March musings

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The rains have finally arrived in Northern California. I know we need the water, but man, I don’t know how I ever lived in the Pacific Northwest! I truly hate the dark skies and cold water dripping down from above. Add the omnipresent darkness of current events and it’s really hard to find stuff to write about that isn’t just ALL CAPS PSYCHOTIC RANTING. But lord knows there’s enough of that on the internet already, so I’ll confine myself to random tidbits from my life.

Wildflower is looming large on the horizon. Thankfully, a good-sized number of folks from my tri club are doing it, so there is a training plan to follow and group workouts I can join when I need company/ass kicking. Especially for getting out on the bike when it’s cloudy and cold:

(Photo by Charlie Keen. I’m in the back on the left. I think you can see my arm… )

But little by little I’m finding my mojo again. It’s been a LONG time coming. I’ve been getting up at zero-dark-thirty to get on the bike trainer or go to the pool, which I never managed to do consistently before. On Friday, I made it for my pre-work, outdoor swim in the actual rain. (I was feeling like such a badass about this, until the aquacize ladies rolled in and showed me what hardcore really was. It’s one thing to do an activity where you’re largely under heated water during a cold drizzle. It’s another thing altogether when you’re treading water with your full torso out there. Mad respect, ladies!)

Yesterday, I went out to do a long, hilly bike ride. Originally, Todd was going to join me, but he had some work stuff and his back had been twingy, so he stayed home. I decided to ride out near where I worked and tackle a climb that I’d bailed on the only other time I’d attempted it – Patterson Pass. I figured it would be a good confidence builder, assuming I could do it, and a chance to bump down to a shorter distance if I failed.

Patterson is a long, somewhat relentless climb. It seems like it goes on forever. I generally like climbs like this for training because they build mental strength, along with the physical.

And, of course, there was a ridiculous little steep section before the last part of the climb where I had to stop and take a wheezing/panting/recovery break…

But, I made it to the top and the view was AMAZING:

It was crazy to look down on all of those windmills, completely the opposite of the view I usually have. That climb was followed by many miles of screaming fast/slightly terrifying descents and then some lovely riding through the country. I was feeling so good that I decided to take on a second climb that had eluded me – the road up to Del Valle regional park.

My brother and I have ridden part of it as part of lunchtime and weekend rides, but we’ve never made it all the way to the top. Usually, it’s a million degrees and we have time/fitness constraints, but it’s always bugged me that I’ve never finished it. It’s another long, relentless climb with about a million switchbacks that seem to go on forever. It was the end of my ride and I was tired, but I put my head down and basically willed my legs to get me there. All in all, it was 40 miles of confidence boost. I was tired, but also really proud of myself.

Aside from all of that craziness, life has been work stuff and random adventures with this guy:

And this one…

Even when the weather is bumming me out, I know I’m so deeply blessed to be able to do this crazy athletic stuff and have such wonderful people (and dogs) in my life.

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2014 Slowtwitch Womens training camp: part 2

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Day four: After the last couple of three-workout days, it was nice to have just a longish bike ride on the schedule. We planned to do the dam ride from last year, with a couple of ladies adding more miles and a few adding less. But everyone headed out for at least something:

2014camp-GroupRideGail was kind enough to snap some photos of the initial riding, before she and Mindy peeled off. Here’s yours truly climbing the hill:

2014camp-HillclimbWe re-grouped at the top and bid farewell to Gail & Mindy. I took a few photos at the next regroup point. You gotta love riding in the desert:

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At this point, we bid farewell to Susan and Christina, who embarked on some epic climbing (more on that later.) And then there were six… The road out to the dam is rolling and has a bit more traffic than normal, so we spread out a bit more and rode our own pace. There wasn’t quite as much wind as last year, so this section was definitely easier.

Last year, Kristi had to walk a section of the climb up to the dam, but this year she made it up with ease. (In fact, everyone did.) We paused on the top for a picture:

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And then headed in to see if the store was open. It wasn’t, but there was this rad fish statue that I wanted a picture with:

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Which led to a series of silly photos…2014camp-FishMcGee 2014camp-FishMyriam 2014camp-FishKristiAnd some even sillier photos. I think that poor fish is going to need counseling.

2014camp-FishDoubleUpThen it was back out the way we’d come. When we reached our initial turn-off point, we had some decisions to make. We could see a McDonalds on the highway that goes through the valley, so most of us opted for that. Suzanne bid us farewell and headed back to the house. (And then there were five… )

It was a nice quick descent down to the valley floor. Before we knew it, we were pulling into the McDonalds parking lot. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any outdoor tables, so we had a little sidewalk picnic:

2014camp-McDpicnicI’m sure the local denizens were quite surprised to see five females clad in lycra come into the place and order a ton of junk food. We even gained a mascot for the ride home:

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To get back, we had to ride along the highway for a little while, but thankfully, there was a nice wide shoulder. When we turned off, we had a fair amount of false flat (a gradual hill that appears to be flat road and is completely dispiriting to ride). Kristi was flagging and, despite her urging us to go on ahead, I opted to ride with her. I wasn’t feeling particularly ambitious and it was much more fun with company. We regrouped with the other ladies at some point – they opted to add some more riding while we headed back toward the house. The miles went much easier than yesterday without the crazy wind, and we chit-chatted easily as we rode along.

Meanwhile, the other ladies had seen a hilarious sign “Back in, Lights Out” and posed with it. We’re very serious athletes, as you can clearly see:

2014camp-BackInLightsOutWhen we got back to the house, Kristi and I decided to go for a short brick run down the driveway/road, despite the strong temptation of homemade guacamole. Gail and Mindy joined us and we headed out. When we got to the bottom, the other three members of our group were passing by en route to a little more punishment, I mean fun. (Not even the guacamole could deter them!) I had them strike a heroic pose before we bid them adieu:

2014camp-RideReturnThe four of us on foot headed back to the house for a shower and to eat ALL THE THINGS. (Poor guacamole never saw it coming… ) Our heroic trio joined us and we all cleaned up/ate/relaxed. We went and took the bikes apart and got them packed up. Then headed back to the house for dinner. But Susan and Christina were still out on their epic ride. We’d gotten texts from them, so we knew they were okay, but they’d been out for about eight hours at this point. I got the bright idea to head down with a couple of beers to meet them. Gail and I were the first ones out and saw them coming up the road. They looked tired, but were laughing and joking as they walked toward us. Their faces lit up when they saw the beer like a couple of kids at Christmas, so I was pretty pleased that I’d thought of it:

2014camp-RideHerosA group watched Monty’s video of the first Ironman in Kona and I hung out with the conquering heroes to hear about their adventures. (I’ve seen that video a few times already.) The margaritas were already flowing, so Susan had to play a little catch-up. I couldn’t resist getting a picture of her double-fisting it with Monty’s 2.5 year old son, Wyatt in the background:

2014camp-DoubleFistingAfter everyone had a chance to eat and clean up, we got things set up for the gear exchange. This is becoming one of my favorite parts of camp. It’s fun to see what people bring and awesome to have stuff that’s been kicking around your house go to a good home. As I was contemplating the items that were left and musing over whether a tri top from tiny Gail would fit me, the other Michele (aka McGee) pointed out that I had small boobs and it would probably fit me. I, of course, responded with faux outrage and the rest of the group joined in. This led to me putting the tri top on and attempting to take a selfie and then getting someone else to take it, while getting coached on posing to show off the girls. End result = hilarious:

2014camp-NewTopI texted the above picture to T at one point. I’m sure he wondered, yet again, what kind of craziness was happening. But he’s a good sport. There were margaritas aplenty, followed by wine and, of course, lots of laughter and frivolity. There was talk of a margarita dance-off to replace the margarita mile that didn’t happen this year. But in the end, the exertions of the day (combined with the three days prior) had us all heading off to bed before long.

Day five: Most of the girls were planning to do a long run, but I’d promised Heidi that I’d be heading their way in the morning, since I hadn’t seen them on Wednesday. (Not to mention, I was pooped!) So, I bid everyone farewell and hit the road. I had so much fun this year. I wish we could do these camps more than once a year, it would be so much more fun to have a chance to train with these girls more often. Lord knows, I could use the motivation.

Chilly Hilly: the truth in advertising edition

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It’s been four years since I’ve done this ride. But our friend Luke texted about it and since it actually meant that he’d visit us in Seattle, I agreed. The boy asked his Cardiac Rehab people and they said he could do the ride if he kept his heart rate under 130. The only downside is that we were double-booked with houseguests, as Susan was in town picking up the dogs, who will be staying with her for two weeks while we’re in Hawaii. (Get excited about some super obnoxious vacation posts!) So, it was a little crowded in our tiny house.

Unlike the previous times I’ve done this ride, it was actually quite chilly (and drizzly) on the morning of the ride. I had the brilliant idea of parking along a multi-use path that was a few miles away from the start, rather than dealing with trying to find parking downtown. It was great except for Luke forgetting his bag of helmet and shoes, necessitating a race back home to get them and forcing us to rush to make packet pick-up at 10:00. We made it in time and had plenty of time to make the last ferry. If we do this ride again in the future, we are totally taking a later ferry. It was so much more civilized!

FerryCoffeeIt was chilly and starting to drizzle, but thankfully the warm coffee helped. We boarded the ferry and took the obligatory ferry selfie:

PreRideSelfieBefore we knew it, we were arriving in Bainbridge:

CHArrivalIt was so much nicer leaving the ferry with a smaller group of riders. There were still a few asshats, but it was fairly civilized. We told Luke to go ahead without us, as he’s trying to get in shape for an upcoming bike tour. Plus ‘leisurely’ is not really in Luke’s repertoire. The first part of the ride was enjoyable and we noodled along. The boy’s heart rate cap was only a problem on the bigger hills, but he was having fun on the new bike.

Then the rain started while we were at the half-way point aid station. And the fun sort of stopped. We were soaking wet and so cold. Thankfully, they had a short-cut option which was perfectly timed for us. We ended the ride right at the point where we were going from “this is an adventure suffering” to “actual suffering”. We headed to our usual post-ride stop of Blackbird Bakery. Someone had apparently given the bakery a bunch of money to buy Chilly Hilly riders stuff until the money ran out, so our coffee was on the house. How rad is that? Luke had just finished as well, so the timing was perfect.

We scarfed down some baked goods/free coffee and hustled to catch the ferry. There were a ton of cyclists and it was still cold and rainy. For a little while, it looked like we weren’t going to make it and the mood of the crowd was ugly. But thankfully, they loaded more bikes and we were good. I’m glad I made us do before and after pictures, look how cute we are:

CH_BeforeAfterEven though it was cold and wet, it was a fun adventure. The three miles back to the car in the pouring rain super-sucked, but we made it. And then rewarded ourselves with so many calories at Uneeda Burger. Then we sent Luke on his way and crashed on the couch for the rest of the night.

 

Oregon whirlwind

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Back when I started setting up my training, I put a few events on my calendar to break up the monotony of training alone. I thought it would be nice to do a weekend down in Portland as one of those breaks. What I didn’t count on was how logistically difficult it would be to squeeze in time with both families, T trying to get some work done and all of the training I had on my plan.

Friday:
Early start to the day. T was working all day, so we dropped Wally off at doggie daycare and I took the day off to hang out with my mom. I made her go to a tri store with me (birthday $ + sale price + no sales tax = new wetsuit for Vineman. Yay!) Afterward, we went to the Rebuilding Center – this giant place where people bring stuff from their house when they remodel or tear things down. It has a little bit of everything and a lot of little things:

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For example, an aisle of doorknobs:

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My favorite was the shelf of toilet tank lids:

RC4It was a really interesting place to look around. I envy those people who can look at stuff like this and turn it into amazing things, but unfortunately, I’m not one of them. My mom scored a couple of old oak drawers that she’s going to make into little shelving units to display some creche scenes, so I’m excited to see how that turns out.

We headed over to SE Portland where we had lunch, got some cupcakes for desert and poked around a couple of shops. Then we headed home to relax in the backyard sunshine with Bingley (aka the holy terror):

Bingley

He’s a lap and guard dog in one!
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Who, like all pugs, knows when he’s being made fun of:
Bingley2Todd eventually joined us after battling the Friday evening traffic. Lucky for him, we got to sit in some more to drive down to Salem. Yay!

Saturday:
Another early morning to get ready to ride. The dogs were still sleepy:

WallyBlueBlue is now Wally sized, but still a puppy:

WallyBlue2Originally, I’d planned to do a century up in Silverton, but it was a bit more catered (and expensive) than I needed. So, I was planning to do a mostly solo 100 miles down to Brownsville, the town my grandparents lived when I was a kid. Sarah and Susan joined me for the first leg of the ride, it was nice to have such… um… fashionable company:

RainbowBrightIt was a lovely day for a long ride. We even saw a baby llama:

babyLlamaAfter about an hour and a half, I bid farewell to my riding companions and continued on my way. There was a section of the ride called the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. I couldn’t figure out why they would possibly call it that:

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At some point in here, a mini-van coming toward me stopped and asked “if I was part of the bike race.” Um, nope. Then I passed an intersection where some obvious volunteers were hanging out and chatting. I was clearly coming from a direction they didn’t expect, so they watched me pass without comment. Then another five minutes later, a pick-up truck pulled up next to me while I was refilling my water bottle/taking a picture and ask if I was in the triathlon. (There are so many things to love about that question.) So, should you ever contemplate doing the Albany Triathlon (my best guess as to where the race would be), the whole community is looking out for you!

Eventually, I made it to Brownsville. It was mostly unchanged, but they’ve kept the historic downtown section nice and clean. It’s still a cute little town. (Fun fact: they filmed the movie Stand By Me here back in the 80’s.)

BrownsvilleMedleyI was pleasantly surprised by how much I remembered. I was easily able to navigate the way from the park, (where we used to swim in the river) to my grandparent’s old house (now owned by white trash, complete with car on blocks.) Then it was time to hit the road again. And deal with the terrible scenery and copious amounts of traffic:

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Scenery5The rest of the ride went without incident. Except for needing to pee and not having anything but open farmland and stupid towns that don’t have obvious restrooms, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the ride was going. I made it back to Salem just in time to shower and gather my wits for the BBQ Susan was having. When I came out to the backyard, Susan and T were testing out the croquet set up. Blue added a “miniature golf” quality to the game:

BlueCrocquetWe had a nice meal sitting in the sunshine. I was pleasantly tired from the days ride, but there was no rest for the weary. Time to head back up to Portland!

Sunday:
Today was supposed to be the Hagg Lake Open Water Swim. I wanted to practice the 2.4 mile swim in race-like conditions. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan well and we were too late getting out of my parents house. (It’s much further to get there from my parents’ house than our previous residence, so we completely mis-calculated how much time we needed.) I beat myself up about that for a little while, but it gave T a chance to visit a few more locations and finish up some work. Then a long drive back to Seattle. Whew!

Overall, it was a good visit but it was much more frantic and stressful than I wanted it to be. Hopefully, I can remember some lessons to make future visits go more smoothly.

Memorable Methow

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Our good friends Jenn & Bryan invited us to spend Memorial Day weekend with them at their awesome cabin in the Methow valley. I was excited to be able to combine some solid training with awesome company. Plus the inevitable delicious food/wine that this crew always seems to come up with. 🙂 And as a special bonus, Wally would have some dog friends to hang out with:

WallySaturday morning I headed out for a long bike ride. My goal was to ride from Twisp out to Winthrop, up my favorite climb that we’ve done in previous years and then back again. With rain clouds on the horizon, I basically decided that I’d ride until I got to the top of the hill or it started raining on me, which ever happened first. For most of the ride, I had blue skies above me and, of course, terrible scenery:

RideBryan had found a blast from the past that I saved as a top of the mountain treat:

ZotzThe first part of the ride was great. But on the way down the hill, the clouds moved in and the winds picked up. I was pretty pooped when I got back to Winthrop and checked in with T. But I rallied and finished out the last 10 miles as strong as I could. (And I completely lucked out, no rain the entire way.) Back at the cabin, we had a nice chill evening. There were delicious pork steaks for dinner accompanied by grilled veggies, an amazing salad, wonderful wine and for dessert – homemade macaroons:

Macaroons(I’m surprised proud to report that no fist-fights broke out over the fifth macaroon.)

As usual, life was pretty good for the dogs. Their biggest worry was figuring out who got to sleep in the dog bed vs. the couch:

ToddGreta PetBedsOn Sunday, while T was making bagels, I took Wally for a little pre-breakfast walk to get the blood flowing in my tired legs. The wildflowers were in bloom and it was gorgeous out:

WallyHikeThen it was off to Crown S Ranch for a tour/potluck lunch. It was such a cool experience. The ranch is a fully sustainable operation and is really impressive.

FarmMedleyThis little guy ran up to say hello to T and then scampered off:

GoatExitI particularly enjoyed taking pictures of the pigs. (Apparently.) They were so cute and it was impressive to watch them tilling up the soil:

Pigs4 Pigs3 Pigs Pigs5The chickens had it pretty good as well:

ChickensI love the chicken painted on the side of the hen house:

HenHouseInside, they had a nice set-up, with a little swinging perch for the more adventurous ones:

InsideHHAnd of course there were the cows:

CowsWe finished out the tour and hung out waiting for the potluck to start. There was a border collie puppy and a bunny to pet and some live music to enjoy. Jenn & Bryan went back to the sheep pasture and enjoyed some wacky hijinks:

DunkTank(I’m pleased to report that no wives were dunked in the water trough)

After a delicious lunch at the potluck, we headed back to the cabin for some downtime. There were naps and a nice run/hike for Jenn & I. (My legs were too tired for a straight up run, so that was just what the doctor ordered.) Then we went out to Sun Mountain Lodge for a little pre-dinner cocktail. The view was gorgeous and everyone was in a lovely mood:

ToddPhoto JBviewOn Monday, before we all headed home, we went out for one last adventure. Jenn and Bryan had recently acquired a stand-up paddleboard and we felt that the weekend would not be complete until we took it out for a spin. Here’s Bryan rocking the latest in Methow SUP fashion:

BryanFashionNeither T nor I had ever been on a paddleboard before, but Jenn & Bryan were excellent instructors. T managed to stand up on the board twice, but I was too chicken to stand all the way up.

SUPIt was really fun though and I look forward to giving it another go (preferably in warmer weather.) It was an awesome weekend with the perfect mix of work and play. So many thanks to our hosts Jenn & Bryan for having us.

 

 

 

 

 

Picking up the pieces

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It’s been a week and things are slowly moving toward normal (or at least some weird new version of it.) Poor Wally was a little confused for the first day or so, sniffing around the yard and seeming to be looking for Smokey Joe. This may be us projecting, but he did seem to be not quite himself. Then he realized that he could get a lot more attention as the only dog and was really playful and demanding of attention. Now he’s back to looking for someone to boss him around, which is currently taking the form of George. (I will try to get a picture or video, because a 90 lb dog kowtowing to an ancient 9 lb cat is awesome.)

To reward ourselves for getting through the week, T and I treated ourselves to some carbs and alcohol at Bravehorse. A few adult beverages and many calories were consumed, but we both felt slightly better. They don’t call it comfort food for nothing…

BravehorseI had a mini freakout about how soon Vineman is coming and how far behind I am in my training. So, in the midst of all of the sadness, I forced myself to get back out there. I did a long run on Thursday, running home from work for the first time this year. I also got a couple of longer swims in (finally) and a long solo ride on Sunday. I managed to get 70 miles in, despite not really wanting to leave the house. At one point in the ride, I bribed myself with a Krispy Kreme stop if I made it back to the bottom of Lake Sammamish.

MagicDonutI was hoping for the magic donut effect that I had last year, but alas, that donut sat in my stomach like a brick. But I got the work done (and actually averaged a better pace than expected, so that was nice.) I can’t say I’m feeling confident about Vineman, but my plan is to just put my head down and get as much work done between now and then as I can and let the day take care of itself.

The boy is doing great with his recovery. He met with the doctor on Thursday and now off the crutches. We had rented a pair of the fanciest crutches I’ve ever seen, so naturally I had to get a picture of them before they went back:

CrutchFreeBoyAnd finally, I would like to give a formal shout-out to all of the support we’ve received. So many people have reached out and been so lovely. It’s made a huge difference and I truly do appreciate it.

 

Recipe for disaster

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Things have continued to be a roller coaster around here. T had his surgery and is recovering nicely, but poor Smokey Joe continues to be sick. Since the last post, he spent another night in the emergency room and a number of follow-up visits to the vet. Finally, we culminated his adventures with a trip to the doggie neurologist on Friday. I was trepidatious about this after all of our experiences with the emergency vets. I was sure they’d recommend another battery of tests we couldn’t afford and not find something we wouldn’t be able to fix. But the doctor was actually really great and helpful. He basically said that while there were other tests and procedures, they wouldn’t increase Smokey Joe’s quality of life and in some cases put him in danger of much worse side-effects.

It’s really hard, but we made the decision to bring him home for a few days and then have him put to sleep early next week. The doctor upped some of his pain medication so that he’d be comfortable and gave us some side effects to look for that would hasten our timeline. T and I are heartbroken, but we both agree that it’s the right decision.

I’d planned a trip to Prosser before all of this happened and in a bit of haze, I decided to keep my plans intact. T assured me that he didn’t mind watching over Smokey Joe by himself. It feels so selfish, but my training has been a disaster for the last two weeks and I felt like I needed to regroup. So, in a bright green tiny rental car, I hit the road to Prosser.

When one is in the midst of personal turmoil, it’s so good to have friends like Erin & David. They took such good care of me. Saturday morning, Erin & I had signed up for a duathlon. The temps were forecast to be in the mid-90’s and it was already pretty toasty at 8:30 in the morning. For those not familiar, a duathlon is a run/bike/run race. In this case, the run course was 3.1 evil, hilly, cross-country miles of pure evil. I went out with the pack much too fast and spent a miserable 35 minutes trying not to barf or crap myself interspersed with walk breaks. I finally made it onto the bike and set myself the goal of catching at least one person, and not letting the two women behind catch me. They came pretty close at one point, which finally motivated my legs to come to the party. It took a long time, but I finally did catch the girl in front of me. I’d been debating doing the second run, but between looking at all of the people death-marching the run course already and how lousy I already felt, it became a no-brainer.

Given the stresses of the previous two weeks, the haphazard amount of training and the not great sleep, the days outcome was hardly surprising. It was an excellent wake-up call that I need to get very serious about my training if Vineman isn’t going to go the same way. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and recovering and then went to trivia night at a great local place. It was a really fun diversion and our team came in second. Woo!

On Sunday, we went out for a hot, windy Webber Canyon ride. It’s my favorite route, even though it involves a long, windy climb. It was a good solid ride and I was pleased at how strong I felt, a much-needed ego boost on the athletic front, after the previous days debacle. Then it was time for a quick shower and a long drive home. I had a boy and an ailing puppy to get back to. It was a good weekend, but also really nice to get home to my boys. It’s going to be a hard week ahead, but I’m just going to put one foot in front of the other and do the best I can.