The advantage of cold weather

I hate winter. HATE IT. With every fiber of my being. HAAAAAAAAAAATE it. This blog pretty much owes its existence to my profound and undying hatred of cold weather and gray skies.

I can think of only three things I hate more than I hate winter: crowded gyms, flavored coffee and the designated hitter.

That first one put me in a bit of dilemma yesterday. I had a five-mile run on my agenda, and my options were: A.) run in 25-degree weather, or B.) go to the gym and dodge all the newbies who don’t understand why there are separate lanes for runners and walkers.

I decided colliding with a wrong-way walker would be more unpleasant than fighting the cold for a few miles, so I sucked it up and headed out.

HOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHMAHGAH, that first half-mile sucked. Wire-rimmed glasses, for the record, are NOT comfortable at 25 degrees with a headwind. That metal conducts the cold straight into your face everywhere it touches. Two blocks in, I gave serious thought to turning around, but I really didn’t want to go to the gym in January, so I gritted my teeth and kept going.

By the time I got to the trail, the wind had settled down, I had settled into a rhythm, and I had one of the easiest runs of my life.

I still hate winter, but it does make distance running easier, and I wouldn’t be terribly upset if I had subfreezing temperatures to run in every Saturday morning between now and, say, the end of February.

In other news, I’m not the only one training in our house. Lillian, who is completely flummoxed by the concept of a leash, had a meltdown and wriggled out of her harness last night when I tethered her to my waist to keep her from sneaking off to steal cat food or poop in the floor, so I put Scout’s old choke collar on her and marched her around the house, making her sit every few minutes. She was outraged and had several good tantrums, jumping and flailing and fighting the leash, but bacon bits eventually calmed her down, and now we have a new routine: When we’re home, Lil is tethered to one of us. She hates it, but she’ll get used to how the leash and collar work eventually, and I predict all will be well in a few days.

Emily

Lazy(ish) Saturday

I had an idea I’d run five miles this morning, but I finished painting my bedroom yesterday and then followed that up by wrangling a new shelf unit home from Kmart, assembling it and basically gutting my office closet and rearranging the entire thing, so I was pretty well tapped out by the time I woke up today. Throw in questionable dining choices yesterday (the homemade lasagna was a good idea, but the giant plate of dive-bar cheese fries was nothing but empty calories that didn’t last long enough to do me any good this morning) and the fact I’m driving to Southern Illinois this afternoon, and I decided I’d be better off refueling and rehydrating today and running tomorrow.

I will regret that decision when I wake up in the morning and my options are “run in 20-degree weather” or “risk an indoor track in January,” but nobody ever said marathoning was supposed to be easy, so I’m just going to enjoy my day today and suck it up tomorrow.

In other news, my bedroom looks awesome. For my next performance, I’ll redo the drywall joints in the office and repaint them.

Emily

Why I’m not buying a Powerball ticket

This ever-increasing Powerball jackpot has prompted a lot of conversations revolving around what people would do if they won.

I appreciate that people enjoy dreaming, and they’re willing to spend a couple of bucks on lottery tickets to fuel those dreams, but I’m not buying a ticket, because I don’t have ten-figure dreams. I don’t even have seven-figure dreams. Everything I want is either free or within reach using resources I already have.

I want another marathon. I can’t buy that. I have to earn it, and the only way to do that is to get up off my arse and train.

I want my hair to grow out and finish turning gray. I can’t buy that, either; I just have to let time do its work.

I want to get up every morning and watch the sun rise over Tucumcari Mountain. It will take money to move, but I don’t need a billion dollars; I just need to pay off my mortgage so I can afford to work for a smaller paper. A lottery jackpot would do that overnight, but I’d lose something precious in the process.

Y’all know I’m a road-trip junkie. I never fly anywhere I can drive, because I enjoy the trip itself almost as much as I enjoy the destination. In many ways, this quest to move to New Mexico is the ultimate road trip. It’s slow. It’s tiring. But it’s teaching me lessons I’d never learn otherwise, showing me things I’d never see otherwise, and introducing me to people I’d never meet otherwise.

If I had a plane ticket — or a winning Powerball ticket, as the case may be — I’d end up flying right over all the sights and lessons and experiences this journey has to offer.

A bed at the Blue Swallow is never more comfortable than when I’ve driven 14 hours to get to it. This is the magic of the road, and I trust it will hold true for my current journey: That first sunrise over Tucumcari Mountain will be that much more dazzling, that first bite of green chile stew at Watson’s that much spicier, and that first sopapilla at the Pow Wow that much sweeter for having been hard-won.

I wouldn’t trade the spoils of that journey for a billion dollars.

Emily

Rainy-day project

I had a five-mile run scheduled for today, but the weather righteously sucks and I felt as if I might be coming down with a cold Thursday and Friday, so I spent the day indoors, sanding drywall joints and painting the bedroom instead. The run probably would have been an easier workout, to be honest, but if the weather is better tomorrow, I’ll hit the trail in the morning; if not, I’ll put in 15 miles or so on the bike.

I’m rag-painting the bedroom walls to give them a sort of parchment look and conceal the flaws in my drywall job. Here are a few photos of my work thus far. (Excuse the fuzziness of the photos; the lighting in there isn’t great, and I didn’t feel like breaking out my Canon in the middle of a home-improvement project.)

walls1

walls2

walls3

This is the first time I’ve taped drywall joints. My work isn’t perfect, but it looks exponentially better than the globby, cracked mess it replaced, so I’m calling that a win. With the drywall repair and the paint job, the walls look much nicer. I want to paint a trompe l’oeil picture window in there at some point, but that’s a project for another week. For now, I’m content with the faux-parchment surface.

Emily

Easing back toward the veg life

As I mentioned the other day, I’m hoping to make the transition from a meat-heavy diet to a more plant-based diet this year.

My primary reason is athletic: Done right, a vegetarian diet is a near-perfect way to fuel a marathon training program. (When I say “done right,” I mean heavy on whole grains, legumes and minimally processed vegetables, not the classic “Beer and potato chips are vegan, right?” diet of my misspent youth.)

The contents of my freezer are sort of forcing me to ease into this slowly: I’ve got about five pounds of frozen chicken down there, a metric crap-ton of cheese tortellini, God alone knows how many pepperoni pizza rolls, and a pantry full of canned tuna. But Ron likes the pizza rolls better than I do, so I’m leaving those for him to make whenever the day’s menu involves something he doesn’t like, and I’m starting the transition by simply eliminating red meat from my own diet.

We made our quarterly trip up to Costco in St. Louis today in hopes of finding vegetarian convenience foods I could keep in the freezer for quick meals. They didn’t have the veggie burgers and fake corn dogs I wanted, so I wound up with a big bag of quinoa and kale divvied up into microwave-friendly steamer bags, a bag of edamame, and an eight-pack of canned organic black beans — not as much fun as corn dogs, but probably better choices for boosting endurance.

My menu for this week is split pretty neatly among vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and pesco-pollo-vegetarian meals, which is the easiest way to make the shift. If you’re interested in attempting a similar diet, here’s what I’ve got planned:

SATURDAY:
Sweet potato tacos

SUNDAY:
Chicken tikka masala (chicken breasts simmered in prefabbed tikka masala sauce, served over whole-wheat couscous)

MONDAY:
Burritos (refried pinto beans, shredded cheddar, salsa in a big flour tortilla)

TUESDAY:
Lunch: Breakfast burritos (diced potatoes, scrambled eggs, green chile, shredded cheddar, salsa in a big flour tortilla)

WEDNESDAY:
Lemon-tahini pasta (this is a recipe I’m making up as I go, but it’s basically capellini tossed with tahini, lemon juice and garlic)

THURSDAY:
Beans and green chile cornbread

FRIDAY:
Vegetarian lasagna

To use up the tuna in the pantry, I’ll be making a lot of tuna salad — my version is a can of tuna mixed with 2 tbsp. each of mayo and dill relish and a couple of finely chopped celery stalks. I scored 5 lbs. of Clementines for $5.99 at Costco today, so I’ll be eating a lot of those as recovery snacks after runs. (Oranges are really high in potassium, so an orange sprinkled with chile-lime salt is a great way to replace electrolytes after a run.) I’m also a fan of nooch nachos, and the freezer is still well-stocked with ingredients for smoothies, so I see a lot of that in my future, too.

Emily

Marathon training

As I mentioned in my list of goals the other day, my BFF and I made a pact to run a marathon this year — his first; my first in a decade.

We started our training program yesterday with a three-mile run and continued today with a four-miler. Both runs were fairly easy, mainly because I’m using the Jeff Galloway approach, which involves building in walk breaks at planned intervals to help reduce the risk of injuries and maintain a sustainable pace for the duration of the run.

I used to base my intervals on time: Run five minutes, walk one. I know other runners who base their intervals on distance: Run a mile, walk a minute. Both methods have their merits, but this fall, I began experimenting with the idea of basing my breaks on steps rather than time or distance. I may never bother with a stopwatch again.

Your mileage may vary, but here are the advantages I found on my runs using the step-counting method:

1. More consistent effort expended between walking intervals. When I use the stopwatch, I end up running a lot more steps in five minutes at the beginning of a run than I do at the end.

2. More effort in general. If a quicker pace gets me to my break faster, I’m probably going to run harder between breaks, and I’m less tempted to slow down when I’m tired. Theoretically, running a specific distance between breaks would accomplish the same thing, but distance is harder to measure reliably.

3. It’s easier to keep track of, especially in cold weather. I have an iPhone with a stopwatch and GPS on it, but I have no idea where I put my touchscreen-sensitive gloves, so if I’m trying to track time or distance on my phone, I have to take off my gloves and coax it out of sleep mode every time I want to check. Instead, I use a cheap mechanical lap counter, logging a “lap” every 100 steps.

4. It makes a long run feel more manageable. I have something to think about besides how tired I am as the mileage increases, and I get a little psychological boost from clicking the lap counter every 100 steps. Never underestimate the value of a mental lift on a long run. Distance running is more mental than physical, and every little nudge helps.

Emily

Sustainability on a shoestring

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