Friday, October 29, 2010

Autumn Came for a Visit

Morning Over College Station

A Bike and a Trick of the Light

One Last Ride

Getting into a Weekend Kind of Mood: Thursday’s Bike Ride Commute and Yoga + Friday’s Walk (10/28-10/29/10)

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think fall has finally arrived in Texas!  We had a heat spell earlier this month that had me ironing my shorts again (see photos above for the evidence), but on Thursday, it was a very cool morning.  On Friday, it was downright chilly!  My computer informed me that at about 8 AM this morning, it was 7 degrees Celsius, which is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Chilly!  I don’t think we’ve seen a temperature that low since last winter.

I rode the bike to and from work on Thursday.  Those rides were probably my last on this beautiful blue bike, as she’s going back to her owner this weekend.  I was a little sad for a while about this.  I have loved riding this bike, and having it for the last nine months has made it so much easier for me to enjoy this town.  I’ve taken it to work countless times, gone to the shops on it, and hopped on it just for fun—because I could.  I haven’t had regular access to a bike since I was seventeen, namely because my bike was stolen that summer and I never replaced it.  Bike riding is, for me, equal parts pleasure and transportation.  Now that I know how much a bike enhances my quality of life, I’m going shopping for a new bike tomorrow with my lovely friend Amutha, to whom this blue bike belongs.  She’s a great friend.

On Thursday evening, in an effort to start relaxing into the weekend, I did Gentle Hatha Yoga #2.  I was feeling a little wound-up about my to-do list over the next week or so.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought about that to-do list a lot during yoga, but I do think that imperfect yoga is better than no yoga at all.  (As an aside, I should mention that I don’t really believe there is such thing as “perfect yoga,” as standards of perfection would seem to run against the spirit of yoga.  But I do enjoy yoga more when I’m not fretting about the future during my warrior poses.)

I made an executive decision not to do my long run tonight.  Instead, I went for a slow walk around the neighborhood, soaking up the last of the fading sunlight for the day.  Then I came home and made dinner, a version of something that’s fast becoming one of my weeknight staples: a bed of steamed kale, freshly cooked rice, and gussied-up black beans, topped with salsa, shredded cheese, and green onions.  It’s fast and easy to make, and for tonight at least, it helped clear out some of the leftovers that were camping in my fridge.  And of course, it’s delicious and reasonably healthy.  What shall I call it?  Mexican Rice Plate?  Hmm…

Now I’m off to clean up the kitchen a bit, make myself a mug of Sleepytime Vanilla, and watch an episode of Private Practice on  Happy weekend, friends!  I hope it’s cozy and lovely, wherever you are.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Which I Practice Unsafe Bike

Afternoon Photo Shoot

Random Pink Flowers

Me Wearing a Plant Outfit

Tuesday’s Bike Ride Commute (10/26/10)

Tuesday was a good day.  For one thing, I did not sustain a closed head injury, which I’ll explain in a moment.  I had a good morning meeting with my boss and a fun photo shoot after work, the results of which you can see above.  Work-wise, I got some stuff done, which is always good.  I’m happy enough with a day during which nothing goes catastrophically wrong, even if I don’t have a moment when I shout, “Eureka!”  (We always joke about how we should shout Eureka! more often, just to keep things exciting around the lab.)

After Monday’s run, an easy bike ride seemed like a great idea, and I think it was.  My legs were a little tired, but I had very little soreness, so I felt confident that I could ride the bike without overtaxing my legs.  I rode slowly, and the wind made my ride even slower, but it was still nice to be outside on two wheels.  After my photo shoot, I biked over to Brazos Natural Foods to pick up potatoes for this soup and dish soap for my sink.  I pedaled home, daydreaming, when the bike just stopped moving, halted suddenly by an unseen force.  By some miracle, I caught myself before I flew off the bike seat, and at the same time, I realized the bottle of soap had wedged itself into the spokes of the wheel, making itself a very effective break.  Two bags had been hanging from the handle bars, and usually they’re either not moving much or I’m paying enough attention to keep them from getting too close to the front wheel.  But today I was zoning out, and it was bad.

Some men nearby saw me stop and look around, stunned, and one of them asked, “Are you okay?”  And I was, but only because I was lucky.  I wasn’t riding that fast, but I could have been hurt in any number of ways.  Plus I don’t wear a bike helmet.  I grew up in a place and time when nobody wore bike helmets.  And nobody thought twice about it.  I rode a bike all over town in high school, and still: no helmet.  Tuesday’s near-accident has given me pause, but still: would I be fine if I just got a bike basket for my bags?  I know I should get a helmet and a basket, but I’m very reluctant to give up the experience of riding a bike without a helmet.  It’s like letting go of my childhood, my roots.  For me, wearing a helmet feels like sacrificing a freedom that I’m not sure I can give up, even if I’m taking a serious risk.  I’m not a thrill-seeking person, generally, but maybe my helmetless rides are my one thrill.  Then again, maybe I’m just stupid to embrace such a silly risk.  One thing is certain: I’m conflicted.  And lucky.

Check List

Long Socks

Bandana Plus Bobby Pins

Monday’s Long Run (10/25/10)

* Peanut butter toast?  Check!

* Water spiked with strawberry-cranberry juice?  Check!

* Long socks because my short socks are all dirty?  Check!

* Bandana to keep wild hair in place during a windy run?  Check!

As you can see, I take my preparations for the long run very seriously.  It only seems fair that if you are about to make your body uncomfortable by making it run beyond its comfort zone, you should at least try to make the experience as painless as possible.  For me, that means not running on a completely empty stomach and making sure my hair won’t try to eat my face during the run.  It’s been really windy for the past few days, and I find that the worst thing about trying to run on windy days is my wild hair, whipped into a frenzy by strong gusts.  (The second worst thing is the way wind picks up dirt and gravel and flings them at you.  That’s painful.)

I must confess that I was feeling intimidated by Monday’s run, a 40-minute after-work jaunt.  For some reason, 40 minutes always feels like a hurdle to me.  50 minutes—eh, you’re not so bad.  But 40 minutes crosses a line from short, easy run into more serious territory.  At my pace (estimated to be 9-10 minutes/mile), 40 minutes is at least 4 miles, which doesn’t seem intimidating at all.  Perhaps I should stop trying to psychoanalyze the 40-minute run and just say this: my legs know when they are being pushed beyond their comfort zone.  My knees were a little vocal during the last 10 minutes, complaining that this was hard and what happened to 30 minutes?  Energy-wise, I felt really good and I even made it through the run without any planned stops.  I did have to stop twice to cross the busy road, but I think I could have made it through the whole run without any stops at all.  It was a good run, and even though it felt daunting before I left, I am glad I was brave enough to take the first step.  It really is the hardest step of any run.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In Which I Capture a Photo of Local Wildlife

Bicycle at Rest

Texas Wildlife

Saturday + Sunday’s Bike Rides (10/23-10/24/10)

Whew!  I think, I hope, I beg that this past weekend is the last of a long series of working weekends in which I commute to work and back by bike.  I anticipate that I will indeed be working a bit next weekend, but I’m planning to work at home, analyzing data and planning experiments.  I need a break from the lab.

The work-outs were the usual, except that on Saturday, I also rode my bike to HEB to buy gorgeous organic greens, a favorite peanut butter, new olive oil, and delicious ciabatta rolls.  Ooh, it was a very good haul, and I was terribly pleased with it.  I’ll be eating well this week!  In total, I’d estimate I probably biked about 18 miles total on Saturday and Sunday.  I contemplated doing a long run on Sunday, but I decided to run on Monday evening, knowing that if I didn’t run on Sunday, I could spend that time getting a lot of other things done.  It was a good decision, as I am now feeling much more caught up on work, though there is, of course, more to do.

Hey, isn’t that lizard in the second photo adorable?  I found him hanging out on my patio’s screen door.  He was very mellow and let me take pictures of him.  I love the lizards down here—they still seem exotic to me, who comes from the Great White North, where the only lizards we have are the ones that live in cages in pet shops and people’s homes.  Another reptile I see down here occasionally?  Turtles!  I consider a turtle sighting to be a very good omen, but I’ve never been able to take a photo of one.  But I keep hoping!

Friday, October 22, 2010

For Now


I'm Getting Good at These Shots

Thursday’s Bike Ride (10/21/10)

Another workday, another bike ride to work.  It’s been a long week, so for now, I just have a one-word celebration for both of us:

* W * E * E * K * E * N * D * ! *

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Plan is Hatched

To Be Munched

Window Sitting

Halloween Sightings

Wednesday’s Run (10/20/10)

So, first things first.  In cast you didn’t know, peanut butter toast is an excellent way to bribe your butt out the door for a weeknight run.  I had a slice of Ezekiel bread (which I adore for its unwillingness to apologize for being whole grain and dripping with seeds), slathered quite generously with Whole Foods peanut butter, which I also love and miss terribly whenever I run out.  Whole Foods, please set up shop in College Station!  I will single-handedly keep you in business!

On Wednesday night, I decided to mix things up and headed off in a different direction for a 20-minute run.  The first 5 minutes were rather challenging, as though my legs were remembering how to run.  I’ve been feeling a little stiff this week, but if stiffness is not accompanied by soreness, then I don’t worry about it.  I figure that stiffness will melt away once I’ve been running for 5-10 minutes.

Once I was warmed up and moving at a nice pace, I found myself running toward a little park in town with a nice bouncy running path.  I did two laps on the path and enjoyed watching the soccer players having their after-game chats and gratuitous nakedness in the form of shirts missing or folded up and off their abdomens.  To be fair, it was a warm night and they were probably just trying to cool off, but still: hi there!

As I left the park, I craned my neck to see what the wooden sign said.  It told me that one lap equals 0.33 miles, which has given me an idea about how to do some speedwork in a park that I love.  I’d like to get some practice running laps at a pace faster than 9:00 miles.  I could use the park’s running path to practice running at 8:30 or 8:00 per mile, just to get a feel for that pace in an outdoor setting.  Truth be told, I always loved/hated track work-outs during cross-country practices.  It’s fun to run faster, to see what your limits are and then to break those limits.  Now the question is this: when and how do I fit speed work-outs into my half-marathon plan?  Also, what exactly is my half-marathon plan?  I’ll try to answer the second question in a future post, but I remain thoughtfully stumped about how best to gradually increase mileage and do some speedwork without risking injury.

I Ride Home

The Sun Sinks Down

Tuesday’s Bike Ride (10/19/10)

Inspired by S. of the lovely blog Simply Bike, I’ve been trying to make more of my weekday commutes two-wheeled affairs.  It’s still quite warm down here, but it’s very pleasant compared to what we had in August and September, so I feel that I have no excuses not to ride the bike as much as I can.  The evening ride home is becoming one of my favorite parts of the day.  I leave the lab happy that my work for the day is done, and I feel the fresh air on my skin and speed under my tires.  The evening light casts long shadows, and I look forward to a dinner eaten at my own table, with real dishes and flatware, as opposed to the work lunches I eat out of plastic containers and Ziplock baggies.  It’s always good to be home.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Reset Button

On the Mat

Monday’s Yoga (10/18/10)

I always need some quiet time to unwind before I try to go to sleep, which is one of the reasons I like to do yoga before bed.  I find that it sets the mood quite well for a good sleep.  On Monday night, I had a phone date with a very handsome man, and our conversation could have kept me up all night—you know how it is when you’re crazy about someone!—but we said good night a little after 9 PM and I had to find a way to calm down so I could get to sleep easily.

To relax my way into slumber, I did Gentle Hatha Yoga #2, which is one of the Hatha yoga classes that I don’t do very often.  I don’t know why, as I haven’t done a detailed comparison between this class and the other two options (#1 and #3).  At any rate, it’s nice to mix things up so one doesn’t get bored with her yoga, so #2 it was.  And it was lovely, relaxing and calming, just as I have come to expect from my yoga.  In lieu of vacation, it’s the best reset button I know.  The hard part, of course, is being disciplined enough to take deep breaths, to voluntarily slow down, but the result is more than worth the effort.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Get Lost

Man I Love Trees!

Saturday and Sunday’s Bike Rides (10/16-10/17/10)

One of the things I love best about running and bike riding is the chance to get a little lost, right in my very own town.  On two feet or two wheels, I can explore all the nooks and crannies, the side streets and parks and fields, as slowly or as quickly as I would like.  Sometimes it feels like the perfect escape.

This weekend was another working weekend, and I was on the bike for the commute to and from the lab.  On the way home Sunday, I decided to take the scenic route home, pedaling along side streets that I don’t see every day.  The unfamiliar sites were pleasantly distracting; I felt a temporary release from my anxious mind and its thundercloud of worries.  As I was riding home, I desperately wanted to treat myself to a pumpkin spice latte at It’s a Grind, but since it was already past 2 PM and I’m a bit sensitive to caffeine, I settled for a big mug of mint tea, a cookie bar, and a good chat with a wonderful friend.  Even better, of course, would have been to have coffee and a chat in person, but in lieu of plane tickets and time off from work, a phone date worked quite nicely.  I wish I had something deeper to say about all this, but all I can think is, I miss my friends.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Good Luck, JD!

Have a Great Race!

Friday’s Run (10/15/10)

I’m full of half-marathon excitement for my good friend JD, who is running the Detroit Half-Marathon tomorrow morning.  Good luck, JD!  Have fun and run a great race!  (And above, I’m showing some school spirit, as JD and I are both Albion College alums.  Go Brits!)

Knowing that JD’s half is tomorrow makes my own half-marathon seem real, as opposed to the vaguely dreamy plan that it’s been for the last few months.  I see that registration for the Armadillo Dash is now open, which is exciting.  Also exciting was my 30-minute run on Friday evening, the second 30-minute long run before I bump things up to 40 minutes.  Last night’s run was fantastic; I really felt like I was flying.  My pace was steady and even, and I only felt some fatigue in the last 5-10 minutes, and even that was just a little, not even enough to slow me down (I think).  I base all of these assessments on the feel of the run; since I run by time, I don’t know what my real pace was, but I do know that my easy pace is somewhere between 9 and 10 minutes per mile.

I finished the run and for the first time in a long time, I actually felt a runner’s high.  It was awesome.  I think I’m starting to feel like a real runner again.  40 minutes, I am ready for you.  Bring it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weekdays on Two Wheels

Hi There

We Are Ready to Ride


Shadow Action Shot

Tuesday + Thursday’s Bike Rides (10/12 and 10/14/10)

Tonight I rise to new heights of narcissism and reveal my love for the self-portrait!  I do feel a little shy about posting such a boldly self-centered picture here, but as a reader, I always think it’s nice to know what an author looks like.  So hello!  And welcome!  Even though I appear to have no eyes, something that often happens to me in bright sunshine, I like how that picture turned out.  I look happy and healthy, even with my forehead veins ready to jump out and grab the camera.  Rawr! 

I was in a good mood on Tuesday as I pedaled away from campus and over to HEB.  It may be a sad commentary on the state of my everyday life, but going to a different grocery store got me all excited about the shopping possibilities.  HEB tends to have the best organic greens in town; I picked up some kale and red leaf lettuce.  The lettuce has been fantastic in my salads this week.  (The kale I haven’t tried yet.)  Along with my greens, I picked up a can of Bush’s chickpeas, which my Albertson’s has mysteriously stopped carrying.  Strange, no?  Perhaps I will combine the kale and chickpeas to make something delicious for Friday’s dinner.

The trip to HEB added a mile or two to my bike ride commute on Tuesday.  On Thursday, I didn’t make any special trips, so my biking commute was a simple to-work-and-back number.  Tonight, I’m unwinding with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a library book, Her Fearful Symmetry, written by one of my favorite authors, Audrey Niffenegger.  My apartment is quiet and the smell of an apple-scented candle is deliciously perfuming the air.  I might do some yoga later to stretch and relax a bit, but I’m feeling pretty happy right now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Which I Discuss Running Routes and Neighborhood Mysteries

Shadow Shot

Pumpkins Spotted!

Who Are These Men

Monday’s Run (10/11/10)

I think I’m starting to settle into a nice running schedule: two times a week, with one of those times as my “long” run.  Perhaps running twice a week doesn’t sound like much, but I’m happy with it for now.  My half-marathon, the 5th Annual Armadillo Dash, isn’t until Sunday, March 6, 2011, and here I am, training for it five months in advance.  There is definitely time to build up the miles and to add in a third day of running each week, if I’d like to do that.

The important thing for now is to get back into the habit of running a few times a week.  In summer’s heat, I had fallen out of the habit of running outside, though I tried to get into the habit of doing treadmill runs.  It was hard for me to get too excited about the treadmill, so I didn’t push myself to run on it more than once a week.  I knew, in my heart of hearts, that come October, I’d be able to buckle down and get serious again about this running thing.

So, October, hello!  It’s so nice of you to finally arrive, and yes, I will be joining you for outside runs on sunny days.  On Monday evening, after a crazy crazy day at work, I arrived home, changed into my running clothes, sipped a glass of water spiked with some strawberry-cranberry juice, and headed out into the evening.  It was a very nice run, 20 minutes, out and back along my favorite running route.  I’m looking forward to mixing up my routes for variety’s sake, but for now, I’m happy to enjoy the same path for my twice-weekly runs.  I love that there are lots of things to see along this path: beautiful flowers and trees, cats lounging on driveways, a tiny park around which I can do a victory lap before heading home.  I’m a creature of routine, and it’s a comfort to have a running route to call my own.

My favorite part of Monday’s run?  A cat whose neck was so long and so white that it looked like it was wearing a scarf.  I had to look twice—it was awesome.  My other favorite part?  The photo below, which I took after arriving back home.  The photos above were taken during my photo walk on Saturday, and if someone could please tell me who the men in that mural are, I’d be very grateful.  I have no idea, but I’m dying to know!

The After-Run View

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Weekend in Motion

White Against Blue

Yes I Love Trees


Biking, Walking, and Yoga-ing (10/09-10/10/10)

I think I’m getting the hang of this working-weekend thing.  I won’t lie: I would prefer not to go into the lab every single day of the week, but for now, it’s what I must do to keep my experiments rolling along.  My routine is this: wake up, have a leisurely breakfast, wash the dishes, read e-mail and some favorite blogs, then take a shower, tidy up around my apartment, and hop on my bike to ride to campus.  I usually get into lab around 11 AM or so when left to my own devices, and my work takes about 1-2 hours to finish on a weekend day.  Then I find lunch somewhere, and I’m free to enjoy the rest of my day.

This weekend I did the usual biking to and from work.  On Saturday, I found myself feeling really wound up with anxiety.  Because it was a beautiful day and because I wanted to relax, I took a photo walk, tucking my camera into its carrying case and strolling around my neighborhood and through the dog park.  It was just what I needed.  Having my camera with me gave me a good excuse to slow down and try to soak up the afternoon—the sights, the sounds, the warmth of the sun, the joy of walking without a destination or an appointment.  I arrived home feeling like a new person, ready to enjoy the rest of my weekend.

On Sunday, rather than biking straight home from work, I rode over to Double Dave’s, a pizza place just a few blocks from the edge of campus.  I’d been craving pizza for several weeks, and when I was contemplating lunch, I decided on the spot that I wanted someone else to make me lunch.  I was also curious to know if they had a whole wheat crust, which they did!  Unfortunately (and stupidly, in my opinion), they do not make small pizzas with the whole wheat crust.  What?!?  People, it’s dough.  It doesn’t have a size until you give it one.  How can they not make all their sizes with their various pizza doughs?  Annoyed, I ordered a medium pizza, ate three slices, then had to balance a pizza box on my bike as I rode home.  Ridiculous!  At least the pizza was tasty.

All this biking and running as of late had my back feeling less than stellar, so for my back’s sake, I did some yoga Sunday night—old faithful, Gentle Hatha Yoga #1.  I still love that class, and it did the trick: my back felt much better, and I felt happy and relaxed, the perfect end to a nice weekend.

PS  I took so many wonderful photos on Saturday that I think I will share some more of them with you tomorrow.  Have a great week, friends!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Again We Catch the Light

Sip Sip

Friday’s Run (10/08/10): The First 30-Minute Training Run

Whew, what a week!  On Friday, I planned to do my “long run,” a 30-minute run at an easy pace, and I found myself looking forward to it all day.  Before my work-out, I wasn’t very hungry, but I thought it would be wise to eat something before heading out the door, so I made a smoothie out of strawberry kefir, strawberry-cranberry juice, and club soda.  It was so pink!  And it was perfect too—not too sweet, and I had a great run, for which I’ll credit my pink smoothie.  Even though it was after work and I often feel tired at that time of day, I felt wonderful, strong, even perky.

The best part of my run was the route.  I discovered a nice loop recently, one that takes me about an hour to walk, and I’d been eagerly looking forward to testing it out on a run.  I thought it might be too long for a 30-minute run, but it was perfect.  With my warm-up and cool-down, the distance was just right to take me out and back to my door in about 40 minutes (5 minutes each for warm-up and cool-down, 30 minutes of running).  I tried to run it continuously, as one of my half-marathon goals is to take fewer walk breaks so I can run a speedier half.  I only stopped when it was time to cross the busy road that cuts through my running route, so I had maybe a 2-minute break early in the run, but the rest was continuous motion.  I was very happy with this run, and I’m starting to get really excited about doing my long runs.  Let the half-marathon training begin!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taking It Slowly

Ready to Ride

What's Over There


Wednesday’s Bike Ride (10/06/10)

I love exercise for many reasons.  It can serve as a medium for achievement and greatness.  It can be a social outlet or a stress-reliever.  It can be a way to turn down the noise inside your head for something altogether more peaceful.  And on the best days, it can be a way to slow down, a sort of moving meditation that both soothes and refreshes. 

Wednesday’s bike ride commute was my moving meditation.  The ride to campus was typical of a weekday morning at Texas A & M, with lots of foot traffic and pedestrians not paying much attention to anything around them.  I’m a little bit of a speed demon on the bike, so their la-la-la attitude toward the sidewalk traffic scares me.  I make myself slow down so that I don’t run someone over.  Sometimes, however, riding through the pedestrian traffic is kinda fun, like weaving my way through a puzzle.

The commute home offered a chance to linger in the warm fall evening.  Once I was off campus, I decided to take the long way home, slowly riding through a neighborhood not too far from where I live.  There’s a charm to those streets that I really like.  It’s not a wealthy neighborhood, and some of the properties look like they could use some love, but the people in this neighborhood are always very friendly to me and there isn’t a lot of car traffic, which is a blessed relief compared to much of College Station.  The cat in the second photo above lives in this neighborhood, and she posed for me, dramatically moving from one posture to another.  I love cats—they are always such show-offs.

As for that final photo, I maintain that brownies are good exercise fuel.  These particular brownies are delicious, a Vegetarian Times recipe that I tweaked.  I really like my version and plan to share it soon on my food blog.  For now, I’m hogging them all to myself.  Oink oink!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ignoring the Siren’s Call

Cute on the Feet

Getting Ready

Good Advice

Tuesday’s Run (10/05/10)

My least energetic moment of the day is the second I cross the threshold into my own home after a normal work day.  I can feel all the horizontal surfaces calling me to lie down on them—the couch, the bed, the floor.  Sometimes I heed the siren’s call, and I take a little rest before resuming the evening’s activities.  Wait, did I say sometimes?  Make that often.  Or instead of lying down, I’ll sit down with a snack and my computer, and I’ll catch up on the day’s news in blogland.  Finally, relaxed and refueled, I’ll head out on my run or I’ll cook dinner or I’ll run errands.

Some evenings, though, I make it a goal to get in and get out right away.  Tuesday was one of those evenings when I didn’t want to lose a moment to dilly-dallying.  I had big plans: run, dinner, blog, roast pumpkin, in that order.  Ignoring the siren’s call, I headed out right away on an easy 20-minute run, just an out-and-back path to get my legs moving and my lungs pumping.  I was still a little sore from Sunday’s furniture excitement, but I felt pretty good during the run.  There was a persistent stitch in my right side which I kept under control with a technique I picked up somewhere: contract your abs, then breathe out, hard.  Do this a few times and usually the stitch (muscle cramp, I believe?) will relax a bit.  It might not go away completely, but it will be less painful.

Despite the stitch, I had a great run.  It was so nice to be out there, cruising along, enjoying the sensation of moving faster, powered by my two feet.  Speaking of which, I probably should have worn flats today, but I really like my new heels, which you can see in the first photograph.  I like them too much not to wear them; a little toe pain might be the price I pay for my vanity.  But my running shoes are much more comfortable.  Brooks, I run happy because of your shoes!

Monday, October 4, 2010

As Seen Around Town


I Walk

Yes Please!

Sunday’s Bike Ride, Monday’s Pain (10/03-10/04/10)

Oh, goodness.  I am hurting today.  Really, really hurting, to the point where I don’t want to reach for things because of the pain.  Oy.  The source of my pain is the unexpected strength training I did while lugging this snazzy computer desk from someone’s curb to my apartment.  My back, my neck, and my arms are all aching, and all I can think is, tomorrow will be better, right?

Yesterday was supposed to be fairly light as far as exercise goes, just my normal 7-mile bike ride to and from work.  Easy-peasy by now, right?  And it was.  I would be totally fine today if I hadn’t been possessed to pluck heavy furniture from the street curb.  But I don’t regret my decision, even with the pain today, because I really like my new desk.  It filled an empty spot in my apartment, gave me another spot to display pictures, and gave me a bookshelf.  And the price couldn’t be beat, though one could argue that the price of these sorts of things is the labor you put into dragging them home and cleaning them up. 

Today is a rest day for me.  I left work a bit early because I was so sore and because I had errands to run, errands that I didn’t get done yesterday because I was too busy working.  (Oh, the irony.  Also, all the photos above are from my snail-paced shopping trip.  Plus it was gorgeous outside, and I wanted to linger in the beautiful fall evening.)  I went to the coffee shop and picked up a new bag of beans that smell like dirt and chocolate; I can’t wait to try them tomorrow morning.  I also went to Albertson’s to buy food, where I cursed myself for buying heavy items like milk and cranberry-strawberry juice.  But it wasn’t too bad walking home with my groceries, and now I’m all set for a few days of good eating.  On the cooking agenda this week: fresh pumpkin puree, a spicy tomatillo and hominy stew, and a batch of brownies that came out of the oven about 30 minutes ago.  Oh yes, somehow I found the strength to bake tonight.  Nothing stands between me and my chocolate.  Not even back, neck, and arm pain.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Now or Never

Action Shot

I Heart Running

Saturday’s Bike Ride and Run (10/02/10)

Yesterday, I had an important realization: if I am going to train for a half-marathon scheduled for March of 2011, I am going to have to learn how to run and bike on the same days.  For the past month or two, I’ve had some schedule-related setbacks in my half-marathon training, most of them due to the fact that I have to go to work every weekend to attend to experimental obligations.  It’s a drag, this whole working-on-the-weekend thing.  The bike rides I’ve been doing to get me to and from work have been the highlight of my working weekend experience, but I’ve been rather hesitant to add running on top of all the biking.

Well, friends, the time to add that running is now.  I think I’ve had sufficient time to build my biking base such that my body will be able to handle short runs on the days when I’ve biked about seven miles to and from work.  Right now, my runs are only 20 minutes, though I plan to bump them up to 30 next week.  With exercise, it’s hard to find that sweet spot between too much and not enough.  My new biathlete status will push me to find my sweet spot.  It’s a worthwhile pursuit because I am all about balance—this is just a new challenge in the fine art of finding balance in life.

Yesterday’s biking+running combo went well.  In the morning, I rode the bike to work, took care of my flies, then rode it over to the hippie grocery store to buy my weekly groceries.  In the late afternoon, I laced up my sneakers and went for an easy, 20-minute run around the neighborhood.  I’m not going to lie: this 20 minutes was kinda hard.  I didn’t run fast, but my legs and my lungs were saying, “Hey, what happened to the thing with two wheels?  I thought that’s how we got around these days!”  I’m not discouraged by the difficulty of this run.  It’s going to take some time for my body to get used to the new routine.

That being said, I am going to do my best to make sure I have some rest days with no biking or running—maybe some yoga to stretch things out, but nothing too taxing.  I have to be careful because I know how easy it is to overdo it, to not listen to your body in the interest of sticking with a training schedule.  Training schedules are meant to motivate and guide you.  They are not meant to grind their followers into the ground.  In the end, work-outs and races are supposed to be fun, and rest days are an important part of staying healthy and injury-free.  There’s nothing fun about not being able to get outside and run, especially now that fall has started and the weather just begs you to run underneath sunny skies while the breeze kisses your skin.  In the end, that’s why I run: because it feels good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

So Happy Together!

Hi Beautiful

Friday’s Bike Ride (10/01/10)

We’re back together again!  The bike and I reunited today at the bicycle shop.  I took a late afternoon stroll to pick up the blue Schwinn, who now has tires that feel like rocks.  I didn’t realize until I rode the Schwinn back to work that when a bike has really hard tires, you feel all the little nooks, bumps, and crannies of your terrain.  It’s jarring at first, all those textures announcing themselves, through your tires, to your bum.  But it’s great to have a healthy bike again, one that doesn’t require air in the back tire every time I go for a ride.  I rode the bike very leisurely from campus to almost-home, and I hit that sweet spot where the wind was blowing through my hair, the evening air smelled sweet, and everything else just fell away.  I love that moment.

Today I was exhausted from last night’s madness, so I treated myself to dinner at Blue Baker, just soup and a sandwich.  The Tomato Basil Bisque was outstanding!  It was creamy, rich, and spicy with black pepper.  I was a little overeager when I took my first spoonful—I forgot that soups are almost always served mouth-searingly hot at restaurants.  But the heat melted the long shreds of Parmesan into savory, melty bits, adding just a touch of texture to an already-delightful soup.  I ate dinner outside, by myself, over by the fountain, underneath a dark, dreamy sky while listening to live music, courtesy of Independence Harley-Davidson’s local breast cancer awareness event, V-Twins for the Twins Ride.  Harleys always remind of my college philosophy professor, the late Dr. Ned Garvin, who was a total badass inside and outside the classroom.  So it was with fondness and a touch of heartache that I smiled at the Harley event and thought about Ned, who lost his own battle with cancer four years ago.

I don’t ride a Harley, just a Schwinn and the bus, but I think Ned would approve of how much fun I’ve had riding my borrowed bike.  Ned lived his life like he didn’t know when it would end, and he squeezed as much pleasure and fun out of it as he could.  He was generous with his love and unflinching with his affections.  I’ve never met anyone quite like him, though my current flame comes pretty close*.  Ned’s attitude is one that I’ve tried to embrace, and every bike ride helps make everyday life closer to that ideal.

* I think Ned once told me that if he was unattached and thirty years younger, he would have totally asked me out.  At the time, it struck me as very high praise.  I was no longer his student in any official sense, and we were good friends and loyal pen pals via e-mail, so his comment was fun and flattering, not threatening or creepy.  I miss Ned’s warmth and compassion every day.