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.