Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tonight's Conditioning Workout

Here's the workout for tonight's Karate Conditioning class. It's a circuit with six stations, this is something very easy to set up at home in your garage or living room with a minimum of necessary equipment.

Each station is sixty seconds on, thirty off :60/:30
Two rounds through gives you an 18 minute workout, three gives you a 27 minute workout.

Station #1: Lumberjack Press - Using a 15 lb weight bar or a 45 lb weight bar (you could also use a handweight or Dumbell)

Station #2: Spider Cross - Couldn't find a video for this one. You do a plank, then slowly touch your left hand and right foot together under your body, stabilizing with your other hand and foot. Return to starting position and repeat with right hand and left foot.

Station #3: Jumping Lunges

Station #4: Dumbell Row

Station #5: Garhammer Raise (Lying)

Station #6: Pushups

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jumping For Toe Shoe Joy: Five Fingers Bikila Shoe Review

When my daughter was about a year old, we got her her first little pair of toddler shoes. They were white leather, and she loved them. No, she ADORED them. She refused to take them off. Ever. Not only during the day when her little self was toddling around, but if she woke up in the middle of the night and found that her beloved shoes were not on her feet, she screamed and cried. Now I know how she feels. I've never loved a pair of shoes like I love my new Five Fingers Bikilas.

When I got my first pair of Vibram Five Fingers toe shoes in 2007, I thought I'd found heaven. They were the "Sprint" version and I wore them everywhere. Then I started running in them. They were great, the next best thing to barefoot running. Except for one tiny little problem: the splinters from the bark trail, plus sand, dirt, and gravel got in them all the time. Stopping to pick stuff out of your shoes can put a damper on a good run.

Then Vibram came out with the "KSO" version of the shoes (stands for Keeps Stuff Out) and my hubby got me a pair for Valentine's Day (what a romantic!) . I really thought I was in heaven. I could run on our wonderful bark trails splinter-free, and I upped my mileage in them until I almost never ran in regular shoes anymore. Again, I thought I'd found shoe nirvana. But then I started trail running in earnest, like steep rocky muddy trails. The slick soles on the KSOs weren't so great at that. The occasional rock strike to the instep made for some painful bruising, and the slippery bottoms weren't great in the clay-slip mud that our trails are famous for in the wintertime.

Now Vibram has these wonderful things called the Five Fingers Bikila LS. I have no idea how they took something so completely perfect and improved on it this much but now I'm REALLY in heaven. Really. Mere words cannot describe how much I love these shoes. I never want to take them off, even when I sleep. I actually want another pair, so I can keep one set nice and clean to wear absolutely everywhere, and have one pair to get muddy on the trails. As you can see, they're already doing that.


The Top:  The quick-lace system on the Bikila LS is a very nice feature. It makes them much easier to take on and off, and almost makes me think maybe I could use them in triathlons. They also have a liner which makes them a true running shoe. The old Sprints and KSOs were not lined, leaving a lot of barefoot runners with blisters. I didn't really have that problem, but I have to admit that the liner makes for a far more comfortable shoe. Have I said how comfortable they are? How much I never want to take them off? One more nice feature is some good bits of reflective striping, a nice added touch for visibility (which you can never have too much of).

The Bottom: Better yet, the sole provides a lot more traction and protection against bruises from sharp rocks on the trail. When I ran on gravelly trails in my KSOs, I had to be constantly scanning the trail ahead of me for any sharp stones. With the Bikilas, I'm able to run more naturally and enjoy the view of the woods around me. In a one-hour trail run over roots, rocks, gravel, and mud, I didn't get one bruising encounter with anything on the ground. That's good news in my book.

Since we've had non-stop rain for the last, oh, forty days and forty nights, I feel comfortable in saying that these soles provide great traction on extremely slippery muddy trails. You think I'm joking about the "extremely muddy" bit? Try running up this trail. It's like a filthy version of a Slip-n-Slide. Yet between the improved grippiness of the soles, and the natural advantage of having your toes available for traction, I can run up this with zero slippage.

The Barefoot Feel: Honestly, this is what most worried me about buying the Bikilas. I thought that new sole would reduce the barefoot feeling of the shoe and leave me with less of a natural stride and less feeling for the ground. But it doesn't feel that way at all. This was a very pleasant surprise. They've managed to keep the flexibility of the shoe completely intact by segmenting the grippy bits of the sole. It honestly feels little different than the KSO or Sprint soles when I'm running. 

All in all, I can't think of one bad thing to say about this shoe. Except maybe that it should come in purple. Congratulations Vibram, you've done it again.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why You Should Stand On Shaky Ground (and Walk On It and Run On It)

What do you think of when you hear that someone is "level-headed", or they're "on the level", or they're doing their "level best"? If you're like most of us, these words probably bring the most positive attributes to mind.

But on the other hand, what if they're "a bit uneven", or even "unbalanced", "unstable", their opinions are "slanted", or they present a "lopsided" argument? Not so good, is it?

Clearly, we like the concept of flat, stable, even, and easy in our culture. It should be no surprise that when it comes to running and walking, we do the same, preferring to stick to sidewalks and nicely tended bike paths or walkways. Much of this is based on convenience. Thankfully, we no longer need to slog through the mud when running errands downtown, and the rubber galoshes that were once commonly needed to cover a nice pair of shoes have largely been relegated to the gardening shed.

But all this cleanliness and convenience comes at a price: the strength and stability of the supporting muscles in our feet, ankles, legs, hips, core, and spine. It takes far fewer muscles to stride along on a flat and level surface than to keep an entire body upright and stable on shaky ground. So as often as I can, I like to run, walk, or hike on uneven surfaces and trails.

On Tuesdays, when my daughter is in a horseback riding class, I like to take our dogs on a long walk through the back pastures. The ground is lopsided, lumpy, filled with grassy tussocks, and slanted and sloped in all kinds of directions. I started to notice that after walks there, I could definitely feel that my muscles were getting a way better workout than on a normal walk. At times, I practically feel like I'm marching, I have to pick my feet up so high above the tall grass.

Some areas are wooded, with only deer trails where I have to duck under various branches and vines, jump over downed branches and logs, and squeeze my way past brambles. All that bending, twisting, jumping, and scraping are excellent for your body's natural stability muscles in the core. Is it a P-90x Ab Blaster video? No, of course not. But it's a real, natural workout for your entire body in the ways that it's meant to be moving.

At times, I even have to jump across small streams, or leap from grassy lump to grassy lump across marshy ground. There's nothing like a running or standing long jump to get all of your muscles small and large firing. And there's nothing like missing your mark to get your shoes soaking wet!

Later in the week, I'll include a couple of rocky, rooty trail runs in my Vibram toe shoes to round out my stability-building routine. I've found that it makes a big difference in how stable my body is on a daily basis. Not too long ago, I slipped going down our stairs carrying a full laundry basket. Not only was I able to keep my entire body upright (using those core muscles), I didn't even have to put a hand down to stabilize myself, and I didn't turn any ankles. Our bodies are meant to be this strong and secure, all it takes is a little shaky ground to keep them that way.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weather Roulette

Need to be indoors for a meeting? It's sunny outside

Head out to take the dogs for a walk? Pouring rain

At the indoor pool coaching swimmers? Look out the window at the blue skies

Go for a run? Hail and sleet

Making dinner for the kids? Balmy and pleasant

Bike to work? Windstorm with tree limbs raining down around me

I'm tired of the weather roulette. This is supposed to be springtime now, and I want my sunshine!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Snap: Paint It Black

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Can you guess why my daughter made me this card?

When my partner and I started preparing in earnest for our black belt test several months ago, I guess I thought it would be all work and no play. In reality, this is the most fun I've had in martial arts. No small bit of that is due to my partner Toni, who made it an exceptional experience. We laughed as much as we sweated, and that's saying something.

Of course, it wouldn't be a ROBIN moment if something didn't go wrong (remember in 2010 when I was getting ready to test and I broke my arm? And I broke my hand in 2009? ) This time it was nothing near that traumatic, but a big splinter that embedded itself in my foot a couple weeks ago provided just enough pain to make the test just that much more "special". I spent a couple of hours after Friday night's test waiting around an ER on a full moon night (not recommended) so they could dig it out, but eventually gave up and went home. Today I finally got it removed.

Other than that, our test went off without a hitch. Our extra brain cells cheered from the sidelines as us black-belt wannabes went through our paces. After it was all over, the black belts clumped together to deliberate our fate, while they had us occupied with sets of pushups, squats, situps, etc. until they were done talking. Luckily, we got to hear our results on Friday night so we could actually sleep!

Saturday morning was the test for the rest of the belt levels, and the presentation of black belts. You think I could smile any bigger? I can't really describe how it feels, but if you've ever done something that required 100% of your effort, dedication, perseverance, and courage to accomplish, you'll know what it was like to put on that  black belt for the first time.

Then, ceremony is over and you're put to work. The black belts get to grade all the other belt levels in their test, so I was handed a clipboard and assigned a couple of green belts to evaluate and it was all business. I watched my own two kids (brown belt Mackenzie and green belt Asa) out of the corner of my eye here and there, and my mom took photos.

I am SO proud of them and all they've accomplished in karate. They are each on the same journey and it's exciting to see them getting stronger in their art. What's not to be proud of when I look at these photos? Mackenzie's stance is so strong, his fist straight and true, his focus is absolute. Asa has a great "cat stance" here and her double-knife hand block is spot on, mouth opened in a "courage breath". Every day we train at the dojo, I am thankful for the first day we walked through the doors.

When I talked with my dad on the phone yesterday, I asked him to say a big thank you to my first Sensei, who he still sees from time to time. At age 15, I got a love for the martial arts, and today I have reached the first of many big milestones. I hope to continue my practice for years to come.

Friday, March 18, 2011


After years and years of training, it all comes down to this. Thirty pairs of black belt eyes will be upon us. The moment of truth. Will I crumble under the pressure, or shine like gold? D-day has arrived. Or should I call it "BB-Day"?? Black Belt final testing day is here, though my partner and I have been through several pre-tests in the last two weeks. So we are somewhat inoculated against the stress, I hope.

One thing that surprised me about this whole process is just how much fun it's been. I think most of that is due to my partner. Training with Toni has been such a blessing, I think we bring out the best in each other. Your partner for the black belt test has to be someone you can trust. After all, they are going to do things like grab your arm and throw an elbow towards the center of your nose, choke off your carotid artery, or wrist-lock you in a move that would snap tendons and bones if done at full force. Just a few millimeters wrong or a few too many pounds of pressure and you're in serious trouble. Choosing a good partner and training with them for months ensures that you each know each other well enough to fully trust them. But Toni and I have laughed together and just had a great time, as well as getting serious when we need to.

As extra insurance, I got us each a stuffed brain cell, made by the GIANT Microbes company, just in case our original 44 year old grey matter isn't quite up to the task. We've propped them on the benches in the dojo while we're practicing, though here you can see them tucked into our belts.
I've used every tool in my mental toolbox to get myself ready. The physical training is not something I've worried too much about. I know what my body is capable of. I know I can push it very hard. I know pain doesn't bother me much. I know it will do what I demand of it. But my brain, oh my poor brain. That's what I worry will desert me in my hour of need.

There's not much more we can do at this moment to prepare. Everything that's stored in our brain cells and bodies is there. Anything that isn't won't get there in the next few hours. We'll meet in the morning to just go over stuff, and by 8:30 tonight it will all be over. If you hear me Hooraying over there on the East coast, you'll know I got my black belt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Killer Workout: Deck of Cards

There's nothing worse than a boring workout, right? Sometimes it's even nice not to know what's coming. That's where the Deck of Cards workout comes in handy (some call it the Deck of Death). Essentially, you get to deal your own workout, and it's different every time. You can use this workout at the track, at the pool, at the gym, choose different exercises for the cards and your workout possibilities are endless.

I did this workout last night with my Karate Conditioning class. Here's the way it goes:

Hearts are Flutter Kicks (ala the Navy Seals)
Spades are Squats (Crossfit-style, thighs below parallel)
Diamonds are Situps, Standard style with hands crossed on chest, knees bent, feet on floor
Clubs are Pushups, Chest to ground

Jokers are a 400m Run

Basically, you deal a card, do the exercise according to the suit, and the number of reps on the card. Aces are worth 11, face cards are 10. When I did this with my class, I set the timer for 20 minutes (since we only have a 30 minute class) and we got through as many cards as possible, but you can do the whole deck if you want.  We did the workout together, and everyone who finished before the last person had to hold until the last person was done (hold in plank position for pushups, hold at the bottom of the squat, hold in a V-sit for situps or flutters). For the run, everyone who got back inside before the last person had to sit against the wall in the Isometric Chair position.

Great workout, fun workout, beats that wintertime indoor boredom!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

No Flinching Allowed

Once you've been punched in the face repeatedly, it leaves you with the desire to avoid ever doing that again. Ever. Sadly, as a woman, I'm far from alone in my experiences. A brutal assault when I was in college by a man in my apartment building left me in the hospital with a broken nose and multiple stitches in my face. So when it comes to karate and sparring, I'm about the worst flincher around. Something comes anywhere near my face and I squeeze my eyes shut and turn my head. In normal karate practice, it's taken years to train myself out of that reaction.

I have to admit, I've tried to avoid sparring as much as possible. That was easier to do at the lower belt levels, but now it's just not possible. Yet at the same time, my experience with being assaulted is part of my motivation for training in the martial arts. Clearly, this is something I have to overcome. So when it comes to me and sparring, it's been the mountain I've had to force myself to climb. I mean, there's no point to training in martial arts if you freak out every time someone throws a punch at you, right?

That's why I'm so proud of myself that yesterday morning I set my alarm at 6:00 am to go to a sparring seminar with my son. Taught by Tim Tolliver, a sparring champion and really excellent instructor, we had an hour and a half of focusing on sparring techniques.

That gave me enough of a boost that I managed to buckle up and register to compete in sparring as well as kata. Since breaking my arm last year, I haven't even done much sparring in class, so I wasn't only concerned about my flinching and basically panicking, I was just plain worried that I would suck! And I sort of did. I mean I know I have pretty good reaction times, can block well, and have fairly fast hands and feet. If I could just stop closing my eyes, I might be okay.

It turns out, the worst of my problems was not with hitting or getting hit. Fortunately, neither of those seemed to bother me too much. It was with hitting too hard. This tournament was "light contact" and you can even score points for no contact if it looks like you would hit the person. That was hard to get used to. Clearly, if I'm going to compete in this division, I need to focus on control and targeting more than anything. Especially in my division (women over 35, which annoyingly are called "Senior Women". Senior??? I'm not ready for that 'til I'm 65, thank you very much.), the judges were watching the contact very closely. I watched other divisions fight and let's just say that the contact was neither light not non-existent.

Strangely, I felt myself wishing I could compete more like the other divisions, which is funny. Here I thought I'd be afraid to get hit and instead the adrenaline of the fight was a rush.  In other words, I actually liked sparring. As soon as I started facing off with an opponent, it was like "Game on". I won my first round, which gave me a little boost. Second round was with the woman who eventually took 1st place. I got a few penalties, and ended up with negative points. Had to climb out of a points hole. Unfortunately, time ran out and she was still ahead of me at the end of the round. I ended up in a round that decided 3rd or 4th place. Third place was a trophy and 4th was a medal. Okay, I know that's really really silly but damn it I wanted that hardware. So I concentrated on pulling my punches and eked out a 3-2 win for third.

Overall, I surprised myself by liking it. We have plenty of black belts in our dojo who like sparring, so I know I can learn a lot if I just do it more and ask them to show me some good techniques. The black belts in our dojo are all very helpful. Next time, I'll be even better. And I won't flinch.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stretching My Wings

Mackenzie and I are taking off today, along with 30 black belts from our dojo to go to a Karate tournament in Yakima. This will be our first tournament ever, and, well yeah I'm just a little bit intimidated. Especially since we're the only colored belts (non black belts) going. I'm just going to compete in kata (forms) and not sparring, since my official black belt test is next week. The last thing I need is to get all beat up and stiff and sore.

One thing I love about karate for me is that it's constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone. Yes, a karate tournament is still a sporting event, so in that sense you might think it's not a lot different than a triathlon. And I've done plenty of those, right? But a triathlon is largely a test of whatever endurance you've stored in your body, you either have it or you don't. Whereas competing in kata is more like a piano recital or dance competition. It's as much about your mind as about your body. I know I'm going to be really nervous when I enter that ring that I don't forget a big chunk of it and blow it!

Either way, it's a good prep for next week, when I have to get up in front of all the dojo's black belts and show my stuff. Wish us luck!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guest Post: Triathlon Saved My Life

This is the first time I've had a guest post on my blog. I think you'll understand, once you read Karen's story, why I thought it was so important to share. I have always felt that triathlon was life-changing , and in racing with and sharing my love of triathlon with other women I've seen the powerful effect it can have on women's lives.

Many of us are mothers, and we sometimes struggle with the changes that come with new motherhood. One of the biggest and potential life-threatening of these is post-partum depression, something that's only now starting to get the attention that it deserves. Karen's story is a testament to her own strength, something she discovered through triathlon. Here it is:

My name is Karen Meigs.  I am a mom, wife, and a triathlete.  Triathlons helped save my life.  Okay, I saw your eyes roll, but let me explain.  

After the birth of our first child I had a very hard time recovering.  I went through 17 hours of labor, 2 hours of that pushing, and I made little to no progress and opted for a c-section.  I was exhausted, overwhelmed, excited, sore, and I could not sleep.  Any new mom can appreciate the exhaustion which sets in after a baby is born, but sleeping for just a few hours a day was a recipe for disaster.  I knew of the baby blues, but this couldn’t possibly happen to me.  We planned for this.  

During a post-partum check-up I failed to mention that I had been crying at least once a day, that wanted to leave my husband and baby, and that I never wanted to get out of my sweats and leave the house.  I was ashamed and embarrassed that I was struggling with being a new mom.  Shoot, women have been doing this for centuries so why is this so challenging?   Our little girl was three months old and I was still crying every day.  My mother-in-law (love her) told me to call my doctor and get some help.  I was immediately put on an anti-depressant and directed to a post-partum group that I attended on a weekly basis.  

Three years later my sister-in-law asked me if I would be interested in doing a triathlon.  For sure I thought she was pulling my leg.  I was overweight, self-conscious, and still in a funk.  I just laughed it off.  

But then I got to thinking about it and started asking her a few questions here and there.  Doing a triathlon sounded like such a huge daunting thing.  For Christmas a few months later my husband bought me a book written by Sally Edwards called “Triathlon for Women”.  I devoured it.  For the first time in a very long time I was excited.  I decided to sign up for my first race.  This race wasn’t for our daughter, it wasn’t for my husband, it was for me.  

I had no clue where to start.  I took each event apart and since swimming was the first leg of the race I worked on that first.   I took a basic swim lesson to learn how to swim, as weird as that sounds.  I didn’t know what would be the most efficient way to swim for a race so I learned how.  I also started to bike and run.  I mostly walked at first to avoid injury, but slowly worked my way up to running.  I committed to doing one of these activities once a week and then I followed the training scheduled outlined in Sally Edwards’ book, as the race date drew near.

Before I knew it I was feeling better.  I started to lose a few pounds and felt better about myself.  That was six years ago and I have signed up for my fourth triathlon this summer.  I will never be the best athlete by any stretch of the imagination nor will I have the best equipment.   But as I said, this race isn’t for my children, or my husband:  I do it for me and I tri.  

Monday, March 07, 2011

Orange Cranberry Paleo Muffins: Recipe Makeover

So much of Paleo food is simply not very portable. It makes you realize why people thought sandwiches were the most amazing thing ever. All of a sudden you've got this messy meat stuff all wrapped up nice and neat and easy to eat with one hand. So with a family on the go, it's sometimes hard to find foods you can take on, say, a family hike.

I got this recipe from a friend last year and liked it pretty well for a tasty snack or meal that's portable. But they were pretty dry and crumbly, so I decided to fix it up a little. The original recipe called for almond meal, eggs, and a bit of honey, vanilla, etc. I spruced it up by adding one more egg and some really thick and creamy coconut milk, as well as some lemon extract. I also switched out the almond meal for a combination of almond meal, hazelnut meal, coconut flour, and flax seed meal. What I ended up with is a muffin with a texture that's closer to actual muffins, but packed with flavor, protein, good fats, and a bit of tasty fruit. Perfect for breakfast, or any time you need a snack out of the house.

Orange Cranberry Paleo Muffins

1 C Coconut flour
1/2 C. Almond Meal
3/4 C. Hazelnut Meal
1/4 C. Flax Seed meal
4 Eggs
1/2 C. Full Fat Coconut Milk (not Lite Coconut Milk)
1/4 C. Honey
1/2 t. Baking Powder
1/2 t. salt
1 T. Vanilla
1/2 t. Lemon Extract
2 T. Grated Orange Peel
1 C. Cranberries

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Doggie Endless Pool? Sunday Snap

If you've ever owned a Lab, you know one thing about them: they love water beyond all reason and sensibility. We've made a semi-regular Sunday tradition of hiking with some friends and their kids (and our dogs), which gets us all out of the house and into the forest, even on rainy winter days. Their dog is this wonderful big chocolate Lab/Cheapeake Bay Retriever named Sawyer. And of course he LOVES water. Beyond all reason and sensibility.

So today, when we started hiking along Shotgun Creek, he made a beeline straight for the overflowing-with-snowmelt creek. One of the kids threw a stick in and he was beside himself with stick-chasing and swimming joy. The problem was this: the stick got stuck on the bottom, sticking straight up out of the water in the swiftest part of the current. And that dog was going to get that stick, no question about it in his mind.

The other thing you might know about Labs is that they're very single-minded. Once they're fixed on a target (ball, stick, duck), you better not be standing in their way. You will be flattened, logs will be jumped, and raging rivers will be forged in order for them to get to their target. So once Sawyer started swimming for this stick, he was stuck in the current in a kind of doggie version of an Endless Pool. And he was not going to give up. A couple of times the family managed to call him away, even divert him by throwing in another stick. But just as it looked like they might entice him out of the river, back he went for that one lone stick.

Even after we finally got him out and were hiking along the trail, he ran ahead and then cleverly looped back around behind us and went straight back to the creek and that stick. So today's Sunday Snap is the adventures of Sawyer, the dog who puts the "dog" in "dogged determination".

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

On My Nightstand (In Honor of Dr. Seuss' 107th Birthday)

I literally can't remember a day in my life when I didn't have a book in front of my nose. Oh I'm sure there were some, there must have been. I mean, I wasn't born reading or anything. I remember the "Aha!" moment when I knew I could read though, as crystal clear as if it was yesterday.

Hop on PopI was sitting on my mom's lap and she had Hop on Pop open in front of us. She'd probably read it to me a thousand times. I looked down at the page, and all of a sudden I knew that the words on the page were the words she was saying. I knew what each word meant. I think I was about four years old and from then on I could read. It was just a matter of accumulating more words. By first grade, they didn't know what to do with me, so they put me in a fourth grade class for reading. I loved it. By 6th grade I had consumed everything on my parents' bookshelves from pop psychology's  I'm Ok You're Ok to my dad's hefty historical tomes like Miracle at Midway. Yes, I've even read War and Peace. Books have been my friends as long as I can remember.

So today we honor that wonderful man known affectionately as Dr. Seuss. When I was in college on this day, my friends and I used to stand on the "free speech mound" in front of the student center and have an all-day read-aloud Seuss-a-thon. We would bring bubbles to blow and take turns reading our favorites. Mine are The Lorax (but you knew my tree-hugging self would love that) and The Sneetches and Other Stories (but you knew my non-conformist self would love that).

I still read nearly constantly. Being a very fast reader sometimes is a disadvantage. A good fiction book doesn't take me very long to devour. But it also means that I can usually make it through several books a week, just reading during my morning tea and at bedtime.

This week's picks are:


Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit This is honestly one of the best biographies I've read in a long time. Instead of just sensationalizing on the whole Bruce Lee memory, the author Bruce Thomas captures the essence of Lee himself. In addition to an extremely thorough bio of Lee's life through all its stages, Thomas delves into Lee's philosophies, both of training and of life, and the evolution of his approach to training, fighting, and the mental aspect of his arts. He doesn't just report on them either, he interprets and indeed expands on them. For anyone interested in the martial arts, I'd say this book is a must read. It's impossible to underestimate the impact that Bruce Lee has had on modern martial arts.

Be Iron Fit - Okay, this is a re-read for me. But I found this book invaluable in preparing for my Ironman, and since I'm coaching triathletes (including half-Iron and Iron distance athletes), I thought it would be worth checking out again. Though I've checked it out from the library multiple times, this one has gone on my Amazon "to buy" list. The simple straight-forward advice in this book, and the three training plans for Ironman make it worth a purchase for any athlete looking at going this distance.

Winning With American Kata - Okay, this is an esoteric little book that only a martial artist interested in improving their kata (or forms) would read. But it fit what I was looking for precisely. The first part of the book is dedicated to creating your own new kata, which at this point I'm not interested in at all. But the second half contains lots of great tips on improving your kata for tournaments or tests.  And the pictures are priceless. This guy has the ultimate fierce look DOWN.


Tricks by Ellen Hopkins This book is aimed at young adults, but it looked intriguing and I picked it up. Although it's a fictional story of the lives of several young people, written in first person, it's written in poetry not prose. At first that was hard to get used to, but eventually the book's format started growing on me. As a parent of a teenager, the theme of the book was both intriguing and horrifying. Without giving too much away, it's partly about the many ways that young people can get themselves into bad situations. It's good to go into parenting teens with your eyes wide open. This book is a fast read that sucks you into the lives of the characters.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest I probably don't need to recap this one. You either love this series of books (a trilogy, along with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire) or not. Translated from their original Swedish, they're a hard-hitting series with a kick-ass female protagonist. I like that. However, they're also chock full of nitty gritty details (what each character ate, what underwear they put on before putting on their charcoal grey worsted wool slacks, that kind of detail). And the plot, with its unfamiliar place names (to those of us who have not lived in Sweden) and Swedish surnames takes a bit of brain power to keep straight. Still, I've really enjoyed this series, and was on the wait list at the library a long time before this copy got into my hands. I didn't like it as much as #2, but better than #1.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Day 18 of Craziness? Check.

You know how I know I'm tired? When I'm at the pool coaching and I don't feel like swimming afterwards. That has only happened about three or four times in my life. Normally you can't get me out of a pool. That and the fact that I lay down on the couch for "just a few minutes" yesterday afternoon and my son woke me up two hours later. Good thing he did too, or I wouldn't have slept at all last night. I had no idea how exhausted I was. A friend on Facebook called that "gettin' some granny sleep". Granny? Granny? Hell, I might feel worn out, but that word is a little much if you ask me.

The State FTC robotics tournament this weekend was awesome but oh-so-overwhelming. Picture 24 teams of 6 - 10 kids each in a school cafeteria with tile walls and sound bouncing all around. For 10 hours or so. Some folks might handle that well, but my poor son and I are both noise-sensitive and I'm sure we looked like turtles who just wanted a shell to pull our heads into. Still, it went great. Our team ended up in 5th place overall, which sent us into the final elimination rounds where we were soundly trounced by the #1 team. Still, we definitely belonged there at the championships, and I think the team realized that. I'm so proud of the guys and all their work on their robot and programming. The competitions are so exciting! But this caps several weeks of non-stop competitions and work on the robot. My brain feels fried like a well-cooked rubbery egg.

And now we head into pure craziness. Tomorrow morning, we videotape our black belt test to send to our head Sensei. Am I nervous? You bet. This is another place where all those years of triathlon pay off. I know how to channel my nerves into positive visualizations of a great test where all goes well. I know that even if I don't sleep well tonight, I can still perform in my zone tomorrow. And I know that when it all comes down to it, my body comes through for me. So I think all will be well tomorrow.

To cap that all off, as I was heading home from Portland late Sunday night, hubby was about to get up at 2:30 a.m. to drive to Portland to fly out to Reno to start his new job. He'll be traveling frequently, and so just as my week of craziness is winding down, I don't get to see my sweetie. Wah!

Coming up in the next month: black belt test, karate tournament in Washington with Mackenzie, Asa's dance team competitions in Portland, Master's Association meet (state swim championships). Wow, that's all? I think I may need a few more naps.