January 21, 2018

Food, Food, Food (and some miles)

This week was super chill.  Lots of healthy food at home, 2 book club events (Pachinko A+, Bonfire B) and some decent runs.

Two of my favorite healthy dishes for dinner:
Brown rice tabbouleh-ish salad
&
Arugula/Spinach Saag
Total mileage: 21.83.  Much lower than hoped for.  BUT, very little pain and several runs that were local high water marks in terms of the amount of time spent at various paces.  Slowly but surely, it feels like I'm making progress.  And the current plan is still to drive up day of and do my best at the Kaiser half.

Half spicy, half original broth
As expected, the long run was the wildcard this week, and it didn't work out.  12 miles was the plan.  I headed out on Saturday AM in gloriously perfect weather and cruised through 5 miles at sub 12 min/mile pace before realizing that (TMI warning) I was having serious sports bra chafing issues.  It was clear to me that I could finish the full run, but that if I did so, I'd need several days of non-sweaty non-sports-bra recovery to get myself healed up enough to run afterwards.  I made the conservative call and decided to take the next detour off the trail and do 15X30s high effort strides with 1 min walking recovery home for a total workout of 8.5 miles.  Not quite 12 miles, but it included 7.5 minutes at speed with very little leg pain at all.  It was so much better of a cardiovascular performance than last week's difficult 10 miler that I just couldn't be too upset even though I had to bail on the full length. 

Post "long" run hot pot goodies:
Enoki mushrooms, pickled cabbage, 
baby octopus, shrimp balls,
house noodles.
We'll be going back!
So, now, after today's rest day of driving up to the city, brunching with friends celebrating their newly adopted infant, driving back, picking out the winter garden, and some lazy yardwork and puzzle time, the plan is to do the 12 either tomorrow or Tuesday.  Fingers crossed.

I opted for pickles, mac and cheese, and collards

In other news, a local company has targeted me for a position in-house that is interesting enough that I'm actually seriously considering shutting down my law firm and taking it. 

Updated Tabbouleh-ish salad w/feta
served alongside one of my favorites -- red lentil soup.
We're still in early discussions, but I pulled together a resume for the first time in several years, and they scheduled an interview for next week. It's very fascinating to consider all of the aspects of changing my professional life from the situation I've had for the last 8 years as my own boss (read: working remotely from anywhere in the world only requires my own approval) into one where I have only one (internal) client, a boss that is not me and probably wants my butt in a seat in a specific physical location most of the time, plus all of the benefits and drawbacks of working for a major corporation (yay: free gym and on-site food and drinks, boo: AM status meetings and probably lots of other stuff I've forgotten about since I left the corporate work force).  

January 14, 2018

Home

 We spent the majority of the week at home with a quick one-night trip up to the city.

The sunset views from our home-away-from-home SF hotel are breathtaking.
It was a pedestrian week of home-based comforts.  It's my favorite time of year -- SOUP SEASON!  So, I made cauliflower leek bisque from the leftovers of a cauliflower, garlic, potato, cheese bake. For a few days, we hosted an out of town friend (who clearly didn't love the healthy soup as much as I did -- he took us out to dinner the next night).

Kale chips and mushroom quinotto.
The next healthy meal effort was a huge hit: Mushroom quinotto with a side of kale chips equals one happy husband.  We've got the last of the quinotto on tap for dinner tonight and we're both looking forward to it.  Thankfully, it only took about 10 days and we've both returned back (more-or-less) to the pre-holiday weights we'd established and then lost in our trip to Mexico and the South.

Last night, in celebration of soup season, I made one of my favorites:  Vegetarian Minestrone!


Seriously, I love minestrone in all forms, but it's so satisfying that it's an easy vegetarian option -why add meat when it's so delicious without it?  We'll be eating off these leftovers all week.

In running news, I tried to run slightly more miles than last week and keep up the exercises that seem to be the reason my leg is holding up.  I succeeded.  27.58 miles.  Most of them running, most of which before or after stabilization exercises.  Bonus--I ran the full workout with the track group and hit the McMillan paces for my target (albeit slow) half marathon pace.

The long run of the week is, and will likely continue to be the big question mark.  This week, I headed out on Friday AM in San Francisco in the true chill of the fog with a goal of 10 miles out and back along the Embarcadero and Chrissy Field.  It was not to be.  At 2.5 miles, I had to admit that my hip/butt was not happy with me, and another 7.5 miles just didn't seem like a good idea.  I stopped to walk and stretch and then ran 30s strides with 1 minute of walking recovery back to the hotel.  It was a decent 5 mile workout, just not the one I'd planned on.  I was sore enough that I feared I may need to cut off my half marathon training.  Gamely, I stretched and rolled, and hoped for the best.

Saturday AM, I was surprised to find that my leg felt "Okay."  So, I headed out and forced myself to finish 10 miles @ 13:01/mile pace.  I "ran" almost the whole thing, but the last 2 miles really hurt.  I returned home to tell E that I was almost certain I couldn't do the half.

And then, I rolled and stretched and found that sitting in a chair at lunch didn't hurt as much as I expected.  I rolled off and on all day, and then as we watched a movie that night.  And today, I woke with a reasonably-not-super-tight leg.  So, I headed out for a short easy run and after 1 mile, decided to call it quits due to an instinct that said working hard for sub 12/mile was not smart, even if it didn't hurt.  So I walked home. 

Oddly, I feel better about my prospects for the half than I have in several weeks.  And, of course, either way, I've got lots of delicious homemade soup in my week's future.

January 7, 2018

First Week of 2018

Happy New Year!

Toasting to the TV, New York Ball Drop on NYE with friends.
Starting with the first day of 2018, I had 5 full weeks until the Kaiser Half Marathon.  My left leg rehab had been going reasonably well, so the story I told myself was that if I could do a 20+ mile week including an 8 mile run this week without an increase in pain or decrease in mobility, then I could continue to train for the next few weeks with a goal of completing the half.

Monday, the first of the year, I took the day off.  I'd run on the last day of 2017, and then we'd been up partying pretty late, plus, when I woke, there were snow flurries.  It was going to be a very cold day, so instead of running, E and I enjoyed the first meal of the year at Waffle House, and I did some rolling and stretching and lots of football watching while working on a puzzle.

Tuesday, I did side lunges, glute bridges, and 5 miles in the hills @ 12:39/mile followed by 3 sets of strides with walking recovery in the mid 8 min/mile pace range.  I rolled and stretched afterwards.

Wednesday, my track group back home was doing the Cooper Test, so I figured I would join in, remotely.  My father-in-law drove me to the active oval in Piedmont Park, and he and I jogged for half a mile or so to warm up.  I stopped to do some drills and dynamic stretching while he kept running.

The active oval is a nice wide 0.5 mile gravel loop around four sporting fields with two bisecting paths through the oval. 
The perfect place for a self-run cooper test.
I set my running music list to shuffle and off I went, chasing his 0.25 mile lead and shrinking it down but never quite catching him.  12 minutes later, I'd run 1.26 miles at a 9:34/mile pace, but best of all, my leg had held up.  It was a 5% improvement from the last time I'd run the test, and after a few down weeks due to my leg, so I was pleased, if a bit bummed that I hadn't done better. I do like how broad the performance categories are for the Cooper test.  For my age, my fitness is simply "Good" and will continue to be so, even if I increase my performance by 5% for several more iterations.

And, in the course of writing this, I realized I have a New Year's Goal -- to achieve "Very Good" on the Cooper Test this year.  In order to do that, I'll need to be able to run 8:23/mile for 12 minutes.  Wish me luck!

Thursday was a rest/travel day.  Friday, I had 3 mile intervals on my schedule but work was a bit crazy, so I settled on walking my downtown errands for 1.18 miles, and then a single 2 mile strength interval at 10:24/mile, followed by 0.18 walking cooldown.  Again, my leg held up, and I rolled and stretched afterwards.

Saturday, I had the 8 miler on the calendar.  I headed out late in the morning, but it was clear by mile 2 that it was not to be.  I stopped at a water fountain for 3 miles @ 12:00/mile, lapped up the water while trying to figure out how to deal with the situation.   I decided I'd go for 8 the next day, and tacked on a solid 15 sets of 30 second strides to get home (mainly 8 min/mile pace, with a couple high 7s and low 9s, 1 minute walking recovery intervals between for an additional 1.5 miles).  Of course, I spent some quality time rolling my left leg and hip while watching TV that night.

Today, Sunday, was make-or-break-it day.  I knew that if I couldn't at least get an 8 miler done this week there would be no way I could do 13.1 miles in 4 weeks.  I headed out after 9 AM in the overcast weather for my second attempt.  It wasn't pretty, but I slogged it out, and aided by my audiobook, I finished 8 miles @ 12:55/mile.

So, there it is.  One week into 2018 and I'm still targeting a February half marathon after a 24.22 mile week, and I have a 2018 fitness goal.

January 4, 2018

2017, The Year In Books

2017 was a low volume book year, totaling just 16 visual books and 23 audiobooks.  This is even less than 2016's 22 visual books and 32 audiobooks, and way down from 2015's 29 visual books and 48 audiobooks.

I'm now done with full-time traveling, and a member in 2 book clubs, so I'm hopeful that alone will increase the reading in 2018.  Also, I'm hopeful my body will let me keep increasing my running mileage, and soon it will be gardening season.  Since I tend to rip through audiobooks while running and gardening, there's also that to look forward to.

Without further adieu, here's the write-up of the final books I read and listened to this year (see part 1 and part 2 for the earlier stuff).

Visually Read Books:

Title
Author
Review
Anonymous (C)
Analee Newitz
A dystopian future where robots are indentured servants until they earn their way to freedom (which rarely happens), and humans born into bad socio-economic situations are as well.  Our heroes are reverse engineering anti-patent folks (although the patent law in this book is *super* way off reality's basis).  The most heart-warming characters are a robot who was raised by humans and appears to have some level of agency as well as a human illegal drug-runner who traffics commercially developed therapies that are artificially inflated as to price and unavailable to the masses.  Worth a read, but not worth the hype in the press.
The Hundred Secret Senses (A+)
Amy Tan
My favorite Amy Tan book so far.  I felt so taken in by the characters and dialogue and references to places that I know, it was as if I'd known these people in my past.  The magical realism of Kwan's view of the world juxtaposed against Olivia's attempts at pure rationality are wonderfully lovely.  The story comes together on both planes slowly, but inevitably, and the ending feels so satisfying and obvious even though I couldn't have guessed where it would go 30 pages earlier.  Highly recommended.
In the Name of Salome (A+)
Julia Alvarez
This book was gifted to me by a good friend years ago.  I finally found time to read it on our trip to Mexico and was so glad that I did so.  The history of the Cubans, the Dominicans, the Puerto Ricans, the other Spanish-conquered and American colonized areas in this part of the world (including Mexico) and all of their US American immigrants is so intertwined and complex.  The exceedingly well-researched but fictional telling of the 19th century stories of Salome Enrique Unrena, a real-life poet and girls' education pioneer in the Dominican Republic is epic.  Sad, defiant, and full of love of life in a way I can't explain but often recognize in good Latin American literature -- I loved this book so much that I packed it back up and brought it back to the U.S. to gift to a good friend rather than leave the copy at the hotel as a gift to a stranger, as I typically do. 
The Wrong Side of Goodbye (B)
Michael Connelly
I bought this at a CVS across the street from the hospital and it was everything I was looking for in a book at the time.  I like Michael Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer books, but I've read them all as he doesn't produce them at the rate he produces his detective Harry Bosch books.  I'd listened to The Crossing, the Harry Bosch book prior to this one, and I'd enjoyed his transition into private investigator practice, so I was hopeful this one would be good as well, and it was.  Fast paced, excellent portrayal of Los Angeles as the setting and also almost a character, and, of course, an solid murder mystery that keeps you guessing but is neatly wrapped up by the end.

Audiobooks:

Title
Author
Review
The Bourne Supremacy (B-)
Robert Ludlum
Glad I went back to re-enjoy this one, as it was so very different than what the movie made the story out to be.  Set in Hong Kong and China.  Marie is kidnapped but not killed at the beginning and her life in danger is a major plot point. 
Tough Sh-t: Life Advice From a Fat Lazy Slob Who Did Good (B)
Kevin Smith
I'd had a bit of overload with the doom and gloom I encounter on twitter and the news (and the dark side of the Jason Bourne stories didn't help), so I sought this one out for solace.  I've always been a big fan of Kevin Smith.  It was fascinating to listen to this book, now, after all the Harvey Weinstein revelations, as Kevin Smith is very open about worshipping Harvey in his early career and owing his entire film success to the early chances that Harvey took on him.  Over the years, their relationship soured and Kevin's outlook matured to the point of realizing that when he thought he was just so "Indy" he'd really been a "Miramouseketeer" and "credibility clown" whenever Harvey asked him to do some press to ensure that bad rumors about Miramax or the Weinsteins would be squashed.  I was curious to see what his take on the revelations was, and when I researched it was pleased to see that he was clearly upset and is donating all of his residuals from all of the films he made with Harvey Weinstein to a non-profit that helps female filmmakers.  This book is, as you'd expect, funny, profane, and lovably honest.  The key message is that life is short and you should live your dreams, which frankly, is a message that needs much more airtime than it gets.  Exactly what the doctor ordered to cheer me up a bit.
Bourne Ultimatum (B-)
Robert Ludlum
I wanted to finish the full series, and I was glad I did.  At this point, the plot is so far off from where the movies went that it's not remotely the same story at all. David Webb is married to Marie, they have kids, and they are living in a protective program in the Northeast US.  Someone has revived the mythical Jason Bourne as an assassin in Asia and some US intelligence operatives decide to kidnap Marie to blackmail David into returning to the role (as a 50 year old) to catch the imposter.  The plot is obviously ridiculous, but it's still a fun romp and a final showdown between the Jackal and Jason Bourne.
Turtles All the Way Down (C+)
John Greene
This book was enjoyable YA, as you'd expect from John Greene.  The main character has mental health issues and much of her inner monologue makes up the prose, which means, as a reader, you are subject to obsessive thought cycles, and detailed descriptions of compulsive behavior among other things.  There's young love (of course) and youth struggles with loving, but flawed parents (of course).  All told, it was a light and easy treatment of some difficult topics. 
The Power (A-)
Naomi Alderman
A very clever exploration of physical power and gender set in a science fiction/fantasy future where women develop electrical impulse control and society evolves accordingly.  My only complaint about this book is that at times I felt the analogies were too forced.  I get it, in this society, men are the more sensitive, emotionally nurturing gender, and they are subject to the spectrum of treatment from women in power that goes along with that.  I couldn't help but feel that a book set in today's society with that much of a focus on gender discrimination would seem fake and preachy.  The lack of random interspersal of decent treatment with the discriminatory treatment was the part that pulled this down from a true A/A+ for me. 
Manhattan Beach (A)
Jennifer Egan
Well researched tale of a female scuba welder working for the Navy during world war II interspersed with timely drama related to immigrants, unions, the Irish and Italian mobs, and the choices that were available to those of lesser means at the time.  Engaging and believable. 
Bonfire (B)
Krysten Ritter
A good debut novel by a multi-talented actress, author, and musician.  The portrayal of small town America was mercilessly dead on, and the main character was fascinatingly flawed while being believably semi-aware of it -- these two aspects were the things that most impressed me with the book.  As far as thrillers go, it was good, but not great.  Occasionally, a turn of phrase would catch me off guard with its insightfulness, but most of the time I didn't notice the writing (which is typical for thrillers I enjoy).  Overall, it was intriguing, light, and easy to process.  The voice acting was good, although I was a little surprised that Krysten didn't do it herself given her voice performance background.  If I have one complaint, it would be that it seemed to me to have too much stereotypically "20-something feminine drama" for my taste and a habit of dropping important plot points in half-explained sidebars.  Worth a read.
Murder on the Orient Express (A)
Agatha Christie
The new theatrical release of the film based on this book inspired me.  I adore Agatha Christie novels and had read most of them in my teens.  However, as I'd discovered when I'd re-read 10 Little Indians for the first time since teenagerhood, for Murder on the Orient Express, I had also completely forgotten the characters and plot.  This Audiobook production was excellent, with a team of voice actors doing all of the various characters such that it was more like listening to a play reading than a typical audiobook.  Almost the entire text is made up of the investigation by the famous detective Hercule Poirot after the death of one of the passengers is discovered while the train is stopped in a snow drift.  It's impressive how much plot Ms. Christie created in the words that are simply dialog between Poirot and the other passengers regarding their behaviors and belongings.  The tightness of the language and her ability to contain an engaging and full story within such strict constraints made me appreciate just how talented Ms. Christie was.

December 31, 2017

Closing Out 2017

I spent Christmas eve and Christmas day at a hospital, supporting family, grateful for medical care and the impressive things that can be done to save and prolong lives.  It was the first time I've ever celebrated Christmas where I wasn't at a family home-hosted celebration.  Sure, there has been the occasional celebratory Christmas eve or Christmas day meal at a restaurant, but it's always been tagged on to a gathering of either my family or E's family (and often friends as well), with the general celebration based in someone's decorated home with presents.

Christmas Eve Seafood Dinner
Mom and I left the hospital for two meals -- Christmas eve at an oyster bar and Christmas day at a Sushi restaurant.  At both places, I was so thankful for the servers, chefs, bartenders and other service professionals who worked on the holiday, most of whom wore Christmas-themed clothing and played Christmas music.  I saw many single people, sitting at bars, enjoying a holiday meal alone.  And I was so, so grateful for the people who made their and our evening out possible, as well as the great fortune I've had to be able to celebrate the holidays in a family member's home as their guest.  I teared up when I dialed in to watch the unwrapping festivities with E's family -- I very much wanted to be there. Somehow, I'd never realized just how lucky I've been to have experienced joyous Christmas present unwrapping with family every year of my life.  Acknowledging that I'd taken this amazing gift for granted was very humbling.

[Edit: E reminded me that we spent Christmas eve in Sydney and Christmas day in Wellington in 2014.  So, we have spent one Christmas away from other friends and family, I've just never done so before this year in the United States.]

Octopus Ceviche Starter for Christmas Dinner
On the running front, I am tentatively hopeful that I'll be able to continue to improve and actually complete the Kaiser half marathon.

This week's mileage totaled 20.5, almost all of it running, and definitely the highest quality week since I'd admitted my leg was injured (and probably the highest quality week for a couple of weeks before the admission as well).

Christmas day, I did a solo chilly hour along the dike of the Mississippi river, 20 easy minutes out and 40 minutes strides/walk intervals followed by stretching, rolling, and glute work.

Tuesday, I rested, and Wednesday I ran a 5K in the ATL hills @ 11:53 average pace.  Afterward, I dropped in 4 60-second strides by effort (some on hills) @ 9:34; 8:27; 9:25; 10:28 per mile pace with walking recovery.  This was, essentially, the first real "workout" I'd done in 3 weeks and I managed to roll and stretch my leg afterwards until it felt pretty good.

I took Thursday as a rest day, and headed out Friday with hopes of a nice slow 5 miler.  Unfortunately, my leg was not on board.  I did 2.55 miles @ 12:16, but then the tightness in the side and back of my leg made me think it would be best to stop to stretch out my glute and hamstring.  From there, I did some intermittent run/jogging to close out the day with a total of 5.2 miles, although probably only 3.5 or so was actually running.  Upon return to the house, I aggressively rolled and stretched and hoped for the best.


Piedmont Park is a great place for flat strength intervals
Saturday AM, my leg surprised me by feeling much better, so I decided to go forward with the planned for (very short) workout.  I did side lunges and glute bridges to warm up, then walked to Piedmont Park, and ran a mile @ 9:44.  The original goal had been 10:30, but E came along and pulled me at a faster than planned pace.  I walked the 5 minutes to recover and started up again for a second mile, but it was not to be.  After 0.25 miles of starting at 9:44 and eventually slowing to 10:11/mile average pace, I walked a bit to recover and closed out the last 0.75 miles @ 10:34.  Looks like the original plan of 2 mile intervals at 10:30 pace was the right call... BUT, I fit in some 8:45 pace strides on the way home from the park and my leg held up afterwards, so this, too, was a success.

Sunday's plan was pace agnostic -- just 3 miles to get me over 20 for the week.  I rolled and did side lunges and glute bridges beforehand and headed out with my father in law for his favorite loop, warning him that I wanted to take it very easy.  We finished 1m30s faster than the last time we'd run it together a couple of weeks ago, and better yet, my leg was barely annoyed with me.  Three 11:30 pain free miles on a perfectly chilly day including 244 ft of elevation gain and loss?  It's a great way to close out the year.

Happy New Year's Eve, y'all.  Stay safe and I'll see you in 2018!

December 26, 2017

Cozumel & Playa del Carmen (Diving and Serious Lazy Leg)

Arriving at the Ferry Terminal in Cozumel
What the heck kind of ship is that off in the distance?
How many smokestacks can one boat have?
We headed out for a test shore dive on our first full day in Cozumel -- E's cold had cleared up so we rented gear and jumped straight in to the super strong currents off of Cozumel.  We kicked against them, swam out a bit to confirm E could equalize his ears down at 20 feet (the deepest dip we could find off the shore) and then floated back without effort to our dive resort's dock.  We then ill-advisedly kept floating past it to take in a few more views, which meant a serious up-current swim to close out the dive.  In full on lazy mode, I counted the scissor kicking under the water as good hip flexor extension and stability work for my leg for the day.  I also counted the 2 miles we walked round trip to dinner, cursing our lack of foresight with respect to insect repellant, hats, and sunscreens the whole time.  For the Sabbatical year, we had a big pile of stuff we never removed from the luggage, and so, we never thought about needing to pack it.  Now, starting with empty luggage for the first time in a while, we were unprepared for some basic travel needs.


Bonus points to anyone who can name this hilarious
Classic Mexican Movie
The themes are cock-fighting, big hats, love, and betrayal.
For the shore dive, the water was as clear as promised (very!) and the number of fish right there in front of our faces immediately after shore entry was impressive and surprising.  The rest of the day was perfectly indulgent: nachos, and reading under umbrellas in front of the ocean while sipping on drinks followed by an early onsite dinner. We woke early the next day, did a 2 tank drift dive over the reefs, studied for our Nitrox certification, and went to bed early after a stereotypical Cozumel dinner at La Choza.

Gorgeous full room nativity scene at La Choza.
The next day we took our Nitrox test (passed!) and did a 2 tank afternoon enriched air dive in the currents over the gorgeous reef enjoying views of puffer fish, lion fish, moray eels, many colorful tropical fish I can't identify, as well as a trigger fish, a sea turtle (!!!), and a gigantic eagle ray (majestic span of at least 6 feet).  We didn't even exit the dive shop 'til after 7 PM, so we availed ourselves of the onsite restaurant and bar and were in bed by 10 PM.

Christmas lighted ship parade from our dive resort window every night.
Thursday, a non-diving day, I headed out for my first run since Cancun, but the heat and humidity of Cozumel coupled with my left leg/butt/hip meant that I took it easy and just did 3 miles of run/walking followed by strengthening, stretching & stabilization.  Then, we took the ferry to Playa Del Carmen, which had changed immensely since we'd last been there 10+ years ago.  We settled into the Hyatt (yay, points!) for 2 final nights of luxury before heading back.

That afternoon's activities involved eating a delicious selection of skewers and going to one of 3 dive centers within 1 block of the hotel to book a cenote dive for our last full day.  We showed up Friday morning to learn we'd be diving at Dreamgate Cenote.  It was a wonderfully unique and beautiful experience -- as promised, the stalactites and stalagmites were gorgeous, and the fresh water was impossibly clear.  The one downside was that at 24C, even with a full wetsuit and a half wetsuit on top of it, after 45 minutes my fingers and toes were numb and I was shaking when we exited the water.  The difference between 24C and 27C in water is impressive!

One of many amazing views on Dreamgate cenote dive
PC: prodiveinternational.com
Saturday AM we woke to fit in yet another joint weight session.  I started with 2 miles of TM intervals at 1% incline, doing the "faster" stuff in the mid to low 9s with walking recovery, and then E and I cobbled together a hodge podge circuit of leg press, incline hanging rows, tricep overhead freeweight extensions, chest press, free weight cross jabs, medicine ball squat/(jumps), medicine ball standing twists, partner leg throw-downs, side foot ab crunch taps, and (of course) the obligatory glute bridges/pulses.

Crazy jetpack powered ridiculousness
(watched from the PDC beach from afar, in awe)

E had camarones flambeado for his final meal
this Mexico Trip--deliciousness and a show
all in one
We arrived back in the US on Saturday night, but Sunday AM, I found myself headed back out to the airport for a surprise change of Holiday plans, so the hoped for long run did not materialize.  Instead I spent the day flying and supporting various family members, where my presence was very appreciated. 

And there you have it.  A gloriously perfect and decadent week of Caribbean Mexican diving, food, drink, and also lots of sleep.  Even less actual running or other workouts than planned, but I'm relaxed, and relatively pain free.  So, I'd say my "lay off the hurt left leg and take it easy 'til it heals" plan is going swimmingly... Here's to hoping that I can start to increase mileage and train next week...

December 21, 2017

Rest, Relaxation & Recovery

Monday, I walked to the ART therapist and back and enjoyed/suffered through the manipulation, massage, stretching, and releases.  My leg was definitely in much better shape after last week.  So, we discussed how I'd stay on this strengthening, stretching, rolling, and very light running plan for another couple of weeks and then see if I could start to increase the mileage.

The first run of the week was an easy 3 miles @ 11:11/mile pace on Wednesday so that I wouldn't feel like a complete sloth due to a day of flying to the east coast.  Thursday, I did half an hour of strengthening, stretching, and rolling and then ran 3 miles with my father in law on his favorite hilly loop @ 11:59/mile.  My leg let me know that it was not thrilled with two runs in 2 days on the last mile, but it held up and didn't hurt too much afterwards, so I took it as a good sign.

Friday was a full rest travel day unless you count lazily walking around the all inclusive resort from bar to dolphin show to bar to restaurant to bar before an early bedtime.  I love using hotel points for all inclusive resorts -- the good ones (great locations, views, facilities, staff, good restaurants with menu ordering, mid-range name brand alcohol included, availability without too much advance reservation planning, etc.) are pricey enough that I find it hard to justify paying real money for them.  But points?  Sign. Me. Up.

I'd hoped we could fit in a dive at La Musa, the underwater museum, but E had a cold and it was raining, windy, and overcast for most of Saturday.  (As a new diver, I'm slowly learning that there are even more variables out of your control when planning diving vacations as compared to other travel -- you have to book your lodging and location in advance and just hope that you don't have congestion or poor weather or poor seas.  Note: If you do have unexpected sickness and weather, it really softens the blow if you're at an amazing all inclusive resort.)

Instead of diving, we took advantage of the gigantic onsite gym and did a mile of elliptical warmup followed by an hour of weightlifting, which is the first time we've ever done this activity together.  It could have been ugly, but it actually went quite well.  We alternated the various recommended leg weight exercises from my ART therapist with upper body and core work.  Thankfully, we kept the weights low, so neither of us were particularly sore the next day, but I had forgotten about how weightlifting makes me SUPER HUNGRY.  Thank goodness I could find calories galore around every corner.  The rest of the day was spent on lounge chairs under palapas in front of the Caribbean Sea, reading between dips in the ocean and, of course, lots of drinks and food (teppanyaki lobster for dinner!).

Sunday, I hit up the gym for 3X5 minute 1% treadmill ladders from 6mph up to 6.4mph interspersed with walking recovery and the assigned strength/mobility for my leg.  It was the first time I've run "fast" without pain in a couple of months, so that was good.

It's been interesting to experience how we travel now, vs. how we traveled before the Sabbatical.  First, we didn't really do any true lazy beach vacations on our year of travel.  Here, experiencing this awesomeness, we're both wondering why we didn't.  Lazy beach vacations are wonderful!

This is a short enough trip that I pre-booked all of the hotel nights fairly far in advance.  But I didn't book any of the transportation between the hotels.  Upon arrival, we got off the plane and navigated the hordes at the CUN airport, briefly evaluated the transfer options, walked up to the Super Shuttle desk and ordered a pre-paid private transfer from the airport to the hotel and return transit from our last hotel to the airport. 

The private transfer simply meant that a Super Shuttle employee filled out some paperwork, then grabbed a taxi from the front of the line, directed them to us, and paid them directly with some sort of voucher so we didn't have to wait in line or haggle over the price.  The only downside was that on the way to the cab, the Super Shuttle employee turned our receipt over and started pretending to need to know our ages and other personal information about us -- ahhh, the scam/hustle is strong in this culture, but so is politeness, so a quick explanation that I didn't want to answer any more questions shut that down.  I had been fairly certain we could manage the details by the seat of our pants without too much trouble for much less than advance booking would cost, buy you never can be sure, so I was thankful that it worked out. 

The rates at our resort for transit to Cozumel were $60 per person and up.  I was fairly certain we could do better, but that was our back up plan in case we needed it.  Sunday AM, after my workout and before we fit in our last all inclusive lunch, I did a little online research and found that we could take an ADO bus from downtown Cancun to Playa Del Carmen for something like $4 each and walk to the ferry to Cozumel which is $8 each.  So, we hopped in a cab ($13) to the bus station, waited in line to buy bus tickets (note -- typical Latin America, the online purchasing system had less availability and didn't work as well as the humans at the station), bought tickets for a bus departing in 15 minutes, tossed our big bag in the luggage compartment, boarded the perfectly comfortable air conditioned bus, half-watched the Spanish dubbed version of Mirror Mirror en route, arrived in Playa, retrieved the luggage, bought ferry tickets for a ferry boarding in 20 minutes, took the ferry to Cozumel, grabbed a cab ($6), and arrived at our dive resort just in time for 2-for-1 happy hour (less than $2 per margarita?  We'll take 4, please).  After 2 days of all inclusive splurging, we were more than happy to be in a lower budget option where we had to pay for all we chose to consume.

4 months of Spanish immersion and 3 months of Latin American culture immersion have made the day-of travel processes in touristy Mexico relatively unconfusing - which was definitely not the case before last year.  There is so much less information online here than we expect in the US.  Historically, that would have made me apprehensive and I would have booked online more than a day in advance or even gone to the station to confirm the schedule and buy tickets the day before.  Now, I have a general sense in Latin American cultures that it'll all work out, one way or another, even in the absence of detailed Internet information, which is one nice benefit that I hope to continue to enjoy in the future.

Finally, I thought last week was low mileage, but this week showed me that I just wasn't trying hard enough.  The grand total in my spreadsheet is 10.8 miles with only 7 of them running.  Here's to hoping the downtime coupled with all the other stuff is pointing me in the right healing direction and to better diving luck in Cozumel!

December 10, 2017

A Glorious Weekend

Last week was an exercise in patience and working on healing my left leg.  Conveniently, the low mileage, high rolling goal meant that I could take Friday completely off my feet, which was good, since I was scheduled for an all-day conference in SF.  (Note, one benefit of the beasties is that I could fit one in my purse and slyly slide it under my leg and roll out the tightness that built up while seated at the conference table all day.)

My favorite piece from the Klimt exhibit:
An unfinished portrait of a woman.
While at the conference, E emailed me about two big errors I'd made.  First, I'd booked our flights to Mexico to last for 5 weeks, instead of the 1 week trip we'd planned (wrong return month!).  Yikes.  Thankfully, there was still availability on the return flights and I just had to suck it up and pay the change fee, which hurt, but given that the flights I was buying were *less* than the flights we'd originally booked, meant that we didn't even have to pay the full change fee.

Second, I'd somehow made Friday's reservations for dinner at Pabu Boston instead of San Francisco.  Booking at the SF location the day of was not an option, so we took the opportunity to return to Ozumo for moriawase with o-toro for dessert instead.  Date night heaven!

The Baby.  
I found this piece super creepy.
Saturday AM, I went to the hotel gym and gamefully did 2 X (2 miles in 8 min cycling at decent resistance) interspersed with all of my assigned glute activation stretching/glute bridges, lateral lunges (5 lbs), 10 lb medicine ball pony squats, captain's chair leg lifts/scissor kicks, and a few other random core stuff plus stretching.  E left for a run while I was doing all of this and I was very jealous -- I love to run along the embarcadero, but I also want to get better.  So, discipline.

Cliff House Selfie
We were able to get reservations for lunch at Sutro's before our scheduled entrance to the Klimt Exhibit, and they seated us at a window table.  Date weekend win, yet again - lunch was delicious and it was a perfectly clear day to enjoy the views.

The Klimt Exhibit was interspersed with Rodin.
They met once, in the early 1900s.

Saturday was SantaCon in San Francisco.  On our drive out to Ocean Beach, we saw some of the partiers getting started around noon.  On our drive back to the embarcadero around 4 PM, we saw several Santas who were stumblingly headed home for the day, as well as many hearty souls gearing up for a full evening of revelry.  Per the usual for this time of year, we headed out to the annual holiday party of one of my former employers who is gracious enough to invite us every year.  We always look forward to the food, white elephant fun, and seeing old friends, and as always, it was a blast.

The Virgin.
Sunday AM, we slept in and then I headed out to meet up with friend who recently moved to SOMA.  She was one of my local running buddies before they moved, so it was awesome to join her for a nice slow relatively pain-free 3 miles along the embarcadero before cleaning up and enjoying a catch-up couples brunch of ceviche, octopus, grilled veggies and cocktails at La Mar.

Happy Holidays!  We don't decorate for Christmas.
But we do travel to SF for a holiday weekend 
every year, which is an awesomely 
enjoyable tradition.
At 13.09 miles in my log, this is the lowest mileage week I've done in a very long time.  But, my leg is feeling more stable, stronger, and less likely to have a muscle freak out with each passing day.  My original goal had been to increase my fitness until running the Kaiser half marathon in February.  At this point, I'm happy to just maintain my current fitness and heal.  If I am able to finish the Kaiser half at all, I'll be very grateful, regardless of how long it takes me.

December 6, 2017

Leg Update

My ART session on Monday was amazing.  I felt so much better after leaving the therapist's office.

I'm definitely kicking myself for not trying to get some professional help with this bum leg earlier.  I discussed my issues with the therapist and he had several suggestions as well as observations.

As I'd self-diagnosed, I had serious soreness in my glute and at the site of my hamstring insertion.  After confirming this, he went to work and evaluated what else might be going on and how he might be able to help.

The first thing he noted was that my outer left quad (vastus lateralus) was quite tight.  Because it hadn't been sore (and the back of my leg had been), I hadn't noticed this.  We talked about actively stretching my quads and how tight quads and hip flexors are a classic cause of glute malfunction, which can cause hamstrings to compensate, and viola... Interestingly, he didn't say, "this is definitely what's going on with you," but rather, he just spoke in generalized terms about things that can happen to people and how that *might* be what was going on with me.

This whole conversation was happening while he was stretching, manipulating and releasing my leg, which felt wonderful.

Also, much to my surprise, he didn't say, "You definitely should not run."  Instead, he acknowledged that there were some serious differences in the textures of my hamstrings and glutes (e.g. left is much worse off than right), but said that whether I can run, and how much, and how hard, really depends on how I respond to treatment and how I feel and what my goals are.

We discussed the Kaiser half, and he didn't flinch when I told him that in a perfect world, I'd like to try to recover with lots of yoga and slowly work my way up to 30 miles a week, starting to return to long runs in the next 3 or so weeks.  I know it's not guaranteed that I'll be able to do so, and I'm definitely ready to downgrade to the Kaiser 5K if necessary, but I liked his general openness to the idea that it could be possible.

He convinced me to order some new torture devices to up my rolling game and recommended some ART-like movements I could do on my own once I get a good pressure release location with the knobs on the Beasties.

Beasties, by Rumble Roller.
He also spent at least 10 minutes working on my SI joint and having me go through ranges of motion while he worked on getting me to release.  I have had sciatica in the past (always on my left leg), but I hadn't had any symptoms during this leg issue, so it hadn't occurred to me that my SI joint may be implicated as well.

Essentially, he said that my entire upper left leg seemed to be a bit grumpy and that it's really quite hard to start picking apart the original cause of something when there are that many factors at play.  The goal is to just get all of the various parts to calm down and work nicely with each other as much as possible.  So that's what I'm trying to do.

Oh, and I realized my shoes were old.
Note the aggressive wear on the left heel...
Yeah, my gait is *not* very even.
New shoes are en route.
I felt so good after the session that I made plans to head out for an easy 30 minute run the next day.  However, upon waking, I decided to chill out and see how my leg felt after just some walking and stretching and rolling.  Realistically, it felt like I should keep myself low-key and *ease* back into things in the face of feeling better. Today, I joined the track group, did all of the drills, but just jogged the warmup lap, the cooldown lap, and interspersed a few jogged 400s with his recommended lateral lunges, runner lunges, and glute bridges between them.  I also did a nice long pigeon pose at the end.  My leg feels okay, like it is getting better. 

I've got one more ART session next Monday, and then, hopefully, I can keep up the rolling and lunges and manage to slowly increase the distance and speed without maiming myself until January when I can go back for more ART.

Wish me luck.

Update 2:  Holy crap.  50ish total lateral lunges with no weights, simply touching a line on the outside of each lunging leg in sets of 10 between jogging at the track on Wed, resulted in seriously sore medial hamstrings on Thursday (but I was able to do a nice easy 3 mile run without too much pain).  Friday, now and it's even worse -- every walking step reminds me of those lunges and that I'm sore.  Obviously, my ART therapist's recommendation was well-informed.  It's clear that I have some serious weakness in the muscles that support this motion (I can do 50 front or back lunges with 5 lb weights on each side and not have much soreness at all). 

December 3, 2017

The Slow Road Back

Instead of packing and unpacking and scrambling to figure out laundry, logistics, food, transport, etc., we've been living a very easy home-bound home-cooked healthy life for the last 4 months.  Sure, there have been drive-away overnights for work or family, but nothing that's really thrown any sort of wrench into our plans.  And certainly nothing requiring a flight.

One of many slough views from the Capitol Corridor Amtrak 
between San Jose and Sacramento.
It's been gloriously easy and relaxing.

E has been taking advantage and dropping minutes off his 5K PR every time we run one.  He's been working out regularly, alternating calisthenics and running, and coupled with our healthy home-cooked meal regimen, he has lost 12-13 pounds.  I, on the other hand, despite eating roughly the same diet, and working out probably twice as much time, have only lost 6-7 pounds and haven't come close to setting any PRs on anything... Ah, testosterone.  Such an unfair performance enhancing chemical...

The gorgeous Sacramento train station with its mural
celebrating Sacramento and the Big 4 and the role of Railroads in 
California's history. 

Anyways, I wanted to record what my slow road back to fitness has looked like since we got back from our Sabbatical, in terms of races.

Peachtree 10K 12:30/mile pace (hot & humid)
Wharf 2 Wharf 11:30/mile pace (cool & humid)
Race to the end of Summer 10K 11:21/mile pace (warm and humid)
Rock 'n Roll San Jose 10K 10:47 pace (cool & dry)
Crissy Field Park Run October 5K 10:22/mile pace
Crissy Field Park Run November 5K 9:55/mile pace
Turkey Trot 10K 11:08/mile pace (2m40s walking due to cramps)

Vacaville (literally, cow-town) from the train, as advertised.
Unfortunately, I have been suffering from a pulled glute/hamstring.  I really aggravated it at the November Crissy Field Park Run, and it definitely slowed me down on the Turkey Trot.  Since Thanksgiving, I've been doing nothing but easy slow runs (I jogged in the 13 min/mile range while watching my friends run fast at track club last week) and lots of rolling and stretching.

Wholesome Murals in Sac-town.
This left me the night before our CIM relay with 7.2 miles to go and no idea of what would be possible.  The CIM relay had a couple of things going for it -- my section looked like it had a net elevation drop of about 175 feet over 7.2 miles (garmin says 286 ft of loss and 101 of elevation gain).  I am a better downhill runner than flat or uphill runner.  Also, it looked like it would be 45F for the whole race, which is right in my sweet spot -- I can run in a t-shirt and shorts at this temperature and let my very hot operating temperature keep me pleasantly functional and warm.  Cardiovascularly, I was feeling fit.  But, in hindsight, my leg had been bothering me and getting worse on hard efforts since at least SJRNR if not before.

Brother-in-law drove me to the sunrise start
(we saw an awesome super moon, but no pics)

My goal was to keep it below 10:47/mile, which I thought I should be able to do so long as my leg held up.  Of course, I had sweetheart visions of coming in sub 10:30/mile or even having a miracle day where my leg didn't hurt and I could keep it below 10:00/mile.

@RunSRA knows how to put on a race --
check out that line of porta-potties at the start!

Folks -- I can now confirm that my left leg is officially messed up.  I had been in denial and was excited to wake on Sunday and test it out.  After getting dressed, it felt better than it had in at least a month, possibly 2.  I did some mild stretching and then made my way to the start.  Mile 1 was a nice easy downhill of reigning it in at 10:12, but I could already feel it starting to tighten.  And that's what it continued to do over the rest of the course.  I finished my relay leg at an average 10:47/mile for a Garmin distance of 7.3 miles (vs. the 7.2 if I'd hit the tangents).  But it hurt.  And 7.3 miles shouldn't hurt.

At the start, look to the left,
pace groups for every 5-10 minute finishing time.  Impressive.
Back at her house after my leg, my sister was shocked to see that I couldn't even get my fingers to within 2 inches of my toes when I tried to do some straight leg stretching towards my left foot after the race -- nothing like family who know how historically flexible you've been to remind you just how bad off you are.  I also had some nasty chafing on my right bicep under my t-shirt sleeve cut-off that stung like hell in the shower, likely from pumping my opposite arm across my chest/bodyline to try to compensate for my lame left leg.

Sometimes, our tortoise flips herself.
She struggles for a while but can't right herself.
In the wild she would die.
We flip her back over.
But, seriously.
We are all doing better than our tortoise at life.
I'm bummed about my leg.  But, reality is a thing.  So, I'm going to accept that if I want to actually heal and be able to run any faster, I need to maintain my cardio while also taking time to do some massage, yoga, time off running, and possibly PT to fix my left leg.  I even found an ART specialist to see me tomorrow, so that should be painful, but good...

In the spirit of this, I thought about early registering for the Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon (thanks Jen for the discount).  This is because I suspect my plans for the Kaiser Half have a strong possibility of needing to be scrapped to fix my leg, and I'm thinking the smart play is to try to heal up and convert down to the 5K.  But, I decided I'm better off playing it by feel.  I do hope to complete an early spring half marathon.  Just not sure where.  So wish me luck.