I Spring-Cleaned To Exhaustion

It seemed like a good idea. Clean out the closet and clothes drawers, and donate to charity. It led to a pissy mood staring at my untidy pantry, pulling everything off the shelves, cleaning them, and ordering canisters, racks, and bins to reorganize everything.

It’s all my husband’s fault.

He was watching a cooking show on TV. The host showed her “messy” pantry and bemoaned the state of it: packages and boxes not lined up in perfect rows, baking products sharing space with spaghetti sauce jars, canisters unlabeled, and (horrors!) a whisk broom in the corner. Thanks to the magic of TV (and a few crew helpers, no doubt), the “after” pictures presented shelves and walls newly painted and glass containers in perfect rows, filled with pretty food.

I felt bad watching that. I felt worse when I looked at my pantry. But I did the right thing. I could find things in the pantry with no problem; if my husband had to locate a new bottle of mayo or a can of soup, he would get lost. So I emptied the shelves, tossed out truly expired food, cleaned the shelves, and ordered a set of canisters with airtight, locking lids, a canned goods rack, and two clear bins for small packaged products.

Staring at my dining room table and the card table alongside, filled with dry and canned goods, I am surprised at the duplication. Two containers of quinoa? Two canisters of bread flour? Two industrial-size rolls of aluminum foil? How does that happen?

The organization gear arrives mid-week. By next weekend, I will have pretty food, too. I do have a pretty clothes closet, along with a bag of donations (and a few items that were worthy only of the garage rag box).

The organization gear arrives mid-week. By next weekend, I will have pretty food, too. I do have a pretty clothes closet — and a bag of things to donate. The next project is the pots/pans/baking equipment collection that needs thinning out.

Land Of Lost Running Socks And Planning The Next Season (!)

My house is a shrine to single socks. For some reason, it’s the expensive running socks that seem to get separated from one another.

Never the cheap-o, ten-per-pack knock-around-the-house socks. Only the nice, padded ones.

Eventually, the missing sock does (usually) turn up, stuck to something else, courtesy of static cling. I had one sock, missing its mate for over two months, only for the said mate to show up stuck to a computer cleaning cloth that I had not used (because I have others, not because I was not wiping down my devices).

I can’t blame the cats for the missing socks, and I don’t have kids. The Husband does not do the laundry, so it’s on me to ensure the entire sock wardrobe is properly matched up. At the moment, all is well in my personal world of socks.

Speaking of running: I will go a month without a road race: April has three swim events, and there’s not much going on Easter weekend. I age up in May and have two events scheduled so far. Nothing for the summer (I normally don’t compete then; it is just too hot), but I am looking ahead to 2023-2024. I plan to do more trail runs (and practice on rougher trails to get better). It’s fun to look ahead at what’s coming and think about travel and new places; most of the upcoming trail runs are in cities I have never visited.

Trail racers are an interesting bunch. You get a broad representation of humanity at these events. There are the “trails and nothing but trails” runners, who think asphalt is for wheeled conveyances, not feet. You get people who run both and have always run both. Then there’s the group that I belong to, which started running trails during the pandemic when most road races were canceled. You notice the “fully loaded” folks, with water bottles and backpacks, energy bars, and gels, looking as if they are out to test their limits of survival. The “minimalists” are wearing and carrying as little as possible, traveling light to reduce weight and not produce waste. Bug spray is a common denominator, with sunblock a close second. It’s a varied and very accepting community; more interested in celebrating the conquest of the course, rather than how fast you finish.

Two months away from the end of the season, but five months from the start of the next one. It’s been interesting, and I cannot wait for what’s next.

Going From Stressed Out To Surviving Better

It’s been a helluva two weeks here.

From hacked credit cards to four weeks straight of competing to the dreaded “Check Engine Light” glowering from the dashboard to a daylong hospital stay.

And I only signed up for the four weeks of competition. Not the rest of it.

The credit cards were shut down, the charges that were not ours (it was my card and my husband’s card) were removed and our accounts are now more secure. A pain to do all that, but these days, it is necessary,

The engine light turned out to be an oxygen sensor, gone bad after almost 65,000 miles on an otherwise trouble-free vehicle. I love a lot of aspects of automotive technology; some of them have saved my life. The price of it, not so much.

The hospital was the scary one. Went into the emergency room at 2 a.m. with serious chest pain. No walking, sitting, or standing position alleviated the issue. Could not take a breath, shallow or deep, without pain. After a day of tests, the good news is that my heart is perfect. Not even a tiny bit of plaque or any blockage or other cardiac issues. Turns out it was pleurisy. I was very sick with a respiratory infection a few months back, and this is probably a vestige of that illness. I got over it in a few days, in time to go to a race, and though I did not do well, I did finish (and I was not last).

So it’s been a batcrap crazy time in life. I am grateful to be here, feeling better, and moving forward. Got a milestone birthday coming (and looking for a race to do to celebrate the move into my new age group), and still have plenty of reasons to piss off people in general. Or make them happy. It depends on my mood.

But the past two weeks have taught me that I can survive the tough times, even when running away to the proverbial circus seems like a much better idea. But if anyone has a clown car for sale, I could be interested.

Workouts: Pair, Group, Or Solo Style?

I met up with friends for breakfast yesterday, following a 5K race at a local animal sanctuary. It was good to see them, as the pandemic, work, and (their) kids’ lives had disrupted regular adult contact.

The race went well, despite the heat; it started after 9 a.m. The restaurant was crowded but our server was an absolute gem. I think she could sense my need for hydration; it might have been the fact that I smelled like sweat and dirt and looked like crap. The food was exactly what I needed. Eggs and potatoes and corned beef. My friends had the signature brunch Bloody Mary beverage, which came with bacon and assorted vegetables piled on top. Interesting, but I cannot handle alcohol that early, even in disguise.

The conversation veered from this and that: work, home repairs, an upcoming wedding, kids’ activities, the high price of pretty much everything, and it finally landed on exercise. They marveled at my ability to maintain a schedule to get up and get it done every day. Two of the gals, pals since childhood, had been trying to get together “for ages” and come up with a plan and time they could agree on to work out. It has never happened. Neither of them is lazy or unmotivated. Both have kids, jobs, and busy lives. I did wonder if waiting until the right time for both of them to be ready was the problem.

Good health does not wait until you can find the right workout partner. Poor lifestyle habits don’t change just because social media presents you with your ideal exercise group. Some people find exercise with one or more others is a good and even necessary motivator. If they fail to show up for that yoga class, bike ride, mall walk, or park run, someone is going to call or text them. Knowing people are waiting for you is a combination of a guilt trip and a painful alarm blast out of bed.

But lacking a group or the ability to pair up isn’t an excuse to sit and fail to move forward. I am a mixed-bag exerciser: I kickbox alone with a trainer, run and bike alone, and swim with a group. I like the mental silence of solo time, just me and the road or trail and some sixties tunes from my phone. Group swimming is fine: I learn from other people and a coach and find out the latest on upcoming swim meets. Kickboxing with a trainer is a necessity because he holds the bag (and sometimes he is the bag, though I promise I won’t hurt him).

Everyone has a style that works. The social among you like the support and camaraderie of the group, while the paired-up find it helps to motivate them knowing there is someone out there to harass them if they miss a session. The soloists don’t want the noise and the notion of waiting for others to catch up (or the pain of getting passed) is more than they can deal with.

Just don’t wait for the “right” or “perfect” scenario to come along to get started working out. Work with what you have now.

When Body Parts Go Bad

We live in a world of easy replacements. If your phone, TV, computer, or any appliance decides to self-destruct, you can get a new one pretty fast. Thanks to the shortages brought on by the pandemic, it may not be exactly the make or model you wanted, and it’s priced higher than you anticipated, but contrary to The Rolling Stones song, you (usually) can get what you want.

Human body parts are a little different. Amazon isn’t carrying them online yet (though I fully expect this to happen in my lifetime; Prime membership will be required for speedy delivery), but the range of replacement bits is becoming a long list. So far, I know individuals with replaced ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, hearts, lungs, teeth, noses, jawbones, skin, kidneys, bone marrow, corneas, and middle ear.

It’s amazing how we got here. Forty-five years ago, when my father died of a heart attack after years of self-inflicted heart disease, doctors had given up on him well before that last of three heart attacks. There was no hope and no help for someone so far gone. Now there are stents, pumps, valves, and surgeries to clear the arteries (and yes, the patient still plays a part in keeping disease at bay) and the means to replace the heart when everything fails. My fellow swimmers, runners, and cyclists continue competing for years with artificial hips, knees, and ankles and repaired rotator cuffs. My sister-in-law’s father lived to see grandchildren thanks to a double (heart-lung) transplant gifted from a grieving but saintly family.

We are still not living our healthiest life: death rates rose, according to the US Census, primarily due to COVID, but our life expectancy also decreased by a half-year, due to the prevalence of heart disease, our number one killer, along with cancer and accidents. We have the science to make a lot of new body parts, but not always the smarts to care for the ones we already have. Slowing down for self-care can work with exercise and good eating and sleeping habits. Stress is always going to stalk us; some level of stress is good for keeping us moving forward and seeking new solutions. Too much creates problems rather than solving them.

Balance every day like it’s the only day. I am finding this mantra is the only thing getting me through right now.

You Had Me At “You’re Awesome”

To the lady I beat at yesterday’s trail race:

I didn’t like you from the first half-mile. You were ahead of me, and I could tell you were in my age group. To make matters worse, you were ahead of me and you were walking and running, and still staying ahead of me, while I was running.

That kind of thing burns my turkey bacon. I hate being beaten by someone I perceive as deserving to be behind me. So I resolved to keep up my pace, even though I considered this more of a training run to prepare for a 10K trail run in a few weeks.

The day was clear and cold. The race crowd was small, and the setting was a familiar one for me. It’s the trails where I train regularly. But my sights were set on getting past you. Rocks, roots, ruts, and other hazards are damned to the wayside. And by the start of the third mile, I passed you. You were walking more and running less at that point, but I had already set my sights on the next runner ahead of both of us. I ran a fast final mile (for me), but not enough to get by the gal in green shorts. But I accomplished passing you, and I wasn’t mad anymore.

I checked my clock time, picked up my medal, and looked over the post-race snack table, finding nothing I wanted to eat. No podium finish here, so no reason not to head to my car and take care of the chores I had to do. Then I hear a voice behind me:

“You were AWESOME!”

It was YOU.

You were complimentary about my running style and my steady pace. I don’t know about style, but I do know that while fast wins a race, a steady pace finishes what you start. We’re not all speed racers, but we can all start and end strong if we maintain forward progress, challenge ourselves to expand our comfort zone, risk some pain, and target someone better than ourselves by saying, “I can do this as well, and maybe better than you. Watch this.”

We chatted a bit about past races and parted, not as friends, but as newly acquainted members of the running community. I know I will see her again, and I won’t hesitate to run past her.

Espresso Shots Part 2: We Added Stuff And Now We’re Fancy

It’s cold here today, at least by southern standards.

My run was done at 36 degrees this morning because the cowards I swim with voted to close the pool. Seriously, why do that? The pool is heated. OK, getting out and dashing through the dimly-lit chill isn’t a thrill, but it’s not that far to the locker room and hot showers. Besides, who gets a choice in the weather when you compete? If you want to race in it, you need to practice in it.

But the run was nice. No one else out there, except a few folks forced to walk their dogs. The dogs looked happy. The humans, less so.

We had a few deliveries at the house this week. Among them was a set of insulated glass cappuccino cups and saucers. It’s hard to believe, but not a single home goods or department store in the area had them. Also added to the coffee bar: a hot water pot. As in, a device you fill and plug in just for boiling water. I know, I hear you. I had one in college, too. Back in the dark days, when that was all we were allowed in the dorm for food prep (unless your parents had money and would splurge on a fridge rental). That little green hot pot kept us fortified with soup, tea, coffee, hot cocoa, and instant noodles day and night, at a school where cold weather defined five of the nine months of the school year. My new one isn’t green; it’s nice shiny steel with an elegant goose-neck spout. I can display it on the coffee bar with pride.

Today’s menu will be soup and sandwiches at lunch. Dinner for me is a once-a-year favorite: escargot with butter and garlic and homemade bread and a salad. The Husband is a more conventional eater and has opted for ham, peas, and mashed potatoes. And yes, there will be a cappuccino with dessert: an open-faced apple galette.

Stay warm, keep racing, and enjoy the treats and sweets of the holidays.

Cold Enough For A Double Shot (And Tea…And Ramen)

Today’s 10K was a 100% rain event. In other words, it started raining 10 minutes before the gun, and it still has not stopped.

And it’s chilly in this part of the country. And while not even close to freezing, once you’re wet, it does not get better. I drove home wet. It was raining so hard that it made no sense to change to something dry. That kind of rain. I made it worse by stopping to help a friend’s daughter’s band at their state competition. I was already soaked, so what’s another hour outside?

I smelled like a wet dirty dog when I got home. So did pretty much everything I owned. A hot shower and a load of laundry cured the scent. And a double espresso did the deed for my tired insides. I followed it with glasses of hot green tea and ramen noodles in chicken broth. Thank goodness for a well-stocked pantry and no need to stop for anything on the way home. I would have been rowing across parking lots to get into a store.

Thanksgiving is this weekend. Life has not been fun for all of us, though things have improved for many post-pandemic. We’re working, though our money is not keeping up with the cost of our needs, let alone our wants. Politics still divide us, and the holidays haunt many who miss loved ones they’ve lost. Finding common ground is complicated. I look for very small things now, to reach out and hand someone a reminder that I’m here, I’ll talk, I’ll help and I’ll listen. Oh, and a hot cup of whatever suits you? I can bring that beverage, too.

And We’re Off! With An Espresso Boost, Of Course

The racing season is underway. One trail race, one asphalt race, and one swim meet are in the books. Coming up: another trail race and two asphalt races, and four swim meets in five months’ time. I am packing it in with doses of the athlete’s little helper: espresso and cappuccino.

The Husband and I hit 30 years of marriage this year. I have no idea how we got here without murder, mayhem, or madness as part of the equation. We don’t have kids, so that may have helped. We do have a lot of kindness and respect for one another. We say “please,” “thank you” and “I like your idea” a lot. We’ve worked hard and built a good life, and decided to splurge this year. Not on a fancy vacation, but an espresso machine. It makes some impressive hissing and grinding noises. And the liquid happiness from it is quite good.

I still seem to be one of those people for whom the caffeine-free lifestyle is not yet a necessity, thanks to being very active. And a moderate intake of coffee may be beneficial to your health. I know it is beneficial to my sanity since I am still working 40 hours a week. And it’s comforting to get up and wander into the next room to the coffee bar (an old sideboard that was my mother’s), outfitted with cups, water, fresh beans, and all the paraphernalia, including a framed coffee bean bag hanging above the machine. I can have a shot anytime, and leftovers go into chocolate protein shakes or poured over frozen yogurt.

At many races, I marveled at my fellow competitors chugging 16-ounce gas station coffee right before a race and wondered how they could do it without an immediate port-a-potty stop half-mile into the race, or risk pee-sodden shorts, socks, and shoes if they didn’t stop. An espresso shot makes sense: quick-starts the senses and the heart without overloading the bladder. I have not tried the shot-before-the-shotgun-start yet, but I will let you know.

In the meantime, the year is off and (literally) running. Oh, and six months and one week to retirement!

I Get Mad, I Eat Spaghetti

What is it about pasta (or almost any carbohydrate, for that matter) that makes the world a better place?

I especially crave pasta after a really bad day full of stuff going wrong. Curiously, I don’t eat carbs the night before most competitions (though I will have some plain oatmeal the morning of most events) because it’s too hard to sleep on it when I am already nervous about the next day.

I’m not even picky about pasta types. I like long ribbons, such as pappardelle and tagliatelle, substantial tube shapes like rigatoni, and curly fusilli. Basically, anything that holds a sauce well works for me. And sauce can be something as simple as butter, fresh basil, fresh cracked black pepper, and a lot of Parmesan cheese. My other half has a preference for white, cheesy sauces, but I like to mix Alfredo and tomato sauces.

I was fortunate to grow up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, with Italian, Irish, and German influences. My father had a lot of Italian longshoremen as friends, and when we visited, their tables were covered end-to-end with good food, no matter how large the family or how lean the times. There was always more than enough food, love, and laughs to go around. Everybody shared and traded what they had. My dad was in the clothing business, so he got a lot of sample stuff to give his friends, and they reciprocated by using their dockside contacts for fresh seafood. I ate a lot of shrimp and lobster that “fell off the boat” on a remarkably frequent basis.

I made a simple baked pasta tonight with ground turkey, two sauces, lots of cheese, and a mix of regular and whole grain pasta. A post-race treat; my first trail race that was longer than a 5K. The hardest, dirtiest thing I ever did. One small fall (courtesy of a hidden rock) but no real damage done. Lots of dirt, grass, deep sand, and tree roots. And rocks. Like life, obstacles that make you mad but also challenge you.

I survived the start of a new season.

Note To The Athletic Wear Industry: Are We Invisible? Or Too Big For You?

I don’t make excuses and don’t provide explanations, reasonable or otherwise, for what I look like.

But I’m asking the makers of workout clothes and footwear: why not us, too?

You make nice things in bright colors and patterns for the “typical” athlete. Somehow, as the sizes get larger, the choices get smaller.

Black and navy blue running shoes. Seriously, that is what I am stuck with being a size 10 1/2. I didn’t pick these feet. I just grew them. At one point, they were a more average size eight. But some body parts, like feet, change over time. Your nose and earlobes continue to grow with age. Feet get longer and wider thanks to gravity and less tension in tendons and ligaments. Your shoes are not keeping up. Just because my friends call me Bigfoot doesn’t mean I don’t want nice-looking running shoes that look sleek and provide stability. That funereal-looking footwear is just depressing. Even the laces are black or blue. Not even a small pattern of pop color to glam up the gloomy fact that you gave up when the shoes got into “geez, your feet are kinda big” territory.

And don’t get me started about workout clothes. Same issue: you think once sizes go above about a size 10 or 12, we hate ourselves enough to want your plain black or blue shirts, shorts, cycling kits, and swimwear and hide from the pack or blend into the background. I remind you that we have mirrors in our houses. We don’t need you to remind us that Lycra ®, spandex, and other clingy-type things are not flattering to bumps, bulges, and other bodily inconsistencies. We already know it. That’s why workout clothes that fit right and stretch and make us look like we belong out there matter. You work harder at a workout when you feel good and the movement flows. If I need to stop every few minutes to pull too-tight tights out of my butt or worry about side boob syndrome, it’s a problem.

I would love to tell you America is catching up to you and we are getting smaller and thinner as a nation. Nah. The pandemic did not help, despite all that new home gym equipment, bought in earnest but now likely stacked or shoved to one side of the living room, granted an occasional wistful and guilty look. America has gotten fatter faster than almost every other country, and more than half of us admit to gaining weight during the pandemic. So we are not dropping to your level. We’re trying, and you could help out with some honestly-sized workout gear that also looks nicer than an old tablecloth or youth camp sleeping tent.

And sorry about the rant. I just got back from looking for a new pair of running shoes. I was shown what was available in my size. Black and blue shoes.