Sunday, November 28, 2010

Long Run, Slow Down

Tall Trees Grey Day

Sun Breaks Through

Bike with Shoes

Playing Catch-up: 11/22-11/28/10

Well!  I may be very far behind on posts for this blog, but at least I have a good excuse.  I was sick for the better part of seven days or so, which hindered my ability to exercise and to write about exercising.  My sense of well-being vanished, and I resorted to taking every day and every hour on a case-by-case basis, which I’ll explain in more detail below.  The good news is that I think I’m fully recovered—I even ran tonight!  It was a Thanksgiving miracle, and I am grateful to have my health back.

Turning back the clock, let’s start with Monday and I’ll catch you up to speed.

* Monday: I feel a little sick, on and off, for most of the day, but somehow I manage to work a full day and run for 50 minutes in the evening.  I stick to the well-lit and busy streets around my apartment because night has fallen by the time I hit the pavement.  I do a couple of loops, taking a 5-minute walking break at the 35-minute mark.  Though I’m trying to minimize my walking breaks during long runs, I feel much better after my break and finish the remaining 15 minutes feeling much stronger.

* Tuesday: I feel quite ill the whole day.  I consider taking the day off of work, then I decide that I can handle a short day (and I make a deal with myself that if I feel worse, I’ll go home at any time).  I go in late, get some stuff done, then leave early and head straight to bed.

* Wednesday: My illness lingers, but again, I go into work late, get some tasks done, and I leave at a normal time.  I don’t work out at all, and I feed myself rice topped with sautéed onions, garlic, and spinach.  Feta cheese adds a burst of tangy richness, and I feel reasonably well after dinner.

* Thursday: I continue to improve, but my strength is still hampered by illness.  I make a beautiful quiche for Thanksgiving and celebrate the day with a good friend and her circle of friends.  The only exercise I get is a little walking up and down my block, looking for photo opportunities.

* Friday: I take the day as an easy vacation day, though I am feeling much better than earlier in the week.  I get a bunch of stuff done around the house, and later in the day, I head out for a long walk with a friend.  We walk for about an hour, then we seek shelter and hot drinks to warm us up after our chilly walk.  It is a good day and I feel much restored.

* Saturday: I feel my strength returning, so I head out to run errands.  I bike to the university library to return some books.  From there, I ride over to Brazos Natural Foods, where I buy provisions for the week.  I reward my efforts with an evening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and a bowl of rum raisin ice cream.

* Sunday: I declare myself fully recovered and get tons of exercise today.  Encouraged by the sunny afternoon, I go on a walk around the neighborhood and then over to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  Later, before the sun goes down, I go for a run around my favorite loop.  I was scheduled to run 60 minutes today, but I decide to hold off on the distance.  I run for about 32 minutes and feel good afterwards.  I stretch and do some ab work, then I shift into chef mode and prep a butternut squash for oven roasting.  I forget how much I like this particular recipe for squash and promise myself I’ll make it again with my other butternut.

Now, with my health restored and my mind rested after four days away from the lab, I feel ready for a fresh start—and some roasted butternut squash.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

She Runs, She Bikes, She Wears Swishy Pants

Fall_Texas Style

Bike with Flowers

I Wear Swishy Pants

Saturday’s Run and Bike Ride Commute + Sunday’s Bike Ride Commute (11/20-11/21/10)

Oof, I’m still feeling a bit under the weather, but what can I do but blog when it’s 12:30 AM and I’m not sleepy because I slept for 3.5 hours immediately after coming home early from work?  On an unrelated note, today is my birthday, which is awesome.  For my birthday, I’d like my health to be fully restored, please.  I have Thanksgiving cooking to do, followed by Thanksgiving eating.

My weekend ended up being packed with too much to do and not enough time, but I think I made the most of it.  On Friday night, I canceled my exercise plans to spend some time with a friend.  We took a moonlit stroll after work, ate Asian take-out, and talked until I turned into a pumpkin at 11 PM.  It was a good night.  On Saturday, I doubled up on the exercise, in part because I hadn’t run in so long that I felt like I needed to run.  I did a 20-minute run down to the hippie food store, going past the store and doubling back to get my full 20 minutes.  Then I bought butter and onions and starting getting excited about the quiche I’m making for Thanksgiving: Mollie Katzen’s Gruyere Quiche with Golden Onions and Red Pepper, from Sunlight Cafe, one of my very favorite cookbooks ever.  (Her Autumn Frittata from the same chapter on eggs is really, really good too.  I should get around to sharing that one, and my adaptation of it, on my food blog at some point.)

The run was good—just another short training run at my normal pace.  On Saturday and Sunday, I did the bike ride commute to campus to take care of some lab work.  Saturday’s ride was fine, but Sunday’s was not very pleasant.  The wind was ridiculously strong, and I was feeling rather tired.  I think I was already starting to get a little sick over the weekend, and my energy levels fell on Monday and Tuesday.  But somehow, and this is totally crazy, I still managed to do a long run on Monday, which I’ll share later this week.  Body of mine, you are quite resilient, but sometimes you have to have things your way.

I’m starting to feel sleepy again, so I think it’s off to bed with me again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pause Button

Autumn Against the Sky

Hi, friends.  I’m feeling ill tonight, so I’m going to bed early.  Hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow, ready to talk about running and biking again.  If my illness lingers, this space may remain silent, but don’t worry.  It’s just some abdominal trouble, an upset system.  I’ll be back soon.

Until then, be well and happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sunlight and Layers

Blue Skies Again

A Moment of Rest

Shadow Shot

Tuesday/Thursday Bike Ride Commutes and Wednesday’s Walk (11/16-11/18/10)

I’m having a cozy evening with a Boston Legal DVD and a mug of Sleepytime Vanilla Tea.  The last few days have been busy with work and bike rides and a long walk home from campus.  I’m looking forward to the upcoming holiday weekend, when I’ll spend Thursday making a quiche and celebrating Thanksgiving with a friend and her friends.  On Friday, I plan to be a couchworm, snuggled under blankets and drinking hot tea.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?

On Tuesday, I did the usual bike ride commute, which was tough because it was so windy!  The ease of bike riding around here is totally, completely dependent on the strength and direction of the wind on any given day.  It’s a good work-out, I suppose, when the wind is working against you, but sometimes I just want a pleasant, easy ride to work.  But whatever—the weather doesn’t take its cues from me.

Fortunately, Wednesday was absolutely gorgeous, and I got to go shopping.  My sister had convinced me to buy a Gap Groupon: I paid $25 and got a coupon good for $50 at the Gap.  It was a fabulous deal; the only trouble is that I went to the Gap twice and couldn’t find enough clothing to spend my Groupon!  I decided to go back one last time, and I finally found something worth taking home.  Actually, I found several things worth taking home, including a beautiful blue cowl-neck shirt, which is soft and sleek, and a twirly, navy-blue skirt.  The skirt is knee-length and it has pockets!  I’m totally copycatting this skirt, which I loved and immediately wanted in my own closet.  It’s worth noting that both the cowl-neck shirt and the skirt are unlike any other pieces I own, so I feel like I’m really expanding my wardrobe horizons here.

I took the bus to and from the mall, then I walked home from campus.  It was a warm evening, and my walk was probably about 40 minutes.  I was tired and hungry when I got home, so I decided to call the walk my exercise for the day.  I had also put in quite a few minutes of walking earlier in the day—walking to work from the bus stop, then across campus to another bus stop to catch a different bus.  Walk, walk, walk—nowadays people often think I’m too thin, but they just don’t realize that I walk all the time.

On Thursday, I did the bike ride commute again and took the two bike photos you see above.  With our short hours of daylight, I’m finding that the best time for me to do photos is in the afternoon, when I’ve gotten most of my work done and I can sneak outside for a few minutes while the sun is bright and the breeze is warm and gentle.  In the second photo, the building behind my bike is the building in which I work.  Exciting!  Dressing for a bike ride was kinda fun this morning.  It was a chilly day, at least at 9 AM it was, so I layered my cozy blue sweater over my indoor clothes, then I wrapped a scarf around my neck and slipped on some stretchy gloves.  Those layers made for a warm, comfortable morning ride, and I did it again in the evening.  I could get used to these luxurious layers for the next few months!

Happy almost-weekend!  I’m ready for it.  I hope you are too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Can See Blue Underneath All That Grey

Trees as Seen from the Bus Window

Leggings and Tallish Socks 

Saturday’s Bike Ride Commute + Sunday’s Run (11/13-11/14/10)

Whew, what a busy, busy weekend!   I spent a good chunk of it in the lab, so I had to trick myself into thinking that Saturday was Tuesday in order to not get mad about working so much on weekends.  It was a good working weekend; I got a lot done, including my 50-minute long run on Sunday!

Backing up for a moment to Saturday…I rode the bike to work on Saturday morning.  In the afternoon, I rode it to the other side of town to buy white wine and groceries for my special Saturday dinner plans: leeks and garlic braised in white wine.  Then, because I am a twit, I totally effed up the recipe and now I have barely edible leeks in the fridge which I am forcing myself to eat as punishment (and because I don’t have other options for lunches right now).  Thank goodness the leeks are almost gone.  And that poor recipe!  I’m sure it’s perfectly delicious if you actually follow instructions, but why would you do that?  Isn’t cooking more exciting when you go off the map?

Sunday found me in the lab again, but I escaped around 4 PM and headed home to do my long run.  It was beautiful, melancholy day with grey skies and the merest slip of blue at the edge of the horizon.  It was cold, too, at least by Texas standards, so I wore long running tights and a big baggy sweatshirt for my run.  I must admit that the run was a sloggy one, and the baggy clothes didn’t help me feel sleek and speedy.  It wasn’t a bad run, though I did end up getting a little turned around when I did a big loop around the Texas A & M golf course.  I was able to do my 50 minutes without scheduled stops.  I did have to stop several times to cross busy roads, but that’s the price one pays for some variety in running routes.

By the way, I love the first photo above.  I took it inside the bus on my way to campus and am most pleased with how it turned out.  It’s pretty unusual for us to have such grey skies in Texas, and I love how the bare tree branches look against that slate grey sky.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In Motion We Find Joy

Spotted on Campus

Yellow and Green

Feet and Flowers

Thursday’s Bike Ride Commute and Friday’s Run (11/11-11/12/10)

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed again.  At work, there were so many things I could do, and I felt paralyzed by the task of making a decision.  On one hand, it’s great to have so many ideas and experiments on the table—it’s a wonderfully creative time in this project, and I love the sense of possibility.  On the other hand, I find myself stressed out by the huge amount of work that needs to be done.  It’s like I’m forgetting that just because I can do all of these things doesn’t mean I should do them all today.  In fact, I know that I cannot do all of them at once, that the only way to accomplish the goals is to spread them out and pace myself, just like I pace myself during a run.  I don’t do my 20-minute runs by sprinting for 2 minutes and then slogging my way through the remaining 18 minutes.  I try to maintain a more-or-less even pace, and that’s a strategy that works for me time and again.

Wow, writing that last paragraph was therapeutic.  It’s good to remember that there’s a sane person living inside of me somewhere.  In my state of psychofizz, exercise was truly a blessing on Thursday and Friday.  I did the usual bike ride commute on Thursday; the only unusual thing is that I wore shorts, because it’s really warm here again!  I hear the rest of the States is experiencing a heat wave, so I assume our Texas heat is part of that warm trend.  Still, I can’t believe I was back in shorts and sandals in November.  This place is crazy.

On Friday, the stress really got to me, and I almost started crying on the bus because I was feeling so overwhelmed and kinda beat down by the week.  But I held it together, and when I got home, I soothed myself with a very hearty snack of toast topped with peanut butter and bananas.  I think my tears may have been caused by hunger; I’ve been known to cry during times of calorie deprivation.  So I ate, and I drank some water, and I read a few posts from the March 2010 archives of What Would a Nerd Wear.  (I am loving this scarf and this whole outfit—nerds have the best style!)  Then I laced up my sneakers and ran outside for 20 minutes, and it was really therapeutic.  I imagined my stress as a slippery monster that kept trying to grab my feet, but I outran him, and it made me feel swift and powerful.  20 minutes was probably the perfect length of time for this run—enough to let me settle into the rhythm of running but short enough that it felt do-able after a long, draining week.

And now, I’m off to lab (again!), but then I get to go grocery shopping and settle into my Saturday.  Happy weekend, friends!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Everything is Brighter in the Sunshine

My New Ride

It's Purple

Me and the Teeny-Tiny Wildflowers

Tuesday’s Bike Ride Commute (11/09/10)

Finally, finally, finally!  Sunshine returns to the Lone Star State, and I get a chance to take pictures of my gorgeous new bike.  After riding Amutha’s blue Schwinn for nine months, I was really hooked on the Schwinn hybrid, a cross between a fast road bike and a sturdier, tougher mountain bike.  When it was time to buy a bike of my own, I considered a Raleigh, like S. has, but I was afraid to spend a ton of money on a bike that might be stolen on campus.  Instead, I went with my heart and bought a Schwinn, then crossed my fingers that it would always be waiting for me where I left it.

Now that I’ve had a few days to get used to riding it, I can say that this bike is a great ride.  The angle of the seat is a little different than the blue bike, but otherwise I found the feel of the new bike to be more or less the same as its blue cousin.  It’s wonderful to have a bike of my own again, to know that whenever I want to go somewhere in town, I can just hop on my two wheels and go.  I’m continuing to enjoy my workday commutes, though I will note that my legs were awfully tired on Tuesday morning, as though there were some lingering fatigue from Sunday’s run or Monday’s yoga.  Whatever—by evening it was gone, and so was the sun.  The big challenge now is riding home without the benefit of sunlight.  At best, it’s dusk when I leave work, and by the time I arrive home, it’s dark.  My strategy is to ride slowly and carefully, and take no risks.  For the most part, there are streetlights and illumination along the way, but it’s still a bit scary riding in the dark.  I’m actually not that worried about getting hit by a car because I ride on sidewalks, but I do worry about the terrain.  That bike helmet is sounding like a better idea every day…

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stretch into the Darkness


Monday’s Yoga (11/08/10)

Post-run day is yoga day, and Monday was no exception.  I thought about skipping this work-out and taking a rest day, but somehow I pulled myself away from reading blogs, unrolled my yoga mat, and let Dave Farmar lead me through his Baptiste Power Yoga Flow #3.  Afterward, I had an amazing night’s rest and woke up the next morning before my alarm clock went off, which happens so rarely that I was stunned.  Stunned!  I had a wonderful workday morning and rode my bike to work in the sunshine, ready to start a new day in the lab.

I’ve noticed, and other people have pointed this out to me, that when I write blog posts, I like my stories to have a little moral or lesson at the end.  Perhaps I’m just a pedant, but I like to think that each day offers the chance to learn something new.  With yoga, I feel the lesson reveals itself over and over again: one must be patient and dedicated to reap the benefits.  Sometimes that means doing yoga when I’d rather play on the internet.  For me, whose mind tends to drift into a hazy daydreamy fairyland, the self-discipline that it takes to keep my yoga practice going is something that I take with me off the mat, and that’s a message I’m willing to evangelize.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spend the Extra Hour

Pears Cheese Crackers


Run Over

Sunday’s Run (11/07/10)

Isn’t daylight savings time grand?  I almost don’t mind springing forward if it means that later I get to enjoy a day with 25 hours in it.  I couldn’t be happier that I got to spend the extra hour with my handsome visitor, who enjoys spoiling me with excellent food, wine, conversation, and long walks.  We had a wonderful weekend together, and I miss him already.

But!  His departure means a return to my normal routines, including a good Sunday run since I didn’t go into the lab today (which means I didn’t do the 7-mile-ish bike ride commute to and from work).  I had planned to do a 50-minute run today, but I wasn’t feeling up to it because I was a little sad about saying good-bye to my guest.  Also, and perhaps this is not a good excuse, but I didn’t want to be completely exhausted by my run because I’m getting ready for an important presentation at work on Tuesday and I wanted to have some energy left tonight to work on my talk.  I find that I must maintain a careful balance between my work and my athletic pursuits because either one can wear me out completely.  For today, I decided to hold back a little bit so that I can give a good performance on Tuesday.

I ran a strong 40-minute run, only pausing to cross a street near the beginning of the run.  This run felt very different from the other 40-minute runs I’ve done recently; I could tell that with this one, I wasn’t pushing myself into new mileage territory, but I was strengthening my running base.  I think that’s a good thing to do, so I have no regrets about taking today a tiny bit easier than I could have.  The 50-minute run will happen later this week or next weekend; either way, I plan to run at least 30 minutes on Wednesday or Thursday so I can keep strengthening my aerobic base.

* A note about the time on the watch: that’s the total amount of time I was on my feet.  I ran for 40 minutes of that; the rest was walking before and after the run.  You can see that I reached over an hour of “foot time,” mostly because I walked for about 15 minutes after the running portion of the work-out was done.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shoots Leaves, or What I Wore While Running

A Favorite Running Tee



Wednesday’s Run (11/03/10)

I find myself feeling sad that summer’s long sunny days are fading into dark autumn evenings.  In theory, I love fall and all its treats, and the onset of darkness just reminds us to seek the light whenever we can.  But it also means the end of good photography light after work, which means I’ll be moving my Feels Like Flying photography operation indoors more frequently than I would like.  My camera is not a good dim-light camera, and I just refuse to use a flash.

At least the cool weather gives me an excuse to wear one of my favorite long-sleeved t-shirts, one with a pretty leafy design that I’ve had for ten years.  I wore this shirt over a long-sleeved thermal shirt on Wednesday because it was pretty nippy outside, especially with the wind.  I also wore running tights (not pictured), which was nice because my legs always feel cozy and fast in running tights.  I ran a strong 30-minute run, and it felt great.  I contemplated running a 50-minute long run because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do my long run on Sunday (November 7), but my schedule changed a bit and I think I’ll be able to fit the long run into Sunday’s plans, which will largely consist of hanging out with one of my favorite people, saying good-bye to that person (and trying not to cry too much), and finishing my preparations for lab meeting on Tuesday.  A long run might be just the thing I need to distract myself from thinking about someone’s absence too much.

One of the things I love about half-marathon training is how the long runs start to make any shorter runs feel so easy (unless you’re doing speedwork—that’s a different animal altogether).  Running 30 minutes was fast and fun on Wednesday…because it wasn’t 40 minutes.  And soon, after running an hour or longer in one shot, a 40-minute run will sound leisurely.  I’m not there yet, but I know I will be soon, and I’m looking forward to it.

Until then, I’m looking forward to a weekend of good wine and the company of a good man.  Have a good weekend, friends!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Cozy Looks Like

Stuck in the Rain

Almost Ready

What Cozy Looks Like

Monday’s Yoga and Tuesday’s Cold Wet Bike Ride Commute (11/01-11/02/10)

We had an exciting weather day on Tuesday, one that featured rain, wind, and surprisingly cold temperatures.  But I’ll get to that in a moment.  Backing up a day, to recover from Sunday’s long run, I did Gentle Hatha Yoga #1, and it was nice.  Good for the back, good for the soul.  I think yoga is a perfect recovery “work-out” to do the day after long runs.

On Tuesday, it was a chilly morning, but I assumed it would be a typical Texas morning that feels cold for about five seconds before the sun comes out and all of a sudden it’s 80 degrees again.  I was wrong.  It was a cool morning, and I wore jeans and a short-sleeved sweater over a tank top.  I was pretty comfortable during my bike ride to work—perhaps just a tiny bit cold on top but nothing to complain about.  My ride home, however, was a totally different story.  It looked like it had been raining on and off all day; when I left work, it was spittling a bit, but it wasn’t enough to discourage me from riding the bike home.  I figured I’d ride slowly and carefully, and if my bike felt unsafe in the wet, I’d walk it home.

The bike performed beautifully in the rain.  It’s a gorgeous new eggplant purple Schwinn, one which I will certainly photograph for you when we have some sunshine again.  For now, you can just take a peak at it in the top photo, parked on my patio.  I felt very safe and secure riding this new bike in the drizzly cold rain; the breaks were strong and fast, though they got a little squeaky about halfway through my commute.  Thank goodness the bike was well-behaved, because it was not a pleasant ride home.  I was very cold in my short sleeves; I even pulled my sweater’s hood over my head to keep me a little warmer.  Luckily, I had worn a scarf that morning, so I had something warm and cozy around my neck.  My hands were so cold when I got home that it took forever to get the bike locked up so I could go inside and warm up.

Once inside, I ate a hot meal and that helped tremendously.  For dessert, I made some mint cocoa and curled up with a Boston Legal DVD.  There were graham crackers to go with the cocoa, which made me feel like a kid again.  Many of the world’s ills could be solved with hot cocoa and graham crackers.  For that night, the combination was enough to solve my problems.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Conquer the Miles

Through the Branches

Leaves and Flops

Post-Run Lunch

Sunday’s Run (10/31/10)

My goodness, I never realized how pretty brown can be!  I really like the first two photos, which I took in the afternoon, after I was all cleaned up from my 40-minute long run.  It was a gorgeous, summery day outside, with lots of heat and bright light.  Though I love fall weather, I’ll take whatever I get down here, which is not always very fall-like, even on Halloween.  That’s how it goes in the Lone Star State.

My long run on Sunday was a good one.  It was a mixed bag of feelings, as far as runs go.  It was challenging, though it was my second 40-minute long run for this training season.  But I felt strong, pushing myself to keep up with the challenge.  I don’t know if I was actually running faster than I did during my first 40-minute run, but I definitely had the feeling that this was no easy run.  I was working during this run.

I’m happy to report that my body is handling the training schedule very well.  I am doing a lot of cross-training because I’m riding a bike to work a few days a week, and I’m only running two days a week, usually.  But when I do run, the only discomforts I feel are perhaps a little stiffness at the beginning of the run and a little soreness and fatigue at the end of a long run.  I’m recovering quickly from the long runs, again with some soreness and fatigue the next day.  Yes, I realize that the long runs must keep getting longer, at which point recovery starts to become longer and slower, but I’m happy with how my running is going, physically and mentally.