EEEEEEK!

This past weekend marked an exciting one for horror film buffs in the Triangle in the form of the 14th annual Nevermore Film Festival, subtitled “A 3-day Feast of the Macabre.” NIIIIIIIIIIICE.

Lucky me, one of my friends from work – Wendy – is part of the steering committee and helped to choose the flicks included in this year’s festivities. She hooked me up with vouchers to check out festival flicks on the house!

Thanks to Wendy, I watched five horror flicks between Saturday and Sunday, including a little bit of everything from a beautiful weekend afternoon hike gone horribly wrong when curiosity kills the cat, so to speak, to a cannibalistic dinner party preying on an unsuspecting guest.

My personal favorite was Wisconsin-based Head Trauma Productions’ Dead Weight, a tale of ways that psychological and physical distress can take a turn for the ugly. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re exactly right. Something is horribly and terribly wrong with you, Melissa.

Hey, I never have and never will claim sanity as one of my strong points. On a regular basis, I voluntarily subject myself to physical distress in frigid temperatures merely to push my limits to the brink; and I LOVE it. I run, remember?

My first Nevermore Film Festival, and my first ever horror film festival, was awesome – I love scary movies! Needless to say, my amygdala had more than its share of activation over the weekend.

Still, all of the squinting in theater darkness in anticipation of someone – or something – attacking a story character, the head shaking while thinking, Don’t do it! just before something horrible happened, and even missing my exit heading back only to be lead by Google maps down narrow, winding roads through sparse signs of civilization and pitch black of the sticks of rural Durham at night – with the knowledge that two of the shorts I had just watched were filmed in North Carolina, mind you – weren’t the scariest part of the weekend.

Sunday afternoon right around 6:00 p.m., Melissa and I finished up our joint 12-miler, which included a BEAUTIFUL part of Umstead Park I had never seen that reminded me a lot of my favorite trails near Denver, a peaceful dusk view of countryside and a low lying full moon, and near-superb running weather.

The truly terrifying part of the weekend hit me within seconds of Melissa’s stopping her watch once the beep signaled her milage goal for the day back at our starting point. Friday is already going to be MARCH FIRST. I need to start training for Pikes Peak in APRIL.

That realization snapped me right out of my blissful post-run zen and into a momentary state of near shock much more intense than induced by any of the horror flicks that kept me crouched in my seat and wishing I had a cozy, warm blanket under which to hide.

I’ve been running with Melissa twice a week, sure; but my milage has been neither consistent nor substantial enough to constitute a good running base to start training in about six weeks.

And, I was only 2 1/2 weeks away from a HUGE running decision I had been pondering since mid-August: Do I register for my third Pikes Peak Ascent this year, or do I go for its double-length, doubly insane counterpart – the biggin’ - the full Pikes Peak Marathon? DUUUN DUUUN DUUUUUUUUUN!!!

475px-the_scream1The question made one flick from Nevermore - Found - which, according to Wendy, made the steering committee - people who have no trouble watching 70+ horror features and shorts every year - say, “That was brutal!” – sound like child’s play.

Since we’ve virtually met via the blog, I’ve told you a bit about who I am and why I love running; I’ve introduced you to a few of my workout peeps; and I’ve walked you through a bit of what’s going on in my life outside of my time in my new Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12s. I’ve tagged along for Melissa’s Boston training, I’ve dawdled, and I’ve listened to the little devil on one shoulder over the angel on the other and skipped a few workouts.

What I haven’t done is decide on a racing agenda for 2013, which I know will include some ambitious goals, and put my mind to preparing to meet those goals.

It’s about time I do. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

OOOOOHHHH KAAAAAAAY, So Maybe NC’s Not So Bad After All

Go ahead, say it. “Gasp! What?! Really?!” (Insert droped jaw and wide eyes characteristic of a look of absolute shock here). That’s how I’m guessing most of my NC and CO peeps would respond if they heard me say that.

Soooooo maybe NC’s Office of Travel and Tourism isn’t exactly knocking down my door to offer me a job as their new spokesperson today. Or, um, maybe, any day. To quote Cher from one of my top three absolute favorite movies of all time, “Oops! My bad.”

Cher - Clueless

Hey, I’ll admit it when I’m wrong! And, I will freely acknowledge the fact that I am always incredibly fortunate to see beautiful things and to meet amazing people, many of whom I subsequently consider friends, no matter what the circumstance.

Take, for instance, the view at my and Melissa’s turn-around point in our long run on Sunday:

Scenery

OK, I feel you. No too shabby, NC!

I didn’t even mind the bite of the bone-chilling gust that met us at a right-hand turn on the way back – The kind of gust that smacks you square in the nose, taking your breath away for a second. Once that hit, I had a flashback to my college cross country days on then deserted dirt roads that now mark busy byways of a housing subdivision.

That, along with the big, fat, fluffly snowflakes that calmly drifted from the white sky to the ground the day before - even though they melted immediately upon hitting the ground (‘A’ for effort, Mother Nature!) - felt a little like home.

That covers the ‘beautiful things’ part. If, that is, you consider a frozen punch to the face that knocks the wind right outta ya a beautiful thing, which, apparently, I do.

The ‘amazing people’ part is complete, in part, compliments of the Carolina Godiva Track Club. In the absence of my beloved Irish Snug Running Club‘s Thursday night soirees in Denver, NC offers Thursday night runs with Godiva – 7.25 miles during the winter through Woodcroft and adjacent neighborhoods and alternating 8ish-mile routes including the infamous American Tobacco Trail during the summer.

I don’t much care for either course, honestly. The hilly nature of the winter route offers enough of a mix to keep you on your toes, so to speak. Ugh, don’t even get me started on the Tobacco Trail, though! I don’t particularly care for the stretch of the trail in the summer route. What keeps me going back (beyond the promise of burning calories rather than consuming them while sitting on my behind) are my fellow Godivans.

Host & Hostess with the Mostest
Host & Hostess with the Mostest

Enter Jim and Carolyn, Godiva head honcho and honchoess. Not only do they help to organize and to distribute the monthly club newsletter, provide a warm welcome to new additions to the run every Thursday, play major roles in organizing local races, and probably a bunch of other stuff I don’t even know about, they host the annual Godiva chili night following a winter Thursday night run.

Additionally, they introduced me to my NC running buddy Melissa and invited us both to Thanksgiving dinner. Go ahead, say it. I know you wanna: “Awwwww!” ‘Awwwww!’ is right! They are GREAT and have really helped this dry-climate-loving CO girl to feel a little more at home in the foreign jungle of EEEWWWY humidity that is NC.

While I do hope to go home soon, I can’t help but think of all of the good things that came out of my move to NC. Lucky for me, the world is full of crazy people who look forward to making new friends while out for a run. That’s worth a nod and tip of your cap, even if it means I have to eat my words from time to time – which, by the way, don’t taste nearly as good as the chili.

Melissa Mincic studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

How do I dislike the question, ‘To run or not to run?’ Let me count the ways. . .

OK, so I really do love to run. Sometimes, though, it takes a bit of coaxing to talk myself into it. Sometimes, though, that coaxing is not quite enough. Today, unfortunately, was one of those ‘sometimes.’ DSC05823

My roommate, Jess, and running date for the day had suffered from a headache since she woke this morning; so I definitely understood her needing to go home to lie down. That left me for a solo workout right after work that I had still planned on all day at work.

I think it was around 4:30 the first time my stomach started grumbling, but I figured I could easily last until after even a few quick miles. By the time I left the office just after 5:00, though, I was quickly talking myself out of my run – one.

I hadn’t gotten a half mile into the drive home before I talked myself back into my run, even if I cut it a mile or two short. I really should run. It won’t take too long, and I’ll feel so much better that I did it afterward. Two.

About another half mile or so up the road, I had introduced another variable into the equation: Maybe if I go home, Jess will be feeling better and want to head to the gym for a quick workout to get out of the house. Three. Nah, I should let her rest and just go knock out a few miles around campus. She’ll appreciate the quiet time at home.

Four. And with it, the realization that I had just missed the turn that would take me back to campus to get my run in. Oh well, I guess I’m not running today after all. Five.

I could have easily turned around to get back to my intended destination but then remembered an errand I needed to run within the next week and a half. Sure, I had time to get it done, but what better time than now? Just go get the card quickly, then drive back to campus before it gets dark. Six.

While thumbing through cards at Hallmark, I hit seven and eight. Should I go back to campus? Nah, think I’m done for the night. Still have a load of laundry I never finished yesterday. Well, maybe I could go home and then just do a quick run around the neighborhood.

About half way home after jumping back in my car came nine: Hmm, it’s getting kind of dark. Don’t think I’d get too far before I’d want to head back in. Then, about a quarter mile from my place, I glanced down a side street as I passed it and saw a runner. OK, fine, I’ll run already! Ten.

When I did get home, Jess was working on her laptop in the living room and, being the sweetie pie that she is, apologized for backing out of our running duet. “Oh, no problem. I’m thinking about going out for a quick run right now.” By this time, though, I was starving and grabbed a box of cereal from which to munch.

“I’ve been debating with myself whether or not I should run, but right now all I know is that I’m hungry and am going to eat this while I decide.” It was worse than the scene from ‘A League of Their Own’ when Geena Davis and Tom Hanks were giving the next batter different signs for what to do simultaneously. Do I run or don’t I?

I walked over to and opened the front door. It’s not that cold. I would warm up quickly. But it’s getting dark, and I really don’t want to run through the neighborhood alone in the dark. Eleven. Just do it. Twelve. Well, I am doing an extra mile of speed work on Wednesday and getting in an extra 7 miles on Thursday this week. . . Thirteen. “What do you think, Jess?” “I don’t need to add my opinion to what you’ve already got going on.” Fair enough.

About an hour and thirteen opposing arguments with myself after leaving work for the day, I decided against a Monday night run. I should have changed in my office and driven straight to campus before I had a chance to change my mind the first time.

Am I beating myself up over it? No, not really. I could always squeeze in a quick run before my Tuesday night gym visit or go Friday right after work. The fact that I didn’t run tonight doesn’t mean that I love it any less. I think I just needed a night to finish my laundry, to paint this intriguing picture of insight into this runner’s mind for all of your eager eyes, and maybe just to sit on the couch for a while.

Still, I felt a little bad at the sight of my lonely gym bag, packed with running gear that never got to come out to play. There will always be speedwork on Wednesday. Four timed miles around the track. Ouch! I’m sure I’ll be happy for the Monday night off then. Or, would I? *Sigh.* Fourteen.

A Little Love for One of My True Loves

So, my last post got a lil’ real. I’m clearly more than open to self-disclosure to my friends-slash-new-HalfMarathons.Net blog readers as well as all of you perfect strangers in the form of regular HalfMarathons.Net visitors alike, but I thought I should end my blogging for the week on a more positive note.

What better day to show some appreciation for one of my two true loves – running – than on the one day of the year solely dedicated to love?

So, for your reading pleasure, and to inevitably evoke my own giddy grinning, here are a few reasons – in no particular order – that I love running oh so much. Ah-hem! Drum roll, please. . .

  • No matter how much I might not want to run, I am ALWAYS happy I did run once I’m finished.
  • Hunk-a-licious running buddies like these three fine young gents:

JD, Tarino, & Dakin – TDH times three!

  • Warning: Eeeewwww alert! Wiping salt from my eyebrows and forehead after a particularly hard run and lying my running attire out to dry before throwing them in my laundry bag. You may say, “Gross!” but I say they are merely evidence of awesomeness!
  • The simplistic beauty and comforting feeling of home that only a gorgeous day in Cheeseman Park (in Denver – the second of my true loves) can offer:
One word: Home

One word: Home

  • Two letters that carry with them a subtle moment of self-satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that nothing else can replace: PR.
  • Thinking about how I will alter my training for the exact race for which I crossed the finish line just seconds ago to ensure a PR next year.
  • The view from the top of a tough trail run – ALWAYS worth the hurt it cost to get there:
Say it with me: Oooh! Aaah!

Say it with me: Oooh! Aaah!

  • The promise of reliving all of these blissful things and oh so many more thanks to one fact and one fact alone: I am a runner.

And, on that note, I close my eyes, take a deep breath in and dreamily sigh it out, and know that I am truly, madly, deeply, undeniably head over heels in love.

I feel the need, the need for speed. . .work!

DSC05805

Track Gods love you more than you will know. Woah, woah, woah

I hate speedwork. It’s hard. It hurts. Sometimes, I get headaches afterward that feel like sharp blades plunging into my head. Luckily, they are short lived. Still, they are not pleasant.

Not to mention the pressure I put on myself to run faster than the last 400, 800, mile, whatever distance that day, especially if I’m training for an upcoming race. I was once near tears I had myself so in knots over the anticipation of my speed workout! Did I mention that I don’t like speedwork?

Last Wednesday, though, I craved it. Work – and LIFE – have been a bit stressful in my world as of late to say the least. Last week marked my most stressful work week since I started my postdoc in September, and Wednesday afternoon marked an ugly spike in my stress-o-meter for the week.

I’ll spare you the details of my struggles with getting to know SAS as a data analytic tool. Suffice it to say that I was so frustrated with (my inability to use) it that I had to escape my office to get a breath of fresh air on Wednesday afternoon.

I left everything I love behind in Colorado to pursue career aspirations for a second time when I came to UNC in the fall. A SECOND time. Frustration on this level left me questioning if I had made the right choice for about the gazillionth time since my first move to North Carolina in June 2011.

I sat, playing with my Nalgene bottle donning an Irish Snug Running Club sticker (my FAV running club in Denver that you will absolutely hear all about if you keep reading the blog!), watched traffic go by, and daydreamt of the speed workout awaiting me a few hours later: twelve 400s with my North Carolina running buddy and savior many times over – also named Melissa – training for her second Boston Marathon.

I pictured the track – Illuminated only by distant flood lights and the night sky – at my feet, a furrowed brow and straight mouth of determination on my face, gaining speed with every step and taking each curve at a faster pace than the last. Just that fantasy was enough to con me back into the office to finish the work day.

Enter Melissa, a smile and friendly ‘hello’ as always. When it came down to business, though, this sweet, innocent little Montessori teacher can bring some serious heat in the form of winged feet. She is NO mere mortal, trust me! A two-mile warm up, water bottle refill, and half a Clif bar later, we got to work. We didn’t start off all that fast, but our last timed lap around the track was the fastest we’ve run this year so far according to my Garmin’s number crunching.

VOILA! Just like magic, I am back to my old self and feeling relaxed and better than ever. In just about an hour and a few fast miles, I had done a complete mental 180. The moral of this story? Embrace life’s challenges. They only make you stronger. And, when they get to be too much, don’t ever underestimate the cathartic power of a good run.

HellOOO HalfMarathons.Net readers!

I am so excited to talk to you today, my FIRST301260_4105437067659_54011250_n official day as a blogger for HalfMarathons.net! While this is my first blogging gig, I am not new to the writing scene. I have been writing for decades now, jotting down whatever comes to mind on a whim that inspires me, no matter how big or fleetingly small the thought. Of course, while in school, I also wrote a TON, not all of it (hmm, not most of it?) any of you would likely find even remotely interesting. Only recently have I begun pursuing writing gigs on a topic I am most passionate about – Running. And on that note, allow me to introduce myself. . .

I first pursued “running” in junior high school. I included quotes with the word here because our spring schedule consisted of four meets, one of which we discovered was listed on the wrong date when the whole team arrived to an empty track – FAIL! Although I gave it my all back then, I barely count this. It was high school, though, that I think I first considered myself a runner. I was too slow to compete as a sprinter, and, much to my dismay at the time, was labeled a long-distance runner and had to run BOTH the one mile AND two mile track events. Gasp! We didn’t have cross country at my small town Colorado high school, and I remember seeing t-shirts of my competitors at meets donning the phrase “cross country” and thinking, “Isn’t that what we’re doing?” I got very well acquainted with cross country running during my first two years of college as a member of the Lady Trojans women’s team at Trinidad State Junior College – when my love for the sport truly began. It was then that other people would have looked at what I was doing and consider me a real runner, I think. Once I was no longer a member of a running team, I’ve had an ‘on again, off again’ relationship with running until the end of 2009, when I picked it up again consistently. I haven’t looked back since. Up until that point, I had competed in 5K and 10K races. In the past three years, I’ve run my first 10-mile race, my first half marathon, my first relay, and many more races since. This year will mark my first marathon. When I think about how I wanted sympathy for having to race three miles at each meet back in high school, I have to laugh.

On a personal note, I am about as single as girls come and am trying to breathe new life into my career as a child development researcher at the University of North Carolina while bouncing back and forth between Chapel Hill – where my job is – and Denver – where many of my friends, my family, and my heart are. In my blog entries, you can expect to read about juggling running and personal lives from a general perspective as well as the perspective of a single gal, some informative, some reflective, and hopefully all entertaining. I welcome your thoughts as you read mine and hope you will feel free to chime in on the conversation whenever you’d like! Every day, I think about my next run; and every year, my running goals only seem to get bigger and bigger. I am looking forward to pursuing them – and hopefully to hear from you about yours – and to having you all along for my thoughts along the way. . . Stay tuned!