Tuesday, 26 August 2008

On solitude

I thought I ran for fitness, to lose weight, to get those sexy runner's legs. But on my vacation this week, with enough time to actually think - I've discovered I was wrong. I run for solitude. This week I've got free days and friends and companions each night. You'd think I'd be on the road every day - no "too much work" or other people's plans to get in my way. But I haven't, and I think I know why. When I'm busy, I spend all day at work dealing with problems and people. I love my job. But it's not relaxing, especially for an introvert like me. I don't have time to reflect, or just be alone with my thoughts. So I run. When things aren't busy, I do actually take time all day to give my actions a little consciousness. And when, like this week, I have nothing pulling me to be with someone else and I have all the time in the world to think, I don't need the mental space running provides. So I'm doing other things - which is awesome and fun, but isn't going to help me across the finish line! Luckily the second half of my vacation next week (I do love the European vacation) will be with tons of people so I'll probably need the solitude.

Why do you run?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

My dirty laundry: now with air miles

Leaving for a lovely long holiday shortly (vacation countdown: 2 days too many) to NYC and my MIL's house on a lake so of course we've waited until Monday to start the laundry and everything I want to take with me (namely, running clothes) is dirty and smelly. We put the laundry in the washer, crate the dog, and step out the door for work. Except, what is that horrible noise? That can't be the dog? Oh no, much worse, it is the washing machine/dryer all-in-one Euro-combo. It has filled with water, soaking them, and now the drum is scraping against something outside the drum. Open it up, take out the pile of heavy wet clothes to see if there's a quick fix for this problem. Discover there isn't. Leave wet clothes on kitchen floor (on towel) and go to work. Text neighbor. Borrow their washer to finish this load. Stand in their kitchen with all my underwear in my arms talking to them. Resolve to pack everything else dirty and hit up the laundromat in NYC. Feel like I'm in college again, taking laundry home to Mom. Except this time, Mom is the lovely immigrant lady who works in the drop-n-wash. At least she won't tell me I need a haircut.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Redemption denied

8 miles today. I thought, given that I actually ate beforehand, I might do better than last week's 8 on the 8th. Not so much. 1:40:10, but I felt better the whole time so that's something. Today's funny encounter: I stop at the half-way point (thank you, Victoria Park, for being exactly 4 miles from my house and having free clean toilets, even if you are a bit lacking in the paper department) and having done my business sit down on a bench for a minute to stretch, drink some water, and eat some gummi bears. On the next bench over is a homeless man, who immediately says to me, "Cigarette please." Sorry man, thanks for politeness, but not only do I not respond well to other people's sense of entitlement to my stuff, I don't smoke, and also, did you not notice the sweat dripping off my nose and the fact that I jogged past you? I may have emergency TP in this CamelBak, but cigarettes not so much. He looked so crestfallen when I said no.

Vacation countdown: 3 days too many...

Free Yoga on the Web

I like yoga and enjoy the odd class but am too cheap to lay out $25/class (at 12 GBP per class but I can't figure out how to make that symbol) and also sometimes I want a class *now* and there's not always a class nearby at 3:43 on a Saturday afternoon. So I have some podcasts, but I'm interested in compiling a longer list. Add your favourites in the comments - anything free is fair game.

Before you try any of these, I definitely recommend you take some classes to learn the poses and get some teacher correction on your form so you don't hurt yourself.

  • YogaJournal: an easier practice that clearly describes what to do in each pose. Very easy to follow; audio is great. There is also some video which I have never watched. Definitely a physical practice rather than a "total yoga" approach. Only a small number of choices - easy to mix-and-match to make your own practice as they have a morning or evening sequence plus a few middle sequences focusing on different areas (hips, backbends, etc); each of the middle sequences warms up, does the hardest bits in the middle, then cools down so you can end with shavasana or your prefered ending pose, or go right into another middle sequence. They also have a full practice.

  • 90 minutes of yoga with Wade: This is a much harder physical practice. Lots of vinyasas. Wade teaches an in-person class and someone (usually his wife) mics him up and records the class to put on iTunes. This means there's lots of variety and new classes coming out all the time. Unfortunately the audio isn't always great, but the biggest problem with this practice is that, because he's actually teaching to people who can see him, the directions are sometimes hard to follow, and when he gets his left mixed up from his right it gets confusing. Still, this is usually my go-to practice.

  • Hillary's yoga: This is much more a whole-yoga practice. Focus on intention and spirit as much as on the physical asanas. A bit self-promoting which gets on my nerves occasionally, but the audio quality is good and it's a nice respite from the physical focus. Another class recorded live.

So, what do you like? Kitzzy has a few ideas, including YogaDownload which has short (20 min) downloads for free (donation requested) and iYogaLife for Runners which has more articles and suggested poses, but I'm really interested in full practices we can follow.

Friday, 15 August 2008


On dailymile I was challenged to do an increasing workout. Since Fridays are a short day in my office during the summer, I decided today would be a good day to do it. I rode my bike in but before riding it home (2 bikes) I decided I would run 5 miles (1 run) and do some strength & core training (3 sets of pushups, 4 sets of lunges, 5 sets of ab work). I did everything I set out to do with the exception of actually completing the 5 miles.

On my way in this morning I made a wrong turn (surprise, surprise) and had to carry my bike down the steps near Waterloo Bridge. Something funky was going on with my left knee, and every time I'd go to step down with my right foot and have to bend the left leg, there would be a shooting pain and I'd have to clutch at the handrail to keep from falling down the steps and throwing myself and my bike into the A road at the bottom.

It feels fine walking around, but after 1 mile running today I couldn't do any more for pain and fear of falling into the Thames where the beautiful but mean swans would peck me to death. I walked for a half mile thinking I might be able to walk it off but no dice, so I walked the mile and a half back to my office to get my bike so I can complete the rest of the challenge.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Going bananas

I'm running my first half-marathon/trisko on October 5, on behalf of Leukaemia Research and as a part of the Banana Army.

Everyone who donates will get an entry into my "Guess my finishing time" sweepstakes. Simply put a note in your donation form as to the time you guess (30 second intervals) - if the time you want has been taken I'll contact you to give you another entry. The person who picks the closest time will win their choice of the following books: The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer, Brain Training for Runners, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, or The Poisonwood Bible. (I've read/successfully completed a marathon with the first, want to read the next two, and the last one is for non-runner-friends who happen upon this plea for sponsorship, and is one of my favourites.)

Just click on the banner to the right to be taken to my fundraising page. Blog readers have an advantage as they can see my training log to have a more educated entry into the sweepstakes. No, I don't lie in my training logs. Maybe I should, though. :-)

Having run more recently, I finally feel I can set this up officially. Today: 4.1 miles, 50:21.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Bicycle navigation

The picture below (apologies for the craptastic image editing but if you click on it I think you can see it better) shows my morning commute (in red) and my evening commute (in blue) from yesterday.

It also clearly (well, if you can actually see the image properly) shows the differentce between a just-about-one-hour commute that makes bicycling faster than taking the Underground, and a 1 hour 20 minute commute that makes it much slower, and also more dangerous as I find myself in central London swerving around bendy busses and pedicabs in the prime pre-theatre hour.

This happens to me all the time. Somewhere around Parliament Square I can't seem to go the good way in the evening. I'm learning lots about central London, though.

15.2 miles, 1:22:23.

I intended to get up this morning to run 4 miles. I very carefully set my alarm to the proper time, allowing 10 minutes of snoozing. And then I went to sleep. Notice that no where in here did I TURN MY ALARM ON. Meg's alarm went off around the time I should have been getting home. Oops. Hoping to get home in time to make it up to myself tonight.

Monday, 11 August 2008

What's Behind Door #4?

My office has showers, which makes the whole bike-to-work thing actually feasible for me. Mostly they are quite nice but this morning I went into a new one that I hadn't tried yet. Note to self: sometimes, it's better to just go with something you know is ok, rather than try something different in the hopes that it will be better. For example, shower #4, which has a dribble for water pressure and no hot water. Which of course I didn't find out until I was completely unpacked and nude, so here's me shivering and staring at my naked ass in the mirror because it didn't even get warm enough to steam up an unventilated room.

But before that, there's the commute. Reelights fitted yesterday make an at-first-annoying-later-soothing-and-rhythmic noise every time they go past the magnets. Except for the front one, which actually goes thwap thwap thwap until I look down and find that I haven't tightened the Pitlock properly and the light is pointing back at me and flashing only occasionally. Luckily today for the first time I've remembered to put my toolkit in my bag so I pull over and dig it out and tighten the nut. I also forgot to switch the Garmin back to "cycling" after Saturday's run so the display wasn't showing the things I'm used to looking at while cycling. I turn my head to check out the pace and try to convert that into mph in my head while riding and nearly drive myself into the back of a bus before skidding out and getting excited because I used the correct hand to brake with even though things are backwards in this country.

11.9 miles, 1:09:54.

Run Bulldog Run is running (ha ha) a competition wherein you can win a copy of Dean Karnazes book. Head on over to his blog if you're interested in winning your very own 50 in 50.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Speed yoga

Today's fitness activity was scheduled to be either yoga or a rest day. My hangover(s) and I had taken a few extra rest days already, so I opted for yoga. Meg had mentioned she might want to try it, so I looked a few places up and downloaded some new podcasts from YogaJournal that don't really rely on knowing the names of the poses. . But I forgot how much she *loves* the Olympics so today wasn't the day. Went downstairs planning to do "90 minutes with Wade" but accidentally pressed play on the YJ Morning Sequence instead. I was all surprised that Wade seemed to have gone soft after the birth of his kid when I wasn't sweating balls after 10 minutes. Or maybe I just wasn't doing the right practice. Could someone please give me remedial iTunes lessons? Anyway, the morning practice turned out to be exactly what I needed to stretch out some of the not-so-delayed DOMS from yesterday's 8 on the 8th, but 27 minutes was rather less than I wanted to do today. Unfortunately I only had one other YJ episode downloaded - Gentle Backbends - I wish it had been hip openers but I'll take what I can get.

I also put my new Reelights on my bike this afternon - I'm excited to try them out tomorrow, though I just realised after reading someone else's thoughts on them that I put the front one on the side away from traffic. Since Betty has a Pitlock on the front axle, it's a bit of a pain to take the front wheel off and I don't really want to redo all the screws for approximately the sixth time today. So I'm leaving it - it points forward anyway - and I'll see how it goes.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

8 on the 8th: Fit enough but lacking mental discipline

Non-Runner Nancy set up another virtual race and I finally managed to participate in one. I haven't been running much, riding my bike instead, so I was a little nervous and to be honest if Nancy hadn't set this up I probably wouldn't have done 8, especially because the weather was trademark London summer shite (cold and rainy, leaving me wishing I'd worn long sleeves instead of a tank top).

For the first time I took a Camelbak with me - I've been riding with it but have never run with it. I was really glad to have the water, but it wasn't super comfortable and I couldn't ever get it to stop sloshing.

I felt good physically - my legs and lungs are still in good enough shape to run 8 miles - but the mental discipline is completely gone. I had forgotten my iPod and could never get into the groove. I kept stopping to walk, for no reason at all. I don't think I qualify for a gold medal - maybe pity applause like when Eric Moussambani of Equitorial Guinea swam.

How do you train yourself for the mental aspects of running? I was thinking about this today - that you have to have mental discipline to get faster, but the faster you get the less you need it. I mean, Paula Radcliffe could run most of a marathon in the time it took me to run 8 miles. And closer to home, Frayed Laces ran a half-marathon faster. (Actually, most of you probably can - she was just the first woman on my blogroll with an easy-to-find PR that verified this fact.) So I'm particularly interested in hearing from those of you who are, or have been at some point, slow.

8 miles, 1:45:56

Friday, 8 August 2008

A run ... on couscous?

I went to 4 grocery stores yesterday to buy couscous for Meg's famous curried couscous for our dinner with guests last night. Seriously. No one had it. Is there some worldwide blight on the couscous plant I don't know about? (Yes, I do know it's not actually a grain and is rather more like pasta. Actually, I just learned all kinds of new things about it having gotten curious as to why there might be a shortage.)

Instead we had mashed potatoes - no shortage of potatoes in this country - and the 6 of us drank 7 bottles of wine. My hangover hurts today. But I'm still planning to run Nancy's 8 on the 8th (or 9th, or 10th) this weekend.

Oh, and I emailed the folks at dailymile to ask about the widget I wanted, and about ex-US locations for event listings, and they emailed back right away to say both are in the works! Great customer service and definitely made me want to stick around.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Social networking for athletes: because I didn't run today

I read about dailymile on someone else's blog. It's like Twitter and MySpace but with an athlete's focus - or so I hear as I'm totally not cool enough to be on either of those things. Anyway, it's pretty interesting - though I wish it had a widget so I could use it to track my training and post it here (the only widget they have so far is for putting races up on your blog). It's new though, and so far invite only. If you're interested, I'll share the love I got from the RBF myself. Just post a comment asking for an invite.

And that's what I've done for fitness today. Gave myself yet another thing to read about running, instead of running. I suck.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Cycling Commutes 6 and 7: Stay out of my lane!

Here are some things a bike lane is not:

  • extra turning space for when you can't get your big-ass car to turn around and are already blocking all the traffic lanes
  • a place for you to creep around the other cars stopped at the light so you can make your turn quicker
  • a passing lane
  • parking, however temporary your stay
  • a good place to try to flag down a bus/taxi/hooker
  • the starting line for the new "smash the biker" extreme sport you're trying to start

Monday, 4 August 2008

Cycling Commutes 4 and 5

So last week I rode my bike in on Wednesday, then unexpectedly worked until after dark. I don't have a light on my bike yet, and am not really comfortable with my routes yet, so I left my bike in the garage at work. Thursday's plan was to ride home. There was a big announcement at work and then a meet-and-greet with some new colleagues. There were drinks. I left my bike in the garage again. Finally Friday I managed to be out at a decent hour and rode home, taking in a few extra miles and hills to explore some new areas/routes, just because I could (I love half-day Fridays, even when I don't leave until 4!). About 19 miles, 1:45-ish.

Nothing active per se this weekend - Saturday met some (American) friends for brunch, then Brighton Pride, Sunday went to the Red Bull Air Races. Wanted to ride bikes but rain threatening so smashed ourselves onto the tube instead. Really wished I'd had my bike.

Quick 13 mile ride in this morning. Looking forward to riding home. Who would have thought, when I bought my bike, I'd end up like Zanne and accidentally stop running because I like my bike so much? Still, I have a half-marathon (aka a Trisko) on the schedule in October and maybe I should get with the training. Tomorrow. Fo' really reals.

Some crappy personal stuff going on that I'm not really ready to talk about but that may involve me being far from my bike for a few days. Definitely would need to run to maintain some semblance of sanity. Keep Meg's aunt (and her husband and three kids) in your thoughts.