Marathon effort

 

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Stretching it out before the starting gun

I attempted the Sydney Marathon on Sunday.  I finished 18 miles (30 km) before my IT band started screaming bloody murder and I decided to call it quits for fear of inflicting lasting injury.  But, I completed more than two-thirds of the distance and I didn’t train for it,* so I’m going to chalk it up as a pseudo-win and be proud of myself.

As I’ve written about previously, Sydney has launched us into the healthier lifestyle we’d always fantasized about but never really made happen in the States (shame on us).  I’ve been running a lot in the past 9 months because it’s free fitness and the weather is usually nice enough to allow it.  Also, I’m lucky to have a lot of work colleagues who are runners.  Just being around them and watching the way they prioritise their health pushes me to lace up regularly.

I was really excited to have run the half marathon distance with little trouble at roughly 10 minutes per mile (6 min/km), and I was holding back to conserve energy! It all would have been almost unthinkable a year ago.  Seeing that a marathon is well within my grasp, I’ll train for next year (what a concept) and see if I can make it the full way.  Now to nurse and strengthen this annoying IT band…

*Dumb, I know.

Why I’m going vegan for a month

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My month of veganism starts today!  I mentioned it in passing to a couple of people recently, and after a beat or two of silence came the question: “why?”

The same environmental, ethical, and health issues that launched our year of vegetarianism in 2010 still apply.  I worry that consuming animal products does more harm than good to my own body and the bodies of others.  I don’t think we need food derived from animals to be vibrant, productive, and happy.  But if we’re really getting down to brass tacks, I’m trying out veganism for the same reasons I travel: because it allows me to see, learn about, and experience other ways of being.

It doesn’t feel restrictive.  It feels like opening a door to a new environment that will scratch my creativity and curiosity itches.  In 2010, I learned so much about vegetarian cuisines and cultures (Indian! Thai! Ethiopian! Shojin ryori!) and I had a spectacular time getting to know new spices and vegetables and methods of cooking.  Let’s be honest:  I love to cook and eat as much as I love a challenge.  Experimenting with food + improved personal and environmental well-being? That’s a win-win.

I know I’ll miss eggs. Plain Greek yogurt. Honey. Sashimi. Oysters. Medium rare ribeyes and BBQed chicken.  But really, I don’t eat any of those things in any large quantity anyway.  Maybe I’ll encounter something that blows them all right out of the water.  Who knows? That’s the beauty of going into a new experience.

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33 for 33 Update

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Time for an update on my 33 for 33 list. Roughly six weeks into the year I’ve accomplished… two items.  Not a strong showing, I have to admit. We’ve spent most of our sunshiny weekends hard at work exploring brunch options, which then leads to leisurely walking off the meal… just in time to sit down at a cafe for ‘afternoon tea’ (i.e. more coffee and a snack).  On weekends when the weather has been rainy, we’ve been fulfilling the wimpy Californian stereotype of rain-aversion and entertaining ourselves at home with movies, reading, popcorn (maybe a quick trip to our local Chinese restaurant for take-away dinner).

I’m glad I have my list.  There isn’t anything wrong with aimless, wander-y weekends (they are, in fact, lovely) but if I didn’t push myself to experience everything below and we left Australia, I’d kick myself!

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An ode to oils

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Winter is starting to lose its clutch on the city — hooray!  Warmer days have been creeping in here and there and the sun manages to stick around for longer before the biting cold wind returns.

Aside from hearty soups, electric blankets, and hot toddies, I’ve come to depend on some lovely oils to get me (and my skin) through the winter.  Jojoba for my face, sweet almond for my body, coconut and tea tree for my feet, argan for my hair.  I’ve added a little raw sugar now and then to the almond oil, which makes a beautiful body scrub.  I’ve never gotten much fancier than that  since the oils in their pure form are so soothing and moisturizing (although these are all calling to me!).  My skin has been gobbling it up.  In fact, I’ve ditched lotion completely.  Oils rock.

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Run it out

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Sydney continues to push us into a healthier lifestyle.  It surprises me to say it out loud, but I run to and from work! It’s only about 3.5 km each way. I skip it now and then when the weather is bad, but it adds up to logging about 28 km (a little over 17 miles) a week.

It turns out to be really enjoyable. The mornings are tough since it’s been so cold recently, but once I’ve forced myself out of the house I love the pre-dawn quiet before the rest of the city is up and I feel energized by the time I sit down at my desk.  At the end of the day, the run is a great way to destress and mentally sort through the challenges of work.

I’m lucky that my workplace supports an active lifestyle by providing a gym, lockers, and showers.  On Monday mornings, I haul in a week’s worth of work clothes and toiletries, then only need to toss a few essentials into my Camelbak to carry to/from through the rest of the week! #betterforit

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Alternate universe

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End of May and early June was graduation season in America, and my social feeds were flooded with congratulatory messages, virtual high fives, proud photos, and gleeful rushes into summer holidays.  Here, it’s just the end of second quarter.  Students are exhausted from exams, and they’re gratefully but wearily trudging into a couple weeks’ break to recover.  There’s no hoopla whatsoever, and being so far away from what I know is a hugely celebratory time for family and friends in the States is weird, like I’m watching through a one-way mirror.

Of course, this is related to the seasons being the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.

A few days ago, while on my lunch break, I wandered down to a nearby shopping district and was greeted by at least 40 Christmas trees lined up in festive, bright red pots.  It stopped me dead in my tracks because the cold winter air  + the red/green color combo + the smell of pine trees was perfect.  You don’t notice how much you’ve been constantly trying to figure out what’s going on around you until you’re presented with something intimately, completely familiar and it just. makes. effortless. sense.  I actually exhaled with something approaching relief, like I’d been holding my breath without realising it.

Apparently, through the end of this week it’s Christmas in July at the Pitt Street Mall, with cookie decorating workshops, free coffees, spiced teas, a popcorn stand, and other festivities.  Yay! …and then I remembered that it was July and it all seemed kind of bizarre and I felt like I was living in an alternate universe again.

Also, a lot of my email subscriptions and social feeds are from American companies.  Can you imagine how disorienting it is to be looking at breezy sundresses and pretty sandals when it’s in the low 40s* F and I’m wishing that it was acceptable to wear a down onesie in public?  (I’m only partially kidding.  My delicate Californian limits of toleration are being stretched to the max.)

Anyway, it’s funny straddling two worlds.  Twice as much to keep track of, but…twice the fun?

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