Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dodging the Ball

I've always hated dodgeball, and my hatred for the sport is split 50/50 between two very serious reasons. The first is the pain one feels when being whipped in the ass by a tight, hard, rubber [IS SHE GONNA TAKE IT THERE? NO SHE ISN’T] ball.  This pain is only justified by a mere half-endorphin of “yes! I hit someone else!” and brings to the surface the fact that the only real win in dodgeball is when you’ve successfully destroyed a human body. Agility, speed, vigilance…yeah right. It’s all about knocking someone da fuk out. And I’m sorry, but I do not want to base my victory on hurting others. 

 The second reason goes a bit deeper, and reaches into the realm of cross-cultural pre-pubescent rejection.  Lol ya hurd this gon be weird.  You know how you remember certain things from your childhood, and you don’t know why you remember those particular things, but you deduce that they must’ve had a serious impact on you? The situation I dealt with in grade five obviously has.  We were playing dodgeball, and my immigrant-induced drive of self preservation was still in full force, so I somehow ended up being the last person standing on my team, going against two people on the opposite team.  I knocked one of the people out, leaving just one: a boy named Javier.  Having recently moved to Canada from Nicaragua, Javier was also on the alert for common social dangers the likes of misunderstanding the symbol for the girls' bathroom leading to an unwelcomed entrance, consequently labelling him a pervert. Javier had dark skin, and pale green eyes. I remember them very well, because at five minutes to the end of gym class, he had backed me into a corner and stood just a few feet away, piercing me with the impetus in their glare. In the left was an eye booger
I remember that moment very well because it was the first time in my life that I felt my femininity threatened by the power of his masculinity. It was a right of passage, in a way.  I remembered what my mom had told me about talking to men. “Women can get by on the smoothness of their words,” she had said.  As he gripped the ball, I slowly curled my face into a smile. “Javier,” I whispered breathlessly à la Marilyn Monroe, “Don’t do it.”  He paused for a micro-second, then whipped the ball at my stomach and walked off, victoriously.  Thus began my journey as a woman.

That said, I was recently invited to play on a dodgeball team, and in keeping with my enthusiasm about team games, I accepted. As I signed up, I briefly thought of Javier. I had flashbacks of the eye booger. I could still smell the combination of fresh gym equipment and sweat.  The night of the first game, I put on a t-shirt with french fries all over it.  In hindsight, what the f was I thinking.

Let me just say: if you think elementary school dodgeball is scary, try it with FULL GROWN MEN. Men who do this for fun every day. Men who wear knee pads just for the purpose of sliding up close enough to land the perfect shot in your kidneys.  The first class was last week, and I’m still shaking.   First of all, everyone on my team is really, really good. They’re excellent throwers, they can duck, they can even do that Michael Jackson thing where you dodge a ball by lifting your pelvis off the ground.  I’m really good at cheering, I think. I’m usually pretty good at repeating what just happened while clapping. “You did that! Woo!”  “It didn’t get you! Awesome!”  "You are still inside the game!"

Although, I’ll have to come up with new material soon, or people will think I’m just being patronizing.

One thing I’m absolutely horrific at is throwing.  I tried throwing in softball a couple of years ago, and people said I was good, so I guess those people weren’t my real friends.  Here, I was  a disaster.  I’m not used to foam balls, and lets just say I’m not used to throwing in order to hurt someone.  I’m more of like a basketball leisurely thrower than a whipper.  They kept yelling “Throw low!” and while I attempted to relay the message to my brain, it, in turn whispered to my arm to create a paper mache swan out of its joints, and well let’s just let it be, dear it said. Seriously. Awful. While others whipped the ball at my legs before I even had a chance to use them, the path of my throw was that of a very precise concave downwards parabola, the formula for which is expressed by a very simple 
y = -x2 + 1, resulting in a very slow trajectory, laden with predictability and shame.  I have drawn a diagram to represent this, where x and y should equal distance and height, but really they represent my opponent’s boredom and my personal embarrassment.

 I throw slow and steady, launching my ball into a very friendly, obtuse, positive climb, followed a monotonous and reflective pause which gives everyone on the opposing team time to eat a sandwich and re-group, followed by a lingering descent calling for a bystander to merely extend their arms to cradle what’s left of my ambitions in a careless afterthought.  What a fail.

Somewhere in the middle of the game, I stopped letting my negativity cloud my focus.  I decided to be fearless, and leapt towards a ball that had been discarded amidst the rubble of the fallen.  I decided this would be my chance at making my mark, this would be for the time Javier rejected my Lolita-esque attempts, this would be me, picking up the ball and whipping it at someone’s legs, like I should.  Instead, it was me, bending down to pick up the ball with the agility of a newborn elephant, and upon rising, getting slammed in the face by the opponents' sphere of evil. It hit me so fast, I didn’t even realize what was happening, except I was holding a blue ball, and what hit me was a yellow ball, so I mainly just saw green. Who even gets hit in the face? Apparently that has never happened to anyone on the team, so of course, it’s written in the official rules of dodgeball that on my first attempt, it would happen to me.  It hit me in the nose, and for a few seconds, I couldn’t breathe. Then I was all:

The absolute worst of that is when people flock to you, asking if you’re okay.  If you were okay before, having people worry about you just makes you feel like this is something to be worried about, so you tell them you’re okay and then proceed to bawl your eyes out.  But no, not I.  I gathered myself and in a very cool way, reclined at the wall.  “I’m gonna take a breather, dudes” I said.  Or something equally cool and nonchalant.  And then, when no one was looking, I casually walked out of the gym, walked into the girls bathroom (it was a public school…I know- way to relive all of those fears again), dabbed a tissue on my throbbing nose, and cried three tears. I counted them, because I wanted to make sure I was accountable for each and every one.  You know what, though, it did really, really hurt.  You know what hurt worse though? The fact that on that particular night, for that particular game, I had chosen to wear that damn t-shirt with french fries on it, so I literally could not have looked any more lame.  Hey guyze I like frize! Asshole. Fries do not belong in serious athletic environments.

Anyway, I then told myself to stop being a pansy, and walked back onto the court.  The rest of the game proceeded with mediocrity (at best) on my part, interspersed with my inner monologue of “I am never doing this again!”  but luckily ended on the note of my decision to keep going.  I told myself I would push myself this year, and here I am, pushing myself – out of my comfort zone, and possibly out of what it means to be a woman. I don't need you, Javier.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Half-Marathon #3: Goals and Their Consequences

I have a confession to make: I wasn't actually super thrilled with my time from my second half-marathon. I mean, I know in theory, I should've been proud, but I had a far higher goal in mind, and it drove me kinda crazy that I missed it by a few minutes. I was happy, but not Happy.  So, still high off the product of so many months of training, I decided to sign up for another marathon, held a month after the second one. My secret goal was to finish in 1:50 or under, and though it was still a pretty lofty goal, I just knew that if I pushed myself hard enough, I would achieve it.

My plan for this race was to follow a pacer.  I was planning to follow the 1:53 run/walk pacer, and had even met her the day before, but on the day of the race, I couldn't find her sign.  Instead, I found a 1:48 continuous runner.  Continuous. One of my most feared words in the running world.  I've never continuously run before. I couldn't even imagine what it would be like to run a full two hours without stopping.  I always take walking breaks, so I obviously hadn't trained for this at all. It was my only option, though, so I thought I would give it a try.

I forgot to mention that the race was the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, so a really exciting part of it was running in a new city.  I've never really seen downtown Toronto before, so I figured this would also be a great way to explore it (while, you know, being really exhausted and sweaty).  The morning of the race was extremely cold. I've never run in October before, and here I was, back in adrenaline mode again, just a few weeks after my last "okay this is it for the year" moment. My body was definitely confused by this point.

We started running, and I was surprised by how leisurely the pace was.  I guess those walking breaks really add a lot of time, so making them up requires quite a significant increase in running speed. I was feeling pretty great for about the first hour, and felt comfortable enough to really take the sights in. So much so that I sort of forgot where I was, for while, and stepped into one of the streetcar grooves in the road. I felt my ankle roll, and then felt an immediate shot of pain. I kept running, and luckily, the pain went away after about ten minutes.  Yes, I persisted, but yes, I also cried. The real pain came at about the 1:15 mark.  We had turned to run back- the last stretch- and as I grabbed a drink from a nearby station, I realized that I needed to walk. I just wasn't prepared for this much running. The worst part about walking breaks is, as I mentioned during the above-linked second half-marathon post, seeing your target disappear from sight in mere seconds.  My pacer, from whom I had been just a few feet away for the majority of the run, was now a toned and motivated dot.  I knew I was tired when even this couldn't convince me to keep running. I walked for about two minutes, and then picked up the pace, and really gave it my all for the last 30 minutes, and finally, I saw the finish line.  What's funny is that by the time you see the word FINISH, it's not even a word anymore. It's not a finish line, it holds no meaning, people aren't really people, running isn't running. It's just a very loud silence, a bit of tunnel vision, a persistent RUN RUN RUN echoing in every step. I ran a few meters after crossing that line, because I was still in that weird zombiesque state, and then checked my race results.  I was alone in the crowd at Nathan Phillips Square.  I was surrounded by beautiful, exhausted, powerful champions: everyone. I was surrounded by trees, fences, brilliant aluminum make-shift blankets. A muffled voice congratulated us through the loudspeaker. The sun was shining on our heads. It was only me, and thousands of strangers.  And in that moment, my race results came up on my phone screen: 1:50:49.

I didn't want anyone to think I was a wuss, so I hid the tears that ran down my cheeks with my puffy hands.  Pride is the most elusive feeling to me, so, when somehow I manage to feel it, it takes absolutely everything out of me.  Looking back on that day, I really still can't believe I did it. Every song that pushed me when my legs didn't want to listen, every thought I forced myself to think to shut out the voices of pain...they were aligned just so, just perfectly, for me to finish in my goal time. What a miracle.

One of the best things about that day was that my guy's parents came to cheer me on.  I still can't believe they got up and drove an hour into the city just to stand in the cold and watch me run by. It's surely a day I will never forget.  Of course, my favorite cheerleader was also there, and endured my subsequent day-long stomach sickness afterwards, like always.  Of course, he was just as supportive through the two and a half months that followed, during which I could no longer run due to the injury I likely sustained when I rolled my ankle in that streetcar groove.  Physiotherapy and rest have resulted in my current utter state of un-shape.  I can barely run three kilometers now, but that's okay, because I'll get back up there again. It was all worth it.

When we reach a goal by a mere ten seconds, when we reach it against all odds, having gone beyond what we trained to it a fluke? Is it all just random luck? Could this ever happen again?  Should I even bother trying for this time again, or for an even faster time? There's only one way to answer these questions, isn't there?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Happy New Year!

2013, why you gotta be like that?

I had a feeling that when I spent New Year's Eve 2012-2013 on a couch with a horrendous flu, that it would somehow become a sign of what the new year would bring. Though it brought about some exciting accomplishments (running my half marathons, for example) and paved the way for some major changes, like moving out of my apartment and back in with my mom, overall it wasn't an easy year.

2014, however, is off to a great start: we celebrated New Year's Eve in Toronto watching the fireworks downtown, my foot finally feels well enough for me to start running again, I got a challenging promotion at work, and I'm working on an exciting long-term project: a list of 30 things to accomplish before I turn 30.  I haven't completed the list, because I want to make sure every idea is monumental in its own way so there's a lot of deliberation involved, but I'll definitely be posting it when its ready.

Speaking of challenges, remember how I did that raw diet in January 2012? This year, I'm trying the Atkins diet. I wanted to see what all the fad was about, since even Kim Kardashian is on it, and am currently on Day 5. So far, so good..sort of....but I'll write about that later.

I'm really looking forward to the exciting things 2014 will bring.  I know there are bound to be yucky surprises, but I'm sure those will be accompanied by delicious ones too - oh my god, Nutella donuts, or something -and maybe I might even throw some fashion into the mix. Y'all knew I'd add that one in somewhere...

Dear readers: thank you for reading even when I haven't posted in ages. Thank you Canada, US, UK, Denmark, Sweden, China, Spain, and Russia...I have no idea who you are, but you looked through my little words, and found something you liked. Thank you.  I hope you have a beautiful 2014, and I hope to hear from you, if you're reading this too.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Paris

When I think about this past summer, I feel like I'm remembering a dream. July was so surreal and flew by in such a haste that I didn't even have time to write anything down.  Looking through my photographs now, it seems like I'm reading someone else's story. Did Paris really happen? Did we really smell those pastel peonies? Were all those macarons but a gastronomic hallucination?

It all started on one afternoon, in a way that went something like this:

Act One:
Scene One: 
Bedroom. Clothes strewn about. Suitcase half-packed. Spotlight on middle of room. Alisa is pacing back and forth, throwing beauty products into suitcase, then taking them out.  Process is repeated several times until eventually, visibly exasperated, Alisa gives up and continues pacing without packing anything at all.

Enter Boyfriend.

Boyfriend: What's wrong?
Alisa: I don't know anything. I don't know what to pack, I don't know what to wear, I don't know. I've had the worst day of my life, and right now, I don't even want to go. I don't want to get on that plane. I don't want to say bye to you-
Boyfriend: Can we sit down for a minute?
Alisa: I don't have time to sit down. I have to-
Boyfriend: Just for a minute. I have to tell you something.
Alisa: I'm really going to miss my plane-
Boyfriend:I'm coming to Paris with you.

And in that moment, everything stopped. It was more than I could've ever expected to hear.
Then, everything started spinning. There was a huge hurdle ahead of us: the flight to Paris was out of another city, so he basically needed to drive all the way home, find his passport, fly from our city to the next, and make it onto the same flight as mine - if there would even be seats left. As I attempted to come to terms with basically the best news of my life, my guy raced home - except it was rush hour, and he lives about 40 minutes away. I don't remember the flight to Montreal very well because I was sweating harder than Rob Ford around...never mind, and then it was final boarding call for the flight to Paris, and he still wasn't there. I begged the airline representatives to wait just a little longer. They, of course, reassured me that an international-bound two-storey plane of 400 people would absolutely wait as long as it took for a random last-minute passenger to tie his shoe-laces at the security check. I, of course, was about to cry.  "He should be in the airport already- he'll be here!" I told them, and they smiled and nodded. They then urged me to board, as I was now the last person in line, and would surely be reaping the luggage storing repercussions of foregone first dibs, and I begrudgingly handed them my ticket. I would be alone in Paris, after all.
I hope they at least show Ricky Gervais movies on the plane, I thought to myself, that's all I've got now.
But then, I heard his footsteps.  He was running to our gate, wearing a pair of shiny dress shoes and holding his passport and a little bag.  He made it.  He actually made it, and the check-in crew, who had by now decided that I was the sixth-sense guy of relationships (I see boyfriend) were so relieved that I wasn't a maniac that they sat us together.  I don't think that I will ever witness or live out a more magical moment.  Here we are, in our cozy Air Canada seats, at take-off:

When we arrived in Paris, I quickly learned what a French Starbucks coffee size is like: a thimble.  Not nearly enough to resuscitate us from the jetlag, we opted for something a bit more practical: wine.

My new favorite $6 wine

And of course, before we had even checked into our little hotel room, we picked up a collection of warm baguette, cured meat, cheese, and figs. We spread our findings out on our lovely bed, and began to absorb the reality of what had just happened.  Ten hours ago I was sitting on the bed hating my upcoming solo stint in France, and now here we were, watching Parisians walk through the narrow streets outside our little balcony. 

Loved the wall-paper and matching curtains!

The view outside our window

One of the best things about our hotel (Hotel Villa Opera Lamartine) were the many flower shops nearby.  I'm still amazed by how common peonies are in Paris.  I can't remember the last time I saw such an abundance of them in Ottawa, but here they were readily available and about the price of my new favorite bottle of wine (bragged about, above).

My heart is racing just looking at these
And speaking of abundance, I've never seen as many cheese varieties as I have here. It got to the point where I felt too overwhelmed to try anything at all, and ended up buying a heart-shaped cheese from the grocery store because at least heart=love and you can't go wrong with love.

Nothing was quite as exciting as the éclairs, however. We had heard about L'Éclair de génie (14 Rue Pavée) being the top place for 'designer' éclairs, so of course we I had to try them, and we certainly weren't disappointed. We found a secret courtyard, opened the box, and ate all of these in one sitting. #noshame

And sometimes (every day, three times a day, roughly) we would thug out on macarons from McDonald's. Yeah. Let that sink in.

We spent our four little days exploring grand, historically-entwined buildings such as this one (I mean window shopping at Boulevard Haussman)...

And eating ice cream on the Pont des Arts, while admiring the myriad of love locks...

So hope, such lock

And drinking giant frothy cappuccinos, tempting each other with the thought of smoking a cigarette but deciding it's not worth the glamour...

And walking through a fair in the Jardin des Tuileries...

And just when you think you're feeling inspired enough, you catch a glimpse of this guy How majestic.

 Last time I was in Paris, I admittedly didn't see much of the city, so this time, I signed up for a bike tour, and it's also an experience I would highly recommend.  Among the exciting parts of our Night Tour were the Notre Dame, Princess Diana's Flame, The Louvre, and most magical of all: a boat cruise on the Seine, with complimentary wine! Fat Tire Bike Tours organized a terrific adventure, and though I haven't biked in eighty billion years, I had an awesome time, didn't fall, didn't get hit by any cars, and just loved loved loved it all.

Pick one!

A stunning view of that ol' thang from the boat

A long, long time ago I wrote about an amazing restaurant I visited, and even included some photos. We decided to have our pre-anniversary dinner (we needed an excuse) at Bistroy Les Papilles once more, and hilariously enough, the menu was exactly the same as last time. I really can't complain - it was unbelievable both times: tomato soup with lardons, boeuf bourgignon, a cheese and prune platter, and a pot de crème (not pictured).  Can French cuisine ever be done wrong? Je ne crois pas.

Les Buttes Chaumont is another place that will forever have a green little place in my heart.  Long pathways guide you to and around the center, where a stone 'gazebo' stays perched on top of a green, earthy cliff. 


The day before my sweetie left, we went for a walk there and the day was so perfectly warm and sunny that we decided to have a picnic right by the water. Of course, to me that just meant we would buy more macarons, and we did, and it was glorious.  Except I got so relaxed that I forgot to take a picture of anything aside from my feet.

Paris is indeed the city of love, but I wonder if the Eiffel Tower would sparkle even half as brightly if I weren't watching it beside my favorite person in the world.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Finally: an H&M in Ottawa!

As evinced by my past overnight adventures in the world of H&M collaborations I and H&M collaborations II (psst those are links), in addition to a good bit of my wardrobe consisting of their seasonal creations, I clearly, obviously, duh-ly love Hennes and Mauritz. Yet, for horrific reasons unbeknownst to me, Ottawa has been the last city on the planet without the store.  Kingston has had one for a while, as well as Barrie.  Those two places are heehee worthy, but then a few months ago I was passing by the outskirts of Montreal, where you'd normally see one-of-its-kind waffle houses and stores with four dollar bras, and saw the glowing red letters yet again. That was when I knew that enough was enough.  I let a single tear slowly run down my chin (which is like the most uncomfortable feeling in the world), and considered moving.  Then, it was announced: H&M is opening a store in Ottawa, at the Bayshore mall.  What whaaaaaaaaaaaat.

Of course, just waiting for opening day wasn't enough.  By some stroke of fashion luck, I wound up at the VIP Unveiling Party on October 15th (2 days before the store was to open), and let me just say, it was a night to remember. 

Before leaving for the party, I quickly threw some absolutely essential items into my Fall 2013 H&M bag and then took everything out to take this picture...

Acqua di Parma Gelsomino Nobile perfume, H&M dress, H&M necklace, Chanel lipstick, H&M bag

Then, when I was done haphazardly strewing my belongings about, I met up with my bestie and got the party started.

All in all, the event was magnificently put together, from the decor to the entertainment (Oh Land performed an amazing set), to the impeccable organizing, to the lush red carpet.... and in order to do the evening justice I have split my more specific thoughts into two fairly labelled categories:

The right thing to say:  It was so lovely to see some of my favorite fashion bloggers, the atmosphere was magical, and we loved our swag bags.

What I really want to say: I ate a lot of food that looked really fancy, I thought Oh Land was just a gorgeous girl with purple hair and only realized it was Oh Land when they started performing on stage, I drank more than a couple glasses of champagne, and the waitress let me have as many desserts off her tray as I wanted. I ate a lot of desserts also.

Oh, another highlight for me was realizing I have less than zero social skills, when my girlfriend decided to walk over to the guys from the band and ask them for a picture.  Obviously, as is always the case, my brain went into full loser mode, and I followed her over averting my eyes from anything at all. Yes, that looked as awkward as it sounds and let me just say it's not easy to not look at anything at all ever while you're standing still. The thing is I didn't want these guys to think I liked them because every girl in the world likes them and I didn't want to be annoying. Plus, it's not like I liked them, I was just there with girlfriend and would just be taking a picture or two.  Of course, everyone hit it off well because they're fun people and likely attended kindergarten where you first learn the art of small talk (I skipped those years, instead playing with an Airedale Terrier named Jennifer behind the house), so everyone was all "yeah we like touring, it's been fun" and "we love your songs! you're such cool guys!" and I was all "how do you feel it is, politically, if it isn't like so in Sweden, but only in the North American continent, if you were to consider such a continent, even?"

Let's forget that part because I still feel queasy when I think about it. Well, actually, not only do I think about that part but also the part where I acted out the scene later as we walked out, mimicking my conversation topics, and their reactions, with a hideous exaggerated manner...only to (OBVIOUSLY) find them standing right there, by the doors, smoking.  Wonder Years, are you still casting?

Back to the topic at hand, though, I really can't praise this super fun night enough.  We had such a fun time dancing, shopping, and meeting the exciting people that make up Ottawa's fashion and entertainment scene. 

I'm going to skip over the part where I was outright asked if I was anyone important, and then reminded that I was not anyone important, and then asked if I could identify anyone in the room who was important because press pictures needed to be taken.....and then reminded again that no, I could not point to myself...and I'll just say, lastly, that it's about time, H&M.  Welcome to Ottawa.


girls girls girls!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Captain Phillips (a biopic)

I’m not sure if I’ve ever blogged about a movie before. It’s not every day that I’m moved by a film enough to write about it, but last night’s film made such an impression on me that I still find myself calming the last of my knee shakes, in a racing rhythm with the pulse in my fingertips.

Directed by Paul Greengrass and starring the absolutely, inescapably brilliant Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips is a biographical film of the story of merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali Pirates while en route through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa. 
To be honest, when I first caught a glimpse of the preview, I saw: Tom Hanks, ocean, boat, yelling, and this made me think: No, no, no, no.  My Wilson-tried ignorance led me to believe this would be a dud- another capitalization on readily available storylines, resulting from the exhaustion of movies yet to remake, folklores to animate, and the like. Despite its Hollywood appeal (Kevin Spacey is one of the producers!), Captain Phillips is raw, genuine, excruciatingly painful, and the sort of movie that finds one forgetting to breathe. 
Luckily, my ignorance often leads me to miss international news, and I was not aware of the progress-or, perhaps more importantly, resolution- of this story, so I truly had no idea where it was going. Without giving away any of the plot, I’ll just say that it is NEVER over when you think it’s over. Until it’s over, and you feel your body slowly sink into a shock – the next segment of the film. Perhaps the best part of the story is the commitment you’re forced to embark on with the characters, such that you refuse to feel anything but terror when they feel it, decline the moments of saccharine relief because you know better, and dart your eyes around the screen wildly, inhaling every scream, jolt, shot, wave, plea, in a silent submission to the poignancy in this ingenious performance.

Lastly, I was absolutely smitten by the performance of the Somalian actors.  For Barkhad Abdi, this film was a breakout debut, and will hopefully lead to an Oscar. The rest of the actors were just as phenomenal, and I could not recommend this movie enough, if only for supporting these incredible people in what I can only imagine were both ethically and artistically complicated endeavours.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Half-Marathon #2: This Time It's Personal

I can't believe it was just yesterday morning that the long-awaited Ottawa Army Run took place. It seems like it was so long ago, or like it didn't happen at all. Was it all just a super exhausting dream? No. It wasn't.

It wasn't because today I can't walk down stairs, and when I do succeed in walking, I look like Gumby.
But that doesn't matter because I'm so super excited to have had a fantastic experience running and, this time, it was all because I kept it personal, or in other words, I focused on myself.

I sometimes get competitive, especially with people I don't know.  When I first ran the 10K races, or the previous half-marathon, it was so difficult not to feel pressured by the people around me to keep running, even when I felt I needed a break.  If you've ever run before, you'll know what I mean: walk on the side of the road for five seconds, and a hundred people will pass you.  And that pace-bunny you were right behind for the past 10 kilometres is now nowhere in sight.  Comparing yourself to other runners can be good for whipping you into finishing another mile at your best pace, but it can also be really bad if you end foregoing much-needed breaks because you're focused on keeping up.

And compare, compare, compare I always do.  But this time, I focused on my Nike running app, pacing myself as per my training plan, and when I wanted to speed up because senior citizens were zipping by me, I just looked away and at the river on my other side. I looked around and imagined that I was running alone. And when I took my one walking break, I looked straight at my watch to avoid seeing the seven million sprinters passing me. Granted, I resumed running after two minutes of walking, and didn't let myself stop once since then, but at least I'm starting to get it! I was able to pace myself so well that I easily sped up at the end of my race for a last quick sprint, and honestly didn't even realize the finish line was approaching. I felt great after the race, and can't wait to do another one.

So, a new tip for anyone thinking about running a half marathon: pay attention to your body.  It's tempting to follow everyone into a starting sprint, but you don't know these people and their plans! They could slow down significantly mid-way through, or take a ten minute walking break somewhere down the line. Everyone has their own strategy and if you don't follow your heart *cue saxophone* plan, you'll end up confusing your body, leading to exhaustion, cramping, and let's not mention what else, but it starts with a d and ends with iarrhea.
But enough about that! On to the fun part: I finished in 1:55, which, given all the colds/viruses/crappy stuff I've faced this year, is a pretty awesome time!
And once more, I have to mention how incredible it is to see all of the spectators. Standing outside in the freezing cold, holding hilarious posters in their hands, smiling, waving, cheering on people they've never met before- what an overwhelmingly inspiring moment, and one safely in my vault of unforgettable feelings.
And speaking of feelings, I'm getting all choked up at the thought that, once again, my lovely guy stood waiting for me at nearly ever major point, along with my mom and sister. I'm so lucky to have such great people in my life.