Tri it, You’ll Like It

It’s no secret that I hate runningIt’s boring, it hurts my joints, it’s dependent on the weather, and it’s really, really boring. But when I heard about BYU’s Lazy Man Triathlon, I sort of forgot how much I hate running. I thought “Lazy Man? Well, that sounds like it fits me to a T! Sign me up!” I’m always looking for some gimmick to trick me into exercising, so why not?

The idea of a Lazy Man triathlon is to complete the same amount of miles as an Iron Man (2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking and 26.2 miles running), except instead of doing it in one day like a real athlete, participants have an entire month to complete the course. Easy right? That’s what I thought, so I registered and got my very own card to track my progress. I love coloring in boxes -that’s how I motivate myself to do everything else in my life. So when I saw all those boxes waiting to be filled, I was bursting with gleeful anticipation.

Then I started the actual exercise. Lazy-schmazy, this was work! First of all, I have never run twenty-six miles in one year, let alone one month. Since I could only run three miles at a time, that would mean I’d have to talk myself into running (no easy task – I’d rather scrub toilets) nine times. And even at my fastest, I can’t ride more than fourteen miles in one hour-long cycle class, so the goal of 112 miles seemed almost impossible. When I broke it all down into numbers, it was obvious that I would not be able to slack off, no matter how busy I got with piano recitals and festivals, choir concerts and the crazy PTA project I volunteered to co-chair.

Well guess what? I did it! With four days to spare! Here’s what I learned from the experience:

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1.Triathlon is not spelled “triathalon”. I never knew that.

2. How to use a treadmill. About a year ago, I asked my husband to show me how to use a treadmill and he looked at me blankly and said, “You just turn it on and run.” I explained that I was really afraid I would fall right off of it and he said, “Like on cartoons?” I said, “No, like ‘80s sitcoms, but same idea.” He thought it was silly of me but showed me how it worked. Then I managed to fall off, triggering the emergency stop key. Then my arms knocked into my headphone cord, sending my phone flying to the ground and popping into pieces. Then my arms knocked into the emergency stop cord. Then I got off and decided to never try a treadmill again. In the meantime, my husband kept running on the treadmill right next to me, watching his show, oblivious to the three times I had to restart the stupid machine.

For this challenge, I ran almost exclusively outside. It’s October – the month with the most pleasant weather and the most gorgeous scenery.

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But because of some time constraints earlier in the week, I was left with one measly mile of running last night. I was at the gym anyway so I decided to try the treadmill for just one mile. I managed to run the whole time without falling or breaking anything or turning anything off, but it was not fun. Even with headphones and a show playing on my phone, I couldn’t help watching the numbers on the screen showing my progress slowly, slowly, slowly. That one mile felt longer than any of my other runs.

3. I’m not that great of a great swimmer. I used to think I was pretty good. I was on swim team as a child, I swam laps regularly when my kids were much younger, so I assumed that part would be a cinch. But once I started trying to swim the crawl and I could see the drop from shallow to deep below me, something strange happened – I started to panic that I wouldn’t get enough air. It was totally irrational, especially considering my previous swimming experience, but the same thing happened when I started experiencing vertigo as an adult. It appeared out of nowhere.

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The panic I felt was so overwhelming the few times I tried, I decided not to push it, opting instead to complete the 85 laps by swimming backstroke and breaststroke. It was much easier and made the whole experience much more pleasant.

4.This really is out of character for me. I went running last week past the high school. Some trumpet players from the marching band were outside practicing, but since I didn’t think I knew any of them, I just kept running without waving or stopping to say hello. The next day, my son (who’s also in marching band) said, “Were you running past the high school yesterday?” When I said I had and that I had seen the trumpet players, he said, “They told me they saw you, but I said, ‘My mom? Running? Outside?” Oh, yeah, cheeky boy?

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5. I actually enjoy running. That’s right, I said it. I really hated it at first, but I reached a bit of a turning point one morning after I kept thinking of phone calls I had to make and laundry I had to do. I couldn’t find my headphones, and then I was disappointed when I did find them, and then I noticed it was raining, then was disappointed to find it was only faintly drizzling. I had no excuses left, so I forced myself to just go. And then I had the nicest run. And I was so pleased that I had overcome my tendency to let myself off the hook.

Another big change happened after I told my brother-in-law (an actual Iron Man) how difficult it was to run and how I couldn’t run farther than three miles. He said, “Oh, three miles is the worst. Haven’t you heard that before? Once you get past three, it’s so much better.” My husband and sister, both long-distance runners, agreed, so I tried bumping up to 4 ½ miles the next day. It wasn’t bad! Who knew I could do that?

After that, running became fun. Of course, it helped that I got hooked listening to Serial. I can get through two full episodes each time I run and I only have one episode left, so no spoilers, please.

6. I’m capable of more than I thought. Not only can I run further, it turns out I actually can exercise longer than an hour without dying. I really can make myself leave my couch and my Snuggie on a chilly evening to drag myself to the pool. I really can push myself harder on the bike.

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I got a really crazy idea. I never planned to do this at the beginning of the month, but by the end, I started feeling more confident. I started to wonder what would happen if I tried to do a mini triathlon all in one day? 14 miles on the bike, 25 laps in the pool, and 3 miles running? I had an open stretch of time on Monday so I decided to give it a try. Two and a half hours later, I was tired and a little sick to my stomach, but I didn’t die and I wasn’t terribly sore afterwards. I actually pulled it off and it felt pretty good.

In 23 days’ time (I’m not counting Sundays), I swam 4 times, ran 8 times, and rode bikes 10 times. That’s a whole lot more than I usually exercise. Not bad for lazy old me.

7.I’m no Iron Man. Before I began this challenge, I would look at my friend and brother-in-law who completed the Iron Man and think, “Wow. That is crazy. How do they do that?” Once I started the challenge, I thought, “How is anyone capable of that?” I would leave a cycle class and realize I’d just expended every drop of energy I had just to accomplish ⅛ of just ⅓ of what an Iron Man accomplishes in ONE DAY. It was impossible to wrap my head around just how difficult it must be to do what they’ve done. Now I understand why my sister got so emotional as her husband crossed the finish line.

Me? I got this t-shirt. That’s cool, I guess.

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A Whole Lot of Holes

Crazy week. Not much time to report, and yes, it’s another post about food. What of it? I’ve got a lot going on and I’ve been stress-eating so I figured I might as well get something out of it. October always makes me think of glazed donuts, maybe remembering the party game where you try to eat a donut hanging from a string without dropping chunks of it onto the ground. Whatever the reason, I crave donuts all month long.

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But I couldn’t just eat donuts for a blog post. Or could I?

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I concocted the perfect plan: conduct a blind taste test to determine the Best Glazed Donut in town. I could eat donuts and also finally know where to get the best donuts and then eat more donuts! A small price to pay in the name of science.

I got a dozen glazed donuts each from Payson Market, Stokes (technically in Salem, but close enough), and Smith’s. Before conducting the experiment, my own opinions leaned toward Payson Market and far, far away from Smith’s, so I was interested to learn the results of the survey.

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(A=Smith’s B=Payson Market C=Stokes)

I had my family try first.

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As you can see, it was pure torture. Fritz said, “I just can’t choose because they’re all so delicious!”

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This weirdo was dressed for the occasion.

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This son took one bite of the Smith’s donut and said, “I can’t eat anymore of this one and I can guess exactly where you bought it.” It turns out all of our family preferred the Stokes donuts over Payson Market, which surprised me. I guess it’s worth the extra drive.

Next, I traveled to different neighbors and forced them to eat donuts. You know, people don’t really mind you dropping by unannounced on a Saturday afternoon if you come bearing donuts.

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And the results? Payson Market won out over the rest and Smith’s lost big time. As my son described it: “Smith’s donuts taste like glazed white bread.”

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And now in other donut-related news:

For years, our friend Gavin has been telling us about a “Payson tradition” (imagine air quotes here) of eating chili and donuts around this time of year. That’s right – chili and donuts. (He claims it’s like a Navajo taco but better.) I’m 98% sure he made this up but he’s stuck to his story for a really long time. He claims that generations of Payson children were served chili and donuts for school lunch. No one has been able to verify this.

Since it was donut week though, I took the bait. I tried eating chili and donuts. Together. At the SAME TIME. I know it sounds so unnatural that it would taste dreadful, but it wasn’t too bad. Nothing jarringly wrong about it. I just couldn’t see the point. If I want to dip my donuts in something, it’s hot chocolate. If I want to put anything in my chili, it’s cornbread. The chili was too thick or the donuts weren’t dense enough for them to really go together well.

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So now that I’ve tried it and I’ve admitted to trying it, I really want to know – have I been punk’d?

Shell No!

Enjoying a meal is about more than just taste. Our other senses play an important part in the experience. Based on what my five senses experienced this weekend, I can make the entirely unbiased and super-scientific statement that lobster is the worst food I have ever eaten and possibly the worst food on the planet. All five of my senses agree with me when I say that there is nothing worthwhile or redeeming about lobster and no one should ever willingly consume it.

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Well, let me take that back – it’s probably okay to eat if you’re starving and have no other option. If little Christian Bale could eat maggots to survive in Empire of the Sun, I guess lobster couldn’t be much worse.

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So here’s a summary of the assault on my senses my first and last time trying steamed Maine lobster, in order of attack. Trigger warning: may contain graphic descriptions of disgusting food.

SMELL

As I expected, there was a slightly fishy smell in the restaurant, but I don’t really mind fish. The lobster itself didn’t really smell fishy. It was something I’d never experienced. Somewhere between musty and earthy. I can’t really describe it, but I think it was the smell of wet shell. How’s that for appetizing?

SOUND

When my food was delivered I wasn’t sure how to even start so I Googled “How to eat a lobster” and found these handy instructions:

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The whole endeavor sounded pretty violent to me. Arch the back until it cracks? Unhinge the back from the body? I wasn’t sure I was capable of ripping something apart with my bare hands, especially something that had just been alive twenty minutes before.

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The cracking sound was just painful to listen to because it sounded so heartless and violent, like an assassin snapping his victim’s neck. It’s a sound I can only associate with gritty crime dramas and I couldn’t bear it. After a few wimpy attempts, I finally had my husband do the deed.

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My husband tells me I made this face for 45 minutes straight until we left the restaurant.

TOUCH

The feel of lobster in my mouth was probably the most unbearable part of the whole experience. When I took my first bite, I guesstimated what an appropriate “bite-sized” portion would be and I was so very wrong. I put too much into my mouth and I instantly regretted it. My husband was ready for me to throw up at any moment and I wasn’t in a position to contradict or reassure him. It was touch and go there for a while.

How do I describe the texture? It’s like when my son chews on his “Read Every Day” silicone bracelet except ten times more thick. Worse than shrimp or crayfish, it was a strange, new sort of chewy with moments of unexplained crunchiness and lots and lots of unwanted sliminess. From the first bite I was filled with instant buyer’s remorse. I just thought, “What have I done? And do I really have to eat more?”

TASTE

Taste? Was there a taste? The lobster I ate came with three options: 1) Bland, 2) Bland drenched in unsalted butter, or 3) Bland drenched in lemon juice. The meat itself had no flavor. I was expecting it to taste like fish or shrimp or crab or something, but it was just blank.

SIGHT

The waiter asked if I wanted to choose my own lobster from the tank. I politely declined because why would I want to watch those legs crawling around just minutes before seeing them on my plate? And the tentacles flicking? I’m not a big fan of sea creatures anyway, and I prefer to have some cognitive distance (even if it’s imaginary) between living creatures and the food on my plate. With lobster, you don’t get any of that. There are body parts everywhere.

That looks too much like a stingray tail. Thanks, but no thanks.

That looks too much like a stingray tail. Thanks, but no thanks.

Tails, antennae, legs, claws, unidentified tendrils and shells and creepy crawly things – there was no tricking myself into forgetting this was a sea creature.

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When following step 4 of the instructions (“Bend back and break the flippers of the tail-piece”), I shrieked as I lifted up the flippers to find rows of little legs (I don’t know if that’s really what they were, but that’s what they looked like). When I bent the back, it made the creepy little legs start wiggling as if the lobster were still alive and trying to escape. Just thinking of it now gives me the heebie-jeebies. It was just so wrong. I did not need to see that. No one needs to see that.

As we waited for the check, I looked at the table with body parts strewn everywhere and I had to cover my plate with my bib so I wouldn’t have to see any more carnage, which of course made it look like a coroner’s office. I’m not sure that image was any better.

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This was my husband’s second time trying lobster. The first time was when we were in Bali eating in an open air restaurant on the beach with a band playing outside. He didn’t like the lobster then either, but the band played this song as we ate:

We don’t have any special connection to that song, but because of that dinner, it’s now one of our favorites to sing. The lead singer couldn’t pronounce her R’s, so we got the giggles as she twied (oh, how she twied) and she pwayed (oh, how she pwayed). It was by far the best version of that song we’ve ever heard. Now that was a treat for the senses.

From the Horse’s Mouth

So here’s an exercise in “How much do I trust this person?”: My cousin-in-law Keri (who helped me with my craft post and was the photographer for our self-defense classasked me if I wanted to go to “a bloggable event” with her that would make me like Halloween. I like Keri and thought I could trust her judgement, but a surprise event involving costumes? This would require a whole other level of trust. 

I mean, the possibilities were endless…scary movie, haunted forest, haunted zoo, haunted mansion…there’s no shortage of entertainment available for all those Halloween lovers out there. There are probably as many Halloween activities around as there are pumpkin-flavored everythings. And since I am not one of those Halloween freaks fans, none of the options I imagined were very appealing.

But I put my trust in Keri, grabbed my costume (who knew we would find so many uses for a horse mask?), and ventured into the unknown.

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You can imagine my relief when I discovered I was actually going to a dinner party. Sitting and Eating? Those are my two favorite things! I found out this dinner is an annual tradition for the people at Keri’s work, hosted by one of those Halloween fanatics I’ve heard so much about. This was one of those parties you see in magazines or on Pinterest with elaborate decorations, creative activities, and even a smoke machine – the kind of stuff I think I should do but know I never will. As far as party planning goes, I could tell this was the Big Leagues.

The Lovely Hostess

The Lovely Hostess

The other guests knew this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill costume bash. These party goers went all out making their costumes by hand just for this party.

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We all voted for the best costume (someone even cast a pity vote for me, if you can believe it) and the winner received pretty much the best trophy I’ve ever seen.

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I had a hard time deciding between the Dr. Seuss Duo (or is that a Trio?):

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The Oompa Loompas:

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and the winners, Raggedy Ann and Andy (all made by hand, even the wigs):

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Of course, Keri’s costume and makeup were pretty impressive as well. I felt sorry for dragging her down with my dumb mask.

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For dinner, we ordered from these menus, not knowing what we were in for.

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Our first order determined which outlandish utensil we would use to eat the rest of our dinner. Luckily, my choice (an ice cream spade) turned out to be pretty safe. Others were not so lucky – potato mashers, tongs, slotted spoons, even a measuring cup.

I think I made the right choice (on the left).

I think I made the right choice (on the left).

Probably not best for soup, but these tongs were pretty good pie grabbers.

Probably not best for soup, but these tongs were    pretty good pie grabbers.

We took our chances again and again as we ordered our drinks, salads, soups, main course, and desserts, all prepared and served by our hostess’s lovely family members. But really, we were safe with anything we ordered because everything was delicious.

JUST PEPSI, FOLKS

JUST PEPSI, FOLKS

After dinner, we played games like Name That Tune (trust me, if you ever play this game, you want Keri on your team), Name That Candy Bar (not as easy as it looks – has anyone actually seen an Idaho Spud outside its wrapper?), and a trivia game (I know my Utah facts but that’s about it).

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Not only did all of Keri’s co-workers make me feel at home, I was also amazed that all these people who are stuck at work together all week not only get along, they actually seem to like hanging out with each other! From my limited experience of working at an actual job, that’s pretty impressive.

This party was the perfect way to kick off the month of October. I even found myself kind of liking Halloween. Who knows, maybe I’ll even decide to come up with a real costume in the next few weeks. What? It could happen.

Boom Chuck Chuck

Sometimes when I do a blog challenge, I think, “Isn’t it enough that I tried it? Do I also have to write about it?” This is one of those weeks – the challenge felt like work and now writing about it makes me feel like I’m back in grad school, so I’m going to keep it brief.

Although I love his Ballades and some Nocturnes and Etudes, I really hate Chopin Waltzes. I don’t play them, I try to avoid teaching them, and I have to work really hard not to let my aversion affect my opinion when I judge a performance of a Waltz. Obviously this is a problem. What kind of pianist hates Chopin?

I know what I do every week is nothing more than reliving Green Eggs and Ham again and again, but I’ve never felt more like Sam I Am than I did with this particular challenge.

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I pulled out my Dover edition (which I own because I think I should, not because I actually ever use it) and gave myself the assignment to fully familiarize myself with all seventeen waltzes. I spent the week sightreading and then listening to recordings of each waltz.

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As I listened, I took notes on each performance and gave each waltz a score out of 10 indicating the likelihood of me ever deciding to listen to it again. I also looked for those which would be most accessible to students. I even kept an eye out for any waltzes I might possibly consider learning myself. It was a long week – more work than I anticipated.

I asked my husband how much detailed analysis of the pieces I needed to include in this post. His reply: I: Oom Pa Pa :I , which is pretty much how I felt most of the week.

I was able to find six waltzes I wouldn’t mind teaching and one I would even be willing to learn if I were forced to choose. The more popular and overplayed the waltz, the less likely I was to like it, but out of the famous waltzes, I think I like op. 64, no. 2 the most.

Out of the waltzes I wasn’t familiar with, my favorite was probably op. 70, no. 2.

There were a few I disliked until I heard a recording that changed my mind and it was helpful to hear different pianists’ approach to the same piece. It seems like the waltz is a good choice for an encore piece – a chance to play something short, familiar and flashy, a sort of burst of light sweetness at the end of a performance. Several performers seem to be trying to show how many innovative touches they can add to the performance in order to stand out from the many, many others who’ve played the same piece. It also seems like the waltzes serve as a vehicle for just plain showing off, for example, Evgeny Kissin’s lightning fast Waltz #14 (op. posth.):

Although this week’s challenge felt like I was doing an assignment for Piano Lit class, it was nice to exercise my sight reading chops and to use my brain a little. I’ve definitely had my fill of the waltz pattern, but I was surprised to find that it became less annoying the more I listened to it. I was even more surprised to find that there were some waltzes I actually enjoyed. Only some, but that’s better than none, I guess. At least my opinion is now based on something other than a sweeping generalization. Speaking of uninformed negative opinions, I wonder what next week’s post will be about?