blame a sick person for not running a marathon booked months ago?

Luckily, a friend stepped up to motivate me to push through, whether she knew it or not. During the race I wondered if I was using this activity to feel like I was accomplishing my goals without really accomplishing my goals. And so, disappointingly, after finishing my first half marathon I felt anything but accomplished. Why? I only felt tired. Defeated.

Now I understand that all this hunger to accomplish things without the satisfactory feelings has less to do with the literal things I do, and more with how I choose to feel about them. This is why everything wedding related that I tackle never feels done, I only mentally move on to the next stressful must-do thing without celebrating what I have already taken care of. How overwhelming! It was making the whole planning process feel like a chore, like an extra full time job rather than a dream come true. Running provided stress relief and an understanding of my state of mind at the same time…but it was so physically challenging that I may actually look to other forms of exercise in the future. I injured myself and spent the day after the Half hobbling around and avoiding stairs entirely…but maybe that’s just part of it, who knows.

As the new year approaches, I get nostalgic for resolutions and think more about accomplishments.  Changing my outlook about these accomplishments is now on my resolutions list for next year…more on that in the next post. Running was able to reinforce for me the idea that when you put your mind to something and be very proactive about it, you can accomplish very big things. I think Nike had it right after all: JUST DO IT.


Sio get your Gun

In the wonderful world of Groupon, you can try new and exotic activities for incredibly cheap. How can there be a downside that scenario? Unfortunately it’s incredibly easy to buy buy buy in a fit of excitement and lust for adventure and then return to reality some months later and never use the the thing; we’re too busy, forgetful, or chicken out. In the case of my first ever Groupon, having purchased only two in total to date, this is exactly what happened to me. After trying unsuccessfully to pass it off to someone else before the expiration date, I just abandoned it because I never had time to get out that part of town. So second go I had to do something when I had the time to go, interesting enough that I wouldn’t forget, and scary enough that I’d almost want to back out. Almost.

In some parts of the world, shooting a gun is a pretty down home, pedestrian activity. For a suburban California turned Bostonian twenty-something like me (age left intentionally ambiguous), a gun is something I only see in movies. I never thought I would ever pick one up, and blissfully assumed liberal states had no conceal and carry laws. Thanks Groupon, you’ve successfully corrupted my youth.

So down to the firing range I go, originally on a whim but now full of morbid curiosity. The “MFS,” or Mass Firearms School is kind of in the middle of nowhere, far outside of Boston where I’m annoyed I have to pay $2.75 in tolls and drive past far too many butcher shops and gas stations. The school itself is surprisingly small, and so is the only other girl in my Learn-to-Shoot class. There only four of us, however, so the tiny girl looks sidelong at her two tall guy friends thanks me for evening out the estrogen in the room. She’ll regret that comment later.

The problem with being the odd one out amongst a friendly threesome? I have to go first in everything. Our instructor has surprisingly affected speech and looks like an Army dude but speaks like a game show host and who is, somewhat disconcertingly, drinking the largest bottle of “Monster” I’ve ever seen. He shows us a laser gun and gives us three rules to try, demonstrating on me in front of the enthusiastic threesome, who seconds before were sniggering over their signed consent forms absolving the school from accidental deaths by (…yes they list them) but are now confidently nodding with their “this will be easy” eyes. I’m too taken aback by rule number 3 to really care, which is let it be a SURPRISE when the shot goes off. Wait, what? So I’m to just start shooting…but not know exactly WHEN I will be shooting at something. What he meant of course, was to slowly squeeze the trigger until it actually triggers, rather than squeeze to shoot. It became obvious when I tried to shoot something with the pistol for the first time. The trigger is much stiffer than you assume it to be from watching all those movies, and if I were to try and get it to trigger faster I would be applying so much force I’d probably move the gun too much and never hit my target. Better it be a surprise, then.

Pistol shooting

Practice once with a laser gun, and shockingly, that’s all it takes to get you on the firing range with real ammunition. Wait, seriously? We walk to the range donning eye and ear protection. It’s unfortunate the inside isn’t air conditioned like the rest of the school so in yesterday’s 90-degree weather it was a veritable oven. My goggles fog up immediately. He tries unsuccessfully to give me defogging strategies but in the spirit of fairness I’m first up again and time is up. We get to shoot three guns: a Pistol, a Revolver, and finally a Rifle, all from 15 feet away. I don’t know if I’m sweating because of the heat or because I’m nervous, but I line up my sights and get of my first shot. Excruciatingly slowly. Bang. Is it possible to hit yourself with the ejected casings cause….I somehow managed it.

Rifle Shooting

Ten shots is what I get for each gun, and it takes me ages. It goes like this: Plant feet. Line up sights. Finger on the trigger and Sssqqquuuueeeezzzeee…line up sights…Bang. Oh shit. After each gun we got a look at the paper targets up close. The other tiny girl was suddenly afraid of me. “I’d never want to piss you off…you’re deadly” she says. She didn’t say anything else to me after that. Her friends are much more enthusiastic but much less accurate shots.

She has archery skills. I have never shot anything in my life and yet…hey not that bad.

After shooting three different guns for the first time, my impressions  were not at all as expected. I thought I would feel exhilarated and empowered, full of adrenaline. Instead I felt like it was just a lot of work and concentration to steady the gun, think about my feet and the target and my hand positions all simultaneously. My shoulders and neck would tense, my arms would get sore from holding up the (heavier than expected) gun for ten minutes at a time. Not my idea of a recreational activity.

So would I do it again? Not sure. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked, too much anxiety surrounding the whole live fire thing. I would probably have more fun with paintball, although I was never any good at laser tag.  The only reason in my opinion to get licensed to carry a firearm is apparently in Massachusetts at least, you need a permit to carry pepper spray. So if I want to have legal pepper spray in my purse when I’m walking downtown Boston after a late night at the lab, I might want to take their course. But for now, me and guns are on a hiatus.

Revolver shooting

Donning the Celtics Green

Never in my life had I found cause to be enthusiastic about sports. It was one of those undesirable and mysterious things that I looked askance at, incredulous at the unbending devotion of the sports fan. I didn’t understand how one picks a team or decides their affiliation, and most of all I marveled at the attention span required to watch any sports game. It was simply not interesting to me because I couldn’t muster the strength to sit through an entire game of anything.  All that changed last year when I did two things. First, I moved to Boston, one of the cities with the most unambiguous sports affiliations of all time: The Red Sox and the Celtics. Those two teams are synonymous with Boston, and the people residing here are unequivocally in love. In fact, before the move it was said to me that I must now become a Red Sox fan, now that I would be living in the home of Fenway Park and the Red Sox Nation.

Then the second thing happened. The Celtics entered the NBA Finals and went up against the LA Lakers for the title. The mood was infectious and the whole city turned green. I got to know the players, watch the games with co-workers, talk about what was coming next, and be in town when the Celtics hosted the Lakers for Game 7 of the Finals and lost. The whole city took the loss personally, and now my intimate knowledge of the players and new found appreciation for the fast paced thrill of the game left me wanting more. I even had a favorite player, Ray Allen #20, who kept my attention in the pre-season as he went on to break NBA history shooting the most 3-pointers in a career, over 3,000.

Living in Boston required of me that I see a Celtics game, but now I wanted to go more then felt compelled to go. I finally took the plunge when Nate purchased two tickets as a birthday gift for me this year. I put on my Celtics t-shirt and as much green as I could muster.  I was so excited I couldn’t believe I was going to see Ray “in person” and play live against the Washington Wizards, a team they were sure to beat. The game was at the TD Garden, a building I would walk by everyday and was now now finally able to enter, moving up to the balcony overlooking the court. It was incredibly steep and I was scared at first, but the atmosphere was a like a giant party- cheerful and raucous.

I felt like I was at a concert, music blaring, camera panning, people dancing like they were drunk, even if most probably were. The players were like rock stars, with a giant clock counting down until their arrival and backstage shots at them warming up, met with screams from the crowd. A spotlight anticipated their entrance as they finally came jogging out, and the crowd was egged on by a giant “noise-meter” that mockingly disregarded the hoarse throats being rapidly acquired. I was amused at the showmanship of the institution, who assumed that constant entertainment was a necessity. At any time-out, halftime, or other break, the music would start up again and the crowd would cheer as some fan competed for a free trip to Panama City, Fan of the Game, or a Lucky Lotto ticket.  In fact, the row behind mine won the lucky row, and I found myself on the Jumbotron TV, helping the row behind me celebrate getting a lotto ticket. While I had an awesome time watching the game, the players, and celebrating the eventual win over the Wizards, it was a massive dose of cheeseball that I would have a hard time swallowing on a regular basis. In other words, it was a huge assault on my senses: but appropriate for an all out birthday celebration, a once a year thing to do. Go Celtics!


It’s been a great summer for sports, and while I don’t consider myself a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve somehow found myself all but consumed by it. First, it was the NBA Finals, in which Boston lead the charge against the LA Lakers, and the city was swept up in a Celtics frenzy. But it wasn’t just the sports mentality that was infectious, it was how personal the game became as the age-old east west rivalry became a collective source of community pride, and each and every Celtics player seemed to be playing for each and every Boston sports fan.

For seven games, green became the city’s favorite color and everyone tuned in after work wherever they could find a television. I even found myself out with co-workers at the local pub, where Game 5 of the finals was raging in the background and suddenly, because you liked the same team, you were best friends with whoever was next to you. Talking about the game the next day was a way to bond, a good conversation starter, and made for never a dull moment when you were constantly looking forward to the next game. And while the Lakers ended up winning the finals, Boston didn’t seem quite as disappointed as they should have been, which no doubt had something to do with the FIFA World Cup starting soon after.

And while the World Cup has always been the seminal event in soccer (excuse me..FOOTball), I don’t even remember the last World Cup at all. And while I’m not a soccer fan just like I never considered myself a basketball fan, I again find myself watching almost every game, choosing favorite teams and players, and just as on the edge of my seat as I was during the finals.

No matter who seems to be playing, I’m always cheering on the underdog teams, those that go in fighting the odds and sometimes emerge victorious after some spectacular play. And while historically that doesn’t happen very often, this world cup seems to be the year when all those mediocre teams are making their mark and giving the soccer giants like Spain, England, Italy, Brazil, and Portugal a run for their money. First, it was Switzerland that won out against Spain. Germany loosing to Serbia, England unable to score against Algeria, and Brazil only nearly winning against North Korea. Now, New Zealand has tied against Italy, the defending European Champions! This is truly the year of the hardworking, underdog teams, and I can’t get over how exciting it’s been!

The US, who remarkably tied England, almost won out against Slovenia in one of the worst referee calls of the cup so far. The disallowed goal, now being called the “phantom foul” has nearly snatched US dreams of advancing. However, the experts say could this be a good  news for the popularity of soccer in the US. Does it take a bunch of outraged fans to finally pay attention to soccer? It’s true that soccer isn’t quite the phenomenon in the US as it is in other countries, but as Nate informs me, the US still purchased more tickets to the World Cup this year than any other country.Perhaps this is an artifact of our wealth and ability to fly to South Africa, although, it should be relatively easy for European fans to trek down. So is everyone a closet soccer fan? There seems to be an undercurrent of anti-soccer sentiment when it seems like one can be either a soccer fan or a football fan, and if you don’t like football then you’re un-American. While I’m starting to agree that soccer hysteria isn’t what it should be around here, I think I have more fun cheering on random teams then just one team every time. If you haven’t started watching yet, you should! It makes for a great Sunday afternoon activity. And while I’m not ready to paint my face different colors and wrap a flag around my shoulders, I’ve definitely turned into one of those who yells at the TV and jumps up and down in the living room.