Thursday, December 28, 2006

Girl Trip! and X/C ski update

Ally and I are off to Chicago tomorrow for the American Girl Destination Tour. We will stay in a fancy hotel downtown on Michigan Ave., attend the American Girl Revue Theatre Production, and shop at the American Girl store for a doll and accessories.

I've been warned by other moms that once we get that American Girl doll, we can helplessly watch a few thousand dollars evaporate into AG outfits and accessories. It can't be that bad, can it? Any AG moms out there??? If so, I'm doomed!!! But Ally is so excited about our trip that I'm "in". She's only little for a little while and it won't be long before she's a teenager and hates me. But for now, we can get dressed up, go to a fancy restaurant, go to a show, stay in a fancy hotel, shop at the American Girl doll store, and enjoy a blissful mother-daughter relationship. I understand that we can even get her doll a school uniform that matches Ally's. Aye.

I've decided to start a workout log. I've never kept one, but reading so many other people's blogs, it sounds like you all keep one. Yesterday I ran 5.5 miles and then later skied 6.8 miles. I still lack confidence on the skis... I still fall down. Twice last night. This race I'm doing is 31 miles long, and hilly!. Last night I felt like 6.8 miles was plenty. I was soaked with sweat and dying of thirst. I have to start wearing my water belt... I just never thought about it for skiing, but I always wear it for running, and wouldn't dream of biking without water. So I will start bringing it. We were eating snow.

Anyway, IronLaura and I did stop to talk a lot, but 6.8 miles took us 80 minutes. So how long will the Birkie take us? It's so much hillier than our local trail, too. I'm actually open to a DNF, but am going to be at the starting line anyway. Going up the little hills at Elm Creek had my heart-rate pounding out of my chest. I have to hook up my new Garmin 305 (I decided to get the one with a heart-rate monitor ;-)) to find out just how hard this is on me -- especially up a hill that has about 8 inches of powdery loose snow on it. What will it be like in Wisconsin? Those of you who have done IM WI know how hilly it is in that area... It's the same hills, only on skinny little horse trails on skis. I'm doomed.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas! (or "Happy Seasonal Celebration"!)

It was a beautiful, noisy, quiet, exhausting, and meaningful Christmas. Yesterday my step-kids Peter and Marnie (and her hubba Ryan) came over. We exchanged gifts and ate a traditional dinner.
That's Ryan with Marnie, and Peter with Bobby and Ally.
After we ate, we all went to church. (Well, not all - Peter is an atheist and is unapologetically intolerant of Christianity, Christians, me (go figure!) - so even though we asked him to come along, just to be with us - he didn't have to pay attention or anything -- he said he had somewhere else to go. Well, OK, then... to each his own!

It was a beautiful sermon. Pastor Dan talked about how Jesus is the light of the world, and how when He came, He shined that light not on Himself, but on God, so that we would understand how great God is and know how much He loves us. One analogy Dan made that hit home for me was this: that lightness has an impact on darkness, but darkness doesn't dim lightness. In other words, the darkness can't make my candle dimmer. But if I walk into a dark room with a candle, the light will change that darkness. Relating that to myself, although I am often "unsettled" by Peter, his darkness can't impact me, and if God's light shines through me upon him, well, so be it. I (and my faith) cannot be dimmed if I am around dark people. But it is possible for my light (my faith) to change "darkness" into light.
After church we drove 50 miles to Wisconsin where Bob's brother was having another dinner. It was great to see everybody. All his neices and nephews are growing up - they're adults with "real" lives now - it's all going by so fast. It was fun to see everybody, but we had a long drive back home to get the cookies out for Santa!
I think the gifts were right on. Ally was most excited to get skates and a digital camera. That's her below hugging her camera. We were out and skating on the pond in the woods by about 9:30 this morning. Thankfully, it was covered with about an inch of snow, and the ice underneath was quite rough, so it wasn't too slick for her.... good to gain a little confidence the first time out! She wants to take lessons again, even though she has taken them twice before and dropped out.

Bob (Mr. Romance!), got me an emergency kit for my car. Blanket, flashlight, tire air, ... all the necessities. It's gotten to the point where it's funny... even to me! But where does a guy learn that girls want this stuff as a gift? After 11 1/2 years I know to put stuff I really want under the tree myself and label it, "For Jenny, From Jenny". So I got some cool boots, a couple of Gwyneth Paltrow movies, and I'm going to get myself one of those Garmins at the after-Christmas sale!

Cheers, and enjoy the holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Snowy Trails to you

This morning about 15 of us ran 2 hours 10 minutes on wooded trails. It was beautiful!!! It was such a great way to wake up. Much as I love lounging around in the morning, enjoying the smell of coffee brewing, it still can't top running through the woods with my friends listening to the snow crunching under our feet. After you get home, the coffee tastes really, really good. Better, even.

I must admit I am a bit sore now, though! We probably ran 13 miles, about twice as far as I have run since IMFL. So I will admit there must be a fine line between under-training and too-little training. My joints were even getting a little ache-y the last couple miles and that rarely happens. Anyway, it was beautiful out there.

Today I need to buy the last one or two gifts that I have been putting off. My step-daughter got married this summer and I haven't bought anything for her husband, Ryan. He's a pilot about to get laid off, so he's in law school now, hoping to have something to do when the inevitable happens. It's a shame that he was only able to live his childhood dream of being a pilot for a few years. Back in the old days it was a glamorous, high-paying job. Now it's kind of like being a union bus-driver; the only difference being that you're in the air and not on the road. His salary kept getting cut, and now his hours, too, so it was wise of him to get Plan B underway before he's completely jobless.
So much for all those union dues. I'm not a big fan of unions. Kind of think they had their purpose and their day, and now they are just extorting money from the last certain workers that still have any faith in them... anyway - another topic another day. Today I need to figure out what to get for Ryan for Christmas.
Bob's meeting with some buyers today so I can't make him do it. Is a shirt lame? What about a portable GPS? I think that would be fun to have. Marnie (my stepdaughter) wanted walking shoes, so we got her those along with some stylish layering outdoor wear. Maybe Ryan would like to join her on her walks and he can tell her how fast and far they are going? Am I grasping at straws? He is so hard to shop for!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Let it snow!!!

Bobby nails me with a snowball.
Finally, FINALLY! It's December 21 -- the winter solstice -- the days will start getting longer tomorrow... and it finally snowed for the first time in Minnesota. It was a heavy wet snow, too, perfect for snowangels and snowmen.

Bob's up north ice fishing and playing poker and godknowswhatelse with his buddies for the weekend, which means I get to shovel the driveway, which is pretty much the only household chore I actually enjoy. I really should learn how to use the snowblower, because on days like today where there was a half inch of slush under the snow... let's just say I got in a two-fer workout of weights and cardio.

The kids' last day of school was today -- sweet!!!! They keep saying they can't wait for Christmas, they can't wait for Christmas, they can't wait..... Ally really wants a kitty (a real one) so we've been telling her that Bob is allergic, so she started advising us about allergy shots that Dad can get... That's the one big present that she's not getting. Bobby wants a snowboard, and will probably get it, so now I have to figure out how to NOT have Ally all upset that she didn't get her big gift when Bobby DID.... aye, aye, aye. If it were up to me, I'd get the kitty.

Short post today - gotta get out and play with my little treasures...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Triathlon Sign-up Party

I love parties. All of them. Invite me to all of them. I never get sick of them.

Steve and Helen had one on Saturday night which was a blast. Everybody brought their calendars and Steve had typed up a master spreadsheet with all sorts of fun-sounding races. It had the dates, locations, and sign-up dates on it. We could see what everybody else has signed up for, and determine what else we should register for. That's Steve in the background mixing up what sure appears to be a girly-drink.

Trimama and Taconite Boy were there - (in the hot-tub). Everybody's completely sober, as usual. Steve and Helen live on one of the 10,000+ lakes here in Minnesota. They host 6am swims every Wednesday all summer long. They put out real triathlon buoys (the big orange pyramid style ones) and we all take turns driving their pontoon one-way... most people swim across the lake and back for just under two miles.

Anyway, we are all going to Zurich to do the IM there. If you are looking for a late June race, there are still 214 spots left. I will be there along with twenty - that's right - twenty - of my friends. We are going with Endurance Sports Travel. It's a company owned by Ken Glah (he has won a few Ironmans, and he still participates, most recently in Kona just a couple months ago). Now they just take people all over the world to do Ironmans. We went with them to IM Brazil in May '06, and I swear will never do an overseas race without them - they totally ROCK. THey take care of EVERYTHING. Anyway, please join us! Marz-Racer is the only other "blogger" that I know of who is coming, but if you like me, you will love the Minnesotans that make up the Gear West Tri Club.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Temperatures soar today!

Right now it is 41 degrees is sunny Minnesota. I love living here... seems like forever ago I was whining about the cold - it's great here. Today.
This morning I ran with SCS Multisport's "group run". I usually run with Lifetime Fitness' Running Club, but my x/c ski coach is one of the owners of SCS, so I came out to give it a try. We ran on Eden Prairie's hilly trails and park-paths mostly, but got lost and tried to take a shortcut which was actually a deer trail that soon disappeared. So we were bushwhacking and crossing frozen streams, getting covered with burrs from unknown weed-y plants. .. but it was fun - just like exploring the woods as a little kid.
We ended up running for 93 minutes and averaged 9:24's. A little fast for me - I like my comfort zone and I know it as soon as I leave it, but didn't want to get left behind in the woods. I suppose it's actually good for me to leave my comfort zone occasionally. Do many of you pick a comfortable pace and just stay there? Is anything wrong with that?
Now it's off to two kids-invited parties, then a real grown-up party in Excelsior. Trimama and T-boy -- are you going to Steve-n-Helen's tonight? If so I will see you there.... ;-)

Ally and Bobby at the kids tri

Ally starts the run...
Bobby exits the swim...
Ally and Bobby at the finish - the best part is the free plastic bottle, medal and the pizza - just like for us grownups!
The kids did the Lifetime Fitness Kids Tri last summer. Ally was only five, so she and the other "little" kids swam 50 yards, biked 2 miles, and ran 1/2 mile. Bobby (8) had to swim 100 yards, bike 2 miles and run one mile. It was so adorable. These kids are INSPIRING.

During the swim in the 8 lane pool, there are 8 lifeguards - one per lane. The kids are given the option of having the lifeguard stand at the end of the lane, or get in the water with them and stay by their side. Some of the littlest kids that needed the lifeguard with them were the most inspiring because even though they struggled and had to hold onto the lane line a bit, they would NOT give up. Some would rest for what seemed like forever, but with that lifeguard by their side, they just dug in and stayed committed. Made quite a few spectators a little weepy - including me. What determination.

Bobby cut his ankle on his pedal during the bike, so he was all bloody at the finish, but he was kinda proud of it. He kept saying, "it's nothing - I'm allright". I was volunteering in transition, so I didn't even know he had finished (or was hurt) until I heard my name paged - I guess they expect the parents of bleeding kids to come to their aid. Bob (with camera) was busy looking for Ally to come in off the bike course, so neither of us even saw Bobby's finish - oops.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Brrr - temperatures dipped below zero!

Just last week it was warm enough for the kids and I to walk over to the club for dinner. But today, I know winter is really, REALLY here in Minnesota. It dipped below zero last night. And it was only 3 degrees at 11 am today when I was scheduled for my x/c ski lesson, so I canceled it. It that lame? Can I count it as only half-lame since I did get up and swim 3,000 yards this morning at the crack of dawn?

T-minus eleven weeks to race-day (American Birkebeiner) and I finally put my freestyle skis on last night for the first time - it was great! -- I only fell three times. But it was very cold.
I am SOOO glad I bought those roller-skis to practice with on the streets this fall.
I don't know if I mentioned it or not, but I am doing this ski thing with a bunch of other Ironmen who have also never skied before - we are all just learning. We figured that since we're Ironmen, how hard can a 31 mile ski marathon be. We'll find out in eleven weeks. Now I am thinking the Birkie may have been a bit aggressive - there are lots of shorter races. Why did we have to sign ourselves up for the grand-daddy of all x/c marathons? Are we really that full of ourselves? What we were thinking? I had to herringbone-walk up the "hills" which at Elm Creek are what is considered "flats" on the Wisconsin course. (Those of you who have done IM Wisconsin -- imagine x/c skiing up and down those hills. It's the same hills. ) How long is it going to take me to finish this thing? Five hours? Six? What if it's really cold like last night? and windy? My fingers and face were frozen.
I'm going to check into some extreme cold-weater gear. Some old timers had on neoprene face masks. Any of you ever used one? Does is adhere to your skin? I felt like my "turtle-fur" neck gaitor that I pulled up onto my chin was "rubbing" my skin.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ringing for the Salvation Army

This is my daughter and our friend Greg outside of the Cub Foods in "X Suburb" (can't give the name of the town because I don't want to get the manager in trouble). We rang the bell, sang Christmas songs, and dared say..... (OK - please keep an open mind... I could get in big trouble for admitting this, but.....) we said, "Merry Christmas!" to the customers!! The manager of the store said that we could say whatever we wanted because people will complain no matter what you say and frankly he'd like to hear it a little after so many years of this greeting being censored. So we did and it felt good, too! We are clearly (and some would even say "harshly") discouraged from any public mention of God here in Minnesota, so this was quite risky behavior on our parts... but this public display of our faith was making us downright giddy....;-)

But political correctness aside, I was amazed and touched by the generosity of the patrons at Cub Foods. Roughly half of the customers put money in those red kettles. Did you know that? I would never have guessed the percentage was that high. I think it was important for my kids to see that so many fellow humans give so freely. It put us all in such a great mood.... 'tis the season.

Last night Trimama and Taconite Boy, my hubba, and 4 other friends went to the Michael W. Smith Christmas show . We had a fancy dinner at a really cool "French Mediterranean-style" restaurant beforehand in downtown St. Paul, went to the show, and then stopped back at the local tri hangout, Kip's Irish Pub. It was a lovely night - the music was beautiful, the company perfect, the trees brightly lit, the reason awesome.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Wildflower Registration Now Open!

Don't forget to register for Wildflower, registration for which opened this morning. I signed up as a member of Tri Blogger Alliance for the long course.