Friday, February 27, 2015

On Losing and Losses

Something good happened on Monday. My MMNW came in at 174.8 lbs and 17.5% bodyfat. That's down nicely from last Mondays 175.4 and 19.3%. This means I didn't totally post-DNF eat my way into oblivion. This is also the first official MMNW under my typical plateau weight of 175. With all of the snow and the taper for the race on Saturday, the workouts were pretty slight last week. 4 snow days, the kids were only in school on Monday, it gets hectic, snowed in, and stir crazy.

So naturally, this week, the kids went to school on Monday. Then we got lots of snow and they have been home for the rest of the week. I'm again having really light workouts, going stir crazy. The weight has continued to drop, thursday was a low point at 171.8 lbs. I feel great, light and healthy.

Also something bad happened on Monday. Late last week we got word that Kelley's dad's oldest sister had passed away. He's got a huge family as the youngest of 8 kids. This sister was 21 when he was born, she was really a mother figure for him. Kelley and I are still very close with that entire side of the family, so while this was not really a surprise (she was 90), it is a very sad loss. This Monday the funeral was held in Biscoe NC. I'm getting very tired of putting on that black suit.

This makes three major losses for us recently; on different sides of the family. First it was Kelley's stepdad just before thanksgiving, our first parent to pass away. Then my grandmother passed away about two weeks ago, our last grandparent to pass away. Now out of 8 kids, Mickey and one sister are the only two that are left. They say these things come in threes, and I really hope this is the end of it. I really hadn't planned to miss any more work thanks to the other bereavement leaves, but Mickey asked me to sing at the funeral and I'm not going to pass up that chance. We ended up getting to see some people that couldn't make it to the big family Christmas last year so that was nice too.

Also on Monday night, Evil Genius and I had an Indian Princess meeting at BounceU, an inflatable fun house. We had a blast playing around on all of the fun games! And that's a better picture to end with than funeral news.

Those boxing gloves were huge!

The other thing that I've had plenty of time to do with all of this snow is register for races. Most of them were open - there was actually 1 marathon that was already sold out and 1 ultra that doesn't open registration until March 1st, but I went ahead and signed up for the rest of my year. I'm going back to Maryland to run the Potomac River Marathon in November. I'm also going back into the water. My swim season now has the Jordan Lake Open Water Challenge 2.4 mile race, and the Big Deuce 2 mile open water race for the 4th time. Every year on that one I say I'm going to drop back to the 1 mile race but still keep signing up for the 2. Those are both leading to the big dog, the 12 mile Swim Around Charleston! This is a bucket list kind of marathon swim that has a 6 hour cutoff. I am incredibly excited to step up to such a stiff challenge. My brother Michael is going to kayak for me, it's going to be amazing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snowy Wednesday

The Peachoid is getting painted! looks like it's wearing a hat

Ella drew up the sweetest valentine ever made. Melts my heart.

Snowy front yard!

Evil Genius needs hot chocolate with sprinkles after playing in snow like that.

They even got to sled in the front yard

Notice how the ice ends exactly where my car sits in the driveway

Front yard got it too

These never get old. and when it snows like that, really come in handy.
After missing 4 days of school last week, they went back in on Monday and then have been out again 2 days this week! crazy. We're all having so much fun playing around in our winter playland.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My heart was frozen

Turns out, everyone is human. My first attempt to knock Maryland off of my 50 state list resulted in a DNF, my first time pulling out of a race voluntarily. Turns out, the Frozen Heart 50k was an amazing event where everything conspired against me.

Southern Maryland is incredibly beautiful. Seriously, it looks like a freaking postcard. I left work at noon on Friday and drove up, temps were in the teens and there was solid snow everywhere above the VA state line. I got to cross the Potomac River on the Price Bridge, so I didn't have to go all the way into DC. That makes the drive only about 4 hours northeast of Raleigh. The bridge had some traffic stalled for about 10 minutes, so that let me see something amazing!

The Potomac River

My bucket list has a bullet point to see a bald eagle flying in the wild. Well, sure enough, one flew up from the left side of the bridge, then over the bridge, and down to the water on the right. This bird was huge! It picked up a huge fish out of the water next, then started flying towards my car. The talons went in, and then you barely saw a ripple in the water before this thing pulled out a 2 foot fish. The river was about half frozen over, so the eagle set the fish down on the ice, then pinned it down with its claws and started eating. That was freaking incredible. I got a couple of pics of the dinner from my phone that had to be cropped down to show the bird.

The beak is dipped down into the dinner
Then after about 10 minutes of watching that, I knew my trip was made. No matter what else happened it was already memorable.

Welcome to Maryland!
I had never been to this part of Maryland before, it is very rural. I saw "share the road with tractors" signs, and a horse and buggy. With all of that snow on the ground, it looked like postcards I've seen from New England or something. Absolutely beautiful.

Lots of farmland

So pristine!
After I got checked into the hotel I hit up a nearby Target for some last minute supplies. They just pile up the snow into 12' high mountains in there! I was fascinated. I made the trip by myself, but Ella would have freaked out seeing that bald eagle and these mountains of snow. I'm so looking forward to her being old enough to take these trips with me (she has to be able to stay by herself while I'm running or run with me so it's going to be a few more years) but I was really missing my girl the whole time.

May be annoying if you're used to it, but I think that's really cool.
Race day came with the same optimism. I made it out to the state park with no trouble on the roads. The course goes through the parking lot, so the car became the default drop bag. I got my packet and layered up!

My aide station

Finish line aide station

The lake we were running around

Ready to run! Let's get this party started so I can finally get warm.

The view coming down into the finish line

Got my game face on. Ready to rock.
It was 18* at the start, which makes this the coldest race I've ever done. To prep for that, I had my trail shoes, 2 pairs of socks, and gaitors to keep the snow from falling into my shoes. 2 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, arm warmers, 2 pairs of gloves, and 2 head wraps. Some of it was thermal stuff designed for warmth. And I did, actually, end up staying warm the whole time.

We hit the starting line and took off. First into some single track, then it came around into a field and across a dam. The entire forest floor was covered in a foot of snow.



The frozen lake we ran around

Single track trail. Plenty of elevation change in there.

I was glad there was no active rain or snow falling. First trail race in months without active rain. But that snow caused a little condition called sliding. Every. single. footstrike. was hit and slide. It was literally 2 steps forward, slide 1 foot back. I fell a bunch of times. To call it tough running wouldn't do it justice.  This trail was brutal.

That's single track alright.

Still happy? must have been early.

Keep the lake on my left.
In the pre-race instructions they neglected to tell us what the course markings were. There wasn't anything obvious like arrow signs with the race logo on it either. Eventually I saw orange flags, yellow flags, and white blazes on the trees. So naturally I missed a turn. They said there was an aide station somewhere in mile 4, so when the Garmin said mile 6 I figured I had missed something.

Also, and this is more common in small races like this, I couldn't see anyone running in front of me or behind me. yet I was not alone. Suddenly as I'm running along I hear the distinct howl of a wolf. There is no mistaking that sound, I promise. It was definitely in the distance so I don't think it was howling at me, but I was certainly lost alone in the woods in the foreign land of southern maryland. And we call that motivation.

Postholing to show how deep the snow was.

Tight single track through a really cool cluster of trees

That white ring around my face is frozen sweat. I'm done.
The course was 3 loops of 10.5 miles each. I kept the lake on my left and eventually circled back around to the parking lot. When I hit the line my Garmin said 8 miles in 1:50 so there was no need to even go back out for the other 2 laps. I normally run 8 miles in closer to 1 hour than 2, so that shows you how difficult the course was.

I talked to the race director at the finish line, apparently lots of people missed that turn. In fact, out of about 135 starters, they only had 29 finishers for the 50k. Another 20 people went out for the second loop before bailing.

Sad face for the DNF

Back in the car for the final stats
I hopped back in the car and drove back to Raleigh, leaving before 10 am. Around 10 am, it started snowing again there and continued for some time. So it's a good thing I left when I did. Trail conditions could have hidden dangers, it really wasn't safe to run on a course like that. And it wouldn't have been safe to drive the 4 hours back to Raleigh in the middle of a snowstorm. So I'm glad I bailed when I did. I'm glad I went up there for the event. This just wasn't my day to get that state checked off of my list. I will try again later on this year. I guess that's what happens when I try to run a trail race without a beard! ha!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wordly Wednesday

I posted a bunch of pictures of my grandmother that she kept, and this Not Wordless Wednesday is special because I'm going to post some of the other pictures she kept with her that didn't make it into that post.

Me, circa 1991? almost blonde hair in high school.

Cousin Ben, me, Uncle Butch catching crabs at Tybee Island maybe 1985? maybe 83. we were young.

The time when Mom and I had the same haircut! this was in college, 1995, Easter

Brother Michael and I laughing. I was starting to get big then, but I still wear that shirt today. 2000? This was at my grandparents farm.

When our Evil Genius was born. 4 generations in there. And I've got about 4 chins.

woah, fat pic alert. Christmas 2006

Monday, February 16, 2015

MMNW on point!

Last week, in general, I had a hard time getting my stuff together. Too much to do, high stress work time, not enough hours in the day to get everything done. My standard MO in those kinds of situations is to do the highest priority stuff first and whatever doesn't get done is water under the bridge. After my grandmother's funeral, it took me forever to get the pictures organized and keep up with all of the training and other stuff going on.

The Monday Morning Naked Weight (MMNW) for 2/9 finally showed some nice progress! I didn't totally blow it over the funeral weekend. 175.2 lbs and 19.1% bodyfat. Finally down to typical plateau level. I think my scale is calculating the bodyfat % more erratically because I haven't figured out how to adjust the age that it figures into the calculation. This week I felt very slim.  I got in 3 runs for 29 miles, and 2 swims for 5300 yards. Eating was pretty well on point, and we had 1 night in Greenville in there too.

This turned out to be a great setup for the week that followed. I hit a low point (since 2011 I think) of 173.6 lbs on Wednesday morning. My workouts and eating were totally on point through the week! I did meet an old college friend for lunch at an Indian buffet on Thursday but that was the only hard part. Today's MMNW was 175.4 lbs and 19.3% bodyfat. So 2 weeks right around plateau level.

Normally this is where I stop the weight loss phase and ramp up the training. This year I'm really trying to maximize my weight to power ratio so I want to bust through this plateau and see if I can get past the "skinny fat" phase and just get to thin. So let's keep on this track for a few more weeks and see what happens.

One thing that happened. My grandmother hung onto a few pictures from when I was heavy. I stitched them into this:

I lost more than the glasses
I snapped that pic on Wednesday before swim practice outside of the pool.  I got in 3 runs for 29 miles after taking Saturday as a full rest day and getting in an 11 mile long run on Sunday. Also got in 3 swims for 10,500 yards including a 4000 yard swim on Friday! RAM practice included a 1000 y warmup and a 2600 yard main set. It was totally insane. I never get in that much yardage for a noon practice! It was so amazing.

I'm tapering this week, got the Frozen Heart 50k coming up in Maryland on Saturday! That's the other reason not to ramp up training and end the weight loss phase. I'm going to have the insane post-50k eating festival and recovery week. Also this week Raleigh is getting snow, which means the entire state shuts down. So workouts are going to be sparse as they should be, and my eating has to be pretty strict. Typically I blow the nutrition plan during the taper, so keep your fingers crossed that I will a:) be able to get to maryland and race in a snowstorm and b:) arrive at the starting line rested, light, and strong.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Remembering Granny

Last Wednesday 2/4 I was in choir practice at church when I got 2 texts and a call about my grandmother. Turns out it was the "going downhill fast" call, and she passed about 2 am on Thursday 2/5/15. Grandmothers are very special, and losing one is never easy. We were always very close. 

Nora Barnhill was in an assisted living facility/nursing home for the last 11 years. My God-send of a mother was the primary caretaker for her the entire time; I don't see how she did it. That's a long time to care for an elderly parent. Granny was not easy to care for either. At first she did enjoy the facility, but the last 3 years especially were difficult for her in there as her constant pain levels increased and quality of life steadily decreased. Even this past December she was mentally and physically unable to do anything to celebrate her 90th birthday. Her passing brings almost as much relief as it does sadness.

She was my last grandparent. I feel blessed to have made it to almost 40 years old with grandparents, and hope that my children are that lucky.

My grandfather worked for Bell South, and after he retired they moved out to a 22 acre farm in rural SC. Some of my best childhood memories were out there, and I absolutely loved spending time on the farm. My grandfather used to take me fishing, and to Furman and Clemson football games, or just work the farm planting and harvesting the fields. Granny taught me how to cook before I moved into a dorm with a kitchen sophomore year of college. I still have recipes in her handwriting. He passed away about a month before Kelley and I got married in 1998.  I still miss him deeply.

You learn (or relearn) interesting things about someone after they pass away. I knew Granny's mother was a charter member of  a small church in Greenville SC. I knew Granny was a home economics teacher before she retired. But I didn't realize that she directed the wednesday night church supper for over 30 years. She also taught the kindergarten sunday school class for over 30 years. (if you're not familiar, Wednesday nights at a Southern Baptist Church include a 5 pm dinner social followed by an adult bible study and separate children's events. Our church regularly has about 100 people for that.) Saturday afternoon we had a graveside funeral for Granny. The church preacher (who was also a golfing partner with my grandfather) delivered the eulogy. And like most Southern Baptist Preachers, Spencer was quite the talker. I was surprised how much he talked about my grandfather at Granny's funeral, but they were the closest of friends. Spencer always said that my grandfather was his preacher.

They were married for 52 years. The closest I ever heard to them having an argument ended with him saying "why don't you kiss me so you'll hush talking". Amazing.

Since she sold the farm 11 years ago most of her material possessions were taken care of then. We got the rest of her stuff moved out of the nursing home Saturday morning. Mom had been going through some of it, and had set aside a few hundred pictures that she had kept with her in the nursing home. That really shows you what she thought was important; the moments that she chose to cherish. Every single one of my school pictures was in there, from 4 year old preschool through 12th grade. I couldn't believe how many pictures she kept of my eagle scout presentation. I scanned in a bunch of pictures, and think it's appropriate to end this post with some of the memories that were important to her.

Portrait of my grandparents
Almost all of the grandkids, this was taken before the last 2 were born, and they are both college age now.

Granny with an Evil Genius going after her necklace

She loved her great-grandkids more than anything

My college graduation was the only time they ever went to Boone NC

Me as a baby with my grandparents on a beach vacation. Those beds are still in the Tybee Island beach house

At my eagle scout presentation ceremony - Dad's mom passed in 2013, my dad looks incredibly young, me, mom, and her dad

He gave me one of those coins every year

Granny and I at my Great-Grandma Barnhill's funeral. I was in college.

She made finger puppets for the kids to play with!

Granny on the beach at Tybee Island

Mama G on the beach at Tybee Island
Mama G was granny's mother. She passed in 1990 when I was in high school. She bought the beach house with her husband in 1947. Mom decided to spend a week there to decompress and let the new reality sink in over such a familiar location. I need to make a trip to Tybee this year too. It's about a 7 hour drive for us so it's not that easy, but it's been a couple of years since we've made it down.

Granny was buried beside my grandfather, and right in front of her parents. They will all be missed. We were blessed to have such a large family and for so many generations to be together for so long.

I still have more pictures that she kept that I'll be sharing soon.