May 29, 2012

Why so exhausted?

Spaz decided I needed to be up well before my alarm this morning. Luckily I went to bed early last night, so I could toss and turn until the wee hours, fretting about my interviews today.
My first interview was by phone with Cleveland Clinic. I think it went reasonably well, though I'm not quite sure I trust this guy's judgement. He originally tried to make the appointment outside the times and dates I gave him as available. Today we got halfway through the interview and he closed the notes program without saving. We had to start all over. At least I got a chance to be technically helpful. "Don't you have the option to save after entering into each field?" "Yeah, but you have to scroll way up to do that." "Is there a keyboard shortcut, like Control + S?"

The end result is, he said he was recommending me for the position. I don't know what that means, other than I passed the first round of cuts. I don't know how many other people have been recommended for the position, and I don't know how many positions are open. It's apparently in the hiring manager's hands now. I should hear something in about two weeks. If not, I call this guy back.
I had time to get out for a run in between interviews. My last few runs have been sans GPS, music, and heart rate monitor. I'm running by feel, walking when I need to, and just trying to get the miles in. My body is tired. That may be because of stress. It may be because of the massive amount of stress eating I'm doing. It may be because I've been pushing since I decided to ride the bike everywhere. Doesn't matter why, since I'm still going to get out and run as often as possible. I just won't push things until I feel more better up to speed.

I spent a good bit of the run planning how I would run to work if I got the Cleveland Clinic gig. It's only 4.5 miles away. I have to have my car there, because the recruiter guy said I may need it to transport hardware to one of the many Clinic locations. I figure I can drive Monday morning, then run home Monday night. Tuesday I can ride my bike there, then run home. Wednesday I would run in, then bike home. Thursday I would bike in, then bike home. Friday I would run in, then drive home. That gives me a "rest" day, for as long as I can bike in. By the time there's too much snow to ride the bike, I ought to be able to run both there and back. It's only 9 miles a day instead of the 10 I said I ultimately want to do, but that can be remedied by taking a different route (and maybe running at lunch).

At this point, this is my dream job. The pay is awesome. The duties are doable and varied enough to keep me from getting bored. The career potential is pretty rad, too.
The second interview today was a marathon session at Hyland Software. First there was the 40 minute drive to get there. I'm not particularly thrilled about doing that with traffic, although apparently I can do so either before or after rush hour, which helps.

Walking in the door, there is a ping pong table and a pool table in the foyer. Walk through another set of doors and there is a tube slide from the 2nd to the 1st floor. Everyone is walking around in long shorts, capri's, sandals and flip flops. I sign in using a touch screen and am given a visitors badge to wear.

I arrived on time but missed the start of the PowerPoint presentation, because I decided I had enough time to stop in the rest room before the festivities began. Ooops! It didn't seem to matter though. There were 6 of us being interviewed in that time slot, with 3 time slots scheduled in the day. They apparently have 30 spots to fill, though I don't know if they are all for the Quality Assurance Associate positions.

After the PowerPoint, I was invited to follow Keith, who at first thought my name was Karen (not even close!). Not sure where that came from. He took me to meet with Jerry and himself in a conference room literally right inside the cafeteria. They asked me a lot of the same type of questions I've being asked in all my interviews. "Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult person." "Tell me about a time you had to solve a difficult computer problem." They asked how they would know if I am stressed, and went more in depth than any other interview I've been on, but the flavor was the same. I think I did ok, though I'm not sure what exactly they were looking for. I'm not cringing about any of my answers, at any rate.

I was with Keith and Jerry about 30-45 minutes, then escorted to sit on a couch for another 15 minutes before Lindsay came to get me. She gave me a written test and set me in a room. I did not do so ok on the written test. I've studied some SQL, but apparently am lost without my notes. I do not know what a test plan looks like, so I bullshit my way through that. When asked to document the steps in making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I wanted to say "first, you substitute almond butter for peanut butter, because I'm allergic to peanuts." I didn't, but I should have.

Lindsay collected me and took me into another room, where she asked some questions similar to those Keith and Jerry asked. I used the same examples at least twice, that I used in answering the original set of questions. I did get a bit more information about the company before being escorted to the central couch again.

The final portion of the interview was with Jeff. He took me upstairs and grilled me on my computer knowledge. I am so happy I have Superman! I would not have been able to answer several of the questions correctly if I hadn't learned about those things from him. There were only 2 questions I couldn't answer, and they were related to internal networks. Once he told me the answers, I was able to relate them to my experience with internal networks and servers, so hopefully that was good enough. Jeff also had me find a few things on a Windows 7 laptop. I told him from the start I'm more familiar with XP, and mentioned in the process that the laptop wasn't set up the way mine is at home. For instance, I have the Run command under the start menu. Luckily, Windows always has several ways you can do anything. I did find everything he asked for, though I did have a misclick or two along the way.

I should have an answer "within a week or two," and Jeff didn't know if they take the time to tell people who weren't chosen. I call Lindsay if I have any questions.
I drove from the interview to my Mom's. I'd ruined her coffee table in all the furniture moving around to paint the living room. In my defense, it was already severely damaged. Regardless, it had to go out on the lawn for the garbage men, who happen to be coming in the morning. I planned to do some other work there today, but was simply too tired. It's exhausting to be "on" over the course of several hours, especially for an introvert like me. I'll be at Mom's tomorrow for the better part of the day, getting everything all pretty and everything.

Next interview: Thursday morning.

May 25, 2012

Freaking the F out

It's been an interesting couple of days.  

The software company I had the phone interview with Tuesday called back yesterday. They want me to come in for another round of interviews next Thursday. This position is about 25 minutes away (not including rush hour traffic), though much closer if I'm leaving from Superman's. I would have about 2 months to learn their software (property management software for both commercial and residential properties) before being thrown to the wolves, ie their customer help desk.  

There is no on-call associated with the position, since they have round the clock staffing. So that's good. All I have to do now is convince them in person the computer help I gave secretaries, attorneys, and clients in my last several jobs qualifies as help desk experience. While I believe it does, I'm not sure they will.

The email I received Wednesday about the cattle-call type interview "sessions" is still a stumper. It turns out Big Bro knows 2 people who work there, so at least the company is legit. I was a little concerned I would find myself prisoner of some sales or marketing tactic. He says it's a good place to work. I still don't know how they got my resume, or which resume they have. I don't remember applying for a position over half an hour drive away (not including rush hour traffic). I certainly don't remember applying for a position where I only fill half the requirements.

Aunt Gertie sent me an article a while ago about how women tend to not apply for positions unless they fill almost all the requirements, while men will apply with only half the criteria applicable. Knowing this and actually doing something about it are two entirely different things. I do not feel comfortable selling myself when I KNOW I have what they are looking for. Knowing I do not have a substantial amount of what they want just makes the sale that much harder to make. So I don't see how I applied for this position, though I can't rule out the "everything this side of the Mason Dixon line" prospect. I was pretty desperate for a few days last week. I put in applications I never thought I would consider. This may have been one of them.
Anyhoo, I have an interview with them Tuesday afternoon. They say it will take several hours. Again, there is that in-person thing, when I do so well meeting new people. Here I have to convince them 1) my limited knowledge of SQL is enough, and 2) the times I spent pilot testing new software at TH qualify as testing experience. Again, I'm not lying about my skill set. I just don't know if my definition and theirs coincide.

I also received an email yesterday from Cleveland Clinic, saying they want to conduct a phone interview for a Systems Admin position. This is the most exciting possibility so far. It is close to home (definitely bike riding/running distance). I don't know what any of these positions pay, but says Systems Admins have a larger pay arc than the other two. Pay starts about $10K higher, and the high end of the scale is about $20K more than the other two positions. Granted, whatever I land does not necessarily lock me into a 20-year career in that position, but it would certainly be easier to get a Systems Admin job coming from a Systems Admin job. Big Bro works at the Clinic, and says the health care and other benefits are pretty pro, too. 

The Clinic asked for times and dates that would be good for me, so I sent them several. I received an email today saying he would call me at the exact time I'm in the Hyland software interview Tuesday. I had to write back and remind him that time slot was not available. Now the phone interview is scheduled for Tuesday morning at 9:00am.

Oh. This happened too:

The entire first floor is now painted. I still don't know what the deal is with 2 island doors, the basement stairs need another coat, the back porch needs painting, and the 2nd floor needs new molding. None of those were in the original scope of the project, although neither were either the dining room or living room ceilings, pulling the carpet, and a few other minor jobs I've done.  

At this point I have to finish cleaning the living room, paint and polyurethane the radiator boxes (to protect against Bronte claws), lay a tile border around the kitchen counters, hang the island doors I have, put up all the outlet covers, and bring all the books, wall hangings and knick knacks back up from the basement. Most of that will be done Wednesday. Mom and I will probably spend some time next Tuesday finding everything a new home.

This will finally conclude the project I started with my Dad almost 2 years ago. I will no longer be over there twice a week, though I still plan to stop by at least once a week to see if there’s anything mom wants help with. The other projects will be scheduled in as finances permit, most likely on weekends throughout the summer.

I like to think he'd be proud.

May 23, 2012


It doesn't take much to turn my headspace around. I had a phone interview yesterday with a software company looking for a help desk associate. I think it went well. I certainly didn't hang up the phone thinking "I wouldn't hire me" the way I did with the Progressive interview. I only had one cringe-worthy bit, and that I think I recovered from well enough. I spent the rest of the day dreaming about what it would be like to work there. I could ride my bike from Superman's. It's too far to ride to and from my place in a single day (yet), but if I had a bike rack I could drive my bike there, ride home, then ride back the next day. I should have an answer within the week on whether I move on to the next round of interviews.

Yesterday's run was better, too. Amazing what a difference 10 degrees makes. Not that I didn't walk. One 3-mile run a week for 4 weeks = quite a bit of lost fitness to recover. I'll take a full minute per mile faster than Monday's run though.

This morning I had the interview at Target. Turns out it's for a sales associate position, not the 3-9 am restocking position. This one could be either mornings, evenings, or a combination of both. Actually, being low person on the totem pole, it will probably be evenings/weekends. I don't really know how the interview went. I was frank and honest. Why do I want to work at Target? Because I need a job. Do I have any experience? Yes, but I got it a lifetime ago. I talked about being an admin. I talked about teaching myself a computer programming language. I told them I could work any time doing any job, but that might change to only being available nights and weekends. Maybe. She didn't write that part down. I expect they realize I won't be making a career at Target. What I'm not sure about is whether they care. I should find out about that within the week as well. Then there's the drug screening, so I can't expect to actually work for at least two weeks, and probably a month before I bring home a paycheck.

After the interview I went to sign papers that will hopefully give me mortgage assistance. That process will take at least a month as well, and could take longer if I actually get a job in the interim. The assistance runs the gamut from paying my mortgage in full for 15 months, to contributing an unspecified amount every month. That is if I'm approved, which apparently is LESS likely because I actually need the help. If I were working my chances would improve. I don't pretend to understand. I just sign on the dotted line and hope.

When I got home I had an email inviting me to a cattle call style interview "session." The timing on this made me smile, because it's for a quality assurance position. I literally just talked to Dr. J today about what her husband does, and it turns out he's a QA. I'd asked her to send me a copy of his resume, to see what his skill set looked like, and I talked with him this evening about what it's like being a QA. I don't remember applying for this job, which is a longer drive than I would usually consider. Superman thinks one of the headhunter agencies he's been talking with submitted it without telling me. I've put in so many applications over the last few months, I suppose it's possible I lost my head and decided to apply anywhere this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Regardless, I am going to the interview this coming Tuesday. A job is a job, and if it's in IT I can parlay that into a better one later. Maybe I'll start getting books on tape or some such for the commute.

I didn't run today, but I did spend an hour and a half on the bike. Part of that was spent answering interview questions in my head. Part was spent daydreaming about having access to a free gym at work. Today's email is from a software company that boasts about being one of the best places in the area to work (in 2010). I immediately convinced myself that meant they have a gym, and started daydreaming about running and working out at lunch and after work. Traffic wouldn't be a consideration if I stayed an hour or more later in the evening to work out...

This is totally what I feel like today.
Euphorically terrified

May 22, 2012

Welcome to my headbone

6:55 AM "Eh, 5 more minutes."
"Or maybe an hour. I'm not entirely sure I'm actually getting up early to run today..."

7:00 AM "Ok, I outsmarted myself. The alarm is going off in the living room." 
"I have to get up."
"Guess I'm getting up."
7:05 AM "Coffee! I need coffee!"
8:00 AM Text to Superman: "Up at 7. It's now 8 and I still haven't run."
8:01 AM Superman calls
"At least I'm dressed to run. Well, except for my shoes..."
8:30 AM "I'll head out to run at 9:00"
"My heart is racing again. Better take my thyroid meds."
"That's at least 3 days in a row now..."
8:40 AM "Huh. My hip and knee still aren't happy."
8:45 AM "At least I should get some core work in." 
30 crunches and 30 reverse crunches on the pilates ball later...
"Maybe I won't run today."
"No! I have to run today. I haven't run in a week."
"I won't take the heart rate monitor. No pushing. Just get 'er done."
8:59 AM "My iPhone's battery is dead?!? Guess I'm not heading out quite yet..."
10:00 AM  "Finally heading out the door! Oh, what a nice cool breeze."
Mile 1 "Relax the hips. Relax the calves. Relax the hips. Relax the calves."
"Man my legs are heavy! Stupid thyroid does it every time."
Mile 2 "Wow it got hot quick! Wish I'd gotten out the door at 7 like I planned."
"Walking a lot, but that's ok. It's about the distance, not the time."
"Maybe I'll do a mile of bounding after my 3."
"Relax the hips. Relax the calves. Relax the hips. Relax the calves."
Mile 3 "Stupid hip."
"Maybe if I do the bounding, my hip will feel better."
"Maybe I won't do another mile of bounding."
"And 3. Oof! That sucked. Not unexpected though. At least it's done."
"So, do I run or do the treadmill tomorrow before riding to my Moms?"

When I got home I saw I had a voicemail. I have an interview with Target Wednesday morning. It's sad how excited I am over the potential for a part-time, minimum wage job. I'm pretty sure I put that my preference is the 3am-9am shift, too. Theoretically that will allow me to interview for other positions without interfering with this one. So now I'm dreaming of getting my running in at midnight, when it's cooler out. I'm planning how to save, how to cover all my bills and expenses. Maybe I can ride my bike to work. It's just over 9 miles, which is about what I ride to my Mom's. I'd have to get lights or a reflective vest or something.

I have to get the job first.

I've put in maybe 50 applications in the last several days alone. That means I've read through probably 200 job ads. I've rewritten my resume at least twice, then tweaked and tailored my cover letter for each position and company. From what I understand, this could very well be just for those companies to get my resume in their database. There is a very good possibility at least half the jobs I applied for don't actually exist, or are still being refined, or may never be filled. Entry level now means at least 3 years experience. It's very frustrating, and equally terrifying. 

Obviously, I'm not just focusing on IT jobs either. I'm not getting responses for the admin positions I'm applying for, even though I have 20 years of experience. I ran into a job site Friday that wouldn't even let me submit without a current position. I added Cooper Consulting for any IT help I've given, and Cooper Renovations for the work at my parents'. That actually was sustaining, for a half a minute.  

I know eventually I'll find something. I have no choice but to keep looking until I do. It's just a horrible, horrible time to change careers, to have no experience, to have been out of work for any length of time. 

I'm off to bed. 7am comes early, and I really do hope to hit the pavement before it heats up again. 

May 16, 2012

I can't help but laugh

In filling out applications today, I was completely stunned when a company asked me to write a poem about my last place of employment. 

A poem. 

What exactly will that tell them? 

I can just see them sitting around the break room, laughing at the submissions.


I thought PMC was home
I made the position so much more than my own
But just as I felt I’d found my groove
They told me I had to move
They chose a path that didn’t include me
In changing, they set me free
Now my vista is wide open
And my path is mine for the choosing

Laugh all you want. It's the best I could come up with, that fit the 40-60 word limit.

May 15, 2012

I guess I am a runner after all

I have, from the beginning of my running career, maintained that while I run I do not consider myself a "Runner."  

In September 2010 I defined a runner as "those who run daily, those who love to run, those who can finish a half or full marathon without walking." I didn't consider myself as such, mainly because I do not enjoy the act of running. Running is hard and uncomfortable! 

A month later I started thinking maybe I could become a runner, though I still didn't consider myself one. I added to the definition, including someone who runs more days out of the week than not. 

I have, in fact, completed a half marathon without walking. I think the goal of running every single day counts here. So does the fact I miss running when I am unable - like when my back is out of wack. Running is not the be all and end all of what I do, but I think I have to fess up to the fact that I am, in fact, a runner. 

I woke up today with a very sore hip and shoulder... enough for me to call off painting my Mom's living room. There was no way I could ride over. There was no way I wanted to stress my back with painting. Because there was also no way I could run in that condition, I decided to go for a walk instead. A 6.25 mile walk. Moving definitely seems to help. Things feel better when I'm moving, and for a good while after. 

Over the course of the walk I thought about something I mentioned yesterday: that I would really like to run 10 miles every day. In all honesty I know I cannot run every single day, at least not until I'm a whole lot stronger. I tried that earlier in the year and it only worked for a while before my body rebelled. That said, there is no way I'm going to run 10 miles MOST days if I don't work up to it, and if I don't try. 

I've been focused lately on simply sweating every day. What I'd like to do is start ramping that up again. I'm looking at half marathon training plans, not to prepare for a race but to get my mileage back up. I'm looking at cross-training, like the stress test and 15% incline workouts I did last week. I'm thinking in terms of time spent sweating, rather than distances run. Right now, 10 miles is about 2 hours. I know I'm capable of half an hour daily. I'd like to get that up to an hour daily, and go from there. 

I wrote that paragraph above, then worked out a plan based wholly on mileage. It has me running 6 days a week, and up to 10 miles a day by the end of the year. It's a start, not written in concrete. I have to start somewhere, right? 

Trying to be smart

I know it's hard to tell from my behavior, but I'm really trying to be smart about my training. I'm trying to be more aware of my aches and pains, to better judge when I can run or do a hard workout, and when I should take it a bit easier. 

My back issues have moved into my hip, which complained all morning and well into today's run. I didn't wear the heart rate monitor, because I didn't want to push as hard as I could in search of the holy grail that is my maximum heart rate, and I didn't want to be disappointed in the numbers if I couldn't push hard enough. I basically just wanted to run by feel, and not feel bad if I had to slow down or stop. 

This is my new bible (source)
Today I ran 3 miles to Home Depot for tomato and pepper plants, with a 2 mile walk back home. My hip pain was in stage 3 during the run, waxing and waning but never really going away. I'm ok with running in stage 3, especially if things feel better once I'm done. The first half of the walk home though, I'd call stage 4. My hip hurt so much I wasn't sure I would make it home. For no discernible reason, it felt better after I stopped to take pictures of this:

And for sale, though a bit expensive for what it is
I think my hip also felt better after doing squats to get the plants in the ground. It hasn't bothered me much at all since I got home, which makes me think something was pinched momentarily. With that pain gone, I feel confident in running again tomorrow, though I'm not sure if I'll wear the heart rate monitor. It depends on if I wake up with pain. I really want to start regular runs again. I want to get back up to 5-6 miles daily (or at least an hours worth of sweat daily). I dream of 10 miles daily, but find it hard to believe my body will ever allow that!

I won't bore you with pictures of my new plants. They really just look like every other baby plant. I ended up with tomatoes, green peppers, and collards. I learned my lesson with the monster cherry tomato bush last year, which I simply could not keep up with. I gave a ton of them away, and still the bush overflowed. This year I'm trying a variety of purple tomato which promises to be smaller and more flavorful than a beefsteak. Then again, anything is more flavorful than a grocery store beefsteak. The peppers are supposed to be sweet and huge - the bigger the better if you ask me! I've never done collards before, but figure this will give me at least one fresh-from-the-yard salad a week. 

I've also got a ton of fruit coming in. Last year my strawberry patch was overrun with bugs and birds. Every time I'd say "I'll pick those tomorrow," they would be half or completely eaten by tomorrow. I was stunned therefore to find a bowl full of ripe berries today, with at least another bowl full that will be ripe tomorrow. 
SOOOOO good!
These were in addition to the ones eaten by bugs and birds

May 12, 2012

Today I'm 42

I'm still sore and stiff, but ibuprofen is my friend so today I decided I was going to make the stress test my bitch.
I wanted more than a 20 minute workout, so planned to do the test twice - once forward, then again backward. Keeping in mind yesterday's epiphany about a good workout vs. the letter of the law, I was prepared to alter the plan at any given moment, providing I didn't quit and walk away. That 5mph at 12% incline terrified me - and with good reason.

I think next time I might skip the 2mph at 2% incline phase. I walked along slowly, singing and dancing to Pandora. I know it is supposed to be the warm-up, but it felt like wasted time. My heart rate didn't even hit 100 until I got into phase 2. By the time I got to phase 4 though, I knew I was in trouble. There was no way I could run 12 minute miles on an 8% incline for 3 minutes. I CERTAINLY wasn't going to manage it on a 10% or 12% incline! I don't know if I could do the 5mph @ 8% on fresh legs, but I certainly couldn't today. Instead, I set the mph at 4.5 and left it on 8% for the remainder of the 5mph sections. 

So basically I set it just below what I could just barely do, thinking I could hold it there for almost 20 minutes. Yeah. That didn't happen. I took a couple breaks, but came right back at it. I did notice my heart rate dropped from 178 (the highest it got today... 220 - 178 = 42) to 117 in about 2 minutes, during the longest break. I thought that was pretty quick. 

40 minutes in which sweat literally dripped down my face, and later I went for a 2.5 mile walk. Not bad for being on the injured reserve. I'm actually on the mend, and hope to ride my bike home from my Mom's tomorrow. If not, I'll just hit the treadmill again. I'm already running, slowly and for short periods of time on the treadmill. I don't know about you but I cannot walk at a 4.5 mph pace. If all goes really well I'll be able to head outside for a run again Monday. I really need to start working on my mileage if I'm going to hit that 1K goal by the end of the year. 

Today I'm 44

Funny thing about this back of mine. It feels better when I move. At least the lower part of it does. The upper back is stiff and tight in a growth sort of way. Stretching is helping that, but moving not so much. I worked my shoulders and upper back hard, painting the ceiling. The lower back feels damaged, but it's not new damage. This is an old and familiar pain, most likely due to inflammation. It should go away after a few days, providing I don't aggravate it too much.

I still wanted to get my sweat-once-a-day in today. Having some familiarity with this pain, I decided to test it with a walk first. A walk down to the grocery store and back was about a mile and a half, and proved moving would not be detrimental. The pain actually went away, for the most part, while I was moving. Running was out of the question, but a walking workout was plausible. I happened to have two treadmill walking workouts I wanted to try.

This is the stress test, which increases incline by 2%,
while at the same time increasing speed by 1mph
every 3 minutes
This sets the treadmill at the highest incline from the get go
and increases speed by .5mph every 5 minutes
The stress test kind of scares me. I think it's because both speed and incline increase at the same time. I opted to see how well I could do the 15% incline workout.

It. kicked. my. ass.

I was only able to do 20 minutes. Note to self: it is less important to follow the workout to the letter, than to get a good workout in. I made it to and through the 4mph section, where I found myself running at this insane angle. I probably could have done at least another 5 minutes at that speed. I could not at 4.5 mph. Instead of cranking it back down to 4mph, I simply got off the treadmill at that point.

I likely wouldn't have been able to do the 4mph section if I hadn't been holding on to the treadmill. The stress test info says you're not supposed to do this, and I can tell why. It was definitely more difficult when I was not holding on to anything. Again, getting through the exercise as written (up to and through the 5mph portion) should not be as important as doing the workout well.

This exercise got my heart rate up to 176, which using the rule of thumb equation means today I'm 44 (220 - 176 = 44). I still don't think that is my maximum heart rate, but it's as high as I could get it today, and higher than I've seen it thus far. I'm still curious to see where it will be when I'm not fatigued and injured. I may not be super thrilled with this particular heart rate monitor, but it certainly is giving me new data points to ponder, which is making my workouts exciting and new. I'm pushing myself harder, just to see what I can do. I like this, a lot.

Let's you and him fight!

This is totally me, except my brain is filled with petulant children who threaten to hold my breath until I turn blue if I don't give them what they want...

May 11, 2012

This can't end well...

I am in search of the holy grail that is my maximum heart rate.

I decided yesterday I was too tired to run, after Tuesday's squats and ladder climbing and pushing on the bike. My 13 mile bike ride was unavoidable, and would be yesterday's sweat-once-a-day. Even on tired legs, I decided to see if I could peg the heart rate monitor. I knew I wouldn't hit the highest number possible, but was curious how high I could get.

First, I was surprised when I put the HRM on to find my heart rate went up to 100ish, just getting ready to leave. Just moving around getting water and filling my knapsack brought it up 20-30 points. I should probably say first that I measured my resting heart rate at 65 yesterday morning. So from 65 sitting around doing nothing, to 100 just moving around packing a bag.

Once out on the road, the highest I could get my heart rate up to was 166. 220 - 166 = 54, so using that "rule of thumb" equation, yesterday I was the equivalent of 54 years old. I'd seen 170 the first time I ran with the monitor, when I kept stopping because I was trying to stay within the range set by the programming. Remember my maximum heart rate according to the "rule of thumb" is 175. I tend to believe it's higher, but have nothing really to base that on besides the fact I've been running pretty regularly for 2 years and like to consider myself active.

I measured my heart rate immediately after getting out of bed this morning. After only getting up, finding the monitor, turning it on while standing, and measuring, I was at 80. I'm leaving it by the bed tonight, to see where it's at tomorrow without all the moving around.

Other than that measurement first thing, I didn't use the monitor today. My bike ride was only 4 miles, which didn't seem worth measuring. Then I spent over 6 hours painting the ceiling in the living room.
I'm a bad blogger and didn't take pictures, so
imagine the ceiling is now a brighter white. 
The ceiling took a lot longer and was more involved than I expected. I ended up having to brush out each connecting line in the tile that mimics wooden planks. There were also a few tiles that needed screwing up into the ceiling - apparently they suffered from similar water damage as the ceilings on the 2nd floor. I used about a gallon to prime the walls. I used about 2 gallons to paint the ceiling. In the process I managed to fubar my right shoulder and lower back, enough that I had Superman come rescue me and drive me home. I'll pick up the bike Sunday after our family Mother's Day breakfast. Supposing I can ride it by then.

With my back messed up and my legs still exhausted, I won't be doing any stress test tomorrow to find my maximum heart rate. It is very interesting to me that the stress test is similar to this exercise, which I learned about last week as a way to train for running without all the pounding on knees and other body parts. I have been thinking about alternating running days with treadmill incline days, but bike days have been kicking my ass. Running days are few and far between right now.

No matter what I do, I'm sure I'll be watching my heart rate monitor to see how old I am on any given day, i.e. to see how high I can get my heart to race. I know I'm not supposed to train at max heart rate. I know I risk over-training by pushing hard all the time. That's not any different from how I've trained all along. This is why I'm checking my resting heart rate in the mornings, to keep an eye out for signs of over-training before they result in injury. I'm not worried too much though. The way I feel today, I'd be lucky to get my heart rate up to 80%, not to mention max. That approach to training is self limiting, in that one day of pushing super hard leaves me stiff and sore the next, unable to push as hard and giving my heart a break in the process.

At least that's what I'm telling myself.  Myself is telling me "This can't end well..."

May 9, 2012

Training by heart rate monitor: Part 1 - The learning curve

If you remember, I bought this over the weekend:
Plug and play, it's not. I've had to read the manual several times. I've had to do some research (well, I would have done that anyway). I still haven't figured out where it says how many calories I've burned in a workout, based on heartrate. I found calories based on distance, but the distance measurement is as a pedometer, which is fudgey at best.

Through random touch testing, I determined my resting heartrate is between 70-75. According to the Mayo Clinic, normal is between 60-100, so I'm well within that range.

I finally figured out how to set my target heart rate, though I'm still not 100% certain what my target heart rate should be. The rule of thumb for maximum heartrate is (220 - your age). This is a general rule of thumb, and again, fudgey at best. Considering my true maximum heartrate cannot be calculated without help from the medical profession by means of a stress test, this rule of thumb will have to do.

I wrote that last paragraph, then decided to actually look up how to do a stress test. Turns out, as I suspected, that rule of thumb is about as accurate as a dart in a windstorm. There's a chance it will hit the mark, but that chance is pretty slim.

According to Training2run, anyone with access to a treadmill and a heart rate monitor can do a stress test. According to Brian MacKensie, all you need is the monitor and a good long hill. It is recommended you don't try this with even the smallest injury, and suggested you have a trained medical professional on hand. The methods vary slightly, but the goal is to start slow and gradually increase both speed and incline until your heart rate refuses to go any higher.

I happen to have a treadmill with the ability to incline. I imagine I could accomplish the same thing just by running as hard as I can for, say, half an hour or so. The park hill would be a good choice, as there is no chance of traffic or stop lights slowing me down. What I don't have today is legs that will run hard for any length of time. I overdid the squats yesterday, and am so stiff I can't even get down into one yet today. I have a 13 mile bike ride on the schedule, and am vacillating about running as well. I'm well behind my 1K running goal for the year. The stress test will have to wait until Friday, at the earliest.

I want to run with the heart rate monitor on, but all bells and whistles turned off. I want to know where my heart rate goes when I'm not stopping every few minutes to slow it down. It's not the same as a stress test, and it certainly will not be the same today on tired legs as it would any other day when I'm fresh and rested. It is a data point though, which will assuage my curiosity for now. I plan to wear it on the bike ride too, for the same reason.

Another thing I want to start doing is checking my heart rate first thing in the morning, like this lady's coach has her doing. It's another data point, and can give me an idea if I'm overtraining. The whole point of this heart rate monitor is to learn how to train better and smarter. Part of training smarter is knowing when to push, and when to back off. I have a tendency to keep pushing and pushing until I hurt myself.

The idea is, if I take my heart rate every morning I'll get an idea of where it normally lies (better than the random testing I've done so far). If my heart rate goes up more than 5 beats per minute, that's a sign I might be pushing too hard. According to this guy, I don't necessarily have to stop training at that point. I just have to back off the intensity.

Because I'm good at backing off...

May 8, 2012

Spring Surprises

The garden, she is blooming! It rained all night, so I decided this morning was the perfect time to weed and take stock.
the irises are blooming!
I will defnitely have more than one bunch of grapes this year,
providing I can beat out the birds and neighborhood kids, that is!
The strawberry patch is growing like gangbusters!
I actually found a handful of ripe ones.
I took a picture before I ate them, but it came out blurry.
My raspberry patch.
Last fall this was one lone stalk, tied up because it didn't look healthy at all.
I figured weeding was the perfect time to practice my Third World Squat. Lo and behold, it appears I no longer need to "practice!" I plopped down into a squat and weeded away to my heart's content. Sure, I had to get up out of it every few minutes. Yes, I felt the stretch in both my hips and calves. However, it was not  uncomfortable. My feet were flat on the ground and I was not leaning precariously forward. I didn't expect this level of comfort for a month or more!

After weeding I biked to my Mom's, pushing it the whole way. This was my "sweat today." I thought about wearing the heart monitor, but chose not. I probably will wear it Thursday, just to see where I'm at on the bike. I'm working on a post about the heart rate monitor, but that's for another day.

At my Mom's this happened:

I still have to put the stuff back on the walls, and there's a single punch list item (an outlet that's too far into the wall - I can't put a plate on it the way it is). I'm painting all radiator boxes after the living room is done, so that as well. Otherwise, the dining room is done.

This happened too:

This is tinted primer, left over from painting my niece's room. Note to Mr. Math: there is still at least half a gallon left!

Can we talk about tinted primer for a minute? This is the newest thing, and I for one am not a fan. If you use white primer, it blends with ceiling and trim paint so you don't see if you're not exactly perfect in applying color. This, you have to be perfect. I'm convinced it's just the paint companies finally figuring out a way to sell more paint. You can't use the primer anywhere else, if it's tinted for a particular room. That is the boat Mr. Math found himself in, after purchasing far too much primer for the job at hand. Luckily for my Mom, this primer was at least close to what she's using. The room will be pink/mauve when we're done, obviously with lavender undertones from the primer. As she says, free is a good color.

I was able to do third world squats throughout the day, up and down and up and down, cleaning chair and table legs, then painting. I was up and down and up and down the ladder as well. Then I booked it home on the bike as fast as I could. My legs are tired! It's a good thing, though.

My Arch Nemesis, The Scale

I didn't have a scale for a long time. Last time I did have a scale, I obsessed over what it said several times a day. While I know the number is not supposed to change quickly, I would get upset just seeing the same number there time after time. I would get upset if it went up, even if there was a reason (like hormones or salt) that it went up. My moment was made if it went down even the slightest bit, then ruined if it went back up later in the day.

Part of the reason I bought a scale this weekend was that it advertised knowing how much of my weight is water weight. I tend to carry water weight. I like salty things (read: eat at least a sleeve of saltines daily). I also have a thyroid issue that, when in full swing, causes me to swell. I thought it would be a good thing to keep an eye on my water weight, to maybe head that last bit off before it becomes a real issue.

The other part is because I'm obsessed with my weight. The funny thing is, I can't put a number on my weight goals. Saying "I want to weigh 140 pounds" doesn't mean anything to me. 140 pounds is like $1 million. I just can't wrap my head around what it would be like. Yeah, I would be skinny, but at what cost? I don't really want to be skinny. I got way too much uncomfortable attention when I was skinny. Granted, that was 20-some years ago, but still. I like food too much to be skinny, anyway.

You can see my motivation is conflicted.
I'm really just terrified I'll turn into this
because I'm not known for going overboard or anything...
What I want is to not feel fat. I don't have a number for that. It's based on the size of my belly bulge, with a little bit of pants size and arm flappage thrown in. It's also based on how well I meet other (sometimes not wholly realistic) goals. It's important for me to feel strong in both arms and legs. It's important to feel capable of the random physical feat.

The best I can do is set short term goals and see where they take me. The difficulty is in setting those goals without setting up a bunch of rules I have to follow. I'm not good at following rules. Or rather, I'm good at following rules for short periods of time. Then I break them like a rock through a picture window, and they are forever shattered. I'm hoping to make the rules vague enough that it's not a hardship to maintain them.

My first goal is to know what it feels like to be 175 pounds. I think I remember feeling "not fat" when I was somewhere in that range. It's also a relatively short term goal, though I haven't set a date for accomplishment. My plan is to:
Pick back up the "sweat every day" mantra. I can run, ride my bike, dance, or do DVDs. I can play with the family dog, if it gets my heart rate up and sweat pouring down my face. No glistening or glowing here. I want to stink when I'm done.
Drink water every time I eat. I have a tendency to drink too much soda and not enough water. I do better with this when I'm working out, so hopefully that will help. Considering how often I eat during the day, I'm hoping this will help too.  
Only eat when I'm hungry. This is a hard one for me. I eat when I'm hungry, thirsty, tired, sad, bored...  The list goes on and on. I'm not even certain I know what hungry feels like, but I'd sure like to learn. I'm not sure I can quite make myself think of food as only fuel, but I should be able to ask the question "am I hungry?" before putting anything in my mouth.
Take smaller portions. I'm not going to dictate what I can and can't eat. That's a bullet in the foot for certain. I'm just going to take smaller portions. I'm using the size of my fist as a guideline. If I want more, I'll go back for more... when I'm hungry again.   
One thing I am going to dictate is regarding sugar. I'm an addict. I make a batch of cookies and they are gone in 24 hours. I buy a tray of apple crisp, same thing. Gone. However, I've been working on a home recipe for energy bars (I'll share it when I get it right). The last batch I made with brown rice syrup. Sweet, but not addictive. I haven't even needed to restrain myself, and have been eating an average of one (probably <100 calories) per day. I'm not going to say I'll never eat sugar again, but I'm certainly going to cut it out of my daily intake (again!).

One other thing I'm doing is stretching again. I used to stretch every night before I went to bed. I started going to bed later and later, and the stretching fell by the wayside. I liked stretching. I don't so much like it right now, as it feels awful when I'm as tight as I am. I know it will feel better though. It already feels better than it did the first day, and I've been back at it less than a week. I don't have a regime. I do Third World Squats when I think about it, for as long as I can stand it (I'm up to a count of 15). I do a plank when I think about it, for as long as I can stand it (I'm up to a count of 25). I do other random exercises when I think about them, including calf and quad stretches, along with trunk stretches before I go to bed.

Mostly, as with everything else I make myself do, I'm trying to get to where I like myself again. I'm honestly struggling with the job and financial situation. I need to succeed somewhere, instead of trying to hide under a rock and let everything go. That obviously isn't working for me. Maybe this will.

May 7, 2012

An expensive weekend, i.e. impulse control fail

This happened Saturday:

The phone still works. It's just dangerous to use the touch screen, as it feels like my finger will be shredded at any moment.

I have no job. I have exceedingly finite resources at the moment. It still took me a good 15 minutes to wrestle myself out of the "I'll just go buy a new phone" mindset. Even knowing the phone was insured, that Superman had a decent one I could borrow until the insurance claim was processed, and the price of a new phone would be about $300 more than the insurance replacement, I found myself stuck because I wanted to just fix it right then. The only way to do that was to replace it right then.

I finally got unstuck from that mindset. I could deal with the working but shattered phone until Superman brought me his spare that evening. He would handle the insurance claim, and I would have a new phone within a day or two. That is exactly what happened, and I'm expecting the new (red!) phone by UPS today. I still owe Superman the $$ for the replacement.

On the way home after sorting that mess, I started thinking about the heartrate monitor I've been wanting for several weeks. I hadn't done any research because I can't afford one now. I just knew I wanted one. I wanted to track my heartrate over the course of a day, to tell me how many calories I burn just being me. I wanted to know what exertion level my runs are at, and maybe tweak them to improve performance and weight loss.

I almost went to the sporting goods store that moment, but didn't. Instead I went home, did a little job hunting and prepared to go out that evening. Superman was treating me to a night of karaoke. I like to go singing at least once a month, but refused to even consider going because I have no money. Superman insisted and offered to pay for the whole night. Somehow that didn't happen. I don't know why I'm so obstinate. I brought cash and paid for the majority of the evening myself. Not a huge expenditure, but still. Not in the budget, and not in the plan.

Sunday afternoon I got it in my head to start researching heart rate monitors. The next thing I know, I'm at the sporting goods store comparing features and prices. I wanted something with memory, so I could wear it for 24 hours and track the results. It was important that I be able to change the battery. I figured I could get what I wanted for $50, which turned into $70 at the store.
I am not a scale person. The number on the scale has dictated my mood for the day too many times, so I got rid of mine and refused to step on one for a long time. I'm not sure what possessed me Sunday, but right under the heartrate monitors I saw the scales that tell you water weight and fat percentage. I grabbed one of them on my way up to the register. Ok, $100 instead of the $50 originally planned. Not good, but not horrible.

$40 for what I thought was a $30 scale. $120 for what I thought was a $70 heartrate monitor. I was in the zone though. I didn't even balk at the total, just said "well THEY weren't hung in the right place...."

I thought about returning both, on the way home. I really wanted to do my little 24 hour test, though. I thought about returning the heartrate monitor afterwards. I noticed the warning about returning only unopened packages, as I cut it open. So much for that idea.

I could probably take the scale back, except it showed me what I've been trying to ignore. I've gained more weight than I thought in all my recent binging and lack of exercise. I currently have the thing tucked away in a closet. I'm thinking I can use it when I want, but won't be compelled to use it every time I see it because I won't see it. We will see how well that works for me. I threw the box out in a bag of nasty cat poop and table scraps, thereby destroying my chance to return the scale, too.

Today I woke up and my ice trays were full of water. The freezer felt like a refrigerator, and not a really cold one at that. I've known since Friday the freezer wasn't acting right. I'd gotten it to freeze again once, and yesterday cleaned off the coils in hopes that would fix the problem. That did not fix the problem. Luckily, the repair was only $200 for a new relay, instead of $1K for a new refrigerator.

That's almost $500 over the last 3 days, that I couldn't afford to spend. Half of it was avoidable, except I have exceptionally poor impulse control.

Coming soon: How do I address my weight issue, without creating a ton of rules I'm bound to break. Also, updates on the heartrate monitor experience. Stay tuned!

May 4, 2012

Why I bombed my first job interview, and how I can do better next time

Interviewer: Why did you leave your last job?
Me: Blah blah blah assigned above industry standards. Blah blah balh, overworked. Blah blah blah mistakes were made and they asked me to leave.
What I should have said: I was downsized. My duties were split between the remaining admin, a billing coordinator and a marketing coordinator.
They said they were firing me, but did not contest my unemployment claim. I’m told this qualifies as being “laid off.” The reality is they hired two people to do what I did, though I won't say it because that is not exactly "downsizing."
Interviewer: What was your most challenging class?
Me: We learned programming through a graphical program called Alice. I just couldn't make the leap from the graphics to the programming elements. I talked to people who do programming and they helped me understand.
While it shows I was able to find a solution, this was an outright lie. The question took me by surprise and the programming class was the first that came to mind. Have I mentioned I don't lie well?
What I should have said: The most challenging class I had was Project Management. I had only rudimentary experience with Microsoft Project. We were required to map out project elements such as scope planning, schedule development, resource planning, and cost budgeting. I struggled more with the program requirements than I did with the concepts. Ultimately I passed the class with a B+.
This answer is similar to the one I gave, in that the difficulty lay with the interface, but it 1) shows I learned the elements of project management and 2) is actually the truth so I’ll convey it better. It also shows that I succeeded on some level, by passing with a B+.

My first response to her question was actually “I can think of 2…” Honestly, the most challenging class was the one I attended while my Dad was ill, which I dropped soon after he passed. I didn’t want to talk about that though, so my brain jumped to “what is another, that makes 2…” Not the best way to start my answer. 
I was equally challenged when I took that last class over a month later. My brain still didn't work properly, and while I finished with a B+ I really don’t remember anything about the class at all.
Interviewer: What was your most rewarding class?
Me: Project Management, because I have some history and experience, so therefore was able to take lead on the project.
See my answer above. This was also an outright lie. I finishing the interview thinking “I  told her basically that I don’t do well when I’m unfamiliar with a subject, and that I do well only when I am already familiar.”  This did not answer the question of a rewarding class either, only one where I supposedly did well.

This answer also gave the impression I only took the lead on subjects I know. I took the lead in several of my classes, and resisted the impulse to take the lead in many others. Taking the lead was a lot of responsibility and extra work. As with many team efforts, people were getting by because other people (like me) would do the entire project themselves rather than get a bad grade because one person wasn’t pulling their weight.
What I should have said: Probably the most rewarding class was the one which was also the most challenging, because I had to overcome not only learning the material, but also the program required to present the material in a professional manner. That was a hard won B+.
This is different from the programming example I used, because we were actively being taught the programming interface. We were left to our own devices with Microsoft Project.
I don’t think I could have won by bringing up this class, regardless. She wanted the project to have been a real project, instead of just mapping out a project in a program. 
Interviewer: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Me: Blah blah blah want to be a database administrator or business analyst, but (obvious pander to this job) feel I should get experience in the trenches first.
What I should have said: In an IT position that offers the chance to learn and grow. Right now I would like to be a database administrator or business analyst, but am open to whatever opportunities cross my path.
The other question she asked was about what I called “content management” on my resume. It involved managing the content of a website, making sure everything was accurate and up to date, and attending meetings with the people who actually made the changes. Again, the interviewer wanted me to have been the one making changes.
Ultimately, the reason I didn’t get the job is because I did not prove I had any tech experience. They gave me a series of questions prior to interviewing, one of which involved an experience where I had to ask a lot of questions to gain information. I used the purchase of a car, but could easily have used troubleshooting my own personal network, or setting up my web server (which I am still troubleshooting).

Now all I have to do is get someone else to spend more than 6 seconds on my resume, like what they see, and give me a chance. I wonder if the federal government will call about that customs agent position I applied for the other day…

May 3, 2012

No Subject

Apparently Blogger won't let me title a post no subject with the brackets like an email. Boo!

The kitchen, she is done.

Well, almost. I still have a few punch list items, like the cupboard by the stove that doesn't close right and the marks on the cupboard doors where the paint stuck them together. I also have a strip of tile to lay along the countertops. Eventually I'll have island doors to prime and paint as well. Nothing, really, considering where I started.

The dining room is almost done as well. You'll get pictures Tuesday, once I've cleaned and put everything back where it belongs.
I've successfully replaced 90% of my driving with the bike. In related news, I've only run about 1 mile over the past week. I screwed up my back leaning over the bike handlebars for too long on a 13 mile trip. I specifically have a commuter bike because I need to sit up straight the majority of the time. Guess I forgot that in the midst of my "going as fast as I can" mindset.

It's all in my head. Another reason I haven't run is the allergies that slayed me over the last 2 weeks. Even medicated, I wanted to just take my eyeballs out and pack them away somewhere until whatever it is I'm allergic to went away. Itchy eyes and a general fatigue = not wanting to do much of anything but eat and sleep. So that's what I did. Note to self: I've told you before eating a butt-ton of sugary stuff will not give you the energy you seem to think it will. It will just make you more tired.

I never listen to me.

Coming soon: Why I bombed my first job interview, and how I can do better next time!