A New Winter Hat

Every once in awhile I like to return to the roots of The Happy Knitter and actually knit something. Being cooped up and in a boot has definitely brought out my crafty side. I recently replaced (scratch that I didn’t replace it I just bought ANOTHER jacket because I have no intention of getting rid of it) my circa 1997 winter jacket (it’s an awesome LL Bean jacket like the reporters on The Weather Channel used to wear) and none of my winter hats matched the new coat. So, I decided I needed to knit up something to match and surprisingly found some awesome yarn in my stash that would match perfectly. After finding the perfect yarn I needed to find the perfect pattern so I headed over to Raverly.com. I am still not the most advanced knitter so I set out in search of an easier pattern using big needles and bulky yarn. My attention span is a little less than ideal so I needed to find something I could finish before I got bored of it. After searching through pages and pages of hat patterns I came across Hannah’s Hat: A Classic Essential for Winter. The pattern is posted on JJ Crochet: Original Crochet by Jayna Grassel (a great blog full of amazing patterns). The pattern was easy but more detailed than just regular knit or purl hat. After a quick trip to my local Jo-Ann Fabrics to buy a pair of Size 13 (9.0mm) knitting needles (with my 60% off coupon the needles were exactly $1.63 which I paid for with my gift card I got last Christmas – I love when you can go somewhere and not spend any of your own money) I was ready to get started.

I quickly cast on using the only cast on method I know (even though I own a book with over 100 cast on techniques) and was on my way. The band was an easy k4, p4 and than after about 2 inches I moved in to the trickier (mistake ribbing) pattern for the rest of the hat. After 7 inches I started decreasing until I got I only had 7 stitched remaining. I pulled my yarn through the top stitches and began sewing the two sides together. This is the part I really suck at. For some reason I am a spaz when it comes to binding pieces together. When I was done with my willy nilly binding I was actually pretty proud of myself because it looked less like a child did it than usual. All in all the hat took me about two hours to make and I only had to rip out about four rows of work to get back on track!

Not a great pictures - but you get the idea!

Not a great pictures – but you get the idea!

I was really happy with the finished product. This is a great hat that I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick bulky yarn hat.

Das Boot

Back in March I wrote a blog about dealing with a running injury. I whined and complained about not being able to run and thought I was at my absolute lowest. Boy was I wrong! This past summer I’ve talked a lot about training for my first half marathon and successfully completing it in October. I may have talked a little bit about the pain I was experiencing along the way which led me to a podiatrist who diagnosed me with nasty plantar fasciitis. I spent the entire summer running and babying my plantar fasciitis. I iced it, stretched it, wrapped it, rested it and took an obscene amount of ibuprofen to mask the pain so I could continue running and training. In August with no reprieve from the pain I got a steroid injection and when it didn’t respond to that I took a heavy course of oral steroids, neither of which touched the pain at all. At this point I figured I was destined to be in pain and just kind of dealt with it. I finished up my training and ran my half in October and took it pretty easy for the remainder of the month. I ran three miles here and there but really focused on resting and rehabbing my foot. Fast-forward to the beginning of November and the pain in my foot was excruciating and the rest felt like it made it worse rather than better. I had pain radiating in my heel that would wake me from a dead sleep and hurt pretty much all the time (except then I first got up in the morning which is when plantar fasciitis is suppose to be at its worse). I went back to the podiatrist and an orthopedic surgeon and it was found my plantar fasciitis wasn’t plantar fasciitis at all. I had a stress fracture in my heel – a stress fracture I had trained for and ran a half marathon on! Yesterday I got my boot (which I promptly named Walter), which I have been confined to for 4-6 weeks in hopes of giving the stress fracture time to finally heal.

Walter - the boot!

      Walter – the boot!

So Walter (the boot) sucks! It is painful to wear it as my heel is getting used to less movement and being encouraged to heal. It’s my right foot so I have to take the boot on and off to drive, which is also a huge pain in the ass. Luckily, I can take the boot off to sleep, so for the past two days I’ve been in bed by 8:00 p.m. just so I could take the stupid thing off and lay quietly in bed. To top it off all I want to do it run. When I was in denial about the pain I signed myself up for the Denver Winter Race Series, which starts in mid-December with a 5k and ends with a half marathon on March 1st with a bunch of other 5ks in between. I can’t imagine not participating but I can’t imagine how I’ll ever be ready if I have to take so much time off. Worse comes to worse I can walk the first race in December and start ramping back up for the other races later in the season. I am also exploring the possibility of starting aqua jogging. If I wasn’t terrified of swimming this could be the perfect solution! If anyone has any ideas on how to get cardio in while being confined to the boot, I am all ears!!

On a higher note – how bad ass is that I ran a half marathon on a stress fracture? It makes my time that I wasn’t so thrilled about seem a little better ;-)

Lucy Town Half Marathon Wrap-Up

So, it’s been almost three weeks since I ran my first half marathon and it’s time to reflect. Most importantly I have successfully avoided contracting Ebola after flying through Cleveland during the same time period as America’s most recent Ebola patient was traveling through. Also, I survived the half marathon. The night before the half I was pretty sure that I was going to die during the half because of an undetected heart problem I’ve had my entire life and didn’t know about until I tried to run 13.1 miles and that 13th mile was the trigger for a total heart failure. Luckily, that did not happen.

So back to the half wrap-up…I flew from Colorado to Chicago to Cleveland to Jamestown, NY to run the Lucy Town Half Marathon on October 12th with my mother-in-law. I had been training all summer and still felt completely unprepared. In early summer I had scoured the internet looking for half marathon training programs and found one where you ran three times a week gradually working up so my longest run was 10 miles the week before the half. I had absolutely no idea if I was capable of running 13.1 miles at one time but I decided to give it a try anyways (and the race registration and plane tickets were already purchased so there was really no going back). Training was tough. Especially when the weekly runs got longer and longer and it was tough to balance running with the rest of life and the days were starting to get shorter as I transitioned in to my longer runs so I wasn’t able to get up early and run before work so I found myself putting in long runs after a full day of work which never felt especially great. Along the way I also started have pretty severe pain in my right foot and started seeing a podiatrist. I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and told not to run for several weeks so the inflammation and swelling could go down. That is not realistic when you are on a tight training schedule so I learned how to deal with the pain through ice, foam rollers, and pain relievers and to tell you the truth my foot felt best when I was running – it was after the run I limped around for a little while.

The Lucy Town Finisher Medal.

The Lucy Town Finisher Medal I was running for.

Back to the half wrap-up again…the morning of the half was FREEZING!! I had looked at the weather when I was packing for Pennsylvania and thought I had packed appropriately.   One thing I had forgotten about the East Coast is how cold it can get on fall mornings. When I woke up I think it was right around 32 degrees and all I had in my suitcase was a short sleeve shirt and a running skirt. I knew once I started running I would be fine but waiting for the run to start was a bit chilly. Sometimes I forget how spoiled I am with my Colorado weather and this morning was a definite reminder of this. The run started promptly at 9:00 a.m. and within the first half mile we were running up a giant hill. I was feeling strong but was really worried about pacing myself so I didn’t get tired or sore later in the race. Throughout my training I had been doing a 4:1 run/walk plan. I would run for four minutes and do a quick one-minute recovery. It really helped my legs feel fresh on my longer runs and I had ever intention of doing this plan through the whole half. The problem is when you start and are running in a big pack of people you don’t want to take a walk break after just four minutes of running because you feel like a loser and like you are losing momentum. Lesson #1 – don’t worry about everyone else or looking like a loser. I ended up running the first three miles continuously ignoring my 4:1 plan and I really think it is why the last three miles sucked so much. After mile three I started with my original run/walk plan and was feeling really strong. I was stopping at every water station and alternated between water and Gatorade and was feeling great. The race was absolutely beautiful and weaved through Jamestown, Busti, and Lakewood, New York right along the shores of Lake Chautauqua. I could stare out at the lake and just look at all the cute houses along the way (my favorite running past time is checking out houses for sale along my routes). For the first nine miles I was really enjoying the race experience and keep thinking I totally have this, no problem. I wasn’t the fastest runner but I wasn’t the slowest and I was just enjoying myself. Then I hit mile 10 and everything started to suck! I thought I was going to die. Everything hurt. Places that had never hurt on a run before hurt. I was having back pain, my knees were killing me, and my foot felt like it was on fire. I had to push really hard to run for the entire four minutes before my one minute walking break. Sometimes I couldn’t make it the entire four minutes so my walking breaks became longer and longer. I was starting to feel defeated but I did know I was going to be able to finish even if I had to walk to final miles. I kept pushing through telling myself to run a little longer each interval and also telling myself the more I run the faster I will be done. When my iPhone told me there was just a half-mile to go I was ELATED and then I saw the hill standing between me and the finish line. When we were running down the hill at the beginning of the race it seemed great – looking back up at it after you’ve already run 12.75 miles was a completely different story. It seemed huge and never-ending. But, I powered through with a little more walking then running and I was to the home stretch. I could actually see the finish line and knew that I was going to finish the race. What a great feeling, I was really going to accomplish this goal I had been working months on but the end of the race was surprisingly anti-climatic. When I finished my first 5k I almost broke down in tears and was expecting the same with the half but all I really felt as I passed the finish line was relief. I had actually made it and didn’t die of an undetected heart problem.

Coming across the finish line!

Coming across the finish line!

I guess it’s important to add what a whirlwind of a weekend this was. I flew in on a Friday at 3:30 p.m. and flew out on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. I was in town for exactly 48 hours before heading back to Colorado. In that time frame I had great family time, great food and even got to go to my high school’s homecoming football game. But, through my whole race I was nervous about missing my flight or not being able to shower before my flight so I was so consumed with all those details I think it took a little away from the entire race experience. It was still great and I wouldn’t have changed anything but I think that is one of the reasons for the feelings (or lack of feelings) at the end of the race.

I am beyond proud of myself for finishing my half. I didn’t finish in the goal time I had in my head, but I finished and I am proud of myself for that. I also learned I am not a particularly serious competitor because I stopped along the way to pet some dogs and talk to the people handing out drinks. As I was finishing up my training in Colorado before heading to New York for the half I had mentioned to my husband that training for this half was really the first time I had planned out a training plan and achieved the goal I set for myself and it made me pretty proud of myself. Finally finishing the actual race just reiterated those feelings of pride and helped me believe I could pretty much do anything I set my mind to.

So many people have said that as soon as your finish your first half you are already planning for your second, I’m not quite there yet. I want to race again but have been thinking about dropping back to the 5k or 10k for a little while. But, there is something in the back of my head that makes me think a 5k isn’t a real distance anymore. But, then there is something else in my head that is telling me to start training to improve my time in the 5k and 10k and then do another half marathon in 6-12 months. Only time will tell I suppose. I do know I need to get something on the books so I have a goal to be working towards. Without having a race or a goal that I am working towards my motivation is complete lost.

Quick update on my foot – after finally taking the doctors advice and not running since the half and my foot still hurts like hell, so today it was back to running – it’s going to hurt one way or another so I mine as well make myself happy. Plus, I feel like an unstable nutcase when I’m not running regularly. I had no idea what running had meant to me until I wasn’t doing it for a couple of weeks. Running centered my and made everything in life seem so manageable. No matter how hard the day or what was going on in my life I could put on my shoes, turn up the music and just escape for a little while. By the time I got home it was like I was a different person – calm, cool, and collected and ready to face the next challenge of life.

For the month of November I am challenging myself to run at least one mile a day. Some days will be quick mile runs on the treadmill, while other days will be longer runs outside but it will give me a goal to work towards until I set my next big running goal.

Mount Bierstadt

At the start of the summer I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish.  As the end of the summer nears I realize I haven’t done too much on my list.  One of my main goals was climbing Longs Peak.  But, because of getting a shot in my foot for plantar fascittis just a day before our planned trip the trip was put on hold indefinitely.  But, instead of looking back I what I didn’t accomplish this summer I want to look at what I did accomplish.  I did get to climb at least one 14’er this summer and even though the snow is starting to fly in the high country I hope to get one more in before the end of the year. 

IMG_1189So, without any further delay I present Mount Bierstadt.  Bright and early on July 5th we left Denver and made the trek up 1-70 to Guanella Pass before the parking lot filled up.  With a short (but extremely entertaining) stop at McDonald’s in Idaho Springs to fuel for the hike, we were on our way.  We started at 11,699 feet and header the 7 miles towards 14,060 feet before 7:00 a.m. just as the sun was just starting to shine over the mountains. 

The first mile is a slight downslope and it was a great way to get used to the elevation.  It had been a long time since I had really been at elevation.  We came to a stream bulging at its banks with fresh snow melt and had to wade across.  Luckily for me a friendly stranger offered me their hiking pole so only one foot would end up soaking wet.  Even better it wasn’t the foot wrapped to protect my plantar fascittis.  Once we crossed the stream it was up, up, and up.  IMG_1203

It had been just a little over a year since I hiked my last 14er and have been running a lot and could definitely tell the difference.  While it wasn’t a piece of cake it was definitely a lot easier then previous 14ers. 

We climbed up higher and higher and could see our destination in the distance.  There is something wonderful and awful about being able to see the top of the peak while you are hiking.  There are times when it seems so close and you think “I can do this” and then you slip in to a feeling of despair as it seems to get further and further away.  I do prefer this type of mountain compared to the ones you never see.  With those you just keep going over new ridges hoping the next one is the one that will lead to the top. 

IMG_1190The mountain was busy and as we looked back we could see more and more people headed up the mountain like ants on their way to a picnic.  Some people looked very prepared for the journey while others just made you ask yourself what they were thinking when they were getting ready for their hike.  For the first half of the hike the trail is very clear but once you get higher the trail becomes less obvious and you have to keep your eyes open for the cairns pointing hikers in the right direction. 

As we got about 250′ from the summit the trail is just piles of boulders that you need to scramble over  to make it to the top.  After the successful scramble you reach the top and can look out and see for what seems like forever. 

IMG_1195

There are very few things more satisfying then reaching the top of a 14’er.  The sense of accomplishment is amazing and as you look our over all the mountains you know that you are in the minority.  Not everyone will hike to over 14,000 feet.  Not everyone will see this amazing sight and it’s something special you can cherish forever. 

 

Looking Back….Looking Forward

It’s been over six months since I set my goals for January-June. So here is a short recap and an update on some new goals for the rest of the year.

  • Continue to run.  January:  Polar Prowl 5k, February: Loveland Sweetheart Classic 4 mile, March: Running of the Green 4K, April: Beat the Heat 10K, May: Colfax Half Marathon  Pretty much accomplished. I ended up taking the entire month of April off for injury and spent time in physical therapy, which turned out to make my plantar fasciitis worse. By the end of May I was in some pretty incredible pain and finally went to an orthopedic doctor and got diagnosed and set-up with a treatment plan which to my relief involves me continuing to run. I did however run the Bolder Boulder 10k in May and it was AMAZING!! I really didn’t think I could do it but I did I am have to say I am pretty proud of myself.
  • Lose 10% of my weight by May 31, 2014.  Work in Progress.  I am just short of this goal but I am back on the wagon and working hard to achieve this goal.
  • Blog regularly – once a week minimum.  FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!   Enough said.
  • Hike a 14′er.  Still Work in Progress. We are deciding on our mountains for the summer and waiting for the perfect conditions – I am not a fan of hiking through snow so I think I’ll wait until it melts.
  • Go ice climbing.  FAIL! We did not go ice climbing this season.  Something to work for next year when the ice returns.
  • My more adventurous – try new foods, say yes instead of no, and try new things.  Accomplishing.  Continuing to try new foods, more beer, and just new adventures in general.  
  • Be more grateful for all the good things in my life.  Accomplishing. I really feel that I am accomplishing this goal. I appreciate the little things like a walk on a beautiful day, how blue the sky is, how lucky I am to live in such an amazing place, and having a supportive family I can always count on.

And now for my goals for the remainder of 2014:

  • My biggest goal for the rest of 2014 is running my first half marathon. I will be running the Lucy Town Half Marathon in Jamestown, New York in October with my mother-in-law. Yes, my plan is to train at altitude so I can race past all the flatlanders :-)  Just kidding!! I am hoping it gives me enough advantage so I can at least finish though! I am really excited and have started a more serious training program so that I am ready. I have also been focusing on getting my plantar fasciitis to calm down so I don’t have any more down time in my training.
  • I am running the Estes Park Marathon 5k on Sunday, June 22nd with my husband and am so excited to be running such a beautiful course but a little concerned about the 7,000+ foot elevation.
  • I have a really boring work goal to finish my National Resume Writer’s Association certification by the end of 2014 and will be presenting at their conference in September 2014, which I am equally excited and terrified about.
  • Try new recipes and cook at home more. In the past couple of months I have tried a couple new recipes that were well received by the family (Dutch Babies, Sweet & Sour Chicken and fried rice, and scallops and homemade fettuccine alfredo) – so I am going to continue to build my new recipe repertoire.
  • And as always – try to blog more. It seems to be the goal that I never achieve, but I will continue to try. With all the good intentions in the world I get sucked in another episode of Orange is the New Black and it’s all over!

What are your goals for the second half of 2014?

Looking-back-150x150

I’m a Crazy Dog Mom

I have a confession – I am a freakishly overprotective dog mom. I worry about my dogs like they are my children and I am pretty sure I have ruined them for life.

This beautiful Colorado weekend we decided to take our two dogs to Chatfield Reservoir to the dog park so we could all enjoy the beautiful weather together. I want to start by saying this is one of the best dog parks I’ve been to. There are two huge ponds for the dogs to play in and since we have a golden retriever who was bred to retrieve things from the water this is the best place on the planet for him. He would play fetch with a tennis ball in the pond all day if we would let him. We started by walking the perimeter of the pond with Nittany and Paterno running in and out of the pond. Nittany was especially grumpy and was begrudgingly playing in the pond but mostly running around bullying other dogs. She would run up to other dogs and bark and growl and then just walk away. She is not a mean dog and has never been aggressive to another dog but she can be pretty intimidating looking and she knows it. So, my inner dog mom starts freaking out about Nittany not being able to play well with others and I started asking myself “Why can’t my dog be friendly and well adjusted? She’s not going to have any friends acting like this! What could I have done differently to make her nicer?!” At this point I have my eagle eyes on Nittany and am not letting her out of my sight in fear that she is going to try to intimidate the wrong dog and someone is going to take her out.photo 1

  This is Nittany – She’s a Bully

Fast Forward…We come almost full circle around the pond and Paterno found a ball so we could really get serious about playing fetch in the water. My husband would throw the ball to the middle of the pond and Paterno would excitedly swim out to get it and bring it back. This went on for quite awhile until I noticed that when Paterno brought the ball to us his nose was completely crooked. It was so weird looking – like he had broken his cute little nose. He wasn’t bothered by it at all and would just whimper for us to throw the ball back in the pond. We let him go back in one more time before I really started to freak out about the crooked nose and announced we were packing up and going home. I kept looking at his nose and again the crazy inner dog mom came out and I started thinking “we have to get him to the emergency vet immediately! and how is he going to breathe with this crooked nose?” I was nervous putting him in the back of the truck for the 30-minute drive home expecting the worse when we finally got home. We pull in to our driveway and open the tailgate and he begs to be lifted out so I pick him up and look straight in to his face and his nose is completely straight again. All that worrying (and Googling) for nothing! I had whipped myself up in to a frenzy over his nose and it turned out just to be some weird thing that fixed itself.

photo 2

This is Paterno – He’s a Klutz!

So here I am with my bully dog and my accident-prone dog and I am so grateful that they are dogs and they probably won’t end up in counseling one day talking about how much I screwed them up. It’s days like this I realize that we have made the right decision in sticking with fur children.

Are you an overprotective pet parent?  What’s the craziest thing you’ve done?

Unsuccessfully Dealing With An Injury

Today I was (really still am) in a foul mood.  I woke up pissed and that has pretty much been my attitude all day.  At first I had no idea what was causing my extremely bad mood and thought a bike ride around a local lake would improve the situation – a little fresh air and exercise are usually a sure bet to beating the blahs but today’s bike ride was completely the opposite.  I got home feeling more glum and down in the dumps than before I went.

Last weekend I ran a 5k on Saturday and was scheduled for 4.5 mile run on Sunday.  During the 5k I had a little twinge of pain in my right knee but nothing I couldn’t deal with.   I finished the race and went along with my day – there was a free beer token I needed to redeem!  Sunday I got up and threw on my running gear and headed out and about ½ mile in my knee hurt so badly I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it home.  When I ran I had a sharp pain in my right knee that made me want to throw up or cry (actually a little of both).  I would stop running and the pain was gone.  I walked a little ways and would start running and the pain was right back.  I made it the 2.5 mile loop home with a combination of running and walking (mainly walking) and got home feeling pretty helpless and hopeless.  To top it off I have been having this weird pain in my heel – it just felt like it was bruised and walking barefoot (my preferred footwear) was pretty much execrating.

I went to the doctor on Tuesday to find out what was going on and they said I had a tear in my meniscus and a heel spur.  This diagnoses was made by a nurse practitioner with no MRI or x-ray and I was given the number to some local physical therapists (none of which take my insurance).  I made an appointment and met with my physical therapist for the first time on Thursday.  They poked and prodded and finally came up with a new (less scary) diagnoses.  The heel pain was bursitis and the knee pain was being caused by a weak quad on my right leg that was letting my knee move all over the place when I run.  She seemed positive that both issues could be easily fixed with some physical therapy and I would be able to train and run the Bolder Boulder in May.  We went over some strength training exercises for my quads and calves and everything was looking good until she said the dreaded words “oh, and by the way, no running for a minimum of two weeks.”  My heart sank – I was hoping for a magical pill I could take and be back to running later than day. (Have I mentioned how beautiful it is in Colorado right now and how I know longer have to bundle up with a million layers when I got out to run?)  She continued the list of the things I wasn’t able to do and it was pretty much all the things I thought about doing when she told me I couldn’t run – no elliptical, no rollerblading, no skiing, no stairclimber…I was allowed to bicycle and swim.  Seeing as I am unable to swim because I do not float, bicycling it was.  I’ve been doing my exhausting strength training exercises religiously and today dusted off the bike and headed out for a ride and that lead me to our local lake.

I got on my cruiser bike hoping for the joyful feeling I usually get when riding my cruiser bike and immediately saw all the people running and jogging and rollerblading around the lake and I wanted to be doing that – I didn’t want to be riding my stupid bike.  Riding my bike was not preparing me for a race and it felt completely useless.

So, here I am back at home feeling as rotten as I did this morning, making life for those around my pretty unbearable, trying to figure out how to get out of this slump.  I know that runners get injuries.  I just thought I wasn’t going to be one of those people.  I started running as a much higher weight than I am right now and figured that losing weight and getting healthier would lead me further from the possibility of injury.  I understand the process of injury recovery – slow down and rehab and you’ll come back stronger – but knowing that isn’t much comfort when I’m living it right now and all I want to do it run.

This new feeling surprises me for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I don’t think I knew how much I needed running.  Yes it keeps me healthy and I am training for a specific goal but I need it emotionally too.  I need to run to stay balanced in all aspects of my life.  I feel happier and more centered when I start my day with a run. Also, it reminds me of how far I’ve come as a runner.  If I would have gotten an injury in the first month that I started running I would have thrown in the towel and just given up, but now the running is so ingrained in who I am I can’t imagine the thought of stopping and can only focus on what I need to get back to it as soon as possible.

pain-with-knee-saturation

How do you deal with injury and will this feeling of helplessness get better?