Friday, September 26, 2008

*%!$@#@ Gas Shortages

I can't put gas in my truck. 15 gas stations near my home, and the only gas is diesel. The one gas station which did have regular gas, had waits of 30-45 minutes, a $50 limit, and was expecting to be out of fuel by the time I could have made it there.

I'm ticked. 

I don't put that many miles on my gas guzzler. I usually fill up every two or three weeks. I run to the post office. Ride the bike to the grocery store. I heard about the shortages, and the gas panic a few days ago, but didn't think much of it. I figured it would be over by the time I needed gas again, no problem. 

I was wrong.

Drove out to Douglasville to the orthodontist today for the regular bracket/retainer checks. I even combined appointments for multiple family members, to reduce the number of trips. My gas gauge dropped below 1/4, so it was time to refill. The five stations along my path back to I-20? All out. The gas stations after I got back to Sandy Springs? Empty.

Unless I check channel 11's website at 6 a.m. and find a gas station near my house with fuel, I won't be going on the big 61.5 mile ride for the opening of the final section of the Silver Comet Trail at the Alabama state line. My family was going to drive out and meet me at the state line for lunch, then we'd all drive back together. If I can't know we'll be able to either fill up the truck, or refill the car, no go.

My back up plan is to run my newest "longest run of my life" tomorrow. If  can't make the ride to AL, I'll be running 9 miles, and meeting my munchkins a little closer to home for a celebratory lunch at Slopes or KC Pit BBQ.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall Flowers

It's fall. That means so many wonderful things are ahead, including weather which is perfect for running my bike errands in regular street clothes. Yea!

Today, as I realized there were two things I needed to get for tonight's dinner, I checked tires, tossed my Trader Joe bag in the basket, and was off. Jeans, loafers, starched shirt. No changing, no sweaty mess in the 90+ degree heat and high humidity.


Great ride, feeling comfy in my favorite jeans. And, on the way home, the flowers in the picture were within easy sniffing distance at each red light. (And, I did catch every red light on the way home.) Now, to pop my bottle of chardonnay and green beans in the fridge, and go on about my "happy, happy, joy, joy!" afternoon.

Half Training, Week 11

Week 11 (9/15-9/21):

Monday: Stretch/Strength
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: 3 miles, Easy
Thursday: 5.2 miles, Easy (but hilly)
Friday: Off
Saturday: 20.53 miles, Ride; 2.7 mile, Trail run
Sunday: 30 miles (approx), Group road ride

Total: Run - 10.9 miles; Bike - 50.53 miles

I backed off a bit on my running this week, to allow for a bit more riding. I'm hoping to ride the full 61.5 mile Silver Comet Trail out to the Alabama state line this coming weekend, so wanted to make sure I hadn't forgotten how to pace myself on the bike. (I won't be going as part of the officially invited pack of cyclists, but as part of the big group of tag-a-longs welcomed by the PATH foundation.) The Silver Comet Trail is a nice, evenly paved surface, without much of anything resembling hills. I figure if I could survive road riding conditions two days in a row, then the Trail should be a snap. Saturday was a Ride & Run day; Sunday a group ride through Cobb & Paulding counties.

The Sunday course crisscrosses the Silver Comet several times, but is 90-95% roads. I really enjoyed the ride this week. It was a bit of a wildlife excursion. Horses, small furry creatures, and wild turkeys. After the duo day Saturday, the hills were tougher than I expected. Had it been a flat course, I could probably have gone 45-50 miles without a problem. Was feeling good, no pains or stiffness, except on the hills. Oh well, this is why I go, to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Weather was great. Needed jacket for the first hour, until the sun came out. I'm starting to think about fall gear now. I think a wrap skirt might be in order, to give me the option of cycling shorts, capris, or full length tights as the weather gets colder. Yes, it might be lame and girly to prefer a skirt flapping around while I ride... but I'm 37, and have "issues" with running around in just spandex, thank you very much.


What Would Ayn Rand Have Done?
From Time/CNN, 9/19/08

I know it's not as warm and spiritually fulfilling as the WWJD - What Would Jesus Do? bumper stickers, but I think it's a really good question, especially in today's social and political climate.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of thinking about living my life in a "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" fashion , and think the world would be a better place if more individuals thought in the terms of The Golden Rule. That's a rule for the individual, though, not for the Government.

The Government's job is to protect my life, my liberty, and my property from invaders, both of the foreign and domestic variety. Someone breaking into my house? I want the police to show up and arrest him - assuming I didn't exercise my 2nd amendment right before calling 911. Should Canada decide it's a good idea to march south in order to seize our excellent health care facilities, I'd expect the US armed forces to fend them off at the border. (Sorry. Had to clean up the coffee I snorted towards the monitor at this thought.) If a bank or investment institution lies to my grandfather about the securities backing his accounts, I want the weasels to either make it right through restitution, or go to jail.

That's it. That's all I want my government to do. I do not want the government to seize a portion of my income to fund the bailout of mortgage backed securities. That job is for the individual corporations to handle, while being accountable to stockholders and customers.

I do not want government wasting my time, tax dollars and patience to come up with bridge loans for struggling corporations. Not even if, as I've heard pointed out in several interviews this last week, the government stands to make money on the deal as the assets are sold off. That's not quite accurate. I should have said Especially if... as the government is not supposed to be a profitable enterprise. The only money making the government is allowed is the minting of currency, and even that it's been doing to excess lately.

If regulatory agencies set up the "guidelines" under which all these failing companies have been operating, how exactly are these same bureaucrats qualified to fix the even bigger problems we have now? They take over more of the operations and asset management, all in the name of the "public good". I'm not that far into my stack of economic books, but I'm pretty sure public (government) ownership of industry is called Socialism. And the government management of ostensibly privately held companies? That's Nationalism.

The Fed and Treasury are taking the step of removing from power the company heads who were in charge during the plunge into the current mess. As more companies approach the government for help, and from industries other than banking, who is going to pull the plug on Paulson and Bernanke for their gross mismanagement?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Things I love...

Today was a multi-sport day for me. Rode around the neighborhood, and did a few loops on Columns drive; followed with a 2.6-2.8 mile run around the trail at the Johnson Ferry Chattahoochee Rec. Area. It was good.

I am thankful for:

The beautiful, breezy, 75 degree ride weather late this morning. It was as close to perfect as any day can be.

This view from the bridge on Columns Drive, which I pass so often, and always makes me happy. The whole area between the two sections of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, really. Marked bike lane, pleasant runners, walkers and cyclists, and lots of opportunities to watch beautiful bikes - and legs - zip by. (And occasionally, zip past someone myself.)

The considerate drivers on Johnson Ferry this morning, who gave me a little bit of extra space as I bravely (insanely) tackled the hill coming up from the river. Super slow, granny gears, heart racing, labored breathing, screaming quads... and to the lady in the gray suv, who did not give me any room at all, even though there was little traffic, and she had plenty of space to edge over... thanks to you, too. The adrenaline rush of almost being clipped by you gave me what I needed to make it to my turnaround point.

The mechanics over at the Silver Comet Depot. Thanks to the great care they take of Bloo, I knew my brakes were in good working order, and I was not quite as terrified on the way back down to the river.

The folks at Apple, for the iPod & the new iTunes Genius playlist feature. No, I was not blaring music while riding on the street. My legs were like lead on the run, after having been on the bike. Having a couple of oddball songs pop up while I was slogging down the trail made the whole thing bearable.
Henry Mancini - Peter Gunn
Cake - Mahna Mahna
The Mattoid - Burn and Rob

And, a big Thank You to my children, for not utterly destroying the house (or their dad) during the two-and-a-half hours I was out.

And now, back to my regularly scheduled Saturday. And maybe a few fig newtons, and aspirin. Two other things for which I am thankful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Counting Calories: My new hate/love relationship with food

Odd things are happening to my relationship with food. I used to not think of calories at all, or when I did, in a vague "ooh, I probably shouldn't eat this" way. Even as I was losing weight, I made myself think about healthy food choices and moderation, not calorie counts. That was a couple years ago, before I started cycling, then running. Even a few months ago, I was focusing on food choices and variety, not diet and weight loss.

But now that I'm playing outside (don't think of it as workout - too much fun) five or six times each week? I think about calories and food constantly.

My normal calorie intake for age, weight, and sex at a "normal" rate of activity should be in the 1650-1800 range. To offset the running and riding, I need to average 2,800 per day.

That's an extra 1,000 per day! I don't eat fast food. I don't load up on sweet coffee drinks with whipped cream. My idea of a good snack is a handful of almonds, or a couple fig newtons. That's nowhere near enough calories. So, I spend time each day thinking:

How much do I need to eat today?
I should probably grab some chips to eat with my veggies and hummus.
These miles mean how much extra food?
Will tossing avocado in my salad be enough?
What if I use the whole avocado?
I forgot my mid afternoon snack. Gotta eat.
Ugh. This yogurt's only 140 calories. What can I add?

It's exhausting. It's also necessary. After being in a very comfortable little range for almost one year, I've dropped weight fast this month. In the last six or seven weeks, almost 9 pounds. I think I might have just hit a point where my body was done at a certain plateau, and had decided it was okay to kick the metabolism up, since the increased exercise and food patterns were established. The body fat dropped by a full percentage point, so I think that seems reasonable.

My rings are loose. My clothes, other than running/cycling gear, are loose. My face seems different, too. I can see in the mirror which collarbone was broken when I was 12, and that bugs me. I feel pretty good, and have plenty of energy. (Not today, but that's normal girl stuff).

I'm still well within the healthy BMI, but am starting to grow a little concerned. It's probably nothing more than my body reshaping itself. I could keep researching online, reading the food discussions at Runners World, and pick up a couple books... I think it may be time to talk to a nutritionist. Build a good plan for the next several months. Between the half marathons this fall, then starting an official multi-sport training plan over the winter (duathalon - I'm a lousy swimmer), I'm not sure this is a time for me to stick with my normal trial & error methods.

Speaking of food, it's noon. I'd better go and grab some lunch, right now. Be a shame to ruin my appetite for that three o'clock snack.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Half Training, Week 10

Week 10 (9/8-9/14):

Monday: XT / Strength (rowing & upper body)
Tuesday: 3.6 miles, Easy
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: 5.7 miles, Hill
Friday: 3.3 miles, Hill
Saturday: 22 miles, Ride
Sunday: 8.1 miles, Long

Total: Run - 20.7 miles; Bike - 22 miles

Good week of running. I also got a chance to go for a ride on Bloo Saturday morning. I was a happy girl, as our last ride was over two weeks ago. Beautiful day, strong legs, all good stuff.

Still working on an "overtime" schedule. All my normal schedule, plus school drop offs and taxi service to and from the office for the broken driver. Plus, all kitchen cleaning, and any other chores which require two hands.

I hit a fun little milestone with this past week's long run. Right about the time I was crossing this bridge, I realized that every footfall from this point, back to the truck, would be the farthest I have ever run. I've run a few 7 's, and a couple 7.5's, then walked an extra 10-15 minutes, for cool down. That wasn't an official 8-mile run though. On Sunday though, I crossed the 8 mile mark on a run.

I'd better be careful, or I'm going to start to think of myself as an actual, honest-to-goodness runner.

Go me!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I am the proudest mom in at least a five block radius today. My daughter will be attending a birthday party for a classmate this weekend, and when we were ready to go shopping for a present, I asked D if she had any ideas. I expected anything from panda bears to barbie, or even bratz. The answer I heard, surprised me.

"Mom, I want to get her a journal. She really likes to write. A pretty one, not just a notebook. And maybe some pretty pens and pencils, so it's always like writing something special."

Off we went to Target, and here's what she ended up buying (along with D's comments):
1 - Woven Ribbon Journal with lined, rose colored paper
1 - Pack of pretty mechanical pencils (so she doesn't need a sharpener)
1 - Pack of colored pens
1 - Post it travel pack, with two sizes and a pen in small case (she can carry it in her backpack, for when she has great story ideas away from home)

Isn't my little girl the bestest?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Homework Hour(s)

I'm really beginning to like homework time around my house. I get asked real questions now, about how to find synonyms for words to be used in paragraphs about the planets, word origins, algebra. That's not to say I sometimes long for the days of coloring pictures which go with specific letters of the alphabet, but at least I no longer have to answer the impossible questions, like "What happened to all the blue crayons?"

From Wednesday evening, I present the incredible Double Fudge vocabulary girl:

And her brother, the Esperanza Rising vocabulary kid:

And the biggest brother, who.... oh wait. He finished his homework on the school bus, and spent the afternoon wandering around, taking pictures of all the poor souls who had to do actual work. Including me:

He managed to hide the camera from me, before I could take any photos of him. That's okay. His time is coming. When he least expects it, maybe when all gross and disgusting in the yard, or sitting upside down in the armchair doing algebra in his room (don't know why he wont use his perfectly good desk), "click!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Half Training, Week 9

Week 9 (9/1-9/7):
Monday: 11.5 miles, bike
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: 3.1 miles, Hill
Friday: Off
Saturday: 1.5 miles, Speed (YMCA Track)
Sunday: 7.5 miles, Long

Total: Run - 12.1 miles; Bike - 11.5 miles

With the rough week, I didn't make my mileage. Did get in the long run on Sunday, thanks to my very helpful 14 year old son. In planning for the half marathons this fall, I tried to build in an extra three or four weeks, to make up for all the various school activities and minor kid illnesses which typically pop up. Never figured I'd need one of those weeks for something this big. I'm glad I planned ahead?

Tough Week

Now that we've made it through the surgery, and the orthopedic post-op is looking good, I'm ready to talk about our Labor Day adventure. It started out with a simple premise: Let's get the kids to round up their gear and go for a family ride on the Silver Comet Trail.

I thought it would be a little crowded, and a great opportunity for the little ones to practice signaling walkers and joggers when we pass, to practice passing safely in busy stretches, and to pay attention to where they are in relation to the center line. (The little ones drift a bit much for me to try bike lanes on even low traffic roads yet.)

While we're at it, why don't we have them supervise the safety & equipment check? Tires, orange safety flag on back of D's trail-a-bike, helmet adjustments, mini first aid kit, water bottles, the works. Get them thinking about being prepared, right?

Started off great. Parked at the elementary school. Unloaded, started tire check, then moved to helmets. All ready to go.

5-1/2 miles out, with a stop by the Depot for ice cream bars on the way back. Things were going great. Until B2 had a panic attack about his balance, and knocked Dad off the paved trail, a couple miles before we got back to the truck. If this had happened by the grassy shoulder, it would have been easy to recover. It happened where the shoulder was non-existent. Dad went straight into the graveled ditch. Caught himself, and the weight of his bike, on his left arm.

D & I usually ride a bit farther than the guys. With her on the tandem/trailer, we ride a little faster. (Plus, we just like chicking the boys.) We turned around at the 30 minute mark, and so were arriving at the scene about five minutes after it happened.
Dad was stretched out on the trail, arm completely limp by his side. It was obviously very broken. Looked like Harry Potter's arm after Professor Lockhart fixed a break by making all the bones in his arm disappear. I didn't dare move it.

B2 was dazed and upset, but seemed to have nothing but scraped knees, hands and cheek. (So glad we tightened the chin straps on his helmet.) A very nice jogger had already called 911, and a cyclist rode up to the nearest access point, to wave in the ambulance. (I really wish I'd thought to get their names, but am thinking a giant THANK YOU their way.)

Less than 10 minutes later, Dad was being packed in the ambulance, with a shot of morphine, and the Cobb Co. Sherrif's deputy was helping me get four bikes (3.5, technically) and three people back to the truck.

Rest of day spent at Cobb Wellstar, where they told us it was... broken. Finally got his arm splinted, a referral to Resurgens for an orthopedic surgeon, and an Rx for pain meds. Dinner at McDonalds (I skipped, can't make myself eat that anymore.), then home to try and sleep.

Tuesday was a bit of a blur. Wednesday, still blurry, but included consult with surgeon. Thursday, less of a blur for the four uninjured people, but a gigantic blur for Dad. I got all three kids where they needed to be, homework completed, clean uniforms, and fed. Even ran once or twice (short runs, during school day), and squeezed in some work along the way. Didn't sleep much.

Friday was surgery. Left radius and ulna lined back up, then reattached with plates and screws. I forget how many screws I counted in the post-op x-ray, but I seem to remember it being way more than a few.

Now that we're past those first couple of days where we needed to worry about nerve damage, bleeding and infection, things are looking up. Work, family and sleep schedules are still a bit off for everyone, but I think we're all starting to feel human again... even Dad.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Charting a new map for my life

Tackling the utter lack of athleticism which plagued me up to the ripe old age of 35 has made me braver. I'm starting to branch out in other areas. Looking for ways to challenge myself mentally, in addition to the physical challenges.

I have a few very big decisions to make. Some of them are easy. Beginning to market my skills (maps, informational graphics) and expand my client base is one of those. For the last eight years, since I officially stopped being a full-time employee, my business plan has been more of a non-plan. My old clients (former employers) stuck with me, and when some of the people with whom I worked switched firms, I had a new client.

It’s really been a pretty cozy system. I get to keep doing work I love, and make enough money to fund things like housekeepers, the birthday mini-trips, and gear for running and riding. I get to converse with other adults about things which have no relation to my children, and a sense of accomplishment when I receive the printed sample from the press.

I work ten hours many weeks, and am rarely over twenty. The occasional flurry at the end of a full street map or an offering book might require a full forty hours one week. I follow those weeks with a week to clean house, do some extra volunteering at the schools, and go for long rides on my bicycle.

Lately, I’ve gone beyond the idea of doing this Someday. I have the gut feeling it’s become Someday. It’s not the money. It’s me. I want a challenge. The projects requiring my full mental attention these days are rare. I can crank out maps in my sleep. (When home with a sick child means switching to evening work hours, I’m pretty sure I have sleepmapped.) Even though this decision is not based on any economic worries, the extra income will be nice.

There will also be a sense of freedom to accompany the increase in projects. If I have other things waiting in the queue, I will have the peace of mind to set the timelines. I’ll do everything I can to meet my client’s expectations, but won’t have to bend over backwards and stay up until 2:00 a.m., just because I’m worried they’ll find someone else next time.

It’s a big step. Tough, but not as hard as I’d built it up to be in my mind. Get a domain and webhost, put together samples of work online, along with basic writeup of what services I’ll offer. A few emails around town, a bribe for google, so I come up higher on the search list.

Thanks to my current office setup, cell phones and eFax, I’m not going to have all that many expenses. I know who to call for my domain registration and hosting. Friend of a friend, won’t be pricey. I have over a decade of digital samples - more, if I resort to scanning in pieces from the early days. Sweat equity is the big requirement.

Thanks to the last year or so, I'm not timid about the sweat anymore.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Half Training, Week 8

Week 8 (8/25-8/31):
Monday: 4.5 miles, easy
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 4.5 miles, hill
Thursday: Stretch/Strength
Friday: 5.5 miles, bike; Midnight Flight 10k Run
Saturday: 2-3 miles, walking
Sunday: Rest

Total: Run - 15.2 miles; Bike - 5.5 miles

Week was pretty good. No big bike rides, as I was taking official break days between runs. On Friday night in Anderson, SC, that turned out to be a very good thing. 11pm start time. The race started out level, going into a mile of downhill. I knew in the back of my mind this meant there'd be a mile of uphill before that last stretch to the finish. Not too hot, but still humid. Did I do the sensible thing, and force myself to keep a steady, even pace? Nope. Hit the first mile marker at about 8:35. WooHoo and Oops, all in one. Mile two leveled off, then headed uphill to downtown Anderson for mile three (28:23) and the turnaround point. Nice downhill, and then back up hill for that last mile before it flattened out again by the YMCA.

My official chip time was 1:01:56, giving me just under a 10:00/mile pace. Personal best. I was sweaty, disgusting, and extremely happy with my second 10k. Enjoyed my ice cream cone, a post race beer, and sleeping in at the hotel on Saturday morning.

When I get my photo from the finish line, I'll swap out pictures, just because I think my legs look so marvelous. I think the nike running skirt I'm wearing is my new favorite. it doesn't ride up as much as my black skirt by them does, and the back pocket is a touch larger, allowing me to fit my phone, and not just the iPod. The mizuno tank with the zippered back pocket is an example of my multipurpose exercise wear. I have it in both pink and blue, and wear them constantly for both running and cycling. No chafing, no ride up at the waist. The built in bra is a bit too large for me, so I add my normal champion underneath. For running, at least. There's less bounce on the bike, so I don't have to double up on ride days.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What's for dinner?

Really looking forward to tomorrow night's dinner. I don't know which one of these scrumptious burgers from Closet Cooking will be the final choice. With a side of oven sweet potato wedges, whichever burger gets picked, I win!

Curried Chicken Burgers
with Mango Chutney

If I go with this one, I think I'll pop it into pita bread, instead of buns, unless I have time to make a sweet egg bread.

Salsa Verde Turkey Burgers

This would end up having mango served with it as well, but in slices, or juiced into lemonade. Will have to see what I find in the way of avocados and tomatillos and green tomatoes at Whole Foods tomorrow. I have much love for the avocado this year, so really appreciate Kevin's use of them in several delicious recipes.

About the big love of avocados this year, I think the yummy fats and oils in the nuts, flax and avocados are keeping junk food cravings away, as well as keeping my joints happy while I've been [slowly] adding on the mileage.

Tonight's dinner was a spicy tuna roll from the sushi joint down the street. Picked it up, along with the (baked - the horror!) hawaiian roll for my resident invalid. (I'll get to that story when I'm ready.)

Had a glass of Carmel Road Pinot Noir with my spicy tuna. Was practically perfect. White would have been too light for my day, and I really don't think I was in as much of a mood for Cabernet as when I walked into the package store. I'd purchased one of each, not sure what I wanted. One glass, sipped slowly over the dinner hour. Just right.

To my friend, who was terribly surprised I happened upon one of his favorites... remember, you didn't recommend it. I found it on my own, thank you very much. However, your comments after hearing of the purchase were spot on. I do like it, very much.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

$125/week Grocery Challenge Wrap Up

The past week has been a B.C.W. (Big Crazy Week) around the mapphouse, so I'm getting this posted a bit later than planned. More on all that later...

The $125/week Grocery Challenge* is done.
Week 1: $103.97
Week 2: $124.65
Week 3: $120.97
Week 4: $110. 98
Average weekly grocery bill: $115.14

After the first couple of weeks, I stopped posting meals. (Week 1 - Week 2) There were alot of repeats, along with a few evenings where I fixed favorites from Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1.

We really didn't miss out on anything. I baked desserts and snacks, we ate our brown rice pasta with homemade sauces. During dinners, I mixed proteins from other sources in with the normal (small) portions of meat & poultry. Pretty standard. I used mostly evaporated milk instead of heavy cream in making cream/cheese sauces, but still finished with a splash of cream. This is something which I'll probably continue, unless it's a sauce where reducing the cream is the only way to get the right flavor. For most pasta & veggie dishes, it doesn't make enough of a difference to miss the opportunity to save a bit in both fat intake and money.

I made it, but think I could have done even better, without sacrificing anything. The rules actually kept me from doing my regular bulk buying of some items. I was paying regular price for smaller packs of chicken, rather than picking up the 3-4 week supply of fresh breasts at Costco, which I then freeze and use as needed. Same applies to ground turkey, lunchbox staples, etc. Switching back to baking all of the bread used in making sandwiches would shave off more. (Time has been in short supply lately.)

I could have used something along the lines of The Grocery Game (paid service), or spent the time gathering coupons to match up with store sales for some additional savings. I don't think the items I'd have been stockpiling in my pantry would have lived up to my own standards of what we should be eating, so that's not happening. Wenchypoo posted a review of the grocery game recently, if you aren't familiar with the service.

In averaging my receipts from the couple months prior to the challenge, I generally have a week of 25-30% higher than average, followed by a few weeks of 10-15% below. If I continue planning out a few days in advance, and timing my bulk buys, I should easily be able to keep my average at $115/week. Might even be able to lower it. Don't know if I can keep it below $100/week, but I may give it a shot.

*My challenge was based on MSN Money writer Melinda Fulmer "Can a family eat on $100 a week? Hers is a family of four, so making the amount for my five $125 seemed about right.