Friday, March 30, 2012

Helping Keep Austin Weird: Aged One Year

I arrived in Austin, to live here, a year ago today.  In one of those time-space continuum conundrums, I simultaneously feel like I moved here yesterday and like I have lived here forever.  Except that every day I discover new roads, routes, stores, and fun activities that usually involve beer, BBQ, and being outdoors.

I've written before, trying to adequately describe the town, the people, and the vibe, but as with any place or thing you actually like, it's far easier (shorter) to list the detractions rather than the attractions.  Without further ado, the worst three things about Austin:

1) Parking Lot Design.

Civil engineers in Austin seem less interested in creating an efficient traffic flow that leads to correctly facing and spaced parking spots, than simply trapping cars into a found-object art exhibit.  Forget passing your driving test, the Mensa test to park at the grocery store separates the men from the boys.

2) Korean restaurants, namely lack thereof.

A week ago, I would have cited a noticeable absence of Korean restaurants; they all sit in a neighborhood up north, labeled in Hangul or hidden inside other stores.  However, last Friday I convinced a friend who I have turned into an adventurous eater, to track down a rumor of a place: a lunch counter inside a grocery store.

Halleluiah!  Glory Be!  This place was like manna from heaven, which incidentally was its name: Manna Restaurant.  Danny and his mother at Mandu in Dupont trained me well, so after ordering all the basics by name instead of number, the cute little grandmother-waitress and I were enamored with each other.  It helped that she served us ponchon and dolcot bibimbap and just kept bringing more food. 

AK, if you're reading, it's finally safe for you to visit. 

Oh wait, this was supposed to be a reason why I don't like Austin.  Manna is more than a 15 minute drive from my apartment. 

3) None of My Girls are here.

I had to leave my ladies who lunch group behind when I left DC, and fittingly most of them have since scattered around the globe.  Unlike DC after college graduation, Austin didn't come with a build-in social group; I've had to build from the ground up.

The farther I meander through life the more I believe that friends come into your life when you most need them.  Such is the case here, too.  I've got gossipers, serious thinkers, training partners, academics, coffee talkers, nerds, and wing-women.  They each slipped into the rotation almost without me noticing, but in retrospect, exactly when I needed them.

My Girls will always be near and dear to my heart, if not to me, but Mis Mujeres have helped me navigate the From-North-Of-The-Mason-Dixon-Line syndrome.

But seriously, who can dislike a town that erects a shrine when its most famous "urban outdoors-man" passes away?

RIP Leslie.  My only regret is that I arrived in Austin too late to really know you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

YUK! There's Science In My Oatmeal!

If you have been following my Kelzie Kooks posts, you probably have realized that my cooking is *ahem* unimaginative.  But what I cook is (mostly) exactly what I need, infinitely enjoyable, and better yet, infinitely repeatable.  In fact, this past Christmas, as my mother was serving my family's traditional Christmas morning meal, I told her how glad I was for the break from my usual oatmeal.  But by the next morning, I was craving my usual oatmeal.

The reason it's infinitely repeatable: a place for everything, everything in its place.

The Oatmeal Command Center


** 1/2 cup dry oatmeal [I use traditional, not quick oats]
** small flood of frozen blueberries [still frozen]
** dollop of honey
** sprinkle of ground cinnamon
** 8 g. of glutamine powder
** preferred amount and type of chocolate protein powder
** 2 tbsp. of ground flax seed

Method To the Madness:

** in a microwave safe bowl, put the oatmeal, frozen blueberries, and enough water to cover the oatmeal plus a little

** microwave on 70% power for 3 minutes

** add the honey, cinnamon, glutamine powder, chocolate protein powder, ground flax seed.

** stir. inhale. chase with coffee and low-sodium V8 .

The basic tenet of my usual oatmeal remains the same, even as the exact recipe has changed over time: everything is included for a reason, aside from tasting good or simply, not bad.  Oatmeal for sustained energy and heart and cholesterol protection; berries for color, taste, and antioxidants; honey or agave nectar for natural sweetness and short-term energy; cinnamon for insulin regulation and anti-inflammatory properties; protein powder for protein and the full spectrum of amino acids; *chocolate* protein powder because I'm human; flax seed for Omega-3s and lignans; and glutamine (an amino acid) powder for gut function and protein synthesis.

A simple, but effective recipe: science that tastes icky on its own, in the lab, when served in a test tube, but develops a certain je ne sais quoi when mixed together in my kitchen and served in a big bowl I bought at Goodwill for 50-cents.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Olympics Come To Austin

Today, the track at a high-school a few blocks from my apartment hosted a sub-4 minute where all four laps were run by the same person.  Not many tracks in the world can say that!

A former UT runner, Leo Manzano, has created the Manzano Mile, an all-comers track meet where only one distance matters.  The non-metric mile.  All 1609 meters of it.

The head-lining event was the elite men's race, in which Leo himself was trying to break the Texas state mile record of 3:57. 

You could almost hear the distinctive spaghetti western theme music playing as they approached the start line.  {cue tumbleweed}

The combatants against the clock

The race did have a few rabbits, because while the track has a great view, it isn't the fastest tartan in the world.

As I watched I couldn't help but think "they aren't moving any faster than I am during my track workouts."  And then you check the clock and they just ran like 53 sec 400m or something. 

Rabbits in green and #66; Leo in #1

Leo went it alone after 1200m.

And he did it!  3:55.47something.  That's just fast.  It may not look it, even in person, but that's just fast.  Very few people can run one lap at that speed, let alone 4+.

But it doesn't matter if you are my speed, your speed, or Leo's speed, it's always those last 9 meters that hurt the most, but they also feel the best.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Scene On The Trail: Nature's Pace Line

There is a quarter mile of my usual running trail that feels like a very miniature nature preserve, right there in the middle of the city.  Scrabbling ducks and elegant swans crowd along the rocky "beach" where pedestrians and kids throw crumbs into the water, and turtles line up on every spare inch of the tree branches which poke out from the bank near the water's surface.

Today was the perfect weather which brings out tens of turtles, so they were fighting over space in the sun and at the head of the line.  Which meant that nature's pace line had a traffic jam.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

U ♥ ME = PR

I should write misty-eyed love letters to my athletes more often...because they work! 

BG kept her feet up - my heart was all a-quiver - and then slayed the SunTrust Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield Rock and Roll USA Nation’s Capital Half Marathon (I fondly remember when it was simply "The National Half") on Saturday.   PR'd, felt great, averaged her goal pace + one measly second, done, dusted, moving on to bigger things that go by the acronym IMCDA.

In fact, after much data crunching, BG reported that she PR'd her 4 mile, 8k, 5 mile, 10k and 10 mile times on the way to PR-ing 13.1 miles, and - in the last 5k of the race no less - missed her 5k PR by 23 seconds.  Of course BG followed this pronouncement with an undeniable train of logic:

A) This is an awesome state of affairs.
B) Her former PRs were very old or garbage.
C) Now she wants new PRs.
D) Ironman doesn't care how fast she runs a 5k.

So the question remains, phrased in LSAT fashion: if all of these options are correct, which option is most correct?


Jon The Long-Distance Sherpa also PR'd, by a whopping 13 minutes.  For those of you following along at home, that's just under a minute per mile.  I'm going to take (a wee bit) credit for that one.

Here's the lovely couple after the finish, trying to determine who is the racer and who is the sherpa when they are both sporting shiny new finisher's medals and PRs.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I have absolutely no right to take credit for Jon's PR.  That'd be Eric.  The teensy bit of credit to which I might have a murkily tenuous claim would be his last two big workouts, one of which he completed at BG's side, the other of which he completed in solidarity where he lives, both of which I wrote.  He says he liked them.  My theory: of course he had to run fast and train hard, in the process preparing him well for this race, because who likes to be unmanned in front of their own girlfriend? Cuz then you lose the "who's racing, who's sherpa" argument.]


I almost forgot!  My dear friend Emily, of pink boa and wedding fame, ran her very first ever half-marathon at the same race on Saturday.  Which of course means, she set her half-marathon PR!

Emily has always been super supportive of my own craziness, so I can't help but return the favor and announce her achievement to my loyal readers and the world at large.

What is Emily's next goal?  To run the Marine Corp Marathon in October.  Ooops, sorry Em, it just slipped out, I guess now you have to run it :)

It looks like I have created THREE monsters.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Blind Dating: SXSW And My New Favorite Band

The South-By-Southwest (SXSW; or "South By" if you live in Austin and are complaining about the utter traffic nightmare) festival has been going on pretty much 360 degrees around me, non-stop, for over a week.  Say it with me Austinites: only two more days.  Then blessed silence, empty streets, and I can stop protecting my very convenient parking space with a sawed-off.  You think I'm joking.  Well, I am about the sawed off.

SXSW is like a mullet: business in the first part, party in the second part.

The first weekend was "Interactive" - technology demos, panels about social media marketing, the gamer conference called ScreenBurn - and "Film" - docus and short productions looking for distributors and more eye-balls.  These parts of SXSW are run by "badges" - the level of your badge dictates were you could enter, what you could see.  Of course, these badges sold out months ago and cost upwards of $1-1.5k.

Generally, the vibe was hip, young, business-(wo)man looking to connect with other hip, young, business-people in a hyperactive, sponsor-constructed atmosphere of The Next Big Thing or Idea Is .....

I went to a local coffee shop to work and people watch last Monday, the last full day of Interactive and Film, and the banquettes were full of hip, young, business-people fully plugged in, and fully checked out.  iPhones and MacBookAirs out and coffees in-hand, their owners were slumped over from far too little sleep, far too many espressos, and total brain drain.  That night Jay-Z and Eminem were playing a show at ACL Live to mark the end of Interactive/Film, and a lot of the audience was asleep in that coffee shop.

The business was over, the party had already begun.  Bonafide stages, impromptu music venues, and open-mics next food carts sprouted up by Wednesday morning; if it has open cement, grass, or a roof, someone was now performing upon it.  The record label/store across the street from the Mothership put a festival in their parking lot, so good luck getting down 6th or Lamar.  There is a stage in the parking lot of the St. Vincent de Paul's Thrift Store down the street from my apartment, as well as behind the pizza shop one block up from St. Vinny's and the restaurant across the street from St. Vinny's so good luck getting down South Congress.  Friday night The Counting Crows and a by-all-accounts-trashed Adam Durlitz gave a free concert less than a block from me as the crow flies, and the three bars located between me and that stage also had full musical line-ups.  So good luck getting down South First, Riverside, or Barton Springs.  In addition, there was a whole section of downtown that the city just summarily closed to traffic.  I stupidly thought I could get places like swim practice and the grocery store. Apparently, I can hear The Counting Crows play from my couch, but I can't buy bananas.

Music is run by wristbands, which sold out months ago and cost hundreds of dollars, but day-time shows are generally free and open to the public.  Most acts stick around and play several times - once at night, for a "wristband-only" show, and once during the day, for a free/sponsored/showcase show.

Saturday I went to my only SXSW concert, or the only one that didn't waft into my living room on the breeze, to see a band that I had never heard of, to support a friend of a friend that I didn't know.  See if you can follow this: the band's keyboardist's parents live in Madison, next door to parents of two kids with whom I went to high-school and still keep in touch; the parents of the high-school friends remain close friends of my own, newly-returned-to-Wisconsin parents and a message was passed along that I needed to act as the Texas-Midwest Cultural Relations Committee.  Isn't that how everyone finds their new favorite band?

Introducing FILLIGAR!

They play rock, pure and simple.  And when I learned that, I didn't know quite what to expect, despite all of them being from the Midwest.  But they were nice, welcoming, respectful, and extraordinarily talented young men.  Three of them went to Dartmouth, for goodness sakes!

I mean...wait...their reputation demands that I say...they were mal-adjusted, filthy-mouthed guys who likely wandered out of a council estate in England.  Which sounds suspiciously like how the Rolling Stones started....hey, a band can dream big.

Teddy, Johnny, Pete, and Casey (the friend of the friend), started this band when they were barely teenagers, ten years ago, and it shows.  Tight musicianship, multiple albums of songs they wrote themselves, and a live show that demonstrates they just really love to play rock 'n roll together.

Plus they get extra points for playing a concert in a metal-roofed bar at noon in Texas when it was 80 degrees with 95% humidity.  


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Gift Horse That Keeps On Giving

Several of my athletes have big races coming up, either their first "A" race of the season, or their "A" race to dictate the "A"-ness of the rest of the season.  I've got nothing coming up (unless you count another 5k in another month; I'm not).  But yet, I'm having pre-race jitters.

If ever there was a reason not to coach athletes, vicarious pre-race jitters would be it.  Thankfully, they are only one among many (non-monetary) gifts my athletes give me. 

I coach and have coached a wide range of athletes - Kona qualifiers; first-time IM finishers; 50k, 50 mile, and GC Rim2Rim2Rim trail runners; weekend warrior half- and full marathoners; marathon open water swimmers; and probably a few people whose races were shorter than 2 hours too - and everyone came, and will always come, bearing gifts.

To a (wo)man they come bearing excitement.  For just about everything really: a finish line, a PR, the unknown, or a qualification long over-due.  For a new bike, a power meter, and the longest swim they have ever completed.  For me, many of these occasions have lost their lustre, but when someone shares theirs with me, the unappreciated can take on a renewed remarkability.

My newbies bring the virtue of fresh eyes.  How many times do you put on a wetsuit before it becomes a rote drill?  I can't even remember the first time I slithered into neoprene, but years later, I helped a nervous athlete through the Chinese puzzle-box-ness of it from 2,000 miles away using youtube videos and long step-by-step emails.  It was like a game of Pictionary crossed with a game of Operation, and we both learned a few new rules.

"Ok, so a swimsuit, bike, and pair of running shoes walk into a bar."  With the best jokes, you never see the punch-line coming...unless you have heard it before.  Fresh eyes still have a chance to laugh at the punch-line; stale eyes have heard it before and can at best, groan.  By coaching a new triathlete or someone who is going far past their own imagined boundaries, I get to see my sport - my job and its daily motions, the punch-line for which I have memorized - as if I were seeing it for the first time.

My veterans bring a quiet, get-er-done attitude than speaks volumes about consistency and pacing in sport as well as life.  They have a path, set it long ago, and they control it, not it them, and nothing will force them to deviate from that path.  They do their best to live in control, a trademark that extends to their training.  And their example drives me to do the same, because while the loss of control is disorienting, having it makes you feel like you can accomplish anything.

The gift I sometimes wish came with a gift receipt is the "why?"s.  However, they are perhaps the most important gift, professionally, because the "why?"s keep me honest and on my toes.  "Why?" convinced me to earn my license and keeps me reading long after I should be in bed.   

The gift that never ceases to amaze me is their presentation of evidence, every day, as to the tenacity of the mind and the adaptability of the human body.  My athletes choose to do things I will never (ok...have yet to) want to do, but the tenets of physiology and "test, train, tailor" remain infinitely applicable.  So at least I know how to train for the Rim2Rim2Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Which I will complete when pigs fly.

Every once in a while my athletes actually hit me!  The gift of a gentle whack upside the head that sport is just sport, and that the stakes tend to be artificial.  My athletes remind me of a time when the amount of skin in the game was less, and occasionally actual skin: a hand-shake promise between friends to make it to the finish line.

They remind me that offices are sometimes dreary places, where the expectation of endorphins is the only thing that keeps the clock ticking clockwise.  And I am helped to recall that we don't have to do this, we get to do this.

On big occasions they go in together to buy me a crane.  To get me off the couch, of course!  Their enthusiasm, motivation, energy, and longing to be outside doing sport, seeps out of their emails, session comments, and questions, and soaks into my daily life.  Until I can't in good faith procrastinate on a workout when others are trapped behind fluorescently-lit computers.

The personalized gift, the engraved iPod, is that my athletes have asked and allowed me to help them.  I know how difficult it can be to extend that trust, how frightening to place your chance of success in someone else's hands.  It means the world to me that my athletes make that choice, and frankly, they are probably doing everyone else a favor.  It keeps me from being the woman at the pool that no one wants to share a lane with because the constant reminders to "keep your elbows high" or offers of "here, why don't you try swimming with a band?" come across as ever-so-slightly off-putting.

And perhaps the most cherished?  My athletes believe in me, that I can help them reach their goals, just like I believe in them, that they can reach their goals.  We are partners, for better, worse, bonks and flat-tires.  Otherwise, I don't imagine I would be sitting around feeling nauseous and worrying that they are keeping their feet up.

Your feet are up, right BG?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Here We Go Again, Okay?

Another month, another town, another 5k.  I asked for that.

Saturday morning I literally floated down the interstate in a monsoon to New Braunfels for a little community-held jaunt around a neighborhood.  Air temperatures were perfect for running - singlet with light gloves - but the actively running water and construction on the course made it more like spring cross country.   I dealt with that.

I got out-sprinted by a guy with only one arm and the majority of one calf missing.  After the race, I found out he was an ex-SEAL.  Which helped me swallowed that.

I accepted that.

Don't tell anyone, but I may be almost, kind of, but only barely enjoying this ¡short! and ¡hard! stuff.  However, until I'm faster, I'm not ok with that.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Think ⃞, or How To Mount An SRM Power Control On A Tri Bike

With my new bike fit, my aero-bar set-up has been exploring the hairy edge of the Pauli Exclusionary Principle, or the idea that no two objects can be in the same place at the time.

The two objects? My forearms, which are proportionally correct, yet short in absolute terms, and a moderate selection of devices and hydration systems that need to be mounted.

The biggest challenge was my SRM PowerControl (PC), but it absolutely had to move because its now-former location is under my mid-torso. 

I had lots of ideas for how to mount my PC, in theory.  My in-practice was hamstrung by SRM's design of both the PC and the mounting bracket, which are based on very traditional ideas of how bikes are set up and how any bike computer should be mounted.

Nothing about the intersection between my bars and my bike looks anything like this, or would support or fit any mount remotely similar to - or as straightforward as - this one.  And very little of the extra parts I had on-hand, including a barrel mount and shims, could make the situation straightforward.

So my in-theory went to Jack & Adam's and told the in-practice mechanics "I need you for your minds."  After they scrapped themselves off the floor from laughing so hard, we discussed velcro and zip ties (which I have seen done), viewing angles, and how I hold my bars when riding.  Several hours later I came back and...

Apparently, my in-practice, on-hand equipment was missing a cycle-cross brake lever (and whatever myriad other parts make up that bracket).

What the wind sees

What I see

Now that is thinking outside the box.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Louis Velo-Ton

Must finally be off the trainer close to full-time because I had to switch purses from my usual Prada satchel to my transparent plastic clutch with the occasionally unreliable zipper. 

New bike route directions are featured in this season's design

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Fish Was <-----THIS-----> Big

I had a great ride yesterday.  The ride was great because it didn't just come to me, I had to go out and get it; physical challenges came up, and I rose to meet them.  

This morning I caught myself swaggering around Whole Foods' bulk section with something distressingly close to a seven deadly sin, and I was like "what in the world am I doing? It was just a ride, a piddly regular ride that I've done before and will do again."  But my sense of accomplishment and sense of the value of the ride, because of how I had handled and overcome the circumstances, had been blown somewhat out of proportion relative to what I could rightfully claim. 

In the retelling, my <-minnow-> had become a <----SHARK---->. 

And you know, apart from the parade I threw myself in the coffee aisle, I think my reaction is not as unhealthy and less egotistical than it seems.  As athletes, our confidence, our knowledge of what we are capable has to come from somewhere.  We can't or won't all win races, so our successes and triumphs have to happen somewhere, if not the finish line, and sometime, if not when setting a world record or PR. 

I toned down the ticker-tape a tad, but my run today was still buoyed by the fact that emotionally I was on Cloud 9 and it too turned out great.  And I am excited about my big day tomorrow in a way that I wasn't last week.  Heck, I'll take it!

A man wiser than I actually has a plan about how to use these intermediate and unseen triumphs, beyond the coffee aisle and tomorrow's training.  I think it's an idea worth trying, if only to keep the shark from becoming some prehistoric Franken-fish.  Or else we're gonna need a bigger boat.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I Christen Thee, Passive-Agressive Summer

I should have learned from Tuesday: 70 degrees, 93% humidity, shirt stripped before I even got to the track.

Fast forward to Thursday: 73 degrees, 88% humidity, shirt stripped after the first mile, only to be used a sweat rag.  Not to mention it started humidity raining just as I finished.

And today: 1 trainer, 2 hours, 3 towels, 4 bottles of water (including one hastily opened bottle of Pellegrino that happened to be within reach and was summarily sacrificed for the cause) and a lake in my dining room.

In most states right now, the lion of spring is in full frontal force; my heart goes out to the families and towns experiencing it.  In Austin, we tamed the lion, feasted on the lamb, and moved straight on to summer.  Except that Mother Nature doesn't have the cojones to bring on 105 degree temps quite yet.  They are not far off, though, it was 92 one day last week.
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