Weekend Update – The “What The Heck Was I Thinking?” Edition

>> Sunday, April 20, 2014

Weekend Update

Who was that crazy person who signed me up for two races in six days???

Oh wait, that was me.

First of all let me state clearly that I AM NOT a runner. For a long time I was strictly a walker and I enjoy walking in races. The Hubster is the runner in the family.

Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Over the past couple of years I've started adding a bit of running into the mix and now I approach races as a mix of running and walking. It’s fun but I doubt I’ll ever be strictly a runner. Anyway I decided several months ago that it was time to give a half-marathon a try. The Hubster and some of his friends were doing the Vernonia Half Marathon which isn't too far from our house and is a course that’s not all hills (a rarity in this area). That was last Sunday. Then the Hop Hop 5k which we did last year in it’s inaugural year ended up being scheduled for yesterday. I had to sign up because it’s just a fun race with a nice course and mimosas afterwards. I figured that the worst case scenario was that I just walk it casually.

I actually ended up doing pretty well (for me) in both races.

Vernonia Lake
Vernonia Lake
My goal for the half marathon was to do a 14 minute pace and finish in 3 hours. I managed to finish in 2:52 thanks to some good early miles because the finish wasn't pretty. The final few miles were a long gradual uphill that just wore me down and then the final quarter mile was a steep downhill switchback that made my calves cramp and I was glad to just make it across the finish line.

But I did it!
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Banks-Vernonia State Trail

The course was beautiful. It was mostly a trail around a lake and then along an old railroad right of way through the woods. The weather was gorgeous.

Then it was time to assess the damage. Beyond the expected post-race soreness I had a giant painful blister on my pinkie toe. The shoes I wore have been tossed never to be worn again. An emergency shoe order was placed so I could get a new pair of the style of shoes I used to wear in time for Saturday’s 5k. Since on Monday I could hardly walk I wasn't even sure if walking the 5k yesterday was going to be an option. But as the week passed the blister healed enough and I gave the new shoes a trial run on Thursday on the treadmill which left me ready to face the 5k yesterday.
Sunrise over Mt. Hood and the Portland Airport
Sunrise over Mt. Hood and the Portland Airport

We had another pretty morning and the wind and rain held off long enough for our race. The half-marathon folks who started later than the 5k folks weren't so lucky. I did much better than I expected. I didn't get a PR but I did finish faster than I did last year. Then there were the mimosas! It’s all about rewards.

Hop Hop 5K Commemorative Glasses
Now I get a break. This two races in 6 days was kind of crazy but I did it. I’m not sure I’ll ever attempt it again. My next race is on July 4th and I’m looking forward to taking a week or so off and letting my legs and feet heal.

Reading this week:
I finished listening to Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood. It was fun and I enjoyed both the main character and the 1920’s Australia setting. I started listening to the next (for me) in the Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson. The Dark Horse is narrated by George Guidall and I’m liking it a lot so far.

In print I finished The Accident by Chris Pavone. I now have two Pavone books that I’m ready go push The Hubster to read. I enjoyed both The Expats and The Accident and I think he’ll like them too.

I started reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It’s fascinating so far and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Hope you’re having a great weekend!


Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan

>> Friday, April 18, 2014

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Niko Henrichon

Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 136
Source: Library

The Short Version:
A fictionalized account of the true story of lions who escaped the zoo after the 2003 bombing of Baghdad.

Why I Read It:
Recommended highly (and repeatedly) by many of my friends.

The Book:
From the publisher:

In the spring of 2003, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an American bombing raid. Lost and confused, hungry but finally free, the four lions roamed the decimated streets of Baghdad in a desperate struggle for their lives. In documenting the plight of the lions, Pride of Baghdad raises questions about the true meaning of liberation — can it be given, or is it earned only through self-determination and sacrifice? And in the end, is it truly better to die free than to live life in captivity?

My Thoughts:
Told by and from the viewpoint of the animals this is a beautifully told and illustrated story. The four lions who are the main characters all have distinct personalities. When their world they know in the zoo is suddenly changed so drastically the freedom they have wanted is granted. However in a city at war is a dangerous and desperate place for all of the zoo animals.

The artwork in this is simply beautiful despite the wartime setting.

The political allegory is pretty much what I'd expected and I knew what the final outcome would be so that didn't come as a surprise either. The telling of the story through the animals both worked and yet didn't work for me. At some points it felt like bits and pieces of both The Lion King and the Madagascar movies. The anthropormorphizing of the animals at times went a bit too far into humans they represent in the allegory but overall it was still a good book.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5


Wordless Wednesday #234

>> Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ixtapa, Mexico

Ixtapa Sunset
click on image for larger version

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here


Audiobook – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

>> Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date: 2012 Audible Inc. Book originally published 1900
Length: 3 hours, 50 minutes
Read by: Anne Hathaway
Source: Free Audible download

The Short Version:
A tornado lands young Dorothy Gale in the Land of Oz which is most definitely not Kansas.

Why I Read It:
When I got the email from Audible that they were offering this free I downloaded it. When I decided I wanted to read Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die I decided to listen to the original book first.

The Book:
From Google Books:
In the first of L. Frank Baum's time-honored Oz novels, country girl Dorothy Gale gets whisked away by a cyclone to the fantastical Land of Oz. Dropped into the midst of trouble when her farmhouse crushes a tyrannical sorceress, Dorothy incurs the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy is desperate to return to her native Kansas, and, aided by the Good Witch of the North, she sets out for the Emerald City to get help from the legendary Wizard. On her way, she meets three unlikely allies who embody key human virtues—the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

My Thoughts:
I’m sure I read this as a kid but I sure didn't remember much of it. I remembered it being quite different from the movie but the details have faded.

The book itself is an odd story. The interpretations of it as political and social allegory are well known but whether Baum really intended as that may or may not be true and honestly I don’t care. I was interested in the story and how it differed from the movie and to hear Anne Hathaway’s reading of it.

If I had a recommendation at this point it would be that if you want to revisit the original Baum story go the the library and pick up a print edition. Skip this audio version.

The story was quite different from the movie. The Wicked Witch of the West is almost a minor character. As in the movie there is a fair amount of violence for a children’s story. I really didn't remember the Tin Man being such a whiner. I also didn't remember that both the good witches make an appearance. Each area of Oz has a distinct population and is ruled by one of the witches. The munchkins from the movie are only a quarter of the story.

As for the audio production it started out OK and while I like Anne Hathaway fine as an actress but I will never listen to her narrate another audiobook. She seemed to try way too hard to give each and every character in the book a distinct voice and accent. There are far too many characters for that in this book. The Tin Man might have seemed like a big whiner to me because of the way she did his voice. The Scarecrow sounded exactly like Marge Simpson. Before Dorothy and her companions were falling asleep in the field of poppies Hathaway lost me completely. When the stork sounded like a Valley Girl out of the early 80’s I’d had enough. At that point Hathaway’s increasingly odd voice characterizations became a complete distraction from the story. The Guardian of the Gate in the Emerald City sounded like Daffy Duck and the Wizard himself sounded like an elderly Southern lady.

I only finished it because it was so short.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5 for the book

1 stars Rating 1/5 for the narration

SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.


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