Sunday, September 30, 2012

my doctor was in the house.

This weekend I got the gift of 24 hours with my girl Marjorie visiting from NYC.

My Marjorie.  My old San Francisco roommate.  My dear lifelong friend.   My Marigold.  My keeper and confidant.  My Dr. Schwartz. 

After the kids were in bed, we had an uninterrupted evening that included hours of conversation, a pot of potato-leek soup, a salad with green goddess dressing, and a bottle of wine.  I've written about this before, but Marjorie is not only one of my dearest friends who knows me very well, but she is also the most gifted and discerning listener and perspective giver.  I'm actually working on a much longer post about some revelations she helped me have about this stage I'm going through.  I can tell you this:  I am a better and healthier person in this world because of Marjorie and the gift she has given me of hours and hours (and hours and hours) of her attention and wisdom and insight and her ability to gently ask me hard questions that force me to be honest with myself.  

I'm not doing her justice.  I'm not able to articulate how big of a role she plays in my life.

And, as if ALL THAT isn't enough, she brought me bagels from New York.  So my saturday morning included warm, crusty, everything bagels with cream cheese along with my coffee.  Marjorie slept 2 hours longer than the kids and I did.  Skyler said:  "People from New York sure do sleep late."  And when Reed asked why she wasn't up yet, Skyler said:  "She's on New York time."

We drove her to Sorrento where she met up with some other NY friends for the rest of the visit.   Skyler went to a girlscouts field trip so we just had Reedo with us.

 It was a pretty gray day but we got our beach time anyway and I took some extra deep breaths of the sea.

Look at this house where her friends were staying.  So lovely. 

And look at this awesome photo that Reed took with my phone.  He has decided he really wants to be a "totographer"

 I want my Doctor Marjorie back now.  I do believe a trip to Brooklyn to visit her is in my near future.

Or you, Marj, can come back to Maine again soon.  Soup is on.  xoxo

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Black Bear Attack 5K

On days that I'm not with my kids, I've adopted a strategy of doing as much as I can possibly do for myself.  I go to an amazing yoga class that I could never go to before, I have my girls over for wine, I work out, and drive to beautiful places for the day.  

When my friend Jen told me she was running in the Black Bear Attack at University of Maine, and I had the morning free, it was the obvious choice to join her.  The race was one of those obstacle course mud runs, a trend that seems to be sweeping the nation.

When you have a rainy morning without your children, you should definitely say yes to rolling around in the mud.  I think I read that in a self-help book once.

 That's me on the left trying to intimidate the UMaine black bear with a stare-down. 

 I spy Suzanne and her girls hooting and hollering. 

The race was mostly a trail run, but included obstacles like crawling through mud, jumping over hurdles, running through a waist-deep swampy pond, climbing up and over a wall, across balance beams, through some tires, and then ended with the most fun part:  a giant slip-and-slide covered in water and soap. 
This photo doesn't show how dirty we really were, because the slip-and-slide kind of rinsed us off at the end.  We mostly just smelled like dish soap and we were really slimy.   This race was good for a workout and many laughs.  And because of the generally cold and rainy day that was Saturday, it was also good for a really hot shower post-race.

So, I'm going to keep saying YES to good, clean (or dirty) fun.  Every other weekend.  Does that sound optimistic?  I'm trying. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

in which I run a race, make pickles, and appear in a magazine.

 1.  RACE

 I ran the Bangor Susan G Komen Race for the Cure last weekend.  This is the same race I ran with my mom last year, only a few months after my mom had recovered from breast cancer.  It was her first 5K ever, and a beautiful experience to run it with her.

This year, my mom couldn't go because she's spending the fall in Utah with my sister.  But I couldn't pass up the chance to run it again, this time just with her in spirit.

I associate this race with bright blue skies and cooler air.  It seems to always be a beautiful day for the Komen Race.
I wore my mom on my back.

Before the race, I found my friend Jen:

And my friend Emily:

The race itself was uneventful.  I ran three 9 minute miles, crossed the finish line, and went straight to my car and drove home, thinking about how amazing it is that my mom's breast cancer is totally over and behind us all.  I'm so grateful.

And now I transition from that little race report into a closely related topic.


Learning how to make pickles has been on my life to-do list for years.  I didn't technically "can" them, but I found this great recipe for making Refrigerator Pickles, which last for up to 2 months in the fridge.  I had a big pile of cucumbers from my friend's garden, and decided it was time to try.

I had a little helper who measured out dill seeds and peppercorns and garlic cloves.

I'm really happy with how the pickles came out;  they are spicy, tangy, and also and very pretty.


The Bangor Metro interviewed me about Clean Food this past summer for a regular feature called Food File, and the article came out this week.  The photos were done by Kate Crabtree, and she did such a nice job.  It was cool to see how dinner and a three-hour conversation with the reporter turned into this story.  The full text will be available online sometime soon and I'll share it with you once it's up.  In the meantime, check your newsstands!
 Here are two other photos that Kate took that day that didn't make the spread.

 Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

earthy kids and apples

Saturday we got to go apple picking with my friend Erica and her baby Willow.  Erica was a student in my class when I first started teaching, and she is one of the ones I've stayed close with and watched grow up, get married, have a child, start a career.  She has morphed from student to friend, and is now like a younger sister to me.  We all look forward to our time with Erica.  Reed was waiting for her by the window for twenty minutes before her arrival time.
Erica and Willow arrived with these beauties for my table.
Willow, Skyler, and Reed.  I love the combination of these three earthy names, and they loved their time together wedged into the back seat.

Blue Skies.
Crisp Air.
Thank you.
Skyler took her Willow-loving role very seriously.

We picked two bags of apples, perused the pumpkins, took a hay ride and couldn't stop looking at Willow.  Lucky us.

I love how light and compact an 18-monther is.  She just tucked right into me, and sat still.  I'd forgotten how good that feels. 
Saturday night, by Reed's request, we made an apple crisp with all of our apples.  I think Reed is my best hope for being a foodie like me.  He stood by the oven and inhaled deeply as it was baking, and then when he was eating it, he'd pause and say:  "mmmm.  so good."

Much love and crisp apples to Eri, Willow, and you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

post race thoughts and lessons.

Immediately after returning home from the race, I picked up my kids.  I was riding pretty high still, but it turns out that Skyler and Reed were more interested in telling me about building a tree fort and going roller skating than basking in Mommy's glory.  Understood.

Nevertheless, we'll call Sunday night "T3,"  my third and final transition, back into role as mother.

I do a lot of post-race processing and (if it goes well) glowing or (if it goes badly) stewing.  That is why I stayed up late writing my race report after the kids were in bed.  I didn't want it to all be over.  And I hardly slept at all that night.

I was pretty sore the day after, but some advil, compression sleeves, and a soak in the UMaine hot tub while my kids went swimming on Monday night fixed me right up.  I wasn't sore at all on Tuesday, just hungry.

 I had a wonderful 4 days with my babies. 

Some thoughts and lessons after my 70.3 mile journey:

1.  How hard was it?  Triathlon vs. Marathon:
I've been asked many times how exhausted I felt at the end, or how it compared to running a full marathon.  Here is what I think.  I would say that I needed to be (and was) in better overall shape to complete the half ironman than I ever was for a marathon.  I needed to come out of the water feeling strong, and I'm proud of how strong I did feel.  I know that swimming with the masters 3 times a week all summer helped me immensely, because in the past when I've trained in the pool on my own, I get very bored quickly and tend to think:  "That was about 1000 yards... enough."  Instead, I swam further and pushed myself harder thanks to swimming with a team.

I also felt prepared and well trained for the bike distance, but I think I could go faster.  I want to work on that (see #5 below).  When I got to the run, I wasn't totally exhausted overall, but rather just had specific places that hurt.  The best I can describe it is that on the run, while I was in pain, I had energy to thank volunteers, cheer on passers-by, chat with Susan once she got to me, and I never ever once thought I would die or not finish.  That is not my experience in a marathon.  I never had one of my typical low-moment super freak outs; I was very calm mentally throughout the race.  In a 26.2 mile run, I have moments of almost near panic that I can't go on.  Thanks to the 3 distinct stages of this race, I felt focused just on what I was doing at each part, but was thankful for the transitions to let my body do something different. 

I guess I'm saying that I think triathlon is a healthier sport than marathoning.  The training felt better, I never got bored or thought the training was tedious, and in the race itself, I had more fun and felt less beat-up at the end of it.

I never thought I'd have to buy one of these stickers for my car.  And yes, they sold them at the expo.  Yikes:

2.  What's Next? 
Many people have also already asked me what is next.  I tend to ask this too of people whom I know are race-obsessed goal-oriented.  But I'm not quite ready to decide yet.  Kind of like when you have a baby, and people ask you about plans for your next baby before you've even left the hospital.

First, I just want to enjoy this baby that I birthed:
And wear this a few times:

But of course, there will be a next goal.  I want to keep swimming (I went this morning and it felt great) and biking and running, and try to maintain my fitness levels over the winter so that I can train anew, because I do believe I'll do Pumpkinman again next year. I am also looking at all the different possibilities for Ironman 70.3 Races.  This website makes me drool a little.

Other events on my radar for the upcoming year:

Century ride (100 mile bike ride).  Maybe this one. 
200-mile Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod with my friend Kristina
Trek Across Maine (3- day, 180-mile bike ride from the west of Maine to the east)
Various half marathons around the state.

Marathon?  Not anytime soon.  Not feeling it right now, anyway.  

3.  YOU could do this.

There were men and women of all shapes and sizes doing this race.  If you think you have to fit into some crazy athletic category and have zero body fat, then you are wrong.  Anyone can triathlon.  One of my favorite blogs is Swim Bike Mom, written by a smart and hilarious and totally inspiring mom who also just wrote a book called:  Triathlon for the Every Woman and encourages readers to start as you are, and not wait for your body to be "perfect."  She is now training for a full Ironman.  Don't think it hasn't crossed my mind.

In terms of training, it really was not that challenging to get ready for the half-ironman, probably not as hard as you might think.  Granted, I had a good running base after coming off of a spring marathon, but still.  I never made all of the volume recommended by my training plan, but was fairly consistent in getting in equal amounts of swimming, biking, and running each week.  If you can find a good place to swim that works with your schedule, then the rest you can totally get in. 

Before I started, I thought 2 workouts a day sounded insane and impossible.  It really isn't.  If I swam or biked early in the morning, I actually would feel like doing something else by the afternoon.  I had a lot of energy, and felt healthy and strong throughout the training because I was always using different muscles.

Looking back over my 3 months of training, it wasn't too bad.  July was a typical training month, and you can see below that I still had days off, or sometimes only did a 45-minute workout.  Of course I could have trained harder, but my point is that it's doable (and fun) to train for this kind of race.  I know:  being a teacher and having the summer mostly off does help.

So here's my point:  You can do it.  Whatever race or event or distance seems crazy to you right at this moment?  Whatever scares you but also sort of calls your name, even if it's just a whisper?  You can do that.  You seriously can. 

4.  Triathlons and hot women

If you are my age and have even the slightest fear of getting older, entering your 40s or 50s, you should go watch a triathlon.  The women, particularly in the 40-50 age group are some of the most athletically beautiful, toned, and confident women you'll ever see.  Period. 

The elite men aren't too shabby either.

5.  I want a new bike.

It won't happen for a while, but I would like a lighter and faster tri bike.  Sponsors?

 6.  It's in my blood now.

Training and completing endurance events is such an important part of my life now.  I don't know what I would do without it.  Like, I literally don't know what I'd do with myself.  Would I knit?

And getting medals still does not get old.

7.  Last but not least:  SMILE.

When I imagine myself crossing a finish line, I always imagine I'll be bursting with joy, hands up in the air.  In this photo, I was incredibly happy, I swear.  I guess I was also just focused on getting the job done, as when this was snapped, I had about 10 steps to go. 

You can't really tell how much joy I get out of this whole process in this photo, but I do.  I love it, and I walked away from this race as I always do:  medal around my neck and thinking:  more, more, more.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Race Report: Pumpkinman Half Ironman Triathlon

 First of all, we went straight to Trader Joe's in Portland on our way to the race, which is important because that means I got to stock up on Trader Joe favorites like chia seeds, dried mango, mediterranean flat breads and all the awesome snacks they have for my kids' lunches.

But what is really important about this photo is that Susan took it, which means that not only did she support me all weekend throughout the race, she also was thinking like a blogger and she documented everything.  Now, that's a good friend.

We arrived on Saturday evening at packet pick up and learned I was in the yellow-cap wave at 7:23 am.  

I got my stuff (see?  She documented it all!) which included a cute women's cut tech shirt and a backpack, as well as all the bib numbers and stickers to cover me, my swim cap, and my bike.  

Then before checking into our hotel and having dinner, we went straight to the beach in York.  It was such a gorgeous spot and just what I needed to do to calm my nerves.  The weather was kind of wild and windy and the waves were awesome.  Yes I did have surfing pangs.

I ate a huge bowl of veggie pasta primavera and one beer for dinner and we settled into to watch a bunch of episodes of Chopped on the Food Network.  I think I fell asleep at 10.  I slept really well until 4:30 when my phone, the hotel alarm, and the wake up call all went off at the same time.  Take no chances, right?

And we were up and out the door by 5:15.  The only fail of the morning was that I never had any coffee, which came back to bite me at about mile 6 of the run.

 All of the forecasts for stormy or rainy weather were wrong, because when we got to the race site, this is what we found.  So beautiful.  It was a perfect day in terms of weather.  Between 60-70 degrees, no humidity, and partly cloudy.  Thank you, thank you, universe.

We had over an hour to wait after I got my bike racked and all of my stuff set up in the transition area.  But we enjoyed watching all the volunteers heading out in kayaks to set the buoys.   Everyone was so nice and it was all so organized and smooth. 

 Pretty soon, all of the athletes were down by the water and ready to go. 

There were 8 waves and I was in wave 7.  Once the Elites took off in wave 1, the whole thing moved really quickly.
 Do I look nervous?  I actually was so calm and focused.  It was weird.  I was just ready to get started.
 Susan went up the huge hill to take this photo of all the waves lining up.
 Right before it was our turn to go, we walked out into the water.  I positioned myself over to the left about half way in.  I wasn't sure how I would compare to the other swimmers, so I wasn't positive where to go.   I am #408 in the back of this pic.
 Each wave was started by a man on a loudspeaker yelling:  "GO GO GO GO GO GO!"  It was intense.
 It only took me from the start until that first buoy to find a good place.  I hung to the left, never got kicked once, and only got nudged by a few bodies.  It was surprisingly easy to find a pocket of clear water.  I was totally calm and collected. 
 The course was 1.2 miles and included two loops of .6.  I liked how it was set up.  I just swam from one buoy to the next and didn't over-think how far I had to go.  I paid attention to my breathing and tried to keep it even.   My favorite part of the swim was when I started passing swimmers from the earlier waves.  On the last straight away of the 2nd loop, I came up to three men in orange caps, which meant they left 10 minutes before I did.  I thought "Excuse me while I swim past all 3 of you.  Bye!"  The swim is the only part that I'm even slightly competitive, so I have to have my fun here.
 All done and two minutes faster than I'd ever done it before. Now it was time for the hill climb up to the bikes.  Some people run up the hill.  I just walked and caught my breath and started to peel my wetsuit down.  Is this hill a little bit cruel?  Yes, I think so. 

T1:  I got my wetsuit off, socks and bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses on and was off.  The only thing I should have done differently is to have a long sleeve shirt or arm-sleeves.  It was chilly and I was (obviously) soaking wet.

 The bike was 56 miles, and included two loops.  It was such a pretty ride through the rural countryside of Berwick, Maine.  Corn fields, old New Englandy cemeteries, sunflowers, lots of trees and lots of shade.   Just awesome.

On the bike I ate one peanut butter and jelly sandwich, one peanut butter Gu, and one marathon bar plus 2 bottles of Nuun.  The ride was long, yes, but mostly uneventful.  My body started to hurt around mile 40 and I started to worry about the run.  My legs were tired, my back and neck ached, and I was just ready to get off the bike.  During the last 20 miles, I passed and was passed by the same 15-ish people over and over again.  One guy in a yellow jersey and I leap-frogged probably 20 times throughout the whole bike.  It was funny because at mile 40 I was sure I had passed him for the final time, as I caught him on a hill and felt like I flew past him.  About 10 miles later he came up to my left and I said:  "YOU AGAIN?"  He said:  "I know!  Sorry!"    It was very amusing and kept my mind off my aches and pains.  

Okay!  The bike was over!  I was way ahead of schedule at this point, and as I headed into the bike transition, I was kind of mushy-brained and could not compute how I was doing so well.
 Let me back up a second.  Going into this race, I had a three-tiered goal.

A Goal "In a perfect world if everything goes just right":  7 hours.
B Goal "If I have the kind of day I think I will": 7:30
C Goal "If I fall apart and things go badly":  Just please let me finish before the 8 hour cut off and please don't have to scrape me off the road.

So, wasn't I surprised that as I headed out of T2 to start the run, that my time so far was 4:09 when I thought it would be 5:00?  I know now that is because I averaged 16.6 mph on the bike, which is slow in the triathlon scene, but for little me?  It's the fastest I've ever ridden.  And for 56 miles.  Whoa.  I was in a really good position.

Coming out of T2 to start the run.  Just one little half marathon to go.  Yikes!
 Look how happy I was.
 My legs were pretty stiff, but the initial downhill got me going right away.  I was just so happy to be off my bike and so happy to have made it to the last part of the race.  My back felt better once I was upright and I started to find my legs after about 1/2 a mile.  I ran two 10-minute miles and then two 11-minute miles, and then I got to the part of the run route that I knew nothing about:  the HILLS.  Holy smokes.

The rest of the run course went like this.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Big loop through a great neighborhood and then do it all again.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Repeat the big loop through the great neighborhood.  And then... just 2 more giant hills. 

I was hurting.  Like, mile-24-in-a-marathon hurting.  But Susan found me at the half way point and ran the last 6 miles with me, which was a Godsend.  I think I was moaning a little.  I walked through all the aid stations.  I ate a lot of pretzels, bananas, and drank a ton of water, gatorade, and flat coke (it's a triathlon thing, and it tasted like manna from heaven).

My two other favorite things about the run course were the signs and the sponges.  One stretch had signs every few feet, and the best ones were:  "You are so smart and pretty"  and "Your ass looks so fantastic."   There were several places on the run that handed out cold sponges.  It was amazing.  I would take 3 at each offering, squeeze one on my head, wipe all the salt off my face, and stick one into my bra.  So divine. 

So, I kept moving, and mostly ran, but kept slowing down, taking walking breaks up the biggest hills and through the aid stations.  All the athletes were kind to each other.  Everyone I ran past on the constant out-and-back would say:  "good job, girl!" or "nice work, ladies!"  It was such a supportive vibe.  But still, I was hurting.  Ouch my hips, ouch my legs, ouch my lower back, ouch my pounding headache, and OUCH the raw skin under my arms.  Susan talked cheerfully to distract me.

Then, all of a sudden we were at looking at the mile 10 marker.  And then 11.  And then 12.  And then one last mean uphill brought me back to the starting area where I entered into a finish-line chute at the top of the hill, and ran all the way down.  My legs were killing me and the downhill was brutal on my quads at that point, but the whole idea of coming down this big grassy hill to the bottom where you see the finish line and the clock and the volunteers holding medals?  It gave me chills. 

My time:  6:44.  16 minutes faster than my "in a perfect world" goal. 
1.2 mile swim:  37 minutes
56 mile bike:  3:22 (16.6 mph)
13.1 mile run:  2:37
And so, yes.  I'm still smiling.  Thank you, thank you to my friend Susan, and to all of the amazing staff and volunteers at the Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival.  I can't recommend this race highly enough.  It was perfect for a first-timer and seems also to be a favorite of the more experienced and elite athletes.  It was a day I will never, ever forget.

I have my finishers shirt on right now, and outside on my car, one of these:
AND I NEED TO GO TO BED!  Goodnight!