Low water crossings

As you’ve probably seen in the news, Central Texas experienced devastating floods over Memorial Day weekend. Yeah, we’ve been in a drought for the last 5-8 years and desperately needed the rain, but not all at once.

I wish I had some before-and-after pictures for comparison. But I don’t, so these will have to do. Here’s what some of my usual running routes look like post-storm. 

Reservoir trail

Brushy Creek Regional Trail

Things are much worse in other parts of Central Texas, so I’m not complaining. Just … stunned  at the sheer volume of water.

How to help Central Texas Flood Victims

The city that never sleeps

I’m used to waking up early–my weekday alarm rings at 5:30 and I get up on Saturdays around six to run. But 3:00 in the morning on a Thursday? That must mean I’m traveling.

This time, I was accompanying a group of theater kids–including my own child–to New York City.

We touched down in the Big Apple around 10:30 and headed into the city. We had lunch at Grand Central, walked around Central Park, dodged some rain and drizzle, then juuuuuuust missed our scheduled entry to Top of the Rock. So we regrouped and visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Plaza instead. Late in the afternoon, we checked into our hotel near Times Square, then changed clothes for the evening.

With 25+ adolescents, dining options need to include buffets or family-style service. This first night, we ate Chinese, then made our way to Times Square to see Finding Neverland, starring Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer, the latter delivering the best line of the show [spoiler alert] when his character, in a tavern, is asked whether “you say ‘cheers’ in your country?” Frasier Crane looked sardonically at the audience and said something like, “Yes, I believe we do.”

I really enjoyed the show, and afterward we waited by the stage door hoping some of the actors would come out and sign autographs. Quite a few of them did, including Morrison, but even though he signed all of the playbills around mine, he skipped me. Sad fact. Still, it was fun.

Back at the hotel, I set my alarm for 6:30. I’d been awake for more than 21 hours, but the next morning’s itinerary had us out the door by 7. I guess compared to 3:00, it was like sleeping in.

Our first stop was the Today show for their first summer concert of the year. Meghan Trainor was performing, and the little concert space had filled up with a disproportionate number of teenage girls shrieking “Meghan!” as though they were long lost friends. We had made it fairly close to the front, but thanks to the sea of phones and forest of selfie sticks, I couldn’t see much. A pink dress, some blonde hair. B could see even less. It was kinda fun, but we bailed after her first song and grabbed breakfast across the street while we waited for the rest of the group.

After the concert (I use that term loosely–I think she sang two songs) we walked over to Rockefeller Center for our rescheduled visit to Top of the Rock. Missing the previous day’s appointment turned out to be serendipitous because the weather was amazing.

B and I had been here a couple of years ago, and it had kind of freaked him out. Unlike the the Empire State Building’s wall and fencing, TotR’s glass barriers made him anxious. We started at the indoor observatory, and after a while he felt comfortable enough to go outside. He didn’t get too close, but he did take a few pictures and looked around. He didn’t volunteer to go up another level, but I coaxed him up there with a promise of ice cream.

From there, we visited the Lego store (it should surprise no one that B bought a Lego space shuttle) and then met up with the group for a tour of Radio City Music Hall. Built in the 1930s, it’s a stunning structure. The theater, the stage, the foyer, and the art appear to be appropriately-sized for King Kong himself. We visited the opulent Men’s and Ladies’ lounges and we met one of the Rockettes.

After lunch, we got brave. We took 46 people on the New York City subway from Rockefeller Center to the Natural History Museum. A passenger inadvertently bumped another one on the train, and the bump-ee started insulting the bump-er. “Do you speak English? We don’t need your kind in New York,” he sneered. Ambassador for NYC, he was not. Fortunately our stop was next and we herded our group out quickly.

After Natural History, we got back on the subway (incident-free!) to midtown and dinner, then back to Times Square for Aladdin. I don’t know what I was expecting–maybe the Disney factor caused me to underestimate it–but the performance was terrific. Everyone knows the Genie is Robin Williams personified, right? Who can possibly fill those shoes? Well, it quickly became clear why the actor won a Tony for this role. It was a lot of fun!

By this time, I think I’d managed a total of ten or eleven hours of sleep over the past two nights. And Saturday morning our first activity wasn’t until 9:30, so I could have moved the alarm forward and slept in a little. But I didn’t. I’d brought my running shoes, and Central Park was calling my name.

Our hotel was under a mile from the Columbus Circle entrance, so I headed north up 8th Avenue. A few people were out, but generally the streets were quiet. New York may be the city that never sleeps, but at 6:30 in the morning it’s definitely a bit drowsy.

At Columbus Circle I ran into the park, still heading north. I love how just a few steps in, Central Park is quiet enough to make me forget I’m right in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. I hadn’t brought my headphones–I just wanted to enjoy the park.

As I ran, I noticed a few people wearing highlighter-yellow safety vests and wondered if Central Park had suddenly gotten serious about enforcing crosswalk usage. But I soon saw the real reason–a cycling race was taking place in the park, and the volunteers were ensuring that pedestrians didn’t get flattened when the peloton sped by. They used an elaborate whistle system, almost like Morse code, sending alerts down the line. Then the motorcycle escort appeared, followed by a hundred humming wheels and a blur of vibrant color. As quickly as they appeared, they were gone again. Until their next circuit, anyway.

After another mile, somewhere north of the Natural History Museum, I turned sort of east-ish and south-ish. I meandered around the Shakespeare in the Park theater, the Bethesda fountain, and some kind of lighthouse. I encountered so many runners, I felt like maybe I’d somehow joined a race. I found Cleopatra’s Needle behind the Met, then continued due south down the mall following a south-ish, west-ish direction until I got back to Columbus Circle. Back on 8th Avenue, shops began showing signs of life, but the quiet storefronts were a jarring contrast to the activity in Central Park.

Door to door, I ran five miles, and despite the early hour, it was glorious. I stopped to take a few pictures, but other than that I never wanted to walk, never felt it was difficult, never looked ahead to a red light or a possible stopping point. It was one of those rare, gorgeous mornings when everything clicked.

After shower, breakfast, and coffee, I met up with the crew and we went to Madame Tussaud’s. We had over an hour in there, but B and I really only needed 30 minutes. Done, and done. Then we headed to Chinatown for lunch and shopping. I’m not much of a shopper, but I found a coffee shop that fit the bill.

Next up, we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, along with about half of New York City: the gorgeous weather had brought out tourists, runners, people walking tiny dogs or riding rental bikes. From there we went back to Little Italy for dinner at Puglia. I had the napkin song stuck in my head for hours afterward!

After a quick change of clothes, it was off to Les Miserables. I’d never seen it before, never even read the novel (bad English major!) so I was surprised that the actors sang everything, including dialogue. They were all extremely talented, but my sleep-deprived brain struggled to follow along. I’m pretty sure B slept through most of it. After the show, we got to stick around and meet the stage manager and a couple of cast members. One of the guys played sixteen roles in the show, and apparently that night he performed the barricade scene with a hole in the back of his pants. The woman who plays Cosette told us the scenery had some kind of snafu, because of which she barely made her entrance. This was news to the stage manager who started furiously texting someone. At some point the guy who plays the lead appeared, then disappeared. A minute later he emerged from a side door. Guess he didn’t want to chat. One of the actors called him out, but he just kept a’walking.

I don’t know about the kids, but after we got back to the hotel I crashed.

All of a sudden, it was our last day of the trip. We started with a voyage across the harbor, past the Statue of Liberty, on the Staten Island ferry. On the Staten Island side, everyone had to get off and then get back on again, but it’s free so what can you do?

Back in Manhattan, we walked through the financial district. Apparently it’s good luck to touch the bull statue’s, erm, brass balls. I noticed they’re shiny, much like Freddie Mercury’s butt in Montreux.

The September 11 Memorial is a bit different since B and I visited in 2012. I guess because of construction, the site had been surrounded by fences, and we had to have a timed entry ticket. Now the walls are gone and the eight-acre site has an open, welcoming feel. Flowers adorned several names as the newly-completed Freedom Tower watched over the pools where the towers once stood.

The number of people taking selfies and posing for smiling pictures turned my stomach though. Maybe they’re too young to remember, maybe they’re just rude. But my students were, at the oldest, a few months old at the time, and I saw all of them behaving respectfully.

I just ran one day, but I walked the High Line, wandered Greenwich Village, and fought the crowds in Times Square. None of it can offset the Magnolia Cupcakes or the gallons of coffee I consumed, but you can’t accuse me of being sedentary.

New York City may never sleep, but I can only do that for so long. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

I reddies now

After nine hours at B’s lacrosse tournament yesterday, we came home to meet three of his friends for a birthday sleepover.

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They pitched sleeping bags in the living room, watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Netflix, and … well, I presume they eventually went to sleep.

This morning, another thunderstorm woke me up about 5:30, but I went back to sleep. When I finally got up about two hours later, I walked into the mostly-dark living room and was greeted by prone boys and digital screens. They were playing some multi-player game that involved capybaras. They were using English words, but it still sounded like a foreign language. Video Gamish, perhaps.

Around 10:00 the rain let up a bit, and I decided to run. It was cool and drizzly, and after five hours of steady rain, very very wet. Even though I ran six miles yesterday, I decided to take the longer loop just because it was such a pleasant temperature.

Almost a mile in, I reached the creek that runs through our neighborhood. I say “creek,” but in reality it’s a weedy ditch 99% of the time. I don’t remember the last time I saw water running in a creeklike manner.

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A woman driving a Porsche either didn’t see me or didn’t care, because she didn’t change the trajectory of her car at all as she passed me, despite the lack of sidewalks and pedestrian options. Another driver looked down into her lap as she passed. But other than the kid holding an umbrella driving a scooter back and forth through a giant puddle, I didn’t see too many people.

About 2.25 miles in, I crossed the creek again. Here, the main neighborhood road crosses over a small bridge. When I came by here on Thursday, the creekbed looked damp but I saw no water. Today?

IMG_0747[1]I don’t remember the last time I saw water rushing under the bridge here. Wow.

When I got home, the boys had abandoned their devices (possibly because their batteries died) and they were having a Nerf gun battle. B’s Iron Man costume was strewn down the hallway like it had been hit by a truck.

Now it’s quiet again, the sun is shining, and the cats have emerged from hiding. I suppose someday the car wash towels I hung on the clothesline last weekend will dry out, right?

Roly poly obstacle course

Yesterday, the forecast for this morning predicted 98% chance of rain at 7am. But by the time I got up to meet  Sara, it had dropped to an almost negligible amount. It sprinkled on me as I drove, and the sky was overcast, but no rain.

But the recent rains have brought out some unusual sights. Well, unusual for drought-stricken Central Texas, anyway. Standing water in drainage ditches, running creeks, muddy yards and trails, and as I discovered this morning, a bumper crop of roly polys meandering around  the sidewalk.

These things were EVERYWHERE. I really didn’t want to squish them, so for at least two of our six miles, I ended up performing some kind of weird dance as I ran. I’m sure drivers wondered what the hell was wrong with me.

Which may be why I managed to lose my inhaler somewhere along the way. It was the spare one that I keep with my running stuff, and I can get it refilled relatively easily. But damn. I had no interest in retracing my steps for another six miles, so refill it I will.

After my run I drove almost an hour to B’s lacrosse tournament. They went undefeated during the regular season and had three games to play today. I got there near the end of the first game, then stuck around all day–their last game was at five. Their earlier games, they’d won 10-1 and 10-0, which is pretty much how their season had gone. But this one was a tough one. The teams traded scores a few times, and his team was up 5-4 at halftime.

Fortunately they got it together the second half, and they pulled away.

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Now I am listening to four tweenage boys having a nerf war in the back yard. B turned 12 on Thursday, and we are squeezing in a sleepover after the tournament. Which is kind of like dodging roly polys all over again.

Gift horse

Austin is in the middle of some crazy weather pattern in which it’s raining.

And raining.

Yesterday around lunchtime, my school had to send one grade level of kids to class early–most of their classes are held in portable buildings, and they wanted to get kids out there before heavy rain hit. That meant my lunch was ten minutes longer–wahoo!

It rained on and off all afternoon, and although it was dry not actively raining when I got home, I had had a long day, and I was done. I put on my jammies and crawled under the covers with a book.

This afternoon the weather gods downgraded (upgraded?) this area from “exceptional drought” status for the first time in at least five years. The ground is saturated, so continued rains mean runoff into the Highland Lakes. And continued rains there have been.

A couple of times throughout the day, I could hear heavy rain outside. It sprinkled a little on my way home (my car is a mess) but the sun came out as we took B to get ice cream to celebrate his 12th birthday. But as we sat on a bench outside the ice cream parlor, more dark clouds began to roll in.

After our ice cream sojourn, I needed to run. Thursdays have been short runs, usually the three-mile neighborhood loop. When I left the house, it was simultaneously drizzling and sunny.

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But it’s been years since we’ve had this kind of rainfall, and I’m not going to complain. I’m just going to toss my phone into a ziplock, lace up my shoes, and run in the rain. Not looking THAT gift horse in the mouth.

It’s only Tuesday

I generally go to core class on Monday nights–squats, push-ups, crunches, and a bunch of stuff whose names sound like rock bands. Monkeys, Planks, Superman, Medicine Balls.

Which makes running on sore legs Tuesday evenings a liiiiiitle more challenging. So did the rain and slightly overflowing creek.

IMG_0709[1]That was actually a reasonably long leap for my short legs.

It’s rained a lot around here over the past two weeks or so–the Highland Lakes are still critically low, but in general the area is green and smaller creeks are flowing.

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And mushrooms.

With the rain, I pretty much had the reservoir trail to myself, although someone was fishing from a boat a little ways out into the water. I passed two dog-walkers in the park, and a random stranger honked at me while I waited for the light to change. No idea why–I was just standing there. But I finished a slow, soggy four miles on sore legs. I think blurting out answers to this week’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me podcast kept me distracted, but tomorrow’s gonna hurt.

And it’s only Tuesday.

“Sidewalk’s for regular walkin’, not for fancy walkin’.”

We had originally planned to run four miles this morning, but when Sara texted me that she had a conflict, I decided I’d bump it up to five. Not a super-challenging distance, but running by myself increased the degree of difficulty just a little. See, Sara is the good angel on my shoulder–the one who doesn’t let me slack off or walk up hills or slow down when I’m capable of more. Without the good angel, I’m horribly susceptible to that lazy devil.

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The weather forecast shows the lightning-cloud icon for the next ten days, so the overcast sky didn’t really surprise me. The humidity sucked, but a breeze kept the air moving pretty well. I brought my sunglasses just in case. And since I was running by myself, I dug out my headphones and turned on a Stuff You Should Know podcast about Slinky.

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About a quarter-mile in, I realized I’d tied my shoes too tightly. My feet tingled like they had fallen asleep. But I told myself I’d have to wait until the water stop at the one-mile mark to loosen the laces–no stopping early.

Good Angel: 1, Bad Angel, 0

The next mile covered a gradual downhill, then a flat stretch before turning uphill again. Partway up the hill I paused for some water, then ran the rest of the way up. It wasn’t fast, but I kept moving.

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Good Angel 2, Bad Angel 0

I stopped for water again around the 2.5-mile mark. From there, I had another short incline, a quick downhill, and one final big uphill before hitting the homestretch. I hate that hill and have been known to walk it. But last week Good Angel Sara made me run it, so I figured this week I could suck it up and run it again. So I did.

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Good Angel 3, Bad Angel 0

I guess the bad angel had gone back to bed or something, because it was just me and the good angel that last mile. By the time I got back to Rogue, I’d run 5.3 miles. Considering I’d planned to run four with a friend and ended up with more than five alone, I’d call that a success.

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