Saturday, October 28, 2006

Boo! Happy Halloween!

It's been a long time! Hopefully, I'll be a better blogger since it's getting cold. Time is going by quickly. I was admiring all the pretty colors outside then shocked when I realize it's autumn. Only two months left in the year! Then, I thought about Halloween.

When I was young, Halloween was my second favorite holiday. Dressing up, running around the neighborhood at night and getting free candy. Who could want more as a kid? The only time I was bummed out during Halloween was when I'd have to wear a coat over my costume. Nobody could see my teenage mutant ninja turtle shell! People that gave out raisins were way too uptight. People that gave out full sized candy bars were my idols. I promised to be cool and generous like they were when I grew up.

We don't get any trick or treaters at the farm. Kinda hard when you live a half a mile from the main road. I wish we did, I'd love to see the costumes. Maybe it's best they don't come here, I just thought about Monty and Missy. They'd go ape shit if Barney, Scooby-Do, a witch or Dracula came knocking on the door yelling "Trick or Treat". Heck, they may go sailing through the glass door if a kid sized Snoopy was on our front porch. I'd need to tranquilize them, they'd probably have an anxiety attack.

I always had a Halloween night ritual. I'd dump out my pillow case full of candy on the floor separate them into different piles. I think the worst candy every invented was Good n' Plenty. I loathe black licorice. I probably could start dry heaving if I think about it long enough. The Good n' Plenty inventors were tricky! They coated the glorified black tar with a white or pink sugar coating. I mistakenly ate some one Halloween and it almost ruined my palate for the remainder of the evening. My sisters wouldn't even trade me Smarties for Good n' Plenty's. My Dad and the dog always got those spawn of satan candies. My favorite candy was Snickers and I still adore them today. I liked the Double Bubble gum too. I'd get a case of lock jaw from that pink gum though. After popping a fresh piece in my mouth, it would become rock hard in two minutes. It was almost like chewing a rubber eraser. I'm no longer a fan of Double Bubble, my gum addiction is now Extra spearmint, the bright green gum.

Today, I'll be going on my first bike ride since Pinehurst. I haven't missed it that much, I've enjoyed the break. I have been lifting weights almost every day. I've hit some personal records lifting. I leg pressed 270 X 4 on Tuesday. Watch out Flatman! My biceps are getting even bigger! :)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

First Thing I Learned This Season

Here's the big reason I don't like racing; pre-race jitters. About two days before a race, I feel anxious. The night before a race, I cannot sleep. I will wake about ever hour to check the time. The morning of the race, I have a difficult time swallowing down food even though I need it. On the ride to the race, I don't feel like talking. Ten minutes before the race I can't decide if I need to poop or throw-up.

Everything I feel pre-race is opposite of who I am and what I normally feel. I usually sleep like a rock, I like to eat, I love to talk to Don and my poop schedule is pretty normal and I rarely throw up. Why do I change so much? I don't enjoy feeling so nervous! I don't even know what I'm so upset about.....

Maybe I'm scared of not know what will happen? Like at Kure Beach, I doubted I could even finish the swim. I stood on the beach watched the giant waves bring the buoys back. I was scared of those waves. What would they feel like crashing on my body?

My emotional relief finally comes when I jump into the water to swim. Whether it was in a calm pool or the violent ocean, I instinctively know what to do. Kick, pull, breathe. Everything becomes very simple and easy. My mind is free of chatter and I'm back to myself.

I learned this season that I am not a "seasoned competitor." I need a Prozac patch pre-race. Freas was one of the most fun people to race with this season. She would help me chill more and laugh pre-race. She is a natural athlete. She enjoys the competition but can still be fun. I'll never forget her waking me up on a few race mornings,

"Rise and shine! Wake-y, Wake-Y! Good Morning, sunshine!"

It was 5am and she didn't even have any coffee. That's Freas though, a real positive person. She deserves the be ranked #1 Athena in the NC series standings for 2006. Go Freas-y!

I need to learn how to not take triathlon so seriuosly. I work myself up about races and it takes the fun out of it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pinehurst Split Times

1.5k Swim- 31:06

25k bike- 1:23:47

10k run-55:48

17/26 AG 73/166 OA

I'm still thinking about what I want to write. I have a lot to say now that the pressure is off. :)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Pinehurst Race Report

Yay! I did it! Finished all eight races I signed up for this season!

I forgot to tell you that when I went to packet pick up last night, I didn't know I had lost my license. They wouldn't give me a packet without photo ID. I had to bring my passport this morning when I got my packet. I enjoyed my pre-night routine of putting stickers on my bike and helmet too!

It was a cold, damp morning. It felt like Bandit's Challenge but colder. I didn't want to take off my pants and sweatshirt to put on the wetsuit. It was close to my age group swim start because the packet pick up this morning rushed me. My sister and I donned the wetsuits and headed to the water.

There are a few things I miss about racing novice. When racing novice, the swim start is not very crowded. This morning, I think there were probably 50 or more ladies at my swim start. I had to fight for swim room. Once I made the first turn, it thinned out. I started getting concerned when I saw all different colored caps around me. Were all these people passing me? When I started my swim as a novice, I always knew if I saw a different colored cap, I was doing the passing because I always started last.

I think I had a good swim. Not sure about time yet. Another interesting thing about racing age group is I feel like I'm racing with men. My entire bike ride, I saw mostly guys. Guys passing me with really nice bikes and rims that are probably worth more than my mini-van. I rode Clifford for the last race. He's been my good boy the entire year. Never crashing me or blowing a tire. He deserved to finish the last ride of the season.

When I got out of the water, the cold air hit me. I only own a short sleeved bike jersey, no winter gear. I knew I'd be blue if I wore only short sleeves while riding Clifford 18mph. I had to wear my Bazooka Bubble Gum sweatshirt too. It was drizzling the entire ride and it was heavy and soaked when I was finished with the bike leg.

The course was pretty hilly. My nose was snotting like a faucet. I'd have to move my hood out of the way when I need to blow snot rockets. Or you could call me Bazooka Snot Rocket! At mile 15, I tried to wave at volunteers but my hands were so cold, they were stuck in handle bar hand position. Clifford got the job done, once again. He may not be the most costly but he's very reliable.

When I started the run, I couldn't feel my feet for over a mile. They were wet and cold. It was an interesting feeling. The top of my thighs also went numb on the bike, my bike number kept scratching my leg but I couldn't feel it! I chatted with lots of folks during the run. I don't think my run was fast but it was my favorite portion of this race. It was challenging and hilly. I ran with one guy for a few miles. He kept a pace similar to mine. At mile three, he started walking because he only did sprints. I encouraged him to keep running with me, he was my pacer! He told me to go on, that he'd catch up but I never saw him again.

I was played for a fool again. The last .2 miles of a race, I saw a girl in front of me with a 2-something on her leg. Was she in my age group? She passed me going down hill, I passed her going up and asked her age. 21. I joked around about I was happy she wasn't in my age group. She slowed down, I encouraged her "come on, we are almost there"! She told me she couldn't keep up, she was sick to her stomach.

The last 50 yards to the finish line "sick to my stomach shithead" sprinted to the line and passed me. I was like WTF? I started sprinting too but the chutes are narrow and her butt was running down the middle. It got the crowd all fired up though. The were hooting at screaming at our sprint finish. I won't fall of that one again! Every man for himself I guess?

I did better than expected. I met my goal. I wanted to finish the course in under three hours. My finish time was 2:55.

I'm proudest of my sister though. Even though she has been injured for a month, she did finish this race. She hasn't run for over a month due to knee problems. When she crossed the finish line, you could tell she was hurting. Downhill is most painful so she had to walk portions of this course due to the hills. She didn't whine, moan or complain about her time once. She also didn't cry baby about her knee but she admitted both knees now hurt after the race.

There is nothing like having people that love you at the finish line. This feeling is what I will miss most during the next few months off. Having the experience to talk about and reflect on with people dear to me.

My Mom, husband, sister and I were all cold and tired after the race. We decided to get some Chinese food. I just wanted some hot tea and soup. My fortune cookie said this: "Just begin.... The rest is easy"

I'm thankful I began this journey 11 months ago. And this morning, like all race mornings, I decided to "just begin" by running into the water. The rest was easy! I don't think when I race, my mind and body go into auto-pilot. The hardest part for me is the car ride to race site in the morning.

Thanks for you insight, encouragement, honesty and support everyone!

I'll update when the splits are posted.

Pinehurst Morning

Uuugggggghhh. It's 5:45am and I'll be leaving for my last triathlon of this year shortly. It's cold outside to this Carolina girl. The thought of getting into the lake right now doesn't sound exciting. I don't even want to compete. I know, that sounds bad. I need to write it down because I want to remember this time next year when I'm signing up for races. I want to remember how burnt out I felt this morning and how I begged my husband to get back into our warm bed. I can't quit though, I signed up for eight and I'll finish eight race this season.

I'll be doing this race with my sister and my good friend, Meg. My sister has IT band issues so she may not run much. I just keep thinking to myself, "only three and half hours of racing then done for the year". Maybe I'll feel different after the race is completed. I hope I haven't burnt myself out on triathlon for the rest of my life.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Soap Tutorial

Julia asked me to post about soap making and I couldn't resist. Julia lives in Italy, the home of the finest olive oil on the planet.I use lots of olive oil in soap making, I'm sure Julia could make some drool worthy castile soap!

First things first. You need to purchase a good scale. No, not some el cheapo kitchen scale from Wal Mart. The more accurate and expensive, the better. I would purchase a scale that measures to the hundredth of an ounce. If you can't weight the oils or lye properly, you will have major soap problems. Soap making is a chemical type of science.

Once, my oldest sister was visiting from out of state and she was dying to make soap. I melted all the oils and when it was time to add the lye to the goat's milk, we realized I didn't have enough lye. I was short only about one ounce per each batch. I went ahead and mixed everything up minus the ounce or so of lye.

All three of the batches were ruined when I checked them the next day. The soap was separated and a layer of oil was floating on top. The oils and lye failed to saponify. Ruining three batches of soap cost a pretty penny too. Just a warning, we can get by with a great dinner if we are short 1/2 cup of onion but missing one ounce of lye is a soap making disaster!

We'll start with a very basic recipe.

Olive Oil 40 ounces
Coconut Oil 20 ounces
Palm Oil 20 ounces

Lye needed: 11.26 ounces
Water or Milk: 27.08 ounces

Get out a stainless steel pot and measure out hard oils at room temperature. In this recipe, it would be the coconut oil. Melt it carefully on the stove top.

In this recipe, pictured above, I'm using some luxury hard oils like cocoa butter and mowrah butter. I wouldn't recommend using expensive ingredients your first soap making adventure. Most luxury oils and butter are shipped in adding to cost. A failed batch would equal mucho money lost.

While the hard oils are melting, line your soap mold with plastic wrap.

Remove the melted hard oils from the stove top. It heats up fast!

Now, add your liquid oil to the melted hard oil. This would be the olive and palm oil in the above recipe. This will help cool off the hot melted oil too. I like my oils to be around 90 to 100 degrees when I add the lye mixture.

Put on some gloves and eye protection and weigh out the lye. I could go on and on about the dangers of lye. Please be extremely careful when using lye. I make soap in a building outside of my house. My pets are not allowed in the soap shack! I have read horror stories about small children pulling lye water off the kitchen counter and getting severe chemical burns. It really is dangerous, I have been burned and it's not fun.

I would measure and mix the lye in a pyrex, glass measuring cup.

Goat's milk soap is tricky. I started off using spring water. The problem with goat's milk is when you add the lye. If the milk gets too hot, you'll have a noxious orange burnt mixture. I have found freezing the milk and adding the lye prevents the burnt milk problem. Slowly pour a little lye over the frozen milk and stir, stir, stir with a stainless steel spoon.

Add a bit more lye and stir. The process of melting the milk with lye takes about 15 minutes. This technique is forcing the lye to stay cool and preventing damage to the milk. The milk temperature is about 110 degrees when all the lye is added. If you choose not to use milk, just use cold spring water. (It doesn't have to be ice)

I am ready to blend my milk/lye when it comes down to 110 degrees and oil 100 degrees together. I like to use a stick blender because it forces the lye/milk and oils to join together and saponify into a smooth soap. Be aware that the stick blender will speed up the trace. You want to pour the liquid soap into the mold when thickens up and coats the spoon or blender.

To be continued.....

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Scrub a Dub Dub

Here's some pictures from the last two weeks of the soap fest. My soap rack is almost full, I have two racks left on the bottom. The soap needs to cure for about four weeks before I package it. Top Row-Lancelot, 2nd Row- Goat's milk Oats and Honey, 3rd row-Lychee Fruit and Moonbeam Musk, 4th row-Lavish Lover, 5th row-Sexy Thang and Lovely 6th row- Ice Cap.

Every soap created is a surprise when it's time to unmold it. Once I pour the soap into the mold, it will sit under blanket for a day. My favorite part is unwrapping and cutting the fresh soap. In a perfect world, all batches of soap would unmold hard, smooth and pleasing to the eye. It doesn't always work that way. Sometimes, during the saponifaction process, the fragrance will morph or burn off, the dyes will change color or completely disappear. This is one of my favorites I made last week. Goat's milk, honey and oats. The milk and honey swirl came out good and the fragrance stuck.

The most interesting bar of the week, Moonbeam Musk. The dark blue color didn't appear until after I unmolded the soap. I think the color, although a surprise, fits the name.

My least favorite part of soapmaking? The cleaning up! I've gotten better about it during the last few weeks. If I just leave the mess after making a batch, I don't want to go back into the soap shack. Soap will be glued to the pots, stick blenders, spatulas and bowls. I've started cleaning up after every batch. Now, when I walk in the SS, everything is shining and ready to soap.