Friday, October 30, 2009

Before, During and After

I have a great before picture.

Well, I say it's great. It's only great because it will show the "before-the-committment" shape I was in.

It's not a pretty sight.

One weekend in August, about 3 week after I accepted the you-do-a-triathalon-with-me, I'll-go-to-a-scrapbooking-weekend-with-you challenge, the kids and I visited my parents in New Jersey. My brother was visiting at the same time with his wife and kids. Brendan and I took a swim in the lake. The one where I looked at the back of his head for 1/2 an hour. Still pisses me off.

Moving on.

For documentation purposes, I asked my sister-in-law to take a picture of Brendan and me on the dock, right after we got out of the water.

Now I have no delusions of looking "hot", or even good in the speedo that vaguely resembles a fishing lure. But I really had no idea how bad I actually looked.

You can hide your bulges under sweaters, big t-shirts, and oversized turtlenecks. You can convince yourself that the dryer shrunk your jeans, and that the scale must need to be re-calibrated.

But when it comes right down to it, Speedos......and cameras do not lie. When I uploaded the picture she took into iPhoto, I gasped. Then I nearly croaked. Picture a pasty white, wet linebacker wearing a huge bruise. I had no idea my thighs were that big. How the hell did that happen? And my shoulders? When did they get that enormous? And.....plump??

So now I have a great "before" picture. Relatively speaking. And in a few more weeks, after some more bike/swim/run calorie burning and trimming down, I am going to take the "during" picture.

I hope to have a fan-tab-u-lous picture to post at the end of this adventure, but that remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure. I am not going to post that horrid "Before" picture until I can post one helluva picture next to it that is titled "After".

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Regional Factor

**Disclaimer**  This  post has absolutely nothing to do with exercise, training or triathalons***

Just in case you don’t want to read further, ya know?

It has come to my attention that one of my blog posts referencing my favorite calorically disastrous food caused some confusion.

Apparently the whoopie pie is not a nationally known food.  Who knew?    I just figured cause I love them so much, they must be everywhere.  But apparently they are not all over the great US of A, just in certain special places that are blessed with their sugary goodness.

For my dear friend from Florida, then New York, then Florida again, then Missouri,  here it is.  The ever so lovely, terrific, yet horrible-for-the-hips whoopie pie.


You always remember your first.  Mine was in Pennsylvania Dutch country, at the roadside stand of an Amish farmer and his family.  I remember it like it was yesterday……..aaaah. 

Okay, back now.

I found a site dedicated to this lovely delicacy.  It highlights the history of said dessert, along with recipes to make some if you dare.  I say if you dare because I cannot have these in my house.   They are like crack for the chocoholic.  The site is here.

This got me thinking about all of the places I have lived, and certain things that are commonplace in one area, but unheard of in another.

Case in point:  the bubbler. 

Going to elementary and middle school in Bridgewater, MA, the bubbler was an integral part of my day.  I passed it in the hallway, stopped for occasional refreshment, squirted water up my nose by accident more than once.

However in the rest of the country, these are referred to as water fountains.  I found this out when, upon moving to NYC, I stopped a boy in the hallway of JHS 104 (on the corner of 21st Street and 1st Ave)  and asked him where the bubbler was.  He looked at me like I was from Mars.  Then he walked away. 

Example #2.  Hotdish.

Never heard of it?  I hadn’t either, until we moved to North Dakota.  We invited some new neighbors and their kids over for dinner.  My neighbor asked what she could bring.  I said “Bring whatever you’d like”.  To which she replied, “I’ll bring hotdish”.

Now  being the polite person I am, I said “Sounds great”.   But in my head I was thinking  “#$?@##???   No idea whatsoever.

Turns out this is hotdish


It is a casserole, usually involving hamburger, some sort of creamed soup, and topped with tater tots.   This one is aptly named…that’s right, tater-tot hotdish.   It sounds kind of gross, but it is actually quite good.  We made a lot of it when we were living just a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle.   Which has the nicest people on the planet, just so’s you know.  

What have you eaten, that once you moved somewhere else you realized no one else had ever even heard of?   Did you move somewhere only to find out that you couldn’t get your favorite junk food?  Did you go to desperate measures to get what you were missing? 

Care to share?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All She Could Say Was “Wow”

It has been a week for inspiration.  Not me necessarily doing the inspiring, but being inspired. 

My sister finished the Marine Corp marathon in Washington, D.C.  in a personal best time.  She was amazed and inspired by the people running who had lost loved ones to war, and cancer.  People who were physically challenged, running the race of their lives.   I am amazed and inspired by her.

My incredible neighbor ran the Cape Cod marathon.  I hope she doesn’t mind me referencing her here.  (I guess if she does I’ll hear about it, no?)  Besides I won’t name names.  Deanna. 

I may have a rival in the accident-prone, weird-luck category.  Knocking my tooth out with a car door and hitting myself in the head with a can of ham almost doesn’t come close to breaking one’s arm the day before a triathalon, and then swallowing a bee during your first marathon. 

No joke.

But in spite of getting stung by a bee (on her tongue no less), she persevered and finished the race. 

Wow.  All I can say is “wow”. 

I am inspired.  I was so motivated by their incredible feats that I went to the Y last night at 8:30 and swam 1000 yards at a time when I am normally snoring on the couch.

Let’s see how long that lasts.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Squeezing It In

So this training thing has fallen into somewhat of a routine. It works. Some days better than others.

I have new found respect for people who are training for major athletic events and train for hours at a time. I can barely squeeze in 45 minutes a day without a problem. And sometimes it kind of is a problem.

Sunday mornings have become a designated swimming morning. I get up at about 5, feed my addiction to Facebook, throw in a load of laundry or two, unload the dishwasher, straighten up whatever disaster catches my eye first, catch up on the TV show I fell asleep in front of the night before on DVR, and then get ready to go swim.

The pool opens at 8am. I try to be there right when they open so I can get my 800 or so yards in and call it a morning.

You see, I try to squeeze this in before church, where at 9:45 on Sunday morning 10 or so pre-adolescent kid/tweens are waiting to be enlightened by my biblical knowledge and incredible wit.

Alright, that’s not what they are waiting for. Sometimes I think they are just waiting for the snack. But in any event I have to leave my house by 9:30 to get there on time, so I am pushing it just a tad if I get to the Y any later than 8:00.

Last weekend I arrived a tiny bit on the late side. Just a few minutes. I shoved all my stuff in a locker and headed to the pool. Unfortunately the door between the locker room and the pool was locked. So I had to walk, in my lovely Speedo, barefoot (eeeww) through the Y to the front desk. I told them the door between the women’s locker room and the pool was locked.

“No it’s not,” was the reply.

“Ummm, I believe it is,” I said.

So they walked me to the pool where the lifeguard informed me that the door I pointed to as locked actually led to the family locker room, not the women's locker room. The women’s locker room door truly was unlocked.

How sad is that that I have never actually been to the Y without kids enough to know that women have their own locker room? I just assumed that the locker room with all the moms and children was the women’s locker room. I will have to remember that for the next time I want to get dressed without screaming, yelling children whose moms are bargaining with them to just get dressed and stop whining already. Not that my kids ever did that. You know, me having perfect children and all.

Moving on.

So I traipsed myself into the pool, found an empty lane and got to the business at hand. I actually had a grand old time. I think I might have even had a “swimmers high”. I think that’s what it was. Either that or I was getting hypoglycemic from not having had breakfast. But it was a great swim. I could have actually kept going except that the clock was beckoning me.

And the thought of being late for church makes me break out in hives. I think it borders on a pathological fear. Growing up, we were always late for church. And we were not the “slink into the back of church when you are late” kind of family. Oh no. We had to find a seat, which after church has already begun is almost always in the FRONT of the church. Where you have to walk by the entire rest of the congregation to find a pew big enough to seat 6 people. By the time we were at our appointed nearly always-the-very-first-row seats, I was sweating profusely, wanting to just disappear.

As you can see, I do not like to be late for church. So I jumped out of the pool and ran to get ready.

We did make it to church on time. Our Sunday school class was fun, and I managed to bang the water out of my right ear half way through the recessional hymn.

For now, that’s how I’m squeezing it all in on Sunday. The rest of the week –- well, I don’t want to bore you all at once. I’ll save that for another day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If I Can Do It, Anyone Can

That is a phrase I have heard repeated over and over again.  Many times in conversation, when the topic turns to “What have you been up to”, I fess up to training for a triathalon.

I say “fess up” because I am sure the idea of a moderately overweight, middle-aged mom preparing for an athletic event is not an intuitive leap--could even make some people laugh.

Sometimes it even makes me laugh. 

So when the subject comes up, I am surprised by the number of people who have said that they did one X-number of years ago.  The conversation usually  ends with “If I can do it, anyone can do it”.  

That does make me feel a little bit better.  Although it’s usually someone in a jogging suit, fit as a fiddle and on their way to the gym.   But even so.

Just last week I was at a high school cross-country meet when one of the other moms told me that she had participated in a triathalon about 2 years ago and was surprised by how much fun it was.  She admitted she was most worried about the swim, and once the swim was over she felt much better.

I think that is my problem.  I am not worried at all about the swim.  That seems like a piece of cake to me.   Theoretically speaking, that is.  Speaking in concrete terms, cake would be much better.    And preferable.

Just sayin’.

I almost wish the run was first so I could just get it out of the way.  

Let’s put it this way—if I look like a half-drunk spasm-ing wingnut when I run now, what will I look like after I have swam (swum?) 21 lengths of the pool and then biked 12 miles?  I am almost afraid to picture it.   

But it will probably make for a good blog post.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It’s A Family Affair

Apparently my family finds exercise addicting.

Kind of like potato chips.  Without the fat.  And the salt.  And the taste. 

Monkey-see, monkey-do. 

My sister and her husband have been active exercisers for years.  Running, swimming, biking.  Marathons even. 

My brother started biking this summer, lost more than 50 pounds  and has now completed a few  triathalons.   He’s also completed a century ride.  That’s 100 miles.  Yikes.

My daughter was bit by the bug after doing a relay triathalon with my brother in Virginia.  He swam and biked, she ran the 5K.   She is signed up to do the Polar Bear Triathalon in May.

My younger brother John has not yet been coerced  recruited to join us in our exercise escapades.   But he is about to be a dad for the first time so we are cutting him some slack.  For now.

So the Polar Bear Tri next May will be a real family affair.  My daughter, my brother, my sister, her husband, his sister and her husband.

Oh.  And me.  Almost forgot :) 

Can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Say What?

Don’t you just love when you hear someone singing a song you love, and it all of a sudden occurs to you that the words you thought were the words, really aren’t?

I started thinking about this this morning while I was running.  The Killers song “Are We Human” came on the iPod.  There is a line in the song that goes ,“Are we human, or are we dancer”.


Never mind that it is grammatically incorrect. It also makes absolutely no sense.   Dancer could be pluralized to make a tiny bit of sense.   But not a whole lot.   Or maybe I was hearing the words wrong altogether? 

There is plenty of precedent for that.  Me hearing a song and screwing up the word beyond belief, that is.   My husband almost ran off the road when we were dating when he heard me sing the Peter Gabriel  song “Jeux Sans Frontiers” as “She’s so salty love”.    I seriously had no idea they were singing in French.   Those words didn’t make any sense to me, but it kind of sounds like that’s what they are singing.  Kind of. 

And when you don’t understand the words, sometimes you just make up something so you can sing to it.  Know what I mean?

When my brother was in elementary school, he had an assignment to write down the words to his favorite song.  He was in love with the Kinks at the time.  We used to listen to their album on the record player until one of his friends sat on the needle and scratched the record beyond repair. 

Aaah, the record player.  If we had kept half the crap we had no idea would be “quaint” today, we would be raking it in on eBay right now.

In any case, my brother listened to his favorite song off that album, wrote down all the words and handed them in to his teacher.

That’s when my mother got a phone call from school.  His teacher was  “concerned” about the music Brendan was listening to and told my mother it was rather inappropriate for a 12-year-old.  My mother asked her to send the paper home so that she could talk to my brother about it.

He had picked the song “Art Lover”.   One of the lines is  “like a Degas ballerina”.  Except that he had heard, and written “like a naked ballerina”.

Hence the phone call.

That cracks me up almost as much as the time I looked over in church and heard Madeline belt out the Hosanna at the top of her lungs.  She was shouting “lasagna in the highest”.   I am quite sure God has a sense of humor about those kinds of things.  Her heart was truly in it,  and she was only 5 after all.

Do you have a favorite “misheard” song? Have you ever sung really loud, only to realize after the fact that you had absolutely no idea what the actual words to the song were?

Come on, share it with us.  Pretty please?? It will make us all feel better!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nothing Tastes As Good As Thin

(But I would kill for a whoopie pie right about now)


Nothing tastes as good as thin.

That was the mantra of my last Weight Watchers leader.   I say my last because there have been many.  I lost count after a while.

But she used to say it as a means of motivating people to stay focused on their goal.  So that when you were reaching for the Kit Kat, you could think of what it would be like to have it attached to your hips.   And then theoretically not eat it. 

Sometimes it works.  It depends on the day.

Now that I have lost 11 pounds, I am starting to notice differences in my clothing.  Which is great.  I put on a pair of pants to go to work yesterday and they were loose around the waist.   Made my day.

That is motivating, which makes it easier to believe that nothing really does taste as good as thin. 

But this morning when I was leaving the convenience store with my yummiest Dunkin Donuts coffee (with skim milk and Splenda thank you very much), I passed the case with all their delicious baked goods.  And the most scrumptious  looking whoopie pie practically jumped out and landed in my bag.

I do so love whoopie pies. 

Not even sure why.  They have no redeeming nutritional value, they are full of sugar and butter, and are terrible for your heart and arteries.

But…..I still love them.  Because they taste soooo good.

Except that I have a hard time eating them..….small portions at a time.  

Once I get started it’s hard to stop.  It also doesn’t help that most of the whoopie pies sold at bakeries are practically the size of a frisbee.  So you have to have a lot of self control.  Portion sizes being important and all.

When it comes to whoopie pies, I have very little.  Self control, that is.

I can buy one, thinking that I’ll cut it in half and save the rest for another day.  Then, after I eat that half, the other half just looks so forlorn there all by itself I just have to eat it, too. 

Because I just do, that’s why. 

Which is why I did not buy it.  But I did eye it longingly for more than a few seconds.  Or a minute or two.

Maybe after I complete and entire triathalon I will feel like I have burned enough calories to justify eating one.  

But after burning that many calories, will I really want to waste them all on a whoopie pie?

I think I know the answer to that:  YES

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Die is Cast

I am officially registered for my first triathalon.

There is no turning back now.

The Polar Bear Tri is being held May 8th in Maine.  Today I registered for the Polar Bear 5K in February, which allowed me the “privilege” of registering early for the Polar Bear Tri in May.

I am running a race in Maine.  In February.  It is now official.  I have lost my mind. 

The name is a little scary.  “Polar Bear” anything conjures up images of half dressed people jumping into the frigid ocean in January.   Apparently that is not what this triathalon is all about.  It is hosted by the Polar Bear club, hence the name.  There is no freezing-cold ocean swim associated with this race.  In fact, the swim is in a pool, which I think is a good way to test the waters.  No pun intended.

The Polar Bear Tri was the first triathalon my sister did last year.   She rocked.  My brother-in-law’s sister Angela was the women’s winner. 

I just hope I don’t come in last. 

Actually, scratch that last comment. I just want to finish.

Never mind that my sister and Angela will be showered and having a cup of coffee when I cross the finish line.    When (not if) I cross the finish line, I will have the great joy in knowing that I will have my sister all to myself for a lovely scrapping weekend here with the nice ladies from  Scrappers Dream Vacation.

A dream for me.  Not so much for her.   But regardless, I  am sure it will be a weekend to remember.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Art of the Flip Turn

Swimmers spend a lot of time perfecting their flip turn. In an out-and-out race, you can gain a lot of time with a good one. You can also lose a lot of time with a lousy one. When I swam in junior high and high school, we would spend entire swim practices working on our flip turns. Hanging out in the shallow end, flip after flip after flip.

If you’ve ever seen Olympic swimmers, you’ve probably marveled at the way they do them. Legs literally snap over their head, as they effortlessly turn and head back down the pool.

I could never do them like that. Even though I liked to pretend that I could. They were passable, possibly halfway decent. I never worried when I got to the end of the pool if I could do it or not. It was automatic. Flip and turn.

This past July—at the weekend gathering where the gauntlet was thrown down and the triathalon challenge taken up—I could barely swim across the narrow channel at my parents lake without gasping for air.

Totally. Out. Of. Shape.

With our newly minted YMCA membership and my lovely sort-of-new Speedo, I have made what I consider decent progress. I am up to 650-800 yards at a clip without stopping. Mostly freestyle with some breaststroke thrown in when I need a small breather. Definitely enough distance to feel comfortable doing a sprint triathalon.

So last week I decided it was time to brush up on the flip turn again.

When I reached the end of the pool I said a little prayer, did my half-somersault and tried to kick off the wall. Except it wasn’t there. Apparently I had started too soon and ended up too far away from the wall to actually touch it.

So I immediately stood up and pretended that I meant to do that. Like when you are walking and trip and try to make it look like you meant to start running?

Just like that.

The next time I approached the shallow-end wall, I geared up to try it again. Little prayer. This time, the timing was better and I could actually use the wall to kick off.

Except I am not sure I would call it a flip turn. It was more like a roll turn. My roly poly self s-l-o-w-l-y getting around in the form of a somersault and trying hard to right myself and start swimming again.

It definitely needs a lot of work to get the rust off. I guess the good thing is that they can only get better from here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Drugs and Colds and Kleenex, Oh My

I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

This cold has knocked me on my *ss. And I am not just milking it because I am out of the habit of exercise. And trying to justify doing precious little that involves sweat in the last 10 days.

I swear.

This cold has gone from icky-leaky sieve nose phase, to can’t breathe through the concrete-in-my-head phase, to brain-in-a-vice phase over the course of a week and a half.

The elliptical has been my occasional morning friend, but other than that? Nada. Zip. Zilch.

It makes me wonder about athletes who compete in the face of extreme odds. Remember that Japanese gymnast who competed with two broken legs in the 1976 Olympics? Makes me look like such a woos.

I had to make a return trip to CVS this week for another box of decongestant. Not the watered-down over the counter stuff. I went for the sign-your-life-away and show your ID stuff they keep behind the counter. It makes me laugh every time I stand there with my watery eyes, coughing with a bright red nose, looking like death warmed over and they ask to scan my license to buy Sudafed. I can barely breathe for crying out loud. Do I really look like I’m about to go cook the Sudafed in my meth lab?

So anyway……

I hope to have something more interesting, fun and actually readable to report next week. Until then, enjoy your long weekend!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rhys Was Ryght

Not everyone can say that their education paid off. And that they are working in their chosen field. Remember that kid in your dorm who majored in history and ended up waiting tables? Or your friend the political science major that had dreams of conquering Washington and ended up adjusting claims at an insurance company?

My major was psychology. Which, when I graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA, qualified me to do: exactly nothing. Turns out you truly need a Masters to use the psychology part of the BA for any course-related purpose. Other than that, the BA part comes in handy. It did land me a job shortly out of college as a glorified file clerk. Not too challenging, but it paid the rent and the loan on my lovely Hyundai.

The year I bought that car, a Hyundai was seen as somewhat equivalent to a Yugo. Thankfully Hyundai has made great strides in their quality. That year, however, a Hyundai Excel went from 0 to 60 in about 2 minutes. If you were lucky.

Think Fred Flinstone speed. Minus the feet.

Which gave me a migraine every time I drove to work and tried to merge into fast-moving traffic during morning rush hour. Polite Boston drivers being what they are and all. Cough, cough.

But I digress.

I have previously blogged about my great experience at the nutritionist, Rhys Anderson. Implementing his ideas and following his meal plan has not been nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I kissed the Skinny Cows, Special-K bars and the 100 Calorie Little Debbie cakes goodbye, and became friendly with cheese sticks, 100 calorie almond packs and fruit. Lots and lots of fruit.

I have to say, he’s a pretty smart guy. And using his nutrition degree well. Not that I would judge his entire “awesomeness” on my success. That would be pretty self-centered of me, no?

However in two weeks since I visited Rhys, I have lost an additional 4 pounds, bringing my grand total to……drum roll please……9 pounds.

Nearly 2 bags of sugar. One huge bag of potatoes.

So he was right after all. Despite my desire to believe that eating a 100 calorie Little Debbie cake was the same as eating a 100 calorie banana, I kept an open mind. Turns out all calories and WW points are not created equal. Making the changes he suggested were a fabulous idea.

And they worked. He is good at what he does. Giving sound eating advice to people who don’t necessarily want to hear it.

And for that I am very glad.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Closet of Denial

**Disclaimer*** You will never find me on an episode of hoarders. Promise. And I do clean out my closet on occasion to donate things I truly can’t or won’t wear.

Just had to get that off my chest.

All better.


Many of us have them.

Clothes that haven’t fit in a while. Or in a decade.

Or longer.

Things that we can sort-of-almost squeeze into but just can’t part with. Or things that have long since fit but we just can’t admit that we might never squish into them again. Ever.

“It was on sale, I really should keep it”

“Are you kidding? I paid a lot for that skirt and I’m not getting rid of it”

“It might fit someday”

“Wait, wait, I can almost button them” (Followed by inhaling belly button to spine and praying the button doesn’t explode across the room)

All things we say to ourselves that keep these items living in the “Closet of Denial”.

Some people have a small section of denial in their closet. Some have an entire wall devoted to what could be.

I guess I would fall somewhere in between.

In the 20 years since college, I have been up and down the size aisle so many times I have lost count. Up a size, down 2, up 3, down 1. Each weight range with it’s own size; each size with it’s own part of the closet. And from each size I have kept my favorites, holding on to the hope that they will someday fit. Suffice it to say I have a few cute things I could outfit myself in. Every size from 10 to never-you-mind a few times over. And then some.

There they sit. The too-small, in-denial sizes. I eye them longingly, dreaming of the day they will see the light of day once again. Wondering what it would be like to have the need of a belt for other than decorative purposes.

Caution: Rationalization ahead. Here it comes.

The problem with getting rid of the faves from the in-denial section is that I am always striving to get there again. And when I get there, wherever there happens to ultimately be, I don’t want to say “Gee, I should never have gotten rid of those jeans I loved”. And so they sit, patiently waiting. Gathering dust. Maybe even going out of style.

Okay, rationalization over. Thanks for indulging me.

So it will be interesting to see what the end result of this whole triathalon-challenge journey will be. Will I turn into an exercise fiend, maintaining a weight not seen since college? Will I end up a casual exerciser, enjoying an easy, mellow daily jog?

Regardless of the outcome, I am quite sure there will be something in my closet that fits.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nothing Too New or Exciting

It has been a slow exercise week here.  I have a miserable cold.  Which coincided nicely with the pump breaking at the YMCA pool so I wouldn’t have been able to swim anyway.   So unless you count the up and down motion of the hand to the Kleenex box, to the nose and back down again, I haven’t exercised since Monday.

Of course I could have run, or biked if I really wanted to be a masochist.  But I am choosing to look at the pump breaking at the same time as getting a cold as a fortuitous event.  Rationalization being what it is and all.  Work with me here.  The stretch is not all that far, really.

I will admit it actually felt weird not exercise for a few days.  Perhaps  it has become a habit after all?  I am promising myself that Friday morning I will go to the 6am spin class and get back on the wagon.  I don’t dare get back in the pool until I can breath out of my nose again.  That could get really gross.

There was some exciting news this week in the battle with the scale.  Between making some changes to my daily diet make-up and the fact that I can’t taste anything I eat so why bother, I have lost 2 pounds in the last week.   And I’ll take it.

Now I am off to infect some more people in my office, sneeze on the lady at Dunkin Donuts and have an otherwise lovely day.

Hope you can do the same.