Thursday, September 29, 2016

We Gonna Celebrate Your Party With You

John riding his race bike and his pit bike to the venue.

Okay, so what's left, but to write about Jingle CX. It was pretty spectacular. Originally, I thought I would be doing radiation treatments and I figured I'd be too tired to do much of anything, so I didn't really sign up to help or do the gran fondos and certainly not to race. When I found out I didn't have to do radiation treatments, I decided I was still pretty tired and overwhelmed and it would probably be best to just go along for the ride. and what a fun ride.

Parking was an issue since there were way more people there this year. So, on the days when John raced, we parked at an old airport runway and rode our bikes from there.

 About 5 minutes after we got there on Friday, Helen Wyman, one of the awesome pros from England came by just as my friend Paul was getting ready to take a photo of me. Talk about Kismet.

 John raced at 5:40 that day. Since it had rained the day before and much that morning, the course was a big mud pit - one that had a lot of clay and grass in it that tended to make bricks in people's forks and drive trains. We could have made an entire village of adobe homes that day. The problem with that for racers, is that when their bikes get too clogged with mud, their derailleurs snap and they can't ride them anymore until they get it fixed. So, John asked if me and our friend, John if we would run his pit for him. I had never done it before, so I was a little nervous and glad that our friend John was helping out as well.

John's race was crazy muddy and he came to the pit for a new bike almost every half lap. Which meant that either John H. or I would grab his muddy bike and run to the hoses to clean it off for him and the other would hand John S. his clean bike that we had just hosed off and we would switch them out every time. It was a little stressful, especially since the second "half" lap, was way shorter than the first and I was afraid we wouldn't get the bike back to John by the time he reached the pits.

As it happened, we did a bang-up job, but John's derailleur broke anyway. Luckily, it happened at a good place. He was on the his way to start his last lap. After it broke, he got off his bike and was slowly running, trying to figure out if it was worth it to him to try to run all the way to the pit to get his other bike, when the winner of the 30+ race, who started a couple of minutes ahead of him, passed him and that ended his race. He said a couple of other guys passed him too and he wasn't sure if they were in his category or not, but either way, he got 8th out of 40 some racers and it was his best result at Jingle CX ever.

The dance party that night was even more festive for us. Our friend, John H. ended up with a megaphone (bad, but hilarious idea) and he would comment on the songs that the DJ played. During "Celebration", he said, "Okay people. We have two objectives: One is to celebrate good times, and the other is to come on.

Saturday brought the World Cup races. Both my girls were there and Coadster's boyfriend and a bunch of our friends and it was a blast.

Stinky celebrated her birthday with her friends at the Northside Oktoberfest before she got there, so I was a little worried about what kind of shape she would be in, but she wasn't too bad at all. she still had to study when she got home, so she was pacing herself.

The races were great. Because my girls were there, I didn't get to move around the course quite like I wanted to, but that's okay. How often do I get to hang around with both of  my daughters at a bike race?

I got to spend time with friends who cracked me up...

...When I wasn't cracking myself up taking dorky selfies during the races.

As you probably know, one of my favorite parts of cyclocross, or anything in the world, really is the costumes.

What's not to love?

I was so happy to see a lot of my Des Moines friends at the race. Most of the women racers from Des Moines are so inclusive and hilarious. I just wished they lived closer to us.

John's cousin came back from Colorado to race, and got 9th on Sunday. She definitely won in the costume department too. I'm not sure why she's holding "The World's Largest" pair of underpants in her hand, but with the monster mask, it's a great image.

On Sunday, John H. and I were back working the pits again. It was a lot less muddy by the time John raced that day and it turned out that he didn't need to pit his bike at all...Which was good, because he didn't get his derailleur fixed on his bike from Friday, so he would've had to ride his single speed CX bike.

As it was, John had another great race and finished 10th out of around 50'ish racers. Very impressive.

By Sunday evening when the races ended, I was ready to get home to quiet and cats. Our friend Burne came over and I made us all some nachos with black beans and salsa and guacamole and I finally got to put my feet up and relax. It may take me a few weeks to fully recover from all of that socializing and being away from home, but man, what an incredible weekend.

Monday, September 26, 2016

If the Sun Ever Breaks Through and Shines Down From on High...

Well, I'm back from having 5 glorious days off in a row. Unfortunately, I didn't get as much relaxing and resting and staying at home getting stuff done, as I wanted. Of course, I got to do great things and see both my girls over the weekend, so I have absolutely nothing to complain about. Except for...Yawn. I'm pretty tired.

John went to his mom's house on Tuesday evening for dinner. Which meant, I did get some glorious time alone.

Mostly, I spent time in my reading room, getting into the scary book, Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw. Speaking of scary...Archie held me hostage by lying on top of me with his 21 lb frame.

There was no counting the amount of body parts that were cleaned while he was lying on me. Suffice it to say, I found him a little annoying, which didn't stop me from photographing his every movement.

From all of the "alone time" I spent taking photos of Archie while John was at his mom's house, I decided it would be really bad for me if John were to dump me. I would become one of those people who did nothing but obsess on their cats. I'm sure Archie would be all for that.

After the reading, I decided it was time to start wrapping John's birthday presents. Once again, Archie was there to "help".

Which forced me to take even MORE photos of him. Seriously, how could I not?

John's actual birthday was another nice, mellow day. At least for me. John went to the Johnson County Fairgrounds to work on the Jingle CX course. I stayed home and tried to get stuff done around there. I marinated and cooked some beets, went on a little run, and started cleaning the hell out of our bedroom. That was supposed to be one of John's birthday, presents, but it might take a little longer (like everything in my life) than I thought it would. It sounds kind of weird to give to him as a gift, but John isn't a big fan of clutter and, surprise, surprise, I don't really even notice it, so I was trying to at least get rid of some of my crap.

I started out really well. I got the vinegar and water out and scrubbed our ceiling fan, the ceiling and about half of the walls. I took down our shears and washed them and hung them on the line. I washed the bedding and started in on my dresser. I did my top drawer, which has become my own personal junk drawer. The stuff I found in there from the last 20 years was a little overwhelming. John came home and I took him out for lunch at Short's. Then he came home and took a nap and I went to the store to get some stuff for his birthday dinner.

I marinated and grilled tuna steaks, made honey sriracha brussel sprouts and beet salad. I also made blue cheese stuffed olives, so John could have a lovely martini while we sat out by the fire. Ahhhhh.

The next day was Stinky's 24th birthday and I had to wake-up with a migraine. Since it was the first one I had in about 3.5 weeks, I couldn't complain too much, it was just bad timing.

I had to go back to bed for a bit after I took my meds and rest for a few hours. When I finally woke up, I made some lunch for us. We were originally going to ride our bikes to Solon and meet Stinky for her birthday at happy hour at Big Grover Brewery, but I took the migraine meds and there was no way I'd be strong enough for that kind of ride. Instead, we rode a few miles to the new permanent cyclocross park the city is letting us use to check it out. Basically, it's a big mess right now. It's right by the river and the bugs were eating us alive and it was clear people were going to do a ton of work to make most of it rideable, so we went back home and our friend, Burne showed up to ride bikes.

John and Burn headed to Solon and since they were going to take over an hour to get there, I stayed home for a bit and made pumpkin bars, before I drove there to meet them and Stinky and her boyfriend. We had a great dinner and got Stinky a piece of birthday cheesecake.

I drove Stinky home, but the sky looked a little scary, so I told Burne and John to text me if it started to storm and they needed me to pick them and their bikes up. By the time Stinky and I got back to Iowa City, the rain was coming down in sheets and they winds were crazy. Stinky said we should go look for the guys and pick them up. So, we headed down the road they would be riding and by the time we caught them, it was sunny and nice and they were looking at us like we were nuts. They said the whole way home, all they ever got was a sprinkle. Iowa weather is just insane.

The rest of the night, John and I got to hang-out and chill-out and get ready for the Jingle CX madness that we would get to experience for the next three days.

The other thing that's been going on in Eastern Iowa is flooding. Iowa City is a little soggy, but North of us there has been some serious flooding. I believe the water is going down now, but this weekend, was pretty rough for a lot of my friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fall is Here. Hear the Yell.

So, last weekend was the third weekend in a row that we were out of town for races, and I am so OVER not being home. Like I said to John, it was a good thing we were in Madison that week, because I love that town and it made it more doable for me to be in a place that I love, even though I was feeling spread pretty thin. The best thing is that after today, we both have 3 days off of work. Tomorrow is John's birthday, Thursday is Stinky's birthday and then we have three days of Jingle CX over the weekend. I will try very hard to use some of that time to regroup and relax, but it will also be nice that all the kids and their boyfriends and their dogs will be here at the same time. (nice and stressful, anyway....)

We had a great dinner at HopCat when we arrived Friday night. We checked into our Air BnB, which was a half a block from Willy Street. It was a cute little apartment in a great location.

I woke up by 7 on Saturday, so I could go for a run on a bike path that goes around Lake Monona. I am trying to slowly build up my miles, so I finally ran 4 miles that day. This week, I will try to do my 4.5 mile route and we'll see how that goes...

When I got home, I showered and then John and I went to a place called Lazy Jane's for breakfast. It was so good. We spent most of the day at the Cyclocross race at the Trek Headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin.

When we got back, we met my family for dinner and then wandered around the World Music Festival happening on Willy Street. It was a lovely evening, even considering that family discussion I posted about yesterday.

On Sunday, I skipped my run and we headed back to Lazy Jane's for another wonderful breakfast. Since no Churlita blog post would be complete without a photo of my food, take a gander at those amazing blueberry pancakes. They were absolutely perfect.

I will try to post as much as I can during my three days off, but with so much going on, I can't promise anything. Happy Fall!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Oh, Hey. It's a Family Affair

This is how happy cyclocross makes me...When it isn't killing me. Thanks to Angy Snoop for the photo.
I've decided that I am going to try and change the way I blog coming up here. Instead of only saying, "This is what I did this week or day or weekend", I will add weird posts about a memory I have, or a fiction writing piece or about whatever is chapping my hide at that particular second. Some people may like it better and others may not care for it at all. Of course, I could just lose the three regular readers I have, but it's a risk I'm willing to take in order to make myself write a little something more than just blah, blah, blah, my day went thusly...Although, it might just be a very little something more.

Okay, so...We went to Madison for that bike race this weekend and for the most part, it was very nice. We did hang out with my family on Saturday night, and that is always a crap shoot as to whether we'll get along or if there will be some weird argument over old family wounds or disagreements about some bullsh*t where people are just trying to win the argument, instead of understanding what the other person is saying. Sounds amazing, doesn't it?

Last Saturday was the latter of those scenarios. We somehow got on the subject of the death penalty. We were talking about someone who's crime was so heinous that he was probably going to get beaten and killed in prison, if he didn't get the death penalty, and I made the grievous error of saying that with that kind of choice, I would probably opt for the death penalty. I said that there were certain lives I probably didn't want to live. All the women at the table agreed with me, but the men were extremely opposed. They both said, if you were alive, there was hope that you would see another day. They made it seem that I was endorsing suicide. I really thought it was a harmless statement and I was surprised at how strong the reaction was from the men at our table. The "discussion" went on and on got weirder and louder (because that's how it works in my family) until we finally had to change the subject. Sigh.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson and would never again start a sh*t storm discussion with my family, but I've met myself, and I've met my family, so you all probably won't have to wait very long for the next post much like this one. I did think it was interesting that we so divided among gender lines. I wondered if that meant that men were more hopeful, or if women were just more aware of how crappy a life could be or were more empathetic to what someone in extreme pain either physical or emotional could be going through.

After all the drama had subsided and we were safely back in our Air BnB, I said to John, "Well, apparently, my family isn't much for idle chit chat..." Poor John.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Everyday is Yours to Win

So, here's something weird....I actually have a race report to write today. Of course, I have no photos of said race, so I put up this pic that John took this weekend, because it looks cool.

Anyway...There's this great women's cycling group that puts on training races in our town and they had a cyclocross race yesterday. It is perfect for beginners and let's say, people recovering from cancer) because the race is short and not very technical and doesn't have gigantic hills that some of us (cough, me, cough) wouldn't be able to ride. so, I thought it would be interesting to try to "race" it. I figured, even if I only did one lap of it, it would be a great way to see how strong I was(n't) and to get myself excited about training in order to race in October or November.

I rode my bike to City Park from work, and got to ride past the new Hancher Building, along the river, which made me happy in and of itself. When I got to the venue, things were even better. The weather was lovely and I got to see a lot of people I hadn't seen in a while. The cycling community in Iowa City is a very supportive group, and many people made a point to give me a hug and tell me they were thinking of me and ask how I was feeling. It was so sweet.

John stopped at home on the way from work to feed the damn cats and so when he arrived at the venue, we signed up for our races and then I changed into my kit and rode about 1/3 of the course just to warm-up and no more of it, because I was worried that I would use up the little energy I had and not be able to ride my whole race.

What is it like to race 5 weeks out of surgery? It was hard and I got tired fast, and I know people will say that it's like that to race no matter what, but this was all of that amplified and less forgiving. I raced as a B woman, and we all rode with the A women and the juniors. I stayed to the back of the pack, so I wouldn't get in anyone's way and we were off. Besides most of the juniors, I was last. The other two B women weren't too far ahead and after my first lap, I knew I had to slow down, or I wouldn't be able to ride much more. Since I hadn't done much cyclocross practice this year. I got off my bike WAY before I needed to on the first barrier and I slowed down to ridiculous speeds on the corners. I was okay with that. this was for me and I was enjoying myself. I came around the barrier the second time, where most people were standing and I head mad cheering for me. It was pretty sweet of them, seeing's how I was dead last.

By the third lap, I saw that I was catching the 2nd place woman in my race. I certainly wasn't expecting that. Since I've been coached to race (track, but some concepts are the same), I sped up to chase the carrot. That carrot was a woman who I really like and have much respect for, but that didn't stop my chasing instincts. By the first barrier, we were even. I knew I didn't have her on strength and speed but I had been racing longer than she had, so I could get off and on my back faster, and after a couple of laps, I had gotten much faster in the corners too. I started my 4th lap and I didn't think I could do one more. the lap counter said 2 more, but luckily, I could hear the A race leaders not too far behind me. I finish on the lap they finish on, so I hoped I was going slow enough for them to catch me, so I wouldn't have to ride the last lap, but fast enough that the woman I had just passed wouldn't get me. I was lucky on both counts. I finished my race in 2nd out of 3 B women racers and I had to instantly sit down on the ground. I stayed there and chatted with some of the other racers and when I tried to stand, I thought I was going to pass-out. Whew! I guess that means I I tried as hard as I could. I was super happy with my results. I really thought I would get lapped by the whole field and wouldn't be anywhere near any of the B women racers. I was lapped by 3 women and passed one woman in my race. I was thankful for even the little bit of running I'd been doing the last couple of weeks, because it has really helped my cardio fitness. I won't be doing anymore racing this month, but I will keep training and see what happens in October.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

We'll All Float On. Good News is On Its Way

I got a little scrape on my shin from riding a cyclocross course this weekend. Finally...
 I guess I should do another update here, since I met with the radiation oncologist last Friday. I am done with treatment. Hooray! I talked with Dr Sun and her entourage. Basically, they said that my chance of having a recurrence was about the same as my chance from getting cancer from the radiation treatments, so, to me, it didn't make sense to do possible damage to my heart or lungs and I said, "No thanks!". I'm also not doing the anti-hormone therapy. So, unless my cancer comes back, I will do a breast exam every 6 months and a mammogram every year. It feels so good not to have any of that hanging over my head and not knowing how to plan because I wasn't sure how the radiation would impact my life for the month it was going on.

Here's me with my beer and in my jammies at 7 pm on a Friday night, because I am awesome.
 In order to celebrate, I went to the store after my doctor's appointment on Friday, John set-up our new fire pit, I made veggie black bean chili and corn bread for dinner and we each got a beer and we sat out in front of the fire for exactly 15 minutes before the storm unloaded and started pouring on us.

A sign on the wall of the little diner we went to for breakfast in Knoxville.
 This weekend we went to Knoxville/Pella for a cyclocross race at Lake Red Rocks. It was a pretty nice weekend. We stayed at a little hotel in Knoxville and for a few dollars more, we got a room with a jacuzzi in it. Just last week, I was finally able to take a bath or soak in water without having to worry about maceration of my skin at the incision site, so it was perfect timing.

Not only did we go to Peace Tree Brewery this weekend, we had free beer tickets.
I also got on my bike and tried to ride the cyclocross course at the race venue. The first day, I did one lap and then was exhausted the rest of the day. The next day, I was able to do three laps (5 miles), but not very fast and on the last lap every part of my body felt like it was on fire. I'm glad I made myself do it, though. I figure, the only way I'll get stronger is by going hard and then recovering and then going hard, and then recovering. We'll see how that works for me.

I also had a little bit of a let-down this weekend. I think part of it, was that I was on what John calls "crisis mode" for so long and now that things are looking up, I have more time to think about things, instead of just taking things as they were getting hurled at me. All this thinking seems to make me a little melancholy. I've also been feeling overwhelmed lately - both socially and physically. As I've said, I'm trying to get stronger, and it's hard and it makes me tired, but I hope it will also help me recover faster. The social part, I'm trying to fix. We've been gone the last two weekends and been surrounded by people and then gone out with friends for dinner a lot more than normal lately, and man oh man, do I miss that blessed 2 and a half weeks of FMLA leave after the surgery, where I got to take things slow and easy and just do the things I loved to do and not talk on the phone or answer emails all day at work. Sigh.

So, I took an evening to myself last night to read and cook pasta Primavera and watch cheesy House Hunters shows and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. Tonight I'll cook veggie fajitas and rice and black beans for dinner, sit on my porch and read for a bit and then start packing for our trip to Madison this weekend. Thankfully, it will be our last out of town weekend for a while, and we have a cute little Air BnB to stay at on Willy Street. If I have to go out of town, I am happy that it's Madison and the bike race at the Trek headquarters is always fun too.

I feel like I'm swimming up from my little funk now, and I'll just keep trying to take better care of myself.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

And You May Ask Yourself, Am I Right?...Am I Wrong?

Okay. So, I had a lovely three day weekend, but for some reason, I'm not getting around to writing about it. Maybe because it would mean posting a lot of photos and write, write, writing and I don't have that in me this week. Instead, I'm just going to do a little recovery documentation post.

This is how things are shaking out right now. I am 4 weeks out from surgery. Tomorrow I go see the radiation oncologist and then I'll decide whether I think the side effects are worth the benefit it will give me to do radiation treatments. I am officially done with the dominatrix bra. I still have to wear a sports type bra to sleep in for the next few weeks, but I can wear a regular bra out and about, which REALLY gives me more options with what I can wear to work now.

On the physical front, I ran over 3 miles on Sunday and part of it was on a trail with a really big hill. I could really feel it in my heart and lungs and it made me pretty tired, but I did it. On Monday, John and I mountain biked for over an hour. Again, it wasn't the fastest I've ever biked and I couldn't do the second part of the trails that we normally do, because I was exhausted from riding the bigger hills  on the first part, but I am working on getting my heart rate up at some point every day to help me get strong physically.

And so it is now, that I am settling into my post cancer life. Hopefully, it will be the only cancer I have to recover from in my lifetime. I got lucky and as I always seem to, I used this as another excuse to reevaluate my life and my choices. Am I doing anything different? I am trying to drink a little less alcohol, and rest more and stretch and do more core exercises. I want to take the time to do more creative projects, work on my home more, to make it an even better sanctuary than it already is, I eat well, but I am working on eating less (that's a tough one for me). As always, there are so many things to work on...

Friday, September 02, 2016

August and Everything After.

I guess it's a new month and time to look at my monthly stats for August. As you can imagine...Or,  you don't really have to, since I over-documented the whole damn experience on here already.

Anyway, here is my list of stuff for August:

Miles Biked: 177.5 - Most on the road and a few on my trainer.

Miles Run: 26. I am starting to try and run more this week. We'll see how it goes...

Miles Walked: 25. Wow. the first time ever that my walking and running miles were almost the same for a month.

Swimming: 0. I wasn't allowed to swim for at least a month after surgery. Next Wednesday, it will have been 4 weeks. Yea! for finally being able to swim and take baths again.

Books Read: Now here's where I really excelled this month:  8! And many of them were over 500 pages long.  - 1) "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter", Carson McCullers. 2) "Middlesex", Jeffery Eugenides. 3) "The Paying Guests", Sarah Waters. 4) "The Circle", Dave Eggers. 5) "Maine", J. Courtney Sullivan. 6) "And the Mountains Echoed", Khaled Hosseini. 7) "The Boston Girl", Anita Damiant. 8) "The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach.  I tired to read as many of my hard back books as possible, so I wouldn't have to cart them around in my messenger bag when I was back to commuting on my bike.

Paintings Worked on/finished: I started two different paintings and didn't complete any. Hopefully, this month...

Places traveled to by car or bike: Kalona, Iowa, Solon, Iowa. Amana, Iowa and Cedar Rapids, Iowa (John went there and locked his keys in his car, so I drove there to give him the extra set. He's done many similar things for me, so I was happy to help him out there. I probably still owe him a time or two,,,).

Firsts: I had a few firsts this month - My first surgery, my first lumpectomy and hopefully, my last, my first time under general anesthesia, my first time on narcotics (Yeah, I got through the entire 80's without those), my first time on FMLA and sick leave over a week, and to add something I'd want to do more often than once, my first time hiking in the woods and playing in the spillway with my daughter's puppy.

Races: None and it might be a couple of months before I can put something here.

House Projects: I did work for about 10 minutes on a little backyard landscaping project, but I got too tired and had to throw in the towel. Next month?

So, anyway...Here's to a weird month and hoping I don't have to do radiation therapy so that I have more energy to do fun stuff in September.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Feelin' Stong Now. Won't be Long Now.

This is the old mill in the Amanas.
So, yesterday was my first day to ride to work and back. And since I had a doctor's appointment in the afternoon, I rode to work, then to the hospital and then from there back home. I wasn't all that tired and I even did an easy 2 mile run. Of course, then I had to take a nap for an hour and a half, but I still was able to run 2 miles. Woop!

In order to prepare for my bike ride to work and back.I did two trial rides beforehand. One in our neighborhood on Saturday afternoon and one where we drove to the Amanas to meet our friends for a short, easy ride on bike trails.

We basically rode around the lily pond there...And you KNOW how much I love lilies.

It was raining when we left for the Amanas, but the radar looked like the storm would move on before we got there. It sprinkled here and there and threatened to unleash on us during our ride, but we were lucky for most of it. There was definitely some wet, muddy patches along the way, though. My friend, Lisa's son, who is 7, rode along with us and was such a trooper and had a blast riding around in the mud.

It was a beautiful day.

At one point, Lisa's son was telling me that he was trying to ride no-handed. He showed me how light his hands were on his bars and then I showed him that I could ride one handed. He tried it and then yelled, "High five! High five!" So, I slowed down and put my hand back, so he could slap it. Unfortunately, he lunged too hard  and crashed on his bike. I felt badly, because I was the adult and should have discouraged the high fiving, but as we all know, I'm not the best person to trust to call out a bad decision. Luckily, Lisa's son was one tough nut and he was all smiles a couple of minutes later.

We got done with our 4.6 mile ride just as the clouds suddenly unleashed. We changed out of our wet biking clothes and headed to the safety of the brew pub for root beer and regular beer.

After the rain stopped , we walked around the quaint little town and headed to Phat Daddies for pizza. John got the incredible garden goat cheese pizza and we all had to try some.

A couple of other friends met us there on their motorcycle, so the adventure ended with good food and great conversation. A lovely end to a fun afternoon.

Also, I was happy to know that I was fine to ride to work and back after that. Double bonus!