Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tidbit Update

Rabbit, viewed from above.

Lately, Tidbit has figured out that she can come out of the study and chase us through part of the house. With me, she just checks up on what I'm doing, then goes away. But she follows Dan's movements like a little dog. That's because he gives her treats, like banana slices and raisins. I'm just the boring lady who cleans her litter box and gives her hay, water and fresh veggies.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Thoughts

I had a nice run today, following a familiar route to Hermann Park and Rice University. I came upon some sort of race going on near one of the zoo entrances, but I'm not sure what it was about. There's a race next month benefiting the park and zoo, so I'm pretty sure today's race was for some other purpose.

I haven't decided what I want my next big project to be. I want to get back into triathlon, but my hip is a problem. I have to tape my hip to run, and you can't tape a wet body between swim and bike, or bike and run.

Triathlon would also require I reorganize my work schedule so I could swim in the morning. Pool chlorine leaves me sniffling for hours, so I have to swim early if I want to sleep later. The problem is that I really like working early and leaving early, and I also don't like swimming at any hour, much less first thing in the morning. I may try it out this week, though, just to see how such a schedule would work. It might not be as bad as I think it would be.

I'd also like to do some of the MS-150 training rides this year. I don't want to do the MS ride-- the Houston to Austin ride is way too full of amateurs to be fun or safe. But I miss the training rides, and my only real problem is how to get to them, since they're all way out in exurbia. My car is old and I'm not so sure I want to do battle with Dan to get driving privileges for his prized Jeep. I've recently discovered that a co-worker will be doing the MS ride, though, and I might be able to work something out with him to get to the training rides.

Or I might just focus on overall conditioning, including core and upper body work. I like being able to keep my own schedule with no worries about race dates and training schedules. The rec center always has interesting classes, so maybe I could reorganize my schedule for a dance class or martial arts or something.

In other news, I'm getting back into cooking again, after a lapse over the holidays that continued into January. Why cook when you have a fridge full of leftovers? I'm back to cooking up meals for the week on Sundays, though, and Dan is getting into the act, too. He cooked up a big batch of pasta this past week and I added veggies and pine nuts. Last night I made banana bread with the overripe leftover bananas from the week. It came out pretty good and was much quicker and easier than I thought it would be. A lot of cooking is that way, though. You think it will take forever, when in actual practice, the prep time isn't so bad at all. I especially love the convenience of rice cooker and crock pot. Ten minutes of work, a week's worth of meals.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mercury in Retrograde?

Many years ago, I was the admin assistant to my current boss. I then became business head of a department in my own right, then was moved back under her in a division reorganization. Throughout these years, she has been my direct boss, my dotted-line (peripheral) boss, and now my boss again but in a more peer-structured relationship.

Why do I mention this? Because no one ever removed my ability to see the details of her Outlook calendar from back in the days when I was her assistant.

Why does this matter? No reason, really, except that she's been through a heck of a lot in the last two months, including major car troubles, financial woes, the death of her father and the passing of a beloved dog. She's taken a lot of personal time to get her head together, and she just now left the office. Again. I checked her calendar to see if it was for an important meeting or for some other reason, and found nothing conclusive. But starting next week, she's got a series of daily reminders:

No Big Decisions: Mercury in Retrograde

From any other person, at any other time, I'd be shaking my head in stunned disappointment at such superstition. Instead, I'm sitting here smiling in private amusement. After what she's been through lately, she needs to be making no big decisions. If an Outlook reminder about a planet will do that for her, I'm for it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Like Being a Girl

A couple weeks ago I changed out a flat on my bike, but the tube I used was short stem and nearly impossible to inflate. So today I tried to change it out for another tube. After half an hour of struggling with a tire that required I defy eight laws of physics before it would go back on the rim, I found that my new tube wasn’t holding air very well. The next tube I tried was old and burst with a nicely exciting bang when I tried to inflate it.

Had it been a normal two-day weekend, I would’ve been crazy with frustration. So much to do, so little time to spend on bullshit! But with a whole extra day in which to get things done, I took wheel and tire to the bike shop and bought two new tubes. And since I wasn’t up for fighting that tire yet again today, I had the shop mechanic put one of the tubes on for me.

Yes, I wimped out and asked a man to fix my tire. And I wasn’t embarrassed. Not much, anyway. That’s one of the nice things about being female. You don’t lose face when you ask for help with a job that falls into the “manly” category.

Sometimes it’s good to be a girl.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Body Willing; Mind Weak

My non-running friends probably think the body is what keeps a runner going, but this isn’t entirely true. The body is a dumb animal in many respects. It will do what it’s trained to do. Train properly, and you can point your body out the door, tell it to run, and it will trot along as ordered.

It’s the brain that will sabotage you.

I recovered fairly quickly from the marathon and by this morning I was ready to run again. Or so said my body. I picked out a three-loop route that would give me twelve miles while keeping me close to home. My body didn’t have a moment’s trouble, but from the very beginning my brain nagged at me. It’s too cold out. Too many puddles. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I don’t wanna. Can we go home now?

I persevered, but I was well into the final loop before my mind quit trying to sabotage my run and bowed to necessity.

So today I trained my mind. I like to think it was a character-building exercise, but it was probably just needless torment.

Recent Workouts (marathon recovery week)
Monday: 2 mile walk
Tuesday: 30 minute elliptical
Wednesday: 25 minute elliptical + 1 mile run
Thursday: 25 minute elliptical + 1 mile run
Friday: scheduled rest day
Saturday: 12 mile run

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

I don't normally want much of a fuss made over my birthday. It's not that I mind getting older-- quite the opposite. The older I get, the more I feel like I'm coming into my own. It's just that birthdays aren't that big a deal to me. I'm flattered when someone remembers and wishes me a happy one, but I don't see any reason to make a big production out of it with cakes and hoopla.

So this morning I was surprised to arrive at my office and find that my staff had put a Happy Birthday note on my door and a bunch of balloons. I don't think I even mentioned my birthday to them, so they must've looked it up. Isn't that sweet?

Then when my staff arrived, they informed me they were taking me to lunch. Awww... I have the bestest team ever!

After we got back from lunch, flowers were delivered. They were from Dan, who so rarely gives me flowers that it's a real treat when he does. I got lots of compliments on them and was even more impressed when Dan told me later that the florist is a guy he hung out with in his Teenage Delinquent years. Apparently the guy's parents were florists and he inherited the shop and is quite the respectable citizen now. Funny how life turns, isn't it?

And topping it all off, I got a funny card from my father today with a little cash inside. He had given me birthday presents before going back to New Mexico, so I wasn't expecting anything at all, but my father is the master of little "thinking of you" gifts, so I shouldn't have let myself be surprised. Not after forty-one years to get used to his ways.

In sum, it was a really sweet, special day for me. I got nothing of real consequence, and if I got balloons, cards, flowers and lunch for every birthday it would be trite. But because it's the sort of thing that isn't the norm, I found myself oddly touched by it all.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Houston Marathon – Race Report

This year was much less stressful than last year. The weather was not in doubt. It was cold and sunny, so no last-minute dithering over whether I would need rain gear. Second, I wasn’t on the brink of bronchitis, so my mood and energy level were good and I wasn't having breathing troubles.

Dan dropped me off at the convention center and I had plenty of time to get ready, check my bag and even use a real restroom, instead of one of the port-a-cans. I waited until the last possible minute to go outside because the skyscrapers create a wind tunnel effect, making it feel colder than it really is.

I found the 4:30 pace group and stuck with them for the first few miles, concentrating mainly on not tripping over anyone because the pack hadn’t spread out yet. I swear I don’t know how people run the really big marathons like New York and Chicago, where the packs never seem to thin.

By around Mile 4 I was able to find my own pace and moved ahead of the 4:30 group. Between Miles 6-7 I kept pace with a guy who was trying to get a sing-along going and joked with the spectators, trying to get extra applause. Watching his antics kept me entertained for a couple miles, but I lost him after awhile.

When we passed the Palmer Episcopal Church between Miles 9-10 I made sure to get in a good spot for some of the holy water they were splashing on the runners. It’s a cute tradition and with still so far to go, anyone’s blessing was welcome.

Crowds were good through West U, and it was nice to see the folklorico dancers out. I was glad to get to the halfway point, though, and turn toward the Galleria. By now the part of my brain that had been arguing with me about whether this was a good way to spend my Sunday morning had finally shut up and I could just focus on getting the miles done. I was glad when we finally turned onto Woodway, though. From here it was a straight shot to downtown, down my old running routes.

The belly dancers were between Miles 19-20, as usual, and I was very happy to reach the Clif tent around Mile 21 and get a Clif Shot and some Clif Bloks. My hands were cold, making it hard to find things in my pack, so the easy calorie boost was welcome.

Dan met me between Miles 22-23 and I handed off some of my cold-weather gear I no longer needed. I stopped soon after Mile 24 to stretch my legs (hip acting up) on some stairs for a pedestrian bridge over Allen Parkway. And after that, no more stops, no excuses.

There’s always a horrible “so near and yet so far” moment when you turn onto the final approach to the finish line. You can see it several blocks away, but at this point, it seems like no matter how many streets you cross, it never gets any closer. This is always an occasion for me to mutter a lot of WTFs, but finally, yes, the finish line is there. I heard the beep as I crossed the mat, I remembered to stop my watch, and I immediately found it was a lot harder to walk than run.

I got my picture taken (I probably look stupid in it since I don’t photograph well) then I staggered into the convention center to get my medal, pick up my bag, and get my finisher’s shirt and cup. The finisher’s shirts made me happy because they had actual girl-cut shirts for female finishers. I hate huge shirts, and even a men’s small is too big. But the women’s small was perfect and so cute!

I found a nice place to spread out my towel and ice my legs with my instant cold packs. I called Dan and he told me where to meet him, but long runs cause temporary brain damage, so I just pretended I knew where he was and figured I’d have to hope for the best. Since my cold packs were still cold, I gave them to a nice young couple who had been stumbling around and watching me enviously.

Then I headed outside and started walking. Poor Dan! It’s a good thing he’s done the marathon before too, or I would’ve never gotten the amount of patience I did from him. I wandered a bit before finding a sunny spot and calling him. I read the street signs (thank goodness I could still read!) and he told me to stay where I was until he found me.

After a hot shower and some Indian food, I started getting my brain back and Dan’s original instructions made perfect sense. He later said he thought about telling me he was on the north side, but figured I was in no fit state to understand the concept of "north." "I probably would've cried," I said.

I noticed they’ve already opened registration for next year’s marathon. I’m conflicted about whether I should sign up early or even sign up at all. Each year I swear not to sign up again because I’m around so many sick people in December and early January that I end up spending Christmas and New Year’s in a state of paranoia. Running San Antonio in November would actually be a more sensible option. But marathons are funny things. No sooner are you done than you find yourself wanting to sign up again, no matter how much pain you were in at the end.

Well, no need to make a decision today. I’m glad I finished, glad I did better than last year, and glad the pressure is off and I can turn my thoughts toward other things.


Finish time: 4:25:44. It's a significant improvement over last year, but still a good ways off what I think I'm capable of.

I'm not dissatisfied, though.

More later. It's nap time.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Fun Day

For many years it has been my annual tradition to take the Friday before the marathon as a vacation day, go to the Expo and do some shopping. The fact that my birthday always falls on or near marathon weekend is an additional reason for this fun tradition.

I started my day by sleeping in until 8:00. I read the morning news over coffee, checked up on things at the office and handled a few work-related matters, then got dressed and headed downtown.

I got to the Expo at 11:15. I picked up my race packet, got my chip tested, got one of the two shirts I’ll be getting this weekend (I get the other after I cross the finish line) and explored the Expo. I hadn’t had breakfast, so I made sure to hit the Clif Bar booth for samples. I was disappointed that there was no Smoothie King booth, but there were two rice companies with booths and I ate a lot of rice. I also ate a mini Lara Bar. It was okay, but I still prefer Clif Bars.

I browsed the sale clothing from the various running shops, but didn’t find anything I just had to have. I bought a couple of new running caps though, and some socks and an amphipod pocket. I have two amphipods already, but they’ve been missing since I moved last August, and I’ve really missed having one for short runs.

I signed up for Bayou City Outdoors' newsletter and entered a drawing for a weekend in Marathon, Texas (near Big Bend). I picked up race info on upcoming triathlons and next November’s San Antonio Marathon.

When I could find nothing else of interest, I left the expo and went to one of my favorite resale shops. I found a lot of good stuff there.

Then it was off to PetSmart to stock up on supplies, using one of my gift cards from Christmas. And since PetSmart is next to a Barnes & Noble store, I browsed the books and found two I liked, using another of my Christmas gift cards.

Walgreens was next on my list, where among other things, I got some instant cold packs for after the marathon. It was great last year to be able to ice my legs immediately after getting my finisher’s medal and shirt. It speeded my recovery and made me feel very smart.

And finally, since Friday is Grocery Day, I went to Central Market and Rice Epicurean, where I filled up on samples and did the shopping for the week.

I got stuck in traffic on the way home due to a stalled cement mixer on the freeway, but that was the only down spot of my day. I got home and put all my loot away, visited with Dan and read blogs and emails.

Tomorrow I’m going to do laundry and maybe go for a morning walk to my new secret trail. I’ll get all my gear together for the marathon, so I won't be scrambling for anything tomorrow night. Dan and I are going to a wedding in the afternoon, but we’ll be home early and hopefully I’ll be tired and able to go to bed early. If not, no big deal. I’ve done runs of over twenty miles on just three hours of sleep, so I’m confident my body will be up for whatever I tell it to be up for on Sunday.

One more day!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Discovery!

Today I found a new running trail!

My plan was to run to the recreation center, do a mile on the indoor track, then run home, for a total of about three miles. But as I was running past a hill where some trees had been planted a few weeks ago, I noticed the backs of signs on top of the hill. And a bench. I also noticed that the top of the hill looked suspiciously level.

So I did what any curious runner would do, and climbed the hill.

A trail! It was beautiful, nicely leveled and made of quick-draining dirt and gravel. It wound around the perimeter of a sunken soccer field where two students kicked a ball back and forth in the grass and clover. The trail had signs and workout stations at various points along the way, and a nice new water fountain exactly like the ones along the Buffalo Bayou trails where I used to run before I moved.

I could tell the trail was still being worked on, because where some parts had lights installed for evening runners, other areas only had bare conduit poking out of the ground. There were sidewalks leading to the trail from the rec center and outdoor pool, but they were blocked by construction workers' fences.

So for now, the only way to the trail was to climb the hill. I was above the street level, above the soccer players, with a great view of the trains on one side and the downtown skyline on the other. On such a pretty, golden afternoon with fine clear skies, green grass, a cool breeze, and a secret trail of my very own, I felt very fortunate, indeed!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Last Long Run

I did my last pre-marathon long run yesterday—twelve miles. It was the distance I had planned for this weekend from the outset of my training and I was nervous that I might not be up for it. Sometimes after I’ve been sick for a few days, my body seems to forget how to run. I plotted a route that would keep me close to home in case I wasn’t up for the distance, but everything went just fine. I was a little tired toward the end, but that was just the lingering effects of having spent three days with a fever and not sleeping well. I had no sense that anything was really wrong. It’s funny how after seven and a half years of distance running, one learns to know the difference between different kinds of tired and different kinds of feeling “off.” One develops a sense of when it’s a cause for concern and when it’s just a bad day.

The marathon is next Sunday, so my plan for the week is to exercise as I normally would this week, Monday through Thursday, mostly bike and elliptical with maybe a short run with no time pressure on Tuesday or Wednesday. Friday is my usual rest day, and Saturday will be a rest day too.

I’ve scaled back on the herbs and vitamins I was taking when I first got sick, since all that C was giving me a sore throat. But I’m continuing to take everything on a reduced scale, and I’m hoping that this little illness has put my immune system on the offensive so I won’t pick up anything new before next weekend. Last year I was on the cusp of a bronchial infection the day of the marathon and it affected my ability to enjoy the race and led to a very long recovery period afterwards. Hopefully I’ve escaped that fate this year and I’ll be able to tap into the fun and excitement of participating in Houston’s biggest road race of the year.

One week to go!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Dodging a Bullet

I usually post for New Year's but instead I’ve been incommunicado. Or rather, I’ve been sick. Sick and terrified that it would keep me out of the marathon, which is less than two weeks away. I figured if I didn't say it, it wouldn't be so.

It started when I spiked a fever Sunday night, completely out of the blue. The heat and chills, joint and sinus pain were bad, but what scared me was the cough. Once something settles into my lungs, I’m out of commission for up to a month, easy, and it wouldn't be the first or second time a bout with bronchitis kept me from the marathon at the last minute.

Holidays are a sucky time to be sick since the doctors are all on vacation, so for three days I fended for myself, dosing myself with every vitamin and herbal I had in my home arsenal and putting an extra clove of garlic into every bowl of soup. I ran a fever nearly the entire time, dripped and sneezed like mad, and am expecting my thank-you note from the Kleenex Corporation any day now for all the product I used.

Luckily the lung congestion turned out to be non-sticky in nature, and by today I was pretty sure it was only my sinuses that were the problem. And I do mean problem. It's no fun to wake up at 4 am feeling like your eyes and brain are about to pop out of your skull from your head being squeezed in a vise. It's the sort of pain that makes you want to cry, but since you know crying will make it worse, you don't. No bravery, just pure self-preservation.

I went to the doctor today and she confirmed I had a sinus infection and gave me meds. She also said my lungs were on the mend and to keep doing what I was doing. Yay! She gave me pain meds for the next couple days so I can sleep while the antibiotics get a handle on my sinuses, which is a relief-- no more waking up at 4 am and wishing someone would just beat my brains out and get it over with.

Since my temp has been normal since mid-morning today, I guess that means I can’t stay out another day from work. I would dearly like to and I think it would hasten my recovery, but I’ve only got one other person on my team this week because I let the other two have extended Christmas/New Year vacations. Dumb move in retrospect, but I was operating on the assumption that I would be there since I’m almost never sick, and even more rarely am I too sick to go to the office. I don’t believe in managing by exception, so. . .

At any rate, I’m feeling much better tonight and I might even go to the gym tomorrow after work and walk or do light elliptical work. It’s scary how you can get so used to being active that you feel bad when you’re not.

Here’s to dodging a bullet, and to a healthy 2008!