Friday, April 13, 2012

Lost and Found

After last week's run and cheer, I found a music device near the Columbus Circle Central Park exit. It had the sad and lonely look of discarded sweaty socks so I picked it up.

There was no one nearby except for another runner who saw me pick it up. We both made poor thing noises, both for the music device and for the runner who'd lost it.

I tweeted about it a couple of times hoping to reunite it with it's owner. It got retweeted, but no dice. No one has come forward.

In the interest of learning more about its owner, I listened to what was on it. Based on knowledge from watching Law & Order, I've created a psychological profile to narrow down the suspects  try to find the owner.

The owner is a male runner in his late twenties. Maybe he's older, but he wishes he were in his twenties. He might wear bling. He likes to party and go to da clubs, or at least likes to think he does while he's running. I gathered this information after unscientific analysis of the lyrics.

There was a Lady Gaga song thrown in there, but the lyrics were mostly along the lines of "where the girls at", "what you got, boy, is what I want" and "baby girl, gonna fly you 'round the world." Also, there was no Justin Timberlake.

He's been hurt before, but he's hopeful and he mostly feels like the world is at his feet.

I got some fun song ideas and I've enjoyed downloading them and putting them on my shuffle. With Pandora's help, I added some more and now I have my own mostly hopeful with world at my feet playlist for 4-5 runs.

I'd post the playlist I found but I didn't write it down while I had the chance. The device is now out of batteries and I have no way to charge it. It's now sitting near my shuffle, wishing it could go for runs.

If you know someone who might have lost this, please let him know I have it and would be happy to return it. I won't judge him if he can't pick it up in his brand new limo.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ombre Nails - The Pinterest Experiment

Ombre Nails
It's easy to see why Pinterest is growing wildly. Highly visual, it's a very practical bookmarking tool. And it's pretty. Oh, so pretty.

It has so many lovely things, so many beautiful crafts and small projects it inspires me to get adventurous and do more. 

Pinterest is directly responsible for my renewed interest in sewing, fancy up-dos, and nail polish (see picture).

So this is The Pinterest Experiment. Ideas from Pinterest, come to life. The inspiration for this nail treatment came from this pin, and I followed this tutorial. It was as easy as described. I've only done it once and the result is pretty good. Full disclosure - the four nails pictured above are the ones that came out best. The rest of them I didn't manage to get the tips as dark as I wanted them, but that was my left hand trying  a new technique on the right hand. I believe in my left hand's learning curve. It will get better and I still have some pretty fancy nails for today.

When I was a kid, my brother and I loved to play with a copy we had of the Animals volume of a children's encyclopedia. We'd flip pages and we had to quickly touch the image of the animal and scream "mío!"(mine). Whoever managed to touch it first claimed ownership of the pictured animal. If it was a cute one the winner had a right to be smug until we flipped to the next page and the loser would be jealous. If it was an ugly one, there would be "guácala!" (ew!) and mocking. We had the whole book memorized but we tried beating it by trying to flip pages at random. 

We used to spend what felt like hours doing this.

Pinterest is a non-competitive version of the same game but even better. There are almost no ugly pictures - maybe only not as pretty - and with a click of a pin you can claim ownership of anything. And you don't just claim it, you get to keep it on your board. It's surprising how satisfying that is.

And if you're feeling enterprising you can end up eating healthier meals, exercising more, and looking  better all the way to your nails.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Hard Way

View from the Manhattan Bridge
Eight miles is eight miles. Except when it isn't. There's that sense of satisfaction from completing a task, and then there's that inner ikickass warmth that comes from going beyond that.

The goal: to run eight miles. The plan: to run to Central Park and get there on time to cheer for runners participating in the Scotland Run 10k.  

This required getting up early on a Saturday and packing myself like a cargo mule so I could have water for the road and something warm and dry to wear when I got there.

Loops of the park would've been simpler, but I wouldn't have had the view from the bridge or have gotten to see two different elephant statues.

I ran out of Brooklyn trying to convince myself I could do it, telling myself I could stop once I got to Manhattan. The one-more-bite mom trick worked well for me.

Stop and smell the waffles.
I ran up the bridge and down to Canal Street. I ran past the Chinatown bus passengers waiting with their crates. I ran through Union Square past cherry blossom branches. The Broadway pavement was mine as I made my way towards Times Square where the billboards let me know I was getting close; it made no sense to stop. By the time I hit the high 40's I could see the the Central Park canopy in the distance.

In Central Park I got to listen to bagpipe music and got to see men in kilts. Nacht! Runners in kilts - even better legs.

The increased sense of badassery from doing this run the hard way was worth it. Plus, there was a wafelini for me at the end.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pantry Lunch: Roasted Chickpeas with Cumin and Paprika

Roasted Chickpeas with  cumin and paprika

There are days when groceries are too heavy or the store is too far away. Or there is simply not enough time.

Since that's been the case for me recently, I've had to start getting creative with what was already in the cabinets. The challenge of coming up with meals cobbled together from what is already there can lead to some interesting meals.

One of my favorites: roasted chickpeas and rice. Easy, simple, delicious. Roast the chickpeas while the rice cooker is going and you've got a meal with a nice protein/carbs balance.

I got the idea from Pinterest but I wanted to skip the sweet flavor. A friend of mine mentioned she liked them better when they were microwaved first - don't know why but it does improve the texture - so I started experimenting and came up with what is going to be a favorite staple in my kitchen. Works great in the toaster oven.

Roasted Chickpeas with Cumin and Paprika
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon of olive oil (or less)
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Preheat your oven. Microwave the chickpeas for a minute. Then add olive oil, spices and salt. Toss until the chickpeas are coated. Spread on an aluminum covered sheet and bake at 450 for about 30min - stirring (tossing? tumbling?) once or twice.

Allow to cool before eating. They'll get crunchier as they cool. Eat warm or at room temperature as a snack, over rice, as a side, or in a salad.

Other spices that work great for this: curry + turmeric, lemon + garlic + pepper, thyme + paprika, ginger + thyme.


Monday, April 2, 2012

14th Eileen C. Dugan Memorial 5K Recap

Straight from the hand of Marty Markowitz
The first glimpse of the course was from a print out being passed around at the start line. There were no details online and, since this was the first 5k in Brooklyn Bridge Park, there was no other information online.

When I'd signed up I'd hoped for a picnic kind of day with blue skies and a sparkly Manhattan skyline. Even with Saturday's weather shortening the skyline, the view was still amazing. Jane's Carousel in its glass enclosure looked like something from a watery dream.

Participants huddled under tents waiting for the race to start. When we lined up to start - there was a clock but no actual line - Marty arrived. He gave a little speech and made a joke about the early time then walked around the runners giving out pins.

The race itself was fun, if a little confusing. At times it felt like an adventure course with different terrains and a few obstacles here and there. It was a gravel, narrow sidewalk with scaffolding - watch out for the pole! - gravel, road, and twisty course with no mile-markers but with some very smiley volunteers who were very good at pointing runners in the right direction.

I didn't have my garmin with me so I was very confused most of the time and the finish line crept up on me. Maybe I could have gone a little harder at the end if I'd known the finish line was right there, but who am I kidding? I'm not racing these days.

It was a great way to kick-off Saturday and the t-shirt (not pictured) is the prettiest race t-shirt I've seen in a long time. I'd do it again next time.

Shortened Manhattan Skyline, Brooklyn Bridge, and Jane's Carousel.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Strassburg Sock

This has been doing the rounds on Pinterest Fitness boards. Though I agree with the idea behind it, I haven't met too many who've consciously decided to give up on a exercise or fitness regime and then wanted to pick it up again.

Those who have given up - like I have with martial arts - often have  a reason for it and have no intention of starting over.

What's more common is not-todayitis turning into not this week, not this month. Sometimes it starts with a cold or a sprain. Maybe a few too busy days at work.

Right now I'm spending quality time with the Strassburg sock thanks to some plantar fasciitis and foot pain. I'm familiar with this pain. I get it whenever I'm starting over with running.
Torture device

I don't like starting over. I'd rather continue building, improving, getting faster, and stronger. High mileage weeks are my favorite weeks. I like the feel of the wind in my hair and the road under my feet. I like the easy feel of my body in motion running at a cruising pace along the Bay Shore Parkway as I run the long way to Coney Island.

But sometimes things happen and the mileage dips below a certain level. When I crank it up again the foot pain starts and the Strassburg sock comes out. I love the Strassburg.

I'd rather keep starting over than giving up.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A weekend, a cold, and a skirt

Forever 21 skirt circa 2006.
A cold sunk its teeth in my chest and forced me to change my plans. I ended up needing plenty of tissues and rest this weekend. By Sunday afternoon it was clear I wouldn't be able to to make all three skirts. But I really wanted a new skirt for today, so I started starting.

I find the first step to any project is staring. Staring hard until you figure out what you need to do. Sometimes there's thinking going on with this staring. Other times, it's sipping. Coffee, of course.

In this case, it was about staring and finding geometric shapes in the skirt. This skirt is made of four rectangular panels, joined at the bottom by three triangles. Add a waistband and it's a skirt. I'll post a full tutorial with the pattern later.

Of the three skirts I wanted to make, two were meant to be more professional skirts - work appropriate. That's really what inspired this project: building a wardrobe for client meetings.

The third skirt was more for my own pleasure. It was not the kind of fabric I was looking for, but I liked the colors, the pattern, the texture. And that's the one I started with. The rationalization behind it was that it would be a good one to practice with. But really, it was just because I wanted to wear this today. It seemed like a good way to start the week.

It's good to liven up Mondays.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

One Weekend, Three Skirts: The Challenge

Floral, geometric, solid.

One old skirt, three new cuts of fabrics, one weekend. By the end of the weekend I should have three new skirts. There will be drawing! There will be cutting! There will be sewing! It's the multiplying of the skirts!

Stay tuned for all the exciting details and how to info on how to turn one skirt into four.

Friday, March 23, 2012

As Colombian as coffee

Sometimes when I start speaking passionately about coffee, I invoke the Colombian defense. Every once in a while someone will point out that Colombians don't drink coffee, or that Colombians don't drink good coffee.

Yesterday I attended a social media event (my very first industry conference!) and during the break I talked to someone who mentioned that. According to him, and he knew this because of a friend who had been to Colombia, Colombia has no coffee culture.

It's true. At least if you're going by American standards. You're not going to find a coffee shop per corner with long lines. You're not going to see people heading to work, travel mug in hand.

When I first came to New York, a friend from Brazil was showing me around. It was a snowy winter (remember those?) We were freezing in Times Square. He wanted to show me something weird, so we walked over to a street cart and bought coffee. It came in a cup, and it had a lid.

It was one of those tabbed lids that you fold back to open. The warmth in my hands my welcome, but I couldn't figure out the lid. Was it to keep the coffee warm while to you went with it somewhere?

No. More often than not the lid is just so you can drink coffee while walking. That's the part that doesn't make sense.

Handmade cup by Ming. This is what I use everyday for my morning coffee.
Coffee is more than a jolt of caffeine. Coffee is to be savored. Coffee is to be had fresh and in ceramic cups. It's best with family or friends. A close second is to have it in the morning, at home, while listening to chirping birds. That's how I have it most days.

You stop what you are doing, and you enjoy your coffee. 

Who needs coffee shops or fancy equipment when you've got Arabica beans and a pot of boiling water?

If your lifestyle doesn't allow that, then you wait for the coffee man. He'll come around at some point. He walks with a set of coffee thermoses on his shoulder. He'll be calling out his song. When you hear the song, you flag him down and he'll come to you. He'll pour you a cup and sit with you until you're done. You'll have your coffee. He'll pack up his things and go his way after having enjoyed coffee together.

Coffee man rounding up my parent's block. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

NYC Half 2012

It would be like hopping out the van on the third leg of Ragnar is what I told myself. Running a half-marathon on zero training and pretty much no running. My last run had been Coogan's, two weeks before. That was a 5k and though I did pretty well, it felt like a tremendous effort for such a short distance and no personal record to show for it. Just to give you a sense of things, a 5k is 3.1 miles, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles.

I did it because I had a spot and had paid for it. It's an expensive race and it's difficult to get in. Plus I'd worked hard to get a spot this year. I got in through guaranteed entry: run four out of five half-marathons in the five borough series. I ran three and had one cancelled on me, so I got my spot. The no training was a combination of plantar fascia issues and winter funk.

Going into it I knew it would be hard, but the route was sweet and I wanted to give it a try. It's not everyday you get to run through Times Square with 7th Ave closed to traffic and fans lined-up to cheer for you.

Plus: I had a a plan. I knew I could run 6-7 miles before things started getting rough. I'd start with a friend from PPTC and hang on to her for as long as possible, that would take me to Times Square. Then there was a fast downhill heading towards the West Side Highway which I'd use to recover. That would take me up to mile 8. Then I'd just have to promise myself I could do two more miles. By then I'd be so close to Canal Street I'd be in awe of what I'd already done and refuse to quit. Plus, once you've done 10 miles, what's 3 more?

It sort of went like that. I held on to my fellow PPTCer for almost five miles. We went out kind of fast and  she went on to finish in 2:09. I was glad I didn't stick by her since that would have been a record for me and yesterday was not a day for records for me.

Shortly after we said goodbye, I connected with a woman who was wearing a Colombian shirt. Turns out she lives near Prospect Park. I found a new running buddy (my first Spanish speaking one!) and a work connection. On 7th Ave I got to see some PPTC teammates cheering. Go team!

Times Square was even more surreal than usual. It's no Verrazano, but the thrill of running through it made me forget my aches for a moment. But it was just a moment. The boost I hoped to get from the downhill recovery didn't come.

Cars on the left, cool people on the right.
I said good-bye to my new friend at the entrance to the West Side Highway, slowed down even more, and cranked up the music. Mile 8 was mostly The Grates telling me that Science is Golden, which I took to mean that I could force my mind to get me to the finish line, and that I was on The Biggest And Largest Adventure Ever. Then by mile 9 Justin Timberlake was whispering all kinds of delicious things in my ear and telling me that I was bringing sexy back. By mile 10 Adele was running in the deep. And it was deep. So deep I had to take a moment to take a picture just for you.

Not sure how I got through the next mile and a half. There was some shuffling, some walking. There might have been some quiet inner whimpering. And then I felt a hand on my back. I didn't know her but she was wearing the same shirt I was.

"Come on, PPTC, you can do it!"she said as she passed me. So I turned my music off and I caught up with her. She is a new member, and her company kept me going all the way until we were within view of the last 800meters sign. By then my quads were cramping and all sorts of things felt like they were going to fall off.

It told her to go. She still had enough juice for a strong finish, while I felt I needed to walk if I didn't want to get hurt. I crossed the finish line shuffling, got my medal, and continued on. I felt like I was just going to topple over while walking on the cobbled streets of the South Street Seaport in the post-finish line area. I wasn't meeting anyone after the race. Everyone else I had knew had finished earlier and I had no close friends who had come just to cheer for me. I was starting to feel a little lost and lonely when I saw the PPTC banners and headed towards them.

Belonging to a club as warm and friendly as PPTC has had a big impact in my running. Speed training with Coach Tony has made me faster and stronger. On days like yesterday when I was struggling so much, being part of PPTC made all the difference. In a sea of thousands of nameless faces, I was part of something, and they were there for me. Couldn't have done it without you, PTTC. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meryl Streep's Taxi

It was late but still light out in that way that dreams have of being two things at once. The air was warm when we came out into the evening. It was beautiful out, the kind of high summer evening when dusk lingers.

We were on 10th Ave, somewhere in lower Manhattan. My cousin Eduardo hailed a cab and I got in first. Even before my other two cousins Andrés and Maria Luisa got in, I'd already gotten into an argument with the cabbie. He did not want to go to Brooklyn and was letting me know it very clearly. I got out. We could have made him take us anyway - it's the law! - but it was better to wait for another cab than have to spend time with such an angry person.

Kind of like this but without the suitcases.
As if to prove that good things come to those who don't put up with bad behavior, another cab came driving by in the other direction. It was neither a yellow cab nor a liveried car. It was a happy off-white with a black line. It had a taxi sign and it slowed to a stop when I hailed it. Crossed the street running before the driver could change her mind. My cousins were following close behind me.

When I got there I couldn't tell her where we were going. I just stared. "Well. Are you getting in?" Meryl Streep asked me, punctuated with one amused and perfectly arched eyebrow. I didn't even answer. I just ran to other side and got in with my cousins.

Meryl looked good behind the wheel.
She was wearing a white blouse and glasses. Her hair was loosely tied back. She looked like she was enjoying a private joke pulling a prank on strangers. I was too shy to sit in the front. Maria Luisa, who was last, ended up there but she was exhausted. She just followed us in and passed out as soon as she sat down without a glance towards our driver.

Meryl was charming and hilarious as she drove us. I thought of my co-worker K. who would be so jealous when he heard. We were all chatting nonsense like old friends by the time we hit the Brooklyn Bridge. When we got to my place it seemed only natural to invite her in. My apartment had a few more rooms than it does most days, which made sense with so many cousins visiting.

We were serving tea and teasing Maria Luisa because of her reaction when she woke up and realized Meryl was sitting there with us when I woke up.

Dreams can haunt us. Dreams can soothe us. I usually go home to Barranquilla in late winter. It helps me cope with winter darkness by giving me an extra strength dose ecuatorial sun and family warmth.

This winter I was not able to go home which has given me uncharacteristic spells of homesickness. It's nice to know I can still see some of my family in my dreams, along with Meryl Streep.

Cabbies can be mean. Life in New York City can sometimes be harsh but you never know when something wonderful comes along. Maybe even hail Meryl Streep in a cab.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Getting Crafty

Blame it on Pinterest, but I've been getting crafty lately. It's been fun and I've been wanting to write about it. Yes. On my running blog.

Since I'm not getting crafty with running outfits - though that has happened before* - I'm planning on making some changes here.

I miss blogging. I miss writing. There are times when I want to ramble on blog about topics that don't fit within the structure of this blog.

Those of you who want to read whatever random post I decide to write won't need to do anything. It will all end up here. Those who only want to read about running, you'll have go here instead.

*I ran the 2010 NYC Marathon in my own PPTC homemade skirt, barely pictured above.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Summer Inside

Chilly and windy was what the forecast said.  NYRR even said they'd post an update at 5:30am about whether the race would take place. Damaging winds with gusts of up to 45mph were predicted.

Fleece lined crochet hat. Not intended for running.
That wasn't the case and the race took place as planned. Fearing the windchill I'd piled on the layers. By the time I got to the park I was toasty. I figured I'd keep on a few for the race: two pairs of thermal running tights, two long sleeve tops, one singlet, a head band and a fleece lined crochet hat, plus neck gaiter and gloves, of course.

Out of shape and unprepared was how I got to the starting the line.  I hadn't run since the previous Sunday when I'd participated in a relay and before then my running has been in fits and starts.

I wanted to get to the finish line. I started with Lindsay and stared hard at her ass as she took off. Maybe if I stared hard enough I'd be able to keep up with her. About a mile and half in we parted ways.

It was nice to get the hill done at the start. The wind wasn't so bad. By mile two I was starting to warm up. Then I hit that happy stretch of downhill that leads to the lake. By then I was wondering if I'd overdone it with the layers. I was getting really warm. I was sweating.

On that stretch of road, the sun was out high enough to clear the trees and hit me right in the face. It was bright. I lowered my eyelids and the race changed. I closed them just enough so all I could see was a few feet a head of me through my eyelashes. I couldn't see the bystanders in their thick winter jackets or the runners with their long layers.

But I could feel the sun in my face. And by then I was so hot I could pretend it was the heat from the sun I was feeling. Wear enough layers and move a little and you can make it so it feels like it's summer inside.

If I keep it up long enough it will be summer outside too.

For now, I'll have to take it one run at a time and hope for the best for the NYC Half. Unprepared seems to be the name of the game these days. It might not be pretty, but as long as I keep moving in the right direction I'll eventually make it. Wish me luck with that one.

Today, being so rested from lack of running paid off. A PPTC teammate caught up with me in the last quarter mile. I was just hoping to hold steady. She yelled at me as she passed me and egged me on to follow her. She kept checking in with me and I grunted back. Final results are still pending but I'm pretty sure I owe her a PR.

Thank you for the encouragement. Sometimes that's all I need. Isn't that all anyone needs?