Friday, March 30, 2007

The C & E People

When I was a kid, the minister in our church was a bit of a humorist. He was one of those pastors that knew how to bring laughter into a sermon at just the right place, and keep everyone engaged in what he was saying. I remember that he once poked a bit of fun at the full church on Easter Sunday by referring to much of the crowd as "C&E People" (those who only come to church on Christmas & Easter.)

I was reminded of that this week when I realized why the gym is feeling relatively calm and not so crowded these days. The New Years Resolutionists have departed once more. Anyone who goes to a gym regularly, year-round will understand what I mean. Like clockwork, right after New Years day, the Resolutionists will arrive in droves. They're often sporting brand new workout garb, holding shiny water bottles, their shoes are unscuffed. They're ready and raring to go. They're going to knock themselves into Denise Austin shape this year, or die trying. Some of them will fall prey to the over-do-it-itis. They'll lift or aerobicize themselves into an overuse injury within a matter of weeks. Others will simply fall off of the bandwagon when the newness and excitement wear off. This is also why I find so much good athletic wear in brand-new condition at thrift stores.

Of course, there will be another surge once the radios and TVs start reminding people that it is Almost Swimsuit Season. But that one will be smaller and shorter-lived than the first. It seems that good intentions at the start of the year trump even the thought of squeezing oneself back into a bikini when it comes to motivation.

As perhaps my childhood pastor did, I have to scratch my head and wonder at what makes the difference. What makes some people stick with it year in and year out? What keeps them coming when they feel like sticking their head under the covers and going back to sleep when that alarm goes off? Why do some pairs of shoes and running shorts get worn until they fall apart, while others end up at Goodwill, unscathed? I'm sure the answer is different for everyone, but in general I think that it takes longer than one might think to change old habits into new ones, just as it takes longer than people might think to change in an out-of-shape body for a stronger, fitter one. Try too hard or too fast or place your expectations too high at the outset, and disappointment is probably going to be the outcome.

So those of us who are still there, at the gym or on the running trail, in the pool or on the bike, know that we're in it for the long haul. It's not an immediate size 6 that we're hoping for, but a strong, fit, fast body for the rest of our lives. There are lots of side-benefits that keep us coming back as well: the people we meet, the smiles we share, the feeling we get after we've pushed ourselves really hard and every fiber in every muscle is quivering in response, the fact that we can run around on a field with our kids for hours and not get winded. But I think it's the long-term outlook that makes the difference. A spiritual journey cannot be accomplished in two brief stops in a church a year, and likewise a bodily transformation won't occur with a couple of bursts of good intentions. Any step one takes has to build on the steps that have come before it.

In any case, I'm not going to complain about it. The lap lanes are now empty, there's no waiting lists for the treadmills, and there are plenty of towels in the locker room instead of the depleted stacks of six weeks ago. The rest of us can enjoy it, at least until next year.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Best of the Week

Favorite Food this Week: My son's muffins. He made chocolate chip for himself, but saved some batter out (I'm not a chocolate in baked goods fan) and put in cranberries and walnuts for me. Yum! I got these cool flexible muffin pans that make getting them out soooooo much easier, and the small size fits in our toaster oven so the kids can easily cook with them.

Favorite Workout: I read on some pro triathlete's blog about doing 300's in the pool as a distance workout. I did 12x300 yesterday evening, descending them in sets of three. I also made each set of three faster than the previous one. This was a killer main set and coming after a longish run I slept about 10 hours straight last night after getting home!

Favorite Sports Quote: From a local champion master's swimmer: "You've got to turn the pain meter up to Agony at least once a week." (that's what that 12x300 in the pool was doing for me last night!)

Favorite Music to Run to: I popped Dire Straits Brothers in Arms into my iPod this week and remembered all over again why that's such a great album. I used one of the songs "Why Worry" for the memorial slideshow for our dog. That song was playing in the car when I took my last pet to be put to sleep, almost 20 years ago, and I've never forgotten it.

I'm still getting what my friend K. calls "sneaker waves" of sadness, and so have the kids. My son M. broke down the other day when he burnt a pancake (we have always called those "Sabre pancakes" because we'd feed them to Sabre, who eagerly waited for them.) So that brings me to my last favorite of the week:

Favorite non-sports quote: "When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." - Kahil Gilbran

Friday, March 23, 2007

Proud To Be Wearing This Shirt

Twenty-one years ago, in 1986, I walked into a local bike shop named Collins to buy my first road bike. My college swim coach had dictated that everyone on the team would do a triathlon for cross-training, and the only bike I had was a one-speed Schwinn cruiser that weighed about forty pounds and you braked by pedaling backwards. I had an extremely limited living-on-Top-Ramen student's budget, and I dropped almost 10% of my entire year's income on a maroon Peugot 12-speed. That bike saw me complete my first triathlon, and many others over the years (this photo is from 1989 in The Dalles, Oregon), it saw my love of the sport of triathlon take hold and grow. It took me on my first bike tour down the Oregon coast and through the Redwoods of California. Those of you who wholeheartedly love bicycling will understand the fondness I still have in my memory for that first bike. It took me almost twenty years to get rid of it, even though I'd moved on to a carbon fiber triathlon ride. But eventually I found a worthy place for it to travel on: first a friend who used it in her first triathlon, and then to a teenager who was doing a bike tour with the Superheroes, folks who do long-distance cycling tours in order to do good deeds along the way.

Fast-forward to the year 2000 and I have moved back to Eugene after over a decade of living in the Seattle area. We now have two kids and a primary focus of returning to this area was to ditch all the car-commuting and get back on two wheels again for basic transportation. We all troop down to Collins and they set us up with a Burley trailer for kid-hauling. The next year, we're back to pick up a Burley Piccolo tag-a-long bike for our now four-year-old son to ride on. A couple more years and he has mastered a two-wheeler. We return to pick out his first bicycle, an outstanding moment in any kids' life.

One of the things I like best about supporting your local bike shop, especially if it's a good one like Collins, is that you get more than a bicycle. You get the service and the helpfulness that people who are passionate about bikes can provide. When we took our son there to pick out his birthday bike, they treated him like Lance Armstrong himself had strolled through the door. They made sure he had just the right bike, it was fitted well, and he was looking sharp in his new helmet. He had a grin from ear to ear when he left with his shiny new blue bicycle. My husband got the same treatment when he picked out his Bianchi road bike, and again we were happy to support our local bike shop, knowing the excellent treatment we'd gotten there over the years.

Since then, they've maintained our town and road bikes, and shipped my tri bike off to Florida for me. They've consulted on gear, and didn't even ban us from the shop when our young daughter once accidentally tipped over an entire row of bikes (one of those freeze-frame parenting moments you'd love to forget). So all of this adds up to why I'm proud to be wearing their team jersey in the group photo above. They're not only a nice bunch of folks to ride with, but a place I'm happy to have available to me in our town. With the advent of internet shopping and the big box stores where a "bike" can be had for $100, it's sometimes easy to forget that there's more to buying a bike than just pointing and clicking, or going and picking one out of a rack of hundreds. A bike is a long-term purchase, an important conveyance and even an affair of the heart. It's good to have someone around to help you make a wise choice, and to keep you in good running form. I have a 20+ year relationship with my local bike store, and I'm happy to be sporting their logo.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Feeling Blue Today

Blue belted, that is. I got my belt yesterday in karate class. I was really nervous for the test because we had to do this kata: Basai Dai and had essentially just learned the last few moves in the two weeks prior to the test. Of course, I remembered that just fine and messed up on my first block, probably the easiest thing on the whole test! It's a great lesson though in staying focused, not letting your problems or mistakes overwhelm you, and carrying on. I find that so many of the things I learn from doing triathlons help me in my martial arts practice and vice versa. They complement each other very nicely (except for the fact that I could barely swim this week, because I did my moves so strongly for the test that every muscle in my shoulders has turned into giant knots.)

I took this photo as part of my Flickr 365 Days of Self-Portraits challenge. A group of us from a parenting board are doing it together and it's been fun and challenging. I'll probably write more on that later as it has definitely been enlightening to look at yourself so often and from so many different angles. Very introspective experience.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Looking Back and Letting Go

One by one, the objects and pieces of clothing that accompanied me on my Ironman journey have been returned to regular service. The red long-sleeved shirt that ran across the finish line with me is back in my rainy-day stack in the closet, my hat, shorts, and socks (the ones marked with my name and race number) have all seen many runs since last November. My shoes finally gave out and became retired to regular around-town shoes, but eventually they'll be too worn down for even this out-to-pasture duty and then I'll be faced with what to do with them. It seems almost sacreligious to toss in the dumpster the very shoes that covered my feet for so many long and torturous miles. I also haven't been able to bring myself to remove the number from my racing helmet, though that day is coming too as the first races of the season are less than a month away.

I did finally order this video, shortly before the offer to do so expired, and I'm really glad that I did. The kids enjoy watching themselves and we all got a laugh out of the dubbed in "You Are An Ironman!" on the audio track. In reality, there were so many of us hitting the finish line at once, he never announced my name at all, nor did he make that famous pronouncement. I had to become an Ironman in anonyminity.

I may take my shoes to the only fitting resting spot I can think of, Pre's Rock, where many runners and athletes leave race numbers, shoes, and medals at the spot where Steve Prefontaine died. The number will come off of my helmet and a new number for a future race will take it's place. It's time to move on.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Now Here's A Quandary

My alma mater, the Oregon Ducks, are advancing to the basketball semifinals in St. Louis. They've won more games than any Oregon squad since my mother was in diapers (literally) and of course the entire town is erupting in Green & Gold hysteria.

Now my husband is a pilot and airplane mechanic, working with corporate jets. These high-speed conveyances are typically owned by businesses and business owners around town, the kinds that have a spare million or two to drop on an airplane, and of course many of them are serious Duck fanatics, which means... you guessed it... many of them are flying to St. Louis. If the Ducks keep advancing, my husband the pilot will continue to be absent for much of the remainder of the month.

So, do I cheer for the Ducks or not? That, my friends, is the question.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Couple That Runs, Bikes, and Swims Together...

...stays together.This weekend will be a celebration of a lucky thirteen - thirteen years of marriage, that is. We're going to actually spend a night away together, something we haven't done since our first kid was born over ten years ago. What will we do with ourselves? My mom suggested a can of whipped cream. Somehow, that's not something you expect your own mother to say... eeek. I won a night at the local Hilton in a drawing this winter, and one of our favorite bands is playing a benefit for Habitat for Humanity, so we've got a great night planned out.

My hubby accompanied me on my long run this weekend, ten miles. What a guy. He hasn't been running over six or seven typically, but he is one fit dude (not to mention a bit faster than me, so slowing him down he can go forever. This is the man who unadvisedly did a marathon with only having done one run of even 14 miles in training). When we get to do a long run together, we connect in ways it's hard to explain. Yeah, we're having conversation, but we have that over tea and coffee in the morning, or after the kids go to sleep at night. There's something that bonds a couple together when they share their passions in life. When my husband wanted to ride 100 miles to the coast with some friends to celebrate his 40th birthday, I was able to hop on my bike and go along (never mind I hadn't ridden over 65 or 70 that year). When he saw how passionate I was about triathlons, he did one (not his cup of tea, but my hat is off to him for trying it out).

We met through a shared passion for skydiving and flying (despite my claims that I would never date another flyboy or crazy skydiver), and over the years have discovered our mutual loves of hiking, mountain climbing, travel, and sports. We've played on volleyball teams together, I've watched him knock himself out in raquetball courts, he's stood by my side through many an early morning triathlon swim start. He borrows my motorcycles (and even took one completely apart when I was pregnant, so I couldn't ride it, the big overprotective goof.) I know many couples who each go their separate ways when it comes time to pursue the things that they love to do, we're so lucky that so many of our passions intersect and we've had so many opportunities to do things together.

Of course, there's many more reasons that I love him other than just our shared interests. He's a man of integrity, good humor, the best father I know, and honest as the day is long (sometimes to everyone's frustration. Never ask this man if he likes your new hairstyle unless you want the real answer.) He has the best laugh in the universe (maybe challenged now by our son), and any movie you go see is ten times funnier if he's sitting by your side. When he laughs, you can't help but laugh yourself. He's got his quirks and moments when he makes me want to tear my hair out (how did this introvert marry a man who never stops talking? A man who, when he was a kid, had the nickname Ratchetjaw, a man whose children inherited this trait so our house sometimes sounds like the Tower of Babble???) When he gets a wild hair about something, he charges forward like a bull on a street in Pamplona. That's probably why our entire backyard looks like it's been attacked by giant moles (his drain pipe retrofitting "project".) When he says "Honey, I've been thinking about something..." I feel a small pit of dread in my stomach because he's about to take something apart or do something crazy.

All in all though, I'm happy to whisk this guy off for an overnight of fun and dancing (oh yeah, he's the best dancer ever) and raise a can of whipped cream to thirteen more years like the last ones.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Early Bird Gets the Tough Workout

So I got to torture.... er... coach the Master's Swim group this morning, which ordinarily would be a fun thing to do. Except that they practice at 5:00 am. I swore after college that I would never set foot in a pool at that ungodly hour of the morning ever again, but the main coach needed a sub, so there I was setting my alarm for 4:15. Actually, it feels surprisingly good to get up that early, and if I knew I could get to bed at a reasonable hour, I'd consider doing it for the long haul. But I know better than that.

I swam last night after teaching my Swim Conditioning class, and decided to figure out a new tough distance set to inflict on the guys this morning, and this is what I came up with for the main set:

3 x (100, 200, 300: decrease your 100 splits each time). That means the 100 splits in the 200 are faster than your first 100, and the splits in the 300 are faster still. If you really want to give yourself a run for your money, try descending the 3 overall repetitions as well (make your last 300 faster than your first one). And if you want to completely kick yourself in the butt, try to keep your stroke count below a certain number for the whole set, emphasizing holding good form while increasing your speed.

So there was some moaning and groaning when we got to this set, but I jumped in and swam it as well (after swimming last night, which was quite a novel experience as I usually don't swim two 4,000 yard workouts within 12 hours). The guys in my lane were leaving on a 1:30 interval which completely kicked me, so I'm feeling pleasantly wiped out right about now. So I'm not sure who inflicted what on whom, but I thought I'd share my killer workout here. I'm pretty sure this would be a good one to throw into any swim set aimed at increasing speed over distance.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

In the Company of Men

So I was sitting in the hot tub after our Master's swim workout, completely surrounded by men. Now I'm not complaining, but it's not the first time in my life I've wondered how I always seem to end up in the company of men. Of course, sometimes it is my interests that bring me into the all-male circles. If you're piloting an airplane or riding your vintage British motorcycle, chances are that your companions will be mostly male. All the years I was skydiving, there was about a one-to-three female to male ratio, and even at Ironman Florida, I think it was about a one-to-four ratio of entrants, though things have been changing in the triathlon world, especially in shorter events. One of my favorite Olympic-distance triathlons tipped the balance last year, finally having more female entrants than males.

It's not just a numbers game though, though I know that's a contributing factor. There's something comfortable about hanging out with men that I don't always get around women. My college roommates were all men, with one disastrous exception that ended with my female roommates complaining that we didn't sit down and have dinner together and "talk" enough, that I didn't want to go shopping with them that weekend, that whether or not we got matching towels for the bathroom was not something I worried about. My male roommates were more concerned with who would lose the coin toss to go out in the rain for beer and chips, or where we were going to go on our weekend road trip. I think somewhere along the line, I missed out on receiving the instruction manual for caring about hairstyles, manicures, shoe shopping, celebrity gossip, or who is angry with whom about what.

Becoming an athlete and then a mom has given me an opportunity to meet more women that share my interests and perspectives. My friends are an eclectic group, not all athletes, but mostly women who have serious interests of their own. Best of all, they are secure in themselves, something I think that women in our culture largely struggle with. It sometimes gives me a feeling that I am walking on eggshells, because the slightest word or misstep can cause ripples of hurt feelings that then move outwards in ever-larger circles until the repurcussions feel overwhelming. You can tell a guy friend "Dude, that is the ugliest shirt I have ever seen," or "you're getting really grey on top" but say that to most women and you've just signed up for seven years of hell. A male friend of mine recently came back from vacationing in Europe and was joking about how much weight he'd gained, patting his slightly-rounded belly and laughing while his friends ribbed him about living the easy life and abandoning our morning workouts. It's a scene I can't even fathom seeing women play out. If a woman says she's gained a bit of weight, her friends are all supposed to reassure her that she looks terrific, not laugh about how fat she's getting. For all of women's lib, the female gender can still be decimated by five pounds of lobster bisque.

Sitting in the hot tub, listening to my friends whoop and grin over our team's latest basketball victory (Go Ducks, Pac-10 champs!!!), I had to smile. While I adore my female friends, especially my bestest pal K., I'm also grateful for the men in my life. They've taught me so much (and not just about clutch plates and free throws), but about life from a different perspective. And after all, I'm married to one, and trying my best to raise my son to be one too.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Just a Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

I was whistling that song from Mary Poppins yesterday as I prepared to face the "medicine" (in this case, hill repeats). I'd been chatting with a local running coach and he gave me a tip on a local hill with a reasonable grade and the right distance to the top for hill repeats. It's not something I'd pop out of bed just raring to do though ("hey, what do I want to do today? Oh, I know, I'll go run up and down a hill five times!"), so when I got to the base of the hill after a mile or so of warming up, I was pleased to see a trail going up the side away from where the road goes. This little hill is right in the middle of the city, but it's an enclave of big Douglas Firs and small songbirds, so the trail made what would've been a fairly grueling haul up the road into a shaded traverse, serenaded by the winter wrens.

Along the way, I saw some of the spring's first robins (my namesakes always make me smile), the wrens (tiny little ping-pong ball-sized birds with lungs and an aria-like song to make an opera diva jealous), lots of chickadees flitting around, a rufous-sided towhee, a thrush, and a pair of bald eagles circling above! I did manage to make it up and down the hill several times before heading back the way I came, and it wasn't nearly as dreadful as I thought it would be (and maybe it even made me just a little bit faster).

The Spoonful of Sugar technique is a great way to turn any workout from something you dread into something you look forward to. Whether it's a stop at a favorite coffee shop on the way home, a soak in a hot tub, an MP3 player full of some favorite songs, or a trail that takes you through an area of distracting natural beauty, there's a lot of ways to make every workout a positive one. Remind me of this at 5:00 am tomorrow when I get up to swim...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Meditations On the Theme of A Race Schedule

Sometimes, it's damn hard to be married to a pilot and mechanic. Our conversations about triathlons go something like this:

Me: So, I've got some ideas about what races I want to do this year.
Hubby: Okay, what are the dates?
Me: Well, the first one is in May...
Hubby: Oh, May's pretty bad. I've got the big maintenance coming up on the Falcon 10.
Me (grits teeth): Okay, well the next one is in June
Hubby: Yeah, you know I'll be gone most of June to the maintenance facility in Michigan
Me: (jaw clenching, voice still calm though): Okay, I've got one in July
Him: I'll probably be going back to Michigan sometime around then
Me: (molar surfaces ground to dust): And the half-Ironman I want to do is in September
Him: September is iffy, just in case the airplane comes back late from maintenance...
Me: So, let me get this straight. Most of the summer and the fall are out.
Him: Yep, that's about it. After September looks pretty good though...

Um, yeah. I proposed a plan in which for every summer race I had to miss, I got to go to a race in the Southern Hemisphere, but he didn't exactly jump at it. In reality, I'll probably get to do all my desired races, even if it involved backup childcare plans and lining up relatives just in case he gets called out.

So without further adieu, here is what I'm hoping to do this year:

April: OBRA Time Trial series - flat 15 mile cycling TT, my previous PR (the one and only time I did it!) was 41:30, at about 21.5 mph. I think I can do much better than that this year!

May: Hill Climb series if I'm gutsy enough. A TT straight up a local ugly hill.
Hagg Lake Sprint Tri, USAT Nat'l Age Group Qualifier (the last one of the season, and I didn't do any qualifiers last year).

June: If I manage to qualify (which I have no idea how hard that will be) Age Group Nationals (also at Hagg Lake, OR). Olympic distance. If not, I'll choose another Oly distance race.

July: A new distance, the TriAmerica race at Cottage Grove, OR. 2k Swim (1.2m), 60k bike (37.3m), 15k run (9.3m). This looks really intriguing, a nice stop between Olympic and half-Iron distance.

September: Black Diamond Half Iron, Enumclaw, WA. With a slightly longer bike than most half-Irons, and probably-cool weather, this will be a good race for me.

Anything else I might get to do will be icing on the cake, but I'm hoping to at least hit these races.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Battle of the Sexes

I almost didn't go swimming Saturday morning, but I'm very glad I hauled myself out of bed, blearily got on my bicycle, and made my way to the pool because we have a new woman in our Master's group! That might not sound like such a big deal, but for years I have been the only regular woman to swim in the faster lanes in the Master's group at my pool. The guys I swim with are all terrific, don't get me wrong, and I keep them in line as best I can [wink] but it's great to have another gal around too.

So for the last two weeks, I've had to stop taking my iron pills so my doctor could run some additional tests to help get my anemia figured out. This has left me low in red blood cells and gasping for breath any time I push myself too hard. I was hoping to find a nice long distance workout and a few big guys in my lane that I could draft behind so I could keep my heartrate well below the anaerobic threshold. But of course, our coach had other ideas.

We did something he calls "Aussie Relays". Two two-person teams in each lane, each team starts on one end of the pool. The first swimmer of each team starts at the same time from opposite ends of the pool and does a 50 as fast as they can. When they get back, their teammate leaves for their 50 yards. Repeat twenty times!! The object is not to let the other team catch or lap you. I was paired with the new gal, a triathlete who looked pretty darned speedy. We were paired up against a couple of guys, one a triathlete and one other guy who is more of a sprinter than the rest of us. I knew it would be a fairly even match-up, so we prepared to do battle (remember that part about me wanting to avoid my anaerobic threshold - hah!) We were so closely matched that for the first 18 fifties, our pairs were flip-turning at almost the same time at opposite ends. It came down to the last two laps, but endurance won out over raw power and us girls took the lead by just a couple of seconds. On the way to such a victory, I just about busted my lungs open, but it gave us razzing rights over the guys for at least ten minutes in the hot tub afterwards. Actually, it was a great match-up because it pushed us all to go our hardest, and I'm sure that was the objective.

I hope the new gal shows up again, I know the guys always swim harder when I'm there for some ancient male-female competitive reason, and it's fun to not be the only girl on the block(s).

Friday, March 02, 2007

Best and Worsts of the Week

Best New Food: Trader Joe's Turkey Meatloaf, in a sandwich with marinara sauce on whole-grain bread. After I stopped being a vegetarian a year or so ago, I still haven't remembered all of the great non-veg foods out there. I haven't had meatloaf sandwiches in 20 years, and this one is pretty darn good. I think I have to learn how to make it.

Worst Food of the Week: Pizza. We hardly ever order out, but it sounded good. Until after about a slice and a half, then it just wasn't all that appealing anymore. The rest is still in the fridge.

Best Song to Run To:
Johnny 99 by Los Lobos

Worst Song to Run To: Clocks by Coldplay. I swear, have no idea how this got on my iPod.

Best Workout of the Week: Tempo Run on the river path. Fastest tempo run in years, and I didn't even feel all that hashed afterwards. Plus, it didn't rain, sleet, or snow (a bonus given the recent weather.)

Worst Workouts of the Week: All the ones that I've been rained on, sleeted on, hailed on, or snowed on (3 out of 4 runs so far!). I'm getting a bit tired of this weather. It could warm up a few degrees and I wouldn't complain.

Best Quote from the Kids: From my daughter "A baby chicken is the next best thing to a hug" (we got our new fluffy chicks this week from the Feed-n-Seed store.)

Worst Quote from a Kid: "Mommmmmmmmmm! Noggin (cat) is throwing up on the couch! Again!"

Best Beer of the Week: Organic Chocolate Stout. Mmmmm, chocolate and dark beer all in one. I can't drink too much of it, but it's sure yummy.

Worst Beer of the Week: My hubby bought Corona. Again.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Appointment With the Wrecking Ball

That's how my last week has felt, like impending doom is crashing down on top of me and I can see it coming mid-swing, powerless to stop it. My good friend Sabre is gone. He passed very peacefully, the vet barely had even got any of the IV into him, he picked up his head and looked at my husband and I, we told him it was okay to let go and he put his head down and just looked like he went peacefully to sleep, at home, in our arms. I'm sad now, and the house feels so empty, but the horrible waiting for this day is at least gone.

I now know why for millennia, people have felt that the seat of human emotion is in the heart. When you ache with sadness, it feels like a giant fist is squeezing the inside of your chest, and then later when all of the crying is done, it just feels empty in there. If another person tells me they know exactly how I'm feeling because they lost their pet rat, or a cat that they had for two years I'm going to scream. I know everyone's grief is different, but we like to believe that our individual grief is unique. I will never utter those words to anyone ever in my life: I know how you feel. No one does. And yes, he was a dog not a person, but Sabre was a part of the fabric of every day's existance. He went everywhere with us, got up with me every morning to open up the chicken coop and do the outdoor rounds, closed everything down at night. He went to work with my husband, went to homeschool events with myself and the kids. He wasn't out in a kennel somewhere or tied to a tree, he was right there by our sides, every step of the day. If we went down into the living room to play a game, he limped down the stairs, even as old and gimpy as he was, to be beside us. When the kids were little, if we left them napping somewhere, he stayed by their sides until they woke up, when he woofed for us softly. If every person on earth had 1/10th the goodness and heart that he had, the world would be a much, much better place.

Through this all, I'm grateful to have my exercise, my routines in place. They can be lifesavers for working through life's toughest emotions. I can envision sitting on the couch curled into a ball for the next year. But my training gets me up and going, gets me out on the running path, makes me run like all of my grief is chasing me and I can't let it catch me up. I clocked the fastest tempo run of my life this week, but the grief still caught me. I swam endless mindless laps, letting the water hold me up and soothe me. I got on my bike on the trainer and had an hour-long conversation with my son, letting us share our feelings through this hard time.

Now all of the waiting is over and the life has to go on. We drove to Portland yesterday to see the Quest for Immortality exhibit, a presentation of Egyptian artifacts, largely on the theme of death, rebirth, afterlife, and the struggles the ancient Eygptians had in coming face to face with the concept of what happens when the soul departs. We went to the Feed-n-Seed store this morning and got our spring chicks, symbol of new life and a reminder that birth and death are constants. I'll miss my old pup terribly, this house has a quietness to it that underlays all the noise of the kids (and peeping of baby chickens). Think I'll head out for a run, now that the rain has gone.