Monthly Archives: February 2012

Quarter-century down

Best birthday ever!

After a mere month of blogging, things got busy and I forgot to keep it up. Not good. In my defense, it’s been somewhat of a crazy week. To begin: I turned 25 last Thursday. If I’d gotten my wishes, this would have been a completely forgettable occasion. Aging ceased being fun after the 21st birthday. However, my birthday ended up being a surprisingly great time.

After ringing things in at midnight on the 9th with some of my favorite people in the world, I was completely ready to leave work a little bit early the next day when Xavier asked me to. (I’m not a work-slacker; I had the flexibility to go after working long hours earlier in the week).

Here’s some context as to why this was the best birthday to ever take place in the history of all human birthdays. As you might know, pizza is my favorite food (see the slice ranking system on What I’m Reading Wednesdays). You also might know that I love making pizza at home. Using a combination of recipes from Jeff Varasano, Peter Reinhardt, and lots of my own trial and error, I make an edible pizza. Unfortunately, as many pizza addicts know, the 550-degree heat produced by home ovens cannot come close to reproducing the magical pies that a 1000-degree wood-fired oven makes. It’s always been my dream to try making pizza in an oven like that – or better yet, to have one in my backyard!

Since we don’t have a 1000-degree oven, we often go out for pizza, and the place we go most often is Antico. Antico cannot be beaten for convenience, deliciousness, and the BYOB factor. Where else can you and your date arrive with your own bottle of wine (or a couple of beers), have a freshly-made pizza at your table in less than five minutes, stuff yourselves silly for $20 total, and have leftovers to spare? While we do love other pizzerias around Atlanta (Varasano’s in particular), for those reasons we find ourselves in Antico at least once a week.

Anyway, Xavier had told me in the morning that we were heading to Antico later. When he picked me up from work, he told me the surprise: he had arranged it so that I would be making our pizza! By the time we got to the restaurant, I could hardly breathe from excitement. But somehow, with the help of the awesome guys who work there, I managed to make a margherita pie with pepperoni. They even let me slide it into the oven from the peel, which I did with remarkable success, if I do say so myself. (It didn’t stick at all!). Xavier filmed everything, so there aren’t many photos, but here are some.

Me holding my pie, making weird face. Flour on my shirt? Comes with the territory.
Close up of the final product

I am so grateful to have an amazing boyfriend who is thoughtful enough to arrange such an amazing surprise for me! Seriously, what did I ever do to deserve him? Between him, my friends who came to dinner later, and the guys at Antico who made everything happen, there are some awesome people in my life. I’m a lucky girl.

Between stuffing myself with pizza and receiving not one but two birthday cakes (ice cream AND cookie – yeah, did I mention that I’m a lucky girl?), my fitness regimen fell to the wayside for a few days. But I have exciting news to report. After months of agonizing and weeks of seeking out options, we have finally joined a fitness facility. Best of all, it’s better than any gym we could have imagined – it’s the biggest rock-climbing gym in the country!

Stone Summit Climbing and Fitness Center
Our new gym has 30,000 square feet of indoor climbing surface. It also has a full workout facility, where the machines have individual TVs! Furthermore, they offer classes: spin, pilates, abs, etc. So now I have a place for cardio when the weather’s not conducive to a run or bike. All of that climbing will help to tone and maintain great physical shape; during our visit, I loved that the clientele was overwhelmingly thin and muscular. If we work out there with regularity, I can only assume that we’ll join their ranks soon! And the best part? The membership cost was considerably less than any other facility we looked into. Jackpot.
An added benefit of the new gym is that it’s going to help me overcome my crippling, overpowering fear of heights. When we went this weekend, just looking at the walls was terrifying and made me want to cry. But after a few attempts, I scaled my way to the top of some of the bouldering walls! Not the ones you see in the  previous photos, but the smaller ones in the bouldering room.
Bouldering room

The bouldering room doesn’t look intimidating, but it’s scary because climbers aren’t hooked up to any ropes. If you fall, you fall. Granted, the floor is soft and bouncy, but if you’re scared of heights, just being off the ground is enough to incite a stress reaction. On our second trip yesterday evening, I managed to overcome my fear enough to work up a real sweat tackling the climbs. There are some seriously challenging courses in that little room. My fear of heights still prevails, though – once I reach the top of the wall, all I can do is slap the taped-on target and then I shimmy down as fast as humanly possible. Today, I’m legitimately sore. It’s a good feeling.

So please pardon my absence from blogging, as this has been a pretty great week. I promise to make it a point to write more often!

Once a coxswain, always a coxswain

As a real coxswain: winning NY States in ’06

So, let’s get the good news out of the way first: I ran 10 – yes, ten – miles this week. For the first time since I set a goal of running four 30-minute sessions per week, I actually accomplished it.  I know there are people who run 10 miles in a single session, and I applaud you people. Maybe someday I’ll join you. But for now, coming back from a long hiatus, four 2.5-mile runs this week feels pretty awesome. I wanted to start slow so I could strengthen my back before getting into longer runs. This is critical since I tend to throw out my back like it’s my job, especially when I don’t run for a while and then bust out a super-intense five-miler. The slow approach seems to be working well, and I haven’t had any back pain.

Now let’s get the bad news out there: I think I ruined someone’s day today.

Here’s what happened. I was running my standard lap, the 1.25 mile loop around my house and the surrounding neighborhood. Long enough to keep things interesting, close enough to return home should I experience cramps, thirst, or tears. As I approached a crossroads with the main street, I saw two girls. They were jogging together, not quickly, and they made a left onto the road that I was following. No big deal. Then, at my snail’s pace, I began to gain on them from behind. This was slightly annoying. For some reason I felt weird about passing them, probably because I have lots of deep-seated doubts about my abilities as a runner. We began ascending a hill. About twenty meters up, one of the girls slowed her jog to a walk. Since I was going strong, I knew I was going to pass her fast.

But once a coxswain, always a coxswain. Despite the fact that I wasn’t thinking clearly (all the blood was rushing to my legs and lungs to fuel the run, my brain left completely out of the circulatory loop), I decided that I’d try to motivate her as I ran by. This was a perfect stranger. Now that I’m safely ensconced in my home office and my run is over, I have no idea what I was thinking, except I felt really guilty about going past someone who was having a hard time and wanted to show some encouragement.

So as I ran by her I yelled “You got this!” She kind of jumped, looked at me, and laughed awkwardly – you know, a standard reaction when a stranger screams at you in the street. Then she said “Oh, I’m so out of shape.”

I replied in a ragged gasp – “You can still do it! This is only my fourth run back out.” Intending to convey, of course, that she could just try really hard and run through the pain. But what I actually conveyed was something along the lines of ‘haha, I’m so awesome and I’m going to rub it in!’ I knew that as soon as she looked at me with something between horror and annoyance, and felt so bad. Instead of stopping to explain, though, I ran away. Because I was running. And it felt like a good out.

Girl-who-was-jogging-slash-walking-around-Piedmont-Heights today, if you ever read this, I’m sorry. I was just trying to help.

My outburst gave me something to cringe over and consider as I finished the run. The years of rowing definitely contributed a lot to how I exercise. It’s ingrained in me to always finish strong on a workout, ending in exhaustion. And I’m completely obsessed with my Garmin Forerunner, of which my coach was quite a fan. The technology has really moved forward in just the last five years. My college rowing Forerunner was a giant brick that strapped onto your wrist and prevented any hand movement, much like a splint. My grown-up Forerunner is a pretty gray and pink watch that allows me to hold Riley’s leash, daintily wave ‘thanks’ to cars that let me pass, and re-tie my hair. Victory, 2012.

Tomorrow is Sunday and I’m going to attempt three laps, that means four whole miles. Will update if I’m still alive. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

What I’m Reading Wednesday: 2/1/2012

Today’s book: “Gabby” by Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords

This was the first book I read in a while that I really, truly enjoyed. Despite being incredibly sad, the story was inspirational and uplifting.

If you follow the news at all, you’ve heard of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Last January, she was holding a Congress on your Corner event in her home state of Arizona when a mentally disturbed man opened fire. Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head at close range. She survived, but with grave critical injuries. And horribly, six people were killed.

This book is the memoir of Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly. Kelly wrote most of the book, which talks about everything from the couples’ childhoods to careers to how they met and fell in love. Of course, he also discusses what their lives have been like since that fateful day.

To be honest, I got this book along with several others and didn’t think I’d be very interested in it. But the storytelling is addictive. Readers are hooked by the drawn-out retelling of the shooting and Giffords’ recovery, interspersed with information about the couples’ pasts. It’s emotional and uplifting; you put the book down feeling like you really got something out of it.

By the end, we are amazed at the magnitude of Giffords’ recovery; I just wanted to fly to Houston and give her a giant hug and high five. Also, not knowing much about politics, the book offered a new perspective of how legislators make and vote on laws. Since it just came out that she will be resigning her position in Congress, this book makes the announcement particularly sad. Giffords was in the midst of an enviable life as an enamored wife, an admirable politician, and a hopeful mother – and it was all disrupted by the actions of one incredibly disturbed young man. However, her story is inspirational to everyone. It also made me want to become an astronaut; Mark Kelly’s recounting of space travel is pretty exciting.

Bottom line: Close to a must-read.
7/8 slices.

Looking for something to read? Get advice from other What I’m Reading Wednesdays:

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell
11/22/63 by Stephen King

Dealing with procrastination

On Monday night, I wrote about my first real run in months or years. Feeling great, I swore that I would wake up early the next morning and go for another long run. Oh, wishful thinking. The bad news? I didn’t wake up for a morning run yesterday. The alarm went off at seven. When I opened my eyes, I was blinded by a headache. I groaned, hit snooze, and rolled back over. The next time my eyes opened was eight, whereupon I woke up, popped some Advil, and went to work as usual.

On the bright side, though, I didn’t let my morning failure turn into an all-day setback. When I got home from work, I was determined to make up for the AM lapse, and I did. The run – same route – was harder the second time around. I’d had a large, late lunch, and felt sluggish from a long, tiring day. But I finished! And after just three days of exercise (did I write about our bike ride on Saturday?) I already feel physically better. I have more energy, and I swear my work slacks are fitting just a tiny bit looser.

After extended periods of inactivity, it always amazes me that working out provides such drastic and immediate effects. It’s great motivation to keep going. It’s also great motivation to eat better. In general, I try to eat well. I’ve been known to substitute a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for a meal every now and then, or splurge on french fries. But after putting in a great workout, the junk food is much less tempting. I want to make the most of the work that I’ve put in, and I’m desperate to see real changes in my body and fitness levels.

This brings me to an important point: how will I measure my results? I haven’t been posting about my specific weight or anything like that. The truth is, I hate getting technical. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers on the scale and lose the point: to be healthier. Discussions with others about weight escalate quickly to, “But I weigh ***. how can you complain about being so much less than that?” Well, for one, I’m five feet tall; my healthy weight is different than that of women eight inches taller. The most important thing to me is how my clothes fit. It’s easy to blame the clothes dryer for shrinking my jeans, but the truth is, it’s probably my waist that’s growing. The biggest issue for me is being able to wear all of my clothes. We have three scales in the house, but maybe one works. I’m going to start tomorrow morning and weigh myself once a week. The plan is to lose ten pounds by March 15. That’s six weeks. Two pounds a week should be a simple, healthy goal if I stay focused.

Here we go!