Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day in Verse

God of thunder, Thor came out to play today.
THrowing bolt after bolt of lightning.
An Umbrella would have been practical,
But, I forgot miNe,
AnD instead found myself sprinting to the car
Dodging droplets, thE size of silver dollars.
A perfect day to Read,
Curled up on the Sofa,
Sipping hot Tea
Safe from the StOrm outside.
But reality reaRed her head,
And I went about My day
AccompliShing taskS one by one.
Early tO rise, coffee a necessity.
And breakfast with Nathaniel.
Next up, physical Thearapy,
wHere core strength is the daily focus.
Change Up the plans,
As Rain and thunder pellet down.
Sprint to the gym,
A run on the treaDmill,
“EmbarrAssingly slow”, as directed by Jen.
Flollowed bY stretching and more core work.
DrIve home, in the rain.
And prep aparmeNt for
Tomorrow’s Furniture delivery.
More storms bLast through
So I wait, and wait, and wait mOre.
And eventually Rush to the pool,
My swIm workout in hand.
Day complete, after Dinner
ReAdy to rise and repeat tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mini Monster Photos

By popular demand, here are a few photos of the kitties. But a quick side note - Anabelle is doing much better. Two weeks ago, the Vet performed exploratory surgery on her right leg. It turns out that her humerous bones have fused together, along with the soft tissue that was damaged in her accident.

So the great news, is that the four weeks spent in a cast helped her heal! Hooray!

Her legs, though, are a bit croocked. The Doc said that he could have rebroken the bones and then set them properly - but that would constitue another 4-6 weeks in a cast. So he decided that the best option would be to do nothing at all - take off the casts and let her heal on her own. The bones were fused together, albeit crooked.

And yes, she has a funny gait. But then again, there are lots of people AND animals in history who have had funny strides.

Look at Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion Sprinter Michael Johnson. His earliest coaches told him he would never become a world class athlete because his gait was too short.

And don't forget about Seabiscuit, the Little Horse That Could. His front leg stuck out at a funny angle, damaged in an accident. But he still raced, he still had a wonderful life - a funny stride didn't hold him back.

And it is so true with Anabelle.

She races up the couch. And down the back. She jumps. She twists. And she even sumersaults.

So there you have it: just because something has been broken in the past, or goes about doing something in a different way, doesen't mean that its down and out. Quite the contrary. Sometimes the things that challenge us, that seemingly weaken us, make us stronger in the end. Michael Johnson had his world record, and Seabiscuit had his plethora of titles.

So there you have it.

And Anabelle's favorite trick? Chasing Tabbitha.

The tables have turned on The House Monster.

Cue evil laugh.

But before you get too worried about Tabbitha, realize that she's spent the first seven years of her life attacking our family and friends. So one little gimpy kitty giving Tabbithias Rex a scare isn't the worst thing in the world.

Now, the pictures!
Anabelle and Tabbitha, pre cast off. Tabbitha on her futon (which has been since taken over by the Mini Monster), and MM in the turkey baster.

Me and Anabelle, reading and asleep. Notice how I'm sitting on a down comforter - extra squishy for a sore back. Trust me, it is wonderful!

Nathaniel and his new study partner. Anabelle was more interested in the surrounding papers. And Nathaniel was more interested in not getting scratched in sensitive areas. Enough said.

And why would my husband be laying on the kitchen floor, sporting a "Get Lucky" shirt? Can't speak to the shirt but, it has a little something to do with this...

Can you spot the nose? Take a close look, I promise you - it's there. If you get past the cobwebs and crumbs, you'll spot our Mini Monster. Mobile and feisty, she found a new favorite hiding place. A perfect escape for when she amushes Tabbitha, while the House Monster eats her kibble.

Too much excitement for Tabbitha. If she can't fit, she doesn't care. And 19.8 pounds of cat will not fit under the cabnets. Trust us on that one.


And Anabelle herself - too busy to pause for a photo. Can you blame her?

And finally, who can resist a man in uniform? This was Nathaniel last week, before a change of command ceremony. Coffee cup in hand, I caught him mid-sentence by surprise.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Thank You...

Thank you ALL for your well wishes and support. The feedback was wonderful - it made me grateful for the online support. My friends and family have also been here for me, and I am so grateful - beyond words. I am so lucky to have the friends, family, and support that I do.

Discussing the hard parts of life - especially in something as open as a blog, and with something as personal as depression, was not easy. And I thought long and hard about publishing before I did so. It is so easy to write when things are going well, when workouts are great, when life is easy.

But we all struggle, we all have fears, we all go through tough times. I know that I'm not the only one - and if you are out there and experiencing difficulty with anything, know that you're not alone.

I am doing much better. Writing has helped tremendously. It clears my thoughts, makes me really think about "stuff", and forces me to confront the issues at hand. In addition, I've been up and about, working out, getting out of the house, and slowly returning back to a "normal" life.

So in the past few days, what's been happening?

Glad you asked... :)

The House Monster and Mini Monster are slowly getting more aquainted. Tabbitha hisses less, is no longer attacking multiple times per day, and can be in the same room as Anabelle. The Little One - in turn - is jumping around, chasing toy mice, chasing playing dice, and pouncing on Tabbitha's tail. And while it would be funny if Tabbs was just sitting around, Anabelle likes to pounce when Tabbitha is eating or is using the poop box.

Yeah.

That's a laugh.

So Tabbitha chases Anabelle, and Anabelle thinks its all great fun. And the process repeats itself. Over and over. And over.

This is very amusing.

Additionally, Nathaniel and I decided to do some major shopping last weekend. Not only did we get a new living room's worth of furniture, but we also got a new dining room set. Nothing like spending a bunch of money on furniture. Especially when the old stuff is hand-me-down from college. We threw away the old dining room set (trust me - it was time for it to go), and are in the process of getting rid of the living room. Everything except the Ugly Green Recliner.

We are undecided -

I know what I would do.

But My Other Half is very attached.

And so are the cats.

So perhaps a place in the study???

The decision is yet-to-be-made on this one.

And finally, I did my Dad proud today. In keeping with the Chrislock game of H-O-R-S-E tradition, I won three games to zero. Yeah. Did myself proud, considering my opponent was a 15-year old with a heckuva hook shot.

What started out as random shooting of basketball (I shoot and think - very cathartic), turned into surprising victory(s) in Horse. Apparently my 15-year old challenger didn't think I was that much of a threat, as he broached the subject after I missed no less than 15 shots in a row.

Luckily I found my 3-pointer, under handed layup a la Hoosiers, and backwards clutch shot and pulled out the victory. And had a great time in the process.

So in the tradition of Jen Harrison, I am going Onward and Upwards. Tomorrow is another day - a new opportunity to see the good, to pursue happiness, and to follow my heart. Wherever that may lead me...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Unforeseen Battle

I’ve been told that if you don’t mind, then things won’t matter. A new spin on “mind over matter” if I’ve ever heard.

But what happens if it’s your mind that is mattering? What if you do mind?

After my crash, I was more determined than ever to get up, get going, heal, recover, and move on as quickly as I could. I reasoned that the only thing holding my back were my doctors; and that if I worked hard enough, if I pushed, if I believed, then I could get better in record time.

Three to six months, I was told. Twelve to Twenty-four weeks. 84 to 168 days. Don’t bother with the hours; it’s a lot. Trust me.

I decided to make it half that. Two months, perhaps three at the very most.

And with a lot of hard work, with a lot of effort, with a lot of patience, belief, and sheer will, I began to recover. I was told “no!” by a lot of people; many of whom didn’t trust my judgment with respect to the physical aspect of my recovery. But I fought through, and I continued to fight in spite of their lack of belief. My belief, my mindset is what mattered.

My back recovered daily, my core grew stronger with physical therapy, and slowly I returned to swimming, biking, and eventually running. It wasn’t easy, but with boundless determination I clawed my way to better health, focusing only on the physical aspect of my healing.

I thought the worst was over. I thought I was beyond the hard stuff. Through a horrific crash, through long surgery, through endless hours in the hospital, I had made it. I was convinced the worst was behind me, in my past. I had been given the green light to work out, to return to a “normal” training level, and to resume with my daily activities. Even though I retained a long scar from the crash and my nerve sensation wasn’t yet at 100%, my body was mostly (physically) healed.

It was the mental stuff that got me in the end.

And I was totally unprepared for what happened next.

It was tough to understand: I should have been happy, nay ecstatic, to return to the sport that I loved. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t understand the sadness, the sense of grief that encompassed me. And the more I thought about it, the more I puzzled over it, the worse it became.

Because unlike the physical aspect of healing my back, I couldn’t work myself into “good” mental health. I couldn’t take my mental outlook, the sadness that seemed to follow me around, and give it a set of ball balancing exercises or a long bike ride to recover. How do you force your mind to recover? How do you will your way to feel happy?

And the more I searched for an answer, the sadder and more depressed I became. It became a struggle to get out of bed, let alone leave the apartment. Physically I was healed. Mentally I was broken.

And the break wasn’t recent. It had occurred March 17 on a beautiful stretch of California highway. I was just so focused on the physical aspect of my recovery that I neglected the mental part.

One friend suggested that I was going through what sounded like a grief-reaction: I was mourning the loss of my former self. She listed off the stages as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually resolve; and then explained that I would hopscotch between the five, sometimes moving forwards, sometimes back. And that I should expect to repeat the cycle several times.

Great.

And then I really started thinking about what she said. I thought about my upbeat attitude for the first three or so months post-crash. Could that have been denial? Was I too afraid to admit how seriously I was hurt, how awful the crash and recovery process was?

I pondered that and moved on to the next one: anger.

I have always been afraid of anger, never wanting to rock to boat or make others think I’m upset. I’ve used anger in the past when I’ve raced, but don’t like the person I become. So more often than not, I’ll push it aside, bury it deep within my soul and push on. Even as a little kid, I would pretend everything was okay, never letting myself succumb to anger. Could I be doing the same with my recovery? Was I denying my anger as well?

I had never really gotten angry about the crash, nor upset about the damn bugs that blinded our sight. I never bemoaned the fact that Torry Pines Hill was one of the first hills that Liz had gone ahead of me down; she was being helpful and pointing out objects in the road. All weekend – being the heavier rider on the bombproof aluminum bike (with the triple ring, thank-you-very-much) – I had descended in front of Liz, my body weight and heavy bike combined to zoom ahead of her down the hills, while she geared out behind me. Even the Saturday morning Swami ride, with our double pace line at 45 mph down the canyon roads, I had been ahead. And yes – I got a clear view of her backside dancing up the hills, as the elastic between us broke during every climb.

But on nearly every downhill, I went ahead. Except for Torry Pines where I crashed.

And looking back, yes I’m angry. Denying the fact would be denying my true feelings. I know that it was an accident; but I can’t help but wonder what if I had gone ahead, what if there had been no bugs, what if we had taken a different route?

So denial and anger: check. Denying that I was angry: double check.

Next came the bargaining. I wasn’t really sure where this fit in, but realized soon that I was making deals with myself about recovery, workouts, and returning to every day life. “If I can hold a sub 7:45 pace running, the I know that I’ll be okay….” And so on, and so forth.

The problem was, after 12 weeks of non-running, my body wasn’t ready to handle any sort of time constraints or pace goals. The smart thing would have been to take off the heart rate monitor, ignore the mile markers, and just run for the pure joy. Instead, I watched my heart rate rise higher and higher, watched my splits grow slower and I became upset with myself; angry that I was no longer the athlete that I once was.

I kept flashing back to previous runs, especially to my Last Run in California. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. I remember the day was beautiful and bright, the rocky trail made for careful footing, and I had been nervous about a sore left hamstring. It turned out to be fine, and the run felt effortless, free, and fun. Had I known that it was going to be my last run for months, I would have enjoyed it much more.

Swimming and biking were different; I have never held the same connection with the two as I had with running. Running had always been my outlet, my source for inspiration, to clear my mind, for peace. But it rapidly became something that I would dread as one run after another failed to live up to my unreasonable expectations. Expectations that at the time seemed okay – but now looking back, were way off kilter.

And in the end it had nothing to do with my physical ability, and everything to do with my mind.

Eventually, I slipped into the stage of deep depression. Functioning became difficult and I pondered weather or not I wanted to continue with the sport. I threw away every award I had ever received, convinced that I would never win again. And even if I did, even if I earned a future plaque or award for participation – what did it matter? I didn’t do races to win; I did them for the experience. I did them because I loved the sport, loved the people, loved to learn, and loved how it made me feel.

But seeing the awards I had earned in past races did little to help my current state of mind, my depression; and I couldn’t bear to look at reminders of what I once was, convinced I would never be the same athlete, the same person.

I’ve always thought of depression way of viewing the world without color. I have suffered from this illness in the past; on and off throughout high school and a little in college. But this new depression, brought about by something as improbable as a bike crash, was different. It’s like living in a fog; you know the blue sky and bright sun exists, but you just can’t see it, can’t feel it.

The depression robbed me of my rational thought, of my passion and drive, of my ability to see the world in color. I sent emails to a few friends, asking for answers on “how to recover after an injury or crash” – and nearly all responses were identical: you have to want to return; you have to want to come back. You have to be ready.

And for the first time in my recent memory – I don’t know if I do. I don’t think I am.

Beyond the doubt and insecurity, beyond the pain and anguish, lies fear. I am afraid. At first, it was of not regaining my physical ability, of my sacral nerve never healing. But now, I’m afraid of my mind, of never being the same person that I once was. I am afraid of never having the same desire, passion, or fire. I don’t know how long this will last, but expect the healing process to be vastly different from the physical aspect of this journey.

I am depressed, angry, in denial, and fearful for a reason: because on March 17 I crashed my bike and broke my back. Anyone could understand that. But four months later, I am still shaken and still having flashbacks. And my mindset has changed. Yes, I am predisposed towards anxiety and depression, having suffered from both in the past. But this was brought about by a horrible accident.

Just as my body was broken, as it turns out – so was my heart. And a bit of my soul.

And if it’s one thing I’ve learned, is that I have to listen to myself. Even though the back is much better, and my nerve sensation is slowly returning, my mind – my mental state – is just beginning the healing process.

So where does this leave me?

Well, for starters I’m giving myself some time off – a bit of a break. I’ve decided to not race in Chicago and my late-season schedule is on hold. When I do return to racing, I want to make sure that it’s for the right reason, and not because I feel that I have to.

Training for now is on a day-to-day basis. Some days I feel great, and others not so much. Jen has been extremely patient and understanding, and I don’t know how I could get through this without her incredible support.

I am frustrated by my inability to see clearly what lies ahead. I wish there was a simple solution; I wish I could snap my fingers and make everything better. But I can’t. And I know that one day I’ll find meaning in this. It’s just hard to think about the future when surrounded by a self-induced foggy state.

I am talking to someone about this, and I know that what I’m going through is chemically induced. Without going into too much detail, I’m getting the help I need and am learning how to deal with these emotions without stuffing them down or denying the fact that they do exist. In addition, I’ve realized that expecting myself to hit pre-crash time goals while working out is setting myself up for failure and more depression. My body has never had to recover from a broken back and nerve damage before; this is all new. So I need to give myself a literal break – be kinder and gentler to myself and realistic of my expectations.

I have never recovered from a broken back before; therefore it is unrealistic to expect that I’ll hit my pre-crash times.

It is hard to watch the world pass by and feel that I’m stuck, a helpless and hopeless cause. And while I am so happy for friends and fellow-Bloggers with their triathlon season and with their successes, a part of me is beyond sadness at the season that I didn’t have, jealous at how everyone else can carry on with their lives as though nothing happened. The rest of the world is outside, happily at play while I’m stuck inside, trapped in the fog of my own mind. I want to shout “Look at me, I’m here! I want to be just like you!” but the world keeps passing by, oblivious to my struggle. I am trying to stay upbeat and positive, but lately that has been increasingly difficult. Please accept my apologies.

For now, I’m taking things day-by-day. I know that it won’t be easy. If there were a physical way to mend my mind, to fix my broken heart and repair my soul, I would do it. But it isn’t a matter of willing my mind healthy, of pushing the sadness away. This takes something more; and I don’t know just yet.

So this is where it stands, another part of My Journey.

I write this blog because I want to remain true to my feelings. Daily observations, thoughts during workouts, funny things – all facets that constitute this blog. But there are serious things as well, parts of my life that I wouldn’t normally discuss with people, but somehow when put in writing, seem to make sense, that make me feel better. And its true to who I am.

I know that I’m not the only one out there, not the only person who has ever gone through something like this. And it helps me in writing it, in getting my feelings out. Because one of the big parts of my recovery – the physical and mental parts – are figuring out what’s happening and why it’s happening.

Knowing what I know now – that I’m going through a depression brought about by a bike crash, has given me hope that I didn’t have before (I found out). At least there’s an explanation for my behavior, a reason why I’m feeling the things that I am. So as I embark on this journey, I’ll do my best to remain true to myself. And be understanding with my feelings, with my recovery. Because I know that it won’t be easy.

Then again, life rarely is.

Thanks for reading – I appreciate your understanding and support.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Miss Mary Sunshine!

Get Well Soon MARY EGGERS! We are all thinking about you, sending you GOOD VIBES, and hoping that you're okay. Your courage, passion, dedication, love, spirit, and drive are all incredible. WE LOVE YOU!
Super Star Mary, and her SKIRT, getting ready to rock the trails on our Sunday run at Campt HTFU. Notice the Super star grin. She is always like this. And even though she crashed (through no fault of her own) on the IM Lake Placid course, she will get through this.

Mary - all of us are pulling for you! Heal up fast, and before you know it, you'll be ready to rock and roll. And I can't wait to see you out training again, super star skirt and all!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Inspiration!

Well, it's done. I officially want to become a sprinter.

(Did Jen just spill her tea?)

After watching Mark Cavendish's inspiring 4th Tour de France Sprint Stage win today, it's official. For once, I want to feel what it's like to accelrate towards the end of a bike race, others sprinting as fast as they can next to me, falling back as I surge forward, cross the line, and raise my fists up in triumph as I finish first.

Yes, the 23-year-old sensation for Team Columbia makes it look almost too easy. His timing instinct, his ability to find the gap in the hectic moments before race end, the ridership ability of him and his team, and his God-given talent to sprint the legs off his compeditors is incredible. (Among many other things).

What we don't see are the hours upon hours spent practicing, visualizing, preparing, fretting, second-guessing, training, lifting, riding, treating saddle "issues", support from friends, family, teammates, coaches, and others, and any number of things he does to be the best sprinter in the world.

Either way you look at it, it's incredible.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go get ready for my long ride tomorrow. And I may have to throw in a sprint or two, just for the fun of it. Rest assured, you know who has inspired me.

And no, I will not raise my arms over my bike in triumph, as I cross an imaginary finish line. With my luck, I would probably crash.

But I will be doing everything in MY power to make myself the best that I can be. And that's a great start.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bee Surprised!

Yesterday was bright, humid, hot, and very sunny here along the Gulf Coast. Naturally, being the outdoorsy-type that I am, I opted to swim and bike outside. Yes, Long Course Meters is still an option, but in order to do so, I have to swim inside.

Sigh.

What would you do?

Beautiful outdoor facility vs dreary indoor pool where I fight clockwise-swimming senior citizens at the amusement of an 18-year old guard.

Hhhhmmmmm…..

Tough call.

And yes, there are times when I still go for the Long Course Meters. Who wouldn’t? But sometimes, you just need a healthy dose of sunshine, puffy white clouds, and open skies above.

After my swim, I showered, re-applied a thick layer of SPF 30+, and set out for my 90 minute pyramid interval bike ride.

What are pyramid intervals?

Glad you asked!

On my schedule were some higher intensity pieces, starting at 10 minutes and working their way down in two-minute increments – the last set being exactly 2 minutes in duration. The workout itself isn’t terribly painful, but enough to make your legs burn slightly from the effort.

It was during my six and two minute pieces respectively, that I discovered my inability to keep track of numbers or time, isn’t confined solely to the pool. Yes, when I see anything above 400 yards of continuous swimming on my workout sheet, I cringe – knowing that at some point during the swim I’ll loose count and forget to swim a lap. Or two.

Or worse, I’ll swim much much more than necessary.

And trust me: when in doubt, I tend to add an additional 50 or 100, making my time seem ridiculously slow for the particular piece. Sad part? Sometimes I just feel super slow – and during those sessions, its hard to tell if my pace is slow because I miscounted or simply because I am, er, slow.

Last time I saw 1200, I nearly wet myself. Nearly. (Don't worry, I can't remember if I peed in the pool).

Yesterday on the bike, I learned that I also loose count. One would think that 6 minutes should be easy to keep track of. Count: one, two, three, four, five, six! And presto! You are finished! But no: I couldn’t remember exactly when I had started, so I may have done 7 minutes instead of 6.

I sure as heck didn’t do 5.

At least I think I didn’t…

Hhhmmmm.

The really sad part?

I tacked on an extra minute to my final piece. It was supposed to be two minutes, and I did three. Oh well, better safe than sorry I suppose.

About one-third into my workout, I was approaching the Griswold Peanut Factory.

No, not Clark W. Griswold as in “National Lampoon’s European, Family, and Christmas Vacation”. Although, for some reason, every time I pass the factory, I think of squirrels in the Christmas Tree, a deceased aunt strapped to the top of a moving vehicle, and a dog jumping off the Eiffel Tower in pursuit of a flying beret. Yes, the National Lampoon movies were popular in our house growing up.

On Peanut Factory approach, I was in the midst of my 8-minute piece, body poised in aero, legs churning away into the cross-headwind at just under 90 rotations per minute, and keeping a wary eye on the tractor-mower ahead. Dodging clumps of grass in the road and flying pollen, I felt my eyes tear up in the dust and haze.

I ducked my head down, sheltering my face when the bugs started bouncing off of me. No, it is never a good idea to keep a face forward when debris, including that of the exoskeletal kind is flying at you. I kept my helmet down, keeping my front as sheltered as possible.

Twap!

Twang!

Thunk!

(Remember the old Batman Series with Adam West? For those of you who do, just picture the above words in brightly-colored 60s hues with loud sound effects).

Soon though and before I realized it, one particularly loud-sounding Thwack! was quickly accompanied by an angry Buzz!, and something big promptly fell/flew into my jersey.

Yes, a giant bee/wasp/hornet/something-with-a-stinger had unsuspectingly flown into my direct path of biking and found itself in my sports bra, safely tucked between the girls and just above the heart rate monitor. Nope, not just at the collar or an inch or two down (I oh-so-wish!). Half way down my chest and buzzing angrily, it was.

I don’t know who was more surprised, the bee-thingy or me.

A startled cry escaped my mouth; I can only imagine what the bee was thinking.

And before I could panic much further (thoughts of pulling over and ripping off my jersey and bra fleeted through my head, I must confess), I reached down, grasped the bee-thingy – with is stinger poised and trying to stab – and flung it over my shoulder with as much gusto as I could muster.

One last buzz, and it was gone.

Quick as a flash, it was over.

And through some incredible turn of events, I didn’t 1) get stung or 2) have to tear the clothes from my body to remove said bee-thingy. Nope, being topless in the middle of Hwy 89 near the Peanut Farm was never on my agenda. Nor do I ever plan on it being so (just in case you were wondering).

So there you have it. I was surprised. The Bee was surprised. We were all surprised! So next time YOU go for a ride and end up behind a mower, be careful for the crunchy bugs that bounce off your helmet. Because you just might bee surprised as well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alabama State Time Trial Championships Race Report

The Time Trial.

It’s called “the race of truth”.

Do you want to truth?

No really – are you sure that you want the entire truth? Because I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you fair and square.

(deep breath). Pause (for the dramatic!)

It was the most painful hour and change of my life.

How about that?

I worked so hard that my average heart rate was only four beats lower than my max heart rate. That little tidbit earned a comment from Coach Jen.

“I could tell that you rode your hardest!” were her words.

And I assure you, just as I assured her – that I did.

Race morning dawned not quite as early as it had for the previous morning’s race at Deer Point Lake. There’s just something so relaxing (a little too relaxing – continue reading!) about getting up at 5:45 am race morning. Registration was from 6:45-7:45, and the race was set to start at 8 am sharp.

Parking was interesting: we had our pick between the run down corner store, the deserted barn, the deserted feed store, or the half-collapsed and desolate house. The three corners where Al-14 met AL-187 were all that was left of Sprott, Alabama. The Race Director really wasn’t kidding when he said it was a “non-town”.

While waiting around to begin my warm up, I surveyed my water situation and realized that my 3 bottles probably wouldn’t be enough to keep me functioning long after the race.

But I pushed the thought out of my mind, registered and got my starting time. I was set to go off at precisely 8:45 am. And Jen’s words of “do NOT miss your start time” echoed throughout my head as I pinned my number to my jersey.

Being the newbie, I pinned them upside down. But the octogenarian parked next to us helped me out. And showed me how it was done.

Thanks!

He and his parter were actually really cute. They were riding a tandem bike, and qualified for the "Masters" category without a doubt.

As a triathlete, I felt very out-of-place. There were lots of small stature guys with shaved legs and speed suits, joking around and spending lots of time warming up on their trainers. Not just warming up, but really really going hard. I must confess that I did bring the trainer along – but taking Jen’s and Courtenay’s advice, figured it would be a tad bit overkill.

And yes, I DO realize that in triathlon, there are lots of small statured guys with shaved legs and speedos. I'm just used to that. Different in cycling. They all looked so small! (And hairless).

Around 8:10 am, I got my gear ready – aero helmet, bike, shoes, and lone water bottle (gosh – my bike looked very naked without tools, the rear cages, and only one bottle on board), and got ready to set out on my warm up. I was deterred when I noticed the “official” race time.

The clock read 7:40.

What?

Is this normal??

I conferred with the race organizers, and they had decided to push the start back by half an hour. And had changed the clock to reflect that.

O-k-a-y. Great. Another 3o minutes to be nervous. Wonderful.

So I returned to the car and waited.

And waited…

And waited…

And, well, you get the drift.

30 minutes later, I set out on the warm up, checked out the start line (about 1 km down the road), watched Team Jeep take off for their 4-person team time trial, and went about finishing up the warm up.

I wish I could say it was earth shattering, but it really wasn’t. I did some spinning, a few accelerations, debated if I should pull over and pee in the woods or just go on the bike. I wasn’t so sure about what was lurking on the edge, so I played it safe and took my “nature break” while completing the warm up. Gross, I know – but I just didn’t want to stop. Besides, I wasn’t’ so sure how much time left I had.

I passed the car, yelled “hi!” to Nathaniel who was walking towards the start and promised that I would return for a photo. I was a tad bit worried about my start time, and just wanted to confirm that I had 10 minutes left before I was set to GOGOGO.

Brief time out here. For anyone who knows me, I’m a stickler about being on time – no EARLY – to three places. 1) Airport (the thought of missing a flight makes me feel sick). 2) Movies (I like to get good seats and contrary to most other people, enjoy the previews). 3) Races (for triathlons, I like to be in transition about 2 hours before I go off).

Enough said. You get the point.

My start time was exactly 8:45. Not 8:45:01, not 8:46. 8:45.

So you can imagine the look of terror on my face when I saw the clock read 8:44:38 as I passed the riders in the back of the line.

The starting line area was in a bit of a frenzy.

“Number 145! Number 145! You are about to miss your start! Has anyone seen number 145?”

The announcer was calling my number out on a bull horn. Not exactly how I wanted to make my time trial debut, mind you.

I felt my heart rate jump from 100 to just below LT.

I coasted in to my designated place at precisely 8:44:45. (Almost as though I had menat to do exactly just that. I don't think I had anyone fooled - my knees were shaking, not from fear of the race, but from fear of missing the start.)

WTF?

(Later it was confirmed that the race directors had jumped the clock ahead 10 minutes. So instead of being behind by 30 minutes, they were behind by 20. I just missed the switch. Nice.)

Luckily, I remembered to shift into my Big Ring (Thanks Courtenay!), unclipped for 15 seconds, and tried to steady my shaking hands. Jen’s words of “DO NOT MISS YOUR START!’ reverberated throughout my mind.

Five.

Four.

Three.

Wait! Don’t go yet!

(Oops – sometimes I go a little early on swim sets. I guess the same doesn’t apply to time trials!)

Two.

One.

GO!

And I was off.

I wish I could say that I remember everything clearly. I wish I could talk about the different stages of the race or the other rides that I saw. I wish I could go into detail about my heart rate zones or how I felt. But really, all I remember was pain.

I spent about 20 seconds fiddling with my bike computer trying to get it reset and then starting my hr monitor. I was hoping to race with my power meter, as a way to gather data for future training. But it wasn’t quite ready, so instead I looked at this as an opportunity to assess my heart rate zones.

After glancing at my heart rate to confirm that the monitor was indeed working, I quickly decided to NOT look at it for the remainder of the race. About 2 minutes in, my body was registering a heart rate of 181.

Just to let you know: I’ve never registered a heart rate above 180 while on a bike.

Ho hum. I guess there’s a first for everything!

This entire season has been a “season of firsts” – so why not throw in a new heart rate into the mix. While racing, no doubt!

Basically, I put my head down, kept my body tucked, and rode my heart out. I didn’t go off at a 100% effort, but it was up there. After 10 minutes, I dropped the hammer and rode steady, solid, and as hard as I could. My legs kept firing, my hands gripped the aerobars, and I pulled myself far forward on my saddle.

Soon I noticed the lone figure of another rider up ahead. I figured it was the lady who had started 2 minutes in front of me, and I immediately set off to bike her down. Within five or six minutes, I passed her, commenting great job as I rode by.

I was greeted by silence. Which turned out to be a good thing, as it added fuel to my fire.

Fine. Be rude. I was just telling you good job! If you don’t want to respond, that’s your prerogative. Just enjoy the clear shot of my rear as I ride by.

Before I realized it, I hit the turn around.

Ah – sweet relief! The first time I was able to get out of my saddle and stretch the legs.

And it was over before I knew it. A few pedal strokes later, and I was back in aero, steadily grinding away kilometer by kilometer, mile by mile.

The first thing I noticed after turning was the wind. What had been so deceptive on the way out, practically non-existent as our beloved tail wind, was a fierce and unrelenting headwind.

The course was essentially a 12-mile straight shot, flat-as-a-pancake course, with forrests on either side. Broken only with the occasional house or farm dotting the landscape. And my speed didn’t really feel wind-assisted. I hit the turn around point at 32 minutes – something that I would ride on a flat course during an Olympic distance triathlon. In the past when I’ve had the pleasure of riding with a tailwind, I’ll hit speeds in excess of 24, 25 or 26 mph. It’s wonderful!

But I didn’t hit anything close to that during the first segment.

So at the turn around, I figured it would be more of the same on the return trip.

About five minutes after the turn, my mind recollected the looks of intense pain on the riders who had already made the turn as I was still racing out. One team in particular stuck out. The two girls were in visible pain; their moths slacking open, their cadence a low grind. They did not look happy to be there.

Undoubtedly, I looked the same on the return trip.

But I remembered what Jen’s advice was: the race is won or lost in the wind.

I knew this, I knew I was strong, I knew I could hang on and power through. So I put my head down even more, doubled my resolve, and powered as strong as I could.

I can’t remember specifics, but I remember looking at my watch and wondering how I could handle this effort for another 20 or 25 minutes. But I refused to let that concern me, and instead focused on the Here and Now. I remembered reading one of Jen’s old blogs – about how she would “cut through the wind like a knife” and decided to make myself emulate that knife.

I loved the wind, and I was going to use it to my advantage. The other racers were of no concern; I had no control over what they could or could not do. But I was able to control my own race, my own reaction.

So I pushed and pushed and pushed some more.

One glance at my heart rate confirmed that I was still at record highs. But I figured the tremendous amount of heat and high humidity were also a factor. Well, that and my effort.

So I rode, and pushed, and rode harder, willing my body forward, constantly hovering on the edge of blowing up and on survival. I knew this was the “race of truth” and I remembered World Championship Time Trialist Fabian Cacellara commenting, “it is a battle of the mind. Is my mind stronger than the pain? I think so and I win.”

It sounded deceptively simple when I watched him comment. But 45 minutes into my race, I knew exactly of what he was speaking.

The wind blew more fierce, but I ignored it, kept my head down and powered forward – watching as my clock ticked past the 60 minute mark. I knew the finish area was close – and played mind tricks to will myself forward.

Just 5 minutes. You’ve done this a million times. Just five more minutes. You can take another sip of water in 2:30. Just focus and push. Easing up is not an option. How much is 5 minutes compared to the rest of your life?

65 minutes passed, and I knew I was close. Any moment, I would hit the only hill on the course and see the line, the blue tent, and waiting spectators. Then I could drink cold water and stop the pain.

My quads felt as though they would burst, and a glance down confirmed they appeared larger than normal. The sun pounded on my back and I could taste the rings of sweat on the sides of my mouth. My lungs were begging, pleading for me to abate my drive. My body ready to stop at any moment. But my mind was strong.

My mind is strong.

And it was forcing my body to do things that I never thought possible. And I had been doing things I never though possible for the past 67 minutes.

I refused to look at my heart rate monitor for fear of what I might see.

And my mouth was bone dry – all I could think about was cold liquid at the finish. Screw the T-run that Jen had on my schedule. My legs had deserted me 40 minutes ago. My hands gripped the aero bars and I kept my head down, peering intently at the road as it flashed under my race wheels.

I think I can I think I can I think I can.

My legs screamed.

I know I can I know I can I know I can.

This was my train, this was my time trial, this was my return to racing on my bike. And I would be damned if I gave up with less than five minutes left.

And that’s all I remember. The next thing I know, I heard clapping and I crossed the line.

Where had that come from?

Nathaniel was waiting for me, a luke-cold diet cherry coke in hand. I downed it in one gulp, my quads still shaking – yet feeling oddly detached.

If memory serves me correct, my first words were, “That was the most painful thing I have ever done. I don’t ever want to do another!”

Followed by, “How the hell does Jen expect me to run after this? I’m toasted! Do you have another coke?”

In the end, I did run – albeit for 15 minutes instead of 30. And my heart rate maxed out at 184, a new record for me.

We didn’t stay around for the awards or even to see the final results. I had run out of water, and was in desperate need of something more substantial than GU or granola bars. And the thought of waiting an additional 60 minutes in a ghost town in the zillion degree heat sans water, was not a good one.

All in all, it was an incredible experience. And yes, I will do another time trial in the future – as it turns out, I really don’t remember a lot from the last one. Which is a shame, as I know that I worked really really hard. Then again, some things are better left forgotten. And I’m sure that I’ll think those exact words about three minutes into my next one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Deer Point Lake Race Report

Oh.

My.

God.

I never realized how painful a 40K bike time trial could be. Holy Cow! But I’ll get to that in a different post – this is the Deer Point Lake Open Water Swim Race Report! Enjoy!

Race morning dawned early and not-so-bright. It was still dark outside as I pulled onto I-10 at 4:45 am.

There’s something so wonderful about only packing for a single-sporting event, and it took me a mere 10 minutes the night before to throw my bag together.

Bathing suit? Check.

Goggles? Check.

Swim cap? Check.

Towel? Check

Okay – good to go!

Arrived at race site by 7:15 and noticed an abundance of tri bikes with their race wheels. My eyes grew bigger as I parked next to a pickup with a Litespeed and HED tri spoked wheels. Strapped to the car directly across from me was a Cannondale with Zipps.

Did I miss something?

As I registered, I discovered that most of the local Panama City Area triathletes had decided to bike and run after the swim. Additionally, there were a few from Okaloosa County and a few others from Tallahassee. I figured they must be serious, race wheels and all.

Oh well. Maybe they were overcompensating for their lack of swimming ability? The through briefly flickered through my head as I walked down to the lake’s edge.

With about 20 minutes until race start, I jumped in and began my warm-up. I briefly contemplated swimming out to the first buoy and back, but then thought better of it. Even though this was “just” a lake, I had always been told to “swim with a buddy”.

I looked around.

Everyone seemed to be talking, gathered at the water’s edge, their heads bent close in discussion. I felt a little awkward and shy; it’s not in my nature to approach a large group of strangers and ask if any want to be my “swim buddy”.

Eventually I approached a bikini-clad girl who confessed that this was her first open water swim race ever. Somehow, I convinced her to warm up with me, and we quickly set off into the lake.

The water was wonderfully clear, and I could see the sand and smooth pebbles on the bottom. I saw a few small fish dart in between the seaweed and I hoped that they were the only Marine Life I would be seeing all day. Then we hit the seaweed.

It was everywhere. And it reached up to just about 12 inches below the surface. Perfect for wrapping around shoulders, brushing torsos, and making one feel as though Unmentionable Marine Life was lurking and hiding in its depths.

I pulled some of the vines off my shoulders and consulted my Swim Buddy. We decided to head back for shore, and I completed my 15 minutes warm-up by swimming parallel to shore. There was one gentleman who ventured out and I briefly followed him, until he stopped and commented, “We had better go back before we become bait.”

I pushed the thought out of my mind and swam for shore, doing my pickups with super efficiency.

Race start was in the water, just past the finish-line banner (also in the water), in about 2 feet depth. I decided to be confident in my ability, aggressive with my swimming, and focused on the task ahead: swimming a straight course and strong all the way. I lined up right at the start, front and center, next to a fast looking-guy in a speedo and Swedish goggles. The gal to my right looked serious as well, and I thought that I would try and hang on to the leaders for as long as I could.

The horn sounded and immediately Speedo Dude took off, and the gal to my right edged ahead. Within 100 meters she had crossed in front of me and I hung onto her feet, working hard to stay in her draft. Suddenly she veered far left, apparently off-course. The course was set up counterclockwise, and I couldn’t figure out why she was going so far off course. A quick peek while sighting confirmed she was following the Speedo guy.

I quickly decided to set off on my own, and swim as straight as possible. What was the point of conserving energy in someone else’s draft if they were going to swim way off course?

So I continued on, long fluid strokes, and enjoying the feeling of power from my lats. I made sure to keep my hips up and rotating, reaching with every stroke. Additionally, I tried to focus on good head position, chest pressed down and neutral. Much to think about, I know – but technical improvement has been a major theme of my swimming as of late.

Glances to my right and left while breathing confirmed there were many swimmers behind me and on my sides, and I felt a familiar tapping on my toes. At least I hoped it was another swimmer enjoying my draft.

I could see the first pair of swimmers way out to my left, substantially off course. So I put my head down and kept going. For the first time in my life, and for the first 800 meters of the course, I swam straight and true. Every sight seemed to confirm that I was actually going in a straight line. Holy Cow! A few small corrections here or there, and I was back on course.

I rounded the half-mile buoy, made sure to kick and pull hard around the mark, and promptly crashed into another swimmer who had kept going straight past the buoy. I saw stars, was briefly stunned and took a few seconds to shake out the ringing in my ears. Weather or not we exchanged pleasantries, I have no recollection. I just put my head down and kept swimming.

The two people on my feet passed immediately, and I worked hard to get back into their draft.

The girl ahead of me dropped back and I moved up to the guy in the lead, enjoying his draft. His course was a bit more zig-zag in nature, but every time I made a move to swim around him, he sped up. So I dropped back and bid my time.

200 meters later we rounded the backstretch and entered the final 600 meters of the race. In my mind, I broke down the distance: 2 X 300. Simple. Easy. I had done it a zillion times in practice. I could be done in as little as 8 minutes.

Every few strokes I would site the course, ensuring that they guy ahead was on tack. For the most part, he was. I could still feel the slight tapping of the girl behind me, brushing against my feet.

Another few minutes passed and I felt the pace slow. This was not what I wanted; I wanted to keep pushing, keep the pace up, keep hurting the entire time (per Jen’s instructions). I wasn’t content to sit back and wait, so with 400 meters left, I made my move.

I swung out aggressively to the inside and made my pass. Momentarily, the drumming on my feet abated and I kicked out hard to increase the tempo. Head down and adding more strength to my pull, I passed the guy ahead of me and aimed straight for the 300-meter buoy.

Keeping the tempo up, I vowed that I would maintain this pace through the buoy. I promised myself that it would all be over in a few minutes, and that I COULD do this. I could do anything that I put my mind to, and nothing was impossible if I believed. And I believed that I could do this, could maintain my pace.

At the 300-meter mark, I felt the familiar tapping on my feet, and realized that I was towing another swimmer with me. I was pretty confident that it wasn’t the guy I had already passed, which left the girl who had been on my feet for most of the race.

I vowed that I would do everything in my power to keep her behind me, and rationalized that if I was a betting man (not that I am) I would bet on me – the person ahead.

And then the pain hit. Good feelings were gone. My lats were screaming, triceps seizing up, lungs begging for air. But I knew that it was only temporary, the discomfort could be controlled by my mind. And my mind was strong, filled with determination to succeed to push through and beyond. There was less than 4 minutes, I reasoned. And this was nothing in the grand scheme of things. I put my head down and redoubled my effort.

If I could climb Paris Mountain - at 18-20% grade for 2 miles and 35 minutes of climbing - I could do anything. And I could withstand pain beyond belief.

If I could get back on my bike after breaking my back and ride home for 25 minutes, I could do anything...

With 100 meters to go, the tapping on my feet suddenly stopped. And before I saw her on the right side of my body, I knew what she was trying to do. The girl who had sat on my feet the entire race, was going to pass me at the end.

NO! I screamed, unable to tell if it was just in my head or if I had actually yelled out loud. I was determined to do everything in my power to keep my lead; I had lead for the first 1500 meters already, except for a brief 400 meter stretch, and I would be damned if I let some freeloader pass me at the end without a fight.

I took a quick glance forward, confirming that I was on course. The girl next to me moved aggressively in my line, and I felt myself move left, slightly off course. I responded with my own kick, correcting my line and moving back over to my right.

We were neck and neck, stroke to stroke. She sped up and I responded with my own surge, and she matched me. I could feel the edges of my vision begin to cloud from lack of oxygen. My limbs were beyond pain, I was beyond feeling. All I could focus on was getting to that line, and getting there as fast as possible. I was dimly aware of the figure to my right, but I was quickly loosing all sensation.

I sighted one last time, corrected my line and put my head down to sprint. I asked my body for one last surge, but literally had nothing left. Even though the girl on my right and I were completely even, we were approaching the finish line at an angle. I realized – to my horror – that if we crossed exactly like this, she would get the win by virtue of the angle.

With one last Herculean effort, I pulled and kicked. It felt as though I was tearing my lat muscles out of their sockets, that my quads were about to combust.

And before I knew it, we powered through the line and it was over.

It was all I could do to keep from passing out; my lats and triceps immediately seized and I gasped for breath. I didn’t know who had crossed first and at that point, didn’t care. I was focused on myself, on making sure that I didn’t die at the finish line.

Somehow I managed to stop my watch twenty five seconds after I finished. I looked around, and the guy who had been in our pack of three was just commenting, “Wow – you gals really picked up the pace at the end!”

No shit Sherlock! What did you expect? For us to just swim in? Sheesh!

But I just nodded, still gasping for breath.

Duh, I thought. I didn’t want someone who had drafted the entire race to beat me at the finish! But I kept my thoughts to myself and tried to smile. It came out more as a grimace.

I turned towards the girl who finished with me and told her good job.

She breathlessly replied, “You too! You took a really straight line the entire time! It was great!”

I didn’t know if wanted to laugh, cry, or simply deck her. Lucky, my body felt oddly incapacitated, and physical violence was not pursued. Instead I just nodded, replied, "Glad you enjoyed it!" And turned away.

What else was there to do? She had done the smart thing; conserve energy and kick hard at the end. She had swum a very smart race, and I couldn't blame her one bit. Did I think it was chickenshit that she didn't take any pulls? Undoubtedly yes. But a part of me also wondered if I would have done the same thing in her situation. Would I sit back for an entire race and then outsprint someone at the end?

Hopefull not. Then again - I've never been in that position, so I really wouldn't know. And perhaps she wouldn't have been able to swim at that speed on her own. Tactically she swam a great race.

But that wasn't my focus for today. I wasn't concerned with my place, with whom I could outsprint at the end. I wanted to swim hard, take a good line, and gain open water experience. And that was accomplished! Deep down, I was proud of myself, proud of my race. And it wouldn't have been the same had I sat back and drafted the entire time, and then outsprinted the person who had done all the work at the end.

I watched and cheered for others finishing, and when enough people had gathered at the water’s edge who wanted to swim a cool down, I set off with them. At this point, I had many swim buddies! And though we went slow, I enjoyed the peace and tranquility, the feeling of accomplishment that came from a hard effort. My body protested as I tried to lengthen my stroke, and I ended up breast stroking and shortening my reach on free.

Eventually I made it back to shore, grabbed my towel and spare goggles and headed for the car. I still didn’t know the finishing order or even my exact time. But I really didn’t care: I was happy with my effort and pleased with the nature I had swum my race.

After a quick change, I headed over to the refreshment table, devoured a few cookies and diet sunkist and then made my way over to the timekeeper for the final results.

I know, I know, very nutritionally sound. But the cookies looked much better than the cole slaw or pigs-in-a-blanket. There is something just so wrong about hot dogs at 8:45 am. Ick.

In the end, she confirmed that I finished 4th overall, 3rd woman. And one second behind the girl who I did battle with at the end. She could see my disappointment and commented, “It was really close! And you guys were okay – you didn’t get eaten!”

I thought it was an odd comment, so I asked about it.

“Oh, we’ve got quite the alligator population in the lake. And just last week, there was a shark caught near the dam. A small one, though. Only 6 foot. There have been larger ones, you know?”

No I didn’t, but think you very much.

Oh.

Hhmm.

So that was the reference that one of my swim buddies made before the start. Great.

But I was no worse for the wear, happy that I finished, and only slightly disappointed with the results. I was really please with how hard I worked, happy that my line was solid. And even though I was beaten in the end by less than a second, I was happy.

A really good experience, a great effort, and solid performance on my way back from recovery. And the best yet? I didn't get eaten by the local alligator population and didn't become shark bait. How cool is that?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Swim AND Bike race weekend!

In keeping with this year’s theme of “firsts” (broken back, open water swim race, Camp HTFU, training in every time zone except Mountain, need I continue?), I am doing my first bike time trial tomorrow. 40 K! And I’m oddly nervous and excited – a bundle of energy, not knowing fully what I’ve gotten myself into.

But first – a blurb about today.

I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4:00 am. Not for a bike ride, not to make a special breakfast for Nathaniel, and no, not even to get on an airplane and fly half way around the world. No, instead I drove out to Panama City Beach to race in the Deer Point Lake Mile Open Water Swim.

For some reason, I only thought I would spend two hours in the car this morning.

But it turns out; it was two hours there and two hours back. I never was good at math.

So roughly – if I compute it correctly – that turns out to 60 minutes of driving for every 400 meters of swimming.

What can I say?

I know, I know – totally wrong. And somewhere in South Carolina, my Soul-Sister Ashley Long just threw up her chocolate-laden oatmeal.

But it was great: my second open water swimming race ever (without biking or running afterwards).

A race report will follow later this weekend – as in Monday or Tuesday of next week.

I am happy to report that I didn’t get eaten by the alligators (because they live in the lake – there are lots in the area… Florida Gators… duh!), and that one of the local sharks was caught last week.

I am not joking about the second.

Seriously – the assistant RD told me afterwards that a shark was pulled out near the dam.

G-R-E-A-T.

(Say it!): If there is one, there are others!

(Had I known this before the swim, would I have done it? Would I have ventured out into the murky, weedy, critter-infested depths? Hhhhmmmmm. During the warm up and cool down I WAS thinking about the other “things” in the lake. But thankfully, was blissfully unaware of the sharks or the apparent large gator population. During the race though, my focus was only on the racing).

But obviously I’m here; I’m alive and well. And even though I have difficulty lifting my arms above my head or stretching my triceps, that’s okay. Because hopefully tomorrow I’ll just be using my legs.

Ah yes – the time trial.

I’m currently in Selma, Alabama – the nearest town to the TT location. This race is also billed as the Alabama State TT Championships. Which should be pretty interesting, as I’ve never raced a TT.

I emailed the RD of this race and asked him about where I would be, what category I would be in, and where I would start – and all the other things a very novice time trailer would ask. I finished off the email by writing, “I just don’t want to start or finish last…”

He emailed me back and replied, “Don’t worry, you won’t finish last.”

When I told my very-supportive Other Half this, Nathaniel laughed and commented, “Well, think about it. If the race director told everyone they wouldn’t be last, he would be right for 99% of the time.”

And then he laughed.

Thanks, sweetheart.

So that’s where it’s at.

I’m now in the hotel room, “Jurassic Park” is on in the background, the bike is ready, the air conditioning is finally working, and I’m wondering if there is anything else I can do to make myself any more aero for tomorrow.

Perhaps re-shape my eyebrows?

Perhaps not. I’ll be in enough pain tomorrow as it is.

Oh well – not that it really matters. I’m just out there to have fun, to learn, to experience, to go as fast as I can, and to see what it’s all about. And to make the Category 4 women – the novice-cycling-category – proud.

So here’s to not getting eaten by a shark, not being attacked by an alligator, road-tripping with Nathaniel (who made “moo-ing” noises at the cows, and “choo-choo” noises at the trains), swimming racing on Saturday, and time trialing on Sunday. Could it get any better?

Throw in Peanut Butter cups and peanut M&Ms, and I swear that I’m in heaven-on-earth.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Newspapers

(View from the car as we drove along the ridge line before we started climbing Mt. Palomar. The mountain is somewhere a ridge-line or two beyond this one. Note the groves of citruis fruit...I love California!)

I never appreciated how chilly a long descent could be until I cycled in South Carolina and California. In Florida (and North Carolina, for that matter – remember we lived along the coast, where at 20 miles inland, the elevation was a whopping 10 feet), a “descent’ is really no longer than 30 seconds, maybe a minute. And in the 60-second case, you have to drive 50 minutes.

For some reason, that math just doesn’t sound right.

But you had better believe that I’ll drive 30 minutes in order to bike 60 minutes, so I can climb a “hill” for 3 minutes.

Yeah.

Welcome to the Gulf Coast.

And have I mentioned that it’s hot?

But I digress. Newspapers! were the subject at hand.

While in California, I discovered the “trick” to long, cold, windy descents. After climbing Mt Palomar with ELF, Chris, and Sherpa Thomas, I was warned of the cold descent.

At first, I really didn’t’ believe them. I had just spent 1:27 climbing a grand total of 11.7 miles (you do the math – it makes me too tired to compute!), and had assuredly lost (at least) 3 pounds of sweat. Probably more. I was drenched, sweat-soaked, my arm warmers peeled down to my wrists, my jersey flapping open in the 3 mph breeze that I produced.

And no, it wasn’t from the butterflies that kept passing me as I huffed and puffed up the hill.

Upon reaching the sign at the top, the four of us posed for pictures, stopped at the local Store, and then made our way up to the Observatory at the very top. During a brief 700-foot descent, I realized how cold a 5000+ foot descent could be.

My hand, fingers, toes, arms, legs, head, and nearly any other extremity was cold beyond belief. And it was only a few minutes of riding. Not the 20 or so minutes that were promised when we began in earnest.

30 minutes later, the four of us returned to the store to top off our bottles – and in Liz’s case, purchase a long-sleeved shirt. Chris and Sherpa Thomas, being the smarter ones of the bunch, whipped out their mini wind-vests and prepared to descend. The thrifty side of me refused to pay any sort of money for an overly-priced souvenier from the top of a mountain that I rode up.

Darn it! A new rule should have been made: anyone who gets up the mountain on their own power, gets a free shirt . Sounds great - I LOVE it.

Alas, this was not to be.

While I pondered my options, Sherpa Thomas piped up, “You know, you can stuff newspaper down your jersey. It works! They do it on the big tours.”

I gave him a wary look, wondering if he was pulling a fast one on me, or being totally serious.

In my desperation, I took his word, asked the restaurant owner next door if I could have some newspaper-waiting-to-be-recycled, and walked out with (not kidding here) a stack of papers. Magazines included.

Chris and Sherpa Thomas looked at me and then burst out laughing.

Anyone who knows me, know that I like to be, er, thorough. So when Sherpa Thomas said that lots of paper would do the trick, I grabbed as much as I could without seeming too greedy. There were lunch-goers, watching my every move.

After asking Thomas if he could help “stuff me” (trust me, that got a few sniggers and snarky comments from my posse), I was well padded and ready to ride. Luckily, I didn’t blow off the mountain's edge with the gusty winds billowing up from the valley below. And yes, I did look a bit like a marshmallow (think the Michelin Man logo), but surprisingly and to my utter amazement, I stayed warm.

And discovered that descents – when not frozen to the bike – were actually fun.

I just felt a bit weird and self-concious in the process.

Who stuffs their jersey? Pu-leze!

And even though I’m a g-i-r-l, I was never with the bra-stuffing trend. So you could say, that my newspaper-padding and jersey-stuffing trick on Palomar was a big-time first for me.

The 10-year-old inner child of me would have been mortified. But what could I do. I was desperate and wated to stay as warm as possible. And I did.

So you had better believe that now The Tour is on, and that we’ve had a few “rolling” and one mountain-like stage (today), I’ve been looking for the newspaper-stuffing types.

Thus far, I had been disappointed.

Until today.

While watching a bright orange-jersey rider (from a Spanish Team that I can’t remember and could not write without butchering the spelling), who was trying to play Elizabeth’s favorite game of "bridge-the-gap", I saw – to my utter amazement and delight – a spectator holding out some newspaper and then…the rider grabbed the paper and stuffed his jersey!

Hooray!

It’s true!


I know, I know – Sherpa Thomas was right. And I never should have doubted him. But I still felt silly during my descent. Ahead of me were Thomas and Chris with their handy vests, and behind me was Liz with her souvenir-shirt. And me, with yesterday’s paper.

One of these things is not like the other…

I think that we all want to know that we’re not too different, that we’re not all that far off from the mainstream. Yes, I like to march to the beat of my own drum, take immense joy and satisfaction in my many differences. But there’s also a part of me that wants to fit in, to be like the others, to know that I’m not the only one doing something. I’m not weird, I’m not alone, I’m not all that different.

I think all of us do. (At least that’s what I tell myself).

I celebrate my uniqueness, but I still want the reassurance that I’m not alone in my pursuits, in my journey.

So today, when the Spanish rider in the bright orange jersey made a grab for the newspaper and stuffed his jersey before his very own 15 km descent, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Not just for my own sanity, but also for him. I knew he wouldn’t be too cold.

Then again – I was only topping out at speeds of 35-40 mph. He’s doing 60 + mph. Can’t speak to that extent. But it’s bound to work, right?
(Chris, Sherpa Thomas, Liz, and me, the morning before we climbed Palomar)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Good Morning!

You know that you're going to have a great day when this is the first thing you see.

I awoke to this beautiful view from the bedroom window. The shot was taken from the balcony, and nearly everything afterwards went great.

Except the mini golf (or as putt putt as the Ladies of Camp STFU call it) game that Nathaniel and I played. True to form, my golf score was higher than my height in inches. But at least I broke 100.

There were a few great moments, including my two holes in one. Yes, you read that correct - two. Talent? I think not. More like extremely lucky shots.

I don't know who was more surprised, Nathaniel or myself.

But in the end, he beat me fair and square. By 4 shots.

And I'm okay with that. I was there for the, er, experience.

And true to his form, Nathaniel replied, "That's just what loosers say!"

Well, that may be true, but I was the one with the two holes in one. So there.

Back to the rainbow and morning view. Perfect, beautiful, and was a great start to a wonderful day. I hope to see another tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Watermelon Craving!

I know, I know – the title of this post is in contrast to the idea behind the last. One might even go so far as to proclaim that Thunder Thighs originate from cravings.

So true.

But no, this isn’t about ice cream, peanut butter cups, or peanut m&ms. Not that kind of craving, anyway.

Lately as I’ve been running and riding in the zillion degree heat with the bajillion degree humidity down along the Gulf Coast, I’ve noticed that I crave watermelon. Ice cold, crisp, sweet, juicy watermelon. Seedless or with seeds, it doesn’t matter. I’m well beyond the stage where I’m fearful of growing a watermelon in my abdomen by swallowing a seed or two.

Right?

My run today was no exception: it was a scortcher.

And it started around 7 pm. Nice.

Nathaniel and I drove out to UWF, to tackle the hills and rolling terrain. Upon arriving on campus, the billboard flashed “88 degrees”, which surprised us. It felt like 85. (That’s sarcasm, in case you were wondering).

After parking the car, hiding the key, and watching My Other Half stretch, the two of us set of.

“This is great!” Nathaniel exclaimed during the first: 35 of the run.

“Yeah, because we’re going downhill,” I commented dryly.

It was true: the first minute or two of the run was on the downhill part of the “rolling terrain” that was on my schedule. After a few minutes, it flattened out, and then we started climbing the back hills.

I could feel the sun beating down on the back of my neck, smell the bug spray that I liberally applied to Nate and myself (hey – I love animals, but am not a fan of “crunch” insects, and I especially hate deer flies. Yuck!), and feel the heat emulating off my body. I looked down and saw the slick sheen of perspiration on my arms, and I inwardly laughed when I glanced over at Nathaniel. He was drenched. And we were only 7 minutes in.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Welcome to Florida in July!

Hey, but at least it wasn't thundering, right? So everything was a-okay.

Once we hit the top of the hill near the new Engineering building, I peeled off to the left and Nathaniel continued on his own. I saw him briefly around the 16 minute mark, as I circled behind campus and popped out at the Overlook. He was running towards me, a look of quiet intensity ensconced upon his face. The ipod he was using must have been blaring something motivational, as he was looking solid, in spite of the pain I knew he felt.

As a full time flight student, he doesn't have the opportunity to workout as much as he used to. Bonus, it was a million degrees with lots of saturating humidity.

Did I already mention that? Oops - sorry!

And if it was possible, and I’m not exactly sure how, his shirt was even more drenched. It looked as though he had just jumped into the lake - fully clothed. At least he was wearing deodorant, as I didn’t get a whiff of anything gross as I passed by him going the other way.

As I continued on, I focused on my form, keeping my cadence light and quick. The sweat was dripping off my body, droplets getting flung forward off the tips of my fingers. As I wasn’t wearing a heart rate monitor, I had no idea of my zones or how my body was responding to the heat. I just kept going, foot strike after foot strike, minute after minute, clocking off miles as I kept going.

I soon found my rhythm and enjoyed the stillness of the early Florida evening. My breathing was steady, and there were points along the course where I forgot about my back, failed to remember my lack of running speed or lack of time spent running.

I was simply a girl out for a run, oblivious to pace or heart rate. Just 45 minutes, steady with a focus on cadence and form.

After 35 minutes or so, good feelings were (mostly) gone, and the heat really started getting to me. I faced a new hell as I passed the car – filled with its air conditioned sanctity, towels and ice water. For good measure, I glared at it, as though that really made a difference. Undoubtedly it didn’t, but I felt better after doing so.

Five minutes out and five minutes back. That’s all I had left.

I saw Nathaniel running on the other side of the street: his shirt couldn’t be any more wet, but he still looked solid, but took a right down University before I could yell for help. And thus I pressed on.

Which is exactly when the bargaining started.

If I finish this run, I can eat anything I want.

That’s a loaded weapon, all things considered.

But I wracked my brain, trying to figure out what exactly it was that I wanted. Anything heavy, hot, syrupy, dry, steaming, dense – was all out. Even ice cream sounded bad. No smoothies for me at this point.

I looked at my watch – 38 minutes. How could only 3 minutes have passed? I crested the next hill and started my descent towards the stoplight at the bottom. And then it hit me: Watermelon.

Ice cold, crisp, cool, sweet, juicy, and thankfully not heavy, watermealon.

And we had one, ready and waiting in the fridge.

All I had to do was get through the remaining 7 minutes, drive home and I could indulge all I wanted. Oh yeah: and wait for Nathaniel in the process.

Final 3 minutes were thankfully uneventful. My body had accepted its fate, and it never ceases to amaze me how powerful the mind can be. Stopping or quitting really wasn’t an option, unless the back was hurting or something felt wrong.

But for fatigue or heat? And with only a few minutes left. Nah – not worth it.

In the last :30 or so, I saw Nathaniel sprinting up the parking lot past the UWF water tower. I cheerfully greeted him and fell into stride next to him. Which only lasted about :10. The boy was intent of sprinting it in, so I let him go. And besides, I got a great view of his backside in the process.

Call me a sucker, I know. But we hardly ever run together – something about egos getting in the way. Seriously – he says that I’m too fast for him, and I don’t like the bodily noises that he makes. They are loud and violent-sounding. And unexpected. But we rarely run together, as our runs usually turn into a competition.

I guess that I’m still a bit sore from the 3 games of pool that he beat me at on our first date nearly 8 years ago. Yes, Greg – I do remember.

After grabbing our ice water, walking a lap around the parking lot, we piled in the car and drove home, chatting about the run and the heat. Yes Sherlock, it was hot!

And then: the watermelon. Success!

For tomorrow, I’ve got a long ride on tap. Looking forward to it, for sure. And even better? The other half of the watermelon sits ready and waiting in the fridge. Sweet!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thunder Thighs

Raise your hand if you watched Stage 4’s Time Trial during Le Tour.

(Now picture me with my hands raised).

Raise your hand again if you watched the time trial more than once. Twice? Any takers for three times?

(Again, picture me with my hands raised).

Not that I watch a lot of TV. I swear, I don’t. We only own one, and it’s buried in the far back bedroom, away from the living room and books and study and what not. But it’s there, and I use it plenty for trainer rides, movie nights, and sports dates.

Bull Riding, Tap Out, Arena Football doesn't hold a candle to Cyclism Sundays or Time Trialing on Versus. Trust me. And I’ve almost got Nathaniel convinced.

(whispered). For the record: I don’t watch PBR, Tap Out, or Arena Football. Regular football – yes. But none of the others.

Well, maybe just a little PBR. And I may have, on one occasion, watched Monster Truck Rally for 10 minutes or so. But that was it, I swear.

Scouts honor.

Back to Nathaniel and biking. Yes – much better.

A few days ago, he mentioned that he’s interested in biking because I spent all of last football season watching (and cheering for) his Green Bay Packers. After my long Saturday or Sunday workouts, I would shower, eat, and the collapse on the bed with him and watch football. Quite honestly, I didn't have the werewithall to resist. And it became a sort-of "date afternoon" for the two of us.

But, I took the time to learn the finer points of the game, discovered the true meaning of “Special Teams” (just the third team in football, aside from the defense and offense!), and could spot a penalty with the best of ‘em. Give me a flag, and I would be throwing to my heart’s content. A whistle and I’m downright dangerous.

So today when the Stage 4 Time Trial came on, I was ready to watch and cheer as loud as I could. And Nathaniel was by my side, asking questions and cheering on with me. There’s just something so inspiring about watching these athletes churn down the course, push their bodies to the limits, and fulfill their dreams.

Plus, and let’s face it, the whomp whomp whomp of the disc wheel sounds incredible. (Bonus: I don’t have to hear it while it and its rider fly by me on a course. Sweet!)

And before you balk at my three times watching the time trial, I didn’t watch every minute of each broadcast. I caught the tail end of one, watched the entire second, and saw flashes of the third (while Nathaniel was watching some show about Crab Fishing in the Bering Sea).

The boy has his limits, it seems.

But one thing stood out in particular, aside from the skin suits, the aero helmets (green goblins, based on how they share an uncanny likeness to the character of the Green Goblin in Spiderman 1), and speedy time trial machines.

The size of the rider’s quads.

At the start of the race, their quad muscles looked relatively normal. Well, as normal as cyclist’s quads can look. On the larger side – yes. But not massive. But still big.

However (and it was only after viewing the coverage 2 or 3 different times), by the end of the TT, rider’s quads were mostly the size of medium-tree-trunks. They were colossal, huge, hairless, covered in sweat, and solid muscle. Every striation, every fiber, every muscular bulge was evident, and I couldn’t believe the size.

The epitome of Thunder Thighs.

It made me think about how after some of my own tougher rides, my favorite pants seem to be a tad bit tight in the leg/quad section. But I don’t know if that’s so much from my ride effort or the post-ride ice cream “recovery” snack.

Hhhmmmmm.

The jury’s still out on that one.

So here’ to time trialing, cheering athlete’s doing what they love, post-ride ice cream, jeans with a small amount of spandex, and watching Le Tour. It seems to be a good one thus far (let's hope it stays that way AND clean!), and I’m looking forward to the next two weeks of racing.

Monday, July 7, 2008

H-O-R-S-E

Last weekend, Nathaniel and I proved exactly why we're not pro basketball players.

It started off innocently enough. Feeling lethargic and unwilling to run in Pensacola’s record heat (and humidity!), we set off for Milton to run aboard the loveley, air conditioned, and new gym on NAS Whiting. Post-workout, we planned on attending the 4th of July festivities, which just so-happened to be located in picturesque downtown Milton.

Running shoes, toiletries, spare clothes, sunscreen, visor, sunglasses, water bottles, ipod, post-workout snack, and everything-else-but-the-kitchen-sink-in-tow, we set off.

After dropping off all items in our designated locker rooms, I met Nathaniel in the main entry way adjacent to the gym, in preparation to make our way over to the treadmills.

“Oh look, sweetheart!” I exclaimed, my excitement rising. “Basketball courts! Maybe we can play afterwards!”

“Uh, sure?” He stammered, wondering where this was coming from.

“Come on, it’ll be fun!” I replied. Humph! I didn’t like it that he didn’t share my enthusiasm for the game of my youth.

For Petes Sake! I grew up watching Indiana Hoosier basketball with my Dad. My heroes were Damon Bailey, Todd Leary, Steve Alford, Calbert Cheney and Alan Henderson. Somewhere in my array of childhood memorabilia, I have the 1993 (or was it 1992?) Sports Illustrated cover with Damon Bailey driving around his Kentucky defender, during the IU victory over the Wildcats. For the record, I also liked Pat Summit and her Tennessee Lady Vols. But my crushes were reserved for the boys.

And besides, our household was all Indiana. And for good reason too: Dad earned his PhD from IU, and enjoyed watching Bob Knight. For the record, Knight did a lot for the university, cared about his players, and had one of the best graduation rates. Growing up, I idolized him.

Things are much different now. (Although if given the chance to meet Damon Bailey, I definitely would!). While I disagree with some of Knight’s antics, I do appreciate what he did for his students and how he took their education seriously.

Additionally, aside from soccer – of which I only had one season due to a newfound 8th grade love of running – I played basketball in junior high school. I was a small forward, who occasionally substituted for guard. Which is pretty funny if you know me; as I’m a mere 5 feet, 4 inches.

What I lacked in height, I more than made up for in motivation.

I could do wind sprints and practice lay up drills with the best of them. And though I couldn’t jump as high as my counterparts, I could make free throws and knew how to dribble. (Except for the one time when I dribbled right off my foot. Oops.)

Suffice to say, I didn’t find my calling in basketball.

Bud it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy a good game now and then, right?

Nathaniel could see the longing in my face and reluctantly agreed. “Well, maybe – if we feel okay after the workout. We’ll see.”

I’ll fast forwards through my run. It was 60 minutes: the max the treadmill would allow without being re-set. And I was entertained for the first 13 minutes by ESPN’s broadcast of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island.

Now there’s a sport I’m glad I don’t participate in. Can you imagine eating as much cheesecake, or hot dogs, or olives, or cherry pie as you could in a given amount of time? Ick! That's enough to put me off tasty treats.

And there's a scary thought!

It came down to a tie-breaker between Japan’s Kobayashi and the USA’s Joey Chestnut. SPOILER ALERT! After consuming 59 hot dogs apiece for the first 12 or 13 minutes of competition, the tie breaker was determined by which participant could consume 5 hot dogs in the shortest amount of time.

After watching Chestnut do some funky-looking ab stretches, I had my money set on him. Well, for that reason and because his mouth was bigger. I figured he could cram at least two suckers in there while Kobayashi would be lucky to get 1 and a quarter.

In the end, I would have won. But I’m not a betting man – er woman – so no go. But it did make the first part of my run speed by.

Oh, and I didn’t ingest a traditional 4th of July hot dog. I saw enough come up from the competitors, thank-you-very-much.

After completing my run, I found Nathaniel lifting weights. I quickly confirmed our basketball date, and we headed over to the new court.

There were already 3 people there, 2 guys who were playing a real game, and a younger kid who was kicking the ball across from one end of the bleachers to another. A future soccer player perhaps?

I quickly zeroed in on a ball, picked it up, and revisited my past. I saw all the great practices, passes, shots made I had made. I heard the crowds roar as I made a great pass or caught a rebound. I could feel the tension as I went up for a shot, sure that the taller girl guarding me would block. She didn’t – for the record. I could see the score board flip up 2 points as my shot went through.

Swish!

With the memories of my past flooding through my brain, I squared my shoulder, took aim, and let the ball fly….

Airball.

It would have been nice if the shot had even been close. But sadly, it was not. Didn’t even hit the net.

Just all air.

And that’s pretty much how the rest of the afternoon went.

Nathaniel, though, Mr. “I don’t know if I want to play” made just about every shot that he took. And couldn’t stop grinning.

Humph.

It was only then that he suggested that we play “PIG”.

“Why PIG?” I asked. “Why not HORSE?”

He looked at me, grinned, and replied, “Because with HORSE we’d be here too long. We’ll never leave.”

Double humph!

Just because I didn’t make my first 12 shots, does NOT mean that I can’t step it up when necessary.

I was just warming up.

But I accepted, figuring that my clutch left handed lay up or 3-point shot just right of the key would bring me through.

I won’t bore you with the details. But I will say, that no shots were made on either side for approximately the fist – oh – 20 or so shots. It was horrible. Neither of us could make a basket. It was beyond embarrassing.

“Look, we’re so awful that we scared them away,” Nathaniel exclaimed, as we watched the other 3 players give us odd looks and leave the court.

Yikes. He wasn’t kidding,

At this rate, we would be lucky to reach “P”, let alone pig. Great.

Eventually, Nathaniel found his touch, and the game would have soon been over. But once I picked up a “g” earning the title that I felt I had rightfully earned to my horrible performance (but I was still having fun!), Nathaniel said that we should change the game to HORSE.

“So you want me to be a H-O-R?” I asked, slightly bemused at my husband’s suggestion. Oldest joke in the book while playing this particular game, I know. But I couldn’t help it. What would you have said?

Thought so.

So our game continued.

But then something changed. I started making my shots.

No, seriously.

I really started making my shots.

The clutch 3s, the free throws, the soft jumpers from the left side. And thought my left handed layups were no-gos, it didn’t matter. We were still having fun.

Only this time, Nathaniel had racked up H-O-R-S to my H-O-R-S.

We were tied.

In the end, I got him with a small jumper from the right pocket. Totally unexpected, especially after being down H-O-R-S to zero. But my Jedi mind tricks proved elemental in my victory and Nathaniel took it well.

As he should have.

For the record, on our very first date, first date ever, he beat me 3 games to 0 in pool. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.

Not that I’m competitive or anything.

Thanks.

In the end, I realized that having fun and spending time with Nate was far better than making all of my shots. We had such a good time, laughing, joking around, and poking fun of each other’s air balls. I realized that just because I’m totally awful at something, it doesen’t mean that I can’t still have a good time. Or at least try.

Because in the end, I did find my 3 point shot.

Give it another practice or two, and I’ll get that left handed lay up.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Day of Numbers

It seems that today my day was filled with various numbers and combinations of numbers. Not really any other way to define it, so here we go.

3: Number of books I'm currently reading. "Moose" by Stephanie Klein; "In Pursuit of Excellence" by Terry Orlick; and "Cathedral of the Sea" by Ildefonso Falcones. All great reads thus far. Moose was hilarious and had me from the first paragraph. According to the front cover, its "a memoir of fat camp". But, with most great reads, includes much, much more. The Orlick book seems to be going around. After reading about it on Bree's blog, hearing about it from Eileen, and seeing it pop up in several other spaces, I thought I'd give it a try. And the final CS book has recieved much acclaim overseas, and is recomended to all who enjoyed Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End".

4: Number of times Anabelle has tried to make deposits on our carpet.

2: Number of times we caught her (in the act) and managed to salvage the poor rug.

2: Number of times Nathaniel lit off the incense after said deposits.

653: My new favorite number. Donna's number tomorrow! Yea!! Donna is racing at Lake Steven's 70.3 - GO DONNA! In fact, there are several races this weekend: good luck to all who are out doing what they love!

4500: Yards swam with Ludi today. It was a great swim! Out of the blue, she called me and asked if I wanted to join her for a swim. Do Fish Swim? Heck yeah! So I joined her in the pool and had a great time. Steady, focused, strong - and I found a great groove, felt strong in the water. Not necessarily fast, but consistent and solid. I even managed to whip out a 50 fly. Twice. Sweet.

10-15: Number of feet in the air that the water flew after getting struck by a major lightning bolt. We were stormed out of our mini-golf game this evening, and while driving across US-90 bridge, Nathaniel saw the bolt strike. Water exploded and he nearly ran off the road. I was happy to be tucked into the relative safety of the car. But the lightning WAS beautiful. And admired from the safety of the great non-outdoors.

2: Number of times I've watched Le Tour on Versus today.

1: Number of stages of Le Tour completed

3: Number of crashes from today's tour.

3: Number of times I involuntarily yelped while seeing/watching/hearing about the crashes.

4: Cups of coffee enjoyed this morning.

1: Trips to the grocery store to pick up coffee creamer for delicous coffee.

1: Number of Lemon Bismarks picked up from the store for Nathaniel.

Lost count: Diet Coke or Diet cherry cokes consumed. Well - it was the refills at dinner. I had the grilled chicken salad and Nathaniel had two wet enchiladas. And we sat in a booth, flirted with each other, and watched the cloud-to-ground lightning. Sad that we couldn't make our mini-golf "t" time - yes, but this was a great alternative.

3: Number of times Tabbitha hissed at Anabelle. We are making progress! This was a great day on that front!

36: Minutes before I go to bed!