Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Am Biathlon Curious and Other Olympic Thoughts

Going to the Olympics last weekend was one of the highlights of my life. I have wanted to go to one as long as I have known there were Olympics and now I can cross that off my life list. Except that I would absolutely go again if it were even close to being a reasonably affordable trip. There is so much to say about it that trying to type it all out normally would lead to a more jumbled post than usual so I will do it with bullet points. Also, please excuse the random, out of order pictures. Blogger has become almost impossible to use when it comes to pictures anymore and I am tired of dealing with it.

  • We got to see men's 1500m long-track speed skating, the men's 15km mass-start biathlon, and the women's 15km mass-start biathlon. We loved these events but would have been happy at any. I am particularly glad to have seen speed skating because that is the event out of all Olympic sports that I would most want to do. I feel a kinship to my large quaded brethren.
  • Biathlon is awesome. I always thought this was kind of a silly sport but after seeing it live and seeing the legions of crazed European fans at the venue I have a new found respect for the sport. The tiny bit of cross country skiing I have done makes me appreciate their efforts even more. Someday when I am rolling in extra cash I plan on becoming a patron of biathlon. C'mon America, get behind this sport. It is right up our alley. It has guns!

  • The Dutch really are that crazy about speed skating. The Richmond Oval was filled to the rafters with rabid Dutch fans all wearing orange and cheering on their countrymen. We were rooting for Shani Davis to take the gold but if it couldn't be one of our guys then let it be someone from The Netherlands. Any people who love a sport that much deserve a gold medal.

    • The reports that this is the worst Olympics ever and what colossal mistakes the Vancouver Organizing Committee have made were clearly talking about an entirely different event then what we were seeing. Everything from security screenings, concessions, transportation all went off without a hitch for us. There were volunteers EVERYWHERE telling you where you needed to go, answering questions and being unfailing enthusiastic and polite. We could not have asked for a better organized experience.
    • There is a cowbell app for the iPhone.

    • Ringing a cowbell at a sporting event is waaaaay more fun then it should be. I clanged and cheered for everybody. Every speed skater, every biathlete got cheers and some cowbell. Of course, when it came to the Americans or the Canadians they got MORE COWBELL. Do you think I can start bringing the cowbell to baseball games?

    • Seeing the Olympic flame was a thrill. There is just something about the pageantry and the history; knowing this flame came all the way from Greece in a tradition that dates back thousands of years kind of gives you chills. Yes, they shouldn't have put it behind a chain-link fence but we waited the 45 minutes to get an unobstructed view and it was worth it. Absolutely beautiful.

    • I am a patriotic person and I love my country very much but I am not much of an outwardly flag waving person. We just do it too much in this country for every occasion to the point that it seems cheap and insincere. That being said, I loved seeing the Canadians all dressed up in their red, white and maple leafs. People at the events and people just out in the city were dressed in their colors, waving their flag, proudly rooting for their country and showing the kind of unabashed patriotism Americans get slammed for. Again, if we just didn't do it so damn often...

    • The Dutch brass band, Kleintje Pils, playing during breaks in the speed skating action at the Oval. They played a lot of tunes only the Dutch knew but they clearly spoke the international language: the language of Neil Diamond. The Neil-ness starts at about the 1:00 minute mark.

    • You can't get a sense of the level of excitement that is going on at the events from watching it on TV. People were in great moods, the vibe was all cheerful, everyone was happy to be at such special events and to be able to cheer on their athletes. The sounds and sights of crazed fans is as much a part of the fun as the actual events.

    The weekend exceeded my wildest expectations. It really was the best Christmas present ever.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Is It Closing Ceremony Time Yet?

    Aaaackkk! I LOVE the Olympics but they must end soon. I am exhausted from staying up late and watching them and I am tired of spending every night in front of the TV. It is keeping me from sleep and posting pics and stories from our Olympic weekend (which was AMAZING by the way). You might say to yourself "just don't turn the TV on" but let's be realistic; that just isn't an option with the Olympics.

    I am also way behind on the weekly training log but I will say that things have been going swimmingly in this department and I had the best six-miler I have had in eons last night.

    I will catch up on everything by the weekend. Until then, bring on the caffeine.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Sure Signs of Spring

    OK, aside from the 60 degree days, blue skies, rhododendrons in full bloom, crocuses popping their little heads up, birds chirping sort of signs there are two more important ones that always signal the change in seasons for me.
    1. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training yesterday!
    2. My beloved turtleneck sweaters that I fall in love with again every winter and feel cozy and good are starting to feel, in the words of the late, great Mitch Hedberg, like I am being strangled by a really weak guy.
    Welcome Spring! Stick around. Don't be a stranger.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Nothing Left to Do

    We all knew it would come eventually but nothing quite prepares you to hear that all treatment options for your Dad have been exhausted and there is nothing left to do. Even though I have thought this is how this would all turn out it still hit me in the gut when I got the phone call last week. The doctor says he has about two months.

    Of course, as I tried to tell my Mom, doctor's are frequently wrong and two months doesn't necessarily mean two months. But then I realized that even if he has four months or six months it doesn't really change anything. He is dying and there isn't anything anybody can do about it.

    I don't follow the female stereotype of the person who just wants to be a good listener. I will listen but then I will try to help find solutions. I like action. I like plans. I like to find ways to fix or change things. I like suggestions about what can be done next. And now there isn't any of that. We all just have to sit back and let things happen. Let the disease run its course and wait.

    I also realize that in spite of what is going on, how truly lucky I am. So many people have lost their parents when they were much younger than I am. I am grateful that I had my parents in my life and that I have had them both for almost 39 years and that I will hopefully have my Mom around for many years to come. I am grateful that, although they can frustrate me to no end sometimes, I have a good relationship with them. I am also grateful that I can be by their sides and help them any way I can. I guess that is doing something.

    Weekly Training Log - Week 5

    Another good week. I love this time in training when you experience rapid, consistent improvement because you come from such slow speeds and short distance. Every run feels pretty good at this point and my speeds are picking up. Here is how the week played out.

    Sunday - 5 miles while everybody else was watching the Super Bowl. It was very quiet out there. These miles felt strong and good. I actually had to remind myself to slow down so I wouldn't burn out before I got back to my car.

    Monday - 3 miles at the lake.

    Thursday - Yoga for one hour. I am really starting to get into this class. I definitely plan on keeping up with it after the session is done in four weeks. I also came home from yoga and ran on the treadmill for 3 miles.

    Saturday - 4 miles on the treadmill. I got really excited watching Apollo Ohno skate and almost fell off the side of the dang thing while cheering him on. Nothing inspires you to have a good run like watching the Olympics.

    Totals for the week: 15 miles; one yoga session. I never did any cross-training last week because I wanted to spend some time with my sweetie who finally came home after 25 days of mountain climbing (and wine tasting) but will try to get one session in this week.

    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    A Dark Day

    Noooooooooo!!!! One of my favorite foods of all time is gone. Gone I tell you. NECCO has replaced their Sweethearts conversation hearts with tangy, fruity flavors. Flavors that suck!

    The original chalky perfect goodness is no more. I LOVE candy hearts but NECCO has just ripped my heart out. I can't convey to you how much I love them. My heart leaps with joy when I see them in the stores. I can eat them until my tongue hurts. It is the only reason to look forward to February (the most hated month) and now they are gone.

    I have to go somewhere and weep now.

    Weekly Training Log - Week 4

    A good week this was. Here are the stats.

    Sunday - Ran 5 miles. I just downloaded the Garmin today and discovered that the last two miles were actually the fastest. I think I was in a hurry to get done and get back to the car.

    Tuesday - I never thought I would say this but "thank you treadmill". Because of some family medical drama (everything is back to normal now) I missed my normal after work run but I still got home by 9:00. The problem was this was the season premiere of "Lost". If I didn't have the treadmill and the TV in the garage my run would have been completely forgotten. Instead I hopped on the treadmill and did 3 miles while having my mind further twisted into knots by that show.

    Thursday - One hour yoga class. Stretchy, stretchy, good, good.

    Friday - More later night running on the treadmill. 3 miles that seemed extra hard.

    Saturday - Home after dark again but it was early enough that I figured I should be outside so I put on my reflective vest, grabbed my flashlight and got 3 in. I also almost tripped and fell flat on my face. A flashlight only works if you aim in on the ground consistently.

    Total mileage: 14 miles.

    This week starts "official" half-marathon training. I am using Hal Higdon's Intermediate plan but I am going to modify it a little bit. I am going to run four days a week and cross-train on one of the short run days. Of course, the days of the runs will have to be bounced around to accommodate my yoga class and different activities that come up. Eugene here I come!

    Saturday, February 6, 2010

    Take A Load Off Annie*

    Like many people, one of my recurring resolutions every year has been to lose weight. Over and over I say to myself that "this will be the year" and then it ends up not happening. I have lost weight in the past; in 2006 I was down about 25 lbs from my highest ever (at that time) weight so it hasn't been completely impossible but I haven't been able to go below that point or stop myself from blimping up again.

    I have grown tired of not finding clothes that look good on me, of sitting with my arms folded not because I am cold or defensive but because I am trying to hide the roll of fat at my waist, of having some of my very best friends never knowing me as anything but a slightly faster moving Stay-Puft marshmallow woman, of running so much slower then I know I can go. So I made up my mind to get truly serious about weight loss this year.

    I rejoined Weight Watchers on December 29th and it feels completely different this time. It is almost like a switch flipped in my head. I had done Weight Watchers in the past and knew how the program worked but I hadn't been able to replicate any success doing it at home. Taking the saying "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" to heart I had to change what I was doing and try something new. That something was embracing the program 100%.

    Before, I never saw the point of meetings other then to weigh-in once a week. Now I really pay attention to what the leader is saying, what other people have experienced and recognize it for the once a week refocusing that it is meant to be. I read the materials and try to really apply the ideas to my life. I have happily swallowed the Weight Watcher's Kool-Aid (sugar-free of course). Instead of being shy and not speaking in meetings I try to contribute a little bit. Instead of thinking "I am a grown-ass woman! I do not need star stickers when I reach a goal!!"; I think that the "Bravo" stars are no different then getting a good grade on an assignment and I know how much I needed those so I say "Bring those stars on!" I track my foods religiously and aim to fill up on healthy filling foods instead of seeing how many points my crap food choices are.

    How is this all working for me? So far, so good. Here are the numbers my friends (and the entire interwebs):

    Starting Weight (12/29/09): 185 (the most hippo-esque I have ever been)**
    Current Weight (02/03/10): 174.80
    Pounds Lost: 10.2

    My ultimate weight goal at this point is 130 but I am keeping my resolution goal of losing 40 lbs this year. Forty is a reachable goal for a year, 55 is a bit of a stretch. I am now entering the harder pounds to lose so wish me luck.

    *I know it is really "Take a load off Fanny" but this works better for my name and I really don't like the word "fanny" particularly once I learned what it means to the Brits.

    **In my defense this was an evening, fully-dressed, lots of salty foods, hadn't dropped the kids off at the pool for a couple of days weight. That has to count for at least 10lbs., right? Or maybe I just shouldn't weigh in while wearing my chain mail underwear.