Holiday Projects

Given that we have two weeks off work for the holidays, the time was ripe for some house projects. The one on the list was resealing the stone floor in the entrance. The actual job only took an hour, but the sealer needed 24 hours of no walking on it, so we vacated and headed for a couple of days in Seattle.

Arriving home to a pristine floor.

Still with a week and a half of holidays, we needed another project. Jason and I seem to have this disease that prevents us from being idle. Even when on vacation, we usually come home from holidays exhausted. Anyway... we found some glass tile we thought would look good in our bathroom, and decided to cover one of the walls with it. This would be a several day job, so fit the bill nicely.

Jason grouting.

One surprise for any future owners of our house, we left the area behind the mirror untiled. We figured it would be a waste of tile and money... so "surprise!" for anyone who may want a different mirror someday.

We're quite pleased with the finished look, and it keeps with the bathroom's spa theme.

There remains over half a week of holidays left, plenty of time for a new project. Luckily some out-of-town friends are coming to visit, which saves us from ourselves before we start re-siding the house or something like that.

One Year Later

We did the same route this year as last for our annual Christmas day hike, and what a difference a year can make! Last year (when I was training for IMAZ) it was a super wet fall, with a ridonculous amount of rain. It showed in the rivers and creeks around. This year, of course not training for anything so no long, 5+ hour rides on the weekend, and it's been a pretty dry year.

I guess I should add to make up for that, Mother Nature decided it would start raining just as we left for our hike yesterday, but be warm (seriously, Jason ran in shorts yesterday afternoon) and sunny, not a cloud in the sky by the time we got home. I guess she wanted to make sure we remembered what the PNW is all about.

We did the Holt Creek loop, but the short version this year because of the rain. Check out the comparison:

This year on Dec. 25, regular Holt Creek.

Last year on Dec. 25, raging Holt Creek.

This year on Dec. 25, where Holt Creek
meets the Cowichan River.

Last year on Dec. 25, where Holt Creek
meets the Cowichan River.

In the summer, of course the creek is a tiny trickle and the river has some great swimming holes for relief from the heat. Despite yesterday's sogginess, it was great to be outside and enjoying everything the Cowichan Valley has to offer. Is there a prettier place this time of year?

We were also very lucky to get a sighting of the elusive rainforest zebra it's in natural habitat.

Rainforest Zebra.

Dogzilla - attack!

This fall I'll be training Ironman Arizona again... I wonder what Holt Creek will look like on Dec. 25, 2012?

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays... whatever they mean to you, I hope this year is the best ever. We're pretty low-key around here, however do love decorating the tree and putting up lights. We're not big on presents at our house, but have two weeks off work together to spend playing, visiting friends, and working on house projects.

Of course, if presents were bikes then it
would be an entirely different matter!

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love! ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

Santa Run

This morning was the first annual Run for a Claus here in town, put on by the United Way. First 250 people got a Santa suit to run in, so of course Jason and I signed up. Problem was... this weekend I came down with a brutal sinus cold, and barely dragged myself out of bed this morning. I really wasn't sure how I could do a 5k run, so Jason said I should just run/walk and have fun wearing the suit with a couple hundred others.

It was fun milling around the start line with all the Santas, and there were lots of dogs. We didn't know dogs were allowed or Humu definitely would be here - she even has her own Santa suit! Next year.

Jason ran with me, taking pictures - but as you can see most pictures involved capturing suit adjustments. The suits weren't the best quality... and I will definitely use my own belt next year as the one that came with the suit was a bit flimsy. There were lots of examples of "wardrobe malfunctions" along the way, and that just added to the humour. Plus lots of honking and waving from cars and passerbys, I'm sure they were wondering why hundreds of Santas were running down the road!

Despite being sick, I ran the whole way but a little slower than usual. We got to the finish line and my garmin read just over 3k - there were rumours that the course was short, but that is way short! I know, what kind of Santa wears a garmin? I just got one for running and wanted to try it out. My cold caught up with me at the end and I was pretty much ready to get back to my juice-chugging regimen and a nap.

Ho ho ho - see you next year, running Santas!

Souper Sunday

Those who know me, know I don't spend heaps of time in the kitchen preparing food. My idea of a killer side dish is a yellow pepper cut into strips - voila! But one thing I really enjoy is making soup, especially my favourite super-yummy carrot soup. It's a drawn-out, multi-step process though, so this time I thought I'd make a double batch and then freeze a bunch so I can have it whenever fancy strikes me.

First step is cutting onions, and I am pretty darn sensitive to those pesky sulfoxides! So my solution - wearing swim goggles while I chop!

Guess I'm going to need a bigger saute pan if I keep making double batches...

Look at all the carrots!

Boils, then cooks for 30 minutes. While cooking, I get to mark papers - multitasking joy! I also let the soup cool completely before I puree it, I found out the hard way that pureeing boiling hot soup is the opposite of fun.

Food processor working over time.

Last step, adding the almond milk (this is a completely vegan recipe)... then spooning some out into bags for the freezer.

Boo to cleaning up, the one part that's not that fun.

Bonus treat - cookies. Melt dark chocolate, organic peanut butter and a splash of almond milk. Stir in some steel-cut oats, form into blobs and stick in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Cinnamon Bun Run

Today was a 5k fundraiser for the Ladysmith food bank, but really what better reason to run than to get a cinnamon bun at the end?

I really wanted to run well to make up for last week's brutal 10k. My runs have been really off and on lately, some great and some terrible, so I knew there was an ok run in there somewhere, and I was hoping today would be the day. The format of this race was a bit different - you registered with your predicted time, and the person whose finish was closest to their prediction would be the winner. No watches, GPS's, heart rate monitors etc allowed.

I started fast, hoping I could just hang on since it was only 5k. I knew it was too fast though since I could barely breathe and it wasn't long before I had a side stitch. But I tried to ignore it and keep going. I was surrounded by people, so I knew things were better than last week were I got dropped by pretty much the whole field in about the first 30 seconds.

The town of Ladysmith is carved into the side of a hill (which affords all the locals an ocean view), but the organizers did a good job of not making us run too many ugly hills. There was a tough one at about the halfway mark, and I'm pretty sure my heart rate at that point was doing it's best hummingbird imitation. But it also meant there'd be a downhill, and it was much more gradual so I got a chance to recover and then I tried to kick it up a notch again.

I had about 4k at that pace in me, then I collided with that figurative brick wall. I heard Norm and Wendy (pushing Tycho and Tessa in their baby joggers) yelling "Alison we're coming for you!" and then they pretty much blew by me as I started going backwards. I found the silver lining though: I was ahead of Wendy Simms - yes THAT Wendy Simms, former National Cyclocross Champion and all around superstar - for about 4k. Um yeah, ignore the fact that she just had a baby and was pushing a baby jogger that I slipped a 50-pound weight in at the start. (OK, maybe not but it's a good idea for next time). I tried to keep them in sight to the finish and I came in on fumes big time. Oh well, 4k of good running and 1k of death shuffle was still better than practically crawling like I did last week.

Of course the highlight was the cinnamon bun... gooey yummy goodness.

Norm & Wendy inhaled their cinnamon buns but I
savored mine. Tycho looks like he wants to steal it though.

Toeing the Line Again

I'm in for 2012, my second Ironman Arizona and my third Ironman total. Woohoo! Who's with me?

Double Day

Sometimes I get these crazy ideas, and I depend on the sane people around me to talk me out of it. My most recent crazy idea was to do two races in the same day, and no one shook their head or made my think it was anything but brilliant.

Earlier this week I found out that the two races I was going to do this weekend, a Cross on The Rock cyclocross race and the Gunner Shaw cross-country classic, were actually on the same day and not consecutive days. The cross race was Saturday morning, the run was Saturday afternoon, and as luck would have it - the two venues were about a 10-minute drive apart. Perfect, I could fit both in!

Yesterday it was literally freezing out. I emphasize that, because here in the PNW we are not used to ice and cold and are therefore weather pansies. Not as pansy-ish as Floridians or SoCalians (did I just make that word up?), but we are the northern equivalent. (FYI I'm not insulting FL or CA dwellers, I'm just jealous of their weather and that's how I deal with those emotions). So the fact that the ground was frozen when I arrived for my warmup at the cross race sucked. One woman found this out the hard way when she chose to ride over a frozen puddle just out of the start line and crashed and slid down the road a ways. Most of the course was over a motocross track, and it alternated between frozen bumpy bounce-you-around ruts, or soupy, thick, stop-you-in-your-tracks mud. I was definitely glad to have some mountain bike skills, as the downhills I just held on and let my bike go where it wanted. Luckily it never wanted me to hit the ground, thanks bike!

Cross start line.

Yep, the motocross track was muddy!

After the cross race, I cleaned up as best as I could, changed, and headed to the run race with about 30 minutes to spare until the start. Well, the parking lot was full, the overflow was full, so I had to head down the road to park about a 10-minute walk away. That meant I had to leave all my warmup clothes in the car and head to the start, which also meant I only had about 20 minutes to wait until the race began. Pretty good because at this point it was only a few degrees above freezing, so the less standing around waiting the better.

The race started and it didn't take long for me to feel the fatigue from ripping around the cross race at a high intensity. I knew by the first hill that this wasn't going to be a PR day, or even an "I ran well day". But I was in it and figured I'd just enjoy it. If anyone enjoys the Gunner Shaw that is - tough steep climbs, descents, rooty, rocky, muddy... and did I mention the swamps? Twice we ran through knee-deep disgusting swamp water that you could smell before you could see. Ah, cross-country running! The swamp was ice-cold and I couldn't feel my feet when I emerged - they were basically blocks of ice. The first swamp came out on a ridge that was frozen and icy, and I had to walk because with frozen feet, I couldn't feel if I actually had any traction and didn't want to fall. It took several minutes before I had any feeling, but of course there was a steep uphill that helped warm them up.

I am not a good trail runner (I don't pick my feet up very high, so navigating rocks, roots, etc takes concentration when I run the trails), but I love being out in the woods. I made my way through the course the best I could for the day, knowing my choice of racing on the bike earlier that day wasn't the best idea for a solid run, but it was the best idea for solid fun! The last kilometer of the 10k race includes three hills (like there weren't enough hills in the rest of the race) that are named: Little Gunner, Big Gunner and Big Bugger. I was happy to running down the other side of Big Bugger and to the finish, but then when you get to the finish line... well, you finish running knee-deep into a lake. Have I mentioned yet how cold it was yesterday?

Legs all cleaned up - did I mention the run
finish was in a icy cold lake?

I stuck around at the finish to get some hot chocolate, chat with superstar Melanie McQuaid (who won the women's race of course), and see if I got any draw prizes (I didn't). Standing around in the cold, in my running clothes (remember, my car was not actually in the parking lot) was a dumb idea because I was frozen solid. I headed back to the cross venue just in time for their draw prizes (didn't get any of those either). Come on - two races in one day and no draw prizes! At least they had a bonfire going, but it still didn't quite warm me up inside. Thankfully my car has heated seats, so I blasted the heat and finally warmed up for the drive home.

Guess I should have ridden my bike through the lake to clean it up too...

Thanks everyone who didn't talk me out of this crazy idea - my legs are pretty sore today but I sure did have fun!

Swimming with Sea Lions

OK, not swimming. Paddling. Friday dawned with beautiful weather, and Jason and I decided to paddle out to see "the boys" - they are back. Every winter we get male Steller sea lions coming down from Alaska, and male California sea lions coming up from Oregon & California. They come in late fall for the salmon, and stick around until the herring spawn in the spring.

A bunch have taken up residence on the docks in Cowichan Bay, so we paddled out to have a look. Didn't get too close, but felt pretty up-close and personal being the only people pretty much literally in the water with them. We'll have to do it again on the next nice day.

Some Californias hanging out at the end of the dock.

Wetsuits essential this time of year in case we fall in!

Didn't get too close to this end of the dock - that's where the
Stellers were hanging out. Their 2500 lbs tends to be a
bit more intimidating, over twice the size of
their California cousins.

A couple of Californias checking Jason out on his board.

Pillow Surgery

I am on the quest for the perfect pillow. I may just have found it. People who know me, know I have sleeping issues, to put it mildly I guess. I think "princess and the pea" may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I do like things just right if I'm going to get a good night's sleep.

My quest for pillows has been long-standing. I don't like super thick pillows, I'm not crazy about down (I really don't know why birds have to be tortured or die for me to lie my head on... incidentally, do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a decent duvet that isn't down? But that's another blog post). I had been hearing good things lately about foam latex pillows and decided to give one a try. They are not cheap, so I bought a standard size one to try out, thinking that if I liked it, I'd possibly upgrade to king size in the future.

I tried the pillow one night, and while there were some redeeming features, there was one overall negative - it was way too thick. So I pawned it off on Jason for a night, but then the next day decided it was too expensive to give up on. I figured I could perform surgery and turn it into what I was looking for.

The surgical tools consisted of a serrated bread knife and a silicone oven mitt. The mitt was to protect my hand when I was gnawing away with the knife. The surgery made a huge mess of foam bits everywhere, but the pillow's prognosis was excellent once in recovery.

It looks like I'm icing a giant cake.

Foam bits everywhere!

After several sleeps now, I can confirm that my (now thinner) pillow is fabulous. It cradles my head like it's floating, keeps my c-spine neutral, and doesn't loose any loft. It also has a bunch of micro-channels so air can flow through, and stays nice and cool - no flipping to the cool side necessary. Check one out!

Ready to go.

Fall Running

This is such a nice time of year to run. The grass is green again after the brown of summer, leaves are turning, it's like the world is a kaleidoscope of colour. Running has been dominating my workouts of late, so here's a few pictures of my run the other day on a gorgeous autumn afternoon.

Best running partner ever!

Songs To Run To

I need some suggestions for sings for my ipod. I almost always listen to music when I run - unless I'm running with others of course. I thought I'd post what's currently on my shuffle. You will see it's a pretty eclectic list. Please comment with suggestions... I'm always interested in a new tune, or being reminded of something I haven't heard for awhile.

Here are the songs I am running to right now:
A-Punk - Vampire Weekend
Anything, Anything - Dramarama
Borderline - Madonna
Debaser - Pixies
DLZ - TV On The Radio
Goodbye Hooray - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Happiness Loves Company - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Hey Ladies - Beastie Boys
Houdini - Foster the People
La La Love You - Pixies
Lose Yourself - Eminem
Monarchy of Roses - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Need You Tonight - INXS
Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People
Purple River - Aunt Betsy
Push It - Salt N Pepa
Say You Love Me - Fleetwood Mac
Sprawl II - Arcade Fire
Suburban War - Arcade Fire
Time To Pretend - MGMT
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' - Michael Jackson
Zingy - Ak'sent

Often I grab things randomly from my music library and don't even know what I've got until I'm listening. If you have any ideas of what should be on my shuffle - please let me know!

Resetting The Clock

I am not a morning person. I am not a night-owl either... but man, am I solid mid-day! Find me at noon and I am so ready for anything. I know it's common for triathletes to wake up at 5 a.m. or even earlier... but that's just not me and I don't see that happening unless something major changes in my life. I love to sleep!

Trouble is, I really wish I could get up early and do a workout before work. I can do it every now and then, when I really have to, but just can't seem to get up early on a regular basis. It doesn't look like the school I work at is going to change their schedule anytime soon (the first bell goes at 7:55 a.m., meaning I'm there earlier than that), so I guess it's up to me to reset my own internal clock.

My plan is to sync my internal time change with the end of Daylight Saving Time. I love DST and am always a little bit sad to see it go, as I like having the light after work rather than the morning. When we change the clocks back, I am going to set my alarm for an hour earlier. Theoretically, my body won't even notice and voila - an extra hour in the morning to go for a run, a swim, or something.

I'm a tad worried that my love of sleep will win out, and I'll reclaim that hour by hitting snooze on mornings I don't feel like getting up. Hopefully I'll stick to it - I'll let you know how it goes!

Things I Wish I Got A Picture Of In Kona

Sometimes things go by simply too fast to whip out the camera. Other times I don't have the camera with me. Other times, well, I just forget to take a picture for whatever reason. Here are some things Jason and I saw in Kona that I really wish I got a picture of.

- A girl riding a beach cruiser down Ali'i Drive, wearing an aero helmet several sizes too big.

- A guy swimming at the pier, with his dog (in a yellow lifejacket) swimming happily beside him.

- A pod of dolphins surrounding some swimmers in front of our condo one morning, leaping and spinning all around them. Rather than a picture, I would have given anything to be one of those swimmers!

- Jason in his underpants run get-up. No pictures were allowed. Dang.

- How hard it rained at the welcome dinner.

- The two guys from Montana we sat with at the awards dinner - they have been coming to Kona for the last 15 years to set the swim course for the race. What a cool holiday!

- Kirsty, Tim and I in our "Go Jason" special shirts.

Homework Assignment

My goal this winter is to seriously improve my running. To get started, Coach Kiki gave me some homework: I need to figure out what I like about running, and what I don’t like about running, because I’ve never really liked running and I need to change that. I started running as an adult, and am not a natural runner. The first step to becoming a better runner is to like running.

Since she gave me this assignment, I have been thinking. I figured I should start with what I don’t like. Hmmm. I couldn’t think of anything. I could almost hear those crickets chirping away in my brain. OK no problem, maybe I need some mental warming up, so let me think about what I like about running.

I love the feeling after I’ve finished a run. I love it when I run better than I think I can. I like cute running outfits. I love running with Humu. I love the peacefulness of running, being alone with my thoughts and the almost meditative state.

I love all the wildlife I see on my runs – so far the list includes too many birds to count, otters, seals, minks, various rodents, an elk, bears (best from a distance of course), a cougar (OK – don’t like that one). I love the energy I get after running. I love running when I’m in a new place, and exploring that place and seeing it from the view of my running shoes.

I like the sound of my breathing when I run. I like the sound of my running shoes hitting the ground. I like the uninterrupted time to listen to music through my iPod. I like staying in the moment when I run, and think about running.

I like it when I’m given a run with varying pace, so I have something to concentrate on. I like when I do an easy run and can just cruise along. I like running in the sunshine, feeling the warmth on my shoulders – I even like getting all sweaty. I like running in the rain, nice and cool even when I’m working hard. I like running after dark, how distractions are all gone and all I’m left with is my running.

I like running in the morning, even though my body doesn’t – it prefers to be warmed up. I like running after work, to work out the stress of the day and return home refreshed. I like how even a short run can be a good workout.

I’m confusing myself… so what is it I don’t like about running anyway? I tried thinking about it some more, and , there are those crickets again. Think harder! Well, I don’t like how my knees feel after long runs. But elevation, ice and compression are good friends of mine. Sometimes I’m tired and don’t feel like running, but if I don’t give in, I am always happy I went for a run. I don’t like that I think I have three different speeds (fast, medium, slow) but deep down inside I know they’re really “light jog”, “slow jog”, and “barely perceptible movement”. I don’t like how quickly I get out of running shape, and how much it hurts to get back into shape.

But honestly, I can’t think of a true reason I don’t like running. I think I’ve just convinced myself I don’t like it, when actually I do. On almost every run I look around and think how lucky I am to live the life I do, and how much I like running. I have been lying to myself for years… I’ve never considered myself a “runner”, but through this homework assignment I’ve realized that I really do love to run!

Kona Swims

It's no secret that my favourite place in Hawaii is in the water. Here are some more pictures from various swims during Ironman week.

Most of the time we swam from the Kailua-Kona
pier, but sometimes we just jumped
off the rocks in front of our condo.

Our condo was near the swim course turn-around,
you can see the orange buoy (sort of)
in the distance. Kirsty and I would swim out
to the course and then to town.

Out at the turn around buoy there was nothing but blue water...