The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lessons Learned on California Road Trip

  • If you need to rent a car in Palm Springs CA, do not rent it from Enterprise. Their idea of a standard car (seats 5, luggage for 4) is either a VW Beetle or a full sized Ford Frontier truck.
  • If you think you might be spending any significant time in the Pittsburgh airport on a Saturday evening, bring food. The only “restaurant” open after 6 pm is McDonalds.
  • Temperatures in the mid-90s with humidity around 20% is quite pleasant, especially when floating down the “lazy river” in an inner tube.
  • An Australian cork hat has little strings with little corks dangling from the rim. When you shake your head around, the corks chase away the flies. You can wear a cork hat to a party, even when the party is indoors.
  • In order to qualify for “flight pay” in the Navy, you have to be able to swim 1 mile wearing your flight suit, boots and helmet.
  • Many people blame the airlines for flight delays caused by bad weather.
  • The Pittsburgh airport has free wi-fi. The Santa Ana (John Wayne) airport does not.
  • Football games starting at 10:00 am is wrong.
  • Flight to California--$312, registration for conference--$325, hotel bill-- $458, spending an hour talking with an old friend that you haven’t seen in at least 5 years—priceless.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Continental Breakfast

I do not like the “continental breakfast.” Over the last 10 days, I have probably eaten at 7 free continental breakfasts. All those processed white foods and sugar and no protein! No wonder my pants are feeling a bit too tight. Yesterday my friend Michele and I were contemplating whether to get up early to attend the 8 am awards lectures. These lectures are often quite boring. The hotel fitness center is usually jam-packed during these lectures. But we both looked at each other and simultaneously cried out “EGGS!” We were willing to endure 2 hours of just about anything because we knew they would be serving us a real breakfast.

Getting Noticed

The meeting of the Academy is serious. There are lectures and symposia, scientific posters and research presentations. There are meetings and receptions and opportunities to showcase your talents. If you play the game right, you may find yourself being recruited for a great position. The number of really intelligent and talented women in the profession is clearly on the rise. In fact it is sky-rocketing. So why would you show up to these meetings wearing stilettos and a skirt that barely covers what needs to be covered. Then follow that up at a reception with a cocktail dress more appropriate for a wedding when everyone else is wearing “business casual.” And if you go to the pool during the day, be sure to wear the thong bikini (because you can’t show up totally naked). Maybe I’m just “old-fashioned” (more likely I’m just old!). Thankfully these women are few in number. They just don’t get it. Brainiac is the new black.

The Godfather

I had dinner with the Godfather. Sorta. I attended a corporate event held at a local restaurant. There was a dinner served buffet style, an open bar, and a band. The place was packed and my friends and I ended up sharing a table with some people we didn’t know. Including the Godfather. Just about everyone who came through the restaurant stopped at our table to pay their respects to him, to “chit-chat” about the past year, and perhaps to ask for some advice. They brought him drinks and food. He introduced himself as Uncle Frank. He asked us our names and where we are from and we exchanged business cards. He wanted to know what we are doing (professionally speaking) and offered us words of encouragement. Then he told us stories about being stationed in NYC during WW II, and the beautiful girl he never saw again. I’m not sure why he picked that story. But next year I’m going to stop by his table to say hello and reminisce about the BBQ ribs we shared in Anaheim.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Road Trip

I usually attend 2 annual meetings of professional organizations to which I belong. They used to be in October and December. Then last year the December meeting was moved up tp October as well. Luckily, the 2 meetings were just a few days apart and in the same city! This year it worked out the same. So I am in California, first in Palm Springs. On Monday I will be heading to LA to spend a couple of days with a friend, then I will be in Anaheim for a meeting #2. So 10 days in California. I packed a big fat suitcase!

Palm Springs is beautiful. We are at a beautiful resort with a water park, swimming pools, and a decent fitness center. I am told it hasn't rained here in a year. The sun is shining and the temp goes up to the mid 90's in the afternoon. The company is great (this is my favorite meeting, featuring my favorite people) and there is some "play time" built into the schedule. Yesterday I floated down the lazy river with some friends for about an hour! then I worked out in the fitness center and went for a real swim. That's the good news. But the nutrition part is rough. The food is plentiful, and I don't always have the opportunity to eat what I want or when I want. There are desserts at every meal, and the "hospitality suite" features free booze. Luckily, I don't really drink. My friend says I'm a candy-ass ( I describe myself as having poorly developed social drinking skills).

I have decided not to worry about the food, but not go crazy either. I will eat "right" when given the choice, try not to eat too many desserts, keep the alcohol down to a socially acceptable minimum, and try to take advantage of the pool and the opportunity to be outdoors.

I miss my family, but I must admit, I like the "me" time. I'm not exactly alone, but I like having some time to focus inward. I don't have to think about taking care of other people. I don't really have to worry about taking care of myself either. I'm sure I will ge tired of the hotels, the forced conversations with people you don't know very well, and the "shop talk." But I'm looking forward to more time at the pool (and even sitting through some more lectures).

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Estrogen and Inflammation

I did a little bit of research and I learned about the relationship between menopause, estrogen and inflammation. Joint pain is a very common symptom of menopause because estrogen is an anti-inflammatory. As estrogen levels drop, inflammatory "noise" increases. Many women have chronic inflammation which is kept under control by estrogen. But once that estrogen starts to disappear, inflammation starts to show its ugly face. And I think that is what is happening to me. I still need to get back to a weight lifting program to improve my shoulder strength, but I need to clean up my diet too. I have gotten away from my usually good habits. I have been eating too much processed carbohydrates and sugary treats and even red meat. Over the past week, I went to a big dinner with family, a wedding and a graduation party. Pasta, chips, cake, chocolate, beef, you get the idea. These foods all contribute to inflammation. So it is time to turn this around. Back to brown bagging lunch, fish, lots of greens and other vegetables, nuts and seeds, and soy. Time to cut down on meat, pasta, bagels, white foods. I know what to do, I just have to make the effort to make it happen. But I am beginning to realize that I have to do this if I am going to get through The Change without feeling like crap.

My shoulder is getting better. Now I have to clean up my nutrition and my habits, in order to eliminate the inflammatory buzz inside my body.

Monday, October 06, 2008

10-Day Disabled List

I am injured. I have put myself on the 10-Day Disabled List. I'm pretty sure I have tendinitis in my left shoulder. I have limited mobility and pain associated with certain movements. I'm at day 4 and its getting better but there is no way I could swim. I might be able to ride my bike but keeping my arm straight and pulling going up hills is probably going to hurt over time. I could run but pumping my arms over several miles is probably going to be uncomfortable. The biggest problem, though, is putting on a sports bra and other athletic clothes. I can't do it. And if I did manage to get it on, I probably couldn't get it off. That crossing your arms and pulling it over your head thing is not possible at this time. So I am just taking it easy and not worrying about not exercising. The weird part about this "injury" is that I think I did it by sleeping on my side and therefore on my shoulder. It started on Friday morning when I got out of bed and just seemed to get worse over the day. By Friday evening I could not turn the steering wheel on my car without real pain. So I am training myself to sleep either on my back or my stomach with my arms down. And when I get through this, I know that I have to get back to the weight room. I have totally neglected this part of my fitness for several months. I have to build up the muscles in my shoulders and arms as a preventative measure. Most athletes worry about injuries associated with working out and overtraining. I have to worry about getting hurt while sleeping! I wonder if I can blame this on "The Change." What do falling levels of hormones do to your joints?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fat Speed.....An Oxymoron?

P.S. Congratulations to Katie, Eve and Carolyn, they are all extraordinary Tough woMen!

Last Sunday, my friend Jill and I cheered on our girl Katie who was competing in her first half iron/toughman triathlon (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run). It took her 6+ hours to finish, so even though we didn't get there until she was out there on her bike, we still had lots of time to sit and chat and well, enjoy the scenery! There was a good amount of eye candy, athletic hard bodies coming and going (Jill and I quickly discovered we have very different preferences. She likes men with powerful legs and with a little more meat on their frames, the better to storm up the hills on a bike; I prefer the leaner look, the weight lifting runner boys).

Every once in a while, a fat traithlete would pass by. It was impossible to tell how competitive they are, since everyone is moving at the same speed more or less in the transition area, but the fact that they were powering themselves through a 70.3 mile traithlon course speaks volumes. I know that size and weight are related to speed and endurance, but clearly that is a small part of the equation (otherwise, I would be a speed demon!). But it is widely accepted in the cycling community that riding a lightweight bicycle isn't going to make a big difference going uphill if you're moving an extra 20+ pounds up that hill. If you want to get faster, you have to jettison the extra pounds. On the other hand, triathlons often have Clydesdale (men over 200 lbs) and Athena (women over 160 lbs) categories and many of these athletes are very competitive. There are some Athenas and Clydesdales in the bike club and most of them ride faster than I do!
Then on Tuesday at Masters Swim Team workout, we were joined by Big Tom. Tom is at least 50 pounds overweight. I don't know how much swimming experience he has, but on Tuesday he swam far and fast. Does being horizontal in the pool negate the impact of gravity and those extra pounds? Although I don't recall seeing any Olympic swimmers with "love handles."

So is fat speed an oxymoron? Can you be an overweight competitive athlete? Does being fat decrease performance more over longer race courses? How much faster (or slower) would these athletes be if they lost weight? Should I worry about fat or formerly fat triathletes passing me on all 3 events? Should I start training with a 20 pound weight vest?