Sunday, December 06, 2015

2012 Chevy Volt Review

I have been driving my 2012 Volt for a couple of weeks now. According to the trip meter, I have driven more than 400 miles in those two weeks, and I have used less than 4 gallons of gas.

It would have been less, but my Volt did not have a full charge when it was delivered, though it did have a full tank of gas. That means that I still have not put any gas into the Volt myself. When I do, the manual calls for premium gas because it's likely to be in the tank for a while. I think I can afford the few cents more per gallon when the tank holds less than 10 gallons total.

For now, I'm charging my Volt with the cord that came with it using a standard 120V outlet, though I am in the process of getting an estimate for a 240V outlet to be added to our garage, which would also require the installation of an upgraded charging station, which would be another $400. That would mean that my car would charge twice as fast. We had a problem on the first weekend I had the car with a tripped circuit -- it seems that the garage outlet was added to the same circuit as half our kitchen, so when we tried to make toast and coffee at the same time while the car was plugged in, it was too much, even though the car was already fully charged. We haven't had problems since then, but I would at least like the car to be on its own circuit.

I am lucky enough to be working at a place that has the fast electric vehicle charging stations -- four of them in the front row of a very large parking lot. I have to admit that this was one reason I started thinking about the Volt in the first place. There are at least 5 electric vehicles that at least occasionally park there, so I'm not guaranteed a spot, but it's nice when I get one. There was a little setup with the ChargePoint system to use the charging stations, but it's now incredibly simple to charge.

Other than the charging issue, the Volt drives like a regular car. I wouldn't have been able to have a pure electric vehicle -- there aren't enough charging stations where I live -- but the fact that the Volt can use gas as a backup power source makes it practical for me. The engine is incredibly quiet, almost silent, when it is running on battery power only. When the gas generator kicks in, it gets a little louder.

One thing I didn't think about when I bought an EV is that a gas engine naturally produces a lot of heat, but electric engines don't. To heat the car uses battery power -- the same power that drives the car. The default setting for the climate system is ECO, which here in Ohio, does not heat the cabin to anything approaching a comfortable temperature. I start it out on Comfort, which draws more power, then switch to ECO after things have warmed up. I'm also very happy to have the Premium package, which includes heated seats. This also means I have all the features I was used to in my last car, like a backup camera and a navigation system.

It's really easy to get caught up in a game of trying to use as little gas as possible. The detailed screens at the end of each drive feed this impulse, by showing a pie graph of how much electric and how much gas was consumed since the last charge, and what the current mileage per gallon is.  Gas prices are cheap now, but they won't stay that way forever, so I expect the savings I'm getting from using less gas will only increase. It's also nice to feel like I am doing something for the environment -- though electricity is not always from clean sources, as coal plants retire each year and more renewables come online, it will get cleaner.

Have you ever considered an electric vehicle or hybrid?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Healthy habits

I'm giving Brooke's Skinny Snowman Challenge another try this year. I started last year but never followed through.

It's only $5 and supports basic healthy habits like logging food and drinking water, but also some self-care strategies like focusing on the positive and taking time for myself every day.

It's no secret that I have been struggling with these kinds of habits, so I'm hoping this will help me finish out the year on a positive note.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I bought a Chevy Volt!

A used one. The new ones are a bit out of my price range. My last car was a new car, which I recently wrecked by sliding through a red light in the rain. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

I had been toying with the idea of an electric vehicle, because my workplace has 4 charging stations right up front in the big parking lot, but the price was prohibitive. Today after swim practice, I happened to notice my coach had a Volt in the parking lot, and asked him about it. He bought his used.

On a whim I started searching for a used one locally and I bought one. They are doing some minor appearance work on it so I won't get it until late next week. I can't wait!

I thought about buying another new vehicle, but I'm over the big payments. Besides, I still don't know what will happen long-term with my job.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Planning the next triathlon season

Most triathletes I know eagerly start signing up for races after they finish their final race of the season. After Cedar Point, I was not really interested in thinking about next year, or even very interested in training at all. I took about six weeks to get out of the doldrums -- I did a few workouts a week, a big switch from the summer when I had 1-2 workouts almost every day. To be honest, I needed that time and the rest.

The first glimmer of interest I had in next season was when a friend posted about Epic Races' Battle of Waterloo, a crazy 10-leg multisport race. I'm already signed up. I think that will be my big race next season.

I'm also planning to do the 5K Swim to the Moon again. I'll probably do the Sylvania Triathlon as a relay with my husband. He can do the run and I'll do the rest -- I never really want to do that run course again, it's horrible. I will find another Olympic distance to try instead.

All of my training buddies are into Ironman and Half-Iron races and I'm not so sure that's for me. They're so expensive and time-consuming and my job situation is still in a sort of limbo. I don't want to overcommit, especially since I don't have a permanent, full-time position yet.

I think training with a coach last year was one of the best decisions I made, but this year, I want to run things for myself and find a way to push myself without feeling like all I do is race, train, work, eat, and sleep.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Review: The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried, MD

I rarely review a book before I finish reading it, but this one is compelling enough and probably would be of interest to my blog readers, so I'm jumping the gun a bit. I'm about 2/3 through the Audible version of The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried, and it's helping a lot of the issues that I have been having and working through with my alternative practitioner fall into place.

I have Margo to thank for getting me interested in this book. It sort of struck me that, duh, at 44 I am definitely in the middle of perimenopause, even though I take the birth control pill so I haven't noticed a lot of the classic symptoms. I have been wondering if I should continue taking it or if my hormonal issues would be better if I stopped, and this book has a great "Balance Sheet" on the birth control pill that helped me think through that issue.

Even though I'm listening to it on Audible, I can't totally recommend that format because of the narrator. She probably would be a great narrator for a mystery novel or some other dramatic book, but she puts dramatic emphasis on words in strange places, and I find myself having to re-listen to spots to figure out what was really important in each section. Sometimes it feels like I am being yelled at, and in a book that talks so much about the importance of reducing stress in our lives, the choice of shouting narrator seems especially off-kilter. I also saw reviews that the tables don't work well in Kindle, so it may be best to go old-school on this book. I found a used copy on Amazon that was $10 including shipping so I can go back and get information that is hard to capture from the audio version.

This book has a quiz (which is included as a PDF with the Audible version) to help readers figure out which hormones might be out of whack: cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and/or thyroid. I found I had cortisol and (not surprisingly) thyroid issues. There are "Gottfried Protocol" suggestions for each imbalance. I like that she recommends starting with lifestyle interventions, like cutting back on coffee or adding in relaxation, before suggesting a lot of more aggressive interventions like hormone replacement. This seems safe and sensible. It seems dangerous for women to rush to add progesterone cream or other potentially-dangerous remedies without a doctor's advice like some other experts recommend.

The thing I don't love about this author is that somewhere between writing her first book and moving on to her second, she seems to have gone into hard-sell mode. If you follow the link for the quiz, you have to give your email address, so that she can send you advertisements for her supplements and virtual workshops. I'm glad I'm reading the edition of the book that is free from this seeming conflict of interest -- in fact, she criticizes other authors in this version for having such conflicts. I suppose it's a fact of life that someone who has had such a success would be tempted to cash in, especially when women were probably contacting her and asking for supplement advice.

There's enough good in this book for me to recommend it anyway, especially if you are struggling with weight, sleep, or mood issues that might be hormone-related.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Fat Chance by Nick Spalding

I read Nick Spalding's Fat Chance (not an affiliate link) because it was recommended on The Nutrition Diva's podcast.  I have mixed feelings about it -- as opposed to Robert Lustig's Fat Chance, which I think is brilliant and helpful. On the one hand, I agreed with Monica Reinagel that on the surface, it was a fun, fluffy read. On the other hand, though, it perpetuates some of the worst and most unhelpful stereotypes about people with weight problems, and I think that someone who studies nutrition should know better than to promote a book like this. I listened to it on Audible does not sponsor my blog, even though I really think they should. In general, I don't review books that I don't love, but I think this one is worth a little bit of a second look because of the issues it raises. 
What stereotypes does this book perpetuate? When we first meet our heroine Zoe, she is hilariously stuck in a dress in a too-small dressing room. Besides being tiresomely drawn out, this incident provides the last-straw moment that launches her into her weight-loss effort, in this case, a Biggest-Loser-style radio competition in which she enlists the help of her lovable-but-also-overweight husband, Greg, who we learned has broken a chair in an equally longwinded story and laugh-to-keep-from-crying story at a barbecue. The book is written as a series of diary entries supposedly meant to provide content for the radio show's website. 

Greg and Zoe were both hotties when they met, but they have "let themselves go" by doing things like eating entire trifles and other oversized British snacks. Their problems are all caused only by their weight, and as they lose weight, their problems vanish along with the extra pounds. Poof!

The weight loss, once they stop trying fad diets and rubbishy fitness items they find on late-night-TV, is steady and seemingly uninterrupted by plateaus or injuries. It had just never occurred to these two that they could be thinner if they just ate less and exercised more! Wow, what a discovery! They just never heard that before, apparently.  Once they lose weight they have all kinds of confidence and a fabulous sex life. There is no thought that weight regain is a possibility, because they have learned the magic eat-less-exercise-more formula. 

It was a nice, escapist fantasy while it lasted. I'm guessing the author has not experienced the reality of weight loss, because this version does not seem to even remotely reflect the experiences of most people I know with serious weight to lose.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Gluten-free Hashimoto's experiment results

I thought I'd share this since it may be able to help someone else. After 6 years of conventional thyroid treatment for Hashimoto's, I was only getting worse. I went to an alternative practitioner, who suggested I try going gluten- and dairy-free.

Here are my numbers before and after:

In addition to going gluten-free and (mostly) dairy-free, I also have stopped drinking coffee, started taking 1000 IU of Vitamin D3, and have been taking a smaller dose of T4. I have also backed down a bit on my workouts and have been trying to get more sleep.

The most important changes are the decrease in CRP (an inflammation marker) and in my thyroid antibodies. The changes to my thyroid hormones are probably mostly due to the dose change. 

I had noticed almost immediately that I had less aches and pains after dropping the gluten, even after a tough workout. I might have muscles that felt sore, but my joints didn't hurt. 

I think that this is a big change in such a short time. I am hoping that if I continue to make healthy changes, I can see these numbers get even better. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Roll with the Changes: Challenge Cedar Point Race Report

This is going to be a long post, with lots of photos. But I promise not to get into a bunch of triathlon number-talk.

When I committed to the Challenge Cedar Point Half Aquabike back in November (the swim and bike leg of a half-iron-distance race without the run), I had no idea what a wild ride it would take me on. 

I knew it would be a challenge, so I worked with a coach, trained with a team, and even bought a used wetsuit.  I made regular appointments with a massage therapist. I did a 5K swim and several 50-mile training rides. The race came up way faster than I thought it would.

I never got used to the wetsuit. I swam in it twice and hated it. I toyed with bringing it with me in case the weather was terrible, but I decided not to.

My friend sent me flowers (in the shape of a cupcake) to wish me luck. Sweet and gluten-free! My husband went with me to the race to be my one-man support crew, photographer, and cheering section. He took most of these pictures, though I did spring for some of the race photos to get a good finish line picture.

I was already freaking out a little because I heard that the weather at the race site was terrible and that the Saturday races had been cancelled because of storms. I checked into Hotel Breakers, which was very convenient even though it was a little expensive. I could take a shuttle to and from the race expo site to save my energy for race day. I picked up my packet and went to the athlete's meeting.

The weather had not gotten a lot better. It made for some dramatic photos with the roller coasters in the background, but it didn't give me a lot of confidence. I realized I was obsessively switching back and forth -- "Should I do it, would it be safe? I spent so much money, I have to do it..."

I decided that I had to stop waffling and just commit. I got body-marked, which always signals to me that I'm all in.  Somehow making the decision stopped the ping-pong game in my brain.

I was relieved to learn that instead of swimming in the open lake, we would be moved to the Marina, where it was a little more sheltered.

Race day came and was not looking any more welcoming. I got to the race site at around 5:45.

The roller coasters still gave everything a haunted, creepy feeling against the cold morning sky.

The worst part was waiting for it to start. I was regretting not bringing my wetsuit. There were three of us who weren't wearing them. They changed the swim course one more time after the full-distance swimmers got tossed around outside the breakwall, moving it inside where it was safer. The water was warmer than the air, so it was almost a relief to get in. We went in two at a time, so I elected to go in with the guy not wearing a wetsuit. The song playing as I got into the water was REO Speedwagon's "Roll with the Changes," which was a pretty good theme for the day.

I won't lie, the swim was tough. I got tossed around a lot, and triathlon swim is always a full-contact sport. I put my elbow into the back of a guy who decided he wanted to swim right under my armpit. I got grabbed and kicked, and also kicked unsuspecting swimmers myself. It's hard to see in goggles. I had to take them off a couple times and look around because I couldn't tell where I was going. I am sure I lengthened the course with my bad sighting.

My husband said he was relieved to see me come out of the water. You can see my Enell in this race photo, under my brand-new purple Zoot Suit.

In transition, I pulled on a bike jersey (also purple) over my suit because, believe it or not, I'm not super-happy with the way I look in full-body spandex and thought a little extra coverage might be nice. I certainly wasn't worried about getting cold.

The bike was just as tough as the swim. I never rally felt warm. I did okay, though, doing my best to take advantage of the winds (gusts up to 30 mph) when they were at my back, and get through it when the wind was in my face. There were 4 aid stations on the course, and lots of friendly volunteers and spectators, which all helped me keep my spirits up and keep on rolling. I didn't rage against the weather, I just accepted that I wasn't going to be as fast as I wanted to be and did my best. My legs felt pretty good, considering that I was doing 56 miles on them.

Out on the course, another challenge. The roads were rough, and around mile 40, I noticed my tire was flat. It didn't seem totally flat, and I only had 16 miles to go, so I tried pumping it up with my CO2 cartridge, keeping it in my bike jersey in case it flattened out again. With about 5 miles to go, it was totally flat. I tried to pump it up but all the air had leaked out of the cartridge, so I had to ride it in flat. It was either that or walk my bike in, which would have taken too long. I fishtailed a couple of times on the turns coming in, because bikes aren't really designed to be ridden on flat tires. 

With an Aquabike, once you cross the bike finish line, your time is stopped. I had a chance to wipe off my face, fix my ponytail, and put on a hat to smile for the race photographer. As a result, I got my first-ever decent finish line picture. 

I also had my husband take some photos of me in the new long-sleeved bike jersey I bought, sporting my new medal. This race turned out to be an expensive proposition. I'm not even going to try to add up all the costs, because I don't want to see the numbers. 

With the conditions being as tough as they were, I didn't let the fact that I was the last woman to finish the Aquabike get me down. This was a tough course, on a tough day. It was a half-iron distance race, not a sprint, so the field was a tougher field. I wasn't the last person out of the water or the last person out on the bike, it was just that most of the people behind me went on to do the half marathon too. I felt very proud of myself for just finishing.

I got one more medal for my rack. It's really filling up!

I don't know that I would do this again -- training for this race and having a full-time job didn't leave a lot of time for anything else -- but it gave me a lot of confidence. Getting through those tough conditions with a smile on my face makes me feel like a total badass.

The next day, of course, the lake was smooth as glass and the sun was out. No regrets, though. Now that I got through it, I'm happy it was so challenging -- it makes a better story.

I've taken a couple of days off from training and I think tomorrow I might be ready to do a workout. I felt surprisingly good the next day, my joints didn't hurt and even my muscles weren't that sore. I was tired and hungry all day, but I think that's to be expected.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Book review: Leap by Tess Vigeland

I have been anxiously awaiting Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want (link to order through the author's website) ever since  Plus, since I have explained that I recently went through my own leap, I figured it couldn't hurt to see what advice she had to offer someone else. I wanted it so much that I forgot I had pre-ordered the text and also pre-ordered the version.

I didn't get any how-tos on what to do next, as much as I feel like I could use them, but I did get some validation that I am not the only one who dreads the question, "So what do you do?" because I don't know if I should say what I am doing now, what I used to do, or cobble together a combination of the two.

Like the author, I had what I felt like was a "cool job," one that other people thought they wanted to have too. I say thought they wanted, because everyone sees the fun part of being a faculty member, teaching classes and having a (somewhat) more flexible schedule. They don't see the long hours grading papers, the boring committee meetings, the campus machinations that made me feel like a cog in a wheel, or the ever-diminishing resources and the increasing responsibilities. Still, I liked that saying I was a college professor gave me an instant credibility to some people, and now, I feel like I am in a much less impressive-sounding role. I also, like Vigeland, feel icky for wanting people's approval enough to care that my job doesn't sound cool anymore.

There is also the common thread of loss, of feeling like I have given up part of my identity, one I worked very hard to achieve. The constant self-doubt that caused her to name her second chapter "Oh Sh!t" is all too familiar to me.

Reading the book did make me glad that my leap had a little more of a safety net, though, because I didn't have the big salary Vigeland had at her own job (even though she admits that she didn't take her own great advice and save before taking her leap), and I really could not have afforded to have no income while I figured out what to do next. Some of the people in her book had stories that were not so bright and hopeful, and I appreciated that she covered that side of the story. "Leap and the net will appear!" is a lovely thought, but you can't take it to the bank. I also know that I would have felt depressed and guilty if I took a risk and didn't immediately find a new opportunity. She admits that taking a leap is a luxury that is reserved for people with a certain level of resources, and I think some of the existential crises that she went through were a function of being from the kind of background where people take that kind of money somewhat for granted.

I felt like Vigeland's tone rang a little hollow when she said, when protesting the need to go do something amazing, "What if I decide to work at Starbucks?" and then backpedaled saying of course working at Starbucks is a respectable job. I'm not sure that she would really understand what it would be like to live off that kind of money, or what it would be like to do that kind of job. I haven't worked at Starbucks, but I have waited tables, and it's exhausting and hard and at the same time, low-status. There is nothing relaxing or fun about that kind of work.

Overall, though, the book had a fun, quirky tone. If anything, I think she oversold the value of taking a leap -- I think that for most people, looking for the next job while you can still sort of tolerate the current one is the better path. I don't regret leaving my job, I'm happy I did, but only because I have a comparable income while I look for the next thing. One thing that is amazing is that despite my uncertain position, I still have faith in myself and my skills and talents, and I think something better will come along. Leap is good company while I wait.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gluten-free and (mostly) dairy-free

After my last visit with my traditional endocrinologist, I resolved to try something different. I looked around for another endocrinologist, but all the ones around here follow the same protocol -- I was never able to connect with my old friend from the gym to find out who she was working with.  Traditional endocrinologists treat Hashimoto's with Synthroid, increasing the dose as the patient's thyroid starts to die off.

I decided to go more woo-woo. I got the name of an MD/acupuncturist/functional medicine doctor. I decided I would do what she suggested even if I didn't think it would work. I had tried the traditional way and wanted to try something different.

I wasn't surprised when she suggested I go gluten- and dairy-free. I had read enough blog posts and listened to enough podcasts to know that this is pretty standard. She did a bunch of tests and it turned out that my Synthroid dose was so high that it completely suppressed my thyroid, so we lowered it a bit. I'm also taking Vitamin D because even in the summer, with all my outdoor training, I had a sub-optimal D level. I can't imagine how low it gets in the winter.

She also wanted me to give up coffee for three months, which I am doing. I thought that would be harder than it is. I can have tea, and sometimes I do, but it doesn't hype me up like coffee, so I don't really care if I have it or not. I have also been getting acupuncture once a week.

The only thing I notice, but it's a big thing, is that after a hard training session I don't feel a lot of aches and pains the next day. I might have sore muscles, but my joints don't hurt.

I haven't really been tempted to cheat on the gluten -- gluten-free stuff is not that hard to find. I miss the dairy more, and did ask -- and get the go-ahead -- to try some non-cow milk. Traditional Romano cheese is made with sheep's milk, so when I have gluten-free pasta, I can have some cheese on it.

Mostly, though, going gluten-free has changed the way I eat. Most junk food has either gluten or dairy in it, so I skip a lot of things that I didn't need to eat anyway. I have lost about 5 pounds in the few weeks without making any other major changes to my eating habits. Just eliminating those two things has helped me feel a lot better. That makes it easy to say no to those foods. I never felt like I had a lot of willpower, but this is relatively easy for me.

I'm not anxious to add a lot of other restrictions. My current lifestyle doesn't make it easy for me to plan all of my food ahead, and it's hard enough to find food out that fits these limitations.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Another race report: Swim to the Moon 5K

Are you tired of race reports yet? This one, I promise, is something different. It was the Swim to the Moon 5K, a swim through five lakes. I have been wanting to do this race for years and I finally entered. Until today, my longest open-water swim was a little less than two miles, so this was a huge step up for me. I had to indicate my predicted time on the entry, but I had no idea. I guessed 2 hours, which put me in the last wave of swimmers. The swim was from the Northstar Reach camp to Halfmoon Beach.

There was also a 10K swim, which started at Halfmoon Beach, went to our starting point, and then returned to Halfmoon Beach. My husband, who generously was my one-man support crew and cheering section, said that people had come from all over the country for that race. We got to see them stop for their special-needs bags (only necessary for the 10K), then dive back in to swim back. They had started so early that many had glow sticks tied to their suits in the back. That would have been scary to me. 

As it was, I felt a little tightness in the pit of my stomach as we pulled into the park. I hadn't felt consciously scared, but there are always the race-day jitters. Body making, though, seemed to counteract it. As soon as someone writes all over me with a permanent marker, I suddenly feel ready to kick butt.

I wasn't totally sure that I could swim 5K, but I figured as long as I kept the pace reasonable and just kept swimming, I would be fine. I was relieved to find out this morning that there were two swim-up aid stations on the course, with water, sports drink, and GU. I thought I was going to have to swim for twoish hours without anything to drink. 
I started with the last wave because of my predicted time. The cutoff time was three hours, so there was a bigger range of abilities in my wave than in the others. The people who opted to wear wetsuits or use "Safer Swimmer" buoys also had to start in our wave.

The beginning was challenging with so many bodies in the water. I got (and gave) lots of body-checks. It's not easy to see who is around when you're swimming, and everyone is aiming for the same general path, so things get tight. I was happier when the crowd thinned out a bit.

Other than that, it was great. The water was about 78-80 degrees, a very comfortable temperature.  I found a good pace that I maintained throughout, and other than stopping at the two aid stations (once for just water and once for water and a GU pack), I kept going fairly steadily. The water was beautiful, and there were some cool sections where we had to swim through a tunnel and through the channels that connected the lakes. Once I got to Halfmoon Lake, the largest lake, I had about a mile to go. There were some small waves on this lake, which made it a little harder to stay on course and to breathe properly. I also had some foot cramps on and off. I was able to make them go away by switching to breaststroke for a little while. I also used breaststroke when I needed to figure out where the next buoy was. 

When I past the second mile marker and realized I only had a little over a mile to go, I pushed the pace. The cramps got a little worse, and then, when I was 100 feet from the beach, my whole right foot and calf cramped so much that I had to stop and flip over on my back, letting the people I had passed pass me by. I actually thought I was going to get pulled out by a lifeguard if I didn't get it together, so I tried to slow my breathing and relax, and it finally passed. I wasn't going to get that far and not finish! I was able to swim the rest of the way in and collect my medal -- this race made the late entrants go without medals on race day, not the late finishers. I finished in 2:05:53, which put me near the back of the pack -- the cutoff time was 3 hours -- but I was happy with what I had done. 

Since I hadn't gotten to get that medal picture on race day last time around, I had Jesse take a lot of pictures of me with this one. This was a really great medal, too. 

When I got home, I also wanted a picture with my new t-shirt and the medal. You can tell I got a lot of sun during this race. 

One more for my basement medal rack. I had to rearrange things to give this one an honorary middle position.

I also added a new sticker to my car. I am guessing there are less people who have done a 5K swim than who have done a marathon, even though I think a marathon would be much more difficult for me.

I loved this race, and plan to do it again next year. In the meantime, I want to get faster so that I can start with the middle wave instead of having to fight it out with the big pack at the end. I really felt great after I finished, though I can feel that my back muscles will be a little sore tomorrow.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

One perfect moment from the Sylvania Triathlon

One thing I forgot in my race report: Ever since I have been doing triathlons, each event begins with the U.S. national anthem. (This didn't happen when I did road races before September 11, 2001.)

I have learned to associate the anthem with being slightly on edge and concurrently impatient to start and a little scared. No matter how many races I do, there is always a little anxiety at the start.

At Sylvania, they typically have canned music played over a loudspeaker while someone holds a flag from the lifeguard stand. This year, though, the music wouldn't play. As the race officials fumbled and tried to get it to start, the crowd of racers started to sing the anthem, and immediately we were all in sync. It was one of the most moving things I have ever seen as we all sang together, with the sun coming up over the lake.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Enell Ambassador Race Report: The Sylvania Triathlon

Note: I did not ask Enell to pay my entry to this race because I wanted to wear my Team Toledo shirt, but I was still well supported through the entire triathlon by my Raspberry Zest bra.

Hi! It has been a while since I posted. In between starting a new job and leaving my old one, training hard for triathlons, and working on my Hashimoto's with a new doctor (more on that later), I have been pretty busy.

I did the Sylvania Triathlon on August 9. This is the big race that went by my house every year starting when I was about 10 years old, the one that made me want to be a triathlete.

I had done the race once before, a dozen years ago. I had high hopes of matching my former time from those days, when I was obviously much younger and also about 20 pounds thinner. I knew it wasn't likely, but I had hoped that all of my hard training would result in a new PR.

At the very least, I told myself, it would be my master's PR for this race, because the last time I did it I was under 40.

Instead of wearing my Team Endurance Fusion kit, which chafed me quite a bit during my last race, I decided to go back to my old one-piece trisuit. No all-spandex outfit would be completely flattering on my body, but at least with this one, I didn't have to worry about the top riding up. I added a technical t-shirt for the run, both so I didn't have to pin my number to my trisuit and to make me feel a little less self-conscious during the run. Also, wearing the Team Toledo red during this race meant that a lot more people would be cheering for me.

It has been fun having a team to train with this year. I felt a lot less nervous before the race because I could meet up with my friends and know we were all wishing each other well. In this photo, we actually have the overall duathlon winner (on my left), the master's duathlon winner (far left), and an age-group award winner (far right).

My mom put this sign out for me and my friend

I had a good swim (just under 31 minutes in the water), a great bike leg (averaging more than 17 mph), and then... I finished the run. I haven't really been doing a lot of run training, so I knew the run would be rough, and the day was hot and humid. I started out completely out of gas from my killer bike leg, and things got worse from there.

There were cones along the course, so I played a game where I would walk for a certain number of cones and then set a goal to run a certain number of cones. I added rules to my game to require me to run when I passed certain markers (a fire hydrant, a red arrow marking the course, a stop sign). I was really struggling just to make it through the last few miles.

Two things brightened my otherwise dreary run leg -- one of my Team Endurance Fusion friends had set up a dunk tank on the course, and was letting the runners dunk him on the way by. I got to see him and some other friends and get some much-needed encouragement, and got some splashes from the dunk tank.

Another guy I know from my early days of Team Toledo (he doesn't train with them anymore) was out on the run course under a highway overpass, playing his drum. I gave him a big, sweaty hug.  That helped raise my energy level for a little while too.

Other than that, I had a couple of gel packs, and was doling them out little by little at the water stops. I had my JumpSport headband from Fitbloggin, which I got wet and put around my neck to help cool me, and refreshed at the water stops. And I had my sheer determination that I was going to finish. That was pretty much it.

A lot of people I had beaten in the swim and the bike passed me during this long, hot slog. I clocked in just over a 14-minute mile pace. But I finished.

I waited to write this post because I was waiting for my medal. I was one of the last twenty or so people to finish the race, and they had run out of medals by the time I crossed the finish line. I was a disappointed that I didn't get a medal on race day because one of the big-deal things for me is that race-medal photo. Most of my friends had finished way before me and were getting their awards when I finished.  I borrowed a medal from a stranger to get a race-day medal picture, but Jesse didn't check it before I gave the medal back, and my eyes were closed with a ridiculous expression on my face. I deleted it. I'm very happy to have the medal now to add to my growing collection.

I'm not fast, especially on the run, but I think this race proved my determination. I was actually most proud of the run, because it was the hardest part. I wanted to quit about a million times, especially when I realized I had blown not only my PR goal but my secondary goal of beating 3:30, but I knew I wouldn't forgive myself if I gave up.  I was going to get across that finish line if I had to crawl across it.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Enell Ambassador Race Report: Women's Only Triathlon

Note: Enell paid my race entry for this race as part of their Ambassador program. 

I have a race tomorrow, so I think it's about time that I write my race report for the Women's Only Triathlon in Sylvania on July 26. This is a well-orgainzed race -- the same race management company that puts on the much larger and longer Sylvania Triathlon (which I am racing tomorrow) also does this race. I appreciate this after attending some other all-women's races that were not as well-managed.

Speaking of management, my husband, who usually helps me get ready for my races, was at a cross-country camp, so I had to do everything myself. It really made me appreciate what he does for me. Since I was solo, I made the command decision to leave early for the race site so I could get a closer parking spot, and do all of my organization in the parking lot. It worked out well -- I probably spent half an hour fussing with my stuff, and if I had done all of that at home, I would have been parking in the boonies. My car hood worked just as well as the living room floor for laying things out.

This year racing has been so much more fun because I have a whole team of people to train with and visit with before races. It really helps take away some of those pre-race jitters.

I felt very strong for this race, and it was a PR for me on this course. I had a pretty good swim, went faster than I expected on the bike, and had a pretty good run for me. For once, my bike place in my age group was better than my swim place. 

The best thing was that I felt good after the race -- in other races, I have felt really sick, but my new sports drink has been helping, I think, and I have also trained harder and more consistently this year than I ever had. 

I had a lot of fun and a great experience. Several of my team members placed in their age group and one (second from the right) was the master's duathlon winner. 

Another longer race tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I want to be just like Tess Vigeland when I grow up

Several months ago, I listened to Tess Vigeland being interviewed on "How She Really Does It" about life after leaving the dream job. Then I listened to her World Domination Talk. I really wanted to do the same thing. I'm looking forward to her book.

I have been feeling the way she described for a while. I worked hard to get my PhD and felt very lucky to find a full-time faculty job less than three miles from my house. For the first five years, I loved it. Then, for reasons I won't detail here, I started to love it less and less. I still loved the students but the other stuff was wearing me down. I tried hard to make the best of it because it was my dream job.  My intuition, though, was pushing me toward the door.

I had a lot of ups and downs this spring when searching for a new job. Very much like Tess described, I made it all the way to the final round of a new job that I thought was my real dream job. "This was why it all happened," I thought, especially when they called my references. I made the mistake of telling too many people that it was going to happen, and then it didn't. I came in a strong second to an internal candidate.  From start to finish, the application to phone interview to on-campus interview to hopes raised to hopes dashed took six full months.

I thought, "I'm going to have to go back next year unless a job drops out of the sky that is offered to only me." And then that's what happened, sort of. Through a friend of a friend I got a summer opportunity at a Fortune 500 company that might (or might not) turn into something permanent. I started the job looking hard for the permanent position that would let me leave my job gracefully, for a much better job, but it was coming down to the wire and I still didn't have it.

I was doing one of our Team Toledo swims at Olander Park, almost a mile around. I did two laps that day for the first time. I realized during the second lap that if I could swim like this, something many people find scary, I could be braver in other things too.

So I leapt. I have a contract through the end of the year. I'm finishing my project instead of going back. It made leaving more awkward, but I still left. I cleaned out my office and turned in my keys yesterday. I felt a huge weight lifted when I drove away.

"Leap and the net will appear," they say. Either I will find something inside the company, or I'll have a great reference for the next job. I know I should be worried, but I'm not. I'm sure it's going to be just fine somehow.

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