Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Double Digits.

Remember your 10th birthday? I do...though admittedly, I have to go further and further down memory lane to get there. But it seems like such a big deal to go from being one single digit in age to double digits. It's not like you're really that much older than you were at age 9...but it somehow feels like a bigger deal. Just a tiny bit older, you know, but way cooler. And anytime during the whole next year when someone would ask how old you were, you'd hold up all ten fingers and hear the predictable response, "Oooh...double digits!"

Which brings me to today's training run. I've been taking time off for the past few weeks because of some pretty significant left leg pain, a.k.a. a suspected stress fracture. My only two runs during that time (both pretty short distances) prompted me to stretch the legs a little more today, especially since the Disney Half-Marathon is now somehow only 10 days away. Still not sure where those last four months went...

When I set out today, my previous long run, which was just a few days before Thanksgiving, had been 9.5 miles. I knew that I wanted to try to move from plain old single digits into the double digits of distance on today's run, but I wasn't sure if I would feel good enough to go that far. Still, at least from a mental standpoint, I felt I needed to know how it felt to go further than before. And I hoped it would build my confidence to tackle my milestone race. I believed I would probably hit some sort of wall along the way, but walls are made for busting through, full steam ahead...right? Well.

Sure enough, the first two miles ne sais quoi. But 'terrible' is really the first thing that comes to mind. The temperature was just below freezing, and my lungs were really quite displeased with my decision to forego watching the bowl game on the couch in exchange for this. Fortunately, the next few miles felt much more tolerable, and before I knew it, I was trudging up some ridiculous hill on my way to crossing Mile #9 off the list. I say 'ridiculous' because it seemed never-ending. So the next mile required some real effort, both mentally and physically. But if you notice, the next mile after Mile #9 would technically be Mile #10. And you don't have to be a math expert (thankfully) to realize that would put this particular training run guessed it. Unfortunately, I was too fatigued at that point in my run to fully appreciate the double-ness of anything, save for my vision. But mercifully, my finishing point finally loomed in the distance. And while I'm sure I was limping a little (okay, a lot) on my cool-down walk to our house, I started to feel like I might be able survive my race next weekend. Might.

Who knows? Either way, I guess today's run made me think back to that (not so) long ago time when celebrating my first double-digits birthday seemed like such a big deal. And while I didn't eat cake and ice cream or take a spin on my new 10-speed Huffy (circa 1989) this afternoon, it still feels pretty cool to say once again that I finally made it back into double digits.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lookin' for Adventure

As Christmas quickly approaches, the threshold for crazy seems to be ramping up around the Grant household. In earlier posts, I've talked about my desire to run the Disney World Half-Marathon in January of 2010. But over the past few weeks, I've struggled with pain in my left leg, very suspicious of a stress fracture in the making. I've taken the past three weeks off from running, and admittedly, my pain is better. So you'd think I have my answer, right? Right?! Well.

I've spent the past several days agonizing over whether to stick with my original plan versus waiting for the Disney Princess Half-Marathon in March. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios, and I've perseverated, as my husband would say, over all of it for some time now. I thought maybe another run (after my Xrays) would help me decide, especially since I was feeling better. Last Thursday evening, I set out on a 2-mile route, and I truly felt fine throughout the entire run. I did have some soreness the next day, which was more noticeable on our two hikes in the snow over the weekend. But it certainly seems manageable at this rate. And I had trained up to running between 9 and 10 miles really comfortably through the beginning of December. So it would seem that barring any other setback in terms of pain or traveling logistics, we may be inching toward the Magic Kingdom in early January after all. Who is typing all of this?!

The good news is, I'm certainly not the only lunatic in our little family. Erich has talked over the past several months about entering an amazing bike race in upstate New York in the spring of 2010. Ever since we first heard of the Tour of the Battenkill, we thought it would be such a cool race to see. And for Erich, the thought of entering the Pro-Am race was even more special. Essentially, the race organizers have successfully created an event designed to simulate the Classics races that take place in Europe every spring. Famous for its covered bridges, un pave' sections of gravel, and steep climbs, the Battenkill is just plain epic.

While Erich and many of his cycling buddies in the City Loop Mafia discussed entering the race together throughout the fall, the sign-up date of December 21 seemed to sneak up on all of us. In retrospect, I wonder if my deliberation over the Disney Half and Erich's decision about the Battenkill race sort of cancelled each other out, causing us both to give in? Either way, he pleasantly surprised me when he officially decided over this past weekend that he would train and enter the race. So by Monday night at 7:15pm (before either of us could change our minds), I had requested vacation time for the Disney Half-Marathon in January, and E had signed up as a Category 4 racer in the 2010 Tour of the Battenkill. Egads!

Who knows what will happen? What I think we both know is that we have some real challenges before us. These races won't be easy. The training required for the half-marathon has been tough up to the point of my injury, and Erich definitely has some long, hard days ahead of him on the bicycle. But it does feel good to have these goals - both of us setting out to do something far beyond what we've done to this point. And to be sure, there's some real fun to be had along the way! So after spending a wonderful holiday season with our family, our friends, and with each other, it will be, as they say, 'game on.' We're quickly moving toward 2010, happily lookin' for adventure...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winston's Winter Wonderland!

I'm not at all ashamed to admit that I completely turn into a little kid when there's snow in the forecast. So for the past few days, we've been giddy with the prospect of our first winter storm in some time. And unlike the past few seasons of empty promises, this time the snowflakes covered our beautiful city, creating our own Winter Wonderland!

Erich and I took our pup Zable for a snowy walk in the park last night. We had so much fun! And there's nothing like curling up in a warm bed after being out in the blustery snow. More snow fell overnight, leaving us with six inches total. After oatmeal and coffee (Bali beans, Mellow Johnny's style), Erich and I set out for a long walk through town, making a few fun stops and taking several photos along the way. It really is one of the most wonderful times of the year!

No snowy adventure is complete without a warm cup of yummy goodness. As the snow started to fall yesterday, E and I made a stop at Krankies Silver Bullet. One mocha and one vanilla steamer later, we were on our way.

Not sure who gets more excited, Erich or me!

Wrestling with Zable in the snow. I definitely won.

I'm partial, I know...but I love our house in the snow!

Not far from our house, there's this wooded path that connects to a main sidewalk and street. We decided to take this 'shortcut' on our walk. Beautiful!

Such a peaceful looking church, serene in the snow.

We loved this. When in doubt, just close down the whole road!

After a stop at a bike shop and plenty of trudging through the snow, we worked up an appetite. Sharing a sandwich at Cafe Prada was the perfect solution. Here, I'm apparently reflecting on our tasty decision to stop, rest, and refuel.

Not today, biker buddies.

Beautiful Centenary Methodist Church in Downtown Winston. 05.08.10 is fast approaching...

One of our favorite spots, 6th & Vine, looks that much cooler in the snow.

One of the highlights of our day was our trip to Mock Orange Bikes. Not only did the guys in the shop build a crazy snowman (complete with reflectors for eyes), but they also brewed us a hot cup of Mello Velo for the walk home. Can't hardly beat it!

One of our favorite parks. So pretty and peaceful on our walk home.

Out in the snow with my favorite guy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree...

It's one of my favorite times of the year. As hard as it is to believe, the Christmas season is upon us! So this past weekend, Erich and I took on the adventure of finding our perfect Christmas tree. We'd decided we would go early Saturday, something I especially looked forward to after the Tribe's heartbreaking loss on Friday night. When I first looked outside on Saturday morning, I saw beautiful, wintry sunshine, but I knew it would be cold - the coldest morning of the season so far, in fact, with temperatures in the low 20's. So armed with fleece, gloves, and Roots gear, we headed out for our first (and arguably most important) stop of the whole morning: a coffee shop.

Brew Nerds is a really cool shop in downtown Winston. Although they claim they serve 'coffee for smart people,' they let us drink coffee there, too. And we've quickly learned our favorite drinks. Below, I took a break from my 'Moravian Cookie Latte' long enough to capture a shot of Erich enjoying an 'Original Sin.' Perfect way to start our day.

Then we hit the road. During our search for a Christmas tree last year, we headed up into the mountains, selecting a tree farm off (and I mean, way off) the beaten path. We loved the tree, the folks who worked there, and the hot apple cider. And our original plan was to go back there again this year. But with time drawing a little shorter this season, we elected to head out to a tree farm we'd heard about here in the Triad. Naturally, we had to listen to the holiday episode of Car Talk along the way. It's one of Erich's favorite things ever on a Saturday morning. (I secretly like the show, too, but do not let that get around.) When we arrived at the tree farm, we saw lots of different options, most of which were pine or spruce trees. Although we thought many of the trees were beautiful, we worried about the stability of the branches for hanging ornaments. Erich's concern here is obvious...

Fortunately, we decided to explore another possibility. I had read of a family-owned tree farm up in Jefferson, North Carolina. Wisely, they decided to cut several of their Fraser fir trees each week and bring them down from the hills. Before long, we found the 30-foot Santa Claus signaling the entrance to the lot. We immediately knew we'd be able to find our tree there. I guess we just love a good, old, classic fir tree. Without too much trouble, we both honed in on a beautiful 7-foot tree. In no time at all, our tree was trimmed, netted, and loaded into the back of the truck.

Once we got home, Erich hauled our tree into the house all by himself. Beast. Over the course of the afternoon and evening, we started bringing boxes of lights and ornaments out of storage. To the tune of Feliz Navidad holiday music, we wound our way through a tangle of garland and lights. Several strands later - and with all the bulbs working! - our tree was finally lit. With egg nog for nourishment, we soldiered on, hanging ornaments with Tar Heels and Scarlett O'Hara and even a tiny flat-screen TV depicting the theme from 'SportsCenter.' Finally, the star was placed at the very top, and our work was done. To be sure, I'm a little biased - but I think it's the most beautiful tree. And while it probably isn't perfect, it really is the perfect tree for us...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hark Upon the Gale.

This past Saturday brought with it a round of chilly rain and championship football. Being the college football (ahem) fan that I am, I had planned all week to watch as much of every game as possible. Hoping for close, hard-fought match-ups, I was not disappointed, as several games ended in the last minute with score differentials of only 1 point! The only lopsided victory of the day went to the long-overdue Crimson Tide of Alabama. And the crazy finish of a game-winning field goal with 0:01 on the clock puts the Texas Longhorns in the big game. But in spite of all the excitement on the flat screen, I was really looking forward to a game taking place halfway across the country with far less press coverage but much more meaning to me.

I was lucky enough to attend the College of William & Mary for my undergraduate degree, a wonderful four years I would happily live all over again. During my time at the College, I worked with the Division of Sports Medicine, and during my junior year, I was assigned to the football team. Widely known to be the toughest assignment in all of Sports Med, I took it on following an entire summer of covering sports camps. And from a pre-season filled with two-a-days until the last play from scrimmage on Senior Day, I totally loved it.

I was able to travel with the team to Raleigh, Delaware, and Boston, skipping out on the Providence trip only for the CAA Women's Soccer tournament. I watched one of the most gruesome leg injuries I've ever seen, then hauled that poor Offensive Lineman to the hospital in the back of a ghetto equipment van. Through surgery and rehab and his comeback during our senior year, it's true what they say - you sometimes make friendships in the most unlikely ways. And then the infamous night I was in charge of medical coverage for the Defense...when the star Defensive Lineman went down with a season-ending knee injury. Not only did we bus back to Williamsburg late that night, having suffered a heart-breaking defeat in double-overtime...but I also woke up ridiculously early the following morning to scrub in on that player's surgery. I still remember thinking that the ACL and PCL looked like French fries (they kinda do, if you really think about it). It was a priceless experience - and certainly a sign of things to come.

In addition to feeling like I had 90 new brothers, I also had the pleasure of becoming friends with Tribe Head Coach Jimmye Laycock. I still believe he took on a paternal role with me because his own daughter had left home to start her first year at UVa during that season. And besides that, our whole region was pummeled by Hurricane Floyd that same year. When my hometown was flooded and no contact could be made with my family for two days, Coach Laycock took that to heart as much as anyone, allowing me time off to check on things at home. You don't forget things like that. And you always find it that much easier to cheer for your home team.

Suffice it to say, I love William & Mary. And I love Tribe football. So following one of its most successful seasons to date, the team has made the playoffs this year. Their opponent in the First Round seemed to be one the Tribe should handle easily, especially with home-field advantage at Zable Stadium. Yes, Zable is also the name of my chocolate lab - not a coincidence. I was thrilled to watch online as the Tribe throttled Weber State, 38-0, moving on to Round Two. For me, I felt they should win their first game, but anything beyond that would simply be icing on the cake of a great season. When it was determined that the team would travel to Carbondale, Illinois, to face the #3 Salukis this past weekend, I hoped they would at least play with some heart and not be blown out. Though Southern Illinois came out looking very strong, their opening field goal proved to be their only score of the day, as the Tribe scored 24 unanswered points on the way to Coach Laycock's 200th career victory! After the game, the senior captains presented the game ball to their "ol' coach." And in true Laycock fashion, he accepted it graciously, then told them they have more work to do. He told the media this past week of finally remembering the honorary game ball when he heard it rolling around in the trunk of his car while driving to practice! It was only then that he decided to place it in his office. Humble and driven. Just how I remember it.

So the boys play on. This Friday night, they revisit #2 Villanova in Philadelphia, where they suffered their worst defeat during the regular season, 28-17. Certainly, the odds are against them. But then again, that's the way it's been for much of the season. Not so many people expected them to start off the year with a resounding victory against the 'Hoos in Charlottesville. The rivalry game against former champs JMU was a victory for the Tribe that was never really close. And a heartbreaking field goal with 2 seconds left is the crushing way they lost to the Richmond Spiders, the defending national champions. So these guys are accustomed to putting up a fight. I hope they play hard and show tons of heart, win or lose. It's great exposure for my tiny little school, now thrust into the spotlight with national TV HD! I don't think I've ever seen the Tribe on TV in HD! And it makes me really happy. I have a lot of Tribe Pride. It's okay - you can have some, too! There's plenty to go around.

Go Tribe. Hark Upon the Gale.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Time Off

Last week, I had a great time with my family. After tackling one little valgus knee replacement and one big 8-mile run, Erich and I left to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Virginia. Following a late dinner with Mom and Dad on Tuesday night, we relaxed and caught up on recent news before heading to bed. Wednesday brought with it rain, hard work, and a Southern Yankee. After coffee and oatmeal, E and I started working on an outdoor project he and Dad initiated back in the spring while Mom went to pick up Sarah from the airport. The day passed quickly, and I could hardly believe how great it felt to take a hot bath before heading to my grandparents' house for a bowl of homemade soup. We shared a great visit and helped to make Mamar's classic Marcia Cauble salad, a staple of any holiday meal, before getting some much-needed rest.

Early on Thanksgiving morning, Mom and I spent some time together, baking and listening to Christmas music. Sometimes it feels a little bit like a fairy tale to me! Dad and Sarah joined Mom, Bing Crosby, and me just before I went to Mamar's house to help her with last-minute cooking and cleaning before everyone arrived at noon. Mamar will always have coffee and a cinnamon roll, you know, just to 'tide you over' until the ginormous feast! Thankfully, my homemade mac 'n cheese experiment turned out better than my practice round. And slowly but surely, the rest of the family trickled in, Pop blessed the food, and it was time to eat. And watch football. And eat. And watch football. You get the idea. But this year, Dad, Erich, and I broke up the usual routine by taking a walk around the old homeplace. We went back to the old pond, speculated about animal prints in the mud, and explored a huge fallen tree. Nearly all of the cotton had been picked, but the remaining bolls were such a pretty contrast with the rest of the earthy tones in the late afternoon. I'm really glad we took that walk.

On Friday, we lounged around, then worked hard and finished the threshold/siding/deck project between snacks and updates on the Alabama/Auburn football game. Of course, no trip home to Virginia is complete without a cheese steak hoagie from Pino's Pizza. And for dessert, we decided to celebrate the completion of our project by roasting marshmallows in the chimnea on the deck. Best S'mores I've had in a while...

Following a fun road trip back to North Carolina, I went for my long run on Saturday afternoon before heading to Mama G's for Round 2 of Thanksgiving. Interestingly, I was shot with a Nerf gun by some neighborhood delinquents while running...but I smoked through the rest of my run, empowered by the lecture I gave them in their driveway. Kids these days...

It was wonderful to be back and relax over dinner and drinks with Erich's part of our family later that night. But halfway through the beating I took during a game of cards, I noticed my left leg pain. I've had this nagging, deep, pinpoint ache in my left leg for the past few weeks. And while I've had shin splints before, this feels very different. I took Aleve that night and rested instead of going for my 3-mile run on Sunday. But Monday night, after a 2-mile easy run, it was still very much there. And standing in the OR through 4 knee replacements, 1 hip replacement, and 1 bipolar hemiarthroplasty yesterday, it just didn't feel right.

So what to do? Today was supposed to be a 9-mile run. Nothing short of not running made any sense, so I caught up on CME and drank Russian tea and listened to the pouring rain outside, secretly thankful I wasn't out in it. It's an interesting point - the race at Disney World is only 5 weeks away, not the best time for left mid-tibia pain or burnout. BUT. They always say it's all about the journey. And I guess if I did every single run in my training plan cheerfully and painlessly, it would all probably be really boring. Plus, crossing the finish line wouldn't be nearly so sweet. So we'll see how this goes. I've never been so faithful in my training before now...and I've certainly never been 'injured' enough to require time off. Stay tuned...