Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Having my cake and eating it too

This is NOT actually a post dedicated to eating, although that would certainly be timely, seeing as Turkey day is not merely 'right around the corner' but UPON us!  (How did that happen?  Holy crap!)
I've been thinking about the either/or dichotomy that I often set up - it has to be this or that, X or Y, ying or yang, law or order.  Never both.
I began thinking about this earlier in the year when I was tutoring a student from another school for a few weeks.  I hesitated to tutor this student and then agreed for a variety of reasons.  Initially, I found tutoring to be...  not boring, but not as fun or interesting as teaching a group of students.  With a group, the students' personalities play off each other and they often learn from each other.  Tutoring an individual student does not, obviously, offer the dynamic atmosphere of a classroom (in its ideal "zone").  However, as I tutored this student, I learned to appreciate the one-on-one with a student, getting to know a student without the social currents that often run through a classroom.  On the day of the last tutoring session, I was quite sad to say good-bye to this person, a reaction that I did not anticipate.
At this point, it seemed like a good idea for me to revisit the notion I held that so many things in life fell into the either/or category.  Why couldn't I handily teach a class AND tutor a student, and find both of these experiences equally satisfying?  And to feel, in both cases, that I failed in my duty when said student/s don't perform as well as hoped on certain standardized tests?
Along the same vein, I often view running and racing as either/or activities, that it has to be one or the other.  Why can't I enjoy BOTH - running and racing?  They tap into different energies and satisfy me in distinct ways.  Rather than fighting with the notion that it must be either/or, I've recently decided to embrace both.  Running, after all, is the daily, meditative activity that is a 'healthy' activity and will satisfy the soul.  Racing, on the other hand, is the exhilaration and the devastation, the putting yourself all out there.  To be honest, I prefer the daily or weekly running, heading out the door and hitting the trails, losing myself in thoughts.  However, I can't deny that I love the excitement of race day.  Everything about it - waking up, worrying about the time, getting the bib, trying to be aware throughout each mile, pushing myself to the finish.
So, as I reexamine my worldview (weltanschauung!), I'm trying to fit the concept of "both" into my life.  It's expansive, this new way of interpreting life, as I suddenly find that more options are viable.  Perhaps I'll eventually want to narrow my vision, but for now, it's kind of exhilarating that my interpretation of life has opened up, that I can have the ying and the yang to make that perfect circle.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bad and brash decisions

So, as a teacher, I know that people banter around the concept of "make good decisions/choices" when working with the youth of today (I love using clich├ęs like that!).  As much as they might roll their eyes - and I might too - there is something to be said for that advice.  I, unfortunately, like to push it off on others rather than follow it myself.  This week offered plenty of evidence to support my less-than-stellar decision-making abilities.  Usually, I can blame alcohol consumption for bad choices (just what we tell kids about alcohol), but this week I don't even have that useful excuse on hand.
Just to give you a few examples of these bad choices...
On Thursday, while walking our dogs, some bug stung my leg - the back of my thigh.  It was definitely not a bee, probably a wasp or yellow jacket?  At any rate, it hurt like a bitch, as they say.  This happened around the 4 o'clock hour, and I had a spin class to attend at 4:45.  Did the sting prevent me from attending?  Why, of course not!  As I was halfway through class, it did cross my mind that exercise after an insect sting was not, perhaps, advisable.  Sure enough, when I returned home and researched said topic,  several websites came back with the "Do not exercise!" imperative.  I survived, however, so it looks as though I don't have an allergy.
I can excuse Thursday out of sheer ignorance - I've never been bitten by wasps or yellow jackets before!
Friday's lack of judgement belongs to another category: brash decisions.  The first one occurred about mid-morning.  Clearly my blood sugar had spiked and I was feeling GREAT!  So, when an email entitled "Oxnard Half-Marathon" enticed me to open up its contents, I was drawn into the idea of a half-marathon and impulsively decided HELL YEAH!  So, I signed myself right up.  Then, I thought about the time that I have between now and the half-marathon and realized that I need to get about a 10-mile run in between the next two weeks so that I can finish the half-marathon in 3 weeks.  Ahem.  I've obviously become trigger-happy when it comes to races, and this just showcases how problematic impulsive choices can be.
The final brash decision came later in the day, revolving around dinner choices.  I admit that we have become somewhat lazy in our household - between Michael's class schedule and my... (I don't have a reason) stomach, we've been doing take-out and/or eating out more than usual.  Now, I haven't cared too much about this slump, but we had just ordered out pizza on Thursday.  There were a few pieces left, but we decided that there wasn't enough for dinner.  So, what did we do?
We ordered ANOTHER pizza.  From the same place!
I realize that this last decision is not, for some people, too shocking, but it seemed to epitomize my laziness.
It was, however, the perfect accompaniment to the movie "Bridesmaids"!
So, do I have any regrets about these decisions?  The "good" part of me would like to affirm that yes, I do, but to be honest, I had a great spinning class on Thursday, I will love getting my ass kicked in a few weeks as I struggle through the half-marathon, and the pizza last night was worth it.
In terms of dinner, I am going to start anew - just as soon as we go out for Mexican food tonight!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday randomness in Starbucks

So, Starbucks is kind of a love/hate place for me.  Personally, I'm not ga-ga over their coffee drinks.  In fact, I don't really drink their coffee and I take that as a point of pride.  Coffee snob?  Yes, yes I am!
However, I've developed a once or twice a week habit/ritual of going to Starbucks for a chai latte.  I've come to realize that this habit is less about the drink and more about taking a walk, getting outside, being off campus (not by much, but still), and just not DOING something for work.  It's usually a hurried affair - a swift walk to and from Starbucks, but it gives me a mental break in a way.
The other aspect that I like about the excursion is that I see "normal" people - meaning, non-work people. I'm not saying that I work with a bunch of crazies (although there might be one or two who would definitely benefit from good meds), but we're all kind of awkward, nerdy people in one way or another.  I walk to Starbucks, and there is a whole 'nother world of people out there - business men and women, stay-at-home moms, office types taking a break, kids of different ages, retirees.  Some people go there to have a meeting, others are reading, hanging out with their pet, or just socializing with a friend.  It reminds me of my life during the summers, when I can languish around and see people in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.
I occasionally will run into a colleague or the random student on a latte run, but it is highly unusual for me to open the door to Starbucks and a stranger (to me) call me by my first and last name (the maiden name - although that's a different topic).  I did not recognize this woman at all, and then she identified herself, first and last name as well.  WOW - talk about a blast from the past.  I think that we went to kindergarten and first grade at the same school and took piano lessons from the same teacher, but then our lives went their separate ways.  While our parents see each other socially, I went off to study and live in a variety of different places and she did the same.
So, I couldn't believe that we ran into each other in a Starbucks in what is more or less Pleasantville, a far cry from the place that she and I grew up along the South Texas border.  I was even more amazed that she recognized me, but I'm terrible with names and faces.  Apparently I haven't changed since 4th or 5th grade?  That could either be a good or a bad thing!  It means that I haven't blossomed into a cool, sophisticated LA-type.  Nor have I aged beyond belief and recognition?  Apparently I've mastered a classical look - at least for myself?
I returned to school shaking my head over the encounter.  It's not every day that I randomly bump into someone from my childhood - talk about a different place and time!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A gloomy Saturday

It is 5:00 pm, and almost officially dark.  While I love the time change in the mornings, it does depress me a bit that night draws close so quickly these days.  However, when I remember that I used to live in places that get dark at 3:30 or so in winter (Philly and Seattle), I try my best to not complain too much.  And, even in sunny LA, there is something comforting about the sense that the year has moved on and that I can hibernate a bit because it is fall.
As for today, it has been the fastest Saturday EVER.  Okay, slight hyperbole there, but how is it that my weekdays seemed to stretch out forever, and then today I'd like to add a few more hours to the experience?  I feel that I just woke up but here I am, changing so that I can look respectable enough to go out and be in the public eye?
As for the day?  I'd call it lugubrious.  What a great word, right?  And not one that I can often use here in Southern CA.
The word has all of these negative connotations, but was lovely to enjoy the gloomy weather from a warm house for most of the day!  It rained a few times throughout the day, but at one point, I looked out the window, and all of these whispy, low-lying clouds were moving through and around the San Gabriels.  It was so beautiful, and I do love that I could take in the view right from the kitchen window.
Sometimes, I love living where we do.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Running by numbers

So, I tried to cast all of my fears, doubts, worries from Saturday aside.
Yesterday morning, I woke up bright and early, 5:15, very appreciative of the extra hour of sleep.  The time change also meant that I wouldn't be driving south in the dark - double yay!  It was strange to head to the race as a driver - Michael is my one and only supportive crew, so I missed him yesterday morning!  I felt a bit stressed about the drive, the weather and about a bazillion other issues.  However, I made it pretty easily to Huntington Beach, aka "Surf City, USA", and a beautiful morning greeted me.  All I needed to do was wait and then run.
The race began promptly at 7:45.  While I tend to hang back and not worry about scoring a choice spot for the start, I knew that I wanted to actually RACE this 10K and not just run it.  There were two reasons pushing me to "race".  First of all, I ran the "Huntington Beach Distance Derby" last year and loved the experience.  At that time, it was a five mile race, so they changed the distance this year to a 10k.  With that in mind, I thought that it was possible that I could shave some time off my last 10k which was around the Rose Bowl.
So, I felt pretty anxious at the beginning of the run and tried to navigate that fine line between pushing myself enough to start out fast and strong but not run out of gas.  At a certain point in the first mile, I tried to refocus: not that I wanted to slow down, but I wanted to have a positive experience, even if it meant that I didn't run faster than the last time.  Eventually, after all, I will cease to run any faster, and I don't want every run (or race) to feel like a bitter disappointment because I can't continue to beat my last time.  So, I tried to center some of my thoughts on being thankful for being out and about on a gorgeous Sunday morning, running on PCH, which they had closed down for the race!  I occasionally took in the waves crashing along the beach, watched the surfers bob in the water, admired some of the dogs that were playing along PCH.
In the meantime, I also kept my focus on my pace.  It seemed like I had started out at a fast pace, and I hit Mile 1 around 7:30 or 8:00.  I wore my watch, but it's not digital, so I had to 'guesstimate' the time.  I knew, however, that it was 15 minutes at Mile 2.  For me, that is SUPER speedy!  It concerned me somewhat that I started out at a 7:30 pace, but the course was so flat that I couldn't help it.  I kept the pace, even for Mile 3 which did incline slightly, and at Mile 4, I looked at my watch - around 30 minutes?  "Holy crap!" was my main thought.  For miles 5 and 6, we had to turn around, and at that point, I felt the headwind.  No wonder the first two miles were so fast!  Also, the weather turned a bit and rain began to spit down on us.  Still, I felt great, and when I saw a woman who had passed me at the beginning, I realized that I was closing in!  At Mile 5, I decided to challenge her a bit - I pushed my pace and caught up with her and then slowed down for a bit while I ran right with her.  Then, I decided to push it just a bit more to see if she could keep up.  She couldn't!  Success!  I kind of feel like an asshole for finding it SO satisfying that I passed her.  But, she was definitely younger and she wore a t-shirt tucked into her leggings - I feel like only a real badass should sport such an 'outfit'.  And, if I passed her in mile 5, she obviously wasn't such a badass!
The last mile (or half mile) - I worried that I'd suddenly bonk in a big way, which would have devastated me.  That never happened, and I crossed the finish line at 47:30, running strong, even at the end.  I was super jazzed about my time because it is a PR for a 10K.  Mind you, this was a fast, flat race, so I'll tip my hat to the course, from which I definitely benefited.
Final thoughts?  I definitely enjoyed running in a somewhat familiar place that still feels like a "destination" with its beautiful scenery.  It was NOT, however, nearly as fun as the Lasse Viren run last weekend.  Maybe the focus on time and on a final "product" detracted from the overall experience?  Maybe I missed the social aspect that was such a treat before and after the race last week?  Maybe I missed being able to fully celebrate and share the experience with Michael?
These are interesting questions to ponder, especially as I think about the question:  Run vs. Race.
Do other people see a dichotomy between running vs. racing or am I alone in that?  It is definitely fun to actually feel that I've "competed" (in my limited definition of the term), but I'm not sure if a pure focus on numbers (speed, mileage and whatnot) will continue to leave me fulfilled.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A change in the air

The weather has definitely signaled a new month, as rains and colder temperatures hit Southern CA.  We lit our first fire of the fall/winter season last night, and I, for one, am looking forward to falling back this evening (or morning) so that it isn't dark when I leave the house for the long walk to work.  I had hoped for some snow tipped peaks today, and while there must be snow on Mt. Baldy and some of the higher peaks, no such luck right around our whereabouts.  Still, the day after a rain storm makes me appreciate living where I do - it has been a gorgeous day.  We just walked the boys around the neighborhood and enjoyed the clear, late afternoon sky.
The cooler temperatures and more fall-like chill in the air also informed our weekly farmers' market run.  While I continued to buy tomatoes and strawberries through to last week, this week, I stocked up on apples, a few persimmons, and tons of root vegetables.  Yep, it is no longer early fall!  We'll be making soups around here soon.
Speaking of the weather, it is supposed to rain again tomorrow, which I would normally welcome, but I am hoping that the rains hold off at least until later in the afternoon.  I am running a 10K - my first in a while (!) - and would like to enjoy a rain-free run.  It is a selfish hope, I realize, because we can always use the rain around here.  For myself, I know that I would enjoy the run a bit more if I don't have to deal with weather.
But, if the weather doesn't cooperate, it should be a great run, no matter what - flat, which will hopefully translate to "fast" for me, but I don't want to bank on it.   I did this run last year, but they changed the course a bit - it used to be a 5 miler and now it's a 10k.  A part of me wishes that it were still a 5-miler so that I could compare my performance.  I guess I'm being picky these days, complaining about the weather, not satisfied with the course...
Obviously I need to 'get over it' and just run!