Thursday, June 30, 2011

True Grit

After watching me do so many triathlons, Anna has really wanted to join in.  The age limit for the Danskin is 14, but for the Pflugerville Triathlon it's 10.  After her birthday this year, Anna insisted she wanted to sign up.  I warned her the training would be tough, but she was quite determined.

She hung in there on our training sessions, too, even after we decided that she had really outgrown her bike.  At first she insisted she loved it and didn't need a new one; by the time she was OK with replacing her bike it was too late.  In May, she didn't walk during our local 5K at all except at the water breaks.

Her confidence held until 2 weeks before the actual event, when she started to get cold feet.  Plus we didn't train as much as we'd like those last 2 weeks, due to Choir camp and a visit to Nana and Grandad's place.

Since she is so small, and we were planning all along to do it together, the race organizers said she should just go in my wave (40-44 year olds).  Unfortunately, since this event has all the men go first, then the women go youngest first, oldest last, we were in the water in one of the last waves.

Also, the wind that morning was wicked and strong.  The swim is nearly a half mile, out and back.  The waves had white caps coming towards us.  Fortunately, we had done a swim in this lake on a similar windy day.  Still, it was tough.

We started, Anna bravely plunging headlong into the waves.  Around us, many people were literally bailing, crying out panicked for help, hanging onto the kayaks steered by lifeguards, who brought them back to shore.  Anna didn't notice, but she did hang on to my arm twice while coughing, and took a break at the outermost buoy.

We were some of the last out of the water, onto our bikes.  The bike ride is 14 miles, and is Anna's weakest event.  We had practiced the hardest 12 miles of the course, but not with this kind of wind.  Anna complained of tired legs on mile 2.  She was afraid she couldn't finish the course since she hadn't actually done 14 miles.  I explained to her that she had done all the hard hills before, and told her about a friend who had done a 150 mile bike race, 75 miles per day, even though he'd only practiced 20-30 miles a day before that.  She quietly absorbed this and kept pedalling.

The bike course was basically a big square, and the second leg of the course, the one with all the hills, is the one where the wind was straight in our faces.  It was so strong, some gusts stopped Anna dead in her tracks going up hill.  Then she fell on mile 5, bloodying her knee and elbow.  She cried on the side of the road for a little bit, then got back up on her bike and kept pedalling.  Poor little thing, she had to pedal continuously.  There was almost no coasting on such a little bike.

Finally, we turned the corner, making our head wind into an easier cross wind.  "Mile 7!"  Anna said triumphantly when she saw the sign.  "Halfway done!"  Then, quickly her face started falling, "Oh, only halfway done..."  I assured her that the worst was behind us, the rest was nearly flat.  She was silent, got a determined look, and kept pedaling.  It was a look she kept for the next 5 miles.

At the end, an inconsiderate cop tipped us off that we were the last competitors on the course. ("Hurry up!")  "Oh, Mommy, I think we're the last.  I didn't want to be last."  I assured her that at least she was still going, and I was proud of her.  She was so tired and spent, but I really wanted her to have a successful finish.  Soon, a race volunteer pulled up behind us on his bike, and confirmed that we were both competitors, and radioed back that he had the last two competitors and was bringing them in.  He must've seen how dejected Anna was about this, because he told her, "I'm sorry it took me so long to get to you, but I was dealing with two people who dropped out.  Otherwise I would've been here sooner.  You should be proud that you are finishing.  I can't believe you went all that way on that little bike!"

The bike ride took us 2 hours.

We came into the transition area, which was busy because many competitors were finished and were exiting.  Some race volunteers helped escort us through to the portopotties then out to the run course.  Many people saw me and my little athlete and cheered, which gave Anna a burst of energy.  We started out running, then walked for the vast majority of the 3 mile course.  The wind was hot and the sun was intense.  There were two water stops on the way with great volunteers who had waited for us and encouraged us to finish.  Anna looked up at me as we started mile 3 and said, "Mommy, thank you so much.  I couldn't have done it without you.  I really wanted to quit, but I'm glad I didn't!"  I was glad, too.  I know she was too small and young to have self motivated herself to finish, but with very little encouragement from me, she found the strength in herself to push on and make her goal.  We fantasized about the post-race meal we had planned. "I'm going to have THREE pancakes!"  she said.  I assured her I didn't know anyone who deserved 3 more than her.

Finally, we could see the end in the distance, then we recognized the specks that were Anthony, Colin, and Emily.  Colin ran with us for a while, and Emily helped us over the finish line.  Anthony recorded the happy event.  Anna was elated, exhausted but happy.

She ate all 3 pancakes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Addition

For Anna's 10th birthday, we told her she could get what she's been begging for forever - a dog of her own.  Specifically, a golden retriever.  Since then we've been working with Gold Ribbon Rescue, getting approved, then waiting for a match.

As it happened, they got a mom and a litter of puppies.  "They are 95% Golden Retriever!" they told me.  "Are you interested?"  Hmm, not sure how they came up with that percentage, but we were mildly interested.   There is a new DNA test available to find out what breeds a dog is made of.  Its quite accurate on mildly mixed dogs, not so much for very mixed mutts.  I asked if I paid for the test, could we DNA test the litter?  They decided yes, and I met the mom (a Golden looking sweet female, but only 40lbs, muzzle too short to be all Golden Retriever) and the adorable fuzzikins that were her litter.  I drew blood from one of them, and sent it to the lab.

Three long weeks later, the results came back -- 75% Golden Retriever!  Of the grandparents, 3 were purebred Goldens, and one was a very mixed mutt, with markers for Basenjis, English Wolfhound, Spinone Italiano -- but none of the breeds I wanted to avoid.  With summer vacation upon us, we knew there would be no better opportunity to get a puppy.

I mean, how could you resist this?

 Anna did not actually know she was getting a puppy until we actually went to pick him up.  It was love at first sight!
 She has named him TOBY, and he's won all our hearts.  Well, Francesca (my 5 yo catahoula) is still a little grumpy.  And Anna is learning just how much work a new puppy really is.  We've had him for 3 weeks now, and he's grown quite a bit from these pictures.
 But he's still very precious!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My Hands Hurt

On Sunday I did the Danskin Triathlon again, along with my sister Emily and a thousand other women.  Its hot here in Texas, so we start early.  I was driving to the event at 5:30 am.

I could see a large, slow animal crossing the road ahead of me.  It was a turtle, in my lane, 3/4 of the way across a divided 4 lane road, and there were a couple more cars coming behind me in the lane it was approaching.  I slowed to a stop and waited for the cars to pass, then hopped out to help the turtle.

It was a snapping turtle.  He was about 18 muddy inches across.  I nudged him with my shoe, but he only moved 2 inches.  I knew if I picked him up on the sides, he could reach around and bite me.  So I picked him up in the back 1/3 of his body and hauled him to the safe grass.

As soon as I hefted him up, he pulled his back legs in and swiftly scratched me.  I fairly tossed him into the grass and hurried back to my car.  Sure enough, I had a deep bleeding scratch across each of my last 3 fingers. I'm sure he thought I wanted to eat him.  Oh well.  Hopefully the lake water was cleansing.  I finished the Tri at 1:47, 2 minutes faster than my best time ever.

After migas, a beer, and a nap, I had to teach my evening Bollywood class ( I couldn't find a sub).  I kept it low impact.  After the last student left, I started the lock-up process, and ran into the bathroom before driving home.

The lock stuck, and I couldn't get out.  I locked and unlocked, tried again and again, and couldn't get out.  I tried not to panic.  My phone and all my stuff were still out in the studio, all the students were gone, and there wasn't anyone in the whole shopping center who could even hear me yell.  Anthony wouldn't even expect me for another half an hour, probably wouldn't worry for an hour, then might call me and I couldn't answer -- maybe he'd call the police or come looking for me?  I kept working at the doorknob, and eventually broke the handle off, cut my hand, wiggled at parts inside - still couldn't get out.  Then I found a bobby pin, and was able to laboriously use it to unscrew the long two screws.  When I finally got the last one out, the knob fell away, and I was free.  I was trapped for about 30 minutes.

I had a nice glass of wine and a good sleep after that.