You Just Climbed Koko Crater Not Koko Head (which is way easier)

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Koko Crater tramway.

Koko Crater tramway.

About the title: When I checked in on Facebook, this was an option. And, as I’m always correcting people about how they climbed Koko Crater and not Koko Crater Head or Koko Head Crater or Koko Head, I jumped on that location immediately. It took me a while to get up there. Here’s my tale.

Under the blazing sun at 1 p.m. yesterday, I had the curiously strange idea to go up Koko Crater, which is practically in my backyard. It’s a big draw for (insane or fit or insanely fit) residents and tourists alike. It’s also a draw for those who want to go on a little hike. How hard can it be, they must ask themselves. I don’t know why anyone would do this hike more than once. We used to go up quite often, before it became a tourist destination, and we even took our daughters up there a few times. We’d watch the sunset, take in the view, and take lots of pictures.

For mere mortals, it’s not a piece of cake. The tramway is treacherous, there is nothing to hold onto except maybe the rail if you bend over and grab it, the trestle, which always seems to have a hive of bees or wasps in activity, is terrifying (so I took the cheater path on the side), and there is no water anywhere. If you aren’t discouraged by my message of doom yet, take a 2-liter bottle for the way up and maybe another for the way down.

Yes, my awesome Brooks Pure Cadence running shoes. Yes, this is typically the condition of the tramway all the way up.

Yes, my awesome Brooks Pure Cadence running shoes. Yes, this is typically the condition of the tramway the whole way.

There are 1,060 steps up to the top, and then you have to climb up rock that has been smoothed with erosion and thousands of footsteps. Years ago, an encouraging soul painted markers on the rail marking progress. At 200 steps. At 400 steps. At 500 steps At 800 steps. At 1,000 steps it also says only 60 more to go!

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Everyone stops to rest, even the invincibles.

This being my off season, I haven’t been training for triathlons much recently. But how bad was it? Bad. Before I got to the 200th step I was having second thoughts. I knew I didn’t have to do it. I packed a little bit of water, but not nearly enough, and it was so hot. And it wasn’t until I got to the 400th step did I remember about the dreaded trestle. Although it seems to have been reinforced some, I do not have the constitution to go across, whether it’s climbing or descending. Fortunately, there is a well-worn path on its east side that takes some rock climbing and weaving in and out of the thorned haole koa thickets. To me, it was a better alternative.

A toddler is on dad's back, mom is right behind them, and their little big man raced ahead. It couldn't have been easy.

A toddler is on dad’s back, mom is right behind them, and their little big man raced ahead. It couldn’t have been easy.

I had to stop several times on the way up, and I wasn’t the only one. When people were coming down, it gave those of us on the way up a reason to step to the side and pause. I met several families on their way down, little kids fearlessly hopping about, dads and moms with babies on their backs (none too happy, either), a young couple in their 20s, of which the woman whimpered with every step down.

And then I met Julian and Evan. Carrying their bikes. On their way down. Julian was wearing a bicycle kit, was walking in his socks, and his bicycle shoes were stuck on his handlebars. Evan carried his big Giant bike on his shoulders. When I first caught a glimpse of them, I could see their bikes sparkling high above me at the top of the tramway, Julian’s front wheel spinning like a ferris wheel in the distance.

Julian and Evan walking down with their bikes after riding up to the peak on the tramway. This is who I mean by young invincibles.

Julian and Evan walking down with their bikes after riding up to the peak on the tramway. This is who I mean by young invincibles.

“Did youz guyz ride up from inside the crater?”

“Nope. We rode right up this trail.”

“Holy cow! Really? Are you in training?”

Julian told me he did the Honolulu Tinman, but he wasn’t doing this for training. If you could see that trail, you would be astonished at anyone getting a bike up there. If you have a rock hopper or a BMX or a trail bicycle, maybe, but these guys looked like they were on regular road bikes with regular tires.

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The payoff.

Between 400 steps, the trestle, and 800 steps, I had to give myself the self pep talk. I compared the heat to Ka Wela, the recent Boca Hawaii endurance triathlon I completed a few months ago. I told myself if I can do Kona 70.3 Honu Ironman twice (and next year makes thrice), I can climb Koko Crater one more time in my life. I said to myself that I was not a quitter. I don’t quit. I might be slow, but I achieve my goal.

Finally, at the top, breathless, heart pounding, I leaned on the World War 2 pillbox to take a break, take out my phone and shoot stuff, like scenery.

A week or a weekend doesn’t go by that we don’t hear the sirens wailing and the fire department’s helicopter flying to Koko Crater to make a rescue. Having done it one final last time, it doesn’t surprise me. It would be so easy to fall and twist an ankle or break a bone. For me, it was dizzyingly high and at one point on the way down, I didn’t measure the step as far down as it was and I nearly tumbled. And, although it feels like it takes forever to get to the top, it also feels like forever to get back down. I am so done with it.

Somethings I don’t get:

  • Why do people hike with boom boxes or radios and make the rest of us listen to their music? Why not listen to the wind rushing through the brush, or the bullets ricocheting off the targets at the shooting range below?
  • Why do women wear cute little shoes for this climb?
  • Why do people go to the top and have a cigarette?
  • Why do people even go up there?

Great mysteries.

 

 

Big South Shore Waves

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This is the last week before the quarter ends, so school teachers aren’t calling in sick and substitute teachers like me are not getting called to work. What a gorgeous day to be outside! Hot. Hot. Hot. But beautiful. There is nothing like living in Hawaii. Nothing.

After we drove along the Ka Iwi Coast taking in the sights, and getting a video via Instagram, we came back home for a cold lunch. Cold wheat linguine for me dressed in sesame oil, shoyu, sesame seeds and green onions; target-rich tossed salad for him. Naps.

I was craving an ocean fix so bad. I couldn’t go out at Sandy Beach because it was too big. My hair was a big ball of fuzz, and the best remedy for that is an ocean swim. I decided to go for a swim at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki before I had to pick up Kid2 at school. Hot. Hot. Hot. Parking was easy at 1:30 p.m. In fact, if you run the Honolulu Marathon, there were like ZERO cars parked along the finish. The waves are too big on the South Shore for most surfers and definitely not a swim to the windsock kind of day.

The clown goggles. Seriously, these TYR goggles are polarized, so great for a sunshiny day. One earplug for my right ear. This year's WRS cap.

The clown goggles. Seriously, these TYR goggles are polarized, so great for a sunshiny day. One earplug for my right ear. This year’s WRS cap.

Put on my fins, my Roughwater Swim cap, and my clown goggles and headed out toward the windsock. The waves were deliciously rambunctious. I love swimming up and down and under and over, swishing around loving the sea foam, diving under to check out the fishies. But I wasn’t confident to swim all the way out to the wind sock. Waves were breaking big outside — they looked easily to be 6-8 feet. The wind sock pole was always in a wave. And besides, no one else was out there. Not that I ever swim with a buddy, but when there are other swimmers, then we’re all buddies.

Nope. I noodled around inside on my back, on my side, under and over, freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, a few butterfly kicks and under again. A half hour to myself. Instead of mom time or wife time or sub teacher time or maid time, it was Me Time.

It was cool.

Infrared Yoga and Recovery, Healing and Optimism

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Before I get to the yoga part:

On Saturday, September 6, I swam in the inaugural North Shore 5k Swim, finishing in less than two hours, and in third place women’s fin division. What a great finish to a great race season. The week before my finish in the Waikiki Roughwater Swim was considerably slower, thanks to the current. That swim really beat me up. But, I absolutely adore swimming in the ocean. I will confess I spend the first third of an ocean race wondering if I will be a meal. Then, when I start passing other swimmers, I gain confidence and find a comfortable pace. My final third is usually quite charged with enthusiasm. I haven’t been eaten, I passed a few other swimmers so I won’t be DFL, and I rise out of the water having accomplished one more great thing.

Triathlons and triathlon training push me beyond limits I ever thought possible. Coaches demand more and I try to deliver. As a result of that, and as a result of aging, I feel like my body would prefer to be in a constant state of rest. But try telling my mind that! Try telling my ego that it’s time for me to sit on the sidelines! It won’t happen.

The Yoga Part

I decided to take up yoga during the offseason to improve my flexibility, ease the aches of arthritis and combat the osteoporosis that is turning my bones into brittle mesh. My research and the timing of a great Groupon deal resulted in my signing on with http://www.sunyogahawaii.com/ at the Aina Haina Shopping Center. So far I’ve gone to six sessions, and last night I completed my fourth day in a row. It is getting easier, but it’s always challenging.

I put my mat and yoga towel down in a spot away from the infrared lights and wait for the class to begin. I have found that the more crowded the class, the harder it is for me to complete all the exercises. Maybe I am wrong, but it feels as though there is less oxygen when there are more bodies.

Everyone advises that when you attend yoga, you check your ego at the door. It’s easy for chunky chicks like me to check it. But it’s really hard to not look around and feel so outclassed and so far behind the lithe and limber superhumans that fill the room. I don’t even meet eyes with anyone. Four years ago I burst my right Achilles tendon. After it was surgically reattached, that tendon is a little shorter than the other, making it difficult to do some of the yoga poses symmetrically. No one knows that, so I figure I look lazy.

For me, yoga will not only have to help me get my body to that flexible and ready point for the next triathlon season, but it will also have to work on my spirit and mind. I have to give myself permission to feel worthy enough to say hi and enjoy what others bring to the class.

Years ago I took yoga at The Oahu Club with yogi Vishnu, a black dude with long dreadlocks, who taught at a variety places. When he left Hawaii, I had no desire to practice with anyone else. I tried, but I had developed a habit that got thrown off by the styles of other teachers. This time I’ve decided to not get too hung up on a teacher but to go with the flow.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to hop with my two legs out of downward facing dog, as I just gingerly step my legs up so I don’t fall. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my stomach flat enough that my forehead rests easily on my knee, massaging my internal organs and creating all kinds of great results with my digestive tract. At the end of class, I look like I got stuck in a downpour. This girl doesn’t prance out looking all spiritual and glowing. So far I have resisted the urge to go to the Starbucks next door or through the McDonald’s drive-thru across the parking lot after yoga. Yay me.

Another thing I’m looking for in my yoga practice is developing more patience and forgiving myself for all the things I think I do wrong. Because one of the things we’re asked to check at the door are all those things that are bugging us in the world. What’s past is done, and there’s nothing left to do about it. What’s in the future is unknown, so there’s no reason to worry about it. All I need to do is be present and welcome this one-hour gift.

Health, Happiness and Relevance

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My triathlons for 2014 are behind me. The 2014 North Shore Swim Series is complete. I’m still feeling the effects of Labor Day’s Waikiki Roughwater Swim, thanks to some Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish stings on my left arm and torso (into my suit?) with an itch that’s hard to resist. One more race in 2014 to go, the inaugural North Shore 5K Swim, from Sunset Beach to Waimea Bay. I’ve decided to participate in this one using fins. So this morning I went to Kaimana Beach and tested my new TYR fins that I got at Boca Hawaii, swimming to the windsock three times and back. I definitely feel I can handle this, but I’ve never had to get fins on or off during a race, so that’ll be a new factor. During ocean swims, especially when doing triathlons, I don’t kick much because I need to save my legs for the bike and run. So putting these fins on and actually using my legs was super fun. I couldn’t get over how much faster I was. I think that every time I go into the ocean from now on I am wearing fins. Wheeeeeeeee!

Since I am now in my off season for triathlon training, I bought a Groupon for yoga. I’ve been thinking about how stiff I am, how hard it is for me to sit on the floor, to get up, even to get out of the car after a long drive. I’m not ready for my body to seize up and age in place (like a pillar of salt?) when my spirit has no intention! Last night I went to Sun Yoga at the Aina Haina Shopping Center for my first class of hot yoga. Sun Yoga incorporates infrared lights and it really heats things up. I couldn’t fully participate. I’m not sure what was happening. I would get dizzy and I’d have to sit or lay down while everyone else was posing. I felt very conspicuous, but I realize that I’m new at it and there will be adjustments. I am optimistic. I’ve been told the first class is the most challenging. I expect the first week to be the most challenging. Every bone, muscle and joint in my body resisted the yogi’s directions. While there were a few women who had been practicing for a little bit longer than me, two thirds of the class were lithe, striking beauties, some of whom I doubted were out of their twenties. There’s really no point in comparing ourselves with a younger generation, right?

I used to take yoga when the girls were tots. We belonged to The Oahu Club and I attended sessions taught by a yogi named Vishnu, a black guy with long dreads and a mysterious background. When he left Hawaii I stopped going to the yoga classes there. So it’s been about six years since I was in a yoga setting. Add the trendy heat factor, add my being about six years older, add my right foot being about 1/4 inch shorter than the other and add absolutely no elasticity in my joints, and you don’t have to wonder why I spent a good third of the class trying to breathe and not faint.

But I survived. The instructor, Michele Santos, was very nurturing and I felt safe. I slept really well last night, and didn’t wake up until after 5. Usually I wake up between 2-3 a.m. and what a party that can be, especially if the cat is on to me.

I don’t know if I have depression or what, but there are times when I feel irrelevant and that life isn’t worth living. I’m pretty sure it’s because I don’t have a real job. I am also very realistic, so I think the freelance writing and the substitute teaching are perfect for me because they offer so many variables: different stories to write, lots of different people to talk to about their projects, different subjects to teach, several classes of students a day, finishing in the afternoon and having me time or family time after hours.

Fortunately, I always think about my family and that keeps me from doing something foolish. They are worth living for. We always try to see what lessons the universe is teaching us in times that suck. For me, I think, it’s to live simpler and love fully.

 

Kawela Endurance Triathlon

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Elated at my finish, pouring water over my head.

Elated at my Kawela Endurance Triathlon finish, pouring water over my head.

Hit refresh; I made some edits.

Yesterday I completed Boca Hawaii’s inaugural Kawela Endurance Triathlon. This was my third 70.3 mile event, and my best time so far. Everybody gets a personal record, “PR,” the first time they do an event. That was all of us yesterday. Yay!

My Garmin results were better than the official results, but that’s OK with me. I finished in less than eight hours, which was my goal. My swim was fast for me, my bike ride was strong, and I left myself plenty of time to endure the heat during my run. In Hawaiian, Ka Wela means ” the heat,” a point founder Raul Torres wanted to emphasize in this event he plans on hosting each August. While the swim was cool in the early morning, and the bike was wet until we cleared Oahu’s east side, the run was spectacularly hot.

I must give a shout out to Raul and my coaches Alika Chee, Ryan Leong, Stefan Reinke, Tanya Florin, Felipe Rael and Chris Moore. The training of my body, mind and spirit came together yesterday and I feel positive about improving for future races. By no means am I a superstar when it comes to triathlons. Instead I am just a regular mom who wants to stay in shape, have fun, be healthy, and inspire her family and friends. And if I can do triathlons, what else could I do?

Third 70.3, best finish so far!

Third 70.3 triathlon, third place. My best finish so far at 07:44!

Yesterday, it was still dark when John dropped me off at Kailua Beach Park with my bike and swim gear. The plan was for him to meet me at 2 p.m. at Camp Erdman for my finish. John usually sticks around through my entire races, shooting lots of pictures and witnessing the victories of the top finishers, all the way until I get across the finish line. He is so dang positive when I get over that line, I don’t know what I’d do without him. I finish so far back in the pack that it’s easy to slip into despair.

Yesterday’s swim started in Kailua just as the sun rose over the horizon. The waves sparkled in the darkness, the stars gleamed between the dense clouds that moved with the brisk breeze. It rained while we set up our bikes at transition one (T1). Shades of Lanikai Triathlon. Seems to always rain just as we start our swim. I was very pleased with my swim. It was with the current, so I bet everybody’s results were fantastic. We got out half way and ran back to the start and got back in the water for one more lap. That way no one had to swim against the current. Smart.

Running to swim lap two as the sun rises in the east. Mahalo for the photo by Kim Burnett.

Running to swim lap two as the sun rises in the east. Mahalo for the photo by Kim Burnett.

By the time I got to T1 after my swim, the corral looked deserted, there were a few bikes left. I was calm. I didn’t have any jitters for this race at all. The day before I took The Great White to the back of Hawaii Kai and spent an hour getting in and out of my bicycle shoes that were attached to my pedals so I could mount and dismount quicker. Success! That was a big deal for me. I rode the last few miles on my bike with my feet cooling on top of my shoes. It was heaven. Credit Coach Alika Chee for my newfound skill.

The bike ride felt good, even though it was wet through the first 18 to 20 miles. But it was early enough that traffic was minimal so we could ride in the road and out of the puddles. Quite a few triathletes had to stop to fix punctures. Police throughout the race were on task and very cordial. I absolutely love it when each officer holds up their intersection for me to race through. Each time I sent up a shakka wave of mahalo and aloha to the drivers who patiently waited! Those officers were so great! I think every one of them cheered me through! Priceless.

The Great White needs a good cleanup.

The Great White needs a good cleanup.

It was a fine ride through the North Shore of Oahu, with just a couple of bottlenecks. At one point I got stuck in sand and did a big wobbly fishtail. Somehow I recovered. I swear this bike and I are an awesome team. I love my Cervelo P2!!! I ride with care and I have never had a puncture in a race. I know it’s more a matter of when and not if. It will happen. Sometimes I change out my tubes just so I remember how to do it under pressure!

When I got to Mokuleia, I was secretly bummed that so many participants were already running. The winners finished hours before me. But I am a triathlete who has to focus on completing and not competing. I came in third yesterday because one of my friends in my age group got too dehydrated to finish. I am sure she would have beaten me.

My T2 was long because I had to use the bathroom before I started my run. But, getting T2 and bathroom business done in less than nine minutes is nothing to be ashamed of, right? We ran from Camp Erdman to Kaena Point to Mokuleia Beach Park to Kaena Point to Mokuleia Beach Park to Kaena Point and finished at the camp. For the first lap I was trying to get my legs back. I didn’t feel horribly spent. I drank Coke and Mountain Dew, used my Power Gels, used their Power Gels, was fed an apple banana and pretzels by friends, and always had my hands full with ice and ice water. My coaches Ryan and Felipe kept me in ice cubes the whole way, and I poured a lot of it on me and in me! I was waterlogged by the final third of my run, which is a far better condition than being dehydrated.

When I turned onto the dirt road and made my way to the finish the first person I saw was John and it was the best thing ever!!! He ran ahead of me to shoot a few pix of my finish. I was so happy to be finishing that I cheered and poured more ice water onto myself and crossed with such joy at 07:44:31. I’ll take it! There were times yesterday during the run when I wanted a shortcut. But in my heart I knew I had to complete the whole race. Following my Ironman 2013 and 2014 finishes of 8:12 and 8:23, I am pleased with this result. I’m improving.

Race with Passion is the motto of Boca Hawaii. While it is a simple and sweeping statement, it also emphasizes how each one of us has personal dreams and goals. If you don’t have passion, then what do you have? I have really come to love the Boca Hawaii ohana.

 

Share the Road with Us!

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Big shoulders on the Big Island made doing the Ironman 70.3 a relaxing ride. Headed north to Hawi from the Mauna Lani turnaround, 50 miles to go.

Big shoulders on the Big Island made doing the Ironman 70.3 a relaxing ride. Wish we had bigger shoulders on Oahu’s roads! 

Yesterday during our Boca Hawaii Summer Triathlon Training workout three of my teammates were in accidents with motor vehicles while we were riding our bicycles. No one was fatally injured, all are on the mend, and to the best of my knowledge, each was a victim of hit-and-run rudeness. It is illegal and morally wrong to leave the scene of an accident or to not assist people who are hurt.

In 2012 Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the Vulnerable Users Law, designed to protect bicyclists, pedestrians and people who work on crews such as those who groom road landscaping, etc. It isn’t a snare net to capture and punish drivers. It’s to make drivers aware that they have to look out for everyone who isn’t in a steel capsule hurtling down the highway.

I live in East Oahu, and that’s where these accidents involving my teammates occurred yesterday. This part of the Island is chock full of Type-A captains of industry and their high-maintenance Rogue- or Cayenne- or Lexus SUV-driving wives in their yoga pants, phones illegally at their ears, kids set to ignore in the backseat. One woman in her Mercedes coupe got very close and then told me to get out of the way because she was in a hurry to get to her tennis match at Koko Head District Park. I was completely unaware of her importance.

The point is, people out here need a refresher course on sharing the road with bicyclists. We get the lane. We get the whole ENTIRE lane. Do we take the entire lane? Not unless the shoulder is junk. Most of us ride on the shoulder and we’re OK with that. Sometimes I see riders doubled up to shoot the breeze while we are out there on Kalanianaole Highway and I am not OK with that. I have a little mirror clipped to my sunglasses so I can see what’s coming up from behind me, so I can see that a city bus is about to pull up to the bus stop, or a car or delivery truck wants to turn right. The mirror is very helpful to me, but not everyone uses them or needs to.

East Oahu gets its share of tourist drivers, and I suspect it was a tourist who caused my two women teammates to crash by Hanauma Bay yesterday. I do not know how this person is enjoying their Hawaii vacation. One woman has a dislocated shoulder and the other one has a broken collar bone. Needless to say their bicycles are totalled.

Those of us who ride road bikes and triathlon bicycles have a healthy respect for the road and for the vehicles with which we share it. Most of us obey the laws to the letter. Some of us will roll through a red light if there is nothing going on. Most of us will help each other out if we’re on the side of the road changing out a punctured tube.

I make a point of making eye contact with drivers while riding. I always say thank you with a big smile and an Island-style shakka wave to convey my gratitude to those of you who are getting a chance to pass me because finally I have a shoulder to ride on. Believe me, if it were up to me all of our roads would have broad, clean shoulders for those of us who ride bike or who like to run along the highways.

I have a theory: Bicyclists make excellent drivers because we have the perspective of being both the vulnerable and the infallible user. We ride in the heat, the rain and the wind. These elements add to the challenge of navigating along the shoulder and sometimes in the path of traffic. We know we’re not as fast as you in your big truck or little sports car or your tourist bus or your delivery truck or mom mobile. But do you know that as a driver on Oahu’s roads, you must protect the rest of us who are considered by law vulnerable users? Awareness. We just ask that you have AWARENESS.

 

Thoughts Become Reality

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One of my dear friends from childhood named Sue, someone with whom I can spend a total of 15 minutes with every five years and still have a perpetual connection with (thanks to Facebook and perhaps thanks to our spirits), often gives her friends daily spiritual vitamins upon which to reflect. Today it was something from Marianne Williamson:

On Meeting Limits with Unlimited Thought
Our power lies in meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thought. It is not what happens to us, but what we choose to think about what happens to us, that determines what will happen next.
If our circumstances tempt us to think thoughts such as, “I’m such a loser,” “I will never have another chance,” “It will take forever for this situation to right itself,” or “I hate whoever is to blame for this,” then miracles, though they are programmed into the nature of the universe, cannot make their way into our awareness. They’re in the computer, but we’re not choosing to download them. With every thought we think, we either summon or block a miracle.
It is not our circumstances, then, but rather our thoughts about our circumstances, that determine our power to transform them. We choose in life whether to live in victimization or in victory. We have power either way – power to use against ourselves, or power to use to free ourselves. The point is that we always have the choice, and it’s not always as simple as it appears.
- Marianne Williamson

This hits on several areas in my life. First of all, I think it is a miracle that I have such a great husband and these two lovely daughters who care and love me so much. I do not love myself as much as they do. I should. I need to work on that constantly.

Secondly, while it is such a gift to be a freelance writer and to write articles in my shady and private backyard office, it gets a little tough when the checks take a long time to come in. It’s not that stable. That’s why I am a substitute teacher (believe me, having the summer off with my family has been GREAT! School starts Friday. Yay!). So I’m happy to be writing, it helps me stay relevant as a journalist, and it keeps me in touch with my community and people who are important. But honestly, I feel like I need a miracle every month to stay solvent, which is why I still send out my resume. There must be a few hundred versions of it out there right now.

Finally, being a triathlete is crazy. As a kid I loved to swim, bike and run around. I didn’t have my children until I was past 40, so I could do all kinds of things for a long time before they were born. But after they were born, I got sluggish and fat and that also makes your self esteem and soul turn to mush. At 50 I started to do triathlons. Do I train to win? Of course I do! Do I win? No. Not unless everyone else is out of town doing full-blown Ironmans or other endurance events. I try really hard to do my best. During my last half Ironman, which was Honu in Kona a few months ago, I struggled during my ride and my run. The self talk was all about “never again.” Thank goodness I had friends along the course who interrupted me with their cheers and support. I would have happily fallen into a lava tube to die. When I finished just minutes before the clock wound down, it felt like a miracle. And it was, woven by the voices of friends, the unbearable heat that I wanted to get away from, the desire to be done with it.

Reprogramming myself to understand that my thoughts control the gate through which miracles arrive is difficult, but it makes sense. If I want to attract something wonderful and fulfilling or even a conversation with someone I want to spend time with, I have to appear ready, I have to be available, and I have to be receptive.

Thinking positively. Peace.

Another Blog: Eat At Mom’s dot Net

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This is what you get when you Eat At Mom's!

This is what you get when you Eat At Mom’s!

It’s not like I have tons of time, but I figured over the summer I’d launch a cooking blog. It’s still under construction. Pretty soon I’ll be posting my food creations on the website Eat At Mom’s.

So I’m toggling back and forth between this site and that site and I’m trying to save myself from making the same mistakes I made a few years when I launched lavagal.net. I also want to launch the site with a recipe sorter embedded, to enable easy searches by ingredient or subject. It’s not easy, but it’s WordPress, so it’s not impossible.

Casting doubts on my ambitions to launch this site within the next few days are all of these website designers and companies that come crawling out of the woodwork offering me their services and guarantees about SEO and positive Internet cash flow. I realize they just want to make a few bucks, but the joy of WordPress and launching a website is that point of pride where it’s a labor of love and doesn’t look like it’s squirted out of the same cookie press.

No thanks!

The eventual plan is to migrate recipes here on lavagal.net to eatatmoms.net, publish new recipes, help others figure out ways to use new ingredients, and share our reflections about wonderful meals we had while eating out, at a potluck or a family celebration, and trying to recreate those taste sensations that bring back happy memories — even those from small-kid time.

Are you with me? I hope you’ll subscribe.

And From Death We Get Alone Time

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It’s been a week since Aunt Mary Lou died. It was early in the morning, in her home, as though she fell asleep for the last time.

When I heard the news, I hustled to book a flight, a rental car and a hotel room. I was airborne Thursday afternoon and touched down in Philly by 1130 Friday morning. I visited my sister at her salon and then joined my mother and Uncle Ralph, a new widower, for dinner Friday evening. Saturday was the viewing, funeral mass, burial and celebration at Taylor’s Sports Restaurant and Bar on the Black Horse Pike.

Aunt Mary Lou has 10 grandchildren, all in their 20s and 30s. They took the long center table at Taylor’s. I know these kids. Three of them lost their mother, our eldest cousin Maureen, in a motorcycle accident. We are incomplete because Maureen is gone, but you have to make do. Her three children have become adults without her guidance. It cannot be easy. And no matter how hard a man tries, it’s pretty tough to be both parents. My heart is heavy for them.

At the viewing I got to see my cousins for the first time in a couple of years. They stood in a reception line as Aunt Mary Lou’s friends and family came through to pay their respects. I observed my cousins as they spoke with people who came to them, sharing their memories and sharing tears. Every time someone came through, the reception line would be brought to tears again. It had to be exhausting, I hope it was cathartic. In an open casket was Aunt Mary Lou. She wore a scarf and her hands clutched a rosary of red crystals. She was my Godmother.

Because I have been away for so long, I have grown apart from my family. This trip to New Jersey really showed me how much I have changed. The most significant change is my lack of a lead foot when behind the wheel. Thank goodness I’m in a rental car with Florida plates because I’m pretty certain I frustrate the heck out of every driver on these roads. I would be driving along on a back-country road (Yes, South Jersey is loaded with them) at 35mph and see a sign that says the speed limit is 50 (as indicated by the headlights behind me).

As a family member, I’m an outsider. I am not here enough to know all the goings on, who is doing what, what children and grandchildren are up to, who needs a prescription, who needs new eyeglasses, who is vegan, who is vegetarian, who’s staying married, who’s getting divorced, who’s struggling with what.

Every time I show up is a good time, even now. When I visit, and this has always been the case for the 36 years I have not lived in New Jersey, we all get together and have fun. Barbecues, parties, out to dinner, to the beach, all kinds of excursions.

Life goes on when someone we love dies. While we have to drop everything to take care of the details of death, we (and I mean my cousins mostly) must resume as soon as possible the matters of life. This time there weren’t any get togethers after Saturday and Sunday. I would imagine everyone has to go back to work, catch up with laundry, and live life.

So I am alone in my hotel room. I have paid my respects, I have offered my support, I have arrived to give Aunt Mary Lou my farewell in person. My cousins were so appreciative of my being here because I had come so far. Each of them is worth the trip. It was what I needed to do.

Tonight friends met with me at Ott’s Tavern in Delran. I spread myself too thin. I didn’t get to talk to any one person enough. It was enough and it wasn’t enough. When we are kids we have no idea how valuable time is. Now that we are older, we should. It is nearly priceless.

This is my contemplation. Time is swift. I will soon be checking out of my hotel room, driving myself to the airport, and getting myself from here to Hawaii, traveling solo through Philadelphia, Houston, LAX and HNL, where my husband will take me home where I belong.

They say they miss me. It is a wonderful thing to know.

 

 

2014 Honu Ironman 70.3: Racing Against My Own Demons

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Finisher. For the record: 08:23:56, 12 minutes slower than last year.

Finisher. Official medal and Cookies by Design edible medal from Bonnie Leong. For the record: 08:23:56, 12 minutes slower than last year. Swim, bike and transitions were minutes slower. But my run, despite my walking quite a bit, was faster. Amazing.

No matter how well you train, if your body doesn’t respond, react or deliver as expected on race day there really isn’t much you can do about it.

It was perplexing for me. Throughout the race my body was not responding to my directions. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, except that I worked so much the weeks before and didn’t get in enough rest. And believe it or not, it is possible for ME (YES ME) to not eat enough before and during a race.

I had the best training! I was part of a great (and large) group for Endurance Triathlon Training with Boca Hawaii. The fast kids were gracious, the well-established kids were welcoming, and the coaches were supportive. It was so incredible, that I signed up for Summer Triathlon Training, which begins Saturday, June 6, in preparation for the inaugural Boca Hawaii Kawela Triathlon later this summer. After my Honu results, and after a sort of decent night’s sleep (despite the high-maintenance cat), I’m feeling it.

I’m feeling that triathlon thing again and it’s all good.

Pros in white caps, men in blue caps, women in pink caps. Officials. Spectators. Photographers. Kids. It's crazy. We're all nuts.

Pros in white caps, men in blue caps, women in pink caps. Officials. Spectators. Photographers. Kids. It’s crazy. We’re all nuts.

Here’s my blow by blow.

When we arrived on Friday morning in Kailua-Kona and were driving north in our rental car to the Fairmont Orchid hotel, I was giddy. I was loving the hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven baked brownies look of the lava fields, I was admiring the beautiful deep blue ocean, I loved the dark and ominous clouds that clung to the volcano summits.

“I have to find a way to live here,” I said to my husband. “I feel like this is where I belong.”

We would need a few million dollars, that’s all.

We didn’t have much time to shop for a new home or to make a land purchase, so we went straight to the Fairmont so I could check in to the Ironman 70.3 event. I needed to get my race packet, sign several releases, get my race chip, pack and leave my run bag, check into the hotel, attend a mandatory race briefing, pick up my bike, sweet talk the TriBike Transport guys to put the new tires on my wheels so I’d have fresh rubber on the road the next day, and get dressed to ride my bike to Hapuna Beach Park to set it up at the bike start. After that we went to Foodland up the street to pick up some sandwiches and bottles of water. I slept well until 3:30 a.m. and had coffee and breakfast with John. We met our friends Rick and Lori in the elevator and they graciously gave us a ride to the start, so we didn’t have to take the shuttle bus. That was so great!

First swimmer on the beach. So eager! So ready! No idea how the day would go, but that's really how it is for anyone.

First swimmer on the beach. So eager! So ready! No idea how the day would go, but that’s really how it is for anyone.

I was the first athlete down the chute and to the beach. I heard the little beep as it read my race chip when I walked under the giant inflatable that hovered over the checkpoint for transition one from swim to bike. I was in my new Aquasphere skinsuit, I was at the most beautiful beach in th world, and I was eager to achieve a personal record on my second Ironman 70.3. My day didn’t go as planned. Before the horn blew at 7 a.m. for the women to start swimming, the wind picked up and the sun was hot on our backs. The weather had announced itself: hot and windy.

Honu 2014 women's start.

Honu 2014 women’s start.

I hovered in the back of the pack at the start of the swim, and I felt good as I worked my way up and through the other women. Before I got to the first buoy, I was already passing some of the men who launched seven minutes before us. In fact, I passed quite a few by the time I got to the finish. I felt like my swim was going well, I didn’t lose sight of the yellow buoys that I needed to swim around. I spotted underwater photographers taking our pictures from the sandy floor. I thought how so cool those photos would be.

Swim to bike transition. See how happy everyone is around me? I just realized my time was slower than last year.

Swim to bike transition. See how happy everyone is around me? I just realized my time was slower than last year.

I got out of the water and saw that my time was seven minutes longer than last year’s. I was so defeated. The evil self talk began and stayed with me most of the day. After all this training, how could I be so slow?

My transition from swim to bike was about two minutes longer, but I was changing out of a skinsuit, putting on sunguard sleeves and getting into a bicycle jersey while soaking wet. My coaches told us to slow down and be deliberate during transition because haste makes waste. So I didn’t worry.

Headed north to Hawi from the Mauna Lani turnaround, 50 miles to go.

Headed north to Hawi from the Mauna Lani turnaround, 50 miles to go.

The bike is my thing, most of the time. But it would not be the case during Honu. Last year I finished the bike segment in 03:38. This year it took me 03:57, 19 minutes longer, on a spiffier and lighter new Cervelo P2 bike, too. I have a very difficult time eating on the bike. I can’t stand it. I also don’t like to drink, but I force myself to use my aerobottle. By the time I got to Hawi, I thought to myself how I was so DONE with this race. It took me nearly two hours to get up there. How in the world would I beat last year’s time of 03:38? I was defeated. I used the bathroom, drank two Power Gel lime drinks and ate a Bonk Breaker bar. It was wonderful. I felt better and I got back on the bike feeling refreshed. I bet I spent 12 minutes up there, but I needed it. I couldn’t believe that it was taking me so long to get up to Hawi. I was worried it would take me another two hours to get back, and it just about did.

Honu 2014 finishing the bike and telling John how I'm worried I won't finish in time.

Honu 2014 finishing the bike and telling John how I’m worried I won’t finish in time.

I saw my husband John as I was rolling back toward bike-to-run transition and I said, “At this rate, I don’t see how I’ll finish on time.” He smiled, encouraged me, and clicked off a few pictures. Later he told me that he felt I might be right.

I worked on the self talk. And fortunately, I had lots of teammates and friends on the course whose encouraging words put some steam in my steps. I am one of those people who needs the attagirls. You can look at my Garmin stats and see the points of encouragement. My pace picks up, my heart rate bumps up a little bit, and I get a little more positive. If it weren’t for my friends Janet, Kristin, Miriam, KC, Marcy, Karen, Lisa and Eric, I might have finished well outside the cutoff. Especially Janet and Miriam. Such compassion!

At the start of my run I realized I had a water bottle in my back pocket so I tossed it aside as I went by John. I also had a tire tube but I didn't realize it until miles later.

This year’s run was 03:23:59 compared to last year’s run of 03:32. I am amazed I was faster this year because I was truly struggling. But I was determined to finish in time and I had to get my act together. The running training paid off. I still have a lot of room for improvement.

Last year’s run was 03:32. I don’t think I did any walking except for at the aid stations and only until I was finished eating or drinking. I cannot eat, drink, and walk or run at the same time. Such a dork. I’d throw up. This year I did a lot of walking. The Honu run course weaves in and out of the hotel grounds, the hotel’s golf course, through lava fields, behind the shopping center, and back onto the golf course lined with beautiful homes where we run along the fairways. Yesterday it was so steamy hot that I dreaded walking on the grassy parts of the route. It seemed to radiate with so much heat. Finally the course dumps you on to what many of us refer to as Death March Road, which is hotter than heck possibly because it is through more lava. It isn’t smoldering, it is just black and very, very, hot. It was on this road, from miles nine through 11, that I saw a herd of wild goats. Now my friends think I was hallucinating. I wasn’t. They were there!

I ran the first three miles of the 13.1-mile course, then I started walking. First I saw Janet who checked on me from across the road. She was way ahead of me. Then my teammate Marian came up from behind me and cheered me on. We ran together a little bit and then I said to her, “You know, I might have to start walking again, so don’t worry about me.” She started walking at that point but I was still running. We had a good laugh about it. Eventually she passed me and finished before me.

I will be the first to tell anyone that running is hard for me. I cannot stand to run. But running has helped me dropped a little bit of weight, so I’m starting to see the value in doing it more often.

When I emerged from Death March Road, two course marshals told me I had 28 minutes to cover 1.5 miles. Even if I walked, I could finish on time. But I was in pretty bad shape. I was really sad. I thought I spent all this time and money training for my A Race and I was going to miss finishing it on time by minutes. My dream of coming in under eight hours was shot to hell.

Once again I wrestled with my demons. I started to run the best I could. It was more of a crappy jog, but it was faster than walking. I reached the last stretch of golf course and I saw two nene geese in the shade to my left. I love nature. I swear, I look around a lot when I do my triathlons. Maybe I should do less sightseeing?

First there was Lori and Rick and the TryFitness group to holler their support at me as I struggled to beat the clock. John ran alongside me for a little bit — barefoot in the hot grass — and told me that I had it, that I was going to make it, that I would finish on time and get that medal.

I turned the corner, made my final approach and finished the 2014 Honu Ironman 70.3  in 08:23:56, compared to last year’s 08:12: 25.

I wasn’t that upset because I finished before 08:30 the cutoff. And when I got through the finisher’s shoot, my Boca Hawaii coaches and teammates were cheering for me, which was the nicest thing ever — considering most of them had probably finished hours before me. What’s nicer than a group of friends lubed by beer and burgers anyway?

Triathlon is a mental game. Where the winners compete with each other, people like me compete with ourselves. But we don’t just compete against last year’s time or our personal records. We have to beat down the voices that diminish our effort. We have to tell our legs to shut up when they throb and feel too heavy to move. We have to protect ourselves from the flailing arms and legs in the swim and then, when we emerge from the ocean, beat the vertigo, get up on our feet without wobbling, and heave all the way up the sand to transition.

Each race is a transition in our lives. Finishing is an accomplishment that affirms we’ve got within ourselves something more powerful than we know. Part of my future training will have to include mental pushups that will keep me from slipping into the abyss of self loathing.

And (are you still here? still reading?) I also know that I have to not eat so much after a workout. That’s something else I can take care of right now.

I have some wonderful coaches in Boca Hawaii owner Raul Torres, and Ryan Leong, Filipe Rael, Stefan Reinke, Alika Chee, Ray Brust, Lee-Ann Watanabe and Todd Iacovelli. While I continue to improve physically, I want to also work on my mental fitness so that I can push the crap out of my mind faster and get on with my race.

 

 

The Young

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The school year is swiftly coming to close with the end in sight: May 29. What an education this has been for me!

I don’t regret signing on as a substitute teacher for the Hawaii Department of Education, although I do have moments when I feel the attention span of children is about as easy to grip as greased rope. At the moment, I’m in a prep period for a teacher for whom I’ve subbed four days now. The class is quiet. The windows open to a densely wooded area and I am now hearing a bird sing. I wonder what it is?

The seventh-grade students in my science classes have been working on a PowerPoint presentation, based on one of five chapters in their text. Essentially, they create the project to teach the chapter. It’s a good stay-busy project. I showed them how to piece out the work into separate slides and to follow the end-of-chapter review to be sure they included all they needed in their presentations.

But I’m not here to babysit or pontificate. I’m here because part of me is still that kid in school who didn’t quite get it all right. I think I’m looking for me. I think I’m looking to help a kid make the right decision about her future. I know now that doing homework means you will be equipped to meet future deadlines. That keeping up with the studies means that the future will deliver something wonderful. Something. Wonderful. Something. Wonderful.

End daydream here.

They work on Apple laptops. I would imagine for about five minutes it was fun to take off computer keys and rearrange the letters into cuss words. But, since these students have never learned how to type QWERTY style, their hunt and peck is frustrating, and the joke is now on them. Brilliant. Will next year’s seventh graders know better? One would hope. I told the office about the computers. There’s a few weeks of school left and who knows if they’ll be refurbished or replaced?

Keys swapped and missing from laptops.

Keys swapped and missing from laptops.

I offered to edit the PowerPoints and fewer than half took me up on it, and each of them was glad they did. I talked to them about using bullets and art to break up big blocks of text. I told them about citing their work and creating a proper bibliography for their final slide. It’s important to me that their teacher feel as though I did more than babysit.

Early this week, three of the boys had “In School Suspension.” Apparently, when a duck flew into their math classroom, they let out their hoots and the substitute reported them. I think my perspective is much different. If there’s an uproar I usually separate the hooligans. If they persist, I give them an opportunity to come to the front of the classroom so everyone can pay attention to them. All of a sudden, no one’s a stand-up comic. It usually settles everyone down. It’s my favorite tactic.

Last night I attended the academic achievement awards ceremony at Kaiser High School, where my Kid1 is a sophomore. I am so pleased for her and proud of her. She was recognized for being a straight-A student, and for her achievements in math and social studies. She runs around with a cerebral crowd, plays viola in the orchestra, and explains youth vernacular to me. Our mailbox and emails are overflowing with queries from colleges and universities eager to enroll her. It is humbling and amazing to me. What’s it like to be her?

I relate more to students who don’t do well in school. When I was their age, I only succeeded in classes where I could write my way into good grades, so I took advantage of that. Math, science and foreign languages were difficult. So when I’m substituting these students, they have no idea how I can relate to their feeling disconnected to the subject. To them I’m an adult in front of the class. For me, it’s more than a babysitting gig. I want to help ignite eureka moments.

Triathlon Training on Hawaii Island

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Last month I joined my Boca Hawaii teammates on a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii to train for the Ironman 70.3 Honu triathlon, scheduled for May 31. We all stayed at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, a sprawling, multiple-towered beachfront resort that could accommodate more than 60 of us with family members, support crews and bicycles — while making sure the rest of their guests had a great time and didn’t have to dodge too many bikes in the elevators. The group rate made this trip reasonably affordable, and Boca Hawaii owner Raul Torres had us all pack and ship our bikes via Aloha Air Cargo. He picked them up at the airport and brought them to the hotel. When we were done, he and the coaches loaded them back into the truck, shipped them in reverse, and we paid the ransom the next morning to spring our bikes. Easy, peasy.

My husband and I had a fabulous ocean-view room with a king-sized bed and a giant flat-screen TV to match. I put snacks, coconut water and wine in the fridge. The bathroom was bigger than our bedroom! I could get used to resort living! He always tells me: “Get that novel published!” I didn’t get much of a chance to relax in the fancy robe and hang out on the lanai and take in the view because we were so busy!

Fortunately, we were able to enjoy dinner at Cafe Pesto, where a lot of us decided to eat on Friday. After our Saturday seminar and swim, we also had a nice dinner together on one of the lawns, and it was fun to get to know the other teammates better. We pried and found out how some couples met, including Raul and Hina. There are still some stories that need to be told!

This May 31 will be my second Honu. I am seeking to improve on my first effort of finishing in 08:12 last year. No, that’s not eight minutes and twelve seconds. It’s eight hours and twelve minutes! Thanks to my training with Boca Hawaii, I’m optimistic that I’ll be a bit faster despite being a year older.

My husband and I arrived Friday afternoon in time for me to join the scheduled run. That morning, those who had arrived on Thursday rode their bikes north to Hawi, as per the bicycle route of this event, and encountered winds that gusted beyond 50 mph. In fact, one of our stronger triathletes fell, busted up his bike and separated his shoulder (for the third time in his triathlon career). My teammates were humbled by the conditions, worried about our teammate, and were very tired from the effort, the first of eight or nine workouts schedule for the weekend. I wasn’t disappointed that I had missed the ride!

The wind on Saturday morning at Hapuna Beach. Training in windy conditions pays off. We all went in for the swim.

The wind on Saturday morning at Hapuna Beach. Training in windy conditions pays off. We all went in for the swim.

The winds didn’t die down, so Raul and the rest of our coaches decided to shelve Saturday’s ride up to Hawi and beyond. They swapped the Sunday and Saturday workouts, so we started Saturday morning, which was still quite windy, with a swim in Hapuna Bay. This bay is my absolute favorite to swim in. It is crystal clear, you can watch sand swish in the currents below, and there are lots of fish and turtles to watch. We had several swims scheduled, and I wish I could have just jumped in one more time on Sunday after our big bike ride and run.

Getting briefed by Raul Torres before our morning swim in Hapuna Bay.

Getting briefed by Raul Torres before our morning swim in Hapuna Bay.

Following the swim we had our long run. Hills and heat, beach sand and coral, through the woods and along the resorts, the conditions were varied and tested us. I nearly fell a few times, the toe of my running shoes got caught on a tree root or I’d misstep on coral or lava rocks. It was all an education on how to cope, how to overcome, how to do our best. I got to use my new Nathan hydration belt and I have to admit it was flawless. Snug enough not to slosh on me, I could forget I was wearing it. That’s a ringing endorsement!

The long run, still fresh during the first half.  Rick Keen photo.

The long run, still fresh during the first half. Rick Keen photo.

Running is my weakest triathlon leg, so I really need to get better at it. Last night we were running the hills at Kakaako Waterfront Park, and it’s such a test for me. But I know that each day I get better and stronger. During Honu, the run is at the hottest time of the day. I’ll need to hydrate and eat while on the bike to deter bonking during the run. I’ve got a month of practice to improve on this part, and my coaches have really been helpful about my form and pace.

Ready to ride to Hawi and beyond on Sunday morning. Wind wasn't as strong, thank goodness.

Ready to ride to Hawi and beyond on Sunday morning. Wind wasn’t as strong, thank goodness.

We did get to ride up to Hawi on Sunday. Some of the more seasoned and fit triathletes rode their bikes to the end of the road, which included a lot of hills and the reward of a gorgeous view. Knowing that I’d have to run, I turned around at Hawi after having a mocha and a hard boiled egg at the cafe. The wind did die down, but not completely. There are embankments into which the road is carved, and when we first exit their shelter the wind whipped us sideways. My new bike, a 2014 Cervelo P2, caught the wind more than my old Scattanti did. I was glad for the exercise in maintaining balance as the wind toyed with me on both my climb and descent. I was also glad I didn’t refamiliarize myself with the wind and hills on the new bike on wind-swept Friday!

Despite the busy Sunday schedule, we managed to check out on time and got to do a little bit more sightseeing. I am crazy about the Big Island. I’d love to live there if I could swim at Hapuna Beach everyday! I guess I should really finish that novel!

We had a little bit time before our flight back to go exploring.

We had a little bit time before our flight back to go exploring.

 

Haleiwa Triathlon, HPH 10k

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Third place, winners' circle. Age group: 50-54, Women Who Refuse To Act Their Age.

Third place, winners’ circle. Age group: 50-54, Women Who Refuse To Act Their Age.

On Saturday I completed my first triathlon of 2013. On Sunday I completed my first and probably only 10k of 2013. In about two weeks Try Fitness training for the June 1 Honu 70.3  begins.

Finishing the bike leg.

Finishing the bike leg.

While doing these events I thought about getting in shape for Honu. When I plunged into the ocean for the 500+ meter swim at Puena Point, the anxiety hit as I was thrashed and tried to get by the crazy confusion of other swimmers. At this distance, the swimmers don’t get a chance to thin out and you’re shoulder to shoulder with others no matter how hard you try to break away. I got to the end and lost my balance trying to get out on the beach. Gotta work on all that. The transition from swim to bike was a long run across the beach and through a park to the T1 transition area to get on the bike. My T1 took a long time. My right leg was bleeding. Scratched by another swimmer or a cut on the rocks?

Finishing the run, coming from the beach. Haleiwa is a pretty little town.

Finishing the run, coming from the beach. Haleiwa is a pretty little town.

I made up for the slow T1 on the bike, which is where I can get a sense of accomplishment, I can really crank the watts, and I take advantage of the right gears up and down the hills. When I saw John’s photos of me on the bike I got upset about holiday weight gain, months after Xmas and New Years. A few weeks ago I gave up white flour and I’ve been very good about eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and drinking water every day. If I hadn’t I’d probably have looked worse.

Colleagues Val Yamamoto and Dara Hubin and I were part of the 1,440 finishers in the HPH Women's 10k run. They both did great!

Colleagues Val Yamamoto and Dara Hubin and I were part of the 1,440 finishers in the HPH Women’s 10k run. They both did great!

My transition to the run was fairly easy, and I wasn’t too disoriented as I started. However, the Haleiwa tri takes you down a beach, around the bend, along an abandoned and overgrown airport runway to a turnaround, back along the runway to a wooded area and another turnaround, and back to the beach into the sand and dunes and debris along the tide line.

Queen Kapiolani. Many events begin and end at her park between Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Queen Kapiolani. Many events begin and end at her park between Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Some how I managed to get third place, a little award, and a sense of accomplishment.

Next was the Hawaii Pacific Health Women’s 10k. Out of 1,440 women, I came in 867 place at 01:25:34. Compared to my triathlon stats, my run was considerably better, probably because it was all pavement, and a course with which I am familiar. If it weren’t for my good TryFitness and HPH friends, I probably wouldn’t have found it in me to finish strong.

I cannot say I was thrilled with my results or how I looked this weekend as I took part in my first 2013 events, but I guess these, and last week’s bicycle time trial, are good benchmarks to start from.

Results from both of these events are at the Pacific Sport Events & Timing website: http://pseresults.com/events/recent. The Haleiwa Triathlon photos are by my husband John. A friend took the picture of Val, Dara, and me. And I took the photos of the roses with the statue.

Yes, I’m a BEFORE again. Next week, the Hapalua Half Marathon. Gotta figure out this plantar fasciitis before then.

Roses for the Queen. Each finisher of the HPH Women's 10k was given a rose. Mine was a pretty yellow one.

Roses for the Queen. Each finisher of the HPH Women’s 10k was given a rose. Mine was a pretty yellow one.

Mentally, I hope these small accomplishments can help me in other areas of my life.

My First Bicycle Time Trial

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TryFitness. Hotness!

TryFitness. Hotness! What a fun bunch of broads!

On Sunday, I participated in my first time trial and won my age group. I try not to think of it as a big deal, but I am very happy about it. I wish we had stuck around so I could have gotten my medal and my picture taken with the women who came in second and third place, and so I could glow all the way home with my favorite roadie and photographer and consultant, my husband John. My division? Golden Master Women’s. What does that mean? 50 and older. I like to think of it as “Women Who Refuse to Act Their Age,” because clearly when I’m out there riding my bike, I am a 16-year-girl who went exploring on her Schwinn Varsity 10-speed for hours and hours through the country roads of Burlington County, N.J. Clearly.

Launching. I prefer you have this view of me if we are riding bikes together.

Launching. I prefer you have this view of me if we are riding bikes together.

When I was queued up for the time trial, I was behind a tall young man who was a Kamehameha High School student who was participating because it was a school requirement. He was on a bright yellow Specialized bike, wore a skateboard helmet and a mesh neon-orange vest, and sneakers. I took off 20 seconds behind him and then chased his teenage butt until it was mine. “On your left,” I quietly said as I passed him. He was sweet. I passed a few more of his classmates, high schoolers who have yet to taste the joy of competitive bicycling and are really out there because their school requires it. I love that they find these obscure events and get involved. There were probably about a dozen Kamehameha students with us. I was really proud of them.

Share the road. Farrington Highway from Wailua High School to Camp Erdman. Great ride.

Share the road. Farrington Highway from Waialua High to Camp Erdman and back. Great ride.

My bicycle is the faithful Scattante, bright red with red wheels, and when I am on her we are one. She is dubbed the Red Firecracker because she’s red and because when we are together it can be explosive. I launched into my time trial with all I had, and my bronco didn’t buck, she read my mind and together we navigated the bumps and hills of Farrington Highway for 39:54 minutes. Sub-40, FTW. I worked so hard. My lungs needed a full 24 hours to recover. Asthma.

The Red Firecracker. Such a sweet ride.

The Red Firecracker. Such a sweet ride.

Next week I’m waking John up early again for the Haleiwa Triathlon that starts at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 2. The next day I’m doing the Hawaii Pacific Health 10K for Women because the T-shirt is always awesome and the schwag rocks. Oh, and because I run like crap (thank you burst Achille’s tendon (2010), wacked knee, plantar fasciitis. Just thanks. My friend Carrie sent me an email today telling me she did the same thing last year and it was fun, she was able to do both and it was OK. I don’t feel adequately trained, but, I’m certain that I’ll do it and I’ll be alright. While I impress everyone with my mad bike skills, and maybe my swim, I’m bringing up the rear with my run. I need the practice. Maybe I might even get better at it! After all, there is this little thing called Honu on June 1, 2013, that has my investment of an entry fee sealed and paid for.

White whole wheat flour and traditional whole wheat flour. Pizza dough rising.

White whole wheat flour and traditional whole wheat flour. Pizza dough rising.

And if you’re wondering, I’m succeeding on this no-white-flour mission. Over the last three weeks I’ve had a bowl of pho with rice vermicelli, and I’ve had some chicken katsu. But I’ve made whole wheat pizzas and the gang loves them. This is a change I think my family can handle. Cutting out sugar? Not so sure.

March 12, 2013 is the start of Try Fitness Hawaii’s Honu Triathlon training program. My kids will be so psyched that mom is working out on Tuesdays and Thursdays again, and that they’ll have to fend for themselves for dinner (and do the dishes). I’m excited. It’s ME time with a CAPITAL M AND A CAPITAL E.

Guest Post Queries

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Only I can be Me.

Only I can be Me.

Take a look at my blog. How many words do you see written by guest bloggers? None. Not  one. And yet, I get these queries from strangers who want me to let them guest blog on lavagal.net.

The Lavagal blogger writes alone.

Most of the time I ignore the requests because I believe they are phishing attempts. But some people persist. As much as I’d like to be rude, I politely tell them, “No thank you. I am sure when you researched my blog that you noticed there were no guest posts.”

I’ve also told people to get their own blogs. When I got started here on WordPress, I got the freebie package. I’ve since upgraded to have my own domain, and it didn’t break the bank. I don’t get ad revenue, however, I’d love to find a way to monetize my words or at least generate enough interest to get picked up by a wire service and paid a handsome sum by Huffington Post, News Corp., Google, Yahoo!, etc. Don’t we all?

I blog because I enjoy writing and I’m a journalist. I blog because it releases a personal pressure valve, I slip into soliloquy, I polish a nugget of thought into something I hope makes sense to somebody beyond myself. Sometimes I editorialize or analyze current events, and it feels good to contribute to the world as we wonder what went right or wrong. When I write for my employer, it’s mostly technical, with a little bit of creativity and fun here and there.

I guess I’ll edit my ABOUT page to indicate that lavagal.net is 100 percent me. Those who phish with a request to guest can take their bait to someone less guarded. But if they truly want to be a blogger, then they should sign up for a free and basic service like I did.

I guess I should be flattered that some people think guest blogging on lavagal.net could be their entry to fame and fortune. Me first.

 

Good Morning, Pueo!

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In those darkest moments before the dawn, I take my bags out to the van and go back inside to make my coffee and grab something to eat. When I first step outside of the house, the cats mew and purr and slip in between my legs, sibling cats that move like koi toward their bowls of food in the kitchen.

This morning when I stepped outside the gate I noticed something flying toward me from across the street. A Hawaiian owl, pueo, silently flew over me. It was magnificently glowing under the street lamp, and for a few seconds we connected. I quietly said, “good morning!” So gentle and comforting. It was as though a soft and feathery blanket embraced my soul and whooshed away all the doubts that dig into my psyche so much these days.

I’m not Hawaiian, but I’ve lived in Hawaii since 1981. I know about ‘aumakua, ancestral guardians of Hawaiian families, embodied in owls, sharks, turtles, and other creatures great and small. I don’t claim to have a protector, but I will always appreciate the special place and value these creatures have in Hawaiian culture.

The pueo is often attributed as a protector or guardian, and was specifically skilled in battle. In legends and stories, the pueo is credited with providing guidance and direction, and is recognized as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge in many cultures. Here’s a lovely reference to it on the website aboutmauinui.comThis photo shows a pueo flying on the Big Island during the day, but I saw mine in darkness. I just wanted you to get an idea.

My heart and soul were overjoyed for the gift of this rare sighting in the dark and quiet morning. Mahalo, sweet pueo, for your quiet assurance and comfort. Maybe you were just a barn owl, but for me, it was still a treat.

A Daily Top 10 List of Gratitude

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Luvs! Each morning I’m to write down 10 things I’m grateful for as part of my personal self-improvement program to adjust my outlook on life. I’m to say thank you for each of them three times. It’s supposed to set the tone for my day. Wake with gratitude, appreciate what you have, and keep that attitude going throughout the day. I won’t always post it here, but today I feel like it. Plus, well, you know, it’s my blog. I’ve read The Secret, so that’s what this is all about.

By Kid2: A mountain, a feather, a heart in an ocean, which is in a bigger ocean. Luv it!

By Kid2: A mountain, a feather, a heart in an ocean, which is in a bigger ocean. Luv it!

I do not wake up grateful every day. I do not go to bed thankful for all that happened throughout my day. Some days I feel like driving straight through the guard rail between Hanauma Bay and Lanai Lookout instead of taking that awesome curve with finesse. But you know what? I take the curve, and I do love driving along there. I love seeing the ocean, the deep blue sea kissing the light blue sky with Molokai, Maui, and sometimes Lanai in sight. I have a lot to live for, three people who endlessly love me, and many friends with whom I wish to discover more about. I also have a lot to give. A lot to give.

Today, February 14, 2013: Thank you times 30.

  • I’m grateful the best guy ever realized we were supposed to be a team, and gave me a huge bouquet of roses, popped open the bubbly, made Salad Niçoise ala Julia Child, and got down on one knee to propose way back in 1991. He could have handed me an Almond Joy.
  • I’m grateful I have two beautiful and brilliant daughters. What a hard road it was to become a mom.
  • I’m grateful for my home, garden, and kitties. It is the place where I can fully relax.
  • I’m grateful for this job. I love to write, I enjoy my colleagues, I struggle with some aspects, but I have the support of my management who are helping me obtain my goals.
  • I’m grateful for my health and the sense to realize that working out should be fun and enjoyed.
  • I’m grateful for my friends with whom I work and work out. I’m grateful for my friends on Facebook and Twitter. Some are old from small-kid time days, and others are new, many of whom I’ve never met. It is always, always, always a joy to connect with them (you!).
  • I’m grateful for the Internet and my iPhone with a camera that lets me capture moments to share with the universe. I love that I can frame something beautifully within a few bytes.
  • I’m grateful for my bicycles because every time I get on one (almost daily now that one is set up on a trainer at home), my body and mind are transported to that girl who rode her Schwinn Varsity 10-speed everywhere, all over Burlington County, New Jersey, exploring back roads and always returning home safely.
  • I’m grateful for the tough moments that mark my day and my life because of the introspection and growth they generate within. The life’s lessons shape us.
  • I’m grateful for having realized at this half-way point of my life that it’s important to be quiet, to hold back when I feel the need to shield someone, to instead write the things I have learned and hope that my words seep into hearts unknown forever.

TryFitness Overnighter at Camp Erdman

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My chair on the beach, cabins in the background.

My chair on the beach, cabins in the background.

I finally belong to the club of kids who stayed at Camp Erdman, on Oahu’s North Shore in Mokuleia. Beautiful. Our group of 14-15 women stayed in two cabins connected by a sweeping lanai, that slept eight each. We were steps from the ocean, so after our first ride on Saturday morning, you can bet I grabbed my beach chair for some sun, sand, surf, honu (sea turtle), humpbacks, and sea bird action. In the sky above me, airplanes launched gliders that surfed air waves, nose dived, and danced with angels.

Can you see the white glider?

Can you see the white glider?

The bike rides were the main reason Kristin “KC” Carlberg’s TryFitness group met so far from home (for me). We were to launch at 7ish on Saturday, but we didn’t launch until 8ish. I knew we were going to climb Pineapple Hill, so I had my head wrapped around that, but I didn’t know until minutes before we took off that we were also going to get on Schofield Barracks to ride up to Kolekole Pass. We didn’t get to go as far as we went in 2009, but it was a great ride.

At the bus stop across from Dole Plantation, after our climb up Pineapple Hill. Boo-Yah!

At the bus stop across from Dole Plantation, after our climb up Pineapple Hill. Boo-Yah!

Despite my horrific backsliding over the holidays (I expect today, Fat Tuesday, to be especially challenging), I didn’t die going up Pineapple Hill. Check the stats. I also was worried about climbing the short Wilikina Drive to Schofield, but it was so steep at first that it gave us enough momentum to get up and onto the base. Let me wax sentimental about my military days. One of the nice things about being on a military base is that it’s quite relaxed. People pay attention to speed limits. You might hear lots of gunfire from the ranges, but it’s comforting to know that they’re training to protect us. I prefer the term peacekeepers when I think of our military.

The end of the road for us toward Kolekole Pass on Schofield Barracks.

The end of the road for us toward Kolekole Pass on Schofield Barracks.

When we returned from Kolekole we took Kaukonahua “Snake” Road back to Waialua to Camp Erdman. I’m not gonna say who was suckin’ my wheel the whole time, but I didn’t care as it was all about fun and flying and working hard and hollering all the way down the road. I found myself alone on Farrington Highway and because it was so beautiful, I was enjoying it soooo much, saying hi to the polo ponies and all the walkers, doggies, and runners. I said to one of my teammates while I was out there, “I guess you can figure out why I’m in PR and communications!”

An Oahu beach to myself?! Camp Erdman on the North Shore. High surf advisory, so all the action was east of Haleiwa.

An Oahu beach to myself?! Camp Erdman on the North Shore. High surf advisory, so all the action was east of Haleiwa.

The second day was a lot easier. When we turned down Mahinaai Street, a blonde at the gate of a hidden estate gave us her version of Haole Aloha: “We got speed bumps.” I said a cheery thanks.

Party gals watching the sunset before dinner.

Party gals watching the sunset before dinner.

We wrapped that ride up going to the end of the road at Ka‘ena Point. So this was a weekend of a lot of firsts for me, and a great weekend to kick start my fitness efforts because my first triathlon of the year is March 2 in Hale‘iwa. Maybe it’s a good thing it’s Fat Tuesday. This former Catholic just might do something worthwhile for Lent. I’m thinking about giving up white flour. It will be very hard, which I think is the point.

Denise, the creator of the delicious Bitter Lime Coconut cocktail.

Denise, the creator of the delicious Bitter Lime Coconut cocktail.

Ya can't camp without a fire.

Ya can’t camp without a fire.

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Sunset.

A Quiet Place

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Kid2 is drawing with a calligraphy pen now. Fimo snails.

Kid2 is drawing with a calligraphy pen now. Fimo snails in the tall grass.

On another of my blogs, one that isn’t public, my entries are story ideas. They are bursts of inspiration lingering in the wings of my life, ripening in the background, waiting for their chance to be fleshed out and to breathe. I am more impatient than those ideas. I am tugged in many directions from the moment I wake until the iPhone hits me in the face at night when I’m trying to make my last Words With Friends moves. I visit the site and stare. Brain locked, fingers frozen.

I see this in Kid2, MiniMe. The kid goes great guns when she is first starting a project. Numerous times I’ve uncovered incomplete and late assignments while mining her chaotic room. Each time I do this, I am given a free lesson in what I was and how I need to always be vigilant about the clutter spots I have at home and in my brain. That’s why I have that blog. It helps me make sense of the ideas I have, it is that place I can go when I can finally be a wild writer.

Kid2 is creating an inventory of Fimo swirls for jewelry. One of the many endeavors she launches into.

Kid2 is creating an inventory of Fimo swirls for jewelry. One of the many endeavors she launches into.

When I was a newspaper reporter, writing was done on the fly in a crowded and noisy newsroom. I loved it, and it really taught me how to turn inward, to find that quiet place within my brain, and to focus on the tight deadline writing. I bet if I turned that kind of pressure on myself, I could march those stories out, one by one, and give them the spotlight they deserve.

Intrigued?

 

RECIPE: SCHIACCIATINA!

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Turkey schiacciatina with baby kale, tricolor fingerling poatoes, and broccoli.

Turkey schiacciatina with baby kale, tricolor fingerling poatoes, and broccoli.

Had I known, I would have made these outside on the burner on my grill. At the end of this meal, I’ve got an oil slick to clean off the ceramic stove top, but I’ve also got two happy kids who asked for MORE. FTW.

I just discovered schiacciatina today on Pinterest. And then, as I often do, I repinned it to my Culinary Delights board and commented on the original blog that I was going to give it a go with ground turkey. So I did. Four thumbs up from the Benderettes.

Credit where credit is due. This recipe is from Manuela. AWESOME, Girlfriend!

Here’s the deal: This is as messy as making chicken piccata. If you can grill outside like me,

The ingredients.

The ingredients.

I suggest that’s what you do. I mean, if your grill has a side burner like mine does, I suggest you fry these up out there. If I know I’ve got a big splattering session ahead of me, I’ll set up the outdoor kitchen and go for it. If you’re on the East Coast or other frigid parts of the U.S. Mainland, maybe wait until the cold snap is over before you do this. But then again, maybe this is NO BIG DEAL to many of my friends.

How is it that a girl like me from New Jersey — with many Italian friends — never knew about this dish before today? HOW? The Fucco’s lived up the street! The Petti’s let me hang out with them! Sue Constantini was my Mom’s BFF! The Tartaglias, the LoPrestis, the D’Ascendis, Dimero, Giardineli, Manzano, and

In the skillet.

In the skillet.

Datalilio kids were our playmates! And I never knew about SHE A CHIA TINA? TINA DEFELICE! HAVE I FINALLY CRACKED THE CODE? In the name of the Father…

Flattened and dusted.

Flattened and dusted.

Recipe: Schiacciatina

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup fresh and finely grated Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Flour for dredging (my buddy Wondra)

With your hand, mix meat with cheese, salt and pepper and smoosh, smoosh, smoosh, until it’s well homogenized. Divide into 4-6 balls. Sprinkle some Wondra or fine flour on parchment paper and flatten the balls one at a time, even pounding them till they’re about 1/4 inch thick. Lightly dust the patties with the flour, careful not to have too much. These are hard to pick up so use the parchment to help. Melt butter and olive oil on hot skillet and gently place patty into the sizzling oil and butter. It’ll sizzle. Give them a few minutes on each side, and remove them to a plate covered with foil to keep warm.

Ready for my closeup.

Ready for its closeup.

I served mine with sautéed tricolored fingerling potatoes, broccoli, and baby kale quickly fried in the pan where the meat fried.

Expect admiration for the rest of the night.

Recipe: Kale Chips

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Raw dinosaur kale ready to roast..

Raw dinosaur kale ready to roast.

Kale chips taste really good and they are easy to make. Personally, I feel a little guilty about them. Roast kale has the consistency of ash. To me, I think the real joy of kale is best raw in a salad or wilted in a nice minestrone or an Italian wedding soup. But because people like kale chips, I thought I’d show some pictures and put up my recipe. Easier than easy.

Kale Chips

  • Kale leaves, washed, dried, ribbed, and torn into mouth-sized pieces.
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Place the torn kale on the parchment, sprinkle fresh, cracked Hawaiian (or other big chunky salt), and drizzle with olive oil. Toss around a little bit. Spread out kale bits to so they get crispy. I used two cookie sheets for this batch. Roast for 12 minutes. Serve immediately. Wrap leftovers in the parchment and place in a plastic bag. This was stil crispy the next day.

The crunchy finish.

The crunchy finish. 

These photos are of the dinosaur kale I had last night. It works with any kind of kale. Just be sure to remove the ribs because you can’t chew them. Some folks save them for the juicer.

My Kitchen Garden

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Sun dappled raphis.

Sun dappled raphis.

Rosemary.

Rosemary.

Something new. Chocolate mint.

Something new: Chocolate mint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend I got to work in the front yard and cut back the raphis, pulled weeds, dumped out old pots, and bagged green waste. Then I planted seedlings of round eggplant, kale, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, basil, mint, and Italian parsley. I’m so pleased. I’m so excited, I’m eager to plant a few more things. I also have Baer lime, kafir lime, and a new Meyer lemon saplings. We’re just not sure where to put them , but our other trees have given up their spirits. Our orange tree is still going strong.

Sweet Genovese basil.

Sweet Genovese basil. 

Pretty potted plants.

Pretty potted plants.

It’s now avocado season and there are six on the counter. Like Pavlov’s dog, I jump every time I hear our tree drop one to the ground. Sometimes the giant agave catch them, sometimes their landings are softened by the mulch of dead leaves beneath the tree. They’re not always easy to find, and it takes some sleuthing. And if I find one partially eaten, the decision has been made to remove it and not nourish the local rodents.

Tonight will be taco salads with avocado. These days it’s everything with avocado. This is why I don’t like to buy avocado the rest of the year. Nothing can compare to our Sharwills. That’s how I feel about vegetables, too. I prefer to grow my own than to pay full retail for zucchini, it’s just that zucchini take a lot of real estate. And if I could grow broccoli raab, I would. In fact, I’m going to see if I can. Just keep a box of Cory’s slug bait close by.