Friday, September 30, 2011

Weather is relenting....Time to Ride!!

Whew!  the thermometer at my house has not seen the south side of 78 degrees since last spring, and I'm talking overnight temps, not daytime temps.  We've broken the record here in Houston for highest number of consecutive days over 100 degrees.  So it's no wonder that my motorcycles have gotten very little mileage since returning from the BMW RA Rally in Chippewa Falls WI back in June. 

I'd put some significant mileage on the bikes in the first 6 months of this year.  That is, up until June...about 13,000 miles.  But then it all came to a screeching near-halt after that.  80 degree mornings, 110 degree afternoons are not conducive to much riding.  But then, our riding season down here in South Texas is the 9 months between September and May anyway.  It just seems like the summer was worse than usual for heat.

So now I'm gleefully scheduling trips, planning routes, making reservations.  Let's see...first up on the schedule is a ride out to Van Horn TX to await the BBG bi- and trifecta riders and to serve as their witness as they come and go, completing the two or three back-to-back Bunburner Golds.  I may do a Saddlesore 1000 to get out there, depending on my mood.  It's not that much further.  Distance to Van Horn is 675 miles, just continue to Akela Flats, turn around and go back to Van Horn and it's done.  And I may do a Saddlesore to get home, as well.

Next up is the Jack Shoalmire Memorial In-State SS1000 the following weekend.  I have a great in-state route planned that is 2/3 secondary roads, with only the last 1/3 on interstate.  It will be interesting and not so crushingly boring as it could be if ridden all on interstate. 

A week later I'm riding up to Branson MO to scout sites for next year's MTF Founders Feast.  It should be a quick but fun trip, with a stop at my son's house in LA afterward to spend the weekend celebrating birthdays and an anniversary. 

A couple of weeks after that, I'm riding to Tampa FL to participate in the Florida Coast2Coast Ride, always an annual tradition for me.  I'm staying the following week in the Orlando area to visit and eat with friends, because the following weekend I'm running in a half marathon in St. Petersburg FL.  Ridng 1,000 miles home after running a half marathon??  Not too sure about this, but we'll see.

Then...as if that trip to FL were not enough...two weeks later I'm riding back to Florida - to Panama City Beach - to stay at that really wonderful Marriott resort again.  I've once again traded one of my timeshare weeks for a lovely two-bedroom unit at this resort. 

And I can't forget the Stagecoach Ride to Eat on December 30!

Now let's see...adding up the projected mileage I'll be riding in the next 3 months, it looks like I'll add another 9,000 or so miles to the odometers of my two motorcycles.  This makes for a decent riding year for me:  About 22,000 miles for the year.

Last week while at Founders Feast someone suggested that maybe I wasn't riding very much anymore.  Now... I didn't have a chance to respond, as the conversation turned to another topic.  But if I had, I would have pointed out that just 3 months earlier, in late May, I had completed an IBA National Park Tour Silver, which entailed my visiting 76 national parks in 26 states including the four corner states of WA, CA, FL, and ME in less than 12 months.  Then in late May I rode to Santa Fe NM and rode the Taos and Enchanted Loop areas.  And that in late June I rode up to northern Wisconsin to the BMW RA Rally and to Duluth MN to visit Aerostich.  Makes a person go "Hmmmm...."  Guess I need to share my adventures with others a little more often.

Simple Entertainment

Sitting here at my breakfast table this morning, I've been entertained all morning by the birds and squirrels that frequent my backyard.


Squirrels have been chasing each other through the branches of my large crape myrtle, and scampering back and forth across the fence, carrying acorns and pecans to their secret hidey-holes for winter stash.



 A male Baltimore Oriole has been frequenting my hummingbird feeder for the last couple of weeks and now a female has joined him, returning often for some nectar.










Those feisty hummingbirds have been around since mid-August and I've made more nectar this year than ever before.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Getting Back On That Horse

Okay, vacation from running is over.  I've put it off long enough.  Time to stop reveling in the recently finished half marathon in Lansing and start looking ahead to the Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg FL.  This meant dragging my lazy self out of bed this morning and getting back on schedule again. 

So easy to fall off the wagon; so hard to climb back on.  I could make all sorts of excuses why I've not run for 10 days:  I've been on the road non-stop; I've been visiting family that are scattered all over the country; I've been busy co-hosting a large weekend event; I've had some long days driving 500-600 miles to get places.  I'm not buying it, though.  Are you?  The time spent in my hotel room, logged into the internet early in the mornings, I could have slipped a run in.  The evenings spent doing nothing constructive, I could have gone out for a short run.

Well, shame on me!  Most of that trip was spent in northern or mountainous locations, where the morning temperatures were gloriously cool.  Now I'm back in Houston, where this morning's temperature was 80 degrees with high humidity, and I have run out of excuses.  I got an "ease back into it" run done this morning, and will hopefully get another done tomorrow.  A "cool" front is supposed to move into the area tomorrow night so I'll reserve my long run for Sunday morning, maybe a seven miler.  Then I'll start ramping those long runs back up over the next several weeks, culminating in a 12 miler two weeks before the WHM event on November 20.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What a trip!

Where to start, in describing this jam-cram-packed trip?? I went north to Michigan, southeast to North Carolina, southwest to Texas and home.

Along the way the trip took me to Lansing, MI and Lansing's Capital City River Run Half Marathon. Then there was the Post-race RTE (ride to eat) in Lansing afterward, with 10 MTF friends attending.

And the day wasn't over yet, because after that late RTE lunch, I drove to Grand Rapids to spend a couple of days visiting with sister and family in Grand Rapids, meet her twin grandsons for the first time, get caught up with her grown son and daughter Sunday evening.

There was no rest day on Monday...I drove to Panera for a late breakfast then met my sister at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park where we took the tram tour of the sculpture park section and had lunch at the nice little cafe in the visitor center.

Then it was on to Robinette's Apple orchard for some apple pie dessert. But the day wasn't over yet. My sister brought me to meet her daughter's horse at the boarding stable. That evening they showed me downtown Grand Rapids where an art competition was just getting started.

Continuation of the road trip brought me to Robbinsville NC where I stayed for five days, to attend the MTF Flower Sniffin' event and Founders Feast at Ironhorse Lodge in Stecoah NC.    I spent most of my time there working registration and sign-in for the event, selling MTF merchandise, and just chatting and visiting other MTF members.   But I did get out on Friday, riding pillion on a fellow member's Goldwing.

My drive home included an overnight stop in Mandeville to visit son and family. Then...finally....it was home to Houston.

It's Done

This is ridiculously late reporting, but....it's done!  The September 18, 2011 Capital City River Run Half Marathon is now just a memory.  But, wow!  What a great race and incredibly scenic course!  I had the tune to "over the river and through the woods" running through my head the entire time!  After 3 miles on city streets, we ran onto Michigan State University campus for a little bit, and then we all headed into the woods to run on trails and boardwalks through dense forest and along rivers, ponds, and streams for the next 10 miles.  It was awesome, and the miles just flew by!!

All of the water stations were manned by local cross country running clubs:  High school teams, college teams, independent adult cross country teams.  Their enthusiasm was contagious!!  The best was the high school cross country team water station at around mile 7.  Chalk markings on the trail warned us that we were approaching an Hawaiian luau, and the sounds of jungle drums reached out and drew us in.  Around the bend, there they were, banging on painted metal trash cans, leis around their necks!  Terrific energy and great fun!

I found myself in a bit of a race for the finish line with another woman who appeared to be about my age.  She began to falter at mile 12, but up until that point we stayed together, sometimes pulling ahead of each other until she could no longer keep up.  Then it was over that last bridge crossing the Grand River, a bend to the left and there was the finish line.

Beer and pizza sounded great when standing there talking about it at the fitness expo the previous day, but it wasn't tasting so great nor was it sitting too well on my stomach at the post-race party.  So, discreetly discarded pizza slice and half-empty cup of IPA tucked into the trash bag, I headed to the hotel to clean up, check out, and meet a dozen friends for a post-race lunch at Smokey Bones BBQ in Lansing. 

I finished in 9th place in my age group.  I'm pleased.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Capital Coffee

MI state capitol building
Lansing, MI....an emminently walkable small city with the flavor and 'stamp' of a university town.  I'm here to run a half marathon on Sunday but in the meantime, have a day or so to see the town, visit the fitness expo, and browse the coffee shops that are in abundance near the hotel.

 Michigan's state capitol building is just two blocks from the hotel.  Since this race is the Capital City River Run, I thought it fitting to stroll over and take a photo.

A happenin' coffee house scene
 Then it was off in search of some good coffee house latte. 

Saturday morning I bolted out of bed in a panic, checking the clock...8:37 AM.  Oh, no!!  I've overslept!  I ran over to the window, my heart pounding, my mind racing through the list of things I'd need to do to get out there to the start line.  I pulled back the drapes to peer out toward the road in front of the hotel, the road where the start line should be for the race.  Nothing.  No barriers, no start line banner, no crowd of runners, and no spectators.  What?!  It took me a few moments to realize, "This is Saturday, not Sunday.  This is expo and packet pickup day, not race day."

I hate it when this happens!  Too many nights on the road, too many strange hotel rooms.  Sometimes I hardly remember where I am, never mind, what day it is.

I relaxed and my heartrate returned to normal, as I readied to head over to the fitness expo at the Lansing Center next door to pick up my race packet.  It was a small expo, nearly all exhibitors representing wellness and health-related service providers.  No vendors selling running gear, so no shopping opportunity.  But I did get my photo taken with a rabbit!

I wandered down to the river trail and, walking along the river a bit, discovered Lansing City Market, an excellent find!  A combination of farmer's market, bakery, and co-op, it was brimming with organic vegetables, fruits, grains, homemade goods, and fresh prepared food.  Brunch!  I made some purchases and then sat outside on their large patio to enjoy the live music and the view out over the river. 

I couldn't resist taking photos of the fresh produce laid out so attractively at one of the stands.  The prices seemed very reasonable for organic vegetables and fruit.  It was hard not to shop!

The little combo band with female vocalist was very good!  She had a beautiful voice and their music style was easy on the ears.  Wonderful!

I was torn between staying here for a while longer, or taking a walk around the capitol building.  It was just too nice to disappear indoors, though I wanted to stay off my feet, stay hydrated.  The walk won out!

I circled the capitol building block, taking photos and making friends with this cute little fox squirrel.  Another visit to Deeker's Coffee Co. was in order, before I finally went back to the hotel for the afternoon. 





Friday, September 16, 2011

On to the River Run

When you read this I'll be on the road, heading for Lansing Michigan and the Capital City River Run

I've never had so much trouble packing for a trip as I've had with this one.  I'm going from 100+ degree daytime high temperatures here in Houston to low 40's nightime lows in Lansing.  I haven't run in those kinds of temperatures since last January!   The forecasted temps on race day morning sit right at the breaking point between short sleeves and long sleeves for me.  Add to this the uncertainty of a forecast that's several days out.  This had me packing for all sorts of weather contingencies.   Well...running clothes don't take up very much room, so I threw stuff in that suitcase for all possibilities.

My last long run before the race - a taper-down distance - was just under 8 miles on Monday.  You know how, when you set out on a run, it might not feel good at first but eventually you settle into a rhythm and you finish strong?  Well not this time.  Not for me.  I woke up feeling sure that I would blow this run off all together.  The heat has returned with a vengeance to Texas after our brief respite, and the air quality is terrible.  Ozone from the heat and particulate matter from all of the nearby fires have the city under poor air quality alerts, with dire warnings to stay indoors, don't work or exercise outdoors.

I forced myself out the door, knowing I'd really lay the guilt trip on myself if I didn't.  It was a struggle to get going and it never got any better.  But I got it done.   Hooray for me!  

Next time you hear from me, I'll be in Lansing MI.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hummingbirds and....What??

When I woke up the other morning, I immediately spotted my hummingbird feeder lying on the ground next to the deck in the back yard.  I thought, "That's odd."   I went out to retrieve it, picking it up where it had been dashed into a flowerbed, covered with mulch and dirt.  It was completely empty of sugar water.  I just couldn't imagine how it could have gotten there. 

I brought it into the kitchen, washed it off, rinsed it out, refilled it with fresh nectar, and re-hung it on the shepherd's hook next to the deck.  Back to my morning as usual, making coffee, getting breakfast ready, and then logging into my laptop to check emails and read the news.  Just moments after sitting down, something large and bright caught my eye outside the breakfast room window.  A large, orange and black bird had landed on the shepherd's hook and then hopped down and clung to the upright and looked about, checking things out. 

What is that bird??  I thought it might be an oriole but checked my bird guide just to be sure.  It hopped from the upright to the hummingbird feeder, tilting and spinning it wildly.  Aha!  There's the answer to the mystery of how the feeder ended up on the ground.

Clearly the oriole is too big and heavy for the hummingbird feeder.  Each time he landed on the feeder, nectar would drip out of the holes as he tipped one side down.  I learned from a friend that there are special oriole feeders, designed to hold nectar as well as bits of fresh fruit.  I need one!!

 Orioles summer and nest in the Great Lakes area and in the Northeast.  Houston is just on the western edge of their migratory flyway in the fall and spring.  It is very rare to see them here along the western Gulf coast.  So this is very special!

The oriole returned to the feeder throughout the rest of the day and he still shows up today.  Gorgeous bird!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peak of the Training Cycle

Wow!  Cool air greeted me early Tuesday morning as I walked out the door for my last long run - 12 miles - before the Capital City River Run Half Marathon.   It was simply glorious!  Extremely low humidity, too!  The winds were fresh and cool. 

It was just a little before 6:00 a.m. and still dark.  My headlight shone on the mailbox numbers and reflected off  the "cat eyes" - reflectors embedded in the center stripe of the road.  I trotted along, still trying to wake up and find my groove, when my light caught a rabbit in the street up ahead.  The cute little guy waited for me to catch up, then took off down the roadway, showing me how it's done.  Then it stopped, coyly looking over its shoulder at me, as if to say, "Come on, I dare you to catch up."  As I did so, it turned and took off again, running another ten yards or so, then stopping again to taunt me.  We stayed together this way for quite a distance.  Then it eventually turned and headed up a driveway, disappearing into the gloom of a front yard.  Thank you little bunny!  You paced me and got me going early in my run.   I needed that!

As the sky began to lighten with sunrise, I could see the dingy tan and gray horizon off to the west, dirtied by the smoke from rampant wildfires northwest of me.  I reflected on the dire situation here in Texas.  No appreciable rainfall since February, no hay or grass for livestock, no water for them.  Our lakes and riverbeds drying up.  And now dozens of wildfires, most of them out of control, all over the state, including two very large ones within an hour of Houston. 

My route then turned me east out of my neighborhood, away from the soot-stained air and into the rising sun.  It was remarkable how, even with the sun creeping up into the morning sky, the temperatures and the breeze remained cool and comfortable.  Very soon I was at my turnaround point at the Exxon gas station at the corner of Cullen and FM 518.  I was at mile 8 of my run and was feeling very good.  It's amazing what a difference lower temperatures and humidity can make!  Two weeks ago I ran this same route for my 11 mile run and by this point had put a serious dent in my on-board hydration.  Today I'd barely touched my hydration bottle. 

I turned around and headed for home - 3 miles to get there plus a detour to add another mile.  I visualized my upcoming race day, imagining that I was into mile 10 or 11 or 12 of the half marathon, imagining myself runing along the route, watching the mile markers go by, making the last turn toward the finish, and then digging deep to overcome the urge to slow down as the finish line came into view.  And then I was home. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Groovy

Sometimes a break from the schedule is a good thing.  Last week my running schedule was derailed a bit by family but I wasn't too worried.  I knew I had a good mileage base.  So this past weekend I picked up where I left off, got up at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday and headed out for an easy 4+ mile run.   It was one of the best runs I'd had in a long time!  I ran a good pace, even in this heat!  The short lay-off did me good.

Then on Sunday morning I felt the need to get another 5+ miles in (sheesh, why is that??), getting up at 5:30 AM to hit the streets early.  We were feeling the outer-bands effects of tropical storm Lee - no rain, just heavy cloud cover and strong winds from the north.  This kept the temperatures a few degrees cooler than it's been. 

I returned from my run, made coffee, ate some blueberries, got caught up on the news, e-mails, forums and blogs, then showered and dressed.  I hopped on the Beemer motorcycle and rode to La Madeleine to meet a friend for brunch, to enjoy one of their giant frothy cappucino's dusted with cinnamon, a chocolate croissant, and a yogurt parfait with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and granola sprinkled on top.  Now this is a sweet reward!

Groovy weekend!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Family Trumps Running

My training runs got derailed this past week...but I didn't mind at all.  Not at all.

A very tired daughter-in-law after disgorging
the contents of the Highlander into my livingroom
You see, my son and his family arrived in Houston late last week, enroute to their new Navy duty station in Mississippi.  They've been stationed in Hawaii these last 3 years and are now being transferred to Stennis Space Center.  Son flew to California, bought a new Toyota Highlander and drove to Houston, arriving last Thursday.  Daughter-in-law and two grandkids arrived last Friday morning by plane.  She continued on to their new house in Louisiana on Saturday morning to prepare for the arrival of their belongings, while son and grandkids stayed with me until this Tuesday.  The four of us then headed east to join daughter-in-law at their new house to await their furniture delivery and to unpack and get things set up. 

Grandson hugging "George"

In the midst of all this I managed to get two runs in but beyond Sunday, things fell apart pretty quickly.  It wasn't for lack of good intentions, though.  The running shoes came with me to Louisiana.  So did some running shorts and tops.  But it just didn't happen.  I'm okay with that.  Got plenty of mileage base built up and did a good 11 mile run the prior week.

We all arrived at the new, yet empty house on Tuesday late afternoon and, after ordering pizza and having a picnic-style dinner, I checked into the nearby Comfort Inn for the night.   I was up very early Wednesday morning so that I could drive my son into New Orleans to pick up his VW Passat, which had been shipped from Hawaii.  By the time I got back to their house, temperatures were well into the high 80s and the first of two loads of crated household goods were due at any time.  So, no chance to sneak a run in.  For the rest of the day I kept the two "munchkins" out from under foot of the movers and helped wherever I could in getting things unpacked and in the right rooms.
Sweet grand-daughter, still cheery
despite the long trip

We ordered Mexican food from a highly recommended restaurant nearby and had another dinner "picnic style."   Everyone was pretty tired after receiving and unpacking half a household in a hot house.  Overseas moves are "containerized" shipments, so only half the load came today; tomorrow the other half will be delivered.  Over dinner, we talked about the next day's plans and shared thoughts and opinions on furniture placement and usage of closet space.  It's a beautiful home, lots of space, but it's always a challenge, no matter how big a house is or how many closets there are, to make the best use of the space.

Thursday morning held promise of getting a good run through their new neighborhood before the second shipment arrived.  Only one problem:  None of the kitchenware, bed linens, or towels came in that first shipment.  We had bare mattresses, no sheets, no towels for the bathroom, so I opted to go back to the hotel and stay another night, where I could get a good night's sleep in a real bed, take a good shower with plenty of towels, and have a good cup of coffee and a very respectable breakfast.  This meant no nice, early run for me, as there was no time to do this, return to the hotel for a shower, check out, and then get back to their house early enough to greet the movers and help my son.  My daughter-in-law took the grandkids to their new pre-school to register and meet their teachers and staff, leaving my son and me to deal with this next load.
Son getting caught up on week's worth of emails

I wanted to leave for home around noon, so did the best I could to get whatever I could unpacked and put away, mostly kitchen items:  Pots and pans, bakeware, silverware, glassware.  It was very satisfying, getting those large boxes unpacked, get their contents put away, and the packing material back outside for the movers to crush and put back onto the truck. 

I'm back home and will get a couple of good runs in over the three day weekend, including my long run.  The satisfaction of helping family definitely trumped running this week.  Definitely.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pockets

Why do I love pockets so much?  If I'm wearing something that doesn't have pockets, I'm at a total loss.  It's not as if I must live with my hands in my pockets all of the time or carry much of anything in those pockets, but they come in so handy to hold a spare Kleenex, or a car key when hands are full, or a little bit of money when I leave the purse at home.
20K race, 2001: They're so
long they look like a skirt!

So naturally, when I first started running, I looked for running shorts with pockets.  They were a little hard to find, but they were out there if I searched the internet hard enough.  I discovered one particular brand and bought every color they made:  Red, bright blue, light blue, navy blue, purple, black.  Even a couple of pair that were a colorful, gay print. 

I sacrificed svelte fit and style in return for having pockets.  They were long.  They were baggy.  They were frumpy.  But...they had those all-important pockets. 
2003 20K:  full and flapping!

Now, most of the time, those pockets were empty other than a couple of Kleenex.  Like when doing short runs in my neighborhood.  But for all-time convenience on long runs, those pockets held GU, Kleenex, pretzels, a spare bandage or two, some folding money, maybe even a few coins.  And I'd safety-pin my car key to the inside of the pocket for safe keeping.

I wore those same few pair of shorts for several years!   But eventually I realized how "dated" they looked.  They sat high at the waist and the inseam was so long.  Besides, they were getting a little faded and were starting to get snagged, and to fray a little around the waist and leg openings. 
2003 Marathon: So baggy!

I looked for more modern-fitting running shorts - shorts that sat a little below the waist, lower on the hip, and with a shorter inseam.  But these features just didn't seem to co-exist with pockets.  The little key pockets were pretty much useless, in my opinion.  I put off purchasing any and continued to wear these same old comfortable baggy running shorts.

But eventually, I had no choice when, one by one, I began throwing away these old pocketed running shorts.   I bought a couple pair of "pocketless" styles and tried them out on short runs.  That's when I realized how much of a "security blanket" those pockets had become.  True...my nose runs like a faucet in colder weather and gets stuffy in allergy season which, in Texas, is nearly year-round, so having a Kleenex was handy.   That feature alone came in more than handy the year I ran the Houston marathon with a head cold.  By the end of that race I would have given anything for a dry, fresh Kleenex!

Wearing those pocketless shorts just felt weird...at first.  But I came to like the fit better.  Not having that bunchy elastic band up around my waist, my hydration belt fit better.  I liked the shorter leg length.  I liked their more streamlined shape.  I stuck with them, learned to like not having pockets, and started buying more shorts in different styles.  Besides, many of my running tops now have little zippered pockets hidden in the side or back seams, a handy place to stow a few small items.

So, when I came across an old pair of those pocketed running shorts a few days ago, I was a bit embarrassed that I'd stuck with them for so long.  Times...and fashion...surely do change.