Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year, new resolutions

Well, this is new. Usually I make no resolutions in the new year. Usually, I make Advent resolutions. But since I went Christmas crazy all Advent, I am now making New Years resolutions.

In the new year, I'm really going to be considering what to do with the blog. It started as a clergy thing and then morphed into a triathlon thing. When I look back now I realize the posts that are most helpful to me are tri-related posts. So this might be turning into a sort of online training journal, which makes me feel like other people are keeping track of me. Which is great for my motivation!

But I haven't felt much like blogging about issues that are important to me or the church- I feel like I participate in plenty of online forums about those so I just haven't been in the mood to be very serious in this forum. So I expect this will be mostly a tri journal for a while.

Other than that, my resolutions this year are to pay off debt- we are plugging away and I have a very ambitious goal which is part of my overall goal to become less obliged to major corporations. I use their products, but I don't have to be under a legal contract to them. This year, as we pay off our debts, I am resolving to get out of contracts on as many items as possible. My money will be my own.  I want the freedom to decide to drop a cell phone provider a a moment's notice or to not use cable. So maybe by the end of year- be free of at least two of the big debts and free of my cellphone and cable contracts. Yeah, I like that!

I resolve to get my off the bike mile down in the 9 minutes. I know when I am fresh and feeling good, I can roll off some 7:45 miles. So I think a 9: something mile is reasonable. For an Olympic!  I am doing Lake Stevens 70.3 in July so expect to hear about that training.

I resolve to regain my flexibility. After a ver painful leg spasm nearly derailed my most recent race (where I took 2nd in my age group, yeah!) I realize that I have really let my flexibility and core strength slide. I resolve to add Pilates into my post-workout and recovery days.

I don't need any bike resolutions. Ride my beloved BMC a lot. That's too easy.

Continue to be as healthy as possible. I'm considering doing the South Beach program again for a while because I like the recipes and the food and I feel like I'm in a rice and beans rut!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Strangest Triathlon Dream Ever

First of all... with my past as a parish priest in Southbury, CT, and my history of working with and supporting law enforcement officers, I am sure there are those who believe I am obligated to opine on the Newtown tragedy. 

I have decided to not blog about it, at the moment.  I said what I've been able to say in private circles, and what is being said in public circles on the Episcopal Cafe and on friends' blogs and in the media is enough for me to process right now.  

As the gun control debate ramps up in volume, I have only this to say:  Everyone can take pilot lessons to learn how to fly.  Not everyone should be allowed to fly a fighter jet.  

On to things triathlon.

I spent part of today puttering around town.  A friend helped me cement shut the tiny rip in my wetsuit, so that is all taken care of.  I must have torn it at Leadman.  It was my first race with volunteer strippers.  Man, I love the strippers.  They make getting the wetsuit off SO EASY.

For the record, strippers at a big race are not what you are thinking:  no G-strings, no spangles, no poles, no feathers.  They are fully dressed volunteers who help racers as they come out of the water.  Leadman was so much faster than I was used to, so I felt like I was grabbed, zipped, thrown on the ground, peeled, picked up, and sent on my way at lightning speed.

After I got home, I discovered the small rip less than an inch long.  No biggie.  It is a quick fix.

After that errand, I took my husband to LifeCycle to hang out.  I am planning to put aerobars on my bike this winter, so I was checking out what they had.  And then cooing over the tri bikes. I love my BMC, though, so I plan to spend this season competing on my roadie, with aerobars.

Anyway, LifeCycle has started dealing Gyst bags!  M gave me a Gyst a few years ago,
Christmas present!  (Hand still in therapy from the whole sad bike crash episode, which also explains my hair.  You can't style hair one-handed.   Bangs and layers should just be banned from my head.)  

and I adore my fancy transition bag.  I have the duffle.  It's SO organized.  It is easily one of my favorite triathlon things ever.  I can fit ALL my gear into my duffle, easily.  For bricks, sometimes I just take out the little mat.  Most of the season, I keep it packed up with my gear so it's pretty easy to grab and go.  In fact, my duffle can hold: a spare bag folded up at the bottom, two large bags, seatbag, bike tools, computer, bento box, food, drink, change of clothes including spare undies, after-race shoes (I wear crocs, which are hideous, but so good on my poor swollen feetsies!), headbands, spare hair elastics, swim gear, bike helmet, bike shoes, running shoes, race belt, sunscreen, chamois cream, sunglasses, race hat, two sets of bike gloves, arm warmers, arm coolers, and a bike jacket.

Fresh out of the box.  I pack it a little differently now...

The only thing that DOESN'T always fit is my wetsuit, which I usually wad up into its own wetsuit bag.  In fact, the only thing that would make my duffle PERFECT would be a wetsuit compartment.  I understand they made a tri-specific bag that DOES have wetsuit space, but I love my duffle.  At some point, perhaps I should try out the tri-specific bag.  But man, I love my Gyst duffle.  I gushed a little when I saw them at LifeCycle.

Anyway... here is the strange tri dream I had last night.  In the dream, I was racing Nations.  I woke up in a dark race hotel room, which I found I was sharing with four other girls.  No one knew what wave they were in or when their start time was.  I started unpacking my Gyst duffle, because even in my dreams, I apparently take my favorite bag, only to discover I had not put my race numbers on ANYTHING.  Anyone who knows me and my Extreme Checklist knows that I organize stuff at least four times the night before a race, and putting on race numbers is a precious little ritual!

I was slapping my number onto my bike helmet and stretching my swim cap over my bushy messy hair.  (I usually braid it for races, because it's so bushy, so this is ANOTHER problem!)  I was # 6.  I didn't have time to put my race number on my belt, so I figured I'd do that in T1.  I started into the water, threw my helmet at the water exit, and started swimming.  By the way, no one leaves their bike helmet at the water exit!  We leave them at the bike, at our T1

Except I couldn't go ANYWHERE.  No matter what I did, everyone was passing me.  So I flipped over and started doing the backstroke.  Just like in real life, the backstroke is my secret weapon.  I started whizzing along and came out in the top few people of my age group.  I ran to T1... only to discover that the #6 bike was not mine!  I started searching the racks for my BMC, which I call "The Badass Mountain Climber", or simply "The Badass".  No bike.  I look at # 9, thinking maybe the bike rackers had gotten it racked wrong.  The race organziers start trying to help me find the bikes, and make me look at every single 6 and 9 bike in the football-field sized transition area.  609, 906, 606, 909, 999, 666, 536, 539, everything.  No bike.

Badass, where are you?

At this point, I looked at my watch.  Usually T1 takes me 2.5-6 minutes, depending on how large transition area is.  My watch showed me that I had been in T1 for 14:30, at that point.  I was getting frantic.

Part of the T1, in the dream, was inside a hotel.  I ran into the concierge, a tall Italian named Martino.  He looked a little like M, except he had a large handlebar mustache and a thicky meaty Italian accent.  Dashingly, he started trying to help me.  He offered me rollerblades.  He offered me one of those outdoor ellipse machines.  He tried to convince the race makers to let me do the ride indoors on a hotel stationary bike.  He got a local farm to lend me a cow to ride, except that I'd have to milk the cow first.  He handed me two enormous camelback bladders, explaining that I could easily fit the cow milk into there, and then the cow situation would work.  I went running out of T1, Martino the Concierge chasing me with the cow-sized Camelback bladders.

Finally, I ran into my own personal savior: Leslie Knope.

Come on, admit it.  If everything were going wrong, you too would want Leslie Knope on your side!  She was able to find that my bike had been delivered to the hotel, having been mis-directed.  She and I were sprinting through the streets of DC, which were growing upwards and changing direction like Howarts' hallways, seeking the hotel so I could get my bike so I could try to salvage this race.

And that was when I woke up.

Small wonder that I was starving for a nice bunch of biscuits and vegan gravy for breakfast!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Grown Up Version of the Monster Under the Bed

Over the summer, we suffered a great deal of trauma with M's car breaking down in Idaho, leaving us trapped in Podunkalunk, Idaho for a whole weekend, and eventually leading to a multi-state getaway plan involving point-to-point rental cars.  There was swearing and crying and phone calls to sympathetic relatives.  At the end of it all, his car was still in Idaho, and I was left to make sense of a repair bill estimate of over $7,000.  The phone was ringing with the car place wanting to know if they should start that work or not.

At this point, I was praying "Please let it be the timing belt..."

Small wonder I shoved everything into a Pile of Horror and Terror, and left that pile in my study all summer and all fall.

Responsible adult note: I did what I needed to do to appropriately deal with the problem. In the end, the car was shipped home and repaired here and all was well.  It is just the mass of paper that I didn't deal with.  

But I was terrified and EXHAUSTED by all the paper.  I don't know why I was terrified, except that I am a very financially nervous person.  And my memory of the summer involved a big business asking me to give them way more money than I had handy for the purposes of giving them, and me saying no to the big business.  But today, because I had several pieces of OTHER important writing that need to be completed, including the final revisions on my sermon (ahem, self), sorting out that pile seemed to be my top priority.

I turned on the Pandora (enter "Straight No Chaser Christmas" for a really cool station with lots of acapella and alternative, if that is your thing) and got to work.

Astoundingly, I was able to throw out more than half the pile.  Everything else in the Pile of Horror and Terror turned out to be simple household paperwork that I filed in no time, and a huge amount of paperwork from the Idaho repair place.  Since we didn't have them repair the car, I had pages and pages of paper that had no meaning.

Wow.  It feels so happy in here.  Most of the stuff in my Pile of Horror and Terror was nothing but a monster under the bed.

And better than that, with the Paper Monster dealt with, the Urge to Purge is also gone.  My whole house feels festive, even though all I did was eliminate the paper monster.

Isn't that weird?

One of these days I'll learn how to rotate a picture.  This is not THIS year's tree,
but it is ONE of my past Christmas trees.  

Happy Christmas!  (Don't tell the Advent police on me!)

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Advent Police Will Never Catch Me!

On the bright side, I have some great friends for Advent.  The Bishop posted a really lovely shot of his classy Advent tree- all white lights and evergreens and pretty little bird ornaments.  Good job, Bishop!  You are so patient and seasonally proper.

How do my colleagues stand me this year?  I'm humming Christmas carols and refusing to behave myself for Advent.  I did successfully fight the urge to buy the big tinsel Christmas tree for my desk.  Just barely.

Meanwhile, I am already stuffing stockings!  I was singing along with Christmas music in the car, and have started my holiday gift making.  I have a couple of eyes to sew on, and some cranberries to soak.  I had a TON of fun this week making a HoHoHo stocking for a little boy I don't know.  It was really, really fun.  I crowd-sourced on Facebook for advice about kid stuff.

Meanwhile, M's stocking is full!  I added a few little fun toys- you know that little $1 section at Target?  I get some silly things from there for stocking stuffers.  And now, all that's left is one last gift and I can pack up the boxes to mail to the relatives in Connecticut and Maryland and Colorado.

I can't write about one of the presents I'm most excited about in case my sister reads this.  But I took pictures!

M gets home next week, not that I'm counting.  (I'm totally counting!)  He's been gone since June, with just three days back in September.  That is no fun!  My hat is off to military families who endure multiple deployments.  It takes real dedication to make a relationship work with this kind of distance.  Perhaps some day I'll write about what we have gone through these past 6 months.

I don't know what it is, but I feel this urge to purge like crazy.  I've been gleaning clothes and books and sending them to Goodwill, and reorganizing things.  Simplicity is fun, though I'll never be a minimalist.  Maybe I have suddenly adjusted to this crazy upside down house...  

So the Advent police better not catch me, being all merry and jolly before Christmas is actually here!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Being Christmas in an Advent World

I'm really lucky to be in Eugene/Springfield.  All the Episcopal clergy get along really well with each other.  We even do a regular clergy bible study at the sushi coffeeshop (it's a coffeeshop in the morning and a sushi restaurant at night, and I'm often tempted to try ordering salmon roe for breakfast).  

Last night, it came to pass that several of us were eating dinner in the company of the Bishop, who was down in our area for his annual visitation to Resurrection.  (St. Mary's had theirs a few weeks ago.)  The Bishop told us about his Advent tree, which is just like a Christmas tree, except that it's covered in Advent ornaments.  When Christmas comes, down come the Advent ornaments and up go the Christmas ones.  

I thought that was a pretty cool way to have lots of ornaments and to get to change out the decorating throughout the season.  I might try that some year!  

In the meantime, I know that, as a Christian, and a clergyperson, nay, as an EPISCOPAL PRIEST, I am supposed to love all things orderly and Anglican, and I am supposed to be all "Advent conspiracy" and "waiting expectantly for the coming of the Savior" and all that. 

Normally that's fine. 

This year, I just want Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.  Last year we skipped Christmas, and it's like all the holiday cheeriness bottled up and bust its cork on Thanksgiving afternoon.  I want the Christmas lights, I want the Christmas songs (except the terrible ones), and for love of Santa, give me Claymation Rudolph and Boris Karloff narrating the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  

This year, I don't even find myself super-annoyed by the mall, which usually makes me insane.  Instead, I find I am actually enjoying the sparkly lights.  I am totally mellow about the parking spot search.  

It's very strange.  

For some of you, this probably sounds normal.  That is because you are not clergy, and you don't spend your days with colleagues who are theologically proper and appropriate.  Me?  While I'm mostly behaving at work (other than teasing my co-workers that I will totally pull out my Advent blue vestments and go running down the aisle before they can stop me in our purple, purple church), I am enjoying the Year of Christmas Before It's Time.  

I will also love you grammar fiends, who will parse the apostrophe in that sentence.  It works EITHER WAY.  It DOES.   Bwa ha ha ha ha!  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Oh my. What I Did Last Night

So a while back I got into a Facebook trash-talking thingie with a priest friend.  He'd graduated Seminary, gained a bunch of weight while wallowing in misery, moved to California, found heaven-on-earth for his family, decided to get healthy, dropped 80 pounds, and said something about triathlon.

Somehow, that turned into us challenging each other to a triathlon.  He's never done one before and somehow got the idea that full Ironman was the way to go.

Some people do that.  Full Iron is their one-and-done triathlon.  Me, I like the whole multisport thing and my teammates are really fun and cool, so I have fun with ALL the different distances.

Besides, I didn't think I'd be ready for full Iron, so I managed to talk him down. (Isn't "I like the multisport thing and all my teammates" a nice way of saying "I'm not ready for I am a worm and no runner"?)

That is why I registered for this.  And so did my friend.  And most of my teammates.  There's a WHOLE BUNCH of us going.

Lake Stevens, July 21.  All I have to do is up my speed and put in some good bike time so I can take my awesome BMC head-to-head with his Cervelo R3, which is also a sweet bike.  One of my friends here Oregon has one, and I looked up the results from the last race we both did.  She was faster than me on her R3, by a little over a minute.  But I'd only had my BMC for four days.  So I think the bikes are pretty evenly matched.

It is SO on, Gates.

And... I sorta can't believe I actually registered for an M-dot.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dumb Cat Story and Fastest 5K Split EVER!

So I've been doing a lot of speedwork, following a 5K plan out of Runner's World, because I wanted to get my speed up a little bit.  The last week has included some big gains as I clocked a 7:47 mile the other day, but the weather and the darkness has been troublesome.  While I've done all the speedwork outside, I admit to chickening out and doing some of the "long slow" runs indoors by means of riding my bike on the trainer.

I love my bike.  Is it really cheating on the run to ride your bike for an hour and a half instead?  I'm clocking some respectable mileage indoors this year...

Today, the plan called for a 6-7 mile run.  I woke up completely blue and lonesome.  And really mad.  My demon cats had come downstairs in the middle of the night.  At one point, I was jolted out of a sound sleep by a light bonk on the head, followed by the ghostly fluttering of something large and white.

It was not a ghost.  It was my curtains which hang behind my headboard all artistic-like.  They had somehow ripped them off the wall, and also ripped the curtain rod down!  Origami was perched on the headboard, twitching his tushy like he was an actual hunter.  He then launched himself at his brother, who was hiding at my feet.

I kicked and squirmed and yelled until they both jumped off and ran away, and then dropped back to sleep wondering why I had agreed to cats and not a dog in the first place...

So I was really cranky when I woke up (for the second time) this morning.

I decided to head down to the Valley River Center access point to the river paths.  Those are some lovely flat paths, great for a nice fast run if you are in that mood.  I hadn't run the Valley River Center section in a long time, so I figured it might be a nice change of pace.  I locked my car, layered up with a beenie, arm warmers, tights, and a jacket, and went out for a loosen-up stroll.  I was a little over-layered, evidenced by my stripping off arm warmers and jacket within the first mile.

As I got started, while my iPod was playing some awesome songs, my legs and gut were just not  feeling it.  My left hamstring has been threatening to bug me with some tightness and my feet were leaden and my legs felt like sandbags.  So I gave it half a mile, and then decided to kick it up a bit and just put in a 5K sufferfest and see how it went.

It was perhaps the most miserable run I've had in ages. I certainly got the price of admission out of that sufferfest. I kept feeling like I could push it just a little more if I only had the energy and willpower or was 10 pounds lighter or SOMETHING.  I am clearly the worst runner ever.  Why do I do this?  Why was I not riding my bike, like all the other sensible people out there?  I was totally going to quit and ride my bike for the rest of my life.  I just felt like I was running underwater and couldn't MOVE.

At the 3-ish mile mark, I checked my phone to see how my time was, figuring I'd be clocking a slow-and-miserable time.  I strongly considered a little crying.  Or at least whining.

I was totally shocked to see that my time had just clicked into 25 minutes.  I thought it must be a mistake, so I checked my watch, which concurred.  I'd only been out there just over 25 minutes, and was almost at 5K.  So I pushed it a little harder... to come in at a 5K split time of 25:55.

Oh, yeah.

After that, I decided to finish out the 6 miles.  My second split was definitely longer, but I don't know exactly how long.  Sometime in there, I accidentally turned off my GPS app, so I don't even have evidence of this fantastic run time!

That sure lifted my mood for the rest of the day.  I also saw four separate rainbows today, three from my back deck.  So it was  a very pretty day, AND I got my long run in before the steady afternoon rain started.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Year After We Skipped Christmas

Last year, we canceled Christmas in our house.  M had spent a good portion of the year traveling to Maryland as his father declined.  He died in early December, and by that time we were both exhausted.  After M got back from the funeral, we just didn't have the energy to do anything for Christmas.

We just wanted to climb into a hole and ignore the universe.  Instead, we cancelled Christmas.

Cancelling Christmas was kind of awesome.  We stopped doing anything beyond what we had already done.  The only decorations that went out were our stockings, because I had already pulled them out.  No tree, no lights, no presents for anyone, no cookies, nothing. The only thing we gave each other was the one gift we had already purchased (we'd each gotten each other one gift before we cancelled Christmas), given to each other at midnight on Christmas morning.  And he came to work with me, and we did the first annual St. Mary's Christmas Day brunch, and we went home and I spent the afternoon reading my new Kindle while he watched non-Christmas TV.

It was nice to have the grounding of something to do, like make brunch at church, even though I was so wiped that all I wanted to do was skip everything.  Seriously, if I weren't the priest, I might have even skipped services.

Here's the secret.  If you are wiped out at Christmas because of death, it is totally ok to skip everything, up to and including Christmas itself.  

Unless you are the priest.  Then put on your big girl pants and show up for services.  It'll be ok.  There are other ways that priests can skip Christmas.

A number of worship places offer a service around this time of the year that they call "Blue Christmas" or "Longest Night" services.  They recognize that not everyone has a wonderful, happy joy-filled Christmas.  Hartford Hospital and LifeChoice used to do their Organ Donor Family memorial service around this time of year, and would give out this wonderful pass.  It was an all-purpose, get-out-of-anything pass that said something like, "Thank you for inviting me out.  Please understand that I appreciate your care and love.  I am not able to participate in this activity this year.  I hope you'll invite me again in the future" and on the back, "The Mourner's Pass".  I don't have the wording down verbatim, but it was genius.

In COPS, we used to tell surviving families that it was ok to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Sometimes, families would share how they would leave town and go on a cruise over Christmas rather than participate in all the rituals without their loved one.

In our case, we had known my father-in-law was going to die for a very long time.  When he finally died, I don't think M felt traditional grief so much as a sense of relief that it was finally, finally over.  He was just exhausted.  It's a different sort of grief.  Losing a parent takes adjustment, even when you expect it.

Taking Christmas off was the best thing we did.  I hope my family understands why we just holed up and left humanity behind.  I don't even remember if we sent the kids gifts, and quite frankly, last year, I just didn't have the energy to care.  It's kind of amazing to me, now, to remember last year and how absolutely dead-tired inside I felt.  I literally had no energy for Christmas at all.  On the few hours during the month that I mustered up energy to feel Christmassy, I remember feeling kind of pissed off at the bad timing of everything.

I sure hope I managed to mask the pissed-off part of things. 

But this year... now this year, we have energy again.  It does not feel completely exhausting to think about presents.  Sure, we are separated by distance while M does more education, but we have plane tickets in hand for him to come home.  We have plans for what to send the nieces and nephews.  It doesn't feel like a black cloud of exhaustion and endings hanging over us this year.

So this year, even though it's just me in the house right now, I have hung up the Christmas lights on our back deck.  M loves these multicolored LED lights.  Those suckers are INTENSE.  They are tiny, heat-free, and super, super bright.  Personally, I'm a white-lights-in-the-house kind of person, but you compromise in a marriage, dammit.  And this year, my tasteful white twinkle icicle lights finally died, so I had no choice but to put the multicolored LEDs outside.

And now, you can see my house from space.  You're welcome, astronauts.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thrive (the book) and the Off-season

In the off-season, I tend to experiment with food.  One year, I ate raw for two months.  Another year, it was South Beach.  Last year, it was meat-eating.  I never stick to it long-term as I'm not a fan of long-term extreme anything, but I have found elements I like in all plans.

This year, I wanted to find something that was vegetarian and athlete-friendly.  Plenty of vegetarian recipe books and diets are not written with endurance athletes in mind, and I wanted to find some good go-to recipes for next season when I'm starving and need a lot of calories fast.

Most recently, I've been playing with the Thrive book by pro vegan triathlete Brendan Fraiser.   I really appreciate the advice and work of vegetarian endurance athletes.  I like how he gives me recipes that  cut out processed foods.  I like how he talks about fueling and nutrition- nutrition being what we do every day and fueling being what we do before we do a workout.

He's got a lot of good ideas, some nifty recipes, and a lot of information that I would love to see better citations on, but I can live with it.  I tweak some of the recipes a little.

I eliminate anything involving beets.  I hate beets.  I have tried them a number of times cooked in different ways, and M makes the only beet recipe I can stand, using golden beets.  Otherwise, this vegetarian just really hates beets.  In my mind, red beets are the favorite food eaten by demon clowns in hell.

I have concluded that I don't really like broccoli or cauliflower either.  I may be a vegetable eater, but there's just certain ones I just don't like.

Anyway, goals for this off-seaon include me working hard on my speed.  Now that I have a strong base, I want to be a little faster and a lot stronger.  I feel like I can push myself harder now that I am no longer worrying about "can I finish this thing?  am I even capable of surviving this?"  After Leadman, I feel like I could survive anything.

I just want to survive it FASTER!

I was mad to miss out on the chance for an outdoor ride/run today.  It was raining hard enough that I opted out of the ride- road bikes and moderate-to-heavy rain is what got me in trouble that time that I crashed and snapped my hand in half.  Ouch.  I no longer ride road rides in weather like that.

I was planning on a run, but after I got back from doing my least-favorite chore (grocery shopping), I discovered that I had mis-saved my sermon that I wrote two days ago and got to spend my afternoon reconstructing a sermon.

Grrrrr.... hopefully, I can fit that long run or workout in tomorrow somehow!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tempo Run

I've been following one of those handy dandy plans out of Runner's World to do some speedwork.  It's the cheap version of training.  So I've been doing intervals, easy runs, and tempo runs.

So guess who pulled off a 7:47 first mile today, followed by an 8:02 second mile, uphill?

This girl.

That is all.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Man, it's cold out there!

It's winter in Eugene.  Which means rain, and not just rain, but an intermittent, cold, damp sort of rain.  It's the sort of rain that you cannot allow to keep you inside, otherwise you'd be inside from pretty much October until May.

Liquid Sunshine.

The bad part of a cold rain: it's cold.  I hate being cold.  And it's hard to find a right-weight sweater.  Cashmere can be too hot.  Knit can be too cold.  True story: when we first moved here, I realized that my heavy cashmere was too warm for most of the time, and my three quarter length sleeve cardigans were too cold.  So I went to the store and bought a few new sweaters to keep me alive.  I got home, and discovered a huge stain on one of them.  I asked my beloved M to go exchange the sweater for me, but when he got to the store, they had no more of that particular sweater in my size.

So he returned it for cash, bought a special bottle of wine, and made me dinner.

It's probably the sweetest way to freeze your wife to death, ever.

We are racing the Holiday Half 10K in December.  It's another one of those "everyone at St. Mary's runs!" races.  The Boss is running the Holiday Half, and I signed me and M up for the 10K version.  Are you running any of the distances?

My goal is to keep my time under 1 hour for the 10K, and to beat a 30 minute split on my 5Ks.  My stretch goal?  55 minutes.  I've been hovering at that 5K-30 minute mark for a while now (which is typical when you live in the hills and every run ends with a giant hill climb), but I've found that on flats, I can hold a decent 8:02 mile.  Considering that three years ago, a fast mile for me was 10:30, I'm stoked.  So I'm following a plan that I got out of the British edition of Runner's World to beat a 30 minute 5K.  I wanna see if I can get faster this season!

Today I headed out for a 3-4 mile tempo run- that means you just run at a good pace- not too easy, not too hard- whatever you can hold steady for 3-4 miles.  It was darkening and cool when I headed out.  I wore my highlighter-yellow jacket and my firefly ankle straps from Road ID- I could actually see my ankles glittering in the light as I took steps!  those things are REALLY visible!  I never run without my Road ID, and for the first time, I noticed the stitches on that are reflective as well!  Cool!

As I rounded one loop of the run, it started to sprinkle.  Within a few minutes, it was coming down hard enough that I could feel it through my jacket.  I decided to head for home and got to my door at exactly three miles, soaked and chilly!

Three bowls of soup, a hot shower, a fluffy sweater, a pair of fresh warm socks, and sitting-in-front-of-the-roaring-fire later, I am finally warm getting warm again.

Man, that was cold rain.  This running plan had better pay off!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Most Awesome Use of a Pulpit Ever, in the History of Christianity

When I first arrived in Oregon, the Bishop of Oregon was cleaning out the basement at Diocesan House in Portland, and I scored an awesome pulpit.  A little refinishing later, a shelf, and bingo, I had a pulpit bookcase.  It lives in my house and serves well.

Lately, I've become totally obsessed with the idea of the walking desk and standing desk.  I read way too much about how sitting kills us, and I have been noticing myself that sometimes, after I've been working for a while or gotten lost in a book or a show that my body (my bum, my back, and my elbows) tingles or feels sore as I get up.

It's a sure sign I'm sitting too much.

I was totally entranced by the idea of the FitDesk and wanted one instantly.

However, the Vagabond is currently being very careful with her funds.  After the Summer of the Car Disaster requires me spend my energy to replenish my emergency funds, and after the Recession Continues To Wreck My Life in so many ways, $250 just didn't seem like the best use of my funds. Especially since I"m about to sign up for the Lake Stevens 70.3.  I could go to a race... or buy an exercise bike.

Easy choice, right?

But it didn't make me stop wanting one.  In the winter, I ride tons on the trainer anyway, so the idea of a desk top that I could use while I pedaled slowly was just entrancing.  Because I ride plenty fast the rest of the time.  Just the idea of being able to wiggle and squirm while doing work is appealing.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell me again how ADHD manifests in girls?

Anyway, I started wondering to myself if maybe I could borrow a drafting table from someone and jury rig something when I remembered the height of the pulpit bookcase.  I pulled out the books, pulled up the shelf, and now I introduce:

The Holy Roller.

AKA, the Most Awesome Thing Ever Done With A Pulpit.  

Can't be sure, but I'm pretty sure the Rev. Ref is DYING of jealousy right now...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dia de Los Muertos

And now for something a little different!

Usually, since almost no one reads my blog, I save it for writing random tri and training related things, almost like an open training journal. 

But since I just returned from Mexico, I wanted to write up a little about la Dia de Los Muertos, the day of the day celebrations.  I attended these celebrations with las hermanas, the Benedictine sisters my group was staying with.  

It's rare that we get the opportunity to say, "Wow, I really had the wrong idea about this event!" but it's true, in this case.  Everything that I had learned in the States about the day of the dead was entirely wrong.  

Thanks to a strange mix of Disney cartoons and a Sunday school teacher with a strong fundamentalist bent, I had some vague idea that the day of the dead involved dancing skeletons, attempts to ward off evil spirits, and priests praying to keep people's souls from coming home ever again.   Somehow, sugar skulls were involved and Goth people wore skulls as decoration while the rest of the people used them to trap the spirits.  

That could not be more wrong.  

First of all, there are indeed skeletons, but it's not a scary dancing figure of doom.  Meet Katrina.  

Katrina is a name for an elegant, high class woman.
This is the figure of death- well-to-do, not wanting for anything, classy, gracious, and beautiful.  

The day of the dead is the day when the souls of the departed are welcomed home to their family.  I'm not comfortable enough in Spanish to fully understand what the soul does in the year after it has died- does it travel?  Does it wander?- but on the day of the dead after the first year in which that person died, the soul comes home. 

The family builds an elaborate altar.  
One of the altars with the food offerings, including fruit and pan de muertos, the bread of the dead.
Which is delicious, by the way. 

The altar usually has an effigy of the person, with fresh new clothes and shoes laid out with a sugar or a seed skull.  Surrounding the altar, there are candles, icons, and all sorts of offerings.  There will be reminders of things the person liked to do, like a clay model of a bull-riding person or cigarettes, and bowls and dishes of their favorite foods.  There will be all sorts of autumn flowers around the altar.  Marigolds are very much in use.  In addition to being in the arrangements, the petals will be scattered in a path out to the door or even all the way to the streets to help the deceased find their way home again.  
In between the flower candles, you can see the seed skull, and the red shoes at the base of the altar.  There's a large canopy protecting this altar from the open sky above, and lots of food offerings!  The striped, small candles in the lower right are the sort of candles people bring as offerings.

Outside the home, a street fair that feels something like Mardi Gras meets New Year meets Halloween is going on.  Families who lost someone within the last year have elaborate flower signs with that say "Welcome home, Mama Irene".  

"Welcome home, papa Esteban."  On the floor, on the right hand entrance, the marigold pedals are scattered as a path.
This is what you do: you ought to be carrying a small offering, such as flowers or a pack of candles.  (Helpful street vendors are ready to sell these items.) You go to visit each family, and you pay your respects to the survivors.  You give the family a small offering for their altar.  We were following a priest, who said a short service at each altar.  

And then they feed you.  They give you something like a tamale or taco, or punch, or coffee, and in one case, a hearty glug of tequila.  

In some houses, the family is a little sadder, but in many cases, it seems the community is celebrating a life, and celebrating a reunion.  The dead aren't seen as scary, but rather, as beloved family members come home after a separation.  

The next day, everyone goes to the cemetary.  And I mean, everyone!  It was so crowded!  There was street food everywhere!  By this point, I was beginning to experience severe problems in my tummy.  Perhaps the vegetarian should not eat a bunch of greasy meaty street food, you think?  That didn't stop me from buying the coolest deep-fried potato thing I've ever seen. This thing is a single, spiral-cut potato, impaled on a stick, and deep-fried.  
One single potato.  With chili sauce.  From the image of my poor belly, you can probably guess how I was starting to be in abject misery.  But I just don't learn, do I?  And yes, it was delicious. 

 The Big E needs to know about this sort of thing.  America, look what we are missing!  

There's a Mass done by the priest.  The cemetery party takes a brief break- meaning that some people go sit in the lawn chairs near the chapel, but most of the people just take a break from shooting off their firecrackers.  People set up the food from the altars the night before on the raised graves, and join their families for a great celebration picnic.  

My impressions is that it was very communal and extremely colorful!  Even the graves who didn't have a family to picnic on them had some flowers placed on them.  No one was left out. 

It’s kind of sad that we don’t have anything like this as part of our cultural consciousness.  It seems to be a great way to bring families together around people they cared for, and culturally, it seems to remove the fear and loathing of death.  As one theologian explained during our classes, evangelism can be difficult if your faith rests on the hope of the resurrection and a future in which you are reunited with your loved ones.  “Why do we need resurrection”, he recounted one family asking, “Everyone we love is with us right now.”  

Lake Stevens. It is on.

So a few weeks back, I was Facebook chatting with a friend, and somehow we ended up challenging each other to a half-Iron distance tri.

What with one thing and another, we called the challenge for Lake Stevens, next summer.

This means I'm going to be racing against a guy who is one of those fellows who lost a ton of weight and got fit.  These guys are tough and fast- they build up a lot of muscle from carrying their extra weight, leaving people like me whining in the dust.

Granted, I could afford to drop some poundage in an effort to increase my speed as well.  Since my diet is pretty clean and healthy at this point, I don't think that restricting food/calories would be beneficial to me at this point.  No, I think it is time I start focusing on speed.  The last few years, I was focusing on building the base distance, so I could go that far without hurting myself.

Now that I know I can cover that distance, it's time to push my comfort zone.  Intervals, fartleks, and feeling-the-burn will become part of my life.  I also think I need to recommit to weight training-  I've been doing almost exclusively distance, and it shows.  I cannot be the slightly chubby girl this year if I am to represent against this friend.

That's a triathlon friendship, by the way.  "Hey, buddy, ole pal.  Wanna hang out?  Let's have an endurance race to the death.  Yeah!  That's so much fun!"

In the meantime, I'm also considering ways to minimize my sitting.  I think I sit far too much and I want to change that.  I'm considering getting a FitDesk but can't decide if I should try the $80 fits-on-my-road-bike model, or the stand-alone-exercise-bike model.  On one hand, I like the idea of staying on my regular geometry of my road bike that I love.  On the other hand, the stand-alone model seems like I could ride it in normal clothes, which would be more conducive to work.  And then keep my road bike free for road riding all the time!  (Or actually, for riding trainers, too.  It's really rainy today!)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Back home, returning to life

I managed to return safely from Mexico.

It was an amazing trip- maybe one of the most fascinating educational experiences I've ever had the chance to be on.

On the downside, aside from the altitude issues, I accidentally brought home a little more E.Coli in my gut than I should have.  

I did see several triathletes at the Xochicalco pyramid.  It's obviously a popular big hill climb, like a giant-size version of our Skinners Butte.  I saw one woman ironman jersey crawling her way up that hill, and was clearly fighting for that hill climb.    

Near the end of the trip, at Dia de Los Muertos visitations, I got a TON of food that included a LOT of greasy meat and some punch that wasn't made with filtered water.  I'm sure I'll talk more about Day of the Dead celebrations, but in the meantime, I should mention how careful I was to drink only purified water the whole trip.  Until the punch.  And it is probably that a vegetarian should perhaps have not eaten four tamales, a taco, and a burger with fries, plus coffee and two types of punch, even in the name of hospitality.  

That is why I'm now on a round of Cipro and (two hours after the Cipro) stuffing myself with probiotics (doctor's orders).  My poor tummy was actually distended with unhappy bacteria, so now we are wiping that slate clean.  And that's all we shall say about that.  

So my plans to get back into training this week and take advantage of any nice day that came along was derailed by the overwhelming desire for oblivion to claim me and transport me from this plane of misery.  If you've never had E.Coli Overabundance, you haven't missed anything.

After a few days of nuclear-strength antibiotics, I have become able to feel enough energy to cook.  And I think maybe tomorrow, I'll try tossing in a walk or a walk/run interval.

Next season'll be here before I know it.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Arrived in Mexico!

Yesterday's flights were charming and delightful in the way that only air travel is.  After a 3AM wake-up call, the kindest people in the universe (John and Susan) picked me up at 3:30 AM for a ride to the airport. 

I was thrilled to find out that I was going to be bumped from my Houston to Mexico city flight.  No, really, I was thrilled.  It came with a travel voucher, so with M still residing in Harpers Ferry, WV, my little vagabond eyes went "cha-ching!" as I plotted ways to use my voucher for a visit!  Plus, I have enough friends in Houston and little enough shame that I absolutely would have called one of them and thrown myself on their mercy.  Sadly, this was not to be, as other people missed their flights in Houston and I couldn't get bumped after all. 

But first things first.  I got to the Eugene airport before Security even opened.  And then my flight left before Full City opened.  This means I got a thing of vending machine water, and I was pretty mellow because I figured I could stop in Denver and grab breakfast.

That flight went faster than anticipated and we landed early.  That's when I found out that my next flight was boarding in 10 minutes.  So I started walking... and discovered the new gate was approximately eight miles away from the old gate.  So I kept walking and walking. And walking.  And walking.  My Osprey Porter (the one I got for England this summer) continues to impress- easy to carry, quick to convert into a backpack, and small enough that not a single flight attendant gave me grief. 

That flight was also non-notable, except that thanks to the short layover, I only had time to go to the bathroom and no time to get a bite to eat.  No problem.  This was a short flight asn I would soon be in Houston, getting bumped and having lots of time.   The most interesting thing on this flight was a seat neighbor who ignored me completely, but was playing this fascinating looking game on his iPad. 

Along came Houston.  As I got off the plane, I discovered my next flight had begun boarding 10 minutes ago, before I'd even landed.  Cha-ching.  I decided to get to the gate, and to grab a bite to eat after I'd collected my winnings for being so kind and gracious to be bumped.  I saw a nice old man waitig to get on the plane, and the gate agent took my info.  I was thrilled.  Look, I'd get to help a nice old man. 

Then it happened.

The gate agent said, "Wait, the other person is missing their flight too.  Hold on, I bet we can get you on this flight." 

"Oh, that's okay," said I.  "This nice old man really seems like he wants to go on the plane, and I haven't eaten at all, and I've got a flexible schedule.  Really, I don't need to be there until tomorrow!" 

"No, no, no," they said, reassuringly.  Really, they could have been much more brusque.  "You have priority!" 

Bummer.  The one time I don't want it, I'm the most important person ever.  Which explains how I ended up crammed into a sardine can next to a very round woman, who was very upset that I had made my flight, and had very pointy elbows and made quite a point of overflowing into my seat at every chance.  She'd drape her clothes over my armrest, put her feet into my foot section, and shift herself to talk to her seatmate until she was half in my seat.  I had a hard time getting stuff from the stewardess, she was taking up so much space!  Really, it was not even the physical space as much as it was the emotional and mental space.  Hmph. 

My biggest worry was that, since I was arriving a day before the main group because I couldn't get any Thursday flights, that the Sisters wouldn't know to pick me up.  That was not a problem, and I was met at the airport with my name on a sign, and taken in a taxi to the convent.  I knew myself well enough to not risk Vespers in case I got sleepy, and dinner came quickly. 

Dinner... authentic Mexican food cooked by people who have no qualms or desires to Americanize anything.  Can we say happy tummy?  Yes, we can say happy tummy.

The night was rather restless.  Between the warmth, the humidity, the over-abundance of blankets, and my general nature, I didn't sleep well at all until nearly 4AM when I finally dropped off for good.  I woke up around 9AM their time, which is about 7AM Oregon time.  So I guess I fell asleep around 2AM Oregon time.  Not terribly terrible. 

I woke up with a killer headache, but a little Aleve took care of that.  I know that, at this altitude, I need to be super careful to force hydration. The sisters are worried I have high blood pressure due to the travel to the altitude (many of their guests have elevated blood pressures on the first day or two) so they gave me "fig leaf tea" and strict orders to drink, drink, drink.  They are also feeding me like a Portuguese great-grandma.  So I will not starve for sure!

Not sure what sort of email or internet access I will have, so updates from the Vagabond as I... err... vagabond about might be erratic.  Especially since I left behind my iphone charger!  Really, I remembered my other chargers and the charger bases... I cannot BELIEVE I left the iPhone charger home.  I must have dropped the cord as I packed stuff.  So annoying.  We'll see if I can borrow another classmate's when they arrive later.   

Friday, October 19, 2012

Who ordered the life chaos?

It's sure been chaos as the program year gets underway, and I try to make my life work all by myself while my M continues working 3,000 miles away.

I don't think I like the bicoastal couple thing as much as I thought I would be OK with it...  

I'm experimenting with a new type of program, a panel discussion event on Sunday afternoon.  Previously, the Sunday afternoon events were single speakers, and we'd arrange a fully served meal.

This time, because I'm worried I've been overtaxing my cooks with all the events they've done and all the ones coming up, the committee wanted to try it potluck style.  It could be great... or it could be a colossal failure.

I fear colossal failure.

This could be control freak issues, but also probably has some roots in my perfectionist tendencies.  If things aren't perfect, I get very upset, usually because I fear someone will be mad at me.  As a committee, we know it might take a few events to work out all the bugs.  But I just want everything to be perfect the first time!  And it won't be!

I'm also leaving for Mexico for a language immersion in a week.  No matter how much I study, I don't feel like I've studied enough.  I've been listening to Spanish language CDs to get my ear used to the language, I've been studying my vocab so much I feel like I'm in high school... and still I feel like my mind is made of water.  Nothing is staying in there, and every time I see one of our Spanish congregants, all my language work flees out of my head, leaving nothing but "Nos vemos!" left behind.  ("See you later!")

Not to mention that I'm way behind on my laundry and if I don't do laundry today, I'll be going to Mexico wearing a pair of fleece lined running tights and an old camping sweater.

Hopefully, Mexico will help relax me just a little.  On the bright side, I did find Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in Spanish, and have been working on translating that.  Because I know the story so well, it helps me feel grounded and in control.

Hmmm... is there a control freak theme developing?

Meanwhile, M is still in Harpers Ferry, being a stellar intern and earning huge kudos from bosses.  And the federal government is a giant mess and freezing hiring until after the election.  F* the government and our stupid congress' inability to work together to do anything, let alone pass a budget.  (Really, Congress, I have very little patience with you right now.)  Stuff like that is affecting my personal life a great deal!  If Congress would have passed a budget, M could get a job, and then he could finish his fellowship and come live with me again.

I always said I wasn't the type of girl who NEEDED a man.  Cue damsel with blousy top and bosom, drooping into the arms of some muscular stud.  First of all, I am far from damsel-esque and I totally don't have the rack to pull off a heaving bosom.  But I've found I really do miss him.  I like having another person around the house.  And while he's messy... well, the truth is that I'm pretty lazy when I'm lonely.  And that's why I still have my race belt and Camelback on my table from last month.

Maybe I should be cleaning today?

At least I got a nice run in yesterday.  The rains have returned to Oregon, which is how we say, "Winter is coming!" in Oregonese.  It means that the next six months are going to be an adventure like a live-action puzzle, as I bring various workout pieces to work with me so I can shoehorn in outdoor playtime whenever the weather lets up for an hour or so.

The last few days I have woken up to thick, pea-soup fog outside my window of my house in the hills.  But it has burned off to leave gorgeous cool, clear blue sky by afternoon. So yesterday, I got all hopeful and tossed some running stuff into my Beetle's boot.  And as the afternoon was winding down, the weather peaked to perfect, so I headed out for a nice run on the Ridgeline trail.

Trail running makes me feel so super-star!  All that leaping over roots and plugging away uphill makes me feel so fast and heroic.  Granted, I'm probably running 14 minute miles, but I *FEEL* superhero-tastic, and that's what's important.

One friend tries to remind me that it's not the speed, it's finishing the event.  The sage within nods, sagely and wisely.  But the perfectionist whines that I could be faster, thinner, stronger, smarter, richer, living in a bigger house, doing a PhD, and home cooking pancakes from buckwheat I grind myself.

Maybe the running helps me run away from that perfectionist little twerp within.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Finally... HAPPY RUN!

It's entirely possible I might have had an epiphany this weekend.  Trail runs are super-fun.  I went running on trail and hit that happy runner's high that everyone talked about... where not only did I have plenty of leg left, I actually wanted more running once I'd stopped.

It was so weird.

We've all known for a long time that I am simply not a natural-born runner.  All those long, lean gazelles who breeze across pavement with huge smiles and tell me that the "running is the best part" kill little bits of my soul every time.

I am typically just miserable on the run.  Short runs.  Long runs.  Late evening.  Midday.  Early morning.  Well-fed.  Not fed.  High on caffeine.  Hydrated on the purest water. It's pretty much just a sufferfest, no matter what.

With lots of hard work, I've gotten to the point where- when I push it- I can hold down an 8:02 mile on a flat surface, with lots of huffing and puffing and quite possibly some crying.

So this weekend, I was  at the Episcopal Church Women retreat for St. Mary's.  Traditionally, one of the highlights of the weekend is a little three mile hike around Suttle Lake.  This year, after the hike, two of us decided to run the hike backwards.

Holy tamales.

We hit this beautiful set of dirty dusty rollers and it was just such an easy run.  For once in my life, I actually felt as if I was not going to die.  I have no idea how long it took us or how fast we went.  I actually ran without my heart rate monitor or stopwatch.  I know.  CRAZY!

I get so wild in the off season.  

The next morning, we got up early, two of us, and went running again.  I had a miserable night, being way too hot in my down mummy bag.  I am not a morning person on my best days. But this was really fun.  (After I woke up a little.)  We climbed a big hill and ran through some gorgeous open trail, with views of sunrise over the nearby mountains and deer and flowers and all sorts of postcard-perfect nature stuff.

Then we went on one of those long slow climbs that is usually a total soul-sucking experience.  Usually long gradual hills kill my desire to live and bring out all my swear words... but this one actually wasn't dreadful.  It was a climb, but it was so gorgeous I think I forgot to suffer until it was too late.

I didn't even say a single swear word, out loud.  (But I sure thought a few especially when my sneaker picked up a few rocks and twigs that got jammed right against my Achilles tendon.  Ouch.)

And I think I realized that I must be a trail runner.  All my best runs have been trail runs.  And all the misery is on the road.  So it's going to be off the road for the rest of the fall for me, and off to seek out the best trail that Eugene has to offer.  Because when I'm leaping over rocks and tree roots, it's like having a superpower.  Kinda cool.

But don't tell anyone I actually said anything about running was remotely cool, or I'll lose all my cyclist street cred!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Care and Feeding of a Vegetarian Endurance Athlete

Sadly, no pictures because I'm still updating my Iphone.  I fought the update because I didn't want to lose my Google maps, but finally went for it so I could get Do Not Disturb.  Plus I'm lazy.

I managed to scrape out a few hours downtime today.  In this season, when I have programs kicking off right and left, it gets pretty busy at work and it feels like it is hard to break away.  I have Vestry tonight- it's the elected board of an Episcopal Church and I must make my Assistant Rector Command Appearnce!  Seriously, our Vestry is great.  They run tight meetings and are really fun to be around.  But when I have Vestry meetings (or any night meeting, and on weeks like this one and last week where I'll be working Friday and Saturday), rather than come into the office 9AM to 9PM, I flex my time so I can do things like get groceries and wash laundry.  I tried to hit the post office today but the line was out the door, so no packages shipped.  (Sorry, M!)

Things are feeling pretty good in the off-season.  Today, I managed to shoehorn in a short speed run (24 minutes as hard as I could).  I've decided to not use my GPS trainer app for the fall, but just run by feel for a while.  I want to just have fun and enjoy the good weather while it lasts.  There's plenty of time to do mile splits.  

In other news, I made a crazy pizza last night.  I've been reading Thrive, by Brendan Brazier.  He's a vegan Pro triathlete, so I figured he'd know how to feed endurance athletes.  The problem I run into with most diets and meal plans is that they just don't have athletes in mind, so either the calories are just too low, or the carbs/protein/fats aren't balanced for an athlete's needs.

I have been really excited to find Thrive and NoMeatAthlete, since they are both vegetarians (or vegans) and endurance people!  I feel like I can finally relax and eat without doing a ton of math or planning or substituting.  They talk about nutrition (what we eat to have healthy bodies) and fueling (what we eat to make our training sessions the best they can be), which makes sense to me right now.

So the crazy pizza I made from Brendan's book has a gluten-free "crust" of quinoa and seeds with a tomato sauce and veggies, which are then baked over a lower heat of 300F for a long time.  I didn't know what to think about that crazy-looking "pizza", but it was delicious.  If you like your veggies, you'd be happy!  I love an excuse to have huge slices of extra veggies.

The only drawback is that it is incredibly bulky, so it takes forever to eat.  I might be late to work this morning because it's taking forever to get my pizza eaten.  It's 5PM... seriously, it took me all day to finish eating that thing!  It was hard to be hungry for "snack time" because I was so full from that pizza... which was delicious in case I didn't mention that.  Just huge.

So I think I'll be experimenting with Thrive recipes, making energy bars from NoMeatAthlete, and trying to be super-flexible in both mind and body.  (I've also been doing yoga and Pilates at night to loosen up my stiff muscles, and work out those crampy calves.  Good results so far with no spasms or cramps, even after today's hard, hilly run.  Since I normally cramp easily, something is going right!)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Plans for the Fall

Well, it's one week post race.  The first few days I just did a massive amount of sleeping.  Then I worked a few 12+ hour days due to some very exciting things happening at work (like installing the Boss as Priest-in-Charge and pulling off a massive party!), and spent part of my "day off" catching up.

For the record: I do think self-care is important, and I'm usually pretty careful about taking my day off.  But sometimes (like in the start of the program year), I need to work a little extra in.  It's not a frequent occurrence, and because of this, it doesn't bother me.  This Friday I was working on lesson plans for confirmation class and studying a Spanish sermon.  The lesson plan shaped up nicely, but I'm afraid I was defeated by the Spanish sermon, and will turn it over to one of my congregants to read.  *deepsigh*  Ah well.  That is why I'm heading to Mexico at the end of this month.  I need to study more!  

As far as plans for the fall, I think I will be working on my flexibility and core strength.  And doing some mountain biking, and trail running.  And if a century comes up on a free Saturday, I might not say "no".  I would love to get a 100-mile ride in on my BMC in its first season, and I know I've got the miles in these legs.  Even after 70 miles up a mountain in Bend, I could have kept going!  (Have I bored my readers- all three of you- with my constant proclamations of how much I love that bike?)  

Basically, I am going to go trail running because I get bored so easily while running and I am amused by leaping over roots and rocks.  

And mountain biking... well, I tend to find I get more comfortable with bike handling when I spend more time on trails.  After a few road crashes, I've gotten a little nervous with the falling thing!  MTBing freaks me out... in a good way that pays off on the roadie.  

As far as the flexibility and core strength- I really haven't spent much time on the mat recently.  I'm feeling about as fit as I've felt in a few years, and I would love to capitalize on this.  I think I'd like to work on speed this winter... and that's not going to happen if I don't lay some groundwork of getting back in the habit of the massive stretching and core work I used to do in Arlington!  There was a reason I used to be able to pace 15-17 mph... on a 37 pound hybrid over 50+ miles.  

In the meantime, it's also a crazy busy fall at work, so I imagine that posting may be less frequent than it has been during the summer.  On one hand, without a race to prep for, there's less for me to obsess about.  On the other hand, it's just so busy right now!  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Race Report: Leadman Tri Epic 125

Note: No Pictures.  I just haven't had time and I am swamped with work.  So I'm posting this before I forget and so you rabid fans of a crazy priest can see what I did Saturday.  I might edit it later! 

I was in bed by 10:00PM the night before the race.  I was thrilled to have a suite with a kitchenette so I could heat up the food I brought from home.  I indulged in a small beer and about 1/2 an order of onion rings from the hotel bar.  A little grease calms the antsy stomach.

I set three alarms and a wake-up call for 4AM.  Before my brain had fully accepted it, I was up, out the door, and on the bus heading to the swim start.

Race Day

Race day was far from dawning.  At 4AM, it was cold and dark, and I was very thankful for my sweatshirt.  There were a lot of cold triathletes on the bus- did someone leave a window open?  At least the cold water would feel warm in comparison!  I hate jumping from warm air into cold water, but I love cold water in cold air.

I settled myself into a seat on the bus... and who sits behind me but the Fat Cyclist himself.  The poor guy had been stalking me all weekend, so I throw him a bone and say hi.  We chatted a little about being nervous before a race.  I tried to choke down a PBJ, usually my favorite sandwich.  I managed to eat a few bites and consider that heroic.

The Swim- the High Point and Low Point of the Race

Big kudos to the Leadman people: they run a tight ship.  We started right on time.  Before I knew it, my swim wave was called, and I surged into the water to get acclimated.  Problems started right away.  I've been working super-hard on my swim, all summer, and was really nervous to know if the hard work would pay off.

Unfortunately, I was so nervous I started hyperventilating as I headed out to the start. I couldn't get out to the left where I like to start.  I couldn't seem to calm down despite any of my normal tricks.  I felt like I was minutes behind everyone else, even though I was in the midst of the crowd.  As the swim started, I started strong... too strong.  I was right in the middle of the group, and immdiately got kicked in the head by five or six girls, crawled over by another, and another one grabbed my foot.

Note: none of this is a bad thing, or illegal, or means that anyone was trying to gain an unfair advantage.  It's just the way a swim start is.  

I got so upset and nervous that I actually threw up.  I tried to crawl stroke again, but each time I put my face in the water, I'd hyperventilate... and the men in their wave were coming up fast!  So I turned over, and started doing the backstroke.  Oddly, I discovered quickly that very few people passed me when I was doing the backstroke.  I had a great view of my competition, and plenty of air.  I was even sighting like a champ over my shoulder.

I ended up backstroking all but the last 200 meters of the swim.  I didn't calm down enough to crawl until the very end. Even then, as I stood up to exit the water, my foot caught on the carpet, my leg spasmed, and down I went.  I was able to hobble to the wetsuit strippers who basicially threw me on the ground and stripped off that suit in record time.  My leg started to unkink, and I limped over to bike.

Oh, by the way, as I've been telling this story, people have asked about the wetsuit strippers.  This is the first race that I've had strippers.  They are nice volunteers who grab you as you exit the water, unzip your wetsuit and pull it off you, and then throw you on the ground and pull it from your feet.  They help you up, hand you your suit, and off you go.  And yes, you wear your tri suit or swimsuit underneath.  Nudity is against the rules!  Trust me on that.  

Bike Ride- 70 Miles of the Most Fun Ever

The bike is my happy place.  Thanks to my strong swim, I came out with a ton of bikes still on the rack.  In fact, only one girl on my rack beat me out of the water!  Yeah!  As I started my ride, I took a second to enjoy the morning light and the breeze in my eyes... um, breeze in my eyes?  I realized I'd lost my goggles!  Thank goodness a spectator had seen them go flying and came running out to hand them to me!  Thanks, stranger dude!  

Once on the bike, everything feels better.  I could stretch my tight leg. I started to push nutrition, and because I was in my happy place, I could chew and swallow normally.  For the first 20 miles or so, I was hardly ever below 20 mph, zooming over the rollers.  It was cool to be far enough up in the race that I could see the pros from the 250 go zooming past me.  I saw Jordan Rapp pass by, and McKenzie Madison looking super strong on her BMC.  I only saw three BMCs (including mine and McKenzie's, and I'm pretty sure the last one belongs to Ben Metcalfe, who also lives in Eugene) all day, so I felt nice and exclusive.

This was definitely a tri-bike dominant race.  I counted maybe four other road bikes, so I'm guessing that maybe there must have been maybe 10 of us on road bikes.  There's certainly a camaraderie between roadies in triathlons- whenever I passed or was passed by another one, there was usually a head nod or a shout of "Road bikes rock!" I've also heard that the winning relay team rider rode a straight-up road bike, because she is amazing, that's why.

It was definitely a climbing-dominant race.  I was very grateful to live in the hills where I can do hill workouts every day!  So as that 20-mile mountain climb started, I found myself powering by a few tri bikes and some roadies.  I heard later that some people had to walk up that hill.  I'm proud that I didn't walk a single step.  In fact, I only stopped three times:  once for a potty break, once because I dropped my chain with a clumsy shift (and was back and moving in under 30 seconds!), and once because my left leg cramped up badly again and I had to stretch it out.  But it was otherwise a real 70 mile bike ride for me.

The 18 miles of downhill into Bend was worth the pain.  I achieved a top speed of "Don't Tell My Mother" on that swoopy downhill.

 The Run- According to Plan

I had a little advantage this running race- I knew about the hills.  I was surprised to find out how many people were expecting a flat run!  I was so ready for these hills.  I had planned to walk the uphills, run the downhills, and jog the flats, and just go aid station to aid station and knock those miles off one by one.

This is pretty much what happened.  I grabbed my arm coolers (best things ever) and pulled them up as I headed out of T2.  After a quick flat (good for getting our legs) we headed off pavement onto trails!  It felt like a really weird cross country race for a while there as we leaped over trails and jumped embankments.  I'm pretty sure I ran across someone's front yard.  At each aid station, I would slow down, pour a cup of water over my arms to keep the arm coolers wet and cool, and dump another cup over my head.  I'd drink a cup of Heed.

The run is the only place where I think I didn't go as fast as I could have... I could have pushed the run a bit more if I'd wanted to.  I was afraid of blowing up.  I found out later that the next girl up in my age group was exactly one minute ahead of me.  I saw her and chatted with her on the start of the run.  She was battling.  She earned that spot, for sure!

The End

Once I hit mile 8.5, I knew I had this thing in the bag.  At 9 miles, I started pushing my pace as much as I dared.

The awesome volunteers were closing intersections as I came along, which felt really cool to have cars stopped by volunteers wearing yellow vests and carrying official stop signs.

Soon, I was forward mobilizing along the final stretch, and as I turned towards the finish chute, I could hear them announcing my name and saying something about how I looked strong.  I have no idea how did they did that.

As soon as I came through, they gave me the medal that is big enough to be a cheese platte and shoved me into the waiting arms of the medics.  The medic asked me a bunch of questions, none of which I can remember right now.  I remember a sensation of great pain, and being curious as to why she kept asking me how I felt.  I hope she did that for everyone, because otherwise, I must have looked just terrible!  I finally convinced her that I wasn't going to keel over.

I was all done.  And all that was left was to find teammates and celebrate.

The end results:
-Our team's shop owner and coach and all around super person won the 30-34 age group in the 250.  She fought through a lot of pain for that win!
-One of our guys came in second in his age group.
-One of the girls came in first in the 30-34 age group in the 125.
-My team is so hardcore and fast.
-Matt Lieto stated his top speed on the downhill was only 51mph.  My top speed was 45+, so I figure I have just 6 or 7 miles to equal Matt Lieto's speed.
-The above was a facetious comment.  I will never beat Matt Lieto in speed.  But he does have a cute puppy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pre-race Report: Pulling My Act Together

So it is over and done!  

At the beginning of this year, I decided that this season would be a great year to jump up to the half-iron distance.  Sadly, nothing fit into my schedule!  Until one day, I read a post on one of my favorite blogs, The Fat Cyclist, who mentioned the Leadman Epic series.  Bingo: Saturday, and within driving distance of home!  Better news: the swim and bike were much longer than a regular half-Iron, yet the run was several miles shorter!  It was music to this weaker runner's ears.

I mean, seriously, the ride looks like this.

Was I worried?  Heck yeah.  This race got into my head big-time. Between fears that I was so slow I would time out of the race and worries about the altitude, I was a total wreck.   

Pre Race Meeting
As I checked in, I saw some of my teammates.  Teammates always make me feel better!  I am both an extrovert and a lemming.  I followed them like a lost puppy pretty much all weekend.  The Multisport Advantage is full of incredibly nice, incredibly tough people.  They are all totally on my team next time I put together a Twister tournament.  

I made it to the pre-race briefing to get last- minute info and course changes.  I noticed it seemed like many of the questions were repetitive, and then I found myself asking a repetitive question as well.  Maybe other people were as nervous as me!  The race director was funny and patient, though, so he must be used to people like us.  

I was so nervous that I didn't notice a thing unusual until two blonde women changed seats to sit next to me in the shade, and I saw their Fat Cyclist t-shirts.  I realized I was sitting next to the Hammer, who is one of my personal heroes.  I said hello.  The Fat Cyclist was sitting behind me.  

On Meeting Fatty and Family, and Other Tri Celebrities
Fangirl meets personal hero (The Hammer) and Fatty and The Swimmer.
Also currently about two feet from Matt Lieto.  Tri Geek heaven.
Suspect Fatty was totally thrilled that I am shorter than he is.

In the hubbub after the meeting, I went about my business.  This is a good time to mention that this race had me freaked out, since I haven't said so yet.   As in, so-nervous-my-hands-were-shaking.  I was having a hard time overcoming the nerves to eat, so I decided to force myself to eat a sandwich.  Just at that moment, the Hammer showed up and asked to introduce me to Elden (the Fat Cyclist).

I am not at all sure what I actually said but it came out something like, "I'm sorry, I'm buying a sandwich".  (It's the new "I carried a watermelon".)  After about a minute, I realized how horribly rude I'd been and introduced myself properly and behaved like a civilized adult.  

I was quite tickled to meet Fatty and family.  I can confirm that The Hammer is one of the nicest, sweetest ladies alive.  She was so great and encouraging!  And her daughter was also upbeat and positive.  And Fatty is also extremely nice. That guy really, really loves bikes.  He just radiates bike love.  

 He was also totally excited to meet Matt Lieto at the awards ceremony.  He's a geek that way and it's fun.  

I was too giddy about being two feet away from Matt Lieto to say a thing.  If I could have spoken, I'm sure I would have spoken utter gibberish, punctuated by adoring noises at being in the presence of greatness.  I mean, Matt Lieto was greeted at the finish line by his puppy.  How great is that??  

Oh, and he's blazing fast. As in, an 8:32:57 for the 250.  

T1/T2 set up
This is the first race where I had two different transition areas.  This is one way that this race TOTALLY MESSED with my head!  I had packed everything neatly into my luggage, figuring that I would go through it and calmly select the items I needed the night before, laying things out and checking them off my checklist, like I always do.  

Nope, that was not gonna happen.  I had to set up everything the day before, even laying out my shoes!  So the afternoon found me frantically pulling out different items of clothing from various bags for the big day.  And I couldn't find my checklist!  

Racked and ready for its overnight.  Bringing bags to keep stuff dry is a trick I learned in Nation's.
Not so necessary in the high desert of Bend!  

The worst part was the food.  My tummy was already all butterflies.  How would I decide if should leave myself a Picky Bar or Honey Stinger waffle or a Clif Bar or a Hammer gel, when all I really wanted to do was throw up? 

In other news, my BMC continues to get envious looks and fondles.  That is a hot little machine.  

And is it even possible to say enough nice things about LifeCycle and Justin and Gilad who got me on this bike and spent so much energy fitting it this summer?  I swear, when it was in for its pre-race check-up, they must have crooned lullabies to it, because that pony just wanted to run, run, run, all day Saturday.  

Coming Soon: 

Race Report.  How it all went down.