Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Stupendous Flaming Awesomeness

Let us recap the past 16 months of my personal transportation history, a history brought about by a bonehead crash into a telephone pole. Since that ignominious demise of my car, the following have been my stalwart and faithful steeds on the road to car-free adventure.




Oh, how well I have (mostly) loved these three and the things I have learned from them. Such as, I am a logistical fiend when it comes to concocting genius bus connections to get me from point A to B. That riding my bike in the morning is like an intravenous shot of pure Paxil. That walking around town always reveals a new discovery in a landscape I assumed to be totally familiar and known.

Then there were the other, less enlightening, things I learned. That lugging groceries on the bus or bike, while feasible, also kind of sucks. That a single girl walking public streets is a target for enormous amounts of harassment from men, for, unbeknownst to me, using a sidewalk as a woman is apparently the universal signal that one is a prostitute. That we're having a fucking hot summer and pedaling home at 5 p.m. will cause you to sweat so much that you are soaked and woozy when you get home and must immediately nap for two hours.

While not having a car in a city and state designed around them telescopes your life in marvelous ways -- this is my neighborhood, my neighbors, my fiercely-felt place -- it can also make you decide to stay home instead of, say, going to the gym.

Ah, kids, but there is a new game in town:

Do not stare directly at the magnificent flaming yellow glare! Bow your head in deference to the wee, but mighty, yellow beastie!


So this is my new ride. Apparently, I'm a tad slow at making decisions, as 16 friggen' months ago the idea of buying a scooter skittered across the tectonic plates of my lumbering mind, but I decided to, well, think on it a spell.

I checked out the above scoot (which is a used 2004 Vento) two months ago, and couldn't decide whether or not to buy it because I was blinded by an all-consuming horror, nay, a shuddering disgust, that I voiced far and wide, for the offensive and terrible yellowness of this scoot. Yellow, I declared, could never be cute and I, apparently, was all about being cute. Yellow was aggression and testosterone. Yellow was a guy at a motorcross rally, suited up in teflon gear, racing around a track with a bunch of other angry guys and then capping off the performance by jumping through a giant hoop of fire.

Well, once I figured out that cute cost $2000 more, the yellow began to well, mellow and work its magic.

But I need to do a bit of … refurbishing. I can either girl it up (think stickers of bees, butterflies) or go all ironic and self-referential (think tongues of fire! Flames of destruction! Skulls and roses!). Maybe VJ can help. I have a feeling we're going to form a scooter gang and tour the world, bringing Gatorade and gummi bears to runners on all continents. Scooters as angels of mercy for bonking athletes everywhere!


I'm feeling nostalgic already for the bike and the bus. When I started riding the bus I promised myself I would start keeping notes on my people watching. I'd call these notes "Bus Stories" and eventually alchemize these small anecdotes into journalistic gold. I'd spin a story about the human condition, about class and race, poverty and wealth, youth and the elderly, the sick and the well. I wrote down none of it! None of the overheard conversations, none of the descriptions of people's faces or mannerisms, none of the million tiny heartbreaking or uplifting things that make me feel human and connected.

I also feel a bit like I'm betraying the activist cyclist community, the mass transit proponents, the progressive urban planning wonks, the alternative fuel policy freaks, etc… Which is totally my crowd of people. Sorry guys!

I must say that riding the scoot makes me feel quite tough. Like, I'm certain now that I'm going to start expressing all kinds of hitherto unrealized masculine behavior and will suddenly take up skydiving or spearfishing or sumo wrestling.

Here are my Top Three scooter fantasies to date.

  1. My friend Rainey and I are being chased by a white van full of bad guys. We race through the downtown streets, my brain feverishly considering escape routes. We pull up to a curb and I push Rainey off. "Run!" I yell, pointing her towards the small office of the downtown bicycle patrol. I haul the scooter up the curb and race towards the door as the white van screeches up behind me, with guys waiving guns. We burst into the police doors and a tense standoff ensues. (this fantasy sort of peters out at this point. Maybe a desperate romance with a police officer with well-developed calves, as we barricade ourselves under a metal office desk, talking strategy all the while staring deeply into one another's eyes?)

  2. I pull up in front of my ex-boyfriend's office as he's leaving with a crowd of people for lunch. While a great guy, he once expressly forbid me to get a scooter. I watch with satisfaction as he faints in shock, falling right at my feet. Heh.

  3. I fall in with a group of motorcycle outlaws. We tour the country, discovering the rock and roll underbelly of America. I get tattoos and wear leather.


The weirdest thing happened last week. I got an email from Haejin in Houston, who is training for the 2006 Houston marathon and who has a running website with the exact same name as mine.

Then we figured out that we graduated two years apart from the same small university, though we apparently didn't know each other.

For the record, we named our sites "Escape Velocity" for different reasons. Her title references the physics principle, and as she says, "escapevelocity is about escaping binding forces. expectations, assumptions and misconceptions that pull you down and leave you stranded. it's about prying yourself away from these forces....whether they be societal norms, attitudes or certain people....and having the strength to go against the dominant flow. it's about not being a part of the herd.....being yourself, yes, but also being genuine and truthful. refusing to be cemented in place by imposed definitions of you that just don't fit."

I got my title from a chapter in the creativity workbook "The Artist's Way". The author calls escape velocity the point of "blast-off" to a more magical, creative life, and says "Always remember: the first rule of magic is self-containment. You must hold your intention within yourself, stoking it with power. Only then will you be able to manifest what you desire… In order to achieve escape velocity, we must learn to keep our own counsel, to move silently among doubters, to voice our plans only among our allies, and to name our allies accurately."

I think both our escape velocities are pretty darn cool. So go check her out because all that coincidence must mean something.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

5K report; plus, Ira Glass as secret fitness weapon

The 5K I ran this weekend was an all-female race, which I appreciate. It made me wonder, though. Are there any all-male 5K races? And if so, where?

I rode my bike to the race start, about 3 miles from my house. I figured it was a good way to warm up my legs. The race start was in a city park and the route wound through one of the wealthier neighborhoods in town. The park itself has always creeped me out as it was the site of well-publicized and still unsolved murder of a female jogger many years ago.

I positioned myself in the back of the pack, and had to smile when I overheard one of the other women call herself a "shuffler". I had a feeling I'd be doing a fair bit of shuffling myself, too.

There were several women I recognized from previous races, mostly the "elite" local runners. This is nice, to start seeing familiar faces, to feel part of a certain sub-culture. They were all lined up front with their sleek running clothes and bodies. I knew they would all be done by the time I was approaching my halfway mark.

As expected, it was pretty hot already, around 80, when the race started. Part of the course was sunny and part was shady. There were some gentle climbs, but the course was mostly flat. A highlight of the race was that all the water stations and course turns were manned by male volunteers, many hot young (possibly teenage, may god forgive me) men. They were a treat for my eyes, that's for sure.

I struggled in this race. I had a side stitch, my running shorts were too tight, a voice in my head was whining a bit much. I didn't feel like I hit my groove until the last mile. At that point, I started pacing an older woman I'd noticed at the race start. She was petite and round, with tons of dimples all on her thighs. She was wearing a coordinated running outfit from BOA and I remember thinking a bit smugly about how great it was that there were runners of all shapes and sizes at this event, and that this particular woman was likely just starting out as a runner. I was feeling like this race thing was old-hat for me already.

Anyway, I'd pass her, she'd pass me etc… At one point I tried to make conversation, but I felt awkward and wondered if there's race etiquette about chatting up other runners.

I figured that coming into the race straightaway that I'd pass her, but when we rounded the curve and saw the time clock, she began to sprint! She hauled ass into that finish line, and the announcer called out over the PA system that she was the vice-president of the running club sponsoring the race. So there went all my preconceptions, blown out of the water. But now I know there's a cool club in town run by people who aren't all slim and elite.

So my finish time was 36:39, which is the slowest 5K I've ever run. I ranked 26 out of 34 in my age group and 177 out of 204 finishers. Not my best race obviously, but considering I have really slacked off on my training, I'm not surprised.

Does everyone else have beer after his or her races? I find myself shocked to see a keg at these early-morning races, but maybe I'm just a teetotaler. Besides, I couldn't drink and bike ride, could I?


I have a new running partner, and he's famous (let me qualify that; famous in an erudite, gentle, NPR way). I expect him to lead me on into great things, into a new and intellecutal running frontier.

Last week I bought an inexpensive MP3 player and signed up for an Audible subscription. I now can download episodes of This American Life (hosted by my longtime NPR boyfriend Ira Glass. What? He's your airwave boyfriend too? Well, that's OK, I'm a modern woman. I can share), along with other radio programs and audio books.

So far, I've downloaded a NPR quiz show and episodes of an old time radio show called Fibber McGee and Molly.

My rule is that I can only listen to these programs if I'm exercising. So we'll see how this incentive system works. I think it will help, because I really love this kind of radio. It makes my brain work in a different way and is quite satisfying. I used to be addicted to This American Life, but have got out of the habit in the past few years of being able to listen to the local broadcasts. I feel like I'm rekindling a love affair.

Bestill my beating heart (but not long enough for it to mess with my heart rate monitor reading!)

Friday, July 08, 2005

I blog, therefore I run

This whole week I've been wanting to post an entry. But I haven't been running, and I've already cluttered up the last few posts with non-running related entries, so I was feeling guilty for not actually, you know, writing about running. It was a condundrum. How to solve it?

Aha! I had a brilliant idea. Maybe if I signed up for a race, I'd have a legitimate reason to post an entry. But what if it was hot, what if I felt out of shape, what if I wanted to sleep in? Pshaw! I want to post an entry, therefore I must run!

Hmm. Blog as taskmaster. Who knew? Regardless, wish me luck on tomorrow morning's 5k. Hopefully at 8 a.m. it won't have hit 100 degrees. Yet. Lordy.


Some gratutious food pictures:

Here's my farmer's market haul from a few weeks ago:

Glorious cheeries. These were gone in about five minutes:

My favorite thing of all time, a Mexican fruit cup with fresh-squeezed lime juice and chili: