Austin 5k and the greenbelt

This morning Maly and I ran the Austin 5k. All four of us left the house at 6:45 for a 7:30 a.m. start. Elise and Mara dropped Maly and me off at 5th and Lavaca and Maly and I walked to the start line while Elise parked the Jeep. The weather was an amazing 57-degrees, the sun was out, there was a gentle breeze, the air was crisp and the energy was high. It was such a pretty morning. The race started at exactly 7:30 and Maly and I made our way down Congress to the turnaround at Mary Street and ran our way back to the finish line. Maly needed to stop a few times, and that was okay. A huge part of me wants to push her and get frustrated and make her run, but that’s not going to do any good for either of us. I shifted my thoughts and found the joy in just the both of us out there running together. If she ever wants to get serious, push herself and be competitive in running, she’ll figure that out on her own in her own time.

We got to the finish line and Maly got her medal, a bottled water and a snack bag. Elise and Mara were waiting for us at the finish. We chatted for a few minutes and decided we didn’t really have a reason to hang out at the finish. It would’ve been nice to see friends come in from finish the half and full marathon, but that would’ve meant waiting around for a couple hours.

The four of us walked the mile back to my office where the Jeep was parked and started making our way home. We were hungry so we stopped at Taco Deli for breakfast. After snarfing our breakfast tacos, we started to head home, but since we were at the trailhead, but decided to go hang out in the greenbelt for while and play around the water. We were all navigating the drier rocks across the creek between the flats and Campbell’s Hole, and came upon a big divide. Maly was hell-bent on making it across. After deliberating for the better part of 10 minutes, she decided on a strategy of removing her shoes. She took her right shoe off first, and threw it across the creek to the rock she wanted to make it to. And, of course, her shoe went into the creek and quickly started downstream. So I hauled butt along the rocky creek bank and finally hopped into the 3-foot-deep creek. Remember that 57-degrees I was talking about earlier? And the spring-fed creed is 55-degrees. It was a quick little pick-me-up jumping into the creek. Luckily I was able to get Maly’s shoe.

We hung out just south of Campbell’s Hole and watched the squirrels and skipped rocks for a while before deciding to finally head home.

That was a great morning with the family.

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.”

“Okay.”

“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.

Day 5 of the plant-based diet

I think I can confidently say that I was 99.5% vegan today (by diet, not ethics).

This morning I woke up at 4:30 and had my coffee with maybe a tablespoon of half & half before I went on a run. That tablespoon was what took that 0.5% away from my attaining vegan status today. I’m scientifically basing that on the volume of things that went into my mouth today.

For breakfast, I murdered, chopped up and ate an apple and a pear. They screamed, but they tasted so good.

For lunch, I had leftover 3-bean chili.

For a snack, I had a fist full of pistachios. Then a bag of Terra Chips and a bag of animal crackers. I had to check the internet to see if animal crackers are vegan-friendly. Here’s what I learned:

While Nabisco’s recipe is free of animal ingredients, Cole & Stewart’s sociological analysis would suggest that consuming animal crackers is ritualistically anti-vegan, as it socializes speciesist sentiments and human supremacy in children.

Whatever. I bit all of their heads off first so they’d feel no pain.

For dinner, I had leftover lentil loaf, rice, and a kale and spinach salad with a balsamic, avocado and cilantro dressing. “Lentil loaf” and many other healthy, vegetarian and vegan foodstuffs just sound gross. “Nutritional yeast” and “liquid aminos?” I mean, come on. Those both sound like annoying but treatable diagnoses you’d hear from a gynecologist. They should call them “Cheesy Poof Powder” and “Really Just Like Soy Sauce,” respectively.

And I can’t, for the life of me, remember where I read it, or maybe it just came into my own head, but I’m going (try to) start abiding by the “Fast Starts at 8.” No food after 8 p.m. to promote healthy digestion.

I need to remember to drink more water, too. I drink a lot of water in the morning, but once I get to work, I forget and I drink a bunch of green tea instead.

I’m usually in zombie robot mode at 4:30 a.m., but I’m going to try my damnedest to forgo the half & half tomorrow and just take my coffee black, or maybe try it with almond milk.

I’m not wholeheartedly attempting to go vegan (but never say never), however, I am really getting onboard with this plant-based experiment in which Elise and I have endeavored. I sincerely don’t miss or crave meat or dairy. I did, however, make quesadillas for the girls for dinner tonight, and the cheese grease that pooled in the cast iron skillet sure did smell heavenly!

It could just be dumb luck but I have noticed, and have been anxiously anticipating, that my muscles and joints aren’t inflamed as they have been for as long as I can remember. Between us, as much as I’ve loved running for the past 5 years, this past year has literally been a pain. In recent months I’ve had to convince myself to go on runs because I feel like it has become my identity and I’m obligated to go out.

I’m shooting for 100% vegan tomorrow and I’ll just take it day-by-day and see how this experiment continues to play out.

Run rehab Thursday

I (re)started Camp Gladiator bootcamp on Wednesday at 5:45 a.m. I hadn’t been to a bootcamp since before the holidays when Elise and Maly had pneumonia and Mara and I also had our little bouts with illness. And then the holidays happened. And then the Jeep had some issues. So it’s been the better part of two months since I’d been to CG.

My plan was to return and take it easy. That didn’t really happen because invariably there’s a competitive/partner component. For example, we partnered up with another person and, while one person is running sprints, the other is holding a plank or performing mountain climbers. So you don’t want to leave your partner there suffering.

While I wasn’t very sore, I could still tell that I’d worked out yesterday when the alarm went off at 4:44 this morning.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I take Mara to school, so those are usually my shorter run days. I was out the door by 5:45 and headed out on a 4-something-mile route.

I kind of wanted to listen to some music, which I rarely do these days, but my Mighty wasn’t charged. I couldn’t tell you the last time I ran with a phone, but I looked at my phone and decided I wanted to listen to my friend Christian’s podcast this morning. So I took my phone, turned on the podcast and hit the road.

I went out and threw any notion of pace up into the air. I just took in the cool, misty air and just headed out. I ran exactly how I felt… I little sore, but happy and blessed to be out and have the streets pretty much to myself. I zoned out, listened to my podcast, took in the sights and just dug in.

It was a good run. I like to think that there are many more around the corner.

Day 4 of the plant-based diet

Breakfast: Apple and some mixed nuts
Lunch: Trader Joe’s Vegan Tikka Masala and tofu spring rolls
Dinner: Potato street tacos with roasted poblanos, onions, garlic, avocado, jalapeno salsa & cilantro & avocado dressing on corn tortillas

Day 3 of the plant-based diet

Kiwi for breakfast. Ran a 5k during lunch for Taco Tuesday and requested avocado tacos with no dairy. I turned down the gender-reveal cake because it contained butter. Had a handful of almonds when I got home from work.

For dinner we had lentil loaf. Elise made it, so I’m not 100% sure what it had in it. I think she said it was lentils, oatmeal, rice, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions. It was surprisingly “meaty.” I’m learning that I can easily doctor things up with a little sriracha.

A couple of cheats – I’ve been putting a little bit of creamer in my coffee and I had a piece of my birthday cake after dinner last night. I decided on the piece of cake because 1) I didn’t have a piece of cake on my birthday (I had a bite of Elise’s) and 2) I was taking one for the team. If there’s cake in the fridge, the daughters will eat it all.

The good news: the cake was actually kind of gross. I think it was more of a mental thing because I’d been really conscious of what I’d been putting in my body all day, and was pretty proud of it. The other good news is I really don’t miss meat. Even when I’m a full-on carnivore, I’ll often opt for a vegetarian (or maybe even vegan) meal. I like vegetables and plant-based proteins, so I don’t feel like I’m punishing myself here.

I didn’t take a photo of the lentil loaf because, well, it looks like a lentil loaf.

Day 2 of the plant-based diet

Elise made some kind of dry oatmeal mixture last week and told me how to cook it. I totally didn’t pay attention, and decided I wanted to try that oatmeal this morning. It has oatmeal in it, and then some other kinds of nuts and grains. I did the 2:1 oatmeal to water ratio and nuked it for a minute like I usually do for regular oatmeal, but it didn’t cook and thicken up like regular instant oatmeal, so I had a kind of nutty oat soup for breakfast with an orange.

For lunch a few of us went to Whole Foods. I really wasn’t in the mood for a burger, but decided to get a plant-based burger because, well, I’m on a plant-based diet. I got the Beyond Burger with vegan mayo and mustard. It came with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. I also ordered a side of sunflower oil tater tots. The Beyond Meat patties are really good (I’ve made them before for the family when we weren’t on a plant-based diet), and it’s just as filling as a burger. Like I said, I wasn’t really that hungry to warrant a burger, so I’m still stuffed from lunch.

For dinner tonight we had millet and brown rice ramen with miso broth, mushrooms, bok choy and tofu. I love ramen, tofu, mushrooms and bok choy. Again, I think the recipes from the book “The Plant-Based Solution” are bland, so by adding a few squirts of liquid aminos, sriracha and some crushed red pepper the ramen turned out our really, really good.

43

I’m not a resolutions guy, but I told myself that I wanted to start writing more. Let’s consider this a wholehearted attempt. I think Facebook has just made it too easy to post life updates. Facebook is also a dangerous place to get stuck in mindless scrolling and consuming. It’s sad when I want to go back and see what we were doing on or around a date in a certain year and it’s not here. It might be on Facebook.

Anyway, I celebrated my 43rd birthday on Saturday. I don’t really get excited about my own birthdays anymore. You get older and every day is just another day. And I don’t really like being the center of attention. I’m always tempted to change my birthdate on Facebook to spare the “happy birthday” posts on my wall. I never do though. I secretly appreciate the thoughts, although I’m admittedly bad about posting happy birthday on others’ walls. I think I don’t tell them happy birthday because I don’t want them to tell me happy birthday. I think I’m just weird like that.

My birthday was relatively uneventful by design. I went for a 5-mile run with my neighborhood run club. Nobody knew it was my birthday and I didn’t tell anyone. It was a beautiful and crisp morning. Then I drove home and we pretty much did nothing for the rest of the day. Elise had a bunch of work that she needed to do, so she was glued to the computer for most of the day. I finished reading David Goggins’s “Can’t Hurt Me” while laying on the couch.

At 4 o’clock we decided it was time to get out of the house, so we went to Costco to pick up some photos that Elise had sent to get printed. Then we ran over to Office Depot so Elise could get some other things printed. I didn’t want to make a big to do or pay a bunch of money or contend with crowds for dinner, so we went to Slab Barbecue for brisket sandwiches. We came back home after dinner, the girls sang happy birthday to me, I blew out candles on the chocolate cake they’d gotten for me, and then we played Apples to Apples for a good two hours while I curated and played hit 80’s and 90’s rock songs on Spotify. This was spurred by the fact that Eddie Van Halen and I share the same birthday.

We put the girls to sleep late, Elise and I watched the news and another barely chuckle-worthy episode of Saturday Night Live, and then went to bed.

The older you get, the faster the years go by. Our firstborn is going to be a teenager in less than three months. Every picture I see of myself, I see more lines and gray. But that’s okay. I’m fine with that. I hope the running helps keep me healthy and feeling young. We also started a 21-day plant-based diet on Sunday.

I’m totally okay with this life and being 43. Life is good. I have plenty to laugh at, and I like to try to make other people laugh so they’ll like their lives a little bit more, and realize that life doesn’t really need to be that serious.