Thursday, May 26, 2005

My Commute, a Documentary Study

Home to Work

This journey is brought to you by today's Mantra:

Packed and ready to go!

"Zut alors! I care not for you plebian commuting concerns. I care only to hatch new ways to torment you in the middle of the night. In fact, as you take this picture, I am planning tonight's torture session, in which I will get on the roof multiple times, crying forlornly, until you, in your feeble-minded and sleep-deprived state, will climb out of bed to talk me down from my high perch. Through this slow and insidious method, I will drive you insane and thus begin my quest for world domination! Be gone! My genius cannot properly develop with your distracting and boorish presence."

Our heroine begins her journey….

Under the highway….

Two of the many taco temptations along the way.

I like this sign advertising Spanish-language videos; the sign below is a tribute to Pope John Paul.

Carol Burnett's childhood home for a brief while. No, really:

A rainbow of colors….

Early morning mural:

Executive parking spot.

Our heroine makes her transformation into office jockey.

She may not be organized, but she certainly has produce!

Work to Running Appointment

La Virgen de Guadalupe:

Curses! The train! The local jail complex is on the right, and sometimes I can hear the inmates playing basketball in the gym.

Coming into Downtown

Go Spurs, Go!

The beginning of the Riverwalk:

Ladies and gentlemen, make note:

People in cars, stuck in traffic, I sail under you!

Coach selects his shoes.

Running in park, near headwaters of San Antonio River. Alas, a pulled hamstring cuts run short, and today's run will only be 20 minutes.

Back home

Past former home of beer magnate. Legend has it he pumped beer into the house from the brewery about a mile away.

Final tally:

At day's end, our heroine treats herself to a gourmet meal:

Monday, May 23, 2005

Catching the Baton

So Mia passed on this meme which has apparently been making the rounds of fitness blogs.

You are stuck inside Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
So, I guess the question is do I want to be the kind of book that gets burnt or the kind of book that's so important that someone will risk life and limb to guard me. I suppose I'd break the law of Bradbury's futuristic society for a book that would provide comfort in such harsh times. And for me, that book would be Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
My most enduring crush was on the character Calvin in A Wrinkle in Time. The majority of my pre-teen romantic fantasies starred Calvin. For years after reading this book I was convinced that I could only love a red-headed boy.

The last book you bought is?
La Perdida (1-5) by Jessica Abel. I've been on an illustrated novel jag lately, and can recommend the following: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi , Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman, Blankets by Craig Thompson and Epileptic by David B.

The last book you read was?
Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

What are you currently reading?
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson and Lonely Planet Texas

Five books you would take to a deserted island?
This is hard, because I rarely re-read books, so some of these I haven't actually read:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, for nostalgia
My Antonia by Willa Cather, for nostalgia
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, because I read it recently and was struck by the imagery
The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, because I've been wanting to read this forever and being stranded on a desert island would be the perfect time to finally do so
Prisoner's Inventions by Angelo, because it's been on my to-read list for awhile and might make me creative enough to escape the island!

OK, I don't want to presume who will be reading my blog in the next few days, so to increase the chances of passing this meme on successfully, I pass the baton to either VJ or Liz or to anyone, really, who want to answer. Enjoy!

Quick exercise round-up since last post:

Wednesday: biking, 23 miles, part of which included The Ride of Silence
Thursday: biking, 11.5 miles; run, 40 minutes
Friday: steps on pedometer, 6,000
Saturday: none!
Sunday: biking, 28 miles

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Of laps and lunatic cats

This week I started following an 8-week beginner sprint triathlon plan I downloaded from AllTriathlon (thanks to a tip from Lara who is always full of good suggestions).

Yesterday had me swimming, which I haven't done in a while. I'd forgotten how insecure I am about swimming. I always seem to get in the water and overanalyze every single thing I'm doing.

I'd never much thought about my freestyle stroke until last summer, when the Danskin training group I belonged to was coached a few times by a Masters swimmer. Every time the coach watched me swim she would get a rather perplexed look on her face -- I was doing something wrong, but she couldn't quite figure out what it was. She told me that I wasn't using my upper body strength enough, that when the other women stroked, they noticeably moved forward in the water, almost jerked forward, but on each of my hand strokes there was little indication that there was any power behind the movement. I also didn’t kick enough or hard enough.

So now I have a complex about my swimming being rather like a leisurely, aimless stroll in the park, rather than a determined powerwalk by someone with a definite destination.

Here are the last few days worth of exercise:

Friday: biking, 8 miles
Saturday: biking, 28 miles (jaunt to housewarming party, so this ride featured a feast mid-trip)
Sunday: biking, 13.5 miles
Monday: walking, 4,000 steps; running, 40 minutes
Tuesday: biking, 10 miles; swimming, 500 yards (20 laps)


Finally, I need cat advice. See this cat?:

See that sneer, the mocking slitting of the eyes? That's an indication of deep psychological problems. This cat is the spawn of the devil, sent down to earth by an evil force bent on driving me mad. Mad, I say! I inherited this cat from sister about 7 months ago. She's fixed. She has got to be the most vocal cat every spawned by demonic forces. She won't shut-up. Ever! She cries and moans and cries some more despite the fact that she's petted, fed and watered regularly. She wants to go inside, she wants to go outside, she wants to inside, ad nauseum. Every single evening she climbs the tree outside my window and then starts caterwauling at 11 p.m. and again at 1 a.m. and again at 4 a.m. because she can't come down unless I go stand under the tree in my pyjamas and coax her down. Sometimes I want to wring her little neck and pop her head off she's so irritating.


If anyone can help me figure out why she won't shut her maw, I'd be eternally grateful.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Back in the saddle

I gingerly went back to running this week, and am happy to report that my most irrational fear -- a vivid imagining of my shin bone cracking and poking out through my skin (along with an affecting rescue operation led by William Baldwin and featuring a helicopter airlift) -- did not materialize.

On the first run I went very, very slowly and whined enough about some twinges and aches in my shins that Coach gave me a leg massage. It made me feel like some Olympic athlete with my own personal stable of expert personal assistants. I fully expected Bob Costas to pop out any moment for a behind-the-scenes interview in which I'd be humble about my athletic skills and stoic about my setbacks, yet inspirational in my dogged perseverance. (as an aside, this no-TV experiment makes for lots of fun daydreams!)

I also ran with the running club for the first time -- finally. There were maybe 30 people running that night, and everyone gathered beforehand to announce their route and plan (hills, speed, mileage) before breaking off into smaller groups. I paired up with two 53 y/o women and ended up doing a run/walk with them.

For now I'm happy slowing down my pace. I think pushing myself to go faster may have been what contributed to the shin splints. I realized I enjoy the run so much more emotionally when I slow down, and I'm willing to trade off speed improvements for a while if it means I can have more enjoyment from the exercise. I know there's a place for pushing oneself within exercise, but I don't seem to have found that balance quite yet.

Going slower seems to have an added benefit, though, in terms of speed. Around the second mile of each of these runs I felt a surge of energy and was able to speed up and maintain that speed until the end of the run. Maybe I'm the kind of runner who just needs to run slowly for a few miles as a warm-up (and I haven't previously been doing any kind of warm-up at all) and then work on a faster pace, instead of starting out fast from the gate.

So, happily, I enjoyed both of these runs. I was a bit gloomy and glum this week, making melodramatic pronouncements in my head about The End of Running as Megan Knows It. So, we'll see it how goes.

I'm going to try and log my exercise this week, such as it was, keeping in mind that my biking is done in traffic with speeds averaging 15mph, and with lots of stops and starts:

Monday: steps, per pedometer, approximately 9,000
Tuesday: biking (commuting, errands) 8 miles
Wednesday: biking, 12 miles; run, 42 minutes
Thursday: biking, 13.5 miles; run, 50 minutes


This month is Hike and Bike Month. Last Friday, there was a bike rally with City and County employees downtown. This is the third year that I've participated, mostly because it means I get to go to work late. The rally conveniently starts a block from my apartment and then leisurely winds downtown with a police escort. We had maybe 50 people riding. I had to laugh because I was really impatient with the pace of the procession, and sped up to the very front to ride with the bike police. I felt quite smug, as if I were some sort of seasoned cyclist who, once the bike police saw my amazing ability to obey traffic lights and dodge potholes, would be offered a top position with the force immediately.

Every year there's a competition to see which City department can have the most representation, and every year the Public Works guys win, but they're fun to watch because they generally are a knot of beefy guys bent over too-small, rusted out BMX bikes, their knees practically coming up to their ears on each pedal stroke.

After the rally I ran some errands before going to work, and had to stop at the courthouse for a bit and chained my bike next to this one that's all tricked out lowrider style:


Despite Tracy's very tempting suggestion that I steal the house numbers on my parent's house before they sell it forever, I finally decided to take some photos to document my childhood home for future generations and any possible biographers who may clammer to write my life story. While obsessively taking pictures of the laundry closet (a perfect hiding spot when playing hide-and-go-seek or to stash the Easter basket) or the attic door in the ceiling (at which I used to gaze at every night because for awhile I was the lucky kid who got to live a vampire existence in the partially converted, windowless garage), I found that I have the most nostalgia for this portion of my childhood home:

Countless times my mother and father and I sat out on that swing, talking in the evenings or weekend mornings: politics, religion, family problems and family history. My dad reading the newspaper or clinking ice cubes in a glass, my mom pushing the swing with one foot or telling me the newest thing she'd learned about bird behavior or plant biology. Or watching a progression of neighborhood kids play in the swimming pool. Or petting the dog's belly. Or making each other laugh like no one else I know can. And holding out until sunset before going inside.

I'm glad I realized that this is the spot for which I'll likely be most nostalgic. Because this is a spot I can recreate with my parents in their new home. This is a place that won't be frozen in time. It's a place that's not lost to me, and for that, I am grateful (though, I will miss the pool.)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

How many tubes could Megan patch if Megan could patch tubes?

For the past two weeks I've ridden my bike to work every day. It's probably about 3.5 miles one way, though I'll know for sure after fooling with the nifty bike computer I just got. The weather has been perfect to ride, but the thing I like best about the bike is the independence of it. Riding the bus means I have to wait on someone else's timetable, but being able to get home under my own power satisfies that impatient part of me that is really bugged when I have to loiter at bus stops.

There are consequences, however, to using my bike so regularly. Behold:

Those are two bike tubes with a total of five patches between them. I kept finding new holes in them, so I finally gave up and installed a new tube, but for awhile there I was determined to be the most industrious tube patcher in Texas.

I haven't done a lick of running this week. There's a dance troupe in town that's offering some workshops (check them out: Urban Bush Women), so I've been attending those and loving every minute of it. I might write an entry later about why dance classes that have some element of ritual or culture in them really lift up my spirits. My shins are still giving me problems, anyway, so I'm hoping this break will help them heal some.

Truth is, I'm getting a bit bored/frustrated with running lately (am I allowed to say that? will the Running Blogfather put out a hit on me?) Can I whine for a minute? In each running session for about the last month, something has made it a crappy run. Either I've been lethargic, hungry, had a stomachache or a case of the running trots, been overheated, bothered by running shorts that kept creeping up, out-of-breath or pained by shin splints. I feel like I'm failing! Like, for a while there I was getting progessively faster, but lately I've just felt lumbering and oafish and irritated and have been stopping to take walk breaks more and more frequently. It might be the hotter afternoon temperatures that are affecting me, it might be my new running shoes, it might be the repetitive nature of the routes I run with Coach. Regardless, I'm feeling stalled and in a rut.

So, it's been good for me to get back into riding more often and to attend these dance workshops. To have some fun! This week I've been doing some research into adventure racing and reading Outside magazine. I've also been checking out sprint triathlon training programs online. My running focus is wandering.

I get frustrated with my short attention span when it comes to fitness interests. I can't decide if it's a sophisticated mechanism to give-up and revert to slothful habits, or if it's just a natural cycle that we humans go through. Either way, I've been beating myself up and feeling guilty about this lagging interest in running.

What do ya'll do when you get bored?