Category Archives: Uncategorized

A triumphant return to blogging

I’m going to be completely honest: I kind of forgot about my blog for three whole years.

But I’m back!

Things have changed since we last dined together (upon peaches in cassia syrup – yum!). The boyfriend I referenced so frequently in my posts is now the husband. Our daughter Jordana was born just over three months ago. I’m currently enrolled in graduate school and am earning my master’s in public health. Things are busy.

But I still have some time to cook!

I’m determined to keep this creative outlet going – if only because I recently got an email that the domain name just auto-renewed and I have another year of it.

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!

Running through the brick walls

The first real attempt at exercise after a long hiatus is always the toughest. This morning, I was reminded of that. Every single time I go months or years without running, I swear that it will be the last time I ever take such a long break. Running, after all, is an addictive mixture of pain and adrenaline; gasping and glory. Even if you take a few paces that feel like they must be your last, a few steps later you break through that brick wall and are flying high.

When I woke up this morning, the sky was clear and blue. The air outside was temperate. My GPS watch was charged and begging for action. There was no excuse: I needed to run. And for once I was feeling the motivation. I strapped on my heart rate monitor. I fastened my watch to my wrist. I donned my sweet Nike running shorts and Asics shoes with gel inserts. I was ready.
So was Riley, my dog. I strapped her into her little pink harness and brought her along.
We set out at an relaxed jog, Riley taking full advantage of the retractable lead to pause and sprinkle on every other driveway we passed. Five minutes went by in a breeze, feet bouncing easily off the pavement and air feeling abundant as I inhaled. Confident, I increased the pace. Then, things changed.
My heart rate monitor beeped at an alarming 180. To athletes, this would be no big deal; just a subtle reassurance that your body is doing what you should and that you’re getting exercise. But if you’ve been sedentary for a while, your heart reaching 180 beats per minute is a sign that something is seriously wrong. It is a reason to panic. My brain tried to convince my panicking senses that the world wasn’t ending. Slowing my pace a notch, I continued to run. With my brand-new trusty GPS watch, I plotted out a great loop. Only moderately hilly, this loop circles around my house and is exactly 1.23 miles long. Perfect for a beginner who doesn’t want to venture too far from home.
Well, after 32 minutes I’d run two laps, two and a half miles and had spent seven minutes doing intervals: one minute running, one minute jogging. My legs were cramping and my back felt sore. But at the same time, it felt amazing. And I know that the next time won’t hurt as badly, and I’ll be able to go just a little bit longer or a little bit faster. That’s all the motivation I need to get back out there tomorrow morning before work. That, and feeling just a little bit more fit ever since I did the run.
Yep, I just threw that out there onto the Internet to live forever. Tomorrow morning, a pre-work run. Maybe since I made it public, I’ll actually follow through with it!