blk: (icicles)
Things I have learned about my body:

1. I run cold. I'm acclimatized to warm Florida weather, even as I've learned to deal with Pittsburgh's. I rarely get too hot. I frequently get too cold. (It doesn't help that I prefer less body hair on myself, which has a noticeable affect on heat retention) I'm the one wearing two bottom layers and three top layers in regular normal indoor temperature weather. I like a sheet plus two blankets plus a heated mattress pad plus a down comforter in our heated bedroom in order to go to sleep at night. I have heated gloves for my office where I get chilled.

2. I heat up quickly. Within 10 minutes of aerobic movement I'm too hot. I'm the one in yoga class sweating in shorts and a tank top while everybody else has leggings and long sleeves. I'm the one stripped down to a single layer a mile into a winter run (except for gloves; fingers are always cold). I end up sweating through a layer when I bike to work because I've been peddling for 20 minutes, even though I was cold in below freezing weather to start with.

3. I cool down quickly. Google says that average healthy person cools down with a decrease of 20 heart beats per minute after exertion; mine is about twice that, says the pulse counter on the treadmill at work. I can put on my winter clothes almost immediately after exercising and am comfortable. I can go from heavy exertion to feeling normal within a minute with some deep breathing.

Conclusion: Stopslights suck.

Apparently the biggest factor as to whether I can bike in winter cold weather is the number of stoplights on my route, as the length of a light cycle is just enough for me to go from warm to too cold, which freezes all my extremities. Whereby a long continual no-stop route is enough exertion for me to warm up to comfortable even in -10 windchill weather (as this morning was).

Also: If I'm not moving, pile on the blankets.
blk: (bike)
It's spring now, and that means that I can say that I succeeded in riding my bike through all of winter for the first time. Yay me!

This was greatly aided by primarily three factors that I can think of:

1. Acquiring Bar Mitts for my bike. My biggest problem in years past is frozen fingers below about 30F, despite trying many, many options of gloves and layers. Although the mitts weren't as magical as my high hopes had initially wanted, overall they were a success. They dropped the temperature I could be comfortable in by about 15 degF, when combined with my winter lobster gloves.

I suspect they would work even better if they started off inside, but our bike shed isn't heated. I tried disposable hand warmers in them to zero effect (too much empty space); reusable warmers seemed like they might possibly help (but not enough experimentation). But the overall effect was that I had no worries about any temps above 15F (and could ignore wind-chill differentials), which was most of the winter (see #3)

2. My route to work, which I modified last fall. The big cold-weather pluses are that the majority of it is very lightly trafficked (part of it closed to cars), and it is a longer, hillier route, with fewer stops.

Fewer cars (and cars at lower speeds) mean that if the road is slippery, I am MUCH less concerned about having to share the road with other traffic (both for my own possible loss of control, and even more for theirs). Fortunately, the Schenley Parks road crew did an EXCELLENT job at keeping the non-car sections clear of snow, and I only had to go through snow a couple times. (I sent them a Thank You note via 311 incident form, and got back an acknowledgement)

It being a slightly more challenging route meant that it warmed me up more. 10 minutes into my old route, when my hands start really freezing on a cold day, meant that I'd paused/stopped at 5-6 intersections, had mostly only downhill to go, and by the time I rolled into campus my hands would be in a lot of pain. 10 minutes into the new route puts me at the bottom of the second noticeable hill, with another to go, so by the time I rolled into campus, I'd had just enough workout to start thawing the extremities out.

3. Having an overall very mild winter. Not that I'm complaining, but there were only a handful of days where the morning was below 15F, only one vaguely heavy snowfall, and no real majorly ugly weather on workdays (like where it would rain, then freeze, then snow, so that plows wouldn't be able to get streets clear). I rode through snow a few times, but it was only an inch or so. I did WFH and take the bus a couple times, but I'm pretty sure those were pre-decided based on other life events, not by weather.

There are definitely still conditions I would be uncertain on - specifically when roads are icy. But I've conquered nearly all my major problems now, and just need to work on minor improvements. For example my ski goggles, which are great for when it's snowing, are >10 years old and have disintegrating foam, not to mention are tinted, which is suboptimal in the dark. And the hat I have which goes under my helmet smoothly and covers my ears well is kind of uncomfortable across my forehead and I want a new one (but it has to cover my ears). But the clothing layers were fine; my shoe covers are great; my hands are now sufficiently warmed; and I have bright, pretty blue lights on my wheels. This is good.
blk: (axial)
I've been having this mood lately where I want to bury myself in blankets and hide. The idea of leaving the house just sounds like a horrible, uncomfortable plan, even though I know intellectually that some things I leave the house for are worthwhile and I would enjoy myself once I was there. But doing the dance to convince myself every time is exhausting, and it's not working for anything that involves advance planning or overnight stays.

Things that I'm pretty sure are contributing to this meh include:
1. Winter. In fact, I can look back to previous years of LJing and see similar sentiments that tell me these are pretty normal feelings for this stage of winter.
2. The house. We planned to get some house windows replaced, and so moved a bunch of furniture and put things in disarray in preparation, and then the job got postponed for a couple weeks until Not In A Snowstorm time. Which means there is still disarray everywhere, and that along with the rest of the house which is usually in disarray means my areas of order are few and far between, and there's only so much cleaning the kitchen I can stand. I feel unsettled and jarred and like there's nowhere to relax here.

Despite all the meh, I'm not actually feeling down, which I'm glad for, and I'm pretty sure this is contributed to by:
1. Sun and warmth. We've had TWO days in the last week with a lot of sun, which is doing a decent job of melting the sheets of solid ice across many of the sidewalks around here. And I have successfully built up my collection a bunch of warm fuzzy things to wear so I'm never actually cold, despite the stupid low temps. And electric mattress pads and a ton of bed blankets makes sleeping really nice.
2. Exercise. I'm not biking or running due to the stupid ice, but I'm managing to carve out some minimal exercise time, and I'm pretty sure that's doing a lot towards keeping me stable, if not optimal.

I know of things that could help even more, unfortunately most of them involve time. In a week, the current house project should be done and I can get back to putting things in order. In another week to month I may find some days without frozen stuff on the ground and can get in some running. In another two months I will get significantly more sunlight.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep trying to write, make some time to read, try to plan or work on some smaller projects I want to do, drink lots of tea, and be patient.
blk: (running)
I've been doing a whole lot of not running since spring. And while I kind of enjoyed taking a break after pushing so hard at the half in May, I've been starting to miss it. But I hadn't quite decided on it yet. Then I saw the Filthy Four event for this solstice was posted and suddenly my mind was made up. I WANT to do that run this year! I did it last year and it was awful, miserably damp, painful, and gray, and I felt SO GOOD at having finished it. Plus it's a really nice personal way for me to celebrate the end of the longest night.

In order to run a race in December, I need to run now, which means I needed to somehow get over my aversion to winter running. I really dislike running in cold, dark, wet, and slippery. OK, the dark, wet and slippery are still going to be a challenge, but I can at least do something about the cold. I found some nice cold weather running tights from the target clearance rack, dug out some thicker running socks, experimented with top layer fleeces and gloves, acquired a fleece Buff for my face, and played with some earbands and hats for my ears. I think I have everything covered well except for my hands. After playing with a few of my existing options, I think what I really want is a convertible glove/mitten system (so the top layer is still attached to me when I take it off). Mittens because I really need the extra warmth when I start out, and probably fingerless gloves, because when I finally do warm up and start sweating I want to be able to vent my fingers without exposing everything.

But for the most part, I now have a setup that seems to work. I've been doing short distances - 1-2 miles - almost every day for a little while under the current theory I have that frequent-but-short occasions for feet-ground-impact experiences are what I need most of to build up stronger foot bones/muscles. I've never before been an everyday runner, but I'm going slow and being careful and most importantly it's feeling -good-. I hadn't realized how much I missed the quiet and exertion and feelings of movement. I'm ready to do more, but holding myself back. But I just added in a steep hill to my route this weekend and that also went pretty well.

Anybody have suggestions on how to deal with the dark, wet, and slippery parts of winter? Bleh.
blk: (citd)
Pittsburgh has been doing a lot of that winter thing lately - very cold, snowy, and too much dark.

I haven't been riding my bike as much because I don't like riding when it's very cold or when the road has frozen stuff on it. I haven't been running as much because I very much don't like running when it's very cold, when it's dark, or when the sidewalk has frozen stuff on it. I haven't been sleeping as well, although I sleep longer, because temperature regulation when I'm sharing a bed is hard, because the bedroom is cold, and the mornings are late and gray. I haven't been doing as much exercising during the day, because when I sleep later, I get to work later, and if I try to put in a reasonable work day and come home early enough to fix dinner for people, there's no time leftover. I haven't been doing as much in the evening because it feels like night comes so quickly, and I don't want to go outside, and I'm tired and run out of energy. I haven't been seeing as many people as I'd like to because the idea of going out in the evenings feels like work. I haven't actually made plans for things I've said I wanted to do, like finding races in other cities I want to visit, or making time to visit family. My knees are significantly unhappier, probably because I'm not riding my bike. Maintaining a good weight is more challenging because I'm not burning as many calories. Stress levels are higher because I feel like I'm not accomplishing much, the projects are piling up, the house doesn't stay clean, and I don't have the energy to do more.

This week I'm forcing myself to cook, to start a workout program, to run, to hide under blankets and read for a while, and to get to a party this weekend. Maybe next week it'll be time to go back to the sunrise alarm clock to get up earlier and (assuming we will get a break from the Very Cold) get back on the bike. And hopefully some cleaning.

Is it spring yet?
blk: (avatar)
This weekend was a nice calm stay-at-home weekend for me after last week's con-people-boston-visiting whirl. (The writeup on that one will come later)

It started with a bit of a busy-ness, as I prepped for my first Soup Swap Party. This involved making two large pots of clam chowdah (bacon and non) and doing a whole bunch of house cleaning, taking care of stuff that had piled up over the last couple weeks. The party was a huge success!! Despite a very snowy day, people braved the roads to come deliver soups to my house. We had a fantastic variety (enough to please GF folks, vegetarians, and meat lovers) , with no overlaps, and a few very strange ones that turned out really well, as well as bread and beer and a few other snackin's.

I put my own tweak into the party, where instead of just swapping blindly, I asked everybody to bring a small amount to be heated up and eaten, then we used teeny party cups to get a few bites of each soup. This worked fabulously, IMO, as it meant I got to try things that I normally would have thought too weird, without committing to a full quart. The parsnip soup and dill pickle soup turned out to be two of my favorites! Even the swap went smoothly, with mostly the right number of people wanting what was available. My clam chowdah was super popular (either that or everybody was trying to butter up the host), which tickled me. We finished up the night with some light games, and traded recipes online. I'm looking forward to trying my hand at making some of them.


Sunday I got to wake up to a nice clean house and laze around for a while, as I had mostly no plans except to go out and plan in the snow with some friends later. Eventually I walked down to Frick Park. The snow was light and fluffy and pretty much perfect for the sledding we were doing, and the main hill was surprisingly not very busy. We ended up with six people and three sleds, all of which fit two (or three!) people each, and ended up just tossing ourselves down the hill for an hour in various fun configurations, one of which was the three sled train. I haven't sledded like that in years and I had pretty much forgotten how much fun it could be. I took one spill while doubling with Charlie, unfortunately on the one time where I decided to try to video our trip, which meant that when we started tipping precariously, my main thought was to protect my camera and not my head, so I did a fun little slow rollover, ensuring that I'm going to be sore tomorrow. Eventually the hill started filling up with smaller kids who weren't smart enough to actually look uphill while they weren't sledding, which made things less fun for me, so after a quick detour over to the actual blue slide of Blue Slide Park (which was also good for sledding on), I invited people back to my house for snowbuilding and hot chocolate.

We didn't quite make it home before running across my neighbor who was in the process of shoveling out his front yard ice rink. Upon greeting, he offered us a spin including lending skates, so two people took him up on that while the others of us attempted to make some snow sculptures. Eventually the cold started getting to me and the hot chocolate part of the afternoon happened inside my warm house, complete with peppermint marshmallows. Exhaustion was really setting in for me, though, and after everybody else left I ended up flopping down on the couch for a short nap, until a kid bugged me about dinner. Fortunately, I apparently hadn't quite reached my soup limit yet, and had thought to prep a big crockpot of chili earlier in the day, which was delicious. I realized I was probably so exhausted because I was dehydrated, so I fixed that as well, which did help some. I'm still feeling pretty wiped out and mildly headachey. Having fun is hard work! But worth it. I was tagged in various pictures on the Book of Face for people who are on there, but they're not public so I'm not linking directly from here.


Expecting a cold and snowy week this week, and likely a snow day Tuesday, as temps drop back down to -9F around here. Brr. Fortunately, cold makes for excellent soup weather...
blk: (fall)
the leaves fall like snow
wind knocks clumps from the tree's eaves
frozen curls drop

the snow falls like leaves
fluffy powder gently blown
dancing circles down

red orange peeks through white
yellow flurries drift to earth
in colored snow-fall


We had a very rare early snowfall last night, with light, fluffy accumulation on everything, up to a couple inches in places. Usually Pittsburgh doesn't get measurable snow that actually sticks around until actual winter. It was very fun and interesting to bike in this morning and see everything covered in white - while most trees still had many of their fall foliage.
blk: (bike)
I have spent a lot of time complaining at great length about cold fingers when I ride my bike in winter around here, and my failure to find a warm enough solution.

When I last ranted about it, [livejournal.com profile] danceboy stepped in with perfect timing and offered to send me an old pair of bigger gloves so I could try them with liners, going on the tentative theory that the reason liners hadn't been working for me is there wasn't enough extra space with my current gloves. I also acquired, per suggestion from [livejournal.com profile] xuth, a pair of heated glove liners to use (size S/M). The liners are nice in that they provide heat around the outside of the hand and fingers, where I actually get cold, instead of in the palm. They are very comfortable, too, if a little bulky with the battery pack.

My current cold-weather gloves are the Novara Stratos (women's M) and the new ones from danceboy are the Pearl Izumi Inferno gloves (men's L). Both are 4-fingered, waterproof, windproof, winter bike gloves. The Stratos fit me super comfortably, with generous room to move around without liners, and are just slightly snug with the liners I've tried. The Inferno are definitely bigger, with enough extra space to feel somewhat awkward without liners, and only a little too big with them.

With my new setup, I just had to wait for some below-freezing, dry, commuting workdays. Between temperatures hovering just above freezing, jury duty, vacations, and occasional precipitation, it's taken a bit longer than I expected to get a good trial, but it is finally time to report back with some data.

data log and details )

Conclusion: I have succeeded in finding a solution that works and I am super duper happy about it. I suppose my absolute perfect ideal would be to get another pair of Stratos in size L instead of the Infernos, since I really like the Stratos, but a) they seem to be out of stock everywhere, and b) I don't think the slight increase in comfort is worth the $$ they cost new.

Thanks to everybody out there who has listened to me rant and offered sympathy or suggestions. Happy endings FTW!
blk: (icicles)
I must state as a point of pride that I feel I've successfully learned how to dress comfortably for Pittsburgh cold weather. Pride because I grew up as a native Floridian, where temps in the 50s (F) were considered ungodly cold, and I didn't own a "winter jacket" until I got to college. Also, my skin is thin and uninsulated with occasional poor circulation, so learning how to layer (with the right kinds of layers) was a learning experience.

On a generic cold winter day here (freezing and under), I'm typically dressed in a couple layers on bottom (long socks, shorts/tights/silk, jeans) and more layers on top (undershirt, long-sleeved base layer, sweater/sweatshirt). Then to go outside for walking around, I'll put on a heavy jacket, hat, gloves, and a gaiter/balaclava for extra cold. Hands generally go into my pockets for portions of my outside time. The earlier days this week when I walked to/from the bus stops, across campus, and between stops as I ran some errands in 5-10°F weather, I was perfectly comfortable the entire time I was outside. Hurray!

In the past couple years, I've also gotten better at dressing for biking. For the commute into work (colder, more downhill), bottoms stay the same, top gets wicking layer, long sleeved shirt, sweater and my spiffy blinding shell jacket for a windbreaker. Longer/uphill home commute usually loses the shirt or sweater. Shoe covers keep my feet warm (even over sandals!), balaclava covers my head/ears/face, and gloves.... help but not enough.

The cold fingers are a problem enough that I'm writing this entire LJ post to whine about it, because I had a great commute in this morning in 10°F weather except for my fingers, which made me totally miserable.

This year I acquired these Novara Stratos gloves which are absolutely fantastic down to about 30°F and a great improvement over last year's cold fingers. They are excellent windbreakers and go over my wrists. But much colder than that and my fingers still slowly start to freeze, and in lower temps my fingers get really super painfully frozen within a matter of 5-10 minutes. On the bright side, my commute is only about 15-20 minutes, and I'm pretty sure 10 minutes of Very Cold fingers isn't actually going to damage them. On the other hand, it means that at best, I arrive with my fingers half numb, or at worst, I'm spending the last half+ of my commute gritting my teeth against pain, holding my hands between my legs periodically, and generally hating everything and everybody within a 50 mile radius. (I don't deal well with cold; have you noticed?)

I've been working on this problem for a while. I've tried various kinds of liners, and they make things worse, not better. Mittens would probably help a lot, except that I do not feel safe braking while not having a good grip on my handlebars and mittens prevent that. Handwarmers keep my hands warm but not my fingertips. Warming up my core with more layers or vigorous exercise makes me sweaty and overheated, while my fingers still freeze. My good Kombi ski gloves don't work any better than my current pair. Do cheap portable electric solutions exist? I feel like I'm pretty much down to two options:

  1. Find better gloves. I'm dubious of this as I tried some Swix lobster gloves last year and they weren't any better than what I had. I've heard really good things about the Izumi ones and maybe those are better. Or maybe some really super duper awesome winter gloves exist that I don't know about.
  2. Get (or make) a set of pogies. I just became aware that this was a thing a few days ago and it seems like something that might be a good thing, as it's the closest thing to imitating pockets that normally do a fine job of warming me.

I'm still kind of dubious of both, given the sheer number of things that other people claim to work don't work for me, but I really don't want to stop cycling just because it's 5°F out, so it's probably worth throwing money at things to try out. It's jsut really frustrating, that I have Every Other part of my body temperature-controlled properly, except for these stupid digits... If anybody else has suggestions that they think I haven't thought of yet, you're welcome to mention them, but for goodness' sake, PLEASE read the full post and comments before doing so and note what I have already tried (and rejected).
blk: (icicles)
LJ catchup: December


Since moving in together, One thing [livejournal.com profile] xuth and I actually have a lot less of is time without any of our kids around. So we've been taking advantage of the big holidays - when school is out and visiting families is normal - to go out on our own and enjoy some quiet time. This xmas, after stopping in Columbus for a couple days, we drove down to a secluded cabin in Germany Valley, WV, for a few quiet days of hiking and sightseeing.

how pale is the sky that brings forth the rain )

I've really enjoyed the past couple years of snow hiking we've done, and have decided to definitely do some next year as well. We'd love to find other people to go with. Anybody out there interested in driving out to some remote region, renting a cabin for a few days of kids-less quiet and relaxation, and going out hiking in lovely freezing cold weather with us? Now taking applications...
blk: (natalie)
A query:
I want something that will cover my nose, mouth, and ears, is loose enough to not compress my nose, but close fitting enough that it will stay in place when I turn my head and walk around. Is a balaclava my only option for this? Got any suggestions? No beards.

A complaint:
Dear all you property owners on S Negley Ave. It's not MY fault your street has a ~15% grade, which I realize doesn't make you want to walk up it. Is it really too much to ask for you to shovel and salt your sidewalks for all the people who DO walk up and down your way? We have -maybe- 2 measly inches of snow, and today was partly sunny for at least half of it. (Really, this is to almost half the houses I passed today, but Negley seemed worse)

A grump:
I hate this stage of winter. I'm tired of dressing up in many layers and covering every inch of my skin to go outside. I'm tired of navigating all the icy spots on the sidewalks. I'm tired of not wanting to get out of bed in the morning because mornings are cold and dimly lit. I'm tired of not wanting to do anything, not wanting to go anywhere, not wanting to see anybody. I'm -really- tired of telling people what to do. I'm tired of worrying about money. I'm tired of being in pain (cricked neck still isn't better). I'm tired of being tired. I want to burrow under my blankets and not come up until spring.

On the upside, I have a cat snuggling in my lap and homemade dark chocolate ice cream to eat.
blk: (winter)
When I started my most recent job at CMU this past fall, I realized that, with the [livejournal.com profile] jboys securely taking the school bus to and from school, I had no more justification for driving the short stretch in to work everyday. Particularly since employment there comes with a free bus pass, and there are multiple routes which stop a half mile from either end.

Read more... )

Probably in the spring I'll start looking at biking (or walking) in more regularly, but for now, it's really nice to have an easy, unstressful commute. Just took some learning.
blk: (icicles)
old man's cave in hocking hills, oh

First view of the cliffs near Old Man's Cave, Hocking Hills, OH - Dec 25, 2010
blk: (axial)
The solstice moment passes this evening, and hope for a sunny, warm world returns once again! Every stolen moment of daylight will come back, and the world continues on once more in its path around the sun.

But while the revolution of the planet remains constant, I don't have to. I want to change; I want to grow; I want to improve myself and be a better person next year than I am right now, and I want that to be my goal every year.

This year, I am asking for help.

In your opinion, what do you think I should do this year to improve myself and become a better person?

the fine print )
blk: (axial)
This solstice marks my one year anniversary of my marking the seasons for myself.

In the past few years, and in words recounted in more detail in another post, my personal spiritual ponderings have led me away from god and towards science. But I still like ritual and observance, so in combining religion and science to focus more intently on the things that are important to me, I've started noting the natural seasonal quarters and cross-quarters of the year (not the holidays, but the dates), and letting myself see what they can show me about myself.

This year has been an interesting one. I bought and moved into my very own (awesome) house (AND unpacked the last of my boxes a few weeks ago). I turned 30. I kept a garden and grew some of my own food. I learned how to cook a whole bunch of stuff. I grew.

All in all, I'd say it was a pretty good start.

I didn't stay up on the longest night - I played hard in the evening and then slept hard and deeply over the night, with trust and comfort in both my companion and the journey of the Earth, and then woke up in the morning to a day that was bright and sunny and full of peace for me. A very good change, considering the anxiety I've had over the past recent while.

It is dark (and cold and windy), but with my tea and blankets and cat and house - soon to be full of family - it feels more cozy than overbearing, at least right now. I'm looking forward to this coming week of holiday and vacation with happy optimism and anticipation for the first time in several years.

I know I still have a lot in my life that needs work. My house, my inbox, my head, and my heart all have chaotic parts that need time to be dusted off and organized every so often, and it's not always fun or easy. But I have only to look back to see how far I have come, and get up hope for continuing the journey. The earth won't wait for me; I've got to keep on moving with it, and keep on watching for the sun.

Greetings of the season to you.
blk: (cygnus)
It is the longest night, and tomorrow begins a new chapter of my life.

The vast majority of my possessions are in bags, ready to be taken on my trip with me, in boxes, ready to be moved into my new house on return, or strewn about in disorderly piles, still needing to be wrapped up and ready for transport. Living amongst such a disarray of waiting and expectation - not only in my house - has not been good for me.

darkness, darkness )

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