Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just when you thought I had fallen off the face of the earth...

I know, you are thinking "what happened to Karen?". "Did the flowers come to life and attack her in her sleep?" or "maybe she is permanently stuck in a sitting position on the floor with her back bent over a vase" (which is what I was afraid might happen after the last vase was done!). I am back! I survived the crafting experience (the tournament people loved them - yay!).

I vacationed for almost a week in Miami. Miami, Oklahoma. Yes, I am sure it is a popular second choice for most people for vacation. Oh, I want to go to Miami but I am really not into the beach. How about Oklahoma? I jest :) it was a lovely small town and we had a good time. We went there for a motorcycle event. Miami just happened to be the place that was deemed to be somewhere in the middle of the country and pretty close to one of the motorcyle dealers for V8 bikes so it was chosen more for convenience than its touristy appeal which was limited. No offense if you live there...

Our journey there was mostly off the beaten path. Rick decided he didn't want to drive through Arkansas on our way to Oklahoma. I got a ticket that day I was taking my mom to her home and he got pulled over when he went through there a month ago. Based on that, the whole state has been boycotted by our household. Well, more Rick than me but... The decision to secede Arkansas from our union led us to the non-interstate type road we took from Paducah, KY to Miami, OK. The first stretch was not a lovely 4 lane interstate but a 2 lane tour of small town America. Yes, it is lovely; however, I was disturbed by a sign we passed. The sign in front of a home in Kevil, KY.... "babies for sale". I think I should alert the authorities to this hotbed of criminal activity in the middle of farmtown USA. Click on the link if you want to see the picture as we didn't stop. Rick did offer to take me to Laura Ingalls Wilder's home in Mansfield, MO as we drove through there which was very sweet since you can only imagine that he has no interest whatsoever in seeing the house that Manley built for Laura AGAIN. (We saw it on a previous trip to a different Motorcycle rally about 5 years ago).

The rally itself was held at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami. There are quite a few Native American owned casinos in that town (and maybe OK as a whole, not sure). This was one of them. The casino itself was more of a large, very sturdy tent of sorts. Not like a camping tent but looked like one of those tents you might put over a community pool in the winter to allow year round swimming. The big draw for the rally was that they were blocking off the parking lot to allow burnouts. These V8 Bikers love power and on most streets you can't do it without risking a ticket so this was quite exciting for most of the attendees. Rick, in particular, loves to combine the burnouts with various stunts so he was drooling at the prospect. (Pics below of Rick are actually from another event but you get the idea)

As it turned out, the motorcycle shop that was nearby was overloaded with work the day we arrived and asked Rick to help out so he went over there Thursday and spent most of the day there. I spent most of the day getting sucked into the Jon and Kate Plus 8 Marathon on TLC. What is so addictive about that show? I could not tear myself away from it. I had high hopes for lounging by a pool the week I was in Miami but unfortunately, there was not an outdoor pool. Jon and Kate plus 9 (including me) was the order of the day. It was actually nice, I caught up on a lot of sleep while I was there. I rarely get to sleep late and I guess did not realize how much sleep I was lacking until I had a few days of being able to sleep until I woke up without the aid of an alarm clock. It was heaven!

I got in a run on the treadmill one day (before I became addicted to Jon and Kate's life) but not much else in the way of exercise was accomplished. Not only was there almost no exercise but I do believe most meals while I was there were either burgers and fries or some other type of fried food. I was so glad to get a vegetable that was not battered and fried on the ride home. In order to maintain some semblance of health in that town, you must have to cook every meal at home. I am not completely freakish about my diet. I have no problem inhaling cheeseburgers and fries if there are no options, don't get me wrong. It is just an interesting observation that there were not many healthy menu choices. It is definitely something I take for granted living in a larger city.

We did go on a few rides around the area while we there. I like riding through the country looking at the small towns and farms. One of the neighboring towns was a mining town with about 100,000 residents until they shut down the mine in the 40s. The town today is almost vacant. Sort of reminds you of some of the towns that are dependent on GM or Ford or some other big plant to survive. This particular ride took us to, for lack of a better description, a really big crane. Yeah, I know. There isn't all that much in the way of sight seeing but this was pretty big (16 stories tall and 11 million pounds). The biggest in the world. Big Brutus is the name and is in West Mineral, Kansas. Apparently, it was used to dig miles of undergroud passages for the miners.

The ride there and back in the truck gave me plenty of time to reflect, reassess, sleep and study the atlas. (I normally read books but wasn't interested in reading this time for some reason). I have decided that there are only a handful of states that I have never visited and it is now my goal to step foot in all of them at some point in my life! Mostly the far northeastern states, some in the west (montana, idaho and north dakota), Alaska and Hawaii. As if I needed another goal, right? At least this one doesn't have a training schedule attached to it!

Speaking of training schedules, I have had a lot of time to think about the upcoming Half IM. To be honest, I am burnt out on adhering to training schedules right now so it is decision time. I need to decide if I am going to embark on the training schedule for the half IM on the 1st or pass it up this year and maybe do it next year. Still pondering it. We can discuss on Monday :)

I guess that is enough of an update for now, not as random as I thought but I have to save some things to blabber on about later. I have lots of tennis this weekend, one match today and two tomorrow. It is supposed to be sunny and 81 both days!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sometimes you should just say NO...

I got a call at 4:00 yesterday afternoon from a guy I know at the local sports commission. They are having an NCAA tennis tournament here next week and he needed a favor. Post-tournament on Monday and Thursday, there will be banquets for the players. He wanted to know if I could make 15 centerpieces for the tables. I am not sure if he just found out or if the person who was going to do them and had passed on my name had just backed out at the last minute. As usual, my mouth was forming the words "Sure, No problem" while my head is still pondering what I am agreeing to and do I really want to do this. Thoughts like, "aren't you going out of town Wednesday and will need to wash, pack, and do the ritual cleaning of the house" wandered through my head along with "you have tennis Saturday and Sunday when are you going to do this". Oh, not a problem at all, I say. I am terminally agreeable. I endears me to many people (mostly people who need volunteers and last minute help) but truly is a disease in which I wish I could occasionally have the fortitude to say NO.

You would think perhaps I have made centerpieces before to get a referral. You would be wrong. My thing is baking so am not entirely clear on why my name was tossed into the ring. I was told the person said I was creative and might be able to do it. Partially true. I will admit it. I have a crafty side in my head even if I don't use it.

The only specifics I was given were:
1. There is a budget of $450
2. Make it a tennis theme.
3. The NCAA logo is blue and white

I googled to get some ideas. There wasn't much out there but did get me to thinking which was what I needed. Mad dash to Hobby Lobby and Walmart after making dinner and tending to my better half who was somehow paralyzed with back pain. Not sure what he did but I slapped a self adhesive thermacare on his back and went to the store (I know, I felt bad... I did buy him a heating pad while at Wal-Mart). I still wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do so basically decided to see what they had at Ho-Lo and go from there. I was ecstatic to find EXACTLY 15 vases in the size I needed - WOO HOO! The rest was just a mix-up of flowers and fillings.

So here is a picture of my den after I tossed my Hobby Lobby purchases all over it...

Some half finished vases as I started to pull my plan together...

He asked me to send him a picture of what I was doing to make sure we were on the same page before I did all 15. I was hoping he would be OK with the plan since there was literally no other ideas in my head if he didn't like this one. Luckily, I got the return e-mail proclaiming it to be "GREAT!" so I was off and running with the other 14.

and the finished products. Now, I am the one with the hurting back. Maybe Rick can slap a thermacare on me!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Recovery Week?

Well, sort of... I got home Monday morning from Cincinnati. Late Sunday, I received an e-mail from the captain of one of my tennis teams. She was short one player for the line-up Monday night and wanted to know if I could play. I told her would hoping that my muscles wouldn't be too sore. Luckily, it was a pretty quick 2 sets. My quads were pretty tight when I started but loosened up as the match went on.

Side note on the quads, mine were more sore after this last race than Disney. I chalked that up to the slower pace at Disney but ran into someone who said that it could have been the gradual downhill of the race course for the last 10-12 miles. For most of the week, they were pretty sore going down stairs. Up, not a problem. Kind of strange but it made me wonder if the long gradual downhill was the cause.

Tuesday, I did get some rest after work although still feel like I could sleep for a few more days!

Wednesday I made it back to boot camp and was supposed to have a tennis match but it was cancelled due to the rain.

Thursday I went back to the new masters program at LFT. LOVED IT! At LFT, they have an indoor and an outdoor pool. They hold the masters in the outdoor pool so the lap swimmers have some room to do their workouts. I love swimming outdoors! It starts out a little dark at 6AM but by 6:15 or so, the sun starts coming up and it is great. The chlorine is also a little less intense out there for some reason. We had a new person show up for the workout so we are gradually growing... It is 2 weeks in and we have 6 so that is a good start! It turns out, that I had swam a few times with the newcomer when I was swimming at Swim Atlanta a couple years back. She told me that she had also run 2 marathons just like me. Her PR is 3:33, not quite like me. Can you believe it? That is fast enough that you don't have to participate in the lottery for New York, you can just sign up. WOW. One degree of separation from speedy greatness!

The masters program was a good choice for me. I have loved both the workouts so far. The only problem is that it meets at the same time as a cardio class that I also love (OK, maybe I love the cardio ever so slightly less but I know I need it so...). I can't decide if I should swim both days the class is offered or swim one of the days and do the cardio class the other day. Such a decision... I only wish that was my only worry in life! :)

The coach is still trying to figure us out but so far, so good. She gives us the workout and then just kind of watches us swim and offers pointers. She has given me a couple of suggestions that were helpful so having someone there has been worthwhile. We have a choice of two workouts, one is distance and one is stroke. She even gives us a dry copy to keep for later (You have to love that... I am stocking up my workout library!)

Thursday, the workouts were:

Distance (2700 meters)

3x300 (15 sec rest)
1 - 100 swim / 100 kick / 100 swim
1 - 100 drill / 100 swim / 100 drill
1 - 100 swim / 100 build / 100 swim

3 x 200 negative split (15 sec rest)
3 x 100 pull descend (10 sec rest)
2 x 200 negative split (15 sec rest)
3 x 100 pull descend (10 rest)
1 x 200 fast


Stroke (2600 meters)
3x300 (15 sec rest)
1 - 100 swim / 100 kick / 100 swim
1 - 100 drill / 100 swim / 100 drill
1 - 100 swim / 100 build / 100 swim

6 x 50 kick FAST (5 sec rest)
2 x 75 25 free / 50 fly (10 sec rest)
4 x 50 kick FAST (5 sec rest)
4 x 75 back (10 sec rest)
2 x 50 kick FAST (5 sec rest)
6 x 75 25 free / 50 breast (10 sec rest)

200 IM FAST (at this point, "FAST" is all relative....)

Which leaves us with today... I got up entirely too early for a Saturday and did the Race for the Cure. It really is an under fundraiser. The run itself is not timed and there are ore people walking than running. To say there were a lot of participants would be an understatement. I knew 3 other people who were running the race but this was one of those that if you didn't coordinate a meeting place beforehand, you would never see them, and I didn't. The post race expo had loads of swag. It is amazing how many corporate sponsors, the machine of Susan G. Komen charities can attract. I have heard of so many fundraisers that were scaled back or cancelled this year due to the economy yet this one didn't seem to the feeling the effects of it at all. There were all sorts of freebies - scarves, bracelets, smuckers (I think they followed me from Cincinnati), Skinny Cow ice cream, fuze, and more re-useable grocery bags than you could shake a stick at (have you been to an event like this in the past year where you don't walk out with a free reuseable bag? Now if I could just remember to bring them into the store...). All in all a fun race. I felt pretty good on the run. My legs are still a bit tired and could use some rest. Maybe I will go do that now whilst I catch up on the Biggest Loser! Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Who knew swine flew...

**WARNING** you will notice a distinct lack of photos of anything except a few expo shots. After the 1,365,274 photos I took while running the Disney Marathon, I decided to use marathon number two as an opportunity to focus on the run and not stopping at every photo op as much as it pained me to leave the camera in the hotel room. :)

The Flying Pig Marathon in 3,000 words or less... It was a good one! I am glad I chose it as marathon number two. It wasn't particularly easy or flat but a well organized race with great crowd support. Lots of fun.

Marathon number two was more of a whirlwind trip as compared to my 40th birthday extravaganza at Disney. I went up on Saturday AM and came back Monday AM. I toyed with getting a flight Sunday afternoon but the idea of folding myself into an airline seat a couple hours post marathon was not too appealing. I was pretty sure I would need medical help to unfold me out of the seat at the end of the flight!

When I got to the departure gate to leave for Cincinnati, there were quite a few marathoners waiting to get on the flight. One lady was handing out surgical masks to those in her group. I saw several people walking around the airport with the masks around their neck. They weren't wearing them in the airport but I assume they were going to put them on when they got on the plane. Me? I took my chances. I do like to live dangerously! Well, not so much. Really, it is probably more my desire ot blend into the background and not draw attention to myself.

An hour after takeoff, we arrive in Cincinnati. I grabbed an airport shuttle to the hotel and was on my way. By this time it was only about 10:30 so I was hopeful that the hotel would let me go ahead and check in so I could ditch my suitcase in the room. Luckily the room was ready so I dropped everything off, and took a quick look at the view out my window. HA. Well, it isn't like I was at the beach so I didn't get the room for the view. It kind of reminded me of New York so it gave it some character.

Off to the expo! The expo was a quick 2-block walk down the street. It was packed with people. It occured to me that in the other races I have done, I always managed to get to the expo at an off-peak time when the crowd wasn't so bad. I picked up my number and chip and headed into the expo. Lots of flying pig sculptures and whatnot. They had some really cute race gear but was trying to limit myself. I did end up picking up a white zip up hoodie with the justification that I had been looking for one for tennis (which is true). The black long sleeve pullover that was as soft as anything you have ever felt? There was no justification for it. I just had to have it. Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do :)

I wandered through the expo long enough to pick up anything free that they were handing out. What is it about free stuff? Even if you know you will never use it, it is the most exciting thing ever! WOW! You mean I can *have* this 6-inch plastic ruler? No way! Seriously, they did have some good freebies. The girls on the run group was there and they had Goody hairbands. Denise Austin was there with Smuckers and they were giving out tiny jars of a variety of reduced sugar jelly, jam and hot fudge topping. I stood in line for about 10 minutes for a pic with Denise but I got hungry and wanted to see what else there was to see. Sorry, Denise - love ya! The usual other samples, brown rice packets, biofreeze, bandanas, almonds, cereal and so on. Wal-Mart was there giving out the reuseable shopping bags which was pretty handy to tote all my freebies!

You have to wind your way through the expo to get your race shirt and goodie bag so I picked that up on the way out the door. The gave a really nice messenger bag with the race logo on it as the gift and also a large poster (maybe 24x36?) commemorating the race.

I mentioned the pump n run in an earlier post, right? I was kind of nervous about it. Mostly from the perspective of not being sure if I could actually bench press half my body weight. It turns out I can but not nearly as well as others. As I was standing there in the crowd scoping out the situation, one women was taking her turn and I think she pumped out 3. I had one of those "if she can do it, I can do it" moments. My goal was to do 10 (that would qualify me for a bronze medal and you know how I love my medals...) I get weighed in, stand in line and was pointed to the "ladies" bench. The two women before me both pressed out 30 reps. They didn't appear particularly popeye-ish. I would venture to say they looked normal. This should be NOTHING I tell myself. My brain heard it. My arms failed to get the message. I laid down on the bench, pulled the bar off and pumped out SIX before I decided that was plenty. (Two were not officially counted because I did not touch the bar to my chest). I would like an official do-over, I think I might have been under the stress of being watched by a crowd. Hanging my head in shame, I trot over to do my curls (after the alotted 15 seconds of rest of course). It turns out I have more biceps than whatever muscle would be required by a bench press. I managed twenty 40-pound curls so I gained some dignity back :)

So the deal with the pump n run is that you get 2 minutes off your race time for every bench press you complete. Your marathon time from Sunday minus your handicap from the bench press equals your pump n run time. I still haven't figured out why I did a bunch of curls as that didn't seem to be figured in anywhere but it did help save my self dignity :) As it turns out, there were only 2 people in my age group. One of us pumped 4, the other pumped 27. One of us ran a good marathon time, the other one was about an hour behind. Even though I only did FOUR bench presses, I managed to win my age group in the pump and run. The other lady had a 54 minute handicap on the run, I beat her by two minutes. So awesome and so unexpected at the same time. I am almost embarrassed that I won with 4 bench presses.... but I did .... WOO HOO! This aging up to the 40-44 age group is working out pretty good!

On to the run...

Sunday morning, I strolled out of the hotel about 5:15 to walk to the stadium which was maybe a half mile or so from the hotel. It was drizzling slightly. I had watched the weather and it was calling for clearing right around race time of 6:30. On my walk, I bumped into a lady who was a little turned around and we ended up heading out together to the stadium. It turned out she was in the 4:00 pace group. At the expo on Saturday, I talked to the pace group people and made a decision to try the 4 hour pace group. I figured, just go for it. Ironic that my new friend, Carina, that I met on the way was also in the 4 hour group. She was there by herself from Long Island so we hung out until the race started which worked out great.

When we got to the start line, I ditched my bag at the bag drop and we started looking for our pace group leader, Brett. This was the first big race that I had been in where you were not assigned a corral. Basically, it was just like a regular 10k. You line up wherever you think you should be. The only downside is the start was packed so it was hard to maneuver to stay with a group. Particularly hard to stay with the pace group. The gun goes off and our fearless race leader takes off like he was shot from a cannon. I was literally 2 people behind him and somehow within a few seconds of the start was having to sprint and weave through the crowd to keep up. All I could think was "don't lose sight of his sign" and "never start a marathon sprinting". Back to Brett in a second...

The only negative I can say about the PIG is that there were several places n the first mile where the road split and was divided by a curbed island. The islands were not marked in any way. There was no volunteer with a flag, there were no cones. At the point where you come up on them, it is still fairly dark out and the crowds haven't broken free so you can't see the road ahead at all. You only hear the sounds of people falling and tripping. I was behind one lady who tripped and fell flat on her face. They need to work on that for next year.

OK, Brett, Brett, where are you. Oh, pace leader, you are supposed to be running a 9:10ish pace why does everyone's GPS read 8:30? Lots of gurmbling from the crowd of 4 hour groupies who can't keep up. I finally decided that sprinting after Brett was not in my best interest in the long run. I was content to keep him somewhat in sight if possible but that there was no way I could maintain his pace for 4 more hours. Maybe if the the crowd was a little more broken up but to still be zipping and dashing around people in a mad chase to keep up with Brett didn't seem like a good plan. Luckily, all the others who had planned on running with the 4 hour pace groups had their names pinned on their back so throughout the race, I would spot Rhoda, Mary, Mike 1 and Mike 2 and have some bit of solace that I was not the only one who couldn't keep up with Brett.

Overall, I enjoyed the route of the PIG. It was hilly, no doubt. Not ING Atlanta hilly but hilly nonetheless. Miles 6 through 8 were a steady climb. After that it was a gradual downhill. There were hills after mile 8 but they were shorter and farther between. The scenery was great. I love small town America so it was my thing. We ran all through the cutest town, Maremount, OH. So lovely. Plenty of cheering spectators, plenty of bands and music and water stops. Like any race, there were stretches where there weren't spectators but there weren't many of those spots.

I did pretty well managing my pace. I generally don't look at my watch so Lord only knows how I maintain a steady pace but I seem to do a decent job at it. I guess I just go as fast as I feel comfortable and put it on cruise control. I had slight knee pain around mile 18 but kept running through it instead of stopping to walk and that seemed to help. At Disney, I stopped to walk and had trouble getting moving again. There was so much distraction in this race that the miles just ticked away. Before I knew it, I was at mile 23 at which point I over heard a girl tell her boyfriend that this was the stupidest thing she had ever done and if she EVER told him she was wanted to do this again that he should tell her no. He just said "OK" and they kept moving. LOL.

Mile 24 leading into 25 was probably the longest of my life. This happened to be one of those stretches where there was not a lot of action so it is just you and your thoughts. I trudged along and once I hit mile 25 I just kept thinking, you only have 10 minutes left and you are done! I caught the sweet sight of the finish line about a quarter mile out and picked up the pace. Finish strong, right? Ok, maybe I just realllllly wanted to be done. Flying down towards the clock, hear my name called out - WOO HOO I AM DONE! 4:12:25. So awesome. I am pretty sure pace guyt Brett finished around 3:50. Had I stuck with him I would have been Boston Qualified. Or in an ambulance. I think I made the better choice to pace it out on my own.

I loved the PIG. They had great race support, lots of spectators and volunteers, plenty of water, drink, they handed out swiss cake rolls as one of the post race food items. Hello? How much better can it get? You should give the PIG a try.

Friday, May 1, 2009

off to the PIG...

I leave tomorrow bright and early in a germ filled aluminum tube lovely Delta jet for Cincinnati. Yesterday, the weather was calling for sun, today it is a 50% chance of rain. Either way, I am prepared. Luckily, if you can call it that, one of my half marathons was drizzly rain the whole way. While I know it isn't my favorite weather condition to run in, I am pretty sure I won't melt and the rain might actually feel good! I have decided to stalk the pace group, I just need to pick which one. I may go conservative and do the 4:20 group for this run even thought "the calculator" said I should be able to do 4:02.

I think the thing I am most looking forward to is just lounging around the hotel catching up on rest before and after. I have no big plans to tour the city, I truly just want to relax and enjoy having nothing on the agenda outside of the expo and the run.

Good luck to my ALTA team who will be competing in the playoffs Saturday and Sunday and the various bloggy peeps who are doing triathlons this weekend! I will catch up with all of you next week!

Have a great weekend :)