Thursday, May 28, 2015

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Title: Trigger Warning
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath.  Trigger Warning  includes previously published pieces of short fiction--stories, verse, and a very special  Doctor Who  story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013--as well "Black Dog," a new tale that revisits the world of  American Gods , exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning  explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In "Adventure Story"--a thematic companion to  The Ocean at the End of the Lane --Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience "A Calendar of Tales" are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year--stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother's Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on  Sherlock Holmes  in his award-nominated mystery tale "The Case of Death and Honey". And "Click-Clack the Rattlebag" explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we're all alone in the darkness.

My Review:

When I saw this on the Recent Releases shelf at my library, I figured I could not go wrong with a collection of Neil Gaiman short stories.  My attention span has been so limited lately that some short fiction sounded perfect, and my two forays into Gaiman's work thus far have been positive.

Unfortunately, this one fell into the so-so category for me.  I KNOW.  I'm just as surprised as you are.

Even so, there were a lot of great things about this collection, because it IS Neil Gaiman.  All of his stories are subtly unsettling, a writing tactic that I came to love in Neverwhere .  He skips the obvious, sometimes gory, horror of a Stephen King novel, and instead leaves you with a vague chill in your bones at the end of each tale.  That certainly did not disappoint.

And some of the individual stories were pretty great, all on their own.  "The Thing About Cassandra," "A Calendar of Tales," and "A Lunar Labyrinth" were my favorites, all excellent stand-alone stories that left me with much to ponder afterwards.  I also loved Gaiman's introduction to the collection--he explains his thought process behind each story (helpful for me as a reader), and also makes some really spot-on points about whether or not books should include "trigger warnings" to warn readers of possibly-sensitive material.

That said, there were two main reasons why I felt lukewarm on this book.  First (and Gaiman does acknowledge this in the introduction), the genre of the stories jumps around way too much for my liking.  There's horror, sci-fi, fairy tale retellings, a Doctor Who-based story...some prose, some poetry...they are all so vastly different.  This is the first short story collection I've read that jumps around so much in genre, and it made for a very choppy reading experience for me.  Though the tone was fairly similar between stories, I would have liked a little more continuity in the genres as well.

The second issue I had is that so many of the stories require previous knowledge of other stories.  As I mentioned, there is a Doctor Who story (which I actually liked more than I thought I would, though I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I'd ever seen the show), a Sherlock Holmes tale, two stories that are based on Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, respectively (I had to brush up on my fairy tales to understand them), and a story related to American Gods, a Gaiman novel that I've not read yet (so I don't think I fully appreciated the story).  Again, this made for a very choppy reading experience as I was constantly Googling information about these other sources in order to understand the story at hand.

Overall, if you're a Gaiman fan to begin with, and have good background on the original tales he spins off from, then this book is likely a win for you.  But otherwise, I think Trigger Warning has the potential to be a rougher read than what you may expect from short fiction.

Have any other Neil Gaiman fans read this one yet?  What did you think?
And can anyone tell me what the draw is to Doctor Who?  Because seriously, fans of that show are HARDCORE.  This was my first experience with a TARDIS.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Week 11 of training for the Mystic Half Marathon is done...RACE DAY IN 1 WEEK!

Total distance for the week: 22.56 miles

Not much to say this week except HOLY CRAP IT'S ALMOST RACE DAY.  Back in March when I started this training cycle, the race felt forever away.  I mean, there was still snow on the ground!  And this race wasn't until after Memorial Day.  Such a long time, right?  Eh, not really.  The last 3 months have flown by, but I feel like I am in great shape and really hoping for a PR a week from now!

One thing I am super proud is that I completed ALL of my training runs.  Every single one.  I made a calendar like this for every month of the training, and man did it feel good to cross off each workout as it was completed:
All my other Type A runners feel so warm and fuzzy looking that this pinnacle of organization, amiright?
When I trained for the Rochester half last September, I used a training program through my Nike+ app that, in hindsight, was too advanced for me.  And instead of adjusting it, I just started skipping training runs willy-nilly (though never the long runs).  This time around, I found a program that worked for me, but also wrote it down on my calendar in PENCIL so that I could easily adjust if needed.  But you know what?  I didn't need to.  Barring anything that keeps me from my last 3 runs this week and/or the race (knock on wood), I will have done every single run on my schedule, despite sickness, exhaustion, and a whole host of other wrenches that were thrown into my days.  I feel pretty darn good about that!

Here's what this week's workouts looked like:

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: 5 miles, easy pace.  Another humid Tuesday morning!  But it was a good run, 9:39 pace.

Wednesday: 10 x 400 intervals.
  Here it was: the speed workout I have been most afraid of the entire training cycle.  TEN intervals??  Three months ago, I never thought I could do it.  And honestly, this morning I didn't think I could either when I realized that my husband's tablet was OUT OF BATTERY!!
I plugged it in, but it was taking forever to even get enough charge to turn on.  Was I really going to have to do this treadmill run with nothing to watch?  That might be worse than actually doing the intervals...haha.

Thankfully, I got it up and running, and then it was interval time.  Half mile warmup, then 10 intervals at 5K pace with jogging in between.  I DID IT.  No walking.  I was totally beat at the end, but I really nailed this one.  I am proud of my speedwork this training cycle, but wow am I excited for NO MORE INTERVALS for a while!!   :)

Thursday: 3 miles easy pace.  Not much to report on this one.  A chilly morning run at 9:40 pace.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 3 miles @ race pace.  I saved this run for the evening (unusual for me) because I spent the day at the Rochester Air Show with Small Fry!

We had an awesome time watching the Blue Angels and other performers, checking out all the cool planes on display, and eating junky fair food.  However, by the end of it, we had been on our feet almost all day and I still had a run to do!  Small Fry was so tired, he fell asleep on the 10 minute bus ride from the show back to our car:

By the time I got out there post-dinner, my legs were dead weight and my pace was all over the place.  I had a really hard time finding my race pace stride, which is much different than the rest of the pace runs I've done lately.  However, I threw in a few hills and just did my best.  A bit too fast (9:34) but not bad.

Sunday: 7 mile long run.  This is the one modification that I made to the Hal Higdon training program I used.  He does not work a taper run in the week before race day--his plan calls for 12 miles the week prior.  However, I really felt like I needed a taper, so I decided to do a shorter run this week of 7 miles.  I want to do whatever I can to keep my legs fresh for next week.

This run started out pretty rough.  Three not-great things happened in the first half.  1) I started running and my music didn't play.  What?  I looked at my iPhone and saw Nike was tracking my mileage, but no music was coming out of the headphones.  I finally had to stop and investigate--turns out one headphone (I only wear one at a time when road running) was not working.  So I switched headphones and carried on.  This is super annoying though, because my husband just bought these for me LAST WEEK!  I have terrible luck with headphones.

Second problem: it was windy and I discovered that my new Under Armour shorts are not ideal for windy conditions.  They have a high cut up each side that flaps quite wide in a strong breeze.  Sorry, neighbors, for the show you got this morning (hey, at least I wore underwear).  But there was nothing I could do about it once I was out; I wasn't going back to change.  However, I quickly decided these will NOT be my race day shorts because they were so darn distracting for the entire run!

Third: I needed a bathroom break at 3.8 miles.  Sigh.  By the time I stopped for it, I realized I really needed an ego boost to make the second half of this run better.  So, even though it was supposed to be a taper long run, I decided to push the last 3.2 miles below race pace.  Really ramp it up and negative-split like whoa in order to build my confidence back up.  And I did!  My splits for this run were 10:16/10:10/10:15/10:01/9:27/9:03/9:07.  BOOM.  Owned.  Confidence restored.

7 days to go!

I am linking up again with Tara's Weekend Update at Running 'N Reading (a fantastic blog for runners and readers alike!!).  Check it out!

How was your running week, friends?

Anyone else have a race coming up next weekend??

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: A Hit and A Miss

Week 10 of training for the Mystic Half Marathon is done...only TWO WEEKS to go!

Total distance for the week: 27.62 miles

We had a hit and a miss with my new running purchases from last week.

The hit is my new Under Armour running shorts.  I took them out on two runs this week (including today's long run), and they were awesome.  A little shorter than I am used to, but because they are not compression shorts (super-short compression shorts ride up my thighs in an oh-so-unsightly way), they were still comfortable.  Thumbs up!
Me likey.
The miss goes FlipBelt.  I KNOW.  I am like, the only runner in the world who does not like the FlipBelt.  I had it recommended to me by SO MANY people.  EVERY review I read online was glowing.  "It doesn't ride up!!" everyone said.

Unfortunately, for me, that was not true.  I took the FlipBelt out on Saturday's 3 mile run.  I had it on my hips, like so:
I strategically washed out this photo so you cannot see my stretch marks.  You're welcome. #mombod
Within the first 5 minutes, it was up around my waist.  Which was wicked uncomfortable (and looked weird under my shirt).  And, made my stomach sweat a lot.

Post-run.  NO LIKEY.
I was willing to give it another go. I put it a tiny bit lower for my long run on Saturday.  And...1/3 of a mile in, I was on the side of the road, ripping it off in frustration because it had already ridden up on me 3 times.  Luckily, I had brought my armband in my hydration pack as a backup, so I moved my phone there and continued on.  But I think it's safe to say that I am part of the "small percentage of people" (according to FlipBelt's website) that does experience ride up with the product.  Oh well.  Me and this cursed armband are in it for the long haul, it's starting to look like...haha.

Anyway, on to my workouts!

Monday: Rest. 

Tuesday: 5 miles, easy pace.  So humid!!  I made the mistake of wearing light gray compression capris, and was worried I had a patch of butt sweat on them the whole time (luckily, did not).  Ha.  But, the run itself was not bad, with an average pace of 9:47.

Wednesday: 45 minute tempo run.
  My longest tempo run of this training cycle!  I did it on the treadmill, it went very well, minus the fact that my knee started bugging me again.  Ho-hum.

Thursday: 3 miles easy pace.  So, Tuesday it was so warm/humid, I looked like I had showered when I got home.  Thursday, I had to run in my winter gear, because it was 37 degrees when I started.  I thought I had seen the last of you for a while, winter gear!!

This run was just okay.  I had a fast average pace for an easy run (9:24), but my knee was bugging me again and I feel like I went fast just so I could get home quickly and in one piece.  Meh.

Friday: Rest.   I needed it after 2 wonky knee days.

Saturday: 3 miles @ race pace.  This run was a bit of a, so that I could test my new shorts and FlipBelt (already talked about that), but two, so that I could see how my knee felt.  If it bothered me again on this run, I was going to shorten my Sunday long run.  I didn't want to make the knee worse before race day.  However, I did this entire run in my local park, on nice even trails, knee pain.  So I am 99% sure this knee thing is from running on cambered roads, as I mentioned last week.  Yay for a pain-free run!  If only I had more non-road running options.

Oh, and I was a tad fast...9:35 (goal was 9:45) I've said before, I tend to go too fast vs too slow on these race pace runs.  At least it was only by a little bit.

Sunday: 12 mile long run.  My LAST really long run before the race!  And it was fantastic.  I did part of the run in the park, in order to give my knee an easier time, and it did not bug me one bit during the entire run.  I started out at 7am with great cloud cover and temps in the 60s--perfect.  I took 2 Gu's during the run (non-caffeinated, at 4.5 miles and 9 miles), and just like last week, not a single peep from my stomach.  I am so psyched about this.  They also gave me a great kick, as I always felt a bit of energy come back within a mile of fueling.  I think I may have finally figured out how to control my ridiculous stomach!

I did have to stop for a pee break at Tim Horton's...AGAIN...I think I am just going to have to plan for this on race day.  It always happens between the 6-7 mile marks.  I guess I better study that race map for porta potty stops.

The sun did come out around mile 4, which was a little rough, but I had a good amount of water with me so I pushed through.  My second Gu at mile 9 really helped me out, and my mile splits in the last 3 miles were some of the fastest of the entire run.  Ended with 10:05 average pace, faster than I intended for a long run, but I just felt good!

And came home to chocolate chocolate chip pancakes, which is never, ever a bad thing.

I am linking up again with Tara's Weekend Update at Running 'N Reading (a fantastic blog for runners and readers alike!!).  Check it out!

How was your running week, friends?

What's your favorite post-early-run breakfast?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

GIVEAWAY! Grain of Truth by Stephen Yafa

Title: Stephen Yafa
Author: Stephen Yafa
Publisher: Avery
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source: copy received from the publisher for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads

No topic in nutrition is more controversial than wheat. While mega-sellers like  Grain Brain  and  Wheat Belly  suggest that wheat may be the new asbestos, Stephen Yafa finds that it has been wrongly demonized. His revealing book sets the record straight, breaking down the botany of the wheat plant we’ve hijacked for our own use, the science of nutrition and digestion, the effects of mass production on our health, and questions about gluten and fiber— all to point us towards a better, richer diet.

Wheat may be the most important food in human history, reaching from ancient times to General Mills. Yafa tours commercial factories where the needs of mass production trump the primacy of nutrition, and reports on the artisan grain revolution. From a Woodstock-like Kneading Conference to nutrition labs to a boutique bakery and pasta maker’s workshop in Brooklyn, he also finds that there may in fact be a perfect source of wheat-based nutrition. Its name is sourdough.

For readers of  Salt Sugar Fat  and  The Omnivore's Dilemma Grain of Truth  smoothly blends science, history, biology, economics, and nutrition to give us back our daily bread.

My Review:

This book was of interest to me because, of course, I am a bit of a food science nerd.  However, I also have several friends who are gluten sensitive and/or have celiac disease, so my curiosity was heightened more than usual.  I often get annoyed by people who go gluten-free without having any particular health reason to do so, but more because they are following the latest diet fad.  Doesn't this make things a little harder for the people who actually can't eat gluten, but are now taken less seriously because of all the bandwagon jumpers?  (I have heard a counterpoint to this though, I believe from Heather at Capricious Reader--that it makes life easier for celiacs, because there are more gluten-free options now, given heightened demand.  So I suppose it could go either way.)  Anyway, as soon as I read the description for Stephen Yafa's journalistic approach to this topic, I knew I had to give it a go.

First, I really enjoyed Yafa's lighthearted tone throughout the book.  He obviously did a lot of well-rounded, in-depth research for this project, but his voice has a levity that will keep readers engaged.  Everybody likes a well-timed bread joke, right?  Yafa's more casual, personable tone makes his narrative stand out from that of other food science writers (ie. Michael Pollan (not that I don't think you are personable or funny, Michael Pollan, you know I am a groupie for life)).

Yafa does begin the book by exploring the trend towards gluten-free--who is doing it because they need to, and who is doing it because it just seems healthier.  From there, he gets to the real meat of it (wheat of it?)--is an avoidance of gluten really going to make you healthier?  And while people with celiac really must avoid wheat at all costs, is there anything that people with gluten sensitivity (less serious than celiac) can do to incorporate wheat into their diets safely?

Yafa's findings are extremely interesting.  I won't go through all the conclusions here (I'll make you read the book, of course!), but he uncovered a lot of scientific studies about gluten sensitivity that could be real game-changers in the gluten-free movement in the coming years.  I'll give a warning that some of the heavily scientific chapters towards the middle can get a tad dry, making my head spin with all the talk of proteases and amino acids and microbiomes.  That said, it's all good information--just not the type of reading I would do if you're not prepared to be fully steeped in the book for a while.  (My "I'll just read for a while before bed, even though I've been up since 5am, but I'm sure I can stay focused!" routine was not always a good one.)

Anyone with celiac's disease or gluten sensitivity--I highly recommend this for you.  But obviously, the appeal for this book goes beyond that (since I'm about as gluten-unfree as they come).  Foodies, lovers of foodie non-fiction, and really anybody who wants a better understanding of what they're eating, are sure to find something fascinating between these pages.

Are any of my loyal blog readers gluten-free?  By necessity, or by choice?  How do you think this book would influence your daily diet (if at all)?

Avery Books has generously offered to give away a copy of Grain of Truth to one of my lucky readers!  Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.  US entrants only please.  Ends May 21!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: SHOES!

Week 9 of training for the Mystic Half Marathon is done...only 3 weeks to go!

Total distance for the week: 27.94 miles

An exciting week for running apparel around here!

First, my Mother's Day gift from my husband and the kiddos came early.  Not one, but TWO new pairs of running shoes!:

WOOHOO!  The first pair of running shoes I got fitted for at Fleet Feet (last year) was the Nike Lunar Eclipse 3.  It was one of the only shoes I tried on that did not make the bunion on my right foot (super sexy, I know) hurt like crazy, because the shoe has a super wide toe box.  I went to buy a new pair at the end of last year, and of course, Nike stopped making the 3, so I switched to the almost-identical Lunar Eclipse 4.

Well now...of course, they've stopped making the 4, and moved on to the Lunar Eclipse 5.  I really like my 4's though, and saw that a few retailers were still selling them here and there, so my husband offered to nab me two pairs before they sold out.  Huzzah!  My current pair of shoes only has about 220 miles so far, but it would be nice to be able to rotate shoes rather than wearing 1 pair down until they've got nothing left.  I'm quite excited about being able to do that in time for race day!  :)

In other news, my mother-in-law sent me a $50 Amazon gift card, which I used to buy myself a much-coveted FlipBelt, as well as a new pair of Under Armour running shorts:

They should be here this week.  The FlipBelt will hopefully replace my dreaded iPhone armband, and the shorts will replace my black Adidas running shorts that I've had since 2007 and are about to fall to pieces.  :)

Anyway, on to my workouts!

Monday: Rest.  Well-deserved after last week's race!

Tuesday: 5 miles, easy pace.  This run went okay, but it was SO HUMID!!  Kind of unusual for Rochester at this time of year (especially at 5am).  I suppose this is good practice for race day though...Mystic, though not necessarily warmer than Rochester, is almost always more humid, given its coastal location.  I went out on the run with stick-straight hair, and came home with some serious volume:

One thing about this run--I started to get a slightly-sore twinge in my left knee for most of it.  I've had knee issues when I run on shoes that are past their retirement date, but otherwise have not had problems.  After the run, I ran the problem (pun!) past a few of my running friends, and after ruling out shoes/insoles as a problem, I think it's likely related to the fact that I've been almost exclusively running on the left side of roads throughout this training.  And, as most roads tend to do, they have a slant in the shoulder that goes down to the left, putting my left foot at a weird angle much of the time.  More on this in a minute.

Wednesday: 9 x 400 intervals.
  Knocked this one out of the park.  Managed not to walk between any of the intervals (only jogged).  I only have 1 interval workout left before the race (10 x 400), I can't believe it!  I remember when I did my first one and never thought I'd be able to hang in there for 9 or 10 in a row.  (And, side note, no knee twinge today...I was on the treadmill.)

Thursday: 3 miles easy pace.  This run went great.  I used one of my new pairs of shoes, which felt wonderful, and I had no knee pain (though I did try to run in the road, rather than in the shoulder, for much of it--something that is easier to do on an early-morning run with no traffic).

Friday: Rest.  And I got to spend it chaperoning Small Fry's field trip to the farm.  Good times!!

Saturday: 11 mile long run.  This was supposed to be Sunday's workout, but I moved it up a day because 1) they were calling for possible Sunday morning thunderstorms, and 2) I wanted to do it before Mother's Day, because long runs make me crazy tired and I didn't want to be sleepy all day long on my BIG holiday.  :)

I got up early for this one (5am, with the intention of leaving at 6am), and I almost wish I got up earlier.  We are having an insane heat wave in Rochester right now (it was 91 on Friday, a record-breaker), and it was already 71 degrees by the time I started out.  Luckily, the sun was at my back for a lot of it, but this run definitely reminded me of what the summer will feel like soon!  Thank goodness for my Nathan hydration pack, I took in a LOT of water today.

Overall, this was a great run.  I started off feeling strong, though I did start to get my knee twinge again at mile 2.  I started paying more attention to how my left foot was hitting the pavement, because when I looked down, I noticed that I kept hitting hard on the outer edge of my left foot even on flat surfaces, almost as if I was expecting the left-side slope at all times.  When I made a better effort to flatten my foot falls, the knee twinge went away almost immediately.  For the rest of training, I really need to stay conscious of this, because I don't want an injury before race day.

I only had 1 Gu left at home, so I decided to take it around the halfway point.  I stopped for a quick bathroom break at mile 6, then took the Gu as soon as I started running again.  This was a non-caffeinated Gu (all the others I tried were caffeinated), and I had ZERO stomach cramps/problems after eating it.  Not a single one.  This is a miracle for me and my sensitive stomach!!  I immediately went out to Fleet Feet after the run and bought a huge supply of these.  They will definitely be my race-day fuel of choice.

I flagged a little in the last mile, but overall I did great.  Average 9:59 pace that stayed fairly consistent throughout.  Feeling ready to do this thing!!

Sunday: 5 miles @ race pace.  Oh man, was I dreading this run.  Reason 1: running at race pace the day after a long run sounded way painful.  Reason 2: I got ridiculously, unashamedly drunk on Saturday night, thanks to my lovely husband who made me an AWESOME steak dinner after the kids went to bed, and then split a bottle of wine with me.  The steak and the wine (and the peanut butter pie for dessert) were to die for, but given that I have had very little alcohol during this training cycle, that half-bottle of wine was trouble.

I didn't even bother setting an alarm for Sunday, because I knew when I stumbled into bed that there was no 5am run in my future.  Sure enough, I woke up Sunday with a hangover and a very sour stomach.  Luckily, throughout the day the situation did improve, and it was nice to have the day to get pampered by my boys and hang out with them at Ontario Beach Park:

However, this all just put off my run until after my kiddos went to bed (roughly 7:30pm).  It had been a hot day (mid-80's) and while the sun was going down at this point, it was still outrageously humid.  But I put on my big girl panties and got out there anyway.

Not gonna lie, the first two miles were a struggle.  My stomach was still not entirely happy, and it felt like I was trying to breathe underwater in that humidity.  However, by mile 3 I felt like I was hitting a groove.  And I actually did a great job keeping race pace (9:38 average overall, 9:45 was the goal).  One thing I did notice is that when I hit a hill, I get nervous that I'm going to fall too far behind pace, so I tend to overcompensate and go way too hard up the hill (usually around 9:00-9:10).  This is something I will have to be careful of on race day, because I don't want to lose all my steam on those hills.

In the end, it was a bit of a struggle, but 5 miles were done, and well-paced to boot!  I did look like I had taken a shower when I finished though.  Did I mention it was humid?

I am linking up again with Tara's Weekend Update at Running 'N Reading (a fantastic blog for runners and readers alike!!).  Check it out!

How was your running week, friends?

Anyone else primarily a road runner?  How do you deal with those sloping shoulders wreaking havoc on your knees?

Pick your poison: if you had to run in either 20 degree snow, or 80 degree humidity, for the rest of your days, what would you choose?  (Honestly, I think I'd have to go with the snow, but I could be biased because I'm still sweating.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

Title:   Finding Jake
Author: Bryan Reardon
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn't. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school. 

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?

My Review:

It was hard for me to go into this novel and not compare it, at least in the beginning, to We Need To Talk About Kevin.  There are some basic similarities: a fiction novel about a school shooting, told from the perspective of a parent of the shooter.  However, Finding Jake quickly dovetailed into its own unique tale, as there were important differences that became apparent early on.  Most importantly, Jake is only a suspected shooter in the killing that takes place, and you spend much of the novel trying to figure out if he was actually involved or not.  Related to that, Jake is not nearly so damaged (demonic?) as Kevin in Lionel Shriver's novel.  These details, paired with the fact that the narrator is Jake's father Simon (a self-critical stay-at-home dad), give you a novel that tells a story unlike any other.

With an event so catastrophic as a school shooting at its core, it's easy to expect that Jake will be the center of this novel's universe.  However, I found that Simon's story was truly the driving force for most of it.  When he realizes that Jake could be a killer, Simon delves into the last 17 years of his parenting to figure out where he could have gone wrong.  Did he socialize Jake enough?  Did he let him hang out with the wrong friends?  As the parent who was primarily responsible for child-rearing for so many years, it's easy to see how Simon would want to overanalyze even the most minute decisions he made as a father through the years.  Did he do the right things for his son?  Does he even truly know him?

I found Simon's perspective to be engaging and relatable--yes, likely because I, too, am an overly-critical-of-myself stay-at-home parent, but even if I wasn't, Reardon writes this character with a clarity that brings Simon's reality to life for any reader.  Simon's job has been his kids for nearly two decades, and now he finds that one of them may have committed a horrible atrocity.  How can he not second guess his entire life as a father?  His journey is heartbreaking, but also intriguing, as his position as a stay-at-home dad (vs. the more common stay-at-home mom) adds a distinctive twist to the narrative.

I do have to note that, as well-developed as Simon's character is, I felt that his wife (Rachel) was given short shrift.  Even though Simon is central to the novel, Rachel's actions are important enough to the story that I should have been able to get a better read on her.  However, I often felt there was a disconnect between her personality and her actions, and was sometimes left scratching my head at why she made certain decisions (at one point, she basically abandons Simon during a fairly critical moment in the book, which based on the knowledge I had of her previously, seemed unfitting).  This is not a huge detractor from the novel, but worth mentioning, as I felt it was quite a contrast from Simon's character.

That detail aside, this book was well worth the read, and I was hooked from page one.  While comparisons to novels like We Need to Talk About Kevin might make you start reading Finding Jake, by the time you finish it, those comparisons will be a distant memory.  This novel has a powerful, emotional story to tell, and a unique perspective from which to tell it.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Bryan Reardon on Facebook.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: GLCC Wavy Waters 10K Recap!

Week 8 of training for the Mystic Half Marathon is done...two-thirds done!  I can't believe it.

Total distance for the week: 18.12 miles

The real story this week is my 10K race (see the end of this post), but here's a review of my training during the week leading up to it...

Monday: Rest.  Much needed after the 10 miles I put in Sunday.  I was soooooore.

Tuesday: 4.5 miles, easy pace.  Not gonna lie--this one hurt.  I did my best to get into bed early the night before, but Small Fry was up (no lie) every 30 minutes between 11:30pm and 4:00am.  When my alarm went off at 5am, it felt like a terrible practical joke.  But I got up and did the run.  My left quad was aching for most of it, and my splits were all over the place.  Part of me wanted to go fast (I always do that after a long, slow weekend run...I get antsy and want to see a faster pace), but the other part of me was hurtin' fo' sho'.  At the 3 mile mark, I asked myself, "Could I have a conversation with someone right now?"  And the answer was a definite no.  So, this was not as easy as it should have been.  But I did feel good afterwards, knowing I pounded it out.

Wednesday: 40 minute tempo run.
  On the treadmill.  Hard as per usual.  Nothing new to report!

Thursday: 3 miles easy pace.  SUCH a better run than Tuesday.  No soreness, and I could tell right out of the gate that I was feeling gooooood.  I did the first two miles easy (9:39 and 9:36), then decided that I wanted to do the last mile at 10K pace.  I've done 10K pace on the treadmill a few times here and there, but I haven't done it outdoors in a long time.  I wanted to practice for this weekend's race.  10K pace for me is roughly 9:10, but after feeling so good the first two miles, when I sped up I had a REALLY hard time keeping it under control.  I ended up finishing the last mile in 8:47.  Okay, a bit faster than what I can handle running for 6.3 miles, but I guess it's good that I felt so strong?  :)

Friday: Rest.  I spent almost the entire day playing outside with my boys (including dragging their bikes to the park down the street...I should have driven instead), and was more tired by the end of the day than I ever am on a running day!  Haha.  So much for rest, but it was a lovely day.

Saturday: Rest.  Made sure to take it easier today in preparation for tomorrow's race.

Sunday: GLCC Wavy Waters 10K.  Much like the Hearts of Iron 5K, I chose this race simply because I needed a 10K in my training plan, and time-wise, this one fit perfectly.  I did very little research about the race (how big it was, course map, etc) before I signed up in March.  I knew that it benefitted a local daycare center (I like that, good cause) and it was taking place along Seneca Lake (scenery!).  However, this past Tuesday, I did a little more Googling to check it out.  And it turns out...that exactly 22 people ran it last year.  TWENTY!TWO!  If I had run it, I would have definitely placed in my AG...because there were only 2 people in my AG.

Commence race nerves, yet again--because as with Hearts of Iron, the thought that I could place had me SUPER excited.

Race morning, I woke up at 5:45am.  Ate 2 pieces of peanut butter toast and a banana, slugged down my water.  I was wearing my Nike Pro knee-length compression shorts, but I had no idea what to do for a shirt.  Weather was calling for 65-ish degrees by the 9am start time, but it was on Seneca Lake (windy).  So, I put on a New Balance tank, then packed a t-shirt and a long-sleeve shirt in the car just in case.

I had an hour's drive ahead of me, so I left around 6:45am and got to the race location in Geneva (Lake Trout Capital of the World! Things I learned today) a little before 8am.  As I suspected, it was windy and chilly.  I decided that I should change into my long sleeve shirt.  BUT...then I realized that, of the 3 shirts I had with me, only 1 had a pocket for my car key, and that was the tank top.  Hey, no problem, I'll just tie my car key into my shoe laces, like I do for my house key when I run at home sometimes.

Apparently I forgot that my car does not have a regular key (push-button start, so I don't look at it much), and there was no way this big honkin' thing was getting tied to my shoe.
Damn you, giant key fob!
Le sigh.  Tank top it would be then.  I was afraid of being cold, but at this point I had wasted 15 minutes on this shirt decision, so I ran into the building to check in and warm up.  I pinned on my bib, then went outside to do a little bit of a running warm up, as much to get my legs going as to get used to the temperature.

(In hindsight, the tank top was a good choice--the sun was on us for the whole race, and by the end it was almost 70!  I warmed up by the 1 mile mark anyway.)

I brought my Clif Shot Blocks as pre-race fuel.  I ate 3 of them 20 minutes before the start, and chased with a bunch of water.  No issues to report and I had good energy during the race.

At 9am, 10K runners were called to the start (there was also a 5K starting at 9:15).  There were 24 of us at the start line--definitely my smallest race so far!  One of the guys started asking everyone if they had any idea where we were going, and we all started laughing when we realized none of us had any familiarity with the course.  "Well, I hope someone out there does!" someone joked.  The race director came over and gave us a rough idea of how we would be starting out, then some rather complicated directions about following yellow balloons and red balloons...I just started hoping that the people in front of me would figure it out.  :)

Then, we were off!  And wouldn't you know it...we all crossed the street and promptly took the wrong right turn.  Fortunately, we figured it out fast and looped back to the correct road.  OOPS.  After that first turn, we went through a pedestrian tunnel and came out right next to Seneca Lake.  What a gorgeous view:

The entire race was along the lake.  I could get used to running like this!

I had a bit of an equipment malfunction at the start...I started my Garmin, then went to start my Nike+ app on my phone (in the armband) music started.  Huh?  I tried to get a look at my phone, but with the sun reflecting on the armband, I couldn't see what was wrong.  I finally gave it up and left it alone until about 1 mile in, when we hit some shade and I was able to fix it.  Yet another reason why I need a FlipBelt instead of this freaking armband.

Between the wrong turn, the phone malfunction, and my amazement over the lakefront, I got rather distracted from my pace, and when I finally looked down at my Garmin a few minutes in, it said 7:25.  "DIAL IT DOWN, LUTHER" my inner voice said.  (Please tell me that I'm not the only one who uses Luther the Anger Translator as a mental coach?  If you're not familiar, click the link and thank me later.)  My goal pace was between 9:00-9:15.  I tried to slow it down, but it was hard to keep myself in check.  Finally, I kept hitting 8:45 pretty comfortably, so I decided to just let it ride there for a while and hope for the best.

With so few people in the pack, we spread out pretty quickly.  There was a girl in black who passed me around the 1 mile mark, and stayed ahead of me by about 15 seconds for quite a while.  The next person in front of her was a girl in purple who was waaaaaayyyyy ahead, barely in my sights most of the time.  So for much of the race, I was running solo, which was fine.  I had a good view and (after the first mile) some good tunes to keep me happy.  Even though I was trying to PR this race, I made sure to spend a lot of time just soaking up the was a beautiful day, and I have a tendency to lose sight of my surroundings when doing a race.  I wanted to try to enjoy it all a bit more.  :)

Just before 4 miles, I noticed I was coming up on the girl in black.  I stayed right behind her for a half mile or so, before I realized I was kind of just using her as a pacer.  And I didn't want to pace with her, I wanted to PASS her.  So I dialed it up just enough to get the job done.  (After we finished, she told me she used me as a pacer for the last two miles...haha!)  Purple girl was still eons ahead of me, so with that pass completed, I was truly solo the last two miles.

The course itself, other than being picturesque, was also amazingly, awesomely, fantastically FLAT.  We basically curved down along the lakefront and then looped back.  The nice thing about this is that the sun was at our backs for the second half.  The not-so-nice thing was that when we looped back, you could see the white tents at the finish line...three loooooong looking miles away.  Kind of a tough thing to be staring at the whole second half!

After my stellar first mile or two, I did lose steam towards the end.  I looked down at my Garmin at one point during the last mile, and saw 9:55.  WHAT!  I knew I was getting lazy, so I pushed it up a little more.  Then, at the last turn heading toward the finish (quarter mile to go), a volunteer was clapping as I passed and said, "Way to go!  Way to go guys!"  GUYS??  I thought I was alone!  Did the girl in black really save herself for a last minute pass??  I started sprinting, then realized that that made me feel like I was going to puke.  Considering that the finish was at the daycare center, with tons of little kids all around, I thought puking at the finish might be a poor choice this day.  So, I took a few deep breaths, kept my form in check, and just went as hard as I could, sans vomit.  I did get passed--by a total sleeper cell, a woman who I saw a good minute behind me at the second water stop.  She kicked it up in the second half for sure!!

I finished strong and ended with a final time of 55:55--PR by over a minute!  I was delighted.  Despite the fact that I positive-split the entire race, I was still overjoyed with this performance.  (And hey...the last two miles were slowest, but they were closest to my target pace...haha.)

Mile splits:
1 - 8:31
2 - 8:38
3 - 8:52
4 - 8:52
5 - 9:01
6 - 9:25

And yes--there were only 2 people in my age group (the other one was that distant Purple Girl), so second place AG for me!  And a medal this time!  Ooooh, fancy.

Overall, this was a fantastic training race for me.  I was able to practice with fueling, as well as a possible race-day outfit for the half, and I had plenty of times during the race when I felt like I was flagging, but I kept myself mentally focused.  Plus, the ego boost of an AG award never hurts.  :)

I am linking up again with Tara's Weekend Update at Running 'N Reading (a fantastic blog for runners and readers alike!!).  Check it out!

How was your running week, friends?

Anyone else race this weekend?  It was a beautiful weekend for it (here in the Northeast, at least).  :)
Imagination Designs