Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Diving Back In

I missed my regular Tuesday morning run for a work meeting, so on my way out to a business event tonight I decided at the last minute to go for a swim afterward and grabbed my gym bag.

My forays into the water the last few months all felt slow and awkward. It's been as if my body forgot how to move in the water, it wasn't my friend anymore. Smooth and strong gave way to clumsy and wrong. I didn't want to be one of those triathletes that regarded the swim as a necessary evil, but that's the path I've been on. And the worse each swim went, the longer I went between them.

Tonight the warm water welcomed me like an old friend, and wrapped itself around me like a lover. I was slow and relaxed and felt the water sliding by; gone was the frantic churning of the last few months. There were moments where it wasn't smooth - like the awkward bump of noses when you kiss a long lost lover again for the first time - but the muscle memory awakened from its hibernation and all the good feelings came rushing back.

The water chastised me with plugged ears and leaking goggles, sending me a message with nagging little troubles. I hadn't been true, I had been away too long. I had to pay for my little love affair with running, a new love that's kept me away from my first, the water.

Granted, my stroke would probably make Terry Laughlin cringe. But for now it's what I've got, and today it was more than enough. Today I found what I've been missing for months; I knew it was gone but I didn't know where to look so I'm glad it found me. Just in time for my next race.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Great Quote

Tamara Mellon (founder of Jimmy Choo Shoes) was on Oprah this morning, and she said something that grabbed my attention. She was talking about the challenge of starting a business as a single mom, but I think it speaks to what it is to pursue Iron.

"Feel the fear and do it anyway."

That one's going up on my wall.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I may be young at heart...

...but today I learned I'm not as young as I used to be.

Last night we attended a dinner party thrown by a good friend of ours. (The first hint we've entered a new era in our lives - 'dinner party' vs. 'party'.) We were excited because it was our first chance to meet his girlfriend, whom we'd been dying to meet.

The guests were all old friends and there were only 8 of us total, so a good time was already guaranteed. The only unknown was the girlfriend - I was a little concerned she'd be uncomfortable (I sort of felt like this was her coming-out party to his friends) but it turned out she'd already met everyone else and was completely at ease. (BTW - she's sweet and funny and amazing and fun and fantastic and if he doesn't marry her we'll have to kill him.) The host and girlfriend like to go to wine tastings, so the wine selection was a product of their most recent adventure.

I've been feeling almost completely myself again, and with the benefit of the inhaler the couging is almost nonexistent. So I'd already arranged with my husband that I could have some wine with dinner (if I drink at all I refuse to drive).

I have NO idea how many bottles we went through. Suffice it to say it was a lot. We weren't drinking in the college sense - this was a room of thirty-somethings nursing glasses of wine - but we still consumed formidable quantities of alcohol. I I technically only had 2 glasses... but in that way where they keep getting topped off and you don't know how much you've had. The wine was excellent - if you're looking for a fun, inexpensive (sub $10) red, try the 2003 Smashed Grapes Cabernet; don't let the screw cap fool you - it was as smooth as a Beaujolais.

So, yeah. We ate and drank and talked and drank and talked and inhaled and laughed and talked and then drank some more. It was a freaking blast. Two of the husbands (including mine, who'd gotten up at 6am to take his folks to the airport) who hadn't had anything to drink (so were at the point of not wanting to deal with the drunks), abandoned the table to take naps and the rest of us kept on talking. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so much.

At one point it occured to me we'd been there a while (dinner was at 8:30) and to ask what time it was. 1:30. Holy. Shit. Amazingly, I wasn't even tired and could have easily stayed. But, my dog-in-law is staying with us for 3 weeks and is on Lasix - we had to bail to relieve his tiny bladder. When we took off the party was still going strong.

Let's recap: My RHR is temporarily at an insane 120 because of the side-effects of the damn steroid inhaler, which makes me feel all head-poundy and breathless to start with. I'm a migraine sufferer, and a major trigger is interrupting your sleep schedule (turning in at 2am is waaaay past my bedtime). I drank at least a bottle of cheap red wine. And I might have inhaled a time or six.

What's it spell?! H-A-N-G-O-V-E-R.... with a M-I-G-R-A-I-N-E.

Ten years ago this would have been an easy-going night out. Clearly I'm not as young as I used to be. (Was it worth it? Hell yeah!)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Racing Heart

I was thrilled when the doctor gave me the green light to exercise and an inhaler to help cure the cough. The inhaler helps so much I was able to go to the gym today. Obviously I planned to take it easy since I've been sick for almost 3 weeks and still have a cough, but I was eager to get back into it.

I did mostly moderate paced walking with two 5 minute run intervals, for a total of 45 minutes. The running felt just ok, and even though I took it really slow (13:30 pace) it was all I could do, and got a stitch towards the end of the second interval.

There was a brand new treadmill at the gym that I'd decided to try out, and a few minutes after my first run interval I realized there was a HR monitor on it so I gave it a shot. It said my HR was 147!! That seems insane, because usually when I'm walking after a short run it's more like 123.

I have a few theories/concerns about why this is, but I'd really like to hear from you guys because it's not a good thing. I mean, it was just a few months ago that my gynie commented on my nice slow heart rate.

Here's my thoughts:

- I recently tapered off of Inderal, a blood pressure medication I'd been taking for migraine prophylaxis for over 10 years. This medication will, by it's nature, slow down the heart rate. But I've been on a very low dose of it for quite a while now, it doesn't seem logical that stopping it would have such a dramatic impact.

- I'm temporarily taking the Advair inhaler for my bronchitis. After the very first dose I immediately noticed my heart racing. The drug's website says that patients "may experience... increased heart rate", but I don't know if that just describes the racing heart immediately post-dosage or if it will remain elevated until I'm done with the medication.

- I'm sure I lost some cardio base from not being able to exercise for about 5 of the last 9 weeks... but it's not possible for it to change that dramatically, is it?

I'm really concerned about this. Any insights y'all might have would be appreciated.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Taking the over-achiever thing too far

Day 17 of The Cough that Wouldn't Die and the doctor wanted to see me again.

The good news: I'm officially over the sick part of being sick. No more fever, no more runny nose, no more aches and pains, no more not wanting to eat for three days at a time, no more gurgly lungs. In fact, he said my lungs are all clear now.

Better news: NOT whooping cough.

The bad news: I've got myself a stellar case of bronchitis.

He said it's a vicious cyle - you cough because the airway is irritated, and the coughing causes further irritation. It's texbook, and it's where I'm at - I can't stop coughing because I can't stop coughing. Faaaantastic.

He said "Congratulations!" and laughed. He explained that it was quite an accomplishment and that I couldn't have gotten myself a better case of bronchitis if I'd set out to do it. Oh, and he called my cough "impressive."

He gave me a steroid inhaler and some narcotic cough syrup - he said all we can do at this point is try to suppress the cough and reduce the inflammation in the airways enough to break the cycle.

Great news: since my lungs are clear he gave me a green light to exercise again. I just have to take cough suppressants before and expect to cough extra after.

Doggone Crazy

Took Sable to the vet yesterday for her regular checkup. It was nice to go for something normal as opposed to our recent run of life-or-death visits. The office was unusually quiet, so much so that Dr. Donna took us in back to show us that the techs were painting the toenails on all the doctors' dogs. Too funny - we never got to do that when I worked there!

While she was checking Sable out she asked us if we were going to get another dog. Yes, definitely, we're just waiting until money is less of an issue. And we have our heart set on another Shepherd.

Of course, she comes right back with "any chance you'd be interested in a goofy lab?"

My husband gives me The Look. Lots of relationships have a Look - ours means "no, you cannot have that animal." Of course, being the loving and obedient wife that I am, I responded with my best "oh yeah? just watch me" Look and then asked the doctor "can we meet him?"

His name is Scout. He's a 5 year old yellow lab. He's a bit pudgy, but quite small for the breed. To-die-for cute. His family has a child, and it appears once it came along the dog was relegated to a kennel most of the time. He got almost no exercise and it appears no obedience training. He likes to eat socks, for which he has had two emergency surgeries to remove life-threatening blockages. The family paid for the first one, and when the second one rolled around they couldn't deal and turned him over to the vet (which runs a charity for this kind of thing). The doctor suspects his sock eating is a manifestation of him being bored out of his mind. He's temporarily living in the kennels at the back of the vet's office until a new family is located.

My Doggish is a little rusty, but this was the gist of our conversation with Scout.

OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod it's people and they're here to see meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Ooooh they're petting meeeee and they're talking to meeeeee and ohboyohboyohboyohboy ifIspininacircleasfastasIcantheycanscratchmyearsandmybuttatthesametime ooooooooooooh looky! It's a cat! WAIT! There's still PEOPLLLLLLLE here to see me!!!! Hang on - gotta pee. OKI'mbackpetmepetmepetmepetme.

And so it went. He's a doll. And OMG, the look on his face when it was time to go. Big brown pleading eyes begging noooooooooooopleeeeeeeeeeeeasedon'tyoulovemeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee as he slowly and reluctantly but very obediently went back into his kennel.

Dr. Donna and I both think the same thing: he wants to be a good boy, but nobody's ever shown him how. There's a real concern that nobody will adopt him in this state; his best bet is a serious dog person willing to take on a project... come to think of it, that's probably why Donna approached us.

My husband clearly didn't click with the dog, so I already knew adopting him was moot. But I've been kicking around fostering until I'm ready to adopt another Shepherd, so after Scott went to retrieve Sable from the techs I was about to ask Donna if we could help out that way and she suggested it herself. (Did I mention that we're experienced rescue dog foster parents?) I told her I'd float the idea and get back to her.

Out in the waiting room, as we were collecting our stuff to leave an unbelievable coincidence came in (Donna swears it was not a set-up) that made me sure I couldn't adopt Scout. It was a freshly rescued, sweet-as-can-be adult female German Shepherd. Sable went nuts - she desperately wanted to play with her. That was my first confirmation that she misses her playmate, and I thought it was interesting she responded so strongly, and so positively, to a Shepherd. She's usually shy around new dogs. Me, well, I cried on the way home because it made me miss Karma.

So. Can you see where this is going?

We can't afford to adopt yet, but we can afford to give time and discipline and love to a sweet dog that desperately needs to be taught how to behave in a family. So, assuming it goes well when we introduce him to my dog, I'm going to be a foster mommy again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Still coughing up a lung. Still frustrated as all getout I can't exercise.

Sometimes when the full extent of my health problems hits me it's easy to throw a pity party. Especially since I didn't start out with them, so I remember what it was like to be normal and healthy. I went from completely fine (well not completely, I had oligomenorrhea) to: chronic migraine, hypothyroidism, GERD, IBS, infertility, chemical sensitivities, environmental allergies, high cholesterol, borderline diabetic. Did a temporary bout of hypoadrenal too. Plus injuries, like my weak ankle that sprains if I just look at rough ground. And I probably forgot some stuff.

But I try to keep this old saying in mind: God doesn't give with both hands.

When I think about that I remember how lucky I really am. I mean, when you've got more blessings than you can count something's gotta give, right? For me it was health. I'm not bad looking, even for being ridiculously overweight. And you know how they say brains or beauty, pick one? I didn't have to. My IQ has tested in the 150 range; not only am I eligible to join Mensa, from what I've read I'm technically eligible to join this other group (The 1% Society) - they make fun of Mensa, say they party too much. I've even got a huge rack - and not in a fat chick kind of way. Even as a size 6 I was pushing a D cup. Some girls hate being well-endowed, I think it's fucking fanstastic (except when shopping for jog bras, then it sucks) because they're incredibly useful tools.

Correction - they're not always tools, often I regard them as ridiculous appendages that need their own budget to support them. I'm not hung up on breasts the way most people are; maybe it's that I'm a biologist, but I regard them as natural and normal and why on earth can't they be on tv? I'm not above using mine - I once got into a bar at 19 by handing the guy my (real) license, looking him in the eye and undoing my top button. Just found a hilarious shirt I'm treating myself too - it says I'll Be Using These To My Advantage. Gotta love it.

Huh - how did I get on a tangent about breasts, anyway?

So yeah, my point is that even though I'm sick, and I'm sick to death of being sick, I've got it pretty good. In addition to the attributes I was lucky enough to be born with, I'm living in my dream house doing my dream job with a dream of a guy. So I really can't complain.

But three weeks is a long time to be this sick and even I am reaching the end of my patience... this goes on much longer I'm gonna end up taking Elle's suggestion and start self-medicating with whisky.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Cough That Wouldn't Die

As I enter week three of my epic cough saga, I happened across Nytro's tale of whooping cough and got a bit freaked out since mine's not getting any better.

I also realized that after 15 days of hard core coughing it was time to call the doctor again, because his initial diagnosis of bronchitis (with instructions to get a humidifier and cough syrup) is looking a bit suspect.

I tried more than once this afternoon, finally got throught at 4:58. They were not amused at a closing time call, but when I told them what's going on they put the doctor on the line. He sounded genuinely concerned and said I need to come in right away (i.e. Thursday, when they're open again).

He said something that scared the crap out of me. He mentioned something called a "six month cough" and that he wanted to do some testing. I made a joke about that putting a hell of dent in my training and he did not laugh; he agreed with me in a serious voice. He's a marathoner, he understands about training.

He also said we can check for whooping cough antibodies to see if that's it, but he doesn't think so.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Still sick, still coughing up a storm, and getting antsy after not working out for two solid weeks. It's a clear case of 'rest 'cause it's in the chest' - I can't even talk on the phone for five minutes without a massive coughing fit - but the rest of me is getting better enough I feel the urge to work out.

To feed my tri habit while I'm still in bronchitis-induced confinement I got a fix with a new book: The Woman Triathlete. I settled down last night with my vaporizer and kleenex and started reading. I was only a couple pages in, checking out their handy little chart describing a generic 12 week sprint training plan, when it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Holy. Shit. I have a race in 17 weeks.

That may seem like a long time to y'all, because I know the average athlete can pull off a sprint, or even an oly, with about 12 weeks of focused training.

But it took me 13 months to train for my first tri, and even with that I still walked the run leg. I just ran a mile for the first time 3 weeks ago... and now I'm losing cardio base as I sit here, wheezing with my lungs full of crud. I wanted more than anything to run in my race this year but it feels like that dream is slipping away.

I'm trying to tell myself that it will be fine because I've maintained a pretty steady workout routine in the 7 months since my last race. But the truth is I took the concept of the 'off season' to a whole new level, dropping 6-7 workouts a week down to 2-4, and instead of doing 60-180 minute blocks of cardio, I haven't done more than 30-40 minutes in months. Instead of swimming 880-1600 yards like I was, if I get in the water at all I've been barely doing 500-900 yards. And hey, it's winter, so the bike's hanging upside down in the garage 'cause I can't afford a trainer yet. And to add insult to injury, I've been stuck on a plateau for 7 months and only weight about 4 pounds less right now than I did at my last race. It will be a huge psychological defeat for me to have to do this next race at the same weight as last year... but I'm just so STUCK.

I feel like if get back on track right this minute I could pull off my race in the realistic goal range (2:15)... but I can't because at this rate it will be at least another week before the coughing subsides. I'm so frustrated I want to cry.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

My Kind of Goofy

[Still too sick to work out, so here's another non-tri tidbit.]

Today is my RTP's little brother's 15th birthday and she's taking him out to do something fun.

Their mission: A pilgrimmage to Sandwich, Illinois, to test a hypothesis that the sandwiches there will be superior to those found elsewhere.

Oh, how I wish I'd thought of it first.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Goin' to the dogs. And cats.

This was taken when I was sick last month, but being sick this month reminded me of it and it's amusing enough I figured I'd share it. Normally my husband would not take a picture of me when I look like this on pain of death, but given the circumstances I can't say I blame him.

This was a wonderful, if bittersweet moment for me. My furry babies came to comfort me, en mass, when I was ill. But it was a few short weeks after my precious puppy Karma passed away, and I was sad she wasn't in the picture too. But the reality is that her exuberance scared the cats too much, and with her in our lives this moment never would have happened.

When I tell people I have four cats they always ask 'what kind' - the assumption being if I have that many, I must be into a particular breed. My response is always the same: the kind that needed a home.

For the animals lovers who might actually care... (from L to R)

Sienna - ~10 year old torti (mutt cat). She was tied up in a bag with a litter of newborn kittens and dumped behind a vet's office. We adopted her because nobody wanted the momma cat.

Kramer - 10 year old possible Maine Coon mix (mutt cat). Somebody dumped a pregnant cat in the woods back home; somebody I know found her when they were camping. They opened their camper door and the poor scared little momma cat gratefully brought her litter in to safety. He was one of the kittens.

Trinity - 8 year old mutt cat. She was found on the side of the road at 8 weeks old, having been run over by a car. A good Samaritan picked her up and took her to a local no-kill shelter; she had two broken legs and a broken pelvis. They saved her life and one of her legs, but the other shriveled up and had to be amputated. I found her at the shelter when I went looking for another lap cat after my diabetic cat passed away in 1997. She reached through the cage and wrapped her paws around my fingers and that was it - it didn't matter that she was severely underweight and half shaved from the surgeries and missing a leg. She's not all there physically and mentally - we think the accident affected her brain too - but she's my baby and I wouldn't change her one bit.

Bogart - 7 year old Oriental Short Hair mix. He was born to a feral barn cat (who happened to be a pure bred OSH); he was accidentally abandoned at 2 weeks old when the mommma cat got spooked and moved the litter. The woman who owned the barn also ran the St. Bernard rescue; she had 11 saints to take care of, there was no way she could bottle feed a kitten every 2 hours. I happened to be at work (back in my vet tech days) when she brought him in; I was the only tech that summer who hadn't yet adopted a kitten (occupational hazard) and my husband had been saying he'd never experienced a kitten. He's got a personality and a half, and he thinks he's a dog because he was raised by one. (The picture below was taken about 5 minutes after I brought him home.)

Sable - 8 year old Golden/Chow mix. One of an Oops litter that resulted when my friend, whom I begged to spay her dog, discovered that a female in heat will back right up to a chain link fence to get some. She's a sweet, wonderful dog and we feel lucky every day to have her. When we got Bogart she decided to raise him. To this day, when we feed her Bogart comes and eats from her dish, and they sleep together at night.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Most Embarrassing Workout Moment

Still coughing up a lung every five minutes, so I thought I'd toss out a gym anecdote since I'm on temporary hiatus from experiencing new material. For me, this one's a contenduh for the Embarrasing Moment Hall o' Fame. Lest my sistahs read the ensuing tale and think I'm wallowing in self-pity (thanks for cheering me up the last few days!), let me assure you I was only reminded of this because of something great that happened recently, and that I find it funny now.

This was about a year ago. I weighed about 245, about a size 22. I was happy, had lost about 25 pounds and a jean size, had worked up to hour-long cardio sessions, and had just registered for my first triathlon. In a nutshell, I was feeling like the shit.

So, I'm on the treadmill, about halfway through a 5K on an incline power-walk. An older gentleman - and I do mean older - saw me working out. He approached me, and said with obvious concern for my well-being "you better be careful, your heart might not be able to take that."

I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. A guy old enough to be my Grandpa, a guy who probably had a pacemaker, was concerned that I was so fat I going to have a heart attack! What I said was "it's ok, my doctor knows what I'm doing." He was mollified by this and went on his way. But I never forgot it and am embarrassed to this day. I am so glad nobody else heard him.

The cool thing that just happened to remind me of this most shameful moment...

I'm at the gym (2 weeks ago today). Two of the six treadmills are out of order and one has the hiccups (status quo). A very young, very fit teenage girl climbed aboard the hiccup treadmill when I was about 5 minutes into my warmup walk. I mentioned to her that one wasn't safe if she planned to do any running (all the girls like her at my gym are there to run, figured I'd save her a broken ankle). She laughed and said no problem, she doesn't run at all. She started walking and a few minutes later I cranked up the speed and embarked on the run that became my first mile ever.

As I finished the mile and slowed back down to a walk, this little girl with the perfect body took off her headphones, looked at me, smiled and said "I was starting to wonder if you were ever gonna stop running."

I sure have come a long way in a year.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Talked down

Thanks for talking me off the ledge, guys. I decided, in a nutshell, "fuck him." I'm done crying over the asinine opinion of one asshole.

(But I still have to be nice to him, because he's my only connection for open water swimming.)

I think I'll invite him to register for the Chicago Marathon with me in a year or so. See if he considers that a "real" race.

Monday, February 13, 2006

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

One of our good friends was over last weekend to watch the SuperBowl. I owe him a lot; he's the one who got me swimming in open water enough that I could actually enter a triathlon with some level of confidence I wouldn't have a panic attack in the first leg. I've played on a volleyball and a softball team with him. He's always been indulgent of my lack of athletic skill, and is sometimes generous in his efforts to help me improve. He is sometimes openly critical - almost scornful - of my weight, but I've come to accept that. Some people will just never, ever understand about that, and years as a tomboy taught me that guys treat sensitive topics very differently than girls do. The almost vicious edge to his personality, which everyone (including him) is aware comes from his father, doesn't show itself very often; when it does, it's a subject of discussion amongst those who are close to him. Bottom line, I know better than to let his occassional outbursts get to me.

Anyway, although not a triathlete he's a very athletic guy, and I'm the second of three women in our circle he's helped into triathlon with swim lessons and lake access. He's generally quite supportive of our efforts.

But last weekend, when he asked me about racing and I happily responded about my progress and planned races, he interrupted me to say "yeah, but you're just doing the all-girl races, right?"

I admitted that, yes, for one more year that's all I was signing up for. He laughed, and then proceeded to brag about his own progress - namely, that he was up to 3 miles on the elliptical hill program (BFD, btw, is how I feel about THAT).

I was reeling. Hurt. Heartbroken. "Just" doing the "girl" races? Is that what my friends think? That I'm so pathetic I can't handle "real" races? I had no idea how to respond, it was such a dramatic turn from the enthusiastic support I usually get from my friends.

After the fact it occurred to me that I should have retorted with the fact that pro triathletes like Nicole DeBoom didn't have a problem with doing the "girl" races. And I didn't see him getting off his ass (or his elliptical, as the case may be) to sign up for any race of any kind.

The good comebacks, the solid information, that stuff never occurs to me until it's too late, because when someone hurts my feelings like that I'm pretty much speechless. I didn't even defend myself - technically, I agreed with him!

I'm angry at him for saying something so cruel, and angry at myself for letting it get to me. And more than a week later it's still bothering me, making me wonder if I really am fooling myself, and that my efforts are sad and comical to observers.

Part of the reason I started this blog was that I wanted to voice the struggles of the minority of women like me. The ones who feel trapped in mediocrity by weight and health problems and fear and the preconception that they're not good enough. The ones for whom this is so hard, such a mountain to climb. But now I'm afraid I'm doing the sport a disservice. I was hoping that women would see me fighting for every step, every breath, and be empowered, that they would say "if she can do it, then surely I can too" and that they would get out there and tri. But now I'm afraid that people see me and think "well if she can do it, clearly it's not a big deal."

Coming out of it. Again.

First morning in nearly a week I didn't wake up with my lungs sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies. (Yeah - think about that for a minute.) Still no voice, still stuffy head, still coughing, but definitely on the upswing.

Even though these two bouts of being horribly sick in less than two months are arguably the sickest I've ever been in my life, while my husband was pondering when the emergency room becomes an appropriate option, I was worrying about what all this will do to my cardio base and how it will affect my recent running success.

Does that make me crazy? Or just another triathlete?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Well at least...

... if I have to feel like crap, I get to watch other people do athletic things.
I love the Olympics.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The verdict is in...

Doctor said flu plus bronchitis. He said my run-in with allergen hell was, albeit not the brightest thing I've done, coincidental.

I don't think I've truly had the flu since college - I remember a terrible bout January of senior year. And I haven't had back-to-back bouts of bronchitis since sophomore year of college (that went on for months, it was my first major health crisis that signaled the start of a downward spiral).

Maaaan, of all the jillions of things that could send me into a bout of college-days nostalgia, why oh why did the universe choose to send me this?!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Yeah, see, I try to be a really good friend, and when my friends call and say 'hey, I won an auction on this office supply place that went out of business, I get anything I want out of the basement, come, help, get stuff for yourself' then I say 'when and where and I'll bring the van.' Cause I'm a good friend and all. And cause I really need a file cabinet and I can't afford one and I was thinking maybe I'd get lucky. So, good friend with a side of pragmatic.

Not so much. The office supply store's been there for over 50 years... as has the shit in that nasty ass corner of the basement. (In a way it was fascinating - bowling trophies from the 60s, piles of Kiwanis "men's organization" paperwork, boxes of typewriter ribbons, stacks of old-fashioned ledger paper from the days before QuickBooks, a pallet of rusty file cabinets, and on and on. All in jumbled heaps covered in thick gritty dusty schmutz. But I digress.) Even if there was something worth taking, the only way out was a set of steepy, narrow, creaky wooden stairs with a wobbly hand rail and a sharp corner at the top. We weren't there very long, but when I left my lungs were feeling kinda burny. I'd popped an allergy pill before I went, figuring on some dust, so I wasn't overly worried.

Oh how wrong I was.

Apparently I'm a wee bit allergic or something to whatever 50 year old dust/mold/dead things/sawdust (oh yeah, there was a woodworking area and apparently they were unfamiliar with the concept of the vaccuum) was down there and it was a bad idea to, say, breath it. Either that or I breathed in some alien mold spores and they're taking over. The way my chest feels, don't be surprised if you see me on the news with the alien guy bustin out. Been coughing so hard I've actually pulled muscles in my chest. And just for fun it appears I pulled something in my calf when I worked out yesterday. So now it hurts to walk and breath. Good times.

So, yeah. Pretty feverish too. Wrapped in layers of sweats and insulated robe and blankie and still shivering.

And yeah, when I started to feel like I just might die I did try to call the doctor. But, boys and girls, what freaking day is it? That's right, it's Wednesday. And we all know that doctors don't work on Wednesdays. Either of mine (I figured the allergist was worth a shot, given the circumstances).

I did go to most of my work things today... which means I saw my best marketing agency client this afternoon, which means I have a project due tomorrow! And Friday! And Monday! And Wednesday! And Thursday! (Seriously. Not fucking kidding.)

Sooo... who's up for writing technical copy about Caterpillar integrated hydraulic systems!? I better be, 'cause I got some due in 24 hours. (Heeeeey... I'll just wait for the alien guy to bust out! They're an advanced race, maybe he can write it for me!)

Goal Setting

I've thought long and hard about how to set a realistic goal for my race this summer, especially with the setbacks I've had in terms of my weight loss plateau and running goals. Over the last two years I've had to scale back so many goals that turned out to be too aggressive I was afraid to publicly announce any goals for fear I'd lose face when the race report rolled around.

I get now that, no matter what, I need to set a goal for this race or there isn't much point in doing it. And if I'm going to set the goal, I might as well talk about it. That way if it's unrealistic I can hear it from an objective source (I'm counting on you guys!), and if I fail at it then I can get help understanding why so I can make it next time. And if it's not tough enough, y'all can call me on that too.

So with that, here's my goals for the sprint tri I'm racing on June 25. I put up my results from the original race for comparison. I did slightly better in my second sprint tri, but I present this info because it's the same course.

2005 Sprint Tri Results
Overall: 2:47:20
Swim: 23:16
T1: 19:31
Bike: 1:00:14
T2: 7:10
Run: 57:11

2006 Sprint Tri Goals
Overall: sub 2:00
Swim: 20:00
T1: 10:00
Bike: 45:00
T2: 6:00
Run: 45:00

If you do the math, my individual goal times add up to 2:06, more than my actual goal of getting it under 2 hours. I have a problem with that, but maybe it's too much to expect that I'd cut 40 minutes off this race in one year, especially when I've only been able to drop about 10 more pounds. The goal times posted are quite aggressive for me - especially the run goal, which is so aggressive I get psyched out when I look at the number - so I don't know where else I can trim minutes. But I've had this idea in my head of getting it under 2 hours for so long that I hate to give it up. For my second race last summer I set a goal of getting it under 2:30, and I did it in 2:29 (most of which I have to admit I made up in transition). So it's not like I'm attempting to cut 47 minutes in one swoop, I'm really only trying to cut 30 minutes.

Maybe I should set a goal of 2:15. I suppose taking 15 minutes off my sprint is a respectable goal, and it's really taking off 30 from this first race. I just feel so lame doing that. I had no goal for it the first time around other than to finish, and I had no real I idea what kind of times people got. Even though I didn't care about my time, I was a little sad when I learned that even my first-timer friends finished sub-two hours, and I was mortified to learn that the elites can do it in an hour. So I'm been obsessing about getting my time under two hours; until right now I never actually did the math to realize how fast that truly is.

See why I'm conflicted?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Moving the Goal Posts

In the past, any other day I felt like this I automatically got a Get Out of Gym Free card. Fatigued, headachy, deep burning cramps that feel like my uterus is attempting to claw its way out, related things making it more likely than not I'd have some sort of 'don't wear white sweats' type accident. Blech. Last couple of days I looked for a cure in the bottom of a pint of Chubby Hubby, but alas, it wasn't there. Plus I worked until 11:00 last night, so I was all ready this morning with my bag o' excuses.

Now I know damn well that I'll never finish losing weight, or get to the Chicago Marathon, or to IMMoo if I keep letting myself off the hook, but that argument with myself never works. Just makes me feel even more guilty for my sins. And as far as I'm concerned, it's a lot easier to go with "I'm in pain today" than "but I want to do a marathon in 2 years."

I was kind of on auto-pilot this morning, getting dressed and putting on my shoes; my body was on the way to work out even if I wasn't. I didn't make it to the gym - the accident risk level was still at Code Red (pun definitely intended) - but I did tear myself away from the computer long enough to get in 35 minutes on the elliptical. I'm not one of those mythical women for whom excercise makes the cramps magically melt away - in fact, they often increase intensity - but I feel better mentally and I'll take that.

It was after the workout I realized I moved the goalposts on myself. I could be guilt tripping hard for skipping the gym and taking the easy way out. But then I remembered that I would normally have just plain skipped. And I remembered there was a time when 35 minutes on the elliptical was literally beyond my capabilities. Now it's an easy workout on a crappy day. So I decided to be happy about that.

Chicagoland Winter Tris

I've been meaning to post this for ages (obviously, already missed the first one), just couldn't find it in my in-box that's shamefully gone to 3 screens deep. If you live in the Chicagoland area and want to do some fun little indoor triathlons this winter/early spring, here's a few a friend told me about. I almost forgot about them because when I first got the email I couldn't run for 15 min yet and didn't want to be embarassed; now that I can I think I'll go for one.

Please note that I copied and pasted this info directly from an e-mail; I have no actual knowledge : )

2006 MITCS Race Schedule

Race Format:
10 Minute Swim
10 Minute Transition
20 Minute bike on stationary bike
5 Minute Transition
15 Minute Run on Indoor Track

Jan. 29, 2006
Health Track Sports Wellness
875 Roosevelt Road
Glen Ellyn, IL

Feb. 12, 2006
Wheaton Sport Center
1000 W. Prairie
Wheaton, IL

Feb. 26, 2006
Edward Health & Fitness Center
6600 Route 53
Woodridge, IL

March 12, 2006
Good Samaritan Wellness Center
3815 Highland Ave.
Downers Grove, IL

Prices: Individuals:
$60/person/2 triathlons
$80/person/3 triathlons
$100/person/4 triathlons

* Each participant will receive only one race packet per series.
* Race packets can be picked up at the race site either during the week prior to each triathlon or upon check in on race day.
* Packets include race day information, guest passes to host clubs, t-shirt, water bottle & other products from race sponsors.

Please Note:
* Register early to secure spot. Races may fill prior to deadline. Athletes may 'walk-in' on race day and be placed on a waiting list.
* Entry Fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.
* Participants who are members at a hosting club are eligible for a $10 discount on entry fees, but membership # must be provided at time of registration.
* Membership discounts will not be given to athletes who register on race day.

* Only athletes competing in a minimum of three triathlons are eligible for series awards.
* The overall female and male series winners will be awarded cash prizes: 1st place - $500; 2nd place - $350; and 3rd place - $200.
*Individual Awards will be given to the top three female and male finishers overall and in each age category at each race.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cautiously Optimistic

This is the beginning of a new era. Maybe. While the actual thing deserves a drumroll, ta-da kind of moment, I've learned the hard way not to get too excited about it yet. Here's the scoop...

After 10 years of being on Propanolol (generic of Inderal) for migraine prophylaxis, and after more than a year of veeeeery slooooowly tapering the dose, as of Friday I'm off of it completely.

This is a really big deal to me because I hate that I have to take so many medications; coming off this one means I'm down to only my thyroid prescription. I still take pills in the morning (multivitamin, occasional antacid, sometimes acidophilus) but I feel like it's different if they're voluntary.

But like I said, I'm still being cautious. Inderal is first and foremost a blood pressure medication; migraine prophylaxis is an off-label use. But because it is a blood pressure medication, changing the dose or missing a dose are a big deal, and going off of it is a big production even if you don't have the risk that daily, debilitating migraines will come roaring back into your life.

During the years that the headaches kept getting worse, the dose kept getting higher. At its highest it was up to a mammoth 160mg - the first time I tried to fill it the pharmacist actually said "hmmm, I don't know if them make that size". After a few years of that dosage controlling it I made several attempts to taper, but the headaches always came back immediately. But this time was different.

Once I started losing weight and feeling healthier overall I went to my doctor to try again. Due to the past failures he didn't want to try again, but I convinced him because I desperately want to be off it. With some of the stepdowns I had a noticeable uptick in migraine frequency, but I was patient and it always evened back out after about 3 months. And then I'd go down one more notch. I was supposed to be off it a couple months ago, but decided not to mix the stress of the holidays with attempting to go off the meds.

So, last week was the last step down, and it was only for 5 days (as opposed to the 3+ months I've been doing at previous steps).

The first day on the lowest dose (last Monday) I had dizzy spells and was headachy by the afternoon. Same with the 2nd day. And the 3rd was the worst - had bad dizzy spells during my workout (probably stupid to keep going, but wanted to push through it and run another mile) and another headache by afternoon. At that point I was convinced my quest to quit would be delayed yet again.

I clung to one other potential explanation: the headaches were possibly just good ol' Aunt Flo (that bitch) announcing her impending arrival. That theory does seem to be the case, so I adopted the another theory that the dizzy spells were my body experiencing exercise without a massive dose of blood pressure medication in my system. I have to consider the fact that even though blood pressure was never my problem, I have been taking a medication that affects it for a decade now. So that's another reason to temper my celebration until I'm sure it will be ok.

It's day 3 off the meds completely, and so far so good. No migraines, no regular headaches, no dizziness.

Here's the crazy part: I'm noticeably sleeping better. Because turns out, a known side effect of this drug is sleeplessness. About 10 years ago I went from sleeping like a log to near insomnia. I only put the two things together a few months ago, and there was still no real way to be sure; since I was already attempting to come off the drug I figured it was a bit late to ask for an alternative. Well, now that I'm already sleeping better (and by 'better' I mean I'm only waking up 2-3 times instead of 4-6, I'm having actual big crazy REM dreams again - you know, the kind where you're like 'ok, so I'm making out with Bo Bice in a dorm room and then we get attacked by giant leeches shaped like manta rays' - the kind of dreams that mean you're in a nice deep sleep, and I feel more rested when I wake up.) I guess I can say that was the problem. I remember being a morning person in high school... wouldn't it be great if this whole tired-all-the-time, morning-bitch-monster-from-hell thing was just a phase?

Tuesday will be my first drug-free run workout; if I make it through that with no dizziness or headache then I might get out the noisemakers.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Salad

I "invented" this salad last summer in a fit of 'gotta use this up quick' that often comes right before my next organic veggie delivery is due. It's not revolutionary or anything, but it's the kind of stuff I frequently have on hand (read: easy to throw together) that, combined, have a hint of gourmet flair. I make it for my girlfriend (aka RTP), with whom I have lunch on a regular basis - and if she eats it, you know it's healthy. Anyway, for lack of a better name we jokingly started referring to it as "The Salad". Had it yesterday, and it occurred to me that most of us are either trying to lose weight or trying to keep it off, so I thought I'd share it with you. It's a big plateful of fresh, (mostly) nutritious ingredients that pack a serious flavor punch.

- plateful of romaine lettuce
- sprinkling of nuts (I usually use slivered almonds, but walnuts are also great)
- grilled chicken, chilled and cubed (about half a breast)
- sprinkling of rice noodles (they add a great crunch, and used sparingly don't add too many calories)
- several sliced strawberries
- mandarin oranges (about 1/3 can, drained)
- sprinkling of freshly shredded parmesan cheese
- dressing (see below)
- serve with whole grain crackers

The dressing is the key - the specific one for this "recipe" brings the flavors together. It's an orgasmic strawberry-balsamic vinagrette. It's incredibly healthy as dressings go - the only ingredients are strawberry puree and balsamic vinegar. Not all the stores carry it, so if I'm out I just throw some strawberries and balsamic vinegar into the food processor and voila!

Another delicious option is to find a dressing with a sesame flavor base (this option mimicks the taste of Wendy's Oriental Chicken Salad). I don't go this route often though, since they're oil-based.

Next time you're not sure what to do with those bruised strawberries and dusty can of oranges, give this a shot.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Flipping Out

Decided to do an easy swim today because I was oooh-so stiff and sore from hard-core weight training yesterday. (After which, btw, I ran a mile. AGAIN!!! Actually, ran a little bit more than a mile this time, which I'm especially psyched about since it followed 90 minutes of killer training.)

Anyway, since I was taking it easy, and since I'm green with envy reading about all y'all fishy flip-turning machines out there, I decided to devote this workout to practicing them. I work on it sporadically, but I get frustrated and give up easily, figuring I've got enough to work on at this point without adding another skill.

I hadn't done half a dozen flips when I managed to schnort so much water up my nose the level in the pool dropped. Oh. My. God. It was over an hour ago, and it still burns. We used to do all kind of acrobatics in the pool as kids and I got the occasional snootful, but this topped 'em all. Once I managed to calm down, breath normally, stop the tears flowing... I couldn't swim any more. Specifically, I couldn't swim any more because I couldn't put my face in the water. It was this wierd mental block - really wierd, since I've never been afraid to do that. I'd start to do it, try a few strokes, and come up sputtering. This went on for about 10 minutes. I knew if I gave up and got out I'd be giving in to this strange little roadblock my brain was trying to construct and it could have disastrous consequences. So I stuck it out, and gradually convinced my brain that it was ok to put my face back in the water, and I concluded by swimming normally for another 15 minutes or so.

Freaked me out, though. I've got enough trouble with being afraid of lakes, last thing I need is to backslide 18 months to when I wouldn't swim with my face down.

Goofy stuff happening here guys, not sure what to make of it. Not that long ago I'd have sworn up and down swimming was my favorite leg and that I would never do a race where I couldn't walk the run leg. Now I dread swimming, been feeling clunky and graceless in the water, and I'm loving to run...


This has nothing to do with triathlon. I just can't air this anywhere else because it would negatively impact my business. I have no intention of pissing anyone off with what I'm saying here, I'm not throwing down the gauntlet, I am not criticizing anyone's beliefs and I am not inviting debate. I have absolute respect for what anyone else wants to believe - so much so that I took a course on major world religions just so I could understand them better. And I'm sick and tired of not being accorded that same respect.

I belong to several business organizations. I have become heavily involved, and am in leadership roles in two different groups. I am there to conduct business, to meet potential business contacts and to learn techniques for improving my business. To my dismay, from the beginning I have been bombarded with what I regard as aggressive Christianity. One networking group even proposed that we pray in every meeting! Thank goodness one other member was also willing to stand up and say no... I'm very new to the whole thing and was afraid to singularly offend the people who can so dramatically impact my client referrals (these people can literally make or break me at this early stage in my growth).

And at another group, of which I am now co-chair, the very first meeting of the year got completely derailed by 'God-talk'... my co-chair was leading the damn march, and even as strong as my personality is, my attempts to restore the actual topic were futile as he ran me down (insurance salesman) and kept right on going. The ultimate irony is that it was a presentation on time management, and that little tangent wasted about 10 minutes. I was helpless to do anything, because I've already learned the hard way that indicating in any way that there's a slight chance I might not agree with them is an invitation for disaster.

Let me say again - I am there to conduct business, and last time I checked the Chamber of Commerce was not in the business of running a church, so what the hell are they doing talking about it at every opportunity? It's not like there aren't ample opportunities for the average Christian to discuss their faith: they can talk about it at at church, at home, at bible study, with like-minded friends, they can blog about it... why on earth must they bring it into business too?

Now I've started to get those irritating chain e-mail "forward this prayer" messages. I despise chain e-mails in the first place, and to get these in my business e-mail account, from people I don't even know well enough to give my personal e-mail, is infuriating... but I don't say anything because the sentiment (I like you, here's a prayer coming your way) is genuinely sweet. But this morning it got elevated to the next level and I blew my top. It went from 'I'm assuming you subscribe to my personal perception of the almighty' to 'I'm assuming you subscribe to my personal political beliefs'. It was from my co-chair. I lost it and sent him back a rather curt response, which I'm sure will open a can of worms I'm probably not prepared for, but I've fucking had it. We've been a team for all of 4 weeks and he's already pissed me off bad enough (for actual business reasons) I'm scouting locations to hide the body. (For the record, we were appointed co-chairs, I did not and would not choose to work with him.)

I went to two huge, culturally diverse colleges. Then I worked for two huge, culturally diverse corporations. If you were in a room with ten people, there's a good chance there were ten different belief systems in the room. To bring up politics or religion in casual conversation, let alone in a business meeting, was unthinkable. To do so on the assumption that not only do they all agree with you, but that they wanted to discuss it and not, say, the actual topic of the meeting - ludicrous. And this is what I am seeing, week after week.

For the record...

I don't subscribe to either of the major party platforms, though there are individual elements of each that I happen to agree with, in varying degrees. Just for fun I took the Political Compass test to see if any label applied to me. I learned that I am moderate liberal and fall pretty squarely in the Green Party. I was particularly proud to see my dot on the graph falls beside Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.

I am an atheist. I believe in kindness for the sake of kindness, and in doing the right thing simply because it is the the right thing to do. I don't need the threat of eternal punishment to make these decisions, nor do I believe there is an omnipotent deity doling it out. I do believe our souls go on somehow after death, but I'm too busy living the best life I can to worry about it much.

I am not a bad person, and I am sick to death of the implication that I am simply because I don't believe the same things as some others do. In fact, last time I checked, that kind of thinking is the source of our troubles with the Middle East.