Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back...and Looking Forward

Every year, everyone does it: the politicians, the pundits, the media, and that tempts the rest of us (well, maybe not all of us) to do our own "year in review." As hackneyed and trite as it might seem, I find it to be a useful exercise. I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions, but looking at my successes and "not-quite-successes" helps me figure what to keep doing in the coming year and where I can improve.

  • Achieving my running goal (qualify for the Boston Marathon): I'm not sure why I succeeded; perhaps it was because I never let my training lag and during the race I was very focused.
  • Becoming more technically adept at work: A couple of large software projects gave me the opportunity to do a bit of testing again and made me realize that I hadn't lost my testing "chops."
  • Finishing the baby blanket...and knowing when it was done enough, even though I still had yarn left.
  • Getting through most of my Christmas holiday to-do list: I'm notoriously bad at making to-do lists and then ignoring them. I managed to focus and get through most of my tasks each day and by the time I go back to work, I should have completed the remaining chores on it.
  • Training a bit too hard and injuring my foot: I don't think it was the distance, but perhaps the speed and the road miles. I'll spend more time on trails this coming year.
  • Finishing only one knitting project: Due to my work schedule and the lack of time to do things at home, I didn't allow myself sufficient knitting time
  • Working long hours: Not much can be done about that and unfortunately, 2010 is probably going to be worse than 2009. Working at home one day a week will help, especially if I can plan it so it falls on the knitting group day.
  • Not holding up my end of house chores: See the previous item. The long hours, coupled with running long on weekends, led Tom to rightly declare "I do everything around here." I need to focus on better work/life balance.
  • Not spending enough time on the mat: Perhaps if I established a regular home yoga practice, my life will become a little more balanced. If I can keep myself from going back to bed after I feed the cats in the morning, I've got this one in the bag!

Knitting Progress

The spiral scarf should not have looked like a sock. I came to that conclusion the other day and ripped it all out. I had miscounted some rows early on and ended up with the increases on the inside edge of the scarf instead of the outside edge. It looks much better now and I think it is going to be a quick-ish knit. I don't think it will be done by the time I go back to work, but it might be close.

I've also been teaching a friend to knit, which has been a blast! She's picking it up quickly and is so enthusiastic. The last knitting lesson was teaching her the purl stitch, then putting the knit and purl stitches together for stockinette and a 4x4 rib, which is in preparation for knitting a hat. The next lesson will be about gauge, how to read a pattern, and coming up with the 4x4 rib hat design.

Room Progress

Alas, the painting has not commenced because Tom is still working on stabilizing the ceiling, but the plaster washer installation doesn't appear to be going well. Last night Tom said that maybe we should just gut the room, which while it would be nice, is not strictly necessary. I don't need the room to be perfect; I just need it to be comfortable. The remaining "public" rooms (the dining room and the library) are more important. Besides, I'm still scarred from the kitchen/bath renovation we did in 2002.

So that's it for this year. I wish you and your family a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2010.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

OMG...It's an FO!

Presenting perhaps the first and possibly the last finished object of 2009:

This is the baby blanket for my co-worker that I started back in April. Baby G. was born in May and I finally finished it in December. It's a very simple pattern, once the stitch pattern is established. I used my all-time favorite baby blanket yarn, Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece. It machine washes well and wears like iron. So why did it take so long? A distinct lack of knitting time. The blanket will be shipped off to Baby G. this week. I hope it becomes her favorite blanket to drag around.

Here's a closeup of the slip stitch pattern:

While I haven't exactly abandoned the garter stitch scarf, it is in time out and I suspect I'm going to have to rip it out and start over, due to what looks suspiciously like a change in gauge. See the lower part of the scarf and how it's nicely zigging and zagging, creating a subtle argyle pattern? And then see how the zigging and zagging just sort of falls apart? It's like it's almost zigging and zagging and then gets tired and just stripes. Even though it's pretty, it's not acceptable.

That left me without a new knitting project (let's not mention the UFOs; there is something wrong with all of them and it will take more brainpower than I'm willing to muster right now to figure out how to fix them). I could knit socks (I have two years of Rockin' Sock Club socks to knit), but I'm not quite ready. I thought about a sweater, but again, that seems too hard. I bought some yarn from Laura Bryant of Prism Yarns in October in a luscious silk/kid mohair blend (Indulgence, Embers colorway) with the intent of knitting up her spiral scarf pattern. It's garter stitch, with just enough short row shaping to keep it interesting. It doesn't look like much right now (it looks more like half a stocking than a scarf), but I think it's going to work out just fine:

I don't like mohair. It's too floaty and the fibers end up in my eyes or food, or mouth. Bleh. However, the silk single is wrapped with what looks like a two-ply binder thread. It doesn't seem to lose fibers, even while winding into a ball. I'm very pleased with it (even if it is a little splitty).

Christmas Vacation
I'm officially on holiday! The week is stretching out ahead of me and it looks like there will be plenty of time to do a lot of stuff. I know this is not true, however. And I hit the first stumbling block today.

The big plan for the week is redo my fiber room. That means painting (the room is still the same dingy white that it was when we bought the house 13 years ago), getting new shelving, lighting, and a comfortable chair (so I have a place to knit and listen to music without hearing the television). While it's tempting to plunge in and just get the furniture and deal with painting later, that's not the right way. The right way is to paint first. So today we went to Home Depot and I got some paint.

My plan (since I don't want to deal with moving out everything in the room) was to tackle one wall at a time, moving furniture as necessary. However, the ceiling also needs to be painted. And true be told, the ceiling plaster needs some serious stabilization. That kind of took the wind out of my sails, because theoretically, that needs to be done before anything else. And I don't know when Tom will be able to do that. I'm tempted to say forget the ceiling and I'll just paint it as is. But once again, that's not the right way. So I'm not sure what's going to happen there. I'm very afraid that I'm going to lose momentum and really, with a whole week off, I don't want to put this job off.

Bosco, however, is wondering why I'm all worried. He strongly suggested I follow his example:

Just find a spot in the sun and take a nap!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hemmed In

During sivasana at a recent yoga class, Barbara had us take a "mini-vacation" and visualize our favorite vacation spot and recall how we felt while we were there. I immediately went to the Caribbean and then out West, remembering the grandness and sense of space. Then I started thinking about how I feel while I'm on vacation and compared it to how I feel when I'm not (It was at this time that Barbara said "If you've left your mini-vacation, it's time to go back." Oops...). What I revel in, especially if our vacation includes being in the wilderness, is the sense of freedom, of openness. And it struck me that my day-to-day life makes me feel, well, hemmed in. I leave my house in the morning, get in my car, go to work, sit in my cube and conference rooms all day, get back in the car, drive home, eat dinner in the kitchen (or in front of the TV if Tom is watching something I want to watch), then go to bed. Repeat for five days.

The weekend routine is only slightly different. I don't go to work (usually), but the days are usually spent in the house, trying to get caught up on chores that I didn't do during the week. Sometimes I just spin my wheels and don't accomplish much. Hemmed in.

On vacation, however, and most notably when we took a road trip through New Mexico, Utah, and a tiny part of Colorado (and again in South Dakota when we were there for the Lean Horse Ultramarathon), that hemmed-in feeling disappears and I feel free. I can't quite figure out why. Is it because I have no responsibilities other than just being? Is it because I'm out in nature? Is it because I'm out West and the landscape is so vast and grand? Whatever it is, I would dearly love to feel like that in my non-vacation life.

And speaking of vacations, for the first time since I've been out of school (I won't mention how many decades that's been), I'm going to take both Christmas Eve and the week after Christmas off! Usually the companies that I've worked for schedule a major software release in January, and given that most software development efforts involve the code being delivered to the testers several weeks late (without the release date slipping), I've worked long hours over the holidays. Not so with my current company; the last release of the year was delivered this week. So I'll be free! I've already started a to-do list that includes fun things and chores. Maybe I'll pull out some UFOs and finish them. Maybe I'll pull out the spinning wheel and finish some spinning. I want to paint and re-do my fiber room. I want to cook up a bunch of gluten-free food to take to work for lunch. I'll be teaching a friend to knit (we had the first lesson yesterday). How much do you want to bet that I won't get any of it done (other than teaching the friend to knit)?

Breaking Weather
It's snowing!! Now, for those of you in the more northern climes, I'm sure you're groaning at the thought of snow. However, in Virginia, and particularly in the Washington, DC area, a good snowfall is rare. The last several winters have seen a couple of snowfalls that were only a couple of inches. Pitiful. Shameful, actually. However, the National Weather Service is predicting a "significant" snowfall and they've been upping the accumulation estimates all day. Now, they are saying that we'll have 5-9 inches over night (up from 1-3), 8-12 inches on Saturday (up from 7-11) and another 2-4 inches Saturday night. I'm pretty sure that the higher accumulations will be in the mountains, but a minimum of 14 inches is pretty good. I'd like to see the maximum, of course, but I'll take what I can get.

It was difficult to concentrate at work today because of the predicted snowstorm. I swear, I'm worse than a child. While I don't like driving in the snow (the drivers around here are pitiful, either going too fast because they have four-wheel drive or too slow because they don't), I love shoveling snow. I know, it's kind of weird. But there's something satisying about clearing snow. You can actually see the results (the results in my job are somewhat intangible).

And then there's the hush that falls when it snows. All the sounds are dampened, muffled, almost reverential. It's the same on Christmas Eve, when everything seems to be hushed in expectation of the birth of Jesus (or the visitation of Santa, depending on your beliefs). It's mystical.

I absolutely love it.

Knitting Progress
After many months (eight months, to be exact), the baby blanket is off the needles, the ends woven in, and washed and blocked. I'm pleased with the way it turned out, even though I see the mistakes in it (I slipped yif once instead of yib, and left out a row in one pattern repeat, but I at least I was consistent). The hand of the fabric is nice, somewhat heavy, but fluid. And even though I was using magenta and lime green yarns, the magenta did not bleed into the green when I washed it. What a relief! I'll post a picture later this weekend then I'll send it off to the happy family.

I'm working on the garter stitch scarf (I'll post a picture of that, too), but I'm not sure about how the dye pattern is working out. I raveled back to where I untied the knot, retied it, and everything was going along well for a while, but now there are stripes where there was an argyle pattern. Did my gauge change that dramatically? Of course, I was quite relaxed when I started knitting it at the knitting retreat and am much less relaxed now, which could result in tighter knitting. I ripped it back once more and tried to consciously loosen my gauge, but to no avail. I'll continue on and see what developed. Maybe a full do-over is necessary.

Well, that's all for now. I need to check the snow status and head to bed. I'm working tomorrow to verify the implementation we're doing tonight. Fortunately, I can work from the comfort (albeit chilly) of my own home.

Happy snow!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Runner Down

Prior to running the Steamtown Marathon, I was experiencing some pain in my heel. It was nothing major and the pain was alleviated by running. After the marathon, however, the pain was pretty much constant. I made a visit to my doctor who diagnosed plantar fasciitis and told me to take two to four months off running and do the stretches that can be found online. To maintain aerobic fitness, she suggested swimming and riding a stationary bike (swimming in a public pool grosses me out to no end, plus I don't have access to either a pool or a stationary bike).

So I gave it three weeks and tried a slow 6-mile run up Old Waterford Road. It felt good to run, except it was clear that my heel wasn't better. A friend recommended a chiropractor who specializes in sports injuries and practices applied kinesiology. A combination of foot strengthening exercises, ultrasound, and deep tissue massage seem to be helping, at least a little bit. The heel still hurts, but I'm walking much better. The goal is to start running again in January.

I don't like this enforced inactivity one little bit. And it comes at a dangerous time of the year...the Holidays. We celebrated two Thanksgivings, one with my family and one with Tom's. There are already two Christmas parties on the calendar and mostly likely one or two more will pop up. And then there's Christmas Eve dinner (I'm considering attempting Julia's Duck en Croute), Christmas dinner, and New Year's Eve dinner. Yikes! Dangerous times indeed.

And then there's the whole stress reduction thing that comes with running. I'm trying to increase the amount of yoga I'm doing. If I'm not running early in the morning, I should be practicing my yoga, right? And theoretically, the yoga will increase my flexibility, which should help my heel. We shall see.

Knitting Progress
With all this enforced inactivity, you'd think I'd be knitting up a storm. Ha! For some reason it isn't happening. There's so much that I haven't done around the house (the dust buffalo have evolved into dusty mammoths), that I feel guilty if I take the time in the middle of the day to sit and knit. And after dinner, I'm too tired to sit down and knit, especially during the week, given that I don't get home from work until after 8:00 most nights (thanks be to Tom for taking over the cooking duties and everything else during the week).

But there has been knitting. The baby blanket is six inches away from being completed and I've got until the weekend to finish it. The baby's mom is coming to town next week and I would like to give it to her then. Must give it to her then, because I'm terrible at mailing packages.

And there's been a lot of thinking about knitting. After the blanket is done, what shall I knit? One of the sweaters that I've been dreaming about (never mind that I've got more unfinished sweaters than I care to admit lying about)? How about a shawl? Or a scarf (I do have a garter stitch scarf on the needles; that's my totally brainless knitting) (except it isn't working out because I untied the knot in the yarn, which threw off patterning) (who would've thunk it?)? Maybe a pair of socks? (Oh wait...I have two pairs of socks on the needles) Or yoga socks (Barbara's studio is kind of chilly)? How about a wimple? Patternworks has a wimple pattern designed for Schaefer Andrea yarn (why is it that I always type "yearn" first?), that's 100% silk. I love hats, but look stupid in them. And they flatten curly hair. Maybe a wimple would be the perfect thing to keep off the winter chill!

Of course, if I were a good and thrifty knitter, I'd finish up the myriad of UFOs that are tucked away in various boxes and baskets and bags and knit from my stash instead of adding to it. Of course, she says, it doesn't count as stash if you knit it immediately. Right?

In parting, since I haven't posted any photos in a while, here is a picture of Bosco (in the back) and Emma in a rare moment of truce:

Actually, they're a lot better than they used to be. Bosco has stopped trying to exert his dominance (for the most part) and Emma will actually initiate playing with him. She still hisses at him and swats him for no reason other than she walked by him and he looked at her (but isn't that what big sisters are supposed to do?). Bosco still attacks her, but usually it's in the early morning to keep her off the bed. And then he only feints an attack (which shakes the entire bed)(he's a big boy).

Well, that's it for now. Time to get some knitting in!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Boston Bound!

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was a couple of years into her fourth decade. She wasn't very athletic, although in her late twenties, she was a somewhat decent rock climber and enjoyed caving. But cardio was not her forte, although she did play a couple of seasons of soccer (very badly; something about cardio not being her forte). Anyway, this woman had a coworker who regularly ran marathons, which amazed her. How could anyone run that far? The people who ran marathons had to be superhumans! But the more the woman talked to her coworker, the more she thought that maybe, just maybe, she could run a marathon.

So she talked to some people at the gym she belonged to, bought a book (Marathon! by Jeff Galloway) and commenced the To Finish marathon training program. She found a running partner and 6 months later, she ran (and finished) her first marathon. Admittedly, it was at a very slow pace (5 hours, 10 minutes, if she remembers correctly; there was a lot of walking involved).

With that success under her belt, she decided to run a different marathon the next year. She trained with her running partner again, and she ran (and finished) her second marathon in November (this time was faster: 4 hours, 44 minutes). Her husband ran his first marathon that year, too.

Buoyed by her success with running two marathons, she decided to run another marathon the following year. But alas, there was a problem. Her running partner decided to go to nursing school while continuing to work full-time, so there was no running partner. And this woman's husband was much faster than she was, so she found herself "training" by herself. When marathon time rolled around, her taper (the period of time when runners start cutting back on the mileage) was more like a plunge (she also had an undiagnosed thyroid deficiency, but that's a story that's already been told). So on marathon day, the woman runs, knowing that it's going to be a difficult run. Unbeknownst to her, the organizers had changed the sports drink and she hadn't trained with it. It did not agree with her digestive system. And around mile 15, her knee started hurting, so much so that she kept thinking that she'd quit "after one more mile." She finished the marathon (in 5 hours, 36 minutes) and wept tears of exhaustion and relief after stopping.

She would occasionally run after that last marathon, but her knee still hurt (iliotibial band syndrome) so she eventually gave up running entirely. Her husband kept running, though, and started running with a running club. He finished a couple more marathons and then decided that he would try a 50-mile run (if you can run a marathon, you can run a 50-miler, he was told).

Four years pass and the woman decided to try running again (the thyroid problem was under control, gluten was removed from her diet, and all other deficiencies were being corrected). When she started running, she ran with the running club. But they were fast, so she and a friend would run a shorter distance and run slow (about a 13 min/mile pace). She was happy to run and talk to her friend. But one day her friend wasn't there and she didn't know the route. She had to run faster to keep from getting left behind. She was surprised that she could keep the fast runners in sight and that she didn't expire from the effort. Shortly thereafter, her husband challenged her to run 50 miles when she turned 50. 11 months later, she did just that (it wasn't pretty, but she finished).

With that success under her belt, the woman (who still didn't think that she was a runner, but she might be getting there) decided to set a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon the following year. She didn't think she was fast enough to come close to qualifying, but after a couple of long runs that were faster than a snail's pace, she thought that maybe she had a chance. So she ran and ran and ran and kept thinking that she would run intervals (she did so only once). The fast runners kept getting faster and she still couldn't keep up with them, but she saw her times decrease. When she thought she had a reasonable chance (if worse came to worse, she'd at least run a PR for the distance), she signed up for a marathon that had a downhill course profile (notice that the woman was beginning to at least sound like runner) because she loves running downhill (it makes her feel fast).

So, race day rolls around and with seven other running club members, the woman lines up at the start and starts running when the starting gun fires. The going is slow at first (the runners were bunched up), but eventually everyone spreads out. She picks up her pace and runs with a couple of people, asking about their running stories. Even though the day is cold, the running feels easy and the woman runs comfortably and strong for a long time, taking time to walk through the water stops and take both Gatorade and water. The trees were wearing their best fall colors, the church bells in the town were ringing blessings upon the runners, and the townspeople were cheering everyone on. A glance at her watch told the woman that she was running faster than her qualifying pace (the watch lied, but she didn't know that at the time) and she felt good. At mile 20, her legs were beginning to feel tired and heavy, but she pushed onward, knowing that she had to run only 6.2 miles more. She relished each mile marker after that, counting down the miles, but she was beginning to want more water stops so she could have an excuse to walk more. Finally, a mile or so from the finish line, she encountered a rather large hill and gave up and walked the whole thing. At this point, her left heel was hurting and so was her right hip and she wanted to just stop running! However, she remembered everyone at home who had encouraged her and believed in her ability to run, so she dug deep and kept running (and amazingly enough, kept passing a lot of people). It was downhill to the finish (literally) and she picked up the pace. With the crowd cheering wildly, she crossed the finish line in 4:05:35, setting both a PR and qualifying for Boston!

The moral of the story, dear readers, is that if you have the courage and belief in yourself (and you find some good partners), you can do pretty much anything. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would someday be running marathons and ultramarathons and qualifying for Boston, I would have looked at you like you had three heads. I'm not a runner, I would have said.

I realized this weekend that I am a runner. I was always a runner, even when I was running slow. It took qualifying for Boston to make me believe in myself.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Still Running and Knitting

Well, maybe working, running, and knitting. But not so much with the knitting. I seem to have lost my momentum, so if anyone sees it, please send it back to me. I'd really like to have it back.

Running has been proceeding apace. Tom has been training for the Arkansas Traveller 100 Mile, which is next weekend. Unfortunately, I won't be able to be there with him because I'll be at a knitting retreat (he signed up for race after I had already registered for the retreat). I feel bad about that because I want to be there to support him. 100 mile races are not easy. Imagine running or walking (or crawling for that matter) for over 24 hours, with only a few brief stops. It's tough psychologically because as you get tired, the negative thoughts start and it's very easy to spiral downwards. But Tom is nothing if not stubborn and if he can eat enough and stay hydrated, he'll finish.

I've been training for the Steamtown Marathon, which is in mid-October. This is the race where I hope to qualify for the Boston Marathon (I need to run 26.2 miles in 4:05). Will I do it? Only time will tell. I haven't done the speed training that I needed to do, but I have been running faster. I'm not concerned about the distance (I've been doing a 20+ mile run almost every weekend). The course is mostly downhill and I love running downhill. If the weather is cool and overcast, and if I have a good day, and if the stars align, I might. If I don't, I'll mostly likely run a personal best for the distance. There are about seven of us from the running club going (and all are going to try to qualify for Boston) and it will be a fun weekend. After the race, at least some of us will head over to the Banshee for some post-race replenishment.

Can I stop running so much after the marathon? No. Then it's time to start training for the JFK 50 Mile. No rest for the weary!

Knitting News
Not much is new. I've been knitting about three rows every couple of weeks. However, I plan to make great strides next weekend while at the knitting retreat. The blanket that I'm knitting is relatively simple. I'll take a sock to knit for a change of pace. I should be able to finish the blanket. (Ha! Famous last words!)

Anyway, that's what's new. One day I'll start posting pictures again. If only there were a way to zap them into the blog without having to that download and upload thing. It takes too much time.

Have a great weekend and knit on!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Julie and Julia

I did something very unusual today. I actually went to a movie! I'm not a big fan of movies. For some reason, they make me feel anxious and I have a difficult time sitting through them. But I love food and Julie and Julia opened on Friday, so off to the movies we went (it was also a hundred bazillion degrees outside).

We went to the 2:00 showing and after about 5000 commercials about nothing, they started the trailers. These are always anxiety-inducing because they are typically violent or suspenseful. The movies I won't be seeing this fall? The Lovely Bones and 2012. I'd be having nightmares for weeks!

Fortunately, Julie and Julia was neither violent or suspenseful (well, it could have been, but I had already read the book). Meryl Streep did an outstanding job playing Julia Child. The movie was delightful. I laughed, I cried (well, not really, but I did get teary-eyed more times than I'd like to admit) and I got very hungry. The movie, like the book, has inspired me to pull out my copy of Master the Art of French Cooking again and start cooking. The timing is poor, though, since August is upon us with a vengeance. Even though Julie Powell probably sauteed and roasted her way through August in New York (perhaps without air conditioning), I'm just not up to it. And the thought of eating cream- and butter-laden foods this time of year does not sound appealing. But once the weather turns? I'll be trying to master the art of French cooking once again.

Running News
Running takes a lot of effort these days. I went for what was supposed to be a 13-mile trail run yesterday and quit after seven miles. It was very humid and I was totally drained. It was fun, though.

This morning's run wasn't much better; too humid and hot. Oh well, that's August in Virginia for you.

Even though Tom's been saying that he probably won't run a 100-mile race, he actually signed up to run the Arkansas Traveller in October. I knew he'd do it sooner than later. I wasn't expecting him to run one quite this soon. And sadly, I won't be there to support him since it's the same weekend as the Hunt Country Yarns PJ Party knitting retreat. Oh well...

I was going to start running intervals this coming week to try to work on improving my speed, but it feels like I've pulled something in my thigh. Today's run was a little painful and I think my body is telling me in no uncertain terms that I need to start practicing yoga on a regular basis. So, tomorrow morning, after feeding the cats at some ungodly early hour, I will not go back to bed. I will knit for a while, then do some yoga. We'll see how long I can keep that up.

Knitting News
Knitting? What knitting? Move along...there's nothing to see here. Actually, as soon as I finish writing this entry, I'm going to try to find a comfortable place to sit and knit. That's easier said than done, since the TV room and the living room are adjacent and Tom's watching television (watching TV, unless it's a cooking show, makes me anxious). Even listening to TV music makes me anxious. Sheesh, what a wimp!

Anyway, I'm still working on the same project that I've been working on. I'm satisfied with how it's turning out, but I'm ready to be done with it. Unfortunately, I still have a long way to go. And then I'll work on a pair of socks for Tom. They were supposed to be summer socks, but summer will be long gone by the time I finish the first one.

Since I've started running, my knitting has dropped way off. They say the Hash Harriers are a drinking club with a running problem. I think I've become a knitter with a running problem! I need to find a way to knit and run at the same time; that would be much more productive.

Okay, enough rambling. It's time to put yarn to needles and knit before it get too much later.

Have a great week!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation or A Comedy of Errors

When I first started my week of summer vacation, it did not start well. We left home much later than we thought we would. Even though I worked from home on Friday, I ended up working 11 hours, trying to get everything that needed to be done, done.

So I was up at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, and after feeding that cats, worked on finishing the running club newsletter. After Tom left around 7:00 for the Saturday morning run, I went into high gear, frantically wrangling dust buffalo so it would be presentable for the person who was staying there to take care of the cats (and her brother, who will be visiting tomorrow and Saturday). Beds were stripped, linens washed, furniture dusted, floors vacuumed, baseboards dusted... And it all seemed to get done extremely slowly. To be sure, some of the dust buffalo were a bit recalcitrant about being wrangled. And the dryer was being extremely persnickety about actually drying clothes, requiring two or three cycles before all was dry. But finally, all was done; I packed in about 30 minutes, and we were on our way (and I only forgot one thing!).

The drive down to my parents' house was relatively uneventful, but we hit traffic around Williamsburg and I started to panic. We had dinner reservations for 6:00 (to celebrate my mother's birthday) in Suffolk and our ETA at my parents' was 5:30, which left exactly the amount of time it would take to get to the restaurant. And we still had to get into our fancy eating clothes.

We arrived at our destination at 5:22, grabbed our suitcases from the car, and presto change-o, we changed into our dinner garb. My parents had to take my niece back home and my nephew and his girlfriend were going to ride with them. We'd have no problem finding the restaurant, because I had the address and would put it in the spiffy navigation system.

And that's when technology failed a big way.

The street address was not recognized by the navigation system. No problem...I'd get directions from the Internet using my Bberry Storm. I entered the address and then (this was the first of my mistakes), second-guessed the system. It said follow Rt. 17 for n miles, and there you were. But we were going to Suffolk. And that's not the way to Suffolk.

So we followed the signs to Suffolk, went through it, and then were back in the country. No problem; I'd call the restaurant. I couldn't get through, and when I did, a message said they weren't available to take my call. My panic is's now 6:00. My nephew was sending me text messages. I looked up the directions again and then got something that seemed to be a little more correct, but very confusing (lots of turns). My dad called wondering where the heck we were. We had gone too far, we needed to get back to Rt. 17 because that's where the restaurant was. I was incredulous since that wasn't the address. So Tom, driving like the wind and probably more than a little annoyed at me, successfully navigated us to the restaurant.

Needless to say, we both had a stiff drink (or two) and fortunately, a most excellent dinner. But we were about 20 minutes late. I can highly recommend the Vintage Tavern. If you're in the area, check it out.

We left my parents' around 2:00 the next day and arrived at the beach house around 4:00. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend provided barbecue for dinner, which was very good. And then the week at the beach was in full swing.

It's been hot down here, in the 90s, with the wind coming off the land. The flies bite in the afternoon, and the water is freezing (probably because we've had a very cool summer up to this point). There's been some knitting (but not as much as I thought there'd be), some work work (yeah, I know), and long hours of sitting on the beach, reading. I've made my way through Anne of Windy Poplars (next vacation P.E.I?), Don't Ask (a Dortmunder novel; delightfully improbable and zany), and The Secret Life of Bees, which I read from start to finish, today.

The family attendance is a bit diminished this year. Larry had to leave early to go back to work; the nieces came late and one left early; Steve arrived last night without his wife, because their son is still in the hospital, fighting off various infections after having undergone a second bone marrow transplant for aplastic anemia. That situation is a little desperate and heart-breaking (you might hear more from me on that later in the year, if he recovers).

So, tomorrow is the last day. Tom's sister and her family will be leaving tomorrow, leaving just three of us here. It's been one of the most discombobulated trips to the beach ever. But even so, a discombobulated vacation is better than a good day at work!

Happy knitting!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2009 Mule Run 100K

It seems like this blog has become a running blog instead of knitting blog. Rest assured that knitting is still happening, but at a snail's pace. I just can't seem to find a way to juggle running long distances, working long hours, and doing a mediocre job of housekeeping. Tom picks up a lot of slack around here, for which I am eternally grateful!

This weekend's adventure was the 3rd Annual Mule Run 100K. This is a tiny event sponsored by the Loudoun Road Runners (there were seven runners at the start). We started at 7:00pm last night on the C&O Canal Towpath at Shepherdstown, West Virginia and finished at Carderock, Maryland this morning. The distance, despite its 100K designation, was slightly over, coming in at 62.4 miles.

We've been blessed with an unseasonably cool and not-so-humid summer and yesterday's weather was perfect. The predicted thunderstorms did not materialize and the temperature at the start was probably in the high 70s. The lows were predicted to be in the low to mid-50s, perfect running weather.

We started a little after 7:00, and our merry band of runners trotted down the tow path. Other than one of us, we are not elite athletes, so we tried to keep our pace slow (we'd be running for a really long time). However, no matter how hard I tried to slow down, the first several miles were under a 10:00 minute pace (this pace would come back to haunt me later). The first stop was at Dargan's Bend, almost 8 miles away. When we reached it, we ate some food (my preference is salted, boiled potatoes) and refilled our water bottles, if necessary. We also donned our headlamps because it would be dark by the time we reached the next aid station at Brunswick, almost 10 miles away.

By this time, the runners had somewhat spread out, with Sarah taking the lead (the next time I saw her was at the finish). Our pace had slowed somewhat, but we were again mostly running under a 10:00 minute pace, still too fast. We added more walk breaks to slow us down. With nightfall, we expected to see a lot of bats and run into a lot of spider webs (last year's runners were festooned with webs come dawn). We were also concerned about the wildlife around Harper's Ferry (last year there was a group of male revellers, which was a bit disconcerting). Fortunately, very few of the above materialized.

I might have mentioned this in a previous post, but running in the dark is a wonderful experience. You lose all sense of time, distance, and pace, and just run. It's running at its very basic. It can be a bit creepy, mostly because you don't know what's lurking in the dark.

At Brunswick, Patsy had set out tapas: prosciutto and cured sausage, tapenade, olives, and a baguette. Unfortunately, by that time, my stomach was a little unhappy, and for many miles after that, I hardly ate anything. I ate some potatoes, Pringles (the potato chip of choice for ultra running), and Coke.

And so it continued, running through night: stopping at the aid stations when we came to them. When running these distances (at least for a supported race), you run smaller distances: from aid station to aid station, and later in the race, from this tree to that tree. The overall distance can be overwhelming. It isn't until near the end that you start counting the final miles (and even that can be daunting).

As the night wore on, three of us ran together. Starting around mile 24, Pat (who is a very good runner, and fast) started flagging. At mile 33 (Dickerson Conservation Park), she threw in the towel. This is where I stopped last year (deliberately, because it was the farthest I had ever run). So after changing socks and putting on a dry shirt, Jill and I continued on.

The next couple of aid stations were each just over 4 miles apart. In addition to my stomach still not feeling right, I was beginning to get tired. But I can run 4 miles (actually, the proportion of walking to running was increasing). After the Edwards Ferry Boat Ramp station at mile 42, we'd be on our own for 8 miles. That seemed like too far. It would also bring us to the 50-mile point.

The 8 miles from Edwards Ferry to Riley's Lock were interminable and somewhat excrutiating. The good news is that I started to get hungry; the bad news is that everything began hurting. My feet hurt, my arms hurt, my legs hurt. Still, we pressed on. We were walking much more than we were running (although I suspect Jill could have done more running). There were highlights though: the waning moon hung in the sky, surrounded by stars and planets. It was beautiful. And the sunrise was outstanding, despite it being obscured by trees. And as we were approaching Riley's Lock, two Great Blue Herons flew by: gorgeous!

A flock of vultures awaited us at Riley's Lock (not a good sign, in my opinion). Patsy, Brian, and Cynthia were also there. I finally ate some potato soup that Tom made, followed by homemade coffee ice cream. My stomach was finally working again! After eating, Jill and I started moving towards our next goal, Swain's Lock, 6.2 miles away.

At this point, we started to see more people on the path. And I must say that they were decidedly unfriendly. We, who were exhausted after running 50 miles and being up for more than 24 hours, had the courtesy to say good morning to the people who were passing us. And for the most part, they didn't respond. I don't know if that was because of our proximity to Washington, DC or if they thought we looked a little out there. Bikers (and runners) would come by three abreast on the path and not move over. Very rude.

At Swain's Lock, I dumped little rocks out of my shoes, refilled my hydration pack, and we started on the final 6.2 miles to the finish. By this time, my feet really hurt, my shin started to hurt and my quads were decidedly tender. And my arms and abs and back were sore. In short, my whole self hurt. I could have easily walked the remaining miles, but Jill encouraged me to run by setting small goals: start running at the tree with sunlight on its bark, walk at that big patch of sunlight. So it continued...picking a goal and moving towards it.

At the 60 mile mark, we met Tierney who had come out to find us (we were about an hour behind everyone else). She told us the stories of the other runners who finished and helped keep us moving towards the finish. Even though we picked up the pace, those 2.4 miles seemed interminable. Tierney kept saying we'd pass a big path and then a couple of little paths before getting to our turn-off. It seemed we kept going and going and going. We finally spotted a group of people gathered a litte further up...that was our group! We're almost done. Jill and I break into run (jog?), arguing who should go first down the little single-track path. I thought it should be her; she said it should be me.

Tom is waiting at the turn, I give him a high-five and disappear down the path, with Jill close behind. We aren't too sure where the finish line is, so make straight for where our group was grilling burgers.

And then, just like that, we were done. It took us 14 hours and 59 minutes, but we completed the Mule Run.

Knitting and Spinning News
All of my knitting continues slowly. That's got to change. And even though the weather has been perfect for spinning on our porch, I haven't touched the wheel in a really embarrassing amount of time. The good news is that we'll be going to the beach soon, so there will be plenty of opportunity for me to knit! Yippee!

Have a great week!

Monday, May 25, 2009


I recently started experimenting with LSD. And I'm finding out that it's really good stuff. Now, before you go and call the authorities or commit me to a drug rehab place, I need to define LSD. In my world, it's not the psychedelic drug of yore, although some people claim they've experienced hallucinations while doing it. In my world, it's...

Long Slow Distance

There's a training method where you run your long training runs at a much slower pace (to keep your heart rate low) than you ordinarily would. The idea is that over time, the slower run builds up your aerobic capacity and you'll eventually be able to run faster with less effort. I started trying this a couple of weeks ago, even though my method isn't very scientific (I just pulled a number out of the air for the heart rate I didn't want to go above). My runs this weekend seemed to be at a slightly faster pace and definitely with a lower average heart rate than runs earlier in the year (and that's with continuing running through the winter). It will be interesting to see what kind of improvement I see over the summer. And it will be interesting to see if this method of training (along with interval training) will help me reach my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. We'll see...

For now, I'm focusing on the Big Horn 50K, which is in Wyoming towards the end of June. It's in the Big Horn Mountains and should be an absolutely gorgeous run. It's also at a higher altitude than what I'm used to running, so that should be interesting. Once again, I'm not going for speed but just to finish. I've got 11 hours to go 31 miles.

Shower of Love Blanket
Tensleep left a comment on my post about the Shower of Love blanket, wondering if I had problems with row 12. Given that I finished the blanket almost three years ago, I really can't remember if I had problems with row 12. However, after reviewing the instructions, I most likely had problems with row 12 and all the subsequent rows. I'm notoriously bad at reading instructions carefully and can't count my way out of a paper bag.

Tensleep, to figure out where you are tripping up, work through the instructions stitch by stitch (after you realize you didn't get the 195 stitches). It's tedious, but most likely you'll discover that you missed a YO or two, or forgot to decrease, or forgot to increase when the increase is not a YO. Feel free to email me at TLHSimondsATverizonDOTnet if you would like more help.

Current Knitting
The current knitting is progressing slower than I run. I'm working on another baby blanket, and am very pleased with the way it is turning out. I've also got a couple of pairs of socks on the needles, both of which are making very little progress. A number of factors conspire against me: a trip to Jamaica (I actually did make some progress on the blanket while I was there), not getting home from work most evenings until after 8:00 and not finishing dinner until after 9:00 (thank goodness for a husband who cooks, otherwise we wouldn't eat until 10:00!), long runs on weekends followed by dust buffalo wrangling, working at a couple of 100-mile races, which pretty much shoots the entire weekend (either because I'm helping runners or else too tired to knit from pulling an all-nighter).

I'm hoping to squeeze in some knitting time today, after I do the dishes and empty the fetid water in the bottom of the dishwasher (which refuses to drain). Given that it's now 2:00 in the afternoon, it's not looking good. Sigh...

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and managed to squeeze in some knitting time.

P.S. Nicole, there are plenty of 10Ks in this area. Visit the Washington Running Report website and take a look at their calendar: The Leesburg 10K is in August and is a pretty good race, running out and back on the W&OD bike path.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tomorrow's the Big Day...

Today is a welcome day off work, although it's not going to be all that restful. I've got plenty of errands to run and packing to do, for tomorrow is the running of the Bel Monte 50K, a very hilly, rocky 31.45 miles. While the weather today is looking pretty good (it rained yesterday), tomorrow's forecast is for a 70% chance of rain, with rainfall totals between a half and three-quarters of an inch. It looks like it could be deja vu all over again.

I've got nine hours to finish the course, and I don't feel like I've done nearly enough trail running this winter. I've run a slightly easy section of the Appalachian Trail a couple of times, and then a difficult 12-mile section that liked to near kilt me. Add to that I'm feeling stiff and creaky, and it's anybody's guess as to how well I'm going to do. I do know one thing and that is unless I seriously injure myself, I will finish! I might have to crawl across the finish line, but I will cross it!

Knitting News
Despite the lack of blog activity of late (Sheepish Annie's blog lets me know just how much of a slacker I've been), I have been knitting. There's a bit of a tricky sock in progress (very slow), some baby booties and a baby hat in progress, and I just received some yarn in some bright, luscious colors for a small blanket. I'll try to take some pictures this Sunday and post them (I doubt I'll be able to do much else). I still owe the blog pictures of my not-so-recently completed pairs of socks.

That's it for now...gotta finish getting ready for tomorrow!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Time Flies...

Yeah, yeah...I know. It's been a very long time since I've posted. I thought that I'd have more time after running the JFK50 but silly me went and signed up for the Bel Monte 50K which is at the end of March. So other than about a month or so of low mileage, I'm back to running long on weekends. It also doesn't help that I've been extremely busy at work so the last thing I want to do when I get home is to get back on the computer. I figure 10-12 hours a day at the computer is plenty. Tom also convinced me to join Facebook, so there's another time suck when I am at the computer. Sheesh!

Anyway, I'm still knitting. I'm just knitting excruciatingly slowly. The current project is the Cloning Anemone socks from the 2008 Rockin' Sock Club. The colors in the yarn are gorgeous and remind me of the colors on a coral reef (Tina was actually inspired by tidal pools). There are so many colors in this yarn: yellow-green, brown, blue, purple. It keeps the knitting interesting. When I knitting the earth tones, I imagine walking along a rocky shoreline. When I get to the blues and purples, I'm watching the ever-changing color of the water as the sun hits it. I can almost hear the waves crash on the shore. (Okay, that last bit might be somewhat of an exaggeration. But not much.)

The knitting is slow because there are two rows where the stitches cross. Since the yarn is thin, I'm working without a cable needle. It's tricky and I'm terrified that I'm going to drop a stitch and not be able to recover it. At the rate I'm going, I suspect it will take me close to a year to knit one sock.

The Joy of Trail Running
Our long run last weekend was on the Appalachian Trail, going from Bear's Den south to Morgan's Mill, about a 13-mile round trip. However, those 13 miles are incredibly difficult. That section of trail is very rocky and tends to be steep (my little GPS thingy recorded over 5400 feet of ascent. Imagine our surprise as we were driving to the run to see snow. We didn't get any snow at home, although it did look like it had rained a little bit. The snow didn't make the running any easier (fortunately, the ground was frozen, otherwise it would have been quite muddy), but it did make it more enjoyable. The leaves on the laurels were capped in white. There were places where the sun hit the trail just right, causing the snow crystals to act like prisms. We were running on flecks of rainbows.

Those moments of beauty transcend the really low points: the crushing fatigue on the return trip, the despair upon realizing that in six weeks you have to run more than twice the distance on similar terrain, and the embarrassment of tripping on a perfectly flat, rock-free section of trail and eating dirt. But even that is preferable to running on the road with cars whizzing by.

I'll be running 19 miles tomorrow (on the road, not on the AT). With any luck, we'll be running in snow. And with more luck, it won't be windy.

Once again, winter has been a big disappointment with very little snow, although we certainly seem to have our share of cold weather (lots of morning temperatures in the teens) and wind. Now that the days are getting longer, I'm ready for winter to just take a hike. I don't even care about getting snow anymore. I just want warmer, sunny weather.

That's it for now...this post is sort of disjointed (kind of like Sheepish Annie'sWednesday Night Bullet Points, except that it's not Wednesday and there are no bullet points!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Starting Off on the Right Foot

Or maybe the left foot. I actually can't remember what foot I started the year on. But suffice it to say that 2009 started well (yeah, I know, it's already the 3rd day of year...).

After a night of debauchery fine dining on New Year's Eve, I ran the Rotary Resolution 10K the next day. My best 10K time was 1:04:00 and it would be interesting to see how much I improved over the last year. Despite feeling a bit punky, I acquitted myself well, finishing in 53:30, placing 5th in my age group and finishing 165th out of 489.

I went to work on Friday. 'Nuff said.

Today was spent running (11.5 miles) and trying to get all of my address book information on the Blackberry. That meant reconciling my Palm, old Verizon phone, and Outlook. It took almost all day. So now I have more contacts than are really necessary on the Blackberry, but I can at least call people now. Or see who is calling me (on the rare occasion that I actually get a phone call on my cell phone). My mother called on New Year's day and I had no idea who was calling me. Very sad...

I managed to get a little bit of knitting done on New Year's day, in a vain attempt to make progress on Tom's sock. I've reconsidered the wisdom of my next project as well and now think that I'll make a pair of jogger's mittens, as described by Elizabeth Zimmerman in Knitting Around. They are thumb-less and curl around the fingers and look so cozy. I've been wearing a pair of really ugly, machine-knit wool mittens which do an admirable job of keeping my hands warm (sometimes too much so) on cold winter runs, even when my hands are wet. I think a pair knit out of Manos would be just the thing, don't you?

Tomorrow promises to present even less of a chance to knit (or spin). We're going to do an 8-mile run on the Appalachian Trail (it was going to be a hard 14-mile section dubbed "the Rollercoaster," but we reconsidered that after our hill-ridden run today), followed by housecleaning, grocery shopping, dinner preparation, and yoga class.

Perhaps I'll find some post-dinner knitting time.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that 2008 is gone. It went by so fast! So what was 2008 all about?

I managed to finish several pairs of socks for me and Tom, as well as at least one very old UFO (which technically isn't really finished because I still have to weave in the ends and block it). While not the most productive of knitting years, it was still good. I attempted some lace, which I really enjoyed, although I need to be in a place where there is no distraction. I haven't been able to quite get in the groove, though, for non-distracted knitting. There's something about having a kitten around...

Knitting goals for 2009: Knit more socks, finish a couple more UFOs, and try to knit a sweater.

It was a very slow year for spinning. In fact, I might not have touched the wheel at all.

Spinning goals for 2009: Spin more, preferably finishing two of the packages from the first Wooly Wonka exotic fibers club. Now that the screened porch is complete, I'll have a nice place to spin in the spring and summer.

It was an amazing year running-wise. It started off slow (I was still in a hypothyroid/low iron/vitamin D deficient state). But my running really took off in the spring and I never looked back. The first several months were spent running slow (12+ minutes/mile) and short (maybe four or five miles, max). Gradually, my pace and distance increased. I met my goal of running the JFK 50 Mile. All told, I logged 1015.98 miles in 2008 and watched my pace drop to about 8:30 (for short runs).

Running goals for 2009: Run more ultra marathons (a 50K is already on the schedule for the end of March), and qualify for the Boston Marathon (I need to run a 4:05 marathon, a 9:22 pace or something like it).

I learned a lot in 2008, especially about breaking perceptions about myself. I'm finally beginning to think that maybe I'm a runner. Turning 50 doesn't mean that you're over the hill. I'm in the best shape ever...even when I was doing a lot of caving and rock climbing in my late 20s and early 30s, I didn't come close to having the cardiovascular fitness or stamina that I have now. It's an amazing metamorphosis.

I also learned that having one of these is really kind of cool (it was a gift from Tom for Christmas). I'm particularly enamored of the music function. How did I ever live without an MP3 player?! To date, I've loaded 53 albums and still have 5GB left. And I can listen to my music anywhere! I haven't even begun to explore the power of the Storm.

What goals have you set for 2009?