Thursday, February 28, 2008


A somewhat successful week work-out wise. Monday AK and I (eventually) made it to the gym. I did squats for the first time in forever and really felt it... until about yesterday, actually. I'm happy that I can seem to do more weight on my upper body (not really pressing more than 20 lbs., but it's more than 10!) even with a bit of break from regular lifting. Seems like things are starting to stick, so to speak. Ran for a full half hour on Tuesday - 15 min. out and back. I think I did at least 3 miles (should properly gauge my usual routes), which was pretty satisfying. I just felt fast.

Yesterday was open bouting. It was a small turn out (most of the competitive kids cleared out early), but I still got a lot of practice in. I'm trying to work on parry-ripostes and, as always, finishing my attack. I was pretty successful on doing parry-riposte off the line (Russian #2 action/countertime), but not so much running backwards. I need to stay on the blade more, bind it more in some cases. I kept pushing one fencer to the end of the strip and then would get caught up in a counter-riposte war. Must Stop Riposting to Four! Still, a good bout.

I was really happy that I made the coach change on multiple occasions and picked up a parry when he thought his riposte was assured. I noticed that while fencing the rest of the class I was pretty calm and my endurance levels were excellent (hurrah for running!). But against the coach I found myself panting and tense. The few running books I've read have advised runners to occasionally "check in " on their bodies: Am I slouching? Is anything hurting? Can I push this or do I need to slow down? For the first time, I really checked in with myself on the strip: How's the brain dealing? Feet? Hand? I tried to relax back into my en garde after every touch, to let go of all the tension that developed during the action. I think it sorta worked. I felt more awake and "eyes open" actions came a little easier. I need to practice this in lessons, especially when I'm screwing up an action and about to lose it.

After practice I started writing in my running log (now training log I suppose) and started to wonder what my priority is in terms of sports. Am I a runner (albeit a newbie) who fences to cross-train or a fencer who runs to cross-train? I'm not really sure of the answer. I have more time for the running - it requires less equipment, I can do it as soon as I get home, and it's easy to drag people along. Right now I'm only bouting one night a week (getting to the competitive practice is doable, but a pain in the ass) and taking about two or three lessons a week. I'm not really competing in either sport. Maybe this is something I'm not suppose to answer right now. But it's still strange to think of myself, the girl who did stats for the high school volleyball team, as an athlete, let alone a multi-sport one.

That's pretty much all that's going on. There's the potential for huge changes at work (workflow/software related), but I can't really talk about that (there's also not much to report other than that we're waiting). I managed to make a meal tonight that featured four distinct food groups. I spent all of Tuesday night reading Full-Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti (founder of The book raised so many thoughts and emotions and rants that I'm determined to read it a second time before I voice an opinion. I find it so difficult sometimes to have a solid, well-supported opinion on an issue or an idea. I tend to rely a lot on instinct and emotion. This is not to say that opinions founded on such a basis are necessarily inferior. Most of the time it's an emotional reaction to someone else's clearly parsed argument. I just find myself so completely unable to articulate my ideas when I feel passionate about something. There's a lot of stumbling over words and cursing involved instead of a well-outlined proposal. I'll sit down with the aforementioned book and a stack of paper and see what comes out. Hopefully more than "It's shitty, but it's not, and we can do better, and does Bush really think he can do that, and why is she writing with this voice, and god why have I never seen the classist side of things....."

But for now I'm going to curl up with American Gods.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

1 hr/5 miles

In preparation for today's run, I was up at 6:30 with AK. I showered and ate a Larabar (AK can get them at a discount at work and I wanted to try something mostly fruit and protein based before I ran). My usual running partner begged out of running today (too much stuff going on and she felt too tired), so it was just the four of us. I was picked up by the other part of the running group around 8. On the way to the trail it was announced the JG wanted to do a full hour today - half an hour out and then half a mile back. Considering I only did four miles last Sunday and haven't run all week I wasn't sure I could do it.

Started out at a slow pace and eventually sped up. Turned around at a little over 2.5 miles and turned back. On the way back I took 3 small walk breaks. I would keep asking myself, "How are we doing? Can we go to that tree?" and if yes, I'd keep going. If not, I'd stop and walk, setting a spot ahead where I would start to run again. I'd start strong from the break and then feel myself slowing down. Repeat. My right foot started acting up around mile 4.5, but I took a quick walk break to stretch it out. Finished 01:00:20 and 5 miles and change. We were all pretty beat at the end of it and I've been hydrating (did not do enough of that to start) and watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII. All in all, a very productive Sunday morning.

Friday, February 22, 2008


I've not been running this week. My ankles felt a bit weak on Sunday and on Monday evening, in the middle of a fencing lesson, my right instep was pretty angry at me. In a bid to prevent anything from breaking/slipping/getting worse, I decided to stop running until I bought a new pair of shoes. I bought my old ones over a year and a half ago. They were on sale and fit.

Tonight I went to the Portland Running Company to be properly fitted for a pair of running shoes. The lovely saleswoman gave me a pair of neutral shoes to wear (something by Nike) and had me run up and down a strip they have in front of the shop. Happily I appear to have a rather neutral foot. No crazy high arches, no pronating or supinating. I tried out four different neutral shoes and wound up with the Asics Gel Stratus in blue. I also splurged and got a proper technical shirt. It's green and has a clever pocket for keys and an ID.

It sounds a bit shallow, but all the books I've read so far on running have talked about purchasing the right equipment not only to prevent injury, but also to better feel the part. The argument is that you'll feel more like the other runners passing you by if you look the part. Having fenced for a team where our equipment was banged up and old (in some cases, produced by long dead equipment companies and better relegated to a rag pile since the knickers would, you know, split in the middle of a lunge), I can say that wearing the right sort of equipment makes you a bit more confident. When you're on the strip in barely passing lame and ill-fitting cotton duck whites and staring at someone in full Uhlman kit, you can feel a bit like a chump.

So much of athletics is mental, is attitude... and I've always sort of had a problem with maintaining or creating a positive attitude. It's New York or the genetics or the water.... regardless, I'm quicker to judge and judge harshly than I am to step back and find a scrap of calming perspective. I'm working on it and I know that I've improved. I know I think of myself as a fencer now and as an athlete. I wonder when I'll start to think of myself as a runner.

Monday, February 18, 2008

4 mi.

On Sunday I ran 4 miles straight for the first time. I think my time was around 42 minutes plus, which still means that I'm on track for a 10 min. mile. A coach of ours once said that a fencer would have the perfect level of aerobic strength for a full tournament (pools plus multiple DEs) if they could do 4 miles in 4 minutes. I have noticed that I am a bit stronger while fencing - I don't crap out quite as quickly and honestly don't feel all that exhausted afterwards.

Yesterday was incredibly busy and rather excellent. The guest and I made it to the Japanese Gardens, which were absolutely beautiful and peaceful in the late morning sun. On the way back downtown, I was called out as a VC grad. Apparently she (Class of '98) saw my ring when I was pushing the button to call the elevator for the Max. Her companion looked confused and she explained it to him: "It's the ring. You know... one of us, one of us...." Speaking of VC, I interviewed a wonderful girl yesterday as well. She's very smart and very capable, so I'm sure she'll get in somewhere fabulous.

After too much coffee and too much talking about the alma mater, the guest and I saw Persepolis. It felt a bit condensed (natural, I suppose, since she fit both books into 1.5 hrs or so). Certain events were somehow more powerful when given a human voice. With the distance of the page and that caricatured nature of the work I could give myself some space from what were rather tragic and terrible moments.

A good day over all, even with a late night of bingo volunteering. Today has been very chill - tea and reading and laundry and taking long walks to absorb more and more of the delicious warm sun. I really hope that spring is here to stay... but this is Portland.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I've somehow managed to start up a team at work for the Relay for Life. We had thought about participating last year, but we all managed to get caught up in the usual flow of life. Thanks to some peer pressure/arm twisting, we already have our team of 8. No one seems to want the 2 am shift (the goal of the relay is to have someone from your team walking/running the entire time and our event last from 6 pm on a Friday till noon the day day), but we'll see. I think if we can get everyone hanging out and cheering and supporting their teammates, it might not be that bad. The track set up should be beautiful - they always set up some of those lovely luminaria in memory of survivors and those we've lost.

A totally awesome friend from NYC is visiting. She got in late last night and has hopefully found her way towards other friends and adventures. I'm such a horrible host sometimes. AK and I never really do much getting out and exploring (since our days off are spent catching up on sleep or errands) and I'm never quite sure what to do. Happily his parents left us some guidebooks from the last time they visited, so I'm sure we'll be occupied. I mean, we could just spend the day in Powell's.... Tomorrow is already slated to be crazy (good weather notwithstanding). Running in the morning as usual, followed by an alumni interview at 3 (we interview students for admissions) and then bingo volunteering (two hours pouring coffee and wiping tables and trying not to inhale too much cigarette smoke). Monday is a sweet blissful day of rest and no classes for AK. I predict too much coffee and plenty of talking.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Women and Athletics

I'm reading Dagny Scott's Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running and am rather surprised to find myself enjoying it. I suppose this is in part because of the rather demoralizing reading experience that is Nick Evangelista's The Woman Fencer, which, though it tries, still comes off as a sort of patronizing "I know you want to have kids and work in groups, but you can still fight!" I'm not sure how much of that is the fact that a man is writing the book or that he truly came across a number of women who still have problems seeing themselves as athletes.

Scott addresses this issue thoughtfully and realistically. It seems to all come down to empowerment - we run because it makes us feel good and it makes us feel strong, and we do not need to apologize for it. She also speaks on the difference between those who run for stress relief and strength and those who want to get out there and compete. I think this dichotomy is often missing in books about sports (or at least the ones I've read, which have been very fencing centric). There is a decided difference between the rec or club fencer and the fencer who is gearing up for a national or international medal. There is room for both in the sport (in any sport). It's striking the balance that seems to be the key issue: how do you design a club or a program that can cater to the advanced student and the beginner? Last night at open bouting there were four of us who were of the more beginner/rec persuasion, walking into the tail end of a competitive practice. I keep feeling like I'm on the edge - where do I belong?

This is still all muddled in my mind, so I apologize. I just can't help but feel that there needs to be a book for women fencers that covers all of this (including a diet and exercise and buying the right equipment - everything that Scott discusses her work). Is this something that I'll have to write myself?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fanconi 5k

I was up at 6 am with AK this morning - he had work and I had the race. I met up with my friends TM and JG and we headed down to the waterfront. It was raining when JG picked me up but ceased as soon as we had finished constructing ponchos from garbage bags. We are very classy ladies.

We parked a few blocks away and followed some other runners down to the Morrison Bridge (one of the many, many bridges that cross the Willamette). We grabbed our numbers and joined the line to the port-a-potties. The main lesson I learned today is that runners are constantly waiting in line for a port-a-potty or simply give up and find a quiet bush on the side of the road. Again, we are very classy ladies.

We warmed up slightly (a few minutes of jogging around the crowd) and joined the mass of walkers and runners ready to go. We crossed the start line about 40 seconds after the official start time (no chips here). I paced with JG for the first half of the race. We kept it slow and steady. JG is pretty amazing - she's 62 and filled with more energy than I've ever seen. She used to be a race manager and was quick to thank the people set on the route to cheer and direct. About 10 minutes or so into the race we were lapped by the front runners. JG made a point of looking for the first set of women and cheered them on. Very cool.

At the turn around point I grabbed a cup of water (which tasted very much like the cup) and decided to try to pull ahead a bit. I would pick someone ahead of me to overtake and would start to increase my pace. I stayed behind one girl (blonde hair, black capris, red shirt) for most of this leg but overtook her on the hill back down towards the last stretch. At the three mile mark I could see (and hear) TM yelling and put everything I had into a final sprint. The worker/cheerleader at the end gave me a "Yeah, way to finish strong!" as I passed. I skidded to a halt right under the bridge and tore the bottom off my bib for the poor guy trying to collect and keep them all in order. With a bottle of water I started to walk a bit on the grass back down towards the water to shake out my legs. TM found me and told me that I had managed to do the race in 33 minutes and change. I really didn't realize that I had been going that fast. The only time we managed to time our run, I was running and walking and did the 5k in about 46 minutes. My goal today was simply to finish and finish in 46 minutes or less. 13 minutes less is good enough for me. It means I was pacing at between an 11 and 12 minute mile.

After collecting a couple handfuls of mini cinnamon buns (delicious!), we headed to JG's house for tea and the tastiest oranges I've ever had in my life. I had mentioned at some point in the race that I was an oboist (something in the conversation was about rhythm and timing). She asked if I could possibly teach her how to count music since she had a number of Irish penny whistles and music, but couldn't quite read the music. She showed me her collection and in about 15 minutes I wasn't overblowing the octaves and almost had the stupid C under my fingers (too many years of oboe and sax screwing me up). I'll probably do a little bit with her after running on Sundays, using whatever I can find in my collection of lesson books. Should be fun, if a little frustrating on both our parts...

That's pretty much the end to my exciting day. I scrubbed grout with an old toothbrush and vinegar (amazing results... if you can stand the smell) in honor of a houseguest who will be arriving on Friday. AK is sleeping off a cold and I think I need another cup of coffee.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Since I have happily made headway into #7 of the Manual (everything that is Consortium Borrowing Processing!), I feel I can take a moment to start a few games on Scrabulous and to drink some tea and update this thing.

As three of you may have noticed, I just resurrected the blog I made up towards the end of my time in London with the intention of turning it into a knitting/running/not really fencing because AK already does the fencing talkies thing on the interwebs on his Xanga/library blog of amazing. Of course I have no idea what the hell to write it in, but did manage to spend plenty of time arranging the fonts and link colors (clearly the most important aspect of Starting Your Blog TM). I'm hoping that inspiration will strike now that I've carved out some space for myself in the apartment.

Those of you who knew me in college (again, the three of you) know that I liked to clean and arrange my dorm room and then hide out there with books and tea and stress all the live long day. I am a bit of a solitary person, which I attribute to being stuck with a sister since conception. Make that solitary and multitasking with a love of background noise. I wrote my last set of scholarship essays (THE LAST) to the sounds of a washer, dryer, Emma Thompson's award winning version of Sense and Sensibility, and AIM pings. Oh, and a short phone call from my mother.

Realizing that my scholarship essays must be written and that I find it absolutely impossible to write in the living room, I decided to annex a portion of the bedroom. I took advantage of the Super Bowl and an uninspiring first half to make my move (AK has a room of his own, so no worries there). Thus a few days ago I composed a 300-word reduction of myself on small table from Ikea on my now ancient lap top. The table is set where a never-finished-let-alone-started archive project used to collect dust and it can fold out for when I hopefully start my MLIS program and will need the room for printouts and tea cups. Right now there's just the computer, some flowered coasters (wedding gift from a British friend), an old Pom glass with pens and a bone folder, and my paper journal. It's nice to walk into a closed off space to find all your tools waiting for you. There's a comfy chair next to the set up for when I decide that knitting or reading. Really it's an ideal setup and it simply confirms that I have no idea how to decorate or create outside of a dorm room sized space.

Now that the space has been created (and we can dispense with the 500 pounds a year), the words should start flowing. Right?

Moving on, I have a 5k tomorrow: the Fanconi 5K. Since I've been running again for not quite a month, I'll just be happy to finish without stopping and hopefully in under an hour. We'll see. It should be a lovely run - the area around the waterfront is really beautiful to run through.

Knitting-wise I'm woefully behind on the Super Sekrit Project, but that should pick up this week once taxes are done and FAFSA in in.

Here's hoping I can keep this up....