Sunday, May 31, 2009


I've been going on lately about my yard; rhapsodizing about the beautiful flowers, the lovely citrus trees, the aromatic jasmine growing outside my door. Apparently I needed to look closer.

No, closer than that.

Can't see it yet? How about this?

Right. Dirty filthy pigeon has not only built a nest at the top of my jasmine, judging from that close-up there's a baby in there too. Or maybe I'm just imagining that lower eyeball and beak. If so, then there will be a baby or two within a few days. Mama is sitting still as a statue, giving me the stinkeye whenever I try to walk outside.

So you say it's could be a dove, right? According to all the sources out there it's the same thing. To quote the easiest source, Wikipedia (because it's most concise there, not because I believe it more than the other places I looked), "in general parlance the terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably. In ornithological practice, there is a tendency for "dove" to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied, and historically the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the term "dove" and "pigeon.""

Oh well, I guess it's better than turkey vultures taking up residence in my yard.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Take time to smell the flowers

Spring is my favorite time of year. Although the East Bay doesn't have traditional seasons there are still plants that flower now and at no other time. The almost overwhelming scent of jasmine wafting throughout my house; the delicate smell of peonies on the other side of the yard. Deep greens, crisp whites, pink, red, purple and all shades in-between.

As I sit in my favorite knitting/reading/tv watching spot I only have to turn my head to the right to see this glorious sight:

A few feet across the yard I get close-up views like this:

Only one problem with spring: a-a-a-CHOO!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Once again a runner

One good thing about taking all that time off of running was that I had pretty feet for the first time in 9 years. All I have to do now to convince myself that I'm a runner is look at those no longer pretty feet. I have one black toenail that I'm sure I'll lose soon, callouses on the ends of a few toes and 4 blisters.

I'm back!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Keep the sharp instruments away

While gardening today I had another example of why I shouldn't. Somehow I'm managing to slice or impale some body part almost every time I'm in the yard. Today I was trimming back some branches from my beautiful backyard maple tree (too much shade on my struggling lime tree). I guess I didn't see that my hand was in the way of the pruning sheers so I made an incision in my palm. Sheesh. I have to admit, though, that the red dripping on the green leaves was very pretty.

My wall of jasmine smells so astoundingly wonderful that I wish I had the capability of smelloblogging. Maybe we could convince Blogger to come up with an app for that?

On Saturday I ran 10 miles with Anita on the Lafayette-Moraga Trail. It was the best run this year, possibly the best run in over a year. It just felt right. We did a 9:1 run:walk for almost the entire run excepting the time I was choking on a gel and the time I had a crying jag (don't ask). It was cold and windy, probably low-50's when we started and maybe mid-50's when we finished. We had an unusual but welcome tail wind for the last 5 miles and that helped. We started slower but our overall average was 12:30 and the entire run I felt comfortable. I think keeping our mileage at the 10-ish range will help our endurance and rebuild my confidence in my running. I'm looking forward to See Jane Run Half Marathon next weekend.

Since I've registered for the Mermaid Duathlon (which is in 2 weeks) I felt it would be a very good idea if I did a brick training. I haven't done that since the tri last year and I've forgotten how to transition. Not the change-clothes part, the use-different-muscles part. The du is 1.5 run, 10 bike, 2.5 run. I wanted to do something similar but save the full distance for the race.

Sunday morning I left my house and ran out a half mile, turned around and ran back home again. I scurried to change shoes/helmet/gloves/jacket and popped onto my bike. I dithered for a moment as to which direction I should go and decided that heading south was good. I went down to Dublin, up and around a neighborhood and then back north again. Part of my brain was telling me to take it easy since it was training; the other part of my brain was telling me to push it to see what I could do. It was cold and windy again, a swirly wind that would smack me alternately in the face and crosswise.

When I arrived back at my garage I had ridden 9.5. I did another quick shoe/hat change, headed back out and Holy Sneakers Batman! I had completely forgotten that wobbly-legged feeling of running after cycling. My legs weren't exactly fatigued, but they weren't working right either. After about a quarter mile I felt like I was back in the game and I pushed on. I had that same half/half brain talk going on, with the additional voice saying I was only going 2 miles total during that leg so I could push it.

My workout ended about 1:25 after I began with 1m run, 9.5m bike, 2m run. The first pre-ride mile was 11:22, much faster than it should have been. The first post-ride mile was 11:16 and what the hell is up with that? My last run mile was 11:37, still faster (much faster) than normal. My cycling average was about 13, mostly due to the wind.

I'm feeling more secure about the real race now. The run is on dirt so I know I'll have problems (and slowing) there and the crappy revised bike route is 3 tight loops where I know I'll have to slow way down to make all the turns. Despite that, I know I can do it and do it without beating myself up too badly. I also know I'm probably going to be racing it harder than I had originally anticipated.

If you'll excuse me now, I think I'll go play with one of these:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My inner two year old

The little brat was at it again yesterday. This little toddler inside of me wants to sit around and play, eat fattening sugary foods and never exercise. Her favorite thing is to thwart my good intentions and see how much she can get away with. "No" and "I don't wanna" are frequently heard ringing in my head.

The plan was to change at work and run on my way home. Whiny girl didn't want to, but I changed and was ready to go when I realized I hadn't brought a bottle carrier with me. Oh, I had the bottle all right but I hate gripping anything in my hand when I run. I thought about doing the run anyway without water but since it was in the upper 70's the brat told me "NO!" and I listened. I changed the plan to instead go home and go straight to the treadmill, no stopping for anything except a bottle of water.

I walked in my door and the two year old convinced me to take a nap. Just a short nap, she cajoled, knowing that the nap would probably extend long enough that it would be too late to run. I set the alarm to get me up and sure enough, when it went off the baby tried to keep me on the couch. This time though, ancient me convinced the kid that I only had to run for 20 minutes. That's all, then I could sit and do whatever I wanted.

Right, like I was going to get a set of clothes sweaty for just 20 minutes. I got on the treadmill and started out running a nice 12 minute pace, then slowed it down a smidge because I had forgotten to use my inhaler first (I didn't want to stop to go get it). I ran along, watching an episode of L&O-SVU that I had dvr'd, and felt pretty good.

Except for the fact that Comcast's dvr is crap (... this would be the dvr for which I'm paying an extra $7/month). Every time I would try to fast forward through a commercial it would jump to the very end of the program. I'd rewind and it would go back to the start. Then I'd put it on the slowest ff and it would make it to jussssst before the part I had seen, and it would skip to the end again. Very frustrating and it never happened with my old set-up before my Comcast "digital enhancement" forced the use of a dvr in place of a vcr. Grrrr. But I continued running.

With all the rewinding and fast forwarding I ended up spending much more time on the 'mill than I had intended. I actually ran 4 miles with only one one-minute walk break right in the middle (while I was fiddling with the remote). I even sprinted the last bit, going several minutes/mile faster than I had run. I felt wonderful and relaxed and drippy when I finished (except for the frustration of dealing with the dvr) and was glad I had told that two year old to go suck it.

I ate a tasty Boca Burger based dinner and felt even more virtuous when I sat down and started knitting. But the toddler had the last word. The ice cream was really good!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Smells like summer

Something about flowers in bloom and 98 degrees means summer to me. A wall of fragrant jasmine, giant peonies, sweet lemon flowers among the thorns. Smoggy blue skies tinged with brown around the edges. Time to run!

So run we did. On Saturday Bree, Anita and I were joined by Ellen at the Alameda Ferry parking lot. We were hoping it would be cool along the water and we were completely disappointed. Usually there's a cool strong breeze making up for the total lack of shade along the route but it was only a measly fluff of wind here and there. It was hot, the hottest weather we'd run in this year. So to gradually acclimate ourselves to to the heat we decided on a short run.

Or, that would have been the smart thing to do. In our my quest to get up to double digits we were scheduled to run 11 miles and I didn't want to change that. I'm afraid that if we change the schedule this early in the season it will just be too easy to change it later. That meant running, walking or crawling 11 miles however we could.

Soon after we began our group split up since Ellen is speedier than we are, and Bree was running a 4:1 while Anita and I were running a 9:1. We all met up at Crown Beach, halfway along, and ran together again for a short while. Once again Ellen pulled ahead, but we stayed with Bree for a couple of miles. At that point it because a chore to get done with, an obligation, instead of just a fun run. It was hot, I was sweaty and verging on overheating.

But finish it we did! It was ugly, it was slow, and there was way more walking than made me happy but it was still 11 miles. I was literally wringing, dripping wet. Sausage fingers and a slight dehydration headache reminded me that I wasn't ingesting enough electrolytes with too little water. That would be why they're called practice runs, right?

I don't understand why it's so hard, why it isn't getting any easier. Granted, we're increasing mileage constantly. Also granted, it was our first hot long run of the year. Finally granted that the air quality wasn't too good. However and what the hell? I haven't had a good run in double digits since early last year. I'm happy that my knee and back are ok for now but I have no endurance or stamina. Even the short easy runs feel hard. That has to change.

Oh! Those little black bits on the lovely flowers? Ants. Lots of ants. Zillions of ants. I won't be picking the flowers and bringing them into the house no matter how lovely or fragrant. Ew.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bike to Work Day

It's easy to ride your bike to work when you live less than 12 miles from your office. C'mon, I just rode a century! Twelve miles is nothing, right? So for the Bay Area's 15th Annual Bike to Work Day I decided I should give it a shot. I've lived in this house for almost 11 years, my office has been where it is for longer than that and I've been riding a bike for even longer. I've always had some lame excuse to not ride and this year it was time. The idea behind Bike to Work Day is that possibly people will find how convenient it is and make riding to work a habit.

Jeanette decided she'd come ride with me, since riding from her house would have been quite a trek. Yeah, it sort of defeated the purpose of the day for her to drive to my house but at least we saved my gas, right? Anyway, it made it more likely that I'd actually get on the bike if I had company.

The day didn't start too auspiciously. In a big "whoops" moment, while I was pumping up my front tire the valve tip broke off. Right off, into my hand. Uh oh. It appeared that the little retractable stem was pushed into the valve stem and as far as I could tell there was no air leakage. But it was highly risky to decide not to change the tube right then and there. I decided to be lazy and see how it went. For once I got very lucky and my tire was just as hard when I got home as when I left.

It was cool and clear and beautiful when we set out. We were able to go straight down one main street for almost the entire way. We rode quickly and smoothly and got to the office in well under an hour. We even stopped at one of the Energizer Stations and picked up a cool commuter bag with the above logo, an energy bar and a banana. Pretty nice, for a measly 12 mile ride.

I had left a change of clothes and some toiletries/cosmetics in the office the day before so I was able to freshen up and put on clean clothes. But the lack of a shower after the ride left me feeling vaguely unclean. Although when I'm running or riding I don't care how I smell or how gritty and salty and dirty my skin gets, when I'm done I want to be crispy clean. I just have this thing, I don't like feeling dirty. Only a shower will make me feel clean and there isn't one at the office. That was the biggest down side of riding to work.

The other thing is, even though it's easy to ride TO work, riding home is another question. Even though the route is short I'd much prefer to ride 25 miles at once than ride half in the morning and half in the late afternoon. I was surprised at how fatigued I felt riding home. Although part of that was the wicked head wind (and what was up with that? All week there had been a NNW wind that would have blown us straight home, but today it was more SW and in our faces) the rest was plain old fashioned weariness.

The good news is it will get easier. Yes, I intend to do it again (even though I spent the day feeling schmootzy). And Jeanette said she'll join me again. Since there really is a short window of having enough light both in the morning and the evening, we'll start right in. At the moment our goal is to do it about every other week. Looks like having this special day worked!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My new "diet"

What was only a sporadic thing, then a slight trend, has now become my almost daily way of eating. I have named it the "what the hell were you thinking????" diet. To date this diet has not caused weight gain or loss but it isn't healthy or approved by any official sources so I don't suggest you attempt to follow it. Some examples of the "what the hell were you thinking????" diet are:
Eat a normal healthy breakfast. Eat a salad with many mixed fresh veggies and some fish or fowl for protein. For dinner eat a bag of cheese popcorn. As a late night snack eat 2 cups of jelly bellies. Look at self in mirror and say "what the hell were you thinking????" and then go to bed.

At lunch eat tomato soup. Half hour later wrap arms around middle of body and say "what the hell were you thinking????"

Eat a regular, healthy lunch and dinner. Afterward sit down with a carton of ice cream and consume most of it. All together now, "what the hell were you thinking????"

Eat a large bunch of cherries, or strawberries, or some pineapple or an orange. "What the hell were you thinking???"

Run several miles after work. For dinner eat only a bag of Baked Ruffles with a glass of wine. "What the hell were you thinking????"
It's not like I haven't been obsessed with the food I eat since high school (and not like that wasn't over 35 years ago). It's not like I haven't spent years on Weight Watchers or other diets and years measuring out correct portion sizes. It's not like I couldn't tell you the calories or fat content of every single thing I put in my mouth. And it's not like I'm happy with the way my clothes fit or the way I look or feel.

The good news is that I haven't gained any weight (... yet). The bad news is I'm certainly doing myself no favors eating like this and I'm certainly not fueling my body for the athletic performance I expect. Much of the food I've been eating I like, I like a lot, but it's crap even in small portions. With the recurring stomach problems I've had since last year I've had to limit many foods, including most fruits and some acidic veggies (and, sadly, high alcohol consumption). This means that even good-for-you foods aren't good for me in most cases. So why am I still eating this way?

What the hell was I thinking?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's a beautiful morning

The sky is blue, the air is clear, the wind is light, the temperature comfortable. Flowers, trees and shrubs are in bloom and the grass is green again. It's a gorgeous East Bay morning and the reason I live here. A day like this tickles my fancy and warms my heart. It makes me think anything is possible. I feel upbeat and positive and happy and perky.

I dream of long bike rides, quiet runs and brisk walks. I think of birds chirping and bugs chittering and the feel of air moving along my face.

Too bad I'll be spending my day sitting inside at a desk.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You never forget your first

Leading up to it there's the anticipation, the excitement, the nervousness and the little bit of fear. You have a feeling you'll never be the same again. During, there's sweat and pain and focus and laughter and joy. Afterward there's elation, exhaustion, satisfaction and the wonder if maybe you couldn't have been just a bit better. Then you can't stop talking about it for days and wonder when you can next try to recreate that experience.

We're on the same page here, right? Your first marathon?

Eight years ago I was training for my first marathon. I knew I would complete it, the only questions were in what condition I'd be after crossing the finish line and how long it would take to get there. I was reminded of the whole experience while watching The Biggest Loser last night (oh hush - you watch crappy reality tv too, don't tell me you don't!). The remaining 4 contestants were told less than 30 days in advance that their final challenge would be to run a marathon. Four weeks, to train to run 26.2 miles.

In a way I was a bit miffed that this would be thrown at them. After all, a marathon is a serious undertaking requiring months of training. You can't complete a marathon on a whim, there has to be preparation. Then I realized that these people have been rigorously exercising for 6-8 hours daily for the past several months and aerobically, at least, shouldn't have a problem. Although they probably didn't have the time to build their mileage in a traditional manner, they at least had time to direct their focus toward running (or at least toward distance for the 2 who weren't able to run).

I watched the two women running along, listened to their comments and was reminded of my first time. Despite watching with a massive headache I wanted nothing more than to immediately get out there and run a marathon. Run several marathons. Right now, this weekend. Unbelievable how much I miss it.

I saw the women run across the finish line and knew exactly how they felt. For someone who isn't a traditional athlete the sense of accomplishment, the feeling that now anything is possible, is overwhelming. There was the knowledge that you did the best your could, that you left nothing on the table, that you pushed until you couldn't push any longer. A validation of you as a person. The joy of setting a seemingly impossible task and completing it. The memory of where you started physically. The pain and exhaustion and nerves and knowing that you must, absolutely must, do it again.

I don't know if I can wait for Chicago to do it again.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dodging raindrops

This will be short because, frankly, my life is boring these days. To be perfectly honest (and when am I anything else) my life is usually boring. It's just these days it's so much of the same ol', same ol, that it even puts me to sleep when I think of it. "Sleep" being an expression, as we all know I don't sleep.

I've been mostly keeping up with my imaginary fitness schedule. As expected, registering for a couple of races in the near future has me terrified that I'm out of shape. I ran 3 times last week, including a long run of 8 miles on Saturday. Anita and I ran 7 pretty decent, albeit slow, miles. The weather was cool and cloudy, perfect for running. At just about the time my energy (and breath) deserted me, the rain started. It drizzled for the last mile, getting progressively heavier and by the time we reached our cars it had started to pour. Our timing was almost perfect, if we had started any later we would have been soaked.

I ran twice during the week; once on the trail and once on the treadmill. The TM was because I started so late. It was after 7:15 pm and I didn't feel safe going to run alone but I needed to blow off some energy. As usual I felt much better after I had finished. I really should make a habit of this.