Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Progress" report

Happy Leap Year day!
Last week, apparently, whatever I wrote about my so-called progress for the month or year went into a black hole.  This wouldn't be such a terrible thing, except that since then, I've turned into a major sloth.  I probably would have given myself a B last week, but would now say that my monthly average is more like a C.  And, while in some circles a C is perfectly respectful, I still remember the one or two C's that I rightfully earned/deserved, and it does not make me feel better about myself.
As an adult, however, I think that I'll take a more laissez-faire attitude about grading myself.  After all, who really gives himself/herself "life" grades?!  Obviously I'm weird.  Or a teacher (which equals weird).

I also should have anticipated a bit of a slump at this point.  I went away for a three-day weekend which was fun (sort of?) but very exhausting, and the piles of papers (essays, quizzes and tests, oh my!) have overwhelmed me.  So, most physical activity has taken the back seat to the impulse that I really need to get my life shit together.  Now that I feel somewhat more in control of the piles of grading, I should be able to refocus and think about this whole 'training' thing.  This is particularly true because I just took five days totally off exercise, except for walking and standing and pacing, and my body feels pretty rested and not sore for the first time since January!  So, the goal for March - crank up the training!

But, back to February...  The month pretty much kicked my ass which I anticipated, but somehow the knowledge that it was going to be hard did not help me too much.  I took on another class for the semester, our life has been busy and I like to make excuses.  So, I missed plenty of scheduled workouts and my double workout days are probably still in the single digits for the month.  However, I would like to focus on the positive, and there were quite a few of those moments, fortunately.

First of all, I did manage a few 'bricks' for the month - one bike-to-run that kicked my ass but felt great when I had finished, and a few swim-to-run.  The swim-to-run really means nothing because that is not a common transition, but at the very least it makes me feel that I'm focusing on different skills and not just one or the other.  Also, I hoped to get in at least one 'long' run, anything over 7 miles or so for me, and the Mt. Wilson practice run definitely fulfilled that goal.  While my biking enthusiasm wanes on a regular basis and I often forgo the weekday ride for a spinning class, I did get in the saddle a few times on the weekends.  My last weekend ride, 2 Saturdays past, was pretty great - I did, for myself, a fairly serious climb, hitting almost 3,000 feet within 8 miles or so as I rode a very small portion of the Angeles Crest Highway. I'm slowly inching my way up that road - maybe one day I'll be able to bike the entire length?!  Finally, my last goal for the month was to volunteer at an event, and I dutifully handed out water at the Pasadena "Rock 'n Roll" Half Marathon.  It was quite fun to be a volunteer and gave me a new perspective on races.

I did fall short in plenty of ways, but I'm excited that March begins tomorrow!  I do hope that I can sharpen my focus and put in more miles on the bike and complete 2-4 (nice range) bike-run bricks.  Also, I'll be taking swim lessons for a few weeks which should force me to push myself more in the pool and work on technique and speed, hopefully!

At this point, my first race of the year isn't until April - I just signed up for a duathlon.  I admit that I am missing the monthly road or trail race, but there is some reasoning behind the lack of racing.  First of all, our lives are kind of crazy these days, and throwing in a race or two would just amp up the craziness to a level that would not be helpful or healthy.  It isn't just my life that I'm considering, but two adults who are trying to juggle different priorities.  The second reason that I've put off signing up for lots of running races is that I do want to focus on the Wildflower Tri.  I've enjoyed good health this year, unlike the two months last year when I couldn't run at all because of a weird foot injury, and I consider myself fortunate.  With that in mind, I don't want to overdo it (whatever "it" is) as I train for a tri but also run to my heart's content.  So, the running to my heart's content has been pretty much shut down as I try to amp up other skills (at which I pretty much suck).

It has definitely put into question my so-called runner's "identity" as I'm not running very much these days.  My hope is, however, that I'll be healthy for Wildflower and for the big prize this summer, the Boulder race (which I'm not thinking about, not at all, no, no, no!).

Shew, that was a lot of navel-contemplating for me, but hopefully it will help me kick things into gear tomorrow!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Friday night adventures: "In Wonderland"

Despite the fact that we did not celebrate the big V-day for a variety of reasons (nice use of double "v" there), such as grading quizzes and someone taking an art class and two people not really seeing each other that day, our Friday night more than made up for an overblown, commercialized and fabricated tribute to love and romance.  Can you tell how I feel about the whole day?  I certainly don't mean to be a total cynic, but I'm skeptical.  Not about chocolate, wine and flowers, but people (corporations - oh, wait, corporations ARE people now thanks to the US Supreme Court ruling) telling that I'm either supposed to give them or receive them on a certain day.

Back to last night which was not, fortunately, a forced romantic holiday.  It was, however, Friday and the perfect reason to venture out of our usual local haunts.  We braved crowds and traffic and found our way to LACMA (LA County Museum of Art).  My parents gave us a membership for Christmas this year, and this was the first moment that we could to take advantage of our new membership status.  One major advantage of the membership is that we can spend as much or as little time as we want.  Last night, our main purpose was to see the exhibit "In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States". And see it we did!  I thought that it might be packed like the Tim Burton exhibit we saw over the summer, but fortunately it was super calm and we could take our time and really enjoy the art we saw (or enjoy the art that we liked).  It was well organized - great information and well laid-out.  I definitely liked some of the art but not all of it, which seems pretty standard.  I was, however, excited that they had quite a few works by Remedios Varo.  She's a Spanish painter who left the "madre patria" after Franco took over in '39.  I saw an extensive exhibit of her work when I was in Mexico City back in 94 (long time ago!).
These were two of the works on exhibit - the first one is called "Creation of the Birds" and the second is "Woman Leaving Psychoanalyst".  I like to imagine that she is carrying the head of the analyst, or of her father?!

There were plenty of paintings by Frida and some other women artists.  The photographs by Lee Miller, who was Man Ray's assistant but became an accomplished photographer on her own, were pretty great too.
This, however, was not my favorite:
Don't even ask me what this is...

After that exhibit, we also spent some time wandering around the California Design exhibit which we both loved, of course.  It is strange because I certainly still feel like an interloper here in Southern CA, someone who is just visiting (for a few years), and this exhibit perhaps reminded me why I feel like a visitor in such a glamorous place in terms of the "American experience".  I don't think that I'm expressing this very well, but so much in the exhibit was familiar from movies and my sense of America in the 40's, 50's and 60's, but this is certainly not a reality that I've ever personally lived, I've just experienced it through film and TV.  So, that brings me back to California.  Some of my favorite items from the exhibit - the Airstreamer and a nice little surfboard. Both are so Californian!

By the time we wandered through these two exhibits, museum headache had started to take hold (or it was a hunger headache), and we decided to leave in search of food.  Our first choice, Plan A, was way too busy at 7:30 pm on a Friday night.  The second choice, Chi Dynasty in Los Feliz, was pretty slammed but they had a few two-tops, so we sat down with no problems.  It was quite fun to be back at Chi Dynasty - it literally had been years or at least a year and a half since our last visit.  What I like about Chi, in addition to their food, is that they also make great drinks.  I had a St. Germaine cocktail that was awesome.  The dining experience as a whole was not amazing, mainly because there was a table of loud, shrill girls (heavily-made-up 20-somethings) sitting next to us, and their conversation made my ear hurt.  But the food hit the spot, and it was good for us to leave our usual restaurant haunts!

Sad to say, by the time we arrived home, I was ready for bed - apparently  an exciting night on the town for us ends at 9:00 pm!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Drinking leads to the Mt. Wilson trail (again!)

A pattern seems to have emerged - meet certain friends for drinks at Amigo's in Pasadena, drink a potent margarita that makes my lips go numb while my mind latches on to crazy suggestions, and then somehow find myself in the quaint little town of Sierra Madre, CA in order to 'conquer' the Mt. Wilson trail.  Just like back in May, right? This morning, however, was just a practice run to work up to the 2012 Mt. Wilson Trail Race.  Last year, I ran it illegally, my first and only bandit run to this day.  I plan on running it as a legitimate participant this year!

But back to this practice run.  Our margarita-drinking friend is a trail running fiend and has been running the trail on a regular basis since November, and he threw out the proposal last night - meet up at 10:00 and run 4.3 miles up, up, up, with a gain of 2100 feet.  When we arrived at Sierra Madre this morning, I confess that for a brief moment I hoped that our friend would have forgotten about the idea he proposed.  No such luck!  Before we started the climb, I felt just like I did on race day last year - pretty damn nervous, almost scared, which seems silly because I knew that I could turn around or stop or walk at any time.  However, the trail is a beast and intimidates me psychologically as well as physically!  We started in town, climbing up a steep hill that leads to the trail, and then we were on the trail.  It was a pretty perfect day, overcast but not cold, and everything was still green, flowers blooming even, unlike the trees and brush in May which have already turned golden.  Rob took off at a strong pace, leaving Michael and me trailing along behind.  I hoped to make it at least 2-3 miles up the trail and then turn around when Rob was on the downhill.  However, when we met up (he going down, I still trudging up), he told me that I was almost at the turn-around point and encouraged me to continue.  So, I did, in his company! And then we headed down, soon meeting up with Michael who was also close to the "top" (not the officially summit but our turnaround point), so we all three headed back up to the turnaround.  Finally, we committed ourselves to the long run down the hill - or mountain.  I always forget how the downhill presents its own set of challenges, different from the uphill trudge.  It is faster but not necessarily 'easier' as I have to pay close attention to my footing and at times can't look beyond the next step for fear of falling off the side of the mountain. On this occasion, I probably would have walked a bit more on the downhill, but it was chilly at the top, and I had to keep running to stay warm!

We made it back to the car around 12:00, put on more clothes, grabbed some food and bragged about our run.  Okay, no bragging rights.  We (I) mainly moaned and groaned as we talked about the challenge of Mt. Wilson and how humbling it is!  However, there was a general sense of contentment that we actually survived the entire 4.3 miles up the mountain through a combination of running, walking, shuffling and gasping.  I admit that it wasn't pretty, but we all made it!

Before we departed, we made plans to do the run all over again in March.  Craziness must be contagious.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


*Updated with correct grammar!

Today, being Wednesday, is commonly known as "Humpday".  I have named this particular Wednesday, however, "STINK" day because of a very unfortunate encounter between this creature:

And this one:

(Nice tongue, I know)

Yep, I let Gus out this morning to go pee, and when I went to let him in, I thought I saw him tugging on some black thing in the corner of our yard.  The entire neighborhood has been smelling like skunk, so I knew, pretty much immediately, that he had been fooling around with a skunk.  As he ran towards the house, freaked out, I had the good sense to close the door on his face.  Not before, however, a good whiff of the skunk stink filled my nostrils and made me want to puke.  
Seriously, I have never in my whole life smelled something so awful.  And my dog now smelled awful.  And I needed to go to work in 30 minutes, so how was I going to deal with this?
Oh, yeah, that's when I woke up Michael exclaiming "FUCK, Michael, FUCK, I can't believe this, FUCK".  We washed him, threw him in the pool, washed him again, and then put him on a lead outside.  Gus, meanwhile, was shaking and had also proceeded to puke all over the back door (dry-heaving, we suppose).  I didn't blame him - I felt like throwing up myself which is why I left the house without eating breakfast or drinking coffee.
The skunk, by the way, was still in our backyard, so Michael called Animal Control who came and took the animal away.  In addition to the skunk, a raccoon also decided to visit our yard.  Honestly?!  What the hell is going on?!
I, meanwhile, went through my day feeling quite sorry for myself.  First of all, I stunk.  I'm not sure if anyone else truly smelled me, but I could not get the memory of the smell out of my mind.  Isn't it strange to think of the connection between smell and memory?  I believe that Proust writes eloquently about taste and memory.  This, unfortunately, was not quite so pleasant as his story because I felt nauseous all day long.  I did, however, use the incident to illicit sympathy from my students.  Isn't that terrible?  Total emotional blackmail.
However, I did gain some important information from one of my students - she said that leaving a can of ground coffee around the parts of the house that smell (because we did have those) would absorb the odor.  I went to the supermercado right after school and cleared out the coffee section.  Actually, I just bought two cans, but she was right and I'm now giving her an A.  Which she already had, but, hey, I like to pretend to bribe students.  
At this point, the victim of Pepe Le Pew is still a bit stinky, but I don't want to puke in his presence, so that's major progress!  He will not, however, be sleeping in our room.  Pobrecito - it's been a rough day for all of us.