Rediscovery

I am a creature of habit. When I form a habit, it’s really hard for me to break it, be it getting up at the crack of dawn to run…or eating a certain sweet something at 3pm. I’m obviously not a slave to habit, otherwise I would never have moved in my life, nor would I have picked up new hobbies at any given point in time. But my habits ground me. And I guess, when you’ve moved four times in four years, you need something to ground you.

Running was not a habit I wanted to give up, for any period of time. But I had to push it off to the side for my poor little injured second metatarsal. Not only have I pushed aside running, I put a hold on my climbing gym membership (which, incidentally, was how I spent 2-3 evenings a week, for upwards of 4 hours each evening). It’s now been 3 weeks since my podiatrist’s stress fracture semi-diagnosis, and finally…I’ve broken the habits I so adored. In their place, I have new habits, and even though it was painful to give up the old habits, I’m starting to like the new ones.

Take swimming, for instance. I know how to swim, I enjoy it, and I recognize it is such a good workout. I was resistant to get back in the swimming game at first because it meant I’d have to learn where the pools were, what their schedule was, and how to make it there on time. It’s taken me three weeks, but I’ve finally figured it out, and it’s not that hard to make it to where I need to be. Moving through the water yesterday morning, I realized I’m finally getting the hang of things. I can go for two laps without stopping instead of one. I know that I have a lot to work on with swimming to get to the point where I could go continuously for 30 minutes or so, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling completely relaxed and fundamentally happy after a session. I don’t know if this is because I like swimming or if it is because it is the best exercise available for me right now…but I’ll take it.

I may be a habit-forming person, but habit breaking is just as much fun. I need to remember this when I get stuck in my ways. Life is just too short to schedule in so much and leave no room for discovering (or rediscovering) new things.

This is Pi.

Pi in the Sky art installation over the bay area today.

Did you see this? Did you know it was happening? I happened to be walking back from lunch and looked up to see five planes in perfect synchronization creating this beautiful series of numbers. Immediately, my first thought was: “I’m sure this means something,” followed by: “Is this a geek’s proposal?” and then finally: “This is clearly an expensive ad.” None of the above! Turns out it is an art installation. Which makes me wonder…if this was a rorschach ink blot type of test, what does that say about me? What did you think it was?

Freezing my shoes

View of SF from a boat on the bay.

I’ve been horribly remiss about posting photos of new outfits lately. I feel a little shy asking random colleagues to take photos of me, and my fashion photographer (aka, the woman who introduced me to Raja), is out of town for work. I have been mostly wearing more stylish/flattering outfits, though, and finding it easier to do so. I even bought an accessory (a turquoise necklace). I will say the following about the long weekend, and my 21 Day Challenge:

  • I wore dry-clean-only pants on a sailboat (rocky waters = salty pants. lesson learned!).
  • I missed an opportunity to wear a new outfit on a day when I was only planning on swimming (as it turns out, I ended up spending way more time walking around in Berkeley than originally planned) — and I missed an opportunity to show off Raja’s talents. Le sigh!
  • I am getting better at advertising Raja’s services, but not better at judging who wants them. I went to a Labor Day party a friend of mine was hosting and her husband’s mother sounded really interested. As it turns out, she was just making small talk, because when I offered to give her Raja’s info, she poo-pooed it. Oh well!
  • I froze my shoes. Apparently, this is a tried-and-true method for breaking them in. You fill up two hole-free, fully sealable ziploc bags with water, and stick them in your shoes, making sure to cover the toe to the heel. Then, you stick the shoes in the freezer overnight. My shoes are not 100% broken in yet, but they’re definitely closer!
  • I won’t give up my Patagonia down jacket when standing outside for hours. Freezing in SF is just not worth it.

Another day, another outfit

This post is third in a series of entries about Raja’s 21 Day Challenge, which is to wear the fabulous new clothes she helped me purchase every day for 21 consecutive days, in hopes that I will form a fashionably sensible habit. Find out more about Raja

This outfit is a lot of things: a splash of color, a scoop neck, very comfy skirt, a blazer thrown in for good measure (because it is inevitably always cold in the city–but not in Marin)…and a pair of shoes I’m not entirely sure works, but that are worn-in and comfy. New plan for the weekend? Break in those cute new shoes I bought!

Pink!

This post is second in a series of entries about Raja’s 21 Day Challenge, which is to wear the fabulous new clothes she helped me purchase every day for 21 consecutive days, in hopes that I will form a fashionably sensible habit. Find out more about Raja

I own many different varieties of flat black and brown shoes. My main criteria for purchasing shoes is comfort and practicality. However, my shoes never really “pull together” an outfit. In fact, they probably detract from it more often than not, as I’ll wear them down until the soles start coming apart and the leather scratches on the surface make them look more like an art project than a black shoe.

Lucky for me, these new pink flats have the potential to be comfortable* and stylish. AND…pink. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago when pink shoes would have been the norm for me. When I was 10, pink covered my walls, my pink-barret-covered-head-to-my-pink-ruffle-socked-feet, and my everyday existence. But why should 10 year old girls get to have all the fun?

*Throughout the day, my feet went from mildly irritated to extreme pain, making even walking to the printer a challenging task. These shoes should be comfortable, though, so I’m just going to chock it up to the “break in period,” and hope the blisters go away in time.

Fashionably fractured…to functional (hopefully!)

First, a running update:

My left foot has been bugging me since I ran the half marathon. It acts up after I’ve engaged in weight bearing activities (which are, essentially, the things I do for exercise/stress relief/my social life/you name it: cooking, climbing, hiking and running, for instance). All last week, I tried resting. I tried icing. I tried muscle rubs. And after all of that, my foot still ached at the end of a sedentary workday.

I decided to break down and visit my new bff, the podiatrist.* She made me move my tiny foot muscles. She poked each area of my foot, pulling each individual toe to see if it caused pain. She targeted the problem area (i.e., I was in pain). And then she took an x-ray of it. I learned a lot from that visit. My second metatarsal is bigger than my first. It’s not apparent on visual (like a morton’s toe), but it is obvious when you look on the x-ray. That means, my second metatarsal was doing way too much work while running and could have caused a hairline stress fracture. Inconclusive, because one xray said maybe, the other said nothing, but consistent with my symptoms.

This has all been very frustrating, as you can imagine. I finally figured out that swimming is an amazing low impact/low foot use workout, but I’m going to have to put a hold on my climbing gym membership for a month and NOT GO CLIMBING. OR HIKING. OR RUNNING. It’s good, in a way, to change my routine, but I will really miss those other things. They were such a central part of my life, and I look forward to the time when I can do them again.

*My sports therapy doc visits have definitely increased since I started training. I am not concerned, but I do wish I had better health insurance. I mean, chiropractic is preventative care, people! It should not be a $30 copay/visit. Don’t even get me started on the $60 copay for podiatry. I digress…

Fashion to the rescue!

In the meantime, I’m focusing on other things (like cello, swimming, fashion, etc.). For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to update my wardrobe with classic items that can be worn to work/on dates/at home. However, every time I entered a store, I got intimidated (in general, I feel metaphorically fractured when it comes to accessorizing or even matching items to make outfits). I kept delaying the inevitable shopping trip for various reasons (I’m sure I used the fav excuse: “I don’t have time; too busy running,” or “I’ll probably lose weight from all this running; I should wait until that stabilizes.”). It was time to make a change — after all, it was almost a year since I bought many nice work/date appropriate items at once, and I wasn’t really losing inches drastically, just gaining muscle tone.

This all led to one amazing evening with Raja, a desk warrior turned fashion consultant and painter extraordinaire! In 3.5 hours (ish), we covered many topics…including how not to hide behind baggy clothing, where shirts should fall on the pants, accessories, the every-day blazer, how to incorporate a sleek dress or two…just to name a few. She was gentle and firm, and very encouraging. At the end, I had a brand new wardrobe and a challenge: to spend the next 21 days wearing new clothes. The small print? I am to wear a blazer at least three times a week. And at least one accessory (my choice will generally be a necklace).

After putting everything away in its proper spot (blazers first, then dresses, then shirts, then pants) and moving old clothes to the smaller closet, I glanced over my main closet and felt a bit daunted by the actual item-pairing exercise. Then, I checked my email and found that Raja had laid it all out for the next 7 days. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and selected the items I put on today: skinny jeans, check shirt, black soft blazer, beige shoes. I put on a pearl necklace and a watch, and took a couple of photos (below).

I’ll do the same thing for the next 20 days and maybe this will turn me into a “fashion functional” human. Probably not a better fashion self-photographer, however.

Black toenails

Black toenails…and swollen feet…OH MY! I thought I was safe, buying the best possible shoes for the job, making sure they were a half size bigger than I would normally purchase, and even getting Podiatrist advice. Alas…no one can be fully safe.

My left foot feels like it has grown outward next to where the shoelaces were tied, and it presses painfully against my shoe when I run (granted, I’ve only run short distances since the race — and I don’t really know if this is real pain or just readjusting to the exercise).

My right second toenail is getting darker as the blister underneath grows bigger. I probably should have clipped my toenails ahead of time. In the meantime, I’m going to head to a running store this weekend to get new shoes — and I’m hoping it helps!

For more info on this topic, check out this Runners World article.

Recovery Week

On Monday, I became obsessed with finding the next big run. A few people were telling me I should just do another half in the fall. After all, I already had the training foundation for it, and anything I’d do until then would be maintenance. So, I found a couple of promising races:

The Big Sur Half will likely sell out soon, but it’s in the lead because it’s local enough and promises beautiful scenery. The Des Moines Marathon has a lot going for it (friends/family time, and being able to be there to support a friend who is running again for the first time since pregnancy), but it would mean I’d probably have to skip Thanksgiving in Iowa — and I’d have to take time off work for it.

Shortly after planning the runs, I downloaded a new, “moderate,” running schedule that would involve 2 miles on Tuesday, 5 miles on Thursday, and 8 miles on Sunday. All of that was thrown out of the window when I found myself sleeping in on Tuesday morning…and Thursday. This week, my training mostly consisted of climbing and practicing yoga. It was just what my body demanded, and I’m glad I did it. On Saturday, I went on a short, slow run with my roommate, and that went OK, but it was hard to motivate myself to do it. I feel like my strategy should really be to start small and increase up again. Maybe start by going for time, not distance (i.e., 30 mins of steady running one day, then 45, then 60 and so on).

I’m probably going to throw out any daunting training “plans” for the next week or so and see where that takes me. Then, maybe sign up for something in the fall. Maybe. I’m not going to promise anything, and I’m not going to be too disappointed if it doesn’t work out. There will be plenty of half marathon opportunities in 2013, after all.

Running Spam

A friend of mine (also a runner) recently posted an Onion article on her FB feed, focusing on how runners spam their friends with minute details about their running.

From the article:

“Mile split times, cramping, hydration levels, chafing—you’re about to hear all of that. Plus, I’ll be dwelling on one point around mile 17 when I considered stopping but then decided to keep going because I’d already come so far. There’s a lot to cover, so I want to be upfront and apologize right off the bat.”

Oh boy, am I guilty for that! I guess that’s why I have a blog, so those who don’t mind the spam can read it (and those who hate it can ignore it).

I like one of her friends’ comments: “at our age it’s a tough choice between marathons and babies, but marathons are the underdog so let it roll.” Ok, I don’t feel that bad after all…

Race Day

Finish
2:44:29 Pace: 12:33
(For reference, my first half marathon ever clocked in at 2:55:43)

Split times
5K: 36:30 Pace: 11:45
7.4 miles: 1:31:00 Pace: 12:18
*Note: they don’t show miles 9-13, the hardest miles of the race! I kept it as steady as possible, though– around 12 mins/mile (with my only slower miles around 13 mins/mile and 14 mins/mile on the last two miles of the stretch)

Highlights from pre and during today’s race:

  • My parents came in town for the weekend and cheered me on at several points throughout the race. It was nice to have their support and encouragement.
  • A few of my friends came over for carb-loading the night before. Again, so much encouragement and good times! Kept my mind off the next day’s activity.
  • My roommate recommended wearing the fuel belt. She said (and I paraphrase): “you don’t want them to decide when you can refuel.” I wore the fuel belt and was so grateful I did.
  • Mr. Peanut! ‘Nuff said.

  • Adrenaline…running with it is so different than otherwise. My first few miles were pretty fast (though I did try to keep it somewhat normal/mildly fast for me).
  • At mile 3, my orchestra/climbing friends cheered me on — following me with a video camera (!) and a boombox. I don’t think I would have ever expected that; it was a fun surprise.
  • Energy of the crowd. Four years ago, I lived with marathon runners and I remember cheering them on several times for various runs — the energy of the crowd is pretty irresistible, even more so when you’re in it.
  • There was a very brief moment early on when I debated listening to music. In the end, trashy pop music won. It most definitely helped with my pace, and getting in the zone.
  • This jogger was fun to run with (not sure if you can see it, but the guy in the white shirt is juggling):

  • Around mile 6, I caught up with my friend, Alison, who was steadily running, and we had a moment on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was great to see her, and we were able to be near each other for my parents/ her boyfriend at their cheer station.
  • For much of the race, I kept up with two individuals: the 5:30 marathon pacer and the fastest walker I’ve ever met. The 5:30 pacer helped me see the potential. The fast walker was just plain demotivating. There’s something about running as fast as a walker that’s hard to deal with in the moment. I couldn’t shake her, though, so I learned to deal with it.
  • PR, by 10 mins…it feels like more than that, though. The SF Marathon has been quoted as “the race even Marathoners fear” (Wall Street Journal, 7/13/2010). The elevation during the first half most certainly has something to do with that. I felt like I tackled the hills with determination, and that helped keep my pace pretty steady. Can’t wait to see what the second half looks like next year.