Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A little cooler

The temperatures have dipped down just a shade, and the morning running is much easier. I guess it's a trend. Again today the air felt cooler than it did last week. As I slowly jogged away from the apartment building and toward the running path, I tried to conjure the faint chill of fall on my bare arms but couldn’t – it’s not THAT cool.

Instead, there is less icky sticky sweat rolling down puffy skin; less thirst during a 5k in the freakin' morning; less plodding through a dense wall of humidity…and more runners.

I totally get it. Everyone and their grandma wants to be outside to wring the most sunshine and vitamin D from July now that the discomfort has subsided. And it’s not so bad having runners floating just ahead, inspiring me to work my edge, push harder – and try to pass them! I get passed often enough that I feel no shame in passing the odd runner myself. It just shows that I'm no slower and no faster than most runners out there.

But now that it’s gone, I realize I was getting used to running in the humid heat. I hope a bit of that sauna effect returns before summer runs out – maybe this sounds crazy, but I miss it.

Frannie's Incredible Watermelon Smoothie

You will think you're drinking candy. Give it a try.

What you will need:
  • Protein powder (this one is greenish, maybe cuz it's vegan)
  • Watermelon chunks
  • Banana (for thickness and overall smoothie support)
  • Water 

Step 1: Assemble ingredients and then whirl.

Step 2: Drink with much panache
while admiring the torso of the Greek god Achilles.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Checks and balances

This summer, and for the first time, I live in a high rise with hundreds of neighbors and not a house with just a few folks. Also for the first time, my bike doesn't live in my immediate surroundings: I keep it locked in the bike nursery. Which means I can't just unlock the padlock on the shed door, grab my bike and take off, eh.

There are a few more steps to this process. Let me tell you all about it!

:: I was excited to see this bike and then I spied the questionable Native American design :: Lisbon ::

First, I make sure all my ride accessories are with me when I leave my apartment - hand pump, gloves, helmet, replacement tube and tools, sunscreen, phone, keys. This includes the keys to the bike room. 

I take the elevator down to the basement (then realize my water bottle is still on the kitchen counter and take the elevator back up - heh), unlock the bike room door, locate my bike, release the bike lock and give the tires a quick pinch. Usually one or both feel flat so I dig out the hand pump from my pack and get to work unscrewing caps and begging the pump to play along. 

When the tires are nice and fat - or just fat enough to protect my butt from bumps in the road - I wheel my bike out of the room and meet the first security sensor, which I lovingly call a "checkpoint." I retrieve my key chain fob and dangle it in front of the red light sensor. When the sensor beeps its approval, the door ahead unlocks and I am permitted to lead my bike awkwardly through the door, and then through a second one.

Keeping my fob in one hand, I pedal along two floors of the underground parking lot, hit the second checkpoint, dangle the fob once again and say "open sesame" loudly to open the garage door. At last I'm free to pack my various identification materials away and pretend I don't live in a paramilitary building.

I biked along the parkway. It's partially closed to cars on Sunday morning and you can really get your speed and/or sweat on. No cars, and lots of kiddies pedaling their little hearts out. Pretty sweet!

I checked out halfway through my ride, found a grassy sunny spot and read a chapter of my novel.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trees and plants

// A flexible tree in Sintra, Portugal //

We're experiencing a stolid wave of humidity and the air everywhere feels squishy. As though one could wring it and dry it out. It was 40 degrees yesterday; apparently just shy of setting a record in this city. 

The wet heat reminds me of a yoga hot room without the undercurrents of citrus and bliss (and with the ever-present scents of garam masala and turmeric in our curry-obsessed corner apartment - I cooked up a spinach, chickpea and sweet potato curry last night). I love the feeling of heavy heat even though it adds a dimension of difficulty to running, which as I see it can be performed only in the early hours before the sun has gathered its vampiric strength. When you get right down to it, I am a wuss! I watch people run by me on the sidewalk in direct sunlight and a churning wave of nausea creeps up. Biking in this weather is a lot easier on the core temperature.

I ran yesterday morning at 6:30 for 38 minutes, and 90 minutes later my face was still a tomato!

Next February, when I'm outside and can't feel my toes in my thick boots, the memory of this sticky heat will seem unreal. 

// Road to the palace: Sintra //

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 6

Yesterday: I got up at 8am (I slept in!) and hit the bike path with Bessie. The sun was just starting to get things underway. The path held just a scattering of people and dogs and everyone seemed to be relaxing in the relatively cool morning temps. These days I see a lot of tourists around the canal, so I wasn't surprised to see the line of boats moored near the NAC, many with names painted along the side: "Second Chance" and "Queen Mary." 

I biked for an hour, sometimes following schools of cyclists, sometimes dodging them, until I arrived at my destination close to the park's entrance. I gently lay Bessie against a picnic table and sat down on the table top, removed my helmet and picked a small bag of nuts from my pack. Macadamia! The best nuts in the world! After a snort of water, I lay back on the table, facing the sun, and listened to Day 6 on my player. A good thought-provoking listen and some glorious sunshine is like a day at the spa for me.

Since it's summer, Day 6 was a rerun mashup. One piece was an interview with three criminal lawyers in USA and Canada who defend persons accused of committing acts of terrorism and other heinous crimes. These lawyers described aspects of their jobs that they enjoy and described it as an honour to defend those who are most despised and thus most likely to have their rights take away from them. All three seemed to have strong values/ethics concerning justice and fairness, and I found their conviction and energy tremendously uplifting. From the tone of their voices, it was clear that they believe they are making a difference. 

By the time I turned off the radio the sun was a-sizzle and the bike path a-buzz, but my timeout was worth the sweat and tears.

Freaky birds at sunset in Seville, Spain.

Today: A 70-minute run (a slow jog) along the canal in sweaty humidity. I wanted to follow that up with some weights so I attempted some pushups and squats but I only did one set of each. I sat down to stretch and found that much easier to get into in this heat. I held some stretches for a minute; my hamstrings haven't had that much attention in quite some time. 

The funniest thing happened. During the run, my ipod shuffled through my tunes and decided to grant me the most energetic songs for the run. I had Apple on my side. 

Iced coffee is the tastiest hydrating drink ever. 

Friday, July 5, 2013


It's been a feverishly busy couple of weeks, so I'll post a food pic from the trip.

Churros are long and sweet, and usually dipped in a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. I tried them a few times in Spain. They look like they contain honey but they're not that sweet for those of us with sweet-sucking palettes.