Wednesday, August 30, 2006
And in hindsight, it was- after three difficult months, today I have officially hit the 55-pounds lost mark. Clearly I had no idea that I could do this 16 months ago. All I knew then was that I was bitterly unhappy about my body and couldn't bear the thought of continuing to gain weight each year.
When I look at pictures like this one (the San Diego race finish line), I can't help but feel good about what I've accomplished. Nowadays when I gaze in the mirror I no longer experience the once oppressive feelings of self loathing, disgust and helplessness. I also know that while I have shed 55 pounds of unnecessary weight, more importantly- I have liberated myself from the once suffocating, miserable little world I'd created for myself (I don't want to go to the beach...I'm too fat! I hope I don't see anyone I know there...they'll see how fat I've become! Oh great, I'm the fattest person here...I think they're all staring at me. Etc. etc.)
I wish I could say that my psychological transformation has kept pace with my physical one, but it hasn't. Rather than saying I've digressed like I have in the past, I think it's fairer to say that the pain I have now is not worse per se, it's just...different. And if you're wondering how this is possible....well, join the damn club. I have my theories, but this is definitely a story for another day.
For now, I just want to be happy and silly and proud. You need 'peak days' like these to balance out all the overwhelming amount of 'valley days.' You know...those countless mornings when you optimistically step on the scale, only to stare in disbelief at the number glowing back at you-which then causes you to angrily stomp back to the bedroom and scream at your still-sleeping husband about how god***n unfair life is? (Uh...you all do this too, right?)
To reward/motivate myself for hitting the mark so unexpectedly, I just dropped some serious cash at Amazon. So now I'm excited- because soon, not only will our postman bring me my usual weekly treats like my People and Us Magazine (gotta stay on top of those hard hitting Hollywood headlines!), but now he's also going to bring me a few more motivational books on running, a new seamless, friction-free, motion-control sports bra (why do these cost more than a kidney in China?), and a case of Powerbar Gels (raspberry cream, baby!). Yay.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Now that my brother is getting a bike rack put on his new car (that whore got an X5!) I'm all fired up about riding. In fact, last night I tried to buy a dazzling red beachcruiser for myself, but found out that most beachcruisers don't come with hand brakes. They all come with those brakes like the ones you had on your very first bike (where you reverse your foot motion to stop the bike). Very, very wierd. Hell- why not add training wheels on there too? I mean, if you're gonna look like an a**, why not go all out? That's my theory anyway. So now I'm not quite sure what kind of bike I'm going to get, but once I find one and some cheap 'roids (since I think it's a biking prerequisite to use them), I'll be set.
Check out how beautiful Santa Monica is (see below). We rode from this point up to Venice and got to enjoy all the freaky street performers (my next goal- to krump for cash on the beach). On days like these, I love California.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Why there? A few reasons. First of all, I have a strong connection to both countries- I used to drive by a Pho restaurant everyday (Vietnam). And I saw the Killing Fields (Cambodia). Secondly- Southeast Asia is cheap. And we're broke. So that's a match made in heaven. And finally- we love Southeast Asia! The food rocks, and as I said earlier- we can pretty much buy whatever we want (I'm the market for a nice, sturdy 13-year old who could do all our laundry).
Of course there are some downsides to travelling in Asia...but none of them really bother me anymore:
- Squatty toilets? No problem. I'm Japanese. We like, invented sumo. This homegirl can squat till the cows come home.
- Questionable meat...yes, for many this is can be a scary experience (Fluffy?!! Is that you?!!!). Just stick to the noodles and rice and you'll be okay.
- Immigration interrogation? If like me, you're Asian, this can definitely be a problem. Unless you're also chubby. To date I've been manhandled and glared at suspiciously in Laos, China and Myanmar by immigration officials. HOWEVER, because I was also about 50 lbs. overweight, they usually figured out that I was not the usual, starving Southeast Asian farmer (either that or only I knew where all the missing rice in North Korea was). So if you think this is going to be a problem for you- eat up folks. Just eat away. That's my strategy anyway.
- Montezuma's revenge? I tend to have (surprise, surprise) an iron stomach. While Roy is dashing off to the restroom for the third time in ten minutes, I'm usually standing in the street arguing with the street vendor over three cents so I can get a third serving of grilled dog. And on the off chance that I do get traveller's diarrhea? Here's my secret (write this one down!)- it's Cottonelle wet wipes. While it's never a pleasant feeling to have to wipe your warm, supple buttcheeks with something cold, foreign and wet, I promise- you will fall in love with them. Just try 'em. You can thank me later.
So if all goes well, we're heading there this winter. Can't wait.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Otherwise, all is well. Still a bit euphoric over how everything went down last weekend. I was pretty stiff in the quads on Monday and Tuesday, but feel much better today. I can now walk around without looking like I have a stick wedged firmly up my a**.
This weekend is a friend's birthday so we're heading out to Orange County to go biking along the boardwalk. Since I haven't decided if I want to start biking yet, I'll be renting a bike. I'm hoping to get one of those pimped out low rider ones with the giant handle bars. Preferably in pink. And preferably straight up gangsta. And if you think I'm kidding, just you wait and see.
Monday, August 21, 2006
I just had the perfect weekend. But I have to warn you- it's gonna take a while to get through everything. So if you're my mother, pull up a chair! Otherwise, I'll totally understand if you decide to opt out and skip down to the TOTALLY FREE NUDE PHOTOS of me at the bottom!!!*
(*Tee-hee! There are none! This is just a cheap, dirty trick.)
I got up early and was amazed to see that my ankle had improved even more, but that I also weighed a full three pounds more than the day before. ??? A quick Google search revealed that this was a common side effect of the Motrin, but regardless, I wasn't worried. I was just in awe that my ankle felt even better than the night before. I couldn't stop grinning.
So early that morning we packed up the car and headed down to San Diego for the weekend. Our first stop was to the Sheraton on Harbor Island to pick up our race numbers, timing chips and t-shirts at the Race Expo. Because I love new gear, a running expo is pretty much my idea of heaven. Roy gamely followed me around for about an hour while I squealed at each booth over some thing he'd never heard of, had no interest in (unless it was edible and chocolate flavored), and hoped I didn't plan to buy. No such luck. I loaded up on coupons, sampled my favorite products (love, love, love Naked Juice and Clif Power Bloks), bought a new pair of Asics running shoes (more stability for my mild overpronation), more Power Bar gel packs, Clif Shots, Myoplex protein bars, etc.
Though I wanted to stay there all day and OD on Clif Bloks, Roy dragged me out so we could check-in early at our hotel, drop off all my loot, and then do what he wanted to do- which was to cruise the downtown Gas Lamp District with the top down. (I hate it down, but he pleaded.) Do you know how HARD it is to maintain a rice bowl haircut when the wind whips through it?!!! Not very. But shhhh. He doesn't know that.
It was my intention to follow three of Hal Higdon's main recommendations for the rest of the day (the day before the race):
- Stay off your feet.
- Carb up, but don't overeat.
- Go to bed early.
We were 0 for 3.
Not only did we walk around all day long (the expo in the morning, an outlet mall with Roy's brother and wife that afternoon), but we also ate SO MUCH bread at Mimi's for dinner that the waitress couldn't help but stare at me and ask repeatedly, "Where do you put it all?!" When I asked her if she'd ever seen anyone eat more bread, she thankfully said yes, but then quickly added "...but you're definitely up there." Oops. I also had so much nervous energy that even after taking two sleeping pills, I barely got 6 hours of sleep.
We woke up and ate my tried and tested pre-race breakfast of peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread, a banana, and 4 cups of water. Anything else upsets my stomach before a race. From there we headed up the road to catch one of what appeared to be 50 busses shuttling runners from Balboa Park to our starting point (Cabrillo National Monument), which was near the beautiful Rosecrans National War Memorial overlooking the ocean. We lingered there with about 6,000 others for a little over an hour until the sun came up. I barely looked at the ocean though, because I couldn't believe how many porta-potties there were! I desperately wanted to count them, but didn't want to appear like a psycho. My best guess is that there were over 50-60.
Rather than stretching or warming up, I spent most of the hour before the race competely engrossed in one or the other of my two usual pre-race activities- standing in line to use the restroom (four times, people...FOUR TIMES) or people-watching (it's freaky to see so many skinny people in one place).
Though this was only my third half-marathon, this was the first one I'd semi-legitimately trained for. So I'd hoped to feel like slightly less of a fraud around all the other 'real' runners. And to some degree, I did. But it's pretty hard not to get initimated looking at all the skinny people around you and listening to them all talk about their most recent marathons, favorite marathons, toughest marathons, etc. when you haven't even done a half one very well yet.
Because this was our first 'big' race event (the other two were smaller ones with just a few hundred half-marathon participants), we were in awe at the hoardes of people queueing at the starting line. I think we were lined up about 75-100 deep, but the line still looked like it was a quarter mile long. After the starting gun went off, it probably took the back row about 10 minutes just to walk up to the starting line (not an issue since everyone wears a timing chip).
As soon as we started, Roy kissed me goodbye and we took off at our own pace. And once again, against all medical advice (but necessary to preserve his male ego), Roy ran the first 4.5 miles. When I first started running, I could barely run a half mile without nearly inducing asthma (which incidentally, I don't have). So to be able to run 4.5 miles without conditioning for it at all? Outstanding.
The first third of the race had us on relatively minor rolling hills in Point Loma heading down toward the ocean. Though the race course scenery was probably very beautiful (and one of the things I was most looking forward too about this particular race), I never noticed it. This is because when you're running in a big race (and this one probably isn't 'big' by regular standards), all you do for the first 2-3 miles is dodge and weave. And while this dissapates to some degree as the race progresses, it never really goes away. Roy and I both later agreed that while it was really neat to be a part of so much energy (and be able to people-watch throughout the entire race), we both preferred a more isolated, peaceful race experience.
What stands out in my mind from this race was the sea of people on the road when the race started. I was absolutely riveted by the hoardes of bodies and bobbing heads in front and in back of me as far as I could see. I couldn't even see the pavement ahead for the first two miles- just the thousands of bodies covering it. Very, very cool.
After the first third of the race, I felt okay. I wouldn't say great since I was still a little nervous and a bit out of shape after two weeks of no running. And around mile 5 (when the course flattened out along the water) I realized with a sinking feeling that that I was surprisingly pooped. As a result, I decided to rip open my one gel pack (I didn't think I'd need more, I've since learned better) at mile 5 instead of 6 and had to portion it out over the next 2-3 miles.
What sort of scared and concerned me about this run was that unlike most of my recent long training runs, I never felt in control of either the run, or any portion of it. For the most part, once I got through the first third of the race, I felt out of breath and tired. Kinda scary. I'd never felt that tired in a run or race before. In fact, at one or two points between miles 5-8 I questioned whether I would have to start walking in order to avoid bonking out completely.
My usual motivation (water stations) were not helping either- the EAS (the official sports drink of the race) stations were few and far between, and the drinks were sooooo watered down that they were basically just water. Though I drank water at every available stop (which was still less than I'm accustomed to)- in terms of fuel, I was suffering from the lack of electrolyte/calorie replacement. We had last eaten at around 4:45am, and by mid-race (around 8:15am), I had nearly exhausted my one 110-calorie carbohydrate gel and at that point, had drank only one, useless, watered-down cup of EAS (the only one I'd had the entire race).
The last third of the race is what really killed me. Around mile 10 we started to turn back up toward Balboa Park (very, very beautiful by the way), and this is where it started to get really ugly. I was now completely dead- no more carbohydrate gel, and no more fluid replacement. I was dying. I had no energy. My legs felt heavy, and it took all that I had just to trudge up the hills. Every so often I would catch myself looking at someone with pity/admiration because they were jogging sooooo slowly that it looked agonizing. And then I would realize that I had been staring at them for 1-2 minutes, which could only mean that I was running at an even slower, more pathetic pace than them and looked even more miserable than they did. I wasn't the only one bonking out- suddenly it seemed like a quarter of the runners were out of gas. Everyone was dragging. It was a HARD final 2-3 miles. I don't think I've ever felt more exhausted in a race than climbing those last hills. I walked 3-4 times (about 100-150 yards each) because my legs were so useless. And I have to admit, at the time- I not only wanted to eighty-six the marathon goal, but all future half-marathons as well!
Probably because I actually conditioned for this race, I still ended crossing the finish line with my best time ever- 2:14:49 (10:17 minute miles), about 9 minutes faster than my last half-marathon in April. I had hoped to run 10-minute miles, but given the circumstances, I was just unbelievably grateful to have run it. Normally at the end of a race I'm kinda pumped and not very sore the next day, but today my quads are killing me. Roy had an equally brutal race, but improved his best time as well- 2:32:58. He avoided chafing (Vaseline), but suffered a massive blister where about 2-3 square inches of skin just fell off his foot. He also swore it was the hardest race he'd ever done and has since made repeated declarations that he's 'through' with these (I don't believe him, he said that last time too).
I actually think it was a culimination of the little things that made this race our hardest one. Still, I am so grateful and ecstatic to have been in that that I don't care how horrible I felt- I never seriously contemplated giving up on the marathon goal. In fact, I'm almost grateful that I've now been able to experience such a rough race- because now I know that I can push through it. And that (puke) miracles really do happen.
Thankfully, the rest of the day (and weekend) went perfectly. Roy said he was in too much pain/tired to walk around the expo afterwards, so he went to the car while I whipped around and grabbed us some bananas, mini-Clif bars, etc. From there we went back to the hotel to quickly shower and then meet some friends for lunch in downtown San Diego before catching a Padres game (pic to be added shortly). I really got into it during the second half and enjoyed soaking up the ambiance- the energy of the crowd, the sheer size of the stadium, the ball park food, etc.
And to those of you who think I am insecure about wanting to lose more weight- I offer up this photographic evidence- Please take note of my upper arm and its girth. It appears to be about the same circumfrence of a large, frozen leg of lamb (one foot around). I have already lectured the photographer (Roy) on the importance of future photographic faux-pas. He thought it was amusing. I'm so glad my chubby arm can bring such joy to skinny people.
Friday, August 18, 2006
But I digress. So I showed up yesterday on my lunch break vibrating with excitement. When Ping asked me what type of work I wanted done I gave my usual gushing "Deep tissue sports massage! I am the meat and your hands are the cleaver! Nothing is too deep! Beat me! Beat me!" He gave me an odd look and said, "Hunh." So I stared back at him. Finally he said (very slowly)- "I prefer to give Chinese accupressure massage." Never having had an interest in that type of massage, I politely said, "Well gosh, I really only like deep tissue sports massage. What other types of massage do you do?" He smiled and said, "Chinese accupressure." So Chinese accupressure it was!
And it was...ahh...different. What I liked- significantly less massage oil was used, sometimes none at all, it was 90-minutes long, it was significantly less expensive (he doesn't do it for the money), it allowed me to experience accupressure for the first time (I never felt any pain, but I never felt any different afterwards either).
What I wasn't such a great fan of us was that it was too soothing. Too light. Too Swedish (not a fan). And despite messing and prodding with my ankle for awhile, he could only proclaim it was "probably a joint issue." The massage was soooo relaxing that I actually drifted off a few times- which was actually kind of nice. So really, I have no complaints, I just don't think (and this kills me because I really, really liked Ping) it's for me. Here's the bizarre part though- because I drifted off a few times and rubbed my face around on the little circular donut pillow too much, I lost not just ONE, but TWO of my contacts (a first). I had to walk out of there and feel my way back to the office (thankfully walking distance). I looked like a crazy woman. Everytime I had to cross the street I would carefully cock my head to one side to listen for traffic, then quickly hobble/dart my way across the street while clutching my purse protectively. Very cute.
So even though Ping wasn't able to annoint me and magically heal my ankle with his touch (you better believe I harbored a deep hope), I felt good when I left. Sure, a little dejected, but I'm also proud that I've managed to keep my emotions about all of this ankle crap in check and have been doing well with my diet and exercise. In fact, as of this morning, I have officially relost all of the weight I regained, AND I've even lost an additional pound for all-time new low (54 pounds lost!). I'm not overly animated about it because at this stage, gaining and losing 1-2 lbs. each day seems to have become the norm. No weight ever feels like a permanent place for me. My fluctuations are so bizarre. Part of me realizes that this might be because this is a good weight for me, but I'm not ready to dig my heels in just yet. I'd still like to get through the marathon and shed another 5-10 pounds and see how I feel then.
Onward and upward.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
In my own hopeful, determined way, I am still gearing all of my efforts, including my workouts and diet- toward being able to participate in the race. I haven't been walking/running since the day of the injury, and have started spinning like a madwoman to keep my leg muscles moving and my heart rate/breathing up. I've also started to reduce my weight lifting and will rest/carb up two days before the race. Yesterday I even went on the elliptical (my least favorite machine) because it most simuated jogging movements.
I've also gone into 'proactive' overdrive. A few days ago I got a foot analysis by a pedorthist (person trained in the assessment, design, manufacture, fit and modification of footwear to help alleviate painful conditions/limitations of the foot) in case I was overpronating without knowing about it (I'm not). So instead of getting orthotics, I got a simple ankle brace and gel inserts for my running shoes. I doubt either will directly address my current injury, but psychologically- they make me feel like I'm 'doing something' so I'm just gonna roll with it. I also have a massage appointment tomorrow with a good masseuse who I hope, can provide further insight into what might be wrong with my stiff, fragile ankle.
At this point, the odds of me being able to run or walk in that race are less than 1 in 10. So it's kinda sad that I'm so engaged in all this race preparation when really, I'll be dejectedly standing on the sidelines. But it's temporarily refired up my engines and given me something else to do besides mope and rant.
Which brings me to my call for help. After eating out during my birthday week, and then sitting on my hump part of past week, Aunty Jo has put on a few. So now that I've refocused on healthy eating I've realized that while I eat plenty of fruit (on average 3-5 cups per day), my veggie intake leaves a lot to be desired. Though I don't mind dicing up fresh fruit 2 times a week, I don't share the same passion for vegetables. I'm much more inclined to steam a bag of frozen, pre-cut veggies from Costco. But I'm at a loss of how to make these taste delicious AND healthy. I'm getting tired of olive oil, salt and pepper, and unfortunately, I'm not a fan of the sodium-free Mrs. Dash seasonings. My much beloved method of tossing some veggies in with Yoshida's teriyaki sauce and tofu is about the equivalent of going out to eat calorie-laden, sodium-overloaded Chinese fast food. On the plus side, I should point out that I am not a picky eater- so whatever you might be able to recommend doesn't need to be anything fancy. Huge mahalos in advance for any of your ideas/suggestions!
Sunday, August 13, 2006
It was a day of absolute gluttony. Not only did I enjoy a small bag (only by American standards...since the large bag was nearly as tall as I was) of the world's best kettle corn at the Orange County Marketplace that morning, but in the afternoon, the Royster and I sampled about 8-9 delicious types of tofu-based foods. We also had some of my absolute favorite desserts- kinako mochi (see the obaasans pounding it below) and peanut butter mochi. My two discoveries of the day were shiratake noodles (Yes Jonathan! I did get some!!!) and wheat grass! I thought I'd want to start mooing after I drank it, but I actually kinda liked it and got a few packets of it.
Since I still can't run, this morning we woke up and headed straight into the kitchen to dice and prepare a number of different dishes with all of the 10-12 types of produce we purchased from the market yesterday- fresh pineapple salsa, guacamole, a tofu & veggie stir fry, fruit salad and vegetable salad. We felt like hippies (but ones who still like to use deodorant). All good fun.
Friday, August 11, 2006
I've never gotten a ticket before. So I was pretty distraught afterwards. Thankfully my baby daddy (minus the baby) pooh-poohed my fears and assured me that if you live in So Cal long enough, you're bound to get a ticket. And since Roy himself has been the recipient of four tickets in his lifetime (the last one being about 4 months ago), I will take his word on it.
I've been told my ticket will be around $250-300, and like Roy, will have to attend traffic school. I'm not worried about this, however. This is because when I first to moved the state, I accidentally studied to get my Class A license. (Yes, I'm idiot, and no, I didn't figure it out when I got to the section on how far apart to set your reflective triangles or how to calculate the gross weight of your vehicle...I just thought Californians were really, really anal.) So I'm assuming I'll ace the class. I'm just your average trucker, after all.
This has been one helluva week for me. Work has been rough. My ankle still hurts (it's now day #5). I have to pay a crapload of money for a ticket and traffic school. And thanks to all the birthday meals last week and not being able to work out this week- I've gained 2 pounds. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely. Ahh well. What the hell. Life goes on.
On a more positive note ('cause that's me...Positive Patty)- I went for my first leisurely bike ride yesterday. And I have to say, I have a whole new level of respect for what Roy does for me on weekends as my 'support team'. About 6 months ago I bought us a nifty little waist pack (yes, damnit...a waist pack) from L.L. Bean that carries 2-3 bottles of water. He always straps this on and bikes alongside me while I run. I always thought he had it easy as he casually cruised alongside me listening to his MP3 player. But after biking with that thing on for about ten minutes, my back ached so bad I was ready to rip the damn thing off and fly it into the bushes. Thankfully my cheapness prevailed and I was able to resist. And after about 20-30 min. the pain subsided/numbed and I was able to enjoy a wonderful ride.
So wish me luck. I gotta get over this little hump so I can stop whining. Tomorrow we're getting up early to head to Orange County to cruise our favorite marketplace out there and nab some fresh produce, and then in the afternoon we head to LA for the 12th Annual Tofu Festival!!! (Though I'm distraught about missing the other 11, quite frankly- I'm quite relieved to hear that tofu is FINALLY getting the recognition it deserves. My only concern is that a two-day festival is not enough.) And if my ankle holds up from all that walking on Saturday, we're set to hike up Mt. Baldy on Sunday. Earlier this year that hike kicked me in the pants, so I have big plans to seek revenge and charge up/hobble that hill again if my ankle is okay!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The next morning (Tuesday), it was even worse. Gone was the calm demeanor. Now I was panicky and pissed off. How could this have happenned? Hadn't I been Joe Cool the day before? Shouldn't I have been rewarded for my zen-like behavior the previous day with a completely healed ankle?!! What had I done wrong? Were my shoes or running form bad? Did I need orthotics? Would I still be able to run the half-marathon in two weeks? Would I heal in time to start the four-month marathon training schedule?!!!! I started to panic. I hopped on the laptop and spent over an hour Googling my a** off trying to find out what was wrong with me. And I learned two things (neither of which were what was wrong with me)- 1) That I now know waaaaay more about the fibula, tibula and tendons than I ever wanted to; and 2) Bones are disgusting. I'm rather pleased they're nestled so deeply beneath all my fat and skin so I never have to look at them.
As the hours ticked by and my ankle continued to ache, I became increasingly irritable, and later- sulky and defeated. You know, a real joy to be around. Nonetheless, at the end of the day I decided to try and head to the gym anyway and just work on my upper body. As I was sitting on one of the machines, it hit me- I was enraged because I was unable to train/run. Once I was confronted with the fact that my goal was being threatened, I freaked. I moped. And this made me realize how badly I wanted it.
To this point I've been dreading how much time the training schedule (4 days a week for 4 months) will take. And I've been more focused on coming up with reasons to justify shortening it and not taking it too seriously to alleviate my anxiety/fear. This is why I've been saying things like-
- "The race time/pace really isn't that important to me, all I want to do is finish."
- "I don't care if I have to walk a few miles 'cause it will be worth not having to train like a maniac for four months."
- "I want to enjoy the experience, not resent it."
And once I realized that I might get exactly what I was preparing myself for- a shortened training schedule, running a slower pace, probably having to walk a little...well, then I freaked. Because truthfully- I'm full of crap. Of course I care about how fast I run. No one likes finishing last! And of course I don't want to have to walk.
The other realization I had was that training/running is not something I should feel obligated to do. For crying out loud, no one's holding a gun to my head! And there are far worse ways to spend my time. In fact, now that I've been denied the ability to run for three full days now, I realize that it's actually a luxury! I am sure there are many others out there who are disabled, injured or simply lack the time/resources to be able to do what I'm doing! And yet here I am making up excuses half the time!
While I'm not happy I injured my ankle, I am grateful that it's helped me turn my piss-poor attitude around. I now realize that my training runs are a privilege, and that once I have the opportunity to hit the pavement again, I'm going to train harder and stronger than before. And I'm going to be happy about it. Semper fi.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
We got up at 4:30am on Sunday morning to head south to wine country for our hot air balloon ride. It took 3-4 people about an hour to set everything up, but we found the entire process pretty fascinating. Here you can see them rolling out a ton of tarp to cover the ground so that they could safely unroll the balloon on top of it.
Once they unrolled the balloon, they carried the giant 'basket' off the back of the trailer, tilted it onto its side at the base of the balloon, and blew a large fan into it so that the air could billow into the balloon and fill it up. Once it was filled, they fired up the gas (which was why they tilted the basket onto the ground, so the flames would not burn the balloon).
Once the balloon was filled, we were able to climb in. Our balloon had a middle section for the operator, and two smaller compartments on each side that each could comfortably fit 3 medium-sized American adults, or 12 Kenyans. I felt like we were utensils in a giant picnic basket. As we were lifting off, the ground crew untied a metal winch to free us- which promptly smacked me in the forehead (are any of you attorneys?). Roy (the traitor) was amused.
Though I was prepared to feel terrified/sick at least once during the journey, I was surprised that I did not. The entire experience was so smooth that I had absolutely zero anxiety. We gradually floated upward, and then basically glided at an altitude of around 800+ feet whereever the air current flowed. At no point did I get nauseous.
We learned that the operator can only control two things- the altitude, and the ability to rotate the balloon. He could not control the direction, or therefore the landing destination. As a result, a ground crew usually watches where you land, and then comes to pick you up. Call me stupid, but I did not know this. So he could not fulfill my demand to fly over the nude sunbather's house in the distance. Prude.
While in the air, we saw large French-styled chateaus/mansions, vineyards, wineries, horses, rabbits, etc. It was all very beautiful, but because I have adult ADD- I was pretty much over the views after about 10 minutes (a lie- I was bored after 5). All I wanted to do was experience the landing! And trust me, it did not disappoint...
About 40 minutes into the ride the wind suddently died, so we landed a little earlier and more abruptly than we'd planned to. We hit the ground in the middle of vineyard. Over the next 10-15 minutes, the operator allowed each person to climb out slowly, one by one, so that the balloon wouldn't float back up while he gradually reduced the amount of gas needed to keep the balloon afloat.
Because he wanted to move the balloon away from the vineyard poles (which could puncture the costly balloon), and because I was one of only two people he allowed to remain in the basket to help weigh it down, he kept us suspended about 3-4 inches off the ground while everyone else was asked to help 'carry' the balloon out from the field.
This was freaking fun. For me anyway. We bounced along the roadway for about 5 minutes! I loved it! Yeeee-haw!
Once they carried us out from the vineyard onto a road, the ground crew 'towed' us from there by attaching a rope to the basket to their truck. And once we had enough space to roll the balloon back up, I was able to climb out and help everyone else roll it back up again. I could be way off here, but I'd say that balloon measures a good 40-45 yards long once it's all laid out. And once we finished that, we all enjoyed our champagne breakfast together.
All in all, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life that I would definitely do again. Unlike sky diving (which made me want to simultaneously crap/puke/die of fright), it wasn't at all scary. It was the perfect end to a perfect birthday. Mad props to the Royster!
Sunday, August 06, 2006
On a more positive note- today I ran 10 miles! I even ran at a decent clip- solid 10-minute miles. And I felt great the entire time- definitely a first! While it could have just been luck, I think I figured out why:
Good night's sleep +
Complete rest the day before (no workout)+
Carbing up the night before +
Eating the right breakfast +
Cool breezes =
GREATEST RUN EVER
It seems rather elementary, and I highly doubt I've enlightened anyone with the equation (including myself), but it's always easier said than done. Now that I've gotten to experience the payoff, however, I'm hooked.
I couldn't believe how great I felt. It was definitely the long run I've been waiting for. Normally I'm battling some type of discomfort within the first 2-3 miles- a lack of sleep, a stomachache, sharp side pain, tired legs from a previous workout, etc. But today- for the first time that I can recall, I didn't have a single issue. I was wired, and it felt awesome. On the final mile stretch, I was so euphoric at how well the run had gone that when Queen came on my MP3 player I started chanting along and air drumming to the "We will, we will...ROCK YOU!!!" part. I didn't care how freakish I looked, I felt good and I wanted to get my a** home!
I've also realized that I'm starting to develop an almost trance-like 'runner's routine' on long run mornings. I get up early, prepare a simple breakfast that will fuel, but not irritate my stomach an hour before, carefully time my fluid intake so that I don't have to go on the run, slather on my sunscreen, get dressed, check the battery in my MP3 player, prepare the water bottles, put on my cap, slip on my pavement-running shoes, grab an energy gel packet...all the while getting in the zone. It's become almost rhythmic.
I know despite my best intentions, that not every run will be this perfect. But it definitely fueled me today, and I find myself anxious for next week. And that, my friends...is progress!
Saturday, August 05, 2006
For some reason, this year's birthday ended up being spread out over three days! On Thursday morning a couple of my coworkers surprised me with some amazing gifts. One coworker gave me a session with her personal trainer (to help me prepare for the marathon), and I also received two gift certificates to one of my favorite stores- Nike! Whoo-hoo! And when I got home later that evening...Roy had decorated the dining room and cooked me a healthy dinner.
- Strawberry glazed chicken,
- Grilled vegetable kebabs, &
- Kiwi-strawberry sugar-free jello with low-fat whipped cream for dessert!
Later that night (after we went for a short walk, hence the workout attire) I posed for a pic with some of the gifts I'd received (it's a tradition...it's our way of never forgetting the kindness and generousity of others).
On Friday I went out to lunch with my coworkers to our favorite restaurant - PF Chang's! If your city is anything like the one I grew up in (i.e.- you're lucky to have a run down Taco Bell) and you don't have a PF Chang's in your area- you're really missing out. This restaurant excites my palate. It makes my heart sing.
Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me to capture the moment, but if I did, you would have been able to see me grinning with (among other things) kung pao chicken and coconut curry smeared across my face (I only wish I were joking).
Later that evening I met Roy, Joseph and Lana downtown at a great sushi restaurant...and HOLY MOTHER OF GOD- I just noticed that I HAVE NO LEGS!!!! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!!! I look like Lieutenant Dan!!! How friggen bizarre (not to mention disgusting)!!! I swear- I don't have Photo Shop. And even if I did- c'mon! I'm technically challenged. I'd have no idea how to remove my legs! Where the hell are they?!! Jesus!!! Somebody...PLEASE get me a wheelchair!
Okay. I'm done hyperventilating. I just opened up the picture with the intent of emailing it to every human being I've ever met, but was able to see that I just have my legs tucked tightly under the chair (if you look veeery closely you can kind of see my right calf...which mind you, definitely marks the first time that you aren't able to see my calf clearly bulging from 300 yards away).
Anyway, later that evening we went for a quick walk around the historic downtown district (See? My legs have returned!) before heading home early since we had to get up early the next morning.
Will post pics of Part III (Saturday) tomorrow!
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Now don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled he has a nice car...but I'm mostly shocked. Roy is one of the thriftiest people I know. When I first met him ten years ago, he was a dedicated social worker living in LA and working with severely emotionally disturbed individuals (oddly enough, that's not how we met). He drove a motorcycle, liked to backpack, watched art films, hung out at coffeehouses, sported a goatee and was known to wear the same pair of underwear two days in a row (I suspect even longer but he vehemently denies this). He eschewed things like HOAs, SUVs and the Republican party. In fact, I believe his exact high school yearbook quote was "Die yuppie scum." Yes. Really.
One of the first gifts I gave him was a long-sleeved, button down shirt from Ralph Lauren. The first night he wore it he left it untucked and slid down a rusty handrail, tearing a 6-inch rip down the back. He thought this was funny. I did not.
So all I can say is- my, my, my...how our little tree-hugging hippie has changed.
I, on the other hand, am rather pleased to report that I am the exact same whiny, spoiled, overeating, anal retentive control freak with manic episodes that he met ten years ago (consistency is key, people).
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Unfortunately, between my boss (a former marathoner) wagging his finger at me, and all of the periodicals I've read on marathon running thus far, I've had to grudgingly admit that my slow, senior citizen-like shuffle/pace would probably benefit from some speedwork. I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it since speed running looks so intense. And believe it or not, I don't like to work out very hard. I'm actually kinda lazy.
So today was my first speed workout ever. I made sure to carb up the night before for some energy since I tend to eat light breakfasts and lunches (not because I'm lightweight...but because I eat like a pig every evening no matter how much I eat in the day). And since Roy had to work, I made the decision to do the workout in the gym on the treadmill for safety reasons. Though it wasn't my first choice, it wasn't a bad alternative since the gym is air conditioned and the treadmill tends to help you cheat a little bit- two little 'boosts' that gave me some much needed confidence.
I started off with a half mile warm up jog at my usual comfy pace of a 10.5 minute mile, and then gradually upped the speed to 8.5 minute miles for the second half mile. I did this same routine for four miles (1/2 mile slow, 1/2 mile fast). By the time I was on the last half mile, my legs were flailing, I was covered in sweat, my lungs felt like they were going to burst, and I felt nauseous and miserable- but victorious. Not to mention stunned that I hadn't fallen off the treadmill or suffered a mild heart attack. When I finished my cool down and stepped off the treadmill I fully expected everyone around me to break out in applause, but disapointingly, no one did (jealous, all of 'em!).
So while I can't say that the workout was in any way, shape or form enjoyable or therapeutic (I am actually fearful of having to do one again), my goal is to do one either every week, or every other week (baby steps...baby steps...) until the marathon. My hope is that they will increase my overall speed/pace a little, but I am putting no specific pressure on myself to do so. I still don't care if I lumber through the whole thing at a 12-minute mile pace and finish dead last. My only goals have been, and will continue to be- to run it, and to finish it.