Friday, November 30

Weekly roundup

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!

Before we get to the good stuff, I should let you all know that my ugly "why am I doing this?" running face has been immortalized on Seriously Ugly Race Pics!
What was I thinking?
This might be the highlight of my running career! And speaking of running careers...

Radcliffe running retirement

Paula Radcliffe is still recovering from foot surgery and may have to retire her elite running career. But she's not ready to hang up her shoes just yet. She tells The Daily Mail that she'd like to keep running with her kids, even when she's not racing anymore.
(Warning - The Daily Mail article contains foot surgery photo, not for the squeamish.)

What does a runner look like?

"I don't look like a runner."

How many times have I said this? How many times have you said this?

In fact, I'll go so far as to admit that on at least two separate occasions other runners have told me that I don't "look like a runner." (Didn't their mothers teach them the rule "If you don't have anything nice to say...?")

In this month's issue, Women's Running magazine tackles the notion of what a runner looks like. The answer: there isn't one. A runner is a runner. Period.

Stressed? Go outside and play.

Being outdoors can lower your blood pressure and stress levels. Researchers are working to document a phenomenon that runners have known about for decades.

Also this week XLMIC reminds us that running is an outdoors sport, which (while often stress-relieving) sometimes means racing in rain, wind, snow, or hot-and-humid fog as thick as pea soup (see photo above).

Attack turkeys!

If you're going to be outdoors for stress relief, avoid the town of Brookline, MA, where turkeys turned the tables on their human neighbors. Repeated turkey attacks have been reported.

I suppose pardoning one isn't enough to convince the fighting fowl that we come in peace...
Image source
(I see two pardoned turkeys in this photo...)

Quote of the week:
"...looking like a runner is a fantasy. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. We’re short, tall, thick and skinny. We’re 85-year-old grandmas; we’re 6-month pregnant moms-to-be; we’re thousands of women lacing up our shoes for the very first time. If you run, you are a runner"
Jessie Sebor, Women's Running magazine

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, November 29

Thursday thanks - 20 things

I'm a little saddened by the #20things (I don't like) phenomenon trending on Twitter. Why focus on the negative? I greatly prefer the #5things (I find attractive), but why stop at only 5?

In response, here are 20 things I'm thankful for today:
  1. Hot showers
  2. Cool weather (perfect for running!)
  3. Good books (just started Slaughterhouse-Five last night. So tragic, but such brilliant writing!)
  4. My runstreak
  5. Hot coffee with hazelnut milk (not hazelnut creamer, though I wouldn't turn that away either!)
  6. The Daily Show
  7. Day trips to explore new state parks
  8. The pile of beach sand on the floor of my car
  9. "Toes in sand. Nose in book. Life is good"
    Sign seen at a gift shop in St. Augustine
  10. Peanut butter
  11. The end of the semester (which is always bittersweet, but there's such a feeling of success from wrapping up 16 weeks of instruction)
  12. Weeknight dinners with Hubby
  13. The smell of pine trees
  14. 3-mile runs (my favorite distance. period.)
  15. When one of my Examiner articles gets promoted
  16. Pedicures
  17. Being running-injury free
  18. An auto mechanic who will fix anything that goes wrong with my car and return the car to me the same day without charging me a small fortune (seriously it's like I found a previously unknown species of animal)
  19. Great blogs
  20. Comfortable running shorts
  21. Good friends and family

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 28

Sleep in

One of the things I love (and miss) about San Diego is the daily surf report broadcast on local radio stations. My favorite is the FM 949 "Authentic Surf Report," hosted by a surfer known as "Bird."
Image source

Not being a surfer, I always listened for the "small" surf days. Bad surf reports were my cue to get to the beach before sunset. Ankle-slappers equate to perfect conditions for snorkeling or kayaking - my watersports of choice.

When I was in San Diego for work a couple of weeks ago, I flipped on the radio in my hotel room just in time to hear the day's report.

With a prediction of small, choppy waves, conditions were not looking good for surfers. The announcer's advice:

Sleep in, go to work early, or do something more constructive.

The comment made me smile. I'm not even really sure why...

Maybe it was the acknowledgement that runners and surfers are in the same boat because our passions aren't seen as productive. (Though I beg to differ with that common assessment!)

Maybe it was the feeling of a common bond, since surfers (like runners) will set an early alarm clock and bound out of bed at dawn just to carve out an extra hour of time for their sport.

Either way, the "sleep in" comment made my day.

It's just too bad I couldn't clear my afternoon calendar to go kayaking.

What personal passion keeps you from sleeping in?

Tuesday, November 27

Balancing act

Five weeks...
Five-weeks le-eft!
(Sung in the key of that horribly annoying Subway jingle. You're welcome.)

There are 5 weeks until the calendar rolls over to a new year, so it's 2012 goal crunch-time.

If you've been keeping score, you know that the goals I'm trying to juggle between now and year-end are:

Yes. I know that list sounds a tad overzealous for a five week timeline.

Until straining my calf and dealing with the Summer of Plantar Fasciitis, I was kicking half marathon butt and taking names. Then racing came to a screeching halt, as did my pace. After being sidelined for weeks, it took me nearly two months to rebuild my endurance. I even sat out a half marathon that was within a stones-throw of my house because I was still in recovery mode.
Image source

Now, in what might be an insane balancing act, I'm trying to tackle all four major - and sometimes competing - fitness goals in the remaining five weeks of the year.

Ramping up my mileage and trying to whittle down my pace at the same time is something I've never tried before. In my more-than-a-decade-long running history, I've spent whole years focusing on one or the other. Never both.

This will either be a beautiful experiment in balance or a spectacular failure.

Fortunately, if my latest 5k is any indication, the run-streak and speed goals are working nicely together. My one-mile days seem to be functioning as speedwork in disguise, since I tend to push the pace when I have "only" one mile to run.

The result: last week's 24:48 Turkey Trot is my fastest 5k of the year, and leaves me with only a 49 second gap to reach my goal. With another 5k on my calendar, I have one more shot. I might not break 24 minutes, but I'll end the year close!

What I'm more worried about is trying to also squeeze 2 half marathons into the final weeks of 2012.

To put it bluntly: my shorter distance goals are not playing nice with half marathon training.

Case in point: I planned one last long run this weekend before my first December half marathon, but my legs were sore and weak from Thursday morning's Turkey "trot." (Trying to break the 24 minute barrier hardly counts as a "trot" for me this year.) Rather than risk injury, I postponed my long run until Monday - which meant taking an extra long lunch break from work to get my miles in during daylight hours.

The result: This week's long run was a harried effort that was not properly fueled and didn't reach the distance I should have hit. (I had a conference call to get back to!) I'm going into my next half marathon with an adequate (barely), but not an excellent, base of training.

So... I'll shuffle my way through half marathon #4... but #5?

At this point, I'd be running another 13.1 just to run it. I certainly will be in no shape to race two halfs in December, at least not if I plan to really race another 5k. I'll be worn out for one or both.
Image source

Is it worth it?
Isn't a goal just an arbitrary target?
Should I run if I can't race?

I've spent far too much time tweaking my training calendar, surfing for nearby races or virtual races, and trying to craft a delicate balance between all of these competing goals.

Maybe I should round out my New 2 U Cross Training Challenge with some sort of gymnastics / balancing workout to complete the metaphor?

(Full disclosure: In the final analysis, I'm strongly leaning toward just running 13.1 miles on my own on December 31st and calling that close enough. No race. Just a nice long half-marathon distance run.)

What would you do?
How are you doing on your 2012 goal list?

Monday, November 26

Morning... err.. motivation?

Good morning y'all!

The days are getting shorter. The holiday season is upon us (read: our to-do lists are getting longer). And the "how hard do I have to scramble to fulfill all of my 2012 goals?!" panic is setting in.

So screw motivation.
Let's start out Monday with a laugh:

Source: via Jenessa on Pinterest

What goals are left on your 2012 list?

Saturday, November 24

Gifts that won't wind up in a landfill

If you're tired of all of the Black Friday shenanigans of ever-earlier store openings and the never-ending competition to find The Perfect Gift, I have an antidote:
Make it,
buy it local,
or gift an experience instead of an item.
I got inspired to write this list when I was brainstorming a "gifts that need no wrapping" article for

For the runner in your life, consider gifting:
  • Entry into a race the runner wants to run, but hasn't registered for
  • Homemade protein bites, or other post-race recovery treat
  • Sessions with a running coach

For the hiker or trail-runner in your life, consider gifting:
  • A national parks pass or state parks pass
  • Homemade granola
  • A charitable donation, in the person's honor, to a wilderness preservation organization

For any fitness-minded friends and family, consider gifting:
  • Gym membership
  • Sessions with a personal trainer
  • A massage
  • Classes at a local yoga or pilates studio
  • A gift certificate to the person's favorite healthy restaurant

The moral of this story: It is possible to give someone a meaningful, thoughtful gift that won't end up in a landfill. And all of these gifts are virtually guaranteed to fit, require no gift-wrapping, and don't involve fighting through holiday shopping crowds. Win-win-win!

What clever can't-be-wrapped gifts have you given or gotten over the years?

Friday, November 23

Cross training grand slam

The whole point of Kim's New 2 U Cross Training Challenge is to break out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in ways you didn't think possible.

Since high school I've though of myself as completely uncoordinated when it comes to sports. (That's why I'm a runner! No catching required!)

As a child, I lacked both balance and depth perception. It wasn't until I reached my mid-20s that was I finally diagnosed with astigmatism - an eye condition easily correctable with glasses. Unfortunately, the belief that I'm just "bad" at ball-sports stuck even after my vision improved.

So when Hubby proposed tennis as a new sport, I balked.

The last time I swung a racquet was in the mid 1990s. I launched my tennis ball high over the court's fence and into a thicket of poison ivy. Oops.

I had tried once. That was enough. I needn't play again.

But then our family sent Hubby a set of tennis racquets for his birthday. (Damn their meddling gifts!)

Shiny new tennis racquet and ball
I pleaded to play a few practice rounds in an empty parking lot. I would not embarrass myself by launching my serves into a neigbhoring court on my very first try. I knew that if I had a bad first outing, I really never would try again.

So practice in a parking lot we did.

I had a few doosies of shots that rolled off into the bushes, and I whiffed more than once. (I snorted with laughter over some of my worst misses.) But over time our serves and volleys got cleaner.

Today we stepped up into the big league.

We went to the city courts, which are usually full at all hours of the day, all days of the week.

Ok... ok... I'll admit, I didn't really want to go. I wanted one more parking lot practice run. I could have kept playing "tennis" in a parking lot for the rest of my life and have gone to my deathbed without any regrets. (Tennis is that far outside of my comfort zone.)

Fortunately it's Black Friday, and the courts were mercifully empty.

Completely and totally empty. (Sigh of relief!)

Empty tennis courts
We played for an hour. While plenty of my shots were messy, no balls were lost, no bypassers were struck, and no bones were broken. Grand slam!

My only remaining problem is: if I'm going to play, it seems I'll eventually need to learn the rules, and they're bloody confusing.

A first score is worth 15 points, the second worth 15, and then... 10? What?! Who does this math? Why not 1, 2, and 3? And what's wrong with zero - why do we have to call that "love?" I suppose it's more polite than saying 15-loser, or 15-you-suck. But "love?"

Tennis terms may never make sense to me, but at least I can no longer say "I just can't play."

Are you a tennis player?
Is there a sport you think you "just can't" play?

Weekly roundup: Thanksgiving leftovers

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck! This week we're trying to figure out what to do with all those leftovers, and how to avoid getting trampled by a stampede of shoppers at the mall...

Funny, but sadly true...

Source: via Beth on Pinterest

Attitude of Gratitude

Black Friday insanity aside, practicing thankfulness may reduce stress and signs of depression. Check out SUAR's post for some tips on how to be grateful, even when you don't feel like it.

Celebrate by streaking!

Last year Runner's World started a new holiday tradition: the Holiday Run Streak - run at least 1 mile, each day, between American Thanksgiving and the New Year.

I did it before.

And I'm streaking again.

Except this year I started before Halloween. Yesterday's Turkey Trot was day 27 in my streak, and I ran 24:48.

Tired of turkey?

If you have 20 pounds of poultry left from your 25-pound bird, first of all... you're not alone. Americans toss nearly one third of the turkey they buy for the holidays.

If you're looking for creative ways to use your leftovers, has an interactive Thanksgiving Leftovers (survival) guide. It's like an Extreme Makover: Poultry Edition.

Myth-busters: Thanksgiving Edition

Some of what we (think we) know about America's biggest holiday isn't quite right. National Geographic debunks some of the biggest Thanksgiving myths.

Quote of the week:
"It's not happy people who are thankful. It's thankful people who are happy."

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, November 22

Giving thanks

Still life with winter squash
Thursday Thanks is on vacation this week while I spend time being thankful for good food, good friends, good health, and all of the many other little bits of luck in my life.

Some days life is so good you don't want to spend the time writing it down, so...

To my American readers:

I hope your Thanksgiving is that good.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

To my other readers:

I hope your week is full of delights big and small.

To all:

May your holidays be happy and may your plate be full.

Wednesday, November 21

Things I'm baking for Thanksgiving

This year I'm not hosting Thanksgiving, which always makes me a little sad. I enjoy the bustle of activity in my kitchen starting at least two days before the big feast.

That said, it is also nice to just sit back and relax... I can sip wine and watch football while kind hosts do all the heavy lifting. (That's something to be thankful for!)

So this year all I'm on the hook for is the contribution of a few side dishes.

I've decided to go with some tried-and true recipes, and to tackle one new dish.


Cranberries waiting to turn into delicious chutney
I like the rich Thanksgiving dishes as much as anyone else, but my Thanksgiving meal isn't complete without a heaping helping of homemade pear-and-cranberry chutney. (The tart-er, the better!)

My recipe is simple...
Pear and Cranberry Chutney
Rinse and pick through a 1-pound bag of cranberries, discarding any bad berries.
Dice 2 ripe pears
Add fruit and 1/4 cup of wine* to a medium-sized pot.
Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries start to pop. (If the chutney gets too dry, add another 1/4 cup of wine.)
Once the berries have all burst, add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to the mixture.
Taste test, and adjust the seasoning by adding more sugar until you achieve the desired level of sweetness.
*Sweet white works best. Orange juice is a successful substitute.

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts with pecans

Another dish I tested out last year, and plan to make again, is roasted brussels sprouts with pecans.

I like the brussels dish both with pecans and with pancetta.

I'm not sure which variation I'll make this year. That will be a game-day decision...

Pumpkin Cheesecake

You can keep your pies. My favorite Thanksgiving dessert is pumpkin-pecan cheesecake with a gingersnap crust.

While I don't fancy myself much of a baker (I'm more of a pinch-of-this, dash-of-that cook), cheesecake is surprisingly easy to make. Even I, who often feels completely inept when it comes to following precise measurements required for baking, can handle the recipe.

Pumpkin pecan cheesecake
As for the fancy-looking pattern, even that's easy. Mix all of the ingredients except the pumpkin. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the mixture, then mix the pumpkin in with the rest of the batter. Fill the crust with the pumpkin mixture, as directed. Pour the 1/2 cup of no-pumpkin mixture on top, and drag the tip of a knife through the filling to make the "swirls."

I could - quite literally - eat an entire cheesecake all by myself this weekend.

In fact...

Our hosts might wind up with store-bough pumpkin pie.

The cheesecake stays home.


In addition to the tried-and-true side dishes, this year I'm going to attempt to re-create a recipe I had while I was in Atlanta last month: Aunt Fannie's summer squash casserole.

I'm swapping panko for the saltines, but several variations on Aunt Fannie's recipe suggest that breadcrumbs are an acceptable substitute for the cracker crumbs.

With half a cup of butter, the squash casserole hardly counts as a healthy side dish, but that's why I'm Turkey Trotting before the meal... right?

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Tuesday, November 20

Postcards from Torreya State Park

Greetings from Torreya State Park!
It took me awhile to figure out how to find the best local hiking and trail-running trails in Northwest Florida. Unlike in southern California, there's no Jerry Schad publishing detailed field guides of every mile of fire road and singletrack.

Fortunately a few resources are filling in the many gaps* in my local knowledge. I will forever be thankful to the Florida Trail Association, Northwest Florida Outdoor Adventure, Florida State Parks, and Florida Adventurer (among others) for their efforts in documenting local parks and trails.

One of the names that appears over and over again in local hiking reviews is Torreya State Park.
Torreya State Park
So when Hubby and I were driving home from Tallahassee, we decided to take a detour through the park.

The park has well-maintained picnic areas with running water and flush toilets. Trails are well marked with blue or orange blazes. (Orange is the outer loop trail. Blue denotes the connector trails between the loop and various parking, picnic, and camping areas. See map below.) And there are plenty of guidepost signs along the route, as well.
Guideposts on the trail at Torreya SP
The trails range from wide and well-worn paths to narrow and slightly overgrown trails. I did some trail running on the wider, flatter paths, but some sections of the trail were tree-rooted ankle-twisters, so this was more of a hike than a run.
Trail at Torreya SP
We startled some wildlife...
Can you spot the deer in this photo?
... but once they realized we were harmless hikers, they went right back to grazing.

The trail skirts a section of the Apalachicola River, but the bluffs are too steep to make riverbank hiking an option.
Apalachicola River
Another key feature of the park is preservation of Confederate history. I'll be honest when I say that I'm not at all comfortable with seeing signs of the nation's bloodiest war and it's slave-owning past.
Marker explaining the Confederate history of the park
Prior to our visit, I did not know about the historical significance of the park, so the signs came as a bit of a shock to me.
Confederate Gun Emplacement
That said, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps it's better to remember our unpleasant history than to pretend it never happened...

Either way, Gregory House, partway through the hike, makes a nice place to stop for lunch or refill a water bottle.
Gregory House
The views from Gregory House are pretty, too.
Apalachicola River, view from Gregory House
I can see why Torreya is on every hiker's must-see list.

One final note about hiking in northwest Florida...
Every Florida State Park I've been to stocks trail maps in kiosks within the park. Unfortunately the maps are generally not available for download from the state park website, which makes pre-hike planning a bit problematic.

So, here's my contribution to local hiking information: The Torreya State Park Trail Map.
Torreya State Park Trail Map

What's your favorite hiking trail?
How do you find out about places to hike or trail run?

*Full disclosure: I still don't feel as confident in the woods here as I did in Southern California, but it's only been two years. I trekked my way through the Southern California backcountry for a decade. After 10 years anything becomes routine.

Monday, November 19

Morning motivation

Yesterday morning, my training calendar mocked me from the refrigerator door.
"Run!" It said.
"My legs are tired!" I replied.
"Run!" It repeated.
"I hiked all afternoon yesterday. I should reschedule." I whined.
But after much hemming and hawing, I pulled on a pair of running shorts and a sports bra, grabbed my sunglasses, and sat on the bottom step of my hallway stairs, staring at my shoes. I checked email. I Tweeted. I read a news article. In short, I procrastinated.

And still the shoes sat there.
There is an expression among even the most advanced runners that getting your shoes on is the hardest part of any workout.
Kathrine Switzer
Finally, I decided that I'd go out and run for 15 minutes.* Just 15 minutes. If my legs truly felt worn out, I could postpone my 2-hour long run by a day. If, however, the legs felt good, I'd keep going and wouldn't come home until at least 120 minutes passed.

I'm sure you know where this is going, but 15 minutes into the run, I realized I felt fine. A little tired. A little hungry. But fine. No pain. No soreness. No lead legs.

I ran for the whole two hours, and celebrated with a long, hot shower, and a gigantic post-run brunch.

My mind nearly prevented me from going on what was a very successful long run. My mind thought "two hours" and balked, because that seemed so... l o n g. But when I broke the task up into just a small first step, and then a few more, it didn't seem so bad after all.

I wonder, if I stayed home, would I have the same feeling of accomplishment?
(Probably not.)
Would I have felt like a wuss?

The moral of this story:
Get out the door. Some days that's the hardest part.

Source: via Beth on Pinterest

What motivates you when you need an extra push?

*A Twitter nudge from @TheStoutRunner and a Facebook comment from Erica helped with my motivation. True story.

Saturday, November 17

More races should...

I just signed up for a half marathon (USATF certified course) that wow-ed me with a couple of features:

Cost: Only $25 (For non-members of the running club. Members get an extra discount.)
In an era when Runner's World has entire articles devoted to justifying the sky-high cost of mega-marathons, it's good to know that there are still plenty of races left that don't cost a week's worth of minimum-wage work.

Goodies: Just the basics.
The entry fee covers the cost of the race, food, and a t-shirt.
In fact, a "no t-shirt" option saves runners another $5. So, I only paid $20 for this half, and that price is available to everyone. I did not get any blogger-review behind-the-scenes discounts. (At only $20 who needs a discount?!)

Starting time: 8:30am
Oh my god I don't need to wake up at 4 in the morning to race!
What a novel concept!
I think I'm in love!

Awards: No finisher medals.
There are awards for the fleetest three men and women. That's it.
Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I really do love back-to-the-basics races that focus on a good run and a good meal afterward. Skipping the bling helps to keep the cost down, and I don't keep race medals anyway...

Now, granted, I haven't run the race yet. It might be a total mess. But I suspect that the running club in charge knows what they're doing. This race has a no-frills focus on running.

In my humble opinion, more races should follow this lead.

Pin bib. Run. Check finish time. Eat. Done.


Do you run for the bling?
Or do you prefer the no-frills alternatives?

Friday, November 16

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!
This week we're running and eating our way through the week's news...

Marathon love

A Huntsville couple gave new meaning to the phrase "runaway bride" as they completed their wedding vows during a half marathon.

And... in case you missed it earlier this week, an Army Sgt. who had just returned from a 10-month deployment to Afghanistan surprised his wife by arriving home in time to greet her at the end of the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. (Veterans Day, indeed!)
Image source

More sweet treats...

The pumpkin french toast recipe from Eat, Play, Love had me drooling on my keyboard...
Image source

Catch phrase!

If you've ever been annoyed by Guy Fieri's backwards sun glasses, catch-phrases, and glorification of flavorless greasy-spoon food, the New York Times review of his new restaurant is for you.

Priceless quote (one of many):
Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?
I was particularly insulted by Fieri's abuse of Rhode Island calamari... a dish near and dear to my New England-born heart.

Guy's response? He said the reviewer went into the restaurant with an agenda...

Speaking of writing about food... 

Epicuriosities post about "why you should not become a food blogger" rang true.

Replace "food" with "running" and "free meals" with "free shoes" to get sound advice for what you can expect out of writing a running blog, too.

Feasting on Thanksgiving

I'm not sure how I feel about veggieducken - the vegetarian alternative to turducken. I am a fan of making sure vegetarian guests get to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. I am not a fan of turkey (you could ditch the bird at my dinner, and I'd never miss it). So this should be a trend I'd support.

Image source
And, really, for all the work and cooking time involved in creating this stuffed, vegetarian homage to John Madden's favorite Thanksgiving dish, wouldn't it just be easier to serve baked squash, candied sweet potatoes, and stuffing?

If you've tried veggieducken, and it's awesome, and I'm totally wrong, please let me know!

Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm not a fan of stuffing (or dressing, or whatever you call it). But Real Simple's mix-and-match stuffing recipes look too good to not try at least one. (Fig and pine nut, anyone?)

Quote of the week:
"If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world."
J.R.R. Tolkien

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, November 15

Thursday thanks

Last Saturday night I walked off an airplane and drove home, finishing my 6th week of back-to-back out-of-town trips and my 7th week out of 8 of spending at least one night away from home.

Having my own bed, my own pillow, my own coffee mug never felt so good.

(And, I'm not gonna' lie, it was pretty nice to end that whirlwind of travel and know that I get to spend every day of the next month with Hubby and Peanut, too.)

On Sunday I slept in, stayed in my PJs for most of the day, and puttered around the house doing things like laundry and enjoying a leisurely breakfast at my own kitchen table. (I did get out of the house long enough to keep my running streak alive, but just barely.)

I love my wandering lifestyle, but I've never been so happy to be home in my life.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, November 14

Maps for runners

Happy Geography Awareness Week and Happy GIS Day!

Yes, folks. I know I'm a geek...
But what sociologist/runner/traveler wouldn't be lost without maps?

As one of the lone remaining Garmin-free runners, I use MapPedometer to log my miles. I enjoy clicking and zooming around a neighborhood rather than standing in a parking lot, holding my wrist up to the sky, hoping for a signal. (That said, if Santa bought me a GPS watch for the holidays, I wouldn't turn it away...)

I also keep track of all the places I've run using Trip Advisor's pin map.

Another tool I turn to, especially when I'm looking for a running route in an unfamiliar city, is MapMyRun. I prefer the simplicity (read: fewer advertisements!!!) of MapPedometer's interface for map distance measures, but MapMyRun's online tool also allows users to search through a database of routes that have been logged by others.

Similarly, USATF route maps allows you to map your own route, or to search a database of existing running routes. However, USATF has a significantly more advanced query system, compared with MapMyRun, that allows a user to search by running surface, route rating, and other important criteria.

And somewhat less technically useful, but much more aesthetically pleasing is Nike+ data from Manhattan that show runner's favorite routes around Central Park:

Nike+ City Runs from yesyesno on Vimeo.

What mapping tools do you use?

Tuesday, November 13

Seen on the run (San Diego edition)

Have you ever witnessed a string of events that leave you scratching your head thinking:
"Hmm... Did I miss a memo, or has the whole world lost it's mind?"
On a handful of runs through downtown San Diego, I witnessed the following:

While heading out of my hotel for an early morning run, I passed a stumbling-drunk bunch of young'uns.* One of the women, barefoot but still in a brilliant red evening gown, was laughing hysterically. Clearly her friends were not amused. When they asked why she was laughing so hard, she admitted "I puked outside the room."

Image source
Not the woman from my hotel, but a reasonable fascimile

On a lighter note, the following morning I went for a 3-miler through Balboa Park. After stopping to smell the roses in the rose garden, I passed a man walking his French bulldog. The dog was sporting a black and white striped shirt (think prison stripes... or mimes) and black rhinestone sunglasses.
Image source

What still puzzles me is... With no nose to hold 'em up, how do the glasses stay on??

Right after the pinstripe pup, I ran up behind a woman who was muttering aloud about how the CIA "made a big mistake. Really made a big mistake."

Normally I'd pass this off as the ramblings of one of the unfortunate (but not uncommon) mentally-ill homeless residents of the park. (Let's just say this isn't the first time I've overheard someone in the park muttering about CIA conspiracies.) But... given the news about Petraeus... I had to do a double take. Maybe she really was having a politically-relevant conversation with someone via bluetooth? Unfortunately she was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, so I'll never know if she was a political junkie or a conspiracy theorist.

(Let this be a lesson: If you talk aloud in public, people will question your mental health... Cell phone or no cell phone.)

What's the weirdest thing you've witnessed on a run?

*Yes, "young'uns." If you look 22 and act 12, you deserve to be called a young'un.

Monday, November 12

Morning motivation

Today's motivating force is a little tongue in cheek...


Source: via Beth on Pinterest

What's on your get-it-done list this week?

Sunday, November 11


I'm going streaking!

(No, mom. Not that kind of streaking.)

Last winter I competed a holiday running streak: Thanksgiving into the New Year. A minimum of one mile run each day. Treadmills, tracks, roads, and trails count. Running while playing another sport (basketball, tennis) does not. Pool running and elliptical workouts are also out (at least according to the rules set by Streak Runners International, Inc.... Yes, folks - there is a cult support group.)
I'll be seeing this, rain or shine,
every day from now 'til the new year.

The minimum mile must be run.

Last winter I ran on 42 consecutive days, covering 135 miles, across three coasts (Gulf, Pacific, Mediterranean) and two continents, finishing my streak while on vacation in Barcelona.

This year I toyed with the idea of streaking again.

I wasn't sure whether or not my calf could handle the increase in activity so soon.

So I started small.

For the past couple of weeks I've been running a tidy little mile around my neigbhorhood on my "rest" days.

And when I logged today's run, I realized I've already been streaking for 16 days!


Anyone wanna streak with me through the new year?

I'll start a wall of fame with links to your posts if you're streaking.

Saturday, November 10

Weekly roundup

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday Belated Weekend Potluck! This week's potluck is 36 hours behind schedule and has no theme because I started writing at gate 27 at the San Diego airport waiting for my flight to depart, and am wrapping up at Cool River restaurant in DFW...

Thankfully a handful of kindly bloggers came to the rescue by providing bite-sized blogging morsels for our reading enjoyment.

Bon appetite!

Quitter (almost)

The Angry Jogger talks about how he almost quit running after his first marathon, and what that taught him about the real reason to run. Money quote:
Don’t listen to those f--- who talk about sweating as a virtue or how you must go harder, faster and stronger each time.
They’re as mentally f--- up on their own brain chemistry as Lance Armstrong is on space biscuits.
Go at your own pace. Make running your own activity and above all enjoy yourself.

What Marathon?

Lianne at BigFatMarathon recaps her 26.2 mile run around The Big Apple. Who needs an official marathon when you can run the distance with thousands of your best friends...

One snag? No port-o-lets. Oops.

Money quote:
My only spectator was a slightly confused looking concierge who watched me hobble into the lobby, futtering wildly with my phone and taking my trainers off at the same time. Not the Kodak moment I had dreamt of!

Try a new shoe

Interested in wear-testing Mizuno's new EVO zero-drop show?
See Runblogger's post for wear-testing details.

And just because...

Quote of the week:
"I don't have to do this. I get to do this."
paraphrased from Kristin Armstrong

Happy weekend, friends!

Thursday, November 8

Thursday thanks

Sitting here, in another hotel room, composing this week's "thanks" I started whining thinking:
"I'm tired of being on the road. I just want to be home goddamnit. And I'm just bloody tired. I don't wanna write. Maybe I'll put thanks on vacation this week."
(Cue world's smallest violin playing a sad song just for me.)

But if I'm honest with myself. If I peel away the layers of travel-weariness, the past six weeks have been an adventure. And when I look back on this period of my life many years from now, I'll have no regrets that I missed any opportunities.

Source: via Claire on Pinterest
From Atlanta to Williamsburg to a tiny town in northern Rhode Island to Fort Walton Beach to Tallahassee, and last (but certainly not least) San Diego, I've traveled for work and play every single week since September.

In my ping-ponging from home to hotel and back again I've seen at least half a dozen places I might never have seen otherwise. Seriously, Williamsburg was not on my list of 1,000 places to see before I die, but it probably should have been. I'll forever be grateful that a conference dragged me there. After all, it's not every day you get to sleep in the same hotel as the Dalai Lama and your run through town takes you back in time 300 years.

At some point in my life I might not have the mobility I have now. At some point I might not have the resources to take off for a weekend on a whim. At some point I might not be able to attend conferences or be invited to guest lecture...

So I need to quiet that whiny little part of my brain that's saying "I miss home."

I need to remember to relax and enjoy the ride.

I need to re-read Kristin Armstrong...
"Instead of thinking or saying, I have to finish this project or I have to pick up my kids, I stopped myself and tweaked my language: I get to work on this... I get to do speedwork... I get to go on a long run... Since then, I've shared the idea and gotten inspiring feedback. A friend told me she felt more joy while taking care of her kids. Another told me her running group spoke in I get to language for an entire run. A woman and her friends wore "I Get To Run" T-shirts on race day. A woman running the Turkey Trot in Santa Barbara on Thanksgiving morning came up to me and said, "What a beautiful day. Aren't we lucky we get to run? Gratitude is contagious. It's the smallest thing, but it has the power of something big. It's a shift in perspective that can open your head and your heart. And if you want, you get to try it."
Kristin Armstrong, blogger and columnist for Runner's World
I am thankful that I get to do this.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, November 7

Gender mind bender

In my teaching gig, I get to talk about all of the taboo topics: sex, drugs, racism, religion, politics, gender issues... You name it. If it's not an acceptable topic of conversation in polite company, it probably comes up in my class. As you can imagine, controversy is inevitable...

This week is gender week.

We talk about media portrayal of gender roles.

We talk about the fact that women weren't allowed to run the Olympic marathon until 1984 (nineteen eighty effing four!) for fear that they'd destroy their uteri or die on the course.

We talk about the fact that gender stereotypes are bad for men, too. (Full disclosure: I'm human-ist, not femin-ist. The ridiculous modern belief that boys can't sit still in class and aren't good at communication is every bit as harmful a stereotype as "girls are bad at math." If you think I'm making this up, see research by Steele and Ambady, among others...)

We talk about the gender wage gap (which is far more complicated than just "discrimination"). And this reminds me that in the past year, while discussing the variety of possible causes for the gender wage gap, one of my students said:
"Isn't the gap just a reflection of men's and women's differences? Women just can't do what men do. They get tired easier. They just don't have the endurance."
A shocked and angry little part of me wanted to shout back: "Oh yeah? Grab your running shoes. Let's take this outside and see who has more endurance." (There may have been some cussing in my inner monologue as well, but you get the idea...)

I also wanted to argue that women regularly survive 20+ hours of labor. If that's not endurance, I don't know what is.

But being offended just plays into the "women are emotional and irrational" stereotype.

Instead I took a deep breath and lectured on the very real evidence that women are, in fact, excellent endurance athletes. I pointed to the shrinking gap in male and female marathon world record times, and the fact that women often win ultra-distance races.

I reminded the class that, most importantly, we shouldn't assume "average" means "all."

Women, on average, have lower muscle mass and higher body fat percentage than men. As a result, we've segregated our athletic endeavors and awards systems. We tend to think of women as gymnasts and men as weigh lifters.

But sometimes people buck the trend in spectacular fashion. Consider Billie Jean KingAnn Trason, and now world-class weight lifter Sarah Robles. Robles outranks any American weightlifter (man or woman).

Saying women just "can't" be good athletes demeans very real athletic skill and ability, just as saying men "can't" collaborate and communicate demeans very real interpersonal skill and ability.

Whenever this challenge comes up, as it invariably does from at least a handful of students, it leaves me wondering:
When will we, as a culture, start accepting personal talent on a personal level, and stop leveling stereotype accusations at one another?
Maybe someday...

Until then, I'm going to keep running even though, apparently, I'm not supposed to have the endurance to run those long distances. Because, you know, I'm a girl.

Tuesday, November 6

Postcards from Tallahassee

Last week I spent 36 hours in Tallahassee. I was invited to guest lecture and was in town long enough to enjoy a run, a lovely dinner, and a stroll around downtown. On the way home Hubby and I stopped at Torreya State Park for a hike and trail run, but that's another story for another time...

For now, here's your postcard from Tallahassee:
(It's just coincidence that my state capitol postcard arrives on Election Day, but it's a happy coincidence nonetheless.)

First things first... I've been in Tallahassee before, and my last trip centered around the Florida State University campus and capitol buildings. With little time to research alternate running options before my trip, I caved and asked the hotel front desk clerk to suggest a 3-ish mile route that didn't go through campus. (For the record: Hotel staff know the area and are used to questions from out-of-town runners, so they're usually a wonderful runners' resource.)

Unfortunately it's obvious that the clerk in question had never run a step in his life. He recommended that I run up Monroe St from Park to Lake Ella. To his credit, the route was almost exactly three miles. To his discredit, the entire route followed a bustling main street with numerous busy intersections. I spent most of my time sucking in fumes from passing cars and trying not to get hit while crossing the road...
The view along Monroe St. in Tallahassee
I wouldn't run a road like Monroe in my own hometown. I certainly would not recommend it to out-of-towners, especially when better scenery was only a few blocks away.

Fortunately things improved once I arrive at Lake Ella, a picturesque little park, surrounded by a paved trail.
Sign at the entrance to Lake Ella
  Unfortunately views across the lake accounted for less than half a mile of my 3+ mile route.
Egret looking over Lake Ella
But let's get back to the "better scenery" part of my commentary...

Nestled in the heart of Tallahassee is a thoroughfare known as Park Ave. This divided road is bisected by a "chain of parks." For runners who have the patience to wait for traffic signals, the scenery is pretty and the route is well shaded by overhanging live oaks.
One park in the Chain of Parks
The park at Park Ave and Monroe is home to a Saturday morning market with art, crafts, pastries, and some produce. (From what I understand, the true farmers market can be found at Market Square, also on Saturday mornings...)
Park Ave market
This neighborhood is also home to the state capitol, both the historic capitol and all of the functional administrative buildings.
Florida historic capitol building
The scenery and running options here are much better than the route I took the day before!

Dolphins in front of the Florida State Capitol
The streets, at least on a Saturday morning, are virtually silent, and a runner can enjoy an uninterrupted loop past historic architecture, community parks, and public art.
Oak poem and mural at one city park
Public art at Burnette Park
In fact, my only quibble is that the neighborhood might have been too quiet... I'm an unabashed fan of urban running. Part of the allure is passing shops and restaurants, dodging the hustle-and-bustle of crowded sidewalks, and giving the occasional nod to another runner.

The Tallahassee capitol area, however, is a virtual ghost town on Saturday mornings. (Unless you're waiting in line to vote at the Leon County Courthouse... Now there was a crowd!)

There are two ways to look at these long-voting-lines photos, I suppose. One perspective says:
"Oh my god. Look at those lines. How unfair."
The other says:
"Oh my god. Look at those lines. How awesome that so many people care enough to vote."
I suppose I believe both.

Either way...

Happy Election Day, y'all!