Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Troika Sprint Triathlon

Last weekend, I made the last-minute decision to register for the local Troika sprint triathlon, signing up the day before the race. I have only done a sprint triathlon once before, and it was about eight years ago, with absolutely no running or swimming prior to the event. I do not recommend that method of race prep. The sprint distance is tough for me because I am not the strongest swimmer, but I figured this local race would be good race experience for me since I am still so new to triathlon.

By the time I arrived at the race venue, most of the bike racks were already full. This left me with the second-to-last rack, which was quite a distance from the entrances/exits to the transition area. Perhaps that's why people arrive so early to triathlons!

Starting the swim, it was weird to think of just how short the swim would be, and that portion of the race went by very quickly. I was a couple minutes back from the first woman after the swim.

I made the long run out of the transition area with my bike, and quickly settled into the bike. I found myself catching several women, until I was the first woman on the course. 
As I racked my bike and left the transition area on foot, I could see another woman heading in from the bike. Her racking position was better than mine, but I tried not to worry about that and just began running. I felt decent on the run, but looked back once and could see someone coming up on me. I knew I could only do what I could do, so just kept running. Around two miles into the run, the other woman caught me, and I could not do the pace she was running. It was a bummer, but I still had a decent run and finished 2nd overall in a distance that is not my strong suit.

Onion Man Triathlon

Two weekends ago, I raced in the Onion Man Triathlon in Walla Walla. This was the first triathlon I did when I started doing triathlons two years ago. I was happy to see that the weather was much better this time than it was the last. The race started with the 1500m swim. I made an effort to start more quickly than I have in the past, and I did a decent job of keeping a steady pace. I swam considerably faster than I did earlier this year at Dunes City, so that was positive. I was still a bit behind coming out of the water.

Coming out of the water, I was excited to start the bike portion of the course. I had done much of the course before (the course was changed the morning of the race, due to a car accident), as it is one of the TT courses used for the Tour of Walla Walla. I settled into the bike pretty quickly, and caught a large number of people. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch two of the ladies ahead of me, as they were too far ahead after the swim, and were also good cyclists. Though my bike was good, it was definitely not my best ride. With less than 1000 miles in my legs, I cannot complain too much.

As I headed into the run, I could tell my legs just didn't feel up to par. I ran the best pace I could for the day, which left me in 4th place overall, and 3rd in my age group.

Friday, May 16, 2014

First Triathlon in Two Years - Dunes City Triathlon

After a long hiatus from the blogging and racing worlds, it only seems appropriate that I write a blog post as I re-enter the world of racing. Following leg surgery, six+ months of physical therapy, a long period of no running and 30-minute bike rides, I am finally back to riding and running regularly. I will be mixing it up this year, participating in some running races, some triathlons, and some bike races.

My triathlon season began last weekend with the Dunes City Triathlon near Florence, Oregon. Seeing that this was my first triathlon in nearly two years, I had no great expectations. As a bonus, this race gave us a reason to travel to the Oregon coast for a short weekend vacation! The race began with periodic heavy downpours, and the lake temperature was a cool 59 degrees. Putting on my wetsuit for the first time in two years and jumping into a cold lake with a group of strangers, I couldn't help but feel a bit claustrophobic and nervous. Starting in the middle of the group, I quickly was kicked in the face, which knocked me off my game for a bit. My swim was considerably slower than I had hoped, which I think was largely due to how long it took me to relax in the water. Toward the end of the two-lap swim, I was feeling pretty comfortable and relaxed, but I had already lost a great deal of time by that point. Coming out of the water, I was 6 or 7 minutes behind the lead woman.

I was excited to head onto the bike leg of the race, as that is my largest comfort zone. While we had been swimming, a rain shower had come, leaving all of my gear soaked in the transition area. As I attempted to get on my bike, one of my already-clipped-in shoes flew off the pedal, leaving me with a less than stellar transition onto the bike. Within a mile or two of the start of the bike, I heard my rear brake rubbing. I stopped to check it, but really could not see anything. Likely, the 20-year-old disc I was using was rubbing when I stood out of the saddle. Back on the bike, I started to feel like I was finally in a steady rhythm. With 1700 feet of climbing, the bike course had a considerable amount of elevation gain for an Olympic triathlon. A huge downpour hit me as I climbed the final (and largest) hill before the turn-around. Descending back down, my glove-free hands were frozen! Thankfully, they quickly warmed up after the descent.

Entering the run, Ted had counted me as in 6th place for the women. I was able to get in a running groove relatively quickly, and found myself catching people. The run course was primarily on trails through the woods, making for an interesting run. Around mile 5, I caught the girl who was in 2nd place, and Ted told me I was gaining on the girl in first place. I ran at a steady pace, but my deficit had been too large. I finished about 1.5 minutes behind the first place woman overall, and I was first in my age group. Given my slow swim and mediocre bike, I cannot complain about how the race finished for me. The courses were nice. All that could have been improved was the weather! We had a great next day in Oregon, relaxing at our vacation cottage two blocks from the beach.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I began running last winter, starting with 10 minutes. After years with a serious back injury, I hesitated to get my hopes up that I would ever truly be able to run the way I would want to run. To my surprise, I seemed to respond fairly well to running, and very gradually increased my running time. I was thrilled, and terrified, the first time I ran 5 miles.

As I appeared to respond OK to running, I pondered the idea of doing some triathlons, and began hitting the pool. For the first time in years, bike racing took a back seat... and I simultaneously had one of my biggest bike racing wins. My brother told me this was because I was riding my bike purely for the fun of it, rather than for any particular goal... and without any stress or pressure. I gradually increased my running distance, getting up to half-marathon distance. I began to suffer from aches and pains:  piriformis problems, sore hips, IT Band Syndrome, black toenails, abdominal pain, and top-of-foot soreness. Everyone told me this was due to my body adjusting to running, as I had never been a runner before. "Running hurts," was a common quote.

Several weeks ago, following my last bike race of the season, I began training for the Portland Marathon. Ted, Rusty, and I have planned to run the race together, and our whole families have planned to travel to Portland to watch and cheer. I was feeling good, though plagued with a steady stream of running-related injuries. My times were improving and I was loving running. Three weeks ago, I began having trouble with my right knee and IT band, which hindered my running for a week or two. I rolled out, iced, and stretched religiously, and the symptoms began to dissipate.

Two weeks ago, I set out to do an interval session (my 2nd running interval session ever) and I was very concerned that my right knee would cause me problems. I was thrilled that my knee was seemingly OK, but I felt a new ache on the outside of my lower left leg, about 4-5 inches above my ankle. I pushed through my interval session, feeling fairly good about my effort and chalking up the new ache to a typical running pain.

The following day, I set out for a long run with Ted. I felt good and was loving running. I had the desire to run and run, but smartly stopped after 10 miles... at Ted's urging. My right knee had not caused any real trouble, but the ache in my left leg was steadily present. I told myself I would take a day or two off and I would feel better.

Two days later, I set out for a very easy 6 mile run. I turned out of the driveway and was alarmed at the sharp pain in my left leg. I decided to jog for a bit, with hopes that it would feel better. It did not feel better. After 3 miles, I was done.

The following night I registered for the first race of a local 5 km race series. Due to arriving late, we had literally no time for a warm-up. My competitive juices started flowing as soon as the I crossed the starting line, and my heart rate simultaneously rose to a high rate. It's amazing how you do not feel pain, other than the pain of exertion, when your heart rate is jacked. I ran and enjoyed my hard effort, though it was not my best. Crossing the line, I eased up, and I realized that my left leg really hurt, to the point that I was limping. I knew I would not be running soon.

Through the next week, I continued to have pain in my leg, so I did not even consider trying to run. After almost a week off, I decided to contact an athletic trainer who had been recommended to me. Meeting with her yesterday, she immediately saw issues with my gait that need correction. Without even running, she was able to point out how much I over-pronate, which is not good for running.While I have very strong cycling-specific muscles, my running muscles are very weak, and I have very poor running form. I had aspirations of competing in tonight's 5km race. Instead, I am typing on my laptop.

I met with the trainer again this morning. She told me to come, "dressed to sweat." She put me on the treadmill first thing, building me from a walk to a run. I was unable to run, due to the sharp pain in my leg, so I had to stop. I asked her if she thought my injury could be a stress fracture. She said she thinks that is a very likely possibility. The only way to confirm a stress fracture is through imaging - usually a bone scan or MR, as they do not show up on x-rays in their early stages. All of my symptoms point to a stress fracture. It is my choice as to whether I want the imaging to confirm the diagnosis, as it really will not alter the treatment. I have decided to have the imaging done, as mentally I will do better with an official diagnosis.

I am trying not to be too frustrated, but I am really sick of being injured. In all of my nasty bike racing crashes (possible broken jaw, possible broken elbow, possible broken hip, possible knee fracture, etc.), I never broke a bone. Yes, I had a herniated disc in my back that prevented me from walking to the bathroom on my own accord at age 25, but no broken bones. I always found it funny that I was the Orthopedic surgeon's kid who never had a broken bone. To this day, I still don't have a cavity in my teeth, but it looks as though I may finally have that broken bone.

I have been through injuries far worse than this. I am still able to be independent, to walk to the bathroom, to dress myself, to walk my dogs. Only those closest to me know how much I suffered with my back. And, that is why I know I will come back from this injury. Compared to what I have been through before, this is nothing. I may not be able to run the marathon with Rusty and Ted in 6 weeks, but I will be back eventually. Time to be patient, and to enjoy the things "normal" people enjoy - like sitting in the sun with my dogs, a beer, and a good book on a gorgeous sunny evening. The sun, and my dogs, are calling....

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Brixie Maize

Brixie Maize, my Treeing Walker Coonhound puppy, officially turned one yesterday. Seeing as I have been a pathetic dog mom and have failed to make even one post about little Brix, here are a few photos of our time with her, beginning September 2011.
Baby Brixie, at 8 weeks and 8.5 pounds, when we picked her up from her foster home in DeKalb, Illinois.

Brixie quickly took a liking to Ted

Hitcher was very unsure when he first met Brixie.

Getting comfortable in her new home.

Little Brixie and me.

Starting to play together.

Ted and Brix.

Hitcher and Brixie, officially bonding.

Brix and her best friend, Hitcher.

A true Coonhound, Brixie loves the sun.

Pretty dog.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Since Walla Walla, I've taken a step back from bike racing, and I honestly have no real bike racing plans coming up. The number of crashes I've had in the past couple of years have really put a damper on my enthusiasm for bike racing, so I've begun exploring other options.

I did a couple duathlons, which I really enjoyed, and I followed that up with a couple of triathlons. Yes, you read that right. I have entered that realm - a realm I would not have foreseen me joining... for numerous reasons.

After my back surgery in 2010, I never thought running would be something I would be able to do, so I was excited when I began running last November. I was able to run for 10 minutes, which was a major triumph for me. Over the coming weeks, I gradually increased my running time, until I was doing 6 or 7 miles. In February, I decided to commit to doing the Portland Marathon in October with Ted and Rusty, though I still was (am!) unsure of how my back would handle it. While I was at it, I signed up for a couple of triathlons, and I began swimming 2x/week.

I did well in the duathlons I raced, winning both of them. Considering I had no real running training, I was pretty content with that. Swimming, however, added another element.

My first triathlon was the Onion Man Triathlon in Walla Walla. This one was an Olympic distance triathlon (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run). It was windy for the swim start, making the water too choppy for this newbie's liking. I struggled in the swim, having to stop to catch my breath numerous times. The course ended up being short, which was disappointing for my first triathlon, even though I am not a good swimmer. Coming out of the water, I was very far back - my swim time was only 211th out of 241! My first transition did not help, but I had not practiced transitions, so what could I expect?

The bike leg of Onion Man was a big improvement over the swim. I had the fastest female bike split. The funny thing was that I think I held back way too much on the bike portion. My average heart rate was very low, as I was being conservative for the run to follow. In retrospect, I wish I would have pushed on the bike considerably more. I never really drink when I do time trials, but with the run to come, I could have used that bottle I dropped during the bike. Oops.

My 2nd transition was really not much better than my first, so I lost time there. Looking at my pacing for the run, I was not happy. I was sure that my run split was going to put me well back. Imagine my surprise when I had the 3rd fastest female run split! Who knew? I honestly thought my pace was slow. I ended up finishing 5th overall and 3rd in my age group. I had lost it all in the swim and transitions. The good news is, I think anyone can learn to swim, at least decently. I do not think anyone can become a good runner and cyclist. So, I think I have potential, especially considering that I am self-taught for swimming and haven't done any structured running.

Lesson learned in Walla Walla - check your shoes carefully before beginning the run. Yes, I did the entire run with a gel inside my shoe, which explains the foot pain I had! Thankfully, the gel didn't completely rupture.

Last weekend, I did my second triathlon, the Boise 70.3. The course in Boise was to be a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. I was unsure of how this would play out for me, as this would be my longest swim, and I had only run 10+ miles twice before the race (actually, I had only run 10+ miles twice EVER in my life). I was kind of surprised to have someone tell me, "I know I will put at least 10 minutes into you in the swim." Trash talking already? This was only my 2nd triathlon!

Saturday morning was rainy, windy, and cold, which had been predicted for several days before the race. Seeing the forecast, I had made sure to bring a variety of clothing and bike equipment options. From my background in bike racing, races are typically held rain, shine, or wind, and it is necessary to have clothing and equipment for all types of weather. I had brought three types of gloves, arm warmers, leg warmers, a base layer, wool socks, a long-sleeved jersey, spare socks, low-profile wheels, etc. It was 43 degrees and raining at Lucky Peak Reservoir, and yes, it was chilly. The wind was blowing, but it was nothing I considered severe at all, so I was shocked when it was announced that the bike portion of the course had been shortened to 12 miles. The promoters were concerned that racers would suffer from hypothermia on the course. Really? I did not think the conditions seemed that severe. I honestly considered not starting when I heard that the bike had been shortened, but I decided to stick it out and do the race anyway.

The swim was the coldest swim I had ever done. My hands and feet were numb, but I put on my warm gloves, wool socks, and arm warmers, and I was absolutely fine. Yes, I wore arm warmers with a sleeveless top. God help me! A warming tent was set up near the swim exit, but I saw very few people using it. Personally, I did not need the tent, as my bike clothing was sufficient for the conditions. My transition was terribly slow! The bike portion was frustrating. I was so far back from the swim that I was stuck with slow cyclists. I passed hundreds of people, but there were "no passing" zones where I was stuck behind a slow stream of people. This greatly slowed my bike portion, but that's what I get for swimming so slowly! I rode the bike relatively hard, but conserved for the run. Perhaps I conserved too much again, but I am learning. I ended up having the fastest female bike split of the day, which shocked me since I had so much left in the tank. I'm used to time trials where I go all-out, so I was surprised to have the fastest time when I felt I had really held myself back.

My 2nd transition was even worse than the first! Remember that lesson I supposedly learned in Walla Walla? Yeah, well, apparently I didn't learn very well. I had both my running shoes on and double knotted when I realized I was missing my gel. I had to untie my right shoe and take it completely off to get the gel out of the shoe. And, this is something I should probably not confess! Oh well.

I began the run slowly, and felt okay for the first couple of miles. Around mile three, I started to have the worst abdominal pain to the right of my belly button, and I began to feel very sick. I kept running, but had to slow considerably, and I ended up having to stop to throw up at mile 4. The next few miles were very slow, as I struggled with severe pain. I felt a bit better around mile 8 and was able to pick up the pace slightly, though I still was below the pace I wanted to do. Around mile 11, I was again hit with crippling abdominal pain that had me hunched forward at the waist. I ended up walking, unable to run. People were asking me if I was okay. I was so frustrated, as my legs felt fine, but I could not keep going. I watched women in my age group pass me, yet I couldn't run. I jogged the last couple miles, feeling horrible.

I was happy to finish, but was very disappointed in my run, as it was much slower than it should have been. My abdomen is still sore today, so I think I have some sort of muscle strain. I'm not sure how or why my abdomen felt so terrible, but hopefully it is something I can resolve.

                                                  Barely hobbling through the run in Boise.
                                                Heading out for the swim in Walla Walla.
                                             Slow swim-to-bike transition in Walla Walla.

I am not currently registered for any other triathlons. I may do some more, but I'm unsure at this point. I was extremely disappointed to have the bike course cut short. Though I am a bad swimmer, I also would have been unhappy if the swim had been cut short, as I came to Boise wanting to do the race I signed up for. I personally feel that it is the individual's responsibility to come to an event prepared, and to make the decision for him/herself as to whether he/she can handle the conditions. The problem is that many people do not come prepared, and do not make the appropriate decisions for what they can handle, which does lead to injuries and problems... and therefore puts race promoters in a tough spot.

The good news is that I was able to run Saturday's half-marathon with no real back pain to speak of! So, it's looking like I can maybe start to do a bit more running.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tour of Walla Walla

In past years, the Tour of Walla Walla has been a major season goal of mine. This year, I went into the race with a few primary objectives: to have fun, to get a good weekend of training, to ride a good time trial, and to finish as highly as my current fitness would allow. I thought I had a good chance of placing well in the time trial, but I was much less confident of my chances in the other stages and for the overall general classification. Afterall, I have followed no real training schedule in 2012, and had less than 1000 miles in my legs prior to last weekend.

This year has me seeking some new adventures, so while I will still be doing some bike races, I will also be doing some other things. I have done a couple 5km runs, a duathlon, and I am registered to run the Portland Marathon in October, alongside Ted and my brother. The three of us are also planning on doing Crusher in the Tushar in July. My training, therefore, has been a mixture of riding and running, with a touch of swimming thrown in for good measure. And, so far, this training approach appears to be working for me! Here are my race results for the year so far:

1st woman/8th overall at Freeze Your Fanny 5km run (20:04)
1st woman/6th overall at the For Love of Maui 5km run (20:48)
1st in the Wawawai Landing Time Trial (women 1-3)
2nd in the Wawawai Grade Hill Climb (women 1-3)
1st woman/9th overall at the Spring Sprint Duathlon (58:54)
1st in the Tour of Walla Walla Time Trial (women 1-2)
1st General Classification at the Tour of Walla Walla (women 1-2)

I was pretty shocked and happy with my Tour of Walla Walla win. Here's my quick recap of how the race played out:

Stage 1 - Waitsburg RR (42 miles)

The first lap of the race was pretty uneventful until we reached the finishing climb. There were QOM time bonuses/$ up for grabs at the top of the climb, so we all knew it was going to be a race to the top. I was feeling decent on the climb and a couple attacks went early. I saw a Canadian girl move to attack up the right side of the road, and before I knew what had happened, she had crashed herself out. She took the girl in front of me down with her, and I was forced to unclip and put my foot down. I felt someone else slam into my rear wheel, but I did not actually go down. How this silly crash happened is unbeknownst to me! I suddenly found myself gapped off from the back of the pack, putting me into chase mode. I chased hard and caught back on, only to be unable to react when the hard move went for the QOM. Again, I was gapped at the top of the climb, and I knew I had to catch back on ASAP. Thankfully, I looked back to see my teammate, Lisa, behind me. The two of us chased hard and caught back on. Meanwhile, I discovered that my shifting was screwed up from the girl hitting my bike in the crash. My derailleur hanger was bent, causing my chain to skip in the rear, and my chain was also shifting to the outside of the big ring. I fiddled with the cable successfully enough to get the chain to stay on the big ring. Our field ended up being neutralized with about 10km to the finish, as the 1-2 men's field caught us. This neutralization allowed the women off the back to catch back on, so we were all together when we reached the bottom of the final climb. I stayed with the leaders until we were within the final kilometer, but then found that my legs felt my earlier chase attempts, and I came across the line 10 seconds behind the leading group. Following this stage, I was in 13th place and 26 seconds down from 1st.

Stage 2 - Criterium

I just wanted to get the crit over and done. I primarily sat in the pack, only venturing to the front a couple times to chase some things down. I got pack time, and was content with that. With time bonuses offered in the crit, I remained in 13th place, but was 36 seconds down after the crit.

Stage 3 - Time Trial (9.3 miles)

I knew I would not be happy with myself if I did not have a good time trial, which meant I had to maintain focus and ride hard. I paced myself well in the TT, quickly beginning to gain on the women in front of me. When I hit the bottom of the hill, I could see two women in front of me: my 30 second girl and my minute girl, and I made it my goal to catch them both as quickly as possible. I caught them both and continued to push over the top of the hill. I could see some women up ahead, and I worked to chase them, catching my 1:30 girl and my 2:00 girl. I was close to catching the 2:30 girl when I hit the finish. I did not know my time or placing when I finished, but I felt that I had to be happy with my effort, as I had ridden hard and maintained my focus throughout. I was happy to see that I had won the time trial by 19+ seconds, which moved me up to 2nd place overall, and 0 seconds down. Yes, somehow, after 3 stages of racing, including time bonuses, two of us were tied, to the second, going into the final stage. The girl ahead of me was beating me by tenths of a second, giving her the leader's jersey.

Stage 4 - Kellogg Hollow RR (67 miles)

The race started fairly conservatively, with no real attacks going until we were on the loop portion of the course. I chased a couple attacks down myself, but then began letting some things go, as I knew I could not chase everything. I sat in for much of the first lap, staying out of the wind and trying to conserve. Upon entering the second loop of the course, a girl was off the front with a gap of 1:25, which meant it was time to start chasing. Several of us began rotating through, and we eventually pulled the girl back in. Over the top of the final climb, the yellow jersey was dropped. She managed to catch back on, but I knew she was having a hard time. Coming into the final 5km, I weighed my options. I could attack and hope to get away, or I could hope to gain time in the final sprint. I decided to wager on the final sprint, as I knew it was highly unlikely anyone would let me go in the last 5km. Plus, seconds separated the top 8 places, and I knew I could end up falling down the results if I blew up or someone counter-attacked. One woman in the race said to me, "Who cares about 2nd place? All that matters is 1st." Yes, 1st place is ideal, but personally, I'd rather be 2nd than 3rd or 4th. My bet paid off, as the yellow jersey couldn't hang on for the final charge to the line. While I got pack time, she finished 10 seconds off the back, giving me the overall win. I had only needed tenths of a second to beat her, so 10 seconds seemed like a large margin!

 I was very happy to have won, especially since the win had primarily come down to my own strength in the time trial. Time trials have always been my favorite discipline because there are no excuses and no hiding in time trials - there is only you, your own head, and your own strength.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I was born into a family with pets. Growing up, we had horses, snakes, dogs, birds, rabbits, rats, fish, sheep, a tarantula, hermit crabs, and cats. I was always fondest of the dogs, horses, and cats. Living in Wyoming, we had a barn cat named Brownie-Bluey (I just realized that I have no idea how to spell her name) who was technically Rusty's. I was allowed to pick out a kitten to become our second barn cat, and I chose a kitten I named Blueberry (what was with the Beall kids and color-related names?). Our cats couldn't live in the house because Dad was allergic, so Blueberry's future with our family was uncertain when neighborhood cats were stealing her food. As a last resort, Dad said we could try having Blueberry in the house, but if his allergies were too severe, she would have to leave. It turned out that Dad's allergies weren't overly severe, and Blueberry became our indoor-outdoor cat. She was just a young thing when she got "knocked up" by some Tom cat in the neighborhood, and suddenly we had a litter of kittens, of which Rusty and I were each allowed to keep one. Our parents were nuts! Rusty named his gray kitten Rascal, and I named my black and gray kitten Bubbles. The kittens were lots of fun, chasing each other all around the house, until a sad day when they climbed some speakers. The speakers fell and Bubbles was crushed, leaving her with severe brain damage. From there on out, Rusty and I shared Rascal.

Our cats were always really nice, but they spent the majority of their time outdoors and had typical aloof, independent cat tendencies. Blueberry, in particular, was an excellent hunter, frequently showing up at the back door with some sort of "gift" for the family. Dad gratefully accepted her offer one day, and we had a dinner of fresh-caught pheasant that evening.

Though I had always loved cats, I really had no idea just how vibrant, social, and loving they could be... until I met a cat named Shamus.

When I moved in with Ted, Shamus had been his cat for over 10 years. Shamus welcomed me immediately, and greeted me at the door every day when I came home. I was shocked at his dog-like personality! He loved people and would seek attention from anyone who came to the apartment, trotting to them with a friendly meow. Every cat I had known previously would shy away from any stranger, but not Shamus. To him, the more people he had around, the happier he was. At a party we had once, he was on the food table attempting to get attention. At night time, he would straddle Ted's leg while we watched TV, and he would go to bed with us at night, lying on one of our chests.

Shamus thought my curly hair was awesome, especially during the middle of the night. He would paw, chew, and pull on it until I would cover my head with the covers. At that point, he would move to Ted, very gently pawing Ted's face until he was awake. He was too sweet to be too upset with. Afterall, he only wanted attention from his people.

Water was the greatest thing to Shamus, and he preferred to do his drinking from the bathroom faucet. This habit had begun early on when Ted had him at an apartment with a leaky faucet. He would sleep in the sink until one of us would walk by, jumping up quickly and meowing to ask us to kindly turn the faucet to a drip, and we would always oblige. Water glasses were not safe from Shamus, as he would knock them over at any opportunity.

Ted warned me early on that I needed to keep the bedroom door shut, and a long piece of plywood had to be placed on the living room sofa when I left the house. See, Shamus had a bit of a pooping problem. He would poop on the furniture when no one was home. It had been quite some time since Ted had even attempted leaving the door open or the sofa uncovered, so I decided it was time for Shamus to be given a fair chance. I petted his little head when I left, telling him I knew I could count on him. I arrived home to a poop-stained mattress. Gradually, though, Shamus did stop pooping on furniture. He was still quite particular about having a clean litter box, and would poop right next to the box if it was not up to his standards, but who could blame him? Everyone likes a clean bowl.

In 2005, we decided to get a kitten. I picked out a calico and named her Pazza. We were concerned about how an old cat like Shamus would accept a brand new kitten, but we were hopeful that things would work out okay for everyone. Ted drove over 8 hours to pick up Pazza, arriving home with a tiny, fluffy, ball of fur. As always, Shamus was there to greet Ted when he came in the door. Ted placed Pazza in the middle of the floor and she immediately ran to Shamus, playfully. Shamus took one look at her, hissed, and flew up the stairs. This was not what we had hoped for. We tried to comfort Shamus, but he wanted nothing to do with us or the kitten. He would not let us pet him, or even get close to him, and he refused to eat. Ted and I were both concerned and wondered how this was going to work.

After a few days, Shamus gradually began to warm up to Pazza, and they eventually began playing. Soon, he had adopted her as his little buddy, and they were curling up on the sofa together. We missed some of the old behaviors of Shamus, but it became obvious that the kitten was going to be good for him in many ways. It did not take long for Shamus and Pazza to be best friends, which is testament to what an amazing cat Shamus was. How many 12 year old cats welcome, and become best friends with, a kitten in a matter of days? Watching them play and wrestle was amazing, and Pazza was definitely keeping Shamus young.

In 2006, a test was thrown at Shamus and Pazza when we adopted Hitcher, the Coonhound. Once again, we were unsure how the cats would react to a new animal, and especially a dog. Both cats were unsure, but reacted pretty well to us. Being a Coonhound, Hitcher's instinct was to chase the kitties, but Ted quickly broke him of that, tackling him to the floor. As Hitcher realized he could not chase the cats, Shamus became more and more brave and began standing his ground. While Pazza would still flee at the slightest sound or sight of dog, Shamus did not run, letting Hitcher check him out. It became clear that Hitcher desired to cuddle with Shamus on the sofa, but Shamus would leave whenever Hitcher would join him. One day, some animal understanding was reached and we found Shamus and Hitcher sleeping next to each other on the sofa. It was awesome. To see the old cat trusting the boisterous dog who had "hunted" him was amazing. To this day, Pazza still does not trust Hitcher, but Shamus trusted him in a matter of months.

Shamus began getting obviously older in his last few years, but he kept ticking despite some health scares. He never lost his personality, his grace, or his joy for life, which is more than can be said for many people. I doubt I will ever know a cat as regal, laid-back, friendly, and personable as Shamus was. If I have that blessing again, I will be very lucky. He loved plastic bags, water from faucets, shoes, to play fetch, Pazza, cold floors, sips of beer, people, and, I'd like to think, Hitcher. Most of all he loved Ted.