Plod slash jog blog

February 28, 2007

With the sun setting at six or so tonight, I was able to squeeze in my first after-work run before it got dark and scary out. (I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m afraid of being hit by a car in the dark. It’s not so much the thought of injury that scares me; it’s the paperwork. And who would take care of my loving yet antisocial dogs? Nobody, that’s who.) I ran a little more than two miles, a little faster than I should have according to my heart rate monitoring. This was still ludicrously slow. But I’m still “building my base” as the cool running people say, and I’m supposed to be slow now: the “speed work” comes later. Look, all I want is my leg to not get hurt again, ok?

At one point I tried to sprint up a hill to see if my estimated maximum heart rate seemed reasonable. Not quite killing myself, I got up to a reading of 95% of supposed-max, which seemed plausible. Which is a shame; if my estimate were low, I could run faster and still be under the 80% target. But no, it’s still the slow-motion plod-slash-jog for me!


Who am I?

February 28, 2007

I’m a little worried I’m turning into someone entirely new. Between the consuming obsession with fitness and nutrition and the newfound ventures into sociability, I am becoming unrecognizable to myself. It’s a metaphysical quandary. We all change a bit every day, and none of us is the same person as we once were, but this is so sudden — and it’s mediated by medication. How much of the change is the Zoloft, and how much is my own will? Are the changes real? Is this who I want to be, or is it an escapist response to the death of a spouse?

The hard-to-admit truth is that I am happier right now than I have been in a very, very long time. Which is great, but I feel like this happiness is something I can’t admit to, because it wasn’t that long ago that my wife died, and shouldn’t I still be moping about and wearing black? Whenever I meet someone new and tell them about what happened, I’m afraid of two things: one, that they will judge me for having fun so soon (I don’t know whether this judgment ever actually happens) and two, that the awkwardness of them not knowing what to say or do will grind all conversation to an unhappy halt (this has certainly happened a few times). But her death is still the most important fact about my life right now, so simply not bringing it up when I am asked about myself seems like dishonesty.

I mentioned in my last post that I kept thinking about how that particular conversation would go with my dental hygienist. I like her; she reminds me of my mom and we get along well. In my mind, gallows humor took over and wanted the conversation to go like this:

Her: How have you been?
Me: Up and down. You remember my wife? She died in September.
Her: Oh God, that’s awful. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say… if it’s not too personal, can I ask what she died of?
Me: Tartar build-up.

Since I imagine only one in 60,000 dental professionals would find this conversation amusing, particularly once I assured them that the first part was true, I refrained.

First run in two weeks

February 27, 2007

To ease ever-so-slowly back into it, I decided during my lunchtime workout I would run for 20 minutes at most and keep my heart rate under 80% of my max. As I was expecting, that meant a slow, slow jog — a 12:30 mile pace. The only challenge was the weather — rainy and windy and in the low 40s. This was only the second time I’ve worn my new running shoes, and the feeling of the wind blowing right through them was a little alarming at first. But I like the cold and knowing I had a towel back in the office, I didn’t mind the rain. Twenty minutes took me 1.6 miles; I had about half a mile of warm-up walking and another half-mile of cool-down. My left leg wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad.

Five to six months ago

February 27, 2007

No running or walking for me today (by design) so I threw myself into the sit-ups this evening. My goal was 100; I made it in sets of 50, 30, and 20. The longest set I had managed up until today was 35, so I’m pleased with the progress there.

My left leg is ready to run; I’ll try to do a mile or two tomorrow. Hooray! Other than that, it’s an exciting night of doing load after load of laundry for me. Oh, and I changed my Brita filter. I’m sure it hadn’t been more than six months or so — urk.

Let me just remind myself that I have an appointment at my dentist tomorrow. Just a cleaning. I haven’t done a good job of flossing, and I’m a world-class plaque generator, so it probably won’t be entirely pleasant, but at least I go every six months to limit the depth of the buildup. I always see the same dental hygienist, so we sort of know each other, and so I keep running over in my mind what it will be like when she asks how I’ve been and I tell her my wife (who had also been there a few times) died five months ago.

13-mile loop

February 26, 2007

walk_2_25_07Sunday I drove over to Oaks Park at the east end of the Sellwood Bridge and started walking. I was feeling pretty good, so I made it all the way to the Steel Bridge before turning back to the south. After crossing the Steel into downtown, I made a brief stop for a slice of Rovente’s pizza (this is a little dive that produces something that I swear must be shipped in from Brooklyn… even the grease drips off it properly) then walked up the park blocks and headed for Terwilliger. (After a brief detour trying to figure out the most direct way up to Terwilliger from the Duniway Park track.)

A blister hit the ball of my left foot along the windy Terwilliger Road path, then the ball and heel of my right foot. Nothing I couldn’t walk on, though. And my knee and shin felt great! I was a little anxious that I wouldn’t be able to find the path that was supposed to go under I-5 and Barbur Boulevard to get back to the river — I’d never walked it before, only read about it. It’s a wooded trail down through George Himes park, and, as a public service, here is a closeup view of the route:


The trail goes straight downhill alongside a small creek. It’s marked at the top with a “40-mile loop” sign. There’s one intersection; take the steep path down to the left. It passes under an interesting bridge (Barbur) and dull bridge (I-5) then steeply down a bunch of railroad-tie steps until it come out on Iowa Street. From there, you are on sidewalks through the John’s landing neighborhood until you reach Willamette Park, but the route is well marked with “SW Trail #3” signs on the street.

I’m proud of my 13-mile walk; I was walking 15-minute miles most of the way and I’m thrilled to have more muscle soreness than joint or tendon pain this morning. After the walk, I went to a MiPL Scrabble happy hour; that was a whole lot of fun too. What a great weekend!

I don’t like Pina Coladas either, no

February 24, 2007

I promised myself I wouldn’t try to run this weekend, and it was too rainy for biking, so I took my dogs, two male Scottish terriers, for a walk. It turned out to be the longest walk they’ve ever taken — five miles in a leisurely 1:45 — and my skinny dog was struggling by the end. He’s more of a sprinter, very athletic when it comes to running or climbing short distances, but he doesn’t hold a candle to my fat dog when it comes to endurance. Is there a lesson to be learned there? Uh, probably not.

Anyway, the walk started out pretty nicely, with just some light rain. By the time we were halfway through it was pouring down. My water-resistant-not-waterproof jacket soaked through a little after that, and my jeans became saturated around the same time. My feet remained bone dry: I’m astonished how waterproof these Garmont cross-trainers proved to be. Both dogs, needless to say, were fully into their drowned rat impersonation. Here’s part of the route:


I used to like the suburbs

February 24, 2007

My recent lifestyle changes have really started to nibble away at my attitude toward where the best places to live are. Not on the big scale — northwest Oregon is still my paradise — but on the smaller question of whether I’d rather be a suburbanite or an urbanite; a west-sider or an east-sider.

The southwest Portland suburbs where I live and work are hilly, with a confusing topology of busy, curving main roads and twisty little local roads within the neighborhoods and housing developments. Most of these twisty little local roads don’t go through, or if they do, you wind your way through some long, crawling ‘S’-shaped route. Classical suburban design, all made for cars and maximizing the number of lots. My immediate neighborhood doesn’t even have sidewalks. It’s miserable for biking, running, and walking.

Another thing that has really been bothering me is the lack of independent coffee houses anywhere near me. If I want a fancified coffee beverage, it’s Starbucks or a long trip. (But there’s at least three Starbucks close by, sigh.)

Add it all together and the east side of Portland actually starts to look attractive. This is heresy for a west-sider like me to even contemplate. The biggest problem: my job is in Tualatin. And I’m not a big fan of long commutes.