Friday, December 23, 2011

Flat tire, roasting coffee beans and the frustrations with growing out hair

I made my subject pretty transparent, so if you aren't interested in hearing me ramble on about any of those topics feel free to pass on by!

The first one is kind of bad news. Actually, it's more just really shitty for me news. Last night I was driving home and notice 3 police cars flashing their lights up ahead. I couldn't tell if they had pulled someone over and just decided they needed to have 3 police cars on MLK, one of the busiest streets during rush hour, or if there was a really minor one car accident. Either way, people started swerving to pass in the left lane (there are two lanes on each side of the road and occasionally a median) so I moved over into the left lane too. The cop closest to me was parked sideways and his car was a bit over into our lane and I swerved a little too much to the left and hit the median and BOOM flat tire.

I pulled off the busy street onto a side street and called my insurance. Thankfully I had signed up for roadside assistance for an extra $3 or something a month. The thing is, I know how to fix a flat tire, but my jack is not very good and just in case it's nice to have someone coming to help out. It's a good thing I called because the tire place put the lug nuts on way too tight and even my body weight wouldn't move them. The guy who came out was pretty quick and he was really nice. After having my panic lights on for an hour and the accessory part of my car on (so he could use the cigarette lighter to fill up the spare tire with air) my car needed a jump. D'oh! Thankfully he was there to my rescue!

He had inspected the tire and told me it looked like it was just the seal but today when I took it in to be fixed for free the sidewall had blown. Basically this means that my $100 Christmas bonus is now going to cover the cost of a new tire. A 3 week old tire. Ouch. They also don't have the same tires anymore so I have to get a different brand and I have to wait until Tuesday. I have plans to ski on Christmas and was thinking about maybe going up twice this weekend but it looks like I will only be making it up on Xmas with my friend Aundria and her boyfriend, Chris, who will be driving!

I'm pretty bummed about this news but oh well, it's life and I should have guessed there would be some other silly money thing left for this year. I got my insurance bill for the 5 stitches and it was $740. I'm going to call to ask them if they'll reduce it a little because that is a lot of money! Super glue, I tell you, super glue!

Okay! So that was my only big downer type news and I got it out of the way so I'll move onto some positive stuff! I sent out all of my Christmas presents earlier this week and I am really excited to hear my dad and Deborah's reaction (is that even the right word?) to their present. I love the way the present turned out and really want to post pictures but that would ruin the surprise!

Kim made me some super cute star, moon and sun handmade felt coasters. I was going to save the present for Christmas but decided after my night last night that opening a present would make me feel better! It made me beam! What a thoughtful and sweet gift. It also made me realize that I haven't gotten a handmade gift in a long time and they're so awesome to receive.

Last Friday I got a strand of lights for my tree and I think it looks prettier! It has put me a little more in the Christmas spirit. Anise also came over to stay the night last Friday so it was really nice to see her and also have a little "tree". Holidays are better with kids :)

For Christmas I received a nice card from my grandma (Wiley) with some Christmas money. I wasn't expecting it because she made me the nicest quilt earlier this year so it made me day! I also decided I would buy just one thing for myself and splurged on a really cute bag today for $29. Ok, that's a small splurge but most Xmas money is going to pay off my ski pass! Also, of course I got a good deal, I'm a big coupon person! I've never been a bag/purse person but I have been thinking it would be nice to find a bag that will go well with a lot of my brown dresses/clothes. My dad bought me a lovely red leather purse in Italy last year that I cherish (and it goes well with dark browns) but this bag is a little bigger so I'll be able to carry my netbook and a few other things if needed. It's also faux leather so I won't feel as anxious about ruining it! It looks stylish and I look forward to getting it in a week or so.

Before my tire puncture last night I visited a local coffee shop that sells green coffee beans. I really didn't know much about roasting your own, but I learned a lot and by the end of the chat with the owner I had bought 1/2lb to try out my skills as a coffee roaster! They're certainly much cheaper, as a 1/2 lb was $3.50 and it came in this cute burlap bag. Green beans are shelf stable for 12 months and should be kept in this type of bag.

I read up all about the roasting process and decided since I didn't have one of those air poppers for popcorn that I would try the old school method and use a skillet on the stove. Since it requires a lid I used a nice saucepan and I think it worked just fine. There are a lot of stages of roasting and you can pull the beans at whatever roast you prefer (I like darker roasts usually). Before you add the beans you have to put the lid on and get the pan really hot - like 500F hot. They warned that the process was quick and also could get pretty smokey so I had everything set up and the window behind my sink open before I started.

Since I didn't have an oven thermometer to put in the pan to tell me the heat, I guesstimated the temperature then added the beans. Once they are added you have to constantly agitate them to make sure they roast evenly and don't burn. After the beans reach about 400 degrees they start to crack, which sounds a lot like popcorn kernels popping, but less dramatic. They start to brown by releasing sugars and those caramelize. This is also where the different levels of roasting take place. The pan gets pretty smokey so I brought it up to my window and opened the lid before I peaked in to see where the beans were in their roasting cycle. They advised to pull them early as they keep cooking so I think I pulled them a little before the Vienna Roast, which is a dark roast right below French. I think this will take practice and more experimentation before I really know! It only took about 5 minutes after I put the beans in the pan.

I poured them into a colander to let them cool off quickly and any of the remaining chaff (the flaky skin that surrounds the bean) can be blown off at this point. I only roasted about 1/4 cup. of beans. They weren't superbly uniform but I think for the first time they turned out well. The smell of coffee isn't really apparent until about 20 minutes after the roasting and the smoke clears. As the coffee off-gasses CO2 for the next 12 hours you have to let it sit for about 2 hours before storing it. I kept smelling it last night and I was getting excited for tomorrow mornings cup of coffee! I ground them this morning and had enough for 2 big cups so tomorrow I will have some fresh coffee too! It tasted pretty delicious so I might just start roasting my own coffee every once in awhile.

Finally, I've been growing my hair out (and I know that I'm probably the only one who notices the awkward stages) but I am finding it very difficult to refrain from using the scissors. My biggest thing was my bangs, because the top of my hair is still too short and the bangs had to be pinned back with bobby pins but since my hair is so fine bobby pins don't work very well. I haven't found a barrette or cute clip that will work so I decided just to trim the bangs. By the time the rest of my hair grows they will grow too so anything I can do now to make me feel a little better helps! Usually I wear them side swept but I think they also look okay straight across on the days where I don't want to do anything to my hair. I love my hair short but I also am looking forward to it being longer again for at least a little bit!

Since I haven't been posting too many pictures of me, here is one picture after I cut them and one of me right now!

And finally - Merry Christmas to everyone! I wish I were home for the holidays but I'll at least be skiing and should be having an excellent time. May your Christmas be Merry and time spent with family be joyous! Love you all!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A little bit of Christmas!

I think as you all know by now, if I don't post pictures and an update right away, it doesn't happen. I promised pictures and updates of the Eugene 1/2 and that was back during labor day weekend. I promised Meadows pictures and more on skiing. Sorry. As a blogger I will stop making promises like these and just take the time to post even if it's just a little bit.

This weekend was a lot of fun. On Saturday my friend Aundria and I went to the Convention Center to a local arts and crafts fair. It was called Crafty Wonderland. Neither of us had heard about this event until a few days prior so I was pretty amazed at how many people were there! The first 150 people got a free goodie bag so you can be sure I was there right when it opened. I love free stuff. I love coupons and coupons were promised. Unfortunately so did about 600 other people who were all in line before us. I'm not kidding, the place was packed! I have no idea what was in the goodie bags and I am better off not knowing.

Mostly I went to get crafting ideas. I've been feeling really creative recently; I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the colder weather and trying to find non-media ways to spend the time inside. On a side note though I decided I am going to devote myself to taking a 30-45 minute walk most days. Just a little more activity to ease myself back into running will help. It also helps that my neighborhood is pretty amazing and a perfect place to take a long walk. Besides skiing I've been all down on myself for not being as active as I'd like to be as I think everyone who reads this knows by now.

So... back to crafts! Wow. Okay. So people are really freaking creative. If I had enough money I would have easily spent $500 on beautiful locally crafted items for myself, family and friends. Actually I probably could have spent a lot more. I only bought one thing though, a locket for my sister's birthday. I didn't take a picture of it but I thought the design was really neat. It's a vintage brass locket with a picture screenprinted (?) on the front. The background of the picture is teal and there is a cassette tape with the word Love on it and a couple small hearts below it. It reminded me of 90's mix tapes and I figured Claire will either really dig it or think I am nuts. I have wanted a locket so maybe Claire has had that desire too.

I took pictures of other items that people made and tried to be sly about it. I was taking pictures just so I could figure out how certain things were sewn/designed and then I could make something similar later. I found a neat flannel sewn cowl (but it was angular and nifty) and a beautiful knit skirt with a felted design. The cowl was reasonable ($25) but the skirt was not ($80). After the craft show I went to Michaels and bought some felt, small double pointed knitting needles for the gloves I'm making my dad (for the fingers) and some wrapping paper. Felt to be used later on a knit skirt that will cost me less than $15!

On Sunday I worked for awhile from home and then got down to business. I made my mom a set of coasters as requested and I think they turned out pretty nice. I like the fabric choices but it remains to be seen if she will too. I sent them out today. I am about 1/2 way through the gloves for my dad and they are proving to be quite a long task. They look pretty great though, especially considering this is my first (and last - ha ha ha) pair of gloves. After I post this I am going to watch an episode of something on netflix and work on the forefinger and thumb on the first glove! I would post pictures but since both my mom and dad get this blog as an email in their in box they are going to have to wait!

The gift I'm collectively making my dad and Deborah (which my dad knows what it is - what can I say, I am a present surprise spoiler) is taking a long time but I've gotten a lot of positive feedback so far on the outcome. For my first bigger sewing project I think it is coming out pretty nicely. My accounting teacher from Paul Smiths actually asked me if she could buy a set from me. I thought it was a sweet compliment! I would have no idea how much to ask and I love Pat anyway so I wouldn't want to charge her much more than the cost of materials/shipping. It is unlikely I will be finished until after this weekend so I'll have to send that out next Monday by priority! Lots of time and love is going into the gift and I hope they enjoy it.

As for myself I don't really celebrate Christmas by myself. I'm not very good at waiting to open presents and I honestly don't really get many actual presents. My dad always sends me a stocking and that is the highlight of my Christmas. I loved my stocking as a kid and it makes my year every time he sends it out to me. My mom sent me an electric blanket this year (yeah, I opened it, it wasn't wrapped!) and I think I can safely say that 3 felines and 1 human have thoroughly been enjoying it!

I don't buy a tree or decorate my house. The only time I did that was when I lived with Anise and I think it's because I love kids and seeing how excited they get over holidays. We had a tree but it was a potted tree that we planted in the yard after. I bought her a couple snowbabies ornaments with the year on it that I hope she keeps. I miss her a lot.

I did buy myself a tree this year though! A rosemary tree! I had been coveting one for awhile now and it makes my apartment smell wonderful. I have 3 ornaments and I swear I bought them back in 2008 when I only had one cat. They are 3 heavy silver cat ornaments that are on burgundy ribbons. Here is my little slice of Christmas! I quite like it and it's especially great because rosemary doesn't die out here. It grows into huge bushes so in the summer it will be kept in a pot (a nicer one) outside my front door.

And finally, because everyone loves pictures, here are a few I took of the sunset today. I tried to intersperse them into the blog to be a good blogger and hold everyone's interest but I failed.

This is the view from where I work. Not from my office, as I don't have any windows, but from outside.

Here are a couple more pictures on the way home! Sunsets make me smile.

Pretty Pink Clouds!

The last one is a picture of the Fremont Bridge. Snapped really quickly while I was stopped at a red light.

Sometimes I need reminders on just how much I love Portland!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A few pictures and more to come!

I went up to Meadows today and it was so beautiful! I finally took my cell up with me so I could take a few pictures and I'm glad I did. I have a lot to share but I'm pretty exhausted tonight so I'll post them in the next couple days.

I broke down and bought a new winter coat because my other one wasn't long enough. I found a great deal on a coat marked down from $185 to $124 and then 25% off from REI outlet so I scored a nice ski coat for $99. The brand is Orage and it's apparently a ski type coat as it has lots of pockets, a spot for my pass and a powder skirt.

I am officially done buying anything ski related though as I am broker than a mule. The coat is pretty splendid though! I used it today even though it was 40 degrees out because I wanted to try it out. I just opened the vents and unzipped it a bit. Ahh, fresh clean mountain air. Nothing is better!

What a great day! Here are a couple pictures to tide you over until I can post about my weekend (I went up Sunday too) and today! The air was crisp and the sky was so blue. I haven't seen that much blue sky and sun in a long time. It's been nice in Portland recently but working in a warehouse means no concept of time and by the time I leave it's dark. I have to work this weekend but it was worth it to get some sun. I've been feeling pretty sapped of energy and I'm sure some vitamin D helped!

The first run of the day:

You could see for miles and miles:

It was so sunny, I couldn't stop smiling! I took a break on a rock and kicked off all my gear. This was at the top of the mountain (~7400' elevation):

Pretty Mt Hood Meadows at 3pm (end of the day when we left):

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Driving to the Mountain

I've been giving a lot of thought to buying winter tires or chains so I can go up to Meadows as much as possible this season. It seems like most of the pros are outweighing the cons.

Right now here are the options I have to get to the mountain:
Greasebus: $15 on weekdays, $20 on weekends
Park & Ride Bus: $30 weekends - not sure about weekdays, put probably $25
Carpool with Aundria and her Boyfriend: Price of gas probably $5 - $10
Carpool with Nate: Price of gas $5 - $10 depending on how many people
Carpool with Sarie and her friends: price of gas? $5?

The other option would be to find someone else on CL to carpool with but I reached out to a few people and Portland is THE MECCA for flaky people. I'd like to have something secured for the whole season.

The main issue I have with the buses is the cost. Ideally I want to try and go to the mountain 6 times a month (every weekend plus 1 weekday every other week). On the cheap greasebus, if I got seats (20 people max) that puts me at $110/month. The ski season lasts through May so we're talking about $500 or so in just transportation costs.

The cheapest option would be carpooling, but the problem with that are the times everyone is available...or not available. Even at an average $8 ride if I were able to make that work on the days I'd like to go, it would be about $45/month at best.

Carpool people: Nate is a really nice guy and fun to hang with at the mtn but he's not bought chains yet and while it seems fine up there now I worry about the weather. Plus, my car is quite a bit nicer and more comfortable. Aundria is probably my best friend here and I'm so stoked she got into skiing (and subsequently the reason why I finally got a pass!) but she also has a really busy schedule and I know there will definitely be weekends when she'll want to go up alone with her boyfriend, Chris - which is totally understandable. I don't want anyone to feel obligated to take me along each time. I'm not sure how often Sarie goes up but the first time she went they stayed overnight in a bunk house for $20/each. This is cool but it won't be something I can do too often. I think having snow tires or chains would be a way I can get some of my friends to the mountain too as there are times when some won't be able to go.

I'm determined to get as much out of my ski pass as possible! Haha!

The price of chains for my car would be $70 new from Les Schwab. I found some off craigslist for $40-$50 that were in good shape too. This would be the obvious choice because of price, but I'm leery about driving with chains and it seems like a pain to put them on/take them off.

The price for winter tires is about $350 - $400. I found some nice ones on craigslist that would fit my car for $200 but truth be told, I will be using my one credit card and paying it back over the next couple months. Plus, Les Schwab has a really good warranty policy and they've been good to me. If I got tires I would definitely post rideshares up on craigslist to try and recoup gas money for each trip. I'm sure I could find at least one person on most days and idealistically maybe a regular passenger for a specific day each week. If I can get $10/person then I'm making more than enough for gas. ($5/each for friends as long as there are 2 people)

Gosh, I'm such an accountant.

See the thing is, I'm kind of a control freak and I like to drive my own car. I like to set my own schedule too. I get motion sickness in cars if I'm in the backseat for too long and almost always start to feel a little dizzy on buses. I also trust myself a lot more than anyone else on snow and ice because I had to drive on it all the time back in the Adirondacks.

Maybe this entry is just my way of justifying this, yet another, expensive, but somewhat reasonable purchase. I'm at least going to look into it sometime this week before Sunday, when I plan to go up with Aundria and her awesome daughter, Sequoia. This time I am going to bring my camera so I can snap a few pictures because it is SO beautiful from the top of the mountain. Plus, having my own car means I can go back to the parking lot and drop stuff off like my camera or store warm clothes in there if I wipe out. And superglue! The bus and carpooling doesn't allow for that kind of instant gratification.

If my tires are still in decent condition (they should be!) then I might just opt for chains but I know having winter tires would make me feel a lot better. I'm not very good at learning not to dive head first into expensive sports, but I have to keep reminding myself that tires will last for a long time (as I'd change them back in spring) and so will my ski gear. This year it's expensive but ongoing costs are not nearly as much.

This entry was brought to you by my brain on numbers!

PS - I'm taking my stitches out on Thursday, a day early, and doing it myself to save money. My chin is looking pretty good and healing up nicely! I've got a very sore upper back, shoulders and neck but besides that I'm feeling great. Life is good! It's so nice to have some fun activity to look forward to again! Hopefully I'll be able to do a little bit of running sometime soon. I sure miss it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Week and Weekend Recap

The past 4 days have been pretty epic. They swayed from epically good to epically bad but overall things are mostly good!

It was raining east coast rain style for a good 3-4 days here last weekend/early this week. This made for a great snow base up on Mount Hood and the mountain opened a little earlier than expected, which was very awesome. A friend went up the weekend before but was staying overnight and I just couldn't swing that, as I had to work last Sunday. I vowed to try and make it up there Thanksgiving weekend sometime!

Tuesday night I came home to a flooded apartment. I live in a basement apartment that is fully carpeted so it was hard to tell just how much water was sopped up in the carpets but it was pretty wet. My landlord brought down a bunch of towels and we soaked up the water on top and turned up the space heaters, but there is still quite a bit of water under the carpeting. She doesn't seem too worried about it but I am. Mold grows pretty fast, especially in heat and since there is no dehumidifier down here the water really can only go in the air. She's bought a couple containers of desiccant but those are more for ongoing small issues, not 'a bunch of water has leaked in from the gutters' situation.

I'm not really sure what to do right now. I don't want to be a pesky tenant and I know the cost of replacing the bulging baseboard and the carpet padding is high (and also a pain) but mold is not a happy thing. I had a dream last night that the carpet was ripped up and mold had spread to certain parts that I didn't even think got wet, but that's just it, mold does spread. If the carpet is still squishy on Tuesday (1 week), I am going to have to bite the bullet and ask her to please consider replacing the padding. I'd feel a lot better with a rented dehumidifier too.

Wednesday night I started to make some food for Thanksgiving dinner that I was going to at my cousin Cliff and his awesome wife, Kim's in Eugene. I roasted some asparagus and beets and made a tasty salad with some red wine vinegar, arugula and chevre, but it got kind of soggy by dinner time on Thursday. Oh well! I also made some collards at Kim and Cliffs place on Thursday before dinner and they turned out well!

The drive down to Eugene on Thursday wasn't bad at all and I made it with a tiny bit of traffic in about 2 hours. I met a couple of Kim's friends from college who shared dinner with us and brought delicious pies (chocolate and pecan!) and were hilarious. We all had a fabulous time. Cliff also made a sweet potato pie and I have never liked yams, but this pie was amazing! I also dislike the word yam. Sweet potato just sounds so much better. I was sad for awhile that there was no pumpkin pie but it was just as good, if not better! It was nice to spend time with some family and while I've known Kim for awhile it's really nice to get to know her better because she's an awesome addition to the family. We had a fun time chatting about family, traveling, food, and all the other random stuff that family talks about.

I stole one of Kim's pictures from her blog of us before eating to share with family:

I also gained 2lbs from all the delicious foods - seriously! Ahh! I love family but it's so easy to eat lots of amazing food around them and not care. Haha! I'm going to do what I can to get back down to where I was when I was running regularly (about 140) as I've gained close to 8lbs since then. It's a bit disheartening, mostly because I feel pretty out of shape! I'll have to work on running/walking a bit more. My knee was acting up pretty bad at their house and I know it's not healed, but some more activity will help make me feel better.

Friday I drove back to Portland and decided to stop at Woodburn, a local outlet mall to get some ski pants at Columbia. Since it was about 1:30 when I got there I figured all of the black friday craziness would have died down and boy was I wrong! It took me 20 minutes to find parking (no joke!) but I was determined since I already had a ride up to the mountain Saturday morning. The funny thing is, the ski pants I bought were not really on any special sale. I could hear people saying things like, "wow, these are 40% off!" but I noticed that the prices were all original prices or only marked down a little. The ski pants weren't any cheaper than when I went to the Columbia outlet store in Sellwood (10 minutes or so from pdx) to look around. I bought a pair of mediums, which are sizes 8-10 and they are pretty huge around the waist. I usually wear 6's but I'm guessing I'm about a 6-8 right now. They didn't have any smalls, which is what I tried on before and fit better. Thankfully they have a cinch on the back to tighten them so I can pull the waist in so they stay up. They're nice and lightweight though, so it's perfect for warmer snow days but since they're so much bigger I can easily wear a couple layers underneath!

Saturday I woke up nice and early, about 6:30am, had some coffee and oatmeal and got ready to go to Meadows, the ski resort on Mount Hood. I was super excited! I wore wool tights, a pair of knee high socks and the snow pants on the bottom and a tank top, turtleneck and jacket on top since it wasn't too chilly. I had bought a nice ski helmet that was really warm so I didn't need a hat and I had some ski goggles to fit over my glasses which are huge and make me look like a mosquito!


The helmet is really comfy though and it's nice to hook the googles onto the back and not worry about them if I don't feel like using them! I didn't think I would want a helmet but I'm kind of glad I bought one as the mountain is pretty steep and well, I took a pretty hard fall! My new skis are awesome but since I've never skied on new skis I wasn't used to how fast freshly waxed new skis felt. (pretty awesome!) The first run down was really hard on me though. My boots fit me really well before but they felt way too tight. My calves were killing me and I had to stop a couple times and give myself a little pep talk. I didn't remember skiing to be this painful!!

When I made it down I went into the lodge to rest a bit and also figure out what was wrong with my boots. I took off the thick knee socks and tossed them in the trash (RIP cozy socks) and that made a world of difference! My next run was perfect and the guy that I rode up to the mountain with snowboarded along with me. We're both about the same speed right now so it was good to have someone to ski with. I took it pretty slow and worked a lot on learning to navigate and turn in my longer skis.

On the third run I went a little faster but still was pretty careful until the bottom. At the bottom of the run there is a pretty steep hill and it was really hard for me to figure out how to turn on it so I bombed the hill the first two times. This last time I think I started up a bit higher and gained too much momentum. When I tried to slow down at the bottom I hit some slush or ice and flew headfirst into the snow. My glasses cut open my forehead and I had a pretty big gash on my chin that needed 5 stitches. I've never had stitches before so it was kind of scary. I totally cried a few times when I found out I needed them and then again when I realized how much it was going to cost. Skiing is expensive!!

I am so thankful for the guy who picked up my ski and helped bring me over to the ski patrol people. He stopped and asked me if I was okay and all I could say was "no" because I was so shaken up. Seeing all the blood on the snow freaked me out because I had no idea where it was coming from. At first he thought it was just my forehead (from the glasses) but as I lifted up my head it was apparent I was bleeding pretty bad from my chin. The ski patrol guy was really helpful and brought me over to the emergency care facility on the other side of the lodge. Next time I am bringing gauze and super glue! I'm hoping I won't need to use it but I'm thinking it would be pretty helpful to have!

Here is some of the "damage"

My chin:

It's healing up okay though and I'm to get the stitches out on Friday. As it stands I think I'll be doing it myself. I have some whiplash today but the ice pack and ibuprofen has been helping with that. I am able to move my neck so I'm trying to do little stretches when I can. I think this means it's not too bad. There are some other aches and pains in my rib area and my spine but I don't think it's anything to be concerned about yet. I will go into the doctor if I have to though! A muscle relaxer for my neck would be nice..

Today I'm just resting! I'm not looking forward to work tomorrow at all but overall this was a great mini-vacation. I can't wait to get back to the mountain, now that I am a little more prepared for what to expect and I'm even considering looking into the cost of all-weather tires. Driving in snow and ice doesn't scare me as the Adirondack roads can be pretty treacherous! I think if I get a check from my previous landlord (or I win in court) that I will be using that money for tires and replenishing my bank account! I'm guessing my previous landlord won't be sending me a check and I'll have to take him to court (he's fined me quite a bit of money to 'turn-over' the apartment) but I can hope! It sure would be to his benefit to just make me go away. We all know how stubborn I am :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

An ode to my apartment and kitties

I moved from a studio apartment (think: 1 bedroom/kitchen/living room combo and a bathroom) to a nice, bigger basement apartment about 2 months ago. Today I finally got around to putting up some of my artwork and doing a little more unpacking. I'm being lazy, I know.

It's amazing how just a little bit of decorating can make the place feel so much more homey and comfortable! It took awhile for me to get around to decorating because when I moved in I only had bedroom furniture and kitchen supplies and money was too tight to buy anything else. Over the past two months I've found a nice darker wood slat futon for the living room, an inexpensive metal sewing desk and a few other odds and ends to make the space more "Brie".

This is part of my living room in progress!

This is my sewing area that I hope to move by the bigger living room window in the next month or two!

I told myself I wasn't going to get a futon again because futons remind me of college and parties. They make me think of the guy who drank too much and crashed on the saggy, dirty, beer soaked mattress and that doesn't make me feel too grown up. I love being a kid sometimes but I still aspire to having semi-adult furniture one day! I made an exception for this futon though because it's a nice wooden one, the mattress is really comfy and if family or friends come to stay there will be room for them to sleep. I'm keeping the drunk guys off of it though!

The mattress cover is a nice tan color and soft but I put my light blue down comforter over top because I think it looks better. Until I can get some pillows the duvet cover is the way to go! My kitties seem to appreciate it!

Usually they don't all sleep together like that except for on my bed so it was pretty awesome to find them snuggled up. I know 3 cats is a bit excessive but I'm going to be the crazy cat lady some day so I figured I better start sometime! My cats names are Chickpea, Falafel and Tahini. Chickpea is the super long haired light orange/cream one, Falafel is the tortie and Tahini is the long haired snowshoe Siamese mix. She doesn't really look anything like a Siamese but she does have blue eyes and the pretty seal point markings.

Tahini was a stray who was brought into the Humane Society when she was about 7-9 months old. She was surprising very mellow when I first met her and it turns out she just had a really bad upper respiratory infection. Once she was off the antibiotics she became really cautious and jumpy. She would sleep near me but always about an arms length away. If you tried to walk up to her to pet her she would run away or cower down and it made me wonder just who gave up such a beautiful kitty and what kind of life she was living. The good thing is she instantly bonded with Chickpea and that helped put her at ease a bit.

I've had her for 2 years now this November, and moving into this new apartment has made such a huge difference in her behaviour. I'm sure the extra room has made all my kitties happier, but Tahini probably doesn't feel as trapped or cornered anymore. She spends hours sitting on the smaller windows in the living room looking into the back or side yard. Her and Chickpea will sleep on the windowsill until midnight or so and then come sleep on my bed. The past couple weeks Tahini has been so chill that she's even let me approach her without running away. She also sleeps right next to me some nights and seeing her be affectionate makes me happy. I'm not sure if she'll ever be calmer around guests, but one step at a time!

Chickpea is the 'middle child' of my kitties. After Corban and I broke up and I moved into the awesome 1bdrm house off Alberta in October of 2008, I adopted her from the Humane Society too. I don't really want to play favourites but she was such a sweet, affectionate and therapeutic kitten that it's hard not to think she's the best cat ever. She was darn cute too!

She's always been a little lady and crosses her paws. It's pretty adorable!

Chickpea is the kind of cat that can fall asleep so soundly that she won't notice when you wake up and get out of bed. She'll come up and sleep under the covers or curl up right by my chest or head at night and I'll wake up to a purring happy kitty. She has become obsessed with eating whatever I'm eating. I don't want to breed a begger cat but it's pretty adorable watching her eat kiwi's and strawberries!

The quality of the video isn't great (and the first few seconds kind of spaz out) but I caught the end of the strawberry eating on my camera phone.

Chickpea also is the most playful kitty. Her baby toy was this little red fleece squid, in this picture. I lost it in the move. Sorry Chickpea!

Falafel is the oldest kitty out of the bunch. She is the most loyal: always sleeping on my bed when I'm there and spending the most time with me and less time off on her own. While Chickpea is the most social kitty, and also the peacemaker, Falafel is the most steadfast and non-flexible one. She's a sweetheart but if you upset one of her routines or move her from her spot on the bed she'll whine at you.

I found Falafel from a Craigslist ad. A feral kitty had a litter of kittens and I rescued Falafel when she was about 8 weeks old. She was a super adorable kitten, with big buggy eyes and a curious nature.

Falafel has been in my life since 2005 and her and I are probably the most in sync. She's the smartest kitty and always comes when I call her name. I have about 3 nicknames for her too (snotface, pistou, and Falaf) and she answers to all of them! I swear she is so happy sometimes she smiles.

When I introduced Tahini to the house she gave both Chickpea and Falafel her horrible respiratory infection and Falafel fell really ill. Cats rely on their sense of smell to tell them that they are hungry and Falafel stopped eating because she was so stuffed up and felt cruddy. If cats don't eat for a few days their body starts to metabolize the fat as an energy source (as it does with any animal), but a cats liver can't process the fat so it builds up. As time goes on this can cause fatty liver disease and the kitty becomes super nauseous, jaundiced, dehydrated and looses a lot of weight. Falafel was always a bigger cat, about 11lbs but she dropped to under 8lbs when she got sick. I couldn't afford to hospitalize her or even have them put in a feeding tube and I was terrified I was going to lose her.

It was two long weeks of treatment. I decided to do everything myself and I got 4 different medications filled for her, two bags of electrolytes, an IV and a bag of needles, two syringes, and a lot of high calorie wet food. I had to mix 1/4 of a can of wet food with warm water, wrap her in a towel like a burrito and force feed her 3 times a day. I gave her fluids after I fed her between the layers of skin on the back of her neck. After about 12 days her jaundice was paling out and she finally started to come out from under the bed to sleep next to me again. A day later she licked some baby food off of my fingers and I cried because I knew that we had beat it. I'll never forget that moment and I'm so glad that my kitty made it. It was worth coming home at lunchtime to feed her and shower her with love because the thought of losing my devoted sweet girl broke my heart. I know that everyone says you should have an emergency pet fund but this emergency was estimated to cost over $3500. I paid about $750 when all was said and done.

Falafel is now up to about 12lbs and healthy. Some people have made remarks about how she's chunky and I always say that I would much rather have her healthy and with a few pounds rather than not here! I remember pleading to her when she was sick and wouldn't eat to get better. I would hold her and tell her that if she got better I would spoil her every chance that I got. And I do.

She's recently taken to coming up to me and giving me a love bite or tapping me on the arm when she wants to be petted. It's too freaking cute.

It all sounds pretty dramatic and emotional (and a lot to write about cats!) but my kitties are just super awesome creatures. They're my buddies and their unconditional love and affection always perks me up on a bad day. In fact, right now they're luring me into bed for some snuggles, so I best be off to doing that!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I haven't updated

I haven't been running at all. It's kind of depressing. The 6 week check up with my doctor showed that I most likely tore some cartilage in my knee and I'm just hoping this isn't an ongoing chronic issue. I did run about 3 weekends ago but after a couple miles my knee started aching so I held off until I had my doctors appointment. Last Monday I tried a short mile but only made it about half-way before my knee started throbbing. It's also pretty hard to get back in shape after being out for so long.

In the efforts to keep this blog active and continue to write, I am thinking about broadening what I write about to include other life updates too. There are other things that I don't mind being public and it's nice to keep up with writing.

I will probably be out of running for awhile longer. I have signed up for the Race to the Roses 1/2 next April, but I'm weary about starting back up too early. My insurance doesn't cover physical therapy, unfortunately, but I think I'll be making a visit to a sports doctor so I can at least get some plan in place for myself!

I'll be skiing at Mt Hood Meadows this winter and I'm pretty excited about that! It was a huge investment and I've been on a heavy budget since then, but come Thanksgiving time, it will be worth it. I've been looking into buying a proper ski jacket and amazed at the prices. The one I like is almost $200 and the one I love is close to $300. When did everything get so expensive? At least I'll be active this winter though! It's so nice to have something fun to look forward to. A knee injury affects so many sports and even walking for longer than 20 minutes causes some pain. Hopefully since skiing is a non heavy impact sport that I'll be alright. Maybe I should invest in a brace too ;)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Columbia Muddy Buddy recap

Today was the first race I ever quit.

The race was the Columbia Muddy Buddy and I had won two free entries ($150!) for myself and a friend. I chose my friend Sarie because she was thinking of doing a mud run back in June but it didn't happen. She's also someone I think is pretty cool and don't get to hang out with much but would like to be better friends. Sarie isn't a runner but she ran the Race to the Roses 5k with me and ran the whole thing where I ran and walked. Even though I came in faster than her she's got endurance and I knew we'd have a fun time with this one. Plus, there are a ton of random obstacles on the course and a huge mud pit at the end, who wouldn't want to do that??

So the run is actually a run and mountain bike event. The course was at Milo St Iver Park in Estacada, Oregon (about an hour away from Portland) and it was two 3 mile laps then a rope climb and a mud pit crawl. The biker starts out first then about three minutes later they let the runners go. After each mile you come to an obstacle and depending on whether you're running or biking in you complete a different one.

The stronger runner starts so I started off running but quickly ended up at the end of the pack in my wave. I had a slow start to my morning and didn't feel warmed up at all. I guess it was because I wasn't really treating this like a real race and was just doing it for fun. Plus at the start there were a couple big hills and my knee is kinda screwed up. (I hurt my foot and knee last week during the Pints to Pasta 10k). This was the last race I had planned for the season so I was determined to still do it even if I had to take a vicoden to do it. And I did. Looooopy race!

I think both Sarie and I were pretty exhausted this morning but I know she especially was since she had a late night. I don't want to say I was upset at her but I'm almost an OCD-ish planner and I was really excited about this run so I read rules, watched a lot of videos, looked up info on the course and she didn't do any of that. I was a little bummed that the weather was so rainy and chilly because I knew it brought her down a bit and I feed off the energy of others. I don't want to say I wish I picked someone else to go with but I guess I kind of also like sharing the excitement of events with people. By the time she cheered up it was less than 10 minutes to our start and I wasn't feeling especially peppy. It sucks because I wish I was that type of person who could power through and be super positive and cheer someone else up but I'm not really good at that with people I don't know too well.

Back to the race: she started off on the bike and I ran. When I came to the first obstacle she wasn't in sight and had taken off running which was a good sign! I booked it on the bike to try and catch up since she would need the bike next. Can I just say, holy crap was that part of the course scary as shit! And so was her roomies bike. The second mile of the course was, by far, the scariest for the bike because of narrow trails, steep hills, drops and um.. all the people who hadn't mountain biked before. Now, I've never really gone proper mountain bike riding either but today I rode fearless. Or at least it looked that way. I didn't really have much of a choice because the brakes were so sensitive and in a propel-yourself-over-the-handlebars way, not in a safe way, so I just went with it. I passed a ton of people (and a lot were in my wave) and made up for my slower running time.

I saw Sarie at the second obstacle when I ran in so thankfully she wasn't waiting for the bike yet. She finished and took off on the bike and I did a net climb up to the top of one of those big slippery slides that you go on as a kid at fairs. It was pretty freaking awesome.

I grabbed some water (okay, Columbia, why no electrolytes?) and started my run. The first 1/4 mile of that mile was flat and then it was pure hill. I ran about 1/2 of the hill and thought I could see Sarie and really wanted to catch up. At the top I was about 20 feet behind her, cheered her on and she took off on the bike. I ran down the hill and up into the field for obstacle 3 (an uncomfortable hunched over maze). I saw her resting by the bike but I had finally felt warmed up so I did the maze got some water and came back to get the bike onto the second lap. I was looking forward to it because it meant my only run was that steep downhill trail run and I was looking forward to more biking!

Sarie was still at the bike though and kinda hunched over. She told me sometimes she gets really dizzy and has vision issues when exercising which I didn't know at all. When she told me she had passed out about 6 times before in her life I started to get worried. I wanted to keep going but definitely didn't want to make her feel guilty at all so I suggested us to both walk the course together. We started off and within the first 100 feet I could tell she wasn't going to make it. I know she didn't want to let me down and she isn't a quitter but there was no way we were going to finish without her being sick - and that's never worth it. I still don't like the idea of dropping out of a race but I guess I did learn my lesson last week when I kept running after I tore something in my knee before mile 1.

We walked back to where we started the race and went over to watch the people come in at the end. She needed some juice or something with sugars but we never actually made it that far before she felt better. At that point we had been out for about 10 minutes and lost at least 20 minutes of time and even though it wasn't competitive I still felt weird about going back onto the course like she suggested we do. Plus I knew she was feeling bad and her getting sick again wouldn't have been good!

Then she said, "well, how about we just finish the race, go over the rope wall and then the mud pit?" and I'll admit, at that point I wasn't too excited about it. Plus the timing chip on our shoe would have us coming in with a semi-decent time and I didn't want to fake win any awards! I suggested that we go get our timing chips snipped off our shoes and oh my god were there questions from a ton of people asking us why we weren't muddy. I also saw the finishers medal and because I'm a big dork who keeps my race bibs and (rare) finisher medals I wanted one! So we went for it... ran to the rope wall then plunged into the super freaking cold mud. It was gritty and scraped our knees and got in places that mud should never be but it was still something I'm glad we did. Even though the entry was free it was still nice to be indited into the hall of muddy buddies!

I don't know if I really felt any sort of accomplishment from today though. I'm happy we went through the mud but after rinsing off and getting yelled at by really grumpy muddy people when my hose accidentally sprayed them a tiny bit (jeez, lighten up!) I just wanted to go home. We changed into dry clothes, collected our free samples from Bare Naked Granola, Muscle Milk and some Chex Muddy Buddy mix that I never, ever want to see/eat again (I ate almost a whole bag today - puke!). I drank 2 sips of crappy beer and Sarie successfully charmed her way into the beer garden because she didn't have her ID.
Haha - Rule #1 of a race, ALWAYS bring your ID!

I was getting irritated because it began to rain, I was chilly, my knee hurt bunches and I needed some real non-sweet food. The drive back was long and I felt so much better after a shower and some real food!

All in all it was fun but I do wish we were able to complete the whole course. I also learned that using one of those old school big sharpie markers (the kind contained in a metal tube) makes shirts stink like whoa and gives a lot of awful headaches. And it stinks up houses. I also finally learned how to draw a proper piece of cheese as I designed our shirts!

This was the back:

We also both wore over the knee yellow socks with Cheese and Monster written on the back of each sock. Both the shirt and the socks were thrown out, which was intended! I also left my shoes there. I was hoping there was a donation pile but I couldn't find one - but I was saving those shoes only for this event! Goodbye my old Asics, you served me well and got me through many miles.

There were a bunch of pictures during the race but I know they'll try to get us to buy them for lots and lots of money. If the race was $75/each then I don't doubt the picture prices will be ridiculous. Sarie and I did recruit one picture guy to take some before we left the course to get a few proper pictures, which I was happy about since neither of us had cameras! He snapped at least 6 pictures and fiddled with his camera a bunch so hopefully there is at least one decent shot in there! I'll post anything that I can.

I also owe an update on the Eugene 1/2. I have pictures so I'll make a short post soon! The race went great and I beat my previous time by over 20 minutes so it was pretty sweet. I got really sick about 2 hours after the race though with unfun stomach issues on top of the flu-thing so my promised update didn't happen. Sorry blog world. Maybe once I start sharing this blog with people I don't talk to every couple days I'll feel more inclined. Since, ya know, that was one of the reasons I started it. My problem is I either write the worlds longest synopsis on the race the day of (when I typically don't have fun exciting pictures to post and keep people entertained) or I wait and then feel lazy about writing about the race from two weeks ago.

I will become a better blogger, I promise.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Eugene Women's Half (Pre-Race)

First things first, I didn't run on Wednesday. I did go and pick up my race numbers for the series (55) but I was feeling really uneasy about the whole thing. I won't go into details but after an encounter with the aforementioned person, I split. I'll probably be running the future ones, but I set some boundaries.

Moving on!

I'm in Eugene and it's EARLY! 5am early. It is the earliest I have ever woken up for a race and I could have slept until 7am if I wanted. Two days ago I started feeling a bit off and the acupuncturist made a comment about my lungs. He was right, I had been feeling like my lungs were irritated and dry for a few days now and just overall not 100%. Last night my throat was itchy, I had a mild fever and an ear and body aches so I turned in at 8pm. Problem was, I couldn't sleep because it was before a race!

I had broken that "no sleep before a race" thing back in May. I even slept super well for my last half, which felt amazing race day. But I guess being in a hotel, not feeling too great and having a race means no sleep! I woke up at least 30 times, no joke. It's okay, it reminded me of previous race nights and I kept saying to myself, I sure hope this one is good!

Yesterday I left Portland at about 1pm and hit a lot of traffic on the way down. This meant I took a few dorky car pictures

I even took a picture of the bottom of my dress, which I scored at a thrift shop for $2. It's grey, ties in the back and has a horse on it. What more could you want?

On the way to Eugene there are some Buttes, which are essentially just big hills randomly placed around the country-side. I don't get it geologically, but I've also never looked it up. I never had heard of a butte until I moved out here. I had just drove from Seattle to Bend to visit my mom's childhood friend Cindi and I remember asking her what the heck was up with all those weird hills? Well, apparently they have a name! I've educated many people since then on this. And it is pronounced "beaut" as if you were saying the first syllable of "beautiful". :)

Traffic started to pick up outside of Woodburn, which is an outlet mall so that was the only picture of the Butte that turned out. I did take a picture of my average highway gas mileage for this trip because I wanted to brag:

The unfortunate part of that is my normal in town gas mileage is lucky if it is 24mpg. Highway mileage is great though so road trips and this car are best friends! On a side note, I'll actually own this car next June. I bought it with 20k miles on it and have put 35k on in the past 4+ years, which is pretty decent. (And also means I've only taken a couple road trips) I am pretty sure I'll own the car before it has 60 thousand miles on it, which I think is pretty awesome!

Alright, back to the real stuff - the race. I arrived in Eugene around 3:30 (which was great time considering I was in 20mph traffic for a good 1/2 hour. I found my hotel, which is really a motel, pretty easily since it was right off the road I came in on. For it being off such a busy road it has thankfully been really quiet!

Also, while the space is pretty unclassy looking it is actually not bad at all for a ~$60/night room. I'm staying here for 2 nights for $140 and that includes $15 of hotel taxes. Thankfully I booked this trip a month ago before I moved!

On that note, I went around selling clothes last week for gas money for this trip and I actually made $34, which considering most of the clothes were going to go to Goodwill or put on ebay, I was stoked. I brought the store about 25 items and she took 7 for a store retail value of $96. Store credit was worth 50% and cash was 35%. I also received $40 in store credit at an outdoor shop which means more camping gear!

Back to Eugene: Bear in mind, it is early, I've not eaten breakfast or had coffee - the latter of which I can't have before a race, so I'm a bit scatter brained!

I checked into the hotel and opened up the door to this sexy room. Which hey, the bedspread is ugly but the bed isn't horrible and I have a mini-fridge and microwave!

I walked downtown to the 5th street public market, about 3 blocks down and 4 blocks over and picked up my race packet.

The whole packet pick up was pretty organized and we got pretty cute re-useable bags:

If we registered before August 1st we also had customized name bibs. I tried to be clever and put a heart next to my name but apparently no one has <'s in their names so they gave me a bib that said:

I was cracking up just thinking about people cheering me on during the race saying "go Brie 3!! You're looking strong!" so I decided to try and change the bib but all I could find was a blue pen at the hotel. I tried my best to make a cheese sign over the 3 but when I left cheese holes it looked ridiculous so I just wrote the word CHEESE. Then drew another cheese to the left of my name. My bib is butchered and kind of sad looking now:

Oh well!

The race shirts are okay. They are technical shirts, which is nice but the screen print is SO tiny and the green/purple contrast makes it hard to read. It's not a shirt I'll wear a lot but it's better than any of the cotton ones I own! Maybe the newness of having a lot of race shirts is just starting to wear off.

Last night I ate some Laughing Planet because I knew it was close-by and fairly inexpensive (and tasty). I had a bowl of carbs ;) I just went to the inn's breakfast area and got myself a bagel and coffee (which I will only drink part of!). I also got two packets of oatmeal and some applesauce for after the race.

It's an hour and 1/2 before the race! I've checked the weather and it looks like it won't even get into the 70's until 10:30-11am which is good news. I'm nervous and hoping to get a bit more energy from this coffee. I almost put applesauce on my bagel and also tried to go into the wrong room so I think I need it.

I need to figure out what I'm wearing and get ready! I plan to leave the hotel at 7:15 and head on over to the race for an 8am start time. That'll give me about 30 minutes of hanging out before the race, which is perfect.

Eeek, okay I have some nerves right now! I'll update later or tomorrow with thoughts/results! Wish me luck!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Moving sucks

I'll clarify the subject - the physical act of packing, lugging around boxes, unpacking and cleaning your old place sucks but moving into a new place is always exciting.

That's what I've been doing for the past week and why I haven't been blogging. I've also jumped off the low-carb wagon for a week because when you're moving take-out is your best friend. I'll even admit, I ate fast food once. And it was delicious.

Full disclosure though: my guilty conscience had me order a sirloin cheeseburger from Jack in the Box minus the cheese, minus the sauce and I only ate the top bun. They were kind of perplexed, I guess most people don't order a cheeseburger without cheese and oh, the blasphemy - no sauce! The guy at the window was like, "um, do you want any sauce with your sauceless burger?" (asking if I wanted ketchup or mustard packets). He was trying to be funny and I laughed because it did sound a bit silly.

I think maybe there is this line between fast food and food cooked at home. When you cross the line into fast food most people just accept they're going for the gold in calories but when the 900-1100 calories on the menu stared back at me I forgot about this line. Even though I had just ran a race and according to the Garmin had burned about 900 calories the line stood firm. And to be completely honest, fresh tomatoes and sliced onions give a sandwich moisture and simple flavor and I prefer that over a mayonnaise based sauce any day.

This is a lot to write about a burger. I probably should have titled this blog "Ode to a Cheese-less Cheeseburger". Forgive me, my brain is a bit fried from moving so writing three paragraphs about a burger was pretty easy. (Okay, I even erased one.)

I did run the race last Sunday. The one I was whining about up until the start line. What happened was I drove out there to at least get my race packet and shirt because I didn't pay $40 for nothing! It was 89 degrees and bloody hot. I was grumpy. The shirts were abnormally small and the shirt people wouldn't let me exchange it until after the race even though I pleaded as nice as I could. I know the rules but they were kid sizes! They told me I could exchange it for a MENS LARGE and then after the race get a women's Large. (I had a women's medium).
This logic didn't (and still doesn't) make any sense to me.

So I called my dad to whine consult. I think part of me knew I would feel better if he agreed with me that it was risky to run in that heat and less shitty for bailing on this important training run. The ironic thing was somehow his advice made me want to run it even more to prove to myself I could do it. I loaded up on two Jamba Juice smoothie samples, poured another in my water bottle, checked my bag and lined up at the start with the other 14k runners.

I started off slow but at a comfortable 10:30 mile pace that I knew I could hold for awhile in that heat. It felt pretty amazing to be running through the neighborhoods and having so many people awake and cheering us on from their shady yards. I found myself running faster in the sun and then running slower when there was shade because shade was rare and as I kept going those slower runs turned into fast walks. The one thing I've learned is that even though I still walk quite a bit I can walk/run and still hit a sub-12 mile and for that heat I was totally fine with that.

Mile 1 was all in sunny neighborhoods, most of mile 2 was across a hot highway overpass and then finally down a nice long shaded hill. After 2 1/4 miles I decided I was tired and hell, I had just ran 2 more miles than I had really planned on so I gave myself a mental pat on the back and schemed on how to get back and go home. The problem was, I wasn't going to turn around and go back the way we came because then I'd pass a bunch of people behind me and feel lame for quitting so soon. I'd also have to go back up that hill. I didn't know any alternative routes because I was in an unfamiliar town and without google maps I'm lost! It was that moment though that something amazing happened and I don't think I'll ever forget it.

Earlier in the day while I was volunteering for the aid station for Run Girl Run a local sheriff helped direct traffic at the intersection we were at. He was really friendly and mentioned that there was another race tonight and I told him I was running that one and he commended me and told me he would probably see me there as he was working then too. I figured the chances were slim I would see him but at that moment, when I had given up he drove by, slowed down and said "hi! see you at mile 6!" and as cheesy at it sounds I didn't want to give up anymore. I wanted to see him again and even though only him and I would know that I had spent practically all day outside in 90 degree weather it made me feel stronger and kind of awesome that a sheriff was rooting for me.

Aid station at mile 2 1/2 was placed right before the Salmon Creek trail. I could tell the volunteers were kind of tired and they weren't really passing out water/Gatorade or cheering us on but oh well. I had them fill up my bottle with water (warm - yuck) and drank three cups of cold Gatorade which helped a lot. Even though my Jamba juice/water mix was better than straight water, the electrolytes in that Gatorade really perked me up.

Miles 3-6 were on the trail and there were no mile markers so another shout out goes to my Garmin. I think that has been the best running accessory purchase yet. If you don't have one and you're a numbers dork like me, get one! I purchased the 405CX which was about $220 on Amazon but the price is worth it. Since the end of April when I bought it, the Garmin has been my training buddy. I don't even run with an Ipod anymore and I never thought I could run without one but the Garmin keeps me on target. It's nice to just breathe and take in the scenery where ever I'm running and not zone out like a lot of runners try to do. I can hit my zone but I'm always present and I kind of like that better. Plus sweaty earbuds are gross.

When I first hit the Salmon Creek trail I knew my miles were 12 - 13 minute miles and that I was doing a lot more walking than I wanted but just being out there was an accomplishment for me at that point. There was some shade and a slight wind which felt great. I kept up with the person in front of me who was also walking and running and passed someone who was a tad slower.

At mile 6 we hit another aid station and exited the trail. The sheriff also was at a little past mile 6 directing traffic and said "you made it!" which was a nice little boost! I rounded the corner and started up a long hill and saw the first photographer and mustered up enough energy to give a big smile and thumbs up! I wish I could post a few of these pictures but one digital image is close to $20. :(

A 14k is 8.7 miles and when I rounded the final corner and saw the finish line I bolted. I felt a little mean passing 3 people on the way, as these were people that I tailed the entire time but hey, use that energy surge when you have it! My time was SLOW. I think my chip time was 1:50 and that is a 12:45 pace. I have mixed feelings about it but I know it was a good run for me to push through and do even though I walked a lot of it.

When I came in they were calling out the awards and I was a bit sad because that meant no one was cheering me on as I crossed the finish, save one amazing lady who handed me a bottle of ice cold water. Most of the sponsor stations were packing up so I didn't score a protein shake or some other goodies. I did trade out my shirt though and it's a cute yellow shirt. I'll post a pic once I unpack and find it!

As for my running here is my upcoming schedule of races:
Wednesday 8/31: Portland Trail Series #1 (I am wavering back and forth over this. Details in another entry)
Sunday 9/4: Eugene Women's 1/2
Sunday 9/11: Pints to Pasta 10k
Wednesday 9/14: Portland Trail Series #2 (again, this is a maybe)
Sunday 9/18: Muddy Buddy 6 mile (bike and run)

The good news is I'll be super active for the next 3 weeks! The not so good news is the last run I did was the 14k so my 1/2 won't be as stellar as I would have liked. Moving saps your energy.

This week I hope to get a nice run in my new neighborhood. For anyone familiar with Portland I've moved to the Irvington neighborhood and it's a lovely area. It would be great to get two runs in this week (one long, one short) but I'll be happy with one. I'd love to come in under 2:30 and I plan to stick near the 2:20 pacer but I don't think I'm going to get too competitive on times for 1/2's for awhile. I don't have any others planned yet and next year with some more training I think I'll hit a great time. For now I just want to enjoy myself and even coming this far to just sign up for something like this feels pretty awesome.

Once I get back into the swing of things (ie, settled in my new space/out of the old) I plan to minimize the carbs again. But the huge pizza I bought last night from Pizza A Go Go, with ricotta, homemade Italian sausage, pepperonchini's, and tomatoes was the best thing I've had all week. That plus a spinach salad is going to last me well through Tuesday! It's nice to splurge every once in awhile. Hey and while I haven't gotten a run in, all the packing, cleaning and moving in warm weather got me sweating. I'm definitely calling it crosstraining! ;)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The middle of the day....

There are 3 main things on my mind right now

1) Volunteering for the 1/2 this morning
2) The 14k I'm running tonight
3) My carb-failure (sort of)

Since the past two posts were about my diet I feel I should at least begin to update with that. I was doing really well for the most part but then there was exercise, hot hot weather and well, I had a sandwich. It was Dave's Killer Wheat bread and oh, so delicious. Today after a long 4 1/2 hours of volunteering I had to get some food in me and well, I had another sandwich. Same bread.

Oh and I should probably mention my 2 sugary drinks from a girls night out Friday. Hah!

You know what? That's life! My weekly weigh-in yesterday had me at 1.2lbs down so who knows if it's done any good so far, it's been too short to tell and my weight usually fluctuates a few lbs up and down anyways.

Onto the volunteering bit this morning. As I was checking in the 3 people in front of me all happened to be at the same aid station I was at so it worked out really well coordination-wise! I was placed at aid station 1 about a mile and 1/2 into the race and then transferred to aid station 6. The race coordinator was a bit frazzled but she did an excellent job, especially for this being the first year of the race!

We were told to expect 300 people at the first aid station and about 175 at the second. The first covered both the 5k and the half and the second was the last one in the half. It worked out really well and our transition to the second station was pretty flawless. We piled into our 'leaders' car and drove down to the second spot while the race coordinators husband came back to pick up our coolers, tables and trash in the uhaul. Nice work to everyone!

I do have some criticisms though and they are actually not so much of the race but of my co-volunteers. Good lord were 2 of their attitudes poor! I'd say they were both mid to late 30's - they were apparently running partners and then later both joined girls on the run. Both of these women were opinionated and while I worked fine with them I was not rushing to get their personal info after the race. (Previous thoughts on volunteering were that maybe I'd meet some people to run with!) Yeah, not them, no thanks.

We also had a late 30's early 40's guy on our team as well who was really nice though (I am guessing was from South Africa since they mentioned that a few times) and a 9 year old girl who helped as much as she could but wore out pretty early on.

I'm not going to go an cite a bunch of examples, only a few, but goodness, leave the attitude at home ladies!!

When one of the first girls who ran by took a water she probably drank 2 droplets of it and then threw it on the ground and one of our volunteers yelled "thanks for using the trash can!"

I looked at her in disbelief and said "are you serious??" She said "nah not really, she couldn't hear me." Maybe she couldn't but when you're racing it's polite to use the trash can but it is NOT A RULE. In fact, I've been to so many races and the people at the aid stations will say to me just throw them on the ground, don't worry about it! Because that is what people do when they are running.... they keep going. My team person responded with 'well, I always try to use the trash can' and I told her I did too but sometimes it just doesn't happen. And it doesn't matter.

There were quite a bit more comments that just came off the wrong way or just sounded mean spirited to me.

Aid Station 6, the last one, was 1.5 miles from the finish and obviously the girls came running in a bit more spread out than as they came through the first station. We were set up at a space for them to turn but also at the top of a gradual, but unshaded hill. It was high 70's and getting warmer. If I were running that course (which was really hilly - and close to where I'm running tonight..) I would have probably walked up at a faster pace to that aid station cause let's face it, it's warm, I'm still a runner that still takes a lot of walk breaks and I'm not ashamed of it.

The other girl starts yelling out "great job walkers!!" I know she was trying to be supportive but if someone said that to me I would have been a bit disheartened. Basically if you say that to a walker there is probably no harm done but if you say that to a runner who is tired, hot and running a hard course chances are they're not going to feel great being called a walker. On the other hand if you say "great job runners!" you're going to make both sets of people feel good.

I mentioned this to her as a side comment and she told me she could just tell they were walkers by their gait. I continued to stick to "you're looking great ladies!!", "nice job!", "you look strong!", and "go runners!!!"

Finally, when we found out the last girl is usually a runner but she hurt her foot a few days prior so she was walking the race. When our aid station heard the news I felt proud of her and one girl said, "if she hurt her foot why wouldn't she just switch to the 5k? I would have switched to the 5k!. I understand the reasoning but I defended her saying, 'hey, maybe she started out running and then decided to walk the rest of the way. Or, maybe she just really still wanted to do the 1/2?"

I think I may just be a lot more sympathetic to people with injuries, walkers, newbies and hey, maybe I'm still just super cheery and kind of naive. I'm competitive in my own way but I sincerely respect everyone for getting out there and just doing the course - regardless of whether they are walking, jogging or racing their legs off. Everyone looked great and I honestly don't think one critical thought passed through my mind about anyone running the course. The fastest girl must have come in at 1:45 or so, as I don't think we saw the first girl until at least an hour and 1/2. This was a difficult course and major props to all the ladies running today. It also made me feel good because I drank multiple cups of water and electrolytes at Lacamas (similar weather), and so many people did today too.

All in all, I enjoyed volunteering and would happily volunteer at another race. It's so much fun cheering others on and keeping them hydrated and happy. I know how good it feels when you round a corner and see an aid station so it was nice to be that person of salvation, ha ha!

Onto tonight and my 'plan' to run the Salmon Creek Sunset Run. Right now it is 88 fucking degrees. Excuse my language but it is just too bloody hot. The race starts in 2 hours and the temperatures here won't come down until at least 7pm, when I'll probably (hopefully) (maybe) (if I run it) will be done running. 6 miles will take me a little over an hour - as there is no personal best in this type of heat! If I had to give an estimate I'd say 8.7 miles would take me an hour and 45 minutes in this heat. Maybe less but it's the type of day where you drink a few big gulps of water and you feel parched minutes after. With 3 aid stations on this course I already know if I go I'm running with my water bottle.

So that is the question - am I going to run? I might be able to switch to the 8k but that doesn't follow the salmon creek trail, which is why I really wanted to run the longer race. Plus, I've not run all week (but still been actively cross-training). I'm trying to keep my hips to heal up a bit and stretch them out often. I am still feeling pain but this rest has been good.

As it stands I am at least going to go and pick up my packet and see how the event is shaping up. I have never missed a race but this kind of heat is a serious enough reason to consider it. The 14k is supposed to be a run (although you can still walk parts of it..!) but I have a feeling there will be quite a few people walking tonight. I know most of the participants signed up for the 8k which is a run and walk event.

I love races but I also love not getting sick from heat exhaustion! I'll let my gut guide me through this one. Right now it's saying, get some more rest (oh, yeah, I am sleep deprived too btw!) and stay out of the sun! Almost 5 hours in the sun today has taken quite a bit out of me! I'm going to go jump in a cold shower, change back into some running clothes and head on over to the race. Either way, I am totally not going to feel guilty if I sit this one out! :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 4 - Less Carbs + future running plans!

Monday night, while reading about how to cut back on carbohydrates without going insane I decided to splurge on carrot cake. Oh, the irony!

Except I actually forgot to buy some at the store because I was so distracted with my awesome 50% off finds of greek yogurt, salmon and some meats! So I've been hitting the goal of less than 100mg a day. I've not been logging but I'm certain my only regular allowances are in local raw honey for the greek yoghurt and minimal raw cane sugar for coffee.

Other allowances:
Monday: Odwalla Strawberry Protein Shake: way too many calories/sugar 300g/33g but okay for my 'splurge' since lunch didn't feel filling and I really needed something to get me through until dinner
Tuesday: 12oz skim latte with a very small amount of caramel sauce (carb count?)
Wednesday: homemade chocolate chip cookie(carb count?)
Tonight: If time is short tonight I will likely be eating a rice and bean bowl w/veggies & chicken

- but really, this has been progress for me!

Nutrition Facts:

1 tablespoon of honey = ~17g of carbohydrates and I know I don't put much more than a tablespoon of honey in a cup of yoghurt (tablespoon = about 3 teaspoons).

1 teaspoon of raw natural cane sugar = ~4g of carbohydrates. I'm not sure exactly how much I use but I'm a lot more conscious of it. With the 16oz of coffee I have been drinking daily (instead of my chai so far) I'd estimate about 3 teaspoons.

Other foods have minimal carbs but I'd say I'm under 75g a day - and I don't feel too crazy yet. For someone who has easily hit over 200 this feels good.

I severely miss sandwiches but I have mad love for green salads with lots of veggies some meat and balsamic or red wine vinegar - something I can eat daily and there are lots of ways to change that up. The good thing is I finally feel "full" after a meal. The first two days I was eating a lot bigger portions of meat and yoghurt so I'd feel full enough to not want to splurge. My dessert has been the greek yoghurt and honey and that feels like enough.

I will never be carb-free and I will still splurge but maintaining a bit of a balance right now has been good. The only thing though is that I've been feeling quite a bit more tired. This could be due to not having those 'energy spikes' from sugar or just an adjustment period. I never did do much research about how I'd be feeling as I've had such a busy week.

I've also not run this week (since Sunday) even though I've packed running clothes almost every day. Yesterday I even changed into them after work and planned to go but found myself a good excuse. I had to go home and clean as my landlord was showing my apartment today and that was good enough reason to 'ditch'. The hard part is remembering how good I feel after a run and getting out there sometimes.

As far as injuries go (that I haven't elaborated on this blog yet - soon!) I have hip pain on my left hand side while walking and it is irritated and much worse when running. I have been told I need to rest or the other resulting pains I've been having will continue. So, I guess these few days have been "rest" days. I can only hope that the 14k I signed up for on Sunday night won't beat me too far into the ground. 14k = 8.7 miles I believe. It's a good stepping stone for my 1/2 training though and I'm not taking the run all too seriously (time-wise). I've got to listen to my body because I've never had the pains I've had before and continue to stretch & ice every night and take ibuprofen every so often. My only run this week might just be Sunday! I'm trying to be okay with that.

3 1/2 weeks until the Eugene Women's 1/2! Goal time is anything under 2 hours and 30 minutes. I've rented a hotel room the night before and the night of so I can take a mini-vacation for myself and rest up well! The 1/2 seems like it is fairly laid back and there are free massages, chocolate and mimosa's for after the run. It is very much a 'pampered' kind of event. I've heard the course is fairly flat too, which is another bonus. I like the challenge of hills but it's a nice ego boost every once in awhile to see sub 10 splits more often than not!

After this Sunday I'm going to see how I feel injury wise and set a plan from there! This will be my first race where I haven't really eaten a bunch of carbs beforehand so we'll see how it goes!

And as a side note: I keep reading others running blogs and thinking to myself how much I would love to run every night a week. It makes me feel guilty to go more than 2 days in a row off but seriously, I need to shut up my brain. I also need to find more beginner or slower runner blogs! At some point I'll introduce my limited friend world to this blog and maybe find some better resources. Until then I'm writing solo, kind of like how I run!

Monday, August 15, 2011

cutting carbs without feeling crazy? possible?

I hate thinking about diets. I'm pretty sure a lot of it has to do with the thought of restricting yourself to certain foods you love, but the truth is, if I think about it that way I am always dieting. I prefer to call it eating healthy and being food conscious though.

There are a few things I hardly ever eat and try my best to avoid:

1) processed foods
2) fast food
3) pork (minus bacon cause who can resist bacon?)
4) white rice
5) buying more than 1 type/loaf of bread at a time (and never white)
6) soda (except for the occasional root beer - I'm a root beer float junkie)
7) microwavable foods (i don't own a microwave thankfully!)

I'm sure there are more but for the most part I am pretty good about sticking to my guns on this list. Weaknesses for me usually fall into the sweet carbohydrate category but I also adore a delicious crusty baguette with rich, creamy cheese. (Brie!)

I've been doing a lot of reading, documentary watching and have spent time logging food journals to see what stands out and it's glaringly obvious. I eat a LOT of carbs. Over 200 grams a day. I'm not just talking sweets, although I am guilty of loving chai (hot or blended), bread, pasta (more often recently), brown rice and anything else that has a higher glycemic index is on my regular shopping list. Sandwiches piled high with veggies, some cheese and either meat or baked tofu are some of my favorite foods. Bagel sandwiches with egg, meat and cheese are golden. Brown rice and black bean bowls with spinach, chicken, cheese, salsa and pico de gallo are on regular rotation in my belly. I know all of these things sound pretty healthy and normally I wouldn't give this much thought but after reaching a plateau in weight loss I know I need to change things up a bit.

In a perfect world I would like to weigh 125 - 130 and that means I've got another 13lbs to go to just reach 130. It isn't so much about the numbers honestly, but more about my body composition. It's about reaching a comfortable and more efficient racing weight. I know I have quite a bit more toning to do and a lot of that comes from running plus cross training. I will admit, I don't cross train enough and considering my injury set-backs recently I need to start at least riding my bike again.

I know there are good and bad carbohydrates. As a runner I don't want to be stupid and give up everything. I need fuel to run but I also know I can get that fuel from proteins too. I don't plan on giving up all carbs by any means but I need to severely limit the bad ones. Just in one day of practicing restraint I can feel my brain craving a sugary drink. It wasn't happy that I got a salad today for lunch (loaded with protein and veggies) instead of the sandwich I would usually have. It was essentially the same thing I would eat but without the bread, and I can feel it.

I should probably do some more reading about this type of 'fuel shift' before I really jump into it. Hell, I should have read more before I decided to ramble on my blog about it but it's been on my mind a lot the past two weeks. This is another way to feel a bit more accountable since I've now put it in print. (Even though my only reader so far is my mom - Hi mom!) The local meat market is closed on Mondays so I've got some time tonight to read up a bit more and formulate some sort of plan. A carb detox plan, so to speak. Tomorrow I will go buy some inexpensive and local delicious cuts of meat. (Those two adjectives RARELY go together but this meat market is amazing. Western Meats for anyone living in Portland!)

I will still allow myself chai with some honey. It's my unwind, warm fuzzy feeling drink. I don't really drink wine/beer/liquor often so that's one less thing to worry about. Root beer floats after a good race are allowed. Carrot cake will be okay once a month. Beyond that I've no plan, just a goal. Rarely do I achieve my goals without a well thought out plan though. Tonight my goal is to research a bit more and come up with one!

Also, I think I might get a piece of carrot cake and some baguette with Brie cheese just to make tomorrow that much harder ;)