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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pregnant with Anticipation

Sunday in September

Looking Down

Week of September 4, 2011:

Yoga: Saturday (pajama yoga—it’s still my favorite!)

Week of September 11, 2011:

Bike: Sunday and Tuesday

Run: Monday

Surprise!  I’m pregnant!

Just kidding.  But I am pregnant with anticipation about my trip to Michigan this week, and I am looking a little pregnant in the photos above, thanks to a long t-shirt, easy-fitting shorts, and a rather unflattering angle.  (Ah, the wonders of self-photography!)  Still, I love that orange shirt, and I love these photos too because I took them on a rare, relaxing Sunday afternoon on campus.  Given the many, many hours I will spend in transit for my trip, I needed to stock up on some reading material to keep myself from going insane.  We have an awesome library at Texas A & M, and it always makes me feel pleasantly nostalgic for my undergrad days.  I used to be able to work in libraries, and I miss that.  Now the bulk of my work is experimental, which keeps me tied to the fly lab and my windowless cave.  (Not that I don’t love my job, but sometimes a girl craves a desk with a view, right?)

Sunday’s work-out was my bike ride to and from campus.  On Monday, I hit the streets for my extremely grueling 20-minute run.  Actually, it was a great run once I hit my groove.  Our heat has returned (and with a vengeance it seems, as it’s 100 degrees F out there today!), so Monday’s run was tougher and sweatier than my outdoor runs earlier this month.  Still, it was nice to be outside running, and my body did seem to adjust to it quickly enough that I wasn’t miserable for the whole work-out.

Man, I love running.  And if things keep up like this, running is going to love me back.  I can feel myself starting to get into the running groove again.

Finally, I did the bike commute thing today.  Like I said, our heat has returned, so this ride was another sweaty, summer-style ride, and I arrived at work with my legs covered in grass because hurray! Tuesdays are grass-cutting day on campus.  Yeesh, I hate grass and lawns and the whole “gotta-cut-the-grass-every-week” thing.  If I ever have a yard, I’m going to either xeriscape it or let it go mostly wild.  Low-maintenance and eco-friendly!  That’s how I want my lawn and myself to be.

And with that, I’m off.  Mitten State ahoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Connect Four! (August in Review)

August Completed

I didn’t expect to say this, but August was a really good month for fitness.  My star chart tells part of the story; you can see that I did all my planned work-outs except for one run and one yoga session.  For a plan that averages a rate of one work-out per day, that’s pretty good!  It helps, of course, that up to three of those work-outs are my bike commutes to and from work, so it’s less tempting to skip them.  Even in the August heat, I like not taking the bus to work every day—it’s nice to have some variety during the week.

August was a hard, sweaty month, but I think that sticking with a flexible work-out schedule helped keep my spirits up.  I love exercise for many reasons, not the least of which is the way it makes me feel.  Without a doubt, regular exercise helps me stay happy and optimistic, which is really important during times of high stress and uncertainty.  Things at work were busy during the month, but I would say they were busy in a good way.  In a sense, fitness has a lot in common with experimental science: discoveries don’t happen overnight, and neither does fitness…or at least with the kind of science I do.  It’s a long, slow process, one that requires a great deal of persistence, patience, and planning.  Running and my other exercise pursuits are like that too: one doesn’t wake up in the morning, ready to run a half-marathon.  It’s a long, slow process of building up to a long distance, and you’ve got to stay both focused and flexible.  I try to keep my eyes on the prize, but I’ve learned that it’s best to stay responsive to unexpected events—an impending injury, or a little too much fatigue, or the need for a day off to recover from a particularly hard run.  I build my fitness plans (and my experimental plans) around the idea that shit is going to go wrong, so I like to have some room to make adjustments so that I can meet my big-picture goal.

August, it’s been a good run of things.  You’re always a challenging month, especially in Texas, but I think you showed me that I’m tougher, stronger, and more focused than I even imagined.  Thank you for that.  I’m not sad to say good-bye to you, but I am grateful that I made it through and I feel more confident on the other side.

Onward, September!

September One Year Ago

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paradise, or at least one version thereof

Shadowy Prettiness

Fall in Progress

Week of September 4, 2011:

Bike: Saturday

Run: Thursday (15 minutes around the neighborhood)

It’s a beautiful weekend here in Texas, but my goodness, I am wiped out!  Today I managed to get some experimental work done, shop for groceries at two stores, talk to my sister on the phone, and cook a not-very-tasty batch of curried fried rice (bummer).  Miraculously, I even showered and washed my hair, of which I wish I had less right now.  (I really need a haircut!)  But now, I think I’m going to relax with an egg cream and a few episodes of Friday Night Lights, and hopefully I’ll wash a few more dishes before climbing into bed.

Hope you are having a lovely weekend, wherever you are.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lovely September

Greenhouse at Dusk

Melange of Plants

Bike Wheel with Shadow

Week of September 4, 2011:

Bike: Sunday and Wednesday

Run: Monday

Hodgepodge: Tuesday (a little biking, a walk, a bit of yoga)

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous this week!  It’s about 40 degrees cooler than it’s been in months, which means I can wake up in the morning, open the patio door, and the air drifting inside feels cool to me.  It’s wonderful.  It also makes it a lot easier to enjoy outdoor work-outs, such as Monday’s long run (a 20-minute out-and-back loop) and my bike commutes (the usual—about 3-4 miles each way, so a day of commuting is about 7-8 miles roundtrip).

This week feels a bit hectic to me as I get ready to go out of town.  I’m feeling a lot of internal pressure to get lots done at work; on top of that, I have various errands to run (bank, shopping, library) in preparation for my trip.  But I’m excited to fly north to see my family, and I think the time away from work and Texas will be really refreshing.  So I’m going to dive back in, and hopefully I’ll have time to check in here once or twice more before I leave.

Happy September, friends.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gotta Run

Fence and Treeline

Fence with Sunburst

Week of August 28, 2011:

Bike: Saturday

Yoga: Friday (pajama yoga before bed)

It’s an absolutely gorgeous day here in Texas, with temperatures that have finally dropped down into the pleasant zone.  I’m about to head out on my long run.  20 minutes of running on this beautiful almost-fall day!  I can’t wait.  So I’ll keep this short and say happy Labor Day to my American readers and happy Monday to all.

Have a good week, friends.  Lace up those sneakers and have fun out there.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Catching the Sunset

Outside Again!

Ready for Our Outside Run

Week of August 28, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday and Thursday

Run: Sunday (long treadmill run!) and Wednesday (short outside run)

Yoga: Monday (Gentle Hatha Yoga #3)

I’ve started to transition my runs off of the treadmill.  I’m really an outdoors exercise girl at heart—I’m (almost) always happier outside rather than inside.  At this time of year, the weather is a little wobbly.  Sometimes it feels almost pleasant, other times I’m cursing the heat and the trickles of sweat dribbling down my legs.  So I take my cue from the wobbly weather: sometimes I take the easy option and hop on the treadmill; other times I embrace the heat so I can enjoy running in the evening sunlight.  Now that the sun is setting earlier, the evenings start to cool down faster, so an after-work run is a treat, even if it’s a little sweaty right off the bat.

On Wednesday, I did a 13-minute run outside (my mileage is really getting up there, I know!), and I was reminded why I love running outside so much: the grandeur of that big blue Texas sky, the joy of actually going somewhere powered by my own two feet, the feeling of disconnecting from machines in order to connect with something bigger, older, and more beautiful.  To run outside is to subject one’s self to the elements, yes, but it’s also a kind of surrender to something that’s worth a bit of physical discomfort: a sense that there is a huge world out there, bigger than your tiny self, bigger than your daily worries and anxieties.  And it’s always there, always waiting for you and your next run.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Zoom Zoom!

Pink Sky Fireball Sun

Hello and happy September!  To say that I’m excited about the first month of fall would be a sad understatement.  I am beyond excited—I’m THRILLED!  August is such a hard month in Texas.  It’s long and hot, and everyone is grumpy because we’ve been trying to cope with the summertime inferno for three months.  (Seriously.  Summer starts in April or May around these parts.)  September is a welcome change for us because it’s both the end of awful August and the beginning of autumn—my favorite season of all.  This month, I’m also taking my first vacation in eight months.  I head north to Michigan in two weeks, so there will be a cool respite from Texas and my worklife very soon.

I had a wonderful bike ride to work this morning.  Even though it’s only September 1st, it felt cooler outside, especially along the shady parts of my route.  I felt happy to be on the bike, happy to have experiments on the docket this morning, just flat-out HAPPY about my life.  Then I got to work and I was getting ready to leave the restroom after mopping myself off post-ride when a woman said to me, “Um, I just wanted you to know, your bottom has a big wet spot on it.”

“Yeah, I know.  I rode my bike here,” I replied. “It’s sweat,”  And thanks for checking out my ass!

Then I felt mildly annoyed.  Why did she feel compelled to say that to me?  Did she really think I didn’t know about my sweaty clothing?  Or did she really think I’d had, um, an accident?  I wonder how this reflects the local cultural expectation about appearances.  Would this sort of thing happen in Austin, which has a huge and famous cycling culture?  And did she not feel the least bit shy about commenting on my rear end?!

I refuse to stay off my bike in the summer just because there will be some sweating involved.  And I refuse to tiptoe around a local culture that doesn’t embrace exercise as enthusiastically as I have.  I think it’s important for me to look professional at work, because that’s what I am: a professional.  But summertime Texas demands certain concessions, so sometimes I look like a sweaty, exercising professional.  And I’m proud of it.

Speaking of sweat, today is the first of the month, so it’s time for our first installment of Speed Demons!  We’ve got a few speedy runners out there who deserve some applause for their hard work in August.  In no particular order, we have…

* Raquelita, who ran a super-speedy timed mile and clocked in at 8:11.  Very nice, R!

* JD, a Michigan friend of mine who is training for the Detroit Half-Marathon.  He recently finished a 5.22-mile training run at a zippy 10:11/mile pace.  That’s awesome, JD!  You are going to rock your half.

* Me.  Of course I have to mention my own speedwork!  My best speedwork last month was on the treadmill, where I did most of my August running (see first paragraph re:heat in Texas).  I’ve been doing 8:30 miles, just to keep myself challenged on the treadmill, and this work-out was my best one.

Did you have any good speed work-outs last month?  Tell me about them in the comments!  And happy training to you, dear reader.