Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No shirt! (gag!)

It should have been very simple. An easy, distraction-free, simple training session. Functional strength: one hour (give or take) doing functional strength. So simple, that I can do the workout at the gym in our apartment complex.

Perhaps that's where I went wrong.

After all, at Whiting Field NAS or Pensacola NAS (oops - Naval Air Station for all those non-military-speak people out there), last time I checked shoes and shirts were required apparel.

Its about safety after all, right?

Who hasn't dropped a weight on their foot at one time or another? Jeez, I hope I'm not the only one with my hand up here. What I meant to ask: who at some point hasn't dropped a weight or plate close to their feet at some point?

And at the military gym, shirts are definitely a requirement. Although some of them are so stretchy that you can't really tell. And I'm talking about the guys here, not the ladies. Anyways, sweaty skin all over benches and other equipment. Yuck. I have a pretty bad gag reflex, so the last thing I want when approaching a weight bench is Mr. I'm-too-hot-for-a-shirt's imprint on the thing.

I have been known to walk around with a bottle of disinfectant. Only because I don't like seeing the sweaty imprint left over the equipment. And it would be even grosser (is that a word?) if they were shirtless.

But that's not the case at the apartment mini-gym.

About 15 minutes into my workout, a young-ish guy walked into the gym. Immediately he set out on the treadmill and spent a good 20 minutes running. I didn't pay too much attention to him; I was more focused on holding my planks or not dropping the 12 pound weights on my feet (ahem). I did noticed that he worked up quite a sweat.

Apparently Mr. Treadmill-Runner wasn't all that familiar with deodorant. Oh well, it's a gym. What should I expect.

After completing his run, my companion headed over to one of the bikes. Without wiping down the treadmill, I might add. Something that I find very offensive 1) Because he was really sweaty 2) Because I am a stickler for wiping down the equipment even if I've only been warming up for five minutes on it and 3) Because once as the Fitness Director of the New Bern YMCA, I wiped down equipment all the time after sweaty individuals. It was gross. And sweat corrodes and breaks down the machines.

For a moment I thought about saying something, but then decided against it. I'm not a big fan of confrontation and besides, it's not my gym. If the guy wanted to be a jerk - let him be a jerk. I'll pick my battles, thank-you-very-much.

So I continued my functional strength and noted Mr. Biker work up an even bigger sweat. But only out of the corner of my eye; I didn't want him thinking I was watching him. After all, there were mirrors all around.

Focus Marit! Form on functional strength! Abs tucked in and tight while you do your backward lunges! Balance and posture! No sense in falling over because you're amazed at the sweat rate of the guy on the bike!

Okay, I do talk to myself.

And that's when it happened.

Mr. Sweaty got off the bike and removed his shirt.

Time out for a second. I'm a fan of the male physique. I really am. I've been known to admire a good looking body any day - and of course I'm partial to Nathaniel's.

But there are just some people that shouldn't remove their shirts. At the beach - totally acceptable. You're at the beach and lack of clothing is acceptable. If you're fine with your body the way it is - that's great. More power to you. I've got my own body issues and it's rare that you'll find me in a two piece unless I'm at top form. And I realize that. I do admire others who can simply let it all hang out. They're accepting of themselves and that's wonderful.

But when your back hair looks as though it needs to be mowed, taking off your shirt in the gym and then leaving it off while you lift weights for 20 minutes is totally unacceptable!

He could have been a Wookie from the rear view. (Close your eyes, and imagine the Wookie sound). A cousin of Chewbacca, as far as I was concerned.

I didn't know weather to laugh or to throw up.

It was so gross: the hair on this guys back was - for lack of a better word - amazing.

You could barely see any skin.

The front part - aka his chest - was fine. It looked suspiciously smooth, but I wasn't about to move closer for inspection. A few glances confirmed that the front side of him was a hairless wonder.

But the back was a different story. He looked like he belonged on Planet of the Apes. Seriously. And he wasn't that old - perhaps mid 20s?

The thing is, it was so distracting. You know when you're driving past a car accident and you know that you shouldn't look out of respect for the victims, but you can't help yourself because its so fascinating?

Yeah, that was me at the gym.

I kept telling myself to not look, to not take a peek.

But it's like with junk food or my favorite piece of yellow cake with chocolate frosting. The minute I tell myself "no", I want it even more.

From an anatomical standpoint, it was fascinating. You could teach little kids about "smooth surface" "hairy surface" by simply having this guy turn around.

And the problem was, is that he didn't put his shirt back on. For the remainder of his workout, he lifted weights, sat on the equipment with his shirt off. I was more disturbed than anything else.

Well, he was confident. I'll give him that.

And I realize that my gag reflex is getting better.

So there you have it; my adventure at the gym while doing functional strength. There really should be a disclaimer; no shoes, no shirt, no entrance to the gym. Unless you're hairless and well toned on both sides. Then I'll consider it. Until then, all bets are off.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

West Coast Wishes

We are so not getting San Diego as our next place of living.

And you want to know why?

Because yesterday afternoon, Nathaniel and I spent mucho time looking at houses, apartments, condos, and townhouses in the greater San Diego area. We've narrowed it down to Carlsbad, or possibly Encinitas. We loved Del Mar, but think that the commute for Nathaniel (getting to the base, and then getting to the flight line way in the middle of base) would be a little far.

Besides, Carlsbad looked positively wonderful.

And then we found it.

The perfect townhouse. Hard wood floors, two stories, a fireplace, high ceilings (vaulted), three bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Okay - so maybe it was a few blocks from I-5. But still - it was within walking distance of Carlsbad Village and had a view of the Blue Lagoon.

Now: cue the crashing music. The "catch" if you may.

We haven't been assigned our next duty station. Yet. We don't know where we'll be: still a toss up between San Diego (Camp Pendleton) or Jacksonville, NC (Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station).

So, I'm convinced that we're doomed.

There is no way that we're going to get San Diego.

Instead, we'll be spending an eternity, er, a long time in North Carolina. Not that there's anything wrong with that... But we're ready for a change. We're ready to be out of the south. We're ready for mountains, a Pacific view, local vineyards, an area with lots of great universities, many different kinds of people, different sorts of restaurants (I love the Falafel at Roxies in Encinitas!)... a new experience, if you may.

So the realist (nay, not pessimist) knows that we'll end up with North Carolina. Again.

But there is still hope. Nathaniel hasn't been selected yet (the way this works: he lists his top helicopter picks and on which coast he wants to fly them. The instructors do their best to accommodate the students with their first or second picks...but there's always an off-chance that things will go very wrong. Like if there are no West Coast Cobra slots available the week of his selection.)

According to this model, we could potentially end up in Okinawa, Japan.

And that's someplace we definitely don't want.

Back in March when I crashed and broke my sacrum, my Dad and Nathaniel flew out to stay with me. After I was released from Scripps La Jolla (the best hospital ever!), we stayed right on the ocean in Del Mar. It was then that Dad became convinced that we were going to end up in Southern California.

He claimed that he had "a feeling".

Lately, Nathaniel has been having "a feeling" as well. His "feeling" points to San Diego, hence the online house hunt yesterday.

I seem to be the only realist, er pessimist, that realizes that we haven't been given our next assignment.

I guess a big part of me doesn't want to dare to hope. I would love to live in San Diego so much - but am afraid of getting my hopes up only to be disappointed with Jacksonville, NC. The tough part is that I don't have any control over this. None - absolutely zero. And I knew that when I married Nathaniel.

It just doesn't get any easier.

But that's the great thing about hope. It's still there. She's still whispering the sweet songs of Southern California, which we dare to dream. We don't know yet; therefore hope is still alive. And that's something that the realist in me does recognize.

So in the meantime, I'll continue to dream, continue to hope. And we'll keep looking for houses in the San Diego and the Carlsbad area. Because that's the great thing about hope: it's still alive and we're still in the running. Until we hear otherwise.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wandering Mind on the Bike

Today I had my long bike ride for the week on the schedule. Three hours of pure-biking bliss. The weather was perfect - 75-80 beautiful degrees with low humidity. The sun was shining, the birds were tweeting, and the love bugs were out in full frenzy.

Okay, so that was gross.

For those of you not privileged to 1)live along the Gulf Coast or 2) bike through swarms of "love bugs", trust me when I tell you they're gross. Thousands upon thousands of bugs...stuck together copulating...bouncing off the helmet, flying down the jersey (give me a bee any day), doing gross things while smacking into your person while you bike at 18 mph down the highway.

One long word: Eeewwwwww!

But the ride was fantastic, it really was. There are some rides where you have so much to focus on: nutrition, route, pace, wattage, heart rate, the weather... And then there are other days where you can just let your mind wander. Ride for the pure enjoyment and love of the sport.

The later was my day today.

And while I was riding, I had many a thought drift through my mind. Below you'll find a few that I can recall (remember, I was out for a little over three hours).

-Should I have put on more sunscreen? I got my face, but I think my base layer is okay to handle Florida in September....?

I should have smeared the stuff everywhere. My back currently has two colors: red and the part covered by my tri top. It's not pretty. And the aloe smell is a powerful reminder that next ride, the suncreen is going everywhere.

-I really don't mind waving at strangers in trucks in the middle of Santa Rosa County. At least they're friendly... They probably won't run me down if given the option.

Duh. It's the ones that give you the finger or hollar out the window that you have to watch out for. Surprisingly, the friendly drivers today were all driving pickup trucks.

-Can a Power Gel survive in a hot car for 3+ months? It would be nice to have a little extra sodium with me... and I love the vanilla flavor... but will it be safe for human consumption?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I found one gel in the house. And another in the car. Beggars can't be choosers: next time I need to prepare a little more ahead of time for my longer rides. I'm still here, and the gel was extra, uh, liquidy. It goes to the same place - so I should be okay...

-Do I have to put my time and mileage in Training Peaks? This doesn't look too good for me. Ah, it would appear that I'm biking at Mountain Biker pace - no offense to Mountain Bikers. But those riding on root-rutted trails juxtaposed to the smooth pavement of the road on a TT bike, well....Maybe I can use the wind as my defense...?

Dude - what do you expect? You're just riding to enjoy, not to race yourself. Or race your past self. The pace doesn't matter. Just the fact that you're having fun and putting in some time in the saddle - that's great. Plus, the longer I'm out, the better my "tan" will be. Tan lines are so en vogue!

-I am biking through a Hitchcock-like scene. There are billions of copulating bugs. They are everywhere. All around. Flying down my shirt, bouncing off my legs, into my helmet, off my sunglasses onto my shirt and then reverberating off my shorts. This is GROSS! If I could shiver I would, but I'm trying to stay *focused* on staying upright. I don't need to crash on account of some overly-sexed bugs.

And an hour later after I arrived home and got ready for my shower, I found assorted bug bits in the sports bra. You had better believe I was in that shower asap. And disinfectant (but sensitive skin!) soap was my new best friend. I wasn't brave enough to check the pile of clothes for residual bugs. Or bug bits. Yuck - I hate crunchy bugs!

-What should we do for dinner? Sushi? Lentil stew with crusy bread? How about both...? That would entail a quick stop at Publix on the way home. Ooohhh! I should pick up something special for Nathaniel. And me... Is it smart to go shopping after a long ride when you've only eaten breakfast food?

The perfect remedy was to carry a basket instead of going for the full cart. I was pretty tired after the ride, and knew that by NOT pushing a cart I wouldn't be able to 1)Lean against it and thus prolong my duration in the store or 2) Fill it full of stuff that looked good simply because I was tired and hungry. But sushi and lentil stew stuff was purchased. So was the crusty bread - made from flaxseed and soy.

Even Nathaniel said the bread was good. Better with peanut butter...

-Is Survivor on tonight?? I wonder what the new season will be like! The challenges look so fun, but I could never do the cut-throat politicking of the game. Speaking of politics... Nathaniel and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I think our votes will cancel each other out...

Wow. Survivor to the 2008 Election. Nice. And yes - Survivor did premiere tonight. Politics, well - don't get me started.

And I could keep going and going and going and going... But I won't. Overall it was a great ride - not the fastest, not the most intense. But the best long bike ride that I've had in a long time. And I did it because I loved it - no it wasn't the 5 hours that I had envision a few weeks ago. But in nearly every other way, it was perfect.

If we could just do something about the bugs though...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scary Stuff

I knew I shouldn't have done it.

But it was there. It was tempting. And I had nothing else to do.

And no - this does not include peanut M&Ms or PB Cups. Although eating a lot of those would have been scary as well. (Most notably the morning after - when you wake up and then realize how much candy you actually ate.)

No - my candy, er - dilemma - for the month of October is taken care of. Thanks to Elaine's (TriGirlPink) challenge, I won't be waking up to a post-M&M-consumption-induced coma. See her blog for details.

But speaking of October and all things Halloween, lately I've been scaring myself silly. Not with workouts, and definitely not with M&Ms - but with super scary "reality" TV shows.

And no - not E! Network stuff, or The Biggest Looser. I try to not watch a lot of TV, I swear. But lately, Nathaniel has been doing a lot of night flights - so I'm home alone.

Normal routine is thrown out of whack - so I'll channel surf. Okay... so what does this have to do with being scared silly?

Glad you asked.

Two words: Ghost Hunters.

First, a bit of background.

I swear that I grew up in a haunted house. Something was not right with that place. And just because I have an overactive imagination, doesn't mean that I was wrong. I couldn't stand to be on any single floor by myself. I would have to drag my sister upstairs or downstairs with me. At night I would yell and holler, "Mom? Dad? Could somebody please take me to the bathroom?" until one of my poor parents walked me 10 feet down the hall.

Had there been a bathroom not near the edge of the staircase - where the "monsters" or "things" were undoubtedly waiting for me at the very bottom - I would have happily gone on my own. Yes, I would have gotten a running head-start and taken a flying leap to get back into bed (hands reaching out from under - to this day I don't like to dangle my hands or feet off the edge!), making it creak.

The worst? The basement. Or being downstairs late at night. The poor cat was oftentimes my companion. Once, while I was doing dishes (my chore), I was so afraid of the basement stairs (I thought I kept hearing someone or something comming up it. Not just hear - but I could sense that something was just there.) - that I barely rinsed the soap off the dishes. The next morning my parents weren't too happy with my dish washing job.

At the time they didn't realize how petrified I was. But now when we talk about it, they understand that I was truly terrified.

Okay - so little kid with big imagination + totally weird house = adult who mostly can handle herslef.

Until she watched Ghost Hunters. Alone.

In the show, a team of ordinary people aka "The Ghost Hunters" go out and try to disprove hauntings or paranormal phenomenon. They use technology, Electronic Voice Sensors, K2 meters, digital recorders, thermal cameras, and a lot of scepticism to disprove their cases.

About 80% of the cases they review, they find nothing.

That leaves (by my calculations - and I'm no math expert - you can tell by how off I am when counting laps during a swim set) 20% of the places they investigate to have some sort of paranormal activity.

A haunting is different than paranormal activity. From what I've gathered, there are different kinds of phenomena out there. If you're interested - check out their site. They're the experts, not me (clearly!).

Unfortunately (for me) once I turned the flippin' show on, I was too terrified to turn it off. I mean - what's worse? Not knowing and expecting the worse (but never finding out because you were too afraid to hang in there), or finding out and being scared anyway.

I know how my imagination works - and more often than not, I'll try to stick with and see what happens. I guess my mind can be much worse than anything they come up with.

But that doesn't solve the problem of me, watching this team of Ghost Hunters, hunt ghosts in an abandoned Train Station in Buffalo, NY. Apparently it was very haunted. Images were caught on camera, unworldly voices were heard on recording, and most members of the investigation team had first-hand experiences with one aspect (or more) of the haunting.

Great! A night that Nathaniel's gone until 12:30 or 1 am and I'm totally alone. With my cats. Nice.

You had better believe that nearly all the lights are turned on, NPR is playing in the background, and there is no way that I'm letting anything so much as a fingernail droop over the side of the bed tonight.

But as I was watching - petrified and half buried under the covers, yet unable to tear my eyes away from the television as the cast went "lights out" - I couldn't help but wonder why? I was doing what I was doing.

If I was that scared, that sensitive - then why even bother.

I suppose I want to know. I want to be reassured that there are other people out there that have similar experiences. No - I'm not saying that I saw any ghosts or heard any unworldly voices in the middle of the night - but I had a sense that when I should have been by my slef, that I wasn't alone. That I was always being watched by something around the corner.

When I see other people who can relate, who have simila feelings it brings me a lot of comfort. I know I'm not alone, know that I'm not the only one to ever experience feelings like this.

And for the record, when I was 14, our family moved into a different house. And even though the previous owner died in the kitchen, I've never felt weird or anything abnormal there. In high school I was able to watch British Comedy late into the wee hours of the morning in the same kitchen.

It didn't mean that I didn't still thunder up the stairs when the lights were off and I was the last one heading up - I still do to this day. But there's a sense of happiness, of calm and of peace in their house now. Very different from the first one.

Perhaps I grew up, or grew out of my phase. Thankfully, in spite of the many houses I've lived in since college and now moving around the country with a husband in the Marine Corps., I haven't had experiences like that since. And I hope I never do.

But I still can't get over the fact that I willingly watched that show.

Perhaps a part of me still wanted to be scared? Maybe I wanted to see the skeptics dissect a case and prove that there's nothing there, nothing to be afraid of? Or maybe I just want to be assured that I'm not the only one out there. Better yet? I'm bored on a Wednesday while Nathaniel is flying his Night Qualifications.

You never know.

Regardless - tonight I'll be sleeping with all the lights on. The radio will be playing, and I'll have to make sure that one - if not both - of the kitties are with me in bed. I'll be sure that the blankets are tucked around and I may even set the sleep timer on the TV.

I think that Frasier comes on at 11. The Golden Girls at 12. And The Nanny at 1.

Now the fact that I know that is scary.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Toasted at 2500

Sometimes you have workouts that are hard.

And then, there are other times when you have workouts that are really hard.

And the absolute worst? Those workouts that look not-that-bad, but deep down, you know they will totally and absolutely kick your butt.

They are innocently deceptive. To the casual onlooker, no "biggie". But to the workout-doer, a completely different story. A snot-filled, arm-quivering, I'm-not-sure-I'll-make-this-but-I-know-my-coach-won't-kill-me-right?-kind of workout.

I had one of those in the pool the other day.

The workout looked innocent enough. That should have been the giveaway. Well, that coupled with Jen's comments at the end, "Only 2400 today, but you can do more if you feel up to it. But no more than 3k..."

Those words - if you feel up to it - were the kiss of death.

And looking at the workout, it's not like I'm doing 500s, or 1000s, or God-forbid 200s (I have a fear of those). It was only 100s. 15 of them to be exact. But the rest interval time was generous and I had a whopping "50 easy kick" in between every 5 100s.

Written next to the 100s were the simple words: very fast.

Very. Fast.

Very Fast.

Okay, okay - you get the point.

And after the first set of 5 X 100, my goal for the second and third sets of 5 X 100s was to "hold first set pace."

Not swim almost as fast as the first set.

Nor swim close to first set time.

But Hold First Set Pace.

Gotcha Coach. Allright. I know that you won't do anything that will intentionally harm me. And that everything you write, you do because you want to push me, but also think I can handle it... So here goes.

First few 100s were done right at and then below my T-Pace. So far, so good. I wasn't dead yet, nor did the pool lifeguard feel that my life was in any danger. I may have alarmed the gentleman in the lane next to me with my Dark-Vadar-like breathing - but I was swimming very fast. So it's acceptable.

And before you get your knickers in a bunch, realize that I wasn't holding a very tight interval. In fact, for the first set my rest was :20 per 100. For the second it was :30, and then during the final set a whopping :40. Just enough to stop hyperventilating before I took off to repeat.

I arrived at the end of my first 5 X 100 pretty much intact. No - I wasn't dead, wasn't gasping for air or flopping on the deck in agony. But I didn't reach for my flippers to aid my kick either.... I took my sweet time with my 50 kick. My neighbor - the one doing the elementary back stroke on his front - may have passed me. But I'll never admit it.

Second set started, and yep - there was the fatigue. But on the first interval, I managed to come in two seconds faster than my T-pace. So there was a reason to the lack-of-breath and quivering legs. And now that I had lowered the bar, I was bound and determined to hold my pace there.

There are few times, I rationalized, that I have the opportunity to swim this fast, or to do a workout like this. I might as well make it the best possible...

And yes, I managed to have that thought within the span of my :30 rest interval. So off I went. The arms continued to protest, and with each and every push off the wall after a flip turn, I could feel my quads tightening up. But for the next 4 100s, I managed to hold my time to one second faster than my T-pace.

I was on a roll. But also concerned about what my body could handle.

During my second (and thankfully final) 50 second uber-slow kick, I reminded myself that workouts like this don't come very often for me. Make it count.

Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.

Which is the slogan that I see on a lot of Marines's shirts at the gym. A little cliche, if you ask me... but when you're in a situation where the phrase is truly tested, it is more than appropriate. Trust me.

The final 5 X 100 were like no other. I set off with a time two seconds below my T-pace, and then repeated it for the second. It was during the 13th and 14th repeat that I felt my body systematically shutting down.


Don't need those.

What about back muscles?

Nope, not those either.

And the quads?

Long gone.

But in spite of the uncontrollably fast pace, the lack of sensation in my quads, and my really really really loud breathing, I managed to complete my set in under my original time. Yes, the wizard jumped on my back, and afterwards if I had been forced to outswim a shark attack (hey - they DO have chlorine sharks, right? They live on the other side of the grates at the end of the deep end, right??? They're the reason why I hate being in the pool alone...they are there. And they're waiting for that overly-tired swimmer who won't put up a fight...), I would have been a goner.

I grabbed the kick board for my 100 kick cool down and my legs felt oddly detached. The arms were much much worse. I ended with a 300 pull. Again - I may have been passed by Mr. Front Stroking Elementary Back Stroker, but I can't be sure. I was just trying to move forward without sinking.

So there you have it: I was toasted at 2500 yards. High quality and very fast yards, thank-you-very-much. But that was the thing about this workout: I didn't want to look back or write up my account in Training Peaks and lament what I didn't do. Pain really was temporary and my pride at completing the workout in the times my coach had set for me was, well, forever.

And the really great thing? Next time I have a really hard workout on my schedule, I'll be able to look back at this one and realize that I could do it. I did do it. And even though I had to use a ladder to get out of the pool at the end of the swim, inside I felt like a little kid, jumping up and down and waving her arms in glee.

And I can't wait to find that feeling again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Night Fun

Well, I'm sorry to say - the Packers lost. But it was bound to happen at some point. I would rather it happen NOW than later. Like when its really important. But there is life after football, even for my husband.

But that's not what this post is about.

You know when you and your Significant Other/Domesticate Associate/Lifetime Companion/You-get-the-point are sitting on the couch... And the music playing on the radio (NPR evening in Pensacola, Florida for all those wondering) is so awful.... But the two of you are listening while you do other things (like read blogs and play Tetris)....

And then it hits you:

What in the name of God is this awful music playing?

Nathaniel looked at me the moment I looked at him and paused his GameBoy (yes, he was the one playing Tetris) and commented, "That's a little too Kenny G for me. Glad that one of us budged..."

So I obliged and changed the radio to the other local NPR station... And its not that much better. Yes, "Elephants Keep Sinking into Hearts" by Rachael Yamagata is not that high on my play list.

"This one isn't much better...." observed Nathaniel.

And that's how our night went.

Unless you want to count the games of Gin Rummy we played (he beat me 4-2). But now Nathaniel is amusing himself, er - amusing the cat by playing with her and her toy mouse.

Luckily he's encouraging her like I taught him with helpful phrases such as, "What a good little hunter you are..." and "good girl! So fierce!" and "You're as dumb as a bag of $600 hammers..."

Except I didn't teach him the hammer phrase.

But when he says stuff like that, I know he really loves Anabelle.

And when questioned about his love for Anabelle... His response? "I think she's stupid..."

Yep, he's smitten.

And that's what a childless couple in Pensacola does for Monday night fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Night Stats

As the title says, here we go:

1) Packers v. Cowboys. We are watching the game and hopeful that Our Packers will come back in the 4th quarter. Although I'm currently out in the Living Room writing, I can hear random shouts of "Sack Him!" and "Go! Go! Go!" and "Get rid of IT!" from the bedroom. The Husband is a fan. And if I didn't know that Sunday Night Football was on television, I wouldn't be exactly sure what he was up to.

2) It is difficult to type, as my forearms are sore. Nathaniel and I went rock climbing again this weekend. We both made it to the top of a few walls (the ones with the big, handle-like grips!), and tried Bouldering for the first time. Bouldering simply means climbing without a rope no higher than eight feet off the ground. Usually I was only 2 or 3 feet - but moving from one side of the wall to another. Much more challenging than it looked, especially since my favorite big-handle grips aren't always present. There were a few times I had to go for the really really arrowhead-shaped small grips. The ones smaller than a quarter. And my fingers are also sore.

I learned that a) speed is my friend in cases like these and b) I get really sweaty hands while climbing. It seems that I'm slightly afraid of heights. But its all about conquering our fears, right? I suppose if I was less afraid of high-up places, my hands wouldn't be so sweaty. Oh well.

3) The cats - namely Anabelle - really enjoy the couches. Its a loosing battle, I fear. Nathaniel and I don't want claw marks on the couch, nor do we want oodles of gray cat hair. So we have a fleece blanket they can sit on. However, more often than not, we'll find Mini Monster perched on top of the pillows, staring at us with her big eyes. I don't have the heart to spray her with water, our "tried and true" method of "disciplining" the cats.

4) Do oatmeal bars count as breakfast?

And if so, do they count as dinner?

We were out of ideas about what to fix for dinner, so I pulled out my tried-and-true oatmeal in prep for a second round of breakfast. Unfortunately - or fortunately - (however you choose to look at it), there was a recipie for Oatmeal Raisin cookies. I substituted apple sauce for butter and used egg whites and much less sugar in an effort to make them healthier. Also, I didn't make the cookie version - just the bar. As if that would make a difference.

Add some dried cherries and a bottle of Sam Adams Octoberfest and you've got my dinner. I know, I know - the "epitome" of health. But you do what you gotta do. And besides, I earned it after climbing today!

5)After reading Beth's blog about signing up for Oceanside 70.3 and then seeing Jen's comment about the race being almost closed out, I momentarily panicked when I went to the site and saw that "registration opens for the 2009 event on April 10, 2008..."

Yeah, even though it's SEPTEMBER of 2008, I thought I was back in 2007. Sheesh. All I can say was that it was very early in the morning, and I had yet to consume my first sip of that ever-important coffee. (with french vanilla creamer, of course).

Glad I wasn't driving or doing anything really important.

After realizing my "folly" aka Nathaniel gently reminding me of our current year, I realized how much I wanted to do the race again. I've done it twice and have had a blast both times.

So without further thought, I signed up. And nearly threw up when I saw the price - WOW, has it gone up (or is it just me!)? Does it sound awful to say that I can remember when NA Sports Events were less than $200 for a half IM race? Yowzers! Thank you to all the RDs who keep the race entry fees down!

But hey - I love the sport, Oceanside is my favorite race (LOVE the bike course), and there's a 50-50 chance we'll already be out there.

6) After 4 weeks of actual training, I've only missed three workouts - I am very proud of myself. As Ness said on her blog - "In 6 weeks I'll be in better shape than I was 6 weeks ago..." And its something that I think about every day.

Next week? I've got a full schedule. And I can't wait.

7) Apparently there's some kind of football game up in Green Bay, Wisconsin... oh yeah, I already mentioned that.


Friday, September 19, 2008

The Red Ants

It was almost The Perfect Run.

But as you can tell from my Vince Lombardi quote on the right, perfection is rarely attainable. But through its pursuit we can become excellent. Or something of the sort (can you tell I'm not looking while writing. Still pretty close, if you as me).

It (said run) began with my decision to sport my trusty heart rate monitor. And run in the afternoon. Before your jaw drops too much (I'm a morning running-person and will avoid the Florida afternoon heat at all costs unless training for Gulf Coast), it was a mere 80. Sorry for my friends up in New York - where the morning temperature was a brisk 24.

That is not fair.

Sorry guys!

So heart rate monitor strapped on, I set off from the water tower parking lot on the UWF campus and made my way around campus drive. Down a short hill, onto the grassy median and then up, down, and up up up again. Until I reached the Overlook Point. Yes - we DO have an overlook in Pensacola, Florida.

After the obligatory 20 minute warm-up as denoted by Coach Jen, I upped the pace and settled into zone 2. No, I realize I'm not training for anything in particular - merely just to get "in shape". But Man-Oh-Man, apparently I forgot what it feels like to hold zone 2. It was tougher than I remembered.

But I settled into a comfortable groove, and listened to the patter of my feet and Darth Vader-like breathing. The breathing was ME, in case you were wondering.

And I waited for the blow up. I figured it would come somewhere around 40 or 45 minutes. You know - the point where you body says "no more", but in your head, you have yourself convinced that you must run for at least an hour at x heart rate....

At least that's what it said on my schedule. Which was written by Jen. And I don't think she's trying to hurt me in any way - so I knew I should HTFU (yes, I said it!) and keep going. So I did. And it felt great.

Until I ran into the Red Ants.

You see, when I run, I try to pick up litter or trash. Just the big and annoying stuff. Like plastic bags or large wrappers. And at the next garbage can (which are conveniently placed every few blocks on campus), I'll toss it in the trash. Where it belongs. Anyway, this is the stuff that small animals could choke on. At least that's what I tell myself. Plus, who wants to run in the woods with constant litter all over the place?

Sheesh - I stop my car and bike to rescue turtles. I might as well do the same for the environment if I have a chance.

Apparently, someone decided that they wanted to eat something really sugary, full of fat, gooey-garbage that probably tasted really good, but had a shelf-life on 8 years. And then the same jerk decided to throw their sticky wrapper out the window. It wasn't so much the crap on the wrapper that got me going.

It was the red ants that were swarming all over it.

I guess I was too focused on my zone 2 heart rate, running along in my element. The effort was still "lighter" (I was only at 28 minutes), and I had yet to hit that wonderful 45-minute bonk point.

So I paused momentarily, stepped in a pile of sand, and picked up said wrapper and engulfed it in the Target plastic bag I was already carrying. The sand was a big mistake. Note to self: look down before stopping - lest there be snakes, alligators, or red ants.

About :45 or 1 minute later, I felt a slight stinging on my shoe. Thinking nothing of it, I continued on - oblivious for another half minute. It was becoming worse. No - there are some things that just can't be avoided.



And Red Ants.

I looked down, only to be horrified by the sight of (literally) my entire right foot engulfed in red ants. Okay, okay, slight exaggeration. But there were about 40 or 50. They were everywhere. And they were mad.

So I did a crazy chicken-like dance, trying to get the blasted ants off my foot, off my shins, and out of my socks. The little buggers were incessant. Eventually I managed to kill most of them - and those that remained died an awful death in my shoe. After they stung me, of course. Well if they're going to do that, they deserve to suffocate in my socks. Yuck.

Problem solved?

Not bloody likely.

Because there were still a lot of red ants on the sticky wrapper that I had within the Target plastic bag. And they found an escape route - on to my left hand.

So now my left hand was covered in red ants.

It's enough to make an animal lover hate, well - animals. Okay - I'll take that back. I love animals. Just not those that sting. Or have exoskeletons. You know - the crunchy kind. Yeah, I hate those. Ick!

After a second round of slapping and weird convulsions on my part, I disposed of the sticky wrapper - full of angry red ants still - and continued on my way. I did up the pace, in effort to throw the other pieces of plastic away, because they still had red ants all over them. Thank God the trash can was only a minute or two away.

So a near-perfect run was interrupted by a nasty bout (X2!) with red ants. Oh well - in the end they got it worse, I'm sure. As I'm still here, had a great run, and enjoyed a post-run dinner of sushi.

I earned it, after all.

So in my pursuit of perfection, I ended up with an excellent run. And next time, I'll be sure to look before I 1) step in sand and 2) pick up trash.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Egg Beater

Well, Nathaniel has exactly ten flying days (and 11 flights) left of his helicopter training. Barring any unforeseen weather events –hurricanes, major fires, hail – that kind of stuff (knock on wood!). And yes, the above picture is him - flying his helicopter a few days ago. No word on when (or where) we’re going to move. Sometime after the 24th of October, though. You can bet your bottom dollar on that one, folks.

I’ll give you a hint: it’s still a toss-up between San Diego or Jacksonville, NC. I’m assuming you know where San Diego is. You may need a map for our possible NC location. Don’t worry. The first time we moved to NC, I had to look it up too. And then it was Havelock. Good luck finding that one.

After my Dad found the location, he cheerfully commented, “That looks rural!”

And I promptly burst into tears.

My, how the years have flown by!

The other day, Nathaniel put the “Naval” back in “Naval Aviation” by landing on a boat. Before you get all excited, The Baylander is a retired tug boat, with a landing pad on the back. So really, a souped up barge that all helicopter pilots have to land on if they need aircraft qualifications.

On the deck X marks the spot – or in this case, a really fancy snowflake-like design - and Nathaniel is great at hitting the landing zone in exactly the right spot. He did it no less than 5 times. What a stud!

Now only if is parallel parking was as good. Sheesh!

But really, I am super proud of him. Five years ago, he dreamt of becoming a helicopter pilot. And through a lot of hard work (admittedly the most he’s ever worked in his life), dedication, studying, sacrifice, and determination, he’s about to realize his dream. And I couldn’t be happier! The kitties too!

Now for a few stats: remember he’s still in a training helicopter. The TH-57 C. “T” for Training and “H” for Helicopter. Just in case you were wondering…. The engine is approximately 157 pounds, and more importantly, has 420 hp.

I’ve been giving him a hard time for flying something that resembled a lawn mower on steroids. Big surprise, though, when I went to John Deer’s website and the largest hp lawn mower I could find was only 46.

Huh. There goes that!

Oh well – when Nathaniel saw my disappointment, he consoled me with the fact that his helicopter is probably the world’s larges Egg Beater. If you think about it…. He’s not that far off.

No doubt, it would destroy a souffle. But for bread dough and cake mix... there's food for thought.

And what is the man who has 11 flights and 10 flying days left in flight school doing as of this moment? Nope – not studying.

Not even close.

He’s playing Tetris. On our 1987 Game Boy. And he plugged the darned thing into our stereo, so I can hear the really annoying music. Just think, tomorrow when I do my sets of IMs in the pool, I’ll have the frantic Tetris theme music playing in my head.

And knowing me, I’ll be rushing to catch up with myself after I flail down the pool during my attempt at butterfly.

Oh well, I can still beat him. At Tetris, that is.

What can I say? Boys will be boys, and Nathaniel is no exception!

Nathaniel – you’re doing great! Keep up the great work… I’m cheering for you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ladies of Camp HTFU!

Miss Daisy finishing the climb on Panther: 2 miles at 20%+ grade! Pink helmet and pink bike - who else could make a climb like this look so good?

Thank goodness Miss Daisy is okay - bruised, but okay. The Land Rover saved her life! The M&Ms are helping the healing, and before we know it, she'll be pulling us all up Panther Mountain.Leading by example. A missed National Championship - very sad indeed. But this does not detract from the great triathlete we all know her to be. Heal fast JH!

Thanks goodness The Sleeper is okay - bruised, but okay. Her helmet was cracked in two, and she as fake ligaments implanted in her shoulder. Faster than Michale Phellps she will be - one day. As long as she follows Miss Daisy's workouts...Heal fast AL!

Thank goodness Miss Mary Sunshine is okay - sore, but okay. She has taught me more about triathlon, life, and love than just about anyone I know. Before we all know it, she'll be smiling her way down a 70.3 course in Texas. Totally adjusted to the heat - because she's been biking in sweats in 80+ degrees! And at times, wearing a newfangled swim helmet to boot. Heal fast ME!

Thanks goodness The Kidd is okay - on the way to recovery, but okay. Enjoying a newfound love for triathlon, her back healing at an astounding rate. Taking things day-by-day, bit by by.

To Curley and Smallie Biggs: I am officially sending you BOTH all my good vibes. Wear helmets, ride the rollers, don't swim with sharks, and stick to the track. On second track, nix the rollers and stick to the trainer! Be sure that if you dirve - use a Land Rover. And as sushi was the culprit in the last case, try to avoid that as well! Difficult, but we've all got to make sacrifices, right?

I love the five of you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Great Tomato Debate

Day by day, I’m getting back into the swing of things. Half the days this week, I’m happy to report that I’ve got two workouts on my schedule, instead of just one. Before you get your knickers in a twist, realize this is a big deal for me. Officially I’m training more and spending more time swimming, biking, running, and doing the dreaded functional strength.

Unofficially I started this regiment last week – adding a run here or there, tacking on extra yardage with my swim, and spending more time on my bike. And I was doing it for the right reasons (for me!). Not because I felt I needed to go faster or do more, but simply because I was enjoying myself so much. It only reasoned to continue on my path of self-discovery.

Who was I to interrupt a great run by stopping at exactly 60 minutes? So I added an extra 10 or 11.

Before you fall off your chair laughing, those ten minutes were a big deal. Because I had to run past my car, make the decision to keep going – even though the promise of a cool drink and comfy seat awaited.

But that’s not what this post is about.

Home-made pizza, that’s what I was going to write about. Yes, pizza.

Lately, Nathaniel and I have been experimenting with our pizza-making skills. If you can count buying the pre-made crust, the we’re on a roll. Our favorite (aka – the only recipe we’ve attempted in our new cookbook) – Greek pizza.

It’s actually really healthy – fat free feta, light mayo, garlic, spinach, tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onions – not necessarily in that order.

But last night we tried something new. Rather than use regular tomatoes, we tried sun dried tomatoes. No matter the recipe called for the dried ones in the first place. Who needs a recipe anyway? It’s more like guidelines, right?

Besides, I didn’t think that one teeny-weeny detail could make that big of a difference.

Boy, was I wrong.

With regular tomatoes, while plump, juicy and delicious, our pizza crust turned out slightly, ah, soggy. So we compensated by baking it slightly longer.

And then we had a slightly soggy and burnt pizza crust.

Eventually – after three tries – we substituted sun-dried tomatoes. (Thanks Mom!) What turned out as an experiment ended up absolutely delicious. And to boot? No soggy burnt pizza crust.

So, it turns out that following directions can be helpful. Martha Stewart I am not. But I know a good Mediterranean/Greek pizza when I taste it. So does Nate.

There were no leftovers.

I never thought the difference between sun-dried and regular tomatoes would be that huge. Sometimes it just takes doing something a new way to realize that the result can be very different even though the basic ingredients are the same.

Food for thought there.

And now, food for the tummy.

Greek Spinach Pizza:

½ c light may OR fat free Greek yogurt (mayo gives it a zip)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (I use 3, as 4 would keep away not only vampires, but everyone!)
¾ c feta cheese (fat free is okay) – about 4 oz.
12-inch whole wheat pizza crust
½ c coarsely chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil (I used dried – from the packages, and then steamed them for a few minutes. Less fat but lots of flavor. Also – we didn’t coarsely chop them, just left them whole)
¼ c coarsely chopped kalamata olives, pitted!
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups baby spinach leaves
½ red onion, halved and thinly sliced.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 450 degrees. HOT! Keep small children and pets away from the oven. Also, overly curious spouses who think oven mitts are only a suggestion.
Mix mayo/Greek yogurt, garlic (remember – its very potent!), and half the feta in some sort of bowl-thingy. Place the pizza crust on a cookie sheet (we have a round stone from Pampered Chef, sounds awful, I know. But it was the only thing I bought at one of those parties a few years ago. It survives to this day and we use it all the time). If the pizza crust is thicker, you can place the cookie sheet/stone in the oven while its preheating. It’ll turn out extra crispy that way (hopefully not burnt!). Spread with garlic, feta, and mayo/Greek yogurt mixture. Top with tomatoes and olives and sprinkle with oregano.
Bake until heated through and crisp – about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss spinach and onion with tomato oil (I use extra virgin olive oil…just a drop!) Top hot pizza with spinach mixture and remaining feta and place back in oven (carefully!) until the spinach wilts – about 2 minutes.
Cut and serve! Yum!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures on The Wall

Well, I didn’t cause any major cataclysmic accidents. Didn’t drop the belay rope, didn’t forget to clip in or double check my partner. I may have forgotten some of the climbers speak, but communication was established through various shouts and gestures. And most importantly, we’re welcome back (at any time during business hours) at the local rock climbing gym.

I can feel the stiffness and soreness in my fingers already: man, are those grips small! I don’t know how they do it on real rock faces. And people who free-climb without rope?

My hands and feet get sweaty just thinking about it.

Today, promptly at noon (high noon for all those Western Fans – and no, there were no tumbleweeds, but the building did look like something out of The Wild West), Nathaniel and I drove up to Weatherby’s, aka Local Rock Climbing “hot spot”.

I figured they knew what they were doing, especially when it came to novices like us. Nathaniel and I have only been climbing once or twice before, but each time we went, we had a blast. It turns out he’s a natural, scampering up the wall a la Spiderman.

Me? Not so much. Let’s just say that I have a sweaty-hand problem. Even now, my hands get sweaty just thinking about it. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself. I just needed to tote an extra bag of chalk on my belt.

Seriously. You could tell where I was on the wall, based on the bag of chalk that dangled behind my, er, behind.

We got a “refresher” course on how to belay, tie knots, and ensure our general climbing safety. Let it be known, that before today, I had never tied a double figure-eight knot. So it wasn’t really a refresher course as much as a crash-instruction. But by the fourth or fifth attempt I got it down and could tie with the best of them. Sweaty hands and all.

Luckily, I could count on Nathaniel to double check my knots and belay carabineer. Then again, as this was a potential life and death sport (I don’t fancy a 40 ft fall!), having both partners good-to-go on the essentials of Climbing 101 would be ideal. So I had our friendly climbing Guru Jimmy double and triple check our set up.

We were given the a-okay sign and sent up the wall.

Nathaniel Spiderman went first. Within 2 minutes he was up the beginner wall. Damn! He made it look way too easy.

Next up: The Queen of Sweaty Hands. I gripped the first knob, then second, placed my feet on a few different posts and took a deep breath. A few more moves later I was a full four feet off the ground and ready to slip.

“You’re doing great Sweetheart! Keep it up.” Nathaniel encouraged as he was face-to face with my calves.

I chanced a peek down. So this is what really really tall basketball players see on a daily basis! Glad I’m not bald….

And then, I was stuck. Frozen in one spot, a mere four feet off the ground. And all the teenage employees watching my every move. I felt like a deer in headlights. My hands began to sweat more.

“Try moving your legs apart, you want the climbing to be from your legs, not from your arms,” Jimmy called. His voice didn’t have far to travel.

And sure enough, as soon as I put my left foot on a further knob, the pressure eased and I could feel myself relax. Unfortunately, my hands were sweatier than ever, and with my next reach, I slipped. And fell 3 feet before Nathaniel arrested my fall.

“Let me try that again,” I declared, chalking up my hand until they were white. “Climber climbing!”

“Climb on!” Nathaniel responded, giving me the acceptable go-ahead.

This time, I was ready. I had a plan: push off with the legs, make sure my stance was wide enough, and stop to chalk every four or five moves if necessary. And slowly, inch by inch, foot by foot, I began climbing.

I wasn’t as fast as Nathaniel, couldn’t climb the wall with the teensy-weensy grips like our neighbors to the right, but I was doing it. I paused once, twice to check the grips and re-chalk my hands, and then kept going. Don’t look down don’t look down don’t look down…..

After seemingly ages, but really only a few minutes, I had climbed the beginner wall. I slapped the top and yelled, “Let me down!”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the right thing to say.

Someone – not my husband – called up, “You’re supposed to say ‘Take Out Slack’ for descending!”

Whatever. This was not the appropriate time to lecture me on climbers speak.

“Take out slack, I want to come down!”

And jerk by jerk, I made my way down the wall with Nathaniel at the helm.

I was so happy that I made it to the top, in disbelief that I only fell once, I decided to try it again. And again, I made it up. Dare I say I was improving?

Nathaniel thought so, so we moved on to the next wall: the highest wall without an overhang, and grips of varying size and shape. You know how some grips can be super-friendly: crescent-moon shaped with a deep groove for your finger. Yeah – those are the nice ones. Then there are the grips the size of a quarter with just about the same level of sheen. And for someone with naturally sweaty hands, those were nearly impossible.

Geeze, I don’t know how I got through 12 years of violin performances. My hands were soaked! To this day before a race, you’ll see me wiping my hands on my suit. A dead giveaway for nerves, if you ask me.

Next wall, Nathaniel climbed up The Bear Grylls way. No, he didn’t remove his shirt or do 100 pushups after ascending. But he choose a path that was right next to the corner wall, and half wedged, half climbed his way up. I was very impressed.

So much, so while I was enjoying the view of him way at the top, I didn’t hear his plea to be let down.

“Mmph out mph ack!”

“What? I can’t hear you! You’re doing great – keep going!”

“It’s really high up here!” came the response. At least that’s what I think he said.

“You’re fine! What? What did you say?”

“Emme mmph shit enummf now!”

Well, that one was a little hard to discern, except for the swear word.

“Remember, we’re not supposed to swear! It said so in the policy.” I yelled helpfully up.

That’s when he turned and glared down at me. His race was red, matched his Wisconsin shirt perfectly. I could see his legs quivering, and his eyes looked dark and foreboding.

“Down! Now!”

Sheesh! “Okay, okay, I’m letting you down.”

Jerk, jerk, jerk went the rope as Nathaniel was hastily lowered 40 feet down.

I was a bit peeved, though. Here I was cheering on Nathaniel as he reached the top of the highest vertical wall, and all he could do was yell down to me. Sheesh!

“You were a little rude up there!” I commented as he reached the bottom, wondering what exactly had gotten into the boy.

“You wouldn’t let me down! I had a death grip going, my fingers were shaking, and I’m stuck with nothing except a double figure eight not and belay holding me in place! And I couldn’t get down!” He adjusted his harness and made a grimace.

Oops – seems like I didn’t get the climbers speak after all.

“Well it seems so much easier to say ‘Let me down’ than ‘Take Out Slack’. Overly complicated, if you ask me!” was all I could think of to say.

Luckily after lots of praise and encouragement, he forgave me and encouraged me to give the wall a try. I knew it would be hard – if someone as good as Nathaniel had a tough go at it, I knew it would probably take a few times before I got anywhere close to being off the ground, let alone 40 feet up.

The first two attempts ended in falls. One from two feet, and the other from five or six. All in all, not much progress was made, except I figured out that I really hated one round, wooden hold. It was the only one to grip, so I figured if I wanted to make it up and over, I would have to move quickly before my hands got too sweaty.

My third attempt was different. I took a deep breath, didn’t look down, and set about tackling the wall inch by inch. One hold became two, which became four, and before I knew it, I was half way up. Don’t look down don’t look down don’t look down. I paused to reapply some chalk, making sure that my hands were extra powdered. And then set up on my way again.

If Nathaniel or any of the employees shouted encouragement, I didn’t hear. I was in my own world, one hold at a time, one step higher at a time. I wasn’t scared, just focused on the task at hand. I could feel the sweat on my brow, feel the iron-grip of my fingers, was aware of the strength in my leg as I made my way up the rock face.

Within a matter of moments I was two, then once reach from the top. I took a deep breath, made my final grab and hoisted myself up. I had made it! Finally I allowed myself a quick peek over my shoulder and down.

Yep, very high up. Sweaty hands and feet high up. Knees started to quake.

But I had made it. In spite of falling on previous attempts, in spite of sweaty hands, I reached the top. Yes, I probably looked funky with a giant chalk bag and white hands to boot – but that didn’t matter. Was it the hardest wall? Absolutely not. But it was a challenge to me, to my relative inexperience. Perseverance and focusing on the task at hand were the key. Sort of like triathlon, I suppose.

If I don’t get in my own way, I reasoned, I could pretty much do anything. Good food for thought – but then at 40 feet up, one’s thought process could be slightly off.

“I’m coming down. Let it out – whatever! Give me slack?” I shouted, but Nathaniel got the gist of what I was yelling from way above.

I leaned back, took one final mental snapshot of the top, and let myself go. It was incredible.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday morning musings

Well, the cake is gone. Really, it didn’t stand much of a chance – two cake lovers in the house and all. There’s just something so special about yellow cake with chocolate frosting, decorated in giant heart made up of Peanut M&Ms.

Three days was its lifespan, and actually, if you think about it: 1 cake + 2 cake lovers + 3 days = success! It was not devoured in the first day, nor was it picked at by yours truly. You know what I mean. One or two M&Ms here or there, a paper-thin sliced from one side – and then a paper thin sliced from the other side (it has to look even!), and before you know it, you’ve got one very sad-looking piece of cake.

Happily, Nathaniel and I divvied up his cake into 8 slices and enjoyed each and every one together – another record. Last year at this time, while I was training heavily for my end-of-season races, he had to hide the cake. I couldn’t trust myself to be alone with the thing.

Suffice to say on cake preservation, I’ve come a long way.

In other news, if you’re a coffee drinker who relies on coffee mate to make your coffee taste good, make sure the lid is completely snapped on before you give it a good shake. Trust me on this one. Otherwise you’ll have extra sweet creamer all over the counters and floor. Great for the Mini Monster, but bad in every other sense of the way.

Makes me want to go back to drinking my coffee black (but don’t tell Nathaniel that). Actually, I do enjoy my coffee straight up – usually when its really hot outside or the mornings of a race. But generally – I confess – I drink my coffee with a skirt.

And I’m proud to admit it.

In my training, things are going great. I really feel like my old self. For 21 days I have not missed a workout – a record since my crash. Are they 5 hour bike rides? Nope. 2 hour runs? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them any less.

Recently I’ve found my love for running again. I knew it would return, just when was the key. Running has always been time for myself; I clear my head, think about things, enjoy nature, and sometimes just let my mind wander. For so long I forced myself to run on the treadmill, as it was too bloody hot to run outside in the afternoon.

Once I figured out that I could set an alarm to beat the Florida heat and humidity (within reason), it made all the difference in the world. At first I was slow- painfully slow. Running through the Scenic Hills neighborhood and on the UWF Campus. I hoped that no one recognized me. But gradually, my form improved, my cadence quickened, and yesterday as I was running up a hill, I realized that 1) I was loving my run and 2) I was increasing the pace, without making myself.

I was feeling great!

When I finished the run, I realized how much fun it was turning out to be. Here I was, falling back in love with a sport I had missed for so long. I am so lucky with how my body healed – the slightest complication could have had me paralyzed or worse. And though its taken a lot of time and a lot of growth on my part, I was doing it!

Even though I had finished my run (and tacked on an additional 10 minutes), I felt that I could have gone out for another hour. I was so happy, so excited, nearly bursting at the seams to go again.

Common sense took over, though, and I made myself stretch (tight calves = unpleasant night sleep!) and find a bathroom (the woods!).

As for today – well, workout wise I’ve got the day off. However I DID set the alarm for 6 am, just in case the itch to run took over. It didn’t, and I realize that I am normal. Instead I made coffee, sprayed coffee creamer everywhere, and am enjoying the solitude of a wonderful living room. The Fat Grey Cat is sitting outside on her table, and The Mini Monster is curled up next to me, front legs sticking out at a wonky angle.

Later, Nathaniel and I are going to try our hands at rock climbing. We’ve gone before and had a blast. It’s pretty neat to climb up a giant wall: the sense of accomplishment, of working your hardest towards something is pretty neat. Like sports or triathlon – or even life, I suppose. The hard part? Once you reach the top you’ve gotta let go and “fall” back to the ground. Of course the belayer is ensuring your safety and is gently feeding rope into the thingy (lack of specific term, I’m sorry) – so really you won’t hurt yourself. Or anyone on the ground.

But at that moment of letting go to the wall when you’re 40 feet up, and momentarily suspended in mid-air – that’s tough. But we all do it in one sense or another. Intuitively we’ve got our safety harness and people supporting us from below – but we need to take a leap and let go. Weather it’s in a race, with a personal struggle, or any other facet of life, sometimes we need to just let go and not follow our instinct.

You never the good that might happen when you do.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Post Party- good and bad!

Well, it was a great party – wish you could have been there! Nathaniel came home from his flight and planning of tomorrow’s flight (good boy!), and we enjoyed a marvelous dinner of pad thai with chicken and lots of veggies. The presents were stacked beautifully, the cake was flawless, and the kitties were on their best behavior.

(Slight snigger).

Which of these doesn’t belong?

In all reality, after running around all day picking out gifts (last minute shopper + world’s hardest man to shop for = disaster), driving between Pensacola and Milton (a good 45 minutes) and back, my two workouts, and making my massage (though I may not be training as intensely as I once was, I am still training. And my lateral quads are a constant reminder of that fact), and getting everything ready for The Birthday Boy, I was pooped.

But in the process of making said birthday cake, I discovered the best foolproof solution to avoiding the chocolate frosting and large bag of peanut M&Ms (they were for decorative purposes, I swear!).

Take one or two (or three) large samples of the cake batter. After that, your stomach won’t want to ingest anything else (as the cake batter, er, expands…). What can I say? I’m a sucker for cake batter, cookie dough, even bread dough. A habit that was developed as a young whippersnapper “helping” my Mom bake.

By the way, should you ever feel the inclination, the worst dough to sample (but best tasting!) in abundance is Vanocka (Czech Christmas Bread). There was one particularly grueling afternoon spent in agony on the couch as all the little balls of dough I “sampled” expanded in my stomach. Without getting punched down.

Nice, I know.

Recovery from my yellow cake batter feeding frenzy was spent wrapping Nathaniel’s presents. Yes, I did find a few things. Boxer shorts, of course. I’m a stickler for clean underwear. So out with the old, in with the new. And then there were two pairs of regular shorts (the boy only had one… and we live in Florida!), and two polo shirts.

Before you scratch your head in wonder, remember that he’s ridiculously hard to shop for. He’s particular about his books, his hobby is flying, and he’s not materialistic. At least with me – give me something fitness or triathlon related, and I’m a happy camper. Everyone knows that.

And then came cake decorating time. Sure, there were a few samples of the milk chocolate frosting, but most of it went on the cake. Scouts honor. Leftovers went down the drain – I didn’t want a potential midnight foray into the fridge to end with an empty, scraped clean container of frosting. Not that that's happened before....er, well, there was that one time...

So I can't be trusted with chocolate frosting.

Just because I’m a few pounds over my normal body weight doesn’t mean I’m letting myself go. So the frosting was out.

And then, the real test: The Peanut M&Ms. Remember: I will race for Peanut M&Ms. But as I’m not racing this year, well…. Let’s not go there.

I dumped out the entire LARGE bag onto a plate, and sorted the differed colored Little Delights. Greens in one pile, blues in another. Yellow, red, orange and brown in the third. And very carefully, I traced a heart-shape in the frosting, and proceeded to decorate a giant M&M heart in the cake. Blue for the outer layer, green for the next, then yellow and red to finish. It looked great.

But I still had 2/3 of a bag of Peanut M&Ms leftover. And my yellow-cake batter tummy ache was wearing off. Disaster was imminent.

So taking a page out of Jen Harrison’s book, I dumped the remainder of the bag down the garbage disposal and er, disposed of the M&Ms. It was so sad. But I didn’t want to pull a George Costanza (Seinfeld) and eat out of the garbage. Cake dough? Yes. Disposed of M&M’s – well, if they’re in the bag…and near the top….

Although I did save 3 or 4 – just to “sample” and make sure they would be okay for the cake.

Yep, garbage disposal was a better idea.

I cannot be trusted with an open bag of Peanut M&Ms.

Later, Nathaniel came home, we had a great time and the rest was history.

And now, The Morning After: we’ve still got ¾ of a cake left! Very impressed with that fact, as the two of us absolutely love yellow cake with chocolate frosting. And the M&M decorations are still all in place.

In other news, wow – I am really sore! Holy Cow – I had forgotten what functional strength could do. My quads are sorer (believe it or not), my shoulders feel tired, and every time I squat down to get something, I’m not sure if I’ll be returning upright.

I was supposed to run this morning, and got up accordingly (right around 6). But something in my body suggests that I flip workouts around – trade my swim tomorrow for today’s run. I like this idea – and so do my quads.

The good? Great party, The Birthday Boy loved the presents and cake, and we had a great time together.

The bad? I am S-O-R-E. This starting over from “scratch” is harder than I thought. Sheesh! Who could have known that a little, unassuming functional strength routine could cause so much pain.

Just don't ask me to bend over to get anything off the floor - I won't be getting back up.

Oh well – better in my legs than in my stomach. No more yellow cake batter for me, I can safely say! Now the cake....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Nathaniel!

Dear Nathaniel,

Happy Birthday Sweetheart! I know, I know - I'm a day early. But as you well know, I like to "burn the midnight oil" (as my Dad says) and write late into the night. So - had I done my blog on your actual birthday, you wouldn't have seen it until the 12th.

So although the date is Sept 10, don't worry - I really know that your birthday is the 11th. Ahem. I promise.

And yes, I realize that there's some do-hickey on blogger that I can program the publication time for your birthday blog, but by the time I figure it out (me + computers = bad combination), it'll already be the 11th.

So this is the easiest way...

The Kitties want to wish you a happy birthday. They DO love you - even though the House Monster attacks and the Mini Monster is afraid of you. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Tabbitha will eventually grow out of her "attacking" phase, and Anabelle will not run away when you call her.

At least I think.

So here's a birthday wish from the House Monster. Docile, Sweet, and Large - as usual. Not a bit of sarcasm there, right? :)

And another from the Mini Monster. Taking up her new post under The Ugly Green Recliner. It seems this chair will never go.

And finally - I love you! Let's raise a (BIG) toast and celebrate! Salute! Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Swim addiction

Well, this getting back “in-shape” thing has been interesting, to say the least. No, I don’t run as fast, bike as far, or pull as strong as I used to. But gosh-darn-it, recently I’ve been getting a kick out of doing my workouts.

Are they as intense, as serious, as “hard-core” as they used to be?

Absolutely not.

And right now, that’s totally fine with me.

Because I’m having an absolute blast.

And its not that I wasn’t having fun before I crashed, before I was plagued with depression. Trust me, I was. But I don’t think my motivation was the same then as it is now. It’ll take some time for even me to figure out that statement. But now I’m training, I’m working out because I want to – because it brings me joy and satisfaction. Not because I feel the need to race asap (again - amazing how much pressure we put ourselves under, isn't it? eeks!)

Case in point: yesterday’s swim.

But let me back up to last Friday’s swim first. Sorry – bare with me (Is it bear or bare? Not bare as in show the “bare” bottom side of stuff. Nope. But not “bear” as in ROAR. Hhhmmmm? Any takers?).

Just as I was finishing my warm-up (Friday), my uber-awesome training partner and friend Ludi showed up sporting her own custom HTFU Splish suit (even has a nifty shark on the front), and hopped in my lane. As she’s training for IM Florida and I’m, well, just training, you can imagine that our workouts were quite different.

Ah yes, the Ironman Swim workouts. Those were the days. Long sets of just swimming long. V-e-r-y l-o-n-g.

After 45 minutes, I was done, but Ludi was just beginning her third of a 5 X 500 mainset swim. Poor thing – I watched her fly, back, breast, and freestyle her way up and down the lane during her preset. Back and forth, forth and back – barely pausing on the wall. Only to do it all over again. It made my 200s and (ahem) 150s seem contrite.

But I was there, so that’s what counted.

After I finished my workout, I asked if I could join her for a set. Apparently she thought I meant the entire workout. Ha! I had only meant one teeny-weeny 500. But the grin and excitement on her face shone through, and I flashed back to all the times she biked for hours on end with me, encouraging me and helping me in my own training. It seemed so awful to desert her as she was slugging through her own swim set.

An overly perky lane partner done in 45 minutes while you still have another 2000 yards to swim is just wrong.

So we swam the remaining 3 X 500 together (and then cooled down). It was great!

During the second set, I realized how much fun I was having. Here I was – feeling great about a workout, doing really well for just getting in-shape, and actually volunteering to do more. It made me – happy.

I swear that I floated out of the pool.

All right – back to yesterday’s swim.

Apparently UWF poured something into the pool water or something. Because I couldn’t wait to get back into the water. Can I say addict? I was ready – swimsuit, towel, workout-in-hand and all – by 10 am for the 11 am pool opening.

Can we say slightly excited?

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that we can.

But that was the great thing. I can’t remember being that excited to go to the pool or to let alone do a workout.

Right when I was entering the post-crash physical recovery stage, I was driven by the urge to return to top form as soon as possible. And it was all my own doing, my own drive. I was so determined to return to 100% as soon as possible that it took the fun out of the sport. It was no longer about the enjoyment or about the satisfaction, as it was about returning to my old self. Doing as much work as I could to get back "in-shape".

For Pete's sake: I spent more time at the YWCA in St. Paul than I did with my family. Okay, slight exaggeration. But going to the gym for 18 hours in a 6-day timespan is slightly overkill, don't you think? It was, after all, May. 7-weeks post crash.

But in the meantime, what had once been such fun, such pleasure, such a joy was becoming something that in spite of my best efforts, I couldn’t succeed at. And the harder I worked, the more I tried, the more miserable I became.

Cue the negative self-talk, and yadda yadda yadda. You know the rest.

I’ve learned (and the learning process is on-going, mind you) that I can’t just go about doing something if I don’t really love it. I can’t force myself to swim-bike-run if I’m physically or mentally not ready.

This journey has been all about finding me. I haven’t always liked the road I’ve been down, and it certainly had a lot more obstacles than even I could have foreseen. But now I’m beginning to understand the purpose of this journey, to rediscover things along the side of the road that – had I been charging forward – I never would have seen.

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to swim. Gosh, whatever they put in the water, well, it seems to be contagious, and spilling into other facets of my life. Because tomorrow I’m going to the gym to do functional strength and some biking. And I can’t wait.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A New Beginning

Hey there –


It’s been a while, eh?

My sincerest apologies for the lack of blogs, updates, writing, notifications, or anything of the sort. Rest assured, things are good. No – life is great!

Where to begin?

Well from the beginning, naturally. So that’s where I’ll start.

This past month – August for those keeping track – was the most challenging mentally than I’ve ever had. Period. Not so fun – trust me. However, through the fog of depression, through the uncertainty and sadness, doubt and disbelief that I faced, I have emerged a changed person. A happy person. At least that’s what it feels like right now.

Throughout this journey of recovery, I noticed an unnerving trend with regards to my mental state: I would have a period of a few good weeks followed by a difficult few days. Gradually as the spring warmed to summer, the good days were on par with the bad ones. I would have one or two great weeks and then flip-flop to one or two really difficult ones.

And it was never entirely clear (at the time) what was setting me off.

Eventually the good weeks dwindled to mere days, and by mid-August I felt lost. Like my old, pre-crash self was a mere shadow of existence. That the new me, the one who couldn’t see colors due to being trapped in the fog of depression, seemed to take over.

But that’s the thing about life: sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to see the light, to view life in color, to see the world for all her glory.

For a while, I stopped working out out all together. It was only bringing me misery - a constant reminder of what I wasn't, how slow I really was. Training ceased and I wondered what I would do with my life, how I could find my happiness.

But whenever I was asked by friends and family alike “what makes you happy?” I would always return to the same vision: me riding my bike – on a 5 hour ride through the Blackwater Forest, and all the emotions that came with that amazing feat of physical strength.

I knew what made me happy. It was just a matter of getting there, of finding my way.

As you can imagine, taking time off from sport is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it gives you a chance to clear your head, your body gets some well-deserved rest, but the more time I spent away from swim-bike-run, the more I missed it. And my body missed it as well. I felt out of shape. I looked like I was out of shape.

And I wanted to go from point A to point Z without doing the work to get there. Go ahead – you can laugh at any time. How realistic was this? Absolutely not – but it took a few months and mood variations to figure this out.

I just didn’t know how to get started.

Cue the most-amazing Coach in the entire world. For those of you out there who are interested in a coach, trust me when I say Jen Harrison is the best coach that I have ever worked with. And the great thing is that she’s not just a coach. She’s a friend, a mentor, a triathlon-mom (at least that’s what it feels like to me), an elite triathlete, and the biggest cheerleader (aside from my family) that I’ve ever had.

There were times I had absolutely no clue as of what to do, or how to get better. But Jen was always there, giving me great guidance and advice. She was always willing to listen, urging me to workout when I felt like it and give myself a break when I was too hard on myself.

By late August I knew that I needed to change where I was at. I was beginning to come out of my depressive state, taking the first positive baby steps. Not even full steps – just half steps.

Teeny weeny uber-baby steps.

And that’s when I got The Talk from Jen. When I told her what was on my mind and where I wanted to go, I confessed that I was afraid. Afraid of failing, of staring up (yet again) and then not reaching my expectations (which were – now that I look back on them – pretty unreasonable for someone coming off a life-altering injury). I lamented that I wished I could just, “start over.”

“Well – why not?” was her response.


Cue my mouth dropping to the floor. Was it really that easy? Could it be that simple?

“I don’t think I want to race this year…” I stammered.

“That’s okay!” she replied. “You don’t have to.”

“I would rather focus on getting in shape, loosing the ten pound I put on and being healthy…” I continued.

“That’s fine. But if you want to do that, here’s what you MUST do this week. We need to get those endorphins going, get you doing things because you LOVE it, not because its on your schedule.” She continued. “I’m not going to write any workouts for you [it was the last week of August], but BY 9:00 AM EVERY MORNING, YOU MUST COMMIT TO YOUR WORKOUT. I WANT YOU TO DECIDE WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO, SET THE TIME IN WHICH YOU’RE GOING TO DO IT, AND THEN STICK TO YOUR SCHEDULE. Of course, it’s okay if you’ve already gotten up and done your workout. Then you’ve got the entire day ahead of you.”

She sounded downright strict. But very enthusiastic. A funny combination, if you ask me. But she wasn’t finished.

“I want email updates every other day or so. Or update training peaks – whatever you feel like. But write down your workouts and let me know how its going. If I haven’t heard from you by Friday [it was Monday] I’m going to call.”

The internal wheels were humming in my brain. Hhhmmmm….. this sounded – dare I say – okay?

“And then on September 1, we’ll start afresh. Just one workout every day – no pressure, but something that will get you in shape and ready for training later on…But I want you to commit. How does this sound?”

By the end of our conversation, I was ready to start cheering myself. It sounded great, it sounded doable. And it was a wonderful feeling knowing that I had such an awesome supporter with Jen.

For such a long time, I’ve gotten in my own way; through unreasonable expectations, unrelenting negative-talk, fear, anxiety, and doubt. Some of what happened I can’t control: its part of my genetic makeup, part of how I’m built, how I’m wired. But other things – the negative self talk and unreasonable expectations, perfectionist tendencies – well, I’m learning how to control that.

And how to deal.

So now, well, I’m happy to say I’m well on my way to getting back in shape. In every sense of the word.

I’ve had two and a half really great weeks, and haven’t missed a workout. Sure, I’m not up to the 5-hour rides or 2 hour runs, but then again, those aren’t my goals. Yet. One day I’ll be ready, but right now I’m just enjoying the sport, excited about my 2600 yard swims, and 48 minute runs. It’s a fresh start, a new beginning.

And the world looks amazing in color.

Thanks Jen.