January 13, 2019

One point eight percent

It was a light week, running wise.  Total mileage (including walking) was almost 18, so nothing impressive on that front.

But hey, I got in a cooper test on Saturday and dropped my pace to 9:06 minutes/mile.  Progress! (A 1.8% improvement over my previous best "this-decade" pace of 9:16.)

2124 meters.  Just 176 meters to go to "VERY GOOD."

January 9, 2019

2019: Goals

Last year, I didn't have many explicit year-long goals.

The only fitness goal I openly stated was that I wanted to try to improve my fitness to the point where I could run "very good" on the Cooper Test. I didn't even come close (it requires running 8:23/mile for 12 minutes).  My first cooper test of the year was at a 9:34/mile pace.  Over the course of the year, I dropped it down to a 9:16/mile pace.  But, I also decreased my 5K pace over the year down to 9:34 (so my 12 minute best became my almost 30 minute best pace) and I ran an 8:52 minute mile at the end of the year.  Both of these made me happy, as my fitness obviously improved.  Any year where you end the year better than where you started is a good one!

I bought myself Lauren Fleshman's Believe
Training Journal for Christmas
This year, I decided to set some concrete running goals:

1. A sub 1 hour 10K (looking for a good late fall option as the target race, with a few races over the course of the year to inch towards that time)

2. A sub 29 minute 5K (I'm hopeful I can do this sometime this Spring)

3. A sub 8 minute mile (this one is a stretch, so in the meantime I'll be happy with sub 8:30 as a stepping stone by June)

4. Very Good on the Cooper Test (probably not doable unless I can get close to the sub 8 minute mile, but I'll chip away at it)

I'm still scheduling my workout and target race schedule for the first few months of the year, and I'm looking forward to having a few racing opportunities to ratchet down towards these goals and hopefully also see and catch up with some of my running friends.

Example weeks from my food log
(can you spot the two weeks with travel & visitors?)
Another thing I did last year was I labeled my days as red (ate red meat), beige (ate poultry), blue (ate fish/seafood), or white (ate ovo-lacto vegetarian).  If I ate two of the categories, I used the color that was higher in the unhealthy/environmentally damaging order.

Due to the negative health associations and negative environmental impact of red meat, I started last year with a goal of keeping my red days below 1/3 of the total and just observing the other days. About halfway through the year, I realized that achieving this goal would be harder than I assumed.

The story I tell myself is that I eat vegetarian about 75% of the time.  And, when left to my own devices (E & I, eating alone, at home), I definitely did eat vegetarian about 75% of the time, with about 5% of my meals containing poultry and approximately 10% containing red meat, while 10% contained fish.

But, any time we have visitors, or we travel, I end up splurging.  Because I don't really enjoy most poultry, splurging for me generally results in red meat.  It was very easy to see the weeks where we had visitors, or were traveling simply by looking at the color patterns on the spreadsheet.

All in all, I finished out the year with 40% of my days being red (145 days), 8% beige (28 days), 15% blue (54 days), and 36% white (133 days). I definitely eat red meat more often than I thought I did.

Logging by day instead of meal does not give me a great insight into the actual percentage of my meals that contain the various protein sources.  I was insistent on logging any day where I had a piece of bacon or 2 ounces of charcuterie as red, for the sake of honesty.  Also, occasionally, I'd opt for a second serving of red meat on a day when I knew it was already marked red -- the day was blown, so why not indulge even more?  So, this year, I'll continue with the color coding for the frequency imagery, but I'm going to do the actual logging by servings (4 oz), with a half serving for small things like a piece of bacon.

In the interest of my health and the environment, my 2019 food goals are: less than 100 servings of red meat & at least 100 servings of fish/seafood (with a focus on sustainable sources) while maintaining my relatively low poultry intake (and thus getting a majority of my protein and other nutrients from plants, dairy, and eggs).  And, of course, I'll continue to try to eat locally sourced and produced food wherever possible (with the *most* local source, of course, being my garden).

Winter lettuces and veggies -- ready to go into the garden.
If you are interested in learning more about the environmental impacts of food production, I highly recommend this fascinating study.


January 5, 2019

Mexico City New Year

I'm a sucker for airline miles manipulation, and this year, they got me.  After our trip to Aruba and our flight back to California, I was shocked to see that I hadn't flown enough on actual paid trips this year to maintain our Delta flight status.

Sunset on our way to Mexico City.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Super ridiculous privileged first world problems, but if we're going to be honest about privilege and first world stuff, then we need to talk about financial literacy.  It's very important in terms of people's ability to transition from parents who are "poor, first in their family to go to college" to children who are "Bay Area hyper-educated normal." My family was *not* upper class, my parents were both the 1st to go to college in their families, and my 2nd generation college-groomed privilege was that I found finance interesting and I could subscribe to magazines about investing and business and my parents let that happen (they were all essentially free due to some weird sweepstakes magazine thing)...

Tacos from El Rey De Suaderno -- Delicious!
All of this (understanding the scarcity model plus a desire to maximize profits) contributes to my ability to realize that if I didn't get at least Silver Medallion status on Delta for 2019, I was losing quite a bit of value (as I had several reserve MQMs that wouldn't roll-over unless I was at least Silver, not to mention upgrade opportunities, free drinks/food, etc.).

Zocalo, the 3rd largest public square in the world.
E called it when I saw my status on the Delta App on our flight home from Aruba/Atlanta, "You're totally going to book a New Year's Trip that gets you status to protect our 2019 travel, aren't you?"

consomm√© -- one of the best things about  CDMX taquerias
Well, yes.  I tried to brush off his suggestion initially, but of course he knows me better than I know myself and 1 week later, we'd booked a New Year's trip to Mexico City.

The ruins in downtown CDMX right off the Zocalo.
We have several friends who've gone in the last few years, and they've all had wonderful things to say, particularly about the food.

Aztec Sun Stone
I knew we'd have a wonderful time -- it's the largest city in North America -- of course we could find things we'd adore.

Stereotypical touristic stuff at a ridiculously charming outpost near Teotihuacan.
But, folks, it totally exceeded our expectations.

Pyramid of the Sun -- the largest pyramid in the world you can hike up (3rd largest overall)
It was awe-inspiring.

View from the pyramid of the moon.
The teotihuacan pyramids are, frankly, almost as impressive as Machu Pichu, but with less crowds, and much easier to get to, so net, possibly a better experience.

The food was, as promised, excellent.

We decided on a light Portuguese lunch
(Jamon Iberico, Pan Tomate y Mejillones y Pulpo)
The museum of Anthropology was one of the best museums I've ever been to, which is saying a ton, as I tend to prefer my museums on the modern, arty, side.

We originally went with hopes of out of control Mexican fireworks (for which they are known), but, one of the few downsides of modern day Mexico City is the air quality (abysmal).  As such, fireworks had been more or less outlawed (as had tire fires and trash fires), so we found ourselves on Paseo de la Reforma with a cheery, happy group of folks with nothing more than a band, lights, and *HUGE* sparklers.  It was wholesome and wonderful and one of the more enjoyable ways I've crossed the new year's threshold.

Overall, it was a wonderful way to transition into the new year and I'm a bit shocked that it isn't held out as more of an international destination for Americans who want to travel.  It is the largest city in North America, very tourist friendly, but clearly its own Latin American destination where English will work, but not remotely as well as Spanish (so if you have some, use it -- they will appreciate your efforts!), and it has tons of culture.  Why it is not on the default list of easy places for American families who want to raise world traveling children is shocking to me -- the pyramids alone are worth a trip.

Also, the food.  Did I mention the food?

Chapulines -- look closely, those are baby grasshopper tacos (delicious!)
We'll probably go back as our friends stayed an extra day and did stuff we didn't do that sounded wonderful, plus there were neighborhoods we didn't visit and food we didn't try.

We fit in all sorts of fun cultural stuff including a great night of Lucha Libre!
If you're looking for a short international trip that has tons of culture, you should consider Mexico City.

January 3, 2019

2018: Closing Out the Books

For the last installation of 2018 book blogging, I present my total of visually read books for 2018 as the lowest number it's been in years.  Possibly since middle school:


Final commentary on Gravity's Rainbow plus the last three books below:

Gravity's Rainbow (C+, finally finished)

Worth the effort, but boy did this book take up a huge portion of my reading effort for the year.  I was very happy to be done.
The Importance of Being Earnest (B+)
Oscar Wilde
A classic for a reason, of course.  Frivolous.  Fun.  Entertaining. 
Less (A-)
Andrew Sean Greer
I loved. Loved.  LOVED this book. The story of a 50 year old gay male author whose former partner is getting married, so he accepts all manner of invitations all over the world to concoct an excuse not to attend.  The writing is so subtly good that I found myself going back a few lines to double check that I'd fully appreciated the jokes. I don't believe I've ever read a book where the protagonist was a middle-aged gay male, and I sincerely appreciated the opportunity to get into that headspace. A friend said that this book reminded her of the Elegance of the Hedgehog (one of my favorite books of all time), and I agree.  There's almost nothing in common between the books in terms of characters or plot, but there's something about the slyly hilarious humor of the language and the honest and wistful characters and their desires that is a shared experience between them.
Rust & Stardust (B)
T. Greenwood
In 1948, young Sally Horner was kidnapped by Frank La Salle, a 50 year old mechanic, who posed as an FBI agent after observing her shoplift and used this ruse to convince her to come with him.  He kept her captive for 2 years as they traveled from Camden, New Jersey to Baltimore, Dallas, and eventually San Jose, California.  I learned from this books, that the news of this real-life story inspired Nabokov to write Lolita.  I don't usually like real-life crime novels that are not detective stories with a clean ending.  Crime as experienced by the victim is not the type of literature I like to consume. I got nightmares from criminal law class in law school.  But, this was a gifted loan from a friend, so I gave it a read.  Much like Lolita, it is a gorgeous collection of words.  It's a beautiful book.  It tells the tale from the perspective of the victim, rather than the perpetrator, which is, from the yuck-perspective, an improvement over Lolita.  It was a good, compelling read.  But, I raced to finish it as quickly as possible -- I just wanted the terrible story to end.  When it did, I was sad to be done with the writing. I would read this author's work again. 

In audiobook news, I continue to rip through them at a ridiculous pace, with 45 in this post for a yearly total of 98.  Thank goodness for Libby (the Overdrive app that let's you check out audiobooks from your local library), or else, the price of my audiobook habit would dwarf most people's cable/Internet bill!

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court (B)
Mark Twain
Funny, like only Twain can be. A tale of a man transported from the 1800s to King Arthur's Court where he becomes a magician and exploits technology to modify the court.  Gunpowder, bicycles, baseball, etc. all play major parts, as you'd expect. 
Head On (B+)
John Scalzi
The sequel to Lock In.  Chris continues in the gender non-specified form from the original book and you can listen to it read by Amber Bensen or Will Wheaten.
Dismas Hardy (Books 7 - 17) (B)
John Lescroart
More goodness.  Caught up to modern day where Hardy's daughter is an associate at his firm.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions (B-)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Short and sweet, this letter from the always thoughtful author to a friend who has a newborn girl talks through her (pre-motherhood) ideas of how best to raise a daughter.  Nothing out of the ordinary, but wonderful, nonetheless.
Something In the Water (A-)
Catherine Steadman
I adored this thriller, although I had roughly figured out the "surprise" plot with about 20% left to go.  It's not ideal when you are pretty sure you know who the bad guy is and the main characters still haven't figured it out.  Even with that complaint, however, this was very enjoyable.  Also, the author is an actress, and she did her own reading -- her acting ability translated very nicely into voice acting and definitely added to the experience.  If you're looking for a comparison, this felt very similar to Girl on the Train, in terms of pacing, language, and theme.
Insurgent (B)
Allegiant (B-)
Veronica Roth
2nd & 3rd book in the Divergent Series.  The tone and pacing were similar to Divergent -- obviously young adult with obviously under-developed emotional maturity, but with that reality worked well into the fast-moving plot.  Very enjoyable and full of surprises.  
Eat, Pray, Love (B)
Elizabeth Gilbert
I needed something uplifting in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings, and I remembered enjoying this book when I'd read it over 10 years ago.  I knew that Ms. Gilbert had evolved quite a bit since writing this book, and so had I, as well as the world.  I was interested to see how the book held up.  I am happy to report that it did hold up relatively well.
Educated (A+) 
Tara Westover
Such a raw and brave and extremely American story.  Conservative mormonism.  Preppers. Physical abuse. A hard, honest, telling of a young woman's self-education from conspiracy theory-laden origins without a birth certificate with essentially no formal home-schooling, through BYU, Oxford, Harvard, and beyond.
The Alphabet Mysteries:  A is for Alibi; B is for Burglar; C is for Corpse (B- average) -- up to H at this point
Sue Grafton
I had been looking for another mystery series I could dive into and this 3 book collection was offered by Amazon for 1 credit, so I dived in.  It's a solid offering that entertains and distracts.  Kinnsey Millhone (the main character) is a fun strong female character.  The early books are set in the 80s, and it's kind of fun to realize how different professional work was before email and cell phones.  I have been making my way through the series as they become available via my local library.
Sourdough (A)
Robin Sloan
A book club member recommended this book and WOW!  Highly recommended.  A very unique and imaginative modern day tale of an old migrant people, culture, technology, startups, San Francisco in all of its excess and the complex biology of bread starter.  Surprisingly enjoyable and insightful.
The Magician's Assistant (B+)
Ann Patchett
I knew that Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Gilbert were close friends, and this book made it clear how that friendship could have been an easy one.  This book's take on life, mysteries, relationships that don't work according to society's or our own expectations but are still treasures to be cherished all felt like something Ms. Gilbert would endorse.  Poignant, full of loss, but also full of love.
The Mrs. Pollifax Series (books 1-11) (B average)
Dorothy Gilman
So refreshing!  This adorable series is centered on a 60-something widow who, suffering from a fit of depression, decides to volunteer at the CIA to be of service in lieu of suicide.  Her general instincts about people as well as her unassuming countenance serve her well and she always saves the day.  The stories are adorable, and oddly educational since they were written in the 70s and 80s and cover bits of international conflict set in that time period that never really escalated to the point of making it into modern version of history that I'd learned  (a low bar, as I'm not remotely a history nerd).
Committed (B)
Elizabeth Gilbert
A deep historical and personal exploration of the institution of marriage.  Fascinating and educational.  I will likely be recommending this to people who struggle with the concept of marriage, as I myself, once did, before capitulating for the sake of grandparents, family, and the reality that it's much easier to be legally married to your most important person than not.
Sapiens (A-)
Yuval Noah Harari
This was a big heart-heavy look at humans and how we've co-evolved with planet earth.  Turns out, we've been wreaking havoc on the planet and causing extinctions for ages.  We exterminated the majority of the large land mammals long before we even experienced the agrarian revolution.  On one level, this book was depressing.  On the other, it was comforting -- things are *not* getting worse, we've always been an all-consumptive species that took what we wanted at the expense of everything (and everyone) else.  If you are interested in the history of humanity, warts and all, I highly recommend this book.  But fair warning, parts of it aren't pretty at all.
Magpie Murders (B+)
Anthony Horowitz
Super clever book within in a book escapade, except it's a detective mystery series within a book.  And extremely well executed.  If you like murder mysteries, I guarantee you will love this book -- so much homage to the greats, in many ways, it's a love story to the genre.
Just the Funny Parts: …And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys' Club (B)
Nell Scovell
Excellent memoire from the television and magazine writer who ended up collaborating with Sheryl Sandberg on Lean In.  Honest tales of what it took to succeed in her career in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and current decade.  She's got a wry sense of humor and a great story to tell.  Very enjoyable.
Sounds like America (C+)
Free on Audible.  Great takes on regional differences/uniqueness in the US.  We probably ripped through 5 of the available episodes and enjoyed them all on a road trip over the holidays.  Perfectly consumable free content for car rides.

December 19, 2018

Time to Regroup

The cold virus that took me out last week was no joke.  I had a physical this week and while I was recovered enough to see the doctor, she noticed my residual symptoms and asked, "Oh dear -- did you get that terrible virus that's going around where it starts with a super sore throat and you can barely swallow, then the mucus builds like crazy and you lose your voice?"  Um, yes.  I did.  Apparently, my 7 days of serious symptoms followed by 7 days of minor symptoms are on the light side of what this virus has done to her practice -- take care of yourselves, friends!

From Aruba
Given the residual infection, I tried to reign in my running efforts in hopes of an aggressive taper, improving health, and eventually being able to race my last target race of the year.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate.  The morning of the race, I still had a stuffy nose and mild sinus pressure and it was scheduled to be pouring down rain during the race.  I went back and forth on what to do (should I be smart?  I did cough quite a bit after waking up... but then the coughs stopped.  Am I wimping out?  I am more fit than I've been in ages and I think I can definitely set a decade PR, even with the rain... and on, and on).

Finally, I decided not to do a hard effort in the cold rain while still recovering from the worst virus I'd had in at least 3-4 years, mainly for the sake of my brother and mother's husband, both of whom are severely immunocompromised.  I was really looking forward to Christmas with the family, and the reality is, if I relapsed to how sick I had been, I would have to avoid the big family gatherings altogether.

So, Sunday, instead of racing, I hung out inside and worked on a new jigsaw puzzle with my visiting cousin.  Monday, I spent 2 hours gardening, mainly removing all of the remaining tomato plants that finally died, but also raking leaves and being shocked at how winded I got from it, although, in fairness, raking is a full body workout that recruits many muscles I don't usually use for aerobic work.

E with his standard "I hate selfies" look.
Tuesday, I finally headed out for an easy jog, running *very easy* to and from the pharmacy to pick up a prescription.  My Rx wasn't ready, so I took the 10 minutes they needed to prepare it to jog around behind the store and do some unplanned 8X15s strides with jogging recovery.  Woot!  First "workout" in a couple of weeks, with some actual speed work, even if *very* light. 2.5 miles + 1 hour gardening (still removing the plants).

When I couldn't do the 5K last weekend, I had to reset. My original end of year goals were:

1. At least 1 lesson of Spanish study every day between December 1 and the end of the year to prepare for our New Year's trip to CDMX.

2. 5K decade PR.  When it became clear that I wasn't going to run a 5K, I was sad, but fairly certain I could hit this goal in 2019.

3. *Very Good* on the Cooper Test.

I'd been doing well enough on the first goal that I'd started to have some Spanish dream snippits, so that was good.  But the 5K... After the failure on Sunday in San Jose, I knew I'd have to let this one go.  And, realistically speaking on the Cooper Test... I wasn't there yet.  I wanted to be.  Certainly.  But I just was not close enough to that fit.

A goal that seemed super doable, however, was a sub 9 minute mile.  I hadn't had one of those on my log in well over 2.5 years.

And that's what I did today.  Y'all, I managed 8:52 for a mile, and I'm happy.  May you all have great outcomes in 2019.

December 9, 2018


In connection with last weekend's CIM fun I spent some quality time with 5 children (3 nieces and nephews and 2 god-children).  You know, single-digit-aged-humans, otherwise known as virus probes?

Random but true:  The Little Shamrock is a *real* pub 
and also a major scene/character in the John Lescroart Dismas Hardy books.

Yeah, although I enjoyed my train ride back, it was clear that I'd came down with a nasty cold by Sunday night, and it just kept escalating.

Instead of the Parkrun, we went to the Conservatory of Flowers
I took Monday off from running, but headed out Tuesday in hopes of an easy run, despite the sniffles.  After 1.35 miles @ 10:56, it was very clear to me that I was not in good shape.  Less than 1.5 miles at just under 11 minutes per mile should not have been that hard.  I acknowledged that I was sick and cut myself infinite slack -- jog/walking my way home through the rest of the scheduled 4+ miler, finishing the last 3.02 miles at an average pace of 15:43.  And then I went to bed super early.

And the SF Botanical Gardens
And then, for the next 3 days, I didn't even think about running due to a sore throat, headaches, sinus pressure, ears that couldn't clear and more.

Sunset views of Coit Tower on our Lyft back from the park.

Man, I hate being sick.

Did I mention that the original plan had been to run the Crissy Field Parkrun and try to get a decade PR?  I'd put in some decent weeks of prep, and last week, I'd run an 85% effort Cooper test at 9:16/mile for 12 minutes as an easy workout before CIM, which made me think I could shoot for a 5K at 9:20ish pace and set yet another 40s PR.

Those flesh-colored bits are swimmers.  In the bay.  In December.

Yeah.  That totally didn't happen.  I couldn't really swallow for half the week without wincing.  I was coughing up gross stuff.

Ft. Mason -- one of many gorgeous views from our run.

The friend I'd invited to join me at the Parkrun was wonderfully understanding when I explained the situation.  E, unfortunately came down with the virus on Friday (it had looked like he was successfully avoiding it until then), so he bailed completely on Parkrun, and I opted for a 10 AM meetup with lightly jogging and some walk breaks for 3.8 miles @ 16:18 average pace (the jogging was in the 12ish/mile range, but every hint of hill plus some feelings of exhaustion towards the end resulted in walking).

A beautifully clear day at Fort Mason!
Last night, we went to an annual holiday party in SF and suffered the abuse of calling it *early* at 11:30 PM (my completely gravely voice was helpful here, as I claimed sickness as part of the reason we needed to leave before the white elephant exchange was over).

Tosca Cafe's back room -- full of theatre, dance, and film insider geekery.
Today, I woke for the first time in 6 days without a sore throat.  It was amazing.  I went to the hotel gym and busted out a treadmill workout that wasn't terrible. A full set of drills, 3 X 0.5 miles @ 9:13/mile and 0.5% incline with 0.1 walking recovery, plus 2 X 0.25 miles @ 8:00/mile and 0.5% incline.  I followed it up with 10 X 20 lb medicine ball kettle squat/swings and 20 X 20 lb bicep curls.  I headed upstairs feeling pretty darn great.  And then I almost passed out in the shower.

The Mark Hopkins in all of its Holiday glory.
Apparently, I'm not quite 100% yet. But, I'm no longer in pain from the virus.  I can breathe through both nostrils (which is more than I can say for when I hoofed it over Taylor street from Fisherman's Wharf to Sutter Street).

I now have minimal coughing.  And I'm excited for the last fast 5K of my fall buildup.

Keep your fingers crossed that I don't get another virus, please!  I'd very much like to cap off the fall of my minor (but valid) increases in fitness with a 5K decade PR.

Wish me luck!

December 3, 2018

CIM relay 2018

I love CIM.  I ran my marathon PR of 4:04 there over a decade ago, as well as a come-back marathon of 4:09 4 years later.  In 2012, I ran my last marathon there for a monsoon PR of 4:39.

These days, I'm more of a relay marathoner, and I love that CIM offers one.  Last year's first leg of the relay was my longest race effort run of 2017, and I had a great time running with friends.

This year, I was scheduled to run the relay with my sis & bestie, D.  It was a classic perfect CIM day: start in the high 30s, finish in the high 40s, clear and calm and beautiful.

Sis is fast.  She ran the first two legs and got to the 13.5ish mile relay handoff at about an 8 minute/mile pace.  Then it was my turn.

I spent the next 7 miles running as hard as I comfortably could, watching the various pace groups swallow me up every mile or so.  First it was the 3:40 group.  Then 3:45.  Then 3:50.  3:55.  Finally, about a mile before I finished, the 4 hour pace group arrived.  I tried to go with them, but given that I didn't have a 9:09 mile in me at the start, it wasn't surprising that I didn't have one in me at the end either.

After a little bit of chaos, I handed off the relay chip to D, who picked up the pace and ran to the finish.  Then we ate delicious Mexican food and I took the train home.  A beautiful day, time with people I love, and a good run?  There's a reason I keep coming back to this race.

Sis & Bestie kept our average pace nice and low!

My goals were:

A) average sub 10 minutes/mile -- I wasn't sure if I was in good enough shape yet to hit this one, but I felt close enough that I wanted to give it a try.

B) average sub 10:30 and get my decade PR for the 10K on my Garmin, since the 1:02 I ran in September measured a short course.

C) Keep it below 10:47 to beat my Rock 'n Roll 10K time.


1- 9:33
2- 10:22
3- 10:22 (I abandoned the sub 10 minute/mile goal and focused on trying to keep it sub 10:30 here)
4- 10:54 (walked through the water stop, probably could have skipped fluids entirely, but I wasn't sure how that would play out, so I played it safe)
5- 10:39
6- 10:56 (I was bummed to see this number as I thought I'd picked up the pace after mile 5)
10K - 1:05:00 (10:28/mile)
7- 10:37

Total Garmin: 7.02 @ 10:29/mile

The views and relaxation of Amtrak vs. driving to SAC
make the comparison *no* contest.
Overall, I'm very pleased with how I ran and the race itself.  I definitely didn't push myself to the edge of my fitness, but I hit my best sustained pace for 7 miles in a few years, which felt great.

Sunset over the bay on the way into Richmond on the train.
Plus, now that I've got the half marathon and the 7 mile race out of the way, I can enjoy the two 5Ks that are coming up.  As I noted earlier -- the 5K is absolutely my favorite race distance right now and I'm excited to see if I can improve on my decade PR in both of them.

November 23, 2018

The Atlanta Half Marathon (my 50th!)

It had been 900 days since my last half marathon.  That's 2 years, 5 months, and 17 days in case you were wondering (like me), just how long it had been since I had run over 10 miles in one consistent effort.  Spoiler alert -- I finished!  I now have 50 half marathon races in my log, which, frankly, I can't really believe.

Obligatory start selfie.
My "training" had been minimal, so I put any finish as my D goal.  My C goal was sub 12 minutes per mile.  My B goal was Sub 2:30.  My A goal was Sub 11 minutes per mile to beat my last half marathon time.

Met the C goal.
While I had a lack of training working against me, I had quite a few things on my side:

1. The weather was absolutely perfect, with a start in crisp clean 37F and a finish in the mid 40s.  The course was partially shaded, and there was no wind.

2. Since I was coming from a vacation in the Atlantic Time Zone, I was, for once, 1 hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, so getting up early and racing in Atlanta was not going to be difficult.

3. S, my Atlanta running buddy, had decided to register for the race, and when I went to pick up my bib from her, she informed me that she was going to do the race with me instead of at her own pace (which is probably 2 minutes faster per mile than me).

Me and S -- we were going to have fun,
no matter what!

My father-in-law drove me to the start, and I was surprised to realize this race was much bigger than I remembered (5,781 in the half, 3,439 in the 5K).  They started the 5K at roughly 7:30 and were supposed to move through the wave start of the 5K and then the half in order to get to our corral by 7:57, but something must have slowed them down, for though I was at the front of my corral, I didn't cross the start line until 8:04:03.  This was very unlike the Atlanta Track Club, as every race I've run with them has been extremely precise.

They slated me for corral E, so S and I
spent the whole race passing people.

The course starts near the Olympic Torch and rings from the 1996 (100th) Summer Olympics, and runs near and around a bunch of Atlanta sights including Centennial Park, Atlantic Station, Piedmont Park, the State Capitol, and includes a finish in Georgia State Stadium.  At least half of the course was shaded, so even if it had been slightly warmer, it still would have been very pleasant for me.  Also, Atlanta Track Club knows how to keep folks hydrated, so there were tons of aid stations, *and* since Atlanta is Coca Cola town, Powerade, with delicious real calories, was offered at every aid station.

Atlanta is *hilly*.  And while I was generally undertrained, I was severely under-hill-trained.  I'm a natural downhill runner, which made parts of this course quite fun.  But, I also struggle with uphills.  I'd done a few hill repeats at the Stanford Dish in my lead-up, and one very hilly workout in Atlanta.  I also pushed myself on one hilly treadmill workout in Aruba that oscillated between 0 and 4% incline on a random algorithm.  Those 3 workouts weren't a ton, but I was *very* glad I'd done them, especially the 2 workouts in the "taper" weeks before the race.  Leaning forward and pumping your arms and knees to charge up hills to keep running is a very different type of running than what I'm used to, and I could feel my body changing form to mimic the way those workouts felt during the uphills.

My garmin totaled 507 feet of climb and 565 feet of descent, including a screaming 135 feet of descent over the last 1.17 miles.  If they finish the Olympic Trials down this hill and into the stadium, that could result in some crazy finishing sprints!  Unfortunately, after 10 miles, I hit a pretty significant wall, and had to declare defeat and take some uphill walk breaks to catch my breath.

Stopping for a picture of the skyline at the top
of the steep climb at Mile 10

My splits tell a tale of undertrained bonking:
1 - 10:26
2 - 10:43
3 - 11:06
4 - 10:37
5 - 11:23
6 - 11:19
10K - 1:09:15 (11:09 pace)
6 to 6.37 - @11:46
6.37 - 6.42 walk/3:22 bathroom break in Piedmont park
7.42 - 11:22
8.42 - 12:25 (includes cliff shot walk break)
9.42 - 11:21
9.42 to 9.69 - @10:51
9.69 to 9.76 - walk
10.76 - 12:04
10.76 to 11.18 - @11:45
11.18 to 11.26 - walk
11.26 to 11.72 - @12:20
11.72 to 11.77 - walk
11.77 to 12.09 - @12:09
12.09 to 12.15 - walk
13.15 - 10:55
13.15 to 13.35 - @10:39

Garmin total: 13.35 @ 11:41

Average pace with the bathroom break subtracted: 11:28

Atlanta Track Club has good schwag!

I am very happy with the fun day spent with S and the C goal finish and I'm definitely looking forward to the shorter stuff I have on the calendar for the rest of 2018.  Also, I'm very excited to come back to spectate (and possibly race one of the companion races of) the US Olympic Team Marathon Trials!

November 21, 2018

First Half Marathon in 2+ years -- the "training" (with bonus Aruba photos)

I'd strung together ten weeks of 20+ miles, gamefully increasing my weekly long run, decreasing my average pace, and fitting in a bit of strength and speed work here and there.

I'd registered for a half marathon on Thanksgiving, and, while I'd done a lackluster 10 miler 3 weeks prior to the race, I really wanted to get in a solid 11-12 mile run beforehand.

The Antilla Wreck was the largest wreck we've ever dived!
Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans for me.  I woke to the smell of camping in our house 13 days before the race, as the Camp Fire smoke had been blown into the bay area.  I opted to bike to yoga instead of the planned for long run, and even though I took it super easy and it's just a little over a mile, I returned sneezing, coughing and crying from the smoke in my eyes.

It's so cool how coral takes over shipwrecks and turns them into reefs!
The smoke was really bad.  And super depressing.  California fires have been a staple in my life since birth, but the last two years have been shocking with their increased size and ferocity.

Aptly named.
Saturday was more of the same, with the air registering firmly in the "unhealthy" range, so I skipped the run, sent good fire-fighting thoughts up north, and hoped that it would clear up soon.  The government recommendations were to stay inside with the windows closed, and when we went to brunch it certainly appeared that people were doing just that -- downtown was a smoky ghost town.

If you are in Aruba, you *must* go to the Butterfly Farm!
Sunday morning, the air quality dipped down into the "moderate" range, so I did a super easy 1 mile near target race pace with another mile of stride/jog intervals, but it didn't feel great on my chest and throat, and I wasn't sure whether I was doing more good or more harm with the effort.

One entrance ticket ($15) is good for unlimited visits during your stay.  
I returned at 7 AM to watch butterflies emerge from the chrysalises -- Amazing!
Monday, I woke and dressed with the intention of trying to fit in the 11-12 mile long run, hopeful that the trend toward better air would continue from Sunday, but no.  The air was back in the red "Unhealthy" range.

We flew to Atlanta on Monday afternoon and arrived to constant rain, but gloriously easy to breathe air.  Tuesday afternoon, I headed out with good intentions for the long run, but it started to really pour on me at mile 2, which turned the typically dodgy Atlanta roads and sidewalks into an obstacle course of puddles and random slippery bits.  So, I made the conservative call yet again, turned around and comforted myself with a cold/wet 4 miler including 8X30 second uphill surges.  I felt fit on this run -- it was easy, athletically, even on some of the hills that have historically taxed me.

The original plan was to taper in Aruba, while scuba diving, but thanks to fires and weather, I pretty much tapered the week before we arrived.  I toyed with trying to get in something slightly longer than normal taper stuff, but the running from our hotel really made it difficult to get anything longer than 2 miles done without just running back and forth along the same path with tons of pedestrians.

I got in one good workout day by combining 2 miles on the treadmill with 1.5 miles of stride/walk intervals outside.  All the rest were pretty lame 1-2 miles slow due to the terrain and crowds plus some additional walking.

We'll see if scuba is a good taper activity or not!
So, here I am.  24 hours 'til my first half marathon in 2+ years and my longest run was 10 super slow miles more than 3 weeks ago (not ideal).  But, the air is clear, I'm *very* tapered, nothing hurts, and the weather looks perfect for me with the start supposedly at 37F and the finish around 44F.

Wish me luck!