Monday, February 28, 2011

Uno Mas

Final Time

Apple Water and Feet

Me After Eleven Miles

Sunday’s Long Run (2/27/11)

That’s what my cross-country coach used to say during speed work-outs when we had just one rep left.  “Uno mas!” he would call, which was cute and encouraging.  I liked the Spanish touch he threw in there.  It’s catchy too—I find myself using the same expression to encourage me to finish whatever it is I am doing, whether it’s a work-out or anything else.

Uno mas.  That’s how many long runs are left in this season of half-marathon training.  And it’s no training run that’s left on the schedule: March 6 is race day.  Yesterday’s run was a 110-minute behemoth, giving me approximately 11-12 miles more under my feet.  As runs go, this one wasn’t too shabby.  My stomach was feeling funky for the first half of the run, and I wondered if it was due to the heat and humidity that blew into town.  I dressed for the weather in shorts and a tank top, and I tried to make sure I was really well-hydrated before walking out the door.

After the 60-minute mark, my tummy settled down and the fatigue starting setting in.  I knew this run would be tough, especially the last 30 minutes.  To combat mental fatigue, I started saying to myself, “Best run of your life!  Best run OF YOUR LIFE!”  I think this blatant lie helped—my legs held on pretty well until the last ten minutes or so, when I stopped to wait for a streetlight to change.  Those last few minutes were the hardest minutes I’ve run in a long, long time.  Everything was hurting; I was hitting the wall, or as close to the wall as I’ve ever come.  For the last couple minutes, I thought of you, dear readers, and how kind you’ve been to me.  I thought of Kate, who told me she’d be living vicariously through me as I try to break two hours in the half-marathon.  I thought of Maura, with her feisty spirit and kick-ass attitude, who I know would give anything to be off crutches and back on her feet right now.  And I thought, I don’t want to let anyone down, so I’m going to keep running until the watch says I can stop.

Which I did.  And when I stopped, I could barely take two steps before coming to a halt and plopping down on the sidewalk, trying to breathe.  I felt a little dizzy, which I think was probably dehydration or a sign that I need some electrolytes or even better, both!  After a few minutes, I picked myself off the sidewalk, walked for a few minutes to cool down, and went home to refuel and rehydrate.  Run over.

Speaking of refueling, what do you think about drinkable oatmeal?  My friend Daine shared the idea with me to make an horchata-like oatmeal shake, which pushed me to whip up something perfect for carbo-loading distance runners like myself.  If you’re interested, the recipe is here.  Cheers!

Shake with Red Straw

Sunday, February 27, 2011

From Bike to Soapbox

Bike with Fountain


Afternoon Snack

Saturday’s Bike Ride Commute (2/26/11)

I had forgotten how lovely a Saturday morning bike ride can be.  This town is so quiet and peaceful on weekend mornings.  That tranquility is a blessing and a treat, such a welcome contrast to weekday mornings where everybody is rushing to work.  Yesterday, I decided to be a little ambitious and try to get some work done, thus soothing my rising anxiety that my research is going nowhere fast.  The unfortunate thing about biology is that sometimes my critters are not as ambitious as I am, leaving me feeling a little less accomplished than I would like.  It’s not enough to put something on my to-do list—getting something done requires some cooperation from my subjects.

Such is life in the lab.  Though I was bursting with energy in the morning, my adventures quickly wore me out, and I ended up on the couch for a pre-dinner nap.  When I woke up, I almost decided to feast on leftovers because I was feeling too lethargic to cook, but ambition got the best of me, and I made one of Melissa Clark’s recipes from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite: Crispy Tofu with Peanut Sauce.  It was terrific.  After dinner, I gathered all my courage and sat down to watch Schindler’s List, a movie that terrified me during some of the most subtle moments.  There are certain Holocaust images that haunt me—the piles of wedding rings, the abandoned luggage, the cattle cars packed with people on their way to the death camps—and to watch a movie about the Holocaust is a hard experience for me.  I’m very sensitive to bad news, but at the same time, I’m fascinated by World War II and the Holocaust.  I’m a mutt of European descent, and the fact that the Holocaust took place in Europe and was carried out by the country from which my paternal grandfather emigrated makes the Holocaust horrors eerily close to home.  Part of my liberal leanings comes from my feelings about World War II: if you see the world through an “us versus them” lens, then you’ve already lost the war.  We won’t save the world with our violence, but we might be able to do it with love.  Or at the very least, empathy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It Seems Just Right

Evening Sunlight and Plant

Standing in Leaves


Thursday’s Bike Ride Commute and Short Run (2/24/11)

First things first: big happy birthday wishes to my friend Daine!  The fact that he reads not one but both of my blogs is astounding and so sweet.  Also, he pointed me in the direction of the luscious Costa Rican oatmeal shake, which is not to be missed.  I shall share more about this treat over the weekend.  Daine, if only you were a medical student in my building, then we could meet for lunch and talk food like we did during graduate school.  I miss those talks!

Yesterday was a nice day to be out and about.  I’ve become a fan of the days when I bike to work and then do a short running work-out in the evening.  In the past, I would have thought that it was too much exercise, but with my current fitness levels, it seems just right for a day when I’m feeling perky and in need of some fresh air.  I’ve been feeling really tired this week, but yesterday I felt more like myself and not overwhelmed by the idea of exercise.

The bike ride was a mixed bag.  In the morning, we had powerful winds that slowed me down and pelted leaves, rocks, and dirt at my face.  To add to my pleasure, construction on campus has cut off part of my normal riding route, so I had to go around the construction.  I may have uttered a four-letter-word, exhausted as I was feeling at that point after fighting the wind for 20 minutes.  Campus construction is a major pet peeve of mine, as it never seems to end and it is ubiquitous to any campus on which I’ve worked.  At least there’s no construction going on next to my lab, unlike in graduate school when an entire new building was being built right next door to us, and the construction workers used to come into our building and drink all our filtered water.

After work, I made a pit stop at Brazos Natural Foods.  I was there to say good-bye to my friend Jeremy, who is moving to Austin, but he was missing in action!  I was disappointed.  To console myself, I bought cheese, onions, an avocado, a sponge, and two bars of white chocolate to be gifted to two special ladies.

I rode home, played on the internet for a bit, then laced up my sneakers and headed out for my run.  I waffled about how long to make this run.  20 minutes?  30 minutes?  In the end, I settled on doing my favorite running loop, which put me in the neighborhood of 30 minutes.  I ended up running for 28 minutes, and I daresay that it was one of my very best runs of the season.  It was a run that felt like I was flying: it was easy and fun and fast.  I felt terrific. 

Last night, I had a realization about my running style.  I prefer either very short (30 minutes or less) or very long (60 minutes or more) runs.  Short runs are fun and invigorating; it’s easy to find the motivation to run for 30 minutes after work because I feel so good afterward.  With longer runs, I can lose myself in the rhythm of my footsteps.  I can get a little lost in my town.  I can get sweaty and feel my running endurance get a little better with each long run.  For whatever reason, runs between 30 and 60 minutes don’t have as much appeal for me.

The half-marathon is in nine days!  Hip hip!  I can’t wait.  One more long run on the schedule, then it’s a week of gentle work-outs and a 13.1-mile race to finish in less than two hours.  I am ready.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bike and Hope

Bike Fence and Me

Sign and Branches

Tuesday’s Leisurely Bike Ride (2/22/11)

It occurred to me this evening that I never take pictures of my favorite running loop because I don’t take a camera with me when I run.  All my “running” photos are taken before or after the work-out so that I can focus on running and not photography.  Tonight offered up a chance to share a little of my loop.  The weather was so pleasant this evening that I decided to go for a bike ride after work.  I rode the same loop that I usually run for my short midweek runs, and I made a few pit-stops for photos.  The point of tonight’s run was to enjoy the fresh air, not to complete a tough bike ride.

I’m a little bummed to tell you that my Sunday long runs are starting to wear me out.  I know the half-marathon is almost here—hurray!—but I’ve noticed that I feel tired and sluggish on the Monday and Tuesday after my long runs.  I’m sure it’s just the aftereffects or running nine or more miles in one work-out, but it’s tough for me to start a fresh week at work feeling less than perky about it.  On top of that, I’m feeling a little freaked out about my research, which feels like it’s stalling.  I know that it’s very common for research to happen in fits and starts, but I feel like I’ve been plugging away for a long time in my postdoc now, and I have yet to start generating a new story.  Every time I think I have something, I encounter a major setback and I can’t seem to make any real progress.  I’m really hoping that this spring will be a productive, successful one in the lab, but some days and some weeks are just so hard because I don’t see much sign of success.  There is, however, one major advantage to being a postdoc, and it’s this: I’ve been through the ambiguous, scary experience of not knowing what my project is going to look like a month from now, so I feel I’ve got a little extra courage in my back pocket, knowing that this stage is all part of the process.  I’ve just got to trust the science and keep trying.  In that way, science and running have a lot in common.  Have a plan, trust yourself, and keep trying.  Things will fall into place.

I hope!

Bike with Fence

Monday, February 21, 2011

Deep Thoughts on Long Runs

Shoes at Rest

Sunday’s Long Run (2/19/11)

It is bittersweet to see the end of this half-marathon season approaching: March 6 is just two weeks away, and on the calendar I have one more long run (110 minutes!) and the big race itself.  I’m equal parts happy and sad to finish the job, and I’m a little nervous about meeting my goal of running a sub-two-hour race.  I’ve never done it before, and with the crazy weather patterns we see here in Texas, it could be a piece of cake or it could be the hardest run of the year.

I’ve never trained this much for a half-marathon before.  Right now, I feel like I’m running a half-marathon every weekend.  A ten-mile run is very close to the half-marathon distance.  Add on top of that the time spent running and the recovery process and you can see why my Sundays have been devoted to long runs.  Part of me will be elated to see my weekends revert to a more typical pattern of cooking, relaxing, and some fun [easy!] exercise.

But I don’t want to mislead you or myself here.  My training has been largely enjoyable.  As I set out to start my 100-minute run on Sunday, I felt a surge of happiness, like, Ah, here we are again!  In sneakers, in the sunshine, ready to claim another ten miles of this town.  It was a wonderful feeling, one born of the discipline that it takes to be able to run eight, nine, ten miles week after week.  I love that feeling of being able to set off on a long run and know that my body will be able to handle it.  I may be sore and tired afterward, but it’s a recovery that I can handle.  I am hoping that my recovery from the half-marathon will be easier and faster than in the past because I’ve been so diligent with my training runs.

I anticipate that in one very important way, the half-marathon will be easier than all the long runs.  For once, I won’t be alone out there, running double-digit miles.  I’ll be with fellow runners, and there will be spectators cheering us on.  Whenever I run a race, I pretend all the sideliners are cheering for me.  It helps me run faster!  I’m always so touched to see all these kind-hearted strangers at the race, whooping and clapping and celebrating the race as we zip by them, clocks ticking and hearts pumping.  I feel such a surge of love for our spectators and for the sport of running itself, which adapts to fit whatever we offer it.  Sometimes we offer up ourselves, one lone runner, and we get a moving meditation of sorts.  Other times, we give ourselves by the dozens, the hundreds, the thousands, with timer chips laced to our sneakers and legs ready to go the distance.  The feeling I get at the beginning of a race is only comparable to the feeling I get at the end of the race: from We are going to do this to We did it.  As much as I am looking forward to those feelings at the Armadillo Dash in two weeks, I know that the days following the Dash will be bittersweet as I give my legs the time they need to recover from their efforts.  I’m reminded of something Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay Compensation: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something.  Every evil has its good; every sweet its sour.” 

This season of running has been more sweet than sour.  March 6 will be the sweetest run of all, and I can’t wait.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Bike in Tree


In Motion

Thursday’s Bike Ride Commute + Short Run (2/17/11)

Don’t worry, my dears: that’s not my bike in a tree.  I don’t know whose bike it is, but seeing a bike caught in that position definitely made my Tuesday!  It’s been up there for a few days, so I suppose that means someone is stuck on two legs instead of two wheels until they figure out how to get it down.

But on Thursday, I was on two legs and two wheels.  First the wheels: I biked to and from work, enjoying another bus-free commute.  I did something a little wild and wore my green wedges for the day.  This was risky for two reasons: I’ve never biked in wedges and these shoes often make my feet hurt by the end of the day.  Serendipitously, it was a breeze to cycle in them and my feet were totally and completely fine at the end of the day.  As I’ve noted before, I’m getting into a habit of wearing fancier shoes about once a week.  It seems like my feet are getting used to wearing heeled shoes because I have much less foot pain than I used to have after a day in these wedges.

After work, I was on two legs again.  I decided to bike and run on Thursday because I had plans on Friday, and I knew I wouldn’t have a chance for a more vigorous work-out.  I tackled a 40-minute run, which turned out to be harder than I thought it would be, but I think I may have been running it faster than usual.  With all of these long runs on the weekend, it’s hard for me to run the weekday run at a slow pace.  I just want to go fast, fast, FAST!  And so I do.  I could feel some soreness in my legs on Friday, which I think is a good thing.  I’m trying to stock up on strength and speediness for the big day.  Since I still have about two weeks until the half-marathon, now is a good time to get my last few quality work-outs before I need to take it easy so that I’ll be in tip-top form.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It Works Like a Charm

Trees Overhead

Dressed Up

Branch Against Brightness

Tuesday’s Yoga and Wednesday’s Bike Ride Commute (2/15-2/16/11)

It’s been a good week around here.  It was a front-loaded with busyness, but the weekend is almost upon us and I’m feeling mighty happy about things.  Tuesday was kinda nuts at work.  I’m one of the organizers for our postdoc association, and we hosted our first real seminar of the year.  There were e-mails flying in and out of my box all day, and we had no tech support at the seminar, so we were figuring everything out on the fly.  With the exception of one major glitch that I couldn’t correct, the seminar went well and our speaker was terrific.  I went home exhausted, ate dinner, and decided to unwind by doing my new favorite yoga class, Morning Flow #1.  I have yet to do this class in the morning, but I find that all this talk about having a great day sets the mood quite nicely for the next day.  I just mentally transfer all that good morning energy into my tomorrow.  It works like a charm.

On Wednesday, I finally got back on the bike!  I hadn’t gone for a ride since Saturday, and I was itching to put my feet on the pedals.  The weather has been really mild lately, so my bike ride was smooth and easy.  Now that my long-run mileage has climbed into the double digits, I’m trying to take it easy by not doing too much strenuous exercise in the days that follow my long runs.  This week’s plan was perfect: long run on Sunday, rest day (cooking day!) on Monday, easy yoga on Tuesday, and bike on Wednesday.  I took lots of photo breaks during Wednesday’s ride; the light was just so gorgeous that day that I couldn’t resist.  I can feel my Texas spring fever setting in—let’s hope I make it through Friday without skipping out on work to go play in the sunshine!

Happy almost-weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

There is Only Forward

Blue Skies Today

Soda in the Sun

Post-run Feet

Sunday’s Long Run (2/13/11)

First things first: Dr. Pepper is an excellent post-run recovery drink.  I’m not much of a soda-drinker, but Matt left his pop behind on Friday, so I feel obliged to drink it.  After running ten miles, it tastes amazing.  The other thing that’s amazing is taking off your shoes and socks, then stretching your feet into the sunshine while sitting on your patio.  That feels good too.

This long run was a good one.  I hit my stride early in the run; by mile 3 or 4, I was cruising comfortably.  It was a fun run, too.  I decided to multi-task by running to campus to take care of a little chore in the lab, so I finished the first 60 minutes of the run, then popped into the lab for a few minutes.  On my way through campus, I explored the area near the giant football stadium.  I saw some guy leaving a mysterious envelope tucked into a statue’s arms; of course I was dying to know what it contained.  I restrained myself and kept running.  I discovered a tunnel that runs under Wellborn Road between the football stadium and west campus—I think the tunnel was my favorite part of the run.

I took a lot of unintentional breaks during this run, mostly for street-crossing.  Because of the breaks during the first 60 minutes of the run, I made it my goal not to stop for the final 40 minutes.  At that point, it was easy to knock out 20 minutes of continuous running.  The final 20 minutes were a grind to finish.  At that point, I had an estimated 8 miles under my feet, with 2 more miles to complete.  The fatigue and overall soreness were enough that I forced myself not to think about any of that.  All I kept thinking were Zen-like mantras such as

There is only forward.

Feet move forward.

Breath goes in and out.

Arms pump.

There is no pain.

There is no fatigue.

There is only forward, feet moving forward.

Maybe it sounds insane, but all this chanting in head let me dissociate from the pain of running when I was losing energy and strength.  It’s something I do during races too, toward the end, when I’m close enough to finishing that if I just focus on that singular goal of feet moving forward, then I know I will finish and I’ll finish strong.

Running is like that: it lets you boil your goals down to a single focus.  I often use running to think about the rest of my life, but in those hard, heavy moments at the end of a long, long run, I think about nothing other than finishing.

* * *

As an aside, I have a question for my fellow long-distance runners.  What’s your recovery plan after a long run during race training?  Today is Tuesday, which is two days after finishing Sunday’s long run.  My legs feel mostly fine, just a little tired, and I’ve taken Monday and today as “active rest” days.  That means I do everything I would do during a normal work day—walk around, climb stairs, etc.—but I have neither run nor biked.  I might do some yoga tonight, but I’ve taken it easy with the exercise because I want them to recover from this run.  Tomorrow I plan to bike to work.

I’ll thank you in advance for any words of wisdom you offer!

Monday, February 14, 2011


Sequins and Sparkle

Sparkly Red Thingies

Love Above All

Happy Valentine’s Day, gorgeous readers!  This year I finally embraced my inner lovesap and bought decorations for Valentine’s Day.  These declarations of affection have been cheering my apartment for three weeks now, and I’m a little sad at the prospect of taking them down after today.  I think the reds and pinks take the edge off of the white-walled mental asylum look that I’ve been coming home to for the past year.  Am I allowed to keep these pretty things up until the next holiday, St. Patrick’s Day?  (In either case, I could really use a stepstool if I’m going to make this decorating thing a habit.  Right now I drag my kitchen chairs around my apartment and hop up to hang things.)

I haven’t always been on good terms with Valentine’s Day.  In fact, my saddest, loneliest Valentine’s Day was a year when I was in a relationship, but it was disintegrating right under my feet.  I didn’t know it at the time, but a few short weeks later, the romance was officially over, and I felt the strangest mixture of sadness and liberation, like, Ah, yes, now I can move on with my life.  It sucks to be alone again, but at least I can focus on taking care of myself and not worry about him any more!

Not too long after that dark and strange February, I decided to make my peace with love’s holiday.  It struck me that letting the same day get me down every year was ridiculous, and I was ready to turn over a new leaf.  In my mind, I made Valentine’s Day even bigger than it was out there in the real world.  I made this holiday my own day to celebrate love in all its forms: friendly, family, nature, self.  Romance wasn’t really on my agenda, so I just ignored it for a while.  As I was doing this, that dark, gloomy feeling that used to settle on me when I thought about how alone I was, how my romances never worked out, how men didn’t ask me out—that gloomy feeling started to fade.  I felt lighter and less alone, knowing that I was always in good company if I was by myself.  And eventually, romance found me again.

Here’s the funny thing about romance: it’s not really a happy ending after all.  It’s more like an on-going story, one with ups and downs and twists and turns.  I feel blessed every day with Matt in my life; he is truly one of the sweetest men I have ever met.  Still, it’s not a happy ending with him.  With the distance between us, it’s hello and good-bye and I miss you and I can’t wait to see you!  Last week we even had a fight (a misunderstanding, really), and then we had to figure it out together.  Is fighting romantic?  Hardly.  But there was something really good and strong about the way we handled it.  For me, it was sort of a relief to get mad about something and then talk until I wasn’t mad any more.  Usually I’d rather hide in a closet than talk about my anger with the person who is upsetting me.  This time was different, and it was good.  I’m also glad Matt chose to stay with me instead of getting a room at the Hilton—I’d like to think that he had more fun and romance with me than he would have at the hotel, but one never knows about these things.

During our fight, Matt offered to come back again soon—a sort of impromptu visit as a goodwill gesture.  Usually we go a long time between visits because his work schedule is insane, and I’m (mostly) content to honor his calendar.  As it happens, the weekend he suggested is the weekend of the Armadillo Dash, my half-marathon in March.  I feel sort of guilty that by getting mad, I am being rewarded with another visit.  On top of that, I’ll have a race sherpa*, someone to drive me to and from the race, someone to hold my things, someone to cheer for me when my legs are folding beneath me.  It seems so manipulative: just get mad and you get what you want!  The truth is that I didn’t want anything; I was just mad about what happened.  Perhaps that is what absolves me of any accusations of evil-doing.  I wasn’t trying to be manipulative, and in fact, when Matt and I were talking about this, I said, “I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do.”

He replied, “You can’t make me do anything.”  He didn’t say it with malice.  It was just a statement of fact.

And I laughed.  It was true.  I think a little ice melted between us too.

And that, my friends, is how my half-marathon has turned into a race for two.  I was totally anticipating a solo day, and I would have been fine and happy with that.  But I’d be a fool to turn down a chance to share the day with my companion, the one who sent me an e-mail before my first half-marathon entitled “E-cheering section.”  Matt and I have shared a lot with each other—he even took me to the driving range with him!  And I’m not a golfer, believe me.  Why not add half-marathons to the list?

(But because I love him, I’m going to offer to let him meet me at the end of the race.  The man needs his rest, and I hate waking him up, especially at some dogawful early hour in the morning.  We’ll see what he says.)

* Thank you, Kate O., for introducing me to such a fabulous racing term!  (I also stole “dogawful” from her.  Heh!)

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Blurry Bike

Sun Through Trees

Red and Rocks

Saturday’s Leisurely Bike Ride Commute and Photo Walk (2/12/11)

I had a really nice day yesterday.  To compensate for missing a day of work on Thursday, I rode my bike to the lab to do some experimental work and found that my flies were feeling quite lazy and were not all that interested in doing what I wanted them to do.  So: we try again on Tuesday, and at an earlier hour in the day!  Apparently fruit flies like to take Saturdays off.  I don’t blame them.

In the early afternoon, I left the lab and rode the bike to Kohl’s, where I hunted for some new shoes.  I have many pairs of shoes that are falling apart, and some of them I am going to have repaired.  There are at least two repair shops in my area, both which seem to be within biking distance, but I have yet to take any shoes to these footwear artisans.  While I plan to get some of my shoes repaired, I’m also preparing for the eventual retirement of other pairs, so I would like to get a new pair of black flats that look nice with casual and dressy outfits and a pair of beige sandals—something comfortable but dressy enough to look good with my skirts.  I like clothes that straddle the line between casual and dressy.  In my work life, the dress code is casual, but I feel more professional if I dress up a little bit most days.  I wear a lot of skirts and sweaters, sometimes button-ups, and occasionally a dress.  I do wear jeans, but I try to dress them up a little bit too with nicer shoes (like black flats), pretty tops, and some jewelry that says, “I may be wearing jeans today, but I’m still paying attention to my appearance and my work.”

My hunt for new shoes was unsuccessful, but I did find a lovely and unusual necklace that I can’t wait to wear.  I wasn’t planning to shop for jewelry, but I’m a picky enough consumer that when I find something I really like, I’ve learned to snatch it up because I know I’ll put it to good use.

After my unexpected Kohl’s purchase, I rode over to the hippie food store to buy pears and onions and tofu, among other things, and to say hi to my friend Jeremy, who is moving to Austin soon.  During my short time in College Station, I have learned to look forward to my Saturday visits with Jeremy at Brazos Natural Foods, and it is bittersweet knowing that he’ll be moving to the big city in just a short while.  I am happy for him but sad for me because I’m about to lose a local friend.  I need all the friends I can get around here!

I came home and rested for a while on the couch, but it was so beautiful outside that I could not resist wrapping myself up in a sweater and stepping into the sunshine again.  I took a short photo walk—I missed taking pictures last week—and found myself absorbed in noticing all the tiny details of a neighborhood landscape: the dry leaves scattered about, the way the sun danced on the red tiles, the gentle swaying of shadows as a breeze ruffled the trees.  One of the reasons I have come to love photography is that it feels like meditation to me, a contemplation of light and object and mood.  I still love the written word too, but photography is charming in its own way.  It is peaceful.  It restores me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Way of Remembering

Evidence of Wind


Peering Out the Window

An Unusual Week (2/08-2/11/11)

This week was a little tough for me, I’ll admit.  I am not accustomed to balancing my romance against the pressure of work and home, so there was some tension this week when my handsome man-friend showed up on Tuesday and stayed until Friday afternoon.  Matt was in town this week on business; it was a sweet bonus for us both that I happen to be here too.  Usually for us, there is a pretty hefty divide between work and fun such that when Matt and I are together, we are on vacation, even if it’s just for the weekend.  I suppose we are spoiled that way.  It does make life easier, though I miss him when he’s not within hugging distance.  Our mode of togetherness wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works quite well for us.  This week there was a certain sweetness in knowing that while we attended to our respective work obligations, we’d get to see each other at the end of the day.  It’s the same nice feeling I have where we’re in the same space but doing separate things: I just like having him around.

Early in the week, the weather became quite inhospitable.  In an effort to keep up my aerobic capacity, I rode the bike to work on Tuesday.  I don’t recall what the morning was like, but by evening, a cold front had rolled into town, and the sky was a steely grey color, like a fierce wind made visible with wintry paints.  My ride home was freezing cold, and the wind frightened me with its strength.  I was glad to lock up the bike and scuttle inside to my cozy apartment.

Wednesday was a hectic day; the only real exercise I got was hoofing it across campus in my heels to attend a talk.  I bought those heels somewhat on a whim; I don’t really think of myself as someone who wears heels on a regular basis.  But now that I own two pairs, I’ve been wearing the buckle pair on a semi-regular basis—maybe once every week or two.  I think my feet are getting used to the heels because my walk across campus was close to 25 minutes, and my feet felt completely fine.  I even enjoyed the professional feeling that heels inspire, like I’m really going places in life, even if it’s just to the other end of campus.

Thursday was, thank goodness, a day off.  Matt and I pretended Thursday was Saturday, and we had all kinds of fun.  We went ice skating, ate pizza, lounged by the fire at a coffee shop, and cooked dinner together.  We exchanged thoughts on what attracts us to a person (for the record, I think I fit all of two categories on Matt’s long list: I’m athletic and not blonde).  We had a serious conversation about whether and how food blogging fits into the much larger history of food and cooking.  And of course, because it was his last night in town for a while, I stayed up too late talking to him but somehow managed to get up the next morning, even though I did not set my alarm clock.  Wine does that to me—I never sleep as late as I think I will if I have been drinking the night before.

On Friday, I exchanged my sweetheart for my sneakers.  After kissing him good-bye, I finished up my work day and laced up my sneakers for an evening run.  I hadn’t run since Sunday for a variety of reasons (too cold, Matt’s visit, ice skating), but by Friday, I was in need of a good run.  I did my normal loop to complete a 31-minute run, followed by some gentle stretching and a few push-ups.  It felt good to get out there again and be alone except for the sound of my own footsteps against the pavement.  Matt is an intense person, and spending a lot of time with him can be overwhelming, even though I love every minute of it.  It’s become a habit of mine to go running after he leaves.  It lets me clear my head, think about what we said and did together.  It also makes it easier to return to the apartment that is now missing the signs of his presence—his bag, his shoes, the miscellaneous things he places on the coffee table.  It can be hard to sit in the silence after he’s gone.  Sometimes it feels lonely.  But running is something that I never do with him, so I think the very act is a way of remembering that I’ll be fine without him.

And I am.  Though he is never far from my thoughts.


D Heart A with Snow

Hola, loyal reader(s)!  It’s been a good but highly unusual week around the Feels Like Flying headquarters.  I thought I should drop in this morning to say that I’m alive and I hope to resume my semi-regular posting soon.  I was distracted by the very handsome man who kept showing up at my door this week, and I couldn’t turn him away because he just looked so cold out there in the sub-freezing temperatures we’ve had in Texas.  So I invited him inside and rediscovered that he’s very good at hugging me and feeding us and picking out mind-blowing red wines.  I already knew all of these things because he’s been showing up at my door periodically for the past three years, but sometimes I forget.  I adore him.  So you’ll pardon me, I hope, for this blog’s recent silence.

The half-marathon is approaching rapidly—March 6!  3 weeks away!—so I am now entering the final stage of preparations.  Tomorrow I will do my first ten-mile run, which is equal parts exciting and eye-popping.  Today I’ve got to get myself into the lab to do an experiment this morning, but I’ll be back later this weekend with a little update from the past week.

Until then, happy weekend and take care!

PS  No trees were harmed in the making of this post, but that tree above may have been harmed by the carving of “D Heart A” into its side.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Runner

Oh My

Dead Feet

So Tired

Sunday’s Long Run (2/06/11)

At the risk of sounding like a crazy lady, I’ll tell you that I talk to myself a lot during runs.  I become my own cheerleader, and sometimes, I swear, it is the only way I get through a long run.  I say things like

Keep it up!

Nice job.

Relax.  Just breathe.


You’re doing great.

And this Sunday I said to myself

You’re a super runner!

in honor of the Super Bowl of course.  Not that I watched the Super Bowl, but I hear that Green Bay won.  Hip hip for the Packers!

This long run, the second of the 90-minute pair, was hard in a strange way.  I never really hit my stride where the running felt easier and more natural.  I was struggling the whole time, but the struggle changed throughout the run.  First my breathing wasn’t quite intense enough to keep up with my legs.  Then I developed a persistent stitch in my side that bothered me for most of the run.  Then my legs started to tighten up, and of course my left knee started talking to me.  I just felt like I couldn’t relax into the run the way that I usually can, especially during long runs when relaxation is the key to a good run.

So the run wasn’t so great.  It happens.  It’s over now.  There is a bright side to this story: I believe that it’s during the hard runs, the runs that push us into our discomfort zone, that we are building our endurance.  It’s when it hurts (mentally or physically) that you become stronger and more able to tackle the next run.  I’m not talking about running through an injury, or running yourself ragged.  Instead, I’m referring more to a certain discomfort that one might call pain, but it’s more like soreness or exhaustion.  I’ve had running injuries before, so I believe I can tell the difference between a pain that can be handled as part of distance running versus a pain that’s telling you something is very, very wrong.

When I’m feeling uncomfortable during a run, I ask myself: is this my body saying it’s tired?  Or is this an injury that’s going to put me on the sidelines?  If my body is tired, I keep going to build my endurance.  If I don’t feel tired but it really hurts, then I back off and assess the situation.

The best part of my long run days is the lunch I eat afterward.  This time, it was leftover pizza and Moroccan Carrot and Tomato Soup.  This time, I threw a couple handfuls of spinach into my soup to add some green stuff to it.  The garnish on top in the picture below is a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro leaves.

A Good Lunch

Dear readers, do you have any tricks to make it through the difficult runs?  What do you do to keep yourself going when the going gets tough?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snow Day Time Machine

Snow on Bike

Snow on Plant

Snow Shark

Staying Active in the Cold: Wednesday-Friday (2/02-2/04/11)

Today I’m going to hop in my Snow Day Time Machine and work my way backwards through the exercise highlights of the past three days.  It’s so easy for me to slip behind on my posts for Feels Like Flying that the best way to catch up is a post that zips through three days in one swoop.

Friday was a very exciting day around here: we had an official Snow Day because the 1-2 inches of snow was too much for the Texans to handle.  The university was closed, and so was the Health Science Center, which is where I work.  Our snow was glorious: soft and fluffy, it made everything look white-washed and gorgeous, a lovely change from the drab brown and grey that the landscape has been wearing lately.

I decided to bike to work, thinking that it would be safe if I rode really slowly and walked my bike across the busy roads, just to make sure I didn’t slip on any black ice.  A slow bike ride to work would certainly be faster than walking, and after a week of abstaining from the bike, I was excited to ride.  Even though my work place was “officially” closed, I still had work I wanted to get done, and if I could get to work, there was no reason for me not to work on Friday and then take a real weekend, which I desperately need.

My plan worked brilliantly: I took my time and rode slowly and got to work without incident.  I did have one spot where my bike started to skid, but I was going so slowly that I was able to catch myself with my feet and walk through that slick patch.

Going back in time, on Thursday evening I was feeling really lazy but decided to do some yoga to stretch and relax.  I chose the Morning Flow #1 again because I really liked it the first time, even in my state of psycho-fizz.  Doing this class again and in a much calmer state allowed me to think a little more about the pace and instructor here.  I think the pacing is great—not too fast, not too slow—but I find that Dawnelle, the instructor, does not do a very good job explaining the poses or transitioning you into the next pose.  She seems to assume that you know the class, so her instructions are almost like reminders rather than useful cues.  The pose guide is a great help here, as it provides a lot more information than the vocal instructions do.

Using the time machine to take me back to Wednesday, I arrive at the one day of bitter cold temperatures during which I was brave enough to exercise outside.  I ran outside, which was crazy and hard-core, but it was good to put on some sneakers and get moving.  I did a 30-minute loop, bracing myself against the fierce wind when I was on my final leg of the run, returning to home base.  Evidence of the wind’s strength was littered along my run; there was a house that had lost three sections of fence, presumably because the wind blew them out of the ground.  It was a little scary to see such destruction and to feel the bone-chilling cold pushing against me as I tried to keep moving forward.  Nevertheless, I finished my run unharmed and grateful to head inside to a hot dinner and cozy pajamas.

I have some lingering pain in my left knee after Wednesday’s run.  It doesn’t hurt when I walk around, but if I bend my knees, I can feel this ache that makes me groan like an old woman.  I’m a little concerned about this, as it seems to have popped out of nowhere.  During and after my long runs, I’ve had no knee problems and very little soreness after the runs, so why am I feeling this after a short run?  It hurt a bit during my bike ride commute on Friday, but it wasn’t enough to discourage me from exercising.  What’s funny is that it doesn’t even hurt when I run (or, um, jog across my living room to see if it hurts when I run), so I’m stumped about this!  I’ll have to see how my knee handles another 90-minute run on Sunday.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Girl and Her Belly

Touch the Ground

Downward-Facing Dog

Good Socks

Tuesday Night’s Randomness (2/01/11)

The title of this post would work well with either of my two blogs!  I like it.  Maybe I’ll find a reason to use it over at Life, Love, and Food.  For now, this post is not about what I put in my belly but rather how I feel about my belly on the outside.

I do not have a particularly svelte body type.  I’ve got muscles and short legs and no waist.  For years, I felt self-conscious about my belly and the way it sticks out.  Even though I’ve always been active, I had a little bit of a pooch, maybe even some love handles.  I didn’t hate my belly, but I felt better when other people couldn’t see it.  Letting it all hang out made me feel vulnerable, exposed, imperfect.  I didn’t like those feelings.

In high school, I became more aware of my body’s shape and its “flaws.”  Thinking back on those years makes me a little sad because I’m reminded of how easily I became fixated on what my body looked like, rather than knowing and loving what it could do.  After high school, I started college and my belly obsession hit its peak.  Those were the days of Britney Spears mania, with pictures of her stunning abs mocking me everywhere I went.  It was irritating beyond belief, but secretly—of course!—I wanted those abs.  I started doing more abdominal exercises, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I was also running cross-country, and a strong core helps make you a stronger runner.  But I knew that the real reason I worked my abs is because I wanted them to look more like the ideal—more like those of a pop star.  (Sigh.)

I never drove myself to what I would call unhealthy extremes in my quest for a flat, gorgeous belly.  I had a full, vibrant life in college—lots of class and lab time, awesome professors, loving friends, and occasionally time to just relax.  In the fall, I had my cross-country season, and in the spring, I had easy runs and more time to spend with friends.  I was an excellent student, but I was very anxious about my future.  I think my ab obsession served as a mostly-harmless distraction from those deeper anxieties about what I would do after college and whether I’d be happy.

After college, time and lifestyle changed my body.  I went from sitting in class most of the time to running around during my work day.  I went from walking around a tiny campus to walking everywhere in my little city.  I discovered Pilates, then I fell in love with Pilates.  Yoga followed soon after.  All of these changes added up to less of me: I lost twenty pounds between my senior year of college and my fifth year of grad school.  My belly got flatter, my body looked sleeker.  The only part of that which was intentional on my end was the belly: Pilates did for my belly what no amount of cardio could do: it toned everything, adding strength and definition.  Even so, I’m still not one to parade around so everyone can see my middle.

Next week, my man-friend is coming for a visit, and here is where I confess something a little embarrassing: I think about doing some last-minute Pilates just to look good in front of him.  I feel ridiculous about it!  I don’t spend too much time thinking about my abs these days; I’m not as devoted to Pilates as I once was, and I’m okay with that.  When I remember, I try to spend some time in plank position and do some bicycle crunches, and maybe I throw in some push-ups while I’m down on the ground.  That’s what I did on Tuesday night while I was watching Law & Order: SVU on Netflix: ten push-ups, twenty bicycle crunches, a few deep breaths’ worth of plank position.  All of this while watching crime drama and hanging out in my old houseclothes.

Is it wrong to do something just for vanity’s sake?  I don’t think so if that thing is not harmful or extremely time-consuming.  Popping a Pilates DVD into my player certainly won’t hurt my quality of life, even if the only one who will take note of its effects is me.  I feel confident that my guy would still love and desire me even if my abs turned into a muffin top.  And I’m damn sure that he’s not thinking or worrying about what I will think about his body next week.  That’s one of the things that irks me most about being a woman: we are expected to spend a lot of time on our bodies to make them look good.  While I am very happy to spend my time running and doing yoga because it makes me feel good, I am always disappointed to think about exercise in terms of appearance, weight, and living up to societal expectations.  There was one time when I was out jogging in my old neighborhood in Evanston.  As I ran by some dude, he said, “Trying to lose some weight there?”  And I was stunned.  Was he being cruel, or funny, or was he just clueless?  As I considered these possibilities, I got mad.  Because what business does he have saying that to anyone, let alone some stranger he sees running in the neighborhood?  Would he have said it to a man?  If not, why?

No, sir, I was not trying to lose weight.  Thanks for asking.  Next time, mind your own damn business and keep your nose out of mine!  If I had it my way, asking someone about their weight would be considered as taboo as asking about their sex life.  In fact, I think it is.  My weight and my personal life are private—they are not up for public consumption unless I say they are.  Even so, I still prefer to run while wearing a shirt, and I always feel a little shy going to the pool in a bikini.  I will wear a bikini because I think it’s a healthy way to embrace my body as it is right now, but I consider myself fortunate that nobody says a word about any part of me, even my little love handles.  That’s the way it should be.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Head and Heart

After the Run


Cucumber Water

Sunday’s Long Run (1/30/11)

Wow.  Sunday’s run was my first 90-minute long run this year, and it was a paradox of a run.  In a word, it was hard, but its difficulty changed over time, like a shapeshifter or Texas’s wild weather patterns.

I find it easier to do these very long runs by breaking them up into shorter runs with planned breaks.  Since I learned last week that I can run for 60 minutes without taking a walking break, I knew I could do it again this week.  But mentally, it was tougher to complete that 60-minute portion of the run this week.  I don’t know how else to explain it than to say that I wanted to quit.  I wanted to slow down, to walk, to stop pushing.  I didn’t stop running, but it was 60 minutes of me telling myself that I can do this, I can keep going, just 30 minutes more until the break…

As the 60-minute mark drew closer, I made a bargain with myself: Get to the 60-minute mark without stopping, and then we’ll take another break at the 80-minute mark.  I knew my legs would be exhausted at 80 minutes because the final 10 minutes between 80 and 90 were the new miles, the hardest and most important ones of the run.  That little bargain was enough to push me to 60, and I happily took my 5-minute walking break, strolling around the red running path inside a neighborhood park that I like to visit.

Then 5 minutes had passed, and it was time to pick up the pace again.  I started the final 30 minutes feeling a little refreshed from my break, and my body shifted into running without a moment of hesitation.  The 80-minute mark began to approach, and my legs just…kept going.  I considered keeping the bargain with myself, but I felt like my body was saying, “No, no, we got this.  No breaks.  We can finish this.”  So I kept running.

I recently read that when you run a marathon, you run the first half with your head and the second half with your heart.  That’s how I felt during this run.  During the first half, I had to get my head in the game.  My heart (and legs) were in charge of seeing me through the second half, and to be honest, it was a relief to just trust my body to do what I’ve been training it to do.

After the run, it was sweaty pictures and stretching and cooking a terrific lunch.  Fear not, my loyal readers: those sausages below are vegetarian sausages, to which I fear I may have developed an addiction.


Dessert was great too.


PS  Those words of wisdom about running a marathon are from Maura of Maura Me to Love, who is the newest addition to my blog roll.  Her writing is so filled with honesty, fun, self-discovery, and love that I spent the better part of three hours on Saturday reading her archives.  Please do visit her, and see if she doesn’t inspire you to lace up your sneakers and hit the road ASAP.