California Bound!

Well, consider this my “AFK” message–because I’m heading for California! I’ll be away for the next week or so, traveling to visit relatives in Anaheim and going to a conference in San Diego for work.

I’m looking forward to this trip. I’m finally feeling in good running shape again, with 3.5 miles done this morning at an average 10:30-ish pace, and I hope to get some miles in along the coast. I’m also looking forward to seeing family for the first time in months. Expect a full report and pictures when I get back!

“Tell Me About Your Ideal Man”

I was asked this question recently, and I refused to even try and answer. This was a few weeks back, before I started dating again and when I was feeling pretty fatalistic about love. The truth is, I’ve never considered myself to have a “type.” There are definitely desirable qualities that I want: smart, employed, interested in travel and other cultures, and relatively fit. But I don’t have specifics. Ethnicity? I’ve done a lot of interracial dating. Nationality? I’ve dated several, including guys who spoke only marginal English. Education level? I’ve dated guys with Ph.D.s and guys who never set foot on a college campus. Occupations? Everything from engineers to artists, they’re on the list. I’m not sure if all this places me at an advantage or a disadvantage. I know a lot of girls who have fairly specific shopping lists. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. You’d think that dating dozens of men in my decade-plus dating career would give me some clarity, but it only gives me more questions. I want to be able to picture Mr. Right in my head, I want to be able to recognize him when I see him. A couple of times, I thought I had.

Last night, I attended a speed dating event. I was actually coordinating the event, so I didn’t really meet any available men. However, I am planning to go out soon with two guys I’ve been e-mailing from dating sites. It makes me nervous, since these will be my first “first dates” in nearly a year. I don’t know if either of these guys will be my ideal match, but at least I can’t rule it out.

Running Again

If you are a regular reader of this blog (and I’m about to hit 500 views since I started this blog in December, so yay for that), you may have noticed that my running-related posts have been less frequent lately. I’ve been dealing with some injury problems for the past few weeks, and it’s been super annoying. Here are the basics:

  • I have ongoing issues with my IT band on my right side. This has been a problem since last year and I’ve seen a sports medicine doctor about it. As long as I’m conservative in my mileage build-up, wear an IT band strap while running, and stretch properly, I can usually keep it under control.
  • However, in my long run on March 4 (6.1 miles), I also pulled a hamstring muscle on my left side. For about a week, I was almost completely unable to run and any attempt to do anything involving a long stride was quite painful.
  • After a week or so, I was able to do 2-3 mile runs again, but my stride was noticeably shorter. Three miles was also my limit, because my butt felt like it was about to fall off at that point.
  • Somehow, that hamstring pull that messed up my left side also aggravated the IT band on the opposite side again, probably because I’d been favoring the “good” leg.

Overall, this has left me feeling like my body is a big old mess. I’ve been doing a lot more yoga and cross-training than I’d like lately, and part of that has been to stretch and strengthen the area of my hips/thighs/butt. There’s been a lot of bridge pose and one-legged bridge poses going on in my house.

The bad news is that I’m going to miss my monthly goal of 50 miles by a wide margin. The toll on my overall mileage is obvious:

2012 Miles

This should be punctuated with a frowny face. :`(

The good news, though, is three-fold: 1) I ran 4 miles today, which I take as a positive sign for recovery; 2) There are lots of cool races coming up in my area, so I’m hopeful that I can make a goal to motivate myself; 3) I’m going to California at the end of this week which, in addition to being generally awesome, means I should probably be able to get in some longer and faster runs. I always seem to perform better when I’m out of the desert. March is probably going to be a bit of a bust, but there’s plenty to look forward to in April.

Foodie Finds of the Week

Seems like it’s been a while since I blogged. This week has been totally chaotic. In addition to the usual classes and research, I also had to complete a presentation for a conference next week and practice it in front of the department (always super unnerving), deal with some family issues, work on an event I’m planning on Monday for 50 people, and on top of all that there was a six-hour long hostage standoff yesterday that closed down my street. Seriously. Gotta love Tucson.

But let’s talk instead about something I love: food. It’s been nearly three months that I’ve been living almost totally meat-free (I’ve gotten down to eating meat once monthly or less, though I still eat fish and seafood) and without alcohol, and I can hardly believe the results. I am down 22 pounds since last Christmas, my mood is improved, I look really fit, and I don’t particularly miss those things anymore. Yesterday I went to happy hour with my friends, had a veggie quesadilla and an iced tea, and didn’t get the “wet blanket” feeling or peer pressure that I would’ve had two months ago. This has given me a huge infusion of pride in my body and in my willpower. Even better is that I keep finding new and delicious things to add to my healthy diet. Here are a couple of recent Trader Joe’s finds:

1. Kimchi Fried Rice

If I hadn’t tried a sample of this in-store, I never would have thought to purchase this item. I’ve never been a fan of kimchi, but this rice is delicious and has just the right balance of spice. I bought it to pair with shrimp as a main course, but it could be good as a side dish all on its own.

2. Chickenless Crispy Tenders

Imitation meat products are a real mixed bag, and that is doubly true of things that pretend to be chicken. For instance, Morningstar Farms makes meatless buffalo wings that are great, but their chick’n strips meal starters did not wow me at all. However, these chickenless tenders from Trader Joes are sooo good, I didn’t believe that I wasn’t eating meat. They actually taste like chicken! I don’t know how they did it, since the main ingredients are basically the same as all meat substitutes: soy proteins and wheat gluten. Perhaps what makes the difference here is the inclusion of “ancient grains,” which I found rather amusing. Is quinoa any less ancient than your average rice? And can the copyrighted brand Kamut be considered all that “ancient” if it has a copyright?

Anyway, with a side of ranch or BBQ sauce, these are just as tasty as real chicken. You will want more than the recommended serving size of three pieces. Also, I suggest preparing these in the oven or toaster oven, but use a nonstick baking sheet. On my sheet, a couple of them got stuck and I lost some of the delicious coating. Bon appetit!

One Toe in the Dating Pool

Well, I’ve gone back to online dating and I have mixed feelings about it. Just under a year ago, I gave up online dating in absolute frustration and vowed to never go back. The move was inspired by some bad experiences, rude comments from men, and more generally by the fact that sending good money after bad and spending 11 years on and off of over a half dozen dating sites had left me with nothing but angst.

What’s changed my mind? Well, for one thing I feel like I’ve spent enough time pining over that last guy I dated. I feel like I gave him his one last chance talk things through, and I got ignored. He’s had more than enough chances to have me over the years that we’ve known each other, and if he can’t step up at this point I just need to move on. Another thing that changed my mind was a conversation with some friends at brunch on Sunday. I met up with a group of girls, some of whom I know but hadn’t seen in a while and others who I was meeting for the first time. At some point in the afternoon we turned to online dating. The conversation was an eye-opener to me. Pretty much all of my close female friends are now married or long-term paired off, so I suppose it’s been a while since I got to really compare my dating experiences with others’. Here’s what came out of the conversation that resonated with me:

1) There is probably nothing wrong with me. In a group of about 15 women, mostly in our 20s and 30s, almost all of us with gainful employment and at least one college degree, only two of the group were married. A few were dating, the vast majority were single, and almost everyone had some experience dating online. So many quality women around my age, still single? That was surprising.

2) There was general agreement that online dating is a must. More than one woman agreed with the statement that men just don’t seem to understand in-person interaction anymore, and it’s hard to meet someone the “old-fashioned way.” With so many of us traveling in the same circles all the time, there’s little opportunity to meet someone new except through the magic of the Internet.

3) Every woman has been harassed on a dating site and has had bad dates. This was the saddest thing to me, because of course it shouldn’t happen. I would never imagine writing to a random stranger on a dating site out of the blue and saying something vulgar or sexual. It’s the online equivalent of running up to someone playing tennis on a public tennis court and shoving them to the ground. It’s baffling, intimidating, and rude. Yet there’s a notable portion of male individuals (especially on free dating sites) who do. Most of the women I brunched with said they ignore these remarks, some suggested tactics like making your profile unsearchable so that only people you choose to message can see it. Still, it made me sad that these bad apples are out there and going after women so often… But this leads into my final take-away from the day:

4) A sense of humor and resilience is required. And this is what I was lacking. I got a little jealous hearing about the good dates women had, and those who appeared to be meeting genuinely nice guys. However, I realized that the only difference between me and them is that they kept trying, they laughed off or forgot the failures and bad dates. I let them get under my skin until I could not stand the idea of looking for love anymore. I’m easily discouraged by dating in general, but contrary to that old adage that I hate, you don’t find anyone when you’re not looking.

So I’ve been back on two personals sites. In the few days I’ve been back, I’ve gotten several “hey baby” e-mails from guys just looking for a good time, but a few seem like genuine nibbles. I suppose, all things considered, it’s not a bad return on a few minutes’ investment since the weekend. So… here we go again.

Spring Break, in Review

Well, the end of Spring Break is here and it’s appropriately gloomy where I am. It’s been raining for hours with a forecast high today of only 52 degrees. If I had any hope of getting in one last hike or a trail run, it seems it’s not going to happen now.

In all, I had a good break. I hiked about 16 miles over the last week and change, and ran just over 11. My pulled hamstring is still a bit tender, but I hope I’ll be back up to full sped soon. I also had a nice day trip to Tubac, saw a spring training game here in Tucson, and was even able to get quite a bit of work done. If I get myself motivated and out of bed, I’ll also be going to brunch later today.

Spring Break always comes not a moment too soon. I haven’t actually had a real Spring Break trip in three years, but I consider it my first peek at what summer will be like, when I no longer have stacks of grading and classes to teach, and when I can sit at home and focus on my dissertation. I’m eager to be done with grad school a lot of the time. While I’m very proud of how active I’ve been in 2012, my weight loss, and the willpower I’ve shown in sticking to a diet and not drinking, I do struggle to stick with these changes and to be social at the same time. I just feel old sometimes, and when I’m out with friends who are all several years younger than me, eating bar food and getting drunk and horsing around while I play the wallflower, that feeling is heightened. I mean, what do people, especially single people, do to be social and meet other singles when they’re in their early 30s and don’t want to hang out at bars? I spent all day yesterday following Facebook check-ins of friends at Irish bars all over the country (and the world). I had zero desire to join in the fun. I guess that’s good in some ways… but there’s a fine line between good sense and being a wet blanket, right?

The Adventures of Chavalina in the Desert, Pt. 3

Yesterday I took a rather ambitious hike to Seven Falls in the Catalina Mountains. The trail departs from Sabino Canyon, where I hiked earlier in the week, and runs 1.8 miles to Bear Canyon, then roughly 2.5 more miles to Seven Falls. There is the option to take a tram to Bear Canyon, but that part of the hike is the easiest. The hike from Bear Canyon to Seven Falls is rather technical and net uphill, and the entire 4.3 miles took me about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

You can actually get to Bear Canyon one of three ways: By taking the tram, by walking along the tram road (which is mostly paved and an easy walk), or by taking the trail to Bear Canyon. I took the trail. For the most part, the trail runs right alongside the road, but you do get more hill climbing and some nice views.

Bear Canyon is not so much a “destination” as it is a “place.” There didn’t seem to be much to it, other than some picnic tables and a restroom with a drinking fountain.

From Bear Canyon especially, the trail crosses a lot of water at this time of year. I counted seven stream crossings between Bear Canyon and Seven Falls, and there are an additional one or two crossings between Bear Canyon and the Sabino Canyon Visitor’s Center. The first water crossing was the only one with a bridge. So, yeah, have fun with that. I ended up doing a fair amount of balancing and crab walking. This trail is not recommended for those with balance problems.

Along the way, I met a lot of young people who were off school for the week, some older hikers, and a couple of very ambitious trail runners. I also saw several animals: lizards, quail, some tiny fish in the pond, a deer, horses, an unidentified fuzzy creature on a hillside, and this donkey.

The hike, overall, is a challenge. In contrast to the officially posted trail length of 4.1 miles, my GPS indicated that I went about 4.3 miles each way. Especially with so many water crossings (and with my detours for picture taking) it’s almost impossible to take the most direct route. Plus there are some places where the trail is poorly marked and it’s easy to get lost, especially if you’ve taken a detour to cross a stream at a more convenient point. However, there is a well-worn trail the entire way so you should know fairly quickly if you’re off it. It’s also hard to stray too far since the canyon is so narrow. Worst case scenario is that you can just follow the water back to the Seven Falls (as I saw some folks doing).

The last ~.5-.8 miles of the trail are the most annoying. Most of the uphill occurs here, and the trail snakes up the side of a cliff gradually with lots of switchbacks. There are several signs begging hikers to stay on the trail, and I can believe that some people try shortcuts here for a more direct route up. You will find a lot of annoyed-looking hikers on this part of the trail. But, when you turn a corner and are within sight of the falls and the pool, exhaustion turns to excitement.

And here’s where I got my sweet reward. The Seven Falls is actually various layers of falls, descending from hundreds of feet up. At each layer are pools of various size, some populated with tiny black fish. On a warm day like yesterday, the water felt downright chilly, but this area is also a good place for sunbathing or enjoying a picnic lunch on the rocks.

My overall review and recommendation? The falls are not the most impressive I’ve ever seen (I grew up near Niagara Falls, Letchworth, and Stony Brook… so I’ve seen bigger), and they are dry at certain times of the year. But they are something special in Southern Arizona. The setting and the trail are also very cool, but you will end up exhausted at the end of the day. It took me much longer than I thought it would to get there, and the way back is only slightly faster. Bring lots of water–I went through two 32 oz. bottles–or plan to refill at the Bear Canyon water stops. There is a fountain at the Bear Canyon tram stop and a spigot at the trailhead just beyond that. Also, bring a lunch to enjoy at the falls. I brought just a snack, and I was starving by the time I was done. If I do the work to get here again, I want to stay and enjoy it longer. Finally, bring sunscreen and reapply often! There is little shade along the trail. Several of the teens who make this hike go up shirtless or in their bikini tops. I saw a few of them on the way back looking scratched up and sunburned. Safety first!