Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ecology! Oh, and hello!

I don't know what the fate of this blog is, but I missed it today and since it's been over a year since I've written on it, I have things to say.

Since I last wrote, I have started two research projects, won grant money to conduct said research projects and dropped a geology major in order to focus more closely on zoology. I have moved twice, cut my hair off, had panic attacks, taken up dance and started gardening. Emily, my cat, has gone deaf. J and I are still together, and we are both graduating this year and then starting the grad school application process.

My interests have changed. Not completely, but they have certainly migrated more toward ecology and behavioral ecology and a little bit away from paleontology and geology. I struggled with this for a very long time because it seemed to me a failure; however, some wise person urged me to look at it as a success - a success in finding out what I do and don't want. That being said, I still feel like a person who lacks clear direction, but has mutiple interests and, overall, an interest in being challenged. I don't know how this will work for me when I apply to graduate programs, but I hope that the fact that I would be happy to study many different things isn't a negative thing!

I have given enough presentations and led enough discussions to know that I absolutely want to teach. I love teaching! I'm good at teaching! And this means I need to stay in school. I couldn't be happier about it, despite being slightly burnt out.

I hope to post more. More about my research. More about the courses I'm taking. More about the sweet insect collection I had to put together this semester. More about dance. More about the marathon I'm running in the spring! More about turning 30. More about how hard it is to live with an aging pet. More about applying for grad school.

But now, I need to study for three exams!

Friday, August 20, 2010


The semester starts in ten days and I have only five more days of full time work. I am really very happy to be going back to school full-time, but I will miss being around my co-workers. I will stay on the job part-time for most of September until they hire someone to take my place. And after that? I'm trying to find a position in the Geology department.

I am also going to work a few hours a week in the lab of a former TA. She does research on gynodioecious plants and is investigating the reproductive advantages that allow females to exist in various populations of Polemonium foliosissimum. She's taking a multi-species approach to understanding the problem - looking at seed predators, pollen thieves, herbivory and pollinators to determine the effects of each on females and hermaphrodites.

I don't know if ecology is my thing, but I do feel like it's important to take advantage of the relationships I have built with people in the Biology and Geology departments and to get any research experience that I can. I know that this former TA is willing to help me out - and I am going to let her do that! Perhaps next summer I will take on some of my own research. And maybe I'll be sucked into researching a single plant species for the rest of my life. Right now, I don't really care, as long as I'm learning and am interested in what I'm doing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Super-late Vermont City Marathon Relay Race Report

I may have mentioned that I was doing a half-marathon in May. Well, May has come and gone! My co-worker Deanna and I teamed up to do the Marathon relay. I had been running with Deanna all winter on my lunch breaks and she suggested that we do the race together.

A couple of months before the race, I started training, running about 20 miles a week at first and then up to 30 miles a week. My goal was to run my half (13.1 miles) in under two hours.

Two weeks before the race, J and I headed off to Florida for a nice vacation. The day we got back, we had to pack so that we could move to an apartment across town the next day. The day after that was race day!

I was very nervous before the race and was running on very little sleep. The night before, I had kept myself awake by repeating "I must get to sleep" over and over in my head. I tried to eat some food, but my stomach was so knotted that I could only get down a grapefruit half and a small Cliff bar. I kept drinking water so that I wouldn't be dehyrated, but then I kept having to pee.

Deanna ran the first leg of the Marathon, so J and I and her fiance, Dave, saw her off at the starting line. There were so many runners! Still, we were able to catch a glimpse of her as she took off. The course looped back around to the start line, so we waited there until Deanna passed by again. Then, J and I caught a shuttle over to the relay exchange, which was just a mile and a half south of the start line.

Deanna looping by the start line (she's in the blue, next to the guy in red). Photo by her fiance!

I waited for Deanna at the relay exchange after stopping to pee for the millionth time. I had to stand on my toes to see over the other runners so that I would be sure not to miss her. Finally, she rounded the corner and handed me a little yellow wrist-band. I took off, running at what seemed to be a reasonable pace (but which I would later find out to be too fast).

The first mile of the second leg was on a narrow bike path by the lake and I got caught in a large group of runners. Thankfully, they were all running about "my pace", so I wasn't stuck behind anyone or blocking anyone's path! After the bike path, I had to run up the biggest hill on the course, which wasn't bad at all, since there were so many people cheering the runners on!

At the top of the hill, I headed out on a very flat, several-mile stretch through some nice neighborhoods. There were tons of spectators on that stretch and I was in pretty good spirits, not really noticing how tired my body was. Many of the residents on the course streets set up tables and handed out fruit and water and I stopped at every station for water, which I think was a mistake. By the time I was leaving the neighborhood stretch, I felt insanely full and sloshy and could barely drink water without feeling gross. I had read about hyponatremia before the race, so I decided to take it easy on the water. From then on, I only drank Gatorade, which made me feel a little sick.

Around miles 8 and 9, the course reverted back to bike path, and the last 4.5 miles or so were on a quiet stretch of path next to the lake. I thought that it would be the nicest part of the race, since the scenery was so lovely and the course was all downhill from there. I was very wrong.

At some point in the race, my body started to go into autopilot mode. I am thinking this happened around mile 8 because I distinctly remember running down a small hill and realizing that I couldn't seem to physically slow myself down. My quads were burning and when I tried to do anything but move that the pace I had been moving at, they felt very rubbery and unsteady.

So there I was, in the last 4.5 miles stretch, running simply because I couldn't really do anything else with my body. I was full of water and I was tired and for some reason, my brain was saying You're almost there! But I wasn't! I was still more than 4 miles away! And that's when that really stupid voice turned on and said Boy, you're really tired! You could walk a little bit...maybe just sit down. WOW! You're tired!

I hate that voice.

Instead of listening to it, which I sometimes do, I just kept running. I found a guy to chat with, who was running the entire marathon. He was pretty miserable, so I found myself cheering him on and encouraging him, which helped me feel a little better about my own tired self!

In the last mile, I tried to run a little faster because I really wanted to be done with the race, but I found that I couldn't. My body was really tired and completely unwilling to cooperate.

Me, in the final stretch. So tired!!!

As I rounded the corner toward the finish line, I tried, again, to run a little faster, but it just wasn't happening. I crossed the finish line and could hear Deanna shouting to me. She had to prompt the woman handing out medals to give me one!

The finish - wobbly legs.

I remember finishing very vividly. When I stopped running, I immediately became aware of the pain in my legs and in my hips. I felt very foggy and a little dizzy but I also felt insanely proud of myself. I was so tired and so happy and I had so many great people with me to see me finish.

After the shock of finishing wore off, I got some Ben and Jerry's ice cream and sat around with my friends in the shade of a school bus, replaying the race in my head and stretching.

J gave me the best hug after the race! Photo by Lisa Thompson.

After saying goodbye to Deanna and Dave, Jordan and I went to the pub for a cheeseburger. By the time the cheeseburger came, I was feeling rather ill and tired, so we just grazed for a bit and then headed home. I got right into bed and slept for a while - another mistake! I was so stiff when I woke up!
The next day, Deanna sent me the race results. I ran my leg of the race in 1:55:54, meeting my goal of running it in under two hours! Overall, we had a marathon time of 3:44:09, which is really fantastic! I ran the first nine miles in 8:30 miles and the last few closer to 9:00 miles, which explains why I was so wiped out at the end, since I'm used to running closer to 9:30 miles. Next race, I will slow down in the beginning and try to make the last miles my fastest!

J and I are currently training for my next race - the Leaf Peeper's Half Marathon. And next year, I will attempt to run the full marathon in May!

The Running Titles (our team name!). Photo by Dave!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Now a Full-Time Self-Desgined Student!

When I started this blog, I chose the name to reflect my major. I was going to create a self-designed major that integrated geology and biology so that I could set myself up nicely for a paleo program. In the end, that didn't work out, so I found myself as a bio/geo double-major working full-time and taking a couple of courses each semester. I did that for three solid years and it was exhausting.

This fall, I am returning to school as a full-time student! I gave notice at my job and my last day is August 27th. They may use me for 14 hours a week or so after that, which will give me some income while I live off of loans!

The lineup for this fall is: Prehistoric Archaeology, Sociobiology, Physics I and Field Geology. I have also enrolled in an Evolution course, but I think I will save that for another semester. Without that course, I would be taking 14 credits, which seems like plenty for a first-time full-timer.

I am so excited to have time to devote to school and feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why, yes, that is a half-marathon in my pocket!

Good news! My co-worker and I entered the lottery for the local marathon relay and we got picked! The race is at the end of May, so training begins the last week of March. Last weekend I ran an 8-miler in 78 minutes, so I'm hoping that I can do the half marathon in 2 hours or less. I know it can be done!

Since we both work for a medical journal, we picked the team name "Running Titles." I think it's cute, but it brings to mind the SNL celebrity Jeopardy sketch in which the category is "famous titles" and Sean Connery says "I'll take 'famous titties" for $400, Trebek." Hopefully, nobody will make that mistake.

New Shoes

I didn't exercise enough last semester. I don't mean that I gained weight - I have the metabolism of a hummingbird - nor do I mean that my muscles atrophied. I just became, well, a bit lethargic and depressed. Exercising keeps me happy. Makes falling asleep at night just a little bit easier. I sleep better, eat better, when I exercise.

This semester, I have made a real effort to stay on top of things. I have been running for a few months with my co-worker on my lunch breaks and have been doing yoga 2 or 3 times a week. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten down the art of balance - I'm exercising more but studying less. I swear I've done the minimum that I need to do to eek by with a B in my classes. This is unusual for me.

It's tricky, this balance thing. I'm utterly failing at it.

I think I need to set up a strict schedule for this semester. And then stick to it. It feels wrong to be so rigid, but I am going to be really upset when I screw up my GPA because I just didn't feel like doing what had to be done.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hotel Schmotel

Anyone want to share a room with me at this year's annual meeting?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Well, the semester is over, and I am REALLY happy about it. I've been enjoying a much-needed break for the last two weeks. J and I went to my mom's house for the holidays and visited with my family and some of his friends. I've been running 4 four miles nearly every day and am putting some more effort into exercising, which is something that suffered during last semester!

I ended the semester with an A in Organic Chemistry and an A+ in Ecology and Evolution. My eco and evo professor was really fantastic and I wrote him a thank-you note and got this in return:
Thank you for your note. Each year after grades are posted, I receive several e-mails from my students. But I can assure you those notes are rather different in content and tone from yours!

Congratulations on your outstanding achievement in Ecology and Evolution. Not only did you receive the highest grade out of a class of 161 students, the 2nd ranked student was several percentage points below you.

If you ever need a reference, I am happy to write a strong letter of recommendation for you.

So, I officially have a reference for when I want to apply to grad school.

I will probably go to school full time starting in the fall. J and I are talking about taking the month of August off and hiking the Long Trail, which would be really hard, but probably mega-rewarding. I think that immersing myself in the natural world would do me a lot of good!

All that feels a long way off, though! We just got almost three feet of snow last weekend and it seems to be getting colder and colder!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The semester is almost over.

This has been the hardest semester so far, no contest. Organic chemistry is not easy. I have done well, with an exam average of 93.5, but it hasn't come easily and I've spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the textbook, doing practice problems, attending reviews and taking practice exams. I am not sure how I have done in the lab portion of the class. For the most part, I've gotten decent grades on my lab reports; however, I have failed at least two lab quizzes (with 1 out of 3 possible points). My TA does not hand out perfect grades - he claims that it is nearly impossible to get a perfect grade, and so he just doesn't assign them. At the end of the semester, all of the lab grades will be scaled in case one TA is easier than another. I believe that my lab grade will be scaled up. The lab is worth 1/4 of my grade. Two midterm exams make up 50% of my grade. The final is worth 25%.

I have done extremely well in my Ecology and Evolution class. I am pretty confident that I will end the semester with an A.

A couple of weeks ago, my Eco & Evo professor gave an interesting lecture on creationism. He recorded it, so I will try to get a copy of the video to post.

On Tuesday, I signed up for classes for the spring semester. I'll be taking the second half of organic chemistry and a course called Earth, Life and Environment Throughout Time through the geology department. We have a weekend trip to NYC to visit the AMNH. I think I'm going to like that class!

Sometimes, my job is highly entertaining...

We received this email in regard to a manuscript we published last year about the correlation between teen pregnancy and sex on television: