Thursday, April 28, 2005

Resting, but alert... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Playin' Hooky

I've spent the last three work days running numbers in every possible permutation I can think of to prove to our budget office that they owe us some money. $2.7 million plus change, if anyone's curious. To make a dull accounting story a little less unbearable, suffice to say that me and one of the budget bigwigs just couldn't seem to see eye to eye on the matter. (Why the university budget office doesn't know how much money they're supposed to give us is perhaps a question better left for another day.) So to finally set things straight, we had a big meeting today with two budget hotshots, my business boss and her business boss. We were done in fifteen minutes, my number being determined to be correct.

Who says a liberal arts degree is useless? My History/Spanish double major trumped an accounting degree today!

So there I was, freed absurdly early from one meeting, no one expecting me at a conflicting meeting a few buildings away and no one expecting me back at the office, either. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, a fresh breeze was blowing...

An hour later I was on trails!

Since it was my first warm run of the season and I had deliberately left my fuel belt at home, I took things a little slow. I didn't bother with my watch either, but I think I was doing about a 10 minute mile pace, which was quite reasonable for temps in the mid-80s on an uneven trail. I did the north side of the trail first, since it usually doesn't have working water fountains, whereas the south side has three. There weren't a lot of people on the trails yet, which was nice. It was just a good day to be out running in the warm sun and cool wind, steady pace, up the hills, over the gravel, across the grass, onto buckled asphalt and baked mud ruts left behind by mountain bikers. Bees were busy in what was left of the spring clover, dogs were chasing each other in the dog park, the flowers were blooming and the mockingbirds and last of the robins were flitting about, enjoying the afternoon as much as I was.

I found myself wishing I could do this more often, take off work a little early and go for a solitary run. I was even starting to formulate a plan until the warm sun on my shoulders, back and bare belly brought me back to reality. This is Houston. We'll have maybe a few more weeks of this at best, and then unbearable heat and withering humidity until October. The only place I'll be going after getting out of an air conditioned meeting is into another air conditioned building.

How nice then, that I got to enjoy today!

Tidbit's Tip!
When running on a warm day, rub a little cool water on your ears from time to time. It sounds strange, but it helps cool you down. Good advice for bunnies, good advice for humans!

Recent Workouts
Monday: 45 minutes core and strength training, no evening workout - Mary really beat me up in my massage session, and boy did I need it!
Tuesday: 45 minutes core and strength training, 45 minutes elliptical (intervals)
Wednesday: 45 minutes core and strength training, 5.5 mile run

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Sunday Stuff

I had great score on some furniture today! One of our neighbors was selling some things in advance of moving to Chicago and I picked up an Ikea corner table and matching coffee table for a song. I got a lamp, too. Both tables have lots of shelving, so I once again have space for more books.

I'll get right on that.

I feel a little bad for Tidbit, though, since our old coffee table was a Queen Anne style and she loved lying underneath it. It was one of her favorite spots. We're trying to entice her into one of the little cubbyholes of the new table, and if that works out I'll post a picture. She had a lot of fun checking out the new stuff. She had to smell everything and rub her chin on the things she liked best. She thinks she now owns one of the legs to the old table that I took apart for storage. Sorry, Tid Kid, it just doesn't work that way.

Life is one big adventure when you're a rabbit.

And speaking of rabbit adventures, it must've been Cottontail Night at Memorial Park this evening, because the bunnies were everywhere, eating, watching the silly humans, chasing each other through the grass with their little white tails flashing. I don't think I've ever seen so many out romping at one time. It's definitely spring around here.

Today's Workout
2 hours bike, Spinervals 9.0 Have Mercy
3 mile walk

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Today was a beautiful day to be out running-- cool in the shade, warm in the sun, blue skies with just a few high white clouds. The flowers were blooming, the trees and grass were green, there were garage sales on nearly every block... yes, it's springtime in the city!

I decided to avoid the Waugh-Sabine loop of the bayou trails because I had reason to believe that either the International Festival or the Earth Day Festival would be taking place there. As an aside, am I the only person who sees enormous irony in the fact that the Earth Day Festival involves lots of diesel trucks pulling up with generators to power electricity for the various tents and kiosks selling commercially produced beer in plastic cups in support of environmental sustainability? Am I the only person who sees the grounds all white with litter after the Earth Day festivities are over and wonders if we're doomed as a species?


Okay, back on track here...

So after I crossed the bridge to access the bayou trails, I headed to Shepherd and around to Allen Parkway where I crossed the street just before I got to the old Jewish Cemetery. This put me on the sidewalk outside of Allen House where a big multi-family garage sale was being set up to benefit tsunami victims. I wandered around a bit, examining books and furniture. I was inspecting some pans that looked like they might be good Farberware when a volunteer pointed out that the sale didn't begin until 9. Okay, fine. I didn't have any money on me, anyway, and was staying out of people's way, but I could see her point. If they let one person preview stuff, they have to let any local who happens to wander by, and the next thing you know, they might as well be open for business.

So I continued on my run, stopping at some other, single-family garage sales as I found them, but not making any detours to do so. Eventually I made my way to Rice University, used the restroom at the Tennis Center, then continued around the trail to the Med Center and finally to Sunset Blvd. I crossed over to Hermann Park at that point and did the trail there, too. I had never done the entire perimeter, and I have to admit that when I found myself so close to Hwy 288 and saw downtown looking so far away, I had a moment where I felt very intimidated. But I put such thoughts aside and finished the trail to where it ended near the rose gardens. Then I made a detour into the park so I could see the ducks. Some of them were still asleep, but many were already awake and paddling around the two ponds, where the breezy day had whipped up a surprising amount of waves. I half-expected to see whitecaps.

After visiting the ducks, I crossed back to Rice and finished their perimeter trail, then went back toward home. My mileage was way short at this point, so I made a detour on South Blvd, past my university president's house, up Graustark to Banks, to little Bell Park on Montrose. I've always liked this little pocket park, with its trees, trails and bridges. When I was in the restaurant business, it was a popular late-night place to go with friends and a bottle of wine. When I lived in an efficiency apartment on Banks, it was a nice place to go and relax after work. There was a tree with a low-lying branch where I could lie on my back and gaze up at the sky through the lace of green leaves. Bell Park is a peaceful spot in an otherwise busy part of town.

But today I only stopped for some water, then cut through the park to Milford street on the other side, back to Graustark and North Blvd, paralleling my earlier route on South back to Poe Elementary. From there I headed back home the way I had come earlier that morning, stopping at an antique mall to check the wares it had set out, but otherwise with no digressions.

I had a good strong run overall and surprised myself by barely noticing the long uphill part of the bayou trail as I neared the bridge that would put me back on my side of Memorial Drive. Even so, I was glad to get home, ice down, take a shower and rub my legs down a bit. I'm glad Monday is my massage day. It's getting to be about that time.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 45 min core and strength training, 30 min elliptical
Tuesday: 45 min core and strength training, 15 min elliptical, 30 min run 8:30 pace
Wednesday: 45 min cycling - 1st 45 minutes of Spinervals 5.0 Mental Toughness, 1 mile treadmill at 8:00 pace
Thursday: 45 min core and strength training, 45 min elliptical (intervals)
Friday: 45 min core and strength training
Saturday: 14.5 mile long run

Monday, April 18, 2005

A charming companion Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wild Berries

Lately I've been making an effort to pay more attention to the plant life around the bayou when I go on my Saturday morning runs. I make a special point of seeing how many useful plants I can identify. So I was both surprised and pleased a couple weeks ago to notice some berries growing from the top of a tree as I was going across a bridge that happened to be at prime berry-growing level. I was examining them (not quite ripe) when a man I'd seen a bit further back ran past me and identified them for me: mulberries.

This weekend I was pleased to see that more of them were ripe, and I found several other places where they were growing. I'm debating if I want to go back and pick some and use them in a recipe. They're the all-sweet/no tang type of mulberries (I did a taste test), making them not so good for recipes unless I pair them with something tart, like maybe cranberries.

Anyway, I was musing on these sorts of thoughts as I was running yesterday, and my thoughts drifted back to about fifteen years ago when I went on a yoga retreat in New Mexico and found some wild berries.

The retreat location was a private property at about 9,000 feet. It was accessible only by four-wheel drive and bordered by Indian lands, a National Forest and the Pecos Wilderness. Get lost and you can be lost for a good long while because there are no other people around for miles. One of the first things you notice is that the ground doesn't look right. Upon closer inspection you realize that there is no litter anywhere. You can walk for days without finding so much as an old gum wrapper. It's tragic that such a state is remarkable these days, but there you are.

We quickly became a close-knit group on this retreat, even though most of us had never met before. When you're this far from civilization with only twenty other people, you become friends quickly. So one afternoon I was pondering what to do with my free afternoon, when a guy named Jeff invited me to go for a walk. His girlfriend Chris was a violinist with an audition coming up after the retreat was over, so she needed to spend the afternoon practicing.

So Jeff and I headed off into the woods. Even at the time it seemed a bit mad because instead of keeping to the logging trails, Jeff struck out for parts unknown. Being young and stupid, I just tagged along, even though I knew better than to stray from known trails and not mark the way back. We had a fine time for awhile, finding cold streams, strange birds, weird mushrooms and bushes full of ripe raspberries-- a good thing, since we had no food or water with us. (Bizarre to even think about, since I don't even run the local trails without water today.)

Toward late afternoon, I began to get worried. I had no idea where we were and although Jeff put up a good front, I had the impression he wasn't exactly sure, himself. Nights are cold up on a mountain, even in August. We were in shorts and the sun would be setting soon. We had nothing useful with us at all, really-- no matches, no compass, no way to signal for help.

So there we were, tramping along through a field of white flowers, when suddenly he stopped. "You hear that?" he asked.

I listened too, but heard nothing that seemed out of the ordinary.

"Come on," he said. He changed our course slightly and struck out at a quick pace.

About a minute later, he stopped and listened again. This time I could hear it, too. "What is it?" I asked.

Jeff was excited now. "It's Beth," he said. "Come on."

Beth was an opera singer in our group, and like Jeff's girlfriend, had chosen to spend the afternoon preparing for an upcoming audition. We hurried along now, nearly running, Beth's well-trained voice sounding louder and louder in our ears. She must've been about a mile from where we first heard her because it took us about fifteen minutes to reach her. Sound carries far in the thin mountain air. Finally we broke out of a clearing and found ourselves in familiar territory. And there was Beth, our savior, standing on a rock overlooking the valley, belting out an aria with gusto, a curious chipmunk at her feet.

Saved by opera.

And helped along by a few wild berries.


Who would've thought bread pudding could taste so damn good? I made it with a bit of old french bread but mostly with naan brought home from our favorite Indian restaurant. I wasn't sure if it would make good bread pudding, but there wasn't nearly enough french bread, so I had no choice but to proceed with my experiment. I used vanilla soy milk, eggs, cinnamon, a bit of brown sugar, stevia and raisins. Yes, it's the low-cal, organic version. Sue me. It's delish.

In other news, I spent the afternoon thrift store shopping and ended up making some serious charitable contributions. See, it's not "retail therapy" or "consumerism" when you shop the thrifts. The money you spend goes to charity, so go ahead and have some fun, no need to feel guilty! I came home with stacks of books, corning ware and designer clothes. I haven't had this good a haul in a long time. I did so well that I'm going to have to sort out some things to donate and consign next week, to make room for the new stuff.

The semester is quickly wrapping up and I'm finally taking some of the more mundane aspects of it seriously. (That's code for "I'm spending way too much time doing boring school stuff on the computer.") I'll be glad when this is over. And if our New Mexico vacation proves cheap, like we are hoping, and if Dan gets the promotion he's expecting in the fall, I can start resuming loan payments next year and not have to take classes unless I want to. And I do want to, just not six hours each semester. I'd rather just take one language or writing class, if anything, and not feel obligated if I decide to train for Ironman or something. I'd also like some time for more practical pursuits that will help me make better decisions about how I'm going to use the New Mexico land to best advantage. There's a lot that can be done out there, but since my uncle died this past winter, I'm having to face the reality that I can't just keep putting off getting to know this land, as if I'll have experienced family members around forever.

Which is a nice segue into some thoughts I had on my morning run regarding living off the land, balanced ecosystems, and getting lost on a mountaintop. I think I'll save all that for my next post, though. It's already pretty late and I have a lot to do in the morning... a morning which appears to be already here.

I wish I knew where my weekends went!

Recent Workouts
Monday: 45 minutes core and strength training
Tuesday: Tae Bo, 45 min elliptical
Wednesday: 45 minutes core and strength training, 15 min elliptical, 30 min run
Thursday: 45 minutes core and strength training, 45 min bike - Spinervals 3.0 Suffer-O-Rama
Friday: 45 minutes core and strength training
Saturday: 10 mile run

Friday, April 08, 2005

Just a bunny... Posted by Hello


When I was a kid in Indiana, some of my friends and I made our book collections into libraries, pasting little paper pockets into the backs of our books, making signout cards and then diligently writing down the names of the friends who borrowed them. I don't recall if we charged late fines, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if we did.

As I got older, the idea of having my own library continued to intrigue me. Not a lending library, but a whole room dedicated to books. Something like the John Quincy Adams library, except inside the house and not a standalone building.

I don't yet live in a place big enough to have my in-home dream library, so my always-growing collection fills the shelves as fast as I can aquire them and fills several big plastic bins as well. The whole apartment is a library! And because it's a library, when Dan mentioned needing to read a non-assigned book for his Chicano history class, I quickly produced half a dozen history/sociology texts as well as a novel and book of plays on the subject. If he were fluent in Spanish, I could've offered him more. And that was just with the books on shelves. If I had bothered to access the bins, there would've probably been even more. Odd, because Chicano history isn't even one of my main interests. Imagine what he would've gotten had he asked for something in Tudor, Roman, Renaissance or disease history. Early 20th century lit. Foreign languages. Medieval Latin, anyone? How about Thai? Or perhaps some Maoist propaganda in the original Chinese?

Wow. Here I am more than 30 years past the opening of my very first library, in the business of lending once again! I'm really rather surprised and pleased at the variety I have, so long as we stick to the humanities. Hmm... Bunny's Humanities Library. Nice ring to it, huh?

So now the big question: Do I charge my husband late fees?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Space Race

Today was the Space Race, a big event at NASA with 5K and 10K runs as well as bike rides ranging in distance from 10 to 100 miles. Dan and I dragged our time-change sleepy selves out of bed and headed out to the Johnson Space Center intending to do the 60 mile ride, but by the time we arrived we had decided on the 40 because Dan had some afternoon commitments and the Space Race routes have been known to be longer than advertised. A mile or two is one thing, but nearly 10?

So anyway, we arrived at the Space Center a bit after 7, parked, put our bikes together, grabbed our gear and headed to the registration tent. As it turned out, there were only two very slow lines for pre-paid registraion, and there were at least twenty people ahead of us in each line. Once we finally got our numbers, we found that we had to go to other tables for ride maps, safety pins, packets, etc. WTF? Dan went and got us some safety pins, I tried to get maps of the 40 mile route but they were out, and we both decided to skip the packets, even though they contained free passes to the Space Center. Funny how one rarely wants to do the touristy activities that are in one's own back yard.

By now it was eight o'clock and the 100 mile riders were being sent off. Since Dan needed to go back to the car, I went and got in line for the toilet. That took forever. It only added to the nuisance factor that there were people in line wearing street clothes. I hope they needed to go really bad, because here we all were missing our ride start and if the civilians just waited a little while, they'd have the toilets all to themselves.

We finally got started about quarter after eight, jumping into a passing peloton rather than going around to the official ride start. As it turned out, this group was doing the 60 mile route, which caused problems for me later.

We started out with a nice tailwind, so once we were clear of the slow people, I was able to cruise at 19 mph without any effort. The route was heavily suburban, as is typical for the Clear Lake/Webster area, but that was expected. I dropped Dan early on and cruised with some ride medics for awhile. They invited me to draft, but I really try to avoid drafting in training, since I can't draft in triathlons. I only draft in training if I'm suffering, and I was feeling pretty good today.

By process of elimination I was able to figure out that the unlabeled black arrows on the ride signs were for the 40 mile route. Even so, when the black arrows turned off the main route, I waited for someone to confirm that what I was doing was correct. And then I took off. Alone. Because I had been riding with the 60 and 80 milers all this time and the 40 milers were way behind.

In some ways this was very nice. I was able to cruise along without any slow fools in front of me forcing me off the shoulder and into traffic. I could move to the left of the shoulder to avoid debris and not worry that I was cutting off some speedster coming up behind me. But it also meant I had to pay more attention to signs and traffic than I would otherwise. Finally, I made a mistake. The route had dead-ened at a rest stop and I turned around, annoyed. I was skipping rest stops, dammit! I didn't want to end up at one! I headed back the way I had come and when I came to the light, I followed the other riders. Dumb move. As it turned out, they were from some other route, and I ended up back on the route I'd been before so that I essentially did an extra loop. I really don't know for sure how many miles this added because I forgot to set my bike computer at the ride start, but Dan and I both agreed later that this loop was about 10.

When I realized what I had done, I picked up my pace and blew through the rest of the course above 20 mph the whole way except for a stretch that was directly into a strong headwind. That part slowed me down into the high 15s until I got worried again about Dan waiting for me and I forced myself back up into the 16s and low 17s until we were out of the wind again. At one point we passed a speed monitoring system. I watched cars zoom past it, the sign flashing 46, 43, etc. I didn't really expect it to be able to read a bike's speed, but as I passed it, it flashed 23. I looked down at my bike computer. Yes, 23!

I finally turned into the Space Center and found our parking lot. Dan was waiting for me at the car and I tripped all over myself apologizing for keeping him waiting, until he told me he hadn't been there that long. He wasn't worried either, since he figured I must've missed the 40 mile turnoff and done the 60. Little did he realize! We spent much of the ride home trying to figure out how I could've made such a silly mistake. We stopped at Star Pizza on the way home and got some huge salads. Dan got some pizza, but I didn't need any.

Tonight we went for a little walk at Memorial Park, chatting about the weekend and our vacation plans. All seemed right with the world. I've made some meals for the week, my allergies aren't giving me any trouble tonight, and life is good.

This Week's Workouts
Monday: 45 minutes core and strength training, 45 minutes elliptical (slow because it was my massage day)
Tuesday: 45 minutes elliptical, intervals
Wednesday: 30 minutes elliptical, 20 minutes treadmill at 8 min/mile pace
Thursday: 45 minutes core and strength training, 45 minute bike, Spinervals 1.0 No Slackers Allowed
Friday: 45 minutes core and strength training
Saturday: 1 hour elliptical, 10 mile run
Sunday: 50 (?) mile ride, 3 mile walk