Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

In our family, Thanksgiving isn't just about the bird.  For three years now we have run the local turkey trot 5K, the Holden Road Race, befitting the local food pantry.  The first year was before we started OPC Cakes, and was the first and last race the Jedi and I have ever done together.  We dressed up our bike trailer/jogger like a giant red turkey and made the front page of the local paper, even though the attempt at running 3 miles nearly killed us (me - Jedi was fine in the way that guys can not run a step and then jog three miles like it' ain't no thang...).

Circa 2011

Then last year, we signed on as sponsors of the Holden Road Race, and paid our sponsorship fee with a thousand mini cupcakes handed out to the runners at the finish line.  I was still not to be confused with someone who could run.  Our daughter, however, surprised us by hopping out of the trailer (which was getting too small for both even then) at the half-mile mark, and running the rest of the race without stopping, laughing and yelling GOBBLE GOBBLE!! at everyone along the way.  Not bad for a four-year old, and when we realized we had a mini-marathoner on our hands, so we'd better learn to keep up.

Circa 2012 - first sponsorship year
We also learned last year just how hard it is to bake and frost 1,000 cupcakes in a single day, plus host Thanksgiving dinner.  My hand was cramped from frosting for weeks afterwards, to say nothing about my still non-runners legs.  So going into this year, I had a serious amount of nervousness.  For the time to bake (multiplied by Jedi's usual refusal to stress about anything, forcing me to stress enough for both of us), to the weather (projected to be sub freezing with gusty winds, unlike last year which was warm), to my horrible cold, to my ability to run that far, as I still hadn't cleared 2.5 miles walk/jogging since my injury.

What 800 cupcakes looks
 like packed and ready to go
Gingerbread... my favorite....
Modeling this year's race shirt the night before

I needn't have worried about it at all.  The day couldn't have gone better.  Granted, we were very prepared. Jedi whipped out 800 cupcakes from the oven and I frosted them with time to spare.  We couldn't decorate the stroller this year (we ran out of white and yellow duct tape), but I loaded it with hand warmers, hot apple cider, Hershey kisses, and enough mittens, hats, gators, and warm clothing to keep the kids comfy for all 3 miles.  I even made them a special playlist on my IPhone to play on the run.  (What was on it you ask?  Sara Bareilles Brave (their favorite), I'm a Believer from Shrek, and I Like to Move It Move It from Madagascar, along with a few other of my favorite workout songs).  With the wind and the uncertainty of volunteers, Jedi decided that he hates running that it was better to stay with our cupcake tables, and I'd try to hook up with some of my many friends at the race if I needed help along the way.

O Dark Thirty.....
... and ready to run!

We even sprung for a race bib for our little girl, since she was so darn excited to run!  We bumped into Gypsy and a favorite trainer from our gym first thing.  Then while lined up for the start, we bumped into a triathlon buddy that I did Title 9 with.  Whoot!

Turkey Triathletes?
The race itself went great.  My little girl started out with me and did a great job of staying close in the crowd.  After it had thinned a bit, but little guy hopped out of the trailer as well and took off.  He is a quick little sucker!  Luckily the roads were closed and my yelling made some kindly parents return him to me.  Rascal.  The kiddos took turns hopping in the stroller to stay warm and rest and popping out to jog along with Mom.  Despite pushing a 35 lb. stroller loaded with 70 lbs of kids, I felt pretty good the whole way, and was happy to accept props from others for being a Mom with Stroller, and to thankfully decline offers from some well-meaning dads to spell me pushing it.  We hooked in with another family in matching Minion hats (Despicable Me) for a while - they had a little girl in kindergarten as well.  Listening to the two girls yammer back and forth while running was adorable.

Ready now!!!
My gang finished strong with one of my best friends who was out there with her son, having been cheered up the last big hill by Gypsy (who had finished and was in her car going home at that point).  Our final time was 42:50.  Not a record-breaker, but considering that my kids ran between one and two miles of the course spread out over about ten stops to get in and out of the giant beast of a stroller, a time I am really really happy with. More importantly, I had warm, happy kids the whole way (so much that Little Dude fell asleep at one point), who were overjoyed and proud of themselves at the finish line, when I gave them the medals I'd made them this morning.

Homemade medals and cupcakes.  Congrats kids!

We went over and checked in with the Jedi, who was passing out the last of our cupcakes to the dwindling crowd.  It was great to be recognized by so many of our fans and be told that they were so happy we were back a second year.  Made all the previous day's baking worth it.  That, and being told by my friend,

"Girl, you make Martha Stewart look like a lazy b*tch!!!"

Going, going, GONE!!!!

Then it was home for hot baths, a second breakfast of pumpkin muffins and scrambled eggs, and the Thanksgiving meal with my parents (who very kindly brought half of it).  I feel so very lucky for my wonderful family, my health, my strong body that carried me through the miles, my patient and steady husband, supportive parents, and all the great things I have in my life.  I truly hope that everyone else had as memorable and joyful a holiday as I did.  

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Armfuls of love

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Hair is Frozen

And I feel like I've been beaten with sticks.  All over.  Really.  After a crazy week at work, marathon Christmas shopping (yes!  I am done!!! hahahahahaha!), I got to be solo parent for the weekend, while the Jedi went to an annual Thanksgiving Harvest Festival for our business.  I'm always suspicious of this one - despite me knowing that it is a lot of hard work to sell to customers, there is just no way around the fact that he gets to hang out in a barn by the fire listening to live music and drinking craft beer.  Sounds pretty good to me....
Two cuties munching our cake pops by the fire at Red Apple Farm

 Saturday I had planned and ready.  I always have a plan.  Mealtimes, weekends, christmas presents - I like to be prepared.  Compulsive?  Yes.  Absolutely.  But also the secret to success, greatness, world domination, and general lack of freakouts and breakdowns when you have a job, a business, two kids, yada yada.

So after the Jedi set out on Saturday morning, I packed up the munchkins and went to that glorious place where strangers will watch my kids for free.  My gym.  Our family membership is a little pricey, but MAN it is worth it on weekends like this one.  Kids get to go bonkers in the kid gym for hours, and I get to workout and even hang in the sauna afterwards.  Pure gold.

My workout was the first of Week 3 of Cast25K.  31 minutes consisting of 3 minutes walking and 90 seconds running.  Painfully slow.  Have I mentioned I lack patience??  Having finished my Christmas shopping, I now cannot wait to give everyone their presents.  The only thing holding me back from putting up the tree is the turkey.  Oh my.  So yeah, 6 more weeks of this program is killing me.  The running intervals feel just fine - I just want to RUN ALREADY!!  I was running 6 and 7 milers two months ago for goodness sake!!!!  So I silently repeated my rehab mantra - this will pay off later, this will pay off later.... and dutifully made it through.

I know - it's a sickness.  Don't hate me.
Torture device.
Complete with Awesome Person

While being bored beyond belief, I did what we all do.  Compare ourselves to others nearby (bad, bad - don't do it).  I'm usually pretty good about this - I'm just demented enough to not really care what I look like in spandex, and I am always giving the chunkier women mental high fives for being there in the first place.  But there is one girl that I see often, because she drops her seemingly 4-7 children off at kid watch with mine.  She is super small, runs at a 7 minute pace on the treadmill, and is generally in my mind, awesome.  She and other Awesome People I've seen often finish their running set and then hit the stairs stepper.  Where they immediately go from sweaty to drenched, as they put in an extra few minutes climbing straight, and then with each side leading (side stepping) for a while.  Hmmm... I think.  This must lead to greatness as well.  So I did.  10 minutes.  Wow.  Then a strength workout and stretching (more patience required).  I was sore before I even left the gym.....

Ironically, the next stop was Papa Ginos where I ate easily three times the calories I burned in pizza and soda, and then the movies to see Free Birds.  A movie about two turkeys who go back in time to try to get turkey off of the Thanksgiving menu, but strangely bore such similarities to Avatar that I have to think the writer(s) were just as geeky as I am.  Protagonist travels an impossible distance, falls in love with mysterious girl who saves him from hunters - she takes him to a giant tree (that is later burned by the bad guys) and introduces him to her chieftain father (who later dies saving his flock during the burning trees incident) and disapproving brother.  Yeah.  Anyway, the kids liked it and I would have rather snuck over to the theatre next door to see Catching Fire.  The sacrifices we make for our children....  I did sneak in homemade popcorn, pretzels, and M&Ms rather than pay top dollar for movie snacks.  My little girl wanted to tattle on me so badly that the effort to not do so (which would make her lose the coveted snacks) was actually making her shake on the way in.

Kid Heaven.  They never get soda.  It's like crack.....

Jedi texted me from the fair that we sold out, so when I got home I immediately hit the kitchen.  Six hours, several dozen cake pops and even more dozen cupcakes later and we passed out around eleven.  I even made a healthy dinner with food groups to balance out the PG lunch and subsequent movie snack binge.

This morning I woke up way too early and way too sore and had to make good on my early promise to take the kids back to the gym so that they could swim. And play video games all afternoon.  (I would have preferred to just skip to the afternoon).  Understand this it is in the 20s with a wind so fierce it is taking down tree limbs and feels like negative zero out.  But off the Jedi went to fair, and off we went to the gym.  I deposited them in kid watch again (love those people) and went down to the pool for my workout.  

I met a nice guy (wait, that sounds wrong - Jedi is away and I meet a guy) that coaches triathletes - we talked about what my A race is next year (uh... Cranberry I guess?), injuries, and the fact that I have the attention span of a gerbil in the pool, thus the need for my waterproof headphones.  Which I still love.  Then he was gone and I had no excuse but to doggy paddle through my workout.  Sore muscles and all.  Have I whined enough about how sore I am?  Really.  Starting over is hard.

I finished up, went back into the freezing family locker room, threw a towel around my waist, a sweatshirt over my suit, and stuffed wet feet into my sneakers to walk up the stairs and down the halls to Kid Watch to collect the munchkins.  Which I did - back downstairs through the getting-colder-every-minute halls back to the locker room, where I wrestled them into their suits and dutifully made them shower.  We went into the pool, where we immediately bumped into another family with crying children coming back in.  The life guard heatedly informed us that, despite the fact that there was plenty of room in the pool, that the five curmudgeonly seniors doing water walking had dibs for the next hour, and would not sharing with my cold, disappointed, and crying offspring.  Now, I understand that everyone has a right to their space, and that rules are rules for a reason.  And that I should have interpreted the pool schedule correctly when I read it this morning.  But none of that reasonableness presented itself to me as I took the kiddos back into the locker room, dried them, comforted them, and then desperately tried to find enough money to get them a snack from the vending machine.  Which I didn't, so another mom who saw my distress did.  And I love her for it.  Pay it forward moms, we are all in this together.  In fact, I'd like to remind those grumpy seniors that they might have been parents once too.  I hope to still be active when older, but if I ever turn into that.... rrrrrrr..... I should stop.  I'm still mad.
Get out of my pool you dang kids!!!!

Deep breaths.  And I'm centered again.  No more ranting about the elderly.  Santa's watching.  Ok...

So the kids did swim.  Little Dude showed off his mad jumping in, swimming with no bubble, and back floating skills, while the little girl paddled around perfectly happy and still refusing to get her face wet.  Which is totally cool.  She's got time.  Ironically, my gym is putting on their first USAT sprint triathlon this coming summer - the Greendale Triathlon, in which there is a kid race.  You have to be six years old, be able to swim with no bubble and bike with no training wheels.  My six year old can't do those things, and my four year old can, but it too little.  Ah well.  They'll both be ready next year.

We did make it home (after my hair literally froze going to the parking lot), hot baths, lunch, and the promised video games.  While I cleaned, did laundry, made dinner, wrapped the Jedi's Christmas gift (that I am so excited about I want to give it to him and/or tell you all what it is but can't in case he reads this), and did other mom things.

Tomorrow I go back to work for one day, then off for the holiday.  Bring on the turkey, and pray that is is a lot warmer for the Thanksgiving 5k than it is today!  Both kids are declaring they will run the whole thing.  If its like today, I'm thinking they'll be bundled within an inch of their lives in the double stroller with hand-warmers stuffed into every clothing orifice we can find.  

All that stands between me and spending Black Friday on the couch in my pajamas is one work day, 600 mini cupcakes, three miles, and one big dinner that my mom is cooking half of.  Bring it on!

Are you racing for Thanksgiving?  What's your best cold weather tip for kiddos or yourself?
How do you stay on track food-wise during the holidays?  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Those Who Can't Run..... Register!

Pass the tissues, pass the cold medicine.  I have the plague.  I started to feel it on Tuesday, and tried to beat it into submission with a running workout in the nice warm gym (instead of outside in the freezing cold as originally planned).  No dice.  So yesterday and today I've done my best to rest.  Which, for a working mom, means pulling a 10 hour workday online from home while simultaneously juggling the kids, making dinner, and staying up until past 11 just to enjoy some peace and quiet and put off having to wake up and do it all again.

I wish I could say this to everyone....
To me feel that much more like Parent of the Year, we forgot to take our daughter to dance class.  Just completely escaped our minds.  Now she doesn't have it again for 2 weeks because of the holiday.  Parent.  Fail.

So today, as I am still working (and attending my son's preschool Thanksgiving celebration, picking up daughter at school, making dinner, and working on Christmas card), I decided that since I'm not up for anything athletic, and since my credit card is already smoking from all the online Christmas shopping I've done, that I would go ahead and plan/register for my 2014 race season.

First up is the Sterling Freezer 5 Road Race on New Year's Day.  Jedi and I have a tradition going back even to before we had kids where we go to bed early on New Years Eve, and then get up early on January 1st to do something that reflects how we want to coming year to be.  We've done hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and on years where I was 9 months pregnant or had small kids, smaller outings like lunch and a museum or similar.  So I after this fall's injury, I really want to start 2014 with a race.  I will likely still be walking parts, having not quite finished my Cast25K program by then, but at least I'll be out there.Several friends are doing it as well, and the Jedi has kindly agreed to come scrape me off the pavement if needed, since it is close by.

Next on my dance ticket is the Raleigh Rock -n- Roll Half Marathon with Rio in April 2014, but that is already booked.

My first triathlon of the season is the brand new Greendale Triathlon, hosted by my home gym and in the very lake that I learned to open water swim.  Seems appropriate.  It's also four weeks before my first Oly, the New England Trifest up in Fairlee VT which I'll be doing with or in the company of my brother and sister-in-law.  This one fills up early, so I registered for it as well.

I plan on my last Oly in the year being SunMultisports Cranberry Trifest, but registration isn't open on that one yet.  Thank goodness.  I might be running out of credit card space.....

With all these races, I also stepped up and bought an annual USAT membership.  Boo yeah.  I feel official now....

How do you get over colds quickly?
Have you ever forgotten to deliver/pick up your kid somewhere?
What's on your 2014 race schedule?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reflecting on the Good Stuff

Reflecting.... get it??  Because it's getting dark SO early (and getting light SO late), it's time for a chat on safe running practices.  Today I went for Week 2 Day 2 of my Cast 25K program after work.  I left right at 4:00, after explaining to my team in a meeting earlier that, despite the fact that we had a vendor flown up from North Carolina in all day meetings, I really needed to leave in time to run before it got dark.  The response was blank stares - tough room.  But I think the organization problem-solving awesomeness that I had laid out for everyone in the morning session more than made up for that.  So anyway, my slavish devotion to my job landed me on the streets in running gear about about 30 minutes before sundown.

Home sweet office

I had with me a reflective slap bracelet I got for free at a running store (this photo is deceptively dark).  I finished just as the sun was going down, after waving that sucker for all I was worth at all the passing cars on my route.  As I was wearing a green tied-dyed running hoody and grey pants, with the exception of that bracelet I was probably about as eye-catching as a pinecone.  Very bad.

So this is the heart rate graph for my workout, which consisted of three minute walking and one minute running intervals.  The blue is where my HR was supposed to be.  The line is what I actually did.  2% compliance.  Now, it has been said that I am a headstrong idiot set to self destruct mode have stubborn-ness issues.  I prefer to think of it as determination.  But I cannot deny that I ran those one minute intervals at increasingly high paces until my last one was just over a 7:00 minute mile pace.  Oops.  You might also notice that I ran a bit longer and/or earlier than strictly necessary on some of them.  So much for perfectly sticking to the recovery C25K plan.  In my defense, I have no pain in my foot for the first time since before Labor Day, so I was a little excited.  Plus, it was getting dark....

Before anyone starts yelling, I have more reflective gear on order from Amazon, plus I stopped at Dick's on the way home and got a strobe clip for future runs.  While I was there drooling over gear, this also happened:

This from the man who also told Gypsy and I that if we just rode our bikes fast enough we wouldn't ever get wet in the rain.  Hmm.  Thanks Jedi.

Earlier in the morning (before the organizational awesomeness meeting), Boss Scarecrow and I were chatting about what we like to do - really like to do - with our time to unwind.  He and his wife are all about the massages (who knew?).  I do like massages, pedicures and other typical girly stuff well enough, but honestly I decided my best "pampering" treatment is time alone in my own house with no kids and nothing to do.  Cat in lap, fireplace going, a good book, and maybe a glass of wine.  Or tea.  Whatever.

That conversation, the amazing blog No Cigarettes No Bologna's most recent post about guilty pleasures, and people incessantly daily posting of what they are grateful for on Facebook during the month of November has me thinking of what I most enjoy and am grateful for.  I'm finally figuring out that the "secret to life" is not having a deeply meaningful job, checking goals off a list, material possessions, or any other self-help style crap, but rather the continual pursuit of pasttimes that make you feel really really good.  As NCNB says "Kids dance like no one is watching, because they don't don't give a shit.  They just dance."  Amen, kids!
So in no particular order, these are my guilty and not-so-guilty pleasures. (I'll leave you to decide which I should be guilty about....)

  • My cats.  You may have noticed this already.  I have two, and on any given day I would rather spend time in their company than just about anyone else on the planet.  I'm also convinced that they are the only creatures that love me unconditionally.  Even the white one, who pooped in my closet as a "welcome home Mom" present for me tonight.  I live every day with the assurance that when I am an old woman, when my children have grown up and moved out, and Jedi has left me for a 20-something with perky boobs at the ability to run a sub-2 hour half marathon, that I will be warm and comforted with the love of the many shelter cats I will have adopted.
  • Really bad, trendy workout music.  Like that idiot song about crashing your car into a bridge on a summer day that plays at every race possible.  I become a thirteen year old girl while exercising.  I also have let this bleed over into my actual work, where I listen to Pandora turned to the "Cups Radio" Station all afternoon to stay awake.  A coworker once caught me humming a line from a Taylor Swift song - I didn't stop hearing about it for weeks.  Newest love is Lady Gaga.  Oh Gaga......

  • Dancing in my car.  To music from #2.  To the point that people look at me strangely at stop lights.  To the point I take my hands off the wheel to clap during the chorus of Black Eyed Peas "Pump It".  (I only do this while alone, however.  That's not true - I totally car dance with the kids too.  With hands on wheel).  I also like to sing as loudly and as out of tune as possible while performing this action, even though I do have a decent singing voice.  I just like to scream in my car.  
  • Fantasy novels.  No not that kind - my goodness.  You've got a smutty mind!  I couldn't even get past the first few chapters of 50 Shades for crissake.  I'm talking about anything involving dragons, lost orphans discovering they actually have magic powers, crystal anything... I'm set.  From Games of Thrones to Tolkien to all the lesser wannabe geek authors... this is my beach reading.  I remember being genuinely upset to turn 13 because I realized I was too old to get into Narnia.  Still am upset, actually....
  • Wearing my husband's hoodies.  Especially when I'm sick.  Not the gross one that he wears every day (why??) with the zipper, but the pullover type with the Patriots logo on the front that I got him for Fathers Day five years ago and he never wears.  Even though they are way too big and I would never leave the house in them.  Maybe.....
  • Glee.  I love reliving every adolescent moment of dramatic angst I had while being my high school's Queen Band Geek and theater diva.  You might remember that my tri coach Sheriff and friend Maid Marion also hail from this time.  I make no apologies and cried like a baby while watching the episode memorializing Cory Monteith.  So sad.
  • Cuddling my son to sleep every night.  This one might sound like a cliche, but really - he is the best cuddler in the world.  I know that you're supposed to let children fall asleep on their own lest they grow up with severe mommy issues and an inability to self-regulate. And he can.  But he falls asleep within 5 minutes of laying down - ALWAYS.  He is warm and non-wiggly and his bed is comfy and he tells me that he will still need cuddles every night until he is fifty.  I wonder what his wife will think about that?  Oh well... she'll share....

What are your guilty pleasures?  How do you unwind?  What embarrassing things can you secretly not live without?

And how do you stay safe on the roads in the dark?  What should be on my Christmas list in this category?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Best Pecan Pie Ever

I've gotten a bit behind in this blog.  It's been that crazy combination of super busy leading to total sluggishness in the evening.  You know, where all you want to do is watch reruns of How I Met Your Mother and drink tea under a blanket.  I just finished up a busy season at work, paired with some organizational changes that felt like speedbumps.  Plus we've had family stuff on our minds.  We are redoing the kids' playroom from "Toddler" to "Little Kid".  Forget Swim Bike Run - yesterday was Paint Build Sew.  More of that today.  But with their toys and art supplies accessible, a great big new craft table, and reading tent I think it's a win.

Anyhoo, as penance I offer up this recipe - the best pie I have ever, EVER had.  We are practicing for Thanksgiving you see, so after my son made us pumpkin pie, my daughter stepped up to the plate for pecan.  Yes, I did mention it in my last blog post, but man that pie was so good and I've been thinking about it ever since, so it should be shared.

 Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie

Start with a pie crust - you can make your own or use commercial.  Then follow the directions on the Karo syrup bottle:
  • 1 cup Karo® Light OR Dark Corn Syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon Spice Islands® Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans
  • 1 cup mini-chocolate chips (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips (if using). Pour filling into pie crust.
  3. Bake on center rack of oven for 60 to 70 minutes. Cool for 2 hours on wire rack before serving.

I love chocolate, so the addition of the chocolate chips was my idea.  It's important to use the mini chips as opposed to regular sized - I have used those before and they don't melt into the rest of the filling - the chocolate sinks and becomes a hard lumpy layer right on top of the crust.

While the pie is cooling, make the caramel sauce.  Caramel is easy - trust me.  We make it all the time for our cupcake business.  All you need is sugar, butter, cream, and a block of uninterrupted time (I know - the last one is the hardest.  But I urge you to pop in a cartoon for this, because I speak from experience that caramel will turn from clear to black in the time it takes to run downstairs to help someone with the bathroom).  We use the caramel recipe from TheKitchn (would recommend halving this recipe for the pie, unless you like extras:

Caramel Sauce
makes approximately 3 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups cream

Warm the cream in a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Don't let it boil; just keep it warm.
Stir the sugar and water together in a large, heavy, high-sided pan over high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then stop stirring and allow it to boil until it reaches a deep amber color. This will take anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes, depending on your pan and your stove. You will see pale yellow streaks, then darker ones appear in the center of the bubbling sugar. When you see these, swirl the pan carefully by the handles and be attentive. At the very first sign of smoke from your caramel, turn off the heat. By now it should be very dark amber. (You are looking for a dark caramel here, because you will be adding cream, so don't flinch and take it off the heat when it's still just pale gold!)
Immediately pour in the cream. Use a long-handled whisk to whisk it vigorously. Be very careful — the caramel is going to steam and bubble up violently! Add the butter and salt and whisk smooth. Return to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced.
Let cool then pour into a jar and refrigerate. This will keep in the fridge for at least two weeks.
Pour the finished sauce over the cooled pie and let cool as well.  Heaven.....
When not wolfing down 500 calorie slices of pie, I have been picking away at getting back to my triathlon training.  My podiatrist made me some nifty orthotics out of PowerStep insoles to wear with my running shoes, and they seem to help.  I took a few days in between Days 3 and 4 of Cast25K due to some impressive soreness, but I did squeeze in a quick run after work on Friday.
Llamas on the run.....
I'm up to the point in the program where you have to run intervals for a minute.  A minute seems to have become really long to run!  I feel like it's actually harder, because every runner I know, even die-hard marathoners, admit that the first few minutes of every run are the worst.  You never get to get over "the hump" and into "the zone".  Or I'm just a wuss.  Either way....
We've also had our first snow here, which is discouraging for outdoor activities.  But true to New England form, a few days after this picture was taken we had temps in the 60s.  Go figure.  The dark mornings and chill in the air definitely make it harder to get up and out the door to the gym at dark o'clock.  In fact, that has happened only once.  But again, I'm working on it.....
Brrrrr.... no way I'd getting out of bed

This morning Gypsy came and got me for my first bike ride since The Injury.  It's a cold, wet morning, and I was irrationally nervous to get back out on my wheels.  Much better to go with my tri bestie than solo.  Bless her for dragging my sorry balking blerching butt out of the house.  We did a slow (very slow - sucking wind on the hills!) ten miles just in time for the skies to open up and the rain to start.  Chilly, bone-soaking cold rain.  I'm still cold.  Whine.  BUT my foot held up ok, and we're going to try again next weekend.  
I'm getting back to the playroom triathlon for the rest of the day, working on crocheting the kiddo's leg warmers for dance, and generally trying to stay dry and warm.  I think I'll spark up the fireplace.  Yes.  Good idea.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Life at My Daughter's Speed

It's been a quiet weekend.  I don't think I've had a quiet weekend.... possibly ever in recent memory.  And I LIKE IT.  I thought about entitling this post "Rocking It" or something similar, in homage to this weekend's cake, but the reality is that once I got past the crazy ups and down and business of work, doctor's visits, and other stuff, the weekend has been slow.  Much more classical music in your pjs than rock 'n' roll.

Guitar cake - this weekend's project

Today the little guy was sick (actually, we are all sick, but he was really sick), so my Sunday morning swim with the kids turned into a solo outing with my little girl.  I should spend more time with this kid - because of all of her amazing, stubborn, lovable, and infuriating characteristics, one of her biggest is that she cannot be rushed.  She will spend a full hour in the morning to eat a bowl of cereal.  Putting on her shoes takes a good three minutes (even with Velcro - OMG).  While this drives me and Jedi to pull our hair out and bite the back of our fists on a regular basis during busy school mornings, it is actually a perfect weekend training pace.

Buddy's hat

Did I say training?  Yes, I am in training to relax more.  Cool, huh?  I have taken up crocheting - a skill that my grandmother and mother taught me when I was young, and that I've totally neglected since because it involves sitting still for so long.  Another skill I let lapse around age ten.  But after five weeks of enforced sitting, it turns out that I like just chilling out with a cat in my lap.  If they wouldn't try to bat the yarn so much that would help, but life's not perfect.  I've logged some serious hours playing video games with the kids and reading this weekend.  It is great.  Now that we've cleared our baking schedule for the rest of the year, I fully intend to spend as much time as possible mimicking my daughter's pace - taking my time.

So anyway, today for our impromptu girls date we first headed to the gym for a swim workout for me and kid gym for her.  We got out of the car and she asked "Mommy, can you run with me?"  So we ran giggling all the way up the parking lot and into the gym.  She said, "Wow Mommy you're a good runner!!!"  After my time off (really, any time) hearing my best little running buddy say that was worth more than any sub-3:00 marathon ever.  (Which is good, because let's just be realistic....)

I stashed her in kid watch, and headed to the pool, where I knocked off 1350 meters in just under an hour.  I have a new toy - a waterproof case for my IPod Shuffle that clips to the back of my goggles.  I had a Best Buy gift card lying around from about 2011 and used it to grab this baby while I was laid up, in preparation for a lot more swimming.  Let me tell you - swimming with my tunes is a revolutionary experience.  Love love love.  Just don't try to sing underwater...

For those interested, that swim set reads:
Warm-up:  1x100 swim, 1x100 pull.  Annnd reading this I just realized I did this twice.  Make that a 1550 workout.  Score!
Drills: 8x50 single arm free, alternating right and left every 25.  30 second rest.
Main Set: 400 m.  I timed it and did it in just over 10 minutes.  Considering this is faster than both of my sprint times for the same distance, I am calling myself happy.
Cool down: 1x50 swim, 1x50 pull, 1x50 swim.

I spent some time in the sauna, which I had never used before and now wondered why the heck ever not? Oh right.  I never felt like I had time to. Grabbed the girl, and we headed off for some early Christmas craft shopping and lunch at her favorite burrito joint. She was ridiculously happy to have the entire side of the booth to herself, and spread her lunch over her whole side of the table.  A lesson in spreading yourself out and making yourself comfy.  When I finished my lunch before her (of course), she convinced me to go back and buy myself some ice cream.  Who am I to argue with my teacher for the day?

Ice cream, soda, chips - oh yeah!
She takes her time...

We did eventually come home to check on poor sick little dude, to relax on the couch (she took a nap), and to finish her hat. Can't be all work!  She and Daddy took a break to make us a chocolate pecan pie, which I'm hoping is the sole element of our dinner.

Still wearing her pumpkin hat from her Halloween costume.
Five year olds rock. A friend suggested I do more of these and make a book
"Baking and Tri-ing with Your Kids" - what do you think?

I'm still chugging away at Cast25K.  I chose swimming today over running because after my last "run" on Friday my foot was super sore.  Ditto after swimming, so I think I'm making the right choice.  Will lace up again tomorrow.  Or not.  I'll see how I feel.  

I've got time.....

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Road Ahead

Today is my last doctor's visit about my foot.  The doctor yesterday reinforced that there are no broken or bruised bones, no damage of any kind.  The cyst is so small that there isn't any treatment for it, nor should it be causing me any discomfort.  Any remaining pain should be treatable by physical therapy and strengthening.  I expect that today's doctor will tell me much the same. 

Which is all very good, but it does leave me with a lot of questions.  What the heck happening in the first place?  Did I make it all up?  Could I have avoided the last 5 weeks in crutches if I just ignored the pain? Was I really doing too much?  Jedi and Gypsy have both told me that no matter what, my body was telling me I needed rest.  Ok.  I guess I just have to let it go and think about how to move forward from this point.

Only it's not just my foot that I've rested in the last month.  This time out of the flow of regular life has really put spotlights on areas that I'm not happy with.  I feel tired - the kind of tired that still hasn't gone away even after five weeks of video games.  (Actually it turns out that being a mom and working full time from home isn't actually that restful, but I digress).  I've always struggled with how to "do it all".  Driven myself crazy trying to make holidays perfect.  Remembering everything for school.  Having organic nutritious meals every night.  Having my daughter in kindergarten has been a big adjustment for the family - one that I haven't really absorbed yet.  I have to let some things go.

Similarly, our cake business was started at a time when my employment (yes I work full time besides the bakery) was shaky and not very demanding. I was looking for a creative outlet that I felt I needed at the time.  That has changed - what was once fun is now feeling like an obligation.  I don't want to use my vacation days from my full time job to make cakes anymore.  Maybe if I got to see more deliveries and see people happy with my work I'd feel differently, but the sad reality is that most of my customer interactions leave me feeling drained, not happier.

A friend posted this on Facebook last night - the Briggs-Myers personality test - which Star Wars character are you??  Geek jokes aside - I fell into the INFJ category  (Obi-Wan Kenobi - score!).  Introvert (yes, you read that right), Intuitive, Feeling, Judging.  I took this test at a job 10 years ago and scored almost the complete opposite. Something extroverted. Not so now. Under Obi-Wan it describes "Seeks meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions".  That sounds about right - I want my life to be meaningful.  I have a lot of frustration feeling that both of my jobs just aren't.  And I want to understand the WHY of everything... what to learn from my experiences.

What I've learned from the last few weeks is that I need more quiet time.  Down time.  ALONE time (sorry kids).  For the first time in years I can truly say I want my plate emptied.  I always whine about being too busy, but until now I've felt like it was the only way.  Now I want less.  We've stopped taking orders (except one last one tomorrow we couldn't cancel) for the rest of the year and shut down parts of our business like on-site parties and our Etsy shop.  I'm practicing say no to people - something that I am usually terrible at, but am determined to learn.  After learning to say no comes the learning to not feel guilty about it.  Baby steps.

In terms of training, I've also sketched out some goals for 2014 that I think are more appropriate and meaningful (there's that word again) that my previous plan of tackling the Half Ironman distance in June.  In the immediate weeks, I started a Couch(cast!) 2 5K program to get my running back.  The first day was yesterday - it was a gorgeous fall day.  I went straight from the doctor's office to my favorite section of the local rail trail.  30 minutes - 5 walking warm-up, then alternating 30 seconds of jogging with 3 minutes of walking.  It felt very weird to have only the lower half of my right leg be tired - the rest of me wanted to GO!  Today I am so sore!  A slow journey, indeed, but one I am committed to.  I would like to do the local Turkey Trot on Thankgiving with my family, but at my daughter's pace.  With luck that will be doable, and my only "race" left in this year.

So my tentative line-up for 2014 is:
  • Raleigh Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon with Rio.  April 19th.  Since Rio just became a mom, this one will be a walk/run event
  • Season Opener Sprint Triathlon, Hopkinton May 11th.  Same course as Title 9 - fun to compare times.
  • New England Trifest Olympic Distance Triathlon, Fairlee VT June 29th.  With my sister-in-law.  Family + my first Oly
  • Tour de Cure 150 mile ride for Diabetes.  July 12th & 13th
  • Cranberry Trifest Olympic Triathlon August 24th.  Second Oly of the year
  • American Lung Association's 160 mile ride.  September 26th-28th
Moving my goals back to the Olympic distance is a decision I feel so good about.  Having the HIM hanging over me was causing a lot of un-needed stress.  I also really enjoyed this year's ALA ride - two long distance charity rides, especially one for diabetes which runs in our family, and the ALA ride sponsored by my work has a lot of meaning for me.  Both as an athletic challenge in my favorite sport (biking) and as fundraiser for diseases close to my heart.

My goals for the rest of the year are to scale back as much as I can.  Make slow, steady, healthy progress toward regaining my fitness through my Cast25K program and swimming.  Enjoy the holidays without making myself crazy.  Rekindle some friendships I've let falter in the bustle of everyday life.  Spend more time alone recharging my batteries.  And since it is the month to be grateful, practice gratitude for my wonderful family and all the good things I am lucky to have in my life.  Like tiny pie chefs!

Little guy made Mommy a pumpkin pie.  How awesome is that???

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bible Smashing

No, this post is not about dissing the Catholic church or similar.  Yesterday I got the results of the MRI on my foot.  Delivered by the nurse at my general practitioner's office, who had zero other pertinent information (Like what now?  How do we fix it?  When can I walk again? etc.  eye roll).  Equally helpful was my podiatrist's office, who flat out refused to talk to me, look at me or my charts, whatsoever until my appointment tomorrow.  Thanks, medical science.

I know I know.  The suspense is killing you.  It just about near killed me too, because after five weeks in a cast and on crutches, I have absolutely no broken, stressed, or otherwise harmed bones anywhere.  In other words, there was never any need for me to be in a walking boot or crutches in the first place.  You've got to be kidding me.  I've wasted the last 5 weeks, my life, my work, my physical fitness, and all the strength in my lower leg for NOTHING.  The first thing I did after I hung up was march down to my car (I was in the office) and throw my crutches and boot in the trunk and slam the door.  Then stalked back into the building looking really pissed.  The receptionist was very confused, bless her heart.

See that tiny black dot near the arrow?  It shouldn't be there.
Ok - it's not exactly nothing.  What I have is a small ganglion cyst sitting right next to one of the key nerve junctures in the foot.  What it is is a small pouch of fluid that forms associated with a joint, usually in the wrist but sometimes in the foot as well.  The cyst often forms as a result of repetitive trauma, which makes a lot of sense, for a runner like myself.  This is also where the "rachet" for the laces of my bike shoes is placed, so a lot of pressure on that area when I ride.  Like the 100 miles I did the weekend I got hurt.   Mine is right where the first metatarsal meets the bones of the foot - right near under that big tangle of nerves in the picture

Nerves of the foot

Until recently, the home and official remedy was to hit the cyst as hard as you possibly can with the heaviest book you own (usually the bible).  Really.  I am not making this up.  The idea is that by whacking the stuffing out of the cyst, you pop it, your body absorbs the goo, and in about 50% of the time it doesn't come back.  Great odds, eh?  Heathen that I am, I don't own a bible, so Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is gonna have to do the trick.  Any volunteers?  No?  Jedi isn't signing up, so some of my coworkers said they'd do it.  Gotta love a supportive work environment.....

Many people find comfort in religion.....
 Alternatives to crushing my foot with a large dictionary and causing further damage is to have the cyst drained or removed surgically. Or wait and see if it will go away on its own.  Now this is the part I don't know about yet and have to talk to the doc about.  The cyst is possibly too small to drain, and also in an area with a lot of nerves - in other words where it might be ill advised to have someone go after with a knife.  I have two appointments in the next two days to meet with two different podiatrists to figure all this out.  Because although I am thoroughly enjoying not being booted and walking around like a (somewhat) normal person, it still hurts like h*ll.  Knowing what it is isn't changing that.

Group stretch!!!

So in the last 2 days I've been stretching.  Practicing walking with both feet.  Frankly, how to taper off the pain meds I've been on (if I can) without going into crazy withdrawal.  That last one is something I am ashamed of, but feel like I have to mention in this blog for the sake of being honest.  Trying to integrate back into the flow of my regular life.  That last one is a problem, because I've realized my regular life is INSANE.  Work is batty.  I had three cake orders come out of the woodwork for this weekend.  The kids are not down with my new-found freedom after a month of being chained to them.  I'm trying to figure out how to exercise again.  Christmas presents.  Social calendars.  What needs to be remembered in backpacks for school.  More work.  More kids.  How did I ever do this?  And how am I going to do it again?  Totally overwhelmed.  While I'm very grateful nothing is broken, I've gotten whiplash from going from zero back into life in the space of one phone call.  God help me.  Oh right - he already wrote that nice thick Bible.....