Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lessons from a new rider (ME!)


I just bought by very first road bike on Monday!!  I am the kind of excited where I shook for the rest of the day and slept a total of 4 hours that night, staring for what seemed like hours at the bike-shaped shadow resting against the far wall of my apartment; a foreign presence in my studio space. A long-awaited one.

For the last four years I’ve wanted a bike.  I’d whine my desire on too-crowded trains, I’d casually spout it at parties, “yeah, I’m looking at getting a bike…” but it was a far away desire that gradually picked up speed until finally, after finishing a run around the esplanade and wondering what it would be like to be wayyyyyy out wessssst in the Greens, I decided to stop deciding.  And I bought a bike.

Yesterday was my first official “ride”.   I didn’t know where to go exactly, but I figured a safe bet would be the esplanade.  Yes, crowded.  Yes, I should probably practice on a road but whatever.  I was shaky enough on my brand new steed and had no business memorizing a loop and I most certainly did not need to figure all that out with cars flying past me in the city. Not yet. 

So off to the Esplanade I went. And for the next hour, I learned things

Let’s get to it.

A tire pump requires more muscle than you think.  The valve may be open properly, the nozzle attached perfectly to it, the gauge reading accurately, but you can’t seem to get the pump to go down all the way - it bounces back up and you get 1) frustrated and 2) concerned.  Don’t worry; you aren’t going to pop your tire (probably not).  Presssssss all the way down, beyond the resistance.   Beyond what you think is normal. This will save you a trip to the bike shop, on your somewhat-deflated front tire only to find out you just need to push harder.  That was cool.

You know exactly what I’m talking about.  The bike shorts.  Those shorts with the futon sewn into the crotch.  You feel like you’re the adult version of a Pampers commercial.  You’re not. You’re smart which is why you bought it with your bike.  So don’t walk around like you don’t know what’s in your pants.  You know what’s in your pants and it’s going to save your assana.  Also when you come down off your seat at a stoplight or whatever, remember to account for that inch of padding.  I tried to slide back on casually and the nose of the seat got stuck between my butt and the spandex.  It was not pleasant (I don’t think this is a common mistake but I somehow managed to do it).

I’ve heard this said about public speaking – how we think we sound way worse than we actually do.  Same goes for biking (there are exceptions).  As I made my way out towards Harvard on the bike path, an older gentleman rode up alongside me.
“New bike?” he asked. 
“Sure is.” I said. 
“That’s a nice ride.” He responded, pedaling easily (too easily) ahead of me
“Thanks.” I smiled and slowed down, suddenly aware.

It’s my form.  I’m not pedaling on the bumpy parts – does that give me away?  It’s probably because I haven’t put on those clip-in pedals.  I’m wearing my ratty New Balance runners I mean how dorky am I?  And my top.  I’m wearing an old t-shirt.  I should’ve put on some spandex-y thing right? I stick out like I sore thumb.  Maybe I should have found another road – too many riders here.  Watch out for the tall awkward girl on a bike…

I pedaled faster and caught up with him at the light.
“Excuse me.  Just curious, how did you know this was a new bike?”  And braced myself for the answer.
He chuckled and pointed at my chain, “It’s too clean.  You need to get some mud on that puppy.” 

I laughed at my absurd thoughts.  I’m new at this.  So what?  I can’t beat myself up for being new. We are all new in the beginning.  It’s a common denominator. It’s amazing where our thoughts can lead us. Don’t let uncertainty become an insecurity. Be okay with where you are.   OWN IT. 

On the way back home there was this long stretch of beautiful bike path in front of me.  I felt pretty confident at this point in my 35 minute total ride, so I decided to open ‘er up.  I got down in the drops (haha), switched to the big crank (?) and just started hammering.  I was the only woman on the Tour de France…no, I was in a cyclocross event…no, it was my first race and I was leading…..

My daydream broke apart like rocks on a train track when I was passed on the left.
By a man about 100lbs heavier than I am.
With saddle bags (no really, the bags) on his back wheel.
And he wasn’t even breathing hard.
So there’s that. 

I really should get a speedometer thing.   I swear I was going like 35 mph.

Other notes to you/me:
wear a light wind-breaker
your back will be sore tomorrow
practice simple things when no one’s around like looking over both shoulders while keeping your bike parallel to the line on the road
smile at people
don’t freak runners out by zooming by them
don’t ride on the esplanade until after 7:30p
20 miles takes longer than you think.  I mean I only did 10 and I was starving by the time I rolled home
eat whatever you want.  you earned it.  Especially on your first day.


 ps: if you're thinking about getting a bike. Back Bay Bicycles.  Best guys n' gals ever.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

everything counts a little more than we think...

Hello My Friends!

Let's jump right in, shall we?  Happy hello's to you from Boston!  Temps are supposed to dip into the high 20s tomorrow night and my AC is still in my window. i should really remove it but i live in a studio apartment and the rear on this sucker is huge:)  i guess i could take it out if i need an extra chair at my next dinner party... *sigh* 

anyway, for now, i’ve neatly rolled a few hand towels up along the window sill to prevent the cold winds from whipping through.  but yeah, i need to get this cooling machine out soon. Mother Nature is making sure Summer has left for good.  

In the meantime, it’s flannel shirts and slippers. I love that anyway - I’m from Maine! Of course I love flannel and cold weather!

So today was eventful. Today I ran 30:01 straight!!  in a row!!  without stopping!!
“Why does that matter, Kay?” you might ask. “You just freaking ran a marathon less 2 months ago? Right?”

And I would say: Yes of course you’re right, but out of all the running-your-first-marathon-advice I had absorbed I forgot to remember that recovery time is the real deal blue steel. It’s actually no joke.  It actually means: Put your feet up for a few days and do things other than running that make you happy. And by the time I remembered, I was on my 6th set of hill repeats three weeks after the 26.2 when my hip flexor seized. More specifically, my left adductor and pectinous muscles. It was super fun.

But let me back up and say the marathon was GREAT.  AMAZING. I LOVED IT. I smiled pretty much the entire way. I felt great. I got a little emotional lining up at the start (yes, this race was small enough that I actually could walk right to the front and wait for the gun.  It was awesome.)  The Lehigh Valley Marathon is 85% on trail and relatively flat, so it definitely provided awesome green scenery - and shade! - for an end of Summer race.  But we already had perfect weather - 65 at the start. Gorgeous. Being on trail was awesome, although since we were in the woods/by a river for so much of the race, you really only saw people when we’d pop out of the trail every 5 miles or so.  

pre-race pix! probably 5am. about to drive to the start.
And, since it’s a fairly small race, I found there weren’t a lot of people around me.  Which meant all you really had was, well, You.  So, in addition to keeping pace with some very awesome jams via headphones (which a lot of racers had - I presume they all knew this particular course) I was very much in by brain. I felt like i’d come full circle -  I mean, I’d trained with this brain for 14 weeks, I knew what to expect.  But those last few miles were surreal.  Surreal. I can’t explain it.  But we did it;  my head, heart, legs, lungs.  We turned into town on that last mile stretch that seemed to go on forever and my eyes locked in on three very special humans in my life. I ran towards them, high-fived them, and begged for the finish line.  As the bod started to shut down under the final moments of duress, the blue banner was there and i went through it and I was a marathoner. I finished!  Spent, cramped, but so extremely happy. It was very real, and simple, and yet very surreal.

But now, with the race far gone, and the injury having pulled me out of my rhythm n’ rhyme, I let things slide a bit.   I’m out of shape, I sleep in until 7am now since I haven’t had to run in the mornings post marathon.  I eat what I want, when I want. I enjoy more wine.  It’s been 4 weeks since the official injury and today was my 2nd run back. It felt good, it was hard to be conservative, but it felt good. I’ve tasted the sweet nectar again. It makes me want to be back where I was.  I want the peak fitness and the confidence that comes with it.  I want to start the cycle again.  But like all good things, I gotta work hard for it. And I know this. 

I know ebb and flow serves an important purpose.  They happen because they must. Because we can’t summit every mountain peak without first climbing down.   I suppose it makes the top that much sweeter.  So now it’s back to planning, and scoping out the Spring races!!  

In the meantime, I’ll take the Winter on.  Take the AC out.  And look ahead.


my wall slowly filled up over the weeks of training. positive reinforcements, things friends said to me, Bible verses, etc!  Such an encouragement to me throughout the process.  and they are still on my wall:)

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith

i get up in the mornings and every once in a while, in that gray fuzz between sleep and awakening, when the light is filtering through the blinds, I can hear the birds on the tree outside my window, the early commuters driving off down the street and i am reminded of my small, small place in this world.  i pad to the kitchen to make coffee. Even while i have slept, it is 6am somewhere and somewhere life moves, takes shapes, grows.  i have faith that i am in this way growing too.  In the gray dawn of my awareness and in the soft darkness of the unconscious.  As much as i can be reminded, i go on, oblivious. and that great chasm between the two is bridged by Faith. Faith in the dark.  

i love poetry, and i love when a poem so precisely gifts a truth wrapped perfectly, by one of my most favorites.   enjoy. 


Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith
Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear
anything, I can't see anything --
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker --
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing --
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet --
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Finding the fuel.

I’m sitting on the floor of my apartment with a glass of red wine. On a hot night like tonight, I probably should’ve opted for something colder - like a nice beer or a fruity white but I have 1/3 of a bottle of 90+ malbec left and it’s not going to drink itself, or be good much longer. So here we are, helping each other out.  Earlier this evening, I spent a solid hour at a running store staring at fuel belts, aka “the mini-van of hydration systems” and just could not bring myself to purchase one.  In doing so, I felt like I could hear other runners murming as they ran past, “Seriously? Who’s the gear dweeb?”  “Oh. Marathoner coming through” ...Would I be the equivalent to the mom with the 4-car seats and the dvd player at the soccer game?  Not that I’d mind...  See?  THESE are the thoughts that kept me staring zombie-like at the wall for an hour.  Well, and I was also looking at short-shorts.  You know, the kind that are shorter than short, that basically just cover your butt, and just barely.  Maybe it’s this incredibly hot weather, or the thought of what I think my legs would look like in boy-shorts that made me step into the dressing room with seven different pairs. Florescent lighting at all the wrong angles and i had my answer.
I left with 6 gel packs and a tank.
Anyway, HI.  I’m back.  Want to catch you up on a few things:
1. i bought an iphone (womp, womp)
2. i now like hoppy beer (ish)
3. i went to boulder to visit my twin (if you know me, this is a regular thing but i just got back and continue to ride the high.  THE HIGH!!!!
4. i’m doing my first marathon
on the trail with Moo, boulder CO

I am beyond excited and really really look forward to the training.  So far, I’m in about 4wks and it’s been great.  The marathon is early September, so this Summer is going to be a complete recentering and focus-shifter for me.  Weather-wise, I’m up at the crack-a-lacka of dawn to get the miles in and to be honest I am LOVING it.  It’s a different kind of hard.  To those who know me, you know i h-a-t-e the heat. I loathe humidity.  My fingers blow up like sausages when I run and I go through about 4 emotional, mental and physical meltdowns.  This is not a joke.  I thrive in cold weather.  It’s just how I’m made.  Now that I’ve committed to an end-of-summer marathon, it’s added a new challenge; one I’m stoked to have accepted.
So anyway, I wanted to share the good news with you guys - whoever you are.  I am a runner, but I’ve always told myself that I would never run a marathon until my heart felt like it.  A few months ago the urge came, and it never let up, and a few 17-miler saturday runs have plopped me on a course of distance, strength, speed, and endurance.  I can’t wait.
Harvard Steps, every Wednesday at 6:30am, November Project
I’ll probably share some of my learnings with you. This is completely new territory for me, so if you have suggestions, or words of wisdom and encouragement - it’s gladly welcomed!  
Mostly, I just want to say that going after something bigger than me has opened up a level of confidence that I didn’t know existed.  I’m finding new ways to get Strong - mentally, physically, spiritually. Not just in long runs, but in stadium climbs, in the foods I eat and the drinks I drink, in morning devotions and in the ways I communicate with the people around me.  Love and encouragement and faith - in who i am and what I believe in.  This is what I’m finding to be powerful.  If I only I could wear THESE on a fuel belt...then I may consider buying one:)
**no but seriously: if you have any suggestions for hydration on long runs - please share your thoughts. i am in the market!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lost Weekend

My friend, Greg, into'd me on to this band today and i have had them on repeat all afternoon.  Sat by the docks on the Charles River for a few hours and, while i burned the left side of my face, i came away with some really happy beats. Tiny Victories.  The whole album is delicious but my favorite tracks are Lost Weekend and Get Lost.

"i know you, you've got a stereo heart, you've got an ache in your mind and that's a bad way to start..."

(and happy marathon weekend, boston!)


Sunday, April 1, 2012

sing the greys

I hung upside down - legs wide, arms long, hands grazing my feet and face facing out between my legs toward the charles river.  my hamstrings were very, very tight as they’d had very little TLC the past week.   Standing on the dock just past the Fairfield Bridge, i took in the MIT skyline, which now hung upside down in a cloudy sky over a slate gray river and for a split second i trained my brain to pretend the water was actually the sky.  it worked and then just as quickly as it became reality, it vanished.  kind of like when you look at a person you’ve known all your life and you pretend he’s a complete stranger “what do other people see when they see him?” and you can just barely conceive it and then poof! it’s gone.
This past week, I was in austin, texas to shoot a few videos for one of my clients.  i’d never been to austin before and I flippn LOVED it!  Between the production crew (locals), friends back east, friends out west and strangers on the street, I think we hit up about as many best food/music/coffee locales as possible for the amount of time we were there.  and by as many as possible i mean about 3% of the total amount of awesomeness in that town.  the place is unreal - although i question if I would say this in july.  already it was in the mid-80s and it’s only March.  yikes.  i’m a sausage in hot weather.  utterly useless.
it was pretty non-stop for the first few days, but on friday, we had a few hours to kill.  the clouds blew over and soon enough it was a blazin blue sky, plenty of heat, and nothing to do.  we’d exhausted the iced coffee bits, the food bits, the beer (quite frankly i don’t think I can look at another taco for some time...)  Then we had the brilliant idea of heading to Ziliker Park and checking out Barton Springs.  basically these springs fill this giant pool with fresh water and you can just swim and swim and swim.  didn’t need to hear anymore.  we were IN.  there were 4 of us  and in a few hot seconds we’d changed into our swimming gear (of course all the dudes had packed bathing suits but i don’t swim in hotel pools so...running clothes would do!).  

in we went.  it was a friday afternoon so it wasn’t too crowded, but there were still a good amount of people ranging from triathlete teams training (the spring was about 400m long and in a quarry-like place), to families, college kids to vacationers from Oz (a rowdy crew of athletic Aussies who took over the diving board area for a solid hour and were quite entertaining).  I thought myself a foreigner in a foreign land and it was so delicious - yet i felt like a fraud - like my alabaster skin gave me away and if confronted, a giant emblem would appear above my head that read, "I am from a land that sees this kind of weather in July. Our water is colder.  I've never had real barbeque in my life."   But that didn't happen and we continued swimming in crystal clear, cool spring water at the end of march under a hot sun and eight hours later we exited the plane into 38-degree New England weather and a day later i found myself on a dock under a gray sky spitting icy rain onto my sunburned skin.  not much different than the icy waters of the austin springs, and yet vastly different.  
As i hung there, bent over my legs, exhaling the cold river air from my lungs i tried to imagine what an Austin-to-Boston tourist might think on a day like today.  They might think “oh, boston is terrible. terrible weather, gray skies...” or maybe, “how nice to actually feel cold in spring.” or maybe they were just thinking "how strange, that a sky could mirror a river like that.  like holding up a mirror, and seeing the familiar for the very first time."


Saturday, February 25, 2012

breaking the yearling

it’s been a terrific february so far which is funny because when i think of february i usually think of it as that dirty, ugly-stepchild month between all the white snow that had fallen in january and the salt sand mud mix that begins to flatten the romance we just had with said snowfall.  it’s the “i’m over it” month.  but not this year.  not with no snow and pretty mild temps (here in new england, anyway).  It’s allowed for me to be pretty mobile and excited that the roads don’t have only a thin sliver of accessible concrete for which to run, and i’m not having to looking out for stealthy black ice patches that always seem to nail you when your guard is down.  I’ve run with only two layers of clothing around the charles river.  sometimes i don’t even need the gloves.  i’ve gone to shows without my winter jacket, which is unreal. seriously guys, it’s the little things:)
Nope, February was well-behaved, and kind of awesome. So seizing the fantastically mild winter opportunity was a must. I hope it was for you, too.
Earlier this month, I jetted off to LA for a fantastic photo shoot for Zipcar.  For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a car-sharing network all over the US, Toronto, Vancouver and now London (and soon Barcelona).  I’ve been an evangelist of the brand since I moved to Boston over 7 years ago, so being able to do their advertising is incredibly awesome.  **while in LA i ran into Zooey Deschanel whom I believe to be a kindred spirit because we both sing spontaneously throughout life and she has bangs and also, her character on New Girl is pretty much me.  I mean, it’s legit.** I spoke of it for hours.  
From there, it was straight from Logan to Wellfleet, MA - a beautiful town on the skinny arm of the Cape, where I met up with six other girls from CRew, our track group of awesome humans.  We had a girl’s weekend at Renee’s beautiful home right right RIGHT by the ocean.  It was insane.  We tucked in early Friday night as we all had a big long run the next day.  Most of the girls are training for Boston coming up in April. I’ve never done a marathon (but now i’m feeling the pull. we’ll get to that in another post), but have been working to increase my stamina/speed in the half marathon.  Everyone was running between 14 - 18 miles so we started off on one giant out and back. And man, was it awesome. 

I met Renee 2 miles in (she had 18 to do and I had 14).  Renee and I hit it off from the first day i stepped on the MIT track last August.  She’d been coming for a few months already, has a lot of experience on the track, played hockey in college and is just an all around super athlete and the girl is f-to-the-ast.  She is a great running partner and a great inspiration.  She’s definitely helped me understand all these workouts/pace a bit better.  It’s a whole new world!  And though it’s still a foreign language, I now know a few of the words:)  

Anyway, the long run was great.  She’d plotted this perfect and beautiful course for us that took us along the ocean, down Long Pond Road, through town center and out to the precipice and a point of land where the ocean and bay collided.  The weather was crisp and beautiful and we kept a steady, 8/m pace throughout, dipping into the 7‘s on the way back, though I’m pretty sure it was from sheer exaltation of the beautiful scenery and that we weren’t on the Charles for yet another long run:) Then it was to the ICE COLD FREEZING BEYOND WORDS pond for a 10 minute ice bath up to our waists. I'd post that picture but our faces looking tortured, so i'll spare you and share just the legs (shown here).

Wine that night.  Too much and just enough.  Conversation was easy, homemade guacomole was in full abundance, and laughter was plentiful.  We got to know each other really. well.  Soon, we were up for a 7mi easy shake out and then on our way home.  

I learned so much about these girls, but i learned so much about myself.  All six were strangers to me a year ago.  and I would never know them if it weren’t for stepping outside my comfort zone and finding a run group.  Sure, I assumed I would be challenged by the coaches and certainly by some of the runners, but didn’t think I’d connect with so many in such a special way and be stretched outside my zone not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, too.  
Here’s what i learned:  Meeting New People Makes You Bigger Inside.  

I think I’ll stop here for now, because I just want to ruminate on this fact. Because it’s been true for me.  It’s funny. every New Year, I think about what 12 months from now will feel like and it’s completely mind-blowing to think that it could be so very vastly different and so much the same.  

But there is perspective that grows like a single vine up the side of stark stark building; clinging on and bursting in all sorts of directions, growing upward most of all.  And here is where we take shape and take texture and become, slowly, something new.  And it can start in the most simple of ways:) 


*saw these guys at the paradise this week and cannot get enough. his voice is so haunting. so good.*

Watch the full video at