Monday, December 31, 2007

You Live, You Learn

Don't get me wrong. It has been an exciting, amazing year.

I learned how to snowboard. This past year, in North Lake Tahoe, I learned how to navigate a mountain with both feet buckled into a board that is 144 cm in length. And I even learned how to stop!

I also learned how to swim in open water. In a wet suit. And I learned - all over again - how to ride a bike. And I'll tell you, it is nothing like it was when I was a kid. I also learned how hard running a 10K can be. Especially after you have already swam a mile and cycled 25 before running it. So, yes, I more or less learned how to triathlon this past year.

I learned how to backpack. To trek for miles and miles up and down mountains with 30 pounds strapped to my back. I learned how to pitch a tent and how to purify water for drinking. I learned how good campsite coffee tastes, and even more important, how good a campsite swig of Crown Royal can be.

This year, I learned how important - to me - it is to always try new things. No matter how scar they may seem. In 2007, I learned to take a deep breath and go for it. No matter what. Because - and perhaps this is the most important lesson I learned this past year - it always feels pretty amazing to do something I never thought I could do.

I learned how to love again, this year. I re-learned how happy a big hug and a forehead kiss can make me. And I re-learned how wonderful a night on the couch listening to music and talking really is. I almost forgot how nice it is to love and be loved...

2007. A year of no limits, learning, and love. Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"I Only Send Good Forwards"

TLY sent me this forward, prefacing it by saying, "I only send good forwards." TLY never lies, and I had to post this one to the blog for all of you and so that I never lose it.


Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year- old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on.

Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why."

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life--like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The six-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

Take naps. Stretch before rising. Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.

Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you're not. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Be always grateful for each new day

Sunday, December 02, 2007

California International Marathon

We did it. We ran 26.2 miles. We didn't die. And we got chocolate milkshakes from Burger King afterwards!
Congrats to AER on finishing her first marathon! Not to mention for finishing it in the fabulous first marathon time of 4:13. Go AER!

Congrats to Nic for finishing her fifth marathon, in her worst time ever, 4:23. And extra congrats for not getting upset by it.

Some seasons, we spend hours and hours on trails training. Some seasons, we spend hours and hours on airplaines. Not training. All that matters is that we get out there, time after time, appreciating our courage and determination.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pictures of Budapest

2007.10.05 - Budapest Hungary

They were taken with a disposable Hungarian camera. So the quality is not on the same level as my Canon Digital Eleph. But, they are pictures of Budapest. FINALLY. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Five Alive

At least I'm still amongst the living.

Sadly, I could not rid my mind of that pathetic thought during the end of today's run. I have one week until a MARATHON in Sacramento. And although it is nearly 100% downhill, I don't know how I am going to run it when I can barely get through five flat miles in San Francisco.

That respiratory infection last week has quite literally left me breathless. And while I don't want to quit - because I have been a little too eager to do that lately - I don't want to suffer through 26.2 miles of marathon. I've suffered through ten miles of marathon before and that was bad enough.

We'll see how tomorrow's loooooooonnnnnnnnnggggggggggg run goes. I'm hoping to be able to run for at least two hours. No point in tapering when you spent your entire training season buckled to an airplane seat and/or hiding under covers with a fever.

Ah, yes, but I am still alive. For now...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thank you, thank you...

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving.

We slept in. We drank coffee and watched a movie on the couch. We cooked an eighteen pound turkey. Mashed sweet potatoes. Peeled apples and scooped pumpkin to fill our homemade pies and breads.

We lied around and talked...

We drank great wine - and not so great wine - and we sat outside to eat Thanksgiving dinner with 25 friends who compose our San Francisco family.

And we were thankful for our health. Our lives. And each other.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Admiring the Consistency

Unbelievable. Wasn't it this time last year that I got so run down I had to miss a marathon? Maybe the fall ISN'T my favorite time of year. Because again, this time in 2007, I find myself unable to get off of the couch without wanting to collapse.

True, last year the lethargy was due to a severely underactive thyroid. And this year, the lethargy was most likely brought on after flying across the country and sometimes an ocean almost twice a week around for nearly two months. Not to mention the pesky bout of bronchitis I have managed to contract from that lovely re-circulated airplane air.

But, like clockwork, I am about to pull out of another fall marathon. This time, the California International Marathon, which I am scheduled to run in another three weeks. Maybe there will be time to get better, but I doubt it. I had to take a nap after making my bed this morning I felt so weak.

But maybe the fall just isn't the best time of year for me, anymore. Or maybe my body is just trying to tell me it is no longer a fan of the marathon! At any rate, my body's rejection of this 26.2 mile race is starting to work like clockwork...

Odd yes, but at least the signal is consistent!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Today, The Guy and I rode bikes for 45 miles out of San Francisco, through Sausalito, and into Tiburon taking the Paradise Drive loop.

Atop my bike, riding farther than I have in months, feeling the breeze of the San Francisco Bay, being with him... For a few hours nothing else mattered. No wonder they call it Paradise Drive.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Tipping Point

October 2007. The month I racked up close to 30,000 frequent flyer miles flying back and forth from Europe to Philadelphia to San Francisco to Philadelphia to San Francisco to Chicago to San Francisco. I lived in a hotel for four weeks. I never knew what time it was. And I didn't sleep much.
October 2007. I arrived in Philadelphia to find my grandmother in the hospital. At her side, my mother - the strongest woman I know. Ten days later, I watched my grandmother take her last breath. And I cried harder than I have in a long, long time. I cried that type of cry that forbids you to breathe. I hugged my mom a lot in October.

October 2007. I regularly pulled fourteen hour days. I once left a meeting to take a nap. And I officially dropped every possible ball there was to drop. I dug deep. Sometimes I apologized and sometimes I pointed fingers. I cracked, but I am picking up the pieces and putting them back together.

October 2007. I consumed most meals while standing up, in a rental car, or at an airport. The other meals I inhaled at odd hours of the day and charged to an expense account. I didn't eat vegetables or anything else that was remotely healthy. I drank a lot of coffee. And wine. I didn't run more than 5 times. Nor did I bike at all. I swam once. And I gained six pounds.

October 2007. I put everthing else first. Family. Clients. Colleagues. Projects.

I have again reached a tipping point. It seems to happen each October, doesn't it? A personal realization that I need to focus on my OWN personal priorities. That I need to dedicate time to myself. To my own well being.

To sleeping eight hours a night.
To eating avocado and tofu and fish and lentils.
To swimming, and riding, and running.
To getting outside and enjoying San Francisco.
To staring at my ceiling.
To reading my book of the month.
To watching as many episodes of The Office as I want.
To late night conversations with AER.
To hugs...

Yes, it happens every October. Which means that November is my new favorite month...

Sunday, October 07, 2007


So that last post? It's amazing that it worked, as I navigated the entire Blogger site in Hungarian. I do continue to impress myself sometimes...

And now, after four days in Budapest, it is time to go. I am sitting on the floor of the Budapest airport. Sipping a Cafe Americano that is sure to give me the shits in 5 minutes it is so strong. But where was I? Oh right - how effing much I loved Budapest!

After the meeting on Friday, the event planners arranged for all of us to go on an evening bus tour of the city. Budapest absolutely must be seen at night. So we boarded "the coach" just around 6:30 PM and looped around the Pest side of the city. Pest is more "downtown", more "urban", and more flat than the Buda side of the city, which is more residential and hilly. We drove through neighborhoods and stopped at a beautiful lookout point where we could see the entire city lit up.

After the bus tour, we headed to a famous restaurant, Gundel for the Gala Dinner. Due to rain, our cocktail reception hour had to be moved indoors, but we were treated to traditional Hungarian dance performances which were, um, AWESOME. Lots of clapping and stomping and spinning. I cannot remember a time I was more entertained by a dance performance... And coming from me, I think that is saying a lot.

After the dancing, we of course, ate more delicious food and drank more delicious wine. Wine I had hoped to bring back to the USA but due to liquid restrictions, I cannot. (I will find a way to order it online, though - it was that good. Hungarian wine is definitely my new favorite.)

Saturday, was finally MY day. After a short morning meeting, I switched hotels to the Hilton Budapest WestEnd, where I enjoyed a free night's stay. One of the perks of living in hotels as much as your own apartment is the ability to pick up a free night here and there. My room was again, AWESOME. A strawberry smoothie was waiting for me when I checked in, just the lift I needed to set out on a day of sightseeing.

And so I began walking. Down to the Danube River, along the river's edge. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. I didn't really have enough time to go into any of the museums or castles, but I did take plenty of pictures of the buildings from the outside. Down the river's edge all the way to the Chain Bridge and then up through the shopping district again along Andrassy Ut, I stopped at Ring Cafe for a glass of wine and some more Hungarian beef, before heading back to my hotel to nap.

Did I mention that I went shopping at a Hungarian mall? Like everything else, it was AWESOME. I seriously have not been so excited to be in a mall since my mom let me walk all the way down to The Gap when she was at JC Penney back in 1993. So cool. I didn't purchase much, but walking around a Hungarian mall with Hungarian teenagers shopping for new Pumas was sensory overload, for sure. So fun.

Amazingly enough, I did get in a few more runs, and of course, there was a fabulous dinner to be eaten on Sunday night. Compliments of my client, we dined at a very nice Hungarian restaurant. Again, delicious wine, again amazing goat cheese, this time over beets and oranges in the best salad ever, followed by pork roulade over pumpkin-peach-cherry couscous.

And now, as I said, I am again at the airport, getting ready to fly through Frankfurt to Philadelphia for a few days... More on THAT later, but for now, I am going to board the plane and doze happily while remembering the fabulous time I had in Budapest.

Pics to come soon...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Always Hungry in Hungary

It has been a hell of a week.

It started with a Sunday trapped in the Charlotte airport. (After a beautiful weekend in Asheville, NC for the wedding of LGA turned LGAK.) It turned into an extra evening at one of Charlotte's most QUALITY INN's (compliments of United Airlines) and a very late arrival to a very stressful work situation on Monday.

And after another tough morning at the office on Tuesday, I boarded another plane, this time headed to Hungary. I honestly have never sat on a plane - or anywhere - for as long as I did on Tuesday. So long that my butt truly did ache, despite glasses of wine and Tylenol PMs.

Come Wednesday afternoon, Central European Time, when I did finally arrive in Budapest, and only an hour later to the Hotel Grand Royal, did it sink in. I am in Hungary!

And although I felt like I really hadn't slept since last Wednesday, the night before my Thursday night red-eye to NC for the wedding festivities, I forced myself to run 8K on the hotel treadmill. It wasn't too bad. Mainly because I really didn't have the brainpower to convert my km/hour pace to miles/hour, and I therefore had no idea how slowly I was running, therefore removing any frustration with myself. Also, it wasn't too bad because I was able to watch a Russian sports channel that was showcasing a gymnastics meet between Central and Eastern Europe teams while running. If only ESPN showcased more gymanstics!

After an amazing shower - European hotels really do have the most amazing bathrooms - I set out to do a little exploring of Budapest. And so I walked down Erzsébet körút and turned left down Andrassy ut into Jozsef Attila utca, got a little lost, but finally stumbled on DIÓ Restaurant & Bar.

What a find! Perhaps the waitstaff - all very handsome - felt bad for me. I was eating by myself - the horror! But the service was amazing. The wine was amazing. The salad? With goat cheese and cherries and walnuts - again, amazing. And my entree? Wild boar medallions served with a strawberry chutney over polenta with melted goat cheese.

A lactose intolerant non-vegetarian can eat very well in Budapest. Provided they like goat cheese...

After my lovely meal, I headed back to the hotel where I spent the majority of the past two days. Trapped inside a ballroom with 100 others for a conference. My presentation went well, though, and it is time to explore some more.

We are off on a bus tour with the group and onto what I expect will be another lovely dinner. Amazingly enough, despite all the good food, I am still hungry. But perhaps that is just how things work, here in Hungary...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


When I was a kid, I always wanted to get pink eye. To me, conjunctivitis was the BEST form of sickness. Why? Because overally, you feel fine, except for a red eye. And yet you're highly contagious so you can't go to school. Nothing to do for a few days except sit on the couch and watch a lot of television.

I never had pink eye as a kid, though. Maybe only once.

By the time I got to college, though, I got pink eye on five different occasions, always during finals. Apparently my eyes just couldn't stand up to the stress of final exams and the germs of all UVA students at Clemmons Library. Pink eye, as it turns out, does not mean sitting on the couch and watching a lot of television when there are final exams to be taken.

I have no idea how, but again this week, I contracted pink eye. Or some other strange eye infection - the doctor isn't quite sure. Pink eye, it seems, never comes at a good time. I had a system to launch this week, and I had to do it all from my prison cell bedroom with one eye.


Four days have passed. My eye is no longer a second runny nose on my face. But I am tired. And I have missed a week of working out because I couldn't leave my room. So today's run should be interesting... But at least I'm no longer QUARANTINED!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Chase to the Finish

I have found my newest obsession. And in all seriousness, it should come as no surprise that my latest obsession is electronic. Manufactured by Apple, and related to my iPod. I mean, I am obviously obsessed with all things Apple.

But the fact that it also incorporates music and running? Well, that's just pure genius. I'm a little late on the bandwagon to buy one, yes. (But it didn't hurt those who waited to buy the iPhone! Sticker price is down $200 today!!! I digress...)

Yes, my new obsession is the $30 Nike+. And in all honesty, my new obsession is the Challenge feature. Maybe when I was younger (ha!) or less stressed (sounds more like it...) I could self-motivate to push beyond my personal limits. Well, right now, I'm tired. And it seems that I only run when I'm being chased...

Challenge #1 is "40 Days to 30 Years." Yes, My Guy is turning 30 soon. So to celebrate, he's planning on doing a triathlon and I'm going to help him with his training. Little does he realize how much he'll be helping me with my own!

Monday, September 03, 2007

California International Marathon Training Program 2007

Here she is... The training plan for the California International Marathon.

I found it on Runner's World, and I think it's a pretty good start for me given where I am right now. Running hasn't been my focus for a while, and to be honest, I don't know how this is going to go!

Mondays and Fridays are rest days, so I'll hopefully be able to get in some weight training then to stay toned. We'll see how the first week goes, but I'm expecting to replace many of the 3 or 5 mile runs with rides and swims. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I just don't think I can run this much without spending any time on the bike or in the water!

Ready to run...









2 miles GP
4x1 mile T (1:00)
2 miles GP

3 miles
5x100 S

70-minute run,
including 5:00–6:00 TUT

5 miles

10 miles

35–39 miles


4x1,200 C

3 miles
4x100 S

70-minute run,
including 5:00–6:00 TUT

5-K race

12 miles



2 miles GP
2x2 miles T
3 miles GP

3 miles
6x100 S

80-minute run,
including 6:00–8:00 TUT

5 miles

15 miles

39–43 miles


2 miles GP
2x2 miles T
3 miles GP

3 miles
6x100 S

80-minute run,
including 6:00–8:00 TUT

5 miles

16 miles

39–43 miles


2 miles GP
3x2 miles T (2:00)
3 miles GP

3 miles
6x100 S

4x1 mile

5 miles

16 miles

44–47 miles


2 miles GP
3x2 miles T (2:00)
3 miles GP

3 miles
6x100 S

4x1 mile

5 miles

17 miles

44–47 miles


1-hour run,
2x1,200 C
2x400 SI

4 miles

4x800 S
6x100 S

10-K race

6-8 miles

32–34 miles


2 miles GP
4x2 miles T (2:00)
3 miles GP

3 miles
6x100 S

90-minute run,
including 8:00–10:00 TUT

4 miles

18 miles

45–51 miles


2 miles GP
4x2 miles T (2:00)
3 miles GP

3 miles
6x100 S

90-minute run,
including 8:00–10:00 TUT

4 miles

19 miles

45–51 miles


3x1 mile C
3x800 SI

3 miles
6x100 S

75-minute run,
including 6:00–8:00 TUT

4 miles

20 miles

46 miles


3x1 mile C
3x 800 SI

3 miles
6x100 S

75-minute run,
including 6:00–8:00 TUT

4 miles

13 miles

45 miles


2 miles GP
4 miles T

3 miles
6x100 S

1-hour run,
including 6x400 SI


1-hour run

27–29 miles


4x400 SI


3 miles
6x100 S

2-mile jog


  • T = Tempo = 8:00 (mile). Recovery is slow jogging for the number of minutes in parentheses.
  • C = Cruise Intervals = 7:30 (1600) and 3:40 (800). Recovery is half the distance of the repetition.
  • SI = Speed Intervals = 3:30 (800) and 2:00 (400). Recovery is equal distance.
  • TUT = Total Uphill Time = The total number of minutes you spend running semi-vigorously up inclines.
  • S = Strides = Gradual, smooth accelerations over 100 meters (straightaway on a track), running fast and controlled over the middle third--but NEVER SPRINTING--then just as gradually decelerating. Walk to full recovery after each.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What You Waiting For?

Labor Day in San Francisco - The summer has finally STARTED!

It has been a gorgeous weekend here in The City. A Friday night swim followed by a relaxing night with my book... A bike / BART ride over to Oakland on Saturday to see the A's Game followed by an evening in North Beach with new and old friends... A homemade Sunday brunch with My Guy followed by a long run out to The Bridge and back.

For the past several months I have been pulled in many directions, mostly towards my cubicle and all of the work that constitutes "The Busy Season" for a software company who consults to pharmaceutical companies and biotechs. However, now that summer in San Francisco is FINALLY here, there is only one thing to do - get out there and enjoy it.

With swims, and rides, and runs...

I haven't been able to find a triathlon that I can do this fall. I'm heading to Budapest, Hungary and Paris, France in the next couple of months for work. And though I would love to tell them that I have triathlons those weeks, I can't really resist a free trip - let alone TWO FREE TRIPS - to Europe.

So the only thing left to do is gear up for another marathon.

So to celebrate two years living in California, I am going to run the California International Marathon this year. There is no backing out - I can't let 2007 be the first year since graduating from college when I didn't run my favorite distance race - 26.2. The countdown to Sunday, December 2, 2007 @ 7:00 AM is on...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beautiful Mess

The 6:00 a.m. wake-up calls have gone a little smoother this week. And I've actually been more productive at work than I normally am. It's easier to leave the office on-time... (Whatever time that is.) Easier to force myself to go to the gym, to read my books, to spend time with The Cat.

I've cleaned the bathroom. Read my mail and paid my bills. I've done the laundry; and I've even folded my clothes and put them away instead of letting them sit crumpled in the clothes basket. The hallway closet is organized, and the bikes are racked. Shit - I've even watched television and painted my nails.

Seriously. I've been incredibly productive this week. The To Do List at work has whittled. And the only items left on my personal Google Task List are things I will never get around to doing. (Purchase frame for UVA Diploma?) My iTunes library reflects the latest Spoon and Beck, my new favorite band The Evens, as well as some more embarrassing tunes to round out my latest running mix. (Pitbull - Fuego? Anyone?)

But still, I'd rather be incredibly disorganized and disheveled and pudgy and listening to all of my old music. If it meant that you were here.

Instead, I find myself emailing you while listening to this country song...

Sunday, August 19, 2007


We headed out the door around noon. My first serious ride in a very long time. After a weekend of debauchery and broken New Years resolutions from 2004, it felt good to do something good for myself.

It was warm in Russian Hill. An atypical San Francisco summer morning. We cruised down Polk Street and into the Marina giggling over the weekend's antics. It was great to be back on my bike again with AER.

But as we approached the Marina Green and what is normally our first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, the fog swallowed us whole, our beautiful summer day fading... Honestly, since I was in a somewhat weakened state, I thought about turning back. So thick was the fog that there was no way to know if it was just cloud cover over The Bay itself or if all of Marin was shaded and cold.

However, turning back is rarely an option for us, so we continued on. Across the bridge with little visibility, we let our instincts guide us. And up the torturous hill that is Mt. Tamalpais, we persevered. We pressed despite the pain - OK, the agony - that pierced us from time to time. Despite the fear that the hurt would never end and that we really had no idea what we were doing.

Because sometimes you just have to take that plunge. Despite knowing that difficulty is in store and that pain will be unavoidable. Because after that uncomfortable feeling of the unknown reaches its peak, a new opportunity always descends. Exciting and empowering, we live for these breakthroughs.

And so we ride them out... re-invigorated and ready for whatever comes with the next foggy crossing.

Mt. Tamalpais
42 miles (with lots of climbing!)
* Includes some stops to take in the view...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Drink It In

The trees. The rocks. Meadows and mountains, with picket pins, chipmunks and lizards. Climbing up mountains and descending into valleys. Stopping to smell “the roses.”

The fresh air. The mosquitoes and flies and birds. Sunlight streaming and shining and warming your days.

The lakes. Streams, rapids, and of course, the waterfalls! Full of fish and frogs… Ice cold swimming holes that double as bathtubs.

Drinking iodine water. And of course, the Crown Royal. Eating Cliff Bars, Beef Jerky and Gorp. Cooking coffee and oatmeal and couscous and lentils.

Five days in the back-country. North Country, Yosemite. Away from the chaos and submersed in the simple. Finding happiness in how much burden can be released by carrying a 30 lb. backpack over 30 miles across rugged and miserable, smooth and joyful, exciting and peaceful terrain.

Getting to know him. His patience and kindness. His humor and sincerity. Getting to know myself. My passions and delights. Strenghts, weaknesses, and through it all, perseverance.

Getting to know – and love – us. And especially our backpacking trips. With long conversations on trails. Joking and singing. Campfire meals and late night laughter. Falling asleep while we stare at the stars.

We drink it in. Yosemite. Each other. Life. And it feels fabulous.

2007.07.04 - Yosemite Backpacking Trip

Thursday, June 28, 2007


My poison oak is everywhere. My skin is screaming, and I cannot seem to divert my attention elsewhere. I cannot shave my legs! I am hairy, and I am miserable.

My Inbox is overflowing. And the message light on my telephone is steadily blinking. All the time… I can no longer find the white of my whiteboard. And there are papers everywhere. I am tired, and I am stressed.

My running shoes have become more of a decoration than a utility. And my stomach is a little mushy. My pants felt looser a few weeks and months ago. I feel gross.

Until you look at me. Or until you kiss my forehead. Then I am no longer cranky. I am no longer defeated or exhausted.

I smile, and I happily sigh. I am excited again. About everything. Despite hairy legs and a mushy stomach and a never-ending job.

I am recharged. Because of your smile, your warmth, your sincerity. Because of you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Staggering Genius

It has been over two years now. Two years since I decided to pack up everything I knew and loved. To set out for San Francisco. Two years since I cleaned out the closets. Since I started the Craigslist search for an apartment, a job, a new life.

I don’t think about it that much – how ridiculously wonderful it has all worked out. Despite the rough patches. Because no matter how far away you go, you never really can just run away from your past. Eventually, you have to stare it down and tell it to go to hell.

It has been a year now. A year since I met AER. And Puck. Since we found our apartment. Since we made OUR new life. Our life with morning runs and afternoon swims. Thursday night spins and weekend bike rides. Regina Spektor On The Radio and Entourage on the television. A roommate, as well as a sister.

I think about it all the time – how this place is so much better than it was when I started. How much my life, my outlook, my PERSON, has changed since I met her. About how much easier it is to believe in yourself when you have someone there cheering for you.

“Can you see this motherfucking sky? Have you ever fucking BEEN to California?

Atop our bikes, climbing Highway 1. The blue sky above and the blue ocean below. We pushed. We pulled. We floated. We laughed. We sang. We quoted.

So fucking glad, despite all of the heartbreak and staggering, to be in California.

Friday, June 22, 2007

New Shoes

Nothing says fresh start like a new paif of shoes. But since I really do have enough shoes - well, almost enough shoes - why not a new a hair color? And sunglasses! Big ones.

I am such a wannabe badass...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pico Blanco

It is Spanish for "White Peak" and it is NOT an easy mountain to climb. Especially when wearing a 30 lb pack on your back! But we surrvived. The 18 miles of hiking over three days. The up and down over uneven terrain from Bottchers Gap (east of Bixby Mountain) to the Pico Blanco campsite. Stopping at Little Sur River a on the way out and again on the way back.

Yes, we survived. And we didn't kill each other. In fact, we're all planning our next excursion already. Check out the pics and you'll see why we're all EXCITED to do it again!

2007.06.15 - Pico Blanco Backpacking Trip

New Beginnings

I just can't seem to keep up, anymore.

With a training schedule every morning.
With all my projects at work during the day.
With television shows at night.
With family and friends on the East Coast.
Not to mention a blog that I so often neglect...

Lately, there is so much life to live and hardly any time to write about it. Yet unlike before, as in last year and especially throughout last fall, I am not overwhelmed by all that life presents.

I am excited. Optimistic. And dare I say it, HAPPY. To be honest, I am happier than I have ever been in my life. My entire life. Ever.

And we are only just getting started...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wildflower 2007 - An Amazing Race

The alarm sounded at 5:15 AM, but I was already awake. The rest of the crew - Team Russian Hill, which included AER and LP - woke up shortly thereafter. We started hydrating, pounding the Gatorades, Vitamin Waters, and Smart Waters. It was going to be a hot day, and we had a Triathlon!

We had about an hour's drive from our hotel to the site of the race, so we filled it with good tunes to pump us up. It was exciting to see so many cars on the road with bikes on the roof. So many pretty bikes! And by the time we pulled into the park, I was ready for this race. But I wasn't ready for the scene. I've done some pretty large marathons and half marathons by now, so I'm used to seeing hordes of athletes, but I have seriously NEVER seen anything like Wildflower. So many people! So many SUVs and bike racks. So much gear! So... SO MANY SMOKIN' HOT MEN! All so far away and in the middle of nowhere! Seriously! It's an unbelievable sight, with an amazing energy, beckoning you to get out there and give it all you have.

So we un-racked our bikes and pulled together our gear, then started on the trek down to the transition area. (It was quite a trek.) And although I've stood in the corrals at some really humongous races, there is nothing quite like the transition area of a triathlon. Wetsuits, towels, bikes, helmets, cycling shoes, running shoes, Cliff Bars, Cytomax, Gu... I laughed to myself as I set up my transition area, remembering how the only "gear" I brought to my first marathon was A PLASTIC TRASH BAG I used to shield me from the cold November Philly winds. Memories...

AER and I were in the same row, pretty close by, so we set-up our transitions and made preliminary trips to the Port-O-Potties. Then we got marked and decided to sit down by The Start to watch the first few waves of men take to the water. Watching the men get started was pretty nerve racking, not going to lie. I started to doubt my abilities when I saw the first man come out of the water after only 18 minutes. 18 minutes! I think AER noticed I was starting to get nervous, though, because she suggested we head back to our transitions to get ready. Good idea.

We coated ourselves in Body Glide and applied a little olive oil on our joints, soon finding that we were snug in our wetsuits. Time to head to the Start Line. I said good-bye to my bike, on some level wondering if I'd ever see her again. Standing behind the start, I could feel was my heart pound. That water looked choppy. And it was cold! But it was soon our turn to enter the water to warm-up. So AER gave my hand a final squeeze. She headed to the front of the crowd, while I headed to the back. I took a deep breath. When the girl to my left looked at me and said she'd be pretty happy when this part of the race was over, I realized I wasn't in this thing by myself. Hardly anyone was psyched to swim!

The horn sounded - it was time to enter the water. I hated every second of the first few minutes in the water. Splashing, vying for a spot to swim. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't figure out where to go. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't figure out where to go. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't... (Are you noticing a pattern?) I pretty much spent the first couple hundred yards debating whether or not I should just float on my back and wait for one of the rescue swimmers on a surfboard to come pick me up. However I soon calmed down when I remembered and again realized that pretty much everyone was as frustrated as I was. And then I saw a clearing (albeit VERY small) and decided I'd try to swim through it.

So I put my head in the watter and started to paddle. And a couple of strokes later, I had pulled away from the initial clump of swimmers. A couple of more strokes later, and my heart stopped racing. And pretty soon, I was able to actually swim. Breathing every few strokes, stopping to sight/catch my breath when I needed to. It wasn't fun, nor was it easy, but I eventually made it to the turn around at the half-mile point. The trip back "home" was much better. I found my rhythm, I avoided the other swimmers, and I actually started to have FUN. Swimming. While wearing a wetsuit. In Lake San Antonio. At Wildflower!

32 minutes later, I exited the water and headed for the transition. I had swallowed a bit of lake water during the swim, so I was coughing a bit during my run back to the transition. Snot was also dripping out of my nose, and I'm pretty sure the event photographers snapped a VERY FLATTERING picture of me taking off my wetsuit with boogers flying everywhere. (That'll be one for the mantle, won't it?) I was feeling pretty dizzy as I took off the wetsuit, so I inhaled some Sport Beans and gulped some water. I stood there for a minute before unracking my bike to make sure I could stand up straight. I definitely lost some time here, but I think it was important for me to regain my balance and confidence, so it was a minute well spent.

As I exited the transition, I hopped on my bike and began the climb up Lynch Hill. It was a little obnoxious, really, putting such a steep hill so early in the race. But I live in San Francisco - I'm not afraid of hills! So I started to climb. And when I got to the top of the hill, I cruised down its back side. Only to reach the bottom to start climbing again. Another pattern! It was a course full of rolling hills, and I pushed as hard as I could on every uphill, knowing that a downhill reward wasn't too far off.

I have to admit - I really LOVED every moment on the bike. Yes, even that moment when my right eye got so dry from all the wind that my contact lens just flew out of my eye. And that moment when my chain fell off of my bike with only 3 more miles to go, well I loved that moment, too. Even though it cost me a few minutes, well, I just wasn't that pissed off at the time. I was still having so much fun.

I could have continued on that ride for another couple of hours. However there was a 10K to run in order to finish this race. So I cruised down the final mile of the bike - back down Lynch Hill, with an amazing view out onto the lake - and into the transition after about an hour and a half of riding. I racked my bike, I changed my shoes, I threw on my cap, and I headed out for the run.

I didn't wear a watch during the race, and there weren't any clocks set-up at the mile markers throughout the bike or the run. I'm glad I didn't have a constant reminder of how long I had been on the course, because the run was pretty grueling. Hot. And hilly! But unlike the bike, it didn't have a lot of downhills. I felt like I had been running for 20 minutes when I passed the first mile marker. However, I did know I wasn't running 20 minute miles. In fact, I was running mostly with men. Men who had started the race 10 and 15 minutes before me. And I didn't see many women at all during the run course (because I smoked them on the bike!) so I knew I was actually doing pretty well. It was a nice little consolation thought to help me through that damn run.

Mile 2, Mile 3... They passed very slowly, but at least they passed. I walked through the water stops to suck in every drop of water I could find, and took a Gu around Mile 3.5 to get me through those last couple of miles. My butt was BURNING up those hills, but I refused to walk. And finally, around Mile 4.5, the crowds started to yell that we only had one more hill to go. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment at that point, realizing that my first triathlon finish was within reach.

So I started to RUN. My legs felt lighter, and I started to smile. I was feeling pretty good, by then, in fact. But when I heard a loud, "GO NIC!" from my friend JG, I really started to beam and feel great. My friend JG and some of her friends from the SF Tri Club had come to cheer on some friends competing in the race. And as I ran by, JG yelled to the crowd that Wildflower was my first triathlon. Everyone on the sidelines started to clap and cheer for me. How can you NOT pick up your speed and start to feel stronger when an entire mob is cheering you on? So I trucked up the hill and made a turn around the corner and sprinted as fast as I could that last mile, back down Lynch Hill and into the finishers chute.

I didn't see the clock right away, being half blind from losing a contact lens on the bike. But with a little less than that final 0.2 miles to go, I saw that the clock read 4:24. At this point, I started to sprint, smiling, and feeling so great. So happy, because I realized I was going to finish the race at 4:25 clock time, a 3:10 race time for me. 3:10! I didn't really have any time goals for this race, but a 3:10 looked pretty awesome.

I crossed The Finish feeling good. Tired, but not in pain. I headed over to grab a towel and water, only to see AER and LP hanging out doing the same thing, just a few yards from The Finish. AER saw me and started to scream - I don't think she was expecting to see me so soon. When I told her I crossed the finish in 3:10 she gave me the biggest hug. AER had finished the race in 2:57, so I was only thirteen minutes behind her. Holy shit! And LP finished in 3:30, another awesome time for the course. What an amazing race!

And now I'm hooked on triathlon...

But I wouldn't have been able to do any of it without AER, who is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. I started to swim and cycle in January because of AER's encouragement; and I stuck with it because of her constant support. Thank you SO much, AER, for getting me involved in triathlon. For sticking by my side when I was scared. For believing in me when I doubted myself. For teaching me to be bold and daring and adventurous. And for reminding me that I can do anything, if only I tri.

Wildflower 2007 - The Pics

2007.05.06 - Wildflower

Wildflower 2007 - The Results

I finished! And I didn't die in the lake, despite the multiple nightmares I had last week! Including one in which my wetsuit was too big; it let in all the lake water and I drowned. Yes, I was a little nervous about Wildflower! But no need to be nervous anymore - I "pummelled" my first triathlon!

270 women completed the Olympic Course within the Female 25-29 division. And I placed 63rd!!!!! Here are the stats...

Total Time: 3:10:52

1.5K Swim Time: 0:32:21
Transition 1: 0:05:02
25K Bike Time: 1:35:01
Transition 2: 0:02:47
10K Run Time: 0:55:41

Overall, out of 2589 athletes who finished the race, I placed 958. I don't think you can ask for much more from your first triathlon. Especially when your first triathlon is the grueling, hilly course at Wildflower. There is a lot of room for improvement, but a lot of confidence to be gained from getting through my first race.

And of course, there are more stories to come. A narrative always accompanies a race, and my first triathlon - which includes losing a contact lens on the bike - is no different. But I gotta go to work, so that'll come tonight.

In the meantime, thanks for all the good luck messages. And special thanks to AER, my best friend and the most amazing triathlete. Thank you for getting me to tri this sport. I love it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Old Aunt Nic

It's hard to believe that she is finally here, but on May 1, my NIECE entered this world.

Welcome, HLY!!!! I cannot wait to meet you.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Starting Point

I'm not going to pretend that the REAL reason I haven't done much swimming in open water is because I've just been SOOOOOO busy.

Because although I have - SERIOUSLY, been SOOOOOO busy - I've also just been SOOOOOO petrified of the open water. Of the lack of walls. And the lack of a bottom I can see. Not to mention, touch. And since the only open water I can get to without a car is the San Francisco Bay, I can't deny that I've also been SOOOOOO afraid of how freaking COOOOOOLD that water would be.

But she made me promise. And on Tuesday, after work, we decided to go. I packed my bag: wetsuit, towel, Body Glide, flip flops, cap and goggles. I said good-bye to The Cat. I told him I loved him. And that if he ever had any desire to scratch me in the eyes, now was his chance. That if he did it now, I wouldn't get mad at him.

Naturally, he didn't pay any attention to me.

So we headed to the water, to Aquatic Park. I could feel my heart thumping the entire way there. It pounded so forcefully, I seriously wondered if an accelerated heart rate ever caused a hair-line fracture in one's sternum. We parked the car, got into our wetsuits, and headed to the beach. AER, who is seriously the most WONDERFUL human being in the entire universe, tried her best to keep me calm and laughing.

She did look pretty silly in her wetsuit and cap...

We entered the water, and my worst fear was realized. That water is miserable. But wetsuits work. After taking a pee - perhaps the best thing about triathlons is not having to wait in the line for port-o-potties - we swam out to the bouyies to start our swim.

But I didn't do that well. My heart was pounding. And I couldn't catch my breath. I started to swim and the water was just SO COLD on my face, my hands, and my feet. I hated not being able to see. I hated the water tossing me off of my course. And I hated how hard it was to breathe.

I started to have trouble breathing. And I started to really panic. But AER never left my side. We swam, then stopped and floated. She talked me down when I became too wound up in the intensity of the cold water, of the overwhelming nature of swimming in The San Francisco Bay.

I only made it a half mile before I just couldn't deal with it anymore. So we swam to shore. And when we made it to the sand, AER hugged me. I started balling. One of those short but sweet wails of exhaustion, embarrassment, sadness, and on some level, a tiny bit of happiness.

My first swim in the San Francisco Bay is behind me. It can't get much worse than that.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Lost and Found

All that I had left to give just wasn't enough. And so it got sluggish. It staggered, until it stopped.

And although I haven't really been spending much time in San Francisco anyway, I had to get out of the city. Again. Away from laundry and cleaning and errands. Away from messages to return and phone calls to make. Away from the professional stress. And the personal drama.

We headed to Tahoe. Some people - well, MOST people - backed out at the last minute. But that only made the trip that much better. Just us. And our bikes. Plus running shoes and gloves and a baseball. We forgot CDs, and the iPod transmitter didn't really work, so for three hours in the car, we only had each other.

It was a long drive, but still, I think it ended too soon. Tired, we went to sleep immediately after our arrival. But we woke up to gorgeous sunlight. And a beautiful day in the mountains, that of course, begged us to ride. So we set out, and 45 miles later, we returned home. Exhausted and happy.

I threw on my Asics for a post cycling run, Wildlfower only one more week away. It was painful, at first, but it got better. How can it NOT get better when you're running next to that gorgeouos lake? And those beautiful snow-capped mountains! Yes, running at altitude makes it's hard to breathe; but when running at altitude, every breath feels so much more worth it...

Afternoon naps. And dinner, with good food, good wine, and good friends. New friends. Someone you never knew you needed to meet. Who makes you smile. And feel good. Healthy, both physically and emotionally. And yet who makes you want to be better. On the bike. On the job, and on that road of life. Every minute, of every hour, of every day.

I always want to feel this happy. This tired, and yet this energized. This excited, and yet this calm. Lost in the middle of nowhere, atop a bike and a mountain, I found exactly what I've been missing. What I've been needing.

I never want to let go.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Trying to Tri

I woke up early on Sunday morning, determined to REALLY train for the upcoming Wildflower Triathlon that is only a few short weeks away. Seriously, I’m SO under-trained for this event. Compared to how much time and energy I invested in my past marathons and half marathons, I’m probably only ready for a 10K. Which is a total shame considering that prior to running a 10K on May 5 I’m also going to have to swim a mile and cycle through 25.

So Sunday I woke up and headed to the pool.

(That’s right, the pool. Because I still have yet to purchase the wet suit I was going to purchase before my trip to Morocco. Because my week was rearranged when I had to go to Chicago for work. And after being “back” in San Francisco, I’m again in Chicago. So ridiculous… Anyway, I’m hoping to buy that wetsuit this week, and once I do, I’ll take her for a swim in The Bay ASAP. But I digress…)

I walked the mile and a half to the pool on Sunday morning, swam a pretty decent mile and then walked a mile and a half back home. I traded my tight Speedo bathing suit for some sausage sucking cycling shorts and hopped onto my bicycle for a spin over the Golden Gate Bridge, up to the top of Marin Headlands, and then down into Sausalito before turning around and heading back home.

For the first time EVER, I really felt like I dominated my bike ride. There were no falls. No mishaps with my pedals. I was only passed by some cyclists who truly looked bad ass, despite climbing some of the most challenging hills. Sure, I panted and chugged water and felt like I was totally out of shape at the crest of each hill, but I managed to regain control of my breathing as soon as the road flattened… just in time to start climbing again, most of the time!

And I have to admit, both my swimming and cycling really are getting better. It’s just that I don’t have a whole lot of time left before Wildflower! And I’ve yet to do a full practice triathlon. I had every intention of lacing up the Asics for a quick lap around the neighborhood after my ride yesterday, but I caught a glimpse of my couch when I returned my bike to my apartment and the urge to sit down and just stare at the ceiling was too strong to deny.

All of this activity plus travel is pretty tiring. Not a surprise, however.

So, I unfortunately ONLY completed a 1 mile swim and 30 mile ride yesterday. I know this workout was still substantial, and, well, decent. And I know that I still have quite a few opportunities to fit in additional training sessions before the race. All hope is not totally lost. And I am in respectable enough shape to confidently attempt to finish Wildflower. I just hope I don’t have to travel AGAIN the week before the race!

Oh, Triathlon Training. You are much more fun than Marathon Training. And I swear, I really am TRYING to Tri. Tri Training just doesn’t travel well! If only I could cram my bike and my pool into my suitcase the way I can always squeeze in my running shoes...