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Sunday, May 20th, 2012
4:24 pm - Listen to the Fortune Cookie

Short cuts suck
Originally uploaded by gnat23
Well. That happened.

Let it be said: my job was driving me bonkers. The long weekend hours, the lack of recognition or potential promotions, the processes which eventually got to be more work than the work itself. I gave them some ultimatums in my head which, when broken, was the first nudge.

The second nudge was an old co-worker/dear friend begging me for help at a different company. I didn't know much about said company, but it sounded as though there was a Gnat-sized hole in that department. I applied.

And finally, all those damn inspirational quotes fortune cookies keep poking at the sore spot: Be bigger than your circumstances. Dare to fail. Embrace change. Fear mediocrity. Get out of your comfort zone. GO DAMMIT DO IT NOW.

Finally, with a tickling feeling in my gut, I pulled the cord. I accepted new job. Gave two weeks notice at the company I had been with for almost nine years. There was bewilderment, congratulations, and commiseration. There was a sort of frantic hand-off. I turned in my badge and (squirt) gun. And then, just like that, I couldn't get back in even if I wanted to. There was a sad realization of betrayal, as if my loyalty was worth not much by the end.

I decided to put a nice hard stop between the jobs, and I celebrated by riding my bike. I boxed up my pink sparkles and trailer, hopped on Amtrak up to Portland, reassembled everything in the station with a multi-tool, and turned southbound along the Pacific Coast. There were a few picture perfect sunny days, the wind at my back, the redwoods and waves equally whispering encouragement as I zipped by. Most of it, unfortunately, was a study in meteorology, fighting late April headlong gusts and bone-aching rain. The hours of pedaling became a zen meditation, with no one to talk to, all regrets having been addressed, all future plans made, and was left with nothing more than the chorus of a song stuck looping in my brain's forefront like a mantra. There was camping, there were brewery-stops, and there certainly were many hundreds of thousands of calories demolished without a care. There were hardly any other people at all. Good thing I like my own company, to be sure.

706 miles and two weeks later, I spent the weekend with my husband and cycling team camping out in the woods, again. They raced, I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and filled water bottles. It was pretty awesome. On Monday, I drove into my new job.

Now, I'm not sure what the future holds, and it's a good-sort of exciting. It certainly beats the doldrums I had let myself slip into of the last few years. There are new habits to form, new people to depend on, new inspirations and plans to be had. My switch back to a normal 5-days-a-week schedule has been spectacular, as I discover that hanging out with people I love seems to trump having extra days off. So far, I am very glad I did all this. I mean, I haven't failed yet.

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Monday, April 2nd, 2012
7:30 am - Now is the time to KETCHUP

Madonna Inn
Originally uploaded by gnat23
Nnnnnnng I let LJ go too long again, didn't I? Dammit. Sorry.

I also let my cycling go, what, a month? two? without many (real) rides.

I've worked a disproportionate number of Sundays. That's a pretty good excuse.

My man went to Japan, Korea, Spain... not all on the same trip. While the first few days of him being gone is kinda nice (YAY HOUSE TO MYSELF), I dare say I cave into the no-fucks-given mode where I'm asleep on the couch at 8pm with a heating pad and a sleeve of Thin Mints, halfway through a season of Warehouse 13. Luckily, I can recover and be my usual perky confident bouncy self before he gets home.

In a fit of home ownership, we hired a guy. He tore town a wall and moved it six feet out into the garage, installing a sliding patio door and the world's sexiest skylight, if there is such a thing. A craigslisted dining set later and we've got this all grown-up dining room that I absolutely adore. Seriously, you need to come over and eat now. The only problem was that the garage has been torn apart and put back together, one random half of our stuff relocated and rotated 90 degrees and covered with dust. When I say I haven't been on my mountain bike in a long time, that's why.

There was also the sump pump in the backyard getting clogged, and me out in the mud in my zebra-print goulashes and pajamas fighting with a hose and an impressive downpour of muck. In case home ownership still looked appealing.

I've given some pretty fantastic trainings at work lately. Road-tripped up to Santa Rosa for a 10oz pour of Pliny the Younger (beer). Ate frogs legs for the first time (meh). Got lowered inside a giant stainless steel tank at work, which is way more fun than it sounds.

Topher's parents came into town for an extended stay, and my liver is finally recovering. There was much wine and scotch and sewing and painting and cooking. They are awesome, but I always feel lazy when they're around: definitely no dinners of Thin Mints.

My grandmother died. Not completely unexpected, and not without drama. I was never that close to her myself, but I managed to get out to Salt Lake City to support the family. I got to pick a few pieces of costume jewelry of hers to keep, which was good because a few days later, someone broke into her house and thefted the rest. Humans can be jerks.

We dressed up our metal T-rex in a bunny costume.

There's way more news, but it will have to wait until other important events have transpired first. EXCITEMENT BUILDS!

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Sunday, January 29th, 2012
8:35 pm - I'm big in Germany!

I'm big in Germany!
Originally uploaded by gnat23
I almost forgot! My photo from Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships was in some huge German cycling magazine. No clue what the blurb says, but my name is in there. What can I say, I'm a sucker for anything involving cycling, drinking, and stupid outfits all at the same time.

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8:09 pm - Too much booty for the pants
Ok, swear to $DEITY, if January is any indication of how the year 2012 is going to go, I'm going to be exhausted.

Wednesday, Topher picked me up from my usual gym session, and we hauled-ass up to San Francisco to hunt for parking near the Palace of Fine Arts. We snuck in to find our seats just as Greg Proops had sat down with Eddie Izzard on a pair of blue-upholstered wingbacks on stage. We watched them banter back and forth, more of a Q&A session than a routine, and yet Eddie would still go off on some excited tangent and get everyone cracking up about sharks in French.

After the event, we went backstage; Topher's name was on some handwritten list with a plus one. I got to shake Eddie's hand and introduced myself, but I found myself at a total lack of inspiration with what to say. I usually try not to get caught up in the whole famous-person thing, and I didn't want to be that person that asks to get a picture ('cause, you know, he's still just some guy, really, and that seems weird if you don't know someone). But it's Eddie Effing Izzard, I mean... come on. We did at some point talk bicycles, as he's gone from his billion-marathons to training for an Ironman Triathlon. I thanked him for being awesome without slobbering over myself too much.

Come the weekend, it was my turn. Topher's birthday rapidly approached, so I again went with the surprise-weekend theme. I told him what to pack, picked him up from work Friday afternoon, and road-tripped another two hours south. I treated him to a spectacular Italian dinner (complete with a bottle of fabulous local Cabernet, breaking our month-long alcohol fast -- but with good excuses). Then we crashed at a quaint inn that sported a jacuzzi fed from a natural hot spring. I woke him up before dawn, got some coffee in his system, and hit him with his big gift: a ride on a hot air balloon. He giggled like a little kid when he figured it out, and then bragged to just about anyone who would listen after our adventure through the skies.

The nice thing about having a guy more into experiences than tangible stuff as gifts? I got to enjoy all these things, too! YAY BALLOONS!

So once again with finishing my weekend with a crash landing in a frazzled lump into bed just hours before my long workday. To be honest, I'm really getting to like it that way.

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Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
1:26 pm - Perhaps I should have been more specific... Nah.

Originally uploaded by gnat23
"I'd love someday to go to Sundance," I said to him off-the-cuff. When I said that, I was actually speaking of Sundance, the Resort: Log cabin-style lodging, skiing or full-moon mountain biking, craft and glassblowing classes, fabulous food, decadent spa activities, and maybe one of those artsy-type movies in the lounge. What I got instead was a rather spontaneous announcement that we had a place to stay -- in Park City. During THAT Sundance.

I'm certainly not one to turn down adventure and opportunity like this. We scrapped some last-minute flights and took off for a long weekend.

Turns out that the Sundance Movie Festival in Park City is... well it's a little insane. I studied up on how to get last-minute tickets, but that involved showing up two hours early, getting a lottery number (first come was not first served), then being back a half-hour before, and maybe MAYBE getting a seat. The high profile films were a wash; parking was non-existent, every restaurant had 45+ minute waits. It seemed overly complicated and frustrating, standing around in the snow and cold for hours with no certain payoff.

So: we hit the mountains instead. Staying in the Canyons, a wee outside the craziness of downtown, we were able to ski on and off the chairlift to our room. The snow was beyond legendary: we had one day of white-out conditions, reports of "an inch an hour" piling up around us, flakes stinging any patch of exposed skin, cars sliding off the roads. Two more days greeted us with waist-high patches the consistency of mashed potatoes. I got stuck on an expert black diamond route, enveloped by trees and moguls, and had to shimmy down while sweating and whimpering. But otherwise, the legends were all true about Utah Powder. Epic was had.

In the evenings, we attended Sundance parties. Elbow to elbow with Hollywood body-types, dancing to acoustic music, sipping on soda water and surviving on passed appetizers. You couldn't help but look around and wonder who was somebody famous; I'm sure they took one look at my hair and did the same. Michael Cera, Ludacris, and Kevin Sorbo were all spotted. The crowds in their designer shoes, big hair, or giant earrings held the attention every glance.

So close and yet so far; darn it, we're here, we're going to DO THIS! I finally got up the nerve to try and brave the waitlist process, but in Salt Lake City rather than the zoo of Park City. We were able to squeak into Beasts of the Southern Wild, seats together in the absolute front and center. There was a Q&A with the director and several of the actors after the movie, which was really cool (if a little jarring to see them out of character so suddenly). The movie was, of course, amazing, but it tore my soul apart a little bit; to be honest, I'm not sure if I could handle multiple moody flicks like this back-to-back as the festival prescribes. Still, we checked it off the list of things to do in life, and I'm pretty glad we did.

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Sunday, January 15th, 2012
2:42 pm - The Shooz, I Has Them
Except for one day a week, I find myself on some combination of bike, bus, or train to get to work. Typically this results in me having either specialty cycling shoes (i.e., the penguin-walk on cleats) or something super comfy for walking, like Vans or Sketchers, to get to my desk. Once there, I'd swap out for a pair that I kept under my desk, some Payless chunky heeled penny loafers that have lasted me since the beginning of time. Except they had started no-longer lasting: the outsides of the heels were worn down to steep levies, the strange naugahyde cracking and rubbing away to dull white patches, all the inner padding long since gathered closer to the toes. It was time.

And thus my Payless budget ran smack into the Fluevog sale. There was procrastination and lusting after the webpage every few days, budgets were shuffled around in a shell game, the futile hunt for a suitable, cheaper, less awesome alternative. Topher finally mentioned how upset I'd be if I didn't get them, if I missed the sale, or if I waffled too long and entered February (my month of Shopping-Detox) and let them stock out, I'd be a CrankyGnat.

Then I was elated, shopping bag swinging off the end of my arm, skipping around the rest of the day. Well, at least until I bumped into THESE.

Practical? Heck no. Cheap? Meh, sorta. Comfy? Rather surprisingly, yes. But the shoe-purchasing floodgates had been opened, the twinkle in my eye confirmed my intentions, and I now own a pair of heels not really possible in Newtonian physics. What the hell. We had visited AsiaSF a few nights prior, and my fascination with the glamorous femininity of the men, er, ladies that served us drinks held me in a trance. Sure, there was some strategic padding and shaving involved, but it was amazing to see what a few good accessories and a great strut could accomplish. These beauties were as good as mine.

So that's the news in shoes.

In a trying-not-to-jinx-it-way, I've been cutting back on the cycling, limped my booty back to Crossfit and am trying the gym's 30-day Paleo challenge. Nothing to report yet except that I haven't had a lack of great things to eat; I even survived a lick-smacking adventure to Umami Burger without a hitch. Will spill the beans (heh) on final results when the time comes.

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Sunday, January 8th, 2012
8:15 pm - Still just a rat in this cage
Sundays for me means work: a 13.5 hour day, strapped to a telephone and a CB radio. There are days when I am the dashing firefighter, whisking away the problems with a grease-smeared wink and a toothy grin. Other days, I'm chin-in-palms pining for the sunshine that is just on the other side of the window and yet far enough away to be that some-day-I'll-go-to-attractive-foreign-country-$Variable vacation and have no funds. It's not that I'm bored, deary no, I have plenty of projects hanging in the inbox, awaiting my savvy hand to dish out the appropriate red ink. But holysnot is that not exciting. Even the things I want to do, the ones I kicked off, the ones that definitely need doing, well, just not inspiring me at this moment. Back to reading tweets about how everyone is enjoying beer on the patio and bike rides without armwarmers and I feel sorry for myself.

What would I do instead? Well, I'd move around, for one. My days off are layered with yoga and bike rides, weightlifting and walks. Yesterday Topher and I hiked and then went ziplining, whizzing like red-helmeted falcons from one redwood tree to the next. I run errands -- I LOVE errands. The woman with the multifaceted todo list and a hype-refficient route and a good sunny day, yeah, that actually calms my little freakish worrying brain down to a mumbling child in the corner happily reading books the rest of the afternoon. If you really want me in a good mood, I do it all with the car top down as I sing along with Def Leppard. I'll gladly rake my yard rather than do another TPS report coversheet.

But man, I just cannot be chained down to a desk these days, I get way too moody. It's like the better the ergonomics, the more my energy gets vacuumed out my fingers. My attention wanders, my blood sugar drops, I get that little red lightning bolt in the whites of my eyes. Sometimes I make my escape for a 20 minute walk around the grounds and it's like flashes to fix everything hits: ah! I need to email that person and here's an idea to fix that and I gotta remember to... as soon as I get back to my cube, the new ideas just turn grey again.

Ah well. I'm still young enough to retrain to be a park ranger or something.

In other news: I had my first bike wipe-out in almost 10,000 miles. I was leading a few people into work, and as we were crossing a wooden bridge near work, I noticed it looked a little wet. Sure enough, I didn't straighten out my approach in time, and my wheels just disappeared out from under me. It happened so fast that I couldn't break my fall, so I dropped straight onto my right hip, which ricocheted through my side as I felt my head bounce. Feeling like an idiot, I got back up, checked everything (bike ok, body stiff, new winter tights still intact, coat sleeve dirty) and rode slowly the rest of the way. When I got home, Topher inspected my helmet and declared it toast: sure enough, it was enough of a thwack to crack the foam. Helmet's a goner, but the brain is A-OK, so there you go kids, wear your damn helmet, even for sub-10mph crashes.

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Sunday, January 1st, 2012
8:27 pm - Goals and Resolutions

Topher and Gnat
Originally uploaded by gnat23
Me? I love resolutions. I love stupid long term goals, even if it something like "laugh at the kitties every day" or "fix my credit". I don't beat myself up if I don't make it, and Jan 1st is just convenient as a time to reset everything.

For 2011:
- Physical - Triathlon
Done! Hated it! Let's not do that again. The training was ok, but I didn't really fit in with the club. Master Swim was a joke for me (too much learning backstroke, not enough time in open-water). The beginner bike was too easy; the next level up dropped me pretty regularly. After getting my finisher's medal and realizing how much work it would take to do anything on the next tri, I just called it quits. Ah well.

- Emotional - Be myself, loudly
Good, then not so good, but getting back to it again. Work's wardrobe restriction plus tons of working out on my offdays means no makeup, skirts, heels, fishnets, nailpolish, hats, anything really fun. I keep trying to play with the wardrobe I can wear, hoping to still be fashionable in jeans, vans and a hoodie. Some day.

- Mental - Read every day
Done, mostly! I didn't track the every day bit, but I did read far more than I have in years past. The new addition of a Kindle Fire to my quiver should bump it up yet again; in the few days between Christmas and New Years, I already polished off two novels. More. Gimme.

- Spiritual - Make a yard area to chill
DONE! And it looks freakin' RAD! Firepit and cozy cushions and little sparkly lights. Wish it was a little warmer out there so I could spend even more time. Highly recommended.

- Financial - Don't carry a balance
Not exciting, but DONE. Even with the wedding, honeymoon, and wedding, can you believe that?

- Family - Get Married!
DONE! and how fun THAT was! I purposefully stayed out of Bridezilla land, hand-made a bunch of things, went cheap on other items, ditched a huge load of traditions I didn't care about, and really went to town on the things that DID matter. In the end, we drank our homebrewed beer, hung out with friends and family, made each other laugh with bad puns, got some great pictures in the ball-pit, ate cheese and tacos, and swapped some neat pink gold rings. Couldn't have asked for more!

- Community Service - Expand work's bikeclub
Argh, not done. One of these days I'll really rev this thing, but sheesh it's a ton of side-work even just to keep it afloat.

- Fun / creativity / recreation - Eat five new species
I should have done a way better job of tracking this. I know I cooked turnips for the first time. Ate octopus. For most things, I ate new *parts* of animals I had already tried (lamb's tongue!). But I can't remember anything really grabbing me as memorably new, for some reason.

Continuing with the theme that it's useless for me to set resolutions like "Drop 20 pounds", here's what's on the plate for 2012:

- Do 30-day challenges throughout the year. January's is no booze, February is a shopping diet, etc.
- Figure out how to increase my energy levels (eat the rainbow? yoga? sleep cycles?)
- Keep my home spiffy, tidy, and welcoming enough to feel like a B&B
- Use my muses to help guide my inspirations and attitudes (Currently: Tank Girl)
- Love what I do: work, hobbies, exercise, etc. If I'm not loving it, look at doing something else.
- Continue to be good to my man, never take him for granted

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4:22 am - 2011 in review
- Finally scattered MOSFET's ashes in the front yard, planted lilies on top
- Tried acupuncture. It was OK
- Started Master Swim classes, hated them
- Got dropped every group bike ride
- Ate spicy salami ice cream
- Went on a shopping diet
- Road tripped to San Luis Obisbo for hot tubs and pink sprinkles
- Tried all-grain brewing for the first time
- QWERTY had fleas and then massive chemical treatments as a result
- Ate at a Michelin star Greek restaurant owned by our next-door neighbors
- Tasted some of the BEST BEER IN THE WORLD (Pliny the Younger)
- Topher's parents came into town, helped us make the garden fabulous
- Covered a pair of combat boots with googly eyes
- Did lots of trail running in skirts
- Discovered hummingbird nest in the backyard, watched two baby birds grow up
- Hung out with C-ko in Seattle, went to my first pro Footbol game
- Skied in Squaw
- Toured Cowgirl Creamery, ate much cheese
- Portal 2 came out, got many headaches
- Aced a two-day mountain bike clinic, finally can wheelie-drop
- Raced a mountain bike wearing a skirt
- Bought a super-rad 29er carbon mountain bike named "Pants"
- Completed a triathlon. Came in 17th. Decided to never do that again.
- Attended Maker Faire, bought a felting kit and a stainless steel atom
- Went to a beer pairing dinner, my man, who was in Korea, sent flowers to the restaurant
- Bought a 6-foot lawn dinosaur
- Attended Bonnaroo in Tennessee
- Roadtripped south for natural hot springs
- Rode a bunch with Brooke Miller
- Got married, had a rad ceremony and party
- Visited Bali, climbed a volcano, got cheap massages
- Made lots of homemade pizzas
- Went to Wisconsin, found a spy-themed bar, turned 35
- Bought a Mini Cooper convertible
- Built a huge square foot garden with irrigation system
- Drank beer with Barenaked Ladies
- Took an intensive statistics class for work
- Got my motorcycle license, no reason
- Snuck around the Palace of Fine arts at night, got my photos taken
- Raced hungover in a fish costume
- Dressed at zomb-ees
- Built my first wheel (with a PowerTap!)
- Another friend passed on due to stupid cancer
- Stood in the Pacific Ocean up to my knees for 6 hours
- Raced pixiecross in a skirt
- Raced Singlespeed Cyclocross Worlds, scored my first dollar grab
- Won the costume contest at said race. WORLD CHAMP.
- Rode 250 miles in 5 days
- Roasted a beercan turkey
- Work computer was stolen
- Skied in Vail, saw Yukon Kornelius, met Dee Snider
- Roadtripped for artichoke bread and crab
- Discovered ginger liquor
- Got a Kindle for Christmas. Can't. Stop. Reading.
- Celebrated the holidays with Topher's family in wintery Canada
- Chopped off 8" from my hair, nobody noticed

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Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
10:20 am - I just got a notice that it was time to pay Livejournal again
...And with that, I realized how I don't update this darn thing anymore.

I should fix that. There have been races! parties! adventures! not to mention the whole END O' THE FREAKING YEAR wrapup and setting goals for next year.

Come on LJ can I get a soul clap?

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Sunday, September 18th, 2011
1:35 pm - NERMAL II

Originally uploaded by gnat23
I know, I know, I've got a ton of things to catch up ye olde LJ on (wedding! honeymoon! hoot!)...

But for now, just something quick: I bought me a fun car. A *convertible* even. 'Cause poor Nermal the Hyundai That Could was a great car, efficient, and such, but he was getting old and developing more expensive problems on a regular basis than he was worth fixing. I let him to pasture while he could still enjoy his retirement.

And, dare I say, out of the three dealerships we visited, the last one was certainly the best; no weird games or tricks like the other two played. Although it might be because a mile away was another used one, same year, color, and almost the exact same mileage and features... so the poor salesguy knew we had him cornered. "What do I have to do to keep you from looking at the other one?" he begged.

As it turns out, I have freakishly excellent credit. That seems to help with the paperwork exercise.

In the end, I got to drive off with my man, wind tousling our hair as we zipped across the Golden Gate Bridge, the Footloose soundtrack blasting, sun all around us. I know money can't buy happiness, but I'll be dammed if it can't contribute to a few smiles.

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Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
10:40 am - The Lawn Dino and Other Tales

Originally uploaded by gnat23
I'm not going to say it was a spontaneous purchase, but rather something I had been thinking about and scheming for a long time. It started with a drive on Highway 92 towards Half Moon Bay, and off to the left are these huge orange tin dinosaurs for sale. Locals will know exactly where I'm talking about. They have lots of other things there, stone angels and fountains and mirrored spheres on pedestals and gigantic pottery, but in the front yard are half a dozen 13-foot dinos.

"Sheesh," escaped my mouth with a arm-waving flourish as we drove by. "I wonder who would actually buy one of those." And then my mouth remained agape as the realization thwacked me sideways. Well, duh, I would. I am that person, and I absolutely should.

We asked. It was prohibitively expensive. Our front yard would absolutely not be able to contain the massive counterbalancing tails. We looked around a bit more and I sulked away, defeated.

I started to ponder a smaller 6-foot T-Rex that was tucked in the back between an garden arch and a concrete birdbath. He was within my price range, I guess, if you can realistically set a budget for these things. We price-checked elsewhere and, well, their 3-foot dino was $500. But while he was cute, he didn't have much for impact. I mean, it's more unique than a garden gnome, but I wanted to be that house,, I wanted to be the one neighbors referenced for directions, the one that evoked squeals of delight from stoned teens, and the thing that eventually gets linked on Google Streetview for sheer awesomeness.

So I turned over my credit card, and a few hours later a pickup truck and two smiling movers arrived in our front yard with our new friend, Dug. And we are now THAT house, and it's just as awesome as you can imagine.

In other awesome news, we spent a random weekend at Bonnaroo, the huge music festival in Tennessee. Over a day and a half or so, we saw Primus, Arcade Fire, Bootsy Collins, Eminem, and Scissor Sisters. For various reasons, we missed Lewis Black, Henry Rollins, Bela Fleck, the Decemberists, NOFX, Dr. John and the Meters. I wore a pedometer one day and logged over 19000 steps. We spent three hours on the tarmac at Chattanooga and an accidental overnight in Charlotte trying to get home. The BBQ was pretty good tho.

Oh yah, then work had a party, where we got to see Daughtry, Sheryl Crow, and Maroon 5. Wasn’t familiar with most of those bands, but you know, free hot dog in the ball park in the sun with music, I’m not going to complain.

Other random little weekend trips, still trying to manage wedding planning, and well life is good.

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Sunday, June 5th, 2011
12:28 pm - I know what I am *not* going to be when I grow up.
So I'm in the middle of planning for this huge party* we're throwing next month. It's so big and fancy that this is the first time I've had to deal with, you know, vendors.

Throwing a party for me usually means making some nibbles, stocking up on good booze, maybe putting some decorations up if there's a funny theme. But this party is out in the woods, and there are things that need to be brought in: music, food, decorations, activities, permits. The worst part of it is, even though I have some idea of what it will look like and I really don't care about a lot of the little details, I'm being jinxed at several steps.

What do you do when a vendor doesn't call you back? Or agreed to do it but then just plain forgot? Or changed the terms? Or requires some obscure form of insurance? Or is closed at some ridiculous hour on the party day?

I'm trying, really honestly trying, to roll with it and set up alternate strategies at every turn. I'm starting to feel like a project manager, a circus ringleader, and a mob boss all at once. I have to admit tho that as soon as this is over, I'm going back to mellow houseparties where I can just buy cookies and mini-quiches, brew some beer, and have a good laugh. I really do appreciate those who have offered to help, those who have come through with blinding efficiency and inspiration, and those who have just listened to me rant about what is becoming a part-time job (not by my choice).

* party == wedding. Why are there so many social pressures around this? I'm trying to be all mellow about it and they won't freakin' LET me.

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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
8:47 pm - This is probably not news to those of you on Atkins/Paleo/whatever...
I watched Fat Head. I suffered through the first half, annoyed by the protagonist ripping on Morgan Spurlock. So what if Supersize Me wasn't the best-laid arguments, it was informational and entertaining and inspired a bunch of people to take a sabbatical from fast food for a spell.

The next night, bored, I finished Fat Head. I wasn't as amazed by the results of his low-carb "just-pull-the-bun-off double bacon cheeseburger" diet (hi, glycogen and water loss) as I was by the claims he was making about Ancel Keys. Namely, that the guy who came up with the "fat and cholesterol is bad" thing that we all take as truth actually pulled the info from extremely poor statistics and cherry-picked data. Reading and following up on the science, it's really starting to sink for me in that natural dietary fat, even saturated, and cholesterol are not and never have been bad for us in any way.

As a result and in a fit of self-experimentation, I've been eating more eggs, bacon, butter, nuts, oil, red meat. I eat full-fat cottage cheese (the horror!). I eat tuna packed in olive oil (when I can find it). I no longer pull the skin off chicken. And you know what? It's flipping awesome. Mood is improving, stuff tastes better, I'm no longer hitting the vending machine in the afternoons, and I'm simply NOT hungry after 5pm. Me! Not hungry! What the...!

I feel like I've been duped all these years. The French Paradox is no paradox, they've actually had it right the whole time. Instead we got Snackwells? Whole grain Cocoa Krispies? Nonfat cheese? That's definitely not living, and years of cutting down on fat feel like they've backfired on me with sugar binges and guilt and dry chicken breasts for *years*. Probably only excessive exercise has kept my weight in check this whole time.

Whatever. Bring me more steak, extra-marbled and maybe with some blue-cheese melted on top, because now I don't feel guilty and because it's delicious and I feel effin' GREAT.

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011
4:24 pm - ...And I don't feel bad about it at all.
What I don't know is what's next. The original plan was to sign up for the Silicon Valley Olympic Tri, but wow, I don't think I'd survive a swim that's 3-times as long as this. I have six weeks to get my act together, and it would be pretty intense. I'm not positive that's where I want to spend my energy right now, so... yeah, I dunno.

Yeah. About that. I started asking around for private open-water swimming lessons, finally got a lead, who never returned my calls/emails. Now with only 5-weeks to the BIG RACE, I'm taking this as a cosmic signal to back off.

I've always joked that Triathlon was only 25% actual athleticism but 75% time management skills, and the sad truth of it has knocked the wind out of my metaphorical sails of motivation. I'd already given up weights and yoga to make time for all that cardio, and I was facing backing off the cycling to make more time for the additional swimming I needed, the sport I liked the least, or getting up at 4:30am to get it all in... and on Bike to Work Month and when I just got this shiny new mountain bike? Oh HEYULL no. I now understand why Triathletes only seem to hang out with other triathletes.

Instead, I'm throwing in the cold wet towel and toasting to everything I have learned to get through Wildflower. It was not time wasted, but it's now time for other things.

I spent a day in the gym throwing iron around and today am hobbling around like a wounded lawn ornament (hi, my conditioning is GONE). Super happy to see my shoulders pop out again: this girl's got a sleeveless wedding dress to look good in! The fun stuff is back on the schedule in pen, trail runs and hot yoga and date nights.

I'm all for pushing boundaries and trying new things, but let's face it: life is too short to dread your workout.

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Sunday, May 1st, 2011
2:42 pm - Wildflower Off-Road Sprint Triathlon
Swim: 1/4mi, Bike: 9.7mi, Run: 2mi

I arrived late the night before, hunted in the dark for parking, and was a bit flustered by the time I finally found something. My spot was on a bit of a slope, so I arranged the tent so that my head was at least at the top; the side effect being that in the morning I awoke in a crumpled mess having slid to the bottom of my thermorest. I at least got a good night's sleep (once everything in the populated area quieted down a litte after 10pm).

I awoke with the Long Course athletes at 5:50am, not being able to avoid it. I prepared and took to my leisurely breakfast of oatmeal and coffee as the sun started to come up. I finally gathered my sporting goods and attempted to make my way to the race. Note to self, TIP #1: it's a long way away, next time use a backpack to haul while on the bike. It was a bit of a mess trying to get my packet ("You can't cross the course here!" "No bikes in this area" "Go around the course, back from where you came, visit the white info tent, THEN..."). Finally, numbers in hand, I made my way with all my stuff to the transition area.

OMG there are probably 1000 bikes in there. What the HELL have I gotten myself into?

OMG where is my biiiiiike?

Turns out, there's a system: your number corresponds to a row and a slot, you have a place for your bike, your stuff, all nicely laid out with your shoes and food and such in ready position. They write your number on several places on your body in gigantic sharpies, a side effect being that you can't forget it. I got marked, set up my things, talked with the other women in my row. We were all first-timers, nervous, comparing equipment and preparations.

(TIP #2: spray sunscreen makes your numbers run, use the lotion type. #3: Bring Body Glide and put it liberally in places where you might chafe: neck, triceps if going sleeveless, between thighs for good measure. #4: there is an unwritten rule that nobody messes with your stuff in the transition area: my keys and wallet were fine tucked in the bottom of my transition bag.)

Just one of many examples

With a half an hour to go, we squeezed into our wetsuits. Strapped on our timing chips. Donned our caps (our wave got pink!). Attacked by markers, my cap was tagged with BAD ASS. A team near me had one last group prayer. We arranged ourselves near the swim entrance.

"I think I'm just going to wait for everyone else to take off, THEN I'll get into the water" admitted one woman. Another decided to line up in the front row, even though she was slow, and she said: at least she wouldn't get kicked right away. The competitive nature of women is a strange beast. The announcer started to hype, we were all whooping and cheering, adrenaline was making my feet and fingers vibrate, and I just wanted to get a move on. Air horn! We're off! I ran into the cold water and laid down onto the surface as soon as there was space.

Now, I knew the swim was going to be my worst segment. What I didn't realize was that all the hours in the pool wasn't going to help me worth anything when it came time for the open water swim. The wetsuit helps you float, ok, TRUE, but it makes *all* of you float, including your legs. This sounds great in theory, but I find the side effect was that it kept trying to tip me forward into freestyle position. When that mode wasn't feasible and I tried doing a breast stroke or doggy paddle so I could keep my head above water, I couldn't seem to move at all. I kept getting kicked from the front, ankles grabbed from behind, the surface was choppy and kept smacking my face, and I started to panic. I rolled onto my back, which helped me relax, but I still couldn't move with any velocity, and now I couldn't see. Finally, I made up my mind to do some crawl, took a huge inhale, stuck my face under and got three powerful strokes in. When I turned to breathe, I got nothing but water in my sinuses, so I tipped back and hacked a bit, all momentum coming again to an abrupt halt.

And so it went. Huge inhale, three strokes, come up gasping. Shortening to two strokes between breaths didn't help either. The shore was taking forever to get closer. I refused to use the nearby kayaks unless I really felt like I was going to die, and right now I was just annoyed. Colored swim caps around me informed me that my wave was long gone, as I was now accompanied by whites, blues, and yellows, each of us fighting our own demons. The balloon arch could not have passed over any sooner.

(TIP #5: Use the suit, don't fight it)

Back to the transition area, winded by a mere 15 minutes in the water and the same level of body-exhaustion as Death Ride. I weakly grappled at my wetsuit trying to peel it off. OK. Mental reset. Breath. Drink some calories. Socks, shoes, helmet, just like I laid them out. Aaaaand GO.

The "Mountain bike" segment was a joke, and that joke was that I should have brought the Cyclocross bike with some aerobars on it. Less than half the route was unpaved, and it was fireroad at that. A bit gravely and loose, but pretty fast for me. My self-esteem returned as fast as I bombed the downhill corners, passing people by the dozens. Then I started passing men, who had gone off well before us. There were a few climbs, nothing dramatic to me, but notable to see several people walking them. This was their "swim," I guess, and I used every opportunity to encourage, joke, compliment. One group of volunteers had set themselves up as a machine-gun line of high-fives, which I utilized both laps.

Absolute screaming curvy banked descent back to the transition area, which I almost overshot at 35mph, whooping and yee-hawing the whole way. Whee! Let's do that part again! No? Damn. I ran the bike back to home base, swapped the helmet for my Princess visor, and trotted off for the run.

The run was nothing exciting. For some reason, I thought it was going to be a trail run on dirt; no such luck. Pavement, out and back, then around the corner and through the chute towards the finishline. I blew kisses at the crowd. Sprinted the last bit. Hands in the air!

Cross the finishline! Instantly a cold wet towel hit my shoulder, a finishers medal appeared around my neck, and the timing chip was yanked off my ankle. I was handed fresh strawberries, half a banana, a Gatorade, a container of pasta salad, and two granola bars. A few steps later, I realized I was still panting, arms loaded with food, completely disoriented, and vaguely aware that something cool had just happened.

DONE and happy!

In the afterparty expo, I toasted a beer with a new friend. I got 17th out of 49 overall in my age group.

What I don't know is what's next. The original plan was to sign up for the Silicon Valley Olympic Tri, but wow, I don't think I'd survive a swim that's 3-times as long as this. I have six weeks to get my act together, and it would be pretty intense. I'm not positive that's where I want to spend my energy right now, so... yeah, I dunno.

I arrived home to flowers, a card, a bottle of champagne, and some lovin' from my man. I'll trade a wet towel for that anyday.

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Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
7:08 pm - How to Ride in a Straight Line and other stories
It is done: I sold the old pink mountain bike (with the world's most awesome wheels) and purchased that 29er I had "test ridden" for the race. I have zero regrets. His name is Pantysgawn; it's another goat cheese, go on, look it up, I'll wait. He goes by "Pants" for short, and he has a Welsh accent.

I brought him for Dirt Series, the 2-day women's mountain bike skills camp. I was the only one on a 29er, which honestly surprised me, and the instructors continually teased me about it. "Come on, just roll that SUV over it!" one yelled as I kicked the back wheel over a large log.

I'll briefly mention my complaints about Dirt Series: they stuck me with the absolute beginners again, which irked me. Not that getting the basics again is bad, especially with all the new bike geometry, so I grinned and dealt with riding a straight line as my cohorts admitted to being terrified of singletrack. But seriously, did you guys not read the bit where I rode Mt. Hood? The entire Maah Daah Hey? A few races with mud pits and leading group rides a few times a month? Doing this exact same clinic two years ago? Could I have at least moved up one notch since then?

The other complaint, albeit my own problem, and the same thing that happened last time: the second day's trail ride finds me mentally and physically exhausted, having been pushed out of my "comfort zone" for a few too many hours, and I'm left on the verge of tears as I make more mistakes than successes. The first time I try, I get about halfway through it before bailing. The second gets me to the same spot. The third finds me failing just prior to the crux and I start getting frustrated. Attempts four and five are nearly punctuated with stomping, tantruming, and a bike-toss off the cliff. At some point I realize I've already gotten my money's worth, tho, so then I had no problem walking the roots, switchbacks, and whatnot. So what, I don't gotta prove nothing.

The GOOD parts tho! I finally nailed the quarter-punch pedaling front wheel lift: I've been trying to do this for two years! Then for extra credit I consistently was able to lift my *back* wheel with a donkey kick on *platform pedals* and yes this is kind of a big deal for me. I spent the entire morning bouncing over everything like a Tigger. I was hopping logs, curbs, wheelie-ing off every box, look at me look at me look at me! omg! This overenthusiastic display, of course, was probably what caused the poor trail ride in the afternoon. Do you remember The Dot and the Line when the line was practicing his new-found skills making angles all night and gave himself a headache? Kinda like that.

My first triathlon is this weekend. I wish I could say I was more excited about it, but I'm feeling like this is my opportunity to blunder to the finish line and learn how to do it better next time. Seems like a lot of training and money for a practice race, I just want it over with at this point.

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Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
2:40 pm - Boggs, bikes, babes.

Beer handup
Originally uploaded by gnat23
Last year's race at Boggs was deemed "epic". There was below freezing temperatures, hail, and a ton of climbing as me and the girls traded laps for 8 hours. Yet, somehow, I still wanted to go back. No reason, except that despite all that, I had fun.

New team this year, one that showed up with a cord of wood to burn, three kegs of beer, food to sustain an army, dogs, beards and general crude behavior. New riding partner, who I had traded blows with during cyclocross season. New bike to borrow...

The weather was fabulous, warm even, but the bummer was that a chance of rain altered the race course significantly. Instead of 10 miles of mostly singletrack, it was 5 miles of all fireroads. A lot of people were pretty upset about this; Boggs is gorgeous curvacous singletrack, dry and wooded, swoopy and not terribly technical and we weren't going on it. Several people abandoned the race, tore off their number plates, and rode the trails; the rest of us raced the roads as directed. Truth be told, the fireroad wasn't all that bad; some crazy fun rock gardens and super fast descents made for a great race.

Topher raced all 8 hours by himself, fueled on high-tech sports nutrition and a will that just never quits. He took third in the pro category.

I myself ended up doing about the same mileage and climbing as last year (uuugh brutal!), but did it in 3.5 hours instead of 4. I even drank that beer at the end of lap 3. This to me is a huge win and proves that I am indeed getting stronger.

Or at least the bike was better suited. I borrowed a carbon 29er hardtail for the race and had put one hour of practice on it before gaining my saddle sores. I had wanted to try one for a while, just to know if the rumors were true of how much better they were. The wheels are larger, and thus the whole geometry of the mountain bike has to change around them, especially for us short folk who are in danger of getting a dangerously high center of gravity or sitting in between the axles like a dune buggy. There was also the fact that it was a hardtail vs my usual full-suspension, meaning I didn't get to sit as much. And that it was carbon, putting the whole assembly around 20 pounds and able to be flung off a cliff with great ease. I was a little scared of how it would handle, like climbing into a U-Haul after driving a Honda Civic for years.

Now, I can honestly say, I get it. I understand the hype. The sensation of "floating" over bumps and rocks was uncanny, as if I were a rock skipping across waves. The balance allowed me to carve around switchbacks, and I never felt any warnings that I might be flung over the handlebars. The thing begged to dart downhill like a hummingbird; I think that was the least I've touched my brakes ever. Simply amazing.

Now I want one, but I have this entire pink bike that I've loved and built and simply doesn't thrill me anymore. I totally do not need a new bike. Really and honestly. Do. Not. Need.

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2:03 pm - Scarves up!

Scarves up!
Originally uploaded by gnat23
Weekend, open. Flights, cheap. Friends up north, willing to hang. I bought a random ticket to Seattle.

After the 10 straight days of rain and gloom that blanketed the SF Bay Area, it was a welcome relief to get some sunshine and daffodils, even if just for a few hours at a time. I crashed with bork and was gleefully right on the light-rail line which took me everywhere super easy. I had lunch with a friend from high school, one from an old job, dinner with icprncs and had plans to bump into jentifer which sadly didn't work out. Flirty baristas encouraged me to develop an afternoon latte habit. I watched the fish being thrown, I hung out with bike messengers, I tried on floral dresses and red sparkly heels. I walked absolutely everywhere when it wasn't raining, and even then there was a lot of on-foot time. I ate very, very well. C-ko talked me into wearing blue and neon green, I drank $10 beers and learned the lyrics to football/soccer fight songs as I swirled a Sounders scarf above my head. When our team scored its only goal, there were fireworks.

Seattle gets an A-, dinged only a few points for raining when I wasn't in the mood.

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Sunday, March 20th, 2011
3:35 pm - Bring my Spring

Running at Edgewood
Originally uploaded by gnat23
As part of my triathlon training, one of the bigger hurdles is the open water swim. Our first practice was canceled due to cold weather. Today was to be our second, and this time they qualified it with "rain or shine!" So I dragged myself to the sporting goods store, squished my way into several different wetsuits to find the perfect rental, and purchased neoprene socks to curb some of the cold-blooded girl-toes issues I fight everyday. I packed my bag the night before, including a giant towel, comfy yogawear to change back into post-swim, Action Wipes, a changing skirt, and a snack. I arranged to take a few hours off work. I wrestled the demons in my head that were trying to chicken out, finally convincing the whimpering kittenbrain that this was a fabulous idea and I should actually be excited to do it. I printed driving directions.

And thus, it was actually a disappointment when the coach called me an hour before I got in the car to cancel. Rain! she said, cold and bad! But, I argued, you said rain or shine, that includes rain! Visibility! she countered, lack of cover and questionable water quality due to run-off! Unsafe! I wanted to reach through the phone and shake her, do you have ANY idea what I had to do to mentally prepare for this? Could you have at least given me a few hours warning before you yanked the door closed? And what the hell am I now going to do with this wetsuit in the car that I have to return by next week?

(I take a medium in Blue Seventy, by the way)

I'm bummed about the weather for other reasons (9 days of rain straight, seriously?) because spring is finally here and I'm starting to feel really strong and healthy! I've been having a blast trail running, which seems a little more tolerant of the wet conditions, but I really need to get on mi' mountain bike before Boggs 8-hour hits me broadside in April.

I went on a shopping diet in February, promising to not buy anything non-essential. It was good for me, however the response in March has thus been to purchase everything in sight -- oops. In my defense, I'm sticking to thrift stores and cheapy outlets like Ross, as well as a buncha crafty or practical things to freshen up old stuff rather than blow $300 on, say, a pair of knee-high boots (turns out the $12 insoles made my old ones wearable again). Then there was the bag of googly eyes, a tube of E6000, an old pair of combat boots, and uh...

In other news, I'm stoked to be headed up to Seattle for an extended weekend! While the rain situation doesn't look to be that much better there than here, I'm worked up to scoot out of town and hang with a buncha sensational old friends for a few days and throw down some adventures. Represent!

I just bought a new-to-me (old) digital camera, and I'm making a promise to post more often. Life happens too much for 140 characters.

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