Thursday, May 31, 2007
It's not the heat that really gets to you. It's the humidity. It's the fact that the sweat that's dripping down your nose and your forehead and even your shins won't evaporate. And what good is sweating when it won't evaporate?
Last night wasn't that bad when I put it in perspective, and think about how bad it will be in August. But it was the warmest, most humid weather that I've attempted to run in this year, and it was 5:30 p.m. no less.
I've been a big slacker since the Half Ironman. Oh, I've run plenty of races and done a couple triathlons and even had a couple of my best bike outings ever and gotten close to a 30:00 5K again. But during the week I've been a big slacker. I can feel the fitness slowing slipping away. I'm going to try to hang with June at the 5K this weekend, but I'm not sure I can, especially if it's humid. Time to pick up the pieces if possible.
I did 3 miles last night and pushed pretty hard. I finished, gasping, in 32:20. It was nasty humid. My body hasn't adjusted to that yet.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I totally rocked my rendezvous qual this morning. I walked in and drew the rendezvous profile on a sheet of paper and the rocked the simulator with my powers of memory recall. I am awesome.
The Astros are not awesome. For a moment, I thought they might win it on a Carlos Lee hit. I could mentally picture the ball flying between two infielders for a 2-RBI game winning base hit. But I could also mentally picture him hitting into a game-ending double play. Which is what he did. And thus the Astros lost their 9th straight game. It is hard to watch.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
We have tickets to the Astros game tonight, and I'm scared. They've been playing so abysmally lately that I haven't even been able to watch on TV. Halfway through the game, I find myself needing to change the channel. Eight games. They've now lost eight games straight. The only glimmer of hope is that they're playing the Reds tonight, and they are usually pretty good against the Reds.
It was a good weekend, highlighted by baby Carina of course. Friday seems like a million years ago. I took Jose out to dinner that night to celebrate his success at his Cert Qual sim that day. Saturday morning was the triathlon, Saturday afternoon was a trip to see Pirates of the Caribbean (the verdict: eh, not that great), Saturday night was fish night topped with Jen's water breaking and them heading to the hospital. Sunday was errands day and waiting impatiently to find out if Jen had had the baby yet! Monday was a rainy, rainy, rainy Memorial Day BBQ at Debbie's. Whew. What a weekend.
I have two things on my agenda today: writing up an evaluation for my trainee from her sim last week, and studying for my rendezvous qual class tomorrow. I have to perform the rendezvous in the shuttle simulator -- without the help of the flight data file that has all the procedures in it! I have to know all the procedures from memory. It's a lot to remember.
I signed up for the Heights 5K this Saturday. I'm planning to hang with June for as long as I can as she goes for sub-30:00. I'm hoping she can drag me with her to a sub-30:00 but realistically I'm not sure if I'm quite there yet. A lot will depend on how hot it is. We'll see.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Carina Faye Mendeck was born yesterday at 12:45 p.m! Congratulations Gavin and Jen!
For those keeping track, that's more than 12 hours after Jen's water broke while we were all over at Becca's house for fish night, foosball, and Guitar Hero. They didn't get much sleep, so we finally got to go visit today after they all got some well-deserved rest. Everyone seemed incredulous when I said I'd never been in a hospital before, but I really haven't (at least that I remember). I didn't know what to do or where to go, so I just went straight to the room and found Carina sleeping while Gavin rocked her. Awwww.
Now, I have not seen a lot of babies, but I still feel confident in saying that Carina is one incredibly cute baby. I got to hold her for a little while and though she kept on flailing her arms, she didn't open her eyes. She finally woke up and looked around when Gavin changed her diaper and she, of course, has very pretty eyes. She also has crazily large feet, which just means that when she's a teenager and is cursing that fact that she wears size 11 shoes, Cari and I can comisserate.
I'm so excited that she's a girl. Little girls are so cute.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
When Jen and Gavin's kid is older, I can't wait to tell them that their mom's water broke while she was watching me play Guitar Hero.
Jen's having the baby!
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Combat Sprint Triathlon Race Report
I've gotten stuck in the rain on my bike a handful of times over the years, and it's never really fun. It's wet (obviously) and it's hard to see. The road gets super slippery and the rain feels like tiny pebbles bombarding your entire body. Yeah, it pretty much sucks -- at first.
But after a while you stop thinking about how much it sucks to be riding your bike in the rain. You stop paying attention to the water dripping off your nose and chin, running in rivulets down your legs, and pooling in your shoes. You realize how incredibly absurd the entire situation is. You're outside. In the rain. Riding your bike.
And then, if you're me, you suddenly find everything very funny. You laugh out loud. And you just keep pedaling.
I was standing by the side of the (indoor) pool this morning at 7:05, waiting for my turn to jump in and start the Combat Sprint Triathlon, when I looked out the windows and saw that it had started to rain. "This is going to be an interesting race," I said to the girl next to me.
I'd gotten there about an hour before and set up my transition area just like last week at Silverlake. That system worked very well for me so I repeated it exactly. I wandered around before the race, picked up my chip, and talked to a bunch of friends and coworkers also racing. Bib numbers were given out in order of predicted 300 yard swim time, and my predicted time of 5:30 made me #106 out of about 350 participants. With each swimmer starting at 10-second intervals, I knew I had 15+ minutes after the race start before I'd be in the water.
The pool at College of the Mainland, where the event was held, is pretty small. Six lanes wide, 25 yards long, so the swim involved going down and back in each lane, passing under the ropes, and on to the next lane, etc. (One woman told me after the race that she saw swimmers cutting the course by passing under the lane ropes at both ends of the pool, effectively cutting the swim distance in half. Ugh.)
My turn finally arrived and I hopped in the pool in the wake of the girl who left in front of me. I ducked my head under water and popped up. "5...4...3...2...1..." came the call behind me. "Go!" I pushed off the wall and my race had begun!
I'm not really a big fan of pool swims. It's nice to be in clean, clear water but the fact that you have to predict your time in order for the race organizers to properly seed the swim means that you are dependent on the people around you to list an accurate time. A lot of people fail to do this. Within two laps, I'd caught the girl in front of me. She, in turn, had caught the woman in front of her. After a bit of breaststroking and waiting for the opportune moment, I passed them both. Each of them slightly overestimated their time; with them out of my way, the water in front of me was clear of swimmers for at least 15 yards. I swam the second half in peace and exited with a swim time of 5:29.
Transition was a short jog from the pool, but leaving the swim meant heading into the rain. It had calmed to a drizzle at this point, but everything outside was soaked. I pulled my sopping wet socks onto my feet with a bit of difficulty and latched my bike shoes. With helmet firmly on head, I ran out to start the bike. The rainy, rainy bike. T1 time was 1:23.
As I headed out, I immediately felt cold in my wet, tight tri clothes. I warmed up after a mile or so though, and soon I found myself heading north on the I-45 feeder. My speedometer read 20+ mph and I felt like I was cruising. I couldn't figure out what was going on, because the trees didn't seem to be moving appreciably in any kind of wind. What's going on?
I found out soon enough that there was indeed plenty of wind, even if the trees were impervious on this particular morning. As we crossed the highway and headed back south on the opposite feeder, a strong breeze hit me full in the face. For a moment I faltered -- ugh, how can I ride in this wind? Then I thought of the Half Ironman. And the 20 mph headwind. That I rode through for 28 miles. Out loud, I admonished myself. "I rode through worse than this for 28 miles. This is cake." And it was. Even when the drizzle turned into steady rain and my legs felt like they were being pummeled with gravel, it was cake.
The final few miles were heading back north and I was able to enjoy the tailwind once again. As I pulled back into transition, I was smiling, both at the absurdity of the rain and at the knowledge that I'd put in a solid bike leg despite the conditions. 15 miles in 49:00, or more than an 18 mph average. Heck yeah!
As I ran into T2, the rain had finally stopped but my stuff was even wetter than before. I changed shoes and started jogging out and woah -- each shoe felt like it weighed 10 pounds. They were water-logged like never before. I managed to work out some of the excess liquid in the first half mile -- either that or I just got used to having heavy feet, because I didn't notice it so much as the run went on. T2 time was 1:07.
Lately I've decided that it doesn't make much sense for me to hold back on the bike -- because I've realized that backing off on the bike doesn't really make my slow running pace any faster. Why hold back on the bike in the name of saving my legs if I'm going to run at basically the same pace either way? I'd rather push harder and save 3-5 minutes on the bike than hold back to save a minute on the run.
The only problem with this strategy is that it leaves me starting the run with legs that are deader than usual (obviously). I'm really proud of myself last week at Silverlake and today at Combat because I was able to keep my mental strength high enough to keep myself running for the entire 3 miles. Today I stopped only for water, and though my legs were hurting, I was able to push myself to keep running. Mile 1 was rough, but mile 2 and 3 were easier. I was even able to pick up the pace ever so slightly at the end. Run time for 3 miles was 32:43. Under 11:00 pace is good enough for me!
My total finish time was 1:29:43 -- heck yeah, I squeaked in just under an hour and a half! And I beat my three coworkers that were racing (they all had faster run times, but I had faster swim and bike times). The girl who won the Athena category last weekend didn't race today, so I won 1st place Athena! The prize was a big ol' plaque. I'm going to have to clear more space for my hardware. ;)
When I first started entering myself in the Athena category, I felt a little guilty. Is it really fair for me to win an award when, if you put me in my age group, I'd be well down in the standings? I always felt a little embarassed to win an Athena award.
This year I've totally changed my mind. I'm eligible for the category, and I'm going to enter it. Let's face it -- I can't keep up with another 29-year-old who weighs 70 pounds less than I do. Simply not possible. And I ain't gonna be losing 70 pounds anytime soon either (nor do I want to.)
Nope, instead, I've realized that the Athena category has been really good for my racing over the past couple years. Because I know that I'm competitive, I train a little harder. I push a little harder. I'm a little more motivated to be the best that I can be.
And that is about the best thing that I could ask for.
All in all it was a great, awesome, rainy day.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Today was the first of two days of evaluation sims. These sims are always uber-stressful because people are watching you and taking notes on your every move. Fortunately for me, neither day involves an evaluation of me. Ha!
This morning was Bini's midpoint. Bini works in my old group and is my first official trainee, since she is training to be an ARD Support, the position that I certified for six months ago. The midpoint is an "easier" evaluation in the sense that you can't fail. It's not designed to be the final test of whether you can function as a console operator even when the world is coming apart around you. Instead, it's simply a hard sim designed to challenge you beyond what you've seen thus far in your training, expose your weaknesses, and give your trainer a good idea of how you're progressing.
I found out that it's much more fun to be the evaluator than the evaluatee (yes, I know, that's probably not a word). I also found out that I shouldn't make fun of Marc, the guy who trained me, for the novel-length "narrative summary" he'd hand me a few days after each of my evaluations. It turns out that it takes a lot of writing to cover everything thoroughly, and being thorough is very helpful to your trainee. I filled the front and back of a sheet of paper with my handwriting scribbles -- for each individual run. Four runs is four sheets of paper. When I organize all my thoughts and type it out, it will also be novel-length.
After the sim, I told Bini that even though I'd said it wasn't a pass/fail evaluation, she passed. And she did. She did great. She has exactly the strengths and weaknesses that I would expect for someone who is halfway through their training. In fact, I think she may have done better than I expected. Excellent.
Tomorrow is Jose's Rendezvous Support cert qual. It's the "pre-final" before your final certification sim. It's usually the hardest sim that you see in all of your training, even harder than the final, since it's really designed to make sure that you're ready for a final. Tomorrow there are five evaluations on the schedule in so many disciplines that it will be amazing if the fake shuttle manages to dock in one piece. Evaluations mean one thing: trouble. Tomorrow there will be lots of trouble. It's a Data Processing Systems final front room cert, so there will be major problems with the computers. There are backroom evaluations for guidance, communications, and propulsion, so there will be problems with all of those systems. And the piece de resistance -- all of those systems affect rendezvous. So all of those systems affect Jose.
I'm watching so that when my turn comes, I can tell myself that "it can't possibly be as bad as his cert qual!"
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
We were talking about baseball while on coke break today, and one of the guys in my group mentioned this home run "assist" by Jose Canseco. I can't believe I'd never seen this before. Hilarious.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Jose and I went to Babin's in Kemah last night to celebrate his birthday. When you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted in the entryway by the sight of a big refrigerated case that usually has a couple whole fish resting on a bed of ice. I suppose it's a way of showing that the fish they serve really is freshly caught, as directly above the case is a chalkboard that lists what fish are available on that particular day.
I have a fear of fish. They taste good, yes. But they pretty much gross me out while in their natural, slimy, scaly, stinky, all-around-fishy form. There were two rather large fish in the case last night. They had gray skin with a bit of a gold sheen, and big dead creepy eyes. They looked like they were frowning. Ew, ew, ew. We quickly walked past them and into the restaurant.
Dinner was great. We sat outside and even though it was windy, it was still a nice evening. We both ordered golden tile, a fish that we'd never had because it's not always available. The waiter said it was good, and it was.
It wasn't until we were leaving that we realized that the creepy big dead fish in the ice case were golden tilefish. Ew, ew, ew. I just ate that fish. I don't want to know what it looks like!
Last night I dreamed about fish. I was in Jose's apartment and there was a small fish that was bouncing around the room, half-swimming in air. I was extremely disturbed by this, and Jose was nowhere to be found. I was on my own to deal with the bouncing, air-swimming fish. Then it bounced towards me and I couldn't get out of the way and it bit me! It bit my wrist, and it had real teeth, not fish teeth! It didn't go limp or start flapping, it just latched onto my wrist and stayed there, rigid. It was extremely freaked out and ran around the room until I was finally able to peel this fish off my wrist.
Finally I woke up and escaped the bouncing, air-swimming, biting fish.
I hate fish.
On a totally different note, here's a good article about my new favorite group of Astros fans, Los Caballitos or "Little Horses" (in honor of Carlos Lee, El Caballo). I've seen them at every game and I am particularly fond of their stick horses. The O's Bros are old news.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Happy Birthday Jose!
I could say some schmoopy things to go along with that, but I won't. It's my boy's birthday and I am doing my best to make it a good one. He already got his present -- an Astros jersey that I gave him on Saturday so he could wear it to the game that night. He says having a jersey makes him want to go to even more games. Exactly. All part of my evil plan...
It's been a weird day. I had a training class that was scheduled from 11-1, which of course is the worst possible time block for a training class. The only person willing to wait until 1:00 to eat lunch in honor of Jose's birthday was Nick (and Heather, who met us there), which turned out to be just fine. Because we ate lunch so late, we didn't get back until almost 3:00. The day's almost over and it feels like I just got here.
My training class was fun, but my brain was just not firing on all cylinders today. Take, for example, my stunning display of coordinate system logic as I tried to figure out which way to push the stick to do a +Z burn. (That's firing the jets on top of the orbiter that fire up, thus pushing you in the +Z direction, which is in the direction the belly of the vehicle is facing.)
In trying to figure out which way to push the stick, I decided that since I knew that +X was pushing in (forward) and +Y was pushing right, I'd use the right hand rule to figure out where +Z was.
I did it once and the answer was to pull the stick out. Hmm. That's not right. In is +X, so out must be -X, not +Z. Oh, I realized, I'd inadvertently pointed +X in the up direction instead of into the console.
I did it again and the answer was to push the stick up. "Think again," my instructor told me. But I used the right hand rule, I thought, it has to be up.
Then I remembered why the right hand rule is so aptly named. It's because it only works when you use your RIGHT HAND.
I'd been sitting there doing the right hand rule with my left hand.
Some days I think I'd be better off at home. My brain obviously never got to work today.
Monday, May 21, 2007
The Silverlake Triathlon was one of the best I've ever done. The weather was awesome. The course was fun. And I had one of my best races ever.
It was actually chilly enough as I left my apartment that I grabbed my biking windbreaker. Though they had announced that the water temperature was 76 degrees, meaning wetsuits would be legal, I decided it wasn't worth it to deal with the wetsuit for such a short swim. But it was chilly enough in the dark that I worried not about being cold in the water, but being cold when I started the bike all wet! The air temperature was in the 60s when I left for the race.
As it turned out, I question where they measured the water temperature because that lake felt warmer than the 80-degree pool at the Rec Center -- in other words, the water was fine, and when the sun came out it warmed up enough that a windbreaker wasn't necessary.
I arrived about 10 minutes before 6:00 and rode my bike from the parking lot to the race site. Since the race was in a subdivision, we had to park a mile away. The transition area was set up on a semi-circle driveway, with extra racks set up on the grass median in the middle. With my luck I ended up having to rack my bike in the grass, but that didn't turn out to be too bad. It just meant that my stuff was already wet with dew before I even got out of the water.
I made some changes to my transition process that all involved cutting out equipment that I didn't need, so I set up my area in a very minimalist way. Towel on the ground to wipe my feet on after the swim. Bike shoes, with socks halfway inside-out (to make putting them on easier) sitting on top of shoes. Helmet on the bike seat. Sunglasses stuck through the handlebars so I didn't have to mess with them until I was already riding. Garmin strapped loosely around the handlebars so again, I didn't have to mess with it until I was already riding. Running shoes with elastic laces placed behind the bike shoes. And, for the first time, I didn't change any article of clothing in transition -- I wore the same outfit of tri shorts, swim bra top, and swim/bike sleeveless jersey for the entire race. It was tight and showed all my flab, but I decided I didn't care.
After setting up my transition I stood in the very long line to get my chips. I'm not sure why the line was so long, but it was. This was the only poorly organized part of the entire race -- everything else was great. I still had tons of time to kill, since transition closed at 6:30 and my wave (the last one) didn't start until 7:27, so I wandered around the site. I ran into Carson and chatted with him until it was time for his wave to start, then I found Cathy and Joy from the BAFT group and hung out with them.
Finally, it was time for my wave to get in the water. Now, most triathlons start the men first and women second, meaning my wave is always one of the last, if not the last. I've accepted this, even though I can swim just as fast as a lot of the men. Fine, let them go first, let them kick and grab at each other in the water (though girls can be just a vicious), let them get out on the bike course and get going, whatever. But yesterday, my wave consisted of the Athenas, women 40-44, and all of the relay teams -- meaning there were about a half-dozen men in my wave of about 40 people total. As we were lining up to get into the water, they called those 7 men to the front and had them line up first. They purposefully lined up 7 men in front of 35 women. Did they really think that all 7 of them would be faster than any of the women in my wave?
For the record, my swim time was faster than 5 of those 7 men. And the girl who won the Athena category had a faster swim than all 7 of them. I'm just saying.
The swim went well. The lake was a man-made thing in the middle of the neighborhood. It was cloudy so visibility was bad, but it was much cleaner than some of the other neighborhood lakes I've been in around here. I did a good job of hugging the buoys (essential if you want to swim the actual distance and not end up swimming farther than you have to) and only got tripped up by other swimmers a couple times. My swim time was 8:25; I'd been hoping to go under 8:00 but oh well. That time is still above average for the race. The volunteers at the edge of the lake were awesome -- one person grabbed each of my hands and whooshed me out of the water so hard that I thought I'd fly into the air.
It was a very short jog from the edge of the water to transition. Still dripping but standing, I pulled on my socks and shoes and headed out. Streamlining my transition process really helped here. T1 was 1:33, which is at least 30-60 seconds faster than I would've been if I'd changed shirts, sat down, etc. Every little bit helps. Both of my transitions in this race were faster than the race average, which is new for me. I ran to the bike exit where there were 3 other girls also mounting their bikes. I got on in record time and passed all three on the way out.
The bike course was a short 9.7 miles but it was technical -- lots of turns through the neighborhood streets. I guess that probably made everyone just a bit slower than usual, but the effect was pretty negligible, and all the turns actually made the course pretty fun. It did make for a couple bottlenecks when multiple riders would get stacked up around the corners (and the problem was compounded by the fact that we were confined to one lane), trying to pass each other while trying to stay within the no-drafting three-bike-lengths must-complete-your-pass-within-15-seconds crazy triathlon rules. I finished the bike in 31:21 for an average of 18.5 mph -- by far my best bike leg of any tri I've done. Very cool. Very exciting.
I went through T2 in 1:07. All I had to do was change shoes. I probably would have been even quicker except that a volunteer almost pointed me in the wrong direction for the run start. Fortunately I caught myself quickly and headed out on the run. After my fast bike I was unsure of how well I'd handle the run, but the cooler weather really helped. I didn't walk at all (also a first for me in a triathlon) and kept a steady pace to finish the 3.08 mile run in 32:48, an average of about 10:40 per mile. I was very happy with that run.
Interestingly, this is the only race I've ever done where my bike time was faster than my run time. This is also the shortest bike I've done, but it still made me laugh.
My overall finish time was 1:15:11, good enough for 2nd place among the 7 Athenas (that's the category for women who weigh more than 150 pounds). I got a cool medal for my effort and some more hardware to add to my collection. I place so rarely that I have to enjoy every one! There aren't many women who race as Athenas in this area, so it gives me an opportunity to take home some hardware every once in a while. The girl who won 1st place in the group was ahead of me by more than 5 minutes, so it wasn't even close. She wasn't overweight at all; she was just tall, probably 6 feet, and really muscular.
All in all it was a great race and I'll definitely do it again next year.
Friday, May 18, 2007
I survived my first rendezvous (well, undocking) sim!
It was extremely nominal, so there wasn't much opportunity to screw up. That's always nice when you're starting out.
The most amusing "mistake" was that while I knew I had to have separate permissions for the workstations for both my old and new console positions, I didn't realize that the separation applied to the PCs as well. When I tried to publish a flight note with the undock timeline, it kept getting sent to the FDO working directory no matter how many times I put "GPO" in the address line. I was made fun of for that, don't worry. "RPS still wants to be a FDO..."
I may not be able to publish a flight note to the correct directory yet, but rest assured that I am very happy here in GPO-land. :)
(For non-NASA folks, here's some background. FDO is Flight Dynamics Officer. That's who I work with during launch and ascent in my position as ARD Support. RGPO is Rendezvous Guidance and Procedures Officer. That's what I'm training to be now, starting out by certifying as RPS, Rendezvous Procedures Support, a backroom position. When I'm done with that -- hopefully by the end of the year -- I will train for RGPO in the front room. The front room is the one you see on TV. A key point is that both FDO and RGPO are involved in a rendezvous. Put simply, FDO deals with all ground-targeted burns, and RGPO takes over once we start using the orbiter's onboard guidance and targeting to compute burns. RGPO continues to work during the final phase of rendezvous, otherwise known as proximity operations or prox ops, when the crew is manually flying the orbiter. Because FDO and RGPO are both involved in the rendezvous, there is much good-natured arguing and ribbing about who really is in charge of rendezvous.)
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Yesterday I wrote about how I've been such a flake this week, and then I did it one more time. Just as Jen, Jason and I got onto the highway yesterday on our way to the baseball game, I realized that I'd left my ticket at home.
I bought the cheapest ticket they had ($7) and sat in my seat anyway. And then spent about $952 on a chicken tender basket that made my stomach hurt.
On the plus side, the Astros won. It's nice to see the sunny side of .500 again.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Neat little Flickr app I came across today, letting you embed this nice-looking slideshow of any sets you have...
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
My group meets every Monday to discuss current issues, upcoming missions, sims, and whatnot. Two days ago, the conversation went like this:
Sean: "There's another testing sim -- an undock -- coming up on Friday. We need someone to work RPS."
Steve: "Well, Jose is our default RPS at the moment."
Sean: "It'll be just like a normal sim, but since it's a test, it can't count for certs or anything like that."
Steve thinks for a moment and turns to me.
Steve: "Are you ready to work sims?"
Sarah: nods vigorously
Steve: "Ok, why don't you work the undock on Friday."
Sarah: "Really? Awesome!"
So suddenly, I have my first rendezvous sim. It's an undock and fly-around, which is easier than a rendezvous and dock. And because it's a test, there shouldn't be too many crazy problems. Perfect for my first sim. Now I am very nervous, because as much as I have been wanting to sim, I didn't think it would happen anytime soon. And realistically, I won't get a second sim until after STS-117. But still -- very exciting!
Last night I was supposed to run with BAFT, but I got all the way out to my car only to find that I'd forgotten my gym bag at home. I ran at home instead, the boring old "around the apartment complex" route. The schedule called for 10 30x30s with a one mile warmup and cooldown. It was freaking hot outside, and while my warmup went well, by the 7th 30x30 I was feeling nauseous and had to take an extended rest before finishing the set. The mile cooldown was crappy and I walked at least a quarter mile of it.
I think I'm running my 30x30s too fast. Garmin told me my pace during the 30-second speed bits was 7:00-8:00 pace. I probably should do more like 8:00-9:00 to avoid the nausea I felt last night.
After forgetting my bag last night, I made sure that I was ultra-prepared for tonight's brick workout, and even brought my bike to work so I can go straight there.
Then I remembered I'm going to the Astros game.
I've been a flake this week.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The shuttle is rolling out to the launch pad today after three months of repairs to the external tank. You might think that I knew this ahead of time, since I work at JSC and am assigned to this launch. But no, I found out via a cnn.com article. Figures.
Last night I hit the pool for 1500 yards. After 1100, I decided to throw in a 300 yard time trial so I can update my predicted time for the upcoming Combat Tri. I have no idea what I wrote down when I registered, but probably around 6:00, which is too slow. Last night I did the swim in 5:20, so that's what I'm hoping to update to. Combat is a pool swim, which you might think is nice because the water's clean and clear -- but I prefer open water for triathlons. In a pool swim, everyone has to predict their finish time and you are lined up accordingly. Very few people ever predict their time exactly right, and since you start in 10-second intervals, you always find yourself either needing to pass someone, or with someone trying to pass you. And passing in a pool is not easy
My workout went well, but I was pretty frustrated with some of the other swimmers. I know everyone has equal right to use the pool but when it's crowded, I suggest the following rules, based on my observation that there are far more casual swimmers than there are in-training swimmers like me:
1) If you are going to do very slow laps of elementary backstroke, share a lane.
2) If you are going to talk to your friend in the next lane every time you finish a lap, share a lane.
3) If you are going to do the old lady kickboard thing, share a lane.
4) If you are going to do butterfly, just don't, unless you really know how.
The pool only has 6 lanes. One of those lanes is half-blocked at one end by the stairs to get out of the pool. And that's the lane I ended up sharing with another girl as the rest of the pool dwellers elementary backstroked, talked, and kickboarded their way -- slowly -- down the pool and back. Thankfully the girl I was sharing with swam at pretty much the same pace as me, and it wasn't a problem. Halfway through my workout, one of the kickboarders finally left and I got a lane to myself.
As I cooled down, I decided to retrieve the pair of goggles that I'd seen sitting at the bottom of the deep end each time I swam down the pool. I took a deep breath, swam down 12 feet, got the goggles, and DANG IT I forgot how much your ears hurt if you haven't been down to the bottom of the deep end in a while. My ears hurt for 10 minutes! Ow.
Monday, May 14, 2007
It was a great weekend. Saturday was full of friends and celebrations, and Sunday was time for quality relaxing with the best boy in the world.
I talked to both my parents yesterday -- to Dad first, when I called and Mom was M.I.A. and then to Mom when she walked in a half hour later, returning from the grocery store. I wished a Happy Mother's Day to my very awesome mom. Mom and Dad got back to Charlotte Saturday night after seeing Katie become their third child with a masters degree, and then watching Katie and Joel drive off into the sunset. They are headed cross-country this week; they are moving to the Seattle area. I was told there were many tears as everyone said goodbye, but that is to be expected. Moving is scary. I remember the first time I came to Houston, and how I felt as I left my dad at the bus station (yes, the bus station; crazy Dad). I was 19 years old and starting my first coop tour at JSC. I didn't know a single person in Houston. I don't think I knew a single person in Texas. It was scary.
Katie and Joel will be fine in Seattle. I plan to head out there for a visit sometime this fall.
My friend Phil got married on Saturday at a lovely church near the Galleria. His wife is Heather, a girl he met at one of the Museum of Natural Science's Mixers, Elixirs and IMAX events a two summers ago. Jeremy, the best man, recounted the meeting in detail to much laughter during his toast at the reception. I like their story, because it reminds me that there really are other normal single people out there and you never know when you might meet one of them. A few years ago, when I was single and basically always had been, I had my doubts.
The wedding ceremony was very nice, though it seemed long to my non-Catholic ways (it wasn't a full Catholic ceremony, but still took about 45 minutes). The reception was fun, with plenty of food and drinks and dancing. I haven't seen that group of friends in quite a while, even though they all live here, so it was fun to catch up on what everyone is doing. It was also fun to see some of the out-of-town people -- old coops that didn't come to JSC full-time, or who are still in grad school. It was a coop reunion!
Chris flew in from Denver and it was great to see him; we had lunch at Mediterraneo's before the wedding so that we had plenty of time to chat. His own wedding is rapidly approaching, and I'm still crossing my fingers that the 117 launch date slips a week so that I can make it to Colorado for the ceremony.
2007, more than any other year, has been the year of major life changes. All around me, people are either getting engaged, getting married or getting pregnant. I suppose we are just "at that age." I am neither engaged, nor married, nor pregnant, but I gotta say that I'm pretty happy with my life right now. Things are good.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
The Summer Kickoff 5K has chip timing, but I can't figure out where the chip times are actually displayed (which makes me wonder why they have chip timing if they don't appear to use it). Anyway, if you look up my result from yesterday you'll see a time about 20 seconds slower than I actually was. This is important, because my actual time was 30:57 -- I squeaked in just under 31 minutes for the second week in a row!
After last week's great run at the Village Fair 5K, I felt a lot of (totally self-induced) pressure to repeat the performance this week. I really hope to be able to keep running strong throughout the summer. "Strong" is relative, of course, because who can really run their best during a Houston summer with all that heat and humidity -- but I hope to suffer through the heat enough to make me come out reasonably well in the fall.
Anyway, I was hoping to repeat or slightly improve my 30:39 from last week, but I had some doubts about my ability to do that. The temperature yesterday morning wasn't much worse -- hovering in the upper 70s with moderate humidity -- but last week's race was almost 100% shaded. The Summer Kickoff Run? 100% under the sun. It's hot. And bright. And hot.
After chatting with friends and coworkers before the start, I decided that it'd be worse to take it easy and wonder if I could've run well than it would be to just start out fast and see if I could maintain. So I started at a brisk pace, following Lucie and her friend. Around the half mile point, my Gilruth trail buddy David pulled up beside me to chat. I told him I wouldn't be able to talk much today because I was gonna push pretty hard! He ran with me through the first mile and then went on ahead (he's faster). I passed mile 1 in 9:43 and wondered how much longer I could maintain it. It was hot.
The turnaround point on South Shore Boulevard seemed to never arrive, and when I'd finally made the turn to head back to the high school, I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain the pace. I took one 30-second walk break -- it wasn't so much of a choice as it was the fact that my legs just slowed to a walk on their own. I passed mile 2 in 9:58.
I walked three more times in the last mile. Looking at the data after the race (ah, I love my Garmin), I noticed that my walk breaks corresponded to the times my heart rate got close to 200. My average for the race was 190 -- which doesn't worry me; my heart rate is always high, and even on easy runs I average in the 170s. But if you look at the graph of my heart rate from yesterday, each time it rose to 198 or 199, I'd walk. I didn't do that intentionally -- in fact, I barely looked at my watch during the race. Seems like 200 is that magic "ok, now you're really working harder than I can keep up with" number for me. The only time my heart rate finally did rise above 200 was in the last tenth of a mile during my sprint to the finish -- and I spent the first minute after crossing the line gasping for air.
Interesting. I passed mile 3, including my little walk breaks, in 10:24, and the last tenth in 54 seconds. I was slower than last week, but I'm still very happy to be under 31 minutes since the course was more exposed.
After the race I hung out and chatted for a while. I was on my way back to my car, but then Sam walked up with a group of On The Run guys; they'd just finished their cooldown. I decided to walk back over with Sam and listen to the awards. I was 6th in my age group, but Sam was 2nd in his so he got a medal. He ran faster than last week, despite the heat -- under 18 minutes, or some crazy fast time.
All in all it was a fun race. Hot. But fun. It's getting to be the time of year where every race I run leaves me feeling overheated for the rest of the day. I also usually end up with a delayed-onset headache that I think is related to the heat as well. By noon I needed some Advil. At 2:00 my face still felt flushed. I hate the heat; why do I live in Houston again??
Up next weekend: Silverlake Sprint Triathlon - 400 yard swim, 10 mile bike, 3 mile run.
Friday, May 11, 2007
When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to play a game called "Thunder People" during the big thunderstorms. I don't know who came up with it, but the sole point was to run around the house carrying a blanket, and when you saw lightning you had to dive on the floor and crouch under the blanket before the thunder came. If you didn't make it, you were "dead." I know, not much of a game, but we certainly had fun playing it. Our house is laid out such that you can run in one full circle and never turn around -- from the kitchen, down the hall, around the corner into the living room, into the den, and back to the kitchen. I remember running circles and circles and collapsing, giggling, onto the floor to flee the thunder and stay alive.
I remember Thunder People every time there's a big storm like there was last night. I was supposed to play softball at 9:00, but by 8:30 there was a fantastic lightning show going on outside that only got better and better. For more than an hour, the lightning never hit the ground -- it just streaked from cloud to cloud. Sometimes it looked like a spider web. Sometimes the bolt wasn't visible, and it looked like a ball of light was moving above the clouds, illuminating them in circles from behind. Sometimes the lightning would burst overhead like a firework, tendrils of light zigzagging out in all directions.
Jose and I sat on my balcony for an hour, watching the light show. "Whoooooa," we'd say as the lightning bolts cascaded from west to north across the sky. "Did you see that one?" we'd ask as the clouds flickered and glowed from within. Eventually the lightning started heading for the ground, the wind picked up, and the rain finally came. It came down heavily, and Jose and I ran around like kids, peeking out into the parking lot to see the rain swirling around.
It was the coolest storm that I can remember.
Afterwards, in no way related to lightning but still very good, we made strawberry shortcakes. I added blueberries to mine. They were yummy. Life is good.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Beach to Bay was not meant to be this year. By the time I finally had a committed team of 6, it was May 4. I went to register us only to find out that registration closed on May 1. So maybe I'll do the Silverlake Tri after all, now that I won't be in Corpus that weekend.
I was dreading last night's brick workout, as I was still feeling wiped from Tuesday's speed workout. I thought about not going, then told myself that as long as I went, it'd be ok if I did only 10 miles on the bike and a 1 mile run. Once I got out there and got moving I felt better, and ended up doing the full 15/2 bike/run. The bike took me about 51 minutes, and the run took under 22. Not bad. I haven't been imaginging it; I really have gotten a little faster over the past 6 months.
Two nights of hard workouts have wiped me out though. Waking up this morning was hard, and I've been annoyed all day as a result.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
The Department of Homeland Security is causing all sorts of headaches at work lately. New requirements, etc. 'Nuff said.
Last night I met the BAFT group over at Clear Lake High for my first speedwork session of the year, and let me just say that it kicked. my. butt. After a 1-mile warmup, we did 10x30-30. That's 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds recovery, ten times in a row. I lost count, but I think they worked in an 11th repeat, whether intentionally or not. By the end, I was so whipped that I could barely continue to the 1-mile cooldown! The sweat was pouring off my face. But I made it. In total I did 3.15 miles (which means 1.15 miles of 30-30s) in under 34 minutes. Good workout. We followed the run with stretching and core work, at which point I realized that my core sucks. I couldn't do the whole workout. Baby steps...I'll have to build up to it.
When I got home from running, I decided that having lasagna for dinner sounded good, so I turned on the oven. I had a bunch of stuff sitting on top of the burners, and I started moving that stuff to get it away from the heating oven. One of these items was a ziploc bag full of dried milk (for use in breadmaking). As I picked up the bag, dried milk started falling everywhere! The bag had a hole in it. A melted hole. I don't know if it happened in the minute of pre-heating last night or not, but there was a melted hole. The kitchen started to fill with the smell of burning dried milk.
I turned off the oven and cleaned up the stuff that had spilled all over the counter. And only then did I open the oven and realize that the milk had spilled onto the burner that just happens to have the oven exhaust hole in the middle of it. And that my oven was filled with dried milk.
And that it had started to burn, hence the smell.
So I got out my vacuum cleaner and started to vacuum up all the dried milk.
And then my vacuum cleaner broke.
CNN has an article today asking: where have all the TV viewers gone? Ratings are down, and for the moment they're chalking it up to the changing ways that people are watching TV. Tivos and such. But I can't help but think that a lot of people are just doing other things, or watching other shows on cable. Network TV is total crap these days. The only network TV that I watch -- and I don't mean regularly, I mean just every once in a while -- is Scrubs, Letterman, and Conan.
Last night I had the TV on for at least 4 hours. (Not watching it the whole time, as I tend to have it on in the background while I'm doing other things, but it was still on.) What was it turned to? The Astros game, followed by Daily Show and Colbert Report, followed by Letterman. On the weekends when I do have time to chill out and relax, you'll mainly find me watching Discovery Channel or something else on cable.
Monday, May 07, 2007
So the scheduling conflict disappeared and I no longer have to do the work for my old group. Since I'd told them I wouldn't have time to do anything until tomorrow anyway due to committments for my current job, I never even got started. I'm glad that the people who took over the project from me can now learn the process themselves.
So Clemens went back to the Yankees. I can't say I'm surprised. Or even upset. Actually, I feel pretty indifferent. Clemens wouldn't have fixed the Astros problems; he just would have been a distraction. And the will-he-won't-he saga is getting old. So have fun in New York, Roger. I hope you miss the postseason. Because I always hope the Yankees miss the postseason.
The rest of my weekend after Saturday's run-bike extravaganza was blissful. No committments. Whatever I wanted. Jose and I watched the Astros game, saw the underwhelming Spiderman 3, watched the Rockets game, and met Jen, Gavin, and Becca later that night for ice cream. Sunday was all about sleeping in for the first time in too long. Yesterday afternoon we hit Lowe's and bought a bunch of plants to start our experiment in patio gardening (I'm taking bets on how long it will be until I've killed my tomatoes). Last night I played a very frustrating soccer game, but at least it was good exercise.
Amazingly little on tap for this week. It's a nice change.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
I knew that the $100 cash prize offered by the Village Fair 5K in League City this morning had done its job when I showed up and saw Gabe Rodriguez and Junior Mitchell in the crowd, joining the regular Clear Lake speedsters like Rudy Rocha, Chris Bittinger, and Sam Rodriguez. Gabe won, Junior took 2nd and Rudy took 3rd. Chris took the masters title. That is one seriously fast group of guys.
As for me, I wasn't expecting much with the humidity and my past few weeks of slacking off. It's always the days when I don't plan to try that I end up doing the best. Funny. I ended up turning in my best 5K in months -- 30:39! Sub-10:00 miles, heck yeah! That's only 1:20 off my PR, so I was very excited. I felt good, and was working hard. My average heart rate was 188, and I did take three 30-second walk breaks between 1.5 and 2.75 miles.
Afterwards I hung around for awards, because I was planning on following the race with a 20+ mile bike ride with the Bay Area Fit folks. I chatted with Buzz, Amy, Ron, and Leah -- Buzz and Amy had even ridden their bikes to the race and were going to ride home to get their tri training in.
They started awards. Ron took 3rd among 20-29 males, and Buzz and Amy took 1st and 2nd in the 30-39 females. Leah took 2nd overall and 1st in the 20-29 females (she was the overall female winner at my Yuri's Night 5K), and then -- they called my name! Despite finishing a full 10 minutes after Leah, I finished 2nd in my age group. I got a trophy and everything. Heck yeah! It was very cool that all 5 of us got trophies.
Normally I'd feel a little silly that I ended up with an age group award, since it means that my age group was pretty darn empty. But I was already so happy with my run that I picked up my trophy with a loud whoop. :)
Around 9:45 I hit the road with the Bay Area Fit folks for what ended up being a 22.5 mile bike ride. We stayed pretty close to the park where our cars were, and just did two out-and-backs on Highway 96. The sun came out and it got pretty warm, and the wind was pretty strong as well. I took it easy after the hard run, and finished in 1:33, an average of 14.something miles per hour.
One woman I talked to has one of Trek's women specific design bikes, so I checked it out (though didn't ride it). I've been thinking of trying one and seeing if I like it better than my current ride. On Monday I even sent in my entry for a contest they were having called "Women Who Ride" -- they're picking 5 women to whom they'll give bikes and equipment, and have them filmed and active online. I'm crossing my fingers that they pick me...
Anyway, it was a good morning for workouts!
5K run - 30:39
22.5 mile bike - 1:33:04
Friday, May 04, 2007
I left my old group at work 6 months ago. In the year or so before leaving, I did a lot of things and none of them very well -- except one. There was one project that was mine, I was involved, I felt like it was important, I knew it was important. I developed procedures, helped plan and execute sims, educated a lot of people on something that previously no one had known we needed to be concerned about, and generated a lot of actual flight-specific data that was used during the landings of STS-114, STS-121, and STS-115. Two months after I left the group, I did it again for STS-116 because of scheduling conflicts among the people that had taken over for me. This wasn't a huge deal at the time, because though I left the group, I'm still in the same division and I was still in a transitional phase.
Almost five months after that, however, I find myself doing it again for another sim, again because of scheduling conflicts on the part of the person now supporting the task. I know that I could've said "no, I can't." It would've meant that someone would've had to come in over the weekend, or someone else would have had to start from ground zero and figure everything out. Still, I could've said no. But I didn't.
On one hand, it is not my job anymore and I shouldn't have to keep supporting it. It's not fair to me because I have other things to do now. It's not fair to the customer because they need to know that they can't keep relying on me. It's not fair to the person who has theoretically taken over from me because that person needs to learn how to do things for themself without falling back on me, knowing that even though I'm not in the group anymore, I'm just down the hall.
But on the other hand... The work associated with this project was one of of the few things in my old group that I really liked doing, so it's hard to say no. The project was my baby -- one of the few really helpful, important, and positive things I did in my old group -- and so I'm also sensitive to how I see it being treated now that I'm gone. My perception is that it's getting brushed under the rug, that the person who took over doesn't want to do it and doesn't care about it and is looking for ways to pass it off, and that the agency we're cooperating with is getting poorer treatment. I worked hard to help build those relationships and get everyone to the point they are today, working together and communicating well and getting the data they need to take the actions necessary. I don't want to see all that get flushed down the toilet.
So I'm creating another data package and supporting another sim, six months after I left my old group. And I don't know how I feel about that.
What would you do?
Thursday, May 03, 2007
On The Run hooked me up with some new Brooks Adrenalines on Tuesday (the fartlek was their first run) and I had to laugh when Vera pulled them out of the box to double check that they were the correct size. It's my third pair in 12 months and they're already on their third color scheme. The next time I buy shoes, I'll get my 6th stamp on my shoe card, which means my 7th pair of shoes is free! That is quite a deal when you remember that each pair costs $85. Yet another reason I love On The Run.
Jen, Jose and I went to the Astros game last night. Jose must be good luck, as they've won both times he's seen them -- and those two games also happen to be their two wins of late. It wasn't very crowded, despite the fact that Oswalt was starting and pitched fabulously as always. Fickle fans, or just a weeknight?
I'm observing an undock sim that goes until 10:00 tonight, and I was in at 10:30 this morning for a training session. Almost 12 hour day for me...
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Last night as I drove home from class, I was feeling tired, achey, bored, and generally down. I knew I should go running, but I didn't want to. Because I was tired. Because I felt bummed out. Because I didn't have my clothes with me to go to Gilruth, which meant I'd have to run laps of my apartment complex.
The BAFT schedule called for a 40 minute fartlek, and never having done a true fartlek before was just enough to get me out the door. The first ten minutes were crappy. But then everything fell into place. Just like it almost always does. Just like I always forget that it does.
I did my fartlek, running slow, then fast, then slow, then sorta fast, all depending on what I felt like. I'd run fast to the next telephone pole, then slow down to recover. From one fire hydrant to another. Recover. In the end I ran for 40 minutes and covered about 3.7 miles. Not bad.
It's been so hot in my office this week that I think I'll burn extra calories just from sweating.
This week my very casual Beach to Bay relay team has gone from non-existant to definitely going to maybe to "my cousin changed his mind" to who knows what. I currently have 5 runners. Not enough.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Typography class ended last night with presentations of the fonts that we spent all semester designing. I ended up happy with my font, though I must admit that it is not the most useful of all fonts. It was inspired by a photo in one of our textbooks showing snippets of the sign for a Noah's New York Bagels shop. See how the sign is really a mosaic and the letters are made of tiles?
After doing a quick search on the net and not immediately finding a similar font, I decided to make a mosaic font. Mine's called Bagel Shop, and here's the poster I made to show what it looks like (click to see a PDF). Obviously mosaic letters also reminded me of the subway.
If you want to use it, you can download it. I still want to do a bit more work on it, not with the letters themselves but with the spacing. Even without that, it's usable right now.
It turned out better than I expected.