Archive for January 2010

Eating Native

January 28, 2010

I stand in Steve Connolly’s Fish Market in Gloucester, a twenty dollar bill burning a hole in my pocket.  I have come to find a piece of monk fish for my daughter, and also a little bit of smoked blue, her favorite for after-school snack.  The smoked salmon looks fresh and tasty; there’s also smoked tuna, mackerel, big chunks of shelled lobster meat piled high in a container on ice.  The woman behind the counter looks me over, as she does at least once a week when I come here to buy the freshest fish around.

“What can I get for you?”

I smile at her and point to the monk fish.

“Just one piece, please.”

She weighs and bags the grayish-white thick strip of fish, and looks at me again.  I have wandered back over the the case with the smoked fish and lobster, and am eying the native shrimp.

“What else?”

“Those look great.  I kind of want some, but don’t really feel like cleaning them.”

I point to the smoked blue, and ask for one piece, then add a piece of the salmon to my order.

“You know, you don’t have to clean them first.  You can boil them and peel them afterward.”

“I know.  I’ve cooked them lots of times.  I…” and I pause, thinking of sitting at the dining room table with a steaming bowl of these tiny pink native shrimp, of breaking off the heads, peeling the shell back a bit, and of pinching the tail to pop out the meat.  I think of the sweetness that is found only in these shrimp.

“Give me one pound, please.  I think I’ll have them for lunch.”

“Just one pound?”  She raises her eyebrows at me, waiting to see if I change my mind.

“Yes.  One pound will do it.”

I stroll out of the market with nine dollars and two cents left in my pocket.

At home, I rush up the back steps and before I even remove my coat, I am pulling the big skillet out from under the counter cupboard, digging in the refrigerator for the garlic, and grabbing the olive oil from the pantry.  I shrug out of my coat, wash my hands, and unpack the paper sack full of seafood.  I turn the front burner on high, set the skillet down on it and quickly chop five big cloves of garlic.  I pour a dollop of olive oil into the hot pan, throw in the garlic, and when it sizzles, dump in the shrimp.  Moisture, moisture.  Water?  No.  White wine, just a splash.  Shhhhhh.   Ssssss.  I toss the shrimp around until they are coated with  golden garlic bits, then go dig in the cupboard for a cover.  I set the timer for two minutes and scan the open dish cabinet for a big bowl.  I find a ceramic pie plate with a high edge and place it on the counter next to the sink.  I hurriedly stick a thick piece of dark bread in the toaster, then turn back to the stove just as the timer beeps.  I toss the shrimp one more time.  They are now a bright, bright pink, and the tiny bellies filled with roe look swollen and ripe.   I dump them into the pie plate in one quick motion and pull one from the pile.  It is hot! and I burn my fingers a little as I twist off the head.  I peel back the widest part of the shell, then, with a pinch of my fingers, out comes the meat.  I put it in my mouth, and the sweet, garlicky, tender morsel makes my eyes roll back in pleasure.  I will not be taking this bowl into the dining room.

I stand at the counter beside the sink and peel one shrimp after another, slower now, and eat.  It feels decadent.  I am not sharing with anyone.  I am not even sitting down.  I am standing in my kitchen on a Wednesday afternoon eating garlic shrimp all by myself and I am happy.  Right here, right now. The toaster chimes and I take out the crisp bread.  I dip it into the broth in the bottom of the pie plate and pick up pieces of garlic soaked in white wine, flavored with the shrimp shells.  Delicious.  I’m certain mine is the only kitchen in town today serving up this kind of luxury for $1.95 per pound.

Today:  5.4 miles.  48 minutes.



January 27, 2010

This morning I ran 8 miles.  It was colder than yesterday, and I kept wishing I had worn the turtle fur scarf.  At least I had the sense to wear a hat!  I wanted to make my goal for the day mostly because I hate to disappoint myself, but also because I am training for a race.  I haven’t decided on which one yet, but definitely feel it’s time to go for a PR and see where I stand (run) under a little pressure from someplace other than within myself. I’m looking for a 10K sometime this spring.

I have to express my gratitude for music on a day like this—I recently created a playlist from my iTunes library I titled “Runner’s Delight” that includes some of my all-time favorite music, mostly fast and all with lyrics that inspire me to move.  I confess to stopping by my house at mile 6 to smear pommade on my cheeks and let out a little coffee, but I only stopped for three minutes, then bounded back out to finish the run.  The music is what helped me maintain my pace.  The list starts off with a couple of slower tempo songs for warm-up, then goes right into tunes that trick my brain into thinking that running is really the hottest dance floor craze in existence.  Some of the songs seem like they were made for running, like “Middle of the Road” by The Pretenders,  “Hey Ya” by OutKast, and “Pump It” by the Black Eyed Peas.  There’s also a couple of songs by Notorious B.I.G., (‘Sky’s The Limit’ is great!), The Corrs, The Propeller Heads, and the charming Belle and Sebastian, whose retro 70’s sound and wild and sometimes sexy lyrics make me grin as I sprint.  Moby’s there, with “Honey”, “Body Rock”, “Run On”, and South Side”.  And finally, India Arie, whose lyrics make any woman feel like she’s perfect just the way she is.

These songs all have their own tempos, and I can lengthen or shorten my stride, increase the intensity a little or a lot to maintain the rhythm in a way that lets me maintain my speed.  These songs work for me because they reflect a lot of my feelings and experiences, and have beats and rhythms I love.  They are written and performed by artists whose whose lyrics touch me and inspire me, whose sounds make me want to move my body.  They motivate me to keep running.

For anyone out there looking for inspiration to get going or to keep going, even on lazy feeling days, on icy cold days, on little aches and pains days, music is a great way to lose your attachment to the ease of quitting.  It’s one of my top recommendations as a trainer.  You can draw more from yourself when music becomes a part of your workout.  It has to be the kind of music that calls out to you.  The music that makes you want to sing along, even if you don’t know the words, even if there aren’t any words.   Even if you are running your hardest and have to sing in your head.

What music motivates you?  Go make your playlist and get out there!

Today:  8 miles.  64 minutes.

This Day

January 26, 2010

It’s the January thaw.  Yesterday’s heavy rains cleared the snow and ice from the sidewalks, giving me permission to run without thinking about slipping or falling.  Today’s 5 1/2 miles melt inside and around me as I breathe in the warmer air of this morning.  I run along Pebble Beach.   The sandy part of the road is soft and giving under foot; pale green back-lit waves sparkle and crash on the popple-lined shore.  The smell— oh!— newly washed up seaweed, fresh-caught fish,  salt laden, earthy.  Memories of  the scents  from my childhood on Martha’s Vineyard brush their fingers lightly through the corners of my mind, evasive and evocative.   A hunger, a desire, a wanting exactly what I have and knowing I have it right now fills me from my damp sneakers to the roots of my hair, and grasps hold of the very center of me.  The waves surge and my feet pound out their rhythm.  My shoulders relax and I lift my face to the sky.   I feel winter’s grip release it’s hold.

As I round the bend on Penzance Road where two marshes are separated by a narrow strip of pavement, I see the remains of last summer’s tall marsh grasses, mowed down, blown down by the whipping winds of the past months. A few brown stalks remain and are topped with rich, full, dark seed pods reaching up to the brightening sky.  No red-winged blackbirds flit about, or pivot and balance atop the stalks, but the light wind rustles and ruffles the edge of the small pond tucked back on the right side of the marsh.  I choose to continue on Eden Road, where the previous week’s ice had been replaced by oodles of puddles.  I sprint along, dodging back and forth, stepping in a tiny pool here and there, bouncing on the balls of my feet, then leaping, bounding like a golden Lab puppy on the pocked, dirt-packed road.

I sprint again up the hill at the top of Eden, and turn right onto South Street.  I meet Richard, my friend Sue’s husband.  He is on the tail end of his morning walk, and he grins and waves to me.  I stop and we chat for a few minutes, sharing our pleasure in this morning.  The last leg of my route passes Old Garden Beach, and I peek down the boat  ramp, noticing the sand that had washed up on the incline over the winter, and the newly exposed rocks on the beach.   The ocean is calmer on this side of the island, and I look across the little park beside the ramp.  The sky and air are clear, and I can see across the water all the way to Andrew’s Point.

This day is a tease.  There will be more cold, ice, snow, gray winter.

This day is a reminder.  There will be warmth, sun, birds, green spring.

Quick Note

January 25, 2010

Dear Readers,

My preview reader accidentally hit the publish button before I finished writing “Running High Tech”, so if you are a subscriber, you may want to go to the actual blog site to read the ending of the piece.  I will have to address this issue with my tech team later…but while I’m here—

Thanks for reading!  I love the great feedback from all of you— the comments and emails are encouraging, especially on days like this, when pouring rain is smacking my windows and I feel like spring will never, ever come.

Running High Tech

January 25, 2010

My sister gave me a Nike + iPod for Christmas.  It was a complete surprise in that it was something I really wanted yet did not ask for.  I was so excited I could barely speak.  The device allows a runner to track the speed and distance of each workout and compare it with other workouts from previous runs.  I couldn’t wait to try it.

The day after Christmas, I plugged the connector into my iPod and discovered that my iPod did not support the device.  I would need a Nano, iPhone, or some other different iPod, so I found a reconditioned Nano online for a reasonable price, or at least the least expensive price to be able to use my new toy.   I ordered it. I ran for a week as usual, tracking my runs on G Maps until the Nano was delivered.  I (with a little help from my tech team)  charged it overnight, downloaded some of my playlists and then plugged in the connector.  My sister had the foresight to also order an adapter for my running shoes, because, of course, the Nike + iPod is designed to fit into a Nike shoe.  I fit the tiny white sensor into the red adapter, tied it into my shoe lace, pressed the little button on the sensor to activate it, and walked around to start it.  I paced around the downstairs of my house, holding the Nano in my hand, and listened to the female voice coming through the ear buds telling me it was trying to connect.  No go.  I was impatient to run, so I switched out the Nano for the Shuffle and took off.  When my running buddy Sue showed up on Sunday expecting me to be ready to track our distance and speed, I had to tell her we would be waiting a little longer to try it out.

The next morning, I (with a little more help from my tech team) got the sensor to recognize me.  I half-read the directions on how to calibrate the device, then pressed start and ran a mile, then stopped the device so it registered my distance and speed.  I turned off the workout section, figured out how to go back to my play list, and ran what I already knew was another six miles.

The morning after that, I fiddled with the Nike + iPod section of the Nano and found I could choose many ways to record my run.  I could preselect a time or a distance.  I could choose a 3K, 5K, 10K, 2 mile, 5 mile, 10 mile, 1/2 marathon, or full marathon distance.  I could choose any number of calories I wanted to burn.  I could choose any number of minutes to run.  Any of these would be tracked by the sensor, and the voice on the device would tell me as I approached my goal.  I did not notice the ‘Custom’ heading, as it was highlighted, making it invisible to me.  What I was hoping for was to plug in, get sensed, then run like crazy until I had enough.  Then, at the end, the voice would tell me how great (or not) I had done.

I complained bitterly to my tech team that I was not receiving the kind of support I had dreamed about from my Nike + iPod.  My tech team took the Nano from my outstretched hand.  He (yeah, you know who my tech team is) pressed the menu button and pointed out the ‘Custom’ heading.  He scrolled through the choices available to me.  He pressed the directions manual into my hand, open to the page that explains how to make what I wanted to happen actually happen.

When Sue showed up this Sunday morning, I finally had all the kinks worked out.  I activated my sensor, chose an open-ended workout, selected ‘start’ on the menu, and we took off.  We ran 7.15 miles in 1 hour, averaging at a pace of 8:29 minute miles, and burned 651 calories.  That may still be a bit inaccurate, as I have not yet mastered pausing and resuming a workout, but it’s pretty close.  Pretty high tech.  Well, it is for me.

A Little Death, a Little Pain

January 22, 2010

I ran 8 miles this morning and felt really good.  I felt like I was risking my life again, though.   I chose to return loop on Eden Road.  I found myself tip-toeing along every ten paces or so across thick patches of ice, then trying to get my stride back, all to avoid looking at a dead raccoon I had passed on the road in the last third of my beginning loop.  I couldn’t bear the thought of going by that still little body a second time.  On the first pass, I couldn’t take my eyes from it.  No gore, no guts; it just looked like it had fallen asleep by the side of the road.  A shiver ran through me as I hurried by,  and for about a quarter of a mile, I kept glancing back over my shoulder to see if  it had moved.  Thus the other return route option.  Either way was pretty scary.   As I slipped wildly on a black ice spot, I wondered How crazy would I look running in a helmet??? I’m considering it.

My right knee, or more specifically, the top of my tibia directly below my right knee cap has been bothering me for the past couple of days.  To stay pain free,  it’s all about keeping the knee out straight.  After I sit with my leg bent, when I straighten it, it screams out loud- oh, no wait, that’s me.  It think it’s my IT band, and I’m going to do some area-specific stretches this afternoon.  Tomorrow’s plan is a 6.5, and Sunday’s another 8.  It’s only when I stop running that I hurt…so I should do fine.  I’ll be the runner in the bright blue helmet.

Staying In Touch

January 21, 2010

I remember the first time I held hands with a boy.   I was 13.  We met in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs, and some time around our second or third meeting, he asked me to take a walk on the beach with him.  It was early evening; the colors of the sky were lavender and Easter-grass green and ripe summer peach.  The waves lapped the edge of the small shoreline as we strolled side by side.  We touched our fingers to the water, and the sea was warm and soft.   We sank down in the sand together with our backs against the sea-wall, talking.  He took my hand in his.  I could not think about what he was saying.  I could not think about what I was saying.  I could only focus on the warm hand grasping mine, on the way his fingers gently moved against my fingers.  He shifted his hand so that our fingers were interwoven, and I had never held hands that way.  There was a strange oneness to our hands, and this boy I didn’t even know took all breath and thought away from me.   I had never been so aware of touch in my life.  I felt tiny grains of sand rubbing into our skin but did not move to brush them off; the feeling of our hands and fingers was too delicious to interrupt with something as mundane as sand removal.  He was just a boy.   I don’t even remember his name.  But I can feel the way it felt to have my hand held by his as if it happened only moments ago.

Touch.  It is intimate.  When I was young, my mother and my father picked me up and held me close, snuggled on the couch with me and my sister to read stories.  My grandparents and auntie were generous with hugs and kisses, rocking chair lullabies at bedtime, hand-holding on walks.  As I grew older, touch became something even more intimate, tied to sex, and there were boys to kiss and make out with, then men.  Then a husband.  Later came the babies, with their soft,  down-covered skin.  Their velvety foreheads, little bellies, and round thighs all begged to be kissed, nuzzled, tickled.  After the babies, though, I started to take touching for granted. I didn’t marvel in it so much any longer, because I could touch whenever I wanted to— hold hands with my husband, lay down full length against him and feel every inch of us— skin, muscle, soft flesh and bone, side by side.    I stopped thinking about touching for a while and just did it.

Touching can be funny.  I have noticed some people don’t like to be touched, will back off if I get too close.  I have friends who are willing to hold my hand if I’m scared during a movie.  They are the ones with whom I will actually go to the movies, because I know what I expect and need to trust I can get it from them.  I have friends who greet me with a hug and a kiss, others who stand back and smile at me in greeting.  I have learned it’s good to warn people if I plan to touch them so they have a chance to prepare.  I don’t like to be touched by strangers, nor am I fond of professional massages.  I can’t relax my body.  I feel myself tense up, my muscles lock in defense against such an intimate gesture.

As a personal trainer, I work with clients of various ages, from teens to seniors.   When I train a client, it is inevitable that I touch them.  If I thought about it ahead of time, it might not be as easy as it is, this touching.  But as it turns out, it feels good.  Everyone has soft skin.   So far, everyone smells good.  One client showers before we work out.  And everyone gives just the littlest sigh when I stand close behind them and wrap my fingers around their wrists, lifting their arms a little higher in standing ‘V’ pose.  They close their eyes, if even for a moment, when I kneel over their bodies and slowly slide their shoulder blades down, or slowly place their arms in a soft ‘A’ position.  They moan to themselves, seemingly unaware of the sound that escapes them when I turn their shoulders to the left or right, or when I stand behind them and pull their hips back into a deeper forward stretch.

I warn them ahead of time.  “Okay, now I’m going to stand behind you and lift your arms up a little higher.”  Or  “Get ready.  When you roll to the side, I’m going to press down into your hip and assist you in this stretch.”  Or even, “I’m going to help you lift your hips higher in bridge, so you can feel where you should be trying to go with this exercise.”   It feels kind of strange, to give a warning, but I can’t always tell what they expect, and I certainly don’t want to take anyone by surprise.  Instead, what has happened is that touch has again taken me by surprise.  I like this new awareness, this new way of using touch.  It is still intimate, but with a fresh purpose.