Monday, November 29, 2010

Notes on a Busy Week

Hmmm... where to start since I need to keep this short?

Thanksgiving was wonderful, and in fact all of Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful. Marvelous to have Pete's family come visit, superlative to have so much time with Buddy and The Dude, and lovely to have so much yummy yummy food. (Especially the pecan pie. I love pecan pie.)

Work is busy (surprise, surprise), but okay.

My "To Make For Christmas" to-do list has far more entries than days available, but I am oddly calm about it (right now) and enjoying every opportunity to work on them.

I had three decent workouts last week and have hopes of two this week. My IT band is not getting worse. I have decided not to stress about how much I am working out or not until the new year starts.

I have the opportunity this week to visit with a friend I have not seen in over twenty years and am grateful for that as well.

I cannot explain my calm right now other than to say I have either gotten the Christmas spirit, or some good sleep over the holiday weekend. Either way, I am grateful. I do know I am most grateful that Buddy took a nap every day over the long weekend, a gift I was not expecting.

Hope this finds all well. I doubt I will be writing much over the next few weeks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Notes on a Low Week

I think I'll start with the positive stuff from last week, since otherwise I will probably just wallow.

The house is clean and (mostly) ready for visitors.

I got in two good workouts last week, through a combination of walking and the ergometer.

While still twingy, my ITB is not disabling, as evidenced by my ability to run (without pain) after a certain imp.

I got some good work done on my Christmas presents and really enjoyed doing so.

The bug that was threatening to fell me last week has retreated to "tolerable" status.

Work, while stressful, is still on the right side of manageable.

I am enjoying reading a couple of art books that I would not have read six weeks ago, before I decided to succumb to my artsy/crafty self.

And everyone in this household and among my closest loved ones is well and in decent health.

Okay, good enough! No need to make a similar catalog of my blues. I'll just go listen to a bunch of country music instead.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Word of the Day

Automagically.

Isn't that awesome? There is a lot these days that seems to happen automagically. How else could I be writing this and a friend in Japan reads it moments later?

My son's word on Saturday was "broken." I don't remember what particular incident prompted that, but he savored the word for the rest of the day.

And I remember being 10 and in love with the word "inquisitive."

Do you have a word for the day?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Is Not My Week

I got scolded on the train today for talking on the phone with my parents. Like, chewed out. I was stunned, mostly because, as anyone who rides the Chicago El knows, everyone talks on the phone on the train --- I thought I was at least trying to be fairly quiet and considerate. But apparently there are different rules in play on the Brown Line at 8:00am.

I have a magnet I keep on the door to my office, to let people know I'm here even if the door is closed. My eyes keep going back to it today... I chose this quote to help me remember to be nice to people when I don't want to be, but today I think it's to remember to be nice to me:

Be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars.
In the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
~ Max Ehrmann

Peace to us all.

Eh, Or Maybe Not

After thinking some more about these birds I'm making, and looking at the photos in the book of what they're supposed to look like, and then thinking some more (mostly about what really gets me excited about working with cloth and thread, and what would I design if I were to make up some birds for my friends), and then staying up too late and waking up too early because my brain is just turning... I've switched gears, jumped tracks, and am heading in a somewhat different direction. Somewhere that's more me.

Thankfully most of what I cut out can be cannibalized for these new designs, and with a little bit of sketching and a little bit of photocopying, I am now ready to cut out new patterns tonight and get started sewing on the train tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Notes on a Frustrating Week

I'm not even going to bother listing out my workouts this past week, it's just too upsetting. Tuesday I went for a longer run than I should have and ended up injuring my ITB. It's been coming all season so I can't get too upset about it, in many ways I'm just grateful that it happened now (rather than before the marathon or my race last weekend). Not only that, but November/December are hugely stressful months for me at work, plus of course all my own holiday preparations. And I will admit I'm feeling run-down. So it's a good time to be running less (or not at all right now), but I still don't like it.

I've been frustrated trying to figure out good cross-training as well. For reasons I won't get into (because it makes me too angry) I can't use the pool for a while, but we haven't joined our local health club yet, so I'm left with the exercise room at our local park district center. Typically the only machines there that work properly are these odd combination of bike/arm-thing that make a huge amount of noise and don't have any gear adjustment at all --- you just get on and pedal and move your arms back and forth. I just can't make myself use them, I can't. So then you cross your fingers and hope that one of the more modern machines are working... Today that left me with the ergometer, which I love, but that's really not a lot of choice.

I won't even touch on work frustration becuase it's just not worth it. This is a hard time of year, made harder by other people's holiday craziness, and that I don't feel I really get to enjoy my own holiday preparations. I suspect I won't be writing much in these next six weeks.

On the upside, we actually managed to consolidate our books and reorganize our bookshelves this weekend... we've only lived together five years and in this apartment for three, after all, can't rush into these things... Buddy thought it was hugely entertaining and "helped" pull books off the shelves for us, usually after we'd finished a shelf. But I'm most proud of us, me for being willing to consolidate (mostly) and The Dude for being willing to organize and get rid of some things to boot.

I like to end my posts with some kind of cheery or witty note but I'm too tired to be either today. Hope your Novembers are going better.

This Week: Cutting, Sewing, Swearing, Groaning

A number of my friends had babies about the same time that my imp was born. Those whose showers I was able to attend got a gift from their registry, but a few of them never ended up getting a gift for their children at all, which I have not been happy about (especially when we have then received gifts for Buddy from them... oh, the shame). And then two of my friends in this category have since had a second child! I am far, far behind in my gift-giving.

So I have started my venture back into art-making with a number of gift projects, some for Christmas, and some to ease my conscience around missed gift-giving opportunities. This week I have been working on two stuffed birds, both from, or loosely based on, designs in the book "Little Birds."

I'm working on a tight deadline so I don't think I'll get any process pictures up. A childhood friend from Japan whom I haven't seen in 24 years will be here for a conference in two weeks, and since I'd rather not pay the postage to Japan I'm trying to get these done in time for her arrival. Hence some of the groaning. The other groaning came when I first turned the body of one of these birds right side out. It's been so long since I made anything three-dimensional in fabric, and never from someone else's pattern (or so small) --- it just didn't look anything like I thought it would.

Still, it is in process --- the body is not yet stuffed or closed, the wings are not yet attached, the decorative stitching and beading is not yet done --- and I am trying to remember that it has been a very long time since I made anything at all and to have patience and gentleness of heart towards myself.

I am so very much enjoying all the parts of making these birds: choosing fabrics, cutting out the pieces, pinning, machine sewing, turning, stuffing, handsewing (in the train this morning!), embroidering. So that gives me confidence about what I am doing overall... regardless of how these particular birds might turn out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Change in Plans, That's It, Just a Change in Plans

Yesterday I scheduled myself for a nice, easy, 4-mile run. You know, nice and easy to recover from Saturday's race.

And then it was so beautiful outside... I decided to make it six.

Do you know where this is going? That's right, at mile 4 (and still 2 miles from home), my right knee started bothering me. And then some more. And then some more. I kept going because frankly it was easier to keep going than to stop and start up again, and I was still 2 miles from home, and I didn't want to walk (I didn't think it would feel any better to walk), but by the time I got home more than my knee was hurting.

Now, thankfully, I don't think I've done anything serious to myself. I could walk around mostly fine yesterday (just some problems after going down steps), and I haven't had any major pain today (just twinges... but a bunch of them). But I'm taking this as a big red flag to back waaaay off the running for a while.

Last year, at about this same time, I started having problems with my left foot, and I didn't back off... until January, when I had to, and then ended up with about eight weeks of wondering if I'd be able to run again this year at all. And I still have to baby that foot. I don't plan to make that mistake twice! So from now until the end of the year I'm going to hit the pool and the gym, and if I go running, just something nice and easy (for real), maybe once a week.

Happy that I already decided to do a sprint tri next year! I'll be able to enjoy those hours in the pool and the gym and not chafe at "missed" training opportunities. Now I just need to find someone to sucker persuade into doing it with me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Back With The Big Fish

This was my first day back in the fast lane after a break of two months. I had scaled back my swimming during the most intense marathon training, and kept it low-key during taper and recovery as well. And for that I didn't need the pressure of swimming in the fast lane, worrying about what other swimmers were thinking about me (I know, I know, they aren't), and feeling tempted to swim faster or longer than I should. And I didn't have any concrete plans for returning to the fast lane either, I was just planning to slowly increase my swim time back to an hour or so and not concern myself with how fast I was going.

And then.

And then I showed up at the pool today and saw there were 8 people already in the medium lane, two of whom make me grit my teeth every time I have to share space with them. It was just so going to be a clusterf***, excuse my french.

And in the fast lane? Five. All swimming steadily and easily, passing each other as needed with no drama that I could tell.

So in I went. And spent the first 10 minutes going too fast, worrying that I was getting in the way, looking back too often to make sure I wasn't going to cut someone off at the turn. And then I realized that I was okay, I wasn't getting passed like crazy, everyone seemed to be handling my being there without breaking stride, so to speak. I was pretty revved up by then, though, so I kept going at my faster clip and gradually realized I could keep it up, and hey, maybe I wanted to swim an extra three laps too. You know, just for kicks (ha, ha).

And I got out and feel fine, and have felt fine since then, better than fine, really, I was STOKED... and promptly went home and retooled my winter training plan to include MORE SWIMMING. I want to run my first ultra next year, after all, need to get my cardio up there without hurting myself with too much running. Whatever... it just feels so good to feel tough. Sexy, even.

(It doesn't hurt that there are some beautiful men in the fast lane. Oh, swimmers. Along with soccer and rugby players easily the most beautiful men in the world.)

Now if only my budget allowed for some swim coaching... and a new swimsuit...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hot Chocolate - Hurrah!

Good grief, this whole race has felt like a comedy of errors, though one with a happy ending at least. First I got the date wrong and only realized my mistake 13 hours before the start time, necessitating a complete change of plans for the weekend (luckily it actually worked out better for us this way). Then I left my watch at home, and with no clock at the start that I could see I wasn't able to keep track of my mile splits until I was two miles in. I somehow managed to lose my beloved ear warmers during gear check, and it was COLD. I needed to pee right from the start but the course was woefully lacking in porta-potties and I didn't want to lose time standing in line, so I ended up running the whole thing wishing I could just go pee against a wall like guys do. The course was crowded the whole time with a number of bottlenecks, so I spent much of the race running on the very edge: on grass, on rocks, in ditches, and hopping back and forth over curbs. I lost time running to a fieldhouse only to find the restrooms were locked up for the season (and as a Chicago resident I knew better than to have tried, but I saw people coming back from it and they didn't say it was locked so I went, hoping). I barely saw the view or heard the music, so focused was I on getting through and around people and not twisting an ankle on the slopes/grass/rocks/curbs.

(I am so very grateful for all my trail running and balance exercises in yoga, busy strengthening all those little stabilizing muscles in my feet and ankles so that I could trust my footing in this insane course. Did I mention we spent a full mile on grass and rocks?)

Despite all the obstacles, I felt really good about how I was running (once I got past the first couple of miles of "it's really cold," "I hate all these people," and "we're running on highway, why am I even doing this"). First, my pace was really consistent, something I have struggled with in races, gradually accelerating over the first two miles to a 10 minute pace and then staying there for the next three miles. Then, once I got past the 5 mile mark, I let myself go faster, and was able to steadily accelerate again over the next couple of miles until I was really running at capacity, and then kept it there for the rest of the race. I was way more aggressive about passing then I've ever been (and have the elbow-shaped bruise on my breastbone today to testify to that) --- that was fun. Plus, there were a number of hills on the way back (the first half had been a gradual and consistent slope), and I love hills. I practice on them as much as I can around here, so yesterday I could take them steadily going up without losing much speed, and then really FLY on the way back down, trusting in my ankles and sense of balance and my training, loving the feeling of flight and also trying to make up time lost in bottlenecks and that failed toilet stop.

That last mile and change I just kept pushing myself, making myself chase people down and just. keep. going. I hit the 9 mile mark and realized I was pretty much at my limit but there were only 400 some meters left to go and I just had to keep going and then I hit the last 50 meters and pushed harder and crossed the finish line. And immediately felt like throwing up. Yes! A perfect race.

I didn't even know what my time was until this morning, I was just hoping to have broken a 10 minute pace overall. And I did! Final time --- 1:32:30, for a 9:56 pace, finishing 507 out of 1192 for my age group (women 35-39). To put that in perspective, last year I ran this race at a 10:42 pace, and earlier this year I ran a 10k at a 9:54 pace. I am moving on up.

Now to figure out what my goals are for next year's races and devise training plans for them. Yum, yum, yum.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hot Chocolate - Oops

Well, I found out on my way out of work last night that the Hot Chocolate 15k is TODAY, not Sunday as I had been thinking all season long. Wow. And here I'd been wondering why the expo was on Thursday and Friday only.

I've been grousing to myself about this race all week long --- it's become all about "sell, sell, sell," they ran out of most sizes of shirts before it was anywhere near full, there was no chocolate at the expo despite all their email promises, etc., etc., (when really I signed up for it out of "post-marathon mania" and now, a month later, just don't feel like racing) --- so I could have very easily taken this as a sign that it was not to be.

But instead, here I am, all geared up and about to head out the door early on a COLD Chicago morning to go kick myself in the butt. And excited about it.

We runners, we are crazy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Procrastination Is My Best Friend

Sometimes it's good I don't always get to things when I want to. (I find this to be true at work all the time.) If I'd written on Sunday as I meant to, I would have written that the pumpkin bread I made for Halloween (and used all my quiet personal time on) was a FAIL. Not enough pumpkin flavor, not enough spice, not enough sweet, and according to The Dude, not a good texture (I disagreed with him there, I like my quick breads to be dense, a.k.a. whole-grain, at least in part).

However, despite these flaws, Buddy and I have been enjoying it all week, him with a little milk in the mornings, me with coffee as my second breakfast, topped with cream cheese and apple butter, or peanut butter and honey.

So I need to tweak the recipe --- anyone know how to make something more "pumpkin-y" with adding more pumpkin? --- but overall I would say it's a qualified success. And The Dude will just have to content himself with cold cereal.

I am on the hunt for a good cranberry-walnut bread recipe, though. One with some fiber!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Notes on a Friend-Full Week

This week was both exhausting and a delight. The delights included having lunch with one good friend and then a post-Buddy-bedtime dessert outing with another. (We meant to have wine but the desserts just called louder!) Then in the next couple of weeks I have a coffee date planned, plus another lunch, plus who knows what might pop up. Oh yes, and I had breakfast with another friend last week and we'll probably manage to get together before Thanksgiving as well.

I mention this because it really wasn't that long ago that I was bemoaning my lack of regular friendtime. One close friend moved to New England, one moved to Evanston, and all around it seemed that I didn't have any close friends nearby (insert dramatic sigh here) and I was all alone (really big sigh here). But really what happened was that changes in my life (ahem, Buddy) and changes in my friends' lives meant that the patterns we had got disrupted, and I hadn't yet built any new ones up.

Today I look around and feel rich in friendships again --- some new, some strengthened, some transformed --- and I am very grateful. Grateful, and also aware that this would not have happened without my attention and care and making friend time more of a priority again.

Monday: Ran 8 miles, yoga. Meant these to be "easy" miles but ended up more like a tempo run.

Tuesday: Yoga, swam 27 laps.

Wednesday: Rest day, went into work early.

Thursday: Nine miles at the track, 4 mile-repeats. Last speed workout before the Hot Chocolate 15k on 11/7 and I'm feeling strong. Yoga.

Friday: Yoga, swam 27 laps.

Saturday: Slept in, so no yoga in the morning, than Buddy didn't nap, so no yoga in the afternoon. Decided to see the whole day as an opportunity for spiritual practice --- breathe, baby, breathe.

Sunday: Ran 6 miles in the wrong shoes, not much fun. And then Buddy didn't nap again. Kind of frazzled by weekend's end. I'm taking that as my excuse for all the candy consumed today. Evidently sugar won out over mindfulness. Happens sometimes.