Monday, September 28, 2015

Recent Happenings In Amy-Land

My youngest, getting a pirate makeover.
So this is just going to be a mish-mash of stuff that I’ve done lately.  Prepare for the excitement that only a suburban mom can experience.  Yep, I guess that's me.

Friday night was Family Fun Festival at my kids’ school.  I thought it was a bit tame this year, but the kids still had a good time for a couple of hours. Typical stuff – bounce houses, face painting, games that allowed them to win crappy prizes like pencils and erasers (I'm totally serious), and a Cake Walk, which was the crowd favorite, because at least a win there meant sugar!

Saturday morning, my oldest and I went for a run/walk that ended up being close to 5 miles. We didn’t run the whole thing, but it was still good. We decided to get adventurous and when we reached the 2-mile point, instead of turning around to make it an out-and-back, we foraged onward, cutting through the outside of our neighborhood and going along the state highway. This was perhaps a mistake. I knew there wasn’t a sidewalk for a short distance, but I figured it was probably only 0.25 mile or so, and wouldn’t be a big deal.  I didn’t account for the fact that the speed limit on this 2-lane highway is 55 mph and the roadside area was an overgrown swale with water in it – not exactly a trail. It didn’t feel safe to walk on the shoulder (cars were flying by), so we just waded through the driest parts of the “grassed” roadside area.  By the time we hit the sidewalk, we had stickers all OVER our shoes and socks. And we were still picking them off this morning, two days later. Below are some photos from our little adventure.

Me and my running partner!

Our shoes at the end of it all.
Butterfly!  I clearly need to get a bug identification book because we have major bugs here in Florida, and I never know what they are.  Pretty, though!

Florida Live Oaks - also pretty!
Live Oaks often have ferns growing right on the tree.  Way cool.

And then, in my first step toward completing an Ironman, I actually did 2 laps at the pool on Saturday.  That’s right kids, 100-whole yards.  Of course, I had to rest after each length, but that’s OK.  Baby steps, folks, baby steps :-).  

Our neighborhood pool.  Nice and empty so there was no performance anxiety.  I was able to flounder along with only the lifeguard to see me and laugh.  And if she laughed, I didn't see it, so it was all good.
Connor, recovering from his laps.  Or drowning.  Either way, he's a better swimmer than me.  It's nice to have a kid who's old enough to motivate me :-).

Oh, and in case you didn’t pick up on the sarcasm, the Ironman thing was a joke.  I mean, I’d love to do a triathlon some day (“tri” for us athlete types), but realistically I’ve got a LOOOONNNNNG way to go before I could even do a Sprint Tri.  Maybe next summer?  Oh, and for those of you not in the know, triathlons come in three main varieties:  Ironman, Half-Irons (HIM), and Sprints.

Ironman:  Swim 2.4 miles - Bike 112-miles - Run 26.2 miles (yes, that's a full marathon, after doing the other stuff - those folks are cray-cray)

Half Ironman (also known as an Ironman 70.3): Swim 1.2 miles - Bike 56 miles - Run 13.1 miles (these folks are only half cray-cray)

Sprint Tri: Usually swim 750-meter - Bike 20k (about 12.4 miles) - Run 5K (3.1 miles)

So as you can see, a Sprint seems like it might be doable for a newbie like myself. Once I can swim more than 100-yards :-). Plus, most triathlons have the swim in open water - lakes, rivers or the ocean, though you'll sometime see them in pools. Obviously, living by the ocean I could train in open water, but I have to be honest and admit that in all the times I've gone to the beach (which is regularly in the summer), I've never once tried to "swim". Boogie board? Yes. Body surf? Yes. But actually swim any kind of distance? Nope. Need to pencil that in on my to-do list, also!

Saturday night was our first firepit of the fall season. If you really want to call it fall. I mean, I know that technically it’s fall, but Jeez Louise, it’s still wicked hot here in northeast Florida. At any rate, in order to avoid the back-yard camping that my youngest wanted, I offered a compromise of some firepit fun. Only problem was it took us FOREVER to get the bloody thing going. I don’t know if it was the humidity, or what, but it was ridiculous how long it took.  Of course, I was just supervising (i.e. sipping my wine while watching). We were getting pretty tired of trying to get the thing going, so it’s quite possible that small quantities of gasoline were applied. Several times. You know the fire doesn’t want to be lit when even gasoline doesn’t work on the first try :-). Anyway, after several tries, the wood was finally convinced to burn and after we made enough smoke to stink up our clothes, hair and the house (apparently the back door was left cracked at one point), we called it a night.  All’s well that ends well.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Making the Running Happen

I had plans to run after work yesterday.  My goal of getting up extremely early (4:15 am-ish) to run on Tuesdays and Thursdays hasn’t really panned out.  I did it for a couple of weeks, but somehow 4:15 am still feels like the middle of the night to me.  I’m actually a morning person, so I’m often awake at that time and could get up and go if I were really committed.  But when I get up to run THAT early, there are two options:  1. Run outside or 2. Get in my car, drive to the neighborhood gym and treadmill it. 

Option 1? Running the dark scares me. 

Me running outside when it’s still dark.

Yep, I said it.  I don’t have anyone to run with at 4:30 am, and even in my ridiculously suburban-type neighborhood, I get nervous running in the dark.  Not just because a bad guy could jump out of the bushes and get me, but even scarier: I live in North Florida.  We have toads. Snakes. And bugs. Big bugs.  I really, really have issues with the idea of a giant-ass toad being squished on the bottom of my shoes.   My Facebook friends have been regaled recently with some of the Florida wildlife that I’ve seen in my yard.  I dodge toads (lots of toads) every single morning when I walk the dog and in the evenings when I dare to step outside my front door after dark.  And that’s with me stepping carefully and with a flashlight app on my phone. Not only that, but when I was running outside in the early morning a few months ago, a guy who was running toward me warned me that there was a snake on the sidewalk ahead and it looked like a water moccasin.  Double bonus: both yucky and poisonous!  I guess if I bought a headlamp, that might alleviate some of my bug/snake/toad concerns.  Something to consider. 

Option 2? Treadmilling it at the gym. This is actually a decent option (and one I actually do, when I choose to get up early).  I like running on the treadmill for the most part, but my biggest complaint is the size of our little neighborhood gym. It’s tiny – like apartment-complex-gym tiny.  And it’s PACKED at 4:30 to 5:30 am in the morning.  IDK.  I just don’t love being in that tiny room when there are 10 other people crammed in there all wanting to use the machines. 

So all those excuses reasons are why I’ve been making a real effort to run in the evenings when I run during the week.  Of course, there are also challenges with that down here in Florida.

Ah, summer in Florida . . .

The image above is Northeast Florida pretty much every evening in the summer. That map was actually from yesterday.  The roads were flooded.  Torrential downpours on the way home.  I was worried the evening run wouldn’t happen.  But, I waited the worst of it out, and then felt like quite the badass when I did actually hit the road with my firstborn to do a nice 3-mile interval run / walk.  Connor (the aforementioned firstborn) often likes to run with me, and while we aren’t hitting the training distances I really need if I'm going to do more than stroll my half marathon in November, it’s still running.  And that’s the main thing for me.  To get and keep moving.  Plus, I like that Connor likes to run, too.  It’s something we can do together. 

At any rate, if its OK with you, I'd like to ignore for the moment the fact that the real badass runners out there wouldn’t think twice about running in the rain.  But I’m still regaining my running groove.  Baby steps, you know :-).

At the end of the day, we did 3 miles and were happy with it. 

Though, ironically, we finished after dark and spent the last ½ mile dodging toads and a small unidentifiable snake that was slithering through a sidewalk puddle.  Sigh.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Want to go to Mars?

Mars, showing Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system.  The above mosaic was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s.
Image Credit:  NASA

I’m obsessed with Mars. The planet, not the candy bar. I’ve always been a space nut, but it morphed into a full-blown Mars Obsession about 20 years ago (was it really that long ago?), when I first read Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Red Mars” trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars). I’ve now read these books hundreds of times each. I’m not kidding. Below are photos of my paperback copies of Red Mars and Green Mars. Happily, I have them on Kindle now, so I usually read them in digital form when I’m in the mood for a Mars fix (except when my kids steal my phone and tablet and I’m left without technology!).

My battered copies of Red Mars & Green Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

A recent new Mars book that‘s a fun read – and is now about to be released as a major motion picture- is The Martian, by Andy Weir. The movie will star Matt Damon, who seems to be perfectly cast as the wise-acre astronaut who’s stranded on Mars after an accident. No, that’s not a spoiler. You find out about it on Page 1 of the book. Seriously, read this book! I’m really looking forward to the movie, which comes out on October 2 – in just a few short weeks! 

So what makes me want to write about this today? Well, it’s really looking like we (meaning people) will be going to Mars fairly soon. Maybe less than 15 years from now. Yes, there’s another organization, called Mars One, that has been out in the news lately who seem to think they’re going to get a permanent settlement on Mars by 2025. I admire their chutzpa, but I don’t buy the hype. Not going to happen. They just don’t know enough about what they’re doing. If they did manage to launch someone up there, I think it’s likely those unfortunate souls would die in the process. 

Regardless of Mars One’s chances, it’s a definite fact that those with much more knowledge and chance of success (NASA, SpaceX) are talking about going in the near future. And not just sending up one measly mission – no, they’re talking permanent settlements on Mars! 

One of my favorite quotes by Elon Musk (SpaceX CEO) is that he’d like to die on Mars, just not on impact! I think having a second career on Mars would be awesome as well. Of course, whenever I say these things out loud, my kids freak out – they don’t want me to go to Mars. I tried to explain that if it did happen, it wouldn’t be next week – they’d be all grown up and on their own before I’d get a chance to go. Didn’t really make them any happier, so I figured I’d shelve the discussion until it’s more pertinent. 

Still, the question is there. What if I did really, legitimately decide I wanted to go to Mars at some point in the future? And what if Elon Musk has his way and starts shipping up colonists in, say, the 2030s? I’m looking at a situation where my age would be a factor. I’m already 44 (gulp). Almost 45. I’ll turn 60 in the year 2030. If I have a prayer of getting my butt up there (even if it’s just a visit!), I’d better make sure I’m in excellent health. Good thing I’m working to get myself back in shape and be healthier! Because you can bet your butt if I’m ever given the opportunity to go to space – even Low Earth Orbit or the moon – I’ll be all over that! 

Anybody else want to go up?