Monday, December 22, 2008

My First Christmas

When I was little, my family and I had Christmas rituals. After Thanksgiving, we drove to the neighboring redwood forests, where a Christmas tree farm lay nestled in the foothills. My dad carried the axe, and we walked through the rows and rows of trees, searching for the perfect Douglas fir. Not too tall, not too short, bushy, not too many holes, just the right shape. After we had chopped it down, we often had a picnic on a stump in a grove created by the giant redwoods. We would decorate the tree together, and after I would fall asleep on Christmas Eve, my dad worked late into the night, bringing out all the big presents for me to discover the next morning--a new bike, a giant teddy bear, a swingset. He was my Santa Claus.

After I grew up and moved away, I stopped celebrating Christmas. I returned home, year after year, to spend Christmas with my family, which was peaceful and relaxing, but the magic of my youth was no longer there. Since I was always traveling out-of-town for Christmas, I never bothered with a Christmas tree in my own apartment. Then, Brent came along with Alec (he's 6) in tow, and all of a sudden, I had an instant family. Alec gave me a reason to celebrate Christmas again. To create my own Christmas.

I insisted on a real Christmas tree. A Douglas Fir, just like we used to have. We all picked it out together. It's the most beautiful, bushy, green tree I've ever had. And even though the needles get all over the floor, the fresh scent of pine is wonderful. Alec helped me decorate. I went nuts on ornaments--lights, little animals, glass berries and icicles, sleighs, reindeer, little Santas, and I even turned my seashells collected on the beaches of San Diego over the years into ornaments, giving the tree a very SoCal touch. I hung stockings by the fireplace. I even sewed Alec's name on his--and I don't sew!

We took Alec to see Santa, the Festival of Lights on the Del Mar racetrack, taking lots of pictures the whole time. Meanwhile, stacks and stacks of wrapped presents accumulated under the tree and in the stockings. After I ran out of wrapping paper, more piled up in our unused bedroom, waiting to be wrapped. Since Brent and I are going to be up in NorCal on Christmas Day and Alec with his mom, I explained to Alec that I called Santa's office to make special arrangements and have him come early.
"Did you really?"
"Yes, I called his workshop at the north pole and explained that you are having two Christmases this year."
"Did you speak to Santa?"
"No, I couldn't get through to him. He was busy so I spoke to his secretary but the secretary was an elf!"
"Oh, my God!" Alec exclaimed, clapping his hands to his mouth.

The next morning, Alec swore that he had flown in Santa's sleigh and seen Paris and Italy. He asked if I believed him.
"Of course," I replied.
"Have you ever flown on his sleigh?" he asked.
"No. I wish. I once heard the reindeer's hooves on the roof though."
I got a pad of paper and pen, and Alec dictated his adventurous sleigh ride to me. Then, Alec colored pictures to go along with the story as I typed it up. We made a bedtime story out of Alec's Midnight Sleigh Ride.

Saturday night was our Christmas Eve. Brent played Christmas music as we cooked a special dinner together. We made chicken with gravy and cranberry sauce, yams sauteed in honey and brown sugar, stuffing, green beans and carrots, and lightly toasted sourdough rolls. Afterwards, with stuffed bellies, all 3 of us made Christmas cookies for Santa. Even though it was December 20th, it felt like the real Christmas Eve. We had created the magic, just the three of us, in our little kitchen. I made the cookie dough, rolled it out, and Alec helped cut out the different shapes and decorate them: snowmen, snowflakes, reindeer, sleighs, mittens, ice skates, and penguins. After they had cooled, we sampled them to make sure they were good enough for Santa. We left the cookies for him with a glass of milk. We also left out a bowl of carrots for the reindeer, upon Alec's insistence.

We put Alec to bed, and I read The Night Before Christmas, just like my father had read to me every Christmas Eve when I was little. After Alec had fallen asleep, Brent and I went to work. I filled our stockings with green, red and silver Hershey kisses and candy canes. I put the final presents from Santa under the tree. Then, for the finale, Brent attached Alec's new tandem bike to his mountain bike, and we stood it up by the Christmas tree. I adorned it with bows. I ate some cookies, and drank the milk. I even crunched down some carrots. Then, I wrote Alec a note from Santa. Exhausted, Brent and I went to bed.

I was too excited to sleep that night. We had created Christmas. I had no idea how much fun playing Santa could be. Christmas had been wonderful when I was little, and now, as an adult, a child had brought that magic back for me. All night, I tossed and turned. When I did dream, I dreamt of wrapping paper and silver, gold, and red Christmas bows.

We all popped out of bed the next morning at 6:30 am. Alec ran downstairs to see what Santa had brought him. His eyes lit up when he saw the note (which he read all by himself) and remaining crumbs on the cookie plate.
"Did you drink the milk?" he asked.
"No, I was asleep."
"Did you put these presents under the tree?"
"Not me."
"Did you write the note?"
"No. I think that was Santa."
"Oh, my God!"
I know we don't have that many Christmases left for Alec to believe in Santa. I want to enjoy the it for as long as I can. Creating Christmas for Alec definitely reinstated my belief in the magic of Christmas. As I fell asleep on our Christmas Eve, I caught myself listening for reindeer hooves on the roof and smiled.

Watching his face light up with excitment as he unwrapped his gifts was all the thanks I needed. I was especially touched by the presents he had wrapped up for me--various Christmas scene drawings and colorings (which I date and save in a box). After we had all opened our gifts, we went for a bike ride together. Brent pulled Alec on the new tandem, and I rode beside on my commuter bike. All 3 of us had a blast. After we had gone 6 miles, we returned home for a quick shower before going out for muffins and hot chocolate at Pannikin. Alec pleaded with us to ride our bikes there, even though it was 10 miles of hills each way. "Not today," we told him. He looked very disappointed. Hmm. He sounds like us!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tidepooling, a new arrival, and more

Phew! What a week. After my long hiatus, I'm back to regular workouts again. Feels sooo good. I'm exhausted at night and sleeping like a baby. Plus, I'm in a MUCH better mood. Forgot about that! Right now, I'm in the "Prep" phase where I'm just getting my body used to consistent workouts again. It's hard because I've lost aerobic as well as muscular fitness. But it's fun too because it's all about getting out there and being active and having fun. No pressure. I'm enjoying it.

Saturday, we went for a 35 mile bike ride through Rancho Santa Fe. Felt so good to resurrect my weekly rides. I love riding with a good group. Plus, it was so green and scenic! Lots of horses and beautiful gardens, lagoons, egrets, and of course, the ocean. It was just long enough with just enough hills to get a good workout without killing myself.

Afterwards, we rushed up to Encinitas to watch Ironman Hawaii at La Paloma with the Tri Club (commercial-free--bonus!). Chatted with pals and rushed to pick up Alec and then hit the beach at low tide for some awesome tidepooling! Then the tide started coming in. Alec and I started playing this game. When a big wave came in, we had to find a high point on a rock to stand and try not to get our feet wet. When the tide went back out, we skipped and ran to the next high point. This was a blast....until I slipped and fell in! Twice! Brent turned around and I was waist-deep in water. "When I said we were going to go swimming, I was kidding!" he exclaimed. He thought it was amusing that I got wetter and dirtier than his 6-year old son.

Brent and Alec looking for sea creatures.

Father and son at the tidepools (Powerhouse Park; Del Mar)

After falling into the tidepools. Soaking wet!

Sunday, I went for a very laid-back 8-mile run with a fun running group. Felt pooped the rest of the day. Monday, despite pouring rain, Brent and I managed to hit the gym to pump some iron and then hop in the outdoor pool for a quick 1000. It's been raining so much here. I had to use an umbrella today! And the high is only in the 50s! (world's smallest violin playing). Yesterday, I squeezed in a 3-mile quickie run around UCSD (love my new GPS 405!) and after work, we went to Coastal Wellness for an hour spin class on the CompuTrainer. My first time with power. Can we say awesome?

All is well. My body is sore and tired, just how I like it. And Santa has already put a ton of presents under the tree for Alec! Oh, and last night, Alec's mom decided she didn't want Alec's bunny anymore so we got a special delivery on our doorstep. She's only 6-months old, very playful, a bit of a rascal, and a lot of a sweetheart! Alec's mom named her Sasha (we've been calling her Princess Leia). So special delivery! Bun #3.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

2008 Year-End Analysis

Can you believe it's that time of year again already? 2008 has been my best year ever. Everything finally clicked for me. Unlike previous years, I didn't get seriously sick or injured and managed not to overtrain as badly as in the past. My body is finally at a point where I can absorb high training miles, and I finally have the knowledge of what works for me and what doesn't. All of this enabled me to complete my first Ironman (Tempe, AZ 4'08) in extremely challenging conditions. In addition, I also recently completed my first stand-alone marathon. The only thing I would have done differently (which was out of my control anyway) is to have my big A race (IMAZ) be at the end of the season, rather than the start. Everything afterwards was a little anti-climatic. This should be perfectly resolved in '09 since IMCA is in late August. It's been a long training season so I needed an extended break. I've already got my 2009 training plan written up, building up to Ironman Canada in Aug. '09. Penticton, here I come!

For all those data addicts, here you go:

2008 Total Weekly Time and Distance

My Ironman was around week 23. I tried to have a long, gradual build-up and then taper. Every 3rd or 4th week was a recovery week. Afterwards, I had some recovery weeks. Then, I started trying to train for my October marathon simultenously with my friends training for the November IMAZ. Hence, it looked like I was IM training again. Towards the end, I finally figured it out and began run-specific training (dropping my overall mileage because I cut way down on the bike). (The "Time by Sport" reflects this nicely). I peetered out at the end as I tapered for my marathon (plus, I was tired!).

How does 2008 compare to prior years? I don't know beyond 2006 becausee that's when I started doing my year-end analysis. But I have an increase each year!

Total Distance per Year

Total Time per Year

Overall, I'm pretty happy about this. I don't think I want to increase the time of my training from this year to 2008 very much. However, I wouldn't mind increasing the mileage. How do I do that? Get faster and more efficient, of course!

Break-down by Sport

My biking in 2008 was awesome. I needed this since it was my overall limiter. But my run and swim really suffered. This explains why I haven't gotten any faster in the run (although surprisingly, I am faster on the swim!). I know I can spend a little more time in the pool. Can I increase my running as well? I'd certainly like to.

There you have it! I have lots more graphs but decided to stick to just these so as not to overwhelm everyone. 2009 will be AWESOME!!!

2007 Year-End Review:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Clawing My Way Back onto the Wagon

I meant to take a few weeks off after my marathon (Oct. 18). Not 6! How is it possible that it's December? At first, it was well-intended rest. Then, I became the only postdoc left in the lab (like the Last of the Mohicans or the Last Unicorn or something) and work became insane (still is). Talk about pressure! Then, Brent and I moved in together--good stress--but still, stress. Moving just plain sucks, no matter how you look at it (the house is beautiful). It was crazy--trying to unpack two households amidst painters and contractors laying hardwood floors. In the middle of it all, we were whisked to Tempe for Brent's Ironman. I'm amazed he didn't forget anything. To say life has been a whirlwind is an understatement--tsunami is more like it!

Things are starting to calm down. The house is unpacked. Brent did AWESOME at IMAZ (the encore). I'm scaling back at lab and pacing myself; I'm only one person afterall. My goal is to achieve balance. I finally drew up a rough draft for my 2009 training plan, a long slow build-up to IM-Canada in August (coming soon). I can't wait!!! Next up, an analysis of my 2008 (also, can't wait). It should be fun to add up the numbers and impress myself with the year of biggest volume yet. I know I've been a ghost in BlogLand; that era has also come to an end. I'm coming out of hibernation!
My training plan actually started this week. I feel very sluggish but I did manage to run 2x, bike on the trainer 1x and squeeze in some weights. It's a start. I met a group of old friends this morning for a "long" run. I was only planning on doing 6-8. I couldn't wait to play with my new toy that Brent got me for my b-day--my GPS (Garmin 405--the new one, the very complicated version that requires a special morse code to get it to work). I actually did get it to work somewhat! Progress! Anyway, I got to chatting on the run and was peer-pressured into a painful 10 miles. Phew! Quite the first long run back. At least I'll sleep well tonight.
And and tell time--with pictures!!!
Cowles Mountain Hike
About a mile straight up with spectacular views. Alec did fantastic! He loves hiking and track workouts.
Alec and me on the way up.
The three of us at the top.
Alec took our pic on the way down. Not bad!
Brent's Ironman (Tempe, AZ)
I was the official "race bitch". It was a lot of fun to cheer everyone on. I couldn't believe how quickly the day flew as I dragged Brent's poor brother, Brook, everywhere, at a run (literally) to chalk, hang signs, and make it back to the turn-arounds to cheer Brent on. We barely had time for lunch between taking pictures and cheering until our voices were hoarse! The shopping for IMAZ shwag was also too tempting to resist. When Brent crossed the finish, I had an IMAZ sweatshirt and compression tights waiting for him. Ironically, he recovered faster from his IM than I did (I ended up with the post-race cold--do I get paid extra for that?).
--Tempe Town Lake at dawn, the calm before the storm
--churning water at the start.
--Brent heading out on the bike.
--Brook and I hung signs and chalked while Brent biked.
--Running across Mill Bridge just after Mile 20, endorphins running thick in his veins.
--Exhausted but exuberant, after the finish line. I gave him a big hug.
Santa and Christmas Tree Weekend (this weekend)
We did the "family" thing and saw Santa (Alec has quite a long list for Santa this year). We also brought home a GORGEOUS tree. I drilled holes in all the seashells I have collected over the years on the beach and hung them on the tree, giving it the San Diego touch.
--Alec telling Santa what to bring him this year.
--hanging ornaments on the tree. Alec was quite the good little helper!