Irritating

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Like many contact lens wearers, I’m acutely aware of my eyes. So, on Wednesday when my eye was a little dry and irritated, I blamed my contact lens. I worked at home on Thursday, wore my glasses and it felt completely fine. Just to be safe, I switched to a new pair on Friday and wore them without a problem. So, when I woke up Saturday morning to a red eye that was screaming in pain, I was a little surprised (and upset about it.)

T and I briefly discussed calling the 24-hour consulting nurse hotline that Group Health offers, but with all of the cooking activities we both forgot about it. So on Sunday, when it was a little better pain-wise but I realized that the weird smudge I kept trying to wipe off my glasses was in fact on my eye, we decided to call. The nurse advised we go to urgent care, which is never my favorite thing, but I didn’t want to mess around with my eyesight.

I’ve only been to urgent care one other time – on New Years Eve day in 1997, when a terrible flu necessitated a trip to a horrible hospital in Oakland (Highland Hospital for any Bay Area folks out there) where we shared the waiting area with a very dangerous convict who was strapped to a gurney Hannibal Lechter style. This, needless to say, was much more pleasant and the only other folks in the waiting area were a few elderly couples and one poor mom with a baby, who had the most terrible cough I’ve ever heard.

The nice urgent care doctor looked at my poor eye under many bright lights to make sure there wasn’t anything in there/it wasn’t scratched, etc. He diagnosed me with conjunctivitis (aka pink eye) which didn’t seem like what I had, but I assumed there were different strains, so I took the eye drops and went home.

Two days later, the drops not only didn’t have any effect but when I woke up this morning, the smudge had become worse. Luckily, eye doctors are open on Tuesday so I was able to make an appointment and get a much more plausible diagnosis: iritus. (Isn’t that the most made-up sounding disease you’ve ever heard of?) So, armed with another batch of drops, I believe I’m on the mend. The nice thing about iritus is that it isn’t contagious, so I don’t have to worry about spreading it to the boy and my friends. Plus the drops they’ve given me seem to be working, so hopefully it will be all cleared up soon.

So, the jury is still out on 2011…

Gross!

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We recently replaced our 13 year old vacuum (it still had bags for god’s sake!) with a refurbished Dyson. (No way I’m paying full-price for one of those babies… ) I’d been hearing hype about Dyson vacuums for years, especially how much dirt and what-not it pulls out of the carpet compared to your old vacuum. Since I knew our old vacuum wasn’t doing a very good job, I was pretty sure I was prepared for the difference between them.

Boy was I wrong! That Dyson pulled sooooooo much more dirt, hair, dust, Jimmy Hoffa’s remains and who knows what else out of our carpet that it was traumatizing. We filled three canisters from about 800 square feet of carpet. Definitely a good investment.

What is wrong with people?

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I’ve always maintained that people in their cars act differently than they do face to face. For example, if someone tried to cut in line in the supermarket like they frequently do when a lane is ending on the freeway, the reaction would be much more immediate and “in your face.” (Except here in Seattle, where passive aggressive is an artform, but I digress… ) But the more I ride my bike, the more I’m starting to question my hypothesis. Today, I was going to take T on my Log Boom Park to Marymoor park ride and decided to ride solo to Log Boom to get a little more mileage in. (I’d forgotten that the Beat the Bridge run and the Urban Assault ride were going on today or I might have thought otherwise.)

Now, any time I choose to ride on the Burke Gilman I know that I’m signing up to dodge people strolling along, rollerbladers, all kinds of crazy bike riding, small children, dogs, etc. I understand that the price of riding on a car-free path means that I have to deal with all of these obstacles. Sometimes it sucks, but that’s the deal. Today however, I was treated to huge oncoming packs of riders participating in the Urban Assault ride who truly didn’t give a crap about anyone except themselves. The highlight of this was navigating a huge oncoming pack riding four abreast, then hearing a pair of riders also coming toward me discussing the “poor little girl who got crashed into and lost her training wheel.” I barely had time to process this sentence before seeing the little girl in question, crying on the side of the road, while her mother tried to figure out how to fix her bicycle. I don’t care what kind of race you are in, there is NO excuse for that.

It was a very discouraging sight. And I spent the next ten miles mentally composing sarcastic sayings for bike jerseys addressing the various forms of cluelessness I saw around me. Really it all boils down to paying attention to your surroundings and/or thinking of someone other than yourself. This isn’t asking too much, is it?

Dear jerkwads, an open letter to the folks on the Burke Gilman

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Hey you! Yeah, you. Idiot who’s riding right down the middle of the path, or worse, on my side of the path. What’s with that? I realize that it’s 8:00 am on a Sunday morning and there’s hardly anybody out, but do you really have to take up the whole freakin’ lane? And there isn’t just one of you, there are dozens! And don’t think I didn’t notice you, pack of group riders riding three abreast. And the most vexing part? That it wasn’t just the newbies, roadies, oblivious ladies chattering away. No. It was all of you. Apparently idiocy is an equal opportunity affliction.

Maybe I need to go get myself some football pads and mount a cowcatcher to the front of my bike and let the chips fall where they may. Consider yourselves warned, a$$hats.

Jingle Bell, jingle bell, jingle bell run…

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This morning T and I got up bright and early to freeze our butts off with thousands of our friends at the 24th annual Jingle Bell 5k I knew the race was popular, but I was surprised by exactly how popular, especially since it had snowed the night before and the temperatures were in the 20’s. But this was the scene that greeted us:

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We were stupidly in the second wave, which was I’d read was supposed to be for folks who run between an 8 minute – 9:30 minute mile. In reality, it’s for people who are too stupid to read a website… Sigh. Here’s T freezing before the start:

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And as we lined up here’s what we were looking at:

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So, here’s my abbreviated race report. Walked or jogged slowly enough that I might as well have walked for the first half mile or so, went into the scary express lanes tunnel that I hate DRIVING through (though I must confess everyone singing Jingle Bells as we entered the tunnel was pretty fun) and then tons of dodging, weaving and trying not to curse out loud. (Inside my head was a whole other matter… ) It was just way too crowded and I didn’t really enjoy it. Should I ever do this race again, I would definitely line up in the first wave where I could hopefully at least run the damn thing… Oh well, live and learn!

Turkey trot

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Thanksgiving morning started with a fun 5k race in my neighborhood, the Seattle Turkey Trot. This is the second year for a very low-key race that had 30 people last year. No timing chips, race numbers or even street closures, just show up and run. This year they had over 150, so I’m excited to see the turnout next year. They did however, have very cute t-shirts…

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(the rest of the 20 dollar entry fee went to the Ballard Food Bank, which was cool.) A view of the starting line:

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M & I getting ready to throw down:

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After a few pre-race announcements we were off! As usual, everyone took off and surged away from us (including a very amusing Weimaraner that would have won the race if not for his pesky human… ) but M & I tried to take it out at a reasonable pace. Sure enough, soon we were passing those people that went out too fast. The route was really gorgeous, winding through some neighborhoods down to the beach. There were views of the olympics in the distance and it was all slightly downhill or flat.

Toward the end, we were still passing people, but both of us were definitely flagging. For the last mile, M and I kept each other going, even though both of us wanted to die. Finally, the finish line was in sight and it was over. I looked at my watch – 30 minutes and 21 seconds! A definite PR for me, at least on the West Coast… (That’s 9:48 minutes per mile, which is pretty speedy for me.) Here’s a self-taken shot of the PR girls:

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And a few more of the finish-line fun:

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I love the chalk turkey…

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And I’m proud to say we beat the girl in the turkey hat and the boa…

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Afterward, I took advantage of the nearby ocean for a little lower leg ice bath:

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Meanwhile, M took beautiful pictures of the scenery:

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It was such a fun morning, even without the PR. The course was beautiful, our fellow racers were nice and we raised money for a good cause. Thanks to M for keeping me going and for being an awesome race partner!

What are they thinking?

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I came across this sign as I was walking to work this morning and was so entertained by it I went back at lunch to take a picture. My favorite part of it is that as I approached I was reading it as “Herb & the Rapies” and when I got close enough to see that it is a day spa, it just got even funnier.

I know that I’m a snobby designer type and as such am more critical than your average passer-by, but I can’t be the only person that has problems with this. The fact that “herban” is not a word I’ve ever heard before and the size of the r in therapies makes it damn near impossible to read this sign as it’s intended. Even once I figured it out, I’m still left with “is herban really a word?”

So, if I really am just being a snobby designer and y’all think the sign is totally fine, then I hope you enjoyed the pleasant diversion of my boring you with my design rants as opposed to pictures of food I’ve eaten, stories about triathlon training and cute pictures of my pets. 😀

Snobby for a reason

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Last week my friend M called me a “snobby triathlete” because I had told her about this teeny little running track at a park near my work in downtown Bellevue that later proved to be 1/2 mile around. In my defense, it does NOT look like it is even the size of a conventional running track, but since I literally tease M all of the time, I let her enjoy the mocking opportunity.

Today I really wanted to see if I could do lunchtime runs at the new job, since I enjoyed them so much in Portland. (Not to mention they were the key to getting my run training in, period.) So, I set out to check out the possibilities. Now, my office is located right in downtown Bellevue (to the East, across Lake Washington from Seattle) which is great for lunch and shopping options, but sucky for having someplace to run where you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a Lexus or wait for a light to cross busy streets, so I knew that running track was a very real possibility and headed in that direction.

The park that contains this running path is actually really nice. It’s a big expanse of lawn, with scupltures and the aforementioned path, which is a big circle with a water feature next to it that looks like a little canal. There are nice benches to sit on and it’s a great spot to have lunch, but as I learned today I was right to be snobby about the running path – it sucks!

I think the half a mile length refers to the dodging, weaving and path veering that you have to do in order to make it around without killing someone. I lasted exactly one time around before I took my chances and headed into the neighboring sub-division. I saw signs for another beach park and headed for it, in the hopes that there would be a path to run along Lake Washington, but alas was thwarted again.

Fully discouraged, I headed back to work in the most direct fashion, shopping mall people be damned. As I ran between stopping for lights, I found that it was actually a pretty fun interval workout. I would run as fast as I could between stoplights and then have a rest interval. Because I couldn’t anticipate how long the run intervals would be, it became a really good pacing challenge. (Plus, it’s fun to run fast even if it’s only for a few blocks.) So, in the end it actually had an up-side but I think I’ll plan to do my run training after work. So heads up Seattle friends, I’m going to need running buddies to keep me on track!

Dear Wenburg State Park, you suck…

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After such an auspicious beginning, I suppose it should not have come as a surprise when we arrived at the lamest campground ever. First of all, the sites were really close to each other but when we arrived at our site we noticed that there was a suburban neighborhood behind it. Oh, and the table to the right of the photo is the neighbor’s campsite…

Ahhh, getting away from it all…

In addition to the general suck factor, we also had these little visitors. Gross brown slugs (sorry for the blurriness… )

Not pleasing. Luckily, neither of our neighbors showed up so it was relatively peaceful in our neck of the campsite. We walked over to a very nice lake/day picnic area where Wally decided he needed a little swim. (Can’t really fault him – being Newfoundland and Lab, he’s pretty much built for it.) Evening was starting to fall, so I built our campfire while T prepped dinner (nice role reversal, huh?) We were just starting to feel like our camping trip was going to be okay after all when the fireworks started.

Apparently, in this part of Washington State people love them some fireworks. And apparently you should start showing this love on the 3rd of July. Unfortunately for us, Wally is terrified of fireworks and while they are forbidden in the state park we didn’t anticipate having a neighborhood behind us. So, Wally was freaking out to the point where T had to go into the car with him to calm him down. I sat by myself at the campfire for a while, out of sheer stubbornness before I gave in and we all went into the tent for the night. Super lame.

As you can imagine, we were not excited about the prospects for the actual 4th of July. We decided to take a break from the campground and go out to look for a lake that we could take the dogs swimming (the one in the park was way too crowded… ) and pick up some ice and whatnot. We didn’t have much luck with the dog swimming, but got our ice. When we returned our neighbors had arrived – on one side a large Chinese family who was camping with friends of theirs at a campsite across from them and on the other two nice ladies who had five dogs with them. We took the dogs for a walk in the hopes of finding a small lake that was near the campground and actually managed to find it plus it had a little public access spot. So, I put my wetsuit on for a little practice swim while T did a little swim with the dogs.

As we were heading back to camp, the fireworks were already in evidence and it was only around 7:00. As we made dinner, the noise just continued on and Wally was getting more agitated. We tried keeping him calm, including T’s innovative technique of putting him under the picnic table and squeezing his head with his legs:

And in contrast, here was Smokey Joe:

That worked for a little while, but as darkness fell the fireworks increased in size and frequency. It turned out that they were shooting fireworks off of the lake near the park, so we knew it was going to be really bad for Wally that night. When the bigger fireworks started going off, we put Wally in the car and eventually T had to join him because there were literally big fireworks all around us – apparently the folks in the adjacent neighborhood have way too much money because they were shooting off the same huge fireworks that we could see through the trees – it was crazy.

It seemed like the fireworks on the lake had gotten to their finale point where they shoot off a ton of them all at once, so I was hoping that they were finally going to be done and everything would settle down, but alas things continued for another HOUR. I traded places with T in the car, so that he could roast a couple of marshmallows on our otherwise wasted campfire.

Finally, we moved into the tent – fireworks still exploding over our heads. Wally finally just collapsed from the sheer exhaustion of the long walk and many hours of terror and was out like a light for the rest of the night. Somewhere around 6 am the next morning we awoke to the sound of very loud Chinese children leaving their tent and then at some point not very long afterwards there was the sound of Chinese adults conversing loudly over their children’s noise. Not cool!

We tried to sleep through all of the noise, but after a little while I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and got the fire going and a short time later, T came out and got the coffee started. We had to go into Lake Stevens and deal with some race business, for which I was quite grateful because otherwise there might have been some homicide at Wenburg State Park.

Charitable thoughts

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Today was my scheduled long run day. Originally, I’d planned to get out early to beat some of the heat but a lousy night of sleep thwarted those plans. (Hot bedroom + noisy fan + stupid dog that likes to cuddle even though it makes him hot so he has to jump off the bed and then fifteen minutes later will ask for permission to come back up and I can’t even get mad because that’s what I’ve trained him to do = bad night’s sleep.) There, I feel better now…

I had a 1 hour and 45 minute run on my schedule, which prior to the forecast, I was planning to turn into a ten-miler, just to get my distance up. But with the hot weather, I knew I was going to be moving slower so I stuck with the time-based workout. I broke out my DeSoto Coolwings, to give them a test run and see if they would help enough to make them worth bring to a race. I also prepared two bottles of ice water, one for my running belt and one for T to bring me at the half-way point, so I could keep well-hydrated.

I’d decided to keep it simple and run down to the Springwater Corridor and then take that out to Oaks Park, turn around and run back, then along the river until my time was up. I arranged to have T meet me at the Oaks Park turnaround (figuring that would be roughly at the one hour mark) and then pick me up 45 minutes later, so I didn’t have to deal with running back home (which is a drag because of numerous stop lights and isn’t particularly nice to run on a hot day… ) The plan was good. I grabbed my trusty i-pod and headed out the door.

As I approached the waterfront, I passed a Team in Training race which initially worried me, but then turned out to be not on my route. (Whew!) But as I got onto the Springwater path, I noticed there were a great deal more walkers than usual, wearing the same t-shirts… and signs… crap. It’s a charity walking event.

Now, before I go any further, let me just preface my next statements with this disclaimer: I fully support the idea of people getting out and exercising, especially if their doing so raises money for such worthy causes as funding research for Lymphoma and Cystic Fibrosis. I love that people who don’t ordinarily exercise are drawn to such causes. I’m all for it. HOWEVER, why is it that the participants of said events who are being so charitable in their motivation are downright selfish in their actual behavior at said event. This is a busy multi-use path with cyclists of all kinds, other walkers, runners, etc. Yet everywhere you looked were the charity-event people ambling along 4 and 5 abreast taking absolutely no notice that there were other people trying to use the path around them. It got really old, really fast.

It’s not like this is a narrow path either, it can easily accommodate up to four “lanes” of traffic. When the weather is nice, you can expect there to be a lot of people out there and usually it works out just fine. The faster runners and cyclists pass the slower runners and cyclists. Occasionally, there’s some douchebag trying to hammer through everyone, but for the most part everyone shares the space and is generally courteous. So, it was somewhat ironic that the big fly in the ointment was a CHARITY FUND RAISING EVENT.

Okay, I feel better now. 😀

Once I made it to Oaks Park, most of the traffic had cleared and I just had to deal with the fact that it was hot. The CoolWings had long since dried out and so were not really doing much for me (on the plus side, I don’t think they were hurting anything and they block the sun exposure, which I like.) I walked for a little bit to the turnaround and T met me with the ice-water bottle and a second cold water bottle to pour on my CoolWings and myself. Heaven. I stretched for a few minutes and whined at T about the charity people (he’s heard that rant before, so he just nodded and smiled until I was done and then sent me on my way… )

Heading back didn’t feel as bad as I expected and I was able to find my “zone-out” pace. There’s a long-run pace that I find I can just sort of trot along without really feeling the effort too badly where the time and miles go by surprisingly quickly. I have no idea how fast this pace actually is, I just know it when I find it. (Another reason the earlier congestion was so irritating to me – when I do have to alter my pace faster and slower it’s really hard for me to resist the walk breaks… ) Before I knew it, I was heading back onto the waterfront with only ten minutes left. I had planned to meet T at this creepy Vera Katz bronze statue along the Esplanade and for a little while it looked like that would time out with my 45 minutes, but as I got closer it was clear that I would be a few minutes short. I decided to see how I was feeling at that point and if I could run to the statue I would and otherwise I’d walk it in. Sadly, mental toughness lost that battle and the walking commenced when the time was up. I managed approx. 9 miles in that time – about an 11:30 pace, which given all of the walk breaks I was pretty pleased with. T had a bottle of iced Gatorade (the new Tiger Woods kind, no less!) waiting for me, which officially made him my hero and then he drove me back home, having picked up a bag of ice for my much needed ice-bath.

I’ve mentioned these in the past, so I thought I’d document the ritual with photos (don’t worry, they are all G-rated… ) First, I drag my bag of ice and usually at least 2 beverages and run some cold water in the tub:

(Yes, that’s a Diet Coke next to the Gatorade bottle) Then I usually stand in the cold water and swear for a few minutes, working the courage to sit down in the cold water. Then some more swearing and I sit down. Once I’m in, then I’ll add the ice…

At this point, T usually comes up to bother me, so I had him take a picture of me (warning him that I would be photoshopping anything inappropriate out of the shot, so don’t even bother… ) Note: usually I’m wearing a sweatshirt and a hat, but it was still warm upstairs so the long-sleeved t-shirt was perfect…

Of course, along with T come the dogs who think of the ice bath as their own personal giant water dish…

I took the camera from T to get a couple of pics of Smokey Joe fishing ice cubes out of the bath:

What can I say, the dog loves ice cubes. (Actually, as a lab he loves any food-related product… )

After the ice-bath, it was a hurried shower and then I had to get ready to go to work. We were planning to go down to Salem tomorrow, but given how hot our apartment was last night, we decided that we’d head down after work this evening. I managed to pack up my cycling stuff (long ride tomorrow) and a change of clothes, get ready and make it to work within the confines of acceptable lateness. (Given that there really isn’t anybody here until at least an hour after I arrive, it isn’t too big a deal.) Usually working on Saturday is a bummer, but when you are sitting in air-conditioned splendor while your better half swelters in our apartment, it’s pretty tolerable.

Happy Saturday, everyone!