Friday, September 14, 2012

Bomb threat at UT Austin

Today's morning has been quite eventful, and it is only 10:30am.  We got steady rain all yesterday evening and through the night, which in central TX is on its own very unusual.  After a morning run and breakfast, I headed into work as usual.  When I got to my desk, it was quiet as many Fridays are, people were just starting to come in and get things going.  I was getting settled at my desk when I received a text message from the University alert system.  We get these on a regular basis, so I didn't think much of it until I opened it:
Evacuation Due to threats on campus immediately evacuate all buildings get as far away from the buildings as possible.  Further information to come.
Okay, that seemed a little scary.  The text was poorly punctuated and I immediately thought, maybe it is a hoax?  I work in the top floor of my building, so my first thought was to alert my labmates, take my stuff and head to the main office where they would have more information.  None of my labmates who where in had read the text yet, and in the few minutes it took me to alert them, the building's emergency alarm system went off.  We all headed outside into throngs of people.

I have never been at UT during a campus wide evacuation before.  My building does get evacuated when gas alarms or chemical spills occur, but that is just one building and it is easy to move away from our building to a safe spot.  Two years ago, there was a shooter on campus, but then we were told to stay in our buildings and by no means go outside.  Today was different.  There was no where to go.  UT Austin has 50,000 students, not to mention thousands of staff members.

In a few minutes, Boyfriend and I found each other and agreed it was probably a bomb threat that would take a long time to be resolved and we should just go home.  About this time, UT Staff members were also telling students to go home.  So what happened?

This is a pretty serious bomb threat and I am glad UT reacted as it did.  You can see a news story here, but more information will likely come out over the course of the day.  This morning, a man claiming to be associated with Al Qaeda called into the University saying he had placed bombs all over campus and they would go off in 90 minutes.

At this point that is all I know.  I appreciate how quickly and efficiently the University contacted everyone and continues to update via text and email alerts.  It is certainly not easy to handle such a large body of students and staff, especially in an emergency.  Hopefully this is just a scare and nothing will come from it except a minor disruption to the work week.
In other news, I did get a run in this morning, 9 miles over hills in the rain.  I love running in the rain, especially when its been hot and humid.  What a reprieve!  Given the events of the day, I am even happier that I got a run in because the endorphins keep me calm and clear headed.

That is all I've got for now.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Transitioning to Fall

September is upon us and that means that August, typically the hottest month in Central TX, is past us.  I survived and logged 174 miles in the process.  I'm pretty happy with that, but have a goal of 200+ miles for this month, aiming for 45 miles for each of the first two weeks and then 50+ for the last two weeks of September.  I'm hoping that the increased  mileage will time with a drop in daily temperatures.
A snapshot of Secret Beach in Austin, TX

The labor day weekend was warm in Austin, with daily highs hitting triple digits.  It made me very lethargic and hermit-like during the middle of the day.  Boyfriend was out of town, so I was flying solo as the single mom to Bailey.  I got up very early each morning (by 6am) and headed out for my run and then did not emerge for more exercise until the evenings, when I took Miss Bailey on walks.  If I went out during the day, it was errands that utilized the air conditioned car.  The exception was a trip to Secret Beach with Bailey on labor day.  We went with her friend Raisin.  Secret Beach is a stretch of sandy shoreline along the Colorado River in East Austin.  It is very hipster (perhaps you already got it from the name) and people will bring coolers and beach blankets and hang out.  It is also great for dogs who like to run around, splash and generally be hooligans.

Bailey (left) and Raisin (right), doing doggy things and 'sploring
Bailey, having a great time
Chasing after boys
Enjoying the water and trying to cool off
The heat has continued to build since this weekend and through this week, with triple digits nearly every day. Boo! I hate it!  The good news?  Tomorrow might be the last triple digit day of the year!  I glanced at the 10 day forecast and tomorrow is projected to hit 104F (yuck!) but then highs in the 90s for 9 days after that.  Average highs for the second half of September are high 80s and 90s, so I can only hope it is all downhill from here.  There is nothing pleasant about physically feeling your skin burning from the UV rays in the five minutes it takes you to walk between buildings on campus.

Anyways, here is my week thus far:
Monday: 8.51 miles over hills, 90 minutes of flag football
Tuesday: off! Boyfriend returns :)
Wednesday: 8.16 miles, 90 minutes of flag football
Thursday: 2km swim

Wish me some cool, dry weather!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Day in Alsace - Strasbourg

This weekend I ran both Saturday and Sunday.  Although the temperatures and weather conditions were pretty much the same, the runs felt like night and day.  Saturday morning I did my long run and it was tough.  I felt so exhausted only 6 miles in (which were all downhill or flat), which is a bad sign and quite surprising as my daily runs are 8+ miles.  I was super sweaty and just couldn't get enough water.  Because I ran the Town Lake trail, I was able to refill my bottles about half way through, but still drained them by the end of the run. Although my average pace was okay, I felt like I was slogging through the last few miles, I didn't enjoy it and I felt wiped by the time I got home.

This morning was completely different.  I decided after yesterday's sweat-fest long run that I would treat today as a recovery and go easy.  Nonetheless, it was one of those oh-so-easy-everything-clicks runs that remind us why we love the sport.  I felt really good, never very thirsty and each mile got progressively faster without trying.  Halfway through, things felt good, so I tacked on an extra mile around the pond before heading home.  When I got home, I did feel like I could have kept running.

Isn't that just how running is, always going in cycles?  I'm certainly hoping for another good one tomorrow!

This week I ran 46.5 miles (!) and swam 2km.  Beginning of the week here.
Friday: 8.5 miles total; Track workout, 3.5 miles hard
Saturday: 11.45 miles; sucky long run
Sunday: 9 miles; awesome recovery run

I have two more cities to recap from my trip to Europe.  Read earlier reports for Biarritz, Bordeaux, Paris & Echternach.
Timber frame houses in Petite France
After Echternach, Boyfriend and I took a train to Strasbourg, located in the Alsace region of France.  The Alsace region borders the Rhine river and Germany and throughout history was shifted back and forth between Germany and France.  This makes Strasbourg an especially interesting city to visit because of the mix of French and German culture.  This is reflected in the architecture (timber-frame houses) and cuisine.

Strasbourg is a really old settlement, having been around long enough that it was at one point under control of the Roman Empire.  It thrived during the Middle Ages as a trade city.  To protect itself, the oldest part of the city (now known as Petite France) is an island surrounded by the Ill river, which flows into the larger Rhine river.  A series of little bridges cross the Ill to connect it to the rest of the city.  This old part of the city is extremely charming and the best place to stroll, shop and dine (if you are a tourist).  We were lucky to have beautiful sunny weather and blue skies.

Sunshine in Petit France
Boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed the Alsacian beer, and now picks himself up a Fischer Ale (imported from Alsace) whenever he warnts a treat.  I also enjoy the Alsacian style beer!  Anyone know of this style being produced in the US?  Very little is imported, and when it is, it is pricey!

Another major attraction in Strasbourg is the cathedral, which took over 200 years to build and when completed in 1493 was the tallest building in the world (beating the pyramid in Giza!)  Interestingly, this cathedral has only one tower because they ran out of money to build the second.  The stone is a sandy red color and the style is gothic.

Intricately carved front of cathedral
A side view showing the one tower
We climbed to the top to get a panoramic view of the city and Boyfriend got a little artsy ;)
Itty-bitty Strasbourg
We stuck around the cathedral to see the Astronomical clock, which only goes off once a day (12:30pm).  This is a massive clock with many intricate, moving pieces.  In addition to tracking the time of day, it tracks month, day of the week, lunar cycles and many more things!  I really enjoyed seeing it go off.  The best part was the shut down the cathedral during that time so only the people who buy the clock ticket (which is very cheap) are inside, so we got to walk around the cathedral without the crowds.

Astronomical clock
That evening, we took a tourist boat ride around the Ill river.  It came with an audio recording in many languages that pointed out sights and gave a lot of history.  Sometimes these boat rides are cheesy, but I really enjoyed it.  We got to see a lot, learn a lot and the city was beautiful lit up at night!

The next morning, I explored the city on foot in running shoes (of course!).  I decided to stick to the jogging/biking path that ran alongside the Ill river.  I figured it would prevent me from getting lost, which it did.  Unfortunately, the city center has a lot of traffic, so I found myself stopping at a lot of intersections early on.  After a few miles, it calmed down.  I ran past the European Parliament (which is located in Strasbourg) and kept along the bike path heading towards the Rhine.  After 3.5 miles, I turned around and retraced my path back to the hotel.  I didn't see any other runners out, but lots of people were using bikes to get to work or school.  I did notice on the map some big parks not too far from the city center, so I think there are some other nice running options.

Running along the Ill river in Strasbourg was charming

Later that day it was back to the train station and on to Germany, which I will tell you about soon!