Thursday, July 4, 2013


On this most American of holidays, I have a confession to make: I am no longer completely 100% Born in the USA.

Or at least my accent isn't. We have a good friend who is a voice coach and works with various actors on regional accents. She asked to record me and Himself as examples of a General American accent, and we of course said yes. So she came over with a bunch of recording equipment and a list of words and phrases for us to read. Imagine my surprise as, working my way through the list, I was asked to repeat myself on several occasions, with specific directions as to how to revert to my typical American accent! Apparently I've picked up some British pronunciations, but only when I'm talking to British people. When I start talking about America (I talked about Thanksgiving traditions for a bit), my accent goes completely back to "general American". Hunh.

The most infuriating thing, however, is that my husband had absolutely no issues with maintaining a true blue American accent, a fact I attribute to his innate stubbornness. Or something like that.

I hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paradigm Shift

So, it's pretty much official - I am not running the 2013 London Marathon. As of this morning's torture session chiropractor appointment, with my still sore hip, the new diagnosis is bursitis with a side order of really crappy core strength and underlying mechanical problems, all of which combined comes down to one thing: I can not, at age 40, train for a marathon the way I did at 30.

This should come as no surprise to anyone (least of all me). As someone who has been active and athletic in some sort of organized (sometimes even obsessive) fashion since the age of 8, my self-image of my physical abilities has been pretty stable over the years. In my own mind's eye, I am a fit, athletic (if by no means fast at any sport aside from rowing), capable person. But if I am perfectly honest with myself, that is not what I am anymore. I am someone who used to train consistently, who used to commit to doing something active on a regular schedule, and that hasn't been the case since 2005, really.

There have certainly been times when I've entered a race or an event and trained consistently for it, but that training hasn't continued past the finish line. What this failed attempt to train for the marathon has made abundantly clear is that, if I want to be able to run next year, and I mean really run - not just finish - I need to spend the next 13 months addressing my mechanical issues (hello Pilates!) and being consistently active. The answer is to start training now for an event that's more then a year away. And that is a hard concept for me to wrap my head around. Hopefully, the habit of consistence will carry me through the post 2014-marathon recovery period and I'll keep going. This isn't about weight, or body image, or any of that crap. This is about the realization, at 40, that if I don't get a handle on this now, the able-bodiedness that I take for granted could slip away without my even realizing its happening.

So, tomorrow I'm going to swim. And next week I'll start riding again. When my hip is pain-free and the bursitis is gone, I'll start back with the running. And we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Running out of time

My life has become mostly centered around running these days. In a mere six and a half weeks, I am supposed to be running the London Marathon. So that means running (ideally) five days a week.

However, I am running into (pun intended!) the reality of being 40, and it hurts. I've always been athletic - I learned to ski as a toddler, took ballet classes for seven years before coming to grips with the reality that being 5'9" and 150 lbs at age 14 was never going to coincide with a dramatic ballet career, then discovered crew and found my dream sport.

I was a serious competitive rower for nigh on 15 years - through high school and college and graduate school. Then I upped sticks and moved to the land of no water (aka Arizona) and found a new sport: triathlon. No one would ever have confused me with a fast triathlete (that 150 lbs was more like 170 at that point), but I was a strong cyclist, and started to swim at the ripe old age of 25, and got to the point where running wasn't all bad. Then we moved to Houston, and its fabulously enthusiastic triathlon community. I entered a bunch of races, and in a moment of insanity entered the 2003 Marine Corps Marathon with a group of my rowing buddies from graduate school. Even more insane, we got places, and so I really had to get into the running thing. I ran the marathon that October, after an up-and-down training schedule that included a second degree ankle sprain in July (aka not ideal training). And I finished it, in 4:54. I've done half-Ironmans, 5K swims, 112 mile bike rides in less time then my marathon, and through it all managed to stay relatively injury free (excepting a few truly spectacular bike crashes in triathlons, but we won't talk about those...) (Austin Fire Dept - you're the best!)

My stated goal this time around was to aim for 4:30 - I'm pretty positive that I will never be a fast runner, or even a quick runner. But I want to go faster this time around then the last time. However, I am finding that training for a marathon is a) very different when you're 40 then when you're 30 (damn mortality!!!) and b) needs to start from a base of consistency in level of activity. Which, in all honesty, I didn't have. In the last two months, I've cycled through problems with my left hip, my right knee and, as of yesterday, my right hip, and I'm feeling a bit demoralized by the whole thing. It's a wee bit frustrating when I can go and run 18 miles one day (last Friday to be exact), but then have to quit 1.18 miles into an easy 5 miler (that would be yesterday).

Today I've been chiropracted and released and stretched and pulled and taped up. My hip still hurts, but my chiro seems to think that I should be able to keep training. This week is lower mileage overall, which should help, and it's not bursitis, which is a really, really, really good thing. But I'm finding myself more then a little bit nostalgic about past fitness. Hopefully my decrepit old carcass holds together for a little while longer...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Early autumn morning

Now that the girls are at two different schools, the school run is a bit more complicated. Thankfully Devil's school runs a bus service, so we stumble out the door before 8:00 to get her to the bus stop on time. Then Boo and I have to choose whether we will continue our journey by bus or train. If its by train, we walk across Barnes Common to the train station.

This morning was crisp and cold, with mist rising off the Common. The spiderwebs were covered in water droplets. It was very quiet as we slopped through the leaves and kicked conkers. A good start to the day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Olympic Hangover

OK, it's long past time to get my political rantings off the top of the docket here. Guess what else has been going on?

I must confess to being completely ignorant of the location of the 2012 Summer Games when we moved over here in 2009. Like most Americans, I pay attention to the Olympics during the two-week period they're in progress and pretty much not at all the rest of the time. And the Paralympics? Forget it. However, living in the host city does make the Olympic/Paralympic experience pretty much inescapable. For the 12 months leading up to 23 July, most of the water cooler gossip re London 2012 focused on what an utter and complete disaster it was going to be. People made plans to leave town (or the country, in the case of one of my American friends), or work from home for the entire duration of the Games. People complained about not getting tickets (quite rightly in alot of cases), and about how the dedicated traffic lanes all over the city were going to make what is, on a good day, a horrific traffic situation into a scene from Lovecraft's darkest nightmares. The Tube was going to be jam packed, the trains wouldn't be able to handle the increased demand, Stratford was going to become a running of the bulls without any outlet.

None of this was particularly encouraging, but even less encouraging were the reports of people spending up to 6 hours in line to get through Customs and Immigration at Heathrow. After hearing this, we decided that our usual summer trip back to the States might be better saved for Christmas, and we hunkered down and prepared for the worst.

In the ticket sweepstakes, we were completely shut out in the initial and secondary rounds of sales. But, lucky corporate hangers-on that we are, Himself's company had some internal options for getting tickets, and LOCOG opened up sales again in the month before the Opening Ceremonies to get rid of unsold tickets. By the start of the Games we had secured tickets to the Women's Road Race on the first weekend, a session of Rowing at Eton Dorney, and a full day up at the Olympic Park for Paralympic swimming and track cycling.

We started off the Olympic experience four days after moving into our new house, by getting to see the Olympic Torch float down the Thames in the Queen's Barge from the end of our new road.

The next day we went to Richmond Park to watch the men speed by on their way back in to the finish of the men's road race, with a few interesting fashion statements to keep us entertained.


On Sunday morning, we got up, looked outside at the beautiful sunshine and promptly set off for Box Hill sans any kind of wet weather gear at all. What is usually a 2+ hour journey to go 26 miles, ended up being a 45 min easy trip to the course. Sadly, by the time we arrived, it was pouring, but we huddled under some trees and managed to both chalk up the course with encouragement for the riders (using locally sourced chalk!), and have a grand time watching the ladies speed by (the rain did stop before the race came through, so all was well).
Tuesday's trip to the rowing threatened precipitation, but managed to hold off until we were headed out. I began seriously considering taking up rowing again, then smacked myself about the head and neck until I was forced to concede that there really is no way I can suddenly find an extra five hours in my day. Sadly... Again, the transportation issues that were direly predicted failed to materialize, so the Brits found themselves with one less thing to shake their heads about.
After all of that, I personally was feeling a bit Olympic-ed out. So we took some time off from actually physically attending any events, and instead glued ourselves to the TV to keep updated. The next week, the girls were in drama camp, so Ironman and I sneaked into Hyde Park on our own to watch the men's triathlon.
Two hours, some amazing racing, and two British medals later, it was time to head home. We watched the rest of the action on TV, and then had a week or so to relax before the next athletic extravaganza.

It was very interesting being in a different country for the Olympics. Maybe it's just because the Games were here, but people were so excited about it. And not just because the British athletes absolutely exceeded any and all expectations in terms of medals - folks were truly excited and happy when anyone did well. And equally unimpressed when the athletes dropped the ball (i.e. some of the badminton players). The Games came up in every conversation I had over the two weeks period. In the States, it's generally assumed that the Americans are going to do well in everything. Track and field (aka athletics if you're here), swimming (OK, Michael Phelps is pretty damn impressive), basketball (maybe not so much anymore), gymnastics (of course!). Maybe Atlanta and LA felt the same to residents during their Games, I don't know. But this was something special.

One of my favorite Olympic story: Gemma Gibbons, who won a silver medal in Judo, scraped onto the Olympic team by the skin of her teeth. I believe she only made it to the Games because the host city can pull some strings. She was ranked 42 in the world, and she ended up with a silver medal. Anyone who says there isn't a home crowd advantage is nuts (and wasn't in Hyde Park watching the Brownlee brothers destroy their competition).

Before the last two weeks, I'd never seen a Paralympic event on TV. I'm pretty sure I wasn't aware that they occured right after the Olympic Games finished before last year, when I raised some money for ParalympicGB by riding my bike across the country. We went up to the Olympic Park on the first day of the Paralympic Games and saw a session of swimming and then some track cycling. What an incredibly humbling experience - there's nothing like watching someone with one arm and no legs swim 100 meters faster then you do on a good day to get ride of your First World Problem griping. It was absolutely amazing to see how different swimmers with different disabilities adapted the various swimming strokes. Some of the adaptations were pretty clunky and ungraceful, but holy shit could they get down the pool.

And then we went to the Velodrome. First off: the building is shaped like a Pringle, with the same arching swoop to the roof. Second of all: you have to enter through what is basically an airlock, and you can't go in if there's a race on because the change in air currents might affect the riders. The more you know, right?
We saw the men's 1K time trial, a bunch of pursuit races and then, the crowning glory of my day: the bronze and gold medal races for the women's 3K pursuit.

So, there's this British woman who's kind of good at Paralympic track cycling. And Paralympic road racing. And Paralympic swimming. And able-bodied track racing - she almost made the women's team pursuit for the Olympic Games this year. Last year, I managed to stay with Sarah Storey for a whole 5 minutes during RAB, mostly because she blew past me in her World Champion jersey and then got stuck at a stop light. But on this particular day, I got to see her win the first of what would end up being 4 gold medals during this Paralympic Games.

That was it for us on the London 2012 events, although I did watch a bunch more swimming, some wheelchair basketball and some athleticson the telly. The whole almost month long extravaganza was truly a once in a lifetime experience. And, now that things are over, Londoners can go back to complaining when "the trains don't run as well as they did during the Olympics."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You didn't just say what I think you just said, did you?

I've been laying out a post on the London Olympic Hangover and the last of the summer holidays (including the first real summer weather), but yesterday I was hit upside the head by something that still has me shaking with anger. And disbelief. And rage. See, I've spent much of the past three years paying almost no attention (insofar as it is possible) to both American politics and, more importantly American politicians. I lived through the previous Presidential campaign in Southeast Texas, and as someone of fairly liberal leanings, that experience gave me a Pavlovian response that includes RUN AWAY!!!!! from most political coverage and "discourse". In that time, various scandals and missteps have trickled across my radar, but I've managed mostly to ignore them. But not this time.

As you are probably aware, Missouri Republican Senatorial candidate (and current Congressman) Todd Akin busted open a big, ole' barrel of rotten apples by enlightening us all in an interview on Fox News with his views on whether or not abortion should be allowed in cases of rape. He stated, in a discussion of wether or not abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, that it was his understanding that it's rare for women to get pregnant after "legitimate" rape. He said "The female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.” (Video clip here).

Imma gonna pause here for a moment to let you get a full grasp on Congressman Akin's stunning grasp of physiology (implications of his statement to follow): The female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down. Ok, I am not a biologist a motherf---ing biologist, so I'd like to break down this issue with some evidence from the literature.

Instances in the literature in which women can control their fertility through willpower alone:
1) Vonda McIntyre's excellent post-apocalyptic science fiction novel "Dreamsnake" (men have this superpower too, to be fair).
2) ...

Strangely enough, the National Library of Medicine's database ( does not return  any results relevant to this discussion when using the search terms "fertility control" or "reduced fertility after rape". "Rate of pregnancy after rape" returns a number of papers, including one by Holmes et al (1996, Am J Obstet Gynecol 175(2): 320) indicating that, at least in the middle 90s, the national rape-related pregnancy rate was 5.0%, leading to 32,101 pregnancies resulting from rape each year. I would argue that the actual numbers are higher, given that rape is an underreported crime. A much more recent study (Bartels et al, 2010, Confl Health 4: 9) found that among women subjected to sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, those subjected to sexual slavery were more likely to get pregnant then those who were gang raped. I suppose Congressman Akin would argue then that sexual slavery isn't rape? Or maybe he doesn't worry too much about women in the developing world...

I spent most of yesterday afternoon on the couch in the throes of flu and stewing over this latest atom bomb from the American political right wing. Here are some of the implications that worry me:

1) The idea of "legitimate" rape. Congressman Akin has amended his words to say that by legitimate he meant "forcible" rape. Ummmm, ok. Does that mean it's only rape if you're held down with a knife at your throat? If you get the crap beaten out of you in the process? If there are more of them then there are of you? What if it's your date? Or a friend? Or your husband? Or perhaps Congressman Akin would like to argue that wives can not be raped by their husbands? (And I think he would.

2) OK, so let's say you are raped. And you go to the cops and you do all the right things while trying to keep yourself from completely going to pieces. And you start to move past it. Then you find out you're Congressman Akin's worldview, your rape case goes straight to hell because you must have enjoyed it. If you really were raped, you wouldn't have gotten pregnant, right?

3) I'm sorry Congressman Akin, but do you have a uterus? What's that? I can't hear you?....wait a minute, wait a, you say? Well I've got one. So do lots of my friends. So do my two daughters. YOU DO NOT GET TO DECIDE WHAT MY CHILDREN, OR ANY OTHER WOMAN ON THIS PLANET, MUCH LESS IN MY COUNTRY, CAN DO WITH THEIR OWN BODIES!

It's bad enough that Congressman Akin thinks this way. There are plenty of people who think this way. What makes it totally unacceptable is that he thinks it's appropriate to say these things out loud,  on television, in support of a campaign to get him elected to any political office, much less the Senate of the United States of America. Because from where I sit, this is advocating abrogation of the human rights of 50.8% of the population of our country, according to the most recent census. Is this what it means to be part of the Republican party in 2012? I don't care how far and how fast the GOP backpedal from this guy, and how much they urge him to step down from the race (which he's not doing, by the by), this man stood up as a Republican candidate, backed by his party, and as a member of the House Science and Technology Committee (what the everloving fuck? Part of me died with that little nugget of information), and demonstrated that he has neither the basic understanding of biology nor the miniscule amount of political self-preservation not to stand up and tell the world, in not so many words, that women can't be trusted with control over their own bodies because, well, they just can't. Except when they're being "legitimately and/or forcibly raped", because then they magically don't get pregnant.

I really am afraid that this is just symptomatic of a broader problem, an erosion of the basic human rights of women that the Republican Party,  or perhaps the more extreme factions of the party (including the brand-spanking new Presidential Vice Presidential candidate), are bent on pushing forward into legislation. At least that's what they're saying in front of the cameras and the journalists and the rallies. If you are a woman, we know what's best for you. If you are a woman, you can't be trusted with decisions about your own body. And you can't be trusted for the simple reason that hey, you were born with two X chromosomes instead of one of these cool Y ones. Seriously? I wish I could say you must be kidding me, but I really, really can't any more.

So, if you are a real, live registered American voter and you:
a) have a vagina and/or uterus,
b) at one time had a vagina and/or uterus, or
c) love/like/admire/adore/respect/parent/appreciate/associate with/work with someone in possession of a vagina and/or uterus, please ask yourself the following question:

Is this kind of statement what you want your duly elected officials to be promoting? And using as the basis for legislation?


PS - If you are so inclined, anyone who is a US citizen can donate to Mr. Akin's opponent in this race, incumbent senator Claire McCaskill - sadly, it looks like she could use all the help she can get.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reason 952 to love the British media

I was waiting for my coffee this morning, and had the opportunity to peruse a copy of the Times. Some helpful soul had left it open to the Sports section, and a full two page spread about Andy Murray at Wimbledon. By the time my cappuccino was ready, I had guffawed out loud multiple times. Said article referenced:
  1. Jean-Paul Sartre and Huis Clos
  2. Waiting for Godot
  3. Steely Dan
W. T. F????? This almost makes up for the irritating extra syllable they add to perfectly good words like "oriented" and "commented".