Saturday, November 21, 2009

Old Habits / Bad Sleeping

Last week, Jeff went out of town, and I used that opportunity to catch up with some old friends. On Saturday (the 14th) afternoon, I was very emotional and spent most of the day reminicing about my dad and crying. Later that night, I went to a party with friends, drank some wine, and got home around 3am. I didn't sleep well that night, and had to be up for work the next day at 9. I was off work on Monday, but I dragged myself through the 6 mile run, and was feeling really ragged.

After work on Tuesday, I met up with Joel Berk for a concert at Martyr's. I had 2 beers and we were out till about 12:30, then I watched tv till about 2am. I got woken up at 3am and 5am by the dogs, then woke up naturally at 7am. Determined to get more than 4 hours of sleep, I laid in bed until 10 (I work at noon), but that extra little bit didn't help. On Weds I stayed downtown after work to see the new Cirque du Soleil, Banana Shpeel. Although it only lasted till 10, I was already exhausted, and by the time I got home I was completely worn out. I went to sleep around 11:30, with the intention of catching up on some sleep, but I woke up to a text message at 2:30am, then again at 6am. That text was from Jeff telling me that his Amtrak had just hit a car and killed the driver.

A worry-some personality and five days of sleep deprevation made this news especially jarring to me. I laid in bed imagining what would have happened if Jeff's train had derailed; I imagined how the family of the victim must feel. I wondered if it had been suicide and what would have driven him to that point. After an hour of trying to sleep and failing, I decided to just get up and get ready for work early. I was ready by 9 although I don't have to leave until 11. Showering and eating had calmed me down, so I attempted sleep again, only to sleep through my alarm and wake up at 11:15. I was going to be at least 5 minutes late, awesome. I arrived at work frazzled, worn out, and anxious.

Jeff finally got home around 9:30pm (originally supposed to be 4pm), and after spending some quality time together, I left at 11pm to go see a midnight showing of the new Twilight movie, New Moon. Although it was great, I didn't get home until 2:30am and I was asleep at 3am.

Friday was a regular day, and I finally got to relax. I hadn't run since Monday because I was so sleepy in the mornings and so busy in the evenings. I was exhausted to my core, but I made spaghetti for dinner and was feeling pretty good. Around 10pm I was reading/ falling asleep on the couch when some words I had said to our roommate stirred up a heated argument. Of course, he didn't know that my week of exhaustion made me so fragile, but under the weight of the argument, I just cracked. Another night of poor sleep, another day of work, another night out and another decision - am I going to run today, or not?

I came home from work at 5, ate and relaxed for a while. My body was exhausted and my emotions had pretty much flat-lined at this point... I was too tired to care about much anymore. But I knew I needed to run today so I could take Sunday off and be fresh for my day off on Monday. Jeff motivated me and I got off the couch. I have a 2 mile loop in my neighborhood, which I could barely finish in 30 minutes when I first started. I strapped on the heart rate monitor, plugged in the Nike+, got Chuck ready to go, and headed out.

I was back in 24 minutes!

On some parts of the run I ran as fast as 9:45 per mile. I averaged 11:22 per mile, but this included some walking and stretching. One bummer with short runs is the limited amount of warm-up time. Anyway, I'm really, really happy that I finally got out there. It felt great, and although the 4 days off was unintentional, I think it did me some good.

Overall, I learned the hard way that I am not cut out for the rock-n-roll lifestyle anymore. I know I've been saying that for a while, but actually living it for a week (without Jeff to take me home at a decent hour) REALLY drove the point home. The sheer exhaustion I felt from not getting 9-10 hours of sleep each night affected me to my core, and my emotions completely broke down.

I won't be living like that anymore. I know for sure that I am ready to settle down, and one (or two at the most) nights out a week are plenty for me. I'm happy to have reconnected with some friends, but from now on, I'm in bed by 11.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The dreaded "Long Run"

I don't love the long run. I'm definitely a sprinter by nature. My attention span works for 15-20 minutes at a time before I need a change of pace. But I'm determined to turn myself into a distance runner, if only to make Olympic Distance Triathlons easier. The way I see it, increasing my attention span cannot be a bad thing, and if I'm burning 700+ calories while strengthening my entire body and brain, I'll be better off, even if I initially object.

So since I'm training for this Half-Marathon in February, long runs are going to become part of my weekly routine whether I like the idea or not. I'm casually following a Nike+ training plan, which I will officially start the day after my 4 mile race on Thanksgiving. To prep for this 4 mile race I've been doing hill and speed intervals on the treadmill, the occassional mid-distance (3-4mi) run outside, and a lot of short runs on the treadmill. I am definitely half-assing the distance part of the training plan, and by that I mean skipping it all together.

Yesterday, I did a 10k (6.2mi) run outside, on the lake, in 25+ mph winds and it was EXHAUSTING! I'm really, really sore today. I took Chuck with me, who was pretty much bouncing off the walls for the rest of the afternoon. I can't believe all this energy! Overall, it was a good run. But like all good runs, I learned some valuable lessons. First is hydration and food - I always forget how important they are. I took a water bottle with me, but I should have refilled it half way through. I was really dehydrated for the rest of the night. Also, I should have taken some Shot Blocks or a gel with me. I got very hungry on the way home, so much so that it was all I could think about.

It's important to get out to the lake for the bulk of the run. Stopping at every light between Ashland and the lake is so annoying! Also, I need to properly stretch before the long run. I had to stop a lot to work out the kinks in my quads, hips, and shins. I didn't have a lot of knee pain till the end, but I also didn't feel loose until the end. And today I'm really sore. So for next time, I think I'll warm up in the house with some jumping jacks and calisthenics, then stretch, then start running.

Another thing I need to work on is ab/core strength. The first place I felt tired was my lower back. Taking an ab class once a week will help my running quite a bit, I think.

I'm proud of myself for doing my long run on Monday, my only day off of the week. It would have been easy to sit around and do nothing all day (which is what I wanted to do). And now I can say that every run this week will be shorter than that one! Woo hoo!

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Petition

The point of this blog post is taken from something I read in one of my favorite books, titled Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is struggling with a divorce, and her ex won't sign the papers. Allow me to excerpt:

"... I wish I could sign a petition to God, asking for this thing to end."
"So why don't you?"

I explained to Iva my personal opinions about prayer. Namely, that I don't feel comfortable petitioning for specific things from God, because that feels to me like a kind of weakness of faith. I don't like asking, "Will you change this or that thing in my life that's difficult for me?" Because - who knows - God might want me to be facing that particular challenge for a reason. Instead, I feel more comfortable praying for the courage to face whatever occurs in my life with equanimity, no mater how things turn out.

Iva listened politely, then asked, "Where'd you get that stupid idea?"
"What do you mean?'
"Where'd you get the idea that you aren't allowed to petition the universe with prayer? You are a part of this universe, Liz. You a constituent - you have every entitlement to participate in the actions of the universe, and to let your feelings be known. So put your opinion out there. Make your case. Believe me - it will at least be taken into consideration."

"Really?" This was all news to me.
"Really! Listen - if you were to write a petition to God right now, what would it say?"
I thought for a while, then pulled out a notebook and wrote this petition:

Dear God,

Please intervene and help end this divorce. My husband and I have failed at our marriage and now we are failing at our divorce. This poisonous process is bringing suffering to us and to everyone who cares about us. I recognize that you are busy with wars and tragedies and much larger conflicts than the ongoing dispute of one dysfunctional couple. But it is my understanding that the health of the planet is affected by the health of every individual on it. As long as even two souls are locked in conflict, the whole of the world is contaminated by it. Similarly, if even one or two souls can be free from discord, this will increase the general health of the whole world, the way a few healthy cells in a body can increase the general health of the body.

It is my most humble request, then, that you help us end this conflict, so that two more people can have the change to become free and healthy, so there will be just a little bit less animosity and bitterness in a world that is already far too troubled by suffering.

I thank you for your kind attention.


Elizabeth M. Gilbert.

I read it to Iva, and she nodded her approval.
"I would sign that," she said.
I handed the petition over to her with a pen, but she was too busy driving, so she said, "No, let's say I did just sign it. I signed it in my heart."
"Thank you Iva, I appreciate your support."
"Now, who else would sign it?" she asked.
"My family. My mother and father. My sister."
"OK. They just did. Consider their names added. I actually felt them sign it. They're on the list now. OK - who else would sign it? Start naming names."

Elizabeth then goes on to name dozens of names, including St. Francis of Assisi and the Clintons. She takes a short nap, and when she wakes up, she receives a phone call stating that her husband has finally signed the divorce papers.

I find this to be very inspiring.

As you may know, 2009 has been a hell of a year for me job-wise. Lets recap.

Jan 5: Laid off from House Call Ent. after 6 months due to downsizing. (1)
Jan 27: Start job at tax preparation firm Wickliff and Associates as a receptionist.(2)
Feb: Start job at Paul Green School of Rock helping out at events. (3)
Sometime in the spring: Start work at The Store doing concert production. (4)
April 16: Get job offer to join BG&H Publishing to work for Alarm Magazine, among others. Quit Wickliff and Associates although they were planning to lay me off soon.
April 28: Start at BG&H. Quit PGSOR due to time constraints with BG&H. (5)
May 27: Laid off from BG&H for reasons that are still unclear to me. Something about money.
June 8: Start job at PJ Clarke's on Armitage as Event Coordinator / Front of House Manager. Work six 55-hour weeks. (6)
July 18: PJ Clarke's suddenly closes, leaving me and 25 others unemployed.
July: Try to get PGSOR job and The Store job back and have been replaced at both (understandable).
July 25: Start job walking a dog 3 times a week. (7)
Sept 27: Get job as temporary, part-time sales associate at Pottery Barn Kids.(8)
Oct 7: Get job as local sales associate for Toner and Beyond, a print solutions and management company based in Michigan - 100% commission. (9)

Oct 13: Get job as part-time receptionist at a real estate property on Michigan Ave. More money, more hours, less obnoxious retail. Quit PB kids. (10)

This brings us current.

Unless you have had 10 jobs in 11 months, I'm not sure you can understand the emotions this puts me through. First, there's stress - I'm never 100% sure I will be able to pay my bills. Then there is the inevitable feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. What is wrong with me? Why can't I find a decent job at a decent company? It's constant fear and vulnerability. Is it ever going to get better? For the most part, I realize that these doubts are just my own personal baggage, and that "in this economy" I shouldn't take any job situation personally. But still, I saw my friends thriving in jobs that suited them and I just didn't understand what I could be doing differently. Keep in mind that during this time, I was focusing my job search on restaurants, bars, and concert venues, determined to find something in service or the music industry.

Then several things happened to me all in a very short time span. First, I worked at the Chicago Rock-and-Roll Half Marathon Expo and I absolutely loved it. I loved being around all the athletes - elite runners who can do 13 miles in 80 minutes, and overweight grandpas who have been running marathons since before women were even allowed to participate. It felt amazing to be surrounded by so many people who shared the same goal I did - to put one foot in front of the other and cross the finish line.

The next weekend, I participated in my first triathlon on August 9th, which was amazing. I came in near the end of the pack, which made me want to take training and gear much more seriously. I suddenly understood the need for the Expos. 

A few weeks later, I volunteered for the entire weekend of the Chicago Triathlon. On day one, I was scheduled to work Packet Pickup at the Expo. As I left the house that day and locked the door behind me, I thought "I should probably have a few resumes on me... just in case." I went back inside and grabbed my folder, and headed down to the Hilton. At one point, I walked through the expo, and I noticed a sign on the desk of a magazine I read religiously - Chicago Athlete Magazine. The sign said "Wanted: Local Ad Sales Rep." I stopped dead in my tracks, and my mind flashed to my resumes sitting in my backpack. Was this the cosmic reason I had grabbed that folder? I talked to the woman on the other side of the table, Tracy, who explained that they were looking for someone to replace their current rep, who would be moving into event production. I mentioned I was applying for serving positions and she said "Yes! That's what we need! Someone who isn't afraid to talk to anyone!" I laughed and said, "I'm your girl." I gave her a resume and followed up with her two days later.

The following Thursday, she brought me in for a very casual interview, and I felt right at home. The office was sunny and comfortable, and everyone seemed very friendly. I felt like I could be myself there. The publisher, Eliot, is also a swimmer and a Hoosier, and the editor, John, is from Ohio and his wife grew up in Colorado. All of them are athletes. The company also produces the Wisconsin Marathon, and after telling Tracy about my music business experience she said "Great, you can help me get bands for the marathon!" It felt like a perfect match. Near the end of the interview, Tracy told me they wouldn't be making the decision until the middle of November, and suggested I get a part-time job to tide me over in the meantime. I said I'd be fine with that, and I would wait, and to please keep in touch. She suggested I volunteer at a training run 2 weeks later, which I did and enjoyed very much.

About 10 days later, Tracy contacted me again asking me to work the sign-in table at a party they were throwing for all the event directors who were in town for the Chicago Marathon. I didn't realize exactly what it meant, but of course I agreed and got there early. Then the guests started rolling in - the director of the Boston Marathon. The special event coordinator for the American Cancer Society. A woman (i'm not sure where she worked) who has run 33 marathons in several different countries. I was THRILLED! These are my people! Normal, everyday athletic people who have normal, everyday lives. They wake up, run, take care of their families, pay their bills, have houses and cars and vacation properties, and then they win marathons. It blew my mind.

For so many years, I've been struggling to fit into the rock and roll world. At the time I didn't know I didn't fit in - I thought I was a piece of the puzzle. But as it weighed on me, I realized that I am not a musician and I never will be. And suddenly I didn't care anymore. I am an athlete. Going to concerts meant less and less, while triathlons became important. Other people in music used to ask me what I did in the business, and I never had an answer. I figured it was because I could do anything, but I realize now it was because my puzzle piece never fit. This may sound depressing or self-deprecating but in reality it is so empowering. Maybe I WAS doing something wrong all those years when I couldn't find a job. I was trying to fit where I simply didn't belong.

After a great conversation with a life-coach named Sue, I realized that I needed to allow myself to evolve. I needed to accept that I'm allowed to change. All people are. They grow, and mature, and eventually get over the things that once made them the happiest. I still love music and always will. But what I do know is that my fondest childhood memories are of me and my dad playing catch, or my swim meets, or my track practices, or riding my bike around the neighborhood. I have ALWAYS been an athlete, and ever since I graduated college, I have been trying to smother that with music. Now, I will let them live together in peace, rather than constantly fighting.

It's now the middle of November, and I'm waiting to hear back from Chicago Athlete about the sales position. I don't know if I've ever wanted any job so badly in my life. Yes I wanted the assistant talent buyer position at House of Blues, but I didn't know what that job entailed. I had no idea - I just wanted the title. I wanted the assistant position at Windish Agency, but obviously not bad enough since I backed out of the interview process to take the BG&H job. There have been lots of jobs I "want," but none that I can feel in my core the way I feel this one. I KNOW I can sell. I am persistent without being pushy. I can get along with anyone. I can help the buyer figure out what they need and give them the perfect ad space. Plus, I LOVE promoting events and I always have. This is what I want. I know I want to work for Chicago Athlete. It's a reputable magazine with great distribution and excellent room for growth. Everyone who currently works there has been there for years and they are like a family. They are expanding into event production which is an area I'm extremely familiar with. It just feels so right. And the suspense is killing me!

So here is my petition. Hopefully you will sign... either here or in your heart.

Dear God, 
Please help me get hired at Chicago Athlete Magazine. After months and months of soul searching, I have finally come to the difficult realization that I don't want to work in the music business full-time anymore. This decision did not come lightly, and throughout the entire process I have been filled with doubt, fear, vulnerability, and anxiety. I know you are dealing with millions of unemployed people around the world - people with children and mortgages who need a job much more than I do. But fixing the economy has to start somewhere, and why not with me? I promise I will be a good worker. I will give as much as I can to the race community to make people healthy, strong, fit, and fast. 
It is my most sincere request, God, that you bless me with this Chicago Athlete Magazine sales rep job - a salary, a career and maybe even benefits - so that one less person has to live in constant anxiety, so one less person has to doubt who they are and what they have become, and so one more person can contribute to this amazing community of humans on earth. 
Stephanie Gabarik

Monday, November 9, 2009


After spending some time analyzing my Nike+, I found out I've only been running once every 4 days. I'm disappointed that it's not every 2 days and I'm going to try much, much harder now...