Keeping My Head Above Water – Literally

 

I am the type of person who thinks about things until I have come up with every possible scenario. In doing so, I can never decide which is the best course of action, because I have thought it to death. Then I just pick one option at random and hope for the best. Case in point: choosing a graduate school.

 

Ironically, I am also the type of sporadic person that when something sounds good, I sign up for it. Not really prepared, I just flubber away until I figure it out. Case in point: Triathlons.

 

Who knows where I came up with the triathlon stroke of genius. Ok, I actually do know where it came from – I was looking for the next big hurdle in my fitness journey. Follow this logic: I can run a 5K, I can swim a mile, and I know how to ride a bike…put it together and what do you got? A triathlon! It’s true, I can run a 5K (in like 35 minutes), I can swim a mile (in like an hour), and I do know how to ride a bike (hadn’t done it in oh, 20 years, but hey – it’s like riding a bicycle). Let’s face it – I am no Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps or Lance Armstrong, let alone all three of those guys in one person.

 

Let me tell you, nothing could have prepared me for last summer’s super sprint triathlon. Between the group swim, the bike ride, and the transition to running, it was my flubbering scenario brought to reality. The swim was terrifying – between getting stuck behind slow swimmers, the fast swimmers doing everything in their power to get over/under/around me, and the sheer number of people crammed in the lane lines – it was like a school of fish in a feeding frenzy! After the shock had settled, only one word can describe my bike portion of the race – disaster. Something happened (if I knew the first thing about cycling, I could at least tell you in more specific terms instead of “something”) where I couldn’t change gears. So I pedaled my heart out and didn’t go anywhere. After 8 miles of constant pedaling, my legs felt like jelly and I had to run 2 miles, in soggy socks and wet shoes. I think I might have gotten lost on the run course, but I can’t be 100% sure. I was a hot mess, and I loved it.

 

I decided to make 2012 the Year of the Triathlon. I signed up for a triathlon clinic to help me better prepare myself for my next race, but after 2 clinics, some things became abundantly clear:

 

1) I am a really, really slow runner in the tri world. When the clinic broke into pace groups, the times were 7 minutes; 9 minutes; and anyone who wants to go slow. At 11 minute miles, I might as well hitch a ride on the slow bus.

 

2) I need a shit ton of gear. A real bike, stuff for the bike – like an air pump and flat tire repair kit and a bike rack, and swim googles, and … the list goes on and on.

 

3) I can’t just pretend I know how to bike. I need to get comfortable on a bike, bike often and much, learn to change a flat tire, and how to ride in a group. A steep learning curve from my outdated biking skills of 20 years past.

 

4) While I have endurance in the pool, I have a terrible swim stroke, which makes me slow. Apparently, the S curve with the hand is very bad; breathing every 4 strokes is very bad; breathing from only one side is very bad; and staying on my stomach is very bad. Essentially, everything I had learned is wrong.

 

So after 2 clinics, the consensus was, “Eh, full speed ahead!” Yesterday, for the first time in a year since deciding to try my hand at triathlons, did I feel like I was in too deep.

 

At the beginning of the clinic, they mentioned the open water swim practice on the Potomac River in May and the need for a wetsuit. (WTF?!) Did I really need a wetsuit? Will I freeze to death if I don’t have one? I started panicking about wetsuit prices (just another thing to add to the list of crap I needed for a tri). Then I worried if they made LP sized wet suits. (As a 200 pound female, I am way out of “normal” size range for a triathlete of my gender.) Then I started fretting over renting versus buying, sleeveless versus full, and how the hell to get out of the suit in the middle of a race. I barely heard the guy talk during the clinic because I was having a silent meltdown over this latest piece of equipment.

 

Then we got into the water to learn how to group start. We practiced shallow water and deep water starts. For the shallow water, we did “dolphin dives” where we dove into the water, and sprung off the bottom of the pool into a swim start. I was all over the dolphin diving – in fact, one of the coaches said I was a natural and looked like Flipper! The deep water starts was less pleasant. We first started out with 4 or 5 people in a lane starting the swim treading water. On the mark, we then sprinted to the shallow end of the pool. I was slow, but managed. Then, we crammed all 50 people in the clinic into 2 lanes to more accurately simulate starts. I got kicked, elbowed, and mouth-fulls of water. I floundered. I flubbed. I did what they told us not to do – I panicked. Holy shit! And then we did it again. I got swam over, I got pushed into another lane because I was too slow, and I got more water in the mouth. I went from Flipper to chum.

 

Between the panic in the pool and the talk of wetsuits, I had a meltdown. For the first time in the year of this bizarre pursuit, did I feel like I bit off too much to handle with this sport. After some moping and tears, I pulled myself together and am back on course! I am not going to be some major name in the Tri world, but I plan to enjoy myself and get some good fitness in while doing it!

Have you ever participated in a triathlon or wanted to?

 

Green Eggs and Ham + Green Monster Recipes

To get into the spirit, I cooked up a special non-Irish but equally festive meal of Green Eggs and Ham.

Green Eggs and Ham

Ingredients (serves 2):

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 c skim milk

4 drops green food dye

Salt and pepper to taste

6 oz. ham steak

Beat eggs, milk, food dye. Scramble egg mixture on stove until cooked to preference. Top with salt and pepper to taste. In separate pan on stove, fry ham steak until heated through.

Review: Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do!! I like them Sam-I-am! And I would eat them in a boat! And I would eat them with a goat…

I also made my first green smoothie.  All of the recipes I have found called for oats, bananas, and peanut butter. I decided to go my own route and make it bez banana.

LP’s Green Monster

Ingredients (makes 2 smoothies):

1 cup almond milk

1/2 c nonfat vanilla yogurt

1 and 1/2 cup frozen strawberries and pineapple

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

2 cups spinach

Blend almond milk, yogurt, fruit, protein powder in a blender.

Add spinach to blended fruit. Blend.

Voila! 

Review: You can’t taste the spinach, so go ahead and get some veggies in at breakfast!

3.17.2006 – A Peace Corps Day for the Books

March 17th has always been one of my favorite holidays despite my complete lack of Irish heritage.  Green beer, kegs and eggs, Irish car bombs, green mullets…  After Peace Corps, I knew the Luck of the Irish was officially with me.

My Peace Corps experience was filled with many challenges, adventures, and surprises.  Most days, I felt like I could muster through anything to last my two years. That was, until March 17, 2006.

You ask, “What could make someone who had been in country for almost two years want to quit?” 

The answer: Waking up to your neighbor’s shit on your bathroom floor.  Literally – shit.

I woke up to find my bathroom’s pipes had corroded to the point that when an upstairs neighbor flushed their toilet, their toilet’s contents emptied onto my bathroom floor.  If this had happened in America, I doubt I would know what to do, let alone in a foreign country.  There was a hole in the pipe – I didn’t think shutting off the water would solve the problem.

I tried calling my landlady several times. No answer.  Then, I ran over to the school where my Ukrainian counterpart worked.  He told me because it was Friday, I needed to wait until the following Tuesday until someone could come look at the problem.  Clearly, he was not understanding that shit was free fallin’ on my bathroom floor. He told me to go home and have a rest. I sobbed.

I tried calling my landlady several more times to no avail. I was beside myself – I didn’t have anyone else I could call that could help me, and I felt alone and desperate. It was that moment when I realized it was St. Patty’s Day and all of my friends were out celebrating.  Here I was, in a village half way across the world where I couldn’t communicate my problems and there was shit spewing on my bathroom floor.  I had enough. I wanted to go home.

I had literally started dialing the Peace Corps number when there was a knock on my door. No, it wasn’t a Leprechaun – my landlady had showed up.  She had seen my calls and came directly to the apartment.  When I showed her the problem, she seemed unfazed because this has happened before.  She then showed me her impressive cement supply in the closet for such an occasion. Using old sweaters, we cleaned up the floor, and she mixed cement to place on the pipe.  In the process, one of the sweaters was cemented to the pipe.

I bleached the hell out of the bathroom floor and when I thought I had bleached enough, I bleached again. I (bucket) bathed twice to get the “ick” off of me.

And I sat and thought. I was really shaken – I have had many, many bad days – but never to the point when I wanted out.  I was maybe two minutes away from telling Peace Corps to send me home, thus severing my service.  Thinking back on that day, there was some Irish divine force with me that gave me the stregnth to carry on. Now, one of the worst days in my life has become one of my self-motivating techniques.  When I think I am having a bad day, I just recall the time I lived alone abroad, couldn’t communicate my problems, and had to clean shit off my bathroom floor. Yup, nothing since has compared, it is it now one of my favorite Peace Corps stories in my arsenal of bizarre events.

What was your most memorable St. Patrick’s Day?

The Brains

The last, but not least, Erie kitty is the baby of the group. Six-year-old Haley-Harley-Hoover (fondly nicknamed The Hoove) is the clever one of the bunch.

What people tend to notice first about The Hoove is her big-boned frame. Yes, she is a 20-pound plus-sized princess, but in our household, size matters not. Let’s not forget that yours truly is a WeWa member who has removed 95 pounds and counting. We love kitties of all shapes and sizes equally.

The Hoove lost her ear to frost bite while living with the groundhogs on the mean streets of Erie, PA.  She was rescued and resided in a foster home before she joined her adopted sisters Lola and Alabama in our home.

She likes to sit in your lap, be adored and groomed, and to beg for treats.  What she really loves to do is to outwit her older sister Lola. One time, I watched The Hoove swat Lola’s tail, and then pretend someone/something else did it.  Lola bought into it, and looked around for at least 5 minutes to see who swatted her tail.  You could see the laughter in The Hoove’s eyes when Lola couldn’t figure out what had happened.

Say “privyet” to The Hoove! 

Bucket List

While I was hoofing it at a 27% incline on a treadmill at the gym, I started to think about what would happen if a doctor told me that I had 6 months to live.  Where this thought came from, God only knows.  To the best of my knowledge, I am healthy, fit, and can live forever – or until my card is up.  But for 30 minutes, I thought about what I would do if I were given that news.

I thought, “Huh, I don’t really have a bucket list – maybe I should make one.” So, as I was panting and sweating, I thought about some of the things I wanted to do in my life.  Not surprisingly, a vast majority centered around places I wanted to visit.

First thing’s first, I would quit my job.  I would rather spend my days with friends and family on adventures than working for Uncle Sam.  Ukrainians  would call this an “active rest.”

Then, I wanted to throw a big dinner/dance party – because why not enjoy the good times while you still can?  Maybe I would do it huffli style…with a lamb on a spit. Now, that would be cool. Plus, I want to buy a pair of Louboutins or Jimmy Choos– so a big party would be a good place for me to wear some expensive, fancy shoes.

I want to do a marathon.  Preferably in a race setting so I could get my medal and $300 framed picture and race number, but I guess if no races were convenient – I could take my sweet ass time going 26.2 miles around DC just to say I was a marathoner.  (This brought on a new string of thoughts, like – would I have time to train for a marathon?  Then I remembered a lesson I learned a long time ago, running is all mental. My body would get me the 26.2 miles – it may not be pretty, but physically I could do it. But I would NOT do it with a synthetic green mullet on my head).

Then, of course, I started a list of all the places I wanted to see.

Rome, Italy

Croatia

Ireland (again)

Chicago (again)

Seattle

San Fansisco

Denver

And…that was as far as I got.  Lots of strokes of genius can happen in 30 minutes, but not an all inclusive list.  But I guess the bigger thought is – I need a real life bucket list.  I have lists for everything else (I have so many lists, I have several spreadsheets of them on Google docs), why not a master goal list of things I would like to do before my time is really up. Stay tuned for a real bucket list, because this is only a flavor of my adventures to come!

Do you have a bucket list?

The Talker

LOLA, 11 year young Tortie, is the kind of in-your-face lap cat that seems rather rare when compared with other felines.  She goes by the name Lolo and resides with her two sisters in Erie, PA. She will sit and make cooing sounds and talk to you all day, and would be content to spent 24/7 sitting on your lap for adoration time.

She was thrown out of a car on the side of the road, and someone who had witnessed the event stopped to rescue her.  She was taken to a no-kill shelter, and there she shared a cage with her adopted sister Alabama. We think this is why her right ear is kinda floppy and why she wants to wrap her paws around you and hug you all day.

Lola is the adventurous one of the bunch, doing things like balancing in the Christmas tree, skirting around you to get out of an open door, and most recently, going for a walk in the house’s air vents.  When she isn’t being a daredevil or clinging to you, she plays flopsy-mopsy with her other sister, Hoove.

Send some lovin’ to Lola!