Thursday, April 28, 2011

A New Race, Soccer and DC

I've done it! I've finally signed up for my next race. It's in one month which gives me plenty of time to train for a competitive finish time. I bet I could run one within the next two weeks, but I would probably clock a personally disappointing finish time (over two hours) so it's best to take the extra two weeks and 'git er dun the right way. It's the Alexandria Running Festival (yea... I'm pretty sure I can think of about five other titles that are more creative than 'running... festival...') which involves a 5K, a half marathon and a relay half marathon; I'm only doing the half.

Tonight was my first 7v7 outdoor co-ed soccer game down on the National Mall. There are so many athletes out on those fields after 5:30pm. The mall was teeming with frisbee, soccer and softball leagues in their bright colored jerseys all the way from Pennsylvania Avenue to Rock Creek Parkway. It was great to see so many people being so active! We played just next to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial - see it here! - and in front of the lazy Potomac River where a sleepy, orange sun was dropping into bed. I kept my comments to myself at our laughable playing fields considering the grass was almost as tall as the ball and being as I've just come off playing on gorgeous rooftop turf fields in Miami. I mean, it's all about being out there, playing the game, rallying with friends. (But seriously, I hope the lawn mowers are scheduling some maintenance before next Wednesday!) My mom drove up after work to watch me play. The other team didn't have enough players so they forfeit, we got a Win, and we scrimmaged for a solid hour in the ... marsh. It was great; I met my new teammates and am excited for next week. My car arrives next Tuesday, just in time to get my cleats. I played in indoor shoes tonight and I think I spent more time on my rear end than charging towards the goal.

Tried to get Barack to come out but his cell went straight to VM

On a side note: I love this city. Late for the game and departing from Farragut North metro station, I jogged past The White House, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, in front of the Jefferson Memorial, through (oops, sorry!) the Korean War Veterans Memorial and behind a barrage of DC tour buses to get to the field. When I ran through a tornado of cherry blossoms descending on my path next to the Reflecting Pool, I didn't run around them this time. They looked like a giant pillow fight for yards down the dirt path. But instead of feathers flying through the air, it was white and purple cherry flower petals and the situation of them blowing hard against my body in the wind actually made me giggle like a little kid. My family used to have picnics on the National Mall all the time when I was younger. I would feed the swans and chase the pigeons with my brothers. (Which I think actually trained me to hunt pigeons on the street, even as an adult. If I see one standing there as I walk by, I can't resist the urge to make him fly away.) My mom still loves to visit the museums several times a year and I hope to get down to National Geographic's exhibit at the Museum of National Art this weekend. This city is powerful, historical and smart. I have so many memories here. I could never call any other place my home.

My friend Sebastian captures the essence of DC

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A 'Welcome Home' Bouquet of ... Pollen

'Virginia is for Lovers'. You'll frequently see this slogan on the back of some proud Virginian's bumper, or splashed across a store front. I think it relates to the rolling hills of the suburban towns, the grassy green, cow-spotted southern pastures, the dogwood-laden front lawns or a lovely purple and pink sunset across our wine vineyards. That's probably how the average non-allergy person would see it. Sounds great, right? Sure!

But for someone like myself, and the other 20% of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, stumbling blindly to their medicine cabinet every morning and reaching for a near-toxic dose of Claritin, Sudafed, eyedrops and nose spray (yep, we're a sexy bunch), we don't quite feel the same about Virginia's outdoors.  As serene as Loverland sounds, let me tell you that someone like me will only find this to be picturesque and romantic when safely protected from the outside air and behind the glass windows of a car or inside the solid walls of a restaurant while under the heavy mask of anti-allergen drugs. People like us know that the only tissues to buy are Puffs Plus with Lotion because after your thirteen hundredth nose blow of the morning, you won't be able to walk into that staff meeting without looking like Rudolph with swollen eyelids, unless you've been using the touchably-soft magic that is Puffs. Thank you, Proctor & Gamble.

Somehow the thought of my Nike's hitting concrete through picket-fence neighborhoods or taking a trail down by the Potomac on a warm spring evening after a long day at work always brainwashes me into thinking that I'm immune to the pollen. After being indoors all day, I can remember, even last summer, all I want to do is stretch my legs. It's always pleasant on the first half of the run. Then the eyes start itching a little bit. Next I'm rubbing my nose every block or two. Suddenly I'm sneezing so hard that it rocks my gait and I'm again, blindly sprinting for a cold rag and my medicine cabinet.

Tonight was no different. I've been trying to take meds every 12 hours or so, but I didn't think to take anything before my run tonight. I started out great on my first run since being back home in Virginia; briskly trotting 4.8 miles down and back Sydenstricker Road (here's my route!), taking in the baseball practices, homeward bound commuters and reminiscing about my boardwalk runs... when about halfway through, a gust of wind dropped forty three hundred pounds of dogwood blossoms onto the approaching path. Really, I weighed them.

I didn't see gorgeous, white blossoms descend slowly in the breeze and touch lightly upon the sidewalk. I saw a vortex of extrinsic proteins commanded by that 'beautiful' tree to attack the IgE on every mast cell in my head and provoke the immunoglobulin-mediated response of releasing histamine, tryptase, chymase, kinins, and heparin into my bloodstream sending my face into a mash of congestion, sneezing, itching, redness, tearing, swelling, ear pressure and postnasal drip. My mucous glands would be stimulated, leading to increased secretions. My vascular permeability would increase, leading to plasma exudation. My veins would dilate causing congestion and pressure and my sensory nerves would be stimulated into a fit of sneezing and itching. And that would be what's called only the 'immediate' or 'early' phase of the reaction. So what did I do? I ran around the death trap, across the road, and up the hill on the other side. *sigh* If only it was that easy. As you and I both know, pollen grains are everywhere: outdoors and indoors. Magically... I survived the run. I let the cool shower water seep into my eyeballs for about 15 minutes as soon as I got back home. So what did we learn? Run with a plastic bag over our heads. Drug up a solid 30 minutes before departure.

For my fellow allergy-suffering compadres out there, here are a few quick tips to take with you this season:
  • Make sure you shower after a day outdoors to get the pollen out of your hair, off your skin and out of your bed!
  • Drug up. Find out what meds work for you. Hopefully it's as simple as some over the counter anithistamines and decongestants though I've seen it as serious as monthly shots used to manage reactions. Get it under control so you can go about your busy days and nights as symptom free as possible.
  • As depressing as this sounds: stay indoors. If you have the option of eating outside or inside, just grab a table indoors by the window. It could be the difference of a sneeze-filled afternoon.
  • You will undoubtedly track pollen right onto the pillow that your face is stuffed in for seven hours of the night. Wash your sheets frequently and invest in a nice set of anti-allergen bedding.
  • Drink more water. Consuming half your body weight in ounces of water will thin mucous secretions and hydrate your mucous membrane tissues.
  • Consider an air purifier with a HEPA filtration system for your house to help decrease the amount of pollenated air entering your house.
According to, I live in one of the highest pollen producing states in the entire country. Alllllrighty then! I'm popping my Loratadine and tucking in under my brand new anti-allergen bed set. Would you still be my friend if I wore a doctor's mask every day for the next four months...?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Superhero for a Day

Tiptoeing through the Tulip Library
I don't know much about DC. But I do know a lot about being a superhero. For example, anyone crossing a street in high-waisted, pink, elastic underwear over black tights and a Superwoman In Training t-shirt is impenetrable to oncoming cars.  I also know that anyone in superhero tights can get a bunch of tourists to do almost anything. This is but a taste of our DC Challenge Scavenger Hunt yesterday afternoon. Over 400 teams gathered at 1pm in The Yards Park, adjacent to the National's double hitter which was coincidentally in the same area on the same day. I haven't clocked it yet, but I'm pretty sure we scurried about 9-10 miles on foot around our nation's capital, solving 11 out of 12 clues of landmarks to be photographed. The only clue I solved was thanks to Google's brilliant search engine which identified the tulips in front of the only 'bookless library' as the Tulip Library (not the National Archives which we found ourselves circling for several long minutes trying to locate tulips...)
The Libery Bell, Union Station

 All teams received their clue list at the same time then broke after the countdown to solve the clues and plan the fastest route. We were Team Superheroes In Training. Shira, aka Francis, was our team captain, supplying sunblock, bananas and clementine's before the clues were handed out. Captain Marvel Morgan, aka Ben, was amply prepared with his hydrating supply of rum and diet in his camelback. Batman, aka Alejandro, was our 'scouter' who sprinted ahead to affirm our suspected destinations and dear Eric was himself, the fifth member who was shang-highed into join our team only one day prior, bringing his awesome can-do attitude. (We lost two team members, Kara and Mollie, as the race organizers pushed the event back one day due to heavy rains all day on Saturday and the girls couldn't make it on Sunday. We missed you, girls!)

Japanese-American Memorial. Francis: "Quick guys, run this way FAST to throw off that team behind us!"
 It's true that DC is a small city and I couldn't imagine doing this in say, New York City. You also absolutely needed to know your history. The clues were tricky and between Ben's Political Science degree, Alejandro's International Relations degree, and Francis' general ingenuity for ... everything, we were able to solve all of our clues within the allotted 3.5 hrs and cross the finish line just in the knick of time. Eric and I mutually agreed that if we were our own team, we wouldn't have made it beyond registration, and/or the nearest bar touting Sunday afternoon drink specials. Tourists didn't hesitate to ask why the heck we were racing. I couldn't help but snicker when a little boy told me that he just saw these 'silly' Elmo people run by.  I replied, "Oh yes... they must look ridiculous!" I'm pretty sure I made a gaping little girl's day when I said, "See? You can still dress up when you're an adult!"

Red River Inn
  The finish line brought plenty of food and beverages (four dining carts and your choice of beer, wine and soda with your drink ticket). Plenty of ice cold water was supplied as usual. We sat on the water and consoled our aching bodies and weary brains. The weather was absolutely beautiful; cool in the breeze and warm in the sun. My friends and I soaked up the proud moment of being Washingtonians as we sat on the harbor. Dusk brought a chilly breeze and as our team departed for our last Metro ride of the day, we agreed that the DC Challenge is a MUST-DO in 2012.

Washington Monument
Ulysses Grant Memorial and The Capital

Thursday, April 14, 2011

1 More Day in Paradise

Well, this is it! I'm moving back to DC tomorrow. I'm all packed, a bunch of light warm-weathered clothes aren't tough to throw into boxes. No furniture, no TV - what can I say, I travel light. I'm excited to get back to the cherry blossoms, the downtown happy hours, the sloping hills of the city, the skyline of historical monuments, and of course, my fabulous friends and family. I'm trying to block out what I'm leaving behind: the sky blue Carribean waters, the smell of the sea on every tropical breeze, these amazing palm trees, and of course, my fabulous friends.

This Saturday, five friends and myself are running the DC Challenge Adventure Race: The Ultimate Urban Scavenger Race What a perfect way to get back into my DC scene! Our team name is Superheroes in Training. Yeah, I bet you can't WAIT to see those pictures.

My blogs will revert very quickly to run-focused entries upon my return. Lately it's been soccer-driven exercise. I was in a 6v6 tournament last weekend. It was great to be on the outdoor field again. There's so much more... space out there.  The night games were easy to run in, but playing soccer at noontime on a Saturday afternoon in Florida, WHOO-EE! I hope you've stocked up on Gatorade and water! In the second game, after my hat trick, I managed to land a nice, fat ball in my face and went down hard. Of course I didn't go to the emergency room until after I played the four remaining games of the tournament (all in true soccer spirit!) where I discovered that I had bruised my retina. Sounds bad, I know. Fortunately the only residual effects (after my headache dissipated a whole three days later...) is a cloudy vision spot on the lower hemisphere of my left eye at nighttime. I came out of the hit with not even a scratch. I'm really, really lucky. Since we're talking about soccer injuries, I must say that my favorite soccer injury (and by far, the coolest one to get), is when the ball hits you so hard that it leaves the indent of the ball pattern on your body. "So, what sports do you play?" -- "Oh, well, just take a look at this trusty ball print on my thigh. Yep, I play soccer!" If you're going to go out with an injury, whether its a sprained ankle, or a torn ACL, I sure hope it's doing something that you love. For me, a soccer injury will alwaysss be worth it.

If you need me, I'll be face down, hugging the sand for the remainder of the day. I wonder if I can pack some gecko's in my carry-on...


Monday, April 4, 2011


I've hit a run rut. I've decided that I'm not going to run the race in Pensacola in two weeks. That will be my last weekend in Miami and I can't be on the road for 10 hours when there's friends to say goodbye to and caipirinha's to be toasted to a wonderful year spent here. So I'm a little stuck in my motivation since I'm not training for a race.

Tonight I stepped back up on that treadmill, after 10 days out of my Nike's. It felt a little like that of a desert wanderer who comes across a pool of fresh, crisp water after 10 days of dehydration. Oh, you haven't been lost in a desert recently? Me neither. But I'm pretty sure that the reuniting of a runner with her stride parallels the reuniting of cracked, dry lips with cold, cool water. At least that's what it felt like. Satiety had been harnessed. The first mile was rough: the right ankle is tight, the left hip isn't rotating all the way, the blister under my left big toe is adjusting to the sock, etc. But OH, did it all feel good. That's what I am, I'm a runner. I always have been. Maybe not on a course or a track, but it's been in me to sprint yards down a soccer field since I was five years old. It just something that my body craves, and might almost be an addiction. My body is dependent on the adrenaline, the endorphins, the blood surging through my... okay, let's not get carried away. At least at the end of the day I know I'll be back up and running, even when I'm stuck in a rut or two. I think things will settle out much better when I return to DC and can sign up for more races.

Soccer game Wednesday!