Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kitchen Complete

Well, it's been 3 months.  The kitchen renovation is officially complete.  This is not to say that there isn't still more that we would like to do (window coverings, range hood cover, hanging some artwork, running a gas line to the house and getting a gas stove for example), but we have completed what we had originally scoped, way back in June.

Without further ado, here are the before (~March) and afters (this morning).

Looking toward living room, kitchen to the right

Looking toward kitchen, door to porch on right

View of kitchen from the dining room, door to porch on right
From hall, looking through kitchen into dining

From end of kitchen (we took out the hall),  looking through to dining

Old fridge, on wall between kitchen and dining, now peninsula

Dining room from the kitchen, living room to the right (please ignore the trash in the corner).  Peninsula on left is where the old fridge used to be
Kitchen sink and window
Kitchen sink (same window) and new slider door to the porch on right, more peninsula

Old stove on wall between kitchen and powder room

Stove rotated to exterior wall, interior wall to hall removed

Wall between kitchen and living

Wall between the kitchen and living today

We've learned a lot through this renovation.  I think just about every contractor had to come back at some point to fix something or because we changed our minds about what we wanted.  I think that mostly comes with us wanting things done right, but this being our first kitchen, we weren't quite sure what right was.  When we are ready for phase 2 (the upstairs bathroom), we'll have all of the design decisions made (and purchased and delivered) before we start tearing things out.  A lot of our time was hurry up to wait time, for cabinets, for tile, for light fixtures.  I know there will still be surprises cause there always will be, but I'd like to have fewer non-workdays in the process.  

The other thing I would do is have the GC manage all of the subs.  We ended up hiring painters for the trim and the living room and hallway after we did the painting upstairs and learned that we just weren't very good at it.  But having us managing painters and countertops guy while the GC managed electricians and plumbers just led to headaches, and I don't think saved us any money in the end.  One maestro is what is needed.  

Finally, if we had the kitchen to design again, I think I'd choose more cabinets with pull out drawers.  We opted for drawers in general, because everything we read talked about how they're easier to use, since you can pull them out and actually see what's inside and because cabinet doors can knock into interior drawers when they're open.  But you lose a lot of volume for the framing for the drawers (i.e., the height of an object that can fit in a drawer is about an inch shorter than the actual face of the drawer).  We actually don't have a ton of under counter storage with stove, dishwasher, and trash all taking up a bunch, losing volume, particularly where we chose 4 drawer stacks has made it harder to find space for big pots.

Those lessons aside, I'm so in love with our kitchen and our little Walter (the house).  It's a pretty drastic transformation and the house really feels like ours.   

Monday, August 19, 2013

An Off-Season

Friday was supposed to be the post about my race plan for the Timberman sprint.  Unfortunately, it didn't happen.  The combination of some health problems and the new house has been too much for this triathlon season.

The house is really coming along, but it still seems to take up every spare moment of time and attention. It feels a bit like planning a wedding:  there are so many tiny detailed decisions to pore over and each one feels incredibly important.  Is that drawer pull a bit too dainty in it's curvature?  But with the wedding, I could sorta write it off and try to take the pressure off by thinking "I probably won't remember this tiny detail a year from now."  But with the house, that detail will be staring me in the face for many years to come.  Then again, I almost never am bothered by imperfections in my rental kitchen, but of course, I didn't make the decisions there.  Yes, these are first world problems, but you know what, I live in the first world.

What all have we done?  Paul and a friend demoed the kitchen and dining room, found old wall paper, a little mold, and plenty of ants.  They also took out a few non-load bearing walls, making our kitchen and dining room one large open space.  Then the pros came in.  They've upgraded the electrical services, took out a whole house trap, rewired the kitchen with lights and grounded outlets, refinished the walls where we took them down.  We've painted some upstairs and some down, with more to come.

The kitchen when we bought the house, seen from the hallway, looking through into the dining room

Roughly the same view after Paul completed demo

Framing removed, new blue board in place, new sliding doors

Basically where we are now: cabinetry in, new flooring, awaiting counter tops, appliances and backsplash

We've been moving things over to the new house a bit at a time with a truck borrowed from a friend and a couple of friends who were packing power-houses two weekends ago.  Last weekend we moved the heavy stuff, and as soon as the floors are done being refinished, we'll actually move in!

So, no more triathlons this season.  I still have the Philly Marathon that I'm already signed up for in November.  That's my next goal, you know, after choosing drawer pulls

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Couldn't have happened in a better race

It was bound to happen some time, but Sunday was the first race I've ever flatted in, in eight years of racing.  Not bad odds, really.

I went into this race with no expectations.  It's my first tri of a season that just isn't as tri-focused as years past.  With new home ownership taking up a significant portion of our attention and finances, it's fun to get out there to race, but it's not the priority it has been in years past.  I could race on auto-pilot.  No excessive list making to ensure that I have all my gear.  No pre-race visualization.  I've done this race for the last 4 years.  I know it pretty well.  And I wasn't going to red line it.  I was a little worried going into the race that it would affect my enjoyment, that without indulging my instinct to inspect every calf for an AG on the run, that it would feel more like training than a race.  Fear not, racing is fun regardless of your goals.

I was a little late for the start.  I'd filed into the water with my AG, but I expected a warning from the race officials, instead I just got the start horn.  Oh, crap, time to put on my goggles. I hadn't jockeyed for position on the line, so I had a few people to swim through to get to a good spot.  I found some feet about a third of the way through that I hung onto for a bit, til it seemed she wasn't spotting well, then I just made my way home.  I swam about a minute and a half slower than last year.  But then again, I hadn't even checked my results from last year before the race, so I was happy with just feeling good.  And 6th place out of 35 ain't bad.

Time: 26:09 (1:44 pace)
AG: 6 / 35

Confession:  I did not do any transition practice before this race.  In fact, I even considered wearing my bike shoes to the mount line.  I know!  Setting up my transition, I figured there's no point in going backwards, and I clipped my shoes in.  Despite the lack of practice, I mounted the bike just fine, and I got a good 30 or so feet when I knew something was not right with my bike. Something was rubbing.  I pulled off.  Yep, flat back tire. It must have exploded in the hot sun during the swim. I could see transition from where I'd stopped. I knew I could take the bike back to the mechanic there and get him or her to change the tire for me, but I also had what I needed to change  it myself.  The only real trouble was that I couldn't turn my bike upside down because all of the water would drain out of my speedfil. Definitely not desirable on a hot day. So bike balanced precariously on my hip, while I pulled out the old tube, replaced it, tucked the tire back into the wheel. Then, moment of truth, I took out my CO2 cartridge and screwed it into the valve. Confession 2: I don't think I've ever used this valve before. I've used other CO2 valves, but this one was untested. And it failed. As soon as I screwed it in, CO2 was spewing through it. I tried to adjust the lever, but it just broke off. Hmmf. That was my only canister and my only valve. So I made the walk back to transition, wheel in one hand, saddle in other, still barefoot.

The first volunteer I encountered gave me a dumbfounded stare when I asked if she could help me find a pump. The second pointed me to the mechanic's tent, which was vacant, including all gear. I asked some people in the coaching tent next to me, but no love. Then I saw a guy pumping up mountain bike tires in the main tent. I dropped my bike (chain in the dirt, eek!) and ran in to get some air. Ok:  gear on bike, wheel on frame, Laura on bike, time to ride. My garmin indicated that the whole thing had only taken 4 minutes. This seemed incredibly fast, but who am I to question garmin?  Not until after the race did I realize that garmin was set to auto-pause on the ride, so when it detected that I wasn't moving, it stopped keeping track of the time. I had actually spent almost 15 minutes changing that tire. I will not be seeking employment at le Tour.

By the time I got back on the bike, all of my advantage from the swim was spent. I was in 35th place in my age group, out of 35. And that was awesome! I got to let my competitive juices flow, catching girls in my age group, but I could stay out of the red zone while doing it. Best unintentional result of a flat, EVER! I passed 19 girls in my age group, which meant I started the run in 16th place.

Time: 1:23:03 (or 1:08:23 without the pitstop - 19.3 mph)
AG Rank: 24 / 35 (or 6 / 35 without the pitstop)

Goal here was to start moderately hard, then stay moderately hard through the middle and in the final kick, put in a moderately hard effort. That's exactly what I did. I focused on cadence, I walked through water stops, and I slowly picked people off as they burnt out through the back half of the run. Nice and steady, and I picked up two more girls in my age group.

Time: 53:33 (8:38 pace)
AG Rank: 11 / 35

Overall, I came in 14th in my AG with a total time of 2:45:18. Had I not had the flat, I would have come in 9th. A little slower than last year in all regards, but still an excellent race.

Odds and ends:

  • There were a TON of flat tires out on the course.  I was very lucky that I didn't get a second one out there since I was riding without a spare
  • This race nearly doubled in size this year (perhaps because of its designation as the regional qualifier).  My age group went from 16 last year to 35 this year, and there were some very fast ladies in that addition.  Last year's time would have only been good enough for 7th this year, not 3rd.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

We bought a house!

It's finally official.  We signed and initialled hundreds of papers this morning and after a few hiccups (like the bank leaving a 1 off our form and asking us for a MUCH larger deposit than we'd agreed to), everything seems to be in order.

We are home owners of a small 3 bed/1.5 bath in Belmont.  The property is near the elementary school, and is a 20-minute bus to Harvard Square or a 10-minute walk to the commuter rail in the town center.

First order of business: new kitchen.  We ordered the cabinets today, and we start demoing this weekend.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

It's not about the run

Here's the thing.  On paper, last weekend sounds like it would have been hell:  driving to and from West Virginia, running 21 muddy miles in the fog, camping in the wet with probably 3 dry sleeping bags between the 8 of us, losing the 3 toenails I had loosened at the Marathon in DC, one of our runners spraining a toe and the organizers running out of everything from coffee and hot chocolate to toilet paper.  But the reality was a truly fabulous weekend

Last weekend, I did my first Ragnar Relay.  This was no ordinary Ragnar though, this was a trail ragnar in rural WV.  Unlike the road Ragnars which are point to point, this race centered at the campground, with 3 loops (3.6, 6.2, 6.0), and we each took turns running different legs.

Months ago when we signed up this sounded fantastic, but the weather had other ideas.  It was wet when we got in on Thursday night (after 10 hours of driving), and then it rained more, and then it rained again.  And then the fog rolled in.

Our first runner P, before it started to really rain , note the ground

Our second runner L, before the fog rolled in

By the time I made it out on the run (as the 5th runner), the trails were a mess.  Two different kinds of mud:  sticky and slippery.  Usually the slippery was darker than the sticky, but sometimes, the sticky was hiding under the slippery.  6.2 miles and I averaged 11:40 per mile.  It was tough going.  A little more Any trail running may have been good.  But it was also gorgeous.  When I got back, it was starting to get dark, my shoes were soaked, and I was ready for dinner.

The darker it got, the foggier.  Headlamps only made it worse:  they just lit up the fog in front of your eyes.  Runners started carrying their headlamps in their hands.  Our team opted to have two runners on the trail together and to slow down, like many other teams.  After the first rotation through all 8 runners, we were hours behind where we had estimated (we had estimated about a minute slower per mile than our road 10K times, so maybe we were a little overzealous).

Pretty much captures the whole event, so many muddy sneakers steaming dry by the fire

In the morning the organizers announced that we could get credit for multiple team members running legs together.  We did some quick math and figured we could finish up a little early and get on the road back to New England that day.  It also meant, I would run the 6.0 leg twice with two different teammates.  This was the highlight of the trip for me.  After the first loop, the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me, I napped for about 45 minutes, then went back out again.  On the second loop, we caught 22 people, and the fog had finally cleared, so the breathtaking view of the area which had been obscured throughout the rest of the race was finally visible.  It was spectacular.

And that's what made the weekend so great:  just fun people.  Singing at the tops of our lungs along to 80s karaoke in the car, and It'smaking friendship bracelets.

I'd love to do another one of these (though maybe without the drive to WV).  I think the best thing I did in packing was to individually ziplock bag clothes for each of my runs.  I could stash the bag for the next run in the transition area and put on dry clothes on as soon as I returned from the first run.  Also while everything else in my bag got damp, my run clothes were dry when I put them on at least.  Things I wish I had brought:  galoshes.

All done!!!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

As expected

Not quite a PR, but geez it was hot.  The first mile felt good, I even held my pace and HR.  Then the second mile happened.  No point in looking at my pace, the rest of the race was guided by HR.

Most because it's been several years since I did a stand-alone 10K, I did actually set a PR.  Still a few more minutes to trim to be a true PR.

This weekend though, instead of PR-ing, I'll be running a trail relay, in the rain, in West Virginia.  Bring on the mud!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Reflecting the Conditions

It's race season again.

Sunday morning, I'll run my first stand alone 10K since April 2012.  And really the first one I've raced since 2008.  My current PR for a 10K was set at Age Group Nationals last year, where I ran a 46:46.  I've been thinking I should improve upon that this weekend, but doubts are creeping in.

I was putting away laundry last night and paired a set of running gloves.  That means some time in the last week and half, I ran in temps under 50.  Today the max was 93.  Sunday at 8am, it's supposed to be 72 degrees and 81% humidity.  Acclimatization will be an issue.

Then there's the course.  This is by no means a flat course, or even AGN with its steep but short hill, then slow decline for 5 miles.  This is a steady 4 mile climb.

Finally, there's a feeling that having spent most of my off season working on distance, that my speed may have suffered.

Then there's just the general level of distraction going into this race season.  For the last two years, I've had Age Group Nationals as the cornerstone of my season.  All races, every mile trained, led to Nationals.  At the end of the 2010 season, I knew I was going to Nationals 2011, and I knew I would want to go back to improve upon them in 2012.  I also knew that in 2013 Nationals would leave New England.  I could go back this year, but my desire to travel by plane for a race is negative.  Without this season anchor, tri season feels a little adrift.

I had planned the Newfound Lake Triathlon for this weekend, but it was cancelled.  I had planned the New Englad Trifest for the end of June, but had to cancel because of our honeymoon, which we in turn postponed because of work and buying a house.  A yes, there's also that.  In July, we'll become home owners.  After just over a year of searching and seven (yes, 7) offers, we are closing on a house in Belmont, just 4 days before my first tri of the season.  I have just 3 triathlons planned for this season.  I've tried to offset that with races like this 10K and a Trail Ragnar in West Virginia, the types of races I usually can't allow myself to do because of my triathlon goals.  And I am excited, especially for Ragnar, but it's just not the same as that goal that you build to for a year.

Where does that leave me on Sunday morning?  Newton. Running a 10K.  Trying my darndest to hold 7:20s.  And remembering that my performance is reflecting the conditions of the race and of my life, not of my effort or preparation.

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