"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

saved by the slow food movement

I had a clever plan tonight to pick up dinner on the way home so that I could fulfill my Wednesday night dinner duty and still make it to that bike ride by 6:00. Got to the organic sandwich shop at about 5:40. A customer in line ahead of me was explaining the complicated raw juice mixture she wanted to order. I am terrible at estimating the amount of time realistically required to do most things. I can't accuse the shop of being unreasonably slow. 15 minutes to assemble my tofu mushroom burger and nachos while manifesting compassion for all beings is really speedy, when you think about it, but I had to cope with the disappointment of missing the group bike ride. Didn't feel like doing the whole ride solo again. I got home exactly at 6:00 and consoled myself with the fact that now I could at least eat my half of the tofu mushroom burger and nachos. Realized I was hungry to the point of grouchiness. Probably would have been dumb to do that ride on only a few gulps of dinner.

However, I am pleased to report that after dinner and being distracted by an episode of "Monster Garage" in which an all-women team of mechanics and welders were tearing apart a Camaro like so many wrench-wielding Bacchae, I managed to ride my bike to the gym where I swam for about 35 minutes. 40 laps total. When I got to the pool all the lanes had someone in them and I waited for a couple minutes to see if someone would leave. The person in the far left lane had a dark blue swim cap with a little American flag on it and looked like she knew what she was doing, totally smooth and relaxed. I finally asked her if I could share her lane and of course she said yes. For my first several laps I thought I was actually swimming better for having watched someone who knows what she is doing in the water, but the effect was sadly temporary. She could do about three lengths for every one of mine, and that was in her slow cooldown phase. A friend recently reminded me of a Maxine Kumin poem about a swimmer swimming to the cadence of "Abide with Me." If I ever get to the point where my brain can stop obsessing over its silly oxygen dependency that makes it think swimming is a cruel joke, and I find myself keeping stroke rhythm with music in my head, I really will have arrived.

Knowing that it's possible someone might read this provided a little extra motivation to get out there tonight, so thanks, whether you have an opinion about any of this or not. I've finally found a way to benefit from caring a little too much about what other people think. The old Emily might have just stayed home to find out what was on after Monster Garage, immobilized by self-pity for having missed the bike ride.

Another motivating factor is that I'm not up for a lot of channel surfing right now. Listened to NPR during the drive to Oakland and back yesterday and the radio is grim enough. Even some of my clients have been too wrapped up in watching the news to talk to me when I've called in the last few days. Would be hard to justify a whole lot of self-pity at the present time, what with having all my worldly possessions intact and my family members and friends mostly in bone-dry western states. Be sure to check back later, though, for updates on future pity parties.

Monday, August 29, 2005

do not read this while operating heavy machinery

Gee, and I was feeling so calm today. Went to bed around 10 but eventually started thinking about those clients again. They are in a bad situation and I'd love to be able to tell the whole story right here but I'm trying to stay on top of the whole professional ethics ballgame. Part of me wants to show up with my truck and help them move this week, and maybe there is nothing wrong with doing that, but one of my big challenges with this job is the emotional boundaries. They haven't asked me to help them move, but that caretaking impulse--sometimes, like the dark side of the force it is! The last thing I need is for word to leak out that that nice lady at legal aid has a pickup truck. Whatever you've heard--the rumors are not true. Don't believe everything you read on the internet.

Still, there might be a few other things I can do from the safety of my office while keeping my bouncing baby boundaries intact.

Heading to Oakland in the morning for a training on something or other. Tri-training is taking the day off tomorrow. I ran about 25 minutes this morning, shorter than planned due to the fact than when I woke up our water was shut off so I spent the first several minutes of intended running time looking for usable bathroom facilities in the park. Which led me, later in the day, to call the Parks Commission and complain. Seems the city's not getting its money's worth (if it's spending any) on porta-potty maintenance. I have now posted the Park Porta-Potty Crisis Hotline number next to our phone and plan to program it into my cellphone as well. If you have been shocked, disgusted, and disappointed in your hour of need in Bidwell Park, the number to call is (530) 896-7800.

RE: running, I'm still having my IT band problem despite the new running shoes. Weird sensation, not sharp pain like I've heard it described, but an uncomfortable tightness on the outside of my left knee. Though if I can remember right, it hurt pretty bad during the SF marathon in 1997. Doesn't tighten up until I stop running, which suggests an obvious solution! If I just keep running, I'll be fine, right? Good thing the run is at the end. Who cares about pain at the end of a race anyway. Nothing a bag of frozen peas and some ibuprofen can't fix right up. [note to shopping list: need more frozen peas]

Sunday, August 28, 2005

the waiver has been electronically signed

Just registered for the Luna Bar Women's Triathlon , October 2 at Rancho Seco Park. I wonder if we'll be able to see the nuclear power plant from the staging area?

Ce & I rode our bikes this morning, about 21+ miles out in the almond orchards northwest of town. I'd like to take back anything cheeky I said about clipless pedals. They make me feel mighty real. Definitely less like a penguin on solid ground. The acceleration! The power! Okay, no atoms have been split, but they do make a difference for someone who likes to go fast more than she might let on. Especially when you stand up on the bike. All that precious energy once lost in the upstroke is now MINE. Ha ha ha ha ha!

During the ride I had some second thoughts about going swimming afterwards...wouldn't it be nice to go home and eat tater tots instead? Relax and feel satisfied with the exercise performed? Maybe I got a second wind though. I headed to the gym and alternated 100 - 200 yd stints with some kicking drills. I didn't count how many laps altogether but I think I was in the water about 35 minutes. Then I was very tired. I got home and we walked downtown for lunch at Tres Hombres. Barely dragging my feet along, I couldn't help but think, this is the part where I'm supposed to be running? Fortunately the triathlon was not today. Food helped though.

Running in the morning, just so my hamstrings don't feel left out of all the fun. Have to say the sensation of trying to run after you get off the bike is not pleasant and since I haven't been going to the group tri-training sessions it's hard to convince myself I want to practice it. But tomorrow is clearly not the time. I biked adequately today. Maybe I'll have another go at the Fast 40 on Wednesday.

Last note for the night--I feel strangely calm and content considering that tomorrow is Monday. The idea of going back to work doesn't inspire dread. Normally Sunday night is haunted by vague work anxiety but I usually feel better on Monday morning after geting some sleep. Now I'm a step ahead. I'll probably even fall asleep fast tonight. See, I TOLD you that clipless pedals would completely change my life.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Re: penguins

We jumped on the March of the Penguins bandwagon (or toboggan?) today. Provided me with some perspective on my swimming. Here is a creature one doesn't look at and immediately think "endurance athlete." Almost seems like a mean joke that they have to walk a couple hundred miles a year.

I wonder if our ability to artificially adapt to our environment and move faster through it with technology is ultimately more trouble than it's worth. I can imagine Celia saying "well DUH" to that speculation. However, we are such frail little furless things. If penguins could develop snowmobile technology, they would probably be dumb not to use it given their circumstances. But if the penguins could improve their survival odds to the point that there came to be too many penguins....

The weird thing about humans is we create all this adaptive technology, a lot of it for our own amusement, like the bike shoes I bought yesterday so that I can use my clipless pedals again. Yet there are sections of the globe and even the neighborhood where people are obviously not deriving much benefit from all the technology. Some of us have palatial wood and stone houses with two car garages, some of us live in 40-year-old mobile homes with bad wiring, some of us camp by the river. Some of us are driven for whatever reason to test our utmost physical limits and some of us won't get off the sofa. Both extremes are puzzling to me. The penguins' biggest advantage over us is that they know exactly what they need to do at any given time, and they do it. Maybe some penguins have a better knack with penguin life skills than others, but none of them come with snowcat treads or a motor, or a heatlamp, or Goretex.

Another penguin - human analogy comes to mind. I hear Morgan Freeman's voice intoning "Penguins are at home in the sea." The underwater shots of them appear to confirm this statement. They are transformed--they are not flightless at all!
Well, my friends, you and I and Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow and the people camping by the creek are all, for the duration of our lives, basically penguins waddling over solid ground, no matter how clever and beautiful our adaptations. This world, lovely though it can be, is not our ideal environment. Our discomfort prompts all manner of bizarre human adaptations.

I had these thoughts partly because one of the things about the penguin movie that got to me was the sense of passing time. The idea of huddling with an egg on top of your feet for three months, the idea of walking 70 mile stretches with a stride that can't be more than a foot or two at the most, all the humans in the audience are thinking, Damn! How can they stand the monotony? Why do we have this compulsion to create arbitrary measurements for things that don't exist? What, exactly, is a minute? Why not just have sunrise and sunset and let it go at that?

I'm probably not going to be able to resolve these matters in this blog posting, especially since Ce was hoping we could read for awhile tonight. Today all our exercise was in the form of practical transportation, using our miraculously long legs to walk to the farmers' market, the bank, the bike shop, the Co-op, and eventually the penguin movie where we fed on popcorn and Pibb. (It's not Mr. Pibb any more, it's Pibb Xtra--a superlatively androgynous carbonated beverage. Marketing adaptations.) Planning tomorrow to swim and then go for a bike ride with Ce, wearing my new bike shoes clamped into the clipless pedals. They will no doubt completely change my life for the better.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The 5-minute rule

Read some triathlon training advice awhile back suggesting that when you don't feel like training, you tell yourself you're only going to go out for 5 minutes. Then by the time you've done something for 5 minutes, usually you feel like since you're already here, you might as well keep going.

This is a great idea unless 5 minutes is really all the time you have. The strategy would seem to defeat itself at that point. This morning, however, I had at least 20 minutes for my dip into the waters of Big Chico Creek. The combination of blog therapy and revised prayer / meditation helped and I fell asleep not long after my last post, but 6:30 was not doable this morning. I slept another hour and made it across the street to the pool by 7:50, swam about 4 lengths in 20 minutes, and climbed out feeling like I at least did something. Since lengths in the regular pool take me 30 - 35 seconds (25 yards), I'm guessing that Sycamore Pool is about 250 yards long? I'll have to try it again another time, since I felt slow and winded this morning. At least a third of the time I swam breaststroke.

On the other hand, all those little stops to turn around in the regular pool add up and it's tempting to pause an extra second or two at the wall to catch my breath, so maybe it all evens out. I don't know how to do flip turns and I am averse to being under water upside-down and backwards, unless I'm wearing a diving mask. Good thing I don't aspire to competing in a swimming pool.

Note on prior warning to cats: it was enforced against Kato at 5:00 a.m. I set out a water dish for him so he wouldn't be thirsty outside. At 7:30 when I got up, I opened the door and he immediately ran back in, meowing and muttering all the way. Maybe we'll adjust the penalty to being shut in the bathroom instead. I don't want it to be a mean punishment, I just want to get my #@$&*!@ sleep!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

now I lay me down to worry half the night

Last word on the bike ride--exercising at night keeps me fresh and wide awake at 4:00 a.m. Cats playing tag over the bed enhance the effect. I delivered a short lecture on this subject tonight with a warning that the first kitty who does a hit & run after midnight tonight will be going outside to play until morning. In space, no one can hear you scream, especially if the sliding glass door is shut.

I took today (Thursday) off from training since I finally got some quality R.E.M.s from 6:30 - 7:30 a.m. Didn't have a workout tonight. However due to an extra panic-stricken phone call from a client toward the end of the day at work, I can't keep my brain from rolling over and over like a wayward wheel. Trying to figure out why, apart from a normal experience of human sympathy and my limited functions as a lawyer, their problem (bad and real though it is) should be so embraced as if it were somehow my own. It's totally illogical--all I can do at this hour is produce excess gastric juices. I am all in favor of prayer but it hasn't worked well lately as either a sedative or an antacid. Maybe I've been making the wrong requests though. At this point it would be more honest of me to pray "Please make my brain shut up so I can sleep" than it is to pray "Please help ____ find a place to live before next Saturday" since I already asked the latter a couple times. Once in high school I was writing a paper late into the night before it was due and I suddenly got the hiccups. Went on for several minutes, totally distracting. I prayed, please make the hiccups stop since holding my breath, etc. etc. had not worked. They stopped immediately.

I was at a meeting at Creekside Cellars tonight (heard there might be some free cheese) and somebody in the course of conversation quoted Einstein as having said either everything is a miracle, or nothing is a miracle. I who have experienced miraculous delivery from hiccups.... My acidic thoughts, lying awake, are not unlike hiccups. No useful purpose. Get them behind me.


Turns out my ride was a little shorter, about 25 miles, therefore more like a fast 40k.

Also when I tried to put more pressure in the tire this morning, I got a pinch flat. More practice ahead.

Planning to swim in the Sycamore Pool in the morning. Friday morning is the only time I will immerse myself in said pool as it is drained and cleaned on Thursdays. Not so much floating detritus. It's good to have "open water" to swim in though. The possibility of giardia is an added thrill.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The soundtrack within

Perhaps others experience this: your brain picks a song to match whatever the pace of your run or bikeride. Sometimes when I want to maintain or increase my pace, I try to pick the song myself, but it takes some concentration to maintain it.

Tonight I attempted a group ride known as the "Fast 50" referring to kilometers (I think). Happens every Wednesday night in Chico and the departure point is across the street from my house. I went because my co-worker (who is training for her second triathlon) said she did it last week because her coach told her there was a slow contingent. She said she got dropped in the dust by this alleged "slow" group, so I thought, hey, why don't I ride too and we can be THE slow group. Sometime over the past week it seems her cycling vastly improved. Either that or the slow group didn't show up the first time she did the ride. So tonight, as the "slow" group which now included my co-worker, vanished into the distance about half an hour into the ride, I realized I am not really a real cyclist just yet.

The soundtrack happened like this: pumping away, determined to keep the slow group in sight if not catch them, my head was singing the Eurythmics. "Run run run run--to run away from you--is all that I could do--run run run..." Awhile down the road, when I could no longer see anyone ahead of me, I woke up and realized that my head had started singing Goodnight Irene. Much better. Much more comfortable. My brain is a sensible DJ. "Stop your ramblin', stop your gamblin', stop staying out late at night / Go home to your wife and family, sit down by the fireside bright."

That lasted until I got a flat tire about 5 miles away from home. I had changed a couple tires in the comfort of my living room with hours to devote to the project, but not yet on the road. Some real cyclists passed and asked if I was OK, and I said "yes, I have a tube." Which I did, and tire levers, and a mini pump. So in a record 25 minutes I in fact changed the tube and rode triumphantly (though in the dark) home. "We are the Champions, my friend...'cause we went on fighting to the end...we are the champions, we are the champions, no time for losers 'cause we are the champions...of the WORLD!"

Maybe some day soon I will be a really real cyclist.