Week 12

It was a great week! I stuck to my planks and push-ups, even through the traveling I did. I was away from home more than at home last week – at least that’s the way it felt. I’m pushing myself to the limit with my push-up regimen in hopes of graduating to a full push-up on April 1. As for planks, I held them at 1:25 last week. I still have days where I have to set my knees down, or get up on my hands instead of my forearms, but more often than not I’m holding them for the full time on my forearms.

Now, onto the biggest part of last week – my first 10k race. Alright, technically it was on Sunday, but since today feels like Monday anyway, I’m choosing to write about it now. It was amazing. The elevation change really seemed to make a difference this time. I have mixed feelings about elevation and whether it’s easier to run at a lower one or not. Some races it is, some races it isn’t. It seemed to help this time, even if it was a placebo effect.

I knew going into the race that I wanted to try my hand at a negative split. Remember that huge hill I was worried about a few weeks ago? Yeah, that thing was a beast, and so I’m really glad that I kept the first three miles slower. No joke, this hill really did last from mile 2 to mile 4. Yep, two solid miles of hill. I’d say mile 2 was steep hill with switchbacks, and mile 3 was a gradual climb. I cruised past people all the way. Left and right they walked while I jogged steadily on.

And then the most confusing part: mile 4 had a huge, fun steep series of switchbacks that people were going slow on! I didn’t understand it at all as I pistoned past them, using my momentum to attempt the positive side of my negative split. And it worked. Here’s how it all broke down:*

Mile 1: 13:01 (which is when I realized I should probably pick it up…)
Mile 2: 11:01
Mile 3: 11:51 (steep hill, anyone?)
Mile 4: 10:49 (gradual hill, anyone?)
Mile 5: 9:02 (why wouldn’t you use a downhill?)
Mile 6: 10:10

*These times were recorded by my running app, which I turned on before I crossed the start line and well after I crossed the finish line, so they are skewed by a few seconds.

All told, my chip time – which I will forever sing the praises of – was 1:07.58. I had a goal in mind of 1:08, so look at me beating my goal by 2 seconds! Could I have shaved time off that first mile and subsequently crossed the finish line faster? Most likely, but part of me thinks running slowly is what helped conquer those hills. Oh, you know, running the bastard hills of Estes Park probably helped a little, too.

Ballin', son!

Ballin’, son!

Anyway, this race goes down as one of my favorites yet. Running in a tank top in March? Yes please. Check out the scenery behind me: running a trail around a beautiful reservoir? Yes please. Most importantly, running a 10k roughly one year after starting to run? Yes please.

Welcome Aries!

Today, at 6:45pm, the sun enters Aries. It’s my month, bitches!!! Also, it’s the first day of spring.

AriesMmm, Aries. We are ambitious spazzes. Nervous, sensitive ball-breakers. The angry toddlers of the Zodiac. “I am,” we proclaim, banging our fists on the table. We want to be first, last, only. The best, the brightest, the greatest – whatever it is, it’s got to be our accolade. We shamelessly climb ladders at work, charming anyone and anything in our way. We cheer on the ones we love with unflagging optimism. We speak with unfailing confidence. We get irritated way too easily, but we get over it quickly, too.

This may not be an Aries trait, but I’m throwing it out there anyway as a Joanna trait: we can’t tell a joke. Laugh too hard before we reach the punchline, and by the time we reach it, no one else thinks it’s funny. However, when we’re not trying to be funny, people find us hilarious.

The Best Aries I Know

Keegan Michael Key

Keegan Michael Key

Keegan Michael Key

Candace Cameron Burr
Reese Witherspoon
Sarah Jessica Parker
Robert Downey, Jr.
Eddie Murphy
Emma Watson
Marvin Gaye
Maya Angelou
Lady Gaga

Gaga!!!

Gaga the Great!!!

Christopher Walken
Jayne Mansfield

The quintessential Jayne Mansfield photo, with Sophia Loren looking on

The quintessential Jayne Mansfield photo, with Sophia Loren looking on

Elton John
Kate Hudson
Leonardo da Vinci
Vincent Van Gogh
Joan Crawford (we share the same birthday – lucky me)

Joan Crawford looking fierce

Joan Crawford looking fierce

Harry Houdini
Bette Davis

Yep, we are pretty great people. Let us all bask in the glory that is Aries: energetic, enthusiastic and passionate! It is our month, after all.

Bruce McCulloch, Kids in the Hall

Throwback Thursday

When I was 13 and about a month away from the end of seventh grade, I chopped off all my hair.

Honest to God, I thought it would look cute. I was going for a cute Goth look. I just tried Googling it to see if I could find something similar to what I had in mind, but I can’t. I remember there was a girl on the Jenny Jones Show who had it, and she was gorgeous. I wanted something edgy. Due to my own insecurity about demanding what I wanted, I ended up with essentially a “Mom cut.” You know, like a 50-year-old woman’s haircut.

Me, circa 1998

Me, circa 1998

Walking into the living room to show off my new look for the first time, my sister burst out laughing. I crumbled. After convincing me I could pull it off, she was the first one to ridicule me. She insisted it was “the way” I walked in, but I knew she was lying. I had no choice but to wear this new look.

School was merciless, as seventh grade often is. Suddenly I was a dyke, a lesbian, a man. To this day, I perceive myself as looking extremely masculine no matter how many times people have assured me I’m feminine. I became extremely quiet, but not in a meek way: my quietness was terrifying to my classmates. I was “Jeremy” in Pearl Jam’s song. I was the weird, smart loner that would shoot up the classroom. I know that’s exactly what they thought. I could silence anyone’s laughter with my pissed off glare, and I often did.

Not many photos exist of me during this time. The one I shared in this post was taken for a school project and was unavoidable. I would hide myself from the camera as often as I could, along with refusing to participate in most of the activities touted by my peers. I didn’t have time for all that mainstream crap. I was planning my escape: moving to New York City, becoming someone of worth, being with people who would understand me, finding a guy who didn’t look like everyone else. I was more concerned with crafting a world that didn’t exist than surviving the one I was in.

I spent those years in my room, hiding. I don’t regret it. It was much easier to hide my grotesque features than try to assimilate when I was sure I’d be rejected. I began to emerge again in my freshman year of high school as my hair finally started to grow. My wardrobe consisted of gray, black, purple and dark teal, fishnet, lace, denim and vinyl, combat boots and platform boots. When I look back, I see a girl who projected confidence and an IDGAF attitude – most likely the reason my teachers all loved me.

But I remember the girl inside that shell, the one who wanted to disappear. The one who couldn’t wait to get away. The one who owned the stereotypical teenage cry of, “No one understands me!”

Bruce McCulloch, Kids in the Hall

Bruce McCulloch, Kids in the Hall

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the teens who feel, in Lady Gaga’s words, “Outcast, bullied or teased.” I will always believe in the importance of looking past the edgy clothes, weird hair, piercings and tattoos into the real heart of the person beneath: the pain they hold, the loneliness they feel. I will continue to roll my eyes when people say, “It’s just a phase.” I know how annoying it is to be constantly dismissed when you’re trying to express yourself. I know how irritating it is not to be taken seriously. I know how scary it can be when everyone makes fun of you.

But you have to be yourself, and you have to be strong. No apologies for being you, because you are perfect just the way you are.

That’s Not My Name!

The following is a public service announcement, brought to you by the letters J and R.

My name is Joanna.

Jo-AN-na.

Not Joanne.

Not Joann.

Not JoAnn.

Not JoAnne.

Not Jo Ann.

Not Jo Anne.

Not Johanna.

Not Jonah. (Yes, my name has been pronounced this way before.)

Not Jo-AWN-na.

Not Jo-HAWN-na.

Not even JoAnna.

Or Jo Anna.

Joanna.

Yes, I will get mad if you call me Joanne.

Yes, I have every right to be irritated when you mispronounce my name, or worse yet, call me a completely different one.

Joanna is not equal to Joanne.

Joo-ly 100

A Self[ie]-Indulgent Post

What people so derisively call a “selfie” these days, I still refer to as a self-portrait. I’ve been taking them for as long as I can remember, even in the days of disposable cameras. I don’t see what all the hatred is about.

Why not chronicle your life through the click of a shutter? If no one else is around to take your picture and you think you look good, or funny, or whatever, why not snap that photo of yourself? What is the big deal?!

Here are some of my all-time favorite self-portraits and the circumstances under which they occurred.

Me. circa 2003

Me. circa 2003

This is from the journal my cousin Kerry gave me for Christmas in my senior year of high school. While 2003 was not before the advent of cell phones, it was before the advent of the “selfie” term. As you can see, that didn’t matter to me, and I donned a floppy sun hat in the middle of January in my childhood bedroom and snapped away with my mom’s digital camera.

Me, circa 2004

Me, circa 2004

Shortly after my freshman year of college, I remember going self-portrait crazy one humid summer night. This was #11 of a 12 piece series chronicling my up-and-down moods.

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Me and Samantha, circa 2006

Ah, the summer of 2006: still the best summer of my life. The world was my oyster. I had turned 21 in March, was working 4pm-8pm everyday, and could do whatever I wanted with the rest of my time. I had moved into a single in my dorm and was relishing the privacy. This was taken at Our House (West or East, I don’t remember which is which) in Allston around Samantha’s 21st birthday. That night was one for the books.

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Me, circa 2008

Taken around the weekend of our five-year high school reunion, which most high schools don’t have!

Joo-ly 100

Me, circa 2009, and my favorite photo of all time

This was taken the first time I house-sat for some friends, and it’s my favorite photo of myself – EVER. This is the photo I’ll show my kids when I want to prove I was young and beautiful once.

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Me, circa 2009

Here I am, playing with the Christmas lights in my Ayer apartment. This was before Erik and I made it official and after a string of weird heartbreaks.

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Me, circa 2011

I thought I looked nice one day so I snapped a photo in the mirror. I remember walking down Route 85 in Marlborough dressed like this, but I couldn’t tell you where we were going that day. Was it a date? I have no idea, but this reminds me so much of my good friend Melissa!

Me and Chris, circa 2012

Me and Chris, circa 2012

Hiking selfie! Two sisters on their way to Mount Monadnock. The biggest thing I remember about this car ride was that Chris had to meet us at the Boroughs Family Branch in Westborough (a 45- to 50-minute drive from her home), and on our way to New Hampshire, we drove by the Hubbardston exit on Route 2 and both cringed… like, “Couldn’t you just have picked up Chris on the way?!” That was an epic winter hike, and one of the best memories I have with my sister.

Me, circa 2012

Me, circa 2012

Wedding make-up trials! Since I decided to do my own make-up for our wedding, I knew I needed to take a bunch of photos to see how I’d look in all different angles and all different facial expressions. This was an example of a dead-on, calm shot.

Me, circa 2013

Me, circa 2013

Aww… two crazy kids on their honeymoon! This was taken January 14, 2013 – one day after our wedding – when we arrived at the Anchor-In Hotel in Hyannis. We had just enough daylight left to try our hand at taking some outdoor photos. We got to Cape Cod so late because we stopped at the Wrentham Outlets on the way and bought way too much stuff.  Hell, we were so excited about our wedding that it just didn’t seem to matter!

Me, circa 2013

Me, circa 2013

An early June day on Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester. We stopped at my in-laws’ house where they so graciously let us borrow their beach gear, and we headed off into the gray, dismal-looking day. Well, halfway through this gray day, the sun came out and we discovered sun or no sun, we were already extremely sunburned. It was also the first time I had worn a bikini confidently in public since 2004 or so.

Me, circa 2013

Me, circa 2013

My first time in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I was extremely in love with my surroundings. This was post-flood, October Estes Park – nearly deserted. If you look closely, you can see Erik in the side mirror, scavenging for Colorado rocks. This was the day after my interview in my current position, and I never wanted to leave this magical place. Luckily, I only had to take a “leave of absence” and moved out permanently two-and-a-half months later.

Me, circa 2014

Me, circa 2014

Finally, our doggy makes an appearance! Lady got excited halfway through this portrait session and voiced her enthusiasm in the most adorable way.

Me, Deanna and Brett, circa 2014

Me, Deanna and Brett, circa 2014

Finally, here is the last truly great self-portrait I have. It was Brett’s idea, so I suppose I can’t really call it a self-portrait, but you get the idea. We were chillin’ at the Stanley, drinking our designer cocktails outside on a chilly-yet-mild October night. This is one of my favorite memories: saying bon voyage to Deanna as she left for the Netherlands, truly wishing Brett the best of luck in his new endeavors, and wondering what the future would hold for both of them.

Well, there you have it: a history of Joanna chronicled in self-portraits (selfies, if you insist). Own your self-portraits – they are a part of you that tell a story to the world, and a part of you that describe this crazy 21st century we’re living in.

Week 11

It was a balmy 70 degrees this weekend in Estes Park, and running was quite enjoyable. I can’t believe my race is this Sunday. Where does the time go? Last week and this were both taper weeks, but I still did my best to incorporate hills into my training this weekend.

Believe it or not, my push-ups are doing better, too! I really pushed myself this week to step out of my comfort zone. On Sunday I did 2 sets of 5 eccentric push-ups, and on Thursday I did all that plus 2. I did my elevated push-ups on my knees – 3 sets of 10. I’m actually starting to feel like I could do a real honest to God push-up but I’m giving myself until the end of March to prove it.

I held my planks at 1:20 all week, and my abs were pretty sore. I don’t know if it was from boot camp or the planks or both, but it was nice to feel that deep lower-belly muscle ache.

And just one week out from my 30th birthday (which occurs at 8:50am on Monday, March 23 for those of you who are curious), I’m feeling pretty great. I may not be the thinnest I’ve ever been, but I’m probably in the best shape or close to it. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be running 6.2 miles the day before my 30th birthday I would have accused you of smoking crack.