Tuesday, August 4, 2015

City of Lakes Olympic Triathlon: June 27, 2015

After my first foray into triathlons last year with the Los Alamos sprint triathlon and the Las Campanas Compadres super sprint triathlon (read here), I wanted to do another one because a) I had such a blast, b) I wanted to try a tri with an open water swim, and c) I wanted to build up to a tri with my favorite running distances. Thus, I set my sights on the City of Lakes Triathlon: an Olympic distance with a lake swim only a couple hours away from home.


Swimming is easily the hardest of the three sports for me. So, I took a few lessons from a swim coach (who gave me drills I initially loved and soon hated), I participated in a couple of clinics--one pool and one lake--by our local triathlon club (the Triatomics), and I took an open water swim clinic put on by a club from Albuquerque. The first time I swam in my new wetsuit in Cochiti Lake, it was pretty awful. I'd put my face in the water and start freestyle, and I'd freak out, unable to catch my breath or convince myself that I was breathing, despite the tight wetsuit. I also couldn't sight properly (or see a thing in the murky water), so disoriented and stressed, I zigzagged all over and tired myself out quickly. Almost immediately in the second clinic, though, I felt better. Everyone keeps saying it just takes time to get used open water swimming, and I'm slowly believing them. 

Biking was a challenge early this year, too, as I put on clipless pedals and had some special moments getting used to clipping in and out. I am thrilled to report that I have only fallen over ONCE, though, and it was only a couple of weeks ago, well after I got completely (too) comfortable in them. In the fall and winter, I attended a spin class at the lab's wellness center, which helped immensely with my cardio, strength, and speed. Friends and I biked the Los Alamos to White Rock Loop for the first time and started a new friendly (mostly female) cycling group along the way, too!

Running is fantastic! Slower than I'd like, but not slow enough to get me to do speed work this schedule, so there we go.

For strength training, I've been going to a core class at the wellness center, as well as continuing MMA/Jeet Kune Do (though I backed off on that). 

Race Weekend!!

Santa Rosa is over two hours away, so I took my Friday off to drive down there, pick up my race packet, and check out the course. 

The Olympic swim leg was two loops of this beautiful little lake (the sprint was just one loop):

The water was clear, I saw wee fish, and I heard it was pretty shallow the whole way. I was not worried.

I didn't preview the entire bike course, but it was, again, two loops of the sprint course:
Definitely easier than anything in Los Alamos.

I drove most of the running route, which was fairly confusing--we repeated the stretch along Reilly road twice (or four times, depending on how you count): up, down, up, down. "Keep track and make sure you do the right amount!!" One of my transition buddies forgot to do it twice and had to repeat it after the final little out-and-back. :)

So much flatter than any six miles I can find here.
We ended at the beautiful Blue Hole. The tradition is to jump in after the race. I was super excited for this, especially as it was supposed to be sunny and in the 80s.

My longstanding pre-race tradition is to set everything out, repack, and eat pasta. Santa Rosa's restaurant selections were, as far as I could ascertain: New Mexican, greasy diner, and pizza. I decided to go with pizza and breadsticks, and regretted not packing more food along with the bagels and bananas I brought for breakfast.  Ah well, live and learn to not expect a simple Italian restaurant everywhere you go! I spent the evening knitting a baby blanket for my forthcoming niece and watching BBC America's marathon of Star Trek: TNG. So basically, it was amazing.

I love our race shirt!

Trusty steed Scotty is all ready to go!

Race morning dawned bright and early and I jumped up excited and determined. I downed some terrible hotel coffee, ate my own bagel and banana with some hotel peanut butter, packed my transition bag, loaded Scotty, and headed to transition, where it poured.

The only time I've worn this schnazzy bike rain jacket.


Despite the rain and chilly conditions, the lake was 79F: thus, it was not wetsuit legal after all. I had only practiced open water swimming in a wetsuit, though, and wanted the extra buoyancy. As the penalty for wearing one was only "you can't place in your age group," and not disqualification, I (and a bunch of others) decided to wear it anyway. Placing in my age group is definitely not a possibility at this point! A couple ladies near my transition spot put theirs on, too, so we bonded over needing our security blankets.

Official race photo of squeezing myself into my wetsuit.

Lookin' like a weird bug, ready to swim!

I knew that warming up a bit would help me settle into the swim faster, so I did a couple of short laps in the little lagoon set aside for us. The water was certainly warm, but I just felt comfortable in it. Not too hot. I felt great. Relaxed. Ready. 

My wave (women 31-34 + another age group of women [I'm 30, but USAT rules and my birthday combine so that I always race a year ahead]) was called, and we trudged into the waist-deep lake. The bottom was squishy, and there was much whining. I still felt great. Relaxed. Ready. 

Soon, there was a countdown…and we were OFF!

City of Lakes Triathlon: SWIM. 1500 m 00:43 45:58 pace
This was a lesson in perseverance, and trying to pray for a quiet mind instead of swearing like a sailor. As soon as my wave started, I panicked and couldn't catch my breath. I'd put my face in, flail about, completely lose my mind, and have to breast stroke so I could breathe. The kayakers kept asking if I was ok, especially as I graduated to needing to completely stop moving and just tread water/float in my security blanket (which was also suddenly SO CONSTRICTIVE GET IT OFF).

I seriously considered a) quitting completely, b) quitting after the first loop and doing the Oly bike and run anyway, even though I'd be DQ'ed, and c) quitting after the first loop and dropping to the sprint. But I was really looking forward to the bike and run (DARN IT I WAS MORE THAN PREPARED FOR THE BIKE AND RUN), and 3/4 of the way around the first loop, something clicked, and I finished the second loop with only one more little episode (by one of the kayakers who checked on me the first loop, which was embarrassing). I was second-to-the-last out of the water, but I wasn't the slowest swimmer overall thanks to the earlier waves! I have never been SO HAPPY to get out of a lake. 

City of Lakes Triathlon: BIKE. 25 mi  01:35  15.8mph pace

The bike was a beautiful two laps of a country road with nicely rolling hills. So much flatter than home! I passed a ton of people and nobody passed me, making up for my swim. I enjoyed myself so much! Before I knew it, I was back in transition and ready for the final leg.
Smile, you're done swimming!

City of Lakes Triathlon: RUN. 6.2 mi  01:09  11:08 pace
The run felt super good. Santa Rosa is 3000' lower than Los Alamos, and the run was a billion times flatter than here, so it was awesome. I passed several people there, too, and only got passed by one gal. Once I finished that up-down-up-down stretch, I had one obnoxious hill in the last quarter mile or so. I was powering up and realized I could walk faster than I was running, so I did. After the turn around, I flew down to the finish line, where I got to jump in the cold, cold Blue Hole!! 

Post-race and post-Blue Hole plunge!

First Olympic tri, with some panic:

Post-race refueling:
banana from the finish line (they didn't provide much)
leftover pizza in my hotel (woohoo late checkout!)
Jurassic Smash Blizzard (absolutely incredible)

Amount of stiffness encountered after the two-hour drive home:
All the stiffness

Next race:
Toughman NM--hello, half Ironman!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ice cream pint koozies!

I'm working on a post about my recent triathlon, but in the meantime, HERE'S A KNITTING PATTERN! If you need clarification, don't hesitate to ask. I whipped this up in an afternoon after a super long bike ride and a nap with Muffin:

My massage therapist commissioned me to make ice cream pint koozies in exchange for massage time. Um, yes, I can do that!!

She showed me pictures on Pinterest of what she wanted, but the patterns weren't free, and since the concept is really simple, I just made my own. It's knit in one piece and there is one seam to close the loop. You can use whatever stitching pattern you like--I mixed it up with stockinette, garter, ribbing, and seed stitch.

Loops&Threads Cozy Wool (82m/127g), or any bulky yarn
Size 9 needles--I used circular needles so I could wrap it around my Ben and Jerry's pint as I went to check sizing. Use whatever you want to get the gauge to fit your pint.

Gauge (approximate)
Stockinette: 4in/12st, 3.5in/16 rows
Seed: 4.5in/12st, 3.5in/16 rows

Knit it Up

See Figure 1 for the diagram. 

Cast on 27 stitches (you're at the edge marked X). Using whatever stitch you want, knit 15-18 rows or about 3.5 inches. (I highly recommend checking your sizing with a pint of your favorite Ben and Jerry's as you go.)

Figure 1.

Cast off 16 stitches. You are now knitting the portion marked Y. Knit (in preferred stitch pattern) another 15-18 rows, enough so that when you fold it over (oval side to oval side in Figure 1), your hand can slip in comfortably, like Figure 2.
Figure 2.
We're going to simultaneously cast-off and seam oval side to oval side. (Or you can cast off normally and sew it.) I don't know what this is called and don't feel like googling it, so pay attention to my rambling:
       First stitch: transfer stitch A to the right needle, pick up a stitch (B) along the bottom of the long    side (marked X) with the left needle, transfer stitch A back to the left, and knit A and B together to make stitch C.
       Rest of stitches: transfer stitch C from the left to the right needle, pick up stitch D from side X with the left needle. Knit stitch D, so it's on the right needle now. Cast off stitch C. 
      Continue until you have one stitch left on the needle and the rest are seamed. Cut the yarn, pull through, voila! You have finished knitting!

Finishing the koozie: Sew the rectangle edges (Figure 1) together. Like normal sewing. If you sew wrong side edges together and then turn it right side out, it looks neater.

Go crazy with colors and stitch patterns and ICE CREAM EATING. I highly recommend the Tonight Dough, while watching the Tonight Show, because cookie dough is amazing and Jimmy Fallon is adorable.

Stockinette on the bottom, garter at the top, 1x1 rib for the handle.

Seed stitch the whole way!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meet Meitner Mueller

On March 19th, I adopted a nine-month-old guinea pig from a vet in Santa Fe. He had been surrendered with an abscess on his jaw that required expensive (for a rodent) surgery. The vet performed the surgery (twice) and got him healthy, but couldn't keep him herself. So I got him!

To keep the theme of my pet names (see cats Faraday and Maxwell), I named him Meitner Mueller. Meitner after Lise Meitner, physicist who co-discovered fission, and Mueller after Thomas Müller, one of my favorite German soccer stars. He goes by Meiti Pig usually--it sounds exactly like "mighty pig."

Hi, Meiti Pig!

Faraday and Max LOVE him. They would probably love him to death, but that's why piggies live in cages.

I'm starting a series on my almost-never-used-these-days blog of Meiti Pig Wearing Clothes. He's happy to do it, as long as you give him a carrot!

Enjoy. :)


Meitner discovers fission.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Lady Loki: burdened with glorious purpose…and gold duct tape.

Effects courtesy of Katie's friend.

Last year, my friend Katie and I attended the Albuquerque Comic Con, our first comic convention. We jumped right in and cosplayed, as a Vulcan and Bajoran:

It was so much fun, and we decided quickly to go as our favorite characters from the Marvel movies this year. She started creating a Thor costume, and I got to work on my Loki outfit and accessories. 

I knew I wanted to do a classy Lady Loki version. A quick Google image search reveals that this is a very popular costume in a wide variety of styles and taste levels. While I got ideas and inspiration from other women's costumes, I mainly based mine on this outfit from the Avengers:

He is a beautiful man.

My first major find was a gorgeous Calvin Klein dress at TJ Maxx for only $50:

Regular price=so much more!

Black boots I already had and black leggings from Target completed the base of my costume. Jewelry was surprisingly easy to find at Target as well: 

Then came the crafting!!! I am a sloppy seamstress and actually HATE hand stitching, but I love costume making, so I deal. 

To break up all the black on my legs, I sewed felt together, edged it in (what you'll soon find was my favorite material) gold duct tape, and stuffed it in the tops of my boots:

I found some beautiful shiny and swishy green fabric and some brown faux leather at Joanne's. After kinda sorta measuring out what I wanted for my cape by holding it up to my shoulders, I cut the remainder off, not at all ensuring it was in a straight line.  I used said remainder to make a belt/sash with the faux leather. There were so many pins and it was excruciating.

I suffer for my art.

I also never quite finished the sides, but you know the great thing about capes? You can pin everything in the back and most people won't even care.

For the cape, I simply hand-stitched two of the corners of my rectangle of green fabric into the shoulder seams on my dress. I was really careful with this, because I actually want to wear my cute dress as a cute dress someday. 

I finished all of the above in time for Halloween in New Orleans, where I happened to be for a conference and my 30th birthday. Keeping the facts in mind that I'd be flying with my costume and out and about in crazy masses of humanity, I kept the rest of it simple. For the epaulettes and the base of horned "helmet" headband, I simply used gold duct tape covered craft foam. The horns themselves are bunches of pipe cleaners covered in--of course--gold duct tape.

Kelsey did my Halloween eye makeup for me!
For Comic Con, I happened across the perfect epaulettes at Party City:

Aaah cheap bracelets are the best.

I also wanted a much higher quality, more true-to-the-movie helmet. There are approximately one million tutorials on the internet. I took the most important ideas from this one, which used a cheap plastic costume construction helmet and a styrofoam heart cut in half for the horns. I found the hat at Party City for $3. Despite it being early January and thus prime time to start Valentine's Day store displays, I could only find a styrofoam circle. Katie and I both doubted strongly that I could make that into horns, especially when the best tool we had on hand was a box cutter, but turns out whittling lessons from Dad when I was little came in handy!

In possession of horns, I set about turning my cheap, flimsy construction hat into a helmet using craft foam, hot glue, and, naturally, more than an entire roll of gold duct tape. My method was to glue a piece, try it on, look in the mirror or my web cam, eyeball it, glue some more. Totally worked.

I tried spray painting the horns to avoid having duct tape seams everywhere. However, while I was waiting for the first coat to dry, the internet informed me that most spray paint reacts with the styrofoam and dissolves it, which it totally started to do on the shaved horn tips. So, what came to my rescue? Ah well, the seams weren't that bad.

Next, I wanted a scepter. I followed this tutorial almost to the letter. I wanted a shape closer to his, however, so I googled "loki scepter," looked at ten million images, and freehanded it.

Katie and I had an embarrassing moment in the hardware store,  where we had to admit that the faucet handle was just for a costume and it didn't matter whether it was a "universal fitting" one or not.
Blade shape closest to the tutorial.
Slimmed-down blade shape closer to Loki's movie scepter.
For my final major craft project, I wanted a tesseract. Of course, the internet provided a Tesseract Tutorial. I couldn't find a a blue LED at Michael's, so I bought one that I hoped was white and I painted the inside of the baseball display case a watery blue after spraying it with the frosted glass paint. Sadly, the LED was in fact yellow, and it looked really bad. However! My habit of keeping free conference/career fair goodies paid off, as I found a pen with a blue LED handle. Took it apart, wrapped it in wax paper, and it turned out pretty well, especially in pictures!

I added a "dagger": my sonic screwdriver in a duct-tape sheath.

Katie's costume was fantastic: she made her headpiece out of craft foam, her Mjolnir out of a spray-painted yoga block and wooden dowel, and she sewed, pinned, or hot glued her entire outfit! 

Thor and Loki were blessed to attend ABQCC with their friend Rebecca, who not only was truly the most patient person and held their stuff and took their pictures all day, she also knew every single costume and character. "Rebecca, who is that?! What is he supposed to be?!" She rocks.

We made it our mission, after seeing a Tiny Ironman in line, to get pictures with every Avenger. We totally did. 

Tiny Ironman!

Black Widow!



Captain America!

Aaagh I'm surrounded!

Tiny Black Widow!

Besides being awesome with my buddies Thor and Rebecca, the highlight of Comic Con was most definitely meeting William Shatner for ten seconds. We exchanged hellos, smiled, I said, "So nice to meet you!!!", he said, "It's a pleasure!", and someone yelled "NEEEXT!!!" It was meaningful.

This makes me laugh so much.

Katie is the best cosplay partner, and we're already thinking of costumes for next year! Any suggestions?