Sunday, September 21, 2008

Can't Live Without It

I have to say I am a slave to individual packages of convenience food. In my house you will find at least 10 snacks in individual packages. I don't have the willpower to eat just one (serving) nor the desire to pack up individual packs for the kids lunches. Its nice to be able to grab something and know I can stop. Its also good to know that I am only giving the kids 100 calories worth of "junk" at lunchtime. Its just not the 100 calorie packs though, I also buy nuts in individual packs to keep in my purse to keep me from eating a candy bar or something from the never ending buffet of leftovers that line the halls at work.

The other thing I could probably live without but might not still be married is our cleaning person. Miss Betty comes and does the stuff that we hate to do every two weeks. Without Betty we'd be at each others throats about whose turn it is to clean the toilet or take out the trash. The best thing about Miss Betty? Unlike most of the commercial services she doesn't require that we clean before she comes. She is an expert piler. Sure, her cleaning would be much better if we get our own mess in order beforehand but its infinitely better than it was before she came. There is nothing like coming home to the smell of a clean house and the ability to see the top of the kitchen table.

I am sure if I thought long and hard enough I could come up with lots of other things I couldn't live without. My husband would probably tell you my Blackberry has become an extension of my hand and my kids would tell you that rarely a day goes by without a G2 but its Sunday night and sleep calls.

If you want to see what others can't live without check out what other people had to say over at Parent Bloggers. If you have time and things to add, write up your own post and be entered in a chance to win a $250 VISA gift card (talk about something I'd like to live WITH). This blog blast is co-hosted by Yoplait Kids (another one of those individually packaged things I LOVE).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why can't I get this out of my head?

Liz used this song in spin class on Monday and I haven't been able to get rid of it since! I didn't even know the name or who sang it so I had to go searching. Who knew I liked Kid Rock?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Dutch Wonderful Day: Now and Then

Yesterday we took Boobah to Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA for her birthday. She requested a trip to Dutch Wonderland with Tippy Tornado instead of a party. Sounded like a fantastic idea to me, no cleaning my house to have 5 year olds destroy it in record time or renting a place and being mobbed by sticky hands and loud voices all afternoon. Parties stress me out, I love the idea of throwing a party but the execution generally leaves me bitchy.

We have a truly fabulous day with Boobah, Tippy Tornado, PDQ, Karate Boy, Gman and Esmerelda in the land of all things wonderful. Esmerelda and I kept up a running commentary of the things we were there without--her ex, strollers, diapers, diaper bags, etc. The kids were big enough to go on almost all of the rides, if not by themselves with an adult. The only bad part of Es and Bubba not being together was being short an adult to match up with the kids. We compensated though and had a much better time for it. More than once we reminisced about our last trip, we decided it was two years ago. Today I took a trip back through Gman's archives to discover it was August 2005--how much they have all changed! Enjoy!



Then, we didn't even manage to get a picture of all of them together. I had a newly broken ankle and spent the day in a scooter.

Now--Wonderful Amish Fun

Friday, September 12, 2008

Iron Girl Race Report

I think I've finally had enough time to absorb the whole event and now I can tell you about it, sorry if it is in painful detail.

The night before I made a list, checked it twice and packed my bag and milk crate. I also filled up water bottles and made sure I had gu and Kashi bars. I must have made 100 trips up and down the stairs checking and re-checking. Finally I headed to bed, I knew I had to be up early.

I got up at 5:10 AM and had slept much better than I expected. Into my Mid-Maryland Tri top and tri shorts, on with the heart rate monitor and out the door. I was surprised at how dark it still was. The race was only one exit away and almost immediately off the exit the traffic was backed up. Its good to be a local and know to park across from the park instead of in it. I got all of my things together and headed to the park in the dark with lots of other people.

As we moved down towards the transition area they had body markers with lines several women deep. Off with the long sleeved t-shirt, time to get marked! 1524 on both hands, arm and my age on the back of my leg. Pick up the stuff again and off to transition. Stop to hug several people along the way. As I am unpacking I notice I have a message from TriTurtle who I met on one of the Weight Watchers message boards--she'd been at the park before I got up. I went to find her as soon as I was set up but only saw her bike spot. There was a woman in transition who was also set up near me at the tri in July. It made me realize that when you are grouped by age you end up seeing the same people a lot.

Finally it was off to the swim area (after considering shoes or no shoes, which goggles and what else do I need, many, many time!). On the way I had to go to the bathroom. The line for the porta potties was really long so I headed off to the permanent bathrooms. Big line there too but the women had commandeered the men's room so I got in that shorter line. Of course about two ladies in front of me one of the two toilets overflowed. We all giggled about that putting the lake water into perspective. Everyone was chatting and friendly. Finally I did my business and headed off to the swim start. I ran into a friend from church and we went down to check out the swim course. WOW, 1100 yards looks a lot longer when its all laid out in a line rather than back and forth over and over in the pool. Finally I got my MMTC tattoo, found Esmerelda and GMan and the girls. Our great friends Tracy and Shelby came along and helped the girls make signs and gave Gman time to take pictures! Swim

Into the water with 100 of my best friends. We tread water and they announce 40 seconds. At that point I realize that I am in the middle towards the front of the wave. Not where a slow poke like me belongs but way too late to do anything about it. And we are off, after a slight panic I settle down, slow but sure and there are plenty of people behind me. I try to move in towards towards the buoys to swim the least distance possible. From about 1/4 of the way through the swim to the last 200 yards there is this woman I can. not. shake. No matter where I go or what I do she is there. Either swimming into my path or over top of me. I stop to tread water to try and lose her, I try to speed it up to pass her and neither tactic works! Eventually I get her with an elbow (sorry!) and she moves off a bit. All I kept thinking was this huge lake and you have to be ON TOP OF ME?! 32:36, not bad

Coming out of the water they handed us Aflac duck towels for our feet. I jogged up through the transition area to my spot near the back near the end of a rack. Thank you to whomever put an orange lei on the sign at the end of our row. I sat on my crate and changed my shoes. Since I changed from Athena to age group my section was nearly empty of people. I got my feet wiped off and struggled into my socks. Into my bike shoes easily and then a major wrestling match to get my bike out of the rack. My seat was too high and getting it back under the pipe was a battle. Then I had to stop and straighten my things up so they were in the way for everyone else. Finally I was off.

The bike was fantastic. The exit from the park was lined with people. I saw a neighbor and then I was out on the road. What a difference traffic control makes! I felt good and was quickly in a groove. I was getting passed occasionally but was passing a few folks as well. I got to the big hill and there were people spread out all over the road. I passed several people and said a little prayer of thanks that I wasn't one of the women walking my bike up the hill! At the top I didn't feel as winded as I had many times in the past, training pays off. Worst part over. On the gradual uphill to the turn around there was some yahoo wanting to make a left hand turn but was so far over to the right cyclists couldn't get past him. The officer wasn't quite sure what to do. I was glad I was on the opposite side of the road! Through the turnaround, pass up the water, take a slug out of my bottle and move on. The trip back to the park was fun. I played pass with a woman in blue shorts and a Camel Back. At the top of the last hill I see our friends and their kids with signs. I yell to them and they yell back. I hear one of the kids say "is that really Miss Heather?" All along the way women would yell out encouragement to each other. There were people with signs at the side of the road. A definite benefit of wearing the tri club jersey--people cheer for you, go Mid-Maryland! Its a big pick me up. Finally into the home stretch and back to the park for the run. As I enter the park I realize a) I have to pee and b) I have had VERY little to drink during the ride.

Struggled again with the bike. Decided I couldn't wear the wet socks to run. Took a big slug of G2 and headed out. Thankfully there were porta potties on the way out of transition so I took a minute to do my business. As I exit someone yells "lets go 1524!" Nothing like a cheering squad to pee!

Immediately I knew I was in trouble. My legs were like lead. Not nearly enough bricks and laying off the running after a painful training run that ended up shoeless. My goal was to finish in less than 2:45. When I started the run I thought piece of cake! I convinced myself if I could just run the flats I could walk the hills. Then it was hills and water stops. Finally it was just get me to the end! Up the worst hill on the course was the tri club, dressed as the Village People giving out water, Gatorade and wet sponges. I love these people. I ran a little and then walked uphill some more. As we started back down into the park there was a guy yelling encouragement--you know if you made it this far you've got it, you can do anything! He was fabulous. There was a woman saying her husband told her it would take 3 hours and she was walking and thinking he was right. I really wanted to bean him, she was doing it and I imagined him sitting on the couch. I left her as I started to run again. Look at my watch and know its going to be close My foot was hot and my toes hurt. Run a little, walk a little, women go thundering past and I am in awe at the speed of some of them! One last uphill, I am going to try and run this one, made it. Then the crowd thickens, first little groups of people, then clumps of people and finally people lining both sides of the trail screaming and yelling! How can you not run faster with that kind of encouragement?! Into the shoot, I see my girls with their "Go Mommy" signs. They reach out and give me a high five. I run across the finish line. Feeling AMAZING. They put a finisher medal around my neck and I am in a bit of shock.

I did it. It was hard, it was fun. Truly one of the most amazing, empowering experiences of my life. I can't wait to do it again! Esmerelda and I have joked several time that triathlon is dangerous because you truly believe you can do ANYTHING!

So, who is going to join me next year?

298 1433 HEATHER 39 ELLICOTT CITY MD 2:43:47.75
Swim 317 32:36
T1 251 4:56
Bike 246 1:14:43 mph 14.1
T2 314 3:45
Run 317 47:50 pace 14:05

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gearing Up for Iron Girl: The Back Story

Its taken me a week to process Iron Girl. While on the surface it was "just a race" down a little bit deeper it was so much more! Almost two years ago Esmerelda asked if I wanted to be part of an Iron Girl relay team with her. I laughed and said "um, maybe" but I don't swim so well and my bike is old and run, ha, I just don't run. In the end Es decided she was going to do it all herself. I knew she would because I've seen her take on the seemingly impossible so many times and she always gets through it--you know, a triathlon seems easy when I think about her working full time, being pregnant, having a toddler, taking care of someone else's kids full-time, AND getting an MBA all at the same time. Talk about mental and physical toughness. Any way, I was fascinated by her stories as she trained for Iron Girl and the races she did before. I watched her body and attitude change as she made her way towards the races. Iron Girl was the first time I watched her race. Boobah, PDQ & I headed out to the top of a hill to watch the racers come up the hill. The energy was amazing. Oh, here she comes, yell for Miss Wendy and the girls and I did. The look of surprise on her face was priceless. They were riding up a hill and most everyone looked like they were having FUN! Finally, after picking up some flowers we headed off to see her at the finish line--except we didn't make it in time because of the traffic and crowds. When I saw her I was so proud, she was practically beaming with her accomplishment. My biggest surprise was the other women I saw there, friends from church, Mom from the babysitter, neighbor. It made me think, maybe this isn't such a crazy idea, maybe I *could* do it. And thus the triathlon wheels were turning.

I knew that if there were any way I was going to do a triathlon I'd need to start running right away. I could certainly get on a bike, I thought that would be a piece of cake given the time I'd spent in spin class. I dreaded the swimming part but I figured I had plenty of time to get to that but running, I knew running would be my hard part. So over the course of 5 months I did a Couch to 5K program from Beginner Triathlete. The mix of walking and running made it seem not as hard as I expected. I remember thinking I'd die running 3 minutes in a row but more importantly I remember the feeling of triumph the first time I ran 30 minutes in a row. What an accomplishment for someone who had never run more than a mile, ever.

Winter came and so did the triathlon training class, one morning a week at 5:15 AM at the pool and Sunday mornings at the gym and on the track for two hours of biking and running. That first morning I was scared. Would I be able to keep up? Would the class be full of real athletes that I could never keep up with? What if I made a fool of myself? Self doubt kept me up most of the night. But I went, met great people and worked hard, really, really hard. Inside on the bike wasn't so bad other than getting used to being on the bike for an extended period of time. It felt good to work hard. Then came the run. We (and by we I mean they) jogged over to the track to run laps and then we were supposed to run back to the gym. All that running I'd done for months to prepare for this day was on fresh legs. Running on legs that have been riding a bike for an hour is much, much different. I jogged and walked to the track and it was all I could to make it through the laps. When one of the coaches yelled "we're in zone 2 now!" as I trudged by it was all I could do to resist telling her I'd left zone 2 long behind and was working as hard as I could even though it didn't look like it! At the end of the workout I was exhausted. It was a good exhausted though. I went to church and it was all I could do to get up and down for the hymns. When I got home I took pain relievers, a hot bath and a long nap. I kept telling myself I've got 8 months until the race, I *can* do this but believe me, their were days I doubted it.

Es and I did an indoor tri in February and it wore me out. Again a great sense of accomplishment tempered with that was hard, what have I gotten myself into! In June we did a local tri to raise money for melanoma research and education. It was fun, my parents were there, my kids were there and I finished. I walked part of the bike, it was hilly and every time I rode the course I got off, I don't know how much was my lack of fitness and how much was mental after that first bad ride. There were days when I would run or ride and feel great. Then there were other days all along the way that made me seriously doubt what I was doing. Luckily most of the days were somewhere in between and there would be a good day to pull me out of a bad place.

Three weeks before the race there was an opportunity to swim in the lake used for the tri. It is not somewhere they typically allow people to swim. The typical reaction was, "you are going to swim where? eeeeeeeeeeew" There were about 500 women there that morning for the practice swim. We waited a long, long time to get in the the water but finally it was our turn. The first bit was fine, then my goggles broke. I spent the rest of the swim with a horrible headache from tying my goggles on my face. I spent about 500 yards trying to decide if the lake water would give me an eye infection if I just dropped them all together. I was glad I did it but again..."what am I doing?!"

I went to the brick n' pic with the tri club, the first time I'd actually interacted with them in real life, not just virtually on the message board. They were planning to run-bike-run. I decided I'd run and bike since my family was coming afterwards. I'd never run first and I have to say it took a LOT out of me. I had the slowest of the group in my sights for the first half of the run but then I lost them. My heart rate was unbelievably high the entire run. Finally, bringing up the rear I made it back to the bike racks and nearly everyone was gone. The guy riding sag said he'd follow me. I so didn't want to be last but off we went. He was helpful and encouraging. We eventually found some other riders from the club and they took turns hanging with me. I felt horrible for holding people up but appreciated the company. It was great to ride with experienced riders, calling out when cars were coming, there were things in the road and getting to know them a little better. It really shook me though, would I ever make it through the race if this run and ride had been so hard? It was coming up quick.

Finally, one last ride-run brick before the race with Es and our friend D from work. It was truly the best bike ride ever. Tons of people were out, waving and encouraging as they rode by. I was fast, I felt good and my back which had bothered me on nearly every other practice ride was good. I thought I had it licked when I started the run. Ugh. The run was miserable, I just didn't have it. D ran with me and then I'd walk, she'd circle back and run with me some more. We headed up the hill that until this point I'd always avoided. Mistake, big mistake. Holy cow, it was a long series of hills that never seemed to end. D finally took off and I ran with a few other women along the way. My foot hurt, I'd had some foot pain in the past but never enough to make me stop, until that day. About a quarter mile from the end I couldn't take it any more. I finally took off my shoes and walked from there. As I hobbled along I ran into a woman from my tri class and it was good to catch up with her. I was thrilled to find out the end of the race was in a different, closer spot than I thought. Besides the pain in my foot though I felt good. I decided I would baby the foot until race day and see what happened.

Almost a year of training to do a race. Really, it was more of a lifestyle change. Training included at least 5 workouts a week, including one "brick" that usually lasted 1.5-2.5 hours. Never in my life did I imagine I would be exercising long and hard enough to need food in the middle of it! As my distances grew, so did my confidence. Not just in the fact I could finish it, that I could run or that I could ride. I found that at work I was more confident in my opinions. I was more willing to take risks. Becoming an Iron Girl had way more to do about changing my life than just finishing a race.

Next time, Iron Girl: The Race.