Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hard Core

My sister suggested earlier this week that I was becoming a hard core runner. She had tongue in cheek (she runs 100 miles a week, I count a good week as 20), and I didn't feel very hard core based on her assessment.

But today? I hit a major milestone.

It's not that I ran 7 miles. I'd done that before.

Not that I did it happily, even looking forward to it the night before. That happens with most of my long runs.

Not that I did it on my birthday - if you'd told me a year ago I'd eagerly run 7 miles on my 47th birthday, I'd have laughed hard enough to make stuff come out my nose - I like long runs enough so that it was a treat.

Not even that I ran the first two miles through knee pain.

No, it was when I got home and realized I needed to go to the store to pick up eggs for breakfast for the sleepover boys we had last night. And, without any sense of irony, I asked Rob to smell me, to make sure I could go to the store.

It didn't even strike me until fifteen minutes later how odd that was. No, I don't remember ever asking my husband to smell me.

I think that qualifies as Hard Core.

Tomorrow starts Week 1 of training for a solid first 10K in October. Wish me luck!

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Report

I lived through two days of classes plus one class on Thursday that I've decided to take next year instead of this year. Time for a race report. As I said a few posts back, it continues to be the little things that are hard, interesting, and/or amazing.

First, caloric output. My 8:00 class (which starts at 8:10) is at the farthest possible point on campus from the BART station. Straight uphill, probably about a mile. The BART train drops me off at 7:55. There is supposed to be a shuttle, but there hasn't been so far...I don't think they pay much attention to the schedule. So this morning I shot out of the BART car, bounded up the steps, and then strode up the hill at a madwoman's pace. I was only 3 minutes late, but that meant I had to sit at the top of the auditorium (after first walking in front of the teacher, always fun), which was another climb.

And it's like that all day (although the 8:00 is the worst). I honestly don't think I could do this if I hadn't lost weight and started running. The good news is that between the running, the biking to and from BART and the insane amount of walking with 20 pounds on my back, I get to eat a lot more.

Second, shoes. Footwear became an obsession this week. I stupidly wore flip flops on Wednesday, not realizing how much walking there would be, and my feet still hurt from that. I'm afraid I will be a little old lady in tennis shoes from now on.

Third, shoes. I am astonished at the shoes of the average female undergrad and some of the grad students. Two, three inch heels. Sandals that must cut into their feet like crazy. Espadrilles with a high wedge that must make their feet burn like the sun. To boot, it's about 145 degrees today, and 3/4 of the girls on campus had on painted-on blue jeans. Oy. I suspect I was just as vain when I was 18 or so, but it makes me want to smack them.

Fourth, I am old. It's getting better, but I spent the first couple of days amazed at how old I feel on campus and in classes. Somehow I was led to believe that there were lots of "re-entry" students. There are not. Education has quite a few, Public Health has 2 (including me) in my department, maybe 5 in the whole school. I don't see any in any other department buildings, at all. It's not a big deal, it's just a fish out of water thing.

Fifth, it's hot. UC Berkeley is a public university in a state that doesn't really "do" education. Air conditioning is not the top of the list of priorities. It's just hot. All. The. Time. Again, so glad I lost some weight before doing this.

Sixth, they're making me DO stuff. I'm already behind on homework, but mostly because I didn't buy books until today. I do have the better part of a day's worth of work for this weekend, though.

The good stuff? There's lots, but it's all just sort of good feeling stuff in my head. I love being challenged, love the stuff I'm being asked to do and discuss, love the ideas I'm already shifting about things, love the campus "buzz". Oh, and Yogurt Park, the froyo place. I love that, too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Day

I wrote about 12 blog posts in my head today (my first day of classes), but by the end of the day I was so tired that all my plans for the evening went out the window. Instead of prepping for Joe's party on Friday and watching The Big Speech, I'll be sawing logs by 9. (It didn't help that I woke up at 4:20 this morning, all nervous and excited. It didn't help one bit.)

The young'uns in my last class were all just as tired as I was by 4pm, though...lots of yawns. That made me feel better. Oh, and if I ever felt, "gosh, I can't go to school while my kids weren't adults, it's way too hard and they need me too much"? Get this: in my department there's another mom student (actually there are a couple) who has three children UNDER FIVE YEARS OF AGE. One of them, cough, is two months old.

I am a whiner.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Sixteen Looks Like

An old high school friend, Marina Fusco Nims, was (and hopefully still is) a fabulous youth photographer. She recently posted some photos on Facebook. I think this is probably the best photo of me ever taken, and I'd never seen it until this week. (Copyright Marina Fusco, 1977.) Geez, just the light is worth raving about.

Facebook: I am having more fun than I can describe getting in touch with old friends and acquaintances (they're old, too). I am hopelessly inept at in-person social situations, but on-line I'm witty and charming and personable (or maybe I convince myself I am) and so it's like being at the best cocktail party, ever.

Figuring it Out

One of the challenges around the changes in my life this fall is figuring stuff out. The list of stuff to figure out, in addition to the actual stuff they're trying to teach me at school, is overwhelming. There are all the campus systems (the financial aid office, the bookstore, the campus transit, the bizarre ID and passcode system, how to register [THAT was something], the clock system [class times aren't REALLY class times, they're 10 minutes later]). Then there's BART and how to get there, and the bus from campus to work on days I do both, and I also need to figure out my kids' transportation system for the coming school year.

Then there are little things, like those cute sporty flats I bought 'cause they were OK for walking. They cut into the side of my heel walking up the long campus hill. And I need something to keep my lunch cold. And an extra battery pack for my laptop.

But yesterday I found the bike parking at the local BART station, which solves a bunch of problems for me (I won't go into them all), and it's free and there are always open spaces and it's secure parking and in a safe spot for me. That was a triumph.

And this morning I managed to roll out of bed even before my alarm went off at 5:30, put the water on for coffee (I'd cleverly set everything up the night before), put my gear on and head out for four decent miles once I'd had a cuppa joe. That was a HUGE triumph. I even borrowed Rob's strap-on head lamp so I could see the sidewalk, avoiding a broken ankle.

Cue up the Mary Tyler Moore music...

Monday, August 25, 2008

All That, Plus? Chips!

I write to you from beneath two lovely overlapping oak trees, hiding from the August sun on an unusually warm Berkeley day. Orientation into the master's program at (it was oft repeated this morning) the highest ranked public university in the US was better than I could have expected.

While I have more social skills than the average person pursuing an education in biostatistics, that's not saying much. But despite my hatred of small talk and "networking", by two o'clock I'd managed to make a whole slew of new nerd friends, including my new stats professor who plunked himself down next to me at lunch and answered all my questions and even explained why they let me in to Berkeley (all that studying for my GRE was indeed worth it!).

I now have a pretty clear idea of what it is I'll be studying over the next four semesters and why, whom to talk to about skirting the silly rules designed for 22yos fresh out of undergrad, and even who might be willing to hire me once I get out of here. Plus I now have the campus wi-fi system figured out, and I got a free lunch out of the deal.

Tomorrow we get the library, career center, and internship talks, and then Wednesday they fire the starting pistol at 8:00am with Probability and Statistics in Public Health.

Lori, you should TOTALLY do this. Just the lunch alone is worth the trouble! :-)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nothing Interesting to Say

I'm afraid to start anything new because I don't have any idea whether the next few weeks are going to be incredibly stressful or not. I'm not doing anything interesting because I'm just trying to get all those put-off chores done this week, for the same reason. I'm also broke, after the vacation and Rob's weird summer salary distribution (he gets paid a lot on July 1, then not again until October 1, so September is always a bit lean). I'm running a bit (and even picked up the pace a lot today, although it was a post-caffeine run), but haven't started training.

In fact, pretty much the biggest excitement I'll have today is watering my plants.

On a motivational running note, for those who don't know the story of Magda Lewy (one of the American women in the Olympic marathon and a local girl), here's her blog post.

Although I feel terrible for her, I found this story (short version, she smacked her knee hard getting out of the bus AT THE OLYMPICS, and it became so inflamed that she couldn't finish the race) strangely comforting. As the bumper sticker says, sh*t happens. And it doesn't just happen to hapless idiots like me, it happens to Olympic athletes.

The older I get, the more I'm convinced that there IS no plan. Life just happens, and it's up to us to make the plan from what we get. I think Magda will do great things with the hand she's been dealt, and I'll continue to hold her up as a model.

Friday, August 22, 2008


We do birthdays writ large, here. Annie's is the first of the all summer long birthday cycle, end of May. I'm the last (a week from this Sunday). Typically everybody gets at least two celebrations, somehow.

This is the first of Joe's, the family event. He got a Wii (as you might expect), and was suitably surprised and delighted. It's our first gaming system (although we did bring in a DS last year). It's been lots of fun, and running it on the big screen means it's a more social thing than the computer gaming. (Well, more social within the family, anyway.) So far, I rock at bowling, suck at tennis. Actually, "suck" is not really the right word. I cannot, canNOT, hit the ball. It is impossible. Like a comedy routine.

So here's my news: running at 5:30am is AWFUL. Completely awful. You can tell from my paces (11:00?) that it's torture. It's not so much the time as the lack of awakeness and caffeine.

I threw in the towel yesterday to sleep in, and will do an afternoon run today (fully caffeinated). Somebody tell me it gets easier. I really want to move forward training for a 10K, and this is the only way I can see to do that with my upcoming schedule.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

12 Years Ago Today...

...I was feeling pretty great. I was holding a most precious baby in my arms (he's now the short one, on the right). And things have just kept getting better from there

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Crows

The first morning they woke us, at about 5:45 on Sunday, I knew even before opening my eyes that change was in the air, and felt sad and happy and excited and nervous all at the same time. It took me until this morning's crow outburst to really register the connection. The butterfly in the gut feelings are bundled up with the crows going berserk every morning for two weeks in late August.

Because they've always done it, for the whole eight years we've lived in this house. Totally crazy wild crow cawing/shrieking/honking, from dawn until well after nightfall, every day. Some kind of crow mating ritual, or maybe they just get ticked off and loud in August, who knows?

And for the past few years, it's coincided with change, huge change, in the life of our family. First Annie going to school, then Joe, now me. Each change drawing us farther out into the wide and wonderful world, but farther apart from each other. Things to celebrate and mourn, each August.

Tonight, listening to them outside, I feel crazy excited on the cusp of the coming year, for all of us. Annie is anxious and excited about a huge academic and social year for herself, happily ensconced in a job that she loves with employers who are treating her like family (in a good way). She's essentially ready to go out into the world as an adult, just spending this last two years lining her ducks up.

Joe has grown up so much this summer that it's almost unbelievable. We stopped by two of his teachers' house to pick something up tonight, and they, like me, marveled at the changes in him. Like when he was a toddler, every day seems to bring some major new developmental change and wonder. This year he will be a leader, already asked to come help integrate the new students at school, already talking about stepping up on his frisbee team. Tomorrow he turns 12, but I can already see him at 16. He's going to be fine, just like his sister. Like her, too, he's clamoring to get back into the mix at school, while still appreciating the peace and slow pace of late August.

Rob has a promising start to the school year, after two very rough years of teaching "intervention" reading, something for which he has no training. I have my fingers crossed that he will get a break, and get to go back to teaching the history and current events classes that he loves. He's enjoying presiding over his family of outward-looking students, gracefully willing to pick up slack for me. Or maybe just happy to have me out of the house more.

And our vacation showed me that even as we all move farther out from the hearth, we're connected and always will be, even if it's by a long thread. We're more interesting when we have adventures, and have more stories to tell over poker and pizza and root beer floats.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Blockbuster stores are selling Wii consoles.

That is all.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kudos to NBC

They ran the WHOLE women's marathon, which was completely unexpected and wonderful. It was even at a reasonable hour, from 7:30 on. They cut away to show the men's 100m finals, but I couldn't complain.

The marathon was, however, a weird one. But three cheers for old ladies Domescu-Tita (who won the event, age 38) and Dara Torres (age 41) who was shown taking silver in the 50m swimming event right after. A good night for middle aged moms.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Post Vacation Pooped

We handled 100 things yesterday and today, and then I ran out of steam entirely. I have managed to forget one music lesson and one acupuncture appointment in 48 hours, which is impressive, even for me.

I think the extreme pace we led after we left Pender Island and the amount of caffeine we were consuming while away has led to a let down. I'm too tired to think even about doing something fun.

My schedule calls for getting up at 5:30am weekdays starting Monday, too, so maybe my body is reacting to that in advance.

The girl child is working at her coffee place this afternoon, and I may have to pay a visit.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back to School Shopping

Hey! I'm a *real* student, now. I just ordered the Timbuk2 Underground from Zappos. Messenger bag cool, with backpack function. In 1970's colors, to remind me of my original back to school shopping forays. And of course: ballistic nylon. In case anyone tries to shoot me while I'm riding away from them.

T minus 10 days. So excited my eyeballs are bugging out.

Home Sweet Home

We finally had a vacation long and elaborate enough so that EVERYONE, grown-ups, kids and dog, all were delighted to come 'cross the bridge and see our house.

Home, unpacked, plants watered (Mom, thanks for trying! They're all just fine.), laundry in process. We had to scurry from the OR border when we found out the princess was scheduled to work tonight, instead of tomorrow like we'd thought. But it made the trip easier to stop driving at the gas-saving snail's pace of 60mph and up it to 75+ like normal people.

Happily, no important messages on the machine, and mail doesn't get delivered 'til tomorrow, so there's no news to fret over, which is the worst part of coming home. Also happily, although I was sure I'd gained at least 30 pounds on this trip, the scale didn't budge an inch while I was gone, so I have no excuses to not get back up to full speed on the road asap.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Portland, OR and On

Pretty much the coolest thing, ever. The McMenamins have taken a bunch of old buildings (this one, obviously, an elementary school) in OR and WA and converted them into hip, interesting and affordable lodging, restaurants, bars and in this case, movie theatres. We saw Iron Man (all thumbs way up) and had a fabulous meal. Perhaps coincidentally, the meal (I had curried chicken on herbed brown rice, Spouse had local salmon, etc.) cost exactly the same amount as the slop we'd had at Shari's on the road the night before. What's up with THAT, Shari's?

Other things we saw in Portland: The Grotto, the Old Church (for a non-religious family, we get around), Pioneer Square and Old Town Pizza (reputedly haunted, although we were unmolested by spirits), plus various sites via drive-by. Then we came back to Troutdale, where we had a hotel that would allow Cal, and hung out by the Sandy River for a nice swim.

Grants Pass was next...I wish I had glowing things to say, but truthfully? We had the worst meal of the whole two weeks, Spouse was the last to catch the stomach bug, and the kids and I drove around town for several hours trying to let him sleep. We finally ended up seeing WALL-E at a 9:00pm Wednesday night showing (um, yeah, we were all by ourselves). Cute film, though...yes, yes, as my children will happily recount, I did cry at the end of a G-rated animated film with almost no dialogue.

I decided to skip a run this morning in favor of hitting the road with wheels an hour earlier (and avoiding the morning temps on what is predicted to be a 104 degree day). We'll be home by late tonight, and tomorrow is back to the real world...and running in familiar territory and comfortable temps. I'm utterly amazed at how good I feel after 4 weeks of iron supplementation. Four on the treadmill yesterday was just nothing at all, barely got my heart rate up. Can't wait to dive back in to training.

From Centralia to Longview, WA, August 11, 2008

Some things change one generation to the next, but being in the back seat with your sibling on vacation? That looks the same in every family, for every vacation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

On Holiday 2008

Adventures aplenty over the last week. The Pender Islands were great, just great. We had unusually fabulous BC weather, hot enough that swimming was heaven in the lake behind our rented cabin. We hiked the hills, canoed, ran, beach combed, sunset viewed, otter ogled, and even got up close and personal with a bald eagle whose territory included our lake. Cal, stupidly let off-leash by me, took off after a deer, and came back dripping in blood, horrifying us. But it turned out to be his OWN blood, stupid dog. He'd run through the plentiful blackberry bushes and gotten cut and snagged enough the deer fortunately escaped. He's all about the leash now. We met some lovely people, got our brakes fixed in the very fine village of Sidney, BC (nothing serious, something stuck in a pad). One and a half bouts of a stomach bug. Several books read, most of the quilt top done. All in a week's time!

Then we arrived in Vancouver, and were amazed, astonished and astounded at the beauty of this city. Wicked good food, too. Our favorite venue is Granville Island, a rehabbed industrial area. We're headed back there this morning for breakfast before we cross back over to "The States," as we now refer to home. We also loved Stanley Park, just incredible.

Sadly, we miss Seattle this trip - we now have so many friends and loved ones there that we perversely decided to skip the whole place, hurting everyone's feelings instead of just some (uncle, cousins, two close ex-co-workers, favorite college buddy of Spouse, and Lori and her girls, whom we've visited before!). We needed this to be a "just us" trip. Plus Seattle is the capital of the West Coast Ulti circuit, so we've seen Pike's Market more than enough over the past two years, and will again.

Tonight we will be staying in Troutdale, OR, outside of Portland. Tomorrow is a day in that fair city, and then down to Grants Pass to see the caves. We had to forgo our planned trip to the OR coast, as we couldn't find hotel space willing to take Cal. Looks like not all US tourist spots are hurting from the gas prices.

Running: the Olympics are inspirational for the middle-aged am athlete, aren't they? I've had two great, great runs this week - my final run on North Pender, four miles with the last mile at 9:34, and yesterday along the Vancouver sea walk at a much slower pace because I kept getting lost and had to backtrack and read maps. I feel recovered enough anemia-wise to start building some stamina again. I picked up a later edition of Galloway's book while I was at a used book place on Pender, and his pointers on form helped enormously in keeping my heart rate down at decent paces. I think I'll let him train me for a while and aim for finishing a 10K this fall without embarrassing myself, not so much racing it.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

On the Road in Bellingham, WA

I *would* show you pictures of Mt. St. Helens, if I could, but I can't. It was completely shrouded in clouds after we drove 52 miles (each flippin' way) to get to it. It turns out it's like that 2/3 of the days of the year, and the last time the moppets and I went was a rare sunny day. Apologies to all the people I've told over the years that this was a Must See destination...they also replaced the way cool movie with a REALLY cheesy uninformative movie. Some sort of Bush administration reduction of information thing.

But we did stop on the side of the road to go into the forest for about a half hour, trying to make clear (it's an elk hunting area) that we are NOT ELK. Loudly.

The last two days have mostly been about driving and, frankly, a little too much togetherness. By last night our family giggles and snorts had turned to arguments about whether it was OK to flip off other drivers on the road. Our 60 miles an hour gas saving strategy (it really does work, we got over 27 miles to the gallon in our RAV4 for the first day's driving) went by the wayside so we could just Get. Out. Of. The. Damn. Car. We even gave up on a planned dinner at Pike's Market in Seattle to eat McFlurries for dinner so we could just get to the hotel (we've all done Pike's a number of times, so it wasn't a HUGE disappointment).

But we've had many moments of mirth and fun, too. We are fortunate to all find the same things funny, and there's a lot to laugh at in 17 hours of driving over two days.

This morning we are in Bellingham. Cal, TP and I did a 3 mile run, and then we ate our enormous free hotel breakfast and will soon head north for the border. If the rental place has wifi (they says it does), I will be regaling you with tales of runs in the woods and orca sightings. If not, see you in a week!

Friday, August 01, 2008

On the Road in Corvallis, OR

I am too lazy and short on time before we head out this morning to upload photos, but I'm all excited because I did a 4 mile street run this morning at about 10:20 without my heart rate breaking 170. Yay! Progress is being made.

It was a gorgeous run, along the river and through downtown and then through Avery Park, including the stunning rose garden. Nice running paths they got here.

Yesterday's highlights included a fabulous (I mean FABULOUS - just incredible food) lunch at Standing Stone Brewery in Ashland, OR, followed by the nicest food server EVER chasing us down through the streets of Ashland to return our forgotten camera to us. Dinner was here in Corvallis at the Fox and Firkin (no url), also super food and great service.

We should be in Portland for lunch and at the Canadian border by dinner. Tomorrow we take a ferry out to the wilds of BC.