Tuesday, June 03, 2014

She Was Also A Knitter

Gone too soon... Today I got onto Facebook only to find out that someone I knew years ago from high school died from cancer. Following the link to her obituary, I thought, "I hope it's not who I think it is." We were not really friends, but then, she was friendly to everyone. Full of spunk and sass and the owner of a crazy orange VW Beetle, I can think back to her making everyone laugh in marching band. It's funny how someone older in high school can leave such a lasting impression. I think we might've been friends if I'd been older. Or, at least, in hindsight I think we would've been friends.

Her obituary revealed that she was an avid knitter. A knitter! Immediately, I went to Ravelry and looked her up, recognizing a pic from her Facebook photos as her Ravatar. Turns out, she was the moderator of a very large Stitch 'n Bitch in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. She also had an Etsy shop where you could find stitch markers and earrings. From looking at her projects on Ravelry, she seemed to dabble in a little bit of everything and took on some challenging projects.

The hardest part of today for me was reading her blog posts. They revealed the terror and sadness she felt. She had two little boys and was hoping to have a third child at 40. Instead, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemo and radiation. It was sobering and maddening to read the thoughts of someone so full of life experiencing it being taken away. The blog posts ended in 2012, and her steady flow of knitting projects on Ravelry petered out.

Coincidentally, Kelli and I went to Knitters Connection the same year and were in the same room for the super exciting first meeting with the creators of Ravelry, Jess and Casey. If I'd only known she was there, maybe we could've gotten to share our common love of knitting and been knitting buddies.

It makes me angry and sad that someone so full of life, humor, and kindness with a keen eye for noticing quiet beauty in the little things (posthumously discovered by reading through her posts) is gone from this world. Not fair. Cancer sucks. This news makes my day quiet and reflective. Sad.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Columbus Hot Chocolate 15K - November 17, 2013

Warning: Long race report ahead!

Obviously, I haven't raced in a while... It's been a long 18 months since I last pinned on a race bib. In May 2012 I ran a disappointing half followed by a better, but not great, 5-mile Memorial Day run. The only memorable runs I had for the remainder of 2012 were a coastal forest trail run in June while on vacation in North Carolina and a creekside trail run with my daughter on a beautiful and mild December 1st. My mojo came and went for several months. Finally, I decided that the only way to get out of my running slump was to sign up for a race. By summer 2013, I'd narrowed down my choices to either the Columbus Half or the Hot Chocolate 15K. I liked the route and lower price of the HC15K. Plus, the goodie bag was a snazzy black thermal hoodie, and the finisher's mug sounded yummy. The HC15K it was! It turned out fortuitous that I chose the shorter distance because my training was pretty lax. Many times I only ran twice during the week. I was sure to get in some key long runs in order to ensure a finish, but I didn't work at all on speed with my low frequency of runs. My goal was to finish and try for a 12:00 pace.

The week before the race, I unknowingly developed and popped a blister while doing a 7-mi run. It not only popped - it bled and ripped off the skin, staining the ankle of my shoe. I didn't notice until I was more than halfway through my run and could only stop and re-tie my laces for comfort. I only mention all this about my blister because it became important on race day. I'd never gotten a back-of-the-heel ankle blister before, so I was a little anxious about running with one for 15K. During race week, I bought some clear blister bandaids and moleskin. They worked while dry, but I wondered if they would stand up to the predicted rain on race day.

The night before the race, I purchased and printed my parking garage pass despite the developing weather alerts for my city. It was supposed to be very windy and rainy with possible tornado warnings later in the day. Mentally, I prepared myself to spend the entire race running in rain and wind. At bedtime, I stayed on the couch and fell asleep about 2 hours before my alarm (very typical for me). At 5:30 when my alarm went off, I awoke to a pretty intense downpour! My heart sunk wondering if it would be heavy rain like this for the entire race. But, a quick check of the radar showed that there would soon be a break for a while. I continued as planned and got to the parking garage at 6:45. It was only a light misty rain out, and luckily the temps were in the mid-50s. Despite the potential for more rain and increasing wind, it wasn't cold. In fact, I wore a longsleeve tech shirt and knee-length stretch shorts with a running hat. I was never cold during the race - so thankful for that!

After casually walking through the finisher's area and visiting the porta-potty one last time, I walked a couple of blocks to my corral. Once the race began, each corral was moved up and released in waves. I was in the 5th corral back, so my chip time began at about 7:44. While waiting to start, I watched a black trash bag get picked up and blown many stories up into the sky. I thought, "Well, now. This wind should be interesting."

The first 5K was entirely in downtown Columbus and included two bridge crossings. Those crossings were a bit windy with a wetter mist of rain, and it was a bit uphill toward High Street after crossing the second bridge. That first 5K flew by fast! When it got close to the 5K turnoff, we 15k-ers had to stay to the right and continue straight ahead. Someone behind me joked, "How I wish I could turn left right now!" Nearby runners including myself laughed in agreement since we knew this would be a challenging race, thanks to the worsening weather.

The longest stretch of the race was down High Street from downtown, through the Short North, and then finally coming upon Ohio State University, my alma mater. The wondrous smells coming from food establishments like the new sandwich restaurant Melt in the Short North and Buckeye Donuts on campus distracted me. I kept thinking ahead to how wonderful the hot chocolate and the chocolate fondue would taste at the finish! I carried Shot Bloks with me and thought of them on this part of the course, but it was too early to start them. Funny... this would be the last time I thought of my Shot Bloks until I got back into my car post race.

When I reached Mile 5 near Buckeye Donuts close to my next turn, the misty rain had developed into a more steady light rain and the wind picked up quite a bit. I was completely soaked by this point, except for my shoes. Fortunately, after turning onto Lane Avenue, the course was downhill toward the bridge over the Olentangy River. I think this was where, despite the downhill, other racers started to get worn down by the gusty wind and rain. Instead of being dismayed, I took advantage of the downhill. I picked up my pace and started passing some people. This continued the rest of the race. Unfortunately, I stepped in my first puddle on Lane Avenue and soaked my shoes (Oh, no! My ankle! How would the blister bandaid and doughnut-shaped moleskin hold up? Luckily, pretty well.). Then, while crossing the bridge and being more fully exposed to the gradually increasing wind and rain, I could see that we'd be running directly south into the wind and rain at the next turn. Yeeks! The moment we all turned the corner, I heard a collective and very audible groan. More than a few people stopped running and walked. As for me, I saw the 6-mile and then the 10K markers, so I was jazzed that there were only 5K left! I felt grateful for the brim of my hat shielding my eyes as I tilted my chin down and leaned into the pelting rain. My mantra at that point was, "just one more mile and one hill till 7."

Between 10K and Mile 7 was one of two mentally challenging parts of the race. Even though my pace had picked up since Mile 5, there was the hill on John Herrick Drive up to Neil Avenue. I passed two small groups of college-aged runners on this hill. But, when I reached the top and turned onto Neil Avenue, I was tired for the first time and made sure to walk a full minute at the Mile 7 aid station. Thank goodness there were only 2.3 miles left because it did get quite dismal running down Neil through Victorian Village. It was a long, bleak, forgettable rainy stretch back toward downtown. My sketchy memory and tunnel vision on that part of the course were limited to big puddles, heavier rain, and thanking every police officer I passed. I knew I was going to finish and possibly even meet my goal time of 1:50:00, but I finally wanted to be done. At least it wasn't pouring, but ugh!

To get through Victorian Village to Goodale Park, I needed to focus on the fact that I was almost done. I can't tell you how happy I was to turn left onto Park Street! Short lived joy, though... My mind played tricks on my perception of distance because it seemed like I was on Park Street forever. I'd run the entire race up to this point (not counting aid stations). But, I agreed to let myself walk for 1 minute as long as I ran the rest of the way. I almost made it, too! But, I walked again about 2 blocks before the final turn. I could've slapped myself upside the head! Instead, I quickly got it together, started running again, and zeroed in on the final turn. Approaching it, I thought, "After my two cute little walking sessions, I better sure as heck turn it up for the finish!" I made the last turn and about 30 yards ahead of me I saw a young guy. I chose him as my finishing target and sped up to pass him right before the finish. My watch said 1:48:18, and later I found out my official time of 1:48:17. Since this was my first 15K race, it was an instant PB. Even so, I was pleased that I beat my goal time. That was unexpected! Yay, another race in the books, and one that turned out to be satisfactory :-) My split times: 5K/36:34, 10K/1:11:50. Average pace was 11:38.

There were several runners cheering people on near and at the finish. Very cool, especially since there were very few spectators along the course due to the yucky weather. The friendly volunteers at the aid stations every 2-3 miles turned out to be the ones who encouraged runners along the course rather than the usual family and friends. They were fantastic! Despite the weather, they were all smiles and remained positive. After crossing the finish line, I headed straight to the finisher's mug tent to get my chocolate. I guzzled the hot chocolate so fast that I burned my tongue - oops! Next up was the chocolate fondue, and so I ate my banana, marshmallow, and pretzel. But, the wind was getting strong and blowing things everywhere. So, I decided to pause my enjoyment of the fondue, quickly get a picture taken by a race photographer in front of a blown-up mug of hot chocolate, and head for the nearby parking garage. Just in case none of the race pictures turned out, I asked two female runners parked next to me if one of them would take my picture. Good thing I did that because the race photos of me aren't the best.

Next up might be a two-part trail series in January and February. The course is a bridle or mountain bike trail that's only open to runners for that specific trail series. It skirts Alum Creek and has lots of rocks and roots, hence the name of the series, Rocks and Roots. If you pay for and run both times you get a trail series package which includes extra goodies that aren't available if you only do one race or sign up separately for each race. I'm interested to mingle with some other trail runners including those who are crazy enough to go for a buckle by completing both 50Ks. I'd be doing just 10K for each, the shortest distance offered, which is far enough for me in the winter!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Musical Memories, a Reunion, and a Tribute

For once I will not be writing of knitting, running, books, recipes, or some cool math-related topic. For most of you that read this blog, you probably know nothing about my musical side. For all that knew me prior to teaching and knitting, they know me primarily as a musician. Music has always been the most integral part of my life and a major descriptor of my being. This weekend I get the opportunity to reunite and celebrate with many of my fellow musicians as we come together for a choral event at my old high school. We will be celebrating decades of service to the local musical and theatrical arts by Mr. and Mrs. B and supporting the funding for a community performing arts center that has long been a dream of theirs. The arts center will be located in Old Hilliard where the old silos, longtime familiar landmarks, used to be. This tribute concert will feature alumni who have made it on Broadway and off-Broadway. I look forward to seeing many familiar faces and songs from the past up there on stage on Saturday!

For those arriving into town early, we are all meeting on Friday night to join up with the monthly alumni meetup. I don't know about anyone else's frame of mind going into this weekend. Are they feeling a mixture of happiness twinged with underlying sadness as I am? You see, it will be a celebration ...and, though no one may directly address it, it will also be a goodbye. My heart is heavy just thinking about it. The timing of this event is sensitive and meant to celebrate life while Mr. B. is still around. I have been told that he has Stage 4 lung cancer and am not certain of his present condition.

For those who don't know, besides playing the flute and, much later, alto horn, I was primarily a piano accompanist for choirs and instrumental soloists throughout my childhood and into college. There were children's church choirs, middle school choirs, 9th grade choir, and finally Senior Choir and Madrigals - a traveling choral group. I got to sing occasionally, too, when it was something a cappella or when I chose to be in the chorus or snag a bit part rather than play in the pit orchestra for the high school musicals. But, mostly I sat at the piano while Mr. B directed the Senior Choir and Madrigals. I remember his coffee-and-cigarettes breath from being in close proximity as we went over vocal parts and how he could quickly - amazingly quickly - put a person in his or her place during practice with his high expectations and zero tolerance for immaturity. His sharp-witted and sometimes humor-laced sarcasm would cut you to the quick, and deservedly so. He demanded and commanded respect. But, I also remember his reverence for the beauty and sacred nature of choral music. That respect and love for achingly beautiful music was contagious, and, just for one period during the school day, we would quit goofing off, forget what cliques everyone belonged to, and seriously strive to achieve something meaningful together. I remember how there were not just music kids in the choir; there were jocks, nerds, many of the coolest kids in school, and several who weren't a part of anything else in school but who absolutely loved choir. Mr. B, though temperamental as all get out at times, attracted ALL the kids. Everyone wanted to be a part of Senior Choir.

Mr. and Mrs. B put on a spring musical each year, and they also co-directed summer community musicals which brought back many talented and loyal alumni. Once or twice I played in the pit orchestra for those summer shows. That was definitely not as fun as being part of the chorus, but it was still a unique and memorable experience (playing in a hole in the ground where you can't see the audience!). I loved that there was always a good turnout of alumni each summer. However, my favorite performance memories are of the spring musicals. We put on Anything Goes, in which I had a minor part as one of the angels with singing, dancing, and maybe two lines; I got to be a nun and briefly lead off The Sound of Music in Latin (in the dark and unseen, but who cares, it was exciting!); we had an extremely talented senior play Tevye for Fiddler On The Roof. I so loved singing alto in the chorus on Sabbath Prayer and sneaking into the back of the dark auditorium during rehearsals to hear Jess sing as Tevye. He also played Harold Hill in The Music Man the previous year. We had so much fun doing musicals that immediately following their close most of us went through a minor depression from missing the camaraderie, joy, intensity, and fun of it all. Mr. B was the musical director while Mrs. B was the theatrical director. Quite a team, those two! The assistant choir director and technical theater director for all those years under Mr. and Mrs. B will both be leading the tribute concert.

Most competitive high school marching bands go to or hold band camp. With choirs it is less common, but we did it. Every summer we would go to Hocking Hills and stay at a horse camp that had large cabins up in the woods, a lake, and a mess hall that acted as our practice room between meals. Since my high school band didn't go away for band camp, choir camp was the only opportunity for me to do camp away from home. During that week, we would get to know each well, have loads of fun, and get a head start on the music we would be singing in the fall. Besides meeting and making good friends there, I will never forget the last night of camp. Throughout the last full day there, alumni would show up one by one. Following dinner we would put on an informal concert for them under their unwavering and appraising gaze. To close the evening, we would circle up and join hands, young and old, to sing what we always sang a cappella at the end of any concert: The Lord Bless You And Keep You.

When the tribute concert comes to a close on Saturday night with many old musician friends in attendance, I am certain, even with no knowledge of the program, that we will end it with The Lord Bless You And Keep You, and I can guarantee that there will not be a dry eye in the house. I found the version we sing on YouTube. If you watch the video below and see the alumni surrounding the audience, then you might get a feeling of how meaningful this will be for us on Saturday since we'll be singing it for the very people who began this tradition and created many wonderful and lasting memories at our high school.

ETA: Oh my goodness! How could I forget that it was Mr. and Mrs. B who took the Madrigals on a trip to New York City?! If it weren't for them, I would never have experienced Cats, Central Park, the World Trade Center, etc. I HAD to get back on here and mention that NYC trip owning a place among my many fond memories of being in choir.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Running Shoe Shopping

kicks2012.side by jmfknits
kicks2012.side, a photo by jmfknits on Flickr.

My new (same old model) running shoes! Kinvara 2's :-)

Nothing that I tried on compared to these. They are just too awesome.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

What's For Dinner: Chicken Quesadillas

This is the second time I've made this black bean quesadillas recipe by Budget Bytes. It's so good! I like to add diced grilled chicken and use less red onion than indicated. The sweetness of the corn blended with all the other ingredients is the key ingredient for me. Check it out, I took pics this time. My favorite is the last one. Sidenote: I actually didn't mind the whole wheat tortillas! Then again they were toasted ;-)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Mockingjay Socks WIP Pic

Since I'm clearly on a roll with blogging tonight, here's a pic of my current socks on the needles :-) They're the Darjeeling socks by Cat Bordhi from The Knitter's Book of Socks (Clara Parkes, author). They're toe-up with the center cast-on stitches bordered by the toe increases. The stitch pattern is simple yet exquisite and slimming, a vertical line running up the center flanked by spaced purl ridges. Notice that the center vertical strip is a continuation of the centered cast-on stitches. A very pleasing knit so far! The upcoming gusset will be underneath the foot - never have done it that way before. That should be interesting! I named these Mockingjay Socks since I'm in the midst of reading The Hunger Games Trilogy, I just saw the movie, and the yarn (Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Foliage, colorway no longer available) suggests a flaming mockingjay (to me!).

Twisted Interlock Bind Off

In doing a test knit of my Mockingjay illusion knitting chart, I experimented with my bind off to match my cast on. My cast on was done in two colors using the Old Norwegian (aka German Twisted) Cast On with purple as the base and green as the working yarn. It's basically Long Tail Cast On with an extra twist of the thumbloop. On the last row before binding off my knitting, I knit across in green (In hindsight, yes, I could have also worked back an extra row on the wrong side in purl. But, this was a test knit, so I wasn't really going for perfection.). Then, following Jeny Staiman's directions for doing her Interlock Bind Off (Knitty linkRavelry link) for stockinette stitch, I added just one simple element: I twisted each loop to the right (a half turn) before inserting the yarn needle through its front. Here are pictures of each end of my knitting. Hopefully that bottom picture is clear enough to compare.

Hunger Games Mockingjay Illusion Chart Project

Inspired by recently reading the books (almost done with book 3), seeing the movie, and by a new multi-colored Dishie yarn from Knit Picks, I took to learning all about illusion knitting from the Woolly Thoughts illusion knitting site. Using Inkscape, which is free and open source, I followed Woolly Knits' directions on how to create an illusion chart using the mockingjay symbol. After posting it on Ravelry yesterday, my friend Karen and I pulled out scrap cotton yarn and did a quick test knit. Here are my pics (below). Note: there are two Ravelry projects with separate notes for each; one project is the test knit (purple and green) and the other is for when my Knit Picks yarn order in flaming orange and black arrives :-) I plan on fine-tuning/editing/shrinking this chart. Thank you Karen for graciously and voluntarily testing this chart! You're such a dear knitting comrade and friend :-) Pic 1 is supposed to match the original symbol. Pic 2 is rotated. Pic 3 is a a straight-on shot that amazingly shows a hint of the mockingjay if you look closely. Pic 4 is of the wrong side of the knitting which shows a negative of the front. What a fun project! Future plans for this chart: a Mockingjay birthday gift for my SIL who suggested the Hunger Games trilogy when she and my little brother got me a Kindle gift card last summer...