The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Monday, December 31, 2007

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

As I prepare to say goodbye to 2007, I pause to reflect on all the wonderful people and love I experience everyday. It was the best of times and the worst of times, but that's what an ordinary life is. The ups and downs, the ins and outs, moments of great happiness and times of loss and grief. My mother-in-law's illness and death in September was the darkness that infiltrated much of the year. But I was able to take comfort from the relationship we had forged over 22 years. How lucky I am to have had her in my life! And everyday I wake up with her son beside me. We've been married for 22 years. We have two sons who are becoming young men faster than I can believe. We both have jobs, a beautiful home, and friends and family around us. We have financial security and good health. We share the same values and attitude about how to live our lives. Life is good. Can it be better? Probably. Will we try to make it better? Absolutely! I'm looking forward to 2008. Bring. It. On.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Last Ride for 2007

Today was a gift-- a beautiful winter day, with temps into the low 50s. Yesterday, when I realized it was going to be a great day to be outdoors, I put a bike ride up on the club's website. It rained overnight, and the morning was cloudy and a bit foggy, but I could see the front moving out, the blue skies emerging and the temperature rising. I had 3 people join me, and I had never ridden with any of them. Arie is a much stronger rider than the 3 of us, but seemed content to slow down for this ride. Norm rides at about the same speed as me. Deb was the slow poke today, but no one was in a hurry. We were enjoying the chance to be out there and having the company, so we waited for her. The ride up to the coffee shop in Katonah has some decent climbs, and when we got there, we all had iced drinks! The round trip was 24 miles. I'm sure this was my last ride in 2007, but it was a great way to end my 2007 season!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Money Pit

DH and I have noticed a crack in the ceiling in the kitchen. It has been slowly getting worse. There is a bathroom, more specifically a bathtub directly above the crack, so we have tried ignoring the crack to see if it would miraculously disappear. Yesterday we had another plumbing problem so DH decided it was time to overcome active denial and consent to exploratory surgery on the ceiling. Ian, the plumber is a very friendly man who obviously enjoys the challenge of finding the source of a leak, with zest and devotion akin to Livingstone searching for the source of the Nile. Armed with equal amounts of passion and skill, Ian wielded a sheetrock knife and a flashlight and began his quest. His search turned up several potential problems but unconvinced that he had found the real problem, he followed the trail of clues up to the attic (forensic plumbing). When he poured water into a pipe draining the condensing tray of the air conditioning unit and the water poured out of the ceiling in the kitchen, he was ecstatic! I was screaming “stop” stop” and he was yelling “wow! this is great!”

While searching for the source of the Nile in our attic, Ian discovered another river. The plywood around the chimney is soaked. This is bad, this is a big bad river because it may mean we need a new roof. Or new siding. Or both. So DH and I will both put on our lifejackets as we start to navigate this new big bad river.

In the meantime, we are considering cutting additional holes into the ceiling in various locations in our center hall colonial home, and then covering them with plexiglass instead of boring old sheetrock. Then we could charge admission, to view the see-through house. Haven’t you ever wondered what the guts of your home look like, its digestive, circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems? Want to see all the things that can go wrong in a house? Yes, we can provide a live view into the mouth (actually the ceiling) of the Money Pit.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Speed of Diminishing Returns

Christmas Day.... since I don't formally celebrate Christmas, this comes down to a day off. Usually that includes a good dose of television, some cooking, cleaning up, and otherwise catching up. But unlike other days off, it doesn't include is a trip to the gym, because along with practically every other business , it is closed. So today became a day to overcome slothdom and beat my own path to fitness. I did something I rarely do. I ran. On the road. Up and down hills. It was hard. But it was good.

I discovered something that would have escaped me if I only ran on a track because a track has no hills. When running uphill, if you slow down too much, you come to a speed of diminishing returns. It becomes more difficult to run uphill that slowly. You start to feel like you are running through mud. Or moving backwards. It's easier to push up the hill, and hold back a little on the downhill, to ease the recovery. And then I just got to a point where I knew I was on the last hill and I just wanted to be done with it and there was n o reason to hold back. I make it sound like I was out there running major mileage. It was only about 3.75 miles. But at least half of it was uphill!

I used this as an opportunity to try Burton's Headphone Beanie, which is a hat with built in headphones. Made by Burton, the snowboard company, meant more for snowboarders than for runners. I bought it as a Christmas present for a friend, mostly because when I saw it I thought it was really neat and I wanted to buy it for someone (other than me). Then I realized that my friend doesn't run outdoors much especially in the winter nor does she does she spend significant time on cross country skiis. I ended up buying her something else (a tie-dyed hoodie sweatshirt that she absolutely fell in love with). So I decided to try the headphone beanie to see if I want to keep it, give to someone else as a belated Christmas gift, or return it. Here is a picture of someone (not me) wearing a black one. Mine is beige. The hat is kinda cute, not dorky, and I'm sure very representative of snowboarder fashion. It wasn't a really cold day (low 40s) but the hat kept my head and ears toasty warm. The cord connecting the headphones to the iPod has its own volume control-- very handy. It wasn't heavy or awkward. The sound was good, not great, but good enough to propel me over the hills. I reconsidered gifting it, but after I got it a bit sweaty, well that would be kinda gross. So I either have to run outdoors more or hope we get more snow and wear it skiing or snowshoeing. Or wear it on the treadmill, start a new trend in fitness fashion.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It Looks Easy in the Video

My triathlon training plan includes teaching myself to swim "for real," instead of faking it. Let me explain. I can't swim freestyle for more than 20 yards, because I do it all wrong. So, whenever I need to cover any kind of distance in the pool, I do the breaststroke. So I got myself an instructional video, Freestyle Made Easy or something like that, produced by the Total Immersion Swimming Gurus. The video breaks freestyle swimming down to its very basic components and uses a set of drills to build your stroke from floating to swimming. Along the way they encourage you to be more fish-like, to swim like a fish instead of a barge. So I am trying to transform myself from a barge to a fish, that's the nitty gritty. It looks easy in the video. Today I practiced swimming on each side and rotating from side to side, without using my arms. Although I think I made progress, I discovered that its not easy to swim in a straight line (I kept wobbling off to the side). Moving forward without using your arms is like trying to walk fast without swinging your arms. It's just awkward. And its easy to get water up your nose. Unpleasant.

But I'm committed to giving this 100% effort. I want to swim like a fish! So I will be back in the pool, wobbling down the lane without any arms trying not to suck up too much water through my nose. I can't wait.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Avoiding Obsession

I typed "beginner triathlon training" into Google. As I started to wade through the 74,800 hits (I kid you not!), I realized that it would be easy to become obsessed with training. I took a look at a few websites with training programs, logs and journals, forums, and humorous anecdotes, and then I decided the last thing I need is to box myself into a 16 week tri-training program with long days, short days, recovery days, bricks, strength training and protein shakes. I'd be ready for the loony bin before the triathlon. So here is what I'm going to do; My Tri Training Program:

  1. I will start with the idea that I could probably finish the race today if it was today. It might not be pretty, and I might be dead last, but I think I could get it done.
  2. I am going to aim to work out 5 days a week. If I can only get in 4 days, well, then its only 4 days.
  3. My workouts will be a mixture of strength, spinning classes, running, and swimming. Duh.
  4. Since swimming is my weakest link, I will combine swimming with 1 of the others as often as possible.
  5. Since running is tough on my knees, I will limit my running to 2 miles, 2.5 miles tops. I can substitute elliptical or arc trainer for running miles.
  6. I have to bring back Dab the Wussy. There's definitely room for that in any fitness regimen.
  7. When given the opportunity to do something other than swim, spin, or run (e.g. snowshoeing, hiking, kayaking), I will take advantage of that opportunity. Outdoor adventures always trump indoor training.
  8. I will try to teach myself how to swim for real by watching Total Immersion video and doing the drills. If I make any progress, I will consider swimming lessons/professional help.
  9. I am going to eat right, reducing processed carbs as much as possible. Goodbye bagels.
  10. I will keep my own journal and use this blog to track my progress.
  11. If at any point in time between today and May 31, 2008, I decide that this is not fun or not what I want to do, I will either scale back or walk away from it.
That's the plan. There will be no obsessing. There will be plenty of healthy living, a direction, and a realistic and respectable goal. 2008 is going to ROCK.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Waitin for the Nor'easter

For the last few days we've been hearing about the Big Storm supposed to blow in here today/tonight/tomorrow. When will it start? How close will the storm come? Snow or rain or a wintry mix? So while waiting, today was a perfect day to go cross country skiing. A snow storm on Thursday brought about 6-8 inches of snow, which was just enough snow for some good skiing. It was actually a really nice day and I enjoyed the a workout in the great outdoors. Much better than spending time on a treadmill. It did bother my toe a bit, but not enough to make me quit. There's a little cafe at the Winter Park, and after skiing, we all had hot chocolate and snacks. Life is good. Now we can hang at home and see what the Nor'easter brings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tri 2008

I did it. I signed up for a sprint triathlon, May 31, 2008.
1/3 mi swim, 13 mi ride, 3 mi run.

It's been 21 years, maybe 22, since my last triathlon. I was slow back then.
My goal is to finish with at least 1 person behind me.

So over the next 6-8 weeks, I am going to concentrate on swimming.
I also bought a pair of XS biker booties (you wear them over your bike shoes to keep your feet warm and dry) so I can go out for some cold weather rides.

This is what has been going on inside my head:

I must be crazy what have I gotten myself into I have 1 bad knee do I want 2 bad knees why don't I just stick with going out for a nice bike ride and taking some pictures I can't swim for real what if I really finish dead last that would be embarrassing
I am a role model for other women my age (and younger) this will be a great adventure my knees will take it as long as I am smart about it I can still go for nice bike rides and take pictures my husband can take pictures of me when I come across the finish line even if I finish dead last

Monday, December 10, 2007

'Tis the Season

Last night was the Bike Club's annual holiday party, which also serves as our annual business meeting (and business includes election of the club's officers). Usually we have to beg people to volunteer to serve on the Board, but this year we had 2 candidates for president-- that was the only contested position on the Board of Directors. This generated a bit of drama and may have helped bring folks to the party, because the party was sold out. One of our members has a jazz band and his trio performed-- they were excellent! Another member works at a local microbrewery and he brought 2 minikegs of brew (DH seemed to go for it). And another member wrote a goofy skit that was performed-- that was good for a few laughs. The techno-dude collected over 200 photos of our biking adventures so there was a continuous slide show. Then there were prizes and awards. All of the folks who led rides for the club were entered into a contest and I was 1 of 8 who won! Our prize is a kayak tour/adventure on the Hudson River in the spring! I'm psyched-- I think that will be great fun and a great way to not spend a day on a bicycle. So it was all good. Even though there was a winner and a loser in the election, the party seemed to bring everyone together to share and remember that its just a bike club and we want to have fun! This marked the beginning of the "holiday season" celebrations, there is more to come! But this was a great way to start.

On the fitness front, my swim lessons didn't happen because I was the only person that signed up and they needed a minimum of 3 to run the class. So I decided that if I wanted to even consider a triathlon, I was just gonna have to get in the pool and start swimming. So that is what I did! I swam 20 laps (that's only 500 yards) on Saturday for the first time in I can't remember how long. And it actually felt really good! That's what I always say whenever I get in the pool. I have a few options to consider: I am going to watch the Total Immersion videotape and see if I can use that method to try to teach myself how to swim for real . I also thought of someone I can call and ask for help. And I can always take a couple of private lessons. So I still have options if I want to think triathlon in 2008. I'm still not sure. I know I should just sign up for a local triathlon right now and just do it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A 40 Mile Ride

There are more than a few members of the cycle club that ride through the winter. So far, I haven't been one of them-- but I am rethinking that. On Friday I rode 40 miles with 5 other members of the club and it was fantastic! This particular ride shows up on the ride schedule several times during the season, but it typically features the triple challenge-- mileage, terrain and speed. This time it was scheduled as a D ride-- which means SLOW, so I decided to go for it. It was an incredibly beautiful day-- sunny blue skies, temp in the low 40s. I resisted the urge to overdress and I was perfectly comfortable during the entire ride. My toes got a little cold, but not too bad and I think I can fix that.

The ride traveled both sides of the Hudson, crossing at the Bear Mountain Bridge and coming back across the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. We were able to ride through West Point Military Academy and stopped at beautiful Trophy Point. We climbed Storm King Mountain and then went screaming downhill into Cornwall. When we crossed the bridge from Newburgh to Beacon, we stopped at The Little Pie Shop where we rewarded ourselves with pipin' hot coffee and yummy pie. It felt great to be outdoors and made me realize that I can keep riding, as long as the roads are free of snow and ice and I dress properly. I have the proper gear-- bike tights, a couple of fleece tops, fleece socks, a balaclava and gloves. I felt like a real warrior. Its easy to go out for a ride in July--but you have to be a real cyclist to ride on the last day of November.

And, I signed up for swimming lessons. They need 3 people to run the class. I'm hoping its a GO. I'll find out on Wednesday.