Archive for July, 2013

Going Batty

Posted on July 26, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

bats_at_dawn_img_3065

Twice this week I hit the road at just the right time. Although I enjoy any morning run, I especially love running early, when night and day collide, during that short crack in the dawn when the birds are not yet up and the bats are getting ready to call it a day.

If I run with my eyes up, I can usually spot dozens of bats flitting and diving for their last meal before they disappear.  They’re hard to spot against the darkness at first, but as the sky fades to pre-dawn lemon, they’re pretty visible.  If you know what you’re looking at.

It’s easy at first to mistake bats for sparrows, but they don’t fly the same.  Or sound the same.  As soon as the bats disappear, the sparrows come out to chase down the scraps. I’ve seen a sparrow hunt a bug as big as its head, chirping bloody murder all the while, and win a meal big enough to feed a family of four.

This time of morning is the loudest of the day.  The treetops quiver with birdsong.  Long before they arise from their nests, grackles, doves, sparrows, and every other bird in the neighborhood announce the dawn.  If you’re quiet and run without an electronic device shoved in your ears, there’s no mistaking nature’s music. My favorite.

If you want to see the bats and the birds vying for the sky, you have to be quick. The crack closes in less than half an hour.  It’s about that time right now, in fact. I guess I better get moving.

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The Price of One Bad Meal

Posted on July 19, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Duck Waddle

I’ve been recovering most of the week.  Not from a race or an injury or even an illness, but from a meal.

I talk a lot about my love for (not-so-healthy) food. Chocolate.  The -ito family (Dorito, Frito, Cheeto).  Nevertheless, for the most part I am a healthy eater and know enough to stay away from certain foods, or at least eat them in moderation.

I generally avoid dairy and gluten, limit sodium, and try not to eat refined sugar that often.  I eat complex carbs and protein and enough produce to compost the entire neighborhood.

So I don’t know what I was thinking on Sunday night when my boyfriend and I sat down for dinner at the Alamo Café. We had just come from his grandmother’s 90th birthday party and I was pleased with myself for by-passing sandwiches and cake (yes, cake—the chocolate kind, with gobs of white, fluffy frosting) and munching instead on nuts and fruit.  Too pleased, apparently.

And too hungry to by-pass chips and queso. Margaritas with salt. The smell of fresh flour tortillas. Before I could sing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” I was elbow deep in carne guisada. Too much carne guisada.

I didn’t even finish my plate.  I left the rice and refried beans, opting for a side of boracho beans instead, and picked out the chunks of meat, leaving behind the glop of thick gravy they came covered in.  Still, I left there waddling like a duck.

Sodium, gluten, enriched flour and lord knows what else bloated my body for days.  On Monday morning, I couldn’t even run. (Is this what my pregnant friends feel like?  How do they do it?)

On Tuesday, I managed a waddle/run—at my slowest pace in years.   The rest of the week was a wash.

An entire week of fruitful exercise and six pounds of bloat were the price I paid for one bad meal.  I don’t know how people eat like this on a regular basis, but I know many who do.   I wish they could spend a week clean so they could experience natural energy, healthy-food style.  From now on, I sure will.

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In a Minute There Is Time

Posted on July 12, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

disturb the universe

One of the interesting things about having read so much literature is that snippets of poetry pop into my head at what seem like weird times.  I’ll be sweating in my car and Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” trickles into mind:

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

Or maybe I’ll be in a public bathroom and get a whiff of that lovely orange-scented “fragrance” and lines from Stevens’s “Sunday Morning” waft by:

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late

Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been haunted by Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” one of my all time favorite poems:

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

These lines fall upon me at what seem like odd times.  When I’m running. Biking. Staring at my training log tacked on the side of my fridge.

On Thursday morning I figured out what it is that’s been getting me, why Prufrock haunts me.  I stood staring again at my log. Just over 4 weeks until the Olympic distance tri I was sure I would enter.  Thursday.  I was supposed to swim. Instead, I drew a line through the day.  I looked over my plan.  Three more swim days Xed out.  Two strength-training days.

My upper body isn’t doing what it’s designed to do.  It’s supposed to be strong.  Lift things.  Move other, heavier things.  Like me. Through the water.  Nearly 3 months since a shoulder injury caused me to stop doing “normal” activities, I am still unable to resume them fully.  (I somehow suspect that when my doctor said go ahead and resume normal activities, his idea of “normal” was a bit different from mine.)

No Olympic distance tri for me, it seems. Not yet, anyway.

By Thursday afternoon I revised my goals. Lofty ones, maybe, but why not dream big?  San Antonio RnR half marathon in November—to qualify for the Houston marathon in January.  And, if I’m going to dream even bigger, why not see if in Houston I can qualify for Boston?

Who knows if I’ll qualify for anything, but it can’t hurt to aim high.  If I can’t swim, I might as well run.

At least that’s my plan.  For the minute.

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The Dark Side of a Morning Run

Posted on July 5, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

salado heron

My feet know the roads surrounding Salado, Texas, better than any other roads.  Having lived there four years, I ran them hundreds of times.  In the predawn hours, a world completely different from the one most residents see in broad daylight thrives beneath the stars and the moon.

When I lived in Salado, I could tell you where the doe threaded their way from the creek to their bedding field, followed closely by their fawns.  Two does bore twins each year, and I’d mark their monthly growth.  I stumbled across bucks one early morning, gathered in a semi-circle around two sparring for dominance. I heard antlers cracking hundreds of meters away before I caught sight of the proud assembly.

I could tell you which field was manned by hawks, adjacent to the stretch of road on which I did sprints.  Then there was Heron Pool, Woodpecker Corner, Skunk Alley, Camelback Hill—all places I named based on the animals that frequented them or the lay of the land.

So when I visited Salado for a couple of days early this week, my excitement swelled at the prospect of an early morning run.  I planned my route:  5 miles, from my mom’s house at the top of the hill, in a circle through the hawks’ territory and the sparring field, through downtown, and then an out-and-back past the old Salado cemetery before I tackled Skunk Alley and headed up the ½-mile hill back home.

I woke up minutes before my alarm, at 4:28 am, and was out the door by 5:10. I no sooner stepped into the yard than a deer snorted and nearly gave me a heart attack.  Even though there was a sliver of moon, the sky was too black to see much of anything beyond the looming shapes of trees.  I walked to the end of the cul-de-sac, waiting for my Garmin to find the Salado satellites, and quickly realized that Salado, like so many other towns, was hard up for cash.  None of the already sparse streetlights was lit.

I stood in the dark and stared at the stars and listened to the snorting taper off into the rustling leaves. It was dark, all right. None of the houses even emanated light.  I waited there at the crossroads until my eyes could adjust to the inky black.

Did I mention it was dark?  I paced down the road a bit, still waiting for the satellites, noting my amplified sense of hearing.  More leaves rustled, although there was no breeze, and goosebumps prickled my skin.

I get scolded frequently for running alone, in the dark:  Aren’t you afraid someone will jump you from behind a tree, drag you into a field?  There are so many crazy people in this world…

Crazy people don’t scare me.  I run with the awareness of a cat—which is why I don’t listen to music when I run.  I want to know what’s around me.  No, it’s not people or the possibility of being butchered in a field that triggers goosebumps.

It’s the old Salado cemetery.

Or, to be more exact, my imagination.

Most of the fiction I write has elements of horror, the supernatural.  I don’t need to watch horror movies (I shun them like the plague).  I have enough creepiness in my head to last nine lives.

So standing in the pitch black of pre-dawn waiting for the satellites, my skin rippling like the ocean before a storm, I got to thinking.  I haven’t lived in Salado for 2 ½ years. What do I know anymore?  It’s quite possible the deer have been domesticated like the Far Side cows and are hanging out in the newly cleared subdivision-to-be, a spotter calling “car” as the rest of the herd hide their newspapers and resume grass-chewing.  Maybe the hawks have retired to South America for good. It’s even feasible that Skunk Alley has succumbed to gang activity and I may very well get sprayed—or worse—this time through.

So, really, who needs 5 miles?

Especially past the old Salado cemetery, where the pre-Civil War gravestones jut from the earth like ruined fingers under the waning moon, bats flit and dip through the phantom-shaped shadows, and willow trees cast their weepy leaf-arms about like matted, tangled hair.

My 4-mile run was a peach.  The wind chimes big as organ pipes hung grandly from the house in the dip by the bend, and the kitty-cat mailbox painted in pastels stood welcoming and warm at the end of the cottage’s driveway.  My mom’s subdivision, at least, hasn’t changed much.

Who needs nature anyway?

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