Sunday, September 30, 2007

Play By Play

Take first-ever day off from new job.
Run 12 miles.
Clean house.
Wash four loads of clothes.
Look through closet and fret that I have no dressy fall-style-but-perfect-for-muggy-weather dresses that are good for dancing.
Pack: underwear, PJs, airplane clothes, makeup, toiletries, and six dresses--some dressy, some fall-style, some good for muggy weather, some good for dancing, but none a combination of the three. Oh, and shoes to match everything. It's a heavy suitcase for a 24-hour trip.
Clean house some more.
Cancel piano because the funny "check engine" light of my car keeps coming on and the car is making strange lurching movements and I'm nervous about making the drive to Asheville.
End up not taking car to shop because time gets away from me.
Drive to Charlotte with Hubster. In Hubster's car.
Get to John G. Young's house at 8:15. Eat dinner. Drink wine. Chat with John & Kim.
Read a few pages.
Go to sleep.

4:00 a.m.: Rise and shine!
5:00 a.m. Arrive at airport
6:00 a.m. Fly to Atlanta
8:00 a.m. Fly to New Orleans, rent car, drive to Chez Parents.
10:30 a.m. Had planned to go shopping with Mrs. Gwen to find a dressy-fall-style-but-perfect-for-muggy-weather dress that is good for dancing, but am simply too worn out. Opt to rest and spend time with family instead. Pick out a not-so-dressy, not-so-fallish, and not so great for dancing, but perfect-for-muggy-weather old dress to wear to my friend Jan's wedding.
Visit with my mom and aunt.
Watch LSU whup Tulane. Cheer, as I have no love for Tulane.
5:30 p.m. All dressed up in the perfect-for-muggy-weather old dress. Drive to wedding in Baton Rouge.
6:05 p.m. Get to wedding. It's 89 degrees out. I made the correct dress choice.
6:30 p.m. Wedding. Cry. Have fun sitting next to Andye's mom. Feel happy because it is a very nice wedding and I'm so happy for Jan and Herb.
7:30 p.m. till about 10:30: Wedding reception. Lots of fun. Saw lots of old friends I haven't seen since 1988 or so. Did not dance much, as it was very warm. Am thankful to have selected the right dress. Am happy to see Jan and her man so happy.
10:30 p.m. Leave early because we have to fly out early.
11:00 p.m. Get back to Chez Parents. Go to bed.

5:00 a.m. Rise and shine!
6:00 a.m. Go to New Orleans airport. Fly to Atlanta. Fly to Charlotte. Drive home.
5:30 p.m. Arrive home, wash clothes, take shower and wash all the nasty airplane germs off me.

It's about quarter to 8:00 p.m. now. I'm wiped out. Going to bed in about twenty minutes.

I was looking forward to Jan's wedding, but I was not looking forward to the whirlwind that this weekend was going to be. But it wasn't so bad. And I'm glad I was able to go to the wedding. It was definitely worth the hassle of getting there.

Good night!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lifelong Training

It looks like I'll be training for the rest of my life. I can't stop training. Ever.

By "training," I mean training for a race. I'll probably never win a race, but I need to keep races on my horizon. Here's why:

I started an extremely sedentary job four months ago. That job comes with an extremely sedentary commute. At the job we have a snack machine and a coke machine. Across the street from the job is a coffee shop that sells big chunky chocolate chip cookies.

If I weren't training for a race--the Worldwide Half--I know I would have gained 10 pounds by now. At least 10 pounds.

If I'm merely exercising because I want to be skinny and look good, the motivation ebbs as soon as life gets too busy. And when motivation ebbs, my cookie-monster tendencies take over. My eating habits go to pot. I make diets of bagels with cream cheese, cookies, and bread.

But I'm training for the Worldwide Half. Because I'm training for a race, I don't look at the exercise as my key to being thin or looking good. It's my key to increasing endurance, and yes, speed, so that I can run a good race. The "looking good" part of it is just a really nice benefit that comes with the territory.

When I'm in training, I lose all appetite for most junk foods. I have no desire for a soft drink (not that I ever drink them anyway). I've stayed away from the vending machines at work. I only visit the coffee/cookie place five days a week. (OK, so I only buy a couple of cookies a week. I'll never give up chocolate-chip cookies completely.)

And the rest of the time I eat things like fruit, salads, smoothies, lean meats, fish, nuts, whole-wheat carbs, and steamed and raw veggies. Good stuff. Because I'm training. Because all of the running, and the eating right, and the getting to bed on time, just all go with the territory.

If I weren't training for a race, I know I would never have gone on an energizing 5-mile tempo run last night. I was tired and not in the mood to run. If I weren't training for a race, I would never have stopped on my way home from work to squeeze in a 4-mile easy run. If I weren't training for a race, I wouldn't be setting my clock to wake up early tomorrow to get my 12 miles in before the crazy weekend begins.

Training is good. I plan to keep it up. I'm already thinking about my spring half-marathon. :)

All Gussied Up

Here we are four years ago today, all gussied up.

We have been stuck together ever since.

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful, sweet, generous, silly, smart, free-spirited, fun, sexy, snuggly Hubster!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Six Miles

According to my training schedule, I'm supposed to start running fewer miles this week since the Worldwide Half is just a couple of weeks away. But it's hard to cut back when one finally starts getting one's mojo back. I ran a warm-up mile before starting my actual tempo run, and I felt great the whole time. Then for my tempo run, I ran five miles in 46:23, which I was pretty happy about. That's an average pace of 9:16, which isn't too shabby for me, considering it was a 5-mile run. I was only supposed to run 4 today, but ended up running 6 ... oh well.

My half-marathon is in two weeks. That's hard to believe. I guess I need to get around to signing up for it.

I LOVE running. Running has been such a challenge for months now--partly because of the heat, and partly because it's so hard to motivate myself to run after sitting on my butt in Cubicle Land all day long. But I've kept running, and it's paying off. I had energy to burn tonight.

That makes eight miles for the week so far. I'm running five tomorrow, then twelve on Friday since I won't be able to run on Saturday or Sunday because I'll be travelling. I hope my knees don't complain too much about running 23 miles in three days.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE running?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Working Out My Thoughts

Just trying to work out my thoughts about the split. I'll post more later.

Update ... Wednesday Afternoon ...

OK, I was sick to my stomach last night. Didn't know if I'd be able to come to work today or not. And I think all the stomach sickness is a result of split-related stress. I so want to write about this but haven't had an opportunity because work has been brutal for three weeks now.

So maybe some of the sickness is due to all the thousands of words stuck inside my body, words that want to come out through my fingers and onto the keyboard and screen, but are bottled up because I haven't written in so long.

It's happened before. Stay tuned. I hope to write more on the split, and my thoughts about it, soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Love Conversations Like This

On White Blaze, a popular online hiking forum, a poster named "Frosty" started a thread with this glowing comment:
I'm about two-thirds of the way through Liteshoe's book, "The Ordinary Adventurer," and am limiting myself to a few pages a night because I don't want it to end.

I enjoy books and journals that talk about the day-to-day logistics of hiking, and I enjoy books and journals that relate the author's personal experiences and how they felt about what was going on. I like to read about people and places along trails, and I like to read about how people were personally affected by their hikes.

So when I get hold of a book that does all four, I really don't want to rush through it.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about long distance hikes. If you don't want to buy it for the above reasons, you need to find out the first thing you should do when caught by a thunderstorm on an exposed ridge. (The answer is on Page 95, and no, I won't spoil your fun by revealing it here.)
I am so proud of my author! The Ordinary Adventurer will be on soon, but why wait? Order it now and get your own signed copy!

Long Run Today

I had the most awesome run today. I took a trip to the lovely little AT town of Franklin, NC, and ran 12 miles on the Little Tennessee River Greenway. What an awesome run! It was hot, but there was a breeze, and both bathrooms and water fountains were available when needed. What more could one ask for?

I usually hit kind of a wall after 10 miles. Not today. I actually sped up after 10 miles. Hit something of a second wind. My last half-mile was up a hill--Main Street in Franklin--so it wasn't quite so energized. But it was a good run. A great run. I listened to Phedippidations, The Extra Mile, and some music. I keep meaning to send a training update to The Extra Mile, but I keep forgetting. Someone remind me.

My last long run was supposed to be last Saturday, but I had to push it forward to Sunday. Which means I technically ran a whopping 35.88 miles this week. My next long run is Friday, so my mileage for next week and subsequent weeks will be more "normal" (~25 miles).

Here's what's cool: I'm #27 on the leader board of Buckeye Outdoors!

I'm usually #72 or #65 or #48 ... but I've never been in the top 30!

I LOVE running.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Rest Day

Friday is my rest day, training-wise. TGIF, as they say.

Running was tough this week. My energy level hasn't been as high as I'd like it to be. I'm not sure why. I'm sleeping plenty at night but have trouble waking up in the morning. Which means the novel is getting short shrift.

I still managed to run my miles this week, albeit not all on the usual days: 11 on Sunday, 6.3 on Wednesday, and 6.3 on Thursday. I had to miss Monday's 2-mile interval run, so I ran a slightly longer tempo run on Wednesday and did intervals toward the end.

I'm running 12 tomorrow. I've had to change up my schedule a bit in the past few weeks due to weekend obligations. Long runs are supposed to be on Saturdays. I like doing them on Saturdays. I'm doing tomorrow's long run on Saturday.

Then I have to do my next long run after that on Friday because of weekend festivities on Saturday and Sunday.

I don't know if it's good to space long runs only six days apart. To play it safe, I'm going to make my mid-week runs a little shorter than usual.

I think it'll be good. Of all the types of training sessions (tempo, easy, interval, speed, and long run), long runs are by far the ones I look forward to the most.

But to be honest, I'm not as gung-ho about running as I was this time last year. I guess the novelty has worn off. I have no intentions of quitting (seeing as my physical and mental health are somewhat dependent on it), but it's been hard to drag my butt out to the lake, or the track, or the gym on running days.

I'm glad today's a rest day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Most Boring Life

I got to meet the company's Head Honcho today, as well as Head Honcho #2 (Shoulder Honcho?) What does the word "honcho" come from, anyway?

Here's what Bartleby tells us:

I would have thought it was Spanish.

So anyway, when I met the Shoulder Honcho, he shook my hand and said he'd "heard a lot about me." I think that's good. When I met the Head Honcho himself, he asked me what my job was. He was a nice fellow, though. Both of them are nice fellows.

I think I'm doing a pretty good job at this job so far. I won't think of myself as "successful" at it until I've met my deadlines and turned out a good product. But so far, things are good.

There's really not much to write at the moment. I'm writing in the mornings, I'm working hard at my job, I'm commuting two hours a day (with absolutely no traffic ... aaahhh), I'm practicing piano at lunch, I'm getting my training miles in, and I'm currently enjoying a smooth glass of Pinot Noir and gazing over at the lovely Hubster as he nibbles on pretzels and watches The Weather Channel.

Life is going through a mundane phase, I guess. I'm not complaining.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Good News: I Wasn't the Only One

Turns out my boss's boss, the VP of the division I work in, is also a runner and ran the half-marathon in the Asheville Citizen-Times race last weekend.

When he passed the "5K turn-off point," he commented to a fellow runner, "I bet a lot of people are going to miss that turn." There were very few volunteers at the turn-off, and the ones there were teenagers who wore jackets and other t-shirts over their volunteer t-shirts, and who more or less stood there and occasionally directed 5Kers to take the turn-off.

(No wonder I don't remember seeing any volunteers there.)

Then, as he proceeded along the half-marathon course, he saw several 5K runners backtracking after realizing they'd missed the turn.

"It was poorly marked," he said, and added that in previous years cones had been set up to "corral" the runners onto their respective routes. "I'm surprised more people didn't get off track this year."

So I feel better. The turn-off was poorly indicated. So I'll write a nice letter to the race organizers when I return my Champion Chip. And I'll check the map for good measure next year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

11.38 miles!

Yesterday was simply not a day for running. When the TV repair guy (who was actually the HDTV installation guy) didn't show up until 6:15, after I'd waited around the house for him all afternoon, I accepted the sad reality that there would be no eleven-mile run for me yesterday. Such insult to be added to the injury (metaphorically speaking, thank goodness) of my ill-fated 5K yesterday morning!

But today was different. After moping around the house all day yesterday, waiting for Godot the HDTV Installation Guy, I knew I needed to make today count for something. So I did my eleven-miler this morning.

(I know. I am bad. I should have been in church, particularly with the EPC/PCUSA vote coming up next Sunday. I have no excuse, except that it was a beautiful, cool morning, and I had eleven miles to run.)

Hubster and I went to the lake. He's about halfway through his C25K training and was to run his longest run yet today: 20 minutes, nonstop. So I jogged the first lap with him. I am so proud of the Hubster. He wants to run a 5K by the end of the year, and he's right on track to do it.

Hubster left after his run, and I continued mine. I wasn't in a mood for running. The beautiful weather was also very humid weather, and it's amazing how humidity can just sap the energy right out of you. But I kept on, carrying a small bottle of water with me, listening to Phedippidations and enjoying the fact that the roads at Lake Junaluska are nearly car-free on Sunday mornings.

I was really low on energy, though. I was hungry. I'd had breakfast, but my 120-pound frame just wasn't up to the 11-mile task after a relatively small "fill-up" of 200 or so calories.

I ran in my new NB858s. They're heavier than the 1222s, but they were pretty comfortable. I've gotten spoiled by the lightweightness of the 1222s.

I was glad when the run was over. I stuck it out and ended up covering 11.38 miles, according to the route program on Buckeye Outdoors.

That route program's a pretty cool thing. Here's the route:

... and here's the elevation:

How cool is that?

I'll rest tomorrow, then run again on Tuesday. I'm so glad the weather has begun to cool off a bit!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Wasted Morning

I should be laughing at myself, but I'm depressed.

For whatever reason, I didn't get up when the alarm went off this morning. Which means that, when I did finally wake up, I realized that I needed to leave the house within 10 minutes or I'd be late for the Asheville Citizen-Times 5K I'd signed up for.

I hate having to get out of bed quickly. So I started out the day in a less-than-chipper mood. That should have been a sign.

Then I couldn't find my Compeed. My old New Balance 1222s officially bit the dust the other day when they suddenly, for the first time ever, left me with a blister on my heel. (The fabric inside the shoe had worn through.) So I was going to wear my other pair of 1222s with Compeed, which is the best blister-coverup in the world.

I'd put the Compeed in a special place the night before because I wanted to make sure I wouldn't forget it. Then I couldn't remember where that special place was this morning. (Go figure. This happens to me all the time.)

So, with less than two minutes to go, I was digging through my smelly backpacking gear, looking for the ziplock where I keep my first-aid items when I hike, hoping I had Compeed somewhere in there.

I couldn't find it. But Hubster found some. God bless Hubster.

Hubster overslept, too, and was even later getting up than I was, so I had to leave before he did. Well, pooh. What fun is a 5K if you can't ride over there with your biggest fan? But he promised me he'd be there by the time the race started.

I actually thought about not going. Repeatedly. I really do not like big crowds, and I've had to overcome my crowd-phobia every time I've gone to a race. But I always feel on top of the world after a race, so I decided, after deciding to the contrary several times, to bite the bullet and go. After all, I had paid my $20, and I did want the t-shirt ...

So I drove to Asheville alone, took forever to find a place to park, and managed to get my bib and my chip and go pee with about two minutes to spare. But I still had my bag, my cell phone, my water bottle, etc. I left it all with a very nice stranger, with my cell phone set on Hubster's speed dial, saying, "Call this number. Tell my Hubster where you are so he can come get my stuff."

Then, about 15 seconds before the race started, Hubster found me. I gave him a big old kiss. I didn't see the person who had my bag. The race was starting. I hoped he would find it and proceeded to run.

It was crowded, of course. I was in a sea of runners, the 5K runners wearing blue bibs, and the half-marathon runners wearing green bibs. I was a blue-bibber. I'm not running my half-marathon until next month when I run the Second Annual Phedippidations Worldwide Half-Marathon Challenge. Today was actually supposed to be a long run, and I suppose I could have run the half, but I'm only up to 11 miles for my long runs and didn't want to push it.

The weather was cool and very humid. I felt good, though, and I felt strong. When we got to the 1-mile mark, I honestly thought, "No. There's no way we've already run a mile." I guess I was in the zone. It didn't hurt that much of the first mile was on a downhill slope.

Water stations were supposed to be every two miles, so when we got to the water station, I was again amazed at how easy the miles were feeling. I didn't feel like I was flying, and I didn't know how slow or fast I was going, or whether I would beat my PR of 27:11. I just felt good. Finally my stress had started to subside, and my mood had started to lift.

So I had some water on the run, and kept running. At some point the 5K runners and the marathoners must have split, but I was in a big crowd of blue-bibbers so I didn't think or worry too much about whether I was on the right course. Besides, there were no signs that I could see, and no one pointing and yelling about which way to go, so I stayed in my zone and stuck with the blue-bibbers.

Our trek started to head uphill after Mile 2.

About ten minutes after the water stop, I thought, "This is odd. We should be heading back to the starting/finish line by now. I looked around. Still quite a few blue bibs. But a lot of green bibs, too.

The guy in front of me had a blue bib pinned to the back of his shirt. At the top left-hand corner of the blue bib, I saw two little letters: HM.

"Hm," I thought. "H.M. I wonder what that means."

Then I had one of those smack-to-the-forehead moments. H.M. Half-marathon.

I looked behind me. There were blue bibs, sure, but probably 85% of the people I saw had green bibs.

"Hey," I said to an HM blue-bibber. "Did the 5K people split off yet?"

"Yeah, about a mile back," he said.


Maybe on a better day, and in better spirits, I would have laughed at myself, and I'll probably be laughing at myself by the time I finish writing this, but at the time my heart just sank to the bottoms of my worn New Balance 1222s.

I stopped. Hubster was waiting for me at the 5K finish, and he had to be at a camp work day for 9:00. I was supposed to finish at around 8:30, which would make him only a few minutes late. For a split second I considered just running the half-marathon (after borrowing a cell phone to call Hubster and tell him what I was doing), but I'd been in 5K mode for ... well, for about five kilometers, oddly enough ... and I simply didn't feel like running 10 more miles. Plus, I didn't know if Hubster had found my bag or not.

I borrowed a volunteer's cell phone. Tried to call Hubster. No answer. Tried to call my own cell phone. No answer. Dialed each number about three more times each. No answer. I was visibly frustrated. The volunteer kept saying nice things like, "I didn't realize the 5K people had split off. There were a LOT of blue bibs running by. And not all of them had HM on them, that I could see."

It didn't make me feel better. But it would make me feel better if I were to learn that I wasn't the only 5K person who missed the turn. So, if anyone hears of anyone else who found themselves in my predicament, I would be happy to hear about it.

By now, all of the half-marathon runners had passed and the cops were starting to let traffic through. I wanted to get back to where Hubster was, but only know my way around a very limited part of Asheville, and I wasn't sure where I was, or how to get back.

I was very frustrated. And now it was something like 8:45, which meant Hubster was going to be late for his work day, which he was supposed to be in charge of.

I finally got Hubster on his cell phone. And 30 minutes later he found me and picked me up. By then I was so frustrated (and embarrassed) that I just got into his car and fell into a tearful, rambling rant of self-directed negativity. "Twenty dollars, wasted. " "I am such an idiot." "I can't believe I made you get up at 6:30 on a Saturday so you could come watch me get lost when a veritable sea of runners somehow managed to go the right way." "I can't believe how stupid I am."

(A weird thing about my personality: I can bravely weather truly stressful times, but then I mercilessly beat myself up over dumb little insignificant things.)

Hubster told me everything was OK, and that I was an inspiration to him and that it was because of me that he had started a running program five weeks ago.

I drove home alone. I was depressed. I felt like I'd wasted my whole morning. I still feel like I've wasted my morning. It's 11:20 and I need to be home because the TV repair guy is going to be here "sometime between noon and 5." No time for the 11-mile long run I would normally have scheduled for today, but scheduled for tomorrow since I had the 5K today.

Then when I got home I realized I still had my Champion Chip. So I'll have to mail that back and hope they don't fine me the $30 they said they'd fine people who didn't return their chips.

I know I will laugh about this later, but right now I'm feeling really down. I guess my pride was bruised more than anything else. The same race last year was my first ever 5K, so this was going to be a fun "1-year anniversary" run.

Oh, well.

At least I got a nice t-shirt out of it.

Lessons learned:

1) Pay more attention to the alarm clock! Get to races with plenty of time to spare.

2) Even if you don't think you have time, take time to look at the course map before you start. (Duh.)

3) Apparently, lots of people sign up for 5Ks but end up switching to the half-marathon the morning of the race. So never assume you're in the right race because the people around you are masquerading as 5K racers!

Long-known lesson reinforced: Stories are more interesting to tell later when things don't go as planned. :) (Cases in point!)

(It took a while, but I'm already transitioning from the "frustrated and depressed" phase to the "smiling and shaking my head" phase. This is a good sign.)

Update: I'm not depressed anymore. I knew writing about it would help!

Update #2: Hubster had my bag and cell phone (and t-shirt!)

Update #3: The TV repair guy just called and is on his way! I will have time for my long run this afternoon!

I Got Some New Shoes

I went to Jus' Running yesterday because I needed new running shoes and was somewhat surprised to learn that New Balance no longer makes 1222s. And the 1223s are ugly and cost even more than the 1222s.

The 1223s are supposed to be really good shoes, but I've been needing to find a new non-1200-series pair. So I figured yesterday was the day. Even though the 1222s were the only comfortable pair I could find that comes in a 6.5 2A.

But I was a little sad. I guess they call the company "New Balance" because they're always bringing out NEW versions of old favorites, always keeping their customers just a little off BALANCE, never letting them sink too deeply into the easy chair of shoe-wearing habits.

I guess that's a good thing.

I ended up buying a pair of New Balance 858s, size 6.5 B. Strangely enough, they fit. Is it possible that all of this running has made my feet bigger?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Where I've Been All this Time

I was blogless for three weeks. And I've lived to tell the tale.

I didn't miss my blog at first. I thought it might be some kind of divine intervention to break me of my technology worship ... I mean, it just seemed too weird and act-of-Goddish that our computer, our telephone, our television, our stereo, and my blog all ceased to work, all during the same weekend.

I felt relieved when that happened. A little shocked, a tiny bit saddened, but mostly relieved. I have never liked having a TV anyway. And I never answer the phone anyway. And the stereo is really Hubster's toy, not mine. Most of my music comes from my iPod, iTunes radio, podcasts, internet sites like, and George.

And I was glad the blog was gone. I felt free. I'd become so tired of the blog. I felt oddly thankful that it had been taken away from me by some mysterious technological hiccup--one that apparently spoke and wrote in Thai. And I always had my piano blog.

Even though I would miss the computer eventually, I had several glorious days of silence when I knew I couldn't check my e-mail, not at work, not at home, not anywhere unless I dragged my butt (and my laptop) to a coffee shop. Which I only did a couple of times.

Then I realized that our wireless connection was still strong as ever and I could access the internet from my laptop at home. But I still rarely even turned it on.

Then I started to feel sad that my blog was gone. Sure, I'd put a lot of time and effort (three years and more than 1600 posts!) into it, but I'd backed everything up just the day before. I had lost nothing except for comments, which was a disappointment of course, but not a huge deal in the great scheme of things, at least blog-wise. I hadn't even lost my blogroll--it's all on Bloglines anyway.

But I missed y'all, dear readers, and I missed sharing my thoughts, insignificant and petty as they often are. So I finally wrote to Blogger and said, "Hey Blogger people, do you think you can figure out what happened to my blog?" And Nick of the Blogger Team got it back for me.

I've read, written, and responded to almost no e-mails for several weeks. No offense to anyone personally. It's been partly because of my unintended "technology fast," and partly because my job keeps me unbelievably focused. I like the job and am enjoying being part of the "team." It's not like my old job, where I was looking for every excuse to blog or e-mail or otherwise play because the work itself bored me to tears.

So, I don't know how much I'll be posting these days. But it's good to have my blog back.

P.S. Odd ... many of the words in this post didn't exist, or weren't know to me, ten and twenty years ago.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nick Restoreth My Blog

I found this e-mail when I got home this evening:

Hi there,

Thanks for writing in. I was able to restore that blog to
your account, so you should see it the next time you log in.


The Blogger Team

Bless you, Nick.

I'm back. Somebody send me a meme.

Update: If you are a blogger, you probably don't need to worry about losing your blog all of a sudden. But it's not a bad idea, ever, to back up material that you've put a lot of time and effort into. Just a thought.

Wanted: A Moment to Think, & a Moment to Write

Ever feel that way?

Work has been super-busy, particularly this week because I'm having to put in extra hours so I can leave early Friday--we have a piano group class at 4:00 in Asheville, which means I need to leave work no later than 2:00 or so.

Had a 2-hour lesson on Saturday afternoon. Awesome lesson. It wore me out, but it was a great lesson. I honestly think I may be playing better now than I've ever played in my life.

Prelude sounds great. I'll be playing it for the group class. I'm mainly working on speeding it up a bit, though Deborah said it sounds fine at the speed it is (about 76).

Fugue: She raved about how well I played the first two pages. The last four sounded good but not great. "You're not thinking in musical sentences." So I need to work on making the last four pages less of a run-on mess of notes. OK.

Liszt: I'm lingering a bit too much here and there, but for the most part it sounds good. I'm playing it for the group class, too.

Elfe: We worked on this one quite a bit. I'm pretty far along in it, actually. I can play the whole thing through, at a nice (but not fast) pace, in blocked chords. I'm starting to practice the broken chords.

That's all for now. It's 6:30 a.m. and I need to get ready for work!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I Like My Job

I like my job. I love the fact that I don't love my job. The network folks monitor employees' internet rambles, so I'm sure I'll get "caught" sooner or later for blogging.

Thing is, I punch out before I blog, and I punch in after I finish blogging. I work hard at this job. I work from the moment I walk in until the moment I leave, save for the 45 minutes or so I take mid-day to commune with Sebastian, Franzi, Bob, and the rest of them. The only bad thing I'm really doing is using the company system for blogging.

I work for a good company. I have a good, laid-back boss, and I work with some really great people. I've made some friends. Life is good.

Friday, September 7, 2007

What Should I Do?

It seems my blog is dead. Three years of blogging ... gone. I'm not sure what to do now. Should I just blog from here? Should I start a new blog that isn't just piano-related, since piano isn't the only thing in my life? I definitely don't want to use Blogger again. Should I go to squarespace or wordpress or one of the other blogging services?

I've actually been thinking about starting a piano podcast. As if I have the time.

I'm kind of depressed about this. Boo hoo. :(

Short & Sweet Schumann Session

I had a whopping 25 minutes available for practicing today. I spent most of it drilling this:

Have I mentioned that "Elfe" is a complex little piece for a small-handed pianist? I did? Oh, OK.

It was fun, though. It's really, er, stretching my capabilities.

Piano lesson tomorrow! I can't wait!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

45-minute practice

Thursday's practice session lasted all of 45 minutes. I basically flew out of a meeting at 12:00, got to the piano as quickly as I could, let time stand still as I practiced for 45 minutes, then ran back to the office for another meeting at 1:00.

Not much time to write at the moment. (Being important at a job has its perks, but it also means never being able to slack!) Here's what I focused on today:

This is "Elfe." After the usual scales and arps, I spent 20 minutes--20 whole minutes--on this itty-bitty little section. This sure is a complicated "intermediate" piece. It would help if I had Rach-sized hands, but oh well. I'm playing block chords in rhythms, only I can't play block chords in the last two chords of the LH in the section circled above. So, I'm in rhythms, going from block chords to rolled chords for two LH chords. I'm not playing fast, but my hands seem to be scampering elfe-like all over the place.

I also worked on the second 9-against-4 section of the Liszt. (I can't find it on the IMSLP, or I'd post it here for you.) Spent about 15 minutes on that single half-measure.

Last night at home, I worked on Bach. I can play the fugue through pretty smoothly, but each time I play it, little "speed bumps" come up here and there. So I drill and drill and drill the speed bump, and it ceases to be a problem, and allows me to focus on other speed bumps. The good news is, the speed bumps have been getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

So here's what I drilled for a good 20 minutes last night:

Yup. Three beats. Twelve notes per hand. For twenty minutes. That's all I worked on last night.

What makes this passage complicated is that the ups and downs are not quite in contrary motion. It would be so much easier if the RH and LH came toward each other at the same time, and went away from each other at the same time, as in a formal dance. It would also be a little simpler if the notes were even and in the order of the scale, with no thirds, held notes, etc. But no. Notice that the LH is a sixteenth-note behind the RH. I made arrows so you could see how the upward and downward motions of the LH are behind the RH by just a smidgen:

This is a speed bump keeps coming back every now and then. Kind of like a PMS zit. But twenty minutes of drilling fixed it.

Would that PMS zits were so manageable and fun!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I'm Late! I'm Late! But Franzi Wouldn't Wait!

Not a bad practice today. I started with the usual scales and arps and really, really focused on using my forearms and not just my hand/finger strength to strike the keys. This "fingery playing" is a technique issue I've been dealing with for some time, and habits are hard to break--particularly when no one's ever corrected the habit before. But the arm-thing has begun to feel more natural. I'm getting there.

My "intermediate" piece, "The Elf," is from a series of short pieces by Robert Schumann. Here's a blurb from Music Web International:

"The Albumblätter are twenty miscellaneous little pieces, sounding much like other miscellaneous little Schumann pieces; the playing is precise, dramatic, and idiomatic, but at times I found it hard to keep my attention on them, even though number 17, ‘Elfe,’ is a marvel of pianistic skill. Some may prefer these rather cool performances, but I look for those uniquely Schumann passions in this music and I don’t hear them here." -- Paul Shoemaker

"Elfe." That's the piece I'm learning. I like it with an "e" at the end.

Here's the main part of "Elfe" I worked on today:

To be honest, I'm not crazy about this piece; I much prefer the lushness of Liszt, or even of heavier Schumann pieces. But this one is a nice change of pace, and who knows--since it is "a marvel of pianistic skill," it might be a fun little encore piece, if I ever find my way to a concert stage of any kind (and if I ever learn to play it half-decently).

I didn't have much time after wrestling with "Elfe" for 25 minutes, but I wanted to touch on all the other pieces if nothing else. So I didn't spend a lot of time on the prelude and fugue. I spent last night's practice on a few glitches that had come up in the first two pages of the fugue, so I played through that section again today and it sounded nice. The prelude ... ahh. What a wonderful piece of music. And it is slowly becoming mine.

I really didn't have time for Liszt, but I couldn't stand to leave my practice session without at least checking in on him. (I don't know why I've adopted the principle, "Save the Liszt for Last," but I have. Actually, I do know why. Maybe I'll write more on that later.)

Sounded good. That piece is mine, too. Except for the second 9-against-4 measure, which continues to drive me batty.

Oddly enough, the first 9-against-4 is no longer a problem. It's played with passion and drive. But the second is a bit slower, and a lot more reflective. It's hard to give a sense of whimsical reflection while trying to play 9-against-4. It really is.

So I was late getting back to work. Sadness.

I love the way music messes with my mind. I got the giggles on the walk back to work, picturing a little elfe-like figure riding on the subway in D.C.: A Metro Gnome.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I'm Still Alive

I'm still alive. I'm just very, very, pre-occupied with the day job. I worked my first 45+ hour week last week, and I'm well on the way to my second.

We were gone all Labor Day weekend, camping near Boone, NC, home of the Appalachian State Mountaineers, who beat Michigan in football on Saturday. (Hubster is an Ohio fan and was delighted.) It was a pretty good weekend, but not a restful one.

"A Sort of Notebook" is gone. I'm glad it's gone. I was so tired of it. I don't know if I'm going to pick up blogging again, but if I do, you, dear readers, will be the first to know.

I managed to eke out 45 minutes of practicing today, most of it on Schumann's "The Elf." Last week was a disaster for practicing, as I didn't take one single lunch break all week, and then I was piano-less for the entire Labor Day weekend. My next lesson is Saturday, so I'm going to try for two practice sessions a day from here until then ... even if those sessions are only 15 minutes long.

I'm two weeks behind on e-mails and am trying to catch up while at work, but it's tough because a lot of my job lately has been spent sitting in meetings. So I haven't had much time or opportunity for "personal business" while at work.

This is just a quick update. More later.

Blogging Elsewhere

Hi, Strangers! I've been blogging with my friend Anh over at Then a Gentle Whisper . Check it out!