Sunday, March 30, 2014

The View From the Top

I had an interesting weekend, partially bad interesting, partially good interesting. The bad interesting part is that I had a nasty stomach bug on Friday that made me a weak, tired mess. I'll spare you the details, but I spent most of Friday napping and wondering why, of all the shades of pink in the universe, they had to choose such an ugly one for Pepto-Bismol. I was still feeling the after effects of whatever I had on Saturday, but I made myself finish my last Couch to 5k workout of the week anyway. I figured I would either get in a run on the treadmill or I would get in a run on the way to the nearest bathroom. Not exactly a win-win, but close enough for me.


I made it through the workout without incident, but I didn't feel great. I kept the treadmill set at 5.3, but I was so exhausted from being sick all day Friday that the workout felt like a struggle from start to finish. I was glad I made myself do it, but I was also glad when it was over so I could get back to binge watching True Detective and trying to stay hydrated.


I was feeling a lot better today, and I was determined to spend as much time being active as possible. After breakfast, I took my bike out for a short ride. I would tell you how many miles I rode except that my Garmin decided to mutiny and not track my ride. When I noticed that it was not working, I decided to track the ride with the Runkeeper app on my phone only to discover that some recent update to the app required me to change some settings on my phone. I didn't feel like wasting anymore time trying to make my devices cooperate so I just decided to call it a fun ride and not worry about the miles or calories for one day.  I had already decided to go hiking after lunch, so after I got home I ate, did a little homework, then headed to one of my favorite parks.


It was a beautiful afternoon, so I wasn't surprised to find the park full of cyclists, runners, hikers, and even a family grilling in one of the picnic areas. The leaves haven't grown in yet, so the whole park was bathed in sunlight. I only go to that park every few months, and I love to see it change with the seasons. In the late spring and summer it is mostly shaded because the leaves are so thick they block the sun. In fall, it is a sea of color as the leaves change. In winter and early spring, it takes on a stark beauty.


Somewhere along the way I ran into these two women who were trying to find their way back to their car. The park is huge with a maze of paved and unpaved trails. They had come with a friend who went off to run while they walked at their own pace. I had no idea what to tell them. I knew how to get back to the entrance I had come from, but all they knew about the entrance they parked at was that there were stairs. I think I stumbled across an entrance with stairs over a year ago in that park, but from what I remembered it was literally miles from where we were standing and I don't know the park well enough to give them coherent directions to where I thought the entrance might be. 


They seemed surprised that I was walking on my own, but I have no idea why. I wouldn't recommend that a woman go to that park alone at the crack of dawn or very late in the evening, but right after lunch on a beautiful day when the park is full? I felt completely safe. I passed people every few minutes on the trail and while I've never tried screaming to see how well the sound reverberates around the trees, I have a feeling the acoustics are pretty good. I wound up wishing them luck and continuing my climb to the top of a challenging hill I planned to conquer before turning back.


The view from the top of that hill was my goal and my reward for this walk. No matter how many times I climb it and take in that view, it never really gets old. I thought about walking a little bit further before turning around, but decided against it. I had forgotten to bring water with me and I was feeling parched by the time I got to the top. Instead, I decided to head back to my car and call it a day. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Couch 2 5K Week 1 Day 2


Yesterday was all about the me time. After breakfast, I made myself go to the gym for my second Couch 2 5k workout of the week. The week 1 day 2 workout is the same as day 1. You begin with a 5 minute warmup walk, then for the next 20 minutes you alternate 1 minute of running with 1 minute and 30 seconds of walking. Finally, you finish with 5 more minutes of walking to cool down. I decided to drop the speed on the treadmill to 5.3 miles per hour. The burning chest, out of breath feeling I had going on during my Day 1 workout was a little too discouraging for me. I can get fast later. Right now, I just need to get running. 

I think it was a really good decision. The new pace was still hard, but comfortably so. By the end of the Day 1 workout, I was so tired I was just barely avoiding flying off the back of the treadmill. By the end of Day 2, I felt like I could have kept going longer. Based on the calorie and heart rate data from my Garmin, I was working pretty hard for my current fitness level even at 5.3 miles per hour. Before I sprained my ankle, my overall pace was faster, but my typical heart rate was somewhere around where my heart rate was during my Day 2 workout. The fact that I used to have the same heart rate at a faster pace means that I've lost a lot of my pre-sprain fitness, but I think the data and my body are trying to tell me to slow down a little and I'm not too proud to listen.

Source
After I got cleaned up from my run, I had a quick lunch then headed to the theatre to see Divergent. As someone who really loved the books, I have been looking forward to this movie since I found out it was going to be a thing. I absolutely loved it. I was kind of worried when I saw a ton of critics give it bad reviews. A lot of people thought it was too slow in the beginning or that they spent too much time on the background information and then the movie ended before there was a resolution. I think the people who said that did not read the books because the movie stopped where the first book stopped, and from what I remember they stayed pretty close to the book. I thought it was well-acted, the effects were good, and there was the same amount of action in the movie as there was in the book. In other words, true book fans will be happy, non-readers be damned.


After the movie I managed to get in a short evening walk. I finished the last book in the Morganville Vampire series a few days ago and I'm still experiencing withdrawal. I started reading that series the year after I graduated from college and even though the series ended in a good place, it makes me sad that there won't be anymore adventures for the characters. I needed a literary palate cleanser so I started listening to Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. I wanted something sufficiently different to keep me from thinking about Morganville, and so far so good. Patient Zero is a zombie book, which is still supernatural, but the main character is a former soldier turned cop who is offered the chance to work for a government agency so secret that not even Homeland Security knows about it. It's kind of like Jack Reacher meets The Walking Dead. I don't expect it to be my new favorite book or anything, but it was on sale as an Audible Daily Deal and I wanted to try something different.


In other news, I have been swamped with all the school work. I have a 10 page paper due tomorrow for one of the short courses I took this semester. I also have a 4-5 page paper due for my Family Law class. Finally, I have to complete a take home exam that is supposed to be brief and painless, but will probably be anything but. 


Now do you see why I am so desperate to get back to running? I have a thousand things on my plate and running is the only thing I have found that keeps me sane through the stress of it all. Hopefully if I keep up with my C25K workouts and my ankle holds up, I will have my favorite therapy back soon. Otherwise, I'll have to find a good psychiatrist. Or, you know, revisit that whole yoga thing.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Couch 2 5k--Again


I had a truly exhausting weekend. When I arranged my class schedule for the semester, I went crazy and enrolled in a bunch of short courses. Short courses are intensive one credit courses that last for approximately five days. On the plus side, I was able to take fewer semester-long classes. On the downside, the short courses typically met from Thursday to Sunday with six hours of class on Saturday. Since this was a short course week, I didn't have much free time over the weekend. 


I did make a point of walking as much as possible, though. I only got in 2.98 miles yesterday, which was only 7,252 steps. I kept stopping to take pictures of the first brave flowers of spring as you can see. I'm sure I'll be whining about my allergies soon, but for now the blossoms are more beautiful than burdensome.


I more than made up for yesterday's low step total today because, as I'm sure you guessed from the title, I have officially made my return to running. It has been about three months since I last ran, so I'm basically starting from scratch. I used Couch 2 5k when I first started running so I decided to go through the program again to regain the fitness I lost. I started with week 1 day 1. The week 1 day 1 workout is a 5 minute warmup followed by 20 minutes of intervals with 1 minute running and 90 seconds walking, then a 5 minute cool down. 

It was really hard. I did the running intervals at 5.3 miles per hour (11 minutes and 19 seconds per mile) and the walking intervals at 3.2 miles per hour. I was disappointed to have that chest burning out of breath feeling I used to get when I first started running. By the end of the 30 minute workout, I had only gone 2.09 miles, but I was pouring sweat. It was exhausting, but exhilarating. My ankle didn't hurt exactly, but it still feels a little weak. I'm hoping that that it will continue to get stronger over time, though.


When I got home from class, I still hadn't reached my 10,000 step goal, so I went for another walk at the greenway. It helped that I wanted to listen to some more of my audiobook. I'm currently listening to the last book in the Morganville Vampires series. I'm in the same weird place I go every time I finish a series I've been reading for a long time. I want to finish the book, but I don't want to finish the series because I know how intensely I will feel the loss of the characters. If I read enough books in a series, I start feeling like I know the characters personally. Finishing a series always feels like saying goodbye to a group of friends.


I had a great time roaming the park and people watching. The park was really full today with runners, walkers, and bikers. There were also lots of friendly dogs and children. Normally kids hate me, but today a toddler on a tricycle said hi to me. A few dogs also wanted to make friends. It was fun and I finished the day with a respectable 18,039 steps, which translates to 7.66 miles. The best part is that my ankle felt pretty good. Hopefully I'll have many more 18,000 step days to come.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Walk To Remember


I went for a walk yesterday and it was a good one. After I sprained my ankle, I had trouble walking even short distances so trips to the park were out of the question. It has taken a long time and a lot of physical therapy, but my ankle finally feels strong enough for me to try walking and even running again. Over the past week or two, I've been trying to get in at least 10,000 steps per day of walking. At first, the steps were spread out throughout the day with 1,000 steps here and there until I hit my goal. Yesterday, I decided to try going for one long walk to see how my ankle did with a longer distance.


I went to a local greenway that has 4 or so miles of paved trails. My main goal was to walk at least 4 miles without stopping and throw a few fartlek-style jogs into the mix if the mood struck. I started listening to the Daylighters audiobook a couple of days ago. It's the last book in the Morganville Vampire series and I was looking forward to some quality listening time while I enjoyed the spring weather.


I was not the only one out enjoying the sun. I'm not sure if you can see it, but in the bottom left corner of the picture above, there is a turtle hanging out on that rock. He (or she) was too far away to photograph well, but I stopped to watch him for a little while. I remember learning somewhere that turtles and other cold-blooded creatures sunbathe to get warm. He picked a great day to bask in the sunlight.


When I got to a flat stretch of trail with minimal debris, I decided to try a little jogging. It went pretty well. Running was not painful, but it did feel strange. I had a lot of trouble balancing on my ankle after I sprained it and the doctor said I would have to teach it to hold and balance my weight again. If I had to re-learn basic things like balancing on that foot, it shouldn't come as a surprise surprise that running on it feels alien. I hope that with time and patience running will feel comfortable again.


By the time I made it back to my car I felt great. It has been a really long time since I could just go for a walk without my ankle bothering me. It was nice to get outside again and enjoy the fresh air.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fear of Falling


According to Wikipedia, most humans and mammals have a natural fear of falling, at least to some degree. I suppose I was always afraid of falling from very great heights, but on my first ride after my bike wreck, I discovered that I have a brand new fear of falling from the very small height of my bike. I was okay on the flat and uphill portions of my ride, but going downhill was more harrowing than exhilarating. The reverse was true before my wreck.

To be fair, the gouges on my leg still aren't fully healed after five days and there are still a couple of areas that are a little swollen. When I fell, one of the pedals of the bike came down on my leg. The grooves in the pedal dug into my leg and since the entire weight of the bike came down on my leg in that one spot, I think there was more damage than I initially thought. The area around the cuts looks a little bruised and swollen. I also banged my knee and it's still a little sore.


I'm healing, but the experience has left a mark on me in more ways than one. I rode 3 miles on my first ride back, but it might take a while before I stop feeling like I'm going to fall every time the pavement is uneven or I go downhill. For right now I'm letting myself feel the fear, but as my wounds heal, I'm hoping that part will heal too. Time will tell, I guess.


This week at school has been particularly beastly, and I'm not particularly proud of my food choices. I was in a short course all day today and I wound up getting lunch at Starbucks instead of trying to make it home and back during the one hour lunch break. I had a ham and Swiss panini, kettle cooked chips, and a chocolate chip cookie. The green tea was sweetened with Splenda, but after the chips and the cookie it seemed like a futile effort. 

I did go for a two mile walk after dinner and, big news: I jogged for about a minute. I know that's a ridiculously small victory, but I had my last two physical therapy appointments last week and they said that as long as I was walking without pain I could try doing intervals. I think it's going to be a while before I get back to my former marathon-training glory, but I have hope. I didn't collapse in a screaming heap of pain after I finished my minute, so I think I will try a 1/4 to 1/2 mile interval run on the treadmill and see how it goes. Here's hoping I'll be writing about miles again soon.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Crash Course (Macmillan Audio Giveaway Winner Announced)


I'm not going to say my weekend was all bad because I managed to perfect my English Muffin Pizza recipe. In the original recipe, I baked the pizzas in a pan because I wanted to post the recipe here and I thought that most people would have a pan. Over the weekend I tried the recipe again and baked the pizzas directly on my pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for ten minutes. It was magical. The English muffins had more of a crust-like taste when baked on the stone and the cheese! Don't get me started on the utter deliciousness of the cheese. I also took the time to slice the turkey pepperoni this time. It made for much prettier pictures. 

Unfortunately, the pizza was the only thing that made me happy this weekend. On Saturday morning, I woke up early and decided to ride my bike to the park. It was going really well too. I had almost reached the park when I hit an uneven patch of sidewalk. Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows what's coming next. One second I was happily riding towards the park and the next second I was falling and wondering how bad it was going to hurt.
Unlike the ankle spraining incident, I was able to walk home. Much like the tripping during my long run incident, there was blood, an overwhelming sense of embarrassment, and a goose egg sized lump on my knee the next day. Since it was such a beautiful day, there were plenty of people outside to witness my mortification. The good news is that no one laughed at me. This is probably because there was blood running down my leg and the sweatshirt I was wearing was, well, let me just show you:


Several people asked if I was okay. I did my best to look appreciative, but all I really wanted was to crawl under a large rock and hide. Unfortunately, that was not a viable option since the pedal of my bike had gouged a line of little holes in my leg that needed cleaning and bandaging. I thought about riding my bike home, but decided against it. It's a good thing too since I learned when I started walking my bike towards home that something was now wrong with the front tire. It was not rolling smoothly and when I tried clicking through the gears it was really hard to get it into the lower ones. 

After the adrenaline wore off, my leg was pretty sore so I spent Saturday and Sunday morning resting. By Sunday evening I was walking a bit less gingerly so I decided to go for a gentle walk and listen to the rest of The Fault In Our Stars. Between that book and discovering two heartbreakingly beautiful Keaton Henson songs called "You" and "10 AM, Gare du Nord" respectively, I have been feeling all the maudlin feels. That is not a book/cd pairing I recommend unless you are in the mood for a really good cry.

Today went a little better. I went to the bike store before dinner and after about twenty minutes, the mechanic was able to fix whatever it is I did to my bike. It involved taking the front wheel off and pounding the quick release on the counter. It was a little terrifying that fixing my bike involved all of that, but it worked. When I asked him what I owed him, he told me no charge because the story was enough. 

Macmillan Audio Audiobook Giveaway Winner
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Macmillan Audio Giveaway! The winning entry is:
Congratulations, Kris! Send me an email at downsizingashleyblog@gmail.com to claim your prize. If I don't hear from you in 72 hours, I will choose a new winner.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The View From My Bike


Before I left the bike store, I asked the mechanic to show me how to take the front wheel off my bike so I could fit it in my car. He made it look like something I could accomplish at home. Of course, it was nowhere near as easy as he made it look. I was finally able to figure it out yesterday after two youtube videos and some creative cursing. It only took me twenty minutes to the mechanic's twenty seconds. In any case, I finally got comfortable enough taking the tire off and putting it back on that I decided to try transporting my bike to one of my favorite greenways for an afternoon ride.



I know how to dress for cold runs, but it seems I do not know how to dress for cold bike rides just yet. I'm fairly certain I need to buy some sort of wind blocking layer, but I need to do some research to figure out what I need and where to buy it cheap. I'm also thinking about replacing the saddle that came with my bike. The bike I got is technically supposed to be a men's bike which means that the saddle was not built with girly parts in mind. I know that they make bike seats specifically for women, but I haven't decided yet if the problem is that I'm not used to sitting on a bike seat or that the bike seat I'm using is not the best one for me. I had to go back to the bike store to pick up the helmet I ordered anyway, so I asked the mechanic about it. He recommended putting in some miles on the current seat to see if I could break it in. We'll see how it goes.


I mentioned on Twitter that I was thinking about buying a pink leopard print bike helmet and, as you can see, that is exactly what I did. I'm fairly certain people are going to make fun of me, but if I survived my racist high school classmates, I'm pretty sure I can survive this.  if I have to wear a helmet, I may as well get one with some personality. What do you think?

**********

I started listening to the audiobook version of The Fault in Our Stars a couple of days ago and I promised myself that I would ride at least 3 miles so that I could get in some quality listening time. The book is a coming of age story about two teenagers with cancer who meet at a cancer support group. As someone who was once a teenager with a chronic illness, I can say that John Green has done a masterful job of capturing the sick kid experience, right down to the dark humor and heartbreak of it all. I have a feeling this book is going to make me ugly cry at some point, but I'm also really excited for the movie to come out so I can see if Shailene Woodley does the Hazel character justice. I hope this will be one of the movies based on a book where they actually get it right.


I wound up riding out 1.5 miles and then turning back because my hands were freezing. I passed several runners/walkers along the way and it made me feel a little better that I was not the only person out in sub 40 degree weather trying to burn some calories. I can always count on the die hard runners to keep me company on the trail. At least there's that, I guess.

EDIT: Sorry if this shows up in your Bloglovin' feed several times. I'm having trouble with one of the pictures. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

English Muffin Pizzas


When I first started losing weight, I ate a lot of Lean Cuisine meals because I thought it was the only way I could still enjoy my favorite foods without abandoning my diet. I was particularly obsessed with their Deep Dish Three Meat Pizza. Like eat it everyday without fail obsessed. The "meal" is basically just a personal size pizza that you microwave. As with all Lean Cuisine meals, the calorie count is relatively low, but they seem to achieve this by using low-calorie or fat free ingredients that aren't the best quality or the most flavorful. Why settle for a frozen meal when you can easily (and quickly) make something that tastes better at home? Enter the English Muffin Pizza. 

Ingredients
English Muffins
Pizza Sauce
Shredded Mozzarella
Other Toppings (optional)
Note: You can make these lower in fat/calories by using Light English Muffins, a low fat pizza sauce, and a low fat/fat free mozzarella. If pepperoni is your thing, try turkey pepperoni. It has fewer calories and less fat than the regular kind. You can also add fresh herbs to this recipe for an even bigger flavor boost. I hid some fresh basil under the cheese ;)

Method
This is one of those recipes that is almost too easy to be called a recipe, but here we go. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut an English Muffin in half and lightly toast the halves. They should be very lightly browned. I did this step in a toaster. Top the toasted halves with about a tablespoon of pizza sauce and spread it over the top of the English Muffin. If you are using fresh herbs, I recommend adding them now. If they go on top of the cheese, they may wilt/burn in the oven. Next, sprinkle a thin layer of shredded mozzarella over the pizza sauce. I think I used about 1.5 tablespoons per English Muffin half, but my cheese gets pretty melty. Add more cheese if you need it to cover your English muffin half. It's okay if you can still see dots of sauce through the cheese. Remember that the cheese will melt together when you put your pizzas in the oven. 

If you are using additional toppings like pepperoni, add them on top of the cheese. Pro tip: These pizzas are small, so slicing your pizza toppings so they fit better is a good life choice. Or you can be practically uncivilized like me and tear your pepperoni into quarters instead of using a knife. It's up to you. The pizzas will still taste good either way, they just may not be as photogenic. Once your mini pizzas are assembled, transfer them to a baking sheet and pop them in the oven until the cheese melts and your sauce gets hot. In my oven this took 8-10 minutes, but cooking times may vary. Once the cheese melts, take the pizzas out of the oven and serve them hot. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Macmillan Audio Listen While You Work Out Review and Giveaway

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I frequently listen to audiobooks while I work out. That's why I was so excited when someone from Macmillan Audio contacted me about reviewing their Listen While You Work Out campaign. The idea is that when you are listening to an audiobook, you want to keep "reading" until you finish the chapter. If you are at the gym and you are almost to the end of a chapter, maybe you will keep working out a little bit longer to find out what happens next.

(Image Source)

Here's an excerpt from the Listen While You Work Out press release that explains more about the program:

"Active listeners can join the program by signing up on the website and logging in the amount of minutes that they spent listening to audiobooks that week. The website will include sample audiobooks that will push listeners to work out longer, and examples of how many calories they will burn while listening to chapters from those particular audiobook while doing various activities. Each week, the website will highlight the top five listeners (who have worked out the most) and be updated with new audiobook releases, testimonials from participants, and words of encouragement to keep listeners on track to keep going and burn more calories! The campaign will run from February to June and participants are encouraged to join at any point during that period in order to get in shape and enjoy great books while doing it."

Macmillan was nice enough to send me a free download of Runner by Patrick Lee to review for the program. The book itself was pretty good--a standard thriller that reminded me of Lee Childs' stuff. I started listening to it a couple of weeks ago while I was out walking. I definitely notice that I spend more time being active when I am in the middle of a good audiobook. Once the book has been transferred to my phone, I can listen to it while walking to class or work, I can "read" at the gym, or I can spend some time with my favorite characters while I'm getting used to my new road bike. I have not been able to run for a while due to my injury, but I always liked audiobooks for those slow training runs where the focus is on endurance rather than speed. I run faster with music, but if all I want is to keep my mind occupied while I push myself through a grueling long run, an audiobook is perfect.

(Image Source)
My one criticism about Macmillan and the program is regarding a technical issue I had with the download rather than with the idea behind the program. The audiobook they sent me downloaded in several parts, which is great because it makes the download go faster. However, once the files were on my iPhone, they did not show up in the audiobook folder of the phone. I didn't think this was a big deal at first, because all the parts of the book showed up as an album in my album folder, but the problem with this later became clear. 

Because the book was formatted as an album rather than an audiobook, iTunes did not save my place in the book when I stopped it to listen to music or turn off the Music app. I had to try to remember which of the multiple parts I had left off at and how many minutes and seconds into that part I was. Plus, because iTunes thought the book was a music album, it kept trying to play parts of the audiobook when I turned my music on shuffle. Maybe it's something that I did wrong with transferring the file, but I found the technical problems a little annoying. It is not a complete deal breaker since I think the problem is fixable. I have purchased audiobooks from other companies that do not have this issue because they format the download as an audiobook. I hope this is something the tech gurus over at Macmillan will look into in the future to make the customer experience smoother.

Overall, I think Listen While You Work Out is an awesome idea. Macmillan has managed to combine two of my favorite things, reading and working out, into one campaign. If you are interested in getting involved, check out their website here.

Audiobook Giveaway
Macmillan has been nice enough to offer one lucky Downsizing reader a free audiobook download! To enter, leave a comment on this post by March 8 at 11:59 PM Central telling me the name of the best book you have read recently. That's all you have to do. One entry per person. Each entry will be assigned a number and the winner will be selected at random using a random number generator. The winner will be announced in a blog post after the giveaway ends. Good luck everyone!  

*Macmillan Audio gave me a free download for purposes of this review and a second download to give to one of my readers. I did not receive any further compensation for this post. As always, all opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My First Grownup Bike

They say you never forget how to ride a bike. I can still remember my grandfather taking the training wheels off my tricycle when I was a little girl and trying to show me how to balance without them. I can also remember crashing shortly thereafter and insisting that he put the training wheels right back on. Eventually I learned to ride without them, but when I bought my first road bike last week, I wasn't sure how well my grandfather's lessons would transfer to adult bike riding. 

My fears were somewhat justified. Other than a brief bike rental on the Aran Islands when I studied abroad in Ireland, it had probably been a good decade since I was on a bike. Even then, road bikes are very different from the cheap, heavy, single speed mountain bikes I grew up on. Higher end road bikes have thinner wheels, more gears, and taller seats than what I was used to. When I walked out of the bike store I had no idea what to expect.


I spent so much time asking questions and ordering a helmet when I picked up my bike that I didn't get a chance to test ride it before I left the store. I was somewhat worried about riding it without a helmet anyway. Just for kicks I got on it and tried peddling on a stretch of sidewalk once I left the store. It didn't go well. I was carrying my heavy purse on one shoulder which threw my balance way off and  I realized within a few seconds that I was on a tiny incline which made me go faster than I would have liked. 

I immediately panicked and tried to stop by slamming my feet down like I would have as a kid, except that road bike seats are supposed to be high enough that only your tiptoes touch the ground when you're seated so stopping with my feet was not happening. I probably wasn't going as fast as I thought I was and I was able to stop myself fairly easily once I reminded my fear-addled brain that the bike had brakes, but it scared me enough that I decided I needed to go to a local park with a multi-use pedestrian path so I could practice riding the bike in a low-stress environment.

Of course, by the time I finally took the bike to the park for the first time, I had overreacted and convinced myself that I had forgotten how to ride a bike. Just in case anyone anyone is wondering, there are youtube videos on how to teach kids to ride bikes and also a New York Times article about learning to ride a bike as an adult. If you are lucky enough to live in New York, there are also adult bike riding classes. This is what happens when you combine my wild imagination with free time and access to google.


Anyway, to make a long story short, I took my bike to a local park yesterday, found a stretch of pavement with no pedestrians for me to run over and tried to ride my new bike for the second time. I did not have a heavy bag throwing off my balance and I was careful how much force I used on the pedals when I took off so that I didn't go too fast. I found my balance almost immediately and kept pedaling. And just like that, I was riding my first road bike. 

I made the mistake of going to the park before my physical therapy appointment, so I only had time to ride one loop of the park before I had to rush off to my appointment. That brief time was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have had in ages. I road to the top of a hill just so I could experience the rush of coming down again. I played with the gears, I pedaled fast, I pedaled slow, I learned how to stop safely. I was not at the park for very long, but by the time I left, I felt confident that spending over $500 on a bike was not a mistake.


This morning I had more time so I did something I haven't done since spraining my ankle: I turned on my Garmin. It took me a good ten minutes to find it because I haven't used it since the day I rolled my foot. It felt strange to use it for something other than running, but since my ankle still feels weak and unsteady when I do my balancing exercises or step on something like a twig that isn't perfectly even and steady, I don't think I'm ready to run on it just yet. Instead, I spent my morning getting in a few miles on wheels.

I am still not confident enough to ride my bike on the street, so I was that dangerous cyclist on the sidewalk this morning. I rode to the park, stayed until the bike seat started feeling uncomfortable, then rode home. There were a lot of uphills in the route I took, and pedaling up them reminded me of how out of shape I have gotten since I haven't been running. I was sweaty and out of breath in a way I haven't been since starting Couch25k a couple of years ago. The feeling was almost painful, but it hurt so good to make my muscles work again.