Monday, January 28, 2013

EN OS, Week 3

Not much to report this week.  Tuesday I went to see our massage terrorist, Ron.  I had initially made the appointment expecting to have him work on my back, hip and legs.  My legs, hips and lower back felt pretty good after the half-marathon, just the usual soreness.  Severe coughing for a week negated any work that I might need on my lower extremities in favor of my back, shoulders, and neck.  Surprisingly, I hadn’t put my ribs out of alignment this time, but everything else was knotted up pretty good.  While it certainly wasn’t a relaxing massage, it was beneficial.  I’m still coughing, but not as badly and my body is now better able to handle it.
Up and on my bike before the crack of dawn

I hit my targets for the bike this week.  On all three rides, I even added intervals.  Joe initially thought that I might need to retest to adjust my thresholds, but then changed his mind since I’ve passing out exhausted in bed before ten each night.  Prior to the Outseason, this was a rarity for me.

My runs this week have been just okay.  Don’t get me wrong – I still love running, it’s just prior to starting the OS, I had been only doing intervals once a week.  And the training plan that I was on had me running almost every day.  Now, I’m running only four days a week and doing intervals or negative splitting on every run.  Parts of each run is challenging, but not overly so.   I have another half-marathon in three weeks so I’m still trying to keep my long-distance fitness on my Sunday runs.
All my running "reminders"

Jo wanted me to skate with her, and
to, "Not talk (to anyone else), Mom!"
I hit my targets this week, however, the run on Sunday was tough.  That’s probably because I got up early on Saturday, did my workout, and then took my Girl Scout troop ice-skating.  Since most of my girls have very little, if any, experience ice-skating (except for mine), Ms. Gen spent most of the two-hour session teaching the girls how to ice-skate.  It’s actually quite a lot of work to keep a bunch of 2nd and 3rd graders upright on the ice and out of harm's way.

Running alongside my partner in crime
One nice thing about my Saturday workout - the kids were asleep for most of it.  Translation: no referring, no interruptions, etc.  When it was time to do my run, Joe was doing his bike workout on his trainer so we actually exercised next to each other for a time in comfortable silence.  Comfortable silence is probably a misnomer since we were both huffing and puffing while doing intervals, the uber-strong fan was blowing fake wind in our faces, the treadmill was humming and Joe’s rhythmic pedaling did make a little noise, but you get the idea...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

EN Outseason Week 2, Part 2

Who knew what an impact my comment about eating a turnip would have?  Boy, oh boy.  While most people that commented wished me well, there were several comments about the turnip as well.  It’s just a veggie, people, not something weird like escargot.  It makes me giggle that my eating habits caused such a stir. :-)

Turnips - It's what's
for snack.
If you must know, the turnip is actually pretty nutritious.  It’s loaded with vitamins B6 and C as well as folate, calcium, manganese, potassium, copper and dietary fiber.  Really – check it out for yourself… Turnip Nutrition
Even Joe tried them

When I last blogged, I was gearing up to get on the treadmill for a short run.  Yeah, that was an epic fail!  I managed to walk, not run for fifteen minutes and then I was D-O-N-E.  I showered and climbed back into bed where I remained for the rest of the day, again.   I had a little bit of energy by the end of the day so I “taught” Joe how to assemble lasagna.  In reality, Joe watched and I assembled it and then he put it into the oven. 

By Thursday, I was feeling somewhat human.  My fever was just low-grade, but the coughing continued.  I was, in fact, feeling human enough to saddle up for bike workout #2.  It wasn’t pretty, but I hit all of my targets.  My chest was burning when I was done and instead of unclipping my shoes from my pedals, I just slid my feet out and shakily dismounted.  I quickly got into the shower and dressed.  I think the ride helped to rejuvenate me a bit, something I desperately needed after two days in bed.

Friday, ah Friday.  Joe told me that I’d actually start to look forward to my rest days and he was correct about this one.  Against Joe’s better judgment, I was still planning on running the half marathon on Saturday so I really needed that rest day.  Not that I hadn’t been “resting” for two of the three days prior, but that was a different kind of rest. 

My sweet old girl
As luck would have it, my sweet, little old kitty Tessa has been off of her food for a week or so.  I had started her on canned food in hopes of getting some weight back on her.  Alas, the only thing it did was cause her some GI distress.  She was starting to get that scroungy cat look and was very lethargic.  Having had two elderly kitties with kidney problems, I wanted to make sure she wasn’t headed down that road as well.  Off to the vet we went, me hacking away as we went. 

Thankfully, the vet thought she was all right and that her GI issues could be easily remedied with a little pro-biotics.  Apparently, we’re not the only species that a good pro-biotic can be beneficial for.  Truly, after a couple of days on the pro-biotic she does look a little perkier, but she’s still not eating much. 

The afternoon was spent helping stuff race packets and then leading my sweet Girl Scouts at their meeting.   One of our assistants was running her first half the next day and was nervous to say the least.  Being the good team mom that I am, I, of course, invited her over for pizza at our house.  Cori’s S.O. is our training buddy and “little brother” (and occasionally mistaken for Joe’s son) who just happens to be deployed right now.  We told her all those things that you always tell someone before their first big event – she was gonna do great; she was prepared; we’d all be there cheering for her, etc.  I like to think that we alleviated some of her fears.

Before the weekend, I asked Joe how I should handle my weekend workouts with the race being on Saturday.  He told me since it was a race weekend, to just flip my workouts – run on Saturday and bike on Sunday.  No problem.  If I was still feeling crummy, I knew I could slog it out for a couple of hours and then collapse into bed again. 

Saturday morning dawned clear, calm and cold, like 29 degrees cold.  Perfect!  Yes, this root veggie-eating girl actually prefers to run in the cold than in the heat.  My thing is - you can always take clothes off if you get too hot in the cold weather, but you can only take so much off when it’s hot.  No one needs to see that much of my junk trucking down the road! I just love that crispness in the air of cold mornings.  You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but I guess you can’t take Wisconsin out of the girl. 

Some of our Crazy Joes before braving the cold.
We arrived early since I had volunteered to help with packet pick-up.  I love helping out on race mornings - to give people a few encouraging words and a wide, warm smile.  I know all too well how alone and scared one can feel at your first big race, especially if it’s not in your own town or you don’t have your athletic supporters with you.   

Despite having run over a dozen half-marathons in the past five years, I still get a little nervous.  I’ve gotten my PR and I know I can run the distance on any given day.  I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone but myself.  Saturday was no different.  I was honestly going out to just have fun and to finish.  It was to be my first race wearing my Newtons and no orthotics and sick to boot, so I wasn’t sure how my feet and legs would fare.

For years, I’ve worn K-Swiss K’ona running shoes.  Like most runners, it took me several brands and styles of running shoes before I found one that worked for me. I’ve worn the K’onas for about four years and have loved them!  I always had two pairs to train in and had my orthotics in my pair that I ran long races/runs in.  (I wear orthotics because my metatarsals on my left foot are too close together and cause pain when I run long distances.)

In the past year or so, I’ve really been focusing more on improving my running skills.  I finally admitted that I really did need to <gasp> do intervals to improve my running fitness and times.  And, to be able to extend my running career and save what was left of my pre-arthritic knees and hips, I had made the shift to running more and more on the treadmill, saving outside runs for races and special treats. 

All that was left was to focus on my gait.  Like Joe with his neon pink aero helmet, you can spot me coming from a quarter of a mile away by my gait.  I don’t know if it’s a direct result of breaking my leg when I was twenty-one and having to relearn to run or that I’ve run funny my whole life, but truth be told, I have a goofy gait.  Perhaps it’s because I run with a slow cadence.  Whatever is the cause, when I run, my right leg kicks out at a weird angle. 

My cool Newtons
Friends and training buddies have been trying to convince me to try Newtons for about a year.  I loved my K’onas so I’ve been giving the Newtons the Heisman.  With all of my efforts now geared to improving my running, I finally decided I should perhaps give them a try.  The first couple of times I tried them on, I reaaalllly wasn’t too sure about them.  They were nice and light, but the structure of the sole was weird.  I told myself that I’d get a pair and start training in them after I ran the half-marathon with Joe’s sister, Becky.

Right before Christmas, Joe bought me a pair of Newtons' Disancias – the neon pink and yellow version.  Whoo hoo!  They looked cool, but would I love the feel as much as the look?  I dutifully started out wearing them for very short runs, increasing my mileage in them by half-mile increments each week.  The difference was amazing.  After only one week, I could immediately feel the difference when I changed back into my K’onas to finish my runs.  My feet liked the Newtons way better! 

When we went to Colorado for Christmas, I chose not to bring my Newtons to cut down on packing and, because I knew I wouldn’t be getting much running done.  I had been running four miles in my Newtons before Christmas so when we got back, I decided to make the leap; to see if my years of running in somewhat minimalist shoes would be good enough to go the distance in the Newtons.  I figured if my feet or legs started to hurt, I could switch into my K-Swiss and finish my long run.  Twelve miles in my Newtons felt great; I had happy feet.  I was thoroughly hooked on my Newtons!  Still, I’d only run in them on the treadmill.  Would they feel just as good outside and at the higher cadence that I’d been trying to run?  Had my gait really “improved”?

Despite his earlier protestations that I not run, Joe started singing a different tune Saturday morning, telling me he thought I could PR again.  What?!  I marveled at his change of attitude, but kept it to myself.  I repeatedly told him that I was just gonna run what felt comfortable and cross when I did.  New shoes, new gait, new cadence, and sick to boot.  Not a good recipe for a PR to be sure.

Nauseated, but triumphant
in 2011
Being the creature of habit that I am, I love this race.  It was the first half-marathon that I’d ever run and I run it every year.  I even ran it three days after a kick-your-ass chemo session – nauseous, but determined to run it again.  I will be sad when we move and I can’t do this race anymore, but for now, it’s one of the highlights of my race season. :0)  Each mile, each turn is like an old friend.  I know that once I hit the hill at mile 10, I have only one more small hill by the horse stables and then I’m home free.  I know when to start listening for the crowds at the finish line and to start looking for my peeps.  Yes, there is comfort in the repetition of doing this race every year.

Mile 8-9 with my Newtons buddy,
Diana, and yes, smiling.
Perhaps it was because I was doped up on cough medicine, but I had a great time during the race.  Not wanting to send myself into a coughing fit and asphyxiate myself like I’d been doing in the days leading up to the race, I ran at a very comfortable pace.  I was cognizant of my cadence for most of the race although, me being me, I did get distracted regularly and would have to rein myself back in.  I think I was smiling for more than ¾ of the race.  Really.  I felt so incredibly lucky to be there, doing what I loved with a bunch of my friends.  I had great songs on my iPod and for each song, I ran for someone special.  I felt blessed to have so many special someones in my life!  The miles flew by.
Mile 12 and still smilin'

I truly felt wonderful for most of the race.  I had no problems with cramping, none!   Yay for turnips!  My nutrition was dialed in, my wardrobe was dialed in, my mindset was dialed in.  I ran mile nine with one of my training buddies and Newtons mentor, Diana.  The hill at mile ten was a little tough, but not as tough as in years past.  Mile twelve-thirteen I ran for a friend who is battling pancreatic cancer.   I pray that her chemo works as well as mine did.  And then, the finish line was right in front of me. 

Striding to the finish line 
While I didn’t PR, I came in right at two hours.  Not bad for someone who was laid up in bed with the flu three days before the race!  The only problem I had was from mile twelve to mile thirteen, I had several instances where it felt like someone grabbed my heart and gave it a really tight squeeze and then let go.  I felt like maybe I skipped a beat or something.  Each time, it made me catch my breath and slow down a bit.  I had not gone that far to pass out just before the finish line.  I always tell myself when my mind starts to try to sweet talk me out of accomplishing my goal, “You can walk/puke when you’re done.”   Nope.  I was gonna cross that finish line on my own volition, no need for someone to drag me across <I love that slogan, btw>.

Joe took his age-group.  I finished.
Cool medal this year!
I couldn’t breathe when I finished and, of course, had a coughing fit, but after a couple of puffs on the old inhaler, I was good to go in a few minutes.  I had promised Cori that I’d go out and pace her in if I was capable.  So, I handed my medal and my race belt to Joe and started walking back on the course to find her.  I cheered people on as I came upon them, telling them they were x # of turns to the finish line, or whatever it looked like they needed to hear at that moment.  I saw many friends on their way in (I apparently was one of the first few of our crew to finish).  This is the part I love about racing – seeing all my friends and training buddies on the course.  I snapped pix and gave hugs and high-fives.  Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader! 

Cori and ENer Blake at mile 12
When I found Cori, she was running with Blake and hurting.  Something had happened to her foot and she was not a happy camper, but she was determined to finish.  Blake went on ahead and I stayed with Cori.  Slowly, walking and running, we made our way to the finish line.  I ran ahead to get pix at the finish line for her.   We all cheered her in, proud and happy to welcome another to our ranks of “half-marathoners”.  She immediately said she would NEVER run a full marathon to which I laughed and told her that’s what we all say… 
Proud of this girl!

All and all, it was a good day, but I still had a bike and run workout scheduled for Sunday.  Typically, I do my workouts when the kids are still in bed or at school.  Yesterday, we all slept in so, I ended up doing my workout while they started on their weekend chores and on each other.  Joe’s trainer is in our sunroom with my treadmill, but there is not enough room for my trainer as well, so my trainer is in the living room - right where the kids have direct access to me. 

Trying to get a workout in with children around is like trying to talk on the phone or go to the bathroom by yourself.  Joe can close the door when he’s on his bike and keep them away.  I cannot.  The sniping started immediately.  And then, there were the requests and the tattling.  I don’t know why I even bothered to put my iPod on.  Finally, I told them all rather firmly to, “Please stop talking to me and turned up my headphones so that I couldn’t hear them.  Thereafter, when they tried to approach me, I would shake my head and give the “I can’t hear you…” sign. 

Joe had told me that the second set of fifteen-minute intervals at Z3 would feel easier than the first two sets of eight-minute intervals at Z4.  Uh-huh.  Who was he kidding?   How could that be?  Eight minutes was almost half as short as fifteen minutes.  But, yet again, he was right.  The two fifteen minute intervals did feel easier, but not the twenty-minute run afterwards.  No, that my friends was hard.  And, to top it off, Coach Joe pointed out that my cadence was too slow.  “I ran a half-marathon yesterday!  I’m tired!” I whined.  And then, because I’m really trying to be a good EN disciple, I pushed myself, increased my cadence, and finished my run.  You know what?  The second half of my run was slightly easier at the higher cadence. 

Here’s to today’s rest day – this week, I EARNED it!  And, in case you were wondering, Joe says that my gait has changed.  Now, you can’t pick me out by my gait, just by my uber-cool neon shoes.   
A well-deserved nap after a rough week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

EN OS Week 2, Part 1

I am ill.  I don’t get ill.  Other people get ill.  That was why I fought so hard when I went on my little cancer adventure.  Gen does not get ill.  And, if I do end up a bit under the weather, I tough it out.  It takes A LOT for me to admit that I’m ill.

So, when I woke up with a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose the other day, I thought it must be allergies.  As a person who is new to the allergy game, I still haven’t figured out when they strike.  With all this wacky, warm weather in January, I figured it’s possible that stuff is blooming really early, triggering an earlier than normal commencement of allergy season.

Alas, such was not the case.  Day 2, I woke up with the aforementioned symptoms as well as sneezing and a runny nose.  Yesterday, the cough and itchy ears started.  I managed to get through my bike workout.  I was not entirely jazzed about doing it, but I had positioned my running shoes next to my bike as motivation.  I would occasionally glance longingly over at them, telling myself, "Only one more interval.  Only thirty more minutes.  Only ten more minutes.  Okay, you’re done.  Time to run!"  Only, when it was time to run, I wasn’t super-jazzed about running either.  I dutifully put on my running shoes though and headed out for my short and easy fifteen minute run. 

I did my stretching, took a shower, got out, and got dressed.  I was planning on icing my knees and soaking my foot in Epsom salts when the shivering started.  Uh-oh.  My body felt hot and cold at the same time and, I was attempting to hack up a lung.  I checked my temp – 102.1.  Really?  That couldn’t be!  I did the thermometer four different times and each time yielded the same thing.  I had to admit it; I was sick.

I hate being sick.  I’m too busy to be sick.  Joe and the kids need me.  I can’t be sick.  Who was going to make dinner?  What would Joe say when he got home to dirty breakfast dishes still in the sink?  Frankly, at that point, my GSF was pretty low.  And, to be perfectly honest, Joe probably wouldn’t have noticed, being more concerned about my well being than a bunch of syrup-encrusted plates piled in the sink.

Louie, my new nurse-cat
I rummaged in our vast stores of medicines from when I was going through chemo.  Surely, I had something that would knock out my symptoms.  Ah, here was a little Nyquil.  Here were some assorted allergy/cold meds.  I settled on the Sudafed since that had the ingredients that my body was craving to get all the crap out of my system; I would save the Nyquil for bedtime. 

I downed two capsules with a full glass of water – I get soooo dehydrated when I take antihistamines.  YUCK!!!  I filled up a water bottle, popped Pride and Prejudice in the Blue-Ray, and proceeded to collapse into a fitful slumber.  I woke at regular intervals with a hacking fit and then would fall back to sleep.  At two-thirtyish, my body decided it might be a little hungry so I ate a banana and a turnip and drank copious amounts of tea. 

By dinnertime, I was feeling somewhat more human so I dragged myself into the kitchen and made dinner.  Joe offered to go and get something, but I had things in the fridge that needed to be used up.  It’s one of those weeks where I cook two of something and then make two different recipes.  Joe and kids could have probably handled making lasagna, but not picadillo. 

Michelle came home from school with the same symptoms that I did and went right to bed.  Poor kid.  If I looked anything like she did, I looked pretty awful.  I actually did sit down to dinner with Joe, Jamie and Josie, but I really wanted to just lie back down.  I haven’t felt like that since chemo.  What in the heck was wrong with me?  Why was this silly cold knocking me for such a loop???

I think it’s residual effects of the chemo and the chemo-induced asthma.  While I feel great most of the time, I’ve noticed that it does take me a bit longer to recover from things than it used to.  Since I’m such an asthma/allergy newbie, I guess that just falls along the same line.  Like the straight hair that I ended up with after chemo, this is a side effect that I’m not particularly stoked about.  As Mrs. Bennet says, it “vexes me”.  I know, I know.  It’s probably supposed to teach me to slow down, right?  Sorry, but I’m not buying that Kool-aid.

Being that it’s only the second week of the Outseason, I was worried about already missing a workout, so I laid out my clothes for my Wednesday run.  Joe watched me dubiously.  Even this morning, he told me that I could skip this workout and I’d be all right; in fact I ought to skip the workout so that I didn’t end up paying out even more later on.  Our conversation went like this:

            Gen: Do you really think I should skip my run this morning?
            Joe: Yes.  You’ll pay for it later if you try.
            Gen: Are you sure?
            Joe: Yes!  Have you seen yourself?!
            Gen: Eh. I suppose…
Joe: If you really want to do something, just walk for thirty minutes.  Skip the intervals.
Gen: Okay.  I guess you’re right. (Joe is almost always right.)

I did take a good look at myself in the mirror.  I was pale and I had deep circles under my eyes.  I feel like I’ve been beaten with a 2x4 about my ribcage, shoulders, and abs.  My fever is down to only low-grade, but I have a splitting headache and I’m still trying to cough up a lung.  Luckily, both lungs still seem firmly in place.  I have my running clothes on and I did both of my inhalers, coughing between each puff.  I think I will try to walk on the treadmill and see how it goes.  While my symptoms may win out for another day, I’m not going down without a little bit of a fight!  I didn’t when I was going through chemo, so I’m not gonna let a cold take me out either!

Monday, January 14, 2013

EN Outseason Training Report, Week 1

Joe has asked that I blog about my experiences with the Endurance Nation Outseason Training Plan, so here it goes…

I must start with four truths:

1.     I am a creature of habit!  I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning (except on race mornings, of course).  I vary my workouts very little and I like my routines.  I used to do my long runs on Mondays, but recently switched to Sundays just for logistical reasons.  Wednesdays and Saturdays were group ride days, etc.  When I run outside, I run the same routes.  If you need anything from a quick and easy three mile to a more challenging 18-miler, I’m your girl.
2.     Try as I might, I don’t always listen to my darling spouse who is so much more knowledgeable about most things, not just training stuff.  If he says do three miles, I do four.  I am stubborn, and my bull-headedness gets in the way sometimes, well, if I’m being honest, a lot of times.
3.     I do not like rest days.  I’m like a caged cat on rest days – restless, cranky, and antsy.  I am NOT a fun person to be around.  I know this, but I don’t know what to do to combat it other than throw myself into whatever else I can scrounge up to do on rest days, even if that means <gasp!> cleaning the toilets and floors.  Logically, I know my body needs to rest, heal and recharge, but for someone with a bit of AD/HD it’s a difficult thing to do.
4.     I do not possess raw talent.  I work for all that I achieve.  And, while I don’t work as hard as I did when I was younger, I still work.  I am willing to push myself only so far though.  I often joke that I’m okay with my B-status.

When people find out that Joe is a 4X Ironman, they invariably ask if I’m going to do one as well.  “Nope” I tell them.  “I only do half-Ironman because I’m only half-assed”.  I’m just not willing to put in the necessary time/training to complete a full Ironman.  

I’ve run two full marathons to prove to myself that I can, but I don’t fancy doing anymore.  I’ve met my goal of running a sub-two hour half-marathon and, like Frozone in The Incredibles says, “I’m good.”  Would I like to be faster?  Sure.  Who wouldn’t, but for me, the bigger joy of racing is being out on the course with friends and cheering them on.

Joe has repeatedly tried to get me on the EN bandwagon.  He’s all about the numbers and message boards and understands the lingo.  He can compartmentalize all the info that’s on the message boards.  Me?  I kinda understand some of the lingo, but not really, and those message boards – ack!  It’s too overwhelming.  I’ve seen his email inbox; it seems like ¾ of the messages are from the EN forums.  I don’t have time to sift through all that.  I am not a browser; I like to get in and be done and move on to other things.  Again, methinks it’s that AD/HD component of my personality.  Perhaps that’s why I enjoy triathlon – I get to constantly switch sports before I get bored.

So, it was with trepidation that I agreed to try the EN Outseason Plan.  Joe swears by EN and a couple of other friends had tasted the Kool-aid and reported that it was good so, I reluctantly agreed.  Joe thought I was ready for the Intermediate OS Plan, but I wasn’t so sure.  I felt fairly confident in my running skills, but my biking skills not so much.  I am constantly training for some half-marathon or other, so biking tends to get put to the wayside.  Unlike Joe, I do not like riding solo in the slightest; it actually scares the begeepers out of me!  Seriously, I say a little prayer each time I venture out by myself and than do the same when I return home, unscathed.

I was pushing for the Beginner plan and, thanks to my insistence and the advice of Joe’s fellow ENers, that’s what I got.  Joe and I agreed that we would start the out-season with everyone else after the New Year.  I was nervous to say the least.  I wasn’t sure how it would work with my already scheduled two half-marathons, but we’d work that out when the time came.  I was also worried that I would have to back off on my running to fit in with the training schedule.  As I said, I had a lot of trepidation.  Joe will tell you that I have a teensy bit of a tendency to overreact.  Or, as he likes to say, I go from “zero to overkill…”

I am not a strong cyclist; I think I am mediocre at best.  When I’m out in front on group rides, it just means the fast kids didn’t show up that day.  I was nervous about the bike test.  Enter Trainer Road <insert trumpet fanfare here>.  OMG.  This little training tool is uber-cool!  I am such a visual person.  Numbers confuse and distract me, but lines and pretty colors can hold my interest.  Trainer Road rocks!  After only two workouts, I told Joe that it was well worth the monthly fee!  Granted, I don’t know if the proof is in the pudding yet, but as far as a training tool, I’m all for it!

So, you got it – I love the sights and sounds of Trainer Road, but let me tell you…  that bike test sucked!  Yuck!  Yuck!  Yuck!!!  I did NOT enjoy myself.  But, I did discover by examining the little graph after the fact, that, as I suspected, I tend to be stronger the longer I go.  I am not a sprinter; I am a distance person.  The same goes for my running.  The little graph showed me that I was much more inconsistent at the beginning of my workouts than I was at the end of them.

Post RunTest - shaky & winded,
but not feeling like I wanted to puke.
Thankfully, last week I needed to get back on track with my Girl Scout agendas and the like so I spent one rest day doing that.  The run test wasn’t nearly as bad as the bike test, but I did do it on the treadmill.  And, I love to run.  While I enjoy biking and swimming, I really love to run.  Even on those days when I can’t get the motivation to run, I make myself run because I know as soon as I get going, I really will enjoy myself.

The rest of the week’s workouts were manageable.  For each workout, I snuck in a little more than was required, extra interval sets on the bike, a little faster than the prescribed Z4 target pace on the runs.  I have a race on Saturday, so my last long run was this Sunday, tacked on to my main set, of course.  And then, we did a little 4-mile time trial with our local bike store.  I did all right, averaging 18.8 mph, which is actually a stellar pace for me, but my lungs were burning and I felt like I wanted to barf when I was done <always the sign of a good workout, right? >.  Darn, asthma! 

A little TT after a 12-mile run?  Sure, why not?
We'll see how I feel next week.
Joe, being Crazy Joe, did not only the TT as a single rider, but also agreed to be part of a team.  But, he did not run twelve miles in the morning, nor is he an asthmatic.  And, he’s a waaaaaay better cyclist than I am. 

Surprisingly, I’m not too sore today.  Tired, but not very sore at all.  I’ve got a case of achy knees, but that’s par for the course.   Nothing that a little ice, K-T tape, and Ibuprofen can’t fix!  And, I think with all of this crazy weather in GA, my allergies are either rearing their ugly heads or I’m at the start of a cold – cough, stuffy nose, scratchy throat, etc.  Ah well.  It just makes life interesting and helps build up my stamina, right?

So, what am I going to do today on my rest day?  Well, this week, I’m gonna help out at the soup kitchen.  I get to be in the kitchen, cooking – another something that I love to do.  What could be better?  Perhaps a quick run????     

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Our New Baby

We have become new parents again!
We would like to introduce our newest baby:

Louie L’Amour Matchette
Born: June 7, 2012.

We were not planning on adopting, but fate intervened and such as it is.

Louie is a joy and a delight and we all adore him.  He is such a sweet and good-natured baby.  After only a couple of nights at home, he was sleeping through the night, cuddled up between Joe and me.  He still cries when he needs something, but is easily pacified.  There is evidence of his arrival everywhere – new toys, new furniture, new attire.  It’s been so long since we’ve had a baby in the house, I couldn’t help myself.  The kids are just as bad - they each had to get him something.  Joe is just happy that his brood is content with the new addition.

Here is our sweet baby boy…  

Our sweet boy!

Since we weren’t planning to adopt another kitty, you are probably wondering how in the world did we end up with one since the majority of the family is actually jonesin’ for a dog?  Josie’s letters to Santa for the past two years have had repeated pleas for a Golden Retriever puppy!  I, too, am one of the “Let’s get a dog” proponents.  I have even made Joe promise that he will get Josie a dog before she turns sixteen although I’m sure Jamie wouldn’t say no if one ended up in his Christmas stocking either.

The story of how we came to adopt Louie probably started back in October of 2011 when my beloved Sneakers died.  Not a day has gone by that I don’t miss that big fuzzy boy.  Often times when I’m on the treadmill in the early hours of the morning, I will look up, expecting him to come padding into the sunroom to greet me with his sweet chirp, his tail gently waving, a trick that I think he learned as a kitten from my Golden Retriever Buddy.    

I regularly go to PetSmart to buy the girls’ (Tessa and Murphy, not Michelle and Josie) cat food.  Of course, me being me, I MUST stop in and pet the kitties when I am there.  I feel like if I can give them a few moments of socialization and sweetness, perhaps it will help them get adopted.  Translation:  I am a HUGE sucker for animals!

During my October visit, there was a cage of three kittens right by the door.  There were two females and one little boy - an orange tabby.  Their descriptions read that they were all friendly.  I, of course, put my hand up to their cage.  Zoe, a brown tabby, wanted nothing to do with me.  Stella, an all black female, at least came over and gave me a perfunctory nuzzle and mew.  Louie, on the other hand, climbed the cage.  He purred.  He mewed at me when I would walk away.  There was a beautiful older cat in another cage with a sign that read, “VERY friendly!”  I tried wheedling him down off of his perch to pet him, but this “very friendly” cat was not interested in me.  Okay.  No skin off of my nose.  I was sure that Louie, with his engaging personality, would have not difficulties getting himself adopted.

Fast forward to November.  Louie and his sisters were still there!  This time, neither girl could be bothered with me, but ah, Louie was exactly the same.  He even added reaching his paw out of his cage as far as he could to reach out to me as I walked away to his repertoire.  I couldn’t understand how such a sweet kitty hadn’t been adopted yet.  I even went home that afternoon and told Jamie and Josie about him.

Louie's paper picture
As I was flipping through the Sunday paper the weekend before Christmas, I came across the section where the paper has pictures of the animals up for adoption from the local shelters.  There was Louie!  I relayed my story to Joe about meeting Louie and what a sweetie he was.  The kids wanted to go and see him – TODAY!  Michelle has always wanted an orange tabby.  Who was I to point out that she already had a cat? 

Joe agreed to just “go and meet him” after church.  I told Joe that if Louie was gone, that was fine with me, but I hated the thought of him languishing in a cage at PetSmart for another month. 

PetSmart was crowded and loud with all of the animals up for adoption and the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers.  Louie and his sisters were still there all right.   I asked a young woman if we could get Louie out.  She told me that we could only get him out if we were serious about adopting him.  I looked at Joe and he gave his consent.  While we waited for someone to get him out, the young woman peppered us with questions – questions about our home, what kinds of animals we’d had, our cat history, why we were so interested in Louie, etc.  Turns out, she was Louie’s foster mom and that she’d had him since the day he was born.  She admitted that she was very attached to him and was very picky about who she would allow to adopt him.

As we all took turns holding, petting and cuddling Louie, the young woman continued with her barrage of questions.  Apparently, our kitty owner pedigree was good enough.  Our only question: if we adopted him, could she keep him until we got back from Christmas vacation?  The answer was yes, and with a little paperwork and an exchange of phone numbers, we had adopted a new kitten. 

Louie loves his dad best!
We got home from our vacation on December 30th at 4:15pm.  By 5:00pm, Louie was home.  We quarantined him in our bathroom until he used the litter box and to give Tessa and Murphy time to get used to his scent.  One by one Joe and the kids came in with Louie and me.  One by one, they were as smitten with him as I was. 

That night, we let him out of the bathroom and he cried until we put him on our bed where he promptly settled in between the two of us, purring.  Tessa slept under the bed that night, but every night since, they both sleep on our bed – Tessa in her usual spot by my feet and Louie curled up between us or stretched out at one of our sides, purring.

Louie & Jamie, chillin'
Louie is the most friendly, laid-back, and mellow kitty that we’ve had since Tasha.  While Sneakers was friendly and Tessa is super-sweet, neither one was mellow or laid-back with everyone.  Louie has all the personality traits of the cats that we have loved best, all rolled into one orange ball of purring fur.  I love walking around the house with him purring on my shoulder.  Joe and Jamie love sitting with Louie lounging on his back in their laps.  The girls love to play with him.  And, he is always purring!  I joke that he’s like the primer buttons on a lawnmower – as soon as you touch him, he’s purring.  If only a lawn mower started so easily.  Louie will seek us out by mewing and is happy to be where we are. 

Mic and Louie
Josie loves Louie even
though he isn't a puppy.
The furry girls are still getting used to him.  We decided that Louie was not going to be declawed.  I haven’t had a cat that wasn’t declawed since my first cat, Tigger, when I was a small child.  Joe’s cats were never declawed.  We figured that if Murphy was going to try to bully a kitten like she did Tessa, we’d better give him a fighting chance.  It actually has become a family joke.  Whenever Murphy would walk by one of us before we got Louie, we told her, “Oooh!  You have no idea how your life is going to change!”   Honestly, we were hoping that Louie would knock the snot out of her and hopefully become Tessa’s protector.   Seriously.  Murphy is a big bully, but she is Michelle’s cat and we, therefore, try to make the best of it.
Louie knows that Tessa is the boss!

Tessa and Louie took very little time to get used to one another.  He is already two pounds bigger than she is, but my Tessa doesn’t let that stop her.  During the first week Louie would occasionally growl at her in an attempt to assert his dominance to which Tessa just gave him an icy glare and he backed down.  Or, a couple of times when she’s been very near to me, I’ve heard her give a very low, very motherly “you’d better not even try it” kind of noise from deep in her throat.  Louie is not stupid.  Whatever he is doing, he immediately ceases and desists.  Tessa is boss and that’s that!  Well, except when there is peanut butter involved.  I discovered that our little boy LOVES peanut butter and will do just about anything to get it!!!  He even stole a peanut butter pretzel right out of my hand and polished off the whole thing in about a minute flat.

An example of how mellow
he is - half under the mattress
Now, Murphy, well…  Their relationship is still a work in progress.  Murphy makes a lot of noise, but she hasn’t plucked up the courage to get close to Louie yet.  I know a blowup is coming; I’m just not sure how it’s going to pan out.   

The only advantage that Murphy will have is that we think that Louie might have some hearing problems.  He doesn’t respond to sounds that usually drive cats wild – crinkly cellophane, here kitty, kitty, etc.  He relies very much on his sight and he watches our faces constantly.  He does hear some sounds, but not nearly all that one would expect a healthy kitten to hear.  The vet said that Louie had a lot of wax in his ears and gave us some drops.  If the hearing problems persist after he’s done with the ear drops, the damage will likely be permanent.  But, she said, of all the families that could have a special needs kitty, we were probably one of the best.  I am happy to report that his hearing does seem to be improving, but he still doesn’t respond as quickly or as intensely to sounds like a normal hearing kitty does.
My 'Lil Louie

Trying out the treadmill
We don’t care.  We are thrilled to have a new baby in the house.  We all laugh at his antics and think it’s very apropos that he seems to always have a streak of bike chain grease on various parts of his body.  Joe told Louie the other day as he was holding him on his back and as Louie’s purred loudly that he was “shaping up to be a pretty good cat”.  And, this morning, as Joe stood smiling and tickling Louie’s chin while Louie purred his big booming purr, I told him that he was getting to be as dopey about that kitten as I was.  He just nodded and continued.

This was in the paper the day we got Louie.
Ah, I do love having a baby in the house again. :0)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ending Last Year and Starting the New Year Out Right :-)

                                                                Happy New Year!!!

I am very excited to start this New Year.  I'm starting the year with no treatments or surgeries scheduled.  Yee haw!  I had appointments with my favorite surgeon and my favorite oncologist right before Christmas and both said I was doing fabulously.  My blood work is status quo.  My hemoglobin and white blood cell counts were low and my liver enzymes were slightly elevated but nothing out of the ordinary.  My tumor marker was great as well.  

Dr. C says that I don’t have to wear my compression sleeve everyday anymore, just every other day.  That is, unless I start noticing more swelling than normal.  Dr. B told me that the reduced sensation in my fingertips (and arm as I discovered when I burned myself) still might get better in the next twelve months.  I have to go back to see the both at the end of February/early March and then I’m down to seeing them every four months for a couple of years.  I'm back to my same old busy life and for that, I’m thankful.  :-)

The lead-up to the New Year was even more busy than usual, so I apologize for the tardiness of this report.  In addition to getting ready for Christmas, we made the decision in the summer to go to Colorado for Christmas.  It gave us a perfect excuse to go see Lynn, Al, and the kids as well as give our kids their first taste of skiing.  Joe and I have been wanting to take them skiing for several years, but that plan had to take a backseat for a bit while we went on a little cancer adventure instead.

Joe Skier
This year was the perfect year to give it a whirl.  There was much packing and planning to be done to get a family of five cross-country for a vacation that involved not just presents, but snow gear as well.  I had been scouring websites for months looking for good deals on snow pants, boots, gloves, goggles and the like.  By the beginning of December, I had the kids’ and my gear squared away.  I wasn’t worried about Joe since Joe was "Joe Skier" back in the day.  Yeah.  That was not a good plan. 

Days before we were to leave, Joe and I had this conversation:

Me: Are you sure you don’t need anything?  Gloves?  Snow pants?  Long underwear?
            Joe: Well, maybe some snow pants?

Thankfully, I had a bit of time and was able to run to the sporting goods store in town where they, thankfully, had suitable snow pants on sale.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute, Joe.

After packing up the car almost to the gills and one of those clamshell do-hickies that you put on the top of your car, and thanks to some wonderfully accommodating teachers at Michelle’s middle school, the kids were all suddenly “ill” on the last day of school before break and we were OFF!   Actually, Josie was ill, well, carsick anyway.  The Puking Princess/Barfing Beauty gets carsick if we wake her up too early and put her in the car on an empty stomach.  Even if we feed her as we’re pulling out of the driveway, it’s a crapshoot.  This time, we lost.  Yet again, it was a perfect example of why children need two parental figures in their lives.  ;-)  In my defense, she had the same reaction not even two weeks prior and accidentally dumped the contents of the barf bucket in my car.    

Topeka, KS 
The day did get better as we drove north and then west.  Thank goodness the kids are such good travelers!  The first day we did a marathon-driving day of sixteen hours in order to avoid driving in that really bad storm that moved from the Pacific Northwest across the plains states the week before Christmas.  We made it all the way to Topeka, which the kids thought was really funny to say.  Apparently, they have some chorus warm-up that involves saying “Topeka”.  Kansas, we discovered, is a VERY LONG, FLAT and WINDY state!  

The next morning, we drove from Topeka to Colorado Springs through the aftermath of the storm.  It was still very windy and icy.  Joe refused to let me drive through the worst of it.  Not that I grew up in Wisconsin and drove back and forth to college in the occasional blizzard or even whiteout.  Part of me wanted to “prove myself” that I could still do it, but part of me was happy to just play passenger.

GPS is a grand invention, however, we need to change some of the settings or at least change where we put it so that the backseat drivers can’t see it.  Instead of the “Are we there yet?” comments of old, we got the “We’re gonna be there in six hours!”  Never mind that we had to stop for potty breaks, driver changes or food and gas.  While we didn’t get the “Are we there yet?” we did get the “When are we gonna see the mountains?”  Did I mention that Kansas is very long and flat?  Of course, when the mountains did come into view, everyone was asleep, even Joe.

Mic was the first to wake up when I announced that the
mountains were visible.  She wasn't excited.  Nope.
The "experts"
The "not-quite-ready-for-
primetime" skiers
Our time in Colorado was delightful!  The Setos were excellent hosts and we all fell back into our old routines.  We spent two days near Breckenridge skiing at Loveland.  All the kids, Al and I spent the first day in ski school (Al and I only had a half-day.).  Joe and Lynn being very seasoned skiers went and did some more challenging slopes. 

It had been almost twenty years since I’d been on skis, so I was crazy nervous!  They initially put Al and me in the same class, but after seeing my speed demon with my fly/ski by the seat of my pants tendencies of old, they prudently split us up.  By the end of the day, I was feeling much less nervous, but still said a little prayer each time I took off that I not injure myself – I had another half-marathon in mid-January that I needed to be healthy for. 
Team Matchette
Team Seto
Jamie had some trouble with the altitude on the first day, so he sat out for a bit and all day the next day.  Despite that, he did well, but was a bit cautious.  Joe took him down several times which really helped (and I got some wonderful pix of the two of them).  Nathan was just happy to hang out with Jamie, so he also sat out on the second day.  Joe, like Jamie, had some trouble with a virus/altitude the second day, which knocked him on his butt.  Since Joe was pretty much out of commission, Al watched the boys and was our photog during our Girls-Only ski day. 

Mic on the second day.  She wasn't
too sure about the poles.
Fast and furious down the slopes
Joe guiding Jamie down
the slope
The girls had a much better time overall.  Chloe wasn’t too sure initially, but by the end of the first day she was hooked.  Josie and Michelle LOVED it!  Michelle, like Joe, took to it very naturally.  Josie was like me – balls to the wall, skiing as fast as she could down the slopes.  By the second day though, she did gain some control.

Our Girls-Only Day was a blast!  The girls went to ski school and then we were going to meet up at lunchtime for some group skiing.  Lynn skied a few runs with me and showed me some good drills to practice.  Then, I told her to go have fun.  I was perfectly content to spend the morning practicing by myself.  I just felt so badly for Joe; he really enjoys skiing, but it’s poor form to barf on the slopes. 

Four of my favorite girls sharing a
Lynn showing off her mad ski skills
Not a spa day for these
girls - a SKI day   

It was overcast and chilly when we started.  The weather got progressively worse as the morning wore on.  It got very windy, cold and snowy, and with it, visibility deteriorated.  
Despite the cold, I loved it!  I would have skied all day, but the girls were cold and tired, and Lynn had face-planted on a black diamond run so she was a bit banged up.  So, home we went.  Gotta love the mountains.   We drove not even a half of an hour away from the ski lodge and the weather was beautiful.

This is how we ended the day - with glowing complexions
from the cold, wind and snow.
Christmas and the remainder of our stay were grand!  Christmas Eve Mass at the Air Force Academy Chapel was a treat.  The priest even quoted Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas during his homily.  We went out for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  When we went into the restaurant, it was barely snowing, but as we left, the snow was definitely coming down.
AFA Chapel in the falling snow on Christmas Eve.

Hinshaw kids' Christmas
The kids woke up to a white Christmas, something that I’ve always wanted them to experience.  While we had to kick the kids out of the house, once we did, there was much laughter, snowball fighting and a valiant attempt by Michelle and me to go sledding down the street, literally. 

3...2...1... FIRE!  The kids had an epic snowball fight!
I love the crispness in the air of snow and how the snow sounds different, depending on what type of snow it is.  I love new fallen snow, how it sparkles how it looks when the wind layers it.  The snow was much drier and powdery than the snow I remember from Wisconsin.  Is that possible? 

A friendly face at the zoo
Glorious Pike's Peak
After Christmas, we did many of the touristy things in C-Springs – Cheyenne Zoo, ice-skating, microbrewery for lunch and Garden of the Gods.  All too soon, our visit was over and we were back on the road.  We were thankful that we got to spend such a wonderful visit with the cousins!  And, as we traveled back to Georgia, sadly leaving the snow and cousins behind, we were already trying to figure out when to go out again.  Still, it was time to go home.  We had visitors of our own coming and a very special someone waiting for us....