NEXT EVENTS: IRONMAN BOULDER 2014, Run Rabbit Run 50-miler

It's never too late to be what you might have been. --George Eliot

This blog is about my journey as an asthmatic, hypothyroid, formerly plus-sized endurance athlete. It's occasionally interrupted with things that have nothing to do with that or whining about my weight and horrible eating habits. "You're never too old to be what you might have been" --George Eliot

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You say: Thank you, have a nice day.

But here's what you're really thinking when you're talking to technical support people in other countries who mean well and are really pleasant but don't speak very good English and are really hard to understand and they've already transferred your call three times and each time you had to be put on hold for several minutes before talking to someone new who has you repeat the same information each time (serial number, your name, model number, what's wrong, your name, address, and telephone number) and then asks you to run the exact same diagnostic test that all the other technicians asked you to run and you get the exact same results and you told them that before they insisted that you run the exact same test again and also despite the fact that a certified technician diagnosed the problems as a hard drive failure and that the test shows that fact every time you run it and it's under warranty and you really just want them to send you the new hard drive already and then the fourth guy says, "let me transfer you...:

"AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

...

Snow day! Woo hoo!

We had precipitation here in the desert last night, and it was frozen and stuff. Predictably, city officials flapped their hands a bit and after ascertaining that this was not the apocalypse they put school on a 2-hour delay.

So I headed into work early. Hmm. I know we're on a two hour delay, but where is everyone? I came in and sat down at my desk this morning in my nice, warm classroom. I would take advantage of the two-hour delay to get caught up on paperwork. A bit later, a janitor popped his head in my room, "Jeez, you guys are dedicated!" and then popped back out. Later, I went to get some water--still nobody around--and one of the maintenance crew said, "You know there's no school today, right?"

Uh, No, I did not know that.

Now that the streets are rapidly melting I head down to CompUSA to find out if there's a warranty on my dead laptop. Turns out that, indeed, in a rare moment of lucidity I purchased some sort of monster warranty that expires in 2011. Swweeeeeet.

Then Pirate called. Hey! Got your spin kit?

I, uh, what? Yes. No. I mean, it's at home.

Go home and get it--there's a spin class at noon!


Darn. Me without my list of excuses.

I. Love. Snow days. Especially when the snow melts before 11 am.

...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Urban Orienteering.

When I started out my run I saw one of those "horse crossing" signs and just at the base of it a pile of horse poop. There was also a pile of turds about 20 feet beyond it, and several others beyond that. This was on a public sidewalk, by the way, a SIDEWALK in Coralles, New Mexico which looovvvveeesss to trumpet how much they love their "village way of life"and it's a very expensive place in the middle of a city where most of the people there are not villagers but very upper middle-class and a whole bunch of them have bumper stickers that say, "I own horses and I vote" and I don't even know what that MEANS.

I did a 20.75 mile training run today as part of the build-up to the 50K I'm doing in 3 weeks. It occured to me for about the millionth time that I'm a very weird world, where I've gotten up at 5 am to start on my 1000-calorie breakfast, and then strapped 80 ounces of Accelerade, a phone, an inhaler, spare TP, 8 gels, and a power bar to my body to head out for a 20-mile run around the city.

Now, according to the tagging in the bike path tunnel I ran through on my long run today, South Side's in the hood, yo. I'm not sure what that means, except...if the kids at my school are any indication, I can probably run them all down, even at my blistering 13-minute marathon pace
Yo.

At mile 8, construction. Construction means construction workers...which means porta potties. Yay!

But anyway. I saw some members of team Espana out on the path today. They are also in the hood, being that they're training around here. I don't know anything else about that, as I'm not a TDF groupie like Nancy and Pirate. I did notice that they don't wear helmets; instead, they wear tiny little caps with tiny little bills. Yep, that'll protect your skull when that skater darts out in front of you on the Bosque path...good luck with that.

The early part of the bike path runs up alongside Paseo del Norte and right on the other side is the General Mills plant. THis means you get to smell, for about a half mile, whatever it is they're baking that day in the plant. Today, it was coco-puffs. Mmmmmm.

I went down the North Diversion channel path. The north diversion channel is a large concrete ditch, probably about 20 feet deep and maybe 30 feet wide or more, v-shaped, that is one of the many attempts to control flash-flooding. It's usually got some water in it and a few shopping carts. I headed down until I was just south of I-40 and then turned west, keeping parallel to I-40 as my path wound around yards with razor wire WITH RAZOR WIRE around them. I'm talking about back yards with RAZOR WIRE and just how badly are you trying to keep people out of your above-ground pool at that point?

Also in that part of the city I share the bike path, not with bikers, but with people carrying shopping bags. They smile and nod and don't speak a word of English and I don't speak a word of Spanish and we all get along.

I'm not trying to qualify for Boston. I'm hoping to qualify for octogenarian. I'm just trying to reach the finish line, completely continent and in my right mind. I want to be one of those old ladies that totters across the finish line, listed alone in the 70+ group and everyone cheers wildly for her and says, "I want to be an old lady like that some day."

My almost-21-mile run was about a 13:30 pace today. I eventually connected up with the bike path that runs along the Rio Grande, and then headed back toward the car and Baboo. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday. Next week I'll top off with about a 25 mile run and then start tapering for the run I'm doing President's Day weekend.

For now, I'll finish off this jar of Tostitos queso and NO, I don't want to know what's in it or how bad it is for me. All that is on the label if I want to know. WHich is why the label has been removed. Thanks for asking.

...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A lesson in humility.

Today was the The 6th Annual Sandia Snowshoe Race. A few days ago, I pulled my new snowshoes out of the box.

Um. What is this "21" on here?
I turned it over and saw a length v. weight chart on the back. 21...inches.
21 inches...let's see, that's for...up to 125 pounds.

I am, as you may recall, somewhat ABOVE 125 pounds. Like, about 35 pounds over.

I don't remember seeing anything about "size" when I was ordering the damned things. Who knew snowshoes came in sizes?

Hey, Baboo,
I asked my mate, what happens if you're snoeshoes are too small for you - will they break?

No. You'll just sink down in the snow.


Excellent.

And, then the snow will then cover the top of the snowshoe, anchoring you down.

Yay, even better.

(Sigh).

Well, as it turns out, the trail was pretty packed down, although not completely packed. So, 3.2 miles. I felt pretty cocky. Much, sadly, more self-confident than I was entitled. You get that way sometimes after doing an Ironman. Most of the time it's a good thing. The rest of the time it's just kind of pathetic and sad.

Pfft. 3.2 miles. I've done marathons! 3.2 is nothing! I'll smoke that trail.

Well, I didn't do a marathon at 10,000 feet, now, did I? I was thinking this as I was huffing and puffing my way up the snowy trail way, way, way in the back of the pack, after having given up on the idea of jogging with snow shoes and setting in with a group of hikers.

And I didn't do them with tennis rackets strapped to my feet either, did I? Tennis rackets that did occasionally sink down into the snow being as they had two small of a surface-area to support my weight, and, well, then they did become anchored, just as Baboo had predicted.

it was my

SLOWEST. 5K. EVAR.

1 hour, 17 minutes.

But, it was new, and it was fun. An adventure, if you will.

...


Friday, January 25, 2008

Memorandum to District Office: I Want A Divorce.

Last July I read an email from the principle at my school and decided that this was that last year I'd be teaching at that school.

You see, I'm kind of a long suffering kind of person. (That much is obvious, I guess. I mean - 17:20 to finish an ironman. jeesh.) . But then there comes that moment, which some will refer to as the "last straw" but that's the moment, that IS THE MOMENT where I look at the person or the email or whatever it is and I realize,

that's it. I'm done.

And that moment came last July. It doesn't matter what happened. It was just that moment, after years of creeping doubt and bitterness when I suddenly realized, it's not me. It's them.

This realization came slowly, but through several comments people made to me over the year by people who were in my classroom, observing me. There was the special education teachers and the sign language interpreter who told me that they could understand Algebra now, and before Algebra sucked. There was that new teacher observing me who asked me if he could come back because I was organized (ME!) and he wanted to write down some of the things I did. Then there's that school counselor who told me I have "a way with kids."

I ignored them at first. Like a battered spoused who ignores her friends telling her she deserves better, I hung on for 8 years telling myself, it's going to get better, hoping I was okay and any day now my district would start appreciating me...and then there was that moment when it finally hit me:

THey don't care about me.

It's been 8 years.

They will not change.

I have to leave.

It's finally dawned on me that it's not me. I don't think that my school district respects its teachers. Maybe it's the community I live in, and their politics. 1/4 of our school's teaching staff turned over last year.

Now, I have this theory about that every person needs that little edge of insecurity, just that tiny bit of worry that maybe that aren't as good as they think they are and that makes them work just that much harder to be good at whatever it is that they do. It's why they work so hard.

Well, my current employer has capitalized on my nagging self-doubt long enough.

The only thing I've been mulling over the last couple of months is, what will I do next? AFter exploring a lot of options, I've decided I need to try a change of venue. I'm not leaving teaching, not now. SO this morning I turned in an application to Albuquerque Public Schools to be a math teacher for them. It's scary. They're huge., with over 6000 teachers and a whole bunch of high schools.

I'm kind of sad. And pissed. I've been in a co-dependent relationship with my current district for so long (8 years) and change is scary. I have a 4-mile commute and what if APS doesn't want me? (True, they did call me 30 minutes after I submitted my online appliction and clarified a few things before sending out their letters of inquiry to my listed references. )

It's really, really hard to find experienced math teachers. Really hard. My two previous interview for math teacher both went like this:

....Sooooo, this is the school...here's the lunch room, administration...here's let me introduce you to the math department head...hey, when do you think you get down to district to sign a contract?

Me: well, I, uh...

You know what? never mind. Tasha - can you zip on down to district and bring back this nice lady a contract to sign? Say, do you have a TI graphing calculator? Stop by the book room on the way out and get yourself one.

But that was 8 years ago. I might have to answer questions and stuff this time.
So anyway. I guess I'm rambling. I'm really nervous about this. I don't know why. change is scary. I'll keep ya posted.

...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Back in the game


Yesterday while the Great Sweet Baboo was running the Ghost Town 38.5 I finally got up off my butt and did some running of my own. I strapped on my hydration vest and my new ear warming headband with built-in headphones, and then I headed out on what wound up being about a 16 mile run south out of Hillsboro. I ran slowly, contemplatively, until I got to my turnaround point, and then I turned around and came back. It was gorgeous out. I forgot how much I missed this. It's been 2 weeks since my last long run and I had a great time.

I've figured out that if I run a circuitous loop, I'll cut it short. If I try to run more than one loop, I'll find an excuse to stop after the first one.

But, if I do a straight out and back, the half-way point happens while I'm still feeling good, and I have no choice but to find my way back. So, to short-circuit my own natural laziness I strap on 60 ounces of water, a little over half a dozen goos, a couple power bars just to be safe, my cell phone, inhaler, and my tunes. Then, I have me a workout. Next Sunday, since I did a marathon not long ago, I'll bump it up to 20 miles.

Once a week, I'll do a several-mile "speedwalk" with the Baboo. Another day I'll do 6-8 mile run in my neighborhood, and on another day, 5-6 mile run. 2 evenings of spin. No time for swimming during this month. Lots of hills, hills, hills.

My goal: to be able to run 31 miles "before dark" after starting at 7 am in Northern Alabama on Presidents' Day weekend.

3 weeks, 5 days to the Black Warrior 50K.

...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another good reason to run.

Just a little while ago Sweet Baboo walked in to find me relaxing in a hot garden tub bath. "Whatcha doin'?" he asked rhetorically.

"I'm relaxing," I boasted. "And it's everything I thought it could be."

He opened his mouth to say something, and then closed it. He puttered around for awhile, putting on jogging clothes, and then wanted to say something again. Then he didn't, and he went out for a run.

He wanted to say, "you should be running. You've been getting angry and depressed and it's the only thing that helps you."

He probably also wanted to say, "You have a 31-mile ultra marathon in 4 weeks, and you need to be out running. You haven't done much running since your last maraton 2 weeks ago."

He may have even been thinking, "I want you to have a good time at the Black Warrior 50K. You won't have a good time if you aren't trained for it."

But, alas; like many a man who loves a woman, he lives in the shadow of uncertainty. He is, like many a well-meaning man, cowed by PMS, and my general moodiness. And so, he is silent.

I don't feel like running. But I need to, exactly because I don't feel like it. And the stuff that he's thinking? Well, he's right. I love him for his uncertainty, and his hesitation, and his love for me, and his worry and fear of reprisal.

And so I'm going for a run.

...

Friday's here.

First off, all you who send me email with the smug little tag lines:
sent from my wireless Blackberry or, sent from my iPhone

You do that on purpose, don't you?

Hey, have I written about who/what I'm teaching this semester? I'm re-teaching Algebra 1A. This means that I'm teaching the kids that failed it last semester.
This means that I'm teaching kids who FAILED IT. They FAILED it, got an F, did not get any high school credit. And, most of them also failed 8th-grade math, too, and maybe more, although I don't have access to their records before that. And so I have a brand new class of shiny-faced youngsters with more than the usual desperation, apathy, and feeling of failure on their plate. They showed up in my class on January 7th with various levels of being grounded or perhaps worse, parents who said things like, "just hand in there another year, and then you can drop out and work with your uncle Milo in the garage."

I don't know how to tell them, "hang on, just keep working, many, many bright and talented people struggle with Algebra, when you're older, you can hire a tutor." So, I just try to find ways to make Algebra entertaining. And you know what? Turns out there aren't that many ways to do that. I stand up there and do my song and dance, wanting this to be my swan song, since I may, more likely than not, never teach again after May. I fantasize about them talking about me after I'm gone, saying, "oh, if only we'd known how talented she was. Why didn't she tell us she felt so burned out? I mean, other than saying to us every single day in the hallway, 'I feel so burned out,' that is."

See, when I took Algebra 1 in high school it just made sense to me. I sat in the back seat of class and read novels, and every once in a while I'd look up and squint at the board (I was too cool to wear my glasses) and see what the teacher had written, and it just made sense. So, I'd go back to my book, ignore my homework, make all As on the tests, and barely pass the class with a C-. It has to do with pattern recognition. Some people can look at how a couple of problems are solved and detect a pattern in how they are solved, and BINGO, they know the rules and what to do next time.

Others do not.

And those are the ones I'm teaching.

I've never had a class in how to teach math, unlike the other math teachers. I've been doing it, mostly, for 8 years. I ignore words like, "evaluate" and tell the kids that those are fancy math words, "Just work it out." I say. I also say things like, "Stuff" instead of "quantity" and "Smooshed together" to describe how we write products like the variable term 3xy.
I go to math meetings and hear about how the other teachers are having their kids keep write and keep, "math journals" and I try to keep my face as neutral as possible. (Is every other math teacher on earth just a big huge NERD?) I don't even really fit in with the other math teachers. They majored in math. I majored in geology and education. They'll fondly say things like, "Remember college calculus?" and I'll mumble something. I think I took "MATH 123f, Calculus for Single Mothers With Small Children." I think I got a C.

So, the kids and I will struggle together until May, when I walk away from administration's plans to nearly double my workload next year and possibly increase my class size.

But, hell, it's Friday. it's Friday and it's a three day weekend. it's been a long week, what with a broken furnace (of COURSE the furnace broke on the coldest day of the year at our house) and bitter, cold, un-runnable weather. I have "spinach and artichoke" flavored potato chips, which are better than they sound, and a margarita. Hello, garden tub. Hello, medium-level sudoku. Hello, Saturday spin class and Sunday run.

SENT FROM MY HUSBAND'S LAPTOP. BECAUSE MINE IS STILL BROKEN.

...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Welcome to the El Malpais Diner


So Sunday Sweet Baboo and I went out to El Malpais to do long runs. This was the idea, anyway.
El Malpais means, "The Bad Country" And, what better place than to go for a long, Sunday run than a place whose name in Spanish tells you that this is bad country?

Indeed.

On the menu today, your choice of three entrees for your running pleasure:

1) Slippery mud shoulder studded with base-ball sized lava rocks.

2) Sharp, hard lava field covered with a blanket of snow, enough to hide the crevices and bumps and turn your ankle.

3) "Chef's surprise" This is a road that is covered with snow that is sometimes 1'' deep, and sometimes 6'' deep. Sometimes the crust of the snow will support your weight....and, sometimes it will support it long enough for you to push off a running step and then allow your weight to sink down, causing you to lurch forward ineptly, waisting most of your energy.

The "surprise" part is not knowing what's underneath. Hard ground? Small boulders? slick mud? SURPRISE!

Oh, and there's no place to pee, just a few scrubby junipers spaced 20 yards apart each that hide nothing.

Oh yeah, and it's all at 7100 feet above sea level.

OF course, I chose the "chef's surprise," and I have the sore ankles to prove it. Nothing seriousl, though. Like I told Baboo, you have to try new things. If you don't take a chance on the possibility of an unsatisfying run, you might not have fantastic runs, right?

I still don't have a computer. I've hijacked Sweet Baboo's until he gets home from work.

...

All I really want is some cheap sunglasses.

I'm going today to get contacts. Or to be more precise, contact. I've been waiting 30 years for this, so that I can get some cheap sunglasses. TO say that I'm excited about this is a vast understatement.

I've been wearing glasses for 30 years. And, for 30 years I've gazed enviously on all the normal people or people with contacts wearing fabulous sunglasses. Sunglasses with MIRRORED lenses, in particular, have been on my drool list, because, I don't know, maybe because I watched CHiPs too much as I kid, I don't know. But you really can't easily or cheaply get corrective lenses with a mirrored finish.

I am about sunglasses like some women are about shoes. You know who you are. Just imagine, shoe ladies, if you had to do with the same servicable pair of shoes day after day, week after week. That's what my life as a nearsighted person has been like. Here in New Mexico they are ubiquitous. Even the cheap ones are polarized, which is good because I'm all about getting myself lots of cheap sunglasses. I've been obsessed for 30 years with something I could never have. I've looked at envy at other people's cool sunglasses and wished I could have cool sunglasses, and convinced myself that it's okay, my 2 pairs of indoor glasses and 2 pairs of sunglasses are fine. They're just FINE. No, REALLY.

I tried contacts once, in 2004. I wasn't taught how to put them in or take care of them and wound up pitching screaming hissy fits, screaming out MO%HERFU@#ER when the the little corrective blob of goo folded up and got stuck under my eyelid, fell on the floor, or whatever. They were so frustrating that I wouldn't take them out when I finally did get them in, causing more problems.

My new eye doctor swears that this time, it will be different. This time, he promises, they will be kind, and teach me how to use them. This time. And, like the sucker I am, I believe. I more than believe; I'm apopletic with excitement. Bwahahahaha!

I believe because I want to wear cheap sunglasses. I want to choose them as part of my outfit for the day, or just depending on my mood. Mirrored aviator sunglasses. Tiny Diane Keaton granny sunglasses. Big square Lindsey and Britney sunglasses. Pink, blue, red, purple, black, gold, silver. Zebra cateye sunglasses with rhinestones. (Did I say MIRRORED?)

So today, at 3:00 MST, I'm going to get contacts. Or as I said earlier, contact. I'm getting a "monovision" prescription in which they correct my dominant eye for distance and leave my other eye alone so that I can read. Otherwise, I can't read with my nearsighted prescription in, so I can't see my Garmin or my watch.

I already got my first pair of non-prescription sunglasses at REI.

They weren't cheap, but they were easy. (Ha.)

They are pale, pearlescent pink, with brownish-pink lenses.

And, they are MIRRORED.

...

Comcrapper. Craputer. Technology really can suck.

It draws you in with its siren song of how it will simplify and beautify your life. Much like the sociopathic boyfriend or girlfriend or first spouse you had, you trust it. Completely. turn over all your data to it.

Then it falters, sputters, and dies.

$HIT, I muttered yesterday morning. "This is really going slow. It can't get any worse."
and god said, "HA!" and he smote me with, I suspect, a failing hard drive. or something. He cursed me with the curse that we get when we're dumb enough to say, outside a TV sitcom, This can't get any worse. Yeah. I think it's in genesis or something.
"And he smote them with i/o errors at every turn and yea, they were humbled."


The "recover manager" has been moving at a glacial speed of 1% per 5 minutes. I basically got it started, went to bed, and woke up occasionally to stare, bleary-eyed, at the screen, and then punch another button. Now it says it as 36 minutes to go, but here's the kicker, every 5 minutes or so, that number goes UP.

I have much to share. About the run that wasn't yesterday. And about my cheap sunglasses, that I've waited 30 years for.

All this will have to wait. Whine, weedle, sniff.

...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

This one is for the girls: Advice from Athletes #2

well, and maybe their caring partners who want to help them become better cyclists.

Okay, so I was thinking of what the next advice post should be, and I've decided that based on some of the stuff that was coming out of the advice about chaffing and blisters that I might do one on TA-TAs, and the inevitable difficulties when one is both 1) a runner and 2) buxom. Which I plan to address soon. But sorry, no ta-tas today.

Instead, I want to address what I've sensed as a growing, angry murmer out there among women who want to be multisport athletes or cyclists. They really do. but, they are stopped, by one thing:

SADDLE ISSUES.

(scary dramatic music here: Dun dun DUNNNNNNNNNNNN)

So, women athletes out there, tell us: What do you use to make long rides more comfortable? What do you do about chaffing? How do you handle bruising?

I'll go out on a limb here and extend the invitation to be brutally honest by being honest myself: I've had races, even sprints, where I finished with everything from feeling bruised to actually having skin missing.

Yeah. Down there.

It happens more in the aero position than not and I've tried various things: saddles, cremes, etc. With varying degrees of success. I'm still working on the problem. Other women whisper to me at races or in the locker room or email me and tell me that although they are fit and/or willing participants, and do long-distance cycling even, that they have these problems as well. Girl problems. Side effects that, quite frankly, make the experience of cyclist much less pleasant than it should be.

So, I KNOW I'm not the only one whose had these issues. But it's rarely written about openly. Oh, there are some veiled references to "soft tissues" here and there, but I don't see much. Much of the advice I see seems to be written more for men, who don't, um, have places for powders and cremes and such to go into and perhaps cause problems.

I cannot believe I'm about to talk about this publicly.

My contribution:
I read recently and article that said that ladies should avoid using, day-to-day, anything that is "warming" down there as a product at any time as it may include honey and/or capsacin, and avoid ever using anything with glycerine in it (like KY)
Why? Glycerine and honey provide, um, er, nutrition, apparently, for bacteria and yeasts, which can cause chronic irritation. As can capsacin. This in turn to make the whole, uh, area
(Okay, it's not as easy for me to talk about this part of my body as it is some others, this is ReALLY hard for me to do)
okay. So these ingredients can make your, um, special place irritated and less, shall we say, sturdy when engaging in things like, um, cycling.
Apparently, menopause and pre-menopause play a role, too, in the, um, condition of skin down, um, there (GAWD, this is hard for me to do...)

So I'm invited all women who've experience and maybe conquered this, in part or whole, to contribute their SADDLE WISDOM. Women cyclists, triathletes, and randonneurs, go ahead.
(Please. I'm excrutiatingly embarassed at what I've already written...don't leave me hanging...)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Top ten things that annoy me about work this week.

Alternate title: Top Ten Things I Won't Miss About My Job When I Quit.



10. Theme vests. Believe it or not, there are actually adults out there who wear vests, to work, with 3-dimentional sculptures reflecting the nearest holiday or season, and some of them are high school teachers.

9. Those little slips of paper that I get in my box every two weeks telling me how many copies I've used and how many I have left in my "copy budget" for the year.



8. The three or four phone calls I get during class. Somtimes its people asking for the other teach who uses that room and isn't in there, and I'm asked, "well do you know where he is?" despite the deailed rosters telling us where to find every teacher during every period of every day. Sometimes it's the office, calling someone a student upstairs about a referral. When I'm in the middle of trying to get across something and it rings, sometimes, I pick it up and then drop it back into the cradle, buying me a couple extra minutes until they say, "WTF?" and call again. Sometimes I "accidentally" unplug it, so that they have to send office aides.

7. Two words: "MATH JOURNALS" This is the new thing in math education. Not kidding. So far, I have resisted this attempt to draw me into the collective, because I, well, think it's stupid.

6. Getting a cheap wall calendar from the district for the holidays, after finding out that the district office had an evening holiday party for themselves with prime rib. (Oh, then we were all invited to the cafeteria during the next day, and offered the leftovers, "for free." I'm not making this up.)

5. Unannounced fire drills. We all line up facing away from the school, that way if the school explodes, it's better to be struck with projectiles in the occipital lobe than in the face, I guess. Or maybe it's because they don't want the kids to watch the school burn, because that might be a moment of pleasure for them Or the teachers. Meh.

4. Wet days. I have an outside room, and the sand clumps and sticks in the kids' shoes and gets tracked inside. Then it falls out of the shoe treads onto the floor in little clumps. Then it dries some more and falls apart. By the end of the day, my classroom looks like a sandbox.


3. The way the cafeteria announces its faculty "special" that week, and, well it's never very special.

2. The emailed "Friendly reminders" that we get two or three times a week that seems vaguely threatening and never friendly.


and the most annoying thing that I won't miss if I quit my job:



1. Apple-themed anything.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mo' marathons.

I'm reading a book called, "I'm not the New Me" by Wendy McClure, which is so funny it's just about made me snort my Special-K protein water out my nose more than once. If you can get a copy, do, but get the full copy, not the bargain paperback. The commentary on the 60's and 70's weight-watcher recipe cards alone are worth the price. I'm going to buy her second book and put it on my coffee table.

So it's slightly less than 6 weeks to the Black Warrior 50K, one of my two "A" races this year and my first 50K race and the final race that, when I finish it, will alow me to join the Marathon Maniacs. Tonight Sweet Baboo and I started our weekly "speedwalk" training.

So, the idea is that by doing this at least once a week as fast as we can, we will build up the muscles used for walking and also learn to walk really fast. This is good for long distance running because walk breaks, especially on hills, allow the musles a chance to lengthen and recover without devastating slow-down.

According to the experts, effective "recovery" walks use a different set of muscles than running. You kick your legs out front and focus on pushing yourself forward, instead of "side-to-side."

So tonight we headed out on the first one and I have to say, my walking pace is pretty slow. It's pretty weird to be focussed on getting faster and then suddenly get into a training regimen where you deliberately slow down, but that's what you do in ultrarunning: Got a blister? Slow down. Got cramps? Slow down. Nausea? Slow down. In fact, there's nothing for which the prescriptions seems to be, speed up. Now, that's my kinda stuff.

So anyhoo, we did out 2.95 miles in about 45 minutes, so just over a 15 minute pace. I had to laught because I realized, honestly, this is pretty close to my first 5K time back in 2005, and I was running as fast as I could and got my ass kicked by an 11-year-old.

The other thing I noticed about the speedwalk is that I didn't heat up as fast. I had to dress a bit warmer than I would have for a run. I really enjoyed the walk, which we did right after dinner.
I guess I'll get faster and more efficient at walking with time. Most of all, though, I get to do it with Sweet Baboo, and I rarely get to workout with Swifty Sweet Baboo. Usually I just kiss him goodbye, and then see him when it's over.

Also this week we ordered my snow shoes from the REI outlet store for the Sandia Snowshoe race. Now, I honestly have no illusions about being swift in any sense in the word in this race, in which I believe I will have my slowest 5K EVAR, comically shuffling around the top of a mountain in giant clown shoes. I don't even ski.

(This admission "I don't ski" actually causes some of the locals to utter a sharp intake of breath and murmer, Dude! I think I'm the last person on earth who is active and lives near a mountain and doesn't know how to ski. But, I mean, I grew up in ALABAMA and TEXAS. Here's what I know how to do: swim in backyard pools, fan myself, and bitch about the heat. Y'all. I also know how to make my hair and makeup melt-proof. That's about it. )

But back to the race. It's a about a 5K out-and-back on the Sandia Crest trail. Either Pirate talked me into or else she was talking about I said, "Hey, I want to do that," I don't remember. But why not? It's a chance to 1) get new gear, 2) get a cool T-shirt, and 3) wear giant clown shoes and run across the top of a mountain with other people in giant clown shoes. Yay!

Always an adventure. I can't wait!

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mississippi Blues Inaugural Marathon: Race Report


Driving the course in Jackson, Mississippi on Friday afternoon I'm pretty sure that Sweet Baboo and I were thinking the same thing:


Mo##erfu@#er. For a flat place, there sure are a lot of GD hills here!

(This, of course, was something I mentioned to a volunteer during the race, and she laughed like hell and slapped her knee. "Girl, you gotta go down to the DELTA if you want FLAT!"

Pre-race Breakfast, 4am: leftover Torellini, soy latte and sports drink. Now, I run slowly, about a 12-13 minute pace for these things. If you run faster your tummy probably won't tolerate this breakfast.

Results and recommendations: According to my Garmin I ran a tiny bit faster than at Las Vegas about 5 weeks ago: a 12:54 pace. I did NOT run a negative split this time; I went out way to fast and from then on just watched my average pace go up, and up, and up...my legs really took a beating on those hills.
The road is tilted, so I ran toward the middle where it's flatter (a tip from Bones). There was a lot of potholes; we were joking and calling them Mississippi speed bumps because I know how southerners drive, being one. (I think stock car racing started in the south.)

It was clear as early as mile 4 that the course was long. This was agreed upon by everyone I talked to, and each time I passed a mile marker, Garmin showed 0.22 past that. So they might want to move their start or their finish line to make it 26.2 or have the results adjusted.

There was this one chick that I focused on beating...hey, you got to focus on something, right?
Well, here's why: her family showed up around mile 14, swapped out her bottles and took the things from her that she didn't want to carry any more. RRRRR. Then her sister or something stepped into the course right in front of me to take pictures and I ran smack into her.
HOWEVER, when I passed her, she would pass me back and then slow down and stay the same distance in front of me. WTF? So, I stayed behind her until about a quarter mile from the finish, and with her mom was running with her, rubbing her shoulders and encouraging her, I sprinted past both of them and finished a couple minutes ahead of her. Ha!
(I know, pointless. But satisfying, nonetheless.)

My favorite race volunteer: a Jackson policeman around mile 4.4 scolding all the cars., e.g.: "HEY! You THINK, oh you THINK you're going that way BUT YOU'RE NOT AND--HEY, JUST WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING? oH, i KNOW you aint thinking of cutting through THERE! GET BACK! GET BACK"

Post race there was pizza (athletes and their families ate it all before I finished and hey you fast runners out there, tell your spouses and kids hands off until all the runners are done!) and pasta salad, red beans and rice, bbq, and other such goodies, and a woman singing excellent blues music (of course) on a stage.

Then we headed back for a soak and then headed for iHop, our favorite post-race place.

Later that night we were given free admission to Hal and Mal's Blues Club. They had an excellent concert featuring "Super Chiken," and we were also given two free drinks each. I had 2-cheese nachos, which were excellent, smothered in salsa, cheese, and black beans. We joined Bill Anders and his family who were a lot of fun, but it was difficult to talk because it was a noisy place. Bill ran the half marathon and his family provided cheering and support.

I would highly recommend this race. It was small, fun, friendly, well-supported (could use more potties, though! Some ran into some of the local businesses to pee) and a nice, but challenging, course. Jackson is a very nice little town with a great local coffee chain (try CUPS) and great food (Bravo Italian restaurant and Hal and Mal's) and music. Oh, and race shwag included sunglasses, Mississippi Blues CD, a hammer gel, and a very nice long sleeve technical t-shirt.
But, do not get a margarita at Hal and Mals. Just don't. Get a whiskey sour or Alabama Slammer instead, or a microbrew. Just trust me on this.

So, my legs are trashed. Sitting on a jet-propelled pencil for a couple hours didn't help. I'll let Sweet Baboo talk about his results.

Next up: Sandia Snowshoe race, January 26th

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Best Advice Series: An introduction

So here's my idea. Let's do some public service stuff for all the people that have resolved to get healthier and fitter during 08. Every couple of days, I'm going to introduce a topic and ask some of you experienced folks to chime in with your best advice, and then I can make a link back to the the topic in my sidebar. All you endurance athletes, now is the time for your trial and error and pain to be someone else's gain!
My topics will be slightly slanted towards the concerns of the larger-sized athlete, but should be able to benefit any beginner.

So today's topic is:
CHAFING/BLISTERING

I'm talking running, cycling, swimming, underarms, inner thighs, between the cheeks, toes, heels, short runs, long runs whatever, wherever!

This is NOT a rare problem, so what are you best tips for beating this problem? What products or clothing do you swear by that have changed your life and make chaffing a thing of the past?


Okay, I'll start.

I really, really like these socks called Injinji. Ever heard of them? They are so sexy. They save your toes from blisters and rubbing. We also like SportsSlick. Stuff does not wash off and a tube lasts a really long time. I've used it when I had chaffing on my upper arm during swims, too.

The rest of you, comment and give us your best Anti-Chafing advice!

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2008: A year of changes (?)

2008 is gonna be a year of changes. I can FEEL it.


<--But lets first get the gratuitious boob shot out of the way. (I think there's one there. )
No need to thank me guys.

Well, 2008 is the year no meds. I've been on meds for treating anxiety and adult AD/HD for the past 6 or 7 years, and I've tapered off them (under my doc's directions, of course) and now I'm done. I feel good. I feel calm. A little disorganized, but calm.


Second, it's the year that I accept that I'm going to be a bit softer, and rounder than what one imagines an endurance athlete to be. I entered all this hoping I'd come out of it with a hard body but what I have instead is a stronger, fitter body, and that's fine. I'm happy with that, and will focus on getting stronger and fitter and loving myself.

Lastly, at some point during 2008 I'm going to make a dramatic change in my career. I chose teaching because it provided the best intersection of my talents, abilities, and interests along with the (at the time) role of a single mother. I was available for my children when I needed to be. However, as my youngest approaches his senior year of high school he (thankfully) no longer needs me as much as he did.

Oh, he thinks needs me for ride after practice but we built our home 2 miles from the high school for a reason. Plus it's hard to whine to your mom that you need a ride when you've done an Olympic distance triathlon, a half marathon, AND you're in cross country but especially when your mom's 10 mile run goes past your school. Go on and hoof it, triathlon boy.
But anyway.

I'm good at what I do, and take it very seriously. I have lots of skills in reality but not on paper. Here's some of them that I'm trying to fit into a resume:
  • I can make about 30 kids gasp with horror (by writing something on the board, tonight's homework assignment or the quadratic equation)
  • I can bend and twist any government regulaton or new rule and make it conform to what I'm already doing.
  • I can scan a room of people and, in about 10 seconds to determine whose cheating, who's sleeping, whose texting on their cell phone, whose watching a video on their ipod, who's doodling instead of working and--HEY, WHERE ARE YOUR HANDS? NO, YOU CANNOT SHARE A SEAT. BECAUSE I SAID SO, THAT'S WHY.

  • I can stand outside and watch kids get on the buses. And off the buses. And kiss each--HEY, LET'S MAKE A CLEAN BREAK, GUYS. THIS IS A FAMILY PLACE.
    I'm required to do this, twice a week.

  • I can test the hell of kids (thanks, NCLB).

  • I can use a computer fairly well, and I know the proper bribes for getting first on the list of the tech people when I need it fixed.
  • I can write a lesson plan and then change it at the last moment because of an unnanounced picture make-up day, "off sight evaculation drill," or other contingency.
  • I can, by creative use of language, make a parent enthusiastic about the idea that we should, "maybe think of other options besides college for Natalie."
Now, this spring I'll have about 10 years experience teaching and 2 master's degrees, one in Educational Psychology and one in Counseling.

Unfortunately counseling turns out to be a fairly useless degree, which nobody told me. Anybody can call themselves a "psychotherapist" without any training whatsoever in nearly every state, and few people know the difference between a "psychotherapist" and a "licensed professional mental health counselor."

What I do will need to cover incidentals such as running shoes, student loans, the ever-increasing cell phone bill, as well as allow me the time to get in all the training that has helped me become calm and thoughtful and happy. Because, without those, I'm no good to anyone, the people I try to help, my family, or myself.

More on this story as it develops.
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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Product review: Nike hatphones, Brooks Vapor Dry pullover.

I wound up doing about 10.5 miles on Sunday, not taking my Garmin along because I just wanted to do a nice, slow easy run 6 days before my 4th marathon in 12 months. I wanted to do it without perseverating on my pace and such.

For nutrition, I took along some Kroger "In an instant" sugar-free performance drink, which is sugar free and has electrolytes, and some gels, which I took about every 1/2 hour or so. The reason I drink sugar-free drinks is because of a situation with my tooth enamel, but they aren't for everyone.

Clothing: My new Brooks Vapor Dry running hoodie, which has a nice little pocket for my ipod in the upper left front, and built-in mitties that cover my hands if I want them or fold up into cuffs if I don't. I also wore my Cw-x insulated running tights, which I LLOOVVe because they keep my junk from jiggling as well as keep me warm, my sexy Injinji toe socks (pink) and my new Nike hatphones.

I was probably one of the last people on earth to know about hatphones, but now I know there are headbands and earmuffs with music headphones in them. The hat phones are AWESOME. The hat sits loosely on my head and keeps me warm. I found out I can wear less when my head is warm. The hat came with an extension cord that connected the ipod in my pocket to the back of my hat.

I've gotten beyond using music for pacing now, I use it for upbeat background music on my long runs. I mostly run out in the desert, and the only noise there is out there is dogs barking and engine brakes in the distance.

But, sometimes when I'm running I will get distracted by every little thing, especially my headphones. I slow down or stop to fiddle with the cord, put them back in my ear, what have you. The earphones in this hat are not in my ear, leaving me free to hear what's going on around me if I need to, and just have the music as what it should be, kind of a background
soundtrack for my mood.

Since the hat is hand-wash only, I wore a sweat band underneath, and then took off, and was never once distracted by a cord or earphones. I've since found that there is another hat with built-in headphones that is about half the price, but I don't know how good it is.

The hat phones are a great option for being able to have some tunes and still hear what's going on around you. (It won't, you know, save you from the guy in the hockey mask with the sythe coming up behind you, but then nothing ever does. )
The Vapor Dry pullover is my new best friend now. I wore it over a l/s technial running shirt, and temps were in the 40's. I was very comfy, but the hood on this thing is rediculous. It's incredibly tight for my great big head, so I never use it. I'd recommend just getting the half zip and supplying your own hat. Other than that, perfect. If I could change just one thing it would be for it to zip all the way down the front.

On a lesser note, the Ironman heartstrap is now, for some reason, wearing a hole in my flesh each and every time I use it. What's up with that? It didn't use to do that. Gonna have to put a bandaid there, I guess.

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