Sunday, February 27, 2011

904 Calories of Accomplishment

Yesterday, I tried to be helpful by planning a route for mine and Nikki's run, something that is normally her job. We were aiming for ten miles so I mapped a wonderfully scenic 10.2 mile route through our city (and beyond!). We started at her apartment, ran down Harvard to 14th to Fairmont, by Sarah's house to 11th, all the way down 11th, and then 10th, to Constitution Ave, up 17th street, across down Pennsylvania and New Hampshire Ave to the Watergate. We ran around the Watergate to the bike path from Georgetown along the Potomac and followed that to the Memorial Bridge. We ran across the Memorial Bridge, along the riverside path on the Virginia side and across the Key Bridge to Georgetown. We ran through the hoards of people on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue and turned on P Street. We followed P all the way to 22nd Street, where we hit 10.1 miles, still a mile and a half from Nikki's apartment. Tired and not wanting to push ourselves too far, we stopped at 22nd and P to walk. We had accomplished our feared ten mile run but somehow, I had done the mapping all wrong. Luckily, Nikki has an awesome Nike Pro watch with a chip in her shoe to track her mileage, time, mph, and calories burned so we weren't fooled into running an extra mile and a half. A mile and a half proof of Google Maps' incompetency. We realized that this is where I'd gone wrong. Nikki uses Map My Run which I have tried using and not been able to figure out. So, when I run on my own, and the two times I've mapped my runs with her, I use google maps. And, apparently, it is not to be trusted. I'm hoping this means that I've been running further than I think I have. Either way, I'll learn to use Map my Run from here on out.

A mile and a half was not that big of a deal though... we could walk that in twenty or thirty minutes. What we really needed was water. We went into a Subway and asked for water cups, knowing that we looked red, sweaty, and well-deserving of a free H2O re-fuel. We got our water and took the cups for our walk. Leaving the store, there were four steps to descend back to the sidewalk and our legs (or mine, at least) nearly gave out. They were like jelly and I knew that a cool down walk was going to be rougher than expected. We also grew cold almost immediately. Running kept us warm in the sun but the wind on our sweaty clothes was instantly chilling. Nikki kept wishing we had a phone so she could call Eric to pick us up- something to remember for next time. We thought about asking to use a stranger's phone but decided instead to ask a cab driver to take us home and wait out front while one of us ran, or hobbled, up to the apartment for cash. Crossing Connecticut Ave on Q Street, where we intended to grab a cab, Nikki spotted the 42 bus line sitting on the corner and exclaimed "Ahh, that is our bus!!" Somewhere around mile 7, on the memorial bridge, she had considered the idea of always running with our smart trips so we could just pick anywhere to run to and take a bus or metro home. I discounted this as too complicated because my impatient self would rather walk than wait the 10-40 minutes that it would surely take for public transportation to arrive on a weekend day. Low and behold, I was wrong! But the smarttrip idea had been speculation, we had no means of paying for a bus ride. We kind of stood by the bus for a minute looking in and wondering if we should ask for a free ride, certain that we wouldn't get one. As we stood there, a street sense (newspaper) man who had been jumping on and off the bus talking to the driver came up to us and said "Where you girls wanna go?". Nikki told him that this was our bus but that we didn't have our cards. He gestured for us to get on and said "This one is on me". The bus driver, who was likely no older than we are, conceded and, as we thanked him profusely, our street sense savior poked his head back in and said "Remember girls, this ride is on me!" What a blessing! We laughed and sighed relief, as we looked around a little self consciously hoping others weren't pissed that we'd gotten a free ride. Just a short trip and we were across the street from the Argonne. We walked into their apartment and Nikki's sweet boyfriend had two (UNC) cups of chilled water waiting for us on the coffee table. I borrowed some warm and dry clothes, watched the last 56 seconds of the Florida basketball game, tasted their homemade granola, and got on my bike to ride home. My legs held out better than I thought they would but, still soaked in sweat and riding in the dark, I was freezing. On the bridge just south of Macomb, I literally ran into my photographer boyfriend doing his thang. He was taking pictures of cars on the bridge, trying to focus on the cars and blur everything else in the picture. I made him try this on me and it actually turned out pretty cool. 

Too lazy to shower right away, I got home and focused my energy on how to refill my body with the 904 calories that Nikki's watch said we'd burned. Josh and I walked to Cal Tor and I ate my first blackened chicken ceasar burrito since high school, as well as an entire small serving of chips and queso and seven girl scout cookies. I was exhausted, my ankle hurt(s), and my toe was bleeding, but I felt much more prepared for the half and so satisfied, thinking there can't be a better place to run than among the monuments and across the bridges in our Nation's Capitol.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

127 Hours

This February, I challenged myself to see all ten Oscar best picture nominees before the show. Even though I hate the fact that there are ten nominees, I have been tricked into handing lots of money over to the film industry but I have been highly entertained by most of what I've seen. Josh and I had already seen The Social Network and The Kids are All Right so we netflixed (if google is now a verb then I'm instating that netflix be one too) Toy Story 3, Inception, and Winter's Bone. In the past two weeks we've seen Black Swan, The King's Speech and True Grit in theatres. I'm almost there and I have 24 hours until the red carpet starts but I think I'm going to have to go it alone. Josh is all movied out and I don't want him to waste his money on films he doesn't care about seeing. I, however, refuse to be done. I still have yet to watch the most important picture, or the one that is most important to me at the moment.

I mentioned this week that I just finished reading 127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place and it upset and inspired me more than any of the movies I've seen have. Of course, reading a book lends much more to the imagination and to the heart than watching a movie does as it is a more real time commitment and journey than is watching a movie. But what a journey this was. I felt this book a lot more than I do most. As impossible as this may seem, given my profound attachment to Scarlett O'Hara and Gone With the Wind, I felt almost as attached to Aron Ralston and his powerful (or powerless) situation in the book. It is interesting to reflect back now that I've finished it because I did have several negative thoughts earlier on in the book, which he writes by switching every other chapter between telling about his entrapment in Blue John Canyon and recounting wild adventure stories from earlier in his life. In the flashback stories, Aron is like the definition of a lose canon. He is often reckless, takes unnecessary risks, and seeks the wildest thrills that put him face to face with death a number of times. Along the way, he matures some as he loses two friends (loses as in they stop talking to him, they do not die) because of the risks he encouraged them to take with him. He also grows as he contemplates the reasons for which he lives the life that he lives. A friend and colleague worries that he does what he does for some of the wrong reasons, that he does it for others just as much as for himself. But he discovers that he didn't become a retired engineer at age 25 for anyone but himself. He changes his lifestyle to solo climb fourteeners, to ski in avalanches, and to swim in the Colorado River to make him feel alive. To quench some inner thirst for adventure and to achieve an understanding and connectedness with the earth. Still, I was entertained by these stories and had a hard time not noticing the lack of humility, and possible air of selfishnesses, that Aron Ralston possessed in his endeavors.

Despite my apprehensiveness toward this character, and his life stories, he was captivating and his perseverance and outlook on life grabbed me. The real story, obviously, is in his entrapment in the canyon. The despair he feels is so painful and heartwrenching that I found myself in near tears envisioning his situation. The reflection on his life, his memories with his friends and family, and his acceptance that the people in his life, and his experiences with them, have been the most important thing are true. And his certainty that he is stuck there waiting for death opens his eyes to how stupid and selfish he has been in his recklessness. He ponders how he goes out looking for adventure so that he can feel alive and that it, ultimately, is killing him. But hopefully we all know that his apparent stupidity and selfishness didn't end up killing him. Instead, his fighting determination and his engineer's brain got him out alive as he broke his bones, sawed through his flesh and tendons with a cheap pocket knife, and hiked over four miles with one arm out of the canyon. His will to survive was undying and his tale is powerful. This one is a non-fiction story of true grit.

What I find so interesting and confusing about this movie is how controversial it seems to be. Almost everyone I talk to either doesn't want to see the movie because they are grossed out by the thought of someone cutting off their own arm or they think this is an unworthy plot about a person who did a stupid thing and shouldn't be getting all this media attention and fame for their tale. Even my mom, who has seen the other nine nominees and tends to see them all every year, is not going to see 127 Hours because it grosses her out. This is understandable, I spent an hour on Tuesday night making painful sound effects as I sat on the couch next to Josh reading the gory details of the amputation. Still, I think it is a shame that fewer people will see the movie because of it, when I think that the rattlesnakes in True Grit and the hallucinations in Black Swan were just as disturbing. What really gets me is that this story is discounted by some as stupid and unworthy of being put on the big screen. I had an argument with Eric last night, who thinks that the "premise" of the film is dumb. And the other Erik, the one who is an outdoorsman himself and lived in Aspen probably just blocks from where Aron lived, told Ingrid this guy is stupid because he didn't follow any precautions and didn't notify anyone of his plans. Maybe he made a mistake but don't write off the entire movie and story because of it. Or maybe I'm giving him too much credit. But I want people to read his 350 page memoir and then tell me that they don't sympathize with him, that his story wasn't unbelievable, that he doesn't deserve to be making millions of dollars off of this movie about himself just because his story was based on his own stupid mistakes and mis-judgement. We all misjudge, we have all been in the wrong place at the wrong time, we just aren't all as unlucky as Aron Ralston was on Saturday, April 26, 2003. It's hard for one to know how they would respond in a crisis such as his but, in my opinion, it's easy to admire him for they way he responded. I admire him and now I just hope the movie is as good as the book.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

adventure blog

I am thinking that it's time to officially change the nature of my blog. It has been a while since I've done any consistent bike blogging and I'm realizing that I actually kind of like it. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I'm training for a half marathon, my recent readings of 127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place, A Walk in the Woods, and Into Thin Air, or maybe my beautiful and fulfilling experience in Colorado last month but something really makes me want to expand the focus of this blog.

I was inspired to write when I had Ragbrai in my near future. And I think I expected to tell stories about training, commuting, and other bike rides, but I also expected to be more political. To encourage biking, to criticize ignorance about it, and probably to be a kind of obnoxious and judgemental blogger. But I'm glad that is not what I've become. I am someone who loves biking and I want to continue telling stories about it but I do so much more in my life that I feel challenged and fulfilled by and I want to share that too. So what does that mean? It means that I'm going to blog about adventure, about challenge, about strength, about anything that makes me move and sweat and smile. And I'm going to try to be productive and helpful, maybe to encourage biking and other outdoor activities without being obnoxious or critical. I want to educate people as I discover where to seek adventure and challenge in and around DC, and elsewhere on this sweet planet of ours.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Presta Valve Adapter

Two weeks ago, on a beautiful Super bowl Sunday afternoon, Josh and I decided to bike to Giant to do our grocery shopping. It is just under a mile away but it was a big deal for us, not having ridden our bikes anywhere from our new apartment. We got dressed for it, packed our backpacks, got the pump out, and then realized we couldn't go anywhere. Josh's bike, like most newer road bikes, uses presta tubes which require a valve adapter in order to pump the tires. I have one for my new bike but it is currently at my mom's office. We drove to Giant and made it a "priority" to get the little tube adapter.

Two weeks later, on Saturday, I woke up with a text from Ben inviting us to meet him and his friend at a South American food market in Adams Morgan. Still without the means to pump Josh's tires, biking, which would be so pleasant and convenient, wasn't an option. However, we know that area and we know there is a bike shop, City Bikes, right on the corner of Colombia and Euclid, across the street from the market. We decided to walk our bikes to Adam's Morgan, hang out with Ben and meet his friend, buy what we needed at City Bikes, and bike home. Buuuut, it would take us twenty or thirty minutes to walk and, once we were ready to leave, I talked to Ben and learned that the market isn't open this time of year and that they were almost done with the lunch they went to nearby. So we weren't going to Adam's Morgan and our bikes weren't taking a trip to the shop.

Today, two days after the second missed biking opportunity, Nikki and I had plans to go for a run and then bike ride. When we talked last night, though, we decided that we might want to run further and skip the ride. It was going to be a cold, rainy day, we are both getting over being sick, and Nikki had a lot of work to catch up on after her jam-packed forty-eight hours spent in NYC this weekend. Lying in bed, I grew frustrated by so many near bike rides that weren't working out and I decided I'd bike to her apartment before our run tomorrow. We normally start our runs separately, meet halfway between our places at Woodley Park, and run together from there. I rode the 1.7 miles to Nikki's in a light drizzle, we ran a long 8.26 miles together, went back to her place to stretch and drink water, and I returned home ready to shower, fill my stomach with delicious Vace's pizza, and cozy up on the couch for three hours. Today was good but it was a challenge. The bike ride to Nikki's, which I timed at 9 minutes, increased my optimism about the simplicity and efficiency of urban bike commuting. I think I'll be riding my bike a lot to get around but I think that might not produce too much to blog about, as these couple-mile rides could be repetitive. The run, however, wasn't great for my optimism. I blame it on a cold which has lasted me elven days and is just finally seeming to disappear but I was not too hot today. Four miles in, I felt like we had run seven. Running hills was a challenge and I wasn't able to talk through them like I normally am. I often lagged behind and caught up once on flatter terrain. And we had to stop and walk a few times at the end because I couldn't catch a deep breath. 13.1 miles would have been a hefty feat today and it was a little disheartening. But I am confident that I have a worthy excuse and it is always nice to spend 8 miles or more catching up with Nikki, hearing about her first trip to the big apple and planning a potential one to Topsail Island, North Carolina.

Now all that's left to do is buy this:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Home

This update is very long overdue but Lucy and Charlie, and Josh and I, have a new home. For the first time in my life, I can officially say I'm from Washington, DC. On January 22, we moved to the quaint but urban neighborhood that is Cleveland Park. We are a three minute walk from the metro and I am a fifteen minute walk from work. This is very good news for me, not such good news for my two-wheeled companions, as there is little point in riding them to the office now that it is only .8 miles away. The upside, though, is that they can be ridden to the grocery store, to countless restaurants and bars, and to almost all of my friends places. And they will be. For now, they're chilling in these new digs and waiting on a tiny tire pumping attachment that has held them back too many times now.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Stress dreams? Or just dreams?

Apparently I'm stressing about the half. I thought I was being pretty calm about it. I'm relaxed and confident and I'm actually getting really excited about it. But the past three nights I've had really weird stress dreams about running. Friday night, I dreamt that I woke up Saturday morning and called Nikki to meet up and run, which we had real plans to do. My friend Mary, who doesn't know Nikki at all, answered her phone and said "Nikki is busy, she can't run with you right now". We played a lot of phone tag and by the time I finally got a hold of Nikki three hours later, she had already gone for a run. I went home planning to run by myself but kept putting it off until after dark. I decided to run in the dark but spent 15 or 20 minutes trying to tie my shoes and just couldn't do it. I never did get my shoes tied and I woke up. But then I got out of bed, ate breakfast, met up with Nikki, and ran 7 miles in the rain. It was great and I should have had nothing more to stress about. Saturday night, I dreamt that the half was moved up from March 26th to March 10th and I was freaking out because I wouldn't be ready in time. I woke up weirded out by so many running dreams. Sunday night, I dreamt that I woke up early Monday morning to go for a run, something I also had plans to do. I got in my car and drove to my old neighborhood to run but when I got there, realized that I could have run in my new neighborhood so I drove back to Cleveland Park. When I got here, it was too late and I had to get ready for work. I woke up even more weirded out and went for a short run in my lovely new neighborhood. I got ready for work and all was fine.

This all implies anxiety and stress at my upcoming challenge in March. But I just find it so weird because, in my waking life, I don't think I'm scared. I'm just excited. Maybe on some deeper level I'm scared. Or maybe I've just been thinking a lot about running so it's naturally what I'll dream about. Right now, I hate that we think dreams need to signify all of our deepest fears and desires. In fact, I don't think that. In this case, I don't think there needs to be a deeper level. I'm excited, I'm getting myself ready, I'll have butterflies the day of the race but I'll be fine, and I'll probably keep dreaming about running but it's just because there's a lot of it going on in my life right now. Which is a very good thing. So, byebye stress dreams. I won't let you stress me out.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Davenport's Mississippi River

My mom has many attachments to Iowa. Obviously. She grew up there, she went to school there, she has many many friends there. She lived in both college towns: Iowa City and Ames. But there is no place in the state that she is more attached to than Davenport, the place where she lived from ages 5-18, the place where she took her kids home to many times, the place where she goes for all of her High School reunions, and, unfortunately, the place where Ragbrai neglected to include in their route for the past four years. This is understandable, as it is a large state with many east coast river towns for the ride to end in. But, every year since 2007, my mom has planned on biking Iowa in July, she's been on the website the day the route is announced to see where it will take her. And since 2007, it has taken her to the Mississippi in Bellevue, LeClaire, Burlington, and Dubuque. Ending in Davenport is not the reason she rides by any means, but I'm sure it's something she hopes for every summer.

Well, if you can't already tell where this story is going, here it is: For the first time since 1982, Ragbrai is ending in Davenport. And, for the first time since 2006, my mom was not planning to bike Iowa. She and my dad have a three week trip to France planned in August, a week of which they will spend biking around Birttany. They thought they'd have their fill of summer biking but now they have to re-think everything. Despite the hassle, the oh so complicated logistics, and the need to work some this summer, my mom is trying to ride at least the final 3 or 4 days of Ragbrai XXXIX and dip that front tire of hers in Davenport's Mississippi River. She loves that town and the people in it. But now she's got me all confused as I revel more in the nostalgia of last summer's trip. Do I want to join her for a few days? Kind of. A lot, actually. In all honesty, it's probably not worth the hassle and logistics for me. For now, though, I'll remain optimistic. And I'll wish my mom the best of luck in her planning and optimism.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

5 boros by bike

Yesterday morning, my mom so patiently signed herself, my dad, me and Josh up for the five boro bike tour in New York City. This is is a 42 mile ride through New York's five boros, beginning in Battery Park and ending with a "lively" outdoor festival on Staten Island. It is an annual ride, taking place the first Sunday in May each year. It is a carless ride and, based on it's history of having over 30,000 participants, I imagine it's a slow one. But the appeal of this ride is not the speed. The opportunity to see so much of New York City in such a real and unusual way seems hard to beat. And the commitment to an organized ride is uplifting for this cyclist (if I can still call myself that) who hasn't been on her bike in two months. Unlike Ragbrai, this doesn't seem like it will require much training, but it gives me something to look forward to and will inspire me to re-adjust to my hard bike seat and drop down handlebars. Besides, the groundhog has spoken: spring is coming early this year and that means dry roads and warm air for many warm-up rides in the city. This (nation's capital) city, that is.