January 19, 2008

Well, I got busted by
Marit. She spotted me at the gym trying out my new favorite shoes. I confess, I like to strut my stuff in the mirror at the gym, but I never in a million years thought someone I knew would see me!!! Oh well, my secret’s out, I guess.

Other news today is that I went in to work at 5am, snuck out for a swim after lunch, went back to work until 6.30pm and then scored some quality time on the treadmill. I think I managed to tie up the major loose ends at work so that I can focus on vacationing while we’re in Maine instead of worrying about work. Tonight I relax, sit by the fire, watch my dogs enthusiastically chew bones, and maybe even read. Although the vacation hasn’t offically started, my brain is on vacation already, which is fine with me.


Maybe Not

January 17, 2008

Finn did not pass at his B & B interview.  In fact, we got kicked out.  When we got there he was already a little out of sorts.  We could hear the barking of a whole gaggle of dogs when I knocked on the door and he was already looking unsure.  I was hoping the meeting portion of it would be outside so he could have a little space to get used to things.  It was, however, in a very small kitchen.  While there were only 2 or 3 dogs there initially, there were 4 barking at him from the other side of a glass door on one side of the room and 2 barking at him from another glass door on the other side of the room.  So essentially, we were surrounded by barking dogs while we stood in a tiny room.  He started growling quietly and hiding behind me and finally it got too much for him and he snarled at a dog.  The owner promptly ushered us out the door and said “this isn’t going to work”.  It was very awkward and I felt totally rejected on his behalf.  Defensively, I told Finn in the car that I didn’t like the place anyway.  He agreed.  So things are still up in the air with him but I have no doubt that something will work out.

Did some painful strength training yesterday and have a new awareness of my abdominals today every time I move or breathe.  Also put in some time on the trainer after work which was surprisingly fun and felt so benign after test week.  Our propane has run out and we were on the fence about whether/when to refill it, so it was nice and cold for my ride last night.  We have a wood stove which is great but I think we’ll be refilling the propane before we leave so the house doesn’t freeze up while we’re away.  The conditions in Maine are looking perfect for our week of skiing and we are so excited for a break from work and all things stressful.

This morning I dragged my sorry ass out of bed really early so I could get to the treadmill for 50 minutes prior to being at work at 6.30am.  I was so good about getting out the door on time and being committed, but realized when I got there that I had left without my running shoes.  Arghhh.  I contemplated running barefoot on the treadmill but it just didn’t seem like a good idea.  So I was really early to work instead and will now try to run at lunch since GB has kindly agreed to bring me my shoes.  Maybe in the future, I could take a lesson from Beth and pack my gym bag the night before so I don’t forget anything.


January 15, 2008

Today was thankfully very ordinary. I broke out the snowshoes when I got home to warmup for my drill run. In the interest of getting my drills done and exercising the dogs at the same time, I rather tediously ran the length of the driveway about 30 times while I was doing running drills. The dogs dutifully ran back and forth with me and seemed to think it was every bit as much fun as a run on the trails. My body is feeling great today, partly I think, because I did end up driving to the pool yesterday after all and loosened up quite a lot. (The roads were much better by mid afternoon).
I am very excited that the days are getting longer (and it seems to be happening so quickly!).
We are gearing up for our vacation in Maine next week and it looks as though the conditions will be perfect for a week of cross country skiing. We can only take one dog so last night we had the dogs draw straws (or sticks). Finn drew the short straw so he has an “interview” tomorrow at a homestyle doggie B & B. Seriously. I wonder what sorts of questions they will ask him: “So Finn…can you sit? Mmmhmm. And can you stay?….okay, very nice. Is there anything else we should know about you?”. Should be interesting. They claim to exercise the same rules as you exercise in your home and the example they give is whether your dog can get up on the couch or not. This implies that while Finn is staying there, he will have access to a couch. This is high-class boarding, folks. Only the best for my rescue mutt…

This morning I did a stupid. I have been doing so well with my training and feeling on top of the world with it all. When I got up this morning and there was lots and lots of snow, I could not bring myself to miss my masters’ swim. I thought about the end goal, I thought about how good it feels to be dedicated, and I got in my car to go to practice (thankfully I brought a coffee with me). When I got to the end of our not-yet-plowed driveway I realized I didn’t have either my cell phone or my wallet. But going back seemed a waste of time. “And besides”, I said to myself “I’m dressed warmly, if I get into an accident I’ll figure something out. No time to go back”. So off I went. I bet you know where this is going… I have a rear wheel drive SUV. This is a very dangerous vehicle in snowy conditions in the dark on unplowed roads. This is not the vehicle you decide to be “dedicated” in. Unless you’re me and you can’t distinguish between dedication and sheer stupidity. So there I was driving along on hilly back roads in terrible road conditions. I could see headlights in the distance in my rear view mirror. And then I was sliding, trying to gain control of the car, was sideways carreening towards the right side of the road, then in the opposite direction, spinning the other way and then I could see those same headlights in front of me, thankfully not very close to me.
My car came to a stop on the left side of the road with what was a suprisingly gentle impact. The driver who had been behind me pulled up and started to get out of his truck. I wound down my window, smiled in the way you do when you have just done a high-speed 180 and have all sort of fight-or-flight chemicals pumping through your body, and said “good morning!”. He said “you should get out of the car. You might not feel lucky yet but you should get out of there and take a look at how lucky you are. You are very lucky. Get out”. He dug my door free of the snow and helped me out. I looked at the car and saw that my rear wheels were suspended and my car was facing upwards (headlights pointing skyward) on the edge of a ravine. Once I was done shitting my pants we had a conversation about him not having cell reception. He said he would continue on his way and send the cops to help.
This was at 5.50am. So there I was: alive, with coffee cup in hand, dressed appropriately for an early morning walk in the snow, doing hill repeats to stay warm on a dark rural road with no phone and no wallet. The snow was falling very heavily and all around me it was lit up by my skyward-facing headlights. Kind of nice and kind of surreal. It occurred to me that i would not get to swim practice on time. Darnit.
[Flash ahead 45 minutes]
I am comfortably warm, keeping my distance from my precariously-balanced car, have finished my coffee. A cop shows up. He’s a country cop, so he has crawled out of bed in this weather to answer this call. I apologize. He laughs and tells me he was expecting it. He’s glad I’m not hurt. Those calls are much worse. He then proceeds to tell me about the many accidents he has attended on this same stretch of road. Others did not fare as well as me. He assures me I was lucky to go off the left side and not the right side. I was lucky to have missed every single tree in my path. Very lucky. I was lucky there was a giant snowbank to break my fall. He is not feeling so lucky since he has not yet had his coffee. He considers paying the town plow guy to bring him a coffee. “I’m not addicted”, he jokes. At some point in all of this (before the cop arrived?), a car stops and offers to call someone for me. I give the man GB’s number. He assures he will call my house. Then the cop and I are waiting. Making small talk, waiting for the tow truck, waiting for GB to bring my wallet. A worried GB arrives with my phone and wallet. Given the dangerous location, we decide I will wait alone with the cop and will call home if I need anything else. Nobody wants another accident as a result of too many stopped cars. The tow truck arrives. Several unsuccessful attempts to budge my car. They send for another tow truck. 2 hours has now passed. At last the second truck arrives. The cop wonders aloud why they took so long. I tell him with a mischievous grin that they probably stopped for a coffee. He says he will club them if that is the case. I almost believe him. Finally they get my car out. It is undamaged. I peek over the edge of the ravine and feel a wave of nausea wash over me. The same kind you feel when you get close to the edge of Niagara Falls. When you can feel the fragility of your own life. Knowingly the others shake their heads in disbelief that I have survived uninjured. Because it is a snow emergency they cannot bill it to AAA, so I have to pay them for the tow. $135 dollars is nothing when I think about how things could have unfolded. My cop friend, now satisfied that I am fine, leaves the scene to get his caffeine fix. “It’s going to be a long day” he tells me.

At 9am I finally drove carefully home in my unscathed car. Very carefully. I have taken the day off since various parts of my body have begun to seize up and I am not interested in unnecessary stress today. Mostly I am interested in saving up for an AWD Subaru. And I am feeling very, very lucky.

Run Test

January 12, 2008

I thought the bike test this week was painful. That was nothing. At least on a bike you don’t have to support your body weight with your legs while going all out. I chose a treadmill in front of a mirror so I could give myself dirty looks when I started thinking about giving up. It worked, for the most part. I think somewhere around 13 minutes in I started to wonder if I was going to make it to 20. I tried to make peace with the pain, which was sort of an on-again-off-again thing. I did not prepare my ipod selections with care and consequently found myself clawing at my ipod in a panic while trying not fall off the back of the treadmill, because some of the songs were altogether too slow for that kind of running. After some cursing and random pressing of ipod buttons, I located a faster song and got back into the groove, but minutes between 13 and 18 were eternal. I started to look like death might not be far around the corner and I noticed the woman behind me glancing around. I think she was looking for the gym attendant so that when I collapsed with heart failure, she could locate him quickly for help. She looked genuinely concerned that I was going to collapse, shoot off the back of my treadmill and crash into her. I did not think that was an overreaction on her part. It seemed feasible and at around minute 16 it started to seem quite likely! I tried hard to remember the feeling of victory. To remember that this was all part of the plan. To keep my eye on the goal. I think at minute 17, the goal started to shift to “stay alive”. Then at last I hit 18 minutes. 18 minutes is only 2 from finished. 2 minutes is practically nothing at that point. I took a sip of my drink which threatened not to stay down and then I cranked up the treadmill, smiled at my frightening reflection, and hung in there for the home stretch. The woman behind me saw me do this and I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head when I turned up the speed. She was worried. I smiled to assure her it was almost over. She did not look comforted. And then it was over. It was all I could do to press the various buttons on the various contraptions to record the numbers I had worked so hard for before sitting down on my treadmill. I sat down on my treadmill. (I had turned it off at this point). This is a whole new level of gym-weird. If I saw someone sit down on their treadmill I would definitely have all sorts of internal dialogue aout how weird they were. I think I saw my treadmill lady shake her head at me. I imagine she was thinking “I knew it! I knew she was going too hard. These stupid young people think they’re invincible” as she plodded away proudly on her own ‘mill.
Once I regained my presence of mind, I stood back up and ran an easy cool down. TML looked worried I might start the whole thing over again. I laughed at the impossibility of that idea.
So that’s it for a while. Test week is over. I can relax (sort of). TML can relax. I have earned some data and need to start preparing for the next batch.


January 12, 2008

I had a great conversation with a teenager today. Great conversations with teenagers frequently catch me off-guard. They’re such bizarre beings those teenagers. Like adults, only not. Like kids, only not. Anyway, its seems like eons since I was one and I tend to be more at ease with your average 3-year old than with your average teenager, but that is beside the point.
This particular teenager has recently undergone some significant changes in his life and behaviors. After several years of making poor choices, he has had reason to turn his life around, and has done so successfully and admirably. And somehow, his family has given him a completely clean slate. They are so proud of his turnaround and so willing to welcome back the new (or the old, I suppose) him. The whole thing brings me to tears.
And do you know what keeps this kid up at night now? That he doesn’t deserve their forgiveness. That he could never earn it. As I was talking with him, I started thinking about the concept of grace. It’s a concept from Christianity that basically translates to “undeserved forgiveness” or “undeserved goodness”. I am not a religious person by any stretch, but I have always been fascinated by the concept of grace. And religious or not, grace shows up in my life all over the place. I am constantly being given opportunities or forgiven for things I do not deserve. I don’t, for example deserve to have a job that pays me well enough to live in a house and have dogs and a yard and a bike and running shoes and access to a master’s swim program. But I do. And that, my friends, is grace. And sure, I earned my college degrees, I worked hard to get promoted, but I did not deserve or earn the opportunities that initially presented themselves so I could achieve these things.
So I was fumbling around with my words trying to explain to this non-adult-non-kid that he really didn’t deserve his family’s forgiveness. But they chose to give it to him anyway because they love him unconditionally. And that since he had it, he might as well do the best he could with it. His reflection of this, which was far more articulate than mine was: “so, like, I didn’t earn it, but like, I should do everything I can to maintain it”. Like, bingo teenager. Like, nail on the head, buddy.
Anyway, it all got me thinking about how it is often just as easy to feel guilty for the things we have as it is to take them for granted. And somewhere between the feeling guilty and the taking-for-granted lies a peaceful place where we appreciate all that we have, accepting it as a gift, and do our darndest to use it for the greater good.


January 10, 2008

I recently watched the Dixie Chicks’ documentary Shut Up and Sing.  Some pieces of the film have really stayed with me and I frequently find myself thinking about it and about their experience of being threatened and targeted because of a fairly innocuous statement on their part.  After watching the film, my impressions of their latest album changed significanty and I am really blown away by how raw some of the songs are.

Yesterday I had a bike test.  You know: BIKE TEST.  The ride you spend all day being simultaneously nervous and excited for.  As someone who has until recently shied away from training intensity at all costs, I was pretty excited to throw down (and hopefully not up) and see how much I could give it.  To be honest, I was suprised by my capacity to dive right into the pain with a great big smile/grimace.  And I think I owe a lot of it to the Dixie Chicks for providing me with some loud music that was even more raw than my legs.  I put in my 20 minutes of joyful agony and I gave it every last ounce.  This was confirmed during the evening when I found it too fatiguing to:

a) walk

b) sit up to kick GB’s ass at cards (which I managed to do from a reclined position)

c) vaccuum.  Who knew housework could be so tiring…?

d) walk down stairs to bed without making various wimpy crying noises

e) cook.  Well, okay, I probably could have cooked.  But we milk these things when we must…

It has been decided (by me) that if I ever do an Ironman, GB should come to the race to watch and then promptly leave on a vacation without me.  If I whine that much after a 20 minute bike test, god help the people around me on the week after Ironman.

Anyway, today is a new day and I am feeling pretty good in my body and fabulous inside my head.  Nothing like a little pain to make you feel like something got accomplished and you’re moving in the right direction.