Sunday, July 01, 2007

Things I've learned today list - The Baking Edition

Things I've learned today, The Baking Edition:

1. Don't ever buy a baking dish/pan that only serves only one very specific purpose. Even if that purpose is really cool, like... say... a French bread pan. Let's be honest, you probably won't use it.

2. If you must prove to yourself that you will use it, know your limitations. Bakers in France work YEARS to master the perfect baguette. Yours will not measure up. If people tell you it's just like the baguettes they used to buy in France, they are clearly lying to you. Graciously accept the compliment, but know the truth.

3. Don't buy the ten pound bag of flour. How many baguettes are you expecting to make? A ten pound bag of flour is simply a Three Stooges accident waiting to happen.

4. After a ten pound bag of flour explodes upon opening, the kitchen floor will be very slippery. For a very long time.

5. If you happen to find yourself with flour all over the kitchen floor, make every attempt possible to keep your dog out of the kitchen. Trust me, it just complicates matters. Even if you have a white dog.

6. When the recipe states to, "cover the bread with a damp cloth and let rise", what they are really saying is, "don't use your nice kitchen towels that you got for Christmas, because the bread will rise so much that it will completely stick to the towel and ruin it".

7. French bread is stupid.

8. No matter how hungry you are while you're waiting for what supposedly is the French bread to bake (let's just call a spade a spade, here people... by this time, it's a French lumpy mess), just admit your defeat in the kitchen, and get the heck out. If you need hummus that bad, just drive to the local supermarket. They have loads.

9. If you must make hummus and you're out of coriander, don't substitute by putting in twice as much cumin. It smells like a sweaty New York City taxi driver. No one wants their breath to smell like B.O.

10. Trust Kenny Rogers. You gotta' know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run. To heck with baking. I'm going running.

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Year, New Me

Ok, you you haven't heard from me in nearly three months. I'm still here, just a little deflated. For those of you who didn't know, my Chicago Marathon run was... well... uhm... it wasn't the best run I've ever had. In fact, it ranks right up there in the top ten worst runs I've ever had, right behind my ten mile training run with the gurgle.

There are a multitude of reasons, and I could make all kinds of excuses, but it is what it is. It basically boils down to the fact that I just had a bad run. Some runs are good, some runs are bad. This one was really bad. Horrible. It's the first time I've ever uttered the words "I want to quit". And I meant it.

Top five reasons I wanted to quit the Chicago Marathon:

1. Weather - it was about a very windy and chilly 35 degrees at the start, and a very windy and chilly 35 degrees at the finish. It was even snowing and sleeting. Because of the weather, I had about 15 layers of clothing on. I was wearing three shirts and running tights over my shorts. I was thinking I would eventually shed the tights, but it was so cold, I never did. So basically, it was like I was running in a diaper - which is good if you have a bladder control issue, but bad if you have to run 26.2 miles. Two words: unbearable chafing.

2. Dehydration - I started cramping at mile 15. Truth be told, I hit the wall at mile 15. More like the wall hit me. And it kept hitting me over and over for the final 11 miles. It was pretty brutal.

3. Race Number - I didn't pin my number firmly on my shirt, so in the wind, my race number kept flipping up and hitting me in the face. At one point I actually yelled "I'd give my left arm for an extra safety pin!"

4. Crowd - or lack thereof. The bad weather meant a much smaller and sparse crowd.

5. Me - I started too fast and lost steam halfway through. It's common mistake for a rookie, but considering it was my fourth marathon, I should know better. Rather than listen to my body, I was trying to keep up with friends, and I just pushed myself too hard.

Top five reasons I finished the Chicago Marathon:

1. Weather - I kept running just to stay warm. Stopping wasn't an option, because your body would cool down too much, so you just had to stay in motion.

2. Dehydration - Sometimes I just kept running, knowing that there would be a waterstop up ahead.

3. Race Number - The blond girl who heard my cry and gave me a safety pin. She said, "keep it, and you can keep your arm, too". Whew. That was a win/win.

4. Crowd - Even though the crowds were smaller, I think they were more enthousiastic. One woman even asked for my phone number. (I'm flattered, but unavailable). Now granted, most of the people were probably cheering for me because I looked so pathethic running with tears in my eyes, but they kept me going.

5. Me - Speaking of keeping up with friends, my wonderful friend Tara kept up with me... and kept me going. She met me at mile 21, when I was at my absolute worst. I was crying, I was in pain, and I had mentally given up. She literally pushed me along for blocks cheering me on and encouraging me. Had it not been for her, I would not have finished. Thanks, Tara.

So the marathon was a bad run. A really bad run. But I finished, which may just be an even greater accomplishment, considering how difficult it was. I've come to terms with it (granted, it took me three months to come to terms with it, but cut me some slack. I've always been a little slower than most). I've turned over a new leaf. I'm back on track. My outlook has brightened - and even my look has lightened. To remind me of my new mental change, I made a physical change - I shaved off my beard. So far, it's working. Here you have it.

"2007 NEW YEAR, NEW ME" Top five reasons I keep running:

1. I just love to run. Running is so much fun. For example, I had a fantastic hilly four miler on a snow covered trail today. It was only 20 degrees and all I was wearing were my shorts, a long sleeved shirt, and my sneakers. Don't ask. I didn't plan well. I don't even have my beard anymore to keep my face warm. Regardless, it was one of my best runs ever. I was smiling the whole time. It was a great day to be outdoors, it was a great day to be running, and it was a great day to be alive.

2. I love running with other people. It connects you in a way that few other activities can. Last week, while trail running with my three favorite running partners (Rob, Cat, and Loki), we were discussing the fact that some people think if you can talk while you're running, then you're not pushing yourself enough. I completely disagree. Some of the very best conversations I've had in my life have been during a long run. (By the way, both Rob and Cat were marathon newbies at Chicago 2006, and they both had a GREAT run. I couldn't be happier for them. Rob beat Oprah (yeah!) and Cat was right behind him with a stellar finish. All three of us have already signed up to run Chicago 2007).

3. Running keeps me healthy. I don't care if I put on a few pounds or my 5k speed slows by ten seconds. I'm active, I'm fit, and I'm healthy. I'm still in such a better place than I was even five years ago.

4. Running gives me goals. Even if I gave up marathoning, I'd still training for 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and triathlons. Running and training for races forces you out of your comfort zone. It pushes you to run faster and farther. It challenges you to realize your potential.

5. Running inspires me. Just recently, a complete stranger came up to me at a local wine tasting and told me, "You probably don't remember me, but I was having a really hard time at the triathlon last year, and you inspired me to finish". After chatting with her a bit, it turns out it was "Blue Shirt Lady" from the Pigman IV. So, sometimes you inspire others, sometimes they inspire you.

Whatever your reason, just keep running.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

So I'm kinda' freaking out

For those of you who still faithfully check to see if I've updated my blog... well, I owe you a huge apology. Thank you for stopping by, time and time again, only to see that nothing has changed for months here in Mateo-land. But I'm alive, and I'm back. I can't promise that I'll make a weekly cameo here on, but I'll do my best. Stay tuned.

So here I sit with less than a week until I run my third Chicago marathon, and my stomach is completely tied up in knots. Well, granted, most of my stomach issues have to do with the bowl of wasabi peanuts that I'm eating like candy. Regardless, I'm still a little nervous. Ok, a lot nervous. We're talking "George W. Bush at a spelling bee" kind of nervous.

Sure, every time I run a marathon, I get the jitters. That's to be expected. I've run three of them already - and I've had a fantastic time completing each one - but realistically, running a marathon is a big deal. There. I said it. Running 26.2 miles on bloody stumps and subsequently vomiting up your appendix happens to be a big deal. On a positive note, it's a lot less expensive than having to schedule an appendectomy, and you get a really cool long-sleeved t-shirt at the end.

But I still get nervous before every one. Very nervous. Usually, it doesn't set in until a day before the event; however, this year I was diagnosed with a severe case of early-onset nervioso. What was the catalyst? Well, I talked to my mother last night and told her that I was running a marathon this weekend. Big mistake.

- Normally, I like to wait until AFTER I do really crazy things to tell my mother I did them so she doesn't lie awake at night worrying about me.
- Normally, she sighs heavily and says things like "I just don't understand why you do these things to your body".

- Normally, I like to call her right after an event to share in the thrill of victory.
- Normally, she asks if I'm drunk because my runner's high makes me slur my speech.

- Normally, I tell her not to worry, because this is the last crazy event that I'll ever do.
- Normally, she knows I'm lying through my slurring teeth, and waits patiently for the next phone call.

Well, this must be the week for family phone calls, because my brother phoned Saturday night to wish me luck for this weekend. He and I were reminiscing about our first marathon, the one that we ran together a few years ago in Dallas. We were talking about how great it was and how terrible it was, how fun it was and how hard it was. Then my brother said something incredibly insightful that I've been mulling over a lot the last few days. He said, "It's crazy when you're out there all by yourself hitting the wall at mile 20 with noone around. There are a million reasons to quit, and only one reason to keep going. You just have to focus on that one reason."

He's dead on. Now keep in mind, I'm fully aware that marathoning isn't for everyone, but the analogy transcends to everything in our lives. We all have our challenges. We all have our demons. We all have our own race to run. What's your reason to keep going?

Back to marathoning. It's true what they say - the first 20 miles are physical, and the last 6.2 are mental. Anyone can physically train to run 20 miles. My mother, although she chooses not to, could physically run 20 miles. The true test comes after mile 20. That's when the pain sets in and your mind starts playing tricks on you. That's when you start hallucinating that rabid French poodles are chasing you. That's when you think that you can't take one more step. That's when fear grips you at the core and you start to doubt yourself and doubt your ability to finish. That's when you start to doubt your ability to do anything in your life.

That's why the finish line is so amazing. Not only do you conquer your own fears and self-doubts, you crush them. You beat them down, and make them cry uncle. The finish line is the culmination of all your hard work, training, and mental stamina. The tables turn, and you suddenly realize that you can accomplish anything. You're completely exhausted, but your battered body is so overwhelmed with a sense of pride that makes you feel like a comicbook superhero. (Not to mention the fact that they give you a silver mylar cape with which to warm yourself, visually completing your transformation into said comicbook superhero).

You've done it. You've won. You've conquered the marathon.

You've also conquered those damn French poodles. Trust me, after your runner's high wears off in a few hours, they will stop chasing you.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

OK, Seriously...

So I realize that I'm the most unreliable blogger on the face of the planet, but seriously. I've had a lot going on lately. Rather than sit here and tell stories all night, you're getting a list. Not super short bullet points, but not my normal verbose disco mix, either.

Sorry the OCD is kicking in overtime tonight. Quite frankly, the only reason I'm sitting down at the computer is because I've been cleaning for an hour fifteen and I (seriously) just ran out of Windex. I'm always looking for signs from God, so I figure my blazing through a bottle of window cleaner was his way of telling me to quit cleaning for the night. Maybe it was his way of telling me to go buy ice cream. Either way, here's your list.

What has been keeping me busy, Spring 2006.

1. I had another birthday. To celebrate, I blew out my knee, and wasn't able to run for three weeks. Argh. To all of you "running-is-going-to-kill-your-knees" naysayers... no, I wasn't running when my knee acted up. I was at work, simply sitting down in my chair. So rather than give up marathon running, I've decided to give up Corporate America. Not really, but it's fun to entertain the thought. I've since returned to light running, and my knee seems to be fine. I keep meaning to return to Corporate America, but can't seem to find the motivation.

2. I spent a four day bachelor party weekend in Vegas. No story. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. I'll just put it this way, Vegas is a bit overwhelming for this small-town Iowa boy. And in case you were wondering, no, I didn't even spend one penny gambling. I'm FAR too Dutch to blindly hand over my money to a bunch of people who built a replica of the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the desert. If I'm going to spend my money in Paris, I want it to be in the REAL Paris, where the residents are condescending, and the public transport smells like body odor and urine, thank you very much.

3. I've gone crazy remodeling the kitchen. I put in a new ceiling, drywalled, painted, wallpapered... the only big thing left is new tile on the countertops. I even busted out the powertools and built myself a spankin' new stemware holder for the dead space above the fridge. I just finished installing it last night. It's HUGE. It's got more than enough space to hold a partyful of white wine, red wine, champagne, martini, and margarita glasses. It's quite classy, although very... uh... sturdy. Judging by my installation job, you'd think we were drinking wine in a bomb shelter. You'd have to burn the house down to remove it from the ceiling.

Sidebar, if you're dating a person with OCD, it's best that you - AT ALL COSTS - avoid trying to assist with any kind of remodeling jobs. Just pretend you have errands to run or someplace to be. Example: If you happen enter my house and I'm standing in the kitchen holding a bolt of wallpaper:

Incorrect statement: "Hi honey! Oh, that wallpaper looks... 'interesting'. Well, maybe it will grow on me. Let me help".

Correct statement: "Oh shucks, I just realized that I forgot my checkbook in the Republic of Congo," backing slowly towards the door, "It looks like you've got a handle on this project. I'll be back in a few days when you've finished".

4. I've signed up for the Chicago marathon again. This will make for year three at Chicago. Maybe I'll beat Oprah this year. Actually, I'd settle for beating Fat Elvis. We're even organizing a "Chicago marathon training and support" group for folks in the area. Word on the street is that a local news station caught wind of our little group and wants to do a segment on us for the evening news. That's another perk of living in Iowa. There isn't enough crime and tragedy to fill a newsanchor's thirty minutes, so you always have time for a handful of feel good stories.

5. I'm rapidly ramping up my training for the summer races and triathlons. I have a sprint triathlon in less than a month. In fact, it's the day after the aforementioned Vegas bachelor's wedding, so I'm using it as experiment to see how well I can swim, bike, and run after a day of wedding, reception, and party.

6. I'm thoroughly obsessed with the yard. For my birthday, I received a wonderful gift of 5 flowerpots, 2 shepherd's hooks, and all the subsequent flora. I love it. Keep in mind that I have a small problem doing anything in moderation. Translation: ever since my birthday three weeks ago, I've been buying plants and flowers like they are made of precious metals. If I run to the hardware store for pliers, I come home with peonies. It looks like I'm starting my own greenhouse. And it doesn't even matter how much sun it needs or the amount of care required. If it's pretty, I naïvely buy it. Which would normally be fine, but... one minor caveat being that I have a black thumb, so I've already managed to kill the heartiest of them. Oh well, I guess I used to waste my money on much more stupid things - like cigarettes - at least now I'm only killing plants... not my lungs.

7. Enough of this list. I've got to get some ice cream. Seriously.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Check Out My Tight Whip, Yo!

Yes, I'm sure you're reading this thinking, "Now, what exactly is a whip, and how exactly do I get a tight one like Mateo?"

Well, dear reader... let me offer you today's lesson in American slang. Apparently, a "whip" is an automobile, and a "tight whip" is merely a really nice one. Don't feel bad, before I bought my new car, I didn't know what a whip was either. But then again, I'm painfully uncool. I should never be used as a benchmark for cool.

Enough with the vocabulary lesson. I'm sure you're dying to know about my whip, right? It's a Titanium Green 2006 Ford Escape. I originally wanted a hybrid, but since the technology isn't completely there yet, (in other words, I still have a twinge of the OCD fear that my car is going to start on fire), I thought it best to stick with a classic. So my Escape isn't brand new, but it is this year's model, which is by FAR the newest car I've ever owned. Until now, the newest car I've ever purchased was four years old. I decided to see how the other half lives, so bit the proverbial bullet and traded in both my 11 year old truck and 13 year old car and bought a new Escape.
My favorite parts of the Escape? 1.) It has a hitch for my bike rack, 2.) it has plenty of room in back for Loki, and 3.) it has a six CD changer.

I have a confession to make. I'm a 33 year old American male, and I've never had a car with a CD player. (This is your gentle reminder that I'm terribly Dutch and again... painfully uncool.) The very first thing I did when I got home after buying it - honestly - was make a mix CD of all of my favorite driving songs. Sure... laugh all you like, but it's the little things in life that make me happy.

Enough about the new ride and what a horrible geek I am. I was more interested to find that even though I am very OCD about most things, other things in my life slip by me, completely unnoticed. For example, when I was cleaning out my former vehicles for trading in, even I was appalled at what I found. So here you have it. Mateo's "I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT WAS IN MY TRUNK" List 2006.

4 - spring jackets
1 - winter coat
1 - sock (white ankle length)
1 - leather glove
1 - clothes hanger (plastic)
1 - pair tan polyester stretch pants that my friend Angie bought for ten dollars FROM A COMPLETE STRANGER IN A MACDONALD'S BATHROOM IN PARIS, FRANCE. It's a really long story, but a VERY funny one. Perhaps if you're good, I'll tell you sometime.

3 - toothbrushes
4 - containers dental floss (2 mint, 2 regular)
1 - pair fingernail clippers
2 - tubes ECOLIPS organic lip balm (mint flavored)

1 - post it note from my nephew with the word "Gunk" written on it
1 - bible (1985 NIV Study Edition)
2 - wedding invitations
3 - sets of printed Mapquest directions
5 - various purchased maps
1 - notepad containing various designs for my bedroom

1 - sombrero (don't ask)
2 - gold cufflinks
7 - pens
2 - unused air freshners (Obsession scented)
1 - purple velvet steering wheel cover with the word "ROCKSTAR" embroidered on it (a gift from my friend Tara)
1 - cigarette lighter
And $5.02 in change

There you have it. The exhaustive list of what I found while cleaning out my two old vehicles. I couldn't believe it myself. Man, for someone with so much OCD, I'm a complete packrat. Hopefully I'll do a better job of keeping my new whip clean.

Oh and by the way, next week's lesson in American Slang will be brought to you by my 68 year old Dutch mother. Her latest expression is "bling bling". Seriously. She said it last Thanksgiving when one of my siblings complimented her on her earrings. "Oh, these?" she humbly said... "They're just my bling bling". I was in such shock that you could have literally knocked me over with a feather. I blame cable television...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oh boy

Uh... hi there. How are you? I know, it's been forever. You look fantastic. I love what you did to your hair. Are those highlights? Wow, they look great.

Ok, enough distraction. I apologize. I haven't blogged in nearly two months. Well, this little thing called life kept getting in the way. Well, I'm back, and I hope to return to blogging on a more regular basis. Let's face it, I never really blogged on what one would call a "timely" basis to begin with. But I promise to do better for the remainder of 2006. That's my money back guarantee to you. (By the way, if any of you are paying more than thirty seven cents to read this, then I'm sad to report you're getting blindly robbed). Anyhew, in hopes to reduce all the "why haven't you been blogging lately" hatemail to a few disgruntled postcards, here goes.

More Mateo lists. Oh man, do you have any IDEA of how many lists an OCD man can compile in the matter of two months? Well, let's just say that it's much more than you can jot down on an entire pad of post-it notes. Trust me, I tried.

For starters, some of you probably didn't even know that I took a little trip to Mexico in January. It was awesome. Trust me, when you live in Iowa, a mid-winter trip to a sunny location isn't a luxury, it's a birthright. So here you have it:

El viaje de Mateo a México 2006:

10 - days in Cabo San Lucas
10 - number of days we were supposed to go running
1 - number of days we ACTUALLY went running
1200 - number of calories in the average meal while on vacation
12 - number of meals where I insisted on us having guacamole
1 - number of meals that literally consisted of a bowl of baked Chihuahua cheese
7 - number of minutes spent trying to figure out how you milk a Chihuahua
47 - number of alcoholic beverages consumed at the swim-up bar
14 - number of pounds Mateo gained while in Mexico
13 - number of times we heard the song "I will Survive" while in Mexico
88 - times we were approached by local vendors to buy any number of goods sold on the beach
4 - pairs of sunglasses purchased
3 - bottles of pure Mexican vanilla purchased
1 - number of shirts lost as a result of midnight skinny dipping in the ocean. Don't ask.

1 - number of days spent sea kayaking across the Cabo San Lucas Bay (AWESOME)
1 - number of times our friends capsized their kayak and promptly returned to shore
72 - number of minutes to kayak one-way across the CSL Bay
2 - number of timeshares we visited
1 - number of times we had to put on our ugly faces and tell the timeshare people "Look, we're not interested. Just let us leave".
450 - US dollars worth of free goods and services we got from both timeshares
1 - number of days snorkeling on a pirate ship named the "Buccaneer Queen"
1 - number of "Buccaneer Queen" pirate bandanas purchased on the ship. Don't ask.

Whale Watching:
2 - number of whales seen on "exclusive" whale watching boat trip which was supposedly in the prime of whale watching season
2 - number of lifejackets seen on "exclusive" whale watching boat trip
45 - times per MINUTE (on average) the small fishing boat smacked the water during the whale watching trip
180 - minutes on boat
8100 - yes... total number of times the boat smacked the water
45 - number of minutes I spent visualizing running the Chicago Marathon so I wouldn't throw up on the boat. Sidebar: it seems a bit ironic now that I was visualizing the Chicago Marathon (another time in my life when I was trying to keep from throwing up) to keep from throwing up on the boat. Hmmm. I wonder what that says about me?
4 - number of times I begged, "Can we just please go back to shore?"
12 - number of times I have referred to the whale watching event as "The ultimate test of a relationship, number 647". Don't ask.

Return from Mexico:
1 - number of times the customs agent said, "You were only there ten days? Jeez, your tan looks like you were there a MONTH!"
7 - number of times my friends called me "tan-orexic"
3 - number of times Anne told me that Loki has the exact same OCD neuroses that I do
1 - number of poems that Anne wrote about Loki while dog-sitting
1 - number of batches of guacamole we've made since being back
1 - number of batches of guacamole thrown away since it tasted more like bananas than avacados. Ugh, don't ask.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Road to Relaxation

OK, I admit, I don't know how to relax. I have two speeds, on and off. And "On" just happens to be always cranking at 4500 RPM. Well, it's been brought to my attention NUMEROUS TIMES that I really need to learn to relax. Let me tell you that I've tried in the past, and relaxing usually only leads to sleeping. Just ask everyone in my yoga class. Yup, I'm the guy in the back of class who always finds so much zen that I build a zen log and start sawing it.

Regardless, I will try to attempt this "relaxation" I keep hearing so much about. Here's the backstory. Today just happened to be a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so I decided to fit in a nice little 30 mile bike ride. (Two things to clarify for those of you who don't know me that well. Yes, 45 degrees is indeed balmy in January when you live in Iowa, and yes, 30 miles on a bike is considered a "little" ride. 100 miles in 100 degree weather is when it becomes grueling). I returned home to a relatively empty and quiet home.

I just happened to find a fancy little bag of relaxing bath salts in the linen closet, so I decided it was time to bite the bullet and draw myself a bath. Truth be told, I think the bath salts were specifically left there to encourage me to relax. Fine, I start the bath. Next, I needed music. I chose The Postal Service "Give Up" CD for three reasons: 1. ) it's a brilliant album, which I can't get enough of right now, 2.) it's about as "relaxing" as I know how to be, and 3.) it's exactly 45 minutes long, which is about as long as I figured I could endure soaking in a bath while not doing anything.

For those of you who really know me well, you know that it wasn't long before my inner OCD came out and took control of the situation. Normally being a shower kind of guy, I don't usually get a "lower level view" of the bath. Translation, I saw a small patch of mildew and the OCD went crazy. I started cleaning the entire bathroom from top to bottom. In the 45 minutes I was supposed to be relaxing, I spent more time cleaning the bathroom than I spent cleaning myself.

So here's "Mateo's attempt at a relaxing bath" list 2006.

45 - number of minutes spent in the bathroom
40 - number of minutes cleaning the bathroom
50 - square feet of bathtub/shower scrubbed
3 - number of times the 50 square feet were scrubbed
1 - number of bottles of cleaning supplies used
6 - number of used "running" bandaids found in the bathroom and subsequently thrown away
2 - number of bottles of bubblebath that haven't been opened in over two years and really need to be thrown away
57 - number of MP3's that were loaded onto my MP3 player while I was in the bathroom
2 - number of loads of laundry completed while I was in the bathroom
4 - number of pots and pans soaking while I was in the bathroom
2 - number of times I weighed myself while in the bathroom

OK, fine. I don't know how to relax. I probably never will. Here's my white flag. I run to relax. You can keep your arsenal of aromatherapy "day" candles, soothing bath salts, feng shui stones, and meditation music. Just give me my Sauconys, and I'm a happy boy.


ORN - a post note for those running bloggers who are keeping up on my site. I was tagged by Dawn about the word that I choose to focus on for 2006. Well, seeing that "relaxation" was clearly a bust, I'm going to focus on HEALTH. Sure, I want to lose weight, run faster, eat better, etc, all of which encompass a healthy life. So my chosen word is "Health". Happy (and healthy) 2006!