Spring in my step

What puts a spring in your step?

This blog highlights several hobbies of mine that brighten my day. Recently, I’ve jumped two feet back into running. It feels so good to be back to running 3-4 miles a few times during the week. Last Wednesday, I joined about 16 other runners for an Asics-sponsored evening run at my local running store, soundRUNNER in Branford. Asics was demoing the new Gel-Cumulus. I’m a stability shoe wearer so I declined on the demo, but reports from my fellow runners were all positive. We ended the evening back at the store with beer and free T-shirts for all! Way to go, soundRUNNER for your continued support in fostering the running community!

What else put a spring in my step this weekend? A SIX mile long run! (Longest since the fateful pre-tendonitis-diagnosis 10 miler that did me in)! And, two garden plots of my very own.

I had two beautiful raised garden beds when I lived in Oregon and I missed that fresh produce and the peaceful feelings gardening provides during my first year in Connecticut. Last year, I made do with a re-purposed shipping palate that I converted into an herb garden behind my apartment. This year I have two 3×6 ft plots in the Mansfield Community Garden sponsored by the New Haven Land Trust.

The beds were completely overgrown with weeds Saturday morning, but by 5pm on Sunday, they looked like this:


That’s some pretty nice dirt, huh? 😉 Here’s the map of what to expect. I’ll be posting updates throughout the summer.


There were many other reasons for feeling happy, accomplished, and loved this week. I’m thankful to say that these are just a few.



The last week was filled with lots of quality time with friends.

Friends that let me talk about Boston, and I’m sure tell them things I’ve told them a few times already. Much of this talking was accomplished while running. The ease of processing that happens while I’m running is one of my favorite things, and perhaps why I can call myself addicted to the sport. Running for me is a way to let go. Like a good old fashioned cry, sometimes pounding the pavement really does help me process a thought that’s bringing me down, and then leave it in the dust. That sea of endorphins in my brain leaves no room for negativity. Leave it behind you! Go running!

On Saturday we ran Boston Strong, on Sunday, we picnicked atop East Rock, and on Tuesday, I went for my first RUNch. It was short and sweet, and it felt fantastic.


Cookie of Victory

The Cookie of Victory! (I felt unreasonably and completely hurt that there were no cookies left at seminar last week on April 18th – Oh, hello traumatic stress response! How will you toy with my roller coaster emotions this week? – I finally got my long-awaited cookie at our Sunday picnic. It was a cookie of victory.)

On the running note – How happy am I that my major stress reliever and coping mechanism is now fully available to me?! PT for my peroneal and achilles tendonitis has been going really well and I’ve been running a few times a week for the past month. At the SoundRunner BostonStrong run, I ran my farthest since January – 5 miles! and I’ve run three other times this week.  Back into the swing of things and I like it! Maybe my New Year’s goal of a sub 2:00 1/2 marathon is still within reach! I’m wary about pushing for speed as I’m just coming back from being injured, but I feel like contacting an experienced coach might help me safely reach the sub 2:00 goal by the fall.

Any running coaches out there that you’d recommend? Local to New Haven, CT would be awesome, but there seem to be several people that offer online coaching.

Happy Running! Especially good luck to my Portland, OR girls busting PR’s in Eugene this weekend, and to Dr. Annie rockin’ on at the Nashville Country Music 1/2!

Boston Strong – Part 2

Marathon Monday

Eric headed off early in the morning to get to the start. I chose Mile 22 near Boston College as my place to spectate. It was such a great morning. Beautiful weather, great location, cheering fans all along the course near my location. I got there early enough to see the elites and very nearly lost my cool as Shalane and Kara ran by. So amazing. They were flying. Seriously – check out Shalane’s feet.

Shalane Flying

Shortly after the elite men, I got my first 30K text update for my very first running coach, Dave Harkin.


Like a Boss, people.  Dave was my Red and Proud Portland Fit coach for my first marathon in 2010. He crossed the line in 2:34. So awesome.

The crowds started to pick up after Dave ran by. 30K text messages came in for my friend Jon, and then for Eric. By then, I was very glad I was one of the few spectators in that area with a homemade sign because I couldn’t pick out Jon from the crowd, and I didn’t see Eric till he was about 8ft from me. He saw his sign though:) Sparty on!

Sparty On!

After Eric ran past looking happy at Mile 22 (something I’ve never managed to do), I hopped on the green line toward the finish.

Eric crossed the line in 3:35:56 and we met up about half an hour later under the “R” family reunion area. He was in pretty good shape, shuffling comfortably in his sweatpants and heat sheet so we walked a few blocks to the closest T station. We tried to board a very full train on our way back to Cambridge but were told to wait for the next one…. Then the packed train didn’t leave… Then the packed train was suddenly “out of service”.  We and about 300 others shuffled back up the stairs and toward the T station in Boston Common. On our way there, the sirens started. Sirens from every direction. The policemen and women who had been friendly and a bit bored-looking 20 mins before were now very concerned and barking at the crowds to clear the roads closed off to automobiles to make way for ambulances.

Then the text messages. “Are you okay?”

“Tell me you’re not still downtown.”

“Tell me you’re okay.”

As the sirens and text messages multiplied, Eric and I knew that something was very wrong. Murmurs started to come through the crowd. Explosions at the finish line. It didn’t seem like we should run, and no one was panicking, but there was anxiety in the air. The look on my face must have been worried because Eric looked at me and said “What do you need right now?” My answer, “I think we need to be farther away from this area. I think we need to concentrate on getting back to Cambridge before we try to really figure out all the details about what is going on.” And so we did.  Thank goodness Eric was capable of walking because walk we did.  The T was shut down so we started walking back to our safe place, Cambridge.

On the way, we met some compassionate and proud Bostonians. They offered us refreshment when Eric needed to stop for a restroom. They let me charge my dying iPhone. And they fiercely defended the marathoners.

The stories you’ve heard about the grace and kindness of the Bostonians as they came together after the bombings are all true. There was only respectful support, kindness, and calm action. It was the best response from a community under siege that I could imagine.

By the end of the day, we were with friends and family, safe, and feeling very loved by friends and acquaintances from all over the country via twitter and facebook.


The last week was filled with a lot of processing. Little snapshots of the events on April 15th popped into my consciousness and required attention, distracting me from my work. Little “what if’s” crept in and pulled on my heart.

From reading other running blogs and seeing the response from the country, I can tell a lot of you are feeling the “what if’s” too.  They’re there for a reason -aq to give us perspective, and empathy toward those who are suffering. But we need to remember that those “what if’s” are not our reality. We need to be thankful for that, and work to improve the lives of others who are not so lucky by extending them grace and showing support.

My life is returning to normal this week. The support of my coworkers and my local and national running communities has been uplifting. I was looking for a PavementRunner style BostonStrong event in the area and soundRUNNER came through for the running community by dedicating their Saturday morning run to the solidarity movement. Several of my coworkers joined me for our 5 mile run. It was a great turnout for our small community.BostonStrongBranford


As I eluded to in my last post, I was in Boston last weekend to cheer on my friend Eric as he ran the 117th Boston Marathon. This was going to be a post about all the fun things we did, and it still will be, but there will be a part two. Eric and I both can describe last weekend best as two separate events – before the bombs, and after the bombs.

We got in to Boston on Saturday evening. We stayed with a couple neither of us knew prior to this weekend. Eric’s yoga instructor’s sister lives in Cambridge with her husband. They were great hosts, although our hostess is 18 years older than her brother the yoga teacher so we were a little surprised to be greeted by septuagenarians. Shea and Alan are real hippies. Like, they were in Haight/Ashbury before it was the place to be. Alan and his childhood friend (who was also there for the weekend) hitch-hiked to Woodstock. So, although I was surprised at the time, I really shouldn’t have been when our host and his friend pulled out the pipe and got high while watching a film staring Charelton Heston. I’d like to tell you all right now that I was a high school D.A.R.E. ambassador. This was a bit of a surreal experience.

Sunday was a beautiful day and full of excitement from start to finish. We practiced the T routes that Eric would take to get to the buses that would be driving him out to Hopkington the next morning. We made it to the expo to pick up his number, and most importantly, buy a BAA 117th Boston Marathon jacket.
And second most importantly, for me to meet the super-cool and down-to-Earth, Lauren Fleshman. I wasn’t sure if she’d be at the expo all three days so I tried connecting with her on twitter earlier that morning. You can follow Lauren Fleshman at asklaurenfleshman.com.

Guys, did I ever tell you about that time Lauren Fleshman replied to my tweet? No, that’s because it was totally overshadowed by that time I met Lauren Fleshman and said “Hi, I tweeted this morning to see if you’d be here” and she said, “Hey! That was you? Nice to meet you!” She was taking photos with ladies wearing their Oiselle gear. In this pic, I’m wearing my favorite “Running is Elemental” Oiselle tee.
Lauren was there rep’ing Oiselle and 110% Compression gear.

Sunday evening, Eric and I joined my Portland friends Gail and Jon (Jon also ran the Marathon this year and crossed the finish line in 3:20:14). We had dinner at Taranta in the North End. An excellent place. Sustainable food sources and unique dishes including Paiche – a 600lb Amazonian river fish with flesh the snowy white color and texture of a sea scallop. Yes – we tried the Paiche. Yes – it was delicious. What dinner in the North End would be complete without cannoli? I’ve been to Modern Pastry before and was not impressed. This time, we waited through the zoo at Mike’s and were handsomely rewarded with tastiness. Pistachio for Jon, the Florentine for me. Due to dietary restrictions, Gail and Eric has to refrain from joining us, but I think Jon and I enjoyed our cannoli enough for all four of us.

IMG_1155  IMG_1156

IMG_1159  IMG_1160


Today was one of those dreamy, theoretical days. I have them in all parts of my life, and you do too.  Where you draw up your attack plan for a long term goal, like writing your marathon training program on your google calendar (Or just copying Portland Fit’s marathon training plan onto your google calendar). Or, when you start planning a vacation that’s going to take saving up some money, but also planning out all of the logistics for your trip. Or when you have an awesome 90 minute meeting with your boss about your project at work and instead of just going over the stuff you’ve done in the past, you end up scheming and laying out all of the milestone experiments for your next paper…. Yeah… It was a pretty good science day.

Despite being a good science day, as soon as that meeting was over, I packed it up and headed home! I’ve got cookin’ and cleanin’ to do!

The cleaning and laundry mentioned above are in preparation for having a house guest this weekend… well, for one night before we drive up to BOSTON, baby! My good friend Eric is flying in from Portland to run the Boston Marathon next Monday. I might be more excited about it than he is. Given this excitement, you can expect a Boston weekend re-cap sometime next week.

The cooking is part of my quest to expand my weeknight dinner repertoire. Tonight, it was “Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes with Paneer Tofu” Why’d I sub cubes of extra firm tofu for the paneer? 1. I’m Lactarded. 2. I wanted to add some lean protein to the dish. 3. I did not want to make paneer.  So, even with the tofu (upping my PNW cred, here) and not the paneer, the dish turned out very well. It was also very fast! 20 minutes from start to finish. I used a bag of frozen, chopped spinach instead of the fresh stuff and a can of San Marzano chopped tomatoes. Easier than pie.

Here’s the final product.  Image

It totally tastes better than it looks!

And just to prove to you that I don’t take horrible pictures of food, this is what it looks like in the cookbook when it’s been food styled.

Image (From the book, Vij’s At Home) So there. It still tastes way better than it looks.

I’m excited about what the future has in store. In the lab, for my ethnic cooking skills, and for this weekend with friends and being surrounded by my people, the marathon-lovers of the world.


60 degrees

What’s your threshold? It depends on the topic, I suppose.

When Science is not cooperating, I usually have an 80% threshold. 80% of the time, I’m going to stick it out and figure out why it’s not working before heading home. When my schedule calls for me hitting the gym in the evening, I have about a 60% threshold. And when it’s the first beautiful day of spring that reminds me of summer after a long, snowy, super cold winter, I have a threshold of about 20%.

I tried. I did finally figure out why all my red fluorescent proteins were not where I expected them to be inside the cells? but did I do anything about it? 20% threshold says, Nope! I packed it in, changed into my running clothes (An Oiselle Simplicity tank and my fave men’s cut shorts (Ladies, if you have no hips or butt, and don’t mind “boy colors” try the men’s shorts on! No poof! – I’ve yet to try the Oiselle shorts, but they’re cut to avoid running short poof too!)

Next thing I knew, I was blissfully away from Science Land. Running my two mile loop with about four stretch breaks. It was glorious! Once I got warmed up, my legs felt great. But I reined it in and only did two – just to be clear, and in case my PT is reading.

The flowers, the tiny baby leaves, the four hundred other runners out running through the neighborhood… Okay, I only crossed paths with ten runners in two miles, but there were a lot of us, and it was fantastic!

Here’s to the first shorts run of the year! It turns out that 60 degrees is my shorts threshold. And that 70 degrees and sunny with the scent of just-opened spring blooms in the air is my “I don’t care about Science anymore” threshold. Observing thresholds might make me slightly less productive at work, but it makes me a much happier me.

Reclaiming my title: Runner.

I’ve been cautious. Not wanting to jinx any recovery that is taking place, but I’m ready to announce that I think I’m back to running. (Very short distances with a day of recovery in between each run).

I was diagnosed with peroneal tendonitis in both ankles at the end of January. I was completely off running till a gorgeous early spring day lured me to three cautious miles on March 16th. Since then, I’ve been keeping up with PT once a week (plus lots of stretching, squats and hip-strengthening exercises at home), as well as cycling at the gym 2-3 times per week.

Three miles on Saturday mornings with the SoundRunner crew in Branford have been my norm since mid March, but this week I stepped it up a bit. I have successfully added in 1-1.5 miles at a painfully slow (although not painful!) pace before my cycling/PT routine twice this week. I gave the running a rest today in favor of the complete PT routine, but I’m going to try adding it back in tomorrow.

Another thing that helps, these babies:


If you’re gonna go compression socks, go big or go home. I think hot pink argyle captures that mentality perfectly. Also, do not be afraid to ice whenever you need to ice. Even if you’re at work and you have to use a resistance band to attach a cold pack to your lower leg because you can’t afford those super-fancy 110% Compression socks. Image

I’m writing it down so I can’t deny it in the future: healthy running means strength training and proper recovery!

Dear running,

I’ve missed you. I’ve been a giant crankypants for two months since we’ve been apart. I’m so glad we’re back together. You’re my favorite.



New Frontiers

I’m still riding the motivation train at work brought on by the Monday mutants. But nothing exciting to tell you from science land today. Those announcements are rare, which makes them all the more exciting.

This evening, I tried out a recipe I’ve had before but never made for myself. Indian food and I don’t always get along. I think it’s a few spices in particular that are in some dishes but not all… Anyway, the Indian food I’ve enjoyed has either been made by my coworker, Avinash, or it has been a recipe from one particular cookbook. That book is a beginners’ guide to cooking Indian food at home from two restaurateurs in Vancouver, BC.
Vij’s At Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking has a nice mix of vegetarian and meat or fish curries along with some essential condiments like chutney, yogurt sauce, etc…

My first dish: Mushroom Medley with potato curry.

It’s good! It’s also a great way to use up leftover buttermilk. (A person can only make so many pancakes).

Topping off a mildly successful day in the lab with an incredibly successful dinner – that makes for a very satisfying end to the day.

And sometimes, Science rewards you.

This weekend, I took a little trip back to the Motherland, the Upper Midwest. Not quite the Motherland, because I was in Cleveland and not Michigan, but it was pretty darn close.

I scooted out of the lab around 2:30 on Friday to catch my flight to Cleveland so I could celebrate with this happy couple:


Along with the Paul and Erin’s wedding, I got to hang out with my parents who drove down to Cleveland to spend the weekend with me. I love them! All in all, a fantastic weekend of Parents, good food, friends, celebrations, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and even an early Easter basket. Despite not having awesome enough peroneal tendons to be able to go for a waterfront run on Lake Erie, I did manage to do a lot of walking around downtown Cleveland, and stayed über stylish in my black peep-toe pumps on the dance floor at the reception. A month ago, wearing one inch heels for three hours made my feet ache for three days, but no pain this weekend! I’ll take it!

The snow this morning nearly foiled my plans to fly back to La Guardia, but I made it into the lab by 2pm to find a sight I’ve been hoping for for three weeks, and have been working toward for longer than I want to admit. Sometimes, … Sometimes Science rewards you. And not only that, but Science rewarded my frantic early-morning to mid-afternoon work on Friday by giving me not one, but four different mutants!

This calls for a cheer and I will teach it to you right now. Whenever I say “I got mutants!” You all say, “Yay! Mutants!”
Yep. I’m that kind of scientist doctor, the mutant-making kind. You know it’s cool;)

So today, it’s Science for the W.

Win the day

Hello blog land!

Sometimes, the “meaningful, fulfilling work” that I do isn’t all that fulfilling. Often, it’s downright disappointing. They wouldn’t be called “experiments” if we knew they were always going to work, or give us the answer we’re looking for.

Science is cool and all, but Science rarely gives back as much as I put in on a day to day basis in terms of me feeling satisfied and empowered by accomplishing my research goals. (Science can be a real B*tch when she wants to be) This sort of unbalanced relationship might work for some people, but I need a lot more positive feedback if I want to keep from feeling like a failure.

Enter running. I took up jogging, slowly, with walk breaks in 2008 while I was in grad school in Portland, OR (the greatest city with the awesomest people). As I continued running, my pace improved, how I felt while I was running improved, how I felt when I was not running improved… The more I put into running, the more I got out of it. (Unlike Science on most days). And the more I was able to drift off to sleep at night feeling like I won the day despite my experimental successes or failures in the lab.

In the past four years, I’ve found a few different hobbies along with running that reciprocate my hard work, giving me the satisfaction often missing from my days at work. This blog is about staying optimistic, being happy, feeling just a tiny bit in control of my life, and finding pursuits that help me feel like I’ve reached my Personal Best every day.

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