Thursday, November 4, 2010

Change.

The last two months have brought with them a little bit of everything. Travel. Adventure. Tears. Laughter. Questions. Answers. And Change.

My last post detailed my issues with which (if any) half-marathon to choose for the fall/winter season this year...which was a real, credible dilemma at the time (one I've since resolved - but more on that later). The next weekend was spent hanging out in Winston with my college buddy, Shelly, while Erich and Barry headed to the Empire State for a Battenkill adventure. Good times!

After a great book club with the girls, complete with delicious food and wine (and the occasional mention of a book for good measure), September took a really different turn on its usual road to autumnal happiness. The inexplicable losses of two of our friends' fathers in the span of just 9 days changed, well...everything, really. Plans. Perspectives. Just...everything.

In between two funerals, Amy and I tackled one of our favorite races, the Salem Lake 10K. We weren't really planning to do that race at all. And we certainly weren't really trained for it. But it just didn't matter. That particular trip around the lake was about something very different from heart rates and split times. And it might have been our slowest - and best - one yet.

I celebrated my 31st birthday with a few of my favorite Canadians. Bonding with Janet's beautiful new daughter reaffirmed two things I already knew: 1.) She's a tiny kindred spirit. And 2.) I should probably give up having a kid before I even start because I'm pretty sure I can never make one that cute. It's so odd and wonderful to watch one of my best friends be a mother. It's like...we're growing up and stuff. So, so much love. And way too little time.
In the middle of the Canadian invasion, we also hosted a party for the City Loop Mafia following their (non) annual 100K. Pedaling their way through The Dash as the leaves are just starting to turn...and then gathering together with mafiosa family and friends for chili, beer, and college football...that's a tradition I hope we hold on to for a long time to come.

And then in between clinics and Erich's trip to Baltimore to present his latest research, we made time for a deep-fried Reese's Cup at the Dixie Classic Fair. And a winter weather prediction at the Woolly Worm Festival...followed immediately by Brunswick Stew and homemade apple butter at the Valle Country Fair. And what fall season would be complete without a trip to Colonial Williamsburg for a walk down Duke of Gloucester Street and a little Tribe football action? Long story short, I met the Griffin; the Tribe sealed their 1-point victory in the final 30 seconds; and going back home again never really gets old.

So now it's...now. A few days status-post Halloween party (Flo the Progressive Insurance Girl + Iceman from Top Gun = 4ever). And just a day and a half of clinic left to round out the week. Then Starnes and I take off on Saturday for a girls-only road trip to Wilmington. She committed to the Battleship Half Marathon long ago. Before the fall got so chilly. And so hard. While I'm certainly not trained up for a half-marathon, I've decided to tackle it with her, allowing for plenty of walking. And soreness. And hard-earned fun! In true half-marathon fashion, I've summoned the winter to join us. So the forecast low of 35 degrees on Sunday morning (in Wilmington!) should really surprise no one. If you think about it, that's actually quite balmy compared to 31 degrees with freezing rain and snow in Orlando for my first half-marathon. Seriously?! Seriously.

Even today as I write this, the rain has been falling, and there's a noticeable drop in the temperature. The leaves, once brilliant orange and red and gold, now letting go of their branches and drifting to the ground. The pattern of living in this particular fall season has felt something like that to me, I think. So many experiences, both happy and sad. Beautiful, vivid colors...and letting go. Some things have changed forever...precious new life and deep, painful loss. Other things have changed just for now, much like the trees. And then there are those few, invaluable things that never change...like unseasonably wintry half-marathons. And friendship. And love.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Pastry and a Quandary.

So I sat on the front porch this morning with my husband, sipping Mello Velo coffee and munching on cinnamon rolls. Beautiful way to relax on a weekend morning. We talked about his upcoming trip to New York to recon the Battenkill route for April 2011...talked about his slaughter of the Tour de Gaps...talked about a screen door for our front porch...and talked about how sore I am from my measly 2.3 mile run yesterday. All of this, of course, just adds to my dilemma over whether (and where. and when.) to do another half-marathon.

For the record, I think it's totally reasonable to hash out the pros and cons of doing another half-marathon over a cinnamon roll.

My dilemma is this: there are plenty of half-marathons out there, some close to home and others far away. Some flat, some hilly. Some in the warm temperatures, others where it's cold. But it's a daunting process to train for months at a time. No matter what. So I find myself agonizing over which one to choose, thinking that will somehow make it all easier. I know - that sounds crazy, even as I type it!

One race that has lots of potential is the Battleship Half on November 7, 2010. Wilmington is beautiful and flat, and now my buddy Starnes has signed up for this race, her first half. So I'm awfully tempted to sign up, too. My main hesitation is that a.) it's on a Sunday (no rest for the weary) and b.) November is soon! Still, it remains near the top of the list...mostly because Starnes and I look like this when we run together:

You're scared now, right? Yeah, well...ummm...you should be.

And then, of course, there's Disney. Ahhh, good ol' Disney. With snow and sleet and freezing rain, Disney was so very good to me the first time around. Crazy, epic adventure - start to finish. And part of me really, REALLY wants to do it again. Shelly and I had an amazing time, and I sort of find myself wanting to relive it all. But Florida's certainly not as close as Wilmington. And Orlando could be 85 degrees come next January (you never know). Then again, Wilmington doesn't have Donald Duck waiting for me at the Finish Line...

See what I mean? Dilemma! I'm really not sure I can decide. Seriously.

I think the whole point is that a half-marathon still intimidates me. So I want the perfect scenario so I can try it again...and I keep thinking that if I pick exactly the right race, that will somehow make it less, well...scary.

Hey, in other news, football season is upon us. Maybe I don't do either race, but sit on the couch and watch College GameDay for four straight months instead?! Possibly the best solution so far.

Somebody help?

Monday, August 16, 2010

V. sport health!


After lots of talking and plotting and scheming, V. sport health seems to have come to life!

It's a new adventure for us - training plans, nutrition guidance, medical coverage - lots of work and hopefully a ton of fun.

Follow along on Twitter and Facebook!

The idea is to Play Hard. Eat Well. Be Happy.

Simple enough, right?!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Le Tour de Vie.

Ever since the 3rd day of July, Erich and I have been faithfully watching the Tour de France, almost as if it were our job. And, to be perfectly honest, we've watched at times instead of actually doing our real jobs. But if the peloton is under the flamme rouge with 1K to go...and the patient is waiting in the exam room (very comfortably, I might add)...another 90 seconds surely couldn't hurt, right?!

This race is impossible to watch without feeling all sorts of various emotions throughout the three-week journey. Anticipation before the start of the Prologue gives way to heart-pounding excitement as the first stages get underway, complete with nervous crashes and photo finishes.
This year's cobblestone stage added a whole layer of complexity, certainly for the cyclists, but also for the fans. On that day, the race was already over for many - and the foothills of the mountains had not yet come into view. Of course, there's always sympathy for those who are injured or ill, forced to retire from the race long before Paris. And then as the riders climb the tallest mountains in the Alps and the Pyrenees, the strategy and suspense build dramatically.

In addition to all of my usual thrills from watching Le Tour, I added frustration and a touch of anger to my repertoire of emotions this year. A very questionable attack at a pivotal moment left the subsequent race leader, Alberto Contador, in the yellow jersey...and in the hot seat. My blog can be anything I want it to be, but a forum for the discussion of cycling ethics it ain't! At least not for today. That aside, suffice it to say I felt strongly about the outcome, and it will be talked about with other Tour lore for a long, long time to come. Rightly so.

What I'm left with as the race quickly approaches its grand finale in the City of Love is a deep appreciation for the beauty of the French countryside, as well as for the sport of cycling itself. And I was thinking lately how this race is really a pretty good analogy for life. That probably sounds cheesy, but hear me out.
There are the easy days, right? Super flat road ahead, beautiful scenery, no hills to climb, wind in your hair, feeling 'no chain.'

There are lessons, many of them hard to learn. That cheating gets you nowhere, not really. That the guy in front of you owns you. And that turnabout is fair play. Always.

And there are days with a seemingly interminable climb before you, where the finish line is impossible to see. And maybe just when you think the end is in sight, you encounter a switchback, completely changing your direction and forcing you to 'grab another gear,' just to hang on. And then there's everything in between. Where, truth be told, most of us probably spend the vast majority of our time. Nothing that seems insurmountable...yet nothing without some sort of little wrinkle, just to keep us from becoming too complacent. And I suppose you have to have a little bit of everything - the easy and beautiful, the epic and hard - even the occasional crash - just to remind you that you're alive and serving a purpose. All the time soldiering on toward the Finish Line of a job well-done. So as the peloton charges over the line on the Champs Elysees this Sunday, I will surely miss the race, the drama, the views, and the beloved old Brits. But this year's Tour de France has brought with its usual suspense and thrills a stark reminder that perseverance is worthwhile; that honor outweighs a trophy; and the time-honored truth that in the end, the good guy always, always wins.

Maybe my favorite lesson from this year's race has been the subtle illustration of how things can change so quickly, even on what would seem to be the most routine of days. A flat tire here, a clipped pedal there - and the race changes, for good. So what I take away from it all is that it's probably best to live every day with eyes wide open - not only to avoid the cracked cobbles and the oil slicks and the dropped chains - but also to keep from missing the breathtaking vistas and the fields of sunflowers all around you.

Maybe Diane Ackerman said it best: "I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."

Vive le Tour! And Vive la Vie...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Everything and Nothing!

You know that thing where you look at your life and you think you're way too busy...but then you try to figure out what exactly it is that makes you way too busy - and you come up empty? Except you know that can't be true because you always feel busy?! Right. So that's how I feel lately! I haven't even blogged about it all, which I really like to do. But I can't say for sure why that is...except that it's because I've been busy...but I'm not even sure just what it is that I've been busy doing! See what I mean?

Maybe recounting the past few weeks in bullet-points will help...

On Memorial Day weekend, Erich, Amy, Aliza, and I worked on medical coverage for a bicycle race in High Point, North Carolina. A weekend filled end-to-end with adventure, complete with a guy who fractured the greater trochanter of his femur in a bike crash...and capped off with the birth of Baby Sydney, the beautiful daughter of my all-time favorite Canadians.

Then we traveled to Boone the next weekend for an overnight stay in the mountains before E's bike race at Roan Mountain. Gorgeous views - perfect getaway. We cooked out with the Bus Crew later that night when we got home (after the obligatory huge nap)...nothing quite like sitting on a patio with good friends in the summertime...

We visited my family in Virginia the weekend before Father's Day, which was nice and relaxing. Dad and Erich went for a spin on their bikes before meeting up with the rest of the family for lunch at my grandparents' house...followed closely by the USA v. England World Cup soccer match...and then a delicious cookout with Mom and Dad Saturday night before driving back early Sunday afternoon in a classic summer thunderstorm. Good times!

Oh, and right in the middle of all of our weekend trips, Starnes and I launched into our next training plan. I guess I thought the only thing crazier than doing a half-marathon at Disney World would be to sign up for a second half-marathon at Disney World. That's the idea, at least...and it's the carrot I'm dangling to make myself get out in all this heat and humidity and put one foot in front of the other...in slightly faster succession than a walking pace (I mean, for some people). At least it feels good (well, sometimes awful) to be back out there again!

And then there was Argus. The band gathered in The Dash this past weekend for an acoustic show at Krankies Coffee Shop. The most fun for us, really, because we had so many of our friends gathered in one place (our home!) for a ton of fun. After suffering through the Clemmons Rotary 5K early Saturday morning, I was ready to hang out at our house for the band's rehearsal (a.k.a. cookout and jam session) prior to the show later that night. And I have to say - the show was awesome! To be sure, I must have a built-in bias. But there were plenty of people there to show their love, and the guys returned the favor by offering up some great music. Our Sunday was mostly about rest and recovery before heading into yet another busy week...

And the madness continues. Erich and I have tossed around the idea of backpacking and camping this coming weekend. Though admittedly, hanging out at our house and just catching our breath would totally suffice, too. I guess time will tell!

Always, always, always an adventure on the horizon...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mochas & Schemes.

The last few weeks have been blissfully quiet. Nothing too pressing, just the everyday routine of working in clinic, hanging out with friends, and making the world go 'round.

Our book club met this past Thursday night, which is always a ton of fun. We discussed our latest book, Apologize, Apologize, and caught up on each other's lives over some brie and some fondue and some Riesling. Ahhh, just as it should be...

So this past Saturday morning, I woke up early-ish (for a Saturday, I mean) to meet up with my buddy, Starnes, for some girl time. We originally tossed around the idea of going for a run, but with the sky threatening and the coffee brewing, we elected to head straight for Starbucks instead. Naturally.

The morning was quiet, for whatever reason. We had our laptops open, and Sarah McLachlan's Greatest Hits album was playing in the background. It wasn't too long before the cloudy skies opened up. But we were so happy to catch up and hang out together that the rain just sort of added to a super-cool, much-needed morning. And so it was, over a caramel latte and a white chocolate mocha, that we started to plot and scheme.

Some small plans, you know. And some bigger plans. Even some of our biggest plans yet. Medical coverage for bike races. Maybe a half-marathon somewhere down the road. Lots of travel ideas - some well within reach, some a little more like a fantasy (yet). But I can tell you this - our Google Calendars (and our hearts) were completely full by the time we packed up.

A mocha or two, a few plots and schemes, and a little more Shake.and.Bake. Look out, World!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shake.and.Bake.

It all started with a letter.

In 2003, upon my acceptance to the Physician Assistant Program at Wake Forest, I received a letter from the President of the Class of 2004. Contained within was my official welcome to PA School, as well as the assignment of my big sister, or the mentor from the class ahead of me who would guide me through my first year. I couldn't have known it at the time, of course, but that class president would later become my husband. And the big sister he assigned to me all those years ago? She became my best friend.

Last week, as I prepared to stand beside her as her Matron of Honor, I searched through some of our old cards and photos. I even found the first e-mail she ever wrote to me, introducing herself as my big sister. Dated 04/14/03. I can't even believe I still have it in my Inbox, but there it was. And it's no secret to anyone - especially her - that she was possibly the worst big sister. Ever. Like, in the history of Wake Forest. Busy with the challenges of adjusting to PA School (for me) and surviving clinical rotations (for her), we almost never saw each other. I didn't know it at the time, but she was also grieving the loss of her precious sister-in-law, who had suddenly passed away only two months before I arrived at school.

But there's always a greater plan at work. And I'm not sure there's ever been a more powerful illustration of that in my life than during those early days at Wake. Because while my big sister was sorting through her life changes, another mentor stepped in - and much later, when the time was right, I even fell in love with him! As that relationship evolved, so, too, did my career. After graduation, I began working at an orthopedic practice in Winston-Salem. As fate would have it, my big sister was working there, too.

And that's when the magic started.

Our friendship blossomed quickly. She brought me something in my life I had never had before. And to this day, if you ask me what it is, I'm not even sure I can tell you. What I do know is that for as long as I live, I hope I'm never, ever without it.

We commonly refer to each other by our last (maiden) names. Payne and Starnes...or, more accurately, Payne&Starnes. Just one word.

I somehow tricked her into signing up for her first 5K back in early 2006. And to this day, I blame her exclusively for making me do my first triathlon. I can still remember that chilly fall morning before the Angels Race. We were so far beyond nervous, it was ridiculous. In the tradition of that race, you have your race number marked down one arm and the name of someone you race in memory or in honor of down your other arm. She raced in memory of Jenny, her late sister-in-law. But standing there in line behind her, I decided to have something altogether different written down my arm.

If you've seen the movie 'Talladega Nights,' then you know that Ricky Bobby and his best buddy, Cal, always give each other a fist bump before the start of any race and say "Shake and Bake." Earlier that summer, when the movie first came out, Starnes and I decided we'd snag that slogan for our friendship, too. We'd used it over and over so much that I suddenly knew exactly what I needed the volunteer to write on my arm to serve as my inspiration on the morning of that first triathlon.

So while I joke about blaming Starnes for making me do that first race, the truth is, I've been grateful ever since. We've now done so many races together that it's become one of the (many) signatures of our friendship. And maybe with the exception of a Baby Grant and a Baby Bus down the road, I'm pretty sure we won't slow down any time soon.

We've also traveled together a bunch - both with our guys and on the greatest girls' trip in the history of the world (so far). Our trip to New York City in 2007 was something I won't ever forget. Holiday lights, the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, a shopping bag from Tiffany's, and a peppermint white mocha every fourth block. And if you add that to Max Brenner's Chocolate Factory, the giant piano at FAO Schwartz, and pomegranate margaritas from Rosa Mexicano, all set to 'The Music of the Night,' then you have one of the greatest trips ever taken. Period.

Later that spring, I asked Starnes to stand with me as I married my Erich...the greatest day ever. And if you can believe it, I totally kept the secret when her Erik proposed to her the following spring until she could tell family and friends in person. And so life was really sweet. Crazy jobs and Starbucks dates and swim-bike-run...with a kindred spirit by your side, laissez les bons temps rouler.

But it doesn't take much living of life to know that a good friendship - I mean, the really good kind - needs to have its hard times, too. That's how you know it's made of the right stuff. Or as Kahlil Gibran (much more eloquently) put it, "How else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."

So last summer, on the 4th of July, I knew immediately when my mom handed me the phone that something just wasn't right. My parents and sister had come down from Virginia and New York, respectively, to visit us for the holiday. Starnes had left our house with Bus, her fiance', not two hours earlier on their way to dinner. So I had no idea why she was calling me...I just knew when I heard her voice that it wasn't for any good reason at all. The few words she could speak clued me in that her brother and Bus' father had been critically injured in a horrible accident. What followed was, I think, the longest, scariest night of our lives.

You learn a lot about somebody when you see them in that kind of pain. And you learn a lot about yourself when there's not one thing you can do to fix it. We spent that whole long first night shoulder-to-shoulder in the ICU waiting room. And when it finally became clear that recovery was possible at the end of a long road, I learned that it's totally possible to love somebody so much more than you already did.

This past fall, I watched from the edge of the pool, the side of the road, and the end of the trail as Starnes did the Angels Race again, this time in honor of her brother. It was the first time he'd ever seen her race. As she approached the Finish Line to the sound of him ringing a cowbell and cheering her on...well, let's just say it made waking up early on a weekend morning way more than worthwhile.

And so, this past Saturday, we came to her wedding day. My anxiety over somehow summarizing in a toast what it all means to me was outweighed only by the very deep honor I felt to stand beside her. We spent the early part of the day getting ready, and in addition to the countless other emotions, I couldn't help but feel really, really lucky. Because it's not every day that you find yourself sitting on the edge of a bathtub, drinking a celebratory mimosa, and watching your best buddy put on her (waterproof) mascara before heading off to the church. It was, in the very best way, such a privilege to be there in that moment. And I felt a nearly overwhelming sense of gratitude.


It was for those (and so many other) reasons that we had agreed to keep our words few before walking down the aisle. Because I knew that when everyone else had gone inside, it would be just me standing there with her and her father in that vestibule. So you may not believe this, but in a moment that will be a highlight of my life for a long time to come, we leaned over, gave each other a fist bump, and mustered up a "Shake and Bake." It was the planned ending to my toast for later that night, and she couldn't possibly have known it at the time. But that's just how we roll.

It was, in the most real sense, the Start Line of her biggest adventure yet, so for us, those were the perfect words. And I won't be able to tell you all that it meant for me to stand there beside her while that knot was tied. What I can tell you is that I have most happily surrounded myself with people who make me better because of who they are. And when you share a day like we all shared together this past weekend, what you're left with is a happy, (so very) happy heart. I guess every friendship has their own language, their own quirks and funny phrases that mean something special, just to each other. And you often hear about those three little words - I. and Love. and You. Believe me, Starnes and I said those words plenty of times on Saturday. But at the end of the day, it might have been those three other little words that knit our hearts just a little closer together.
Shake. and. Bake.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Argus and Everything After.

Last weekend was our epic Argus and Athens weekend - and we weren't disappointed.

As soon as we could all finish our work Friday afternoon, Erich, Amy, Bus, Aliza, and I all hit the road for Athens, Georgia. Mark had left earlier in the day to meet up with his Team Mountain Khakis boys. Our road trip was an enjoyable one...low-key with good company...my favorite! We all crashed as soon as we arrived into town, knowing it was late already and the next night would not be an early one.

Erich left early the next morning to join the rest of his buddies for band practice, so I joined Starnes and the Hekmans for breakfast. Once we finally got The Bus awake, we all hit up Jittery Joe's in downtown Athens. What a funky, cool coffee shop! The combination of two of my favorite fixes, cycling and coffee, was really, really cool. And I'd put their white mocha up against just about anybody's.

Once Mark left for a training ride, A-Hek, Bus, Starnes, and I shopped for a while downtown. I know it sounds crazy, but Junkman's Brother's Daughter is a super fun store! I'm pretty sure the only reason we left after an hour was because of the barbecue lunch Jay and Courtney had waiting for us at their house. Delicious food and great friends...it's hard to beat it!

The only real damper on the whole day was the weather. We knew there were some nasty storms to our south and west, and sure enough, as the day wore on, the weather got worse and worse. Bus, Starnes, and I sat on the front porch, listening to the sounds of the pouring rain and Argus-turned-garage-band. I have to say - the old boys sounded pretty good in warm-ups, so we started to get really excited about their show later that night.

Erich and I headed back to the hotel so he could change, then we headed to Tasty World to 'load in.' For those of you who don't get to hang out with rockstars on a regular basis, that's the lingo for setting up your equipment before the 'gig.' Once they were all settled, I met up with Aliza at the hotel, and we headed downtown for an espresso before meeting up with the crew for the show.

Just as planned, the show started around 6:45pm so we could have around 2 hours of rock 'n roll before heading out to the Pro Race of the Twilight Crits. The guys really did rock the crowd - maybe the best show I've ever seen them play! It was a ton of fun to be there with our buddies...something I'm sure we won't forget for a long time to come. We were even lucky enough to have The Legend join us for the show before heading out to the race. For those of you who don't get to hang out with The Legend on a regular basis, that's the lingo for Aliza's dad, Wayne. And that's about all I can tell you. The rest you have to enjoy for yourself!

Once the show wrapped up, we headed out to the soggy race. I felt bad for the guys having to race in the thunder, lightning, and pouring rain. But the race was still an entertaining one. Once a 6-man break went down the road, Team Mountain Khakis put on a show chasing them down. With the conditions as bad as they were, the peloton had dwindled to fewer than 40 riders out of the original 150+ starters. As the bell sounded for the final lap, we all held our breath for the sprint. Unfortunately, when one racer went down in the finishing straight, he took a few other guys with him, including our buddy, Mark. But he still made his way across the Finish Line, leaving a little skin behind for good measure.

After the race, we all unwound with late-night pizza at the hotel. And after sleeping in to a delightfully late hour, we grabbed plenty of fresh java beans from Jittery Joe's, plus mochas for the road. It's funny, but after traveling to Charleston, Williamsburg, Courtland, New York City, Cambridge, and back again over the past few weekends, the trip home from Athens literally flew by.

And before we knew it, we were right back in the middle of a new week. We celebrated Aliza's birthday with a girls' night this past Thursday, which was a lot of fun! And Amy's bridal luncheon was this past Saturday...we had such a beautiful day to celebrate together. It's so hard to believe that we're only a few short days away from the much-anticipated wedding of Bus and Starnes! I'm putting the finishing touches on my toast (read: deciding how to put it all into words). Hmmm. Stay tuned on that one.

You know there's nothing in the world like my girls!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

...And Back South.

So the second half of our Empire State adventure was easily as exciting as the first.

Erich and I road-tripped up to Cambridge, New York, on Friday morning. The drive itself was beautiful - the company, even better. We could tell the temperature was dropping as we headed further north. Arriving into the small village of Cambridge, Erich decided to pre-ride a bit of the course before we headed to the Cambridge Hotel sign him in. I drove around to follow, and the scenery was like stepping right into a painting - unreal. The covered bridge over the Battenkill River is the primary symbol of the race, so it was really cool to see it in person!

Once the course had been previewed and registration was complete, we checked out a bike shop in Saratoga Springs (to replace the bike pump still sitting on the 19th floor of Sarah's apartment!), then checked in to our hotel. We had fantastic hotels on this trip (not to mention our best accommodations in NYC!)...if you're ever, ever in the Saratoga Springs area, you should stay at the Hyatt Place. Clean, beautiful, huge rooms, endlessly-kind staff, delicious food...just go stay there already!

Erich and I asked the hotel staff for a recommendation for Friday night's dinner, and they pointed us in the direction of the Jonesville Store. We had the most unbelievable appetizer before devouring our dinner...with a glass of wine for me, the non-racer (sweet revenge for Erich's beverages during my Disney half-marathon!). There was also this cool old guy playing acoustic guitar for nice background music - truly, a lovely setting. It's really cool to take a chance and discover something new and wonderful!

When we returned to our hotel, Erich worked on bike maintenance, putting on his brand new tires. I went to the train station to pick up Sarah, who had taken the beautiful train ride out of the city after work. Believe it or not, it actually snowed on our way back from the station! The three of us were surprisingly relaxed that night, thanks to Shrek, Donkey, and a few chocolate chip/peanut butter cookies.

The relaxed mentality continued through our brunch the next morning, as well as all throughout our road trip from Saratoga Springs to Cambridge. Once Erich was pinned and sent off to the Start Line with his newfound buddy Frank, Sarah and I drove through the beautiful countryside in search of the Feed Zone at Mile 41 (where we would reload Erich's drink supply). The scenery continued to amaze us, and we had some great sister time. Once the Feed Zone was located, we elected to head to Juniper Swamp Road for a little racing action. We were really pumped to see Erich in a great position heading into the climb, roughly in the middle of the pack. He would go on to move into the lead group after that point.

Time seemed to pass really quickly from that point on. Before we knew it, the pace car was approaching the Feed Zone. I was a little nervous about my bottle hand-off, but I was excited to see the race shaping up so nicely. There were two guys down the road with the main peloton chasing, and Erich was right in the middle of that lead group! The rest of the race had been dropped, so he was well on his way to a Top 25 finish...at worst. I was really pumped for him! So you can imagine my surprise when he gave me a thumbs-down and pulled his bike over to the side of the road. Almost immediately, there was a big crash just behind us. Total sensory overload. As it turns out, Erich's shifter cable had completely snapped 5 miles before the Feed Zone, leaving him in his hardest gear. The fact that he had made it even that far was pretty miraculous in itself! So after months and months of training and anticipation, his race was over. Just like that.

I can't deny I was disappointed. He has worked really, really hard! And I felt invested in this whole process, too. But Erich was so positive about the entire experience, it was hard to stay down for long. And indeed, as she had all week, my sister played the role of hero, having planned an awesome dinner for us in downtown Woodstock! It's pretty hard to beat cold beer and gourmet pizza in a funky/cool setting...plus the raddest cycling hat out there.

Our road trip back into NYC was a whirlwind, as usual. The feeling of chilling out in Sarah's apartment, overlooking the city with a (now very cool) breeze blowing, with Tina Fey on SNL in the background...well, that was pretty awesome. We slept in the next morning before grabbing brunch at the hip, delicious Community Restaurant with Erich's cousin, Lisa. It was great to catch up with her! Then Erich, Sarah, and I decided to spend the afternoon at the Museum of Natural History. Needless to say, that was time well-spent. We even got to meet up with Sarah's best buddy in the city, Ally. Pretty much a perfect spring afternoon in Manhattan.

It would seem that no trip to the Big Apple is complete without at least one meal at Rosa Mexicano. Their food and drinks (especially their pomegranate margaritas!) are hard to beat. The three of us decided to relax on Sarah's 'back porch' for the rest of the evening with the sounds of the city (and Erich's travel guitar) all around us. Nearly impossible to beat the views from Sarah's place. Simply gorgeous. I love New York!

What a perfect trip. All too soon, our time in the city was over. Hugs, kisses, and Starbucks all around on Monday morning, then Erich and I hit the Lincoln tunnel and headed south. We had a long, but very enjoyable road trip back to The Dash. Nothing quite like coming home to a slobbery chocolate lab who is nothing short of elated that you're back!

Having a chance to take a deep breath before heading back to work was essential to the planning of this trip. I've spent the past two days making sure our house was in reasonable order, ensuring our laundry is caught up, doing a little yard work, cheering on some buddies at a local bike race, and being straight-up lazy. It's been awesome! We have what appears to be a really relaxing weekend in front of us, and I can hardly wait.

And then, if you can believe it, we hit the road again! Destination: Athens, Georgia. Mission: Cheer for the long-overdue Argus reunion show, then head out to the Athens Twilight Pro Race in search of flying pigs. Stay tuned.

It's gonna be epic.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Heading North...

So Erich and I hit the road on Tuesday afternoon to start our New York adventure. We decided to take the scenic route through the mountains via Interstate 81. The very best part of that decision is the detour through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Before I went to PA School, I was fortunate enough to earn my Master's Degree in Exercise Science at James Madison University, so I feel I can claim a little ownership of that part of the world. Erich had never spent much time in the Shenandoah Valley, so we decided to make our first stopover in Bridgewater, Virginia - significant, too, because my dad went to college at Bridgewater. It was awesome to walk through campus and take in the springtime sights, not the least of which was the football field where my dad made a few tackles back in the day. And the Crimson Inn is a must if you're ever in need of a place to stay in that area.

After a quick breakfast at the aptly named Jess' Quick Lunch on Wednesday morning, we were back on the road. From Bridgewater, our road trip was just over six hours to the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Looking at the map ahead of time, I noticed that the Gettysburg National Military Park was not too far off the highway. This stop proved to be not only well-timed for stretching our legs, but unbelievably beautiful (and moving) as well. We decided to take the auto tour through the battlefield, which allows you to drive your car along paved paths snaking through the 24-mile route. We took several stops along the way to walk along the same grounds those thousands of soldiers covered during those three fateful days. And of course, our tour concluded at the cemetery where good old Abe Lincoln gave a certain address a few years back. Truly, Gettysburg was an amazing place to visit. Our only regret was that we didn't have more time to spend there.

But we could hardly wait to get to the Big Apple! Our trip through the Lincoln Tunnel and into Midtown Manhattan was a little adventurous, to say the least, but it's always a ton of fun. We were so happy to see my sis, Sarah, our fantastic hostess for the week. Once we got settled, she took us for a great dinner at Penelope. And of course, because it was Erich's birthday, the night called for a little celebration. For us, celebrating included Sarah introducing us to the most amazing cupcakes ever, courtesy of Crumbs. Unreal! She and I were able to tear ourselves away from our respective Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Cup treats long enough to snap a picture of E's Devil's Food cupcake, complete with a musical birthday candle! Hard to beat indulging like this while sitting on Sarah's balcony overlooking the Empire State Building on a spring evening...

Erich and I started our day today at Starbuck's (naturally) before heading over to Sid's Bikes NYC. This bike shop is super cool - and it probably doesn't hurt that they sport the orange and black colors, just like all CLM-wannabes. From Sid's, we walked over to Herald Square, down to Times Square, and then to Central Park for a rest. We grabbed lunch at a delicious Asian fusion restaurant before swinging by Niketown and the Apple Store. Our ultimate destination for the afternoon was 30 Rock, as in Rockefeller Plaza. My wicked-fun sister hooked us up with tickets to a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And it just so happened that his guest for the night was Tina Fey - love her. Amy Poehler, Seth Myers, Mario Batali, and Justin Bieber rounded out the lineup. Very, very cool way to spend the afternoon!

We had a great dinner tonight at The City Grill, then grabbed our dessert nightcaps at Magnolia Bakery. You just can't beat having a live-in guide to NYC! In the morning, Erich and I will drive up to Cambridge for race registration, then he and the Cervelo will preview certain parts of the course. When she's finished with her work week, Sarah's taking a train out of Penn Station to meet up with us in Saratoga Springs tomorrow night. And then, as hard as it is to believe, Race Day will finally be here!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Whirlwind.

It's crazy to reference a whirlwind, especially with it being 'Tornado Week' on The Weather Channel and all. But much like the EF3 twister that rocked our good buddies in High Point last week, things keep right on spinnin'.

Our girls' weekend in Charleston was so much fun. Sarah, Aliza, and I had a great road trip down together, and it was really, really nice to catch up with everybody once we arrived. There were 10 girls in all who made the trip down to celebrate with Starnes for the weekend. And you know how it goes - these adventures are always short on sleep but long on fun!

I'm pretty sure I'd barely blinked when our alarm clocks went off the next morning, but with more than 40,000 people signed up for the Cooper River Bridge Run, we couldn't chance our arrival to the Start Line before the bridge closed. Two things to note about our morning together before the race started: #1 - Try as you may, you simply can't beat our Starnes Bachelorette Dri-Fit race shirts. And #2 - Charleston before sunrise in late March is chilly! I had a flashback to my nearly-eternal wait at the Start Line of the Disney Half...minus the snow and freezing rain, of course...

Our whole group managed to join together as we approached the Start, and before we knew it, we were off! This is definitely one of the most fun races I've run - not only because the course is so flat (minus the 4% incline for 1.1 straight miles on the bridge), but also because I was there in Charleston with some of my favorite people on the planet! We had a great time. And my baby sis killed it, running the whole 6.2 miles with no walking breaks. In her first race. Ever! What a stud.

A hearty lunch with the gang - followed closely by a little shopping and a big nap - was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. And then came the Bachelorette Shenanigans. Not too much scandal to report...but suffice it to say, amaretto sours and high-quality friendship can go a long, long way.

All too quickly, our weekend together came to an end. Aliza, Sarah, and I road-tripped back together, dropping Sarah off in Charlotte for her flight back to NYC. And after some heavy springtime storms, complete with a few random tornadoes, we were right back where we started in our everyday lives.

Thankfully, the work week was short. And I had the added bonus of a mid-week Argus concert right in my own guest room. Jay was in town on business, so he and Erich took the opportunity to dust off some old Argus tunes in preparation for their upcoming (epic) reunion in Athens, Georgia. I can hardly wait for that weekend!

As I've mentioned before, we're in the middle of a silly stretch of travel and adventure. We just came back earlier today from a really fun trip to Virginia to see my family for Easter. Erich and Dad hit the road for a pretty spectacular cycling trip from Courtland to Colonial Williamsburg. And Mom, Sarah, and I joined them on Duke of Gloucester Street, following our own shopping adventure, of course. It was a perfect spring day - and so great to be with my family. We spent all day Saturday with our extended family - grandparents and all! I really love to be back home. And then we road-tripped back to Winston just in time for an Easter brunch with Erich's mom and her fellow at Noma. Mmmm...

We have just enough time to catch our breath tomorrow before our journey to New York for the Tour of the Battenkill. I can hardly wait for that whole adventure! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March Madness.

It's funny. As busted as my bracket is, my own version of March Madness is really just halfway through the first round.

This past weekend, Erich, Zable, and I headed to Sugar Mountain. Erich put in a training ride with the rest of the CLM on the route of the Boone-Roubaix race coming up in less than two weeks. The scenery was spectacular - truly, a gorgeous early-spring morning in the mountains. The gang seemed to have a great ride together before all of us met back up in downtown Boone for lunch. The hungry cyclists chose Black Cat Burrito for their carb-reloading, and it was tasty.

Erich and I headed back up the mountain to watch more basketball and steal a lazy nap. We watched the thriller between Northern Iowa and Kansas that ultimately laid our brackets to rest...and loved it. The games were so compelling that we decided to grab dinner to-go from Bella's in Banner Elk so we could watch the Deacs play. Needless to say, Kentucky played like the best team in the entire tournament that night, but we still had a blast! In spite of the warm sunshine the whole day, there was a chill in the air that inspired us to build a fire in the fireplace during the late games.

And sure enough, by the next morning, the weather was vastly different. It was much colder, very windy, and super foggy up at the top of Sugar. I love when the weather feels like that. Erich and I packed up our bike, books, and dog, and hit the road. We first stopped at The Lodge at Banner Elk Cafe for food and mochas. That's when it started to rain. But we still decided to take the long way around, driving up and over Grandfather Mountain. In spite of the rain and fog, the views were beautiful. And it was nice to just drive and talk and listen to music.

As we came down the mountain, we arrived in Blowing Rock. Zable (exhausted from watching people of all kinds on the ski lift from the porch all weekend!) napped in the car while Erich and I wandered between a few shops, dodging the rain from beneath an umbrella. You know you've done just the right kind of shopping when you end up with a Bon Iver CD and chocolate-covered espresso beans from Kilwin's. Perfect.

We spent most of our drive home discussing how we'd love to have a second home in the mountains someday. And that fantasy has carried us right into the work week...where the adventures just keep coming! I can hardly wait for our book club tomorrow night. I finally get to talk to my girlfriends about Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen from The Help. Perhaps over a glass of wine. Or two.

And then Friday, we leave for Amy's bachelorette weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. That whole trip will most likely be a blog entry in and of itself! And the Tour of the Battenkill is now less than 3 weeks away. Erich heads to the hills and the gravel for his big race simulation ride on Saturday. I can't wait to hear all about it. He's showing amazing form these days, even if he is my own husband. Hard to believe that we'll spend Easter in Virginia with our family, then take off for New York only 2 days later. And by that time, a trip to Athens will be waiting on the horizon.

Is there such a thing as April Madness, too?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tribe Pride.

March is here. And with it comes all the Madness.

Less than one short year ago, the Carolina Tar Heels cut down the nets and brought the trophy home to Chapel Hill. But this year's team wasn't quite able to live up to those same standards. When the brackets for the Big Dance were announced, the defending national champs were, predictably, not invited. But they did find themselves as hosts in the NIT. And so the season continues.

Now switch scenes completely to the tiny hamlet of Williamsburg, home of the second oldest school in the nation. Who knew when William & Mary was founded in 1693 that it would take 317 years for them to earn only their second invitation to the NIT...ever? For the Tribe, simply making it into the NIT is a really big deal. So when the selections were announced late Sunday night, I was thrilled to see the Green and Gold pop up onto the screen. Until I saw their matchup in the first round: Carolina. The Tar Heels. In Chapel Hill. Oh snap.

Erich really surprised me with his interest in the game. It turns out that because of renovations currently taking place at the Dean Dome, the game was to be played in Carmichael...a.k.a. Michael Jordan's former playground. A rare treat indeed to see the men's team play in Carmichael anymore. So when Monday morning rolled around, Erich and I quickly decided that ordering tickets (if we were able) was a no-brainer.

Thanks to a renewed membership in the Tribe Club, our connections in Williamsburg produced two tickets for last night's big game. So one infectious diseases clinic, four knee replacements, and one hip revision later, we hit the road for Chapel Hill.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, we love a road trip. And this one was no exception. With a little music from 'Jump, Little Children' playing in the background, the trip seemed to take hardly any time at all. When we first arrived, we decided to take a nice, spring-evening walk through campus with Erich giving me a great tour.

The famous Bell Tower tolled as we walked past. It really is beautiful. How strange to be in Chapel Hill, preparing myself to root against the Tar Heels?!

And of course, there's the Old Well. The classic symbol of the University of North Carolina. Clearly, Erich was happy to be back! We wandered around enjoying the feel of a college campus in springtime, and we eventually made our way to Pepper's Pizza on much-loved Franklin Street. Hard to beat the taste of that pizza + a cold beer just before a college basketball game.

After dinner, we made our way over to Carmichael. I have to admit - it was nice to see lots of Green and Gold everywhere. I instantly knew there couldn't be a bad seat in the house - the arena is so classic and very intimate. But I'm not sure that either of us expected to be sitting right behind William & Mary's band...in the 8th row! It was great. Very cool to see the Tribe well-represented, and equally cool to see the beleaguered Heels and good ol' Roy get plenty of love from their hardcore fans in spite of their challenging season.

From the opening tip, the game was insane. And the roar of the crowd was absolutely deafening. The Tribe looked so scared at the start, and Carolina took advantage with a huge run. But the boys in Green fought back, and believe it or not, it was actually a great game. Truly, William & Mary was David to Carolina's Goliath. The difference in height and athleticism was amazing.

But the Tribe hung tough. They made it rain in the second half, 3-pointers shot from all around the arc - nothing but net. And for that reason, the game's outcome was really uncertain until maybe a minute remained. The boys in Green and Gold simply couldn't hang with the former national champs. But they fought the good fight. Final score: UNC 80, W&M 72.

And so the Heels fight on! Both Erich and I agreed before the game started that neither of us could really lose. We both respect each other's schools so much, and we happily cheer for the other's team...except in the incredibly rare instance when they actually play each other! At the end of the day, there was nothing but love - for both teams (and yes, also for each other). Best $40 we've spent in a long, long time.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again


Last weekend, Erich and I traveled to River Falls, South Carolina, for his first bike race of the season. It was one of those late winter/early spring days that was perfect for our planned adventure. We hit the road early, complete with a tall white mocha (for then non-racer) and our favorite road-trip tunes. The mountains were beautiful, and it seemed like we arrived in River Falls in no time.

Erich's race went really well. I'm so proud of his dedication and training...even when I switch from Coach to Wife with little warning! He had a Top-10 finish in the race, which is especially cool because he mistook the 'bell lap' for an enthusiastic fan with a cowbell. Woo-ha!

We headed back into downtown Asheville after the race for a late lunch at Early Girl Eatery. We love that place, and we totally blame our buddies, the Hekmans, for that. A cheeseburger + an ice cold Highland Gaelic Ale totally hit the spot.

When we returned home, I decided to get back on the proverbial horse and choose more freelance articles to write. I took a little hiatus after my rejection a couple of weeks ago. But the new articles I chose have gone smoothly so far, and I submitted them both to my editor by yesterday morning. Fingers crossed! And the best part? Last night, I got an e-mail from Demand Studios informing me that, after careful review, my rejection has actually been overturned! What a nice feeling.

As we're approaching the end of this past week, we've had nothing too crazy going on. And we have a fun weekend planned with my family. Lots of relaxation together is on the agenda. Which is really nice because these next several weeks promise to be insane. And adventurous. And fun. But insane.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bond. Gold Bond.

I've got an itch.

And I know...that sounds like a really personal problem - but it's not what you think. It's more like an itch for some sort of...I don't know...new project or adventure. I get this feeling that I'll soon realize something I should be doing, something I want to be doing. I don't know what it is exactly. It could be the books I've read lately or maybe the planning for our upcoming spring trips. Who knows? I can't say what started it or just when I'll realize the answer. But I'm going to figure it out. And when I do, you'll be the first to know. Well...you know what I mean...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Second Place.

Weaving through the past week, I have to admit it's nice to be on the other side of it. Thinking back, it's been a week of both disappointment and resilience.

It's a given that I've been short on sleep since the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, and I freely admit I'd do it all again! But it can make for some exhausting days in the clinic and the operating room. Monday was no exception, so I thought I would try to rest up, knowing our day in the O.R. on Tuesday would be one of the longest in a while. Unfortunately, I instead received a phone call later that night to inform me that my position in the O.R. has been phased out. Effective March 1. Believe it or not, I understand - it's business. But it's no less disappointing to me. To say the very least.

I celebrated that news on Tuesday by operating from 7am to 6:15pm. Now that is exhausting. And I had to submit edits on two of my articles for Livestrong due later that day. The edits, I felt, were simple. I completed them and quickly returned them to my Copy Editor. So a little 'chin up' goes a long, long way, and I was still in the game for the week. After a rescue meal from Chick-Fil-A with my best guy, I finally got around to checking my e-mail late Tuesday night. And there it was in my Inbox: my 'Rejection.' It turns out, after some miscommunication on the topic of fish oil (fish oil!), my article was not accepted for publication. Never mind that my first nine articles were published. All that I could focus on in that moment was the fact that the answer was, for the second time in 24 hours, a resounding 'no.' Turns out, it was a tough way to realize that I get one - and only one - chance to make any and all edits on each article. Okay, lesson learned. And sure, I'll make an appeal for a chance to rewrite on the components of fish oil. But the biggest thing for me was balancing the newfound joy of becoming a published freelance writer with the sting of having an article returned for not quite meeting the mark. And on the heels of potentially having to step aside from the O.R. altogether, the week was off to a rough start.

The alarm clock Wednesday morning was as unforgiving as it had been all week. Instead of having a day off, I spent the day evaluating PA students, trying to help them fine-tune their skills and strengthen their clinical weaknesses. That day is always really tiring but so rewarding for me. This time around, it gave me the chance to reset a little, to remember my own roots as a PA-in-the-making, to put aside the drama of the day-to-day rigors of the week to that point. And we capped off the day by celebrating Barry's birthday with his wife, Lisa, at Foothills Brewery. The week was starting to show some signs of life.

In the midst of this (otherwise) typical week, I continued to get a thrill out of watching the Olympics and, as usual, I had my face in a book. As I'd written earlier, our book club chose The Help to take us on our first literary journey together. The more I read of that book, the more I wanted to read, if that makes sense. It took very little time for me to feel as though I'd known Skeeter and Aibileen and Minny for a long time - and even less time to be glad it felt that way. I'll save my discussion of the book for our next book club. But as I read the final words of the book, suffice it to say that I had gained plenty of perspective on what it means to feel as though you've been deemed second-rate. My week quickly became not-so-bad.

As the work week came to its slightly chaotic end, things continued to look up. Whether in the world of freelance writing, the operating room, or the clinic, everything will work itself out. It always, always does. And even today, settling in to watch the epic hockey game between the United States and Canada, I had reason to reflect once more on my past week...not that everything has to be about me. (Well, okay, maybe just on this blog). But watching the hockey players from both countries fight it out on the ice - Canada surging forward with a two-goal lead on their home ice, the United States storming back with mere seconds left on the clock - it was awesome. So into overtime they went. And though I had absolutely nothing at stake (with the exception of bragging rights over all of my favorite Canadians), my heart was pounding! I watched intently, just as I had from the moment they first dropped the puck. And even in the midst of sudden death, with the slapshot that sealed the silver fate of the good ol' U-S-of-A, it was thrilling to see. I felt like I was probably watching live as a hockey game for the ages unfolded. Would I have preferred to see Red, White, Blue, and Gold? You bet. For that matter, would I have felt better if my article had simply been published? Certainly. And would I rather step aside from the O.R. at a time of my own choosing, especially after more than three years of scrubbing in? Absolutely. But in the end, I'm just not sure that's how it's supposed to be. For whatever reasons, I'm meant to focus on clinical work only, at least for now. And maybe somebody else can write a more thoughtful article on the components of fish oil. (I know. I know.) And you know what else? Today was simply Canada's day. But I think that might be the better story after all. If we always win...or get every article published...or get to call all the shots, where's the fun in that? I mean, really. It's not the first time I've been told 'no' or 'not right now.' And believe me, I've certainly come in second place before. What I remember most about those times in my life is that I wouldn't trade anything for it. Much as I hate to admit it, it probably helped me to be better in the long run.

Well. Stupid philosophical mumbo-jumbo. So what else is there? Nothing more than onward and upward, right? Right?!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Days Go By

I finally laced up the running shoes again this past week. The combination of warmer temperatures and watching the world's finest athletes from my couch proved to be the perfect motivation. I'm not saying I was at my fastest - nor did I have the most fun ever - but I was out there. And that feels pretty good. It didn't hurt to hit The Loop with my running buddy afterwards either...

As has been the case more and more lately, I spent a big part of the week reading and writing. I love hanging out in 1962 Mississippi with Minny, Skeeter, and Aibileen...The Help is every bit as good as advertised so far. And I tackled five new articles for LiveStrong over the course of the past several days. I'm not a fast writer, so taking on several articles at once can be a sizable challenge for me. But it's fun, and I'm hoping that will be the kind of challenge that makes me better.

Speaking of living strong, Erich has been tearing up the pavement lately. I've mentioned it before - I totally get a kick out of creating (and tweaking) training plans. And to see him starting to reap the benefits of all his hard work is rewarding for me as well. He had a whale of a training ride yesterday, and it's a ton of fun to chat up the details of max heart rates and intervals over an ice cold Red Oak after satisfying workouts for us both. Our journey to New York is not as far away as it once seemed, and I'm starting to get really excited about that whole adventure...

The week ahead already looks busy with my anesthesia clinic gaining momentum and seven joint replacements on the docket in the O.R. on Tuesday. It's also exam week for the students in the PA Program, meaning Erich and I will spend all of Wednesday critiquing the history and physical exam skills of future PAs. Thankfully, we have a super-cool birthday celebration at 6th & Vine to look forward to later that night. Of course, we're continually absorbed by the Winter Olympics. And next weekend? Who knows...to be sure, some kind of madness will make its way onto the agenda.

And so life goes on, a little better (and faster!) as days go by...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

With Glowing Hearts.

The last several days have been pretty busy, but again, in that positive, really 'living life' sort of way. Aside from the usual duties of the clinic and the O.R., I also continued work on my new project of writing freelance articles. I'm finding that I really enjoy the challenge of writing, and I've focused on the topics of health and sports, both of which I genuinely love. Exciting, too, is the fact that my first few articles have now been published by LiveStrong, the health and fitness website created by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. So it's pretty cool to see where a fun hobby can take you...

I also had a blast this past Thursday night as we kicked off our first little book club! 7 of the 8 of us gathered around the table for some wine and chit-chat. And somehow, in spite of (or perhaps as a direct result of) all the wine and chit-chat, we also managed to pick our first book! From everything I've heard and read, Kathryn Stockett has written a wonderful novel, The Help. It's a small miracle that none of us had actually read this book to date, so we agreed to let this story be our first book club journey together. As I finish up the Twilight Saga, I can hardly wait to see what the pages of The Help have waiting for me.

Then we were off to Raleigh on Friday night to meet up with Shelly, my college roommate (now of the wintry Disney Half-Marathon fame!). Erich was signed up for the Wolfpack Classic Bike Race just southwest of Raleigh on Saturday morning, and our plan was to have dinner, hang out with Shelly and Jason, and see some speedy cyclists battle it out on the road while we sipped coffee. And that plan worked...sort of. We had a great dinner with Shelly and Jason at The Twisted Fork Friday night. As we finished up our yummy food and drinks, snow began to fall - first as tiny, beautiful flakes, and then as (less than) tiny, (but still) beautiful flakes. The roads quickly became more treacherous, so we were glad to settle in at Shelly's house. We still woke up at 5am, only to learn that the race had actually been cancelled! You'd be surprised, though, how quickly bacon, eggs, pancakes, and coffee can squelch the cancelled-race disappointment! And after a great visit with our buddies, we headed back home where Erich got in his fastest ride to date. Look out, Battenkill.

Just last night, we joined all of our friends in the City Loop Mafia at a farewell party for Scott. Truthfully, his new adventure of moving to Spain simply gave us the excuse to gather together and share some laughs, along with tasty food and drinks, entertaining music, and hilarious videos. More importantly, Scott's new pad in Bilbao, Spain, actually gives us added (though totally unnecessary!) incentive to go watch the peloton of the Tour de France pedal through the Pyrenees someday. Though a little bittersweet, the Mafia put on a great party, as always. And I am grateful that my husband has (and shares) his cool/crazy friends.

We're also really excited that the Olympics officially kicked off over the weekend. Erich and I are both self-proclaimed Olympic-nerds. We can get excited about every event from biathlon to curling, skating (figure and speed), and slalom to luge. Beyond that, these Winter Games are hosted by Vancouver, which is in my second-favorite country of Canada. No bias there. So our Valentine's Day celebration looks a little like cinnamon rolls and Jittery Joe's coffee in the morning, followed closely by a training ride (for E) and some page-turning (for me) in the afternoon, capped off with cooking a great dinner together and watching the athletes of the world put on their show. You know, life is pretty good these days...and so much the better if lived 'with glowing hearts.'

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reading. Writing. (But No Arithmetic.)

I suppose I've spent the better part of the past week just as the title suggests - reading and writing. And I've thoroughly enjoyed it. Gone are the days of regular obligations to textbooks and term papers. It's different, you know, when you read what you like and write only because you want to.

Like most of the rest of the free world, I, too, have fallen victim to the Twilight Saga. And after flying through Eclipse, the third volume, I could hardly wait to sink my teeth into Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final novel. Okay, that was a terrible pun, even for me. But all kidding aside, these books are really, really good. Admittedly, I'm not usually a fan of other-worldly stories. But I have found this series to be different in all the ways that make reading so much fun for me - filled with emotion, suspense, friendship, romance...so needless to say, I'm fully immersed in the world of Bella and Edward and Jacob.

But even as I draw near the end of the Twilight Saga, I'm looking forward to reading more good books. As always! I'm actually really excited that our hope for something like a book club appears to have caught on. Next week, a few of the coolest girlfriends I know will gather to catch up, drink some wine, and begin our journey together through some wonderful books. I'm not sure I've ever met anyone whose life wasn't enhanced greatly by being part of a book club. So I can hardly wait to get started...

Besides reading my book whenever I've had the chance this past week, I've also snuck in a little writing - for fun, of course. I love tapping out some thoughts for my blog - it's been great for me. But I also learned of a pretty cool freelance writing opportunity just over a week ago. So I'm trying my hand at writing an interesting article or two. Who knows how that will turn out? I guess my goal is to be the most renaissance version of 'me' that I can be...so why not?!

As for the upcoming weekend, there certainly seems to be some pretty limitless fun on the agenda. Aside from relaxing with a good book and a cup o' joe inside while it rains, snows, sleets, and hails outside, we plan to watch all the Super Bowl commercials (and yes, the actual game, too) over a beer with our buddies, plus shoot darts and bowl (Wii-fit style) with a bassoonist. It's not every weekend you get to say that...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Laid-Back...For Now.

This week has been so much more relaxing than the several preceding it. And though there was a wave of boredom + post-half-marathon letdown over the weekend that took me by surprise, I really think that just fueled the flame for new adventures. And you might ask what I mean by 'adventures.' Great question. Very same one I've been asking myself over the past few days! And the answer is something I haven't quite put my finger on. Yet.

One thought I've had over the past few months revolves around books. Okay, I confess - much of my entire existence revolves around books. Fair enough. So as much as I love to read, the idea of gathering with friends and talking about books we've enjoyed really appeals to me...something like a book club, I guess. Or more like our own (Nazi-free) version of a 'literary and potato peel pie society.' (Incredible book, by the way). I'm not yet sure of the shape this might take - who might want to be involved, what books we'd choose to explore, what wine(s) we'd be forced to sample - but it's fun to think about. So stay tuned - it just might happen.

And to be sure, there are other adventures in the works. I'm signed up for the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, South Carolina, this coming March. That whole trip should be a blast because just about the entire gang will be there, and I can hardly wait! But more on that later. And Erich's training is in full-swing for the Tour of the Battenkill in upstate New York in April. Creating a training plan for him has been an adventure in and of itself, not to mention the constant 'tweaking' involved in prescribing appropriate interval workouts or allowing for changes in weather. But that sort of challenge is really fun to me.

And speaking of weather, this weekend's forecast looks fantastically wintry. I love a good winter storm. In truth, any excuse to drink hot chocolate and read a good book will suffice (see Paragraph #2), but with snow on the ground, it's simply that much better. And who knows? Maybe some ice-induced downtime will give me the chance to chill out, to be laid-back. Or to think up my next adventure. Or maybe both...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Like a Willie Nelson Song.

So after taking exactly 13.1 days off, I knew that I'd be lacing up my running shoes again today. To be honest, as much as I've enjoyed the excuses of not having to work out for the past two weeks, a part of me really missed it. Maybe even a bigger part of me than I would have suspected.

It didn't hurt that the weather outside today is gorgeous. Nor could I claim the excuse of not eating well this morning. Saturday mornings are among my favorite times in...life, I guess. And because of Erich's current training regimen, my Saturday mornings of late have been enhanced by his need for big, hearty breakfasts before setting off on his crazy-long bike rides. And today was no exception. I laid in bed and listened to the waffle iron heating up. Then I started hearing the 'pop' of bacon grease. And when I heard the coffee beans hit the grinder, I finally finally got out of bed. How could I not love coming downstairs to this?!

So after enjoying our tasty breakfast at my favorite little bistro table, I sipped a hot cup of Jittery Joe's House Blend and contemplated my run. I finally settled on doing my familiar short loop around the neighborhood, complete with just enough hills to justify calling it a 'workout' when it's actually just under 5K in distance.

I guess if I'm really being honest about the run itself, it wasn't all that enjoyable. I had a few new aches and pains, which were probably just my body's way of getting revenge for that whole 'half-marathon in the freezing rain' thing I pulled 2 weeks ago. (The medial joint space of my left knee and my right fibular head have still not forgiven me.) And I suppose I have to thank both Taylor Swift and Metallica for making a painful return a little more bearable. Yeah...don't ask.

I also thought a lot about my shoes, even while I was running. Having bought them one year ago this month, I know it's about time to replace them. But I've made a deal with them: because we've gone further together than any other pair of shoes I've ever owned, I owe them one more race in the early spring before finally hanging 'em up. And, you know, how could I not love how these shoes feel? They've been my favorites - ever.

Anyway, with Muse blaring on my iPod, I finished stronger than I started and actually felt fine. Relatively. It's always satisfying to check a workout off of my 'to do' list, and today was maybe a little more gratifying than usual in that regard. Who knows if these little aches and pains will stick around? And only time will tell what shoes I decide to lace up next. Either way, I have to admit it feels pretty good to be on the road again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lactate and a Latte'.

Earlier this morning, I tagged along while Erich and Barry tackled a short (but tough!) time-trialing effort. The end result, we hoped, would yield some numbers we could tweak for the purposes of more focused training. We decided earlier that the parking lot at Groves Stadium would be the perfect site for the test, especially with today's status as a national holiday and its forecast of gorgeous sunshine. So around 10:30am, the guys left our house, electing to bike over to the stadium for a good warm-up, while I drove over and listened to Reba McEntire's newest album. Perfect.

Admittedly, this outing was much more fun for me than for the two athletes/victims. My main responsibilities were timing their rides and snapping a few photos. This particular test required maximum exertion at a duration of 20 minutes. Both guys really hammered out nice rides, metering out their efforts appropriately. Below, Barry gets out of the saddle to bang out a few extra Watts for his test.And Erich stomps on the pedals in anger late in his ride. Following their tests, the guys were tired, and more importantly, anxious to figure out the fastest route to West End Cafe' for lunch. So now I'm back home, settling in for my favorite part. My all-time favorite cyclist just made me a pumpkin spice latte', so the only thing left for me to do is to crunch out some numbers and try to remember their significance. I've grabbed a few books off the shelf from my grad-school days, and it's kind of nice to weave through the cobwebs to my old bookmarks for VO2 max estimates and lactate thresholds.It's been a while, to be sure, but those old equations are slowly but surely coming back to me. Now to put them to good use...