Sunday, January 30, 2011

Races and parties

No, I didn't do any races, unless you count my mad dash to make it to my 8:30 class after swimming.  But my 2011 race schedule is coming together. For sure I am doing Age Group Nationals on August 20; that is my A race to beat all A races. I have also signed up to do the Pumpkinman Sprint again in September. The other for-sure race on my schedule is the local Whately sprint triathlon on June 25--probably not an A race, but it's so close and so fun, I really can't resist.

The rest of my schedule is a little up in the air, so if there's anyone reading this who has opinions about what I should do, feel free to weigh in. I'm leaning toward the Mass State Tri (Olympic) in mid-July as my last (or first, in chronological terms) A race of the season; I did this last year and had a good time, despite feeling rather dead of leg that day. I would love to find another Olympic tri to do in June, but I can't do Pat Griskus, because my husband has dibs on that day for the Patriot half, and I don't feel like trying to get a babysitter for 4 in the morning or whenever I'd have to leave. I can't do Mooseman, because I have another commitment that weekend, unrelated to triathlons, but linked in that both activities require me to wear funny clothing.

In the early season my coach is gung ho about the Shamrock Duathlon, which I'm willing to try. She is particularly fond of their prizes, which are probably more relevant for her than for me, but I see they have post-race beer as well.  Plus they claim the bike course is "exhilarating"--gosh, that sounds like fun!

I have been toying with the idea of doing the Season Opener on May 8 in Hopkinton. Blogger Kim is apparently doing this one. (Although if you look at the pictures on her blog, I think you need to ask yourself, would I take her advice about what is a sane thing to do? OK, I've met her in person, and actually she seems quite sane, or at least able to pass for it.) I have a bad feeling about the temperature of an open water swim in MA on May 8, but frankly I have a worse feeling about pool triathlons, so maybe I should just suck it up and try this. If anyone's actually done it before and survived with their nose and other extremities intact, I'd love to hear about it.

When I'm not obsessing about my race schedule (or working), I'm throwing birthday parties. Charlotte turned 8.  Twister was played.

The signs taped to foreheads are a remnant of the first game, where I wrote out lots of celebrity and character names, and they wore them on their foreheads and tried to guess who they were.  Thanks to Traci for giving me this idea.  Just taping the names on their foreheads was apparently, like, the funniest thing ever. Especially when the name was Justin Bieber.

I baked this awesome (in the sense that the recipe is awesome, not necessarily my rendition of it) caramel cake:

Later on Patrick and one of the cats played Twister as well.

And somewhere in there we had another snowstorm, delayed opening, endless shoveling, blah blah blah.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dying to swim

Public announcement: if you are paying attention, you'll notice that I am no longer putting two spaces after periods. This is a big adjustment for me, but I read this article and had the mind-shattering epiphany that I've been wrong for my whole life. I am not someone who likes being wrong, particularly when it comes to nitpicky issues of grammar and punctuation.

Friday morning we got another snowstorm. There is a Groundhog Day like quality to all this snow--one snow day morphs into another. (Was that the snow day, or the 2-hour-delay day?)  Here is the obligatory picture of our snowy front yard:

I was supposed to be in a retreat at work from 9 to 2, and I had planned to swim when the pool opens at 6:30 am so I could get in my workout and make it to the meeting all showered and respectable. I woke up around 5:20, fed the cats, had some coffee, then checked the information line at work. No cancellation, and the public schools website showed no closing or delay, so I left. As I was getting in the car, the paper delivery person (a thing of unidentified gender that whizzes by in some kind of small car) threw our paper in the driveway, which I took as a sign that the roads couldn't be that bad. I was wrong.

There were about 5" of fresh snow on the ground, no signs of any recent plowing, and as I slid my way down the hill from our house, I thought, "This may not be such a smart idea." 20 minutes and about 3 miles later, I revised that thought into, "This might be one of the dumber things I've ever done." There were a couple plows out and a few other drivers, but my well-meaning non-4-wheel-drive Civic was having trouble making any forward progress on uphills. At about 6:20 my husband called my cell phone to tell me that in fact my college wasn't opening until 10:30 (so no pool), and the kids school was just plain closed. I turned around (which was a much longer process than that phrase conveys) and slowly white-knuckled my way home. The most awesome part was when a car egregiously tailgated me for about a mile while I tooled along on a slippery, snow-covered road at about 17 mph. Do people like that really think they can stop quickly? How optimistic of them.

After Patrick and I shoveled, I went for a short grudge ski--I was grumpy that I was missing the retreat, grumpy that my swimming plans had been foiled, and kind of annoyed that the plows still hadn't hit our neighborhood, so I took advantage of the unplowed roads to ski my way over to some fields about a mile from our house. Skiing on the roads was great, in the fields not so much, because of the layer of ice 5" under the powder. I kept breaking through up to mid-calf, but I consoled myself that perhaps I was breaking a trail for the next person. The best skiing was on a well-worn trail made by our friends' golden retriever; I followed this into their backyard, said hi at their back door, and skied home.

By the time I got home the plows had made an appearance in our neighborhood, so I went into overdrive trying to find a way to hand my children off to someone else so I could make the end of the retreat.  (My husband had to give a talk later that day, so we had already had that fun conversation that working parents everywhere have on snow days, the undercurrent of which is something like, "Are you saying your work is more important than my work?") Earlier in the day Patrick had told me he wanted to go to a certain friend's house, and I told him, "You can't just invite yourself over to someone else's house."  But now I did just that, and the friend's parents kindly took him in (actually, they took him sledding, and even better, they claimed they had been just about to call to invite him).  My friend Nancy (who still evidently feels she owes me for driving her to knee surgery) took Charlotte, who was thrilled to spend the day with Nancy's daughter, and off I went to the retreat. At the end of the day I picked up Patrick, brought his friend's parents a bottle of wine (I wasn't sure if they drink but figured by the end of a snow day with Patrick, probably they would), and we hosted Nancy and her family for movie night and pizza. (Or pad thai, for those of us with more sophisticated palates.)

Friday night I did a bike workout on the trainer, and today I got in the run I was supposed to do Thursday (foiled by the first day of the retreat--yes, this was a long retreat). Charlotte and I took a walk this afternoon, and she asked me why lakes freeze over, but the ocean doesn't. This is the wrong thing to ask a physical chemist, because I couldn't stop myself from giving her a basic explanation of freezing point depression, which of course required a detour into entropy. We came home and started an experiment to compare how quickly a cup of water will freeze compared to a cup of Heed. I like the way this activity captures all aspects of my life: parenthood, chemistry, triathlon training:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bike test

You know what I like even less than 5+ hours of shoveling?  Doing a bike test on the trainer.

I was supposed to do this Thursday, and I gave it a halfhearted (more like half-a**ed) attempt and gave up because I had a sore throat, wasn't feeling well, had a hangnail. . .  you get the picture.  Thursday afternoon I took off for a meeting out in the Berkshires.  Friday morning I did a 45-minute easy run out there in the dark, on snowy roads.  It was beautiful and also sort of freaky, but I had to go early to get to my meeting before 8.  Saturday I finished up around noon and drove home, and later that afternoon I did the bike test while my husband made dinner.  My sore throat had morphed into a full-on mucusfest of a chest cold, but I just didn't care any more--I wanted it done.

My bike test is a 10K (actually, 6.21 miles, because that's what I get from the course builder on the Computrainer), and the goal is to keep it at an effort that's all out but constant--so I fall apart into a heap of quivering jello just as I hit 6.21 miles.  The trick is the part from about 0.5 to 5.9 miles, where I already feel like quivering jello but must stay a coherent heap of quivering jello that is still seated on the bike, pedaling away.  Ideally with left and right legs that are roughly equivalent in their jellolike power output.

I really wanted to quit most of the time, but I kept telling myself I'd have to do it again anyway, and all I would be doing if I stopped would be increasing my total time of painful jellohood.  Here I am at about mile 4.8:

I don't even like jello, by the way.

So how did it go?  I averaged 1 watt more than the last time I did this test in April of 2010.  My HR moved steadily upward during the test, and I actually got it a little bit higher than I did last time around.  (I can't yet get my HR on the bike as high as I can running for any kind of sustained period.  By "sustained" I mean more than 1 second.  I think there is a technical term for this phenomenon, and it's called weak-a** biking legs.)  You could say, therefore, that I have made no progress on the bike since then.  But that would be unkind of you.  I choose to look at it this way: from mid-September on I did very little in the way of bike training, relatively speaking, and I have only a few easy (Zone 2 and below) trainer workouts under my belt* this winter.  I am therefore thrilled to find that I have not lost any bike fitness as a result of that.  This is my story, and I'm sticking to it.

*Technically, I almost never wear a belt, so it seems likely I'm storing those bike workouts somewhere else.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blame me

If you live in the northeast and don't like snow, it's my fault.  For weeks I've been complaining about how we never really got a big storm last year, about how our snow so far this year had all been piddling little storms that left us with 2-4".  Every time there was a storm, if you looked at the radar, there was a big hole over the Pioneer Valley.  Sha-lame.

But all that changed this week--we got about 2 feet in my town.  I am one of those annoying people who loves snow, even though I don't ski.  (I cross-country ski, occasionally, but I fall a lot.  And plus I don't think that's what people mean when they ask, "Do you ski?")  I also like to shovel.

So Wednesday I was out shoveling for over 2 hours in the morning, while the snow was still falling, and by the time I'd finished our walkways and driveway and raked the roof, the first part I'd shoveled didn't even look shoveled any more.  I came in and took a nap.  My husband took a turn as well during the day, ably assisted by Patrick:

Only if you look closely, Patrick isn't really helping.  He's eating snow.

I went out again late in the day to shovel more, after following up my nap with an intense, Zone 2 session of cookie baking.  By now it was getting dark.  The kids had abandoned all pretense of "helping" and were digging elaborate tunnels in the snow banks that were now so tall I could barely throw the snow over them.  Here they are in their first tunnel:

Did I say I liked shoveling?  I used to.  Then, just before dinnertime, in the cold and dark, the snowplow made one last pass of our street.  And left this at the end of my driveway:

I know, it's kind of dark in that picture.  Trust me--it was a freaking lot of snow.  I almost cried.  I have been known to be, when someone (like my husband) suggests that we get a snowblower, a little bit self-righteous about my love of shoveling.  Why would I waste fossil fuels to do something I can do with my own energy?  But by the end of the day Wednesday, I would have clubbed a baby seal just to have the shoveling done.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My new car, my old cartilage

No, I don't really have a new car, but I'm driving a rental while my Civic gets fixed.  And it is awesome, because a) it is clean inside, and b) it has satellite radio.  There is an XM station called "First Wave" that is like my dream radio station: some guy with a (possibly fake) British accent playing old David Bowie, the Smiths, the Police, and other music that takes me back to high school.  Which really isn't all that great, come to think of it, since I mostly hated high school.  But I liked the music, so I'm willing to put up with the odd cringe-inducing memory it evokes.

In training news, my knees started to freak out last week, and I am patting myself on the back for not freaking out with them.  I stopped running, iced a lot, and everything is under control again, at least for now.  This probably happened in part because of some aggressive strength training I started.  My left leg is essentially atrophied around the knee--the muscles in my quad are visibly smaller than on the right side, probably dating back to the Osgood-Schlatter thing I had as a kid, well before I even knew who The Smiths were.  I've been working on this for over a year now, under the guidance of my awesome massage therapist/trainer.  This winter I decide to try to quantify my progress, so I measured the circumference of my thighs around the lower quad, just above the knee, and indeed my left leg is 3/4 of an inch smaller than my right.  I'm curious to see if I can change this over the winter (and no, not by atrophying the right one).  But apparently I need to ease into it a bit more, which is fine, because in my past experience I tend to put on muscle pretty easily.  I think I might have been a Soviet weightlifter in a past life.

Speaking of Soviets and high school, one of my fonder memories from freshman year indoor track in high school is from the "weight room," by which I mean this odd little room that contained some stretching mats and a Universal setup.  (With sparkly red upholstery.)  There were two seniors on the team who were sort of--no, not just sort of--my idols, for very different reasons.  One was a ridiculously good runner, so good that she got to run the Millrose Mile at Madison Square Gardens.  She later went on to run for Georgetown.  The other one was not such a great runner, but she worked very hard.  She later went on to win $250,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, back when it first started--I think at the time she was the highest-winning female contestant.  Both of these girls were really smart, and they both took Russian.  When they would spot each other doing bench press, they would sing, to the tune of Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman," "You make me feel like a Soviet woman. . . . "  Sadly, this particular Cold War gem has not yet made an appearance on First Wave.

I think I will stop here, before I start waxing nostalgic about all of us interrupting our strength drills to try to do jumps like David Lee Roth.  Oops, too late.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A crash-bang end to 2010

No, not really the good kind of crash-bang.  Someone rear-ended my car on the 28th:

Yes, she took out the Thule, which in turned whacked the trunk, with the end result being that I can't currently open the trunk.  (Or use the bike rack, although I was ready to take it off for the winter anyway.)  This means that the 4 bags of clothing I was taking to Goodwill have to remain in the trunk until the car is fixed.  Since they've been riding around in there for the better part of a month--and this after sitting in my house for even longer--I don't feel particularly urgency around this issue.  And no, no one was hurt.  Although the woman who hit me was kind of freaked out, because she was driving a brand new car home from the dealer.  Oops.

To back up (no pun intended), I got rear-ended on my way back from taking my friend Nancy to her knee surgery.  She tore her left meniscus last year and had it fixed in April, and then she tore the right one this fall.  In April her husband took her down for the surgery, but he has a bit of an issue with needles, so when she got the IV, he fainted.  I volunteered to step in this time so the nurses could pay attention to Nancy instead of abandoning her to go get saltines for her husband.  I have a lovely picture of Nancy in her pre-surgery shower cap and hospital gown, but since I want to keep her as a friend, I'm not posting it here.  I was sort of disappointed that they wheeled Nancy away before they started the anesthetic, because I wanted to hear her say funny stuff.  Last time apparently she started going on and on (in her words) about riding her bike up Mt. Washington.  I figured either I would hear what she really thinks about me, or at least I'd get some good climbing tips.  Oh well.

The rest of our week was a blur of lounging about the house, punctuated by trips to the skating rink.  Here is Patrick, decked out in most of his hockey garb (we figure the padding is helpful),  whizzing around the rink:

Charlotte went to winter camp at Stone House Farm, where among other things she made this slightly portly crocodile bread (which for reasons unknown to me we called "salamander bread"):

I finally made it out for a drink with Snack Girl, after trying to arrange this date for the better part of the semester.

I did the most swimming I've ever done in one week, and my arms are tired to prove it.  If my massage therapist decides to come back from his Christmas vacation, I will ask for his help with this.

Today I followed up my long run with an ice bath:

Our rubber chicken has seen better days, I think.

I am still sending out Christmas cards.

We have made progress catching up on Lost, although I'm not sure it counts as "catching up" when the series actually ended a long time ago.  But we are halfway through the final season, and no, I haven't read what happens at the end.  I did have an epiphany the other night, though: I think I figured out where The Others get their clothes.  I used to like to get clothes there sometimes, too--only when they're deeply on sale--but then I read this a few years ago and reconsidered.

And yes, Joker is still alive.  He is supposed to go back next week for followup blood work, but for now he's just enjoying the fact that I feel too guilty to throw him off when he climbs on my Adam's apple in the middle of the night.

Happy 2011!