Monday, December 17, 2012

(Not so) Deep Thoughts

Is running a metaphor for science?  Is science a metaphor for running?  Maybe there is truth to be found from both angles.  At any rate, it is the eleventh hour (metaphorically speaking) for the grant proposal that has been a year in the making and already rejected twice.  I feel much the same way I do in the final miles of a half-marathon: damn, I’m so ready for this thing to be done.  But the only way it will be done is if I finish strong.  It doesn’t matter how I feel: all that matters is putting one foot in front of the other. 

So for the next two days, nothing else matters other than reading, writing, revising, and re-revising this grant.  Soon it will be out of my hands, and I’ll be able to rest easy knowing that I gave it my very best.  That I stayed focused on the common goal.  That I looked into the future and I wanted what it was offering me.  That I remembered it’s not about me; it’s about the science.  By doing my part, I am serving as a vehicle for bringing new knowledge into the world.

And you know what?  That’s pretty cool.  Who says science can’t be a spiritual experience?

I’m keeping the faith.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Weekend Done Well

Branches and Grey Sky

Boots and Fuzzy Things

New Favorite Necklace

{Photos taken on my Saturday afternoon walk}

Week of December 9, 2012:

Monday: DIY yoga

Tuesday: Bike commute

Wednesday: Evening run (20 minutes)

Thursday: Bike commute

Friday: Evening run (30 minutes)

Saturday: Very short bike commute for groceries + Late-afternoon walk

Minutes run this week: 120!  Yee-haw!

Week of December 16, 2012:

Sunday: Long run (80 minutes + some walk breaks)

I’m having a nice weekend over here.  A nice weekend, a quiet weekend, a productive weekend.  I did my usual flurry of cooking, a smidge of cleaning, and a bit of work.  I also took a nap, which was heavenlyHeavenly!  I’m gearing up for what may be a very busy week at work: our grant needs to be submitted and I need to tie up loose ends so I can scoot out of town soon.  I’d like to get some experimental work done, but the grant is top priority this week, so I’ll do what I can as I work with my boss to wrap up our proposal.

But this morning, I had a really nice long run.  My last few long runs have been NOT GOOD because of the heat and my body’s inexplicable rebellion against the heat.  (Dear body, have you forgotten we live in Texas?)  Today was much cooler and a bit wet—we’ve had some rain lately—and though I took it slow and easy, I finally started to feel like a runner again, able to handle 6+ miles without too much struggle.  To be honest, all of my running from now until October 2013 feels like preparation for the marathon, even though right now I am technically training for the Armadillo Dash in March.  With 26.2 in the future, I was feeling dismayed to be struggling with distances that I’ve run many, many times, distances that are 1/4 what I’m expecting myself to run in ten months!  Today, with a solid 80-minute run under my belt, I am feeling more reassured about plans to come.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Update: Wildlife Edition

Red Bird in Profile

Fuzzy Black Caterpillar

Week of December 2, 2012:

Monday: DIY yoga

Tuesday: I forget…maybe a bike commute to work?

Wednesday: Short evening run (20 minutes)

Thursday: Bike commute to work

Friday: Off (went out with friends to drink beer and eat burgers)

Saturday: Errands via la bicicleta

Total minutes run this week: 82 (sad trombone, as Holly would say)

Week of December 9, 2012:

Sunday: Long run (70 minutes)

Can you spot the wildlife in each photo above?  I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you click on the photos, Flickr will give you a clue.  My encounters with these creatures were some of the highlights of my week, and I’m so happy I have photos to share!

So.  I’m not getting along with Texas these days.  It’s a combination of factors: drivers who are rude or inconsiderate to pedestrians and those of us on two wheels, a growing sadness and frustration with the vegetarian scene around here, the obnoxious trucks that don’t actually fit into parking spaces, the way that patriarchal attitudes are amplified and glorified here.  I’m just not feeling excited about Texas.  A friend of mine pointed out that some of my problems are because I live in small-town Texas rather than Austin or one of the other big cities, and she makes a good point.  But I’m here because my work is here, and my work is not something I can take with me, at least not yet.  So I’m feeling kinda stuck and annoyed.

Running-wise, I also seem to be in a funk.  Last week’s heat has stuck around—it’s 79 degrees F as I write this.  Today’s long run was a struggle.  I was so hot right off the bat, and the last 20 minutes were among the hardest I’ve run in a long time.  Part of the problem, I’m sure, is hormones (damn you, lady hormones!); there may be other things contributing to my lack of running mojo.  On the plus side, I’ve been loving my bike rides and feel great when I’m on two wheels (minus last Saturday’s bonk).  Another plus, because I feel like I’m whining in this post: tonight I’m having spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and soysages with a side salad, and I’m pretty excited.  The kitchen has been kind to me lately, and guess what?  I can ALL THE VEGETARIAN FOOD I WANT in my own kitchen.  Thank goodness I can and do cook!  If I didn’t, I’m sure I would be a thousand times more unhappy with Texas.

As a wise man once said, “This too shall pass.”  I hear some wintry weather is on its way, and that will make me very happy.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!  I’m a big fan of all the winter festivals of light.  They are, to my mind, a sign of the invisible ties that bind humanity together.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

We All Love to Run

We aren’t the only ones who love to run:

“But the horse did not need encouragement, because he was scared, he loved to run, and the sun was high enough to sit on the roofs of buildings like a great open fire warming everything and limbering up his already limber muscles.  He loved to run.  He was like a big white bullet, his head up and out, his tail down and back, his ears streamlined with the wind as he vaulted forward.  He took such long strides that he reminded Peter Lake of a kangaroo, and sometimes it seemed as if he were about to leave the ground and fly.”

                                                                    From Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Leaves and Light

Sidewalk Strewn with Leaves

Me with Leaves

Week of November 25, 2012:

Monday: DIY yoga

Tuesday: Short evening run (20 minutes)

Wednesday: Hmm, good question…

Thursday: Bike ride commute

Friday: Short evening run (30 minutes)

Saturday: A very sweaty bike ride around town, running errands

Total minutes run this week: 120!  High fives all around!

Week of December 2, 2012:

Sunday: Long run (62 minutes) 

I confess: I totally bonked this weekend.  At the risk of whining again, I blame the heat.  We’ve climbed back into summertime territory, with temps in the 70s and 80s this weekend, and I think my body is just NOT HAVING IT.  I rode my bike to run errands yesterday, and I felt kinda gross and nauseous for much of my ride.  I also got very, very sweaty, which—let’s face it—is really annoying in December.

Today I had the same experience as I set out on my long run.  I was scheduled to run 80 minutes, and that was the plan.  I can’t decide if I went out too fast or tried to run most of it too fast, but I just didn’t feel very good while running.  I took several walk breaks (some for street crossings, and a few just because I felt like it).  I even paused for a while at the Monarch Waystation and experienced the wonder of watching several butterflies float among the plants, their wings flashing in a gorgeous display of color and flight.  It was enchanting.

Mid-run, I reevaluated my strategy for today, and at the 50-minute mark, I decided to switch to a 4:1 run:walk strategy until I got home (which wasn’t too far).  I alternated four minutes of running and one minute of walking, and I was able to add another 12 minutes to my total for the day.  At that point, I called it quits because I was not feeling good.  I felt sick.

And that, my friends, is what I call a bonk.  Maybe some Gatorade would have helped; maybe not.  I feel like my body is telling me, loudly and clearly, that it does NOT WANT TO RUN in the heat any more.  At least not for another three months.

Fortunately, we all know that into every runner’s life a few bad runs will fall.  Raquelita wrote about this recently, and I thought her words were spot on.  The key with running is to know that bad runs will happen, but so will good runs.  Today was not my best running day, but maybe Tuesday will be.  Or Friday.  Or next Sunday.  I can’t wait to find out.

How were your weekend work-outs, everyone?  Any triumphs or bonking to report?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

One Week Later

November 25 Long Run

Running Feet

Week of November 18, 2012:

Monday: Yoga (Gentle Hatha #4)

Tuesday: Bike ride commute to work and grocery store

Wednesday: Off (friend in town for Thanksgiving!)

Thursday: Late-afternoon walk with friend

Friday: Another late-afternoon walk, this time alone

Saturday: Errands via bike

Minutes run this week: 40 (just one run)

Week of November 25, 2012:

Sunday: Long run! (70 minutes)

Tonight I shall give you a short list of what I did last week: eat, drink, and be merry.  I didn’t do much running, just one long run on Sunday, which was only 40 minutes because it was a step-back week for me.  I meant to fit a run into Friday, but my friend Courtney ended up staying at my place until late afternoon, and after she left, I was more in the mood for a slow walk than a run.  So a slow walk it was, underneath an overcast sky with chilly temperatures.  (Chilly for Texas, that is.  Everything is relative around here.)

But it’s all good and back to business this week.  Today I set off for a 70-minute run, and it split itself into two parts: the first 45 minutes were easy, strong, solid running.  The last 25 felt like I’d hit the long run wall and slogged through them.  I feel like some of that slogging is probably the result of taking a week off of running, and if that’s the price I have to pay for prioritizing friends and food over running, so be it.  It was a pretty good run overall—I was certainly happy to be back on the roads.

It would have been nice to have a Thanksgiving Day run, or a birthday run, and I do feel a twinge of regret that those runs didn’t happen.  But my Thanksgiving Day was packed with cooking and friends, and yesterday I got on the bike for some errands.  I’m often willing to have a “brick run” where I run after riding, but yesterday—eh.  I wasn’t feeling it, and I decided to just resume running today.  But this week, I’m looking forward to some good runs in addition to today’s challenging long run!

Happy running, friends!  And happy belated Thanksgiving—now’s the time to run off all that pie. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Catching Up, Coffee-date Style

Cloudy Bright Day

Bike on Panera Rack

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Week of November 11, 2012:

Monday: Yoga (Dave Farmar’s 20-minute session)

Tuesday: Bike commute

Wednesday: Errands by bike + 30-minute evening run

Thursday: Off (off drinking wine again!)

Friday: Bike commute to work

Saturday: Short bike ride for groceries + 20-minute afternoon run

Total minutes run this week: 110!  Woo-hoo!

Week of November 18, 2012:

Sunday: Long run (40 minutes)

Well!  What a week that was.  Last week I was somewhat frantically trying to rewrite and revise a grant that needs to be submitted by the end of this month.  By the time Friday rolled around, I was completely drained.  When I’m really tired mentally, I tend to become sad and broody, so I’ve been thinking too much about sad things lately.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing to spend some time brooding, which for me is a little like creative brainstorming about your problems.  I seem to have a recurring loop going in my head which sounds like this:


Well, maybe it’s not ALL his fault...


Are you sure?  Because I think you said you were okay with this, that, and the other thing.


I think you’re being cruel.


No, you really are being cruel.  What happened to kindness?


No, you don’t.  You’re just being broody.


He’s not perfect, and you’re not either.  No relationship has any lasting power if the people in it are expected to be perfect.  All you can do is be gentle with yourself.  Go take a bubble bath.


Okay, we’ll buy some the next time we’re at Target.


It’s pretty obvious what I’m brooding about, right?  I sort of laugh when people tell me how mature I seem when I talk about this year’s breakup because most of the time, I do not feel mature at all.  I feel anything but mature.  I try, however, to trust the process, and myself, and even Matt to carry me through to a happier time.  I have not arrived at that happier time, not yet.  It’s been a terrible year, in all kinds of ways, and the upcoming holidays and my birthday seem like poignant reminders of all that I have lost.  Mostly I can’t wait until this goddamn year is OVER.  Even though I know the calendar won’t magically make everything better on January 1st, I am ready for a metaphorical fresh start after a year of heartbreak.

Anyway, I finished a decent working draft for the grant, and I’ve been trying to recover this weekend.  I made a lentil-and-pasta stew (which I’d make again, but I’d double all the vegetables next time), dates soaked in a coffee/cinnamon/cardamom syrup (which sounded like a good idea, but I think the cardamom was too much), and a batch of my favorite cookies.  I went for a walk, two runs, and a bike ride.  I chatted with my brother on Facebook and my dear friend Nicole on the phone.  I bought a birthday present and updated my wish list.  I slept a lot.  I’ve been sleeping a lot lately, which I think indicates how mentally drained I’ve been by the grant.  I received some beautiful sweet potatoes from my colleague Christopher, which I’m going to turn into dinner tonight.  And so far, I have done no science work at all, which means that maybe I’ll feel ready to dive back into everything tomorrow.

Oh, and about those photos!  They are from two weeks ago, when I took a morning trip to Panera for a Pumpkin Spice Latte and some grant-writing.  I am so, so happy to see that they have awesome bike racks at Panera.  Bike racks make me happy and much more likely to return on two wheels.  (It’s much better to travel by two wheels than by four, right?  Right.)  And the PSL was delicious and beautiful, but I think for me, the sweet coffee drinks work better as a dessert after lunch rather than my morning coffee.  I like my morning coffee to be more about the coffee and less about the frills.

Have a good week, my dears!  I hope you have much for which to be thankful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Theresa’s Race Report: The 5K Wicked Halloween Run, Plymouth, MI

I have a treat for you today.  A few weeks ago, my sister Theresa ran her first 5K race, and she graciously agreed to write a race report for Feels Like Flying.  I’m honored and delighted to share her story of race day with you, and I’m oh so proud of her for becoming a self-made athlete.  So without further ado, here is Theresa’s story, in her own words.

* * *

It had been on the calendar for almost three months and it would finally be here the next morning.  It was my first organized race—the 5K Wicked Halloween Run in Plymouth, Michigan!  In the weeks leading up to my race, I had been trying to catch up on sleep.  To do that, I had been making my way to bed at 9 PM every night.  Was I laying down at 9?  No, but I was folding that last load of laundry or sending that last email or Facebook message and then the bedtime routine.  Usually, I was in bed by 10 PM.  The night before my race was no different.  I’m pretty proud of myself for that, but I did notice that I wasn’t sleepy tired.  I was really excited about my race the next morning.

The morning of the race was very cold.  I woke up before 6 AM on my own but turned on the TV and snuggled in my bed for a while longer.  While listening to the news, I heard that it was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside.  That sounded cold and then I heard there was a wind-chill making it about 30 degrees.  Brrr!  Thankfully, I had impulse-bought a wool blend base layer bottom (I think of them like tights) the day before and had washed them with my new race shirt so they were dry and ready to be worn.  I bundled up and made my way downstairs to start a good breakfast.

Normally, I have a cup of yogurt and head out the door for my run around the neighborhood.  With my wave of the race starting at 9:05, I figured I would need to eat something more substantial if my boyfriend Scott* and I were leaving the house at about 8 AM.  Scott has been very supportive of all of my running efforts, and this morning was no different.  He came to my condo with enough time to drag me out of bed, if necessary.  I knew I was excited because I was awake, dressed, and making scrambled eggs before he arrived.   Scrambled eggs with cottage cheese and a side of strawberries was the perfect race morning breakfast.

After breakfast, we left for the race in Plymouth.  I live just north of Plymouth, but we thought parking might be a challenge so more time would be better than less time and certainly less stressful.  I could tell in the car that I was getting nervous but I was not completely sure why.  In hindsight, I think it was due to the extreme swing in temperatures over the past week combined with my anxiety of not knowing exactly what to expect during the race.  Scott and I had walked the path the week before, which was extremely helpful.  I want to make that one of my habits for racing going forward.  Anyway, after lots of driving around, and seeing the 10K runners in action through the streets, we finally found a parking spot and were ready to check out the scene.

I already had my bib number and cool shirt because Scott and I picked it up on Saturday during our errands.  As part of the race swag, I also got a Kona running hat and a bumper sticker.  I recommend doing the pre-race day pickup of goodies as it was pretty chaotic in the park where the start and finish lines were on race day.  It was nice to see so many people at the event, but it was stressful and the announcements were not always loud enough to hear or clear enough to understand.  I tried my best to understand and paid attention to the time so that I would be ready to run when my wave of the race was being queued up.

Theresa with Scarecrow Oct 2012

{It was cold, but not too cold for pictures with girly scarecrows.}

I had signed up for the second wave of the 5K run.  The first wave was meant for those runners who ran 10-minute miles or faster.  I had been running between 11- and 12-minute miles (which I’m super proud of) so I signed up for the wave that fit my current times best.  The race time was approaching so I went to the starting line.  It was very crowded and hard to have any personal space.  I wondered how this was going to work for everyone to get a running start, but it turned out okay.  I tried to look out for other runners and hopefully they were looking out for me.

The run was cool at first but as I started to warm up, I felt really good.  I have only ever run with another person once before (my sister** just a few weeks ago) so it was a very different experience running with so many others.  I also felt like I was going really fast when I passed the runners and the walkers.  Apparently, I was running really fast! This was my fastest 5K in the history of my running so far—coming in at 34:08 and 11:01 per mile average.  I felt ecstatic!! My goals were always to finish the race and finish the race running.  When I knew that was going to happen, I hoped that my current pace would bring me across the finish line at less than 35 minutes.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!

Theresa's Finish Oct 2012

{A photo finish!}

With the conclusion of this race, I’m more excited than ever to keep running.  I bought more cold weather running gear right after the race and am already looking forward to my next run.  Also on the horizon is WHICH race should be my next one?  Should it be another 5K or a 10K?  So many choices!

Theresa and Scott Oct 2012{Can you find Waldo in this photo of Theresa and Scott?}

* Scott’s other alias is Muffin Man, which he comes by honestly with his primo muffin-baking skills.

** That would be me, Rosiecat.

Care to share your thoughts on Theresa’s next race?  When you first started running, did you run a lot of short races first, or did you quickly set your sights on something longer, like a ten-miler or a half-marathon?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mud Mistakes and Long Run Plans

Week of November 4, 2012:

Sunday: Long run!  (50 min.)

Monday: DIY yoga (~20 min.)

Tuesday: Morning run (25 min.) + Bike commute (to work and to vote!)

Wednesday: Off? (I think…)

Thursday: Bike commute (to work and to wine!)

Friday: Off (so…tired…)

Saturday: Errands by bike

Total minutes run this week: 75.

Week of November 11, 2012:

Sunday: Long run!  (60 min.)

Long Run Schedule End of 2012

Hey hey!  I meant to say hello last week, but the week just ran away with me.  Between the election, multiple work meetings for which I had to prepare data, and a looming grant deadline that I’m trying to beat, I kept missing my opportunities to update ye olde blog here.  But I’m here now, so let’s talk about running.

First up: my long run today.  It was hard.  I ran for 60 minutes on a windy, warm day.  I hate to keep complaining about the heat because it’s so not interesting, but we’re back into the 70s and 80s (Fahrenheit—I know, I’m so American), and I think we can all agree that the hotter and sweatier you feel during a run, the faster you start feeling tired.  Cold air is energizing; hot air is stifling.  The wind was pretty challenging too.  At one point, it was blowing at just the right angle to keep my ponytail FWAP-FWAP-FWAPPING on the back of my head, which was so annoying that I actually grabbed my hair for a few strides, just to stop the FWAPPING.

Perhaps someone in a colder climate would like to trade weather with me for a few days?  Raquelita, how about a swap?  I would not mind running amidst the mountains and snowflakes right now.

During my run, whenever possible, I went off the harder concrete and asphalt paths to run on dirt, grass, gravel, etc.  I went off-path while running along the perimeter of the A & M golf course when all of a sudden I hit a mud slick and found myself slipping and sliding.  I’d been running at a pretty good clip, so the sudden change in velocity put me in a good position to sprain my ankle or hurt my knee.  Luckily, I regained my balance, hopped back on the path, and hoped that I had not injured myself.  My shoes were very, very muddy—in fact, I think they’re still sitting outside—but my legs felt okay.  We’ll see how everything feels tomorrow.

Hey, check out my groovy long run schedule up there!  I made it myself.  (I love Powerpoint and Flickr.  And making tables.)  I’m trying something new this year, something I read about on Ashley’s blog.  In the past, I’ve built up my long runs by repeating each long run twice, so in one month I’d run 30 min. for two long runs, then 40 min. for two long runs.  (Just to be clear, I always follow a schedule of one long run per week.)  I like that plan a lot—it builds endurance gradually, and I find that it’s less intimidating when you repeat each timed run once before moving onto the new longer time.

This year, I’m following a plan where you have step-back weeks, just to see what it feels like for me.  You can see the logic of the plan in my table, so I won’t belabor the point here.  I’m excited because I’ll be running longer times sooner than I would using my old plan.  I feel like I’ve been running long enough and trained for enough half-marathons that I can handle what might be a slightly more demanding long run schedule.  I won’t lie: I’m also looking forward to those step-back weeks.  Next weekend I’m scheduled to run just 40 minutes, which I’m sure will feel a lot easier compared to today’s sweaty, challenging 60-minute run.

Do you like to mix up your training plans?  Or are you loyal to one particular approach to distance running?

And happy wedding day (yesterday) to Chrissy!  Love and hugs to you, dear friend. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Obama/Biden and the Monarch Waystation

Obama_Early Voting

Week of October 28, 2012:

Monday: Short evening run (20 minutes)

Tuesday: Off (cooked a fantastic dinner!)

Wednesday: Bike ride for groceries

Thursday: Morning run (22 minutes)

Friday: Bike ride to Target and grocery store

Saturday: Bike ride for more errands + 20-minute run around the park

Total minutes run this week: 102(!)

I had the most charming encounter yesterday!  I was riding my bike around town to do errands when I rode past a house with a wild-looking front yard and several official-looking signs.  The signs declared this spot a “Monarch Waystation” and an “Official Wildlife Center” (or something similar); the latter sign described how the space had all the necessary features for wildlife to nest, eat, and raise young.  There were no fewer than five butterflies and one bumblebee fluttering among wildflowers and hearty plants.  Part of the yard was lightly wooded, too.  The whole thing looked busy yet serene: nature run wild in the space of someone’s front yard.

I was absolutely enchanted with it.  I’ve never been a big fan of lawns, and in my adult years, I have found myself drawn to domestic spaces that have been (more or less) handed back to nature for safekeeping.  As a biologist, the interconnectedness of everything within an ecosystem has always fascinated me; I believe the more we see ourselves as separate from nature, the more damage we do to our surroundings and ourselves.  That’s also why I’ve been drawn to so-called “paleo”-influenced movements, such as the paleo diet and books about human evolution such as Sex at Dawn.  It’s not that I think modern lifestyles are the worst thing ever, but rather that we are animals and part of the larger world.  It’s with humility and awe that I see an Official Wildlife Center in someone’s yard and think, Wow, that’s amazing.

Interestingly, I’ve seen at least two front yards which have this wild vibe to them, and both yards have Obama/Biden signs out front.  If that doesn’t seem noteworthy, remember that I live in Republicanland, where Romeny/Ryan signs are plentiful but Obama/Biden signs are few.  Republicans are too hostile toward conservation and sustainability issues for me to feel comfortable voting for a Republican presidential candidate.  On that note, American readers, make sure you make it to the polls before the end of Tuesday!  Or do like that famous man up top did and vote early, if you can.  I’ll be voting on Tuesday—I always vote on Election Day—and I think you can guess who I’d rather see in the White House in 2013.

Happy Election Week!  I can’t wait for Tuesday night. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bouncing Back

Empty Acorns


Leggings plus Boots

Week of October 21, 2012:

Thursday: Off (off drinking wine again!)

Friday: Off (busy cooking a pasta dinner at Chez Moi)

Saturday: Bike ride to work and the grocery store

Total minutes run this week: 23.  [Insert sad face here!]

Week of October 28, 2012:

Sunday: “Long” run (40 minutes easy pace)

Well.  I totally did NOT meet my running goals last week, and here I must accept that I was beaten by biology.  Illness on top of grief meant that my body did not want to run.  Horrible coughing fits that interrupted my sleep made me say, “Enough is enough!  I have to get past this cough and get some good sleep before running becomes an option again.”

I took a few more days off from running and exercise in general, though I was still walking around and getting some pedometer points.  (I don’t actually own a pedometer but would love to see my daily step counts!)  Today I felt well enough and rested enough to tackle a run, and so off I went.  I was pretty intimidated about running after being away from it for too long.  (I think in three weeks, I ran just three times.)  To ease my fear, I told myself that I would run at an easy pace and I would listen to my body.  If my breathing felt too labored or if the run was a real struggle, then I would walk and/or cut my run short.  I set no time goal.  I just…ran.

And it felt great!  I was able to run at my easy pace for a total of 40 minutes, which surprised and delighted me.  There were a few stops in there for street-crossings, but otherwise, I kept an even pace.  It was so nice to be out there in the sunshine and the cool autumn air—I felt like a new person, finally able to enjoy my beloved running again.  I’m feeling much better about the prospect of running this week and hope to get at least one morning run done.  I miss that feeling of starting off the day on a positive note…not that oatmeal, coffee, and a hot shower aren’t positive notes too.  But when you get into a routine of morning runs, that sense of accomplishment makes the rest of the day easier.  Plus it makes my evenings feel more relaxed if I’m not trying to squeeze dinner and a run into that time.

“It’s hard to convey how important running is to me.”

On-line curation at its finest folks: here’s a favorite quote of mine about running.  It’s from the lovely S. of Simply Bike.

“It’s hard to convey how important running is to me.  I came to running late in life and it has filled a void that I didn’t know was there. It sounds dramatic, I know.  Running has had that effect on me.  It makes me want to make grand statements and set impossible goals and it provides me with the meditative time in the day to think those goals through and to allow myself to dream big.  It also makes me push my body beyond what I think possible and that may be just what I love about it most.

It constantly forces me to grow.”

Indeed.  Is there anything running can’t do?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Good Luck, Theresa!

Sisters and Aunties Together

My sweet little sister, Theresa, is running her first 5K tomorrow morning.  I could not be more excited for her!  (That’s Theresa, on the left up there, and me on the right.  Our older brother Charlie was behind the lens that day, a gorgeous September afternoon back in 2010.)

Theresa is a Certified Public Accountant and works loads of hours, wrangling numbers and corralling clients.  She started running a while ago, as a way to find fitness and burn off some stress.  Theresa travels quite frequently for work, too, which can make running a real challenge.  So she started on the treadmill, logging a few miles several times a week.  Treadmills are nice that way: most hotels have a little gym, and no matter what things look like outside, you can get your run on if you’ve got access to a treadmill.

Knowing how much Theresa was loving her treadmill runs, I asked her if she’d thought about taking her running outside.  As you all probably know, I love being outside and consider it a daily requirement.  Theresa and I talked about the challenges of running outside: traffic and mapping a route were her top concerns.  Without any input from me, she went for it and started running outside.  Michigan has pretty good outdoor running weather in three out of the four seasons—it helps if you are adventurous, of course, and the scenery outside makes it worth your effort to get outside.  I miss Michigan’s beauty quite a bit now that I live in Texas.  Running outside in Michigan is a real treat for me.

Anyway, Theresa conquered her fears of outdoor running.  She lives in a lovely neighborhood and has mapped out different running routes.  She uses a Nike app to track her pace and mileage.  Social butterfly that she is, she shares her work-outs on Facebook.  This is how I know she’s sticking with the running: I can spy on her via Facebook!  Muahahaha!  (That’s my evil science laugh, in case you couldn’t tell.)

Tomorrow she’ll be running the Wicked Halloween Run 5K in Plymouth, her first race EVER.  How fun is that?  I wish I could be there to cheer for her in person, or to run it with her, but since I’m down here and she’s up there, I’ll have to settle for this:

Good luck, Theresa!  Have a great run! 

I can’t wait to hear her race report.  If we’re lucky, she might even contribute a little something to this blog.  We’ll see.  A blogger can hope, right?

Happy running, everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gearing Up for Cold-Weather Cycling


Actually, a prelude first.  I started writing this post over a month ago when we were experiencing a cool snap.  I felt totally inspired to start thinking about the joys of cold weather, but then the heat returned and it felt weird to even think about cooler weather.  (I think cool weather is easily spooked away from Texas—it’s very skittish that way.)  But today, we have been blessed with another cold snap, and this one is predicted to last through the weekend.  I’m seizing the day and finishing this post! 

* * *

I’ve been cleaning out my wardrobe lately, saying good-bye to clothing that I never wear, that doesn’t flatter me, that doesn’t fit with the grown-up style I’m trying to cultivate.  Having been in school for most of my life, including most of my adult life, it’s exciting and a little scary to bid farewell to my student wardrobe.  As a student, I had little time or money to spend obsessing over my clothing.  Now, as a postdoc, I don’t have much time, but I do have a little more money.  And I have a different set of circumstances now: I live in a hot place, I bike to get around town, and I’m trying to cultivate a look that says, “I’m not very old, but I am a professional.  I am not a student!”

One trend that I’ve been resisting is the skinny jean.  The two reasons behind my resistance: 1) I haven’t felt the need to buy any jeans, period and 2) skinny jeans/pants tend to bunch around the knees, which drives me slightly bonkers.  And yet, skinnies can create such a nice silhouette that my resistance has been faltering…

Another point in favor of skinnies: tight pants are fantastic for biking.  They don’t get caught in your bike chain, and I always feel sleek and fast when I bike in dressy tights or running tights.  From the Feels Like Flying archives, here are two photos of decent winter biking outfits:

Dressed for Winter Cycling

Terrible Awesome Saturday Outfit

(Wow, my hair is so long in that first photo!  Also, if you are wondering why I’m not wearing a hat up there, January in Texas can easily be 40+ degrees F.  A person can overheat quite easily, especially in the evenings when the heat of the day is still in the air.)

What I’ve realized from thinking about these two cycling outfits is that I’d love the best of both worlds: tight pants that are dressy enough for work or hanging out.  When you wear dressy tights, you have to worry about your skirt riding up (which it inevitably does—see above).  When you wear running tights, you’re wearing obvious work-out gear.  What I want is surreptitious work-out gear, stylish stuff that I can easily wear for riding.

These leggings, cleverly disguised as real pants, are my top choices for a wardrobe update.  Both pairs are from  The first is a denim legging (jeggings!) and the second is a corduroy legging.


{Image source}


{Image source}

I always feel a bit uncomfortable about the blatant materialism in style posts.  I’m trying to tell myself that materialism itself is not the evil that my overly critical brain tells me it is.  After all, we have to wear something, and if I am diligent about using what I buy and being fiscally responsible, isn’t that something to be celebrated?  Does anyone else struggle with their love for pretty things because they feel shallow for caring?  I feel like I can’t win: I’ll be judged for my appearance, and I’ll be judged for caring about my appearance.  And you know who the first judge is?  ME!

Anyway, I’m excited about getting some tight pants and/or leggings for biking around town and for wearing with boots.  In addition to these cute pants from, I also saw some jeggings at Charming Charlie’s that I might pick up this weekend.  They are about half the price of the hue pieces here, and they’re made of a soft fabric, not denim, but the color is a denim blue.  And they have back pockets!  I love pockets.

I’m curious: do you buy and/or wear clothing with biking in mind?  How do you feel about skinny pants?

(PS  Happy Friday!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Double Whammy?

Week of October 21, 2012:

Monday: Bike ride to buy my new French press! (I’m still so in love.)

Tuesday: Short run (23 minutes total, with some walking thrown in there)

Wednesday: Off (though I did get off the bus early to sneak in three more blocks of walking…)

I had an epiphany this morning: I have contracted two overlapping colds.

I credit my sister-in-law for this wisdom.  Her kids are both sick, and she mentioned that there were at least three colds present at my brother’s memorial service.  You can imagine how easily germs are transmitted at a service where there is lots of hugging and crying and close contact between you and two dozen other people.  I think I took the College Station Plague with me to Michigan, and then, while in the Mitten, picked up a bonus cold to take back to Texas with me.  Not my idea of a great souvenir, but it explains why I’ve been sick for over two weeks and I can’t seem to shake this hacking cough of mine.

The cough is driving me crazy!  It’s tearing up my throat and interrupting my sleep.  I snuck in a mini-nap on the couch this morning; I was just desperate for a few more minutes of sleep, and my couch has magical, sleep-enhancing properties.  Everyone loves sleeping on that couch.  Fortunately, my energy levels are pretty good—I feel more-or-less the same as I do on any given Thursday.  But I’m afraid that if I can’t shake this cough, I’m going to lose a lung with all the hacking.

In theory, tonight I am supposed to meet up with friends for wine and dinner at the Benjamin Knox Wine Depot/Art Gallery.  I might play it by ear and see how I feel tonight.  If sleep sounds better than wine, then to bed I shall go.

I hope you are healthier than I am on this fine October Thursday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Three Out of Four, Check!

Newly hemmed red skirt…

New Red Skirt

New French press (ooh la la!)…

The Original French PressCoffee Brewing

…and an unpictured letter now en route to my six-year-old niece.

I have fun news: it’s only Wednesday and I’ve accomplished three out of my four goals for this week!  Easy carrots, people.  What better way to feel great about yourself than to focus on fun, small goals, like hemming an adorable skirt or buying a French press?  You might argue that a more ambitious person would be focusing on career or running goals, but I’d say that life has made it awfully difficult for me to go after my larger goals, between my stupid cold and campus-wide bomb threats.  I am ALWAYS working toward my larger goals, to the extent that work and fitness are near-daily pursuits for me.  This week, it was great to set goals that fell outside of those realms.

I did go for a run last night, a short one.  23 minutes total running, with a few walk breaks for street-crossing and catching my breath.  Truthfully, this run was one of those mixed experiences, where my legs felt great but my lungs did not.  My legs could have run for miles and miles, but my lungs struggled to keep up with my pace.  I knew the first run back, after this unexpected break, would be hard, so I’m glad it’s over.  I’m still hopeful that I can get two quality 30-minute runs into my week—maybe on Friday and Saturday?  I’m still coughing a lot and somewhat clogged with congestion, and I’m feeling unsure about how to transition back into a normal running routine.  Any suggestions are welcome, dear readers!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This is just to say…

…that in theory, tonight I am going to run for the first time in almost two weeks.  The last dregs of my cold are still lingering, but I am hoping my lungs will come along for the ride.  I had to run to catch the bus last week and was completely winded by the effort, so I am intimidated by the idea of running tonight.  The good news is that my energy level is high today—very helpful for wading through the scientific literature right now—and I feel happy about returning to my beloved running.  I just hope it’s not so difficult that I can’t make it through that first mile…the first mile is always the hardest.

Wish me luck!  Happy Tuesday to you!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


A Full Desk

Week of October 21, 2012:

Sunday: Bike ride to work and for groceries

I am declaring this week a fresh start.

Wow, I feel better just typing that!  This weekend I had a very good combination of work, rest, and play.  I had time for bike-riding, for grocery-shopping, and for a little Big Love.  This afternoon I had friends over for afternoon tea (or coffee!) and good snacks, then a few of us went out for an early Thai dinner.  I caught up on my finances and purchased my plane tickets for December.  I worked in the lab a bit, and I just finished prepping for my meeting tomorrow, so I’m feeling more or less ready to start the new week on the right foot.

My desk right now is almost as full as what you see above, and I’ve got a load of laundry going in the machine right now.  When you’re confronted with multiple challenges at one time, it can feel like the return to normalcy is a mountain that you’re trying to claw your way up.  That’s what last week felt like to me.  The relief I’m feeling tonight is palpable, like my grief and desperation are giving way to some peace.

In the interest of keeping up the momentum, here are my modest goals for the week:

1)  Two 30-minute runs.  I haven’t run in almost two weeks because of illness and lack of time.  This week, it’s back running.  If I’m feeling good, I’ll sneak in a third run.

2)  Buy a new coffee pot or maker.  My coffee pot died today.  I’m tempted to buy a French press!  Any thoughts on this very important issue?

3)  Hem the lining on that red skirt you see in the photo up there!  The skirt is a donation from my sister, and I love it.  The problem, she pointed out to me, is that the lining now hangs down below the hem of the skirt (possibly from some shrinkage in the dryer?  I’m not sure).  But I’m thinking maybe I’ll try hemming the lining tonight while watching Big Love on DVD.

4)  Write a letter to my niece Lydia.  She asked me to write to her as soon as I got back to Texas, and well, that didn’t happen, just like a lot of things didn’t happen.  But both her parents told me how much she loves getting real mail, and I am very happy to oblige.  I try to keep up with my role as the fun auntie.

I hope your week is off to a great start, dear reader!  Happy Sunday to you. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Redemption May Be Found on Two Wheels

Autumn SunshineHarvest MoonFountain at Detroit Metro

Why, hello there!

I have returned to Texas, but my goodness, it’s been chaos around here.  Let’s do a rundown of what has happened over the past month:

* I broke my computer screen and was without my laptop for three weeks.  (But I got it back today!  Hurray!)

* My brother passed away two weeks ago.  My family and I have been in various states of shock, grief, sadness, and despair over his sudden death.  This event carries such deep emotional weight that I feel silly putting it in list form here, but I don’t know how else to explain why I’ve been feeling out of sorts this week.

* I contracted the College Station Plague, which is a nasty head cold that has been making the rounds in my lab and elsewhere.  I think I had the CSP before leaving for Michigan last week, and it came down on me like a hammer on my first full day up there.  And I’m still not fully recovered!  This morning I was shooting snot rockets out of my nose because it was the only way to clear some of the congestion.  (My apologies for that lovely mental image.)

* Finally, there was yesterday.  I was hoping for a very normal, very boring day at work.  And by “boring,” I mean nothing out of the ordinary.  Just a good day of flies, experiments, and data analysis.  Instead, we had a campus-wide bomb threat and I spent most of the afternoon sitting in a pub near campus, sipping a pumpkin-spiced cider.  It wasn’t altogether unpleasant, but seriously, a campus-wide bomb threat?  That was NOT what I needed after taking a week off of work so that I could grieve with my family.  Not to mention the idea of a bomb threat is pretty damn stressful by itself, you know?

The combined effect of all these events is that I was starting to feel like I was losing my mind.  Because of the family stuff in Michigan, I had very little time for exercise or to be alone.  The CSP made mornings hard because I was so congested, and I was having trouble sleeping because my mind felt so heavy.  When I returned to Texas, I was still fighting the CSP, to the point where I got home from work on Wednesday night and went straight to bed.  No dinner, no bike ride, no run, nothing.  I slept for 12 hours, and it was awesome, minus the politicians who kept popping into my feverish dreams.  (Joe Biden, what are you doing here?!)

I don’t think of myself as someone who crumbles under stress, but this month has been too much.  Last night, I was so frustrated with LIFE that I burst into tears at home.  I didn’t know what else to do or how to find relief.  I was still whimpering as I gathered myself up for a bike ride, and off I went.  I took only my keys—no wallet!—and rode my favorite long route, up and down the hills.  I pedaled toward the park and decided to keep going to do some browsing at Pier One and Charming Charlie’s.  Mostly I just wanted to be alone, to reclaim my independence.

When I got home, I had a little talk with myself.  I said, “Let’s focus on what we can control tonight.  We can make dinner.  We can do laundry and put away clean clothes.  We can go to bed at a good hour.”  All of those things may sound terribly mundane—and they are!—but they were soothing domestic tasks.  Easy things I could do after not having the time or energy to be a homebody.  I went to bed a much happier person last night.

Today has been a good day, so much better than yesterday.  My friend Sam took me to Fedex this morning, and we were able to pick up my repaired computer.  (Hurray!)  I went to work and got a few things done.  I bought groceries.  I got to ride my bike to work and the grocery store, and it felt awesome to be exercising again.  And now, I’m sitting on my couch, eating a freshly baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffin and drinking decaf coffee, feeling more like my old self.  Of course the sadness about my brother lingers, and part of me wishes I were still in Michigan.  But the thing is, after a tragedy, we have to return to our “normal” lives at some point.  The grieving doesn’t end.  I still cry every day.  I miss my family and feel guilty that I live far away.  But I’ve made a commitment that places me in Texas, and slowly, one task at a time, I am returning to that life.

Thank goodness for bike rides.  On the bike, I feel free and confident, like I’ve entered some sort of moving sanctuary.  I don’t know what happens to us after we die, but I imagine that my brother is now part of the sun and the wind, that he can ride alongside me.  I imagine that maybe we can both find redemption on two wheels, underneath this big Texas sky.  

* About the photos.  Top: a sunset through the trees in my neighborhood.  Middle: the harvest moon.  Bottom: the water fountain at Detroit Metro Airport.  I love that fountain.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hello from Michigan

Hello again, dear readers.

I made it up to Michigan on Tuesday night, after a day of impromptu traveling.  The question people keep asking is, "How are you doing?"  And the answer to that is I'm here, with my family, and we're taking it one day at a time.  I'm glad to be with my family--it really does feel better to be here with them, talking, crying, and remembering my brother.  We're in a state of shock and sadness; everything since Sunday night feels like some weird dream.  I find myself going through the motions, yet I feel as though I am watching myself perform, like a ghost hovering over the action.

The sudden loss of my brother has dwarfed any other challenges that the year has given me.  I think about my break-up with Matt, and I feel grateful that it was just a break-up.  Matt is still here, with me in the land of the living.  He was, in fact, one of the first people I called because few people understand how complex and difficult the relationship with my brother Scott was.  I think about the uncertainty that my work life has posed, and it seems like business as usual.  To lose a loved one, suddenly, tragically, heart-breakingly, makes everyday life seem like such a gift.  Now, I'm not saying that a person isn't entitled to feel sad about a break-up or anxious about a job, but death is so final.  There are no do-overs.  There is no chance now to tell Scott that I loved him, that I understood how hard life was for him, that I knew he worked at loving us and letting us love him.  Some of us come into this life and we have a relatively easy time of it, with healthy minds and bodies.  But some of us face extraordinary challenges that stand in the way of our well-being, and Scott was one of those people.  To love Scott was to know his pain and try to love him anyway.

The line that keeps running through my head this week is, "Love is work."  It is work to keep a family going, to build bridges over regrets and mistakes.  It is work to love someone who has broken your heart.  I face each day now, absolutely certain that if we can love each other and be kind to one another, then the day has been a good one.  Intimacy is a dance: sometimes we dance together, sometimes we dance alone, and sometimes we're just one link in a giant circle of love, swaying together and remembering the one who is now missing.  I hope--I believe--that Scott knew he was a cherished link in our family, no matter how much darkness he felt in his mind.  I think we may have been the sunshine that kept him going for so long, and I hope that wherever he is now, he is at peace.  We miss him every day.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Here in the Land of the Living

Hi, everyone.

I've been summoned north by a family tragedy.  My brother passed away unexpectedly yesterday, so I've been making arrangements to be away from work and my life here in Texas.  It is surreal, to say the least, dealing with the mundane details of work and travel in the midst of so much grief.

In the last 24 hours, there has been a tremendous outpouring of love, support, and kindness toward me and my family.  It's almost too much.  I am absolutely humbled, moved to tears by all the compassion.  I certainly feel less alone, even as I am still a thousand miles away from my family.

I'm not sure when I'll be back, but until then, be well and happy running.  If you happen to think of me, send a little love my way and I'm sure I'll feel it.  It's going to be chilly in Michigan this week, so your good thoughts and cheer will surely warm my heart.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Worries

Week of September 30, 2012:
Monday: DIY yoga before bed
Tuesday: Morning run (25 minutes)  + Evening bike ride for groceries
Wednesday: Off (Celebrating with a dinner party and the first presidential debate!)

I'm worried today, and what does a writer do when she's worrying?  She writes on her blog, of course!  Here's the scoop: I have now received the box into which I will pack my broken laptop to ship it to Dell, where the Dell wizards will examine every nook and cranny (minus the battery) to see what needs to be repaired, replaced, cleaned, and prayed over.  I know that the screen needs to be replaced.  Additionally, the laptop has been overheating, so it's likely the fan and vents need to be cleaned.  I'm happy to let Dell take care of those things and in fact, I prefer that they do it, not me.  I am not a computer technician, and doing home repairs on my computer is not my idea of a good time.  For the cost of these repairs (about $400--eek!), Dell had better know what it's doing.

The thing I'm worried about is that Dell makes no promises about not destroying data on the hard drive.  I don't think there's anything wrong with my hard drive; before I broke the screen, everything seemed to be running pretty smoothly.  Like most people, I don't back up my hard drive with any regularity.  Unfortunately, Dell doesn't mince any words when it tells you to back everything up before sending your computer to them.  If anything is lost from your hard drive, it's your own damn fault for not backing up your stuff!  Too bad when you break your laptop screen, it's a little late to back anything up. The last time I backed up my data was in December 2011, when I had to reinstall the operating system on my computer.  So if Dell deletes my hard drive, I will lose ten months' worth of material: all my work stuff, my blog posts and drafts, my photographs, everything.  I am more than a little nervous about this, though the Dell technician with whom I spoke assured me that the hard drive is probably fine if the computer can be turned on (it can--I just can't see anything because of the screen), and if nothing is wrong with the hard drive, then no data will be lost.

Tomorrow I'll send my baby off to Dell for its repairs, and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that there are no unexpected problems.  If you feel like sending some good luck our way, it would be most appreciated.  Ten months' worth of work and play is a lot to lose in one fell swoop, so I'm just going to hope for the best.  What other choice do I have at this point?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Gratitude

Monday Musings

Without my computer this week, I am forced to remember what life was like before I had a fancy laptop and internet access at home.  It's what life as a grad student was like for me.  I'm remembering that hey, it wasn't so bad!  Once the computer crisis was under control, I accepted the consequences of my klutziness and got on with the business of my weekend.  Without the distraction of the internet and my beloved podcasts, here's what I did this weekend to fill the time.

* I slept.  A lot.  It felt really good.

* I read.  A lot.  I'm reading two books on masculinity right now.  My feeling is that as a woman who falls in love with men, it would be good if I had some idea of what the male experience feels like.  I'm not implying that all men everywhere are the same, but I do think there are currents of similarity that run through the lives of men.  I like men a lot, and now I'd like to understand them better.

* I made an elaborate dinner on Saturday night--red peppers stuffed with a soyrizo filling, roasted potatoes, and chocolate chip cookies.  I cooked while listening to some old CDs, including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Tom Petty is always a good choice.  Always.

* I vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, took out the trash, washed some clothing, folded laundry, and turned chaos into order.  Booyah.

* I felt grateful that a friend of mine who is coming over to watch the debates with me on Wednesday night said she would bring her computer so we can still watch them at my place.  She's also bringing brownie mix and ice cream--yum!  I think I'm going to make spinach enchiladas and a salad for our main course.

* I felt grateful that my klutziness didn't result in any bodily harm to me.  Not having my computer this week is an inconvenience, but it's pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.  And since it was only my computer that was damaged, I was in perfect shape for my run on Sunday morning and for running around today like I usually do at work.

Now, don't get me wrong: I am very much looking forward to the return of my laptop.  But until then, I think I'll try to enjoy my quiet evenings, my kitchen, and the reminder to be grateful for what I do have.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

(Not so) Snappy

Week of September 23, 2012:
Monday: Off
Tuesday: Morning run (25 minutes) + Evening bike ride for groceries
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Morning run (25 minutes)
Friday: Off (other than a brief bike ride to Half-Price Books)
Saturday: Bike ride to work and HEB for the rain! 

Total minutes run this week: 104.  Whoa!

Week of September 30, 2012: 
Sunday: Long run (55 minutes)

I'm going to try to make this snappy because I don't have much time.  I am blogging to you from an undisclosed location.  Yesterday, I broke my laptop computer's screen, so my main computer (my baby!) is now unusable until it is repaired by Dell.  I'll ship the computer off to Dell some time this week, and hopefully it comes back quickly, but until then, it's going to be tough for me to blog with the same panache as usual.  If the formatting seems different on this post, it's because I'm using the Blogger interface rather than my usual Windows Live Writer, so it's hard for me to tell which settings to use.

Anyway, the broken computer was the low point of this weekend.  There have been several high points: a great long run this morning, complete with cool temperatures, drizzly rain, and a cute runner dude who said, "Howdy" as he flew past me.  I bet he was doing speedwork, and a nice job he was doing indeed.  When I passed him with my slow and steady pace, he said, "Good job."  I replied, "Thanks, you too!"  It was a sweet moment.  I'll admit it: as a straight female, I love kindhearted male attention.  I don't like catcalls or mocking; I'm not a big fan of any interaction that reeks of competition.  But a friendly hello or a sincere-looking smile?  Oh yes, I'm down with that.

This morning's run was really wonderful.  I felt strong and serene, running for almost an hour.  I can't believe I'm running such long distances and it's only the end of September!  I've been thinking about what my goals will be for my next half-marathon: sub-1:55?  Sub-1:50?!?  I think the former is totally do-able: I'm already in pretty good running shape, and my next half is five months away.  I feel like it won't be too much of a stretch to get just a bit faster to break 1:55.  1:50, however, is a new beast, but I think it's worth considering how I might incorporate some speedwork into longer runs to get close to a 1:50 finish time.  I'm not sure--these ideas are just possibilities.  And then, after the half-marathon, there will be marathon training.  I've got ideas for that as well--training plans, travel plans.  I'm so, so excited about meeting several of you in Chicago next year.  What a trip that will be!

But for now, there is a broken computer to send off, a new week on the horizon, and a Nature paper that I need to download.  Have a great week, my dears.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Things are Looking Down Over Here

Good Weather 9_28_12

{Screen shot from}

Indeed, things are looking down in a very good way!  Check out those lows for the next few days—they’re in the 60s.  I am pumped.  Is it time to break out the leg warmers?

In other weather news, there’s a full moon this weekend!  In fact, it’s the harvest moon, the full moon closest to the autumn equinox (which I believe we just passed).  I’ll be outside tomorrow night between 6:30 and 7 PM to watch for the harvest moonrise.  If only I drank pumpkin beer…that seems like it would be the perfect beverage to sip while watching the harvest moon.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I Run, You Run

Week of September 16, 2012:

Wednesday: Bike ride for groceries

Thursday: A quickie strength session at night (push-ups, crunches, squats, etc.)

Friday: Evening run (30 minutes)

Saturday: Bike ride to campus and the hippie food store

Total minutes run this week: 85.

Week of September 23, 2012:

Sunday: Long run (54 minutes)  54 minutes!  Hurray!

I love that Mondays have become Training Update Day among my running-blogger friends.  Raquelita’s and Chrissy’s updates today were very inspiring—they had great training weeks last week, and I’m excited for their upcoming races.  Reading their posts was like an infusion of positive running vibes right into my brain.

My training week last week wasn’t too bad.  I seem to have shifted back into a pattern of evening runs, and that was deliberate: I really needed my sleep.  But I’m happy that I had three solid runs, three bike rides for various errands, and a decent week at work.  I’m always playing the balancing game when it comes to my energy levels: am I getting enough done?  Am I getting some miles under my feet?  Am I getting enough sleep?  Am I making some time for fun?

This week I’m going to try to shift back into morning runs for two reasons.  One is that this week is supposed to be hotter than last week, and believe me—I felt the heat on Sunday when I headed out at 11 AM for a morning run.  It was a tough one.  The other reason is that I may be going out two nights in a row, so I’m not sure that running will be an option on those evenings.

Finally, can I just say that red lentil dahl may be the perfect meal on long run days?  I made Chrissy’s starving artist recipe again, and man, it is fantastic.  This time I used a hunk of fresh ginger for even more flavor.  I’m starting to think that the smell of fresh garlic and ginger cooking in hot oil will cure whatever ails you.  Yum.

Sunday Lunch

Have a great week, friends!  Keep up the good work.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Light as a Feather

Flags at Half-Mast

Through the Screen Door

Near the Patio

Can you see the evidence of rain?  Ah, sweet, lovely, cooling rain!

Week of September 9, 2012:

Friday: Long run (30 minutes in the evening)

Saturday: Errands via the bike

Total minutes run this week: 95 (not too shabby!)

Week of September 16, 2012:

Sunday: Short morning run (25 minutes) and more errands via the bike

Monday: Yoga (Dave Farmar’s 20-minute session)

Tuesday: Long run (30 minutes in the evening)

Hey, hey!

This week is flying by for me, but I thought I’d stop in here to give a big thumbs-up to the weather, which has been fantastic.  On my long run last Friday, I really did feel like I was flying—the cooler evening made me feel unstoppable after all those humid mornings of trying to run on sleepy legs before breakfast.  Now, don’t get me wrong: I am happy that I seem to be getting the hang of this morning run thing—it’s a useful trick, being able to get a work-out done literally first thing in the morning.  I plan to do it again on Thursday because I’m going out with friends in the evening, and it would be nice to have a run under my belt feet for the day.  But evening running is almost always easier for me than morning runs—my body is awake and sufficiently warmed up that running is less challenging.  I do love my Sunday long runs, which seem like a different beast altogether.  On work days it has to be either first-thing morning runs or after-work evening runs.  Tonight I’m feeling grateful that the cooler weather as of late has given me the option of both without resorting to a treadmill.

Happy almost-fall, everyone!

Friday, September 14, 2012

There is Always Time for Push-ups

The views from this week… 

Tuesday Sunrise

Neon Yellow Shorts

Check out these crazy neon yellow shorts underneath my running skirt!

Friday Morning Prim and Proper

No crazy neon yellow shorts underneath my dress here.  Sorry to disappoint!  But do you like my polka-dots and heels?

Week of September 9, 2012:

Monday: A bit of strength training (push-ups, crunches, squats)

Tuesday: Morning run (20 minutes)

Wednesday: Evening bike ride for groceries

Thursday: A short bout of strength training + yoga

I’m really tired this week and for no obvious reason except that I might be experiencing some allergies.  Prior to this week, I never thought I had seasonal allergies, but after describing my symptoms to a friend, he suggested I might and asked if I had post-nasal drip.  I said, “No.”

{Sniffle sniffle}  Actually, yes, I do, a little bit.  So seasonal allergies may explain my tiredness this week.  I was eating breakfast this morning, and I thought to myself, I would love to just crawl back into bed, even after drinking this coffee, and sleep for another two hours!  That didn’t happen, but at least today is Friday!  TGIF, my friends.

While there never seems to be enough time for all the sleep I want, there is always time for push-ups!  I’m not as serious about strength-training as I’d like to be—I tend to do it if and when I feel like it.  I do consider yoga to be a form of strength training, with all that isometric holding of poses as well as the graceful transitions from one pose to the next.  Yoga is like choreographed strength training with beautiful flow.  But I also like push-ups, plank position, crunches, squats, lunges, and all sorts of quick, easy strength-training.  I find those exercises tend to make me feel calm and energized—a wonderful feeling indeed!  So even though I feel like I’ve been really crunched for time this week, I’m happy I’ve been able to squeeze in some strength work.  Tonight I’m hoping to get outside for a long-ish run.  We’re in the middle of a cool spell, and it would be fantastic to take advantage of it with a good run.

Happy weekend, everyone!  TGIF!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Kind of Recession

The September view from this year…

Sunflowers Going to Seed

…and last year.

September Sky

Bike at Rest Near Fence

Week of September 2, 2012:

Friday: Off

Saturday: Biking for errands/groceries

Minutes run this week: 83.

Week of September 9, 2012:

Sunday: Long run (45 minutes easy)

Well!  What a difference 10 or 20 degrees can make.  It’s been absolutely beautiful this weekend: cooler temperatures, a stiff breeze, and sunshine.  Being outside yesterday and today was infinitely more comfortable because the heat has receded a bit, and I am so, so grateful for it.

I’ve been multi-tasking with my fitness this weekend.  Yesterday, I tried to drop off a pair of shoes for repair, only to be told they can’t be repaired (so sad! I loved those sandals), and I did my grocery shopping, all via la bicicleta.  Today I took the bus to campus, dropped off my paper recycling, stopped by the lab to take care of fly stuff, and then did my long run from campus back to my home.  The campus-to-home route is just about perfect for runs in the 40-55 minute range, which is very convenient because I often have to stop by work briefly on the weekend.  Today’s run was 45 minutes, and it was a very nice, fairly typical long run.  A 45-minute run is still on the edge of my running endurance right now—I could go longer, but I think I’d be absolutely exhausted afterward.  I’m moderately tired now from my run, which is fine.  I’m puttering around the house today, trying to straighten things up.  I did laundry, made a soup for dinner, and I might do a bit of work this evening.  I have plans to go for a walk with a friend, which isn’t ideal on a long-run day, but oh well.  I can be a bit of a control freak, but I fear I will have no friends if I insist that everything be done in such a way that it’s ideal for me!

PS  Hey, it’s almost fall, and I hear pumpkin spice lattes are back on the menu!  I pledge to make good on my promise to Raquelita: this year, I am going to try as many pumpkin spice lattes around town as possible, and I will declare a winner.  Which coffeehouse makes your favorite version of this much-loved autumn treat?  Here in College Station, we’ve got a few chain coffeehouses/restaurants (Panera and Starbucks, for example), but we’ve also got a few indie shops, such as Muldoon’s and Sweet Eugene’s.  I hope to try them all, and I will take notes.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I’m Going for It

Week of September 2, 2012:

Monday: Yoga (Gentle Hatha Yoga #…I forget!)

Tuesday: Treadmill running work-out (see below)

Wednesday: Morning run (20 minutes)

Thursday: Evening long-ish run (33 minutes)

I’m no exercise physiologist, but to my mind, there are three very good ways to become a faster runner, and they are:

1)  Practice running faster (duh).

2)  Get stronger by strength/resistance training.

3)  Cross-train.  (I have heard lots of stories about people who either added cross-training to their running or were forced to cross-train due to injury.  Many of them report that they are able to run much faster when they return to running.)

I think I’m doing a little bit from each category these days.  My main focus, running-wise, is just building the base, ever so slowly, with each mile run.  To be quite honest, I just want to be able to run outside easily, to feel like whenever I want, I can just slip on my sneakers and head out for a nice 3-4 mile jog around the neighborhood.  That’s all I really want.  I know I’m planning a half-marathon and a marathon for 2013, but right now, I just want to my running to be fun, an easy release.

That being said, I’m digging the chance to do speedwork on the treadmill, and I hope to make it a weekly event.  Being able to do a running work-out in the evening adds flexibility to my schedule, and I look forward to it. This week, I pushed myself a little harder with the following ladder:

5 min. @ 9:00/mile

5 min. @ 8:30/mile

5 min. @ 8:00/mile

5 min. @ 7:30/mile

5 min. @ 8:30/mile

5 min. @ 9:00/mile

Did you catch that?  I added a new step to my ladder, then jumped back down to complete the ladder at the easier paces of 8:30 and 9:00/mile.  This work-out was a good one.  I felt pretty strong through the middle of the 7:30/mile set, then I started to feel tired, and the remaining steps were far more challenging as a result.  But I think that’s a sign that this is a good ladder work-out for me right now—I wasn’t dying after the first or second set, but I certainly felt challenged by the hardest set.

This evening I surprised myself by heading out for a long-ish run in the hot evening, and it wasn’t bad!  I think this may be a sign that I have fully acclimated to the worst of the Texas heat.  Of course I’m still very, very excited by the prospect of cooler temps, but it was nice to have the choice between running outside and running on the treadmill.  I’m glad I’ve been getting up to run in the mornings, but it really does make my life easier to have the option to run in the evening.

Catch you later, gators!