Friday, September 28, 2007

Another hat, another yarn show

One day it's hot and sunny, the next it's overcast and cool. Then it rains and then it's sunny again. To most people in the country that would be normal weather but for us in the Bay Area, especially in the valley, it's strange. We go most of the year with the temps in the mid-60's to mid-70's with early overcast clearing to blue skies. Sure, we'll have an odd patch of very hot temps or rain, but normally the weather is just "nice." Over and over and over again. So it's confusing when it goes back and forth between this strange stuff that other areas call "seasons." What an odd phenomenon!

Pam and I had a good run last night. We're getting used to the sun being lower and cars trying to hit us. More than usual. We were about to run across the street, with a green light/walk signal, when a woman in a humongous SUV decided to blow through the light without looking. Clueless, and luckily we saw her and didn't step off the curb until she had passed. That would have been extremely messy if she had hit us. Not to mention it would have screwed up our marathon plans.

I started another Point Lobos Hat last night, even though I wasn't going to until next week so I could take it traveling. I think it's addictive; I'll just take yet another skein with me and start a third one if I finish this. I'm using another Malabrigo (since I have a skein or two of it in my stash), this one in Amor Intenso. It's variegated in pinks/reds/burgundies and the few rows I have are looking good.

Oh please oh please keep me from the CGOA Knit and Crochet Show in Oakland this weekend. I'm so torn; how can I possibly skip a yarn show when it's so close? And how can I possibly go to another show when I've already blown my discretionary yarn funds at Stitches and Stitches? Sunday is the only time I have available so maybe I'll just lock myself in my house and forget it. Yeah, good luck with that.

The Gratuitous Bear of the Day is my medal bear celebrating the Maui Marathon. This race was a challenge because of the extreme heat (in the 90's), the humidity (in the 90's) and the tradewinds (ok, that wasn't quite in the 90's). The race started in the dark, at 5:30 am, and as soon as the sun rose over the horizon it got hot. Very very hot. It was one of the most scenic of my marathons, most of it running along the water. Gorgeous, while you still had the attention span to look at it. Cold sponges and iced water didn't help much as the temps crawled even higher. I was thrilled to be done. This little bear in her board shorts and sun top perfectly exemplified the Maui experience. Breezy reminds me of the rest of my Hawaiian vacation, swimming and snorkeling (and drinking lots of umbrella drinks in the sun).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Must .... Knit .... More .... Hats ....

Last night I finished my Point Lobos Hat. The one I started at Sunday's Stitch 'n' Bitch at Lindy's. I love starting and finishing a project with such a quick turnaround. The yarn used is Malabrigo worsted in Paris Night. It's a hard color to identify; it's sort of deep night-sky blue, with some paler blue, with some almost-but-not-quite black. Very pretty, very much me. Because it's so dark it's hard to see the hat detail in the pictures. Not to mention the delicate shading in the yarn. Take my word, it's very pretty.

I like my hats a little bigger so I think next time I'll use size 8 needles, see how that works out. I'm thinking it'll be perfect. I have a million colors of Malabrigo worsted that I think would really grace this pattern. I'm trying to tell myself not to start the next one quite yet; I'd like one as a traveling hat for Portland. This is a secret so don't tell anyone, but the people who normally get a Hanukkah gift from me will probably get one of these.

This pattern seemed to hardly use any yarn at all. I bet I could get another identical hat out of the same skein. I'd try it, but I don't have a second one and I'd be pretty annoyed at myself if I got halfway done and ran out. Maybe I'll do a simple, short-cuffed fingerless mitt with the rest of it. Hmmm. I'll have to look at some patterns.

Olivia and I had a good run last night. Despite my useless protests that I was going to run very slowly because of the heat and being tired and whine whine, I averaged exactly 12 minute miles. After saying I wouldn't go any faster than 12:30's. I don't know what it is about running on the Iron Horse Trail that makes me run too fast. Oh well, this way we finished a few minutes earlier. Giving me more time to go home and knit!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I love naps

What a difference a nap makes. After work yesterday I slept for about 25 minutes -- yeah, sometimes that's all it takes -- and presto chango my headache was finally gone. I was so sound asleep that when my alarm went off I didn't know where I was, what day it was, what I had to do when I got up. My immediate reaction was that it was Friday and I had to get my stuff ready for an early morning run so I was pretty happy to know that it was only Tuesday.I finished my mom's Noro hat over the weekend. This is the one where I used the pattern but not Noro yarn. Instead I used the yarn I bought in Erie, the Feza Cyprus Mohair (85% acrylic and 15% Mohair, in the black/gray shades), and a little of the bright red Katia Ingenua (a Spanish 78% mohair, 13% nylon, and 9% wool). Both are very soft and fuzzy. The Feza wasn't quite as self-striping as I'd hoped but the hat still came out nicely. I like this pattern, nice and mindless zen knitting. I only have to start thinking when it comes to the decreases since I don't like the pointy top in the pattern.

Since I hadn't knit anything lately with Malabrigo, which we all know is my favorite yarn, I started another hat. Yeah, some day I'll actually have to wear them since I love to knit them. This time I'm using the pattern from the ladies sitting in front of us at the A's Stitch n Pitch game. It's the Point Lobos Hat from and is similar to the Noro hat, except the purl ridges have an open pattern that makes the hat lighter and more feminine looking. And the top doesn't come to a point. I think this one's going to be a tight skullcap so next time (and I like it enough for a next time) I'll use size 8 needles instead. I may keep one on the needles at all times for traveling since it's a nice, compact project that doesn't take too much brain work. Which we know I'm low on when I'm traveling.

I must finally be recovered from Erie because I'm starting to look forward to Portland. I have high hopes for this race so the weather had better cooperate. I'm certainly not looking for a PR but I'd like to have fun. No rain, y'hear!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Big blooming problem

Didja miss me? I was home yesterday with a headache; I didn't read, didn't knit, didn't watch tv, didn't sleep, didn't use the computer. Just lay on the sofa with my eyes closed for hours. Actually, it was pretty restful. I wouldn't mind doing it again today!

Not sure what's causing this, I'm think it's sinus and not migraine. All of a sudden, driving home Sunday night from our Stitch 'n' Bitch, it started hurting. Maybe I'm allergic to one of the dogs I was petting, maybe allergic to Lindy's luscious limoncello, maybe allergic to spaghetti sauce. Or maybe some fall weeds or trees are polluting my air, although you'd think our rain on Saturday would have damped it down. It probably caused more growth though. If that's the problem it'll get worse in the next few days since we're supposed to have another heatwave. I don't care, as long as it's gone by Portland.

We wussed out during our run on Saturday. We were supposed to run 8 miles at Inspiration Point but it started raining pretty heavily just before we reached the 2 mile point. We ended up with only 4 miles and we were soaked. Luckily my feet didn't get too wet, just damp, and my toes aren't any worse than they were. Which is still sore and very ugly.

Pam and I ran last night; I had hoped (for some strange inexplicable reason) that running would clear up my headache. It didn't, but we had a nice run. We started almost a half hour late because Pam got stuck in traffic. Hey, it gets dark pretty early now! We had to use our headlamps for the first time this season. Amazing how creepy it is the first time we run in the dark. Same route, almost same time of day, but everything looks different.

I'll talk about knitting more tomorrow, too much other stuff to do now!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Time drain

This time it's my sister's fault. Sis and I love playing little computer games, the kind that suck you in and don't let you go. Everything from adventure games to bashing gnomes to exploding chuzzles to matching jewels. Even to throwing in a solitaire or two. I'm particularly fond of those games that I can play for 3-4 minutes while I'm on hold at work, or those that just help me zone out mentally for a while (chuzzle is a particular favorite of mine for that).

While we were in Erie my bro-in-law was telling us about a new game he and sis were playing together, which sounded strange. Games to us have been such individual pursuits. He told us they had a great time with this one, where you have to find things in a picture and find a ticket. Later sis reinforced the idea that this was a great game. But I resisted, I have enough ways to suck time out of my life.

Until last night, when I received an email from the game company that this game was on sale. So I decided to download it for the free playing time to see if I liked it. My hideously slow AT&T dsl connection takes forever to download anything and this was no exception. Finally I was able to download and start playing Mystery P.I. and yeah, there went the rest of the night. There's an hour free play and I think I have a few minutes left.

What did I do first thing when I walked into the office this morning?? Yep, I know what I'll be doing at lunch today. Thanks a lot sis!

So I didn't get a bit of knitting done last night. Didn't even get a chance to pick it up. I anticipate much more knitting this weekend since we've got a stitch n bitch on Sunday. Maybe I'll even finish something! I'd love to get the sheddy hat out of the way so I can start on another hat.

Last night Olivia joined us for our regular Thursday night run. While I appreciate the cooling trend I'm not as happy with the getting-dark-earlier trend. Probably by next week we'll need headlamps. Not because we can't see, but because at that time of dusk it's harder for the cars to see us. And since they don't pay attention to us when they can actually see us, I prefer being shiny to increase the odds of living through our run. The run went very well, faster than we were on Monday but I don't know if that was because of our speedy guest or because we timed the lights better. Probably a little of both. It's nice having another person there to expand our conversational options. We know that the accountability of showing up to run with someone is the only thing that gets our lazy asses off the couch!

I'm really looking forward to the weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Summer: now you see it, now you don't

It feels like we actually had about 3 weeks of summer this year. Cool and overcast to cool and overcast to cool and overcast to hot hot hot and now we're back at cool and overcast. Rain in September? I know we can use it but c'mon now, this is going to be a very long winter. I hope at least this will be productive gloom with measurable moisture to go with the dreariness.

Olivia and I finally got back to running again last night. We hadn't run together since -- uhm -- I can't remember the last time we actually laced up and ran. We didn't go too far, just 3-ish miles on the Iron Horse. I tried to keep up and she tried to slow down and it worked until about the last half mile when she lit the afterburners and left me in her dust. I still finished with a much faster average than I should have and felt that I'd had a good run. Olivia's going to join Pam and me for some of our weekly runs but she'll have to slow down for us. Hear that, Ms. O?

I did lots of work on mom's Noro Hat last night. I'm almost at the decreases. I just looove knitting hats, even when I don't spend much time on them there's such quick turnaround. I'll be happy when I finish it so I don't have little mo-hairs all over myself. I don't think the hat will shed, it's just working with the yarn that sends little broken strands everywhere. I have a couple of other hat patterns I want to make and this weather is very conducive to knitting.

The Gratuitous Bear of the Day is another bear that I bought while visiting my sister in PA. We were wandering around some store, I can't even remember what or where, when I spied this pretty little pink bear. I picked her up and she was plush, soft and squishy, just a treat to hold. She's a little bear with a sad face. I bought one for myself and one for sis because that's the way I do things. I found the tiny little red dog quite a while later and they just seemed to mesh well together. The name on the bear's tag was too good to resist, so this is Snookie Snickerdoodle and her little red dog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A spoonful of sugar

Last night I was plopped on the sofa knitting and out of lethargy just let whatever was on the tube play on. Unfortunately it was the Biggest Loser, a program about people who are considerably more shameless and much much bigger than I am, competing in front of America to show their rolls of fat. Or lose weight, or something. During the commercial breaks were little factoid questions like "how many jumping jacks does it take to burn off the calories in a pint of ice cream" (they claim 8000). And "how many spoonfuls of sugar are in a can of cola". Wait, what kind of spoon? Teaspoon? Tablespoon? Gravy ladle?? And shouldn't that be "spoonsful?" Since that isn't clarified the answer is totally irrelevant. Thanks for the info, guys.

But I think I want Jillian to come train me. I'm sure I would have done more last night than abs and stretches if she'd been shouting instructions and encouragement at me. No more napping away instead of workouts, that's for sure! She wouldn't let me wuss out just because I had my toenails removed! Heh.

The knitting I was doing while the tv droned away in the background was on my mom's not-Noro hat. I had a little incident with the yarn; I had in it a zip carrying case so I could knit while I was waiting at my allergy doctor's office. The red mohair got caught in the zipper and what a mess that made. I finally ended up cutting off a couple of feet of the yarn and ripping it through the zip. Didn't get a whole lot of knitting done in the office after that, but I got more done at home. I'm not sure I really like how the yarn is striping, but the hat is coming out soft and fluffy so it'll be ok.

Have you been over to see the San Diego Zoo's newest baby panda? Their panda cam can eat up hours of your time while you watch the mama play with her tiny little girl cub. Or watch the baby rolling around in the den. Or read the panda blog. Cuuuuute!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Can I get a discount on pedicures?

After running in the rain for six hours I realized I really need another pair of orthotics, especially since it took a couple of days for them to fully dry. I made an appointment with my podiatrist and good timing, I decided to tell him about my heel pain and ask if there was anything I could do about my blistered Morton's toes which were still pretty painful. Well, don't ask if you don't think you'll like the answer. My heel issue is achilles insertion tendonitis. Fine, I'll wear a low heel on my shoes, ice, and stretch. Of course I'm not going to rest, as if! The doc recommended that he trim back my warped, bruised, inflamed, blistered, sore toenail. I figured fine, let him cut it short, maybe it'll relieve the pain. So he cut it -- off! Owie owie owie yuck ewww! I'm not even going to show pictures, although I could, because if you're anything like me just the thought of removing a toenail produced extreme shudders and shakes. So to match things up he removed the one on my second foot too. Ewww yucky ow ow! Anyhoo, they actually feel just a little better now and by the time I have to run 26.2 miles again (less than 3 weeks!) they should feel all better. I hope. But they're pretty ugly now, description deleted so you don't lose your breakfast or lunch.

The doc recommended that I just have the nails removed permanently. ::Shudder:: I ... I .... I just can't even think of that now. Ewwwww!

The nailectomies didn't keep me from running last night though. Pam and I ran our usual short short route, about 3.3 miles. Things hurt when we started but felt pretty good by the time we finished. I think we hit every single red light on the route, so we had breaks, but the rest went very well. I iced my heel after I got home.

I had a salty accident on Sunday. I was walking from my kitchen with my hands full of my dinner and water so I tucked the salt shaker under my arm. I sat on the sofa, put down the plate and the glass, and all of a sudden everything was covered with salt. Like a half cup of it. The shaker had broken in two, leaving a little Hansel and Gretel trail from the kitchen. Salt everywhere. Holy crap! Did you know that salt is almost impossible to clean off your kitchen floor? I used the vacuum attachments to clean up the sofa and foot stool and surrounding carpet, then vacuumed everything else. And again. Repeat once more. I put the vacuum away, walked across the kitchen floor and realized there was still salt there. I wiped it up with a wet towel. Still more salt. I took out the vacuum and ran it over the kitchen floor again. Aaaand, again. Still more salt. I wiped it up with a wet sponge. Finally it seemed to be all gone. Until last night when there was more salt there. I think I'll be cleaning up salt for the next month. I have to buy a new salt shaker now.

I did more knitting on my Cider Moon chevron scarf last night. I keep saying it's almost finished and it is, but it isn't. I only managed about 4 repeats last night and at this rate it'll take me at least a week or two, unless I have more time to spend on it. I have so many projects backed up in my brain that I want to do, and don't know when I'll get to them. Hats and mitts and scarves and shawls .... must ... knit ... more!

The Gratuitous Bear of the Day is my newest bear. I saw him at the Erie Airport and couldn't resist. It's hard to read in the picture, but his tummy says "Presque Isle, Erie" with a little sailboat. Very cute. Since he was so small I decided that indeed, I did need him to be my newest marathon teddy! He has such a cute smile on his face, unusual with bears. I named him after the city, Erie.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Stitch n Pitch n Fisticuffs

Yesterday was the long-awaited Oakland A's venture into the Stitch n' Pitch arena. The last-minute decision by the team to get more bottoms in the seats got our group of knitting runners (and running knitters) into the Oakland Coliseum (I forget which sponsor has naming rights) to watch the season losing A's play the season losing Rangers. We were just hoping for a warm sunny afternoon of baseball, knitting, beer and friends.

And swag, of course. We had hoped there would be a bag full of goodies like the one from the two Giants SnP's that we'd been to. There was a bag, a strange little caddy-type thing with pockets and the logo, but it was empty. It was too late for the team to get any other sponsors so that was it for the additional $5 that our tickets cost. Our seats were awful. In a half-empty stadium the knitters were stuck waaaaaaaay up at the top, in a corner. We were actually under the deepest part of the overhang and in the shade the entire time. It was cool and dark at the beginning of the game and cold and dark later. Not the greatest conditions for knitting.

We arrived early. Very very early, since in addition to SnP Day it was also free A's Cowboy Hat day, for the first 10,000 people. We were determined to be among those first 10,000 so we got there when the gates opened. For a cheap giveaway the hats were pretty cool. They would have been great in the sun.

Anyone who showed up after the game began missed the a pretty exciting start. After getting drilled in the ribs with yet another pitch, an A's player charged the mound. Both teams quickly piled on the field for a big ol' fight. Once that cleared up there were runs, more runs, a grand slam (wrong team, dammit!), a close game, more runs, and -- yeah, the A's ending up losing. Bummer.

We had a great time way up there in the sky, knitting, gabbing, drinking beer, eating inappropriate food, talking with others in our section. I didn't get too much knitting done because it was actually too dark for me to see comfortably, but I managed a few sections of the Cider Moon chevron scarf. There were some fabulous projects being worked on; a lovely lace shawl, a great scarf, an iPod holder, another Temescal Bag, a small Clapotis, and no, I'm not in the mood to link all those to their patterns. Sorry. We stuck around to the bitter end, followed the crowd to BART and headed off on our separate ways.

I did run Saturday, longer than perhaps I should have. Bree was running her 20 miler for Portland and Sandy and I said we'd run 10 miles with her. Ow. My legs felt mostly fine but my one toe on my left foot is just very unhappy these days. Even just a closed shoe bothers it so I knew running wouldn't feel too good. We ran at Alameda, leaving from the Ferry Terminal and running across the bridge and out along the water. It was fabulous running weather; overcast, breezy, not too hot or cold. The water birds were wonderful to watch and there was a flock of pelicans skimming their breakfast from the bay - not the usual thing one sees when running.

I'm glad I put in the miles and I'm also glad Bree didn't take us up on our offer to run her final 3 miles with her. I was tired as anything afterward and I still had all my errands I had to run. I got home, showered, ate and went and did everything I needed to do. Then I went back home and collapsed.

By the way, when a Clif Bar says it expired in 2005, don't try to eat it just because you're starving and it's the only food in the car. Yeah, they get really awful when it's two years past the expiration date. Ugh.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Finally Friday Yay!

As much as I love to travel and run marathons and beat my body to the ground, it takes a lot out of me. Duh, right? Lack of sleep, strange food, extreme efforts, cramped planes. On top of that we throw blisters, swollen ankles, muscle knots, and the week after marathon travel is usually not my favorite. With that said, I'm feeling much better today, probably because I ran last night. My toes were quite unhappy that I put on socks and even more displeased when I put on my running shoes, but except for that our short little run (only 2.6 miles) went very well. In fact the knot in my calf was smaller afterward. We ran along the trail just in case I had to turn around immediately but there weren't any horrible problems. Maybe the 10 miler tomorrow won't kick my butt!

I almost started a new project last night, my mom's hat that I bought the yarn for in Erie. But it ended up like the picture at the left. I'm using the Noro Hat pattern but the yarn is different so I had to figure out which size needle to use and how many stitches to cast on. I finally decided that size 7-8 would be right, and it should be the same stitches per inch as the pattern so I cast on 95, joined and started knitting the next row. I was using my KnitPicks fixed circulars in the size I had decided was 7. It didn't even draw my attention that they were pretty big for 7s. So I'm knitting away on the third row and finally realized how loose the knitting looked. Hmmm, what's up with that?? Yeah, I was using 11s. I have no clue why I grabbed those except maybe I was looking at the size in mm. So I ended up ripping back the entire thing. Frogging mohair is a pain in the neck so I never did cast back on. Net knitting last night: zero. Darn. I'll restart tonight so that I have an easy, mindless project for Sunday's Stitch n Pitch at the Oakland A's.

Have a great weekend! I hope you're more productive than I was with my knitting last night!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The rest of last weekend, and yarn!

Last Friday was a very early wakeup. Rather than pay a shuttle and get picked up hours earlier than necessary I met Sandy at her house and left my car there. Her half-asleep hubby drove us to SFO, luckily not getting stuck in any traffic. We were early enough that there weren't any lines at NWA when we checked our baggage and for once, the security lines moved quickly. I grabbed a latte (and a cookie, which lasted me two days) and sat down to wait for the flight. Lalalalala. We had booked the window and aisle seats in the same row, hoping that the center seat would remain empty. Yeah, good luck with that. Of course someone sat there!

With 4-1/2 hours to blow I knit quite a bit on my Cider Moon chevron scarf. Yeah, I know I was going to take the easy one-ball lace scarf but decided at the last minute to take this one. I tried to alleviate my boredom knitting away and listening to music, reading my book, knitting some more, playing a game on the ipod, knitting some more.

We arrived into Detroit on time, with just enough time to get to our gate at the other side of the airport. Hey Detroiters, what's with that strange tunnel connecting the terminals? Are they're trying to reflect what the inside of the Detroit/Windsor tunnel looks like? Probably not; I ran through that tunnel and it didn't look like that strange psychedelic nightmare with moving walkways.

This flight was on a tiny little plane and took less than an hour. Our luggage came quickly, we got in our rental car and drove -- less than 2 miles to our motel, the Comfort Inn. We checked in and took our stuff up to our room. Not a bad place, and especially not a bad room for $79+tax/night. Our room in New York should only be this big. For four times the price. We unpacked a few things and decided to look for a place to have dinner.

First we made a couple of stops to get waters, snacks and wine. Yeah, wine. I figured we'd want it Sunday night. We drove down to the water, thinking there'd be restaurants there. It was getting darker by then and we finally saw a place and decided to stop and try it. The Smugglers' Wharf had outside seating and since it was nice out we decided to sit in the fresh air. It was very warm and humid, some breeze, quite pleasant to be outside. What we didn't realize was that the outside seating had no lights! The only light was the ambient lights from streetlights and light reflected from inside the restaurant. We read the menu by flashlight (which we both happened to have with us) and I ordered a fried perch sandwich, a salad and a local Mad Anthony ale. From our table we had a great view of the Bicentennial Tower although we didn't know that's what it was; we thought it might be just a lighthouse with scaffolding around it. We ate dinner in the dark, a very strange experience. The fish was good, the beer was better. We finished and decided to turn in for the night.

Saturday morning we ate the free hotel breakfast (not bad!) and decided to check out a local yarn shop before my bro-in-law arrived. We got a couple of blocks away and he called to say he was at our hotel so we turned around and headed back. We all decided to go to a local Starbucks for our morning brews, then we returned to try to find the LYS.

It wasn't too hard; Rustic and Refined was located in a little strip mall right where the map said it would be. We walked in and I paused to get my bearings. I wasn't sure from the listing I'd seen if it was really a yarn shop or a just a gift shop with yarn, but yeah, it was a real yarn shop. The owner (or the woman at the counter, I neglected to ask if she was the owner) was very friendly and helpful, made sure we knew there was a back room and downstairs too. There was lots of yarn I hadn't seen before but nothing that really jumped out at me. I would have been much more tempted if I hadn't bought out Stitches last month.

I'd been looking for yarn for a hat for my mom, in her colors, self-striping, soft. I wanted Noro but they don't do the whole black/gray/red thing (or not without throwing in green and yellow or purple). The owner helped me find some Feza Cyprus Mohair; 85% acrylic and 15% Mohair, in the black/gray shades, and self-striping to boot. I'm not much on acrylic but it was soft and plush and since it's for my mom, I figured it would be ok. It needed some brightening so I decided to add a single strand of bright red Katia Ingenua, a Spanish 78% mohair, 13% nylon, and 9% wool, also very soft and plush. Yay, now I can make the hat she asked for.

They were very happy when I finally was done, and we left to get sandwiches at Panera. We drove to pick up our race stuff and blah blah what I said yesterday. After we finished leisurely eating our delicious and too filling sandwiches we just hung out for a while, talking and walking around the Monument. Finally my BIL decided it time for him to make the very long drive home and he dropped us at our motel. It was great seeing him. Again, I hate that he and my sis live on the other side of the country, so far away.

Sandy and I decided it was a good time for a nap. We rested for a while and realized it was getting late enough that we should go eat dinner. We decided to try to find the seafood restaurant we'd seen earlier but couldn't quite remember where it was. We drove back out to mall, it wasn't there. We drove back, drove around, and realized it was right on the corner near where we were staying. D'oh!

We ended up at Joe Roots Grill and were seated immediately. It looked like a few other runners were there having an early dinner and we amused ourselves through our meal trying to decide who was a runner and who wasn't. Easy when they're wearing shirts from other races, not so easy when they looked like us. I ordered the mahi mahi, grilled, with a baked potato and salad. The salad was typical of the salads we seen in Erie; iceberg lettuce with flavorless tomato and cucumber, a few carrot shreds and a slice of onion. The baked potato was great; I love potatoes but never eat them. This time I ate it all up, savoring the salty skin. Yum. I left half the fish because it was so unimpressive. We took our time, eating and drinking, watching the other diners, until we figured we'd better get to bed.

The only thing we missed in Erie was the big Heritage Festival Saturday night, with the Erie Philharmonic playing the 1812 Overture complete with cannon fire, church bells, and fireworks. We didn't think staying up late on Friday night was a good idea. And it had started raining during dinner so everyone at the park would be getting wet.

Sunday after the race we hung out in our beds for the entire afternoon. Ow and owie, I had to keep jumping out of bed because of leg cramps. I was glad I had finished the race but ow. Many hours later we finally decided we needed food and for lack of a better idea decided to try El Canelo, a Mexican restaurant that a guy on the plane had recommended. Yeah, authentic Mexican food in Erie. Right. We didn't really have high hopes. I ordered a margarita and started studying the extensive menu. Lots of the dishes contained beef, which I don't eat. I finally ordered a pork tamale and chicken enchilada, with rice and beans. The beans were very traditional; loaded with lard. Yum. No, really. Refried beans just aren't the same since they became health food. Unfortunately the tamale had ground beef on top mixed with the sauce; I pushed it to the side and ate everything else. It was a filling, good dinner, loaded with the protein we needed after the race. And loaded with lard.

We went back and packed up our things, except for the wet clothes that we left hanging until the morning. We also drank lots of wine - we had to finish the bottle, didn't we?? Finally we went to bed and tried to get some sleep. My raw, blistery toes and crampy legs made sleeping tough.

In morning we had another free hotel breakfast, this time with a yummy donut. What? One little donut the day after a marathon won't hurt me. Much. The flights home were noneventful and crowded and on time. Wow, four flights and they were all on time, that must be a record. And they didn't lose any of our luggage. Nor did either of us get searched at either security checkpoint. How non-typical of modern air travel.

I'm spending this week recovering, sleeping, eating too much, drinking more than I should, catching up on work.

And my shoes are still wet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Erie Marathon at Presque Isle Report

They did everything right. The weather did everything wrong. Sunday, September 9, 2007 was going to be a very long day.

I have no idea what about this marathon first caught my eye. Maybe I had looked at it when my sis still lived in Pittsburgh. Maybe I liked that it was billed as one of the flattest marathons in the country. Maybe it was just on the right date for a "training" marathon this fall. Maybe I'm just as crazy as all my friends think I am.

The Erie Marathon at Presque Isle's course is officially open for only 5 hours, but they have an early start option that gives you one extra hour. So I knew that if I wanted this race to be official for me, I'd have to finish under 6 hours. My training went well enough that I thought it would be no problem to run easy and finish in about 5:5ish. I've been having some lower leg problems which I self-diagnosed as poor summer sandal choices. A bit of shin issues, a bit of plantar fasciitis, a bit of tight IT bands. The usual when you're over-pronating for months. And continuing to run and train for a marathon or two. So I wasn't too horribly concerned on Saturday night when I kept having leg cramps. Ooooh, foreshadowing!

Packet pick-up was Saturday afternoon and very early Sunday morning. Since we didn't want to take any chances we headed over there just after noon on Saturday. My bro-in-law, who's still living in Pittsburgh, drove up to Erie to meet us. He and my sis had been to Presque Isle a few times, picnicking and walking their pooches. Sandy and I piled in his car and after a few stops we headed over to PI.

Why do they call this Presque Isle and not Presque Peninsula? Or Presque Sand Spit? Not as poetic, I guess. Packet pickup was located at the Rotary Pavilion Area, a few miles into the park. The way was well marked with temporary marathon signs pointing in the correct direction. We followed the other cars and parked. We quickly picked up our race numbers (after realizing that the early start numbers were in a different pile), got our shirts and the free socks and our goody bags, and received and verified our chips. The shirts are long-sleeved tech fabric with a nice design on the front and sponsors on the arm. And white, of course. Since the fabric is a little more sheer than I'm comfortable with I'll probably reserve it for night runs in winter.
The socks are a little bizarre; the sponsor's name is around the ankle, where it will be seen. The name of the race is over the instep where it'll be covered by a shoe. Can't look a gift horse in the mouth and all that, free is free. No wonder the cable company provided them!
The goody bag had the usual literature promoting other races and local enterprises, a beer cozy, a pen, a Power Bar, some other stuff. Behind packet pickup were a few tents set up with a little expo, which surprised us since we weren't expecting anything. There were vendors selling just about anything you would or could need for a race or running and the prices were reasonable.

The Pavilion was by a little pond which had a really big frog and a much smaller one. We were pretty careful looking at nature since we'd been warned about ticks. We didn't want any little visitors attaching to our limbs and coming home with us.

After we walked around for a while we decided to drive around the peninsula Isle and find a perfect spot for a picnic. We drove slowly, checking out the route we'd be visiting on Sunday. Visiting twice; have I mentioned that the race was a double loop?

We found a pretty, peaceful spot by the Perry Monument and Misery Bay. Several picnic tables were set under the trees, in the shade, with views of Erie across the water. We took our time eating our yummy sandwiches then walked around the Monument, reading about Commodore Perry's victories in the War of 1812 and the aftermath for his crew and the ships.

The weather was great for being outdoors. It was just short of being hot, pretty humid, light breeze, partly sunny/cloudy. The forecast was 50/50 chance of thunderstorms, but into the afternoon it was still ok outside. We hoped for some cooling and hoped it would stay dry. Hey, 50/50, right? It could still be nice on Sunday. Bwahahahahah!

Blah blah rest of the day, blah blah nap,dinner, blah blah clothes prepared for the morning, blah blah rain starting, time for bed, blah blah try to sleep, leg cramps, blah blah. Picture a clock with the hands spinning wildly around the face.

The alarm went off at the unholy hour of 4:10 am. Yuck. Shower, dress, breakfast, look outside at the puddles and uh oh. Rain was one thing, puddles another. We left the hotel, realized it was really raining out, drove to the start and were directed to one of the beach parking areas. The volunteers were already out in force at 5:15 am. We parked, pulled on our ponchos and followed the glow sticks to the start. The normal blackness of night was compounded by the rain and mist. Luckily we both had lights for our caps and avoided mud and puddles.

The start had bathrooms (real ones!) and I think somewhere in the back of the area there was some coffee or food or something; we weren't concerned with that. There were a good number of people getting ready for the early start, maybe 50 to 75 ish? Everyone wandered around, in that slightly dazed "I'm about to run a marathon" state. Or maybe that's just me.

My three goals for this race were very simple: (1) finish before the 6 hour cut-off so that I'd be an official finisher; (2) not to be the last person to finish; (3) stay in good condition for the next two full marathons and two halves in the next two months.

There was a chip mat across the street, but I didn't see any other start line. We early starters all lined up, very few people wanting to be in the front. I headed toward the back, waved bye to Sandy and waited for the start.

Aaaand, we're off! I was surprised that so few people had their own lights. It was dark! The sun wasn't due to rise for almost an hour. It was even darker in the rain. I made it an entire four and a half minutes before I stepped right in a puddle, wetting my toes. Oh good, this is going well already.

The miles were all marked with little signs along the route but I didn't see the first two. I had no idea of my pace but it felt like I was going about 12:15. That was my plan, actually, to do 12:15-12:35 for the first several miles, as long as it felt easy. But it wasn't feeling easy. It already felt like I was pushing it. It turned out those first miles averaged 12:42 at an effort that should have been producing 12:15s. It continued that way for the next 4 miles; a much slower result than my effort indicated. Then I got really slow.

In the first couple of miles, in the dark, I chatted with a couple of people here and there. After than I didn't have the energy for conversation. I pretty much put my head down and plodded on. Through the rain and the puddles.

There were water and electrolyte stations almost every mile, with some of the greatest volunteers manning (and womaning) them. Even in the rain, even six hours later, they were still cheerful and loud and helpful. There was gel twice on the route, somewhere around miles 7 and 20. Or thereabouts. Every station had water first, then Gu2O or whatever it was. I had my own Ultimas as usual, along with a gazillion Gu's.

I don't think I drank enough in the first hour or two. I was wet and I didn't feel thirsty. I forgot that I was sweating copiously even though it felt like all the moisture was from the outside. Maybe I got a little dehydrated, but I drank enough during the next several hours to make up for it. Um, hah?

I wasn't having fun. In the first hour I amused myself trying to figure out what time it would be, and where I'd be, when the front runners passed me. I was pretty accurate but now I forget. I think it was about 1:40ish when then came flying by. Remarkably fast. That started the train of people who passed me, almost every single person who started at the regular time.

When I passed the start line and realized I had another 13 miles to go I was sorely tempted to just quit and take the half medal. I didn't, but it was really an effort. I was so discouraged at this point that I slowed down to 14's. Still running, but walking too. I stopped trying to avoid the puddles since I was already squishing with every step, my shoes and socks completely waterlogged. The only reason I tried to run around them was because of the added drag of the water on my tired, sore legs.

I'm able to block most pain out of my mind while I run. Probably why I keep doing these things. I could tell there was a lot of pain, knew I was blistering, knew I had chafing, knew I'd have trouble. I was so terribly not having a good day. I was running to the next orange cone, trying to talk my legs into fast turnover until the next cone, then the next. I considered cutting through one of the short cuts and just quitting. It was miserable out and I was unhappy.

Only the thought of having to one day return to Pennsylvania, in case I ever decided to run 50 states, kept me running. And it made me run the last five miles much faster than I would have otherwise. I don't do mileage math too well, even early in the race, and I figured if I hustled (that's relative, y'know) I could hit 26 miles in six hours. But that was crapped up because I couldn't figure out the .2 in my time line. Another two minutes, another 4 minutes? One? Six? Damn, I was hopeless.

So I kept running as much and as fast as I could, dripping, squishing, wheezing, redoing the math over and over. My walk breaks were power walking, going as fast as I could. I actually ran mile 25 faster than I'd run any other in the second half and mile 26 was even faster. I knew I could make my time if I really pushed. There were actually still people lining the finish line and cheering at that late time (although a few others were cutting across the course as if they didn't know or care that the race was still going on). I saw the clock at the finish line and mustered up a sprint when I saw I had less than a minute aaaaaand...

I made it. By a hair, but I made it. According to my watch it was 5:59:28. Half a minute within the cutoff. Aching and miserable and dripping and nauseous and unable to catch my breath and cramping and feeling the blisters on my toes burst, I was done.

A very nice guy cut off my chip, another handed me my medal, I had my picture taken. I grabbed a bottle of water and hobbled over to find Sandy. I needed to walk around a bit, try to walk off the cramping and dizziness. After a while of that I decided to just grab some food and leave. They had tons of Subway sandwiches, even after six hours. Cookies, chips, cake, coffee, water, lots of food for the taking. But no bags, so I got a little sandwich, a cookie and chips and we headed toward the car. I had a styrofoam plate and carried it over the food, trying to keep the food dry from the rain. Yeah, good luck with that.

We chatted as we walked, thrilled that at least there hadn't been a thunderstorm or lightning. I kinda like thunderstorms, and just yelled out "bring it on!" and whoops. It had rained all day, lighter at some times, heavier at others. But all of a sudden the faucet opened to full. It just started pouring. Buckets and buckets on our tired heads and feet. It was funny, almost like Mother Nature had just been waiting for some dumbass to say that. We finally got to the parking area and realized a lot of it was under water. Some cars were up to their wheelwells in water. Luckily our rental wasn't one of those.

Unfortunately I still couldn't get in the car. I decided to sit in the back, so I wouldn't soak the front seat, but I couldn't bend my legs. My calf completely seized up. I jumped back out of the car, putting weight on my leg. It took forever before I could actually sit down and then when we got back to our motel I could barely get out. I'd never had such cramping after a race and when added to my toe misery I was very unhappy.

So. An incredibly well managed race, fabulous volunteers, all essentials taken care of, good shirt, good medal, timing mistakes corrected quickly, a pretty, almost entirely flat course. It's a shame the weather sucked big time, canceling out much of that. Not their fault though, and I'd recommend this race.

I made two out of three of my goals; I didn't end up unscathed. I don't know how quickly my bloody, blistered toes will heal. They're pretty sore and will probably take some time. I have a feeling I'll be blistered through the end of the year. I still have a big knot in one calf and my legs hurt enough that I'm hardly feeling the pain in my hip and shoulder. Oh whine.

And my shoes are still wet.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Until I have time for more

Even though the website says different, I finished under 6 hours (barely). I also wasn't the last person to finish. Since those were 2 of my 3 goals I was happy. The last goal was remain in great shape for the next 4 races I have in the coming 2 months. Not so much on that one; the rain and deep puddles caused some magnificent bloody blisters and I'll probably lose 2 toenails.

Remind me never to say "BRING IT ON" to mother nature again!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Here comes the (dark orange) sun

To some this might look like a beautiful sunrise, looking east from San Francisco.
To others this might look like a fabulous sunset. To me it looks like air full of shmuts reflecting the last fading rays of the sun. It looks like the reason we canceled our run last night. Yeah, my last run before the race, canceled. Bummer. But there was no way I was running and breathing in that air. I'd rather keep my lungs pristine (hah!) and take (yet another) night off. The Bay Area is surrounded by fires and the prevailing winds are sending the smoke into the atmosphere. The sky looks like scenes of '80's B-horror movies set right after nuclear destruction. Or after strange comets have turned everyone to dust or flesh-eating zombies.
Hey wait, we just went through the tail of a comet, didn't we?? Hmmmm.

I did a bunch of knitting last night, on the Cider Moon scarf. I still love it, still enjoy knitting it. I'd take it with me on the trip but it's gotten bulkier than I like for travel knitting. I'll take the One Ball Lace Scarf instead. I'm knitting it out of Rowan Kidsilk Night, 67% super kid mohair, 18% silk, 10% polyester, 5% nylon in shade 609. Darn, it's hard to take a picture of this stuff and show the pattern! The color is closer to the picture on the left. I'm going to have to do some strong blocking when I finish it or it'll just look like a jumble of holes. It'll be fun knitting away on this on my 4-1/2 hour flights!

See you next week!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Grumpy Wednesday (that feels like Tuesday)

The Monday holiday this week really screwed with my internal calendar. Yesterday at work I just could not convince myself it wasn't Monday. Last night I kept waiting for it to be time for my Monday night run. It wasn't until just before I went to bed that I realized I had to pack stuff for tonight's run because yes, it wasn't Monday. Then last night I got absolutely positively no sleep and voila! I'm not feeling the hump day love today.

I spent some time last night getting racing stuff set out for pre-packing. I can't actually pack it yet because then tomorrow night when I pack everything else I'd have to unpack to make sure I had packed it. Sigh. I don't think of it as being obsessive-compulsive, just over-cautious. I know I'm not going to the middle of nowhere but I hate having to shop for something I forgot.

The forecast isn't looking wonderful for the race. Currently there's a 40% chance of thunderstorms. I wonder what they do, pull everyone off the course? Let them get struck by lightning? Wait 'til it passes? Running in the rain isn't the most pleasant thing, mostly because your feet get so wet, but plain rain when it's hot and humid can have a cooling effect. I've only run once in a t-storm and although it was exhilarating, it was scary too. Fingers crossed, hmm?

Last night I picked up an old knitting project, my "easy" one-ball lace scarf. This is a project I started way long ago, taking a class for it at Article Pract (hey, they're offering it again, this month!). I learned a lot from it, like k2tog and yo and ssk, but I think it was a bit advanced for me, too much purling with teeny yarn and big ol' needles, and I put it aside. Or maybe it was just too much work following the pattern and I went on to easier things - hats, hats, scarves and hats. I had forgotten how much I like the yarn, a sparkly red lace-weight mohair. I was knitting it on long straight size 10-1/2 needles (I know!) so that tells me how long ago it was. Last night I pulled it out, knit it onto Options circular needles instead, and knit one section (it's an 8 row repeat). Much easier than I remember. Easy enough that I'm taking it on the trip with me, since it takes up hardly any room at all. A little more complicated than I like for a travel project but I'd love to finish it.

The Gratuitous Bear of the Day is yet another twofer. I found the big bear on sale at a women's clothing store, not the usual item that they carried. He was such a pretty, brilliant red that I couldn't resist. In fact I ended up buying another one for my mom but she decided he was pink. The little bear I found at an airport store while I was wandering around waiting for a flight. He was a mini version of the big bear so I couldn't resist. Red Bear and Little Red sit together now. I think I need a Tiny Red to complete the set!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Running as a sign of the beast

I always log my miles, or at least the closest I can come to my actual miles. I like to look back and compare my runs to last week, last month, last year, many years ago. I know, major geek. That's one reason I went and got a Garmin, to be more exact in mileage. But I still use my paper log and round off my mileage to the nearest tenth.

After Saturday's run I added up my weekly mileage and then added it to my yearly mileage total. Look at that, this year I've run 666 miles. Niiiiice. A sure sign of the apocalypse. Or a sign that I need to run a lot more than I've been running. I'll never get over 1000 by the end of the year at this rate!

Saturday morning I planned to run about 6 miles, maybe a little more depending on how my legs felt and how hot it was. Taper, baby! I met up with the gang at the Lafayette-Moraga Trail; they were all running additional miles so they started early. Bree was doing a long run so she and Sandy had already run 6 miles by the time I got there; Olivia had run a whole bunch; Pam was running in from the Moraga end of the trail; Mary Ann had done a mile. I felt good when I started and we were going slowly, doing 4:1 for Bree.

Mary Ann turned around at 1.5 miles, carefully building back her mileage. The rest of us passed the 3 mile mark and I decided I'd go to the 4 mile mark and then turn around. Olivia turned back at 3 miles and Sandy went with her. Olivia had locked her keys in her trunk and Sandy turned back to call AAA; Sandy's 12 miles were more than she had originally planned. Pam, Bree and I continued on with Pam surging ahead and looping back for us.

Because I was feeling ok and we were going very slowly I decided I'd stay with Bree and go to the 5 mile mark with her. What a git, hmm? We got to the marker and Pam continued on while we headed back in the other direction. We briefly considered going with her and asking for a ride back to our cars but decided that would be wrong. We did a lot of walking on the way back; a combination of the miles and the heat were getting to us. We finally made it back to the beginning and yeah, I was sorry I had gone 4 miles more than planned. I'd be icing for sure when I got home.

My left leg is feeling -- not really sore, or pained, just wrong. I'm pretty sure that my diagnosis of crappy sandals is the correct one, instead of a problem with my running shoes. I've been icing my heel and sometimes my shin, and using the Foot Wheel on my foot and the Stick on my leg. That definitely has improved things and probably anti-inflammatories would work too but I forget to take them.

In the spirit of taking it easy we ran our regular Monday run on Monday morning. I knew we'd do a slightly longer than usual run, especially since Sandy was joining us, but I hadn't planned to run the hill route. Pam did though, and I wasn't about to wuss out and cry about it. We ran just short of 5 miles and I impressed the heck out of myself by running the entire hill. After I had told them I was walking and I'd meet them at the top. It was a good run even though we were all tired and hot and sweaty afterward. I'm glad we got it out of the way early.

The rest of my long holiday weekend was great. I finally went through and finished all of my filing and account reconciliations that had been sitting around and getting bigger for, oh, 5 or 6 months. So much for keeping up with it as I promised myself I'd do. I got lots of rest, read a lot and visited my friend who had his knee replaced. I went book shopping and really, I shouldn't be allowed in a bookstore. I'll only buy what I can carry in my arms but man, I can carry a lot. I had gone in specifically to try and find the next book in the series I'm reading but I couldn't resist browsing.

In addition to the running and all the other wonderful productive things I did this weekend I finished the Temescal Bag. Finished as in completely done knitting and felting. The only thing left is drying which should be quick in this heat. To reprise: I used double strands of Valley Yarns Northampton in black, red, light grey and dark grey (two skeins of this) with KnitPicks Options needles in 13. I completely ran out of the black and and red (thus the light grey in the second strap) and had very little left of the other colors. I did one extra increase on the base so it's a little larger than the first bag. I figure that's also why I ran out of the colors. I used the random stripe generator but had to adjust it toward the top because I ran out of black. The colors are off in the pictures, they blend together much better than it seems and in some lights the black and dark gray look alike.
Unfelted the bottom was 12"x12" with the bag 19.5" wide and 17.5" high. After running through the washer twice the bottom felted to 8.5"x9" with the bag 14.5" wide and 11.5" high. The straps went from 15.75" (doubled) to 13.75", much less shrinkage than I expected. I think that it may shrink just a bit more when it finishes drying. I'm hoping it gets lighter weight, it's pretty heavy now. For each cycle in the washer I used one of those color catcher sheets and it's a good thing since they were dark red after each cycle. The light grey probably would have ended up with some pink otherwise.

I'm very happy with the bag and it'll become my new knitting bag. I still need to trim the ends on the inside but I'll do that when it dries. Now I have to decide on my next project, something easy to carry on the plane to Erie this weekend.