The 2nd Annual Great Valentine’s Day Run Commute Home From Work

Last year I was training for the Boston Marathon, and I ran a 14-mile commute home from work via the greenbelt. That was a pretty tough run, and I banged up my foot pretty badly. I would’ve loved to have run the same route home via the trails today, but we’ve been getting quite a bit of rain this year, and crossing Barton Creek four times would’ve proved extremely difficult, if not impossible. So I commuted via pavement.

It was a lovely run, and I pretty much just zoned out the whole time. I didn’t really think about much. I just moved forward against a southerly headwind and took in the sites. One gets to see so much more when traveling on foot. The creek was a beautiful clear blue and lots of Red Buds and Mountain Laurels are already blooming.

Make friends with it or kick it to the moon

Last night I installed a new wifi router for our home network. I bought one of those really ugly and evil looking Netgear Nighthawks. It has a LOT of lights on the front of it. Unfortunately, when we had Google Fiber installed, they wired the house on the east side, which meant the modem is in Mara’s room. That also means that the evil-looking router goes in Mara’s room since it’s connected to the modem. When we put Mara to bed last night and turned off the lights, the Nighthawk’s evil lights cast upon the walls and ceiling in a very spooky, haunted house kind of way.

I asked Mara if she was okay with the lights.

“I think it’s kind of okay. I can see my shadow monster.”

For a few years now she’s had this “thing” that resides in the corner of her ceiling, across from her bed. She’s aware of it, but she’s never really let it bother her. I’d imagine it’s just one of those things that you see as a kid. It could just be some kind of shape that’s created in the mind and you just can’t unsee it, like a one-time shadow or just a figure in the texture of the wall. We’ve always left her door open and the hallway light on when she sleeps. And she has a nightlight. The shadow monster really hasn’t been an issue, but she’ll say something about it every once in a while. We ask her if hit scares her and, invariably, she says it doesn’t.

I found a switch on the back of the Evil Nighthawk Router that lets me turn off all of the lights, so I flipped it and the spooky blinking stopped.

She was okay without the spooky haunted house lights.

Tonight, as I was driving Mara to Religious Education class, I talked to her about the “shadow monster.” At the time of the conversation, I couldn’t recall the term “shadow monster,” so I asked, “Tell me more about the thing that’s on your ceiling. What was it again that you call it?” She was very forthright and talkative about it, and reminded me that it was a shadow monster.

We talked more about it. I remember a couple years ago when she told us she was scared because it felt like something was watching her. Like a camera or an eye. Back then it made us a little scared and anxious for her. But on our car ride today, she told me that it’s a big eyeball, and his name is Stuart.

And then I asked her if she’s friends with it. “Oh, yeah.” she said. With a name like Stuart, how can you not be friends with a big eyeball that lives on your ceiling?

So I told her about a recurring dream that I used to have when I was around her age. I don’t remember having these dreams, probably because they were thirty-some-odd years ago. But I do remember my mom recounting these dreams during my formative years at inopportune times when my primary function in life was to portray myself as a badass who knew everything and had zero flaws.

I used to have nightmares about an octopus that would visit, wrap its tentacles around me and drag me into the unknown. I honestly don’t remember these dreams, but I guess I had them enough to where my mom discussed them amongst her social circles.

It was Gail Folloder, who was a long-time family friend and a mother figure in my adolescence who, with the voice of a guiding angel, simply told me to kick that octopus to the moon.

And I don’t know if it was that same night, or on a night shortly after, that I’d apparently heeded Gail’s advice, and I kicked that octopus to the moon during my final dream where he’d come to visit me once again. From the lore of my mother’s mouth, I’d permanently taken care of my octopus problem.

And Mara made the best of a shadow monster by befriending it.

So I guess the moral of the story is: Make friends with it if you can, or just kick it to the moon.

Celeriac walnut tacos

I associate the word “Celeriac” with either macular degeneration or a venereal disease. Why do healthy foods have to sound so disgusting?

Elise made these tacos on Sunday evening and they were really good. The whole time I was thinking, “would these be better with meat?” and the resounding answer in my inner dialog was, “nope.”

Here’s the recipe for Celeriac walnut tacos from Eating Well. I ate 3 of them after a hard(ish) 10-mile run.

10-mile commute from soccer

I ran home from Elise’s soccer game this afternoon. Ordinarily, I would’ve run in the morning, but I decided to sleep in until 9 this morning, and just wasn’t in the mood to run. Yesterday was Elise’s birthday, and while we didn’t do anything crazy, we did stay up until midnight watching Saturday Night Live. I guess when you’re 40-something, a raucous birthday on a Saturday night means playing Apples to Apples with your kids and watching SNL.

A straight line from Soccer Zone to our house is probably 5 miles. I did some meandering through the neighborhoods and trails to make it a 10-mile run. For some reason I had Billy Idol’s version of L.A. Woman running through my head while I was running.

The weather’s been cold, rainy and balmy lately. Today was just sort of chilly and balmy with the air a little spitty. It was a good run. I made sure that I took in the sights and just kept a steady pace with some effort. Somewhere on West Gate near William Cannon I saw a large tree trunk in the yard of a corner house that had been converted into a little troll house. The owners had put in quite a bit of work on the roof, door and a little window. They even adorned the little entryway with some mini flower pots and other knick-knack decorations. When I got home I really thought that I should either get a really lightweight camera, or just run with my phone and make an effort to find something photo-worthy on my runs. That’s one of the many reasons I enjoy running, especially when I get out of my own neighborhood. Invariably you’ll see or experience something really cool. They say that you see a multitude of more things a mile on foot than you would one hundred miles in a car. I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I found a tent camp on William Cannon between West Gate and Brodie that I’ll bet no car commuter is aware of.

Maybe that could be another motivator to write – photos from my runs. My most recent posts have been about boring vegan meals that I’ve eaten. The vegan thing is still going strong. Well, not 100% vegan. I’ve avoided meats. Today I knowingly “cheated” by having a generous portion of a kringle. We went to Madam Mam’s for Elise’s birthday last night and we shared an order of Thai Queso, which probably had cream in it. I ordered the vegetarian flat noodle dish, but vegetarian doesn’t always mean vegan. Oh, and we had breakfast with Maly’s lacrosse coach yesterday morning and I ordered a breakfast power bowl that comes with eggs and bacon. I asked to swap the eggs and bacon with avocado and mushrooms. When my order came, it had the mushrooms and avocado, but also the bacon crumbles (no eggs though). As hard as it was (actually it wasn’t hard at all), I removed all of the bacon crumbles. However, I didn’t get them all. There was one bite where I could feel, and then taste, the bacon. No biggie. I’m conscious of it and have been successful so far in maintaining the plant-based diet. I haven’t really had any noticeable cravings for meat. At last night’s dinner, I ordered the chicken wings for Mara. Those chicken wings look REALLY good. Just straight-up fried chicken wings. No sauce, no spice. Just hot and crunchy chicken wings. And Mara devoured them. Dammit – now I’m hungry for chicken wings!

Speaking of veganism. Maly’s friend Kaitlin had her birthday today, so Kaitlin invited Maly to go with her and her mom to lunch and then to shop at Kendra Scott.

They went to lunch at Rudy’s BBQ. Kaitlin’s mom, Sandy, sent us a photo with our oldest’s sentiment.

Day 7 of the plant-based diet

Breakfast: banana
Ran 12 miles with the run club
Breakfast #2: Wheat Thins and garlic hummus. Potato street tacos with avocado & cilantro sauce.
Lunch: Spicy popcorn tofu poboy with vegan blue cheese dressing from Wheatsville Coop. I seriously had to do a couple doubletakes because the tofu had the consistency of chicken. I was really pleasantly surprised. The bread was amazing, and the thing only cost $6.99. While there we also bought goji berries and Gopal’s vegan power wraps.
Dinner: an Amy’s roasted vegetable pizza with no cheese and a vegan margarita pizza.

Elise and I went grocery shopping tonight and bought a bunch of vegan stuff tonight.

Day 6 of the plant-based diet

I went to Camp Gladiator at 5:45 this morning. Since I’d been out for so long, I didn’t realize that today was the last day of “peak week.” Camp Gladiator is broken out into 4 weeks. The first week is endurance. The second week is something like strength and agility. The third weeks is non-stop planks and burpees (or something like that) and the fourth week is peak week. That’s the week where you kind of tie in the previous three weeks and it’s a big kick in the ass.

When I got home from camp, it was the usual morning chaos in getting the girls ready and off to school. I wasn’t really hungry, but I could feel myself getting queasy because I’d burned a lot of calories.

Sparing the details of the day and am glad to say that I was 100% vegan today.

Breakfast: 12 oz. Vega pea protein shake
Lunch*: Trader Joe’s Super Burrito and tabbouli, tomato and mint salad
Dinner: Kung Pao cauliflower with green onion, red peppers, cashews and bok choy over brown rice

* Lunch was tough today and I experienced the difficulties of veganism to the point of frustration. I work in one of those really cool, young, technology company offices in downtown Austin where the company buys and brings in a nice catered lunch on Fridays for its ~150 employees. Today was pizza day. I surveyed the lines and saw no pizzas labeled “vegan.” I usually start thinking about lunch at 5 a.m., and today was pizza day, so I was really getting excited about having pizza of the vegan variety.

I decided to ask our office manager about options for the vegan.

“Sam, are there any vegan pizzas?”

“Ooooh, no. Sorry. They don’t make a vegan pizza.”


“Oh, I forgot you were doing your vegan diet thing.”

“It’s okay. Really.”

“The salad is vegan!”

I went back to the lunch line and checked out the eight large salad bowls that were catered in. All were heavily sprinkled with cheeses of multiple varieties. So I missed out on pizza day. But I made sure to make no fuss about it. I decided that I wasn’t going to be that guy. This is, after all, to me, a challenge.

But damn could I go for some pizza.