Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cat Humor

This is a rare, unstructured weekend for me. No races, no planned training, just a day to relax and maybe do a few chores around the house. Since I am usually out of bed by 4:30, I am awake before the dog and the cat. However, this morning I allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in. I managed to sleep until 7:25, at which point my cat was bouncing on the bed trying to wake me up. It reminded me of a video clip that had been sent to me several months ago and which I have attempted to post here. Make sure your audio is turned up and enjoy!

If the above clip doesn't play, you can find the video here at YouTube.

Friday, June 27, 2008

CPR/Automatic Defibrillator Training

Here's my public-service announcement for June. Yes, I know - it's almost July. It's actually good that I'm only a month behind...usually it's more like three or four months. It seems that June 1-7 was National CPR & AED Awareness Week. Thanks to the generosity of my employer, I was able to attend a training session and I am now certified by the American Heart Association to perform emergency CPR. I can also use one of the portable automatic defibrillators should one be available. I had taken the CPR and First Aid training course about 13 years ago and remember that it was two days of instruction! Not anymore. There have been some changes to the technique and it seems like it's much easier to remember now. Total training time was approximately 2 hours, including the defribrillator use. Interestingly, upon reviewing the course with a co-worker, we both commented that we got the impression that even if a bystander isn't sure about the exact "proper" technique for CPR; the underlying message was that it's better to try to do something, rather than nothing. I sure do hope that I never have to use this training, but I am very glad that I have a basic understanding of the technique. I definitely encourage everyone to take this training. Here are just a few facts, taken from the American Heart Association’s web site.

  • About 75 percent to 80 percent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home, so being trained to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can mean the difference between life and death for a loved one.
  • Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after cardiac arrest, can double a victim’s chance of survival.
  • CPR helps maintain vital blood flow to the heart and brain and increases the amount of time that an electric shock from a defibrillator can be effective.
  • Approximately 95 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital.
  • Death from sudden cardiac arrest is not inevitable. If more people knew CPR, more lives could be saved.

The course was a combination of video training, instructor training and hands-on training with a manikin. There was no written test, you were simply observed by the instructor to be sure you demonstrated proficiency at the procedure. Quick, easy, painless and quite possibly lifesaving. What could be better?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rhubarb cake

Besides triathlons, one of my biggest passions is cooking and baking - especially baking. Unfortunately, baking leads to eating, so I don’t bake often. When I do, though, I’ll try to post some recipes here. Today, I’ve made a batch of rhubarb cake. This is from a recipe that came from one of my Dad’s aunts. Since my Dad favors pie over cake, my mother didn’t make this cake often, but it was (and still is) one of my favorites. Interestingly enough, before today, I’d only made it myself one other time. That first time that I made it, it came out extremely moist – too moist for my taste, so I have modified the recipe just a bit.

Rhubarb Cake

serves 12

½ C butter or margarine
1 ½ C brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 C sour or buttermilk
2 ¼ C flour
½ t salt
1 t baking soda
2 C finely chopped rhubarb


½ C sugar
1 t cinnamon
½ C chopped nuts

Cream butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and buttermilk. Mix flour, salt and baking soda in separate bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Stir. Add the rhubarb. Pour into a 9x13” pan. Then combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over cake batter. Bake at 350° for 35-45 minutes. (The baking time is where I’ve had to do most of the adjustments with this recipe. The original recipe says to bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The first time I made this, I started testing at 30 minutes and it wasn’t done. I left it in for another 5 minutes and it tested done, but it was still pretty gooey in the center of the cake. Today I started testing at 35 minutes, still not done. I ended up leaving it for another 10 minutes, making the total baking time 45 minutes). Now, I do not have a thermometer in my oven, so it *is* possible that my oven temperature is off; however, I have no troubles with other recipes. I suspect the moisture content of the rhubarb plays a significant role in the moistness of the cake.

Since writing this up, I have googled "rhubarb cake" and came up with several almost identical recipes. Hmmmm. So much for this being an old family recipe! Incidentally, they all say to bake at least 45 minutes, some closer to an hour. Just goes to show - I should have googled it first and left it in to bake a little longer.

Rough calorie count = 343 cal

Triathlon Fun!

Saturday 6/21/08

Green Lakes Triathlon; Green Lakes State Park; Fayetteville, NY
(aka Fayetteville Triathlon, Syracuse Triathlon or YMCA Triathlon)

Green Lakes Park is home to a couple of meromictic lakes, which are deep glacial lakes where there is no fall and spring mixing of surface and bottom waters. A wonderful description of the park can be found on the Wikipedia site.

This is where it all began for me one year ago…my first triathlon was here in 2007. I never got around to documenting that first triathlon, but I do remember the terrible time I had during the swim leg. I remember resorting to every stroke, even the doggy paddle, just to maintain some semblance of forward momentum. I was seventh to last coming out of the water that first year! This year I did much better. I settled into a nice rhythm and even had the energy and presence of mind to enjoy the beautiful aquamarine blue water. The lakes are each about 200 feet deep and swimming is usually confined to a shallow beach area. As far as I know this triathlon is the only time that people can swim legally in the deeper portion of the lake. I even managed to get my wet suit off without too much difficulty. All other times I have swum with the suit on, I have struggled to remove it (in my mind I imagine it must be somewhat like having a full-grown octopus clinging to your arms and legs which you must remove before you can hop on your bike). Who wants to bike 12 miles with an octopus clinging to them? Once on the bike, I felt strong on the flats, but a little weaker than usual on the hills. I did get a burst of adrenaline from fellow bicyclist Kate, cheering us on at the top of the steepest climb. Amazing how someone screaming at you can do that! Silly pride!

It was a different story for me on the run, however. Upon starting the run, I was seriously out of breath, even though my heart rate was reasonable, considering my exertion level. Within a few hundred feet of the start of the run, I entered the part of the path where I had hiked with my parents a couple of months previously. This is what it looked like then….

I felt a calm come over me and I just kept telling myself not to worry about staying ahead of the other competitors, just to do my best. I expected to get passed by some men, but deep down I was hoping to stay ahead of the other women. I did end up getting passed by a couple of women, including one from Cazenovia whom I had met at a training clinic. This was her first triathlon and she did terrific! She even had a few words of encouragement for me as she passed by. Somewhere between miles two and three, I was really starting to have trouble maintaining my pace and was starting to really slow down. This also happens to be one of the prettiest views of the lake.

Another runner passed me and again I heard words of encouragement and we commented to each other on the beauty of the lake. Soon enough, I was approaching the finish area and by this time my good friend Janet (who had already finished her race with an awesome time) was there to cheer me on. Again, another burst of adrenaline and I was able to get to the finish.

Janet and I walked around a little bit to cool down and search for Kate, but we never found her. We both considered another dip in the lake to cool off, but realized we needed to get our gear out of the transition area so they could start tearing down the equipment. By the time we loaded our gear into the cars, we were both ravenous and headed over to the picnic area where the volunteers had been preparing tossed salad, hamburgers and hot dogs. Mmmm! There’s nothing like some exercise to work up a hearty appetite.

All in all, I managed to shave almost six minutes off last year’s time, which I was very happy with. I placed 8th out of 22 in my age category and Janet placed 7th out of 12. Most of all, I am inspired to keep steady training and maintain my goal of Ironman Lake Placid in July 2010.

Finally, I’d like to leave with a link to a YouTube video – “The Triathlon Song.” It sums up this wacky lifestyle perfectly. Feels so good when you are done!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tracking physical activity

I am a natural “data” person. I enjoy facts and figures, comparisons and visuals of how I am performing. In past years, I’ve gotten a little too wrapped up in data keeping and have spent so much time documenting my progress that I end up with less time spent exercising (not a significant amount of time, but some nonetheless). Most of my data in past years has been tracked on my own spreadsheets, but for the true triathlete geek, I found “BeginnerTriathlete” to have the best free tracking site. However, if you’re not interested in getting that technical, I also found a couple of sites which encourage simpler tracking (one based on mileage, the other based on time). The "President's Challenge" awards points for virtually any activity you can imagine (mowing your lawn, gardening, baton twirling (!), trampoline, etc, etc) and tracking is done by minutes, so logging is extremely easy. The other site I've become fascinated with is from a researcher at Berkeley who has developed a transcontinental virtual trip across the United States. Each time you enter your mileage, it is added to your total and shows you exactly what you would see if you had been traveling from Yorktown, Virginia to Florence, Oregon. For example, if you ran two miles one day, walked four miles the next, and cycled six miles on the third day, you would see the views at 2, 6, and 12 miles west of Yorktown on days one, two and three. They also provide maps that show your progress. The disadvantage to this site is that they only provide for walking, running and biking mileage. Since I do many other things, it's nice to use the other sites to track progress. However, it is neat to explore the site and see your progress on the maps. I have been tracking my daily mileage since June 4th and I'm already at 176.5 miles, which puts me near Woodridge, VA , just south east of Charlottesville. Pretty cool. Both sites allow you to enter activities retroactively, so you don't have to log on the computer daily. Happy walking!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Handyman vs. squirrels

If you read my post a couple of weeks ago about volunteering at the bike race, you know how disappointed I was when I broke our rain canopy the second time we set it up. A visit to the company’s web site confirmed our suspicions that we couldn’t purchase just one replacement rod, we’d have to purchase the entire framework. So my talented boyfriend ordered a similar-sized steel rod and modified it so that it could take the place of the manufactured support. We opened the framework to full size yesterday afternoon and it worked like a charm!

The other thing he rigged up for me was a fine-mesh wire cage to put around my pot of basil. We don’t have space for much of a garden, but last year I decided to plant some basil in a large pot. It did well, except the squirrels kept getting in the pot and digging it up. I managed to get enough basil for one batch of homemade pesto (my favorite!) before giving up. Against my better judgment (and because I’m an eternal optimist), I decided to plant some more this year. Within a day and a half, the squirrels had uprooted the basil! (Had I been blogging earlier, you would have been privy to our struggles with the squirrels in our attic). Maybe if I ever run out of things to write about, I’ll fill you in. Suffice it to say, I have no love for squirrels. The basil stayed indoors (where I had to protect it from the cat) until he could rig up the basil enclosure. It does look a little funny to have the container of basil completely enclosed in mesh on our front porch. We joked about putting up a sign warning against the “Attack Basil”, but thought the mailman might stop delivering since its right next to the mailbox. So far, it is keeping the squirrels out and most of the basil is doing well. I may lose one plant; it was the one that was dug up the most by the squirrels. Darn things!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Team Hoyt

This has been a "catch-up" day for me. As I move through the house and see things to be done, I do them right then and there rather than wait. Of course, not *everything* gets done, but it is an extremely satisfying feeling of accomplishment (since I have a natural tendency towards procrastination)! I even managed to break away mid-morning and did a 44-mile bike ride. I was especially pleased with myself because I have been eating better (no snacking), so this ride was a legitimate training/fun ride, not perceived "punishment" for having over eaten. Now if I could just maintain that willpower!

One of the subjects I've wanted to write about is a father-son duo who compete in marathons and triathlons. Today's title links to their web page, if you click on "Who are we", it opens their story. My original intent was to summarize their story, but I don’t trust myself to convey it like they can. I've also included a link to their video below. If you get a chance to watch it, I don't think you'll regret it. Their story is so amazing to me and inspires me to try to be the best person I can every day. They are extraordinary. Go Team Hoyt! I hope I can meet you at a race someday. YouTube link here.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Week in review

My previous two entries are postdated, that's how hectic the past few days have been for me, but I felt that each post was significant enough to warrant it's own space. Now, I'd like to touch on a couple of things that came about this week and fill you in on today. First, going back to the finding of the crocodile -- I have decided to name her "Faith". I am going through a period where I am questioning existence and purpose and I cannot shake a feeling of dread over where our society is headed. This is unusual for me, as I am usually an optimist. So, she sits on my desk at work where she reminds me that there's always going to be people who care and hopefully they will outnumber the people who don't care.

As if to shore up that notion, I received a phone call from a good friend yesterday and she invited me to go swimming with her today in one of the local lakes. She's one of those friends where we don't get together very often, but when we do, it's very uplifting. She was my inspiration for doing triathlons and is continuing to be my mentor. She's 11 years my senior, but she can beat me in any triathlon we do! Of course, when we made our plans yesterday, the temperature was in the nineties and it was easy to think about taking a dip in 60 degree water. I was having my doubts as I was driving to the lake this morning, though. But, with wet suits on, we jumped into the lake at 8:30. It was beautiful!! Bright blue sky, perfectly white fluffy clouds and calm waters! We enjoyed about 45 minutes in the water, now it's time to get some work done.

I plan on watching the running of the Belmont Stakes this afternoon, hoping that Big Brown will pull off a Triple Crown win. I think it would be a fitting memorial to Eight Belles, the filly who gave her all in the Kentucky Derby this year. Hopefully all horses will make it around without incident.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cat Clinic Day

After very little sleep from Saturday night (I arrived home from the duathlon at about ), I was up early to get ready to help out at a feral cat spay/neuter clinic. There is a facility about 45 minutes from me where Oneida county residents can bring stray and/or feral cats for free spaying (for the girls), neutering (for the boys) and vaccinations. This is *not* a clinic designed for house pets belonging to people with low incomes. Most of our cats come from one of two situations: some are part of colonies which hang around restaurants, strip malls, etc (usually where there's waste food around a dumpster area). Sometimes these colonies exist without anyone ever knowing they're there, but there are groups of individuals who will monitor the colony and attempt to help, sometimes just by leaving food during the winter. Some people will actually try to help control the population by trapping the cats and bring them to our clinic for surgery, thus breaking the cycle. The other cats we see are usually brought by farmers who are constantly having cats dropped off at their barns. We usually neuter about 30 boys and about 20 girls at each clinic and we hold clinics once a month, except January and February (because it's too cold for the cats to recuperate) and June (because of a lack of volunteers). Most of these cats are very afraid of people and getting them sedated can be quite a challenge. I happen to work in the anesthesia area with the girls. The cats arrive in wire traps, which I can weigh with the cat right in the trap. I then calculate the dose of sedative combined with a pain reliever and give them an injection into their muscle. They sit for about 15 minutes for that to take effect, then I give them a second injection of their main anesthetic. After about another 5-10 minutes, they are completely anesthetized and they leave my station to go to the prep area where they're shaved and scrubbed for surgery. It is labor intensive and sometimes I wonder if we're doing the right thing, but there's a good feeling from knowing that these female cats won't be faced with a lifetime of bearing litter after litter after litter. Our program is not unique; there are many others across the country. Here is a link to an excellent article (with additional links) which explains the benefits of sterilization and releasing, versus euthanizing the cats. And here is a link to our particular program. I wish nobody would have to address this issue -- I wish everybody would spay and neuter their pets and I really wish people wouldn't drop off their unwanted pets in the country. But until that day happens, we try our best to stop the cycle from repeating endlessly.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What an experience!

Yesterday was spent at the Watkins Glen International Speedway for the fourth running of the "Fly By Night" Duathlon. I had stumbled across this race purely by chance in late 2007 while hunting for races to do during the 2008 season. When I went to the event website, it was reported that due to low attendance, the race was not going to be run again. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. However, I returned to the site a few weeks later only to find out that it was indeed going to be run at least one more year. I registered that day. A duathlon is usually performed in a run-bike-run format, but this event included an extra bike and run leg. This made it a run-bike-run-bike-run! Each run segment was 1.75 miles and each bike segment was 10.2 miles. The real draw for me was the chance to ride my bike on the Watkins Glen track. How many people can say that they’ve ridden their bicycles on a motor speedway? I had never been to watch a motor race at “the Glen”, but having grown up just a couple of hours away, I had heard about it. I don’t know the official designation of the track, but it’s not just an oval like what I picture with NASCAR races. It’s twisty, and hilly, too. Here’s an excerpt from the event website regarding the twists, turns and hills of the track……’hammer down the frontstretch into the Ninety, twist, climb and claw your way up through the Esses and onto the backstretch, white-knuckling the brakes as you hit the Inner Loop and navigate the Carousel turn, then drop off the face of the earth into the depths of the turn-heavy Boot. Climb your way out into Turn Ten, regain your senses and make a run for the finish line.’ Now how could I resist that?!

The duathlon was scheduled to start at 6:15 PM, but duathlon participants were encouraged to arrive early to watch the racing of the “Porsche Clash”, races which featured many different models of Porsche’s. I am not a car enthusiast, but I did enjoy watching the drivers negotiate the turns. I walked over to a woman who sitting by herself because I had a few questions regarding the race and we ended up chatting throughout the race (difficult to do, though, because of the roar of the engines).

Soon enough, the Porsche's were done and it was time for us to start warming up and getting ready. I was able to get one lap of the track in before it neared the start time and I realized I had underestimated the difficulty of the bike course. After checking my equipment over in the transition area, I walked to the start of the race. By now the wind had picked up, the temperature had dropped to about 60 degrees and it was sprinkling. While waiting for the race to start, the rain started downpouring! It rained all through my first run (15 minutes) and all of the way through my first bike lap (about 11 minutes) before stopping entirely. By this time everybody was soaked to the bone, but the worst part was that we all had to take the bike laps easier than we would have otherwise because the track was slippery from the rain. Still, it was pretty awesome. I started out at a higher pace than I should have and kind of burned out pretty fast, but when starting my last run, I thought there was a chance I could finish in under two hours. I pushed as hard as I could on that last run - didn't make it in under two hours, but did it in 2 hours, 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Now I have a concrete goal to shoot for next year! My time was good enough for third place in my age group, so I was really pleased with that. After going back to the car, drying off and changing clothes, I made my way over to the tent where there was a post-race gathering. Some hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and a really classy awards ceremony! This was the hardest race I've done to date, but also one of the most exciting. I will probably never forget the feeling of swooping through the turns on the track and feeling so lucky that I've been blessed with the ability to get out and enjoy pushing my body to the limit. (Additional race photos can be found here).