Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My achin' back!

My back has been sore for three days now. It is my lower back, and I am not completely sure what is causing it.

Hubby and I went for a bike ride on Sunday. It was a hot day, but I really wanted to try out my new bike. I was nervous about working with the clipless pedals (shoes that clip right in to the bike pedals), but I soon got the hang of it. I actually have a bigger problem getting my feet in the pedals than out. I am pleased to report that never fell over on my bike (at least not yet). I rode around the parking lot for a bit, then we headed out to the road for a short ride. Soon, we were back at the car, and it just didn't seem like we had gone far enough. So, out we went again.

We rode along the American Tobacco Trail until it ended. We ran into fellow biker who told us he had been harassed by two teens further down the trail. He said that they had tried to knock him off his bike. We rode with him for a while until he got a call from the police stating that the perps had been found and returned home (one boy was receiving a beating from his mama in the front yard). I was starting the get very tired at this point, and it was well after lunch. My back was aching and my hands hurt from holding the handles. I was afraid I would not be able to make it back to the truck.

Luckily, we ran into friends on the trail, and I perked up a bit. We did make it back to the truck after about an hour and a half of riding (courtesy of my new bike computer that track time actually moving on the bike).

I know one needs good core strength for bike riding (which I don't have). I also know that the position of the bike is different than what I am used to being in, but should my back still hurt because of the ride?

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Toy #2

After the Triangle Triathlon, I really wanted a road bike. While I love my sport hybrid, it is just not the bike you want to use for racing. So, last weekend, I got a new bike.

We went to several stores and I rode several bikes. This one, however, just felt right. This bike literally makes me smile when I ride it. Well, you can't just buy a bike nowadays. With a road bike, you need bike shoes to clip into the clipless pedals. You need cages to hold your water bottles and a computer to monitor how fast you are riding. There is also the necessary biking wardrobe - gel bike shorts to make the seat more comfortable and bike jerseys that are tight at the bottom to keep from causing wind drag. It cost a pretty penny, but I think it will be so worth it.

This weekend is the hard part. I will be practicing the clipless pedals for the first time outside of a trainer (a device that keeps you steady an upright). I am afraid that I will fall over. Most people do forget that their feet are attached to the bicycle for their first ride. I know I will get used to it and it will become second nature. Then, I can do what I really want to do - ride my beautiful new bike for miles and miles.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Toy #1

About two weeks ago, my wonderful hubby surprised me. He purchased a gift for me that was from my wonderful girls, Misty and Lily. He said they wanted to get me something nice to remember their first anniversary with us (yes, it has been one year since we adopted Misty and Lily from the SPCA). Inside the box, much to my surprise, was an ITouch.

At first, I was not sure what to think. The ITouch has the same features as the IPhone, yet it is not a phone. It is also not a camera. It does, however, have access to the Internet as long as there is a Wifi signal. So, you can access your e-mails while in a Hot spot, but not where there is no network present. I wasn't really sure how I would use it, but I have grown to love it.

It does have a calendar and all of my contact information in it. I can also load on photos of my loved ones, and well as all of my MP3 music files. It has 16GB of memory, so when I am travelling next month, I can but a movie on the unit and watch it whenever I want. It is small and incredibly compact, but has all of these features. Plus, you have the App Store at Apple where you can download games, podcasts, websites, and much more for free or for a nominal charge.

I have also found it the past two weeks that there are more and more places with WiFi. I have been able to get online at my car dealership and at various restaurants. It is also great to have at home if you need to check your e-mail quickly, but don't want to boot up the computer.

I have to say hubby and the girls did a wonderful job with this gift. I love my ITouch.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Third Tri is a Charm

This past Sunday, I participated in my third and most challenging triathlon. It was the Triangle Triathlon, a race Bill participated in last year. The location of the race had moved this year from a murky brown lake filled with possible toxins to a lake that is used to cool the nuclear power plant. Most people said it was a wonderful change. I am just happy to be alive and not glowing.

Our day began at 4:15am (yes, we were wondering if there were ever any evening triathlons we could do), and we were on our way to the race site by 4:45 am. We arrived in plenty of time which was a definite advantage due to the lack of parking at the park. We were able to set up our gear (and fix it as we both had racked our bikes incorrectly) and get body marked with ease. There was also a little bit of time for meditation, which I really needed before the race.

I had signed up for this race on a spur of the moment whim. After the process was complete, I began to freak out about what I had done. This race was far longer than anything I had done, and the swim section was in a lake, not a pool. There was also a time limit of 2 hours and 30 minutes that really scared me. I have never been removed from a race because of a time limit, and I certainly did not want it to happen in this race.

As we got ready to head down to the beach, we found some friends of friends who had also signed up for the race. It was so nice to have someone to talk to as we waited for the wave start to begin. The husband of our friends, M, started first. Soon, Bill was off in the water. As the waves continued every four minutes, it was soon time for A and I to head to the lake. It was so nice to have her there and in the same wave. I didn't have time to think about how nervous I was or worry about anything. We were knee deep in water, watching the group before us head to the first buoy before I knew it. Then, the horn sounded and it was our turn.

Since the other tris I have done have been pool swims, it was a whole different thing to do an open water swim. First, your whole age group starts at once. Second, the water is dark and murky. Third, you have to watch where you are going so you don't miss a marker and get off course. There are arms and legs all over the place. It is hard to tell where you are until you are right at someone's legs. The swim was also 750 meters, 500 more meters than my longest race. I have to say, though, that I was proud of my swim. Sure, it was slow going, but I never stopped or had to grab a rescue boat. I felt comfortable in the water. I think if I practice the spotting, I could do quite well. I did get run over by some of the men who started behind me, but I still was not the last in my group to reach the shore. I finished the swim in 22:56.

I was on the shore and started the long run to the transition area. My transition time was very high, 4:33, but there was a long run from the lake up to the transition area, then to the end to enter. I hate being barefoot, but I managed to run up the grass without an incident. I was off on my bike.

Biking is not my strongest discipline. I ride a sport hybrid bike. It is a nice bike for cruising, but not really meant for racing. If I had a road bike, I am sure my time would improve just from the change of gear. After this race, I am very interested in getting a road bike and working on my cycling. I must have been passed by 100 cyclists on the course. The course itself was not too bad. There was one dramatic hill (I am not the best hill climber), but the rest was relatively flat. I gave up 7 spaces during the bike ride, and it was tough watching all those folks pass me by. Still, I kept moving, and finished the 17.5 mile course in 1:16:40.

My second transition was much better as I didn't have to change shoes. It would have been great if I could have gotten my bike racked properly, but it still only took 2:01. I was off on the run, seeing my friend A heading toward the finish on my way out.

The run was different. It was a 5K course (3.1 miles), but most of the running was on a trail. I had never done a trail run before, so it was a different feel being on a dirt path than asphalt. It was also starting to get hot. The beginning of the run was in a shaded area, but it soon gave way to high grass and no covering. I kept moving forward as best I could, stopping to dump water on my head and drink as I could. I did have to walk (really must start doing brick workouts!), but I kept moving. I really was beginning to think it was the longest 5K of my life when I finally got to the turn around point. I was tired and really staring to question why I do these races. I headed back to the fork, and a race volunteer told me I was near the asphalt. As soon as I hit road, I felt much better. I was in the parking lot, and could hear the finish. I ran as best I could up to the finish line, and knew I wasn't the last to cross. I finished the run in 40:46, not stellar, but not too far off my PR of 38:00.

My goal was to complete this race in the 2 hour, 30 minute limit. I finished in 2:26:54. Not bad for my longest triathlon. I know I can do better. Not that it is over, I am looking forward to my next event (a shorter tri in August), and even considering an Olympic distance event for next year.

Check out the local paper's story about the event. Take a look at the photo gallery as well. Photo #28 shows my husband running toward his bike during T1. He is the blond in the black suit on the left.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Latest Obsession

I have a tendency to become obsessed. I became obsessed with Gossip Girl (but have since stopped watching it) and the Twilight Book series (I finished that obsession, and now have the movies to obsess over). Now, my latest obsession is the HBO series True Blood.

I had heard about the series in passing or in an entertainment magazine, so I decided to put the show on my queue at Netflix. Well, now I am hooked. We watched all of the episodes in Season 1 just as the second season began on HBO. Of course, we do not get HBO at our house. It has been tough for me because I have already heard from friends that this season is really good. I have seen things in People magazine about the stars on the show, and it just makes me want to see the new shows even more.

The show is based on the novels by Charlaine Harris about a telepathic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse who lives in the town of Bon Temps, LA. Her boyfriend, Bill, is a vampire. The town is full of other colorful characters as well, some with unique abilities. I have always loved any story with magic or paranormal things in it. The fact that it is also a love story with a twist is just a huge bonus. I also love the chemistry of the two stars of the show, Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer. When I found out that the two are also a couple in real life, I just went over the top of obsession mode.

I have been pricing out cable TV to see if I could somehow make it work to get HBO. Of course, my dear friend, Melissa, said that we could have a True Blood marathon when I go visit her next month so I can catch all of the new shows. I just don't know how long I can wait.

I guess I can always read the books. I have also added a few other TV series to our queue. Will Big Love, Mad Men, Rescue Me, or Entourage take the edge off the obsession? I don't know. I do know that if you haven't seen True Blood yet, check it out. It may be your obsession, too.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Laundry room Re-do

This weekend, Bill and I renovated the laundry room. Bill took down the wood cabinet and repainted the room. We then picked out wire shelving from Lowe's and installed it in place of the cabinets. We also installed shelves on the side of the room and hooks to hold our grocery bags.

I was a little nervous about this project. I was unsure how the wire shelves would look since there would not be any doors to hide things. I love how it looks now. It seems much cleaner, organized, and brighter. It is a happier place to do laundry.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Vacation in A-ville

After the triathlon last Sunday, Bill and I headed west to Asheville, NC. I had always wanted to stay at the Grove Park Inn, and we had seen a special in our local paper. We got a package deal for 2 nights stay which included various discounts throughout the resort. So, away we went.

We arrived around 5pm Sunday evening. We were supposed to have a double bed room with a property view, but my wonderful husband asked if there were any King rooms available. We were quickly upgraded to a king room in the newest wing of the resort, the Sammons Wing. We were on the 8th floor, so we had a spectacular view of the mountains and downtown. I immediately feel in love with the Craftsman style of our room and its wonderful amenities. We headed to the bar in the lobby (or Great Hall as it is called) for a few beers. We took our over priced brews out to one of the terraces to enjoy the stunning view. Soon, it was time for dinner, but we didn't have far to go. We were eating at the resort that night at The Sunset Terrace. We had a tasty dinner and got to enjoy the view some more before heading back to the room to call it a night. Remember, we had been up at 4:30am for the tri.

We woke Monday morning and enjoyed breakfast at the Blue Ridge room. After breakfast, I headed to the spa for what turned out to be the best spa experience I have ever had. The spa at the GPI is pretty amazing. It was built in the center of the grounds, partially under the ground. I received a tour of the spa which includes several different pools with different therapeutic uses. The main pool area is built to look like you are swimming in an underground cavern with rocks covering all the walls. I didn't have much time before my appointment, so I decided to try the contrast pool. You sit in a 103 degree hot tub for about 10 minutes, then immediately plunge into a 64 degree pool about 3 feet in diameter. It is supposed to improve circulation. It certainly got me moving quickly. After the plunge, I sat in the inhalation room with a cool peppermint towel on my face. Soon, it was time to head back to the fireside lounge for my massage. My therapist let me pick the scent of my massage lotion as well as the music we listened to during the massage. There were small extra touches along the way such as scented paper on the head rest and an eye bag for my face. It was a wonderful experience. Later in the day, Bill and I went back to the spa to enjoy the pools. We listened to the under water music in the lap pool, sat under the therapeutic waterfalls in the hot tub, and sat outside in the whirlpool while staring out at the mountains. Talk about peaceful!! We were able to go right to dinner after the spa since the water has no chlorine in it - it is all enriched with minerals to make your skin and hair silky smooth.

Before we hit the spa, we did take a tour of the historic park of the inn. The original building will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013. We rode the main elevator that is built in to the side of the fireplace, and viewed the palm court lounge area. We also looked at the photos of the building of the inn - a remarkable feat that was done with one steam shovel and took only 1 year.

While in Asheville, we checked out some local beer houses, and found a great place called The Thirsty Monk. The Monk has 2 sections - an upstairs featuring brews from USA, and a downstairs featuring brews from Europe. We each enjoyed two tasty Belgiums in the downstairs bar and had dinner as well. I would recommend the Monk, and hope I get a chance to return. We headed back to the inn, and slept wonderfully with the open windows letting in the mountain air.

Sadly, Tuesday was our last day of vacation. We did start with a bang. We ate breakfast in downtown at Tupelo Honey, which we agreed was the best breakfast either of us ever had. With a quick stop in neighboring Black Mountain, our vacation was over. It sure was a great one, though. I hope we will have a chance to go back and stay at The Grove Park Inn again. I bet is is beautiful at Christmastime...