Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Yesterday was New Recipe Night at our house.  We have New Recipe Night at our house because we are fortunate enough to have good eaters.  Well, maybe not so much fortunate as if you don’t eat what Mom makes, you don’t eat.  Trust me.  Joe has, on several occasions, sent any one of the kids to bed if they make overly critical comments about what’s for dinner.  Honestly though, our kids are generally amenable to trying new things, but only if Mom makes them.

Last night’s new recipe was Chicken with Roasted Almonds and Pomegranate Vinaigrette.  One of the steps involves, go figure, toasting the almonds.  I was trying to pay close attention to them, but as it always is with those kinds of things, as soon as I took my eyes off of the pan, the almonds got overcooked.  Thankfully, I had plenty more sliced almonds, so I tossed out the first batch and tried again, but that got me thinking…

I realized in toasting those almonds, that I too am currently overcooked.  No, I don’t have a wicked sunburn from lolling beside the pool; I’m just mentally, and probably a bit physically overcooked.  Joe and I are racing in Racine 70.3 in two and a half weeks.  At this point, I’m not going to cram any more fitness into my body, but I do need to maintain what I’ve got so my long and intense workouts continue. 

I knew something was up when I didn’t even look forward to my eleven mile run on Monday.  I was, in fact, dreading it.  That was my first clue because, as you all know, I love to run.  Yes, once I got out there and started running I did feel somewhat better mentally, but I was physically tired for the rest of the day.  I like when exercise energizes me.  I don’t like when it wears me out. 

I felt like this at the end of my marathon training and when I raced Racine 70.3 in 2010.  I didn't feel like this before Augusta 70.3, but I had other things on my mind before that race, namely doing what I needed to do so that I would have another season of racing, among other things.  I didn’t enjoy the last few long runs, swims and bike rides, and I was just looking forward to getting each race over with!  That’s how I feel right now.  I just want the race to be over with, to check the box as it were. 

Don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly fortunate that I’m able to race, especially that I’m going to race with Joe this year.  I’m just nervous and tired of my workouts having to have a purpose.  I want to swim, bike and run when I want to and for however long I want to, not when and how my training schedule dictates I do.  I want to do well; I want to better my time from two years ago before breast cancer was part of our lexicon and lives.  The only pressure on me is that which I put on myself.   Joe is proud of me for just getting out there and racing.  He loves me regardless of if I place first or last.  The feeling is mutual. 

Joe and I have very different race goals, but part of me still wants to “measure up” to him.  Whereas I just want to finish and better my time from 2010, Joe wants to race and race HARD.  He’s willing to put forth the effort necessary to make that happen.  I am not.  It’s partly because I feel guilty taking that much time away from the kids to train, and partly I just don’t want to work that hard.  Seriously. 

When people learn that I’ve done several half-Ironman races, they generally ask if I’m ever going to do a full Ironman race.  The same holds true for when people find out that Joe has done four Ironman races.  My responses are always the same – “Heck no!  I don’t want to work that hard!”  Or, if I’m feeling a bit sassy, “No.  I’m only half-assed.”   Saying that always makes me feel a little bit like I’m giving up, but then, I know my injury-prone body’s limitations.  I’m not willing to risk permanent injury just for bragging rights, no matter how snazzy the medal or the venue is.

Joe is fortunate enough to not have those same limitations so he puts it all out there, pushing his body to the limits.  I am amazed at what he can do.  I get such a thrill watching him race just like when he flies.  The sky and the road are his domains. 

I’m still not sure what my domain is, but I think it involves a Word document and a computer keyboard.  When I write, I am willing to take the time necessary to put forth a piece I’m proud of.  When, as Joe says, “the muse is upon me”, the world stops, well, temporarily at least.  I am a mom after all and we mommies can’t completely check out, but I will admit that sometimes I do spend HOURS writing and re-writing and editing. 

So, if writing is my “thing”, why do I train and race?  Why do I allow myself to get overcooked?  Good question.  The most obvious answer is that it’s a good way to keep fit, and considering how vital my fitness was to my recovery and to my long-term outlook, it’s something that I can’t afford to not do.  I don’t have to race; I could just train, but if you’re not training for something, it’s a slippery slope to not training one day to many days and then doing nothing at all.  Let’s face it, humans are a lazy bunch and I’m no different from the rest. 

And so, I train and race and get overcooked.  I will probably get worse before I get better.  The good news is, like the almonds, I’ve got more in me and my family will still love me, even if I am slightly overcooked. 

Today I will do my last long ride before the race.  Tomorrow will be my last long swim and Monday will be my last long run.  Each day is another day closer to my race, one workout closer.  I know on race day I will be excited and nervous, ready to get going and ready to get done.  I’ll be ready to see what my body can do, if all the cooking has paid off.  I know I will not be a contender for any awards, but when I cross the finish line and hear Joe yelling my name and smiling, I will have my reward.  The overcooking will be worth it. 

P.S.  Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.  It earned five out of five thumbs up in the Matchette house.

Chicken with Roasted Almond and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

2 c. pomegranate juice
4 thin-sliced chicken or turkey breasts
¼ c. + 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
¼ c. chopped tarragon
½ c. sliced almonds, toasted

     1.)   In a large sauté pan, bring pomegranate juice to a full boil.  Cook until reduced to ½ cup, about 7-10 minutes
     2.)  Toast almonds in a small sauté pan
     3.)  Preheat grill/grill pan/broiler on high.  Coat chicken with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Grill or broil until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side, to an internal temperature of 170 degrees F.    
     4.)  Combine pomegranate reduction with tarragon and the ¼ cup olive oil; season to taste with salt and pepper.
     5.)  Spoon pomegranate vinaigrette over chicken and sprinkle with almonds.  Serve with mashed sweet or regular potatoes and green beans.

Serves: 4

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hook me up, Scotty...

I’ve never been a three-bra-hook kind of gal, except of course for when I was nursing, but then when I was nursing, my boobs took on a life of their own.  After my mastectomies, I was no-bra-hook kind of gal for a while.  When I began running again post-mastectomies, I had to get used to the sensation of nothing moving.  Seriously, nothing moved since my skin had adhered to the muscle that was now directly under the surface of my skin.  The loose saggy skin left behind in the aftermath of nursing three kids had been cut away along with the cancer.  It was the weirdest sensation to go running and have no chest movement after thirty years of bounce and yet, it was somewhat freeing.  So this is what it feels like for guys to run.  Interesting, as Jamie would say.  Too bad I still had to wear a shirt.    

Then came reconstruction.  I technically didn’t have to wear a bra anymore to keep things in their proper place; the implants were more than happy to stay perky in the pockets that Dr. C created just for them.  That is, I didn’t while I was just going about my daily business, the mundane stuff anyway – Cinderella chores, taking the kiddos to and fro, PTO stuff, work. 

My daily business though as you all know also includes some form of training.   I discovered early on after my reconstruction that the new “girls” liked to move around when I exercised.  Movement?  Huh?  After many months of no movement, this new movement was a bit disconcerting.  Not wanting to wreak havoc on Dr. C’s handiwork, I decided that I needed to invest in some better quality sports bras than the Target specials that I’d been getting away with for years.  Besides going from a not-even-an-A-cup to a busty B-cup, the Target specials were a bit tight and not at all supportive.  The girls needed to know who was boss!

No, this is not me modeling the bra.
Being an Athleta-sponsored athlete, (shameless plug here) Athleta asks that we, when possible, do product testing and provide feedback, good or bad about their products.  So, needing some good strap-‘em down, lock and load kind of bras, I went to the Athleta website, looked at some reviews, and made my selection – the VaVa Sports Bra  It was rated for high impact sports, something an age-group triathlete/runner like me needs, had mostly good reviews, and last, but definitely the most enticing reason, on sale.  

DANG!  Who knew good bras were so expensive!  These suckers should be made with saffron and silk for the prices you bigger busted gals have to shell out to avoid making a scene when you head out for a simple little workout!!!  But back to the bra… The two biggest complaints noted were that the bra didn’t provide enough support for bigger busted girls (not a problem for me) and that it was a bit of a doozy to get into.  Come on.  Seriously?  How hard could it be to get into a sports bra?!

The bra, when it arrived, looked rather formidable.  It was definitely a “full-coverage” bra in the front that lifted and separated the girls, and for me anyway, strapped them down tightly.  Joe assessment of this bra was more colorful.  He said it “…straps them down so that there is no molecular movement.”  The back was a keyhole back with three hook and eyes to cinch it down.  I can do this I thought.  No problem.  Heck, I’ve been wearing a bra for thirty years what could really be so difficult about getting into this bra?  It didn’t come with a manual for cryin’ out loud.

Not only is it supportive in front,
it's supportive in the back as well.
Unlike a regular bra with hooks and eyes, you can’t just slip the straps down, swivel it around, do up the hooks, turn it around again and pull the straps back up.  Sorry, but I never mastered the hooking of the bra with the straps on my shoulders technique.  Not quite sure why, but I never had, but that little trick has eluded me since the beginning of my bra-wearing career.  Once you get this bra on like a regular sports bra (over your head) you can’t just slip the straps off to do the above-described method of hooking it up.  You must actually hook it up while completely wearing the bra.  Do you now have a great mental picture of me in my bathroom attempting to hook up my bra?  I have actually managed to do it by myself a grand total of twice. 

This morning, I was getting ready for a fifty-mile bike ride w/two of my cycling buddies and had laid out my “lock and load” bra as I affectionately refer to it.  I was soooo close to getting all the hooks done by myself, but perhaps my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet as the task, yet again, eluded me.  Thankfully, as I was wrestling with the monkey on my back known as the VaVa sports bra, Joe entered the bathroom.  Hooray!  Hook me up, Scotty! 

Typically, Joe would much rather be unhooking my bra than hooking it, but he knew I had to get this ride in, so hook it up he did, and off I went.  We are racing Racine 70.3 together in four weeks and I’m trying to fit in as much mileage as possible.  I’m hoping to better my time from 2010, the last and only time I did this race, and when I was still able to wear my Target specials. 

The weather today was perfect for a long bike ride – sunny and in the low sixties.  The company was good as well, two fellow Crazy Joes - Blake and Curtis.  As much as I’d love to ride with Joe, I can’t.  It’s just not fair to him.  A tough ride for me is just a easy little “recovery” ride for him so I ride with friends.  Thankfully, I’m not lacking in friends that will ride with me. :-)  Blake’s wife, Jane, is one of my BC buddies and he and I have raced together for the past couple of years.  Curtis was doing his first long ride after a bad spill a few weeks back.  The three of us ride well together so I was looking forward to a good ride.

The ride was new to me but not to them.  Blake had warned me that it was hilly, but that’s what I wanted.  Racine’s bike course is pretty flat, well, really flat actually, but hill work builds bike endurance and that, in turn, transfers well to run fitness.  So, despite my frequent sarcastic remarks about the hills, I was glad that we did them.   There were some really pretty parts, not much traffic and only two dogs.  “GET OFF OF THE COUCH” to the rescue.

It’s funny, but the hills that are tough for some aren’t nearly as hard for others.  We have one hill that we ride regularly that regularly kicks my butt, while Stef just toodles on up it.  As I curse my gears for not having more choices, she passes me, usually smiling, but not in a ha-ha, I just passed you kind of way; Stef’s just a generally happy person.  Well, she toodles up it when she’s not seven months pregnant like she currently is.  Now she has to work a little harder and I don’t see her pass me much anymore.  I’m sure that will go back to status quo in a few months.

Today, Blake warned me about a particular hill late in our ride.  Greeeeat, I thought.  When the hill showed up, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be.  Surprise, surprise.  Did I fly up said hill?  Come on!  It’s me.  That would be a big fat no!  Still, it was a lot easier than one of the hills earlier in the ride.  Perhaps though, as Blake and Curtis were quick to snicker and point out (Honestly, it’s like riding with two brothers sometimes!), it was because I was in the correct chain ring, unlike earlier in the ride when I wasn’t and only discovered it when I reached the top of the hill.  I'm claiming chemo brain for that one!

After our ride, I was feeling pretty good, in spite of the hills.  I felt like I could have run afterwards, but I didn’t have time.  I had to get home and shower so that we could head off on the next adventure of the day.  Thankfully, that one didn’t require a lock and load bra, or any bra for that matter, just a nice simple tank top, thank you very much.

You’re probably wondering if after my ride, I had trouble getting out of my lock and load ‘em bra.  Surprisingly, no, unhooking the VaVa sports bra is a cinch, but alas, I can’t do “the girl trick” that Joe loves so much.  Would I recommend the three-hook VaVa sport bra?  Not unless you’re better at hooking your bra than I am or you like a little wrestling workout before your normal one.  ;0)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy National Running Day!

Today is National Running Day.  Did you get out there and run?  Did you even know that there was a “National Running Day”?  I did not, but considering the fact that there is a National Donut Day, it just makes sense to have a national running day.  How else will you burn off those Crispy Crèmes? :-)  

A sore, but happy runner
I really had not been planning on running today, but who could resist running on National Running Day?  Being one of those crazy runner people, not me!  I did a long run on Sunday and a short, but fast run yesterday before an almost fifty mile bike ride.  So, I took it easy today and only ran a quick one-mile after a twenty-minute swim and before a 17-mile bike.  Coach Joe just shook his head.  I was only supposed to swim today.   

Those of you that know me well know that I love to run.  Really.  I love to feel the pavement beneath my feet and feel the wind and sunshine kissing my face.  Do I love it everyday?  Nope.  I'm not a big fan of running when it's super hot and humid, otherwise I'm good to go on most days.  I enjoy the companionship of running with a buddy, but I also relish the solitude and the rhythm of running solo.  I really do my best thinking, praying, and detuning while running.  I can go out exhausted emotionally, mentally or physically and come back, even from a short run, rejuvenated, exhilarated. 

I have run since childhood but mostly just for fun.  In high school, I ran on the soccer field but rarely off of it.  Throughout my childhood and even into young adulthood, I would run with my dad for a little one on one time.  Typically our runs were no longer than a few miles, but I enjoyed them immensely.   I can close my eyes and still picture the route we would take, hear the sounds of the crickets and the traffic on those hot summer nights, just enjoying the being with my dad. 

Joe and I ran my first 5K in February of 2007,
 pushing the kids all the way
I am not afraid to run in the dark and still enjoy the solitude of a predawn run.  There’s nothing better than to be out running, watching the sunrise and dawning of a new day.  The day is still full of endless potential.    

I have always liked to run, but I had never run competitively until I did a 5K right before I did my first triathlon.  I still remember when running a mile was exhausting, even before chemo.  I could do a whole hour of step aerobics, but if you made me run, I would be gasping for breath like a fish out of water after only a quarter of a mile or so.  Slowly, year-by-year, I started adding mileage.  First it was 5Ks and then I did my first 10K.  I remember thinking Joe was nuts when he did his first half-marathon.  Now, the siren song of the half-marathon gets to me at least once a year.  My 5Ks have been given over to the kids; I run what they run, encouraging them all the way.
Jubilant after running my first half-marathon

I still remember the first time I told someone that I was a “runner”.  I was in the checkout line at Publix.  I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I do remember feeling like the checker would call my bluff when I told her I was a “runner”.  I don’t look like a typical “runner”.  While I am a thin person with long legs, I am very short, despite what my inner self thinks.  Thankfully, the checker didn’t even blink twice; she actually said something encouraging and I went on my merry way, secure in the fact that I was officially, a “runner”.    

Two of my favorite little runners
Nowadays, I run with more purpose than I did as a kid, and even a few years ago.  Back in my early triathlon days, I ran so that I didn’t collapse at the finish line and end up with one of those, less than flattering finish line pictures.  Now, I run to get faster, to maintain my health and my weight.  I run to see what my body is capable of.  I still smile when I run, relishing in the fact that my legs can carry me to such distances.  I will never be swift or run effortlessly, but running to me is oh so sweet.  Am I a crazy runner?  Yup, and darn proud of it!

So, here’s to National Running Day!  Lace up your kicks and join us crazies.  Who knows, you might end up liking it as much as we do. :0)

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Curse" of the Dragon Tattoo Arm Sleeve

My big bad dragon!
As most of you know, I have a collection of compression arm sleeves that I wear to combat the lymphedema in my left arm secondary to my lymph node removal.  I wouldn’t wear them if I didn’t have to, but such is life.  I have one that has an Asian dragon motif on it, all in purples and blacks and oranges on a flesh-colored sleeve.  If you’re not looking closely or see me from a distance, it’s easy to mistake it for a “real” tattoo.  I really like it as it goes with a lot of different things and it’s a cool looking tattoo that I can take off.

Most of the time, people respond very positively to the sleeves.  Most of the time…

On Tuesday, I wore the abovementioned sleeve.  Lynn and I were out running errands, so we went to Wendy’s for lunch with the kids.  I was standing at the drink fountain while an older gentleman and his grandson filled their cups.  Neither gave me funny looks when the grandfather and I exchanged pleasantries. 

They happened to sit down near us with the man’s wife facing me.  They got themselves situated and then all bowed their heads to pray.  Shortly after that, I started to notice the covert glances and then felt the waves of disapproval emanating from the wife.  “What gives,” I thought to myself?  And then I happened to glance down at my arm.  Aha.  My dragon sleeve was the cause of this good Christian woman’s angst. 

I giggled to myself and filled Lynn in.  Lynn, always a big advocate for me and anything related to my disease, immediately offered to go over and say something to the woman.  Instead, I peeled the offending sleeve off to see if we could get a reaction out her (sassy, I know).  Alas, it didn’t; she wasn’t even looking.  Rats! 

Plan B: I dared Lynn to say something to the woman as we were leaving.  I know she would have too, but Josie needed a cup for water so I decided - no time like the present.  I boldly walked over to the offended woman’s table and politely informed the woman that the tattoo wasn’t real; that I had to wear the sleeve because I had had BREAST CANCER.  “Oh,” she said.  “I was just admiring how well it went with your outfit.” 

That woman is really lucky that I’m typically a polite person because I sooooo wanted to throw down the BS card!  “… how well it went with your outfit,” my foot!  Did she think that I couldn’t read her facial expressions, that I couldn’t feel the disapproval emanating from her body?  Seriously?! 

I try to be a pretty tolerant kind of person.  Of course there are things that I find unusual or sometimes disturbing, but who am I to judge?  It wasn’t like I was being disruptive or that my children were running amok and being obnoxious while I sat there doing nothing.   I was minding my own business and the kids (all five of them) were behaving better than some adults do in restaurants. 

That’s the second time that I’ve had such a negative reaction to my sleeve by a woman who appears to be somewhat “religious”.  The first woman almost asked me to leave her husband’s hospital room when I went to see him for speech therapy after his stroke.  I don’t get it.  Jesus wasn’t judgmental; what gives those women the right to be?

I just have three words for them: “Bless your heart!” ;0)