Monday, August 15, 2016

126 Miles

One of the best things about having a month in Oxford was all the running time I got to have. Mostly cool, clear weather - much better than the Oklahoma humid heat I'm running in right now. July was good timing because I was starting my marathon training plan. It was a good kickstart of getting into the habit of steadily increasing my weekly mileage and long runs. Like last year, Myron was usually up for running so I had some accountability to get up early and get my miles in before lectures and research most days. We started the first weekend with a 10-mile run near my favorite Oxford neighborhood Jericho and out to the meadow along the river.

Because of the ample running time I got last year, and I knew there were several runners in the group, a group of us planned to run a race in the nearby town of Adderbury. The second Sunday was a fun day: group traveling, race, and a meal together. Four of us ran the half marathon, one ran the 5K, and one ran the 10K.

Our Meeting Spot*
Mark was awesome! He booked a van for us to rent, and he drove it. With April navigating, we got to the race in plenty of time!

Road Trip!
Adderbury was a cute little English town. I enjoyed walking through it (and running through part of it at the end).

Typical cute English street

One Spire
I had decided to approach this race as just fun, not to worry about the time. I knew within the first couple miles that was a good decision when I reached this:

That's right. There was a line to jump a fence. It turns out the route goes through several patches of private property so I ended up jumping several fences and gates.

The race was described as a trail run. 

Yep, that was a correct description.

I'm so glad Erin took pictures along the race. She got some great shots.

There were maybe 3-5 miles total that were along a main road. 
The rest was usually through forest areas and fields. 
Beautiful fields.

Paths like this had you basically running through the stalks. There was one point, I jumped the gate and the race marshall pointed in the direction I was supposed to run. 
There was no path. 
I asked him, "Over there?" 
So I ran in that direction until I found some runners up ahead of me. 

It was pretty hilly. We would call one of the hills I ran up a mountain here in Oklahoma.

Check out the elevation gain.
I enjoyed the run and was glad I got to run a race in England!

I was really thankful I had friends to join me for the race.

Erin, Mark, Myron, April, me, and Dennis
Some kindly Adderburian (or someone at the race) recommended a great place to eat over in a nearby town so we headed there after the race. 

We weren't disappointed. Great ambience and yummy food!

I'm liking the training plan I am using so far. Now of course, ask me that after my race in October. For now, I am liking the built-in recovery weeks. I have a smaller distance for my long run every fourth week. I had a short 8-mile run to do the following weekend after the race which worked out well. We had a group tour all day on Saturday, and I took a day to rest and work a little on Sunday. It was easy to squeeze in a smallish long run that weekend.

Eleven of us traveled to Amsterdam together the next weekend. There weren't any races going on (I looked), but Myron and I got a 12-mile run in Saturday morning.

Before we set out, we asked the hotel concierge of a good 12-mile route. The next five minutes of her explaining the proposed route was lost on me. All I kept hearing her say was, "So, you just keep running along the canal..." See the map above? Amsterdam is all canals. I had no idea what canal she was talking about. Thankfully, for two directionally-challenged folks, we found a 6-mile route that went around the main part of town and through the industrial area.

It was a direct path with pretty trees on both sides most of the time. Despite a little motorized bike traffic, it was pretty quiet.

Had to stop and pose by the modern Dutch windmills.

Part of the route was through the town by the serene canals and picturesque Amsterdam homes.

My favorite doors in Amsterdam.

I counted it as a win that we didn't have to use Google Maps to get us back to the hotel.

A tad tired after 12 miles.
The weather in Amsterdam reminded me of mild Oklahoma summers: overcast skies and humid. It was definitely warmer than England in July.

Got another shorter run the next morning.
Once my last week in Oxford arrived, I was pretty mindful that my English morning runs were numbered. I was soaking up the beautiful runs along the Thames and fully enjoying the cool mornings.

Myron organized some speed work for April and I one day. After warming up, April and I ran ten uphill sprint repeats.

It was fun to stretch my legs and have something different to do even though the hill wasn't too steep.

My last run in Oxford was a long run. I was scheduled for 14 miles; it was my first time ever to run longer than the half marathon distance.

It began with a south run through town past Christ Church 
and along part of the Thames I had never ran. 

Then ended up circling back up north along the water towards Port Meadow...

...ran by the Old Nunnery one last time...

...and ended in Jericho.

It was a perfect way to end a month of a lot of running. 
Approximately 126 miles of a lot of running.

*Many of these pictures were taken by other BTC peeps. Thankful for easy access to steal share photos!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

August Family Time

August is usually a nice transitional time for us. The boys start school at the beginning of the month, and I'm going back to work, but my schedule is flexible the first couple of weeks. Before the busyness of the semester begins, I usually enjoy the return to an easy schedule.

This year, we're especially soaking up some family time since I was gone last month.

Last weekend, Josh had the idea to take the kids to the fun spot on campus to play.

It's a good time of the year because the campus is empty. 
Except it was hot. 
Really hot.

We all played soccer.

The guys played baseball.

H wasn't interested in baseball so she and I played Follow the Leader up on the steps and near the clock tower.

The start of my semester is picking up so I'm enjoying some family time.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

I Really Did Work in Oxford

View from the Old Library (where my lectures were)
People ask my family members and me what I did in Oxford. Despite my weekend excursions shown in pictures on Facebook, I really did work in Oxford. The two months in Oxford are just a part of the whole Bridging the Two Cultures (BTC) program that I've been fortunate enough to participate in this past year.

Lady Margaret Hall: where I lived and attended lectures.
Like last summer, there were two types of weekdays in Oxford. Usually, three days a week, I had lectures and workshops to attend. These were long days where I had to be engaged (supposed to be) - listening, thinking, and processing. The audience members could visit with the speakers during the breaks (two a day) and lunch. While last year, the lecturers were from the humanities, this year, the talks were given by scientists with a philosophical and/or theological theme. I struggled last summer to understand the talks, but this year was better. Part of it was because some of the lectures were science talk. After a year of being engaged with the humanities, I'm also a little more comfortable in the non-science world. Some of the lectures will directly benefit my classes - both my science majors and non-major courses. I'm excited to implement new information into my lectures. This is one of the reasons why a program like this can be so revitalizing.

Taking a quick picture during lecture.
Research days were filled with writing and meeting with mentors and tutors. My proposed project that I submitted with my application focused on molecular symmetry and theological implications of observed design. Over the past year, that project morphed into a collaboration with a philosopher from the BTC program that outlines an argument for beauty and truth being linked in the case of molecular symmetry. We got to present the joint paper at two conferences this past year; one being a conference in Canada that I got to run a half marathon, too. While the experience and feedback at the conferences proved to be helpful, the feedback we received on the project in Oxford was invaluable. Many of the mentors and tutors have suggested some theological paths to go with the project which will be interesting to work on next. The peer groups were probably the most helpful with the present paper. The natural scientists and philosophers pushed hard on parts of the argument uncovering the weak points. It was during the third week or so that the argument got refined based upon the feedback our peers offered. Hopefully another conference and ultimately a publication will result. I also got to do a little work on a survey that a biology peer is working on  as well. Seeing the initial results of his work has been interesting.
Writing at a local cafe with friends.
It's from my work on the philosophical treatment of molecular symmetry and another science/philosophy project that I've discovered that...I kinda like philosophy (gasp!). That's gasp-worthy because I hated did not appreciate my undergraduate philosophy course at all. I wish I could go back to my 21-year-old self and tell her to pay attention to what she's reading because it would be handy for later. (I'm reminded of a similar undergraduate happening involving circuits in physics and differential equations. I skipped both (or as much as I could) but guess what? I needed circuits and differential equations for graduate work so I had to learn them anyway. Ah, the naive young thinking.) I'm learning to appreciate the framework that philosophy can offer when thinking about certain topics, especially about God. That's probably another reason why I've loved my time in this program. I've discovered something else that I like almost as much as chemistry - enough that I want to read and absorb more of it.
Pages of notes
One of the neat and most unexpected things that resulted from my involvement with the BTC project is that I ended up meeting people of the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) project. I got asked to serve on a planning grant team meeting in Oxford this past summer, too. I got to meet some great people and my respect for what MOTB is trying to do grew even more.

While my time with the BTC grant is about up, there are some related activities that will take place over the next couple years. Besides my continued work on the projects, my institution will also host a related play and there will be a North American reunion of the BTC participants where we can update each other about our projects. The life-long friends and contacts I've made in the program is probably the most important thing I've gained in the program. I now know several other professors in a cross-section of disciplines that are passionate about science & religion. Of course, contacts like that will be helpful when I have academic questions or am looking for more scholarly collaborations, but I am especially thankful for these new friends. But that's another blog post.