It only takes a month

On New Year's Day, doubt had me in its grips.  I hadn't had a quality stretch of training since Pikes - a fairly long time to go without focus or goals.  I only ran 55 times in 112 days - that's 67 days off, vs. 30 or so in the previous 8 months.  I weighed in at a surprising 148 lbs - I was 140 in August.  Most telling, however, was how lethargic I felt when I actually DID get out the door.

These beast feeds upon itself.

I've been around the block enough to trust that a couple back-to-back quality weeks would silence the beast, and I would be back in control of my training.  Maybe a month or two behind my training from one year ago, but back in control nonetheless.

Thirty-one days later and I'm in a whole different place.  I considered January 2011 to be a pretty solid month, as I had a decent base of work under me going into 2011.  When I stacked it up against this year's first month, though, I liked what I saw.

  • 235 miles / 29k of climbing in January 2012
  • 222 miles / 15k of climbing in January 2011
  • 27 days running in 2012
  • 27 days running in 2011
  • 13 days crossfit/cross-training in 2012
  • 0 days in 2011

Furthermore, I'm shocked to find that some of my early-season tempo efforts have been faster at the same PE.  Today's 5 x 1000 (2 minutes active recovery) around Stratton Rez were done comfortably in 5:58 pace.  I did this same exact workout (give or take some reps) many times last spring, and usually found 6:10 to be about the right pace for an LT effort.  On the few tempo efforts I've put forth, I found a similar pattern - I'm comfortably about 10-15 seconds/mile faster.

Go figure.  I'm still a few lbs over fighting weight, especially for 100-milers.  Maybe 2011's miles are beginning to pay off.

Tinker Bell Race Weekend - Saturday

So I managed to wake up in plenty of time to get ready for the Kid's race. Great, since I had passed out before setting an alarm. Oops.

We had a brilliant plan to leave around 6:45, allowing us plenty of time to get through the super secret entrance in Downtown Disney at 7:15, be ready to run at 7:45, run at 8 and be done shortly thereafter. Only.

We left late. It took longer to get there than we thought. The super secret entrance? CROWDED. Super long line - they had to check bags of EVERYONE that was entering. And since these were parents with young kids? Long. Lines. We finally entered the park, I took A and Heather's two oldest kids one way, and she left with Gabs for the 400.

A and Gabs
A with #1

On the start line
So they yell "Go!" and immediately the kid in front of me stops. I try to stop so I don't fall on him, which causes ME to fall and re-skin my knee and drop my phone. In a Kid's race. Brutal. I had some catching up to do as the kids had already taken off. My calves? Aching. IN A KIDS RACE. Finally caught up to the kids and they were running pretty strongly. Until, for some reason, #1 stopped and put A on her back. Meanwhile, I'm yelling "cheater!" (all in good fun). #1 drops A and off they go.

What a ham!

A began to tire out a little more than halfway there. #1 and #2 went on ahead, and obviously I stuck with A. She was doing really well, but I had no idea on pace since I had forgotten to wear my watch. We started to see the signs for the shorter kid's distances, and I finally got her to run again between the markers for the 100 and 200m. She SPRINTED toward the finish:

There was no clock at the end, so no idea on the time. I was figuring around 12-13 minutes. Imagine my surprise when I pulled official times later in the evening to find out that even with a minute or more of walking, she still pulled off a 10:14 mile! So proud of her!

A and #2
Awesome medal!
We grab our bottles of water and food, then head to watch for Heather and Gabs. We didn't know that all the races hadn't started at the same time, and she didn't have her phone to tell us she got tired of waiting and ran sooner with the 200m group. We barely caught sight of her as she ran by, so no pictures :(

By now it was MUCH later than we had planned. We had tons of stuff still to do. We went and had breakfast down the street with some of Heather's extended family. So much fattening and delicious food. I love vacation:

Right after breakfast we headed BACK to the expo. Tried again for goodie bags for Team Sparkle. Out again :( A talked me into getting her the new Minnie Mouse sparkle skirt. Adorable.

After leaving the expo, it was on to the second adventure of the day. Quick stop at the grocery store to pick up goodies for the Ragnar meeting. Oh, what's that you say? Ragnar meeting? Well, I am the only person NOT from SoCal on my team. So they decided to combine a virtual run for Gabs with a Ragnar meeting on Tinker Bell weekend so that I could get a chance to meet everyone. YAY! Everyone was SUPER nice, and NO running was done since it was a billion degrees out. I did, however, eat a cupcake, some cookies, some chips... (catching a theme here?) I also got my pair of Aspaeris Pivot Shorts. Pulled them out of the package and they looked like something A could wear! But, they ARE pretty dang comfortable. If they would have had a pocket, they would have been part of my outfit for the half. There is a picture floating around somewhere of the Ragnar girls, but I don't know who has it. Snagged from Pretty Fittie, a team picture, and I'm ROCKIN' the new Aspaeris shorts! (I'm in the green sparkle skirt, in case you forgot what I look like :D

After the meeting, we still had to get iron on transfers for our outfits (nothing like waiting until the last minute) - which Heather's husband had gotten while we were having our meeting. After a bit of trial and error, our outfits were ready to roll. Then it was time to head to meet our friends for some... PRE RACE EATING. Yep. More food.

Riddle me this. Kid's meal at Red Robin. Includes drink, mac and cheese (with free refills) and a side (could include veggies or salad or fries) for $4.99. An adult version is the same size mac, salad, a teeny piece of bread, NO REFILLS ON MAC and twice the price. Mad. I explain to the waiter that I eat A LOT and expected more for my money. Long story short... I did eat half of Heather's plate, and got a refill of mac. But still. Isn't that wrong?? Shouldn't my serving have been bigger, ESPECIALLY with no refill??? The server had the audacity to say, "Wow. You really DO eat a lot." Good thing I don't get offended easily. Pleasantly surprised when my friend Josh picked up the tab. FOR THE WHOLE TABLE. What a rad guy.

Heather's husband leaves with the kiddo's and we check into the Crowne Plaza across the parking lot. Heather's Priceline steal of $69... between 4 of us. What a deal! Beer in the hotel bar. Well, I actually had 2, which is usually more than I think I should have, but we were having such a good time, I really couldn't resist.

And head to bed around 10... early wake up call. You know, it IS Disney.

Struggles Make The Prize Greater...

I am not one who likes to struggle or suffer or be full of heartache!  I don’t like feeling like a mis-fit or friendless or lonely or ugly or fat or unwanted!  I absolutely detest feeling like a 3rd wheel or forgotten or unappreciated or insignificant!  I hate feeling like I have no value and that my life is of little worth to anyone!  
Who does?  
(okay, that might be a question for a psychiatrist).
Yet I have felt (and often still feel) many of those things... 
Life is so ironic, though!  I see that because of my struggles - my triumphs have HUGE meaning to me.  The times I overcome and conquer those feelings have been the SWEETEST of victories - even tho they may be seemingly small.
Perhaps what seems small to us, are viewed as HUMONGOUS strides to the angels who watch us!  Perhaps the obstacles in this life - swimming upstream so to speak - make any upward movement, no matter how small, a triumph worth celebrating!  I am convinced this is true.
I overcame some things this week.  I overcame extreme guilt and self-anger at indulging in two servings of a high-sugar dessert I hadn’t planned.  I overcame self-pity at having no running buddy.  I overcame some lonely feelings and sadness that no friend called me when I really wanted it.  I overcame the hurts I felt from some family members.  I overcame some self-doubts I was having...
I can forgive myself.  
I can forgive others.  
I can keep moving forward.  
I can SMILE everyday at the Goodness that is in my life!!
I have my life back!  I have my health back.  I can run.  I can ride my bike.  My relationship with my kids is so much better.  I have the most amazing supportive husband ever!  I have a stronger relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I know He suffered for me and I am of great worth to Him!  I have wonderful friends in my life.
My life is a Miracle!  
I have what my mother didn’t have... a SECOND CHANCE!  
(She died at 56 from heart disease)
I will take it
and live in HER honor 
and become that daughter that is worthy to bear her name!
I have to post this video... that reminds me how much greater the prize is - because of what we go through to get it!  NEVER GIVE UP!  


I am Loving playing basketball again - even tho I’m the oldest one there by like 10 years (didn’t even realize that till I thought about it).  It’s okay... I’m living my life and excited I can play!

Got some running shoes!  (I took back my Costco ones)  I went to a running store and got “fit” for these and I’m so glad I did.  I learned some tips on running and how to avoid knee damage.  So far this time in training, my knees have not been hurting at all!  So happy about that.  I still wear knee supports every time I run or play bb because I don’t want to damage them.
I have been ROCKING IT with my running.  Went last Friday and ran 10 sets of 4 minutes with the last 2 sets I pushed to 5 and then 7 minutes.  I ran nearly 4 miles!  Yesterday (Monday), I ran on the treadmill and did 8 sets of running for 5 and 6 minutes.  I am getting close to being able to run longer periods without having to stop and walk.  It's kicking my tushie but it feels fabulous to be able to increase that time.  BOOYA!

Also, I am now the Young Women Camp Director for our church group!  I get to head up girls camp this year!  So excited - it’s going to be so fun to be there with my girls again!  My plate is getting fuller all the time but it’s all good and I love it!!
How are YOU celebrating YOUR life?

Tinker Bell Race Weekend - Friday

Since I was bringing A with me again, I decided to get there a bit earlier on Friday so that we could do some non running/race related things.

EARLY flight out of Denver. Nothing of any interest happened at the airport. Although. If you pack an entire suitcase filled with nothing but 26 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, security is a BIT suspicious. FYI. Arrived in Orange County around 9:30 am. A friend of mine picked us up at the airport. We hung out a bit, enjoyed lunch at Chipotle, then headed to the beach to kill time until Heather got off work so we could hit up the expo.

Within minutes, A was covered in mud and wet up to her thighs. BUT. She was having fun.

Things were going very well until she got swarmed by ladybugs and had a meltdown. Yes. Ladybugs. Apparently, they are terrifying. Luckily, by the time I had A cleaned up, Heather had managed to find us at Huntington Beach. Quick stop to drop off luggage and A at her house, then we were off, KID FREE to the expo.

oooooh yeah! (Thanks, Heather)
Like most Disney races, it was chaotic and crowded, although nowhere NEAR as bad as I remember from Disneyland. Practically experts after just doing this same packet pick up a few months ago, we knew exactly where to go to get all our stuff. Had to re-print waivers since I left them in my suitcase, and it still only took a few minutes to get my bib and A's bib for the kid's race.

We walked through the expo. Disappointed that Sparkle Skirts were already out of goodie bags :( Picked up a new pair of race legs and an AWESOME wrist wallet. Why a wrist wallet, you ask? Well. Sparkle skirts, sadly, do not have pockets. I don't always like to wear a race belt since they seem to sit on me funny and I spend a lot of time adjusting. So I got the wrist wallet thing to hold GU and other small items. Spoiler: It was FANTASTIC during my race.

Manage to get in and out in well under an hour, AND only spending about $28. Score!! I honestly can't remember what else we did, although I *do* remember that Heather made some bad ass lasagna. I ate a TON, as it was probably some of the best lasagna I've ever had. We discussed our plans for the kid's races in the morning, and although I had every intention of staying up later, I managed to fall asleep about 4 minutes into an episode of "Castle" around 10:15. Apparently, I was exhausted.

Roy Eldridge - Stardust (11/16/43)

Thanks to Connie Crothers for recommending this amazing solo.

Sunny and warm. What's new?

Another amazing weekend in Colorado.  I hope I never take for granted days like this.

COS could put on another Fat Ass run.  Yesterday, I tested that theory by checking out some of the southwest trails from the westside.  My foray added up to 27, but I'm pretty sure the following route would yield about 31:
  • up Red Rocks
  • up High Drive
  • down Captain Jacks
  • down Spring Creek
  • up Columbine and Gold Camp
  • up Buckhorn
  • down Bear Creek
  • up Section 16
  • down Red Rocks
  • around the Garden
I distinctly remember, back in my MTBing days, when I thought this was an epic day on the bike.  I felt great upon wrapping up yesterday - good enough to stop by Brownie's for a recovery drink on my way home.  A testament to how one's perspective can change based off of experience.

Downtown from Captain Jack's
North Cheyenne Canyon - cheaper than 7 Falls!

Highpoint of ~8,200' on Mt. Buckhorn

January in Red Rocks Open Space

Mileage-wise, I got into the 60's for the week.  Of those, 5 were "quality", tempo or faster.  Two miles ~5:55 with the high schoolers on Tuesday, and three more 6:30 descending to 6:10 on Thursday.  I should probably start wearing the HRM to see how those register - I feel I'm in better shape than I was 12 months ago, but would love to see the numbers prove it.  Last winter, I wore that thing religiously during similar workouts.  I love tempo work over the winter - each run serves to feed my hunger to improve.  They require discipline - "man, this is easy, I WANT to go faster...but I won't" - but allow me to bounce back quickly.

The kid has just recently begun to call me crazy.  The only evidence he supplies to support this claim:  I like to run ultramarathons.  I haven't the heart to tell him I've only completed one thus far.  Balancing this running thing with life continues to demand some creativity.  I've recently added the whole wake-up-ungodly-early-and-be-done-before-anyone-else-would-even-think-about-stirring strategy to my arsenal.  

While I am likely to hop in to some sort of smaller race before March 31, my next goal is now the Badger Mountain Challenge in Pasco, Washington. (or is it Richland?  Or Kennewick?)  Long story short, I had some serious logistical issues finding a race over spring break.  Antelope Island, Old Goats, Umstead, and a few others were either full or too early or too late or too hard to get to.  I started looking into this Badger Mountain race and pulled the trigger on a whim.  It's a 50k, so I should be able to bounce back from it in time for one of the "local" 50-milers a few weeks later - Collegiate Peaks, Quad Rock, Jemez, etc.  I'm bummed I couldn't make it down to Texas for Rocky Raccoon - putting down a fast 50 would have been a blast.  Suppose I'll just live vicariously through others.

Sad to think most kids these days haven't ever heard of a mosh pit.

Om Ali: Womanhood, Redefined

Over the past few days, some very talented and thoughtful bloggers have posted their thoughts about defining womanhood.  I've been giving their posts, and the topic, a lot of thought.  You should go read them first.

But I wanted to respond, too, and here's what I've come up with so far.

Today we went to the annual winter festival in a town not far from ours.  They have a host of fun events like ice carving and concerts and puppet shows, and the highlight (for us, anyway) is a parade that crosses the bridge between two states.  It's a pretty spectacular parade for the middle of the winter: there are girl scouts, of course, and people in classic cars, but there are also lots of bands, and performing arts groups, a guy on stilts, mummers, even a guy playing George Washington (because the river they're crossing is the Delaware).  And almost every group that passes has something to give away, whether it's candy (thrown at you from the floats), or caribeeners, or bubble pens, or magnetic clips, or flags.

While we were waiting for the parade, we happened to run into a family from I's school whom we see everywhere, it seems (they live around the corner from us and my husband plays poker with the father of the family, so it's not entirely strange that they circle through our lives so often), and even though they aren't in the same class or grade, I. sat and watched the parade with his schoolmate, giggling and waving his flag and pretty much ignoring us until the end, unless it was to hand over loot for us to hold.  N. watched the parade with some interest, too, "woooowww"ing at appropriate moments, and pretty much ignoring me.

It occurred to me, as I was watching my children watching the parade, that these little beings who depended on me for everything will need me less and less as time goes on, at least for the day-to-day things.  I won't need to entertain them any more, because they will want to entertain themselves with their peers.  I won't need to feed them snacks any more, because they will go rummaging through my cabinets.  Maybe they'll eventually do their own laundry and clean their rooms.  And then they'll go off to college, or out into the world, orbiting me with a larger and larger radius.

And yet, I will have spent the better part of my life defining myself in relation to them.  Which is not a bad thing, per se, but and interesting observation about the nature of womanhood.  Because despite what the Virginia Slims ads of my adolescence proclaimed, I feel like women are so often defined in relation to: in relation to their kids, in relation to their spouses, in relation to their parents.  Are we good daughters?  Good partners?  Good mothers?  Good career women (and, it should be added here, good career women who put others first?  Who use our careers to further others?  Because you know what they say about a woman furthering her own professional interests, don't you)?  These are the yardsticks that are used to measure women.  And if we fall short in any of those measures, or (heaven forbid) one of those measures can't be used at all, people are at a loss for what to do with us.

Mel asks: "when we write the definition for ourselves and state emphatically in our hearts what we do or don’t want to become, are we staying strong and following our dreams, or are we being sidetracked by self-doubt when others voice their opinions on our choices?  How can we tune out the judgment; which when we boil down judgment to its essence is simply other people trying to define our lives for us, to write the dictionary of our selves"?

As someone raised in a house with one parent whose first language was not English, I am particularly sensitive to the vagaries of translation.  I happened upon this recipe this week, trying to figure out how to use orange flower water (which has another story itself), and began to play with the words.

According to most websites, Om Ali literally translates to "Ali's Mother."  Woman in relation to.  But the "OM" that we chant at the beginning of yoga is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma which, when combined together, is believed to be the basic sound of the world, and to contain all other sounds.  It's said to be the sound of the universe vibrating, always moving and changing.  Chanting Aum is supposed to remind us about this movement of the universe, through the movement of our breath and the vibration we feel in our bodies.

And "Ali" means "exalted."

I don't know Arabic.  And perhaps I have no right to make my own translations.  And yes, there will always be families, and partners, and careers that help us to figure out our places in the universe.  But wouldn't it be interesting to redefine womanhood as the exalted movement of the universe?  As change itself?  As individual as we all really are?

Om Ali : Egyptian Bread Pudding
adapted liberally from here
The traditional way of making this dessert is with phyllo instead of bread.  I used bread because that's what I had.  It'll turn out a bit less solid with the pastry; don't be alarmed!

1/2 lb. day-old bread (or 6 sheets phyllo or puff pastry, baked/toasted; some people even use day-old croissants)
1/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. coarsely chopped nuts (I used roasted almonds)
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. orange blossom water (optional)
pinch of salt
4 c. milk
1/2 c. cream
ground cinnamon, for dusting on top

Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly butter a 2-qt (2L) baking dish.

Trim the crusts from the bread into ½ inch (12mm) cubes or crush the phyllo into a bowl.  In the prepared baking dish, alternate layers of bread or phyllo with raisins and nuts.

In a medium pot, whisk together the sugar, salt, and orange blossom water until blended, then whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil. Pour the mixture over the bread, dust with the cinnamon.  (If you're using bread, set aside for 20 minutes to moisten well. Tilt the dish occasionally to keep the bread evenly covered with the liquid.)

Place the baking dish in a bigger pan and pour hot water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Carefully remove the baking dish from the water bath and let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve warm or chilled.

Summer River Swimming

After living in Canberra for the better part of a decade our family was always keen to go swimming at the beach whenever we had the chance. Once we moved to Brisbane we had ample opportunity for beach-going and took advantage of being so close to the coast.

Having moved here during the flood event of last year, river swimming was the last thing on our minds. Lately, though, when it's been hot and we couldn't be bothered with the hassles of finding parking near the beach, or didn't have time to drive all the way to Bribie Island where we could take the 4WD onto the sand, we've turned our thoughts to river swimming.

One such weekend not too long ago we ended up at this nice stretch of rocky riverside. There'd been a fair bit of rain a week or so earlier so, although the water looked murky, it was clean and fresh .... and cool! Just what we needed on that warm afternoon. The girls donned their goggles/snorkels and went straight in.
HB and I sat by the water and just enjoyed the breeze and the occasional splashes from the swimmers, until Mousie decided she wanted to use her birthday fishing rod (from her 7th birthday) and try to catch us some dinner.
HB showed her how to cast out and reel in, and then left her to her fishing. She settled down in a comfy place beside the river and waited for those fish to bite.
Unfortunately there were no bites at all! No doubt the swimmers in the area had scared away the fish. The only thing caught that afternoon was a tree branch on the opposite riverbank - when HB had been a bit too enthusiastic during his casting-out lesson!

The water visibility wasn't so good for goggles, so the girls just had fun riding their boogie boards for a while. This river had something you don't often find at the beach - an over-abundance of beautiful smooth stones! Ducky decided to use one to 'anchor' her boogie board, by strapping it to the wristband.
Then they all started using their boogie boards to ferry stones back and forth. This kept them amused for much longer than HB and I expected. In the photo below I caught the exact moment Kitcat's boogie board tipped over and she lost not only the rocks but also her snorkel/goggle set which had been fellow 'ferry' passengers. The girls then spent a bit more time trying to feel, with their feet, the lost goggles on the river bed. They were not successful and we had to leave without them. After the relentless torrential rain we've had here for the past week, I'd say that snorkel/goggle set are now being used by another child ..... probably in New Zealand!

Anyway, when we finally dragged the girls away from the river their verdict was unanimous - "We love swimming in the river ..... when can we come back?!?"

So we'll have to explore some more good river-swimming places over the next few months ...... once all this flash flooding has subsided, of course.

Down With Synthetics!!

For years I've been lauding the merits of natural fibre. I remember in the early 1990s, trying to find yardage for sewing that had no acrylic, polyester, nylon, and so on.

And NOW look what they've discovered.

Billions of fleece items made from recycled pop bottles don't look quite so good now, huh? It turns out you can run from plastic, but you can't hide. When are they going to just stop making this stuff? The day after Never, I'm thinking. And my poor children, and yours, are going to have to deal with the toxic shit we just keep buying, wearing, and throwing away.

And cancer? I bet cancer is laughing its head off right now.

Earth Day is coming up. It's a good time to make, or renew, a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly clothing. You should consider it -- for the health of your family, your body, your home and the planet...more or less in that order.

Random Artwork

Dragon's art assignment from Term 4 / 2011. Copied freehand from the original, then finished in watercolours. He says it isn't very good, but I was impressed.
Teddy's self portrait, Term 1 / 2011.
An example of the intricately detailed abstract drawings Kitcat use to do quite frequently when she was 3 years old (this one from October 2009.)
She used to often "fold" (i.e. crush) these and stow them away in unexpected places, which is why I don't have many of them. She also use to use them to "wrap" presents for her toys, so they were usually destroyed.
Teddy drew a series of cat pictures one day in early 2011. She traced around a cookie cutter and then coloured/accessorised each one uniquely.This is Kitcat's "Evoo" (evil) drawing from August 2011, consisting of an 'evoo' cat and two 'evoo' people.
I have had this one in my diary for years - Teddy's quick pencil sketch of a rooster completed in 3 seconds flat in February 2009 (she was 4 at the time.)
Teddy often draws the most interesting and unexpected pictures. This is a picture of guitar-playing revelers at my 40th 21st Birthday party.
And this is Teddy's drawing for Great-Grandma's birthday. (May 2011) It's a birthday sand castle with shell windows and balloons.
Another Teddy drawing (June 2011). A Queen stands with a baby princess in her arms while fireworks light up the background.
One of my favourite of Teddy's drawings is this one from August 2011. It's Mummy (me) and Daddy (HB) as fairies with our fairy castle. I like the vines growing up the tower, and 'my' cute little wings.This is a very recent creation by Kitcat. She drew the dog and the girl, coloured them in and cut them out, then gave the girl a pretty pony tail of pink wool. (17th January 2012.)
Another recent drawing by Kitcat was this beautiful ballerina, which she made for Ducky. (17th Jan 2012.) Finally, Kitcat's scene of a crab and fishies. She drew the crab and fish, cut them out and pasted them onto the beach backgound she drew. Sh had to join two pieces of paper to finish this piece of artwork, and I had to scan it in two parts as well which is why it's a bit messy along the joining line! (22nd Dec 2012)