Sunday, August 25

Killing the Hills

So yesterday's 5k was good by all standards--breathing, endurance, and completion--except speed. But I'm not upset about not getting a new PR. I realized about half way through the race that I wasn't going to hit my target. And do you know why that is?

I breathe really hard going up hills and I usually have to slow way down to catch my breath. Running small hills or flat surfaces allows me to really get my asthmatic breathing under control. I feel so good running now that it's hard to compare it to how I felt a year ago before I really got serious about controlling my asthma.

Hills. They are not my favorite. Unfortunately for me, I live in western Pennsylvania where hills are just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday afternoon I took a run around my neighborhood and challenged myself to run this one road that goes towards my house. It is basically a roller coaster.

Starting out flat, it progresses into a steep turn. It flattens out slightly for about a quarter mile, then there is an S-curve dip (where most cars cross the lines because they take it too fast).

What next? An uphill climb that provides, when you crest it, a beautiful view of your next two hill. Yes, there are more. Up and down until a final downhill coast around a bend. I've included these pictures of my hilly route (in the order they appear). They can't quite capture all the steepness and rolling hill feeling you get while running them.

At yesterday's race, Run Around the Square (Pittsburgh), I know I did better than I did the previous year, especially with the hills. The course is the same. It runs through one of Pittsburgh's parks, so it's part (brick) road course, part trail course.

When I realized I was going up one of the longer hills, I took note of how I felt doing it and recognized that I was doing really well.

I think some of that is due to my work on the *mental* aspect of climbing hills. I used to stare down the crest of the hill. Not anymore. I find little landmarks to stare down. Once I reach the landmark, I pick a new one.

Usually it goes like this:
"Okay, I'm feeling a little tired up this hill. Get to that crack in the pavement. Then you can stop."

Then I reach the crack in the pavement and still feel tired--but not any worse (this is my key). So then I choose someone's mailbox, a certain tree, a road sign, a crosswalk, a rock... whatever. I run to that and see how I feel.

When I get to the top of the hill, I feel like a real champ. Like a million dollars.

What's funny about my new hilly route is that the hills just keep coming! So it's a real mental workout on top of my physical workout.

My goal is to run this hilly road at minimum twice a month (every other week) to build my stamina.

When I include a few other roads from my house, this makes a nice four mile loop. Completely do-able and not ridiculous. I know these are a weakness of mine, so I'm really going to focus on it to come out on top.

Do you/did you struggle with hills? Any other tips on how to master these landforms?

Thursday, August 22

Birds of many feathers

If you've been reading along for a while now, you'll know that I occasionally freak out about birds.

I love birds.

I live in an area where birds are plentiful--from water fowl to hummingbirds and everything in between.

In the past few days I've had a good number of run-ins with birds. They're all short stories, so I thought I'd weave them all together here.

First I have a nuthatch. He perched on my open window. I was literally just on the other side of the screen taking photos of him.

I love how nuthatches have perfect cone-shaped beaks. Also, I love fancy headgear on birds. The crown on this fella looks like it is preened into a mohawk!

We stayed there for awhile--me photographing him; him looking adorable--until he flew off my porch into the lush green beyond my window.

Another morning at home showed me just how bold the geese are becoming.

I've written before about the intrepid geese that make their home in my neighborhood--I jokingly call it the Goose Family Reunion. Each year there seem to be different times at which the group (a gaggle of geese!) decides to migrate a little closer to my house.

This photo is looking off my back porch into my yard. The geese are standing near my very well protected garden. (I have a cylindrical fence that encloses my garden. It goes up and down on a pulley system. Think Mouse Trap, that old board game.)
This poor goose I saw while I was running. My boyfriend warned me about some really sad roadkill: evidently the new construction near the highway made a mess of the wetlands called home by yet another group of geese in my town.

Bf told me a goose got hit. :(

I'm really grateful I didn't find the roadkill. (I would've sobbed the whole run home.)

Canada geese are monogamous. This poor goose just lost the love of his life...

So sad.
On the way to see my career counselor in Pittsburgh, I saw these wild turkeys. They're such big birds that they're hard to miss!

They didn't mind my approach to snap a photo, fortunately. There were more than the photo shows, but the bird next to the tree does a good job of showing its comparative size.

Pittsburgh might be a metropolitan area, but the neighborhoods surrounding it are fairly wooded, and I'm not even talking about the preserved wildlife in the parks we have. I've seen deer in Pittsburgh and, now, turkeys.

Finally, this poor guy was hanging out behind my landlord's business. I took a bag of trash to the dumpster and saw this gigantic bird. I think it's a hawk of some kind.

I was really nervous to continue my trek because I didn't know if the bird was hurt or what.

Later he moved into my neighbors' yard. They were talking about him and I volunteered the phone number for Animal Rescue League. They agreed that they thought it was strange for this guy to be hanging out near humans.

My neighbors' son took him to a vet in a kitty cage to get help. I hope he's okay.

Monday, August 19

Adventures in Nutrition: ENERGYbits (review)

At the beginning of the month, I tried out EnergyBits. It was a fun experience. I had enough Bits for about a week, so I gave them a try. I took my Bits in the morning after a normal breakfast and before any physical activity. I enjoyed my Bits by swallowing them whole.  

Here's what I learned...
They do. They actually rock. Outside of the slightly stomach-turning taste of their beloved algae (hey I'm not knocking it--I've tried it and it just isn't for me), the Bits themselves are pretty cool. In a little tin, they're portable. In their own tiny size, they're swallowable (for those like me who don't wanna chew the intensely green-flavored tabs). They're not much bigger than any regular ol' pill, but they're packed with more protein. 

I felt a real difference in my attention and stamina (a.k.a. I-wanna-get-up-and-do-something-ness). I felt good. After a run, I returned home to a few more bits and felt fueled faster. I'm on board with Bits. (Maybe that's another catchphrase for them to use in marketing? :)

I have no real complaints other than the taste, which they warned of and they're not designed to taste good but to beat the heck out of your typical "performance" snacks. Since I'm still unemployed, I'm not sure when I'll get to buy my first bagful, but I'd like to get Bits into my life.

Holy smokes, I'm a teacher!

Today I'm doing testing for my first class. It is an ESL class and I've got some really excited students. I got all the international students (including one from Wales, a few from Canada, and some from England) and tested all of them for reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The ones who spoke English their whole lives were so polite about taking the test anyway. The English accents almost killed me, I admit it. Im not unlike any other American woman, I guess. 

It is nice to meet some sweet, respectful students. That's good to see. I'm really looking forward to a good first semester as a teacher! 

Thursday, August 15

Knit the Bridge

It's Pittsburgh. We've got bridges. Lots of them. You might say they're our thing. (You might also swear at them under your breath when trying to get around our city because somehow you're on the wrong side of the river... This still happens to me.)

What's cool is when the iconic, oh-so-necessary-for-transportation bridges become the hallmark of something *else* really cool. Like what's happening right now with Knit the Bridge.

There is a group of amazingly organized, talented, and dedicated knitters who have literally yarn bombed an entire bridge. Don't believe me? Check out these incredible pictures. (From the Allegheny County Facebook page.)

It's appropriate that they've bombed the Warhol Bridge (7th Street Bridge) since Andy Warhol probably would've loved something all-involved, attention-getting and of-the-moment like this.

From Allegheny County's Facebook page:
Knit the Bridge is a grassroots, community-led arts project that brought communities throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania together to create a large-scale, aesthetically stunning, fiberarts installation on Allegheny County's Andy Warhol Bridge, which spans the Allegheny River and connects Downtown Pittsburgh to the North Side.
In conjunction with Fiberart International 2013, the intention of Knit the Bridge is to celebrate the history of Pittsburgh as a city of bridges and steel, as well as our region's thriving, contemporary arts scene. Coming out of the street art and contemporary craft movements, yarn bombing is a bright, beautiful way to celebrate public space. Unlike graffiti, yarn bombing can be done without any damage to historic structures and is temporary and easily removable. 

 Check out the video of the installation here:

Saturday, August 10

Liberty Mile 2013

I finally got to meet some Oiselle birds at a race! Woohoo!

Yesterday's GNC Live Well Liberty Mile was a smash. I loved it. Fast race with fast people, and I got to watch the heats of even *faster* people afterwards. It was a real rush to see people finish a mile in less than five minutes. Wowzer.

I finished with a shiny new PR at 9:03. :)

Afterwards, I snagged a pic with Magdalena, the female Master's Mile champ.
Magdalena and me.

Then I waited for the women's Pro Mile so I could see some BIRDS FLY!

I got to meet up with Jennie Castle and two of the newest Oiselle Team additions, Aubrey Moskal and Jordan Hamric, both hailing from West Virginia.
Me and Jennie.
Jordan, Aubrey, and me. (Sporting our Oiselle temp tats!)
The race was really well organized and the weather cooperated (a little) by not showering us. The pummeling storms got out of the way earlier in the day... but there was quite a bit of humidity. Ick. At least this year I could participate! Last year I missed this race because my asthma was so awful I wasn't even able to be outside in this kind of weather! Cheers to running for cardiovascular health, y'all. :) I'm crushing asthma one race and one mile at a time now!

Friday, August 9

Happy Friday!

Sorry for falling off the planet for a few days...

I've got some exciting news coming soon. Right now it requires me to dedicate much more time to my offline life, so I'll have to push back in this direction after a little bit.

Thanks for being patient!

In the meantime, here's a few photos of my awesome zinnias! They're taking over the backside of my house this year and WOW, are they pretty. :)

Monday, August 5


It's August, meaning it's the best month to be born... Or I might be a little biased because next Tuesday is my birthday!

My boyfriend picks on me because I celebrate all month, but I think since adults don't normally throw birthday parties that I'm entitled to spread the joy all month. August is my birthday month... 8:13 on the clock is my birthday time... You get the pattern. :)

This year I am hoping for my birthday present of a full-time job. (Yes, it's listed on my Amazon wish list.) That'd be great. But if that doesn't happen, feel free to send any Oiselle apparel, or race entries in my general direction. ;)

Let the countdown begin!

Saturday, August 3

Knitting my first baby blanket

I started on this awhile ago and without any real idea of how long it would take to knit, but I'm finally finished knitting my first baby blanket!

It's for one of my dear friends (a professor of mine from college who I've become close with) who had her baby in February. Sure, I would've liked to have the blanket done for his big debut, but like I said... I had no clear idea of what it would take to knit a crib-sized blanket.

I love it. The blanket is soft, snugly knit, and very textured. There's a seed-stich border and the knit/purl combo in the pattern I used makes knitted squares separated by lines of purls for a nice grid look.

The yarn is machine washable--very baby- and user-friendly thanks to soft knit acrylic and wool Plymouth Yarn.

I washed the blanket when I was done knitting it and cleaning up loose edges. Now I have it all wrapped up for gift giving!

I'm so excited to give my blanket to my friend for her sweet little one!

I'll be adding the blanket to my Knitting tab (at the top of my blog) as my latest accomplishment. :)

Thursday, August 1

New porch friends

Today a tufted titmouse found my bedroom window particularly comfortable for a perch. We were hardly six inches away from each other, but with my window screen between us. She sang very happy little songs for me till the bird feeder caught her attention again.

I really miss my iPhone sometimes. My iBird app made looking up birds so much easier! *sigh*