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?