Five Things That Make Me Happy (part 16)

Back to Swimming
Despite swimming being “highly recommended” as exercise while recovering from my stress fracture, the last time I’d actually gone to the pool was back in January. Happily, Charlie gave me the nudge that I needed to finally start moving forward again, and we’ve been hitting the pool 2-3 times a week before work. My overall speed isn’t where it should be, but that’s what happens when you take six months off, right? All in all, though, it’s felt great to finally get back to the pool and start swimming some laps. My mile time might need some improvement, but I’m also glad that I can swim a mile without stopping again.

Ceiling Fan
There are a lot of things that I love about our condo, but one of the few things that has driven me crazy since day one was that there’s no air-return on the upper level (where the living room/kitchen area is located). With an 11-foot ceiling, that’s meant that hot air easily travels up there and then just stays put. We’d bought a fan to turn on when it gets too warm as an emergency measure, but this month we finally sprung to have a ceiling fan installed. I’m not going to lie, the installation was problematic and actually took two appointments with an electrician (plus someone to then repair drywall and re-paint) but now that it’s done? It’s fantastic. It’s been a transformative shift to our upstairs. Just having the air moving has made all the difference, and the fan itself looks great to boot. (Amusingly, when I first turned it on, for about five minutes it blasted hot air down at me, to the point that I almost started to majorly freak out. Later it hit me that it was finally getting all that trapped heat out of the top of the room that a fan on the floor would never touch.)

The End of Physical Therapy
I actually really enjoyed my PT sessions, which I often joked stood for “personal trainer” rather than “physical therapy.” Jackie definitely worked me over good each week, and she’s pretty great to boot. But I won’t deny that I’m glad it’s over, because it means that the long saga of the stress fracture appears to be finally over. I got a six-mile run under my belt towards the end of July, and finishing it with no problems was a huge relief. Of course, in an effort to remind me not to be too cocky, I then went and broke my little toe at the end of the month by stubbing it on a chaise lounge, so I’m back off running for the month of August. Ah well!

Rediscovering Debbie Dreschler
Debbie Dreschler’s two graphic novels from back in the day—Daddy’s Girl and Summer of Love—were hard to read. Not because they were badly created (they weren’t) but because the subject matter was rather disturbing and emotionally raw in places. Since Summer of Love Dreschler more or less vanished off of the comic book scene, so I was pleased as punch to recently discover her website and her blog. Her website shows the professional illustration work she’s been producing since then, and it looks great. Even better, she’s also got some adorable greeting cards for sale. (I might have bought a set.) Her blog has been serving up some sketchbook drawings of hers involving local wildlife, and all I can say is that she just gets better and better with time. (Debbie Dreschler: a fine wine of cartooning.)

Much-Needed Vacation
We went on a short vacation near the end of the month to Lost River, West Virginia, where we did… absolutely nothing. It was marvelous. Lots of sitting by the pool reading books (E.M Forster’s Howards End and the amusingly-named Showcase Presents: Showcase Vol. 1 were both read, plus another large chunk of Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar), some swimming, a massage, and eating all sorts of foods that are perhaps not great for me. But it was vacation, we got to relax, and the only schedule we had to worry about was when we’d scheduled our massages and what time our dinner reservation one night was set for. (And when I say “worry” I mean “we didn’t worry one iota.”) Any trip where you can accidentally break a toe and still think, “What a great time” is a good one.

Victory from Jaws of Defeat

Ok, this is getting a little silly.

Last week I had the first week of my lap swimming class, in which only two of the eight participants (including myself) showed up, and the other was a 13-year old kid. (We were also joined by someone who was signed up for the beginner class but was afraid it was too basic.) This is out of eight people total that were signed up.

Well, tonight? Beth and Megan were back from vacation, so they were there. I was there. And that was it. Including a lack of instructor.

Now, our instructor had said she wasn’t going to be there. But she’d also said there was a substitute that was supposed to teach us that week. Oops. (The guy who wasn’t signed up for our class actually did show up, but he decided to try the beginner class and afterwards said he’s going to stick with it because it’s a better fit.)

The thing is, I’m actually pretty happy about this. Since the instructor didn’t show up, they’ll have to make it up to us on one of the make-up-dates that are reserved for that very reason. And it meant that Beth, Megan, and I got to swim a little, then stop and chat, then swim some more, chat some more… Very relaxed, and super-fun because they are both adorable and a blast to be around.

All in all? A pretty great evening, in what could’ve just as easily been disaster. So, so, so very nice to see my favorite pair of running sisters! Now I’m off to e-mail Arlington County to let them know our instructor no-showed…

Glub Glub Glub

Last night I started up my lap-swimming class, which I did last summer when I discovered where I normally swim was taken over by summer camp classes. I loved the class last year, and it definitely got me into a much stronger swimmer. One added bonus was that while the class started with eight people (including myself), by the end never more than 2-4 people tops would be there, so I would often get my own lane to boot.

I knew that my friends Beth and Megan (who both signed up, yay!) wouldn’t be there last night while they’re on vacation, but I wasn’t expecting the grand total of people appearing to be a whopping… two. Including me. And the other was a 13 year old. Apparently it’s vacation season for everyone this week. Then, we got joined by a third person who had been signed up for the beginner class but it was too basic for him. (Gee, I guess he should’ve signed up for the intermediate class.) So part of the class got ursurped by our instructor trying to figure out what to do with this sudden addition.

Fortunately, about halfway through, she was able to really focus her attention elsewhere, and then I got what I’d been wanting from the class. Ended up swimming some intervals and sprints, and it totally kicked my butt. So in the end it worked out well, but about 15 minutes into class I found myself seriously wondering if I’d wasted my money this time around. But things are looking much more promising for the remaining classes, though, now that everything seems to be falling into place for the class.

I do think the funniest part of the evening, though, was the instructor telling me that she was a little boggled by the teenager being in the class, and who could she talk to about drinking cocktails and such now? I think I like her.

(Also trying out a new import-blog-posts-into-Facebook option since the built in one has been erratic and untimely as of late. We shall see…)

Goals for Sunday’s Race

This Sunday I’m tackling the Columbia Triathlon up in Maryland (.93mi swim, 25.4mi bike, 6.2mi run) and I have decided that I should have some goals in mind throughout the weekend. Some are carry-overs from running in general, but there’s no reason why they can’t apply too. So here we go…

  1. Finish. Always the #1 goal of a race.
  2. Don’t throw up. Not that I am planning to. But that’s always a very important rule to put out there. I’ve made it 10 years now without breaking this one.
  3. Maximum number of times to get kicked in the head during the swim: 2. I did get kicked in the head when I did a super-sprint tri last year, but it was also only about a quarter of the distance. So if I can limit the number of head-kicks to two, well, that will be a victory.
  4. Don’t swear too much during the bike course. I cannot promise this goal will be met.
  5. Remember to take OFF the bike helmet before I start the run. There are some awfully funny pictures out there of people who forgot. I would like to not be one of those people forever immortalized.
  6. Find winning lottery ticket. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, I thought this was the “pipe dreams” list. Never mind.

We shall see how many of these actually happen. Famous last words, I’m sure.

The Way I Roll

And now, a brief illustration of how my life normally progresses from one moment to the next.

Yesterday at the pool, I had perhaps my best swim at the 1600-yard distance to date; I beat my previous best from back in October (by just a second, but I hadn’t gotten even close to that time in ages), and afterwards I was congratulating myself on re-finding some drive and slightly-better form in the pool. I’m on my third week of having exercise six days a week, and I think that most of those days are much higher quality too. (Schedule at the end after the jump for those truly interested.)

When I was done, I headed back into the locker room, got cleaned up and changed, and was reaching for my jacket… At which point I managed to hit my forehead against the edge of the locking mechanism on the locker door, and cut it just a tiny bit. The truly sad thing? On Monday I was looking at a photo from last year, in which after swimming I tugged on a locker door a little too hard and (all together now) cut my forehead on the edge of the locker door.

Yes, this is my life. Fortunately I have a pretty good sense of humor about it these days.

Continue reading The Way I Roll

The Real Differences Between Men and Women

When I went to the pool yesterday (at Spring Hill Rec Center in McLean), there were signs everywhere letting patrons know that for the day, the men’s and women’s locker rooms were swapping location. (My assumption is that a male maintenance crew needed to fix something in the women’s room, or something along those lines.) I give them credit, they made sure you couldn’t miss it: each door had about 15 signs posted on it and around it.

So after all those years of wondering, I have now seen on a legitimate level what the women’s locker room looks like. And with that in mind, here is my investigative report on the real difference between men and women.

The woman’s locker room was much more humid and warm. Uncomfortably so, in fact. Even after I’d gotten out of the shower I found myself sweating, something that normally doesn’t happen after a trip to the pool.  I actually ended up digging my towel back out as I was about to leave the room and had to mop off my face a few times. Seriously out of control warm.

There were pink tiles on the wall. Just so you were never confused that you were in the women’s locker room, I suppose. But seriously, pink everywhere. I felt like I was in a Pepto-Bismol factory.

The water pressure in the showers was less forceful than in the men’s locker room. Seriously, I even switched shower heads at one point because it was so inadequate. Trying to rinse off the soap was a much more lengthy process. If I was a woman, I’d object.

Oh, and of course there were some obvious differences. Like a lack of urinals. But I suspect you guys figured that one out already. So there we have it. According to locker room construction companies, women like humidity, low shower pressure, and the color pink. Also, they typically don’t pee standing up.

Mystery solved!

14.06 Triathlon

I’d wanted to give triathlons a try for a while now, but it never seemed to line up. My plan had been to tackle one this spring (and train over the winter), but missing the Philadelphia Marathon and picking a replacement in the spring meant that triathlons got pushed off to one side. Still, I’ve been going to lap swimming for a few months now, and I hit spinning class often enough that when Tri It Now’s 14.06 triathlon came around, I decided… why not? It’s just under the distance for a full sprint triathlon; the numbers for this were chosen because it’s exactly 1/10th the length of an Ironman Triathlon. (14.06 miles instead of 140.6 seems so much more reasonable.) Julie also signed up, and off we went!

#210 [365portraits: 193]When we signed up, you had to give them your approximate time for the swim portion of the race. I’d put down a ridiculously slow number, and then revised it earlier this week to a 9:45. Since the swim portion was in a pool, we would be arranged by our times there, with a new swimmer entering the pool every five seconds, and placed me at #210. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the edge of the pool (with 10 seconds to go) that I started feeling nervous. Fortunately, by that point it’s too late now. Just like a roller coaster, I got the nudge and that was it, I was in the pool. I did good until the third length of the pool, at which point I swam into a lane divider (oops) and then sucked down a lot of water. Fortunately, I didn’t drown, just flailed around for a couple of seconds and coughed. But then I was back off, and as the swim progressed I passed about a dozen people, which felt really good. (And got passed by two, one during my “try not to drown” moment.) When I pulled myself out of the pool, I looked at my watch and it was just at 8:52. Well, no wonder I was passing people!

From there I walked out to the bikes (others were running once they were outside, but I still had a bit of water in my lungs and was trying to get rid of it) and got ready as fast as I could. I’m sure the official splits will be different because the timing mat was outside and not at the edge of the pool, but by my watch between getting out of the pool and onto the bike and riding, it took 4 minutes and 45 seconds. Something to work on for the future! I know I was moving a little slow until I saw #211 (who had passed me during the choking fit) leave and suddenly I was like, “I need to get going!” And then, the biking. My weakest portion.

I knew going into this what I’d have to work on; being more confident on the bike. Our bike course was three loops, and each loop had four u-turns. And with each u-turn, I had to slooooow down and go through it carefully. Once I was back in a straight-away (or just a 90-degree turn) I was fine, but those u-turns killed me every time. I got passed a bunch in the first loop, which didn’t surprise me because those who were stronger in biking versus swimming could use this opportunity to clobber me. By the second loop, though, the number of people passing me dropped a lot, and in the third loop I even started passing some other people. (To be fair, probably people who weren’t on their third loop. But still, it felt good.)

My second transition was much faster, just 57 seconds, but then again all I had to do at that point was get my bike back to its stand, take off my helmet, and start running. But oh, what an experience that was. I now understand why everyone has said that your legs feel funny when switching from biking to running. Oof! Not a good start, especially since the sun was pretty strong at that point and there was almost no shade on the course. I ended up taking two short walk breaks (about 15 seconds each) and at the time I was annoyed at myself. But I was beat, and I felt like I was crawling. Imagine my surprise when I finished and discovered I’d run the 2.62 miles in just 21:58. A good pace for me (8:23min/mile) considering I’d just swum and ran. I thought I was moving much slower than that.

I also saw Julie a couple of times on the course; we waited together until it was time for our numbers to start, and I saw her on her first bike loop when I was just starting my second. Once I was done, I got to cheer her on in the transition area as well as early on in the run, so that was a lot of fun.

Will I do another one? Absolutely! But more biking is definitely required before I do so. And more practice bricks. As an introduction, it went pretty well.

Busy x 1000

Didn’t I make some sort of (very silly) pronouncement that July was going to be less busy? Oh, foolish Greg.

On the bright side, though, some things are starting to line up. My swim class is going really well—we had three 25yd sprints at the end of Monday’s session and I even won all three, which was a nice little ego boost. Even better, arriving in the mail today were my very own prescription swimming goggles! Let evildoers beware!

 AquaGreg [365portraits: 190]

Oh wait, that has nothing to do with evildoers. But it’s been a week for exercise equipment since I also have a new bicycle, which I loooooooove. It’s a hybrid, a 2009 Trek 7.3 FX. I figure it’ll be good for both biking around Arlington as well as for exercise purposes. And even better, I could (in theory) take the bus in with the bike and ride the 8-9 mile route home, which isn’t as bad in warm weather as running.

New Bike [365portraits: 186]

My friend Felicity’s in town this week for a convention, and it was great to go out to dinner with her and Charlie on Tuesday night. I often only see her once a year, so having her in town is a lot of fun; we’re going to do something or another on Sunday to be determined.

Tonight is deinstallation at Artomatic; it’ll be sad taking my stuff down, but I was also there a lot less this year because I was so busy with everything else. Then I’ve got to get cracking on several writing projects all due in the new few weeks. Eek. Hopefully once those are done, though, I can have a little bit of chill in my life… Maybe…

Darn Kids!

A few weeks ago, I went into work early, then around lunchtime tried to use the pool then. Mornings at the rec center near my office can be a little crazy crowded, so I thought that this might be a good way to get some exercise without having to fight for a lane. I was thrilled, then, to get there and find multiple lanes entirely empty. Heaven! Doubly so since mornings have gotten more and more busy over the past month at the pool.

Since then I’d gone for a few lunchtime swims, and with great success. That seems to have been put on hold, though, now that school is out. Julie and I went to the rec center on Monday and discovered that summer camp is now running from 12-3:30pm every day for about two months, taking up almost the entire pool. Ack! So, I finally buckled down and signed up for a lap swimming class through Arlington County’s rec centers and got the final slot; it starts next Monday evening and runs for eight weeks. So that should be fun, at least, and it locks in some time that I will get a good swim in.

I do find it a little funny, though, that now it’s summer the indoor pool that is suddenly so crazy busy. Shouldn’t people be flocking to the outdoor ones?

On a different (running) note, while I enjoy my old Garmin Forerunner 301, I’ve been starting to think it might be a good idea to upgrade it to one that holds onto a signal stronger. The new Garmin Forerunner 405 looks lovely, is nice and small, is supposed to be super-accurate, and you don’t have to plug it in to get the data onto your computer. It also, by all reports, doesn’t work if it gets at all wet. After reading a dozen reviews from runners who all started it with, “I sweat a lot when I run, and this thing is useless as a result…” I realized that the 405 is not for me. There’s the 305, which was the previous model, that I can consider. Much less expensive, but a litle clunky.

Alternately I’m half-tempted to go for the rather-inexpensive 50, which doesn’t use a GPS but a foot-pod instead and which is supposedly pretty accurate. If it is accurate, well, it would certainly make me not have to worry about GPS signals anymore, but instead I guess there’s always the worry that I might have a foot chopped off. (I suspect at the end of the day I will just stick with what I have for now.)

Lemon Bars and Chlorine

This was a nice weekend, over all. On the downside, Charlie’s been coming down with a bad cold (or something) and spent all Sunday out of commission. Which meant, of course, that he got to avoid the craziness of a family holiday dinner.

The dinner was, needless to say, ultra-delicious. My mom’s side of the family is populated with great cooks and the food we had this year was no exception; ham, scalloped potatoes, carrot souffle, scalloped pineapple, green beans, asparagus, and probably something else that I’m blanking on. Plus three desserts; banana pudding, a carrot cake, and lemon bars that I’d made and brought with me.

Lemon BarsThe bars turned out pretty good overall. Next time I need to make sure I really push all of the crust out nice and flat; it was a little high at one end and those bars had to get thrown out because they were almost all crust and no lemon. Also, I need to buy a lemon zester before I make this again because using a cheese grater is a real pain in the butt. Still, overall, they were good. (Jim, I’ll edit in the recipe under a jump when I get home tonight.)

This morning I finally got off of my butt and went lap swimming for the first time in approximately 20 years. So yes, I did indeed survive. If my counting was correct (and it may very well not be) I swam 20 laps (or 40 lengths) of the pool, which comes out to 1000 meters. With little rest breaks between each lap, mind you, with which to confer with Julie and Laura. It was a nice time, although I clearly need to get some goggles because everything is now a tiny bit blurry. Also, need to find my rubber flip-flops. It’s been a while since I’ve had to do the whole shower-at-the-gym routine. (My current gym is all of 5 minutes away, my old gym was a 2 minute walk around the corner.)

I’d originally wanted to use this spring to tackle a triathlon, but missing Philly back in November put a hold on that. But I might give one of the mini-triathlons from Tri It Now a stab. If I get the bike serviced I am pretty sure I could handle that right now with no problem. (Famous last words, I’m sure. I can hear Moose cackling at my naivety.) In the meantime, though, I just need to keep at it. Practice makes better…

Continue reading Lemon Bars and Chlorine