No Less a Twin

The word identical has always made me cringe. Why? Because I have a fraternal twin, not identical. But where the textbooks will claim we are no more alike than regular siblings, I vehemently disagree. We really need to take a fresh picture of us side-by-side, but here is one of Liz and I from two years ago.

Now, c’mon, we are much more alike than two random siblings. I once sent her to go pick up my paycheck in high school, and we shared a driver’s license to use for an i.d. at a bar in college when I forgot mine at home. We have always had similar interests, just not in careers (number crunching in a cubical? Mmm, pass). We even have the same voice!

Growing up side-by-side is a different experience than most siblings get to have, it’s very unique. How many people have had their names switched on their pictures in their high school yearbook? How many people can take calculus with their twin and take turns nudging each other awake during class? How many people were picked out of an audience at a rock concert for being twins and invited backstage? (hee, hee) How many people can run off to college with their sibling, unafraid of roommate woes and of having to share a 12-by-12 foot dorm room for a couple of years? And a car! And a wardrobe!

Now, I don’t know if being identical would have changed us much, but I am glad we aren’t those type of twins who still dress the same and get matching hairstyles. Can you imagine? I think my husband would have bowed out a while ago if we did this:

Eh, but at least they look like they are loving life, and that’s what I get to do, too, as a fraternal twin.

My sister and I live in different states, but we look forward to each other’s company every year over Spring Break–NEXT WEEK!!!! Look out, Liz, I’m coming to N.C. and we need an updated photo! (Perhaps in matching outfits.)


Ode to a Treadmill

When you’re stuck on a treadmill

In winter to run,

Your view is at standstill—

Not quite that much fun.

But at least as a writer

I find an escape.

While my hamstrings get tighter,

New plot twists take shape.

I may not cross bridges,

Or run trails lined with trees,

Jump over dirt ridges,

See birds, gnats, or bees.

But I hear voices, see people, in my head they move.

With patience (and luck) my speed will improve.

Abs, Squats, and Anticipated Pain

So, I happened upon a fellow blogger’s 30-DAY ABS & SQUAT CHALLENGE today. (Thank you,!) Me, being curious, intrigued, clear of any running races planned in the next 30 days, and a bit competitive in nature (with myself, of course) thought: Why not?

I have never done one of these uncompromising challenges that are probably nowhere close to being based on sound scientific evidence, especially concerning long term benefits other than: Active = good, Sedentary = bad, but completing it might be fun/challenging/crazy. So, how many people stick with these things the whole 30 days? And if you miss a day, can you still say you completed the challenge? Eh, not in my Type-A mind.

So, here goes. Day 1 was good, maybe even a little easy, but since my hamstrings are tighter than an extra small sports bra, I am okay with starting easy. And looking at the 30-day goal of 40 sit ups, 100 crunches, and 100 squats, my prediction is pretty simple: Not Easy.

So, who’s with me?

Laugh-worthy Expectations

You know what it’s like to think something is going to be easier than it actually is? Take that online course, work from home, decorate a beautiful cake, have a baby, etc. Well I thought trail running would be easy in a this-is-so-cool-and-it’s-so-much-fun-that-I-am-not-even-thinking-about-the-pain-so-I-ought-to-be-fast kind of way. Keep in mind, I’ve been running on roads since I was fifteen, and I’m (cough) fwwwy. Fwwrrrty. Okay, forty.

On this gorgeous day, with Spring blowing a playful kiss of 60 degrees through the February air, I set out to the Whitney State Forest just south of Warrenton, VA. Being a non-native to this area/state, I didn’t even know this treasure existed until I was looking at Google maps one day and wondered what the hell is that green blob just south of the city? Why have I not investigated something green on the map? According to the Virginia Department of Forestry website, this piece of land is 147 acres with 6 miles of winding trails and a great place for bird watching and deer spotting. Or horseback riding—so, watch your step.

I don’t run with my phone, so I took the chance that I could find my way along the trails with the posted map at the parking lot and the color splotches on trees. I wanted to run in the vicinity of 5-6 miles, so I took the longest perimeter trail (dark blue splotches), a trail which did a fair amount of winding. It was a blast! Roots, mud, rocks, wet leaves, tough climbs, rapid descents, small creeks to traverse, logs to jump over, a perilously wedged fallen tree to run under. Weeee!

The outer loop was 2.6 miles; I ran it twice. With the first loop, I’ll admit to a certain level of intimidation—I can’t afford to twist an ankle, I was trying to avoid a true foot-soaker in the streams, and I was on the lookout for horse droppings—which were underneath the leaves—a fascinating discovery that was determined a few steps too late.

With more confidence on the second trip, I was certain my mile splits would be, yes, a little slower than road running, but still respectable. Running the trails was like being in an action movie! I was outrunning the villain while crashing down the gnarly trail and grinding uphill with bared teeth, encrusted with splashes of red Virginia mud, the true badges of boldness and vivacity!

I wore a Garmin, but refused to look at the mile splits until just now.

Here’s where you can laugh.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to.

Despite my childlike energy stoked by the fresh air and wild environment, I averaged a full 2 minutes slower per mile than my easy/moderate days on the road, a full 3 minutes per mile slower than my tempo speed.

But I am a hopeful optimist; most experiments in life are, at the very least, worth evaluating. I can now look at trail race results with a whole new perspective. I can now appreciate that there are shoes manufactured for purposes of trail running. I can now appreciate the fact that I tried something new and, despite the splits, found rather enjoyable. And I found a new site for training that will challenge me for the next decade or so.

Will I still be jumping those streams and hurdling trees when I’m fifty? (Chest puffed, eyes narrowed) I’ll be there. And not only that, I’ll know how to find the horse poop.




If You Were Given A Free Gift (of Time)

If you were given an (all expenses paid) extra week sometime this year, what would you do with it?

Take the kids back to Disney World the week of the Disney Princess Half Marathon and be sure to include one full day of writing at the resort where I will create the next Disney Princess—Willa Baker, the only chubby princess who wears chucks and has a smart mouth and a dream to be a cake decorator who’s pretentious mother proved through a DNA test that they are descendants of royalty. Cool, huh?

If you were given an extra day what would you do?

After running the “Extra Day 10K,” I’d have a pancake brunch at IHOP with the family, of course. Then take the kids hiking on some nature trail that includes ruins of some sort (gotta love ruins), and afterward sit on a picnic table with a notebook and pen and write a short story that incorporates the ruins in some mysterious or creepy sort of way, then out to eat again—anywhere that features ridiculously large cocktails that basically taste like fruit juice, but make me feel warm inside.  And, knowing me, I’d still like to go to bed on time because I know I won’t get any extra time the next day—that’s just unreasonable.

If you were given an extra hour?

On work days, that would give me 12 extra minutes with each patient—wow, how I love that idea. I know for sure I’d be walking the ones who could walk and have a meaningful conversation about something other than medication side effects and recent lab work.

On a non-work day, I’d tune into a (FREE!) writing lecture, like the ones hosted by Michigan State ( I’d start with John Irving, then Margaret Atwood, then Maya Angelou, then Kurt Vonnegut, then Terry McMillan; oh my, there are 31 writers to choose from, I need more than an hour!

An extra 10 minutes?

I’d stretch after running. I normally skip it to save precious time which is probably why my hamstrings and calves like to throw hissy fits.

One free minute?

Breathe and meditate. I almost typed medicate—huh, that’s weird.

One free second?

Wink at my husband. Of course then I have to explain for 600 seconds why that spontaneous gesture occurred.

C’mon readers, what about you? What if you were given a free gift of time? BTW, you are not allowed to say sleep, let’s assume that you are either well-rested or buzzing on caffeine.

Personality Speculation

I was looking up some information on Type A personalities because I might very well fall into that category. I came across a study conducted in 1976 that asked the following questions, which I will attempt to answer honestly.

Do you feel guilty if you use spare time to relax? Yes, in fact, instead of resting with my kids last night when we rented The Emperor’s New Groove, I had a notebook and pen in my lap so I could take notes on story structure and plot development.

Do you need to win in order to derive enjoyment from games and sports? Well, I got pretty upset that I missed out on winning a pie in a 5-mile race last summer when the over-all winner counted against the age group wins, and the bitch beat me by 4 full minutes before getting on a plane to travel to another race in Washington D.C. C’mon, lady, give us normal people a chance, will ya? (I do hope she enjoyed the pie.)

Do you generally move, walk and eat rapidly? I learned how to eat an entire meal in 8 minutes at Field Training in the Air Force. Can you blame me for holding onto this talent?

Do you often try to do more than one thing at a time? I don’t know. I suppose I tend to prep dinner, do dishes, pack kids lunches, direct homework, and ask the kids about their day all at once, but who doesn’t?

I think for my next leg of research, I need to focus on how Type A’s can develop the gift of patience and ability to break from multi-tasking. In the meantime, I have to post this blog, pick up the mail, get Carolyn off the bus while reading a paragraph of my book, and then prep dinner while talking to Hannah before I pick up Sarah.

Hey readers, where do you fall on the spectrum?

Super Bowl, Habits, and Cheese Dip

Why Do I Watch the Super Bowl?


None of my favorites advanced to a playoff,

No time to squander or wait for a kick off.

I love a good game,

But each year feels the same,

And the TV just mocked: You won’t click off.


I genuinely seek new experiences, but some yearly traditions can label me a creature of habit, i.e. the Super Bowl. Admittedly, it’s a program which I have zero reason to watch other than pure entertainment. But this single evening event holds the attention of 111 million Americans each year; it gives us some brief connection, some subject to discuss both before and after with colleagues, strangers, etc. It gives me something to ask my patients whether they will or did watch it from their hospital beds. It gave the elementary school a spirit day so the kids could wear the colors from “their” team (Carolyn chose Eagles because she likes birds and Sarah chose the Patriots because she thinks it’s the cool thing to do). And since I’m not working on this icy, rainy Sunday in Northern Virginia, I will make some warm comfort food and join in the tradition.

Someday if the Redskins (or Lions) ever make it, I might be more enthusiastic. Until then, I’m more excited about my cheese dip, but that’s not unusual, cheese dip rocks!

Game On!

Well, If John Grisham Can Do It . . .

“The Running Test That Has Tormented Sport’s Biggest Stars Turns 50.” Thus was the title of an email I received from Runner’s World. Puzzled, I read Mark Dent’s article in its entirety, seeking especially the reason why “tormented” was the tantalizing adjective chosen to describe this simple fitness test.

The reader in me learned that this test is a 12-minute run on a standard quarter-mile track, running as fast as you can to see how many laps you are able to complete. The test had been developed by Dr. Kenneth Cooper for the Air Force in the 1960’s  (and is often referred to as the Cooper Test) and had since been used by championship World Cup soccer, NFL, and college basketball teams, FIFA referees, police recruits, and high school athletic programs. Studies confirmed a correlation between the number of laps to VO2 Max—an indicator of aerobic, or oxygen-carrying, capacity of individuals which is why it was an effective and objective measure.

The runner in me wanted to know how I fared in this brutal test against time. Unfortunately, the closest high school running track is closed to the public (grrrrrr), so I did the test on the trusty treadmill in my chilly basement while my dog stared at me with his why-aren’t-you-taking-me-running eyes. The article stated that for women in their 20s-30s, four laps is fair, five is good and six is excellent. Yes, I’m officially 40, but I can hold myself to a higher standard because this is my test and my treadmill.

I ran 6.8 laps.

The writer in me had to write down this meager accomplishment before it got lost in my running logs only to be discovered posthumously by my daughters who may or may not give a hoot if their mother could run the Cooper Test at the age of 40. It wasn’t the most fun, but it didn’t kill me. I slowed down my initial pace just slightly after five laps, but then sped up again during the last two minutes. It is an interesting test because, unlike typical races and tempo runs, you are not finishing a certain distance; your finish is dictated by the clock. And, FYI, getting mad at the clock won’t make it go any faster.

A little detail tickled my attention and perhaps made me want to try the test even more: The article stated that author John Grisham approached Dr. Cooper at a fundraiser and told him, “I hate you. We had to take that darn 12-minute test so many times.”  But also that he’s “still running.”

Ah, taking the Cooper Test, I’ve now crossed metaphysical paths with John Grisham. Perhaps next time we’ll cross paths will be on the New York Times Bestseller list. Until then, John, I’m “still running” too, and maybe next time I’ll hit lap 7.

(Take that 20 and 30 year olds!)

Article by Mark Dent: