Autumn Whirlwind

It has been a busy and interesting summer and the same can be said for how the fall is going so far.

My pavement related and offseason training goals this past summer were all but shattered when I caught a severe cold bug from (presumably, not 100% sure) a friend who was in town to visit and the result was severe bronchitis – at one point we suspected pneumonia, but thankfully the X-ray came back negative – that kept me from training or even excercising most if not all of June.
I returned to basic exercise (i.e. anything that didn’t involve running) only the final week of June and running the first week of July. And this was after SEVEN weeks of not running – I had taken two weeks off after Broad Street and was planning on light training when I contracted the bug. So coming back in the thick of the heat after seven weeks of no running?

Ugly. Just it was hilariously ugly.

I struggled to even run quarter mile intervals on the treadmill and my first run back with City Sports was a nightmare in nearly every sense of the word. Thankfully keeping at it, by the end of July I was back to basic distance, but pace, I was still off (slower) by roughly a minute/mile pace, and I was slow enough to begin with by most people’s standards.

At the same time, with work burning me out, I had taken a few short holidays to recharge. I screamed for a European vacation, especially with both the pound sterling and euro falling dramatically, I could afford RT to Ireland for 550. Yes, you are reading this correctly. $550.

Strangely, at the same time, I was also concerned about my moving expenses going to DC – especially if I took on a new job, absorbing (in most cases) relocation costs. As a result, my longer holiday for the summer was spent in Quebec. Amtrak train trip was entirely free for myself, along with a few nights in a Marriott hotel, thanks to the points I’d accumulated from my own work travels. Canada was a double edged sword – it was an aggressive agenda, seeing both Montreal and Quebec City in 6 days, 2 of which consisted of the Amtrak ride through the Adirondacks. It was a scenic ride, but overall the trip meant we were constantly on the go. It was great for keeping me in shape, but my mother was more exhausted after that week (despite my multiple warnings about the agenda and pace of the trip – several times I offered her to prolong the trip to ease the pace, but she refused as she had a religious pilgrimage the days following our return). Still I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the sights, the food and everything in between.

But breathers aside, it has been a busy summer. I visited my friend Caroline in NYC, who is training for the NYC marathon, spent a few weekends with other friends exploring the city and just overall doing fun stuff. But now a lot of the fun is slowing down – or stopping altogether – as the fall gets even crazier.

Thankfully I did not schedule myself for any half marathons at all this coming fall, between my anticipated job search, a wedding that is taking place abroad and a few other things I would have to tackle personally, scheduling my long runs for the Philadelphia Marathon was tough enough.

Training for the fall came slowly and steadily, and strangely enough, I’ve been training conservatively enough that the chances of injury to my shin are very small compared to what I encountered in 2013 when I tried to train for the half and the full and maybe leaving out a half and structuring around it might have been the answer here. Although I have been trying to keep my runs to no more than three times a week and only in excess of 14 miles for my long run do I increase to four, but never five times as my shins need longer time to recover from the longer runs. This still gives me a day to do weighttraining and a day to rest entirely. And so far it’s been fine.

My family continues to use my passion for running and travel – nothing new – as a lightning rod and sadly that has not changed. It has made things more difficult for me mentally as I cope with other issues and stress in general. Somehow, that passion will carry me through the finish, through the end of the marathon, and my time altogether in Philly. Ironically this is my last opportunity to ever run Philly and see the city in its utmost passion neighbourhood by neighbourhood – although Broad Street has done a pretty bang up job of that as well. Looking ahead to next year, I am slated for the DC marathon in March 2016, but after that, I’m looking at a general focus on my body strength and less so on endurance. I am thinking 2 races ranging between 10-13 miles – easier to train for and a much easier ability to adjust for, as personal priorities shift with my scenery.

To put it frankly, aside from focusing on my new job – wherever or whatever that might be – I will place a much heavier emphasis on my social/personal life – at my age, it is very difficult to meet new friends, although in DC, with many people my age, single, adventurous and ambitious, I won’t feel as out of place as I ever did in Philly. I remain optimistic I will find a crew of people with interests similar to mine (fitness overlapping or not) and maybe a few developing closer connections with. A stronger support network that I never really had living in Philly, that’s for sure. And even more critical now with my brother taking a position in Minnesota, much further away and moving further away myself from my own family, even as fractious as our relationship can be sometimes.

Things are complicated, but somehow I’ll sort it out.

For now, the pavement brings me peace, a peace that still, little else and only a number of people that I can count on one hand, can bring. Even on the upswing, with my first slew of interviews in November, the pavement helps me to calm the nerves before the storm.

One thing at a time. For now, the pavement helps me digest both the good things and the bad. One step at a time.

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Negative Nancy?

We’ve all heard it before. The Negative Nancy. The quips that our non-runner friends may say to us. They might support us…or they might think we’re obsessive. It’s relatively straightforward (albeit not easy) to deal with those individuals whether the topic is running or another goal of ours.

What do you do when you have a loved one or a significant other who not only doesn’t support your love of running, but actively discourages it and pressures you repeatedly to stop because she doesn’t support the benefits or the belief of what running can bring? What if that person makes it the central point in holding your relationship hostage?

The above is just an example, but honestly, I’ve seen countless tweets about cutting out the negative people in your life – and that I have already done to some extent – but that strategy can also backfire significantly when it comes to a spouse, partner or immediate family being the negative one.

And when I say negative, I define it as someone who will consistently and actively discourage you from your goal, not someone who is simply absent as a source of support.

Last week, I told my mother on the phone that I was going to arrange to travel to Florida after the coming holidays as I planned for Walt Disney World Marathon. It would be my first true vacation in almost nine years (yes, nine) and a much needed break as I balance a full-time job with part-time schooling, my life for the past nine years.

Now given the trouble I got from running Marine Corps over a year ago, I should have known better. Then again she also has criticized me for – among other things – not adding her on Facebook and not telling her everything as a daughter. I cannot block her because as her daughter I am not allowed to block her out.

This would lead me to believe that she’s changed her attitude towards my running if she tells me I should trust her right? It’s been a goal of mine to try to repair our relationship, so maybe this is a start right?

Wrong, dead wrong.

When I mentioned Walt Disney, her reaction was…well I don’t know where to begin.

I would like to just block her out. It is a good train of thought. But avoiding her would mean avoiding the rest of my family.

This spreads over to the trust dilemma that I have. I say nothing to her relating to running, though I bring up other goals. One solution is not talking about running at all, but at some point a conflict of sorts will arise.

Should I really lie about flying to Florida on holiday? I tried to bring that topic up sans marathon, her next sentence was asking why January and not in the thick of summer.

Don’t get me wrong. We all have plenty of detractors in life when it comes to our goals, and chances are, most of these individuals aren’t too close to us, either strangers at best, or flat out rivals or adversaries. The ones that are close do it out of fear (rational or irrational) or ignorance.

The start line. 16 Sept 2012

The start line. 16 Sept 2012

To look at both sides of the coin, there are a variety of reasons people may object to our hobby. Let’s name them.

– time spent on training
– money spent on race fees and/or equipment
– threat and/or occurrence of injury
– time away from a partner due to the activity in question (though this can vary if the partner is a runner)
– running is a distraction from other goals (i.e. career, family life, see above)
– unhealthy obsession with diet and/or weight

I’m not defending or advocating on any of the above, but these are the common zingers I’ve either gotten myself, read about as a common problem, or heard others have gotten the same.

The specific reasons my mother has given over the last three years have changed but here are the issues she has thrown at me – and I warn you, some of these are shocking, but you cannot make these up:

1 I’m not spending my money on something worthwhile or saving for the future (similar to the generic money argument above)
2 Running shows my lack of goals and shows I don’t want to get married or raise a family
3 Running puts me at a greater risk for injury compared to simple workouts at the gym
4 You aren’t going to make a career out of it so why do it?
5 The cultural argument: that women don’t have to and should not engage in athletic activity.

Brooks Ravennas. 3 July 2011

Brooks Ravennas. 3 July 2011

Now for the common rebuttals that I have given my mother.

1 The money issue. I’ve had to attack this on two fronts. One in terms of my career and the second in terms of tradeoffs.

First, we all know that in relationships money is a sensitive topic. But my mother knows what I do for a living: I work in finance and I even have my CPA.

Now granted, does this automatically make me Suze Orman? No. However, being a financial advisor in any capacity (which is part of what I do), to not be responsible with my own money (and then advise someone else) is hypocritical at best. If I wanted to make something a priority, I’d budget accordingly.

My common retort to her is quite simple: “If I cannot afford it, without sacrificing another goal, I will not do it, end of.”

The second argument that I have is what I have sacrificed because of running from a behaviour standpoint. Running has forced me to get my diet in line. I eat out WAY less, always pack my lunch, and I rarely, if ever, drink at all. I’ve also gone out less because I need more rest on days around my long runs. Am I okay with that? Yes, I can deal. Guess what that also means though? Savings, even if that’s not a direct objective.

I love my veggies. 2 July 2012.

I love my veggies. 2 July 2012.

The bottom line? I run and make the respective sacrifices because I WANT to. Not because anyone is making me. The second I stop enjoying it, cannot afford certain things or find it impeding other important aspects of my life, is when I will stop.

When I lay these arguments in front of her, she comes up with the excuse that she is my parent and can say anything to me she wants.

That’s fine the first time because she does have a right to her opinion. I DO acknowledge her concern. Unfortunately she wants me to accept it and change. Repeating that opinion (beating a dead horse) does not fly on a perpetual basis, however.

Spinach, baby bella mushrooms, corn and goat cheese. 4 July 2012.

Spinach, baby bella mushrooms, corn and goat cheese. 4 July 2012.

2 Lack of desire to marry or raise a family. Where do I even begin? First off, I didn’t even know this was an either/or issue. I cannot even count the number of people that have some combination of family and active lifestyle and some of those people have those AND their careers.

This argument comes out of ignorance, but again, we are from a culture that promotes family and procreation, so this is a problem I would have even if I was not a runner.

My first defence will be to cite the number of people and the names of those who are doing it all.

Her argument: This is my concern for you as a parent.
My response: That’s fine and dandy, but at this point in time, that’s not a priority for me. School is.
Her response: Well look at all your friends from high school, all married and having families, and look at you.
Mine: There are many you know who can do it all and still run. As for me, children is not a path I want to take in my life. My lifestyle decisions are made irrespective of running. Right now, school is the biggest responsibility. If my grades dropped, I would have stopped ages ago.
Her: You can be in school and get married you know.
Me: Your point? Runners do not sacrifice everything to run. Some do, but the vast majority do NOT. I feel you are missing the point here.
Her: I’m keeping quiet while you are in grad school but we are going to hammer home your lack of family and hope the message gets through to you after you graduate.

After that, it will start to break down, but that’s the premise of my rebuttals.

At one point, I was advised by someone else on Twitter to tell her what I am doing to help my social life: meeting people through running events and/or graduate school. As good as that sounded, that also failed.

Her response: You can meet others who don’t encourage that [running], look at where your friends met their significant others.
Me: And some of them run together. Again look at (fill in examples of married runners).
Her response: Are you going to be running for the rest of your life? What is wrong with you?
Me: Nothing’s wrong with me, unless the doctor or trainer says so.

Smart-alecky on my part, I know, but I’m running out of options.

3 Injury. I have been running for our years, competitively (in races) the last three. Number of self-imposed injuries I’ve had? ONE. July 2010. Nothing since.

I focus on injury prevention in my training through my stretching exercises and an appropriate amount of weighttraining focusing on my core and quads. I rest 1-2 times a week depending on mileage, change and rotate my shoes accordingly.

Within my control, I have been fine. I pick up a few knocks here and there, but nothing that requires nothing more than RICE and possibly an extra rest day.

Outside of my control – two impact injuries sustained during races – have not occurred since MCM (October 2011). I’ve learnt from my mistakes and potential hazards. Does this mean I can prevent everything coming up? No, but I can read up, take advice from the veterans, and I reassure them that I clear everything every year with the pros.

Finisher's Medal, 30 October 2011.

Finisher’s Medal, 30 October 2011.

In this case, she has no rebuttal. She is not a physician and she herself is reluctant to argue with a doctor. As a result, she usually switches off to one of the other excuses.

4 Career Importance. The fitness career argument is relevant if I want to make it so. Plenty of people have had second careers as fitness professionals or personal trainers. I’ve kicked around several times wanting to be a spin instructor on the side, but this won’t be feasible until I graduate and don’t have to commit to schoolwork.

Overall though, this is irrelevant. It is a hobby that plays to my strengths and interests. People have hobbies, I tell her. Unfortunately, it rotates to the same argument given in #1 or #2, either I’m wasting money on something where there is no benefit or that I should be focusing my time on having a family.

“Your family will and should be your main focus. No need for a hobby.” she would say.

I’m not against family values, but last I checked, I thought mothers even tried to forge out some “me” time?

5 Culture. This is not something she explicitly states to me but many women of our culture emphasize physical relaxation and that sedentarism is the way to go. Thin women are seen as unattractive, and the diet is drastically different. She does not lecture me on my diet as she has lived in the States for a considerable amount of time however and also because I was raised on sports in my youth.

I have told her in the past that American culture is different and that my career requires a fast paced approach to living. The problem is that when I bring up culture, she either straight up denies it or goes back to the “I am the parent and what I say to you goes” mantra.

The reason finding a solution here matters is because unlike other “naysayers” I particularly cannot avoid my mother nor can (or should, really) I kick her out of my life. I also have a very good relationship with rest of my family that could also be an issue if I do truly kick her out.

At the very least I’d like to get her to leave me in peace, but even that seems like a big ask at this point.

That all said, I know it’s hard for some people to envision or discuss family matters or anything negative about family. I fully understand that in many cultures, family is and should be always numero uno.

Unfortunately not all of us were born with the same deck of cards and we’ve got to play what we have the best we can.

What are some of the ways you cope with a family member that does not support your running or other goals?

It’s a real kick in the teeth for me, because I vowed I would try to repair an increasingly frayed relationship with her. It is looking less and less likely now, this year, or even ever. My values, hopes and dreams are ever divergent from hers.

Your feedback is much appreciated. Post, tweet or email your observations, it’s all good. That’s all I’m aiming for – not a bashfest, not even a pity party. I am only looking to solve the problem at least with respect to the running.

Hopefully I can run the Walt Disney World marathon in peace, that’s all I really want. It’s a tough topic for many but one I felt I had to put out there.

Thanks for your understanding and I look forward to reading your responses.

Resolutions and Goals: On and Off the Pavement

If you don’t like something, change it.

Through my efforts, I gain the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Whether concerning running or other aspects of life, there’s a lot I’ve learned from 2012. On the upside, the personal drama was at a minimum compared to 2011. I earned a promotion at work and gained more challenging assignments which I embraced. Socially, I met more friends through running and after the dissolution of my last relationship, realised I needed to spend more time with my friends in general.

Setbacks? The big one was school. My academic performance is fine, however, the amount of work required of me in my second year tripled. Last year I felt I was able to juggle so much more on the same credit load but this year I learnt the very harsh lesson that not every credit unit is created equal. The combination of classes (comprising a schedule which I was forced into due to my work travel) required a disproportionate amount of time that forced me to cut back on the training I could devote as well as the amount of sleep. Between ridiculous lack of sleep (averaging 3 hours or less) and stress overload, I wound up in the ER and later contracted a lung infection that had me sick and off the pavement most of October.

I managed to rebound just in time to roll light training and recover to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon, which was a sort of victory. I was supposed to run – and registered for – the full marathon but illness had me questioned whether I could do anything at all in November.

This year Problem #1 for me is to get school under control by looking for more flexible, weekend only strategic management classes and knocking out finance so that I am not stuck taking it in the summer. I took corporate finance last summer and the pace of the class nearly burnt me out. I need the full 15 week semester to properly absorb what I need to learn, and I can learn the strategic management (generally more qualitative, although some of the classes stress financial and mathematical nous) quickly and on the fly. I feel I’ve taken that first step through the way I’ve staggered my classes. Two accelerated classes in January and only one in early April. That frees up the ability to take one finance class during the week, international financial markets. I could have pushed for private equity but I backed off, as I was more interested in portfolio management and derivatives, both of which are only taught in the fall. Plus 5 classes might have been suicide.

This leads to my second resolution: Stick to a more disciplined running schedule, namely, more sprints, hills and weighttraining. Realistically, I need to start with the weighttraining before I put all that stress on my legs/quads/knees. I want to drop my time but the muscle buildup needs to occur. Diet is mostly under control, and alcohol at this point is slim to none. (Case in point: number of drinks downed on New Year’s? Zero. Dead serious.) Now with the class situation a little more in my favour, the open time frame also helps with my running and training as I don’t have to formally train for the NWM13 half until the end of January, after that second accelerated class will have finished. So during January, I can focus more on offseason conditioning, with maintenance runs of 3-4 miles and a greater focus on sprints and weighttraining. If I can moderate my runs with 2x/week strength training I should be well on my way, but even once per week is much more than what I’ve done all of last year.

The key is I need to be patient and that I’m not going to drop fat and my times right away. The muscle needs to build and I need time.

Now the second major issue to tackle that was a problem the last few years is my social and personal life: namely, being able to forge and maintain relationships. After life in the trenches for the six years after university, running has allowed me to meet people and train for events with other people. However, a revolving travel schedule for work combined with part-time graduate school often forces me more to train on my own and that was painfully evident this past semester. Any gatherings with my non-runner friends has really taken a hit more so as every single one of them are coupled up (meaning weekend outings are generally out of the question) and we generally can only meet for potluck dinners during the week. Unfortunately some dinners were scheduled during class nights or I was unlucky on the weeks I was forced to travel. And while I love my career, I also get the sense that those that might not put as much emphasis on their career are getting frustrated with me.

On another front, I have joined my school’s Graduate Student Association to increase my social opportunities through school, but I am also finding out that the part-time students are very fragmented from the full-time students and even amongst each other. On the upside, being the liaison for the part-time students has allowed me to connect to students and connect students with each other in getting more events through to everyone. Meeting people through this group is probably going to take more time.

On a separate front, a number of people are trying to push the concept of dating on me but regardless of what others are doing out there, this is clearly one thing that will cause me more stress than it’s worth, at least whilst I’m in graduate school. If I was in school for another 5 years, it would be a serious problem, but since I graduate in May 2014, this is an area where I can wait because knowing my limits, I would be biting off more than I can chew. If I randomly meet someone appealing, I’ll figure something out, but I’m not going to actively seek someone out or get myself on online dating sites, for example.

The way that looks more feasible for now to maintain my relationships is to focus on the ones where there’s the most in common in terms of values, whether the friends live in Philadelphia or in other cities. If out of town, just keep pounding away those texts and plan getaway trips around where people live (particularly in the case of NYC and Boston). As work will be sending me back to some of these cities, I will also use opportunities off the clock to meet up as well. (And this illustrates a way I will make my travel schedule work for me!) For everyone else, simply I’m going to cross my fingers and see if I get lucky. The harsh reality is that I can only do so much.

Continued communication with immediate and extended family. Not only is this to prevent any of the disasters that occurred in 2011 and prior to then but also to keep in touch with cousins who also share higher career aspirations and their love of travel as they are also goals and values I share.

So to recap, things I need to improve on:

1 Manage school more effectively (in progress)
2 More ambitious training schedule which includes weightlifting and strength training
3 Focused relationships
4 Continued communication with family

I think if I can work on #1 and #3, then I can enjoy life a little more personally. But the above four are all sustainable, realistic and attainable and I just need to focus on the things I love and value most. In some cases I can kill two birds with one stone so I will use any advantage I have.

What are your New Year’s resolutions (running-related or not)?

Of Brown Boxes and Facebook Controls

Recently, I found myself struggling to fix my Facebook privacy controls as I found myself battling nosy relatives and family members decrying my supposedly non-traditional life. Trying to make a proper access group for parts of my profile, I instead made a large user discussion group, resulting in my posting an apology on my wall. My brother had made the following comment:

“Geez, I know I need to get in shape, but damn, I feel insulted you have to put me in a running group…”

(I had made an access group specifically for my running photos that I posted on Facebook, comprised of fellow runners I knew or closest friends that wouldn’t ridicule me for my hobby. Elaboration to follow…)

After March, any racing activity will have to be on the down-low in Facebook; thank goodness I can let it out here and on Twitter. At least for now.

Seven years ago, I remember doing the same thing as I applied for jobs in the high-powered world of business consulting, fresh out of university.

“What is this?” snapped my mother as she picked up a piece of paper on my desk. It was a flyer showing the information and recruitment session for McKinsey and Company, a top tier management consulting firm that recruits from Ivy League schools and other top tier universities.

She looked at it closely. “Why do you have this on your desk? This doesn’t look like it’s a hospital or medical school.”

I ran up to her, trying to get the flyers out of her hand; unfortunately it proved to be a mistake as she grabbed my left arm and twisted it until it hurt.

“We spent thousands of dollars so you can make us proud and enter medical school or at the very worst pursue a reputable career in science,” she scolded me angrily. “If you wanted to work in business we would not have sent you here. Look at everyone else in business, they went to smaller schools.”

I managed to break free of her grasp.

“Stay focused,” she warned, as she ripped up the McKinsey flyers, “or stop wasting my time and my money. At the very worst, stop being a disgrace to our family. Look at everyone else who’s made it to medical school.”

My arm was hurting, but I was annoyed at the continuous embarrassment I would have had to endure had she ripped up more important pieces of paper, such as applications or resumes. Once she left I pulled the torn pieces of the flyer out, piecing together enough of the paper to jot the dates and locations for the information sessions. It was clear as day that I had to hide my on-campus recruiting campaign, just as I hid the scars on my head from my mother beating me up. She stopped beating me up my third year of university once we gave her an ultimatum, but it didn’t stop the psychological pain.

To hide the scars of abuse, I had a small box of bandanas and head wraps, a few berets and hats, even a fedora. People had thought I was creating my own style; in a way I was, but the main reason was to hide myself from embarrassment and potentially probing questions. Of course, I couldn’t completely escape; my hairdresser discovered the bruises and my then-boyfriend wondered why I winced in pain as he ran his hands through my hair.

I hated being embarrassed.

Cue the brown box drills my senior year of university.

My choice of career was no different. The same brown box I used for my head gear, was also the one used to hide my resumes and recruitment materials. If I got a call from my parents that they were dropping by or stopping by on their way to another destination, that meant I grabbed a medium-sized brown box, threw in any and all of my resumes, company brochures or on-campus recruiting information in that box, and gave it to a trusted friend or my GA (graduate student resident associate) who would keep it until my parents reached home.

That was seven years ago. Today I am hiding other aspects of my life from my family because not doing so will get me in serious trouble. Recently I’ve had to delete a lot of family-related contacts from Facebook because a number of them have posted nasty or simply questionable messages about my lifestyle.

“You’re still living in the city?”
“You’re still single?”
“Why aren’t you posting pictures of you spending time with your family?”
“Why the hell are you running?”
“Any progress finding a husband yet?”
“Seems like you’re the only person who isn’t posting pictures of her children! What’s wrong with you?”

I set my Facebook settings so that if an incendiary comment were posted – or any comment for that matter – an email is sent to me so that I can review and screen the comment.

Additionally, I’ve blocked a number of my relatives as well as any family-related application that turns up on Facebook. I just am not taking any chances. Unfortunately this has also made family gatherings a little less pleasant.

“Why aren’t you adding me on Facebook?” a number of these relatives will ask me at the next big family gathering.

I almost want to scream. I start off reasonably, “I’ve taken issues with the lot of comments you’ve posted recently on my Facebook wall.”   Unfortunately they feel justified in posting such garbage simply because I’m not like everyone else out there.

So this is what it’s come down to. Thanks to my friends who pointed out the access groups feature to me, there are parts of me that want to say the things I want (that are not racist, sexist, inflammatory or infringing on others’ rights) without dealing with garbage.

If you got me on Facebook and wish to see my running photos, aren’t a runner, and are understanding of my lifestyle, shoot me a message and I’ll add you to the group.

It’s annoying but welcome to my world I suppose.

This Place is Mad

Review: Mad Hatter

Last Monday, I met my brother Marcus for dinner at the Mad Hatter by Dupont Circle before he flew out to Utah for two days on a business trip of his own. The original plan was to head down to The Rhino in Georgetown on 33rd and M Streets and watch the Eagles game but Marcus needed more rest from the weekend’s NYE festivities (go figure, right?) having partied all night in Mt. Vernon Square. Therefore, he had asked to push going out to Monday night.

I asked him to call the place – we met up for dinner as our cousin Andrea had recommended this place to us.

We grabbed a table as we were having dinner, although the waiter certainly let us know about the specials for the evening. We’d landed just in time for happy hour specials – $3 domestic draft and craft ales, $3 mixed drinks, $4 house wine and 2 for 1 appetizers with the higher price prevailing.

Being dehydrated from running, I stayed away from the alcohol, but my brother had a whiskey ginger. Strangely enough, they charged him $2.75 instead of the $3 they mentioned. Odd. Living up to its name, they do start you off with a small cup of black tea though, which I very much needed coming in from the cold.

Tea served at the Mad Hatter. 3 January 2011.

The waiter, being jovial as he was went through the specials, for which my brother settled on the blackened scallops with risotto and wild mushrooms in a white wine sauce with broccoli ($15). As for me, in watching what I ate, as I train for my next half marathon, I went with the Mad Hatter Salad, fresh greens, feta cheese, walnuts, tomatoes over raspberry vinaigrette ($9).

But you better believe we took advantage of the appetizers, those things are pricey individually, but together, it was a good deal. We went for the crab taquitos and the calamari as our two appetizers ($13 and $10 respectively, but we were only responsible for the $13 given the special) and whilst not too impressed with the calamari – it was typical run of the mill, nothing special – the crab dip was pretty darn good.

Crab dip with nachos and fixings. 3 January 2011.

Marcus' real weakness: calamari. 3 January 2011.

My brother wolfed down – yes being the big guy he is – the risotto and the scallops. And this was the guy who vowed he’d watch what he ate in 2011, lose some weight and maybe – just maybe – run the MCM full with Adrian and me 30 October?

“Well damn,” he started, “I mean, January 3rd and I’m already faltering with my New Year’s Resolution? Who would have thought? And now how many days do I gotta spend on the road in the middle of nowhere with crappy food options?”

I sighed. I guess we should have stuck to WFM, Sweet Green or Chop’t, right?

As for me, I enjoyed my salad. There WAS raspberry vinaigrette in it, but not quite enough. Thankfully one of the restaurant managers had strolled on by and I had mentioned it to him.

“Yeah, that salad does look a little dry. I’ll get it right out for you.”

No questions asked.

Still we enjoyed the time together, as we both knew this was an occasion – directly seeing each other – that would be few and far between given our busy schedules. With grad school on the horizon for me, as well as a host of other life changes, I knew it wasn’t likely I’d see him for a bit even though we chat over the phone from time to time – and recently an increasing amount with the mounting family tension.

We noticed that the place started getting way more crowded – Dupont in general is a major hangout of many, and from what I hear, the place gets packed and converted to a club later hours of the night. But with Marcus having an early morning flight the next day and myself at work at 7:30am, no chance we could enjoy the nightlife.

Not on a Monday night at least.

I can definitely see us coming back here, maybe clubbing on the weekend? Why not.

Restaurant Info:
Mad Hatter | 1319 Connecticut Avenue NW | Washington DC 20036 | 202.833.1495 | http://www.madhatterdc.com

2010: Looking Back, and Looking Forward

As I go blog-surfing on my day off, I am seeing loads of fellow bloggers post entries on New Years’ resolutions, and goals for the coming year and in life.

As 2010 brought a very significant amount of change in my life – positive more than negative – but even the detrimental is significant enough to put a twist in my life – I’m going to take some time to reflect on a number of these changes, and what I plan on doing with the hands I’ve been dealt in life.

Several bloggers and Tweeps (Twitter companisons) made a post or two about not so much thinking about resolutions, but goals for the year and for the future. Because in agreeing with them, issues aren’t really resolved per se. Resolutions to me may be viewed as a one time thing. But life is a process, an ongoing one. And goals are stepping stones to bigger goals; they are part of the whole self-improvement process. Oh yeah, you can surely achieve something and then stop at a certain point if you want. But I guess it’s easier to think of goals as something a little more continuous. Resolutions give me the impression that once an answer is found or once some threshold is met, that’s it. You can relax now.

To me, well, I’ll give myself that day of rest, that pint of beer or that pat on the back. Maybe that cool dress at Anthropologie if I’ve really surprised myself. But then, I’ll just keep going and plugging along.

If I like what I do, and if I do what I love, the rest takes care of itself. I pride myself on being driven. I can’t just sit around. I’m wired and engaged in the world around me, and I like it that way.

I’m not saying this is what works for everyone, or what should be for everyone. But it’s what works for me. And no one – not even my family – will dictate otherwise.

That said, here’s a look at 2010 through my eyes and what I plan on doing what what I have, or what I want, in 2011.

Running/health/fitness: Probably the easiest thing to discuss and the most concrete. My love of running is most easily explained through this journey I’ve already documented.

One step led to another. Get fit. Run my first 5k. Run my first half marathon. Meet people doing so. Continue to run more half marathons. Stay injury-free as my regiment increases in duration and intensity. And conquer my first full marathon.

This process of steps has taken me a year and two months. When I finish (barring injury) MCM 30 October 2011, it will have been just over two years since I made that life change.

Career, part 1: Getting back to school and finishing my graduate degree here in the City of Brotherly Love. Killed the GMAT earlier this month and got into the schools I wanted. Getting my MBA had been a major goal of mine as a working professional and this spring, I will be taking a major step towards that goal. The process of learning continues.

Career, part 2: When I left my last job, I was lost. I was cynical. I hadn’t clicked with my last bunch of coworkers for the most part and I couldn’t figure out why. When I left, the recession didn’t help. I was unsure of whether I’d remain anywhere close to home hearing all the horror stories. But I persisted, I put my best face on. Made use of networks. And whatever luck I had up my sleeve, I capitalized on it. February 2010, I started my new position. And what a world of difference. My coworkers have been fantastic; these days most people are relieved with a “decent set” of cohorts. But here I am still in Philly, working a post I am loving every day, regardless how challenging or how difficult clients or other conditions may be. This year has exceeded my expectations careerwise, and not being one to take anything for granted, I’m going to make the most of every opportunity I get.

Friendships and relationships: If I had to put it in one sentence, I’d say this past year was me trying to grow past the last 7-8 years of isolation. Partially due to family influence (positive and negative), I found myself in survival mode. This year, once I had more free time to get out, as my new job allowed, I saw a dramatic change in my social life. I’ve met a lot of friends from my alma mater and through other circles, and actually started dating again after nearly 8 years. There have been certain awkward moments in my relationship with Jeff, largely caused by my lack of social interaction, but as I re-integrate again with my peers, I’ve also learnt the process of developing oneself can be as lengthy as the process of healing.

I’ve really had to be patient with myself. As I spend more time with people I hope to cultivate the relationships that I would have loved to have had during my university years.

Family, Part 1: I’ve really had to push myself and come up with new ways just to mentally get through things as our situation continues to get worse. I’ve kicked myself every day telling myself that even after almost 12 years, just don’t cave in. Don’t lose yourself. There’s a lot of good things waiting for you that will get you through. And finally, understanding that more people are understanding that families in general aren’t as stable as they used to be. Not being paranoid of the stigma, and finally, learning to trust people again a little more readily.

I’ve learnt to be more prepared, more wired, as I anticipate the bottom will fall out sometime late spring 2011 when she returns from her trip abroad. I can’t change who I was born to or what her actions might be, but I can control how to deal.

Family, Part 2: Finally as my own immediate family becomes more inaccessible for obvious reasons, I’ve had to branch out to cousins and extended family who are supportive of my lifestyle. My brother and I for one thing have become closer than ever, and arguably at this point, he is my closest confidante even as work takes him further from us.

I’ve got to keep that going as much as possible.

The last couple of years have culminated in my transformation into a completely new person. What I feel I’ve become:

– Someone more fit and physically healthy.
– Someone who knows what she wants in life and knows even better how to acquire it.
– Someone who is a little more patient with herself in getting the things she needs and understands the good doesn’t necessarily come right away.
– Someone who knows when she needs help and furthermore, who isn’t (as) ashamed to ask for help when she truly needs it.
– Someone more confident around nearly all different types of people, particularly with so-called power players in business, and particularly with those who are vastly different from her.

I barely recognize myself from before 2010, but I haven’t forgotten what I’ve learnt. I’m hoping that in spite of the anticipated bumps that 2011 will continue to build upon the success and healing of 2010. 2010 was probably one of the best years of my life, definitely top 3 comparatively speaking, and seeing how much control I had (not total of course, but a significant part) just gives me more confidence and realization of what I can do if I play my cards right.

Here’s hoping we all have a happy and healthy New Year everyone.

Partner in Crime

And that, my friends, would be my cousin Adrian.

So I found out at this year’s typical family gathering in DC that Adrian was a definite go for MCM 2011. He approached me as usual saying he was going to start getting in shape and training for MCM.

“I thought about it, and I definitely want to get into shape,” he said. “But I don’t just want to complete it, I do want to get a decent time on this one. Seriously as the weather gets warmer we should train together especially if your employer keeps sending you down to DC as often as they do.”

Music to my ears!!! YES! Now I have a partner in crime to help me tackle my first marathon. Especially mastering the climbs, even if slight, through Rosslyn (mile 3), Georgetown/Rock Creek at mile 8, and the Arlington Cemetery entrance (mile 26) leading up to the finish line at Iwo Jima. Of course this was from last year’s course map, but I imagine the course will be very close to last year, if not identical.

Elevation Chart for MCM.

Course map here.

Obviously with my parents in another room of my aunt’s house in southern Maryland, we had to keep the conversation low as possible to prevent her from hearing my plans to keep on running. As stated previously, she is under the impression that ShamrockFest in Virginia Beach is my last race and even with that race in the midst of a family reunion, she has been harping on me relentlessly for running the half.

Adrian asked me how I planned on getting in shape and keeping in shape through the year. Told him that barring injury, I was well on my way and spewed out the halfs I planned on running prior to MCM.

My brother Marcus’ jaw dropped upon hearing my full schedule for 2011.

“You are insane,” he remarked half sarcastically. “I don’t want to discourage you at all, but not only is that physically ambitious, but do you know how much trouble you’d be in if Mom found out? Pretty much end of your life.”

“I’m so over her,” I replied, “does it look like I give a fat rat’s [behind]? She’s already beating the crap out of me over running Shamrock.”

In the coming months, Adrian and I will be exchanging workout routines; I already recommended he read up on Hal Higdon’s Marathon as well as a host of other materials to understand exactly what he’ll be getting himself into. I’ve already sent him my workout/training charts for my halfs as well as what I think I might be doing as I train up for MCM later on.

Either way, I’m looking forward to the journey, and all the more better I’m doing it alongside someone in the family! Marcus is still considering whether to do it, as he is unsure whether his insane work schedule will allow him to train let alone eat properly for the race.