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So today’s post has nothing to do with running, or food, or wine, or the FACT THAT I SPENT THREE HOURS ON THE ELLIPTICAL YESTERDAY.  I still can’t run.  But I did wear shiny gold stilettos to a NYE party last night.  Priorities.

Speaking of priorities, this 12 year old kid singing Gaga has thus far made my 2011.  All 16 hours of it.

I have nothing left to say.

p

New Beginnings.

Workout: Today: nothing yet, other than lifting green tea repeatedly to my lips.

Yesterday: 2 hours elliptical

Tuesday: 1:45 elliptical

Monday: 2 hours elliptical

Sunday: 2 hours elliptical

Sense a pattern?  After a few 50+ mile weeks, a hill workout last Wednesday, and a misbegotten 15 mile run on Christmas Eve, my feet went from “oh, that’s a bit sore” to “I have sharp pain when I put my heels down” on Christmas morning.  So I wore heels.  And headed to the elliptical for a few days in an attempt to be less stupid than normal with injuries.

I also haven’t posted in three months.  Which I’m rather confident went unnoticed, because I don’t have any readers.  But I’ve been doing some thinking over the past three months…like, a lot of thinking.  Most of it was about Nazis and baked goods and Kim Kardashian’s weight fluctuations and “damn I wish I could sleep more” and “why am I in graduate school” and “why is it so freaking cold in Norcal” and “HOW ON EARTH do we explain Hugh Heifner’s proposal to Crystal Harris” and “I bet Holly is so pissed.”

But rather more importantly, I’ve been thinking about life, and happiness, and, peripherally, this blog.  A year ago, my first semester of graduate school, I was spending two hours a day on the elliptical, vegan, militant about what I was eating, workaholic, single and happy about being in full control of my life.  I was proud of how thin I was, proud of the control I had over my life, and generally quite content.  Now, I’m 10 to 15 pounds heavier, a full-fledged meat eater/foodie, budding wine connoisseur, and in a relationship that makes me happier than I’ve ever been.   I’m running 50+ miles per week (er, except this week), take days off just to drive to somewhere pretty and relax.  My new body and I still aren’t sure what we think of each other.  I miss walking into a bar or club or anywhere and knowing every girl in there is noticing me and admiring my control.  I don’t feel attractive like I used to, but I feel healthy, and I guess that’s a start.

I’ve realized that Kate Moss’s infamous quote, “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels” is probably right, but it misses the point.  It’s not about food so much as it’s about life.  Because being able to enjoy life definitely tastes better than being thin feels.

Julia Roberts is spot on in Eat, Pray Love:

“I have no interest in being obese.  I’m just through with the guilt.”

Deep thinkingly yours,

p

Workout: 4 quick miles.  Being slowly lulled into sloth by taper week.

“There was an interesting article in this month’s Marie Claire,” I said.  My boyfriend stopped, breakfast fork in the air, and looked at me.  “Which is not,” I continued, “a sentence I would normally say.”

I was referring to this article, called “The Hunger Diaries,” and focuses on the admittedly bizarre phenomenon of food blogs, specifically healthy living blogs, a category in which this blog both roughly fits and consciously tries to avoid.  The article specifically addresses “the Big 6,” six female bloggers who both created the genre and inspired its recent explosion: of particular interest to me, they include Jenna, Tina, Kath, and Caitlin, blogs that—whatever problems I have with them, related or unrelated to the issues raised in the article—I read more or less every day, and have for nearly three years.  In a very odd and detached way, these women’s lives have become a part of my life, and have affected me, my relationship with food and exercise, and my daily life, in perceptible ways.

The article argues that these healthy living blogs inspire and encourage, basically, eating disordered behavior and extreme exercise, due to the “low body weights” of the women writing them, proclivity toward intense, lengthy exercise, and (what I consider to be the most valid charge) an obsessive documentation of every bite they take, all day, every day, for years.

Okay.  First, I think the article is intentionally inflammatory and polemical, and the author clearly knew what story she wanted to tell while she was looking through these blogs, because, as someone who has read many, many food blogs for years, and stopped reading many others, THESE are not the blogs to point that finger at; those kinds exist, but the “Big 6″ strike me as just normal women, athletes in training, trying to negotiate being both healthy and sane in this crazy world of fast food and obesity, anorexic models and body image obsession.  As one of my friends noted on a (long, 20 mile, but not obsessive, duh) run, in our world it is impossible to define some level of discipline to exercise, and some level of diet restriction, as “disordered”—sedentary lives and large quantities of junk food has gotten our nation into the diabetic, heart diseased crisis it is in.  But I will be the first to say that there is a line, and these blogs walk it.

I first found Jenna’s blog during the summer of 2008, when I was alone in Germany, then isolated linguistically, and staring down the long, dark road once again into the depths of an eating disorder I’d been courting on and off since I was 18.  Jenna’s blog then, and her blog now bear little resemblance to one another—then, a thin, superfit, vegan, runner, and yogi Floridian, she is now a food and wine aficionado, more casual exerciser, and a superb Californian chef, butter and meat and all.  The transformation of her blog and life has been a wonderful thing to watch,  as it has more or less anticipated my own life changes: finding a love for food and wine, learning to relax, put aside the pursuit of perfection, and enjoy life; coming to terms with a few extra pounds gained from dinners with my boyfriend, glasses of wine, enjoying dessert.  But even when I found her blog, I was blown away by the idea that such a beautiful, fit, thin young woman could eat “so much”—thought at the time it wasn’t really—and still be, well, beautiful, fit, and thin.  I read every entry back to the beginning that afternoon, and over the next several months, I read 10 blogs a day, 20, 30.  When I got home several months later, I decided I would eat three meals a day, at normal times, something I hadn’t done in years.  I wanted to be “normal” with food.  And thus began a year of the most normal eating and view of my body in recent memory.

But what I found was that, the more “normal” my relationship with food became, the less I needed or wanted to read these blogs—both because I didn’t need the validation anymore for what I was eating, and because I began to see that many of the women had issues that I was trying to leave behind.  And I’ve had my ups and downs in the last couple of years, but I would say, on the whole, finding the “healthy living blogging community” has helped to some degree.  Blogs like Kath’s and Tina’s on occasion express a level of guilt, or of self-righteous self-control, that makes me a bit squirmy, but honestly, that’s the way I talk and think too.  Find me a woman who doesn’t, really, and I’ll hire her to teach me her ways.  But Caitlin’s and Jenna’s blogs, as well as Angela’s, have been a source of daily encouragement and positivity.  Basically, I want to be friends with these women, however creepy that is.

This blog is trying to be none of the above, just to clarify.  It is merely an amalgamation of celebrity gossip, running commentary, and, mostly, a log of how I try my best to live an awesome life in the Bay Area.  Awesome for me means great food, good beer and wine, but it wouldnt’ be complete without epic running/trail running/mountain biking/road riding.  Obsessive?  No.  Awesome?  Yes.

p

Workout: (Yesterday) 5ish SLOW, HOT, supposedly-easy Garmin-less miles.

Post-workout fun: a growler of beer from the Russian River Brewing Co., consumed, fittingly, in the Russian River.

Rad.

So the run/ride this week was not really part of the epic wonderfulness of the day.  We slept in (er, well, Ian did), lazed around, did laundry, and suddenly found ourselves at 10am looking at 85 degrees, dry as dust, and glaring sun.  (WTF Norcal?)  Whoops.  But we forged on, spandexed up, and drove up to one of the many amazing trailheads at the top of the ridge, just a mile from the house.  The next part, though, was harder.  We pulled into the parking lot, and each looked dejectedly from the air conditioning controls to the window.  “I don’t wanna,” I said, maturely.  “Me either,” Ian responded.  “But just think how awesome it will be after?” he added half-heartedly.

“Fiiiiiine….”

8 gallons of sweat, a shower, a bowl of oatmeal, a tank of gas, and a detour to get a cooler later, we were off.  The plan was simple: procure beer.  Put beer in cooler.  Put selves in river.  Drink beer.  Us softie inhabitants of Northern California get pretty uncreative when the temperature climbs above, say, 73.

The procuring beer part of the plan led to a stop at the Russian River Brewing Co., in Santa Rosa, where we bought a $20 growler of the Russian River Porter.  The beer itself was fabulous, there’s no denying that, but the Brewing Company bar and restaurant itself left a bit, shall we say, to be desired.  Now, okay, I realize Santa Rosa’s kind of a weird place, but the Monday afternoon clientele was… well, a bit weird too.  And, when we asked the bartender for beer, you’d have thought we were asking for a huge favor: “Jeeeeeeeeezz, guys, sigh, why on earth would you think I can get you beer right now?”

But don’t let that deter you.  The porter was wonderful, thick but not heavy, chocolately but not sweet, refreshing but not bitter.  MMM.  And the growlers look pretty sweet.

So we rolled out of Santa Rosa, our liquid gold on ice, and, completely starving by this poing, proceeded to stop at no less than three places to get a rather, well, unconventional spread of food.  We ended up with: lime tortilla chips and salsa, Junior Mints, apples, date nut rolls, wasabi peas, and fruit slices.  Oh, and barbecue sauce.  Right.

We parked and nonchalantly strolled down a hidden path toward the river, one that, rather inauspiciously, smelled overwhelmingly like weed.  Shrugging that off, and having determined that no one was on our little spot of beach, we walked back to the car to get the picnic (“picnic”), when, what does God send us but: “BBQ!” I exclaimed.  “WHERE.”  Ian demanded.  Thus we added to our spread a pulled pork sandwich, potato salad, and baked beans.  Because, well, why not.

We finally arrived at the river, spread everything down, opened the chips, and… realized we were on the shady side.  A quick trip back to the car and a guessing game through residential streets led us to the promised land: an empty spot of sand in the sun.

The Russian River Valley actually has a pretty suprisingly cool history.  At the turn of the 19th century, Russian trappers came down from Alaska, looking for seal pelts and food for the community in Alaska (because, duh, there isn’t shit to eat up there in the winter), and claimed the land for the Russian Empire.  A friend of mine brought his father, a Russian immigrant, to a winery in the Russian River Valley recently, and he exclaimed, “why on earth did we give this up?!”

Apparently, as all things do, it came down to money, and the Russians sold the land in 1841, and American settlers started arriving the following year.  Today, the Russian River Valley is dotted with wineries (including Korbel champagne.  Next Monday…?), and, although the river itself is followed by a highway for much of its length, until it empties into Monterey Bay, it’s still totally gorgeous, and, in particular, a great place to spend freaking hot afternoon with a growler of beer.

The only mar on the day was the unexpected injury I sustained at the very end.  The car was started, everything was loaded, and I was returning from peeing in the woods (/watching Ian do a burnout in the dirt parking lot.)  And I got stung by a bee.  The nerve, nature.  The nerve.

p

Workout: (yesterday): 13.1 chatty miles with friends

(today): 3 dinky, uninspired miles

It was wonderful to go to bed on Friday night without thinking about a 20 miler the next morning.  It’s amazing how much marathon training changes your perspective of what a “long” run is.  Waking up to do 12 felt kind of like Lindsay Lohan’s jail sentence: you know it needs to get done, but you know it won’t be that long, and, anyway, it has the potential to be kind of fun (twizzlers, a private room, and an inexplicable spread in Vogue?).  And it was fun.  Beautiful weather, and, at mile 10, we stopped to watch a man reel in a massive (like, 2.5 foot span) sting ray on the pier at the Berkeley Marina.

Discovery of the day: sting rays kind of really look like dolphins.  Flat ones, but yeah.

Anyway, as much as I’m enjoying the mental and physical break of taper, just like LL’s moment of freedom (to continue the Lohan metaphor), I know the reprieve won’t last.  And, so, one failed drug test later, Lindsay’s going back to jail, and I’ll be running absurdly far two weeks from today.  This is both awesome, thrilling, and terrifying enough that I did the totally logical thing of accidentally going to Lululemon and buying $102 worth of new running clothes.

These shorts are $54, and probably actually worth it.  Completely awesome. I went into Lululemon after my run on Saturday, took off my standard uniform of Nike Tempos and singlet and Target Champion bra in the dressing room, and replaced them with a full Lulu suit.  It was nearly devastating to change back.  And, even though Carrie Underwood wears Nike Tempos (and I want to be Carrie Underwood) I think I’m a convert.

I love this picture.  Nike Tempos and a skinned knee.  That’s like, me, 85% of the time.  Baby steps towards becoming her clone, muahahaha.

Anyway.

It’s too bad that the name is so stupid (Luuuuuluuuuuleeeemon), or I would have gone in a long time ago.  And would be homeless as a result.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————–

In other news, last night we had pizza.

Homemade dough, real Texas barbeque sauce, chicken, carmelized balsamic onions, thinly sliced sauteed potatoes, and mozz. Awesome.

Disclaimer: this is actually Ian’s pizza, which he insisted we photograph instead of mine, which looked “weird.”

Weird?  It just had no cheese, and was covered in peas and a nutritional yeast “cheese” sauce.  Totally normal.  Right?

p

Workout: 7.8 miles at Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax, CA

Post-workout fun: 1.25 Dunkel beers+1/2 chicken apple sausage+1/2 kielbasa+undisclosed quantities of ketchup at the Gestalt Haus in Fairfax

I’d like to introduce the Monday Funday Series, which, despite the awfully corny name, is a concept all of us could use.  One day of the week dedicated to fun.  I know that for me, a currently beleaguered graduate student who spends far too much time woefully sitting in the library and staring at my bank account, Fundays are my lifeblood.  Reason to get out of bed.  Reason to not just look at my bookshelf and cry.  Etc.  You get the point.

And Monday just happens to sound the best with Funday, so, there you go.  (Unless of course, you prefer Sunday…)  Every Monday, my boyfriend, Ian, and I have dedicated the afternoon to “doing something sweet” (his words) for approximately $30-40 total.  We started this because a) I am a beleaguered grad student, b) he is just generally down for fun things, and c) we live in the freaking Bay Area, which makes it almost a crime to sit in the library while the world is going on being so beautiful outside.

Our adventures will largely involve some combination of simultaneous trail running/mountain biking (I run, he rides, sounds weird, it works.), beer, wine, something edible and delicious, very little cash, and about an hour drive from Oakland.

Exhibit A, last week:

Shipwrecks, and barbecued oysters at a roadside market at Point Reyes.

With pretzels and maple horseradish mustard.

Mmm.  Yes.

Exhibit B, this week:

An epically gorgeous run/ride at Tamarancho, in Fairfax, followed by honest-to-god authentic German beer and Americanized-yet-still-totally-delicious sausages at the Gestalt Haus, a bike/dirty spandex/sweat and dog-friendly beer room in downtown Fairfax.

We did an 8 mile loop at Tamarancho, which was honestly some of the best trail running I have ever experienced.  The perfect weather might have had something to do with it, sure, but I promise this is awesome running.  It starts from the trail head with about 3 miles of switchback-y climbing, followed by rolling hills and then a plunging descent that leaves you simultaneously fearing for your ankles and laughing like a kid.  Ian and I agreed that the climbs were perfect–enough to get your heart pounding and your butt burning, but never steep enough or long enough that you start to focus on the pain.  Or on how much you want to sit down and cry.  Sections of redwoods, sections of fields, sections of rocky deserty moon-like terrain, and a gentle descent in the pine trees that felt effortless, like flying.

I returned a changed woman.  And covered in dirt.

Lacking wet wipes (note to selves: bring wet wipes if we want to go out in public afterward), we forged on anyway.  Ian dumped sweat out of his helmet, and I reapplied deodorant, and we found ourselves at 4:29pm, breaking down the door of the Gestalt Haus and trying not to drool on the bartender.

The Gestalt Haus is probably the closest approximation I’ve seen in the US to the true feel and spirit of a German beer hall or beer garden.  Unfussily decorated, with long picnic-style tables and a menu that consists of two things: beer and sausage, both cheap.  A great mix of blues, classic rock, and Queen that plays out of an authentic juke box that the bartender tends to diligently–yelling for suggestions every time he changed the song.  The vibe is come as you are: sweaty, dirty, in spandex, bring the dog, the kids, the bike.  Drink real German beer–they have a large selection of bottles really actually from Deutschland–eat kind of fru-fru-y American sausages that nevertheless taste damn good. And be as loud as you want.

Ian had two rounds of the Hofbräu Original, and I had a Korbinian Dunkel and four sips of a second before I realized that someone had to drive us home.

It was, my friends, the perfect day.

p

Workout: (yesterday) 20 miles in 2:51

That be almost Boston pace, yo.

Holla.

But we’re not talking about that.

What we are talking about is the fact that, despite mysterious glute (or more general butt) pain, despite two weeks of travel, wedding insanity, vacation-style overeating, and start-of-the semester lack of sleep; even though I forgot my visor yesterday, left an hour later than planned, got sunburned to a crisp, and discovered conclusively that Hammer Gel does not sit well in my stomach; I am running better than I have in years, and loving it as much as ever.  I think that’s really all that matters, when it comes down to it.

I guess that’s one upside to the whole Indiana summer thing: I was bored enough to run my ass off on a daily basis.  Apparently, that works.

On another note, Kirsten Armstrong (yes, that Armstrong) wrote a column in Runner’s World that resonated with me, and I found myself pondering her words yesterday while running:

“It is the runner in me who will age gracefully. It is the runner in me who understands that the beauty of my body is in things it can do, not the way it looks doing them. It is the runner in me that understands that lines come from laughing on long runs and smiling into the sun. The runner in me is grateful for strong legs to carry me across finish lines. It is the runner in me who can make peace with her body and the passage of time.”

Or at least I pondered that for a few minutes, because when I run I have lots of important thoughts, so I can’t spend too much time on any one. Thus:

Ow. The sun is shiny. I forgot my hat. I can’t believe I forgot my hat. Should I go home to get it? But then I have to run the big hill again. I hate the big hill. Mmm. Time for a gel! God, that was disgusting. Hey! Cyclists! Hi! I love it when they say ‘runner up!’ It makes me feel so validated. Armpit chafing sucks. I still don’t get Ke$ha’s lyrics. What does Puff Daddy feel like when he wakes up? My butt hurts. There’s sweat in my eyes. Why did I forget my hat? How far have I gone? Woah, watch your pace. OMG BUNNIES! Is my shoe too tight?

And so it goes.

But however Chicago goes–and I really have no idea how it can, should, or will go–I can rest assured that it will not be as bad as Gwen’s dress.

And that, my friends, is something to be thankful for.

p

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