Sunday, December 18, 2011


Remnants of Fall

Week of December 18, 2011:

Run: Sunday

Wouldn’t it be even better if I were wearing boots in that photo above?  Alas, I have no cute boots, just a pair of extremely old black boots that are about to get, uh, booted from my closet if Santa brings me a new pair.  But I do have a great pair of black flats that I wear all the time now.  You could say they are part of my work uniform.

I’m finally caught up on my life!  My computer is working beautifully these days, the number of ants in my apartment is down to a tolerable minimum, and I’m making strides on my grant work.  What I’m not caught up on is blogging, and I think I’m going to let that go because frankly, I just don’t have the energy to rewind two weeks to tell you all about my work-outs.  Suffice to say that I have been working out.  The best part of my running life is having a running buddy, my friend Christy, with whom I’m training for the 2012 Armadillo Dash.  We ran 60 minutes this morning, starting at our home base (a pretty park in my favorite neighborhood) and into main campus.  It was a beautiful day for running, overcast but with mild temperatures and no wind.  We ran slowly, with several walk breaks, which is totally fine with me because I want to run with a friend, and sometimes that means running slower to accommodate your friend.  The important thing, in my mind, is that we get out there and get some miles under our feet.  I want to have a fun race at the Armadillo Dash, and if we’ve trained to go the distance, even if we run slowly, then we’ll have a better race day and better recovery after the race.

How is your Sunday, sweet reader?  I am brainstorming ideas for a grant and downloading papers that for some mysterious reason, I haven’t saved on my computer.  Oh, Past Rose-Anne, sometimes I do not understand you at all! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Speed Demon! Or Maybe Not…

Week of November 27, 2011:

Run: Wednesday

I have a new running buddy!  Christy and I went running two days over Thanksgiving weekend, and I think we’ve decided to train for the upcoming Armadillo Dash half-marathon together.  It’s been really fun to have a buddy who is eager to run with me, despite the very chilly weather we had last Sunday.

When it comes to running buddies, compromise is often a necessity.  I’ve told Christy that we’ll run at her pace, and it doesn’t bother me if it’s slower than I might run on my own.  For the 2012 Dash, I’m not looking for a new PR; I’m just looking for the fun and health benefits of a good training season and then a fun race at the end.  I know that running helps to lift my mood and keep me feeling focused, energized, and positive about life, and I need that now more than ever.

So speed demons we are not on our runs together.  In light of that truth, I decided to hop on the treadmill last night to see if I couldn’t crank out two 8-minute miles.  And I could not.  I warmed up, and once I was running the 8-mile/min. pace, I realized just how hard it was.  It was hard, y’all!  I decided I could push through one mile at that pace, which was exciting.  And then I was done.  Whew!  Let’s do it again next week, shall we?

Have you had any good speed work-outs lately, dear readers?  Any failed attempts to run faster?  Does anyone else overestimate her fitness sometimes like I do?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Do My Feet Look Like a Muppet’s?

Muppet Feet

Week of November 20, 2011:

Bike: Saturday

Run: Thursday and Friday (woot!)

Yoga: My memory fails me…

Week of November 27, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday

Run: Sunday

Yoga: Monday

Oof, I’m woefully behind around here again!  I blame my depressing work news, which I’ve been countering with a lot of running (five miles with a friend on Sunday, woot!), kitchen time, and dancing.  My spirits have been really up and down: most of the time I feel okay, if mildly bummed, but occasionally I have moments when I feel frightened by my impending deadlines and joblessness.  I’m trying to think positively and to focus on what I can do, rather than worrying about the uncertainty of it all.  But still, it’s pretty damn scary.

In other news, cold weather has arrived!  Without the heat on at home, my apartment’s ambient temperature is a chilly 60-something degrees, so I finally caved and turned on the heat.  I also dug into my sock drawer and pulled out the silly socks you see above.  They look like a Muppet’s feet, don’t you think?  But they are really warm and cozy, and I kept them on when it was time to do my strength exercises last night.  Who says Muppets don’t do yoga or push-ups?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Answer

This week, by day…

Oh Texas

Wednesday Morning

…and by night.

Campus After Dusk

Week of November 20, 2011:

Bike: Sunday and Wednesday

Run: Monday

Good news, people: the bike doctor was able to fix my bike lock!  Two friends suggested lube, and indeed, the answer was lube.  Something wasn’t moving freely enough inside the locking mechanism, so even though the key could turn, the lock itself was still jammed.  Some magic bike lube greased everything up and now my bike lock is working better than ever.  Hurray!

(And my dirty mind wants to know this: when is lube not the answer?  Hmm?)

In other good news, I went for a 40-minute run on Monday night.  DORK ALERT: I had to use my kitchen timer to time the run, as I have not yet figured out exactly how to a) open the back of my watch and b) purchase the correct battery type for said watch.  But the kitchen timer was a perfectly fine in-a-pinch substitute.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how hard 40 minutes would feel since I’ve been running without a watch for the last few weeks.  But I took it slowly, and it wasn’t too bad: I had to add on maybe a mile to get the full 40 minutes.  True, those last few minutes were harder than the first 35, but I finished without too much drama and I just felt so pleased to be getting into a real schedule for half-marathon training.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Anybody else planning on a day-after-Thanksgiving run?  I’m heading out with a friend on Friday morning—fun times.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Fog of Uncertainty


Wednesday Morning

Week of November 13, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday and Saturday

Run: Wednesday

Walk: Saturday (the wildcard!)

It was a week of extremes: a great run on Wednesday night, a malfunctioning bike lock, a fun work social today, bad news about my immediate future yesterday.  Sun and rain, heat and cold.  Good times and deep disappointment.  Life is like that sometimes, this juxtaposition of the good and the bad.

I’ll say more about my bad news over at my other blog.  For now, I’m just stunned and disappointed and feeling more than a little uncertain about what to do next.  If you have a tin of good luck powder in your desk, maybe you could sprinkle a little in my direction?  I’m going to need it.  In the meantime, I’m going back to the job listings.  Too bad I can’t work at Monsanto because they’ve got a lot of openings!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Way It Will Never Be

The alternative title I considered for this post is “She Who Hesitates” because I, dear reader, have been hesitating.

Maybe you can tell.  I haven’t been running as much in the past two months as I was at this time last year.  I have been running, but the commitment I’ve made to the sport feels nowhere near as serious as it was last year.  In 2010, I decided that 2011 was the year that I would break two hours in the half-marathon.  I knew I could do it, and I wanted that victory.  For those of us who run for fun, achieving a race goal can feel rather arbitrary.  Does anyone care if I finish in 2:00:00 or 1:59:59?  Anyone other than me, that is?  But for those of us who run, I think we know that deep down, it does matter.  Not because we’re saving lives with our running—I hope that I’m saving or at least helping lives with my professional efforts, eventually—but because the ability to set your mind on a goal and reach that goal is success in its purest form.  The meaning you attach to that success is up for debate, and I believe that’s true for all types of success.  Sometimes I take the long view of life, and I think that no success is without cost and drawbacks.  You just had a healthy baby?  Congratulations!  Oh, your child is now displaying sociopathic behavior?  Let’s hope he doesn’t grow up to become a serial killer.  Perhaps that is a rather unpleasant example, but it just goes to show that success is relative, ephemeral, of the moment.

In the wake of my sub-two-hour half-marathon this year, I’ve been feeling unsure about what’s next for me.  The 2011 Armadillo Dash was such a wonderful race this year.  Not only did I run my fastest half yet, I had Matt there with me at the end.  It was so special to share that experience with him, inasmuch as a runner can share a race with a non-runner.  So many little things added up to make me feel so loved and supported: that he didn’t mind sharing me with the Dash, that he didn’t mind getting up early on race day, that he delivered me to the race start and then kept himself occupied until my finishing time.  Matt was such a good sport, and I’ve tried to live up to his example since then.  (“Oh, you want to play golf on a steamy day in June in College Station?  Then you want to take your stinky, sweaty self back to my apartment to take a shower?  Sure, go for it!”  That’s romantic, right?)  I’ve been learning that love is giving someone what they want with a smile and a “Go get ‘em, tiger!”

I feel like the next Armadillo Dash will be disappointing in the wake of 2011’s race.  And that makes me sad.  I’m bummed that I haven’t been focused on a new PR, and I’m bummed that I’ll almost certainly be running the 2012 race without a handsome man waiting for me at the end.  I’m bummed because I feel like 2012 can’t live up to 2011, so I’ve been at a loss as to what I should do.

In spite of my disappointment, I’ve been trying to rally.  I was on a little roll there in October before I went on vacation, fitting my runs into the day and feeling stronger every time I laced up my sneakers.  And this month I’ve had two really good runs recently and I’m feeling more optimistic about getting back into a running habit to take me through the winter months.  I talked to a new friend recently about the Dash, and she wants to run it, so maybe we can run it together, which would be a new and different way to experience the half-marathon.  I’ve run all three of my halves alone, and running it with a friend would be such a joy.  I don’t know how fast she is—we might be incompatible if she’s running 8-minute miles while I’m running 9+-minute miles, but it’s worth considering.

Most of all, I’m trying to accept that while I won’t be able to repeat the experience of 2011’s Armadillo Dash, I can make some new memories this year.  Maybe I can find some running friends, or run in new places, or even just mix up my work-outs like Sunday’s run doing laps at the park.  Just like some runs will be amazing and some will be routine, each race is different.  There’s something really freeing about just doing your best and then letting go of the outcome.

2012 Armadillo Dash, you’re on notice: I will be there.  I may not run a sub-two half, but I will be there, and I will finish, and it will be fun, dammit.  That’s all I really want for now.      

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Week of November 13, 2011:

Run: Sunday

I am reclaiming my running fitness!  There, I have now declared my intentions, and on Sunday, I did more than talk the talk: I walked the walk.  Or rather, ran the run.  Since I’m still watchless, I decided to compensate for my lack of technology by doing laps around a pair of parks that together have a 1-mile running path.  This month my goal is to work up to a 50-minute run, so on Sunday I decided to try for a 4-mile run around the parks.  4 miles x 10-minute miles = 40 minutes.  My math is all based on estimates here, but I’m okay with that.  Was I running 10-minute miles?  Maybe.  Maybe I was slower than that.  But the main point here is that it was a challenging run, and if I’m going to rebuild my running fitness, I need to be challenging myself during my long runs.

I’ve noticed that when it comes to running, there are two main areas where fatigue sets in: my breathing/cardiovascular output or my legs.  On Sunday’s run, my legs did pretty well, but my lungs were feeling challenged, and I had some cramping in my abdomen.  It wasn’t so challenging that I wanted to die, but I definitely felt the mismatch between upper and lower halves.  On the plus side, I was able to complete my four laps without any walking breaks, just a tiny pause for cars before crossing the street.

I really liked this run.  It was hard, but it was good.  There’s no doubt that it takes time and patience to get back into running shape, but there’s only one way to do it: get out there and run.  I can’t wait to do it again.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On Ambition, or the Lack Thereof

Tree and Library

Tree and Glasscock Building

A Favorite Bag

Week of November 6, 2011:

Bike: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Run: Wednesday

Yoga: Monday and Thursday

Oof, it was a busy week!  Between the election on Tuesday, bike repairs, a department meeting on Thursday, planning a work-related social event, research, and oh yeah, trying to get back into my running habit, I feel like the week took off with me like a band of horses.  I just tried to hold onto my hat (my metaphorical hat, that is—it’s not quite cold enough for hats around here.  I’m a cold-weather hat person.).  

I wanted to get two runs into my week, but I only managed to run on Wednesday evening.  I did choose the longest version of my favorite neighborhood loop, so that’s something.  I thought about trying to squeeze in a run on Saturday, but I decided against it because I wanted to do a long run on Sunday.  I suppose when it comes to running, I choose quality over quantity: if doing a Saturday run means my Sunday long run is going to suffer from the fatigue following Saturday’s run, then I’ll just pick Sunday.  I sometimes worry that I’m not ambitious enough in my life and in my running in particular, but I think it’s more complex than that.  I am ambitious about maintaining balance in my life, both in my fitness pursuits and in balancing all the parts of my life against each other.  Still, I really hope I can get back into a running routine or else I am going to have to concede that the 2012 Armadillo Dash is not going to happen for me.  I have a few thoughts about that particular race that I hope to share with you soon in another post.

Dear readers, how do you plan your running schedule?  How do you find a balance between building endurance and/or speed and keeping your body healthy and injury-free?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

If My Bike Were a Horse…

If My Bike Were A Horse

A Good Riding Outfit

…I’d wear an outfit like this one!  But I’d swap out the little shoes for some sturdy riding boots.  Pardon the somewhat dark photos here; November is a difficult month for evening photography.  And I always forget that my camera has this thing called a “flash,” which I am told can help with lighting issues.

I feel very equestrian in this outfit, but it is a great choice for cooler weather bike commutes.  All the layers are sleek and warm.  I find that biking in skirts can be tricky business.  This particular skirt from the Gap, which is a little outside my normal style with its higher waist, longer length, and fullness, is a great skirt for biking because its fullness allows movement, but it’s short enough that I don’t have yards of fabric to get caught in the tires and/or bike chain.  But I think my favorite bike-friendly part of this outfit is the dark grey tights.  They have a wonderful cabled texture, and they are thick and sturdy.  The dark color means that any dirt and grit picked up from the road remains invisible on the tights, and the fact that they are tights means that there is no fabric flapping around, just waiting for its chance to get stuck in my bike.  As you may have guessed, I live in fear of my clothing get caught in the bike and pulling me into a horrific fall.  I fear a clothing-related accident as much as a car-related accident, so I choose my bike-commuting clothes very carefully.

Finally, a piece of bike-related good news: this week I took my bike to the bike doctor for its check-up and to get the brakes fixed.  Today I’ll pick up my bike, hopefully with its health restored.  I can’t wait to have fully functional brakes again!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Unplugged After Five

I love the internet.  I really do, and I bet you do too.  So many wonderful things, so much inspiration, so many great people, all at your fingertips at all hours of the day and night.  The internet provides me with oodles of inspiration and entertainment, and for that I am grateful.

However.  I think we’re all aware of the internet’s dark side, the way it can fill up your day in mysterious ways that leave you scratching your head and saying, “Did I really just spend three hours looking at photos on Flickr?”  Yes, yes, you did.  Because the internet is so good and so inspiring that it makes time pass effortlessly.  Which can be a good thing, for example, when you’re waiting at the airport for your ride.  But most of the time, an internet habit needs moderation or it will spin out of control.

The last two evenings have fallen into the out-of-control category for me.  In theory, I’m supposed to unplug for a while between work and my evening free time.  But I’m not doing a very good job at this, so I need an intervention.  Sometimes it’s not good enough to say, “I intend to do this.”  Sometimes we need something more along the lines of a S.M.A.R.T. goal (thanks, JD!) to help us reclaim our time.

Which brings me to the title of today’s post: Unplugged After Five.  This month, I’m going to declare two evenings a week as computer-free nights after 5 PM.  That means no Netflix, no blogging, no GOMI, no e-mail, no listening to podcasts.  It does mean books, cooking dinner, listening to CDs, lighting candles, yoga, journaling, and going to bed early.  It means more quiet, less chatter.

I’m all about rewards when I reach a goal.  This month’s reward, should I manage to unplug myself, is a few pairs of tights from We Love Colors.  I particularly like the mocha and spruce green colors.

Anybody else up for joining me in Unplugged After Five?  Yes?  There’s nothing ironic about using the internet to build a support group for your internet addiction, right?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thoughts on Awesome Legwear and the Controversial Subject of Exercising While on Vacation

Same Sky Different Day

Dog Park

Groovy Legwear

 Week of October 30, 2011:

Bike: Wednesday and Saturday

Yoga: Thursday

Walk: All over the place in San Antonio, Sunday through Tuesday.  Around the block on Saturday.

Last week was a non-running week for me because I was too busy walking all over San Antonio with Matt.  We walked to breakfast, we walked to dinner, we walked up and down the river, we walked around the missions.  It wasn’t exactly aerobically challenging, but I went to bed exhausted in the best way possible.

I’m unpredictable when it comes to exercise on vacations.  Typically I exercise less because I’m less stressed out, so I don’t need it as much as I do when I’m working.  But then we have examples like my last visit to Michigan, when JD and I decided to go running together, and I ran in advance of our running date to give my fitness a little boost so that I wouldn’t die trying to keep up with him.  Matt’s no runner, so I had no social reason to run, but he’s a mighty fine companion for strolling, so that works for me.

On Saturday (and sadly without my walking companion!), I took a nice walk around the block before dinner.  It was chilly that day, at least by Texas standards, so I wore some funky legwarmers that I got for free at the shoe store a few months back.  I’ve never thought of myself as a legwarmer person, but they’re kinda fun!  So I wear them on the weekends and they make me laugh.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Goals: The Magic Number

Mi Tierra

Mi Tierra, October 31, 2011.  San Antonio, TX.

This month will mark my 30th year of life.  Finally, numerical permission to act like the old lady I’ve always been!  If that’s not cause for celebration, then I don’t know what is.

Year number 29 was not an easy year, but I feel like it’s ending on a high note.  At work, I’m slowly but surely moving in the direction of another publication—my first as a postdoc!  I’m making more friends in Texas, and all is well with my other relationships.  I finally broke two hours in the half-marathon after my third try.  It’s worth noting that I was only able to reach that goal when I got really serious about doing it—I spent ten months working on my fitness levels with that goal in mind, so it was incredibly gratifying to see my dream come true.  Likewise with my career, this summer I had to get really serious about making progress on my project.  It required a new level of commitment and some short-term sacrifices (lazy Saturday mornings, I miss you!), but I think that’s part of accepting adult-sized responsibilities.

One area of my life that continues to bring me comfort and joy is my small circle of loved ones.  They really came through for me during the hardest moments of this past year, and I cannot thank them enough.  I think if there is one thing in my life of which I am most proud, it’s the relationships I have with people near and far.  There are those who say that Americans today are morally and spiritually bankrupt, and all that matters to us is money and appearance.  I disagree.  I may be agnostic, but I know my life is far from being spiritually bankrupt.  I think the meaning of my life is the love and affection I share with friends and family.

Whew!  I didn’t mean to become so sentimental, but that’s what birthdays do to me.  Onto this month’s goals!

Fitness Goals:

* Work up to a 50-minute run.  My longest run in October was probably 30-40 minutes, so a 50-minute run is not too far from where I am right now, runningwise.  Let’s do this, legs!

* Do 30 push-ups, 30 V-shaped leg lifts per leg, 30 squats, and 30 bicycle crunches per side each week.  I’m going to split this up into three little strength work-outs over the course of the week.

* Write star chart (as usual), incorporating this month’s strength-training challenge.

* The bike!  The bike must go to the shop this month!

Health and Life Balance Goals:

I don’t think I have anything new to add to this list!  October’s goals were a very good start at re-establishing some good habits so that I get enough sleep and eat good meals.  I’d like to keep up the momentum in those areas so that I can look and feel my best.

What habits do you try to maintain to look and feel your best?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

October in the Rearview Mirror

October Star Chart

Star chart legend: * = done, O = fail, ? = I’m not sure if I reached this goal, and V = I didn’t do this because I was on Vacation.

October was a little novel for me in the goal-setting department.  I set not only fitness goals as usual, but I also set a number of health and life balance goals, as things were feeling a little wacky at the beginning of the month.  I wanted a calm, productive month, and on the whole I’m pleased with how things went.  Though I admit, I didn’t nail all my goals.  In a few cases, my goals were derailed by outside forces that were too annoying for me to pause and fix.

But such is life.  I can regroup for November, especially since tomorrow we have 25 hours to work on our goals!  Hip hip hurray for Daylight Savings Time in November! 

Fitness Goals:

* Gradually increase my run length to 40 minutes.

Verdict: I have no idea how I did on this goal, as my watch’s battery died in October.  Then I discovered that timeless running is really pretty awesome.  And now I still haven’t replaced my watch’s battery or bought a new watch!  However, I did run a lot in October until the last week, when I was on vacation.  (See Figure 1 above for evidence.)

* Take my bike to the bike shop for its annual check-up.

Verdict: Fail.  This was really a scheduling fail.  The bike shop closes at 6 PM, which means I have to either 1) leave work between 5:30 and 5:40 to get there before closing or 2) take my bike to the shop during the workday or on a Saturday.  The truth is that it’s inconvenient for me to be without my bike.  I like convenience.  But my bike’s brakes need some attention, so this item is going back onto the list for November.

* Write and make good use of the monthly star chart.

Verdict: Yes, I did this and pretty well, I think!  It’s a relief, as I didn’t do so well on the first two goals (and apparently embraced the opposite of the first goal?).

Health and Life Balance Goals:

* Be in bed by 10 PM Sunday through Thursday.

Verdict: Yes, I did this reasonably well.  I didn’t chart it, but I do know that I didn’t feel as sleep-deprived once I made it a goal here on the blog.

* Get back into the habit of cooking something substantial at least twice during the work week (Monday to Friday).  Otherwise I feel like I have nothing but fruit, cheese, and pretzels to take for lunches!

Verdict: Yes!  I definitely had fewer days when I felt like all I had was snack-type food (I think of them as the “accessories” of lunch) to pack in my lunch.  Gotta keep up this kitchen momentum!

* Allow myself some snack and rest time after work (15-30 minutes), but spend that time on the couch, relaxing and not playing on the computer.

Verdict: Yes, I had fewer days when I relaxed by booting up the computer.  I’m so weak in the face of the internet’s endless amounts of reading material.  I need to continue unplugging more often in the evenings.

* Continue reading favorite blogs, but try to avoid too much aimless computer time.

Verdict: Yes.  I have a handful of blogs I read and comment on regularly, and it doesn’t take much time to keep up with those people and their sites.  I’m still spending more aimless time on the internet than I would like, so perhaps I need to set a daily limit to discourage myself from wasting all my time on the computer.

I’m working on my November goals, so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This Unfamiliar Feeling

Bike in Bright Evening Light

Bike Dress Blazer

Bike Shadow

Week of October 23, 2011:

Bike: Friday (with misty rain!) and Saturday (sadly, without misty rain)

Run: Wednesday

Yoga: Squeezed in before bedtime, most nights

It’s been chilly lately!  How strange, this unfamiliar feeling of not being warm.  On Friday morning, we had a misty rain, so my bike ride was cool and a little wet, which I sort of liked.  It makes living in Texas feel like a completely experience, more like the way I imagine Seattle feels.

I have been doing really well on my bike rides and running work-outs.  I haven’t been doing so well with my yoga.  Part of that is because my social life has been more exciting: last week I went out with friends on Thursday and Saturday nights—whoa!  Hello, social butterfly!  This is really good for me, as I have been slow in making new friends down here and I tend to be a hermit when left to my own (lazy) devices.  The trade-off is that I have been squeezing my yoga into a few minutes before bed, a little time spent in downward dog, some lunges, some back stretches.  It’s not bad, but I do miss the peaceful feeling that comes with a more disciplined yoga practice.

Such is life, though: this delicious balance between adventure and comfort, between routine and novelty.  Sometimes fun demands that we let ourselves become a little bit unbalanced.  Just a little bit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011



Tanglewood Park Canopy

The Path the Tree and Me

Week of October 16, 2011:

Yoga: Saturday (post-run)

Week of October 23, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday

Run: Monday

Wildcard: Sunday walk in the park (literally!)

I’m having such a good week over here!  After a relaxing weekend, I am feeling much restored.  On Sunday, my friend Amutha and I went for a walk in one of the local parks, where we took these pictures (the first two are mine, and Amutha took that third picture with me in it).  It was my first time visiting Tanglewood Park, which was small but totally charming. It’s tucked into a quiet neighborhood, and it has a walking path that winds around the whole park.  And you can see in the photos above that it has all these wonderful tall trees and more varieties than the standard live oaks that I see all over campus.  After our walk, we bought smoothies at Jamba Juice and continued our discussion of important things.

(My friend James loves Jamba Juice, and I always think of him when I go there.  Hi, James!)

The weather has been perfect for being outside.  It’s not cool yet, but it’s really pleasant.  On Monday, I went for an easy run around my favorite short loop, mostly to shake out my legs after Saturday’s tempo run.  And today, I rode the bike to work, as usual.  The best part of this week, though, is the news that the tweaks I’ve made to my experimental protocol worked!  My new data look awesome, and I’m feeling encouraged by them.  It’s so much easier to stay motivated when it seems like things are working, and I’m grateful for the boost in energy and enthusiasm.

And now, I’m off to watch Twilight: New Moon so that I can describe more accurately why Twilight is a terrible example of “romance.”  Teenage girls really have the worst taste in men!  If I’m wrong about this Twilight movie, I will humbly eat my words in my next post.  But one more thing: I think “The Skin of a Killer” by Carter Burwell, which is part of the first Twilight movie’s soundtrack, is an incredible song.  So I reserve the right to enjoy certain artistic elements of the film without having to accept the silliness of the plot.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More Powerful

In the morning…

Hi There

…and in the evening too!

Family Reunion Perhaps

Week of October 16, 2011:

Bike: Thursday

Run: Saturday

Wildcard: Wednesday (Pilates/yoga blend)

Couch-bound laziness: Friday

Let’s talk about running today, shall we?  This is, after all and in theory, a blog about running.  On Saturday, I hit the road for a run, and I decided to make it into a tempo run.  I was feeling up for a challenge, especially since I wasn’t doing a longer run.  I warmed up first by walking, then by running at my easy pace for about 10 minutes, and then I ran at a faster tempo pace for about 10-15 minutes.  The pacing was perfect: it was hard enough that I was working to keep up the pace, but it wasn’t so hard that I wanted to quit so I could catch my breath.  And when I finished, I felt strong and powerful (and a little tired and breathless).

I know you aren’t supposed to do both speedwork and increase your mileage at the same time, but I am feeling like I would like to focus more on running faster instead of longer.  My theory is that I’m in good enough shape overall that I can do both, provided that neither is too intense.  Of course, without a watch or a Garmin right now, it’s a little hard to gauge what “too intense” even means.  So maybe what I mean is this: I want to feel more powerful when I run, and running faster makes me feel more powerful.

I think the bird photos tie into this post thematically: for us landbound creatures, what feels more like flying than going as fast as we can on our own two feet?  It’s in those moments when my legs and my lungs and my energy all come together and I’m absolutely flying across the ground that I feel like running is almost magical.  I hope to have more of those moments this fall.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Swoops into Town


Hand with Feet

Birds on Wires

 Week of October 16, 2011:

Run: Sunday

Bike: Tuesday

Yoga: Monday (Morning Flow #1)

Despite having posted many self-photos by now, I still feel vain whenever I put a picture of myself on the internet.  I always feel the need to use a silly picture or say something goofy to distract you from this flagrant show of vanity, but not today.  Hi, hello, welcome!  Do you like my new haircut?  It’s not that new now—I had it cut several weeks ago, but still, it’s pretty cute, right?  I always love having shorter hair.  It makes my life easier and I think my face is more flattered by short hair than by long hair.

In other news, let’s talk about the weather!  Autumn really swooped into town this week, on gusty winds that have brought much, much cooler temperatures.  I really love this cooler weather, but short sleeves were still the right choice for yesterday’s bike ride commute.  Short sleeves…with jeans!  Yes, things are very exciting around here, I know.

My work-outs this week have been really great.  I went for a long run on Sunday and ended up on my feet for much longer than I planned.  I ran for perhaps 3-4 miles or so when, on a whim, I decided to hike through a nature trail that’s not too far from me, but I apparently forgot how long the trail was.  As I was walking through it, I kept thinking, Man, when does this trail end?!?  It just went on and on and on.  When I finally popped out of the trail, I was still more than a mile from home, so I ran most of that distance, figuring eh, what the heck—what’s an extra mile or two of running today?  By the time I got home, I was tired…really tired.  On the plus side, after all that exercise, I was quite relaxed for the rest of the day.  Sunshine and exercise does a person good.

On Monday night, I unfurled my yoga mat for some Morning Flow #1, one of my very favorite yoga classes.  I think I was able to push myself higher into wheel pose than ever before, or maybe it was just an illusion because it’s been a while since I’ve attempted a wheel.  Either way, it was challenging and fun.

Finally, last night I was riding my bike home from work when I pedaled past an adorable cat laying in a woodsy lot in the neighborhood.  It was such a perfect fall moment—the black and white cat, the leaves and branches of the yard, the golden light of an autumn evening—but I didn’t have my camera with me!  So rather than seeing the moment through a lens, I saw it with my own two eyes, stayed a while to pet the cat, and thought about how much I love this time of year.  And when I got home, I packed my camera into my bag so that next time, you can see how lovely that moment was too.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Longest Week

Cloudy Morning

Scarf Dress Shoes

Week of October 9, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Yoga: Sporadically before bed…

Run: Friday

Delicious After-Work Walk: Monday

Last week was really busy, and I’m happy that today marks the start of a fresh new week.  I think last week sort of wore me out, so I’m taking this weekend as a low-key, recharging weekend, with lots of reading time, cooking time, and a Sunday run this morning.  Oh, and lots of chocolate too, in the form of chocolate coconut milk, vegan chocolate cake, and Chocolat, which I can barely put down because it’s so good.  It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t start this book until after my big talk was done because I’m not sure I would have been able to tear myself away from fiction to deal with facts!

I feel like today’s photos are perhaps a bit uninspired, but there’s something simple and lovely about them that fits well with the pace of last week: a cloudy morning that made me happy because the clouds always remind me of the often-cloudy Midwest and my favorite green dress and yellow scarf, the combination of which makes me feel ready to tackle the day.  Yes, it’s still warm enough down here for sandals, but it’s cool enough to feel heavenly compared to a month or two ago.

Happy Sunday, my dears.  I hope today is a good one for you.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Week of October 2, 2011:

Bike: Saturday (grocery-shopping via la bicicleta)

Week of October 9, 2011:

Run: Sunday (longest run this season!  But I’m still watchless, so I have no numbers.) 

People like to argue about what makes you a “real runner.”  Is it your mileage, your race times, your willingness to get up at 5 AM to run?  I say it’s all of those things, or none of those things.  Maybe it’s just your willingness to lace up some sneakers and attempt to move quickly over the ground on your own two feet.

But in my heart of hearts, what I really think makes you a runner is your willingness to get dirty and sweaty during your run.  I submit the following as proof that yes, I am a runner.

Mud on Ankles

Mud on Calf

Post-run and Tired

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Timeless Running

Sunburst with Tree and Pavillion

Blurry Sunflowers

Week of October 2, 2011:

Run: Friday

Timeless running.  Doesn’t that sound elegant, like you are running alongside some of the world’s greatest runners from past and present?  Perhaps Steve Prefontaine or Kathrine Switzer?  Or maybe you are running with people from your own past, like your cross-country team or a favorite coach, someone who inspired you to become a better runner than you thought possible.

I have so many great memories from my running days that the idea of timeless running makes me smile, remembering people and running routes and races that made me glad to be alive and able to run.  It’s a blessing, this running thing that we do.

But timeless running also means, quite literally, running without time.  My watch died last weekend, and I haven’t fixed it or replaced it yet.  (Any thoughts on whether I should try to replace the battery or just buy a new watch?  I’m leaning toward replacing the battery because I like my watch and it seems more environmentally responsible to buy a new part than replace the whole thing.)  My last two runs have been timeless—I’m running without my dead watch.  I pick a route (my favorite loop, in fact!) and I just run it, with no attention paid to how long it takes.  I know from previous runs that this loop takes about 25-30 minutes to complete.  These days it may be closer to 30 minutes because I’m not in the best running shape right now, so I’m a bit slower than I have been in the past.

It’s liberating to be watchless for a little while.  I admit that I love running with a watch; it definitely helps me to run longer and run faster because the watch is an objective gauge of how much effort I should put into my runs.  For example, once the 10-minute running warm-up is over, I know I need to start running a bit faster in order to challenge myself during long runs.  You can’t get faster if you don’t practice running faster, so I rely on the watch to tell me when it’s time to run faster.  But I have a bad habit of compulsively checking my watch, which makes runs seem longer and more tiresome than they really are.  Without the watch, I’m freed from my own bad habit, and I feel more connected with my legs and the beautiful evening during which I am lucky enough to run.

What about you?  Do you ever leave the watch or the Garmin at home to run by feel and for the fun of it?  Are you obsessed with your own running data, or is it sometimes enough to say, “I went for a run.  It was nice.”?

Friday, October 7, 2011

These beautiful days, this golden light

Golden Light in Trees


Week of September 25, 2011:

Bike: Friday and Saturday

Yoga: Thursday (Morning Flow #1)

Week of October 2, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday and Thursday

Run: Sunday (watchless!)

Yoga: Monday (Heart Opening Flow #1)

Swoop!  Am I really covering a week’s worth of work-outs in one fell swoop?  Why yes, yes I am!  I’ve been pleasantly busy lately, trying to balance my research with some other work happenings (like this—wow) and enjoying the fantastic weather we’ve been having.

It’s been stunningly beautiful here, with cool mornings, warm afternoons, and the loveliest golden light in the evenings.  I love October in Texas.  It’s quite different from October in the Midwest, where the advancing chill of winter makes everyone giddy for cozy things like pumpkins and casserole and steamy mugs of mulled apple cider.  In Texas, we’re still wearing shorts and sandals, but winter squash is popping up in our markets, the good apples are rolling into produce bins, and we begin to think that maybe, maybe, we’ll be able to wear a sweater every once in a while.  Fall in Texas is kind of a tease, but after an unbearably hot summer, we’ll take it, every last minute of it.

Happy Friday, my dears.  I hope your weekend is filled with loveliness and autumn treats.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Yoga is Forgiveness

Birds in Tree

Week of October 2, 2011:

Yoga: Wednesday

Pardon me for a moment, as I go out of chronological order with my posts.  I’d like to talk about yoga today, specifically last night’s yoga.

Yesterday was not a great day for me.  It wasn’t an awful, out-of-control day, but it was one of those days when I felt like I was doing work that doesn’t matter, regulatory paper-pushing work so that someone else could put a checkmark in a box that I had fulfilled XYZ state-mandated task.  A wiser person would just get this stuff done and move on with her life, but paper-pushing almost always puts me a bad mood.  I acted on that bad mood, sending a tart e-mail to someone and (in a separate incident) making a joke that was in poor taste, which I immediately regretted.

I realized that my behavior yesterday was anything but professional.  Or maybe a better way to put it was that it wasn’t classy.  When I think about how I want people to perceive me, professional is the lowest rung, but what I really want people to say is, “She’s a class act.”  Classy implies professional, but it’s more than that: it’s a certain kind of warmth and kindness and intelligence, on top of being professional.  Classy people are the kind of people who make you feel good about yourself and what you do.

Last night, I was thinking about all of this while I was on my mat, right before bed.  I felt bad about my day.  I felt bad about how I can’t seem to rise above some of the petty expectations that I must meet.  I laid in child’s pose, and I had an epiphany: I must forgive myself.  If I’m going to do a better job tomorrow, I must forgive myself for today so that I can move on and be classy tomorrow.

And so I did: I forgave.  And today I’m feeling much improved and more determined than ever to be the kind of classy person I admire.  This is why I love yoga: because it continues to inspire me to be the best person I can be.  It doesn’t turn me away because I have failed, but it gives me a chance to make things better.  Perhaps yoga itself is the classiest example of all: accept yourself as you are, and keep striving to be better at your practice.  Both endeavors are worthy of your efforts, if you can wrap your mind around the paradox.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In We Go Into October

New Faux Blazer

Hello Sir

Before we get to the topic of October goals, I have two things to say.  First, I continue to be really inspired by Raquelita’s example, which is why I’ve been writing more posts about goals in the past few months.  Goal-setting definitely makes me more ambitious; I’m rather lazy when left to my own devices.  I need some carrots (or stars on my star chart) to get me excited about setting and reaching goals.  This month I’m going to make another star chart; it’s going to look pretty similar to September’s chart except that I have some specific goals for my fall running.

Speaking of fall, I am thrilled that my favorite month has finally arrived!  Fall in Texas is more like Indian summer until late November or December, but nonetheless, the days are cooler, the light is golden and gorgeous, and we start seeing winter squash everywhere.  (Side note: I was so bummed when I saw butternuts at the hippie food store today because I didn’t think I’d be able to manage a 2-3 pound squash in addition to all my other groceries.  I’m looking forward to making this salad just as soon as I get my hands on a butternut.  I love that recipe, though I’m going to use this recipe for the dressing instead of the one suggested in the recipe, which is a little bitter for my taste.)

I have a new addition to my fall/winter wardrobe: that olive green blazer in the first photo up there.  My mama bought me this blazer when we were out shopping; we like to do a mother-daughter lunch-and-shopping trip every time I’m in Michigan.  I think it’s really lovely that we have a ritual now.  It’s good for our relationship that we spend some time together, just the two of us, especially since our family is so big.  I wasn’t planning on buying anything (or letting my mom buy me anything!), but we came across this blazer, in a variety of beautiful colors.  What really sold me, though, is that it’s made of sweatshirt material!  It’s soft and cozy but it has a great tailored look.  I tend to be a sweater person, not a jacket person, but this (faux?) blazer is the best of both worlds: soft yet tailored-looking.  It’s still too hot here for jackets, but I’m looking forward to cooler days so I can wear my new gift.  Thanks, Mom!  You are the best.

It’s Saturday, and I feel great.  Part of that is because I actually got enough sleep last night—close to nine hours!  Whoo!  Today provides some convincing evidence that I am not getting enough sleep.  Furthermore, I feel like I’m wasting way too much time playing on the computer.  I’m not doing productive things, like doing the work I get paid to do, or writing blog posts, or even reading one of your lovely blogs.  I’m pissing my time away, reading Get Off My Internets, which I enjoyed quite a bit at first, but now I think I’ve reached my quota for snark.  Plus, Raquelita’s comments in a recent post definitely resonated with me, so I feel like it’s time for me to step away from the GOMI.  I have to say that one of the things I love about my blog friends and my friends in real life is that we can have really great conversations about topics on which we don’t necessarily agree.  To me, that’s a wonderful thing to have: dialogue that explores the issues without becoming filled with anger or animosity.  As a thinker, I process things slowly—I do a lot of my thinking while I’m cooking or riding my bike, not in front of other people.  So I appreciate dialogue that gives me material to ponder, and I appreciate people who are content to discuss without arguing.  I don’t like too much passion in a discussion—I’m happier when things are more relaxed.

In an effort to get more sleep and be more deliberate about how I spend my free time, I have a few goals for this month, which I’ll list below, after my fitness goals.

Fitness Goals:

* Gradually increase my run length to 40 minutes.

* Take my bike to the bike shop for its annual check-up.

* Write and make good use of the monthly star chart.

Health and Life Balance Goals:

* Be in bed by 10 PM Sunday through Thursday.

* Get back into the habit of cooking something substantial at least twice during the work week (Monday to Friday).  Otherwise I feel like I have nothing but fruit, cheese, and pretzels to take for lunches!

* Allow myself some snack and rest time after work (15-30 minutes), but spend that time on the couch, relaxing and not playing on the computer.

* Continue reading favorite blogs, but try to avoid too much aimless computer time.

Happy October, dear readers!

September, with Wistfulness

Big Texas Sky

September in Review

September in Review

I’m not going to lie: September was an especially good month because I was on vacation for a week.  I’ve tried to keep my chin up in the face of a lot of work stress and anxiety, but it was such a relief to drop the facade for a few days and just hang out with my family.  Interestingly, my father, who is basically retired, complained about work more than I did.  I had little desire to talk about work at all, let alone complain about it.  Out of sight, out of mind!  That’s my approach to vacations.

Coming back from vacation has been harder than I anticipated.  Maybe it’s always hard, but I just noticed it more this time?  The past two weeks have demonstrated to me that I need to make some changes in my routines, which I’ll talk about in my next post.  As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself!  Back to September: you can see above that I did a reasonably good job at completing my work-outs.  An asterisk indicates I completed the item, while a V (vacation), S (sick), or an O (did not complete—zero effort!) means I missed that work-out.  I skipped more running work-outs than I would like, only completing 6/8.  Better luck next time…October is going to be a pretty routine month until the very end, when Matt and I take off for a few days.  I’m optimistic I’ll be lacing up my sneakers for more runs because I’ll be able to settle into a routine and October is a beautiful month, weather-wise, in Texas.

As usual, I did a lot of biking, so at least I know I got some cardio exercise most days of the week.  But yoga!  Why did I not do more yoga?  I have no answer, other than sheer laziness, which is part of what I loved about my vacation.  I needed some laziness in my life!  I did do a lot of pajama yoga, which I don’t always count on my star chart, especially if I only do it for five minutes before going to bed.  Sometimes my yoga practice is very minimal, but it’s always there for me.

September felt like the reward for three months of intense and focused work.  I’m glad I made it through the summer and that I gave it my best effort.  I’m also glad that I’ve been paying attention to my exercise schedule, as I think it continues to help me stay calm and happy.  September, thanks for a good time.  We’ll do it again next year, okay?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Because You Are More Awesome Than I Am

We’ll get to your awesomeness in a second.  First, a gratuitous pumpkin photo:

Gratuitious Pumpkin Photo

It’s not fall without pumpkins, but frankly, since I’m still can’t wear pants down here, it’s not really fall yet.  Summer, get the hell out of here!  (My apologies for the colorful language; Matt sent me this link and it seeped into my brain.  I figure one of the perks of dating someone for a long time is that you get to blame them for all your bad habits!  Which reminds me: Matt, why hasn’t anyone vacuumed my apartment in a month?!?  And don’t try that we-don’t-live-together-shit on me again.  It ain’t gonna work this time, dude.)

Okay, enough with the cursing.  I just want to remind all you speedy runners to submit your best (speedy) work-outs for October’s Speed Demons feature!  Please, please give me something to work with.  I got nothing because I did no speedwork at all, unless keeping up with JD counts.  I’m not sure if it does.  I assure you that I am hanging my head in shame over here.

You can send your Speed Demon submissions to me in comment form on this post or by e-mail (lifeloveandfood [at] gmail [dot] com).  And because I’m a Socialist, all entries will be included!  You are all winners!  Sure Happy It’s Thursday!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back in the Groove

Campus View

New Flats!

Good Reading

Week of September 18, 2011:

Bike: Saturday (errands around the neighborhood)

Yoga: Friday (DIY pajama yoga—the very, very best!  And the easiest!)

Week of September 25, 2011:

Bike: Sunday and Tuesday

Run: Wednesday (21 minutes, out and back)

Yoga: Monday

I’ve been feeling a bit aimless since returning from Michigan.  The problem, I think, is that my whole summer was oriented around this trip: all my work deadlines, all the weekend hours I spent in the lab, all my recent planning and plotting revolved around this trip.  Then I flew to Michigan, had a wonderful week, caught a cold, and returned to Texas.  I’m not sure how to reset my planning button.  What are my new goals?  What do I want to accomplish in the next month?  I just keep thinking back to all the sweet, funny, delicious moments of my vacation.  I miss my family, and I’ve been surprisingly homesick for the Midwest.

But!  There are some exciting things afoot for October.  At the very end of the month, Matt and I are going to San Antonio for a few days, and I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we are excited about this trip.  Even right now, good things are happening: my research is going well, I’m feeling refreshed after some time off, and I’m even—dare I say it?—eager to dive back into my busy life when I think about all the things I want to do: cooking and science and wine-drinking and running and just being here, now, enjoying my life.

So I’ve been hanging back a bit perhaps, but I’m ready to get back into my groove.  The photos above are a few highlights from today: a beautiful and not-too-hot morning, new black flats (which I love!), and reading material.  That book, When Science Goes Wrong, makes my work look like small potatoes: even our most dangerous mistakes don’t result in nuclear meltdowns or patients dying on us.  (Well, okay, sometimes our “patients” do die on us, but our patients are flies.  It’s a little different from having a human patient, I’d say.)  But the book does remind me that science, as it’s being done by real humans, is a very human endeavor.  It’s full of uncertainty and doubt, and it’s important to remember that in science, we do the best we can with the information we have, and after that, we roll the dice.

I’m ready to roll the dice. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

From Far Away, I’m not Contagious

And What Are YOU Doing

Week of September 18, 2011:

Bike: Wednesday

Rest: Probably a good idea…

As usual, I caught a cold while I was in Michigan, but strangely enough, it didn’t bother me too much until yesterday.  I caught it early in the week but other than a slightly sore throat, I felt fine.  I suspect, though, that Tuesday’s long day of travel set the scene for the cold to move in and try to take me down.  So yesterday and today I’ve been taking it a bit easy, and I’m grateful that I have tomorrow off from work.  I will use that time to kick my cold’s butt!  Also, for the first time since January, I’m getting a haircut!  I need one desperately, but of course, my hair looks much better today because it knows it’s in trouble.  I’m not falling for your tricks, hair!  You are getting sheared into shape, no matter how good you look today!

I’m bummed to be sick right now, because the weather has been pretty nice in Texas this week, and I’d like to be outside enjoying it.  Instead, I’m spending too much time on Get Off My Internets (which I love—thank you, Chrissy!) and vowing to return to a nice healthy routine ASAP.  But Michigan, oh man.  What a great week.  I’m so happy I went and so blessed with great family and friends.  It was hard to return to Texas, not just because of the traveling itself, but because in the fall, the Midwest is where I want to be.  I’ll take Texas in the winter and spring and Michigan in the summer and fall.  Maybe I’ll be a migrating bird when I grow up.

Happy Friday, everyone!

PS  That baby up there didn’t give me a cold, but his sister probably did.  It wasn’t really her fault.  And it’s a small price to pay for love.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stronger Together

First, a photo montage of Michigan beauty.  I love this place.

Michigan Wildflowers

Following the Path

Still Following the Path

Week of September 11, 2011:

Walk with adorable niece: Thursday

Run: Friday

Week of September 18, 2011:

Run: Sunday, with my wonderful friend JD!

Hike with big brother and adorable niece: Sunday

Hello from the Mitten State!  I am having a wonderful time here, catching up with the family and a few friends, such as my very funny friend JD and his beautiful family, including his wife, with whom I go all the way back to the very beginning of our bright-eyed college days.

JD just started a running blog, Running Thru Life, which I think is perfect for him as he is getting more serious about the sport.  JD’s been a runner for a long time, but this year he’s really hitting his stride with training and goal-setting.  Last year he ran the Detroit half-marathon in the fall, and this year I think he’s set to smash his finishing time from 2010.  Go, JD, go!  12:30 pacing group ahoy!  One of these years, I swear, I am going to run that race with him.

Before leaving Texas, I had asked him if he wanted to go running with me.  I spend so much time running and biking alone that I thought it would be terrific to have a running buddy, at least just this once.  It took a little discussion, but we found a time on Sunday morning.  JD is in much better running shape than I am, and I didn’t want him to kick my butt, so I did a “practice” run on Friday afternoon, another 20-minute run around the neighborhood where my brother and his family live.  Then JD and I tackled a 40-minute run around his neighborhood (which you can read more about here, if you like), and it was great fun.  We ran through wooded areas, up and down a hill, and ended just a few blocks from his house, keeping up conversations about work, education, liberal arts colleges versus state universities, and a general agreement that fiscal Republicans aren’t too bad (provided they believe in evolution and such things, of course).

Before Sunday, I hadn’t run 40 minutes in months, but somehow, with JD keeping our pace nice and steady, it was easy.  I felt the run in my knees and thighs, but it was a good fatigue, nothing painful or alarming.  This trip to Michigan has been a series of reminders of what I’m missing by not living in the Mitten State.  I have friends scattered around the country, but most of my family is in Michigan, as well as some of my best friends, like JD and (as he says) “the wife.”  I’m starting to wonder if it’s time for this rambling daughter to come home.