Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bye Bye February!

And good riddance!

I was due for a tough month, I know. February filled the role nicely.

I already wrote about my nasty cold keeping me home from work and slowing down my runs and my first race since the Houston Marathon. Well, last Saturday I got a nice urinary tract infection to top off the week and the month. Luckily (?), when I realized I was coming down with this bug, I happened to be in the emergency room already with my daughter, who had a mysterious throat ailment that fortunately turned out to be nothing. Having established that Ruthie was OK, they admitted me, gave me the necessary test....and here I sit, on antibiotics. I'm very glad that they caught the thing before it had a chance to turn into a kidney infection, as happened last summer.

In light of all of this, I decided to modify my training schedule for this week and treat it as a recovery week in more than one sense of the term. I had a nice easy 6 miles on Monday, a toned-down fartlek workout yesterday (5 2-minute intervals instead of 7 3-minute ones) and a 30-minute run this morning that felt pretty glacial and therefore served mostly to take the edge off my exercise craving. I'm hoping that next week I can return to my full-on schedule. That half-marathon in April isn't going to run itself.

On the other fronts.....My Lenten pledge to eliminate sugary treats has gone much better than my training. Colds and antibiotics both cut my appetite, so the cravings (though still there) are blunted. I allowed myself my usual Sunday treat (Cadbury eggs last weekend!), and this week's abstention is going fine. (Mostly. Today someone brought some scrumptious-looking apple turnovers to work and left them on the table in the break room that I call the trough....that was the first really tough challenge I've faced.....first-world problem, big-time, right? :^) )

Perhaps because the sweets are gone, eating smart in other ways has been easier. Lots and lots of fruit, Mario Lopez's chicken enchiladas (one my favorites in his book because they are tasty and easy), chicken noodle soup, non-fat plain Greek yogurt (I had been eating too much of the fruity kinds) and greens are back on the menu.

My back and hamstrings are still hurting, and despite some dire reports on dry needling that I've read on other blogs I'm looking forward to getting started with it and any other physical therapy that's prescribed at my appointment next Tuesday, March 6. I'm also looking forward to the insurance-covered massages!

I definitely recommend the MYRTL routine (see video below--it's the first in the series), which my doctor told me I should do after every run. I've been pretty good about this (I don't always do it after the super easy ones, but even after those I do at least try to do part of it). Created by Coach Jay Johnson here in Boulder, it's the first core routine, combined with dynamic moves to keep your hip girdle happy, that I've been able to do without increasing my back pain. And as you'll see if you visit the link, you can progress to more difficult versions that include leg work as well (I'm not there yet; I'm sticking with the moves in the first video until I see the physical therapist next week).

Running Times: Part 1 from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

Finally (and I apologize for this long post), I think I fixed the problem that was preventing many of you from commenting! Please let me know if that's not the case!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ninja Trail Runner?

The new Asics are white no more.
Trail runs are the #1 thing I like right now.

Today originally was supposed to include a return to Magnolia Road, the classic Boulder run. Kathy was going to come up to run it with me, as she needs some serious hill challenges ahead of April's Big Sur Marathon (and me, I just like Ol' Mags).

But the cold I mentioned after last week's Snowman Stampede 5 Mile race turned out to be a bigger foe than I thought. I ended up shuffling through the Presidents' Day holiday and then feeling so bad that I stayed home from work on Tuesday AND Wednesday. I managed a weak 50-minute run on Tuesday, but afterwards had one those headaches, very rare for me, that start with flashers and end up with me in bed for a couple of hours in the dark. So Wednesday I just cut my losses and went straight for the bed. The one good thing about it is that it explains my disappointing performance in the race the prior Saturday.

I'm much better now, but I wasn't up for Ol Mags and her 8,000-plus-foot elevation and hills. I did want something interesting, though, so I ran an out-and-back at Hall Ranch, whose trails are better known for mountain biking, just west of a quirky little town called Lyons in North Boulder County. It's not spring yet, but the mud that marks our trails in that season was already an obstacle. For two hours, I slopped through it and some lingering snow under crystal clear skies, passing only two bikers on the way out and several more bikers, plus three hikers, on the way back.

Sometimes I need to do runs like this to remind myself I live in Colorado. Many of my days, as nice as they are, full of library books, preschool activities, grocery shopping and time on the Internet, could be lived anywhere. But it's outside in Colorado that you get the whoosh of the wind through evergreens, the intoxication of crushed pine under dirty trail shoes, the glitter of quartz in the half-buried stones you hurdle on the climbs, and the sight of the hoary heads of Long's Peak and Meeker Mountain rearing above you as you round a bend and emerge from a forest into a burn field.

Another thing I like right now are these:

My son Will holding my new *black* Asics. Maybe I should've worn those on the trail. Nah--I need real trail shoes.
Black is my favorite color to wear. The women in my wedding party wore black (and they each chose their own dress in that shade; I wanted them to have a dress they actually liked, and we all know I have no taste anyway). And if I'm not attired like a ninja while running, I feel gaudy.

So when I saw that my Asics GT-2170s come in all black, I wanted some. I didn't want to spend another $110, however. So I went to Zappo's and found last year's model (the 2160) in all black on sale for $80. They arrived the day after I ordered them. I can't wait to wear them on my next easy run (which will be tomorrow since I missed so many runs during the week).

In all their inky glory!
Seriously, though, I had been wanting a second pair of shoes to alternate in with my others. My back and hip's aches are still very much there and will be at least until March 6, when I see the physical therapist my doctor recommended. I'm doing all I can to make things easier on my body without scrimping on training (avoiding a two-hour run on concrete today was part of that plan, too).

If while doing that I can look even more like a ninja on some runs, all the better!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

This little memoir by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami suited me to a T.

At the time of the writing of the essays that make up What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami was in his 50s and a longtime distance runner (he'd run nearly 30 marathons at publication time), though not one who was ever going to make an Olympic team. He's self-deprecating about his running, nonplussed by his age-related slowdown, but also determined to make the best of it, and stay out there.

He writes:

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life....

There are a lot of other interesting thoughts in here. This one in particular made me feel good about not having a runner's physique or a naturally speedy metabolism:

....having the kind of body that easily puts on weight was perhaps a blessing in disguise. In other words, if I don't want to gain weight I have to work out hard every day, watch what I eat, and cut down on indulgences...But people who naturally keep the weight off no matter what don't need to exercise or watch their diet in order to stay trim...Which is why, in many cases, their physical strength deteriorates as they age...Some of my readers may be the kind of people who easily gain weight, but the only way to understand what's really fair is to take a long-range view of things...I think this physical nuisance should be viewed in a positive way, as a blessing. We should consider ourselves lucky that the red light is so clearly visible.

It's such an understated yet optimistic way to view what most of us in that boat see as a huge pain in the neck. Likewise his experience of what he calls the "runner's blues," which he first experienced after completing his first ultra-marathon (despite that race being a triumph for him), and his attitude of mixed disappointment and determination to plow on after he didn't meet his goal for the 2005 New York City Marathon. (On a side note, it's cool for me to think he was running that august event the same year I did.)

Keeping in mind that I know very little about Japan, his attitude strikes me as very Japanese. There's a real love for running in these pages and a determination to keep striving, but it's quiet and tempered.

This was comforting to me, because among those who write about running, I often feel like King Lear's daughter, Cordelia, who just couldn't wax over-eloquent in describing her love for her father (says she: "my love's/More richer than my tongue"). Murakami is the same way: the love is there, but so are the frustrations, the starts and stops, the doubts and imperfections. Not every run is a transfiguration. But amid the ups and downs, there is the author, still putting one foot in front of the other.

That's all the inspiration I need.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Fall Marathon

OK, it's time for some good news.

Last week I got the green light from Linda, my peerless mother-in-law, that she and Patrick, Dan's stepdad, will be able to stay with our twins Will and Ruthie the weekend of October 21. This frees up Dan to travel with me, Kathy and her husband Eric to......Detroit for the Detroit Free Press Talmer Bank Marathon!

I chose this race because of the company (you can't beat having your husband and good friends there; Detroit is Eric's hometown; plus Kathy's friend Melissa, who is a hoot, will be running it in addition to Kathy and me); because it's late enough in the year that it's less likely to be hot (average high on Oct. 21 is 60, average low is 42); and because the course has some bridge hills but nothing horrible (here's the elevation profile).

Another fun thing about this race is that it crosses into Windsor, Canada, for part of the course, so a passport is required to pick up your bib and chip. (No, you don't have to run in place at the border crossing while customs checks your documents! The bib is enough to get you across and back.) This therefore will be my first "international" marathon.

At eight months away, it seems like a long way off, but I know it will be here before I know it.

Anyone out there run Detroit? Kathy did the half-marathon in 2010, so I have some intelligence from her, but all anecdotes are appreciated.

Sidenote about Colds

My cold is still there, not the worst one I've ever had, very much a "first-world problem," but annoying nonetheless. I went to spin class as usual this morning. At first I felt awful--runny nose, slight cough due to post-nasal drip, scratchy throat, fuzzy head--but as the workout ground on, I started to feel better and right now I'm feeling sort of decent. When I got home, I downed a vast amount of tea (I'm still downing it) and took a good steamer of a shower. I'm going to take the kids ice skating in about 20 minutes, which I'm hoping won't set me back to the morning's ugly condition.

While in the shower, I got to thinking about strange things I've tried in the past to rid myself of cold symptoms. The weirdest by far were the ones foisted on me by Russian friends when I was in the Russian Far East in the Peace Corps. These remedies included: a banya (by far my favorite; banyas are Russia's famous steam room/saunas); a menthol-smelling substance applied to my back; vodka pressed through a turnip and mixed with honey (I kid you not; it tasted bad enough to be medicine); vodka with pepper; and of course....straight vodka.

The first six months I lived over there I had a cold like clockwork every two weeks. If those remedies worked, I had no indication of it. The strangest thing I try now is Zicam. I swear it at least minimizes the discomfort.

Do you have any fail-safe cold remedies? (And Caroline, if you're reading, I confess that I've slacked on the probiotics since the Houston Marathon. I'm getting back on the horse, I promise.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Race Report: Snowman Stampede 5 Mile

Well, they say you can't win 'em all. They also say improving at distance running requires patience. And this mysterious relentless paternal "they" also say that you get what you need--which in my case was another notch or two down in my ego.

It's not that the Snowman Stampede 5 mile race today felt hard the whole way. It just felt blah. And every time I looked at my pace on the Garmin it looked blah from that vantage point, too. This was despite perfect chilly temperatures that warmed up to the 40s as the morning wore on, despite warm cheerful sunshine, despite hanging out with Kathy and her friend Melissa (they were doing the 10-mile race that followed the five-miler, too, for 15 miles total as part of their ramp-up for the Big Sur Marathon in April) and despite a flat fast course that I'd had a great time on a year ago in my own showing in the 10-miler.

Part of the problem is that I have a cold. It's not the worst cold ever, and it's not like I can complain, having gone through my entire 16-week training program for the Houston Marathon last month with nary a sniffle. Way better to get a cold now than then, or than four weeks from now when I'm ramping up for a half-marathon. But the cold was there, and it's given me stinky sleep for two nights in a row.

The other part of the problem (as is almost always true) were overly high expectations. I hear all the time about people "using their marathon endurance" to go out and set a personal record in a shorter distance a few weeks after the big one. I wanted that to be me, despite my back, the cold and the poor sleep. I should have known better. On one level, I did know better. But I ignored that little voice of practicality and hoped for the big PR anyway.

All of that, though, just sounds like a bunch of lame excuses. Here's how the race went:

Mile One: My plan was to go out at 8:24 (right around my pace in the Bolder Boulder 10K last year) and then gradually speed up as each mile went on. I executed part one of this plan perfectly--the first mile was done in 8:23. After that, not such a good job.

Mile Two: My legs just didn't speed up. Every time I looked at the watch it was 8:30-plus. I had looked at the elevation profile and this was the part of the course that was supposed to be on a modest downhill. I started to get worried. The Garmin says I did this mile in 8:30, but it must have been slower given my final time.

Mile Three: I felt a little better after the turnaround and some water. I wondered if maybe I hadn't hydrated well enough. Oh well. Too late now. Garmin says I did 8:17, but again I think that was clocking too fast.

Mile Four: In this mile, I actually felt kind of good. I started to pass a few people. Garmin says 8:18. But it was too late for doing really well in this race and I already knew it.

Mile Five: I found a kick and passed a few more people, my nose running like the Platte River the course followed. My back was hurting, I was already disappointed in my time and I just wanted to be finished. The Garmin says I ran this mile in 8:03. I don't believe it was that fast.

The official race results? 42:10 net time, a pace of 8:26/mile--WORSE than my Bolder Boulder pace from last May. I was seventh of 50 in my age group. I know I should be happy to be in the top 10 but........


Since I know it's important find the good in these kinds of disappointments, here's what I can muster:

1) Except for mile one to mile two, my pace got faster as the race went on. It's a good thing when your last mile is the fastest.

2) I don't have another race until mid-April. Plenty of time to improve....and I will be well into physical therapy by then (yay dry needling! it starts on March 6), which hopefully will help my back and my ability to run fast.

3) I think I'll finally get some decent sleep tonight, cold or no.

4) I have four more races in the Spring of Speed. That's four more chances to do better than I did today.

Onward I go. I get knocked down but I get up again.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Checking In With the Ol' Scale

After running a marathon, I've found, I have a magical two-week window where my weight stays where it is despite the loss of miles during taper and recovery. Post-Houston Marathon in late January was no exception. I sat pretty at 127 pounds or so despite not really worrying about what I was eating (including birthday cake and celebratory meals out). At one point my weight even dipped into the 126-point-somethings, a place it hadn't gone even at the height of my mileage.

But now that lovely honeymoon is over.

My last couple of trips to the scale have registered numbers that range from 129 to 131. That's the wrong direction to be moving when I'm trying to get faster.

So it's time to get back on the Mario Lopez wagon: lean foods, meal planning, no sweets.

Yep, it's time.
It's also time for my annual Catholic girl ritual of giving up sweets for Lent, which begins next Wednesday. I've had good success with this most years, ending up leaner and with fewer cravings than when I began. And it's not a two-month-plus period of absolutely NO chocolate. The "rules" for Lent, which is a 40-day period of reflection and self-restraint before Easter, say that sacrifices made for the season don't apply on Sundays because Sundays are themselves mini Easters (and if you count, you'll find you can only hit the 40-day total by leaving the Sundays out). So it works out well for me--I eliminate most of the junk but still get a treat every Sunday.

Wish me luck! Despite the recent creep upwards, I'm starting at a weight that's almost 10 pounds lower than where I was at this time last year. Losing even two pounds should help me meet my speed goals for the spring.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reach Up for the Sunrise

A funny thing happened on my run this morning.

I had a hill workout on the docket: a 25-minute warmup followed by six to eight hills of 90-second duration followed by a 15 minute cool-down. As usual for me during the week, I started in the dark. The streetlamps were illuminated, and I had to watch carefully for black ice on the sidewalks and streets. Early commuters swooshed past me with headlights on. In other words, pretty par for the course for my runs in the winter.

My hill of choice for this sort of thing is on the west side of a big slope. It's on a quiet street called Longs Peak Avenue (while steep, it's not as steep as its 14,259-foot namesake). I dutifully slogged myself up and down it eight times, trying to run as fast as I can, repeating "Light and fast" to the rhythm of my steps, mostly feeling good, but very much "in the run" and oblivious to the sky brightening to the east, especially since the east was hidden by the hill.

When I finished the hard part of the workout, I crested the hill and turned toward home by a winding route. I hoped to finish the cooldown just before my house with a block or so left to walk. I rounded a corner....and found myself bathed in full sunlight. Warm sunlight. Bright sunlight. Wish-I'd-worn-sunglasses sunlight.

Sunlight that said, "Spring is coming."

I haven't run in full sun on one of my morning treks in a long time. The most light I could hope for, even at the end, were the pink and gold streaks of imminent sunrise. That's always pretty, but very much a part of winter.

Now, I like cold-weather running. I like it better than hot-weather running. But what human being doesn't thrill to that first sign that a long darkness is ending?

If you live in a wintry spot, have you had your first sign of spring, however subtle it might have been?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Worldwide Run for Sherry Arnold

God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
--Psalm 46:1 (referenced on the bracelet we all got at the run today)

It was a cold (in the teens) but beautiful day at the Boulder Reservoir when our group gathered for the run for Sherry Arnold.

Here's the group photo I borrowed from Beth's site. I'm in the back in the green beanie, two people over from the tall guy in the dark beanie. Looks like about 30 people to me.....
We'd had more snow overnight, so the Boulder Reservoir and Coot Lake, along with the mountains to the west and the trails we would run, were veiled in fluffy white powder. It was as if the world had been made pure again, a fitting venue for our efforts to honor a good soul taken untimely from her family and friends. I greeted Beth, who handed me a pink memorial bracelet to wear during the run.

Since it was so cold, we all stood around stamping for only a little bit before Beth said a few words about Sherry and then asked for a moment of silence. You almost hear the stray flakes of snow drifting down from the persistent clouds.

A reporter from Channel 2 showed up and filmed us as we took off. Soon we were strung out in a long line.

Sherry's runners in Boulder coming down a hill!
The loop around Boulder Reservoir is about five miles. I'm not sure how many people ran all the way around, but despite the inauspicious weather early on, it turned out to be a lovely run for me. I don't usually stop to take photos even on casual runs, but I did on this one. The snow-covered surface of the water threw back glittering shards of light when the sun finally emerged. On the dam on the Reservoir's far side, I actually got warm enough that I removed my gloves.

Also on the dam I passed Beth. The TV reporter had waylaid her, so she wasn't able to catch the group and was going in the opposite direction. We high-fived. When I got back to the starting point, I stopped for a quick pit stop and then soldiered off on a second loop. I had to run for an hour and 45 minutes according to my plan, and it felt fitting to dedicate the first long run of my new training program to Sherry.

The trail

After I finished, the parking lot was empty. I may have been the last of the Boulder runners for Sherry out there that morning. My hair was frozen and the gloves had come back on, but I felt peaceful and satisfied.

Not a beauty queen, but a happy runner with frosty hair.
I stopped at Starbucks and got a hot chocolate, and also bought a drink for the person in the car behind me. All days should be days for gestures like that, but it seemed especially important today.

My running is usually a solitary activity for me. But today I was part of something bigger. I felt strong, like I was gliding through that snow and that perfect clean air. Like an angel was guiding my feet.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

January Recap and Other Miscellanea

Between my back/hamstring issue and some really busy days at work and at home, I haven't posted a January recap yet. So here it is, along with some other bits and pieces:

1. January was a great month! My trip to Houston was like Woodstock for runners, complete with a great fellow traveler in Kathy (but no mud or rain like the real Woodstock had). I watched the Olympic Marathon Trials live. The following day I ran the Houston Marathon and got a personal record of 3:53:28 (it was not the long-sought Boston qualifying time, so more patience and work are required). After returning home, I got my plan for running some shorter, hopefully faster races this spring. During the month I ran 103 miles--most of it tapering to and then recovering from Houston. And I turned 39!

2. Today I had my first massage with a great therapist named Kate. She will be doing my therapeutic massage work going forward. The part where she worked on my sacroiliac joint was painful, but the result is my overall pain is less. She told me not to expect any overnight transformation. My first dry needling appointment with a physical therapist isn't until March 6. Kate has had that done, as has Laura, a friend of mine at work. They both said it hurts, but that it really helps. I plan to take some Advil ahead of my first session.

3. A couple of months ago, I discovered a beautifully written and inspirational running blog called The Logic of Long Distance. Jeff's last few posts have been so stunning that I wanted to share the blog with you so you can enjoy it too. My favorite post was the one on January 23 entitled "Running as Aesthetic Rebellion." The last few paragraphs pretty much sum up why I run. Here they are:'s hard to explain the practical value of running in a world that seems deadset on winners and losers, discord, chaos, and strife. Its practical value is play--the impractical grace of beauty.

Stride by stride, effort by effort, we stitch the two sides of experience together, matter and spirit. We ride, we flow -- that's play; that's grace; that's beauty. Despite the politicians, the economy, the wild and alienated swirl of contemporary life, despite the fact that everyone tells us we ought to be doing something more productive with our lives, we end up making time to play.

We can't help it. It's called being a human.

4. On Saturday I'm joining Beth of Shut Up and Run on the local Virtual Run for Sherry. The evil act that robbed her family of Sherry hits close to home for many of us, especially those of us who run alone and early in the morning or have loved ones who do. If you're in the area and want to come, I would love to meet you. I will probably be doing two laps or so of the Reservoir, as I have to do a one-hour and 45 minute run. I will be leaving the iPod and the Garmin at home and running this one grateful to be a living part of the sky, the water, the dirt and my fellow travelers.

Here are the details from Beth:

Local Virtual Run in Longmont/Boulder:
  • Meet at Coot Lake (west side of the Boulder Reservoir, behind IBM on 63rd St) at 9:00 a.m.
  • Bring friends, family members, your pet pig, whoever!
  • We’ll start with a moment of silence for Sherry and her family, then start the run/walk together.
  • Feel free to  go as far as you’d like and to fart if you want.
  • We’ll start by making our way around the Reservoir heading south. My guess is most people will go around the reservoir, which is about a five mile loop.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Will This Story Have a Happy Ending?

How my pelvis feels right now.....
Once upon a time there was a runner who liked to say she really hadn't ever dealt with injury. True, she'd had a pesky Morton's neuroma in her foot. But that was (lucky her) easily fixed and hadn't bothered her in a year.

But....she did have this Occasional Pain in her lower back....that sometimes shot down deep into her bottom...and even sometimes down her hamstrings...especially on the left side. Since she'd had it for more than five years, though, she was almost used to it. She didn't talk about it (except to her husband some mornings when the act of climbing out of bed made her feel 90 years old).

Then one Saturday in late January, after she tried to up the intensity of her core workout just a little teensy bit, the Occasional Pain spoke to her. "You know," it said, "I've been here for five years, whispering softly because I'm polite that way, but all you do is ignore me. You ignored me when I asked you not to perch those kids on that left hip, even when they were getting heavier. You ignored me when I told you, 'Not THAT core workout.' You ignored me when I asked you to maybe please not run so much on concrete. You're still ignoring me. So now...I'm gonna YELL at you."

Trying to be respectful, she took two days off running and skipped her weight training class. But the Occasional Pain had had it with her. It refused to go away. She ran easy. She foam rolled. She carried a tennis ball in her purse and sat on it at inappropriate times, like at work.

To no avail.

So she did the last thing she could think of to placate the Pain (which a little over a week later was no longer Occasional).

She went in to see her doctor at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. The same doctor who had saved her foot. Who had been disappointed in a 2:50 marathon in Chicago last year.

Inside the exam room she donned a pair of voluminously unflattering hospital shorts. Her doctor asked her lots of questions. She mentioned her twin pregnancy, her C-section, carrying babies and toddlers around on her left hip, and how each and every time she had tried to focus on her core the Pain had come back.

"Does it hurt when you run?" he asked.

"Sometimes," she admitted. Oh, how she hated saying that out loud!

Her doctor then had her stretch out on the exam table. He manipulated her legs and hips and back. He said her left leg appeared to be a bit longer than her right (she had no idea) and that her "high hamstrings" were very tight--especially on the left.

He looked at her training plan for the Spring of Speed. He told her it was good things weren't going to ramp up too quickly.

He prescribed six weeks of bi-weekly massage (she could almost feel the Pain cheering)....and six weeks of something called "dry needling" (neither she nor the Pain were so sure about that). He gave her a link to a different core workout and stretching routine.

He didn't tell her not to run.

In fact, he told her she will probably be able to run faster once she deals with the Pain.

If that's the case, she doesn't care how many needles it takes, dry or wet.

She's going to turn that Occasional Pain into a Distant Memory.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

5 Ways I Do, 5 Ways I Don't

Not the car I saw today, but you get the idea.

As I was pulling out of the parking lot of one of the many organic grocery stores in Boulder this morning, I noticed several cars with tons of bumper stickers on them. The stickers were typical of this groovy, outdoorsy and often clueless place: "Wag, don't bark." "Coexist" (have you seen this one? where the word "coexist" is spelled with lots of different religious symbols?). "Another mama for Obama." And of course "26.2."

It got me thinking about the ways I do and don't fit in here. Which of course lends itself to a nice list, or in this case a pair of them. Here they are:

5 Ways I Do Belong in Boulder
1. I'm mostly politically liberal. I don't like nasty xenophobia, I believe in taxing the rich, I think it's shameful that we haven't had universal health care in this country and I do believe we need the government to prod people to behave in ways they should behave anyway (e.g. helping the poor).

2. I like to run. And hike. And I like that Boulder funds open space. It's beautiful here. I love being able to step out my door and be in the middle of nowhere in 15 minutes. I know it keeps land at a premium here, which effectively means I can't afford to live in Boulder proper. But I'm OK with that. The trails are worth it to me.

3. The people here are my style (to the extent that I have a style). There aren't a lot of places where dressing up is necessary, including my job. Business casual is as fancy as it gets around here. The stuff that is in style is appealing to me: puffy down vests, low-slung shoes from companies like Born and Merrell, workout clothes and jeans with hoodies. I fit right in.

4. The university means lots of good cultural options--classical music, a planetarium, lectures, continuing ed classes, a Shakespeare festival in the summer, great college sports. You can easily keep learning here, your whole life.

5. I love the weather in all its extremes. My favorite part is the dryness (I've come to loathe humidity and hope I never have to live an East Coast/Midwest summer again), but I also love the dramatic thunderstorms, the snow and even the wind (unless I have to run for two hours in it).

5 Ways I Don't Belong in Boulder
1. I'm a traditional main-line Christian with a Roman Catholic bent. I think the New Age "spirituality" around here has a lot of silly showiness about it, without much substance. This isn't to say there aren't a lot of genuinely good people who espouse those philosophies (nor is it to say that I'm always an exemplar of the best Christian virtues). But if I had a nickel for every "Buddhist" I've met here who's about as far from "Zen" in attitude as you can get, I'd be a rich woman.

2. I really hate talking about politics, but I'm going to do it just for a second. I don't think everyone who is conservative is evil or a dupe. My own family back in Missouri is mostly pretty conservative. There are even some who watch Bill O'Reilly (yeah, I do think he's pretty awful). They are NOT stupid. They've just had experiences that are different from mine and therefore have a different perspective on the issues. I hate it when the typical Boulder liberal tries to engage me in conservative-bashing. I won't do it. I don't even like to bash George W. Bush. I believe it's up to history to judge people like him. How can I judge someone whose role in current events is still so recent? (By the way, this goes for Obama-bashers too.)

3. I don't believe everything should be run by committee. I believe there needsto be real authority figures in certain roles. There was a controversy at my library at the end of January over a volunteer who was asked to step down. The way the good citizens of Boulder reacted was nothing less than the blog-comment letters-to-the-editor nasty-email equivalent of a lynch mob. The way they are still talking about our director is inexcusable. Maybe this decision was a bad one, maybe it wasn't. But I like that our director is MAKING decisions and sticking to her guns. In the past, leadership at the library (and elsewhere around here) has been too easily swayed by the mass of Boulderites who think they know better. I'm glad we have a real leader now. Hopefully she's real enough they won't scare her away.

4. Boulderites love bumper stickers. I've seen entire cars covered with them. I'm not a fan of bumper stickers, if they're on cars that is. I have a bunch at home that I'd love to put in an appropriate place. Maybe a bulletin board in my basement?

5. I don't like obsessing about food. There's not a lot of moderation around here when it comes to food. Vegan evangelists, raw-food evangelists, 21-day cleanse evangelists.....sigh. I wish people would just eat what they want to and stop talking about it. In particular, please don't tell me every time I have a stomach ache that I need to give up dairy or wheat. I like cheese, I like ice cream, I like good crusty bread. I'm going to keep eating moderation.....when I can muster it. I promise no moderation when it comes to chocolate.

For these reasons, I think it's good I live 12 miles away from Boulder proper. I get down there often. But I can also leave. There's a reason they call Boulder "25 square miles surrounded by reality." In my life, I need both the reality and the fantasy.