Monday, September 19, 2011

Walking Naked

Leaving the Garmin and the headphones at home gave me the opportunity to walk without constantly thinking about my pace, the mileage, what song was playing. Instead, I was treated to the sounds of the neighborhood and beyond as I walked.

Two blocks away, someone in a garage brought out the rata-tat-rata-rata-tat-tat of the drums. Not far beyond the drummer, two groups of young men were circled up on the field of the elementary school to play ultimate frisbee. A deep voice yelled out, "Zig zaggy zig zaggy." And the group answered, "Oy, oy, oy." This they repeated three times then ended it with a raucous, "Whewwwwwww!" One member of the other group took exception to the enthusiasm and sneered, "Team cheers are so ten years ago. Get with it."

As I continued on, I heard the city bus coming up behind me. I've learned their unique sound signature from the days commuting to school and the bus following me down the street every now and then. A low-pitched roar indicates the bus is coming to a stop. A high-pitched whine let's me know it's accelerating. While I haven't taken the city bus in quite a few years, I always keep it in mind for that just-in-case moment when I might need it.

At my turn around point, I heard the chitter of the starlings sitting overhead on the power lines. In between the chitter an occasional musical whistle floated onto the evening air. I thought about Annie Dillard describing the starling in her wonderful book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. More a nuisance than a welcomed visitor at the bird feeder, the starling is the odd bird out because, well, they aren't all that pretty and they stink, literally. The story behind their arrival to the United States is very interesting, but the bird itself isn't so interesting.

On my return home, the ultimate frisbee players were gone from the field next to the elementary school, replaced by young girls playing soccer, their parents dutifully set up on the sidelines, sitting in the ever favorite fabric folding chairs. I passed the drummer in the garage who was still rata-tat-tatting away. As I walked the last block towards home, an acorn plunked against the sidewalk just in front of me, its cap splitting off and landing in the grass. I opened the front gate, the clasp tinking as I lifted it away from the small bar that keeps it in place, and was happy that I had walked naked.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Knew The Garmin Was Playing With Me

During my last long walk, the Garmin showed that I'd expended over 1500 calories during a 5.5 mile walk. I knew this was bogus but being the numbers junkie I am, I played along and did the boogie woogie over the large number of calories supposedly burned. My most recent walk, 6.7 miles, a whole 1.2 miles farther than the previous walk, showed only 800+ calories burned. Half of the previous walk. Ahh, well, better than no calories at all.

Today is a rainy day, so most likely no long walk. This might actually be a good time to get the treadmill and trainer set up again, for days like today, when being outside isn't conducive to a happy, productive walk. Hubby bought another membership at the rec center for the semester, but I'm determined not to do this. While I thoroughly enjoyed going during the spring semester, I've decided to go another route: using the equipment I already have right here at home and the natural jungle gym beyond my front door.

I have a weight bench, bands, treadmill, trainer, and an apparatus for doing pull ups, leg lifts, and other exercises. I also have workout DVDs that kick my rear end. When the urge to go outside hits, I can walk/jog without feeling afraid, even after dark, since I live in a safe area. What more do I need? Sure, during sub zero temps I'll be wishing for the toasty warm rec center, but many cultures have adapted to cold weather: Eskimos, Icelanders, Greenlanders, and Scandinavians to name a few. I, too, can adapt. And in the process, I can save some money, but even more importantly, I can create memories from my time exploring the winter world around me, something that can't be done inside a rec center.

That's the plan. I'm looking forward to seeing how things go, and if I break down and end up at the rec center, I'll humbly hang my head and admit I'm not as tough as I think I am.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Calories Burned Junkie

Without a doubt, I am a calories in/calories out junkie. The high I get seeing the amount of calories I've burned during a ride or during a walk/jog makes me giddy. And this evening, when I pulled out the Garmin to check my mileage, I saw I'd already reached 900+ calories after only 2.28 miles (I think my Garmin was playing with me; I really don't think it was accurate). However, just for kicks, I'm going to go with it and say BAMM! lovin' the numbers. By the time I was finished with the 5.5 miles, the calories out showed 1674 (again, I think my HR monitor and Garmin were in cahoots over this one). Thinking over what I ate for the day, my calories in isn't much more than my calories out. As an athlete, I know this isn't a good way to go, but as a woman who has a fear of underarm flab, back fat, and a spare tire, the calories out equaling or surpassing the calories in brings me peace.

You'd think that with everything I've read about nutrition over the last couple of years I'd have this eating thing down. Truth is, I don't. I'm still struggling with eating on a regular schedule, eating healthful foods, and eating enough period. I'm definitely not wasting away; I've always leaned towards being on the muscular side, which I'm okay with, and more recently with all the cycling, the muscle tone is better than it has been for years. Seeing these positive results makes me slouch when it comes to the healthful eating. I allow myself to fall into the greasy pit of "I can eat anything I want--hey a double hamburger and fries sounds really good." With the easing up of cycling, though, which means less calories being left on the roads, the chance of developing underarm flab, back fat, and a spare tire is very real if I succumb often to the hamburger/fries temptation.

Somehow I need to nip that bud before it blooms. I'm not exactly sure how to do that, but with the settling into the classes routine beginning to happen, maybe I can give this a little more attention.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer Slipping Away

The cycling season is slowly heading towards the day when the bike will be hung up for the winter months. Tree leaves are beginning to show signs of going from green to red or yellow. The corn stands brown and dried, some fields already harvested. Woolly caterpillars inch their way across the roads. The geese gather in strange places: a school yard, a bare soy bean field. And the wind seems to never cease.

The calendar shows fall nearing, ready to go shoulder to shoulder against summer and push it out of the way. Summer tries to carry on, with warm days, zinnias still in bloom. Fall has the upper hand, though, bringing earlier sunsets, cooler nights, later sunrises, and morning ground mists.

Cycling through these days I feel summer slipping away.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

After Giving Up the Running . . .

I'm back at it. Yeah, I know. I'm fickle.

The thinking about running again started last Saturday, as Hubby and I were out cycling. I was mulling over how I fulfilled all my goals for the summer--giving the sprint tri another go (I actually did three, my best of the three showing I shaved off 20 minutes from last year's attempt) along with completing at least 3 century rides--and I was wondering what my next step was going to be. The first thing that came to mind was running. I'm seriously insane to even entertain the idea, but yesterday I went out and walked/jogged 4.65 miles. Today I went out for a 5.53 mile walk/jog. Now, my legs are mad at me, actually screaming at me when I go up and down the stairs, but I like the soreness. Makes me think about the day after my last century ride when my legs were sore and I thought of the soreness as a badge of honor for the effort I had put in during the ride. I feel that same way today after walking/jogging. I like that.

Part of the attitude change is I'm not putting on the pressure to be fast. I'm not fast. I never will be. What I do have is endurance. I can go for a long time without getting terribly fatigued. That's gotta be worth something, right? Yesterday while I was out, I used the Garmin to keep track of my pace, HR, and distance. I kept a brisk 4.5 mph pace going, breaking into a jog every now and then to raise my HR, bringing it back down after a half mile or so and repeated. As it was my first day out, I decided to just do between 4 and 5 miles to see how things went. At the end, feeling peppy and re-energized after a couple of weeks of the blahs, I planned out my next day's walk/jog. Today was that walk/jog. I added on over a half mile, maintained the same pace as yesterday, and felt incredible when I reached the driveway.

I'm glad I gave up the running when I did. My attitude towards it wasn't healthy. Being away from it gave me the opportunity to get more miles on the bike, and spending so much time in the saddle allowed me to make peace with my turtle running pace. Just like the pace while on the bike doesn't matter, neither does it while running. Getting out and moving should be the focus: slow, in-between, fast, whatever. That's where the happiness is.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Battle is Raging

I've got the blah's. For about two weeks now, I've not had any desire to get out and ride, at least not beyond the commuting. The commuting has been good--cooler mornings so I don't arrive to work in need of another shower, light traffic since I leave early. So the cycling to work is going just peachy. Getting out for longer rides, though, has been non-existent. I've kind of decided to just let my blah's work themselves out. I hope they do soon.

Part of the lack of cycling desire stems from returning to work. At least that's what I'm going with. Going from having all the time in the world to get out and just go without other commitments to worry about to having to be somewhere to do something every single day is a shock to the emotional system. Going from being able to think about nothing, what I truly believe were moments of reaching the end of my brain as I'm rolling along (my hubby finds this incredibly funny, but I swear there were instances of experiencing nothingness) to having to think about grammar, sentence structure, paragraphing, Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, Poe, Jewett, Hemingway, Carver, my promotion portfolio, the conference session I'm to give in October, and so much other "stuff" is plain exhausting. I can't keep my eyes open past 8 in the evenings. When the alarm goes off at 5:30 am, I just want to roll over and hide from the world.

Where my days were filled with hours of solitude, just me, the bike, and the road, now my days are filled with busyness and noise. At this point, three weeks into the semester, I can tell I'm reaching the limits to what I can tolerate of the noisy busyness.

Thankfully the work week is over. With no meetings on the calendar for tomorrow, I don't have to be on campus. As I write this, that familiar urge to get out and ride for hours is struggling to push itself past the week's toxic build-up. Maybe after a good night's sleep, the urge will be stronger and give me the energy to get out. Just me, the bike, and the road.


A flag for each who died on 9/11.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Listenin' to Larry

Today I had the pleasure of meeting Larry Gatlin. I grew up listening to the Gatlin Brothers, and when I found out Mr. Gatlin  was coming to our campus to conduct a creative writing workshop, I knew I had to go. Not only is Mr. Gatlin a hugely talented performer, but he is also funny, well-read, smart, and just plain down to earth.

Me n' Larry
Several of my students attended the workshop (yes, I bribed them to go; but on the way out, two of them said those who didn't take me up on my offer truly missed out on a good time) and left with huge smiles. One had the opportunity to read her poem aloud for Mr. Gatlin to listen to and respond, and he gave her praise and encouragement after she finished. When Mr. Gatlin told the group how important it is for a writer to read, read, and read some more, my students looked at me and grinned, as I have been saying the same thing since the semester began.

After the workshop, Mr. Gatlin spent about 45 minutes in the Cafe, singing, joking, telling stories, and answering questions from the crowd. He was scheduled to entertain for a half hour, but he insisted on continuing when the president of the college made the move to end the fun. His not being in a hurry to wrap things up was very refreshing.

Though I'm not a country music fan these days, I had to laugh when I was able to sing along with each of the songs Mr. Gatlin sang. Made my students laugh, too. I can't sing along with Lady Gaga, but I definitely can with Larry Gatlin.