The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Monday, April 21, 2008

Two Weeks Off Six Weeks Left

For whatever reasons (work, family, friends, holidays), I have not worked out very much in the last two weeks. My two weeks off the program ended with a food fest. It is true that as predicted, Delhi did not have any funky lunch emporiums. But what they do have is a culinary program at the college. The students cooked, prepared, and served us several meals during our meeting, and it was all Dee-lish-us. Especially the cheesecake and the little individual pineapple upside down cake with homemade ice cream. You get the idea. I then drove to my brother and sister-in-laws home on Saturday for a Passover seder featuring some of my favorite foods any time of the year. So after two weeks off the program and six weeks left until My Triathlon, I have to get serious about increasing the effort and getting the work done. I also have to buy a wetsuit! That is on my agenda for this week. Working in Manhattan does have its advantages. There are two stores that sell everything scuba within a reasonable distance from my office.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Road Trip

I work for the State University of New York, and several times a year I get to travel to various campuses within the State University system. Tomorrow I am going to Delhi. This is the perfect road trip. It is probably under 3 hours and most of it is on easy roads. I don’t have to be there until 2 pm, so I have time to go to the gym before heading out. Then I can load the CD player and set the cruise control. When I get to Delhi, maybe I will find a funky little lunch emporium (then again, it is more likely that Delhi is devoid of anything even remotely funky). After the meeting and a friendly dinner, I get to hang out in a hotel room and read, write, or watch TV. And then….. if I may quote my friend Lynn, “the best part of going to these meetings is you get to sleep for 8 hours in a bed all by yourself.” As much as I love DH and sons #1 and #2, I must admit that sometimes I enjoy being by myself. In small doses, of course. For 2 days, there is no dishwasher to empty, or laundry to be folded, or daily reminders of the chores I neglect. I get to interact with some interesting people, too, people that are so different from me. The downside-- the food is usually mediocre but abundant. Boredom often leads to mindless eating. There is usually a lousy “fitness center” in the hotel. Should I bring my sledgehammer? Or my suspension trainer? Hmmm, maybe I will bring some fitness toys on my road trip.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I had an off-week for working out. There was the Santana concert (with special guest the Derek Trucks Band), and Girls Night Out, and brunch on Sunday at which I must have done something wrong because when I got home I fell asleep for almost 2 hours. It wasn't bad having a little break, but this week may not be much better.

I did have time to think about Project Cheap Streak. And I may have already talked myself into buying that SLR. But I think I have to consider some of the other options before I decide what I would buy if I was going to buy something. Then I can decide if I should really buy it or not. So here is option #2: a tandem.

DH and I rarely ride together because he rides much faster than me. If I asked him to, he would be more than happy to slow down enough to ride with me, but then I always feel guilty about holding him back. The solution is I ride with the club, and he either rides with the club (on a different ride) or he rides alone. He does not mind going out for a 30 mile ride by himself. I prefer company. Another solution would be to buy a tandem. The problem with considering this is it's not a sure bet. What if we buy a tandem and then discover we prefer to ride solo? or that transporting it is more trouble than its worth? or we enjoy it but feel guilty because we never get around to riding it as much as we thought we would. There's also a money consideration because $1400 is probably not enough. You can buy a tandem with $1400, but I'm not sure it would be good enough for us to do some really significant riding. Or it might be just enough to make us realize that we should have bought a better one. So it might take packing lunch 3 days a week for 2 years to pay this one off!

It might make more sense to rent a tandem for a few days while vacationing (that might not be as easy as it sounds but worth exploring). And save the $1300 for something else.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

SLR Lust

If I was going to make a deal with myself to pack lunch to save money in order to buy myself something, this would probably be it: a digital SLR camera with a nice zoom lens. I grew up with a camera in my hands. When I was about 10 years old, my father bought me my first 35mm camera. His daughter would not be seen carrying around a Kodak Instamatic! He then packed a pad of paper and a pen in his pocket, took me to the park and taught me how to use the camera. He taught me about the relationship between shutter speed, aperture size and the depth of field. And I was on my way. He always had different cameras and he made sure I always had one. Before I went to college, he gave me an Argus C3.

He even repaired the soft brown leather case that was falling apart, by sewing all the seams with white dental floss. For the next 9 years, I took hundreds of photos with that camera. I loved that camera despite its one shortcoming—it didn’t have a light meter. I had to consider the film speed and then manually set both the shutter speed and the f-stop. It was a range finder, so focusing involved aligning the split image. Then I would hope I got everything right. Most of the time I did, but I knew I wanted an automatic SLR camera. When I graduated and got my first job, I was living at home and had very few expenses. When I got my first paycheck, I bought a camera—an Olympus OM10. I still own it, but I haven’t used it since I got my first digital camera. Several years later, I bought another Olympus camera—the XA. That 35 mm camera fit in my pocket and was my companion on so many bike trips! Once I entered the realm of digital photography, I opted for the pocket camera first. I love my little Canon and it is surprisingly versatile. I take it with my whenever I am hiking or biking, and I even take it out just to go take some pictures. This is when I start wishing I had the SLR. There have been times when I have come close to buying it. There are reasonably priced models specifically for the “hobbyist” but I just haven’t made the commitment. I keep telling myself it is something I want not something I need. Is it my cheapstreak talking or am I just too damn practical!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lunch Math

More often than not, I bring my lunch to work. I keep telling myself that the reason I do this is to make sure I eat a balanced healthy meal. By brown-bagging, I am not tempted to overeat, or make poor choices, such as French fries, cookies or Snapple Iced Tea. It also makes it much easier to spread the food out. I can have part of my lunch before high noon, and then finish it later in the afternoon. This works well on days that I go to the gym, so I am not absolutely starving when I am just starting my workout. Then of course there is the politically correct/green rationalization. By bringing lunch, I am consuming fewer resources (by avoiding the packaging associated with take-out) and probably wasting less food (by packing leftovers instead of tossing them after they sit in the frig for several days).

Over the last week or two, I have come to the realization that there is another reason that I bring my lunch. I am cheap. I could have said frugal or economical or some other euphemism for cheap. But the plain truth is I do have a streak of cheap, and every time I buy lunch in midtown Manhattan I suffer from sticker shock. Now there is no shortage of lunchtime dining choices within a half block radius of my office front door. And many of them do offer healthy and delicious choices. There’s Hale and Hearty, serving soups and salads. And Chipoltle with their delicious burritos (an example of overeating: the burritos are BIG and I always eat the whole thing). But lunch costs at least $7, and usually $8 or $9. If I did this 4 days a week (I work 4 days/week, not 5), then that’s at least $30 a week, or $120 a month! or about $1400 a year!! Okay, so the lunch I pack is not free, but it certainly costs much less. Let’s say a brown bag lunch costs $2, and I do that 3 days a week, then I am saving at least $16 a week, or $64 a month, or at least $700 a year. And whenever I pack my lunch, DH gets a lunch too, so between the 2 of us, that’s $1400 a year.

I am hereby initiating Project Cheap Streak (PCS). I am going to use my cheap streak to encourage the adoption of healthy habits and brown bagging, by investigating what I could buy for myself for $700 (PCS7) or for my family for $1400 (PCS14). This could be interesting because I am not a material girl. I don’t usually go for expensive clothes or jewelry or make-up. But I’m sure I can think of ways to spend that kind of money. That doesn’t mean I am going to buy any of these things as a reward for packing lunch 3 days a week for the next year. It’s just a way to motivate me by thinking about the money as well as the good healthy food I will be eating.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sucking it Up

On Sunday afternoon, I went out for another “training ride,” for slower riders looking to improve their skills, and maybe get faster. It was a 30 mile ride, and it was hilly. There were a few folks with skills and speed equivalent to mine, and there were a few riders who are stronger and faster. To a certain extent, it’s always the faster riders that set the pace for the rest of the group, so off we went! This is exactly the kind of motivation I need to push myself to work harder and ultimately (I hope) improve. Even if I don’t really get faster, at least I will get more comfortable trying to ride faster (does that make sense?). There was no sag wagon and there was no way I was getting off the bike to walk. There were moments (F*%#K ANOTHER hill) when I had to tell myself to suck it up and keep the wheels turning.

On Tuesday evenings I swim with the Master’s Swim Team. I am now at the point where I do the same workout as the “faster” swimmers, but with slightly shorter distances. At the end of every workout, we usually do 100 yard medleys (that’s 25 yards of each of the competitive strokes—butterfly, back, breast and freestyle), usually two of them. Well, on Tuesday night, we did FIVE. I pushed pretty hard on the first two, because I didn’t know there would be 3 more! After 3, I thought I might puke. After 4, I thought I might die. I thought the coach might die when he said 1 more, because my teammates were ready to kill him. Once again, it was time to suck it up and just get through it so I could get out of the F*&^King pool/torture chamber. I did not die. I didn’t even puke. I did sleep well!

Sucking it up is very similar to Dab the Wussy. The difference is when you dab the wussy, you are focusing on a particular activity and planned your workout to induce discomfort. You do it because you know it’s hard. Sucking it up typically involves no planning. You find yourself at the edge and you have no choice but to push yourself. The end result of both is the same—you get stronger, faster, better at whatever it is you are doing. And then you can go eat and take a nap with no guilt!