Monday, July 25, 2011

Mondays on Notice: Runmares

Did you ever have that dream during college that you'd forgotten to drop a class and then all of a sudden it was the end of the semester and you had to take the final to pass? Or that you forgot or were hours late to a final? It's the classic college nightmare.

Well, a few nights ago I had the same nightmare but for running. I dreamed that I overslept on race day and was almost certainly going to miss the start gun. It was terrible! All these thoughts were going through my mind. Will they let me start late? Can I even get there soon enough to do that? Will my timing chip still work? Oddly, the race was in my hometown, possibly on our old cross country course (which was later totally blasphemed to build a baseball field).

Have any of you ever been late on race day? If so, what happened? Did you still race?

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I've learned that y'all often enjoy the random. A bit o' crazy. A little side dish of my three ring circus in a doggie bag. And of course we all love the run. So I've decided to do a blog piece at the intersection: Random/Running. Not sure if this will become a permanent blog feature--we'll see how it goes. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

First up, the random--a picture and a story about hot weather
Let me direct your attention to the top right. Yeah. That's what that says. 
(I'm actually a little afraid to admit this--but yesterday it actually felt kinda nice to be in the heat--I think it's growing on me)

About five years ago my brother, Mom and I collaborated to write a set of short stories about my lovably eccentric Dad as a birthday present. This is a cut-down version of one of those (all rights reserved).

I started dating my now-husband late in 2001, just after my parents moved to Annapolis, Maryland.  After spending the spring of 2002 abroad, I returned to spend my first summer in Annapolis. Future Mr. Joanna (herein, FMJ) and I were thrilled to be living not just on the same continent but just a short drive from each other. We hung out a lot, and on this particular day decided to go outside and play Frisbee. 

Annapolis disoriented me. Two of my recent summers had been spent at a camp in a large national forest in West Virginia. Most of the rest of my summers had been filled with lazy walks to the corner store, sitting on neighbors’ porches talking, hiking in the mountains and visiting my Grampa. In Annapolis, I was surrounded by pavement, cars, and condos, all reflecting the intense July sun. I pulled my rectangular, thick-rimmed olive green sunglasses down over my eyes and threw the Frisbee to FMJ. The whitest man alive. The man who, standing on this concrete-paved county-sized parking lot, wearing SPF 80, was already turning red. Furthermore, I was realizing that I was not properly hydrated, so after 20 minutes we headed inside to relax and cool off. 

[I am totally redacting the middle portion of this story for my mother's benefit, even though it's hilarious. You're welcome, Mom.]

I got two drinks and walked to the kitchen table. I knew I was beat red, and so was he. “Some sun out there today, isn’t it? I think I’m starting to burn,” he said. “Yeah, what were we thinking, playing Frisbee in 97 degree heat with 90 percent humidity?”  

Just then my Dad walked in. On account of the redacted part of this story I was thinking “Please Dad, say something normal. Anything, anything normal.” “You kids look worn out. FMJ, you look like you might have heat stroke,” he said. FMJ nodded, “Yeah, it’s pretty hot out there. We only played for about 20 minutes.” Dad nodded in that chipper, parakeet way that nodders nod. I was doing everything I could to look calm, but I could hear it. I knew what was coming. “You know, one time, in was hot,” he began. 

“Back in 1976, Joanna’s mother and I went to a dance in a high school gymnasium in Charleston. Back in those days people dressed up for dances. You know, suits, jackets, ties. Well, not that evening. Hot. There were no windows in this gymnasium. There was only one door, and it was in a brick building, in July. There were probably a hundred or a hundred and fifty people there, all dancing, so you can imagine the body heat we were generating. Oh my God, it was hot! I absolutely couldn’t stand it. I had to take off my jacket and my neck tie and sit down for a while. But there was a man just dancing up a storm wearing a polyester double-knit suit, buttoned up with a necktie on. I couldn’t imagine how he could stand it, I was burning up. So I asked him. And you know what he told me? He said, ‘it’s polyester, so it keeps the cool air in!’ Can you believe that?  In a room with no windows in the dead of the summer—it keeps the cool air in. I bet if I had listened closely I could have heard the wind chiming through his head. Ding, dong!”*

Ten minutes later when I walked FMJ to the door I thought to myself, “If we survive this summer…” FMJ turned to me and said, “Jo, you know I love you, right?”  And I did.   

* to be absolutely clear, I love my Dad's stories. I really, truly would not have him any other way!

Once....back in 2011, it was hot. By now you've all seen this fantastic weather map (seriously, go look at it. You'll laugh). I've been super thankful for the ol' gym, with it's ac, treadmills, nearby parking, etc. The convenient parking counts for a LOT. But one of the more obscure things I've been thankful for is this. Is this a sign that I'm getting old?!?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vacation Wrap-Up

We are home from our fantastic vacation, aka Joanna Returns To The Mountains 2011. It was the longest vacation we've ever taken, and I think my favorite. Just like when we got married, I wanted rural chic. Beautiful. Relaxing. Delicious. Rural chic. And that's exactly what we did. We started off with a long layover in Detroit to see some of my favorite people.

Then a few days at Mountain Lake, in Southwest Virginia.

After that we headed to Snowshoe Mountain, WV, where I'd always wanted to stay. LOVED IT.

Upon leaving Snowshoe we made a pit stop at Cass Scenic Railroad, also in West Virginia. Mostly we stopped there for a yummy lunch, but also for a train ride to kill some time and thrill my three year old. Because he's 3 and a boy. So trains rock his socks off. 

We headed from there to my favorite place on earth--Spruce Knob, West Virginia, where Rave Run #3 happened.

Spruce Knob means the world to me. I went to The Mountain Institute as a student during the summer of 1998, then again as staff in 2000 for a program called Scholars Academy (which no longer exists). For a month we learned about the economic and cultural landscape of West Virginia, we camped hiked, spelunked, and wrote a 75-100 page autobiographical thesis. I've been back many times since, often for the annual reunion of people who went through the program I participated in. I love these people and this place. I would never have known how to love West Virginia without this experience, and I wouldn't have gotten into my specific field. It felt so good to go home. I wanted to stay forever.

Saturday was Mr. Joanna's birthday. Another Scholar alum brought cake and another made an amazing dinner. It was absolutely perfect. Did I mention that I wanted to stay?!? But we had other places calling our names. On Sunday morning we headed back down the mountain to Seneca Rocks to meet up with my BFF Jamie.

Let me tell you about Jame. I've known her since we were 12. She's as close to a third kid as my parents ever got. We get each other, and we are both openly, completely ourselves with each other. We've spent the last 12 years living in different states, and that hasn't slowed us down one bit. I swear, she knew my old commute as well as I did because my commute was the only time I reliably had to talk. She's outgoing, Irish, and crazy. I love this girl. And it was fantastic to see her.

We stayed in a ridiculous little cabin. They look cute from the outside, and then you step in to this utter weirdness. I'm pretty sure the picture doesn't even do it justice. 

We hung out for the evening and went our separate ways on Monday morning. Mr. Joanna and I waaaaay miscalculated driving time and ended up on a wild goose chase all over West Virginia just so I could go to the Tamarack before we caught our flight back out. I LOVE the Tamarack. It's upscale, beautiful rural gorgeousness. It's a center where handmade products (and some manufactured goods) from around the state are sold and beautiful food is offered. I was hoping to find an art glass accessory for our master bedroom. Some of the women in my family worked in the potteries in WV during the war, so that industry in general has a huge place in my heart. I kind of knew what I was after--I wanted a new piece of Blenko to add to my collection. And I found it! It's being shipped and should be here in a few days.

We had just enough time to pick out the new Blenko, grad some sandwiches to eat in the car, and hit the road back to the airport to fly home. Coming home was like waking up from a dream. A long, amazing dream. I can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rave Run #3: Spruce Knob

One more installment in the Rave Run series, aka Joanna Returns to the Mountains 2011! The last run comes to you from my favorite place on earth, Spruce Knob, West Virginia. I'm going to tell you a bit more about Spruce in a vacation wrap-up post. For now, let's just stick to the running, shall we?

We were at The Mountain Institute's Spruce Knob Mountain Center, where I've spent a whole lotta very happy time. The Mountain Center is several miles from a paved road and is in one of the last dark spots left on the eastern seaboard. There's a dirt road a mile long that connects the "main" dirt road of the mountain with the main part of The Mountain Institute. It's a route I've run many times. I even acquired my first running scar on this run, waaaay back in 1998. This weekend I ran it out and back twice, for four miles. It's a run I carry with me every single day.

Here's the view just as I was starting out.

At the top of that little hill you're greeted by this splendor.

Here's my buddy Evan running ahead a bit, about a third of a mile in. 

We ran a mile down the road then turned around and headed back. This picture makes me so happy I could almost cry.

When you crest the last hill of the run, you can see the yurts from a distance. Yep, I said yurts. These are the main buildings at The Mountain Institute. Because it's that insanely cool.

Then I got to turn around and run it all again. I absolutely love this place!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mondays On Notice: Mobile Blogging Edition

Hello world! I feel like that's the proper greeting now that we're back from our trip, which involved several days completely off the grid (more on that below). I'm 100% ready to call it a day, but wanted to shout out my Monday on Notice before it's not Monday any more.

Today's Monday on Notice is brought to you by my attempt to blog via the Blogger App. As some of you know, I'm kinda new to the whole 21st-century-cell-phone, what with it's apps and so forth. I know, I was the last hold out on that campaign. Well, after posting twice with minimal intervention via a laptop, I decided I was ready to go all-mobile-app-blogging.


I don't even know how to make a blog screw up its formatting the way my last post got screwed up. So, if you skipped over it because it was, well, illegible, give 'er another shot. She's all fixed up now, and man, was it an awesome run!! Mobile blogging has been put on Notice and the formatting is fixed!

So about the trip--it was awesome. It was exactly what I needed on so many levels. I'll tell you all about it in a bigger post tomorrow, but as a quick intro, we hit up Mountain Lake, VA (with some family), then Snowshoe, WV, then Spruce Knob, WV (my favorite place on earth), then Seneca Rocks, WV (where I got to hang out with my BFF, Jamie!!), then a crazy drive through WV today and flew back to the Midwest. A lot of these places are really remote. Snowshoe is actually in a Federally regulated quiet zone administered by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (read: NO cell service). I think it's regulated at least in part because the Green Bank Observatory (awesome, check it out here) is nearby. Spruce Knob is used by astronomy groups and recently had a small observatory built on it because it's one of the last "dark" spots on the eastern seaboard. I feel so incredibly blessed to know about these places, and to have such wonderful friends to visit with when we go. 

Must sleep--more coming soon!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rave Run #2: Snowshoe Mountain, WV

(sorry if you saw a posted-too-early version of this with totally jacked up formatting. Turns out blogging via mobile app is hard!)

I'm sitting outside drinking a post-run iced tea as I write this (although it may not post until later). I have another Joanna Returns To The Mountains 2011 Rave Run to share! Today's run comes to you from Snowshoe Mountain, West By God Virginia. You may have heard of this place as a ski resort, which it is, but I highly recommend coming up in the summer too. We are having a blast--a  lake/beach, paddle boating, water slide, ski lift through the gorgeous mountain. I love this place!

I ran a little over 4 miles today. I definitely ended up somewhere I didn't really mean to go, but that's ok. Otherwise it wouldn't be an adventure, right?!?

After I got into the main portion of the run I came across this view and had to grab a pic.

Not much farther along a few deer ran across the road in front of me. By the time I'd fumbled with my camera, I managed to get one of them into a picture. Too bad "say cheese" doesn't work on white tailed deer. :)

A little farther down I crossed a few paths and went under the ski lift. It is so pretty looking down the mountain.

I knew I'd been going gradually downhill for longer than I thought I should have, based on my read of the map. I think I actually got on the wrong road completely, I'm not sure, but I ended up basically at the bottom of the ski lift, but on the road. I got some looks as I ran/walked back up the mountain road, lol! I didn't mind one bit though. I even got to snap a pic of some of the one-sided trees to show you. No, really! We're high enough up that the wind is  so strong that the branches only grow on one side. Kinda amazing, right!?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dirty Dancing

You know how I said I was going to let in more of the crazy? Well, here's your first little taste of it. Ready?

It totally creeps me out to tell the internet where I'm going before I go there.

But now that our time up on the mountain is over, I can tell you all about it! We spent a long weekend hanging out at Mountain Lake, in southwest Virginia, doing a whole lot of relaxing with some people I love.

For the girly girls among you, this is where Dirty Dancing was filmed. Yes, the gazebo, the stone lodge, all the landmarks you would recognize. And, this is also where Mr. Joanna and I held our wedding reception 6 years ago, so it's extra awesome for us. We've loved coming back and showing this place to our little boy. One of the sweetest moments for me was carrying my son (for communion on Sunday) to the alter where Mr. Joanna and I were married. Talk about an incredible moment.

You might also recall that I'm from central Appalachia. Being back in the mountains is so relaxing and therapeutic. We ate good food, heard some Appalachian storytelling, swam, biked, ran (of course), slept in, saw a magic show, and on and on. I can't say enough good things about it!

There are a few more really gorgeous runs to share with you from this trip, and a little more travel to share. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mondays On Notice

Today begins a new blog feature that I'm calling Mondays on Notice. The name borrows a bit from Stephen Colbert's list of things that are on notice, which in his case includes Lutherans and bears. Obviously this means that Mondays are permanently on notice, but I think we can all agree to that. Each week I will be featuring something I would like to add to my list of those things on notice.  Some of these will be running related, some will not. With that, my first Item on Notice:

Excessively short layovers.

Why? This past weekend we were traveling. Our travels involved  an almost 2 hour long layover in Detroit, which was absolutely perfect. We had enough time to exit security and see these people. (Sorry for the photo quality. This was my first attempt to use pics from my phone and I haven't quite figured out how to make it all work yet.)
And a little of this.
 And it was fantastic. I got to squeeze my nieces, drink coffee with my SIL, catch up with my brother and Dad (who is there because Kdot broke her collar bone and cannot drive, pick up babies, etc. Ouch!), then mozy on back through security and back to our gate. None of which I could have done with an excessively short layover. Plus, really short layovers induce all sorts of anxiety about delays and missed connections. So there you have it, Excessively Short Layovers, I hereby put you on notice!

At the other end of our flight, I finally got in a run I've dreamed of for a very long time--mountains! While there was a heat index of 112 at home, I was soaking up 4 miles of this gorgeousness. I think I had forgotten what mountain running felt like. It works those hammies and I loved it! This was the view as I started out. 

The trail is 2 miles long. I came across this at the back end, about 1 mile into the trail. So picturesque!

I did the whole trail twice for a total of 4 miles. It got really steep in a few places, so I wasn't that surprised to see that my pace was well over a minute per mile slower than usual. It was tough and just exactly what I'd hoped for. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Good morning weekend!

It's been a while since I was up before the sun. I couldn't resist the picture.
I have some awesome runs coming up this week and a new blog feature starting on Monday. I'm so excited to share both. But in the meantime, rock some longs runs, bloggy world.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

June Recap

Miles ran: 61.6
Rest days: 15
Highest mileage week: 18.3
Long runs: 0
Pace workouts: 4
XT days:  a big fat zero....this will be changing later this month.  
Tempo or interval runs: 2
Favorite run: my standard 4-miler on 6/29. I got an average pace of 8:41, which felt great! I finally let myself attack the pace again after the few days of back issues before that.  
Current goal: consistent 16-20 mile weeks with maintained speed. 
Current obsession: still decorating! I got the shipping notice for our sofas a few days ago, so they should be here soon. Also, I am almost finished painting our bedroom and the search for decor has commenced. I love doing this SO much! I love making our house something I feel good about and enjoy. 
Current need: materially, there really isn't anything I need right now. But I do need some rest. And it's coming! We have a vacation planned, but I'm not going to tell you where, what, or when until we're back. :) So you'll just have to wait. 
Current excitement: Feeling like I'm getting back into the swing of things. I feel like I'm slowly regaining control.   
Current bane of my existence: I know I sound like an insufferable ray of sunshine here, but honestly, if all I can complain about is the state of the closets in our house, life is pretty fantastic. But the closets, yeah. They are pretty bad! Maybe I should take before and after pictures. 
Current wish list: a new bathing suit 
Current indulgence: DECORATING! And Schlafly Pale Ale. Because it's summertime. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

An open letter

Dear JoannaRuns,

It's been a while, blog. I've thought of you often. Wondered what I would say when we inevitably met again. What version of the truth I would tell you about where I was. Wondered if you'd still be here when I came back. I missed you, a lot.

See, it wasn't you. It was me. Things are good. No, not good, great. There is no cause for concern. But I did need some time apart, some space if you will, to embrace the side show my life often becomes, to re-think what I want for our relationship, and to set some priorities for what remains of summer. Maybe I should do a "day (or week) in the life of" post with you sometime. My SIL, Kdot (who I adore) tells me it's not normal--often in a good way and sometimes in a downright crazy way. Recently things had gotten a lot out of hand. It's not a complaint; I wouldn't live my life any other way. But I did need to stop and hash out a game plan.

I really want to get back together with you, but I need to lay some ground rules. First, I need to ask you to let me hit "mark all as read" and let me move on. It's gotten to the point that I just can't catch up on all the 9,837 posts in my Reader. Second, I want to ask if I can let in a little bit more of the crazy from time to time. I think this will be good for both of us. Third, I need to ask that no one judge me for reverting to the treadmill when the heat index reaches "blistering". For several years I've had a medical issue that makes extreme heat + exertion a real problem for me. Telling you this will make it a lot less awkward for me to talk about summer running. And with that, I promise not to whine about heat. Fourth, I want to do some giveaways. Soon.

I have had some fun while we've been apart. We've had some friends visit from out of town (reason #72 why I love living in a city: people have multiple excuses to come visit!). This ridiculously adorable pic is the kiddo with his very first friend ever, a little boy he used to go to daycare with, and whose parents we know from our old church. They came to town for a family getaway. Also, I started painting our master bedroom (XT, baby!) on Saturday night. It's just almost finished, finally, and I love it! Now I get to shop for decor and accessories, and Project Closet Reorganization will be underway very soon.

Thanks for not leaving me while I was away. I have so much stuff planned for us, and I'm super excited about it!

Run strong,