Monday, December 31, 2007


Warning: this is a ridiculously long post. Scroll down to the previous several posts if you want to see the pictures Rob took during the race!

This was my Second Worst Marathon Ever. The Worst was something like 5 years ago, when I made my marathon debut during a blizzard in Frederick, MD. Back then, my goal had been 4 hours (respectable for a beginner), and I’d ended up enduring a near death experience where I’d almost walked into the light, and then unceremoniously clawing my way to the finish line round about 4:20.

There was no blizzard today in Springfield, MO, but it was just about as unceremonious. To be honest, my training had been rather abysmal. During the taper, we’d been pummeled by snow and ice, so I’d done very little running for the past 3 weeks. Prior to that, I’d managed to do all the long runs, but I’d finished most of them on guts and adrenaline and practically crawling home. Factor in the dietary havoc of Thanksgiving and Christmas and the general chaos/lack of organization of today’s race, and I am beginning to see why this all spelled disaster.

The race was to start at 2:30pm (a departure from the traditional early morning marathon departure time) and was 8 loops around an approximately 3.1 mile course (plus an initial out and back of 1.4 miles). Oh, and in addition to the marathon, there was also a 5K, 10K, and half-marathon going on simultaneously. So pretty much, there were runners going in every direction and it was complete chaos. Also, the course was not closed to traffic. It was mainly through residential areas, but you did have to be extra-vigilant at the intersections (of which there were many), and constantly throughout the race, there were cars weaving in and out of the runners.

My first mile felt slow and easy, in fact, I felt great. My GPS beeped to let me know I’d gone 1 mile, and my time was 8 min 7 seconds. Just for reference, the pace for a 4 hour marathon is 9.09 miles. A 3: 45 marathon (which had been my super-secret goal) is 8.34. Either way, I’d gone out waaaaay too fast, which is a cardinal sin in marathon running. You never bank time in a marathon, because you will always lose it in the end.

I couldn’t settle into an even pace for the first several miles. One mile would be 8.17 and the next would be 8.47. I should point out at this time that I was relying completely on the GPS. There were absolutely no mile markers on the course and had I not had a GPS I would have had no way at all of gauging my pace. Plus, you were totally on your own for counting your laps. It might seem like a no-brainer to count out 8 laps, but in all honestly, through most of the race, I had no idea what lap number I was on. The initial out and back of 1.4 miles threw me, and when I started the first loop, I actually thought I was on loop 2. Again, if I wouldn’t have had the GPS, I would have had no clue how many more laps to go.

It also seems like, after having run 1 lap, it should have been fairly easy to stay on course because you’d seen it before. But honestly, there were parts of the race where it was very difficult to tell what direction to go; more than one time, I saw runners go in the wrong direction. Orange cones were somewhat haphazardly marking the turns, and there were never any volunteers telling you where to go. This was particularly confusing once it got dark and you could no longer see the cones. Coupled with the fact that the half-marathoners (who were doing 4 loops) were mainly done by then and you’d only see maybe a handful of other marathoners during an entire loop.

At any rate, I felt pretty good for the first 14 miles. Though my pace was somewhat erratic, I stayed on target for a 3:45 marathon. When I passed back through the start/finish area (the starting point of each lap) at mile 14 and saw Rob, instead of smiling and waving as per usual, my lower lip quivered and I said, “I don’t feel good.” My quads and calves hurt a lot. Nausea that I’d been trying to push away suddenly became impossible to ignore. I’d actually started feeling hungry around mile 5, but the thought of a carbohydrate/electrolyte packet (fuel of choice for marathoners round the world) made me grimace. Through most of my long runs, I had actually relied on dried mangos moreso than carbohydrate goo. Dried mangos seemed less offensive than goo, and luckily I’d brought some with me (stuffed in a side pocket of my pants), so I gnawed on those for a while. The problem, however, was that I get terrible stomach cramps if I try to take in stuff like that (even goo) without having water, and there was very little water out on the course. During each 3.1 mile loop, there was a water stop about 2.25 miles into it, and then another one at 3.1 where you started over. So I was waiting too long to intake calories and definitely not getting enough. Plus, by the time I made it to that water stop 2.25 miles into each loop, I was thirsty. Definitely a bad sign. You never want to be thirsty during a marathon, because at that point it is too late.

By about mile 17, I was feeling nauseated and weak enough to try to force feed myself a goo packet (these I had stuffed into my sports bra because they wouldn’t fit in my pocket… clever solution, I’d thought!), but by that point I was at least 10 miles too late to start intaking goo. Plus, even though I’d had a few sips of Gatorade early on at some of the water stops, by mile 17, (when I really needed it) even thinking of Gatorade made me want to wretch, and I just craved water.

It had been so bleak during that loop between miles 14 and 17 that I’d had to resort to my if-all-else-fails, ultimate contingency plan—the iPod. In the absence of cheering crowds (or even helpful volunteers), I was hoping that music would bring me back to life. This was waaaaaaaaay to early to hit the proverbial marathon wall. Unfortunately, something weird must have happened as I was “syncing” my iPod before the race, and instead of my carefully planned, ultra motivating marathon mix of music, a random assortment of songs came on. Most of which were songs I rarely listen to and certainly didn’t want to be listening to then. I still don’t know how that happened and why my usual playlist somehow got deleted.

Around mile 17 when I made it back to begin another loop where Rob was waiting at the start/finish area, I really really wanted to quit. Instead of taking my picture yet again (it may have been dark by that point, I really can’t remember), he said, “I’m going to run with you for a little while.” His hands were full of things he’d thought I might need—extra dried mangos, gloves and arm warmers, a bottle of lemon-lime Gatorade, and who knows what else. I’d thought he would only go a few meters or so, but he ended up staying with me for most of the loop. He got me through most of the difficult part of that loop—that first section before the long-awaited water stop. Then he cut back to get to the start/finish area where I would come through around mile 20. It was grim going in the dark mainly by myself after he’d left me. Just as I neared the spectating area, there was a woman standing by the road who must have seen the iron-on letters on the front of my shirt. “Go Auntie M!!” she hollered. In a lot of races, I’ve put my name on my shirt, and many other marathoners do too. There is just something about hearing someone cheer for you by name. You can be about dead and then someone claps and calls your name and it snaps you back to this world. Well, when this lady yelled, “Go Auntie M!” it was the first time anyone other than Rob had cheered for me the whole race. I broke out sobbing. I mean like, hysterical sobbing. “Thank you, “ I tried to call, but it came out as more of a whisper.

When I saw Rob again just after mile 20, he took off with me. Now, a marathon is 26.2 miles, but the real race doesn’t begin until mile 20. Somehow, the body can store enough energy to get you through 20 miles, but to go the last 6.2 you’ve got to dig deep down and find something else to keep you going. Particularly in my case, since I had long ago lost the ability to take in any more calories or electrolytes and just craved plain water.

By that point I had 2 laps left, and it was dark, and COLD. My hands wouldn’t work and my lips were numb. I felt like Rose in the movie Titanic. (Spoiler alert!) You know, when the ship has sunk and she is in the water, about dead of hypothermia, and then a rescue boat goes by and she calls out “Come back, come back” as it goes on past, but her voice is just the faintest whisper. Crazy things go on in your mind the last 6.2 miles of a marathon. You begin to realize how absolutely ridiculous it is that you are doing this. You wonder why you ever wanted to do this in the first place. You curse yourself because doing this was completely your decision—nobody’s making you do this—but now you’re in it and there is nothing do to but just finish. I was sick of it. Sick of that stupid loop (that wasn’t so well-lit afterall) and the stupid cars I had to look out for and the stupid water stops being too far apart.

Rob ran with me for every step during those last 2 wretched, wretched loops. I know that never in a million years would I have made it without him. He talked to me and told me stories. Rob had actually run the 5K in this event, and he told me that he’d finished 3rd place overall, and that it was so windy that when he finished his hair was sticking up like one of those troll dolls. He told me about how he powered through his half-Ironman a few years ago. He said that I didn’t have to run fast, I just had to run. And that was what I tried to do. 3:45 had fallen away not too long after mile 14. Now even finishing in 4 hours seemed like a long-shot. In spite of it all, I only slowed to a walk 2 times... just through that water stop, so that I would make sure to get the water inside me rather than splashed all over my shirt.

According to the GPS, mile 26.2 was fast approaching, but the finish line was nowhere in sight. I happened to look down at the GPS just as it rolled over to 26.2. My time was 3:55. When I finally crossed the finish line at 4:01 (actually it may have been 4:02), my GPS read 26.82. Almost a quarter mile too far. My gut feeling is that the GPS is pretty much right and the course was too long. But at that point I didn’t really care; my only thought was that I was glad to be done running. After I crossed the finish, Rob hugged me and I just stood there, sobbing inexplicably, in the cold and the dark.

The finish line was at the Trinity Lutheran Church, and Rob and I went inside where they had some baked goods, chili (blech, not vegetarian of course!), etc for post race re-fueling. As I was sitting there with a brownie in one hand and some Ritz crackers in the other, they started the awards ceremony. Come to find out, my abysmal race with my abysmal time was actually 3rd in the “20-29 year old female” division, and they gave me a cute little trophy. That almost took the sting out of such a wretched experience.

I’m still feeling pretty wretched; I can’t sleep so thought I might as well post this. Thank you so much to everyone for following along and thinking of me today. Especially my sister and aunt and mom and Rob's mom. I really felt you all with me, and that is the main reason why I was able to finish. I am eternally grateful to Rob, who did everything short of carry me on his shoulders to the finish line. There is no way I could have done this on my own; this one was truly a Team Ragfield event.

And thanks for reading this excessively long post. I’m going to sign off now and try to get some sleep.

--Auntie M.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Major Award

Melissa with medal and trophy, originally uploaded by ragfield.

Well, she struggled the last 1/3 - 1/2 of the race, but she made it. I ended up running along side her for the last 8 miles or so. It started getting dark. And cold. And many of the half marathon runners had finished, so there weren't very many people out on the course. And the course was not well marked. Melissa quipped that she would have gotten lost if I had not been running with her. I can believe it.

As she tired her pace dropped a bit. She had been on pace to run 3:45. Despite all the difficulties she still ended up finishing with an excellent time of 4:01, which was good enough for 3rd place in her age group (and despite what Melissa might have you believe, I think there were more than 3 people in her age group running the race). Here she is pictured with her major award, a horse trophy.

I'll let her fill you in on the gory details in a follow up post. Now it is time to go eat pizza (a treat which Melissa saves exclusively for post-marathon meals).


Melissa with brownie in hand, originally uploaded by ragfield.

Five laps down

End of lap 4, originally uploaded by ragfield.

16.9 miles @ 2:28:35

Four laps down

End of lap 3, originally uploaded by ragfield.

Melissa just finished her fourth lap. She was 2:00:59 for 13.8 miles. As she ran by she said she didn't feel well :(

Three laps down

End of lap 2, originally uploaded by ragfield.

1:33:48 for 10.7 miles.

I ran the 5K race that started at the same time and finished in third place in 19:59.

Two laps down, six to go

End of first lap, originally uploaded by ragfield.

Melissa just fished her second 5K lap following an initial 1.4 mile out and back. She has six 5K laps to go. She was 39:08 @ 4.5 miles, and 1:06:29 @ 7.6 miles.

Registration is complete

Waiting to register, originally uploaded by ragfield.

The race begins at 2:30.

4 hours till go time

The Ragfields have arrived in Springfield, MO and the marathon is a mere 4 hours away. Rob is going to take pictures during the race and upload them to the blog while I’m still running, so if you want to, you can follow along. That doesn’t make me feel pressured or anything… not like I have to look good unedited in addition to running fast. In fact, if you don't want follow along, that's fine with me.

Here are some pictures we took while on the road:

Gateway to the west

The Ragfields have entered Missouri

Artsy shot of Iris

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Feliz Navidad

Christmas Part 1 took place at Nana and Grampy’s on the 22nd, and a good time was had by all. Aunt Marcia surprised me with a giant box comprised of all sorts of Melissa-themed items. The box was full of all sorts of Nicaraguan, vegetarian, running, and monkey memorabilia. Each item was individually wrapped, so it seemed like it took me about an hour to get through it all. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the box was actually one of the smallest things—a howler monkey charm (like for a bracelet or necklace). I couldn’t get over it. It looks exactly like Wrinkle Belly. I had no idea such a thing even existed. As soon as we got home, I found a necklace to put it on and have been wearing it ever since.

Melissa opening some monkey socks from Nana and Grampy

Aunt Marcia

Rob and Melissa and Nana


On Christmas Eve it was on to Rick and Nan’s (my parents) for Christmas at the Windchime. The real party started when my nephew—just short of 12 months old—arrived. Its been a long time since my family has had a small child at a Christmas celebration. Logan is in the stage of constant motion and exploration, so it was quite difficult to get him to slow down enough to open his gifts.

The gals

Logan and his Caterpillar truck

Auntie M trying --with some success--to feed Logan taters.

The biggest surprise was on Christmas Eve night, when we were opening gifts at my parents’ house. A mystery gift was delivered to me, and the tag said it was from Santa (but it was written in Rob’s handwriting). When I opened the box, there were several other wrapped gifts inside—one each for my parents, my sister, and me. I doled out the other gifts and we all opened them at once. It was a book: Nicablogua: The Story of My Dissertation Fieldwork. Santa—with the help of Rob—had printed Nicablogua into a 200-page, full color, hardback book. It was out of this world to be sitting there, holding my own words in my hands, seeing all of my adventures printed out on paper. We all sat around in silence, leafing through the volume. Finally someone would say, “Look at that picture on page 82!” and we would turn to the page. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

On Christmas day, my grandmas and auntie came over. They looked through the blog book and it was such a hit that we all almost forgot to eat Christmas dinner. Rob had printed a copy for my aunt and when we gave it to her she just couldn’t stop crying. She had me sign her copy—my first book signing.

Alright, its time for me to go and continue in the family Christmas festivities. My current project is teaching Logan how to howl like a howler monkey, which is something I'm sure his parents will enjoy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Solstice Eve

Today, among other things, is the day before the winter solstice. I have been looking forward to this for some time. Hopefully I'll be able to get more accomplished once the days start getting longer.

In other news, I received an email from Eduardo yesterday. It was short, just "Como estas, Meli" and he said that Rob and I were "muy vonito" in the snow photos I had sent him. I was on cloud 9 all day though. Its the first I've heard from Eduardo in more than a month, and I am much relieved to be assured that he is still there.

Now, I'll address some recurring questions that people have been asking me.

Firehouse Spaghetti-- this was actually spaghetti consumed at the firehouse. Unkie John is a firefighter, and every December the fire station has a spaghetti supper fund-raiser.

The differences between apes and monkeys
Compared to monkeys, apes have:
  • a very flexible shoulder (for suspensory locomotion)
  • larger body size
  • larger relative brain size
  • longer infant dependency
  • highly complex social pattern (though there are some exceptions)
  • 5 cusps on their molars (monkeys have only 4)
And finally, what is a cladogram?
A graph depicting evolutionary relationships among groups.

I'd put an example of one on here, but that would be waaaaay too educational. If you really want to see one, come to the class I'm teaching next semester.

Thanks for reading and happy solstice.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winter Weather

Although the official start of “winter” is not for several more days, winter is definitely upon us. We got pummeled with more snow starting on Saturday morning, when I was supposed to do a 12-mile run—the last semi-long run before the marathon. I just couldn’t do it, and at this point, I decided that any more long runs would do me more harm than good. I managed about 3 miles into what seemed to be a blizzard and then called it quits. That last 20-miler in the sleet really did a number on me; I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet.

This past weekend was a big one for holiday parties. We had Rob’s work party on Friday night and then a neighborhood block party and Cara and John’s holiday party both on Saturday night, and finally another party on Sunday night After skipping a 12-mile training run, there’s nothing like going to a bunch of parties and loading up on holiday treats to get you into marathon form.

On Sunday, Rob and I borrowed Aimee and Brett’s cross country skis and headed over to the park to glide around on the mounds of fresh snow we had gotten the night before. The only hill in the C-U area is at the park near our house, so there were a ton of kids and families there sledding. I’ll bet Eduardo would have loved it. Rob actually skied down the hill, but I didn’t press my luck. I pretty much suck at cross country skiing (to me it seems more like ice-skating than running), but I sure had a good time. That is, until the sole fell off of Aimee’s ski boot. I feel really bad for possibly destroying Aimee’s boots, but I am hopeful that they can be fixed with some combination of duct tape, super glue, and nails. At any rate, walking back home (barefoot, uphill, through the snow) with a sole-less ski boot didn’t help with my issue of cold feet, but at least I didn’t have to go too far.

At first, Rob tried to ride over to Aimee and Brett's to pick up their skis. That didn't work out too well.

I emailed these pictures to Leda in Ometepe and she replied that she was sorry there was so much snow and she thought that we needed to come back to Ometepe where the climate is much nicer. She thanked me for the photos and said that I looked good and that Rob looked very elegant (“muy elegante”). Bless her heart.

Monday was a big day for me. I went to Cara’s (er… Ms G’s) school and gave talks to 4 of her 6th grade classes about howler monkeys. Or rather, I answered questions. I didn’t even need to prepare anything… the students started firing questions at me the moment they entered the classroom. The best thing about 6th graders is their inquisitiveness. It was refreshing to be in a classroom like this after having spent a semester in a lecture hall of 750 strung out college students who could care less about anything.

My favorite questions that the 6th graders asked:
  • Did you spend your birthday in Nicaragua? (And they were highly amused when I told them that, in fact, I had spent my birthday in a Nicaraguan hospital).
  • According to the theory of evolution… (I don’t actually remember what this student’s question was, but give him a gold star for prefacing it that way. Plus, he actually drew a cladogram, which made me want to give him a big hug).
  • What kind of person would be good at becoming a primatologist? (Good question! I'm not even sure that I'm the right person for the job!)
  • Did you and Ms. G. meet in high school or college? (Not about the monkeys, but compelling nonetheless).
And the best thing by far was that Ms. G had already taught them the difference between a monkey and an ape. When I got there, the first thing I did was put up a big picture of a chimpanzee and ask them whether they thought it was a monkey or an ape. 30 hands shot up in the air and they all told me that it was an ape because it did not have a tail. I was floored. That’s amazing. Ms. G deserves the teacher of the year award for teaching them that. Hopefully they remember it all through their lives. Every primatologist dies a little inside when there’s a TV show or commercial with a chimpanzee and they’re calling it a monkey. There are a lot of differences between monkeys and apes—the one that is perhaps the most visible and easiest to remember is that monkeys have tails and apes do not. We taught this to our class of undergrads this semester—going over the information repeatedly and in great detail. Plus, we told them flat out that it was going to be on the final exam. 37% of them still missed it, which—all things considered—isn’t as shabby as I thought it was going to be.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Taper

On Saturday I did my second (of 2) 20-mile marathon training runs. Much like the first one a couple weeks ago, it was cold and sleeting and I hadn’t eaten a proper dinner the night before. This time it was considerably more icy though. Most of the sidewalks in the neighborhoods were covered by a thin film of ice still leftover from Thursday night. I did about 8 miles of the run on a 2-mile loop in the park near our house because the sidewalks there had mostly been cleared off. For the rest of it, I mainly stuck around areas of campus where the sidewalks were good and salted. But still. Being gingerly about randomly appearing slicks of ice slowed me down a lot. Not to mention the wind and freezing rain. In fact, it took me about 45 minutes longer to finish the run than it should have. The extra time certainly wasn’t helping my suddenly insatiable hunger that emerged at mile 2.8. Yikes, there was still a long way to go at that point. By sheer force of will, I waited to slurp my “Hammer Gel” until mile 7, and that sustained me until about mile 10. Then I swung by our house again, where I had stashed about 20 oz of Gatorade and some dried mangos on the front porch. I don’t know what it is about them, but dried mangos really do the trick for me on these long runs. I gulped my whole bottle of Gatorade (something I never do) and wolfed down 3 big pieces of dried mango.

Once I got to mile 12, I began the Countdown to the Taper. When training for a marathon, you build up your mileage over several months, and after a peak mileage week about 3 weeks before the marathon, you begin to taper it down. After months of practically running yourself into oblivion, during the taper you just concentrate on not getting injured or sick and on eating whole wheat pasta. Your training is essentially over—you’ve done all you can. Prior to this icy 20-mile run, I had actually not been looking forward to the taper. The reason being is that I love running, and during the taper, you do a lot less of it. All of a sudden it could not come soon enough. With every footfall, I was saying to myself (okay, and sometimes out loud too), “8 miles until the taper…” then “7 miles until the taper…” and so on. Finally I staggered in home—covered in frost and ice (ice had actually collected in my eyelashes)—but nearly euphoric to have actually survived to the taper.

I was exhausted but managed to keep going in the afternoon. We were out of everything that sounded good to eat, so I went to the grocery store, and then in the evening we went to Unkie John’s Firehouse Spaghetti Supper. Afterwards, everybody came back to our place to watch a movie. About 5 minutes into it, I passed out on the couch. For a while Rob kept trying to wake me up, but eventually I crawled back to our room and fell asleep with my clothes on and didn’t even hear everybody leave when the movie got over.

After running 20 miles in sleet and freezing rain, you feel awful pretty much everywhere—not just your legs and feet. Your arms and shoulders hurt. Your lungs hurt. Your head feels like a boiling tea kettle. You eat so much that your jaws hurt from chewing but you are still hungry. On Sunday, Rob and I both woke up with sore throats and stuffy noses. If it was just me feeling sick, I would blame it on the run, but Rob felt the same, so it must be something else. I’ve been taking Airborne, but I don’t think that stuff actually does anything. I think I need a rest, but this has suddenly become crunch time for absolutely everything in my life. That’s probably one of the reasons why I run—to ignore all the other things that I really should be doing. Now that I’m on the taper, I can suddenly see how much everything has piled up!

On that note, I need to get going. Here are a few pictures of the ice storm and some older ones of our Christmas tree:

Pulling in home from the Christmas tree lot: it looks like our car Iris is puking up a Christmas tree.

The tree un-decked.
("A lot of sap in here. A little full. Lot of sap." -- Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation)

The tree, decked (view from outside):

Blurry ice at night

Friday, December 7, 2007

Let it snow

It started snowing yesterday evening while we were at Aimee and Brett’s I had forgotten how, even when its practically the new moon, snow makes it seem so bright out at night.

I think these pictures will be better to send to Leda and the crew back on Ometepe. Its hard for me to believe that its 90 degrees there. This is the season when the leaves begin to fall and poor Wrinkle Belly had nothing to eat but the tiny purple flowers on the Chaperno tree. I hope he and Toby and Matlida and Stacy and Horace all find those flowers again this year.

Thanks for reading.

Don't let this fool you--I shoveled for about 40 minutes before Rob came out!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Welcome, Vivian!

I'm a couple days late posting this, but Vivian--my first niece!--has arrived!! From the photos I've seen, she is lovely. I can't wait to meet her later this month!

Today was our First Snow. When we woke up this morning there was a light dusting over everything. It was a little slippery out, but I still rode my bike to school and it was okay. Here are a couple of pictures I took outside our house. I think I'll send them to Leda (a Nicaraguan friend) and see what she thinks!

Birch tree in our back yard

View from my office window

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Don't sleet on my parade

While one of my dearest friends was having a baby last week, my life simply proceeded at its usual pace. The weekend proceeded at an even faster pace—kicked off on Friday evening by a visit from Derek, another one of my oldest and dearest friends. He brought his dog, Ravage, with him. Now, I am not a dog person. I’ve never been a dog person, and that whole incident with Scooby out in the forest really sealed the deal for me. But Ravage is a whole other story. I love this dog like no other. All 8 pounds of him. When it came time for Derek to go, I clung to the dog and begged him to let me keep him. Needless to say, I was not successful, but hopefully Derek will visit again soon so that I have another chance to see the dog.

Saturday was chock full of plans. In the morning, I had some work to do, and then in the afternoon Rob and I were going to go see a free showing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at the Virginia Theatre downtown. Immediately after the movie was the “Parade of Lights”—in which Rob and I had big plans to participate. We were going to ride our tandem bike with the bike club, and Rob had spent many long hours wiring up a string of lights with which to decorate our bike. Immediately after that was Soupalooza (spelling?)—a little soup party we were having at Aimee and Brett’s.

Plans had to change a little when the misty air turned to rain, the rain turned to sleet, and the rapidly dropping temperatures turned the wet roads and sidewalks in to treacherous sheets of ice. Seriously, I almost broke my neck when I went to take my crock pot of soup (Sweet Potato. Leek, and Kale Chowder) over to Aimee’s for later that night. After I got home from the soup drop off, I found Rob in the garage, busily decorating our bike with red felt bows and twinkling lights. As much as I wanted to bike in the parade, I could not shake my recent near death experience just trying to walk on the ice, and I did not think that two skinny wheels were a good idea. Apparently neither did anyone else, because shortly thereafter we received word that the parade had been cancelled due to inclement weather. Nuts. I guess we’ll have to wait until next year. In the end, we took our car to go watch the movie and then headed straight to Soupalooza, where we ate a lot of soup and had a great time with our friends.

Today was my day to do a 12-mile marathon training run. This is a fallback week in terms of mileage because last weekend I did my first 20-miler (which went really well, all things considered). My plan, perhaps a bit ill-conceived, was this: run 4 miles over to Centennial Park, where the Jingle Bell Run was to be held. Run the Jingle Bell Run (3.1 miles). Run back home (another 4 miles). Call that close enough to 12.

It would have worked if (again) not for the weather. When I started out, it was misting, but by the time I got about 2 miles from home, cold rain was coming down in sheets so thick I couldn’t see 3 feet in front of me. I ended up calling Rob from Jerry’s IGA, and he came and got me in Iris. Rob, however, was not cold and shivering (like I was) and still wanted to head over to run the race. I was not so eager, but I didn’t want to go back home if he was going to be running. So we headed onto the park, and the rain quit almost as soon as we got there.

To say that I was completely soaked to the bone would be an understatement, but these are the only words I can come up with, so we’ll have to go with it. Standing around, wet and cold, for about 40 minutes until the race began was unpleasant to say the least. My lips were blue and my soaking feet were beyond numb. It was a relief to finally begin the race, and I took off like a bat out of hell. I hit my first mile at 7:16. I had no idea I had it in me. Even heading into the wind for part of mile two didn’t slow me down that much; my split at the second mile marker was 14.36. The wind really picked up during mile 3, but I gritted my teeth and pounded it out to the finish line in 22:37. I could hardly believe it. These are the kind of 5K times I could post back in the day, when I was a running fool and not stressed about grant proposals or dissertations. I ended up being the 4th woman finisher overall and the 2nd in my age group. Before you get too excited though, I should point out that probably only half a dozen women actually ran the race, so its not like there was a huge field of contenders. But I wasn’t running for prestige or esteem; I was running just to run and to see if I still had some speed in me, which it turns out that I did.

Rob did pretty dang good himself. He was 13th overall and 1st in his age group. His time was a blisteringly fast 19:11. He'd been hoping just to break 20:00, so he was more than pleased. He reported to me that those were the first, second and third fastest miles he’s run in 3 years. Rob and I each got little plaques for our age group awards. The funny part was that the announcer had our names spelled wrong, so when they called Rob up to get his award, they announced, “Bob Ragnet-Scholfield.” Cara and I both cheered enthusiastically, “Alright Bob!! Way to go Bob!!”

I completely scrapped my attempt to finish off a 12-miler and just came home after the race. Hours later I still haven’t completely thawed out from the whole experience. I wish Ravage were here to curl up at my feet and keep them warm!! That’s all for now, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Welcome, Shay

I can't believe it. My best friend is having a baby.... right now, as I type, she is in the hospital, in labor. All I can do is pace around and wring my hands.

See Amy's blog for updates....

And if you want to help, click here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I have not abandoned the blog; its just been a while since I took the time to write. Bad luck from breaking the mirror doesn’t seem to be following me: Rob got home safely after having a great trip to California, and I have continued marathon training and pursuing the PhD.

We’re currently knee-deep in family Thanksgiving fun time, which is taking us to 3 different states and lasting more than a week. We started out the odyssey last Saturday with a brunch at Rob’s parents’ house (actually for numerous family birthdays rather than Thanksgiving) and then on Sunday Rob and I went up to Chicago, where Rob did his first ever cyclo-cross race. Rob’s most recent bike purchase (that I know of) is a cyclo-cross bike—which is a bike that is pretty much a road bike with knobby tires. Its designed for use on rugged conditions, like trails, etc. The cyclo-cross race we went to on Sunday was on a trail that had various obstacles set up, including barriers to jump over (as in, get off the bike, pick it up, and run) and a sand pit. Cousin Scott (a cycling aficionado himself) drove down to meet us and watch the race. Despite the seemingly arctic temperatures (I had on about 10 layers of clothing and was still shivering), it was a lot of fun. Once the race started, Scott and I were running around the course to cheer on Rob and take pictures. Rob was doing really great until maybe his second or third loop when he had some trouble traversing the sand pit. I won’t get into the gory details here; let it suffice to say, he suffered a minor injury and ended up not finishing the race, but everything is a-ok now. After a bit of recovery, we went with Scott to the world’s only vegan fast-food restaurant to refuel. Then it was on to the Rockford-area, where we stayed with my sister!

Pre-race practice ride

And they're off!

The first barrier: check out that vertical leap.

The dreaded quick-sand

I was really happy to see my sister, her husband, and of course my little nephew—10 months old. Little Logan is so busy now. He is crawling around all over the place now and he also enjoys standing and wobbling bipedally. He grins and giggles at everything, and he just loves to play and play. I spent most of the day Monday playing with Logan, but I did get a little bit of work done while he was napping.

On Tuesday I became the Visiting Lecturer, and I went up to give a talk at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. At some point during the year that I was on Ometepe, I met a UWSP professor who was visiting the island, and he had asked if I would ever be interested in coming up to give a lecture in Wisconsin. Of course I said yes and then kind of forgot about it until he contacted me again this fall to work out a time that I could come up. Luckily, my sister lives about halfway between Urbana and Stevens Point, so I could combine the trip with some family fun time as well. The week of Thanksgiving was about the only time it worked out for me—the U of I students are on break, so I don’t have to be on campus, but the UWSP students still have class.

So I got up very early on Tuesday morning, put on my Lecture Pants (long story, former Anth 102 TA’s will know), and set off for Stevens Point. The lecture itself was not so worrisome to me: I could talk about howler monkeys in my sleep (and I probably do). The only thing I was a little bit worried about was driving up there. To let the truth be known, I absolutely hate driving and I always have. I especially hate driving because I have absolutely no sense of direction and it is very easy for me to get completely turned around and have no idea where I am. But it all ended up just fine. The only thing even remotely scary was driving through Madison during rush hour, and even that was a piece of cake. I arrived in Stevens Point with plenty of time and I gave my talk to a decently-packed lecture hall of about 50 people. It ended up being a great experience because it forced me to sit down and work with my data, coming up with something definitive to say about my year on Ometepe. And presenting it during a talk at Stevens Point was much more non-threatening than presenting these findings to my committee—which I’ll have to do anyway—but at least this gave me a practice run.

When I was done being the Visiting Lecturer, I headed back to my sister’s place. My parents had also come up to Michelle’s during the day on Tuesday so that we could have a bit of a family reunion there. It was really nice to have some time with the fam; in fact, Rob and I stayed around for most of the day on Wednesday too. Auntie M always gets a little bit weepy when it is time to leave little Logan, but this time wasn’t nearly as bad as last April when we were going back to Nicaragua and I knew it would be months and months before I saw him again.

Catch him if you can

The flamily

Now its on to the next phase of our Thanksgiving Odyssey: the actual Thanksgiving Dinner today at Nana and Grampy’s. I’d better get going; have got to run 5 miles this morning and then make some hors d’oeuvres to take over this afternoon. I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving! Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 9, 2007

As luck would have it

For years I refused to own a full-length mirror; in fact, I considered writing my memoirs and entitling them A House With No Mirrors. Well, after we moved into our new house, I broke down and bought a full-length mirror. It was nice to have, because the bathroom mirror only affords me a view from the neck up. Occasionally before going out in public, it is nice to know if my outfit matches.

This morning I noticed that the mirror looked a little filmy, so I decided to clean it. Now, I should point out that Rob and I never actually got around to finding a place to hang up the mirror: its just been sitting propped up against the wall. Anyway, I set about cleaning the mirror, and as I walked away, I heard a spectacular crash. Yes, it had fallen to the floor and shattered into a million pieces. I began the task of cleaning it up and thought grimly, well at least I’m not superstitious—otherwise I’d have 7 years of bad luck ahead of me.

As I reflected on the fact that I am not superstitious, I couldn’t help but recall Scooby’s death—which occurred on a Friday the Thirteenth. And then all of a sudden I remembered that while I was running last night, a black cat had darted out and crossed my path. Yikes. It looks like I’m in for it.

I’m now wondering if there is something I can do to possibly distill all this impending bad luck. Like throw salt over my shoulder? Or is that for something else? At any rate, I thought I’d write about it because if nothing else, maybe all this makes for a mildly amusing story.

In other news, I had an email from Leda today who filled me in on all the happenings on Ometepe. I hadn't heard from Eduardo in a while, so I'd asked her how he was doing. She assured me that he was fine and very busy studying English as always. No word on Wrinkle Belly though; I can only assume he's gearing up for the season of flowers.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Things NOT to do before (and during) a 17-mile run

--Do not go to a cocktail party the night before.
--Do not go to said cocktail party on bike*
--On the night before the training run, do not have a light dinner of cereal and soymilk.
--Do not go to bed at 11:30pm and then wake up at 4am to take your husband to the airport **
--After returning from the airport, do not try unsuccessfully to go back to sleep (being unsuccessful because you are too cold).
--Do not eat cereal and soymilk for breakfast, because that will only make you colder.
--Do not drink coffee to warm yourself up, because that will power you to attempt to analyze your data for 4 hours.
--Do not sit there analyzing your data until lunchtime and then decide to go run 17 miles instead of eating lunch.
--Do not attempt to make up for lack of lunch by eating a large quantity of dried mangos, and then heading out the door for the 17 mile run.
--Do not start out running 8:00 miles; it might feel great at the beginning, but by the end you will be shuffling along at 11 minute pace.
--Do not veer wildly off course and speed up maniacally at mile 5-ish because you saw your dissertation advisor out on his bike and you don’t want him to see you for two reasons:
1) You are wearing spandex running capris
2) He will think that you should be working on your dissertation instead of running.
--Do not run on Mattis, even if its only from John to University.
--Do not go without Gatorade and also decide that you do not need Clif Shots (carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement).
--Do not do the whole run on just 20 ounces of water.
--Do not mis-judge the distance and actually end up going 17.4.

*Only the Ragfields would show up at a black-tie event on their tandem bike.
** Note: The alarm clock didn’t go off until 4:45, but I woke up a full 45 minutes before.

In spite of doing all these things, I had a really great 17 mile training run today. For my first couple of marathons, I was really persnickety about preparing for the weekly long runs, but this time I have been nothing short of blasé. A few weeks ago I had a really tough 12-miler, but doing 17 miles today was totally a piece of cake. I couldn’t believe it, especially considering that I started out the run kind of hungry and already dehydrated. There was a little bit of gnawing around mile 4.5, but I thought, this is way too early to chug my Clif Shot. I wanted to wait until I was at least halfway into the run to slurp those precious carbs and electrolytes, but once the gnawing passed, I never felt the need for it again.

When I got home, I turned on the TV and found a channel that was showing some of the highlights from today’s New York City Marathon. Even though I had thought I was pretty tired, I somehow found the energy to jump up and down, screaming, “Go, Paula, go!” as Paula Radcliffe tore through the last couple of miles. When she crossed the finish line in first place, I was sobbing in hysteric joy; I had no idea I was such a Paula Radcliffe fan—maybe it was just the endorphins.

At any rate, it sounds like Rob had a much more eventful day than me, including: Cinnabon at O’Hare, a bike ride through Golden Gate Park, a visit to the ocean, and seeing the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge and bay. Though I never like it when he is gone, I am thrilled for him. From his email snippets, it sounds like he is having such a great time. I hope that somehow in the midst of all these bike rides he’s got planned, that he does actually find the time to go to the workshop he’s supposed to be attending this week. I will be lonely without him, but I’m keeping my spirits up with big plans to cook with things he doesn’t really like but I do, such as mushrooms and sweet potatoes.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

I am way behind on the posting and don’t really have any time to write now, but I’m afraid you all will think I’ve abandoned the blog if I wait any longer.

This past weekend was party, party, party… We had a party on Friday night at our place for Rob’s birthday, and I think it went pretty well. I am always nervous when hosting a party or even having people over for dinner because I never know if its going to turn out well or if they will like the things I make. Plus, with Rob’s party we were mixing groups of friends—that is, the invitees were from different walks of our lives and didn’t all know each other. My experience with mixing groups of people who don’t know each other is that it doesn’t always go so well, but this time it ended up great and everyone was talking and in general having a good time. Plus, people seemed to like the things I fixed to eat, so that was a plus. The most popular food item was an apple dip I made; here, I’ll include the recipe (note, I don’t ever measure anything):
  • Cream cheese (I used about 1/2 package of reduced fat)
  • Brown sugar (maybe about 1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla extract

I stirred it up and it was quite a hit, spread on granny smith or gala apples.

We had an Anth Halloween party on Saturday night that I technically was not invited to but I went anyway. Every year for the last 100 years Prof Pablo has had a Halloween party—complete with a pumpkin carving contest—but this year I had heard nothing about it, so I was actually getting quite worried that Pablo was sick or something. Then, come to find out, my name had been left off the email list and there was a party afterall. I was in a pinch to come up with a costume so I put on a safari hat, sewed some fake spiders to my field pants, and carried a data book—I went as a primatologist (with spiders crawling all over her). How original.

Sunday was followed up by another birthday party at for Rob at his parents’ house. More yummy things to eat, and of course, chocolate cake. Rob and I are about the point where we think we might need to go on a diet after all these parties. That will be difficult with a large quantity of leftover brownies sitting in our kitchen, plus a bowl full of Halloween candy for the trick-or-treaters.

Speaking of which, happy Halloween. Its never been my favorite, maybe because it’s the last day of October, which is my favorite month. I’ll just have to remember to go running early this afternoon so that I’m not running in to trick or treaters. Our neighbors told us that there are usually quite a lot of kids who come by, so hopefully we have enough candy.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Comeback Kid

Rob used to be just about the biggest name (or at least longest name) in Illinois and Indiana triathlons—until one fateful year when he posted a super-fast time at the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, and sadly, his knee was never the same after that. Biking didn’t seem to bother his knee like running did, so for several years, he contented himself by being strictly a cyclist. Recently he’s been coming back to running bit by bit, always cautious of the knee. He had been tentatively planning on making his comeback to the world of multi-sport at a duathlon (run and bike) this weekend in Marshall, Illinois.

Then of course came that whole car accident thing, and I thought for sure that the duathlon was out. Despite his injuries, Rob decided he wanted to try it. So on Friday after work, we packed our tent, sleeping bags, and Rob’s gear into Iris and took off for the Lincoln Trails State Park—where the duathlon was to begin.

We passed through Paris, Illinois on the way to the park. Nothing like its namesake, I can assure you.

As we got to the park and started setting up the tent, one of the tent poles snapped, which definitely complicated things. In the increasing darkness, Rob somehow managed to cobble the tent pole back together into a usable fashion, so disaster was avoided. I was impressed.

I had brought plenty of warm clothes with me, but no matter how many layers I piled on, it was still cold in our tiny little tent. When morning dawned I don’t think either Rob or me wanted to unzip the tent flaps and brave the even colder air outside.

Nonetheless, it had to be done. Rob got himself ready, and before I knew it, it was time for the race to begin.

I wandered briefly, trying to find a good place to stand. Apparently they were short on volunteers; I’d only been there a minute or so when somebody came and asked me if I could go stand over at the corner and direct the runners/cyclists as they came in. So I thought I might as well. It was pretty fun being an impromptu race volunteer, but unfortunately, it made it difficult for me to get any good pictures of Rob. Here’s the best I could do:

Rob did pretty darn good. He got 7th (or maybe 8th ?) overall and was the 1st finisher in the 25-29 age group. A pretty sweet comeback. They gave him some kind of swiss army knife thing for a prize; neat. Anyway, I am really happy for Rob.

After the race we drove around the park and took some photos of the beautiful fall foliage.

Well I’ve got tons of work to do this weekend, but I think its too beautiful to do any of it! I guess it will just have to wait until I get October out of my system. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Squirrel Evacuation

The class I’m a teaching assistant for is one of the biggest classes offered by the university: there were originally about 750 students enrolled, although after the first exam that number has dropped significantly. Today midway through class, some students in the front of the lecture hall started screaming in terror, and pretty soon the entire auditorium was filled with a pandemonium of shrieking students running for the door. It turns out that a squirrel—having somehow entered through the vents or rafters— had jumped down from the balcony onto the main level and was running loose through the auditorium.

For crying out loud.

It was just a squirrel!! Was all of that screaming and running really necessary? Have these people ever been outdoors before? Squirrels are everywhere!

At any rate, the professor retained her as cool as a cucumber persona and calmly asked the students to leave the auditorium while we tried to get the squirrel out.

It seemed like it wouldn’t be too difficult to usher the squirrel towards one of the many doorways leading outside, but it wasn’t proving to be easy. Plus there were still a bunch of students who stayed in the auditorium, chasing the squirrel around and trying to take pictures of it with their cell phones.

Now, the majority of my up close and personal squirrel experiences come from Lucy, the Nicaraguan squirrel who loved me for the cookies I gave her. But this was a fabled U of I Quad Squirrel, who was scared senseless and not nearly as sweet or tame as dear Lucy. Plus, squirrels are pretty fast. One minute it would be at the back of the auditorium, the next minute it would be up on the stage.

Today was a Thursday—so all of the students who are in the military always wear their uniforms. There were a couple of guys in military uniforms who took it upon themselves to organize the rest of us, formulate a plan, and finally get the squirrel outdoors. This one at least, was a military success. Mission accomplished.

Nonetheless, by this point, it had taken so long and been so distracting that any hope of continuing the lecture had been disbanded. As the professor and TA’s stood in the mainly deserted lecture hall, sort of shaking our heads at all of this, who else should appear in the doorway but good old S.L. and C.R. (another professor in the department). I guess one or both of them had been walking across the quad and seen this mass exodus of students pouring out of Foellinger Auditorium, so they came in to check and see what had happened. Luckily it was not as huge of a crisis as the screaming of the students would have indicated, and everyone ended up safe. Hopefully even the squirrel.

You just never know what’s going to happen! Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Conference Time

Over the weekend, both Rob and I had conferences to attend. Rob’s was a computer conference here in town; mine was a regional primate conference about 3-1/2 hours to the south. I left on Friday afternoon with a bunch of other grad students from my program—some of whom were genuinely interested in primatology, and some of whom were more interested in a change of scenery.

In years past, this Mid-West primate conference has been awe-inspiring and fabulous, but this year I just felt kind of … meh. Maybe its because Carbondale is about the least vegetarian-friendly place I’ve ever been (and I’ve visited Texas), and it was just that I was hungry the whole time. Or maybe it was because our supposedly “non-smoking” hotel room in fact smelled like it had been inhabited by chain smokers for the last 30 years and all of us were up coughing all night long because the stench was so bad. It was probably more of the latter—I couldn’t breathe well and slept poorly on Friday night, so all day on Saturday at the conference my face was puffy and no amount of weak coffee and Lorna Doone cookies could wake me up.

One of the highlights of the conference was talking to my friend Liz, who I met on Ometepe while she was there for a few weeks collecting data for her master’s thesis. It was good to see her and reminisce about Uno and Funny Nose and baby Patti of the South Group. I was presenting a poster on the case study of the dog attack I observed on Ometepe. I actually didn’t get a whole lot of feedback from people on it, but during the poster presentation, I was too groggy and puffy to care. Oh well, at least nobody told me it was stupid, so that is a plus.

It turns out Rob’s weekend was far more entertaining and action-packed than mine. Apparently he was giving a talk at his conference, even though he’d never so much as mentioned it to me before-hand. He sent me an email all about it, but of course I didn’t read it until after I got home and talked to him. I think his own words really describe it the best. Here’s what he said in the message he wrote to me:

"My conference presentation went about as badly as any presentation could go. The previous session went long so I was short on time. My computer crashed when I plugged in the projector. The lapel microphone didn't work well so I had to either shout or hold it up to my lips. After rebooting Mathematica didn't start. It started the second time but my first example didn't work. After quitting and restarting Mathematica it started working better. All of my examples took longer to run since I no longer had any of the external applications already running. Spotlight (one of my examples) just didn't work. The time ran out just as I reached the part I wanted to spend the most time on. I got through about 60% of my material. I had to talk so fast I'm not sure anyone could understand what I was saying anyway. Phew. I guess it can only get better from here. I hope all is well with you."

Poor Rob, better luck next time. I think it did get better from there on out though. On Saturday there was a state-wide high school marching band competition here in town, and while Rob was riding his bike to his conference, he saw my old friend Jason, who is a band director back where it all began. Talk about random--that’s so Dunlap Love.

Sunday morning I slept in longer than I thought was possible and then didn’t even go running. Instead, Rob and I went to a big clearance sale at Champaign Surplus, and I bought a new coat. I haven’t had a new coat in about 7 years, and the coat I’ve been wearing all this time is not going to be good for riding my bike or walking to school this winter. Rob took a picture of me trying on the coat; I don’t think it is interesting in the least but Rob thought I should blog it, so why not.

Later in the afternoon, I avoided work by raking leaves in our yard, and Rob took some photos of the absolutely fantastic marigolds and mums by the front of our house.

Rob is still in a lot of pain from the bike accident; he’s recently upped the ante with some powerful painkillers, and he’s going to have to go to the doctor this week because something in his shoulder is definitely not right. We’ll keep you updated.

The latest word from Ometepe is that one of the guys who worked at the Hacienda is now going to be a daddy, and they’ve emailed me to ask me to pick out a name for the baby. This is interesting. Nicaraguans tend to be very clever with the names they give their children, and I always wondered how they came up with some of these names. I guess maybe this is how—by soliciting the advice of people from all over the world. I’ll have to think about it for a while. At any rate, I’d better sign off for now. Thanks for reading!