Monday, December 29, 2014

FAILED at Christmas. Again.

So, it's been two months.  Wild ride.

It started with us finding a nice apartment in a cool neighborhood... even though it took an extra month to get INTO the apartment.  (There was a family tragedy for the manager here.  Totally understandable, and I'm just glad that we had awesome friends offer us a guest room.)

And now we have moved in to our new place- a really comfy one-bedroom in D.C., where we can see the National Cathedral from our windows.

Because our new place is smaller, we opted to put some of our furniture and belongings into long term storage in a family member's unused workroom space.  We are finding this place to be really happy and comfy, but we are definitely glad we edited our belongings the way we did!  Over time, we need to get bookcases.  Right now, all my books are in boxes, still.  Driving me a little nuts, but nothing was going to happen with that this month...

As I came down with a huge bug.  With M still working retail right now, this month is HIS super busy season, plus MY super busy season, plus he had a cold and I ended up with a major cold bug.  I've never coughed like that. Seriously??  I'm a little tired of weird illnesses!  I tend to feel like it's MY FAULT for getting sick with something bizarre.

So I spent the month going to work and going home and coughing 24 hours a day.  I didn't work out.  I didn't finish organizing the house.  I didn't even Christmas shop!  (Family is going to get January presents.) This past week, on my doctor's orders, I took Sunday off and had another priest fill in.  Then I slept pretty much all day.  I woke up around 7AM to watch an amazing sunrise over the Cathedral.  Then I went back to sleep.  I got up around 5:30PM, having slept most of the day.  Today, at my follow-up, the doctor was all sorts of "Yep. Expected that."

M and I were talking about the whole Christmas deal, and we are pretty close to giving up on Christmas.  For one thing, it's emotionally a terrible time.  A few years ago, his dad died shortly before Christmas.  Every year since, something bad has happened around Christmas.  (The year after that, we were living on different sides of the country.  The year after that, I was living with a severely restricted diet while my gut healed from e.Coli.  This year, it was his mother's favorite beloved dog- who's been part of the family for over 14 years- died on her kitchen floor.  Oh yeah, and me being sick again.  Seriously, Christmas is not good for us.)

Even though I'm clergy and I HAVE to do Christmas, I'm not sure that I really have the energy to do Christmas on the schedule of everyone else.  I hate the shopping in over-crowded malls.  I don't have the space to buy presents all year round and squirrel them away.  I do like seeing family and friends... but honestly, my idea of a fun day would be cooking or baking TOGETHER (preferably with an adult beverage) and/or watching lots of football and parades.

My mom tried to make me feel better by suggesting I just send presents on Amazon.  And yeah, that COULD happen.  Except I already had a few presents on the needles.  And I like the challenge of looking through small shops and finding just the right toy for little kids.  Some years, I've sent stuff on Amazon when the Cool Toy of the Year was on Amazon.  This year, there was no Cool Toy of the Year to send!

After this year, M wants to declare a moratorium on Christmas.  He likes a small tree that we decorate together and a Nativity set.  It's kind of weird to see all the traditions that my friends- even clergy friends- and their families have created.  But for us- we're a couple, in a city.  We don't have time on Christmas Eve or Day to visit family due to my work schedule.  The usual gift-giving traditions don't seem to connect us to our family.  And I think that is what we are missing.

The usual traditions of shopping and sitting around a tree seem geared to families who are able to be together.  We are never with our families on Christmas Day, so the traditions seem offset.

So far, here's been what we like most about Christmas Day.  After finishing up late Christmas Eve services and getting to bed usually around 2AM, I go off to do Christmas Day.  I come home where M has usually gone for a run, and come home to make Fancy Breakfast.  This year, it was french toast and pour-over coffee and Prosecco.  Then we sit on the couch and read the paper and watch Christmas TV.  This year, I watched all the West Wing Christmas episodes!

Later on... in January, we will see friends and do some cooking.  We don't get to see much family this year, but we'll finally get around to shipping out presents.  (I'll have them finished!)

Maybe next year we will be better...

But maybe it's time to accept that we need to make our own Christmas and to be OK with that.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Barre3 28 to Great

So how'd i do on my challenge? Well... Not too great, really. But considering the average stress load of my life this past month what with finding a place to live and assorted other drama? Pretty good.  

I did more workouts than I did in the months previous. 

I worked in more veggies at every chance.  

I took a lovely bike bike ride with a colleague and tried Zumba. 

In the middle of that... I had to spend a week at a conference center that has a tradition of Southern cooking. Tasty Bites are tasty... And I was glad to have them for rations when I had them.  Plus, conferences lead me to eat way more candy than otherwise. So the fact that I survived the month with a stable weight? Ok.  

On the super happy side, most recent test results indicate that I do NOT have an allergy to dairy after all.  All my other results are back to normal as well.  Which means my body is showing, at a chemical level, that things have healed.  This might even be a little miraculous, because my tests in Oregon did clearly indicate an allergy. 

Wow.  E.Coli. It does not kid around.  

It's now 2 years since I contracted E.Coli. Two years since these problems all started.  Two years since I started getting horribly sick every time I ate dairy. Two years since i got word that things like my blood sugar was not normal and I was anemic.  And finally, clear tests.  

This is excellent.  It means that now I can do things like start re-building my tolerance to lactose. The doc thinks I'll always be lactose intolerant, thanks to my genetics. She feels strongly that I had been lactose intolerant for a long time, and the E.Coli just made it worse. (In a way, if I'd never gotten E.acoli, I'd never have known.  I'd have lived my life just thinking I had a nervous stomach.)  So I shouldn't expect to get back to regular lattes or cups of chocolate milk or large cups of yogurt. I should not expect to have a 3 Musketeers bar. But I might- with careful treatment- get to the point where I can eat a little cheese or choose to have a tiny kiddie cone without getting terribly sick.  I might be able to try croissants again someday. Next time I'm in France, I won't have to skip all the good food.  (Though I may have to take Lactaid.). 

At this point, I have started with daily doses of low lactose stuff... We are talking a tablespoon of goat yogurt right now.  In a month or so, it may be two tablespoons.  This will be a long and slow process.  And it's likely that I have a hard limit- that at some point, I just won't be able to have any more, no matter what. But at least I know that I can start to relax.  Whew.  

Moving day rapidly approaching

It's almost here... Moving day. With just four months left in my assignment as an interim, we are giving up our apartment. We will be taking a guest room with a friend while we await formal word on next steps.  There's several good reasons.  

The big reason... We hate Tysons Corner.  Fun place to shop. Horrid place to live between Thanksgiving and January. Although I live barely three miles from work, last year, my average commute was well over an hour. The worst was one hour and fifty seven minutes...on the bus alone. Not counting the little bits of walking and the waiting in 17 degree weather. I've given up trying to ride the bus becuase it's so off schedule all the time.  

The spiritual energy of this place is also off.  It's geared towards consuming... Food, goods, luxury items.  We live next to the Tysons II, the super luxury mall.  I'm troubled by the young people I see, toting bags from the high end stores, coming to Panera for a snack.  So many of the shoppers seem unhappy, talking on a phone to people far away. It's a rarity to see two people together who seem to be enjoying each other's company. And frankly, I get weary of privileged teenagers throwing tantrums when mom won't buy them a Coach bag. 

We felt like we were living above the vat of pink slime from the Ghostbusters movie- you know,  the stuff that made everyone fight all the time.  The spiritual energy just saps at us constantly.  There's always someone moving in our complex.  There's always someone breaking up. A while back, a neighbor got evicted.  We try to go for a walk and we have a choice of walking through a canyon of office buildings or playing Frogger as we dash across roads near the mall. 

We compare that to the experience of walking through Eastern Market on Saturday and discovering the vegan cart or finding little treasures in the flea market.  We ran the Mall this summer, and it felt like miles between monuments before we had to cross a road.  We go for walks in DC and it feels like we can breathe freely. I know, ironic considering that cities are polluted heat sinks.  

Dunn Loring, Fairfax, Vienna... All these can be delightful places if you want the suburban life.  And I will not knock you if you do.  Many people love their grassy yards and their space.  But RIGHT NEXT TO THE MALL? Nope. We are joining the dozens of people I've talked to in the last year who started out for one year where we are and then moved on.  

Knowing that there are some new things on the horizon very soon, we really wanted to wait until we had more permanent knowledge before we made a where should we live decision. But we realized that we had made our decision about Tysons months ago.  We did not want to spend another holiday season having our souls sucked out by the maurading hordes who jam the roads and make my trip home into an odessy of shouted curses, road cutoffs, and stop and go traffic.  

Although... With Silver Line open, I may consider doing just a day of Christmas shopping in the mall... Knowing I'll be able to go home to a normal neighborhood afterwards.  




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Barre3 28 to Great Challenge

Well, we are about halfway through the 28 to Great Barre3 challenge.  I don't have any nifty codes to share like other people who blog, but I can say this about it:

Man, it's tough.  I'm working on so much right, and the extra challenge of workouts... yike!  But it's been good.  Barre3 is all about working it into your overall life, and it's big on 10 minute breakdowns.  10 minutes here, 10 minutes there.  It's all good.  I'm definitely noticing increases in my core already.  I've been really pushing myself to the edge in those 10 minutes, even if it's all the core work I get in a day.

I am also noticing, as I work on planks, that part of my trouble is that I tend to sag into my shoulders. If I push myself to support myself with my shoulders and to lift myself up, it doesn't hurt my wrists nearly as much.  Yes, I think I'm always going to have some wrist pain in pushup position (because I always have!), but this is making it a lot less.

I've nailed down about 4 workouts a week, instead of the 6 I'm supposed to do.  But hey, given all the chaos, and the fact that I have been netting 10,000-18,000 steps a day in DC and surrounding areas checking on housing options... I'll take it with grace.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Allergy Testing

Today, I had a doctor's appointment.  I've been seeing this doc for about a year now.  She was the one who confirmed that I still had e.Coli when I arrived here last year (the bad e.Coli, not the good stuff that my body was supposed to have), and who has been working with me to use as many natural methods as possible to heal everything that got broken.

By this point in time, I'm feeling tons stronger.  Basically, after a year of chaos and tests and meds and healing, everything is finally pretty much normal... except that I am still very strictly avoiding dairy.

So she had said for a long time that if I got the point where everything else had stabilized and healed, she'd re-do the bloodwork to see if this dairy thing I am facing is a true allergy or just an intolerance.

Because, thanks to genetics, my people are prone to lactose intolerance.  The working theory is that I was probably lactose intolerant without realizing what it was.

What if this whole thing has NOT been a true allergy, but just an over-reacting sick body trying desperately to manage the bad bugs in its gut?  What if, now that that has healed and all the damage that was done seems to be healed, what if now, it's just an intolerance after all?

You know what that means?

It means if I get clear tests back, I can start doing lactose challenges to build up a little bit of tolerance.  We think I might not ever get back what I had as a kid- but no one ever does.  Most people become somewhat lactose intolerant anyway as they age.  But I might regain the ability to eat a little dairy again.  If I could never eat another regular pizza, but I could have a kiddie cone from Carl's in Fredericksburg, I'll take it!

I should know within a week!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Moving... again.

Here we are again.  In one freakin' month, we will have to move AGAIN.  

Let me clarify that this isn't exactly my happy choice!  When we moved in, I'd been under the impression that month to month renting (in the event my contract was extended) would be an option for us.  

Then a month ago, less than 48 hours before our "60 day notice" was due, we got the renewal rates.  A 10% raise in rent with a 2 year lease was one option.  (Um, no.)  Or an over 100% raise for a month to month rate!  Seriously, our rent would have DOUBLED for four months.  Oh, hella no.  

First off, we know already that we don't want to live in Tysons long term.  We feel cooped up, surrounded by plastic and chain stores.  In order to do most of our activities, it's a 20 minute ride to the first access point on the W&OD, or a 40 minute metro ride to the city, or a long car ride.  I feel like we waste hours just transporting ourselves from point A to point B.  We did the math, and between car costs and metro costs, we could afford to pay $500 a month more in the District in rent and utilities, and still break even.  M even suggested we consider selling the car.  (I maintain it's ok to keep ONE car.  I just want to pay it off and drive our little paid-off car until the engine falls out and goes bouncing away down the street.)  

Second, all the stuff we DO is in the District.  

And third, DOUBLING the rent for month to month?  I mean, I've paid a little month to month premium before.  It's what you do when you know that things will be changing and that you shouldn't get into a year long lease.  But DOUBLING?  Nuht uh.  That's so not cool.  

But getting another lease right now?  Also not cool.  I'm in process to find my next call and I'm comfortable with where I am.  I have confidence that I'm likely to have another job secured by February, and I feel the Diocese wants that as well.  So I don't worry about ending up penniless.  In fact, I'm blessed that we have enough money right now that we COULD afford another lease right now.  But since I don't know precisely WHERE I'll be just yet, I don't want to get a place that might land us with an atrocious commute.  Or worse, in the wrong city.  

All we needed was just four more months to let things come to completion in God's time.  And I have confidence that things ar about to break open.  But in the meantime, here we are, seeking a four month long place to stay with two kitties.  SO irritated.  Really, SO irritated.  

With one month to go to find a place to live, I know it'll be ok.  But I'm frustrated by the impermanence and the transience.  I sort of knew this was a risk of the clergy life, and I knew this was a risk of the Interim life, and while I love interim work and how exciting it is, I don't love this stage of wondering what happens next.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I'm not a cat person... but...

Today, we take our little Origami cat to the vet to have his belly palpated.  By "little", I mean 15 pounds.  So he's sort of a big guy.

A few weeks ago, we noticed he was straining in his litter box, and then he started peeing on his little bed, which is NOT like him.  He was listless and stopped jumping up on the furniture.  When he was found lying underneath the couch and refusing to come out, we knew things were very wrong.

Off to the vet, where they diagnosed a urinary blockage and Origami spent three days being cathed and staying at the Chez de Vet.  He is back to normal now, and is eating special prescription food which (hopefully!) will dissolve the stones in his little kitty bladder.  He'll then switch to a different prescription food for the rest of his life, which will hopefully prevent stones from reforming.

Man, has this been an education.

I don't believe in doing extraordinary interventions on most animals.  Sure, surgery to repair a broken leg, or bladder stone surgery on a 2 year old if their life expectancy is going to be 15-18 years.  But bladder surgery on a 13 year old cat when it'll only give him 2-5 more years, and when the vet says the surgery will be pretty major on an old man like this?  Nuht uh.

Learning that Origami had a major illness that could kill him, and that might still kill him if this treatment doesn't work, and that surgical options are not wonderful... I was startled at how much that scared me.

Sure, I say I don't like cats.  I don't appreciate their hair.  The purring constantly is a little odd.  The way that Snowbeast wakes me up at night by petting my face is just creepy.  And when they walk around talking to me with their little meows, I just don't understand.

But I did learn that I really do like THESE cats.  It was so awful to talk with M about when we stop interventions and at what stage we'd decide to let Origami go if he wasn't healing. I don't like knowing that my kitty is hurting.

And now that he's home, I can rub his little head and see how much grey has crept into his fur, and I can struggle to convince them that the all-wet-food diet they've been switched to is really the best for them.  I can wonder how anyone could ever give up their senior animal to the shelter (which happens ALL THE TIME when people decide old animals are too much trouble or too painful to care for).  And I can hope that his remaining years are pain free and healthy.

I'm not a cat person.  But I'm definitely Snowbeast's and Origami's person.

No worries about Snowbeast.  He is eating the prescription food too because it's too hard to monitor two separate feedings for a bonded pair.  But he's had no issues so far.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

28 To Great

So today, I am going to do another round of the 28 to Great Barre3 program.  I discovered this fabulous group while I was living in Oregon.  It's a barre-based workout program using bodyweight and light hand weights, Pilates and yoga moves, and tons of repetitions to strengthen and tone.  I find it is super-helpful as a cyclist and a runner and swimmer.  It works me out, but doesn't break me down so I get leaner, more flexible, and stronger but I can still do a big ride or a run without dying.

The last time I did it, I followed the meal plan.  And while the meals are yummy, I am in a different place nutritionally right now.  I'm working closely with a coach to get the right balance of nutrients into my body (plenty of good vegetarian protein, good carbs, good fats), and to learn to eat dairy-free without resorting to fake food or crying.

So this time, I'm going to follow the 28 to Great workout plan and my coach's meal coaching.

Last time I did the 28 to Great, I was still struggling with e.Coli, so I was not very consistent with the workouts, and I was pretty sick from the illness, so I was fighting anemia, low vitamin D, low vitamin B, and a host of other minor nutritional deficiencies.  Now with the e.Coli all healed and my body built up to a strong baseline, I don't have that uphill battle to fight.  So I'm expecting to really concentrate on the workouts a a strong person.

I want to regain my core strength (I used to have abs!) and to get strong enough to do a plank and some pushups.  Arm strength.  Chicks can have it, too!  Ideally, I'd like to work my way back to a baseline of how strong and fit I was the year I did Leadman.  I climbed a mountain on my bike.  That's what I'm looking for.  And then from there, I'd like to get even more fit.

M wants to do some obstacle course races.  I want to do another half-Iron next year, but I'm also intrigued by those obstacles.  I always thought they'd be too hard for me, and then I watched him and his friend do one.  And I thought, "Yeah, I could do these..."  and "If THAT girl can do it, hellayeah, so can I."

So it's one month to really focus on strength.

And month #2 of relearning how to eat with my nice coach.  WHO MADE ME A SPECIAL RECIPE FOR TOMATO SOUP THAT I CAN"T WAIT TO EAT!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Doing the Scary Thing

Today, I finally completed the Big Scary Project I'd been thinking about for over a year.  I'm part of a group called The Young Clergywomen Project, and we have a section of that project which partners with Chalice Press, meaning that we can submit book proposals.

I started thinking up the idea for a book over a year ago.  But because it was partly grounded in a life situation which was constantly in flux, and because I'm the age that I am, and because I did not want to be the pretentious hipster who writes a memoir at 35, I dithered and dithered for over a year.

Finally, at a conference this summer, in a workshop, I let the idea go into the wild.  And since then, there have been multiple conversations and scenarios which convinced me that the book I was thinking of had some real application and need.  So I took my drafts and notes and worked them into a proposal.

Which then sat on my computer from July until now.  So I plunked myself down at a coffeeshop (a secret one on Capitol Hill that my mentor and friend introduced me to.  Seriously, if I ever worked at that church, it would be because the church is awesome AND because this shop was right down the road).  I wrote and tidied and spell checked and standardized margins and finally saved it once-and-for-all...

And then decided I would let it sit for a few more hours or days or maybe a week until I could check it over again.

But then I thought, "why, self, why?"  If this thing was truly something I was being called and motivated to do, and if it was timely and if it's really relevant like I am making an argument for, why wouldn't I send it?

Fear?  Was I really going to let shyness and fear and the nagging conviction that I'm really not good enough to do this stop the email?  It's just the first step after all.  And now it goes into committee.  And I know this press wants us, but they will not let a lousy book go out, so I don't have to fear that I will let bad work out into the wild.

No, I was just fear filled.  Because I'm an extroverted introvert- I love being around people and talking and keeping up a prattle, but I am an expert on keeping things light and surface depth.  My CPE groups used to bemoan how I would never really share deeply or "go deeper" into an issue.  So the idea of spending an entire book "going deeper" with what could be hundreds or thousands of readers...?  Terrifying!

Also terrifying?  Knowing that if this gets accepted, that we will have to share more details about a very painful and sad time in our lives.

Also terrifying?  Knowing that there will be folks out there- some will be jealous, others will be contemptuous- who will make unkind remarks about me and my work.  I will not have uniformly kind and constructive critics, and I know that if this becomes a real book, there will be people who will openly disparage my work and my experience.

That is scary, indeed.

But I thought about it, and I decided I would never really know the truth if I never sent it out to begin with.  The work was done for right now, and waiting another week or another day or another hour wouldn't change anything except for me to find another comma subtract or another sentence to reword.  And those of us who create know that you can do those sorts of tweaks for ever and ever, and never really finish.

It was time to be finished with this part of the work.

So I opened up the email program, attached my file, and hit send.  Off it goes into the wild world of committees.  Bye bye, baby bird book proposal!



PS- to answer questions: 
First, it gets read by the committee.  They may say yes, or they may say no. 
If they say yes, it goes to the Press we work with. 

THEY may say yes, and enter into a contract with me, and I get to WORK. 

They may say maybe, and ask for the right of first refusal.  In which case I write the book, and give them a completed manuscript, and when it's done, they decide if they will publish it.  The last TYCWP book was completed under this option, and it's FABULOUS.  

They may say no, in which case I go home and make a double martini and huddle on the couch for a week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nation's Tri Race Report: Race Day

Race Day did not dawn at all, for we were up at 4AM.  I told my family I wanted to be out the door by 4:30.  I am frequently the first person at races.  What can I say?  I'm a nervous racer and I like my extra time to lay things out.  

We had both spent time the night before packing bags and choosing gear.  Despite M's teasing and threats, he had already picked out all his food, so we were not going to be in for a repeat of the Half-Marathon Madness.  

I even had a food plan.  I knew what I was going to eat and when.  We found an easy parking spot in a location I will never share so that no one else can park where we parked.  (Hey, we were going to get blocked in by the road closures, anyway).  The plan was to send our gear bags back to the house with my parents after the race, and M and I would walk/ride to the Metros and metro home with the bikes.  

THE SWIM 

The first snafu happened as we were heading towards the race.  My mother, who was my special needs person in charge of handling my cochlear processor, caught a snippet of the verbal announcement and said, "They just said you can't wear your bike cleats."  That obviously made no sense so I immediately decided my mother was just insane in the pre-dawn periods, and ignored all the rest.  Hey, we make dumb decisions at 5AM, OK?  

As we got closer, we could hear the full announcement.  The swim was canceled, and we would all start with the bike.  (That was the "no bike cleats".  You had to run into the bike zone as if you had just done the swim:  no bike gear at all.  The only difference is you'd be dry, not wet.)  It turned out that the hard rain had caused a sewage overflow, and the Potomac was filled with raw sewage.  A few kayakers who later posted to Facebook shared that the water was beyond nasty.  

Having just spent the last year getting over e.Coli, I was very disappointed to not get to swim, but OK with it in the end.  I really do think the Nation's organizers make the right decision.  Considering all the novices at this race, you have to err on the super safe side.  And the not-gross side.  

THE BIKE 

Well, we all know how happy I am on the bike.  There was one spot early on in the bike loop where I hit that magical spot of speed and perfect gearing where the bike just feels it is humming underneath you.  It's been a long time since I was strong enough to hit that spot, and I thought, "Oh, hello, happy place. There you are!"  

The olympic was a very well marked double loop with an out-and-back section.  I was worried because I hadn't had time to go to a course briefing, but I needn't have worried.  It was SO CLEAR in the markings.  

I actually forgot my bike computer!  So I had no idea how fast I was going at any point.  I knew I'd have to ride by feel.  I went out pretty hard, and stayed in beast mode all through that ride.  I still notice just how slow I am on hills (where did my strong hills legs go?!), so I have an area to work on for next year.  Arlington hills, you are mine.  But on a flat, I'm pretty strong.  And in the head wind, I just hunch into my drops and settle in to suffer for a bit.  Head winds I can handle.  

I spent a fair amount of time passing, and a fair amount battling for space.  The one drawback was a few passes in the no-passing zone, and a few passes on my right.  There's rules for a reason, and if you were in a bind, and HAVE to pass on the right (I had to a few times, when there was a slow person hanging out in the left lane), but I hate being passed on the right when there's space on the left.  In particular was this one Rev3 girl on a tri bike who was NOT happy that I was passing her, and didn't want to give up the spot.  So she'd battle back and come up on my right.  Really, chickie.  You're on a tri bike.  I'm on a roadie.  I've passed you.  So drop back, regain some energy, and come back and pass me on the left like a good girl.  Give yourself a few minutes to recoup and you'll put time on me, but just this constant battling is sapping your energy- especially when I'm still in my saddle and you are standing.  I finally dropped her on the out and back because I was just a stronger rider.  But she came and caught me on the run.  Because that's just how it works. 

Over all: I had a 1: 21 on the bike (about 18 mph).  Not my fastest (which was 20mph on the same course 2 years ago), but not my slowest.  I did my best on that bike course though, and at least I didn't slack off for a minute.  

THE RUN 

I had decided I would go all out on the course, just to see what I could do.  That being said, my run legs take forever to come in.  And after really going all out on the bike course, my legs were quite whiny.  But I battled through the initial pain and (yes), laziness.  I decided to cover up my watch and run by feel.  I'm debating if that was a good idea or not, because the mile markers were so clear, and I wonder if I had run by the watch, would I have felt that I could pep myself up any more?  

My run legs had settled by mile 2 and I settled into what felt like a hard pace.  Not as hard as I ran, say, Rolf Prima (on dirt) but harder than I ran this course a few years ago.  I was fretting about my shoes a bit.  I'd been lacing my ONs all summer, and switched to the speed laces the night before the race.  Yes, yes, yes, don't change things right before a race.  I know, I know.  I did it.  And I suffered for it.  The ON speed laces just don't give me the support I've come to expect from those shoes.  So I'll need to try different speed laces next time.  

OVERALL: 

I finished in 2:30:54.  Far from my fastest time (a 2:14 something a few years ago), it was also not my slowest times for those two events.  So I'm OK with it.  Considering how sick I was with e.Coli and how awful the nutritionist was and what a big set back the beginning of the summer was, I'm content with not-the-greatest, not-the-worst.  

My goal for next year: stay healthy, get stronger, and demolish this time for a PR.  

Races I'm considering:  we both want to do Eagleman (a half Iron) in Maryland, and I am interested in the Quassy Rev3 (why not a CT race where family can watch?), and M wants to do another couple obstacle course runs, which could be fabulous since I could have a goal to work on upper body strength for!  I was chatting with his best friend about wrist pain and pushups, so I think I have some ideas and it's high time I stop whining about upper body strength and regain some power.  




Nation's Tri Race Report: RACKING DAY

At last!  Yes, this report is a week overdue.  We had a bit of a situation here with a very sick kitty who finally ended up in the hospital, so I was spending my extra time researching "UTIs and cats" and getting a major little project done at work. 

ANYWAY, here is the race report! 

Racking:
Nation's requires you to rack a day ahead of time.  This seems to be unusual for an Olympic distance Tri, but if you think about the logistics of coordinating over 5,000 bikes and body markings, it makes perfect sense.  Overall, this was perhaps the most stressful racking we have ever done!  (No fault of the race).  

We live a good hike from the main city- still technically on metro, but far enough out that we can't head in and go home and return in one day.  Once we go in, we are in until we go home.  That explains why we headed to brunch with my parents smushed into a Beetle, with two bikes on the roof.  Yes, my parents have a nice roomy Prius, but they lack a bike rack.  Seriously, after this weekend, I am considering buying a bike rack for guests.  Actually, I'm considering buying a rear-mount bike rack and installing a hitch on the Beetle, because the roof rack system has been seriously stressing me out in this land of parking garages.  

Brunch was at The Diner, a new discovery for me.  It has really creative options, a decent vegan menu, and is great about dairy allergies.  In fact, I plan to write to them to beg... BEG... them to create vegan biscuits and gravy.  I'm desperate for my favorite Eugene dish!  

Packet pickup and racking was much more traumatic.  What with one thing and another, we had a nice time at the expo, we bought The Stick for rolling out muscles (and it is working miracles on my tight back and hamstrings!), and we discovered a broken piece on M's bike that needed fixing.  

WHAT?  BROKEN?  NEEDS FIXING?  WATER BOTTLE CAGE?  WAUUUUGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!  The braze that holds the bolt that holds the screw that holds the water bottle cage on M's bike was stripped, and needed to come off.  M, about to do a 25 mile ride at speed, needed that bottle cage.  That explains our cross-town jaunt to our favorite bike shop for a quickie repair.  

After the repair, we scuttled back to the hotel to get on the bus for me to go to Capitol for my special prize... except M couldn't find parking!  He circled for over half an hour, and there were many phone calls.  You know M and I are very supportive of each other. which explains why those conversations, during which I was inside waiting for the bus and he was outside circling, went like this... "I CAN'T FIND PARKING!" "I CAN'T HELP YOU! JUST PARK!  PARK ANYWHERE!"  "I CAN'T! THE METER MAIDS ARE CIRCLING!"  "JUST PARK!  VALET IT!! PARK RIGHT NOW!! WE ARE GOING TO MISS THE GODDAMN BUS!"  "I CAN"T VALET! WE HAVE THE BIKES ON THE ROOF!"  "PUT THEM IN THE REAR!"  

The important take away message is that you CAN fit two full size bikes into the rear of a Beetle, and if your wife calls Uber while you deal with the valet, you will end up dropped off two blocks away from where the bus dropped off the rest of the prize-winners. 

All you will have to do is to sprint those extra blocks, in jeans, on a day when it's 102 and the humidity is about 1,000%, in under three minutes to JUST MAKE it to your tour in time to see the special tour of the Capitol. 

So worth it.  

After our Capitol tour, we got the car out of Valet, went over to the Mall, racked the bikes, and observed the beginnings of tiny little raindrops as we headed back towards the car. 

"I kinda feel like I should have put the trash bag over my bike after all..." I said to M, frustrated because I had left my trash bags in my car, after bringing them special so I could cover my precious, precious BMC.  

"Just forget it.  You're hungry. You need to eat, NOW!"  he snapped back.  Because, of course, after a frantic day of bike repairs, last-minute sprints, and valets, he was a shining ray of sunshine himself.  Plus, he had gotten to eat a Picky Bar, the Picky Bar I keep in MY purse at all times.  So he'd actually eaten.  

We were racked and ready for race day.  At least that was accomplished.  

By the time we got to Tysons Mall where we were picking up my parents, it was as if a black firehose from the heavens were pouring down upon us.  M dropped us off at the restuarant door, and we were still soaked by the time we got inside.  

"I sure hope they don't cancel the swim tomorrow", said I, "for I do so want to use my wetsuit that I rented to try this different style."  

To
Be
CONTINUED....

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Race Day Nerves

So the race is about 72 hours away.  I'm guessing I'll be in the water by now on Sunday.

I'm having MAJOR race nerves.  First off, I have learned I've gone up a wave.  I was mentally prepared to be 30-34... but now I'm 35-39!  It's a different start!  A different cap color!  A different corral!

Lots of people assume this is about getting older.  It's really not.  I have a scary age at which I plan to start lying about my age, but so far, I'm aging fantastically well.  Just a few silver strands, and I'm waiting to see what they do before I do anything about them, and they are hard to see.  No major wrinkles, and all the lasting scars and injuries were honestly gained.  (You've heard my bike crash story, right?)  So it's really NOT about age.

It's about not being mentally prepared.

And I'm nervous.  Not about the race or completion- but about being slow.  I so wanted to get BETTER this season, and I'm afraid I'm holding at the same speed I raced at in year's past.

Swimming is a tough one.  I've gone from a high of 2:47/100 meters to a low of 1:57/100 meters, and I honestly don't know what I'm swimming at right now.  I think it's about 2:00/100 meters, but it's so hard to tell given that I didn't always get the best view of the timing clock.  I know that if I work hard, I've been able to catch M's feet, and I've been able to pass a few people in the slow lane.  But that's about the extent of my swim sense this year.  I do feel like a lot of things have come together, but I haven't RACED in a while.  Plus, I'm nervous about the 8-in time trial start.

Bike- well, you know I love my bike.  I know that I can finish this course in under 1:30, and usually closer to 1:15-1:20,  and I know that an Olympic distance course will take me about 1:30 if it's super hilly.  But my group bike rides were so HORRIBLE this summer.

Run- I'm scared that the run is the part I feel most confident with this year.  I'm loving my On shoes.  They are really comfy.  So I don't expect any pain.

Mostly, I'm worried that I'm going to let my nerves and mental preparation get the best of me, and that I'll blow up right when I need to deliver.

I have to let go of my hopes for a good finishing time, and focus on just finishing.  I have to let go of the anger and frustration at all the people who will pass me, because I have to do what I can do this year.

I really need to work to remember: those people who are passing me and finishing fast... they probably didn't have e.Coli last year, and they didn't have their internal organs poisoned by bacteria, and they didn't spend months on antibiotics, and they haven't spent the last six months slowly rebuilding their immune system and strength.

I also need to remember that the Idiot Nutritionist really put me into a bad situation.  I fired her about a month ago and started with a new coach.  With my current nutrition coach who I heart forever, I have actually dropped a few pounds, even without tracking obsessively, but I'm feeling strong and going much faster.  Carbs, my love, my carbs. She even gave me a great salad "recipe" that I can put together at a Whole Foods, so I am learning how to put together the right combo of food even on the go.  She's given me great, useful recipes, and I have an actual race day nutrition plan, so I don't need to worry about a blow-up bonk.  She's focused on whole foods, but she also has tons of experience with people with disordered eating.  So she's been helping me deactivate some of the triggers that Idiot Nutritionist reactivated.

Whew.  Time to go develop some positive mantras.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Taper Eating Problems

So I have hit the problem I usually hit in taper: knowing I still need to eat, but being suddenly un-hungry.  Today, it was 10:30 before I ate anything, and I had to force myself.  It's because of the huge increase in rest and decrease in workouts, but still.  I have only a week before race day and I want this year to be RIGHT!

I've been working with a nutrition coach who *gets it* when it comes to nutrition, especially of triathletes.  Her advice has been for relatively bland, easy food this week.  So I've been thinking of simple veggies, simple proteins.  I'm thinking maybe we should just eat veggies and grill fish all week?  :-)

My parents arrive late Friday night and plan to play all day Saturday (when M and I have to go rack our bikes).

This is the week I get to have some fun!  As the Oregon state rep, I am waiting for my Oregon jersey to arrive in the mail.  (Scudopro promises me I'll have it!)  I get to take a special tour of the Capitol building with the other state reps, and M of course is my special guest!  So I'm excited for that.  I also have an entire sheet of Oregon stickers, Duck colors Poms, Duck Lips, and other wonderful Oregon stuff- like Picky Bar stickers!- to share.

I plan to continue to force myself to eat the minimum, and to stretch and stretch and stretch.

Erin Condren Planner order, ModCloth bag

So, you can probably tell that I'm in taper, since with all the extra rest, I have to CHANNEL THE ENERGY SOMEWHERE!  And so I'm taking parts of my vacation to catch up on household stuff and organize the daylights out of things.

And iron my linens.  Although I'm beginning to think about adding some fabric onto the sides and tops of the linen sheets that I use as cat bedspreads to make them look a little more finished.  I'm sort of on a spruce-up-the-household kick...

Disclaimer: I have not gone batshit insane or overboard.  I do put M's things away in his areas, but I don't force the man to color code his closet or anything.  

I recently officiated at a wedding, and with the honorarium I received, I decided I would bump a few things off my Wish List.  So I decided I would buy one of those jersey clergy shirts, replace my planner for sure this time since my planner is literally fraying to pieces, get a decent meeting-appropriate work bag, and look into blazers.

I have now ordered a shirt, ordered a planner, received my new work bag, and am waiting for the sale on the blazers in question.

Anyway,  my colleague group (over 1,000 awesome young clergywomen in The Young Clergywomen Project) recently shared about their favorite planners, the Erin Condren ones. I had never heard of these before but people were so passionate about them that I had to try them out!

I've been through many planners, including every iteration of electronic ones.  While each Monday I correlate my written calendar with my Google calendar, I just find the paper planner scratches a deep itch for my working style.  (Not to mention that I hate, hate, hate, loathe, loathe, blech the "flat" iOS.)

Knowing that I needed a new planner and being utterly unable (even with Amazon out there!) to find exactly what I wanted in a binder, I had resolved to try a coil or a disc bound system.  I just didn't want to pay for the paper punch in the disc system just yet!  And as I have realized, I've spent the last 10 years building up a conservative, sensible wardrobe without much cute in it!  So I am taking a fashion risk with a very colorful Erin Condren planner!

You wanna try the Erin Condren, too?  Here's my referral link.  (I believe I get $10 if you order one.  My colleague group shared all our codes to pay it forward to each other.  So if you use my code, you'll get your own to share with someone else!)
https://www.erincondren.com/referral/invite/elizabethtesi0317


Also in the fashion risk category:

I don't have a TON of high-powered meetings, and my main workbag is a fabulous Rickshaw Zero Messenger (in grey, with turquoise lining and purple trim).  I can bike with that bag.  But sometimes, I need something more structured.  (Like for meetings, especially with Bishops or powerful people, or if I go to the city and know I want to meet someone for dinner later.  It looks sloppy to schlep a slouchy messenger to dinner!)

It had to fit an iPad, a slim planner, my "purse stuff" (wallet, sunglasses, that sort of thing), a few pens, a phone...  I really wanted something big enough to carry work in so I could work in a coffee shop like I do, but small enough that I could head to dinner without looking like I was carrying luggage.  Check out women's work bags in Staples sometimes.  See how huge most of them are?  Yeah, no.

I was tipped off to ModCloth, and put about 12 possibilities on my WishList.  Then I discovered a really cool ModCloth feature- the Stylist!  I was able- in live time!- to discuss color choices, size, and material with a real person.  I opted for the Full Course Load in teal.  It arrived this morning!

It is just the right size, and nicely structured with little feet on the bottom (ideal for coffee shops!). It is also a much darker teal than on the website- that looks a little grandmotherly teal, but the actual bag is a dark teal.  It'll be nicely flexible!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Biking!

It started off pretty funny.  M was getting ready to head into the district to do some work on the Mall, and he wanted to take his bike.  (Sometimes he gets posted with a Ranger and they've said if he has a bike he can do bike posts!). He was planning to metro in, because we live soooooo farrrrrrr awaaayaayyyyy in Tysons.  But he missed the time cut off, and you can't bring your bike on the metro during rush hour. (LAME!) 

I suggested he ride all the way in.  He replied, "but I don't want to pay the full rush hour fare!"  I replied, "so just RIDE IN!"  He said, "I don't want to pay the money!"  We went back and forth about five times before we realized we were talking about different rides!  

Coffee was made.  

Then I offered to ride in with him.  We ended having a lovely ride down the W&OD and Custis trails into DC.  It's actually super easy to get dumped off in the mall... It's just a long ride.  (Over an hour!) the ride was fast and easy.  I used a few tricks I picked up reading the Fat Cyclist's latest series (his awesome wife, The Hammer, is getting coached through Leadville by ReBecca Rusch and we get to learn stuff! Www.fatcyclist.com) and really put down some super easy speed.  

It also helps that I'm getting way more carbs. In fact, for breakfast, I had spaghetti and sauce!  I love dinner for breakfast. 

So I dropped M off, and by then the day was heating up.  I debated metro ing from the start, but I decided to ride as long as I was in the shade and catch the Metro in Arlington.  So I was riding away, when I happened upon another rider who turned out to be pacing me. We both paused at the top of a little climb and said hello, and it turned out we were both headed in the same direction... Except he didn't know how to get there!  So I decided to ride him to his street crossing.  We rode and chatted, and by the time I dropped him off, I was almost at Gallows!  

I did stop by work (on vacation!) to refill my bottles. I was totally empty! And getting really hot and thirsty and beginning to doubt humanity. Two bottles of ice water restored my confidence in the goodness of creation.  Gotta be careful of dehydration! 

I recently discovered a turn in my route home that eliminates the last big hill. It's nice to be finishing a 26 mile ride and not having to redline the last few minutes. Sometimes you need the hills, but I had already biked almost double what I set out to do today and I don't want to go into Nations tired! 

Overall a good ride, but we both agreed that is our last ride before the race.  We've both been pushing really hard and we need to recover and get our stretching and core work in.  


Running the monuments and my fun tip for running with a faster partner

A few days ago, I needed to get a run in.  Somehow, that turned into me talking M into coming with me.  It was Sunday, when parking is free in DC.  So I decided it would be a fun day to drive in and run the monuments.  

I've always wanted to run the National Mall.  It just feels like the ultimate local thing to do... I know, it's weird. But even though I enjoy running in strange cities, DC feels more like a hometown when I bike or run it.  It feels like "hey, I'm local enough that I can run here and not care about how gross and sweaty I am, because a shower and snacks await me at my house!"  

So we started near what will the T1 transition area- not far from memorial bridge where all the playing fields are.  We ran the war monuments, then up by the reflection pool, then up to Lincoln.  If you've seen the second Captain America movie, you know the route.  

Then we ran all the way up the Mall.  I paced M pretty well. On the way back down, he went and did a few out and back sprints. This is a great way to run with someone faster than you- have them run to a certain point, and then they come back towards you. So he'd run two lights down and then come back and meet me.  It's a good way for the slower person to get a little speedwork in too- start running faster when the fast person is spotted coming back to you! Sprint to meet him or her, and then you get a little interval in! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bike ride! More mileage than race day, so the bike is good to go.

A few days ago, we got a flat tire on the car.  I decided I'd load up my BMC and get errands done by bike all day, after dropping off the car at Wiygul.  They've been my mechanic in VA since I was in seminary and I feel super safe with my car in their hands.  They're the type of place that sometimes just fixes stuff for no charge, if it's an easy fix.  

The Reston branch is right off the W&OD trail, which means it's super-easy to get there and back on a car free trail with just a few road crossings.  It turned out the Beetle needed two front tires as well, so we had all four tires replaced and an alignment done.  An unexpected change of four tires left this priest on vacation with a serious need to hammer out some stress.  

So I rode up and down the W&OD, stopping to try and have lunch with M who unfortunately got busy.  So I had to eat my turkey sandwich all alone.  But I was super nice and got him a sandwich too! Wait a second- aren't I vegetarian? Well, these days, it's pretty much slackertarian.  With my tummy being so fussy this year, I've opted to go for a what-is-healthiest.  And for a long bike ride, I felt the turkey sandwich offered a nice combo of protein and carbs and high sodium.  I have issues with electrolyte balances, so my doctor actually told me to never cut salt and to consider adding it at times.  Deli meat is loaded with sodium, way more than normal people should regularly eat. For a treat, all of us can eat the turkey sandwich once in a while.  For me, for a long training day, I can have the sandwich...  And a Dr. Pepper.  Cures what ails ya!  

And then I held down a 15.7 mph pace for the next hourish of my ride... Even factoring in stops at the roads and hill climbs.  

Suffice it to say that I'm starting to feel like a shadow of my old self again.  

I also replaced my gloves.  Well, I forgot my gloves so I had to stop and buy new ones.  Don't judge. I went for Pearl Izumis, a women's cut for once. Sometimes, women's gloves are too small for me and chafe my sometimes tender right thumb.  Especially during seasonal changes, my hand is still temperamental.  

Over all, I dropped the car off at 10 and picked it up at 3, with a 30 minute lunch stop and a 20 minute visit to the tri store.  It was definitely a fun way to spend a day that would end in me giving lots of money to a mechanic! 

But now our car is purring like a kitten and running very smoothly (whoops. Alignment is so great).  

My BMC is happy and I have no qualms about the bike portion of Nations. In fact, I was daydreaming about how excited I'll be to get out of the water and onto my bike at the race and how fun it would be if the crowd would chant Oregon cheers with me.  Never mind that I'm way too shy to actually coax crowds to cheer, so I'll just have to hope my Duck-Lip-equipped supporters have that covered.  

And today, I get to go watch baseball, which means a metro ride and a big walk.  And of course some stretching and barre work.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Vacation! And The Triathlete Overplans

Having realized earlier this month that I was about to head into program year having taken approximately zero of my vacation, I figured it was high time the boss made herself take that vacation!  It's a stay cation, mostly, with perhaps a few solo day trips, and perhaps one camping trip if I can talk M into a spontaneous camp out.

With Nation's coming up in a few weeks, I'm feeling better than I have all summer (who knew that food could make you feel good, eh?), but also woefully undertrained.  I felt so low energy and miserable all summer because of the Idiot Nutritionist's goals that I skipped a lot of training days, sleeping away hours in the afternoon.  (Yeah, not cool, really.)

I know I can't make up lost training time this close to the race, so I've been working REALLY hard these last few weeks on cardio in order to do a good healthy taper.

During taper, I'm going to focus on flexibility and strength.  I am going to set a goal of 5-6 Barre3 workouts a week (15-30 minutes in length, focusing on the flexibility and strength ones. There's even several just for runners!).  I always find that being flexible and strong increases my endurance as much as hours on the bike do.

I am also going to do my nutrition coach proud and eat the healthiest damn diet ever.  She has given me recipes for protein pancakes and salads... and I am going to eat so many veggies this vacation!  And drink so much water!  Usually I go into a tri completely puckered up from the sugar overload, but I had a chance to experiment with some new nutrition this year, and I am pretty sure I know how I will eat during the race.  (Picky bar before, Hammer gels and Powerbar Perform on the bar, and whatever liquid Gatorade-like-beverage we get on the run course).  I've learned that my post-e.Coli tummy prefers to not eat anything really solid on the bike or the run right now.

Since I feel my race day nutrition is OK (if not exactly dialed in at this point), I'm going to focus on my day-to-day nutrition, which quite frankly is the bigger challenge for me right now.  I need to really learn how to eat healthy, without dairy, and getting sufficient balances of protein, fat, and carbs... all out of whole foods.

Also over vacation:  I'm going to be using a wedding honorarium to replace few totally worn out clergy shirts (one ripped across the back seam after ten years!) with some cute jersey ones, and I'm going to buy a new work bag for when I need a nice bag to carry around town but want something smaller than luggage.  I'm a little obsessed with finding good things- I don't like to shop, so I take FOREVER to buy something.  Then I keep it forever and ever until the straps literally fray through and my previously perfect work bag crashes into oblivion.  Farewell, O Bag.

I'm also collecting swatches of fabric: M and I are picking out fabric for our upholstery project.  Neither of us has ever done upholstery, so why not start with a full size sofa?

We've also been given tickets to the Nats and the ballet, so we are getting all sorts of culture over the next few weeks.

Expect to see a slew of boring posts about taper training, salad eating, and how the ballet was!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Big Swim, Hard Run, Eat Food.

I did my weekly Big Swim at the Wilson Pool on Monday.  It was delightful.  M was off to a meeting elsewhere, so I walked from Georgetown to the pool.  Considering that I'd been lazing around all day, the lengthy walk (about 2.5 miles) was both comfortable and necessary.

Once I got to the pool, I changed and went for the slow lane.  (The medium lane was pretty full).  I had the very unique experience of catching and passing people on the swim!  This is the first summer that everything really seems to be coming together on that swim, so being able to fight to catch a stronger swimmer's feet (usually M's.  He's fun to chase!), or to pass a swimmer, is something entirely new to me!  Still, it only happens when all elements have pulled together, which doesn't always occur.  I'm definitely very aware of the times when I am positioned correctly and catching the water, and when I slack on my form and positioning.  I don't think I have seen the end of my arm drills and kick board drills.  But it is kind of cool to feel water rushing by my legs when I kick!

I owe huge thanks to Judy from Oregon who coached me in swimming last year, and totally helped me correct some of the worst defects in my stroke!  I was kicking like I was riding a bicycle, and she helped me learn to kick like a dolphin.  I hope she's back into her own groove, too!

Yesterday, I squeaked out time for a run.  Being short on time (it was after 5 and I had a meeting at 7!) I opted for the short and intense version of the workout.  If you can't do your planned training, it's beneficial to go out super hard and short to get SOME benefit.

Sadly, my phone app didn't work like I thought it would, so I don't have my splits.  But based on feel, I would not be surprised if I held down a 9 minute (or even sub 9!) mile for the first 1.5 miles, and then held at least a 9:45 for the last 1.5 miles.  I know I was out for just about 30 minutes, and that the route was just over a 5K, and that the last half is pretty much uphill.  I was really pushing it!

Then I went to my meeting, where we were promised food.  That is when I realized that what I mean by "food" is not what others mean by "food", because they aren't training for a big race!  So I had had my lunch (a nice big salad with beans and pita), and nothing else, because I figured on a big dinner.

The meeting had delicious grapes, nuts, and crackers-and-cheese (of course I couldn't eat the cheese!).  It was a very good and productive meeting, but I couldn't wait to get out of there... I made a beeline to the grocery store, where I probably had the most hangry shopping experience ever!  I started at the spaghetti sauce thinking I'd get sauce to make pasta and sauce (which was a great idea).

Then I thought it would take too much time to boil water and make pasta.  So I revised that plan to vegan pizza.  The store did not have any vegan pizza, and then I started thinking it would take too long to heat up pre-made pizza.  (Yeah, it was getting bad).  That explains ENTIRELY how I ended up with vegan "buffalo wings" and marinara, because they took 2 minutes in the microwave and if I didn't eat RIGHT NOW I was literally about to starve to death in my kitchen, whimpering to a hungry end.

I also ate some veggies.

It was not my proudest moment in nutrition, but I do accept that I allowed myself to get far too hungry!  I need to eat snacks before I am hungry, or else I eat chicken nuggets.  That being said, vegan chicken nuggets are probably not the worst thing I could eat, hopefully.

But I'm definitely going to be making the normal pasta and sauce today for my supper.

I'm also wearing my compression socks and taking today as a cardio rest day.  I'm planning a bike ride for tomorrow, and considering that I am behind on nutrition, I want to give my body a chance to catch up.  This summer has been so rough that I think a little TLC is okay right now, especially this close to the end.

(Incidentally, due to a late meeting today, I am going to be cooking at church, so I can avoid fighting the traffic!  Such is clergy life at times.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gleaning the Library: Empty Space in Life

This summer, I've been working on a big project: I'm gleaning my work and personal libraries.  

I always thought I wanted to be the person who had the walls and walls of books in her house, and my dream house as a kid always included a library with a skylight and a fireplace, which would open onto the solarium.  (Preservation was less important than possession, I guess!)  

As I've worked through grad school and gotten more established in my career, I hung onto all my books.  This last move totaled more than 37 boxes of books, between the two of us.  

Yet as I watched the movers huffing up three flights of stairs, and as I later squirreled away the books in my new place, my anxiety just spiraled up.  Quite aside from my fear that one of movers was going to drop dead of a heart attack mid-job, I realized that my philosophy of holding onto ALL THE BOOKS wasn't consistent with the way I was living my life now.   

Ironically, every single book has been opened, and at least parts of it read.  So none of these were books that I bought and didn't read.  It's just that, for many of them, I felt I had gotten my fill out of them.  

My rule for the rest of my house is that if I haven't touched or used it in a year, it goes out.  If I really truly love it or if it's an heirloom, it may stay.  It helps me keep my stuff pared down and easier to pack for my many moves.  More importantly, it gives me breathing space.  I love the feeling of being able to come in and just do something in the house because the space is clear.  I like seeing open space on top of a table.  Or just a single item on the mantle.  I am far from a minimalist... but I am finding that I am resonating with the need to own less STUFF in order to have more room, mentally and spiritually.  

I began the project thinking I'd sell all the books to Amazon.  Until I learned that Amazon won't take most of them, and of those they will take, I'd get pennies on the dollar.  Yes, there are thousands of dollars invested in the books over the years.  But I realized that I was happier to get the weight of the books out of my life via a nearby book donation program than I was waiting for any money to come from them.  The open, breathing feeling I am getting with every shelf I glean down from double packed to single rows is worth its weight in gold.  

I've been scanning my old notebooks and making an annotated bibliography of books that I am "on the fence" about.  That way, I guess I can feel confident that I can find the resource again if I need it, and in the meantime, it is taking up just organized electronic space.  I can let go of the physical weight.  ANd far from making me more anxious that I'm losing a resource, I am finding it is like magic: releasing my long-held anxiety with each book I let go of.  

We got rid of an extra car this year, because we wanted to live lighter on the earth.  We live in a flat instead of renting a house because we like smaller spaces.  I guess my childhood dream of the solarium-library has changed.  Somewhere in the last few years, it faded away and was replaced by small, open spaces.  

How does this relate to triathlon?  Well, it's not very sporty.  I wonder if, perhaps, in this year of recovery after having e.coli, if maybe the e.coli did more than just destroy my ability to digest dairy.  Maybe it also changed my perception of what I had to have around me in life in order to feel like I had enough, and was happy.  


Monday, August 11, 2014

I Fired The Nutritionist

You probably saw this one coming. 

After getting home from the horrible bike ride, I got in touch with a friend who is a tri coach- in fact, we met when she also lived in Eugene and owned the tri shop and ran the tri club we went to.  I told her about my nutrition woes.  She looked at my plans from the Fancy Nutrtionist.

Short story: my meal plan was only well balanced and ample, if you are a lethargic flea.  There was just no way I could have met my quotas or sufficiently fueled my body eating that way. At the end of the day, I was clocking in at around 1200-1300 calories... My doctor's had an RD whose starting suggestion had been 2000.

So I hired my tri friend to help me learn proper nutrition, and for the last week, I just ate what I wanted. I ate the protein pancakes she suggested for breakfast, because they are yummy.  I ate salads and nuts because I like salads and nuts. I ate apples and peanut butter.  I had a few pita sandwiches.  And I have myself a week off from tracking.  And weighing myself.  

I've got issues with control, and with controlling eating, and ultimately, a lot of what I was having to do with the nutritionist was just triggering a lot of very scary and uncomfortable behaviors for me.  That's just not a good place to be.  Very happily, my tri friend also has been through eating issues, and she knows how to help me be healthy without getting trapped in a cycle.  

I did a run, and two swims, and a few barre workouts.  I helped a friend paint her house.  Mostly, I walked a lot.  And I didn't track any of it, although I let my Shine track it for me.  I was disappointed to not get very many points for house painting! M points out that I was mostly just standing or sitting while I did cut ins.  I tried to explain that even though I was sitting, I was sitting on the roof of a house!  

That  should count for more, right? 

By yesterday, I realized that for the first time in months I was home from work and didn't feel like taking a giant mega nap.  I hadn't needed a nap for a few days, actually.  

Firing the nutritionist was probably the best thing I've done this summer.  I just hope I can salvage enough of the season so I can race this race and not just finish it! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A High and Low Week

 I'm rather conflicted about the total outcome of this week, and am even conflicted about my cats' efforts to be around me.  They are being very cuddly, which either means they want me to feel better or they want me dead.  It's hard to tell with cats.  I think it may be the former, as I got them new cat food and a special toy that gets filled up with catnip.

Anyway.  I have two highs for the week.

My first was a really good swim at the Wilson pool, and a few other swims at the apartment pool.  I feel like some things are coming together in my swim, which is nice, given the limited amount of swimming I'm able to do.

My other high was finally- finally!- getting my toy- the Misfit Shine.  I'd been saving my pennies for a few months, and was excited to get my toy!  I love toys. I have the Cobalt Blue one.  I especially like that I can hide it.  I've hidden it so far for a bike ride and for church, so I could track secretly without it being a big deal. But it's pretty enough to wear out, as well. So far, I've hit my goal every day, and so far, I really like that it's helping me be honest about whether I'm being active enough.

My lows were big ones.  I think they are both nutrition related.  I've been working with a nutritionist since May, and I just don't think it's working out for me.  I feel like I'm spending hours debating what and when and how to eat, and I almost never meet the quotas I'm supposed to eat.  This is making me highly anxious and deeply frustrated.  I like to Get Things Right, so consistently failing day after day upset me so much.  I feel crummy and exhausted and kind of queasy pretty much all the time.  I've heard of "low carb flu", but the nutritionist hasn't told me to be aware of anything like that.  So if I'm supposed to be feeling crummy for a few weeks, she hasn't mentioned it.  Honestly, I'm finding more information about low-carb eating and PCOS diets off the freakin' internet, and that bothers me.  A lot.  Especially when I ask if there are any books or resources I should be reading.

My other low was an epic low.  I had a really, really, really horrible ride on my beloved BMC.  I almost feel like Gilad from LifeCycle will come take my bike away, I suck so much right now.

I went out on one of my new favorite bike rides- the Anacostia hills.  The first week, at least I completed it.  Yesterday was perhaps the worst ride I've had since the e.Coli was at its worst- I couldn't even make it out of the District with the group.  I just had zero juice in my legs.  There was one gradual incline that I was grinding away at about 6MPH on.  That's slower than my running pace!  And on a road that was all but flat!

After about 25 minutes, this killer feeling of nausea and light-headedness had come over me, which would dog me for the rest of the ride.  It was so bad that I was walking hills and fighting back the pukes (and perhaps crying a little too.  I'm telling you, it was bad!).  We got to the Cemetery which has a few loops... and I felt like I was swimming in a thick molasses sea- I was so anxious I could barely breathe.  I couldn't turn the pedals over.  I couldn't will my bike up the hills.  My hands were shaking with tremors.

I love my bike.  I love to ride.  I love the freedom I feel when I ride.  I've never felt like this before- almost panicky.  (And the tremors were freaking me out.  But I didn't want to tell anyone because I was feeling paranoid that they'd make me stop riding.  Paranoia- also not like me!)

M started asking me what I wanted to do, and trying to make decisions felt like I was trying to do trigonometry in my head- it hurt!  I may have gotten angry and snappy.  Poor M- trying to reason with the hysterical angry girl who was busy yelling at him.  (Dude probably should have stopped in Eastern Market and forced me to eat a sandwich...)  Finally, I opted to bail on the ride before the end, as I was beginning to be afraid I wouldn't be able to hold down the puking any longer.  (In the end, there was no puking on the bike yesterday.)  

I went home, where M made us tuna sandwiches (of which I inhaled two, at a speedy that is sort of terrifying and also so, so sad).  And then I went to bed and slept for three hours.  And that is just NOT normal!

Let's not dwell on my dinner of a vegan meatball sub.  By that point, my body was just screaming "CARBS, SWEET JESUS, GIVE ME CARBS YOU F**KER!"  After the vegan meatball sub, the lightheadedness and nausea finally, blissfully, resolved.

I felt awful, because I was still trying to obey the nutritionist, who commanded me to not eat extra food.  And usually, I'm REALLY GOOD at controlling my intake.  But I just didn't WANT to control things anymore.  

I hate feeling like crap in general, but I especially hate feeling like crap when I'm working hard to feel better.  I've accepted that this year is going to be a rehab year, but seriously, several months into working hard, I should be stronger and faster.  And all the nutritionist stuff has done has gotten me incredibly frustrated, slower than ever, and three pounds heavier.  I hate feeling like I'm dragging the group down.

So the nutritionist is about to be my former nutritionist, and I'll be starting work with someone else very soon.  I know I need help to figure out my PCOS and dairy issues.  But this was so obviously not the answer.

I'm just sorry that I had to learn that on a bike ride.  This particular epiphany has tarnished my happy place.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Ultimate in First-World Problems

Today I faced a giant First World Problem.  Have you heard of those?  They're things like "I hate it when the wireless router doesn't reach all the way to the couch in my dorm" or "It's the WORST THING when Starbucks is out of my favorite breakfast sandwich".  A First World Problem doesn't hurt us- it's just annoying and inconveinient.  In the grand scheme of the universe, it's pretty small potatoes.  A FWP is the sort of thing that I think my paramedic big brother could kick some sense into me about.  

So for a few months, I'd been saving my pennies to purchase a fitness monitor.  You know those.  They are the little devices people wear which tell them if they are doing enough exercise.  Quite frankly, it will keep me honest.  My default mechanism is to do, say, two pushups, "OOOOONE!  TWOOOOOO!  Oh, wow, good workout.  Man, I'm beat now."  So a little robot drill sergeant living on my wrist sounds like a good idea to me. 

I opted to buy the Shine.  Every monitor had good points and bad points, so it came down to what I thought was the prettiest.  I'm a girl, and might have some crow genes.  SPARKLES!! PRETTY!  That was the Shine, far and away.  All that remained was to pick the color. 

This is where the FWP kicked in.  

Target had Shines, and their website showed a pretty color called Wine.  PRETTY SPARKLE DEEP RED!  Ooooooo!!  I ran down to the nearest Target on my lunch hour, where they had Shines but not Wine color.  Boooooooo.  The nice clean employee told me that the Target in Seven Corners had two Shines in the Wine color.  So I went back to work, answered email and phone calls, and debated out loud (to the amusement of my coworkers) whether I should go to Seven Corners (wasting gas and energy and time) to get what is essentially a toy. 

Remember SPARKLES and PRETTY?  It's been a while since I had enough money for discretionary SPARKLE PRETTY purchases.  

It might be a toy, but it was a toy I was very excited about and dammit, I want my toy today!  The reality was that the toy was available in other colors, but I wanted the exact color I wanted.  I do admit that this causes me guilt, as I'm used to selecting what's available from the on-sale bin, so buying brand new, exactly what I want, does not come naturally to me.  

So, already feeling a little guilty and slight ridiculous, off I went to Seven Corners, where two grimy employees stood before me, scanning yet another wrong-color Shine box with their laser Target gun.  They then start this (now that it's several hours later I think it's hilarious) exchange in which they ask me repeatedly for the "DCPI" number.  I think this is a number that Target uses to track their items.  I have no idea where to find it, and if it's not online, I don't know it. They kept telling me that the DCPI number was necessary and since they didn't have it, they couldn't look for the item I wanted.  I may or may not at one point have said, "This is actually not very helpful. I don't know what a DCPI number is.  That's why I'm asking you!"  Their reply?  "Oh.  Right.  Well, we need that DCPI number.  Maybe you can guess it?"   

Around then, I opted for the option of leaving in a huff and going to Best Buy, which I usually avoid because it freaks me out.  According to the internet, Best Buy had Shines and I could order my number 2 color choice and have it delivered next week.  

By this point I was both in a huff and feeling really quite ridiculous.  I'd driven 15 minutes through rush hour both ways, I had a sermon and other work still waiting to be written, and I hadn't gotten my damn toy!  (Plus I was hungry and wanted my sermon-writing coffee.)  

This is where I got a little Overprivileged White Chick.  I mentally composed a sternly worded email to both store managers, complaining that employee number one sent me on a wild goose chase and that employees #2 were grimy and incapable of fixing a simple problem driving me to their competitor.  I'm sure by the time the mental composition was complete, the complaint letter was Dickensonian.  

By then, I pulled into Best Buy.  I went in... and lo and behold, even though the web service said that my #2 color had to be special ordered, they had FOUR of them on the shelf, AND they were on sale!  So I got exactly what I wanted, AND for $20 less, AND TODAY!  It's a BRAND NEW TOY!  HURRAY! 

And then I went to the coffee shop, where I worked for a few hours on my sermon (idea still gelling and I hope I can get the draft going today!) and considered what a ridiculous thing it would be to send my sternly worded Dickensonian complaint to either Target manager.  

First off, my toy ended up costing me $84, plus gas and aggravation.  Aggravation is my own problem and choice, no one else's.  Though, as a Portuguese girl, no one can do aggravated like me.  Was $84 for a toy really worth potentially getting those employees into some hot water?  At the end of the day, I got what I wanted.  It's time to let it go.  

I still feel a wee bit silly and guilty over the whole thing, though.  

I make such a huge production out of the simple task of buying myself a toy.  Seriously, the guilt is Old School Catholic, and I'm not Catholic!  

I'd waste energy being mad at the evil souless corporation that is Target, even though a complaint would not change a damn thing.  (Knowing your power, baby!)

There's real problems in the world out there.  Israel bombing non-combatants in Gaza.  Refugee children being sent away from their families to beg asylum on the borders of our country.  Me having to say "no" to every single request for emergency aid today because I had so many desperate people to help this month that I'm clean out of aid (and yes, I don't know how many are actually legit).  These are the days I really miss the ED at the hospital for its cold dose of actual problems in the real world.  

Getting my knickers in a twist for something as FWP as my fun new toy?  Let's just say that I'm grateful to live in a peaceful enough area that I can reflect long enough to realize the silliness for what it is.  What do you say we focus on helping fix the big problems in our world, being as healthy as possible in our own little microcosms, and let it be for all the little stuff so we have the right energy at the right time for the big stuff?    

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Swimming at the Wilson Pool

Mondays are busy days in the summers at our house.  We are both preparing for the Nation's Tri, and I'd had very limited swimming opportunities.  Namely, I could go to my apartment's pool, which is nice and clean, but usually really full of kids.  All I want is to do my laps.

So yesterday, after a trip to Fredericksburg, we decided to try to get in a swim workout before yoga.

Wilson pool in DC... is... awesome!

First of all, if you live in DC, you get FREE POOL ACCESS!! How cool is that?  I hope that our plans to move into the District come to fruition soon, because wow, I want free pool access.  As it was, we forked out $7.

It is true that if we are not already planning to be in the district, we would not head in just for the swim.  But since we were heading to free Bicyclespace yoga, it was fine.

Second... this thing is HUGE! It's a full competition pool, meaning it is 50 meters long and has deep water.  The "shallow end" is a little over 5 feet, and the deep end is diving-deep.  It was definitely a cool pool to swim in!  Let's just say that those long lengths gave me one hell of a workout!

It was a good swim overall.  I really felt like some things are finally coming together in my swim.  I was sharing a lane with 4 other people, and I didn't get lapped, and a few times, I would draft off someone to hold their feet.  The people in the fast lane the next lane over did consistently beat me, but I managed to keep them in sight.  Overall, I was very happy with this swim and feeling like things are starting to feel right.  Body placement, hand movements, kicks... whew.

Now I just want to work on endurance to finish up the distance happy and not dying.

In other news, we are considering changing nutritionists.  I'm just not seeing or feeling the results I hope for, and it's felt a little like I've had to remind her of the limitations I'm stuck with (no dairy) and my preferences (prefer not to eat meat, unless you show me that I'd really be better off!).  One of the suggestions was to just sub out meat with an equal amount of tofu, and regular yogurt with soy yogurt.  Unfortunately, that takes me even further in the wrong direction from the quotas she wants me to meet.  So I think I'll be back on the prowl for nutritionists soon.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Day Off

Today I get to go to the nutritionist! My doctor gave me the prescription to go to one after we talked about the Food Exchange program, and I found that concept to be quite confusing. On one hand, women with PCOS are sometimes told to use Food Exchange and to eat like they are diabetic, but athletes often have to be sure to get all their energy carbs in, and gels and chews make my tummy less upset.  But we humans are supposed to eat whole, unprocessed food to save the planet and the cows and the chickens, and I am supposed to take my probiotic here and my medicine there and where does a glass of wine fit in?  It seems like the plans and readings that I'm finding either include dairy for protein, way more meat than I'm willing to eat, or way too few carbs. 

The nutritionist works with sports nutrition, PCOS, and food allergies.  She is seeing us together, and will get my skinny M set up with a plan to get all the calories he needs.  (He tends to not be as interested in food, until he's starving, and then he defaults to roast chicken and ramen.  And green smoothies. He loves those.) I'm really hopeful she can help me figure put a simple way to understand what is best to eat and how to track it so I have enough long energy for those bike rides with punchy hills, and still keep my blood sugar in check and get to eat vegetarian again. Mostly.  I have found that I just don't enjoy meat all that much.  I'm still working off the doc's orders of "be willing to eat a bit of meat to get your calories in until you can see a nutritionist to sort this out" but seriously, I've had enough burgers for the next two years.  Yesterday, I was at a party and a dear fellow made these lovely burgers- delightfully rare.  Exactly the way I like a burger.  So maybe that excellent burger can be my last for a while! 

What will be interesting will be getting a plan for us together. M typically prefers things tart when I prefer sweet (he can make some soul-puckering smoothies!) and sweet where I prefer plain (get that sugar away from my coffee!), and I prefer vegetarian most of the time when he needs some meat, which explains why he languishes pale and anemic at my feet begging for a steak while I'm merrily chewing away on some seitan. How can we both meet our needs while I address my food allergy and endocrine issue, and he gets enough calories for a skinny athlete? 


I'm still getting used to Mondays as a day off.  I prefer Fridays- the combo of Friday and Saturday feels like a real weekend.  But Mondays works best for this parish right now, so Mondays it is. I did get to sleep in today. When I finally woke up, it was 10 to 8, which is super late for me! 

I guess I was tired!  One of the things I constantly forget about rehab is that I'm pushing my body to get stronger.  After a week of longer runs, speedwork, and strength training, maybe that explains why I was so doze-y.  Um, legit tired, much? So I'm making today a no workout day, except for maybe a light Barre workout later.  I need the stretching so much! 

In other news, I'm trying to figure out why my back pain intensifies so much on Sunday mornings.  I suspect that it might be partly due to the cathedra chairs we have- they are perhaps the most uncomfortable chairs in existence!  Stretching my hamstrings and back between services helps, but it doesn't cure the problem.  But once I get home, after some stretching and sitting on decent chairs, it's much better.  Perhaps I should leave a note for the permanent Rector- reconsider the cathedras? 

I've noticed my voice has smoothed out a bit. While it still gets gravelly after a full day of speaking, it is much easier to keep it in the smooth range. Hopefully, this means that the damage done from all the heartburn is healing, which means that the heartburn is resolved, which means my tummy is healing. Which is all good news.  (I learned in this whole saga that one of the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be upset tummy and heartburn, which many women experience as hunger pains.  So all the time I spent thinking I was super hungry and having those yogurts and cheese ticks for what I thought was a healthy snack, I was basically making myself sicker and sicker. Doh!) 

I haven't had the major days and days of consistent heartburn for a while now. (It just happens when I have a dairy mistake, which last happened a few weeks ago, and now that I know the symptoms, I can take my medicine that helps reduce the reaction that much earlier.) 

I did point out that I'm still hopeful that this allergy can be cured, and/or that maybe the nutritionist will discover it was all a mistake.  "Oh no!" She will say. "It wasn't dairy you were allergic to.  All this time, it was really BROCCOLI!"  And I'll give up broccoli forever.  

I can live with that. 


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bad Priest Procrastinates on Sermon

On the bright side, yesterday, I beat Level 2 of the training plan!  Yeah!  I was excited.  I'd been toiling away at Level 2 for a few weeks and was starting to feel impatient.  It was a hot, humid run, but then again, we've hit that time of year when if I want to get a decent workout in, I need to go out first thing in the morning.

I've also been doing Barre3 workouts and lots of lunges to strengthen my quads again.  Come on, leg muscles!

Mostly, though, this very moment, I am procrastinating on my sermon.  Oh, sure, it's drafted.  It was drafted by Friday.  It just does't feel like ti has gone on very deeply.  Plus, I'm a little sleepy and I keep feeling doze-y.  I've tried every trick in my book, including coffee shops, blocking webpages, and even the library.  My greatest success seems to be getting annoyed at Starbucks.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The latest run and a Monday Day Off Project

Yesterday, after work (and a little eensy beensy nap) I went for a run.  My dislike-hate-loathe-eh, it's ok affair with running is well known, and I am definitely feeling the pain of not having my beloved Ridgeline trail anymore.  It was trail running!  I miss my trails!  

So yesterday, for a "short easy" run per the training plan, I decided to try a different route.  I told myself I only had to do 25 minutes, which turned into 40, which morphed in 75!  My feel felt phenomenal, which means I think I have successfully broken in my new shoes/my feet have adapted to the new style.  

I didn't really like the new route, because it was too bright and sunny.  Chain Bridge Road does eventually turn into Vienna but where I am it was just too exposed.  But I did discover that I could turn down a side road, and discovered a new loop run, so I don't have to do an out-and-back.  Eh.  I'll take it.  

My big win for the day was pushing myself to run UP all the hills!  There was zero walking.  My legs burned, oh, ow, the burn, but I got up there.  I liked that.  I feel like I"m getting stronger and hopefully, pretty soon, I won't be humiliating myself on bike rides all the time.  It has been humbling to have to do all the stops and the heaving when I didn't even paperboy the Leadman route.  

For my day off today, I'm planning a Barre3 routine.  Yes, I'm reincorporating that.  I miss Barre3, and it's definitely a BIG challenge, but so good for my body.  And the stretching.  I need that.  

I'm also planning to work on my book situation.  We have a lot of books which have been living with us for years that we just aren't using.  After last year's moving of over 33 book boxes, we want to glean down to just the ones that make sense to keep.  So far, I have one paper bag of books ready to go.  Yeah, I have some work to do.  My hope is that by the time we are ready to move, I will have cleared out the extra books and gone through the wires and cables and chargers and gotten rid of the extra stuff that doesn't work so I am left with the actually useful stuff.  So that is my job for today. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Getting in lots of cross training

Over the weekend, I was at "camp" with my parish.  "Camp" in this case means Shrine Mont, the Cathedral seat of the Diocese of Virginia.  Virginia has no Cathedral, but they do have Shrine Mont, where there is an outdoor Shrine.  It certainly avoids the pitfalls of an expensive cathedral building to maintain, even if it means that the Cathedral isn't open during the winter months and rainstorms, and might have more than the average number of bugs in the baptismal font.  (Said the student who is serving as sexton: "Oops.  I'll have to clean that out.")

"Camp" also means houses, beds, and bathrooms, so it's hardly roughing it.  If it had a hot spring, it would be glamping.

I took my mountain bike.  The ride was just an hour and 20 minutes, but it was some nice off roads.  I walked a fair amount as I don't feel confident riding over rocks or through most streams just yet.  I had one fall, when I was trying to find the road and instead ended up on a hunter's tree sit area.  In turning around, I skidded out on the glass of their smashed beer bottles!  Little scrape, no big deal.

On Monday, M had this idea for a very fun date.  He took me ice skating!  I haven't done that in years.  He thought it would be fun for leg strength.  Let's just say that my strength and flexibility has tanked in the last year and the need for yoga and pilates is really, really confirmed.  But on the bright side, we had lots of fun!

At one point, I caught my toe pick somehow and totally face-planted.  It is the best sort of injury because, after the initial burn of shame subsided, it didn't really hurt at all.  But I do have a rather impressive ice burn on my arm and a giant goose egg of a bruise in many really impressive colors.  Seriously: green and purple and red... it's nice and round, and the first day, it was gigantic!  Definitely worth the price of admission.  I keep showing it to M, who makes admirable faces and says, "Ew!  Ouch!  Stop showing me your bruise!"  So great!

Right after I fell, this little kid skated up to me.  He must have been 6 or 7, and asked, "Are you OK? Do you need help ice skating?"  M helpfully replied, "Oh, yes.  She needs a LOT of help ice skating!"  The kid replies, "It's OK.  In the beginning, I fell like a thousand times.  But now I hardly ever rarely fall."  He skated with us for a while teaching M all sorts of handy tricks about slowing down and stuff.  Thanks for the lesson, Ian!

(Yes, the kid's name was Ian.  I told him I had a friend named Ian who is really tall and has a big beard.  He said that was neat.)