Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Do My Feet Look Like a Muppet’s?

Muppet Feet

Week of November 20, 2011:

Bike: Saturday

Run: Thursday and Friday (woot!)

Yoga: My memory fails me…

Week of November 27, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday

Run: Sunday

Yoga: Monday

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Answer

This week, by day…

Oh Texas

Wednesday Morning

…and by night.

Campus After Dusk

Week of November 20, 2011:

Bike: Sunday and Wednesday

Run: Monday

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Fog of Uncertainty


Wednesday Morning

Week of November 13, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday and Saturday

Run: Wednesday

Walk: Saturday (the wildcard!)

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Way It Will Never Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Week of November 13, 2011:

Run: Sunday

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On Ambition, or the Lack Thereof

Tree and Library

Tree and Glasscock Building

A Favorite Bag

Week of November 6, 2011:

Bike: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Run: Wednesday

Yoga: Monday and Thursday

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

If My Bike Were a Horse…

If My Bike Were A Horse

A Good Riding Outfit

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Unplugged After Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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

Same Sky Different Day

Dog Park

Groovy Legwear

 Week of October 30, 2011:

Bike: Wednesday and Saturday

Yoga: Thursday

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Goals: The Magic Number

Mi Tierra

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

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

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

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

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

Fitness Goals:

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

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

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

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

Health and Life Balance Goals:

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

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011

October in the Rearview Mirror

October Star Chart

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

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

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

Fitness Goals:

* Gradually increase my run length to 40 minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

Health and Life Balance Goals:

* Be in bed by 10 PM Sunday through Thursday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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