Monday, January 14, 2019

Frigid Five - My First Race of 2019

I just finished my first race of the year, the Frigid Five, held at North Park in Pittsburgh, PA. It was also the first time I'd ever run this particular race. Cheers to working on our resolutions and trying new things!

A friend of mine set 19 goals for 2019 and since I'm easily inspired and love to set goals, I decided I'd set 19 goals, too! Then, because sometimes my ideas are bigger than I can handle, I only came up with 16. One idea that I did have, which I've sort of nibbled at the edges of for awhile, is running a race a month.

That is a really hard goal for me because of scheduling. In months like April and May, the kids' schedules are so tight it's hard to find a moment to eat let alone run a race. And when we're on vacation in June, I just feel like relaxin' not racin'.

But this might be my year. I've already got one done! I'm also fine if I get 6 races done in a year. Any more than that is a bonus.

The Frigid Five

So the Frigid Five wasn't super frigid today, luckily. I've heard it's been very, very cold in the past. It did snow last night and although the county did send plows and salt trucks around, the roads were gritty and slushy. Not the best footing. The race starts at the top of a hill near the Lodge and meanders down hill toward the lake. You go up and down some little hills on Pierce Mill and then make the right turn climbing uphill to the finish. I think it's Ridge Rd. It's a loooong hill. Parts are steep. I've biked up it before - in fact I've done biking hill intervals up it before! And I'm nowhere near a great biker, so I knew I could run up this hill.

My goal was to finish in under 50 minutes. I finished in 48:20, so not bad! I also decided that I would not walk up that last hill. And I didn't! No disrespect or judgment to other racers who did walk. Heck, lots of them walked and beat me up the hill. It's my own mental hang-up that I just can't walk and feel good about it. It's an effective strategy for lots of people. Like I said, it's my hang-up.

As usual, races run by Lightspeed are enjoyable. Easy registration, easy packet-pick up the morning of, nice race premium (it's the light blue buff in the photo) and this race had delicious pancakes and hot cocoa afterwards. I didn't snag an age group medal, but I met my finish time goal, my not-walking goal, and I also met my ENJOYMENT goal.

The Enjoyment goal is an important part of any event for me. There were a lot of things that might have made this event less than fun for me, and then some things happened that made it very fun.

  1. No one could come with me. I don't like going to things by myself. But I did it. 
  2. I had to park at the bottom at the hill and walk up to the race start. I was fortunate to chat with some friendly runners who made it an easy climb. 
  3. I had to get back down the hill at the end. I was so worried I'd be sweaty-cold. But a car was leaving right as I was and I got a ride to my van! 
  4. The slushy, gritty roads made me nervous, but I did fine. It was fine! 

So, one of my 2019 goals is chugging along nicely. I do hope to get a little faster by the time I run the Spring Thaw in February and reach my goal pace for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile in April! But for today, I'm going to relax and enjoy my achievement!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Goals for the Year

Well, I forgot to write down my goals for 2018. It's kind of weird, because I definitely had them. I searched around on my computer and found a document of goals from 2016. So let's take a look at that list.

2016 Goals


  • Finish Stalkers
  • Finish a really good personal essay. Get it published.
  • Get an agent.
  • Get some new publication clips.
  • Complete NaNoWriMo 2016.
  • Have a new novel to pitch at conferences.
  • Sell/publish another children’s fiction piece.
  • Sell/publish children’s non-fiction piece.
  • Attend a new writing conference.
  • Increase school visits.
  • Get/keep two steady freelance clients.
  • Read all the Newbery award books. 
  • Read 100 books (again).
  • Run CUCB.
  • Run Pgh Marathon Relay.
  • Try some new races.
  • Run a sub 7:00 mile.
  • Continue to work for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
  • Do a gleaning activity for GPCFB.

Well, I haven't finished Stalkers yet. Or gotten a really good personal essay published. I don't have an agent.
I do have some new publication clips. 
I've sort of stopped worrying about NaNo, but I don't see that as a problem. I've finished novels without it being NaNo. 
I have 2 novels to pitch at conferences now and I'm working on my third. 
I've sold and published many more fiction and non-fiction stories so that a CHECK.
I did attend a new conference this year. Yay!
I haven't done school visits beyond my own kids' schools, but that's OK. I have also worked with two clients in 2017 and 2018. So that's nice. 
I'm still slogging through Newberys and I've read 100 books. 
I've done the CUCB, no new races, no relay this year, and no sub 7 mile. 
I've stayed with Moms and I'm proud of it. I haven't done the gleaning activity. 

2019 Goals
I have some ideas for 2019. I'm thinking about a race a month. I want to finish the novel I'm working on. I plan to do some more educational writing, so put that on the list! 

I'll probably make an official list at some point. 

Do you make a list of goals for the year? 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Book Stats from Goodreads

There are some things I'm really, really good at doing.

Reading is one of them. Goodreads agrees.

If you're interested in a fun infographic about the books I read this year (so far, because I'm still reading) you can check it out here.

Here are some of my book stats from Goodreads. I love books, I love stats.

This first graph tells you how many books I read each year.

This graph tells you the years of publication of the books I read. Yes, most are in the 2000s. But take a look at the very bottom right of the graph. Yes, I read a book published in 1410. You can hover over these dots on Goodreads, but these are just screenshots.

Thanks for the data, Goodreads. Now back to the books!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

My Grandfather's Hats

I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house while I was growing up. They were my mom's parents, Marjorie Rose Walterhoefer Shaffer and Eugene Shaffer Sr. My grandfather, whom I called Gonky, never went to high school or college, but he was a steady reader and even a writer. He had an office in his basement and had two typewriters. I loved typing on those typewriters. He wrote stories for my children and I saved them. He also wrote a short non-fiction essay and I'm sharing that here today.

Eugene Shaffer, Sr.

My fascination with hats began with the Boy Scout Campaign Hat. The leaders and boys both wore the same hat and that made me feel grown up. I was so proud of that hat.

At that time I did not realize the role hats would play in my life. At different times the hat would give me a different identities.

In my seventeenth year World War 2 was going full blast and I couldn’t wait to join up. I traded my Boy Scout hat for the round white Navy hat. I wore that hat cocked to the side and with a very salty air.

Returning to civilian life hats continued to give me identity. Baseball caps became the hat of the times. Caps with sport team logos identified the city or state you were from. The Baltimore Orioles were my favorite.

Working as a heavy equipment operator I received hats from the manufacturer of the equipment I was operating and they identified me as the operator of that equipment. Later we were required to wear hard hats. They identified you even more. Different trades wore different color hard hats. Some companies put different color strips on the hats to identify the different trades.

When I retired I got involved with the DE Sailors Association and I was proud to wear a hat that identified me as a former crew member of the USS Bostwick DE 103. I am sure people noticed but did not comment. It wasn’t until my wife bought me a World War 11 Veterans hat when we visited the USS Yorktown that things started happening.

I took my wife to the doctor’s office and parked on the parking lot in back of the building. When we came out I noticed a paper stuck under my windshield wiper. I thought right away someone had hit my car and left a note. When I read the note, I was very surprised. The note read, “ Dear Sir, I saw your hat as you passed my car. I want to thank you for my freedom.” It was signed  “A grateful citizen.”

Others have gone out of their way to say the same thing. Once while walking on the beach at Bethany Beach, Delaware, a young man came running out of the water when he saw my hat. He was a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy and said he was proud of the job the service men did for our country in WW2.

Sometimes the thanks I receive are simpler. While pumping gas in my car a very young man in his twenties came over to shake my hand and thank me. More recently, my wife and I were at a restaurant. A lady came over to the table and asked if I was the man with the WW2 Veteran hat. I said I was and she said, “ I really admire you vets and thank you for saving our way of life.” I thanked her for taking the time to say so.

My hats have said a lot over the years, but none say it any better then my last one. I am grateful people remember. God Bless.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Runners' Guide to Parenting

I'm a runner and I'm also a parent and there are a lot of similarities. Both require flexibility, sacrifice, dedication, a good partner, and the ability to STARE FEAR IN THE FACE WITHOUT BLINKING. Just kidding, that last part only applies to parenting.

Here are five things I learned from being a runner and a parent.

1. Peeing - when you have to go, you have to go. Sometimes getting to the toilet is impossible, so you learn to adapt and go when you can, and sometimes when you can't NOT go.

2. Eating - better do it right or you pay the price. If you eat junk you'll probably regret it when you run. If you let your kids eat junk, you'll regret it when there's no junk left for you to snack on.

3. Timing - 10 minutes here and there, whether napping or doing some aerobic work, counts. You learn to sleep when the baby sleeps, and you learn to do step-ups on the bleachers when it's 36 degrees outside and your kid still has soccer practice.

4. Gear - there's lots out there, and you probably don't need all of it.

5. Speedwork is essential, because one day you will have to chase your kid through the pharmacy as he run away from his flu shot.

Sunday, November 4, 2018


I found this spider at an indoor soccer training facility in western Pennsylvania. It wasn't dead.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Today Trifle, Tomorrow the World

When my mother-in-law texted us that she'd be coming up to visit, I knew it was time. Time to tackle the trifle.

Sure, I've had my troubles with classic British Isles desserts (see: figgy pudding). But I've also had success (try my Wellington Squares).

But I really felt it was time. And my husband was very supportive. He loves trifle.

So I ordered a trifle bowl using Shipt because sometimes even a trip to Target is too much work.

I gathered the ingredients. Ladyfingers, berries, heavy cream for whipping, chocolate, and Bird's Custard power. I had to order that on Amazon to order Bird's Custard Powder because you've can't find that around here.

(You know what else I've had trouble finding? Chickpea flour. I asked a bunch of grocery stores if they carried it and all said no. Then when I went online and saw it was also sold as garbanzo bean flour. I got pretty mad thinking all those grocery stores might actually have had garbanzo bean flour but didn't know it was also chickpea flour. So I went back and asked and they didn't have either. I wasn't mad anymore.)

Here's what Bird's Custard Powder looks like:

Instructions for preparing it on the hob are on the side of the container, so don't be scared to try it. My MIL and I mixed it up and waited for it to cool. We layered ladyfingers in the trifle bowl, and I realized the ones I had weren't really great for getting to the corners of a round bowl. I might try the traditional madeira cake next time.

We mashed some berries next. My masher wasn't good at cutting the berries, so my MIL did it by hand. This was a mix of blackberries and strawberries. She said frozen berries are fine to use, too.

Then I busted out the new stand mixer my mom gave me. She earned it by putting in hard work at the casino. I'm not complaining, because it made great whipped cream!

We spooned the berries on to the ladyfingers. Sadly, we lost the visibility of the ladyfinger layer. But the berries do look like jewels. Then my MIL spooned the custard to the berries. Next I spooned the whipped cream on.

The youngest gave it "visual approval." This means he thought it looked good, and that he may try it.

We popped it into the fridge then went to get dinner at Ki Ramen (try the crispy pig's ears) and cheer for the Riverhounds in their first playoff game at home. It was rainy, sleety, and cold, but they played hard. Sadly they lost in penalty kicks, but it was still really fun.

We came home and grated chocolate on the trifle and then dug in.

It was a hit.

It's even good right out of the bowl for breakfast.