Sunday, March 27, 2011

Walkable San Francisco

Lombard Street.
From my experience last week, San Francisco is a very walkable city. Even if you are not interested in walking the entire city, the availability of trolleys, buses, BART and even tuk tuks give affordable transportation to interesting walkable sections.

I feel as if I walked a major portion of the city and I didn't walk half as much as my friend Deb did! But because of Deb's adventurousness and planning, I got to see major highlights by foot and trolley.

By taking a trolley up Embarcadero to a major cross street, we walked to Lombard Street -- the crookedest street in America. Though mentioned in a previous post, let me just say walking up Lombard is somewhat challenging and we wondered how the residents of this block deal with it (let alone how they deal with all of the tourists). I imagine their legs are very strong.

From Lombard Street, we walked through some very interesting neighborhoods, went to an open house (it was beautiful), and made our way to Coit Tower. Located on Telegraph Hill, it was built in 1933 at the bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit to beautify the city of San Francisco. Because it was built during the depression, it helped employ people, which I think adds to why the tower is cool. The view from the top is worth the $5 fee. We did not see a lot of green space in San Francisco -- very few parks of any size, no real lawns -- but the area around the tower is green and well landscaped. Definitely worth the visit.

From Coit Tower: the city, the bay and Alcatraz.

China Gate in the pouring rain.
On one evening, Deb and I walked to Chinatown. I had never been to a Chinatown before and was surprised at how quickly you feel as if you have stepped into a foreign country. Deb said the best time to visit was in the morning when the produce vendors are in the streets, but because of meetings and weather, I didn't get to do that. At night the street is lit up and pretty, but many of the shops are closed. The China Gate is great.

Though there is not much green space in the city, there are a few small parks. Each time we encountered one, we were surprised. Later I discovered we had a map that included walking routes which highlight each of these parks. I had planned to visit several, but on my one day off it was pouring rain and I just couldn't do it.

I wish I remembered
which park this was in
We did a lot of walking around Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, both big tourist areas. There were plenty of street performers here (and in other parts of the city) and it almost felt as if our visit had a soundtrack! The crowds were big and the people-watching was fun. I like the human statues, though they also creep me out a little. We visited a museum of old pinball-type games (I can't remember the name) which was also near the submarine Pampanito, built entirely by women -- Rosie the Riveters. There is an Aquarium we didn't visit, but we did see the famous sea lions near the pier.
Warhol self portrait.
Though not intense walking inside, when the weather was really bad we separately visited the Museum of Modern Art and the Ferry Building. I spent about 3 hours in the museum and nearly dried out before heading back outside. There are four other interesting museums I didn't visit. The Ferry Building was on Embarcadero near our hotel, so was easy to get to. There is a farmers markets there on weekends and the shops inside were nice. Lots of organic restaurants, coffee shops and cooking shops. Later in the week I walked along the water from the Ferry Building toward the double decker bridge. It is very pretty this way with fewer tourists and several nice pieces of public art.

There are plenty of other activities we didn't try, such as renting bikes to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and a tour of Alcatraz. (I'm not sure how much walking is involved in visiting Alcatraz.) There are also plenty of nice stores within walking distance of each other if shopping is an interest. (Deb and I are not big shoppers.)

The double decker bridge.
Disclaimer: San Francisco is extremely hilly. There were plenty of times that we adjusted our walking route to avoid streets because of the hills. At other times, such as on our way to Coit Tower, there was no choice -- we had to climb some pretty steep streets. We just took our time, stopped when we needed to and tried to distract ourselves with sights we couldn't find in Ohio. Though it worked for us, I have to admit that at the end of the day, my legs could tell we walked a lot of hills. I should also point out that Deb and I walk a lot -- though if you are reading this blog about walking, you probably already know that. One final point -- there seem to be a lot of homeless people who can be aggressive with their panhandling. Once it started getting dark we felt much more comfortable riding trolleys.

That being said, I was very pleasantly surprised at how walkable the city was! For the most part we were comfortable walking just about anywhere we wanted to go during the day. And when we did get tired, or the rain was too intense, we hopped on a trolley. I hope I can go back someday when I have more free time and the weather is more cooperative.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

At Starbucks Too Long

I think I have officially been at Starbucks WAY TOO LONG! My chai tea latte is ice cold. Not one person here now was here when I arrived. The staff rolled the city trash bins through the restaurant and out the front door to the street. People are starting to look at me weird. My iPod and laptop batteries are starting to die. (I moved twice already and still am not near a power source, and felt weird moving again.) I know that about 75% of the people who come here pull the door handle even though it says "push". Yes, I need to leave. But first a little bit of San Fran.

One of my original intentions coming here was to post photos from walking the city over the past couple of days. I don't have enough time to do that now, but I want to share this photo of Deb and me at the top of Lombard Street. Lombard is the crookedest street in America and the incline is pretty steep. We had to rest several times on our way up. 
At the top of Lombard Street in San Francisco.

What I want to point out in this photo is the tower on top of the hill way in the background. That is Coit Tower. (I know, I never heard of it before either. History lesson on a different date.) It looks pretty far away, right? Well, we walked from Lombard all the way to that tower. Not a direct route, either. From there we walked back to the main street of Embarcadero where we caught a trolley to our hotel.

By the way, all of that walking happened AFTER we finished the 12K race earlier that morning.

Now back to my hotel to have dinner.

Monday, March 21, 2011

12K Across the Golden Gate Bridge was Fun

Walking toward the Golden Gate Bridge about a mile into the race. The hill from down here up to the bridge was grueling!

Though it was cloudy when we left the hotel for the Emerald Across the Bay 12K Race Sunday, we were pleasantly surprised it wasn't raining. (It poured the night before, we got soaked and had been pretty cold when out sightseeing.)

We took a trolley to Aquatic Park to catch a shuttle to Sausalito where the race started. The race would return us to the same place where we caught the shuttles. We arrived earlier than needed because we aren't used to relying on shuttles. Luckily, there were lots of busses, and though the volunteers made sure the participants in the first wave got on first, it didn't take long for us to board and head across the bay. (A few participants who had done the race before said the crowds were much smaller this year.)

The drive to the start was beautiful.

The bus dropped us off, and as we approached the start, there were several groups of port-a-johns and a table with water. We could only progress so far toward the starting line until there was a “wave checkpoint.” Only those participants in the first wave, wearing yellow race bibs, were able to pass. After that wave started the race, then those in the second wave were able to pass. After the second wave started the race, we were able to head to the starting line. It was so well organized and made for a lot less congestion throughout the entire event.

While we were standing around, the sun came out, and I warmed up pretty well, especially since I was wearing a black trash bag.

At the start, local doctors led us in warm ups and stretches! It was fun! Some of the announcements were different. The heavy rains the night before washed out gravel in a few places, and there were branches down, so be careful.

The first half mile or so was downhill with wet roads and lots of huge nuts all over meaning we had to be careful where we stepped. Shortly after the start, the rain began. I can't remember whether it was sprinkles or what, but it was raining at at one point early on, a huge gust of wind blew Deb's hat right off her head!

The biggest hill of the race led up to the Golden Gate Bridge and started less than a mile into the race. The hill was so steep I needed to rest on the way up! This was about the time the rain started again.

We finally made it to the top and were able to get onto the bridge. Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge was very cool! We could see sunshine off in the distance and knew eventually the rain would stop. At the beginning of the bridge it was chilly – the wind gusts and blowing rain were horrible!!! It seemed as if we were on the bridge forever and since it is 1.7 miles long, well it was a good chunk of the race. Near the middle the rain eventually stopped and we could see sun off in the distance. (We were hopeful!) We did notice there were several suicide hotline phones on the bridge and luckily, neither of us felt the desire to jump or the need to use the phone.

After we left the bridge, we went below it to go past Fort Point, past a nature preserve and along the ocean (Crissy Field) and the Presidio. It was very pretty. As we progressed there were tons of walking paths along the shore and beautiful homes across the street from the water. If I lived here, I think I would walk along the water here all of the time.

At some point along this side of the bay there are photographers who take pictures with the bridge behind you. As we turned the corner, we were looking stupid and missed the photographers. So, we asked for a “do over,” and went back, came around the corner and smiled and tried to look like we were racewalking! The photographers were great and took a ton of shots of us!

From there it was a straight shot to Aquatic Park and the after-race party! At the finish line we were just directed to the party. As we approached, there were tables with finisher shirts and there were plenty of sizes left. The long-sleeved cotton shirts are cute, and I decided to take a small. (I'll try to remember not to put it in the dryer.) We received a bottle of water, then walked around the soggy park and received bags of Emerald nuts, Kettle chips (baked), and a few other samples. There was music playing and I heard there was beer available, though I didn't see any. There were not many people hanging around but I think when the weather is nice, people probably stay longer.

At the after race party. The sky
is VERY gray, getting ready to rain.
We had our picture taken near the ocean, got a picture or two of Alcatraz which we could see well from the shore, then it started raining. Actually, it started pouring!

We rushed off as fast as we could to catch a trolley and went back to the hotel.

According to my watch, our finish time was 1:55+. Considering more than two miles we were slower than 16 minutes per mile, I'm not really surprised. Actually I was more surprised that we walked two miles under 15 minutes! Our fastest was 14:10! Since it is still technically winter in Ohio, we had not done any hill training and it has been a little while since I've done any speed.

This is probably one of the best organized races I have ever completed! The waves were done well, they moved a lot of people very efficiently on the shuttles, there were plenty of port-a-johns at the beginning. We were told that there we not as many people as typical for this race, which could add to the fact they handled the crowds well. When we finished there were plenty of shirts in a variety of sizes, too – I have to wonder if that would be the case if there were more people.

Despite the rain, it was a good race and I would recommend it for anyone wanting a chance to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good Message at the Right Time

Sometimes when I walk alone, I get discouraged. When I'm out and I'm not able to walk as hard as I want, or I feel more tired than expected.
Yesterday, was one of those days. Luckily I had walked straight out more than 3 miles so there was no way I could cut my walk short. (Sometimes you do have to trick yourself to get in all of your miles.) On the return trip, I was getting tired and was feeling a little down. I wished I had someone with me to distract me more than Christopher Moore could. (I was listening to his book "Fool.")

At my lowest point, I was walking under I-270 when I noticed a message penned on the wall of the underpass. I read it, walked past, then turned around and took a picture. 

The author was absolutely right! And the truth is, it was exactly what I needed! I immediately picked up my pace and walked stronger, thinking about how that workout was going to impact the race in San Francisco next week.

In addition, I thought about this for quite a while after I passed those words. And it wasn't just about that day's walk -- this relates to my whole life. Yes, I do control my own fate -- and what am I going to do about it.

So, I will take this tagger's words to heart and with any luck I will think about them often.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Being in the Wrong Place

One of the bridges crossing Alum Creek.
It was about 7:29 this morning when I realized I was in the wrong place. I was at Alum Creek Park Trail in Westerville and my friends were all somewhere else -- waiting for me. None of them ever has their cell phones on, so I couldn't reach anyone to let them know I was in the wrong place. (We do joke about this. I even tried calling. No one answered.)

For a moment, I thought about heading home or going to a park closer to home. Then I decided I was already at the start of a beautiful walking trail, why not go ahead and walk.

This is not the type of trail I would normally walk alone. It has a lot of secluded sections and often there are not many people on it. Not an ideal place for a woman walking alone -- even if it is a Saturday morning. I didn't have any underlying feelings of fear, so I went ahead. The temps were in the high 20s when I started, so I wore gloves, but limited myself to just one long-sleeved shirt under my wind-resistant jacket. I was chilly, but I knew I would be OK.

This trail is beautiful. It follows Alum Creek with bridges crossing over it in several locations. There are tons of trees, a pond with geese, and other than crossing under Schrock Rd. and 270, you feel as if you are somewhere farther outside of the city on much of the trail. And if you pay attention, you'll notice extras such as the plaques on some of the trees identifying the type, artwork posted on utility poles, some small flower beds or benches made from huge pieces of rock (granite?).

Look for the art.
My plan was to head out for 45 min. then turn around to guarantee I walked at least 6 miles. Because my pace has been getting progressively faster, I had no doubt I would walk faster than a 15-minute mile.

Mentally, I had trouble today. I kept checking my watch to see how long I had been out. That makes for a rough walk. I picked up the pace and tried to keep my heart rate higher -- near 150 -- for most of the walk. That was pretty easy on the way out. Heading back I got slower and my heart rate was closer to about 144 for most of the way. Still, I felt I had a good balance of working hard, yet maintaining endurance to finish.

Though I felt bad about missing my friends, for the most part I enjoyed my walk alone. The course was beautiful and as the sun rose and the temperatures got a little warmer, my mood really lifted. (I live in Ohio and we have a lot of gray days this time of year. A sunny morning is a real treat!) 

On the way home, that 70's Dr. John song ran through my mind:
I been in the right place
But it must have been the wrong time
I'd of said the right thing
But I must have used the wrong line...

Note to my Buckeye Strider friends: This error was entirely my fault! And I really do think it is funny that none of you turn on your phones.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

How Much Seaweed?

Trader Joe's roasted seaweed.
I admit it, I'm becoming a little obsessed about seaweed. I bought several different kinds and I keep trying to find more information about how to use it to effectively to reduce fat absorption.

Last night, it finally dawned on me how obsessed I had become. While out I spent a lot of time talking about it to our friends who came out simply to enjoy an adult beverage. (I'm pretty sure they did not want to hear about seaweed.)

Despite this obsession, I still could not find out how much seaweed it is necessary to consume to make a difference. Though the package of roasted nori I found said a serving is half a package -- about 5 grams -- I wasn't sure what that meant for fat absorption or even when to eat the seaweed for the best results. Even then, how would I know for sure it was even working?

So today, after reading the exact same information from Newcastle University on several different websites, I was frustrated. I know the seaweed will absorb up to 75% of the fat consumed and has been determined to be as effective as the drug Alli -- but how much to eat and when? (You all know that I would never take a weight loss drug like Alli -- for so many reasons, but the final is the horrible side effects.)

Finally, I found something close to what I was looking for -- according to an article, eating only 1.5 grams will make an impact. Still, I'm not sure how much of an impact. How much fat will it absorb? And better yet, how will I know if it is working?

Because Trader Joe's roasted nori sheets are so light, 5 grams is a lot of seaweed! I'm not confident I can eat that much at a time. In fact, because I'm not really fond of the fish flavor (though I am getting a little used to it), I found if I stuff several pieces in my mouth at one time, it's a lot less difficult than eating several individual sheets.

So, though I don't have definite answers to all of my questions yet, I think I will continue eating a little nori before some of my bigger meals. From everything I've read, it won't hurt me, and if the professed benefits are true, then all the better!

BTW: I am working hard to eat healthier. I've been increasing the number of fruits and vegetables I eat and reducing the amount of red meat and unhealthy fats. I'm hoping adding a little seaweed will help me achieve my health and fitness (and weight loss) goals just a little bit quicker.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Walking in Sunshine, Oh Yeah

It was beautiful in Ohio today! The sun was bright and the temps were in the mid-40s with almost no breeze. I couldn't wait to get home to walk.

My original plan was to head to Antrim Park and do 4 laps around the lake. I was a little worried that by the time I drove there I wouldn't have time to walk as far as I wanted since it starts to get dark a little after 6. I don't feel safe near Antrim in the dark.

At the last minute I decided to walk to the library instead. That way I wouldn't be wasting time driving to a starting location and if it started to get dark on my way home, I would feel fairly safe on the busy street that leads to my neighborhood.

Temps were in the mid-40s when I left the house. I was chilly and my hands were cold, but I refused to go back home to add layers or gloves. I wanted to work hard enough I would get overheated.

On the way to the library, I decided to do two laps of the park for a total of 4.4 miles walked. Halfway through the first lap, I decided the sun was setting too fast and I would do just one lap. Being the decisive person I am, I changed my mind again -- as I finished that lap I decided to do the second one.

As the sun got lower, so did the temperatures. My hands were pretty cold even though my core was warm and I was sweating under the jacket.

I picked up the pace and my heart rate was well over 150. Though it was a much harder effort than I have been walking lately, it didn't feel like I was working too hard. It felt very comfortable.

Luckily, I didn't have to wait too long at any of the traffic lights, so I felt I was able to keep a good pace.

So, I walked the 4.4 miles in 1:05, 2 minutes faster than I walked the same route Sunday! Even with stopping a little for lights, my average pace was 14:46. My fastest loop was at a 13:24 minute mile! Not bad at all.

Though I am glad I was walking at a pretty good pace, and my IT bands felt great, the highlight of the day was walking in the sun. It has been so gray in Ohio, I really needed it! Because I was out, I will be much better able to deal with whatever grayness the day has to offer tomorrow.

Mile 1 - 17:01 (Traffic lights.)
Mile 2.2 - 16:11 (13:29 per mile pace.)
Mile 3.2 - 16:05 (13:24 per mile pace.)
Mile 4 - 16:22 (Traffic lights.)