Thursday, May 5, 2016

Track training

Ah yes, another post.  I really do use this as mostly a very lazy training journal.


Might As Well Enjoy The View While I have It

I'm writing this from the dining area of The Postage Stamp, the prettiest tiny home in the city.  The view is really unbeatable, but both of us are feeling the urge to upgrade to a little more space.  Several friends are also house-hunting, either to rent or buy.  Tis the season!

I do love the view here.  It's high, and green, and the Cathedral is really amazing.  Oh sure, today, everything is grey, but I didn't live in both England and Eugene, Oregon for nothing.  I have a secret  deep love of grey days.  The sun comes back soon enough, and my transparent Irish skin appreciates not getting the living daylights burned out of it.

 Running Track, As Told By A Non-Runner

I am not a runner.  I am not built like a runner.  I don't have any natural running grace.  If I am ever in a group attacked by a bear, I will be the one who gets eaten by the bear while everyone else escapes.  You'll tell everyone I was the Hero Aunt Who Bravely Sacrificed Herself To The Bear.  But the truth is just that I am slow as molasses outside in January, before global warming.

Enter the DC Front Runners.  I'd seen them in Dupont Circle, gliding by on Saturday long runs while I waited in line for my bagel.  I thought they were a super elite team.  And it's true- most of them are Super Runners.  They are lean and fast and all you really see of them is a blue blur as they swish by.

They also host track workouts in the spring, and I had a crazy idea it might help me with the running.  So I've been learning to run track.  I've never, ever run track.

It involves warm ups of laps, and then sprints around a track.  I'm starting to learn about sprinting- like, at first, I thought it was about running all conversational*, and then I tried pacing other people and found they were huffing and puffing.  And I died horribly after the first lap because I just can't hold that pace**.  I hit my pacing bang-on, but I am stuck at one speed.  So I think my challenge will be to learn the difference between speeds- what does it feel like to sprint and to kick.

*When we do warm-ups, we do a few laps at a "conversational" pace.  That means you can still talk to someone as you run.  Yeah, let's all giggle a little hysterically right now.  

**I run in the Green group, which is the second-to-slowest.  So the accidental pacing I did, I was pacing the Yellow Group, which is the middle group.  I did that for one lap.  Now I just try to be in good spirits in the Dead-last Group.  

Oh, that's right.  I think I'm finally learning what a kick is.  They have us do drills where we kick our own butts- quite literally- and skip, and swing our arms.  And apparently, if you swing your arms and pick up your knees when you are tired, you break out of the "I'm tired" shuffle, and go faster.  That is a "kick", and it's highly prized at the end of the race when you want to win.

Actually, that is useful.  Because in a tri, or even a long race, when I get tired, I start to shuffle.  I don't pick up my feet well and sometimes my shoulders and back round down.  That's bad form, and actually hurts a lot more than spending the extra energy to just keep standing up straight.  Who knew? 

Last night, we did hills.  I actually don't mind hills.  I find them interesting, and frankly, EVERYTHING around me is a hill.  The best hills ever were the Eugene ones- the ones near my house, where I'd run up the hill until I was about to drop, then I'd turn around and jog just far enough down to catch my breath, then I'd turn around and keep charging up.  It was usually a mile or two straight up, and then a lot of miles down.

It's actually great for you.  And I actually really recommend the "run until you have to stop, then walk down a little, then run up again" method.  It's legitimately tough.  

Our runs were a little shorted, because our coaches forgot how to do addition, but they are nice guys so we don't mind.  And as one of the slowest runners in this group, it is psychologically awesome when you get to the coach and you are 25 seconds over your normal time!  Your higher functions- like addition and reasoning- have conked out because your body is screaming for air and your vision has tunneled to just the few feet in front of you and your legs are burning and you can't think of anything except "There's the coach and the ending!"  So you look at your watch and think, "DANG, I'm fast tonight!" and feel happy.

Much later, they will confess to shorting the course by accident, but the psychological high has already released the endorphins.  Too late, bros.

Monday, April 4, 2016

New Bike Bell: The Results of Winter

Freezing Saddles really achieved its goal of forcing me to face my fears of winter commutes. I've started tacking extra miles on to rides now that it's nice enough to meander.

Strava has also proven that my commute really is uphill both ways.  Friendship Heights is a lie.  That place is a valley.

There's been no major bike mishaps.  Bikes@Vienna fixed a kink in my brake line (which might have stemmed from a minor crash earlier in the fall on a section of the Sligo trail that is so tricky it takes out strollers and runners and bikers every day!).  And then the shop taught me how to fix a flat tire.  The culprit was a staple.  I love it when the culprit is legit.

I don't love that the staple in my tire came from the awful construction around Friendship Heights.  It's so dreadful!

One casualty of the winter was my lovely teapot bell.  The striker snapped off.  Ironically, this occurred not during a ride, but when I was bringing it back in after the staple-removing trip.  I stopped at a place called H-Mart to get some groceries (it's the best place for ethnic groceries).  I had too much to carry, so I hung the bags from my handle bars as I rolled my bike in.  Note to future self: do not hang bag with large-size rice in it from handlebars.

At any rate, the teapot had a very loud, very obnoxious ring, like a *#%@!SHRING!@*#&%!!  It was a horrible tone that had at least one pedestrian tell me, "Man, your bell sounds AWFUL!"  It was so brilliant, because it could cut through most people's headphones while they leapt away in terror.  It did its job so very well.  Farewell, late lamented teapot bell!

I replaced it with a seasonally appropriate baseball.  This one might be even louder, but it has a nicer tone.  It's a bright cheery !!BRRINGGGG!! I also like that the striker is shaped like a tiny little baseball bat.

Picture pending, I guess!

I also finally found a small thermos for my morning coffee.  Other experiments using the travel mugs I had on hand were... precarious.  We had no major mishaps, but I did have to stop many times to re-close the travel mugs.  Travel mugs are made to keep things accessible while driving.  I wanted something I could put hot coffee or a cold drink into, and at work, sit down and drink my drink at the appropriate temperature. I finally found a nice thermos with a  screw top that I can toss in my basket.  AND it's only 9 ounces, which is proper drink size.   Many thermoses were 24-32 ounces, and that's just too much.

Another picture pending: my upload speed is SUPER SLOW!

Here's a little trivia: I prefer to shop local when I can.  I bought my S'well from Core 72, a little shop near my home.  I have stopped in a few times and not bought much because they have high-end expensive things.  The S'well was right in the price point I was looking for, and as it turned out, S'well has a nice company store.  But Core 72 didn't tell me about the S'well story.  She did tell me about the features of the bottle, but I kept researching on my own.  If I had known about the do-good properties of the thermos, I'd have bought it on the spot.  So small business owners, make sure you tell us the cool stories behind the stuff you carry!

Team 11 Has Won 2nd Place and The Normalizing of Lactose Intolerance

Over the winter, I did Freezing Saddles.  My team, by virtue of one long rider and a lot of dedicated commuters and a few sleazers, has come in second place!

I learned a lot:

-I like Strava.  It was really fun to "get to know" my team over Strava.  I liked seeing the team names and feeling the camaraderie.  Now that it's done, I miss it.

-I hate Strava.  I mean, let's be real.  I'm getting smoked by these guys going 20+ mph, and I know- I KNOW!- they are riding these space age carbon fiber machines with no load.  Meanwhile, I'm noodling along home from work loaded down with a pannier full of groceries (or once, heavy books), in normal clothes, on a folding bike.  So I look REALLY SLOW when in reality, I'm just on a particular type of bike.  So. Demoralizing!

On those days, I have to look backwards to Eugene to see that I was once that sort of a fast person in the hills.

-I built up a crazy cold tolerance.  As the temperatures warmed, other riders came out of hibernation. One day, I saw a guy coming towards me, wrapped up in thick lobster gloves with a balaclava and goggles.  He looked like he had consulted the Eskimo Almanac for the weather.  I was bare-faced, with just a jacket and a t-shirt under that jacket.  And it was in the 40s!  I needed gloves, sure, but I realized then that commuting through the snow definitely built my tolerance for cooler temps.  Hopefully, it'll work the reverse way with the heat!

-I experienced my first bike-related theft.  I left my grocery pannier on my bike while I was at the gym, and when I came out, it was gone.  Some weirdo stole my grocery pannier!!  SO WRONG!

So, health wise:

-Well, I struggled a lot over the last two years.  A LOT.  I just transcribed to my Evernote the essential points of the whole damn journey.  I'd kept a written journal of doctors' appointments and treatments from the time I came home from Mexico where the whole problem started.

Let that be a lesson to us all.  If you get a big illness, start a journal, in some form.  Written, computerized, engraved in stone, whatever works.  Just keep records!  Do NOT rely on the doctors!

-Why should you not rely on doctors?  The first doctor I had (who was awful) just wrote "Upset stomach" in her notes, for months!  She even implied that I was having psychological issues with my constant complaining of stomach problems.  That certainly delayed appropriate treatment, and allowed what could have been a minor problem to get much worse.

-Break the rules!  I found out about the horribleness of the doctor when she left the room during an appointment, and I snuck over to the computer to read what she had written.  The practice did not allow me to see my patient notes.  Yeah, I broke that rule.  And I'm glad I did. I walked out of that appointment, told the front desk to never schedule me with her again, and demanded a new appointment with a different doctor.

-It's worth it to try a different doctor.  Three days later, I was seen by a doctor who was Asian.  He was the first one to say, "You know, I see you've been complaining of stomach pain for as long as you've been a patient here.  Yeah, you do have e.Coli and we'll treat that.  But these stomach problems look like something else to me."

A few years later, I wonder if getting e.Coli (and all the subsequent testing) was the thing that uncovered my lactose intolerance.  Maybe e.Coli made it worse when it rampaged through my body doing so much damage.  Would we have uncovered it if it hadn't been for all the testing?

-Fire someone who isn't working out for you.  I was so, so angry the day I saw the first doctor's notes and learned she'd been dismissing my pain for months, while telling me to do things like very restrictive diets in order to feel better.  She wasn't backing her words up with science.  She didn't believe me or take me seriously.  She misdiagnosed a serious illness.  She didn't prescribe proper preventive care.
I learned from that. It took two practices to find the right doctor here in DC, but I'm better now.  I no longer have to take medications to regulate my blood sugar.  I don't have to take special multivitamins to help my body recover from a deficiency because I don't have anymore deficiencies.  I'm all normal again.  But it took finding the right doc!

-Well, I miss cheese.  Sometimes, I get grumpy when I have to ask about ingredients.  I wish I could just snag a croissant.  I keep hearing about people who let their guts recover and who eventually get back some ability to eat some limited dairy- like, they don't have to worry about the milk in a brioche, they can eat a croissant, and they can have clotted cream.  I really hope that is me, some day.

But overall, I'm happy to have the mostly untroubled gut these days.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The New To Us Excalibur

We have a new toy in the T kitchen.    We have dabbled for some years with raw foodism.  We did a challenge about five or so years ago and ate all raw for a few months. While we did resume eating cooked food, there have been elements of raw foods that we've kept.  Salad dressings, salad "recipes" (basically, good ways to put together a salad), green smoothies, and kale chips.

 Ooooh, the kale chips!    I have tried them in the oven, but nothing beats the perfection of the kale chip out of the dehydrator. It takes a while, yes, but it is crisp level ideal.

 We've been using a basic round dehydrator all this time, one of the ones from a major store.  It's been ok-ish.  All our food had to be parceled into small portions, and everything had a hole in the middle.  

When M started dehydrating meat to make himself protein snacks, it was clear that something had to change. The small dehydrator was simply maxed out.    The king of the dehydrator world is the Exaclibur. It's basically a big, frankly ugly box, but it's got square trays. That means more space for food and no weird holes.

So we decided to use the Wishlist feature at our bank to start saving up.   A chance check of Craigslist showed me someone nearby who was selling her 9 tray with a timer... Basically, exactly what I was saving up for, and about half the price I'd pay for new, plus it had the accessory of the nonstick liner sheets.

We grabbed our saved cash, chortled with glee, and booked to the back parking lot of a rural Denny's where two nice church ladies did a cash deal out of our back seats like really crunchy granola drug dealers.  On the bright side, the sort of person who is selling a fancy dehydrator is probably a lot safer than the sort of person selling, say, puppies on Craigslist. Still, we both brought our husbands, I guess in case the deal went south and we needed to fight our way out using stocks made of flax seeds and shivs from celery sticks.

 So far, we has discovered the Dehydrator is worth the money we paid.  It's drying things more consistently and better and faster than our round one.  We have made a lot of fruit snacks and he's made more meat snacks.  I'm excited because tonight, I'm trying dehydrator bread.  That's basically raw 'bread' made from flaxseed meal, veggies, and spices.  I've had it before and it comes out pretty neat, similar to a flat bread.  It's really filling, and it was a nice alternative to bread bread if you are watching your carb load.  I just liked the taste.  What I didn't like was the labor.

The recipe I did tonight used to fill up my entire round dehydrator, but it was only two trays of the Excalibur. It was a LOT easier to spread and now I know why raw foodists took the time to make the recipes. They all used Excaliburs.  It's much easier to load than a smaller machine. If it tastes yummy like I remember, this recipe will likely make it into my regular rotations.    Here's the big downside.  This thing IS massive. 
I would not recommend this for a small space unless you use a dehydrator a LOT, like at least once a week.   I also strongly recommend paying cash for this puppy.  When you first start down the road of dehydrators, it's natural to get excited and to want the best.  I encourage you to think about getting the cheap, small, big box store round style one, and trying that for a few months first  once the glow wears off, you'll know more about whether you want to keep dehydrating things and you can start thinking bigger.

That's where the pay cash part comes in.  If you think you might want a big one like this, save up your cold, hard cash.  It's going to be inconvenient and if you save up all that cash and you still want it, you will know it is right for you.  In this case, delayed gratification will really benefit your decision making.   Even so, if I had a pantry with the space or a spare room, this would go out there and off my counter in a jiffy.  We use our dehydrator often enough to make it worth it... Barely. Our kitchen is SUPER DUPER TINY!!    So that's our new kitchen toy  I'll report back on 'bread' when it's done!

The bread: Do not make the mistake I did and make yourself a sandwich to take to work.  It had gone major soggy by the time lunch rolled around.  Bleh!  I think it would be better to take ingredients, and assemble the sandwich on site.  I might also dehydrate the bread a little more.  I left it pliable.  But I haven't really had the chance to eat much of it!

On the bright side, the Excalibur makes the once-arduous process super simple.  I just spread the batter on a sheet and smoothed it out.  A few hours later, I flipped it onto a plain tray and peeled off the nonstick sheet.  Couldn't be easier.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Layering for a Cold Weather Bike Commute

I am playing a game called Freezing Saddles, where teams compete to see who bike commutes more throughout the winter.  It's definitely been helping me get out on the bike a lot more this winter.  Just today, I rode home via a new route- more hills, more miles.  It was pretty cold to start, so I was grateful for my layers.  I rode with all my layers to start, and shucked the top one off about halfway through.

When I checked Strava later, I learned that the first half of the ride is pretty much all downhill, and all the climbing was in the second half!  So I really did work harder.

As I've mentioned before, this is the Year Of Everything I Own Wearing Out.  My old layers are disintegrating (after anywhere from 5 to 14 years).  I mean, I have jackets and shoes that I've had since junior year of college.  I am not kidding when I say I hate to shop.

I started replacing layers in October.  One of my biggest needs, period, was a really warm coat for the winter.  All last year, I typically wore two coats.  I wanted one, warm, commute friendly coat.  I'm still not sure I found the perfect one yet.  I wanted something that worked for biking and for standing around at a bus stop so I could keep my commuting options wide open.

I wanted a 3-in-1 type coat, and I wanted it to cover my butt.  That shouldn't have been so hard, right?

I learned a very important lesson over three damp, drafty months.  When you buy a 3-in-1jacket, you are typically buying a ski jacket and the salespeople are thinking "SKIING".  They are going to fit you with room to layer up for downhill skiing.  They aren't thinking of bike commutes in DC, where I found that even in the coldest weather, I needed to layer far less than I thought.

I ended up buying an Alpine Alliance, size large...  and changing it for a medium last week.  This jacket really breaks in a lot, and once the newness and stiffness wears off, it feels a lot more roomy.  What was snug-almost-tight a week ago is now perfectly snug-and-cozy.  (The large had become loose and drafty and I was not happy.)  Ultimately, I'd prefer if it were about 4 inches longer (cover-the-bum territory, to make standing around a little warmer), but I can live with this for now.  I mean, it DOES have pit zips and built-in thumbholes, and I'll be able to use this for snowshoeing, so there's that.

I still need to replace my rain pants, which blew out earlier this season.

Every bike commuter is different and it WILL take you trial-and-error to figure out what works for you.  For my 4 miles-ish commute, I prefer to wear my regular clothes. I roll my sweater and sometimes my nice shirt up and slide it into my bag.  I usually commute in a plain tee.  I've found this works even on the coldest days.  Your mileage may vary; many ladies prefer to change once they arrive.  You do you!

I recently added a tube scarf- keeping my nose warm turned out to be a big deal.  I snagged one from Lululemon.  I was very hesitant to shop at that company, but they did have a good scarf with an elastic top.  It felt more snug than other options.  I also got a TurtleFur brand scarf/balaclava, but loaned it to M and he promptly adopted it.  So I'm going to have to go get another one!

Lobster gloves help keep my fingers warm.  Mine are at least 10 years old and I will cry so hard when they die.  (Probably next week, at the rate I'm going!)  Pro tip- a male commuter says he uses "shooting mitts" for his commutes.  He brakes with one finger.  If this is you, then check for "shooting mitts" to get that split finger thing.  I have reflective straps to go around my jeans cuffs.  I just wear regular shoes, mostly, but sometimes boots in icky weather.

I have a nice skullcap (Pearl Izumi), though my new windproof ear warmer from Outdoor Research has become my new favorite- I don't like a lot of bulk under my helmet and I have a TON of hair to keep me warm, so really, it's just about keeping the ears toasty.  The windproof thing is a miracle.

Finally, I found that plain safety goggles from Ames Hardware (about $10) do the trick nicely.  I have already lost one pair (I think they bounced out of my pannier as I was packing things up to jump on the train) and losing those hurts a lot less than losing my fancy glasses.  I'll keep my fancy ones for road riding.

So that's how I'm layering up for outdoor commutes.  I've got the routine down so getting dressed doesn't take me anymore time than grabbing keys and getting the car.  If I ride hard, it's about 25 minutes door to door, but I like to take my time and noodle through the nice neighborhoods and obey traffic laws, so it's usually more like 30-35.  This actually isn't that much more time than driving, and a little less than the train/bus combos, and I never get stuck in traffic.  So overall, I'm avoiding my major pet peeve.

Finally, the big caveat: I won't ride in pouring rain, driving snow, or icy conditions.  I've had a few bad falls and I'm not eager for a repeat trip to the ER.  And while I now have gear for those conditions, I am just not into suffering for suffering's sake.  If it's pouring rain, I'm using my bus app to tell me when the bus is coming, and I'm jumping on the bus where it's warm and I can chill and read the paper.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bike Commuting Through the Winter

Since I mostly use this just as a training journal and haven't been trying to reach out to lots of (or any) folks, I've been ignoring this blog off and on.  This post has been sitting in drafts for a month!

But I've still been on the bike.

Namely, I've been on my folder bike, Zelda, the Tern Link.  (Get it?)  Zelda is a fabulous little commuter.  I've thrown it on the metro more times than I can count- if the weather has turned nasty or if it's gotten darker than I'd intended to bike home in or if I'm just tired.  I've discovered some extra routes.  In good weather, it takes me about 25 minutes door to door.

I'm even learning the tricks of the keeping-warm trade, and my apartment just gave me a special key fob so I could get in through the upper garage door (and not carry my bike across the lobby all the time anymore).  I'm still working out the kinks- my three-layered ski jacket is definitely not the ideal bike jacket*.

Anyway, I've been riding in SNOW and ICE and SLUSH these past few days.  DC got socked with Snowzilla, a megastorm that raged for about 36 hours and dropped a lot of the white stuff upon us.  Minnesotans are making fun of us, but I support our weather wimpiness.  I moved here for a reason.  One of those reasons being I'm a weather wimp and I don't like snow.  The less of it the better.

Riding in snow and ice has been new to me.  Several Facebook friends have been calling me brave, intrepid, or stalwart.

All lies.  I am none of those.  What I am is stubborn and slightly competitive.  I signed up to play a game called Freezing Saddles.  My team is Team 11, and for every day I ride at least 1 mile, my team gets 10 points.  All that adds up.  I freely admit that I would probably not be riding in this weather if it were not for the fact that last week I was 12th out of 12 people on my team for consistency (I'd had a lot of night meetings and wimp days, ok? Don't judge.) and I felt bad.

When I am riding in the snow, I suppose I should feel free like a little birdie.

I do not.

I may feel a little smug, like last night when I jumped off the road and onto the sidewalk, and beat the bus home.  Or like when I rode past all the traffic backed up from Tenleytown past Chevy Chase because people in Maryland live under a government that doesn't know how to plow roads and everyone there has lost their mind and become infected by rage monsters who dwell in their car horns.  (Seriously, folks, stop with the honking.)

But I certainly do not feel brave.  In fact, what I've felt has been a mixture of anxiety, sheer terror, and occasional moments of irritation.  The irritation and flashes of rage are mostly reserved for taxi drivers.  They are the WORST for bullying cyclists for space.

I've had a number of interesting conversations with my Inner Anxiety Voice.  My inner Anxiety is totally the BFF of the Fear Emotion, and if she were an inside character, she'd be tall, cute, and curvy with a loudmouth- basically, imagine that Fear and Disgust had a little Anxiety baby.

Our conversations go like this:

"Oh, look at that ice. You are going to die. See that ice? You'll die there too. Oh, yes, and that ice there? The second you put down your foot, you are going to DIE HORRIBLY RIGHT THERE!! I bet you think you remember how to ride a bike"

"Oh, no," says Anxiety Voice, "You cannot ride a bike. Don't you think you'll tip over on this narrow snowblowed sidewalk section with fluffy snow on both sides? You will so tip over. And then die." I desperately seek out reasonably dry sections of pavement on which I brake slowly, slowly as if I were carrying a cargo of crystal goblets and babies, and put my foot down, praying that said foot will be firmly planted below me, instead of sliding out and away from me.  
"Ah," says Anxiety Voice, "Open road!  What a great place to die.  That area has to be covered with black ice.  And of course that's not just slush.  That's a solid SHEET OF ICE upon which you can die.  Yay, crashing!"  

It's been fun.  

I did pretty good through some of the worst snow, although sometimes I still "wimp out" and opt for other forms of transit.  

Every day, I conquer a little bit more of the anxiety birdie.  

*the ski jacket dilemma may have been resolved.  In frustration, I took it back to REI and had a conversation with a salesperson who, out of all the salespeople, concurred that maybe I was in the wrong size.  So I sized down to a medium, and lo-and-behold, a lot of the problems disappeared.  I'm not getting rainy or drafty spots in my shoulders (because water and wind can't go down my neck) and I'm not getting drafts from below (because it's snug enough).  So let that be a lesson to you.  Wear the right size of coat, y'all!  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Update to Lent

This year, I thought I'd give up Facebook for Lent, like I did last year.  That was actually helpful as it showed me how much Facebook had consumed my life, and how much I was curating my life to be palatable to a plethora of work friends... many of whom I had not met in person, but who were just associated through work fields.

I realized how much I didn't like that.  And I decided to eliminate work use from Facebook and to use it only for fun, so I could be myself with friends and family.  I kept only those friends I wanted to actually know in real life.  Every now and then, I go through my lists to be sure I am only Facebook friends with people I'd actually go out to coffee with.

This year, I decided to take a short sabbath from Facebook.  I took 10 days, though I realized from the start I wouldn't take the whole Lent period off.

I did need some time to think about what I'd DO for Lent.

I finally decided that a discipline that would be a little more painful this year would be no-Buzzfeed reading.  That's my biggest time waster now.

I think a discipline should take us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and how we related to other people and the Great Above.  Buzzfeed is, perhaps, the ultimate form of naval-gazing.  It rarely teaches me anything new and usually wastes way too much time.

So no Buzzfeed.  That's my giving-up.

And my taking-on?  I'm going to try and get an article published in a forum that is not a clergy one.  It'll require me to network and branch out from my comfort zone, and to discipline myself to work when I would otherwise be scrolling bug-eyed through the entire Internet.

I'll write more later about how that will help me understand more about myself and others.  But right now I have to go change for work.  I was going to hit the gym before work, but I realized I have time later to get to a class I've been wanting to try, so I'm going to go later instead!