Archive for August, 2012

In the interim of all the posts about ballet and dance, I’ve managed to catch a head cold. I can’t see the computer screen over the haze of my swollen sinuses and all I want is for someone to bring me a blankey and rub my feet. *sigh*

Eric was feeling off over the weekend and came into full phlegmy-nastiness on Monday. Yick. The past few times he’s had a cold I’ve managed to either shake it off before it got started or avoid it entirely. I credit this to the gym & good genes. Not to be a braggert, but I’ve got a kick-ass immune system! Some people get long legs or Mensa IQ’s – I get good health. I’ll take it! Keeping up with a consistent workout routine just adds to the good. I rarely get sick anymore, and when some germs do get a foothold, it doesn’t stay long. (knock on wood)(heh, she said wood.)

But this cold I couldn’t dodge. I’m sure my taking a huge swig of his Gatorade didn’t help matters (I am always stealing sips on his drinks). One of those moments where you realize what you’ve done about a second too late and then say ‘well, that was really stupid’. Yup, it was really stupid.

Now I have the plague. Oh, and did I mention I’m allergic to Nyquil? Suck.

Looks like I’ll be playing workouts by ear this week – I try to keep up with what I can even when I’m sick so long as I don’t have a fever. (If I have a fever, I sit out of everything.) I skipped bootcamp this morning in the interest of not contaminating our small group of athletes, but there’s a 6 mile run on the schedule tonight which I’m on the fence about. Part of me wants to see if I can run this cold out of my system & shut it down with the quickness. The other part wants to go curl up on the couch, finish reading Gone Girl, and be TLC’d.

If you wanted to read part 1, it starts here.

We’re all back in the lobby now. Allie is helping out at the “Ballet Barre” where beer, wine & water are available. Regardless of the busy, she still takes a few minutes to be personal, get my thoughts. A large table of Larosa’s encourages people to stay, congregate, be social. It hasn’t even been 5 minutes and there are already dancers wandering through the group, greeting friends.

I decide to dive in. Romel Frometa Castellon, Cervilio Miguel Amador, and Patric Palkens are sitting on the stoop to the balcony in a line. All 3 were in the rehearsal we just watched. They are dressed in very casual street clothes and look like they could’ve just stepped out of a Bruce Springsteen video. I make a lame joke, asking how are they not diving into the pizza after all that hard work? Amador smiles – telling me that they’ve stashed a whole box behind them. They will eat. Another blogger comes up asking for a picture and they all lean together with big smiles. I step out of her shot. Peeps, this is where I still have a lot to learn. Not wanting to be rude, I didn’t whip out my camera to duplicate the shot and now I am kicking myself for not having done it! Next time, I will step into the shot and hand someone else my camera! My bridge to starting a conversation with strangers has vanished and I feel my natural shyness welling up. Crap! I will regroup my confidence hiding out behind a piece of pizza.

I take a deep breath. Time to beat down the shy again. No matter how lame I feel, I am here for an opportunity to meet these beautiful creatures. If I strike out, I strike out – but I have to try. Now it is just Patric on the step. My opening is so lame, I’m not even going to tell you what it was – but trust me, it was sad. However, he doesn’t dismiss it and gives me two minutes of casual before he gets to business. Do I go to the ballet frequently? What was the last thing I saw?

I am being measured, I can feel it. If this were a traffic light, Patric is set on yellow and my answer will determine whether he floors it or hits the brakes. Luckily, Eric and I had tickets to Carmen for Valentine’s Day. Acceptable, but still on yellow. What did I think of it? [Here is where the ‘somewhat’ gets added to the ‘likeable’. If you ask my opinion, I have a nasty honesty habit.] I offer an embarrassing confession: I had confused Carmen with another ballet from a few years before, so it wasn’t what I was expecting from the beginning. Beyond that, there were things about the choreography for the male leads I didn’t understand. I inhale and wait for the light to change. I am not a girl who sugar-coats things and I may have just blown it.

The conversation is off like a shot! Green means go, and go we do! He is educating me. Carmen had an Italian choreographer and there are distinct differences between the Italian & Western styles when it comes to the male lead. Also, out of a 2-hour ballet, the character has only 11 minutes to connect with the audience. This may explain the things I didn’t understand.

If you aren’t familiar with ballet, the idea of different styles may be foreign. There are many different styles which dictate whether a hip is turned up or down in arabesque, the softness of expression in the hands, the amount of tension in the neck, which roles have more power. Working with these various styles and with choreographers from all over the world helps to produce a well-rounded dancer. But there are also challenges. We discuss the pros and cons of working with a choreographer through an interpreter – the choreographer for Carmen does not speak English. All of Patric’s notes on the performance are things I had not considered. I think to myself: what if my trainer came in one day and began giving me direction in Japanese? Comments on refining my form and words of encouragement being filtered through a third-party? What if all of my life I have trained in one style and then he announces that we are doing something different? All those refinements I have worked on – forget them now. It would be hard.

Hard it is! Patric tells me all of this learning takes place over an intense 3-4 week span between each show. Each day starts with a 90-minute class (yes, even professionals go to school every day), followed by 6 hours of rehearsal – so 7-7.5 hours of hard physical work every day. I can not imagine working out in the gym for 7.5 hours straight. Nutcracker rehearsals are even longer – sometimes 11-12 hours. Those will begin in October. It is the type of schedule where you have to love what you do and the people you work with or you will go crazy.

I tell Patric that I had forgotten what it was like to be in a studio, particularly about the constant pirouetting popping up around the room. At this he laughs and puts his forehead into his hand. He explains: there is a contest almost every day amongst the dancers to see who can do the most revolutions. Amador drops back onto the step next to him and Patric throws a thumb in his direction. “He always wins.” They are laughing about it as Amador tells me his record is 11, but on a spinning board, which distributes balance over the entire foot, he can do 44. Pirouettes are all about the core and the spot (the whipping around of the head to keep a focal point), he says as he pulls up and gestures to his midsection, his shoulders locking straight into the form required for the turn. If you forget either for a second, you lose your balance.

Interweb, I am telling you – if you have ever swooned over a dancer on stage, these two are the reason why. Both of them smiling at me so easily it is almost too much to take. Up close, Patric has the well chiseled features of a young Christopher Reeve with eyes just as blue-sky-blue. Amador, of the rock-star gestures & dramatic entrances from rehearsal, has a huge, welcoming smile and unusually colored eyes. With his smile, if he triple-dog-dares you to do something, you’re going to try it. Saying no isn’t an option. The stereotypes of distant, haughty dancers cannot be found with these two. They have the easy physicality that comes after a great workout – I am tired, but my muscles feel incredible. They are open and warm. It was foolish to feel shy around them for an instant. Though I am a complete stranger to them, I feel like I could be their favorite little sister – stranger still because at 37, I am so much older than both of them.

The subject of age does comes up when we talk about connecting to the audience outside of rehearsal. Patric points out that sometimes it can be difficult to connect – for all intent & purpose, when he leaves the studio – he looks like a 22-year-old college kid. He is dismissed. I can see this. He is not wrong. I insert that when his audience is either 5 or 55, it must be hard – and when your livelihood depends on patronage, you have to figure it out somehow. That is why events like this one are so important for fundraising. Increasing the social media presence is a good thing. It will draw younger & more diverse crowds on terms they embrace without alienating the existing patron base. Knowing that more of my friends are attending the ballet, as well as accompanying events like the dinners at Arnold’s, I agree. They know of these things from Facebook. It would be a lot easier to get money out of my pocket to support my friends Patric & Amador than it is to convince me to donate to people I’ve never met. This event makes them personal to me. I am also far more likely to attend future events so I can say hello.

(Dear Eric, we are about to spend a lot more money on ballet. No, this does not mean we will also be spending more money on golf. Love, your wife.)

Heather Britt joins the conversation and I tell her I liked the work. It seemed like the dancers enjoyed it  and get along well. She says they have to get along well. Dancing is so intimate, it would be hard to work with someone you don’t care for. It isn’t 5 more minutes before she’s mentioning her Rhythm & Motion class to me – encouraging me to try it. Again, the vibe here is so welcoming! Everyone I speak to is encouraging COME SEE! COME DO! COME ENJOY! She doesn’t know I’ve already stashed a class schedule in my purse. LOL!

Come see, come do, I will. I told you I was planning to go full immersion on this experience. I’ve been working really hard to get back in shape for almost a year now and I can’t think of a better way to put myself to the test than by trying out Heather’s class. Something unfamiliar and different from the work I do at bootcamp/boxing and the running I submit to. My training is about being in shape to do whatever I want whenever I want, ready for adventure. This is certainly an adventure. I have a few days off coming up and a class schedule in my purse – I am armed and dangerous.

Stay tuned for the next step: Rhythm & Motion v. 20 Years of Rust

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The Kaplan New Works Series will be performed by the Cincinnati Ballet at the Micky Jarson Kaplan Performance Studio from September 6-16th. Tickets can be purchased here.

Oh internet, I am a smitten kitten. In love with life once again and the way that it continues to bring me fabulous opportunities.

Thursday night, I went to Ballet & Beer – the rehearsal / preview event for The Kaplan New Works Series which the Cincinnati Ballet will open on September 6th. Frankly, two days later I am still reeling and thinking and hoping that I can do the experience justice.

First, though I drive by the Ballet’s home base every day on my commute, I’ve never been in the building. Situated on the fringe of Over-the-Rhine, the studio sits a block or two down from WCET and District One. The back doors of Music Hall are within a 45 second sprint across traffic. A sign outside tells me I have arrived at the Mickey Jarson Kaplan Performance Studio and Cincinnati Ballet.

When you walk in, this is what greets you first:

Right off the bat, you are put on notice. You are in a place of beauty – beautiful people, beautiful movement. The lobby is roomy and unpretentious – open and full of light. But at the same time, about business. Almost immediately off of this space are 3 practice studios. You came in to dance and CB wants to make sure you can get to it as quickly as possible. The large studio immediately in front is also the performance space. Two off of the hallway have clear glass doors and dancers are inside working, not letting the audience gathering outside distract.

I hear someone nearby say the name ‘Julie’ and see it’s attached to a redhead with energy that crackles. Julie Hammond is the ballet Marketing Assistant who invited me to the event. I go introduce myself and thank her for the opportunity. For the first time, I have introduced myself as a blogger instead of ducking for cover behind my day job. She is finishing up some details of her day but takes a moment to point out the studio on the right to me – a CBII (CB2) rehearsal is going on there. Julie tells me this is the group Cincinnati Ballet uses for their “guerilla marketing” events. Another strategy, in addition to increasing their social media presence,  that they’re working to connect with the community. I am community. I am here. I feel connected. It must be working. Julie takes a moment to introduce me to Allie Honebrink, the Director of Marketing & Communications. Even in business attire, Allie comes across as dancer also, petite & graceful. She tells me to let her know if there’s anything I need.

This whole time, there is a growing flurry of activity coming in and out of the left-hand studio. A tiny, tiny woman in an orange leotard with medical tape on her big toe comes dashing past, then dashing past again. Another woman comes past walking a white poodle. One of the last performances I did in my glory days, I had to skip en pointe pretending to have a leash while another dancer pretended to be a poodle behind me. Seeing an actual poodle in a dance studio takes me to a surreal place. It is time to be seated. I am in the balcony – there isn’t a bad seat in the house. This rehearsal space is the largest of the three, but the seating is intimate – 300 people? Dancers are moving around the back and sides of the space, some are in the center taking direction from an athletic blonde wearing a bright blue top – a choreographer. This is Heather Britt – she stops to tell the settled audience, for the next hour we will be seeing rehearsal of her piece in the Kaplan Series, Opus 5.5. You can tell she wants everyone up and moving with the quickness.

I have been absent from a studio for a long time, but there are things that do not change. This is one of them: rehearsals are messy affairs. Practice studios are where the bugs are worked out, where it’s safe for the dancers to make mistakes, maddening repeat stops and starts to tweak details. We see a few sections of the piece – which even in pieces promises to be spectacular & provocative. Sultry. It may or may not have made me blush! (It did.) There appear to be lots of entrances where the men are carrying the women. Even with their light frames, this is not an unremarkable task. Remember that time I dropped a 35-lb grappling dummy on my nose? Well, these guys are trying to carry about 3xs that, repeatedly, maneuver it around a bit, oh – and make it look beautiful. It’s not only about endurance, these guys have to be strong! I wonder if they need to weight-train at all with the lifting they do here.

She travels everywhere this way

Sometimes like this

But usually like this

About half-way through, Heather makes a motion and it’s time to put the puzzle sections together. The dancers run through from top to bottom and it is a visual wonder. Contemporary, but not eschewing tradition entirely, and dressed in the mad, mad skillz of these dancers. I can not help but imagine how incredible this is going to look in final performance. The last count passes and the dancers break pose with big smiles – relieved to make it all the way through. They like Heather’s choreography too – you can see it in their faces. The applause of the spectators doesn’t hurt either, I’m sure.

But there are still things needing work – a lead male tells Heather there is an obstacle with the timing. He is supposed to make a fast and dramatic entrance that will, unfortunately, put him in a high-speed collision with an exiting couple. This needs to be worked out. Either his cue needs an adjustment, the choreography needs changed, or the couple has to exit sooner. Like I said, rehearsal is messy. It is the place where complications like high-speed collisions need to be worked out so they don’t happen onstage. After a well-done run through a few minutes later, this same dancer throws his hands in the air like a rock star. The audience applauds and are giggling. Fist-pumping and rock-star hands aren’t things you usually see on a ballet stage – but this isn’t stage, this is practice and celebrating something well done makes everyone grin. In this venue, this dancer is a rock star.

Another thing about rehearsal – if you’re only watching the center, you’re missing most of the show. Dancers not in a specific section are on the periphery – and they are warmed up. People, warmed up dancers cannot resist moving. They play. On the sidelines, they play. Part of it is an effort to stay warmed up – the many stops and starts of rehearsal gives them too much opportunity for muscles to get cold. They are in all types of garb to accommodate movement and provide warmth while still being pulled on and off QUICKLY! This is my loving way of saying dancers dress funny.  If you thought runners dress weird – and this is coming from someone who has modeled the couture black Glad trash bag look at more than one starting line, dancers have made odd warm-up garb an art in itself. Nike & Adidas don’t make ballet shoes and sponsorship is more private than corporate – so no expensive promo’d warm-up gear. One dancer is wearing flannel pajama shorts, a hoodie, a large scarf wrapped around his neck repeatedly and, as several of them are, down booties. When your ability to earning a living depends on your feet and ankles, you make sure those feet stay warmed up. Getting cold increases the risk of injury. Nevertheless, it’s quite a look to people who don’t know how smart he’s being.

The other part of sideline play is just fun. There is always a dancer in some variation of the splits or a butterfly stretch. This one is also doing arm movements that end in her blowing kisses across the room. Not 5 minutes go by without someone doing a pirouette – the dancer’s staple and something you never stop doing, trying to see if you can add justonemorerevolution! Even 20 years later, I still practice pirouettes on the kitchen tile. They are a religious ritual for which you never lose respect. Spontaneous pirouetting is going on all over the place at random intervals. And someone else is trying to get a turning jump just. right. Except he’s only doing it when I’m not looking. And it looks like it’s something good too! I wanna see what he’s doing! Alas, I keep catching just the very ending where he chooses to land instead of crash. Good choice.

At the end of rehearsal, Victoria Morgan steps out – the ballet’s CEO & Artistic Director. She explains the significance of what we are seeing. The theme of this year’s Kaplan Series is women choreographers. Of the 290 ballets performed each year by companies of CB’s caliber, less than 10% are choreographed by women – a surprising statistic for such a female-focused art form. Of that 10%, she says and flashes quite the Cheshire-cat smile, CB has snagged 7 female choreographers for this upcoming season – 4 of which we’ll see in the Kaplan New Works performance

I am in love with watching this rehearsal, in this space, and seeing these dancers do what they love. But there is still more to come – the gathering after. .

Stay tuned for Ballet & Beer, Part 2: Conversation with the Dancers

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The Kaplan New Works Series will be performed by the Cincinnati Ballet at the Micky Jarson Kaplan Performance Studio from September 6-16th. Tickets can be purchased through links at top.

Last night I joined the running group for workout #2 of the day – a 5 mile run with a focus on intervals that looked more like a hill route to me.

We do a lot of routes from this starting point, except normally we veer off any one of a few dozen streets to the right and this time we veered off to the left. Overall the run went REALLY well for me. I picked a good person to pace off of for a slow warmup and took over lead when she got sick of me being behind her. Then I realized that I’d passed her and if we were traveling at about the same rate, there was no reason she should pass me. It was a subtle thing, but it was there. You see, normally, I tend to focus on a runner somewhere in front of me – and in fact, had been doing some of that on this route too. But once I shifted my focus into not letting her pass me again, my legs somehow found some new speed to create distance between her and I, and then hold that pace. If she wanted to pass me, she was going to have to work for it. Hmmm…I passed two more people using that same idea and kept them behind me until we hit the meet-up for the intervals. It came to mind that I’ve used this ‘not gonna pass me back’ frame a couple of times recently in training runs & at the Downtown Dash 5k and it seems to work for me pretty well.

At intervals, I did my own thing.  Then I used the same strategy on the way back. I ended up running in front of another woman who I run in pack with regularly – and for awhile it was just the two of us. I kept my focus on staying in front and slowly increasing the distance. Particularly on the uphill climb just before 4.03 in the chart above, I put a good distance between us. At least until I saw a suspicious person coming my way with a golf club (not a good neighborhood), which was about the time I glanced behind me and went ‘shit! where’d she go?!’. Oh, that’s right, I outran her. Oops. Nevermind, tra la la. Oh, that’s right – I do some boxing stuff. I can handle this. Or I can just smile nicely and keep on with the running. Apparently that was golf-club-man’s strategy too. Because no matter how scary and suspicious I looked, he just smiled at me and kept on walking. 

Then I turned a corner and went into the last two climbs before the final downhill in. Frankly, I had ROCKED the hills up to this point and fought my way through the first of the two climbs – but that last climb. Grrrrrrr. I’m going to tell you – THAT CLIMB – kicks my butt every. single. time. I circled where it was on the overall route above. Here’s a closer look at that final hill – which we hit from one side going out and I do fine on it, then it’s the last hill coming back and it kills me.

 

Well, it kicks my butt ALMOST every single time. Last night – I fought that bitch and won. This was another interesting thing about last night’s run – because we normally head out to the right off of that street, I’m always on the same side of the street coming back into that climb. There’s not much at the top on that side of the street, a gray wall going into a curve with traffic feeling a little too close to you even though you’re on a sidewalk. Last night we veered off to the left, so when I came back, I was on the other side of the street. On that side there are trees and a couple buildings that are a little interesting. There are better focal points at the top! There’s also more shade & some parked cars between you and the traffic lane, so you’re a little more protected. On that side of the street, that run felt so much better! It’s not that it wasn’t hard on that side, but it was easier to talk myself through – to be inspired to get to the top rather than staring at a nondescript gray concrete wall.

By this time, some of the faster people (who did more interval loops than we did) were catching up to me. So I celebrated hitting the top of that hill by pacing out that last little bit of the run with a girl that was WAY faster than me – I’ll tell you what – when I hit the top of that hill, I was freakin’ invincible for that last .1 mile. In fact, had I not been boxed in, I was seriously plotting to pass faster-girl. WHEEEE!

So, I added two things to my tips & tricks file on last night’s run – which is SUPER NICE – since you can lots and lots of runs without adding a thing to that file. (1) Reverse focus. Though shall not pass!

Source 

And (2) if part of a run has you totally blocked, try running on the other side of the street (assuming there’s a sidewalk for safety’s sake). You might notice something over there that will help pull you through.

Oh, and there’s probably a (3) in all this too – smile at the nice man holding the golf club for no apparent reason, but don’t be shy about picking up the pace when you do.

This is another one of those posts where I tell you how awesome the internet is and in what interesting ways our world is changing. Brace yourselves for a big warm fuzzy. Or well, at least just brace yourselves.

A few weeks ago, the Cincinnati Ballet  put out an all call on Facebook to see if any bloggers would be interested in writing about them. It was general, off-the-cuff thing, but I LOVE the ballet and decided I would throw my hat in the ring. Then nothing came of it and I put it into the ‘oh well, nice try’ folder for the moment. This most current blog of mine is still relatively recent, working on its identity, and has a small following. I probably didn’t make the cut in whatever cloud-o-sphere metrics that other people can run on a site.

Except then something did come of it.

I got an email asking if I would be interested in attending a preview event for the ballet’s Kaplan New Works Series. Dubbed “Ballet & Beer“, the event would be a 1-hour rehearsal viewing followed by a reception afterward, and if I would be interested in blogging about it – they would be happy to set aside a ticket. No requests were included about what to write or could I please be nice about it, thank you. Just a ‘this is new for us and we’re willing to see what happens’ vibe. Color me VERY interested.

And while you may be wondering – Cynthia, what does this have to do with road ratting and gym junkie-ing activity? I’ll tell you it has a lot to do with it. Fact, in a long ago lifetime, I was a dancer for a bit. Feedback on an audition was the thing that got me into a gym & working with a trainer in the first place. And I will tell you, whatever illusion anyone may have about ballet being froo-froo, it is not. Dancers are MAJOR ATHLETES. Those beautiful dancer bodies do not occur by accident, but rather by hours upon hours each day of work and sweat, blood and broken bones. I would be willing to venture that a ballet dancer works as hard, if not harder, than a lot of professional athletes – and most of them cross-train outside their regular class & studio time. I have nothing but props for anyone willing to work that hard.

Back to topic – the event. This is the first time anyone, either on this blog or the last one, has asked me to blog about something. It’s uncharted territory for me. It’s exciting and new. And this is where that whole wonderful internet, world changing, warm fuzzy comes in.

In all the performances I’ve gone too and all the tenure I ‘ve devoted to being a balletfan, I’ve never gotten a free ticket to spend time at a ballet event. If I didn’t follow the Ballet on Facebook or have my own blog, I’d still be in never-gotten-land. But technology brings this to me. And I think it’s fabulous! Fabulous that I’m getting a freebie (except for what I spend on beer) – but also fabulous that the ballet is willing to take a risk on reaching out to unknown bloggers. To initiate engagement in their fan base.

You see, when you think of a lot of arts, your mind’s eye goes to the stuffy patron stereotype. Essentially, the old folks with money to blow. You’d get a couple mailers and maybe even a phone call telling you about the upcoming shows. Programs hit you up for donations while giving you the plot. There’s always merchandise to buy – and by the way, did you know how much it costs to buy pointe shoes? If you like a particular dancer, would you like to contribute to their shoe fund? Money would be given, and fundraisers would be attended by people well above my pay grade. Rehearsals are pretty private and when the show is over, the audience fades away. That’s what the old world looks like.

However, in this age of technology and easy access, people are seeking to be more engaged with the things they like than receiving a few mailers. Audiences no longer wish to fade into the background when the curtain goes down. We’re not satiated by an occasional fundraiser and mailer about tickets. It is the hallmark of the social media generation that we want to know what’s going on when we aren’t in the room.

Cincinnati Ballet has been responding to that drive in both its performance choices and in its social media presence. Performance choices have weighed more heavily towards ‘younger’ works while bringing in a few classics to keep tradition alive. One of our household favorites was an entire ballet performed to Paul Simon’s Graceland album a few years ago. They’re featuring Peter Frampton as the closing act for this season.  The Kaplan New Works Series is another example of a ‘younger’ performance – an annual series which showcases samples of brand new ballets still in progress of being completed. It’s like getting to watch movie trailers for all the best upcoming new scripts.

In the technology aspect, a quick search yields youtube clips of rehearsals and conversations with choreographers posted by the ballet itself.  There’s a daily photograph posted on Facebook from a prior performance. And now, reaching out to bloggers…

To let us sample a rehearsal no less.

They’re letting us see what’s behind the big velvet curtain to take a look at what happens when we aren’t in the room, and they’re asking us to spill the beans about it. Oz unveiled. Open architecture. See through pointe shoes. Count me in!

Ballet & Brews is tomorrow and I’m completely stoked about it. Eric & I picked up tickets to the actual performance of the show as well, and there’s another event where one of the choreographers is doing a Q&A and may teach a rhythm & motion class. I need to get some more information on that to see if it’s something my rusty ballet slippers might be worthy of bringing into daylight. So, I’ll be writing a bit about it in the coming weeks – basically, I intend to immerse myself in this opportunity as much as I can and drag you along with me for the warm-fuzzy.

So, while I was out walking around my beige maze of cubicles, I thought of a really good post idea.

But then by the time I got back to my desk, after having made myself a suspicious salad, I totally forgot my cool idea. Mainly because I’m still pretty distracted by my sore ass. I put 20 minutes in on the treadmill last night in an effort to loosen up the cheeks and then went to bootcamp again this morning only to find kicks & walking lunges & 80 more squats (speed squats) on today’s list. And actually, there was a little part of me that went RAH!! ONLY 80 squats! I got that! and then there was the other part where my ass whimpered in a way that could’ve been a fart, but I think it was a bonafied whimper. My ass did not loosen up on the treadmill. Or in bootcamp. Walking hurts. Bad. But less than sitting down and then standing back up again. And all I could focus on for a second was that when I got back to my desk, I was going to have to sit again. Then there went my cool idea right out my head.

So instead, you get to hear about sale chicken and how I’ve eaten chicken every freakin’ day this week. It also means that whatever I was going to write about will be ‘as seen on TV’ in about 6 months – because this is how it goes with my cool ideas that I rapidly forget. Apparently, I forget them, then someone else remembers them and makes a million-bajillion dollars off of them. So sale chicken…

One of my little time-saver thingys I do to be able to goof off play Xbox work out spend time with the husband pet the dog (which is NOT a euphemism for anything) get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour is cook the chicken ahead of time. This isn’t a new concept by any means. Except that normally when I read about preparing meals in bulk, it’s for families with 10 kids in them. We just have the little old 2 of us in our house. And I like food relatively fresh so all that freezer meal stuff doesn’t appeal to me. So, in a chicken week (yes, there’s a chicken week), I buy a package of chicken breasts – about 1.5-1.8 lbs for 3 breasts – season each of them differently and bake them. Then they get plunked into 3 different meals during the week. Also, I buy the cage-free, non-hormone, organically fed and given pedicures with spa treatments, cape-wearing, EXPENSIVE super-chicken. Shit never goes on sale.

Except that it did. Apparently, this is a secret known only to the Monday-grocery goers. Monday is sale super-chicken day. THE BIG PACKAGE.

So for the price that I usually spend on our measley 3-breast pack, I got 4.5 LBS OF CHICKEN. And as sale chicken goes, it needed to be cooked SOON. So I thought to myself, well – last time I roasted a whole chicken, I did it with lemon zest & herbs and didn’t that make the house smell so good and wouldn’t it be nice if our house smelled like something other than my gym bag and our dog?

It’s all good right? Of course it’s NOT good or I wouldn’t be writing about it. Ya know what happens when you pile lemon zest on ALL 4.5 lbs of chicken pieces – YOU CAN’T MAKE ENCHILADAS WITH IT. Which is normally day 2 of our chicken week. Without enchilada night, chicken week is just chaos. Day 1 – eat as seasoned and baked w/ a side-veg. You know, when it’s still good standing alone. Day 2- bury it in cheese & mole sauce. Day 3 – hit it up with some salad dressing & top a salad. Day 4 – THERE IS NO DAY 4! Why? Because you only bought three breasts, that’s why. THERE SHOULD NOT BE A DAY 4 IN SALE CHICKEN WORLD. Occasionally, you can alternate between Day 2 & Day 3. And that’s because you SEASONED THEM ALL DIFFERENTLY. But when you seasoned everything the same way, and you’re on Day 4 – Day 4 is WTF do I do with this chicken? day. You were thinking yourself lucky when you came up with an alternative to enchiladas on Day 2, but now you’re fucked. Also, Day 4 is the day where the chicken will win a stare-down contest, because no matter how long you stare at cooked chicken while you ask yourself ‘wtf do I do with this chicken?’ – it doesn’t look away first.

*sigh* And then the only meat-based protein on the salad bar at lunch today was…you guessed it, chicken. Which is what brought this issue to the surface. I could’ve eventually forgiven myself Day 4. But Day 5 – Day 5 becomes ‘rage against the chicken’ day right before it becomes ‘sighing acceptance that the only thing you’ll ever get to eat again is chicken no matter how chickened out you are’ day. On Day 5 – you become sad and compliant. You fall in line behind the other chicken-prisoners and you daydream about salmon and pork products.

But on the up-side, your whimper-farts smell like lemon zest.

Oooh interweb, as I write this my ass is so sore from yesterday’s bootcamp that I swear my farts sound like they’re whispering oouuuuuch.  E-gads! 

The trainer calls it a Super-7 set, where we do repeats on 7 different things that work the same muscle group from different angles. I call yesterday’s ‘Death by Squats’ because that’s what we were doing – 7 different kinds of squats – with a 25lb kettlebell. I’d post the sequence – because it was a good one – but somehow that feels like stealing someone’s homework since I didn’t set up the workout. Not cool. Anyway, when all was said and done, I’d finished over 300 squats & hit a failure point. That kettlebell & I – we were having one heck of a 4-letter discussion in my head. My core is feeling it a bit too. On the good note – my lower back feels A-O.K. – so my form must’ve been solid the whole way through & we upped my weight by 5lbs. Tight lower back = shitty kettlebell form. Also, no sign of trouble from my T1 (back of neck) – which has seriously protested the kettlebell in the past.  Another reason I was being super concious of my form. I like it when things get all healed proper.

Haven’t been running much at all this past week. The husband & I went off to Chicago for the weekend to see a Reds v. Cubs game. We’re Reds fans. We were planning to wear Reds gear to Wrigley Field. Apparently, this is another way to get yourself dead. Or so we were told. But only if walking there from our hotel didn’t get us dead that way first. I guess there are lots of ways to get yourself dead in Chicago if you don’t know the rules of the place. I took some pics which I’m planning to post up later. Anyway, despite my best packing intentions, I never made it to the lake walk or to the hotel fitness center to get some running in. I skipped last night’s run because, well – oouuuuch! So today brings me to a whole 8 days without my running shoes beating down some pavement. Hoping to remedy that later with some time on a treadmill – I figure that might be a little more gentle than concrete for my sore ass.

Well, 32 is now in the crosshairs. I broke a 33-minute 5k – FINALLY.

Which, I know to most of you, a 33-minute 5k is ridiculously slow. But to me, it’s a  WHOPPING BIG DEAL!

Not only am I proud of getting under 33 minutes, but I’m proud of how I coached myself through the run. Good decisions were made on things that I’ve only recently gotten under control in training runs, but have failed miserably at bringing to races. People, I DID GOOD!!!

The Downtown Dash starts off with a bit of flat – about 3/4 of a mile of it – then takes you up part of the hill route for the Flying Pig. A long semi-steep climb of about 1/3 of a mile which levels off for a few seconds near the turn-around, then brings you back downhill and into town across a small swell of an overpass.  Not too easy, not too hard. Room to make up ground if you play it smart.

I went into it not feeling too great – had woken up with a bad headache and stomach that was all clenched tight. Skipped my 5:30 bootcamp, but had all day to try and come up with some remedies.  Was excited to be meeting Nash & Maine there – all of us bringing our men in tow to cheer us on. There would be beer after. ‘nuf said.

BUT – I also went into it with one of the best runs I’ve ever had fresh under my treads. I’d gone out with the running group on Wednesday on legs that were completely thrashed from bootcamp, and coached myself through a decently challenging run. Not only did I keep it moving, but I pushed myself and didn’t let myself slack. It wasn’t my fastest run or furthest run by far, but for self-talk and coaching, my head was IN that run more than I think I’ve ever been in a run before. So that was on my mind as I prepped for the Dash – what were the things I was saying to myself?  How did I feel? When things got hard – what magic trick did I do to keep my feet moving? I had FOCUS on Wednesday. I wanted that level of focus again on the Dash. And I got it!

I told myself from the beginning that I wasn’t going to worry about time. Not feeling great – I just wanted a solid run, but more importantly, I needed to take care of myself since I wasn’t sure what the stomach upset was about.  Since Nash & Maine are WAY faster than me (Nash is a consistently sub-30 chick.) I let them go at the start. When I felt myself picking up the pace prematurely due to the crowd movement, I stole a line from Frayed Laces – reminding myself to ‘stay within myself’, run my own race – the crowd will pass. And pass they did. And pass some more. I gotta admit – I started feeling a little defeated, like CRAP! This entire crowd is going to pass me!. And my brain said ‘so what, just keep moving your feet sweatheart.’

The uphill climb started to take a bit out of me, so I let myself interval 3:1 interval it to the top. That amounted to 2 walk breaks.  As I was climbing, the lead runners were coming down – a moment I always love in a run as I will LOSE. MY. SHIT. cheering for the lead packs. I always figure the lead man knows he’s first b/c of the pace car or bike, but first female might not be sure – so I always yell ‘FIRST FEMALE!’ at the top of my lungs when I see her. I saw Nash  coming down not to far behind the leads, but didn’t see Maine until I was approaching the turn around. She was only about a block in front of me!! And we were heading into the downhill!

But I still had half the race to finish too. Hmmm – the temptation to sprint to catch up with her needed to be resisted because there was no way I could hold it through to the end.  So I told myself to just try and keep her in my sight. If I finished a block behind Maine, that was still going to be a really good run for me.  The last time we all ran together, I was a full 1:30 behind her – so 30-to-45 seconds behind would still signify some decent work on my part.

When we got to the bottom of the hill and began into the swell of the overpass, I’d dropped the distance to half-a-block. I was gaining gradually and still picking up speed. When we hit the end of the overpass, I was about 10 feet behind her with about .4 miles to go. I was pushing myself and I could feel it – thinking ‘holy crap! I’m gonna finish right on her heels!‘. Then, maybe we could run it in together – wouldn’t that be cool? And then I pulled up alongside her and said ‘hey!’. And then she said ‘hey!’ and smiled.

And then she sped up a little.

And then I sped up a little more. I could feel that I had the tiger by the tail – the only question: could I hold on? Maine was not the tiger – this run was the tiger. Could I stay this strong all the way to the finish – especially if I tried to beat Maine in? Now, I normally do sprint the finish – much as other runners have told me that’s shitty. If I’ve got anything left in the tank, I do it anyway under the motto of ‘you don’t leave anything on the field’.  But that’s normally about a .1 mile dash. Could I hold it for .4? Because to beat Maine in – I was going to have to hold on for awhile. But when she sped up, I knew I had to go for it. This was the closest opportunity I’d ever had to beat her or Nash in – and I couldn’t let it pass.

I hit the accelerator ever though my tank was empty. Then I fought for that bitch .4 sprint –

finishing 20 SECONDS AHEAD of Maine!!!

I feel a little guilty about working so hard to beat my friend. But only a little. I’ve been at the back of that pack for too damn long! When you’ve pushed yourself to hit the goal, you have to let yourself be happy about it.  Maine was a good sport about it, but she did seem a little disappointed. Now – I know she can beat me. She knows she can beat me. But she didn’t beat me that night.  She did say that she was working her own goal of trying to keep a steady pace throughout the run – so maybe she let me go once I sped up – but any which way, I still crossed first and I had no way to know whether she was sprinting behind me or not.  What I do know is that I did what any other athlete would do when they just beat their good friend across a finish line for the first time –

I went and laid down on the concrete and tried not to throw up.

Maine took a spot right next to me – and both of sat there for a good 3 minutes to catch our breath and drink some water before we joined up with our crew having successfully not vomited.

It was a well-organized run. I liked the Friday night part of it – so it made a quick & easy date night with Eric. He got to have a beer with the guys while the girls ran – and I got to have a beer already waiting on me when I was done.  There was a band. There was festivities. There was a bike there that had a blender attached to it and you could spin to make your own smoothie – the Mr. got me a t-shirt doing that.

I shaved 46 seconds off my 5k PR. I broke the 33-minute threshold. My goal of hitting a 10:20 pace before the end of the year – a goal which felt very far away through most of the hot June & July runs – doesn’t seem as unreachable anymore. I logged a victory in the Nash-Maine-likeablegirl running trio.  And I didn’t vomit. I think that’s a win.