Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where Does the Week Go?

I am always chasing clouds

Week of March 18, 2012:

Thursday: Maybe I ran?  I don’t remember…

Friday: Bike commute + happy hour and dinner with my ladies

Saturday: Grocery shopping via bike + general slothdom

Week of March 25, 2012:

Sunday: Long(er) run: 30 minutes total (20 min. run, 10 min. walk, 10 min. run, cool down)

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Bike commute

Wednesday: Yoga (Gentle Hatha #2, 20-min. session)

Oh my gosh, is it Friday yet?  This week has turned vampiric on me, sucking the life out of me.  The good news is that work is getting done, grant paperwork is being written, and I can almost see the light at the end of the grant submission tunnel.

I’m going to try to muster up the energy to go for a short run tonight.  I think it might clear my head and give me a second wind to get through the end of this very intense week.

Sure Happy It’s Thursday!  I hope you all are well.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why I Should Not be Allowed to Visit the Mall

Week of March 18, 2012:

Monday: Yoga (Baptiste Power Vinyasa Flow with Dave Farmar)

Tuesday: Short run!

Wednesday: Bike commute

Three things Thursday:

1)  I think I hurt my shoulders doing yoga on Monday.  Either that, or they’re just really sore, probably from lack of doing any yoga more vigorous than pajama yoga.

2)  I ran this week!  On Tuesday, I headed out for a short run after work, and it was good.  It was slow, of course, because I took two weeks off of running, but I had no weird soreness or pain.  I’m giving myself the green light to begin running regularly again, which is important, because I’m running a 10K with JD in June, and I need to be ready to kick JD’s butt keep up with JD, who is faster than he thinks.

3)  I hate the mall.  Well, that’s not true.  Sometimes I enjoy the mall, mostly for the eye candy and occasionally for actual shopping.  Yesterday I had an appointment with the eye doctor, and the doctor’s office is in the mall.  I arrived early, so I walked around a bit, and I found myself in front of Finish Line, a running gear store.  In their store window, they had a big poster featuring two men running past two women.  The women were sitting by a pool, wearing bikinis, looking delighted, while these men ran past them.  I looked at that poster, and I just thought, Ugh.  Another example of scantily-clad women playing the adoring fans as men impress them with their athletic prowess.

Dear Finish Line, as a female who might consider buying running gear from your store, ads that prominently display women as sideline eye candy for men’s running do not make me want to shop in your store.  In fact, these ads make me kinda stabby, and in the interest of not taking my anger out on your merchandise, I’m just going to run far, far away.  I don’t run to impress men, and I’m certainly not waiting around for a man to impress me.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend, with Peacefulness and Some Stoicism

Garden Patio

I Am Always Looking Up


Week of March 11, 2012:

Wednesday: ???

Thursday: Bike commute

Friday: Bike commute

Saturday: Errands by bike, afternoon photo walk around the neighborhood

Week of March 18, 2012:

Sunday: More errands by bike

I’m sad to see this weekend end.  It turned out to be a pretty lovely one.  The students have been on spring break, and today they are trickling back into town.  I love how quiet it is around here without them, and the weather is cool enough to be able to enjoy the peaceful outdoors.  The next time they leave en masse, the weather will be brutally hot.

I decided to take another week off of running, just to make sure I wasn’t aggravating any potential post-race injuries.  I’m not too concerned, but I figured it couldn’t hurt, as I don’t have any pressing plans for races or speed workouts.  So in lieu of a run this weekend, I took a leisurely walk around the neighborhood with my camera, and I felt more like myself than I have in several weeks.  For Christmas, Matt gave me a copy of The Enchiridion, which contains the teachings of Epictetus, a Greek philosopher of stoicism.  I’ve only just begun reading it, but I flipped through it, and a passage that caught my eye discussed anxiety and the importance of knowing the difference between things we can control and those things which are not under our control.  As I thought about that idea, I realized that what I really wanted, in the midst of all that is happening and all that is not under my control, was to reach a place where I felt peaceful about the present and the future.  I am a really anxious person, so defining peace of mind as my goal is powerful stuff.  The only things I have some control over are my thoughts, my actions, and my emotions, and I’d argue that I don’t have complete control over those things.

This weekend, I felt peaceful.  I cooked up a storm, spent lots of time outside on foot and on bike, finally bought a new running watch(!), spent some time writing, and even squeezed in a bit of work.  (Just a little bit!)  It was all really nice, and if I can hang onto this peaceful feeling, I think I can survive whatever surprises are coming my way.  I’m no stoic, but maybe stoicism can teach me a thing or two about releasing that which only causes me misery, namely my anxiety.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Too Soon?

 Week of March 11, 2012:

Sunday: Long walk

Monday: Short run (first post-race run!)

Tuesday: Off (except for some crunches and stretching before bed)

After almost three days of rain—hard rain, soft rain, rain rain rain—the weather has turned beautiful here.  The air smells gorgeous, perfumed with flowers and green things, and we have warmth again.  Spring is my favorite season in Texas.  It’s by far the most comfortable and exciting, as the temps climb back into the sweet spot.  For me, it’s also a little bittersweet because spring’s lovely warmth will give way to summer’s oppressive heat.  It’s the same feeling I have about autumn in the Midwest: autumn is beautiful, it smells fantastic, the food is awesome, and eventually autumn will be overtaken by winter’s brutal cold.  With both seasons, I feel really inspired to seize the day, to enjoy every minute for what it’s worth.

Monday was beautiful, and I was ready for my first post-half-marathon run.  I made it a short run, probably 20-25 minutes (I didn’t time it).  I expected a pleasant, easy run, but it was HARD!  My legs felt sluggish, and my body generally felt heavy and tired.  I was really surprised by how difficult this “easy” run was, and all I can think is that this run was really more of a recovery run from the race.

I’m not sure I’ve ever run quite so soon after a half-marathon.  For me, my half races have always marked the end of a training season.  This year, my goal is to run outside as much as possible into the summer months, and I’m planning to run a 10K in Michigan in June.  I took a week off from running after the Armadillo Dash, and I feel mentally ready to resume running.  But I think this week, to be on the safe side, I’m going to keep my runs short and sweet.

PS  I feel guilty that I have no photos of spring blossoms or sunshine in this post, but I’ve been feeling stretched thin by work and my wounded heart.  I think this weekend will be a bit more relaxing and less dramatic for me (I really, really hope it is!), so my camera and I might get to spend some quality time together in a few days.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Making Rice Pudding

Chocolate Chips

Red Heart Thingie

Week of March 4, 2012:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: DIY yoga

Thursday: Bike commute (back to regular exercise!)

One of the exciting things in the post-race period is that every day, you can look forward to your legs feeling less stiff and more normal.  On Monday and Tuesday, I was walking with an odd gait in which I tried not to walk with my thighs because my thigh muscles took the brunt of Sunday’s race.  My knees and everything below felt fine, but my thighs screamed in protest if I flexed them.  So I tried not to do that!

On Wednesday, I felt pretty good—almost back to normal!—and today I feel mostly fine.  I even biked today, which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do.  But I did, and it was fine!  Well, it was fine except for the Texas-style weather: muggy and warm this morning, translating to a sweaty bike ride.  This evening was terrible.  I left work with a light drizzly rain falling from the sky, which quickly morphed into heavy, spitting rain, and I think there was even hail!  The rain/hail pelted me, smeared my eyes with moisture (rain is always a problem for contact lenses), and drenched me.  On top of that, it was cold.  Really cold.  Thank heavens I was wearing my tall boots, which kept my legs warm, but otherwise I was kind of miserable.  Happily, I arrived home in one piece, stripped out of my wet clothes, and put on cozy pajamas.  Then for dessert, I made rice pudding out of some leftover brown rice, which I topped with chocolate chips and shredded coconut.  It was a really lovely impromptu sweet—I’m still feeling good about that off-the-cuff miracle.

It’s almost the weekend, my dears!  I hope Friday treats you right.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No Regrets: The 2012 Armadillo Dash

Predawn Race Morning

Fear of Cold

Week of March 4, 2012:

Sunday: The Sixth Annual Armadillo Dash Half-Marathon! 

The long-awaited Armadillo Dash was this morning, and readers, it was good.

May I back up for a moment?  I enjoy hearing what other people do to prepare for their races, so I thought I’d share a few details from the night before the race.  As a vegetarian, I feel like I’m always carbo-loading—what can I say?  I love bread and potatoes and pasta.  On Saturday night, my carb of choice was oven fries, made from Russet potatoes and seasoned with garlic oil, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.  I have always loved fries (who doesn’t?), and oven fries always make me happy.  Alongside my oven fries I ate some kale cooked with onions and tomatoes and a few shavings of cheese.  For dessert, I made a shake out of chocolate milk and some frozen dark cherries.  Altogether, the meal was a nod toward healthier, made-at-home junk food, but it was made from mostly whole foods and packed a decent amount of protein and fat into my carb fest.

This morning was quite chilly, hovering in the 40-something degree range.  I woke up at 5:30 AM without too much trouble, dressed, and ate breakfast (more carbs! overnight oatmeal this time).  I also made some green tea to take with me on the road, which is apparently my favorite pre-race drink.  Because of the cold, I had a tough time deciding whether or not to wear a jacket.  I’d already decided on running tights, but did I want the extra warmth (and sweatiness) on top?  I said yes and wore my black running pullover/jacket, and it was the right decision.  Even though I did get a bit warm and sweaty during the race, it was almost painfully cold before we started running, so I was grateful for the extra layer.

The only real bummer of the morning was my grumpy cab driver.  Well, him and the number of beef-related things in my race packet.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I prefer my cows alive and grazing in pastures!  Anyway, the cab driver annoyed me several times.  First, he didn’t know where Veterans Park was.  I thought, Shouldn’t you know this, considering you drive around this town professionally?  Then when we hit traffic before the park, which was totally predictable, he started getting pissy.  I suppose it’s a pet peeve of mine when people complain excessively about traffic.  Traffic is a part of life, and I feel like people make it seem worse by bitching about it.  And if you are a cab driver, I especially don’t want to hear you bitching about traffic.  Keep it to yourself, buddy!  I am paying you to deal with traffic!

We got close to the park, and I was so annoyed with him that I asked him to drop me off.  I gave him a generous tip, to which he replied ever so graciously, “Thank you!”  He didn’t deserve a good tip, but I was grateful to get rid of him.

I lined up with all the other runners, and after the usual pre-race announcements, national anthem, and prayer, we were off!

Because I felt like my training for this race was not terrific, I focused on running a steady pace without going out too hard.  The first six miles were easy enough—my breathing was slow and smooth, my legs felt fine, and my energy level was good.  For this race, I didn’t even run with a watch or timer, mostly because I didn’t have a chance to buy a new watch this weekend.  But I did have my phone on me, so periodically I used it to gauge my pace.  I think at the seven-mile mark, I saw that I was running 9:30 or 10:00 miles, so that made me happy.  Slow, even miles, from start to finish!

But something funny crept up on me during the race: I actually started to race.  Really, from the start, I began passing people, not out of a sense of competition, but rather because I wanted to run the right pace for me.  As the race progressed, however, I started realizing that I could use my ability to pass people to keep up a good pace, to stop myself from mentally slowing down.  I began spotting people to pass, and I gave them funny names: Pink, Orange Shorts, Blue Pants, the Reds.  I just picked them off, one by one.  And if I happened to pass a cluster of people, I felt a surge of giddiness: in one fell swoop, I can pass all these people!  See you at the finish line!

I anticipated that things would get really, really hard around Mile 9 or 10 because at that point, I would be surpassing the mileage of my longest long run, which was two weeks ago.  (Last weekend was such a disaster that I don’t really count it.)  My legs started to feel fatigued during Mile 7, but it was between Miles 10 and 11 that the wall started coming down.  I could feel the exhaustion, but I was so close to the finish that I had to hang onto my race.  I continued to pass people as they fell into close proximity.

As I was running the second half of the race, I started thinking about strength.  I thought about how blessedly simple running is compared to the other big commitments of my life, particularly my work and my romantic relationship.  Both have presented immense challenges in recent months; both have brought me to tears and the stubborn belief that I can’t do this.  As I ran this morning, I felt so grateful for running, which has become my rock lately, something reliable and calming amidst all the turmoil.  (Again, last weekend was an exception to this.)  As I ran, I thought to myself, I am strong.  I will not be broken by failure or sadness.  I will not be broken by frustration or uncertainty.  I am whole.  And I am strong in ways that surprise people, even me.

It was with that determination that I finished my race.  Miles 10-13 hurt, and I was tired, but I would not be stopped.  And when I came into the final, final stretch of the race, I saw 2:00:XX on the clock, and I realized that today, of all days, I could even run a sub-2-hour half-marathon, which was ridiculous, but there it was.  (The clock had read 2:30-ish when I crossed the starting line.)  I ran those final yards with everything left in my body and my heart, remembering the sign that read, “Leave it all on the course.”  Yes.  I would.  And I did.

I finished in 1:58:33.* Again, ridiculous!  I worked so much harder last year to break two hours, but maybe the universe took pity on me after all the bad stuff that’s happened in recent months.  Or maybe it was just a particularly good running day for me.  Either way, I’ll take it.

Armadillo Dash Medal

Post Race Smile

* My bib number was 632, for those of you who doubt my self-reported finishing time!  Check it yourself by clicking this link and entering 632.

Yogic Intentions

Fuzzy Woods

Week of February 26, 2012:

Friday: DIY yoga before bed

Saturday: Running errands via bicycle

First, a disclaimer: I stole that photo from the archives, May 2011 to be exact.  But I like it because it seems to express visually the way things feel right now—a bit dark and fuzzy, yet with a light that can be seen through the uncertainty.  When you look at that photo, you can’t help but see the light.  In fact, because the photo is fuzzy, I think the light catches your eye more easily than the blurred images of tree trunks and green leaves.

On Friday night, I stepped onto my mat to do some yoga before bed, figuring that the stretching would be good for my pre-race body.  Once on the mat, I immediately thought of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and the way she emphasizes intention as a guiding principle in our lives.  In other words, seek not perfection but rather stay true to your intentions.  I stood there, my bare feet on the mat, and silently I declared that my intention was to bring peace and compassion to myself and others.  And yes, I thought of Matt and how it is not easy to be patient with him when being patient means letting him go, at least for now.  So I asked for peace and compassion for him too.

It felt really good, both the intentions and the yoga.  I stretched and I breathed, and I enjoyed the quiet solitude of my candlelit apartment.  When I finished, I felt calmer than I have in days.  Perhaps all yoga should start with a nod toward intentions.

PS In case you were wondering, why, yes, indeed, I DID run 13.1 miles this morning!  And it was good.  More about that soon, very soon.  First, I think I need more coffee.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tapering, with Gratitude

Cool Right

Blue on Blue

Bare Legs Seriously

Week of February 26, 2012:

Monday: Off (off baking cookies for my broken heart)

Tuesday: Short run (35 minutes)

Wednesday: Bike commute (with photographic evidence above!)

Thursday: Off

First, I want to say thank you for your sweet comments on my last post.  I was feeling very fragile earlier this week, and though nothing has changed with regard to Matt, at least I’m feeling a little more whole today.  There’s just no getting around that things suck right now for him, and by extension, for me with him.  Thank you for your sympathy and your stories—your kindness makes me feel hopeful.

I’m not ready for it, but my half-marathon is on Sunday, and by God, I am going to run it.  This week I’ve been doing an unintentional taper because I’ve just been so busy at work and at home that exercise hasn’t been quite the priority it usually is.  Knowing that I’m going to run 13.1 miles on Sunday makes me feel like this taper is perfectly fine—maybe my legs will be well-rested and I’ll run better than I am predicting!  That would be nice.  I know the universe doesn’t owe me anything, but I could really use a boost after last weekend.  Since I am being ever so kind and patient with Matt, maybe the universe could give me a good race on Sunday?  Pretty please?