Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October weekends

The month of October has slipped by, and if I were organized or had children or planned to dress up like a slut, I would write something about Halloween.  However, I actually forgot that today was Halloween until I saw the school bulletin decorated with fun bats, cats and witches.  I have spent much of my time, the past few days, trying to finish up all of my letters of recommendation for my students as  the November 1st deadline looms, so that has made me feel that I've been living in some sort of a time warp, thinking about last year and writing about my students' performance in the past tense.

I discovered the past few weeks that I've definitely been a 'weekend warrior' this month - living for the weekends, trying to make the most of them, and sometimes suffering during the week.  This is not my typical modus operandi, and I think that I paid the price, getting sick for the second time in 2012!  What frustrates me about this is that I was sick in August.  I consider myself to be fairly robust, but catching a cold twice in the past two months makes me question my physical resilience these days.  I could, perhaps, be getting older too!

On to other topics...
October has presented us with some perfectly wonderful autumnal days - last weekend (the 20th/21st), we enjoyed cool and wet mornings which even inspired me to make a huge vat of soup and bake some bread.  But, after a few glorious days with highs in the low 70's, the mercury would rise again.  This past weekend was a true Indian summer weekend - I couldn't believe how warm it was and I kept swearing at the weather gods.  End of October, enough of this heat!  I didn't feel it too much because I spent the weekend in La Jolla, CA with my mom, aunt and cousin.  We agreed a few months ago to try to meet up for a 'ladies' weekend' (although my cousin and I definitely eschew the title, it still seems like an apt description of the getaway for all of us).  They arrived on Thursday evening, and I headed south on Friday afternoon, traveling by train which was such an unexpected treat.  First of all, not having to deal with Friday afternoon traffic - yes, please!  And more importantly, once the train was south of Santa Ana, it hugged the coast and the trip offered up some gorgeous views.  I planned to grade while traveling, but I spent most of the time staring out the window.

Being in San Diego/La Jolla was a lot of fun.  Despite my 7 years in the Los Angeles area, I've rarely headed that far south, so this trip allowed me to get a better sense of the area.  People rave about San Diego, and I can see why - a part of me would like to pick up and move now!  Especially if we could somehow live close to the coast, preferably in La Jolla...   I can't even say that we did much in the area, but that may be why it appealed so much to me - I was able to do almost nothing, yet I still came away with an appreciation for the area.  Not that we did "nothing" - we ate at a great little restaurant on Friday night, Sea Rocket Bistro.  A friend of mine recommended it, and we enjoyed the experience - it felt very local (translation: we were the only out-of-towners there), and my cousin and I really liked the focus on fresh, local and sustainable seafood.  I also enjoyed the IPA that I had - San Diego might compete with the PNW for the 'beer nirvana' reputation.  On Saturday, we spent the morning in La Jolla at the Museum of Contemporary Art which was a jewel of a museum.  Not very large, we could easily get around it and see the collection.  It offered up wonderful views of the coast, and the collection is excellent.  The one downside for the weekend was that my aunt had a 24-hour bug, so she felt pretty terrible all day Saturday.  My cold also flourished, but despite that, I managed to get in two short runs both Saturday and Sunday morning.  Not only did I enjoy beautiful scenery but I also felt the power of the scientific community as I ran by UCSD and also the Salk Institute.

I did, however, eat and drink too much and sleep too little, so I'm ready for a weekend to catch up on sleep and to 'nest' a bit - lots of grading, a long run, and definitely a nap or two!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The black hole of October

Perhaps I have said this before (or said it about different months), but April is definitely NOT the cruelest month in my life.  I would have to say that October trumps it by a large margin.  I was feeling pretty good about the academic year, even about going away for a weekend, but then last week hit and the metaphorical wheels sort of fell off the wagon.  I could blame the sense that I've fallen into a black hole on the hours of meetings through which I had to sit the past two weeks, or I could blame back-to-school-night, indisputably the low point of every year (even though I really don't mind talking to parents and doing the dog-and-pony show, it's just having to be "on" that is exhausting).

However, I think that losing power at the end of last week for over 24-hours tipped the scales.  Yes, this is definitely one of those first world problems, I recognize that, but I swear, it seems that if the wind blows, if it's hot, if it's cold, if we sneeze, then the transformer blows!  While not having power can be fun for a few hours, the romantic quality of reading by candlelight soon loses its appeal.  We ended up going to a bar on Thursday night so that I could grade papers, and Michael could draw.  On Friday night, I graded papers at a cafe while Michael went to class.  When we returned to our house around 10:30 pm, the power trucks were heading out, and we saw lights on the block!  It is amazing how appreciative we felt on Saturday.  Our dogs, by the way, were a bit freaked out with all the commotion while the power company was working on the street, and one or both of them ended up peeing on our kitchen floor.  As Michael said, the workers scared the piss out of them.  Pobrecitos!

This week hasn't sucked quite so much (aren't I positive), but I developed an eye infection yesterday - just on the eyelid, but it grosses me out.  While it doesn't look terrible to other people, I feel like my left eye is almost swollen shut.  Hopefully the anti-biotic eye ointment* will do the trick sooner rather than later, and I'll feel like my old self.

In the meantime, it IS Friday night - hooray!  I can't believe how exciting my plans for the weekend are - to write at least 10 letters of recommendation.  Ah, the joys of teaching high school seniors, all of whom seem to be applying to a school with a November 1st deadline.

In addition to feeling overwhelmed by work stuff (thank goodness I don't actually have an important job), I've been stressing about getting enough miles and staying in shape in the pool and on the bike, to a small degree.  Finally, I said "Screw it!"  I'd like to stay in top form - whatever that is - but I've also decided that focusing on the trail run in November is enough of a goal at the moment.  We'll see if I turn into a fat slob after that!

*Ointment - one of those words that I just hate the way it sounds.  "Slacks" is another one.  These words should be banned!

Monday, October 8, 2012

CicLAvia: Sunday ride

Yes, a bit late with this, but it's only Monday (and so nice to have a Monday off!  I almost caught up on grading).  Since we had a three-day weekend, we tagged along on a Sunday brunch ride - one that included our participation in CicLAvia, a fun way to experience downtown LA on a bike, in solidarity with thousands of other cyclists (and a few rollerbladers and skateboarders too).  Mike and I joined up with a group of riders that meet on a regular basis, and apparently the number swelled to a total of eleven people on the ride yesterday!  The 9:30 am meet-up time allowed us to have a somewhat leisurely morning before we headed out the door to Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena.

Once we all met up, we left Lucky Baldwin's, and headed west to LA via South Pasadena and other neighborhoods.  Just like the last time we participated in the Sunday ride phenomenon, the best part about the experience was passing through neighborhoods that either we'd never seen or that we'd never experienced in such a "close" way - somehow being at an intersection in a car doesn't allow you to take it in to the degree that being on a bike does (for instance, different thoughts were: Jack-in-the-Box tacos - how can that even stay open when there are probably 15 better taco options in this neighborhood; oooh, train tracks - don't get stuck; what a nice road - it must be newly paved; damn, where did the paved road go?).  Our paths crossed that of a rooster right before we enjoyed a short bike path along the Arroyo that is a hidden gem, and then through the Montecito Heights and Lincoln Heights neighborhoods before heading into LA.  Michael's comment about the ride was that he felt that we'd passed through at least 5 different countries.  Yep!

We passed the old LA Brewery and other industrial areas, and suddenly we found ourselves in Downtown LA - a mere 10 miles or so from Pasadena!  Our first stop was a cyclocross competition at Los Angeles Historic State Park.  I biffed it on my own sweet ride as we turned into the cyclocross area - nicely done.  Fortunately, only my ego was hurt; just a few bruises elsewhere.  But the cyclocross was so much fun to watch and probably even more exciting when one is actually participating in the event!  Maybe in my next life...  From the cyclocross event, we headed to the heart of Ciclavia in Downtown - and what a zoo!  TONS of riders of all ages, sizes, bike types, socio economic backgrounds.  The spirit of the event was awesome.  For me, the actual experience was, on the whole, not ideal.  First of all, it was super crowded, so at times it took us forever to just go a block!  I was nervous about hitting someone or about someone hitting me, so navigating the masses of people made it a challenge.  Also, I remembered that I really don't like crowds and avoid events because of that dislike/phobia.  But, being downtown with tons of cyclists, looking at the buildings and the architecture and then turning down Figueroa and biking all the way to USC - well, that was all pretty damn cool!  As our fearless leader noted, what is ironic about Ciclavia is that on most weekends, Downtown LA is completely dead, so it's a really great time to ride a bike there.  Not so much when there are thousands of other cyclists crowding the streets!

USC was sort of the turn-around point, so we cruised back to Downtown and then returned to Pasadena.  The return trip was a bit harder with more uphill, but it also felt nice to lose the crowds and pick up the pace a bit.  Even though we hadn't biked along at a fast pace, we had been on the bike for many hours, and my body was tired and ready for a break.  Which soon came in the form of a beer, cheesy fries and eventually a sandwich back at Lucky Baldwin's.  Ah - the perfect post-bike spot!  And the day couldn't have been more ideal - sunny and warm but not hot, so we could sit outside as we enjoyed the post-ride moment.  Which lasted, by the way, for several hours!  By late afternoon, Mike and I decided that we needed to finish our ride - the final leg home, which, unfortunately, is mainly uphill.  Still, we managed to push through those final few miles.  By the end of the day, I was tired, sunburned and a bit dehydrated but definitely in that very happy spot.

I'm not sure if I want to participate in the next Ciclavia, but I'm glad that I experienced it once and I can't wait to head back to Downtown LA on a non-Ciclavia weekend!

And while I'm lame and didn't take any photos, plenty of other people did!  So, here's the event:

And of cyclocross:

Ah - good times for all! 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hitting the trails in October

Despite the fact that the weather on October 1st, topping out in triple digits, did not seem to indicate a change of seasons and a new month, by the end of the week (yesterday and today), the temperatures dropped by 20 degrees.  Hooray - it FINALLY feels like fall around here!  It seemed to take long enough, but I honestly think I think that I forget every year how miserable I was the previous year in September.  This year, September's heat seemed particularly obnoxious, perhaps because I was, in theory, trying to kick-start my running mojo.  At a certain point, I decided that my mojo would just have to wait until October.  First of all, the weather.  Secondly, we seemed to be ridiculously busy in September as I returned to school and we had a busy social schedule.

Going out of town last weekend did not help the 'busyness' feeling, but we could not avoid that trip.  Someone in my family had a significant birthday, so, being the dutiful daughter that I am twice a year or so, we traveled to south Texas for a weekend of revelry.  And what a weekend it was - filled with the usual activities: drinking too much; going to Mexico to shop, eat and drink margaritas; fighting/arguing over politics; shooting squirrels with the bb-gun; and playing around with my nephews (my niece is officially a teenager and I'm not sure that "playing around" is possible).  We also saw a soccer game in which my nephew suffered two injuries - he got the wind knocked out of him when a ball hit him right in the belly and he also chipped a tooth when he took a header.  Fortunately, he's a pretty resilient little guy, so neither one slowed him down too much.  I also went for a run on Sunday morning (that would have been physically impossible on Saturday morning when I felt that someone had hit me over the head with a sledgehammer - so much pain!).  Considering how flat it is where my parents live, you would think that I would have kept a fast pace, but I was definitely taking it slow.

While this week started off a bit rough around the edges as I recovered from our trip (it takes me at least a day or two to catch up) and tried to not be too angry about the heat, I also managed to hit most of my workouts and even got in THREE workouts before work - two early morning swims and one run.  That is a minor miracle for me!  I also hit the trail this morning, motivated and accompanied by a drinking/running mate, and I managed to slog through a 12-mile (or so - don't entirely trust the Garmin) run.  I hoped to hit 10 miles, and while those last two were pretty rough, it gives me a small confidence boost as I think about the 30k.  It won't be a fast race, which was confirmed today as I reacquainted myself with trail running and had to take it easy on both the uphills and downhills, but running on trails is such a different experience from pounding out the miles on the pavement, in both a mental, physical and even philosophical sense.  Mentally, I find trail runs both more and less challenging - it is hard to see a 15-minute mile pop up on the Garmin, but then it's great to enjoy the sense of getting away from the noise and busyness of the highway - and even just local roads - even if it's just a for a morning run. Physically - the tricky terrain can present problems (I almost turned my ankle twice and had visions of being airlifted out), but I always feel better after a trail run than after a run around the Rose Bowl, for example.  My joints creak and ache less, probably because my body is constantly adjusting to the rise and fall and twists and turns of the trail, and probably because I can't run as fast as I would like.  Finally, the philosophical aspect - well, I'm not sure if I want to fully wade into that topic yet, but I approach a trail run with a different ethos than when I'm pounding out a mile or two or more on the road.  It is definitely about the process and not the final product!  At times, I found myself thinking that the run was really just like a fast hike - I could cover more ground than if I were hiking, but that was just about the only difference.  In the meantime, I crossed a small creek several times, stayed on the lookout for rattlesnakes, took in a deer that bounded off in the opposite direction, and on more than one occasion stopped to take in the scenery on a beautiful fall morning!

And now, thanks to having Monday off, rather than grade essays this afternoon, I'm headed for a big, fat recovery nap!