Saturday, June 26, 2010
A few days ago, I blogged about the first half of my super fabulous holiday. First half recap: did the San Diego 1/2, visited friends in L.A. before making my way up to Idaho to meet Sparkfriend Ems. Completed the Teton Dam 1/2, receiving both a medal and a rhubarb crumble, then enjoyed an amazing day in Yellowstone National Park.
Here's the second half:
My visit with Ems whizzed by and it was time to go before I knew it. From Idaho Falls, I flew to Seattle to visit a non-Spark friend. (I know! Who knew they even existed?) From Seattle, we moseyed our way up to Olympic National Park for a couple of days, including FORKS and LA PUSH! Yes, all my vampire loving, werewolf adoring friends, we were in "the Twilight Zone"!
I didn't see Edward, but I did bump into Alice.
I honestly didn't expect to have nearly as much fun as I did. One woman told me that this little town of just over 3000 people had more than 70,000 visitors last year! Most of the folks couldn't have been friendlier. We treated ourselves to the suite in the Forks Motel, and when the weather predictably turned to rain, we put our swimsuits to good use in the suite hot tub, watching "New Moon" on my computer. LOL
My friend checks out Sparkpeople.
From the Pacific Northwest, I traveled to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Severe storms delayed me a few hours, but Sparkfriends AMUNET_RA (Bonnie) and DERBO (Derek) were at the airport to greet me when I finally made it. Wow! These two really know how to show a girl a good time! They spoiled me rotten! I was greatly amused to see that Manitoba license plates say "Friendly Manitoba" because both Bonnie and Derek repeatedly warned me about how people smashed car windows to steal and then damaged the cars if they didn't like their loot, and so on. Meanwhile, I just kept meeting the nicest people everywhere we went.
Continuing my racing streak, I attempted to complete the Manitoba Half Marathon for three races in three weeks. I still had a nasty chest cold, so I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to race. However, knowing that CJBAGGINS had signed up for the fun run made me decide to go for it.
On race morning, I was sitting on the ground, taping my knees, when I heard a voice from behind me call my name. I turned around -- and there was CJ! How she recognised me from behind remains a frightening mystery, but she did. She was all smiles as she introduced me to her DH and cute kids. The Bagginses were out in force to support CJ and her daughter, who were both racing.
CJ and I chatted until I had to line up, and it took my mind off all the things I normally stress about. I should take her to all my races!
The forecast had called for cold, overcast, and chance of thunder. Nope, nope, and nope. I hope these weather service guys aren't also giving lottery numbers and stock tips! Unfortunately, the organisers decided to pace the race at a quick 14-minute mile based on the fastest runners, not the slowest. The result? They "closed" the first mile before I'd even crossed the start line! This meant that as I worked my way through the course, the medical, food, and drink stops were closing before I was anywhere near. Why in such a hurry? Dunno. Maybe these were the people Derek was talking about, and they were late for their car window smashing. In any event, it was a stupid plan, and I hope they will revisit it in the future, as some runners had no support during their races. I didn't have any official support until the ninth mile, when the 1/2 rejoined the full, and I was ahead of the (marathon) pace.
However, for the first time in all my races, I had "peeps" and WOW! It makes SUCH a difference! Bonnie and Derek had very kindly driven me to the race starting area. I assumed that they would go home and back to sleep. No! I was plodding along in mile 6 when Bonnie and Derek just appeared with a cold sports drink for me. It was great to see them and know that they were pulling for me to do well. In mile 10, I heard my name and saw the Baggins clan lined up along the curb, all cheering. I thought it was incredibly sweet, given that CJ's race ended a couple of hours earlier. Bonnie and Derek met me again in mile 12, and again at the finish line. Usually, there's at least a couple of "dark miles" in a race, when I want to quit and ask myself why I'm holding myself up to such ridicule. I never experienced that in this race, and I think "my team" made all the difference. Thanks again, guys! You are stars!!!
What the official course lacked in the way of support, the locals made up for in encouragement and good cheer. Much of the race was in residential areas, and local people offered water, turned their sprinklers on us, offered us "showers" from their hoses, and made homemade music. Some people banged on household items; others pulled together an impressive and bewildering array of random instruments. My favourite "band" consisted of three accordions and a saxophone. Play that funky music!
Bonnie at our celebratory lunch
Once again, I found myself having to leave way too soon, as I enjoyed my Manitoba sparkfriends immensely. Finally, I was off to Philadelphia to see my mother, who has remarried and now lives in the Exton area. It was a wonderful visit, until Philly was pounded by an intense storm and her home was hit by a mini-tornado. The winds were 70 mph, trees got tossed around, and a huge old tree smashed her roof beams and made an unplanned "skylight" in her roof. They still have no power, and Philly's suffering a heatwave. I feel terrible for them. They worked hard to make it a nice visit for me, but their minds were on their situation. I'm glad they're ok and hope they can get something on the roof before the next wave of storms forecast batter them some more.
I'm currently in the airport, on my way home. It's been an amazing holiday full of little adventures, and a real thrill to meet my Sparkfriends in person!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
What an exciting month! I am living my dream of traveling all over, seeing old friends and meeting my wonderful Sparkfriends as I celebrate my birthday and feed my bling addiction.
After way too many hours of planes and airports, I arrived in San Diego for the Rock N' Roll Half Marathon. It was my first race back since injuring my knee last September, and I was worried. I couldn't begin training again until March, had only walked (no wogging yet), and I'd only worked up to 9 miles. Soooo ....
A friend who lives in San Francisco said she would sign up so we could do it together. Unfortunately, it filled up before she registered. Still, she flew down for the weekend. We only had a couple of hours to chat before I had to go to bed. She got up with me at o-dark hundred and drove me to the race and then met me afterwards. I know! Above and beyond! I really appreciated it, because I had suffered a bit on the course and was the worse for wear.
San Diego ... lovely city. The race left a lot to be desired, though. 30,000 racers lined up at 5:45 for a 6:00 start. However, instead of letting the elites start and then the rest of us, they held every coral for several minutes. The result? I stood on hard pavement - just stood - for over an hour, finally beginning at 7:15! The winner crossed the finish line mere minutes after I began! He had cool weather and overcast skies. I enjoyed four long hours of brutal sun and mid-80s temperatures. They didn't have enough water and fruit for all the participants, and several stations were cleaned out by the time I arrived. I know! Those winning runners might look like skinny twigs, but they consume a lot of (my) resources! So the people who needed the most got the least. Also, we spent much of the course entering or exiting freeways, and the steeply banked roads were tough on my knees. The fun part was listening to all the bands. They dotted the course and rocked the early morning hours, entertaining runners and giving us encouragement. This race is a fundraiser for cancer, and many of the participants had names and pictures on their shirts, telling us whose memory they were honoring. It was so powerful, especially when I saw pictures of children. I also chatted with survivors, competing to celebrate beating their illness, and they inspired me to keep going.
Despite wearing sunscreen and a hat, I got a nasty sunburn and literally spent two days in a dark hotel room, trying to cool my angry skin. So much for creamy pale skin - I look like a tomato with hair! The edema caused by the congestive heart failure became a bit of a distraction as well. I swelled so badly that I resembled Thing from Fantastic Four. Yikes! (But I burned 5700+ calories that day, so WOOT for that!)
I Amtracked up to Los Angeles (sooo much more pleasant than flying!) to visit more friends. I'd forgotten how pretty LA is. We strolled through farmers' markets, went to the movies, ate lots of delicious ethnic food, and caught up on each other's lives. My feet blistered in the race, so we went shoe shopping for "ouchie friendly sandals". Good times.
GOIN' SLOW IN IDAHO
From Los Angeles, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Ems (SHINYSILVRVOLVO) met me at the airport. She's tall, very pretty, and has a big smile. Don't believe me? She got chatted up while we awaited my luggage!! Yes! Right there at the baggage carousel!
Ems shows off Jackson Hole's charms
Sadly, my luggage didn't arrive. I was salty, because I'd had to pay extra to check it, and the least they could do was deliver it. It finally arrived the next afternoon, in several pieces. Isn't that nice of United? I gave them one, new suitcase, and they returned three partial pieces of suitcase. It was just destroyed. There was a notice from the TSA that it'd been searched, and a note from United that any damage was caused by "normal wear and tear." Oh, and some of my knickers were nicked. I tried not to think about that too much.
I stayed with Ems and her family in Rexburg, Idaho, and you just couldn't find a lovelier family in a nicer community. They were so warm and welcoming, even if maybe they were secretly scared that I was really a knife-wielding maniac (They needn't have worried. I showed up with a small carry on and a toiletries bag compliments of United Airlines. I was obviously unarmed!)
Unfortunately, I'd developed a nasty bronchial infection in San Diego that worsened in LA, and I arrived in Idaho with an ugly case of sniffles/cough/fever. I felt lousy, and my excitement was the only thing keeping my vertical. Ems and her family were patient with my need for rest and my nasty coughing and sniffling, and we did what I could manage in the way of sightseeing.
I signed up for the Teton Dam Half Marathon, which honors those killed in the flood when the Teton Dam failed, and it being Idaho, they held a potato bake instead of a pasta dinner. We have potatoes in Lebanon, but they don't taste anything like Idaho 'taters. YUM! In contrast to San Diego, there were only 1300 racers in all categories total, so it was a much smaller affair. Feeling so unwell, I contemplated scrapping the race all together and just enjoying my visit, but you know I'm just not that kind of girl.
We wandered through a farmers' market. I made a beeline for the rhubarb crumble stand. Sadly, the nice man had just sold the last one. I briefly contemplated finding out to whom and putting a hurt on her to grab the pie for myself, but it's a small town, and everyone knows Ems. So for her sake, I spared the vile rhubarb-snarfing woman. The man - named Nathan - noted my accent, and we got to chatting. I told him I was doing the race and said I wished I'd get to come home to a nice rhubarb crumble. He said he lived in mile 3 of the course and could have one waiting for me as I went by. The mental picture of doing 10 miles carrying a pie tickled my funny bone but was seriously impractical. I paid him $7 in advance for a pie, and he said he'd meet me at the race. As we were leaving, Ems said, "I think you might have just made a donation there." I agreed, if for no other reason than $7 seems like nothing for an entire pie, so I kind of figured that he was having me on.
Early the next morning, Ems' mother dropped me off at the starting area. It was 43 degrees, and I was sweating because I was still running a fever. I knew I was in for a tough race when I could barely summon up the energy to line up. Rexburg being a college town, I was one of the oldest people starting, and they all looked healthy and fit. I hunted around for the other determined fatties but couldn't find any and resigned myself to being the token.
Within two minutes of starting, I realized that I should have considered the altitude. Rexburg sits at about 5000', and I live at sea level. And I was congested. And the course was hilly. Yeah. I was quickly left in the dust. Thankfully, it is such a gorgeous area that I decided to take it slow, enjoy the scenery, and finish in my own time.
That worked for about seven miles until the blisters started. Then the asthma attack. Then the rain. I hid in a porta-loo until the rain passed. I was well behind pace, but God bless them - the volunteers remained on the course. I found them huddled under blankets in cars, but they were unfailingly enthusiastic and encouraging. Some of them sang, some of them danced, and some of them just cheered, but they were terrific!
In miles 8 and 11, I sat down on the side of the road and got out the phone to call Ems. Both times, I talked myself out of quitting and got back up. In mile 12, I thought I saw the Rexburg LDS temple spire in the distance and got excited. I crested the hill -- and it was "just" a church. I was deflated for about 10 seconds, until I looked to my left -- and saw the majestic temple waiting for me. I felt an energy burst because 1) it's beautiful and 2) I knew it's near Ems' house, which is near the finish line!
4:34 and 6000 calories later, over an hour behind the next slowest competitor, I crossed the finish line. I hadn't called Ems because I didn't want to make her wait for me, so it was a huge surprise when I saw her and her sister waiting for me. I thought it was incredibly thoughtful of them and made finishing much more special. And then I saw him - our friend Nathan - standing just beyond the finish line with a huge grin on his face, holding a still warm rhubarb crumble!!! He said, "I've been thinking about you, waiting for you to call, and I know you said you'd love to to be greeted by a rhubarb pie when you crossed that line. (I had said that, but I never expected it to literally happen! I just meant that I'm food-obsessed and dream about yummies the way some people fantasize about -- well, whatever they fantasize about.) He continued, "I didn't want to miss you, so I got here and just waited."
Wow. Just wow.
Thank you, Nathan Ashcraft! You are a star!
Ems and her family cooked me a delicious Brazilian feast and sang me a Brazilian happy birthday song. I met some more of her family, and it was a delightful (and surprisingly healthy) affair. On Sunday, I accompanied them to church and hopefully didn't embarrass them. Ems is a talented pianist and plays for the Sunday school. I should have taken a picture of her, because she looked gorgeous all dolled up.
She's a good LDS girl, but Ems has a wild side - just ask cardboard Jacob!
On Monday, Ems, her mother and gran took me to Yellowstone National Park. AMAZING!!! We had a blast! We saw lots of animals, geysers - including Old Faithful - and stunning scenery. Ems' family is quite knowledgeable about the park and it was like getting a private park ranger tour. We enjoyed a big picnic lunch and saw an IMAX movie about Yellowstone before making the long drive home. It was a real highlight for me.
Ems could not have been a more gracious hostess, and her family are just the best. I had no idea Idaho was so beautiful -- or so high up in the air!! Note to self: acclimate before trying to race at high altitude!
I know my finish times are unimpressive, but it feels great to be racing again. Getting to meet my Sparkfriends as I see beautiful places is a dream come true and something I will always treasure.
Stay tuned for part two - coming soon!
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
I've been sparking about as long as Anne was queen. Just about now, she was getting her head lopped off, so even though losing weight wasn't her goal, she STILL did better than I did!
Whether it's good, bad, or just ugly, we need to take an honest look at ourselves if we ever want to improve our lives. I'm "heck-bent" on turning 40 healthier than when I turned 30. It's harder than it sounds, but I'm determined. When I turn 40, I want my finances in check, blooming health, a centered emotional life, and career success. So how am I doing?
HEALTH - I've had three surgeries since January and have another one in the works. I wish they were cosmetic, but sadly, I'm just falling apart. Yesterday, I was diagnosed with connective tissue disease based on results of blood work and scans. They think it's a big part of my pain, but it can be controlled. Unfortunately, the medicine is not available here. I'll find a way - trust me!
As for weight loss, not exercising much has made that very difficult. However, I signed up for a couple of races to help me structure my program and motivate myself. I am sooooo weak right now that it's scary, but I'm not giving up. Rather than focus on weight loss per se for the next 100 days, my health goal is to stay with the plan I made, work it every day, and complete the races. No time goal - just to get over the line.
FINANCES - Several surgeries and rubbish health insurance have drained me financially, but I live frugally and am squeaking by. My goal for the next 100 days is to be at the same level of debt, despite needing another surgery, so careful planning is in order.
PROFESSIONAL - I am not going to resit my exam any time soon. I just don't have time to properly prepare. I got an amazingly good review this year and am grateful that my insane workload is being rewarded. I'm up for promotion this summer and should know in a few months if I got it. The extra $$ would be a Godsend.
EMOTIONAL - I'm keeping my promise to focus more on what I need, I've dialed back my time online to get in more exercise and sleep, have stepped back from stressful situations whenever possible, and am trying to find joy in everyday life. I've created an urban jungle of a garden on my balconies, am trying to improve my real-life relationships, am forcing myself to socialize more, and am chatting with God regularly. Of all the categories, I think this is the one where I've made the most progress since day 900.
So, my goals:
1. Get the next surgery taken care of
2. Commit to training schedule
3. Complete races
4. Accrue no additional debt
5. Make time for sleep and play
I wish I were wealthy and could spend all my time traveling around, hangin' with my lovely Sparkfriends. I am thrilled that I will meet a few of them in June and look forward to meeting more in future travels. Thanks for being there through the ups and downs, and I hope you are all making progress towards your goals and realizing your dreams!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I'm on a Spark break, but I miss everyone and still check in whenever I have time. My knee is doing much better following this latest surgery -- I did a slow 8 miles today! My eye infection is clearing up although I don't see that well yet. Soon, I hope!
Although I am not online often right now, I love hearing from people and was saddened to learn that Casia-Anne has deleted her account. I don't know why but hope she'll come back one day soon!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
One hundred days ago, I blogged about 800 days on Spark, covering what I think I've done well and what I need to do to turn my dreams into goals.
So after 100 more days, where am I?
1. Finances. Make a budget. Done. The credit card debt has been trickier. I injured my knees and am in fact undergoing surgery today. I'm cruising through money like I have it, and I have not paid down my debt like I'd wanted.
2. My home. Done. I unpacked all but once tricky set of boxes, decluttered a lot, and I'm turning my four walls and roof into a lovely little home. It makes a big difference in how I feel.
3. Complete the Tower of Terror race. Done! I'm especially proud of this one.
4. Health: I wanted to lose 20 lbs. I lost 10, but with not being able to exercise and walking with a cane, I still think it's a good accomplishment. I log what I eat, even when I'm not proud of it, and I have been serious in my commitment to getting enough rest and sleep.
4. Professional: I haven't done anything towards getting my test resat, and I need to, but I have taken a good hard look at my image and office situation and been proactive in managing my relationships so that I'm in a strong position in my office. My supervisors love me, and my subordinates are happy, and I feel that i'm doing a good job. So I'll give myself a provisional "atta girl" for this one.
5. Emotional: I have been focusing a bit more on my needs. I'm trying to learn to set boundaries and be a bit selfish. If I don't look after myself, who will?
The next 100 days:
1. HEALTH: I'm having surgery today. I hope to be up and around soon and have already mapped a fitness plan for myself. However, I do need to pay more attention to what I eat. I eat well for a few days and then go off the wagon for a few days, undoing my earlier success. I need to understand my body better and make choices that I can implement consistently.
2. FINANCES: These medical bills are killing me, but I need to ride that wave, and figure out a plan to allow me to mange my debt.
3. PROFESSIONAL: I will set up a study schedule to resit the exam by June.
4. EMOTIONAL: Being here in London right now, I realise how much I miss going to church and will find ways to nourish my soul more. In Beirut, Christians are Catholics, Orthodox, or Maronite, and their services never feel comfortable for me. Even if it's reading the Bible and quiet contemplation, I need more God in my life.
Thank you to everyone on Sparkpeople who has supported me, offered advice, and been a friend. You really are wonderful! I am looking forward to blogging about 1000 days and sharing my successes!
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